Friday, July 30, 2004

(by Oliver)


wait for the phat farm jumpsuit

  • Baby Phat's Kimora Lee (aka Russell Simmons' wife) might be a diva-supreme but you can't front on how she cheeses up her mugshot like it's a fashion shoot.

  • "Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empircal Study". Chew on this - in measuring people's happiness, UK researchers have determined that 1) more money does NOT equal more sex and 2) more sex makes people happier than more money. If you go from having sex once a month, to once a week, that's equal to a jump of $50,000/year in income, at least on a happiness level. So...if that means you're having sex daily, do you feel like a millionaire?

  • "120,000 paws" and rising.

  • ESPN's Vengeance Scale. My only beef is the Count of Monte Cristo, on a scale of 1-10, is pretty much 11 when it comes to stone cold vengeance. And where is The One-Armed Swordsman up on hurr? That was one mad cat too.
    (credit: Catchdubs)

  • Tired of spam? So is's J-Smooth who straight up banned the Alchemist from his site for using "blog comment spam". Let the battles begin.

  • Speaking of which, all is not friendly in Harlem World. Dipset and Mase got beef. Listening to Camron talk shit is a source of endless entertainment. He's like an entire barbershop rolled up into a single person.
    (credit: Royal Magazine)

  • Thursday, July 29, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    If you're new to Pop Life or just haven't checked our sister site in a while, Soul Sides is top rankin' right now, especially with a new library of 250 excellent soul and funk songs now at our disposal. We've also moved (a little bit) to:

    Come on over when you're done here.

    Wednesday, July 28, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    6.25 %

    My weblog owns 6.25 % of me.
    Does your weblog own you?

    Only 6.25%? Ha - see, I not dirty blog junkie!

    Tuesday, July 27, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    An anonymous (read: cowardly) poster from Boston left this comment for the posting regarding the recent fight between white Southies and Boston Asians that left a Vietnamese youth dead:
      "Although it is sorry that a kid died, hopefully someone learned something from this bullshit kiddie fight. I hope those asians learned to respect girls and not to fuck with Southie. These kids went out of their way to go to another community looking for trouble. It is not smart to do that in Southie. Southie people are raised to have a shit load of pride in their community and loved ones. Southie folk are very protective of their nieghborhood( A characteristic that the U.S. is losing due to racial blending). If The Asian kids didn't want their friend to die they should never of left their block."

    This is not a unique view. I remember hearing similar arguments when Bensonhurt youth killed Yusef Hawkins in 1989. It was a bullshit argument then and it is now. Basically, this poster is defending racism by saying that it's ok to kill someone for crossing into your neighborhood. No wonder people call Boston the most racist city in America: if this person is any indication, it clearly seems to be a continued hotbed for ignorance.


    Ok, let me chime back with something. Jeff offered this food for thought: "what happens when you replace white with black and southie with bayview/hunter's point?"

    Just to lend some context, Bayview/Hunter's Point is a traditionally black neighborhood in San Francisco and, like South Boston, has been disproportionately affected by economic deindustrialization over the last 30 years. Also like Southie, BVHP has the reputation of being the type of neighborhood "you wouldn't want to go into if you're not from there."

    One of Jeff's points in raising this query is that he's wary of the impulse towards nationalism, that it becomes "them vs. us" and this has not been my point at all. I stated, quite plainly, that there is a very ignorant, kneejerk reaction within me to want to start shouting "race war! race war!" from the rooftops but I'm not remotely agitating or advocating for that.

    This said, what I don't understand is this argument that some have pulled out that the Asian youth involved "went to Southie looking for trouble." This incident, according the news reports I've read, was initially sparked by a Vietnamese girl getting jumped by white girls in Southie; then there was a retaliation attack by Asian teens on a white girl and then this all lead to the showdown in McCormack. This is not the equivalent of Ulster Loyalists marching into a Catholic neighborhood in Northern Ireland. People are making it sound as if Asian kids from Dorchester and East Boston are invading Southie. Sounds to me, if anyone's invading Southie, it's the forces of gentrification, including by local politicians and developers. If Southies are so protective of "neighborhood character," it seems to me they'd be out firebombing Starbucks rather than picking on South East Asian teens.

    Let's also just look at the numbers: Southie lost 2800 white residents b/t 1990 and 2000 but the neighborhood is still 84.5% white, making it one of the least racially diverse neighborhoods in Boston. Hardly sounds like a neighborhood whose character is being radically changed by ethnic influx. I'm not disagreeing that South Boston probably was made to bear the brunt of integration plans in the 1970s, an idea where, nationally, execution rarely lived up to its principle and in many places, didn't improve educational opportunities for anyone. But I'm not understanding how that connects with a convincing argument or evidence that Southies have a legitimate right to harass or attack "outsiders" who cross into their 'hood. Local media has noted that relations in the area have largely been improving prior to this incident so I don't get this "we're trying to protect our neighborhood" bullshit that others are selling.

    As for Jeff's original question: it wouldn't make a huge difference to me what the make-up of the neighborhood is. If a Vietnamese youth had been killed in a racially tinged brawl that went down in Roxbury - or BVHP for that matter - I wouldn't find it any less problematic, nor would I be more willing to accept the idea that these youth somehow "deserved" their fate for daring to cross the tracks and go into another neighborhood.

    By the way, speaking of South Boston, Susan Orlean wrote an article about the changing face of "The Town". I wonder what Orlean would think of this recent conflict: her portrait seems to suggest that most of the racist elements in South Boston simply moved out following mandatory school busing in the 1970s...but she doesn't really talk about who was left behind and what kind of tensions still linger (clearly, enough do).

    Monday, July 26, 2004


    (by Oliver)

    "What's Good Oliver,

    My name is Mike *** and I'm emailing you asking for some advice. I'm an aspiring Hip-Hop Journalist and what to ask you what's the best way to go about getting into it either full-time or as a freelancer? Could formal training like a Master's in Journalism be profitable to pursue on top of whatever your undergraduate degree is? I currently write for a Hip-Hop magazine called ***, so that gig among others is helping build up my portfolio as I continue to strengthen my craft. Any help and or advice would really be appreciated.

    Just to give a little background, I field questions like this at least once every few months and I realized that after retyping the same response every time, creating a posting would be a little more permanent. Keep in mind: this is just based on my experience which is limited at best. I don't claim to be an expert (I just act like one!) so just take this all with a grain of salt and always seek out other opinions too. If some of my colleagues out there want to chime in, please do. With that said...

      Thanks for writing. To answer your questions out of order, a degree from J-School can't hurt. At the very least, it will give you good training and practice to write often. I'm of the firm belief that constant practice is essential to writing better so if a course forces you to do so, that will help. BUT, J-School isn't a prerequisite to becoming a music critic: in fact, none of the writers I know (myself included) ever went to J-School and that hasn't seemed to limit any of us. Most editors in the music publications world could probably care less if you had formal training. J-School is better suited to working at a daily newspaper and the ways in which they teach you to write efficiently and economically are great skills but writing for magazines or other publications outside of the daily realm will require other skill-sets that journalism classes won't necessarily teach you. Short answer: it won't hurt you but you don't need it to write.

      As for "how do you become a freelancer"? You're doing it already, you have the right things in mind, starting with building a clip portfolio. The "stature" of the publication isn't exactly irrelevant, but in my opinion, at this stage of your career, a clip is a clip and it's all useful for you to build your pitches. When it comes time to approach a new publication, be it print or internet or whatever, just remember to be persistent but not nagging.

      Editors are not god-like figures, sitting behind a golden desk, dispensing assignments like blessings. They're like you or me: harried, stressed, and most of all: forgetful. I used to think my editor had a grudge against me if I didn't hear back from them within, like, an hour of sending a pitch via email. Then I became an editor and learned the truth: I got other things to do than be on my writer's schedule. But if someone carefully reminds me, I'll be more likely to remember their pitch and more likely to assign it to them. Like I said, I can't speak for every editor out there: many of them operate in ways that make no logical sense to me and I'm sure I've come off just as cryptically to my writers.

      Here's the main advice I give every aspiring writer who asks: just ask for an opportunity. When I first started out freelancing, back in the mid-90s, I probably got around 80-90% of my gigs simply by asking for a chance. This won't work everywhere: it's probably not that easy to cold call Rolling Stone and try to get the lead review for the next issue, but you'd be surprised how far a good pitch and a little bit of persistence will get you. I had the fear, early in my career, that I "wasn't ready" and therefore, shouldn't pitch some places until I had more clips but I realize, in hindsight, those opportunities would have been available to me if I had simply made the effort to ask. Remember: in this game, people NEED your content - the turnover among freelancers is enormous so if you're just willing to slug it out, you'll do ok.

      As for being ready, sometimes, there's nothing to it but to do it. The sink or swim challenge isn't easy but it's effective in terms of pushing yourself to improve. It's better to take the chance then waiting in the wings. The desire to want to write is as important as the ability to write.

    Sunday, July 25, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Sure, they're up 8 1/2 7 1/2 but don't the Yanks know not to throwdown with the Sox?

    Did they learn nothing from this?

    And please, write your own caption for this:

    Saturday, July 24, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Can I get a witness? All Music Guide's new format is the design equivalent of New Coke or the Chevy Nova (aka "no go" en espanol). Not only is it incredibly inefficient with its new, tab-oriented layout, but this registration requirement doesn't auto-login in some browsers (Safari for example) and even when you do, it bumps you back to the homepage rather than allowing you to continue from where you left off.


    Seriously, someone at AMG should have remembered the old adage of "if it ain't broke..." I don't mind registering and logging in if that means everything will run more efficiently but instead of making navigation easier, AMG has managed to make it much, much more trouble. As someone who probably uses the site at least once per day, it's just a huge hassle and frankly, if someone comes out with an alternative database, I'll switch over in a heartbeat.

    Friday, July 23, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Today's Boston Globe reports that an arrest has been made in the murder of a young Vietnamese teenager in Boston, who was killed in a white/Asian brawl a few weeks back. As this story has been developing, it now that seems that this tension might date back to an earlier incident where a Vietnamese girl was attacked by white youth and in turn, a white girl was attacked in retaliation. It's hard to tell if Bang Mai's death will help sober up both sides or instead, lead into a further spiralling of tensions.

    I have to say - and this completely ignorant to suggest - but part of wishes the shit would just jump-off, and for once, someone besides us could feel scared and intimidated but of course, in these kind of situations, people of color are always the ones who get fucked up in the end. It's just that inner rage begs for release at times.

    Speaking of which, how infuriating is columnist Annie Jacobsen? She wrote for about an encounter with a band of "Middle Eastern" musicians on a plane, and pens one of the most inane defenses of racial paranoia that I've ever seen in the last 50 years. I can't even, in good conscience, direct people to her ridiculous column but you can read how Salon destroys her entire argument (from there, you can link back to her writing if you're so inclined).

    I have to say: not only are her politics reprehensibly backwards (she's advocating that we should be racially profiling airline passengers, especially if they look like they're "Middle Eastern") but her arguments are so laughably dumb that they piss me off intellectually too. I mean, hey Annie: quoting Ann Coulter, even "for facts" is like quoting Michael Moore "for facts." You can't be naive enough to think that people won't read a political intent into your choice of sources.

    Annie has now made herself the hero of racists everywhere, especially those who spend their time listening to right-wing radio - congrats! That's got to be one feather in her career cap.

    But hey, it's not all bad. At least Urban Outfitters is now selling "Everyone loves an Asian Boy" tees.

    Wednesday, July 21, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    they wobble but they don't fall down

    Writing the following review of The Roots' Tipping Point was one of the hardest assignments I've had to manage in recent memory. It wasn't that I felt bad being so critical of the album: though I respect that others enjoyed the album, I found it to be disappointing (to say the least) and quite simply put: the worst album the Roots have ever produced. Some have argued that a mediocre Roots' album is better than most other rappers' good albums and I might have bought that argument a few years ago but really, I'm just tired of coming up with a "redeeming" compliment to say.

    The Roots' are grown - ?uestlove, more so than almost anyone else I know in the industry, takes feedback well. It's not like I expect him to agree with me - I doubt he'd ever put out something he was lukewarm about himself - but I think he's got thick enough skin to appreciate that some people won't like the album. What's interesting in looking at some of the other reviews out there is how split they are. This album, surprisingly more so than Phrenology, is really dividing the audience, including many people who genuinely like the Roots - such as me.

    See...the reason I had so much trouble writing about this album is because it's just so completely underwhelming. It's one thing to try to make a good album and fall short. But that's precisely why I really appreciated Phrenology and why I'm apparently one of thirteen people who actually thought Common's Electric Circus was pretty good (on the other hand, I really thought Kamaal the Abstract was terrible so I guess I don't like everything just because it's different). But to me, the Roots' competition isn't Beanie Siegel or Freeway. Who does Black Thought have to prove he can rhyme to? We know dude is nice. The question is what can these guys do that no one else can do? Outkast raised the bar on that issue and I thought the Roots were in a perfect position to step their game up to. It's not that they have to run with ''s just that if ANYONE in hip-hop is going to push the proverbial envelope, it's the Roots' ya'll.

    Instead, as I indicate below, The Tipping Point just never comes together as an album despite have some great songs ("Star," "Boom," "Outro," etc.). I wanted to love, even just like, this album but that moment never really happened. Thus we have:

    Appearing in the Village Voice, July 21.

      Off Balance

      Ovid got it wrong about Icarus. When the Roman poet immortalized the boy who flew too high, he meant to offer a cautionary tale against hubris. Generations have since assumed that Icarus fucked up by reaching too far, yet his fall became legend. No one paints frescoes about the flight of Daedalus, but his prodigal son drapes thousands of dorm rooms thanks to Matisse's Icarus. The real moral of the Icarus tale: Getting by is boring, but there is glory to be found in ambitious failure.

      The Roots' last album, 2002's Phrenology, enjoyed neither the critical nor the commercial success of 1999's Things Fall Apart, but at least it laid the group's ambitions bare. They had already certified their jazz chops with Organix (1993) and Do You Want More? (1995). Illadelph Halflife (1996) and Things Fall Apart established their lyrical superiority. With Phrenology, the group stopped obsessing over their legitimacy and instead leaped into the creative unknown. The confessional "Water" confronted a member's crack addiction. Their pairing with guitarist Cody ChestnuTT produced the rollicking "Seed (2.0)," a rock/rap hybrid that anticipated the craze that OutKast's "Hey Ya" rode. Even when the album wobbled, Phrenology suggested that the Roots were daring enough to try and fail—their boldness was the LP's strongest statement. With The Tipping Point, the group scampers in retreat toward functional street anthems and radio hits, their inventive spirit notably absent. For a group who can be so compelling when they aim high and fall short, an effort so squarely average is all the more disappointing.

      The Tipping Point begins auspiciously with the sublime "Star," opening with the analog crackle of Sly Stone's "Everybody Is a Star," then quickly stripping the sample into ribbons of ghostly voices and curling basslines. After Black Thought closes out his verses, the song licks a tab and morphs into a hazy interlude of philosophical waxings and hypnotic swirls. At this moment, anything and everything seem possible. But instead of stepping up, the Roots backslide with "I Don't Care," an aptly named song whose limp production and obligatory r&b jingle beg for your indifference.

      The transition between "Star" and "I Don't Care" is jarring, like accidentally switching discs on your CD changer. The Tipping Point spills over with this kind of incongruity, as if the Roots took two or three different albums in development and haphazardly stitched them together. Is this a Black Thought solo album? The group's lyrical leader explodes with spectacular vernacular on "Web" and "Boom," impersonating Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap to eerie perfection on the latter. Or is this ?uestlove's musical masterpiece? The drummer leads the band through two excellent covers, one of Boris Gardiner's funkae reggae classic "Melting Pot," while the "Outro" remakes George Kranz's Euro-disco smash "Din Daa Daa" into a drum scat demonstration. Or are the Roots trying to dish out radio hits? That might explain derivative piffle like the C-grade Timba-loops on "Duck Down" or "Why (What's Going On?)," a clone apparently spliced from Santana's Supernatural. For the first time in their long career, the Roots turn out less a cohesive album and more a collection of tracks in which nothing much makes sense: not the sequencing, not the concept, and definitely not the song selection.

      Considering how often former tour-mates the Roots and OutKast are compared, The Tipping Point emerges as everything Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was not. In contrast to Andre and Big Boi's two-CD orgy of creative indulgence, The Tipping Point is by far the Roots' shortest and safest album. Where once they followed the iconoclast's path that's guided their career over the past 11 years, the Roots opt for a bare, bland approach that's not so much "bad" as just ordinary. Ordinary is OK—it can sell records, get you video spins, even land you on magazine covers. But why should a group capable of so much more settle for so much less?

    I'm curious to hear other opinions. Drop your comments below.

    Monday, July 19, 2004

    (by Oliver)



  • Found Magazine: Watch what you throw away. Or in this case, you can watch what other people threw away. Love this stuff.
    (credit: Audamn)

  • Linda Rondstant = Dixie Chick 2004.

  • How big is this going to get? Build Your Own Superhero.
    (credit: Quarterwit - see, no hate ya'll)

  • You birthday is coming up in August. I'm just saying.

  • As usual, Jay Smooth is on point like sewing needles. He asks the burning media/race question of the day: why can't a black male lead be romantically involved with a white woman? (Real talk here kiddies. How many examples can you think of from the last 5 years, quick!) Latest example is I, Robot, where Will Smith goes love-less. Not like Will Smith isn't getting enough loving elsewhere but it's the principle.

  • This is real gangsterism: CBS does not play.

  • For reals: Bobby Fisher is nuts. Sorry chess fans, but you're #1 hero is an anti-Semitic, paranoid loony.

  • I'm not sure what this does but that lady on the left is sure creeeeeepy.
    (credit: Pickin' Boogers)

  • Friday, July 16, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    (Thanks to Hua, Joey and Dave for the Corner Bistro roundtable to unpack this)

    Note: This is why one shouldn't blog when you're not fully conscious. I forgot to mention: Three Sinister Syllables are a bunch of cut n' paste producers from the UK who just dropped their first album. Juno Records has sound clips of their music - you can see, or er, hear that their visual and musical styles are based on the same kind of chop/splice aesthetic.

    For those of you who've tried to catalog where each of these letters are from, here's the crib sheet. Thanks for corrections that people sent via the comments - I have a shoddy memory and got the first "T" and last "E" wrong. At this point, I'm (fairly) sure we've got this thing on lock.

    T = T La RockJust Ice
    H = Nice and Smooth
    R = Reality
    E = Necro
    E = EPMD

    S = Slick Rick
    I = OC's Word Life
    N = Brand Nubian
    I = De La Soul's Three Feet High and Rising
    S = Fresh
    T = Street Beat
    E = Relativity
    R = Gang Starr

    S = Sugar Hill
    Y = Tuff City
    L = Public Enemy
    L = Black Sheep
    A = A Tribe Called Quest
    B = Steady B
    L = Company Flow
    E = Cold Chillin B-Boy Records
    S = Ultramagnetic MCs

    (by Oliver)

    WAX ON

    The new issue of Wax Poetics (#9) is out. It includes my interview with Dante Ross.

    Act like you knew and cop it.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Spotted originally through Angry Asian Man:

    From The Boston Herald
      Blood feud: Asians blame Southie kids in fatal brawl
      By Brian Ballou
      Tuesday, July 13, 2004

      An all-out brawl with baseball bats and knives in South Boston on Sunday, which left an Asian teen dead, was sparked by the use of a racial slur, according to witnesses.

           Two weeks ago, a teenage girl called several Asians visiting Veterans Park to play basketball ``chinks,'' witnesses on both sides said.

           An Asian boy in the group responded by hitting the girl, touching off a series of confrontations that ended Sunday with the death of Bang Mai, 16, of Medford. Police said he died from trauma and a stab wound.

           ``There is no conclusion as to whether this was racially motivated or involved gang activity, but when you have an event of this nature, obviously we're going to investigate it thoroughly,'' police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said.

           The Community Disorders Unit for the Boston Police Department is investigating the incident. The unit is charged with responding to hate crimes and racial incidents. The CDU will await an investigation by the homicide unit before proceeding, police said.

           One teen, Mark Brennick, 17, already has been charged for his alleged involvement in the fight Sunday, but police are continuing to search for those responsible for killing Mai.

           Brennick, a resident of the nearby Old Colony housing project, was held on $10,000 cash bail in South Boston District Court yesterday after being charged with clubbing a 14-year-old Asian boy in the knee with a baseball bat.

           ``The evidence suggests the assault of this Asian boy from East Boston was part of a larger fight between two groups,'' said David Procopio, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley. ``And as a result of that larger confrontation, a 16-year-old boy was killed.''

           Procopio said Brennick was seen ``running and dropping the bat as he fled'' but it was ``too early to say'' whether Brennick - who was arraigned on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon - took part in the killing.

           John Nguyen, 14, who lives in the Old Colony projects, said friction between Asian teens, most of who live in Fields Corner in Dorchester, and white teens mostly from the Mary Ellen McCormack Development, started about four weeks ago.

           ``Me and my friends went to the park to play basketball and they started counting how many of us were there,'' Nguyen said. ``We were sitting on the cement stairs and they started throwing rocks at us.''

           Nguyen said he and seven friends left the court but were followed by the white teens and taunted. ``This happened for four days straight,'' he said.

           According to a white teen who participated in Sunday's brawl, things heated up two weeks ago after an Asian boy hit a white girl after she taunted his group with a racial epithet.

           The girl rounded up several friends and confronted the Asians. A fight ensued, witnesses said.

           Then, on Friday, according to witnesses, two Asian teens jumped two white teens at a beach near the park.Later that day, a fight was set up between two of the boys who fought earlier in the day.

           The Asian teen won, witnesses said. ``We thought that was the end of it,'' Nguyen said.

           But a rematch was arranged for 5 p.m. Sunday.

           The kids from the development called on a boy named Danny to fight for them Sunday. Danny, who stands about 6 feet 2 inches and weighs 145 pounds, was the biggest kid among both groups and he summarily beat up two Asian teens in consecutive one-on-one fights. Halfway through a third fight, another Asian ran toward the fighting at the center of the basketball court, and the melee broke out.

           ``I got punches thrown at me, but someone knocked down the kid and I kicked him in the head,'' said a 12-year-old resident of the development. ``There were people with bats and knives.''

           Kaitlyn Shea, a resident of the development for four years, said blood poured out of Mai's nose and mouth ``like a faucet.''

           ``He seemed to be bleeding from everywhere,'' she said. ``I was screaming for someone to help him, but everyone had run away because they heard the police coming.''
    Rule #1: Racism = bad. Very bad.
    Rule #2: Don't mess with Asians who ball. The nerds are over in Cambridge - bunch of folks hitting the asphalt among the Southies are not going to let a "chink" comment slide.
    Rule #3: Don't hit a woman. Even a dumb ass racist one.
    Rule #4: If you're dumb enough to get in a fight, don't be dumb enough to plan a rematch (espcially when you WON the first one). That shit might play on some grade school playground but when up against crackers wielding baseball bats and knives?

    Tuesday, July 13, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    she not dirty girl

    Sharon is working with Asian Women United to update their 1988 documentary, Slaying the Dragon. As part of AWU's process, they releaesd a survey in February asking people about their impressions of Asian women in the media.

    The results are in. I wouldn't call these surprising but certainly, some quotes pop out:
      "(My impression of Asian women is that) they are little sluts, hoes, bitches and all of that because they dress like school girls with the dress and the socks that go to your knees. And that they are hoes.”
      (Ed: Daaaaamn)

      “(Asian women) always look like hot school girl slaves, which, I feel is demeaning.”
      (Ed: Whoa, white dude with consciousness - but I can't help but feel like he added the "demeaning" part as an afterthought. It's hard to use the words "hot school girl slaves" without sounding like that's a good thing)

      “Every time I hear about Asian girls I hear that they’re really freaky.”
      (Female/14/White/Mexican/Italian/ Persian/Many more)
      (Ed: word?)

      “I’m not personally offended by the way Asian American women are portrayed; a bit disappointed, perhaps, because the world doesn’t see how amazing most Asian women are. But I must admit that I am more often annoyed that many of these female Asian characters often hook up with white guys in the movies at the expense of the Asian male. However, much of my frustration is attributed to 20-something stupid guy ego shit than to the politics of assimilation”
      (Male/Vietnamese/ 22)
      (Ed: at least he's honest)

      “I would LOVE to see an Asian rebel girl. Ha ha, that’d be great. Mebbe a smoker/drinker, listens to hardcore metal or emo or something. Basically someone so far out there, so extremely distant from the stereotypes that it makes other people so ‘ that possible?’”
      (Male/22/Korean American)
      (Ed: emo?)

    (by Oliver)


    you talkin' to me?

    I'm not as big a sports junkie as others I know (though some of them are so hardcore that it's hard to be on the same level) but I admit, I'm really getting sucked into this whole Natalie Coughlin story. I'm drawn to how much intense pressure is placed upon her to succeed dominate. It's as if anything less than world-record setting performances is somehow a let down to everyone else.

    Case in point, this recent Daily Cal op-ed actually seems to complain that Coughlin, in the current Olympic swimming trials, is only choosing to compete in three individual events (out of a possible six). Author Marek uses the following (inadvisable) comparison: " the low-risk venture could earn its place next to the eternal what-ifs of the sporting world, right next to the Red Sox’s Bill Buckner letting a World Series ring slip through his fingers along with the baseball that took a bad bounce in 1986".

    First of all, you can't just throw Buckner around like some cheap cliche that vaguely fits the bill. Bucknerian metaphors should only be reserved for events of similar magnitude: like Gore losing the 2000 Presidential election or, say, the comet that destroyed the dinosaurs. Coughlin deciding that she's going to take it easy is not a missed opportunity - why does she need to go after Spitz's record? As if it's an obligation? Please.

    Likewise, in today's SF Chronicle, there's a story about how Coughlin came in second in the 100m freestyle and you'd think she came in last or something. Provided, I understand that people compare Coughlin in the water to Howe on ice or Jordan on polished wood, but what I'm enjoying about her mystique is that she seems genuinely humble and more to the point: unassuming about her greatness. I have no doubt she's very competitive and out for Athens gold but unlike Michael Phelps who seems genuinely (and rather incredulously) upset that he's come in second in his competitions, Coughlin has been remarkably gracious...or at least that's how she's portrayed in the press.

    Maybe it's because the U.S. track and field is embroiled in BALCO embarassment, but suddenly, U.S. swimming seems like a lot more intriguing (and wholesome) to follow. Of course, whether the Olympics will actually happen at Athens might preclude some of that anticipation.

    (Speaking of sports, I was excited to see Clemens come out - all 41 years of him - and make a good showing at the All Star Game but damn, dude got ROCKED. The AL hits the cycle off him plus an error and second homer for good measure? Ouch. Oh and Fox? LOSE SCOOTER.)

    Monday, July 12, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    can it be, it was all so simple?

    I was cleaning through some of my older writing archives and I came upon this 1998 Q&A with Mos Def. It came soon after the Million Youth March had ended in chaos and right before the Black Star album had dropped. I decided to retrieve and share it because there is something in this moment - of hip-hop from six years ago that manages to feel close enough to remember yet distant from where we are now too.

    Damn, it's already been set off. Sally over at The Quarterwit took offense to one of Mos' comments and threw down a response. I won't repost her diatribe in toto, but the gist of it is this.

    She's angered by Mos saying,
      "let's be real -- these white kids in the suburbs that buy their first Wu Tang record and lose their damn mind -- they could play an active part in the culture if they wanted to, but that's not why they bought that Wu Tang record. They bought that Wu Tang record to live out their fantasy of themselves as Raekwon or Ghost or Method or whoever..."
    To which Sally replies,
      "I think this is exactly wrong. White kids who buy Wu Tang and get into hip hop are trying to be active participants in hip hop culture. Granted, they are usually annoying when they do it (see "We Use Words like 'Mackadocious'") and tend to be misguided and generally offensive. They wear Rocawear and change their vocabulary and their earnestness just makes them look absurd. But there are white people out there who aren't annoying appropriators of African American culture. We don't all just co-opt everything. I respect Mos Def and all, but one of the things he loves to do is bitch about white people in hip hop."

    Now, if there's one thing I love, it's seeing white people bitch about black people bitching about white people. Don't get me wrong: African Americans can get rather defensive about any threat of cultural appropriation they perceive, but one should note that historically speaking, they got the right to be hostile. Moreover, most black folk I've had these conversations with are far more nuanced in their criticism than white people are in their defense of it, if for no other reason than that to be a person of color means constantly interrogating race whereas being white means being able to avoid those conversations most of the time.

    It's as if you can never call out white people for living out their racial fantasies through popular culture even though everyone does it: white, black, brown, yellow, red, etc. I find Sally's reaction to Mos Def to be overstated, to say the least, especially because she all but agrees with Mos' critique. It seems like Sally's main beef is that Mos neglected to say, "many of these white kids in the suburbs" but she presumes that because Mos left out that the qualifier of "many" or "most", he therefore must mean all. Yet even she's willing to admit that many white kids who get into hip-hop don't do it for the culture!

    I'm further amused by the fact that Sally brings up William Upski Wimsatt's "We Use Words Like Macakdocious" essay from the early '90s, one of the very first to call out white minstrels in hip-hop and one of the very things that Upski raises is the whole "I'm a special white boy" argument that white people deploy in their defense. Apparently, Sally failed to read this passage of Upski's essay since she uses it. Or what did she think saying, "But there are white people out there who aren't annoying appropriators of African American culture. We don't all just co-opt everything." was all about? News flash: that's is exactly what the "I'm a special white boy/girl" defense looks like. Upski called bullshit on that and so do I.

    What is amazing, is this next line from Sally: " I'm tired of being de facto accused of being one of those white asshole kids who listens to hip hop. Is there really no such thing as someone who likes and appreciates the music?" Let's all take a deep breath and just say this, together: It's not about you. Mos, or anyone else raising the issue of race and culture, are not, "de facto accusing" any one person, let alone you: they're drawing attention to a trend. The fact that someone, like Sally, would feel so personally attacked says far more about her than it does about whatever Mos had to say. I don't mean to sound like someone asshole, bullshit psychologist but for real, I see these kind of defensive white folks all the time: in my classrooms, on the street, on the internet, etc. It's not about you! Get over yourselves!

    And as for this statement, it's so utterly ridiculous, I don't even know what to do with it:
      "Mos Def cites Edward Albee as one of his inspirations. I think that's bullshit, that Mos Def would co-opt a white playwright like that. I mean, he is my people. Why should Mos Def be allowed to integrate the artistry of a European American, writing in the tradition of European surrealist dramatic writing, to his music? Mos is African American. Clearly he reads Albee so he can imagine himself as one of Albee's dysfunctional middle class white characters."
    It's an attempt - a poor one at that - at reverse psychology. Clearly, Sally isn't really questioning Mos's ability to cite Albee as a source of inspiration. Her point is that "isn't it hypocritical for him to use a white playwright as a source of inspiration if he's critiquing white fans of hip-hop"? The simple answer is: no, it's not hypocritical since what Sally is talking about and what Mos is talking about are entirely different things. Mos's critique is that white fans of hip-hop are neo-minstrels (a fact that Sally doesn't even really disagree with except that she wants to make room for "special white boys/girls"). Mos isnt' trying to pretend to live out Albee's life.

    Last but not least, this small aside at the end of Sally's post is just the icing on the cake. Could this be any more pathetically passive aggressive?
      "For the record, I own one Wu Tang album and two Ghostface albums, and I have never imagined myself as Method Mad, Raekwon, Ghostface, or any member of the Wu Tang Clan. Ever."
    . Once again, altogether: it's not about you.

    Just for the record, it's not like I have a grudge against The Quarterwit. In general, I enjoy many of the opinions expressed over there but I simply cannot abide by people who express a profoundly misguided and narcisstic attitude around race, especially as it relates to racism and relations of power (which is precisely what Mos Def was speaking to). I'm not even keen on defending Mos Def here - he's capable of doing that on his own - I'm just annoyed that the most privileged class of people on the planet can't take some constructive criticism at times.

    Saturday, July 10, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    bruce made pop art

    Little known secret but I have a complete set of Giant Robot Magazines from issue 1 to their current, 10th anniversary edition. Someday, I'm sure I'll be able to eBay this off and pay for my future children's college funds but for the time being: damn, 10 years! It's momentous enough that even the NY Times caught on.

    I've had an ambivalent attitude towards GR in its early years...not because I didn't like the magazine, but I found its indie rock-inspired DIY attitude to be slightly grating with my own indie hip-hop-inspired DIY attitude. You'd think the two would actually get along really well but, actually, Indie hip-hop, ten years ago, was still about pushing a movement forward and GR, while heading a movement, was always loathe to feel beholden to it. Whereas a rap 'zine might have felt the obligation to cover certain people or topics because they were "important" to hip-hop (decided by who is another question entirely), GR's general atttitude of defiance can be summed up as: "we got some ideas/that we want to share/you don't like them?/so what?/we don't care". At times, their editors (Eric and Martin), reacting to constant letters to the editors whining, "how come you don't cover thiiiiiiiiiis?" would throw this attitude back with such force that I just wanted to say in a soothing voice: hey dudes, it's ok, it's your mag, we get that. Chill.

    At the time, I thought the mag had too much of a cult of personality but ironically, this would be the same reason why I LOVED Ego Trip when it came out. I think, as a rap mag, I expected arrogant defiance from the ET crew. It occurs to me now that maybe my negative reaction to GR's 'tude had to do with the fact that on some subconscious, self-racist level, their simple statement of independence triggered a fear inside of me about how Asians shouldn't make waves and play nice all the time.

    In any case, congrats to GR. People may quibble about whether it's "Asian" or "Asian American," blah blah blah, but bottomline, it's had one of the biggest impacts on the perception of Asian American pop culture over the last decade. Well, until William Hung came along. (word to Eric: quit hating on our #1 stunna.)

  • Wait - chess boxing is for real? Like whoa.
    (credit: Catchdubs)

  • It really is incredibly ridiculous that these new fall t.v. shows that take place in Hawaii are so incredibly WHITE. Um, demographic check crackers: Hawaii is only 24% white and 40% Asian. So where all my peoples at!

    Not like any of this is new...people have complained for years that shows like Friends exist in a NYC apparently absent of all color (except when someone needs a girlfriend and then, voila! Two episode token!) but c'mon ya'll, if you're setting a series in a state where almost half the people around you are yerrow, it's time to represent. Why don't they make a TV series called Zimbabwe Legit and stock it with white Afrikanners? Good gawd, the networks are morons sometimes.
    (credit: Angry Asian Man)

  • I'm not exactly the biggest Cal cheerleader out there - maybe because I've buried 12 years of my life at Berkeley and it's just hard to get all rah rah about the gold and blue when you feel like you can never left your alma mater. But hey, even I get a lil bit of pride, especially when fellow alum kick so much ass. This is a New Yorker story on Natalie Coughlin, the latest in a line of incredible swimmers who come from Berkeley (that's right ya'll - our football team hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since the Eisenhower administration but put us in a pool on God's blue earth and we'll triple our worth). The hotness: the photo of her features her standing at a bus stop by Spieker Pool, a Daily Californian peeking from behind ripped stickers and Coughlin rocking a Cal one-piece. Go you Bears!

  • Speaking of The New Yorker, all praises due to Katherine Boo. The staff writer has been consistently killing it with her pieces on labor, class and the new global economy. She's already written about working class struggles in the Midwest and Texas - last week, she tackled the question of American outsourcing to India in a piece that was both eloquent and insightful. This is the kind of reporting that impresses me to no end - I just want to sit down with her and pick her brain. Holla at me, ma! (Alas, this piece isn't online, but she does talk about her story in this online piece.)

  • One day, it will come out that Bill O'Reilly> tortures little kittens for fun, or has 5 wives and 33 children, or gets caught, shooting H in the Fox News parking lot but until that day, read Prof. Mark LeVine's encounter with one of the most biased and dangerous windbags in American media today.
    (credit: The Pnuthouse)

  • Leave it to the Japanese to invent a new crazy thang: catch my drift? (Dig, what racists don't understand is that we're not bad drivers by accident: it's on purpose mane! So if you see us doing a hundred on the highway, get the fuck outta our way.)
    (credit: False Cognate)

  • Wow. Like...WOW. Spiderman vs. Dr. Ock. Done with Legos.

  • Back to the Beastie Boys: The Three + Frogger = Online Game Wickedness.
    (credit for both: Royal Magazine)

  • Last but nowhere least...I confess - I don't really care about R. Kelly. Never have, might someday, don't know, except that he makes great fodder for Chapelle Show and that's good enough for me. That said, I thought Josh Clover's recent remarks on Kelly's controversies and what relation - if any - these have about our attitude to his music to be brilliant. Please consider:
      "it’s [people's] absolute free choice to focus on the moral actor and set aside the art. But if you’re not going to ignore it, you better give up on explaining how “Ignition” must perforce be as bad a song as R. Kelly is a person. You’ve got to fucking deal with how good it is, because it’s real real good. Listen: The desire for an unambiguous world is not going to work out for you. Awful people will make thrilling art, and vice versa. I checked my Infinity Calendar, and this is a “recurrent event.” It’s not hypocrisy; it’s exactly one of the things that makes art more than a victory garden on the chateau grounds of philosophies of right. It’s what makes it art. And then one has to figure out how to live with this; that’s what makes it life."

  • Friday, July 09, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    reach out and get touched

    I am constantly in awe of photographer/designer Eugene Kuo of 226 Design. I was first introduced to his amazing photographic travelogues by his cousin, Hua (how scary is that family?) and ever since, I'm just constantly blown away by his mesh of visual image with an ultra-clean Flash interface. I mean, my idea of design is to create photoblogs in Blogger and use the Minima template. Kuo goes all out and mixes up his approaches with each travelogue.

    Kuo's Three Months In China is hard to top - the integration of text and image is flawless. But then you see Four Weeks in the Four Corners of Sri Lanka and think, "damn, that's really good too." Not to mention My Girlfriend is an Airline Stewardess: Thanksgiving in Japan. Most recently is his B&W album from The Middle East. Stunning.

    road to ruin

    Thursday, July 08, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Five Percenter

    As seen at SF/J:
      From an anonymous source in a NY state restaurant:

      "Usher. Major cheap tipper. Latest sojourn in restaurant involved showing up with no reservation at 7 PM on a Thursday night, taking a 4-top for just him and his date, and insisting on having the table next to him kept open for his security goon. Two iced teas, two salads and two hours later, he leaves a 5% tip! The waiter involved had to be restrained from popping off some remarks as Usher swept gracefully out of the restaurant. Other extreme—Jay-Z. Always calls half hour ahead to make sure a table is ready and keeps his goons in the car. He is charming and friendly to all, once inviting the star-struck busser to get Beyoncé's autograph and always tipping large."
    Moral: Usher's a cheap bastard, can u handle it? Jay-Z has 99 problems, leaving a tip ain't one.

  • And you thought Janet's nipple was scandalous. Peep how the Norweigan's rock.

  • This new trend of putting hip-hop videos online probably violates copyright laws somewhere but who cares? Shit is hot. Check out the videos for NWA's "100 Miles and Running" or Rakim's "In the Ghetto."

  • I feel like doing this sometimes.

  • Look, I know Kanye doesn't "want to argue about His facial features" but dude, why you gotta strut around your other "Jesus Walks" video with a white Jesus? You need to listen to some X-Clan or something.

  • Beyond awesome: '80s TV commercials.
    (credit for all three: Pickin' Boogers)

  • (by Oliver)


    Just to show that there are some folks who've kept their wits about them re: the Beastie Boys:

    Here's my review of the new album.

    This is what Jon Caramanica had to say about it.

    And Nate Patrin unloads on 'em too.

    Nate's got the best zingers: "the Beastie Boys sound completely and utterly alone in their own cavernous, isolated boho loft, with nothing to keep them company but their Money Mark action figures." Jon's dropping the ill insights: "Stopping the clock would mean acknowledging that it's still ticking, and making progress would be an admission of defeat. Or worse, of trying too hard." I managed to get the Beasties' age wrong by noting that they were all over 40, when, in fact, none of them are. Oops upside my head.

    Tuesday, July 06, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Ha ha ha ha ha...

    Not so funny: Pop Life's laptop is currently getting the bionic man treatment down in Cupertino (though I can only wish it'd come back faster or stronger, but right now, I'll settle for better).

    In the meantime, fans of K-Tel compilations can enjoy this story.

    Friday, July 02, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    seen at The Pnuthouse

  • I'm going to rip off a quick page from Hua's steeze: overheard at mynewfavoriteplacever, NYC ICY last night: [huge roar from bar across Avenue B] Me: what was that about? Them: "The Yankees just almost pulled off a triple play. Even if the Yankees lose, God hates the Red Sox." Yup, that's pretty much on point.

  • Pop Life enjoyed breakfast with H and Sasha Frere-Jones yesterday where PL was forced to defend the worth of Kanye West's videos but SF/J regaled us with tales from his adventures in fatherdom. We all agreed, baseball jerseys for kids = cutest thing ever. By the way, for fans of SF/J's music, he's back in the st-st-studio this week recording. Rumors of a Lil Jon, Neptunes collaboration cannot be corroborated at this time but I hear Kim's will start stocking the mixtape very soon. Streets is watching.

  • Pop Life also enjoyed lunch with H, Ego Trip's Chairman Mao and the one and only Steinski. When I wasn't busy trying to figure out how to copy Mao's record shelfing design (anyone know a good, inexpensive carpenter in the Bay Area?), I was listening to him breakdown the upcoming three new episodes of Ego Trip's Race-a-Rama series which kicked off earlier this spring. Race in your face!

  • Pop Life promises to stop name-dropping but just one more: PL caught dinner at the infamous Corner Bistro the other night with Jazzbo, H, and Dave Tompkins (what up fam!) and Jazzbo busted out the new CD from Three Sinister Syllables. Follow the link and you'll see that the CD cover is made up of different letters taken from rap albums and singles. For the next 10 minutes, the four of us played a rousing game of, "wait, where is that from...oh yeah, that's the "B" from Steady B." As Sharon would say, "NERDS!" but it was still fun.

  • Just because there's not enough cartoons feaeturing the Chipmunks as thug rappers...

  • Vivica Fox puts 50 Cent on blast. I'm sure, somewhere in here, were some mighty good finersnaps just for accent.