Mixed Media

Top Five: Music for a Heat Wave

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 3:38 PM EDT

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Since everybody's so into lists these days, I figured I'd bring back my Top Five mini-countdown of fun stuff 'n' things, with the added conveneince of an Imeem widget for your listening pleasure (see below). This week, as we in California roast under triple-digit temperatures, why not celebrate with some tunes that either take explicit pleasure in the heat, or at least sound really good on a warm night.

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Obama Encourages Students to Abandon Hopes of Becoming Great Rappers

| Wed Jul. 9, 2008 2:47 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamayousuck.jpgBecause, you know, hope is crazy audacious, but not that audacious. Obama was in Georgia yesterday (talk about audacious hopes), and in a speech to a town hall meeting in Powder Springs, gave the mostly African-American audience a message of "tough love." Speaking about the importance of staying in school, he seemingly aimed some comments directly at young black men:

"You can't find a job, unless you are a really, really good basketball player which most of you brothas are not. I know you think you are, but you're not," he said to murmurs and laughter in the crowd. "You are over-rated in your own mind. You will not play in the NBA. You are probably not that good a rapper. Maybe you are the next Lil' Wayne, but probably not, in which case you need to stay in school."

Film Review: Punk's Not Dead

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 5:37 PM EDT

sex-pistols-280x200.jpgThere are three confusing things about Susan Dynner's new fun-to-watch documentary Punk's Not Dead: the beginning, the middle, and the end. Here's why: Candid, funny, and insightful interview clips with the likes of Joe Strummer, Johnny Rotten, and Johnny Ramone, are great, but why, when punk is thriving, keeping on, and having fun, start off a documentary called "Punk's Not Dead" with three '70s rockers, two of whom have passed away?

NPR "Best CD" Poll Causes Panic

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 4:48 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nprpanic.jpgSorry about that headline but I'd like to remind everyone that I'm not a real writer. National Public Radio's All Songs Considered blog had an admirable goal: turn to the public radio, er, public, to see what albums they thought should be included on a "Best of 2008 So Far" list. (Some of us can't be bothered to ask anybody else what they think). Unfortunately, their poll seemed to get hijacked by internet-savvy emo kids:

Panic at the Disco put out a good record this year, and for a while they were in the lower end of the top 20. But less than a week before the polls closed, a banner went up on their MySpace page encouraging fans to vote. The website said, "they need your vote to help take the lead!" Within a few days, Panic at the Disco had almost 6,000 more votes than anyone else.

Hancock: Racist, a Metaphor for Racism, or Just Dumb?

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 3:52 PM EDT

mojo-photo-hancock.jpgWill Smith's new movie Hancock may have knocked little Wall-E off the box office top spot, pulling in $62 million in its first weekend, but some are finding evidence of an unsettling subtext behind the drunk-superhero shtick. Hip-hop web site SOHH.com recently posted a blog entry calling the film, well, racist:

It's just a coincidence that the first "superhero" depicted on the silver screen as a criminal, alcoholic, lazy, foul mouthed, not giving a you know what bum, living in a broken down trailer, who everybody hates including the people he saves, *just happens* to *be black.* Right? And, it's just a coincidence the one man who loves Hancock, has faith in him and truly cares about him as a person, is an idealistic white man who wants to save the entire planet. Let's call him the Anti-Bush. Oh and I can't forget his adorable little son is the only character, besides his loving father, that doesn't refer to Hancock as an a**hole… And, is it just a coincidence that Hancock only maintains his super powers if he stays away from a "beautiful" white woman who is *technically* his wife …

CD Boxed Sets Headed for Extinction?

| Tue Jul. 8, 2008 2:53 PM EDT

mojo-photo-boxedset.jpgWhile current releases by notable artists can still move some units, the CD boxed set may turn out to be a kind of global warming polar bear, feeling the pain of slipping physical music sales before the rest of the world. Reuters reports that fewer and fewer collections are being released, and quotes a music purchaser as saying "boxed-set sales have fallen off the cliff." While SoundScan doesn't have data specific to boxed sets, the last collection to be a hit was Nirvana's With the Lights Out, which sold 504,000 copies. While a record exec quoted in the article downplays the sales slide with a Zen-like "everything is relative," I can actually see a couple possible reasons for the downturn right there in paragraph two:

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Song of the Summer: Dizzee Rascal "Dance Wiv Me"

| Mon Jul. 7, 2008 4:10 PM EDT

While NY Magazine's Vulture blog has taken the reins on plowing through 2008's pop hits to find this summer's "Umbrella" (finally proclaiming, not without some justification, Brit singer Estelle's jaunty "American Boy" the winner), there's a new UK Number One this week that has more come-from-behind cred and propulsive, sweaty dancefloor grooviness. Like Estelle's hit, in which she joins forces with Kanye West (whose tongue-twisting, Britishism-mocking rap may be the best part of "Boy"), "Dance Wiv Me" is also an intriguing collaboration. In one corner, Dizzee Rascal, the 23-year-old rapper who has already proven his mettle as the greatest talent to emerge from the East London grime scene; in the other, Calvin Harris, whose '80s-retro productions and winking, cocky vocal style have made him the new, tougher Mylo. Throw in UK soul singer Chrome for a couple lines and you've got a track that UK chart watcher James Masterson calls "three and a half minutes of three men having a whale of a time on a record that is fun, accessible and yet amazingly true to the musical roots of all three participants at the same time." Hear hear.

YouTube: Reality Show Contestants Aren't Here to Make Friends

| Mon Jul. 7, 2008 2:28 PM EDT

Sometimes it's the simplest video cut-ups that are the most effective, and here's another one of those "wish I'd thought of it" clips. Via the blog FourFour, it's a montage of reality show competitors (see how many you can name, kids!) insisting they're not interested in attaining any level of chumminess with their fellow contestants. Sure, I knew I'd heard that statement a few times on TV, but not this much:

After a while, the continual repetition starts to seem more like a desperate effort at convincing themselves than us. But they're right, "this is not America's Next Top… uh, Best Friend" (my favorite moment of that whole clip). Therefore, consider me inspired. I've decided to adopt this attitude from now on, and so to all you sassy commenters (and Mother Jones employees who find my presence on your hallowed web pages offensive): I didn't come to the Riff to make friends! I came here to, uh, write about French techno, I guess. And win the million dollars. I get a million dollars for this, right?

Bruno Strikes Again: Baron Cohen Tricks Former Mossad Agent

| Mon Jul. 7, 2008 1:28 PM EDT

mojo-photo-bruno2.jpgSacha Baron Cohen is stepping things up in preparation for Brüno, the actor and comedian's followup to the $260 million-grossing Borat. As we've covered here before, the Brüno character's gay antics were hilarious on Da Ali G Show and apparently deeply disturbing to Wichita airport patrons more recently. But his latest prank has made headlines: former Mossad agent and political analyst Yossi Alpher has revealed that he and a Palestinian were duped by Brüno during an interview in Jerusalem two weeks ago. Highlights include a question confusing Hamas with hummus, a comparison of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the, er, Jennifer-Angelina conflict, and a good-hearted attempt to help unite "Jews and Hindus." Those first two are kind of iffy, chuckle-wise, but that last one totally kills me for some reason. Alpher wrote about the experience in a column for The Forward, and he insists that he knew something didn't smell right (the Jerusalem post actually said, "something wasn't kosher," but I just couldn't repeat that) throughout the interview, but stuck with it, clinging to the belief that Cohen's character was the "German rock star" producers had claimed him to be.

One can't help but wonder what one would do in such a situation. Of course we'd like to think we'd see right through it, but as Stanley Milgram's social psychology experiments back in the '60s proved, we do what we're told. Or, perhaps more optimistically, we try to be nice, even when faced with a lunatic with a crazy hairstyle who thinks our political conflicts are about chickpea paste. Either way, the Brüno movie is due out next spring.

Video: Fox News Altered Photos

| Thu Jul. 3, 2008 6:44 PM EDT

If you haven't already seen it, check out this Media Matters video of Fox News trying hard to uglify some NYT staffers:

Not that dark circles, coffee teeth, and weird hair are particularly rare among flocks of journalists, but c'mon, even Bill Murray's fake factcheckers are truthier than those photos.

Really makes you trust Fox's coverage of the war, right?