Mixed Media

Interview: "Garfield Minus Garfield" Creator Dan Walsh

| Fri Jul. 25, 2008 5:50 PM EDT

mojo-photo-gmgstrip.jpgAs we entered the second half of 2008, I thought I'd take a look at Riff page view statistics for the year, just to see what online Mother Jones readers have been clicking on around this fun little blog. And what, dear Riffers, do you think was the number one post of the first six months of 2008? A post mocking George W.'s misinterpretation of a painting? A cynical look at coverage of the Iowa primaries? Abstinence pants? No, no and no. Our most-viewed post was my meditation on the subtext of late-capitalist anxiety in the comic "remix" Garfield Minus Garfield. Riff readers are stoned!

It turns out I was onto something: in the months since the piece's appearance on the Riff, "G-G" has been covered in The New York Times, Time Magazine, and The Washington Post; the latter tracked down original Garfield creator Jim Davis, who called the work "an inspired thing to do." So, who's behind this now-phenomenally-popular bit of inspired photoshoppery? Meet 32-year-old Irishman Dan Walsh, who turns out to be a really nice guy. He answered a few questions via e-mail about the strip.

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New Music From Around the Blogs: Pierre de Reeder, Villa Diamante, The Game, Sam Sparro

| Fri Jul. 25, 2008 5:21 PM EDT

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Hey, do you like the New Pornographers, but have you always felt like there were just too many people involved? Well now you can get cozy with bassist Pierre de Reeder, who has a new album of acoustic tracks out August 12. He's kind of like a Canadian Jose Gonzalez. RCRD LBL has an mp3 of "The Long Conversation," which they say is helping them "chill and forget our aching hangover." You too?

I went out to local club Mezzanine to catch some of the hot new Argentinian DJs of Club Zizek fame last night, and that shuffly cumbia rhythm is still shimmying around my brain. If you're intrigued but put off by confusing foreign-language lyrics, check out a mashup over at the Muy Bastard blog by Zizek DJ Villa Diamante, combining young rapper Lil Mama with a minor-key cumbia backing track.

After the jump: a rapper gets existential, and a soul singer gets remixed to shreds

Compare and Contrast: McCain Has His Own Awesome Poster

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 9:50 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mccainpostersm.jpgWe here in the media elite sure like our liberal posters, since they reference things we studied in school and that makes us feel smart. But in the interest of equal time, let's take a look at some design work from the other side: via Marc Ambinder's blog at TheAtlantic.com, it's a John McCain campaign poster (right). Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. First of all, I'd say that my mom might have designed this on her rickety old PC, since it appears to use some sort of free PosterMaker software with Plug-In Faux Marble Borders, but the last 7 years have turned even my central Nebraska parents into screaming liberals, so I doubt she'd stoop so low. In the center, we have, well, The Ghost of John McCain, and this should be a lesson to graphic designers: go easy on the see-through filters on the over-70 set. What is cool is that apparently airplanes can fly out of McCain's head. He just thinks, "I'd like to launch some jets," and kafwoop, there they go, from his brain. Now, "Peace is Born of Wisdom" looks like a slogan from one of those Latter-Day Saints TV ads, a demographic that I understand he wants to appeal to, but then why abandon this classic look for a nonsensical reddish-white-and-blue banner featuring a generic "McCain 08" in a totally different sans-serif font? Argh! It's not even good at being bad!!! After the jump, see a larger-size version of the poster, and my theory about how the designer came up with it.

Russian Lawmakers Draft Bill to Ban Emo, Immediately Turning Everyone Emo

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

mojo-photo-russianemo.jpgIn a development that may qualify for Ironic Event of the Century, the saddest country on earth is looking into banning expressions of sadness. The Moscow Times reports that the Russian Duma is considering legislation that would regulate emo-themed websites and ban the neo-gothic dress and hair styles typical of the scene from schools and government buildings. The legislators claim that emo culture is "negative" and encourages anti-social behavior, to which a million My Chemical Romance fans say "duh," and also may lead to depression and suicide, to which I say, "not nearly as often as you'd like." Awww, sorry, too soon?

In case you're wondering what the hell emo even is these days, the proposed bill helps define it:

The Dust Off: The House That Crack Built

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 4:57 PM EDT

mojo-photo-htcb.jpgBack in the 90s, author Clark Taylor rewrote a nursery rhyme to tell the story of the illegal drug industry. One of those books with the dreaded tagline "valuable resource," The House That Crack Built is a fascinating artifact of the 1990s drug war.

Recent children's books about drugs are, well, somewhat less daring in their treatment of the issue.

The House That Crack Built is, of course, an artifact of a different period of time. But given that crack is still building many mansions all over the world, it's well worth a read for context.

—Daniel Luzer

Little Britain to Set Its Sights on America

| Thu Jul. 24, 2008 4:01 PM EDT

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If you've caught the comedy show Little Britain on BBC America, you'd be forgiven for being a little bit confused. While the format is good old sketch comedy, the sketches are performed by a duo, David Walliams and Matt Lucas, often in extraordinarily elaborate costumes and makeup. The bits are somewhat brief and all feature recurring characters, so it might be a little tough to catch up to them--the guy in the wheelchair can actually walk!--but once you do, the show can achieve absolute face-slapping hilarity with even the most subtle of twists, as each sketch seems to build on the last, in an ever-tightening spiral of parody. Moreover, the theme of the show is specifically British (with a vague notion of portraying the country's many fine citizens) so Americans might not quite understand the segment of society Vicki Pollard is mocking. Hint: Lady Sovereign.

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Why Former Addicts Dread Addiction Memoirs

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 9:33 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by MoJo author Maia Szalavitz:

I'm starting to dread reading about addiction. One would imagine that coming up on the 20th anniversary of my own decision to stop using cocaine and heroin that I would either be utterly bored by it or alternatively, entranced with a subject that touches on free will, morality, neuroscience, sociology, psychology and endless politics.

Typically, I engage in the latter obsessions—but when I read media portrayals of addiction like Sunday's front-page New York Times magazine excerpt of the its columnist David Carr's addiction memoir, I cringe.

It's not that I don't have sympathy and compassion for people who struggle with this disorder—how could I not? It's not that I don't recognize that other people will have different perspectives from my own. My problem is that virtually every addiction memoir—whilst strenuously arguing otherwise or, as in this case, self-consciously highlighting the clichés—tells the same story.

Meanwhile, other equally true stories of addiction go untold. And worse, these untold stories actually represent the majority of cases, according to the research data. For example, a large proportion of people who recover from opoid addiction do it using methadone—not abstinence. Ever read a methadone memoir? And most people who quit cocaine addiction do it without treatment or even self-help groups. Ever read that one?

Amazing Obama Poster Pays Tribute to Bauhaus Design

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 9:18 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamaberlin.jpgJeez, I know I've already blubbered endlessly over the sophistication of Obama's graphic design, but you just gotta see this. It's a poster being used to advertise the senator's upcoming speech in Berlin, and it may be the finest piece of contemporary mainstream political art I've ever seen. All text is set at a 45-degree angle on varying shades of Obama Blue, with one thin swath of brick red emphasizing that "Tickets are not needed." Barack's profile is oddly de-emphasized, yet the whole poster seems to be covered in a subtle gradient, creating a definite glow from that side of the page. Some rabble-rousers think that any poster with a profile is Hitler-esque, but the blog Meaningful Distraction more accurately sees the poster as a tribute to classic German modernism, specifically the Bauhaus movement, which, like constructivism, revolutionized graphic design by setting type on diagonals, around corners, and even spirals. Of course, it fits right in with my theory about Obama's design being an example of his post-modern campaign, as much about the references as anything else, but whatever, it looks really cool. See a larger version after the jump.

Top Five: ABBA Songs

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 8:36 PM EDT

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With the release of the new film Mamma Mia!, ABBA fever has returned: the soundtrack, which features the Swedish quartet's songs, has just hit #1 on the U.K. album chart, and the now-classic ABBA Gold just jumped back into the Top 5. While John McCain recently took some heat for admitting to enjoying a little ABBA now and then, I'll happily admit to ABBA-love. Not only am I gay, but I was just becoming aware of popular music during the band's heyday; and, perhaps most importantly, I'm half-Swedish. Ikea, meatballs, Bergman, it's all good. However, my admiration for ABBA is somewhat selective: I've always felt some of their songs were as transcendent as pop music can be, while others were either hyperactive and shrill or maudlin and overdramatic. Everybody's got their favorites, I'm sure, but here are mine.

Country Music: Not Just for White People Anymore

| Wed Jul. 23, 2008 6:26 PM EDT

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I caught a free show in San Francisco's Union Square on my lunch break this afternoon—a country singer, with a voice rivaling Patti Loveless and Lucinda Williams. But this girl ain't your standard Nashville crooner: Miko Marks is a Michigan native, current Oakland resident, and the first black country singer that I personally have ever seen.

Though country, like rock n' roll, has its roots in black music, these days the twangy genres are not exactly renowned for their ethnic diversity. But Marks is a rising star, and she's not the only one: Turns out that while the rest of us were drooling over Amy Winehouse, black women have been taking the country world by storm. Other notable names are Rissi Palmer, Sunny Daye, and Vicki Vann. While all three women draw on a variety of musical influences, there's no question that the sound is country.

The country music establishment has started to take notice, as have the chroniclers of black popular culture: Ebony magazine recently profiled Marks as part of a feature entitled, "What Does Black Sound Like?" and more than one blog has applauded the women's foray into an almost-totally white musical sphere.