2010 - %3, May

Adorable Hybrid Musical Animals

| Mon May. 31, 2010 4:02 AM PDT

So there's this wonderful website called Worth1000.com that, consistent with its title, holds little contests encouraging people to create photo illustrations on all sorts of themes. I caught onto W1000 via this blog item, which showcased Worth1000's collection of Photoshopped animal hybrids—which I want as pets! (And you can't get mad at me for this, because they're not even real—not like ligers and zonkeys!) Anyway, while browsing W1000, I discovered a collection of animal-musical instrument hybrids and thought I'd share it with y'all. There are three Instranimal contests here. Some entries are feeble, but there are enough good ones to make it worth browsing. I pasted a few more below. (See the latest contest here, and click at the bottom for past ones.)

 

Trumpeter Swan: By dollyllamaTrumpeter Swan: By dollyllama

 

   

Lute Beetle: By ZTNiKrO

 

 

Froghorn: By multichannelerFroghorn: By multichanneler

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How to Talk to Your Teen Headbanger

| Mon May. 31, 2010 4:00 AM PDT

So you want to communicate better with your sullen, alienated teen, whose earsplitting music just sounds like so much godawful noise? Well imagine how 16-year-old Tommy's jaw will drop to the floor when, sitting around the dinner table, you casually say, "Oh, I don't know about you, but Gorgoroth shreds so much harder than that weak death-metal stuff, you know, like Fleshrot."

"But, but what about Mastodon?" Tommy stammers, disbelieving.

"Meh," you say. "I'm not so into the progressive crap. Gimme some good thrash, you know, Kreator 'n' shit."

In three short minutes, your relationship is back on track thanks to Raz Ben Ari's recent video, which will teach you—and your mom—to recognize various metal subgenres, distinguishing glam from thrash from power metal from black metal. The takeaway message, at least for me, is that subgenres are plain stupid. Why would any band limit itself when it's so much more fun to string 10 subgenres together within one song, as RBA does here? Okay, listen and learn. Quiz after.

Okay, now it's quiz time. Name the following subgenre(s):

P.S. Don't forget to study for next week's quiz: riffs (see below). And fer Lucifer's sake, buy your kid a helmet!

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Bronte Sisters Power Dolls!

| Wed May. 26, 2010 10:19 AM PDT

This is pretty awesome:

Nick Hornby's Nonfiction Picks

| Tue May. 25, 2010 4:00 AM PDT

For a special section in our May/June issue, we asked some of our favorite writers about their favorite nonfiction books. Here are novelist and essayist Nick Hornby's answers:

Mother Jones: What nonfiction book do you foist on friends and relatives?

Nick Hornby: Historically: Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life. It was one of the books that taught me how to write—not that this should be of any interest to friends and relatives. I give it to them because it's beautiful, funny, and tough. More recently: Mark Harris' Pictures at a Revolution, which is the best, and most enjoyable, book about movies I've read for years, and maybe ever.

MJ: What work of nonfiction have you reread the most, and what's the allure.

NH: I'm really not a big rereader—I'm too aware of my own ignorance. I've read Greil Marcus' chapter on The Band in Mystery Train more than twice, however. It's one of the pieces of writing that made me such an Americophile—and it's just so smart and fizzy.

MJ: Can you think of a nonfiction book someone handed you as a kid that left a lasting impression?

NH: I can only recall being given dictionaries and encyclopedias. I can remember my father gave me a huge history of football for my 12th birthday—I used to read that a lot. I can remember thinking it was cool that something I was interested in even had a history. Most things I loved didn't.

MJ: What are the best music-related memoirs you've ever read?

NH: Dylan's Chronicles is easily the best rock 'n' roll memoir ever written, as far as I'm concerned. There aren't many stories in there, but if you want to know where an artist came from, and why he thinks the way he does, then that's the one. For stories you need The Dirt, the book about Motley Crue.

MJ: Who's your Tucker Crowe? Not trying to suggest that you're an obsessive, pathetic music nerd, but is there any (obscure?) musical figure you find endlessly intriguing? [In Hornby's latest novel—Juliet, Naked—a key character is unhealthily obsessed with Crowe, a reclusive ex-musician.]

NH: I'm not even sure I was writing about music—I was thinking about writers as much as I was thinking about musicians, but more people are interested in music than they are in literature. Salinger was still alive then.

MJ: Which living nonfiction writer would you most like to share a pint with? What would you most like to ask them? Ditto for living musician.

NH: David Kynaston, author of the recent, and astoundingly good, Austerity Britain and Family Britain. He's writing a sequence of books that will
take us up to 1979, and it seems to me that he knows more about the recent history of this country than anyone alive. I'd like to ask him where we're going. Living musicians: Bobby Womack must have some stories. He embodies almost the entire history of R&B.

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LOST Finale: Forgive and Forget?

| Mon May. 24, 2010 1:48 PM PDT

So, you may have heard, LOST ended last night after six years of jungle whispers, polar bears, and love triangles. And while the ending didn't suck as much as it could have, the ending still (unsurprisingly) left lots of loose ends. Such as who built the huge Egyptian statue and inscribed hieroglyphs on everything? What about the Hurley bird? Why did Walt have such a connection with the island, only to be totally dropped a season later? And what effect did the island have on fertility?

Those "dead ends" aside, I'm of the opinion that the Oceanic #815 passengers did NOT die upon impact, though being ghosts is one of the only reasons I could think of for the Losties to look so healthy despite living on mostly fruit and Dharma rations while hiking and fighting daily. I do believe, however, that Hurley indeed took the reins (reign?) from Jack and ruled the island better than Jacob. Hurley's got heart and his #2 Ben Linus has brains, so they'd probably make a balanced team. The Hugo-is-King section of the island's history, coincidentally, leaves lots of space open for a spin-off or movie. How convenient.

Music Monday: Repelling a British Invasion—With Legos

| Mon May. 24, 2010 9:56 AM PDT

Yes, this is a music post, but first, a related diversion: For most of the past week, MoJo's Mac McClelland has been reporting from the Louisiana coast, where blobs of crude roughly the size of Ruth Bader Ginsburg have begun washing ashore, courtesy of British Petroleum. You should follow Mac on Twitter, but the short story is this: BP—the foreign corporation which has now unleashed as yet incalculable damage on the economy and ecosystem of the Gulf Coast—has essentially taken over the town of Grand Isle, setting up checkpoints and restricting reporters' access to [petroleum-soaked] public beaches. (They've also, apparently, been telling the locals that the crude blobs were really just big clumps of mud). You don't have to be an ophthalmologist to be a little uneasy with that situation.

All of which brought to mind the last time a band of Britons attempted to occupy a slice of Louisiana: The 1815 Battle of New Orleans, in which a scrappy All-American cast of militia, Choctaw Indians, and local pirates (!!) trounced a 10,000-strong British invasion force a few miles outside the city. If it weren't for the muskets, it'd basically be the plot of every Disney movie in the last 15 years. The parallel to today is admittedly rather thin, but the event did lead to one of the great folk song successes in American history, "The Battle of New Orleans," which improbably shot to near the top of the Billboard Charts in 1959. It's not entirely clear why the song would take off at such a random point in time; it'd be a bit like if Lil Wayne composed a song about the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine. But it was recorded, and it did take off. Then Johnny Cash recorded a cover of it, which is awesome. So did Dolly Parton, which is less so.

Anyways, someone on the Internet has taken the time to produce this stop-motion music video, reenacting the battle using Legos, and set to the tune of Johnny Horton's original soundtrack. It's kind of great. My only quibble is that, given the abundance of terrifying swamp monsters from Louisiana they could have chosen, why'd they pick the non-native war elephant (1:53)? Was that a metaphor? Have at it in the comments.

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NPR Geeks Out to Lady Gaga (video)

| Mon May. 24, 2010 9:48 AM PDT

Not only does this video let you match faces to the disembodied radio voices of NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg and NPR White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro (no relation to George W. Bush's press secretary), but you also get to watch them rock out to Lady Gaga's "Telephone," the first single off her second album The Fame Monster. Bob Boilan's favorite moment is the Robert Siegel bit, so he tells readers on his All Songs Considered blog.  What part do you like best? 

 

Michael Pollan's Nonfiction Picks

| Mon May. 24, 2010 4:00 AM PDT

For a special section in our May/June issue, we asked some of our favorite writers about their favorite nonfiction books. Here are In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma author Michael Pollan's answers:

Mother Jones: Are there any under-the-radar books about nutrition and food politics you'd recommend to fans of your work?

Michael Pollan: There have been a handful of books on food politics that I consider landmarks: Food Politics by Marion Nestle; Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation (though hardly under the radar); Joan Gussow's This Organic Life, the first and best book on eating locally; Raj Patel's Stuffed and Starved takes the conversation to the global level; as does The End of Food by Paul Roberts. There's a strong shelf that will get anybody up to speed. On nutrition, besides Nestle's What to Eat, be sure to read Gary Taube's Good Calories, Bad Calories, which effectively demolishes the lipid hypothesis that has ruled the whole food conversation for 40 years.

MJ: Which nonfiction book do you foist upon all of your friends and relatives? Why?

MP: Lately I'm pushing them to read Cornered by Barry C. Lynn, a really original book on how monopolization is eroding our political culture.  

MJ: Which nonfiction book have you reread the most times? What's so good about it?

MP: I find I return to Wendell Berry's essays over and over, which can be read on so many levels. Thoreau's Walden continues to nourish and aggravate; The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, and the essays of George Orwell all get an annual workout.

MJ: Is there a nonfiction book that someone recommended to you when were a kid that has left a lasting impression? Who recommended it, and why was it so special?

MP: My parents gave me George Plimpton's Paper Lion when I was 13 or 14, and I think in retrospect it's shaped my journalism in many ways—but especially the humor he squeezes out of participation. 

Natalie Angier's Nonfiction Picks

| Fri May. 21, 2010 4:00 AM PDT

For a special section in our May/June issue, we asked some of our favorite writers about their favorite nonfiction books. Here are science journalist Natalie Angier's answers:

Mother Jones: Which nonfiction book do you foist upon all of your friends and relatives? Why?

Natalie Angier: A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. A professor of history at the University of New Hampshire, Ulrich used a Maine midwife's daily log to explore in astonishingly gripping detail the social, emotional, and utilitarian texture of women's—and men's—lives in early America. The book was a revelation to me. Through it I learned that husbands and wives proceeded along parallel economic tracks, men engaging in the more formalized cash economy outside the home, women bartering goods and chores domestically. Their working lives rarely intersected but were equally elaborated and equally essential to the success of individual families and to the community as a whole. I also learned that out-of-wedlock births are a noble American tradition, and that one of a midwife's more delicate tasks was to try to ascertain the paternity of any "illegitimate" newborn she helped usher into the world, and maybe even persuade the young parents that maybe, sometime within the next year or two, they consider getting married. Violence, jealousy, pettiness, depression, resilience, all play out against a backdrop of ceaseless work and those absurd Maine winters: Martha Ballard was still skipping over frozen rivers at midnight to deliver babies when she was well into her seventies. I wouldn't have lasted a week in a midwives' reality show like this, but I was grateful to have lived it vicariously through Ulrich's book.

MJ: What’s the most underrated nonfiction book you've ever read, the gem of hidden gems?

NA: Einstein in Love by Dennis Overbye. There are plenty of biographies of Albert Einstein on the market, and some have been major bestsellers, but none is as confident, generous, and exacting as this one. Overbye somehow manages to bring both the physicist and his transformative but daunting physics alive. We trace the genesis of relativity theory. We follow Einstein's struggles with colleagues, relatives, lovers. We get to know the man as though he were a friend, a brilliant, exasperating part of our days. We like him. We love him. Does he really have to be such a tease, such a self-involved sensitive-guy bounder? Yet this is no pathography. Even with his flaws revealed, Einstein remains a man of extraordinary achievements and an immortal core. The Einstein portrayed here retains on display, Einstein never loses, without ever losing sight of his extraordinary achievements and immortal core.   

Cory Doctorow's Nonfiction Picks

| Thu May. 20, 2010 4:00 AM PDT

For a special section in our May/June issue, we asked some of our favorite writers about their favorite nonfiction books. Here are journalist and science-fiction author Cory Doctorow's answers:

Mother Jones: Which nonfiction book do you foist on all of your friends and relatives? Why?

Cory Doctorow: Twelve Hours' Sleep By Twelve Weeks Old. JC Herz recommended this to me when my daughter was born, and it's the best new-baby book I've read. Took two hours to read (why the hell are so many books for new parents 3,000 pages long?), didn't involve doing anything crazy or heartbreaking, and had our daughter sleeping through the night. By about the 12-week mark. There are other important nonfiction books—James Boyle's The Public Domain springs to mind, as does [Naomi] Klein's The Shock Doctrine. But no book has made a bigger difference in my life than the one that let me (and my daughter and wife) get a whole night's sleep again.

MJ: Which nonfiction book have you reread the most times? What’s so good about it?

CD: I don't tend to reread nonfiction, sorry.

MJ: Is there a nonfiction book that someone recommended to you when you were a kid that has left a lasting impression? Who recommended it, and why was it so special?

CD: Someone gave me a copy of [Abbie] Hoffman's Steal This Book for my bar mitzvah, and I must have read it a thousand times. I think STB prefigured much of what I love about the net—it's a collection of how-tos and recipes, a combination of forbidden knowledge and comunity wisdom, and it's written in an engaging, informal style that has so much screw-you in it that it absolutely delighted the 13-year-old me.

Today, I think the need for books of facts like STB has diminished, thanks to the net, which has all the forbidden knowledge you'll ever need, if you know which search terms to plug into Google. That's why my last YA novel, Little Brother, is all about illustrating situations in
ways that arm kids with keywords they can search the net for, rather than taking the form of a bunch of recipes in STB style.

MJ: Your subversive techno-thriller Little Brother sticks a fictionalized 17-year-old into a post-9/11 world in which there exists a frightening system of PATRIOT Act surveillance. What part will technology play in shaping (or hindering) nonfiction books?

CD: I think that's too broad a question. Nonfiction—like all media—is benefitting from technology's improved efficiency at production, distribution and marketing, meaning that books aimed at smaller audiences can still be published and find their audiences.