Mixed Media

Charts: Hollywood's White Dude Problem

| Fri Feb. 21, 2014 4:00 AM PST

It's 2014, yet women and people of color still are vastly underrepresented in the United States media landscape. A report published Wednesday by the Women's Media Center found that, while some progress toward equality has been made, journalism and entertainment still lack a diversity of voices and a variety in representation. If the US media were a person, he'd be an old white guy.

This post has been updated

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Obama Lookalike Satan Character Axed From Jesus Movie "Son of God"

| Tue Feb. 18, 2014 1:30 PM PST

Last March, when the 10-hour miniseries The Bible premiered on History channel, many observers (including Glenn Beck) noted that Satan (played by Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni):

...resembled Barack Obama:

Barack Obama
Elizabeth Cromwell/Wikimedia Commons

The internet had some fun with this, and the meme was especially funny when you considered the insane theories already out there that Obama was put on earth to do Satan's bidding. Anyway, History, Ouazanni, and producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett all rolled their eyes at the Obama comparisons. "Both Mark and I have nothing but respect and love [for] our president, who is a fellow Christian," Downey said in March. "False statements such as these are just designed as a foolish distraction to try and discredit the beauty of the story of The Bible."

But in the abridged film version of The Bible (titled Son of God), which hits theaters next week, Satan won't be getting any screen time. "Someone made a comment that the actor who played the devil vaguely resembled our president, and suddenly the media went nuts," Downey, who also plays Mother Mary, told the Hollywood Reporter on Monday. Downey elaborated on this in a USA Today op-ed published later that day: "The next day, when I was sure everyone would only be talking about Jesus, they were talking about Satan instead," she wrote. "For our movie, Son of God, I wanted all of the focus to be on Jesus...It gives me great pleasure to tell you that the devil is on the cutting-room floor."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment regarding Devil Obama being dropped from the movie. Here is a clip, via THR, of Jesus (played by Diogo Morgado) meeting the allegedly presidential Satan in last year's miniseries:

Phantogram's Confident Second Act

| Mon Feb. 17, 2014 4:00 AM PST

Phantogram
Voices
Republic Records

Phantogram has long played a particularly unique form of warm, experimental pop. Their music teems with buzzing synthesizers, shoegaze guitars, and singer/keyboardist Sarah Barthel's beautiful vocals all coalescing in front of a driving hip-hop drum beat. On Voices—their second LP and their first since 2009's Eyelid Movies—that sound is even more prominent, with Barthel and guitarist Josh Carter confidently harnessing and perfecting their material with a crowd in mind.

"We didn’t even have an audience at first. We were just trying to make music that we really wanted to hear," Carter explained. "The same goes for Voices, but we knew that we had more of a platform and we were going to be performing things live." As a result, there are some real scorchers on this record. "Black Out Days," "The Day You Died," and "Celebrating Nothing" are all huge songs well-suited for the year's festival circuit. I can speak from experience. When they performed at the Treasure Island Music Festival back in October, they had the entire crowd in the palm of their hands—even as some of that crowd held up and danced under a sea of artsy, luminescent jellyfish.

Phantogram Voices Cover

Though surreal, this fusion of art and sound made perfect sense. At their core, Phantogram is a strikingly visual band. As Barthel's voice resonates overtop Carter's echoed guitars, the listener is constantly hit with a cinematic sense of space. Electronic textures and ambience are the norm here. Slower ballad "Bill Murray" is a perfect example. "We were talking about what songs reminded us of," says Carter. "We kept going back to that scene in Rushmore where Bill Murray jumps off the diving board and just sits on the bottom of the pool. So we were like let’s just name it Bill Murray."

Though the band is convinced they'd make the same music anywhere, some of that sense of space might be owed to the band's humble origins. Started in Saratoga Springs, New York, they were afforded the opportunity to use a family barn for practice space—an act they continue to this day. According to the band, this laid-back location helps focus their writing by blocking out all the distractions. "Being in the country—there's a certain beauty that caters to creating." He explains, "When we started writing for Voices, we were in a very small rehearsal space and were surrounded by several other bands who were playing all the time. We just couldn't really think. You had like John Bonham on one side and John Paul Jones on the other side practicing bass."

Even in his speech, you can hear the band's musical depth. The two listen to everything from Prince to the Cocteau Twins. Carter grew up surrounded by guitarists, pianos, and albums from groups ranging from Pavement to the Beastie Boys to John Frusciante. "When I first started playing guitar, I got really into [Frusciante] albums when he was all strung out on heroin. I really loved his style of playing, and the gut-wrenching honesty behind his music. He had this real passion and desperation," he explains. "But I'd say my first love for music that I chose myself was hip-hop. My first two albums were Fear of a Black Planet and License to Ill."

Voices is a product of this diverse range of influences, but with a sound distinctly all its own, and—considering the growing festival and promotional spots—released at exactly the right time. The band is eventually planning a collaborative record with Outkast's Big Boi. If Phantogram's merging of pop, hip-hop, and psych is any indication, the trio should get along perfectly. "We've gone from being the band on a bill of a festival that says “and many more” to the smallest band written on the festival bill to constantly graduating up in the lineup. We have a very loyal, cool, fan base, and we just love to play live shows."

Speedy Ortiz's "Real Hair" Melds Brains With Brawn

| Mon Feb. 17, 2014 4:00 AM PST

Speedy Ortiz
Real Hair
Carpark

Speedy Ortiz Real Hair

Undaunted by heavy, heavy guitars and thrashing drums, loquacious Sadie Dupuis issues a steady stream of dense, intriguing lyrics with poised resolve on this exciting four-track sequel to Speedy Ortiz’s stunning 2013 long-player Major Arcana.

Adept at playing the unreliable narrator, she offers tantalizing glimpses of lives in flux, murmuring, "I don’t know whose call it was that I should share a life/With someone who resembles me and copies my speech," in the track "Everything’s Bigger" and singing sweetly, "They say I am a spoiled mess/I never fold up what should fold/And shine much better in my house alone" on "Shine Theory."

While smart-but-rowdy bands like the Pixies and Breeders remain obvious touchstones for the Northampton, Massachusetts, quartet, Speedy Ortiz has forged its own distinctive identity, melding brains, brawn, and a dash of eccentric magic in impressive fashion.

10 Awesome Girl-Power Songs—Just Because

| Mon Feb. 17, 2014 4:00 AM PST

From mocking the sexist superficiality of our society to celebrating financial independence, here, for no particular reason other than that they rock, are 10 of the greatest feminist anthems of all times—inspiring, inquiring, and provocative. So plug in your iPod and go conquer the world. It's yours for the taking.

 

1. "Stupid Girls" by Pink — A fine critique of our image-obssessed culture and its effects on young women.

Best lyric: What happened to the dream of a girl president?/She's dancing in the video next to 50 Cent.

 

2. "I will survive" by Gloria Gaynor: The iconic representation of women's (and gay) rights in 1970s.

Best lyric: Do you think I'd crumble?/Did you think I'd lay down and die?/Oh no, not I, I will survive.

 

3. "Man I feel like a Woman" by Shania Twain: In this Grammy-winning single, Twain sings that the "best thing about being a woman is the prerogative to have a little fun."

Best lyric: We don't need romance, we only wanna dance/We're gonna let our hair hang down.

 

4. "RESPECT" by Aretha Franklin: This speaks for itself.

Best lyric: R-E-S-P-E-C-T/Find out what it means to me.

 

5. "Suggestion," by Fugazi: One of the most powerful anti-rape songs ever written, "Suggestion" blames not just on the rapist, but the culture that looks away.

Best lyric: There lays no reward in what you discover/You spent yourself, boy, watching me suffer (suffer your words, suffer your eyes, suffer your hands)/Suffer your interpretation/of what it is to be a man. 

 

6) "Bad Bitch" by Lupe: Weighing in on the B-word and how young people interpret it.

Best lyric: First he's relatin' the word "bitch" with his mama, comma/And because she's relatin' to herself, his most important source of help.

 

 

7. "Bloody Ice Cream" by Bikini Kill: In which Riot Grrrl Kathleen Hanna and her iconic band take on sexism in the poetry industry.

Best lyric: The whole damn thing!

 

8. "Independent Woman" by Destiny's Child: Who needs your money, man?

Best lyric: The shoe on my feet, I've bought it/The clothes I'm wearing, I've bought it/The rock I'm rockin', I've bought it/'Cause I depend on me.

 

9. "This is our emergency," by Pretty Girls Make Graves: Slamming a culture that makes us lack fulfillment and feel helpless. 

Best lyric: Baby you don't have to be a picture in a magazine/Sometimes you're too blind to see/Anything objectively

 

10. U.N.I.T.Y by Queen Latifah: QL's response to women being treated as sex objects.  

Best lyric: Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho/Trying to make a sister feel low...

 

Actress Ellen Page Comes Out As Gay: "Happy Valentine's Day. I Love You."

| Sat Feb. 15, 2014 11:29 AM PST

Oscar-nominated actress and self-described "tiny Canadian" Ellen Page (Inception, The East, Juno) came out as a gay woman on Valentine's Day.

She made the announcement in a moving speech delivered at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation's inaugural Time to Thrive conference in Las Vegas. You can watch the 26-year-old actress's remarks above. Here is an excerpt:

I'm inspired to be in this room because every single one of you is here for the same reason. You're here because you've adopted as a core motivation the simple fact that this world would be a whole lot better if we just made an effort to be less horrible to one another. If we took just 5 minutes to recognize each other's beauty, instead of attacking each other for our differences. That's not hard. It's really an easier and better way to live. And ultimately, it saves lives.

Then again, it's not easy at all. It can be the hardest thing, because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves. I know many of you have struggled with this. I draw upon your strength and your support in ways that you will never know.

I'm here today because I am gay. And because...maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.

I also do it selfishly, because I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I'm standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of that pain. I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.

There are too many kids out there suffering from bullying, rejection, or simply being mistreated because of who they are. Too many dropouts. Too much abuse. Too many homeless. Too many suicides. You can change that and you are changing it.

But you never needed me to tell you that. That's why this was a little bit weird. The only thing I can really say is...what I have been building up to for the past 5 minutes. Thank you. Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for giving me hope, and please keep changing the world for people like me.

Happy Valentine's Day. I love you.

After her speech, Page received the following show of support from House of Cards star Kate Mara:

(As flagged by TheWrap, Page satirized lesbian rumors about her in a 2008 Saturday Night Live sketch.)

Page is set to star alongside Julianne Moore and Zach Galifianakis in Freeheld, an upcoming drama based on the true story of the late Laurel Hester, a terminally ill New Jersey police lieutenant who fought a long battle to pass on pension benefits to her female domestic partner. Page, a proud feminist, has long been a supporter of marriage equality and LGBT rights. She is also passionate about climate action, reproductive rights, and raising awareness about human rights abuses in Burma. Here's a video for the US Campaign for Burma from 2008, in which she declares, "Hitler is alive in Burma":

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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!

 

 

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: