Via the SF Bay Guardian's Pixel Vision blog comes this charming little tidbit: what may very well be the first Obama joke made on Comedy Central. It was Bay Area comic W. Kamau Bell who picked the Senator out of almost-obscurity for a bit on black leaders in a stand-up routine back in 2005. He tells the Guardian that Comedy Central actually informed him that it was Obama's first mention by a stand-up comic on the network, so, you know, he's not just spinning. The jokes are, in fact, rather tame, imagining how Obama's name might strike people as a little "too black" if he were to run for president, but for that reason they're actually kind of cute—that was us, just a few years ago! Awww!

Indie 103.1Broadcast radio just got a whole lot less interesting, as Los Angeles alternative station Indie 103.1 has announced it will stop broadcasting today, turning to a web-only format. A statement on the station's web site alluded to "changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured" which forces stations to "play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge." I love you Indie, but I have to say, that's not exactly a new situation.

Americablog may not know who Daft Punk or Adam Freeland are, but you do, gentle Riff readers, since I post something about the former at least every week or two. But that doesn't make this video, called "Aer OBAMA," any less baffling. The musical accompaniment consists of French duo Daft Punk's "Aerodynamic" (from their 2001 album Discovery) remixed by UK breaks legend Adam Freeland to have a Speak-and-Spell-y Obama theme; the video is a jittery stop-motion story of the President-Elect jetting in from space to, I guess, dance around at a Daft Punk concert. Okay. Let's just stop for a second. I'd like to point something out. First, I'm a huge Obama supporter who blogs for the Mother Jones magazine. Also, I'm a DJ, and in my radio career I managed to actually interview both Daft Punk and Mr. Freeland, to say nothing of the multiple times I've seen them DJ and perform. I've got the political and the musical sides of this pretty much down, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that I, personally, am at the very center of the intended audience for this video. However, it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, and after watching it, I feel vaguely disturbed, not, you know, "hopeful." Plus, isn't sampling a Speak-and-Spell kind of tired? On top of it all, the very idea that France's greatest robot exports would get remixed by a breaks superstar for a stop-motion video featuring a bunch of Kubrick toys all in tribute to an American president is making me feel like the very laws of physics are collapsing around us. Or maybe I've just had too much coffee?

mojo-photo-tonightff.jpgOne of the first maxims of good criticism is also one of the toughest to maintain: review the work based on what it is rather than what it isn't. Sure, it sounds simple, but then you get an album like Scots Franz Ferdinand's third full-length, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, and you can't help but want to flog it for not being their wry, catchy, Mercury Prize-winning 2004 debut. Do more "Matinees," dammit! Instead, the quartet have mostly abandoned the guitar-blasted riff-gasms of their past for spare, quirky disco and new wave, and if I focus really hard on ignoring their past, it's actually not so bad, I guess.


If you thought it wasn't possible to hold Charles Schulz's brilliant "Peanuts" comics in any higher esteem, think again. Today's NY Times describes how scholars are pointing out that the strip's references to music were anything but random. It turns out the notes displayed above Schroeder's piano often referenced actual pieces that add a level of humor:

"If you don't read music and you can't identify the music in the strips, then you lose out on some of the meaning," said William Meredith, the director of the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University, who has studied hundreds of Beethoven-themed "Peanuts" strips. ... Mr. Schulz also mined Beethoven's life for material. He had numerous books in which he underlined details about Beethoven's love life, clothing, even his favorite recipe (macaroni with cheese).

For instance, in the strip above, with Schroder working out beforehand, the notes pictured are the opening bars of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata (Op. 106), known for its extraordinary difficulty. All this is part of an exhibit, "Schulz's Beethoven: Schroeder's Muse," at the cartoonist's eponymous museum in Santa Rosa, where you can learn such details as the fact that Schulz's favorite composer was in fact Brahms, but he just thought the name Beethoven looked funnier on the page. He was totally right.


Let's play TSA!

Patriotic, sure—note the passenger's jaunty reds, whites, and blues. But authentic?

I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger's shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger's scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said "that's the worst security ever!".

Image courtesy of


The Washington Post has the full lineup for this Sunday's Obama inaugural celebration concert at the Lincoln Memorial, and it's something, alright. Take a deep breath for the alphabetical list: Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, U2, and Stevie Wonder. Whew. Legend and Brooks aren't really up my alley, but you know, this isn't a bad concert, even without Please-Can't-You-Just-Be-President-Right-Now Obama dropping by. Of course, they had to give it a terrible name: "We Are One." Blergh! The first time I glanced at this story, I read it as "We Are the World" and just about had a heart attack. As long as they don't have a "We Are One" theme song, we should be okay. The 90-minute concert will be broadcast on HBO, except it'll be some sort of free version of HBO that will, I guess, just show up on our TVs somehow. Hooray, new president, but this better not interfere with the Flight of the Conchords premiere.

If that unintentional tribute to The Lion King is too mainstream for you, the Beastie Boys will headline a concert at D.C.'s 9:30 club on Sunday, except theirs has an even worse name: "Hey, America Feels Kinda Cool Again." Well, it felt cool, until you guys said that. Sheryl Crow will be slumming over there as well after her We Are One appearance, along with Citizen Cope. Scheduled for January 19 is Jay-Z, who will perform at the 2,000-capacity Warner Theater. Actual inaugural balls on January 20 abound, including an "Urban Ball" hosted by Ludacris and Big Boi and featuring David Banner, Lil Jon and more; a Legends Ball with Chaka Khan and George Clinton; and an MTV "Be the Change" party [edit: whoops, that was cancelled]. Plus there's the Party Ben We Are Watching It All From the Couch event, which promises to be very exclusive.

Much has already been written about Fox's 24 and its role in mainstreaming the use of torture. (The show's protagonist, Jack Bauer, is a frequent and effective torturer.) But the seventh season of the show, which premiered Sunday, seems to be turning away from the incidental normalization of torture (in which torture was shown to be necessary and effective but was rarely discussed) and is now instead making an explicit argument for the use of torture. I won't spoil much about the two-episode premier by telling you that Jack Bauer was called before a Senate hearing to account for his "crimes," but was conveniently pulled away at the last minute because of a pressing national security matter. Kevin Drum also watched on Sunday. He writes:

[I]t's obvious that the show is going to deal head on with the subject of torture this season... Is there any way for this end other than badly? After all, here in the blogosphere we opponents of torture like to argue that we don't live in the world of 24, guys. And we don't. But Jack Bauer, needless to say, does live in the world of 24. And in that world, there are well-heeled terrorists around every corner, ticking time bombs aplenty, and torture routinely saves thousands of lives. What are the odds that it won't do so again this season — except this time after lots of talk about the rule of law blah blah liberals blah blah it's your call blah blah? Pretty low, I'd guess. Hopefully the writers will surprise me.

After watching the third and fourth episodes of the season on Monday night, I'd be pretty surprised if Kevin is surprised by the writers. Over at Kevin's blog (where there's a great discussion going on in the comments), commenter Cuttle gets it exactly right, and is worth quoting at length:


The lineup for America's premier music festival has generally been announced towards the end of January, and so right about now, speculation, rumors, and blog insanity is reaching a fever pitch. I've been feeding the flames myself, posting the first fake flyer (complete with dream headliners Daft Punk, the White Stripes and David Bowie) back in December (along with some early whispers) but now somewhat-journalistically-reputable blog LAist has posted a list of "confirmed" and "rumored" artists, and they snuck in one head-slapper: right there between Blur and the Comedians of Comedy, it's Britney Spears. Da-wha? Turns out, as Idolator discovered, Brit-Brit (blargh!) has dates confirmed in the LA area Thursday, Friday and Sunday nights, and the Coachella venue in Indio is only a few hours' drive (or a quick helicopter ride) away. Madonna was one thing, but does anybody actually like Britney Spears' music? And, more importantly, will she bring tour openers (and possibly the worst musical act in America today) The Pussycat Dolls with her?

After the jump, the LAist confirmed and rumored lists.

mojo-photo-slumdog.jpgLast night's Golden Globes ceremony was, as Vulture put it, "astonishingly not-bad," with multiple surprise winners and cheeky speeches (see some of those after the jump). Hollywood bad boys Mickey Rourke and Colin Farrell got Best Actor nods, which you have to celebrate if only for the "holy crap what will they say on stage" anticipation, and every 30 Rock win brought us a hilarious acceptance speech. But the most inspiring moments of the night came with the non-stop cavalacade of wins for rags-to-riches drama Slumdog Millionaire, which grabbed four awards including best dramatic picture. Other heavily-favored and multiple-nominee pics including Benjamin Button and Frost/Nixon came away empty-handed, but the unabashed joy of the Slumdog team at every win made it impossible not to root for them. Plus, there's the fact that the film's success has "virtually the entire Desi population on the planet energized," as MTV News put it. Slumdog's wins also seem like a long-overdue nod to Bollywood, despite the fact that the flim has about as much to do with Bollywood tradition as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon did with martial arts movies. So is there anything to stop Slumdog from winning the best picture Oscar?

Golden Globe best picture winners have been Oscar predictors only about 2/3 of the time—last year's dramatic picture winner, No Country for Old Men, lost the Oscar to Atonement, and the comedy/musical winner, Sweeney Todd, wasn't even nominated. But this year, Slumdog Millionaire has been racking up awards with increasing momentum, and, as Associated Content put it, the competition is dropping like flies:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was the original favorite, but has lost a lot of ground due to Slumdog Millionaire's rise and some very mixed reviews. Milk may be a sleeper, but most expect that homophobes in the Academy will stop it from winning, like they supposedly did for Brokeback Mountain. Films like Frost/Nixon and Doubt are not regarded as serious threats to win, while The Dark Knight is just trying to get in, and countless other contenders have fallen off the map this Oscar season.

Homophobes aside, even San Franciscans are starting to acknowledge that our hometown favorite may not be quite Oscar-caliber. Amazingly, Slumdog hasn't even opened yet in India, and success there could make denying the top prize to what the Wall Street Journal called "the film world's first globalized masterpiece" next to impossible.

Oscar nominations come out January 22. After the jump: appearances from Sacha Baron Cohen, Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, and Slumdog's best dramatic picture win.