Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Yet Another Incentive to a Life of Crime -or- Another Alternative to Lifting Weights

Pimp C, since I saw him on BET last week, is now out of prison. This portends any number of things. First off, Pimp C will probably be showing up on TV more often now that he's out of prison. Awesome. Of all the people I'd like to see more of on TV, Pimp C is definitely, for sure, one of them. He has a very peculiar (to me), I mean, at very least, distinctive, way of speaking that strikes me as even cooler than any of his other Houston compatriots. So that's good.

Second-of-ly, anthems along the line of, "Please Free Pimp C" have now become a recollection of the past: what, sadly perhaps, may end up to be the glory days of Houston hip hop. Last summer, I was convinced the Houston thing wouldn't take off like people were preparing for it to. I dunno why, but I mean c'mon. Would you have thought somebody named Chamillionaire, who looks like fucking Chamillionaire does would ever be super-famous? Would you have thought a style of music that raises brightly colored paint, parking lots, and shiny mouths to the status of primary importance would really catch on in a country as diversified, as into driving fast, generally, and with as many fucking silver cars, as this one?

Obviously I was wrong. And I hope that Houston rap doesn't collapse in on itself. I'd like nothing more to be allowed to watch Paul Wall grow old and grey. It'd be charming. And, especially for Pimp C's sake, I hope people continue to care about Houston. The guy has been made nearly as much of a martyr for the scene, and nearly as famous, as DJ Screw, and now, unlike Screw, he'll have the chance to enjoy it as long as the hip hop listening masses don't turn their back on Texas and start pumping Baltimore or NorCal or something.

But, really, what intrigues me most whenever a story lik Pimp C's comes along is the fact that hip hop musicians, even while incarcerated, are able to produce new original material. This phenomenon should not by any means be confused with that of dead people producing new material. That's the work of overzealous and greedy business partners recycling through out-takes. A different process entirely. What I'm interested in is, what does a prison's recording studio look like?

Maybe Pimp C didn't do a lot of recording while during his time in the clink, but, unless I'm mistaken, some of his solo album was committed to tape in the joint. Charles Manson has released songs he recorded in prison, though any money made from these goes to the relatives of his victims. But can a normal guy in jail on some trumped up drug charges, or maybe concealed weapon shit or manslaughter or something, be all like, "hey, instead of playing basketball today, you think I could get into the studio and lay down a few verses I've been working on?"

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Friday, August 18, 2006

TRL -or- Yet Another Thing That Makes Me Feel Old

I would be surprised if there were a lot of people over the age of 16 who watch TRL (that's MTV's Total Request Live program, for those of you who have forgotten/tried to block it out) these days. Me myself personally only catch parts of it on rare occaisions, but, as a lowly middle and high school student, I musta watched at least part of the show at least three days a week.

Now don't get me wrong, TRL was never what you'd call a good show. But if you compare the first couple of years of TRL, and here I may or may not be including MTV Live, a sort of similar show which sort of became TRL in 1998, to something like American Bandstand, or Soul Train, or Headbanger's Ball, which I think are generally thought of as having been closer to legitimate TV that TRL ever was, I think TRL would hold up pretty well. Back in the day Carson Daly would show the top ten videos the phoning and internetting public wanted to see in their entirety. This was the point of the show.

Now, the main points of comparison here are threefold: Carson Daly, entirety, and public. Carson Daly, for his part, died in a fire at Hanson's parents' house. The people who took over for him, that girl and some guy who was on Laguna Beach, don't exist. Which means TRL no longer has a host. This is not an ideal situation!

On the issue of the public, this probably goes without saying, but somewhere along the way it became entirely clear that wether a video was played on TRL and where it was played in the context of the top ten countdown was decided completely by how much money record companies through MTV's way. Seems like TRL has become mainly a venue for these companies to force feed their new and inferior product to the masses (JoJo), or alternately, showcase their already successful acts (Christ, formerly X, Tina). But hey, hey, back in the day, the democracy of TRL was such a crazy idea, and people actually cared enough, that an email campaign was started to get Vanilla Ice's "Ice, Ice. Baby" onto the show. And it worked. Number nine with a bullet. Not to mention Tom Green's "Bum Bum Song". Though that's dubious. Anyway, there was at least a two or three month (week? day?) period where TRL was virgin territory, before things got all raped up. Or, at the very least, I'd like to believe that.

Third point, though, is really what has grabbed my attention the few times I've come across TRL in the past few weeks. TRL now offers a special promotion called the "Long Lasting Video" where viewers vote for which one (1) video they would like to see in their entirety during any given show. Yeah, that's about it. If that fact doesn't speak for itself, I mean, ok.

I watched TRL when it wasn't cool to watch TRL. I knew all the words to every single N*Sync and BSB released. But man. Now, I can finally join the ranks of the haters that have been creeping closer and closer over the years. TRL sucks. Now ain't that news.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Kornheiser -or- Klosterman

I realize this will mean I've already sort of written about Chuck Klosterman twice over the course of the paltry two weeks I've been doing this writing, and, it's outdated, but, what the hey. Last year sometime Chuck Klosterman had some (apparantly - since I don't pay out my soul to ESPN every month I couldn't read the whole article) not so kind-ish words for Tony Kornheiser in a column he wrote on ESPN.com. Kornheiser responded by demanding that Klosterman call into Kornheiser's radio show and defend himself, which he never did.

Why do I think this is interesting? Well, rather than dredging through the processes which lead me, at this late date, to this story, an excercise that might shed some light on the question, I'd rather take this opportunity to try and disect the Karmic bond Kornheiser and Klosterman that, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, share.

On the surface Klosterman seems to write about heavy metal music, while Kornheiser is best known, by most people, for arguing about sports with Micheal Wilbon on TV. What could these people have to do with each other? Klosterman, as you might have gathered from the above, went all Hunter S. Thompson and agreed to write a column for ESPN, thus invading Kornheiser's world. Or so it would seem.

It's easy to say, "Oh, well, Klosterman doesn't just know about heavy metal. Dude has the chops to write about soccer, too!" because, based on what he has successfully written about, it's kind of true. More difficult to argue is that Kornheiser is worthy of being proclaimed such a broadly effective commentator. But c'mon. Maybe it's just that, ok, I dunno why it would be, but it seems like it's easier for me to look at Kornheiser and see "sportswriter" and not simply, "writer", or even "cultural commentator" than it is for me to see Klosterman as such (though maybe not a "writer").

I mean, with this random article about Sean Penn as just one example, let alone the actual books he's published, or his columns and all that, it's pretty clear that Kornheiser is capable of touching on cultural issues in general (of which issues Sean Penn is a great example, being, at this point, so, in my mind, general) just as much as Klosterman. I'd personally love to hear Kornheiser pontificate about 1980's hard rock - I might even rather hear his take than Klosterman's. On the flipside, why not give Klosterman a shot at Kornheiser's Monday Night Football gig? Ok, right. Sorry for even suggesting that.

But still, slap a pair of dark plastic frame glasses on Kornheiser and give him some hair (I think he'd have a Jew fro! oh please say there's a picture of Kornheiser at his senior prom out there somewhere) and he'd be Klosterman. The point of all this? I'd personally like to nominate Tony Kornheiser for the title of indie rock journalist of Chuck Klosterman's generation.

To The People - Oops... What Have I Done?

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Friday, August 11, 2006

The Wait Is Over -or- Left Out in the Rain (Dogs)

Tonight Tom Waits will play a sold out concert at the Detroit Opera House, his first appearance in the Detroit metropolitan area since a concert in Ann Arbor in 1987. I won't be going, and I can give you two reasons why. Number one: I didn't know about it. It seems to me like I heard that he was touring back when he announced his dates, but it didn't register in my brain that I should think about buying tickets. And two, which actually consists of a few related reasons: the Detroit Opera House holds only 2,800 people, the tickets ran something like $75.00 to begin with and now are going for over $200 a piece on ebay.

Still, the concert got a write up in the Free Press, and, judging from the article, both the Opera House people and the even the writer of the article, Brian McCollum seem surprised by the public response to a Tom Waits performance. The tickets sold out almost immediately and are now being scalped for legitimate chunks of cash: this old guy who can't sing is pretty much overshadowing anything else the Opera House has staged in recent memory (though Beck did perform there a few years ago to significant fanfare).

It seems to me like this sort of thing (I'm sure similar scenes are/have been going down in Louisville and Akron) just goes to prove that Tom Waits will not end up being an underground legend or a genius unrecognized in his own time. Everyone loves Tom Waits, and everyone knows how brilliant he is. His case is simply a case in which people such as Brian McCollum, wilfully or not, remain oblivious to the public. Tom Waits is a pop musician. Maybe this is a hard concept to grasp, but really, why shouldn't he be?

In case your wondering why I'm rambling, it's because I actually just want to go the concert like everyone else.

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Not In Love With the Modern World -or- The Wonderful World of Fashion Vocabulary

I'm so interested to know some sort of figure on how often the participants in this season's Project Runway make use of the word "modern" in a typical episode, that I'm tempted to actually sit down with a piece of paper and a pencil and keep track next week.

It is unlikely, however, that next week's episode could possibly top this week's for sheer ridiculous over and misuse of the once great word. This is because the challenge in tonight's episode made specific use of the concept of "fashion modernity" by requiring the designers to "modernize" the look of a classic fashionable celebrity by creating an outfit that they would concievably wear today. The main problem with this idea isn't the idea itself. The results of having the designers create something for the Marilyn Monroe or Twiggy of today were decidedly interesting. The problem is that absolutely all of the celebrities chosen as models for the challenge were/are entirely "modern" in some respect of the word. Which brings us to the real question: what the fuck are these people talking about when they say the word "modern"?

Seriously, at one point during this episode it was good that I didn't have anything sharp in my hand, because, had I had, it would have ended up inside of my head. These people, even the ones I pretty much like, or feel like I might like if I ever actually met them, throw the word around the same way they do "seam" or "wrinkly". What gets my goat, though, is that I don't ever know what they mean by it, and I don't think they do either. The worst part is that the judges encourage them by doing exactly the same thing.

Maybe I'd deal with it better if, just once, I could hear Micheal Kors criticize someone's creation as "pre-modern" or even simply, "not modern," because that would give me some sort of clue as to what in blue blazes the people on this show, and, I suppose, the fashion industry on the whole, intends to mean when the use this word. My biggest fear is that later on in the season there will emerge a challenge based on the creation of period costumes and Allison will do a great job making some sort of faux baroque evening gown, like some shit out of that performace of "Vogue" Madonna gave at the 1990 Video Music Awards, and will proceed to describe her work as "modern" only to be praised by the judges for how, even though it could fit in in period setting, it looks "modern." I think I'd damn kill myself.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Sweden Attacks U.S. - or - Do They?

It's being said at various web-locales that The Knife have released some American (New York and California) tour dates. On one level this is pretty exciting: Silent Shout is one of the few albums in recent memory pretty much everyone I know can agree on. The songs are well written, the melodies are catchy in a really counter-intuitive way, but most importantly the first track get's the ball rolling with the A#1 rhythmic figure of the moment - a hard three against four. Plus, I've heard that the guy gives interviews through a vocoder. Badass. Apparantly the live show will be accompanied by a mind-expanding multimedia extravaganza befitting such a rare this-side-of-the-Atlantic performance of Swedish electro-goth-pop.

Unfortunately, Pitchfork seems to have taken their announcement of the dates off of their site. A hoax? Doesn't seem like it. But any guy who gives interviews through a vocoder can only be trusted so far.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Your Life on Drama - or - Slowest Marathon Ever

On Friday night The N began a five week marathon in which every episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation ever created will be available for viewing at some point. Needless to say, it is on this momentous broadcasting event that the relative uneventfulness of this past weekend (honestly, nothing interesting happened this weekend as far as I can tell, unless you want to move three channels higher on my digital cable and talk about Furi Kuri) can be blamed.

As easy as it is to comment on Degrassi’s brilliance in employing kids to portray kids, and how this makes for a more believable evolution of characters over time as the actors grow with their roles, it’s equally easy to comment, while watching the early episodes aired this weekend, on how poorly acted this shit is sometimes. Part of the fun of watching the show is the strange brain itchiness you get watching these young persons act: an itchiness at least equal, though, to that caused by the inevitable consequences of their characters' actions. It is hard to watch Craig drive that jalopy off of Joey’s lot without plunging your hand into the television set to pull the hand brake, screaming, “for Christ’s sake! You’re going to get caught and no good can possibly come of this! Weren’t you ever sixteen?!” No, asshole! Craig is fourteen! And so is the guy who plays him! And thus, the itchiness.

But, hey, that’s not really what I want to talk about. The real issues in this show aren’t the issues, nor the actor age=character age thing, nor, even, the indellible Canadian National Spirit oozing out of the show’s every pore. The real issue is the fact that, blow for blow, Degrassi is as good as any show on television. I think people have sort of taken to talking about reality TV, as well as watching it, a lot. Whatever. I like reality TV. But the truth is, in many ways reality TV isn’t such a new fangled idea. Most old-style TV was reality based in one way or another. The Price is Right is almost too perfect an example: you can’t get any more real than going on CBS in a sweatshirt and trying to remember how much you paid for Pop-Tarts last week. And what about Andy Griffith, or all that shit? There was stuff that was trying to be realistic, and Degrassi continues in that tradition, somewhat.

I read Chuck Klosterman’s thing on Saved by the Bell a while ago. And, you know, he talks about all the characters on that show being character types rather than characters. Certainly there are similarities between SBTB and DTNG, but this is not one of them. Anyone who can tell me what “type” Spinner is supposed to be will be proving me wrong, though, I suppose. Anyway.

It’ll be on again all next weekend (starting at six p.m., of course [that magic time when, each evening, you feel what you momentarily fear is minor heart attack, before realizing that, no, it was only that Noggin had miraculously changed into The N again {strangely enough, the three a.m. N to Noggin turnover is much less violent}]), so you should watch and learn. Craig-Ashley-Manny drama. Can’t wait.

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