The Riff - September 2010

Paleo's Sunday Prayers from the Open Road

| Mon Sep. 13, 2010 7:15 AM EDT

Paleo
A View of the Sky
Partisan Records

Charles Badger Clark Jr. became South Dakota's first poet laureate in 1937. He was the son of a methodist reverend, though he never had much use for formal religion. After a failed stint in college and an adventure to Cuba, Clark found himself living on a ranch near Tombstone, Arizona. It was there that he penned "A Cowboy's Prayer," of which historian Katie Lee said: "Of the hundreds of poems written about cowboys praying to the stars, this is probably the best."

Here's a little bit of it:

Just let me live my life as I've begun,
And give me work that's open to the sky;
Make me a pardner of the wind and sun,
And I won't ask a life that's soft or high.

"Beyond his wonderful presentation of the West is the quality of universal appeal that makes his work real art," wrote Clark's editor, Ruth Hill. "He has tied the West to the universe." Clark revered the solitary landscapes and travelers' yarns that inspire a certain type of person to a life of wandering. The time of cowboys was already passing when he wrote "A Cowboy's Prayer," but others have picked up his project. One of the most direct descendants might be outlaw singers like Townes Van Zandt and Steve Earle. And more recently, little-known songwriter Paleo—whose new album A View of the Sky comes out next month.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Three Burner Bands Worth Dusting Off

| Mon Sep. 13, 2010 7:00 AM EDT

Burning Man musicians have it rough. There's the omnipresent threat of dust storms, the dehydrated and disoriented spectators, and the competition for a prime location on the playa. And unlike visual artists, who can vie for grants from the Black Rock Arts Foundation to fund their massive sculptures, Burning Man musicians don't get paid. "This festival won't even give us a free ticket, and our equipment is guaranteed to be destroyed," gripes Grey Filastine, a producer based in Barcelona, Spain, who has been performing at Burning Man since the mid-1990s.

But there's no shortage of bands at the 10-day event, known for all-night performances and subwoofers so loud they masticate the ear drums. (Things are getting better, notes Grey Filastine—see below. "There have been years where I just wanted to wear earplugs the entire week; those days are gone.") Heavy on electronica and light on instruments, the nightscape pulsates from competing DJs amid seas of twinkling glow sticks. Admittedly, I thought most of the DJs and producers sounded all the same, but these performers stood out:

Nonprofit Goals for Social Media

| Fri Sep. 10, 2010 3:44 PM EDT

Steve Katz, our fearless Publisher, was interviewed recently by JD Lasica at SocialBrite on ways that Mother Jones is using social media to transform journalism practices and connect with old and new audiences. Steve's bottom line is this: “If you are a nonprofit that has a network of people who care about what you do, these platforms are really a terrific way to connect and begin the kind of conversations that are more difficult to do without a digital platform."

Want to learn more about online community engagement, generating leads, and video technologies? Then check out the 11-minute video below, and for good measure, become a fan of MoJo on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Mother Jones' move into social media from JD Lasica

This Week's Dear Anna: Better Facebook Commenting?

| Fri Sep. 10, 2010 1:39 PM EDT

Is there a gentle way to nudge your Facebook friends toward leaving more thoughtful comments? Find out in this week's Dear @nna over at SF Weekly. Excerpt:

"Reading the comments in my own feed makes me give up on humanity a little each day. (Ed. note: I don't exclude myself from being obnoxious. I've been banned from people's pages, for "unnecessarily abusing quotation marks" and "hitting on people's moms." Like I'm the one who named it "poking!") This is the trouble with our ever expanding online networks, which often include hundreds of people, some we haven't seen in years, but remember fondly as that guy we got wasted with and started several small electrical fires. The point is, we can't all be as witty as you all the time, Snob."

Read my proposed solutions here.

Pot Trading Cards Celebrate High Achievements

| Fri Sep. 10, 2010 7:30 AM EDT

Barry Bonds and A-Rod aren't the only heavy hitters who've got a trading card following. A Berkeley medical pot dispensary has released an attractive set of cards that allows stoners to compare high-scoring ganja varietals such as Afghani Goo and Grand Daddy Purple.

The trading cards idea "was really just like an evolution of the labeling system," says David Bowers, a manager at the Patient's Care Collective, a 10-year-old pot store on Telegraph Avenue. Introduced in March, the cards feature glossy photos of killer buds along with details about their defining traits and medical uses. A 10-pack sells for $7.

Of course, unlike standard medical marijuana cards, the trading-card versions don't give their holders the legal right to purchase pot. But anyone in the market for a nickel bag of funk might consult them to learn about the increasingly sophisticated effects and flavors of California's designer weed. Grand Daddy Purple has a "rich fruity and sweet scent like grape pixie sticks" and is "very relaxing and good for sleeping." While the laid-back crowd might best avoid OG Kush, an "extremely pungent and skunky" plant that has psychoactive effects that "can be almost too strong for some patients."

Many of the cards read like a cross between a wine label and a bottle of Asprin, reflecting marijuana's double-edged allure as a medicine and agent of hedonism. (California voters will get a chance to legalize recreational marijuana in November). The Jack Herer variety, named after a leading pot activist,  is "peppery and spicy, with a touch of tropical fruit." It's also "clear, focused, energetic and motivating . . . A good strain for when you have to medicate during the work day."

Critics consider marijuana cards to be the reefer version of tobacco company R.J. Reynold's Joe Camel. "Using slick, full-color cards to glamorize marijuana is an overtly cynical attempt to promote marijuana use to children while turning a profit for yourself," former California Attorney General Dan Lungren wrote along with 21 other state AGs in a 1998 letter to the now-defunct, San Francisco-based In-Line Trading Cards and Magazines, which had produced a set of "Hemp Cards" that were sold in retail stores. Bowers says that the Patient Care Collective only sells its cards at the dispensary and marijuana trade shows.

 

 

Palin Decries Koran Burning and Mosques in Same Post

| Wed Sep. 8, 2010 7:32 PM EDT

Sarah Palin's done it again with another contradictory statement so confusing it will make your brain hurt. In a Facebook post today, Palin decried Pastor Terry Jones's plans to burn Korans. Sure, okay. Great. THEN she wrote that being sensitive toward other religions was the reason the Park51 prayer space shouldn't be built. "People have a constitutional right to burn a Koran if they want to, but doing so is insensitive and an unnecessary provocation–much like building a mosque at Ground Zero," Palin wrote. "Freedom of religion is integral to our charters of liberty... In this as in all things, we should remember the Golden Rule. Isn’t that what the Ground Zero mosque debate has been about?"

Not really, no. First of all, the Ground Zero mosque isn't AT ground zero: it's two blocks away, past the subway station, the Century 21 discount store, and dozens of other businesses that are much closer to the former WTC site than it is. Secondly, burning a Qur'an in Florida is NOT the same thing as building a prayer space in lower Manhattan unless you're willing to assert that all Christians (Sarah Palin included) have the same beliefs as Terry Jones and all Muslims have the same beliefs as the 9/11 hijackers. In opposing the mosque, Palin is writing as if the 9/11 attackers represented the views of all Muslims, which is like saying the acts of the Ku Klux Klan represent the views of all white people.

In case Palin forgets, Christians do not have an exclusive right to the former WTC site AND the three-block radius around it. The twin towers themselves were almost certainly built on the graves of slaves, some of them Muslim. Ground Zero is equally hallowed for the Muslim, Buddhist, or Jewish office workers who died there on 9/11, and all should be allowed to pray nearby. To think that only Muslims should be forced elsewhere could be called "insensitive."

Advertise on MotherJones.com

What Happens When You Google Rick Santorum?

| Tue Sep. 7, 2010 7:00 AM EDT

Below, an illustrator's take on Rick Santorum's Google problem. Read all about Santorum's campaign issues here, or watch a slideshow of magazine illustration outtakes.

 

A Historical Precedent for the Beastie Boys?

| Mon Sep. 6, 2010 7:07 AM EDT

In 1942 the Jewish torch singer Libby Holman recorded "Baby, Baby" with the famed bluesman Josh White. Holman was always fascinated by the music of black artists. She was the wealthy widow of a JR Reynolds heir and had used her fortune to pay for blues lessons and her collaborations with White. Once, she hired Billie Holiday to sing at her son's birthday party. She was "not trying to copy the Negroes," she said, "just taking their feeling."

Holman and White's "Baby, Baby" can be heard at Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations, a new exhibit at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in downtown San Francisco. Black Sabbath, created by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation, explores the often surprising intersections of black and Jewish culture in the music of the 20th century. "These stories of common struggle and hardship have long left their mark on popular music," explains one sign at the exhibit. Indeed, the blues seemed to have resonated in this way with Holman. Looking back on her life, it isn't hard to see why.

Music Monday: 10 Songs for Labor Day

| Mon Sep. 6, 2010 3:39 AM EDT

In honor of road-tripping MoJo intern Tim Murphy's stop in Woody Guthrie's hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma, we've loaded up a player with five of Woody's most labor-oriented songs and matched them with another five commie pinko classics, including Gene Autry's version of "The Death of Mother Jones." As you enjoy the end of summer this fine Monday check out Josh Harkinson's dispatch from coal country, West Virginia, where the memory of Mary Harris "Mother" Jones lives on despite Massey Coal CEO Don Blankenship's rampant villainy. Click the video thumbnails to listen to each song and don't forget to ask yourself the necessary question: What Would Woody Do?

 

Dealing with Social Media Sexism

| Fri Sep. 3, 2010 2:39 PM EDT

Ladies, how many times has an anonymous troll on the internet told you to "make him a sandwich" in response to even the most vaguely female-related post or comment? As the social media maven for Mother Jones, the answer to that question for me is A LOT. In fact, it seems these days you can't throw a whale out of a window without it landing on a sexist tweeter. What to do? My newly-launched social media advice column at SF Weekly, Dear @nna, tackles how to deal with sexism in the penis party known as Digg. Excerpt:

The worst thing about Pigg users is they have all the time in the world to fight with you on the Internet. It's impossible to have a thoughtful argument with someone who plays World of Warcraft for eight hours a day. Such trolls don't deserve your time. Pity or block them if you must. But while public shaming has its merits, it will also likely incite more hatefulness. Also, Digg isn't exactly a space for starting a dialogue on the hypocrisy of religious fundamentalism (or equivalent Serious Issue), it's for sharing articles on Steven Seagal's new energy drink, open source software that you can jerk off to, and the revelatory details of Tiger Woods' divorce.

Read the rest at SF Weekly. Got social media etiquette questions for future columns? Leave them below in comments.