The Riff - February 2008

LOST: Following the Money Trail

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 8:01 PM EST

lost-the-constan.jpgWow, last night's episode of LOST was chock-full of action. There was a love story, time traveling, an art auction, even military exercises in the rain. It was almost as if the creators didn't feel they had enough time to pack everything into one episode.

Time, of course, is the key to the island and why our plucky survivors are still there instead of in balmy Los Angeles. The time difference—now established beyond a shadow of a doubt, though exactly how long it is is still to be determined—is why people are so keen to study the island, and also why it's so darn hard to get off it. But there's still the question of who knows about this time difference and what they are doing, or trying to do, to exploit it. To answer that question, let's use an old journalism maxim: follow the money.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Dance Beat Sneaking Back Into Hip-Hop

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 1:32 PM EST

mojo-photo-snoop.jpgWhat I wanna do right here is go back: way back, back into time, to the early 1990s, and to a short-lived musical genre called "hip house." Bridging the sonic and cultural gap between the up tempo 4/4 beats of house music clubs in Chicago and Detroit with the energy and lyrical flow of New York hip-hop, the hybrid genre was everywhere for a brief moment. Artists like Fast Eddie and Mr. Lee threw down the party jams, while bands like A Homeboy a Hippie and a Funky Dread and Genaside pushed musical boundaries. And don't forget Technotronic! It seemed like the future, a musical genre that broke barriers of race and sexuality. So, what happened to it?

Is Collecting Records Stupid?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 6:19 PM EST

mojo-photo-beatles.jpgVia Uncut comes news that an exceedingly rare copy of the Beatles' 1968 "White Album" is set for auction this week, and is likely to bring bids of up to £5000 ($10,000). The record has a serial number of 00000007 (kind of like Mr. Burns' Social Security number) and since it's rumored that the first ten copies of the album were all given to band members, that would make this "the lowest numbered original mono copy" that has ever been up for auction. Is this silly, or a justifiable appreciation of a landmark work of art?

Study: Anything With a Beat Causes Sexism

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 7:36 PM EST

mojo-photo-eminem.jpgVia AllHipHop.com, it's a study that appears to connect hip-hop to sexism, but not in the way you'd expect. Political science professors at North Carolina State University placed male and female students in three groups. One listened to Eminem's "Kill You" (representing the "misogynist" team: "Slut, you think I won't choke no whore/ 'til the vocal cords don't work in her throat no more?"), the second listened to the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage" (representing absence of misogyny: "I'm-a set it straight, this Watergate") and the third group "was not exposed to rap music." So did they play them Josh Groban, or just sit them in a quiet room? It doesn't say. Anyway, the study concluded that hip-hop music made people more sexist, no matter what the lyrics were about:

Kimmel's "F***ing Ben Affleck" Video: Homophobic?

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 5:14 PM EST

mojo-photo-kimmelaffleck.jpgThere's a bit of a comments war raging at gay-oriented blog Towleroad over an elaborate sketch from last night's Oscars after-show. The video in question was the latest installment in a running joke on Kimmel's ABC late-night show: recently his girlfriend Sarah Silverman brought in a video in which she announced she's "f***ing Matt Damon," with the Bourne star himself providing backup vocals. Kimmel scoring (with) Affleck was the only logical response, of course, but they really stepped up the production values, recruiting a slew of stars in a "We Are the World"-style sing-along: Robin Williams, Huey Lewis, Josh Groban?! It wasn't quite as funny as Silverman's bit (which twirled wildly through a pastiche of pop culture and musical references) and relied mostly on the shock value of its guest cameos, but some viewers are also finding that certain parts of the video crossed the line into homophobia. Kimmel and Affleck are dressed in ridiculous outfits that include skimpy jean shorts and a metallic green t-shirt, and they paint their toenails at what appears to be a gay tiki bar. While late-night comedy sketches aren't exactly, you know, hate-crimes legislation, and I typically side with comedians rather than the easily-offended, this one does bring up the question of how to tell when stereotypes are being mocked and when they're being exploited. Watch both Silverman/Damon's and Kimmel/Affleck's after the jump, and then commenters, rant away: are we watching a troubling bit of subtle gaysploitation, or should the PC police chill out and realize that laughing at stereotypes defuses them? And in general, how many times funnier is Sarah Silverman than Jimmy Kimmel?

MoJo on Oscars' Picks (and a Truly Awesome Oscars Moment, for "Once")

| Mon Feb. 25, 2008 12:36 AM EST

A pretty weighty Oscars bill this year. So no surprise that a slew of our picks were nominees. Check out these tidbits: a revealing interview with Iranian exile Marjane Satrapi, the artist behind Persepolis; an inside look at War/Dance; and our review of tonight's winner in the best documentary feature category, Taxi to the Dark Side.

And the feel-good story of the night? Hands down, best-song winners (up against two Alan Mencken powerhouses) Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who won for "Falling Slowly" from the way-Indy film Once. Irglova, who faced music before she had her chance to get a word in, was later granted time to speak. And she took eloquent advantage: "Fair play to those who dare to dream, and don't give up. This song was written from the perspective of hope, and hope, at the end of the day, connects us all, no matter how different we are."

See Once (and skip Atonement). And like Hansard said: Make Art, Make Art.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Lost Focuses on Plot, But Ploddingly So

| Fri Feb. 22, 2008 8:10 PM EST

claire-aaron-and-sun.jpgAfter last week's action-packed, mind-bending episode of Lost, I had high hopes for this week's installment. I hoped that there would be allusions to physical laws, mathmatical theories, and the theory of relativity. Or that the series, which is now a blogged about by the Washington Post and has legions of intricately-researched fan sites, would give me some new twist to investigate. So did it? Eh, not so much.

The plot did move along, though, in a way it didn't in the last season. But it felt like the writers were simply going through the motions, dutifully moving the plot along, without having much fun along the way.

'Cinema of Truth' Was Born in 1960's 'Primary': NPR on the Invention of Cinema Verite

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 7:53 PM EST

and why we journalists deserve all the credit. Who knew documentaries sucked before us ink-stained wretches?

From NPR today:

'Cinema of Truth' Was Born in 1960's 'Primary'
by Mike Pesca, NPR

All Things Considered, February 19, 2008 · In 1960, a team of documentary filmmakers descended on the Wisconsin Democratic presidential primary in order to record the campaigning between John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey. Politically, the results propelled Kennedy to the nomination. Artistically, the documentarians invented a new form.
Using technology that made cameras lighter and sound equipment more portable, the documentarians took a "fly-on-the-wall approach" in a style that would come to be called cinema verite.
We use the occasion of the current Wisconsin primary to talk about D.A. Pennebaker, Albert Maysles and Robert Drew and their 1960 collaboration Primary.

An-My Le: War on American Soil

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 7:50 PM EST

small%20wars%20200.jpgYesterday at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, throngs of school vacationers made a beeline for the much-hyped Olafur Eliasson exhibit. I didn't quite have the wherewithal to spend 20 minutes on line waiting to see trippy mirrors or whatever, so instead I left the under-10s behind and headed downstairs, where I was happy to find myself in a room with, like, four decidedly sedate adults. This was a good room for me not only because of my misanthropic tendencies, but also because of the photography series I found there: An-My Lê's "Small Wars" and "29 Palms."

Both series are about something we're not used to seeing—war in an American landscape. Not real combat, but rather reenactment and rehearsal: "Small Wars" (1999-2002) chronicles Vietnam war reenactors' staged battles in Virginia, while "29 Palms" (2003-present) focuses on soldiers training for deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan at the Twentynine Palms military base in California. On a purely technical level, this is impressive work. The black-and-white photographs are full of texture and nuance, and the composition—from vast landscapes to detailed tableaus—is impeccable.

(Not So) New Music: Plastilina Mosh

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 7:46 PM EST

mojo-photo-pmosh.jpgGreetings from Puebla, Mexico, where I just finished the Cinco Tacos special: only 25 pesos for five crazy good tacos al pastor. Insert Homer Simpson blissful gargle noise here. I'm in Mexico this week to do a couple DJ gigs at "warm-up parties" for the MX Beat Soundfest music festival, and while its prominent Marlboro sponsorship gave me pause (I'm an American Spirit smoker!), I guess commercial tie-ins are kind of typical south of the border, and the lineup is reassuringly fantastic, including both international artists like the Beastie Boys and M.I.A. as well as Mexican artists like Los Dynamite and Instituto Mexicano del Sonido. Headlining the event here in Puebla on Saturday is Plastilina Mosh, a Monterrey duo who have a reputation for enthusiastic eclecticism. Their latest single, last year's "Millionaire," connects the dots between loping reggaeton, glitchy Aphex Twin, and, well, Ace of Base, and happily switches between Spanish and English. I haven't been able to get it out of my head all week: