Mixed Media

American Independent Party and Independent: Wait, There's A Difference?

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 3:33 PM PDT

ist2_4768669_checking.jpgThe American Independent Party isn't doing a very good job broadcasting their party's platform message. If they were, perhaps Gavin Newsom's aspiring actress-first-lady-of-San-Francisco girlfriend Jennifer Siebel wouldn't have registered for it by accident. Just to be clear, the American Independent Party is anti-immigration, anti-abortion, pro-"traditional marriage and family values," and all for keeping "God" in the pledge of allegiance. Which I guess also means they're pro-pledge of allegiance.

San Franciscans shouldn't get their hemp underwear in a bunch too quickly. The mayor's office assures that it's an innocent gaffe and Gav's girlfriend is actually an Independent voter. Independents, typically, have no fidelity to political parties and vote based on candidates and issues. In other words, they do whatever the hell they want. I can see where the confusion lies: There's no "Independent" box to check on California's voter registration ballot; merely "Decline To State." And without predetermined categories, how are Independents ever supposed to know to which group they belong?

—Joyce Tang

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The Dust Off: Pointer Sisters

| Fri Apr. 25, 2008 3:09 PM PDT

PointerSisters-200.jpgWelcome to The Dust Off, where MoJo Riffers dig deep into the crates and revisit a song, video, or film that has stood the test of time.

This week I'm shaking dust off of "12," or Pinball Number Count," that funky Sesame Street song with the amazing pinball machine animation. Recently a friend back East emailed me this clip of the full segment, and I was blown away to finally learn that The Pointer Sisters are the ones singing. It's a 1972 funk-jazz track with Hammond-sounding keyboards, hand percussion, and soprano sax, guitar, and steel drum solos.

If you're like me, when you think The Pointer Sisters, you think 80s songs like "Jump (For My Love)," and "I'm So Excited," and you almost lose control because you like it. I already thought the Oakland-based group was awesome, but I had no idea they had helped me learn how to count to 12 when I was a kid. Consider them officially dusted off:

Bacteria Artist Off the Hook?

| Thu Apr. 24, 2008 10:57 AM PDT

Last week's Yale abortion senior art project stunt highlights the public outcry art can inspire. While Aliza Shvarts was ridiculed for being everything from "hopelessly bourgie" to "weird and gross," the jeers lobbed upon her in the blogosphere were nothing compared to the nightmarish federal investigation endured by SUNY-Buffalo art professor Steve Kurtz. In 2004 Kurtz was accused of bioterrorism while preparing for an educational art exhibit about genetically modified foods, an incident that showcases the absurd turns art can take in life.

The FBI and Bush administration may be ending their four-year mission to bring charges against Kurtz, who came under scrutiny after authorities discovered bacteria cultures in his house after his wife's unfortunate (and, as it turns out, unrelated) death. On Monday, a U.S. district judge dismissed the charges of mail and wire fraud, the only indictment the Feds could make stick. There's no word yet if the prosecution will appeal. But Kurtz's named "coconspirator," Dr. Robert Ferrell—who sent Kurtz the bacteria and who had also been charged with mail and wire fraud—didn't come away unscathed. He pleaded guilty last October to lesser charges after a series of health problems ensued from the stress of the investigation.

Read more about the case and the documentary it inspired here.

—Joyce Tang

Riff Q&A: Yoav

| Wed Apr. 23, 2008 4:30 PM PDT

mojo-photo-yoav.jpgOne of the more intriguing artists on this weekend's Coachella festival lineup, Yoav is Israeli-born, South Africa-raised, and now London-based. His complicated background might remind you of the Argentinian-Swedish José González, and they also share a focus on the acoustic guitar (as well as diverse musical influences). But while González turns bleak tracks like Massive Attack's "Teardrop" into plaintive ballads, Yoav incorporates effects and treatments into his guitar work to create original music that somehow straddles the line between folk and minimal electronica, with an accessible pop straightforwardness. His debut album, Charmed & Strange, features sounds that you wouldn't expect to hear come out of a guitar: staccato blips, hip-hop thuds, and, on a haunting cover of The Pixies' "Where is My Mind," eerie whines and soft echoing tones. The Riff caught up with Yoav between gigs and tossed a couple quick questions his way.

Obama Now Brought to You by Abercrombie & Fitch

| Wed Apr. 23, 2008 10:58 AM PDT

mojo-photo-obamaandfitch.jpgBoth Towleroad and Gawker noticed this too: last night, during Barack Obama's Pennsylvania concession speech (in Indiana, naturally), there was a bit of surprising, shall we say, product placement. Three fine-looking young collegiate bros, placed directly behind the candidate, each wearing a clearly-branded Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. First of all, what are the chances? I can imagine two frat boys leaving the frat house with their A&F shirts, but once a third joins them, you'd think one of them would go back and change. On the other hand, it seems unlikely that this is, as Gawker suggests, "a plot by the Obama campaign to win back the gay community, which has something of a taste for the youth clothing retailer and, especially, its catalogs, but whose vote is basically owned by Hillary Clinton." So true, and oh, the shame. Don't let anybody tell you the gays always have good taste.

So what's going on? Did A&F dispatch a trifecta of models to the arena, hoping for some air time? Or is this an inside deal, with the Obama campaign getting a cut (and maybe some boxer briefs)? If so, you'd think they'd be more about United Colors of Benetton, especially since A&F are well known for, er, marketing group sex to teens. Whose shirts can we expect to show up behind Hillary during her North Carolina concession speech, Polo by Ralph Lauren? Well, I don't care if these speeches turn into runway shows, I just want this thing over.

After the jump, watch the Obama speech and amuse yourself by imagining what each of our Abercrombie boys are thinking at any given moment.

Harry Potter and His Copyrighted Magic

| Tue Apr. 22, 2008 9:48 AM PDT

It's the epic struggle of our time: Scrappy internet fair-use exploiters vs. authors and their corporate overlords. But this time, the battle has, you know, wizards and muggles or whatever. Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling appeared in a New York courtroom last week to defend copyright infringement charges against Vander Ark, the creator of the unauthorized Harry Potter Lexicon web site, after plans were revealed for a book version. While some commenters attacked the site as "something parasitic on years of hard work by Rowling," the potential publisher of the Lexicon pointed out that giving authors too much control over "books about them" is dangerous:

We would have to get approval before we could write or publish on people's work. They would control critical commentary on their work, at any time, whether it is our kind of book or an Associated Press article. It would create total chaos in the area of critical commentary. Frankly, I don't think that would be good for anyone, even the authors themselves.

Rowling herself has appeared somewhat self-contradictory on the matter, first complimenting Ark's work and insisting she "never ever once wanted to stop Mr. Vander Ark from doing his own guide," but during the trial she came close to tears, describing the book version of the Lexicon as "wholesale theft."

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In Defense of Long Songs

| Mon Apr. 21, 2008 6:02 PM PDT

mojo-photo-kraftwerk.jpgWhile Joshua Allen's piece in the Morning News appears to have tongue firmly planted in cheek, there's something intriguing about its thesis: that there is a "golden mean" of pop songs, and it's exactly two minutes and 42 seconds. As proof, he presents us with multiple unassailably great songs that clock in right around the two-and-three-quarter-minute mark: The Cure's "Boys Don't Cry," Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," The Beach Boys "God Only Knows," Prince's "I Would Die 4 U." Fine tunes all, and, as he puts it, they're "100 percent fat-free," with their brief running time forcing them to get right to the point. But does the 3-minute length zone really have a monopoly—or even a plurality—of great pop songs?

While there are lots of toweringly great 10-minute-plus tracks (Sonic Youth's "The Diamond Sea," Low's "Do You Know How to Waltz,") I'll concede these don't exactly fit into the mold of pop songs, with their extended sections of instrumental improvisation and feedback. But even within the accessibility restrictions of "pop," there are more, shall we say, full-flavored pleasures than the slim-and-trim pop nuggets listed above. Example #1: New Order's "Blue Monday." In its original version, this 1983 single runs 7:29, nearly three times the length of our "perfect" song, yet not a moment is wasted: it's structured so there's little repetition, and while the instrumental intro lasts over two minutes, new elements are introduced every few seconds, giving the track a sense of drama and majesty. Funny story: a boss at my old radio station once asked me to make a shorter edit for airplay, but I refused, since there's nothing that can be cut without changing—ruining!—the song's intricate progression. Yes, I am annoying to work with.

After the jump: sometimes you just gotta have that coda.

Music: Saturday is Record Store Day. Should You Care?

| Fri Apr. 18, 2008 4:01 PM PDT

mojo-photo-recordstoreday.jpgWhat's that, kids? You want grandpa to tell you what a record store is? Well, imagine an iTunes you can actually walk around in. Neat, thanks Grandpa! Now bring Grampy his illegal Pall Malls. And, scene. Ahem. Few brick-and-mortar shops have suffered as much in the wake of the intertubes as have independent record stores: the NY Times reports over 3,000 have closed in the last five years, half of them independent. Tomorrow, in what can be viewed as either an innovative attempt to spark renewed interest in the neighborhood vinyl emporium or as a desperate plea for help, a consortium of music retailers will present Record Store Day, with all sorts of events to draw people in. Manhattan's Other Music will play host to "celebrity" DJs from bands like Grizzly Bear and Deerhunder, while closer to home, Metallica will perform at Rasputin's in Mountain View, and Jello Biafra will work the "help desk" at Amoeba in San Francisco. Plus, bands like R.E.M. and Vampire Weekend are selling vinyl singles available for one day only. Fun! But will it save the record store?

MoJo Staff Picks: April 18

| Fri Apr. 18, 2008 12:09 PM PDT

mojo-staff-picks-250x250.jpgWelcome back to the "staff picks" shelf at The Riff.

1. Gary: Janet Jackson's new album, Discipline, dropped in February, so she's back in action. And it's good! I resisted the urge to include "When I think of You," one of the BEST songs from my junior high career, and instead went with a new track, "Rock With U," because it's saucy.

2. Gary: The combination of Faith No More's Mike Patton with the "math" rock/hardcore band Dillinger Escape Plan produced what I consider some of the most interesting and badass aggressive/metal/thrash/loud/angry music of the early 2000s. The band's chaos is precise, and nobody screams the way Mike Patton screams. Turn it up.

3. Kiera (on a Russian kick this week): "Id," Nogu Svelo! This band's name, I'm told, translates to something along the lines of "cramp in the leg!" They've been giving Russians cramps in their legs...from dancing...for 20 years. Like it? You're in luck! They have a new album coming out. Or at least that's what this Google translation of part of their website makes it sound like:

I hasten to inform joyous news: Musicians Nogu Svelo!...locked in the studio and prepare a surprise for all their fans!

4. Kiera: "Dvornik," Agata Kristi. Since you've always wished Depeche Mode would sing in Russian, I've decided to make your day. Masters of Russian indie pop Agata Kristi synth it up in this track. I won't lie: It's a little gothic, too.

Music: LA Weekly Reveals Who Should Headline Coachella

| Thu Apr. 17, 2008 3:54 PM PDT

mojo-photo-yelle.jpgWow, somebody's been brushing up their Excel skills: the LA Weekly has done some serious data entry work on the 128 acts playing next weekend's Coachella festival, and they've come up with some pretty interesting charts 'n' graphs describing today's musical trends. And I do love charts 'n' graphs.

Sure, the pie chart showing most bands are white and the bar graph proving most lead singers are male aren't exactly surprises, and the fact that "most recent Pitchfork review" averages out to between 6.1 and 7.4 is probably due to the fact that every Pitchfork review is between 6.1 and 7.4. But ranking artists by their most-viewed YouTube clip isn't such a far-fetched way to gauge popularity in this day and age, and the results are eyebrow-raising. Turns out, if internet video ruled the world, French techno would be, er, king: Justice and Yelle (pictured above) were #1 and #2, with over 7 million views for their most popular videos. Zut alors! They were followed by Kate Nash, Serj Tankian and Mark Ronson, none of whom are, in fact, headlining. Actual headliner Jack Johnson doesn't show up on this list until #9, with about a third of Justice's click-throughs. While I can understand Justice's internet popularity, I'm most intrigued by Yelle's sudden notoriety: the video getting all the love is the Tecktonik-style Tepr mix of "ACDG" that I posted as part of my France wrap-up back in December. You go, Yelle. After the jump, let's watch that video again, pourquoi pas?