2014 - %3, March

Elton John Is Getting Married: "We're Living in Extraordinary Times."

| Mon Mar. 31, 2014 10:58 AM EDT
From left to right: David Furnish, Elton John, and Bill Clinton.

Singer/songwriter Elton John and filmmaker David Furnish are officially getting hitched. The couple, who have been in a British civil partnership for nearly a decade, announced that they intend to marry in an English registry office in May, in an intimate ceremony, with their two young sons and a few friends.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Furnish referred to the recent legalization of gay marriage in England and Wales (Saturday was the first day gay couples could legally marry in England):

We don't feel the need to take an extra step legally. But since we're committed for life, we feel it's really important to take that step, and take advantage of that amazing change in legislation. We all live by example...We're living in extraordinary times. My god, 20 years ago, when I started seeing Elton, if you asked me if I'd be able to get married, if I'd be able to have children, it was unthinkable, literally unimaginable.

You can click here to watch Elton John denounce Russia's anti-gay law during a Moscow concert last December.

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Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard Stand the Test of Time

| Mon Mar. 31, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

Merle Haggard
Okie from Muskogee 45th Anniversary Edition
Capitol Nashville

Johnny Cash
Out Among the Stars
Columbia/Legacy

Merle Haggard album

Great singers sound better with time, regardless of genre, and country icons Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard hold up especially well, which makes these two vault-scouring projects noteworthy. Still, more than four decades on, it's impossible not to cringe at the small-minded, hippie-baiting sentiments of Haggard's signature hit, "Okie from Muskogee," but look past that unfortunate episode and rewards aplenty await on his reissue. (If it helps, Haggard later tried to distance himself from the song and embraced a more nuanced form of populism.)

Captured in his prime, Hag is a magnificent singer, boasting a rich, supple and stirring voice that could embrace western swing, honky-tonk and softer, nearly countrypolitan sounds with equal expressiveness, while his nimble band never loses the groove. This '69 live set—which sounds like it's been "enhanced" by extra overdubbed audience noise—includes some of Haggard's most soulful efforts, including "Mama Tried," "White Line Fever," and "Sing Me Back Home." The second disc offers another, less-successful live outing, "The Fightin' Side of Me," intended to capitalize on the higher profile generated by "Okie from Muskogee" the year before.

Johnny Cash album

As for the man in black, Out Among the Stars, a collection of previously unreleased recordings from '81 and '84, finds craggy-voiced Johnny Cash on the verge of separating from Columbia Records, his longtime home, and entering a period of artistic uncertainty that would end in the '90s with the career-reviving intervention of producer Rick Rubin. If the songs don't add up to a coherent album, there are still moments that entice, among them the heartbroken "She Used to Love Me a Lot," a rollicking duet with Waylon Jennings on Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On" (also covered on Haggard's set), and "I Came to Believe," a moving statement of faith. Among the musicians recently recruited to fill out some of the originally uncompleted tracks are Buddy Miller and Cash's stepdaughter, Carlene Carter, who returns with an excellent new album of her own next week.

Music Review: "SLC" from Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs' All Her Fault

| Mon Mar. 31, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

TRACK 1

"SLC"

from Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs' All Her Fault

TRANSDREAMER

Liner notes: "Don't get your hopes up in Salt Lake City/'Cause you ain't gonna have a good time," sing Holly Golightly and Lawyer Dave (a.k.a. the Brokeoffs) on this jaunty country-blues shuffle, adding that you "can't get fucked up, can't get shitty" there in the heart of Mormon country.

Behind the music: The British-born Golightly, a former member of Thee Headcoatees and onetime Jack White duet partner, has 20 solo albums to her name. She recorded All Her Fault at home outside Athens, Georgia, where she shelters rescue horses.

Check it out if you like: Rootsy acts such as Pokey LaFarge and Alabama Shakes.

This review originally appeared in our March/April 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

Music Review: "This is Anarchy" from Tacocat's NVM

| Mon Mar. 31, 2014 5:00 AM EDT

TRACK 8

"This Is Anarchy"

from Tacocat's NVM

HARDLY ART

Liner notes: Fizzy punk-pop rules on this firecracker, an ironic look at entitled rebellion from singer Emily Nokes.

Behind the music: The quartet's past work includes "Death Fridge," about Anna Nicole Smith, and "Psychic Death Cat," about a feline that can foretell a person's demise.

Check it out if you like: The Ramones, Bikini Kill, the Buzzcocks, and Green Day.

This review originally appeared in our March/April 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

Here Is Some Pretty Great Advice About How to Respond to a Bully, Courtesy of Wil Wheaton

| Sun Mar. 30, 2014 7:55 PM EDT

Growing up is hard. Children are generally awful to each other. The world is filled with unhappy kids taking out their unhappiness on even less happy kids who then take that unhappiness out on still less happy kids. This cycle is often punctuated by tragedy.

People do this at every age, obviously, but one of the best parts of becoming an adult is realizing the shallow sophistry of bullying itself—that it has nothing to do with the bullied and everything to do with the bully's sick psychology. But when you're a kid and you already feel like you are alone and someone who appears to be popular and well-liked says something cruel to you, it can be hard not to think that they just may well have a point.

If time machines existed we could go and warn ourselves. "Look, young me, kids are going to say mean things to you but only because they're from a broken home and their father didn't go to their baseball game and they're beginning to suspect that maybe they aren't very bright and they have very little self-worth and they're trying to make themselves feel better about their own mediocrity by putting you in a position that allows them to think 'well at least I don't have it as bad as him!'" Then—poof!—we'd vanish in a puff of smoke and our young selves' would ride off to grade school with armor optimized for adolescence.

Sadly, time machines do not exist, but YouTube does! So, if you have a child, show them this video of Wil Wheaton explaining to a young girl how to respond to kids who may call her a "nerd."

It was taken at the 2013 Denver Comic-Con which was a year ago but Wheaton didn't post about it until today. It's pretty great evergreen advice, so enjoy. Happy Sunday!

 

Here Is a Wonderful Video of a 40-Year-Old Deaf Woman Hearing for the First Time

| Fri Mar. 28, 2014 10:35 AM EDT

Joanne Milne was born deaf and began to go blind in her 20s due to a rare genetic disorder called Usher Syndrome. Last month, at the age of 40, she underwent surgery to have cochlear implants installed. This video of her hearing for the first time in her entire life is the reason I can't get any work done this morning.

"It might be a bit overwhelming at first," the doctor warns before turning them on. That's an understatement.

"Hearing things for the first time is so emotional from the ping of a light switch to running water. I can’t stop crying and I can already foresee how it’s going to be life changing,” Joanne says.

Her friends made her a playlist with one song for every year of her life. The first one she heard was John Lennon's "Imagine."

Anyway, this is beautiful and amazing and, to be honest, I don't even like that stupid John Lennon song but I want to listen to it right now on repeat for an hour.

Happy Friday.

(via Gawker )

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Quick Reads: "The Humor Code" by Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

| Fri Mar. 28, 2014 5:00 AM EDT
The Humor Code

The Humor Code

By Peter McGraw and Joel Warner

SIMON AND SCHUSTER

Searching for the essence of humor is a delicate business: Dig too deep, and you kill the joke. Fortunately, Peter McGraw, an irrepressible psychology prof, and Joel Warner, his straight-man scribe, deliver entertaining answers to nagging questions like: Do unhappy people make better comedians? Are some things too horrible to laugh at? And how do you win The New Yorker cartoon contest? Despite getting heckled by colleagues in the surprisingly serious field of humor studies and bombing as a stand-up comic, McGraw lays out a convincing theory about how humor works and why it's an essential survival mechanism.

This review originally appeared in our March/April 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

WATCH: Will Corporations Win the Right to Religious Freedom? [Fiore Cartoon]

| Thu Mar. 27, 2014 6:32 PM EDT

Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.

Ricky Gervais Is Absolutely Right About Hollywood's Woman Problem

| Thu Mar. 27, 2014 3:35 PM EDT

In an interview with Radio Times, English actor and comedian Ricky Gervais expressed his frustration with how women are portrayed on TV and in Hollywood movies, especially comedies. (The 52-year-old co-creator of the UK's The Office was promoting his show Derek, which returns for a second season in April. He said his show will soon feature some "real, good, modern girl power.")

"I love writing interesting female characters because usually they're props, particularly in comedy," Gervais said. "Even in Hollywood, they're usually air heads or if they're ambitious they're straight away cold and need to be taught a lesson. They need to show that getting a man is more important than getting a career. Or they're just props for men to do funny things...People think that men rule the world but they don't, really. That was never my experience growing up and certainly not at Broad Hill [nursing home]. Men, when they're together, revert to the playground."

(Gervais is correct; Hollywood absolutely does have a womanand girl—problem.)

For this, Indiewire declared him the "Hollywood Feminist of the Day," which fits nicely with some of Gervais' other comments:

Gervais has also spoken about atheism, war, racism, rape jokes, obesity, Nelson Mandela, Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and animal rights, typically in very funny ways.

"Noah" Film Inspires Flood of Religious Freak-Outs

| Thu Mar. 27, 2014 5:01 AM EDT

The new Darren Aronofsky movie Noah is pissing off quite a lot of people. The outrage over the film—which retells that famous biblical tale of Noah, his ark, and God's wrathful flood—is international and diverse in its stupidity. And it goes without saying that the majority of the people saying mean things about the film haven't yet seen it (Noah hits theaters on Friday, and stars Russell Crowe and Emma Watson). "It's always kind of silly that somebody puts their voice and opinion to something when they haven't seen it, based on an assumption," Crowe said in an interview with Access Hollywood. (Crowe has been trying to get Pope Francis to endorse Noah. That won't be happening.)

Aronofsky has dubbed his $160 million epic the "least biblical biblical film ever made." (Word on the street is that it promotes some pretty "aggressive environmentalism.") Here are some lowlights in the ongoing permutations of Noah hate:

1. Noah is actually banned in some countries because it depicts Noah. Censorship bodies in United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Indonesia have banned national releases of the film. This prerelease backlash stems primarily from a conservative Islamic prohibition on representing holy figures in art and entertainment. (Al-Azhar, a top Sunni Muslim institute in Egypt, also objected to the film and released a statement declaring that it would hurt the feelings of believers.) Also, there's a sense among certain government officials that Aronofsky's film doesn't play it straight: "There are scenes that contradict Islam and the Bible, so we decided not to show it," Juma al-Leem, director of media content at UAE's National Media Center, said.

"If there is a fear that the film will cause unrest and protest from some groups then the government should create a situation conducive to people growing up instead of always limiting them to a narrow-minded condition," Joko Anwar, an award-winning Indonesian filmmaker, told the Jakarta Globe.

Noah
Paramount