2008 - %3, November

SNL Gets Gay

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 5:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-snagglepuss.jpgNot to be all-Prop-8-all-the-time over here on the Riff, but there was some surprising, funny, and surprisingly funny stuff on SNL Saturday night, and some of the best bits seemed to be inspired by the sudden re-emergence of gay rights as a newsy topic. In fact, homosexuality was pretty much the running theme of the whole episode, from the overly-kissy family opening sketch (which culminated in a jaw-dislocating open-mouth snog between Andy Samberg and Fred Armisen) to the baffling-but-hilarious digital short featuring Samberg and host Paul Rudd painting each other's naked portraits, Titanic-style. Justin Timberlake's lispy cameo as one of three terrible male dancers in leotards in a Beyonce video also might count. By the way, somebody give Justin Timberlake a variety show—his two-minute version of himself hosting the show was pretty mind-blowing.

After the jump: Heavens to Murgatroyd!

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Jason Bentley to Replace Nic Harcourt as KCRW Morning Host

| Mon Nov. 17, 2008 3:52 PM EST

mojo-photo-jasonbentley.jpgSanta Monica-based public radio station KCRW has announced that longtime evening host Jason Bentley (right) will be taking over for Nic Harcourt as Music Director and host of the influential "Morning Becomes Eclectic" when Harcourt leaves on December 1. Harcourt's exit was just announced last week, and included a vague notion of "expanding on other activities" which to me seems code for "I didn't have anything else lined up," but what do I know.

Harcourt came to KCRW from Woodstock, New York's WDST in 1998, and over the past ten years used the morning show to introduce artists like Coldplay, Dido and Franz Ferdinand. Bentley's promotion will excite fans of groovy beats, as the DJ and producer has focused much of his career on electronic music, with his KCRW show "Metropolis" and a long-running Saturday night show on Los Angeles alternative juggernaut KROQ. We'll see how well his laid-back late-night DJ persona translates to 9am.

Side Benefit of Prop 8's Passage: Celebrities Busting Out of Closet

| Sun Nov. 16, 2008 4:39 PM EST

mojo-photo-wandasykes.jpg…or at least one celebrity, so far. Comedian and actress Wanda Sykes surprised an audience at a Las Vegas protest against on Saturday with the announcement that she's gay. The event was one of many held around the country as part of a coordinated protest against Proposition 8 and other anti-gay measures. Sykes told the crowd that Prop 8 inspired her to be more outspoken:

"You know, I don't really talk about my sexual orientation. I didn't feel like I had to. I was just living my life, not necessarily in the closet, but I was living my life," Sykes told a crowd at a gay rights rally in Las Vegas on Saturday. "Everybody that knows me personally they know I'm gay. But that's the way people should be able to live their lives. Now, I gotta get in their face. I'm proud to be a woman. I'm proud to be a black woman, and I'm proud to be gay."

The Emmy award-winning actress has roles on The New Adventures of Old Christine and Curb Your Enthusiasm. While Sykes hadn't publicly discussed her sexuality before this, she has been a long-time supporter of gay rights causes, performing as part of this year's Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Tour which benefited the Human Rights Campaign. Her Wikipedia page says, "She is now officially a homosexual," which makes me wonder if there's some sort of certificate I'm supposed to get? A passport stamp or something? I've been practicing without a license!

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Bobster1985.

Party Ben's Current Musical Guilty Pleasures

| Fri Nov. 14, 2008 7:36 PM EST

mojo-photo-guiltypleasures.jpg

As readers of the Riff should know by now, your terribly-named DJ and contributing writer is a pretentious, nerdy weirdo, zoning out to noodly downtempo space-hop, jamming to 20-minute neo-metal sludge-fests, and bouncing along to Malian wedding music. Of course, part of my job here on the Riff is to, er, bring good things to light, hopefully exposing one or two (of our five or six) readers to obscure but worthwhile music. But there's some cheesy stuff out there that deserves a little critical praise, and I'm willing to be the man to do it.

Shepard Fairey Designs Gay Rights Poster (I Think)

| Fri Nov. 14, 2008 6:08 PM EST

mojo-photo-faireylove-sm.jpgVia Gawker, who rightly categorized this under "Things We Like" but couldn't help themselves from a subtle "fists up" joke, it's a poster in support of marriage equality designed by Shepard Fairey, whose red-and-blue Obama poster became such an iconic image in the presidential campaign that it inspired legions of imitators and parodies. I can't find any mention of it on Fairey's Obey Giant site, so I hope this isn't just a really well-done homage to his neo-propaganda style, but either way, it's pretty cool—as Gawker puts it, it's "butch," for once avoiding the same old triangles and rainbows we see on every gay thing ever. On the other hand, it's a bit, well, vague. Now, I recently complained to the esteemed MoJo editors about gay rights stories being ghettoized under the "Arts and Culture" section, so I'll try not to get too far into the politics of this here on the Riff, but some gay rights activists have said part of the problem with the (unforgivably disastrous and disorganized) No on 8 campaign was that their ads skirted around depicting actual gays and lesbians. The Obama "Hope" poster had, you know, an actual picture of Obama on it, but this one only reads "gay" if you, like most people I know, are already really pissed off about Prop 8. Maybe there could have been two hands, clasped? Also, maybe people could have done some of this before the election? Grumble. Deep breath. Anyway, nice work as always from Mr. Fairey. Click the "Continues" button to see it embiggened.

Update: Fairey has posted the graphic to his website, saying that "anyone who believes in equality and human dignity should be appalled that Prop. 8 passed." Right on, although Dave Gilson caught that the fist image was just recycled from an earlier "Obey" poster, with, er, its orientation changed.

Crank-Call Scandal Turns BBC Upside Down

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 6:35 PM EST

mojo-photo-brandross.jpgAnglophiles out there may have already been watching this saga unfold with amusement (as we sip our tea), but it's finally reached the hallowed pages of the New York Times, so here's the story for the uninitiated. British comedian Russell Brand (far right), known to US audiences as a recent host of the MTV Video Music Awards, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2 every Saturday night. On the October 18th episode, Brand and guest Jonathan Ross (near right) left multiple "lewd" messages on the answering machine of Andrew Sachs, the actor who played Manuel on Fawlty Towers, after being unable to reach Sachs for a pre-scheduled interview. Part of the messages' gist was that Brand had had an affair with Sachs' granddaughter, Georgina Baillie. While only a few complaints were received after the initial broadcast, The Mail on Sunday took notice eight days later, writing an article and a commentary piece calling the show "verbal sewage." Complaints skyrocketed, reaching nearly 40,000 within a week, and even Prime Minister Gordon Brown jumped in the fray, saying the episode was "unacceptable." The fallout was severe: Brand was suspended and then quit, Ross was suspended from his popular Friday night television show for three months, and two BBC executives resigned. So, what the heck did they say?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Christmas Wars MMVIII: Attack of the Atheists

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 4:52 PM EST

mock_interior.pngSeems like every year Christmas decorations in stores go up earlier. Even the Banana Republic across the street from Mother Jones' offices has installed its celebratory, yet demure, holiday displays well in advance. Appropriately, the "War on Christmas" is also getting an early start this year. Already a pro-atheist group, the American Humanist Association, has launched a literally godless ad campaign that's riling up the pro-Christmas soldiers at Fox News and other conservative outlets. The ads (seen left) are shamelessly posted on 200 secular buses throughout D.C. In addition, the American Humanist Association will post billboards in Lamb's-blood-red Colorado Springs and Denver that say, "Don't believe in God? You are not alone."

The congenial press contact for the campaign, Fred Edwords, says he will appear on CNN and Bill O'Reilly's show tonight. That promises to be interesting since O'Reilly prophesized that a lack of a properly Christian Christmas could lead society to embrace other "...secular progressive programs, like legalization of narcotics, euthanasia, abortion at will, gay marriage, because the objection to those things is religious-based, usually." Instead of leading to gay marriage, O'Reilly would prefer Christmas lead to religious celebrations and the purchase of specialty, fleur-de-lis emblazoned doormats sold on his site which boldly proclaim "We Say Merry Christmas."

Bill O'Reilly isn't the only one worried about Christmas, though. The book publishing world is pinning its hopes not on a Jewish guy in sandals, but on a blonde British woman in pointy boots: J.K. Rowling. Her new book, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, is reportedly the shining hope of what promises to be an otherwise rather gloomy time for Border's. Christmas will also be not-so-fun for folks at Hearst. And Morgan Stanley. And Viacom. Merry Christmas!

Never-Nudes Rejoice: Arrested Development Movie In the Works?

| Thu Nov. 13, 2008 3:30 PM EST

mojo-photo-arresteddev.jpgSo much good news! Obama wins, and now this—can the discovery that donuts are good for you be far behind? Some website called Collider.com has video of Jeffrey Tambor saying that an Arrested Development movie "is a go." Eeee! The details are sketchy but Tambor seems pretty confident, claiming that "when the writer and the director calls you it's a pretty good sign." Also, last night Keith Olbermann reported that David Cross has also confirmed he got the same call. It all seems so real, but maybe this is just a bunch of fake mini-actors meant to fool Japanese investors?

After the jump: the long, Bluthian saga

XM and Sirius Merge (and Cut) Stations

| Wed Nov. 12, 2008 9:06 PM EST

mojo-photo-siriusxmmerger.jpgRolling Stone reports that the long-anticipated union of XM and Sirius' roster of music channels took place today, resulting in the elimination of some stations. The move had been expected since the companies' merger went through back in July, but it still took some listeners by surprise. Flagship stations like Sirius' Howard Stern channel and the Eminem-led "Shade 45" as well as XM's Bob Dylan and Tom Petty stations will remain, unsurprisingly, but say goodbye to Sirius' "Left of Center" (whose college rock playlist is now supposed to be covered by XM's "XMU") and XM's "Fred," "Ethel" and "Lucy," whose variations on the alt-rock theme are all kaput.

After the jump: hear a station die!

Top 5: New Music

| Wed Nov. 12, 2008 8:22 PM EST

mojo-photo-top5-1112.jpg

In this edition, blippy '80s-style electro bemoans unrequited love, swaggering rock offers brutal dishonesty, freaky beats reminisce about sugary treats, Portugal gives us the party jams, and in the biggest shocker of all, a hip-hop producer may enjoy marijuana.

1. Lo-Fi Fnk – "Want U" (from Kitsune Maison 6)
This track from the juggernaut French electro label combines a retro-rave piano line with deadpan neo-80s vocals for a sound that's somewhere between Madonna producer Stuart Price and Cut Copy, then, halfway through, it seems to de- and re-construct itself. Sure, as the lyrics say, "you can't make someone want you," but you can sure make them like your crazy tune. (mp3 from Ohh! Crapp)

2. Eagles of Death Metal – "Anything 'Cept the Truth" (from Heart On on Downtown)
These Eagles have always seemed like a junk-food dalliance compared to Josh Homme's other project, the meat-and-potatoes (and, uh, drugs) Queens of the Stone Age. The new album is a mixed bag and often descends into eye-rolling raunch-camp, but when it gets a little serious, it takes on the strutting groove of the Rolling Stones. (Stream at Last.fm)

3. Tobacco – "Hairy Candy" (from F***ed Up Friends on Anticon)
People call this kind of music "druggy," but to me it just seems awesome, although I've always said I may just be naturally stoned. Tobacco is apparently one guy, a member of Pittsburgh freaks Black Moth Super Rainbow (whose 2007 album Dandelion Gum is also great). Friends was recorded way out in rural Pennsylvania, and while its noodly synth melodies may owe something to Boards of Canada, this is gritty and organic music, a nature walk with a kooky 70s soundtrack. (mp3 from Penned Madness)