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Albums Out Today and a Word From Critics

| Tue Sep. 11, 2007 5:31 PM EDT

I know that release dates don't mean much these days, what with you kids and your intertubes and bittorrents. But today's a big day for new albums, even if we ignore the 50 Cent/Kanye West/Kenny Chesney showcase showdown. Here's some of the CDs or MP3 collections you can now legally acquire in the United States (listed in order of my personal priorities) as well as representative excerpts from a couple reviews.

Simian Mobile DiscoSimian Mobile Disco - Attack Decay Sustain Release
"Mercifully brief" - Stylus
"Exciting" - Village Voice


Go! TeamThe Go! Team - Proof of Youth
"Brisk" - Billboard
"Brash" - BBC


Animal CollectiveAnimal Collective - Strawberry Jam
"Utopian" - Pitchfork
"Hallucinatory" - NY Times


WileyWiley - Playtime is Over
"Thrilling" - BBC
"Intricate" - Pitchfork


Film SchoolFilm School - Hideout
"Wonderfully off-kilter" - NME
"Moody" - Spin


Hot Hot HeatHot Hot Heat - Happiness Ltd
"Soaring" - Canadian Press
"Expansive" - Entertainment Weekly

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Gay Rights: Not Important Enough for the American Edition of Newsweek

| Tue Sep. 11, 2007 4:33 PM EDT

I love comparing what goes in the American editions of the newsweeklies to what goes in the international editions.

In the American edition of Newsweek this week, there is a Hillary Clinton cover story described thusly on TAPPED: "This piece is a long, tepid regurgitation of Clinton's career with little new insight."

On the cover of the international edition, a story called "Legal in Unlikely Places: Now mature in the west, gay power is growing worldwide, even in the land of machismo." The story isn't in the American edition at all.

I'll let TAPPED provide the final analysis:

Seems that both social and legal acceptance of homosexuality is rapidly increasing in some unexpected parts of the world. South Africa legalized civil unions in November 2006, making them the first developing nation to do so, and former Catholic strongholds like Latin America are also warming to civil unions. They've been legalized in Mexico City and Buenos Aires, and in Colombia, a bill is working its way through the National Congress that would grant full rights to health insurance, inheritance and social-security benefits to gay and lesbian couples.
Money quote: "The Catholic Church was facing a credibility crisis," says [a] longtime Mexico City-based gay-rights activist... "So many of its leaders... knew that if they fiercely opposed the gay-union law, the news media would eat them alive."
Unlike in the U.S., where ... this article doesn't even appear in Newsweek.

Tuesday: Confusing Music News Day

| Tue Sep. 11, 2007 4:20 PM EDT

Coldplay

  • Coldplay have announced some song titles and a, uh, length limit on their upcoming fourth studio album. Yes, this is the "Hispanic" one. Songs being considered include "Lost!" and "Yes!," (shouldn't that be "¡Lost!" and "¡Yes!"?) as well as "Poppy Fields," "Leftrightleftrightleft," and "Cemeteries of London." The band, posting on their website, wrote that the album will last no longer than 42 minutes: "Expect a short, concise record with no fat and at least two top-division songs." No fat? But that's where the flavor is!
  • The White Stripes have canceled their appearance at Austin City Limits on Friday, citing a "nervous breakdown" on the part of drummer Meg White. Aren't publicists just supposed to call this "exhaustion"?
  • Rapper Ja Rule reacts to the upcoming congressional hearings on offensive lyrics in hip-hop by encouraging everyone to look at the real problem: gays on MTV. He tells Complex.com "let's talk about all these f***ing shows that they have on MTV that is promoting homosexuality, that my kids can't watch this s***. Dating shows that's showing two guys or two girls in mid afternoon. If that's not f***ing up America, I don't know what is."
  • Keyboardist Joe Zawinul, who played with Miles Davis and in his own band Weather Report, died today in his hometown of Vienna. Zawinul was voted "best keyboardist" 30 times by Down Beat magazine. He was 75.
  • Good News from Ground Zero

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 4:16 PM EDT

    On the sixth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, Grist has an interesting post about Manhattan's financial district. The community's struggle to rebound has given rise to something the area hasn't seen in a long time: a residential neighborhood.

    The Twin Towers were not a good addition to the financial district from a livability point of view; one of the main goals of the reconstruction there has been to "recreate the grid"; that is, the various smaller blocks that used to be there, the kind that make up the vibrant street life that Jane Jacobs first discussed in her classic book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

    Grist's Jon Rynn points out that this project probably wouldn't have been possible without billions of dollars in federal aid. But now that the ball is rolling the community is beginning to take care of itself.

    Wouldn't it be nice if the same thing happened in other places?

    40 Percent of Deaths Linked to Environment

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 3:53 PM EDT

    Hmmm... Maybe it's not so bad to drink Dr. Pepper after all. A recent Cornell University study has found that nearly half of deaths worldwide are caused or exacerbated by environmental pollution, including water pollution.

    David Pimentel, the Cornell professor of ecology and evolutionary biology who conducted the research, links 62 million deaths each year to organic or chemical pollutants, placing these factors alongside long-known killers such as heart disease.

    Increasing rates of Malaria, E. coli, Salmonella, AIDS, and Tuberculosis all are linked to environmental degradation, according to Pimentel. "In the United States alone, 76,000 people are in the hospital each year, with 5,000 deaths, just due to pollution of air, food, or water," he said. "Cancers are increasing in the U.S., and AIDS is on the rise."

    Free Fruit for U.K. Kids Contains Pesticides (Wait, U.K. Kids Get Free Fruit?)

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 3:39 PM EDT

    When I learned that most free fruit for schoolchildren in the U.K. contains residue from pesticides, I didn't know quite how to react. I mean, pesticides in food is always bad news for sure. Yet I can't help but think that free fruit for kids is a pretty good idea (and one that we haven't managed to pull off in the U.S.).

    Then again, maybe I'm wrong. From a Child Health News article on the topic:

    Critics say the scheme was always unlikely to work because making fruit and vegetables available at school break time has no place in a culture in which healthy food is considered 'uncool' and they say stories abound of children forlornly wandering around the school playground with a bucket of fruit, trying to dispose of it.

    Conclusion: Even if the free fruit were organic, it would still need some serious PR work.

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    Appeals Court Set to Hear "Wardrobe Malfunction" Case

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 3:07 PM EDT

    Wardrobe Malfunction
    Hey, did anyone hear about this thing? I don't remember it getting much coverage. Back in 2004, I guess one of Michael Jackson's sisters and a Mouseketeer were at the World Series and did a whole song and dance routine where their clothes exploded? It sounds awesome. Honestly, why doesn't the media report on this stuff? It's all "blah blah, indepth reporting on the war and our government's lies." Yawn. Well, apparently this "wardrobe malfunction" is still working its way through our nation's court system: today, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia will hear the case of the exposed bazonga.

    The FCC originally fined CBS $550,000 for the incident, which, if upheld, would be the largest fine ever against a television broadcaster. CBS appealed, saying that they "did not plan the sole part of the performance the FCC says made it indecent, the 'costume reveal'." Right. It seemed like an, er, open-and-shut case, but these days, the FCC's indecency standards are coming under increasing attack, reports Reuters: two courts in New York have rejected the government's policies on indecent speech, specifically, "fleeting expletives." Now there's a good name for a band.

    While the issues work through the courts, the FCC has sat on its hands, or maybe everybody's just watching their mouths: there have been no proposals of fines since March of 2006. You're telling me we could have been ripping each other's clothes off on TV for the last 18 months? Fleeting expletive!

    Polar Bears Mostly Extinct by 2050

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 12:56 PM EDT

    Sad news. A recent U.S. Geological Survey claims that 2/3 of the world's polar bears will be extinct by 2050 due to Arctic warming. Ice up North is melting so fast that the large predators likely won't have enough ice on which to hunt and breed during the summers. The Secretary of the Interior has suggested making polar bears a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act, entitling the animals to federal protections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is giving a final recommendation on the bear's addition to the list to the Interior in January 2008. The Interior's suggested protection of the polar bear, though not finalized, is an encouraging move, given the Bush administration's history of active opposition to wildlife conservation.

    Though the polar bears are disappearing, there is hopeful news on the other side of the globe. In a steamy Indian rainforest, tigers have been spotted 30 years after they were assumed extinct in the area. A local official estimates there are now about 20 of the big cats living in the wet, mountainous region of Maharashta. India is home to about 1,500 tigers, half of the world's tiger population.

    Scientific Proof That Liberals Are Not Smarter

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 4:46 AM EDT

    MoveOn.org seems to remove its contact details after running one of the most idiotic ads in recent political history.

    Scientific Proof That Liberals Are Smarter

    | Tue Sep. 11, 2007 3:33 AM EDT

    Ok, so not proof exactly, but man we are really smart. And I'm not talking about knowing geography or spelling or history. I'm talking about the alphabet. We know it, while conservatives are apparently blinded by ideology. In certain situations their rigid brains cannot distinguish among different letters of the alphabet, a major study has found, and this explains why they can't tolerate ambiguity and conflict as well as liberals.

    "Political orientation is related to how the brain processes information," reports the UCLA and NYU study, as detailed in the LA Times:

    Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative. They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

    M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

    And conservatives were by far the worst knee-jerkers, routinely mistaking a W for an M, or vice versa when the weightings were changed. This has happened before. Mole hill or WMD? Morass or winnable? Melting ice or wacko science? In all seriousness, Frank J. Sulloway, a researcher at UC Berkeley's Institute of Personality and Social Research, told the Times that the results could explain why Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq War and why "liberals could be expected to more readily accept new social, scientific or religious ideas."

    This study is by no means the first to suggest that one political persuasion or another is more fit for duty in the battle of ideas. A few years ago I wrote about a University of Texas study that found residents of Houston suffer from a quasi-clinical condition known as "war fever." But this newest study at least takes the political debate back to the ABCs. Now if only conservatives could go back to kindergarten. . .