2009 - %3, February

Coldplay, Killers, U2 Share Stage, Avoid Ego Explosion

| Thu Feb. 19, 2009 4:33 PM EST

Whoever booked this show is playing with fire. Don't they understand that even if it's for a good cause, like War Child's 15th anniversary, putting Chris Martin, Brandon Flowers and Bono all on the same stage could cause a horrifically destructive chain reaction, as their gigantic egos compete for the limited photons, ultimately exploding in a massive wave of highly-charged self-importance particles? Coldplay had just lost every Brit award they were nominated for in London on Wednesday night, so the be-tassled Martin was extra mopey as the band made their way over to the O2 arena for the charity event. Perhaps this meant his ego was "in check" enough to make room for the Killers and U2 frontmen (as well as Snow Patrol Take That's Gary Barlow, whose ego size has not yet been determined). But here's another baffling thing: despite the long list of quality songs between those four bands, what did this supergroup decide to perform? The Killers' bombastic, overwrought "All These Things That I've Done." (Watch above). Yeech! HuffPo calls it "The Best Encore Ever," but even if you're a fan of these blowhards, shouldn't this be "The Biggest Missed Opportunity Ever"?

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Bush Takes Broadway

| Thu Feb. 19, 2009 2:27 PM EST
He's only been out of office a month, but already the public is clamoring to see George W. Bush—Will Ferrell as Bush, that is.

In the Broadway show You're Welcome America. One Final Night with George W. Bush, Ferrell reprises his popular SNL impression of Dubya. And while few have made pilgrimages to see the real 43 at his Texas digs, Ferrell's lampooning has already drummed up $5 million in advance sales.

Critics are calling the show—which opened early this month and will run through mid-March—fun, if predictable. Notes The Guardian: "It does not induce surprise or provoke new debate...(but) it does offer a perfectly competent performance; rather more than you could say of its subject."

Is it too much to hope that Tina Fey/Sarah Palin will be next?

What Do Men Want (To Read)?

| Thu Feb. 19, 2009 2:22 AM EST
Perusing her Esquire newsletter earlier this month, former MoJo associate editor Kathryn Olney was intrigued not just by "The Secret World of Lingerie Explained", but also by the reprise of "75 Books Every Man Should Read," first published last September but still going strong on the Esquire site. She sends this riff:

Number 20 is "The Postman Always Rings Twice," because it "teaches men about women." So that's what makes Cain's book great, the message that all women are femmes fatales. Silly me, I thought it was just groundbreaking noir fiction.

Guys, if you’re so curious about women, how come your list includes just one female author, Flannery O'Connor? If you read more about what some great women of letters have on their mind, you wouldn't just be drooling over "women we love" from afar. Hey, even slippery old Chris Hitchens, who doesn’t think women are funny, recommends that everyone read Jane Austen… because “she’s so hilarious about other women” in Northanger Abbey.

There is a bit of a pattern here. Your October list of the 75 most influential people has a grand total of seven women. And that 70 greatest sentences compilation last year? That has four wee sentences penned by females.  People – including us girls-- love these guilty-pleasure lists. But you have to get back to your storied Dubious Distinction roots. Roll up those white shirtsleeves! Go back to your cages and flip through some old issues of Esquire. You gave Gloria Steinem her start; Dorothy Parker and Nora Ephron both used to write columns for you. Joan Didion, Martha Gellhorn, Susan Orlean and Simone De Beauvoir all grace your back issues. Isak Dinesen, Rebecca West, M.F.K. Fisher, Susan Brownmiller, Susan Sontag, Joyce Carol Oates, and Grace Paley made appearances too.

Come to think of it, I guess old habits die hard. Esquire historian Carol Polsgrove reminds me that "when Harold Hayes put together his fat anthology of 60's Esquire pieces, Smiling Through the Apocalypse, only three women made it into the list of 59 entries."

Even if you aren't interested in the classics (Toni Morrison? Edith Wharton? Eudora Welty? Virginia Woolf? Zora Neale Hurston?) surely "today's man" can stand to crack open a book by a few of Esquire's very own more, um, muscular writers like Orlean and Didion. Or maybe they'll at least read Ayn Rand, even if we won't.

MJ readers, help these poor, overworked editors out: post your own favorite writers below. Write pithy little comments akin to their own 75 quips (extra points for tasteful sexual references). I'll start: Susan Orlean: …Because, with a poet's grace and an angel's face, she paved the way for a whole generation of nonfiction literary journalists.”

Al Sharpton Is Wrong About the Monkey Cartoon

| Wed Feb. 18, 2009 5:02 PM EST

In today’s New York Post there’s a Sean Delonas cartoon that shows two policemen standing over a dead chimpanzee. One is holding a handgun while the other says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

Al Sharpton is very offended. But he shouldn't be because the cartoon isn't offensive, unless you're an ape.

Film: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans

| Tue Feb. 17, 2009 8:36 PM EST

When people think of New Orleans, they think of the French Quarter, the booze and loud-mouthed shenanigans of Bourbon Street, the balconies and art galleries of Royal Street, the brilliant simplicity of St. Louis cathedral and the statue of Andrew Jackson before it. And, of course, Hurricane Katrina. People don't think about the Tremé.

This month, PBS airs Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans. The film, by Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie and produced by Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Nelson, tells the story of the historically black neighborhood, a story that needs telling: In New Orleans, the civil rights movement went down a little different. In Louisiana, slaves could earn money to buy their freedom. They moved into the Tremé and established the oldest black neighborhood in the United States, where they created the first African American daily newspaper, L'Union, and worked for racial equality. A century before Rosa Parks, African Americans in the Tremé sat where they liked and even commandeered streetcars if whites wouldn't allow them a seat. After the Civil War they made enormous gains toward equality—desegregating schools, voting in record numbers, and electing a black governor.

Facebook's Privacy Faceoff

| Tue Feb. 17, 2009 8:32 PM EST

What are you doing right now?

If you're Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, your answer is probably "backtracking." That's because many of Facebook's 175 million users, who are encouraged to answer that same question whenever they log in, have been in an uproar over how Facebook might use their replies, and any other information they post on the site. Two weeks ago, Facebook altered its privacy policy, deleting a provision that said users could remove their content from the site at any time, at which point its license would expire. Facebook's decision to retain the rights to users' posts even after they're deleted fanned fears that any leak, indiscretion, or misstatement on the popular social networking site could be immutable. The protests were so fierce that Zuckerberg reversed himself this morning, reverting to Facebook's old privacy policy until the site resolves how information posted on the site is controlled. 

"This is one more way one can be 'screwed,'" Facebook user Misty Rain wrote Tuesday on the wall of the new group, Facebook Privacy, one of several groups formed on the site to protest the change. She described the ordeal of trying to get Facebook to remove photos that had been taken from her site and used in "slanderous ways" by stalkers. "I wonder how old markie [Mark Zuckerberg] would like it if someone took his picture, altered it very slightly and posted it on extremely questionable groups," she went on. "Perhaps it is only those who can shit money who will be protected."

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Kanye West Can't Stop Saying "Gay"

| Tue Feb. 17, 2009 8:11 PM EST

I love you Kanye, but jeez, you're turning into one of those well-meaning types who overdo it and embarrass us all. The rapper/musician/fashion designer gave an extensive interview with Details magazine recently in which he proposed taking back the word "gay" from its negative connotations, as in, "that's so gay." Okay; so far, so good, right? Well, then he kept talking:

In the past two, three years, all the gay people I've encountered have been, like, really, really, extremely dope. Y'know, I haven't, like, gone to a gay bar, nor do I ever plan to. But where I would talk to a gay person--the conversation would be mostly around, like, art or design--it'd be really dope. From a design standpoint, kids'll say, 'Dude, those pants are gay.' But if it's, like, good, good, good fashion-level, design-level stuff, where it's on a higher level than the average commercial design stuff, it's, like, gay people that do that. I think that should be said as a compliment. Like, 'Dude, that's so good it's almost . . . gay.'

So, gay people are dope, but you wouldn't go to a gay bar ever in your life, but talking to them is fun, but as long as it's about color combinations and fabric choices? Sigh. Well, at least he's doing better than 50 Cent, who called Kanye "tri-sexual" in an interview with MTV News, although he seemed reassured about West's sexuality because he knows somebody who "knows a girl who knows Kanye." Glad that's settled.

538's Nate Silver Predicts the Oscars

| Mon Feb. 16, 2009 7:27 PM EST
If you thought you had post-election letdown syndrome, with the endless hours of TV punditry and blog pontification that once filled your days and nights suddenly evaporating, imagine what Nate Silver feels like. His labor-intensive web site, fivethirtyeight.com, rocketed to prominence last year as the most reliable and thorough electoral predictor around, but after the election, what does he have to post about? Well, it turns out his geeky brilliance can be used to predict other things as well, including the lame old Oscars, heading to your TV this Sunday. Silver fed the history of Oscar winners into his supercomputer for New York magazine, and the results included both the obvious and the somewhat surprising.

M.I.A. Has Baby Boy, Gets Called Terrorist

| Sat Feb. 14, 2009 7:41 PM EST

What a week. Singer M.I.A. has posted the news to her MySpace blog, as one does: she gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Wednesday, and he is apparently "the most amzing [sic] thing ever on this planet." Apparently my little joke about her giving birth on the Grammys last Sunday night wasn't far off, as the singer said in her own all-caps words:

SUNDAY NITE I CA M E HOME FROM THE GRAMMY'S STILL IN THE MOOD TO PARTY , I COUDA EASILY GONE OUT BUT I WENT HOME INSEAD , LUCKY I DID!! COZ MY EARLY STAGE LABOUR KICKED IN AROUND 2 AM.

Nothing like terrible lip-synching to induce labor. Anyway, they haven't told us a name, but congratulations to M.I.A. and babydaddy (can I say that?) Ben Brewer Bronfman, frontman for NYC combo The Exit; hopefully this will take their minds off the weird article in Tuesday's New York Times, which used the obligatory "some say" to accuse M.I.A. of being "an apologist for the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels fighting in the country's long-running civil war." The article didn't really have any new reporting other than quotes alleging she supports "perhaps the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world," and the Times itself calling her opinions a bit out there:

New "Red Hot" Comp Gets Indie

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 5:09 PM EST

Dark Was the NightIn its many years of putting together albums to raise money for AIDS relief, the Red Hot organization has created some of the most memorable compilations of recent times. Their first effort, 1989's Red Hot & Blue, featuring contemporary artists covering Cole Porter, connected pop music past and present in a way that seems like standard practice now, but was eye-opening then. Later, 1993's No Alternative captured the exuberance and creative diversity of a moment, just before Kurt Cobain committed suicide, when it felt like some grungy kids with guitars might change the world. Since then, Red Hot CDs have celebrated samba, country, dance, and bossa nova (and raised a load of cash in the fight against AIDS), but their latest compilation may go down in history as capturing another moment. Dark Was the Night  features just about every indie band idolized by the Pitchfork generation: Arcade Fire, The National, Feist, Conor Oberst, Yo La Tengo, Cat Power, Blonde Redhead, Bon Iver and Sharon Jones all contributed exclusive tracks to the compilation, along with over 20 others, and it's quite a collection. Thankfully, Red Hot has kept up with the times and made it easy to get a free internet taste. You can listen to a different song every day at their MySpace page, or you can go to their web site and make your own little blog widget with any three tracks. Check out mine after the jump.

Dark Was the Night is out Tuesday, February 17.