The Riff - March 2010

Tea Partier Appears on Letterman

| Wed Mar. 31, 2010 3:53 PM EDT

More proof the Tea Party movement is going mainstream: Last night, a member appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman.

The TV host decided to invite Pam Stout to his show after reading about her in a New York Times article, which described the president of the Sandpoint, Idaho Tea Party Patriots as an unlikely revolutionary with ties to the controversial Oath Keepers movement.

On stage, though, Stout seemed more like a matronly schoolteacher than an angry crackpot. In a mild-mannered voice, she recounted her work helping low-income residents get on their feet and owning her own business, and expressed a simple desire to "go back to the old ideals." She even got the New York audience to erupt into applause a few times, as she questioned the government's overspending and anti-business mentality.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

MoJo LOST Chat: The Package

| Wed Mar. 31, 2010 3:41 PM EDT

See more LOST chats here.

Last night's episode, "The Package," had all the romance you could stomach, if by "romance" you mean getting money while your lover's held hostage by a crazy-eyed Martin Keamy. Yes, it was the long-awaited Sun-Jin episode, but it proved less satisfying than hoped. Our guest blogger Tracie from Jezebel chatted with me about Sun's pregnancy, the symbolism of tomatoes, and which Jin we liked better. Via Jezebel, you can read Tracie's post on the episode here.

Jen Phillips, Assistant Editor: Hi Tracie!

Tracie, Senior Writer, Jezebel: Hey!

JP: Overall, what did you think? Love, hate, neither?

T: Well, initially, i thought that it was sort of one of those boring ones that catered more to the emotional aspects of the show, rather than the mystical, but that like the Korean subtitles, there was a lot to be read from what was presented.

JP: The alternate timeline seems to be taking a turn for the darker, don't you think? I think it's definitely the MIB-wins timeline.

T: Well, I think for some people it's darker, and for some it's not. I think that how their lives turn out in the sideways world speaks to free will, and the choices that they've personally made: like that Sawyer decided to be a cop instead of a criminal, and Jin decided to be Sun's "lover" instead of husband. It's also interesting that in the sideways world, he defied Sun's dad, and still had working semen, whereas in the original time line, he was kind of emasculated by her dad, and didn't wasn't able to impregnate her.

JP: So you think the sideways timeline is just free will? You don't think MIB is influencing people like Jacob? I only say that because Sun touching Flocke's hand seemed to be a decisive moment.

T: I think the sideways world isn't so much where MIB wins, but where Jacob doesn't have influence.

JP: I once heard that hell is simply the absence of God. Maybe sideways is simply a non-Jacob world, but I think I prefer the crash timeline.

T: Jacob seems really intent on people making the right choices, but he's meddling, and screwing it up. He thinks that keeping MIB corked in the island, that people will automatically make bad choices. For instance, when he showed up at Sawyer's parents' funeral, he gave Sawyer the pen to enable him to write this letter to the guy who conned his parents. Sawyer carried that letter around with him for life and it shaped the con man that he became.

JP: Well, we've long suspected that good is bad and vice versa on the island. "We're the good guys" and so forth.

T: Yeah, which is why I think that opening the episode last night with the night vision was significant in which what we saw—dark turning to light and vice versa—was different from what we can see with the human eye.

JP: There is also something important about island babies in this episode. Aaron and Ji Yeon are both discussed. Who raises them seems to be paramount, but neither seem to be back on the island anytime soon...

T: Oh, yeah, fertility is a big issue, as evidenced by that tomato Jack found and gave to Sun. Tomatoes are nightshades, which i think might be a clue.

JP: Tomatoes are also called love apples, I believe,

T: Ooh! Like apples in the Garden of Eden! Sun was tempted by Mocke in her garden. It's interesting that those sonar fences are clearly his kryptonite. Sonar fences like that are usually used to control marine species.

JP: And let's not forget Widmore's sub, which navigates by sonar/radar. 

T: Also electromagnetism played a big role last night with the map that Widmore's employee had. I think that's the key to why Desmond was brought back. He has a special relationship with electromagnetism, having been "gifted" with the flashbacks and flash-fowards from it. Additionally, night vision technology--like the kind that Widmore's people were using to spy on MIB's camp--enhance electromagnetic radiation, enabling humans to see non-visible electromagnetic rays.

JP: It reminds me of what physicist Daniel Faraday said, about light not bending right on the island.

T: As far as Desmond goes, I think that his whole thing is about looking to the future, not just because he has the ability to see it, but because he wants to just continue on with his life with his son and Penny but people keep trying to pull him back into their own crap. I think his outlook on life is sort of the message of the show.

JP: Magnetically, maybe he's the opposite to the island, and so it's attracted to him. Any last thoughts before we go? 

T: After watching last night, with how Sun's dad interfered with her life so much, I thought it showed a lot of the parallels between her story and Penny's and how Penny didn't give a crap about what her father thought and empowered herself to go after what she wanted.

JP: Good point. They're both heiresses that have spunk and aren't afraid to take on daddy, or the island. Sun was all badass in one timeline, armed and dangerous. Wonder if that's why she got shot in the new timeline.

T: Well, in both timelines, she's portrayed as being slutty (sleeping with guys she's not married to) and she sort of had to pay for the consequences of that, and that really bugs the crap out of me because Sawyer sleeps with EVERYONE. He's banged the most girls on the show (Charlotte, Kate, Juliet, Ana Lucia) and it's not thought of as his "sin." They definitely cast sideways Sun into the "Eve" role tempting Jin with her body double's boobs.

JP: Ha! Even with all that, I like Jin. He seems conflicted with trying to do the right thing and what he wants. While Sun just tries to get what she wants.

T: Yeah, I liked Jin a lot better in the sideways world, since he wasn't as controlling over Sun.

JP: Thanks again for chatting, Tracie. Can't wait until the Desmond-centric episode next week.

T: No prob!

Kiddie Scarface Producer Outed

| Tue Mar. 30, 2010 6:46 PM EDT

Guess who's behind this sick and twisted little performance?

Hint: It's not a schoolteacher about to be fired. Or a principal about to be fired.

And he won't care if you're offended.

He's also responsible for works your tween children could name-check.

Okay, give up? The LA Times reveals.

Paging Dr. James Franco

| Tue Mar. 30, 2010 2:57 PM EDT

Dear Dr. Franco James,

I read with great distress this morning of your plan to matriculate in the PhD program in English at Yale University. This would be where most people congratulate you on your acceptance. But most people are sycophants who mistake fame and physical attractiveness for innate character. I am not one of those people. I've known the truth about you ever since you made a campy joke of my alma mater, the US Naval Academy, in an Annapolis performance that by comparison gives Officer and a Gentleman the gravitas and dynamism of an Olivier stage romp. 

This Yale thing, of course, would not be your first foray into the hallowed halls of academe. You dropped into UCLA, then dropped out, then back in. You almost gave a commencement speech there, then didn't. Then you went to my other alma mater, Columbia, for a master's in fine arts with an emphasis on creative writing, as well as a nap. At the same time, you also enrolled in NYU's Tisch School for acting. 

And now, Yale wants you. To the list of earthly phenomena that mystify me—the riddle of Schroedinger's cat, the Second Law of Thermodynamcs—I now add this: The Ivies and other top-tier institutions shower degrees on you like so many Sony HD minicams in an Oscar-party grab-bag giveaway. And I must strenuously object. Please read the following appeal:

Yodeling Echo of R. Kelly (VIDEO)

| Mon Mar. 29, 2010 1:05 PM EDT

Ever wonder what's going on with R. Kelly, onetime White House visitor and all-time master of the R&B sex jam, who was once jammed in the slammer for sex (with a minor)? He introduced his new video, "Echo," via Twitter late last week and it's certainly gone viral—though not in the way one might associate Kelly with that term.

"Echo" is the typical R. Kelly hook, a stereophonic display of his confusion between a metaphor for sex and the sex itself. Here there is no one to remind him of his jeep, no key for his ignition, no belief in flight, no closet in which to be trapped. There is only Robert. And The Sound of Music.

It's true: R. Kelly yodels. He brings the hills to life with the sound of his music. (That's a literal, not metaphorical, compliment—watch the video.)

In this strangely earnest twist on the Julie Andrews camp classic, R. Kelly is somehow endearing—ever the suave, sweet misogynist with a sex craze ready to objectify anything that moves...or fails to move quickly enough. In our pomographic, sex-addled, pop-edge music world, he is the male yin to Lady Gaga's yang, right down to the ridiculous glasses.

Here's a sampling of his lyrics, with the full video below:

Music Monday: My Goldfrapp Top 10

| Mon Mar. 29, 2010 7:00 AM EDT

Goldfrapp
Head First
Mute

Head First, the fifth full album from Goldfrapp, came out last week, and boy, is it lovely! Who knew late-'70s/early '80s synth-pop could be so perfectly compact, so life-affirming and seemingly effortless? Anyone who’s ever roller-skated to the Xanadu soundtrack or listened to the full ABBA catalog too many times, that’s probably who. And yet that extremely gay sentence only begins to overanalyze this marvelous new musical emission from forty-something English songstress Allison Goldfrapp and composer Will Gregory. Here’s a list of 10 flowery observations compiled over nearly a dozen listens in varying states of attentiveness: 

1. "Rocket," the first track and first single: So rebelliously joyous in the face of hard-earned world-weariness, it embodies the creamy illusionism of pop, the compulsive, addictive structure that gives three-minute musical confections this aura: melodic, tightly structured, self-contained solutions to reality that are at once outrageously far-fetched, naively enthusiastic, sincere, and disposable. Things not going so well? Send the bastard away on a rocket! 

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Songs for the Planet

| Mon Mar. 29, 2010 6:50 AM EDT

Eight years ago, two business moguls had an inspiration: Why not convince hip companies to donate a fixed portion of their sales to environmental causes? That notion evolved into 1% for the Planet, a network of firms that (as the name suggests) do just that. Early this year, the one-percenters expanded on that idea, releasing a CD of exclusive tracks that directly benefits environmental groups. We hooked up with 1% marketing VP Melody Grote to chat about the project, which involves the likes of Brandi Carlile, Jack Johnson, and Jackson Browne.

Mother Jones: Tell us a bit about 1% for the Planet.

Melody Grote: It's an environmental nonprofit founded in 2002 by Yvon Chouinard, who founded Patagonia, and his buddy Craig Matthews, owner of Blue Ribbon Flies. They were out fishing one day and they said, "every time we do something good for the planet, it's good business. And companies have a real role to play here—more of them should."

They started within Patagonia with a simple model that all companies who are members give 1% of top-line sales to environmental nonprofits of their choice. It grew for a few years and gained momentum, and they said, "You know what? This should really live on its own. It's got enormous potential." Today, we have over 1,200 member companies in 38 countries. And the giving that's been enabled by this company is about $50 million to date. Ironically, it makes us one of the biggest funders of environmental work around. Which tells us how much needs to be done.

MJ: How do companies get involved?

MG: Oftentimes they find us. We have had this wonderful trajectory over the last three years, with more than one new member company a day joining. It's the power of the network. People like Yvon, and member companies like Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing Company, and Clif Bar. These companies are really role models. So companies hear about them and want to be sustainably minded and come to 1% because it's such a clear, credible commitment.

MJ: Why the CD?

Ralph Reed's Terrifying Book Trailer

| Thu Mar. 25, 2010 1:28 PM EDT

Most progressives left Ralph Reed for dead in 2006. That's when incriminating e-mails about "humping in some corporate accounts," coupled with a sound primary thunking in his race for Georgia lieutenant governor, seemed to cast the former head of the Christian Coalition into political exile. And while Reed has attempted to revive his political career of late—mulling a run for Congress in Georgia, opposing health care reform, and attempting to align his new PAC, the Faith and Freedom Coalition, with the Tea Party—he's a shell of the cocky organizer who once warned opponents, "You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag."

But with every death comes rebirth. So said the ancients, and so it is with Reed. In his case, "rising from the ashes of his political career" translates to a bright new future in supermarket express-line political thrillers. Reed's first book, Dark Horse, sold pretty well, and, as one friend raved to me, "it actually wasn't  that terrible." But that was only the beginning. Yesterday, Reed tweeted the release of a movie trailer for his latest book, due out in September. (Since when do books get their own trailers?) It's called The Confirmation, it's about a Supreme Court confirmation (and so much more!), and it's a reminder of just how much healthier politics are when Ralph Reed is writing paperbacks about SCOTUS nominees rather than, you know, vetting them. Anyways, we checked out the trailer and can report that it is truly and utterly terrifying. Behold:

The syringe! The syringe! What is going on at the 0:33 mark? Tell us your wildest disaster scenario in the comments. Also, kudos to Ralph for absolutely nailing my writing process at 0:11.

 

Model Citizens

| Thu Mar. 25, 2010 6:00 AM EDT

Looking like a million bucks—even if you're flat broke—is the first rule of La Societé des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes, a subculture of Congolese dandies who bring high fashion to the streets. Sapeurs may beg, borrow, or steal to get the latest from Paris and Milan. Disputes over who's the most dapper are decided by duels: Whoever flashes the most exclusive label wins.

For more of Daniele Tamagni's "Gentlemen of Bacongo," click here.

This photograph appeared in the March/April 2010 Issue of Mother Jones.

Mark Murrmann on Punk, Politics, and Shooting from the Hip

| Wed Mar. 24, 2010 4:12 PM EDT
A few years back Mark Murrmann joined Mother Jones, bringing with him an accomplished and varied resume as a documentary photographer, and a badass. Since then he's brought some incredible photographers to our pages and has helped us produce several award-nominated images. Still, even while his desk job is as a photo editor, Mark still manages to work his own Leica on the regular. Whether it be on assignment for Jim Beam, raw takes from the punk rock touring scene, or pics from the Orange Revolution, Mark never misses an opportunity to capture life in the raw. Maddie Oatman of The Rumpus recently caught up with Mark and asked him about his striking perspective. Some outtakes (catch the full interview here):
"For Murrmann, no scene is too mundane to make memorable. His unobtrusive style and casual demeanor allow him to easily camouflage with his surroundings, and he’s an expert at hiding his camera and letting the action take charge."
Mark’s intense photographic energy translates well in both the political and punk worlds, as both document the restlessness, the voyeurism, and the debauchery that encompass political and musical acts. On where photos meet punk:
"[F]or punk music, in particular, the role of photography has a long history. It’s something that has gone hand-in-hand. Photographing other types of bands and bigger stages is just so weird because of security, and you’re only allowed to photograph the first three songs. But with punk bands, you’re right up against the stage, and often they’ll play on the floor. It’s all so much of the same experience rather than being separated."
Mark’s photographed everything from the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine and Hurricane Katrina to average passersby on San Francisco streets, but one of his most “aha” moments occurred while snapping tourists in prisons.
"I photographed Alcatraz a lot because it’s right here, but I also went around the country photographing other prison sites looking at how the prisons are reconfigured to handle tourists and how the tourists interacted with the prison. It’s just really weird: a place that so many people spend their whole lives in not wanting to be, and now streams of people are going through."
Again, you can head to The Rumpus to read their full interview with Mark, complete with several of his amazing photographs. Rock on, Murrmann.