Mixed Media

Science Explains What Really Causes the Munchies

| Sat Feb. 15, 2014 4:01 AM PST

A study published in Nature Neuroscience this week lends new insight to the age-old marijuana-munchies connection. It's old news that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) fits into the mix, but this study establishes a previously unknown link: pot gives us the munchies by tricking our bodies into thinking we're starving—regardless of whether we actually are. 

Turns out that THC, the active ingredient in Mary Jane, activates cannabinoid receptors called CB1s that live in your brain's "olfactory bulb." This is the part of the brain that helps you smell.

Cannabinoid intoxication—i.e. getting high—boosts "odor detection," amplifying your sense of smell and taste, which causes you to eat more. The authors of the study showed this with mice: First, they exposed a group of sober mice to banana and almond oils. The critters sniffed the oils, but then lost interest. But when a group of mice under cannabinoid intoxication were exposed to the same scents, they got the munchies: They maintained interest for much longer and also ate more. A dose of THC "decreased the threshold of odor detection and this effect was clearly correlated with successive food intake," says the study. Natural cannabinoids released by your body during food deprivation do the same thing that THC does for pot smokers—"hunger arouses sensory perception, eventually leading to an increase in food intake."

The researchers also proved this another way: They genetically engineered mice to lack the type of cannabinoid receptor that THC binds to. Without these receptors, the appetite was unaffected by THC, as well as by food deprivation. This showed further that both THC and natural cannabinoids produced from hunger work to increase odor sensitivity.

These findings may hold true for people too, the study points out. Knowing how to tune the sense of smell or appetite could be a useful tool in treating illnesses where these are deficient or in excess. Medical marijuana, for example, is already being used to stimulate appetite and sense of taste in cancer patients, improving nutrition and quality of life. Yay science!



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Watch This DJ Respond to a Rapper Who Threatens to Rape a Woman

| Fri Feb. 14, 2014 7:46 AM PST

On Monday, a young and rowdy crowd gathered at The Jump Off in London for an old-fashioned rap battle. Everyone was hoping for a good time, an evening free of any publicly declared threats of back-alley rape of women.

Then this happened:

The man you see intervening (at the 31-second mark) is Nihal Arthanayake. He is a 42-year-old BBC Radio presenter, DJ, and family man. His artistic and professional influences include Mos Def, Bill Withers, Jon Stewart, and Mark Ronson. He hosts shows devoted to discussing and debating the issues facing British Asians. He interviews a wide variety of guests, including Fatima Khan, mother of a British doctor who died while being held in custody in Syria. Nihal has also occasionally stepped in controversy.

He can also rap—and on Monday, he put that skill to particularly good use. During the rap battle, MC Lighte The Boom Box said to his female opponent MC D'Klastro that, "bitch, after this, in the alley, you gonna get raped." This did not seem to go over well with the audience, and seconds later, Nihal (who was a judge at the event) interrupted the battle, got on-stage, and grabbed a mic. Here's part of what he said:

What the fuck, you fat idiot?

Didn't you have a mum? Didn't you have a sister? Why you so dumb?

Misogynistic prick. Talking, you think you're sick.

The video of this was picked up later in the week by several news outlets, such as Jezebel, the Independent, and Entertainmentwise. Nihal says that this was the first time he has ever had to halt a rap battle out of pure outrage.

"That was unique," he tells me. "And, as I haven't rhymed properly for over 15 years, I proved I was a little rusty, to say the least."

Nihal says that the response to the video has been positive, save for "a few men [on Twitter] questioning my rap skills...and calling me names for being so sensitive to a rape-based battle rap." He says he has not interacted with Lighte The Boom Box since Monday's battle, nor does he wish to.

"I said what I had to say," Nihal says. "I'm not a white knight (guess I'd be a brown one anyway), nor a hero, nor a feminist. Just a husband and a father who has spoken to many victims of domestic violence in my job as a phone-in host for the BBC...I just thought about the women in my life and that the male MC had betrayed rap music by resorting to something so base and disgusting. I'm not a prude, I grew up on rap music. But raping a woman as a battle lyric—that's just nonsense."

"The crowd reaction told you that even in the most urban of environments that type of lyric won't fly anymore," he added.

10 Songs to Redeem Your Valentine's Day Playlist

| Thu Feb. 13, 2014 4:05 AM PST

Let's be honest: Valentine's Day is terrible. But there's no reason to make the holiday worse by playing those same dreadful songs over and over again. Whether you're making a mix for that special someone, or holding a party to celebrate having no one, let's please just agree to quit playing Mumford and Sons and wake up to some of the less discovered love tunes out there. Here are ten ideas to get you started:

The Song: Mumford and Sons' "I Will Wait."
Why it's Bad: Come on. You're not really going to wait.
Potential Substitute: King Charles' "Love Lust."
Why it's Better: A mostly overlooked song, "Love Lust" warps genres at will and has the driving pace that characterizes most of Mumford and Sons' songs. What it lacks in banjo, it more than makes up for in style.

The Song: The Temper Trap's "Sweet Disposition."
Why It's Bad: Don't be fooled by the catchy guitar line and soaring vocal delivery. This is a song about desperately convincing someone to sleep with you. Is that really the message you want to be sending?
Potential Substitute: STRFKR's "Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second."
Why It's Better: If you're going to try to woo someone, at least make it fun.

The Song: Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours."
Why it's Bad: The syncopated bounce of this song was best left behind in college—when you were trying to impress your friends by playing guitar on the quad.
Potential Substitute: LCD Soundsystem's "I Can Change."
Why It's Better: Vowing to change in order to keep the relationship together? That sounds like actual commitment.

The Song: Beyoncé's "Drunk in Love."
Why it's Bad: Don't get me wrong, her performance at the Grammy Awards was incredible. But given that the song takes a quote from a movie about Ike Turner, maybe it's best if we keep "Crazy in Love-"era Beyoncé and just leave this one behind.
Potential Substitute: TV On The Radio's "Will Do."
Why it's Better: "Will Do" is a hazy, sultry, and crescendo-driven song about starting a new relationship and all the lust that comes with it. While it's not quite as intense as Beyoncé, it also doesn't throw out uncomfortable lines about surfboards or demeaning ones about beating your wife.

The Song: James Blunt "You're Beautiful."
Why It's bad: How often do we have to listen to a dude sing about how beautiful a woman is?
Potential Substitute: Little Dragon's "Nightlight."
Why It's Better: You've still got all of the obsession, but less of the boring white guy.

The Song: Maroon 5's "Love Somebody."
Why it's Bad: One part sad, existential longing; two parts echo—in theory, this should work. But somewhere in between Adam Levine's moaning and my disbelief that he has trouble meeting anyone, I'm lost.
Potential Substitute: The Chromatics' "Kill for Love."
Why it's Better: It maintains the melancholy tone and dance feel, but washes over you in a far less grating way. Some may find it too earnest, too electronic, or too '80s-influenced (the band was featured on the Drive soundtrack), but it's certainly way easier to listen to than "Love Somebody."

The Song: Bruno Mars' "Just The Way You Are."
Why it's Bad: I'm not going to pretend Bruno Mars doesn't deserve attention. But let's not kid ourselves: The lyrics are overly saccharine, the music is uninspired, and it's a completely unreal representation of love. Plus, how many times have you heard that chorus? It stops sounding amazing to call someone amazing after about the fourth time.
Potential Substitute: The Replacements' "Valentine."
Why it's Better: You still get the cheesy fawning, but without the unnecessary polish. There's a believable grit in those lyrics and yearning in that delivery.

The Song: John Mayer's "Your Body Is a Wonderland."
Why it's Bad: A wonderland? That was the best you could do? I've seen you play with Eric Clapton.
Potential Substitute: Jesus and Mary Chain's "Head On."
Why it's Better: What better way to explain attraction than by comparing it to a now famous drug addiction?

The Song: Taylor Swift's "You Belong with Me."
Why it's Bad: Look, I have a huge soft spot for Taylor Swift, but how many times have we heard this song?
Potentital Substitute: Eternal Summers's "You Kill."
Why it's Better: A song about unrequited love should punch you in the gut. This song does just that.

The Song: Anything by Bon Iver.
Why it's Bad: Yes, he's folksy and heartbreaking, but let's stop encouraging him to sing that high. He's bound to pull a muscle.
Potential Substitute: Mountain Goats' "No Children."
Why it's Better: If you're going to have sing-a-longs to sad, sappy bastard music this Valentine's Day, this song's vengeful poetry will get the job done. Trust me.

Watch Sports Anchor Dale Hansen Destroy People Who Don't Want to Let Gay People Play in the NFL

| Wed Feb. 12, 2014 10:40 PM PST

That was sports anchor Dale Hansen, on ABC's Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate WFAA, discussing University of Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam on Monday. Sam announced on Sunday that he is gay; the National Football League has never had an openly gay player, and Sam's announcement—which came just weeks before draft-eligible players like Sam are put through the paces in front of team executives and scouts—has been hailed as remarkably brave.

You can read the full transcript of Hansen's comments here, but here's an excerpt:

Several NFL officials are telling Sports Illustrated it will hurt him on draft day because a gay player wouldn't be welcome in an NFL locker room. It would be uncomfortable, because that's a man's world.

You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You're the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft.

You kill people while driving drunk? That guy's welcome.

Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they're welcome.

Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away?

You lie to police trying to cover up a murder?

We're comfortable with that.

You love another man? Well, now you've gone too far.

It wasn't that long ago when we were being told that black players couldn't play in "our" games because it would be "uncomfortable." And even when they finally could, it took several more years before a black man played quarterback.

Because we weren't "comfortable" with that, either.

So many of the same people who used to make that argument (and the many who still do) are the same people who say government should stay out of our lives.

But then want government in our bedrooms.

I've never understood how they feel "comfortable" laying claim to both sides of that argument.

"The world needs more old white guys like WFAA's Dale Hansen," the Dallas Observer declared on Wednesday.

Hansen has been around for a long time and this certainly isn't the first time he's delivered thoughtful commentary. In 2011, at the height of the Sandusky affair at Penn State, he spoke up for the victims of childhood sexual abuse who stay "hidden in the darkness." In the segment, Hansen opened up about being the victim of sexual assault—and how he remained silent about it for years. Watch:

This Video of a Marriage Break-Up Done Entirely in Movie Titles Is Pretty Great

| Wed Feb. 12, 2014 4:14 PM PST

This sketch features a couple breaking up, with dialogue constructed exclusively from 154 film titles. (Liar Liar, The Man Who Wasn't There, Unfaithful, and Whore are included.) The video—made by the Brooklyn-based, five-member comedy troupe POYKPAC—stars Ryan Hunter, Jenn Lyon, and Maggie Ross.

"It started to seem like there was this period where all these movies kept coming out with names like How Do You Know and Rumor Has It..., and they were mostly romantic comedies," Hunter, who also wrote and directed "Movie Title Breakup," tells me. It took him two days to write the sketch—staring at his computer, searching through IMDb for applicable titles. "It was almost as if Hollywood was running out of names to call movies, so they started using phrases—like we were trending toward a world where every human phrase ever said was going to be the name of a movie."

In the "RoboCop" Reboot, Samuel L. Jackson Is Basically Bill O'Reilly

| Wed Feb. 12, 2014 12:26 PM PST
Samuel L. Jackson in RoboCop

Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi action movie RoboCop (1987) is a famous satire of the excess and greed of the Reagan era. José Padilha's 2014 reboot of RoboCop (in theaters on Wednesday) is also a critique of American society and power. The remake—starring Joel Kinnaman, Gary OldmanAbbie Cornish, Michael Keaton, and Jay Baruchel—takes place in the year 2028, mostly in Detroit. The American military is occupying countries all over the world—with the help of completely autonomous killer robots called "drones." (Get it?) In this not-at-all-distant future, the United States has apparently invaded Iran in "Operation Freedom Tehran." OmniCorp, which designs and manufactures these military robots, wants to put this technology to use in law enforcement on American soil. Thus begins a debate over civil liberties and human emotion.

But the best thing about the new RoboCop is Samuel L. Jackson's turn as the smartly dressed, flag-pin-wearing host of a cable-TV news and commentary show. His perspective is jingoistic, pro-US-empire, and staunchly pro-RoboCop and tough on crime. ("Why is America so robophobic?" he asks during a broadcast; he later asks if the US Senate has become pro-crime.) He cuts the mic of guests he disagrees with and is prone to loud swearing on camera. As you might guess, many critics have already compared Jackson's character to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly. For instance, the name of the fictional show is The Novak Element, which sounds a bit like The O'Reilly Factor.

O'Reilly and Fox News did not respond to a request for comment regarding RoboCop's possible nod to The O'Reilly Factor. Jackson points to a different conservative host as his inspiration (via Blastr):

I play a character by the name of Pat Novak, who's sort of a combination of Rush Limbaugh and Al Sharpton, if you can combine those two people. So I refer to him as Rush Sharpton...He has one of those shows that's an opinion show, and his opinion is that automated policing is a good idea, so he's a proponent of RoboCop.

You can check out Novak in action in the trailer below:

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When Shirley Temple Black Was a Vietnam War Hawk on the Campaign Trail

| Tue Feb. 11, 2014 12:18 PM PST

Shirley Temple Black, the beloved 1930s child movie-star who reinvented herself in later years as an American diplomat, died Monday at her Woodside, California, home at the age of 85.

She was tremendously successful on the international stage as a film star (she is ranked as number 18 on the American Film Institute's list of top female screen legends), but found less success in national politics. In 1967, Black mounted an unsuccessful campaign to represent California's 11th congressional district. (Superstar Bing Crosby was on her campaign's finance committee.) A Republican, Black ran on an anti-racism, anti-crime, pro-war platform.

Here's an excerpt from an Associated Press story from October 1967 that demonstrates how hawkish on Vietnam the one-time Bright Eyes star was:

As for the war in Vietnam, Mrs. Black said: "President Johnson should rely more on the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff than on the advice of Defense Secretary (Robert S.) McNamara."

"Obviously, civilians make the policy. But after the policy is made, that's the time you bring in the key military leaders, in order to form the strategy and tactics of how to achieve your goals."

Aligning herself with the hawks in the debate over what to do in Vietnam, Mrs. Black said she thought U.S. forces should mine the approaches to Haiphong, the principal port, to cut off military supplies from Red China and the Soviet Union.

(Mining that Vietnamese port is something the Nixon administration ended up doing in 1972 during Operation Pocket Money.)

Well, Shirley Temple didn't win. She lost the Republican nomination to Paul McCloskey, a Korean War vet who strongly opposed US military involvement in Vietnam. "I will be back," she told supporters at the time of her defeat. "This was my first race and now I know how the game is played. I plan to dedicate my life and energies to public service because I think my country needs it now more than ever."

Black indeed came back, but perhaps not in the way she initially imagined. In 1968, she went on a European fundraising tour for the Nixon presidential campaign. In 1969, President Nixon appointed her to the five-member delegation to the UN General Assembly, where she earned praise for speaking out on issues such as environmental problems and refugee crises. She later served as US ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, President Gerald Ford's chief of protocol for the State Department from 1976 to 1977, and ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989, serving there during the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

Following the fall of communism, Black continued to serve in Prague—and found a creative method of mocking those who remained committed communists:

Needling any Communists who may be watching, Black sometimes appears on [her home's] balcony in a T-shirt bearing her initials, STB, which also was the acronym of the now-disbanded Czech secret police. Asked what STB agents are doing these days, she replied, "Most of them are driving the taxis you ride around in."

Now, here's a photo of a young Shirley Temple posing with a signed photo of President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

Shirley Temple and FDR photo
Globe Photos/ZUMA

...and here's one of an older Shirley Temple with co-star Ronald Reagan (decades later, she would serve during the Reagan administration as a State Department trainer):

Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan
face to face/ZUMA


Aztec Camera's First Album: So Good, It's Hard to Believe a Teenager Wrote It

| Mon Feb. 10, 2014 4:00 AM PST

Aztec Camera
High Land, Hard Rain

It's hard to believe Scotland's Roddy Frame was a teenager when he released the first Aztec Camera album three decades ago. The bittersweet yet buoyant acoustic pop of the immensely appealing High Land, Hard Rain feels like the testimony of a well-traveled soul, mixing remarkably cliché-free tales of romantic travail with catchy, deceptively sophisticated melodies.

Frame's restraint may be the most impressive thing about this luminous work: Radiant, big-hearted tunes like "Oblivious" and "Walk Out to Winter" could easily be repurposed as sprawling mass-appeal (i.e., cheesy) epics, but his thoughtful attention to detail produces more-believable vignettes that cut deep. This reissue augments the original 10-track album with a bonus disc of 16 rarities—extra songs, live versions, and remixes—none of them essential, but all worth hearing.

The Darkside of Electronic-Music Producer Nicolas Jaar

| Mon Feb. 10, 2014 4:00 AM PST
Nicolas Jaar, left, and Dave Harrington are Darkside.

When I called up electronic-music producer Nicolas Jaar, the 24-year-old wunderkind was walking the streets of New York—briskly, judging by the pace of his breathing. He rapped ecstatic about his new project, Darkside, a collaboration with his old Brown classmate Dave Harrington. The two of them are touring now to showcase their debut album, Psychic—the shows in Paris and Berlin have already sold out months in advance.

Jaar says Psychic is the antithesis of his first album, Space is Only Noise, which he calls a "pure" and "ethereal" effort to "imbue a lot of love and honesty into my music that I felt was lacking around me." So what happened after that idealistic and critically praised project that made him feel compelled to compose its antithesis?

"Snow is not always white," he replies, deploying the first of several such metaphors he used during our conversation—New York had just been hit by snowstorm Hercules. "It's really dirty in New York right now and it looks like shit." That's part of what Psychic is about: "The dark side of all these idealistic ideas is that they have to be sold," he says. "And as much love as you try to put into something, it instantly goes into the chain of capitalism, and that's just kind of gross. It's kind of dirty. It's the same thing as the snow, right?"

"The Lego Movie" Is Actually a Satire

| Fri Feb. 7, 2014 5:39 PM PST

On Thursday, New York mag critic Bilge Ebiri praised The Lego Movie as, "the best action flick in years, a hilarious satire, [and] an inquiry into the mind of God." And it isn't over-the-top praise—it accurately reflects the overwhelmingly positive critical response to the computer-animated comedy, released on Friday.

The film, which is based on—and pays loving tribute to—Lego toys, was co-written and directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the pair who directed the fantastic 21 Jump Street reboot and its upcoming sequel. The Lego Movie takes place mostly in a city in a Lego universe. A construction worker Lego named Emmet Brickowski (voiced by Chris Pratt) must save the Lego realms from imminent destruction and coerced conformity. His comrades are a mysterious female Lego warrior named Wyldstyle; a wizard; a "Unikitty," which is a unicorn-animé kitten hybrid; a pirate called Metalbeard; Lego Batman; and many more goofy and heroic Lego characters.

The simple tale is loaded with gleeful pop-culture references and great voice-acting (everyone is in this movie, by the way, from Morgan Freeman and Jonah Hill to Cobie Smulders and Alison Brie). But what makes The Lego Movie even more accessible for viewers above the age of six is the fact that the film is full of political and social satire. The villain is President/Lord Business (voiced by Will Ferrell), who presides over a totalitarian surveillance state. President Business' regime creates virtually everything in the Lego society—generic pop music, lousy TV comedy, cameras, rigged voting machines, you name it. The dictator/CEO uses extended televised broadcasts to inform his citizens (with a friendly grin on his face) that they'll be executed if they disobey. He controls a secret police led by Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), who is charged with torturing dissidents and rebels.

President Business is the Lego Ceaușescu, if you swap the communism for capitalism.

Some of this sounds pretty heavy, but it's all filtered through the soft, giddy lens of a kids' movie. Like all other entries into the "kids' movies that their parents can dig, too!" subgenre of cinema, it's this thinly-disguised maturity that makes the film both fun and winkingly smart.

UPDATE, February 8, 2014, 12:39 a.m. EST: I missed this earlier, but on Friday, Fox personalities went after The Lego Movie for its allegedly "anti-business" and anti-capitalist message. One says President Business looks a bit like Mitt Romney. Another starts defending Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life (which is just an act of life imitating parody).

This is weird, but not all that different from the Fox reaction to The Muppets and The Lorax. Watch below:


UPDATE 2, February 8, 2014, 4:04 p.m. EST: I asked the Lego Movie directors what they thought of the reaction on Fox Business to their film. Phil Lord got back to me via Twitter:

art deserves many interpretations, even wrong ones


Now, check out this trailer for The Lego Movie: