2008 - %3, August

God Understands Irony, A Postscript

| Fri Aug. 29, 2008 3:41 PM EDT

We're not claiming God's a Democrat, but it's clear She doesn't respond to Republican wingnut raindances.

First the Good Lord sent a tropical storm to bungle a meeting of global warming deniers in Florida. Then She conjured up Gustav to threaten to delay Bush's speech at the RNC.

Last night, God flat-out denied ex-pastor (and ex-meteorologist) Stuart Shepard's entreaties to rain on the Obama parade. In the Focus on the Family video clip shown below, the group's digital media director encouraged viewers to pray for rain during Obama's speech at the DNC. Not just "torrential rain," but "network-cameras-can't-see-the-podium rain, attendees-can't-walk-back-to-the-indoor-arena-without-wishing-for-hip-waders rain."

Watch the raindance here:

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Roundtable Review: Trouble the Water

| Thu Aug. 28, 2008 6:47 PM EDT

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A few days before Hurricane Katrina struck land in New Orleans three years ago Friday, 24-year-old rapper Kimberly Rivers Roberts bought a camcorder for $20 on the street. With her husband Scott, she started filming her neighbors—most of whom didn't have the means to leave—and their preparations to ride out the storm. She kept filming until the levees failed, even as the water rose and her friends sought safety in their attics. Two weeks later, Kim and Scott returned to document the destruction, and join some 20 friends in the back of a truck to begin the long trip to dry land. Kim and Scott's footage, along with archival materials including recovered recordings of 911 calls and video of inmates trapped in the Orleans Parish Prison, makes for a film that is at once journalistic and deeply personal.

Four MoJo staffers watched Trouble the Water Tuesday night and discussed it via Gchat Wednesday morning. Read the conversation here.

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Wed Aug. 27, 2008 3:25 PM EDT
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Hillary Clinton's Music Strikes a Minor Chord

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 1:16 AM EDT

mojo-photo-hillary.jpgWhile Senator Hillary Clinton's speech tonight at the Democratic National Convention in Denver struck an energetic, unifying tone, the music used in her tribute video and walk-on offered an interesting counterpoint. The video, narrated by Chelsea and played before her speech, kicked off brightly and energetically, with a couple of rock tracks that were considered edgy when they first came out but have since settled into the classic-rock pantheon. First we heard The Kinks' "You Really Got Me," which is based entirely around rising, pulsing major chords, in the upbeat "Louie Louie" style of the time. Then we segued into Lenny Kravitz' "Are You Gonna Go My Way," a track whose funky minor chords in the verses give way to celebratory major chords in the chorus. Next up, Tom Petty's "American Girl," whose chorus kicks off with major chords but then steps briefly into melancholy territory, with a few minor chords expressing a certain nostalgia.

Did Facebook Just Endorse Obama?

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 8:47 PM EDT

This past weekend I finally decided to launch myself a Facebook page. I was going about my business setting up my profile, editing my information, importing pictures, re-editing my information, and so on until I was ready to begin inviting friends. So I found an old buddy, clicked "Add as Friend" and this popped up:

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I didn't notice at first. But then I saw it... look again at the words I was required to enter.

"voted ican"

Usually we're just asked to type randomly capitalized jibberish, but here we have an incredible promotion of civic engagement. How responsible of Facebook. Thank you, Mark.

But wait—"ican"—that reminds me of something... Seriously, did Facebook just endorse Obama?

Merge Records's 20-Year Anniversary Collections to Remind Us of the Greatness of Merge Records

| Tue Aug. 26, 2008 4:23 PM EDT

mojo-photo-merge.jpgIf you look up "Indie Record Label" in the dictionary, does it have a picture of North Carolina's Merge Records' logo there? Yeah, I know, "what's a dictionary." The legendary imprint will celebrate its 20th anniversary this fall with a set of subscription-only specially-curated compilations, which, as Idolator put it, are guaranteed to open the wallets of nerds worldwide. The first CD will be curated by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Junebug director Phil Morrison, while celebs like Jonathan Lethem, David Byrne an Amy Poehler are lined up to take charge of future discs. You can start ordering them on September 8th, and they're limited editions, so set your alarms, my fellow nerds.

The label's 20-year existence is bookended by two bands who are symbolic of the "indie culture" of their time: Superchunk, whose music Merge was formed specifically to release, and Arcade Fire, whose two recent full-lengths were the label's greatest financial successes by far. But they've released a lot of other fine music in the interim. After the jump, some Merge-tastic videos from a few of my faves.

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Mining for Gold

| Mon Aug. 25, 2008 2:50 PM EDT

After more than two weeks of shot putting, somersaulting, sprinting, and spiking, the Beijing Olympics have come to a close. And for the first time in 72 years, the United States isn't standing atop the podium.

China has come away with the most gold medals, walloping the US 51-36. And while home countries often claim more victories in the year they host—Greece procured an impressive 16 medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics—few countries have seemed as driven as China and none have toppled the dominant USA in a quarter of a century. And the US is having trouble dealing with it. The UK edition of the Times Online noted that the United States is defying the traditional system by keeping tabs of the most overall medals instead of golds (The US scored 110 overalls to China's 100)—a move summed up in the headline "America Refuses to Accept Defeat in the Olympic Medal Count."

Most Americans will gauge this Olympics, as they always do (ok, maybe a little moreso this year), by its heroes: Michael Phelps with his record-breaking dominance and supportive single mother; Shawn Johnson and the Chinese coach who guided her to gold in his hometown. Don't forget your Michael Phelps gold medal tribute to remember! But fluffing Phelps' feathers aside, the medal tally matters. When billions of people around the world see that you're the top dog, it's an unbeatable global PR push.

Outside Lands: Slogging It, Part Two

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 7:02 PM EDT

An hour and a half after our streetcar adventure began, we made it to Golden Gate Park Friday evening with more than a half an hour to spare before Manu Chao took the stage at 6:15.

Making our way through the gates took another 45 minutes: We entered the park at 19th Avenue, the closest entrance to the box office and our passes, but the festival map did not label the intra-park streets, which snake around and break off into tributaries. I figured this was the organizers' way of testing our spatial-reasoning skills.

This thought was confirmed when, after we realized we had walked too far and turned around to backtrack, we saw signs labeled "media check-in" and "will call" with arrows pointing us in the right direction. The sign was hanging on a fence, facing away from anyone who entered the park at 19th Avenue.

My Outside Lands Experience: Worth the Fog and Trouble

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 6:37 PM EDT

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First of all, not to rub it in to my streetcar-entrapped Mother Jones colleagues, but a motorcycle makes things a lot easier.

To those of you who aren't located within about a 10-mile radius of San Francisco, let me remind you of our unique meteorological situation. The California Current brings cold Pacific Ocean water south from Canada, while upwelling from the frigid, murky deep peaks during the summer months, making our ocean waters colder in June and July than they are in December. The summer sun heats the land in central California, causing high low surface pressure, and sucking the chilly, saturated air in from the sea and over SF. This creates the famous fog, which everyone thinks is so charming in pictures but actually feels like a soggy blizzard. It's my personal theory that the Bay Area's notorious political uniqueness is actually a symptom of meteorological alienation from the rest of America, frolicking in the summer sun while we huddle around our space heaters. Whatever else our shivery summer isolation causes, it makes an outdoor music festival in Golden Gate Park, out by the ocean where thick fog is almost inevitable, seem about as attractive as spending an evening under the vegetable sprayers in the supermarket.

Outside Lands: Slogging It

| Sat Aug. 23, 2008 4:11 PM EDT

Our downtown offices at Mother Jones sit just a few miles from Golden Gate Park, the site of the Outside Lands fest, so to make sure we had a good spot for Manu Chao's set at 6, Brittney and I hopped on an outbound streetcar just after 4 yesterday afternoon.

After the train pulled away from Montgomery Street, we began talking about the bands we were excited to see: The Black Keys, Radiohead, Beck, Cold War Kids. It had been a long week at MoJo; our Military Bases project finally went live. We were looking forward to a relaxing night in the park.

And then approximately 12,639 tourists, hipsters, hippies, festival-goers, and unlucky commuters crammed themselves into to the train at the next stop. I guessed 12,634 of them were also on their way to Outside Lands. Suddenly, I became acutely acquainted with the aromatic heft of Old Spice deodorant under the arm of the guy who wedged in next to me to grab the pole over my head. Two women, probably on their way home, sitting in the seats just in front of me looked up at the crowd that had made the train a can of sardines; their faces wore Kurtz's horror.

So many people had squeezed in to the train the door wouldn't close, so the conductor politely informed the crowd not to lean on the bars that, when pressed, open the doors when the cars stop at street level. Ten stops and ten similar announcements later, he'd lost his patience: "DON'T LEAN ON THE BARS! THE BARS KEEP THE DOORS OPEN! GET OFF THE CAR! CAR TWO! I KNOW IT'S YOU, CAR TWO!" A girl at the back of the car put it even more bluntly: "Get off the f*cking bars! Get off the f*cking car!"

We were half way there.

—Steve Aquino