Thursday, April 29, 2004

(by Oliver)


Ta-Nahesi Coates, the Village Voice's MVP, breaks down the story behind Rawkus Records. It's no secret, I have a lot of respect for Ta who I think is one of the best journalists on pop music today, but knowing quite a bit about Rawkus, is it just me or is there a lot of stuff missing from this tale? Ya'll who know, know. You know?

Ok, I won't tease so much - here's two popular rumors about Rawkus that deserve to be addressed and considered (and alas, largely are missing in the Voice piece):
1) It's always been unclear to what extent Fox Newscorp, aka Rupert Murdoch, father of one of Rawkus' founders, bankrolled the label. Rawkus management always insisted it was minimal but former employees of the label I've spoken to have suggested otherwise. What's the real deal? And more importantly, how "indie" can you be with one of the largest multinational corporations in the world helping sign your checks?
2) I had heard that Rawkus spent $1,000,000 to sign Kool G Rap (not including the cost of his album). True or false? And if true, what the f*@ were they thinking?

Also in this week's Voice, my man Dave Tompkins on Freddy Fresh and UK's P-Bros. Keep it Zulu Dave! Straight Bronx.


Good friend/colleague Jon Caramanica finds himself dealing with some rock star beef (which I can only hope is more glam than indie rapper beef) over a review he wrote for Maxim about Velvet Revolver. Here's Jon's piece:
    "Say you're the guns behind GUNS N' ROSES and you need a frontman to replace eyebrowless loony tune Axl Rose. Where to turn? Obviously trolling rehab centers and bus stations, Slash and the guys found their man: former STONE TEMPLE PILOT and career fuckup Scott Weiland! What could go wrong? Ignoring the offstage drama and giving 'Contraband' a listen, we have to say ... not a damned thing. Although Rose was all maniac energy and Weiland is more boozy charm, 'Contraband' sounds like these guys have been mainlining 'Appetite for Destruction'. At first Weiland clearly struggles to keep up ('Sucker Train Blues'), but he finds his groove over the brash guitars and brawny drums. On 'Dirty Little Thing', he knowingly sings, 'Get away from the man who's stealing your life/Get away from the drugs you're taking.' He sounds like a man ready to slow down, yet he's as reinvigorated as his new mates. Welcome back to the jungle, guys." (Maxim, March 2004)

Scott Weiland hollas back:
    "In his review of our album 'Contraband', Jon Caramanica of MAXIM knows about as much about me and my legal situation as he does about our music. The article mentions my legal status which states that I will be eligible for release from rehab in July. Sorry to break your heart and take the wind from your sails but I was sprung from rehab on the 22nd of April. Now Jon, Jon, Jon - come on now - my 'boozy' charm? Unless you were born yesterday you would know I was a dope fiend, not a boozer. Let's just get down to it Jon, this album sounds nothing like 'Appetite' and you know nothing about me, so if you're gonna make a record 'Album of the Month' then stop the punk-ass back-handed comments! "Let's meet up face-to-face and see just how 'boozy' I am in person - when I get 'manic' on your ass motherfucker!"

"I was a dope fiend, not a boozer" - classic line. Weiland should put that on a t-shirt and wear it at concerts. As for quibbling what month he got out of rehab (April vs. July), that seems like a minor point to quibble about but hey, I guess career fuck-up, ex-junkies are sensitive like that.


  • Kayne West's new video for "Two Words is cleverly designed off of movie credits, opening and closing, and I can't help but think of '70s cinema at that. There's something gritty about the images, most of them black and white, that evokes Taxi Driver, or Rocky or any number of other films from the '70s that tried to capture America's descent into urban deacy. In "Two Words,", what's depicted are flashes from the City, by which I don't mean Chicago, New York or Philadelphia (all of which are presumably referenced) but Any City U.S.A. It begins with the looming facade of a nameless office building climbing to our eye's zenith, then the montage continues with spartan steel bridges, an elevated subway track, a pigeon alighting atop a traffic light, etc.

    The most powerful shot in the video comes at the end and it's the longest single scene. Kanye puts up the words, "Enjoy the Show" over a scrolling landscape taken from a nameless Chicago locale. If you've ever visited a city outside of Manhattan, L.A. or S.F. (which, each in their own way, are different from most other American cities), the sight of this street should be familiar because it exists in many places. Just from my own experience, I've seen this street before: in Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Columbus, etc. It's the marker of urban sprawl that lies between downtown and the 'burbs: long streets stacked with single-story storefronts, billboards, abandoned buildings, and convenience stores. That the image should be reminiscent of the '70s seems appropiate since it's that decade and the deindustrialization that came with it that decimated American cities, creating the environment that someone like Kanye would have seen growing up and ultimately, comments upon in the video.

    What I find compelling with that last image is that I think Kanye finds this decay beautiful in its own right. There is something both sad and soothing in his vision - the video aims for urban authenticity but it does so through a nostalgic eye of a city that's steadily disappearing, if not already gone. Shot on what looks like 16 MM, the video plays like faded snapshots; an adult's memory of his childhood as it recedes into the past.

    Has he done a bad video yet? This, "All Falls Down," "Through the Wire," even "Slow Jamz"?

  • Ha, ha, JOHN STEVENS IS FINALLY GONE. About goddamn time. Thanks for the memories Carrot Top...not!

  • You knew it had to happen: Lil Jon (as done by Dave Chapelle) Sound Board.
    (credit: SF/J)

  • Forget Murder Inc. vs. G-Unit, Irv Gotti and company have bigger gangstas to worry about now: the IRS. The irony is that real-life gangsters go down for tax evasion all the time. Didn't Gotti learn anything from his namesake?

  • Does the world new yet another video remix of "Hey Ya"? These are getting to be like the Black Album remixes...cute but redundant.
    (credit: Intellectual Hip-Hop Commentary)

  • Do Omarosa and William Hung have something on common? This Negrophile entry doesn't make that connection but I think what we're seeing in both cases in how each of these reality show rejects are being cast against a larger backdrop of racial stereotypes.

  • Kalefa Sanneh on the recent Ghostface show in NY. Kayslay got booed off stage? Ha ha ha, it's about time for that pompous loud mouth. Drama King gets drubbed in his hometown. Somewhere, DJ Clue is having a good laugh to himself.

  • Albany is a shithole, at least so says Jessica Hopper who just played there the other night. I love J-Ho's ability to be evocative without overplaying her hand. These lines are magical without trying to be:
      "The ladies room at the Continetal has some of the most explicit graffiti in the stalls ever seen by my eyes -- ie: some tome about having sex with twins, the commanding "Don't suck dick smaller than 7 inches," first hand accounting of impregnation by a club bouncer, a poem about "fingering". The sapphic sexual agency of the women of Buffalo is pretty intimidating."

  • Last but not least, DJ Zen and I will be the opening act (scary!) when the Quannum World Tour hits the Warfield in S.F. on Saturday night. Act like you knew.

    By the way, my long-delayed review of Lyrics Born's Later That Day album finally appeared in the LA Weekly today in order to plug the Quannum Tour's stop at the House of Blues in Hollywood.

  • Wednesday, April 28, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    I'm about 30-60 days from finishing my PhD dissertation and meanwhile I get to read articles like this.

    All self-deprication aside though, one of the things that Voice article raises is what the future of adjunct and lecturing positions will be, especially as there is an increased push for unionization among such faculty. Academia, for all its pretenses, is not that far removed from the rest of the labor market. I've been insulated from much of this reality by being at Berkeley which, while hiring many adjunct instructors, still seems to have a mostly FTE base but at many other campuses, it seems like close to 40% of the total teaching positions are filled by part-time faculty with no job security, few benefits and no advancement future, i.e. the exact opposite of what academia is supposed to promise.

  • Damn, Korean American poet Ishle Park becomes the poet-laureate for Queens. You go girl!

    Also NY-related, Imaginasian is opening an Asian/Asian American film theater in NYC.

    Last but not least, do Asian American students kill interest in collegiate football?. I'm with the Angry Asian Man; that's a stupid theory when you consider that many Division I football schools, especially in the Pac 10, have enormous Asian American student support. USC, UCLA, Cal? The idea that an Asian American student body is killing interest in the football program sounds like insipid scapegoating rather than a rational theory. Bring me back some qualitative data and we can talk again.

  • Speaking of morons, I agree with Catchdubs on this one: needs a swift kick in the ass and transfer to a community college in upstate Wyoming for being a whiny little beeyotch with entitlement issues. Boo fucking hoo - you can't afford housing at NYU? You ever heard of CUNY/SUNY? Anyone want to put down a bet this guy is white?

    Actually, NYU has been off the rails this year. Multiple suicides. This dumb ass above. And most recently, a freshman was busted for selling drugs out her dorm room. What's going on over there?

  • To my L.A. peeps, try to get out to the Visual Communications Asian American Film Festival which kicks off tomorrow night. Movies worth seeing:
      Chan Is Missing - new, restored print of the best Asian American film ever made.
      A Good Lawyer's Wife - a devestating Korean film about sex, patriarchy and family
      Life Is Cheap...But Toilet Paper Is Expensive - Wayne Wang's "lost" film. So rare even I haven't seen it!
      Take Out - excellent narrative feature on a day in the life of a NY deliveryman. Better than it sounds, believe me.
      Last Life in the Universe - I wrote about this already but just a great, great film. Catch it now or wait until September.
      Zatouchi - Beat Takeshi's take on the long-running Blind Swordsman series. I caught this on Chinese bootleg already and it's pretty damn entertaining. Much funnier than you might expect.

  • And just for the hell of it: Hip-Hop + Pez
    (credit: Different Kitchen)

  • Tuesday, April 27, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    1. Sweetback is Back!


    I caught a screening of Mario Van Peebles' BAADASSSSS!, a "making-of" narrative about Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, the groundbreaking 1971 film by Melvin Van Peebles that ushered in both black independent cinema and the blaxploitation era. Let me be frank in saying that I haven't always been a huge fan of Mario's over the years though I admire his directorial initiative for films like New Jack City and the well-meaning but uneven Panther. Maybe part of it is that I have so much respect for Melvin - undeniably one of the most creative Black artists of our time - that watching Mario in dreck like Posse and Gunmen makes me feel like the disparity between father and son is more than in just age.

    Yet, with this film, Mario's ode to his father and the legacy of Sweetback, I believed in his project and I feel this strong compulsion to help it along. It's not that BAADASSSSS! is an awe-inspiring film but what it does well is capture the moment at which Sweetback unleashes itself on America. In our days of Barbershop 12 and Soul Plane, it can be a little difficult to imagine a time where something like Sweetback would be among the very first films where an African American vision is given life and form. People tend to use the word "revolutionary" loosely but with Sweetback how else can you describe a film about a hustler-turned-hero who kills corrupt white cops and escapes their wrath by running into the desert? BAADASSSSS! manages to provide a window into just how remarkable a time it was to be in America in the early '70s.

    Mario and Melvin were at hand for the screening last night and their presence, especially Melvin's, was felt throughout the crowd like ripples of energy. Melvin was in fine form - one of the first questions asked them was what his next project was and he replied, "I can't say - her husband in the audience." But all jokes aside, Melvin exuded gravitas in promoting populist power, telling people that they needed to get out and vote this year as well as help promote this movie by word of mouth. He's a '60s radical whose passion for politics still burns strongly but he sounded less a relic and more a sage. I went up to him after the screening, just to shake his hand (I own almost every album he's ever put out though ironically, I still haven't even seen Sweetback yet) and it's hard to stand in front of him and not be just a little in awe of him. He went out with the ambition of making history and that's exactly what Melvin Van Peebles ended up doing.

    One funny anecdote that Mario related during the shooting of his film was that he went back to Crenshaw Blvd. in L.A. to shoot a scene mirrored off of what happens in the original Sweetback. Mario was wearing the same outfit that Melvin had sported 30 years back and as he ran through the neighborhood, one local shouted out, "Sweetback's back! Just like he said he would!"

    P.S. BAADASSSSS! will have a screening at Oakland's Jack London Square on May 13th, sure to be one helluva raucous affair and the movie goes into wider release later this summer.

    2. Home Sweet Home

    It's always strange for me to read about my hometown of San Marino. I should say, it was my hometown from 1983 until 1990, after which I've become a Bay Area transplant to the fullest. In fact, I've now lived in my current Oakland apartment as long as I ever lived in San Marino but as the town where I spent junior high and high school, it had, shall we say a "formative" impact on my journey to personhood.

    Unless you grew up in the San Gabriel Valley of L.A., I don't assume that most people have ever heard of San Marino. It's a very small town, barely 3 or 4 square miles, nestled right below Pasadena and bordered by several bigger towns like Arcadia and Alhambra. San Marino's main claim to fame is that it is affluent. For a while, when I lived there, it was considered one of the richest per capita cities in California, exceeding even Bel Air and Beverly Hills. There is no "wrong side of the tracks" in S.M. You were either well-to-do (like my family) or wealthy beyond comprehension. The city, like the rest of the Valley, was also infused with a large percentage of Asian American families, many of them Taiwanese and Chinese. Sharon was reading a book where the author claimed that the whole S.G. Valley was known as "China Valley" but I have never heard such a term used before and even when you google it, only one example surfaces. That said, just because the term doesn't really exist in popular parlance doesn't mean it's not accurate. San Marino has a massive community of Asian Americans within it, evident if you ever step onto the campus of my alma mater, San Marino High School, home of the Titans. (The city as a whole is now 40.6% Chinese. And an about 0% African American, but that's a whole other story).

    I'm relating this because I was recently catching up on my issues of The New Yorker. I perenially seem to be a month behind which is no knock on the mag but more on my reading habits. In the March 29th issue, there is a long profile of Yabshi Pan Rinizinwangmo (better known to most as Renji), the daughter of the Tibet's 14th Panchen Lama who passed in 1989. For the neophyte Buddhists (myself included), the Panchen Lama is the other main spiritual/political leader of Tibet, alongside the Dalai Lama whose reputation, in no small part to Hollywood, is far better known. Technically, Renji shouldn't even exist - no previous Panchen Lama had married but then again, no previous Panchen Lama had been incarcerated under Mao and been "rehabilitated" back into society following the Cultural Revolution.

    Why any of this is relevant to my original post is that in reading through this article, I discovered that when it was time for Renji to attend high school, her mother Li Jie decided to send her to Southwestern Academy, a small private school located...yup, in San Marino. I know Southwestern Academy fairly well - it's less than a mile from where I used to live and though I never knew any students who attended it, I drove by the campus on a regular basis. That Renji should live in the town where I grew up shouldn't surprise me (S.M. was filled with the children of minor and some major celebrities) yet I have to say that it's yet another one of the strange and serendipitious ways that San Marino sneaks back into my consciousness though I rarely think of the city that often these days, especially since my family moved away from L.A. in the mid-90s.

    This reminds me too of a book I came upon about two, three years ago called The Jasmine Trade. I won't even bother with linking it to, frankly, I don't want anyone actually buying that sorry excuse for a piece of fiction. What was interesting about it is that the book, an insipid murder-mystery, is set among the Chinese American community in San Marino and so I couldn't help but read it, only the realize that the white author was basically turning S.M. into a 21st century, Chinatown opium den. Case in point, like the rumored "China Valley," the author of Jasmine Trade claimed that the book's title was taken from the practice of sexual slavery trafficking among young Asian girls but when I went online to find any mention of such a thing as "the jasmine trade," nothing came up. It was just another example of authorial conceit but to make matters worse, done so in a way that attempts to exotify and racialize the situation in really banal and transparent ways.

    One day, I'll write some definitive essay about growing up in San Marino. For now, I can rest easy knowning that the daughter of a Lama resides in my own hometown. One hopes she brings some good karma with her since Buddha knows, San Marino could use some.

    3. Too Many Men, Too Little Time

    Speaking of Chinese, in this week's Chronicle of Higher Ed, there's a fascinating essay on the increasing surplus of sons in countries like China and India. China currently has a 121% ratio of boys to girls and as one might well imagine, this is likely going to create some huge headaches into the future. It's one thing to be a bunch of patriachal SOBs and try to avoid conceiving daughters but guess what dumb asses, that means your sons won't have women to eventually couple with and frankly, I doubt they'll be very pleased by that outcome. Here's an excerpt from the story (which requires a subscription to read):
      In a new book, Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population (MIT Press), Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer warn that the spread of sex selection is giving rise to a generation of restless young men who will not find mates. History, biology, and sociology all suggest that these "surplus males" will generate high levels of crime and social disorder, the authors say. Even worse, they continue, is the possibility that the governments of India and China will build up huge armies in order to provide a safety valve for the young men's aggressive energies.

      "In 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause," says Ms. Hudson, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.

      Those apocalyptic forecasts garnered a great deal of attention when the scholars first presented them, in the journal International Security, in 2002. "The thing that excites me about this research is how fundamental demography is," says David T. Courtwright, a professor of history at the University of North Florida and author of Violent Land: Single Men and Social Disorder From the Frontier to the Inner City (Harvard University Press, 1996), a study of sex ratios and murder rates in American history. "The basic idea that they have, that in some sense demography is social destiny --?that's a very powerful idea."

      But other experts are unpersuaded. They say that Ms. Hudson and Ms. den Boer's argument rests too heavily on a few isolated historical cases, and that the authors have failed to establish a systematic correlation between sex ratios and violence. Critics also suggest that the argument promotes false stereotypes of men and masculinity, and that the authors do not offer detailed knowledge of Asian societies and political systems. Offspring sex selection is indeed a serious problem, the critics say, but to treat it as a problem of international security is an unwarranted distraction.

    I'm not sure if I believe that a surplus of men is going to instigate World War III but I would imagine that there will be many unhappy heterosexual men in China and India in about 20-30 years. Somewhere, millions of abandoned/murdered Indian and Chinese daughters peer down and smirk.

    Monday, April 26, 2004

    (by Oliver)

    UDPATED 4/27

  • Another William Hung sighting, courtesy of Miskabobs. Factoids you may or may not have wanted to know about the hero-zero of the hour:
      "-He's probably gonna quit school for a while to pursue his dream.

      -He's meeting Yao Ming next week [aka the second most famous Asian in America]

      -He doesn't know how to flirt. He asked us how!!

      -He thinks Jessica Simpson is better than Beyonce.

      -He's pretty slimy. He kept putting his arms around us. EEkkk. [Wait - he doesn't know how to flirt but he knows how get all octopus? Rewind!]

    They grow up so fast! *sniff*

  • Putting new meaning into the phrase "blasting music", a company has created an MP3 player that fits into an AK-47. Is this for real? Or will future guerillas be terrorizing villages by threatening to play 9,000 songs worth of prog rock solos?
    (credit: Mo Ca$h)

  • Daaaamn, it's the Complete Compendium to Kayne West productions. Ain't no love? Hell naw, nothing BUT love for Kanyeezy on this page. So when's that Ced Gee page coming dudes?
    (credit: Hardly Art, Hardly Garbage)

  • Am I the only one who was surprised to read this? Man on Fire edges out 13 Going On 30 this past weekend. A R-rated revenge actioner starring Denzel beats out a PG-13 girl flick starring Jennifer Gardner? Maybe it's time to ease back on the Julia Roberts comparisons.

  • TV Ratings...
      Upgrade: Deadwood. This show keeps getting better every week. I figure after Wild Bill got popped off (true to history), the show would lose some spark, but the writers haven't held back a touch. Lord almighty, you thought the The Sopranos had some unlikable characters but Deadwood is stocked with some true c***sucking bastards. Amen to that.

      Downgrade: Sopranos. After my initial excitement with the season, the last few episodes have been inconsistent, especially with Tony B.'s flip-flopping personality. I don't know if I should feel happy now that he's gunning down fools - it adds excitement but I wish he'd stay consistent. And what's up with Edie Falco's increasing nude scenes? I'm not mad at it but DAMN!

      Upgrade: Angel. Is it me or has this become the best primetime drama on TV right now? It's probably me but eh...maybe not. I can't believe they're canceling this...

      Holding even: Alias. Enough with Rimbaldi already! Everyone's waiting for Lauren to get served so hurry up! Jesus, this show is threatening to become another X-Files (which is both good and bad).

  • The New Segregation: Beyond Black and White. Now it's a rainbow of inequality!

  • Thursday, April 22, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    I've been feeling a little out of sorts lately - a little out of control which, for someone like me, goes a long way to sending me spiralling into chaos.

    So I'm feeling kind of perturbed by life, the future, the past, whatever, driving from S.F. back home to Oakland and rocking Ghostface's new CD...and suddenly, I'm feeling better. Pretty Toney isn't perfect, but it's hard to not just feel his passion on songs like "Holla," get down with the insane party vibe of "Ghostface," spark some nostalgia on "Tooken Back," and run with "Run," the most exciting song in as long as I can remember.

    But midway through, I just needed something else in my system so I switched to Prince and played "Pop Life" and for about 3 minutes, the universe was perfect. I mean, I couldn't have felt better in that moment. And it ended, as these moments always do, but I am reminded of how thankful I am of music and its power to just infuse your life with meaning and wonder in the times when you need both the most.

  • Speaking of stuff I like, apart from Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind, this new Thai film, Last Life in the Universe is the best movie I've been lucky to watch. It screened at the San Francisco Int'l Film Festival and is currently making its way through other festivals, due out for wider release in the U.S. in September. It's not an easy film to describe except that the story is focused on the relationship between an introverted Japanese librarian living in Bangkok and a Thai hostess he meets under unusual circumstances.

    Imagine a film that incorporates similar elements to why people liked Lost in Translation and In the Mood For Love so much and then imagine the film being better than both (especially the ridiculously overrated Lost in Translation). Keep in mind that Christopher Doyle is cinematographer for Last Life (as he was on In the Mood) and the two films are very different in their visual style but the emotional depth of his camera work is ever-present in both. Seriously, this is a beautiful, touching, funny film. Loved it.

  • JUST ADDED: Lord of the Rings Rap. I think this is awesome. Despite myself.
    (credit: Intellectual Hip-Hop Commentary)

  • Just to mention it but coming soon: Imaginasian TV?

  • Shii-Ann is my MFin' girl. She won't last more than another week or so, but screw it, she represented like a souljah tonight PLUS she was popping mad shit. Roll on!

  • Real shit: North Korean train accident may have caused 3,000 casualties. The Wizard can't hide in Oz forever.

  • More realness:

    Photographer gets fired for releasing photo of American coffins bound for home from Iraq. The image is indelible, regardless of your position on the politics of publishing it.
    (credit: Different Kitchen)

  • And one more from the real: My home campus of UC Berkeley enrolled 30% fewer African American students for Fall 2004 than last year. This won't be the last we hear about this.

  • (by Oliver)


    the sincerest form of flattery?

    One of the other people I had the pleasure of meeting at the EMP Conf. was Christina Veran, whose presentation at the conference coincides with the publishing of a recent piece in The Village Voice on Native Americans, race and hip-hop. She gave an adapted version of her piece at the conference itself, using Outkast's recent Grammy performance in Indian regalia as the jump-off.

    I'm not going to comment directly on Veran's piece - read it over though and see what you think - but some thoughts pop up in relation to it.

    1) The #1 defense I've seen of Andre 3000's red-face performance is that "he was trying to pay tribute to Native Americans" which is just another extension of the same old "he had good intentions." People seem to forget that the adage about good intentions paving the road to hell however. I mean, since when is racism acceptable simply because the motivations aren't malicious? I heard the same argument used to defend Lost in Translation and it's rather tired - whether Sophia Coppola really "respects Japanese culture" or not doesn't matter if her images and characters are flat, racialized cartoons. In both Coppola and Andre's case, it's the result of their actions that matter here - understanding intent does little to alleviate the problem.

    2) The fact that Outkast hasn't responded yet to the controversy is wack. Simple as that. Apologize, don't apologize, but say nothing in the fact of loud public outrage and you come off seeming either arrogant or unfeeling, neither of which reflects well on you.

    3) One thing missing from Veran's piece that I would have liked to see her address more is the fact that hip-hop is so dominant on reservations. To what extent could people claim that Native Americans are un-critically appropriating elements of African American vernacular, dress and aesthetics? I don't like getting into reductionist arguments around "who's appropriating who?" since most contemporary culture, hip-hop especially, is already such a syncretism of other cultures, the idea of any particular ethnic/racial community being able to claim "ownership" is rather suspect.

    However, in Veran's case, she's arguing that Outkast was out of line in trying to perform in the garb of racialized stereotype. We can all agree, I hope, that throwing on some buckskins and sticking a feather in your hair is a limited and ignorant portrait of contemporary Native American-ness. But I look at these CD covers from Litefoot, a Native rapper thatn Veran writes on in her piece and I have to at least ask the question: ok, what's going on here then?

    I'm not suggesting that Litefoot's representation of self through Pen and Pixel-ated art work is equivalent to Andre going all Apache, but I have to say that his CD cover is clearly appropriating representations of contemporary Blackness. How do we take this into a larger conversation?

    Again, I'm not letting Andre off the hook by saying, "look, Indians do it too!" but I think it's dangerous to throw out the minstrelsy card (as Veran does at the beginning of her piece) unless you're willing to go whole hog on the issue and look at the ways in which racial love/theft is deeply seeded within both the African and Native American communities (as it is in all ethnic communities).
    (see also the conversation on this same topic over at

  • This is from One Hundred or So Ways to Get an Ulcer, a blog I spotted via I'm So Sincerrr. Ulcer is written by a high school teacher in Chicago and this is from one of his/her recent posts:
      "Usually when I send students to the discipline office, the rest of the class falls in line for the remainder of the period.

      This was until I heard a student talk about "beating that white boys ass."

      This came from a girl who has a history of fighting in the school. She actually holds the record for most fights in my class while I taught a lesson: 2. She was referring to a Chinese boy in my class, who holds the record for best GPA in the school. He is an immigrant who immigrated just a year ago, knowing no English.

      He forced himself to be proficient enough to be a top student. He is a hard-working, honest, caring young man. He has the right to come to school everyday and not feel threatened.

      Like I said, she had a history of violence in the school. There was one occasion last semester where she actually threw a book at the same "white boy" she was harrassing.

      I tried to diffuse the situation right away. I got quite good at this.

      "White boy? What white boy? There isn't a white boy in this class."

      "Him, he over there."

      "Chen? He's not white, he's Asian."

      "That's the same thing. And if he don't stop lookin' ova here, he gun get his ass beat!"

  • How Asians take pictures.
    (credit: Hua)

  • J-Shep on Murs with a lil Ghostface tossed in too. It's good. You'll like it.

  • (by Oliver)

    UPDATED 4/23

    Fed up by all these hysterical William Hung haters, I had to bark back finally. Consider the smack hand delivered.
      No False Idol (from the April 21st issue of the S.F. Bay Guardian)

      LAST TUESDAY A friend boldly predicted, "William Hung is going to outsell Dilated Peoples." Five days later the numbers told different stories. In Hung's backyard, Berkeley's Amoeba Music had only sold 2 copies of his Inspiration, compared with 16 of Dilated's Neighborhood Watch. On though, presumably more representative of American consumer tastes, Inspiration ranked an astounding 8th, while Neighborhood Watch was far lower, at 2,421st. No matter how you feel about Hung or his album, it's undeniable his 15 minutes have lasted a good half hour longer than anyone could have predicted.

      In the last two weeks he's had his CD come out, appeared on The Today Show, and done halftime for the Warriors. He has become, in the words of the Village Voice's Daniel Ng, "the most famous Asian American in the world right now." He's also become a flash point, the icon some love and others love to hate. Ng describes Hung as "not a man, but a walking grotesque and a self-parody," while columnist Emil Guillermo remarks, "The joke has gone on too long." Even my Asian American students at UC Berkeley, some of them Hung's classmates and dorm mates, view him with derision, wary he's the unwitting butt of a national punch line, dragging the rest of Asian male-dom down with him.

      Because of his accented English, bad teeth, and questionable fashion, critics decry Hung as the living manifestation of Gedde Watanabe's Long Duc Dong (Sixteen Candles) or Mickey Rooney's Mr. Yonioshi (Breakfast at Tiffany's), i.e., the latest humiliating caricature of Asian masculinity. Even though Hung isn't some actor FOBing it up, his critics pervert this too, accusing Hung of conspiring in the racial slandering of his brethren whether he's aware of it or not.

      I'm instantly reminded of a headline in the Onion in 2000: "Chinese Laundry Owner Blasted for Reinforcing Negative Ethnic Stereotypes." An excerpt from that brilliantly prescient story, once meant purely as hyperbole, is now indistinguishable from the hysteria around Hung: "this man is a degrading anachronism that has no place in a supposedly enlightened society like ours."

      OK, it is impossible to fully separate Hung's popularity from the specter of racist love. On The Today Show, white teens were shown holding Hung face masks before them, holes cut out so their blue eyes could replace Hung's brown. The image was amusing yet bizarre, unintentionally reminiscent of Hollywood's yellow-face tradition, when white actors would tape their eyes and insert buckteeth to "play Oriental." But racism alone cannot explain the Hung phenomenon.

      In recent video footage from San Diego, Hung performed at Westfield Shoppingtown and was surrounded by thousands, some waving "It's good to be Hung" posters, their screams drowning out his singing (probably a good thing). Burgeoning crowds do not create fire hazards at malls just to mock someone. To believe otherwise betrays a deep, myopic cynicism. Hung is not the disgraced nerd being held up for ridicule – he's the revenge of the nerd, and that's what explains his appeal.

      People flock to Hung precisely because he is awkward, can't sing, and can't dance. We admire him with a mix of sympathy and awe (described by the San Jose Metro's Sharon Mizota as "the Awwww factor") because he's so convincingly "real" and not some parody created by soulless executives to profit off of (though no doubt they have and will). Hung strikes a chord because his persona – in interviews and performances – appears entirely sincere. His now infamous American Idol comment was "I have no regrets," and that simple statement of self-confidence is what earned everyone's interest. Take that away and he's just another joke contestant, but leave it in and you realize Hung has heart, and that makes all the difference.

      The protests against him can be so overstated – one pundit called him an Asian Sambo – you have to wonder if some male critics aren't dealing with their own self-image issues, ironic given that Hung seems so unburdened by his own. Far from the simpering, passive stereotype of Asian masculinity he's supposed to represent, Hung has shown little fear in boldly taking to the stage, and not as some shuckin' and jivin' act.

      He enters the media spotlight and lets it all hang out. His earnestness, call it naïveté if you insist, can be painful to watch, but it's also what Hung contributes. Far from the one-dimensional cartoon his critics paint him as, Hung comes off instead as vulnerable, confused, optimistic, and joyful, all at once. "It's good to be Hung," because to be Hung means admitting to your limitations, knowing that some will laugh at you, but boldly striding onto the stage anyway. It's as complex and inspiring a portrait of humanity as one could hope for, and truly, when was the last time we've seen that in any American idol, Asian or otherwise?

    THE CONVO CONTINUES.... was kind enough to mention my essay, but strangely, he ends up repeating the same basic argument that I've been trying to counter:
      But is William popular/funny to America because he's Asian? You bet your ass. It's America that's racist. I really hope William understands that a significant factor in his popularity is his goofy Asian-ness—and people are laughing at him. From there, he can decide screw them, because all he really wants to do is sing, to all and any who will listen. Hate the game, not the player.
    Again, I acknowledge that racism explains SOME of his popularity, but not the bulk of it. If Hung was merely the object of ridicule, his 15 minutes would have ended 16 minutes ago. The fact that he's managed to sustain this level of popularity (his album sold 40,000 copies. FORTY THOUSAND COPIES. In a week) says to me that he's far more than just an object of racist ridicule but that people, white, Asian, whatever, are genuinly attracted to him as crazy as that may sound.

    I think that by insisting that Hung's popularity is solely based in racism reflects a cyncism that itself is born from racism, i.e. that the only way a dorky Asian guy can get any love is because of racism. It fundamentally rejects the idea that maybe, just maybe, he offers something more than just a cartoonish representation of Asian masculinity. I'm not trying to run a liberal humanist line here, I just wish people could be open to the idea that Hung is hot for reasons other than just race. Goddamn, I'm getting sentimental in my aging days.

  • I'd post something up about Emil Guillermo's latest hate-fest on William Hung but frankly, I tire of Emil's tirades. He's like a neo-con in liberal humanist clothing but moreover, just not that interesting to read. Oh hell, ok fine, Here it is.

  • I mentioned a few weeks ago about how the women of Spelman College told Nelly to take a hike when he wanted to bring his bone marrow drive to campus. Professor Mark Anthony Neal (who I had the pleasure of hanging out with at EMP) has just written a longer essay on the controversy for
    (credit: SF/J)

  • "Subway systems of the world, presented on the same scale". Surprisingly fascinating. Here's Tokyo:


  • DJ Danger Mouse is doing columns for the N.Y. Times? Will the Gray Lady tap William Hung next?
    (credit: Cocaine Blunts)

  • Virtual bubblewarp. My friend Cat out in Houston sent this link to me. It's funny but really, it's not the sound of popping bubblewrap that's fun but the feeling of the "pop" beneath your fingers or feet.

  • Men are now officially irrelevant: "Fatherless mice created without sperm."

  • You still think Nader doesn't matter? According to these polls, he's taking up 6% of the vote and I'm pretty damn sure he's not taking it from Bush. Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

  • (by Oliver)

    UPDATED 4/21

    Ok, ok, hold the hell up
    : Jennifer got voted out? Let's decipher the demographic science. The best guess I have is that fans of the "three divas" split the vote between Jennifer, La Toya and Fantasia. That's the only way any of this makes sense. We already know that John Stevens and Diana DiGarma have survived this long on wack ass voices/performances strictly because they're the only two white people left in competition (yeah, you heard me - it's affirmative action for Whitey saving their undeserving asses). Jasmine has the whole of Hawaii calling in. George has his own clique, probably a lot of women actually who just like his charm.

    This changes things some what because it means that Fantasia and La Toya are potentially putting each other in trouble. If they split the vote again, it's going to let a lesser talent slip by. Here's hoping Jennifer gets some love outside the Idol circuit. She deserves a lot more props than a hack like J.S. or D.D.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Asian American Actor needed for Romantic Lead

    "American Knees" is a feature film adapted from Shawn Wong's best-seller. Acclaimed writer/director of "Charlotte Sometimes," Eric Byler, to direct. Lisa Onodera, Sundance winning producer of "Picture Bride," and "The Debut" to produce. To be filmed in and area the SF Bay Area Nov-Dec, 2004.

    RAYMOND DING--Male lead, Chinese American, mid- to late-40's. Handsome, poised and refined history professor; well-spoken, no accent.

    New talent and actors of other Asian ethnicities are welcome but they must be believable as a mid-40's Chinese American male.

    Send ASAP three (3) sets of photos (headshots/full body), resume and reel (if available) to:
    SF Casting
    Karma Pictures
    13699 Skyline Blvd.
    Oakland, CA 94619

    Call backs next week for auditions end of April, first week in May.

    PLEASE, NO EMAIL SUBMISSIONS they will not be reviewed--snail mail only.

    Questions to

    Tuesday, April 20, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    I don't have extensive comments right now (those will have to wait for a more full review) but I just want to say quickly:

    Ghostface, to me, is one of the last few MCs whose output genuinely excites. There are other artists with hotter, club charting songs - J-Kwon's "Tipsy" for example - but I don't listen to Hood Hop expecting to get hit with a rush. Throw on Ghost though and you're whipped full-speed into his don't-give-a-fuck, no-holds-barred approach to songwriting and lyricism. Ghost just charges ahead and like on the song "Run," woe be to anyone who tries to stop his flow - when you see him coming, get the fuck out the entrance. He's relentless yet flamboyant, an MC who'll stand over your prone body, delivering verbal abuse in a sequined robe.

    I'm loving the Pretty Toney album right now, one of the most consistent releases I've heard off any mainstream label all year and just hitting you with songs that get you amped like the third rail. The straight heezle? "Ghostface," which, with any luck and justice, will be blowing up clubs from the Hamptons to Hollywood.

    You need this album. Ya'll know what time it is, man. It's real.

    Monday, April 19, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Ok, maybe it has been, but right now, it seems like everyday brings some kind of bad ass viewing options. To wit:
    • The Sopranos. Last week's episode, directed by Steve Buscemi, was crazy . For once, I almost liked Christopher: kicking the living crap out of a friend that owed him money one day, making sure he got to rehab the next. Pure diamond brilliance.
    • Deadwood. I haven't written on this Western melodrama much but I've been hooked since day one. Not only is it the most profane show in the history of television (as well noted, the term "c%#sucker" is favored the most) but it also boasts an incredible cast (the best this side of The Sopranos I dare say. Roll call: one of greatest televison villain I've seen in years (Al Swearengen, a portrait of unabashed malovence played by Ian McShane), a fully off-her-rocker Calamity Jane (played by Robin Weigart), a Wild Bill Hickock who was here too briefly before meeting his historical fate (played by Keith Carridine), protagonist Seth Bullock, a lone straight man among the twisted (Tim Olyphant) and out of nowhere, the return of actress Geri Jewell (best known as Blair's cousin with MS fromThe Facts of Life). When this comes out on DVD (almost certain), if you missed it, cop it.
    • Angel is back and damn - they're laying on the heaviness thicker than Nutella. This show may end in a few weeks but it's going out hardcore. For those who slept on this show, thinking it'd never be as good as Buffy: ya'll slept, your loss. Seriously though, the show's balance of heft and humor is a testament to the writing; I can't think of another show in recent memory that manages to pack as much pathos in its story arc as Angel is. With the death of Fred (that's not exactly a spoiler at this point), the show has taken a dark, but powerful turn and I'm blown away at how incredible the show has become as a result. For a "fantasy" show about vampires and witches, blah blah blah, this is some of the best drama on television I can attest to. A little overboard on the moroseness, yes, but still, the show is going out with heart and head held high. You have to respect that.
    • Alias: Sister? This show has a lot of good things going for it but right now, it's all about Jack Bristow (Victor Garber), the most bad ass good guy invented this side of blaxploitation. Strictly unf#()wittable. Lauren needs to just hurry up and get killed as we all know she will be. Sark will stay alive, just like Sloan. And I hear that "the sister" is going to be one baaaaaad B who's going to create some problems for everyone else. So much for sisterly love but hey, I foresee some good ass-kickings in the future. Now just pony up to bring Lena Olin back in the mix and it's all good.
    • And you already know about my Idol obsessions. Bless/curse whoever invented Tivo.

  • G.I. Jesus?
    (spotted at From Here Knows Where)

  • The Passion of Kanye?. Speaking of Hova's son: Kanye, I was with you on "Jesus Walks," but you're pushing it. Bottomline, the real Jesus wouldn't be rocking iced out pendants and Jacob the Jeweler crucifixes. I'm no Christian scholar, but I'm pretty sure Christ didn't die for your bling, dumb asses.
    (as seen on Cocaine Blunts)

  • Oh screw it, one more:

    Jesus for MVS: Most Valuable Savior.
    (as seen at Quarter Wit)

  • I had some things to say about Kill Bill, Vol. 2 but frankly, Josh Clover says it better.

  • There's an upcoming Jay-Z tribute album, Beyond A Reasonable Doubt which "will feature the current Roc-A-Fella roster doing remakes & reinterpretations of their boss' classic songs." WTF? Seriously, what is the point? Does anyone want to hear the Braveheartz remake Illmatic? Maybe we should get the former BDP crew (D-Nice anyone?) to remake Criminal Minded? This is some dumb shit.
    (as seen at Pickin' Boogers)

  • Hip Hop Q-Bert. Wait, was I the only one expecting a short, Filipino DJ to show up on this?

  • Superstar USA. Dig this: it's like Idol in reverse. Folks think they're competing on a singing show to see who is the best, but really, the show is designed to find the worst singer in America. Cruel, underhanded - wait, why is this on the WB? Shouldn't Fox have created this? All I know is that even money says William Hung makes a guest appearance.
    (seen at Yello Kitty)

  • Dead Prez Arrested At Airport. Ok, here's the ironic thing: DP got in trouble because they wouldn't turn their radio off...this from the same group that just put out a song called "Turn Off the Radio!" Rappers, hear thyselves!
    (seen at

  • "Like Tom, You'll Get Brokaw". The best newscaster on network TV announces he'll step down on Dec 1. Damn. I grew up on Brokaw, watched him go gray over the years, but never lose that sense of stylish, earnest charm (unlike Jennings, who came off as Brokaw-lite, or Rather, TV's grumpy grandfather figure).
    (as seen on the Blueprint)

  • Spotted at a screening of the S.F. Int'l Film Festival last night: a 20-something white dude rocking a hoodie with the word "Onaism" spelled out on the front. He came, of course, alone.

  • Matos calls this one of I Love Music's greatest threads ever. "What to do when your roommate doesn't realize you're home and thusly is having loud sex in the living room". I admit, this is a great thread for reasons I can't even begin to properly articulate (though one is: damn, ILM people apparently have more time on their hands than me and that's scary). My reply to the question though is the most obvious: why don't you leave your rutting roommate in peace and privacy? I mean, sure, it's funnier to get on your computer and write something to a WWW site, but jesus christ, you must not like your housemate much (or too much as it may be) to want to sit there and witness her having sex just to make a grand joke of it.

  • (by Oliver)


    I don't have time to drop a full report back but message to music scholars/journalists who did NOT attend the EMP Conference this year: ya'll missed out. Seriously.

    Maybe you went before and were non-plussed by the experience: I don't blame you - like any conference, there are going to be uneven experiences that come out of it and EMP has gone through the growing pains of a new conference, trying to get its footing and chemistry right. I thought The New Yorker's Alex Ross was rather snarky in his review of last year's conference but some of his observations were accurate. With this year's conf though, I think EMP took a big leap forward in making the panels/papers more focused and cogent, and the proceedings were decidedly more diverse (both in the topics being presented as well as the attendees themselves). Just to provide full disclosure, I was on this year's conference committee so it might seem self-serving to pat myself and the other committee members of the back, but in my conversations with both first time and returning attendees, it was nearly universal that people came away with very positive feelings about their experience. Certainly, I had a fucking blast - not exactly the most scholarly evaluation I could give, but it's honest.

    More importantly (and less profane), EMP has started to cohere the beginnings of a potential community of scholars, writers and musicians who use the conference as a space to exchange ideas and conversations that don't always exist elsewhere. In other spheres, scholars worry about not being jouranlistic enough (ok, actually, they don't, but they should) while journalists worry about not being academic enough, etc. but here, I don't think those distinctions matter so much as all so long as long you're presenting material that's interesting, relevant or informative. The best papers, it seems, are those that hit the audience with research on a song, or album, or artist, or trend, etc. that they never knew before but feel enriched now having that knowledge or perspective. That transcends your professional affiliations or methodologies.

    I didn't get a chance to catch everything but these were just a sample of some of the things I either knew to be kick ass or heard were:
    • RJ Smith on the history of the song "Nature Boy" and its eclectic songwriter Eden Abez.
    • Ted Anthony on the genealogy of "House of the Rising Sun" (which apparently included the greatest Powerpoint presentation ever created)
    • Jeff Chang, Benji Melendez and Henry Chalfant on the history of the South Bronx gang (turned Latin soul group): The Ghetto Brothers. Essential pre-hip-hop history.
    • The entire Hip-Hop Travelogues panel which includes papers by Christian Veran, April Henderson and Raquel Cepeda, opening up the conversation on thinking about hip-hop beyond just the staid paradigms of Blackness and New York-ness to include Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and the religion/culture of Yoruba.
    • Julianne Shepherd (aka The Coolest Gal Ever) on Christina Aguilera as post-Riot Grrrrl Feminist icon.
    • Robert Fink on the curious history of the ORCH5 chord ("Planet Rock" fans represent) - on paper, you'd thikn this was some esoteric stuff until you hear this paper and realize how fascinating a single chord can be within pop music history.
    • The Walk on Both Sides panel which had Mark Anthony Neal, Jason King and Jon Caramanica presenting on White Chocolate Soul, Rap Flow and Feng Shui and Rappers-Turned-Rockstars respectively. More heat than a haberno.
    • Elizabeth Mendez Berry (what up girl!) on unsung Mexican diva legend Chavela Vargas.
    • Tim Quirk on the magic of Pete Townshend's windmills.
    • The entire Female Hip-Hop Writers Summit: Joan Morgan, Karen Good, Raquel Cepeda and Lizz Berry. Talk about the history you never get to hear about...
    • The entire Critical Karaoke crew (you kind of had to be there to understand though)
    For 2005, I'd encourage past attendees to seriously consider coming back, either to present or just spectate. And folks who've never been there, including many of you who I know read this blog on the regular, take a chance to try to come out for 2005.

    Thursday, April 15, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    rain? what rain

    First of all, big shout-out to J.C. and the other J.C. (but not this J.C.) since we were joking earlier this evening about what big blog dorks we are. I think I win - I guess my sister was right after all.

    Anyways, the Neumos gig went bust when almost no one showed up - it got so bad that they shut us down after an hour. The owners do not play! Strangely, I had fun though despite this, especially since I did manage to get about half a dozen people to dance (not bad considering that there were only about 10 people there total). This included the incomparable J. Shepherd (sure, she was one of the unofficial promoters but that had nothing to do with it) plus the newest sensation to come out of Olympia, WA: Scream Club.

    I don't know if I can really do Scream Club proper credit by attempting to describe their ouvre, their perfomative aesthetic, their steez...what is worth nothing is that they were supposed to perform at Neumos but when that got shut down, they simply went over to Re-Bar, a dive-esque bar/club in the middle of a grimy '80s night and performed there. But illy ill though was that when we got to Re-Bar late, they simply gave us a performance in the parking lot.

    If my brain were slightly more functional, I'd attempt to describe what it is you're seeing, but imagine four female rap/rockers dressed in leg warmers and sporting pink wigs, sing/rap and dance over an electro-influenced track, talking about how "sexy's on the inside." the middle of a parking lot in Seattle, around midnight.

    And the thing is - I totally felt them. The song was hella catchy (not to mention conscious!), their performance not nearly as campy as it may sound (no more so than, say, Fanny Pack) and considering the evening's circumstances, the most entertaining part of my day. The group is supposed to have a full-length project due out later this year: check for it. (I did agree with one small critique though: if they renamed themselves the Scream Team, that'd be heat).

  • Finally, American Idol dumps a talent-challenged white dude but the wrong one. JPL gets the boot, but really, people need to stop feeling sorry for Carrot Top and send him back to high school.

  • Saw this coming off the Bay Bridge the other day: How can you not feel someone who'll put the Babe secret sheep code on a personalized plate?

  • Wednesday, April 14, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Through one of those random six degrees of blog seperation, I finally found my sister Jessica's blog. Me and Jess are nearly eight years apart, which meant that growing up, we were rarely in the same spaces together, both literally and metaphorically, but as she's gotten older and our age gap less significant, I'm continually impressed at the person she's grown into. (I know that sounds like some classic "older brother bullshit" but hey, I'm allowed my moments, ain't I?) For one thing, she's a better photographer and her blog is off the hook, especially when she prints commentary like this:
      "ok, so since i read my brother's blog everyday, i don't really bother having conversations with him anymore.? i flip b/t his and hua's blog constantly at work, and occasionally other people on their whole bloggity lists.? and here's the deal:? they're like these old boring people who, unlike me who complains endlessly about life in general and the most random shit going through my head, actually have some sort of internet dialogue and are sort of dorks about it.? they tackle issues with more than just a hint of nerd behind it."
    (I think I'm being dissed but I'm not actually certain).

    In any case, my sister recently got her hands on old family photos that I had never seen before. These are all from long before even I was born and looking at these, I feel incredibly nostalgic for a past that I could never have known, back when my parents were in their 20s, before they were married, before they came to the States.

    (l-r: mom, dad and my late grandfather)

  • Funkdigi's Metalface reports that The Source is having financial problems. Payback's a bitch, isn't it?

  • Based on the interviews I've seen with him, I'm a bigger fan of Aaron McGruder's The Boondocks than I am of the man himself, but daaaamn, McGruder threw down at a recent event sponsored by The Nation, including, but not limited to, grabbing his nuts while on the podium. Like whoa, true player for real.
    (spotted at funkdigi)

  • This new William Hung video for "She Bangs" is crazy brilliant. I'm not being sarcastic at all.

  • Speaking of videos, peep these old Yo MTV Raps! vids. Here's one of Big Daddy Kane's best-song-ever, "Ain't No Half Steppin". Hot shit ya'll, even if one has to question how high-top fades, shiny suits and thick ass gold medallions were ever thought to go together.
    (spotted at Diesel Nation)

  • For fans of The Sopranos, here's a review of Season 5 thus far (written by yours truly for

  • Monday, April 12, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Check this out: there is a very handy HTML tag: target=_blank that you can attach to the back of your links. This makes it so when someone clicks on hypertext in your blog, it will open the link in a new window, which means that we can still read your original entry. You cannot imagine how useful this tag for a reader and moreover, preserves the integrity of your original entry. This is how a properly entered tag would look:
    <a href= target=_blank>

    This may seem like some geeky HTML programming shit but really, it's very, very, very useful. Think about it.

    On that tip, bloggers who don't already publish an RSS feed for their blogs (yo, that's you Catchdubs!) need to get with it, pretty please?

  • Jessica Hopper is the latest to join the iPod nation. J-Ho is up to 837 songs with another 2,000 to fill - I forget how many songs I have on my 10MB iPod but I know it's over 5 days worth of music. The funny thing is, I only really listen to the same few hours of music, gravitating inexplicably to Lord Finesse, the Wu-Tang on occassion, a touch of James Brown, but mostly a folder I call "Pop Pourri" which includes a mix of everything from Coldplay to Supertramp to Morrissey to Suzanne McCorkle. According to this well-circulated New Times feature, we only play about 20% of our total music collection and the iPod will end up duplicating that same ratio. Can't say I disagree with that, especially since I'm leaving about 95% of my iPod collection ignored at current.

  • This story is starting to get some legs. Larry Nager, music critic at the Cincinnati Enquirer was let go and how he's accusing the paper of ageism. The question raised by Editor and Publisher is simple: can a rock/music critic get too old for his/her job? Hell, at 31, I feel too old to write about hip-hop sometimes but eh, as Chi Ali would say, age ain't nuttin' but a #.
    (thanks to Jazzbo)

  • On the subject of rock criticism, Nike Patrin has a long but provocative posting about the new Kill Your Idols book being headed up by Jim DeRogatis. The book is composed of 34 essays by writers who essentially go off on critically acclaimed albums from the rock canon - everything from Pet Sounds, to Exodus, to The Joshua Tree. Patrin's critique is scathing (and rightfully so), especially when this book includes such insipid shit as:
      "It's too bad there's never been--and given our hypersensitivity to that chimera "hate speech," may never be--an equally public debate about the validity of that notoriously dimwitted genre of aural graffiti known as rap, the artistic merits of which the music media, in its zeal to see young black radicals do well, has been over-hyping for two decades now. Don't get me wrong, rap can be great fun. At its early best, before it became overrun by gangstas, thugz, pimps, hoez, and other types you wouldn't want to bring home to your grandma (or your spelling teacher), rap was the closest thing to a revival of the loose goofiness of Lieber-Stoller-era Coasters...Since then many rap albums have had their meager merits exaggerated by the press." - Arsenio Orteza in the book's essay on why It Takes a Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back is overrated (at least according to Orteza).

    I'd spend some time pointing out how incredibly stupid Orteza sounds right here but frankly, it kind of speaks for itself.

    In any case, why bother coming out with a book whose expressed purpose is to trash albums that other people like? I can imagine, it wasn't hard for DeRogatis to find 30+ bitter writers out there for the project but actually getting it published seems like a worthless exercise in pissiness. I'm glad to see I'm not the only who thinks so. By the way, is the fact that I've never heard of most of the authors in this book a sign that I'm out of touch or they are?

  • Anthony Scalia is a paranoid hypocrite. Just remember folks - lifetime appointment. Yeah, scary.

  • For the love of god: Arnold Schwarzenegger saves a drowning swimmer. That Constitutional Amendment to allow for immigrants to become President just takes a step closer to happening.
    (spotted at Best Week Ever)

  • Oh snap. Queer Eye for the Straight Pimp.
    (spotted at Intellectual Hip-Hop Commentary)

  • I posted about this weeks ago, but Amy Blair at runs a regular column based on reading personals ads. I'm not always into Blair's commentary - snarky only goes so far - but I have to marvel at her public service in combing through all these ads and finding these amazing expressions of lust that only Craigslist can seem to engender. Mark my words: there needs to be a book that just compiles Craigslist ads and dissertations written as to what they say about the sexual psyche of urban Americans. Just in time for Easter, Blair delivers this pastel egg:
      EASTER BREAK treat for TEACHERS - m4w - 30

      Are you a young sexy teacher who has desires that you would never want your students to know about? Easter break is either this week or next week and you are off from school. Let me get you off. Great tongue and great dick here.

      Let's make this an awesome Easter Break!

  • Jay Smeezy takes on Dead Prez and their questionable revolution. A must read, especially the comments section. I'm not sure if anybody mentioned already, but one of the problems with the politics of the DP's "Hell Yeah," is that it collides race and class grievances together willy-nilly.
      Lemme tell you how we fend to get paid
      We gonna order pizza and when we see the driver
      We gonna stick the 25 up in his face
      Lets ride, stepping outside like warriors
      Head to the notorious Southside
      One weapon to the four of us
      Hiding in the corridor until we see the Dominos car headlights
      White boy in the wrong place at the right time
      Soon as the car door open up he mine
      We roll up quick and put the pistol to his nose
      By the look on his face he probably shitted in his clothes

      (lyrics from

    Last time I checked, pizza deliveries dudes - white or black - were not the kind of folks that you go all Robin Hood off of - they're pretty much part of the working class/service exploited, i.e. the kind of people that a true, "revolutionary" movement would seek to include, not rip-off. Understandably, it's probably easier to jack the pizza guy than it is to rip off The Fed, but it's hard to see how you're going to get the revolution started by fucking over the population of people who might actually be down with you. drops his own critique.

    Real quick: Jay-Z proves that he's still the illest with this line from the "Hell Yeah" (Remix): "Now the police, got me in the middle of the street/Trying to beat me blue, black and orange."

  • Passion of the Easter Bunny?
    (spotted at Catchdubs)

  • Blog beef! Blog beef! (Yo, Cocaine Blunts - if you don't get with some permanlink action for your blog soon, we're gonna have beef, son.)

  • vs.
    (angryasianman in the house)

  • ...and just because...

    (spotted at pickin' boogers)

  • (by Oliver)


    I came home on Saturday after a four day memor-a-thon in Los Angeles. On Wednesday, we held a memorial service for my grandfather (who died the Friday before, never having regained consciousness from his burst aneurysm). On Thursday, there was a much smaller, family-only "ceremony" (if one can call it that) at the mortuary where we cremated his remains. On Friday, we buried his ashes in the family plot where my grandmother's ashes have lain since 1987, when she passed from cancer. Then on Saturday, I accompanied Sharon as her grandmother's ashes were buried (she actually passed away over 7 weeks ago, but it's Japanese Buddhist custom to wait 49 days until actually interring the remains).

    I have much more to say about this, but I'm still sitting with my thoughts about my grandfather and haven't sorted everything out yet. One thing I wanted to share for now is just how fascinating cemeteries are. I don't mean this is some kind of macabre, spookalicious way - I'm just struck at how sentiment, commerce and industry collide in most large cemeteries. As HBO's Six Feet Under has helped shed the light on (however fictitious), running a cemetery is a major service industry and while mourners don't usually want to think about that, the reality is usually not that hidden to see.

    My grandparents are buried in Forest Lawns in Glendale, a huge, sprawling cemetery that's grand and ornate enough to host art exhibits (they're current showing watercolor paintings by Vincent Takas). (They also sell crucifixation nails in the gift shop. Nice.) Because the property is so huge, the grounds require round-the-clock tending and this creates odd juxtapositions of serene, green beauty with the cold, hard machinery of industry. For example, after the cremation service, we walked past the main entrance to Forest Lawns and on this large glade, I saw what looked like a half-a-dozen gardeners swarming up the hill. They were all wearing orange doo-rags that made for a stark contrast with the green grass, and I could hear their weed-whackers and other equipment noisily buzzing. It was like an army of ants scuttling up and down the hill, not at all in synch with the otherwise austere scenery around them.

    Also, there are large, 16 wheeler trailer/trucks hauling dirt around the cemetery. They're hard to miss, especially since the roads are relatively narrow and these trailers loom large wherever they go. Most striking however are the bulldozers that facilitate the burials. They are large and green and about as subtle as a firecracker in a library. During the ceremony itself, the 'dozer crew stand off to the side and out of the way but the moment the proceedings end, they bring it in, this enormous tractor rolling over brass name plates, and it scoops up these enormous piles of dirt into the gravesite. Then it turns the scoop flat in order to stamp and pound the dirt tightly into into the grave.

    I suppose the upside is that the process goes very quickly thanks to the heavy machinery but it also lacks a human touch. In comparison, when we buried Sharon's grandmother's ashes, there was a single person there to help fill in the grave, using a shovel basically. However, that too was a little awkward, watching this man fill in the grave because there's nothing else to do but watch him. Who knows what graveside etiquette is supposed to be?

    I got back to the Bay in time to spin at a cool gig with Hua and DJ Anna. Alas, I woke up on Sunday to have a ton of paperwork to handle. Yeah: taxes. I shouldn't complain since I'm getting a small refund this year but it's always a little scary to learn how much you actually made and more to the point: how much you spent. I won't get into how much I spent on records in '03 but at least it's less than what I pay in rent (unlike in 2001, my insane, banner year for outrageous vinyl expenditures).

    Thursday, April 08, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    This is getting ridiculous. The latest hysterical essay (forwarded to me by Sharon), decrying William Hung's success, comes from Jimi Izrael at in a piece entitled (and this is breath-taking) "What It Iz: William Hung, American Sambo".

    Izrael's criticism is not unlike that of Daniel Ng's, whose Village Voice essay I link in an earlier post. Here's one typical quote: "Hung fits into a stereotype, and his audition seemingly gave some permission to revive it. The goofy, buck-toothed dancing Chinaman hasn't persevered like some other Sambos, but Hung's rise to popularity proves that it ages well." In this respect, Izrael is just repeating the party line of most of Hung's critics, and I've already taken them to task below (and will also do so in an upcoming essay for the SF Bay Guardian.

    But Izrael trips up badly with this comment: " I'd feel better if Hung was a plant — a professional. But he's not. Hung is just a foreigner in this country trying to get an education, who can't know how being a talent show buffoon will affect his livelihood or the dignity of his countrymen."

    First of all, Hung isn't a "foreigner" - he's an immigrant and there's a pretty big fucking difference between the two. He's been here since 1993, long enough to be naturalized as an American citizen. As for the "dignity of his countrymen" - who are you talking about? The Chinese? Chinese Americans? Other engineering majors?

    People should pause and read this from The Onion back in 2000. What is amazing is that, word-for-word, some of these fake quotes are practically identical to what has been written about Hung so far.

      San Franscisco -- Second-generation Chinese-American laundry owner Raymond Chen is under heavy fire this week from Bay area activists who call him "an insulting caraciture that perpetrates long-outdated, grossly prejudiced images of Asian Americans.

      "It's frightening to think that in the year 2000, some of us still haven't moved beyond the century-old stereotype of Chinese people as laundry men," said Abagail Huber-Henson, a Universityof California at Berkeley cultural-studies professor and director of the Race-Action Project, the campus group spearheading the crusade against Chen. "This man is a degrading anachronism that has no place in a supposedly enlightened society like ours. To meet him is to be directly confronted with America's shameful history of racism."

      Added Huber-Henson, "We should no more tolerate this man than we should a Pakastani convenience store owner or a Jewish lawyer."

      The controversy is expected to heat up Friday when hearings begin at San Fransisco City Hall. The hearings, which are expected to last several weeks due to the long list of acedemics and activists who wish to speak out against Chen, will determine if his presence in the community can be prosecuted under local "hate crime" statutes. If convicted, Chen could face fines of up to $20,000 and up to 15 months in prison, as well as mandatory attendence at anti-racism workshops.

      Though the potential penalties facing Chen are harsh, some believe they do not go far enough.

      "With prejudice and intolerence still rampant in our society, anti-hate legislation is an important first step," said Beverly White, director of the San Mateo-based Stop Racism Now. "However, putting Chen injail for 15 months is not going to ease the pain he has caused the countless Asian Americans he
      has mocked and insulted. The real issue here is so much larger than just one man. No enlightened society should allow stereotypes like Chen to exist at all."

      White then outloned her group's long-range goal to get laws passed that would authorize the forced relocation of all ethnic stereotypes to internment camps in the California desert."

    Kind of puts it all in perspective, doesn't it? The Onion's parody becomes prescient and should be a reminder to folks out there: chill the hell out and let the Hung fad burn itself out like we all know it will.

    By the way, according to Amoeba Music (Berkeley) and their sales numbers from yesterday (more than two days after Hung's Inspiration CD came out, they had only sold ONE copy in that time.

  • The LA Weekly features a good article this week on the era of session musicians. Ah, where have the days of Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine?

  • File under: "Only on the Internet". (Hint: offer dance moves). Sharon points out that this is actually a promotion for Burger King, which makes me less excited about it but credit the BK marketing staff with an innovative campaign.
    (both spotted on soulstrut forums)

  • Tuesday, April 06, 2004

    (by Oliver)

    WILLIAM HUNG JUST WON'T DIE! (and other things worth noting)

  • Angry Asian Man noted two recent pieces dealing with the infamous Mr. William Hung, both by Asian Americans, both describing Hung's current 15 minutes (more like 35 minutes) of fame as fueled by racism.
      Emil Guillermo speaks up in
      David Ng drops his words in the Village Voice (thereby denying me the opportunity, lucky bastard).

    Frankly, I wish both of them would have gone back and read Sharon's San Jose Metro piece on the phenom and taken a really deep breath.

    Here's the deal: is part of Hung's popularity attributable to racism? Sure. I don't think many would deny that Hung, uncomfortably, registers in our cultural memory alongside folks like Long Duc Dong or Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's. But I don't think it's racism alone that explains his popularity ESPECIALLY among Asian Americans. Contrary to Ng's condescending attitude, it's not that APIs are starved for any kind of media representation and it's not that organizations like Guy Aoki's MANAA have stuck their "head up its ass." I think there's so much community love for him because he represents the earnest but awkward person in all of us, a person, I dare say, that APIs are INTIMATELY familiar with especially given the racist society we live in.

    The difference is that Hung is naive, oblivious but seemingly sincere about who he is. He is "real" in other words, which makes him something more than a parody created by soulless executives to make profit off of. No doubt, soulless executives will make profit off of him but the reason Hung has struck a chord with so many is because he is NOT an invention but someone who comes across - in his countless interviews and performances - as entirely sincere about who he is, what he's out to do and the fact that none of this makes any damn sense.

    I understand VERY WELL why many APIs are uncomfortable with Hung (especially Asian men). He's the embodiment of some of the worst stereotypical images we've had to deal with going back well over a century. But he's not a white actor in yellowface nor an API actor FOBbing it up. I think he's just putting himself out there which is exactly why people like him so much. Does racism fill San Diego malls with people shouting out his name? You'd have to be a pretty cynical bastard to really believe that Hung's entire fame is based strictly on racist love.

    I also wonder if certain Asian men aren't uncomfortable with Hung out of their own self-image issues, ironic given the fact that Hung seems so unburdened by his own. I can certainly see how he'd trigger that kind of concern and derision but that's on the critic, not on Hung himself. What I think is most important about Hung's media presence is that what he puts out there is himself in all its rawness and that's part of what makes it painful to watch him at times, but it's also what he contributes. He's not as one-dimensional as his critics would paint but someone who is vulnerable, confused and joyful, all at once. When's the last time any of us have seen that in an Asian American media figure?

  • This is getting embarassing but I just can't stop being in awe of S/FJ. Not only is he up in The New Yorker, by itself already better than ice cream, but this week, he's writing about Madvillain. Please, just take a moment and recognize: The New Yorker is running a feature on MF Doom and Madlib.

    Either hell has frozen over or we've entered a brave new world. Bravo Sasha, bravo.

  • The Melting Blog draws attention to a huge story-in-development that I haven't seen anyone else mention. Up to 15,000 Hmong refugees are coming to America this summer. Be sure to read the Melting Blog's analysis along with New York Times story I just linked.

  • Theresa from Girls Are Weird lays it down straight: violate the 3-day rule and get violated. (See #2)

  • This won't be news to anyone who's ever visited Taipei but traffic fatalities is the third leading cause of death worldwide for people between 5 and 30.

  • "Honey? You don't want me to get cancer do you?" Study says sex helps prevent prostate cancer. Actually, technically, it's ejaculation that's the preventative aid, which means that even if you're alone, you can still keep yourself healthy, *wink wink*.

  • This gem comes from I'm So Sincerr: "I suppose I should be happy that "I'm Rick James Bitch!" has finally replaced "Wassssahhhhp!" as the thing white yuppies say in bars. I've got some Mobb Deep quotes for those suckas too."

  • Proof there is no God: J-Lo's mom hits a 2.4 million dollar lottery jackpot.

  • Monday, April 05, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    three's a crowd

    I said this before, but "there are few things more egregiously indefensible than a boring action movie." I went to do see Hellboy after a friend recommended it as a "solid B movie" and came away, bored to tears. It's bad enough that a matinee screening of it still cost me $7.25, plus $4.50 for a bag of popcorn, but I wasted 130 minutes waiting in total vain for something exciting to happen. Of course, nothing ever did.

    How is it that movies based on comic books have been so universally lousy of late? Daredevil was so bad, I can't even talk about it; League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was dumb but mildly fun, unlike that morose slug of a movie, The Hulk. Hellboy, however, was so completely uninteresting that I found myself getting drowsy even though it was only two in the afternoon. I like Ron Perlman - he's been great in action flicks like Blade 2, but he's totally wasted here. Maybe all those prosthetics he had to wear got in the way but he displayed more personality in one minute of City of Lost Children than in the entirety of this film.

    What's wrong with the film? The plot is a total mess, the writing absolutely boilerplate, the characters uninteresting (including Selma Blair as an incredibly dull pyro gal and this other guy who's basically a
    psychic Aquaman), the villains unthreatening, etc. etc. There's not a single thing I liked about this film - it was an expensive exercise that didn't have a hair of compelling charm in it. One only hopes this goes away like Daredevil and doesn't turn into a franchise that will make us have to suffer through more of this same, crappy dreck. X3 can't come soon enough, but in the meantime, I don't have high hopes for Van Helsing which looks like another overhyped action flick even if it does star Wolveri...I mean Hugh Jackman.

    Now, in contrast, I really, really, really liked Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the latest film from the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) and helmed by Michel Gondry. The thing with Kaufman's work - and this is a conceit on his end - is that his writing risks charging ahead with such unpredictability that it may leave the viewer behind. I think that's the tension to all his films and in some cases (Malkovich) it works, in others, Adaptation, it can be very jarring. What I appreciate about Eternal Sunshine is that it's willing to charge ahead, willy-nilly and just revel in its own creativity. The film gets off to a slow start but by the middle of the second act, it starts to bolt forward on this loopy, frantic pacing, driven by Kaufman's script and I just let myself go with it and felt like I was richly rewarded for the leap of faith.

    This was a visual and emotionally beautiful film that, unlike so many saccharin romantic comedies, was willing to be ugly when it needed to be plus knew the difference being necessary sentimentality and syrupy melodrama. Hell, I don't even like Jim Carrey at all and I was feeling for him this whole movie. Really liked Kate Winslet and thought she played the role exactly right: she's kind of crazy and difficult yet she adds enough charisma to the role to make you understand why her character is worth remembering (literally and figuratively).

    This is also a film that makes good, efficient use of its special effects and uses them for accent and flourish but not to smash you over the head (in contrast with the CGI-orgy of Hellboy). Makes me excited for whatever Kaufman has up his sleeve the next time (though the both he and Gondry teamed up to make Human Nature, which was not, if I recall, a critical darling at all).

  • For fans of The Sopranos out there, has been printing weekly commentary on the show supplied by two reporters who've covered the Mob. The conversations can get a little long at times, especially since they're just email printouts between the two, plus special guests, but the material is rich and provides a larger context to understanding and appreciating the show.

  • For the Kayne West completionist: a full discography of all his productions.
    (I forgot where I saw this originally, sorry!)

  • I can't tell if blogger Nate Patrin created this or simply linked it, but either way, it's total comedy for hip-hop indie fans: Def Jux Vendetta. I'd play Mr. Lif and smack fools with some ill Afro-Dread sickness.

  • Jessica over at The Blueprint relays comments made by The Strokes at their recent concert in L.A. Among the best is this gem: "random guy in the mob grabs julian's microphone and screams "i love you nikki!" julian takes back the mike and says, "hey nikki, some douchebag thinks you're pretty ok"

  • Two from First: reported, sex-laden text-messaging sent between soccar star David Beckham and his assistant/mistress. Example: "DB: Love the sound of that cotton just *** *** *** ***** getting more *** and your *** all nice *** ***." Wow, this is better than the Clinton/Lewinsky testimonies.

  • Next, they noted a recent New York Post report that says being married is terrible for your social life. Gee, who knew?

  • And last but not least, the folks at report on a new device designed to reveal any lingering fecal matter that might be stuck to your hands after you use the bathroom. In other words, it's a high tech shit detector.

  • Sunday, April 04, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    In this week's Sasha-Frere Jones appreciation post, we at Pop Life (i.e. me) marvel at his review of Norah Jones in the latest New Yorker. Norah has been roundly savaged by many in the press and I've tended to agree with much of the criticism but Sasha's balanced critique gave me some pause to reconsider what is actually likable about Jones. As usual, Sasha drops nuggets of writing brilliance:
      "records [the music industry] push rarely sell eight million copies. Eight million means there are no red states or blue states. Eight million means everyone voted for you."

      "Critics point out, accurately, that young artists like Jones, who is twenty-five, and Josh Groban and Michael Bublé are selling soothing songs by the seashore to a much older audience. These artists’ faith in melody and acoustic instruments ostensibly provides evidence that not all musicians below the age of thirty are getting tattooed with runic symbols and sending viruses to each other on tiny, inscrutable batphones."

      This point is so on-point that you could nail through concrete with it: "Jones has managed to make music that is universally useful, like a paper clip, but personal enough that listeners think they discovered it for themselves."

      "It may smell like sandalwood and your dad may give it to you for Christmas, but Jones’s music is one big booty call."

    One provocative point that Sasha makes is to parallel Norah's emergence with that of Sade in the 1980s. I'm a little resistant to this comparison but mostly because Sade's work has had two decades to be reconsidered, redeemed and celebrated (as Ernest Hardy impressively does from a 2001 review of Lover's Rock in the LA Weekly. In contrast, Norah's runaway (and certainly unpredicted) success in the present makes her ripe for backlash status. It may take some time before the rest of the critical guard is willing to accord her some greater praise but I think Sasha is helping to lay down some of the groundwork for such a later re-evaluation.

    Hua Hsu tackles the new N.E.R.D. album, Fly or Die for I think this is one of Hua's first big pieces for Slate and he jumps right in with a well-written critique that manages to praise the strengths of the Neptunes while taking to task the limitations of this new N.E.R.D. LP. Some impressive insights he makes:
      "the Neptunes operate within a structure of weirdly personal, philosophical, and musical dyads. Their trademark sound—Williams' streaking falsetto atop a deep-pocket boom—is rich with the drama of highs colliding against lows."

      "Having written a half-good song for the Counting Crows, the all-powerful Neptunes have proved they can do anything."

      "Slap a rapper (in most cases, almost anyone) over a plinky, spring-wound Neptunes beat, and he suddenly sounds like a million bucks: The Clipse owe their careers to the Neptunes' charity; inconsistent rappers Busta Rhymes, Mystikal, and Noreaga have each benefited from Neptune booster shots; and Britney Spears, who seems allergic to subtlety, will never sound as teasing as she does cooing about servitude over the robotic sleaze of "I'm a Slave 4 U."

    I have yet to listen to the album but damn, is it getting ripped a new one throughout the press. What kills me though is some people are starting to smirk that "the Neptunes have fallen off." Whatever. That kind of idle hateration is about as convincing as saying Timbaland fell off just because his album with Magoo (again) was mediocre. I'm convinced that once the Clipse finally drop their sophomore album, all this nonsense about the Neptunes' demise will be quickly squelched.

    In totally unrelated news, someone in a neighboring apartment is playing Al Green's I'm Still In Love With You Right Now and while it's coming through the walls muddled and muted it's still simply beautiful. Goddamn I love this album.

    (by Oliver)


    kickin' it

    Peep: I originally wrote a review of this movie on my blog in November of 2001, which just goes to show you how long it took Miramax to finally get their shit together and release the film domestically (it came out this past weekend). I got some beef with Miramax over this since, namely since their pissy publicist blacklisted me over how I interviewed star Stephen Chow, but I still think the movie is worth watching (even though they American version is poorly edited and cuts a lot from the HK OG). Here's what I had to say back in '01:

    Shaolin Soccer: While understandable, it's insulting to hear Stephen Chow (also spelled Chiau) referred to as the Hong Kong Jim Carey when, in reality, it's probably the other way around. Chow's actually become HK's biggest comic star behind Jackie Chan and with this film, he actually trounced Chan's Rush Hour 2 at the box office, setting all kinds of records despite the fact that the film opened in the middle of a massive typhoon season. Personally, while I really enjoyed Shaolin Soccer I didn't think it was nearly as funny as his Forbidden City Cop and some of my other friends still swear that his God of Cookery is one of the best HK films ever made (I disagree but I'm seemingly in the minority).

    That being said, Shaolin Soccer is probably the biggest budget Chow has had to work with - $6,000,000 which isn't much by Hollywood studio standards but that's fairly blockbuster in Hong Kong, especially since half of it was spent on special effects alone. This is what sets this film apart from Chow's previous works - it's obvious that he threw a ton of money on the CGI effects, most of which are done pretty well even though they're painfully obvious (but not as bad as they are in Time and Tide. They're used to enhance the simple but accessible plot - a bunch of down-and-out Shaolin monks in modern-day Hong Kong turn to soccer as a way to make their fortune as well as promote Shaolin kung fu in everyday life. It's a great premise and makes for incredibly entertaining sequences where the monks use forms like the Iron Hand, Mighty Steel Leg and Weight Vest to run roughshod over their opponents. Yeah, it's another Seven Samurai retread but you probably won't stop to notice when you're busting your gut.

    As usual, Chow stars as the lead (Sing) and he does just fine - a master of visual humor made all the better by the special effects that enhances his power. Plus, he's howingly funny when he lampoons other pop culture references - check the Saving Private Ryan homage, complete with Spielberg's special camera work from the war epic. The rest of the cast is likable, especially Vicki Zhao as Mui, a tai chai-wielding baker and HK comedy veteran Yut Fei Wong as Iron Head, Sing's Big Brother Number One.

    My man Hayden just sent me this: A New York Times article about Chow and the movie.

    Friday, April 02, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    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 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.

    (by Oliver)


    My man Jay Smooth has been having fun by looking at the 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:

    (by Oliver)


    real killas wear pink

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Thursday, April 01, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    the hello kitty bong - not sanrio approved
    (spotted at

  • 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, 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.