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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Quick Reads: "You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack"

| Mon Apr. 15, 2013 7:00 AM EDT
Courtesy Drawn & Quarterly

You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack
By Tom Gauld
Drawn & Quarterly

Readers of the Guardian and the New York Times Magazine may recognize the poignant and often dark humor of Tom Gauld, whose new collection of mostly unpublished cartoons pokes fun at literature and media of all stripes—a Beckett spin on Tintin, a Bronte sisters video game!—not to mention futurism, religion, modern art, and the hubris and frivolity of humankind in general. In one strip, a pretentious worm reproaches his unseen inquisitor for asking, "Are you happy?" So the questioner instead turns to a bird that has just swooped in to devour the worm. Answer: "Yes." Ideal for your coffee table—or that rack by the shitter.

Review: Bruce Molsky's "If It Ain't Here When I Get Back"

| Mon Apr. 15, 2013 5:20 AM EDT
Bruce Molsky is a master of three instruments.

Bruce Molsky
If It Ain't Here When I Get Back
Tree Frog Music

I owe Bruce Molsky 15 bucks.

That's for the time a Mother Jones intern ripped me an illicit copy of Soon Be Time, his sixth solo CD, which I've pretty much listened to death. But I figure I actually owe Molsky, a master of old-time Appalachian music, way more than that, because it was his playing that inspired me to pick up a fiddle and attempt to play the damn thing to the point where it no longer sounded like a wounded cat.

I believe I have succeeded in this. You'll have to ask my cat.

Plus, I figure that if Molsky could ditch a stable career as a mechanical engineer and become a professional musician at age 40, there was hope for me yet. (Hey, a man can dream.)

Molsky is easily one of the nation's most talented fiddlers, and he plays a mean claw-hammer banjo and blues guitar to boot. He's also been known to break out the occasional a cappella tune or harrowing ballad consisting of naught but vocals and sparse fiddle. He puts all of these skills to use on his latest solo album, If It Ain’t Here When I Get Back. "It's meant to be kind of an honor to people who I learned with and people who I hung out with years ago," Molsky told me recently. "Not in a sad, totally nostalgic kind of way, but it's kind of a look backwards and a look forwards for me." (Read the interview: "Bruce Molsky Is Not Fiddling Around.")

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