The Riff - April 2009

Coachella 2009 Wrapup - Friday

| Sat Apr. 18, 2009 4:51 AM EDT

Greetings from our lovely La Quinta rental house where we have just returned from Day 1 of the 2009 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Our exciting coverage of the first day includes: extra-long lines! Exclusive interviews! Tolerable heat! Old guys! Very old guys! Really quite astoundingly old guys! And, okay, a couple young whippersnappers and their kooky haircuts and bleepy music machines. Click "more" for all the details.

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Get Up Stand Up: Gay-Rights Groups Dump Jamaican Booze

| Fri Apr. 17, 2009 7:05 PM EDT

There'll be no pina coladas tonight, mon. The Jamaica observer reports gay-rights advocates poured the libations down sewage drains at Stonewall Inn in New York this week protesting Jamacia, "the most homophobic place on earth." Human right groups and the US State Department cite beatings and arbitrary detainment, along with gay-attacking mobs and complicit police among the Jamacian government's crimes against homosexuals.

The "rum dump" kicked off a national boycott organized by the website Boycott Jamaica, which is asking consumers to avoid Jamacian booze, beer, coffee, and vacations. So how's a gay-rights supporter supposed to get her party on this weekend? Well, there's always Templeton Rye, whiskey made in gay-marriage-friendly Iowa.

Vajayjay Meets Registered Trademark

| Fri Apr. 17, 2009 12:18 PM EDT

You know a term has made it when there are patents pending. In the Urban Dictionary under the most popular spelling "vajayjay," the term benefited from the Oprah effect a couple years ago after Lady O gave it a bump. Firmly in pop culture verbiage, the vaginal euphemism has now seen its first official product (though not its first trademark application, apparently) as the Vaj-j Visor. The visor, which is meant to cover the goods during waxing, depillatories, and other landscaping efforts, is the brainchild of, yes, VJJ Enterprises, Inc. (three ladies, two dudes), though it doesn't seem to license any other vagina products at the moment.

The plastic insert claims to be "the first ever women's cup" and it comes in green and purple and pink. You have to discard it after a single use, which sounds a lot like other feminine hygiene products, spend and toss, buy some more. Protective men's gear, like the jockstrap and the cup, these are manly items (not in pink, green, and purple) that can hang for years (sometimes too long) in lockers. So let's see if the VJJ people can come up with a reuseable product. And one more wondering: Why wasn't vagina part of even one of the possible names batted around by the VJJ crew? Probably because they don't want to scare people off since the vagina is scary. Or maybe it's because vagina isn't even an adequate anatomical term (though neither is Hoo Ha or Beaver) leaving out the all-important clitoris, labia, and vulva.

I'm glad that the ladies who take so much care down there have options now, but it's too bad that the "women's cup" is all about cosmetic improvements. Where's the cup for horsebackriding, for hockey, for soccer? Because sometimes we need to protect our privates simply for the good of the goods, not just for tanning and waxing and making ourselves pretty.

George Will's Jihad on Jeans

| Thu Apr. 16, 2009 4:57 PM EDT

George Will is officially trying to be America's crotchetiest pundit. Fresh from his lame attempt to deny climate change, he has stepped into his time machine, set the dial to 1957, and unleashed a diatribe about the social scourge that is...blue jeans. Seriously. Playing off another denim demonizer in the Wall Street Journal, in yesterday's column Will tapped into his inner Mr. Blackwell and dissed jeans as "an obnoxious misuse of freedom," "the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features childlike adults...and cartoons for adults," "the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling—thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly," and "the calculated costume of people eager to communicate indifference to appearances." Wow. I sure hope no one tells him about kids going steady. Or electric guitars.

It's hard to believe that it has just now occurred to Will that casual comfort is destroying our moral fabric. But a glance at his old columns finds that the preppy pundit has been portraying jeans as signifiers of social unraveling for more than 30 years. Examples after the jump.

Susan Boyle About to Blow Up Internet

| Wed Apr. 15, 2009 10:02 PM EDT

Monday afternoon: I see the video (which they won't let you embed, dang it, so watch it here) on Towleroad of frizzy-haired “spinster” Susan Boyle stunning the judges of "Britain’s Got Talent" with an emotional rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream." It’s, you know, a cute little internet video.

Monday evening: I hear the very same audio coming out of the laptop of German DJs who are staying at my house for the weekend. They were using my neighbor’s wi-fi to catch up on German news, and the video was the first thing they saw.

Tuesday evening: Charlie Gibson covers the story on the ABC Evening News.

Tuesday night: The Boston Globe reports the clip has been watched over 2.7 million times since it was uploaded on April 11.

Wednesday afternoon: It's the top story on npr.org. They report the clip has been watched 7 million times.

Wednesday evening: A quick YouTube search shows multiple copies of the same clip making the rounds, but an unscientific sum of all their view counts puts the number at approximately 13 million.

Thursday (prediction): Susan Boyle surpasses Barack Obama as the most popular human being on the planet.

Coachella Preview: Electronic

| Wed Apr. 15, 2009 5:47 PM EDT

While the three nightly headliners (McCartney, The Killers, and The Cure) have all dabbled in studio trickery and electronics to accompany their guitar-centered tunes, straight-ahead electronic music has really taken center stage this year at Coachella. The fact that organizers seem to understand electronic music and appreciate its potential for quality live performances has always made the festival a step up from your Bonnaroos and Bumbershoots, but the 2009 lineup is even more electro-riffic: fully 53 of the 133 artists could easily be considered “electronic” (that’s including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). After the jump, 10 of the highlights.

Plus, don’t forget, Mother Jones is, surprisingly enough, your home for complete Coachella coverage! We’ll have the traditional nightly updates right here on the Riff Friday through Sunday (reminisce about 2008’s festival here, here and here, and 2007’s here, here and here), as well as some chats with whatever artists we can corral, plus a selection of intrepid photographer Kristi’s best shots from the photo pits and lunch tents! Weather.com says 89-95-98 for highs, so if you’re heading to the desert, stay cool!

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Glenn Beck Is Jiminy Glick

| Wed Apr. 15, 2009 12:54 PM EDT

I guess a guy fainted on his show the other day and the dude is actually advocating secession, but whatever, I don’t care about any of that, I'm just interested in Glenn Beck-as-brilliant-performance-artist. The clip that made me think of the Glick connection was this one from Gawker (which they won't let you embed, dang it) showing the certifiably insane Fox host adopting a dainty lisp for some reason I have yet to determine. Watching this, it suddenly hit me where I’d seen his brand of nonsensical, pudgy-faced bloviating before. So either go watch the Gawker clip and come back, or just compare some generic Beck blabber with vintage Glick below, and then tell me if you've ever seen them in the same room together.

2009 Hasselblad Photography Award

| Wed Apr. 15, 2009 10:00 AM EDT

Lakewood

 

Oregon photographer Robert Adams won this year's prestigious Hasselblad Award. The Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco hosted the award ceremony, only the third time the award has been presented outside of Hasselblad's hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Adams' work focuses on the American West. His 1974 book The New West looked at the changing landscape of Western states, documenting the creation of suburban landscapes in once pristine, rural areas. The photographs in this body of work helped define Adams' style as a no-frills, descriptive documentary photographer in the tradition of Walker Evans.

Over the course of 40 years as a photographer, Adams' unflinching and unsentimental eye has captured the enviornmental transformations of the Western landscape -- from forests hit by clear cutting and wide mountain landscapes to the rise of housing tracts, motels, supermarkets and trappings of suburbs.

The Hasselblad Foundation gives the photography award each year to a photographer who has contributed significantly to the field and is one of the most significant prizes to be awarded for photography. The past winners list reads like a Who's Who in Photography: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Susan Meiselas, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, Nan Goldin, Lee Friedlander, William Klien, Josef Koudelka, William Eggleston, and so on. Adams finds himself in excellent company. The winner receives a gold medal (usually presented by the Swedish royal family), a certificate and a monetary prize of 500,000 SKE.

 

Two Crimes, Two Stereotypes

| Tue Apr. 14, 2009 5:28 PM EDT

This week I've been following the tragic case of Sandra Cantu, an eight-year old California girl who was raped and murdered. Her suspected killer is Melissa Huckaby, a local Sunday school teacher. Also this week, I learned that rapper Lil Wayne told Jimmy Kimmel that he first had sex at age 11. Kimmel termed it "lost your virginity," but due to Wayne's age at the time and the 13-year old girl who lured him with board games, I think the incident would be better categorized as rape.

Both the Wayne and Cantu cases stuck out to me because they really run against the stereotypical depictions of men as predators and women as victims. While statistically women commit only about 10% of murders, if Huckaby is guilty, it will be a sad case-in-point that women, even white, Sunday school-teaching mothers, can indeed rape and kill. Wayne's childhood assault is completely deplorable—and so is the fact that Kimmel thought it was okay to joke about it on TV—and it's a stark reminder that men are also victims of sexual violence. Even African American, bling-loving rappers who write hypersexual, misogynist songs like "Ask Them Hoes."

I really wonder if Kimmel would have asked Britney Spears or Missy Elliot or any other female celebrity about losing their "virginity" before they turned 12. My feeling is, such an exchange would have had a lot more of "you're a survivor" and a lot less of "wow, cool, what was that like?" What do you think? If Lil Wayne were a woman, would Kimmel even touch the subject?

Are Twitter and Facebook Bad for You?

| Tue Apr. 14, 2009 4:52 PM EDT

Obsessed with Twitter and Facebook? Then you're probably immoral and stupid.

At least, that's what two new studies claim. USC researchers allege that speed-tweeting leaves no time for compassion. I wonder if this applies to recent-Twitter convert Jesus. (Apparently, Twitter may also have jumped the shark. Poor Biz Stone.)

Meanwhile, a survey by Ohio doctoral students reveals that Facebook users get inferior grades in school. Because stalking ex-boyfriends online totally cuts into study time.

Somehow, I doubt these studies will stop anybody from social networking. Which reminds me: Did you know MoJo has its own Twitter feed and Facebook page? Check them out!