Michael Mechanic

Michael Mechanic

Senior Editor

Michael landed at MoJo after six years as an award-winning features editor at the alt-weekly East Bay Express. He's written for numerous publications, including The Industry Standard, the Los Angeles Times, and Wired. He lives in Oakland, California, with his wife, two kids, four chickens, striped cat, and way too many musical instruments to master.

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Michael landed at MoJo after six years as an award-winning feature editor at the alt-weekly East Bay Express. He's written for numerous publications, including The Industry Standard, the Los Angeles Times, and Wired. He set out to be a scientist, and as an undergrad spent a year in an organic chemistry lab at UC-Berkeley, where he was a biochemistry major, trying to synthesize natural poisons found in the skin of certain tropical frogs. He later earned a masters degree in cellular and developmental biology from Harvard University and a second masters in journalism from UC-Berkeley. In 2009, he was a finalist for a National Magazine Award for public service, as one of five writers in MoJo's "Torture Hits Home" package. The father of two mostly charming kids and an only occasionally charming striped cat named Phelps, Michael lives in Oakland, California, where, after years of classical piano and raucous punk-rock drumming (and putting out more than a dozen CDs on his former DIY label, Bad Monkey Records), he has retired to old-time and traditional music, guitar finger-picking, and more recently fiddle and mandolin. He has four chickens—Lucia, Podge, Cat, and Weed Whacker—but what he really covets is a hedgehog.

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Today Baby Doc, Tomorrow Toto Constant?

| Mon Jan. 17, 2011 2:46 PM EST

With Haiti in the midst of fresh political turmoil, Mac McClelland's on-the-ground scoop about the return of dictator Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier to quake-ravaged Haiti (accompanied by Mark Murrmann's great photos) was a creepy reminder of something that manipulative Haitian thug leader Emmanuel "Toto" Constant told MoJo contributor Bernice Yeung back in 2008.

Then in jail awaiting trial for real-estate fraud in the United States—he fled Haiti in 1994 when President Jean-Bertrand Aristide returned to power, landing in Queens, New York—Constant revealed that he still had political aspirations. "I can even be the president, the prime minister," he told Yeung. "It's strange to be locked up in prison upstate and talk about being president of Haiti, right? It's strange.... Strange meaning it's happened before. That people have come from jail to become leaders of their country."

WATCH: 10 Music Videos for Martin Luther King Jr.'s B-Day

| Mon Jan. 17, 2011 7:30 AM EST

Happy Birthday, Dr. King...

1. U2, "Pride (In The Name of Love)

2. And John Legend's version of the U2 song…

3. Public Enemy, "By The Time I Get To Arizona"

4. Nina Simone, "Why (The King of Love is Dead)"

5. Ben Harper, "Like a King"

6. Queen, "One Vision"

7. UB40 "King"

8. Eddie Velez, "Let Freedom Ring"

9. Common and will.i.am. "I Have a Dream"

10. Patty Griffin, "Up To The Mountain"

And can't forget this old favorite... Pete Seeger, "We Shall Overcome"

Boots Riley Is Sorry to Bother You

| Mon Jan. 3, 2011 7:47 AM EST

It's been a few years since we last checked in with Raymond "Boots" Riley, front man of the Coup—a funk and hip-hop group known for its humor, intelligence, and in-your-face agitprop. Steeped in radical street politics, the Oakland, California-based group has been shaking things up for two decades with albums like Kill My Landlord, Genocide & Juice, Steal This Album, and Party Music—which gained notoriety for songs like "5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO," but revealed a softer Riley in cuts like "Wear Clean Drawers," a heartfelt facts-of-street-life for his baby daughter. The band's 2006 Epitaph album, Pick a Bigger Weapon, which made Rolling Stone's Top 50 albums of that year, includes the track "BabyLet'sHaveABabyBeforeBushDoSomethin'Crazy." Nowadays, besides raising three kids and working on new Coup material for an indie film, Riley is collaborating with Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello in a newer group called the Street Sweeper Social Club. For a Mixed Media special in our November/December issue, I asked him about his recent projects, favorite tunes, and the joys of fatherhood.

Mother Jones: You're working on your first new album since 2006, right? Give us a taste for where it's headed, thematically.

Boots Riley: Actually, I put out an album in 2009 and an EP in August 2010 with Street Sweeper Social Club. The next album by The Coup will be the soundtrack to a movie that I've written, and in which I play the lead. It's a dark comedy with magical realism inspired by my days as a telemarketer. It's called Sorry To Bother You.

Learning Japanese With Weezer's Rivers Cuomo

| Mon Dec. 20, 2010 7:25 AM EST

Hurley, the latest release from irreverent alt-rock foursome Weezer—and the band's first on indie label Epitaph—debuted at No. 6 on Billboard's chart of the Top 200 albums—not bad for a band whose loyal old fans had been griping that something (presumably something dark and evil) had become of the band they grew up on. The album marks a reversion to Weezer's earlier self, and not just stylistically; most of the lyrics evoke a state of perpetual adolescence. In "Memories," front man Rivers Cuomo recalls pissing in plastic cups before we went on stage / playing hacky sack back before Audioslave was in rage. And, in "Trainwrecks," We think it's uncool to be on time / Mooching off our friends is not a federal crime. The album is simple and nostalgic, with plenty of raw guitar hooks.  

Hurley also addresses the band's present: In "Time Flies," Cuomo croons: Look into the mirror, there were lines around my eyes. And: I'm still in the race, and I'm barely keeping pace, but it's worth the ride. Which all might look kind of depressing on paper, but Cuomo still delivers his lines with the characteristic flippancy his fans so love: Even when I'm gone this stupid damn song will be in your head / I'll be looking down with a twinkle in my eyes. There's no forgetting that Weezer's still just a bunch of overgrown kids proud to put their nerdiness on display. We caught up with Cuomo recently to ask about his favorite music, aging rock stars, and what's on his iPod.

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