The Riff - April 2007

Attention Boston Bloggers: Iceland wants you!

In an effort to "put web attractions in print" and reinvent notions of what a traditional newspaper provides, the new and free publication BostonNOW is grabbing up bloggers that will produce content for print. BostonNOW is funded by an Icelandic company, Dagsbrun, that hopes to have NOW papers in eight to ten different cities in two years, with every one built from the bottom-up...

| Wed Apr. 18, 2007 6:32 PM EDT

In an effort to "put web attractions in print" and reinvent notions of what a traditional newspaper provides, the new and free publication BostonNOW is grabbing up bloggers that will produce content for print.

BostonNOW is funded by an Icelandic company, Dagsbrun, that hopes to have NOW papers in eight to ten different cities in two years, with every one built from the bottom-up – or from the blog-up.

"It will be fun," Editor-in-Chief John Wilpers told NPR. It will also be a chance for bloggers – and maybe even self-described "sloggers" who blog about their sex lives – to see their name in print and potentially reach a wider audience. Initially bloggers will comprise about 10 percent of the paper's content, but the plan is to expand that to as much as 50 percent. Whether or not the blogs will be uninformed columns, personal diatribes or quick, informed snippets remains to be seen.

Wilpers is right, it probably will be fun. It will also be cheap. Bloggers won't be paid, although a business model that could pay bloggers is allegedly being developed. So is this the latest in crowd sourcing? Probably. Could it be a great strategy for providing fresh, irreverent content? Maybe.

-- Gary Moskowitz

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Sundance Channel's Green Living Show Debuts Tonight

If you're going to use electricity tonight, you may as well do it watching Sundance Channel's new green living show, "Big Ideas for a Small Planet" (9 p.m. E/P). In true Sundance tradition, "Big Ideas" is a series of short documentaries. But they're not the drab, depressing kind. Instead, they feature cutting-edge technologies and brilliant inventors bent on saving the earth. Each episode has...

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 7:03 PM EDT

If you're going to use electricity tonight, you may as well do it watching Sundance Channel's new green living show, "Big Ideas for a Small Planet" (9 p.m. E/P).

In true Sundance tradition, "Big Ideas" is a series of short documentaries. But they're not the drab, depressing kind. Instead, they feature cutting-edge technologies and brilliant inventors bent on saving the earth.

Each episode has a theme, and tonight's is alternative fuels. You'll meet a couple who'll retrofit your gas-guzzling vintage ride into a clean machine, see an Indy 500 driver get better torque and pull using ethanol, and feel the rush with a monster trucker who fries chicken and then uses the grease as gas. These are people who don't just "talk the talk" about being green; they "drive the drive," as one quips. (That this first episode is about alternative fuels and a later one is about green vehicles is probably no coincidence: the show is "sponsored by Lexus," who has a new hybrid SUV on the market.)

The series doesn't end when you click off the TV. "Big Ideas" is just part of a larger line of programming, web features, and blogs called "The Green." Viewers can check out easy tips for green living, watch video clips, or learn more about environmental issues on "The Green" section of Sundance Channel's site, for which TreeHugger provided much of the content.

But lest you think Sundance the only cable channel targeting green viewers, the Discovery Channel is launching an entire network devoted to everyday green living next year.

—Jen Phillips

Willie Nelson Speaks the Truth

Interestingly-designed web site truthout.org has a cool video of Willie Nelson, fresh from his appearance on the "Colbert Report" (and subsequent appearance atop the Party Ben Top 10), giving a speech at the Camp Casey Peace Awards in Austin last week. The awards are named in honor of Cindy Sheehan's son, who was killed in Iraq three years ago. The clip shows the 73-year-old...

| Tue Apr. 17, 2007 4:58 PM EDT

mojo-photo-willie2.jpgInterestingly-designed web site truthout.org has a cool video of Willie Nelson, fresh from his appearance on the "Colbert Report" (and subsequent appearance atop the Party Ben Top 10), giving a speech at the Camp Casey Peace Awards in Austin last week. The awards are named in honor of Cindy Sheehan's son, who was killed in Iraq three years ago. The clip shows the 73-year-old country legend has only grown more outspoken with age, saying "I just love a revolution," to cheers from the crowd.

In the followup interview, Nelson talks about how he manages to express progressive viewpoints while holding onto his conservative fan base, something that, as a radical former Nebraskan, I'm pretty much in awe of. "I stay with the traditions of country music," he says, "so in that respect I think I'm pretty conservative." It's a reminder that the kinds of things Nelson is talking about -- dedication to American farmers, opposition to nation-building foreign policy, support for the freedom to, uh, smoke weed, without government interference in your personal choices -- are actually kind of conservative too. Huh.

Willie Nelson's upcoming tour dates include three more nights at the Fillmore here in San Francisco (through Thursday 4/19), then he hits the main stage at Coachella on 4/29, its country sister festival Stagecoach the next weekend, and the Crossroads Guitar Festival in Illinois on 7/28.

What Snoop Dogg Means by "Ho"

Snoop Dogg told MTV that Imus deserved to be fired but rappers can keep talking about "ho's." That's because the Rutgers players are upwardly-mobile athletes, Snoop said, but rappers are referring to "ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--." "It's a completely different scenario," said Snoop. "[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next...

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 4:24 PM EDT

Snoop Dogg told MTV that Imus deserved to be fired but rappers can keep talking about "ho's." That's because the Rutgers players are upwardly-mobile athletes, Snoop said, but rappers are referring to "ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--."

"It's a completely different scenario," said Snoop. "[Rappers] are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing sh--, that's trying to get a n---a for his money. These are two separate things. First of all, we ain't no old-ass white men that sit up on MSNBC going hard on black girls. We are rappers that have these songs coming from our minds and our souls that are relevant to what we feel. I will not let them mutha----as say we in the same league as him."

So I guess slurs are fine as long as they come straight from the heart.

But seriously, listen to Gwen Ifill on Meet the Press yesterday, via Feministing. (When Ifill was a New York Times reporter, Imus called her "the cleaning lady.") It's great to see her look straight at David Brooks and Tim Russert when she talks about complicity--among journalists who appeared regularly on the show--in a culture of "casual slurs and insults."

Don't Get GLAAD, Get Mad

solid; border-color:#000000;">Towleroad points out today that writer Michelangelo Signorile has given the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation some guff on his blog, "The Gist." The organization has become known for its annual media awards ceremonies, the most recent of which took place Saturday night in Los Angeles. I've got nothing against awards shows, I guess, but lately GLAAD's have started to seem...

| Mon Apr. 16, 2007 2:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-glaad.jpgTowleroad points out today that writer Michelangelo Signorile has given the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation some guff on his blog, "The Gist." The organization has become known for its annual media awards ceremonies, the most recent of which took place Saturday night in Los Angeles. I've got nothing against awards shows, I guess, but lately GLAAD's have started to seem like less like celebrations of still-rare queer representation, and more like opportunities for (apparently?) heterosexual stars to access the gay demographic. Saturday's honorees included a "vanguard" award to Jennifer Aniston, as well as "outstanding individual episode" of a TV show to "Grey's Anatomy." Maybe they were trying to be funny with that last one?

Aqua Teen Movie Not Very Good

Yes, yes, you're saying, "in other news: Pope Catholic." I'm sure the Mother Jones editors are like "what kind of dimwitted yokel is this so-called Party Ben, sullying our esteemed web site with blather about the latest stoner cartoon." Indeed. But in my defense, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," the show, was at one point the funniest, oddest thing on television, belying its rep...

| Sun Apr. 15, 2007 8:27 PM EDT

aquateen.jpg
Yes, yes, you're saying, "in other news: Pope Catholic." I'm sure the Mother Jones editors are like "what kind of dimwitted yokel is this so-called Party Ben, sullying our esteemed web site with blather about the latest stoner cartoon." Indeed. But in my defense, "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," the show, was at one point the funniest, oddest thing on television, belying its rep as "TV for slackers" with rapid-fire dialog that rewarded repeat viewings. Like "Monty Python," the best episodes built a bizarro world of utter nonsense, but then respected this world's inner logic, and pushed the rules to their logical, insane conclusions. The strange format of 12- or 13-minute episodes made the action dense and rollicking, like a great comic short story.

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Party Ben's Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things 4/13/07

Ooh, Friday the 13th. Time for scaarrry electro jams, and spooooky Icelandic singer ladies, and situation commmedieeesss!!! 10. Getting ready to go see "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters" Mostly just being amused by the Chronicle's baffled (yet admirably open-minded) review of the thing today. 9. The Glass ? "Come Alive" (mp3) The NYC electro duo comes back with a more...

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 10:34 PM EDT

Ooh, Friday the 13th. Time for scaarrry electro jams, and spooooky Icelandic singer ladies, and situation commmedieeesss!!!

mojo-photo-aqua.jpg10. Getting ready to go see "Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters"
Mostly just being amused by the Chronicle's baffled (yet admirably open-minded) review of the thing today.


mojo-photo-glass.jpg9. The Glass – "Come Alive" (mp3)
The NYC electro duo comes back with a more mainstream sound reminiscent of Tiga and fellow New Yorkers The Rapture. Grab an mp3 of it (and a cool DJ set from them) at Spinner here


mojo-cover-brighteyes.jpg8. Cover art for Bright Eyes Cassadaga, new album on Saddle Creek
Yes, fine, it's Omaha's finest singer-songwriter with a more "Americana" style album. Whatever. But duuude, check out this cover art, it's all like black and white static, but you pull out the included magic view screen, and it turns into pictures of crazy stuff! How do they do that?

mojo-cover-djaxel.jpg7. DJ AxelBreakin' the Law (self-released album)
LA's Peter Axelrad has quietly become one of the most consistent mash-up producers out there, with flawless and crowd-pleasing DJ sets; this collection of tracks is augmented by brilliant, Sgt. Peppers-inspired cover art


mojo-cover-bjork.jpg6. Bjork"Earth Intruders" (from the forthcoming album Volta, out May 7 on Atlantic)
This Timbaland-produced single underwhelmed me at first, but after a week of hearing it around town, it's wormed its way into my brain. With its clompy drums and space-alien perspective, it's oddly similar both sonically and lyrically to Bjork's first solo single, "Human Behavior," and almost equally charming

Pimping Up Where Molly Ivins Left Off

OK, so anyone who has been paying serious attention will know that I'm late: the Texas Observer's Molly Ivins Tribute issue was published in February. But I just got mine in the San Francisco mail yesterday -- via Pony Express from Austin, I guess -- and, just in case you missed it too, I am telling everyone I know: Do yourself a favor and...

| Fri Apr. 13, 2007 3:13 PM EDT

OK, so anyone who has been paying serious attention will know that I'm late: the Texas Observer's Molly Ivins Tribute issue was published in February. But I just got mine in the San Francisco mail yesterday -- via Pony Express from Austin, I guess -- and, just in case you missed it too, I am telling everyone I know: Do yourself a favor and get a copy while they last. Even if you don't need a pick-me-up today or tomorrow, the day will surely come that you do, and this issue has some inspiring and potent juju.

Of all the stray and stringy indy journalism dogs that Molly adopted (and Mother Jones was one), The Texas Observer was the one closest to her heart. She was co-editor there from 1970 to 1976, and more to the point of this story, she was in these last few years driven to get this feisty, important and perpetually strapped publication on its financial feet. Last fall, she even subjected herself to a Molly Ivins "barbeque" (AKA, roast) to raise some important money. The Observer had been challenged to match a $500,000 grant to ramp up their reporting and, indeed, with Molly inspiring large gifts and small, they made the match: The money will support a serious expansion of the magazine's investigative reporting for the next two years. (Anyone who reads the business pages should have already noted that the total amount raised there -- huge by the standards of indy media -- equates to 1/300th of Larry Ellison's yacht and is 1/54th what Goldman Sachs' CEO took home last year. I suppose the justice is that getting paid even measly wages for doing butt-kicking journalism is just more damn fun.) But I digress.

The Molly Tribute issue has contributions from lots of people you've heard of (Bill Moyers, Maya Angelou, Jim Hightower, Garrison Keillor, and Dan Rather among them) and lots that I hadn't, and it's all really, really good, that sweet combination of tears and laughter and Texas that truly honors Molly's life and spirit. Typical of us bleeding-heart liberal publications, the Observer has gone and underpriced it: It's available online for a mere $5. But you know what you need to do: when you go to the Observer's site to get your copy (and do it now -- I'm told they're down to fewer than 1,000 copies), also click on the button to make a contribution to the Molly Ivins Investigative Fund.

Help those heroes and heroines at the Observer keep fightin' for freedom! (I'm telling you, you'll love that Tribute issue.)

— Jay Harris

Imus Loses His Bully Pulpit

CBS dropped Don Imus' morning shock-jock radio program, Imus in the Morning. In case you've been living under a rock, Imus called the Rutgers women's basketball team, who placed second in the women's NCAA championship, a bunch of "nappy-headed hos." Although many black groups expressed their dismay to CBS, Imus's ratings went up after the April 4 remark. Here's an example of the market...

| Thu Apr. 12, 2007 6:40 PM EDT

imus.jpgCBS dropped Don Imus' morning shock-jock radio program, Imus in the Morning. In case you've been living under a rock, Imus called the Rutgers women's basketball team, who placed second in the women's NCAA championship, a bunch of "nappy-headed hos." Although many black groups expressed their dismay to CBS, Imus's ratings went up after the April 4 remark. Here's an example of the market not taking care of itself, I guess. Fortunately, CBS (and MSNBC, which dropped the simulcast yesterday) did the right thing.

Ironically, Imus was scheduled to apologize to the team in person today.

An interesting thought problem: Clearly, what Imus said was more racist than sexist ("hos" notwithstanding). But it's interesting that his racism was stimulated by women's basketball and not men's. Why do racism and sexism seem to get so perversely intertwined?

Johnny Cash's House Burns Down

Please, no "ring of fire" jokes: the Tennessee house Johnny Cash lived in for more than 30 years with June Carter Cash burned to the ground Tuesday; the cause is still unknown but appears to have been exacerbated by "a flammable wood preservative" (?!!) that construction workers were applying to the house. In addition to hosting a whole variety of famous friends of...

| Wed Apr. 11, 2007 5:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-cashhouse.jpg Please, no "ring of fire" jokes: the Tennessee house Johnny Cash lived in for more than 30 years with June Carter Cash burned to the ground Tuesday; the cause is still unknown but appears to have been exacerbated by "a flammable wood preservative" (?!!) that construction workers were applying to the house. In addition to hosting a whole variety of famous friends of Cash, the house was also the setting for the emotional video for "Hurt," one of the covers from his American Recordings albums that make you go "Oh, that's how that song's supposed to be."

An Oak Ridge Boy lives down the road and gives a quote that seems like a bit of a dis on current owner of the house... wait for it... Barry Gibb. Again, may I just say, "?!!"? Anyway, the Oak Ridge Boy says "maybe it's the good Lord's way to make sure that it was only Johnny's house." Which is nice, but the image in my mind is more like the good Lord letting Johnny reach down and zap the house himself. Or, come to think of it, Barry Gibb burning down Johnny Cash's house.