Mixed Media

The Dust Off: The House That Crack Built

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 4:57 PM EDT

mojo-photo-htcb.jpgBack in the 90s, author Clark Taylor rewrote a nursery rhyme to tell the story of the illegal drug industry. One of those books with the dreaded tagline "valuable resource," The House That Crack Built is a fascinating artifact of the 1990s drug war.

Recent children's books about drugs are, well, somewhat less daring in their treatment of the issue.

The House That Crack Built is, of course, an artifact of a different period of time. But given that crack is still building many mansions all over the world, it's well worth a read for context.

—Daniel Luzer

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Little Britain to Set Its Sights on America

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 4:01 PM EDT

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If you've caught the comedy show Little Britain on BBC America, you'd be forgiven for being a little bit confused. While the format is good old sketch comedy, the sketches are performed by a duo, David Walliams and Matt Lucas, often in extraordinarily elaborate costumes and makeup. The bits are somewhat brief and all feature recurring characters, so it might be a little tough to catch up to them--the guy in the wheelchair can actually walk!--but once you do, the show can achieve absolute face-slapping hilarity with even the most subtle of twists, as each sketch seems to build on the last, in an ever-tightening spiral of parody. Moreover, the theme of the show is specifically British (with a vague notion of portraying the country's many fine citizens) so Americans might not quite understand the segment of society Vicki Pollard is mocking. Hint: Lady Sovereign.

Why Former Addicts Dread Addiction Memoirs

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 9:33 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by MoJo author Maia Szalavitz:

I'm starting to dread reading about addiction. One would imagine that coming up on the 20th anniversary of my own decision to stop using cocaine and heroin that I would either be utterly bored by it or alternatively, entranced with a subject that touches on free will, morality, neuroscience, sociology, psychology and endless politics.

Typically, I engage in the latter obsessions—but when I read media portrayals of addiction like Sunday's front-page New York Times magazine excerpt of the its columnist David Carr's addiction memoir, I cringe.

It's not that I don't have sympathy and compassion for people who struggle with this disorder—how could I not? It's not that I don't recognize that other people will have different perspectives from my own. My problem is that virtually every addiction memoir—whilst strenuously arguing otherwise or, as in this case, self-consciously highlighting the clichés—tells the same story.

Meanwhile, other equally true stories of addiction go untold. And worse, these untold stories actually represent the majority of cases, according to the research data. For example, a large proportion of people who recover from opoid addiction do it using methadone—not abstinence. Ever read a methadone memoir? And most people who quit cocaine addiction do it without treatment or even self-help groups. Ever read that one?

Amazing Obama Poster Pays Tribute to Bauhaus Design

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 9:18 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamaberlin.jpgJeez, I know I've already blubbered endlessly over the sophistication of Obama's graphic design, but you just gotta see this. It's a poster being used to advertise the senator's upcoming speech in Berlin, and it may be the finest piece of contemporary mainstream political art I've ever seen. All text is set at a 45-degree angle on varying shades of Obama Blue, with one thin swath of brick red emphasizing that "Tickets are not needed." Barack's profile is oddly de-emphasized, yet the whole poster seems to be covered in a subtle gradient, creating a definite glow from that side of the page. Some rabble-rousers think that any poster with a profile is Hitler-esque, but the blog Meaningful Distraction more accurately sees the poster as a tribute to classic German modernism, specifically the Bauhaus movement, which, like constructivism, revolutionized graphic design by setting type on diagonals, around corners, and even spirals. Of course, it fits right in with my theory about Obama's design being an example of his post-modern campaign, as much about the references as anything else, but whatever, it looks really cool. See a larger version after the jump.

Top Five: ABBA Songs

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 8:36 PM EDT

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With the release of the new film Mamma Mia!, ABBA fever has returned: the soundtrack, which features the Swedish quartet's songs, has just hit #1 on the U.K. album chart, and the now-classic ABBA Gold just jumped back into the Top 5. While John McCain recently took some heat for admitting to enjoying a little ABBA now and then, I'll happily admit to ABBA-love. Not only am I gay, but I was just becoming aware of popular music during the band's heyday; and, perhaps most importantly, I'm half-Swedish. Ikea, meatballs, Bergman, it's all good. However, my admiration for ABBA is somewhat selective: I've always felt some of their songs were as transcendent as pop music can be, while others were either hyperactive and shrill or maudlin and overdramatic. Everybody's got their favorites, I'm sure, but here are mine.

Country Music: Not Just for White People Anymore

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 6:26 PM EDT

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I caught a free show in San Francisco's Union Square on my lunch break this afternoon—a country singer, with a voice rivaling Patti Loveless and Lucinda Williams. But this girl ain't your standard Nashville crooner: Miko Marks is a Michigan native, current Oakland resident, and the first black country singer that I personally have ever seen.

Though country, like rock n' roll, has its roots in black music, these days the twangy genres are not exactly renowned for their ethnic diversity. But Marks is a rising star, and she's not the only one: Turns out that while the rest of us were drooling over Amy Winehouse, black women have been taking the country world by storm. Other notable names are Rissi Palmer, Sunny Daye, and Vicki Vann. While all three women draw on a variety of musical influences, there's no question that the sound is country.

The country music establishment has started to take notice, as have the chroniclers of black popular culture: Ebony magazine recently profiled Marks as part of a feature entitled, "What Does Black Sound Like?" and more than one blog has applauded the women's foray into an almost-totally white musical sphere.

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The Dark Knight Turns Out to Be a Dick Cheney Fantasy

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 4:15 PM EDT

mojo-photo-darkknightcheney.jpgI know I just remarked on the proliferation of ridiculous Batman tie-in blog posts, attempting to grab some page views from a populace obsessed with this record-breaking film. But I promise this isn't a cynical grab for your clicks; I'm just pissed off and want to get it off my chest.

I finally got myself into an Imax screening of The Dark Knight yesterday, and sure, it was enjoyable. The extra-large shots of city skylines were impressive, the effects were well done, and Heath Ledger's performance was riveting, if only for the creepy back-of-your-mind sense that embroiling oneself so deeply in such disturbing emotions could easily lead one to dangerous self-medicating. But as the film reached its climactic denouement, I found myself getting more and more perturbed at its underlying message, which seemed straight from the office of the Vice President.

Afterwards, a quick search showed that otherwise-erudite reviews didn't reflect my concerns, with most critics won over by the film's expansion of the superhero genre into deeper, darker territory. But what, exactly, was the message emerging from the darkness? Finally, I Googled "dark knight dick cheney," and I found an article that expressed my feelings exactly: "Batman's Dark Knight Reflects Cheney Policy." You go, Washington Independent:

Vanity Fair Parodies New Yorker Cover, Includes Actual Comedy

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 3:08 PM EDT

mojo-photo-vfmccainsm.jpgSure, you could look at this as a little faw-faw fancy-pants insider jab-taking over at the Conde Nast building. And you'd be right. But Vanity Fair has managed to one-up the New Yorker's now-infamous Obama cover with an image that's actually funny, and come to think of it, they kind of stole my idea (although I admit it was pretty obvious). The cover shows the McCains also celebrating their arrival in the White House with a fist bump, although John's head is decorated not with a turban, but with bandages, and he leans precariously on a walker. Cindy clutches pill bottles in one hand (snap!) and a portrait of a doofy-looking W hangs on the wall, while the constitution burns in the fireplace. It's funny cause it's true! See the full-sized image after the jump.

New Snickers Ad Encourages Drive-By Shootings of Unmanly Men

| Tue Jul. 22, 2008 3:41 PM EDT

mojo-photo-snickersad.jpgVia Towleroad comes a new spot for Snickers which appears to endorse violence against the effeminate, or at least against speed-walkers. In the spot, a yellow-shorts-sporting butt-shaking speed-walker is attacked by former A-Team star Mr. T (?!) with a Snickers-shooting machine Gatling gun, for being "a disgrace to the man race." Ga-wha? The ad was created by AMV BBDO, a subsidiary of the retro-futuristically named Omnicom, which turns out to be the company also responsible for a Dodge spot and another Snickers ad that inspired claims of homophobia. Ad Age critic Bob Garfield has written an open letter to Omnicom calling the spots "simply sick."

I've been a vocal proponent of everybody chilling out over fictional portrayals of LGBT people and the gender non-conformist, but this is appalling, and also completely unfunny: making fun of racewalkers is so, like, 1993. Watch the offending ad after the jump. What do you think, Riffers, does it make you feel like "getting some nuts" and having a Snickers?

Yearning for Better Coverage of Polygamists

| Tue Jul. 22, 2008 3:30 PM EDT

yfz200.jpgToday the New York Times teased a Sunday magazine feature on the young women of the the Yearning for Zion Ranch—the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' (FLDS) Texas compund that was raided in April.

Times photographer Stephanie Sinclair, the teaser says, "was given rare and intimate access to some of the young women who have found themselves at the center of the often-bilious battle between the state of Texas and the F.L.D.S." The result is an eye-catching essay of 16 photographs.

Contrast is really what makes these photos work so well artistically. The juxtaposition of the pastel prairie-style dresses against a run-of-the-mill suburban ranch house lends an appealingly surreal quality, reminiscent of the uncanniness of Diane Arbus' work and the magic realism of Gregory Crewdson's. But what are those strange-looking ladies really like?