Mixed Media

Music Monday Review: Wilco (The Album)

| Mon Jul. 27, 2009 5:30 AM EDT

Wilco
Wilco (The Album)
Nonesuch


Any Midwesterners worth their salt know Chicago alt-rockers Wilco. They can pick out the unmistakable voice—by turns gravelly and soothing or resigned and rollicking—of front man Jeff Tweedy (interviewed here), or air-drum the intro to Wilco hit "Heavy Metal Drummer." Tweedy and Co. are finally back with the ingeniously titled Wilco (The Album), their most, well, Midwestern release in a decade.

But in this case, Midwestern isn't necessarily a good thing—as it was with Wilco's early, country-infused A.M. and Summerteeth (reviewed here) releases. Once the final song ends, you're more or less left feeling like you just finished a road trip from Minneapolis to Chicago: It's a modestly enjoyable experience with few highlights, and you don't remember much of it a day or two later. (The Album) has a few standout tracks, but unlike Wilco's haunting 2002 Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, there's not much memorable here.

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EA Promotion at Comic Con: The Second Circle of Hell

| Fri Jul. 24, 2009 6:41 PM EDT

To promote the new game "Dante’s Inferno" at Comic Con this year, EA launched the contest "Sin to Win." The contest consists of "committing an act of lust" with a "booth babe," and showing proof of that encounter on Twitter. The winner will receive "a sinful night with two hot girls, a limo service, paparazzi, and a chest full of booty." I'm guessing the paparazzi are so you can post pictures of this lovely evening to every one of your online profiles—I'll refrain from guessing what is in the "chest full of booty."

In one fell swoop, EA has managed to alienate any women who might have played the game, and any men who do not act like 14-year-olds on hormone overdrive. The majority of tweets tagged with the EA sanctioned #lust are also tagged #EAfail.

The promotional site for the game only goes as far as the second circle of hell. But, it looks like this little excercise might put EA a bit farther down. Lets see just how deep they might go:

Circle 1—Limbo: Poets and philosphers, not coders and gamers.

Circle 2—Lust: EA is very aware they (and their potential consumers) qualify for this.

Circle 3—Gluttony: I would say the "chest full of booty" counts.

Circle 4—Greed: A profit-based company automatically qualifies.

Circle 5—Anger: Game play might induce bouts of swearing, and they have certainly annoyed many Comic Con attendees, but for this excercise they are free and clear.

Circle 6—Heresy: Making a video game about hell and then asking people to commit mortal sins probably means you don't buy Dante's poem, so welcome to the lower levels.

Circle 7—Violence: The game includes a lot, but were only talking about the promotion here.

Circle 8—Fraud: There are lots of folks in this one, including flatterers and seducers. EA qualifies for both since they will be procuring the "hot girls" for the evening and making the poor guy (or gal) think this is really a date.

Circle 9—Treachery: Looks like they are safe from hanging out with Satan.

VIDEO: Obama Mouths Off

| Fri Jul. 24, 2009 2:38 PM EDT

Remember during the campaign, when then-candidate Obama was perfectly poised and careful to stay on message? Be it climate change, social issues, or foreign policy, Obama and his campaign lackeys clung to their message for dear life. Not even Sarah Palin's repeated insinuation that Obama is either a terrorist or secretly in love with terrorists could faze them.

So where did that ninja-like focus go? In each of this week's divisive issues, President Obama swerved from the important goal of moving health care reform through Congress to give his critics the unrelentless, shameless platform that is 24-hour news networks. When it came to the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and proving his own citizenship, President Obama just could not avoid commenting.

Whether you think that the Cambridge police department, as President Obama put it at his health care press conference Wednesday night, "acted stupidly," in arresting the prominent Harvard professor breaking into his own house, or if you think that Gates blew it with his response, it's clear that Obama should have steered clear of the issue. The next day, instead of debating health care, the MSM focused on the President's Gates remark and its implications for race in America. Obama backpedaled today and even invited Gates and Officer Crowley to the White House for a beer. 

Jon Stewart mocked Obama and the MSM response last night on The Daily Show (skip to 6:00 minute mark). “I think it’s fair to say that Obama handled that question… oh what’s the word I’m looking for…stupidly?”

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Call Of The Wild: Cougars In Palo Alto, CA

| Fri Jul. 24, 2009 1:47 PM EDT

Chalk it up to the Demi Moore/Ashton Kutcher effect, or better yet, just call it creepy: Northern California is bracing for an influx of cougars in about a month. And I'm not talking about the animals; I'm talking about the ladies, specifically those in the 35+ age bracket who are seeking young men with better than average verility.

Pop culture loves cougars, but apparently real people do too. Yesterday, a friend sent an e-mail inviting me to the following event:

National Single Cougars Convention

Single cougars from all over America will converge on the Silicon Valley, the ONLY major metropolitan area in America with a surplus of single men, many of whom are young, educated, attractive, and prosperous, but lacking in experience with women.

7:30pm - Complimentary appetizers from Trader Vic's, as long as they last.

8pm – Entertaining Keynote Address with author Francesca Gentille and Tahil Gesyuk, her romantic partner, who is 14 years younger.

9pm-Midnight - The Cougar Ball, featuring dancing to your favorite hits. At approximately 11pm, one cougar at the Convention will be crowned MISS COUGAR AMERICA and receive prizes, including her choice of the upcoming Singles Halloween Cruise or the Spring Baja Cruise, courtesy of The Singles Travel Company, plus a Cougar Kit from Cardeaux Cosmetics, valued at over $100. To be eligible to win, the lucky Cougar must be present at the convention, legally single and at least 40 years of age.

BONUS: The first 50 women to arrive will receive free samples from Cardeaux Cosmetics!

Yes, you read correctly. There will be prizes and even a coronation. I'll be out of town that day, but if I were around, you can bet your bottom dollar I'd be tempted to go watch.

An Alternative History of the US Role in Afghanistan

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 7:00 PM EDT

The United States' involvement in Afghanistan is growing deeper and more costly--30 US soldiers have died there since the start of July, making it the deadliest month since the US invasion in 2001. Vice President Joe Biden was probably right when he said in a radio interview on Thursday that the war is "worth the effort." Still, now is a good time to better understand exactly why it has been so hard to turn Afghanistan into a more peaceful place. A new book by two US journalists explores some less well-known historical explanations.

In 1981, Elizabeth Gould and Paul Fitzgerald were the first US journalists to enter Afghanistan after the Western press corps had been expelled from the country a month after the 1979 Soviet invasion.  The footage that they shot for CBS News painted a far different picture of the occupation than had been portrayed in the US media. Yet they say that the story that Dan Rather aired that spring buried the most important revelations--a problem that they've seen with US media coverage of Afghanistan ever since. In January 2009, they published "Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story," a book that Selig Harrison, the Washington Post's former South Asia bureau chief, calls "a much needed corrective to five decades of biased journalistic and academic writing about Afghanistan that has covered up the destructive and self-defeating US role there." Mother Jones spoke with Gould and Fitzgerald last month.

Mother Jones: In your view, what do most people not understand about the US government's early involvement in Afghanistan?

Paul Fitzgerald: In the major media, you get the story about a Soviet invasion. What you don't get are all the politics and motivations that were behind that.

Elizabeth Gould: When the Soviets crossed the Afghan border, President Carter exclaimed that this was the greatest threat to peace since the Second World War. The claim was that the Soviets were running out of oil and this was their first step to the Persian Gulf to get our oil. So that became the mantra.

MJ: So when did a different explanation catch on?

Getting Shot With Jack Daniels

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 4:58 PM EDT

Just yesterday, gun-toting Senate Republicans and their Democratic allies were narrowly defeated in their attempt to allow gun owners with concealed weapons permits legally take their arms across state lines. (No thanks to Harry Reid for his wonderful leadership... Even Kirsten Gillibrand voted nay on this one!)

However, for residents of Tennessee, everything isn't so hunky-dory. As the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported last week, it became legal for "people with valid handgun-carry permits to go armed—the gun concealed or not—into Tennessee restaurants serving alcohol, provided the restaurant doesn't ban guns on the premises." This makes one wonder, what are these lawmakers smoking (or drinking)? A similar law was also just passed in Arizona.

Even our foes friends at FoxNews have acknowledged that alcohol consumption and gun violence are linked—"Heavily consuming alcohol can greatly lower inhibitions, increase confidence and potentially release violent impulses," according to a University of Pennsylvania study—so it's ludicrous that legislators would go out of their way to endanger the lives of innocent people who are at a bar or restaurant looking for a non-violent good time, and instead have to be around individuals living out their Wild West fantasies.

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Amy Poehler, We Love You Too

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 1:12 PM EDT

The Hollywood Reporter recently gathered Emmy Award nominees Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Christina Applegate, Jane Krakowski, Mary-Louise Parker, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to discuss the entertainment business. Surprisingly, the conversation turned to Mother Jones:

For the record, Mother Jones doesn't have an age limit for our cover girls.

On the other hand, we do have strict accuracy requirements, and it's a pretty sure bet that our team of fact checkers would catch a discrepancy like casting Amy Poehler to play Rachel McAdams' mom (she's only 8 years older) or Sarah Silverman to parent Jonah Hill (a 13 year difference). Then again, this is the same Hollywood that thought we'd buy Winona Ryder as Zachary Quinto's Star Trek mom—she would have been a mother at the age of six.

The Onion Sells Itself to China, and a New Comedic Genre Is Born

| Thu Jul. 23, 2009 12:26 PM EDT

As you may have heard, The Onion has been sold to the Chinese. Not really, of course, but you could be fooled by their site this week. It's a much-needed comedic shot in the arm after the recent sad news that their California print editions are shutting down.

The funniest bit isn't actually any of the China-related content on the Onion homepage, but the website they set up for their fake Chinese parent company, Yuwanmei Amalgamated Salvage Fisheries and Polymer Injection Corp. From the "Company History":

Founded in 1998 without incident or legal complication, what is now a glorious 300,000-square-foot processing center began as a humble 230,000-square-foot warehouse.

Clicking through the Yuwanmei website I can't help but think that we're witnessing the birth of a new—and potentially game-changing—comedic genre: the fake website. While fraud and deception are nothing new to the internet, and fake websites have been sometimes innovative promotional tools for movies and TV, the culture is still barely scratching the surface. Besides the Chinese Onion, the best example I've come across is an extensive spoof website featuring the comedian Charlie Murphy as Leroy Smith, the man who motivated Michael Jordan. Nike is apparently behind this project, which explains the bells and whistles, like the Leroy Smith video game. The ease with which this stuff can go viral (Leroy's website comes fully equipped with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and iPhone apps) has to have entertainment execs salivating.

Look for Hollywood to follow the lead of the website for the new Apatow flick, "Funny People", which features long fake trailers for the fake movies its protagonists star in.

Have a favorite fake website? Leave your links in the comments. But first, watch a video of Charlie Murphy (yes, Eddie's brother) as Leroy Smith, the man who motivated Michael Jordan, after the break.

Update: The Onion has taken it even farther than I had realized. Check out the Yu Wan-Mei Corp. Twitter feed (h/t to commenter Yu Wan Mei).

Lady Gaga Parody=GOP's Savior?

| Wed Jul. 22, 2009 8:04 PM EDT

Recently, MoJo published a story about the GOP's hackneyed attempts to crack the web.

Their latest straw-grasp: A YouTube video called "Just Tax," set to Lady Gaga's hit "Just Dance." According to The Guardian, the parody of Obama (sample lyric: "This shouldn't happen, man/Go on and ask Japan") was recently featured at a Republican party meeting as a way to attract young people.

The fact that this got play at an official gathering reveals just how desperate the party has become. Then again, maybe it's not such a bad idea. After all, if Lady Gaga + YouTube + "tax and spend liberals" won't appeal to potential young converts…what will?

Watch below:

How to Confront Rape Jokes

| Wed Jul. 22, 2009 2:17 PM EDT

A co-worker's tweet this morning drew my attention to a blog post on how to respond to rape jokes. The author of the blog post lays out 5 possible responses when someone jokes that a woman wanted it, or was so unattractive she should be glad to get raped:

1. Keep quiet and feel uncomfortable.

2. Try to top the joke with a more offensive one.

3. Initiate a Very Serious Conversation in which you state rape is never funny.

4. Initiate a Very Serious Conversation II in which you disclose your own rape, and mention that you were definitely NOT laughing during it.

5. Talk outside the box. As in, "I knew this guy in college, and he totally got raped during rush and had to go to the doctor! He's in therapy now! It was hilarious!"