The Riff - February 2007

Edwards, Obama Keep It Virtual

| Thu Feb. 15, 2007 3:37 PM EST

John Edwards just lost the blogosphere, but he's already staked out his place in the virtual realm of Second Life. Isn't there something ironic about talking about the "two Americas" from inside an alternate world? But then, it's a lot less expensive to build a mansion in SL. Not to be outcourted by a man who already has the hair of an avatar, Barack Obama's just launched his version of MySpace called— yes, really—MyBarackObama. Beacuse Obama belongs to all of us. Even the lurkers.

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Don't Quit Your Day Job, Fox News!

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 8:23 PM EST

Looks like Fox News' version of the Daily Show is kicking off. And boy, if this clip is any hint, it really stinks. We're talking worse-than-the-last-half-hour-of-SNL bad. Check it out:

FOX Hates the (Fictional) President

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 4:03 PM EST

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What's up with FOX prime time shows killing off U.S. presidents? While corporate sister FOX News is happy just to assassinate the characters of liberal presidential candidates, FOX prime time shows take it one step further by knocking off presidents the second they hint at a lefty policy position.

Last season, "Prison Break" took out the prez after he said he'd sign a forward-looking energy bill. Now, characters on "24" are plotting to assasinate the president (above right) because he refused to approve a plan to torture bad guys, suspend habeas corpus, etc. Does FOX have any other fictional presidents left to kill? Conspiracy theorists, go nuts.

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Related: A special shout-out to friend-of-MoJo James Cromwell. Generally known for playing the kind-hearted farmer in "Babe," he's now joined "24" as Jack Bauer's murderous, terrorist-loving father from hell. He's seen here killing his own son, Graem, with a dose of lethal drugs. Charming!

A Pro-War Cartoonist Draws the Line

| Wed Feb. 14, 2007 1:52 AM EST
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An unnamed editorial cartoonist serving in Iraq is calling out his colleagues for undermining morale with their pens. How? Drawing flag-draped coffins as symbols of military casualties. He writes: "[I]n many political cartoons, a flag-draped coffin is quickly becoming nothing more than a visual prop, a metaphor." In particular, he takes issue with a recent cartoon by Ann Telnaes which depicts Bush running on a treadmill of flag-draped coffins. Too bad it's a really good cartoon (not to mention that Telnaes totally rocks). But according to the soldier-cartoonist, alluding to the inevitable consequences of war is insensitive to the troops:

U.S. troops are trained to go into harm's way. That is their job. Fatalities are inevitable, though always tragic. The death of a soldier -- or 3,000 troops for that matter -- in and of itself is hardly an effective measure of the success or failure of military strategy, and it is an unfair example to use in painting the president as uncaring.

If anything, it is the cartoonists who are callous to our troops by their continued negative depiction in American op-ed pages.

This sounds like the standard media-undermining-the-troops argument: Our soldiers are fearless ass kickers, yet are vulnerable to a few editorial cartoonists who question the policies that unnecessarily put their lives at risk. So then, how in the world are cartoonists supposed to depict the concept of American fatalities? Admittedly, editorial cartoonists aren't known for having the biggest bags of visual tricks (even the versatile Telnaes has been on a coffin kick; see here, here and here.) Presumably, drawing corpses or skeletons or tombstones or the Grim Reaper would be even more offensive. It doesn't get much more sanitized than a coffin. Which makes me suspect that the soldier-cartoonist's actual beef is that his colleagues don't support the war. But if he really thinks that Americans can't handle a few sketches of pine boxes, perhaps he's in the wrong professions.

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 10:21 PM EST

With VH1 Classic possibly going away, and Logo's "NewNowNext" seemingly impossible to catch, there's almost no good place for music videos on TV these days. So, like in all things, we must turn to the internet. Below are some new clips that make squinting at a tiny window on your work monitor worth the trouble.

Robyn "Konichiwa Bitches" (via Stereogum)
In which the Swedish pop star gets silly (warning: a couple swear words)

MIA "Bird Flu" (via Cliptip)
In which the UK rapper goes back to Sri Lanka and brings back an evil, infectious beat (sorry)

Dazed and Confused

| Tue Feb. 13, 2007 5:30 PM EST

lez-zeppelin-tshirt.gifMaybe it's because the camp gene is right next to the gay gene, but I heart tribute bands. I'm not sure how I feel about Rolling Stone reviewing them, but it is. Still, I can't help but be titillated by their mention of transgendered bands like Lez Zeppelin and (male) Madonna. I've been giving Klezbians and Isle of Klesbos CDs for gifts for years, for the name alone! But the idea of some dykes rocking out to "I've gotta little woman but she won't be true" is just too fantastic. I love the underground, irreverent humor, especially as it pertains to gender, about which we tend to be sooo reverent. (Little people are down with it, too, at least the ones in the band Mini Kiss.) But if Rolling Stone is covering it, does that mean it's already over?

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The Chicks Were Brave, Give Them Grammys!

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 4:28 AM EST

So yeah, the Dixie Chicks wiped up at the Grammy's, but they were careful to let their lyrics do the talking, for the most part. Each of their five wins came with the refrain of "Not Ready to Make Nice," their song about singer Natalie Maines' we're-ashamed-Bush-is-from-Texas comment in 2003. Maines treaded lightly during their acceptance speeches, but did manage this: "In the words of the great Simpsons, 'ha ha.'" That, and her "I think people are using their freedom of speech here tonight and we get the message" comment were all the political juice we got. Oh, and Joan Baez asking everyone to "listen carefully to the lyrics" when she introduced their performance.

It sort of seemed like the Chicks were feted for their prescience. I mean, they said what few were willing to back when this war started, so tonight was kind of like a you-told-us-so-and-got-slammed-for-it nod from the mainstream music world.As for their core country roots, the band had lots of trouble packing stadiums on their latest tour and didn't even score a single nomination at November's Country Music Awards. Their base, perhaps, remains unforgiving.

As Go the Dixie Chicks, So Goes the Country

| Mon Feb. 12, 2007 2:17 AM EST

After being shunned by country music stations in retaliation for lead singer Natalie Maines' critical remarks about fellow Texan George Bush before the invasion of Iraq, the Dixie Chicks scored a major victory at the Grammy awards ceremony tonight. The Texas trio walked away with best song and record of the year for the pointedly titled "Not Ready to Make Nice" and best album of the year for "Taking the Long Way."

Just one more way for the country--or at least Hollywood--to tell Bush he's wrong about Iraq. For her part, Maines was gracious and largely apolitical, but did praise the L.A. audience for "using their freedom of speech tonight with these awards."

Party Ben Pre-Live-Blogs the Grammys

| Sun Feb. 11, 2007 6:05 PM EST

This will be so much easier than actually watching the thing.

8:00 PM - Ceremony opens with alleged "mashup" of Gnarls Barkley and the Dixie Chicks. There's some confusion because Gnarls Barkley are in Dixie Chicks costumes. Randy Newman saves the day by descending from ceiling to sing 15-minute extended version of "Crazy"

8:16 PM - First Award, for Best Spoken Word Album. It's a tie: Al Franken and Jimmy Carter! They accept with a witty back-and-forth that puns "tied" with "apartheid." Polite laughter

8:19 PM - Reba McEntire and Diddy emerge as presenters. McEntire: "Hey Diddy, can you believe it, the Police are here!" Diddy: "Hold on, I gotta call my driver!" Slightly less polite laughter

8:23 PM - Carrie Underwood wins Best Country Song for "Jesus, Take the Wheel," forgets to thank him in acceptance speech. Camera shows Jesus in audience smiling uncomfortably. Guy behind him pats him on back. You kind of get the feeling maybe things aren't going so great, like Jesus heard a suspicious message from Buddha on the answering machine and you can see in his eyes this kind of confirms everything. Of course he forgives her but it just seems like she's already moved on

8:27 PM - John Mayer and Tony Bennett perform "Candle in the Wind" accompanied by a montage of moments from the life of Anna Nicole Smith

8:43 PM - Chamillionaire wins Best Rap Song for "Ridin'," sends Weird Al to accept

Pazz & Jop Poll Results Announced... Yawn?

| Sat Feb. 10, 2007 9:39 PM EST

The Village Voice's annual poll of music critics, "Pazz & Jop," came out this week, and even though the format has always seemed designed for somewhat conservative outcomes, this year's lists are just... boring. After one and a half months spent adding up the votes (why does it take so long, incidentally? Don't they have Excel?) they come up with the same #1 album as Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan's Modern Times. Wow. At least TV On the Radio's masterpiece came in as a close #2 (apparently beating Dylan in number of mentions, in an event eerily reminiscent of Bush v. Gore). The only thing separating their albums list from every single other critical year-end roundup is... hmmm... the presence of Tom Waits at #10? Well, fine, I guess. The singles list is even more dull, with the typical Gnarls / T.I. / Timberlake / Furtado / Aguilera party posse sitting on top. It's basically right, but jeez, Peter Bjorn & John all the way down at #25? For shame.