Mixed Media

Arthur C. Clarke Dies at 90

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 8:06 PM EDT

mojo-photo-2001.jpgScience fiction pioneer Arthur C. Clarke has died at age 90 in Sri Lanka, where he had lived since 1956. Clarke wrote the short story on which Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey was based; his accompanying novel was actually completed after the film. In one of the most famous examples of science fiction becoming science fact, Clarke was the main proponent of the concept of geostationary satellites being used for communications (although whether he was the first to come up with the idea is apparently in doubt).

For an author so clearly interested in "hard" science (and who famously dismissed UFO enthusiasts as signs of how rare intelligent life is on Earth) there is a surprising level of mysticism in Clarke's work, something evidenced by the third of his "three laws" governing prediction: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Clarke's approach to the mystical (and mystifying) was one of both awe and humility, and while it's Philip K. Dick's dystopian paranoia that seems to best reflect our current reality, Clarke's visions of the future are both reassuringly optimistic and comfortable with the universe's mysteries.

Photo used under a creative commons license from Flickr user Travelin Librarian.

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Jack White Thumbs Nose at Music Critics

| Tue Mar. 18, 2008 7:15 PM EDT

mojo-photo-raconteurs2.jpgWell, I suppose it's our own fault. In a move that echoes Radiohead's surprise announcement of an impending album last fall, Jack White's wear-whatever-colors-we-want band the Raconteurs have just announced via their website that they'll release a new album, Consolers of the Lonely, next Tuesday on all formats. But unlike Radiohead, Jack White seems to be a little bitter about, ulp, music critics who jump the gun by reviewing promotional releases or leaks:

We wanted to get this record to fans, the press, radio, etc., all at the EXACT SAME TIME so that no one has an upper hand on anyone else regarding it's availability, reception or perception… the Raconteurs would rather this release not be defined by it's first weeks sales, pre-release promotion, or by someone defining it FOR YOU before you get to hear it.

Wow, and all-caps, even. That's internet for shouting!

After the jump: critics, can't live with 'em, can't crush their heads in vices.

New (Leaked) Music: The Breeders - Mountain Battles

| Mon Mar. 17, 2008 9:00 PM EDT

mojo-photo-breedersmb.jpgNobody disputes the greatness of the Pixies, but the Breeders are, it must be said, underappreciated. Their first album, 1990's Pod, is an innovative and listenable gem, proving Kim Deal had a unique songwriting style, more melodic and lighthearted than the Pixies. This is even more evident on the title track from their 1992 EP Safari, a hypnotic, almost Krautrock-y number more in tune with their UK contemporaries. Of course, 1993's Last Splash was the commercial breakthrough, but remember what an unlikely hit "Cannonball" was: a bendy guitar melody that evoked My Bloody Valentine, and winking vocals that seemed like an in joke. Of course, the Breeders' story gets complicated after that, seeming to mirror the general state of alternative rock as the '90s progressed: drug problems, side projects, aborted attempts at reconvening. A reconfigured Breeders released Title TK in 2002: a far less ambitious work, not without its charms, but very different from classic Breeders. Could the worldwide hysteria for the Pixies reunion have rubbed off on Kim a little, giving the new album some of the old playful confidence?

SXSW Dispatch: The Show Must Stop

| Sun Mar. 16, 2008 8:55 PM EDT

strangers.jpgI'm coming back from SXSW sleep-deprived and my ears still ringing. My final hours in Austin went a little something like this:

SXSW Dispatch: That's Ludacris, Silly!

| Sun Mar. 16, 2008 4:36 AM EDT

What's the problem with having 1,780 bands performing every night on 81 stages throughout the downtown Austin area? With the barrage of nonstop music being played everywhere you turn, it's possible to walk right by an outdoor perfomance tent where Ludacris is performing and not even know it. He could have been Jesus Christ delivering a Sermon on the Mount #2, and I would have been completely oblivious, had I not stopped and asked a SXSW volunteer, "Uhh, who is that on the mic?"

Day Three at SXSW included enough walking to justify a new pair of shoes, hot enough temperatures to justify wearing shorts, and a late-teens event volunteer washing down her ice cream cone with a can of Miller Lite and telling me, "Well that's Ludacris, silly!"

SXSW Dispatch: Don't Talk to Me About Music, Dammit

| Sun Mar. 16, 2008 1:18 AM EDT

nick-urata.jpgSo here's the catch about covering the music portion of SXSW: after a day or two of playing as many as four sets a day and doing back-to-back interviews, musicians are tired of playing music, and even more tired of talking about it. Sometimes they're hung over, or tired, hungry, annoyed, grouchy, or just a little disinterested. Can't say I blame them; although they knew what they were getting into when they showed up, no?

The up-side is that when you tell someone you're interviewing them for Mother Jones, suddenly their face lights up and they say screw jabbering about music, let's talk politics. It's happened consistently while here in Austin. So, here's a brief glimpse at what's on the minds of musicians at SXSW in 2008:

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SXSW Dispatch: Lyrics Born is Funky McFunkerson

| Sat Mar. 15, 2008 8:46 PM EDT

lyrics-born.jpgI haven't slept much so far at SXSW—or, "South By," if you're nasty. There is just an ungodly amount of things to see, hear, and do here. It's over-saturating even my high tolerance for over-stimulus. And I mean that in the best possible way.

So by the end of Day 1 here, I learned that the key to success is to chill. Trying to run around and do everything just ain't gonna happen. Having a plan with room for deviation is the way to go. With that newfound wisdom, Day 2 here was a good one:

SXSW Dispatch: Blog Talk is Boring Talk

| Sat Mar. 15, 2008 4:38 AM EDT

I decided today that blog talk—that is to say, discussion of the importance, relevance, or social meaning of the blog—is totally boring, and time would be better spent knitting sweaters or baking cookies.

Friday Top Five: '80s-Style Remixes, Songs About Alderan, French Techno

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 6:05 PM EDT

mojo-photo-top50314.jpg

1. The Ting Tings – "Great DJ" (Calvin Harris Remix) (mp3 via Check the Availability)
While the British duo's recent SF live show was enjoyable enough, it was also a bit disconcerting due to the prominence of the backing tape. But this remix by an '80s-loving producer turns "Great DJ" into an epic floorfiller, without a care in the world.

2. James Combs – "Barely Contained" (buy on iTunes)
LA singer-songwriter Combs balances a tense, PJ Harvey-like arrangement with a dreamlike whisperiness on this swaying, triple-time track. It's great, but one wonders, is it a conflict of interest when a KCRW producer gets KCRW's "Today's Top Tune"?

3. Neon Neon – "I Told Her on Alderan" (mp3 via Pop Tarts Suck Toasted)
Who knew that when you put together a Super Furry Animal and Boom Bip, they'd sound like the Cars and sing about Star Wars. Actually, that would have been as good a guess as any.

After the jump, yes it offends me, and French techno that sounds like American hip-hop!

"Kristen" Is a Blameworthy Slut? Yawn.

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

Today in a Salon video post, Farhad Manjoo calls the MySpace dimension of the Eliot Spitzer scandal "interesting and kind of fascinating and cool."

Really? I'm not so sure MySpace makes this scandal any different than the old ones. At the end of the day, the media is doing exactly what they always do: backhandedly blaming the object of a politician's lust for bringing about his downfall with her sluttiness.

At the risk of alienating my friends in the Facebook Generation, here's the thing: I could give a crap about the "true identity" (if that's what a MySpace page is) of the young woman whom Eliot Spitzer paid for sex, let alone the fact that she once sang "Respect" in the shower at her boyfriend's house.

And now, as Feministing points out, we're also supposed to believe that she's into it. That Dupre is under the impression that this turn of events is going to make her into the superstar she's always wanted to be.

Simmer down, Kiera, commenters will undoubtedly say. Who wouldn't want to know about the sordid details of an admittedly beautiful woman involved in a high-class prostitution ring? Well, I think it's more complicated—and insidious—than that.

When I read the New York Times piece about Dupre, my first thought was, she sounds totally annoying. I found myself blaming her for her irritating narcissism ("I am all about my music and my music is all about me. It flows from what I've been through, what I've seen and how I feel"), and her delusions of grandeur. This girl sounds insufferable, I thought.

And all of a sudden I had forgotten a key point: Dupre didn't do anything wrong. Spitzer did.