2011 - %3, September

Review: "Black Smoke Rise," by Wooden Shjips

| Mon Sep. 5, 2011 6:30 AM EDT

TRACK 1

"Black Smoke Rise"

From Wooden Shjips' West (Thrill Jockey)

Liner notes: Fire up the incense, turn on the black lights, and let your mind float downstream with this sludgy dose of neo-psyche-delia, mixing fuzzed-out guitars, funeral-parlor organ, and murky voices to ominous effect.

Behind the music: Fronted by Ripley Johnson (half of Moon Duo), this San Francisco quartet launched in 2003 as a vehicle for untrained musicians to explore new sounds. Eschewing convention, the band gave away all 300 copies of its 10-inch vinyl debut. And yes, there is a "j" in "Shjips."

Check it out if you like: The Velvet Underground, The Doors, and German minimalist greats Neu!

Click here for more music features from Mother Jones.

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15 Minutes With !!!'s Nic Offer

| Mon Sep. 5, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

After the food trucks rolled out and the klezmer dust settled at San Fransico's Outside Lands music fest, the impossible to Google dance-punk band !!! (alternatively pronounced chk-chk-chk, pow-pow-pow or bam-bam-bam) had one last Bay Area funk out. During !!!'s private set at the Barrel House, a SoMa hideaway that lives up to its saloon moniker, front man Nic Offer rocked the very same purple shirt and blue shorts from the festival to a packed audience of industry folk and hardcore fans. Boogieing with the best of the front row, Offer sounded off on SF bars closing at 2 am, donned a glow jacket, and caroused with his band mates as they blasted a lightning-rod set of a dozen electro-synthed, percussion-heavy dance tracks.

With regards to !!!'s frank and freaky titles like, "Jamie, My Intentions are Bass," "Pardon My Freedom" and "Even Judas Gave Jesus a Kiss," Offer tells me that keeping things funkin' weird is where the band finds its staying power. "Each record is a record we never dreamed we could have made. But it's that same strange, funky thing we've been trying to do the whole time, and that consistency is there throughout." Thumbing an edamame pod after the show in the venue's hideaway loft, Offer sat down for a quick interview.

Mother Jones: How was Outside Lands

Nic Offer: It was really good, we had a great time. It's a beautiful festival, great crowd, great energy, great weather. No complaints.

MJ: What's your favorite festival to play? 

NO: Probably the Benicàssim International Festival in Spain because they have a pool backstage. That pretty much trumps everything. And they have someone around who'll take your drug order, and that's pretty cool too.

Deadmau5 Is Not a Cuddly DJ

| Mon Sep. 5, 2011 6:00 AM EDT

When electronic music producer and performer deadmau5 (pronounced "dead mouse"), a.k.a. Joel Zimmerman, does a show—as he did at the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco on August 14—his fans manage to pack it. This time, they spread across the outdoor field in front of the Twin Peaks stage, dancing, screaming, and gazing in awe at his elevated, flashing stage cube as Zimmerman bobbed his giant mouse head to the beats he created. With the exception of the one dude who shouted, "You guys are crazy; Arcade Fire is on!" as he shoved past me in the stacked crowd, the fans didn't care that this year's Album of the Year Grammy winner was playing on the other side of the park.

Deadmau5 is ranked No. 4 on DJ Mag's list of best DJs in the world, but unlike No. 1, Armin Van Buuren, or No. 2, David Guetta, there is something different about the way fans interact with him and his music. Most DJs stand on a podium, outshone by the brilliant light shows flashing across their stages. But with his lit-up mouse head pulsing to the beat, and sometimes illuminating in a giant LED smile, deadmau5 is the centerpiece of his own light shows, including a brand new one developed for the three-month Meowington's Hax tour he launched this summer at Lollapalooza in Chicago. Deadmau5 is also unique because he doesn't consider himself a DJ—to quote his publicist, he is "an electronic music producer and performer [who] performs live all his own music—the way a drummer drums or a guitarist plays guitar."

As I'd seen when deadmau5 played Coachella in 2010, many kids in the crowd at Outside Lands were wearing tattoos of his mouse symbol on their bodies, glow sticks fashioned into mouse ears on their heads, and their own homemade versions of his mouse head. As they danced to his hits, I kept hearing shouts like, "Deadmau5 is the shit!"

CNN Series Follows MoJo's Investigation of Teen Homes

| Fri Sep. 2, 2011 3:20 PM EDT

A month after Mother Jones published our investigation of fundamentalist religious compounds, CNN is covering abusive teen homes in a two-part investigative series on Anderson Cooper 360° called "Ungodly Discipline." On September 1, coverage focused on Hephzibah House, an Indiana boarding school for troubled teenage girls that has long battled accusations of abuse from its former students.

Just in case you missed it in our July/August issue, read "Horror Stories From Tough-Love Teen Homes," and see our slideshow of "Survivor Snapshots From Teen-Home Hell." Teen girls were sent to Independent Fundamental Baptist homes like the New Bethany School for Girls to build character and to reform from troubled ways, but instead, they say they were abused and tortured. Former residents call themselves "survivors" and compare their time in teen homes to prison sentences.

Book Review: Can Israel Survive?

| Fri Sep. 2, 2011 2:00 PM EDT
A border wall between Israel and the West Bank.

Can Israel survive? It's a question that used to be asked with the threat of hostile neighbors and Palestinian terrorists in mind. Today, more often than not, it refers to the country's viability amidst an intransigent right-wing government, a peace process going nowhere, an impending demographics crisis, seemingly imminent UN recognition of a Palestinian state—and maybe Iran.

These latter concerns dominate Hirsh Goodman's thoughtful new book, The Anatomy of Israel's Survival, which hits bookshelves next week. A longtime Israeli journalist who's lived through at least five wars, two intifadas, and too many failed peace initiatives to keep track of, Hirsh counts as something of a rare breed among Israeli intellectuals these days: an optimist.

As Goodman runs through the list of threats to Israel, the source of his bright attitude isn't immediately apparent. Iran represents an existential threat. Gaza is a "mini-Iran." Israel's 5.7 million Jews are about to be overtaken by the 5.4 million Arabs in Israel and the occupied territories.

Goodman, meanwhile, has nothing but stinging criticisms for Israel's leaders since the 1967 Six-Day War. He calls Golda Meir "one of Israel's most myopic leaders ever," Benjamin Netanyahu's first stint in office in the late '90s "a disaster," and Netanyahu's successor Ehud Barak "like Midas in reverse" for squandering major peace talks with both Syria and the Palestinians.

Book Review: Believing Is Seeing

| Fri Sep. 2, 2011 6:30 AM EDT

Believing Is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography

By Errol Morris

THE PENGUIN PRESS

We expect photography to reflect reality, to encapsulate undeniable facts. In this book, filmmaker Errol Morris dismantles that notion, showing that even the least ambiguous photos present a cropped version of truth. He interrogates famous images from the Civil War, the Depression, and Iraq with characteristic curiosity. Trying to deconstruct the notorious photo of an Abu Ghraib guard grinning over a corpse (an image also featured in his film, Standard Operating Procedure), Morris gets a crash course from an authority on facial expressions. While obsessing over a 150-year-old Crimean War photo that may have been staged, he consults shadow experts and forensic imagery specialists and even sets out to find the exact spot where it was taken. "Photographs reveal and they conceal," Morris writes. In short, those proverbial 1,000 words may require a bit of fact-checking.