The Riff - January 2009

Inaugural Ball Performance Wrapup

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 1:22 PM PST

So many stars, so little time! First up, via Pitchfork, it's this tear-jerking performance from Beyoncé at the Neighborhood Ball. She does an admirably restrained version of Etta James' "At Last" as our first couple dances somewhat awkwardly but charmingly on stage.

After the jump: Kanye, Mariah, and the 12-headed pop-rock-rap monster.

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Death of Satire Watch, Part I: Get Your War On, R.I.P.

| Wed Jan. 21, 2009 11:34 AM PST

gywosocks.gifWith George W. Bush gone and Obama still in his 100-hour honeymoon, there's been much hand-wringing about the fate of lefty political satire. The post-ironic era has already taken a victim: David Rees' guerrilla comic strip Get Your War On, which ended a nearly seven-year run yesterday. Born in the days when Bush was riding high in the polls and America was sticking its boot in the world's ass, GYWO channeled lonely lefties' frustration through a strip entirely based on repetitious office-themed clip art, ripped-from-the-buried-headlines rants—and a dash of expletives. (As Rees told Mother Jones in 2003, all the swearing wasn't meant to shock, but was a "rhythmic placeholder.") If you spent the last eight years in a continual state of "WTF?!", this was your strip. Rees put together a few compilations and Rolling Stone picked GYWO up as a weekly feature. And now it's freakin' gone. I can't tell if Rees' foul-mouthed cubicle drones are dead or just giving Obama a pass. Maybe they're just looking for new targets for their disdain—like Thomas Friedman.

Inauguration Concert Veers from the Sublime to the Ridiculous

| Sun Jan. 18, 2009 2:34 PM PST

mojo-photo-springsteen-weareone.jpg

Artists and performers joined together for an inauguration concert today at the Lincoln Memorial, and despite the nearly unlimited potential for bombast at an event called "We Are One," it managed to be both restrained, mostly, and watchable, more or less. The concert opened with a rousing, moving rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising," with Bruce backed by a soaring gospel choir. It's a great song, but I must admit that for some reason I only started to get choked up later, weirdly, during John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses," which I never really liked but seemed to take on greater significance today. The footage of Marian Anderson singing on the same spot back in 1939 was also profoundly moving, but then, returning to the present, who pops up on stage as a contemporary? Ladies and gentlemen, Josh Groban. Ugh. But the camera cuts to Malia Obama, adorably taking a snapshot of Groban, Sasha demanding to see it.

Saying Goodbye to Bush... Literally

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 3:55 PM PST

WB_023_9_farewell_bush_bg.gifPut this in the "creative marketing" file. Bliss Spa is offering an inauguration special, 20 percent off Brazilian bikini waxes for ladies who want to say "farewell to Bush" in more ways than one. I think I'll pass on Bliss's "presidential transition savings," but I speak for my uterus and myself when I say that we're truly pleased to see the last of Bush's presidency.

More Details Emerging on Indie 103.1's Demise

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 1:31 PM PST

Indie 103.1The airwaves around Los Angeles are just a little emptier today, as Indie 103.1 is officially done, with Spanish music where the Buzzcocks used to be. We're getting some more details on what happened. First up, the LA Times had an interview yesterday with Chris Morris, a DJ who was recently let go from the station. He reminded us that Indie had retooled a few months back to be more mainstream in a last-ditch attempt to grab some ratings, but he reminisced about the station's heyday, saying the "amount of liberty I enjoyed was unbelievable." The Daily Swarm has an exclusive chat with Music Director Mark Sovell, who has some very interesting tidbits. First, while the station is currently advertising that it has moved to the web, it turns out that "none of the primary DJs or music programmers at the station are involved in the website and it's not being run by people who ran the station – there may be one person from the station." Maybe that explains why the web site has such screwy grammar: "LISTEN INDIE LIVE NOW!" He reveals that the whole announcement about not playing "the corporate radio game" any more is a farce, since none of the station employees had anything to do with it—the on-air treatise about "corporate radio" was read by the head of sales. However, he teases us a little, offering that "there are people who are making an effort to bring the station back on the air with the same people, but I can't say specifically." Good luck with that…

After the jump: is it the end of radio as we know it, and is that a bad thing?

New U2 Album Cover Art Might Owe the HRC Royalties

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 12:21 PM PST

mojo-photo-u2horizon.jpgThe new U2 full-length, No Line on the Horizon, isn't out til March 3, but they've just released the cover art, and as Pitchfork put it, it's rather "zen." Even the Fork admits they're intrigued, since U2 are "most interesting when they step out of their comfort zone," although it's getting hard to remember when that last was. In any event, the album cover features a photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto of a barely-rippling ocean superimposed with a big gray equals sign. No, I didn't just say "big gay equals sign," but the Human Rights Campaign might want to check into doing at least a "cross-promotion" or something. I also see a couple other influences: first up, the haunting video for Joy Division's "Atmosphere" (that features bleak, black & white horizons and the prominent use of "+" and "-" symbols) was directed by Anton Corbijn, who famously took the iconic photographs of U2 for their Joshua Tree album cover. How's that for a connection. The rest of my proposed theory of how the band came up with the cover (in visual form), plus a tracklisting, after the jump.

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NY Times Magazine's "Obama People"

| Fri Jan. 16, 2009 10:38 AM PST

Nadav Kander's 52 portraits of "Obama's People" for the New York Times Magazine is exceptional not just for the photography, but the breadth of people covered in the shoot — from Eugene Kang, Obama's personal assistant, up to Joe Biden, Hillary, Pelosi and plenty of politicos in between.

But the real fun of this shoot is the back story.

Rob Haggert at A Photo Editor has the best take, in a laugh riot, comic book style, filled with insidery photo jokes.

Alternatively, in the Editor's Letter section of the Magazine, Gerald Marzorati explains the hows and whys of the shoot in a typically stuffy NY Times way (hey, stuffy can be good).

The First Obama Joke on Comedy Central, Circa 2005

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 4:21 PM PST

Via the SF Bay Guardian's Pixel Vision blog comes this charming little tidbit: what may very well be the first Obama joke made on Comedy Central. It was Bay Area comic W. Kamau Bell who picked the Senator out of almost-obscurity for a bit on black leaders in a stand-up routine back in 2005. He tells the Guardian that Comedy Central actually informed him that it was Obama's first mention by a stand-up comic on the network, so, you know, he's not just spinning. The jokes are, in fact, rather tame, imagining how Obama's name might strike people as a little "too black" if he were to run for president, but for that reason they're actually kind of cute—that was us, just a few years ago! Awww!

Indie 103.1 Goes Off the Air

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 1:51 PM PST

Indie 103.1Broadcast radio just got a whole lot less interesting, as Los Angeles alternative station Indie 103.1 has announced it will stop broadcasting today, turning to a web-only format. A statement on the station's web site alluded to "changes in the radio industry and the way radio audiences are measured" which forces stations to "play too much Britney, Puffy and alternative music that is neither new nor cutting edge." I love you Indie, but I have to say, that's not exactly a new situation.

Adam Freeland Remixes Daft Punk For Bonkers Obama Video

| Thu Jan. 15, 2009 12:57 PM PST

Americablog may not know who Daft Punk or Adam Freeland are, but you do, gentle Riff readers, since I post something about the former at least every week or two. But that doesn't make this video, called "Aer OBAMA," any less baffling. The musical accompaniment consists of French duo Daft Punk's "Aerodynamic" (from their 2001 album Discovery) remixed by UK breaks legend Adam Freeland to have a Speak-and-Spell-y Obama theme; the video is a jittery stop-motion story of the President-Elect jetting in from space to, I guess, dance around at a Daft Punk concert. Okay. Let's just stop for a second. I'd like to point something out. First, I'm a huge Obama supporter who blogs for the Mother Jones magazine. Also, I'm a DJ, and in my radio career I managed to actually interview both Daft Punk and Mr. Freeland, to say nothing of the multiple times I've seen them DJ and perform. I've got the political and the musical sides of this pretty much down, so I don't think it's a stretch to say that I, personally, am at the very center of the intended audience for this video. However, it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, and after watching it, I feel vaguely disturbed, not, you know, "hopeful." Plus, isn't sampling a Speak-and-Spell kind of tired? On top of it all, the very idea that France's greatest robot exports would get remixed by a breaks superstar for a stop-motion video featuring a bunch of Kubrick toys all in tribute to an American president is making me feel like the very laws of physics are collapsing around us. Or maybe I've just had too much coffee?