Mixed Media

Michelle Obama Can Kick Your Ass

Your workout routine just got shamed.

| Wed May 20, 2015 11:32 AM EDT

Feeling pleased with your morning run or cardio stroll? Well here's a reminder that Michelle Obama, who was already likely to be crushing you in most parts of your life, rules when it comes to the exercise game.  

In a new video posted to her @FLOTUS account, the first lady responded to the president's #GimmeFive challenge by showing off her fierce workout skills—boxing, lifting, and jumping rope. 

So thanks for the assist Lebron, but this glimpse into Obama's workout proves once again the first lady can hold court all on her own.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Columbia Student Defiantly Carries Mattress to Graduation to Protest Sexual Assault

Since September, Emma Sulkowicz has been carrying her mattress to campus every day.

| Tue May 19, 2015 2:20 PM EDT

Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who protested her alleged sexual assault by carrying a mattress every day to campus last year, graduated today. The mattress, the defining symbol of her assault and senior arts thesis titled Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight), was also present at Tuesday's ceremony, despite the school administration urging students not to bring large items that could potentially "create discomfort to others."

Sulkowicz was seen hauling her mattress to the ceremony with the help of friends and fellow graduating students. According to Columbia Spectator editor Teo Armus, when Sulkowicz went on stage to collect her diploma, she pointedly did not shake university president Lee Bollinger's hand.

In September, Sulkowicz became a national figure and an unofficial spokesperson for sexual assault activists after she went public with her rape. She vowed to carry the mattress to class for as long as the student who she says assaulted her was not prosecuted or expelled. In April, her alleged rapist, Paul Nungesser, filed a lawsuit against the university claiming administrators exhibited bias and failed to protect him from the accusations. He says their alleged failure "destroyed" his college experience and reputation. 

Nungesser also graduated and was present at Tuesday's ceremony.

 

Taylor Swift: "Misogyny Is Ingrained in People From the Time They Are Born"

In a new interview, the singer opens up about her evolving views on feminism and the media's double standards.

| Tue May 19, 2015 9:36 AM EDT

According to this year's "Hot 100" list, an annual inventory in which Maxim's editors meticulously rank famous women by level of attractiveness, Taylor Swift is 2015's reigning queen of female hotness. Rather than use the title to gloat about her declared hotness, Swift used the magazine's cover to call out the double standards women face everyday and the importance of feminism in her life today: From Maxim:

Honestly, I didn't have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn't quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in. I think that when I used to say, "Oh, feminism's not really on my radar," it was because when I was just seen as a kid, I wasn't as threatening. I didn't see myself being held back until I was a woman. Or the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived.

Swift's interview is especially noteworthy considering in 2012, she shied away from the label to the Daily Beast, telling the news site she didn't view matters as a "guys versus girls" situation. This was also during a time in which the media unfairly portrayed Swift as something of a pathetic boy chaser—a female singer who used her lyrics to lament about the latest boy who got away.

Since then, she has shattered that image with very real, thoughtful insight into an industry built on sexist frameworks:

A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining. Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it's just basically another word for equality.

This is what young girls need today. Now, we leave you with her badass new video, "Bad Blood."

 

John Oliver Explains How the Chicken Industry Systematically Screws Over Impoverished Farmers

Despite America's insane appetite for poultry, farmers are exploited and silenced from speaking out.

| Mon May 18, 2015 9:56 AM EDT

Americans eat a ton of chicken—so much so, chicken farmers produce 160 million chicks a week just to keep up with national consumption, according to the latest "Last Week Tonight." But despite the industry's massive output, many contract farmers live near or below the poverty line, all while working under the constant fear of losing their jobs. And that's because the business model is such that farmers own the equipment used to raise the chickens, and corporations own the chickens.

"That essentially means you own everything that costs money, and we own everything that makes money," Oliver explains.

Perhaps the most damning part of the segment is a defense from Tom Super of the National Chicken Council, who responded to the question of why farmers live under the poverty line with the following: "Which poverty line are you referring to? Is that a national poverty line? Is that a state poverty line? The poverty line in Mississippi and Alabama is different than it is in New York City.”

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Oliver shot back. "It doesn't matter. The poverty line is like the age of consent: if you find yourself parsing exactly where it is, you’ve probably already done something very, very wrong."

For Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, a Strong Round 2

"The Traveling Kind" may be even more entertaining than their last collaboration.

| Mon May 18, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
The Traveling Kind
Nonesuch

If only Hollywood sequels were this good. Following Old Yellow Moon, their captivating 2013 collaboration, rootsy stalwarts Emmylou and Rodney have recombined for another go-round, which may be even more entertaining than its predecessor. The two first crossed paths professionally 40 (!) years ago, when Crowell joined Harris’ band. Their recent work together has underscored the virtues of experience and, yes, age. No longer needing to prove anything, both seem as loose and confident as they've ever been, delivering heartrending tunes like "You Can't Say We Didn't Try" with the simple, sure-handed eloquence that marked the Everly Brothers' best, and rockin' out in fine style on the rollicking "Bring It on Home to Memphis." Harris' still-beautiful voice has acquired a darker, slightly rougher texture that adds authority, while the weathered grace of Crowell's singing makes him a perfect match. A fine job by all concerned, including the stellar players.

Blast From the Past: Billy Ward and His Dominoes

New 58-track collection is a mixed bag, but with some undeniable gems.

| Mon May 18, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Billy Ward and His Dominoes
The Complete King/Federal Singles
Real Gone Music

Superstars on the 1950s R&B scene, Billy Ward's Dominoes launched the careers of two amazing singers: Clyde McPhatter, who later fronted the earliest incarnation of the Drifters on such hits as "Money Honey" and "Such a Night," and Jackie Wilson, whose high-energy solo smashes included "Lonely Teardrops" and "Baby Workout." While this two-disc, 58-track collection is a mixed bag thanks to the corny likes of "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano," the high points are undeniably thrilling. Among them: the outrageously sleazy "Sixty Minute Man," showcasing single-entendre bass vocalist Bill Brown; the funereal lament 'The Bells," wherein McPhatter mixes hysterical sobbing and piercing shrieks in truly bizarre fashion; and Wilson's rip-snorting "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down." Crank up the time machine, pop a top, and let the fun begin.
 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

The Thrill Is Gone. RIP B.B. King.

The "King of the Blues" legend has died at age 89.

| Fri May 15, 2015 6:26 AM EDT

Legendary blues guitarist B.B. King died late Thursday in Las Vegas. He was 89.

Hailed as the "King of the Blues," King was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925 on a Mississippi cotton plantation. Introduced to music through gospel, King ascended through the ranks as one of the greatest blues artists of all time. The 15-time Grammy winner seemingly never retired, continuing to perform for over seven decades. King had been suffering from diabetes and was recently in hospice care.

RIP.

 

This Is What Classic Pieces of Art Would Look Like if the Prudes at Fox 5 News Had Their Way

The dark arts.

| Thu May 14, 2015 3:04 PM EDT

On Monday, a Picasso painting titled Women of Algiers (Version O) fetched a record-setting $179.4 million at a Christie's auction, beating out Francis Bacon's Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which just two years prior had sold for $142 million, as the most expensive piece of artwork ever sold.

The sale price for the Women of Algiers (Version O) marked the latest entry into a world so mind-numbingly wealthy and closed off to the general public. It's the perfect illustration of privilege consolidating into the hands of so few, for no one else to appreciate.

New York's senior art critic Jerry Saltz has tackled this issue at large on numerous occasions. But this time around, Saltz identified something perhaps even more outrageous than the $179.4 million price tag:

This is pathetic. In anticipation of a piece inevitably shattering another sale record and this Fox affiliate being right there to cover it—both journalistically and visually—here are a few examples of how that coverage might look like:

Henri Matisse, Dance (1)
 
Bathers (Les Grandes Baigneuses), Paul Cézanne
Katsushika Hokusai's The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife
Michelangelo's David

An abominable peek into the dark arts.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said it was Fox News that had blurred the Picasso painting. This has since been corrected to say it was a Fox affiliate in New York. 

Your Weak Handshakes Are Slowly Killing You

Get a grip, folks.

| Thu May 14, 2015 12:17 PM EDT

The life of someone with a weak handshake, already burdened with the stereotypes of being passive and awkward, just got much worse. According to a new study published in The Lancet, a weak hand grip may be strongly correlated to an increased chance of being diagnosed with a cardiovascular disease and even a premature death.

"We think it fits the measure of someone's frailty, and frailty can be thought of as your ability to withstand having a disease," the study's lead author Dr. Darryl Leong explained, according to CTV News.

The study, which focused on roughly 140,000 adults across 17 countries, asked participants to squeeze objects as hard as they could. After measuring their grip strengths, those who demonstrated a lack of muscular strength were shown to be at a far greater risk of having a heart attack.

While previous studies have shown similar links, the new findings are the first to show that handshakes can be a reliable indicator of premature mortality. But the study did not establish whether illnesses were the consequences of reduced muscular strength or if the diseases were already present. From the Economist:

If the former is true, then building up strength through exercise might avert early death. If it is the latter, a person’s cards are probably marked irreversibly. Most likely, it is a bit of both, with muscle strength being a good marker of "real" ageing—in other words, of generalised biochemical decrepitude—which correlates only imperfectly with someone’s calendar age.

You can read the study in its entirety here.

Bad News for Simpsons Fans

Is this how the iconic show ends?

| Thu May 14, 2015 8:20 AM EDT

Harry Shearer, the iconic voice of countless "Simpsons" characters including Mr. Burns and Ned Flanders, sent out a pair of ominous tweets last night signaling he may be exiting the show due to what appears to be a contract dispute with executive producer James L. Brooks:

Fox recently renewed the show for another two seasons to last till 2017, but Shearer was reportedly still trying to work out his contract. Judging by the tweets sent out last night, it looks an agreement couldn't be reached. We're still hoping for the best, but for now, we leave you with this clip: