The Riff - September 2008

Top 5: New Music

| Wed Sep. 17, 2008 6:40 PM EDT

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This week, drum 'n' bass meets Coldplay, a sweet dream of Buenos Aires, Madlib gets impatient, and a reminder of the good times at the raves back in '92, since it's unlikely anyone actually remembers that.

1. The Walkmen – "In the New Year" (from You & Me on Gigantic Music)
On their new album, the New York band have gotten a little more epic while retaining their appealing rawness. "New Year" soars like Interpol but has the 6/8 rhythm of an old drinking song. (mp3 from The Sound of Marching Feet)

2. Surkin feat. Chromeo – "Chrome Knight" (single)
Techno producer Surkin's instrumental "White Knight" nodded to classics like Inner City's "Big Fun," so it makes sense to grab Dave from electro duo Chromeo for some vocals. Chromeo's usual strutting retro-silliness is calmed down by the rolling electro, and the track's suddenly got pop appeal. (mp3 from Voules Random)

3. Juana Molina – "Un Dia" (from Un Dia out 10/6 on Domino)
The Argentinian singer/songwriter moves further into surreal territory with this dreamlike lead single from her upcoming fifth album. It's both deeply experimental and oddly traditional, something I could imagine dancing to in a Buenos Aires bar, after enough mate. (mp3 from Stereogum)

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Will Bitch Go Broke?

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 6:50 PM EDT

bitch%20cover%20200.jpgBitch, the 12-year old feminist pop culture magazine, recently announced that it needs to raise $40,000 by the middle of October in order to cover printing costs of its next issue.

The situation Bitch is facing is all too common in the magazine industry, especially among independent publications. But what's particularly difficult about Bitch's situation may have something to do with the magazine's advertising policy.

At any magazine, there's always a question lingering in the background: What happens when you publish ideas that are controversial to the institutions that actually pay for the magazine? Like many independent magazines, Bitch doesn't make that much money from advertising. The magazine is perfectly up front about this, explaining that:

Bitch, on the other hand, is loyal—and accountable—to its readers. We're in this together, which is why we call ourselves a reader-supported magazine. Think of us as the print version of listener-supported radio.

In other words, Bitch won't accept all ads, only the ads from companies it, well, likes. Companies "with products and services are aligned with our mission." (Mother Jones, incidentally, does not have such a policy on advertisements—this magazine accepts most ads and promises not to let advertisers' interests affect editorial content. Not everyone is thrilled about that.)

This is not to say Bitch has chosen the "wrong" ad policy. There are plenty of good reasons to turn down ads if they don't fit with a magazine's mission, and Bitch's spirit of independence is inspiring. In practical terms, however, this puts Bitch in an emergency situation where it has to raise $40,000 in the next four weeks.

The fact of the matter is that most periodicals—except for the notable exception of the ad-dominated cash cows that are women's magazines (the other kind)—aren't exactly lucrative, whether the advertisers make things that are hazardous to your health, are ideologically questionable or responsible for numerous disreputable products.

The demise of Bitch would be a major loss, as the magazine provides a valuable service as a fresh voice for contemporary feminism. But the problem is not just what happens by October 15th but also what happens the month after that and after that…

—Daniel Luzer

Photographer Jill Greenberg Won't Be Working For the Atlantic Again Any Time Soon

| Mon Sep. 15, 2008 3:35 PM EDT

mojo-photo-monstermccain.jpgJill Greenberg's portrait of John McCain for the October cover of the Atlantic (see below) is either a bit gnarly or respectably granitic, depending on your perspective: all of McCain's "experience" is etched in the deep, harshly-lit lines on his face. But in case you were wondering what Greenberg's perspective is, she's made things abundantly clear on her web site, the aptly-named Manipulator, taking some of the more unflattering (and sneakily-executed) pictures from the shoot, adding some grody Photoshoppery, and posting the results. As Boing Boing points out, the elaborate Flash-filled site means one can't link directly to the pictures, but you can see one to the right, and Gawker has a couple more posted.

McCain Campaign: SNL Portrayal of Palin Was Sexist

| Mon Sep. 15, 2008 2:21 PM EDT

Most people have seen the opening sketch of the most recent episode of Saturday Night Live — the one featuring Tina Fey's dead-on impersonation of Sarah Palin. (Video here.)

Now, Fey's Palin is a bit empty-headed. She's portrayed as a superficial and illegitimate usurper of the role Hillary Clinton (played by Amy Poehler in the sketch) ought to rightfully play.

It would be pretty hard to label a sketch as sexist if it portrays one woman as intelligent and capable and another as shallow and untested. In fact, comparing two people on their merits, with no regard to their sex, would appear to be the opposite of sexism. Right?

Not during an election year. Everything is a potential talking point. Here is John McCain's favorite CEO and sexism-crier-in-chief, Carly Fiorina, trying her best to attack the sketch on MSNBC:

"I think that [the sketch] continues the line of argument [against Palin] that is disrespectful in the extreme and, yes, I would say, sexist. In the sense that just because Sarah Palin has different views than Hillary Clinton does not mean that she lacks substance. She has a lot of substance."

WTF does that even mean? Criticizing a woman for having less substance than another woman is sexist? Criticizing a woman for having different views than another woman is sexist? Disagreeing with a woman's views and thus portraying her as having less substance as another woman is sexist?

Or is the correct answer that anything that attacks Sarah Palin effectively is sexist?

David Foster Wallace's Death Will Probably Make Wallace-Style Dystopia A Lot More Likely

| Mon Sep. 15, 2008 2:20 PM EDT

mojo-photo-dfw.jpgThe apparent suicide this weekend of David Foster Wallace has me pretty depressed, for a couple reasons. One, why do minds that brilliant always seem to self-destruct? And two, Wallace's work often functioned not only as a postmodern high-wire act, but also as a cautionary tale, warnings to us frogs in the pot about what it would look like if the water really started to boil. While George Saunders has, to a certain extent, taken up the mantle of jaw-dropping tales of tomorrow, his approach is unquestionably lighter. Of course, Wallace definitely had a sense of humor as well, but his work always carried an undercurrent of urgency, an almost desperate need to defuse as many terrible possible futures as he could. If it hadn't been for Infinite Jest's "Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment," you just know that somebody would have already tried to sell the naming rights for 2008. Without his hilarious, terrifying, engrossing warnings, what horrors will we blindly stumble into?

The Newsweek Enquirer

| Fri Sep. 12, 2008 7:39 PM EDT

Move over, McCain and Palin. The strangest bedfellows of this election season are the tabloids and the mainstream media. Check out this week's cover of Newsweek, featuring a gun-toting Sarah Palin:

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And the National Enquirer online, featuring a gun-toting Sarah Palin:

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Logos aside, can you tell which photo treatment is which? Yes, the Enquirer broke the story of John Edwards' extramarital liaison before the MSM. It seems the mainstream media is now taking artistic cues from them as well as story ideas.

—Nikki Gloudeman

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Actor's Racism on Fox Makes Even Anchors Squeamish

| Fri Sep. 12, 2008 7:11 PM EDT

Brad Garrett, the 6'8" costar of Everbody Loves Raymond, apparently doesn't love everybody. Especially Fox anchor Steve Doocy. And black people. And lesbians.

In an after-show special from his appearance on Fox and Friends, Garrett managed to offend just about everyone on set with his "comedy," even the black cameraman, and the blonde make-up artist who had the audacity to act like a "proper white woman" when Garrett accused her of drinking on the job and having sex with the cameraman in a van.

Garrett's offensive tirade prompted Doocy to call the moment Fox's "most offensive interview ever" and tell Garrett that "I just don't appreciate you making fun of people in such a personal way. People who are total strangers not in the public eye." Doocy, by the way, slammed Obama for attending a "madrassa" and having the middle name Hussein. He's also been seriously misinformed about a number of issues, from the US Code to Sarah Palin being a foreign policy expert. But this latest incident makes me think a tiny, little bit better of him. Maybe defending his co-hosts and crew from racist, misogynist attacks is part of those "small-town values" Republicans are always talking about. Or maybe he just didn't like being upstaged.

First Listen: TV on the Radio - Dear Science,

| Thu Sep. 11, 2008 6:04 PM EDT

mojo-photo-tvotr-dearscience.jpgNo, that comma is not a misprint, although the verdict is still out on the capitalization of "on" and "the." Jeez, I know I'm not a real writer, but come on, TVOTR, get with the grammar program. Are you guys like those Midwestern sign-makers who put quotes around things for emphasis, advertising "clothes" for "sale"? I mean, even Panic at the Disco dropped the exclamation point!

Honestly, though, I'd forgive this band almost anything. I'd say they're tied with Queens of the Stone Age for highest ratio of music quality to cover art crappiness, for instance. But in TV on the Radio's short career, they've been incredibly ambitious, combining a creative experimentation with astute social and political awareness in a way that makes them kin to fellow-airwave-referencing combo Radiohead. But while Thom Yorke and crew produce expansive, soaring tunes that can carry across a field, TVOTR have always aimed inward, towards sonic density. Their 2006 release, Return to Cookie Mountain, took the dark themes of their first album, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, and dove even deeper, but on Dear Science, they seem to have come to terms with some inner turmoil and returned to the surface.

Mercury Music Prize won by... Elbow?

| Tue Sep. 9, 2008 5:30 PM EDT

Well, yes. mojo-photo-elbow.jpgUK rockers Elbow have won the Mercury Music Prize for their album The Seldom Seen Kid at a ceremony concluding just minutes ago in London. The annual award, judged by a committee of critics and industry types, is given to the best album by a UK artist that year. As I covered earlier, Radiohead's In Rainbows was the odds-on favorite to win, and by "odds-on" I mean actual odds, since this is England, after all. Elbow were tied for third-most-likely-to-win with dubstep mystery man Burial, whose Untrue brought that underground movement to the masses in a way similar to what Roni Size Reprazent did for drum 'n' bass with New Forms, which won the prize back in 1997. In any event, Elbow were apparently quite surprised, with lead singer Guy Garvey calling the award "the best thing that's ever happened to us." Better than, like, being born? Wow. The band have a middling level of fame in the UK but are barely known over here. So, what's the deal?

Tigh/Roslin Ticket Will Provide Strength and Purpose in Defeating Democrats Cylons

| Tue Sep. 2, 2008 6:21 PM EDT

mojo-photo-caprica.jpgThe presidential campaign has officially headed for outer space. As all of MoJoBlog as well as everyone everywhere is currently discussing, John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for VP was kind of kooky. But it all makes sense if you're deep in Battlestar Galactica fantasyland: sci-fi blog io9 has a breakdown of the McCain=Colonel Tigh/Palin=President Roslin "meme," as they call it, noting the similarities aren't just physical: Col. Tigh was tortured by the Cylons, and Roslin was Secretary of Education (I guess that equals PTA).

Now we already have a Tigh/Roslin campaign website, which is mostly amusing just for its visual nose-thumb at McCain's site, although the idea of Roslin winning "Most Likely to Airlock a Cylon" in the Miss Caprica beauty pageant is pretty amusing. Unfortunately, io9 says we can't laugh about it any more, since "it took less than five hours for the meme to go from funny to tired." Gods damn it! Can we still be amused by Palin's resemblance to Tina Fey?