2010 - %3, March

MoJo LOST Chat: Ab Aeterno

| Wed Mar. 24, 2010 11:21 AM PDT

This week LOST packed a punch with a backwards-looking episode, "Ab Aeterno." Ab Aeterno is a Latin phrase that translates as "since the beginning of time," an appropriate title since the episode focused on one of LOST's most mysterious, seemingly immortal characters: Richard Alpert. Richard, we find, is actually a Spanish convict who came to the island in chains. Richard's colorful past is revealed, as well as the foundation of his Jacobian existential crisis. Our special guest blogger, Mike Vitullo from LOST Addicts, helps us unpack the episode.

Nikki Gloudeman, New Media Fellow: Hey guys! Mike, thanks for joining, we're really happy to have you joining us.
Mike Vitullo, LOSTAddicts: Seriously, it's like the people at work today didn't realize it was LOST discussion day! Thank you for having me, I'm honored to be invited!
NG: So, last night's episode... classic?
Ben Buchwalter, Editorial Fellow: My head hurts... again
MV: Easily one of my top five faves.
NG: It actually gave us some answers!
MV: Yes, the Black Rock destroyed the statue! A large wave put it in the middle of the jungle (just like many speculated)... and of course, the Man in Black (MIB) wants to kill the LOSTIES!
NG: Yep, I’m feeling pretty sure MIB is a baddie and Jacob is a good guy, if a slightly douchie one. Or... are they the same person? duh duh duh

BB: Per what Richard’s wife Isabella said, why would everything turn evil if MIB left the island?
NG: One theory is that the sideways world is if MIB left the island (sunken island) which means we might see that world turn dark soon? That would be kind of cool.
MV: Nikki, I have heard the same about the sideways world. Possibly this is the world where the Island was "uncorked!" I have been speculating, and not sure if LOST will go there, what if Smokey got off of the Island? Would he still be a "smoke monster"? Could he terrorize the world like Godzilla or something crazy like that? Kinda would be a bizarre twist for LOST, but I wouldn't rule it out!
Jen Phillips, Assistant Editor: Or maybe he'd just influence lots of people to be bad. Like, presidents and such.
NG: Political commentary on LOST? I like it.
BB: I like the Godzilla theory

NG: Lots of religious symbolism in last nights episode. The cross necklace, the priest, the wine, etc...
MV: Definitely, like the passage Richard was reading in prison: Luke 4:23 and 4:24. I'm not a theologist but I did reference some stuff in my blog that Entertainment Weekly's Doc Jensen had mentioned in prior articles. All about Christ facing Satan in the wildnerness. Deep stuff!
JP: Or what about Christ questioning himself in the garden of Gethsemane?
NG: Initially the show was into various religions, like Bahaii and such, and now its very Western religion.
MV: Very true on the Western, but we can't forget all of the Egyptian artifacts on the island, e.g. the statue of Taweret. Where did this stuff come from?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Conspiracy Watch: Little Green Men

| Wed Mar. 24, 2010 4:00 AM PDT

The latest installment in our ongoing collection of wonderfully weird (and totally whack) conspiracy theories. Find more Conspiracy Watch entries here.

THE CONSPIRACY: The alien spaceships that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 (PDF) hold the secret to stopping climate change. The federal government has spent billions studying their anti-gravity propulsion system, which would make fossil fuels obsolete. But Republicans, wary of Democrats reaping the political benefits of unveiling this revolutionary carbon-free energy source, triggered the financial crisis to distract President Obama and delay our E.T.-inspired green future.

THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS: Stephen Bassett, head of the Extraterrestrial Phenomena PAC, claims the Roswell saucers have an "inertial mass reduction system" that uses a mere fraction of the energy consumed by man-made engines—with zero emissions. He estimates that this technology could slash our energy costs by as much as 95 percent. Bassett has written to Obama and Al Gore urging them to end the "truth embargo" on the reverse engineering of UFOs. He's also praised the Exopolitics Institute, which has suggested that the Iraq War was a secret effort to capture alien "stargates" hidden inside Sumerian ruins—a Conspiracy Watch favorite.

MEANWHILE, BACK ON EARTH: Bassett may not be the only one who wants to believe: Former Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson and Center for American Progress head John Podesta have called for full disclosure of any top-secret extraterrestrial research.

Kookiness Rating: Tin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat SmallTin Foil Hat Small
(1=maybe they're on to something, 5=break out the tinfoil hat!)

SXSW: Big Brother on the Big Screen

| Mon Mar. 22, 2010 9:20 AM PDT

Big Brother gets a bad rap. OK, so he taps your phone a little, keeps your fingerprints on file, maintains records of your IM conversations. (Yes, even that one. Especially that one.) And he happens to be looking to install a GPS tracker in your brain. But on the other hand, he makes your life so much easier, and so often for free. Without Big Brother, how could Facebook remember our friends' birthdays for us, how would we know what nearby restaurants had been sanctioned by Yelp? What about our Amazon 1-click, online bill pay, Pandora playlists? And how effin' fun is Chatroulette?

The specter of Big Brother was of course a looming presence at SXSW, sometimes characterized as a malevolent force, other times as a vague but expected guest, an Elijah of sorts for whom it would be a good idea to pour an extra glass of wine. Keynote speaker Danah Boyd spoke eloquently about the "new privacy," and the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU were on hand throughout the festival with counsel and buttons, but there were also several exciting sessions which could make you beg for a chance to give up more of your private information, just because the technology was so cool (The panel "What if your iPhone Had 5 Senses," for example, included a just-as-sinister-as-it-sounds invention called "skinput". I want it.).

We try to believe that information can be given and then withdrawn. Or as David Bond's wife tells him in the documentary Erasing David,  "If some creepy government takes over, we can just opt out."

15 Minutes With Carrie Brownstein

| Mon Mar. 22, 2010 3:30 AM PDT

A few years back, Carrie Brownstein was a singer and guitarist for Sleater-Kinney, a key player in the riot grrrl movement. Today, she's a blogger for NPR's Monitor Mix, where she writes about everything from horrible band names to drunken bass solos. I spoke with her recently about the transition from stage to the blogosphere, the death of rock 'n' roll, and her hush-hush upcoming music project.

NG: What music are you excited about right now?

CB: I really do love this band called Surfer Blood that's been getting a lot of attention and had a lot of buzz building up to their self-titled debut [Astro Coast], which just came out. Although, with the churn factor being so high, I feel like it's already over, and the time has come and gone; they had their three seconds of fame. But they're a four-piece from Florida. Florida is such an unlikely place for a band, unless you're an emo or hardcore band. In terms of the touring route, or even the way the geography works in terms of bands and communities, Florida's always been this appendage that you either cut it off and dismiss it, or you somehow include it in your scope. They're just an interesting band, teenage pop and good hooks. Listening to their records makes me excited about music.

I also love the new Quasi record. I am biased; I played music with Janet Weiss for years and I've been a huge Quasi fan. But I really think they've outdone themselves with their new record, American Gong. That came out on February 23. They have veered over the years to psychedelia and jazz, which I've always been able to follow. This album still has the surprising and chaotic elements, but they also are able to reign it in and create these really magnificent rock pieces. It's just a really exciting, well-intentioned record that still has the political overtones that the records have always had, and the dark metaphors.

NG: How do you feel about the state of female-driven music right now?

Ladies, Stand Up and Pee!

| Fri Mar. 19, 2010 4:39 PM PDT

Though from the looks of this thing I guess all we ever needed was a funnel. I guess it's that easy? Fashion a funnel at an angle with a curved shoehorn-like bowl, and presto, women are liberated! It's true that we gals really, really need an alternative to sitting on (or squatting above) nasty gas-station toilets. It's a big-time pain in the ass for women to have to sit and squat all the time, same goes for things like menstruating, childbirth, and childrearing; we put up with a lot because of our anatomy. But on the pee front I'm not yet convinced that the Brits' SheWee has broken the porcelain ceiling.

First off, the physics of it seems really challenging, which is probably why we haven't seen a SheWee before. I mean, we have a female condom, we have boxer shorts for women, but, like lady Viagra, the bipedal pee has heretofore eluded us. Second, the site insists that you can use the SheWee "without removing your clothes." Hmm, I'm not trusting that molded funnel to catch everything and keep my clothes, and shoes, wee free. Plus, it's reusable and is supposed to be put back in a bag between uses, which means you're carrying around urine between liberated pee stops. The SheWee is perfect, says the site, for so many occasions: in the car, while scuba diving, on Everest. In fact, the SheWee promises that NOW you can "hike/climb/ski/jog off the beaten track, miles from the nearest toilet." Because women wouldn't even think of doing any of these things if they didn't have a plastic urine-covered funnel in their pocket.

It's the usual feminine hygiene sell, that a device, whether it's a Swiffer, douching with Lysol ("Still the girl he married"), or NuvaRing ("Let Freedom Ring"), is what's going to free women from the bonds of their pesky vaginas.

All this said I just might get me a SheWee and give it a try, because how could anyone resist a product that lets you "travel the world with the comfort of home in your pocket."

Music: The Big To-Do (Drive-By Truckers)

| Fri Mar. 19, 2010 4:00 AM PDT

Few bands even make it to their 10th album, let alone continue to make good music that long. Remarkably, The Big To-Do finds Drive-By Truckers still in peak form. The sextet's fierce Southern rock, which combines Lynyrd Skynyrd's sting with the grace of Booker T. & the MGs, has the edge of a newly sharpened knife. Woeful-sounding front man Patterson Hood crafts vivid vignettes of downtrodden characters as he examines domestic violence ("Drag the Lake Charlie"), alcoholism ("The Fourth Night of My Drinking"), and getting laid off ("This Fucking Job"). With an unsentimental yet sympathetic touch, he balances tragedy and dark comedy with finesse.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

SXSW Dispatch: The Geek Triumphant

| Thu Mar. 18, 2010 9:05 AM PDT

Old SXSW used to be uphill with the toboggan—you had to explain what a modem was. These days you’re all heading down the slope full speed with your hands in the air.

- Bruce Sterling, Futurist Emeritus, SXSW 2010

For the first time since it was added to the festival's line-up in 1994, SXSW Interactive has outsold Music in paid passes. It's further proof of geek ascendancy in media, as well further proof that Interactive's tagline—The Future is Now—might not be an idle boast. As Bruce Sterling ranted in his annual address at a packed Convention Center ballroom last night, the momentum of the scientific innovation has slipped into hyperdrive, for better or for worse. 

In Sterling's eye, of course, it's for worse. We're making a mess of things, with all the tweet-ups and meet-ups and downloads and bootlegs and status updates and blithe disregard for the impact on the world outside our sleekly designed bubble. Our combination of self-absorption and apathy in the face of war, recession and environmental collapse is going to earn us the disgust of the next generation, and we aren't doing enough, and even if we were, there's not much we could do anyway, and it's all going to hell, chaos, technofascism and waste. He's seen the future, baby, and it is Juarez. 

But of course it's not that simple, not for many of the innovators, and not even for Sterling, whose characteristic maelstrom of invective was both bracing and inspiring. (You can catch a rough transcription here.) At their best, SXSW Interactive sessions address the moral questions of emerging technologies, from technological surveillance to artificial intelligence to the use of neuroscience in marketing to the availability of hardcore porn on the Internet. This year's most exciting sessions ripped those moral questions right open, sometimes on purpose, and sometimes accidentally, just because of the sessions' constant twitter-assisted back-channels. 

But more on that later. There were were so many tantalizing panels and discussions that this faithful correspondent has only managed to catch three films. For the next few days, I'll be catching up on screenings, blogging through the best and worst of the recent sessions, tweeting, and drinking standing in line at Ironworks. 

(Coming up next: Big Brother IS watching you. Strike a pose)

LOST Chat: Recon

| Wed Mar. 17, 2010 12:25 PM PDT

Season 6, Episode 8: "Recon"

After three weeks of being MIA, Sawyer finally returned in last night's episode of Lost. In addition to our favorite shirtless bad boy, "Recon" also featured a bargain with Widmore on the sub, more of crazy Claire acting crazy, and a pissed-off sideways world Charlotte.

We invited The JoshMeister, who runs a popular Lost blog and podcast, to join the fray for our MoJo chat this week. Thanks, Josh! Read our thoughts below, and keep coming back for more cool guests in the coming weeks.

Laurin Asdal:, Director of Development: Good morning.
The JoshMeister, Lost Blogger: Hi!
Jen Phillips, Assistant Editor: Hey Losties.
Nikki Gloudeman, New Media Fellow: Hello, and thanks for joining us, Josh.
The JoshMeister: No problem. Thanks for inviting me!

Laurin: Can I just say right off the bat, it's embarrassing how much I enjoyed last night's episode.
Jen: Shirtless Sawyer is back!
Nikki: Hoorah!
Jen: Glad he wasn't ALL good, even with the badge.
Laurin: The bad boy trying to do right. The age old tale.
Jen: And wonder if he will work with another LAPD officer, Michelle Rodriguez's character.
Laurin: Oh, yes. I hear she's coming back.
The JoshMeister: I just realized I'm the only male in the middle of a conversation about Sawyer being shirtless. Awkward!

Jen: So was Charlotte really on a date with Sawyer, or was she sent by Miles to do recon? Opinions? Also, it was nice to see a woman on the show w/out dirt on her face or hair all crazy.
The JoshMeister: That theory does make sense; my wife and I (and even Jim in the flash-sideways) all thought Miles was going to confront him about the date with Charlotte, but Miles ended up yelling at him about Australia instead.
Jen: Yeah, I thought so too. Especially as Charlotte works with Miles' dad, aka Marvin Candle.
The JoshMeister: It wasn't too surprising, however, that Charlotte shut him down when he came around again.
Jen:: I loved Charlotte's response. It's true, you can't kick a girl out of bed at 3am...and then show up with puppydog eyes and a sad sunflower.
Laurin: I loved that too.
Jen: And a six-pack! Okay, two six-packs, in the case of Josh Holloway.
Laurin: WOW.
Jen: Do you think we'll learn more about Dharma via Miles's dad?
The JoshMeister: That would be interesting. I don't know if we have enough flash-sideways left for that to happen, but maybe that could be how the writers explain what happened between the Incident and the Island sinking.
Jen: Speaking of mysteries, what do you think is locked up on the sub?
Nikki: I think its Desmond, brotha.

Jen: Ha. I hope it's Desmond. I just realized the other day we don't really know anything about his family.
The JoshMeister: Pylons? But that's too simple of an explanation for LOST. Or maybe it's a gigantic Ghost Busters-esque vacuum capable of sucking up the smoke monster.
Nikki: I was actually expecting Widmore to be Team MIB, so I was surprised he wanted to kill him. Or does he...?
Jen: dun dun DUN.
Laurin: My question is, and this is so basic, but if Flocke wants to leave the island and Widmore thinks he's bad, why doesn't he just let him leave. What's the struggle? Will Flocke mean something bad for the world outside the island?
Jen: I think Widmore doesn't want MIB off the island because he would still have MIB powers.
The JoshMeister: Perhaps the Man in Black would do something terrible if he was allowed to leave the Island.
Laurin: What, like, eco-disasters?
The JoshMeister: Imagine the smoke monster in Los Angeles. Yikes.

Jen: Some have suggested flash sideways Locke is actually Flocke...
Nikki: I got that sense from last week's episode. With Locke trying to get Ben to make a power play.
Laurin: I like that theory. I don't trust Locke/Flocke as far as I can throw him now.
The JoshMeister: Wow, cool theory. There's certainly evidence to support it on the show. You've got Locke telling Kate about his mommy issues.
Laurin: Poor baby.
The JoshMeister: And you've got Locke yelling "Don't tell me what I can't do!" to the boy in the jungle.
Laurin: Don't let Aaron become the new Flocke!

Jen: I was reading the Bible today and story of Jacob and Esau is looking pretty relevant. Especially as Jacob and Esau's mom helped Jacob steal his older brother's birthright.
The JoshMeister: Jennifer, I just re-read that story recently as well.
Nikki: I should read that. And I'm also going to watch more Little House on the Prairie for clues on what's going on.
Laurin: For reals.
Jen: What'd you think Josh? Applicable? And for sure, LHotP was awesome.
The JoshMeister: So, maybe this is too direct of an analogy, but perhaps Jacob and the Man in Black (Esau) are brothers?
Jen: Twins in the Bible story. There was a prophesy that they'd fight all their lives, Esau for forces of dark and Jacob for forces of good.
The JoshMeister: It makes a lot of sense!
Nikki: Would make sense that they're brothers. Very Lost-ian too because it would give this epic battle a very human touch. And maybe add more parent issues!
Jen: Right, I like the idea of them being ordinary guys who the island changed into something else.

Nikki: I'm really hoping next week we get some answers about the island's gifts, with Richard telling his story. Why does the island change people into smoke monsters and deities and crazy killers?
Jen: Yes, I'd love to see island as it was 400 years ago...or whenever that huge statue thing was around.
The JoshMeister: Oh man. I can't wait for next week. I think it's going to be SO awesome to get Richard's back story!
Laurin: Me too. He's the biggest mystery of them all. So I have a non-Richard question: In both Sawyer scenarios, he is chasing after the con man that contributed to his family's demise. But wouldn't one expect that Locke's dad wouldn't have conned Sawyer's dad in his flash sideways?
The JoshMeister: Any particular reason why you think that, Laurin? Just because so many things are different in the flash-sideways? I presume Anthony Cooper was a conman long before 1977.
Nikki: It was suggested that Locke has a good relationship with his father in the sideways world, which means maybe he's not bad in that universe?
The JoshMeister: Maybe Jim is going after the wrong guy. Maybe Anthony Cooper is actually innocent in the flash-sideways.
Jen: Ooh, that could be really interesting.
Nikki: That would be a fun twist.

Jen: Speaking of Sawyer, is Kate destined to be his true love/pain in the butt?
Laurin: True love/cry baby?
Nikki: She's a pain in all universes.
Jen: Yeah, she's lucky she's cute. I was so waiting for Juliet to show up all episode.
The JoshMeister: A couple people on my live show last night really think Sawyer and Juliet were a better couple than "Skate."
Nikki: This is slightly tangential, but I've never been able to figure out why Kate is so annoying. Evangeline Lilly is a good actress. Her character's not overtly obnoxious. I feel like it's the writing about her that is always just subpar. She's never really had anything to do but be a part of a love triangle.
Jen: Maybe she's like Hurley, more of a catalyst than an element in and of herself.
Laurin: I still love early Sawyer and Kate, and there is part of me that's hoping they will come back. The Kate/Sawyer relationship (or lack thereof) of the last few seasons was annoying and Juliet definitely grew on me, and her relationship with Sawyer as well.
The JoshMeister: On the other hand, Sawyer and Kate both have similar pasts. It wouldn't be too surprising to see them ending up together, especially since Kate has already tried Jack and that didn't work out.
Laurin: Kate and Jack together would make the wettest blanket in the history of the universe.

Nikki: Ok, before we all go, favorite moment of the night?
The JoshMeister: Well, I loved the reveal in the flash-sideways that Sawyer (Jim) was actually a cop, and Miles being his partner was icing on the cake!
Nikki: I don't know why, but I was also super excited by the initial reveal that Sawyer's a cop. I thought that was really cool. Miles + Sawyer buddy comedy = please happen.
Jen: Hell yeah, Rush Hour 4. San Francisco version.
The JoshMeister: There were a lot of amazing moments in the episode, though.
Jen: Kate asking Claire what the ef that raccoon skull, fur armed thing in the bassinet was. I really do kind of love Crazy Claire and her crazy hair.
The JoshMeister: I loved hearing the Man in Black tell Kate about his mommy issues. Finally we get a tiny bit of his personal back story! Although I still really wish we knew his name, for crying out loud!
Nikki: Yes, loved that too. I wonder if there will be a backstory episode for him. I like the idea that his name is Esau.
Jen: I just can't believe Lost has gotten me to read the Bible.
The JoshMeister: Funny how that works, isn't it? The show that has a guy sleeping with two women in the same episode drives people to read the Bible.

Music Monday: "Telephone" Killed the Video Star

| Mon Mar. 15, 2010 5:30 AM PDT

An ocean of ink has already spilled over 'Telephone', Lady Gaga and Beyoncé's stunning nine minute video epic, and little wonder—since its debut on Thursday, "Telephone" has already been banned from MTV. A decade ago, that would have spelled disaster; today, it's merely a stepping stone to cultural significance. To wit: The single that "Telephone" supposedly promotes has been been spinning on Top 40 radio since late last year.

If you haven't seen it yet—which I find inconceivable—the video is after the jump. Summary: Lesbian outlaws Lady Gaga and Honey B (Beyoncé) are too busy fighting their way through prison, busting out, and poisoning diners full of innocent backup dancers to take your call at this time. Please try your call again later.

Despite the gratuitious product placement and explicit (not to mention explicitly homosexual) eroticism, the MTV ban should be the most significant takeaway for viewers. Just as Michael Jackson's mini-monster movie "Thriller" marked the ascendence of television as the new medium for music, "Telephone" signals the final move of music, and with it music culture, from TV to the internet.

Tegan and Sara Speak Out (Video)

| Mon Mar. 15, 2010 4:30 AM PDT

I first met indie darlings Tegan and Sara in a dressing room. The Canadian identical twins, who first burst onto the music scene as teens, have risen to alt fame over the last decade with rock-pop hits like "Walking With A Ghost" (later covered by the White Stripes) and "Where Does The Good Go" (recently featured on the Grey's Anatomy soundtrack). 

We all sat down for a backstage interview at the Fox Theater in Oakland, California (watch it above!). In the video, they speak candidly about their new album, Sainthood, get fired up over the controversy surrounding Lilith Fair (where they'll be performing this summer), and explain their love for an Adam Lambert single. In person, Tegan and Sara are down-to-earth, thoughtful, and unfailingly polite (even apologizing repeatedly for being less than 10 minutes late).