Mixed Media

Laura Marling Just Keeps Getting Better

| Mon Mar. 30, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Laura Marling
Short Movie
Ribbon Music

With her clear, forthright voice and ringing acoustic guitar (not to mention enormous songwriting smarts), Britain's Laura Marling has always been a bit intimidating, and this stunning fifth album may be her strongest work yet. Short Movie is an extended meditation on the endless tug of war between the fear of loneliness and the desire to be free from the affections and expectations of others. "Is it still okay that I don't know how to be alone?" she asks in "False Hope," while "I Feel Your Love" finds her declaring, "You must let me go before I get old / I need to find someone who really wants to be mine," throwing cold water on romantic clichés with her usual blunt vigor. In "Don't Let Me Bring You Down," she exclaims, "Did you think I was fucking around?" Another cut, "Howl," finds her parting from a lover in far gentler fashion. Short Movie varies its textures with occasional drums and electric guitar, as well as lovely dashes of cello, but Marling's restless, relentlessly honest songs remain the main attraction. Despite superficial similarities to the young Joni Mitchell, she's her own amazing creation, and just keeps getting better.

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Neil DeGrasse Tyson Blasts Florida's Alleged Ban on Discussing Climate Change

| Wed Mar. 25, 2015 11:38 AM EDT

Neil DeGrasse Tyson has now weighed in on Florida's alleged ban on using the words "climate change" and "global warming" in government communications. The astrophysicist-turned-TV-star told a Sarasota, Fla., crowd on Monday that he was astonished by the report, adding he thought "as a nation we were better than this."

"Now we have a time where people are cherry picking science," Tyson said, according to the Herald Tribune of Sarasota. "The science is not political. That's like repealing gravity because you gained 10 pounds last week."

Earlier this month, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting published an explosive story alleging that Scott's administration had instituted an unwritten policy forbidding government employees from using "climate change," "global warming," and "sea level rise" in official communications. The governor has since denied the report, but several environmental groups have called for a probe into the alleged ban.

In his remarks Monday, Tyson said that while it may be easy to shame politicians for their climate change denial, it's ultimately the voters who are responsible.

"Debating facts takes time away from the conversation," Tyson said, according to the Bradenton Herald. "We should be talking about what we are going to do about this. I don't blame the politicians for a damn thing because we vote for the politician. I blame the electorate."

This isn't the first time Tyson has scolded voters for electing science-denying politicians. In a January interview with the Boston Globe, he said he used to get "bent out of shape" about elected officials like snowball-wielding Senator James Inhofe publicly claiming climate change is a hoax. But his views have since evolved.

"The real challenge to the educator is not beating politicians over the head, or lobbying them, or writing letters," he said. "It's improving the educational system that shapes the people who elect such representatives in the first place."

Robot-Building 6-Year-Old Girls Talking Tech With Obama Is the Best Thing You'll See All Week

| Tue Mar. 24, 2015 7:56 PM EDT

On Monday, President Obama made his annual rounds at the White House Science Fair. The event is a breeding ground for adorable interactions with kid-nerds (See 2012's marshmallow-shooting air cannon), but his chat yesterday with five cape-wearing Girl Scouts from Oklahoma was especially magical.

The 6-year-olds from Tulsa's Girl Scout Troup 411 were the youngest inventors selected to present at this year's fair. Inspired by conversations with a librarian and one of the girls' grandmas, they built a mechanical Lego contraption that can turn pages, to help patients with mobility issues read books.

The group of first graders and kindergartners explain to Obama that the device is a "prototype" that they came up with in a "brainstorming session." One of the girls asks Obama if he's ever had his own brainstorming session.

"I have had a couple brainstorming sessions," replies an amused Obama. "But I didn't come up with anything this good!"

Another girls asks what he came up with:

"I mean, I came up with things like, you know, health care. It turned out ok, but it started off with some prototypes," the president says.

And then they all go in for a group hug. GOLD.

Suzanne Dodson, the coach of the Lego team and the mom of one of the scouts, told Tulsa World that she's glad the girls are getting such positive attention for their project: "It really is a problem with girls, when they get to middle school, they lose confidence in their own ability to succeed in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math)" she said. "Having this experience at young age really gives them a confidence boost."

Let John Oliver Explain How Petty Municipal Fines Destroy the Lives of Our Most Vulnerable

| Mon Mar. 23, 2015 9:39 AM EDT

As demonstrated by the Justice Department's damning investigation into the Ferguson Police Department, police officials often rely on slapping hefty municipal fines to fund government. Such practices are rampant in towns across the country.

On the latest Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took on the issue with an in-depth report explaining how a petty traffic violation—a ticket some people can simply shrug off as a nuisance—can actually wreck the lives of society's most vulnerable citizens, and sometimes even land people in jail.

"Most Americans drive to work," he explained. "If you can't do that, you've got a problem. In New Jersey, a survey of low-income drivers who had their license suspended found that 64 percent had lost their jobs as a result, which doesn't help anyone. You need them to pay their fine but you're taking away their means of paying it. That's the most self-defeating idea since gay conversion camp!"

While Oliver says he's not advocating for minor offenses to go without punishment, people should have the "right to fuck up once in a while without completely destroying our lives."

Watch below:

 

Courtney Barnett's Debut LP Captures the Absorbing Minutiae of Everyday Life

| Mon Mar. 23, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

Courtney Barnett
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Mom + Pop

Although this beguiling opus is being billed as Australian Courtney Barnett's debut LP, she previously produced an album's worth of material in the form of two EPs, a highlight being "Avant Gardener," her engagingly offhand account of an asthma attack. She follows that tune's deceptively ingenious template on Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, which blends agreeably slackerish vocals, ramshackle yet catchy guitar pop, and understated songs devoted to capturing the absorbing minutiae of everyday life.

From "Elevator Operator" to "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party" to "An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in NY)," Barnett's characters turn the act of "just idling insignificantly" into a search for deeper meaning, often seesawing between self-loathing and self-respect. And while epiphanies prove elusive, her good-hearted, empathic portraits are unfailingly memorable.

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Today's Epic Solar Eclipse Captured In Beautiful Photos

| Fri Mar. 20, 2015 2:04 PM EDT

This morning, Europe and parts of Africa and Asia experienced a rare solar eclipse. The last time such an event of this significance took place was back in 1999. That this eclipse also happened to fall on the spring equinox was an even more of a unique phenomenon that last occurred in 1662. Despite early reports predicting that heavy clouds would block a proper glimpse, eager residents, tourists, and astronomers gathered across the continent to witness the eclipse. Here are some of the images that were captured:

Sarajevo, Bosnia Amel Emric/AP
 
Svalbard, Norway Haakon Mosvold Larsen/AP
Greenwich Observatory, London Rex Features/AP
Skopje, Macedonia Boris Grdanoski/AP

Those in the higher Arctic regions were lucky enough to experience a total solar eclipse. But residents in the Faroe Islands—previously touted as one of the more impressive locations to view the event—were reportedly disappointed by the thick clouds, according to the Guardian. Berlin, on the other hand, boasted clear skies.

And to complete the occasion, here's British Member of the European Parliament Roger Helmer, who used the event to drop in some apparent climate denial. (Helmer has previously asserted that "the relationship between global temperature and atmospheric Co2 levels is hugely open to question.")

 

This Adorable Video of a Baby Frog Squeaking Is the Best Thing You'll See Today

| Thu Mar. 19, 2015 3:54 PM EDT

The following is a delightful clip of a baby frog screaming, apparently discovered by BBC in the desert. It's the kind of high-pitched yelling normally expected from a dog's chew toy, not a frog. It's adorable and should be watched on repeat below:

(h/t Gabrielle Canon)

Starbucks Wants to Talk Race With Its Customers. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

| Wed Mar. 18, 2015 1:06 PM EDT
Chris Hayes sits down with CBS's Nancy Giles and DJ Jay Smooth.

Judging from its reception on social media yesterday, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's just-announced kumbaya pipe dream is destined for eternal ridicule. The company hopes to address racism by slapping the words "Race Together" on coffee cups and forcing its baristas to coax customers into unsolicited discussions about race relations.

To get a preview of what's coming, check out this conversation between CBS's Nancy Giles and DJ Jay Smooth during an appearance on last night's All In with Chris Hayes.

Giles: "I can't not tease Jay about the kinda, like, brotha way he was trying to talk. Like, 'Hey,' with the rap music in the background, and like down with the people."

Smooth: "I'm a rap guy!"

Giles: "Yeah, I know, but it's another interesting funny thing about race. There would be some people that would feel that you co-opted something like that, and other people might feel like, 'That's his background, and that's really cool too.'…These are conversations, you know, 'Yo, like ya know, yeah, if somebody takes my wallet,' I mean, it's really interesting."

Smooth: "It's also interesting, because I'm actually black, but you assumed otherwise. And this is the sort of awkwardness we can look forward to at Starbucks across America."

Giles notes early on that the campaign's purpose seems noble and that conversations about race should be encouraged. But as the conversation reveals, Starbucks' bold venture into race relations reeks of clumsy naiveté. Let's save our baristas the trouble.


(h/t Salon)

This Correction Is The Best Thing to Come Out of Robert Durst's Arrest

| Wed Mar. 18, 2015 8:36 AM EDT

While reporting on the arrest of Robert Durst, the subject of HBO's documentary "The Jinx," the Associated Press committed a wonderful error by confusing the creepy real-estate millionaire for the frontman of Limp Bizkit, Fred Durst.

 

 

The correction marks what we can safely predict will be the most relevant Limp Bizkit will be ever again.

(h/t Romenesko)