Mixed Media

Black (and Brown) Can Only Be Just So Beautiful

| Thu Mar. 26, 2009 1:06 PM EDT

Kim Kardashian got airbrushed lighter, smoother, and thinner for a photo shoot. Happens every day in Hollywood, I know. I don't know if she was in on it, but I know I wasn't when it happened to me.

A while back, my hairdresser asked me to be photographed for a black hair magazine. Trust me: we sisters LUV those things. I was beyond psyched. Until I saw the photos. I threw the magazine away in disgust, so I can't show it to you, but they'd airbrushed me at least five shades lighter and gave me gray eyes. Gray!

This was a totally black-run operation. They wanted my kinky hair (checks my twists on this page), but not my actual blackness. How pathetic.

When I first started doing TV, the makeup chicks (I've rarely had a non-white one) would cagily, carefully, ask me questions about what kind of foundation I wanted. "Whatever matches...?" Were these trick questions?

I figured there was something special about being made up for TV that a newbie like me just wasn't hip to. Finally, when they figured out that I wasn't going to go off, they told me that often blacks wanted to be made as light as possible. You'd be amazed at some of the names, but I ain't going there.


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Who's Afraid of The Big, Bad Zit?

| Thu Mar. 26, 2009 10:38 AM EDT
Residents of Nottinghamshire in the UK, apparently tormented by a scourge of young ruffians, have come up with a new addition to the cottage industry of anti-teenager technology. (See my earlier post about a New Zealand shopping mall's use of Barry Manilow's music to disperse unwanted teenage loiterers.) In this case, members of the Layton Burroughs Residents' Association have installed pink lights in three locations, which amplify the ugliness of pimples--a practice meant to embarrass teenagers and drive them away in search of softer, more sympathetic light.

From the BBC:
Tony Gelsthorpe, chairman of the Layton Burroughs Residents' Association, said the lights were important for the residents.
"We've had problems with underage drinking, drug dealing, anti-social behaviour and general intimidation.
"I was a little bit dubious about the pink lights at first but it's done the trick. We've got to think of our residents and we've got to live here at the end of the day.

Rihanna Gets a Gun

| Thu Mar. 26, 2009 9:53 AM EDT

Two of them actually. Tattoos. Click here to see them. Wonder what that means?

I hope she's staying silent just because she refuses to play the game and not because she's either ashamed or...who knows what's she's feeling.

But guns....? I hope it's a warning to any other man who ever puts his hands on her. But only Rihanna knows for sure. Maybe she meant it for people like me who won't get out of her business. Regardless, I'm impressed by her silence. I hope I'm right. I hope she's all right.

BTW, I spoke with some high school girls this weekend and yup, they blame Rihanna. Not for "making" him hit her but for taking him back. If she really has. They also introduced me to this.

 Ah youth. 

Friendly Reminder: Amadou & Mariam Album Out Today

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 4:38 PM EDT
National borders not only make traveling to my summer compound in Monaco incredibly bothersome (ahem!), they also really gum up CD release schedules. Especially here in the United States of Kiss My Ass, where great music from around the world often gets delayed for months, if not years. Either labels are scared that us slack-jawed yokels just won't get it, or I guess they need a couple extra months to form brilliant marketing strategies? Whatever, it makes me mad, since we do have the internet in America, and an internationally-savvy press, desperate to jump on the Next Big Thing, isn't going to wait for a release date 90 days away, so then anybody reading that review has to go searching around for a little Rapidshare RAR file. Who would be so thoughtless? Oh. Well, to make up for it, I'll act as your release-date alarm system: Malian duo Amadou & Mariam's Welcome to Mali is finally out today here in the Homeland. Hooray! That means you can give them money on iTunes and everything. Welcome to Mali was for a while the highest-ranking album of 2008 on Metacritic, although the site has since moved it to the 2009 list out of respect for our flag, I guess (where it's currently tied with Animal Collective for best-reviewed album of this year). Back in November (I know, I'm sorry) I gave the album an enthusiastic review, and I only like it more now; its mishmash of styles and traditions feels both guilelessly celebratory and deeply respectful, even moving. Plus I'm a sucker for that Afropop guitar sound. After the jump, the oddly affecting video for the Damon Albarn-produced "Sabali," a more electronic-based track than the rest of the album. You can also isten to the whole album at their web site.

NPR Kicks GMA's Butt

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 4:21 PM EDT
Speaking of NPR, those guys are going great gangbusters, ratings-wise. Bucking the trend experienced by just about every other media outlet, NPR has seen major listenership growth in the past eight years, reaching a record in 2008. While there are no nationwide radio ratings, NPR adds up local ratings for stations that carry its programming, and that total has grown 47 percent since 2000, with nearly 21 million people tuning in to their daily news programs every week. Broken out into specific programs, this means that NPR's "Morning Edition" has an average daily audience of 7.6 million, which the Washington Post says is "about 60 percent larger than the audience for 'Good Morning America' on ABC and about one-third larger than the audience for the 'Today' show on NBC." Who knew? Of course, as many of us in the non-profit world are aware, increased audience doesn't necessarily translate to increased revenue. The broadcaster was recently forced to lay off 7 percent of its news staff due to revenue shortfalls (primarily because of a pullback in corporate giving) and they're still about $8 million short for this year. At this risk of sparking flames of populist rage, I'd like to point out that NPR's entire annual operating budget is $160 million, which happens to look pretty similar to another recent number, something to do with bonuses? Flames... of populist rage... rising...

Car Stereo Theft a "Dying Crime"

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 3:54 PM EDT

Here's an interesting trend noticed by NPR's Morning Edition: the theft of car stereos, once a ubiquitous urban crime, may be going the way of train robberies:

It's a crime that plagued car owners throughout the 1990s. But according to the FBI's latest crime report, car stereo thefts have fallen by more than half over the past 15 years, from more than a million in 1994 to just over 400,000, even as car theft rates have remained high. Washington, D.C., police officer Mark Lakomec has seen a dramatic difference on the street. For 10 years, his job has been to spot stolen cars, which he does two to three times a night. In the 1990s, he said, every stolen car was missing the stereo. These days, he says thieves will take just about anything — umbrellas, sunglasses, even motor oil — but they leave the radio

NPR gives a variety of reasons for the change, primarily the fact that most cars now come with tolerable stereos, custom-fitted to the dashboard, thus discouraging theft. Moreover, these days cars don't have stereos, they have Entertainment Systems, with DVD players and flip-down screens and Bluetooth interfaces and soothing interactive voice commands, and how do you steal the Hal 9000 from a Prius? The article mentions a piece of equipment also destined to go the way of the dodo bird, the trunk CD changer. Remember those things? It was like carrying a little jukebox in your trunk, and it seems like just three years ago that cool people had them. Nowadays, even my dad's pickup has an 1/8 inch plug for my iPod so I can play him the new Coldplay song.

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Is America Ready for a Gay Idol?

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 12:16 PM EDT

In the world of reality TV, the buzziest personality is undoubtedly American Idol contestant Adam Lambert. But it's not his copious eyeliner, gothic black nail polish, or theatrical wails that have generated the most controversy—it's his sexuality. The media's biggest question about the man-kissing drag-performer: Should the singer come out on Idol?

The San Francisco Gay & Lesbian Examiner: "I want Lambert to announce his gayness and still win this year's competition. Is that too much to ask?"

The Huffington Post: "An out Idol contestant would win lot of gay hearts but might lose votes."

The Associated Content: "The purpose of the show is to be entertaining, not ideological."

The Advocate: "He’s not officially 'out,' but that’s not the point. If something as formerly monumental as a public person’s gayness can suddenly be seen as post-mattering, then that’s what really matters now."

Will viewers of family-friendly Idol continue to vote for a gifted performer they know is gay, regardless of their Prop. 8 voting and Milk-watching preferences? As the country speed-dials its way into the weeks ahead, we'll soon find out.

Why Do Women Get Their Asses Kicked? Feminism, Of Course

| Tue Mar. 24, 2009 7:32 AM EDT

OK, the tsunami of getting the kids up, cleansed, fed, and off to school has me all muddled. Is that why I can make neither heads nor tails of this NRO piece (courtesy of Salon's Broadsheet)?

If I understand this correctly (re: Chris Brown and Rihanna), the 'argument' is that feminism has deprived women of their supposed 'special status' in society (cuz pre-bra burning, women were never brutalized), such that men don't know how to behave (i.e. maybe hitting women is ok?)

According to Kathryn Jean Lopez, the editor of NRO, "There's something off when so many people blame the victim, not the aggressor."

Hmmm. Might that 'something' be sexism? As Theodoric of York would conclude: Naaaaah.

If you want to understand how people who have sold their souls to a particular way of making a living live with themselves, read those links.

Is the Galactica Finale Bad News for Lost?

| Mon Mar. 23, 2009 2:39 PM EDT
I'll admit I've never been as much of a Battlestar Galactica fanatic as some people, even though I'm enough of a sucker for apocalyptic sci-fi that I stood in an opening-night line to see The Core. But even that skepticism wasn't enough to prepare me for the pile of stinking silliness that was the show's final episode on Friday night. Turns out the mystery song was a Google Map to the really real Earth, and God was directing them there the whole time through magic angels, or maybe demons, but whatever, their work here is done so they're gonna go "poof" and let you guys go about mating with the natives and making more people who can eventually make more robots. And, scene. Questions that had seemed vital, propulsive forces to the show's dramatic arc—What's the deal with reincarnated Starbuck? Who are the secret Cylons and why are they there? How does this world intersect with present-day Earth?—were tossed aside with quick "God did it" explanations or comically deadpan titles: "150,000 years later." Did the show bite off more than it could chew, or just crumple in the face of overwhelming expectations? And what could it mean for everybody's other favorite sci-fi ensemble mystery?

"The Fempire:" Female Screenwriters Give Hollywood a Run For Its Money

| Mon Mar. 23, 2009 1:58 PM EDT

Lotsa good feminist stuff on the wires today, like these four under-30 screenwriters kicking ass in Hollywood and watching each other's backs. Again, the Times

"Mr. Spielberg will call her and she'll be afraid to answer the phone," Ms. Scafaria said of Ms. Cody. "I'll be like, 'Answer the phone!' "
Ms. Cody said: "I'll think it's all over. I’m a pessimist."
Ms. Scafaria said, "He’ll be calling to praise her."
Ms. Cody won an Oscar for her screenplay for "Juno." Ms. Scafaria is the screenwriter for "Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist." ...
With their pals Dana Fox, who wrote "What Happens in Vegas," and Liz Meriwether, a playwright-turned-screenwriter, they make up a Hollywood powerhouse writing posse who call themselves "The Fempire."
You can find them at work in their Laurel Canyon homes in their pajamas, or sitting next to one another at laptop-friendly restaurants. To see them gathered amid the dinosaur topiary around Ms. Fox's swimming pool with their dogs (they all have dogs) is to see four distinct styles of glamour that bear little resemblance to traditional images of behind-the-scenes talent. Whenever one of them has a movie opening, they all rent a white limousine and go from theater to theater to watch the first audiences react...
I especially love the way they fly around the country supporting each other at premieres and, most importantly, giving each other permission to just fracking enjoy their success. To own it, something too many of us have a hard time with:
"This was never truer than during the hoopla surrounding "Juno," Ms. Cody’s story of a pregnant teenager who decides to have her baby and give it up for adoption. The other women lent or bought outfits for Ms. Cody, but that was the least of it.
"They supported me through the wildest time in my career," Ms. Cody said. "They helped me be excited for things when I was kind of shellshocked. They were the ones who had to literally take me aside at the 'Juno' premiere and say: 'This is fun. You will never forget this. Please enjoy yourself.'"

From the mouths of babes.