The Riff

Music: Coachella Wrapup - Sunday

| Mon Apr. 28, 2008 5:05 AM EDT

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Greetings from the desert and day three of the Coachella Festival. In tonight's edition: Canadians! Germans! More Canadians! And oh yeah: Flying inflatable pigs that apparently endorse Obama! While I'm doing my best to be the intrepid reporter on the scene, my coverage is devolving day-by-day: crappy photos on day one, late-night spelling errors on day two, and today, I forgot my note-taking pen, so all this is coming out of my sun-baked memory. Perhaps I imagined the whole thing?

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Music: Coachella Wrapup - Saturday

| Sun Apr. 27, 2008 7:35 AM EDT

mojo-photo-d08-fashion.jpgGreetings from the desert, where Day Two of the Coachella Festival has just come to a close. I know I started yesterday's wrapup with the caveat of "sorry the photographs are terrible"; well, it's now 2:45am, and after spending an hour sitting in parking lot traffic (after walking for 45 minutes) your intrepid reporter is feeling a little scatterbrained. So add that to the list of caveats. For those who just want to get to the meat of the matter: Kraftwerk fantastic, Portishead flawless, Prince amazing. For the details, hit the good old "continues" button.

Music: Coachella Wrapup - Friday

| Sat Apr. 26, 2008 3:59 AM EDT

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Greetings from a rental house in La Quinta, California, where we've just returned after enjoying day one of the 2008 Coachella Festival in Indio. Unfortunately this year's Riff coverage will be a bit of step down from last year's, since we're not only absent intrepid photographer Kristi who got so many great shots last year, but we also couldn't get a photo pass ("why didn't you ask earlier," they said). So unfortunately, we're stuck with what I could capture myself, with my trusty Canon Powershot. Yeah, I know. Hopefully the word pictures painted within will be vivid enough to make up for it.

Geek: The Blog Room at Web 2.0 Expo

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 9:55 PM EDT

I wandered into the Blogtropol.us blogger lounge at Web 2.0 Expo today and immediately realized that this was not the media war room I'd been searching for. The bloggers had beer, for one thing. And couches. And a Wii and chair massages to go with the electrolounge music and the tasty, tasty snacks. Where were the customary lukewarm Dr. Pepper's? My hoary headed colleagues complaining about the WiFi?

A 23-year-old put a shiny blue star sticker on my press pass and confirmed that indeed, I was looking for the much less entertaining room down the hall, where actual writing might be happening. "That's cool though, you'll be back," he nodded. "We have way more fun over here."

Welcome to the future of new media, people.

American Independent Party and Independent: Wait, There's A Difference?

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 6:33 PM EDT

ist2_4768669_checking.jpgThe American Independent Party isn't doing a very good job broadcasting their party's platform message. If they were, perhaps Gavin Newsom's aspiring actress-first-lady-of-San-Francisco girlfriend Jennifer Siebel wouldn't have registered for it by accident. Just to be clear, the American Independent Party is anti-immigration, anti-abortion, pro-"traditional marriage and family values," and all for keeping "God" in the pledge of allegiance. Which I guess also means they're pro-pledge of allegiance.

San Franciscans shouldn't get their hemp underwear in a bunch too quickly. The mayor's office assures that it's an innocent gaffe and Gav's girlfriend is actually an Independent voter. Independents, typically, have no fidelity to political parties and vote based on candidates and issues. In other words, they do whatever the hell they want. I can see where the confusion lies: There's no "Independent" box to check on California's voter registration ballot; merely "Decline To State." And without predetermined categories, how are Independents ever supposed to know to which group they belong?

—Joyce Tang

The Dust Off: Pointer Sisters

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 6:09 PM EDT

PointerSisters-200.jpgWelcome to The Dust Off, where MoJo Riffers dig deep into the crates and revisit a song, video, or film that has stood the test of time.

This week I'm shaking dust off of "12," or Pinball Number Count," that funky Sesame Street song with the amazing pinball machine animation. Recently a friend back East emailed me this clip of the full segment, and I was blown away to finally learn that The Pointer Sisters are the ones singing. It's a 1972 funk-jazz track with Hammond-sounding keyboards, hand percussion, and soprano sax, guitar, and steel drum solos.

If you're like me, when you think The Pointer Sisters, you think 80s songs like "Jump (For My Love)," and "I'm So Excited," and you almost lose control because you like it. I already thought the Oakland-based group was awesome, but I had no idea they had helped me learn how to count to 12 when I was a kid. Consider them officially dusted off:

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Bacteria Artist Off the Hook?

| Thu Apr. 24, 2008 1:57 PM EDT

Last week's Yale abortion senior art project stunt highlights the public outcry art can inspire. While Aliza Shvarts was ridiculed for being everything from "hopelessly bourgie" to "weird and gross," the jeers lobbed upon her in the blogosphere were nothing compared to the nightmarish federal investigation endured by SUNY-Buffalo art professor Steve Kurtz. In 2004 Kurtz was accused of bioterrorism while preparing for an educational art exhibit about genetically modified foods, an incident that showcases the absurd turns art can take in life.

The FBI and Bush administration may be ending their four-year mission to bring charges against Kurtz, who came under scrutiny after authorities discovered bacteria cultures in his house after his wife's unfortunate (and, as it turns out, unrelated) death. On Monday, a U.S. district judge dismissed the charges of mail and wire fraud, the only indictment the Feds could make stick. There's no word yet if the prosecution will appeal. But Kurtz's named "coconspirator," Dr. Robert Ferrell—who sent Kurtz the bacteria and who had also been charged with mail and wire fraud—didn't come away unscathed. He pleaded guilty last October to lesser charges after a series of health problems ensued from the stress of the investigation.

Read more about the case and the documentary it inspired here.

—Joyce Tang

Riff Q&A: Yoav

| Wed Apr. 23, 2008 7:30 PM EDT

mojo-photo-yoav.jpgOne of the more intriguing artists on this weekend's Coachella festival lineup, Yoav is Israeli-born, South Africa-raised, and now London-based. His complicated background might remind you of the Argentinian-Swedish José González, and they also share a focus on the acoustic guitar (as well as diverse musical influences). But while González turns bleak tracks like Massive Attack's "Teardrop" into plaintive ballads, Yoav incorporates effects and treatments into his guitar work to create original music that somehow straddles the line between folk and minimal electronica, with an accessible pop straightforwardness. His debut album, Charmed & Strange, features sounds that you wouldn't expect to hear come out of a guitar: staccato blips, hip-hop thuds, and, on a haunting cover of The Pixies' "Where is My Mind," eerie whines and soft echoing tones. The Riff caught up with Yoav between gigs and tossed a couple quick questions his way.

Obama Now Brought to You by Abercrombie & Fitch

| Wed Apr. 23, 2008 1:58 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamaandfitch.jpgBoth Towleroad and Gawker noticed this too: last night, during Barack Obama's Pennsylvania concession speech (in Indiana, naturally), there was a bit of surprising, shall we say, product placement. Three fine-looking young collegiate bros, placed directly behind the candidate, each wearing a clearly-branded Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. First of all, what are the chances? I can imagine two frat boys leaving the frat house with their A&F shirts, but once a third joins them, you'd think one of them would go back and change. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that this is, as Gawker suggests, "a plot by the Obama campaign to win back the gay community, which has something of a taste for the youth clothing retailer and, especially, its catalogs, but whose vote is basically owned by Hillary Clinton." So true, and oh, the shame. Don't let anybody tell you the gays always have good taste.

So what's going on? Did A&F dispatch a trifecta of models to the arena, hoping for some air time? Or is this an inside deal, with the Obama campaign getting a cut (and maybe some boxer briefs)? If so, you'd think they'd be more about United Colors of Benetton, especially since A&F are well known for, er, marketing group sex to teens. Whose shirts can we expect to show up behind Hillary during her North Carolina concession speech, Polo by Ralph Lauren? Well, I don't care if these speeches turn into runway shows, I just want this thing over.

After the jump, watch the Obama speech and amuse yourself by imagining what each of our Abercrombie boys are thinking at any given moment.

Harry Potter and His Copyrighted Magic

| Tue Apr. 22, 2008 12:48 PM EDT

It's the epic struggle of our time: Scrappy internet fair-use exploiters vs. authors and their corporate overlords. But this time, the battle has, you know, wizards and muggles or whatever. Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling appeared in a New York courtroom last week to defend copyright infringement charges against Vander Ark, the creator of the unauthorized Harry Potter Lexicon web site, after plans were revealed for a book version. While some commenters attacked the site as "something parasitic on years of hard work by Rowling," the potential publisher of the Lexicon pointed out that giving authors too much control over "books about them" is dangerous:

We would have to get approval before we could write or publish on people's work. They would control critical commentary on their work, at any time, whether it is our kind of book or an Associated Press article. It would create total chaos in the area of critical commentary. Frankly, I don't think that would be good for anyone, even the authors themselves.

Rowling herself has appeared somewhat self-contradictory on the matter, first complimenting Ark's work and insisting she "never ever once wanted to stop Mr. Vander Ark from doing his own guide," but during the trial she came close to tears, describing the book version of the Lexicon as "wholesale theft."