2014 - %3, July

Quick Reads: "Unruly Places" by Alastair Bonnett

| Sat Jul. 19, 2014 6:00 AM EDT
Unruly Places

Unruly Places

By Alastair Bonnett

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT

By now, given the pace of technology, you'd think every square inch of the planet's surface had already been discovered, scrutinized, and made accessible online. In this catalog of the world's forgotten, ignored, and phantom places, British geographer Alastair Bonnett shows us that our maps still hold plenty of secrets. Take Wittenoom, an asbestos-mining center turned ghost town in Western Australia that vanished from official records—but not from the face of the earth. Or the no man's land between Senegal and Guinea that is host to entire nationless villages. There's also Sandy Island, a South Pacific sandbar that existed on Google Earth until 2012—when an Australian expedition discovered that it never actually existed. The geography of the unknown has never been so comprehensible.

This review originally appeared in our July/August issue of Mother Jones. 

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Conservatives Are Freaking Out Because Comic Books Are Getting Too Real

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 4:45 PM EDT

Before the penultimate issue of "Life With Archie" had even hit newsstands Wednesday, conservatives were preparing their outrage. As had been previously announced, Archie met his maker in Issue #36, heroically taking a bullet meant for his friend Kevin Keller. Keller, the series' first gay character, has been a lighting rod for controversy since first being introduced in 2010, prompting Singapore to ban the series. After his boyfriend was murdered in a mass shooting targeting gay people, Keller was prompted to run for political office on a strictly pro-gun control platform. Archie's death appears to be a heroic, selfless act at the end of the lighthearted redhead's saga, but conservatives are in an outrage—because his killer was a homophobe.

Archie Comics/AP

Christian Toto of Breitbart News' Big Hollywood doesn't want his kids exposed to the issues Archie presents: "There's a sense in conservative circles that there are fewer and fewer places they can enjoy, stories their kids can read or movies they can see without being force-fed a message."

Rod Dreher of the American Conservative responded to the news of Archie's death by saying it "seems like everybody is gay in pop culture today," and expressing concern that just "2 percent" of the population is engulfing the media.

Hot Air, a conservative news blog, had this to say about Archie's last episode: "Sticking Archie Andrews in the middle of an assassination narrative is like redoing 'Goofus and Gallant' so that Goofus is a meth head. When you lose the innocence, you lose part of the charm."

Before It's News weighed in on the issue in an opinion piece: "The formerly healthy, all-American Archie Comics franchise has gone to extremes to corrupt children with a depraved liberal sexual/political agenda."

The news swept Twitter and Facebook too, where conservatives even parodied Archie's final chapter with a cartoon featuring even more liberal agendas that could have replaced the ending:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though Archie Comics Publisher Jon Goldwater told the New York Daily News that the super-charged ending "had nothing to do with politics," this is not the first time Archie's political storylines have raised conservative ire. In Issue #10 of the Kevin Keller series, Keller confronts a woman upset about him kissing his boyfriend in public. "I don't mind promoting my work and talking about issues," writer and artist Dan Parent*, who created Keller, told Comic Book Resources. Though he claims he doesn't want Archie to be a billboard for gay rights, he admits that "serious issues" sometimes come up in a quality storyline and that the kiss was an important part of a discussion about "tolerance and acceptance."

The Archie death is not the only cartoon that's been criticized for its progressive qualities. Conservatives are also freaking out about Marvel Comics' decision to transform powerhouse hammer-wielder Thor into a woman, and the Council of Conservative Citizens nearly imploded when black actor Idris Elba was chosen to play a Norse God in Marvel Studios' Thor. Marvel's recent decision to make the next Captain America black is being described as "ridiculous" over Twitter, and Christian conservative groups threatened to boycott a gay Green Lantern in 2012.

The root of the Archie conservative ire appears to be the imposition of a political agenda. Maybe what they’re really worried about, though, is that their lily-white heterosexual fantasyland is officially too unrealistic, even for comic books.

Correction: This post originally said that Dan Parent wrote "Life With Archie" #36. The writer was actually Paul Kupperberg.

Stuart Scott's Deeply Moving ESPYs Speech About Beating Cancer Will Leave You Speechless

| Thu Jul. 17, 2014 9:46 AM EDT

We have no words. Just watch:

(via Digg)

Weird Al's "Blurred Lines" Parody Song About Grammar Is Pretty Great

| Wed Jul. 16, 2014 11:51 AM EDT

You know the song "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke? It's really catchy and you hear it on the radio and you get it stuck in your head and you hum it and bob your head back and forth a bit but then you listen to the lyrics a little closer and you realize it's maybe about date rape and you get disgusted with yourself and you find the nearest mirror and point your finger in your face and think, "Stop it! Get this date rape anthem out of your head!" but the beat is catchy and you can't just exorcise it immediately so you run desperately in search of another catchy song to take its place and you're poring over Spotify and flipping through old NOW CDs and what was that stupid song from the '90s that you used to get stuck in your head all the time? "Chumbawumba"? So, you listen to "Chumbawumba" and it works—ta-da! "Blurred Lines" be gone!—but now you're going around singing "He drinks a whiskey drink/He drinks a vodka drink/He drinks a lager drink/He drinks a cider drink/He sings the songs that remind him of the good times/He sings the songs that remind him of the better times" all week and no one likes you because you won't stop singing "Chumbawumba" and you lose your friends and you lose your family and you lose your job but you just keep on singing "I get knocked down but I get up again/You're never gonna keep me down" right up until the time you get knocked down and in fact don't get up and are kept down and die alone in a ditch…all because you listened to "Blurred Lines."

Well, Weird Al Yankovic has a new parody of "Blurred Lines" called "Word Crimes" which is just as catchy but about grammar instead of date rape. So, lean back, relax, and let this impressive parody get stuck in your head.

(via Gawker)

The Billionaire Who Wants to Split California Into 6 States Has the Most Embarrassing YouTube Feed Ever

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 2:31 PM EDT

This is a post about Tim Draper. Tim Draper is a billionaire tech investor of no particular importance who has decided that he wants to disrupt geography. 

Draper is the man behind the "Six Californias" initiative, which today announced that it had secured enough signatures to put a measure on the 2016 California ballot that would split the Golden State in to six golden states. Should California be turned into six states? Maybe! I don't know. Probably not. It probably doesn't make any sense. But maybe it does? Who knows! It isn't going to be turned into six states, that is certain, but should it in a perfect world of perfection where Tim Draper rides around on a golden steed shooting piercing laser beams of logic out of his eyes? Maybe! Leave that question to the poets, because we're here to talk about Tim Draper, "the riskmaster."

Tim Draper is a partner in the VC firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, which has invested in Hotmail, Skype, SpaceX, and a bunch of other tech companies. Silicon Valley has a well-known women problem. Tim Draper does not have a women problem, though! He loves ladies in tech! Can't get enough of them! He loves them so much that he uploaded a video to YouTube aptly titled "Tim Draper Shows His Appreciation for Women Entrepreneurs" in which he removes one piece of clothing for every female-led company he has invested in. Because if you're Tim Draper, the way you relate to women is through the language of erotic dance. (Spoiler: He hasn't funded enough female-led companies to get naked.)

Moving swiftly on, here is a video of Tim Draper wrapping up a keynote speech with a song about, well, how he, Tim Draper, is the "riskmaster." What is the riskmaster? The riskmaster is the name Tim Draper calls himself. Over and over. This song is one of the worst things I have ever heard in my entire life. I cannot stop listening to it.

The chorus appears to be:

He's the riskmaster.
Lives fast, and drives faster.
Skates on the edge of disaster.
He is the riskmaster.

How many Grammys will Tim Draper win? One? Three? Six? Zero? Probably zero.

But, Tim Draper, you do you! You have a better chance of winning six Grammys than you do of splitting California into six states.

(h/t Tim Carmody)

Happy Birthday, Twitter! Here Are 50 Things the Media Says You've Revolutionized.

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 11:03 AM EDT

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In Defense Of Selfies: Rembrandt

| Tue Jul. 15, 2014 10:16 AM EDT

Millennials get a lot of heat for the whole "selfie" thing. But what is a selfie? Most of the time the term refers to people taking photos of themselves—arms outstretched—with their phones. But the phone part really isn't important. I think most good people can agree that a selfie is any picture you take of yourself. But what if you put a camera on a tripod and use a timer? is that a selfie? I would venture, yes. What if we dispense with the camera entirely and talk straight self-portraits?

The truth is the selfie has a noble heritage in high art. Take Rembrandt for instance, who was born July 15, 1606. One of the greatest artists of all time, Rembrandt completed more than 60 self-portraits. (You can check out many of them and more of Rembrandt's works here.)

So anyway, the next time some stick in the mud tells you that selfies are what's wrong with America just be all, "What about Rembrandt, man? What about Rembrandt?" Then float away up into the clouds.

Have a nice day.

The Sad, Danceable Pop Songs of Bleachers' Jack Antonoff

| Mon Jul. 14, 2014 4:29 PM EDT

You might not have heard of Jack Antonoff, the mastermind of the indie-pop project, Bleachers, but he's definitely made you dance. The 30-year-old, best known as the lead guitarist of Fun (and Lena Dunham's boo) has co-written a number of addictive hits, including Fun's Grammy-winning "We Are Young" and Sara Bareilles' "Brave." Now he's turning his attention to his solo project, Bleachers, with the aim of making you dance and cry at the same time. "I lost my sister when I was 18, and I felt it was the monumental thing that happened in my life," Antonoff told me. "Now I'm 30, I write from that time, in the perspective of how it's affected me now." He tries to "find ways to move about the world and not feel broken all the time."

Antonoff says he wrote Strange Desire—his new album out this week—while driving alone at night, up and down the New Jersey Turnpike. His listeners, he believes, are excited when they get to hear, "more intense concepts than what might be going in the radio." On that note, he takes pains to attend to his fans. He announced the album through a Craigslist ad, asking people to do their own remixes of one of the singles. He later unveiled the album art by delivering it on a chocolate birthday cake to a group of fans. "What fanbases don't need is another obnoxious hash-tag campaign," he jokes.

On the surface, Strange Desire is a dance-party album, but it's the kind of party you're having alone, in your room, after everyone has gone home and your crush is making out with someone else. On the song "I Wanna Get Better," Antonoff sings, "Standing on the overpass screaming at cars / Hey, I wanna get better!" My favorite track is "Rollercoaster," a love song soaked in regret.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that Antonoff likes Swedish pop star Robyn, of "Dancing on My Own" fame. More generally, he's a fan of songs that feel "epic and larger than life" while also making "you want to curl up and die." (He cites Bruce Springsteen, ABBA, Tom Waits, and Neil Young as artists who can fall into that category.) His album title, Antonoff says, comes from the feeling that he's "motivated by a strange desire. It pushes you, it fulfills you in a strange way. But it kind of kills you at the same time."

This Video of a Sudden Freak Hail Storm at the Beach Is Insane

| Mon Jul. 14, 2014 9:11 AM EDT

This video was reportedly taken at a beach in Siberia Saturday. It is terrifying.

Imagine just being at the beach, enjoying your weekend, when all of a sudden IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!

(via Digg)

Germany Just Won the World Cup—and Celebrated With This Epic Selfie

| Sun Jul. 13, 2014 7:11 PM EDT

Just after beating Argentina 1-0 in the final game of the 2014 World Cup, Germany's Lukas Podolski and Bastian Schweinsteiger snapped one the most epic selfies ever.