2008 - %3, August

Segments of Olympics Opening Ceremony "Faked"?

| Mon Aug. 11, 2008 5:06 PM EDT

mojo-photo-olympics.jpgSorry, the incredibly awkward shots of President Bush getting to his seat were all too real. However, it turns out that a climactic moment of the elaborate, 15,000-person-employing Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday was a clever bit of CGI. The jaw-dropping shot of sequentially-launched fireworks in the shape of footsteps heading towards the "bird's nest" stadium was "a 3-D graphics sequence that took almost a year to produce," conceived as an antidote to the smoggy skies which would have obscured actual footage. Not to act all smart or anything, but while watching the ceremony I noticed that not only did that segment have the slightly-hyperreal look of a Pixar film, but also, who could be filming it? Apparently that was also a concern: the Olympic committee was worried about the safety of a helicopter pilot who would have been forced to follow the route of the fireworks.

Various news organizations are reporting the footage was "faked," although that seems a little harsh, since the committee came clean rather quickly. The segment in question was just so well done (and perfectly timed) that most people were taken in, and from what I can tell, they actually did launch those foot-shaped fireworks, so the CGI bit was more like a diagram of something really happening, which seems less sinful, somehow.

After the jump: but I thought I was immune to Olympics Fever!!

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Top Four: Music (Not) to Skate To

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 6:55 PM EDT

badly-drawn-boy-250x200.jpgOk, I admit it: yes, I'm in my 30s, and yes, I still skateboard. Whether this makes me incredibly brave, incredibly stupid, hopelessly juvenile, or the coolest old dude on the block is completely debatable.

Skating is an aggressive sport that can be brutal on your body, so I've always thought that it lends itself to fun, aggressive, loud, or energetic music. But I'm amazed at some of the sad, dreary music I hear being played at skateparks. Here's a sampling of what I've heard:

Who's the Closed Country Now: NBC Withholds Olympics Until It's Damn Well Ready

| Fri Aug. 8, 2008 5:55 PM EDT

mojo-photo-olympicslogo.jpgFirst revelation: it turns out the whole world doesn't arrange stuff according to America's prime time TV schedule! Who knew? The opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing kicked off at 8 a.m. Eastern Time, and one would imagine that NBC, understanding the demand for immediacy in the decentralized internet age, would broadcast it live, right? Nope. At the time of the ceremony, NBC was broadcasting a cooking segment on the Today show. For the billions of dollars they paid for the rights, they're going to get their money's worth, and that means the opening ceremony will be delayed 12 hours so American audiences can watch it after dinner, with what I can only assume will be a whole lot of commercials.

After the jump: your desire for immediate access to information makes you a criminal!

New Music: Keane, Jay-Z, Annie & Sam Sparro, M.S.K.

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 4:50 PM EDT

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British popsters Keane have always seemed like Coldplay imitators, and since Coldplay are just U2 imitators, we're talking a pretty washed-out copy. But on Keane's new song "Spiralling," they take a crazy left turn towards '80s synth pop and Billy Squier beats, and it's kind of intriguing. They're offering up a 256kbps mp3 of the track on their website in exchange for your e-mail address, which isn't such a bad deal, I guess.

Jay-Z continues to use his recent feud with Noel Gallagher as creative fodder, dropping a line about "that bloke from Oasis" into a new song the rapper debuted last night in an appearance at Kanye West's show at Madison Square Garden. The track, "Blueprint 3," is pretty awesome, although it too sounds like it stole the rhythm from Billy Squire's "The Big Beat." What's going on?

After the jump: Australian pipes beat Norwegian pipes, and asteroids beat Earth

Pop Culture Debate Seems to Favor McCain

| Thu Aug. 7, 2008 3:10 PM EDT

I know, what with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears taking over the presidential race, we're all a bit sick of trivialities being injected into the campaign. But aren't you just a little curious about the candidates' favorite movies, music, TV shows? Well, Entertainment Weekly did the tough job of tracking down Barack Obama and John McCain's answers on various pop culture topics, including the first movie they saw, which onscreen president they admire the most, and all sorts of completely useless and irrelevant questions. What emerges kind of confirms my suspicions: personality-wise, Obama is kind of boring, and McCain has a pretty good sense of humor. For instance, for favorite TV show, McCain said Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm while Obama said M*A*S*H and The Dick Van Dyke Show, two programs that you could use to torture me if you thought I was a terrorist. Now, I get the sense that Obama is cooler than he's letting on—didn't a Riff reporter uncover his admiration for The Wire?—so maybe he understands the ridiculousness of the exercise enough to feed milquetoast answers to the public. But it is Entertainment Weekly, not Reader's Digest. Anyway, after the jump, see the candidates' answers in a variety of categories.

Top 5: Stoner Metal

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 6:26 PM EDT

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My good old Honda motorcycle is pretty reliable, if a bit beaten-up-looking, but it does need its regular tune-ups almost as much as its owner needs his sit-ups. When I dropped it off at the shop yesterday, the guys there had a classic album from Monster Magnet on the stereo, a band who, along with Kyuss and Sleep, basically invented stoner metal, a sludgy genre inspired by both '60s psychedelia and '70s hard rock. I haven't been anywhere near weed in, like, 15 years (I know Jonathan Stein doesn't believe me, but it's true!) and yet I still love the music's combination of rumbling weight and melodic complexity; here's five classic tracks to zone out to from the genre's mid-'90s heyday. They're enjoyable even if you're not on the, er, Pineapple Express.

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Tape of Beatles Chuckling Sells for $23,000

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 2:56 PM EDT

mojo-photo-beatlesbw.jpgA recently discovered reel-to-reel tape of The Beatles "chatting and laughing" during a recording session has sold for $23,446 in an online auction. Okay, it's also got pieces of songs, including "I'll Follow the Sun," and "I Feel Fine," but still. The man who found the tape wished to remain anonymous, revealing only that he had found the tape in his father's attic in northern England. Two lessons here: 1) Record everything you do, whether it's just chatting with your friends or having a snack, then distribute the tapes to friends and relatives with storage, and 2) Go up to your parents' attic right now and look for treasure.

Indie Pop Playlist: Loquat and Thao Nguyen

| Wed Aug. 6, 2008 1:45 PM EDT

loquat-250.jpgOn my earphones this week are two bands I just recently got turned onto: Loquat and Thao Nguyen. Both are sweet with a touch of melancholy, and both remind me just a bit of previous decades.

Hear tracks after the jump:

(Not So) Great Moments in Gear Theft History

| Tue Aug. 5, 2008 6:40 PM EDT

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News has emerged from Canada that legendary rockers The Stooges had all their gear stolen yesterday from in front of their hotel in Montreal. The equipment, including guitars, pedals, amps, and drums, was packed into a rented truck outside the Embassy Suites hotel, and was taken sometime around the rock-stars-are-sleeping hour of 7:00 a.m. Bassist Mike Watt's original Gibson guitar, which he's used since playing with the Minutemen in the '80s, is among the missing. [Update 8/6: Idolator says they have found the truck, but no gear.] The band have appealed for any information leading to the recovery of the instruments, but history isn't on their side: bands who lose their stuff rarely get it back, although sometimes, the trauma leads to creative breakthroughs. Here's some recent episodes of gear theft and how it turned out for the artists.

Study: One-Fifth of UK Public "Frustrated Musicians"

| Tue Aug. 5, 2008 3:55 PM EDT

mojo-photo-subwaymusicians.jpgDoes that include Oasis? Oh, sorry, I thought they said "frustrating." A poll commissioned by O2 Undiscovered has found that 20 percent of people questioned consider themselves "frustrated musicians," i.e., they wish they could toss aside their current job choice for an exciting music industry career. Respondents indicating that music was their true love included 11 percent of construction workers and 10 percent of doctors. Does anyone else feel a bit anxious knowing that the people building your house or slicing open your belly are daydreaming of landing in the Billboard charts? Actually, maybe they just want to be rich: 25 percent of respondents in the survey said The Beatles would be "the ideal band to forge a career in" if they could pick any band in history. What, not The Rutles?

The study did return one serious finding: three quarters of respondents felt they "had not been encouraged" to pursue a career in music at school or at home, and half felt schools should provide more of a musical education. I'll support that, although as Obama says, some of you might be the next Lil Wayne, but most of you won't. Now back to taking out my appendix, dammit!

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user NYCArthur.