Thursday, November 23, 2006

And Will.I.Am Still Looks Alot Like K-OS

Amidst all the Hova backlash, there's been something new cropping up: Black-Eyed Love. Yes, the group that Okayplayers loooooove (loooooooooooove) to hate are getting the props!

While "Humps" probably is one of the worst songs ever written and JJ Fad probably isn't getting any royalties from "Fergilicious" (though Nardwaur took them to task), it probably helps that Will.I.Am's finally taken over music. Just ask O-Dub, who wrote this Inside Bay Area piece extolling his not-quite-as-good-as-Timbaland virtues.

But it's this LA Times piece that proved most intriguing (courtesy Angry Asian Man). As it would turn out, "Bebot"'s become a Filipino hip hop anthem (a community whose love and understanding of hip hop can't be denied: see Q-Bert and the other Bay Area Filipino DJs, Canadian-equivalent DJ Pump) and guys like the TrackBastards popping up in every city), with Allan Pineda's grassroots campaign to put the video on heavy rotation on MTV. I haven't seen this sort of representation in mainstream media since the Ewoks learned Tagalog (and, apparently, nomadic Chinese).

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Crit as Detritus

Can't say I fully subscribe to Dahlen's Pitchfork column re: sad state of criticism nee death of criticism, tags not seeming all that more appealing than what he's railing against, but I did like this sentiment: "We're not focused on judgment, so much as discovery." (BTW: who came up with "unfuckwithable" and why is it used everywhere now?) I'll leave the counter to Stylus, more out of laziness than anything else.

That said, I did like the Chicago Reader post about internet leaks, it being all gushy and nostalgic and me being all how-much-shit-have-I-downloaded-and-not-listened-to and what not. Again, I don't necessarily agree with the premise, but yes, the barrage of sub-par MP3s to sift through is mind-boggling. Buyer's remorse was probably more fun, though I doubt it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Black Comedy Week: Refrederator

I've always been quite fascinated by animation's sordid history, particularly when it comes to the presentation of now-shocking ideas in what is typically seen as an innocent medium. These then-accepted, now-offensive cartoons (often in the Looney Toons camp) aren't exactly readily available (Disney's never going to release Song of the South on DVD), but thanks to the Internet, a little digging reveals a goldmine.

Thankfully, alot of people do the hard work for us. Emru Townsend, guest-blogging on Refrederator, posted a week's worth of what they've coined as "Black Comedy Week," from Tom and Jerry doing blackface in "Plane Dumb" to Bugs in playing dice in "All This and Rabbit Stew" to "Little Black Sambo." All of the cartoons are downloadable in their full, uncensored glory.

I'd post links to Asian stereotypes in past cartoons, but there's just way too many WWII-era cartoons to sift through. But feel free to leave links in the comments.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Da Capola

The annual Da Capo Best Music Writing is out, and it's much improved over the last. I've been buying the anthology over the past few years (in vain attempt to see if I'll ever make it...sob, sob...fucking Klosterman...) and have been increasingly disappointed (though pacified overall) by the selection. After a few years, you could always bank on one Greil Marcus piece (the guy's like the Skratch Pikels of music criticism, though it'd be unfortunate if they retired him from competition), an obligatory blues piece, at least one Eminem piece (or other 'sad state of hip hop' type affair), and a kitschy piece from the Vanity Fair music issue, with increasing focus on online-only pieces or blog writing. It was getting a bit formulaic, and the sequencing had been a bit off (which is odd for an anthology of music writing, assuming, of course, every rock crit might be a failed musician, but a kick-ass mixtape producer).

I'm about half way through this year's installment, and so far, so good. The picks have been interesting - two opera pieces! - and there's a logical progression between them, with a subtly heightened emphasis on the female experience in music (though there hasn't exactly been a dearth of it in past installments). There's a strong emphasis on online pieces, many of which still remain online. This blog's compiled links to most of them, and a search through Technorati reveals *gasp!* that most of these writers have blogs of their own.

As a final note, was I the last person to find out that you could download entire issues of the Fader for free? Interesting concept. I'm guessing they're betting that most people find on-screen reading a tortuous affair. With that said, I'm off to take a couple Tylenol and a better eyeglass prescription.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Spoonful of Seahorses Makes the Medicine Go Down

I get nervous when the Globe runs stories like this. On one hand, it's good for people like Zhang Gongyao to question the status quo, progressing science along the way it always has been. This is particularly so if the practice of traditional Chinese medicine has been mythologized beyond its scientific roots; if the evidence ain't there, it ain't there.

However, it'd be folly to think that a practice that has so many years of history behind it would be entirely made up. While certain facets of it might be out to lunch, I highly doubt that all of it would be, and I get nervous at the all-or-nothing implications that this Globe story has. I get nervous that people who tend to be afraid of anything different might seize upon this for different reasons (there's already a number of 'those crazy people use bear claws!' and some such; I'm waiting for the gremlin comments), keeping in mind that this is the same country wherein one lady, Elizabeth Magner, sued her Chinese neighbours for the smell of Chinese cooking emanating from the house, claiming that the odour was carcinogenic.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

World Leader Pretend: Why I Choose REM Over U2

I've left a few artifacts at my parents' house. In my bedroom, there's a burnt CD of the old REM Christmas singles, which, if memory serves, includes a version of "Country Feedback" or "Low" with Wilco. On the main floor, in the living room, there's an old VHS press kit from New Adventures in Hi Fi wherein Michael Stipe moons Bob Dole. On the top floor, in the computer room, there's the old Jim Greer biography on the band, where Greer asks one of the guys what they wished the three letters of the band actually stood for: "Rest Easy Mom."

When Dan Kois wrote this Slate column on the REM v U2 debate - who was the best rock band in the 80s - it wasn't too hard of a question to answer. I've always been a steadfast REM fan, obsessively following the band's details throughout adolesence. I'm younger than Kois: by the time I had listened to REM, it was well past their 80s college rock hey-day, and in the tail-end of their first backlash (people didn't seem to take too kindly to Michael Stipe's newfound enunciation). By that point, Nirvana had clearly taken the lead, Bono wasn't too far off with his "the Fly" schtick, and any attention paid to REM's 80s output was purely archival.

At that stage of adolescence, it was odd to pit REM against U2. The latter had gone through its Americana pissing match with Rattle and hum, and into its uber-machismo rock god mode of Achtung Baby. REM, though now much more audible, were as sullen as ever. As with any awkward teen, REM's outsider appeal was much more attractive to me, with U2 being much too normal, that nice popular kid that you had no reason to dislike but did anyway.

Instead of pitting REM against U2 for rock-band-of-the-80s, it made a lot more sense to compare them with the Smiths. The classic rock kids latched onto U2 and the Tragically Hip, both providing that sort of rock anthem that didn't take a lot of guess work or, as Kois might put it, self-searching. The more angsty of the bunch had Nirvana, and those of us that were more passive-aggressive about it had either Morrissey or Michael Stipe to look to. Morrissey wasn't without his charm, but his fans had that same pompousness that male Bono fans did, albeit in a much more well-read sense. Stipe was just an odd ball, much less inclined to explain himself, though just as much of a showboat. Despite all the terseness and plain incomprehension in Stipe's lyrics or antics, however, it always seemed that Stipe was as sincere as anything else, and while Morrissey was busy being all clever and shit, Stipe just seemed that much more relatable. I can certainly understand why the Brit-Pop fans ultimately chose the Smiths over REM, but those reasons are also exactly why I chose REM over the Smiths.

That's always been Stipe's charm, and thus REM's charm. They're less antagonistic than the Smiths; they're much more 'everyman' than one would think, but not in the traditional sense that U2 have grown into. U2's grown and redefined arena rock; REM's content to sell t-shirts in the parking lot. And for that underdog charm, I'll always stick by REM.

Here's Stipe with chef Mario Bateli, as they take in a U2 concert:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Predicting the Unpredictable: How I Was Right For Once

Some of you might remember my previous post on how the hell Michael Jackson can save his sorry ass. It ain't rocket science: the man's his own worst enemy.

But being used to my own brand of stupidity, I was a bit surprised when I found out I was right on one end: Mike left Dubai, and he's messing with Will.I.Am. 'Course, he didn't take my advice to stay out of the media, but it's a start. Here's the Access Hollywood interviews:

Part 1

Part 2

I particularly love it when he starts messing with the digital camera like he's going to buy it on the spot. If you've read this NY Times piece on how Mike squandered his fortune, it makes it that much funnier more sad.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Letting It Sink InIt Sunk

I hadn't heard about Christgau getting fired, nor had I witnessed this blog, which reviews records/shows/etc in graphical format (providing further proof of the schtick known as mathematics). Both serve to remind me that brevity was never my strong suit, but here's an attempt anyway:

LCD Soundsystem's 45:33
James Murphy et al, hipsters du jour, who singlehandly made blazers in the dance club the new standard of dress, release a Nike-commissioned piece for 45:33 minutes of running, reminding us all again that they're fucking LCD Soundsystem, and we're all the fat kids that were never in shape. Negating the fact that LCD may/will succumb to the call to split this into shorter singles, the piece in its entirety works well as a long reminder that LCD are the coldest, most soul-less (and the most pragmatic) rock band around, and while that might sound like a diss, we still fawned over it like those poseurs in "Losing My Edge."

Quantic's An Announcement to Answer
Quantic's umpteenth release of the year sees him purposely getting sloppy to effect that funky looseness that's evaded his previous work. It doesn't entirely work - meticulous precision was something that benefited, not hindered, the older albums - and at times it sounds a little too 'worldbeat'-ish (and thus too average) for Quantic, coming across more like a lite Up, Bustle and Out. And, let's face it, Quantic hasn't ever been that great at producing beats for rappers, and guest Ohmega Watts ends up sounding flat.

K-Os's Atlantis:Hymns For Disco
Canada's hip hop renaissance man provides further proof that, in this post A Love Below hip hop world, merely rhyming just isn't enough. K-Os proves he's got one of the best musical ears of any genre, though he's relentlessly distracted in the notion that he's a lot more controversial than he really is - the guy's a friggin' teddy bear, no matter how much PE referencing he might do. K-Os' lyrics are only slightly better than Will.I.Am's (to whom he also bears an uncanny physical resemblance), even if he's proven to be a better musician, with better pop sensibilities than most. Atlantis continues K-Os' trend of releasing the country's best albums of the past two decades. Take heed: that "Saturday Night/Sunday Morning" song will be the ubiquitous autumn/winter hit.