2009 - %3, April

Coachella Preview: Hip-Hop

| Tue Apr. 14, 2009 4:50 PM EDT

This year, while most of the Coachella headliners are as white as the driven snow (sorry, Robert Smith, but it's true) there is actually a strong lineup of hip-hop performers around the middle of the bill. So, hip-hop fans, get your butts out of the pool and get over to the venue early. After the jump, check out my selected list of beat purveyors and MCs you might want to try and catch.

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Amazon Gay Book Screwup An Honest Mistake?

| Tue Apr. 14, 2009 2:58 PM EDT

We weren’t quite fast enough here on the Riff to get on this story when it first broke, but it was all over the Twitter. Shoppers (and authors) had started noticing that gay- and lesbian-themed books were getting stuck on the virtual bottom shelf at Amazon.com recently, with titles from Giovanni’s Room to Brokeback Mountain getting slapped with an "adult" label. This apparently made them harder to find in searches and stripped them of their all-important Amazon sales rankings. Well, as queers are well aware, having any mention of our existence deemed Not Safe For Kids is one of the most troubling aspects of homophobia, so this understandably ticked a lot of people off. But Amazon’s explanation is calming things down a bit, and proves the maxim, “When in doubt, blame France”:

Amazon managers found that an employee who happened to work in France had filled out a field incorrectly and more than 50,000 items got flipped over to be flagged as "adult," the source said. (Technically, the flag for adult content was flipped from 'false' to 'true.')

Mais pourquoi?!! Now, one of course wishes to give the online retailer and its clearly drunk French employees the benefit of the doubt, and it turns out many other not-exactly-adult titles were stuck in the back room, including, as Amazon put it, titles in "Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica." But, uh, Erotica seems like it might actually deserve to be called "adult," doesn't it? And it still doesn’t answer why so many queer-themed titles got called naughty, and not, say, American Psycho (which, as the New York Times pointed out, had no problem keeping its sales rank). All I know is, Amazon better get this figured out quick, because they do not want to lose my Christmas present business. I have seven nieces and nephews!

Adorable Singing Puppets Announce Outside Lands Lineup!

| Mon Apr. 13, 2009 5:45 PM EDT

San Francisco's freezing-cold answer to Coachella, the Outside Lands festival, made its debut last year, and despite some organizational problems and nerve-wracking sound issues, a good time was had by all. The organizers have just announced this year's lineup, set for August, but they didn't just post a list on the internet; they managed to get ranger, bison and beaver puppets to sing a crazy little song punning on the names of all the bands. This may be the cutest thing I've ever seen in my entire life, and I've been to Japan. In fact, I'm not even going to tell you any of the bands playing, so you have to watch it.

NY Times: Fairey Not a Crook, Just a Sell-Out

| Mon Apr. 13, 2009 5:05 PM EDT

Well, Jeez, you try making money with spray paint and stickers! The New York Times’ Moment blog had design guy Steven Heller take a look at the appropriative work of graphic artist and Obama “Hope” poster creator Shepard Fairey, and despite what the AP says, he believes Fairey isn’t a plagiarist:

Those who rebuff Fairey’s work are angry that he misappropriates (read: steals) famous art and design works; they argue that Warhol changed paradigms while Fairey makes knockoffs. I did an interview with Fairey for his recent book, “Obey: Supply & Demand,” and I admit that on occasion he has come close to crossing the line from acceptable borrowing into murky infringement territory. But after seeing the satiric art barbs that he aimed at politics, cultural icons and bêtes noires in his exhibition at the I.C.A. (where I participated in a panel discussion on appropriation), I can say this: Shepard Fairey is not a crook.

Heller allows that Fairey’s work involves copying “established works,” but maintains the images are “playfully twisted,” and, at its best, a “critique of image ownership.” However, he seems disappointed in Fairey’s more recent turn towards salesmanship, with the “Obey” designs turned into T-shirts and knick-knacks, and Fairey “aggressively using legal means to stop other artists from appropriating his work.” A few years ago, I had an experience with Fairey that made me feel the same way.

Coachella Preview: Rock

| Mon Apr. 13, 2009 3:35 PM EDT

The tenth installment of America's hottest music festival is only one week earlier than usual this year, but it sure feels like it snuck up on me. Holy palm trees, it’s this Friday, and I'm not ready! I need to get new crazy-colored board shorts, hipster vintage T-shirts, and decide on a poolside cocktail! More than anything, though, any festival attendee with a serious interest in music needs to start planning early, picking priorities from the cornucopia of quality acts. For the next three days I’ll take a look at the lineup, splitting things up into admittedly imperfect “rock,” “hip-hop” and “electronic” categories, for lack of a better idea. Today: rock.

Feminism and Domestic Violence

| Mon Apr. 13, 2009 2:37 PM EDT

The debate rages at Slate's XX Factor. The indomitable Linda Hirshman lit a fire with her piece on 'blaming' the victims of domestic violence for not leaving sooner. She uses two books to make the point that it's entirely appropriate to ask the question that so many feminists consider verboten, switching the onus from batterer to batteree. Of Leslie Morgan Steiner's new memoir of four years in an abusive relationship, Crazy Love, and Katha Pollitt's Learning to Drive: And Other Life Lessons about marriage to an epic philanderer (she didn't know it at the time), Hirshman writes:

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Okay, Here's the Freakin' Dog

| Mon Apr. 13, 2009 4:42 AM EDT

This definitely isn't "media," and it's probably not "culture," although the little pooch does seem to be wearing a lei, which is, er, kind of cultural, right? Whatever, you know you want to look at pictures of the Obamas' new pet, which whitehouse.gov has provided, and The Riff can use the traffic. As you already know by now (since the story leaked two days early) the President has finally made good on his campaign promise to get Sasha and Malia a dog. The puppy is a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog, he's a gift from Senator Edward Kennedy, and his name is Bo. Hmm, "Bo Obama" is a little awkward, but the name is apparently the same as the Obama girls' cousins' cat, a phrase I can't believe I just typed, and is also an oblique reference to Michelle's father's nickname, Diddley, which is marginally more interesting I suppose. I have to say, Bo looks like he's pretty skeptical about this whole deal in the above photo, but I guess I would be too if I was forced to pose for photos in a nothing but a cheap-looking lei. (Again.) One more picture of the first family greeting their new doggy after the jump, and then I'm getting back to posting about indie disco dance tunes.

Susan Boyle, Curing Cynicism Since 2009

| Sun Apr. 12, 2009 12:46 PM EDT

Good for what ails you: This 7-minute clip (video embed disabled, sorry) of 47-year-old Susan Boyle singing on Britain's Got Talent.

Wait for minute 4 when unbridled joy breaks out on the judges' faces. 

Passion of the Twitter

| Fri Apr. 10, 2009 6:59 PM EDT

Experience the power of God in real-time...on Twitter! To commemorate Jesus' crucifixion and death, Trinity Episcopal Church in Manhattan tweeted its three-hour reenactment of the Stations of the Cross today. Well-known twitterers included Jesus Christ, Mary Mother of Jesus, and Pontius Pilate. And in between their tweets, world-wide followers shared their thoughts. Here are some excerpts: 

Pontius Pilate: What harm has this man done? Why does the crowd cheer on his murder? I wash my hands of this. They can do what th...

jgderuvo: Guys, stay within the 140 character limit...it's truncating, ruining the effect!

JesusChrist: Let the sctriptures be fulfilled. It is as the prophets wrote. I am who you say I am.

romanguard1: I've got dibs on his robe, but if you guys want to cast lots for the rest of his clothes, I'm cool with that.

mrst72443: I am sure I am missing out on somethign here. I guess I do not understand this TWS thing. How and what do I DO???

JesusChrist: Forgive them, they know not what they do.

Will twittevangelism replace televangelism? Judging by today's tweeting it looks like St. Isidore of Seville, the sixth-century scholar who Pope John Paul named patron saint of the internet, is praying for the church to keep up with the times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

California's Charitable E-Bingo Is E-Liminated

| Fri Apr. 10, 2009 5:39 PM EDT

Californians can say goodbye to the electronic bingo machines (better known as e-bingo) in their charitable bingo halls thanks to a ban signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger that takes effect tomorrow. Turns out that bingo isn't just good old-fashioned fun anymore. Instead, it's at the center of a fight between nonprofits and Native American tribes who are all clamoring after bingo's big money.  

Federally recognized tribes will still get to operate the machines on their reservation land, but charities will have to shut theirs down. Despite a few upshots for charitable bingo operators in the new law, like an increase on prize caps from $250 to $500 for traditional bingo games, the e-bingo ban still puts them on the losing end because many have come to rely on the machines to keep their business afloat.