Monday, August 30, 2004

PLAYING CATCH UP


wacky daffy


1) Pop Life decides to go vegetarian. If that makes no sense to you, don't worry 'bout it.

2) I got a letter from the government, the other day. I opened and read it, it said they were suckers! The IRS sent me a notice that said I owed them about $30K in back taxes from 2002. Suffice to say, I was momentarily shook but then I read through the whole letter and realized what happened.

For all prospective freelancers out there, here's a small lesson: if you've ever worked full-time someplace, you fill out a W-9 and you get a W-2 at the end of the year. For freelance gigs (assuming, of course, you actually get paid), you get 1099s instead - these forms go to both you and IRS at the beginning of the calender year. Accounting mistakes (not of the Enron level, more like a finger slip) happens and in this case, one of my 1099s was reported to the IRS as me having earned 10 times what I actually did - a simple decimal point typo, but one that had me in the gov't shit hole for 30 large!

3) I got an email from my mother, the other day, I clicked it and read it, it said I was a sucker!
    "Can you redesign a home page that's more eye catching?It would be better if youhave colorful designs than just black and white without any pictures or design. It looks like a document."
I don't always agree with moms on everything, but on this...well...she was probably right. I've had the same design, in essence, since the first days of the Ozone: 1995 (cotdamn!). It really, really needed a revamp so I gave it one. It's still a work-in-progress but at least 60 year old Chinese moms won't be throwing me shade about how so mid-90s my design skills are.

4) I got a call from a telemarketer, the other day. I picked up and listened, they said they were suckers! The national Do Not Call Registry is a great thing but one consequence from it is that telemarketers have a smaller group of people to call and ergo, they call them all the goddamn time. When S and I moved into our new spot, we neglected to automatically sign up for the registry and I swear to gawd, within 24 hours, we had those damn calls where you say "hello? hello?" and then a distant voice comes on saying, "good evening - is Mr. or Mrs. Wang there?" #1: there is no Mrs. Wang in my household. Mrs. Wang is my mother, she lives in Shanghai. #2: I used to be cordial enough to, you know, lie to them and say, "I'm sorry, they're not here." Nowadays, I just hang up. I feel bad...it's not their fault they're underpaid wage slaves but seriously, after the 4th call in an hour (not remotely kidding), I ain't having it.

5) Speaking of "back in the day", today was the first day of classes at UC Berkeley. Even though this is...um...my 13th fall at Cal, the experience is always overwhelming when suddenly, there seems to be a million fresh-persons everywhere, reading campus maps, hanging out in dog packs, roaming Telegraph, extolling the virtues of Amoeba (deserved) and Blondies (not). Don't get me wrong, I'm not hating on them at all but it does make me flash back to my own undergrad days at Cal, back in the heady days of the early 1990s. There are of course, major, major differences between now and then but here's some of the things that jump out.
  • I saw one newbie student, with a campus map in one hand, a cell phone in the other, trying to find his next class. Back in the day (BITD), even rocking a pager was hardcore (shout out to Sir Mix-A-Lot.

  • In giving students a talk about plagarism, BITD, I would never have had to mention stealing content from internet sites since they didn't exist then. This, of course, is probably one of the biggest changes. I worked in computer labs as an undergrad in the early '90 and actually saw the evolution of the WWW from jump. I take for granted how fully invested I am in this world now (duh, look at what I'm doing now), but I also remember the days before people's entire social and intellectual lives weren't all neatly centered around a single source of information exchange. I don't want to use the word "revolution" lightly but truly, in less than 10 years, I have probably witnessed the biggest sea-change in contemporary society that I likely ever will know.

  • Of course, some things have changed, especially in current events. BITD, there was intense strife in the Middle East, the World Trade Center was the target of a terrorist bombing and President Bush was seeking reelection during poor economic times and after leading a questionable war against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Oh, wait a minute.





Pop Life is finally catching up on its reading (1,000 posts in bloglines!). Here's everything you should be reading/thinking/watching/listening:

Friday, August 27, 2004

MORE TO FOLLOW...

  • Greek fans booing during the gymnastics competition to protest the low score given Alexei Nemov? Very hot. An amazing moment. Greek fans booing during the beginning of the men's 200m? Very wack. Look - don't be salty that your boy fucked up. In this case, hate the player, not the Games.

  • I'm not even a soccer fan really but respect due to the U.S. women's team. Two Olympic golds, two World Cup championships, the same core team. Amazing.

  • Paul Hamm needs to fall back. Just to put this in really convoluted perspective: basically Paul Hamm is the declared winner even though technically, he didn't win the popular vote. Hmm...sound familiar?

  • I like Jeremy Wariner too and yes, I'm sure many were surprised that a white man won the 200m dash, but really, what was the Chicago Tribune thinking, running a headline that said, "White Tornado"? Dumb, but not as dumb as when the SF Chronicle ran a headline during the Winter Olympics that read "American Beats Kwan".

  • Tuesday, August 24, 2004

    SHARE THIS

    Starting Monday, UC Berkeley kicks off classes and Pop Life (well, ok, just me) begins our NINTH year in grad school there. Add in the four I spent getting my BA and that adds up to lucky 13.

    Yeah, scary. But let's not dwell on that right now.

    Redherring.com's Irina Slutsky reports on how music file companies like RealNetworks and Napster are signing deals with universities to provide discounted music downloading services. At Cal, for example, they just partnered with RealNetworks. Slutsky interviewed me for the piece and just to reiterate my points there:

    Let's put aside the ethical debate around file sharing and downloading for a moment. Legally, we know sharing files is illegal but like many other things that college students get into that aren't legal either (drinking, drugs, underage sex, cheating on tests, hacking government websites, you know, the usual), it comes down do a larger issue of enforcement. While I'm not a big fan of RIAA's philosophy (more on this in a sec), I have to admit that by suing students last year, they at least showed folks that they weren't asleep at the wheel and there's nothing like hitting a 17 year old with a $10,000 fine to get everyone else to take notice.

    This all said however, I don't think legal file networks are going to be huge among college students. The reason why iTunes is selling music out the door is because their service is ridiculously convenient and at $1/song, it's not exhorbitant. However, when you're in college, especially at UC Berkeley (I know this from experience, believe that) you usually:
    1) are tech-savvy, at least enough to figure out how to do things rather than just giving up after one minute of frustration,
    2) have lots of time on your hand, at least away from a 9-5 desk setting,
    3) are living off ramen and therefore, don't want to spend any of your (parents') money that you don't have to.

    Add all that up and it comes down to: college kids are going to continue to download files as they please. Trying to attack the server-side is going to be increasingly hard as networks continue to decentralize.

    I'm not the first to say this but truly, what RIAA and both the music and movie industry needs to start thinking about is changing their traditional models of revenue. Downloading is simply not going to go away simply because they wish it so and trying to find technological ways of defeating it (such an especially encoded DVDs or CDs) will ultimately prove limited since it's almost guaranteed that someone else will find a way to easily bypass it. Instead, if the industry is worried about losing revenue, they need to rethink how they make their money - perhaps get away from strictly retail and look to diversify their revenue base (like all the rest of us have to in this economy). I actually think all these legal fire sharing companies are a step in the right direction and iTunes success is a testament to the fact that outside college dorms, millions of people are willing to buy music legally because frankly, who really wants to try to figure out how to make Limewire or Kazaa work properly? Feel me?

    Question for anyone out there who knows: why isn't video game piracy more rampant? Given how lucrative that field is, how come we don't see video games swapped as much as movies or music (besides a file size issue)? Or is that going to be the next big thing?



    ELSEWHERE

  • (This comes a few days late but...) not to sound like a pig, but that celebration between US beach volleyball champs May and Walsh was definitely on some psuedo-lesbian hotness. I mean, May spanked her partner on the ass. Okaaaay? I'm just saying.

  • Apparently, one of hip-hop's greatest duo's got beef. So much for "Lots of Loving."

  • ON HIATUS



    Me and the missus are still in unpacking hell (with no DSL yet either - good god, it's like...1999 up in here!). Pop Life is on hiatus for the next few but in the meantime, enjoy
    these
    fine
    alternatives.

    Saturday, August 21, 2004


    you talkin' to me?


    Pop Life is in the midst of unpacking 100+ boxes (so we're juuuust a lil busy right now). Some quick notes though:

  • As per S/FJ's suggestion, I'm including some of the photos out of my collection.

  • Two words: Iraqi football. This story is incredible (we just hope Bush doesn't try to take credit, though we're sure he probably will).

  • I'm officially not hating swimmer Michael Phelps anymore. Going into the Games, I thought his ambitions to beat Mark Spitz was a mark of arrogance but over the last week, it just sort of made sense: he's that good, so why not? So far, he's proven himself more than capable and clearly has emerged as the most capable swimmer of his generation. Moreover, by giving up his place on the 400m medley relay to teammate Ian Crocker, Phelps proved himself to be a total class act which is unlike what one might say about Gary Hall, Jr., who has no qualms about strutting around like a gaudy peacock and talking smack all the time. Dude is a fast swimmer but jesus, what an ass.

  • Carly is no Mary Lou. She's not even Kerri. I'm just saying. Give her four years and maybe she'll mature a personality.

  • I doubt I'm the first who may have noticed this, but Hua passed this on: a review by Ron Wynn in the Nashville City Paper. See if you can astutely spot the problem:

      The late Weldon Irvine was a magnificent organist and pianist, and a
      musician who never made any distinction between "high" and "low" art.
      He could play the most outside jazz conceivable, then come right back
      with a soul or funk number and excel at both. Irvine could lay down a
      monstrous groove, ease into a collectively improvised section and
      deliver his own fiery solo, smoothly accompany a vocalist or merge
      into the arrangement with any type of combo from hard bop to Latin.
      Sadly, Irvine died in 2002, but his contributions and memory are
      celebrated on the new release A Tribute To Brother Weldon (Stones
      Throw) featuring Monk Hughes & The Outer Realm, a tight quartet led
      by master bassist Monk Hughes. While Joe McDuphrey handles the tough task of supplying inventive, tasty keyboard solos on a variety of
      electric instruments, ably backed by organist Morgan Adams III and
      drummer Otis Jackson, the group does both moving tribute pieces and
      hot funk numbers. "A Piece For Brother Weldon," "Still Young, Gifted
      & Black" and "Irvine's Vine" are among the most moving pieces, while
      the group cuts loose with verve and spirit on "Liberated," "Keys" and
      "Master Wel's Tune" among others. This is another Madlib production,
      but he's more in a supportive role than on his other dates that are
      mainly remix sessions. This time, Hughes and his crew prove to be the
      session's dominant stars.
    While you have to appreciate the ways in which Madlib has created a zillion alter egos for himself, it's another issue entirely when a music critic confuses the fake Madlibs (aka Monk Hughes, Morgan Adams III, Otis Jackson, etc.) for the real one. Those last two lines are unintentionally hilarious: "Madlib is in a supportive role." Paging Wynn: dude, Madlib is the ONLY role up in that mug. A rapper/producer by any other name may still rock as hard but when they're the same person, a good music critic should be up on the joke. At least Wynn was saying this in praise of the "group," but once again - if you're going to write about music: Do Your Homework.

    Not to say I haven't had my share of screw-ups. Most recently, in my review of The Roots' Tipping Point for the Village Voice, I said that the group covered the song "Melting Pot" by reggae artist Boris Gardiner...mostly because I'm familiar with Gardiner's uber-funky version of the song but what I forgot is that "Melting Pot" is a Booker T and the MGs song. Duh on me.

  • Thursday, August 19, 2004

    AIN'T NOTHING BUT A G THING

    I'm confused. I was reading over Jay Smooth's breakdown of the Nas concert at Central Park (how bummed am I that I don't live in NYC?) and while it sounded awesome, Nas apparently said, on both the radio, and at the show, that Bush, "at least," was "gangsta" and it doens't sound like he meant it as a critique per se (this is, after all, someone who just dropped a song called "Thief's Theme").

    Apparently, in the Nasian Universe, gangsta seems to = corrupt despots who abuse their power at the expense of the weak and meek. By that token, here's a list of some of the illest gangstas in the last 100 years of history:

    1) Hitler - the undisputed
    2) Stalin - cold as Siberian ice
    3) Mao - killed millions through dumb ass agricultural policies: he's like the accidental gangsta
    4) Pol Pot - dashing rogue of the Khmer Rouge
    5) The FARC - terrorizing peasants in a village near you!

    By that same token, here are some celebrated gangstas who clearly are not now:

    Al Capone = Feds nailed him on tax evasion and he died of VD, in prison.
    Scarface = killed his best friend, couldn't save his sister and died, shot up like Bonnie and Clyde.
    Bonnie and Clyde = see above.

    I'm not making a claim as to whether or not gangstas should be celebrated or not, but at the very least, they should be people who face some level of adversity. With Bush, you can't fight the power when you are the power. After all, he has managed to run America into the shithole of international esteem by being President and screwing over 99.9% of the population (and countless overseas) using the powers vested in him by his office.

    When your alcoholic dad kicks the crap out of you and your mother, that's not supposed to be gangsta. When your boss sexually harasses you, that's not gangsta. When police put 41 shots through an unarmed man, that's not gangsta. When an army rapes and pillages its way through the countryside, that's not gangsta. My point: people in Bush's position are supposed to have the kind of power they do and even if he got into the office through dubious means, what he's done with that power hasn't exceeded much of what his position entails. I'm sure Clinton could have invaded random countries willy nilly when he wasn't getting his willie nillied in the broom closet.

    I'm just saying: don't big up Bush for pimping America when that's already part of the job description. Now, who really is gangsta has to be Ralph Nader - look at the evidence? He's got no hope of surviving, many people despise and fear him, but he's powerful enough to salt everyone else's game (well, everyone else = Al Gore and the Democrats in 2000).


    they shootin'! ha, made you look



    OTHERNESS

  • You know what else is gangsta? This.

  • SF/J asks, "has any other rapper taken as long (11 years) as Fat Joe to have a #1 hit?" Pop Life was going to volunteer Jay-Z with his seven years between "Hawaiian Sophie" and "Ain't No N****" but that's still four years shy of Fat Joe. Lean back!

  • Devon Aoki = the next Paris + Xtina? What is Shyne smoking upstate?
    (credit: Different Kitchen)

  • This story is just too good to be true, right? "Bear drinks 36 beers, passes out at campground".

  • Tuesday, August 17, 2004

    HOLLA!


    I am not left-handed either
    ...oh wait, yes I am

  • What trips me about fencing - I was watching women's sabre today - is that when someone wins a point, they SCREAM as if they just won the whole match. It's actually kind of obnoxious; it's not like tennis players roar on every point they win but maybe fencing has a different ethic. But hey, those blinking lights on their Darth Vader helmets are just kind of dorky. Props to Zagunis (her of the potato sack outfit) and Jacobson for their gold and bronze finishes respectively.

  • Speaking of shouting, shot putters are pretty much on that same tip: apparently, you have to holler at the top of your lungs to get that iron ball further down the field. For a minute, I thought I had tuned into pro wrestling by accident.

  • One more shouting thing: all love to the USA women's gymnastics team and I appreciate that they want to encourage each other during the performances...but it's really disconcerting to try to watch someone on their exercise and hear these shrill voices shouting support at you. Still, you have to feel bad for the Chinese team, especially how that one girl straight up bit it on her dismount. Ouch!

  • The Dominican Republic women's volleyball team had never won a set in Olympic competition. Ever. Still, they managed to knock down the #1 ranked American team in 5 sets. You know Washington Heights is on jump-off today.

  • Korean women have won an archery title at every Olympics since 1984. The streak didn't end this year. But when it comes to blasting shotguns, no one fires off the buckshot like the USA.

  • Spotted during NBC's coverage: VW's ad for the new Phaeton uses Cut Chemist's "Lesson Six" while this Diet Coke-Lime ad uses Gift of Gab's "Way of the Light". Apparently, backpackers have invaded Madison Ave. ('bout damn time).

  • I thought the men's 4x200m freestyle relay was incredible too...but damn, I can't tell who looked like the bigger jerks: the South Africans when they won the 4x100 relay or the Americans after winning the 4x200. There's a fine line between athletic exuhuberence and just looking like a bunch of frat boys.

  • I am, however, over hating on Phelps. Dude is amazing...as is the women's 800m relay team. As is Paul Hamm. 12th to 1st in two moves? Checkmate suckas!

  • To the surprise of no one: "Dream Team most unpopular athletes at Athens Game".

  • Monday, August 16, 2004

    RUNNING AND GUNNING

    Pop Life is still packing up our worldy possessions into 1.5 square boxes, getting high off packing tape fumes. Thank goodness for 24 hour Olympic coverage - filling our home with screams and groans besides our own whines of "goddamn, where am I going to put this box?"

  • It's a wonder to me that volleyball isn't televised more. This is a game that moves faster than hockey, basketball, baseball and football; that requires incredible team and individual coordination; and that basically puts players face to face, with a 50mph+ ball being slammed into their grill. It's like tennis but with better ralllies and more thigh. Word to Toshi Yoshida.

  • I enjoy watching gymnastics and ice skating but what I find problematic with both sports is how much they demand absolute, unforgiving perfection. Most other sports allow for even their greatest athletes to have moments where they're off but gymnastics, for example, has zero room for error in exercises which seem deliberately designed to throw you off. I admire the fortitude of these athletes but frankly, I don't envy the mental anguish they must sustain in evaluating their own performances.

  • Actually, I don't envy the fact that they have to deal with Tim Dagget's wind-bag commentary either. Where's John Tesh when you need him?

  • Golden Bear Natalie Coughlin is golden in the 100M backstroke. Roll on!

  • Why am I not surprised to learn that the entire U.S. Badminton team is comprised by Asian Americans? Yeah, we in there...well, until we lost that is.

  • Someone needs to explain Olympic handball to me. It's basically soccer, crossed with basketball, and about a quarter as interesting as either. Now, if this was more like dodgeball, I'd be all into it.

  • Am I the only one not expecting to hear Usher's "Yeah" to introduce the 3m men's synchronized diving finals? Damn, Lil Jon is everywhere. But hey - Greeks got their first gold: hey, ho!


    IN OTHER NEWS

  • Funkdigi reports on The Republican attempt to court black voters. Going after Kerry's wife for being an Afrikaaner is wicked ill but does anyone really think that black voters are really going to go with the GOP? Especially with Obama batting .400 for the Demos these days?

  • Just in time for Halloween this year: Pimp and Ho costumes...for kids. So wrong on so many, many levels.
    (credit: hiphopmusic.com)

  • iKub

  • Coolfer is mega-hot right now.


    BY THE WAY

    Just for the record, I called this in the Morning News Roundtable on audioblogging when I wrote:
      "Im almost positive were going to see the development of the audio-blog equivalent to VH1s Best Week Ever, which is either a blog masquerading as a TV show or a TV show masquerading as a blog. Either way, it represents the assimilation of the blog format into mainstream media. Sooner or later, a record label or maybe a publicity company is going to get really bright and create an audio blog that corresponds to the artists in their employ."

  • Sunday, August 15, 2004

    GREEK HEAT


    no caption needed

    Hot Quote: "I haven't really been into the olympics since the cold war." - Hua Hsu

    Hot Shout: 100m breaststroke swimmer Kosuke Kitajima's roar upon winning the event.

    Hot Team (Pt. 1): Iraqi soccer, 2-0. Next up: Morocco.

    Icy Hot: Russia's Svetlana Khorkina on uneven bars. But damn, did someone Botox all traces of joy from her face or what?

    Hot Duel: Ian Thrope vs. Michael Phelps in the 200m freestyle semis.

    Hot Mount: Chinese gymnast Zhang Nan running onto a springboard, flipping in the air and landing square on the balance beam. Not to sound ethno-nationalist but could the Chinese team be any cuter? Or shorter?

    Hot Team (Pt. 2): May + Walsh = bad ass beach volleyball duo. Walsh is 6' 2", can play D, and will just rocket over and past you on the attack.

    Hot Score: 92-73, Puerto Rico vs. USA in basketball. Dream Team? Apparently, not this year.


    MOST OF MY HEROES DON'T APPEAR ON NO BEERS

    Jeff Chang on Miller's new Rock Heroes campaign which manages to feature NOT A SINGLE BLACK ROCKER. Let me get this right: Bon Jovi = Rock Hero but Jimi Hendrix doesn't? Chuck Berry anyone? James Brown? Little Richard? You gotta love Miller (and Rolling Stone's) revisionist bullshit. Motherf--- them and John Wayne.

    Upcoming Miller campaigns:
    • Jazz Heroes: Paul Whiteman, Dave Brubeck, Diana Krall and Kenny G.
    • Civil Rights Heroes: J. Edgar Hoover, Bobby Kennedy, Barry Goldwater, George McGovern
    • Martial Arts Heroes: Chuck Norris, David Carridine, Steven Segal, Jean-Claude Van Damne
    • African American Heroes: Spike Jonze, Bill Clinton, Charlize Theron, Eminem



    ELSEWHERE

  • Fascinating story about a fight over race, money and fashion in Washington D.C. The problem with community-based capitalism is that capitalism doesn't really care much about community. It's one thing to say, "Buy Black!" but up against the bottom line, green's the only color that matters (cliche, but true).

  • Harold and Kumar's John Cho and Kal Penn on NPR.

  • Uhhhh...Mail Order Wife. Fools - didn't they see Picture Bride? Been there, done that. (Kayo Hatta, stand up!)

  • Coming soon to an off-Broadway theater near you: Mom, Dad, I'm Living With a White Girl. I'm not trying to hate (Pop Life = love) but the topic is so 1991. At this point, what Chinese American family doesn't have at least one white person up in there? Maybe I could have liked this better if they had titled it, Guess Who's Coming to Dim Sum?
    (credit for all four: Angry Asian Man)

  • Stupiest ad campaign ever: Printing on a Pringle.
    (credit: Catchdubs)

  • STICKING THE LANDING

    Pop Life's normally is very wary of nationalism since it tends to compel the creation of such things as government-sponsored assassinations, wars based on false pretenses, and really bad fashion choices. However, for two weeks every four years, we're down to accept nationalism packaged up without all the usual messiness in the form of Olympics. Sometimes I wonder if a nation is really "following this young wo/man" as much as Bob Costas claims, but the appeal of rooting for entire countries distilled into teams or even individuals can be profoundly powerful.

    Pop Life roots for America on occassion, but we're not jingoists. While we enjoyed Michael Phelps' 400m individual medley performance yesterday, we also cheered on Ian Thorpe's victory in the 400m freestyle and secretly hope that Thrope spanks Phelps when the go head-to-head in the 200. We also marveled the Chinese synchronized swimming team and cheered when Yao Ming rolled in, holding China's flag during the Opening Ceremonies. And the Koreas, joined under a common name and flag is just a great story, especially for two countries with such a troubled history.

    Speaking of national drama though, this story just keeps getting stranger and stranger. Seriously...what is up with Kostas Kederis, previously the most famous and beloved athlete in Greece, currently the most infamous one.

    Pop Life hasn't decided who they're rooting for in men's gymnastics yet though Sharon, in proper ethno-nationalist manner, is going for Japan. We might just stick with the USA on this one, but we're already sick to death of NBC's commentators Tim Daggett and Elfi Schlegel. For women's, we're rolling red, white and blue, especially since Mohini Bhardwaj is team captain (she's of Russian/Indian heritage - we don't know why, but we love that hapa combination. Where's Amy Chow at these days though?)

    Dark horse Olympic sports you should try to catch at least once: Badminton. I'm serious.



    IN OTHER NEWS

  • I love my new 20GB iPod but perhaps I should have considered the iPod vs. Cassette Challenge first.
    (credit: Different Kitchen)

  • Saturday, August 14, 2004

    WEEKEND UPDATE

    A Pop Life reader (thanks Piotr) sent this link in, a follow-up to the story I posted earlier in the week about a game show that shows undocumented immigrants competing in Fear Factor-esque stunts in order to gain legal help to acquiring a green card.

    From the LA Times, 8/13

      Stunts for green card aid criticized

      By Maria Elena Fernandez, Times Staff Writer

      A Spanish-language reality series on Los Angeles station KRCA-TV, Channel 62, is kicking up harsh criticism from legal advocates and at least three members of Congress, who say it exploits and possibly endangers immigrants. But station managers vowed Thursday that the show will go on.

      The series, "Gana la Verde" (Win the Green), dangles the promise of immigration assistance for contestants who agree to perform on-camera stunts such as lying in a sealed plastic coffin with 500 rats or eating live beetles. The show, which is produced by Liberman Broadcasting, a Houston-based independent company, premiered on July 1 and borrows heavily from the format of NBC's unscripted hit "Fear Factor." In the case of "Gana la Verde," the winner walks away with one year's worth of paid assistance from experienced immigration lawyers who work to expedite the winner's residency process. The series is broadcast daily in Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston and Dallas.

      A front-page story about the show in The Times on Aug. 4 drew the attention of immigration advocates, some of whom worry that it could jeopardize participants. Some contestants are undocumented immigrants who, advocates claim, are in danger of being detained or deported after being exposed on television. Others have visas and are in the process of becoming residents. Some contestants compete to win legal aid to help loved ones.

      Representatives from six immigration legal and advocacy organizations held a news conference Thursday to demand that KRCA pull the show off the air. The groups were the American Immigration Lawyers Assn., California La Raza Lawyers Assn., Central American Resource Center, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, the Latina Lawyers Bar Assn. and the Mexican American Bar Assn.

      "Obviously, the concern here is the immigrant community and more specifically the contestants," said Victor Niebles, a member of the board of governors of AILA and an adjunct professor of law at Loyola University. "The community-based organizations and lawyer bar associations which have contacted us are outraged at the false promises given on the show daily. With the immigration climate that we live under right now, these contestants face great danger. More importantly, we are concerned about what these attorneys are actually promising these individuals in regard to green cards and legalization."

      But Lenard Liberman, the vice president and general manager of KRCA and the mastermind behind "Gana la Verde," dismissed such complaints. He said he was motivated to create a reality show that would grant participants a prize they desperately needed but could not afford. All contestants sign a 20-page release that explains there is no guarantee of a green card. On Thursday, Liberman said he would not take the show off the air but was willing to listen to constructive criticism about it.

      "We are regulated by the FCC, and if they have a problem, they should contact us," Liberman said. "At the end of the day, we have had no viewer complaints and no complaints from anyone who has participated in the show."

      Referring to popular plastic-surgery series such as "Extreme Makeover" and "The Swan," Liberman added: "It's very troubling to me that I can do a show that gives Maria breast implants and nobody complains, but when I give Maria a chance to go from being a nanny to a nurse, everybody finds that objectionable. Nobody is under the delusion that we are giving away green cards here."

      Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles) begged to differ. Although he said that he had never watched the show, he was nonetheless concerned that it deceived or exploited immigrants, especially undocumented people.

      "The real name of the show should be 'Pierde la Oportunitad' (Lose the Opportunity) because that's exactly what can happen to people who are here illegally," Becerra said. "[By appearing on the show] you are doing everything to identify yourself for those who can apprehend you and deport you before you can even complete an application process for a green card."

      The show has also made at least one advertiser squeamish. Weber-Stephen Products, an Illinois-based barbecue company, on Thursday pulled its ads for gas grills from the show.

      "We don't want to have anything to do with a program commenting on the frivolousness of luring someone into believing they're getting a green card in turn for doing horrific things," said Nancy Misch, who runs the company's legal department. Becerra, along with the six groups protesting the series, wants a meeting with Liberman to discuss the program's contents as well as the specific promises made to participants during the application process. Rep. Hilda Solis (D-El Monte) and Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Lakewood) have also expressed concerns about the program.

      "Gana la Verde" isn't suffering from a shortage of interest in the community. The program has a long waiting list of potential contestants.

      "I do believe it's irresponsible to raise false hopes and to do it in a deceptive way," Becerra said. "On 'Fear Factor' and those other programs, people have a better sense of the good or bad consequences of participation. The subsequent consequences of being deported are much greater than what you might do with your new breasts or $1 million."

      Liberman said that KRCA does not force people to use their real names on the show. He also criticized lawyers for helping create the need for such a show.

      "There's a gigantic need among Mexican immigrants especially to have access to legal services," Liberman said. "We're going to have 110 winners every year who will have legal assistance for free. There's a huge amount of abuse in the system among immigration lawyers. I hope they would look inwardly and make getting legal assistance more affordable."


    Thursday, August 12, 2004

    CONSUMERISM


    you, robot

    I was only joking a few weeks back when I mentioned that my b-day was coming near and that Apple was coming out with new, 4th generation iPods. By sheer coincidence though, Sharon got a 20GB model as a work bonus and not really having a need for one herself (she has a 2nd gen, 10GB model that's not remotely close to being filled), she was kind enough to slide it over to me. Wow, apparently wishing aloud does work.

    My b-day is still around the corner (I share it with Marcus Garvey, Posdnuos and, ick, Davy Crockett) but of even greater pertinence, I'm in the process of moving into a new apartment which is always a wonderful excuse to go out and spend unnecessary amounts of loot on "refurnishing" (or at least, that's the story I'm selling). It's just the least I can do to keep the recession at bay, of course.

    The Current Wishlist:

    1) Roomba Discovery robotic vacuum. Laugh all you want, but this sounds amazing. Or maybe that's just my laziness talking. Still, I'm just saying - it's a robot. It cleans your floors so you don't have to. Who needs Rosie? Odds of purchase: 1 in 3 (of course, after S has a say, that might either plummet or jump up)

    2) HF01 Sink. It's a sink. But..it has no basin. Something here doesn't quite fit but damn, it looks good. Odds of purchase: 1 in 10,000.

    3) Ikea's Ivar shelfing. I'm not trying to shill for the Swedes, but seriously, I feel bad for DJs who don't live near an Ikea. How else can you buy a shelving system that can accomodate up to 1200 LPs in a single unit - and for less than $80? Sure, in an earthquake, this will probably collapse like a deck of cards, but other than that, Ivar is the no-frills solution to getting maximum vinyl into minimum spaces. Odds of purchase: 1 in 1 (I have at least 5K records. I have no choice, believe me).

    4) Coasterdynamic's The Dragon - home rollercoaster model kit. yes, for only $500, you can build your own 18 loop, backwards-riding, standing, rollercoasters at home (not like you can ride it or anything...unless you're 3 inches tall). This is guaranteed to be one of those toys that rich kids will get, play with once, and then never again. Still, it's a cool idea if you're mega-dorky (and I am). Odds of purchase: 1 in 100,000.

    5) Lacie 250GB External Hard Drive. Hey, you have to store all those MP3s and digital camera pix somewhere. It's funny because Sharon pulled an old hard drive out: this thing was pretty big but I'm sure it was cutting edge at one point with its 1 GB storage size. Now folks are talking about terabyte storage (that's like a 1, followed by a gazillion 0s or something). 250GB sounds big but I'm sure that's only about 30,000 illegally downloaded songs or something. Ssssh. Odds of purchase: Infinity in 1 (already ordered!)

    6) Toyota Prius. It's a hybrid (plus). A lot more expensive than a comparable sized car (minus). Has more cargo spaces than a Japanese pencil box (plus). Has an engine roughly as powerful as a lawnmower (minus). GPS navigation and built-in Bluetooth (plus). It's mad dorky (min...no wait, plus, definitely plus). 4-6 month waiting list (big minus). Odds of purchase: 4 in 5 (I'm saying - my current Honda has almost 200K miles and needs new brakes, tires, timing belt, coolant hoses and cap/rotor. It's about one mean look away from utter collapse. Plus, considering that it's costing me $30 to fill up (and that only gets me about 7 -10 days worth of driving), 50mpg is sounding REAL good to me right now).

    7) Tweed Dunks. It's part of Nike's new "English Gentry" line for the fall (so Farnsworth Bentley). For the dandy gully in all of us. Odds of purchase: 1 in 2.
    (credit: Hua)




  • Audamn offers us useful tips, including "How to Stage a Fake Bar Fight."

  • I just don't get right-wing people of color. First Michelle Malkin, now Debra Dickerson. What's wrong with these people?

  • You knew it was going to happen: Will Smith collabs with Kanye and Timbo.
    (credit: Funkdigi)

  • Jay Smeezy is posting on the reg again. A nation celebrates.

  • Hacking Tivo to skip commercials. H O T.
    (credit: Pnuthouse)

  • Wednesday, August 11, 2004

    PACKAGING HIP-HOP




    Canon Fodder (from the S.F. Bay Guardian, August 11, 2004.

      'RAPPER'S DELIGHT' came into the world a quarter century ago, but the record's 25th birthday has passed with barely anyone noticing. Perhaps generating hip-hop nostalgia is hard when we're still living under rap's total dominance, but so far only Universal's Hip Hop Box has tried to commemorate hip-hop's silver anniversary. With 51 songs spread over four CDs, tied together by nearly 50 pages of liner notes, the Box assembles a populist canon in a tidy parcel. The benefit of being a megaglomerate is that Universal owns an unfathomable amount of songs, including some of hip-hop's greatest anthems: Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks," Biz Markie's "Just a Friend," Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth's "They Reminisce over You (T.R.O.Y.)," and Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's "The Next Episode."

      Though fully stocked, the Box feels strangely empty. It's not who's missing LL Cool J, NWA, Jay-Z, and Eminem. Gaps are inevitable, even for Universal. The problem is we already know the songs: a nation of millions can recite the Pharcyde's "Passin' Me By" by heart. What's needed are the back stories, the sum of intentions and accidents that turn tunes into legend. The Box's notes provide publishing credits, chart info, and a few pithy praises, but these barely touch on the minutiae stacked behind the music. You could claim the songs say enough already, but why not pay a pimply teen to Kazaa together a definitive collection that would dwarf the Box? It's not a lack of inclusion that's bothersome it's the lack of exposition or exploration. Without either, the Box becomes what it was probably intended to be: a pretty package, pleasing to the eye, but hollow for the mind.

      When the U.K.'s Andrew Emery writes, "Hip-hop. That story is done," he could almost be commenting on the Box. Instead, it's Emery's way of explaining why his new Book of Hip Hop Cover Art (Mitchell Beazley) is an intervention, an alternative history highlighting one of rap music's most powerful yet ignored forms of symbolism: its covers. Hip-hop artwork has never inspired the kind of aesthetic worship lavished on Reid Miles's signature Blue Note designs, but rap covers are no less iconic. Whether it's the bold graffiti script of Wild Style, Run DMC's Kangol caps peeking up on King of Rock, or King T's gangster stroll on Act a Fool, the Book creates a kaleidoscope that refracts hip-hop's attitudes, ambitions, and illusions.

      The book includes valuable commentary from designers like George Dubose (who did Biz Markie's bugged covers) and an interview with Public Enemy's Chuck D. However, Emery's well-meaning essays suffer from the inverse of what limits the Box: Emery's not content with letting the images speak for themselves he needs to periodize everything, crafting an art history. His alternate rap canon through artwork is intriguing, but his valorization of certain periods (the late-'80s "Golden Era") while rejecting others (i.e., today's "Jiggy Era") replicates tired arguments best left to Internet message boards. For example, his comments barely pay lip service to the ghetto glamour of Pen and Pixel's ubiquitous CGI covers, even though their exaggerated displays of opulence are as important a statement of rap's mores as Emery's entire section on Afrocentric art.

      The thing is, hip-hop isn't the best-kept secret anymore. It doesn't need another canon erected in its honor1. People used to backlash against rap music because it upset the status quo, but these days people rail against it because it's become the status quo. While hip-hop still doesn't command the kind of academic dissection rock, jazz, or classical has enjoyed, its ascension into those ranks is already underway. The Box and the Book may be well-intentioned in their aspirations to document and organize, but in trying to honor hip-hop, both seem to only confirm how staid the culture has become now that it's part of the official record.

      Perhaps both the Box and the Book could learn from the new self-titled album by the U.K.'s Three Sinister Syllables (Chopped Herring). On their cover, these cut 'n' paste pirates spell their name using letters from 22 rap album covers: Black Sheep's L, EPMD's E, Sugar Hill's S, etc. Their music is similarly chopped and spliced a little MF Doom here, some Phife Dawg there, wedged in with a Nice N' Smooth sample. This is a hip-hop history that spans a quarter century too, jumbled up, with no liner notes to guide you, and it provides an irresistible challenge for rap junkies to untangle and identify. Intended or not, Three Sinister Syllables' homage to rap's visual and auditory past captures far more of the music's pleasures and power than either Universal's or Emery's conventional offerings. Their album is suffused with the most pure and basic of hip-hop essences: the giddy, confident satisfaction that comes from not caring whom you please as long as you please yourself. (Oliver Wang)


    1. I realize this statement is rather ironic coming from someone who put out a hip-hop album guide last year.


    ELSEWHERE


    The South's sharpest mouth, Tony Green, writes an retrospective on Rick James for Slate.


    Sharon Lerner (Village Voice) on Portland's insanely great idea: Rock n' Roll Camp for Girls (shout out to Carrie Brownstein - the coolest evah).
    (credit: Sharon)

    Monday, August 09, 2004

    WE SPIN YOU ROUND ROUND


    always spin with style

    DJs are hot! Again.

    "Spin Doctorate" by my man over at the NY Times, Kalefah Sanneh.

    ...and from two weeks back: "School of Scratch" from the East Bay Express.

    ...and a few weeks before that: another story on the DJ academies from the SFGate.com.
    (Credit: Grey Marble)

    Saturday, August 07, 2004

    IT AIN'T EASY GETTING GREEN


    the metaphor writes itself


    When Hua sent over this story, I initially thought this had to be a joke of some kind: a Spanish-language television station in L.A. has a game show, molded after Fear Factor, but instead of a monetary prize, the winners gain access to an immigration attorney who will try to help them get a green card. (Wait, wasn't this a Cheech Marin comedy back in the 1980s or something? If not, it should have been.)

    No cars, no cash, no house in the hills but Gana la Verde ("win the green") promises the most American of American dreams: possibility. People will surely (and rightfully) find the show to be an exploitationist, cynical affair - in all fairness though, what reality game show isn't these days? - but you almost have to admire how it strips off the facade on our national mythology and distills it down to its essence. The American Dream is just that: a dream, a fantasy, a promise made with no guarantee to keep. Gana la Verde lays it out: do something crazy, disgusting, life-threatening, etc. and we might, we just might let you into our little national club but if it doesn't happen: hey, we gave you the shot, that's all we said we would do.

    The question is, how does Gana la Verde really differ from all the other crazy, disgusting, life-threatening work that people without legal residency (and even those who do) take it upon themselves to do everyday already - just minus the televison face time and a well-tanned host to orchestrate everything along?

    Just to make this fair though, not only should they expand it to other undocumented immigrants - for example, all those illegal Canadians amongst us - but imagine if they expanded this? How about:
    • Early Admission: 16 year olds are put through a battery of physical challenging and emotionally humiliating Scantron-based tests in order to score entry into an Ivy League college.
    • Right Flight: 30-something professionals and their young children have to sprint through an obstacle course of aggressive realtors and greedy mortgage lenders to win a house in the suburbs with good schools and no colored people.
    • Crossover - 20 beautiful women of color a ruthlessly pitted against each other in a mansion, competing for the opportunity to date a dorky white guy. In the next season, 20 men of color under go the same process in hopes of being noticed by a blonde.
    • Las Vegas - Oops, sorry, this has already been in syndication for over 50 years.
    • Of course, all of these have to bow down to the OG in the field: Let's Make a Dope Deal.





    ELSEWHERE

  • Jazzbo resurrects an amazing article that might otherwise have been lost to that digital dustbin created in the wake of failed WWW ventures: Dave Thompkins on the life history of a man and a drum break.

  • Rick James' last interview, part one. Here's part two.
    (credit: Can't Stop, Won't Stop)

  • I am sure there is some small, sub-section within a concentric ring of Hell where there's placemarkers already set up for Michelle Malkin and Ann Coulter.

  • Sharon muses on Miss Digital World. The geeks come out at night, for real.

  • Awesome: Baseball intro songs. Personally, I'd probably either go with Eddie Bo's "Hook and Sling" or else the instrumental to Jay-Z's Public Service Announcement. Or maybe Johnny Rivers' "Secret Agent Man" (better known amongst my peeps as "Secret Asian Man").
    (credit: SF/J)

  • For those X-Clan fans out there: you can place a bid to hang out with Professor X for a day. I'd rather bid on having the Grand Verbalizer drop science on my mixtapes...
    (credt: Hua Sulu)

  • Friday, August 06, 2004

    RICK JAMES: 1948-2004


    goddamn, I'm fine


    Rick James is dead

    First Ray, now Rick. Damn. At least Rick experienced the biggest revival in his recent career thanks to Dave Chappelle.

    Unitttttttyyyyyy!

    Thursday, August 05, 2004

    SUMMER JAMS



    Normally, I'd just post this on Soul Sides but I'm just feeling some of the new songs coming out right now that I wanted to make a nod over here too.

    213: Another Summer
    From The Hard Way


    This is the ultimate summer jammy jam - straight up park/picnic/backyard BBQ flavor. It's hard to go wrong with Eddie Kendricks' "Intimate Friends" to begin with and Kanye doesn't mess with the perfection of that sample - he just lets the vibe play out as it should.

    Once the lights go down and you want to get amped for the cruise down the amp? Roll with:

    Theodore Unit: The Drummer
    From 718


    This album by Ghostface's crew gives you all the songs that people had been hoping for on the Pretty Toney Album, including this heater feat. Ghost, Method Man, Streetlife and Strife. This is so good, it's stooopid.

    Tuesday, August 03, 2004

    THIEF'S THEME?

    People accused Biggie of biting Nas' Illmatic cover (thematically) for Ready to Die but compare Nas' cover with this mid-1960s jazz album cover out of Atlanta:




    Eerie coincidence? Or maybe Nas dipped into papa Olu Dara's crates and saw this?



    SLOW NEWS DAY

  • Um...manties. Strong enough for a woman, but made for a man.
    (credit: Pickin Boogers)

  • Straight medievel: Maggots for medicine?

  • More weird animal science: the snakehead is back. Hide your children!

  • You gotta love this story:
      "A woman in the UK has been banned from owning a TV, stereo or radio for two years, after repeatedly playing "Stan" by Eminem so loud that it made neighbors furniture vibrate across the floor. Officials measured the noise from a neighbors flat & found the levels to be 65 decibels - the legal level a passing airplane is allowed to make."

  • Monday, August 02, 2004

    MMMMMM...WHITE CASTLE


    yellow fever: catch it!

    Danny Leiner's (Dude, Where's My Car) had a new movie that came out last weekend: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Notably, the film's two leads are played by John Cho and Kal Penn (random trivia fact: 10 years ago, Cho and I were in the same Asian American poetry class at UC Berkeley), making this the first major studio film (New Line) to cast not one, but two Asian American men as the stars.

    I reviewed the film for Popmatters.com but here's the short version: it's a funny, though predictable film that most of my collegiate-age students seemed to enjoy. S and I caught an advance screening a few weeks back, found the movie laugh-worthy, lamented its predictably juvenile sexual humor, and were generally glad to see that we've now reached a point in Hollywood history where two Asian dudes can play smoked out, sex-obsessed slackers. I know I probably sound sarcastic right now, but seriously, it's progress. Kind of.

    The thing is: I got a special fondness for Cho, not just because I knew him way back when, but this dude has put in work. I'm teaching Asian American film/video at UC Berkeley this summer and last week, we saw, by sheer coincidence, three films in a row starring him: Yellow, Shopping For Fangs, and Better Luck Tomorrow (this doesn't include all the other films he's ended up in outside the API world). So yeah, I'm happy to see him doing well out there. To boot, Kal Penn came off as crazy smart during the Q&A we saw - I confess, I don't know much about him (probably because I didn't see his last big film, Van Wilder and can you blame me?) - but I was impressed enough to want to see him in more things in the future. I admit: it was fun to see them together in this film despite my other misgivings. Take that as a cautionary (but positive) recommendation.

    CHECKLIST


    what, me worry?

    1) On Tuesday morning, Sharon will appear on KQED's Forum (10-11am, PST) to talk about the recent Yoshitomo Nara and Beautiful Losers shows in the Bay Area.

    2) Double shot of SF/J: Sasha on The Streets and Dizzee Rascal and a really remarkable post about a day spent with Russell Simmons.

    3) Speaking of which, Hua put me up on the fact that Montell Jordan has an album entitled, Life After Def which is possibly the best rap album title never used by a rapper. Joe Budden should have gotten himself kicked off Def Jam, just so he could have dropped an album entitled Life After Def.

    4) A Pop Life reader sent this in: Pen Spinner video (no, not these spinners, but these spinners). You know, Asian dudes invented this whole thing. Don't front.

    5) One of our favorites, Julianne Shepherd has given up the sleepy pace of Portland (and Powell's) for the manic attack of NYC (and Strand). You can start reading her exploits here. Lord, why is it all the cool kids move to New York?

    6) That's not entirely true. J-Ho is cool but still lives in Chicago and she has this to say about the new Roots album:
      "In other news, aside from Chris Ryan, I am the only person in America who is feeling Tipping Point . I like it for the reason that everyone else does not feel it. Because a meditation on mediocrity, with little hot ash piles of song stuffed into tiny holes in the mix is sometimes exactly what you want. I like it because I liked Whitechocolatespacegg. It asks almost nothing of the listener. It's just songs. It's just an album. It may not even have more than one track that takes up real estate in the iPod, but that does not keep me from enjoying it because it does not engage viscerally."
    We can dig it.

    7) You knew this was going to happen: "Jesus Walks" the remix, feat. Kanye West and Rev. Ma$e. What? What Rev. Run too busy hawking shoes to join?
    (credit: Funkdigi)

    8) I think Jay-Z eeked a win out over Nas but Kid Rock? Dude, don't step to Nasty. Seriously.
    (credit: Royal Magazine)

    9) If you haven't visited lately (shame on you!), my man Junichi is killing it over at The Pnut House.

    10) Last but not least...Contrary to popular opinion, I am not responsible for the current hiatus over at Crunkster. Cross my heart and hope to...