The Riff - July 2008

Yearning for Better Coverage of Polygamists

| Tue Jul. 22, 2008 3:30 PM EDT

yfz200.jpgToday the New York Times teased a Sunday magazine feature on the young women of the the Yearning for Zion Ranch—the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' (FLDS) Texas compund that was raided in April.

Times photographer Stephanie Sinclair, the teaser says, "was given rare and intimate access to some of the young women who have found themselves at the center of the often-bilious battle between the state of Texas and the F.L.D.S." The result is an eye-catching essay of 16 photographs.

Contrast is really what makes these photos work so well artistically. The juxtaposition of the pastel prairie-style dresses against a run-of-the-mill suburban ranch house lends an appealingly surreal quality, reminiscent of the uncanniness of Diane Arbus' work and the magic realism of Gregory Crewdson's. But what are those strange-looking ladies really like?

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Diverse List of Mercury Prize Nominees Revealed

| Tue Jul. 22, 2008 3:02 PM EDT

mojo-photo-mercuryprizelogo.jpgHey, at least it's slightly more diverse than usual. You've got the pop-R&B of Estelle, the vintage rock of Robert Plant, the abstract dubstep of Burial and the modern jazz of Portico Quartet; throw in a little Radiohead, and that sounds to me like the list of the annual Mercury Prize nominees, an award given out to the best British or Irish album of the last 12 months. One of the judges called this a "remarkably rich year for British music," and while he may say that to all the years, it does seem like a pretty good list. Indeed, a spokesman for bookie William Hill (who puts odds on the nominees each year) said this year's odds are the "closest ever": Radiohead are first at 4/1 odds, The Last Shadow Puppets are next at 5/1, with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Elbow and Burial tied at 6/1. Of course, just like the Emmys, some great work must get inexplicably overlooked: both Portishead and M.I.A. are conspicuously absent, although Portishead won for Dummy in 1995. The full list of nominees, William Hill's odds, and a video each, after the jump.

Meeting in the Ladies' Room

| Mon Jul. 21, 2008 11:16 PM EDT

Man, I wish I'd thought to write this piece. Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for taking the ladies' loo seriously.

I have long been amazed at the camaraderie of the average women's bathroom, even in anonymous settings like restaurants and malls. A wedding or party? Forget about it. There's a reason we all pack up and go to pee together, gents: We're having fun and laughing at y'all.

Ten Silliest Digg.com Headlines About The Dark Knight

| Mon Jul. 21, 2008 6:13 PM EDT

DiggDigg.com, the web site that allows users to vote on links and stories, is a good place to see what people are talking about (and interested in reading about). Right now, it's all Batman: The Dark Knight, which opened over the weekend to record-breaking crowds. Apparently it's pretty good (this reporter finally managed to buy tickets to an Imax showing tomorrow), enough so that Batman-related stories seem to be taking up a majority of Digg's space, and amidst the box office figures are some pretty ridiculous headlines. I know you're desperate for some Dark Knight-inspired click-throughs, bloggers, but jeez. Here are ten of the more, shall we say, esoteric headlines currently getting votes on Digg:

America Still Working Through That Wardrobe Malfunction Trauma For Some Reason

| Mon Jul. 21, 2008 2:54 PM EDT

mojo-photo-malfunction.jpgYes, doctor, we know that it was way back in 2004 when a couple middling pop stars engaged in a flirtatious dance routine during a Super Bowl halftime show that ended in the brief revelation of a boob, but the event apparently still haunts our nightmares. By that I mean, of course, that it's "working its way through the court system," but there was a decision today that may mean an end to our cruel suffering is in sight: a federal appeals court today threw out the original $550,000 FCC fine against CBS for the "wardrobe malfunction." That's right, the 3rd U.S. Court of Appeals is pro-bazoom, or at least fleeting bazoom, citing the "nine-sixteenths of one second glimpse" of the breast in question in their decision. But it felt like an eternity!!! Mostly they just pointed out that the FCC had never fined fleeting indecency before:

New (Leaked) Music: Primal Scream - Beautiful Future

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 7:53 PM EDT

mojo-photo-primalscream.jpgPrimal Scream confuse the hell out of me. Are they fuzzed-out Jesus & Mary Chain imitators, acid house innovators, boring old Rolling Stones worshippers, electro-punk agitators, or is it all just a big joke? Answer: yes. The question, really, is whether you like their breakthrough successes enough to forgive their sloppy, derivative missteps; in the interest of full disclosure, this reviewer totally does. Critical consensus hails both the funky Screamadelica and the aggressive XTRMNTR as era-defining masterpieces, but I'll even pull out 1997's Vanishing Point now and then, a half-baked tribute to a totally-baked film, filled with churning electro-grunge and eye-rolling stage whispers of "Soul on ice! Soul on ice!" It's fantastic. Like the Clash, even Primal Scream's mistakes are compelling; on Beautiful Future, they often retreat to retro-Stones pablum and skeezy lyrics, and it's still pretty great.

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OK Politician's Anti-Gay Comic Book May Work Against Him

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 6:00 PM EDT

mojo-photo-rinehartexcerpt.jpgVia Queerty comes the story of Oklahoma County Commissioner Brent Rinehart, who decided to utilize the innovative format of the comic book as a reelection campaign tool. The comic attempts to illustrate Rinehart's accomplishments including "veterans appreciation month" and "keeping the cross at the fairgrounds." But the pages getting the most attention focus on the commissioner's work against the agenda of "pedaphiles [sic], polygamists, and homosexuals." These pages are, for lack of a better word, awesome: it turns out not only do gays want to lure young boys out of the forest, we also do it while wearing togas. Click the "continues" button to enjoy the two pages in question or get the whole pdf file (it's worth it) at NewsOK.com here.

Watching the "Watchmen" Trailer A Little Too Closely

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 5:35 PM EDT
doc-manhattan175.jpg

The actual movie's not due for another seven and a half months, but the trailer for Watchmen is out. (Watch it after the jump.) Which means I and other fans of the graphic-novel masterpiece that the movie's based on can get some answers to our nagging questions. Obvious questions like, Can a two-hour movie capture author Alan Moore's brilliantly constructed storyline and artist Dave Gibbons' impeccable yet pulpy atmospherics?

But beyond learning whether director Zack Snyder (300) has delivered a CGI-bloated mess, here's the practical if prurient question that's been lodged in my brain since adolescence, when talk of a Watchmen flick first surfaced: How will the movie portray Doctor Manhattan, the Smurf-blue, radioactive superman who likes to walk around with his, uh, nuclear facilities out in the open?

Top Five: Mopey Teen Playlist

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 4:08 PM EDT

cocteau-twins-250.jpgAfter watching and reviewing American Teen this week, and listening to Party Ben's old, obscure cuts from the Cure, I got to thinking about how music enhanced many of my angry, sad, and mopey days as a teenager in the late '80s/early '90s.

At risk of completely dating/pigeonholing myself, here are a few choice cuts:

The Dark Knight: A Cartoonist's Take

| Fri Jul. 18, 2008 6:19 AM EDT

Time was when comic-book fandom would keel over, twitching and gasping in excitement, when every decade or so a new movie based on a comic book hit the big screen. In my days as a younger, peppier geek, I too awaited each new comic-book movie with bated breath. Now, I'm just overwhelmed by the sheer volume of offerings (not to mention burned by two decades of movies like Batman Forever, and both versions of The Fantastic Four).

Marvel alone seems determined to overwhelm theatergoers this year: The wildly successful Iron Man (and wildly less successful Incredible Hulk) will be followed over the next few years not just by more Iron and Spider types, but The Silver Surfer, Ant-Man (no, really), and an entire Avengers team-up.

Then there's rival house DC's Batman offering, The Dark Knight, opening this weekend. There's already talk of an Oscar nomination for Heath Ledger's performance; currently, the only actor to have won a posthumous Oscar is Peter Finch (for his iconic madman in Network).

Given the heavy media coverage of this summer's stylized films, maybe that's why the only comic-book adaptation that really fascinates me right now isn't a movie.

Yes, I can't stop thinking about the Spider-Man musical. Bound for Broadway and featuring music by Bono and the Edge, Spider-Man put out this casting call for its three leads: