Mixed Media

NPR Lays Off Staff, Cuts Shows

| Wed Dec. 10, 2008 6:07 PM EST

mojo-photo-nprlogosm.jpgIt turns out that the economic downturn has taken its toll even on the non-profit among us (gulp!) as National Public Radio announced today it would lay off 7 percent of its staff and cut two underperforming shows. "Day to Day," a midday news program, got the axe, as did, perhaps more troublingly, "News and Notes," NPR's latest attempt to reach out to an African-American audience. Both shows were based at NPR's new Culver City studios. So was this my fault for not giving money to both of our local public stations?

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Helvetica: Juggernaut of Modernism or Accidental Default?

| Wed Dec. 10, 2008 4:52 PM EST

mojo-photo-nycsubway.jpgLast year's engaging documentary Helvetica made the point that the font's use as the main typeface of the New York City subway is symbolic of its status as a singular "modern" design. Anyone who's visited New York knows that the plain white-on-black lettering seems to bring a modicum of calming order to the tangled, chaotic system. Clearly this was all part of some benevolent modernist designer's brilliant plan, right? Nope, it turns out it was kind of an accident. The Transportationist blog points out a fascinating recent article in the AIGA Journal of Design that shows just how haphazard the process really was.

On Hollywood's (Not-Always) Subtle Homophobia

| Wed Dec. 10, 2008 2:55 PM EST

desperate_housewives_gay.gif
The excellent Hollywood biopic, Milk, has unwittingly exposed a subtle form of homophobia--"a post-ironic, post-homophobic homophobia," as the Washington Post puts it--that remains a fixture of the Hollywood media circuit. Today the Post has compiled a disturbing account of interviews given by male actors who play gay men in the movies, and who are invariably asked by journalists and talk show hosts what it was like to kiss another man (with the obvious subtext: wasn't it kind of nasty?).

Exhibit A is a conversation between David Letterman and Milk's James Franco, in which Letterman asks him what he was thinking going into a minute-long kissing scene with Penn:

"I didn't want to screw it up," Franco told Letterman.
"See, if it's me, I kind of hope I do screw it up," Letterman shot back. "That's what you want, isn't it?"
"To screw it up?" Franco asked.
"I mean, do you really want to be good at kissing a guy?" Letterman said as his audience howled with delight.

Even worse was an interview Chris Potter, an actor in Showtime's Queer as Folk gave to MSNBC: "Soon as they say 'cut,' you spit," he sneered. "You want to go to a strip bar or touch the makeup girls. You feel dirty. It's a tough job."

Coldplay Deny Plagiarism Accusation, Get Dissed By Reuters

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 6:57 PM EST

mojo-photo-coldplaysatriani.jpgThey just can't win. As reported here on Friday, UK ballad-producers and castoff-military-gear-sporters Coldplay had their highest-profile plagiarism accusation to date when guitarist Joe Satriani filed suit against the band, saying they'd ripped off one of his songs. Well, Coldplay have responded, calling any resemblance between "Viva La Vida" and Satriani's "If I Could Fly" "entirely coincidental":

"If there are any similarities between our two pieces of music, they are entirely coincidental, and just as surprising to us as to him," the band said in a posting on its website.
"Joe Satriani is a great musician, but he did not write or have any influence on the song 'Viva La Vida.' We respectfully ask him to accept our assurances of this and wish him well with all future endeavours."

So, take that, right? But Reuters can't help but have some fun, describing the band in a way that's gotta make Chris Martin wince:

Coldplay, whose soaring atmospheric tunes have been unfavourably compared to those of U2, brushed off the allegations.

"Unfavourably"? Is that really necessary? I mean, yes, totally, but that doesn't seem like, you know, reporting. But hey, if Reuters says it, it must be a fact. Either way, it's a good excuse for me to run my cute Photoshop collage again.

Blur to Reunite, Inspiring This Collection of YouTube Videos

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 6:26 PM EST

mojo-photo-blurband.jpgWhile I was over looking at NME's Top 10 Singles of 2008, I noticed another screaming headline, pictured on the cover of the new issue: BLUR REUNITED! For the uninitiated, the legendary London four-piece lost guitarist Graham Coxon in 2002 after he got really annoyed during the recording of their last album. Lead singer Damon Albarn went on to wild critical and commercial success with Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad and The Queen, so he's not exactly hurting for cash, but he and Coxon have apparently buried the hatchet (hooray!) so the reunited band can play some gigs in 2009:

"It just felt it was right again," declared Albarn of Blur's return. "It somehow feels like there's something for us to do again, we're not completely useless or pointless, we've got a reason to exist." Coxon agreed, explaining the band were "making public what's been going on a little bit privately. For the benefit of the fans and those interested we can say that something's on the cards."

A single show is currently planned at London's Hyde Park on July 3rd, and an appearance at Glastonbury is rumored. Hey, howabout Coachella?

After the jump: Blur, a YouTube history!

NME Best Singles of 2008 List All About 2007

| Tue Dec. 9, 2008 4:58 PM EST

mojo-photo-bestof20087.jpgWe know it's hard. Singles get released in one year, then the album's released the next; UK release dates come months before we get them here; or maybe you got a promo copy (or—gasp!—a leak) in December, and it didn't go on sale until January. Then there's human error: what if you just didn't get around to checking out that Amadou and Mariam album until 2006? Keeping your year-end best-of list to the actual calendar year can be tough, but you'd think British music mag NME would at least try to stick to the rules. The magazine released their "tracks of the year" last week, but amusingly enough, fully half of them came out in 2007. Check out their list and my bitter commentary after the jump.

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NBC May Cut Back on the "B" Part

| Mon Dec. 8, 2008 7:48 PM EST

mojo-photo-nbclogocuts.jpgHow the mighty have fallen. We knew things were bad at NBC, with ratings falling right along with the economy, but we didn't know quite how bad. Heads are rolling over at the Peacock, with some high-ranking executives getting axed, along with 3% of the company's 15,000-person workforce. But the network might not be done with it's slicing-and-dicing. Rather than actually try to come up with shows people want to watch, NBC Chief Executive Jeff Zucker has announced that the network is considering just cutting back on the hours--or even the number of nights--it provides programming. From the AP:

"Can we continue to program 22 hours of prime-time? Three of our competitors don't. Can we afford to program seven nights a week? One of our competitors doesn't," Zucker said. "All of these questions have to be on the table. And we are actively looking at all of those questions." … Part of the problem at NBC has to do with the economic crisis and slowdown in advertising revenue in a market that is "as difficult as any we've seen," Zucker said. "Businesses are just afraid to commit."

Er... especially to crappy shows.

Finally, Some Consistency: Time, Guardian, New York Release Best Album Lists

| Mon Dec. 8, 2008 3:41 PM EST

mojo-photo-lilwaynecarteriii.jpgIdolator points out that three biggies have just weighed in on the best albums of the year, making the list-obsessed among us all giddy. Time, New York and the UK Guardian released their lists today, and while each have the character you'd expect from the publication (Idolator calls them "mainstream," "middlebrow" and "muso") there's actually some interesting similarities, which is nice, considering the mixed, Nick-Cave-elevating-by-default tally of recent lists. Both New York and Time had the same Top 2: Lil Wayne and TV on the Radio. Of course, the Guardian has to be all cool and diverse, throwing the not-even-out-in-the-US Amadou and Mariam in at #2, while Time, bafflingly, includes Metallica. USA! USA! But perhaps the most important thing to realize about the average of these three lists is that it turns out to very closely resemble my Best Albums of the First Half of 2008 list posted back at the end of June, proving, once again, that the Riff is your best bet for scientifically sound arts and culture commentary.

Check out the three Top 10s as well as another super-consensus chart after the jump.

Joe Satriani Sues Coldplay for Plagiarism

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 4:19 PM EST

mojo-photo-coldplaysatriani.jpgPoor Coldplay. They just got word that they had the biggest-selling album of the year on iTunes and the second-highest number of Grammy nominations, and then a little thing like copying somebody else's song has to go and get in the way of their celebration. Guitarist Joe Satriani has brought a suit against the British band, saying that the title track from Viva la Vida plagiarized one of his recent songs. From Reuters:

Satriani's copyright infringement suit, filed on Thursday in Los Angeles federal court, claims the Coldplay song "Viva La Vida" incorporates "substantial original portions" of his 2004 instrumental "If I Could Fly." The 52-year-old guitar virtuoso is seeking a jury trial, damages and "any and all profits" attributable to the alleged copyright infringement.

I'd just like to point out the Satriani song is from an album titled Is There Love In Space, a title that might actually be worse than Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends. Did Coldplay steal the idea for "crap" too? Anyhoo, the two songs are in the same key and have the same melody line; check out a YouTube video comparing the two songs and review previous plagiarism claims against Coldplay after the jump.

Email Madness From the Afro-Sphere

| Fri Dec. 5, 2008 3:16 PM EST

Authorities are planning to open the entire length of the National Mall for Obama's inauguration, a historic first. Planners are estimating that 1.5-5 million folks will be visiting DC for that occasion. (Nice ballpark figure, huh?)

I got the following joke email about it from one of those relatives. The kind who fill your inbox with miracle cures, urban myths Snopes wouldn't dignify with a debunking, and Protestant chauvinism too appalling to reply to. (Yesterday's was a shaggy dog joke about atheists suing for a holiday of their own and being informed by the judge that, as non-believers, they already had one: April 1. Hardy har.) But now I'm glad I hadn't blocked their address. This one made my day.

Since Obama's election, the afro-sphere has been abuzz with joyful outbursts, but this one is the only one to really touch me. It's a trifle, but it's so exuberant and paints such an eloquent picture of blacks' sense of validation as Americans and their sense of family with the Obamas, it makes its own gravy. Pretending to scold, it is instead a clever, jubilant way of celebrating black culture and bragging about having a homey Prez, and makes its peace with individual blacks' inability to lay hands on the magic brother. It says: We can't all be with you there, Obama. But we're there in spirit. There's a party going on in black America.

Here it is; enjoy.