The Riff - March 2009

Not Even Will Ferrell Can Make 90 Minutes of George W. Bush Tolerable

| Sun Mar. 15, 2009 2:34 PM PDT
Usually, I'm fine with the idea of nonsense for the sake of nonsense. From Monty Python to Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the random and ridiculous can often reach ecstatic comedic heights. On the other hand, sometimes comedy can be the best weapon against hypocrisy and villainy, as Jon Stewart's hilarious and vital takedown of CNBC made clear this week. So it should be the perfect formula: the usually-hilarious Will Ferrell brings his smirking imitation of the just-barely-former president to Broadway in "You're Welcome America: A Final Night with George W. Bush," the final show of which was broadcast by HBO last night. Unfortunately, Ferrell's 90 minutes of Bushy bumbling missed the mark, both as silliness and as satire. Tellingly, the first big (or, well, average-sized) story to emerge from Ferrell's Broadway run was pure shock value: the Times reported last month that audience members had "stormed out" after seeing a photo of a penis projected on a screen. While the Times' breathless reporting on this issue was actually pretty funny in and of itself, the moment turns out to be oddly symbolic of the entire show's caterwauling randomness, a "just because I can" stunt with an easy "stimulus package" joke. This "ultimate" exposure could be an attempt to get at something central and pathetic about W., but it just feels kind of empty.

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Think You're a Liberal? Take This Test and Just Try to Outscore Me

| Fri Mar. 13, 2009 7:21 PM PDT

As if I hadn't already outed myself as the pinkiest of pinko fag commies, I stumbled upon this gem at Slate's XX blog. It's an interactive quiz from the Center for American Progress to gauge just how liberal or conservative you are. Here's how the Slate-ettes scored:

"Twelve of us took the quiz, and on a scale of 0 to 400 (0 is the least progressive; 400 is the most progressive), we came out with an average score of 245. To put that in context, the mean score for liberal Democrats is 247 and 160.6 for conservative Republicans. Our median is somewhere in the mid-290s; our high is 313, and our low is 112.

Fascist heifers! I scored 332. Boo yah!

The average American drags their Neanderthal asses in at only 209.5.

So, if you outscore me, let's put on our hemp shoes and our tie-dyed bandannas, strap our home-birthed babies on our backs, and go hug some whales.

Video: The YouTube Supergroup

| Fri Mar. 13, 2009 2:15 PM PDT


Demonstrating once again the power of mashuppery to make not-so-good things into tolerable things, or even terrible things into great things, an Israeli musician calling himself Kutiman has created a... um... I'm not sure what to call it. Remix/medley/edit/completely new song? Whatever it is, Kutiman has named it "The Mother of All Funk Chords," and it's made entirely out of YouTube clips of individual musicians practicing, showing off, or giving lessons. Most of these clips are of the cringe-inducing, lonely-guy-in-his-ugly-living-room variety, but the final product is jaw-dropping and inspiring. It's almost as if Kutiman has created an imaginary virtual world where all these lonely, unknown dudes have found each other, a single chord that unites them. Watch the video above or go to his home page, thru-you.com, for more stuff in Kutiman's continuing YouTube remix project.

Michael Jackson Sells 750,000 Tickets In Hours

| Fri Mar. 13, 2009 1:22 PM PDT
Singer Michael Jackson has sold out all 750,000 tickets to his run of 50 shows at London's O2 Arena in just hours today, reports Billboard, at an average rate of about 11 per second. Ticketmaster UK called it the "busiest demand for tickets" they have ever experienced. The 50 shows will supposedly take place in July, August, and September of this year, as well as January and February of 2010. The publicity has pushed sales of Jackson's albums up as well, with sales of Thriller up 80% at stores in the UK and Ireland. The lesson I take from this is that if I act all crazy and allegedly abusive and transparently arrogant and dishonest and mess up my face a whole bunch, I could sell more tickets to my DJ gigs. Although, come to think of it, maybe having something as stupendous as "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" on the resume might help, as well. Video for that after the jump.

Rachel Maddow Attacked By Fart-Obsessed Interviewer

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 1:45 PM PDT
Salon called it "the weirdest Rachel Maddow interview ever," and while we at Mother Jones can neither confirm nor deny that statement, it's sure a hell of a lot weirder than our own Clara Jeffery's recent conversation with the breakout cable news star. Plus, Clara actually talked less than the person she was interviewing, something Vanity Fair's George Wayne couldn't manage in his bonkers Q&A. The piece just made the rounds of the Mother Jones e-mail circle, and here's a sampling of comments:

Jen Phillips: Our interview is so much better, even if it doesn't mention eproctophilia.

Mike Mechanic: Foul.

Me: Is this guy from 1923?

Dave Gilson: Has anyone ever really uttered the phrase, "listen to this saucy pedant"?

Nicole McClelland: I cannot believe VF printed two of this asinine interviewer’s words to Maddow’s every one. How is it possible they let him go on about eating ass for not one, but two complete sentences?

As you can see, this interview raises more questions than it answers. Here's another one: Does saying "darling" a lot make up for using the term "dyke-stache"? Twice? If only there was an upcoming opportunity to ask Ms. Maddow how she felt about all this, at an event benefitting a non-profit magazine, for which there was an exclusive reception that still has some tickets available.

The Palin Family Regrets to Inform You…

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 12:43 PM PDT
The Governor of Alaska and Mr. Todd Mitchell Palin announce that the engagement of their daughter, Miss Bristol Palin, to Mr. Levi Johnston, has been ended by mutual consent.

In a shocking development, the torrid betrothal of 19-year-old apprentice electrician Levi Johnston and the daughter of the governor of Alaska—a year-long relationship that created two-month-old Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston and helped bolster the pro-life and working-class credentials of Sen. John McCain—has ended.

The liaison stood little chance of success, especially after the Republican Party transformed the two high-school dropouts into symbols of social conservatism. With that pressure, it's no wonder the teens couldn't withstand the normal trials of dating, never mind the stress of playing it out before the entire country. And so, having performed his role with considerable aplomb, Johnston may now retreat to obscurity, free to snowboard, ride dirt bikes, go camping, film reality TV shows, and hang out with the boys to his heart's content.

As for his son, Tripp Johnston, there's no reason to worry. Many people conceived by unmarried couples have gone on to achieve illustrious feats in their own rights. 

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See U2's Crazy 360° Stage Design

| Thu Mar. 12, 2009 12:41 PM PDT
U2 may have fizzled a bit, ratings-wise, on their recent 5-night Letterman residency, and maybe they actually brought Good Morning America's ratings down when they did a live performance for the show last Friday, and perhaps their new album, No Line on the Horizon, has sold about 42% fewer copies than 2004's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb did in its first week. But that isn't stopping the Irish combo from creating a completely insane, War of the Worlds-style contraption to support their upcoming tour. The band's stadium performances will be "in the round," with a custom-made four-legged structure holding up the speakers, lighting and a large cylindrical screen, supposedly offering "an unobstructed view" to audiences. Except for the giant alien monster legs, which are also helpful for sucking up unsuspecting concert-goers and grinding them into sweet, sweet fan-pulp, to power our takeover of your puny planet. Bwah hah haa! You can check out a virtual tour of the thing over here. After the jump, "in the round" concerts: infuriating or just annoying?

What's Cheaper: Buying Stock or Buying Beer?

| Wed Mar. 11, 2009 11:03 PM PDT
Gawker's John Cook has a fun Recessionomics list today answering the newest age-old question: Should you buy a "Baconator" combo meal? ($8.24) Or stock in Wendy's/Arby's Group? ($4.03)

Go here for Cook's illustrated death match comparisons involving beer, boxer shorts, sea scallops, cigarettes, and more.

Over at Rolling Stone's National Affairs blog, Tim Dickinson points out that for less than the price of a Big Mac, you can get three patties of AIG. You can also get several squares of Fannie Mae for less than a roll of toilet paper. (Ironically, stock in toilet paper producer Kimberly-Clark is doing just fine.)

Are stock prices finally low enough to usher in more shareholder activism? Buy enough shares in the Bigs and you can make them progressive from the inside out.

What The Cure Taught Me About Courage

| Wed Mar. 11, 2009 4:41 PM PDT
One thing Facebook is good for (other than sucking up your time clicking "ignore" on SuperPokes and Lil' Green Patch requests) is reconnecting with old high school friends, who can either confirm or deny your vague, "did that really happen" memories. The other day an old friend recalled an epic adventure we had involving The Cure, a bus, and bad Mexican food; weirdly enough, it reminded me of some corny but important life lessons.

Bruno: "F***ing Awesome"

| Wed Mar. 11, 2009 2:41 PM PDT

From Ain't It Cool News via Towleroad come the first reviews of Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen's bigger, badder and oh-so-much-gayer followup to Borat. We've covered Bruno's shenanigans as he terrorized Kansas and punked a former Mossad agent, but apparently those are only the tamest of the antics on display. The movie doesn't come out until July 10 (with the first "official" sneak peak taking place at the upcoming SXSW), but a couple lucky ducks got into early test screenings and sent their thoughts to Ain't It Cool. I hope they're legit, as both reviews were filled with gushing, hyperbolic praise: the first called the film "everything I was hoping for—shocking, jaw-dropping and TOTALLY FUCKING HILARIOUS," while the second managed to quantify Bruno as "10 times sharper, wittier and altogether ballsier" than Borat. Not bad. Apparently the plot revolves around the Austrian fashion reporter character we know and love trying to "make it big":