Sunday, October 31, 2004


Do I need to tell you to vote tomorrow?



It's important

  • I know I already made mention of Kris Ex's new blog but hot damn, Yung Kris is on solar fire right now. Peep his blog but also read this breakdown of the blogosphere. Please Exo, don't hurt 'em!

  • Our valued colleague Ta-Nehisi Coates (Village Voice) trucks down to Jacksonville to cover the election. Lives to blog about it.

  • This is from last week but it might be that J. Ho is still looking for a husband. If you live around Chicago and are into whip-smart bassists-cum-publicists, holla at my girl.

  • Back to Cal: BCS computations are like mystical mathematics but while Utah might be fuming, Cal is sitting pretty. Golden Bears moved up to #4 which means they might possibly play USC again in the Championship Game. Upside: we haven't been national champs since 1938. Downside: ironically, if it actually happened, it'd mean that we missed the Rose Bowl, again. Somehow, I think Cal would be willing to live with that if it means playing for #1.

  • Last but not least, I was hoping this was another rumor but looks like it's the real deal: Vallejo rapper Mac Dre gunned down in Kansas City.


    devils can't touch us

    *Warning: Anyone not a California Bears fan will likely care nada about this post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

    Now that the Red Sox have stunned everyone in the known universe, Pop Life is turning our attention closer to home and contemplating the California Bears' surprising run to the top. Cal embarassed #20 Arizona last night, shutting them out 27-0, a victory that will likely float Cal to #5 for the first time in 52 years.

    When I say "surprising run to the top," note that Cal was picked to finish in the top 2 of the conference before the season began, therefore it's performing to expectation if you believe the prognosticators. Pop Life does not usually believe the prognosticators, especially when it come our alma mater (can you call a school your alma mater when you're still enrolled there?). Being a Sox fan as a child taught me valuable lessons in accepting crushing defeats but I have my undergraduate tenure at UC Berkeley (1990-94) to thank for helping realize what despair and disappointment felt like as an adult. As any good Bear backer can tell you, we haven't been to the Rose Bowl since 1959 and haven't won a Rose Bowl since 1938.

    It's not that Cal was never good, it's just that they've rarely been good enough, having perfected the "almost there" loss. In 1990, we were all set to beat Stanford in the Big Game with 90 seconds to go when a bizarre set of circumstances went Stanford's way. In 1991, the last time we had a legit shot at the Rose Bowl, we were within a touchdown of tying eventual nat'l champs Washington and in '93 were within a field goal of beating them (Cal wouldn't defeat Washington until 2002 after 18 straight years of losses). The loss to USC the other week, a scant 1st and goal to victory, was another example of the "almost there" loss.

    Don't get me wrong, Cal's gotten its licks in too. I remember when we beat UCLA, at home, in 1990, the first time we had ever defeated our baby brothers in nearly 20 years. We embarassed USC in 1991 with a 52-30 home win (of course, a few years later, USC trampled us 61-0). In my time, we went to three bowl games, including a win in the 1992 Citrus Bowl that propelled us into the top 10 - the last time previous to this season.

    But it is a new thing for most older Cal fans to think of our school as dominant, let alone all the NCAA fans in the Midwest and East who are reading the paper every Monday wondering, "who the hell is California? Isn't that a state, not a town?"

    The irony is that the better Cal performs under Jeff Tedford, the more likely it is he'll be wooed away in the off season. That's what happened with Bruce Snyder after the Citrus Bowl and we ended up losing Steve Mariucci to the 49ers (of all teams) after one - albeit lackluster - season. Tedford's reign has done wonders for the school's football revenue: season ticket sales have skyrocketed in the last three years and attendence is at its highest in years. The question becomes: will Berkeley pony up the cash to keep Tedford and the larger philosophical query becomes: should we spend that kind of money in the first place?

    The thing is: Cal has not been football powerhouse since the 1930s. Even if we finish the season ranked near the very top, we're not suddenly going to transform into a Miami or Nebraska. Our school's reputation has long been primarily as an academic institution, "flagship of the UC system" blah blah blah. The visible success of our athletic programs, namely in football and basketball, is nice but personally, it was never essential to my own identity as a Cal student or alum. Especially given the terrible shape of the California state budget and how that's impacted on schools like Berkeley, it's questionable how much money we should spend on a coach, especially when student services are being slashed elsewhere. I'm not saying athletics are unimportant, but it's not like the school's reputation hangs in the balance if the Golden Bears aren't in the top 10 every year.

    This is not a new debate but for a public institution like Berkeley, it does speak to the heart of the school's identity and priorities. I'm pleased as pie that Cal has a legitimate shot for the Rose Bow this year (only b/c USC is going to the BCS Championship Game though) and it does this old Blue & Gold fan proud to see how well the team's been playing but if Cal went back into the cellar, I wouldn't be any less fond of Berkeley. I know other alums feel differently - the question is: what will be the cost to ensure a winning tradition at the school and more importantly, who will be the ones that eventually end up paying for that honor?

    Saturday, October 30, 2004


    OG-metrosexuals are
    running this rap shit

  • Russell Simmons recently spoke to the American Magazine Conference. Points for discussion:
    • "Mr. Simmons told an audience of more than 500 of the nationís top magazine executives that they had failed to acknowledge the overwhelming influence that hip-hop has had on youth culture."

      Damn straight. Hip-hop (and by extension race in general) is the (black) elephant in the room that even after all this time, mainstream media is loathe to acknowledge except when the bottomline is on the line. I was talking this over with a friend who works at a mainstream music mag (i.e. not a Vibe or XXL) who painted his work environment as a bunch of white folks clinging to rock (read: whiteness) as a refuge away from hip-hop (read: blackness). I wonder if publishers are just hoping hip-hop finally blows over, just like they've been doing for 25+ years now.

    • "Mr. Simmons drew some negative criticism himself. Diane Weathers, editor in chief of Essence magazine, asked the entrepreneur about what could be done to combat negative stereotyping in some rap lyrics and videos. Mr. Simmons agreed there was a problem, but insisted that current artists were less sexist than those in the previous generation."

      Bullshit. For one thing, videos are far more explicitly sexist than in previous generations and song lyrics are little changed too. I think the main difference is that the younger generation has been desensitized to these images and imagery and therefore, it doesn't quite seem as shocking but "less sexist"? Please.
    (credit: Diff. Kitchen)

  • While I'm all for Marley Marl remixing Nas' "Bridging the Gap", dude's reusing the same horn line and drum claps from the 1993 Lords of the Underground album. Maybe that's some nod to the song title, but I dunno...
    (credit: Pickin Boogers)

  • "Ann Coulter is a pie dodger." Will Al Pieda put Malkin in their crosshairs next? We hope so.
    (credit: AwwDamn)

  • Pnut does his own Bush meets Usher mash-up: "Oppressions Pt. 2. I'm speechless.

  • Forget Jay-Z: R.Kelly and Michael Jackson need to tour together. It'd be like an R&B Spinal Tap minus the parody.
    (credit: Funkdigi)


    who brought the party dip?

    Pop Life has been crazy busy:

    First, I caught an advance of Zhang Yimou's upcoming House of Flying Daggers, a kung fu meets love triangle period flick from the same director behind this year's Hero. Here's the skinny:
      Some folks had told me this film was superior to Hero, a movie that I liked visually but wasn't as impressed by in other areas. Alas, HoFD wasn't that dramatically better than Hero and in some key areas, it's far less entertaining. Don't get me wrong, HoFD has some great moments, mostly revolving around the said "flying daggers" (if this film had been all flying daggers, all the time, it would have been the hotness). However, it's also a blubbering torrent of melodrama, with most of the principal characters (especially Zhang Ziyi) spending at least half the film with dramatic tears rolling down their cheeks.

      I mean, I get it, there is PATHOS here, but it's so heavy-handed, it makes Hero's ponderous moments seem cartoonish in comparison. I hate to say it, but it's easier to stomach a bunch of sword-wielding folk debating the future of the nation-state than listening to these characters profess their undying love for another before advancing on them with blades. Maybe it's a script-issue or acting problem but I appreciate Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon so much more now. Ang Lee (Hulk-aside) is a genius of subtlety and so was Zhang Zimou...but not here.

    Then, I cruised by Remix Hotel down at The W. As one might expect, it was a geeked out sausage fest attended by many people dressed in full urban DJ wear, complete with the free Technics dogtags they were handing out. I wandered around the various rooms and here's some conclusions:
    • Pioneer's DVD Turntable is the greatest toy you'd never actually use, made all the worse by a $2,500 sticker price. But damn, was it fun to try out.
    • Denon's entry into the CD turntable market, the S5000 is cool for its small size and the fact that its has an actively spinning platter but the construction did feel a little cheap and it's also strange that the platter spins at 45 instead of 33 1/3rd. Also, $900? I don't think so.
    • The most interesting piece of new technology that we saw was Tascam's TT-M1 "Magic CD Scratch Controller". It attaches to any turntable and uses a tracking wheel that gets fed back to a CD turntable. In other words, it allows you to use your normal turntable to control your CD turntable. That might seem like an extra gizmo you don't really need but after you play around with it, you realize how incredible cool it is, especially when it only costs $100. Alas, right now, it only works with Tascam's CDX series as well as Vestax's CDX (all of which are rather inferior CDJs) but if Denon, Numark and Pioneer were smart, they'd start making their next gen of CDJs to be compatible. This is a brilliantly simple and effective tool. (Shout out to DJ Icewater for holding it down for Vestax and Korg)

    On Friday night, S and I went to see Ray.
      What worked: for music geeks like me, the film spends a good deal of time reviewing Ray's historical encounters with various musicians and business heads, including a teenage Quincy Jones, bluesman Lowell Fulsom and Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler (two of the most important label figures in soul history). The film also dramatizes Ray's creative process, though one suspects they took some liberties with that: the movie suggests that Ray invented "What I'd Say," on the fly when he had to fill time in at a gig. Or that he came up with "Hit the Road, Jack" when one of his mistresses threatened to leave him. Maybe it went down like that, who knows? That said, the musical numbers in the film worked well and in some ways, the film's best when you think of it as just one long music video.

      What didn't work: The film uses his long-time heroin addiction as a narrative arc and juxtaposes that against flashbacks of his youth, living in rural North Florida. Without getting too detailed about it, neither is dramatically effective, especially the flashbacks which come off as preciously maudlin more than anything else. And I don't mean to belittle anyone's addiction to smack but what famous pop musician of the 20th century WASN'T hooked on horse? At least Ray lived to tell the tale, unlike Charlie Parker or Chet Baker. I just didn't find his addiction interesting compared to other struggles he lived through.

      What really didn't work: This movie desperately needed a third act and Ray kicking his heroin habit just couldn't serve that purpose. The film also has an all-too fast elegy tacked on the end to commemorate the fact that he passed away this year but I really would have liked to see more. I understand that Ray was never meant to be a eulogy: he was very much alive and well during the film's production and therefore, this wasn't intended to be a tribute film but you would have thought they'd done more considering the remarkable timing between the movie's release and the singer's death.

      Bottomline: Enjoyable in many moments but never coheres as a complete film. Overly sentimental in all the wrong ways. Might still nab Jamie Foxx (who was good) an Oscar nod but the movie won't. What I appreciated most though was just a reminder of how completely amazing his music was. I know that's stating the obvious but really, truly, his songs were incredible. I'm going to devote an upcoming Soul Sides post to his earliest recordings on Swingtime in the late 1940s.

    Thursday, October 28, 2004


    I'm sure the afterglow of the Sox victory will linger on for a bit but next Tuesday pulls us back to reality (unless there's some kind of Massachusetts magic that Kerry can feed off of).

    The Program on International Policy Attitidues at the Univ. of Maryland released a study last week which states some of the following:

    • Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%).

    • Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

    • 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission.
    Mind you, this is all in direct contradiction to every bit of official evidence that has been collected and reported: including from within the Bush administration. Iraq did not, as we know very well now, have any WMDs. Nor did Iraq have a substantial relationship to Al Qaeda. But the mere fact that the Bush Administration insists on both claims - despite flying in the face of all the evidence that suggests otherwise - seems to be enough for most Bush supporters.

    I've always joked about how stupid the American electorate was but it's rather stunning to see how entrenched their ignorance is, to the point where they assume illusion = reality simply because the President says it is. For a long time, I wondered how it could vaguely be possible for Bush to be re-electable given how duplicitious, dishonest and just plain incompetent his adminstration has been at times. Now it all makes sense: the folks backing him apparently lack functional minds of their own. This isn't across the board completely: I'm sure there are intelligent people who can make the case for re-electing Bush without having to resort to false claims but this study clearly suggests a vast number in the public are still willing to buy into the misinformation of this administration.

    Then again, if millions of teens can believe that Ashlee Simpson had to lip-synch on SNL because of an acid reflux problem then the GOP has their next generation of voters lined up quite nicely.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2004


    unstoppable. unbelievable.

    0-3 down, 10 days ago.
    8 games straight.
    86 years.
    I believe this is what philosophers have referred to as the "end of history" (and if not, it should be).

    This is dedicated to the trio of Sox fans who never lost the faith: JP, HH and SKH.

    And to my brother from another mother: in yo' face!

    By the way, Nike is the evil empire of athletic wear, but their ad dept. is insanely brilliant. That tv spot had me close to tearing up. Damn those manipulative bastards!


    so necessary

    This dropped yesterday via the BBC:
      New Florida vote scandal feared: "A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts."
    The gist of this is that the GOP might be planning to prevent almost 2,000 voters - mostly African American - from obtaining a ballot when they show up to vote on Nov. 2.

    In no less crazy Florida/election news: Someone tried to run down Katherine Harris. And people think California is off the chain...

    Tuesday, October 26, 2004


    cooler than the fonz

    3-0, people. Who saw this coming, even amongst the faithful? I'm not going to call sweep but we are not going to see a reversal of fortune like the ALCS. The drought is over. It may or may not happen tomorrow. Or Thursday. Or this weekend. But it will happen.

    Manny finally had his big game. Pedro finally killed it. The Cards' pitching staff continues to get torched. This game sounded awesome but alas, Pop Life was busy watching Tony Jaa kick serious ass in Ong-Bak: Muai Thuy Warrior. That was pretty good too. Just not as good as this sounded.

    Monday, October 25, 2004


    politic ditto

    Eminem's "Mosh" video.
    (credit: Hua Hsu)

    The video opens with the sound and sight of an airliner, flying off screen, accompanied with an explosion: the allusion is clear. From there, we see everything referenced from racial profiling by police to a parody of Bush sitting stunned in a Florida classroom, to renters getting evicted by greedy corpoglomerates, to Bin Laden being held up as Cheney's puppet. The ending images are of a mass of black hoodied youth walking through the streets - not to burn the motherfucker down but to register to vote. TO REGISTER TO VOTE. Put aside the fact that Eminem himself has never voted: seriously, this video is a kick to the head, a parade of images and messages that leaves even a tired, old progressive like me feeling simultaneously charged and astonished.

    I have to admit: watching Eminem's "Mosh" is pretty damn stunning, especially from an artist who I've called "misanthropic" not that long ago. Em is now extending on Michael Moore's criticisms of the Bush Administration, creating a video where the main thrust is to call for insurrection through democracy. Be a cynic all you want, say it's just some clever P.R. ploy on Em's part to stir up interest in his upcoming Encore album but offer me a more visible call to action that you're going to see on MTV, BET, VH1, etc.?

    Here's the 2004 scorecard. Two of the most "political" statements made by rappers this year did NOT come from the expected voices like Talib Kweli and Mos Def. Instead, we have Jadakiss with "Why?" and Eminem with "Mosh." Add to that Jay-Z guesting with Dead Prez, Sean Combs urging MTV viewers to "Vote or Die," and Trick Daddy registering voters (again) and hip-hop's visible political order now seems completely out of whack with expectations.

    I want to be very careful in making this argument. As J.C. often reminds me, much of the hip-hop generation's political force comes not from the top down, through media darling icons, but rather through grass roots organizing by thousands (if not millions) of rap-savvy youth who are mobilizing in every corner of America. They are not the outgrowth of P. Diddy; it's the other way around.

    I have some more thoughts on this but I'm taking a pause for the cause right about here.

    Sunday, October 24, 2004


    Apart from my obvious love for music, I spent a good deal of time watching, thinking and writing on film: as a scholar (I annually teach Asian American film at UC Berkeley), as a journalist and as a member of a film festival screening committee. I take great pleasure in wearing all these different hats but I have to also have to admit the downside: there's just some appalling cinema out there.

    Blame it on the declining cost of access. With the relatively affordable price of DV cameras and efficient editing software that almost any PC can run, becoming a filmmaker isn't the heady, expensive task it once was. While that's great for the wanna-be auteur, it also has the consequence of creating an unfathomable amount of bad movies. You think there's a lot of bad indie hip-hop out there? At least your average DIY rap 12" doesn't cost $20,000 to produce. What I find amazing about crappy films is that they're made at all: the costs of production can be so prohibtively high, the fact that you can still blow tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a terrible end-product is mindboggling.

    Two that I'm going to quickly highlight:

    1) I recently watched one film (and I'll be nice enough to leave its name out of the discussion since it's still looking for distribution) that cloned its plot right off of Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet: a young, Asian American woman is pressured into marriage by her traditional parents and convinces her gay, white friend to pretend to be her fiancee. They end up getting married. Hilarity (presumably) ensues.

    I'll put aside the fact the film's amateur production qualities already make it unwatchable. I'm still reeling from how remarkably unoriginal the film's premise is, especially when it fails to do anything different (let alone better) than anything Ang Lee accomplished. Seriously - who in the chain of production ever thought this would make a good film? I'm all for the expansion of the Asian American filmmaking community (this was made by a Vietnamese American director) but not if that means offering polite applause for a poor product.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg. I see dozens of films a year where I know within the first shot that it's going to be terrible. That might sound harsh but believe me - bad films announce themselves from jump and never get any better from there. I'd name more names but that'd be impolitic for fledgling movies, still trying to get some attention on the festival circuit or from distributors. Films that have already gotten out there more though, that's another story, leading me to:

    2) Nathan Kurosawa'a The Ride recently opened the 5th annual San Diego Asian Film Festival. In comparison to #1, this was actually a fairly well-made film (cinematically speaking) with a fantastic premise: Kurosawa makes a bio-pic about Duke Kahanamoku, better known as the father of modern surfing. It's about high-time that The Duke got more recognition (and if you watch films like Stacy Peralta's recent Riding Giants, he gets the nods he deserves) and The Ride does an admirable job of trying to capture Hawaii of the early 1900s, long before its transformation into a tourist economy.

    The problem with The Ride is that instead of making a film about the Duke, where the story is told about him and through him, the lead in the film is actually David, a white, world-class surfer with an asshole attitude to match who gets magically thrown back to the Duke's time era during a surfing accident. It is by returning to surfing's early days and meeting and learning under The Duke that David becomes a better person and when he returns to "real" time, he is a changed man.

    I can't speak for Kurosawa but I can only assume that he put a white guy at lead because he figured that he couldn't sell a surfing movie with a Native Hawaiian as the center of attention. As commercially justifiable as that may be, it's a weak, narrative device not mention insulting, watering down of the Duke's story. This is like Mississippi Burning - a film about the African American-lead Civil Rights Movement that makes two white FBI agents out to be the real heroes. What's next? Why don't people make a bio-pic about, say, Cesar Chavez but let's film it from the perspective of white college student who spends the summer volunteering in the fields? Or maybe they should have made Ray with a white music critic telling the Genius' story? Bottom line, nowhere, in the world, do we need another film where either 1) people of color help redeem white folk or 2) where p.o.c. are forced to play second chair to a white star because filmmakers don't have the confidence that they can sell their movies without a haole. (By the way, this is precisely why Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, for all its juvenile, sexist humor, is practically revolutionary).


  • I'm not saying that being up 2-0 in the World Series is no big deal but while I've enjoyed watching the Sox swat away at St. Louis, after the ALCS, it all feels rather anti-climactic. Speaking of which, I thought Jay Smooth broke down that series beautifully.

  • S knows how much I loved Oceans 11 - it's not like it was deep, but it went down really easy, you know? So yes, I'm looking forward to the sequel but this trailer for Oceans 12 leaves me just a lil skeptical.

  • J.C. put me up on Mouther, a new web-zine driven by equal parts Asian American and hip-hop sensibilities. I'm still looking through their content but 1) I'm not feeling the Flash-driven navigation. It actually makes things harder than read as a consequence. 2) Their blacklist of media that features Asian American stereotypes lists The Simpsons because Homer once said that "Asian kids are smarter in school." Sorry, but as sensitive as I am to racism in media (just see above), that sets the sensitivity bar just a little low. I mean, it's the Simpsons, ok? Does no one get parody any more? What would Angry Asian Man do?

  • Speaking of Asian American media, Hyphen Magazine now has its own blog.

  • I don't know why, but all my links today seem to be Asian-related: China opens its first Hooters. Ah, the beauty of transnationalism.
    (credit: SM)

  • I only wish this was some brilliant joke. Alas, I think it's quite serious. You can download the table of contents and some first pages: this is pure comedy in an unintentional way. Who knew there'd be such a market for teaching white folks who date my peoples? Oh, wait a minute...

  • Ok, not Asian-related. Can someone please explain why anyone gives a flying f--- about photographer Terry Richardson? He's like Vice Magazine's favorite shutterbug, was recently featured in the Beautiful Losers show at the YBC and honestly, I just don't get it. My issues with him aren't moral - taking naked photos of yourself with teenage (but presumably legal-age) girls sounds like some great ego-tripping if you're the photographer but compositionally and artistically, I don't get why anyone else would care.

  • Thursday, October 21, 2004


    Jeff Chang's been churning out a mass of words on rapper Jin, whose debut The Rest is History has just (about to?) drop. His most recent piece was a review in the SF Bay Guardian but before that, he wrote an even longer post on his Can't Stop, Won't Stop blog dealing with the same topic. Some of you might remember, I also wrote someting on Jin's "Learn Chinese" video back in December and I should be writing something on his album for the Seattle Weekly. Stay tuned for the longer version but here's the short one:

    Not a bad album but like most of Ruff Ryder's debuts (Jada, Eve, Styles P), The Rest Is History isn't a magnum opus. Jin's song-writing skills are an improvement compared to other freestyle kings like Supernatural but he still has a ways to go on the lyrical scale. The main problem with his album isn't Jin but the production. This is a strikingly dull album, musically speaking - there's nothing on here that I can imagine remembering down the road. The Kanye West track ("I Got A Love") is possibly the most ineffectual beat I've heard from Kanye, ever. This all said, it's not a bad start for Jin and if dude has a stage show that can impress, he's got a decent future ahead of him. Well, as much as any rapper these days.

  • When I first heard Nas' "Bridging the Gap," I thought its concept was better than its execution. When watching the video, I decided:no, the execution is pretty damn hot too.
    (credit: Funkdigi)

  • Another reason I'm bummed I don't live in NYC.

  • Music writer Kris Ex gets his blog on: AKA GunYoga (I'm kind of feeling "Warscribe" better but that's just me).

  • Stop the presses. Let the staff go. Refund the advertisers. It is now official: The Source is over. At least, they will be if they truly intend to put Michael Jackson on their cover.
    (credit: J.C.)

  • The Boston Globe recently ran a feature story on Asian American cinema. It talks about the recent Silkscreens Film Festival, held last month at MIT, where they screened a variety of features including Shih-Ching Tsuo's excellent Take-Out, Pop Life favorite Charlotte Sometimes by Eric Byler and 30 some other features and shorts. (One of the highlighted films though was Jimmy Lee's Close Call which surprised me: when I screened that film several years ago, I didn't find it very good - instead, I thought it was overly melodramatic, exploitative and unforgivably patriarchal. Maybe there's a new cut of it). I have a longer post on the topic of independent and Asian American film upcoming. Get ready for the hate.
    (credit: Angry Asian Man)

  • Wednesday, October 20, 2004


    jesus saves

    Top billin'.

    One more all those NYC folk who were hating on my Lakers and laughed gleefully when they lost to Detroit...who's laughing now? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

    Tuesday, October 19, 2004


    three the hard way

    I know what ya'll were thinking.

    Bottom of the 9th inning, winning run at the plate, two outs. Tens of thousands of bad tempered Yankees fans waiting. NYPD in riot gear taking up positions around the field.

    Full count.

    This is where the Sox are supposed to blow it, where Clark is supposed to become this year's Aaron Boone, where the Yankees, once again, delivers the coup de grace to crush Boston's dreams. Instead, Foulke strikes Clark out and all of the sudden 0-3 became 3-3 in three days. This series has been incredible, insane thus far: most runs scored in a league championship game (#3), longest playoff game (#5), and tonight, first time a team has ever come from three games down to force a Game Seven.

    Can't stop, won't stop.
    (That's for you, J.C. Stop hating. Embrace the realness)

  • Great interview with Sandra Oh over at the NY Times but wait, what is this? Oh is married? To Alexander Payne?

    That sound you just heard is Pop Life's heart breaking.
    (credit: Zen Dog)

  • Monday, October 18, 2004


    Look, I know some people just don't get Sox love but I'm going to try to explain it like this...

    I have my own personal reasons, having grown up outside of Boston from age 0.5 to about 7. Then there was 1986, a World Series of such excrutiating heartache that it either turned you off from ever wanting to follow the Sox again or endeared you to their plight for life. I fall in the latter. I'm not remotely the biggest booster in the Sox Nation. I can't quote you stats on the players - hell, I didn't even realize Nomar got traded until the Olympics - I can't spell Carl Yamstremsky's name right.

    But, I'm also endeared to them because people I hold dear are endeared to them. So much so that after tonight's 14 inning marathon, ended only after Ortiz (again) won the day, they call each other and have the phone call equivalent of a group hug. And that might sound sappy to you but their mutual love for the Sox is so great that it gives them an excuse to visit each other (despite not living in the same state), take road trips with one another, invent little superstitions to alter the team's karma and in general, build on bonds that were already tight but are now just that much tighter. It's hard to articulate but it's a wondrous thing to see, especially in a time when work and distance often serve to sever friendships.

    Believe me, I know other sports nuts - a good friend bought his baby daughter a mini Kobe jersey which I think is karmically risky, but he's that big of a Lakers' fan. But let me just tell you: Sox fandom transcends that. By that, I don't mean that these are people who paint their chests with red paint, wear those foam hands, or take trips to the BX just to urinate on the Yankees' stadium. Yet, rooting for the Sox is something my friends do with such complete passion that I often can only spectate in awe.

    After all, in my humble opinion, to be a Sox fan means being on the side of despair, frustration and disappointment year after year after year (being a Cal fan is much the same but that's another story) and without making too much of this: some of us can appreciate that feeling because we experience it in profound ways far outside just the realm of sport. I can't speak for others but I think the sensitivity to often being on the losing side of the good fight is precisely what makes rooting for the Sox so great...because occassionally, like tonight or last night, they'll actually pull it out and in that instant, a whole world of possibilities and potential opens up. Theeeennnn, usually, they'll go out and get destroyed in the most inexplicable or embarassing ways but hey, that's the cycle that's got folks hooked. God forbid the Sox should go out and do something crazy like win the World Series - I don't know if fans could handle it. Maybe they'd all become Cubs fans to get that feeling back.

    Anyways, 3-2, back to NYC. Shouts out to the Astros too - Jeff Kent stand up!


    if you could judge albums by their covers...

    Fam - can we talk about this new Mos Def album? My thoughts are still jumbled but some comments off the top.

    1) If Kweli's album was too commercial, The New Danger seems to suffer from the inverse problem: not enough street heat. I think "Close Edge" is rather hot but if that's the best shot in a 18 round clip, it's time to put either Primo or Just Blaze on speed dial.

    2) Speaking of producers, Kanye's track for "Sunshine" would be one of his blandest this whole year if not for the even more boring work he did for Jin ("I Gotta Love"). How does Common get "Food" and Mos end up with his sonic milquetoast? Who made that call?

    3) "The Rape Over" = a truly bad idea. Jacking the instrumental for Jay-Z's "The Takeover" and rhyming over it would have been some hot shit on a mixtape from a year ago, but in 2004, not only is the track a little tired but the poor fidelity doesn't help either, nor does this line that left many heads scratching their heads: "quasi-homosexuals are running this rap shit." Who he is talking about? Camrom? Russell Simmons? And what's up with the queer-baiting? What would Umi say?

    4) Strangely, I don't think this is a bad album though I agree that it is self-indulgent. And boring in long stretches. But I still have to rank it above Q-Tip's misfiring on Kamal the Abstract which was self-indulgent, boring, but more to the point: a terrible album musically - practically unlistenable at times. The New Danger isn't grating, just uninteresting at many points. Good editing and better sequencing could have improved this in droves. And more heat! I hate to keep harping on this but his cameo on the Bush Babees' "Love Song" was more invigorating than at least half this album. I'm just saying.

    5) This is a larger philosophical question but in convos I've had with friends, we're all asking the same question: what does it mean to be a "conscious" rapper now that Jadakiss is dropping, "Why?", Jay-Z is guesting on Talib Kweli and Dead Prez songs and Puffy and Trick Daddy are helping register people to vote? Truly, the game done changed. Next thing, it's going to be the Clipse rapping about single payer healthcare and Nelly rhyming about... Ok, forget Nelly. You get the idea.

    Can we also talk about how great De La Soul's The Grind Date is? I was ready to see them retire after two lackluster Art Official Intelligence albums but suddenly, they've put out their best album since 1996. The production is sharp, the lyrics feel a tad dated at times but for the most part, still have spark. Maybe this is just my nostalgia rearing its head but frankly, for 15+ year vets, De La's turned in a far better product than any other peer I can think of.

    Sunday, October 17, 2004


    forget a 40 oz.

  • Hua on - yes, it's true - 50 Cent Mineral Water. This is so next level, I'm serious. Vitamin water people, vitamin water.

  • Jon C on Camron in the NY Times. This is so awesome on so many levels, I can't even begin to articulate.

  • Cal = Yes!.
    Sox = Let's just not talk about it.

  • Most hip-hop awards shows are overblown displays of self-congratulatory masturbation but I was feeling parts of VH1's Hip Hop Honors show. Bringing together rap legends to cover legendary rap songs was ridiculous (in a good way). Beastie Boys doing a Run DMC medley? Mixmaster Mike channeling the spirit of Jam Master Jay? Good gawd! Nas doing that new joint with his dad? Sizzlin'. Fat Joe kickin' "South Bronx"? Hold ya heads. And Nas doing "Hold Ya Head Up"? Incredible.

  • Eugene on Turkey. More incredible photography.

  • "A Critical Forum On Television and Media Culture".

  • Have a Bic pen? They're like Kryptonite to Kryptonite locks. Amazing.

  • R. Kelly's attorney vs. Jim DeRogatis? 1-0.
    (credit: Aqua Boogie @

  • Another perspective on the Tribe Called Quest reunion tour.

  • Joe Schloss sent this over: Barney Thugs It Out.

  • Saturday, October 16, 2004


    This has been a bizarre week. Over here, it's been raining all kinds of hate.

    Thanks to what I can only describe as a half-funny, half-horrifying smear campaign being conducted by one very determined blogger with a grudge, I find myself in the ridiculous position of having to assure people - including good friends of mine - that I have NOT been sending out racist emails to anyone. I'm sure said grudge-bearer is cackling with glee at the success of his libelous endeavor and even I have to admit that his week-long Bash-A-Thon has had moments of brazen brilliance. Alas, some of his followers aren't quite as clever as they've used this as an opportunity to unload rather ugly, anti-Asian comments made both here and elsewhere. It's ironic actually: I haven't called anyone a "n*****" but I have people call me a "faggot" and a "chink." All this over taking someone off my blog roll.

    (By the way, if you're just tuning in and have no idea what the hell is going on - consider yourself lucky.)

    Anyways, that isn't the only craziness going on around here. I had a very nice conversation with hip-hop producer Camu Tao of SA Smash yesterday afternoon after both of us found ourselves the target of an elaborate but juvenile practical joke. Someone claiming to be Camu called me - on my home # no less - the other night to complain about a negative review I had written about SA Smash in URB. Faux Camu proceeded to dole out the standard "I don't like negative reviews, you're taking money out of my pocket, blah blah blah" rant that I've gotten from other indie rappers but what's funny is that I've never written on Camu or SA Smash before and Real Camu never even knew who I was until this incident sprung up. You can imagine both our confusion.

    One wonders why anyone would go through all the trouble of claiming to be Camu in particular - not that he's not worthy of clonage - especially since they were too lazy to fact-check that I've never wrote on him or his group to begin with. In any case, Real Camu and I had a very good laugh about the whole thing. Five minutes on the phone with him and it was instantly obvious that he'd never be that kind of dude who would harass writer over a review. In fact, Real Camu has even more of a vested interest in knowing who's pretending to be him, especially when they're putting words in his mouth and potentially creating problems for him because of the subterfuge. If there wasn't a mad rapper before, there is now.

    By the way, let's just consider this again: someone claiming to be a real rapper calls me up to complain about something I didn't write.

    Forget about raining hate, it's raining crazy.

    Good god though - stuff like this makes EVERYTHING so much better. I don't even watch The Daily Show religiously, but Stewart is genius on this clip from his appearance on CNN's Crossfire, not only managing to embarass the two hosts but raising some genuinely important issues around media responsibility and partisan politics.
    (credt: Jay Smooth)

    Wednesday, October 13, 2004


  • Round one might go to the Yankees, 10-7 but let me just point out: 8-0 to 8-7 in two innings. By the way, my man needs a medium-sized version of this t-shirt. Holler back.

  • It's been a long time since I've seen anything written about the issue of Asian American college admissions. Washington Post columnist Jay Matthews tackles this controversy this week. Matthews avoids writing a strong polemic, instead, mostly using the column to help air out the views of one of his readers, a Dr. Ed Chin, who argues vigorously that there's an informal quota system designed to keep Asian American students out of elite schools like Harvard and Berkeley.

    This is nothing new. In fact, UCSC professor Dana Takagi tackled this very same debate over 10 years ago in her book, "Retreat From Race". Especially in the Bay Area, this has been a sore topic for many, given the divisive politics around S.F.'s diversity consent decree and admissions at the elite high school Lowell. Jeff Chang, in one of his previous lives as editor of Colorlines, has an excellent summary and analysis of the Lowell case.

    By the way, Chin cites a book, "Beyond the Classroom" by L. Steinberg which says - and even I was surprised to see this claim - that "In terms of school achievement, it is more advantageous to be Asian than to be wealthy, to have non-divorced parents, or to have a mother who is able to stay at home full time." Perhaps this will start a wave of "How To Be Asian" tutoring schools - Kaplan, watch your back.
    (credit: Angry Asian Man)

  • Also over at Mr. Angry's: there's been a lot of grumbling about the recent Law and Order: SVU episode "Debt," which is about Chinese immigrant smuggling with some nods thrown to prostitution rings and sweat shops. S and I watched this the other night and maybe we've been beat down into submitting to stereotypes but frankly, this didn't seem that bad. For about the representation of Chinese, what we winced at was 1) how poorly Ming Na F.O.B.-ed it up...if I were her, I'd leave this performance off her resume and 2) how surprisingly bad both B.D. Wong and Ming Na's Mandarin was. Provided, I assume that both of them probably come from Cantonese-speaking families but still, that was some of the worst Chinese I've heard since Chow Yun Fat stilted his way through Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

  • And speaking of diversity...even Orange County is headed towards a no-majority ethnic mix. The OC better start casting more Asians and Latinos...
    (credit: The Melting Blog)

  • Cocaine Blunts reports on a Tribe Called Quest reunion show. When are they coming to the Bay?

  • From New School, back to True School

  • Tribute to Ignorance keeps killing it. This time, it's an updated essay that tracks the careers of three of the mid '90s most promising talents: Nas, O.C. and Jeru. What a time warp: remember when O.C. and Jeru mattered?

  • Also leaving suckas dead: We Eat So Many Shrimp. Recent post: Lloyd Banks made gay porn tapes? I have no problem with any part of that rumor but it does give "G-Unit" a whole new meaning, no? (Yeah, I know, I wasn't the first nor last to make that joke)>

  • Lastly, I'm giving a free talk tonight about the history of the Filipino American DJ scene in San Francisco. This is part of the Norcal DJ Academy's monthly open house sessions. 6-7pm.

  • Monday, October 11, 2004


    I was listening to NPR's Fresh Air the other day and they had on a solid panel discussion with Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw. There's one thing Jennings said that echoed a similar sentiment I heard on an excellent Forum airing on journalism a few weeks back: one of the main changes that blogging has wrought on how our society manages information is to challenge the bureaucratic, chain-of-command that characterizes traditional news sources: newspapers, network, etc.

    This is not a new observation but it does strike me that mainstream media has only recently been acknowledging this challenge to their traditional systems. Blogging - for many understandable reasons - has been treated as a fad, a cute human interest or technology story, but bloggers are still treated as mavericks and crackpots. Suddenly though, those mavericks and crackpots managed to embarass CBS News and I doubt this will be the first time.

    On the flipside, the blogosphere works by a strange logic at times.

    Recently, I decided to slim down my blog roll by removing sites that I wasn't reading that much. I probably took down about a dozen sites and it was nothing personal. Some of them were more personal diary blogs that I just don't have time for, others were news-oriented sites that were mainly duplicating information I was reading elsewhere, etc. etc.

    As it turned out, one blogger whose site I took down thought I was dissing him. That couldn't be further from the truth. I've actually enjoyed his acerbic comments and I like the fact that he's a contrarian, willing to rile things up. Alas, because I removed his site from my blog roll "without offering any kind of warning or explanation" (in his words), he took this as an act of war and responded by listing Pop Life is in his blog roll under "Gay Chinks".

    Anyways, this is already pretty damn funny but what's really hilarious is that people who read both our sites suddenly thought there was a big blog battle brewing so they began to create posts about this supposed "beef". One person, god bless him, even went as far to surmise that I had taken down this particular site as some kind of political statement and he gave me props for taking a "stand." Don't get me wrong: I'm flattered, but all I was doing was a little house cleaning, not grand standing.

    And there you have it - a blog battle (if you can call a one way hate-fest "a battle") springs up out of thin air and will burn itself out as quickly as it takes the posting to cycle off the index page. The whole affair is plainly absurd but that's blogging for you.

    (By the way, speaking of blogging, J-Shep drops a pretty damn fine policy:
      If you want to rumble or register beef: 1. leave your actual email, or I will delete your chicken ass 2. especially if you're making uninformed, non sequitur, ill-conceived attacks on my race, creed, and/or personal life, of which you know naught.


  • Jay Smooth = media assassin. Seriously, Jay is taking folks to task on their played out representation of hip-hop but yo Jay - you read the Oregonian?

  • Snoop's "Drop It Like It's Hot" is the best thing that I've heard in ages. The Neptunes have been largely MIA this year (except for that N.E.R.D. album no one picked up) but this new track is ridiculous: mouth pop and clicks, a simple bass drum, and the hiss of aerosal sprays. Brilliant. Want to make it even better? Peep the video. Hot, hot, hot.
    (credit: Hardly Art, Hardly Garbage)

  • CEO of the R.O.C.? Or how about President of Def Jam?
    (credit: Faux Rillz)

  • Speaking of the Roc - they have their own iPod-esque player?

  • For those who aren't getting enough spooning in bed, you can now get a man pillow.

  • Eminem's new album cover. As Royal Magazine points out: um, didn't we already see this before?

  • Sunday, October 10, 2004


    It starts with

    But usually ends up

    They say because of

    But better to be in the playoffs than to be

    Pop Life will be rooting with these dudes.

    But alas, not him. And it's hard to tell who he is going to root for. Just in case things go bad though, you can always accept this wisdom.

    By the way, big gas face goes out to

    ...though in all fairness, we had a legitimate shot and couldn't make it happen. After all, it's not everyday we can pull off

    Friday, October 08, 2004


    It's not often you'll hear me say this but the new issue of Vice is kind of on fire. For their 10th anniversary issue (damn, has it been ten years already?), they produce a spoof of mainstream, glossy entertainment magazines: think Maxim, Us Weekly, Blender, etc. Provided - clowning the vapidity of these other rags isn't that tough. It's like Eminem making fun of Michael Jackson - cute but an easy, easy joke. That said, I had to appreciate how all-out Vice went in committing every element of the magazine - table of contents, contributors, the Do's and Don'ts, etc. - to the concept. I can't remember if Vice has ever tried to execute something that took up the entire issue.

    I especially enjoyed their "10 Must-Have Albums OF ALL TIME" which includes: Thriller, Rumours, The White Album and...The Eagles' Greatest Hits:
      "Truly, this record runs the gamut of the audio spectrum. From the hell-raisin' "Desperado" to the sweet 'n' soothi' "Take It Easy," this is one disc that's sure to make you NOT lose your mind (like the chorus in another Eagles song called "Life in the Fast Lane" said)."


    In a recent story by the East Bay Express' Eric Arnold, it seems that rappers are starting to copyright slang. Legally, no one's quite sure if one can really enforce rights on a phrase like "off the hook" or the ubiquitous "shizzle" variations. Still, until the Supreme Court weighs in on the matter, it's still a fascinating issue. After all, rappers borrow (or bite, depending on your perspective) from one another all the time...and typically, the evolution of language into slang and idiom is hardly the sort of thing that you'd expect (or want) legal or corporate interests to get involved in. However, if The Donald can copywright "You're Fired" (I'd still LOVE to see that tested in a courtroom) while Snoop calls his TV series, "Snoop Televizzle," you figure someone out there - ok, E40 - is thinking real long and hard about getting his scrilla on.

    As a bonus, Arnold also provides a handy glossary to Bay Area slang, i.e. "Barney (n.): Purple-colored marijuana considered to be of extremely high potency (cf. Mistah Fab); see also Yurple"



  • I don't buy into conspiracy theories on a regular basis - for example, this nonsense about the "missing" Pentagon plane is laughable - but I'll buy into this one: Is President Bush wired? Would anyone be surprised if he was? I'd be surprised if he wasn't.

    Pull his string, watch him talk.

  • HAL gets no love.

  • This story is just too rich: Ja Rule rents a crib for Cribs. He and MTV get sued. Ha, ha, Ja's a faker.

  • Great idea, good time for it: Mixtapes-Etc: a mixtape review blog.

  • Blogomerate list of 2004's best rap 12"s.

  • Yo Pharrell, stick to producing. His new Reebok "Ice Cream" kicks are spectacularly ugly.

  • Any blog that's willing to create a "Tribute to Hydra Entertainment" gets my vote: A Tribute To Ignorance.

  • The new Roots' video for "Star" is worth catching, playing off the theme of "Everybody Is A Star." It runs through a series of snapshots of different "ordinary" people in places like Compton, Houston, Philly, etc. It's a nice break from all the big booty bullshit that's out there.

  • Wednesday, October 06, 2004


    what'd I do?

    With all due respect to esteemed peers, I just don't get why so many people are universally hating on Talib Kweli's Beautiful Struggle. The hate is so intense, you'd think it was an unsalvagable disaster but once I finally listened to it myself, I couldn't figure out what was supposed to be so irredeemably bad about it.

    Let's just be honest though: it's not a great album and is less consistent than Quality which is saying a lot since Quality wasn't exactly a magnum opus either. Kweli still suffers from the same issues as last time: he wants to be something akin to the thinking man's Camron - ok, bad example. He wants to be at the meeting point between Common and Jay-Z but inevitably, that kind of duality creates problems. Beautiful Struggle has its share of bad songs - none worse to me than "Around My Way." I love The Police but there needs to be some kind of moratorium placed on any rapper who wants to interpolate any of their songs found on their Greatest Hits album. This is almost as bad as Puffy's "I'll Be Missing You" and decidedly worse than Tupac's "Changes" (normally, a Bruce Hornsby interpolation would trump, but since 'Pac was dead, I can't really hold him responsible).

    And yes, I agree, Kweli's production team lays some duds on this one, especially those weak, fad-driven rock-meets-electro detritus like "A Game" and "Going Hard." It's as if Kweli's production team heard Kanye's "Throw Ya Hands Up" and just bit his steez but only half as good.

    But c'mon people, it's not like this is Kweli's Nastradamous or anything (heretofore known as one of the worst albums ever made by a good artist). "Back Up Offa Me"? Catchy. "Never Been In Love"? Corny but enjoyable. "Ghetto Snow" and "Black Girl Pain"? Smart, emotive songs. "I Try"? A decent radio single. The way people are going off on this, I thought it'd be pure garbage but really, there's half a good album lurking here. That doesn't make Beautiful Struggle an instant classic or anything, but it's worth checking out. I suspect some fans are just disappointed that Kweli seems to be moving further away from the aesthetics of Black Star and Reflection Eternal and while I'm sympathetic to that point of view, nostalgia for '98 is wasted energy.

    What Kweli really needs is just a solid producer to work with - I don't know if that's Hi-Tek, Kanye or someone else, but he needs that anchor like LL needed Marley or KRS needed Premier, you dig?

    ADDED: Just to be very clear about this: Beautiful Struggle has flaws. Many of them. I'm not giving a rousing endorsement. But it's just not that bad. You'd think it was like, I dunno, Blueprint 2 or the second Royal Flush album. If people find it boring - ok, fine. But there's been a lot of boring albums in 2004 thus far, and none of them have attracted the same level of ire. Maybe I'm just not as annoyed by the album since, well, I have lower expectations of Kweli based on the inconsistencies of Quality.

    Actually, now that I really think about it, that probably says more than anything else - I just don't have that much invested in Kweli. In contrast, I expected (ok, wanted) more out of the Roots' The Tipping Point, largely explaining my disappointment with it. With Kweli's album, I just have very little compulsion to write on it at all.


    I forgot to make mention of this before, but the folks at Tha Hip have been good enough to help reprint some of my older album reviews, most of them dating back to the late 1990s when I was a total hack-o-rama, churning out copy like a madman for such heralded (*cough cough*), now-defunct sites such as Addicted to Noise/SonicNet, Wall of Sound, and (ah, the good 'ol days of the money train).

    It's sometimes strange to read old work. There's the pain of recognizing bad writing dressed up fancy (I did/do with more frequency than I'd like). There's the surprise of opinions I held once that I have since shifted - flip-flops in today's political parlance. And then, occassionally, there is the rare piece that surprises simply because it managed to say everything I wanted it too - a rare personal achivement for any writer in any medium.

    Three that stood out: 1) Snoop Dogg's The Game Is to Be Sold, Not Told. This really was a terrible album but it's a testament to Snoop's fortitude that he managed to survive such a career low. "Drop It Like It's Hot"? Ridiculously hot.

    2) A Tribe Called Quest's The Love Movement This review had some regrettable prose ("aural art" was a particular favorite of mine back then) and I was probably being far too nice to Tribe since they had broken up just previous to the LP's release. But my opinion hasn't changed that much: I still think it's a better album than many die-hard fans gave it credit for, but it was a limited album, with many songs that lacked a real sonic anchor. "Busta's Lament," - then and now - still brings a smile and "Find a Way" and "Like It Like That" may not be as classic as "Award Tour" but their appeal hasn't faded for me after all this time.

    3) Outkast's Aquemini. I was proud of this review at the time: I thought I did a pretty good job of capturing the group's greatness and why they were so important. Looking back, I'm not feeling the review...not because I disagree with the content of it, but the writing didn't come remotely close to articulating the excellence of the album. In all honestly, I just think Aquemini was beyond my ability then...might still be.

  • The hotness = Screwed Up Records and Tapes. Though, as Julianne points out, this is pretty gangsta too.

  • I'm So Sincurr offers 4 reasons why blackface is wack. You need four? I figure just one would be enough.

  • I'm not a huge fan of Kayslay's mix-CD style...but if dude wants to bring the heat to labels for their hypocrisy by using his radio and DJ clout, I'm down to see that go down.
    (credit: We Eat So Many Shrimp)

  • The Simpsons (Jessica, Ashlee) are bad enough but now their father has to get in on the reality action? Jesus christ, stuff like this just makes you cynical about American entertainment.
    (credit: Coolfer)