The Riff - September 2008

Racist Jokes Tarnish Ricky Gervais Film, Ghost Town

| Fri Sep. 26, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

Ghost175.jpgGhost Town (watch the trailer here) may not be original, but it is amusing. The romantic comedy starring Ricky Gervais (of Britain's "The Office") trails the life of an aloof dentist who can see dead people after a botched colonoscopy. Haunted by NYC ghosts pleading for help with their unfinished business, he proves heartless until the widow (Téa Leoni) of one cheating spirit (Greg Kinnear) perks up his otherwise lonely life.

The film clings to clichés and wastes screen time on some flat characters, but still manages to glide along on Gervais' dry, charming humor. Devoid of gore and messy back stories, the ghost story stays lighthearted, aside from a tearjerker montage near the end.

It is doubly shocking, then, when Gervais' character twice whips out racist humor that seems both unexplained and excessive. In the first instance, Leoni and Gervais are holding back giggles from her fuddy-duddy human rights lawyer boyfriend when Gervais peeps out that the Chinese are the only ones different from the rest of the human population. Refusing to stop there, he continues by mocking names like "Pong." Later he targets his Indian colleague for tips on how to torture a patient for information (after asking his religion, of course).

Gervais' character is selfish and socially-awkward, for sure, but the racial comments seem contrived and tossed in for cheap laughs. See the film yourself and let us know what you think about movies with racial implications.

—Brittney Andres

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Jesus: Twitter Is a Waste of Time

| Fri Sep. 26, 2008 2:52 PM EDT

Annoyed by non-believers micro-blogging their hourly moods, eating, and exercise habits?

Thank God, Gospelr just solved that messy societal problem for you. And what do you know, Christians are just as boring as everyone else.

A quick scan of Tweets on Gospelr, the Christian Twitter knockoff, reveals such minutiae as:

Adrian:

 

"I had an awesome night at the KPC men's group here in Rogers."

 

 

and

Jesustxtswithu:

 

"Checking out Gospelr, I must say glad to finally be able to "follow" people who Follow Him. Greetings <3."

 

 

Jesustxtswithu's sentiment is, of course, the ostensible reason for the site to exist. But the thing about following people who follow Jesus is that, much like people who don't, they mostly post things like:

Video: Sarah Silverman Will Blame the Jews If Obama Loses

| Thu Sep. 25, 2008 4:14 PM EDT

Sarah Silverman is so convinced Florida's Jewish vote will tip the election in Barack Obama's favor that she's joined a campaign called "The Great Schlep." The campaign pushes young Heebs to visit their grandparents in Florida and educate them about the Democratic candidate, thereby saving the country from another Broward County nightmare, a la 2000.

Silverman outlines all the reasons Jews should vote for Obama in the video below, including the fact that "Barack" means "lightning" in Hebrew, while "John" is just another word for toilet:

Second Radiohead Remix Project Offers Mixed Results

| Wed Sep. 24, 2008 4:04 PM EDT

mojo-photo-reckonerremix.jpgYou gotta give it to Radiohead: they know how to use that internet. While other bands fret about file-sharing or unauthorized mashups and remixes, Thom Yorke and his merry bandits gave away 2007's In Rainbows for free, if you wanted, and happily sold the individual instrument tracks from the song "Nude" on iTunes a few months back so amateur remixers could have their way with them. Now they've done it again, with (in my opinion) a slightly more compelling track from In Rainbows, the haunting "Reckoner." The band have set up a "Reckoner Remix Project" web site where producers can upload their tracks and fans can listen and vote for their favorites. There doesn't appear to be any prize (other than the possibility Mr. Yorke himself might pop your mix onto his iPod) and the fine print makes it clear that Radiohead owns everything, always and forever, but it's still pretty interesting to see what people have come up with.

"Palin Syrah" Wine Sales Drop Because of Sarah Palin

| Tue Sep. 23, 2008 9:01 PM EDT

To a Miller Lite-drinking, displaced Ohioan like me, wine is wine. I enjoy it—the redder and drier the better—but I don't care if it's Cabernet, Merlot, or Pinot Noir.

But my fellow San Franciscans take their wine seriously enough that the vintners' label actually means something: The owner of a wine bar in the city says sales of "Palin," a Syrah, have plummeted since John McCain tapped Sarah Palin to be his running mate:

"It was our best selling wine before (the V.P. announcement)," said Chris Tavelli, owner of Yield Wine Bar, which has offered Palin Syrah, a certified organic wine from Chile, by the glass since July. But after Sen. John McCain tagged Sarah Palin as his running mate, sales of the wine with the conservative's inverted name plummeted.

Sure, the wine's name is ironic, but it's just wine; it's not as if naming it "Palin" turns it to moose blood.

New York Times Seems to Think Tonight's Heroes Premier is About Credit Cards and Whininess

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 10:28 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nbcheroes.jpgI've always believed part of science fiction's power comes from its ability to offer both a narrative and a symbolic, fantastical metanarrative, that can either reinforce or supplant the apparent meaning of the narrative. Also, granted, I've been known to insist on, ah, somewhat sinister readings of current sci-fi hits, even when everybody thinks I'm nuts. But in discussing tonight's mildly-anticipated season premier of Heroes, Times writer Alessandra Stanley seemed to reveal more of her own personal issues than elucidate any metaphorical meaning. Basically, she wants those damn kids off her lawn. She has no sympathy for the super-power-endowed mutants, calling the show a "venting of [their] self-pity," and then makes a bit of a leap to those brain-searingly annoying spots for Freecreditreport.com:

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Emmys Political References: And the Winner Is...

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 6:12 PM EDT

mojo-photo-emmypolitics.jpgI'm embarrassed to admit I even watched part of the Emmys telecast last night, though in my defense it just happened to be on during dinner, and I was flipping back and forth to Die Hard With a Vengeance, at least. The ceremony managed to exaggerate the most infuriating aspects of awards shows, extending the pointless blather and witless tributes while cutting off speeches after about three seconds. Apparently America agreed, as the broadcast achieved the lowest ratings in the history of the Emmys. Congratulations.

One of the few highlights of the show was waiting to see what sly (or not-so-sly) political reference would come next. There were quite a few, with winners and presenters perhaps inspired by the stultifying boredom of the rest of the ceremony. In any event, please welcome Party Ben to present the five nominees for best political commentary at the Emmys broadcast last night.

How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth Smashes Capitalism

| Mon Sep. 22, 2008 4:24 PM EDT

howtherich.jpg On his way out of the Tokyo G8 summit on climate change last July, President Bush famously punched the air and announced with his trademark grin, "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter!" At that moment Dubya could have been the mascot for Herve Kempf's How The Rich Are Destroying the Earth, a polemic about the world's wealthiest people, who treat global warming like an inconvenient joke.

The villains of Kempf's book are familiar: an oligarchy that consumes greedily and a capitalist system that inspires others to do the same. The rich insulate themselves from the environmental havoc they wreak, while the poor pay the price, with skyrocketing asthma rates and living quarters near dumps. Kempf, an environmental reporter for the French newspaper Le Monde, navigates this well-worn territory with confidence and clarity. But when it comes to making his main point—that the rich are singularly responsible for environmental downfall—his case falls apart.

Rev Run's Affirmations

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 10:04 PM EDT

reverend-run.jpgWords of Wisdom, a recently published book from Rev Run of Run DMC, is part Stuart Smalley, part Russell Simmons; sort of a pocket-sized, bathroom-reading, Christian alternative to Robert Greene's 48 Laws of Power, a book that made rounds in hip hop circles a few years ago.

I was reluctant to pick the book up because I prefer to think of Run as he used to be: an MC for one of the most influential and popular New York hip hop acts of the 80s. It's Run, after all, who convinced me that I needed to wear white hi-top sneakers with bright, fat laces to my middle school every day. Today, it's safe to say he's convincing folks to do a lot more than just wear cool kicks:

Palin Watched SNL Skit With No Sound - And Thought It Was "Hilarious"

| Thu Sep. 18, 2008 6:05 PM EDT

Given that the McCain campaign condemned SNL's portrayal of Sarah Palin last week as sexist, I was surprised to hear Palin's spokeswoman say that the governor actually found the spoof "quite funny."

Wonder how she would have felt if she'd watched with the sound on?

h/t TPM.