The Riff - May 2007

500 Years Of Women In Art

| Thu May. 31, 2007 1:00 PM PDT

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Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things: 5/25/07

| Fri May. 25, 2007 7:35 PM PDT

While the rest of the country gets ready to kick off the summer this weekend, with barbecues or swimming or whatever you do, we in San Francisco are just battening down the hatches, as the fog rolls in and dampens our spirits that were so recently teased with a summery come-on. Appropriately enough, this week's Top Ten is a mish-mash of top-down party jams and huddled-in-a-blanket dirges, and if you can't handle the, um, mixture of heat and cold, then, uh, get out the kitchen.

mojo-photo-editors.JPG10. Editors – "The Weight of the World" (from The End Has A Start, out July 17th on Epic) (mp3 via Hayat Bayat)
The Birmingham combo's excellent, Joy Division-reminiscent "Munich" from 2005 unfortunately wasn't equaled by any track on their album, The Back Room, and I kind of wrote them off. However, a now-legendary performance at Coachella (opposite Madonna!) and some leaked tracks from their upcoming album are making me reconsider. This ballad, taking off from a "Just Like Honey"-style beat, is both quieter and more ambitious than anything they've done before

mojo-photo-simianmobile.JPG9. Simian Mobile Disco – Live DJ Set on BBC Radio 1's "Essential Mix," Sunday, May 20th, 2007 (mp3 via BBC Essential Mixes)
Okay, yes, I was in LA last weekend, and I upgraded to a rental car that had Sirius Satellite Radio, and I'm sorry, but rather than enjoy the soothing sounds of KCRW or the indie jams on, er, Indie, I stayed locked on Sirius Channel 11: BBC Radio 1, which was broadcasting live from their "Big Weekend" concert event. The broadcast was so compelling that I even listened to a whole Scissor Sisters live number ("Comfortably Numb") and I really, really hate them. But it was hearing this storming DJ set (from the duo currently vying with Justice for the title of Reigning Kings of Electro-skronk) that made the upgrade worth it

mojo-photo-common.JPG8. Common"The People" (from the apparently forthcoming album Finding Forever on Geffen)
Class-consciousness is sorely lacking in... well, jeez, in America in general, so it's nice to see prog-rapper Common taking up the cause. More importantly, he rhymes "Botswana" with "Obama." All this happens over a quirky sample, produced by Kanye West (in an apparent attempt to be reminiscent of J Dilla), with oddly cut-off vocals and infectious synth lines. He's no Dilla, but what are you gonna do

mojo-photo-spankrock.JPG7. Bjork – "Earth Intruders" (Spank Rock remix) (mp3 via Chazology)
Just as Mark Bell's clattering remix of "Hyperballad" seemed to lead the way to his production work on Bjork's next album, Homogenic, one can only hope that Spank Rock's rerub of "Earth Intruders" might lead to a new Bjork album infused with their hyper Baltimore style. Oddly, this mix turns the tempo down a notch, but still manages to feel freer and, well, more fun

mojo-photo-spoon.JPG6. Spoon – "The Ghost of You Lingers" (from Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, out July 10th on Merge)
Depire the fact that this track from the Austin indie rockers is basically just piano, voices, and and some funky reverb, it sure reminds me of ELO. Maybe it's the minor 7th chords? Either way, it's not surprising everybody's jumping over themselves to grab (and give away) the leaked mp3s from the forthcoming album

Rosie O'Donnell Leaving "The View" A Little Early

| Fri May. 25, 2007 2:59 PM PDT

mojo-photo-view.JPGABC announced today that Rosie O'Donnell, controversial co-host of "The View," has permanently left the show three weeks earlier than planned, following a surpremely uncomfortable argument with her co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck on Wednesday. O'Donnell's upcoming departure had already been announced, and attributed to contract negotiations failing, but her often-combative presence on the show was clearly troublesome as well. On Thursday, co-host and producer Barbara Walters announced O'Donnell wouldn't be joining the show that day since it was "her partner Kelly's birthday;" today's announcement just stated she had now requested an "early leave."

Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Thu May. 24, 2007 7:03 PM PDT

Hmm, not sure if there's a theme with these five. Things that are either slightly or very disturbing? An exploration of the roles we all play in society? Cool new music? Whatever, just watch.

UNKLE feat. Ian Astbury – "Burn My Shadow" (via Stereogum)

In which a regular guy awakens one morning to find, well, something's been installed in his body. Creepy factor: 7/10

Ciara – "Like a Boy"

In which the young pop singer wonders about gender roles, and dances around with some butch gals. Groundbreaking factor: 5/10

Shoot an Iraqi from the Comfort of Your Own Home Computer

| Thu May. 24, 2007 1:56 PM PDT

Wafaacrop.jpg

It's not just a video game. A performance artist has been holed up in Chicago with a webcam and paintball gun trained on him. Right now Wafaa Bilal is out (late lunch?), leaving just a bedroom splattered with paint, so Web snipers are aiming for the plant instead. It's a statement on that American combination of high-tech trigger-happiness and apathy toward Iraqis. I was going to suggest Bilal was inspired by this technology, "computer-assisted remote hunting." But it's much worse. According to his bio, Bilal grew up in Iraq, and his 21-year-old brother still there was recently killed by stray American gunfire. Maybe he's trying to heal by reenacting the trauma, as they say. Black humor heals all wounds. Thank you, Goode, for the tip.

Dem or Repub? Half of the Answer is in Your Genes

| Thu May. 24, 2007 11:39 AM PDT

A new study from New York University shows that your political preference is more than just a preference: part of it is written in your DNA. "40, perhaps 50 percent of our political beliefs seem to have a basis in genetics," said Josh Hibbing, political science professor at University of Nebraska, who contributed to the study.

Hibbing's research showed that identical twins were more likely to share political beliefs than fraternal twins, regardless of how they were raised. But DNA does not "hardwire" the belief itself, it merely affects how a person responds to a given situation. A control-happy neat-freak is far more likely to be a conservative because he or she prefers order and the comfort of the familiar in their life, whereas a touchy-feely, globe-trotting artist is more likely to be a liberal because he or she enjoys new experiences.

But the environment is just a strong a factor as genes, especially when personal security is threatened. Thirty-eight percent World Trade Center survivors, said they grew more conservative after 9/11; only 13 percent said they were more liberal.

—Jen Phillips

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Live Earth Making Enemies

| Wed May. 23, 2007 2:20 PM PDT

mojo-logo-liveearth.jpgAl Gore's Live Earth concerts (the lineup of which I controversially dissed a while back) are getting some more negative publicity. First up, last week, a surprisingly coherent Roger Daltry of the Who told England's The Sun that "the last thing the planet needs is a rock concert." Well now! How do you feel, Mr. Daltry, about using a notoriously wasteful type of event to raise environmental awareness? "I can't believe it," he says, "let's burn even more fuel." Daltry did of course play both LiveAid and Live8, which were apparently not powered by fuel but by magical unicorns on treadmills. Speaking of LiveAid, Sir Bob Geldof himself was even more harsh on Live Earth, saying "everybody" already knows about global warming. Knows about, and rejects, Sir Bob, just like that crazy idea we evolved from monkeys.

A Breakthrough in Electric Slide Deregulation

| Wed May. 23, 2007 10:29 AM PDT
electricslide.gif

Good news for dancers and copyfighters: the creator of the Electric Slide has just taken a step back and agreed to allow non-commercial use of the disco-era dance which, as Wikipedia helpfully explains, "is still done frequently at social occasions to virtually any music." Ric Silver, the man behind the moves, had been sending legal notices to people who posted videos of the dance, asserting his copyright over it. Now, he's going to license the dance through Creative Commons (which apparently includes letting Spiderman and a Transformer do it, as they do in this image from his website). There's no word, however, on the Funky Chicken patent dispute.

See Mother Jones' roundup of intellectual property run amok.

Top Ten Stuff 'n' Things 5/18/07

| Fri May. 18, 2007 4:34 PM PDT

Back in New York City, and I wish I could say this week's list is influenced by the hot new trends sweeping the metro area, but unfortunately I've been hard at work the whole week and haven't really been hitting the Williamsburg night spots or anything. Sorry, Riff readers. So, the New Yorky stuff in the Top Ten is pretty superficial, but the music is good, I promise.

mojo-photo-djmedhi.JPG10. DJ Medhi - "Signatune" (Thomas Bangalter edit)
France is making my favorite electro jams right now, and one hopes Sarko won't quash the locals' efforts in a misguided attempt to Americanize the music scene. This track from Paris's DJ Medhi is an exhilerating take on the hyper-compressed cut-up sample-based techno style pionneered by fellow Frenchmen Daft Punk, and in fact one of the Punks himself gives it an extended edit that allows the song time to build.

mojo-photo-empire.jpg9. A cool picture of lightning striking the Empire State Building on Wednesday 5/16
At the time I was safely ensconced at the CBS Upfronts at Carnegie Hall a few blocks uptown (which, unfortunately, I can't really cover, ethically at least, because I was hired by them for some music production and DJing, but I have some really good stories if you buy me a beer). It was still an exciting storm. Amusingly the rain kind of ruined the CBS after party at Tavern on the Green, where all the suits and CBS stars were forced to squeeze into the limited indoor spaces, while a couple of the video crew and myself huddled outside under an umbrella with some bartenders, desperately trying to smoke our damp cigarettes, as the rain poured down and the wind seemed to bring the topiary elephants to life.

mojo-cover-rhythmscholar.jpg8. Rhythm Scholar vs. Queen vs. The World - "Another One Bites the Dust" (Blasted Breaks mix) (mp3 from his site)
This stuttery, extended mix uses Queen as its basis but then launches off into samples from Rob Base, Spin Doctors, Joan Jett, and many others. It ends up not being a mashup so much as a kind of acid-house approach to classic rock: recognizable clips reorganized over an insistent beat, aimed at the dancefloor.

mojo-cover-ratatat.JPG7. Ratatat - Remixes Vol. II (self-released CD)
The New York electronic duo jump into the mixtape world again with this fantastic compilation of their takes on the biggest names in hip-hop. Young Jeezy, Jay-Z, and Kanye all make (unauthorized) appearances, and their reworkings of the backing tracks are often revelatory, giving rockist "oomph" to the insistent rhymes from the rappers. Grab an mp3 here of their take on Notorius B.I.G.'s 1993 hit, "Party and Bulls***."

6. Low - "Hatchet" (Optimimi version)
The Minnesota trio's recent album, Drums and Guns, is turning out to be one of the year's highlights; its move towards more quirky, electronic production hasn't changed the band's signature emotional intensity. Low remixes have always seemed kind of strange -- like the Smiths, their songs seem somehow untouchable and perfectly formed. But this simple rework of "Hatchet" brings a plaintive, soulful vibe to Mimi's vocals, making Low sound almost... funky?

How Gullible Is Christopher Hitchens?

| Wed May. 16, 2007 3:14 PM PDT

He's gullible enough to believe that Orthodox Jews have sex only through a hole in the sheet, and gullible enough to repeat that myth in his latest book. Ok, ok, a lot of people fell for this one, including Hitchens' editors, reviewers, Larry David, and me. But we're not Christopher Hitchens, and we didn't write The Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice. Mark Oppenheimer blogs:

As a lie, it's not as bad as the blood libel, but it's not so far from the old tales of sexual perversion in Catholic monasteries and convents -- it's a lie meant to discredit a whole people by making them seem sexually bizarre and far outside decent society.

One possible derivation of the urban legend:

Seeing Jews in religious neighborhoods hanging their "talitot katan" out to dry. This poncho-like garment is about two feet by four feet, has a fringe on each corner, and a hole in the center for the wearer's head, and it looks somewhat like a small sheet with a hole, and many people have vivid and warped imaginations.

Hey Hitch! Did you know "gullible" isn't in Wikipedia?