Soul Food Junkies


63 minutes

Seasoned. Battered. Smoked. Fried. Collard greens, fried chicken, corn bread, mac and cheese, sweet potato pie. Byron Hurt's Soul Food Junkies makes you hungry and makes you think. In this insightful cooking show twist, Hurt traces black cuisine and its culture from slave times to the present using artful woodcuts, archival footage, a buffet of voices, and plenty of casserole dishes. At one point he partakes of a vat of corn and turkey necks at a tailgate party. "This is how we survived, this is what they gave us," the cook says. But the cheap high-calorie food once meant to keep slaves working bears a modern price, contributing to high rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity—especially as mama's fried chicken is replaced with the Colonel's.

Jamie Foxx as Django in the new Quentin Tarantino flick

WARNING: This post contains multiple spoilers.

Every time Jamie Foxx’s character Django rides into town in Quentin Tarantino's new spaghetti Western Django Unchained, set against the backdrop of American chattel slavery, someone asks some variation of the question, "What is that nigger doing on a horse?"

This is as much a threat as an inquiry. Almost every character who asks it is involved in trying to tear Django off the horse, because a black man on a horse is a threat to a strict racial hierarchy that even those who cannot afford a horse hold dear. It's a question that Tarantino might even assume his own audience members are asking, since the iconic American gunslinger is nearly always white. It's also a question that might well have been asked by the protagonists of America's classic Westerns, from Rooster Cogburn to Ethan Edwards to Josey Wales—all former Confederate soldiers who committed treason in defense of slavery.

We survived the apocalypse, the fiscal cliff, and a new Ke$ha album. If the last bit of 2012 was gloom and doom, 2013, at least, may offer a musical respite. Here are five albums we can look forward to in the new year.

Yo La Tengo, Fade (January 15) In a world of one-hit wonders, quietly depressing reunion tours, and bands that put out a few great albums and then fall off the face of the planet, Yo La Tengo are the freak survivalists. Fade marks the trio's 14th studio album—since 1986, they've showered a unique, consistent goodness on an adoring cult of fans. In November, YLT prereleased the Fade single "Before We Run," a swelling, meditative lullaby sung in Georgia Hubley's honest alto. More recently, the band put out "Ohm," a gentle krautrocker with a chorus bound to glue itself to the inside of your skull. To celebrate the upcoming full-length, YLT has announced a series of West Coast in-record-store shows. (Check out the schedule here.)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II (February 5): Frontman Ruban Nielson has described this sophomore album as "lonely." That'd be a major change of pace from the band's debut, which clattered onto the scene in 2011 as a funky, exuberant patchwork of psych-pop songs—the stuff of surrealistic lyrics and deliciously weird, tart guitar lines recalling the earliest Pink Floyd. It's been nearly two years since Nielson, former guitarist of New Zealand's experimental noise outfit The Mint Chicks, let those first few tracks loose via Bandcamp, and I'm not the only one who's been keeping a keen weather eye out for UMO's next delivery. If "Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)," a single from II, is anything by which to judge the release, Nielson's second effort is shaping up to be just as inspired as the first. Loneliness, in this case, is welcome.

MoJo's Best Longreads of 2012

The conventional wisdom claims that people won't read lengthy magazine stories online, but our readers regularly prove otherwise. Many of our top traffic-generating stories have been the deeply researched investigations and reported narratives—and we find that plenty of readers stick with them to the bitter end. Our readers also comment, tweet, Facebook, and Tumble enthusiastically, citing details found deep within these stories. So here, for your New Year's pleasure, is a selection of 10 of our best-loved longreads from 2012. (Click here for last year's list.)

The Silent Treatment
Imagine serving decades in prison for a crime your sibling framed you for. Now imagine doing it while profoundly deaf. By James Ridgeway



How a Bunch of Scrappy Marines Could Help Beat Breast Cancer
Exposed to poisoned water at Camp Lejeune, these vets may hold the key to a scourge that kills some 40,000 American women—and a few hundred men—per year. By Florence Williams

Follow the Dark Money
The down and dirty history of secret spending, PACs gone wild, and the epic four-decade fight over the only kind of political capital that matters. By Andy Kroll

"It's Just Not Right": The Failures of Alabama's Self-Deportation Experiment
What happens when outside agitators work with state politicians to pass the nation's most draconian anti-immigrant law? By Paul Reyes

man with construction hat on

Black Gold for the GOP
Trevor Rees-Jones made his name as a Dallas fracking pioneer. So what's he doing bankrolling political attack ads halfway across the country? By Josh Harkinson

I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave
My brief, backbreaking, rage-inducing, low-paying, dildo-packing time inside the online-shipping machine. By Mac McClelland


The Frog of War
When biologist Tyrone Hayes discovered that a top-selling herbicide messes with sex hormones, its manufacturer went into battle mode. Thus began one of the weirdest feuds in the history of science. By Dashka Slater

The Dog That Voted, and Other Election-Fraud Yarns
The GOP's 10-year campaign to gin up voter fraud hysteria—and bring back Jim Crow at the ballot box. By Kevin Drum


man in jail

Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America's Prisons.
We throw thousands of men in the hole for the books they read, the company they keep, the beliefs they hold. By Shane Bauer

Big Sugar's Sweet Little Lies

How the industry kept scientists from asking: Does sugar kill? By Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens


Click here to browse more great longreads from Mother Jones.

A good interview gives us access to people and ideas that often stay behind the curtain. But it can do more than that: As British journalist Lynn Barber has said, that the best interviews "sing the strangeness and variety of the human race." We certainly covered both this year, chatting up everyone from children's author Phillip Pullman to adventurer Felicity Aston to rising star of comedy W. Kamau Bell. Here are 12 of our favorites from 2012, one for each month, with even more below. We hope you have as much fun exploring them as we had talking to these fascinating and talented people.

Tim Gunn leaning his head against a sewing machine

Project Runway's Top Gunn
Tim Gunn on revolutionary fashion, the "It Gets Better" campaign, and why you're never too smart for style.


Interrogating the NY Times' Anthony Shadid
Just before his death, we spoke to the revered correspondent about sneaking into Syria, being kidnapped in Libya, and the cost of getting the story in a war zone.

Wendell Pierce Goes to Market
The actor from The Wire and Treme on launching supermarkets in New Orleans and why Americans avoid reality on TV.


The Woman Who Skied Antarctica Solo
Adventurer Felicity Aston on her 59 days amid ferocious wind storms, treacherous glaciers, and breathtaking white solitude. 


Great Divergence book cover

Timothy Noah: Mind the Income Gap
The prize-winning author of The Great Divergence on why the middle class never gets a raise.


Lizz Winstead Has an Opinion on That!
The Daily Show co-creator on her new memoir, our worthless media, and how people keep trying to mess with her "crazy-ass uterus."


What Regina Spektor Sees from the Cheap Seats
The pioneering pop songstress on invented sounds, gay rights as sci-fi, and how it feels to be labeled a weirdo.


Can Code for America Save Our Broke Cities?
Jen Pahlka on dumb bureaucracy, government as a vending machine, and Silicon Valley sexism.

Michael Chabon's Vinyl Draft
The Pulitzer prize-winning novelist on race, procrastination, and his new book, Telegraph Avenue.

W. Kamau Bell

Some of W. Kamau Bell's Best Jokes Are Black
The star of FX's new, racially charged comedy show Totally Biased on his white baby—and how Chris Rock saved him from selling condoms.


Crow with a face superimposed on it

His Grimm Materials: A Conversation With Philip Pullman
The best-selling author on his new fairy tale collection, writerly superstitions, and what his daemon would look like.


Van Jones on Obama: "Climate Is Going to Be the Issue He's Judged On."
The green-jobs guru thinks his former boss has an opportunity to tackle global warming. (But will he take it?)


Some others you don't want to miss...
Portlandia star Fred Armisen
Musician and producer Brian Eno
Author and chef Tamar Adler
Electronic dance music pioneer Paul van Dyk
Journalist Elizabeth Weil
Sex columnist and gay-rights activist Dan Savage
Built to Spill's Doug Martsch
The Shins' James Mercer
The Wire actress Sonja Sohn
Actor and anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo
Jason Olberholtzer, co-creator of the I Love Charts Tumblr
Sportswriter and Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger
Graphic novelist and director Marjane Satrapi
tUnE-yArDs' powerhouse Merrill Garbus
New media "inventor" Robin Sloan
Radio Ambulante creator and author Daniel Alarcón

You can peruse our entire archive of interviews here.

Twitter has become a comedic haven for role players and impostors posing as politicians, celebrities, and inanimate objects. Behold a few of our faves.