The Riff - February 2009

Video: Royksopp - "Happy Up Here"

| Fri Feb. 27, 2009 9:16 PM EST


Norwegian duo Röyksopp are back with a new album, Junior, out March 23, and the first single, "Happy Up Here," is nice enough. It sort of feels like an update of their classic "Eple" (whose bleepy melody was charming enough to last as my ringtone for like 8 months) with some breathy vocals that sound a little like Air circa "Cherry Blossom Girl." Not exactly ground-breaking, but lovely. However, the video is a strange and wonderful counterpoint to the song's casual jauntiness: Space Invaders emerge from hiding in our flashy billboards to engage in battle with what looks like a Trabant. Is that Röyksopp there in the Trabant, and will they save us? Watch and find out...

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The Immortal Simpsons

| Fri Feb. 27, 2009 7:13 PM EST

Fox announced yesterday that the network had renewed The Simpsons for two more years. Breaking the record set by Gunsmoke, which ran for 20 years, the animated show will become the longest-running prime time TV series in history.

Bart Simpson was my age (nine years old) when the show made its network debut in 1989. I'm 28 now, so in two years I'll be 30, only six years younger than Marge and Homer who will, of course, remain 36 years old. Like David Wooderson said in Dazed and Confused: "Man, I get older; they stay the same age."

Kenneth the Page's Response to Bobby Jindal's Response to Obama

| Thu Feb. 26, 2009 10:29 PM EST

He doesn't get what all the fuss is about.

One Cool Thing About Working for Hustler

| Wed Feb. 25, 2009 9:20 PM EST

Okay, maybe I'm hyperaware of mandatory arbitration clauses because MoJo has consumer-advocate rock-star Stephanie Mencimer on staff and currently on our front page. But I couldn't help but exult a little over this sentence at the bottom of a Larry Flynt Publishing freelance contract (yes, I've done a little journalism for them. Smart, investigative vagina journalism): 

"Any dispute or claim arising out of the Letter Agreement shall be determined only by the courts in California, and therefore, you hereby agree to submit to the jurisdiction of the courts of California."

Court! How quaint! Seriously, mandatory arbitration clauses are now so standard that it's nearly impossible to buy a car, get a job, or even eat a cheeseburger without giving up your ability to sue companies that screw (!) you. But not at Hustler. Whatever my thoughts on some of Larry Flynt's politics, at least the pornographer puts his money where his litigious mouth is and lets contributors keep their right to take his whole sexy empire to court. Which is going to come in really handy when his art department photoshops some giant naked boobs onto my contributor's photo.

Slumdog Millionaire Soundtrack Scores Big Post-Oscar Bump

| Wed Feb. 25, 2009 5:39 PM EST
The ceremony was shrill and silly, and A.R. Rahman was forced to share his big musical moment with John Legend (who was himself replacing Peter Gabriel), but things worked out: the soundtrack to best picture winner Slumdog Millionaire, as well as best song "Jai Ho," have both registered significant post-Oscar jumps in sales. The soundtrack, which includes both of Millionaire's nominated songs as well as M.I.A.'s already-pretty-popular "Paper Planes," is now the number one selling album on iTunes, outselling both The Jonas Brothers and heavy metal monsters Lamb of God. Nice. Perhaps more intriguingly, the ecstatic, driving "Jai Ho" is now a Top 5 sales hit, climbing to #5 on the iTunes singles chart today. The official Billboard charts have not yet caught up with this week's sales, but it will be intriguing to see how those look next week. Also, for some reason the music industry powers that be decided it would be a good idea if the Pussycat Dolls did a "remix" of "Jai Ho," which one hopes might engender interest in the original amongst otherwise clueless demographics, but one worries might, er, hasten the end of the world. After the jump, the song in its original form (accompanying the dance scene from the film) and the new, Pussycatted version.

SF Chronicle Could Be Shut Down or Sold

| Tue Feb. 24, 2009 9:05 PM EST

Hearst said today that it may sell, or totally shutter, San Francisco's main daily newspaper. The San Francisco Chronicle lost $50 million in 2008, and has been losing money consistently since 2001. If the paper cannot recoup losses "within weeks" via job cuts and other measures, Hearst officials said via a statement today, "...we will have no choice but to quickly seek a buyer for the Chronicle or, should a buyer not be found, to shut the newspaper down." According to Reuters, the Chronicle employs nearly 300 people on its news staff alone, and is the 12th largest daily in the nation.

So what does it mean for San Francisco to lose the Chronicle? For Bay Area folks, there are a number of newspapers that could possibly step up coverage to fill the gap, like the excellent San Jose Mercury News or the Oakland Tribune. Television news crews could conceivably lengthen their broadcasts. So far, all I've seen is that one of the of the city's smaller dailies, the San Francisco Examiner, is hiring. The Examiner also has only half the Chronicle's circulation, and is given away free instead of sold. While many San Franciscans have pooh-poohed the Chronicle for its heavy slant toward lightweight stories, surely the Examiner is not what they envisioned as a solution.

More disturbing than the Examiner taking over San Francisco is the idea that liberal, literate, San Francisco might not have a newspaper to call its own. Even Cleveland and La Crosse, Wisconsin, have their own papers. Granted, a Sunday morning in San Francisco will show you as many people reading the New York Times as the Sunday Chronicle, but still, the Chronicle has been there and there really isn't another paper in town of similar quality or distribution. As much as I'd like to think a major city can survive without a newspaper, I'm not super-excited to try the experiment personally. San Francisco has some of the nation's most tech-savvy citizens, but are they really ready to get their local news only from virtual sources? If the Chronicle gets shut down within weeks, as seems to be Hearst's intention, they may have no choice but to find out the hard way.

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Arrested Development Movie a Go

| Tue Feb. 24, 2009 8:17 PM EST
"Sources say." Rumors of a film version of cult-favorite TV show Arrested Development have been flying around like badly-imitated chickens for a while now, with everybody from Jeffrey Tambor to David Cross jumping on board. But young Michael Cera, now a big movie star, appeared to be the last holdout, and you couldn't make an Arrested Development movie without George Michael. But now, E Online has it on good authority that Cera has agreed to do the film. "Insiders" are saying production may even get going by the end of the year, with show creator Mitchell Hurwitz as writer/director. Finally, I'll be able to eat frozen bananas again without crying.

Republicans Do Know How to Use the Internets and Make Videos

| Tue Feb. 24, 2009 8:13 PM EST
The bailout got you down? Does it feel like the members of Congress just aren't listening? Got a video camera and too much spare time? Don't fret, sad little big-government-haters: You can heed the advice of Meghan McCain, get your fifteen micro-seconds of fame, and win your bailout burden back.

Yes, Republicans do know how to use the internets.  Right.org (you got to give them credit for the snazzy URL), launched an online video contest that asks DIY film makers to "Be creative. Make us laugh. Teach us. Above all, make us oppose the bailouts."

The winning entry receives $27,599, or one person's share of the bailouts. Entrants will flood YouTube until a winner is chosen by a "panel of qualified judges" in July. The idea for a video contest follows hard on the heels of the Best Job in the World put on by the Queensland Tourism. Though there are, understandably and sadly, far fewer bikinis in the Right.org contest.

Books: Fact-check, Mate

| Tue Feb. 24, 2009 5:37 PM EST

Joel Best's Stat-Spotting: A Field Guide to Identifying Dubious Data, belongs on the nightstand of anyone who regularly encounters statistics—which is to say, everyone. In my line of work as a fact-checker, the book's case studies are even more of a must-read.

Take, for example, this health statistic, repeated on a number of websites: Each year, 20,000 people die from taking aspirin.

New (Leaked) Music: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

| Tue Feb. 24, 2009 4:33 PM EST
It's BlitzHas everybody in America thrown out their guitars? When do we get to call this a trend? Okay, sure, a quick look at the iTunes Top 100 shows All-American Rejects and Jason Mraz still wielding the axes in the Top 20. But there's something New Wave-y in the air when even rapper Flo Rida hits #1 with a Dead or Alive cover and bisexual robo-pixie Lady Gaga is America's sweetheart. Into this synthtastic moment strut the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and while Nick Zinner's noisy, careening guitar work has always defined the band's sound, they're also respectably New Wave, with an appreciation for accessible, dramatic pop melodies, not to mention Karen O's colorful outfits. Over the last few years, they've even started offering up their hits for remixes, and Zinner himself has tried reworking the band's songs for the dance floor. It feels completely natural that they'd turn to drum machines and keyboards on It's Blitz!, and they still wring an organic, rich noise out of their gadgets.