Mixed Media

Vatican Brings Back Indulgences

| Thu Feb. 12, 2009 9:24 PM EST

From the New York Times comes news that the Roman Catholic Church is allowing indulgences again. The revelation compelled the Times to write this improbable paragraph:

There are partial indulgences, which reduce purgatorial time by a certain number of days or years, and plenary indulgences, which eliminate all of it, until another sin is committed. You can get one for yourself, or for someone who is dead. You cannot buy one — the church outlawed the sale of indulgences in 1567 — but charitable contributions, combined with other acts, can help you earn one. There is a limit of one plenary indulgence per sinner per day.

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Madonna, Bon Jovi, Springsteen Made Big Bucks in '08

The highest moneymakers in music this year all pulled in the cash from touring, not record sales.

| Thu Feb. 12, 2009 6:38 PM EST
Billboard magazine has ranked the top 20 biggest money-makers in music this year, and I assume they don't mean, um, the body part one is supposed to shake. No, no, they mean musicians who've made the most dollars, or, more likely, euros, and maybe even rubles, in 2008. Madonna topped the list by a wide margin, earning a total of over $242 million, with rockers Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen just about tied at $157 and $156 million, respectively. Not surprisingly, says Billboard, touring is your best bet for the big cash these days, and every performer on their top 20 list had major tours this year. But perhaps more surprising is the apparent gap between album sales and tour income: Madonna's 2008 album, Hard Candy, was only the 50th-best-selling of the year in the US. But that didn't stop concert-goers, as her continuing "Sticky & Sweet" tour grossed nearly $230 million, not including the $18 million worth of tour merchandise sold. Jeez, and I'm stoked when I get 50 bucks for DJing. Anyway, the full list of the most immune-to-economic-woes musicians after the jump.

Song of the Day: RH+ - "Curb"

New music.

| Thu Feb. 12, 2009 5:54 PM EST
Hmm, are the folks at Nacional Records sure they didn't mix up their publicity photos? From what I see here, the members of RH+ look like three slabs of rough-and-tumble, smokin'-hot Chilean beef, complete with elaborate facial hair and tough-guy shades. But the single "Curb" from the Santiago combo's debut album Quintana Roo has the delicate, dream-pop style of Scandinavians Royksopp, lead by the high, clear vocals of what sounds like an innocent young lady. Did she not show up for the photo shoot, or is one of these hunks actually a castrato? Okay, okay, joking aside, there's actually a propulsive solidity to this track, and while I'm not sure if there are any strains of traditional Chilean sounds here, "Curb" does remind me of classic Brazilian psychedelia, with its hypnotic combination of silky vocals and buzzy melodies. Listen to it by pressing the "play" button on the thingy below or grab an mp3 over at the RCRD LBL site.
[Update: Okay, their label Nacional assures me that in fact, RH+ is a five piece with a female singer and one other guy, and that RCRD LBL just cut them out of the publicity shot for some reason. Well, it made for a funny post, at least...]

LOST: Please Tell Me They're Not in Purgatory

| Thu Feb. 12, 2009 3:54 PM EST
The title of last night's LOST episode should have been a giveaway: "This Place is Death." But I'm hoping to Hurley the island-bound Losties are not in limbo, or in purgatory, or just plain old dead because the show's creators promised they wouldn't be.

That sinking feeling aside, some really interesting information is helping progressing the series toward a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion. We now know the smoke monster used to guard a temple inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs, the same glyphs seen when Desmond's hatch computer was allowed to time out. The Egyptian symbols, together with Charlotte's Tunisian Dharma Initiative research, and the slave ship the Black Rock, gives this season a bit of an African flavor, but it's hard to tell what the link is between Africa and the island.

Joaquin Phoenix Gets All Fawcetty On Letterman

Joaqui

| Thu Feb. 12, 2009 4:35 AM EST
Joaquin Phoenix went on Letterman Wednesday night, ostensibly to promote his new movie Two Lovers, but it was his combative, monosyllabic appearance that made news. The Walk the Line actor seemed to get perturbed that the audience didn't take his hip-hop career seriously, just about got in a fight with Paul Shaffer, and stuck his gum to Dave's desk, in addition to being all shades-and-beardy. Honestly, I try to reserve my Riff postings for actual, somewhat serious arts and culture news (and French techno tunes I think are awesome), but this really must be seen to be believed. Is he doing a shoot-the-moon, Andy Kaufman bit, or is he just trying to burn up his feathers and nest so he can emerge anew? Only time, and the new J-Pho album, will tell.

The Latest Obama Hope Poster News

| Wed Feb. 11, 2009 3:31 PM EST
It's been a busy couple of days on the Shepard Fairey iconic Obama Hope poster (IOHP) front. Some quick updates:

• Shepard Fairey got arrested in Boston. Yawn. Just the cost of doing business when you're a radical street artist sticking it to the Man.

• Mannie Garcia, the photographer who took the photo that Fairey used in the IOHP says he owns the image, not the Associated Press. And he doesn't care that Fairey used it. Garcia: "This is not just some artist who ripped something off. It’s more unique and more complicated than that. This is about the 44th President of the United States. I am not going to do anything to subvert this presidency.” Whoa—if Obama's success really does rest on the fate of this poster, we really are in trouble.

• And now Fairey is suing the AP. Fairey's lawyers say the IOHP was not a rip-off but rather a “stunning, abstracted and idealized visual image that created powerful new meaning."

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Sirius XM Prepares for Possible Bankruptcy

Satcaster Sirius XM will get bought, go bankrupt, or dissolve into sparkly space dust very soon.

| Tue Feb. 10, 2009 9:25 PM EST

Sirius XM, the satellite broadcaster who only recently combined their previously-competitive channel offerings and cut a whole bunch of the popular stations, suddenly has an even more uncertain future. The company is preparing for a possible bankrupty filing, which "could come within days," according to the New York Times. However, this may just be a crazy high-stakes cat-and-mouse game with EchoStar/Dish Network bigwig Charles Ergen, who controls a whole bunch of Sirius' bulging debt. Ergen would apparently have to make a formal offer to purchase the company sooner than later if he wanted to avoid the bankruptcy mess, so it's kind of like Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin (formerly in charge of former Party Ben employer CBS awesome radio!) is saying pony up or watch us go bye-bye. Gutsy!

New Orleans Mardi Gras Offers Mad Stimulus (Plus: a Killer Cocktail Recipe)

| Mon Feb. 9, 2009 7:59 PM EST

You really want to stimulate the economy? Quit whining and start partying. Need inspiration in these dark and gloomy economic times? Join the Krewe du Vieux, New Orleans satirical marching organization, as they jump start the Mardi Gras season with floats themes such as the “Salute to Trickle Down Economics” and “Investments in Stocks & Bondage.” The rest are just are just too titillating to mention. The group is known for raunchy floats: think giant sperms and lady parts. Mardi Gras season officially starts with the Krewe du Vieux parade today and climaxes (yes, I said it) February 24.

And keep this in mind: Louisiana is one of three states in the country that recorded job gains, not losses, in December, so they must be doing something right.

New Green Day Album Set to Push the Boundaries of Pretentiousness

Green Day's new album sounds kind of ridiculous.

| Mon Feb. 9, 2009 5:43 PM EST
Rolling Stone has it on good authority that Bay Area pop-punkers Green Day will be releasing their eighth album, 21st Century Breakdown, this May. If you thought that perhaps they'd realized that despite the commercial success of 2004's American Idiot, it was actually a bit of an overreach, relying on copycat grandiosity, and maybe it's time to get back to basics, you'd be so, so wrong. The new album appears to ratchet the high-concept gobbledygook up to 11, featuring 16 songs separated into three "acts," including "Heroes and Cons," "Charlatans and Saints" and "Horseshoes and Handgrenades." Huh? They also appear to be turning the tables on alleged plagiarizers Coldplay with the reported song title "Viva La Gloria." Or Mrs. Estefan and All Her Friends? The band also showcased their exciting new high-concept hairdos at last night's Grammys (see photo above)—hey guys, ever heard of the Pet Shop Boys? Legendary producer and Garbage-man Butch Vig will be at the controls, which means at least it'll sound pretty. You can pre-order the album already over here. However, the inevitable Dean Gray mashup album will probably be special order only.

Plant/Krauss, Coldplay Big Winners at Grammys

The Grammys are stupid.

| Mon Feb. 9, 2009 12:20 AM EST
Oh, the many ironies of life on the West Coast: we're mocked as hippies even though we all have cars, people imagine us frolicking on the beach when it's actually 45 degrees and raining, and awards ceremonies, even though they're taking place in our time zone, are tape-delayed three hours for us, so we can finish our dinners. This does mean that we can look on the interwebs and see the winners before they even start, though, which is nice. Of course, it turns out that my predictions were pretty much wrong: I apparently had a brief moment of naïve optimism that the Grammys would suddenly start honoring what are truly the best songs of the year, and not whatever artist has the greatest name recognition amongst a bunch of 60-year-olds. Silly me. While I held out 50% of my hope that M.I.A. might pull out an upset in the record of the year category, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss won for "Please Read the Letter." Live-blogging the ceremony, the New York Times' Jon Caramanica had an amusing observation: perhaps, in 30 years, Animal Collective might arouse the same nostalgic feelings that Led Zeppelin do now, but somehow I doubt it. Krauss and Plant also picked up album of the year, over my pick of Radiohead—I guess my thinking was that Grammy voters would acknowledge both In Rainbows' sheer musical triumph and its status as an industry-changing event, but nope, they did not.