Mixed Media

Bush Appoints Lee Greenwood to National Arts Council

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 4:48 PM EST

mojo-photo-leegreenwood.jpgBoy, good old George W. Bush sure is going down fighting. It turns out that his efforts to screw things up as much as possible before he leaves office aren't just confined to the environment: Vulture catches that right before the election, Bush snuck "God Bless the USA" singer Lee Greenwood on to the National Council on the Arts, a 14-member commission that reviews and recommends grant applications to the NEA. Council members serve 6-year terms, and I'm pretty sure Bush can count that high--Greenwood will be the only Bush appointee to serve all four years of Obama's first term. My suggestion to Obama: Maybe appoint the surviving members of the Wu-Tang Clan as seats open up?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

So, Have Things Gotten Less Funny Since Tuesday?

| Fri Nov. 7, 2008 4:20 PM EST

There hasn't been this much public existential dread from the comedy community since 9/11, although the reasons are, of course, very different. Seven years ago, our shock and horror made us wonder if we could ever laugh again. Now, the question is: without a bumbling, snickering doofus and his snarling evil sidekick/boss in the White House, where will our jokes come from? The New York Times asked various comedy professionals about the conundrum, and all of them, from Daily Show and Conan writers to Tracy Morgan and Joel McHale, expressed confidence in the future of chuckles. J. K. Havlan of the Daily Show assured us Jon Stewart has plenty of material:

We haven't sat around thinking, "What are we going to do, comedically, if Obama wins?" There's going to be plenty going on around him. Plus, Ted Stevens may have won in Alaska. Proposition 8 passed in California. We don't need a semiconscious president to put on a decent show.

Hmm, I still don't see anything there about how you're going to make fun of President Obama. Perhaps most symbolically, Saturday Night Live's usually-awesome Fred Armisen has Obama's gestures and speech patterns down pretty well, but hasn't yet managed to actually say anything funny, which is especially disappointing in comparison to Will Ferrell's twitchy W. and Darrell Hammond's lascivious Bubba. Thankfully, the first two nights of post-Obama-win TV comedy have shown a few glimmers of hope. Some clips after the jump.

The Hidden Cameras' Anti-Marriage Sentiments Way Ahead of Their Time

| Thu Nov. 6, 2008 6:07 PM EST

mojo-photo-hiddencameras.jpgLike Jonathan, I'm profoundly disappointed about the apparent passage of California's Proposition 8. While he managed to look to the future, reminding us that this is a battle we'll eventually win, I'm ticked off right now, sick of having nuptials dangled in our face only to be snatched away again, pissed off that people get to vote on this. My fellow angry queers and sympathetic straights are already proposing a radical solution: ban marriage entirely. That seems like a fine idea to me--plus, if the movement takes off, we'll have a theme song all ready to go! Back in 2003, Canadian combo The Hidden Cameras released a wildly underappreciated album called The Smell of Our Own. The music was a celebratory cross between the Polyphonic Spree, the Magnetic Fields, and Neutral Milk Hotel, but lyrically, they crossed even more boundaries, refusing to hide their sexuality behind coy double-entendres or bland generalities. The song "Ban Marriage" whips the musicians into an uptempo frenzy, but the lyrics are complex, with the protagonist's wedding to another man disrupted by cries "to let coupledom die." Is it an anti-assimilation tirade in defense of promiscuity, a dream of equality, or an expression of hopeless isolation? Whatever it really means, it's great, and its joyous three-chord pattern is helping calm my fury. But you breeders aren't getting any more wedding presents from me until we get this shit worked out, I'll tell you that right now.

Video of a live show after the jump.

Video Roundup: M.I.A., R.E.M., Coldcut, Daniel Owino Misiani

| Thu Nov. 6, 2008 2:55 PM EST

mojo-photo-viddies110608.jpg

M.I.A. featuring Blaqstarr – "S.U.S. (Save UR Soul)"

First up, via Boing Boing comes this homemade clip produced and directed by the apparently-now-big-as-a-house M.I.A., made to accompany her and Blaqstarr's cover of Tom Waits' "Way Down In the Hole," the theme song to HBO's The Wire. Even though it uses the simplest of plug-and-play B-more beats and a single, ominous chord repeated over and over, it's got that old M.I.A. magic.

R.E.M. – "I Believe" (Live in Santiago)

If you couldn't be at the election night celebration in Grant Park, perhaps the second most fun place to be would have been an R.E.M. concert in Santiago, and Stereogum's got the video. The band's manager came out on stage with his laptop displaying the Huffington Post and announced the big news, and then Stipe and crew launched into "I Believe." Pretty cool.

Help Me, Virtual Will.I.Am, You're My Only Hope

| Wed Nov. 5, 2008 4:45 PM EST

While there was much to enjoy during television election coverage last night, from even Juan Williams on Fox News and Stephen Colbert getting weepy to Chris Matthews desperately trying to hold back from calling the thing at 8pm EST, there was nothing more ridiculous than CNN's new "holographic" technology. At a seemingly nail-biting moment, with results starting to trickle in, Wolf Blitzer stopped everything to announce something "never before seen on television": a live shot of a reporter "beamed in" to the studio from a tent in Grant Park. Of course, Wolf couldn't really see her, so it wasn't really a hologram (that's why I'm using so many quotes), it was more like an highly-coordinated multi-camera green-screen, similar to the 1st and Ten system for football games. But that didn't stop them from talking about it for what seemed like 17 hours. Wolf and Anderson seemed most excited about using the hologram system to isolate reporters from the noisy crowds, apparently not understanding that they were still using the same old microphones and it was the tent that was keeping the crowds at bay.

So, CNN, you've spent untold billions of dollars on this technology, what are you going to do with it next? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Virtual Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas, who wandered into the tent and got himself Tron-i-fied. "We're at an eve of a brand new day," he declared, flickeringly, but then immediately turned to more important matters: "All this technology, I'm being beamed to you, like in Star Wars and stuff?" Watch what Vulture called a "momentous" appearance after the jump.

Starbucks Wants You to Vote, Too

| Tue Nov. 4, 2008 5:09 PM EST

Has E-Day made you jittery yet? No? Starbucks would like to fix that for you.

Maybe I'm just a sucker for sans-serif, but I find the voting PSA below to be oddly fetching. Your lukewarm takeaway? Go vote, get a hot steaming cup of joe free with new president:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Your Election Soundtrack: McCain and Obama Online Radio Channels

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 1:50 PM EST

mojo-photo-slacker.jpgWe here on the Riff have tried to keep track of the musical metanarratives floating along beside the presidential candidates' campaigns, but mostly, that's consisted of tallying up musicians endorsing Obama and threatening to sue McCain. At points, though, both candidates have expressed their own personal tastes in music, perhaps McCain most infamously. Well, the smart kids over at online radio company Slacker have sifted through the interviews and events of the last 22 months and compiled songs the candidates have said they like and music played at their rallies, creating two new stations: Obama and McCain Radio. Full disclosure: I've done some audio production work for these guys, so I suppose this is logrolling, but the LA Times beat me to the story anyway. Programmer Scott Riggs told me he controlled his snarkier instincts, resisting the urge to include songs that could be interpreted as being about the candidates. I suggested Neil Young's "Old Man" and maybe something from Dumbo (cause of the big ears, see) but the channels play it straight: Obama Radio features Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and Sheryl Crow, while McCain Radio features the aforelinked ABBA, Elvis, The Beach Boys (har) and of course, John Rich's "Raisin' McCain." Which station is better? Well, I have to admit, the ornery old McCain channel's got a certain, um, erratic charm, while Obama's looks a lot like middle-of-the-road AAA radio. But Obama's got Kanye, so I think he wins.

Listen for free under "Slacker Spotlight" at Slacker.com.

Studs Terkel, RIP

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 6:55 PM EDT

Studs Terkel was a journalist's journalist, though he considered the term "journalist" to be far less blue-collar than the job. A personal hero of many writers, he died today the way most of us would like to: Home in bed, at the age of 96, with a copy of his latest forthcoming book on the nightstand.

In 1995, Mother Jones interviewed the master of the interview. Read it here.

Economic Troubles Trickling Down to DJs, Up to U2

| Fri Oct. 31, 2008 5:47 PM EDT

mojo-photo-downarrow.jpgThis is what I get for gloating. I was just reassuring my family that my work area, DJing and various audio production gigs, is so specialized that it's generally immune from economic ups and downs. Plus, holidays can be good for DJs, and I typically pick up a couple well-paying gigs for company holiday shindigs. I'd already booked a few, but I just got this e-mail:

To: partyben@yahoo.com
From: [person at event planning company]
Subject: URGENT: [company] Holiday Party
It is with regret we advise you that [company] has cancelled their holiday event scheduled for [date]. We were really looking forward to it, but due to the current economic conditions, it couldn't be helped.

Things are so bad out there that our workplaces' annual celebrations of Jesus are being scrubbed, putting our nation's, uh, guys who are willing to throw on "Play That Funky Music White Boy" when the trashed sales exec demands you play it, out of work? Wow, this is a real recession!

After the jump: Bono feels my pain!

Totally Mandatory First Impressions of Best American Non-Required Reading 2008

| Thu Oct. 30, 2008 7:31 PM EDT

mojo-photo-banrr.jpgCover looks like: African Q*Bert

One word to describe the reactions of Judy Blume to the sometimes non-sequitous interview questions in the introduction: Baffled

Three words to describe the reactions of Judy Blume to the sometimes non-sequitous interview questions in the introduction: Kind of dull

Number of high schoolers who helped edit the book: 18

How much do I wish I had been able to help edit a book when I was a kid: A lot

Terrible comic vs. tolerably cute comic ratio: 1-1

How surprised I am when year-end collections somehow manage to pick New Yorker articles that, despite my diligent attempts to read every issue, I apparently missed: Pretty, but getting less so

Band names they got wrong in the section on "Best American New Band Names": "Crystle Castles" (I guess they mean Crystal Castles), "J.U.S.T.I.C.E." (Justice have a song called "D.A.N.C.E."), "Lights Down Low" (I think they must mean the club night)

Best way to look at Dave Eggers-associated publications' attempts to discuss music: with a gentle, bemused chuckle

Stories about the end of the world within the first 120 pages: 2

How many times better the Nonrequired Reading books are than the rest of the Best American series, especially these days since the short story collections seem to be filled with weepy, self-consciously international mini-movies-of-the-week: at least 7