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.

MoJo Podcast: 5 Questions for Author Khaled Hosseini

| Fri Apr. 24, 2009 4:25 PM PDT

Length: 13:22 minutes (12.23 MB)

Khaled Hosseini's fortunes have risen as his native Afghanistan's have sunk. His debut novel The Kite Runner sold 6 million copies and was turned into a feature film. His second, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is also headed to the silver screen.

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Putting Torture Memos to Music

| Thu Apr. 23, 2009 1:54 PM PDT

I know we're not supposed to be advocates around here, but I can't help it. I think I love Jonathan Mann. He's like our own hometown Flight of the Conchords. The SF Bay Area musician and self-videographer set out in January to compose a song and music video a day, something a once-a-quarter songwriter like yours truly can barely comprehend. And Mann has delivered, too, producing 113 ditties so far this year about culture and current events (posted at his website, RockCookieBottom.com) thus catching the attention of our good friend Rachel Maddow, who invited him on her show last Friday to perform a song that calls on Paul Krugman to step up and help America with its fiscal policy and I think this is a run-on sentence isn't it? Mann told Maddow he was awaiting the release of the torture memos so that he could set 'em to music. And here's what he came up with: Mann channeling John Yoo on waterboarding. If it's a hit, Yoo, being a lawyer, will probably demand a cut of the royalties. Indeed, he may well need it for his legal defense fund.

Rosa Parks Didn't Act Alone: Meet Claudette Colvin

| Tue Jan. 20, 2009 1:32 PM PST
Rosa Parks, left, and Claudette Colvin.

In his warm-up for the first-ever inauguration of a black American president, the actor Samuel L. Jackson stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial, speaking of the sacrifices of everyday people to bring about the event we all witnessed this morning, including the well-worn story of Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Jackson told the story as the old history books do, more or less the way my child, then six years old, had learned it at school: Parks, a department store seamstress en route home from work, told the police she hadn't boarded the bus intending to get arrested. She was simply tired, and wanted to get home like anyone else. But the true story was far more nuanced, as revealed in Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip Hoose, which is written for teenage readers.

colvin.jpg

Parks was certainly brave. (Standing up to white power in that place and time made you a target.) And she may not have boarded that particular bus, on that particular day, intending to get arrested. But Parks also knew what she was doing. Sure, she was a seamstress, one widely known and respected in Montgomery's black community. But as secretary of the local NAACP chapter, Parks also was deeply involved in a movement to reform the city's draconian segregation laws—one primed for action thanks to a then 15-year-old girl named Claudette Colvin.

Colvin was a smart and rebellious teen whose family lived in King Hill, a small, poor section of town flanked by white neighborhoods. She became politically active in high school after her classmate Jeremiah Reeves was accused of raping a white woman. Reeves confessed to the crime, and an all-white jury convicted the boy and sentenced him to death. Reeves later recanted, saying the police had forced him to confess. The case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, which ordered a retrial, but the outcome was the same.

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