2010 - %3, February

Vajazzling: The Next Female Craze?

| Fri Feb. 26, 2010 4:55 PM EST

And you thought Vagina Mints were bad.

The latest genital craze is Vajazzling, which is pretty much what you'd fear it is: Women getting a bikini wax and adding Swarovski crystals down there for $50 a pop.

Apparently, Jennifer Love Hewitt is into it. As is a blogger who shared TMI here.

Ok, to each their own. But one fears the whole thing plays into a troubling Heidistein mentality, in which women think fakeness=male bait. (According to an unofficial Gawker poll, it doesn't.)

Not to mention it seems more than a little gratuitous. As our assistant editor Jen Phillips put it: "We’re in a recession with a jobless rate of 10% but somehow women are finding money to put crystals on their waxed mons pubis. Why? How? And why again?"

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The Al Qaeda-Harmonica Link

| Thu Feb. 25, 2010 6:25 PM EST

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a pair of cases that challenge the existing federal ban on providing "material support" to terroristson account of the fact that "material support," as you might expect, can be taken mean almost anything. Including, it turns out, teaching a terrorist to play the blues. Let's check the transcript (pdf):

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Under the definition of this statute, teaching these members to play the harmonica would be unlawful. You are teachingtraining them in a lawfulin a specialized activity. So how do wethere has to be something more than merely a congressional finding that any training is bad. [emphasis mine]

Solicitor General Elena Kagan, quick on her feet, told Sotomayor that such a scenario was unlikely. Terrorists, as anyone with even an elementary education knows, hate bluegrass: "Now you say well, maybe training aplaying a harmonica is a specialized activity. I think the first thing I would say is there are not a whole lot of people going around trying to teach Al Qaeda how to play harmonicas."

But Justice Antonin Scalia, for one, was unconvinced: "Well," he retorted, "Hamid Hatah [note: I think he means Mohammed Atta] and his harmonica quartet might tour the country and make a lot of money. Right?" 

12 Bizarre Liquor Laws Revealed

| Thu Feb. 25, 2010 8:01 AM EST

Back in the day, "blue laws" were supposed to keep Christian citizens from sinning with booze. A bunch of those laws are still on the books—and Mother Jones has rounded up some of the weirdest: In Oklahoma, for example, stores must sell liquor at room temperature. In my home state of Massachusetts, forget about happy hours. And don't even get me started on Texas, where, as Adam Weinstein reports in our March/April issue, public intoxication arrests are on the rise. Inside bars.

To see our slideshow of America's 12 weirdest drinking laws, go here. To read about Texas' absurd—and racist—bar arrests, go here.

 

LOST Chat: To the Lighthouse

| Wed Feb. 24, 2010 4:20 PM EST

 

Season Six, Episode 5: "Lighthouse" (February 23)

The final season of Lost is on a roll! On the heels of last week's amazing ep came another doozy, complete with Hurley humor, an emotionally wrenching Jack storyline, Claire as a crazy bad-ass, and a lighthouse scene that should give fans plenty to ponder over the next week.

To help us make sense of things, we invited Danny McAleese, a blogger for the fan fave Lost Easter Eggs blog and author of Things You Never Noticed About LOST, to join us. Thanks to Danny! And tune in for more surprise guests in the coming weeks.

Jen Phillips, Assistant Editor: I was happily surprised by last night.
Laurin Asdal, Director of Development: Me too.
Nikki Gloudeman, New Media Fellow: Yes, I thought it was awesome. It reminded me a lot of season one, with the emotional heft.
Danny McAleese, Lost Easter Eggs blogger: Heya.
Nikki: Hey! Thanks for joining us, Danny. We're really excited to have you.
Danny: I'm excited to be here!
Nikki: We're discussing the general awesomeness of last night's episode. Agree?
Danny: Totally agree. Last night was a great episode with a lot of fantastic reveals, all done without any action, explosions, or gunplay.
Nikki: Yes, that was appreciated.
Jen: The mirrors! Amazing! A bit heavy with the Alice in Wonderland allusions, but cool.
Danny: Mirrors are a tremendous part of what's going on in Lost.

 

Music Monday: John Birch Paranoid Blues

| Mon Feb. 22, 2010 5:26 PM EST

If you're the type that likes to extrapolate complex political messages from presidential musical performances (and, really, who doesn't?), Bob Dylan's performance at the White House earlier this month probably caught your attention. He may not have eclipsed Bill Clinton's rendition of "We are the World," but, coming as it did on the heels of one of the worst albums...maybe ever, vintage Dylan was a welcome sight to see. If there was one flaw, though, it was the song selection: "The Times They Are A-Changing'" might have captured the mood just right in 2008, but it seemed a bit too "hopey-changey" for the depressed political landscape of 2010. Dylan could have struck a better chord with something much more obscure: "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues."

That's not just my liberal frustration talking. After decades of well-deserved irrelevance, the John Birch Society has undeniably experienced something of a renaissance over the last year, culminating in the group's participation inand co-sponsorship oflast week's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). As the Washington Independent's Dave Weigel noted, as recently as "two years ago, RedState.com blasted Ron Paul for endorsing the 'conspiracy nuts' of the JBS. One year ago, National Review’s John Derbyshire implied that it was a vile smear to connect Ron Paul to the Birchers." Now, Birchers are more than welcome at an event that, according to its organizers, brings together all of the "leading conservative organizations and speakers who impact conservative thought in the nation."

15 Minutes With Yoko Ono

| Mon Feb. 22, 2010 7:45 AM EST

Yoko Ono still wants to reconnect humanity with its long-lost id. From Fluxus to songstress, the 77-year-old has used every free-associative vocal, literary, and visual avant-garde tool at her disposal to help resuscitate the uncensored thoughts of audiences around the world. Born in 1933 in Japan, Ono was the first female artist to market experimental primal wails as legitimate music at a time when demure vulnerability was prized over a woman’s angst-ridden screams. Her proto-feminist punk, often orgasmic vocals were inspired by childbirth; musically, her spawn includes bands like Deerhoof, Animal Collective, Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill and the whole riot grrrl gang—who owe their flagrant embrace of the loud and the absurd to Ono's radical displays of freedom. I spoke with Ono—who performs at Noise Pop in San Francisco this week—about her work and to get her take on why female artists married to male artists often find their talent overshadowed. Prepare for sass.

Mother Jones: Musically, you were doing the uninhibited primal scream thing way before anyone else, I think…

Yoko Ono: That’s the truth, that’s the truth.

MJ: Which just makes it perfect that you’re headlining a show with Deerhoof. In the past, you’ve pointed to John Cage, Edgar Varese, Ornette Coleman and other free-jazz staples as musical inspirations.

YO: I wouldn’t say that they were my musical inspiration. Yes, there’s that too. But as a woman, I’d like to define it that it was both: They probably were inspired too.

MJ: Who inspired you vocally?

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Music Monday: Black Like Appalachia

| Mon Feb. 22, 2010 7:30 AM EST

Various Artists
Classic Appalachian Blues
Smithsonian Folkways

These 21 tracks, part of Smithsonian Folkways' compilation series, include blues greats like Archie Edwards, Pink Anderson, and Etta Baker. The collection draws exclusively from artists who learned their trade in the Southern Appalachians. Some, like Martin, Bogan & Armstrong—a black string band who toured the region on foot—and Peg Leg Sam Jackson who learned his mean harmonica from decades with an itinerant medicine show.

The recordings cover a period from 1948 to 1977; the later ones being mostly performances at the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife, a pillar of the national folk revival, which unfolded toward the end of these artists' lives.

According to the 36 pages of history-packed liner notes, the disc "dispels the notion that Appalachian music is limited to country performed by white men and women, and that blues is unique to black musicians of the Mississippi Delta region...The Appalachian blues tradition is far more integrated than Delta or Texas blues." Mining and lumber industries brought people of various ethnicities to Appalachia, resulting in a unique musical permutation. It's not entirely old-time country, folk, or deep Southern blues, but includes elements of all three.

Sarah Palin’s Family Guy Faux Pas

| Fri Feb. 19, 2010 9:15 PM EST

Fresh from the fray of "Retardgate," as some media outlets called it, Sarah Palin this week sought to expose another dark and insidious force aligned against her. By which she meant an episode of the TV cartoon Family Guy. On the episode in question, the awkward teen character Chris Griffin dates a girl who has Down syndrome—and at one point identifies her mother as "the former governor of Alaska."

Palin chose one of her preferred media forums—her Facebook page—to argue that the line of dialogue "mocked" her special-needs son, Trig. She called it "another kick in the gut," powerful language that's apparently calculated to remind us she's been hurt before, and the blows are felt most in that part of the body where intuitions—and babies—come from. In effect, she's saying the blows are an attack on common sense, disabled children and womankind.

But irony is a harsh master: the cartoon character in question was voiced by a woman with Down syndrome, professional actress Andrea Fay Friedman, and she thinks Palin is the one who lacks common sense—or at least "a sense of humor" or "sarcasm."

Is the National Enquirer Suicidal?

| Fri Feb. 19, 2010 5:53 PM EST

Traditional print jockeys now have to tussle with a supermarket tabloid for a Pulitzer Prize. This week, the administrators of daily journalism's biggest exercise in self-congratulation reversed themselves and agreed to consider the National Enquirer in two Pulitzer categories for its reporting of the John Edwards infidelity/paternity imbroglio. The news was hailed by nontraditional journalists at outlets like the Huffington Post and Gawker, who lobbied mercilessly on the Enquirer's behalf (and who have no shortage of schadenfreude when it comes to the suffering of print giants like the New York Times and Washington Post).

There's no question that the gossipy Enquirerwhose current issue leads with a washed-up pop diva's health problems ("WHITNEY DYING!") and a celebrity chef's romantic woes ("PAULA DEEN DIVORCE SHOCKER!")ran with a story nobody else vetted when it exposed the dalliance between then-Sen. Edwards and staffer Rielle Hunter. And the paper deserves some recognition for being, in many ways, a tastemaker and trendsetter in the new media landscape. But the Enquirer's allies overlook the fact that its most questionable reporting practice was precisely what got it the "scoop" over other organizationsand what ultimately could lead the tabloid to get squeezed out of its own business.

Slogans for Sale

| Fri Feb. 19, 2010 8:05 AM EST

One afternoon in the late 1980s, I was vegging in front of the tube when a mysterious ad for a new amusement park ride called the Revolution came on. Its coolly contradictory tag line was hard to forget: "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised!" Of course, that catchphrase wasn't written by a copywriter but Gil Scott-Heron, the poet and musician who'd originally sung it as a declaration of independence from the very folks who'd take his lyrical manifesto and turn it into a 30-second earworm for pubescent cartoon watchers. How his signature song ended up in a Great America ad, I have no idea. But Scott-Heron, whom Alan Light profiles in our current issue, wasn't the first nor the last musician to have his or her message repackaged for prime time. Some more examples of turning musical rebellion into money: 

1987 Gil Scott-Heron's proto-hip-hop anthem "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" goes for a spin in a TV ad for Great America's new ride, the Revolution.

1987 Michael Jackson, owner of the Beatles catalog, lets Nike use "Revolution"—the first Fab Four song to appear in a TV commercial. Yoko Ono says the spot "is making John's music accessible to a new generation."

1995 KRS-One rewrites "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" for a Nike ad. Sample lyrics: "The revolution will not refrain from chest bumping...The revolution is about basketball, and basketball is the truth!"

2000 The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" takes a bow for the new revolution—the Nissan Maxima.

2005 Tommy Hilfiger conscripts Jefferson Airplane's "Volunteers" ("Got to revolution!") for a spot filled with teen hotties.

2005 Lefty rocker Steve Earle okays the use of his "The Revolution Starts Now" in a Chevy truck ad.

2007 Janis Joplin's anti-consumerist ditty "Mercedes Benz" becomes a feel-good jingle for...Mercedes-Benz.

2009 A British "ethical banking" firm convinces Bob Dylan to lend the rights to "Blowin' in the Wind."

Watch some of the ads below the jump.