2008 - %3, October

Studs Terkel, RIP

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 7:55 PM EDT

Studs Terkel was a journalist's journalist, though he considered the term "journalist" to be far less blue-collar than the job. A personal hero of many writers, he died today the way most of us would like to: Home in bed, at the age of 96, with a copy of his latest forthcoming book on the nightstand.

In 1995, Mother Jones interviewed the master of the interview. Read it here.

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Economic Troubles Trickling Down to DJs, Up to U2

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 6:47 PM EDT

mojo-photo-downarrow.jpgThis is what I get for gloating. I was just reassuring my family that my work area, DJing and various audio production gigs, is so specialized that it's generally immune from economic ups and downs. Plus, holidays can be good for DJs, and I typically pick up a couple well-paying gigs for company holiday shindigs. I'd already booked a few, but I just got this e-mail:

To: partyben@yahoo.com
From: [person at event planning company]
Subject: URGENT: [company] Holiday Party
It is with regret we advise you that [company] has cancelled their holiday event scheduled for [date]. We were really looking forward to it, but due to the current economic conditions, it couldn't be helped.

Things are so bad out there that our workplaces' annual celebrations of Jesus are being scrubbed, putting our nation's, uh, guys who are willing to throw on "Play That Funky Music White Boy" when the trashed sales exec demands you play it, out of work? Wow, this is a real recession!

After the jump: Bono feels my pain!

Totally Mandatory First Impressions of Best American Non-Required Reading 2008

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 8:31 PM EDT

mojo-photo-banrr.jpgCover looks like: African Q*Bert

One word to describe the reactions of Judy Blume to the sometimes non-sequitous interview questions in the introduction: Baffled

Three words to describe the reactions of Judy Blume to the sometimes non-sequitous interview questions in the introduction: Kind of dull

Number of high schoolers who helped edit the book: 18

How much do I wish I had been able to help edit a book when I was a kid: A lot

Terrible comic vs. tolerably cute comic ratio: 1-1

How surprised I am when year-end collections somehow manage to pick New Yorker articles that, despite my diligent attempts to read every issue, I apparently missed: Pretty, but getting less so

Band names they got wrong in the section on "Best American New Band Names": "Crystle Castles" (I guess they mean Crystal Castles), "J.U.S.T.I.C.E." (Justice have a song called "D.A.N.C.E."), "Lights Down Low" (I think they must mean the club night)

Best way to look at Dave Eggers-associated publications' attempts to discuss music: with a gentle, bemused chuckle

Stories about the end of the world within the first 120 pages: 2

How many times better the Nonrequired Reading books are than the rest of the Best American series, especially these days since the short story collections seem to be filled with weepy, self-consciously international mini-movies-of-the-week: at least 7

O's For Obama: Because Change Is Coming

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 8:14 PM EDT

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Last Friday evening Sami Saud, an exchange student from Jordan who had been in the US for about three months, stood smoking a cigarette outside of the doors at 1015 Folsom, a dance club in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood. "I want to see how people come together for this guy," Saud explained.

"This guy," was Barack Obama. The event Saud waited to attend? An all-night fundraiser, the highlight of which was a "guided breath-gasm experience" put on by O' s for Obama. Tagline: "Because change is coming."

O's was the creation of San Francisco-based Obama supporter and "certified somatic sexologist" Destin Gerek. The 30-year-old Gerek, who calls himself the Erotic Rockstar, said that the goal of the event was "to lead the world through a large scale orgasmic breathing experience culminating in a simultaneous group energetic breath-gasm."

Deep techno music played in the main room while guests bought drinks at the bar. At the tables next to the bathrooms, one group sold Obama paraphernalia (proceeds went to the Obama campaign) while another group distributed Proposition K literature (the women at the second table hastened to explain that the junior senator from Illinois was unaffiliated with their group). The techno was occasionally interspersed with taped clips from Obama's speeches. The cue for 200 people to enter the largest room of the club for a simulated orgasm guided by Gerek was this Obama phrase:

Digital Trainwreck

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 8:07 PM EDT

It seems the recession is spreading in the art world, too. Yesterday, "worry-free" photo storage provider Digital Railroad sent a notice telling its subscribers they had 24 hours to get their images off the DRR server, or lose them. Then they pulled the plug.

Photographers flooded DRR's servers as they tried to salvage their archives, but not everyone was able to download their work in time. Even photographers with back-ups in other locations stand to lose big from DRR's shutting down: Re-archiving images and setting up shop somewhere else takes time. And as we all know, time is money.

Hit just as hard (if not harder) by DRR's closure are powerhouse photo agencies like VII, Noor and Redux, which lost the interface from which they do business.

If this reliable business for photo agencies and stock photographers can fold, who's next?

Your Future Dream is A Shopping Scheme: Christie's to Auction Punk Memorabilia

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 6:09 PM EDT

mojo-photo-christies.jpgAs the Sex Pistols once snarled, if you don't know what you want but you know how to get it, then you'll want to head to an upcoming sale in New York to be held by venerable auction house Christie's featuring tons of rock and punk stuff. From the AP:

The event, announced Tuesday, includes more than 120 records, photos and promotional pieces for such punk, garage rock and new wave legends as the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, the Ramones, David Bowie, Blondie, the Cure and the Smiths. The auction is Christie's first to focus on punk mementos, signaling the collectible status of a brash, anti-authoritarian rock movement that largely thumbed its nose at posterity. "We understand that tastes change, tastes mature," said Christie's pop-culture chief Simeon Lipman. "Ten years ago, punk memorabilia probably wouldn't be something we'd be auctioning here. But now, people of a certain age have a certain ability to splurge on this material."

A certain age? Are you saying I'm old? Well, whatever my age, my ability to afford any of this stuff is very uncertain: a signed Ramones test pressing is estimated at $5,000-$7,000, and a Sears bass guitar used by Kurt Cobain on early demos is estimated to fetch up to $80,000. For those of us living a more, er, punk rock lifestyle, $200 might get you a set of Sex Pistols buttons. That's right: buttons. Jeez, why haven't I been saving those?!

It's not really "punk," per se, but if anybody wants a hint for an early Christmas gift for your dopily-named DJ and blogger, this New Order poster would look great on my wall. Thanks in advance.

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Thanks, Wal-Mart: AC/DC Scores First #1 Debut

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 5:42 PM EDT

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Well shut my mouth. A couple months ago, news emerged that AC/DC's new album, Black Ice, would be a Wal-Mart exclusive, and I, being a cynical sort, mocked the idea as forcing fans to "jump through hoops." It turns out that people like hoops, since the album (also available at Sam's Club and through the band's web site) debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts this week, selling 784,000 copies. That's second only to Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III for best opening-week sales all year. AC/DC topped the U.S. album charts once before back in 1982 with For Those About to Rock We Salute You, but this is their first #1 debut.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten Albums this week, High School Musical, Kid Rock, and other things that make me hope that suicide barrier at the Golden Gate Bridge will get installed soon prevail. But there are a few glimmers of hope further down the list. Georgia avant-popsters in crazy costumes Of Montreal landed at #38 with their 9th full-length, Skeletal Lamping, an album that critical consensus says isn't quite as spectacular as last year's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer, but is still pretty good. Recent Riff feature Brett Dennen's Hope For the Hopeless debuted at #41, although he may just be riding some hope coattails. Hopetails?

Errol Morris Walks the Thin Blue Line With Ads for Obama

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 1:42 PM EDT
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Back in 2004, filmmaker Errol Morris made a series of brilliantly simple political ads for MoveOn. Modeled after the Apple "Switch" ads, they featured Republicans explaining why they wouldn't be voting for George W. Bush again. A couple of the ads aired, but otherwise the campaign fizzled, and the rest is history. Morris described the experience as "horrible" when I spoke with him a few months ago.

But now he's back, lending his Interrotron to the cause. His new "People in the Middle" ads star moderate voters who plan to vote for Obama. Not surprisingly, the ads are subtle and effective. And the real people in them are a refreshing break from the increasingly unreal real people like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder. Over at his New York Times blog, Morris explains how this campaign is not just a reprise of Kerry Switch:

New Music Out Today: The Cure, Deerhunter, Snow Patrol, Kaiser Chiefs

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 6:25 PM EDT

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While actual album release dates are even less relevant now that nobody has any money to spend on CDs, it's a good excuse to check out some new music. "New" is a relative term, though, when you're dealing with 30-plus-year-old combo The Cure, whose 13th studio album, 4.13 Dream, sounds kind of old. Nothing against old Cure, of course, and there are a few moments on the album that echo the dreamy landscape of Disintegration, for instance, like 6-minute album opener "Underneath the Stars," and jaunty single "The Only One." But as the UK Sunday Times put it, there are too many moments here that are "wearyingly over the top, and scary, too." Just in time for Halloween!

Atlanta's Deerhunter are only a few years into their noise-rock career, but their new album Microcastle has the assured edginess of Sonic Youth. Single "Nothing Ever Happened" plays with fire: a vocal harmony in the chorus whose notes are only one step apart. It could be grating, but instead it's hypnotic. Pitchfork gives it one of its best reviews of the year, with a 9.2 out of 10 score on the Forkometer and comparisons to Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. They even say the album may be "a reason not to slit our throats before President Palin decides to nuke the world in 2017." Erp.

Obama Poster Parodies Proliferate

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 3:45 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamaposters.jpgIt's poster parody pandemonium! We've already remarked here on the Riff about the cool design both coming from and being produced for the Obama campaign; one of the most iconic images so far is Shepard Fairey's red-and-blue "Hope" poster, whose graphic simplicity references classic propaganda just enough to be cool. The poster's design has become enough of a touchstone that parodies have been popping up, but I didn't realize quite how many: via BoingBoing comes this link to a page featuring a whole slew (89, in fact) of takes on the red-on-one-side-blue-on-the-other design. Some of these are obviously made by angry Republicans, who did nothing but change the "Hope" to a "Nope" and call it good. But my favorites are so nonsensical, they're oddly inspired: The Soup Nazi, over "Soup," of course; Amy Winehouse over "Dope"; the Pope over, uh, "Pope." However, this page did seem to miss a version that appeared during San Francisco's recent leather-themed Folsom Street Fair, whose cheeky reference to the "Obey" posters that made Fairey famous was suddenly appropriate in a whole new way. Yes, Mr. President, I've been very naughty. See that one after the jump.