The Riff - December 2008

Stop Getting Your News from TV!

| Wed Dec. 31, 2008 12:51 PM EST

I want to add a thought about Kevin's chart of the day, which shows that more people now get their news from the internet than from newspapers, an unsurprisingly but still foreboding development.

The chart also shows that people still get most of their news from TV. Internet and newspapers lag far behind. This is at the root of so many of the complaints Americans have about the news media. The worst and most common sins of the media are committed by TV news: substituting confrontational debates for substantive discussions; treating serious subjects too briefly or not at all; spending too much time on Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and missing blond women in Aruba or wherever. I recognized that newspapers and especially blogs and internet outlets have serious problems. But if you want long-form journalism that takes a single subject and works it over for 10,000 words (something that will take 45 minutes to read and really teach you something in the process), you've got to turn to magazines and their websites. (Try here, here, or here to begin.) And if you want breaking news that brings horrible things like warrantless wiretapping or black sites into the open, you've got to turn to newspapers and their websites. So next time someone tells you they're fed up with the media, take away his or her TV remote and hand him or her a copy of The New Yorker. I'd bet Wolf Blitzer, in his heart of hearts, would recommend the same thing.

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Year's Best Culture Interviews

| Wed Dec. 31, 2008 9:09 AM EST

From John Cusack banter to Joss Whedon podcasts, MoJo talked with some fascinating culture-makers this year. Below, six of our favorite culture interviews of 2008.

MoJo Faves of 2008: Phone Sex, Aryan Outfitters, and More Photo Editor's Picks

| Tue Dec. 30, 2008 7:43 PM EST

We get a lot of exceptional photo essays submitted each week. It's hard to pick just one per issue, and even with the expanded outlet of the website, there's still not enough room for everything worthy that passes across my desk. Between the photo essays that ran in the magazine in 2008, and those that found a home on the Mother Jones website, this was a bang-up year for picture stories here.

That said, below are my five personal favorite MoJo photo essays of 2008.

What Kind of New Year's Eve Will You Have?

| Mon Dec. 29, 2008 8:07 PM EST

Gawker claims there are only five kinds of New Year's Eve parties.

Poor me, I'm a definite number 4.

Eartha Kitt Dies at 81

| Fri Dec. 26, 2008 2:30 PM EST

Eartha KittLegendary singer and actress Eartha Kitt died yesterday of cancer at age 81. The AP described her as rising "from South Carolina cotton fields to become an international symbol of elegance and sensuality," while the New York Times called her a "seducer of audiences" whose wide-ranging career presaged current entertainers:

Ms. Kitt, who began performing in the late '40s as a dancer in New York, went on to achieve success and acclaim in a variety of mediums long before other entertainment multitaskers like Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler. ... With her curvaceous frame and unabashed vocal come-ons, she was also, along with Lena Horne, among the first widely known African-American sex symbols.

After the jump, video of Kitt singing "Santa Baby," a hit in 1953.

Melissa Etheridge Meets with Rick Warren, Responds to Controversy

| Tue Dec. 23, 2008 6:37 PM EST

mojo-photo-etheridgewarren.jpgSinger Melissa Etheridge has posted a statement about the Rick Warren "wrangle" at HuffPo in which she describes meeting the pastor at an event for the Muslim Public Affairs Council over the weekend. She called the pastor "very thoughtful" and said he "regretted" comparing gays to pedophiles:

On the day of the conference I received a call from Pastor Rick, and before I could say anything, he told me what a fan he was. He had most of my albums from the very first one. What? This didn't sound like a gay hater, much less a preacher. He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn't want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. He invited me to his church, I invited him to my home to meet my wife and kids.

Hooray?

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2008 Box Office Champs Prove Americans Like Flying Guys, Talking Animals

| Tue Dec. 23, 2008 5:07 PM EST

mojo-photo-darkknightdollars.jpgBox Office Mojo's chart of the past 365 days at the box office has a couple surprises, and none of them are reassuring about our nation's taste in movies. While even a cave-dweller would know that The Dark Knight snagged the most of our hard-earned cash in its batty claws this year, I bet you can't guess the #2 movie, or tell me what three (or four?) kiddie flicks giggled their computer-generated, disturbingly-anthropomorphic ways into the Top 10. It's all pretty depressing, to be honest, so take a deep breath and click "continues" to find out.

Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young Set for Glastonbury; Coachella Rumors Heat Up

| Mon Dec. 22, 2008 4:26 PM EST

Neil Young Bruce SpringsteenWhat better pastime on this dreary winter day than happily imagining ourselves sprawled on the lawn at a summer music festival, trying to catch a glimpse of the performers between the dancing hippies? Festival promoters are even helping with our creative visualizations by making some lineup announcements. The UK Sun reports that Glastonbury has "gone back to basics" this year with two legendary performers set as headliners: Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young. God bless those guys, but they're probably the only respectable musicians around who could make co-headliners Blur seem young. Ouch, I know, but for reals. Of course, this is the festival that caused an outburst of creepily-verging-on-racist complaints when headliner Jay-Z was announced for the 2008 edition, although the fact that the rapper ended up cheekily covering Oasis' "Wonderwall" at the show seemed to make it all worthwhile. But you can't help wondering if festival boss Michael Eavis is so desperate to avoid a similar controversy, he's going with the oldest, whitest, most respectable rockers around? (And Blur?) (Why am I being so mean to them?)

After the jump: can we legally start Coachella rumors before January 1?

U2 Set to Release New Album in March

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 5:53 PM EST

U2Irish combo U2 will release a new album, No Line on the Horizon, on March 3, the band's label announced yesterday. Horizon was originally expected this year, but there were some false starts: material recorded in 2006 with producer Rick Rubin was tossed, and longtime U2 collaborators and producers Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite were brought back in; then, as the album was nearing the finishing stages, the band decided it needed two more songs. But I guess they finally finished the thing, and Billboard quotes a source as calling the material "amazing and a little out there." Okay!

Horizon will be U2's twelfth studio album, the follow-up to How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, which has sold over 9 million copies worldwide since its 2004 release. The band is also planning a 2009 tour as part of its crazy-lucrative stock deal with Live Nation.

After the jump, RX's brilliant edit of George W. Bush doing "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

Christmas Carols Get 8-bit Makeover

| Fri Dec. 19, 2008 5:32 PM EST

mojo-8bitsofxmas.gifWhile most music genres race forward, absorbing new sonic technologies like a giant music-box Borg, the 8-bit phenomenon clings proudly to the past—specifically, the restrictive palette of classic computer and video game consoles. Even artists like Beck have seen the appeal of their buzzy, blippy tones; witness the 8-bit remix of "Hell Yes", renamed "Ghettochip Malfunction":

If you liked that, get ready for a very bleepy Christmas.