Thursday, July 15, 2004

Rock and Roll High School
The Old 97s may be the safest, most harmless, least offensive, rock band this side of Canada. Sure seemed that way yesterday evening, at least, when they played a charming good-natured, free show before a well-behaved crowd in the auditorium at Stuyvesant High School (a place, by the way, whose marble and glass opulence explains quite a bit about the systematic neglect of some other places). Either that or they were just a great bar-band in the wrong damn place. The new songs sounded good, if you’re into that sort of thing, way better than the Satellite Rides record. Incidentally, Murray, their aging, slightly effete, hipster bass player is starting to look exactly like my mother, which I enjoyed.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Universal Magnetic
Chilling at Rude Movements last night rockin’ out to guest selector GE-OLOGY when a conservatively dressed young brother – all black, button-down shirt tucked in to slacks - was pointed out to me.

“Remember Mos Def’s first single? That cat produced it.”

That’s right, it was none other than Shawn J. Period, the man behind the boards back in ’97 as Mos blew us all away with “A, B-boys and girls/CDs and tapes help generate papes…” Shawn was all poised to be the next hot-shit producer when he got religion, decided sampling was sinful and bowed out of the rap game. He’s now musical director at his church.

Mos gave an interview to O-Dub back in ’98 in which he made some comments that are stirring up all kinds of ideas over at Pop Life and elsewhere. The discussion has moved all over from Upski’s “special white boy” to minstrelsy, which is where I’ll jump in.

When we think blackface we tend to think racist schlock, Al Jolson’s “Mamie,” or self-hating Step and Fetchery. It’s bigger than that though, and not nearly as cut and dry. The Minstrel circuit was around a lot longer than Vaudeville, was made up of just as many black folks as white, and if you believe Nick Tosches’ poetic and achingly erudite “Where Dead Voices Gather,” was a hell of a lot more important, serving as an sort of primordial vortex from which spun all of America’s 20th century musical movements, jazz, blues, country, and of course, rock and roll.

And it never ended, even when the cork came off. Skip James was a cosmopolitan, worldly, classy motherfucker, but he played that country bumpkin act for all it was worth. Same goes for Jimmie Rodgers, the “singing brakeman,” who played on all kinds of hot jazz sides before he became country’s first superstar.

Think Hip Hop is any different? Acting like a pimp or a gangsta, even in the rare instance when it’s based on some reality, is still acting, and the role’s setting and trappings may have changed, but it’s still Mandingo to me. That’s not a condemnation either, not at all. It’s the way it is, the meter to our culture’s rhyme, the framework we improvise upon and reinterpret, and when it inevitably changes, when the next movement revolutionizes our eardrums, it’ll still be the same. Always has been, always will be.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

New Allmusic
Whole new look, and apparently some new functionality, over at the Allmusic guide, a record reviewers best friend. Looks better, maybe only 5 years behind the times now. Unfortunately, seperating things (via "tabs") onto different pages means waiting for those pages to load, which as of now is taking quite a while. Maybe they're just ironing out the kinks though.

Let's all give it up to the AMG for a minute. Sure, their bios and reviews can be iffy (though rarely terrible,) but those discographies are invaluable. And they're free!

My Shaq Theory
I like Shaquille O’Neal. Yeah sure, he commits an offensive foul every time he drops that big shoulder, and yeah, his rap career has been less than stellar (although heads are whispering that he’s winning this whole beef with Twista!) but the man is hilarious. Intentionally so. He’s witty, and cocky, and charming. His press conferences are always a treat. I hear all the time what an idiot he is, and I’m always astounded. Don’t people listen? I guess it’s because he looks dumb (it’s the close set, semi-crossed eyes,) which is unfortunate, but the man is 7’2”, ungodly strong, quick, clever and sitting on millions, so I guess you can’t have it all.

Shaq’s on the Heat now, where according to prevailing public opinion, his presence, along with rising star Dwayne Wade, makes them an immediate contender out of the East. It’s possible, and would be even more likely had they kept Lamar Odom, who last year finally played like we knew he could, I don’t know though. I don’t really buy the argument that Shaq will be more productive and better rested because there are no centers in the East. There aren’t any centers out West either. Ben Wallace, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Jermaine O’Neil will put up as much (or as little) of a fight as did Yao, Garnett, Duncan and… wait who are these big men the West is supposedly so loaded with? Olowakandi? Divac? My point.

Shaq’s getting old, though, and more importantly he’s been fat for a while now. So does he dominate? Yeah sure. Will he be MVP dominant? Will he take the Heat to the Finals? Nope, not if he keeps doing what he’s been doing the last 5 or 6 years. He will, though, if he follows my simple plan.

1.Get in shape. A little bit at least. The Big Aristotle is still quick, but dude used to be fast. He can’t get that back completely, he’s 34, but he can sure as Hell improve on where he’s at right now. Remember when Shaq used to run the floor and actually jump up (yeah, that's Litterial f'n Green on the ass end of that rejection, holla!) off of it besides to dunk? Like for rebounds and to block shots? Which brings me my next points:

2.Rebound. Shaq should concentrate his game on two things. The first of which is owning the fucking boards, every inch of them. With his quickness, height and wide, wide ass, he could average 20 boards a game easily. That would translate to a ton of easy points, with putbacks and outlets, for him and his teammates. He does this you don’t even need to run plays for him and he’d still score 25 a night. Run a few through him, and he’s averaging 30+ a night, easy, with less minutes than he’s been playing.

3.The second area Shaq needs to focus on is defense. Own the fucking lane, Shaq. Shaq is capable of doing every thing Ben Wallace does only more-so, he’s significantly bigger, and just as quick. He should be blocking or changing every single lay-up attempted in his vicinity, no problem. Again this leads to easy buckets for his team.

That’s it. Simple huh? Lose weight. Rebound. Defend. If Shaq did those three things consistently, and he’s certainly capable, he’d crush the League nightly. He wouldn’t even have to look to score (like I said he’d get his points Moses Malone style, off the offensive glass, and off the break,) thought there’s no reason for him to stop looking to post-up either.

Acceptance of this theory leads us back to the Lakers, where, if Shaq had followed my simple advice, he and Kobe squash all beef over who’s getting shots and win every championship for the next 5 years.

Am I saying this Laker debacle is all the Big Man’s fault? No, not really. Kobe may or not be a rapist, but he’s definitely an asshole, and that had to effect Shaq’s willingness to adapt his game and compromise his stats. Phil Jackson had clearly given up on this last season sometime around the Mailman’s knee injury, which didn’t help either.

All of which means this Miami thing is the perfect opportunity for Shaq to trim down and truly dominate, Bill Russell style, like we all know he could.

A Modest Proposal to Save the Times
I spent yesterday lazing about, reading the Sunday Times (an activity I haven’t had time for nearly enough since moving here) and blowing dog hair off my sandwiches. What a disappointment, the Times, not the sandwiches. Aside from a short, fluffy, piece on Barry “Twisto” Mcgee it was full of worthless trash (which I like, but get enough of, and better, elsewhere) amateurish, self-indulgent, blather (I thought that’s what blogs like this were for), not to mention yuppie bullshit like this.

Where is the news from the war? Where is any sort of election campaign analysis? Nowhere. I don’t know if this is a pattern I hadn’t noticed or what, but this rag was about as substantive as the Post, or shit, AMNewYork. Maybe it’s because I finally got out and dropped $10.25 to see “Fairenheit 9/11” but I was sort of expecting my war coverage to contain some mention of, you know, death.

To be fair the Times does do the daily little box with the names of confirmed American deaths, a feature which, in moments of great cynicism, I often check hoping it will be lengthy, as that would prove my lefty politricks correct. I need to check myself. Or maybe I need to see a real, non-sanitized, video-game and press-conference, version of the war, so the death of all these young poor folks can seem like something more than abstract political talking points.

That was the best (worst) part about “9/11.” I‘ve already read “House of Bush, House of Saud” (which did a great, thorough, thoroughly boring, job of proving connections Moore manages to make seem like a conspiracy theory,) so none of that was news to me, and I’ve been paying attention, however slightly, to W ever since he was doing a shitty job of governing Texas, so I was already well aware that our President is a fucking idiot.

What Moore did do that was powerful was show dead, fucked up, and scared people participating in and being victimized by war. It’s not a novel idea, Switzerland has pictures like that on the front-page of their newspapers every day(I’d link,but I’m too lazy to search in French or German). Neither was it shocking. Legless rednecks and melt-faced babies hardly even get a rise out of me, raised as I was on violent 80s music and action flicks (my old lady, bless her heart, weeped profusely the entire time, proving once again, that she is a better, more sensitive soul than I, who cry only during sporting events and movies about dogs). No, what was shocking about all that footage wasn’t the blood and gore and screams of motherly pain, it was that we never, ever-ever, see that shit in the media here. Could it be so simple that if we did, we wouldn’t be so quick to drop bombs on impoverished countries half-way across the world?

More dead babies in the news! More dead babies now!

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