Mixed Media

New U2 Album Cover Art Might Owe the HRC Royalties

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 3:21 PM EST

mojo-photo-u2horizon.jpgThe new U2 full-length, No Line on the Horizon, isn't out til March 3, but they've just released the cover art, and as Pitchfork put it, it's rather "zen." Even the Fork admits they're intrigued, since U2 are "most interesting when they step out of their comfort zone," although it's getting hard to remember when that last was. In any event, the album cover features a photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto of a barely-rippling ocean superimposed with a big gray equals sign. No, I didn't just say "big gay equals sign," but the Human Rights Campaign might want to check into doing at least a "cross-promotion" or something. I also see a couple other influences: first up, the haunting video for Joy Division's "Atmosphere" (that features bleak, black & white horizons and the prominent use of "+" and "-" symbols) was directed by Anton Corbijn, who famously took the iconic photographs of U2 for their Joshua Tree album cover. How's that for a connection. The rest of my proposed theory of how the band came up with the cover (in visual form), plus a tracklisting, after the jump.

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NY Times Magazine's "Obama People"

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 1:38 PM EST

Nadav Kander's 52 portraits of "Obama's People" for the New York Times Magazine is exceptional not just for the photography, but the breadth of people covered in the shoot — from Eugene Kang, Obama's personal assistant, up to Joe Biden, Hillary, Pelosi and plenty of politicos in between.

But the real fun of this shoot is the back story.

Rob Haggert at A Photo Editor has the best take, in a laugh riot, comic book style, filled with insidery photo jokes.

Alternatively, in the Editor's Letter section of the Magazine, Gerald Marzorati explains the hows and whys of the shoot in a typically stuffy NY Times way (hey, stuffy can be good).

The First Obama Joke on Comedy Central, Circa 2005

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 7:21 PM EST

Via the SF Bay Guardian's Pixel Vision blog comes this charming little tidbit: what may very well be the first Obama joke made on Comedy Central. It was Bay Area comic W. Kamau Bell who picked the Senator out of almost-obscurity for a bit on black leaders in a stand-up routine back in 2005. He tells the Guardian that Comedy Central actually informed him that it was Obama's first mention by a stand-up comic on the network, so, you know, he's not just spinning. The jokes are, in fact, rather tame, imagining how Obama's name might strike people as a little "too black" if he were to run for president, but for that reason they're actually kind of cute—that was us, just a few years ago! Awww!

Indie 103.1 Goes Off the Air

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 4:51 PM EST

Indie 103.1Broadcast radio just got a whole lot less interesting, as Los Angeles alternative station Indie 103.1 has announced it will stop broadcasting today, turning to a web-only format. A statement on the station's web site alluded to "changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured" which forces stations to "play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge." I love you Indie, but I have to say, that's not exactly a new situation.

Adam Freeland Remixes Daft Punk For Bonkers Obama Video

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 3:57 PM EST

Americablog may not know who Daft Punk or Adam Freeland are, but you do, gentle Riff readers, since I post something about the former at least every week or two. But that doesn't make this video, called "Aer OBAMA," any less baffling. The musical accompaniment consists of French duo Daft Punk's "Aerodynamic" (from their 2001 album Discovery) remixed by UK breaks legend Adam Freeland to have a Speak-and-Spell-y Obama theme; the video is a jittery stop-motion story of the President-Elect jetting in from space to, I guess, dance around at a Daft Punk concert. Okay. Let's just stop for a second. I'd like to point something out. First, I'm a huge Obama supporter who blogs for the Mother Jones magazine. Also, I'm a DJ, and in my radio career I managed to actually interview both Daft Punk and Mr. Freeland, to say nothing of the multiple times I've seen them DJ and perform. I've got the political and the musical sides of this pretty much down, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that I, personally, am at the very center of the intended audience for this video. However, it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, and after watching it, I feel vaguely disturbed, not, you know, "hopeful." Plus, isn't sampling a Speak-and-Spell kind of tired? On top of it all, the very idea that France's greatest robot exports would get remixed by a breaks superstar for a stop-motion video featuring a bunch of Kubrick toys all in tribute to an American president is making me feel like the very laws of physics are collapsing around us. Or maybe I've just had too much coffee?

New (Leaked) Music: Franz Ferdinand - Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

| Wed Jan. 14, 2009 5:42 PM EST

mojo-photo-tonightff.jpgOne of the first maxims of good criticism is also one of the toughest to maintain: review the work based on what it is rather than what it isn't. Sure, it sounds simple, but then you get an album like Scots Franz Ferdinand's third full-length, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, and you can't help but want to flog it for not being their wry, catchy, Mercury Prize-winning 2004 debut. Do more "Matinees," dammit! Instead, the quartet have mostly abandoned the guitar-blasted riff-gasms of their past for spare, quirky disco and new wave, and if I focus really hard on ignoring their past, it's actually not so bad, I guess.

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"Peanuts" Exhibit Reveals "Hidden" Messages In Music

| Wed Jan. 14, 2009 3:09 PM EST

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If you thought it wasn't possible to hold Charles Schulz's brilliant "Peanuts" comics in any higher esteem, think again. Today's NY Times describes how scholars are pointing out that the strip's references to music were anything but random. It turns out the notes displayed above Schroeder's piano often referenced actual pieces that add a level of humor:

"If you don't read music and you can't identify the music in the strips, then you lose out on some of the meaning," said William Meredith, the director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, who has studied hundreds of Beethoven-themed "Peanuts" strips. ... Mr. Schulz also mined Beethoven's life for material. He had numerous books in which he underlined details about Beethoven's love life, clothing, even his favorite recipe (macaroni with cheese).

For instance, in the strip above, with Schroder working out beforehand, the notes pictured are the opening bars of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata (Op. 106), known for its extraordinary difficulty. All this is part of an exhibit, "Schulz's Beethoven: Schroeder's Muse," at the cartoonist's eponymous museum in Santa Rosa, where you can learn such details as the fact that Schulz's favorite composer was in fact Brahms, but he just thought the name Beethoven looked funnier on the page. He was totally right.

Playmobil Airport Security Set

| Wed Jan. 14, 2009 2:57 PM EST

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Let's play TSA!

Patriotic, sure—note the passenger's jaunty reds, whites, and blues. But authentic?

I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that's the worst security ever!".

Image courtesy of Amazon.com

Obama Inauguration Concert to Include U2, Beyonce, Springsteen, Many, Many, Many More

| Tue Jan. 13, 2009 3:40 PM EST

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The Washington Post has the full lineup for this Sunday's Obama inaugural celebration concert at the Lincoln Memorial, and it's something, alright. Take a deep breath for the alphabetical list: Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, U2, will.i.am and Stevie Wonder. Whew. Legend and Brooks aren't really up my alley, but you know, this isn't a bad concert, even without Please-Can't-You-Just-Be-President-Right-Now Obama dropping by. Of course, they had to give it a terrible name: "We Are One." Blergh! The first time I glanced at this story, I read it as "We Are the World" and just about had a heart attack. As long as they don't have a "We Are One" theme song, we should be okay. The 90-minute concert will be broadcast on HBO, except it'll be some sort of free version of HBO that will, I guess, just show up on our TVs somehow. Hooray, new president, but this better not interfere with the Flight of the Conchords premiere.

If that unintentional tribute to The Lion King is too mainstream for you, the Beastie Boys will headline a concert at D.C.'s 9:30 club on Sunday, except theirs has an even worse name: "Hey, America Feels Kinda Cool Again." Well, it felt cool, until you guys said that. Sheryl Crow will be slumming over there as well after her We Are One appearance, along with Citizen Cope. Scheduled for January 19 is Jay-Z, who will perform at the 2,000-capacity Warner Theater. Actual inaugural balls on January 20 abound, including an "Urban Ball" hosted by Ludacris and Big Boi and featuring David Banner, Lil Jon and more; a Legends Ball with Chaka Khan and George Clinton; and an MTV "Be the Change" party [edit: whoops, that was cancelled]. Plus there's the Party Ben We Are Watching It All From the Couch event, which promises to be very exclusive.

Did Dick Cheney Ghostwrite This Season of 24? (Spoilers)

| Tue Jan. 13, 2009 2:42 PM EST

Much has already been written about Fox's 24 and its role in mainstreaming the use of torture. (The show's protagonist, Jack Bauer, is a frequent and effective torturer.) But the seventh season of the show, which premiered Sunday, seems to be turning away from the incidental normalization of torture (in which torture was shown to be necessary and effective but was rarely discussed) and is now instead making an explicit argument for the use of torture. I won't spoil much about the two-episode premier by telling you that Jack Bauer was called before a Senate hearing to account for his "crimes," but was conveniently pulled away at the last minute because of a pressing national security matter. Kevin Drum also watched on Sunday. He writes:

[I]t's obvious that the show is going to deal head on with the subject of torture this season... Is there any way for this end other than badly? After all, here in the blogosphere we opponents of torture like to argue that we don't live in the world of 24, guys. And we don't. But Jack Bauer, needless to say, does live in the world of 24. And in that world, there are well-heeled terrorists around every corner, ticking time bombs aplenty, and torture routinely saves thousands of lives. What are the odds that it won't do so again this season — except this time after lots of talk about the rule of law blah blah liberals blah blah it's your call blah blah? Pretty low, I'd guess. Hopefully the writers will surprise me.

After watching the third and fourth episodes of the season on Monday night, I'd be pretty surprised if Kevin is surprised by the writers. Over at Kevin's blog (where there's a great discussion going on in the comments), commenter Cuttle gets it exactly right, and is worth quoting at length: