Mixed Media

Madonna vs. Malawi, Update

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 3:10 PM EDT

In a surprising turn of events a Malawi court ruled today that Madonna will not be allowed to forgo the residency requirements to adopt Chifundo “Mercy” James. The BBC reported the judge's ruling this afternoon:

"By removing the very safeguard that is supposed to protect our children, the courts by their pronouncements could actually facilitate trafficking of children by some unscrupulous individuals," she said. The judge also noted that Chifundo had been placed in one of Malawi's best orphanages and no longer suffered the severe poverty endured after her mother died in childbirth.

Though Madonna wasn't concerned enough to show up in court for the final ruling, she did release a wonderfully tactful statement: "To deny Chifundo James the opportunity to be adopted by me could expose her to hardship and emotional trauma which is otherwise avoidable." This afternoon the Associated Press reported that Madonna plans to file an appeal with the Malawi supreme court of appeal. If Madonna is so determined to adopt the girl, couldn't she move to Malawi, and raise Mercy and son David Banda in their homeland? Otherwise, there are plenty of places right here in the USA where she could rescue children from povertywithout breaking the law.



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Cop Says Shawn Johnson Stalker Sounded Crazy, but Aren't We All Still a Little Shawn Johnson Crazy?

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 1:25 PM EDT
Robert O'Ryan, 34, is a little obsessed with Shawn Johnson, the 17-year-old Olympic gymnast from West Des Moines, Iowa. Last week the Florida man was arrested for trying to jump a fence outside Dancing With the Stars and carrying a loaded shotgun in his car. Before he arrived in sunny California, though, he was pulled over in Alabama. The cruiser-cam caught O'Ryan telling the officer he had spoken with Johnson and "I know it sounds a little crazy, but my intuition tells me we're going to have a beautiful relationship."

Nearly a year after the Beijing Olympics, the Des Moines Register still feeds readers the latest Shawn Johnson updates through a Shawn Johnson mini Web portal. Johnson devotees can enter their location on an international fan map, download Shawn desktop wallpaper, and go outside the lines in a Shawn coloring book. On Shawn's personal website, her book, Shawn Johnson: Olympic Champion: Stories Behind the Smile, is now on sale, as is the Peace, Love Shawn Johnson Collection by Adidas. The Shawn Johnson line of jewelery features pendants and diamond necklaces with an Olympic twist. Her face appeared on a box of Cheerios, and she competes, with some success, against the likes of Belinda Carlisle and Lil' Kim on DWTS. Let's cut this stalker some slack! O'Ryan is not alone in his obsession. Though he is probably the best armed.

Another Hostage Situation

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 12:55 PM EDT

From CNN: Four shot. Forty-one held hostage.

Anyone wanna bet me on the gender of the perp, or the 'perceived' dissing he's seeking to alleviate with this action?

Downsizing Brenda Starr

| Fri Apr. 3, 2009 1:25 AM EDT
The bloodbath in America's newsrooms has come to the funny pages. The latest victim of corporate short-sightedness and the death of print media: Brenda Starr, who in the course of her 69-year news career (take that, Helen Thomas) has become synonymous with hard-hitting reportage from exotic locales such as Kazookistan and a fabulous head of sparkly fire-red hair (nice try, Maureen Dowd). On Tuesday, Starr got furloughed by the publisher and CEO of the financially troubled Flash, Al Neuharth-lookalike B. Babbit Bottomline. It's not clear what Starr's next move will be; in typical cartoon soap opera style, this plot development is taking agonizingly long to unfold. There's been hints that she'll follow in the footsteps of her "scrappy intern" Pug, who headed to India, "where newspapers are still thriving." Or maybe she'll launch an exciting second career on the Internets, perhaps with the tech-savvy former colleague who recently told her to "E-mail me on Facebook!". Stay tuned!

Bruno Trailer Is Here (If You're Over 17)

| Thu Apr. 2, 2009 8:17 PM EDT
I've been covering Sacha Baron Cohen's follow-up to Borat for a while now, from reports that his Austrian fashionista character Bruno was terrorizing midwesterners to unconfirmed but overwhelmingly positive early reviews of the film. But now, via HuffPo, we have something real: the actual, official trailer for the actual, official movie, which you can watch above. Needless to say, it is Not Safe For Work, and you have to enter your age to even make it play—the film was given a preliminary rating of NC-17, because, you know, references to gay sexuality are way worse than elaborate torture. Don't get me started. Anyway, the preview is perhaps even more raucous than one could have imagined, with practically every scene a jaw-dropping, and potentially dangerous, act of queer trickery. I'd say Baron Cohen should get a MacArthur genius grant, but I'm sure he's going to make a zillion dollars anyway. Bruno is out July 10.

Coolest G-20 Leaders Forming a Band?

| Thu Apr. 2, 2009 5:07 PM EDT
Anybody else notice the similarity between the arrangement of four of our world leaders at the G-20 conference in this picture, and a famous shot of one of the world's greatest bands? Because we did. I'm trying to think of a joke about "Obama met the queen and now he wants to be in Queen," but it's not happening. So, what instrument do you think each of them plays? Hu Jintao's got the Freddy Mercury position, but he just doesn't seem like he's got lead singer charisma. Sorry, but it's true. Belusconi, on the other hand, thinks he's in the Monkees. You're supposed to try and look cool, dude! Medvedev is so the drummer. By the way, how pissed is Sarkozy he didn't get in this shot? That'll teach him to be late to dinner. Although five members does make your musical combo much more likely to be a "boy band," so maybe he got a "non, merci" from the clearly-intent-on-musical-integrity Medvedev? Our own Dave Gilson didn't see "rock band" in this picture, he saw Japanese Photo Booth. He has a point. Check out his enhanced version of the shot after the jump.

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Web 2.0 Expo Gets Recessionified

| Thu Apr. 2, 2009 3:57 PM EDT

The theme of this week's Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, Silicon Valley's annual geek family reunion qua idea show and tell, is "The Power of Less." Here in the Texas-sized Moscone conference center (hike toward the panel just over the hallway horizon!), recession is definitely the new green.

Many of this year's talks are grim soup lines doling out tips on how to hang on to a slippery website dollar among fickle, fickle users, or wring a few pennies out of Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media enterprise.

And forget the Wii-filled, bass-thumping blogger room and the eco-idealist exhibit swag of 2008. Nothing but coffee urns and industrious laptop-tappers here in the media room this year, people. Thank God.

One app I'm liking today: Gawkk, which bills itself as a 'Twitter for videos,' "where members discover, share, and discuss videos from around the web with their friends by answering the question: What are you watching?"

Coming Friday: etsy! Threadless! And more counter-intuitive hipster business models that seem to work better than AIG's.

Is Having Children Stupid?

| Thu Apr. 2, 2009 1:31 PM EDT

Yes. It absolutely is. But I did it anyway. Twice.

OpenSalon ran a thought provoking piece the other day: Does Having Children Ruin Your Life?

Well, we know it ruins the planet, but between now and Armageddon, why have them at all? A childless 31-year-old wonders, seemingly sincerely, why people do it, meaning: Why should she? She doesn't really want to but knows her bio clock is ticking. With her egg timer running out, she muses:

The parents I know seem, as a general rule, to be less happy than the non-parents. They are more stressed out, more exhausted, more worried, less fun, less funny, and much more interested in their personal/familial lives than the outside world—at least compared to those without children. Now of course, this is all perfectly natural. Raising a child (or more than one) takes a huge amount of physical and emotional energy. Anything that sucks up your physical and emotional energy will lead to the previously enumerated list of characteristics. So I understand. But my question is, why do people become parents when parenthood seems so awful?

Why do we have kids? We no longer need them to help around the farm. We no longer expect them to go off to the work in the big city and send home money, nor can we expect them to care for us in our old age. Hell, we can't even expect to stay married to their other parent, in which case everyone involved thoroughly suffers. They're cute and adorable, but so are our nieces, nephews, students, and the babies we can volunteer to cuddle down at County General. We all know the havoc they're going to wreak in our lives, and we still move heaven and earth to have them (see octo-mom, or the material mom, Madonna).

I was always ambivalent about having kids. Growing up where I did, it was quite obvious to me that children were the supremo recipe for ensuring a miserable life for myself, at least until they were grown. My motto was: I can be one kind of happy with kids and another kind without them. But my ex wanted kids and it took me all of a minute to cast off 40 years of 'no kids, no way'. There was no rationality, no weighing of the pros and cons involved, and they make my life extremely difficult. Miserable, sometimes.

Yet, I'm glad I had them and I can't wait to see who they grow up to be. Hard work as they are, it's still like living with unicorns—unutterably beautiful creatures who nonetheless destroy the carpets, gore the walls with those horns, and embarrass me in public with their lost bowel control.

But I think I'd just be a different kind of happy without them.

So, to that author, don't do it if you don't want to. Either way, it's up to you how your life turns out.

Or, just be French about it. Check out French Vogue's take on motherhood. Talk about ambivalence.

If Drum Can Cat Blog, I Can Kid Blog

| Wed Apr. 1, 2009 1:11 AM EDT

Out of nowhere, my 5-year-old daughter looks up from her crayons and asks, oh so seriously: "Mom. If I become a mermaid, you'll tell me, right?"

What could I say but, "I promise, honey"?

Update: My 7-year-old is wrestling with my 5-year-old. As I head over to pull the abnormally tall second grader off the average height kindergartener, I hear her say: "Get OFF me! My bootie is soooo important to me!"

Seems he was pushing her down into the couch cushions under which was hidden a huge cache of pointy Legos. 

One Pathetic Tip for Surviving the Recession

| Wed Apr. 1, 2009 1:08 AM EDT

Salon has a piece up about the world of hard core scavengers. It's not as gross as it sounds, once you know what you're doing. And get over your pre-Bush/recession heebie jeebies. It put me in mind of a kinder-gentler dumpster diving con I just discovered.

I stumbled on this scam last week when I scraped up the bucks to take the kids to their favorite restaurant (where they scarf down the bread which I've tried, and miserably failed, to recreate Chez Dickerson). They of course call it, "The Bread Restaurant." When I realized I'd left my reading glasses at home and was playing trombone with the menu, the waitress said "I'll be right back."

Turns out they keep a jar full of left-behind reading glasses. Now I pull this sad fake out at every Chili's and above restaurant. It's only fair: I've lost three pair so far this year and it's not quite April. Someone scored mine, right?