2012 - %3, November

Foreign Policy Experts React To The "Red Dawn" Remake

| Tue Nov. 20, 2012 2:17 PM PST
Paid For By The Committee For Good-Looking Young People Against Totalitarian Foreigners.

Well, Hollywood has remade Red Dawn, and the foreign-policy wonk community is baffled.

The 1984 original (directed by John Milius) depicts the trials and triumphs of the Wolverines, an all-American teen guerilla squadron that defends Colorado against invading Soviet, Sandinista, and Cuban forces. (The film was so culturally influential in the United States that the 2003 operation to capture Saddam Hussein was named after it.) The 2012 version takes place in Spokane, Washington. Barack Obama is president, and the attack is happening on his watch. The remake updates the villains to North Korean troops—aided by Putin's Russia—who conquer large chunks of America with their warplanes, electromagnetic pulse machine, and use of anti-Wall Street propaganda.

The North Koreans. These guys. (It's important to remember that the film is not satire, and that the last movie to portray the North Koreans as an existential threat to the US was Team America: World Police.)

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E.D. Sedgwick is Sick of Wearing a Dress All the Time

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 4:03 AM PST

Full disclosure: I hate music reviews. I'm a musician, and something about distilling music into esoteric words from a Thesaurus makes me nauseous. It's like taking your favorite song, scraping out the feeling, and replacing it with cold, slimy, sock vomit. That said, the Washington, DC-based dance-punkish band E.D. Sedgwick has a new album out that I'd like you to know about. So to solve my moral conundrum, I won't tell you what to think. You can do that for yourself. I believe in you! Start by streaming the track, "It Wasn't Me," here, and listen as you read.

E.D. Sedgwick is the project of Justin Moyer, a musician and journalist for The Washington Post. (He doesn't like writing music reviews, either.) Founded in 1999, it has in the past consisted mainly of just Moyer, with or without the backing of guest musicians. Now there are three other official members—Jess Matthews (drums), Kristina Buddenhagen (bass, vocals), and JosaFeen Wells (vocals)—giving the group a refreshing gender ratio amid today's Indie-rock brodeo. The band releases its albums on Dischord, the seminal DIY label founded by DC punk legend Ian MacKaye, best known for his groundbreaking bands Minor Threat and Fugazi. Moyer has been involved with Dischord for more than a decade via both E.D. Sedgwick and his previous bands, El Guapo and Antelope.

Music Review: "Que Beleza" by Tim Maia

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 4:03 AM PST

TRACK 1

"Que Beleza"

From Tim Maia's Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia

LUAKA BOP

Liner notes: Leading a mellow orchestra of tropical brass, sexy percussion, and smoking funk guitar, Maia celebrates beauty and joy on this '74 gem.

Behind the music: The notoriously eccentric Maia (1942-1998) brought deep R&B to Brazil's fertile '70s scene, sparking the Black Rio movement that fused African and local sounds. An acid enthusiast, he spent two years in the UFO-obsessed Racional Energy cult.

Check it out if you like: Eclectic innovators like Funkadelic, Os Mutantes, and the Isley Brothers.

This review originally appeared in our November/December issue of Mother Jones.

Music Review: "The Hill" by Ty Segall

| Mon Nov. 19, 2012 4:03 AM PST

TRACK 4

"The Hill"

From Ty Segall's Twins

DRAG CITY

Liner notes: Prepare to duck as Segall unleashes a fabulous squall of window-shattering garage rock.

Behind the music: The absurdly prolific Bay Area local—Twins is his third album this year—recorded with Epsilons and Party Fowl before releasing his first solo effort back in 2008.

Check it out if you like: Superior noisemongers such as the Stooges, Screaming Females, and the White Stripes.

This review originally appeared in our November/December issue of Mother Jones.

If You Must See "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2," Bring Booze

| Fri Nov. 16, 2012 12:22 PM PST

Rest assured, they all break out into Gangnam Style shortly.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2
Summit Entertainment
115 minutes

For the past four years, the Twilight franchise has been America's abortion-hating, abstinence-promoting insane ex-girlfriend who won't go away and won't stop stealing all your worldly possessions and patience. The final installment in the adaptations of the Stephenie Meyer tween fantasy book horror-show is, unsurprisingly, no exception.

As the series trundles toward its box-office-goosing conclusion, it's now virtually impossible to give half a damn about the fate of the central characters. After four novels, four prequels, and godless piles of fan fiction, Bella, Edward, Jacob, etc. are all fully developed as the wafer-thin archetypes they have always been. Twilightmentum has burrowed so deeply itself into our culture and national consciousness that our Supreme Court nominees are actually asked about it during their confirmation hearings.

There is, quite simply, nowhere else for the series to go but down a tedious, two-hour road to the inevitable happily-ever-after.

Breaking Dawn - Part Deux takes an extraordinarily talented director (Bill Condon, whose work includes Gods and Monsters and Dreamgirls) and reduces him to choreographing Playstation-grade melees and monotonous vampire sex. The dialogue is so stodgy it's a miracle it wasn't legally classified as a hypnotic drug. (Bella screaming "SOME STUPID WOLFY CLAIM!" right before drop-kicking Jacob is the highpoint.) The acting is so epically phoned, the vamp-and-werewolf emoting so markedly blah, it's hard not to think everyone on camera is grateful for this to finally be done. (This goes just as much for the especially adept actors—Michael Sheen, Billy Burke, Elizabeth Reaser, Kristen Stewart—as it does for everybody else.) And when you get to the end credits, you have to hear this bleeding awful song, again.

After 10 minutes of this movie, this was the only note I managed to scribble out:

And then, the Natty Light kicked in, and I began enjoying myself famously.

Crystal Castles' (III): Abrasive and Irresistible

| Mon Nov. 12, 2012 4:08 AM PST

Crystal Castles
(III)
Casablanca/Republic Records/Fiction

You've got to hand it to Crystal Castles. It's not easy to be relentlessly macabre and unapologetically bleak while at the same time making people want to get up and dance. But when Alice Glass, the Canadian duo's goth-eyed frontwoman, glowers with punk ferocity across producer Ethan Kath's hard-driving beats, the only reasonable thing to do seems to be to follow them to hell and back; it's rave music in every sense of the word. 

One of the band's trademarks is its spooky album-coverage imagery—an illustration of Madonna's bruised, bloody faced glared out from the cover of their first EP; a possessed little boy lurches across a graveyard on the cover of II. But the occultish, phosphorescent image of a shrouded figure cradling a man's body on the cover of this third album, (III), moves beyond haunting for its own sake: It's actually a stylized photo of a Yemeni woman holding her son, a protester who's been tear-gassed. Glass has said that "oppression" is a major theme of (III), explaining vaguely that "I didn't think I could lose faith in humanity any more than I already had, but after witnessing some things, it feels like the world is a dystopia where victims don't get justice and corruption prevails.” (She's somewhat more forthcoming in a cryptic email interview with Pitchfork, reciting a litany of statistics detailing various forms of gender oppression.)

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Music Review: Bat for Lashes' "Laura"

| Mon Nov. 12, 2012 4:08 AM PST

TRACK 5

"Laura"

From Bat for Lashes' The Haunted Man

CAPITOL

Liner notes: "You're the train that crashed my heart/You're the glitter in the dark," cries Natasha Khan, a.k.a. Bat for Lashes, on this mournful piano ballad, as cello and French horn amplify the melancholy.

Behind the music: Born to a Pakistani father and British mother, Khan received mainstream exposure last year via the soundtrack of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. The Haunted Man, her third album, features cameos by Beck and Justin Parker.

Check it out if you like: Cosmic spirits like Kate Bush, Bjork, and Joanna Newsom.

This review originally appeared in our November/December issue of Mother Jones.

Music Review: Black Moth Super Rainbow's "Dreamsicle Bomb"

| Mon Nov. 12, 2012 4:08 AM PST

TRACK 9

"Dreamsicle Bomb"

From Black Moth Super Rainbow's Cobra Juicy

(SELF-RELEASED)

Liner notes: It's hard to decide what's most unsettling: the icy synths, the robotic vocals, or the angry lyrics, which declare, "We can go fuck the neighborhood/Smash all their mailboxes and headlights, into the night."

Behind the music: Led by singer Tobacco, Pittsburgh's BMSR once recorded as satanstomping caterpillars. Cobra Juicy, the band's fifth album, raked in $125,000 on Kickstarter—$80,000 over asking.

This review originally appeared in our November/December issue of Mother Jones.

Election Results Maps To Make Your Brain Happier

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 7:18 PM PST

Even though by now I am 100 percent sure of who won the 2012 presidential election, looking at a traditional map of the results is unsettling. The red trumps blue, no matter how certain I am that more of the popular vote, and more electoral college seats, went to President Obama than his counterpart. See?

M. E. J. NewmanM. E. J. Newman

So it's somewhat of a relief to see these statistics represented differently. This cartogram below by Mark Newman, a physicist at the University of Michigan, scales each of the lower 48 states according to its population rather than its area.

M. E. J. NewmanM. E. J. Newman

Though the map might make you question your cocktail intake, the increase in blue over red seems a more accurate depiction of how Tuesday went down.

Newman experiments with these type of cartograms here, modeling one map as related to the number of electoral college votes per state, and another based on a proportional representation of county size. You may have seen his work before: He's been making cartograms for the last couple of presidential elections, ever since he helped create an advanced method for creating these "density-equalizing maps," drawing from physics. His software is even free for anyone to download.

Newman also brings clarity to the data by introducing shades of purple to indicate percentage of votes in each county won by the Democratic or Republican candidate, and adjusting the counties for population size. Looking at this map is starting to feel a tad Fear and Loathing:

 

M. E. J. NewmanM. E. J. Newman

If you're getting into it, NPR also has this neat video that uses cartograms to depict outside spending on political ads, especially in swing states—in Nevada, these types of groups coughed up nearly $6 per potential voter between April and October, compared to less than a cent per voter in neighboring California.

A One-Sentence Review of "Skyfall," The New James Bond Movie

| Fri Nov. 9, 2012 8:55 AM PST

We've come a long way since Christmas Jones.

Skyfall
Columbia Pictures
142 minutes

I have an obscenely long list of graphic, expletive-riddled phrases I've been using to illustrate how much I enjoyed Sam Mendes' installment in the Daniel Craig era of Bond movies, but I'm told that this is a family-friendly website.