Mixed Media

Music: Concert Review: Cat Power at the Warfield

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 6:17 PM EDT

mojo-photo-catpowerwarfield.jpgIt used to be that you'd go to a Cat Power show with some anxiety, like a dinner with one of your friends who drinks too much and has a tendency to freak out and get loud. But these days, Chan Marshall has cleaned up her act, and while the volatility is gone, it's been replaced by a feeling that she's holding back.

My review of her latest album, Jukebox, lauded her soulful (and sometimes barely-recognizable) takes on the standards, and on Tuesday night, we got three standout Jukebox tracks right away: The Highwaymen's "Silver Stallion," during which Marshall paced relentlessly around the stage, stretching her microphone cord to the limit; "New York, New York," which came off even more smoky and dark than on CD; and best of all, "Ramblin' (Wo)Man," twisted to evoke early Portishead with a lethargic tempo and throbbing electric piano. Sadly, as other reviews of this tour have pointed out, Marshall's whispery voice can get buried under the band, barely audible, much less intelligible. And when the show is all about a solo artist, you kind of want to hear them.

After the jump: can a Cat get a spotlight?

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Scripting the Democratic Convention, West Wing-Style

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 3:34 PM EDT
convention200.jpg

Watching the slow-motion train wreck that is the Democratic nomination process is entertaining in a horrible kind of way, but just wait until the flaming hulk comes hurtling into the station. That's what New York magazine asked West Wing writer Lawrence O'Donnell Jr. to do, commissioning him to a draft a movie treatment of this August's Democratic confab-slash-conflagration in Denver. The result, "Four Days in Denver," is a brilliant piece of political theater, featuring lots of closed-door hijinks, a decisive Clinton-Obama staredown, an inconveniently thin Al Gore, an implausibly popular Wes Clark, and a convincingly savvy Michelle Obama. Plus there's lots of satisfying trash talk, like this Charlie Rangel comeback to Bill Clinton: "If your wife is elected president, I'm still gonna be chairman of Ways and Means and she's gonna need me every fucking day. So how do you wanna leave it: Fuck you, Charlie, or I'm sorry, Mr. Chairman?" Who knew superdelegates with appropriation powers could be so much fun? If you're looking for an amusing, semi-realistic guess about what's happening behind the poll numbers and delegate counts, check it out.

Music: Bill Cosby, Hip-Hop Producer?

| Wed Apr. 16, 2008 12:43 AM EDT

mojo-photo-puddingcosby.jpgOkay, I hope this isn't a hoax too: Legendary comedian/actor and outspoken curmudgeon Bill Cosby is listed as co-writer and executive producer on a new hip-hop album project called Cosby Narratives Vol. 1: State of Emergency. The album was described in a statement as "an unflinching look at life in the 21st century, but without the profanity, misogyny, violence and braggadocio." Hmm, maybe he means, "life in a utopian space colony in the year 2525?"

The album actually has a somewhat intriguing pedigree, since Cosby will be collaborating with Bill "Spaceman" Patterson, who worked on "The Cosby Show," and Patterson's musical partner Ced-Gee, co-founder of The Ultramagnetic MCs. Hey, isn't that the group that the Prodigy sampled for their infamous 1997 hit, "Smack My Bitch Up"? (Link to video not safe for work). Why yes it is.

Contrary to some reports, Cosby will not rap on the album.

Cosby's been infamous for years, more so after his 2004 "Pound Cake Speech" which was, as Wikipedia puts it, "highly critical of some members and subsets of the black community in the United States." Sorry, Bill; I probably won't be buying Cosby Narratives (expected to be released soon), but considering Bill Cosby Is a Very Funny Fellow… Right! basically shaped my entire sense of humor and was probably my #1 most listened-to album between the ages of 5 and 10, I'm letting this all slide.

Cosby pudding portrait used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Rakka.

Easy Desserts From the Pentagon?

| Tue Apr. 15, 2008 4:28 PM EDT

Tucked among the many U.S. Department of Defense emails in my inbox this week, nestled, in fact, between "Border Concerns" and "Coalition Forces Detain 12 Suspects in Iraq Operations," was the rather more provocative subject line: "Easy Desserts."

Yes, the Pentagon Channel has a cooking show. It's called "The Grill Sergeants."

Personally I was unable to get beyond "Turkey Time," but perhaps you'll have more luck than I did with "Flourless Chocolate Cake, Pumpkin Pie Cake, and Caramelized Apples."

Anyway, check it out. It's wistful and telling and weird in all the ways you don't typically hear when you hear about the war.

Plus, where else can you learn how to cook the world's largest turkey from a chef who says, "Can I get a military cadence?" to a uniformed band self-styled "The Tastebuds?"

Whoops: Party Ben Gets Fooled by Fake Death Cab Leak

| Mon Apr. 14, 2008 10:06 PM EDT

The supposed leak of the new Death Cab for Cutie album I downloaded unwittingly last week and just opened up to check out today turns out to be a fake: an April Fool's joke by a blogger called Charlatantric. He put the new Death Cab song in the middle of a bunch of songs by German band Velveteen, whose singer sure sounds a lot like Ben Gibbard, in my (admittedly rather weak) defense. Guess I gotta check them out, I liked it so much. Anyway, goes to show: don't believe everything you read on this here series of tubes, something Nick Baumann just pointed out on this very blog. I'll review the real Death Cab CD as soon as we get it.

Blogs: Gawker Media Sells Off Sites

| Mon Apr. 14, 2008 5:04 PM EDT

mojo-photo-gawker.jpgGawker Media, the blog "collective" that includes sites like Defamer and Gizmodo, has sold three of its 15 sites as part of an attempt to "hunker down" as they "wait for the internet bubble to burst." Didn't that already happen? Music site Idolator, travel site Gridskipper and politics blog Wonkette have all been sold to companies who can supposedly better sell advertising on them, with Idolator heading to Stereogum-owning Buzznet and Gridskipper migrating to Curbed. Wonkette, a near-legendary site that had been closely identified with Gawker, will now be part of the Blogads network that includes Daily Kos.

Since music is more my thing, I can attest that Idolator has always done a pretty good job, with an anything-goes pop culture policy and ample evidence of the quirky tastes of its writers. But when they post "Top Stories" and it turns out just a couple-hundred page views is all it takes to land there, one wonders how it all makes economic sense. (Not to gloat, as I'm sure Riff page views aren't anywhere close). Besides, Stereogum and Pitchfork also cover a lot of the same ground. Connect the dots to the recent stories about overwhelmed bloggers dropping dead from exhaustion, and this blog downturn ("downblog"? "blogturn"?) could be all too real. Jeez, Mother Jones, don't spin off the Riff to Playboy, you're a non-profit, remember? Guess I gotta up those click-throughs…

Advertise on MotherJones.com

TV: "Greatest Comedy Sketches" Inspire Deadly Serious Writing

| Fri Apr. 11, 2008 4:00 PM EDT

mojo-photo-50greatest.jpgOkay, I'll bite: Nerve.com (the sexy website) and IFC.com (the, er, indie film channel's website) have combined forces for some reason to bring us a list of the Top 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time. Sure, we've all got three hours to watch a bunch of YouTube videos of sketches we've all seen 100 times already. And I can ignore the fact that this joint venture requires one to jump back and forth between the two websites (opening a new browser window each time), and the fact that The State scored more entries than the Kids in the Hall. But it's the writing that does my head in: leaden descriptions of each sketch that are so brutally unfunny, they seem to siphon off the comedic energy of the sketches themselves. Check out this neutered portrait of Monty Python's "Spanish Inquisition" sketch (#33):

Music: Prince Added to Coachella Lineup

| Thu Apr. 10, 2008 4:35 PM EDT

mojo-photo-princecoach.jpgI was just telling people that I bet Goldenvoice would add another high-profile artist, and look at me, I'm so smart! All those commenters are so wrong! Although I had no idea the new addition would be Prince, the Great Horny Devil of the Super Bowl himself. Apparently the randy Minnesotan will be the headliner on Saturday, the second of the festival's three nights; this puts the kibosh on my whole "leave early before Jack Johnson and hang around in the hot tub" plans, since if Prince's performance is anything like that blazing Super Bowl appearance, I don't want to miss it.

Now if they could just sneak Radiohead in on Friday night…

Tibet: The Populist Playlist

| Wed Apr. 9, 2008 8:35 PM EDT

Rick-Springfield-250x200.jpgAt the "finish line" for the Olympic torch runners at the Embarcadero area of San Francisco today was a live band made up of five white dudes wearing leisure suits and wigs, and performing mostly 80s songs.

As hordes of folks carrying Tibetan national flags, Chinese national flags, "Free Tibet" signs, bullhorns, video cameras, and cellphones surged through the massively barricaded area, the band performed as if it were a homecoming party at a frat house. Here's a sampling of their set list, what my colleague calls the Populist Playlist for the day:

Botox Takes a Hit from Flailing Economy

| Tue Apr. 8, 2008 7:28 PM EDT
The effects of the struggling economy are finally trickling up. The Los Angeles Times reports that local LA resident Goldy Anthony has had to give up her regular botox-cum-ladies-who-lunch appointments in Beverly Hills because, well, at $1,800 a session (not including lunch), she no longer has the pocket change to spare. With the announcement last week that 80,000 American jobs were cut in just this past month, and foreclosures sweeping the nation, it's hard to bemoan the casualty of Goldy's botox procedures, and that she will no longer be able to inject toxins into her face to achieve that eerily placid perma-expression.

But the whole thing is making cosmetic surgeons pretty nervous. One doctor claims his number of surgeries decreased by "5% in January and February," while other doctors are reportedly "off by 30% to 40%." Although we may easily shrug off cosmetic surgery, the fact that the economic downturn has reached this sector indicates that even the wealthy are being forced to cut back—which is not a good sign for consumer spending. Over at Slate.com, though, William Saletan is rejoicing that elective cosmetic surgery has taken a small hit. Cosmetic procedures have increased 457 percent since 1997. Now, maybe doctors will get back to the true meat and potatoes work of practicing medicine.

—Joyce Tang