Maddie Oatman

Maddie Oatman

Research Editor

Maddie worked as a travel guide in Argentina and a teacher at several educational nonprofits in San Francisco before joining Mother Jones. She’s also written for Outside, the Bay Citizen, and the Rumpus. A proud Boulder native, she makes time for mountain climbing, stargazing, and telemark skiing.

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Geographer's Danceable Dreamscape

| Mon Mar. 21, 2011 6:30 AM EDT

"What a cartographer does mapping out a place is what a musician does mapping out an emotion," says Mike Deni, singer of San Francisco-based indie band Geographer. "When someone finds a new territory, they distill it into something transferable, something that people can understand, like a map. But that inevitably changes it, and there are good and bad things to that. That's what the name Geographer is about; that process."

The band—comprised of Deni, who also plays synths and guitar, cellist Nathan Blaz, and drummer Brian Ostreicher—has charted a steady course in the Bay Area music scene by bridging the gap between the often-impersonal space of electronica and the lush realm of emotionally charged melodies. By layering Deni's mesmerizing falsetto over springy synths, pulsing drums, and the pull of an electric cello, Geographer produces hypnotic dance numbers that prove quite addictive. Since being named one of three "Undiscovered Bands You Need to Hear Now!" by Spin in 2008, Geographer has been gaining traction; its last show—during the Noise Pop Music Festival—sold out quickly.

826 Valencia's Spelling Bee for Cheaters

| Fri Feb. 18, 2011 4:30 PM EST
Judge Jay Reiss helps Mythbusters' co-host Adam Savage pronounce a word

The atmosphere at San Francisco's Herbst Theater on Thursday night felt more like a high school auditorium than its usual elegant performance space. Hundreds had come to observe the Spelling Bee for Cheaters, a fundraiser for literary nonprofit and tutoring center 826 Valencia, and the air bubbled with the sounds of peppy teams cheering on their spellers. A team of librarians near stage right quietly practiced snarky rhyming chants, and teens dressed in bee costumes flitted around the orchestra seats. As the lights dimmed, the "Black Swan" team near the front row turned on their twinkling electric crowns, stood up, and in unison did a ballerina spin in support of their tutu-clad teammate on stage.

A Sticky Situation for TransCanada's Keystone XL Pipeline

| Thu Feb. 17, 2011 7:07 AM EST

Environmental activists have long criticized the production of tar-sands oil; this especially dirty form of fuel demands tons of energy to obtain and results in high greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the toxic wastelands its extraction leaves behind. But a new report, "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks" (PDF), looks more closely at the environmental costs associated with the oil's transportation—which might soon run straight down the middle of the continent. A proposed TransCanada pipeline, the Keystone XL, would carry billions of gallons of crude tar sands oil from Canada into the US. This raw oil—more corrosive, volatile, and acidic than the upgraded synthetic tar-sands oil we've become used to—would flow from Alberta to Houston, through some valuable wetlands and aquifers in the Midwest.

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