Pop Life

Saturday, April 03, 2004


New Wave daze - The Cure and the Pixies.
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Friday, April 02, 2004


jay-z ain't got nothing on leo

Fans of The Jay-Z Remixes take note: Some background is first required. This is a very inside joke by the forum folks over at Soulstrut.com but a year or so ago, forum members decided to play a joke on unsuspecting beat diggers by offering Leo Sayer's Endless Flight (a crappy, bargain bin filler) to anyone foolish enough to ask for a secret squirrel funk recommendation. Since then, Leo Sayer has become catch-phrase in the forum anytime someone wants to elicit a cheap laugh.

Then came The Grey Album by DJ Danger Mouse. When DM set out to create an remix album using samples from a single source, including drums, it has since sparked other producers to find ways of working with a select amount of material and see what they can create out of it. Earlier in the week, an intrepid Soulstrutter laid down a friendly challenge: take Leo Sayer's Endless Flight and make beats from it using only the album as your raw material. This might seem like a silly project but I like the fact that these bedroom producers are game enough to try.

Here are the results.
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My man Jay Smooth has been having fun by looking at the google.com search terms that lead to his site. It's one of those exercises that shows you how incredibly random the internet can be, but it sure is entertaining along the way. Here are a few that work for Pop Life:
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real killas wear pink

  • Hiphopmusic.com relays this incredible story: "The Pink Menace of Hip-Hop," where a high school principal in Indiana expressed concern over students wearing the color...PINK.

    Yes, that's right folks, rocking a pink t-shirt is being treated the same as rolling up in blue or red doo-rags. Amazing. We all have, of course, the above Killa Cam to blame for this, with a side of Andre 3000 thrown in. Who knew pink would ever become the new gangsta tone? Further signs that metrosexuality is not simply alive and well, but taking things to the next level? Maybe the Bloods will start wearing pink while the Crips can change from blue to a nice mauve?
    Next Details: "Gay Or Thug Rapper?"

  • Meanwhile, in another stunning story, reported by the EUR, Spelman College students have banned Nelly's bone marrow drive from their campus. In objecting to Nelly's misogynistic portrayal of women in his videos (specifically in his new video, "Tip Drill"), Spelman is making a very strong statement that one would hope would give Nelly, and other rappers, some pause. It's one thing to ban an artist from performing on campus, quite another to turn away a public health/social service activity and I'm sure this decision did not come easily or without debate.

    That said, this raises difficult questions about social priorities. Should concerns over public image trump public health? On the flipside, should a public icon be given a free pass on their sexism (or any other -isms) because they take up a good charity (in Nelly's case, his sister has leukimia so there is a personal motivation here beyond image)? I hope that Spelman does encourage other bone marrow drives to come to their campus just as I hope Nelly realizes that what he does in his videos and songs will have repercussions for him elsewhere.

  • Lowculture.com reports on another potential controversy brewing over at the New York Times. It concerns a rising staff writer there, Jennifer 8. Lee, who apart from having the most contrived middle name I've ever seen, is being criticized of using her Harvard alum connectons to write her stories. Much of the flak against Lee seems to originate from a fluffy, February New York Sun profile that raised the hackles on some in the blogging community since it compares Lee with the late, great Katherine Graham.

    It's still a little unclear to me what the real concern is here. Especially in light of the recent Martha Stewart trial, I do wonder if this isn't some closeted resentment towards Lee as a rising woman within the NY Times ranks. Lee is not a Philip Glass or Jason Blair. She's not fabricating her stories. She is, however, relaying on her collegiate connections to help conduct research and it sounds like some of the concerns that are playing out are an implicit critique of Harvard cronyism and hell, that's something I can get behind (sorry Jon, Hua).

  • Can't Stop, Won't Stop writes a heartfelt eulogy for the late Ritchie Perez, Young Lords leader and social activist, who passed away last week.

  • My friend Joe Schloss finally has his book, Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip Hop coming out in July. Cop that shit.
    (spotted at I'm So Sincerr)

  • And finally, two words sure to change your life: Artificial jellyfish.
    (spotted at Engadget.com)
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  • Thursday, April 01, 2004


    the hello kitty bong - not sanrio approved
    (spotted at Catchdubs.com)

  • Oh snap, we're all in trouble now. The almighty Jon Caramanica has a blog: Broken Language. He kicks off the realness with a post about the new Illmatic 10th anniversary album.

  • Clyde Smith at Hip Hop Logic posted a link to this MIT survey on blogging usage. The results are quite interesting - Clyde was mostly noting how 36% of respondents got in trouble for stuff they put on their blogs, but I'm more interested in the racial breakdown of who blogs. Keep in mind, the survey has one of the strangest reporting models I've ever seen - a mix between geographic location and ethnicity but it doesn't parse it down between the two. So, for example, while the researcher has separate categories for "Asian" vs. "Asian American," he doesn't explain where people who identified as "Caucasian" came from. Maybe I'm missing something but as someone trained in sociological methodology, this seems like stunningly poor data management and analysis. Nonetheless, here's the results:
      African-American: 1%
      Asian (presumably not API): 4.1%
      Asian American: 3.3%
      Caucasian: 78.6%
      Latino/Hispanic: 2.1% (presumably, these are Americans since there are not Latin American countries listed in his data sources)
      Other: 7.8% (one would assume this category also includes people who "decline to state")
    I can't do much with that "Caucasian" figure since this obviously includes Europeans in it and there's no way to tell which whites were American and which whites were from elsewhere. However, among the American groups, clearly, this points out some real disparities in either technological access or blogging tendencies (probably both). Given that 3x as many Asian Americans blog as compared to African Americans, and are 50% more likely to blog than Latinos, we (as an ethnic group) are pretty significantly over-represented in comparison to the general American population.

    This doesn't necessarily surprise me since other data on technological use shows that APIs tend to have more access to computers than other groups and I'd also add that the over-representations of APIs in colleges (again, as compared to other ethnic groups) probably has a lot to do with that too. After all, it's not surprisingly that the survey says that practically 90% of all bloggers have at least a college education, if not MA or PhD. This all said, I also wonder if there's something particular to blogging that attracts Asian American interest. The armchair opinion might posit that given how we're silenced in most other areas of conventional media, our voices erupt through alternate sites (this is me giving a shout to Lisa Lowe basically). Hell, given that I run about three, four blogs, I guess there's something to be said to that but maybe that's because I have a massive ego vs. being API.

  • I've avoided weighing in on this massive why do hip-hop bloggers avoid gender topic that has been circulating around. It's not like I don't think the issue is important and I'm glad it was raised...I guess my cynical response is: what do you expect? Hip-hop, for all its progressive pretensions, is no less sexist than any other segment of society and its sexism tends to manifest in particularly misogynistic ways that continue to go unabated and unchallenged by the majority of listeners and boosters. The blogging world, especially given that 63% are men (again, according to that MIT survey), shouldn't be expected to be any better. The contradiction between having a hardcore political agenda/perspective and turning a blind eye towards sexism has been an underpinning of the feminist movement since day one. So much of the left is still under the influence of '60s movement politics, which tended to posit the needs of women as secondary to bringing on the revolution in race and class. I agree - that's total bullshit and alas, the blogging community is no less guilty than any other.

  • Cocaine Blunts is so on fire right now, dude's self-immolating like a Buddhist monk. News, gossip, commentary AND MP3s of songs like Cool C's ultra-hype "Juice Crew Diss"? Yeaaaaah.

  • Frivalous but funny. Milo @ Mo Ca$h threw this on his blog: it's a taped prank regarding a woman who thinks her husband has cheated on her. Make sure you listen until the kicker at the end.

  • For some strange reason, Lowculture.com has a bunch of cat photos up. I'm not a bonafied "cat person" but both S and my last partner have cats so I've learned to live with them by default.

    how do they get up there?

  • Speaking of Sharon, she just wrote a blog posting about the returning vogueness of Orientalism within popuilar culture - from Lost In Translation, to the Details debacle. But hey, don't call it a comeback, it's been here for years.

  • Timbaland is retiring? C'mon ya'll...whatever!
    (first spotted at SF/J)

  • While I appreciate Asian films, I don't have the resources to become a true junkie. Thankfully, because of Filmbrain, I don't have to - I just let them tell me what's good. I want to see this new Miike film bad.
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  • Wednesday, March 31, 2004


    loogies can kill

    Yeah, so like...being away for 10 days: I don't even want to think about the mail I have to sort through though thankfully, having internet access in Shanghai meant that I didn't have 1,000 pieces of spam email waiting for me. On the other hand, Bloglines tells me I have at least 340+ blog updates waiting to be waded through.

    What I've learned in the process is a reminder that the online community does an amazing job of staying on top of both important, pertinent social issues as well as providing entertaining and enlightening criticsm/anecdotes. Making my way through all this is a labor but you gotta love it. Let's begin:

  • J. Hopper on SXSW. Sometimes, you read stuff and it makes you giddy like sunshine. A few extra carat sparkles among the gems:
      -"Networking in the ladies room with women who have been drinking for 9 hours, their under-face muscles slack like maternity sweatpants."
      -"It's not possible to say "Murder Dog" without laughing. "
      -"We missed the Record Collection showcase where there was a 5 foot tall (?) erection pinata, and Har Mar Sean beat someone about the head with a microphone, after the dude hit him really hard with the cock-pinata and then refused to play anymore because the dude had ruined the party vibe."
    We're not worthy. But can I just say that after Pete Rock flaked out on a gig in S.F. where I was supposed to open for him, reading this almost makes me like him again:
      "We stumbled upon Pete Rock spinning at 4 am in a Mexican resturant, going all VH1 Storytellers style, monologue between cuts "I made this.... when I was a younger, happier man, when I was 23.... when I was... a different man.... YOU KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE?! ( pleading, serious) When the whole world is telling you ... "you are the greatest"? You know what kind of fucking... weight that is to carry around?!" and then would throw the fader over to some track that I barely knew but was so so fresh, so from 1988 with love. he did this between every song, would stop songs early, discussed the death of his father, Jam Master J, apologized for being drunk, talking about stealing from his mom at age 10 to buy albums, and I think verged on tears. Every song he played was one of his, and it was genius. He did this in front of me, Julianne, Partymanica and 11 other headz and the people working the bar."

    And one more J-Ho-ism, just because she's cool like that. Hopper on the new N.E.R.D. album: "It's like Joe Jackson without any gayness, or sex, or hooks. It's like mimes on a bike, waving." Please Hopper, don't hurt 'em!

  • My bro over at Angry Asian Man is a non-stop roll these days. His worthwhile postings are too extensive to summarize but here are five highlights:

  • Air America Radio, the first liberal talk-show network kicks off today at noon. Surprisingly, no San Franicsco station currently carries it. In NY however, there is some controversy since the station that's hosting Air America, WLIB, has been a historically African American community station and it's being displaced to make room for a largely white staff. Hmm...is that progress per se? Read what J-Smooth has to say about that.
    (noted at Best Week Ever)

  • Speaking of Hiphopmusic.com's J-Smooth, he's been consistently excellent with his news and commentary. Among his highlights:

  • Lowculture.com lampoons Scooby Doo 2. Ouchie!

  • Hua pointed this out to me: the new album cover for Dead Prez's Revolutionary But Gangsta is pretty hot:

  • Slate has an online journal about Girls Gone Wild. It's like watching a car crash - you shouldn't look but it's hard not to.

  • Joey Pinkey over at Intellectual Hip-Hop Commentary has been posting up a series of entries about hip-hop in Asia, all worth reading:
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  • Tuesday, March 30, 2004


    protect ya neck

    The bizatch of being bizack from a long(ish) vacation is simply readjusting to a normal routine. Don't get me wrong - I LIKE being away from home and not worrying about shit like 1) my dissertation, 2) writing deadlines, 3) the price of gas in S.F., 4) Passion of the Christ, etc. But especially when you write about music, 10 days might as well be like 10 weeks. Like...what's the "Fallen" remix? Who are the Federation and what's "Hyphy"? Why do I keep hearing about Nellie McKay even though I have yet to actually hear Nellie McKay? People are doing mega-mixes of songs over ring tone beats? Holy christ, now I know what Rip Van Winkle felt like (better him than Robert Van Winkle)

    S and I were in Shanghai until Sunday (and due to a family emergency, I still haven't even gotten back to my own apartment yet, but instead, had to fly to LA ASAP where I am currently enjoying the beauty of jet lag. I've seen two sunrises in a row and believe me, that never happens). I still haven't even remotely gotten around to piecing my thoughts together to create another travelogue but I wanted to share one story before I totally forget it. This paraphrased anecdote comes from my man Mike, formerly of NYC/TurntableLab.com and Staple Design's Reed Space, now teaching English in Shanghai:
      I was mentioning to Mike that I needed a haircut badly and like me, he also wears his coiffe razor short. He laughed and said, "around here, if you a shaved head, people either think you're A) a monk or B) an ex-con, freshly released from prison. I got into a cab with a friend of mine and the cabbie asked my friend if I had just gotten out of jail." Apparently, the baldie phenom has not yet swept China. Maybe if Yao Ming starts rocking a chrome dome like MJ, it will start a new trend 'round these parts.

    Back at home...in one of those weird time-machine-like experiences that can only come with int'l travel, S and I flew out of Shanghai at about 10:30am on Sunday and landed at SFO at about 8:30am on Sunday. Yeah, we GAINED two hours and managed to go from morning, through midnight, and back to morning whilst crossing the Pacific. Alas, after managing to take much needed five hour nap, I woke up to my cell phone buzzing, with my sister on the other line, telling me that my 94 year old grandfather in LA had just suffered a massive aneurysm. Within two hours, I was back on a plane, this time to LA where me and my sister were the only family members around until my dad (China), his sister (south Jersey) and brother (Maine) could fly in the next day.

    At some point, I'll have much more to say about all this, but between being dog tired and suffering from diminished mental capacities on account of the dog-tiredness, it's hard to be articulate or insightful. Just to put it out there - I'm doing ok with all this. My grandfather had a very long and healthy life and in comparison to my two grandmothers, one of whom died from a long, hard bout with cancer, the other who was felled by a stroke before passing away a year or two later, my grandfather suffered relatively little before easing into his current coma. From what my sister told me, he's actually been in great spirits of late and that actually makes me feel better knowing that.

    One more thing for now. This is the first time I've seen my dad and his siblings together, in a single room, in years...I can't even remember the last time actually. My uncle is like a shorter, skinnier version of my dad - I mean, they're brothers, they're meant to look alike but it's just kind of uncanny, especially since I never see my uncle. Anyways, this was the conversation within the first 10 minutes. 1) My dad brought everyone up to speed on my grandfather's condition (suffice to say, it's worst-case scenario), 2) my aunt voiced her concerns that my grandfather's housekeeper may have been stealing money from him and 3) the three of them began to compare how they got tickets to come out (aunt=frequent flier mileage, uncle=Priceline.com, dad=paying United through the nose). I wouldn't call the conversation surreal but it was kind of funny seeing them go from grief, to anger, to comparison shopping.
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