Eminem's Rape Brag

Was anyone else aware that Eminem recently performed a song at the AMA's in which he bragged about 17 rapes? I just found this out while reading the comments section of an Entertainment Weekly blog. Meanwhile, Adam Lambert has been pitchforked by the public and blackballed by ABC for (gasp!) kissing a guy on the same show. Because, you know, that's offensive.

Coincidentally, hours before reading about Slim Shady's rape boast, I came across a Center for Investigative Reporting report about how college campuses routinely mishandle sexual assault cases. Apparently, more than 95 percent of students who are sexually victimized do not report to police or campus officials, and those that do are often encouraged to drop their claim or submit to a gag order.

It's hard enough as is to report sexual abuse. Victims shouldn't have to deal with Eminem's brags, ABC's hypocrisy, campus' injustices, or a culture that just says "meh."

Glenn Beck, Thespian

If you skipped last night's Glenn Beck holiday special, The Christmas Sweater: A Return to Redemption, you had company. The live event, beamed into 475 movie theaters nationwide, sold 17 tickets apiece in Boston and New York, and 30 in Washington, DC. At the downtown cineplex in San Francisco, a brisk walk from Mother Jones headquarters and the only theater in the city to air the program, the crowd could be counted on just two fingers—three, if you include this reporter.

The program revolves around a pre-taped, one-man stage production of Beck's semi-autographical novel, The Christmas Sweater (now available in children's book form), in which a young boy, Eddie (played by Beck), rejects his mom's knitted gift, only to watch in horror as she dies in a horrific accident that evening. Eddie runs away from home and hits rock bottom—which a teary-eyed Beck illustrates by collapsing to the floor into a fetal postion—before finding finding salvation and discovering the true meaning of Christmas. It's a real heartwarmer.

MySpace, Facebook Unfriend 3,500 Sex Offenders

As long as there have been screennames, there have been perverts with screennames. If you happen to be a registered sex offender in New York State, you can bet the Attorney General's office is watching yours like a hawk.

Despite the internet's reputation as the last bastion of anonymity and a safe haven for nefarious things, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday that his office has wiped 3,500 sex offenders from social networking platforms MySpace and Facebook. Or as he put it, "purge(d) them from their online worlds."

Under the new Electronic Securing and Targeting of Online Predators Act (e-STOP), New York offenders must register their email addresses and usernames, in addition to their physical addresses with the state. So far, only Facebook and MySpace have agreed to help the state, but that's kind of like saying only Apple and Microsoft have signed on.

It's unclear from the attorney general's statement whether the sweep actually caught anybody attempting to do something illegal, but the e-STOP law is pretty stiff. Depending on offenders' parole status and the nature of their crimes, some offenders are barred from ever opening a profile. Which to someone like me who came of age in the aughts, sounds like the best way to keep the online Humberts and Lolitas of the modern world apart, and also just a teensy tiny bit Orwellian. 

If social networking is a privilege you think sex offenders should universally forfeit  (and I'm not necessarily disagreeing), consider this: only about 8,000 of New York State's nearly 30,000 sex offenders are registered under Cuomo's internet database. If, as America's Most Wanted host John Walsh said in the press release, "social networking websites have become the private hunting grounds for sexual predators," someone might want to start, you know, collecting those screennames.

What do you think? Should more states take New York's no-tolerance line? Is purging an offender's Facebook profile going too far? In a world as slippery as the internet, will offenders just find a work-around? 

Think of it as Extreme Makeover: China Edition. This week CNN aired a China-produced commercial intended to repair the country's image after a slew of PR disasters. In the past half-decade, Chinese cough syrup, children's toys, and milk (among other products) have caused sickness and even death in consumers around the world. The new ad brushes these concerns aside, showing quick shots of clothes made in China but designed in France and an iPod made in China but using US software. An American voice concludes, "When it says 'Made in China,' it really means 'Made in China, made with the world.'" See the ad here:

Let's take a minute to keep the Chinese propaganda machine in check. Chinese labor is known for more than the toxic side effects of its products. The country's production industry is also notorious for its toxic work environment—fueled by underage employees—that underpays workers and tries to cover up factory injuries. So despite what this ad claims, when the tag says 'Made in China,' it still means 'made with exploited labor.'

Music Monday: Best Punk Rock Vinyl of the 2000s

Picking your 9 or 10 favorite records from the past decade is a tall order for anyone, but especially for someone who consumes music like most people devour TV—headphones constantly plugged in. Get home, throw a record on the turntable. Wake up, do the same. Music all the time.

All this listening and digging and consuming is confined to a relatively narrow focus: pretty much anything guitar-based, but primarily punk, garage rock, hard rock 'n' roll, along with a smattering of country and metal. Throw in various sub-genres (girl groups, rockabilly, new wave, psych, hardcore) and I've got my hands full.

In compiling this list, I broke down and had to come up with two lists—one for albums and one for 7-inch vinyl. That let me slip in more bands and gave me a little wiggle room. I scuttled my plan to include yet another list—of the best reissues of the past decade. Too many, too much.

These are all vinyl releases from small (if not tiny) independent labels. Some are out of print. Many of the bands have long since crashed and burned. But thanks to this modern age, the music can still be easily tracked down somewhere online. I've included links when I could find them. So dig in.

Best Abstinence Advice Ever

If you're like me, and you have trouble keeping friendly frontal hugs from turning into full-on depraved bonefests, you'll appreciate the advice of these side-hug-advocating, Jesus-loving white rappers (h/t the Rumpus): 

Honestly, even though my Catholic-school teachers forced me to watch graphic abortion videos when I was a child, I had a hard time believing a big Christian group would really endorse something this misguided. Forget that even Bristol Palin knows that abstinence-only education is just silly; what's with the gunfire and sirens? But consider the matter fact-checked: "Mm-hm, that was us," the Encounter Generation Conference secretary told me this morning. "The side hug is just a little rule we have around here, to encourage kids to keep their hands off each other." Apparently they've also recorded songs set to the Phantom of the Opera theme and Queen's "We Are the Champions." Since those are, unfortunately, not available on the Internet, I offer you Christian punk band Lust Control's catchy anti-masturbation screed. My favorite part is where they remind you that Jesus "sees everything you do"—though it's a slightly less creepy deterrent than what I was taught in grade school, which is that if you touch yourself, Jesus AND your dead relatives will watch. 

Last week, Nashville-based guitarist Dave Rawlings, best known for his collaboration with Gillian Welch, released his first solo record, titled A Friend of a Friend. Rawlings appears on all of Welch's albums and has become known for his ephemeral voice and intricate guitar picking. His style is a mix of country, old-time, bluegrass, and rockabilly. Mother Jones talked with Rawlings about his first guitar, concert fiascoes, and what it's like to be in Gillian's shadow. Click here to listen to an extended podcast of our interview.

Mother Jones: How did you start playing music?  

Dave Rawlings: When I was probably just about 16, I was walking home from a pizza parlor with one of my best friends, and he said, "Why don't you get a guitar for Christmas and I'll get a harmonica, and we can play 'Heart of Gold,' the Neil Young song, in the talent show." And as soon as I had a guitar I loved it, and I started playing in every spare moment.

MJ: You played in a rock band in the '90s.

DR: When I played with the Esquires, the two of us and our friend David Steal decided to go and play Chuck Berry songs and Tom Waits songs and things like that at a couple local bars in Nashville. That was probably 'round about 1998. But I taped a few of the shows; I know what they sounded like. It was never anything too exciting, but it was fun.

Music Monday: The Things We're Thankful For

So this is what happens when you ask a bunch of wise-cracking MoJo editorial staffers, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to name the artists, albums, and songs for which they would like to give thanks—and why. Feel free to post comments with your own selections.

Big Pun, "100%" — Because as much as I would like to give 110%, I just don't find it viable. Plus: Puerto Rico, baby!

NWA's "Gangsta, Gangsta" — Because journalism, like gangsta rap, is not about a salary, it's all about reality.

Pavement, Crooked Rain — Especially the wonderfully expressed lyric Lame driver, the Force is against you.

Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, A Larum — I will no doubt wear out my iPod listening to this British singer-songwriter's phenomenal debut as I eagerly await his second album. (Oh, hey! Look!)

Cast rendition of "Don't Stop Believing" from the TV show Glee — Double the cheese = Double the fun.

Roxy Music's Avalon — It's the best album to play when you're really hungover in an apartment with a great view of London. Plus, it got me laid in college.

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Thanks Oprah, we've all heard. Sarah Palin kicks off her book tour in earnest this week, endlessly plugging Going Rogue: An American Life, her account of what really happened with John McCain's mean spindoctor-people and bad boy Levi Johnston and other scandals we were only mildly interested in six months ago, before Mad Men got started.

What you may not have heard is that another book, by Michael Stinson and Julie Sigwart, also hits bookstores today. It's called Going Rouge: The Sarah Palin Rogue Coloring & Activity Book, and it has already earned mentions in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

So it's time for a showdown. Memoir vs. Coloring Book. No one's done it yet, so I'll break it down for you: Five reasons to go Rouge rather than Rogue this year.

 

Dave Rawlings Machine
A Friend of a Friend
Acony Records

"Dave's gone and done it," was roughly what Gillian Welch announced a couple of months ago to 50,000 bluegrass fans in Golden Gate Park. "He's put out an album." Well, now he has. This week, Rawlings—that ephemeral, soft-toned siren who appears on all four of Welch's albums and accompanies her on stage—finally comes out with his debut CD, a jaunt through old-time, folk, country, and bluegrass. Raised in Rhode Island, Rawlings  picked up the guitar when he was 15. Somewhere along the way, string-band country music became his muse, and in the early '90s, Rawlings and Welch moved to Tennesee, where they've carried on the Nashville tradition.

A Friend of a Friend features Welch (she's also cowriter on some of the songs), members of bluegrass favorites Old Crow Medicine Show, Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers, and Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes, but the Dave Rawlings Machine is front and center. Rawlings' confident picking seems to emanate from a deep understanding of Americana roots. But like any great storyteller, he filters all that knowledge into something even an uninformed listener can get.