Saturday, January 31, 2004

(by Oliver)


and you know what really sucks?
he just bought that scooter

  • A friend of mine mentioned this story to me last night and I had to find out more but in Taiwan, a dead whale exploded in the middle of a city street (see pic above!) as workers were transporting it to a research facility. Unfortunately, the heat in Southern Taiwan caused the internal gases within the whale to build up and next thing you know, BOOM, it's a shower of whale guts. As if that isn't great enough, there's this hilarious quote from the Taipei Times:
      Scores of men have visited Tainan's Sutsao Wild Life Reservation Area where professors, students and volunteers were working on the corpse of a male whale, because they were curious about the whale's genitalia. The whale's penis measures 1.6m in length and it looks like a thick water pipe. More than 100 Tainan City resi-dents, mostly men, have reportedly gone to see the corpse to "experience" the size of its penis.
    (Now, you can't bring up a new exploding whale story without mentioning the granddaddy of all exploding whale stories.)

  • William Hung mania continues. The latest is this radio interview that Star 100.7FM did with William. Not only is the American Idol rejectee down-to-earth candid, but he was such a good sport, singing Phil Colllins' "Two Worlds" for the radio DJs. Like I said before: Hung is one bad ass mo-fo. I mean - you just know he's like the greatest karaoke singer ever.

    What I like most about him is that he's utterly sincere. There's nothing pretentious about dude - he's just this super real guy. Apparently, he's getting to be a regular celeb on campus, where I'm still waiting to see my proposed t-shirt: "He Bangs!: I Hang With Hung" appear. If you haven't seen the footage of William yet, here's a Windows Media file with this audition). Peep how he takes his criticism like an adult, unlike all those weepy whiners who walked out, crying like babies, because Simon said some mean words. Hung was a straight souljah, no doubt).

  • Same friend who told me about the exploding whale story also mentioned Mr. Cranky's Movie Reviews. I'm sure he's not new to a lot of other folks but this was my first time stumbling upon him. Not every review written on the site is quite as hilarious as others, but I had a five-minute laughing/coughing fit reading their review of Kangaroo Jack. Not having seen the movie, I can't speak as to how accurate they are, but I find it hard to believe that the movie could be any funnier than the review itself - here's one of the best paragraphs from it:
      Only once my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the theater and I saw exactly which segment of America was flocking to this movie did I realize that bottom was yet to come. Near the front, a woman sat in the middle of a ring of empty seats, weeping profusely. Ten rows back sat another man, reciting the Lord's prayer with feverish intensity. In the back row, two homeless men were already well into a masturbation contest. In the front row, three kids being force-fed quality time by their weekend dad stopped licking dried soda off the armrests only long enough to start screaming in terror once "Kangaroo Jack" was finally unveiled.

  • This is such a cool story - in rural Cambodia, residents have email access through a travelling WiFi connection that rolls through on scooter five days a week. Folks are already calling it the electronic pony express. (spotted on gizmodo)

  • Speaking of cool stories, this one had me wishing it was real: "Disgruntled Asian Tattoo Artist Inks His Revenge" - all ya'll folks who see dumb ass hipsters who rock kanji tattooes, without knowing what the lettering actually means, know the deal. (shout out to the SJ Metro's Todd Inoue for forwarding this over)

  • This is probably old news to many of you but I just discovered Sub Pop's parody of Pitchforkmedia.Com, called Pop Dork. Nothing but comedy.

  • Speaking of Pitchforkmedia.Com though, they have one of the most entertaining and innovative ways of writing a music review I've ever seen. Scroll down and witness the full majesty of Nick Sylvester's review of Daft Punk's new Daft Club. Awesome.

  • Dan Leroy of the Cleveland Scene wrote a solid piece on why hip-hop albums never seem to come out on time (all my fellow writers holla!). I spotted that story on Clyde Smith's Hip Hop Logic blog, which is also where I discovered Hiphopnews's very useful album release schedule, though, as Leroy points out, take all those dates with some large sprinkles of salt.

  • Thursday, January 29, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    I alluded in my past blogs to the fact that I've been dissed on record by a few folks, namely the People Under the Stairs, Louis Logic and most recently, Jean Grae. People have constantly asked me what the back story is and if I planned to respond in some fashion. In this month's new issue of URB Magazine (with Adam Freeland on the cover), where I've been an editor and writer for over eight years, I wrote an editorial ("Diatribe" as they call them in the mag) that deals with these issues.

    There's a problem - the magazine printed the wrong editorial. Sort of.

    What happened was that I wrote an initial editorial that was a tad bit angrier but later decided that I needed to shed more light than heat and try to look at the big picture rather than get caught up in some tit-for-tat beef. So, I revised the editorial and sent it again but somewhere along the way, a miscommunication must have developed and URB ended up printing the original "O-Dub is kind of pissy" version and not the "O-Dub, Elder Statesmen" edition. About 70% of the same content appears in both versions and it's not like the original editorial says anything I don't truly feel but as a matter of public record, I much rather have the revised version run because I think it's more meaningful and forward-looking.

    Therefore: HERE IS MY EDITORIAL as it was meant to be seen.

    Tell a friend.


      As an addendum, Jean Grae recently wrote an open letter to It is, to say the least, a little despairing as Grae gives voice to the frustrations that independent artists have the world over. Shit is tough out there and the human cost - like in any endeavour where the chips are stacked against you - can be heavy. Notice, I say all this with no judgment, certainly no sarcasm, and absolutely no residual bitterness. I'm genuinely sorry Grae is having a tough time with it, particularly because I think - as I always have - that she's talented. And as my editorial makes clear, I think she acted way out of line in attacking me but that does not mean I don't understand some of the frustrations she deals with. (originally seen at

    Wednesday, January 28, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Ok - I admit, I'm totally obsessed with DJ Danger Mouse's The Grey Album (available now!) I went back and listened to the Beatles' The White Album for the first time ever and was just amazed by how good the Beatles were. I mean, yeah, I feel stupid saying that since they're the fucking Beatles for god's sake but despite growing up, listening to them and buying their anthologies, I never listened to The White Album in its entireity and - damn - it's incredible. If you slept like me, go get this album, now.

    Second of all, I'm absolutely floored at Danger Mouse's deftness in how he chops up the Beatles' songs into little sonic fragments and then rebuilds them into his beats for Jay-Z. There's nothing lazy to his sampling here at all - he's doing Timbaland-type work to program these tracks to perfection. Check out what he does on "99 Problems" - he's lifting at least three or four differnt elements from "Helter Skelter" to make that beat happen.

    Me and Hua were so impressed by the quality of DM's production, we did the ubër-nerd thing and actually cataloged the samples (excluding drums) that Danger Mouse uses for The Grey Album. This is as close to accurate as we've figured out so far but it may yet evolve with more listening and input.

    The Grey Album/White Album Sample List.

    (FYI: I have a review upcoming in the San Francisco Bay Guardian that properly reviews the album)

    Also, speaking of interesting remix news - Hiphopsite.Com News is reporting the possibility of an Illmatic remix album.
      "there are rumors that Columbia is jumping on the remix bandwagon by discussing plans to remix Nas’ Illmatic, with a similar take on how the Black Album was initially supposed to appear (ten tracks, ten different producers). Only problem, word is Columbia are having problems tracking down the original masters of the LP.

    (by Oliver)


    staying one step ahead of the Beatles' copyright attorneys

    I can't remember for certain but I'm fairly sure that Hua first put me up on this Danger Mouse: Grey Album mix-CD which takes Jay-Z's BLack Album and remixes it by only using tracks off of the Beatles' White Album. an idea, you might either find this incredibly brilliant or ridiculously pretentious and as Hua pointed out, it's still a gimmick, high-concept or not. After all, The Grey Album follows right on the footsteps of Lt. Dan's The Black Album: Back to Basics, MF Doom's Nastradoomus and the one that started it all: 9th Wonder's God's Stepson. This all said, gimmick doesn't mean it's bad, and in this case, I think The Grey Album is fantastic, unquestionably the best among all the remix-CDs that have come out yet.

    It's not just that Danger Mouse challenges himself to only use one album as the source for all his remixes - that's part of the gimmick. It's that he does a great job on refitting Jay-Z over these various beats pilfered from the Fab 4. Not everything works - for example, DM's remix for "Public Service Announcement" is rhythmically awkward, like it's always a half step off somewhere. However, the bulk of the mixes sound fantastic and DM sounds like he and Prefuse have been practicing their MPC skills since his drum programming delivers more chops than a Chinese cleaver. The other thing too - Danger Mouse avoids using the really obvious melodic signatures from most of the Beatles' songs. One exception is "As My Guitar Gently Weeps," (a track that Ghostface also recently used on a mixtape exclusive cut) which DM laces underneath "What More Can I Say".

    My favorite remix so far is DM's take on "Justify My Thug", whose original (by DJ Quik) was probably one of my least favorite tracks on the album. This time around, DM hushes the vibe, laying down a mellow guitar line that is surprisingly effective, and as a result, the song sounds totally different (and in my opinion, better).

    In just a few weeks, The Grey Album is going to be joined by lord know's how many other similar projects (refer back to Hua's blog for more info on those). Not having heard The Brown Album or The White Album or The Magenta Album (ok, that last one was a joke...but who knows?), I can't really say who's will be the best. But, Danger Mouse lays down a challenge to be outdone and I'm willing to put down good money that his mix will reign supreme at the end of it all.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    and it makes great smoothies too

    Turnbalism might be a "creative cul-de-sac" as I've read elsewhere but I'm heartened to know that folks like Q-Bert are striving ahead - naysayers be damned. I mean, this new QFO Turntable w/ integrated crossfader, at the very least, LOOKS cool and that has to count for something. Plus, Q-Bert makes it seem so damn easy.

    I'm still waiting to see if scratching is going to be able to go anywhere now that everyone has seemingly learned every trick in the book. I've met 18 year olds who've been scratching since junior high school and even they're jaded. I thought some of this new digital technology, like Stanton's Final Scratch or Serato's Scratch Live would push things forward but I have yet to see major shifts along these lines so far.

    New addition: I just read about Numark's new PT-01 Portable Turntable (see pic below) and while I'm glad more companies are bringing back portables into the market, you'd think someone on their design staff could create something better than this plain box. I mean, it looks fully functional but with other competitors like Vestax and their Handytrax out there, you really need to step up your game and get smaller or at least, better looking. Please, please, will someone convince Audio Technica to bring back the Mister Disc/Sound Burger (scroll down and click on the "Mister Disc" box). Seriously, these were some of the best portables ever made - I've owned three over the years (current one is fire engine red, zow!) and even though I've collected over half a dozen others, including the venerable Columbia GP-3 and the Handytrax, the Mister Disc/Sound Burger is still top ranking.

    (by Oliver)


    write your own caption

  • My man Joseph Patel, aka Jazzbo, aka Joey Crack, aka Joseph and Mary Jesus Chain, aka oh, never mind...has finally got his Crunkster blog going. Consider yourselves warned.

  • People can argue over who the best music writer is out there, but hands-down, XXL's Elliot Wilson is the most entertaining scribe in the business. Up until he helped improve the mag's editorial content, he was pretty much the best (and sometimes only) reason to read the magazine. Read his thoughts on this ridiculous Eminem/Source debacle.

  • This is not a joke: apparently, Al Franken decked a heckler outside of a Dean rally. Dude is hardcore - I can't wait for his talk radio show to kick off. (spotted at the blueprint)

    yeah, this dude,
    sucker punching fools.

  • There is a fascinating set of conversations brewing about Peter Landesman's NY Times Magazine story on sex slaves in America. On one side, there has been a movement (whether big or small, I'm not sure) to discredit Landesman's methodology, even casting aspirations that his reporting might be suspect. Jack Shafer in Slate has reported on it and so has blogger Daniel Radosh in a series of entries. Offering a retort against Shafer, Radosh and other doubting Thomas-es has been Sasha Frere-Jones on his blog, as well as Julianne Shepherd whose comments are posted on Sasha's blog. The real heat comes from Jessica Hopper's scorching post.

  • On lighter blog fare, Hiphopsite.Com's J-Smooth takes on Jessica Hopper of tinyluckygenius fame. It's all love but they've taken this "play beef" to new heights now that J has recorded - are you ready for this? - a battle song dissing Jessica. Shit is so hot, I hear Dame Dash and El-P are in a bidding war to sign J-Smooth to the Roc and Def Jux respectively.

  • Hey, I'm not exactly a big fan of how the FCC deals with obscenity on radio and television but I detest Clear Channel even more so I'm kind of happy that Clear Channel is getting slapped with a $755,000 fine for airing a sexually explicit and "inappropriate" program on four Florida stations. Of course, $755,000 to Clear Channel is probably what they collect in payola every hour but still...

  • Saturday, January 24, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    ghostface drops that stanky funk flavor

    Let's start by saying that Ghostface (regardless if he keeps the "Killah" in his name) is the best reason for any hip-hop fan to wake-up in the morning and feel like everything's going to be alright. I forget this from time to time because unlike folks like Nas, 50 or Jay-Z, Ghost doesn't try to stay on radio 365 days a year - he just drops that science when he feels like it, taking 2-3 years between albums and keeping his appearances to a minimum otherwise. When he comes back, he comes BACK with a vengeance, sweeping in with songs that get you so amped off his flamboyant personality that even a jaded MFer like me is getting excited for the release date on The Pretty Tony album. Meanwhile, you have some incredible cuts to keep you company:
    • "Run"-Yeah, you know the goddamn deal. This is one of the hypest songs we've heard in the last year - "when you see me coming/get the fuck out the entrance!" Dude had me screaming like Howard Dean.
    • "Beatles"-This will never get cleared but Ghost raps over an instrumental version of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I gently wept listening to it.
    • "Ghost Heard It All Before"-It's Ghostface over Sunshine Anderson's "I Heard It All Before." Dumb hot.
    • "Ghostface"-Dumber hot. That beat is more amped than speakers plugged into the third rail. Or something like that - seriously, it's just that good. (more Ghost goodness available at Wu Tang Corp.Com)

    DJ Nu-Mark has a new solo album due out in the spring - Blend Crafters, his long-awaited chance to shine on his own after his many years with Jurassic 5 (he's not leaving the group, just doing his own thang for a minute). His production just keeps improving - folks have slept on dude for way too long. Peep his work for Chali 2na's upcoming Fish Out Of Water album, a song called "Comin' Thru" (you need to scroll down to find it). Nu-Mark will also be releasing a mix-CD through Sequence called Hands On in the Spring, sometime after Blend Crafters comes out.

    Friday, January 23, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Seriously, it's stuff like this that convinces me there is a benevolent God out there somewhere, looking down upon us and smiling. Check out this brilliant video remix of "Hey Ya." (originally spotted by J-Smooth)

    Thursday, January 22, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    this is what I wore to prom
    (ok, not really, see below re: Shogun)

  • More Black Album remix nuttiness. Check out Amiri's The Blackprint Album. This joins the steadily growing list that includes: The White Album, Brown Album, Grey Album, Black and Tan Album, Black Jays Album and whatever else is coming down the pipe. I hope to god this fad burns itself out soon even though I'm enjoying some of the mixes out there. Amiri's remix of "What More Can I Say" uses this great loop from the Sylvers that I always thought would make a dope beat.

  • The Mingering Mike saga continues - he's alive and well and you can read the update here and it includes photos of his albums.

  • That was fast - there's already a book out about Yao Ming, written by my namesake, Oliver Chin. It's The Tao of Yao.

  • Speaking of crazy remixes - here's Lil Jon Meets Howard Dean. Is this the new anthem for the Democrunk Party? (originally spotted at different kitchen)

  • Check out this North Korean anti-American propaganda ad called "Fucking USA". Love how they keep morphing Dubya into both a devil and hairy ape. I didn't even know North Korea had anyone trained in CGI. If you want something less political, here's a video of North Korean athletic dancing for kids.(originally seen via Sharon's blog)

  • It's the Year of the Monkey (forget that Gregorian calender crap) - Jeff Chang points out that based on historical precedent, we might be in for a helluva ride.

  • Just as The Source Magazine is undergoing a melt-down of unprecedented proportions (and well overdue I might add), Jay Smooth reviews the real history of the magazine.

  • Damn, Jin better watch his back, Shogun is here. (Peep: dude is Chinese but calls himself Shogun - how's that for pan-Asian solidarity?) (originally clowned by Catchdubs)

  • The Worst of the Twin Cities. Hey, how come more cities don't have this as an annual publication? (originally spotted at fimoculous)

  • Dizzee Rascal love.

  • Dizzee Rascal hate.

  • Wednesday, January 21, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    bump 'n' grind

    This comes a little late in the game but in the December 1, 2003 issue of The New Yorker, Peter Hessler writes a profile on basketball player Yao Ming.* For the most part, the piece is good. Hessler covers ground that many other profiles I've read haven't dealt with - for example, situating Yao within the social politics of Shanghai and Chinese society writ large and including a side story about Yao's teammate Juaquin Hawkins who played in China for part of his pre-NBA career.

    What annoys me in Hessler's story is this small part where he goes to Houston's Chinatown to discover what the interest in Yao is among "Houston's Chinese" and Hessler is operating with several assumptions, all of which I find lazy at best. The first is the idea that "athletics has meant little to most Chinese American communities" - a specious statement that Hessler does not support in the least. He goes on to argue that Chinese (and it should be noted, Hessler makes very little distinction between the Chinese and Chinese Americans) have little interest in basketball, conveniently using a local shop owner, David Chang, as his native informant who claims that "because of their size," the Chinese have no interest in b-balling.

    This must come to considerable surprise to Chinese American youth everywhere who hit the blacktop every afternoon and weekend, trying to catch a pick-up game against any opponent willing to take them on. Anyone who's ever known about the byzantine politics of Chinese and Japanese American basketball leagues in Los Angeles and the Bay Area would also shoot a quizzical glance at the idea that APIs aren't into basketball. In fact, I can't think of a sport where more Asian Americans participate in (insert your badminton jokes here).

    Moreover, the fact that Houston's Chinatown might turn up little Mao paraphenalia means little, especially considering that if Houston at all resembles every other major Asian American metropolis in the nation, Chinatown is a poor place to try to locate the whole of the Chinese American "community." Especially given that he states the economic mobility enjoyed by sectors of the Chinese American population, it makes much more sense to travel to the Houston suburbs where most of the middle class Asian American population resides. I mean, you don't go to NYC Chinatown to get the "Chinese community" sense of things - you go to Flushing. In the Bay Area, you go to San Mateo, or the Sunset district, anywhere but Chinatown.

    These small things irk me because they suggest a real lack of engagement and thought from an author who is otherwise quite thoughtful. It also goes to show that in most American media, more is known about China than is known (or cared) about Chinese America. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater - this WAS a very, very good piece but I felt like I needed to address this one part.

    *Hessler also has an exclusive online Q&A about his Yao Ming story

    Tuesday, January 20, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Ok - most of ya'll could give a flying $%() about the travails that a music journalist has to suffer through, but I really have to get this off my chest: labels and publicists really need to rethink this whole "copyright protected CDs" that won't play in anything besides a standard CD player (i.e. even MP3 equipped CD players won't work with these CDs). Yeah, I know that everyone is crazy paranoid about digital piracy but this is NOT the solution.

    I barely know any critics who don't listen to CDs on a computer, or at least a device that that is MP3-enabled. That is the state of technology today and the fact that certain segments of the record industry don't seem to understand that is just the sort of example of how their fears are actually part of their undoing. Let's just point out that for some artists - who are in ACTUAL danger of being bootlegged out the wazoo (50 Cent anyone? Kanye West?) pre-release tons of their material on mix-CDs already. I won't bother naming the current advance that I just got in the mail that's giving me grief, but suffice to say, they are not a hip-hop group known to be in hot, hot demand along Canal St.

    What's even more ridiculous is that they also watermarked the CD, meaning that if this were somehow to leak to the Internet, they could track it back to me - but I'm thinking: why are you watermarking a CD that can't even be loaded onto a computer to begin with?

    Like I said, for most of you out there, this means absolutely nothing but it's making the job of journalists that much more difficult and it's actually probably harming the artist in the long run. If I can't easily listen to an album, it makes my enthusiasm for reviewing it that much less, especially when the artist in question isn't doing the kind of platinum numbers that warrants reviews everywhere. I mean, these cats in particular could really use more shine but I know that I won't be the only writer who decides, "eh, it's not worth the trouble." If you're at a record label or a publicist reading this - please seriously consider finding another way to protect your product. I have no problems with the desire to prevent rampant piracy but the current means is actually a far greater detriment than piracy itself.

    Ok, rant over.

    (by Oliver)


    kanye shows you how to do
    "itsy bitsy spider"

      "first ni**a with a Benz and a backpack" - "Breathe In, Breathe Out", Kanye West

    Here's the deal: Roc-A-Fella finds itself at a tricky crossroads. Presuming Jay-Z stays retired, even if only for two years (see this month's Vibe where he admits, his "retirement" may be shorter than most presumed), the Roc still needs to figure out how to maintain label visibility without having their flagship artist.

    Def Jam has practically mastered this over the years and without a doubt, the Roc wants to have that kind of longevity/flexibility. The problem is: who on the Roc is going to step up like that? Cam'ron and Dipset are too busy trying to get their own empire started. Young Gunz are unproven despite one hot single. MOP, Dirt McGirt, Freeway and Beanie Siegel all have great followings and they're proven performers, but they're the sideshow, not the main event. As for Memphis Bleek... (sound of crickets chirping)

    So where does Kanye West fit into this? He's not going to be the next Jay-Z (no one is, right now) but he's also not the next Free/Beans/Bleek/Juelz/etc. He's unlike anyone else on the label yet fits in perfectly. Think of Hova's constant appeals to sincerity ("Song Cry", "December 4", etc.) but then mix that with someone who seems far more genuinely humble, dash in entertaining and funny, and sh*t - we know dude can produce b/c he's Kanye West. End conclusion about his College Dropout? West up!

    I was initially skeptical about K's chances - after all, I always thought of him as a producer and not an MC. But then came "Two Words" and "Living Through the Wire" and suddenly, I'm putting him somewhere ahead of Pete Rock and behind Lord Finesse on the producers-who-rhyme/vice versa list. He's not an incredible rapper but as Hua notes in his blog, K is funny as hell as those who've enjoyed "Slow Jamz" have noted. (Personally, one of my favorite lines comes from "Through the Wire":

      My dogs couldn't tell if/I look like Tom Cruise on Vanilla Sky
      it was televised.
      There's been an accident like Geico
      they thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael

    Here's the thing: many of you have already heard 80% (if not more) of the album since Kanye's managed to slip tracks from it onto all his 592 mix-CDs released thus far. Yet, it says a lot about how likable College Dropout (coming out in mid-Feb) is that I had heard half the songs already yet I still enjoy the album as if it were the first time.

    What strikes me about K's appeal is that he really is this combination of nerdy hip-hop head refashioned as nouveau-riche baller and he doesn't try to overload either image. Sure, on a song like "Breathe In, Breathe Out," he apologies to Mos Def and Kweli for making a song about ice, but you never feel like West is overplaying the card. Likewise, on a song like "Self-Conscious"* (aka "All Falls Down"), West crafts a song that is convincingly sincere and moving in its depictions of why people hustle - himself especially. Yeah, it's partly an excuse for his materialism but I never felt like he was being disingenous about it (unlike K's big boss at the Roc).

    Actually, on that note - take a song like Kanye's "My Way" and compare it to what Jay-Z did with the concept. In Hova's hands, "My Way" was entirely self-serving - it got over partially just b/c Jay has such a massive cult of personality going for him but under the West treatment, his "My Way" feels so much less masturbatory and much more of the affirming anthem it inspires to be. Effectively, Kanye West is dropping "conscious rap" without wearing that label on its sleeve, something that dead prez still hasn't figured out and that Common has turned into a cliche by now.

    The hot track on College Dropout though is "Jesus Walks". I can't really stand the Christian church but dude has me feeling the Holy Ghost on this one. Seriously, when's the last time you heard a rapper (ok, a rapper NOT from the South) really give it up to Jesus and make you feel like you're really FEELING something and not just being preached to? Backed-up by the Harlem's Boy Choir, Kanye drops an unlikely candidate for club status but damn, believe me, it'd sound GREAT on the parquet floor. To the chuuuuuurch and back like Snoop dizzle. And just peep his lines:

      "they say you can rap about anything/except for Jesus/
      that means sex, lies and videotape/but if I talk about God/my record won't get played/huh?!
      well, if that takes away from spins/which will probably take away from ends
      then I hope it takes away from sins/and bring about that day I've been dreaming 'bout
      next time/I'm in the club/everybody screaming out/"Jesus walks!"

    Kanye's got me holding my head like dude from the old school Krazy Glue commercials.

    Check College Dropout out when it drops (even if you already own all 1293 Kanye West mix-CDs. It won't change your life but it might change your day and I'm more than happy to settle for that.

    Oh, just for a bonus - here's one of the zillion Kanye freestyles floating out there. This one with Kanye rhyming over the "Milkshake" beat.

    *Quick aside: Can I just say that I can't get enough of listening to "Self-Conscious"? That Lauryn Hill guitar loop he has running through just kills me everytime and it really, really, really makes me miss L-Boogie's presence in hip-hop. Is she done being crazy yet?

    (shout out to JP for you-know-what)

    (by Oliver)


    way too deep

    Plug! I got a new mix-CD out: Deep Covers. Peep the description there. Buy it here.

    Friday, January 16, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    the mystery of mike

    Here's how it begins... Two record collectors in D.C. come upon a flea market with a box filled with hand-painted LPs and 45s by someone who calls himself "Mingering Mike." Everything about these records are hand-crafted: including the records themselves: they're discs of cardboard painted to look like vinyl. And we're not talking about one or two examples of "I was bored one afternoon" - Mike created a record catalog for himself that included probably close to a dozen LPs, plus another half-dozen 45s. (The collectors also located reel-to-reel tapes belonging to Mike so there might be some songs he recorded for himself too.)

    The collectors originally posted their finds on Soulstrut.Com and the story was so intriguing that a few other cats picked it up on their own blogs. Within 24 hours, over 7,000 have subsequently visited the board to follow the story. (Update: out of privacy concerns, namely that Mike's legal name was being thrown about, the original post has since been removed but said record hounds are in the process of re-presenting Mike's work in a more professional and organized light).

    I think the now-legend of Mingering Mike is captivating for several reasons. First of all, it certainly appeals to the record geeks out there who are into rare and unique finds and this certainly qualifies as one, but more to the point, Mike loved soul records from the '70s so much that he invented titles and concepts based on the music around him. That took him on some strange journeys of the imagination, including one fanciful title called Fractured Soul, another, presumably blaxploitation/kung-fu inspired one called Brother of the Dragon and even one named Sickle Cell Anemia.

    You don't even have to be into records to be intrigued by who Mike was and how his imagination manifested in this way - as people on the board have noted, this is a great example of outsider art (a topic which, true to internet message board form, has broken off into its own thread-within-a-thread with contentious results) and the fact that an entire collection has been discovered all at once just makes it even more interesting. (I did some snooping around myself, and it's possible that Mingering Mike = 12th generation descendent of a Viriginia Plantation, but that's a whole 'nother story.)

    Right now, the great mystery is: who was Mike? What was he doing in the late '70s? What did he go on to do? And most of all, what inspired him to spend the kind of time and effort to create all these imaginary records for himself? I'm sure others might think this is all a little silly, but there's something rather powerful about his dedication and creativity that I think explains why it's attracting so much attention. Hopefully, some place like Wax Poetics might be down to help give this story even more shine.

    (by Oliver)


    and you thought the meter
    maid was tough

    If you've never seen an episode of The Shield (on FX), do this immediately: go rent or buy Seasons 1 and 2 of the show in time for the beginning of Season 3 (March 9). Trust me - this is one of the best things on television right now and certainly my favorite show (though Alias has to come in at a close second).

    I've had a hard time figuring out just what it is I like about The Shield so much. Certainly, it was well casted, written, directed and acted but not more so than Sopranos which is probably t.v.'s most accomplished show in all these categories. Nor does it offer the sheer joy that seems to accompany ever episode of The Simpsons. Yet, I find The Shield both more entertaining and compelling than anything else on t.v. right now and I surmise it really comes down to the central character at heart in the series: Vic Mackey (played by Michael Chicklis, who won an Emmy for his role after Season 1).

    For those of you who have never seen the show, there's not too much to explain: imagine Denzel Washington's Alonzo Harris character from Training Day, make him white, bald and with a small tummy and then give him a fully realized, human personality. Mackey is the dirtiest of dirty cops in the fictional city of Farmington (somewhere in L.A. County) where he leads up the Drug Task Force. In essence, Mackey is running the Farmington drug game as part of his own private fortune, he exerts control over who can sell and who can't, taking a cut for himself and his partners on the Task Force and conveniently making sure that any potential opposition is eliminated. Meanwhile, he has to deal with the scrutiny coming from his co-workers, especially his police captain David Aceveda (played with simmering frustration by Benito Martinez) and Detective Claudette Wyms (played beautifully by C.C.H. Pounder). His double life is also a huge source of tension with his wife Corinne (Cathy Ryan) who is not aware of Mackey's criminal enterprises.

    This basic narrative set-up is certainly not that original. There is, of course, a long history of films that revolve around the lives of corrupt cops - Training Day and Bad Lieutenant come immediately to mind. Coming from the other side, The Sopranos has famously "redefined family" by accentuating Tony Soprano's daily grind trying to keep his family and the New Jersey Mob happy (which in turn, borrows heavily from The Godfather and other seminal gangster films). Where the unique and compelling execution of The Shield comes to play is with Mackey/Chiklis.

    For a guy who was doing bad sitcom just four years ago (the short-lived Daddio), Chiklis imbues Mackey with a depth of character that took many (myself included) by surprise. Mackey is a study in tension and conflict - here is someone who is holding things together, but only by the sharpest of margins and every episode is guaranteed to find him looking on the verge of exploding (on very rare occasions, he has a meltdown but Mackey tends to express his frustrations outwards, not inwards).

    This is in marked contrast to other, ostensibly similar characters. Mackey borrows very little from Training Day's Alonzo Harris who is a monster cloaked in charisma. Mackey, on the other hand, is very much a character who earns your sympathy even though his actions are morally beyond redemption. He know he does bad but he also shows genuine care and affection for those around him (so long as they're not trying to get in his way). Sure, he's an alpha dog with an arrogant swagger, especially in how he brusquely treats criminals (potential and real alike) but he exhibits a leader's charisma that comes from his force of will rather than charm.

    This too is different from Tony Soprano, t.v.'s other major anti-hero. Both are men dealing with lives that are out of control, both of their own making. The main difference is that Mackey has a razor-sharp focus on all things whereas Soprano often times seems caught up in forces far beyond his ability to handle. Both are subject to human frailties but ultimately, you get the sense that Mackey can handle his business when he needs to - Soprano is always one step away from a very long fall. To put it another way, in a showdown between the two, it's not even a fair fight: Mackey would take out Soprano faster than he could say, "badda bing".

    Suffice to say, Chiklis makes the show, followed closely by C.C.H. Pounder who brings such fantastic gravitas to Claudette's character. She's the only character in the whole show not scared or cowed by Mackey and is able to communicate so much weight in just a stare. While I like some of the other satellite of characters (in this respect, The Sopranos is considerably better), her and Chiklis are the two best reasons to watch the show, especially in Season 3 where the two of them are destined to roll head-to-head more oftne.

    By the way, it doesn't even matter if you like cop shows - in general, I don't at all. I never grew up watching Hill Street Blues, NYPD Blue or even Starsky and Hutch but I adore The Shield far less because it's about the police (snooooze) and far more because it offers such rich stories, both within each episode as well as the long arc of each season. Believe me - try this. You'll like it.

    Thursday, January 15, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    still ill

    Holy f%#in' s#@! - Illmatic is ten years old now. Goddamn, do I feel old. Yet, what speaks volumes about Nas' talent at this early point in his career is how un-dated the album feels. Illmatic rocks my iPod on the regular and oddly, it feels both like a hip-hop LP from a different era (which, of course, it was) but does feel anachronistic in the same way as Public Enemy or Run DMC can. It's not just Illmatic influenced hundreds of MCs that followed - the album stands as a testament to what happens when talented rappers team up with talented producers and produce a clean, simple project (this CD is less than 45 minutes - think about that) with no filler, no ego preening, but just 11 incredible songs. It's the veritible definition of "leaving people wanting more." (Alas, Nas gave us more but not necessarily more genius material. Like Jay-Z said, a one-hot-album-in-every-ten-year-average isn't much to crow about.... Ok, two hot albums in ten years - I did like God's Son).

    Favorite Song: I've gone back and forth on this over the years. It used to be "One Love" (see below), then briefly, "Memory Lane" but now, I'm pretty set on "NY State of Mind," mostly because it boasts so many incredible lines.

    Least favorite song: Folks will think I'm tripping, but I never could get into "Life's a Bitch." I just found the production far too syrupy, especially in comparison to the rest of the album. Even Large Professor looping up Michael Jackson (on "It Ain't Hard to Tell") is preferable to sitting through the saccharin sound of the Gap Band.

    Best lines (like Pringles, you can't just pick one):
      Rappers I monkey flip 'em/with the funky rhythm/I be kickin'
      Musician/inflicting composition/of pain
      I'm like Scarface/sniffing cocaine
      holding a M-16/see with the pen I'm extreme
      -"NY State of Mind"

      I ain't the type of brother made for you to start testing
      Give me a Smith & Wesson/I'll have ni**as undressing
      -"NY State of Mind"

      I'm living where the nights is jet black
      The fiends fight to get crack/I just max/I dream I can sit back
      and lamp like Capone/with drug scripts sewn
      or lead the luxury life/rings flooded with stones
      -"NY State of Mind" (you get the idea)

      I'm the young city bandit/hold myself down singlehanded
      For murder raps/I kick my thoughts alone/get remanded
      Born alone/die alone/no crew to keep my crown or throne
      I'm deep by sound alone/caved inside in a thousand miles from home
      -"The World Is Yours"

      I reminisce on park jams/my man was shot for his sheep coat
      Childhood lesson make me see him drop in my weed smoke.
      It's real/grew up in trife life/did times or white lines
      The hype vice/murderous nighttimes/and knife fights invite crimes
      -"Memory Lane"

    Best Moment: Undoubtably, Nas achieves one of his greatest moments ever with the cinematic evocativeness of these lines from the third verse of "One Love":
      Then I rose/wiping the blunt's ash from my clothes
      then froze/only to blow the herb smoke through my nose

    Best Production: For me, it's a toss-up between three songs. If you want some gritty, paranoia-induced heat, go with DJ Premier on "NY State of Mind." Primo also laces "Memory Lane" with just the right kind of nostalgia-inducing jazz loop. And Q-Tip kills it by being the first to mine the Heath Bros.' incredible "Smilin' Billy Suite" for "One Love."

    I'd say more but frankly, the best essay I've seen written on this LP comes via my friend and colleague Hua Hsu, who penned an amazing essay on Illmatic for my book, Classic Material (act like you knew and cop it if you didn't).

    Monday, January 12, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    Ok, since my "blog family" to the right keeps ever-increasing, I decided to highlight the ones I spend the most time reading.

  • Yello Kitty is written by my girlfriend Sharon and though I suppose I'm highly biased, she's pretty much the smartest person I know, with a wonderful command of prose to boot. She usually only updates once a week or so, but covers a diverse set of topics, from the links between architecture and terrorism to winter fruit.

  • Jeff Chang is one of the other smartest folks I know and his Zentronix blog mixes up all kinds of topics that deal with both contemporary politics and culture, not to mention tantilizing details for his upcoming, fall 2004 book, Can't Stop, Won't Stop that's going to change the game as it comes to books on hip-hop.

  • Writer, scholar, baseball nut Hua Hsu finally got his blog, To Here Knows Where, going and while it's still in its infancy, I have high hopes for where he might take it.

  • Sasha Frere-Jones is a blogging machine - dude posts at least three times a day and is seemingly online more than I am (believe me - that's a scary reality, if true). I always get something out of visiting his blog, each time I go.

  • J-Smooth's blog is far, far more than just about hip-hop. His interest in politics, criticism, movies, etc. is stunning and between him and Sasha, I probably get more ideas for blog entries than from any other sources.

  • Ian Steaman's Notes from a Different Kitchen and Nick Barat's Catchdubs blogs are similarly diverse in the range of news items they tackle, and both have a great sense of humor when it comes to what they post up.

  • Portland's Julianne Shepherd has a great blog, Cowboyz 'n' Poodles that mixes up the personal with the cultural in a way that I appreciate and always get something out of. I'd say the same for her friend Jessica Hopper over in Chicago, with her Tinyluckgenius blog, especially since she's now actually posting on it more than once a month :)

  • On the media tip, I turn to Fimoculous and The Blueprint on the regular since both bloggers are fairly prolific with the amount of information they post. The latter is more opinion-based which I like since she's willing to bash when necessary. The former appeals to the info-geek in me since he's always pulling out interesting tidbits on society and technology.

  • And before I forget, Margaret Cho is a MFin' blogging monster. I can't believe that with all the other things she probably has to work on, she has time to post up on her blog as much as she does. Moreover, she's not posting up some self-aggrandizing bullshit but is really out there advocating on politics and social issues. I actually feel really bad I spent so much of the mid-90s bagging on All-American Girl. Check her out.

  • Last but not least, I've been winding my way through the explosion of first-person sex blogs which have become all the rage since...well, duh...they're first-person sex blogs. The problem is that while the confessional aspect of them is what attracts people's voyeurism impulse (myself included), the vast bulk of them are boring. I mean, let's face it, any of you who have ever watched boring porn knows that sex, on principle, is not always that interesting and just because someone wants to put up a blog about their sexual exploits doesn't mean it's any more compelling than reading about someone's gardening exploits. One lone exception is the much lauded Dirty Whore Diary which, far from the prurient name it has, is equal parts open therapy, relationship advice, and compelling personal narrative (not to mention frank, candid descriptions of sex you wish you were having). I mean, this is the kind of stuff that people get book deals off of (though usually, they turn out to be entirely shitty fluff like The Nanny Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada). Read it now before she sells out and get co-opted into writing Nora Ephron-meets-Hustler type dreck.

  • Sunday, January 11, 2004

    (by Oliver)

    APPLE's "1984" goes "2004"

    those shorts are still soooo early '80s

    In honor of the 20th anniversary of the introduction of the Macintosh, Apple has given their groundbreaking "1984" ad an update. The change is rather subtle and I didn't even pick up on it the first time watching until I noticed that signature white headphone cord dangling from Ms. Hammer's ears. Yup, this time around, Big Brother gets shattered by someone sporting an iPod. This, of course, brings to mind the question: What do you think she's listening to on her way to destroying the New World Order? I'll cast a vote for P.E.'s "Bring the Noise." (spotted on fimoculous)

    (by Oliver)


    As if the Recording Industry Institute of America couldn't sink any fucking lower. Ben Sullivan writes about RIAA's new pseudo-SWAT team in the LA Weekly. (spotted from J-Smooth)

    (by Oliver)


    I can appreciate how the Right has managed to dominate much of the rhetoric and language within media but that doesn't mean they can write. What I'm continually awed by is how conservative pundits have managed to dominate popular media yet, as writers, can't even eke out a compelling sentence. This has nothing to do with ideology - there are many writers whose opinions I disagree with but whose command of prose and language still has me nodding in admiration.

    Case in point - the right-wing extremist (see, I know how this works) National Review Online got S.T. Karnick, editor of another conservative fundamentalist nagazine (that's not a typo), American Outlook, to write a column on the best music of 2003. I don't have issues with his choices - that's just a matter of opinion - but Karnick sounds like he's a college sophomore, applying for a job at his school paper.

    For one thing, his intro analysis of "what's wrong with the music industry" isn't even good enough to be called Adorno for Dummies even though he's trying to tackle it from the angle of "commercialism hurts art". Wait - I thought right-wing extremist fundamentalist cultural terrorists LIKED capitalism. What's going on here?

    Also, he separates rap from hip-hop. What, is he going to start talking about how "today's rap doesn't represent the four elements"?

    Through the remainder of his column, his descriptions of albums he likes usually manage to say nothing at all - he's a classic tell-er, not show-er (which, to me, is utterly in line with a conservative pundit since they spend all their time telling people how to think anyways). I mean, what do we gain from this?
      "David Bowie's Reality easily ranks among his best albums of the past two decades. Covering nearly all of the many musical styles Bowie has worked in during his career, while applying lots of new wrinkles and his knack for odd, unexpected, but enjoyable musical quirks, Reality is quite impressive in its musical creativity. A high point is "Days," a lovely song both musically and lyrically, which should become a classic."

    Ok - I have absolute NO idea what Reality sounds like based on this review. Not a shred.

    I could go on and on but really, Karnick's piece speaks more loudly to its own faults than I ever could. Does anyone out there actually know of WELL-WRITTEN cultural criticism from the Right? Inquiring lefty minds want to know... (saw info on Karnick's column on Sasha's blog originally)

    Saturday, January 10, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    the long road to where?

    I realized this some time ago that outside of New York, Seattle is the one city that I have visited the most yet have never lived. I'm not sure why this is - surely Seattle's proximity to my current Bay Area denizens offers a financial incentive but mostly, I think it's a series of unintended coincidences and circumstances, like the time my parents wanted to visit Seattle and Vancouver for the holidays (bad choice, us not having realized that Northwest winters can be as bitingly cold as Northeastern ones, sans the debilitating visitations of blizzards) or my most recent trip to help plan for this year's Experience Music Project conference. (I won't elaborate on the conference too long here - the link above will supply you with some relevant info, or you can read the New Yorker's smarmy, sneering piece on the 2003 conference).

    Seattle is, without a doubt in mind, one of the smallest big cities in America, by which I mean that my expectations of it are bigger than its reality can support. It neither announces its greatness in metropolitan brashness in contrast to New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. Nor does it have the neighborhood charm of its southern cousin, Portland. The city it reminds me most of is Washington D.C., not because they remotely look alike, but because I find both disappointingly inactive for cities with such cosmopolitan reputations. (In all fairness, one could probably say much the same about San Francisco and especially Oakland but we have better weather and record stores so I don't despair as much).

    I will say this much about Seattle though - it is, unquestionably, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever known. The integration between sea, air, land, development and commerce exceeds that of even my beloved Bay Area - the main difference being that the Bay is epic in its urban grandeur while Seattle offers more accessible access to its charms. I don't know why I think this but Seattle always strikes me as a more blue collar version of the Bay and there's some strange quality reminiscent of New England to it too. I never fail to appreciate the city's beauty when I'm driving through it, nor especially when I

    Whenever I have come to Seattle for the EMP, I have always stayed at the Courtyard Marriot by Lake Union which is the closest hotel to the EMP museum itself. And whenever I look out the front door, or in this case, my recent hotel morning, I am always greeted with the view posted above. There's a major, elevated road - it might even be Interstate 5 but truly, I don't even know - that runs alongside the opposite side of the lake and I am utterly taken with it. You can see part of it above - the bridge that spans the center is part of it. I've struggled to figure out what it is about this road that impresses upon me so much and I have yet to come up with a suitable answer. All I know is that it manages to tap into me emotionally. Whenever I am here, with this vantage, I find myself staring at the road that flanks this lake, watching the traffic slide by, wondering where everyone is head yet knowing that I'll never know.

    Thursday, January 08, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    that's 80s sophistication for you

    Frequently in my blog, I refer to my dissertation, mostly how blogging constitutes one helluva distraction from said dissertation. So what, exactly, is my dissertation about? I'm writing a history of the Filipino American mobile DJ scene in the Bay Area, 1978-1995. Contrary to most assumptions, I am not really focusing on 1) Filipinos in hip-hop or 2) turntablists/scratchers. It's not that I don't find either of those topics interesting, but I'm trying to learn what I can about the mobile DJ scene which was 1) embracing of hip-hop but was more oriented around uptempo, hi-NRG dance and 2) filled with mixers rather than scratchers, at least up through the early 1990s.

    My history begins in 1978 when a bunch of guys at Balboa H.S. in San Francisco formed into the first Filipino mobile crew: Sound Explosion. And it ends in 1995 since that is the year that the Invisibl Skratch Piklz formed, thus marking the symbolic transition from the end of the mobile crews to the rise of the scratching crews.

    Off and on, I'll be posting up more details from my research but for now, I wanted to hep people to DJ Slammin' Sam's "Classic Flyer Events Gallery" which archives over 30 fliers from the Bay Area's '80s party scene. It was a fantastic resource to find and hopefully, just represents the beginning of attempts to archive some of the rich visual material that came out of this scene.

    If you are, or know of anyone who has a history in this scene - I don't need more DJs but it'd be great to find men and women who grew up attending these parties and events - holler at me.

    Wednesday, January 07, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    ahmir is in deep concentration

    This is back from August but hey, I'm a slow reader. Touré interviews ?uestlove (aka Ahmir Thompson) from The Roots for The Believer. I've never been a big fan of Touré's writing - at one point, after Tupac died, he pledged never to write on hip-hop again and for a long time, I had hoped he was serious but I have to say - this is one fantastic interview. It's not just that ?uest is a great interview (he is) but the two seemingly establish a fantastic rapport that leads them all these different places that, as a reader, you wouldn't anticipate. If you slept, like me, get with it now - it's never too late.

    And oh yeah, this piece, which goes on for quite a while, is further proof that long-form music journalism is important and should be encouraged in these days of the mini-review. (thanks to Matos' blog)

    (by Oliver)


    In a now infamous blog screed, Jeff Chang took on Da Capo's "Best Music Writing of..." series for perpetuating a white, male dominated world view on pop music. In doing so, he gave voice to what many of us on the sidelines had already been grumbling about for years but just assumed nothing would ever change.

    Well, maybe nothing will change - it's too early to tell but Jeff writes about his experience and attitudes towards Da Capo for the SF Bay Guardian. This is a powerful, articulate piece that manages to both remind us of what's at stake when it comes to representation and media as well as bring us to a more hopeful space as to what the future of music criticism - and who is included in those ranks - will bring.

    (by Oliver)


    vibe-rant thangs

    Peep: my girl Serena Kim over at Vibe Magazine and her fellow editors Hyun Kim and Donnie Kwak get profiled in this month's KoreAm Journal.

    Tuesday, January 06, 2004

    (by Oliver)

    HIPHOPSITE.COM REVIEWS THE YEAR IN HIP-HOP - HILARITY ENSUES's annual year-in-review column is one of my favorite pieces to peruse. Pizzo and his merry band of Las Vegans spare nothing in lambasting the wack and praising the good. Frankly, their tastes are so out of whack with my own, I more or less skip over their "Best Of" lists covering conventional ground like "best emcees", "best rhymes," etc. In fact, I don't think I agreed with anything they wrote in those sections (maybe I'm just bitter that "Fair Weathered Fan" got their pick for "Best Conceptual Rhyme" but then again, I might be inclined to agree despite the song's content). I mean Pizzee - the Neptunes also produced "Light Yo Ass On Fire," "Beautiful," and "Excuse Me Miss Again." And you're putting them under Alchemist? And why is Eminem even on list of "best producers"? A one note style (minor key baby!) does not a producer make (though that seems to have benefitted Premier pretty well all these years).

    Quick observation: HHS splits their list into two categories - Majors vs. Underground/Indies and it is incredibly striking how massive the distance is between those two categories now. A lot has changed in only about five years and this gap between where different hip-hop heads are at is stunning. Unless of course, there are a lot of cats picking up both Lloyd Banks and the Weathermen but I'm not banking on that.

    Anyways, where the fun really gets going starts with their section on Beef: Memorable Battles of 2003 and keeps on extending to such notable categories as The 5 Biggest Bitch Moves of 2003 and The 5 Dumbest Moves by a Rapper. Nothing but pure comedy.

    Monday, January 05, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    mao on the mic

    *updated*What was first just idle rumor is now, apparently, actual-factual. The Chinese gov't is repackaging Chairman Mao as an MC. Here's a radio report from BBC/NPR's The World that includes some audio examples. I'll have to post up something on China's real hip-hop scene later (what up MC Showtyme - I see you!) but for, I think the gov't should take a page from Mos Def and Kweli and call the hip-hoppin' Chairman, Red Star. Tzin hau! (spotted on the blog)

    (by Oliver)


    not mad no more

    Wisdom from Skillz who follows up his 2002 in review by a reviewing the hip-hop and pop world of 2003: "thank god I'm a southerner/because you know it's over/when the Terminator is your governor." (as seen on Sasha's blog)

    (by Oliver)


    Should professors and students be allowed to sleep together? - is this the "burning academic question of the day"? Northwestern's Laura Kipnis, who has become a bit of an intellectual celeb of late (and I mean that in a good way) because of her recent book Against Love: A Polemic, tackles the question in a recent Slate column. To be quite candid, I'm not sure if this is the burning academic question - out here in my parts of the academic world, the bigger questions include:
  • Will any of us find a job? Or at least a post-doc?
  • Given California's abysmal state budget (none helped by Gubnur Ahnuld), will there even be jobs?
  • Can someone please find a way to make Ward Connerly just go away? At least to another state?

    Appropriately though, what sparks Kipnis' interest in the topic is that my UC system has recently instituted a ban on consensual relationships between professors and students which is just the latest in a string of similar policy enactments that various schools (William and Mary for one) have been establishing over the last few years. These policies come amidst several high-profile media stories on the issue, no doubt fueled by obvious prurient appeal, the most infamous being Rolling Stone's "expose" on the sex lives of Wellesley students. (I could have sworn the mag then followed up with another story, specifically on professor-student sex, that appeared within a year of the Wellesley piece but I can't seem to find it again).

    Ok - so the gist of Kipnis' position is essentially a libertarian one: institutions should not govern people's private behavior. She writes specifically, "the problem in redressing romantic inequalities with institutional blunt instruments is that it just confers more power on the institutions themselves, vastly increasing their reach into people's lives." I'm actually quite sympathetic to this point of view in general theory except that Kipnis doesn't really extend on it through the remainder of her column, except to share a long yarn about a silly sexual harassment workshop she attended at Northwestern. Again, I'm wholly sympathetic to her take on that - one of my least favorite activities as someone who worked at UC Berkeley (besides my 11.5+ years of matriculation) were "diversity sensitivity" workshops that were perfect examples of how well-intentioned policies can result in the most insipid of realities. (Hint: anti-racism takes more than performing a skit about ethnic stereotypes). My point though is that Kipnis more or less lays out this idea that "regulation = bad" but fails to elaborate in a convincing fashion as to why it's bad in this case. Her attitude - and this is firmly in line with what she publishes in Against Love - is that sex is already regulated enough in our society so why extend it further into the academy?

    As someone firmly entrenched in academia (for better or for worse), this is an issue I've spent some time thinking about. For the record, I've never slept with any of my students, nor even entertained the thought (for some strange reason, some of my friends, female at that, think it's crazy that I've never tried to hook up with a student...they made it sound like the most obvious thing in the world to do and I could only stare back at them, incredulous at what they were suggesting). I do know, however, quite a few students who have slept with professors and vice versa and in general, it ALWAYS ENDS BADLY. Now - this is all anecdotal and not based on data I've collected or anything but then again, Kipnis is making her argument largely through posture, conjecture and theory too. I'm sure she - or anyone else - can provide examples of functional, productive and nurturing relationships between professors and students but exceptions don't prove the rule. After all, there are probably some people out there who think Strom Thurmond might have really been in love with the 16 year old black housekeeper he impregnated back in his 20s but for most of the rest of us, we're thinking "rape" given the obvious power dynamics at work in such a racially charged environment.

    So yes, throughout the world everywhere, there are many examples of positive sexual relationships based in unequal power relations: military officers sleeping with underlings, bosses and their workers, etc. However, the underlying issue here is one of exploitation and the need to ward against it. The reason why we formulate sexual harassment policies in general is because it's clear and apparent that those in power are usually not capable of regulating their own behavior (from the President on down, I might add) and that, given the opportunity to take sexual advantage, they will. Before anyone brings it up - yes, this can operate in reverse too - it's not as if "underlings" don't prey on their higher-ups - but once again, exceptions don't prove the rule. And moreover, sexual harassment legislation exists to protect both sides.

    Moreover, I do not think, as Kipnis suggests, that trying to formalize a ban on prof/student relationships is disrespectful to the agency of students to make intelligent, adult decisions. Though protectionism is part of the rationale behind such policies, it's not just about protecting the students but also, ideally the environment that this takes place in.

    Just to be blunt: professors f*cking students (and vice versa) does not contribute to a progressive, positive academic environment. I do not think one needs to legislate the promotion of a progressive, positive academic environment (i.e. you can't create a policy that compels people to be nice and nurturing to one another...if so, no academic would hold their job for too long, especially around tenure review). But I do think it's appropriate to create policy that hinders activity which is a malignant force between and among faculty and students. This is both at the ethical and legal level - no doubt, part of a university's impetus to institute policies such as these is to avoid ugly lawsuits that could arise down the line.

    The UC's approach has been to disprove of relationships between faculty and students that they might potential work with in a professional capacity (i.e. people they may teach or mentor at the graduate level) and this follows from the most sensible logic. Other schools have acted to ban ALL relationships of this kind - god forbid this happen at an isolated campus like Cornell where such a policy would probably destroy the entire sex lives of faculty trapped in Ithaca - and I'm probably more sympathetic with Kipnis on some point, consenting adults should be given more leeway to make their own bad choices. That said though, I still think the idea and implementation of these prohibitions come out of the best possible places in terms of concern and long-ranging vision.

    One thing I heartily agree with Kipnis on is this: a university sponsored workshop on "10 Signs That Your Professor Is Sleeping With You To Assuage Mid-Life Depression and Will Dump You Shortly Afterward." Of course, based on the anecdotes I know, I suspect most students would spectacularly fail this course. But to quote Jay-Z, "I ain't no fool/I'll make it up in summer school."

  • (by Oliver)


    Slate's Ben Williams looks at the year in criticism, with a focus on the mean, nasty and ugly. In other words, the good stuff.

    (by Oliver)


    More dissertation distractions:
    You are the JMZ!
    You're sort of a shady character. You sneak into
    the city under the East River, and make a hasty
    exit soon after. But while the tourists may
    steer clear of your decrepit stations, you know
    you're essential to the commuters who depend on

    Which New York City subway line are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla and seen on the different kitchen

    Sunday, January 04, 2004

    (by Oliver)


    bill's cold chillin' in a b-boy stance

    Finally - someone has finally pointed out what has been %()#in obvious - Hollywood still can't figure out how to treat Japan as anything but a well of Orientalist stereotypes that are as tired as Tomogachi keychains. "Hollywood's Land of the Rising Cliche" by Motoko Rich looks at recent, lauded films like Kill Bill, Lost in Translation and The Last Samurai. I said this before in an old blog but in regards to Lost in Translation, superior cinematography and quality Bill Murray performances still can't save this from its own pretensions of white middle-class angst set in a colonial backdrop. And let's not even start up on The Last Samurai, aka Dances With Shoguns. Is this 2004 or 1984? Or 1884? Feel me? (thanks to Hua for putting me up on this piece)

    (by Oliver)


    It's time again to compile the Pazz and Jop Poll for 2003 that the Village Voice puts out annually. These lists never feel complete to me but if you're gonna force me to choose... Here's my top 10 singles of the year - it's not exactly in order of preference though the first three-four selections would definitely have to be at the top o' my list.

    1. Beyonce - "Crazy In Love" - Columbia
    2. Andre 3000 - "Hey Ya" - Arista
    3. Neptunes - "Frontin'" - Star Trak
    These three above embody everything in a pop song that I love and long for. 10 years from now, you'll hear this in a club or on the radio and you'll wish it was 2003 again. Promise.

    4. 50 Cent - "In Da Club" - Shady/Aftermath
    More infectious than SARS and one of the first signs that American pop production is taking a page from Jamaican riddims by putting a zillion differnt artists over the same beat.

    5. Killer Mike - "A.D.I.D.A.S." - Epic
    A sex song that doesn't make you feel like you need a hot shower (or cold one for that matter) after listening to it. Besides, the track couldn't be more tailored to get your ass moving if it was a cattle prod.

    6. LA Carnival - "Blind Man remix" - Stonesthrow
    This song is incredible - makes you wonder why all soul from the '60s couldn't have sounded this good.

    7. Mark Ronson - "On the Run" - Elektra
    Lemme see - Mos Def and MOP on the same track together, over a beat that rocks harder than Aerosmith on a coke binge? It's like the birthday gift you weren't even expecting.

    8. Young Gunz - "Can't Stop, Won't Stop" - Roc-A-Fella
    The track is so deceptively simple that it sort of catches you off guard at first but you can't but help to move to its blips, bumps and burps.

    9. Antibalas - "Che Che Cole Makossa" - Daptone
    If you can't feel this Afrobeat meets Afro-Cuban monster of a club cut - you just can't feel. My man Jeff Chang gives you the full story behind this song - a must read.

    10. Ghostface Killah - "Run" - Def Jam
    Tony for President in 2004. Word.

    In terms of albums, here's what I gave Pazz and Jop officially:

    1. Rufus Wainwright - Want One - Dreamworks
    This might seem like an odd choice coming from me but there was no album that I enjoyed nearly as much as this one. I've taken it up and down with me from S.F. to L.A. at least three times this fall and winter and I never seem to get tired listening to it, singing along, cranking up the volume, etc. Yeah, it's that good.

    2. Andre 3000 - The Love Below - Arista
    I don't mean to disrepsect Big Boi - really, I don't - but after spending time with this album, I just never feel like getting around to peeping Speakerboxxx. Andre makes the hip-hop-that-is-not-hip-hop album for the ages.

    3. Lyrics Born - Later That Day - Quannum Projects (15 points)
    If all hip-hop was this creatively inspired and beautifully executed, I wouldn't go around muttering about how underground hip-hop is the embarassing disaster it is today.

    4. Jay-Z - The Black Album - Roc-A-Fella (10 points)
    Not the best of his career but not the worst either. Jay-Z ends his days as a rapper (yeah, right) with his most personal effort to date.

    5. 50 Cent - Get Rich or Die Tryin - Shady/Aftermath (5 points)
    Not just the biggest debut of the year - 50 Cent has potentially rewritten hip-hop for this not-so-young-anymore decade. Hip-hop loves 50 like a fat kid loves cake.

    6. Styles of Beyond - Megadef - Spytech (5 points)
    It's a swift kick to the head, followed by a baseball bat to the knee caps. And that's a good thing.

    I didn't include this in my poll submission but it deserves an honorable mention:

    7. Lifesavas: Spirit in Stone (Quannum)
    See what I said about Lyrics Born's album above. Quannum had a banner year in 2003 - looks like an indie label can thrive after all, thank god.

    In the meantime, my man Sasha Frere-Jones has completed his Best of 2003 list. #1 single? "Crazy In Love" by Beyonce - can't argue with that. Sasha's so gangsta that he's already begun composing his Best of 2004 list. Also, Ian Steaman of Different Kitchen has his Best of 2003 lists up on his blog - worth perusing too.