Mixed Media

Quarterlife: Angst 2.0

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 4:30 PM PST

Sure, My So-Called Life was cheesy, but as a 14-year-old, I bought the sixteenth best cult show ever hook line and sinker. I swooned over dreamy Jordan Catalano. Rayanne "I Wear My Slip on the Outside" Graff was my grunge fashion inspiration. When Angela Chase observed, "My parents keep asking how school was. It's like saying, 'How was that drive-by shooting?' You don't care how it was, you're lucky to get out alive," I thought, How true.

So when I heard that the new web series Quarterlife was produced by MSCL masterminds Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, I hoped it would be just like old times. The problem was, it is.

The premise of the show is familiar enough TV territory: Twentysomethings share house, drama, shenanigans (see Three's Company, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, for starters). In each 8-minute episode, the gang does all the things that we've expected modern singles to do ever since, well, Singles: They flop onto their unmade beds. They leave empty beer bottles around their kitchens. They wonder whether to move in with their girlfriends and boyfriends.

The bummer is this:

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Agnostics for Jesus: Why My Kids Won't Be Seeing The Golden Compass. Yet.

| Sun Nov. 18, 2007 2:21 AM PST

I usually speed-delete emails from particular relatives of mine who are still steeped in urban legends (women be warned: there's a rapist under your car!) and the Southern Baptist beliefs we were raised in, with all their fire, brimstone, and intolerance for non-believers. I'm so over God that their emails bore, rather than infuriate, me by now. For some reason, though, I opened this one and learned that the previews I'd been seeing for the big budget "fantasy/quest" movie The Golden Compass were really for a movie about kids killing a senile God so "everyone can do as they please." I'd planned for months to take them when it opened next month but not now. No way this apostate wants her kids seeing that.

Unbeknownst to me, British author and atheist Phillip Pullman wrote a best-selling trilogy of books, His Dark Materials, explicitly in response to the religiosity of The Chronicles of Narnia," in which God is an imposter, angels are sexually ambiguous and the Church kidnaps, tortures and assassinates to achieve its goals, one of which is stealing children's souls." In the face of the usual backlash, the movie has been toned down and the books' anti-religiosity beclouded and muffled into mere spectacle. Reasonably fearing that uninformed parents will enjoy the bowdlerized movie, buy their unsuspecting children the books upon which it was based, and infect their own young with atheism, the believers are in an uproar. Leaving aside the entirely valid notion of why it's ok for the religious to try to convert others but not the other way around, unless you're consciously raising your kids to be atheists or agnostics, why put them through the emotional anguish of dissing, let alone killing, God? Today's kids have enough on their plates what with roofie-laced toys from China and the sky-high divorce rate. Why give them Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny but give them the straight skinny on God?

RZA Draws His Wu-Tang Sword in Movie Soundtracks

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 7:20 PM PST

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The RZA is a genius at putting music to fight scenes, and even better at putting the sounds of fight scenes to music. To complement this Wired interview with Bobby Digital himself, here's a Riff rundown of the Wu-Tang Clan co-founder's best cinematic work.

1. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
This Jim Jarmusch mob/samurai drama is a hybrid of Japanese, African American and Italian American cultures. Who better to compose the soundtrack than the man who first synthesized East Asian martial arts culture and New York hip-hop on the Clan's 1993 debut, Enter The Wu-Tang? RZA sets an eerie tone for the movie, with dark and heavy bass lines and samples that propel the movie's narrative forward. During fight scenes, the mellow music matches Ghost Dog's cool, thoughtful demeanor. Works as a stand-alone album as well as a soundtrack.

More Newspaper Woes

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 6:33 PM PST

USA Today, the largest U.S. newspaper by circulation and Gannett Co.'s flagship publication, announced this week its plan to cut 45 newsroom jobs, or about 9 percent of the editorial staff, because of declining revenue.

And, there's more bad news. The Denver-based MediaNews Group, which operates Detroit's two daily newspapers, announced last month that it would offer buyout packages to employees with a goal of cutting 110 positions. Houston Chronicle honchos announced at the end of October plans to cut about 5 percent of the paper's work force through layoffs and the elimination of open positions. Check here for a Mother Jones report that explains what's really breaking America's newspapers.

Help Save Africa With a Subpar Madonna Cover Album

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 1:43 PM PST

The second I hit play on Through the Wilderness, a Madonna tribute CD, I was mad at it. It starts off sounding like an Allman Brothers album, and though I love the Allman Brothers, and the first track, a Jonathan Wilson rendition, has some pretty chord changes, La Isla Bonita was not meant to sound long-form jam-band style with tambourines. Tambourines! I have to admit, I was instantly ready for hating.

But soon came the Golden Animals' "Beautiful Stranger Blues," which is fun and ho-down appropriate—truly the band's own incarnation—and a lovelier-than-the-original "Live to Tell" (loveliness, after all, is hardly Madonna's strong point) by the Winter Flowers. "Hung Up" (the Tyde) and "Oh Father" (Giant Drag) are pretty good, and Alexandra Hope's acoustic "Lucky Star" is something you'd put on a lovey mixed CD, an improvement over the Material Girl's version.

Still. Though some of these interpretations are interesting or even really likeable, on the whole the collection lacks a quality and cohesiveness, which means I wouldn't want to listen all the way through it again. After all, people listen to Madonna because her pop is fun, not for her stunning lyrics or compositions, and that fun isn't overall adequately captured or re-created here. The album is a charitable endeavor—25 percent of profits go to raisingmalawi.org—but if you really want to support the cause, I'd suggest donating straight to the website.

Party Ben's European Tour Update #1: Poland

| Fri Nov. 16, 2007 6:32 AM PST

mojo-photo-pbpolskie.JPGGreetings from the land of Pierogi and pope-worship, as I'm ramping up the first leg of my amusing little European DJ tour here in Poland. It's my first time here, and my impressions are colored (perhaps unfairly) by the years I lived in Russia: the language, culture and even the look of the place is both oddly familiar and totally weird. Poland seems to have had a head start on capitalist enterprise, and the city is full of fancy restaurants, nice hotels and brightly-lit shops, but the Stalinist "Palac Kultury i Nauki" still towers over the city and rickety old tramways share the rails with fancy new models. But every time I forget I'm in the Eastern Bloc, someone will swear using an all-too-familiar elaborate Slavic-rooted verb construction, and I'll remember: this ain't Vegas.

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L.A. Punk Has a Sense of Humor, Too

| Thu Nov. 15, 2007 4:32 PM PST
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The New Yorker has a great piece this week about how punk rock is again flourishing in Los Angeles, which in the early 80s was home base for a slew of Southern California's influential punk and hardcore bands like Black Flag, X, and the Weirdos.

Sasha Frere-Jones describes a vibrant new scene that resides primarily in a small, dingy, downtown Los Angeles space called The Smell, where a close-knit group of friends hang out, play punk-influenced music, make T-shirts, and release one another's records. I know the space well. While living in L.A. in the early 2000s, I saw a handful of shows there, including some extremely noisy and exciting performances by Nels Cline, before he joined the ranks of Wilco.

But to truly expose L.A.'s current punk scene, I'd be remiss if we didn't also mention an equally important venue in the Highland Park area (sort of between Hollywood and Pasadena) called Mr. T's Bowl, a former bowling alley that is now home to a funny, dorky, and quirky L.A. punk contingent.

What is 'Sexy,' Anyway?

| Thu Nov. 15, 2007 12:21 PM PST
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Ira Glass' voice? Jeffrey Wright's widow's peak? And Owen Wilson's nose? I would argue that none of none of those features are inherently sexy, But the folks over at Salon, who have just released their second annual list of the sexiest men alive, disagree.

Salon's list is surely a welcome reprieve from those annoying sexy lists put out by the likes of People, FHM magazine, and who knows who else. Why? Because it's full of random choices like the cartoon character Strong Bad, novelist Javier Marías, and Cate Blanchett in her portrayal of Bob Dylan, and there are no signs of the likes of Justin Timberlake or Matt Damon anywhere on the list. Hey, there's nothing wrong with being sexy, but who's to say, as Salon demonstrates, that lantern jaws, bulging biceps, and Seacrest hair are prerequisites? So who's got nominees for a more creative, sexiest female alive list?

Metal/Reggae: Music Designed to Confuse You

| Wed Nov. 14, 2007 11:15 PM PST
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I'm going out on limb here and guessing that few Mother Jones readers are big fans of heavy metal, but I'm not going to let that stop me from recommending a listen to Dub Trio's newest release, Another Sound is Dying, put out by Ipecac Recordings.

Ipecac was created by Mike Patton, the lead singer of the late-80s, early-90s rock band Faith No More, which scored the big MTV hit, "Epic."

Dub Trio mixes reggae with metal, which might sound like a pretty dumb idea, But this New York City-based group pulls it off, in part because this band has talent. They've recorded with hip-hop artists like 50 Cent, Mos Def, Common, the Fugees, Tupac (RIP), and Matisyahu, and toured with Gogol Bordello, Clutch and Helmet. This definitely isn't music to dance to, but it's a risky hybrid of two genres on the opposite end of the musical spectrum; which is why I like it.

Hip Hop Celebrates Itself This Month

| Wed Nov. 14, 2007 10:39 PM PST

I had no idea, but apparently November is Hip Hop History Month, according to hip hop event organizers at Hip Hop Elements and hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa's outreach organization Universal Zulu Nation.

If you're too busy to go out and support local hip hop performers (not a bad way to show the love) this month, get a crash course from some recent coverage of hip hop culture: The San Francisco Chronicle has a good coverage of an independent hip hop collective in Oakland, Mother Jones gives a new take on hip hop as a new civil rights movement, hip-hop historian Davey D offers up a history of hip hop, and VH1 gives top honors for hip hop in 2007.