Business cards are so old-school.

The new way to exhange information? The poken, an electronic portal for personal deets. Basically, it works like this:

1. Upload your profile—including twitter, facebook, and other social network accounts—to the poken.

2. Touch your poken to someone else's.

3. Upload that person's information to your computer, and they can do the same.

I got the gadget at a recent social media gathering, and it's pretty nifty—even if it must reach critical mass to prove useful.

Last week, Jen Phillips discussed five ways to respond to jokes about rape. She chose option #5, wherein you disarm the joke-teller by pointing out just how un-funny these jokes are by reversing the target of the joke. Below, a few options for dealing with that ubiquitous troll of the city sidewalk—the catcaller:

1. Ignore it and keep walking.

2. Use non-verbal cues (involving the middle finger) to indicate your disgust.

3. Attempt to educate harasser through dialogue or a handy business card.

4. Share this gem of human interaction with others online via photo or tweet.

5. Organize a city-wide summit to address gender-based harrassment and assault in public spaces, complete with a gallery exhibition of photographs of area cat-callers caught in the act.

I tend to go with #1, since I prefer not to let the catcaller get the satisfaction of a reaction, though sometimes option #2 happens as a knee-jerk response. Unfortunately, directly responding to, and even ignoring, catcallers is not always a safe option. In April, a woman was left partially blind, and her friend suffered a fractured jaw, after telling someone to leave them alone in a NYC pizzeria. In March, a 29-year-old pregnant woman was run over and killed when she ignored a catcaller.

To bring attention to the prevalence of public harassment, a number of websites have been created under the title Hollaback. These sites offer a space for people who are the target of gender-based harassment to share their experience in specific cities, regions, and countries with a sympathetic community, while publicly shaming the perpetrators. You can also tweet sidewalk utterances to @catcalled so long as it's under 140 characters. Which it probably is, since as any city-dweller knows, these are not eloquent treatises.

However, these sites are not just chronicles of the harassers that make your walk to work less than pleasant. HollabackDC seeks to make public not just catcallers, but all forms of street harrassment and misogyny:

"Gender based sexual harassment is any sexual harassment that occurs in a public space when one or more individuals (man or woman) accost another individual, based on their gender, as they go about their daily life. This can include vulgar remarks, heckling, insults, innuendo, stalking, leering, fondling, indecent exposure and other forms of  public humiliation. Gender based public sexual harassment occurs on a continuum starting with words, stalking, and unwanted touching which can lead to more violent crimes like rape, assault, and murder."

That is why they are moving beyond the web and joining other DC-based community activists to stage a summit that will address strategies for responding to—and ending—street harassment. The summit's opening reception will include a photography exhibit of street harassers in the act. If you live in DC and snap a catcaller in the act, you can submit your own photo.

Grizzly Bear
Veckatimest
Warp Records

Veckatimest is one of the most anticipated and best-reviewed indie rock records of the year—"a game changer" and rare 9.0 on the Pitchfork scale that is said by The New Yorker to capture "a band in full, collaborative density." On this, its fifth release, Grizzly Bear has expanded its psych-folk sound in multiple directions, making it sweeter and happier, or alternately jazzier and brusquer. The choirboy melodies brood and pine, the odd instruments meet seamlessly and neatly layer. The album took more than a year to make. Which is why, ever since its release in May, I've been wondering how it could be that I like it a lot but don't totally love it. Is the problem with me, or with Grizzly Bear?

If there's a literary analogue to Grizzly Bear, it's Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia. Chatwin was a gay Londoner who worked at Sotheby's before becoming a travel writer; he built vignettes with the same attention to detail as one might construct the leg of a Chippendale cabinet. Yet this tendency toward the baroque was leavened by the rough beauty of Chatwin's subject matter. The same dialectic animates Williamsburg-based Grizzly Bear: Acoustic plucking, flutes or strings, and nearly effete falsetto harmonies lift us effortlessly on the wings of electric feedback toward the harshly sublime.

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.

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.

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?”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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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.

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?

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.

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.