Mixed Media

SXSW Dispatch: Don't Talk to Me About Music, Dammit

| Sun Mar. 16, 2008 1:18 AM EDT

nick-urata.jpgSo here's the catch about covering the music portion of SXSW: after a day or two of playing as many as four sets a day and doing back-to-back interviews, musicians are tired of playing music, and even more tired of talking about it. Sometimes they're hung over, or tired, hungry, annoyed, grouchy, or just a little disinterested. Can't say I blame them; although they knew what they were getting into when they showed up, no?

The up-side is that when you tell someone you're interviewing them for Mother Jones, suddenly their face lights up and they say screw jabbering about music, let's talk politics. It's happened consistently while here in Austin. So, here's a brief glimpse at what's on the minds of musicians at SXSW in 2008:

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SXSW Dispatch: Lyrics Born is Funky McFunkerson

| Sat Mar. 15, 2008 8:46 PM EDT

lyrics-born.jpgI haven't slept much so far at SXSW—or, "South By," if you're nasty. There is just an ungodly amount of things to see, hear, and do here. It's over-saturating even my high tolerance for over-stimulus. And I mean that in the best possible way.

So by the end of Day 1 here, I learned that the key to success is to chill. Trying to run around and do everything just ain't gonna happen. Having a plan with room for deviation is the way to go. With that newfound wisdom, Day 2 here was a good one:

SXSW Dispatch: Blog Talk is Boring Talk

| Sat Mar. 15, 2008 4:38 AM EDT

I decided today that blog talk—that is to say, discussion of the importance, relevance, or social meaning of the blog—is totally boring, and time would be better spent knitting sweaters or baking cookies.

Friday Top Five: '80s-Style Remixes, Songs About Alderan, French Techno

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 6:05 PM EDT

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1. The Ting Tings – "Great DJ" (Calvin Harris Remix) (mp3 via Check the Availability)
While the British duo's recent SF live show was enjoyable enough, it was also a bit disconcerting due to the prominence of the backing tape. But this remix by an '80s-loving producer turns "Great DJ" into an epic floorfiller, without a care in the world.

2. James Combs – "Barely Contained" (buy on iTunes)
LA singer-songwriter Combs balances a tense, PJ Harvey-like arrangement with a dreamlike whisperiness on this swaying, triple-time track. It's great, but one wonders, is it a conflict of interest when a KCRW producer gets KCRW's "Today's Top Tune"?

3. Neon Neon – "I Told Her on Alderan" (mp3 via Pop Tarts Suck Toasted)
Who knew that when you put together a Super Furry Animal and Boom Bip, they'd sound like the Cars and sing about Star Wars. Actually, that would have been as good a guess as any.

After the jump, yes it offends me, and French techno that sounds like American hip-hop!

"Kristen" Is a Blameworthy Slut? Yawn.

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

Today in a Salon video post, Farhad Manjoo calls the MySpace dimension of the Eliot Spitzer scandal "interesting and kind of fascinating and cool."

Really? I'm not so sure MySpace makes this scandal any different than the old ones. At the end of the day, the media is doing exactly what they always do: backhandedly blaming the object of a politician's lust for bringing about his downfall with her sluttiness.

At the risk of alienating my friends in the Facebook Generation, here's the thing: I could give a crap about the "true identity" (if that's what a MySpace page is) of the young woman whom Eliot Spitzer paid for sex, let alone the fact that she once sang "Respect" in the shower at her boyfriend's house.

And now, as Feministing points out, we're also supposed to believe that she's into it. That Dupre is under the impression that this turn of events is going to make her into the superstar she's always wanted to be.

Simmer down, Kiera, commenters will undoubtedly say. Who wouldn't want to know about the sordid details of an admittedly beautiful woman involved in a high-class prostitution ring? Well, I think it's more complicated—and insidious—than that.

When I read the New York Times piece about Dupre, my first thought was, she sounds totally annoying. I found myself blaming her for her irritating narcissism ("I am all about my music and my music is all about me. It flows from what I've been through, what I've seen and how I feel"), and her delusions of grandeur. This girl sounds insufferable, I thought.

And all of a sudden I had forgotten a key point: Dupre didn't do anything wrong. Spitzer did.


SXSW Dispatch: 17 Hours in Austin

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 4:30 PM EDT

thurston.jpgAustin during SXSW is a whirlwind of tattoos, cigarette smoke, amplifiers, bratwurst, fliers, long lines, nonstop (loud) music, bad pizza, and a ton of local volunteers who are super friendly but don't often know the answer to your questions. It's chaotic, noisy, and exciting, and it never takes breaks. Here's how my first 17 hours here went:

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Would English Be Eleganter Without Feminists?

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 2:15 PM EDT

little_five_points_1458528_l.jpgOver at the Weekly Standard, Yale computer science professor David Gelerntner thinks feminism has no place in the English language:

When students have been ordered since first grade to put "he or she" in spots where "he" would mean exactly the same thing…How can we then tell them, "Make every word, every syllable count!" They may be ignorant but they're not stupid.

He also complains that we're taught to use "'firefighter' where 'fireman' would mean exactly the same thing." I'm willing to concede "waiter" for "waitress," but I simply can't accept that "fireman" is superior to "firefighter." So even though my instincts were telling me that Gelerntner was cloaking sexism in the guise of linguistic purity, I paused to consider whether that "or she" appendage really is dragging us, and the English language, down the wrong path.

SXSW Dispatch: Why Lou Reed Hates Mp3s

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 12:30 PM EDT
reed.jpgLou Reed reminds me a little bit of my grandmother. He's old, he's got bad posture and a New York accent, and he's a little pessimistic. But if you stick around long enough, he'll offer up some keen insight and make you laugh.

The rock singer-songwriter/guitarist, during a SXSW keynote speech at Austin's convention center Thursday, told a packed house that his favorite movie is The Bourne Ultimatum. Why? Because of the fight scenes.

Aggression seems to be a recurring theme for Reed. "Punk is aggressive, steel, street, action. All that young guy stuff," he said. "Where else is it gonna go? It's [music] or jail." He later became more self-reflective about his attitude and his music, adding, "I have a B.A. in dope. And a PhD in soul."

The SXSW Slog Begins

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 3:40 PM EDT

sxsw.jpgAfter listening to our flight attendant—a former auctioneer from Dallas—rattle off emergency escape instructions in double time and then tell jokes about her co-workers for the entire flight (one was a former Miss Dallas, the other Southwest's steward of the year), I arrived in Austin, Texas, in high spirits.

I'm here to cover SXSW, Austin's ginormous film-music-interactive festival that draws (last I heard) about 10,000 folks from around the country (and abroad) to the Texas capitol.

Times Calls Out Spitzer's Boo on Use of "Boo"

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 3:02 PM EDT

Buried in the New York Times' outing of "Kristen"—a.k.a Ashley Alexandra Dupré—a.k.a. Eliot Spitzer's boo—comes this strange line:

On [Dupré's MySpace] Web page was a recording of what she described as her latest track, "What We Want," an amateurish, hip-hop inflected rhythm and blues tune that asks, "Can you handle me, boy?" and used some dated slang, calling someone her "boo."

Now, to pick apart this less than charitable and, frankly, catty article would take quite a while. But for now, let's address the linguistic issue here. Opinion at MoJo tends toward "boo" being not only current, but timeless. Urban Dictionary traces the origins of "boo" all the way back to the adoption of the French "beau" at the time of Caribbean colonization. Fast forward a couple of centuries and Tupac deployed "boo" in "It Ain't Easy" off his 1995 Me Against the World album. A full decade later, the term was still in use, as Usher's "My Boo" (feat. Alicia Keys) won a Grammy for best R&B performance in 2005 (see below). The next year, Brooke Valentine sang "He can call me his boo / But he call me dope girl, cuz I got that oooh." So it's pretty clear "boo" is here to stay. But did anyone really trust the Times as an arbiter of slang?

—Justin Elliott