San Francisco’s Outside Lands festival, spanning Friday through Sunday here in idyllic Golden Gate Park, had something of a split personality disorder. The festival’s two main stages, as this map shows, occupy opposite ends of the festival’s vigilantly guarded fenced-off area—and as far as Friday and Saturday’s shows went, the contrast in each stage’s fare couldn’t be more stark.
On Friday, rockers of various stripes held court at the main stage at the Polo Field, from Built to Spill and Silversun Pickups to Incubus and headliners Pearl Jam. Several singers at the main stage, however, were snake-bit that first day, it seemed—both Incubus’ Brandon Boyd and Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder sounded hoarse, and both limped through their sets and called on the crowd for help more times than I could count. But while Incubus was hardly spectacular (like their more recent albums), Pearl Jam tore through hit after hit, especially in the set’s second half, when Vedder seemed to loosen up a bit and the crowd chimed in plenty.
The girl nervously watched as the tattoo formed on her hand, a small, colorful flower in the fleshy crook between her thumb and forefinger. Up close, though, the flower’s shape came into focus: It was actually a stem and bulb formed by the silhouettes of tiny cars. Mid-size sedans, actually. That’s because this particular tent, peddling not just tattoos but bandanas and gift bags, was Toyota's “Prius Spot” tent, one of several scattered around this past weekend's Outside Lands festival in San Francisco. A tricked-out version of the popular hybrid sat parked inside.
I asked the flower girl’s boyfriend why anyone would want a flower made of sedans or an automaker's name inked on their hand. He shrugged. "It’s only temporary, right?"
Others stepped up for tattoos of their own, choosing between the Camry-inspired flower or a tangle of barbs encircling Toyota’s logo with the name “TOYOTA” emblazoned underneath. Indeed, a winged skull with the Toyota logo was among the most popular tattoos of the day, one of the inkers told me.
Needless to say, the ploy took branding to a whole new level.
Like that girl’s hand, just about every other inch of this weekend’s Outside Lands festival was “Presented by” or “Courtesy of” or sponsored in some capacity by a corporation or company. It was brand overload all weekend (at least for me), the staggering number of companies' names plastered throughout the festival's grounds staggering.
GQ has just released the first ever list of 25 Douchiest Colleges. Introducing its "heavily researched, possibly stereotypey, but still accurate guide," the editors write, "The question isn't whether you're a douche bag when you go to college. We were all kind of douche bags when we went to college, if we're going to be honest about it. No, the question for America's youth is: What kind of douche bag do you aspire to be?" According to their results, you should attend #1 Brown University if you are a "limousine liberal" douche bag who's interested in such courses as "On Vampires and Violent Vixens: Making the Monster Through Discourses of Gender and Sexuality."
GQ's list brings up some important questions that students should think about before they apply to colleges. For example:
Where can you go if you want to major in Jet Skiing? How about if you're a trust-fund type but are embarrassed about it? What if you want to lord your intelligence over people for the rest of your life, in the form of a bumper sticker?
It likely won't surprise you that many of the top scorers on GQ's list also rank high on US News & World Report's annual list of top colleges and universities. But none of 'em made it onto the 2009 "MoJo Mini College Guide," complete with some of the best schools you've never heard of that won't destroy your wallet, the best jobs that don't require a college degree, and some of the more... uh... creative funding options out there. Think of it as a college roadmap for the thrifty, progressive douche.
Back when Mark Johnson founded Playing for Change, the concept was simple: Unite the world through music. His first success story was a video featuring musicians from around the globe performing "Stand by Me," the old feel-good hit by Ben E. King. It starts with a street guitarist in Santa Monica and proceeds around the world adding new musical layers as it goes. So far that video has received some 13 million hits on YouTube, and Johnson's project has spawned a PBS documentary, CDs, a DVD, an upcoming concert tour, and a foundation to bring music to disadvantaged communities. I caught up with Johnson last week to talk about the monks that inspired him, his unusual mobile recording studio, and how he's seen music change lives.
To listen to the podcast of this interview, click here.
Mother Jones: In a nutshell, what is Playing for Change? What inspired it, and what are you trying to accomplish?
Mark Johnson: Playing for Change is a global movement using media, music, technology, and inspiration to try to unite as many people around the world as possible. The original idea came about 10 years ago. I was recording music at a New York City studio, and I was on my way to work one day, and I saw two monks painted all in white from head to toe. One was playing a nylon guitar and the other one was singing. I saw about 200 people stop, and everybody's watching this performance. Some are crying and jaw-dropping and smiling, and I look around and see a collection of people who normally just run right by each other, and here they are coming together for this music. Then I got on the train and I went to the recording studio and I realized the best music I ever heard in my life was on the way to the studio, not in the studio. That's when I realized great music, great art—they're just moments in time. They exist everywhere, and we can use these moments in time to connect people and bring inspiration. And that led to the idea of traveling the world with a mobile recording studio and cameras, filming, recording, and interviewing musicians, and connecting them together with songs around the world, such as "Stand by Me" and "One Love."
Maybe he said to himself, "What can I do to distract people from the fact that I worked at Lehman Brothers, the downtown–New York–based bank that collapsed disastrously and nearly took the entire financial system with it? I know! I'll name it in homage to an even worse collapse, one that actually killed people and precipitated several long and tragic wars! Then everyone will think whatever I am doing is not nearly as bad."
The Ground Zero Strategic Commodities Fund will begin trading by the first quarter of 2010, and they're hiring!
In this issue's expose of Fiji Water, Spin the Bottle, we write about the company's image as the water of choice for celebrities. Now, with New York Fashion Week approaching, it's another opportunity for the water to brand itself as an upscale product. The company is sponsoring a contest for one water fan to win backstage tickets to one designer show at New York Fashion Week.
There are two issues I have with this. Firstly, why only one show? There are dozens of shows at the New York fashion week, it would be better if they could at least let their winner go to more than one. Secondly, the blinged-out logo here is kind of ugly, and I don't get the connection between diamonds and fashion. Maybe because both couture and diamonds cost money? Like ...Fiji Water? As we pointed out in the article, Fiji does often cost up to three times as much as competitors, so yeah, maybe the diamonds do make sense after all.
Since I got a tip that Fiji Water made an appearance. You see, our next issue's cover story is on the ubiquity of the fashionable water that may be the epitome of cool, but is also imported from a military dictatorship and is far from eco anything.
From what I can tell, and I'm not really a sex-tape connoisseur, this particular three-minutes-I'll-never-get-back offers up naked C- and D-list actors (Grey's Anatomy's Eric Dane and his wife of Noxema fame, Rebecca Gayheart) hanging out with a whiny lady (and apparently former Miss USA, how those pageants embolden) who makes phone calls half-naked for the camera and complains about the staying power of lighted rubber duckies. (Since this is a family channel I am not embedding the video here, but you can head over to Gawker at your own risk for the link.)
They just talk about getting it on; there is no real action. And we only care, apparently, because there are lots of boob shots. And talk about how sexy and cool they are. ("You're the prettiest girls this side of Mulholland;" not a great boast when your competition stops at the ocean.) And would it be the talk of the entertainment news shows proclaiming the glory of "Dane's Anatomy" if it were two dudes and a girl? Maybe, but Dane's career might head in a different direction. Not to mention, the last sex tape that was actually a "tape" was probably something George Michael was involved in in the early 90s. Enter the sex MP3!
Even by Berkeley standards, Café Gratitude is considered hippy-dippy. The menu items are organic, vegan, and mostly raw, and ordered via affirmations like "I Am Beautiful," "I Am Luscious," and "I Am Sassy." On my first visit there last week, I was offered a free algae shot and asked what nourished me the most that day ("Ummm…the food here was pretty nourishing," was the best I could muster.)
When I ate there, I found traces of the Landmark Forum—a corporate descendant of the famed 70's movement est (Erhard Seminar Training). The bookshelf by the front door was stocked with copies of The Secret, and a card at my table contained creeds such as "Look at your life and see what you say you 'should' or 'have' to do, that you don't enjoy...Consider you are the one creating it as a 'should' or 'have' to."
In theory, there's nothing wrong with this—coconut water with a side of self-help never hurt anyone. But as the Express reports, the café discriminates against staff not on board with Landmark's ways. It also requires managers to attend the introductory Landmark Forum and cough up half the $500 fee, and in at least one case, fired a manager who refused to do so.
And this is hard to stomach. If you're going to endorse open-mindedness and acceptance, shouldn't you be, well...open-minded and accepting?
Ever fantasized about Tom DeLay doing the foxtrot? Then you're in luck: Today, it was announced that the former House Majority Leader will grace the stage during the upcoming season of Dancing with the Stars.
So does DeLay have a shot at beating out fellow contestants like Macy Gray and Donny Osmond? Word is he fancies boogying with his wife, and has a daughter who won the country dancing championship. But a better indicator might be his political track record:
PETA is like your eccentric uncle who shows up drunk at weddings: Most of the time, his annoying antics are sort of harmless and funny, and let's face it: Were it not for him, your family wouldn't have a whole hell of a lot to talk about. But sometimes he totally crosses the line and does something truly mortifying.