Mixed Media

John Oliver Shows the Supreme Court How to Make Their Boring Recordings Way More Adorable

| Mon Oct. 20, 2014 9:02 AM EDT

The Supreme Court bars cameras from televising its oral arguments, with the only window into the minds of justices being lame audio recordings paired with awkward illustrations. No one wants to watch that.

John Oliver has a brilliant alternative: Dogs. Cats. Real adorable animals with fake moving paws.

"The visual makes it irresistible. Why? Because a cat's paws are doing things you wouldn't expect them to do. And if it works for shitty piano music it can work for the Supreme Court."

Consider us sold.

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Numero Group Releases a Stellar Retrospective

| Mon Oct. 20, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Unwound
No Energy
Numero Group

Part three of Numero Group's stellar Unwound retrospective picks up with the 1995 album The Future of What, followed by 1996's Repetition, and includes eight singles sides and some previously unreleased recordings. What's most immediately striking about these 33 tracks is how little interest the Olympia, Washington, trio has in repeating itself. While Justin Trosper (vocals, guitar), Vern Rumsey (bass) and Sara Lund (drums) still draw on deep roots in punk and hard rock, they often seem to be navigating uncharted territory. The songs are dark and jagged, more likely to generate brooding unease than provide easy catharsis. Check out either version of the tortured eight-minute epic "Swan" for an unpredictable, genre-defying experience that's thoroughly fascinating.

Sallie Ford, the Exhilarating Provocateur

| Mon Oct. 20, 2014 6:00 AM EDT

Sallie Ford
Slap Back
Vanguard

sallie ford

Raucous, profane, and unapologetic, Sallie Ford relishes playing the provocateur. On the exhilarating Slap Back, the Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter debuts her new all-female backing band, sounding like the early, badass Elvis Costello who fronted the Attractions. Buoyed by waves of punky garage rock, Ford addresses urgent issues like romance and lust in her usual blunt language ("Give Me Your Lovin'"), while illuminating her own struggles ("So Damn Low") and pausing for moments of surprising tenderness, observing, "Loves may come and lovers may go. But I'm here for the long haul, I hope you know" in "Hey Girl." For all the catchy tunes and tough grooves, Ford's greatest asset is her rowdy charisma.

Film Review: "The Hand That Feeds"

| Fri Oct. 17, 2014 6:50 AM EDT

The Hand That Feeds

JUBILEE FILMS

At the beginning of The Hand That Feeds, Mahoma López, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, counts out the $290 he's just received for a 60-hour workweek in a deli on New York City's ritzy Upper East Side. The film feels like a familiar tale of exploitation and wage theft, until López and his Hot & Crusty coworkers stand up and fight back. In this behind-the-scenes look at the ensuing labor dispute, directors Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick lead us through the struggles and eventual triumph of López & Co. as they enlist the help of activists and, notably, a group of Occupy Wall Street-influenced twentysomethings. Despite the film's narrow focus—which leaves out some much-needed context about the treatment of immigrants in the restaurant biz—it's an inspiring tale.

Watch Jon Stewart Try to Explain White Privilege to Bill O'Reilly

| Thu Oct. 16, 2014 5:31 PM EDT

Last night, Bill O'Reilly went on The Daily Show and Jon Stewart asked him to admit that there is such a thing in the world as white privilege. What followed was a pretty entertaining shouting match!

Watch:

Fox News Actually Just Asked This Poll Question

| Thu Oct. 16, 2014 3:55 PM EDT

Fox News is the number one cable news network in this country—by a wide margin—largely because it kills it with old people. If you are an old white person in the United States who watches cable news, you probably watch Fox. How does Fox rack up such stellar ratings among the twilight of life set? Well, it shouts about Matlock how the country ain't what it used to be. With Vaseline on the lens, it plays the nostalgia game and confirms old people's belief that the America they grew up in was actually as great as they've romanticized it to be. Everything wrong with the world today? That wasn't a problem back in the ol' days! Ebola? ISIS? Not in their day! The internet did it! The gays did it! The rock & roll did it! This country used to stand for something, by howdy! What is this world coming to? Where is it going?

Really: Where is this world going?

To Hell.

To Hell in a handbasket!

This week, Fox conducted a poll of registered voters and asked if they think the world is going "to Hell in a handbasket" or whether "everything will be alright."

Fifty-eight percent think the world is going to Hell in a handbasket. Fifty-eight percent are wrong.

Look, aging isn't easy. It's a humbling sentence of inexorable graying punctuated by death. The way that people deal with old age is their own. No one can blame the 58 percent of registered voters who think the country is "going to Hell in a handbasket.' They're reacting from a very real place of loss and concern and guilt that they drove the economy into the ground. But, to be real, old people, chill. It's going to be fine.

The good ol' days weren't so good. There has never been a better time to be alive in America. People live longer and better lives than at any other time in history. Today was better than yesterday, tomorrow will be better still. If I gave you a time machine and told you that you could take a one way trip anywhere in time, the only reasonable answer would be the future.

P.S. It's worth noting that Fox clearly only worded the poll that way so that they could write the headline, "As election nears, voters say things are 'going to hell in a handbasket.'"

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This Is the Most Terrifying Shark Video You'll See All Week

| Wed Oct. 15, 2014 7:54 PM EDT

Good evening! Here is something terrifying:

 

I have nothing to add. Just, wow, terrifying. If I lived near that beach, I would probably be scared to go back in the water.

Is this video as scary as Jaws? No. But it probably makes more sense, to be honest.

Have a super night.

(via Ryan Broderick)

Christopher Nolan Films, Ranked

| Wed Oct. 15, 2014 4:04 PM EDT

Ahead of its November 5 premier, Interstellar graces the cover of this week's Entertainment Weekly. The Christopher Nolan-helmed space opera looks pretty great! But Nolan's films always look great in advance. Some of them ended up making good on the promise of their trailers, but others haven't. Nolan has made seven films that have seen wide release. (His first film, Following, I have never seen and didn't know about until ten seconds ago and is thus not included on this list.) Of those seven films, one is great, four are good but forgettable, and two are bad bad bad. Here are his films, according to me, a fan with an opinion. 

1. The Dark Knight

2. The Prestige

3. Memento

4. Insomnia

5. Batman Begins

6. The Dark Knight Rises

7. Inception

Here is the trailer for Interstellar:

Video: You've Never Seen the Colossal Power of the Ocean Quite Like This

| Wed Oct. 15, 2014 9:34 AM EDT

Water from Morgan Maassen on Vimeo.

More than 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by oceans; they support nearly 50 percent of all the planet's species. And yet for us land-bound bipeds, their depths remain mysterious, fearsome, and untouched: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that "more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored." While greenhouse gases snatch the global warming headlines, the oceans play a crucial role in our understanding of climate change, having absorbed more than 90 percent of the Earth's extra heat since 1955. This video, uploaded to Vimeo by photographer and filmmaker Morgan Maassen from Santa Barbara, Calif., taps into that awesome, elemental power of the unknown, lifting it way above the run-of-the-mill surfie video into something that left me slack-jawed (and missing summer). Enjoy.

Book Review: The Birth of the Pill

| Tue Oct. 14, 2014 5:24 PM EDT
birth of the pill

The Birth of the Pill

By Jonathan Eig

NORTON

Seventy years ago, birth control—illegal, crude, and unreliable—was reserved for women with means whose men were willing to go along. Jonathan Eig's gripping history recounts how two men and two women fought science and society for a pill to enable smaller families (and low-risk recreational sex). Their campaign, which touted pragmatism (population control, economics) over pleasure, won some unlikely victories: the support of a devout Catholic OB-GYN, for instance, and the backing of a feisty heiress who once smuggled more than 1,000 diaphragms into the States, sewn into the folds of the latest European fashions. The pill is utterly ordinary today. The story of how we got here is anything but.

This review originally appeared in our September/October issue of Mother Jones.