Mixed Media

Here Is "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's Wonderful Defense of Gay Marriage

| Wed Apr. 23, 2014 3:37 PM PDT

Hello. Good afternoon.

"Stone Cold" Steve Austin's defense of gay marriage is filled with cursing and common sense. All in all, pretty great!

I don't give a shit if two guys, two gals, guy-gal, whatever it is, I believe that any human being in America, or any human being in the goddamn world, that wants to be married, and if it's same-sex, more power to 'em. What also chaps my ass, some of these churches, have the high horse that they get on and say, 'We as a church do not believe in that.' Which one of these motherfuckers talked to God, and God said that same-sex marriage was a no-can-do? Okay, so two cats can't get married if they want to get married, but then a guy can go murder 14 people, molest five kids, then go to fucking prison, and accept God and He's going to let him into heaven? After the fact that he did all that shit? See that's all horseshit to me, that don't jive with me.

Listen:

(via Deadspin)

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Martin Sheen Reprises His "West Wing" Role—for a Sentencing Reform PSA

| Tue Apr. 22, 2014 9:37 AM PDT

On Tuesday, Brave New Films released a new PSA calling on Congress to pass the Smarter Sentencing Act. The proposed sentencing-reform legislation aims to reduce prison populations and costs by creating less severe minimum terms for nonviolent drug offenders. (On Monday, Yahoo News reported that President Obama could grant clemency to "hundreds, perhaps thousands" of nonviolent drug offenders by the end of his second term.) The video was produced in partnership with the ACLU and Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), and stars actor Martin Sheen. It's titled "President Bartlet has a message for Congress," in reference to Sheen's role on Aaron Sorkin's political drama The West Wing.

Watch it here:

"When BNF joined with FAMM and the ACLU to rally support for the Smart Sentencing Act, we couldn't think of a better spokesperson than Martin Sheen," Brave New Films president Robert Greenwald said. "When he portrayed President Bartlett on The West Wing, his character commuted the sentences of nonviolent drug offenders. In the real world, Martin Sheen has been an advocate for sentencing reform and alternatives to the harsh, long prison sentences we give to nonviolent drug offenders."

Sheen isn't the only one in Hollywood trying to raise awareness about this. Last year, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson starred in the drama Snitch, a film about a father who reunites with his estranged son after the kid is thrown in prison due to draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws. The film is based on a 1999 episode of PBS' Frontline titled, "Snitch: How Informants Have Become a Key Part of Prosecutorial Strategy in the Drug War." (FAMM teamed up with Participant Media, the production company behind the film, to create awareness about the issues of mandatory-minimum drug sentencing.)

Now, here's a clip of Sheen as Bartlet on The West Wing, talking about the failing War on Drugs and the American prison population:

Meaningful Music Meets Debauchery in the Desert: Anti-Flag Rocks Coachella

| Mon Apr. 21, 2014 3:00 AM PDT

The sun had set on the first day of Coachella. Bright, colored lights adorning art installations and beaming from stages highlighted the plumes of smoke and dust clouds emitting from audiences at the Indio Fairgrounds. I hurried through the sweaty shoulders clustered in front of the main stage, excited to see a band that played a big part in my musical upbringing.

Anti-Flag, which celebrated 20-years of punk rock in 2013, was set to play one of the smaller stages Friday, April 11, at midnight in the Gobi tent. The Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival has consistently delivered on nostalgia, bringing out new artists along with acts audiences know and love. But I wondered what the Anti-Flag crowd would look like.

The festival, which started small in Indio, California, in 1999, has since grown to attract worldwide attention, amenities such as craft beer, gourmet food, and luxury campsites, along with a hefty price-tag (admission runs from $349-$799, not including transportation, housing, food, and a budget for the more nefarious activities commonly considered part of the festival experience). 

The aesthetic of the festival's attendees is often discussed (and criticized) more than the music, and it largely defines the brand and attraction of Coachella. This year, the throngs of festival-goers were styled as expected. Neon tanks blended with short skirts, a scattering of ironic Native American headdresses, and, of course, skin, skin, skin. Dressing for the heat of the desert doesn't leave much to the imagination.

The hallmark of festival style, however, is a flowered wreath. A bouquet of large blooms wrapped in a crown, these wreaths adorned heads in every direction. Beautiful but cumbersome, their glamor began to wear thin the more often I saw them. They're worn as a nod to the "free-spirit" identity crafted by music festivals like Coachella, but in reality, they seem limiting. How can you head-bang with flowers in your hair? I didn't expect to see many of them at the Anti-Flag set that night.

Anti-Flag drummer Pat Thetic Megan Thompson

When I spoke to drummer Pat Thetic earlier that the day, he said he wasn’t fazed by the notion that his punk band might be playing to a more eclectic, or at least a smaller audience at Coachella."There are a lot of people here and they are open to ideas," he said."We need to have a voice of dissent in every environment. Whether it is a place like Coachella or a place like Warped Tour or at a local football game—you have to have a voice of dissent."

Anti-Flag is no stranger to the role. Hailing from Pittsburgh, the band started with a political aim, founded on their town’s history of labor movements. Its two original members, Thetic and lead singer/guitar player Justin Sane, were joined by Chris Head (rhythm guitar, backing vocals) and Chris Barker or "Chris #2" (lead vocals, bass guitar) in the late nineties.

Punk Rock was a venue for voicing their beliefs and rallying others."We were all trying to say something," Thetic says. "It did not necessarily mean that we were intelligent and had good things to say, but we were angry and activism and politics were a place to release that anger and frustration." His words perfectly described how I felt as a high school kid when I first discovered the band and punk rock. I loved the pounding rhythm that paralleled how I felt about the messages in the music.

The band has remained dedicated to highlighting social ills and continues to be involved in important causes. Last year, they partnered with Art For Amnesty, the Amnesty International campaign inspired by the imprisonment of Russian activist punk band Pussy Riot. Their version of "Toast to Freedom" (below), featuring Donots, Ian D’Sa of Billy Talent, and Bernd of Beatsteaks, is just one example of their musical advocacy efforts.

They have raised funds for nonprofits championing an array of issues—from PETA to Planned Parenthood, African Well Fund to the ACLU. Anti-Flag founded Military Free Zone to highlight problems with military recruitment in schools and Underground Action Alliance, a site that brings young activists together.

That’s why when I asked Thetic how music can solve the worlds problems I was surprised to hear him say it can’t."Music doesn’t change the world by any stretch," he said adamantly,"but the people who are changing the world are listening."

I wondered if the people changing the world were even at Coachella. Thetic assured me that they were—even if they didn’t know it yet."These kids are not being taught about these things but if they come to a festival like this maybe they will stop by and hear an Anti-Flag song," he explains. “If they are like ‘Who are these guys? Why are they so angry? What are they talking about? Should I be that angry?’ Those ideas can catch hold and spark a fire."

I reached the Gobi tent right before Anti-Flag was scheduled to play. I looked around at the people trickling in and hoped to see a fire spark. The lights went up. The band took the stage. The crowd grew. The onlookers transformed into a sea of bobbing heads and thrashing arms. Some shouted along. Others just moved to the music.

“Welcome to the most right and righteous circle pit of all Coachella history!" Chris #2 shouted from the stage."It happens right here, right now. Everyone is running in a circle. If someone falls down we pick them up!" The crowd erupted into organized mayhem—a blur of circular motion cycling through the middle. The moshing continued throughout the set. People kept their phones put away, even when Thetic brought his drum kit into the crowd for the final song.

By the time the band finished it was nearing 1 am. The dust from disbanded festival-goers was settling as workers made the rounds collecting trash left behind.

As I made my way out of the tent I saw it. Crumpled, laying in the dirt near the stage, a flower wreath had been left behind by its wearer. I hoped it had been ripped off in triumph and danced into the ground while its owner was caught in the moment, hearing the message, and truly listening to the music. One can only guess how it landed there, but to me it was a symbol that someone left that night changed—if only in the smallest way.

 

 

 

 

Quick Reads: "Authorisms" by Paul Dickson

| Mon Apr. 21, 2014 3:00 AM PDT
Authorisms

Authorisms

By Paul Dickson

BLOOMSBURY

Are you a literary muscleman or a munchkin? A word ninja or a spewer of malaprops? And who came up with these terms anyway? In Authorisms, Paul Dickson traces writerly coinages (a coinage of the Elizabethan scribe George Puttenham) of words and expressions ranging from assassination (Shakespeare's Macbeth) to zombification (the poet Andrei Codrescu). He takes things too far sometimes—while Jane Austen may have been the first to mention base ball in print­, for instance, it wasn't the baseball we know. Yet I was fascinated to discover that sayings I'd mistaken for relatively recent—blurb (1907), frenemy (1953), weapons of mass destruction (1937), wimp (from an 1898 children's book by Evelyn Sharpe)—actually predated me. It's enough to drive an anxious magazine editor to verbicide.

This review originally appeared in our May/June 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

"Veep" Just Aired Its Best Episode Yet

| Sun Apr. 20, 2014 8:00 PM PDT
Biden meeting with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who plays Vice President Selina Meyer on "Veep"), as she sits at his desk in his West Wing office on April 12, 2013

This post contains some spoilers.

When I spoke with Veep creator Armando Iannucci last year, we had some fun discussing (among other topics) how he does his research for the HBO satire and why he would never, ever, ever allow Joe Biden on the show. But what really stood out to me was when Iannucci talked about his characters' professional and personal frustrations—and how those frustrations reflect his view of Washington's effect on the soul:

I don't want [the characters in Veep] to seem like caricatures—I want them to be viewed as real people, with their own problems, and hopes, and dreams, and frustrations…And it's that frustration and exasperation that I look for in comedy…What I want to do is show what the system can do to you, and to have [the audience] sympathize with the terrible set of circumstances these characters have to deal with every single day.

Iannucci is a brilliant satirist and a clever political observer. His brand of comedy and commentary (also seen in British TV series The Day Today and The Thick of It, and the latter's brilliant 2009 spin-off film In the Loop) is a mischievous deromanticization of political and media elites. It's smart, wildly funny stuff that's full of carefully constructed, linguistically acrobatic profanity.

But with many of Veep's episodes, that sympathy he mentions in the above quote doesn't always come through. Your average viewer might watch a random episode and come away with the impression that it was written by someone who despised Washington, DC, and all its inhabitants. (Iannucci is actually a self-described "politics geek" who finds DC "fascinating.") However, in Sunday's episode, "Alicia" (directed by Chris Morris and guest-starring Tracie Thoms), Iannucci's humanist outlook is more apparent than it ever has been before in the series. This is the reason why "Alicia" is perhaps the finest episode Veep has yet to pull off.

The US Government Really Isn't Worried About "Transcendence" Happening in Real Life

| Fri Apr. 18, 2014 3:34 PM PDT

This post contains spoilers, but the movie is bad so I don't think you'll care.

Transcendence is an awful movie—two hours of squandered potential. (You can read my colleague Ben Dreyfuss' review here.) The film stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, and Kate Mara. It was executive-produced by Christopher Nolan, and marks the directorial debut of cinematographer Wally Pfister (the guy who made Christopher Nolan movies look like Christopher Nolan movies). The plot goes something like this: Depp plays a renowned artificial-intelligence researcher named Will Caster. He gets assassinated by a terrorist group that fears super-intelligent, sentient machines will one day rule the world. Will's wife Evelyn (played by Hall) has the bright idea to upload his consciousness to a big computer thing, hoping he'll live on in cyberspace or something. It works, and this achieves technological singularity (when A.I. becomes greater than the human mind), which Will calls "transcendence."

Things get really creepy and it starts to look like Johnny Depp The Omniscient Computer really is trying to take over the world. The US government begins to wage a secret war on him/it, and gets into bed with some shady, gun-toting characters in doing so.

Anyway, that may sound like a cool premise, but the movie is really, very boring—but it did get me and my buddy thinking: What would our government do if this happened in real life? Does the government have a contingency plan if (as some believe is possible) sentient machines began outdoing mankind? What if the machines went to war against us? What would Barack Obama do???

Okay, this is stupid. But if America once drew up legit plans to invade Canada, maybe there's a chance we have a plan for this. I called up the Department of Defense, and was transferred to spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart. I asked him these questions, and if anyone working in cyber warfare had anything to say about this. His response:

I'm gonna be frank with you. There is nobody here who is going to talk about that...There are currently no plans for this. It's just a completely unrealistic scenario. We have a lot of people working on this team on serious stuff, but this just isn't a real threat.

"Well," he concluded, "at least not for now."

For now.

Obama's America.

Here's the trailer for the Johnny Depp movie:

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Review: "Transcendence" (2014)

| Fri Apr. 18, 2014 2:29 PM PDT

"Transcendence"

Released by: Warner Brothers Pictures

Starring: Johnny Depp, Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall

Directed by: Wally Pfister

Screenplay by: Jack Paglen

Release Date: April 18, 2014

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 119 minutes

Review: Wow awful.

 

Beloved Author Gabriel García Márquez Was Also a Go-Between for Colombian Guerrillas and the Government

| Fri Apr. 18, 2014 1:41 PM PDT
García Márquez (center) with the Colombian culture minister Paula Moreno (left) in 2009.

Gabriel García Márquez passed away on Thursday at his home in Mexico City. He was 87. The Nobel Prize-winning Colombian novelist was celebrated for such works as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. "The world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers—one of my favorites from the time I was young," President Obama said on Thursday.

When a literary figure as towering as García Márquez dies, there are too many fascinating things to write about—his writing, his political history, his wild ride of a life. (Hell, I could see myself writing an entire term paper on his friendly relationship with Colombian pop star Shakira!) I'm not going to attempt anything close to a definitive obituary of a man who gave the world so much through his art. I'll leave that to others.

But I'd like to highlight one politically significant part of Gabo's life: García Márquez wasn't just an acclaimed writer and passionate supporter of left-wing causes—for a time, he was an intermediary between Colombian leftist guerrillas and the government.

Here's an excerpt from a 1999 New Yorker profile written by Jon Lee Anderson:

García Márquez who has often referred to himself as "the last optimist in Colombia," has been closely involved in the peace negotiations. He introduced [Colombian president Andrés] Pastrana to his old friend Fidel Castro, who could facilitate talks with the guerrillas, and he helped restore good relations between Washington and Bogotá. "I won't say that it was Gabo who brought all this about," Bill Richardson, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, said early this summer, "but he was a catalyst." García Márquez was invited by the Clintons to the White House several times, and friends say he believed that he was going to not only carry off the immediate goal of getting some sort of negotiated settlement between the guerrillas and the government but also finally help bring about an improvement in relations between the United States and Cuba. "The U.S. needs Cuba's involvement in the Colombian peace talks, because the Cuban government has the best contacts with the guerrillas," he explained to me. "And Cuba is perfectly situated, only two hours away, so Pastrana can go there overnight and have meetings and come back without anyone knowing anything about it. And the U.S. wants this to happen." Then he smiled in a way that indicated he knew much more than he was telling me, as usual.

The whole profile, which you can check out here, is definitely worth a read.

I now leave you with this footage of García Márquez visiting Shakira and dancing:

R.I.P.

WATCH: Will George W. Bush's Art Show Be a Reflection of His Presidency? [Fiore Cartoon]

| Thu Apr. 17, 2014 10:55 AM PDT

Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.

"House of Cards" Veteran Wants To Make a Reality TV Show Starring Capitol Hill Staffers

| Thu Apr. 17, 2014 9:21 AM PDT

Oh, boy.

On Thursday, the Washington Examiner's Betsy Woodruff reported that a veteran of the Netflix political drama House of Cards is working to produce a reality TV show based in Washington, DC. The show would star local "up-and-comers," including Capitol Hill staffers ("the best and brightest on the hill") between the ages of 19 and 29.

A casting session is set to be held on April 26. One source told the Examiner that the first round of casting has already occurred. (It's unclear how many Hill staffers would actually be up for this, since most Senate and House offices probably wouldn't allow employees to take part in a potentially revealing reality series.)

Mother Jones obtained the casting call, which is dated April 14. Check it out:

House of Cards reality tv show casting call

Sharon "Rocky" Roggio, who's apparently behind the project, was the assistant property master on this year's season of House of Cards and worked on A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas and the Red Dawn remake. Jena Serbu served as a production designer on Amish Mafia and Breaking Amish: LA.

Other attempts at reality TV in Washington include MTV's The Real World: D.C. and Bravo's The Real Housewives of DC. In 2011, Doron Ofir Casting (the company behind such reality-TV hits as Jersey Shore) put out a casting call for "young hot politicos who care about America [and] follow the heated debates, rallies, protests and scandals!" Last month, the Washington Post reported that Leftfield Pictures, the Manhattan production company behind Bravo's hit show, Blood, Sweat and Heels, is considering launching a DC version of the series. TV dramas and comedies set in Washington, DC, include Scandal, Veep, The Americans, and the attempted sitcom H Street.