Mixed Media

Grand Theft Auto IV Makes More Money Than Anything Ever

| Thu May 8, 2008 5:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-grandtheft.jpgWell, almost. Billboard magazine reports that first-week sales for the latest installment in the "Grand Theft Auto" videogame series has outperformed even the most optimistic of predictions, making more than $500 million in sales the first week. Billboard says that's 6 million copies, but it's $60 on Amazon, and that works out to $360 million, but who knows how they count these things. Either way, it's a new first-week record for a game, smashing the previous high mark set by "Halo 3" of $300 million.

For comparison's sake, let's just take a look at some other cultural products and institutions and their associated monetary figures, after the jump:

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Music: Million DJ March to Unite Annoying, Headphone-Wearing Dorks

| Wed May 7, 2008 9:47 PM EDT

mojo-photo-milliondj.gifThis can't be serious. Eminem associate DJ Green Lantern and mixtape empresario A. Shaw have just announced The Million DJ March, a series of activities and rallies in support of the good old disk jockey, to be held August 28-30 in Washington D.C. Wait a minute, I'm a DJ. Why do I need to rally? Well, in a press release, Shaw alleges that "DJs do not get fully recognized for the work they do… Label and major businesses who reap the rewards of default publicity need to pay attention and give more recognition and financial compensation to DJs for the promotion they provide, without which music sales would surely suffer." Well, okay, yes, we play music, people should be happy we do that. Hooray us. But why all this marching? The press release continues:

DJs… are often harassed and legally penalized for their promotional efforts even when those efforts have been solicited directly by the labels and artists themselves: an arrangement that is known about throughout the industry but kept "on the low."

Hmm, harassment and legal penalties. Are you talking about what happens when you sell thousands and thousands of unauthorized mixtape CDs out of the back of your car?

After the jump: hey, I pressed "play," that'll be $25,000.

Breaking News: Hipsters Live in Cheap, Crappy Buildings

| Wed May 7, 2008 3:47 PM EDT

Yes, NYT trend piece fans, it's time for yet another trenchant observation: Art kids live in squalor in Brooklyn. And since everyone knows bedbug bites are like the purple heart of hipsterdom, they're totally jazzed about their tenement, known as the McKibbin:

"The community is a microcosm of artists, musicians and D.J.'s," said Kevin Farrell, who is 29 and works in video production. "You don't have to leave this building, with the exception of food. I don't really speak to the locals."

By comparison, campaign kids, who whined in the Sunday Times about having to couch surf, look pretty square:

"It's so nice to have your own space," said Erin Suhr, 32, the director of press advance for the Clinton campaign. "To come in and not have to talk to anyone, because you know they're going to want to talk about politics."
Since mid-February, Ms. Suhr has been living in Washington, in the basement apartment of Dick and Joanne Howes. Ms. Suhr has her own entrance and said she rarely sees the couple. But on a recent Monday night, Ms. Suhr appeared at their back door and the trio fell into an easy banter.

Fraternizing with the locals? She'd never make it at the McKibbin.

Books: Shelf Help for Mother's Day

| Tue May 6, 2008 11:19 PM EDT

If their "Mother's Day Shopping Guide" is any indication, Barnes and Noble takes a rather dim view of maternal reading habits.

Categories that warrant 40 percent off before Sunday include: "Biographies and Memoirs," "Food and Wine," "Homes and Hobbies," "New Fiction," and "Self-Improvement, Inspiration, and Humor.'

But the pink ghetto in Borders may win this week's catfight. A quick stroll past the Mom-bait table in a Washington, D.C. store today revealed not just a cornucopia of hot pink, cherub-encrusted photo frames and a healthy portion of the "Chicken Soup for the __ Soul" (Grandma, Chocolate Lovers, etc.) empire, but such titles as:

"Don't Go To the Cosmetics Counter Without Me," (7th Edition),

"Busy Woman's Slow Cooker Recipes," (Tagline: "Make 'em happy. Come home to dinner."),

"You, Staying Young,"

and,

"God Thinks You're Wonderful, Mom!"


You know what I want for Mother's Day this year? A wireless mouse. Let me know when you catch up, big B bookstores.

Music: New Coldplay Single Downloaded Two Million Times, Kind of Sucks

| Tue May 6, 2008 5:29 PM EDT

mojo-photo-coldplayviva.jpgBritish band Coldplay posted a link to a new song, "Violet Hill," on their official website starting last Tuesday, and since then the free download has been accessed over two million times, reports the UK Telegraph. To put it in perspective, the Telegraph says that all the UK top 40 singles combined sold around 500,000 copies in the same period. Lesson: People like free stuff.

Coldplay released the single in advance of their somewhat-anticipated new album, Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends (out June 17th), an appallingly-titled collection of songs which, as we reported here on the Riff last year, were supposed to have a "Hispanic theme." However, "Violet Hill" has about as much Latin flavor as an Eskimo pie, and lead singer Chris Martin is even singing about cold weather: "Was a long and dark December/From the rooftops I remember/There was snow/White snow." As opposed to the purple kind? The song opens with a whooshy, 40-second intro, then erupts into a turgid, stomping beat, reminiscent of nothing so much as "Bennie and the Jets." It should either be twice as fast or twice as slow. Okay, I guess I kind of like the refrain, "If you love me, won't you let me know," but let's compare and contrast: the other day I heard "Warning Sign" on the radio, a stunning ballad from 2002's Rush of Blood to the Head. An insistent, wobbling tone, alternating between two notes, gives the song a hypnotic sense of uncertainty, building in intensity until a sudden acoustic coda in a new key finds Martin hoping to "crawl back into your open arms." Structured similarly but lacking even a modicum of "Sign"'s emotional complexity, "Hill" is a pale, white-snow-colored imitation.

Download "Violet Hill" on Coldplay's web site here.

After the jump, check out a cute fan-made video for "Warning Sign."

Music: Just How Good is the New Portishead Album?

| Fri May 2, 2008 4:14 PM EDT

mojo-photo-portisheadthirdcover.jpgOkay, I promise that my week-long series of Coachella afterglow posts will come to an end right after this one. In fact, while my appreciation of the long-dormant Bristol combo Portishead was confirmed by their spectacular performance in the desert Saturday night, I'd been enjoying their new album, Third, for a while. While I (lovingly) mocked it a while back here on the Riff for the, er, intensity of its lyrical misery, there's something exhilarating about Third. It's that rarest of comeback albums: less a return to form than a return to function, evidence of a band's determination to explore new musical territory (and new depths of despair), just as they always have.

After the jump: what's Rob Sheffield's damage?

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The Missing Pink Floyd Pig Has Landed!

| Wed Apr. 30, 2008 6:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-e07b-pig.jpgBreaking news here on Riff and Friends, following up on a story we first reported here on Sunday night. The gigantic helium-filled inflatable pig thing that said "OBAMA" on its belly, released accidentally by Roger Waters during his performance at Coachella Sunday night, has been found! This reporter witnessed the pig rising near-vertically into the sky on Sunday night, and apparently winds didn't pick up too much in the interim, since the shredded pig parts were discovered Monday morning in La Quinta, the gated-community-and-retiree-filled suburb just south and west of the venue. We were actually staying in La Quinta so, jeez, how awesome would it have been to have the Pig land in our pool? Dammit, so close! Apparently the homeowners in whose driveways the tangled remains appeared didn't know what it was at first, but after seeing saturation news coverage of the clearly earth-shattering event, they figured it out. That's our nation's media, doing a fine job with the stories that matter, and now we can get back to talking about Reverend Wright, the second most important thing happening in the world.

Both families will split the cash portion of the reward, $10,000, and each will get four tickets to the festival for life, although Susan Stoltz, one of the lucky pig-finders, says they "kept souvenirs." It's all so exciting. Next year, everybody better be ready when Bono releases a giant inflatable balloon showing a complicated graph explaining debt relief.

Riff photo by Miles Anzaldo.

Frank Black Takes on The Golem

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 9:55 PM EDT

golem-160x248.jpgThe San Francisco International Film Festival this weekend presented a screening of The Golem with live original music by Frank Black, and it reminded me of two things: Frank Black is a dynamic, talented rock musician, and The Golem is a wickedly odd piece of cinema.

The Golem is a 1920 German silent film based on a legend about a clay figure brought to life by Jews living in the late 16th Century Prague ghetto. Yup, CLAY. Similar to Frankenstein, the figure is larger and more powerful than the average human. But instead of a square, flat head, the Golem sports a Dutch boy helmet/haircut (mud-cut?!). He initially protects, and then turns on, everyone in the ghetto and then dies. I had watched scenes of The Golem years ago in a film class, but had forgotten how strange this film really is. The film seems to celebrate the triumph of Jews over adversity, but also caricatures them all as worrisome old men with long, shaggy beards and silly, elf-like hats. The most fascinating part of the film is Hans Poelzig's set design. His stylized ghetto feels like a dark, dingy version of Dr. Seuss drawings.

Frank Black, whose shrill, nasal vocals never completely wow-ed me when he was fronting the Pixies in the 90s, led the pit band like a true storyteller. Songs ebbed and flowed with the movie's weird plot, and lyrics seemed to convey key elements of sadness, fear, joy, and love in the story. Black has said that he wrote all the music in a day, and is considering releasing his Golem music as a Black Francis (his pseudonym) record. Black's music helped ground the film and made it more enjoyable, although not enough to keep one of my friends from leaving early and others in our group from dozing off.

Considering that Black's music was written for a movie about a monster, it felt incredibly safe and tasteful. A more relentless, risky, and scary approach would have really made the night—and the Golem—sing.

Music: Coachella Wrapup - Sunday

| Mon Apr. 28, 2008 5:05 AM EDT

mojo-photo-e01-sunset.jpg

Greetings from the desert and day three of the Coachella Festival. In tonight's edition: Canadians! Germans! More Canadians! And oh yeah: Flying inflatable pigs that apparently endorse Obama! While I'm doing my best to be the intrepid reporter on the scene, my coverage is devolving day-by-day: crappy photos on day one, late-night spelling errors on day two, and today, I forgot my note-taking pen, so all this is coming out of my sun-baked memory. Perhaps I imagined the whole thing?

Music: Coachella Wrapup - Saturday

| Sun Apr. 27, 2008 7:35 AM EDT

mojo-photo-d08-fashion.jpgGreetings from the desert, where Day Two of the Coachella Festival has just come to a close. I know I started yesterday's wrapup with the caveat of "sorry the photographs are terrible"; well, it's now 2:45am, and after spending an hour sitting in parking lot traffic (after walking for 45 minutes) your intrepid reporter is feeling a little scatterbrained. So add that to the list of caveats. For those who just want to get to the meat of the matter: Kraftwerk fantastic, Portishead flawless, Prince amazing. For the details, hit the good old "continues" button.