Mixed Media

Unwound's "Rat Conspiracy": Like Nirvana, Minus the Pop Accessibility

| Mon Mar. 24, 2014 3:00 AM PDT

Unwound
Rat Conspiracy
Numero Group

Unwound Rat Conspiracy

Arguably America's most inventive reissue label, Chicago's Numero Group has built its reputation on thoughtful compilations of ultra-obscure '60s and '70s R&B, but excels at other kinds of music as well. Exhibit A: Unwound, the Olympia, Washington, punk trio that made a righteous racket throughout the '90s through 2002. Check out the 32-track Rat Conspiracy, the second installment in Numero Group's four-part survey of the band, and prepare to be electrified. Like Nirvana, minus the pop accessibility Kurt Cobain sometimes seemed to rue, Justin Trosper (vocals, guitar), Vern Rumsey (bass), and Sara Lund (drums) swing from pensive and subdued to furious and brutal—and back again—at the drop of a hat on these blazing '93 and '94 recordings, which encompass two albums plus 11 equally thrilling loose ends. If you're seeking catharsis, here it is. (FYI, Trosper and original Unwound drummer Brandt Sandeno will return to action with the debut album of their new band, Survival Knife, in late April.)

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Stop Trying To Make "Muppets Most Wanted" About Putin

| Fri Mar. 21, 2014 3:29 PM PDT

As you probably heard, Russia invaded Ukraine. This has been big international news for the past few weeks, and now it is even affecting how people cover and review the new Muppets movie.

In Muppets Most Wanted (released on Friday), the antagonist is Constantine the Frog, a notorious criminal with a thick Russian accent. He also looks an awful lot like Kermit the Frog. Early in the film, Constantine escapes from a gulag in Siberia, tracks down Kermit, steals his identity, and gets the good-natured Kermit thrown in the Russian labor camp in his place. (Tina Fey plays Nadya, the officer who runs the song-and-dance-obsessed gulag.)

The Russia content in Muppets Most Wanted grew out of the filmmakers' desire to create a "classic cold-war musical comedy," and to give a lighthearted nod to the Russian bad guys of 1980s movies. Director James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller of course had no idea that their new Muppet movie would hit theaters right around the time Russia annexed Crimea. Constantine is a world-infamous thief, not a stand-in for Putin or any Russian politician (not that the Muppets haven't dabbled in politics—or been accused of partisan bias—before). Regardless, critics and writers found a way to make their coverage of Muppets Most Wanted more topical!

Here's a sample:

  • "The newest Muppet is Russian, prefers to go shirtless and is intent on evil domination. Sound familiar?" — USA Today.
  • "The one discordant note comes by way of the gulag gags: With Russian President Vladi­mir Putin enthusiastically reviving that country's most oppressive totalitarian past, making light of what now seems all too real may strike adult viewers as, if not tasteless, then at least unfortunately timed. (The backfire also serves as a cautionary reminder to studio executives eager to exploit the newly all-powerful international market.)" — The Washington Post.
  • "The United States government today called on Walt Disney Pictures to delay or cancel the release of Muppets Most Wanted on national security grounds. Or at least, it should have. Not only might this movie annoy Russia, with whom the American government is already nose-to-nose over Crimea, but it could also cause any European allies being courted by President Obama to unfriend him and the rest of the country. The film, a music-filled follow-up to the 2011 hit The Muppets, lands poor Kermit in a gulag in Siberia, which is depicted just as unflatteringly as gulags in Siberia always are. Vladimir V. Putin is unlikely to be amused." — The New York Times.
  • "The film's female lead, Miss Piggy, arguably bears some resemblance to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose stance on Russia has toughened considerably as the Crimean crisis unfolds." — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
  • "He's kidnapped and replaced by evil frog Constantine, Kermit's exact double apart from a facial mole and an accent that sounds like Vladimir Putin trying to invade his space." — The Toronto Star.

...Ugh.

Now, for something better, listen to Muppets Most Wanted's fun, self-referential musical number "We're Doing a Sequel" below:

GIFs: The Big Dance's Best Dances (So Far)

| Fri Mar. 21, 2014 1:49 PM PDT

You toss the ball into the air as time runs out, falling to the court as your teammates rush over from the bench. Your school—which half of America just Wikipedia'd to figure out what state it's in—just pulled off a miracle victory against a better-ranked, better-funded, big-name opponent. What are you going to do next?

You're going to dance, of course. You're going to dance on the sideline, you're going to dance in the locker room, and you're going to dance behind your coach while he tries to give a TV interview. These Cinderellas came to the ball prepared—we'd put them in a bracket and rank the best dances, but we have no idea how the winners would celebrate.

For example, here's Kevin Canevari, a senior for new national treasure Mercer University, who capped off the Bears' victory over third-seeded Duke with this gem:

Not to be outdone, fellow senior Anthony White Jr. did the robot while his coach was interviewed:

Jordan Sibert, Devon Scott, and Devin Oliver danced in the locker room after proving Dayton's dominance in THE state of Ohio. Or maybe they're just happy that someone ordered pizza:

North Dakota State's overtime victory against favored Oklahoma was impressive. The locker room choreography between Carlin Dupree, Kory Brown, and Lawrence Alexander afterward was even better:

Kate Winslet's "Divergent" Character Is Like a Brainy, Science-Driven Hitler

| Fri Mar. 21, 2014 11:45 AM PDT

The people who made Divergent desperately want it to be the next The Hunger Games, with all the piles of money that come with a franchise of the kind. The new sci-fi movie (released on Friday) is based on the Veronica Roth young-adult novel of the same name, set in an isolated, dystopian Chicago. Much like The Hunger Games books and movies, Divergent depicts young, good-looking people fighting totalitarianism in a war-ravaged future. (In Divergent, the youthful heroine is Beatrice "Tris" Prior, played by the talented Shailene Woodley.)

There is plenty wrong with Divergent, including that it's a drowsy action flick (first in a planned trilogy) that reeks of studio executives' cynical attempts to cash in on the international commercial success of a similarly themed series. Whereas the villains in The Hunger Games make up a totalitarian regime that resembles North Korea but with superior reality TV, the bad guys in Divergent resemble grown-up college nerds who are black-out drunk on political power.

WATCH: While the Malaysian Plane Was Disappearing, Dianne Feinstein Went After the CIA [Fiore Cartoon]

| Fri Mar. 21, 2014 9:52 AM PDT

 

 

Mark Fiore is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist and animator whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Examiner, and dozens of other publications. He is an active member of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists, and has a website featuring his work.

Here Is a Video of 74-Year-Old Congressman John Lewis Dancing To Pharrell's "Happy"

| Thu Mar. 20, 2014 1:34 PM PDT

It's the UN's second annual International Day of Happiness! (You may remember the first International Day of Happiness last year. It was the day after the last time anyone ever felt sadness ever.) Here are videos of 74-year-old civil rights icon and 14-term Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) dancing to Pharrell's "Happy" in celebration:

At the end of the video, Rep. Lewis says, "Be happy, everybody." The irony of course is that this video was shot vertically so by the time you get there you will not be "happy" so much as you will be "incredibly frustrated."

Still, it's the thought that counts. (Also, it's an undeniably heart-warming video.)

Be happy!

Seriously, be happy. The UN is telling you to be happy. If you aren't, the UN may "herd you into a human habitation zone."

Just kidding. Only crazy people think that.

(via Buzzfeed.)

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Fast Tracks: Nick Waterhouse's "This Is a Game"

| Tue Mar. 18, 2014 3:14 PM PDT
Nick Waterhouse Holly

TRACK 2

"This Is a Game"
From Nick Waterhouse's Holly
INNOVATIVE LEISURE

Liner notes: With honking saxes and clattering congas going full blast, Nick Waterhouse struts his stuff with swaggering flair, evoking tough ’60s R&B.

Behind the music: Waterhouse and buddy Ty Segall came up in the same SoCal music scene. His second album, Holly, includes songs by Segall, jazz icon Mose Allison, and Young-Holt Unlimited.

Check it out if you like: Funky curators Mayer Hawthorne, Sharon Jones, and James Hunter.

Jenny McCarthy Issues Blistering Indictment of ABC's Continued Employment of Jenny McCarthy

| Tue Mar. 18, 2014 2:15 PM PDT

Why is a person famous for controversially telling parents not to vaccinate their kids co-hosting ABC's flagship daytime talk show The View? I don't know. Probably because she's famous and controversial, and people like to talk about people who are famous and controversial, and TV executives think people like to watch shows hosted by people who are famous and controversial, but maybe not. I don't know what's in Barbara Walter's heart. Maybe there's some other reason. Who knows!

According to Jenny McCarthy, however, the answer is that she's famous and controversial for telling people not to vaccinate their kids.

A Q score is a measure of brand familiarity. It essentially measures a celebrity's marketability. What this tweet is saying is 'your outrage makes me more famous and my fame keeps me employed.' Jenny McCarthy is famous for telling parents not to vaccinate their kids. This is not only awful advice, it's dangerous advice, too. (There's an outbreak of measles in New York City at this very moment.)

Vaccinate your kids.

(The View did not respond to my requests for comment on Jenny McCarthy's suggestion that she is employed because of the notoriety she has achieved by loudly telling parents not to vaccinate their kids.)

The Story Behind That Radio Station Heroically Playing Nelly's "Hot in Herre" for 3 Days Straight

| Tue Mar. 18, 2014 1:50 PM PDT

Over the weekend, Latino Mix 105.7, a Univision-owned radio station in San Francisco, captured the hearts and lazy imagination of the internet. "There once was a film called Life is Beautiful about Nelly's 'Hot in Herre' being looped on a radio station for 24 straight hours [and now] that movie has come to life," gushed Gawker. (Life is Beautiful is actually a movie about the Holocaust and the enduring love of family.) In the widely covered stunt, the station started playing "Hot in Herre" [sic] around 3 p.m. PST on Friday and then just... kept going. The song wasn't taken off repeat until Monday evening, shortly after 5 p.m. PST. "San Francisco radio station Latino Mix FM 105.7 has been doing its best to torture Bay Area listeners," the San Jose Mercury News reported on Monday.

"Hot in Herre" (click here for lyrics) was a smash-hit song for St. Louis rapper Nelly in 2002. It was described as "the perfect summer jam" by People. It's a song so inextricably tied to the early Bush era that you can read about US Marines singing it as they moved into combat in Iraq. (This moment, from journalist Evan Wright's book Generation Kill, was recreated in the HBO miniseries of the same name.) The song was featured in a 2012 Super Bowl ad starring Elton John as a tyrannical but violently overthrown king.

Short Takes: "The New Black"

| Tue Mar. 18, 2014 12:11 PM PDT

The New Black

PROMISED LAND FILM

The black voters who turned out for Barack Obama in November 2008 also have been blamed for nudging California's gay-marriage ban—since nullified by the Supreme Court—to victory. To explore changing black perspectives on gay rights, director Yoruba Richen follows Maryland's 2012 same-sex marriage referendum, introducing us to people like 24-year-old activist Karess Taylor-Hughes and Pastor Derek McCoy, president of the Maryland Family Alliance—thought leaders on opposite sides of the issue. Backed by an outstanding gospel soundtrack, The New Black is a story of passion, conviction, and the evolution of long-held attitudes. It's likely to move you, whatever your belief.

This review originally appeared in our January/February issue of Mother Jones.