Tuesday, June 29, 2004


More reminders that, yup, I'm in NYC.

  • A 3.5 hour wait at the Soho Apple Store for service, along with 55 other people in queue. I pity the folks who work the Genius Bar there.

  • To reward myself for that long and arduous experience, I went to a spot that Hua put me up on: NYC Icy. They don't really serve the conventional "scrape and lick" Italian ices I'm used to but something that is basically a water-based gelato. Best thing ever.

  • With a pina colada icy in hand, I stroll up Avenue C and pass three Haitian women on stroller patrol with the whitest babies you've ever seen, one of them a pair of twins. Ah, the joys of third world labor and white, middle class privilege. I think, "at least these kids can never say they never met a black person before."

  • I also stop by the Turntable Lab store on E.7th and kick it with Bogdan, one of the cooler record store folks you'll ever meet. His Hot Breath mix-CD is the hotness - dope European, Latin, Brazilian, Cuban, etc. jazz, bossa, funk, etc.

  • I had dinner with my friend Mel and her friend Annette, the latter whom works at Urban Glass (as recently featured on Queer Eye) and is married to the head night-chef instructor at the FCI. We stop by the Institute's restaurant, L'Ecole after dinner and it turns out that Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude are dining there (Annette says they're regulars). I've never seen either before but it's not that hard to pick them out: the guy I had pegged for Christo just LOOKS the part and my intuition proves correct. For Jeanne-Claude, I choose the woman with flaming orange hair (but it helped that I read that detail in the recent New Yorker profile on the couple).

  • Monday, June 28, 2004


    My laptop went officialy kaput (strangely, this only ever happens when I'm out of town). That means I have to do this up Sugarhigh style and blog from an Apple Store (I think this means I've advanced to Level 14 Blog Druid w/ an Amulet of Dorkitude). I'll make this brief for now:

    Sunday Night (i.e. yesterday)

    Jazzbo, Hua and I roll off the Wessyyyyyyde Hwy. after a weekend in Boston, complete with a surprise visit from Mr. Broken Language himself and personal sojourns to see my cousin, godmother and other family.

    It's warm outside and everyone is UP AND OUT - I mean the latter in the double entendre way since there are copious numbers of bare chests walking around Chelsea b/c of Pride that day (yes homo). Back home in S.F., there might be some going-ons in the Castro but elsewhere, at the same hour, everyone's cuddled up, trying to stay warm on a typically cool S.F. summer night. In Manhattan, it could be 9pm on a Friday night from what it looks like. Just Reason #2302 why I love this city.

    Yeah, that a cliche thing to say about NYC but it doesn't make it any less true.

    Friday, June 25, 2004


    The LAPD in trouble. Again. Read and watch this.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2004


    not a hip-hop heroine

    This interview with Nellie McKay came to my attention via SF/J. After months of reading how McKay was the next big thing, I finally broke down and bought her CD (Get Away From Me) - nicely priced down to $4.95 at my local Amoeba.

    I admit, close-minded as I am, I only really liked McKay's more convetional jazz ballads which, content-wise, are anything but conventional. She reminds me a little bit like the late Susannah McCorkle only with a better, lower voice and far more sardonic wit. This is from, "Won't U Please B Nice?":
      Stop with your jazz oratory
      I only listen to top forty
      N'Sync rules
      isn't it nice
      together we'll always live
      no sacrifice
      we'll vote conservative
      if you run I'll pull a gun
      give me head or you'll be dead
      salute the flag or I'll call you a fag
      oh won't you please be nice
    Just imagine this with Diana Krall's band playing back-up and you get the idea. I'm with it on the five or so songs where McKay puts on her sweet act while singing daggers at you though I can imagine that the schtick would get thin after a while. McKay doesn't strike me as someone who would sing, "In a Sentimental Mood," un-ironically but that's why I have Ella CDs for.

    Anyways, in the McKay interview, she has this to say about hip-hop (yes, Spidey, that tingling sense of danger is accurate):
      "O: You rap a little on your album. Do you listen to much hip-hop?

      NM: I don't listen to much rap, really. I can rarely listen to a whole record of it, because musically, it's very formulaic, and oftentimes it doesn't have the best hooks on every track. I like my music to be very musical, you know? In terms of content, a lot of it's crap, with all the sexism and homophobic bullshit. It's incredible how rappers are always preaching nonconformity—you know, "I'm just gonna go my own way and be my own man and blah blah blah"—but they're the first ones to do so many things that they have to do. They have to do that hip-hop thing, a certain way of walking, and it's so conformist. I mean, way to buck the system! But I do think there's a great deal of politics mixed in. Their reference to the real world is much better than most, particularly a lot of women who seem like all they do is sing about love. Love is such a fleeting emotion. It's such a small part of the things you do in your life. I don't understand why that's all they concentrate on, except that that's what they're encouraged to do, because if you keep thinking about love, you'll be less of a challenge. I like that about rap. It's got power to it.
    The shame is that McKay actually seems pretty intelligent everywhere else but then again, a lot of very smart people say some really stupid things about hip-hop. McKay is hardly the worst violator in this regard but it's surprising that an artist who is so cross-genre in her own musical tastes could so easily generalize about hip-hop. "Musically, it's very formulaic"? "In terms of content, a lot of it's crap"? "Their reference to the real world is much better than most, particularly a lot of women who seem like all they do is sing about love"?

    Any single of these comments, in the right context, might actually not be that problematic but taken as a whole, in one single paragraph, and it would appear that McKay knows as much about hip-hop as I do about death metal. Which is to say, not much at all. Hopefully, she can stick to penning sarcastic torch songs rather than opining on subjects where her disdain drips off that pretty little nose of hers.

  • CORRECTION: As an antidote to the music criticism that we don't like, thank goodiness for Sasha Frere-Jones who revives creates a singles column in The New Yorker. If memory serves, the last time something like this popped up was when Nick Hornby wrote a "Top Ten" piece but rather than muse on songs he was enjoying or found important, it was more like "Top Ten Reasons Nick Hornby is suffering from middle-aged angst and therefore is only capable of complaining loudly about the ineptitude of modern pop music and bemoaning how nothing sounds as good as when he was a wee lad instead of the salty curmudgeon he apparently has turned into."

    In contrast, S to the F to the jigga-jigga-J actually decides to write on music he likes (yes, amazing, I know) which happens to currently include Nina Sky's "Move Ya Body" (currently in competition to be this summer's "Uh Oh" but hopefully with better songwriting and singing ability), Hoobastank's "The Reason," and an obscure rap/R&B crossover tune called "Yeah" by some guys named Usher and Little Jonathan. I hear that last one could be kind of hot.

    My only point of curiosity with his column was that he refers to Sky's song as using a Jamaican "rhythm," which I always presumed was better known to most as a "riddim" but Mr. Jones informs me that Greensleeves spells it proper like and who are we to argue? By the way, according to the Man himself, this singles column is going to be a recurring piece in The New Yorker, which is just another reason why SF/J is godly. He can expect to find every indie and major label on the planet now sending him their new 12"s. Too bad for Sasha, there's no Amoeba in Manhattan.

  • Two items spotted at Catchdubs.com):

  • The iconoclast in me wants to say otherwise but seriously, Kanye West's videos have been consistently kick ass. He hits a new point with the video for "Jesus Walks" which includes, among other things, a chain gang filmed in B&W (literally and metaphorically), Kanye masquerading as an angel, and most incredibly, a KKK member carrying a cross while lit on fire.

    I've said this before, but I'm not religious and in general, I mistrust Christianity given it's questionable historical alliance with colonialism but whatever - "Jesus Walks" is an amazing song. I played this at the club the other night and it's like the best thing ever. It's just too bad that Kanye also has to get behind tacky shit like this.

    (Apparently, there are three versions of the video, just so you know).
    (credit: Pickin' Boogers)

  • Last (and probably least): Trunk Monkeys. It's the new big thing.
    (credit: Pickin' Boogers)


    Taken June 18th, 2004 in Fremont, CA.

    Taken June 22nd, 2004 in Oakland, CA.

    Sunday, June 20, 2004


    If you're not Asian and don't spend a lot of time around my peoples, just feel free to skip this post and go down to read about The Beastie Boys. For everyone else...

    Spotten at Angry Asian Man.

    Are You Down?
    The Code for Being a Young AA/APA/APIA/AAPI Activist

    By Minnie Yuen '04, Margot Seeto '04, and Lisa Wong Macabasco UC Berkeley '03

    One point for each question answered in the affirmative.

    1. You own a BlackLava t-shirt. (+1 if you have the V. Chin shirt, +2 if you wear it to Asian American events.)
    F*ck Blacklava - I'm so old school, I have Ford Hatamiya t-shirts - what ya'll know about that? Still, technically, I guess I get a zero here.

    2. You own a spoken word CD.
    Guilty. I own several.

    3. You are or once were a spoken word artist. (+1 If you performed in a skinny scarf and spaghetti strap tank top.)
    Definitely NOT guilty

    4. You hate Abercrombie & Fitch and dog on Asian Americans who wear it, even if they bought it pre-boycott.

    5. You think Yuri Kochiyama is totally rad!

    6. You own an autographed copy of "Better Luck Tomorrow." (+1 If you were on the street team for BLT.)
    Alas, no. I interviewed Justin Lin about four times though - does that count?

    7. You have a poster of one or both of the following: 1. Che 2. Malcolm.
    No poster, but I once had Malcolm as my computer screen background, I think that should count.

    8. You HELLA think that San Francisco is the center of the universe and the APA Movement.
    But of course it is

    9. You dyed your hair bright red at one point.
    Yeah, right

    10. You protest the Euro-centric, hegemonic, patriarchal, heterocentric, capitalist petty bourgeoisie of THE MAN.
    Yeah, right on!

    11. You are a "brother" or "sister" of the "The People's Movement."
    I always felt that shit sounded funny, so no

    12. Instead of saying "goodbye," you say "peace".
    No dizzile

    13. You have a Xanga, are on Friendster, and were a part of Asian Avenue.
    Ha, two out of three but I'm not down with Xanga.

    14. You write your Friendster testimonials in Spoken Word verse.
    Wait...people do this?

    15. You AIM name includes the words "Angry" or "Asian" or "Yellow Brown Power."
    No, No and No

    16. If you wear glasses, they must be the thick, plastic, black rimmed glasses to show the world how intellectual you really are.
    Hey, wait, I just like how they looked! I wasn't trying to make a statement...damnit.

    17. You are an APA conference whore.
    More like a pimp

    18. You cried the first time you heard "I Was Born with Two Tongues". (+1 If you actually cried and not just claimed you cried.)
    Love 'em but no tears shed

    19. You majored in, minored in, or helped start Asian American Studies at your school.
    Most definitely guilty as charged

    20. You only listen to hip hop and only really enjoy Talib Kweli or Dead Prez.
    Hell yeah...or uh, hell no.

    21. You have read one, part or all of the following: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Fast Food Nation, Stupid White Men, or anything by bell hooks.
    Yes, yes, no, yes.

    22. You're so underground, you're f****** magma.
    See, I'm not the only one to self-censor! And I don't even know how to answer this. I never thought of myself as molten

    23. As you chain smoke, you intellectualize how nicotine is the tool of THE MAN.
    No cancer sticks in my past or present

    24. Every time you watch TV or movies, your Asian-dar kicks in. ("Look! Asian woman's arm in the back! WHAT WHAT!")

    25. You mad dog Asian women with White boyfriends (minus 1 if you've ever had a White boyfriend; minus another 1 if you actually admit you had a White boyfriend, but you swear it was when you were really young and before you became down).
    More or less, yes. Though isn't this question kind of skewed since what happens if you've had a White girlfriend?

    26. You hate on AZN Asians as much as White people, if not more.
    Oooooh...that's tough. I'd have to say no but only by the slimmest of margins. AZNs are annoying but c'mon, they're not THE MAN

    27. You hate on Asian fraternities or sororities, but used to go those parties before you were down (minus one if you ever pledged an Asian sorority, minus two if you were a Little Sis).
    Hate 'em but didn't go to their parties

    If you scored 21 or more:
    Congratulations, Poster Child de La Revolucion. You're so down, you're abajo. After finishing your manifesto and reaping vegetables in your biosphere, we'll see you at ECAASU 2005, fool. Paz.

    11 - 20:
    Poseur. What's up, poser? Put down that copy of Audrey and read Asian Americans: The Movement and the Moment already. Practice raising your fist and looking hard in the mirror when no one's looking.

    0 - 10:
    You're a tool of THE MAN. Proceed immediately to San Francisco and get a picket sign already.
    I scored a 13 and I'm not sure if I feel good or bad about that. Maybe it's a good thing that I didn't score higher since, frankly, I couldn't stand a lot of API activists in my undergraduate days and I still find some of them to be almost as annoying as AZNs.

    Saturday, June 19, 2004


    when can we start calling them the beastie men?

    I don't know if it's just post-9/11 sentimentality gone amok or a case of temporary insanity but Rolling Stone's David Fricke (or someone else at the mag) gave this album 5 stars. I thought The Source made a bad call giving Biggie's Life After Death 5 mics (bottomline: if he hadn't died, he wouldn't have gotten 5) but this really defies any sense of rationality to me and suggests that either RS or Fricke are far out of step with 1) the Beastie Boys, 2) hip-hop and 3) pop music in general. I'll get to the Beasties' album in a second but for a moment, just read this:
      "the Beasties are still the best rap band in the biz -- three voices swinging like a jazz trio, racing like Bad Brains -- and they don't have big patience for the gold-plated phooey currently passing for gangsta."
    Remember my "how NOT to write music criticism" from a few weeks back? Well Fricke committed the main sin I highlighted: it's weak sauce to set your own piece up by creating a sweeping generalization in opposition, i.e. "gold-plated phooey...passing for gangsta." What is this, an Okayplayer.com message board posting? Plus, it's such an empty cliche...as an editor, I wouldn't let one of my newbie writers put that line in an URB review, let alone having someone at RS sign off on it.

    As for the Beasties being the best rap band in the biz...such a statement requires a little more support than comparing them with Bad Brains. Last time I checked Outkast kind of had that title on lock plus the Roots were in the competition too. In the six years that it took the Beasties to put out a new album, Outkast gave the world: Aquemini, Stankonia and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. The Roots had Things Fall Apart and Phrenology. I rest my case. Moving on...

    To the 5 Boroughs is not an irredeemably bad album, it's just not a great album (and certainly not 5 stars). I'm not simply evaluating the album by pop standards but by the Beastie Boys' own. Let me just start off by saying: I really like the Beastie Boys, always have. I've long thought these three were some of the most creative minds in pop music today (hip-hop and otherwise). I especially enjoyed Hello Nasty which I welcome as a return to the group's hip-hop roots rather than all the skater rock they put out on Check Your Head and Ill Communication. By that token, 5 Boroughs should find me as happy as a lark since the group nods even further back to their old school days. Not so fast.

    There are two primary problems with this album. First of all, lyrically, it's laughable. WAIT! Someone is going to chime in, right about now, "but the Beasties were never known for their lyrics." Yes, that's absolutely correct but that the Beasties were able to do, throughout their career, is write entertaining lyrics that were long on style even if they were short on content. No one EVER confused these three for Rakim-reincarnates but there is some surprisingly shitty songwriting on this album. For example, this is from "Triple Double" (MCA's verse, I think):
      Cause I'm a specializer, rhyme reviser
      Ain't selling out to advertisers
      What you get is what you see
      And you won't see me on no advertising
    MCA is using advertiser/ing twice in just four lines and more than just word repetition, he's repeating the same idea: the Beasties won't sell out - so why be redundant? That's just unforgivably lazy lyricism (not to mention "advertising" is a hard word to flow with). The album abounds with this crap and believe me, I NEVER remember the BBoys sounding this inane. Check out this from, "Hey, Fuck You":
      Which of you schnooks took my rhyme book?
      Look give it back, you're wicky wack
    That's not a throwback line - even cats on Sugar Hill had more skills than that. I also don't cut them much slack just because they're penning love letters to New York. If that was the case, they should have put this album out TWO YEARS AGO when it would have carried more emotional weight and more importantly, they needed to step up their songwriting rather than offer up the lyrical equivalent of a Times Square postcard. To wit:
      Brownstones, water towers, trees, skyscrapers
      Writers, prize fighters and Wall Street traders
      We come together on the subway cars
      Diversity unified, whoever you are
      We're doing fine on the One and Nine line
      On the L we're doin' swell
      On the number Ten bus we fight and fuss
      'Cause we're thorough in the boroughs and that's a must - "Open Letter to NYC"
    "On the L, we're doing swell?" Are you fucking serious? That's the BEST thing you can come up with? Putting that aside even, this is a portrait of NYC that seems to me incredibly superficial - I could spend a few hours watching Law and Order and manage to come up with a vision of Manhattan that's comparable to this. Can me demanding but I want something deeper, something more heartfelt, something that says, "goddamn, I love this fucking city forever and let me put my heart into it." This reads rote and maybe that's just a reflection of the Beasties' historically limited lyrical skills but while rock lyrics are historically insipid, hip-hop fans have every right to want just a lil' more effort.

    Second of all, the music on this album is rather one-note and while I don't think it's terrible production, it does get tiring to hear 16 tracks of minimalist, old school-inspired, electro-fuzz. There are some genuine points of sonic excitement - I really love the energy and simplicity of tracks like "Ch-Ch-Check It Out," "3 The Hard Way" and "The Brouhaha" but almost all the songs on the LP are variations on the same theme and the formula wears thin quickly. This was the biggest surprise to me: the Beasties have always been incredibly forward-looking with their music (well, at least post-Rick Rubin) and I thought Hello Nasty was brilliantly inventive. This album, especially considering the intervening six years, is unimaginative and repetitive at too many points. And not to pick on this song, but "Triple Double" gets a special demerit for reuising, for the umpteenth time, the "Rapper's Delight" beat (aka "Good Times") without doing anything to it at all. They get detention and are forced to listen to Joe Budden's "Body Hot" 100 times (which uses the same beat but chops it up something lovely). (Just to note too: Mixmaster Mike gets wasted on this album. For such an "old school" ode, there's very little scratching save "3 The Hard Way."

    Despite all this, I still think the album is likable. I don't hate it, I don't think it's total shite, but it is, by far, the worst album this group has ever released and a major disappointment after a six year hiatus.

    Friday, June 18, 2004


    ya playin ya'self

    I don't know if this is a national trend but mini-motorcycles are all over San Francisco. You hear them before you see them: their motors make as much noise as a full-size chopper, only that their high-pitched engine is far, far more annoying. It's like that whiny student who sat next to you in 4th grade and annoyed everyone incessently. The thing is: they're not supposed to be on public streets but that hasn't stopped a conspicious number of folks from driving these suckers up and down the street or on the sidewalk. And I'm not talking about 13 year old...I'm talking about grown-ass men.

    For one thing, considering that these suckers can normally get up to 30-35mph, it's not like some kid running into you on a tricycle. Any accident on this is likely to put one hell of a hurting on you. But more to the point, grown-ass adults riding a mini-cycle are toys. They couldn't look more immature than if they sported diapers in public. Seriously...there is something laughable about seeing a 225lb. man squatting on top of this tiny bike, zipping around with an ice grill like they're the baddest racer this side of Michael Schumaker. Nah man, you're just providing entertainment for everyone else around you as they watch you make an ass out of yourself. Then again, maybe these dudes just want to feel something powerful between their legs, know what I mean?

  • Speaking of thugs acting dumb: 1) Don't start beef with 50 Cent (just ask Ja Rule). 2) If you're going to start beef with 50 Cent, you better be thuggin' it out with a better name than Bang 'Em Smurf. Worst rapper name since Vanilla Ice.

  • "So THAT'S how they got the video to look so realistic..." Officials admit rapper made video in jail.

  • Unbelievably, a bunch of folks must have been paid for this: Mitsubishi introduces a virtual aquarium, since...you know...real fish are so difficult to care for.
    (credit: Engadget.com)

  • Nas' new video for "Thief's Theme. His songs can be hit and miss but I'm not mad at dude's videos.
    (credit: Government Names)

  • Not all Americans hate the French. Private donors over here helped raise the millions to repair the fountains at Versailles.Why no French millionaries kicked down some money?

  • Dressman. It's a self-ironing machine. I SO need this.

  • Holy mother of god...Forbes ranks William Hung the 96th most powerful person in showbiz, putting him one step ahead of...Lindsay Lohan (and dude doesn't even rock a D-cup).

          he's got the power


    now that's a dirty mouth

    Our good friend Tommy Tompkins points out on his blog that I have an inconsistent relationship with profanity on this site and he's mostly right. I have a habit, like I did with a recent post, to use asteriks to partially censor foul language, such as writing sh*t or f*** or "die you motherf***ing c***sucker."

    Tommy actually has it wrong when he says that I won't swear. I swear all the goddamn fucking time (strangely, even more after watching Deadwood...connection?) as anyone outside of my parents and professors can attest to. I like swearing - I'm all with the Bono rule: i.e. saying something is fucking brilliant is an emotional expression rather than an endorsement of fornication (though frankly, what's wrong with that?)

    The main thing is that I just don't like the way profanity looks on the page. Most profanity is meant to be equated with coarseness and ugliness, at least in terms of how we're socialized to treat it and for me, I can't help but cringe when I write out a word like "fuck." Maybe it's that "ck" combo but the word just looks ugly to me, as does "cunt", "cock", and a lot of other words that will make the FCC very mad at you. ("Shit" I have fewer problems with. Shit, shit, shit. See? "Bitch" I'm not crazy about and I never use "fag" or "nigger/nigga" unless I'm quoting.)

    I admit, it is a little strange and I've gotten razzed by some of my friends about it (like Tommy) for self-censoring in print. I do think it says something about language and how the physical depiction of a word is still different than its acoustic properties. As it is, I like the way "fuck'" sounds - hard, guttural and to-the-point - but I hate seeing it in my own writing (though I don't have a problem reading it in other people's writing). Maybe this is grade school guilt training kicking in, like the one time I used "shit" in an assignment because we were used to write a list of words that ended in "it" I'm still mad that I got in trouble for that, those motherfucking 2nd grade teachers. (See, I don't feel better writing it like that even though I have no qualms using the same term in speech).

    In any case, you might catch me slipping from time to time, but until then, you'll just have to deal with my f***ing PG-edit sh*t, ok c***suckers?

    Monday, June 14, 2004


    I smell Emmy

    All love to The Shield, which has had a masterful third season and sentimentally, Angel's swan song was bitter but sweet...but the best show this year has been HBO's Deadwood. If you don't get HBO, you can be forgiven for having missed it. If you DO get HBO and just chose not watch the show, the hell were you thinking? The Sopranos can take a long trip off a short Jersey pier: their season couldn't have been more listless but Deadwood has shown that HBO is still consistently killing network television in terms of inventiveness and quality. But whatever, blah blah blah, the show is kick ass, rent the DVD for Season 1 when it drops. Let me just get to what I really want to talk about:

    Ian McShane: The most compelling SOB to grace the TV screen (if not ever, then at least in recent memory). What's interesting about the evolution of his character Al Swearengen is that he started out as unabashedly evil but as the season has progressed, Swearengen hasn't gotten that much nicer but he's such an embodiment of Machiavellian perfection that you just have to marvel at it. He's not without his complexities; he's barely masking a Napolean complex of epic proportions, but he elevates cutthroat, backstabbing treachery into an artform (Karl Rove ain't nothing on him). Plus, compared to that two-faced dandy bastard Tolliver, Swearengen is just about the most charming guy you'll meet.

    Seth Bullock: Dude's got anger issues that make Tony Soprano look like he's freebasing prozac. And frankly, his character has gotten less interesting as the season progresses as his rage-a-holic side emerges. BUT, no one walks across the street with more of a mean-mugging, don't-even-think-of-fucking-with-me focus. Plus, he's singlehandedly bringing back the whole 3-piece suit with hat and boots look (but only if you have a big mustache).

    Calamity Jane: Hey! What happened to her? She's the best female character on there (no offense to Alma, Trixie or Joanie but ya'll ain't got dick on Jane) but she's disappeared the last few episodes. What gives?

    E.B. Farnum: The new golden standard in snivelling worm. God bless him.

    Doc Cochran: Sure, he's drunk half the time but doc has heart.

    Jewel: Who knew that, after all these years, Geri Jewell would have a tv career again. No sarcasm here, I'm really happy to see Cousin Geri back in action, MS and all.

    Mr. Wu: For real though, how come Keane Young doesn't get cast credit at HBO? Can a celestial not eat up in here? Who else you gonna call when you need some bodies turned into pork fodder? Mr Wu! That's who. (It's nice to see a tv show that doesn't stereotype Chinese as laundrymen and...oh, wait. Nevermind.)

    By the way, Superstar USA were Grade A wussies in the final episode. They went this far to humiliate all these folks but they don't have the guts to actually pull the trigger. Weak.

    Mario is still the MFin' man though. Straight Hungian.

  • This new Ol Dirty Bastard/Macy Gray song, a cover of Elton John and Kiki Dee's hit duet "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," is so unbelievably bad, is such unfathomable dreck, is so remarkably horrid that 1) it must either be a brilliant joke that Roc-A-Fella is perpetuating on the world or 2) proof that Jay Z is a goddamn genius for selling his share of the label to Dame and signing to Aftermath.

    I previously thought that ODB could go no lower than that bullshit "Ghetto Superstar" he did with Pras and Mya (seriously, how much worse can you get than doing a hip-hop cover of "Islands in the Stream" but clearly, Big Baby Jesus found a new level of badness to plumb. The thing is...the song's so bad, it's good. Instant classic good. Years from now, this will find its way onto a random mix-iRioNokiaPodDVD and people will marvel at the sheer wackness of it, as if the song was recorded while Venus was in alignment with Jupiter's 3rd moon. Or maybe it's just that Dirty fell off the wagon and took Macy with him. Whatever's clever.

  • Last time it the Exorcist. This time around, it's The Titanic in 30 seconds. Performed by bunnies.

  • Sometimes, you can't invent a story this good.
    (credit: Intellectual Hip Hop Commentary)

  • My man Jon C can't be stopped. Here's his review of the recent NYC Summer Jam. You can't mess with a line like this: "Mid-bill snoozer Alicia Keys, taking an L in exchange for a street-cred re-up, put zero and zero together and realized her 30 minutes were less well served as an opportunity for snack service than as a view to the ill."

  • What? The Source in trouble? Imagine that.

  • Milk-snortingingly funny review of the new Harry Potter film (no spoilers) by Junichi Semitsu.

  • Thursday, June 10, 2004



    ""What is a soul? It's like electricity - we don't really know what it is, but it's a force that can light a room."

    "I never wanted to be famous; I only wanted to be great."

    And not by him but about him:
    "God is love.
    Love is blind.
    Ray Charles is blind.
    Therefore, Ray Charles is God." - Troy Witte


  • The Onion on Cinema's Least Erotic Moments

  • Only in New York: single men trying to make a good impression on women can now hire a "wingwoman" for a mere $50/hour. Um...wouldn't it be easier to simply MAKE a female friend? It's not that hard. Really.
    (credit for both: whatevs)

  • Nelson George gets his blog on.

  • A Million Love Songs audioblog. I like this in concept but I can't tell if these are supposed to be a million good songs since, well, the inclusion of Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" and TNKOTB's cover of "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time" sort of kills that possibility.

  • File this under "one hit wonders": Double XX Posse's "Not Going To Be Able To Do It". Illest bassline ever.
    (credit: Cocaine Blunts & Hip Hop Tapes)

  • As if pop couldn't get more hook-heavy: Smart music system skips to chorus.
    (credit: SF/J)

  • Yeah, but can you scratch with this? Old records saved by particle physics.
    (credit: Sharon Mizota)

  • Speaking of mixtapes, I find the remix of Jay Z's "Moment of Clarity” off his S. Carter - The Remix CD to be the hotness.

  • Last but never least, Will Hung rolls with a crew:

    (credit: Angry Asian Man)

  • Tuesday, June 08, 2004


  • AOL Web Search: Results for "Lil' Romeo has a crush on Sasha"
  • AOL Web Search: Results for "shaolin daily log"
  • Google Search: penis size of filipinos vs. chinese
  • Google Search: mean asian girl t-shirt
  • Google Search: steel toed crazy horse
  • Google Search: suffer fools lightly?
  • Google Search: piano notes eye of the tiger
  • Google Search: woman cleavage lakers game 1 detroit
  • Google Search: first-date conversation killers
  • Google Search: werewolf my slave

  • Monday, June 07, 2004


    Far be it from me to say that the album is dead and that only mixtapes/CDs are where the really real realness is at but you know...it kind of feels like that these days. Here's a few Pop Life has been enjoying:

    DJ Nu-Mark: Hands On

    Appearing on Sequence, this mix-CD finally gives Jurassic 5's other talent some of the shine he deserves. Nu-Mark has been one of the West Coast's most unsung talents and this summer should help put things back into perspective through his upcoming Blendcrafters EP and this Hands On mix. Apart from kicking off with some tasty funk selections, my favorite section comes in the middle where Nu-Mark mixes up hip-hop intros and interludes from Group Home, Organized Konfusion, and others. It's brilliant and inventive (and kind of makes me wish I had thought of it first). Plus, Nu finds a selection of int'l hip-hop that doesn't suck. Amazing.

    Cut Chemist: The Litmus Test

    As for Nu-Mark's J5 partner, Cut Chemist finally gives us something to chew on considering that his long-awaited full-length solo won't be out until 2005 (yeah, you heard right). The Litmus Test is fantastic as Cut revisits and remixes many of his classics: "Lesson 6," "The Number Song," "Bunky's Pick," plus a slew of J5 hits like "Jayou," and "A Day At the Races." Though you know Cut probably labored on this, The Litmus Test takes off at such a fast and furious pace that it feels like he just whipped it out on a whim. The Groove Merchant's Cool Chris put me up on one of the mixes' best parts - at the end, Cut reworks the "Quality Control" beat (Blowfly in the house!) and then drops on an acapella rhyme from Superlover Cee (taken live off a Red Alert show I believe). Dumb hot.

    DJ Shortkut: Rekonstrukted Elements

    Short's ode to hip-hop samples first dropped in the late '90s and became a cult hit (along with Cut Chemist's Rare Elements and J-Rocc's Live From the Sex Machine tapes). On it, he revisits the glory era of the early '90s and jumps between classic tracks from the Hieroglyphics, Native Tongues, Brand Nubian, etc. and then the OG samples they use. The concept isn't new and has since been duplicated ad nauseum by hordes of wanna-be digging jocks but what makes Rekonistruked work is Short's unmatched skills. There's no MPC loops here: everything you hear is rekonstrukted by hand. At an hour long, he must go through nearly 100 songs: play "name a sample" with your friends and see who wins. (Note: the CD version of this will drop later this summer with liner notes by yours truly)

    DJ Ayres: Flashbacks

    My man Cosmo Baker from Illy Philly hepped me to this mix-CD by his man Ayres. Flash-Back is a blend tape but not the same ol let-me-put-a-Jay-Z-verse-over-the-"Tipsy-beat. Instead, Ayres is all about making connections between songs, mixing, for example, from Ice T to Jay-Z, linking the two by the "I got 99 problems but a bitch ain't one" hook (yeah dudes, Jay-Z didn't invent that, sorry) or jumping between Black Star's (remember them?) "Definition" and BDP's "Superhoe." Again - it's not necessarily a new idea, but executed super clean and better yet, just remind you how good hip-hop has been over the years. Take a trip back with Ayres.

    Sunday, June 06, 2004

    THE 900 MEGAPIXEL CAMERA (not yet available on a cell phone)

    1,000 words...2,800,000,000 bytes

    Sharon brought this to my attention but in last month's issue of I.D. (International Design), they profile photographer Clifford Ross who has assembled a film camera capable of taking a picture at approximately 900 megapixels of resolution. Dubbed the "R1", it is presumably the most powerful film camera ever built (black ops government models notwithstanding). I don't know why I find this so fascinating but as an amateur photography fan, the idea of being able to take a picture with that much detail (and Ross built the R1 himself from decidedly old fashioned tech) is an impressive feat, no doubt. Of course, at 2.8 gigabytes in size for each image, it's not exactly something you can expect Canon to adapt into a Powershot anytime soon.


    looking for fans

    Either Superstar USA isn't getting enough media coverage or Pop Life is getting too much (I prefer to go with the latter), but my two, brief comments on Superstar aspirant Nina Diva have managed to get back to the Diva herself. She wrote me an email today outlining the ways that the WB messed with her image (surprise, surprise) and why we (that's not the royal "we," I just mean people in general) should get behind this Asian sistah as she tries to conquer the entertainment industry. Given that she actually does sing and dance better than William Hung at the very least, I figured we could at least hear her out.
      Dear Oliver,

      I just happened upon your commentary.

      First of all, with a show like Superstar USA-- haven't you read their disclaimers at the end of the show?

      Second-- remember that Hollywood is about ratings, and yes, a lot of editing to fit their show concepts.

      3rd. I truly thought this was a talent contest for a 50,000 recording contract. Your Asian sista here was tired of payin for everything herself with debts galore-- can you relate?

      4th I have made a living as a professional singer dancer actor for the last 10 years with invites into Actors Equity Association and Screen Actors Guild-- plus I even have a college degree-- imagine that!

      5th -- at an audition-- professional performers follow directions within reason to get the part. They asked me to kick a lot so I did-- they encouraged a lot of what was edited nicely to fit the show concept-- do you get it yet?

      6th Yes I am a positive person and very upbeat-- just make sure to get the facts or meet me in REAL Life before you make a judgement ok?

      7th During the performances for the panel in LA -- the nice WB wardrobe team gave our costumes-- imagine that

      8th I really hope you take time to support your Asian American sista-- I've been working really hard just to have someone's cruel hoax bring me down.

      Peace bro.

      p.s. when I produced, cast, choreographed, directed, costumed, and performed in my music video-- my awesome cast and friends dubbed me Nina Diva because I am so ambitious and bring light and positivity into a room wherever I go. The name stuck and actually works in brand marketing because people remember it. That is priceless.
    (Back to Nina: I feel you girl, but I have to insist that referring to oneself in the third person is still wacky. Sorry!)


    Some new reading material for ya'll:

    Junichi Semitsu's The Pnut House.
    I've known Junichi for over 10 years now (damn!) and he is, without question, one of the most naturally gifted comic talents I know. But besides being funny as hell, he's also shouldered the weight of taking over the late June Jordan's long-running Poetry for the People program at UC Berkeley as well as teaching classes on race and the law at Boalt Law School. His Pnut House blog already opens up nicely with a run-down for Junichi's brush with reality show fame (dude - you should holler at Nina Diva and collabo, for real) as well as political cartoons he's feeling.

    Tom Tompkins' Extreme Measures
    I've known Tommy for probably about 10 years as well (damn!) since he's been my editor at the SF Bay Guadian. He also writes as much as he edits though, with an on-again, off-again arts column at the Guardian, not to mention weekly music reviews or features. Now he's blogging, writing about everything from his years as a cabbie in S.F., to the strange life of a critic to his heady days as a cultural revolutionary from the L.I.

    B. Ruby Rich
    Ok, so Ruby doesn't have a blog...but she ought to. Not only is she one of the most incisive critics on film and politics I know, but she can also be gut-bustingly witty. Read this recent, massive diary she kept about her experience at the Cannes Film Festival. She's got blogger-in-training written all over her. Go for it, B!

    Saturday, June 05, 2004


    And coming soon...

    Friday, June 04, 2004


    they'll all get sliced and diced/competition's paying the price

    Forget Kill Bill and The Last Samurai: this summer's cutting edge entertainment (ha ha) comes with Beat Takeshi's new Zatoichi. Sharon reviews it for Popmatters.com.

    Thursday, June 03, 2004


    Normally, bloggers blogging about blogging can seem so insular that it turns your mind inside out, the internet equivalent to drawing a tesseract. However, I've always been of the mind that tensions in one area of society, even one as small and arguably fringe as the blogosphere, tend to reflect or impact on others. Blogs are neither wholly mirror or hammer but this medium is fundamentally (I'd hope at least) about dialogue with other communities even when it seems like we're just hollerating at one another.

    When I originally posted up my No Mo No Homo entry, I wasn't trying to call out anyone in particular. My point was that the practice has become so pervasive on the internet, that it's beyond just putting individuals on blast for doing it. In other words, I was hating the game, not the players. Not surprisingly though, some people have taken offense, or to be more exact, have gone on the defensive, including the delightfully contrarian Bol @ Byroncrawford.com and Matt @ 1115.com, not to mention people who replied in the comments section of the posting.

    My original point was pretty clear: the practice comes off as juvenile and homophobic EVEN if you have the best of intentions (i.e. making Killa Cam look like an idiot, which, really ya'll, isn't that hard to do - he's going to hang himself with his own rope without any outside help needed). If you disagree with that, that's on you. I'm not going to stop thinking it's stupid but I'm definitely not going to start up a "No Homo" watch and post up a list of violators. As Matt reminds us, there are infinitely bigger enemies out there to go after - forget (no homo), people really need to start posting up (no bush). I'm not trying to escalate this anymore than it needs to.

    However (ya'll saw that coming, right?), I do get rather eye-rolly at folks who, in trying to explain their use of language, pull out the weakest rhetorical card in the deck: No P.C.

    As a term "political correctness," is without doubt, one of the most genius covert operations that the Right ever pulled off in the 1980s - forget Iran-Contra. Is it any coincidence that back when people were just beginning to take language seriously - passing legislation banning hate speech, recognizing the political power of words, etc. - that P.C. came into vogue as a way to ridicule and belittle those attempts? Believe me, I'm not saying that the Left hasn't gone overboard with how they police language and intellectual content (I've spent 12 years at UC Berkeley, ok? I'm on the frontlines of rampant intellectual activism).

    But what the Right managed to do was create a term that became both so popular and pejorative that it made people run in fear whenever they whipped it out. P.C. became the label no one wanted slapped on them and in a sense, the Left screwed up in not realizing that they were losing the war on rhetoric and allowed P.C. to become so powerfully disarming. It didn't matter how important the issue was: making historical textbooks for students more accurate and honest for example - the moment someone said, "that's P.C.!" it was like stitching the Scarlet Letter on. Suddenly, people found that they had to spend an inordinate amount of time proving they were NOT being P.C. in order to make their issues heard. It's like intellectual filibustering but what's so brilliant is that the term does all the work for you.
    (By the way, if you want to see the anti-P.C. brigade exposed for exactly what they are, read this. According to them, it's all the Jews' fault. This forum is like AM talk radio masquerading as high-brow intellectualism.)

    This is all a long-winded way of saying that playing the P.C. card = weak sauce. To defend the use of speech by claiming that you're too busy to be P.C. ironically means admitting that you're lazy enough to use "no P.C." to begin with. If people want to use (no homo) in their posts, then they should do it without having to defend/explain themselves. I certainly wasn't suggesting anything otherwise. But for the love of god, don't resurrect this P.C. nonsense. Political correctness, as a cheap shot rhetorical device, deserves to stay where it died - in the 1990s, along with acid wash jeans, Sonic Youth and Bush presidencies.

    If you don't feel like you're doing anything wrong, then just say that. But own your words, no matter what you do. Especially in this insane blogosphere we've created amongst ourselves, words are all we have. (Ok,that and scary amounts of pictures of Lindsay Lohan's cleavage).

    Wednesday, June 02, 2004


    Tunes From Blackness: Getting the Story Behind Sweetback's Sweet Song

    Sssssongs to Live By: The Blaxploitation Beginner's Guide
    (both appearing in the SF Bay Guardian, 6/2/04)


    Not only is this one of the best examples of music criticism I've read on a blog of late, it's just a great piece of thinking about music, period - regardless of medium. Abstract Dynamics muses on Ghostface's Pretty Toney album - an album he found lacking - and surmises that what we have here is a CD that is decidedly less exciting than Ghost's mixtape cuts. Many of you have, for example, heard "Beatles," "The Sun," "The Watch," etc. - all songs that Ghost left off his current and previous albums because of sample clearance issues (though that didn't stop the bootleggers from white-labelling them joints, god bless 'em). AD's William Blaze suggests that this built a false expectation from the audience, all of whom wanted Pretty Toney to come stack with heaters like those but instead ended up with whatever Def Jam's legal department was willing to pay for. Blaze nails this brilliant idea home at the end:

      "Instead of representing the cream of an artists output, it becomes the repository of their detritus, a legal document filled with legal music in an illegal world. With Ghostface we can see glimmers of the legal cd transforming into a vestigial organ. A ritualize release that has little to do with the real flow of music. The tension that once existed with a new release is gone. Once people waited in anticipation to hear what their favorite artists had created. Now the songs filter in through the internet, arriving often with surprise, not anticipation. The songs streaming through the internet, or the black market mix tape network, often fail to reach a proper major label cd, but they don't fail to reach the fans. And with each release the major labels fall behind both in terms of release dates (a major label cd is always stale), and legality. In a move perhaps learned from internet engineers, culture is routing around the obstacles of law."

    This is something worth thinking about, especially as mixtapes have gone from being the pariahs of the music industry to the illegitimate sibling you're not supposed to know about but love all the same. I can't tell you how many "promo mix-CDs" I've received to help stir buzz on upcoming projects (many undeserving but that never changes) but in many cases, what you hear then is not what you'll get now. (Kanye West is a great example of this since he released practically 10 CDs worth of material leading up to College Dropout, much of which has now been bootlegged onto five separate 12"s. Holla at Turntable Lab.com and act like you knew.

    What Blaze is talking about though isn't necessarily the industry of mixtapes but how the culture of music has had to respond to them. While his observations about Ghost's new LP may only be a prediction at this point, I think he's onto something here: from the educated consumer's p.o.v., if your "real" album isn't as hot as the shit you leaked beforehand, why should we care at all? Artists might develop some nice buzz but a lackluster album is sure to kill that high quickly.

    For the record - I thought Pretty Toney was excellent even without the songs I heard beforehand. I'm agreeing with Blaze in principle but not necessarily over this LP specifically.
    (credit: catchdubsdotcom)


    Thank god for TIVO. I finally caught the first episode of this Mandarin-language reality show that pits four teams of Chinese players against each other on an extended road trip from Boston to Florida (I forget which city). The show is pretty low-budget (hey, Mark Burnett ain't producing this sucker) and not exactly super-creative - the first challenge is a relay race. Yaaaaawn.

    However, Quest USA is not without its points in interest. One is over language. The entire show takes place in Mandarin (though everything is subtitled in English - good move) and that means Team Hong Kong had to find three folks from HK who knew enough Mandarin to get by on the show. This may make no difference to those who can't speak either but it is telling how the politics of language play out. In China, this gets played out in complex detail with nothing short of national identity on the line. I've had people tell me that those who only speak Cantonese aren't "really Chinese" even though they number in the tens (if not hundreds) of millions. For Quest USA, picking what language to present in is therefore not just a question of efficiency but also politics.

    The other observation is that if you watch enough American reality shows, you'll notice how different Chinese cultural humor is by comparison. I can't adequately explain it right now, but there's a built-in tendency towards camp that you see in Chinese entertainment that just is not present in the same ways in America. For the Chinese viewer, these jokes are familiar as hell - at one point, host David Wu (Wu Da Wei) reveals that Reebok has donated shoes for the relay race and he quips something like, "their genorosity brings me to tears," - a joke that you'd never hear Ryan Seacrest or Burnett making yet it's perfectly at home for a Chinese show.

    Anyways, I'll see what this show has to offer but so far, it's mostly been melodramatic whining - this isn't a bad thing per se, but again, it's "very Chinese."


  • Upgrade: The Shield: This show is consitent all season long yet they still manage to ramp things up for the end of the season. The Armenian mob comes looking for payback, with a vengeance. This show couldn’t be more on fire if was doused in kerosone and had a big wick stuck in it.

  • Upgrade: Superstar USA: Still very evil. Still a riot. Rosa and Jamie are emerging as the front-runners by taking bad singing to new levels.

    Mario continues to prove he’s just John Stevens without the red hair. Tamra reminds me of some students I’ve had in class - half-asleep and disinterested. Her voice is terrible, sure, but it’s not enough to be laconic and bad...you have to really make people FEEL the badness, ym?

    Jojo isn’t terrible but the fact that he refers to himself in the third person earns him extra points for suckiness. As for Nina Diva...she’s straight off the hook. Makes me rethink all the bad things I’ve ever said about Koreans. This said, she’s like that crazy aunt you don’t mind visiting but who always kind of creeps you out. She’s another one who really needs to stop referring to herself in the third person.

  • Speaking of bad singing, our favorite boy William Hung is still doing his thing, straight gangsta: Hung Butchers 'Take Me Out to Ball Game’. Blasphemy perhaps but peep: dude sold 100,000 albums. Take that Coco Lee!
    (credit: angry asian man)

  • And just one more tune from the API side: ”You Got Beef?”. Moral? Don’t mess with Viet Gs. I’m straight scurred.

  • Something serious: 11 year old Japanese student slashes classmate's throat, lets her bleed to death. Damn.
    (credit: Sharon Mizota)

  • Something not so serious: Soy sauce made from hair? Let me speak for everyone: yuck.
    (credit: catchdubsdotcom)