Mixed Media

Digital Trainwreck

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 8:07 PM EDT

It seems the recession is spreading in the art world, too. Yesterday, "worry-free" photo storage provider Digital Railroad sent a notice telling its subscribers they had 24 hours to get their images off the DRR server, or lose them. Then they pulled the plug.

Photographers flooded DRR's servers as they tried to salvage their archives, but not everyone was able to download their work in time. Even photographers with back-ups in other locations stand to lose big from DRR's shutting down: Re-archiving images and setting up shop somewhere else takes time. And as we all know, time is money.

Hit just as hard (if not harder) by DRR's closure are powerhouse photo agencies like VII, Noor and Redux, which lost the interface from which they do business.

If this reliable business for photo agencies and stock photographers can fold, who's next?

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Your Future Dream is A Shopping Scheme: Christie's to Auction Punk Memorabilia

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 6:09 PM EDT

mojo-photo-christies.jpgAs the Sex Pistols once snarled, if you don't know what you want but you know how to get it, then you'll want to head to an upcoming sale in New York to be held by venerable auction house Christie's featuring tons of rock and punk stuff. From the AP:

The event, announced Tuesday, includes more than 120 records, photos and promotional pieces for such punk, garage rock and new wave legends as the Velvet Underground, Patti Smith, the Ramones, David Bowie, Blondie, the Cure and the Smiths. The auction is Christie's first to focus on punk mementos, signaling the collectible status of a brash, anti-authoritarian rock movement that largely thumbed its nose at posterity. "We understand that tastes change, tastes mature," said Christie's pop-culture chief Simeon Lipman. "Ten years ago, punk memorabilia probably wouldn't be something we'd be auctioning here. But now, people of a certain age have a certain ability to splurge on this material."

A certain age? Are you saying I'm old? Well, whatever my age, my ability to afford any of this stuff is very uncertain: a signed Ramones test pressing is estimated at $5,000-$7,000, and a Sears bass guitar used by Kurt Cobain on early demos is estimated to fetch up to $80,000. For those of us living a more, er, punk rock lifestyle, $200 might get you a set of Sex Pistols buttons. That's right: buttons. Jeez, why haven't I been saving those?!

It's not really "punk," per se, but if anybody wants a hint for an early Christmas gift for your dopily-named DJ and blogger, this New Order poster would look great on my wall. Thanks in advance.

Thanks, Wal-Mart: AC/DC Scores First #1 Debut

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 5:42 PM EDT


Well shut my mouth. A couple months ago, news emerged that AC/DC's new album, Black Ice, would be a Wal-Mart exclusive, and I, being a cynical sort, mocked the idea as forcing fans to "jump through hoops." It turns out that people like hoops, since the album (also available at Sam's Club and through the band's web site) debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts this week, selling 784,000 copies. That's second only to Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III for best opening-week sales all year. AC/DC topped the U.S. album charts once before back in 1982 with For Those About to Rock We Salute You, but this is their first #1 debut.

Elsewhere in the Top Ten Albums this week, High School Musical, Kid Rock, and other things that make me hope that suicide barrier at the Golden Gate Bridge will get installed soon prevail. But there are a few glimmers of hope further down the list. Georgia avant-popsters in crazy costumes Of Montreal landed at #38 with their 9th full-length, Skeletal Lamping, an album that critical consensus says isn't quite as spectacular as last year's Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer, but is still pretty good. Recent Riff feature Brett Dennen's Hope For the Hopeless debuted at #41, although he may just be riding some hope coattails. Hopetails?

Errol Morris Walks the Thin Blue Line With Ads for Obama

| Wed Oct. 29, 2008 1:42 PM EDT

Back in 2004, filmmaker Errol Morris made a series of brilliantly simple political ads for MoveOn. Modeled after the Apple "Switch" ads, they featured Republicans explaining why they wouldn't be voting for George W. Bush again. A couple of the ads aired, but otherwise the campaign fizzled, and the rest is history. Morris described the experience as "horrible" when I spoke with him a few months ago.

But now he's back, lending his Interrotron to the cause. His new "People in the Middle" ads star moderate voters who plan to vote for Obama. Not surprisingly, the ads are subtle and effective. And the real people in them are a refreshing break from the increasingly unreal real people like Joe the Plumber and Tito the Builder. Over at his New York Times blog, Morris explains how this campaign is not just a reprise of Kerry Switch:

New Music Out Today: The Cure, Deerhunter, Snow Patrol, Kaiser Chiefs

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 6:25 PM EDT


While actual album release dates are even less relevant now that nobody has any money to spend on CDs, it's a good excuse to check out some new music. "New" is a relative term, though, when you're dealing with 30-plus-year-old combo The Cure, whose 13th studio album, 4.13 Dream, sounds kind of old. Nothing against old Cure, of course, and there are a few moments on the album that echo the dreamy landscape of Disintegration, for instance, like 6-minute album opener "Underneath the Stars," and jaunty single "The Only One." But as the UK Sunday Times put it, there are too many moments here that are "wearyingly over the top, and scary, too." Just in time for Halloween!

Atlanta's Deerhunter are only a few years into their noise-rock career, but their new album Microcastle has the assured edginess of Sonic Youth. Single "Nothing Ever Happened" plays with fire: a vocal harmony in the chorus whose notes are only one step apart. It could be grating, but instead it's hypnotic. Pitchfork gives it one of its best reviews of the year, with a 9.2 out of 10 score on the Forkometer and comparisons to Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine. They even say the album may be "a reason not to slit our throats before President Palin decides to nuke the world in 2017." Erp.

Obama Poster Parodies Proliferate

| Tue Oct. 28, 2008 3:45 PM EDT

mojo-photo-obamaposters.jpgIt's poster parody pandemonium! We've already remarked here on the Riff about the cool design both coming from and being produced for the Obama campaign; one of the most iconic images so far is Shepard Fairey's red-and-blue "Hope" poster, whose graphic simplicity references classic propaganda just enough to be cool. The poster's design has become enough of a touchstone that parodies have been popping up, but I didn't realize quite how many: via BoingBoing comes this link to a page featuring a whole slew (89, in fact) of takes on the red-on-one-side-blue-on-the-other design. Some of these are obviously made by angry Republicans, who did nothing but change the "Hope" to a "Nope" and call it good. But my favorites are so nonsensical, they're oddly inspired: The Soup Nazi, over "Soup," of course; Amy Winehouse over "Dope"; the Pope over, uh, "Pope." However, this page did seem to miss a version that appeared during San Francisco's recent leather-themed Folsom Street Fair, whose cheeky reference to the "Obey" posters that made Fairey famous was suddenly appropriate in a whole new way. Yes, Mr. President, I've been very naughty. See that one after the jump.

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Morrissey Recording New Album, Writing Autobiography, Holding Baby

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 6:07 PM EDT

mojo-photo-morrisseybaby.jpgVia Towleroad comes word that 49-year-old singer Morrissey will release his 9th solo album, to be called Year of Refusal (or maybe Years of Refusal?), early next year, calling it his "strongest" album yet in an interview with BBC Radio 1's Janice Long. (That's apparently the cover art to the right.) Perhaps more intriguingly, the outspoken lyricist is writing his autobiography, partially to clear up some of the "silly and really extreme" misquotes attributed to him over the years. What could he mean? As the Guardian points out:

Like when Morrissey allegedly announced that he wished George W Bush dead? Or when he allegedly wrote that he "[understood] why fur-farmers and so-called laboratory scientists are repaid with violence"? Or when he allegedly told NME that "the higher the influx [of immigrants] into England the more the British identity disappears"?

Oh yeah, maybe those. The Guardian also observes that Mozza's Wikipedia page is more than one-quarter controversy, including such topics as "Music Industry Feuds," "Accusations of Racism," and "Arguments with Political Leaders." God bless him.

After the jump: videos, videos, videos.

Friday YouTube Roundup: Silliest Political Videos of the Week

| Fri Oct. 24, 2008 5:18 PM EDT

Is it just me, or has a kind of eye-of-the-hurricane feeling descended over the presidential campaigns? While waves of economic chaos build around us, the competing teams at the center seem almost in a sort of stasis, with Obama holding his position and McCain unable to break out of his. Inside this calm oasis, the colorful flowers of ridiculous YouTube videos may flourish, and indeed, this week has seen quite a bloom.

Vlad and Friend Boris – "Song for Sarah"

If you've wondered what it's like to be on the receiving end of the Palin Gaze from across the Bering Strait, well, a couple of Russians are here to tell us all about it, and it turns out they're gazing right back. Longingly. Could this video be a Borat-style hoax? The Russian words in the title seem to be straight from a phrasebook: "Very nice. Excellent. And you? Not bad." Plus the misspellings in the subtitles ("teliscop"?) are a bit farfetched, although I do remember the now-demolished Hotel Rossia on Red Square had a large permanent metal sign in English in its lobby that spelled "is" with a "z" in every instance, so who knows.

Oh so many more after the jump.

If Wes Anderson Directed a McCain Attack Ad

| Thu Oct. 23, 2008 7:02 PM EDT

From The Landline comes this quick trio of potential attack ads in the style of famous directors that the McCain campaign might be interested in trying out. There's your standard John Woo action thriller parody, which is cute, and a quick Kevin Smith bit, which is like ten years out of date, but they saved the best for last: a brief take on Wes Anderson's directorial style. Futura titles, quirky old soundtrack, and, well, a penguin: gotta love it. (The Anderson part starts at about 2:20.)

The Other O in Ohio

| Thu Oct. 23, 2008 1:13 PM EDT

FlagResized.jpgBarack Obama has gotten a lot of grief about his campaign's vaguely presidential seal. But shortly after he attended an event in Toledo, Obama was accused of taking his enthusiasm for heraldry too far.

On the October 15 broadcast of his radio show, conservative personality Bob Grant complained that there was something funny about one of the flags on Obama's stage:

What is that flag that Obama's been standing in front of that looks like an American flag, but instead of having the field of 50 stars representing the 50 states, there's a circle? Is the circle the 'O' for Obama? Is that what it is? Did you notice Obama is not content with just having several American flags, plain old American flags with the 50 states represented by 50 stars? He has the 'O' flag. And that's what that 'O' is. Just like he did with the plane he was using. He had the flag painted over, and the 'O' for Obama.

Oh, the hubris. Not content with his already dubious demipresidential seal, Obama has now designed his own standard. Will no one stop this egomaniac? Or, as Grant said: "Now, these are symptom—these things are symptomatic of a person who would like to be a potentate—a dictator."

The gravel-voiced Grant, a pioneer of the angry talk radio format, had a point. All of these O doodads seem vaguely Napoleonic. But Grant, who once referred to New York Mayor David Dinkins as "the men's room attendant at the 21 Club," is famous for sharing his first impressions with listeners before checking for offensiveness or, well, accuracy.

Wrong again, Grant; it turns out the offending banner ruffling behind the junior senator from Illinois was, in fact, the state flag of Ohio.

—Daniel Luzer