The Riff - April 2007

Live Earth, Dead Ears

| Tue Apr. 10, 2007 6:16 PM EDT

mojo-photo-genesis.jpgBillboard is reporting that some acts have confirmed for Al Gore's "Live Earth" concerts on July 7th, and while the concept is admirable, please don't make me attend. The show at Giants Stadium in New Jersey will feature the progressive sounds of Dave Matthews, Roger Waters, The Police, Akon, Alicia Keys, Bon Jovi, Fall Out Boy, John Mayer, KT Tunstall, and Melissa Etheridge. Holy Gap khakis, that almost reads like a parody. What about, you know, Starship? The London lineup is only slightly better, with Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beastie Boys and Foo Fighters, all of whom put on adequate live shows even if their best material is years behind them, but get a load of (shudder) Genesis, and the worst of the interchangeable syrupy Brit-"rockers": James Blunt, David Gray, Damien Rice, and Keane. Blarf! Seeing Bloc Party on this bill actually makes me like them less. Well, maybe the shows in Shanghai or Rio will be better. If you're interested in jumping through all the random hoops to get tickets to this thing (Register! Apply! Wait! Get notified! Provide blood sample!) then feel free to go here to find out more, and let me know how that goes for you. Meanwhile I'll be trying to help save the earth by carpooling to Coachella -- coming up in just over two weeks.

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Party Ben's Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things - LA Edition

| Sat Apr. 7, 2007 6:39 PM EDT

Okay, I'm sorry, the big list is a day late, but sometimes when you're in Los Angeles, heavy drinking gets in the way of blogging. I've only been in town a few short hours, so in fact this Top Ten will have little to do with this pubescent metropolis, and actually, there's still a couple things to mention from my trip last week to New York. Sorry, LA; New York still wins.

10. Community Service, Indie 103.1, Fridays 10pm – 12 midnight
Alright, here's one cool thing in LA. Scott Kirkland and Ken Jordan, otherwise known as the Crystal Method, have become possibly America's most knowledgeable purveyors of progressive breaks. Their Friday night show manages to push the envelope with new sounds while keeping it friendly with the goofy, geeky banter of the hosts

9. The Ponys - "1209 Seminary" (from Turn the Lights Out on Matador)
Robert Christgau seemed to kind of dis the new Ponys album (but, wow, it still gets three stars, like everything else in Rolling Stone) and while I don't think this Chicago four-piece is necessarily rewriting the rule book, their Sonic Youth-y alt-rock reminds me of why I got into radio in the first place

8. Paul Wall "I'm Throwed" (from Get Money, Stay True on Atlantic)
While this doesn't compare to the majestic "Sittin' Sideways," the Houston rapper is still making weird, weird tunes. Is that a car alarm? What is that? How do I get to be a hip-hop superstar so I can use, like, truck-backing-up noises for a smash hit single?

7. Mark Ronson "Stop Me" (from the forthcoming album Version)
This UK DJ and producer has made a name by covering current hits in quirky, often soulful styles, and while this version of the Smiths' 1987 swan song won't replace the original, it does recontextualize it as a kind of "new standard," reminding us of how spine-tinglingly brilliant the Smiths were even as they were falling apart. "I still love you/Only slightly less than I used to" – God almighty, and this is like a third-tier Smiths song!!

6. Charlotte Hatherley - "I Want You to Know" (from the forthcoming album The Deep Blue)
If you ask me, Ash were one of the most underrated bands of the last 15 years. Thanks for asking. Now their guitarist emerges from the background with a sound that's slightly more mature, somewhere between Belly and the Pixies. Nice

A Brief Foray Into Primetime: LOST as Shakespearean Drama

| Thu Apr. 5, 2007 1:39 PM EDT

Last night's "Lost" left main gals Kate (brunette) and Juliet (blond) handcuffed together and running through the wilds a la "Charlie's Angels." As the two made their way through the brush, it struck me that their names are both found in Shakespearean works: Kate as the prickly one in "The Taming of the Shrew," and Juliet as the star-crossed lover in "Romeo and Juliet." In traditional Shakespearean fashion, both gals have picked the same man as their ill-fated lover.

As cliché as it is for two women to catfight over a man, I thought the episode was interesting. Kate's tortured relationship with her own mother, and Juliet's work at making women into mothers (she's a fertility doctor) brought an interesting psychological element to the episode. Kate yearned to be supported by her estranged mother, but by killing her mother's husband, she condemned the relationship to failure. Juliet, on the other hand, only wanted to help her sister get pregnant, and was then recruited to work on a fecund, jungle island where no one has any trouble getting pregnant.

It's worth noting that there has been very little female bonding on this male-written show. Although men bro down like there's no tomorrow--trekking into the woods, killing boars, hiding guns--the women are seemingly not very interested in interacting with one another, save when they need to take a pregnancy test. In fact, I can't think of a single episode that's focused on a female-female relationship in the show's three year history.

Ultimately, I don't know if the episode furthered any plot arcs, except for the fact that The Others are now seemingly gone except for Juliet. Quite a few bloggers have suggested that (like Shakespeare's Juliet at the masked ball) Juliet is a decoy, a mechanism for getting inside the Losties once and for all. If she does, I hope she takes the time to make friends with some of the women, because I'm tired of men being the only ones with female friends on the show.

Okay, back to reality, where we have our own ongoing mayhem and tragedies to deal with.

—Jen Phillips

More Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 7:19 PM EDT

Cover/Parody/Mashup/Goofy Concept Edition!

Debunking Sandra Tsing Loh's review of I'd Rather Eat Chocolate

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 2:14 PM EDT

A new book claims women have weaker sex drives than men because of testosterone.
Yeah right. First of all, women have testosterone too. Secondly, testosterone is made out of cholesterol, which is just about the least sexy molecule I can think of.

To be honest, I didn't read the book but I did read the book review by Sandra Tsing Loh. It holds some truth. Maybe it would help my friend, a 110-pound waif, have some compassion for her libido, which she compares to the libidos of those beefcakes who spend a few hours a day pumping iron at Gold's. Just because she's not on the prowl constantly doesn't mean she's repressed. Her sex drive isn't "weaker" but "calmer," "less demanding," and "less needy." She shouldn't pathologize it. True enough, Loh.

On the other hand, I've been mulling over Loh's anecdote about two obese L.A. lesbians who haven't had sex since the Clinton impeachment. When I first read about "Teri and Pat" a month ago—suspiciously mentioned by first name only—something just didn't seem right. In lieu of sex, "Teri and Pat have had a special Monday-night ritual. They order an extra-large cheese pizza… settle in on the couch with large twin bags of Doritos. Each chip is dipped first in cream cheese and then in salsa. Cream cheese, salsa. Cream cheese, salsa.... The Doritos are finished to the last crumb, and then, upon arrival, the pizza as well."

Here's what tipped me off: Doritos dipped in cream cheese. Ever seen that? No, because it doesn't happen. You can dip a Dorito in sour cream, baked brie, even Easy Cheese. But cream cheese is so firm that the Dorito in hand just crumbles. And so does this anecdote, despite Loh's deft prose. Nobody dips Doritos in cream cheese—not lesbians, not gays, not straights, nobody. Maybe "lesbian bed death" exists, but this Monday night, double-dipping, binge routine does not. "Teri and Pat" are no more than a caricature striking terror in the hearts of women everywhere.

Get Your A$$ Out of Bed

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 7:51 PM EDT

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ThinkGeek.com, a website featuring "stuff for smart asses," has developed an ingenious device to make sure you're never late to work, sleep through another appointment or simply annoy your partner, children, neighbors, etc. by hitting the snooze button every 10 minutes for and hour and half. Don't lie. You know you've been guilty of snooze button abuse at one point or another…well, no longer. The SnūzNLūz alarm clock—via a WiFi connection and link to your online bank account—will donate money to an organization you hate every time you hit snooze. According to their website:

The SnūzNLūz uses the very complex psychological phenomenon known as 'HATRED'. Basically it's human nature to wish harm upon your enemies. Similarly, it's human nature not to give your enemies gobs of cash so that they can grow big and dominate the world with their totally wrong, stupid and invalid point of view.

Are you a butcher? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to PETA
Are you a Republican? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to the ACLU!
Are you a land developer? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to the Wilderness Society!
Enjoy your freedom V1.0? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to the GOP, or
Enjoy your freedom V2.0? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to [the Foundation for National Progress!]
Are you a hippie? Set your SnūzNLūz to donate to the American Coal Foundation.

You gotta love technology!

—Laurin Asdal

Update: Happy April Fool's Day from ThinkGeek. (Those geeks!)

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EMI Ups the Quality and Drops the DRM

| Mon Apr. 2, 2007 12:59 PM EDT

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Well, ask and ye shall receive. I was just complaining about the low quality of 128kbps iTunes mp3s, and blammo: today EMI announced it will be offering its catalog on iTunes in 256kbps quality for the slightly increased price of $1.29 per song. The big news is that the tracks will also be free of the crippling DRM (Digital Rights Management) protection that many have complained about, but of course the other news is that a record label has finally broken the 99-cent barrier on iTunes, something they've lobbied for unsuccessfully for a while. Hopefully this won't lead to more label influence over prices ("hey, that Beyonce track looks hot, up the price to $3.50 for the next 7 hours!") but if they're willing to make this kind of tradeoff, I'm willing to pay 30 cents.

Somebody does need to tell the Times that Damon Albarn is now two bands removed from Blur, though.