Mixed Media

Come for the Crooning, Stay for the Wordplay on Lambchop's "Nixon" Reissue

| Mon Feb. 3, 2014 4:00 AM PST

Lambchop
Nixon
Merge

Nixon album cover

If you know this Nashville collective mainly for recent albums like Mr. M and OH (Ohio), the most striking thing about the reissue of 2000's lush Nixon is how different leader Kurt Wagner sounds. Currently a woozy basso crooner, he was a woozy, much-higher crooner back then, with a intriguingly scruffy falsetto suggesting Curtis Mayfield's degenerate down-home cousin. In any case, Nixon is a fascinating listen that tempers Wagner's penchant for updating and warping the smooth country-politan sounds of the '70s with mellow soul influences, all the better to make his sly, tartly dark observations on human nature more appetizing.

Taking its title from the wonderful Wayne White painting of the same name—which is also the cover—Nixon has little or nothing to say about the late, disgraced former president (unless utterly oblique references count), but it does include "The Petrified Florist," underscoring Wagner's knack for offbeat wordplay. This two-disc set also includes White Sessions 1998: How I Met Cat Power, a five-song Wagner solo set with its own sleepy charms.

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Quick Reads: "Extreme Medicine" by Kevin Fong

| Mon Feb. 3, 2014 4:00 AM PST

Extreme Medicine

By Kevin Fong

THE PENGUIN PRESS

The devil's in the physiological details as physician, NASA adviser, and outdoor fanatic Kevin Fong explores how feats at the edge of possibility—from the first major Antarctica expedition a century ago to the first manned landing on Mars at some future date—rely upon and, in turn, inform an ever-greater understanding of our own biology. With clear, evocative prose, he takes readers to ocean depths and mountaintops, and also deep within our bodies, in this entertaining exploration of human limits.

This review originally appeared in our January/February 2014 issue of Mother Jones.

Your Rape Joke Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad

| Sun Feb. 2, 2014 11:02 PM PST

Pornhub, a hub for pornography on the information superhighway, is a little well known for being snarky and amusing on social media. Chasing that reputation may have just got it into trouble.

Sunday night the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos in a football game. This inspired Pornhub to make the following joke:

 

So, stop it.

Pornhub, stop it.

Whoever you are, if you're telling a rape joke, stop it.

It's 2014. We really shouldn't have to say this. Just, dear god almighty, stop.

They aren't funny. You aren't funny. Stop.

UPDATE: Pornhub has apologized in the comments to this post. Their social person seems like good people:

Alright Ben, you're right, I feel bad and I'll stop. The tweet wasn't intended to offend anyone, you have to realize my target demographic on twitter isn't the same as say, Mother Jones.

 

The Seinfeld-Reunion "Secret Project" Aired During the Super Bowl—Watch it Here

| Sun Feb. 2, 2014 7:23 PM PST

Here's one for those who saw the Seinfeld reunion on Curb Your Enthusiasm and wanted more. During a commercial break in the Super Bowl broadcast on Sunday, Jerry and George (and Newman) were featured in an episode of Jerry Seinfeld's web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. This put an end to recent speculation swirling around Seinfeld's "secret project," which included alums of the beloved NBC comedy series. 

Watch the pseudo-reunion here, via the Verge:  

(You can watch the full episode here.)

We shall wait to see what Elaine thought of it.

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dead at 46, Spoke Candidly About Addiction

| Sun Feb. 2, 2014 1:46 PM PST

Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his New York City apartment on Sunday, according to law enforcement sources. Authorities are investigating the cause of death, but a drug overdose is suspected, according to the New York Times. Hoffman was 46.

There isn't much I can write about the Oscar-winning actor's tremendous talent that others won't be writing. He was one of his generation's greatest. His performances in Capote, Magnolia, The MasterAlmost Famous, 25th Hour, Charlie Wilson's War, Doubt, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, and many other films will all stand the test of time. "Rest in peace Philip Seymour Hoffman," actress and activist Mia Farrow tweeted. "We who marveled at each of your performances, are grateful and very very sad."

Hoffman struggled with drug and alcohol problems, which reportedly included detox following a heroin relapse this past summer. In 2006, Hoffman discussed his substance abuse, and why he went into rehab at a young age, in an interview with 60 Minutes. Here's part of what he had to say, which includes an expression of deep empathy for young Hollywood:

I got sober [when] I was 22 years old…It was…anything I could get my hands on. I liked it all…I was 22 and I got panicked for my life…I always think, god, you know, I have so much empathy for these young actors, that they're 19 and all of a sudden they're beautiful, and famous, and rich. And I'm like, oh my god, I'd be dead! You know what I mean? Nineteen, beautiful, famous, and rich, that'd be it…I think back at that time, and I think if I had…that kind of money and stuff…Yeah.

Around the time of that 60 Minutes broadcast, Hoffman told The Observer that he felt the show's segment verged on being inappropriate: "You talk to your interviewer for a good four hours over a bunch of days, and that was about two minutes of it," he said. "It's not a major part of the story at all—it happened when I was 22. At the time I had to deal with it, in retrospect it was one of the major events in my life, but there are other events that form you. So to single it out as the one would not only be inappropriate, but not true."

During that Observer interview, Hoffman also talked about how he found it weird that he was becoming a big movie star. "The strange thing is I never thought I'd do films," he said. "I was studying theater, and my dreams were about riding my bike to the theater on Sunday afternoons to do a play, and they still are."

Needless to say, both the theater and film world have lost a remarkable talent.

Dylan Farrow Writes Open Letter Claiming Horrific Sexual Assault by Woody Allen

| Sat Feb. 1, 2014 6:03 PM PST

On Saturday, Nicholas Kristof's blog at the New York Times published an open letter by Dylan Farrow, the adoptive daughter of celebrated filmmaker Woody Allen. The letter describes, in horrifying detail, sexual assault she claims to have suffered at the hands of Allen—when she was seven years old. As Kristof notes, this is the first time that Farrow has written about this in public.

Here's an excerpt:

What's your favorite Woody Allen movie? Before you answer, you should know: when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me. He talked to me while he did it, whispering that I was a good girl, that this was our secret, promising that we'd go to Paris and I'd be a star in his movies. I remember staring at that toy train, focusing on it as it traveled in its circle around the attic. To this day, I find it difficult to look at toy trains.

[...]

What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?

Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse.

(You can read the rest of her letter—which isn't easy to get through—here.)

Allen's representatives did not immediately respond to Mother Jones' request for comment regarding the letter. I will update this post, if that changes.

Update: Allen's attorney Elkan Abramowitz sent Mother Jones the following statement on Sunday afternoon:

It is tragic that after 20 years a story engineered by a vengeful lover resurfaces after it was fully vetted and rejected by independent authorities. The one to blame for Dylan's distress is neither Dylan nor Woody Allen.

Update 2: Allen's publicist Leslee Dart emails the following on Sunday afternoon:

Mr. Allen has read the article and found it untrue and disgraceful. He will be responding very soon...At the time, a thorough investigation was conducted by court appointed independent experts. The experts concluded there was no credible evidence of molestation; that Dylan Farrow had an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality; and that Dylan Farrow had likely been coached by her mother Mia Farrow. No charges were ever filed.

Accusations of the abuse surfaced in the early 1990s, shortly after the relationship between Allen and long-time girlfriend Mia Farrow ended after she discovered Allen had been having an affair with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and composer/conductor André Previn. Allen denies the allegations, and has never been prosecuted in this case. Allen and his defenders say that Dylan was coached to make the allegations by Mia Farrow. Discussion of the alleged assaults was renewed following a recent tribute to Allen at the Golden Globe Awards.

Update 3, February 7, 2014, 9:09 p.m. EST: On Friday, the New York Times published Woody Allen's response online: "Of course, I did not molest Dylan."

Update 4, February 7, 2014, 11:49 p.m. EST: On Friday, Dylan Farrow responded, in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter, to Allen's piece in the New York Times: "His op-ed is the latest rehash of the same legalese, distortions, and outright lies he has leveled at me for the past 20 years."

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Conservatives Don't Want You To Eat Pro-Abortion Girl Scout Cookies

| Thu Jan. 30, 2014 7:16 PM PST

It's time for the annual Girl Scout cookie freak out! This year, it's not due to the palm oil used to produce the treats, nor the group's policy on transgender members: This time, Girl Scouts are supposedly too pro-abortion.

As Think Progress reports, in December, Girl Scouts tweeted a link to a Huffington Post story extolling Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (of anti-abortion bill filibuster fame) as a candidate for "Woman of the Year."

And in a Facebook post, the organization linked to a Washington Post list of "Seven American Women Who Made a Difference in 2013," including US Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. These links were enough to spur John Pisciotta, who runs Pro-Life Waco, to launch a national boycott. "The Girl Scouts were once a truly amazing organization, but it has been taken over by idealogues of the left, and regular folk just won't stand for it," Pisciotta told Breitbart News. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly also took up the cause with a full-on panel on the offending tweet.

Ultimately, though, the campaign is about more than a couple of social-media postings: On its website, the "CookieCott 2014" campaign argues that the boycott is a protest of the Girl Scouts' "deep and lasting entanglement with abortion providers and abortion rights organizations." This includes, it claims, promoting role models like Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Hillary Clinton, Amnesty International, ACLU, and the National Organization for Women, and supporting "youth reproductive/abortion and sexual rights" via its membership in the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

The bullying seems to have worked: In a blog post Wednesday, Girl Scouts offered "our sincerest apologies," noting, "To be clear, Girl Scouts has not endorsed any person or organization." Is that sort of meekness consistent with the organization's quest to "build girls of courage, confidence, and character"? Ponder that while you try to resist those Samoas.

Stop Calling Office Parks "Nondescript"

| Thu Jan. 30, 2014 4:00 AM PST

The wars of the future will be fought over clichés.

Last week, WonkBlog's Brad Plumer took aim at one of the soundbite industry's most pernicious crutches—describing a good-but-not-gamechanging thing as "not a panacea." Plumer was right to criticize "not a panacea," but "nondescript office park" and "nondescript office building," are just as common—and just as bad. Office buildings and office parks are as a rule architecturally bland, so there's no reason to point it out. Moreover, there's nothing counterintuitive about an interesting project that's housed in a boring building. If news reports are any guide, interesting projects are often housed in boring buildings.

In the interest of killing this cliché, here is a comprehensive list of all the things the New York Times has reported are housed in a "nondescript" office space:

Ban clichés.

5 "Sports" You Won't See in the 2014 Winter Olympics

| Thu Jan. 30, 2014 4:00 AM PST

I love me a good hockey rivalry, and the extreme skiing and boarding events are a thrill. The grace of the short-track speed skaters as they move in unison is transfixing, and the figure skating is filled with drama and pomp. But growing up in Wisconsin as I did, I couldn't help but notice how the International Olympic Committee has overlooked some of our most beloved winter pastimes. So here are five, er, sports that some of us Midwesterners and New Englanders might like to see in the 2018 games.

1. Jack jumping (Europeans call it skibock. Weirdos.)


2. Skeeching (I messed up my knee doing this behind a school bus in middle school. Please don't tell my son.)


3. Freeze-Your-Ass-Off Swimming (Russia may have us beat in this event.)



4. Chucking Snowballs at Cars (followed by frenzied, unplanned neighborhood run.)


5. Team Ice Fishing (Bonus: Good eatin'!)

Pete Seeger Memorial Playlist: War, Protest, Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Olivia Newton-John, Stalin

| Tue Jan. 28, 2014 12:13 PM PST

Pete Seeger performing at the opening of the Washington labor canteen, 1944. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is present.

Pete Seeger, the folk-music legend and activist, died on Monday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He was 94. His impact his on American culture was profound, as he influenced popular music and iconic musicians, including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, for decades.

"Once called 'America's tuning fork,' Pete Seeger believed deeply in the power of song," President Barack Obama said in a statement on Tuesday. "Over the years, Pete used his voice—and his hammer—to strike blows for worker's rights and civil rights; world peace and environmental conservation. And he always invited us to sing along."

Here are some cool clips, songs, and text for you to check out while reflecting on Seeger's life and music:

1. Pete Seeger sings in Barcelona about the Spanish Civil War: "56 years ago, I had some friends who came to Spain," Seeger tells the crowd. "Some of them did come back—and this is the song that they taught me. It's a song of the Abraham Lincoln Battalion."

 

2. Seeger testifies before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), 1955: For refusing to testify about his time in the Communist Party, he was later sentenced to a year in prison for contempt. But the conviction was overturned. Here's an excerpt from his testimony:

I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this. I would be very glad to tell you my life if you want to hear of it....

I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. That is the only answer I can give along that line.

 

3. The Weavers sing "Goodnight, Irene":

And while we're at it, here's Eric Clapton's version:

 

4. When Pete Seeger hosted a TV show devoted to good folk music: It aired in the mid-1960s and was called Rainbow Quest. Here's the episode with Johnny Cash and June Carter:

 

5. Seeger sings a protest of the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson on the Smothers Brothers—and gets censored by CBS: His performance of "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy"—in which Johnson is essentially labeled the "big fool"—was initially nixed from a 1967 broadcast for being too political. A few months later, Seeger was invited back, and Americans got to watch:

 

6. Seeger wrote a song denouncing Joseph Stalin—and got a fun Fox News headline out of it: The folk singer's previous support for the Soviet Union had been a less-than-flattering part of his legacy. (He left the Communist Party in the 1950s.) In 2007, Seeger revealed he had written a new yodeling blues song blasting Stalin, titled, "The Big Joe Blues."

"It's [my] first overt song about the Soviet Union," Seeger told the Associated Press. "I think I should have though, when I was in the Soviet Union, I should have asked, 'Can I see one of the old gulags?'"

Here are some lyrics from "The Big Joe Blues":

I'm singing about old Joe, cruel Joe. He ruled with an iron hand. He put an end to the dreams of so many in every land....

I got the Big Joe Bloo-ew-ew-ews!

Seeger remarked that it was the kind of song his old friend Woody Guthrie might have written in the 1950s.

 

7. Seeger sings "We Shall Overcome" on Democracy Now! and discusses his late wife Toshi Seeger:

 

8. Sam Cooke's fantastic cover of Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer":

 

9. Olivia Newton-John covers Seeger's "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

 

10. "Bring Them Home"—a song for Vietnam and Iraq: After President George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq, Seeger rewrote and re-recorded his Vietnam-era number, "Bring Them Home," with Billy Bragg, Ani DiFranco, and Steve Earle. The new lyrics included, "Now we don't want to fight for oil/Bring 'em home, bring 'em home/Underneath some foreign soil/Bring 'em home, bring 'em home."

Here he is performing the song in the 1970s:

And here's Bruce Springsteen playing it on his Seeger Sessions tour in 2006:

 

11. Seeger performing "This Land Is Your Land" (with Springsteen, naturally) at the Lincoln Memorial: They were celebrating the election of President Obama, shortly before his 2009 inauguration.

 

12. And here's Seeger singing Bob Dylan's "Forever Young"—for an Amnesty International benefit album: