The Riff

Tina Fey's Censored Palin Joke (VIDEO)

| Tue Nov. 16, 2010 2:26 PM EST

So Tina Fey gets this award Sunday night, the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, which is kind of a big deal. In fact, they wrap an entire PBS Kennedy Center TV special around her, with special guests and happy clapping crowds. And when she gets this award, she gets to talk onstage, as awardees are wont to do. And according to Joe.My.God. and the Washington Post, here's part of what she says:

And, you know, politics aside, the success of Sarah Palin and women like her is good for all women—except, of course, those who will end up, you know, like, paying for their own rape kit 'n' stuff. But for everybody else, it's a win-win. Unless you're a gay woman who wants to marry your partner of 20 years—whatever. But for most women, the success of conservative women is good for all of us. Unless you believe in evolution. You know—actually, I take it back. The whole thing's a disaster.

Except if you were watching the thing on PBS Sunday night, you didn't see or hear any of that. According to the Post's Paul Farhi: "The part about rape kits and evolution was gone, leaving only Fey's more harmonious—and blander—comments about Palin and politics: 'I would be a liar and an idiot if I didn't thank Sarah Palin for helping get me here tonight...'"

For its part, PBS told Farhi the selective editing "was not a political decision...We had zero problems with anything she said":

But with the 90-minute show running about 19 minutes long after the taping Tuesday night, a few things had to give, Kaminsky said. "We took a lot out," he said. "We snipped from everyone."

Uh huh. Anyway, a video of Fey's full acceptance speech is below; skip to about 12:30 for her invective on Alaskan dystopia. Oh, and by the way, also on TV Sunday? The premiere of Sarah Palin's Alaska on TLC, which hooked in 5 million viewers. Apparently she illegally molested a bear with her fishing tackle. But that didn't get edited out.

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OK Go's Tim Nordwind Loves Treats

| Mon Nov. 15, 2010 7:25 AM EST

[Also read our interview with OK GO's Damian Kulash]

OK Go is a dapper pop-rock foursome, and singer/bassist Tim Nordwind is quite possibly the dapperest of the bunch. Admittedly, I'm only saying this based on Nordwind's awesome last name, stylin' togs, and prominent sideburns evident in the band's inspired videos—which have made it a YouTube sensation. OK Go's fame began with the backyard-dance-routine video "A Million Ways" and took off with their so-called treadmill video, which you may well have seen—you and at least 60 million others. Then came the astounding Rube Goldberg machine. The band's latest hit is "White Knuckles," a video they no doubt concocted to get a share of the millions of people who search YouTube late at night for videos involving dogs. Their brand new one, posted just last week, is a more artsy affair called "Last Leaf," involving stop-time animation and thousands of slices of toast. Singer/guitarist Damian Kulash—whose sister's choreography has been instrumental in OK Go's success, answered our questions about the making of the videos that have brought so much short-term pleasure to so many. In the meantime, I asked Nordwind about the music that inspires his creative mind.

Mother Jones: What's your favorite new release this year?

Tim Nordwind: Sleigh Bells, Treats. It's as if they put a tape recorder in the brain of a three-year-old kid, and then wrote a bunch of songs around the constant bombast of the kid's hyperactive, sugar-blown imagination. It's definitely a record to blast out loud.

The Fierce Urgency of Sows

| Wed Nov. 10, 2010 7:00 AM EST

When we last heard from Bryan Fischer, the American Family Association's issues director was calling for the public stoning of Tillikum the killer whale, for its role in the death of a trainer at Sea World last spring. "When an ox gores a man or woman to death," Fischer declared, quoting Exodus, "the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten."

The whale was not stoned (in fairness, it wasn't eaten, either) but Fischer seems undeterred in his assault on charismatic megafauna. Here he is yesterday, reacting to a Los Angeles Times article about Wyoming's threatened grizzlies:

One human being is worth more than an infinite number of grizzly bears. Another way to put it is that there is no number of live grizzlies worth one dead human being. If it's a choice between grizzlies and humans, the grizzlies have to go. And it's time.

It's hardly an isolated incident; earlier this year, Fischer called the grizzly, "a fierce, savage unstoppable killing machine." This time, he's offered a solution: "Shoot these man-eaters on sight."

Avey Tare's Secret Listening Habits

| Mon Nov. 8, 2010 11:05 AM EST

As a member of Animal Collective, one of those rare bands that define a sound (weirdo experimental psych-pop) rather than be tied to one, Avey Tare (a.k.a. David Portner) has produced some of the more compelling music to come out of the 21st century indie-rock hype machine. While Panda Bear, AC’s McCartney to Tare's Lennon, has released well-received solo albums on par with the main band’s output, Tare has remained conspicuously quiet—until now. Down There, his solo debut the on Paw Tracks label, hit the streets on October 26. A decidedly melancholy affair, it seems to recount a dark journey through a mind troubled by place and circumstance. It’s a bold move for a man at the critical and popular pinnacle of his career; in other words, just another unexpected and mind-bending release from a member of the Animal Collective family. I hit up Tare for the lowdown on his own listening habits.

Mother Jones: What's your favorite new release and why?

Avey Tare: Teengirl Fantasy’s 7am. I've been digging the EPs these two dudes have put out in the past year or so online. Home brewed house.

A Republican Walks Into a San Francisco Bar...

| Wed Nov. 3, 2010 7:59 PM EDT

On the evening that 80 percent of San Francisco voters elected Nancy Pelosi, the town's few Republicans hunkered down in Marina District bar Eastside West to watch the national results roll in. A light-up "Don't Tread on Me" pin blinked red and blue from one coat lapel. "This bar is an island of sanity!" shouted one GOPer, waving his arms wildly near an empty beer glass. "In a peninsula—a peninsula of..." his voice trailed off.

He meant: A peninsula of almost no Republicans. Of every ten San Francisco voters, about five are registered Democrats. Three decline to state their political affiliations. And less than one is Republican. Less than one? Is that even possible?

It's not easy being red in the Bay Area. One drinker admitted that he avoided putting up GOP bumper stickers, too worried that his car would be keyed. The young Stanford grad, now a marketing professional, refused to give his name for fear a potential employer might someday see this story online and nix him in the hiring process. In San Francisco, he said, he's much more likely to talk about his Catholic faith than about his politics.

Paranoid, maybe? "[Liberals] should go to West Texas and try to live there," he said. "They'd probably feel the same way I do."

A few blocks away at John Dennis' election night party, the bar served wine instead of beer; the crowd looked a good 20 years older.

The disposition there, despite the unconventional Republican's slim-to-none chances of defeating Pelosi, was a bit more upbeat. Lisa Rossetti, the fundraising director for Dennis' campaign, saw the national turnover as a mixed bag. "On the one hand I'm thrilled, on the other hand I'm skeptical," she said. "If they're gonna be like the guys who came in with [Newt] Gingrich, we're done. We'll need a new party."

Like Dennis, Rossetti wanted to do away with DADT and supported pot legalization. But living here hasn't shaken her fears of skyrocketing federal debt or her resistance to government encroachment, which is why she still votes Republican (most of the time). In Dennis, she said she'd finally found a candidate who spoke her particular political language.

John Dennis watches the poll results.: Photo by Emily LoftisJohn Dennis watches the poll results: Photo by Emily Loftis

An hour or so after the trays of mushroom profiteroles had made their rounds, the candidate in the requisite red tie arrived. Two TV screens flashed red state victories on Fox News' election night segment, but would not—everyone in the room already knew—light up in his favor.

Still, Dennis said he's had a lot of good conversations with local liberals. And he has advice for those who might face similar straits should the national mood shift again: "Find your libertarian mojo."

What's So Scary About Obamacare? [CARTOON]

Wed Nov. 3, 2010 12:44 PM EDT

Mother Jones illustrator Zina Saunders creates editorial animations riffing on the political news and current events of the week. In this week's animation, Saunders' cartoon alter ego demonstrates for the incoming Congress why "Obamacare" isn't nearly as scary as existing health insurance plans. [Click here to read MoJo's special report on Tuesday's elections.] Ever wonder what doctors would say if a safe landed on your head? Watch the animation below and wonder no more. And since you ask: Yes, Saunders does all her own awesome cartoon voiceovers. —The Editors

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The Guilty Pleasures of Deerhunter's Bradford Cox

| Mon Nov. 1, 2010 7:00 AM EDT

Bradford Cox is growing up. As the singer and primary songwriter of Atlanta-spawned Deerhunter, and under his solo moniker Atlas Sound, his music has often bridged the closer-than-you'd-think divide between pop accessibility and experimentation. But early Deerhunter releases tended toward noise and bombast, an overt exertion of youthful energy and chaos. With each subsequent release, with Deerhunter and on his own, Cox has increasingly explored the more contemplative side of his musical coin, and to great effect. His 2008 Microcastles/Weird Era Cont. contained some of his band's catchiest tunes and most fully realized lyrics to date. Deerhunter's brand new album, Halcyon Digest, further tones down the noise and ramps up the vocals. We recently probed Cox's complex mind to learn about the music he listens to in the privacy of his own tour bus.

Mother Jones: What's your favorite new or upcoming release, and why?

Bradford Cox: Avey Tare's Down There, because it makes every day Halloween.

Basia Bulat's Northern Exposure

| Mon Nov. 1, 2010 6:45 AM EDT

If you remember June Carter Cash then you'll certainly recall her autoharp, the fretless cousin of the zither, with buttons that allow the musician to play automatic chords. Canadian folk singer Basia Bulat deserves some credit for reviving the instrument in the contemporary music scene, although, as she will tell you, she's far from the only person strumming one. "Sufjan Stevens uses it in almost every song," she insists, then ticks off a list of others: "Grizzly Bear, PJ Harvey; the first time I saw it was at a Bonnie Prince Billy concert." At performances, fans can catch Bulat clad in brightly colored skirts, blond hair streaming, cradling her autoharp and belting out lush folk tunes—her Tracy Chapman-like voice has almost the opposite timbre as Cash's.

Her instrumental talent is extensive. The daughter of a music teacher, she grew up playing piano, upright bass, flute, guitar, you name it. She  experiments with all sorts of obscure instruments, like the hammered harp and the ukelin (a cross between a mandolin and a ukulele). "A lot of them that I found, you would get out of an old Sears catalog as a novelty," she explains. "I think they were trying to sell them as the next big thing, but they never quite made it."

These instruments don't tour well and get out of tune very easily, so why bother? "I think I just like hybrids, I think I like weirdos," Bulat replies.

Greetings, MoJo Tumblr!

| Thu Oct. 28, 2010 2:21 PM EDT

Oh hey, guess what? Mother Jones now has a Tumblr alter ego. Check it out. If you like what you see, follow us on Tumblr and spread the word. And seriously? Don't be shy about suggesting links and pics from around the Interwebs that my co-conspirator Adam Weinstein and I should highlight. We aim to please.

Forthwith, a visual representation of MoJo's first few weeks on Tumblr (Click here to embiggen):

October looked like this.Yes, this is what we liked for Mother Jones' Tumblr in October.

Arkansas School Board Facebooker: Gays Should Die

| Wed Oct. 27, 2010 5:07 PM EDT

 Image courtesy of Advocate.com Image courtesy of Advocate.comUPDATE: McCance apologized on CNN.com for his comments and announced that he will resign from the school board.

***

Did you wear purple on October 20 to call attention to gay teen suicides related to bullying? Well, Advocate.com reports that one Arkansas school board member was so outraged by the request that he support LGBT youth by donning a shade of prune that he wrote this on his Facebook page:

"Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE."

Thus far Cilnt McCance hasn't explained his antigay remarks.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page is calling for McCance to be fired. The page had 17,589 members as of 3pm EST Wednesday.

The Arkansas Department of Education released this statement Tuesday: "The Arkansas Department of Education strongly condemns remarks or attitudes of this kind and is dismayed to see that a school board official would post something of this insensitive nature on a public forum like Facebook. Because Mr. McCance is an elected official, the department has no means of dealing with him directly. ... "

Does this mean he'll get to keep his job?

[H/T: Mother Jones reader Larry]