2009 - %3, March

One Good Thing About the Death of Newspapers

| Wed Mar. 4, 2009 10:30 AM PST
Bad thing about the death of newspapers: No more beat reporters to hold cops accountable.

Good thing: David Simon comes out of retirement to kick some ass on the streets of Baltimore.

In a recent Washington Post article, The Wire creator and former crime reporter looks into the shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer. The police department says it can't reveal the cop's identity; Simon calls BS and does the digging no other reporter—or blogger—is doing. And he concludes: "Half-truths, obfuscations and apparent deceit—these are the wages of a world in which newspapers, their staffs eviscerated, no longer battle at the frontiers of public information."

Amen. Every time a beat reporter gets canned or a daily is shuttered, a public official smiles. More of Simon's conclusions about the death of accountability journalism after the jump.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

New Music: The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die

| Tue Mar. 3, 2009 2:57 PM PST
Today witnesses the long-awaited return of an alternative-radio behemoth who sold millions of albums, a band that was once hailed as the"next big thing" but kind of went away, and now is releasing a new album, hoping to recapture a little of the original mojo. If you somehow missed the headline, you might have thought I was talking about Irish egoistes U2 (whose HRC-saluting No Line on the Horizon comes out today), but no, I'm speaking of The Prodigy, the UK combo that, along with The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, broke through the grunge-rock hegemony with a crowd-pleasing brand of arena-techno in the mid-to-late '90s. However, among their "Electronica" comrades, The Prodigy is a unique concept: a one-man band with roots deep in the UK underground rave scene that became, depending on your perspective, cynical sellouts, a fun show to see in between Foo Fighters and Oasis concerts, or a brilliantly successful KLF-style theatrical art-prank. Their new album, the charmingly titled Invaders Must Die, bugs me, but I'm not sure it's terrible, and the wild mix of reviews confirms the band's slippery meaning.

On the one hand, to even the most patient fan of hardcore electronic noise (hi there!), Invaders is cartoonishly brutal. There are song titles like "Warrior's Dance" and "Run With the Wolves"—is Robert Bly a co-writer? Rolling Stone correctly identifies the album's sound as "pummeling, vacuous rave noise," and ascribes the ridiculously thumpy title track to the same empty posturing that brought us 1997's controversial "Smack My Bitch Up." They give the album 1 1/2 out of 5 stars. On the other end of the spectrum, Spin looks kindly on the band's "anthemic breakbeat spazz," acknowledging that it's "retro" but giving props to founder/producer/everything-but-dancer-and-screamer Liam Howlett's programming skills and awareness of musical history, offering 4/5 stars. Pitchfork comes right down the middle with a 5.8/10 review, calling the more sonically extreme sections of the album "lunkheaded," but hearing echoes of the band's first album, 1992's ravey, silly, and wildly enjoyable Experience.

Barry Manilow as a Weapon of Mass Destruction

| Tue Mar. 3, 2009 8:45 AM PST

Barry Manilow, the coiffed, ever-young hero of blue-haired old ladies the world over, could live to see his music transformed from drunken pub fare into the newest innovation in crowd control, according to the Associated Press. A shopping mall in the New Zealand city of Christchurch is reportedly having trouble with juvenile delinquents spreading trash, getting drunk, getting high, tagging walls with spray paint, and talking filth to local shoppers. The solution? Pipe in hits like "Mandy" and "Can't Smile Without You," which, like this obnoxious tone said to be the scourge of teenage ruffians everywhere, will (it is hoped) clear the area of smack-talking punks. Paul Lonsdale, manager of the local business association, denies that Manilow was selected to drive teenagers crazy. "The intention is to change the environment in a positive way... so nobody feels threatened or intimidated," he says. "I did not say that Barry Manilow is a weapon of mass destruction."

No, for that look to some other acts, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which the CIA used to bully Al Qaeda leader Abu Zabaydah into spilling his beans (along with other forms of "enhanced interrogation"). We should also not forget that Van Halen, Whitesnake, and Black Sabbath, among others, ultimately convinced Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega that he'd rather spend the rest of his life in a federal supermax than sit through another minute of "War Pigs."

Will such tactics work on Christchurch's problem children? Doubtful if we believe 16-year old Emma Belcher. "We would just bring a stereo and play it louder," she told the AP.

Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Alan Light.

Red States Love Porn

| Mon Mar. 2, 2009 3:21 PM PST

They're red from all the chafing! In the latest installment of Irony and Hypocrisy Weekly, a study has shown that traditionally conservative states consume the most online pornography. Okay, the study (pdf link) was actually in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, and it looked at zip codes of credit cards used for "online adult entertainment" between 2006 and 2008. Researchers found that Utah led the way in sexy interweb fun times, with 5.47 subscribers per 1000 broadband users, followed by Alaska and Mississippi. Out of the top ten porn-using states, only Hawaii and Florida voted for Obama in the 2008 elections, and I think Hawaii is excused because they're so far away from, you know, actual sex with people they don't live next door to. Of course, one could also ascribe the higher online porn usage rates in red states to the simple fact that these states have often made in-person porn buying more difficult, but I prefer to think of it as another example of Larry Craig Syndrome: those who doeth protest too much are at home having a wanketh.

Researchers also found "marginally" higher porn subscription rates in the 27 states that had (at that time) passed anti-gay marriage laws, and in states where surveys show conservative positions on sexuality and gender roles. But in a boon to church-goers, there was also a slight dip in porn subscriptions on Sunday, although the oh-so-cynical researchers noted that this meant only that these people "shift their consumption of adult entertainment to other days of the week." Note to self: promote online porn company more aggressively on Saturdays and Mondays.

China Cancels Oasis Gigs Over "Free Tibet" Show

| Mon Mar. 2, 2009 2:52 PM PST

Wow, China never forgets, huh. Beatlesy British combo Oasis have had their first ever shows in the People's Republic of China canceled after the Chinese government revoked their performance licenses. The band's management issued a statement saying the decision "has left both Oasis and the promoters bewildered." But, according to Billboard magazine, band member Noel Gallagher had a deep, dark secret:

According to the promoters, officials within the Chinese Ministry of Culture only recently discovered that Noel Gallagher appeared at a Free Tibet benefit concert on Randall's Island in New York City in 1997. Consequently, Oasis is considered unsuitable to perform in the People's Republic of China during its 60th anniversary year.

If only it was just their 59th, right?

After the jump, a video from the band's most recent album, the underrated Dig Out Your Soul.

Michael Jackson's Creepy Art Collection

| Mon Mar. 2, 2009 10:16 AM PST
Around the corner from our office are a couple of antique stores that sell what I can only describe as the world's worst kitsch. A specialty is giant garden statuary of prepubescent children doing idyllic things that no kid has done since 1897, like playing leap-frog or fishin' with a branch. I figured the stores, which are always packed to the rafters, were some kind of money-laundering front. Now I know better. They were supplying Michael Jackson.

If you have a few minutes, go check out the auction catalogs for Jackson's Neverland Ranch. The King of Pop, in desperate need of cash, is selling off 2,000 of his possessions. What's up for sale is an awesomely horrible glimpse into the world of the man-child who blew his money on jaw droppingly bizarro figurines like this, which even Abe Lincoln seems disturbed by. More examples after the jump.