Mixed Media

With a Name Like Gurf Morlix, and a Cover Like This, Your Album Had Better Be Good

| Mon Feb. 9, 2015 7:00 AM EST

Gurf Morlix
Eatin' at Me

Don't be deterred by the spectacularly ugly cover art. Eatin' at Me is an unassuming gem. Since the end of his collaboration with Lucinda Williams in the '90s, singer-guitarist Gurf Morlix has produced a series of striking solo albums marked by dark visions and virtuosic, albeit tastefully understated, musicianship, and this downer-fest is no exception. Populating his songs with a host of memorable misfits, from teenage criminals to haunted vets to deranged lovers, he evokes these lost souls through a winning combination of weary, regret-soaked vocals and dusty, stripped-down roots grooves. But Eatin' at Me is never merely glum: Thanks to generous portions of mordant wit and Morlix's genuine empathy for his characters, it's actually uplifting in a twisted way—much like a great blues record.

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President Obama Urges Grammys Viewers to Stand Up Against Sexual Violence

| Sun Feb. 8, 2015 10:55 PM EST

“It’s on us—all of us—to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported, and where all our young people – men and women – can go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them." —President Obama.


How to Turn Off Tynt, the Most Annoying Thing on the Internet

| Sun Feb. 8, 2015 9:31 PM EST


You know how when you copy text from certain websites, it pastes with a bunch of junk you didn't mean to copy? Like promotional crap for the website?

Business Insider adds "Read more:" and the URL:

Daily Mail adds that and Twitter and Facebook links:

This is a super annoying service, designed to boost SEO, provided by a company called Tynt.


Places pay for this service. A place I used to work (briefly) paid for this service. It was super annoying! One day a colleague showed me a little known secret to turn it off and made my life immeasurably better.
I now share this little nugget with you:


Step 1) Open a browser.

Step 2) Type in the URL of an offending site.

Step 3) add ?disableTracer=on to the end of the URL. (example: http://www.businessinsider.com?disableTracer=on)

Step 4) Press Enter.

Step 5) You're done!

You'll have to do this for every browser you use and every site, but trust me, if you visit one of these sites often, it's worth it.

UPDATE: An even easier way to turn this off for all websites is to go here, and just click "opt out." You'll still have to do it in each browser but you won't have to do it for every site. (Thanks to indispensable friend Stefan Becket for the tip.)

Saying Goodbye to Dean Smith, College Basketball's Liberal Conscience

| Sun Feb. 8, 2015 6:46 PM EST
Michael Jordan with his college coach, Dean Smith

Famed college basketball coach Dean Smith died Saturday night at the age of 83, after years of decline. His on-court prowess as the frontman at North Carolina from 1961 to 1997 is unforgettable: 879 wins, two national championships, 11 Final Four appearances, and a lasting legacy as a hoops innovator. But for many, it's his off-court example—which manifested itself in something people in Chapel Hill still call the Carolina Way—that made him a legend.

Smith was an outspoken liberal Democrat who was anti-nukes, anti-death-penalty, and pro-gay-rights in a state that sent Jesse Helms to the Senate for five terms. (In fact, North Carolina Dems even tried to convince Smith to run against Helms.) His father, Alfred, integrated his high school basketball team in 1930s Kansas; years later, Smith would do the same at UNC, recruiting Charlie Scott in the mid-1960s to become the first African American player on scholarship there and one of the first in the entire South.

This story, from a 2014 piece by the Washington Post's John Feinstein, has been making the rounds today. It's worth re-reading:

…In 1981, Smith very grudgingly agreed to cooperate with me on a profile for this newspaper. He kept insisting I should write about his players, but I said I had written about them. I wanted to write about him. He finally agreed.

One of the people I interviewed for the story was Rev. Robert Seymour, who had been Smith's pastor at the Binkley Baptist Church since 1958, when he first arrived in Chapel Hill. Seymour told me a story about how upset Smith was to learn that Chapel Hill's restaurants were still segregated. He and Seymour came up with an idea: Smith would walk into a restaurant with a black member of the church.

"You have to remember," Reverend Seymour said. "Back then, he wasn't Dean Smith. He was an assistant coach. Nothing more."

Smith agreed and went to a restaurant where management knew him. He and his companion sat down and were served. That was the beginning of desegregation in Chapel Hill.

When I circled back to Smith and asked him to tell me more about that night, he shot me an angry look. "Who told you about that?" he asked.

"Reverend Seymour," I said.

"I wish he hadn't done that."

"Why? You should be proud of doing something like that."

He leaned forward in his chair and in a very quiet voice said something I've never forgotten: "You should never be proud of doing what's right. You should just do what's right."

RIP, Dean.

Family Stages Elaborate, Insane Kidnapping to Teach "Nice" 6-Year Old Not to Talk to Strangers

| Fri Feb. 6, 2015 3:23 PM EST

A 6-year-old boy's mother, grandmother, and aunt have all been arrested after they orchestrated an elaborate kidnapping scheme, one that lasted for four hours and involved a very real handgun, to teach the boy a lesson about why it's dangerous to talk to strangers.

Lincoln County police say the fake abduction was put into action on Monday after the Missouri family became gravely concerned that the boy was just "too nice" for his own good. The family also convinced a 23-year-old male friend of the aunt's, Nathan Firoved, to get in on the action as their lead kidnapper. From NBC:

On Monday, Firoved allegedly kidnapped the child after he got off a school bus and said he would never "see his mommy again," authorities said. Firoved also showed a handgun to the now-sobbing boy, then drove around in his truck, and finally tied him up and covered his face with a jacket when the child wouldn't stop crying.

Firoved proceeded to blindfold the boy and place his feet into plastic bags, before driving back to the boy's home. There, the aunt allegedly pulled down the boy's pants and threatened to put him into "sex slavery." Moments later, surprise! The boy became privy to the fact the whole terrifying ordeal was just a crafty hoax and that his own family was in fact far more dangerous than a true kidnapper.

The family has been charged with a host of charges, including felony kidnapping and abuse. They deny any wrongdoing.




Harper Lee Publishing "To Kill a Mockingbird" Sequel This Summer

| Tue Feb. 3, 2015 12:44 PM EST

Fifty-five years after publishing the much-beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee will release her second book this July. The previously unpublished novel is a follow-up to the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning book. From the Associated Press:

"In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called 'Go Set a Watchman,'" the 88-year-old Lee said in a statement issued by Harper. "It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became 'To Kill a Mockingbird') from the point of view of the young Scout."

"I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years."

The 304-page manuscript was discovered at a "secure location," according to Harper. Go Set a Watchman will be the notoriously recluse author's first new work in decades.

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Noveller's Multicolored Soundscapes Will Make Your Head Spin

| Mon Feb. 2, 2015 7:00 AM EST

Fantastic Planet

Oozing, pulsing and humming with energy, the multi-colored soundscapes of Noveller, aka Austin's Sarah Lipstate, will cause your head to spin. Unlike much ambient music, which functions best as background listening, her wordless songs reward close attention, with guitars and synths intertwining to generate a dazzling host of tantalizing noises. Tracks blend seamlessly into one another, just as moods shift slowly from somber to joyous and back and textures range from dense to airy. Stimulating and soothing at once, the aptly named Fantastic Planet makes everyday life seem more vivid and full of endless possibility.

Gospel Music's Soul Stirrers Will Delight Even Nonbelievers

| Mon Feb. 2, 2015 7:00 AM EST

The Soul Stirrers
Joy in My Soul: The Complete SAR Records Recordings

From the late '50s until his death in 1964, the great R&B singer Sam Cooke championed other important artists on his SAR Records label. Having launched his own career in the early '50s as a member of gospel music institution the Soul Stirrers, it was only natural that Cooke produce and write for the group when he got the chance. Featuring 33 tracks (including four previously unreleased songs) on two discs, Joy in My Soul will delight believers and nonbelievers alike. The fiery lead vocals and rousing harmonies crackle with uplifting vitality, offering a template for soul music. There's no telling how popular the Soul Stirrers could have become with secular audiences if they'd been willing leave the church.

Rembering the Raucous, Exuberant Valentinos

| Mon Feb. 2, 2015 7:00 AM EST

The Valentinos
Lookin' for a Love: The Complete SAR Records Recordings

The five Womack brothers started out in gospel, but made the shift to more earthly pursuits when they became the Valentinos. Raucous and exuberant, the quintet scored an early smash with the doo-wop tinged "Lookin' for a Love," though they're best remembered today for the rollicking original version of "It's All Over Now," which the Rolling Stones covered for one of their early hits. Following the Valentinos' demise, Bobby Womack carved out a remarkable, long-running career as a session guitarist, singer and songwriter, with hit singles that included "Harry Hippie," "Across 110th Street" and a '70s remake of "Lookin' for a Love.

Watch Larry Wilmore Explain How You Can't Escape the Koch Brothers

| Thu Jan. 29, 2015 11:15 AM EST

After learning that the Koch brothers and their allies plan on spending a whopping $889 million on 2016 elections, Larry Wilmore took to his TV show Wednesday evening to announce his intention to boycott all Koch Industries products.

"I'm sorry, I can't get behind these guys," Wilmore explained. "This just doesn't smell right to me. So what do they make again?"

But after learning that the answer is virtually everything from Dixie cups to greeting cards to Lycra, the Nightly Show host realized that any attempt to free himself from the Koch web of influence was doomed. Wilmore then reminded viewers that it's not just the Koch brothers who dole out millions to score political advantages, pointing out Michael Bloomberg and George Soros as similar examples. (It's true that there are big money liberal donors but their networks pale in comparison to the on the Koch brothers maintain.)

"It's called dark money. Keeping with the white privilege convention of saying that everything bad is dark."