Mixed Media

George W. Bush Misinterprets His Favorite Painting

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 12:47 PM EST

Slate's Jacob Weisberg has uncovered the real meaning of George W. Bush's favorite painting, "A Charge to Keep," which hangs in the Oval Office and is the namesake of his 1999 ghostwritten autobiography. It's not—as Dubya likes to tell visitors—an image of a steadfast Methodist missionary. Rather, as Weisberg explains in his new book, The Bush Tragedy:

...that is not the title, message, or meaning of the painting. The artist, W.H.D. Koerner, executed it to illustrate a Western short story entitled "The Slipper Tongue," published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1916. The story is about a smooth-talking horse thief who is caught, and then escapes a lynch mob in the Sand Hills of Nebraska. The illustration depicts the thief fleeing his captors. In the magazine, the illustration bears the caption: "Had His Start Been Fifteen Minutes Longer He Would Not Have Been Caught."

Ah, the irony. So where the heck did Bush get the idea that the painting wasn't of a rustler but rather a man—who just happens to bear a passing resemblance to him—on a mission from God? I suppose everyone's entitled to their own interpretations of art, but that's really a stretch, even for a president used to making his own reality. Anyway, this may explain why Bush keeps referring to that Picasso he calls the "The Party So Fun They Invited a Horse."

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Friday Implies It's Music News Day

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 11:56 AM EST


  • The Time are definitely in and Amy Winehouse may be out at the upcoming Grammys ceremony. The first official announcement of performers was made yesterday, and the Minneapolis jungle lovers are on the list, while currently-(finally?)-ensconced-in-actual-rehab Winehouse was not. But Winehouse's father says she's hoping to get a visa—and, one hopes, get clean—in time for the ceremony February 10th. Meanwhile, Idolator is spreading the rumor that Michael Jackson may appear at the Grammys as well, but they're crazy.

  • Danger Mouse has been busy: he's working with Van Dyke Parks and John Cale on a new album by The Shortwave Set, producing Martina Topley-Bird's forthcoming album, and, yes, putting together the sophomore Gnarls Barkley album with Cee-Lo in Atlanta.
  • Whoops: I took a quick nap, and Lil Wayne went in and out of jail again. The rapper was arrested for possession of pot, blow, and E in Yuma, Arizona on Tuesday (one wonders what else there is to do in Yuma), but later posted bail and signed autographs outside the bondsman's office.
  • And yes, it turns out the teenage would-be hijacker of a Southwest Airlines Los Angeles-to-Nashville flight had a secret plan: to somehow crash the plane into a Hannah Montana concert in a blaze of Disney-exploding, neo-Ballardian glory. Is The Onion now in charge of reality?
  • Debra Dickerson Awesome on the Colbert Report (Again)

    | Fri Jan. 25, 2008 4:13 AM EST

    Debra Dickerson on ColbertAs promised, Mother Jones' own Debra Dickerson dropped by Stephen Colbert's show last night, and, as usual, held her own against the onslaught of satire. Two important things came out of her appearance, I think: a) the entrance into the lexicon of "sphincter-like" as probably the best description of Bill Clinton's recent purple-faced anti-Obama sputtering (let's hope it catches on) and b) the fact that she may be one of a handful of people in the universe who can actually beat Mr. Colbert at his own game, getting some actual content in there with the laugh lines and even having the last word. Plus Colbert's line about "I couldn't get away with that with my hair" seemed a little dumb, didn't it? Anyway, by the end he put his head down on his desk in an apparent acknowledgement of defeat.

    To read all of Debra's writing for motherjones.com, click here.

    You can't embed video from the Comedy Central website, but here's a direct link to the segment, although it opens a new window and you have to watch a Navy Seals ad to get to it.

    Growing Up Online, and Still Bored

    | Thu Jan. 24, 2008 7:54 PM EST

    Teens and parents from a New Jersey suburb deconstruct the ups and downs of social networking sites in Frontline's latest report, Growing Up Online, which premiered on PBS this week.

    The piece weaves together a handful of stories about how the Internet has tweaked family dynamics and how teens communicate with each other. With 90% or more of teens nationwide online, one mom calls cyberspace the "new wild west" for young people. One high school history teacher says that "walking into a classroom without any multimedia is like walking into a desert." Another teacher admits she's landed on the wrong side of the digital divide: "My time is over. This is not for me. It's not the educational arena that I entered into."

    Movie Music Madness

    | Thu Jan. 24, 2008 6:50 PM EST


    Best-picture Oscar nominations this year have gone to a compelling and diverse group of films that, for the most part, earned them: Atonement, Juno, Michael Clayton, No Country for Old Men, and There Will Be Blood. For me, the soundtracks or scores to three of these films in particular helped make them as great as they are. Here are a few examples:

    MPAA Accidentally (On Purpose?) Exaggerated Impact of Piracy

    | Thu Jan. 24, 2008 6:43 PM EST

    mojo-photo-mpaa.jpgHey, remember the MPAA? The Motion Picture Association of America? Well, like their buddies in the RIAA, they've been using every tactic they can think of to fight illegal downloading of movies, especially on college campuses; that includes lobbying lawmakers to sanction educational institutions on whose intertubes the naughty downloading was done. But it turns out the numbers they used as the basis for their claims were a wee bit exaggerated. The MPAA just revealed (pdf link) that a 2005 study which claimed that "44% of the motion picture industry's domestic losses were attributable to piracy by college students" was, erm, a mistake:

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    Franz Ferdinand Hoping for Comeback

    | Thu Jan. 24, 2008 3:41 PM EST


    So much can change in four years. Your approval ratings can drop 20 points, your hair can turn gray, or your band can go from worldwide domination to leftfield footnotes. In 2004, Franz Ferdinand could do no wrong: their nervous, aggressive dance-rock embodied the wary times, the neo-Soviet album art suddenly seemed fresh again, and they sure looked good in those tight-cut suits. While proclaiming they only got into music to "make girls dance," their lyrics contained unexpected depths. "Michael" turned into a gay anthem, and the inescapable stomper "Take Me Out" turned out to be about lovers as snipers, daring each other to pull the trigger: "I know I won't be leaving here / with you." The song's stunning musical twist, an exhilarating deceleration from new wave to hip-hop speed, seemed to hint at previously unexplored regions of rock innovation.

    New Bond Movie Has Dumbest Title Ever

    | Thu Jan. 24, 2008 11:10 AM EST


    Quantum of Solace. What exactly does that mean? Let's consult the dictionary... and not just any dictionary, but the Oxford one 007 himself would use.

    noun (pl. quanta) 1 Physics an individual quantity of energy corresponding to that involved in the absorption or emission of energy or light by an atom or other particle. 2 a total amount, especially an amount of money legally payable in damages. 3 a share.

    noun comfort or consolation in time of distress.

    So... could it be referring to atomic peace? Or perhaps to the total amount of... er, comfort our favorite spy is sure to receive from his new Bond girls (see picture)? I'm so confused.

    Warm-Weather Tunes: Music to Turn Your Heater On

    | Wed Jan. 23, 2008 8:29 PM EST

    mojo-photo-tropicalsunset.jpgOkay, call me a wimp, but lately temperatures in San Francisco have struggled to get above 45 degrees, and even for a guy who grew up suffering through Nebraska winters, it feels pretty damn cold. Maybe it's the poorly-insulated apartment heated with a space heater? Anyway, with wind chills currently freezing the tootsies off of most of America, it seems like we could use some music that reminds us of sunnier times. So put on your shades and join me in some creative visualization in pursuit of warmth.

    Last.fm Makes Deal With Labels to Stream "Every Track"

    | Wed Jan. 23, 2008 6:20 PM EST

    mojo-photo-lastfm.JPGLast.fm, the music and "social networking" site acquired by CBS last year, has announced deals with all four major record labels in an apparent attempt to become the leader in free online music streaming. The site started as a "public diary" of members' listening habits; its software reads what you play in iTunes and uploads it to your page, then tallying it all up on artist pages and recommending similar music. Their lists of "most played" tracks are kind of interesting—and I'm not just saying that because I have one.

    CBS bought the company last May for $280 million and since then has increased the number of tracks available as free streams to over 3 million. Now, Last.fm co-founder Martin Stitskel says "the mission is to have every track available." Golly, and good luck: it's always seemed a little ridiculous to me that if I want to point to an example of a song, YouTube makes referencing the video the easiest thing in the world, but if I just want the audio by itself, there's no one place to go. Unfortunately, Last.fm doesn't currently allow embedding of its player on other sites (like Imeem does, for instance) but if it succeeds in its mission to become a "free music discovery tool," it'll be a lot better than just listening to 30-second samples on iTunes.

    A quick test of Last.fm was a bit disappointing: I looked up Cat Power, whose new album Jukebox is getting some good reviews, and found only four tracks available as streams, none from the new album, although there were a bunch of messages in the "Shoutbox" wishing Chan a happy birthday yesterday. Aww. So, for now it's back to YouTube and MySpace.