The Riff - March 2010

MoJo LOST Chat: Sundown

| Wed Mar. 3, 2010 4:26 PM EST

Season Six, Episode 6: "Sundown" (March 2)

Creepy. That's probably be the best word to describe last night's bloody, game changing episode, which forever changed the way we'll listen to a popular children's song. What bargain did Flocke (faux Locke) make with Sayid? Is Dogen really gone forever? And for the love of god, will Sun and Jin ever reunite?

To help four MoJo staffers dissect it all, we invited Mac Slocum from the popular Filmfodder blog to join in. Thanks, Mac! Read the chat below, and tune in for more guest bloggers in the coming weeks.

Jen Phillips, Assistant Editor: Hey everyone.
Laurin Asdal, Director of Development: Howdy.
Nikki Gloudeman, New Media Fellow: Mac, thanks so much for joining us!
Mac Slocum, Lost blogger: You bet! Thanks for having me.
Nikki: So last night's episode...wow, yeah? I'd say creepiest in the history of the show.
Mac: Uh, yeah. It got dark in those closing moments.
Samantha Schaberg, Administrative Assistant: I loved the music.
Nikki: Freakiest version of that children's song. Gave me chills. Also: No more temple, hooray!
Mac: Yeah, thank God for that. The Epcot Temple needed to go.
Nikki: Yes it was pretty lame. Now it's fight time in the jungle. Much more interesting.
Laurin: Bring it back to the beginning.
Ben Buchwalter, Editorial Fellow: It's gonna. be. crazy.

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Please Just Stop, Sarah Palin

| Wed Mar. 3, 2010 4:05 PM EST

It feels as if Sarah Palin's been attacking Fox's "Family Guy" longer than she was governor of Alaska. Last night, a desperate-for-ratings Jay Leno gave her another forum to vent about a single line in a February episode of the comedy show. (One of the characters, a learning disabled woman, refers to her mother as "the former governor of Alaska." Palin took that as a dig against her son, Trig, who has Down Syndrome, and happily played the victim via a note on her Facebook account.)

Given the golden opportunity, Palin flat-out lied to Leno:

"...I commented and then that gets out there in the blogosphere, it gets out there in the different forms of the mediums that we have today. And then it's left there, not an opportunity for me to follow up and kind of elaborate on what I really meant and what I really thought of the thing."

Before Mr. Leno went to a commercial break, Ms. Palin said that a fuller opportunity to discuss the incident would have led to a "much healthier dialogue." After the commercial, she did not expand on her remarks. (H/T to the New York Times via The Daily Dish.)

Funny, since we all seem to remember her 6-minute tirade on Fox's "O'Reilly Factor" last month, when she went on at length about the "Family Guy" fake controversy, then parsed Rahm Emanuel's and Rush Limbaugh's uses of the word "retard." She also took the chance to rail against "the Hollywood Fox," apparently to differentiate it from the more-authentically American Wasilla Fox studio.

Excellence in Illustration

| Tue Mar. 2, 2010 8:20 PM EST

Left: Steve Brodner. Right: Dale StephanosI'm proud to announce that Mother Jones has been recognized for the excellence of our editorial illustration by a trio of prestigious organizations this year: the Society of Publication Designers, American Illustration, and the Society of Illustrators. This magazine has a long tradition of excellence—not only in investigative reporting, but also in design and art direction, and we've always believed that visual journalism is an important part of our mission. It's gratifying to see that we continue to be recognized by our peers in the publication design industry.

Roberto ParadaFirst of all, we've been honored by the Society of Publication Designers with one medal finalist award and three merit winners in their 45th Annual Competition. The SPD is one of the most prestigious association of publication designers and art directors in the country, and this work will be featured in its 45th Publication Design Annual book, which usually appears in November. In addition, the work will be exhibited online and at the Society's awards gala. The gold and silver medal winners from the field of finalists will be announced at the gala, which this year will be held on May 7 in New York City.

Jack UnruhAnd the winners are: The medal finalist was "Presidents of the United States," by Steve Brodner, from our January/February 2009 issue, in the Single/Spread Illustration category. The Merit Award winners were: "Don't Look Down," by Dale Stephanos, from our January/February 2009 issue, in the Cover Illustration category; "The People vs. Dick Cheney," by Roberto Parada, from our January/February 2009 issue, in the Single/Spread Illustration category; and "The Sheikh Down," by Jack Unruh, from our September/October 2009 issue, in the Single/Spread Illustration category.

Left: Yarek Waszul. Right: Tim O'Brien.I'm particularly looking forward to attending the awards gala, which over the years has gotten more and more entertaining. The 42nd annual gala, the last one I attended, featured two emcees, George Karabostos, the design director of Men's Health, and Fiona McDonagh, director of photography at Entertainment Weekly. Their onstage patter was flawless—and then there were the costumes: After the presentation of awards in each category, George and Fiona re-took the stage in increasingly fancy evening dress, until at their final appearance, George brought down the house in an off-the-shoulder evening gown. I'm not sure what they've got planned for this year, but I do know that if our finalist gets the gold or silver medal, I'll be there to pick it up. (The winners aren't allowed to make any speeches, which is probably another plus for all concerned.)

In other awards news this year, two works of illustration commissioned for Mother Jones were included in American Illustration 28, a juried illustration annual publication. Steve Brodner's "Presidents of the United States" will appear along with Yarek Waszul's illustration for "The New ECOnomy," from our November/December 2008 issue.


And finally, the recently-released Society of Illustrators 51st Annual, a publication that features work from the 2008 calendar year, includes a pair of illustrations from our pages: Tim O'Brien painted "The Last Empire" for the cover of our January/February 2008 issue, and Mirko Ilić created "The Seven Myths of Energy Independence" for our May/June 2008 issue.

Illustration credits, from top: left, Steve Brodner, right, Dale Stephanos; Roberto Parada; Jack Unruh; left, Yarek Waszul, right, Tim O'Brien; Mirko Ilić.

Update: After this was posted, we were notified of an additional 8 awards nominations, 4 of them for art, from the Western Publishing Association. See Elizabeth Gettelman's blog on the subject, here.

Sting's Uzbek Dictator Problem

| Tue Mar. 2, 2010 4:47 PM EST

I'm not going to pretend pop-music fame is easy, but here's a handy maxim for future crooners to keep in mind: Don't do private concerts for tyrannical rulers who reportedly boil people alive. Just sayin'.

You might think it goes without saying. But then, you might not be Sting. The former Police frontman, whose given name is the less-barbed Gordon Matthew Sumner, has been taking it on the nose for performing last October at an "arts festival" put on by the daughter of Uzbekistan's strongarm dictator, Islam Karimov. (He's the former communist party boss who, since 1991, keeps getting "elected" as his political opponents or their bodies keep disappearing.) Tickets to the gig in Tashkent, Uzbekistan's capital, ran from $1,000 to $2,000—or 45 times the average Uzbek's monthly income. And having been there, I'd say that might just be an overestimate of the average Uzbek's earning power.

If you want to know just how bad Karimov's regime is, ask Britain's former ambassador to the nation, Craig Murray. Or the thousands of children Uzbekistan puts to work in its cotton fields to pick and bale its "white gold." Or Condoleezza Rice, who tore asunder a tenuous US-Uzbek anti-terror alliance after Karimov's men gunned down as many as 1,000 demonstrators in the streets of Andijon five years ago. (When the Bush-era State Department calls your country "an authoritarian state with limited civil rights" and castigates you for allegedly torturing and killing terror suspects "by immersion in boiling water," brother, you're on the wrong side of a moral argument.)

The Best NYT Lede Ever?

| Mon Mar. 1, 2010 9:45 AM EST

There's something wrong with the first sentence of this recent New York Times story about white anti-abortion activists trying to recruit black people to join their cause:

For years the largely white staff of Georgia Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion group, tried to tackle the disproportionately high number of black women who undergo abortions.

The next sentence explains that the staff of Georgia Right to Life "found it difficult to make inroads with black audiences." That makes sense. Hassling women who want to get abortions is bad enough. But tackling them?

Have One on Joanna Newsom

| Mon Mar. 1, 2010 8:00 AM EST

Joanna Newsom
Have One On Me
Drag City


Joanna Newsom's new triple (!) disc has been shrouded in secrecy for the past two years, and now that it's finally out, well, it was worth the wait.

The northern California musician has been playing the same old harp since age 12, and sees herself as the musical offspring of home-state artists CSNY, Joni Mitchell, and the Byrds. But Have One On Me is a departure from her past work. Newsom's nasally voice, so off-putting to some listeners of her first albums, is now mostly angelic—due ironically to a vocal injury last year. There's also more percussion and a deeper cache of instrumental layers here. She wrote her own harp and vocal arrangements, while Ryan Francesconi, who plays guitar, long-necked lute, banjo, mandolin, and soprano recorder on the album, arranged and engineered the recordings.

Each of these 18 songs—only three of them clock in at under five minutes; six are eight-plus—is a leg of her musical trip through the Golden State. The nice parts of it, that is: black bears and beetles and all that. When you come and see me in California / You cross the border of my heart, she croons.

This album can function as background music if you want it to, but what's most intrusive—and interesting—is the multiplicity of texture. From lutes and harps to horns and electric guitars, it unfurls surprises on the first few listens: Check out "Soft As Chalk," "Easy," and the title track. Newsom describes Have One On Me as "more direct and more open" than past records. Which might be true, but her seraphic vibrato is still there if you listen for it.