Mixed Media

Film: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans

| Tue Feb. 17, 2009 8:36 PM EST

When people think of New Orleans, they think of the French Quarter, the booze and loud-mouthed shenanigans of Bourbon Street, the balconies and art galleries of Royal Street, the brilliant simplicity of St. Louis cathedral and the statue of Andrew Jackson before it. And, of course, Hurricane Katrina. People don't think about the Tremé.

This month, PBS airs Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans. The film, by Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie and produced by Wynton Marsalis and Stanley Nelson, tells the story of the historically black neighborhood, a story that needs telling: In New Orleans, the civil rights movement went down a little different. In Louisiana, slaves could earn money to buy their freedom. They moved into the Tremé and established the oldest black neighborhood in the United States, where they created the first African American daily newspaper, L'Union, and worked for racial equality. A century before Rosa Parks, African Americans in the Tremé sat where they liked and even commandeered streetcars if whites wouldn't allow them a seat. After the Civil War they made enormous gains toward equality—desegregating schools, voting in record numbers, and electing a black governor.

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Facebook's Privacy Faceoff

| Tue Feb. 17, 2009 8:32 PM EST

What are you doing right now?

If you're Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, your answer is probably "backtracking." That's because many of Facebook's 175 million users, who are encouraged to answer that same question whenever they log in, have been in an uproar over how Facebook might use their replies, and any other information they post on the site. Two weeks ago, Facebook altered its privacy policy, deleting a provision that said users could remove their content from the site at any time, at which point its license would expire. Facebook's decision to retain the rights to users' posts even after they're deleted fanned fears that any leak, indiscretion, or misstatement on the popular social networking site could be immutable. The protests were so fierce that Zuckerberg reversed himself this morning, reverting to Facebook's old privacy policy until the site resolves how information posted on the site is controlled. 

"This is one more way one can be 'screwed,'" Facebook user Misty Rain wrote Tuesday on the wall of the new group, Facebook Privacy, one of several groups formed on the site to protest the change. She described the ordeal of trying to get Facebook to remove photos that had been taken from her site and used in "slanderous ways" by stalkers. "I wonder how old markie [Mark Zuckerberg] would like it if someone took his picture, altered it very slightly and posted it on extremely questionable groups," she went on. "Perhaps it is only those who can shit money who will be protected."

Kanye West Can't Stop Saying "Gay"

| Tue Feb. 17, 2009 8:11 PM EST

I love you Kanye, but jeez, you're turning into one of those well-meaning types who overdo it and embarrass us all. The rapper/musician/fashion designer gave an extensive interview with Details magazine recently in which he proposed taking back the word "gay" from its negative connotations, as in, "that's so gay." Okay; so far, so good, right? Well, then he kept talking:

In the past two, three years, all the gay people I've encountered have been, like, really, really, extremely dope. Y'know, I haven't, like, gone to a gay bar, nor do I ever plan to. But where I would talk to a gay person--the conversation would be mostly around, like, art or design--it'd be really dope. From a design standpoint, kids'll say, 'Dude, those pants are gay.' But if it's, like, good, good, good fashion-level, design-level stuff, where it's on a higher level than the average commercial design stuff, it's, like, gay people that do that. I think that should be said as a compliment. Like, 'Dude, that's so good it's almost . . . gay.'

So, gay people are dope, but you wouldn't go to a gay bar ever in your life, but talking to them is fun, but as long as it's about color combinations and fabric choices? Sigh. Well, at least he's doing better than 50 Cent, who called Kanye "tri-sexual" in an interview with MTV News, although he seemed reassured about West's sexuality because he knows somebody who "knows a girl who knows Kanye." Glad that's settled.

538's Nate Silver Predicts the Oscars

| Mon Feb. 16, 2009 7:27 PM EST
If you thought you had post-election letdown syndrome, with the endless hours of TV punditry and blog pontification that once filled your days and nights suddenly evaporating, imagine what Nate Silver feels like. His labor-intensive web site, fivethirtyeight.com, rocketed to prominence last year as the most reliable and thorough electoral predictor around, but after the election, what does he have to post about? Well, it turns out his geeky brilliance can be used to predict other things as well, including the lame old Oscars, heading to your TV this Sunday. Silver fed the history of Oscar winners into his supercomputer for New York magazine, and the results included both the obvious and the somewhat surprising.

M.I.A. Has Baby Boy, Gets Called Terrorist

| Sat Feb. 14, 2009 7:41 PM EST

What a week. Singer M.I.A. has posted the news to her MySpace blog, as one does: she gave birth to a healthy baby boy on Wednesday, and he is apparently "the most amzing [sic] thing ever on this planet." Apparently my little joke about her giving birth on the Grammys last Sunday night wasn't far off, as the singer said in her own all-caps words:


Nothing like terrible lip-synching to induce labor. Anyway, they haven't told us a name, but congratulations to M.I.A. and babydaddy (can I say that?) Ben Brewer Bronfman, frontman for NYC combo The Exit; hopefully this will take their minds off the weird article in Tuesday's New York Times, which used the obligatory "some say" to accuse M.I.A. of being "an apologist for the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels fighting in the country's long-running civil war." The article didn't really have any new reporting other than quotes alleging she supports "perhaps the most ruthless terrorist outfit in the world," and the Times itself calling her opinions a bit out there:

New "Red Hot" Comp Gets Indie

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 5:09 PM EST

Dark Was the NightIn its many years of putting together albums to raise money for AIDS relief, the Red Hot organization has created some of the most memorable compilations of recent times. Their first effort, 1989's Red Hot & Blue, featuring contemporary artists covering Cole Porter, connected pop music past and present in a way that seems like standard practice now, but was eye-opening then. Later, 1993's No Alternative captured the exuberance and creative diversity of a moment, just before Kurt Cobain committed suicide, when it felt like some grungy kids with guitars might change the world. Since then, Red Hot CDs have celebrated samba, country, dance, and bossa nova (and raised a load of cash in the fight against AIDS), but their latest compilation may go down in history as capturing another moment. Dark Was the Night  features just about every indie band idolized by the Pitchfork generation: Arcade Fire, The National, Feist, Conor Oberst, Yo La Tengo, Cat Power, Blonde Redhead, Bon Iver and Sharon Jones all contributed exclusive tracks to the compilation, along with over 20 others, and it's quite a collection. Thankfully, Red Hot has kept up with the times and made it easy to get a free internet taste. You can listen to a different song every day at their MySpace page, or you can go to their web site and make your own little blog widget with any three tracks. Check out mine after the jump.

Dark Was the Night is out Tuesday, February 17.

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World Press Photo winners announced

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 2:09 PM EST
The World Press Photo winners were announced today! One of the most prestigious photojournalism awards, this year's top prize went to Anthony Suau, for his photograph of an armed police officer moving through a foreclosed house. He shot the photo in March 2008 for Time.

Anthony Suau for TimeAnthony Suau for Time

Finally, Candy Makers Market Directly to Women With Food Issues

| Fri Feb. 13, 2009 1:01 PM EST
The hot pink press packet that arrived at the office promised that "Your boyfriend doesn't need to know." What doesn't your boyfriend need to know? Well, that you eat chocolate, of course. That's between you and your "chocolate finger," as the marketing copy termed the two Twix-like bars being rolled out in the US by Mars under the name "Fling." (The candy's been out in Australia since 2007.)

In addition to tapping into the under-utilized market of paranoid heterosexual women whose eating habits are monitored by their boyfriends (it's a well-documented fact that lesbians hate candy), Mars has shrewdly incorporated sparkles into an advertising campaign that relies heavily on women's love for the color pink. (Fling's website is a tidal wave of the color, punctuated with silhouettes of short-skirted, high-heeled Fling aficionados, one of whom appears to have a handbag falling right out of her vagina.) While it's a given that women are more likely to buy things when they are pink, such as tools and cars, sparkles are oft ignored. It's not just Fling's website that sparkles, but the bar itself. "The shimmer," reads the FAQ on Fling's website, "is actually a [sic] FDA approved mineral called Mica, that shimmers and is used occasionally by specialty chocolatiers to add a unique and attractive sparkle to gourmet chocolate." Popularly known as Vitamin S (for Sparkle), Mica is also used in makeup, and in toothpaste, where it acts as a mild abrasive that helps whiten teeth. Yum!

Predictably, one of the hot selling points for the Fling bar is that "at under 85 calories per finger, it's slim, but not skinny. Indulgent but not greedy. Naughty but nice." In other words, the candy perfectly straddles the contradictions of the angel/whore dilemma in a way its intended female consumers never will. The bars were even promoted in Australia with a 2007 television commercial in which a princess bids a morning adieu to her prince in what can only be read as a post-one-night-stand kiss-off, before shutting the door and gobbling up a Fling. "Forever is overrated," warbles a flock of cartoon birds. While it's tempting to embrace the commercial as a sign of society's acceptance of sexually empowered women, it's even more tempting to wonder why the only reason one ever sees a woman on-screen go unpunished for her libidinous ways is when someone is trying to sell women something. The commercial hasn't been attached to any of the US marketing, but the ad copy is just as suggestive. The PR packages that went out to media outlets contained sheer T-shirts that read "Try It In Public," equating the act of women consuming sweets in front of other people with being as taboo as committing sex acts in front of them. Couple this with the oppressive pinkness of the campaign, and one is left wondering when marketers will figure out that in order to make women buy things, they do not have to, literally, shove sparkles down their throats.

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.

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

| 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.