Sometimes I'm a sucker for hyperbole. After reading a few glowing reviews of this album, I decided to put my apprehensions aside and purchase it -- despite the fact that the lead MC is Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda.
Hey, I know Shinoda is an avid underground hip-hop fan, but that still doesn't change the fact that he sounds like a rent-a-rapper from one of those early 90s techno records. If you look up the word "vanilla" in the dictionary, you might read see Mike Shinoda's rapping style.
Then again, the album is executive produced by Mr. Def Jam himself, Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z), so it can't be that bad, right?
This is eerily reminiscent of the intro for Cage's Hell's Winter. Which is a good thing: it's brief and to the point like a good intro should be, and it's always fun to hear Jay-Z talk. He sounds like a cross between Kermit the Frog and somebody's grandmother.
Remember The Name
It's a good thing that dude inlisted Styles of Beyond to assist him on half of the album's tracks, because I don't think anyone could bear to listen to a whole album with Shinoda as the sole MC. This beat is nice: sharp violins and a thumping beat. The beats are definitely the album's strong point. I think Shinoda's half-Japanese, but on the mic he sounds like the whitest of white boys.
Thankfully this isn't a remake of that Van Halen song that was used in a Pepsi commercial about 15 years ago. I'm not a big fan of emo hip-hop, but Black Thought's guest verse on this is incredible. Saves the song, actually.
This is seriously one of the worst things I've heard in my entire life. It sounds like a Will Smith song, or what Kevin Federline's solo album will probably sound like. Even the Cypress Hillesque screeches don't help improve this awful, awful song. Of course, it's the album's first single [throws up in mouth].
Feel Like Home
OK, back to normalcy. The beat reminds me of something off of Chronic 2001. Shinoda has skills as a producer, no doubt. He should be producing people with some talent on the mic (S.O.B. is meh at best).
Where'd You Go
More emo stuff, although the piano and singing on this song hooked me. The awesome drum beat helped, too. I'm going to make some hot chocolate and sit up on my sofa in my fuzzy bunny slippers. This probably should have been the first single.
Daaayum! That's a beat! I think Dr. Dre and Timbaland just turned green with envy. If I had a car, I'd definitely crank this one up on my way to the Dairy Queen.
Common's on this, doing his new-millenium Common thing where all his verses sound the same. Another strong beat. Marginal thumbs up.
Shinoda compares hip-hop to cigarettes. Suburban high school and college kids find it profound as hell. This sounds like a Geto Boys beat from the early 90s. I think I'm going to head over to the corner store and pick up some Marlboros.
Ironically, this sounds like a Linkin Park song, only it's got some uncredited dude doing a Chester Bennington impression. Weird. The up-tempo beat isn't bad, but this song should have been a bonus track on an LP record. Which means my ears wouldn't have to be subjected to it. At least Bobo (formerly of Cypress Hill) can stop eating Top Ramen 3 meals a day, at least for a while.
Get Me Gone
This is one of those "why is everybody hating on me for my success?" songs. Yawn. Thankfully it's short.
John Legend guests. I can't front, I dig dude's piano stylings, and his voice ain't too bad either. The second "why is everybody hating on me for my success?" song in a row, only good this time.
"A very special" Fort Minor song about the Japanese internment camps. Why do most artists have to make any song with a serious topic sound so bloody boring? Shinoda could have at least made his verses rhyme, but no. Karma prohibits me from calling this a shitty fucking song. No, you won't hear me calling this a shitty fucking song. That would be mean.
Red To Black
This really sounds like a Linkin Park song. Did they break up or something? Why does Shinoda inlist another Bennington soundalike? Disappointingly, this song isn't about fiscal earnings. Damn.
30 seconds of a live Celph Titled freestyle. I have no idea why this is on here. Celph Titled probably doesn't either.
Slip Out The Back
Now, I'm no recording artiste, but I do know that you don't end your album with a sleepy, mundane track like this one. I guess "leave 'em wanting more" is something Shinoda is unfamiliar with.
The Verdict: I think Shinoda is an accomplished producer, Petrified and the album's other crappier tracks notwithstanding. His MC skills leave much to be desired. I suppose this CD is worth a download, but definitely not a purchase. 3 out of 5 *_*.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Sometimes I'm a sucker for hyperbole. After reading a few glowing reviews of this album, I decided to put my apprehensions aside and purchase it -- despite the fact that the lead MC is Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda.
In between being the best there is at what I do (read: chronic hair styling), I've been planning to write a CD review -- give me a few more listens -- for an album nobody really gives a shit about, compiling the final chapter of the 2005 Sparklers (I wrote most of it on a matchbook cover; I just have to find the fucking thing), and writing a review of Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (what I'm most looking forward to). However, I'm also planning to jump across the Han River on a motorcycle (for charity), so we'll see what happens; if there's nothing new here in the next couple of days, donate money to charity instead of sending flowers.
What I do have (limited) time for this evening is some NBA thoughts. 0.12% of my readership leaps for joy.
1) I hope the Pistons smash the Chicago Bulls's 72-10 record to pieces. It really can't be fun being Larry Brown right now.
2) MVP: Chauncy? Dirk? AI? Maybe. Maybe Elton Brand deserves some recognition, too, but make no mistake: the only reason he's getting as much MVP press as he has is because a) he's finally on a winning team, and b) after Steve Nash (deservedly, controversially) won it last year, there's going to be a trend now to give the award to a guy who, the previous season, everyone would have scoffed at were his name mentioned.
My vote? Shit, Brand.
3) Peja Stojakovic's agent to Peja: "P, remember that little ploy you and I concocted for you to play like shit and help convince the Kings to trade you for Ron Artest? Well, it looks as though that's not gonna work. How's about this: I know your back is fucked up, but you try to play through it to prove to everyone how tough a guy you are. You are in a contract year, remember. And I wanna get paid. C'mon, I'll tell every groupie I meet what a big dick you have. Do we have a deal?
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:02 AM
Sunday, December 25, 2005
I woke up on Christmas morning with a bit of a headache. Too much eggnog the night before, I guess. But Santa had come, and the little girl was itching to check out her bounty. Me, not as much, seeing as how the old Finnish bastard gave me NOTHING.
She's nuts about airplanes, so we put this in her stocking on top of the lump of coal.
Dora the Explorer DVD collection. If you have a child and put this on for him/her, I'd recommend reading a book or magazine while it plays, because it has a tendency to indelibly remain in your head. My wife keeps telling me to fucking stop already repeating "bridge, tree, tall mountain," but I just can't help myself.
18th Letter to Michelle Wie: "better watch your back, you gargantuan freak." Damn, the little angel looks mean here.
A toy cash register that the little girl insists is a computer. Also, the barcode scanner apparently doubles as a cell phone.
A Winnie The Pooh bowling set. I kick ass at this, by the way.
The little girl proudly displays the Elmo logo on her new coat (the sleeves seemed to have been lost during delivery). Fifteen years from now it'll likely be the same thing, only with DKNY. Yay for materialism!
What would Christmas be without a German-made educational toy? I really should have taken a better photo of how those blocks originally fit in the box, because it's really damn hard to get them back in.
Here's the big one!
A Thomas train set. The little girl loves it (as did my wife), but she's absolutely terrified of the train. She runs as far away as possible whenever it comes near. I was reminded of Blaine the Mono from Stephen King's Dark Tower series.
After all of the toy-opening fun, it was off to VIPS for lunch. Seriously, what the hell does that name mean, anyway? I'd understand if it was "vee-eye-pees," but the Korean name, "beepsuh," is just plain weird. It is, however, the best "fresh life restaurant" I've ever been to, so it has that going for it. Which is nice.
We had the buffet, and I was content to sate myself with about 12 tuna sandwiches and 4 liters of raspberry juice.
As you can see, The 18th letter had fun as well:
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:50 PM
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
One of the biggest shocks I received as a kid, besides finding out that Santa Claus wasn't real, was in the mid-80s when Paul Orndorff, Mr. Wonderful, betrayed Hulk Hogan and turned heel. I was devestated.
Damon signing with the Empire is the grown-up version of that. Picture this: as the thunderous cheers for the Sox's 2004 World Series title begin to wane, Damon sneaks up on Red Sox Nation and collectively nails us from behind with a chair shot to the back.
I haven't gone from loving and then hating one person so quickly since the time...
I'll leave it up to my readers' imagination to complete that thought. I myself am too mentally distraught to delve any further into this shocking turn of events.
There is no Jesus.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:24 AM
Thursday, December 22, 2005
1) I would never under any circumstances get a tattoo. However, if I was held at gunpoint and forced to get one, it would definitely be a rendition of the flux capacitor.
2) Pitchfork recently put up their list of the top 50 albums of 2005. Cam'ron's Purple Haze inexplicably made the top ten. The lesson? When it comes to hip-hop, those lobsterheads don't know what the fuck they're writing about.
3) Is it just me, or does Jose Calderon look like a serial killer?
4) Kreskin Moment: the films nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars will be:
- Brokeback Mountain (sure bet)
- King Kong (ditto)
- Walk The Line
Darkhorses:The New World and The Constant Gardener
Winner: the gay cowboy flick.
Other shoe-ins: Philip Seymore Hoffman (don't front on PSH) for Best Actor for Capote, Terrence Mallick for Best Director for The New World, and Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit for Best Animated Feature...and Martin Scorsese's directorial talents will finally be recognized in the form of an Oscar for his documentary No Direction Home: Bob Dylan. Boo!
5) It's snowing again. Know what I have nightmares about this time of year?
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:31 AM
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
My first year in Korea was probably a lot like your first year in Korea, if indeed you who are reading this actually live or have lived here: everything was new, I felt as though I were living an entirely different life than the one I had, previously, lived for 23 years; I was a complete and utter n00b, failing to notice things -- for example, the spitting and general dirtiness of Seoul -- that I can't help but see nowadays, much to my own chagrin; I fell under the stupid and naive notion that I was considered by many Koreans a sort of celebrity; and I drank. A lot.
But how could I not, being fresh out of university and thrust into a life much similar to that of a college student, only with considerably more funds with which to enjoy myself? Add to this the fact that the school at which I taught, and the neighborhood in which I lived, was almost in the center of Hongdae, that Korean Mecca for zealously imbibing expatriates. Plus, I didn't have to be at work until 2pm.
All of which could have spelled a recipe for disaster, I suppose, were I a different sort of fellow. For while I enjoyed going out and drinking, it never got to the point where it interfered with the job I was contracted to do -- though a couple of Saturday afternoons (I had to work Saturdays then, woe was me) it was close.
It was a fun year, both professionally and socially. I loved teaching and found myself, if I may be so bold, pretty good at it; and as mentioned in the past Memory Lane entry, I was for the most part surrounded by a great group of expat teachers. It's a shame that I don't have the time to recount in detail every single memorable event that happened. Maybe one day. For now, trusting my readers' interest and patience, I shall share one particular story:
One month after I began teaching, our director, who has to be the coolest fucking hagwon director ever, paid for his entire staff -- which amounted to what must have been over 40 people -- to take a trip to the southern city of Tongyeong (that's nothing: the year after I left, he paid for everyone to fly to Jeju!). I normally would have been jazzed (does that make me sound like a character on Saved By The Bell? So be it) at the prospect of a free trip, especially since everything, from copious amounts of booze to expensive dinners, was promised to be paid for, but unfortunately I awoke the Friday morning of the trip with a stomach as agreeable as Bill O'Reilly at the Democratic National Convention. I blame it on the can of Spam I drunkenly consumed the night prior.
I was nauseous all day and could barely make it to 6pm when my final class of the day ended. After that, I headed back to the apartment I shared with two fellow teachers, and crashed.
I was awoken three hours later by my roommate, Ethan, who told me that everyone was on the charter bus waiting for me. Amazingly, the only reason the bus didn't leave without me was because our contemptible roommate, Joyce, had, an hour before departure, gotten into an argument and fled the school, telling one of our academic directors that she was heading back to New Zealand because she hated teaching kindergarten classes, calling the kids "brats." Because I lived in the same apartment, it was remarked by someone that I was missing, and even though I explained to most of my fellow teachers my reason for not wanting to go on the trip, it was made clear, Ethan explained, that I must come. There would be no dissension. That certainly isn't the Korean way.
In retrospect, I'm glad I conceded, though the 8-hour bus ride was torturous, me being sick and sober, forced to listen to my merrily drunken co-workers while all I wanted was some sleep. It didn't help my present condition that, as night slowly became day, Derrick, sitting behind me, who must have had a little too much whisky (the winding roads probably didn't help), threw up a number of times in a plastic bag.
When we finally arrived it was 5am. Most of my comrades were getting a second wind (even Derrick), but I was longing for a bed to lie in. Thankfully and amazingly, my director was able, somehow, to find a 24-hour pharmacy, and he bought me some medicine which he promised would calm my stomach. It worked, and I slowly began to feel better, although I was still deathly tired, having been up for almost 24 hours with no nourishment.
The puffer fish soup provided for breakfast didn't help ease my stomach, but I managed to eat a little, all the while fascinated by the bus drivers' tolerance of soju, which they drank like it was going out of style.
We all assumed that our next destination would be our hotel, but you know what happens when you assume. We were told that in an hour we would take a boat to the "exotic and alluring" island of Oedo. Bring it on, I thought, with the mind of a zombie. My stomach was beginning to feel a little better, and I was slightly reinvigorated by the fact.
Oedo was nice, like a field trip to the botanical gardens, I suppose. What really caught my eye though was Sally (not her real name), one of the school's secretaries. On the bus she sang karaoke with the voice of an angel -- and she had a gorgeous smile and a nice rack.
All of which I feel I'm at liberty to state, because I married her 2 years later.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 6:32 AM
Sunday, December 18, 2005
The "People Said His Brain Was Infected By Devils" Award:
Best Rock Song of the Year Award: The Fallen, Franz Ferdinand
Best Hip-Hop Song of the Year Award: Hide Ya Face (remix), El-P and Ghostface
Best Children's Song of This and Every Other Year Award: Mr. Sun, Raffi (Raffi's in the motherfuckin' house, fa sho)
The Weirdest Thing That's Happened To Me This Year Award: two months ago I had crazy excess saliva that lasted for almost a week. I honestly believed I might drown in my sleep. I'd spit, and literally a second later my mouth would be filled with more saliva. And I wasn't even looking at this photo:
Not most of the time, anyway.
The Weirdest Thing That's Happened To Me This Week Award: in the middle of a busy intersection on Wednesday afternoon, a mother going the opposite way suddenly said "Jesus loves you, sir" to me as we crossed paths. It appears I was the victim of a walk-by religious shouting.
For the record, I'm well aware that Jesus loves me. I know so because He helps me win at sports.
The "Don't Listen to a Word He Says" Award: Me, for, among other things, predicting that King Kong will suck, and that the Sacto Kings will be a Western Conference powerhouse.
The Big Chill "It's a cold world out there. Sometimes I feel like I'm getting a little frosty myself" Award: this weekend. My wife is amazed, saying "you're from Canada. I've been to Canada, and it's much colder than here, so why are you complaining so much about the cold?"
"Because when I lived in Canada I only went outside to...shit, I don't think I ever went outside" is my reply. It beats telling her "at my age, it's no longer acceptable to wear snowpants and earmuffs." Which is the truth.
Best Movie In Which The Film's Main Character Talks To A Mirror Image Of Himself Award: I can't call it. I think it's either Raging Bull or Boogie Nights, but Ed Wood and some others also deserve recognition. The comments are back, so I encourage anyone with some film knowledge to add their 2 cents.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 5:16 AM
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Don't worry, you haven't gone back in time; this album was released in 1993. Still, I think too few people have heard it, and that's a crying shame, because it's one of the best hip-hop albums ever created.
Don't call it a comeback
In 1993, Boogie Down Productions was old news. Their (and when I write "their" I really mean "his," meaning KRS, because after Scott La Rock's death, BDP was always basically Kris solo, surrounding himself with people who complimented him) last album, Sex and Violence, had received poor reviews and sales, and it was rumored that Kris was beefing with other members in the "massive BDP crew," such as D-Nice. While not a bad record in its own right, S&V was worse an effort than Edutainment (which some complained was a poorer effort than Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip-Hop, this trend continuing on down to 1987's Criminal Minded), and most BDP fans believed KRS was through with the "group". A highly-publicized incident at Big Daddy Kane's birthday party where KRS bumrushed PM Dawn's Prince Be and threw him off the stage, and another beef with fellow conscious rappers X-Clan, left many scratching their heads, wondering if Kris was going to stop the foolishness and get back to making dope music. Like many, by 1993, KRS ONE was barely on my radar.
Kris went for delf, dropping the BDP name (although he says it dozens of times during the album), and inlisting the talents of some of the biggest name producers of the time, including DJ Premier and Showbiz. The switch from BDP to KRS ONE was strictly a cosmetic one, much like Kentucky Fried Chicken becoming KFC, but it must have helped light a fire under Kris. His mic prowess, which was never in question, took a Jordanesque leap to an insane level of skill. Besides Boom Bap, the only other album whose lyrics I still find myself repeating in my head to this day is Common Sense's Resurrection. Lyrically, that's some pretty solid company right there.
Then there are the beats. The album title doesn't lie -- the beats are harder than writing the periodic table on a potato chip. At the time, hip-hop was being dominated by the G-funk sound (dope in its own right, but becoming waaaay overused by artists on both coasts), and many forget that this came out almost 2 months prior to Wu-Tang's Enter: The 36 Chambers, which is largely considered as the epoch of the return to that gritty NY sound. Boom Bap harbingered what was to come.
The album starts off with a 2-minute instrumental, produced by DJ Premier, which uses some of KRS's classic lyrics from the BDP era. But this certainly isn't trying to relive past glories, as the first proper track, the album's best song and first single, Outta Here (also produced by Premier), blazes out of the gate. Next is the dancehall-influenced Black Cop (first heard on the CB4 soundtrack), a critique of African and African American police officers. Mortal Thought, a jazzy Premier track, sets the lyrical tone for the remainder of the album. I don't think Kris has ever been as playful on the mic as he is here, telling wack MCs that they're "full of more junk than a sausage." I Can't Wake Up posits KRS in the role of a blunt being smoked by some of hip-hop's luminaries...and Bill Clinton. Another soundbwoy slaughter, Smack Them Up, follows, and then it's the classic Sound of the Police, a Showbiz banger that elicits the same head nods it did 12 years earlier. Mad Crew's hard, snapping drums and horn stabs keep up the pace. Uh Oh is a cautionary youth tale utilizing KRS's beatbox as bassline and percussion. Brown Skin Woman is another horny track, one with a postive message for black, sorry, brown-skinned ladies. The freestyle nature of the titular track that follows is cooler than, to quote Big Boi, a polar bear's toenails. The P Is Still Free updates the classic Criminal Minded song with a hard-hitting, hypnotic beat. Stop Frontin' finds KRS and Kid Capri rhyming over a mellow, horn-laced beat (it's funny, this album has more banging horns than a Pete Rock and CL Smooth record), and the album's closer, Higher Level, finds Kris as his old, conscious self, questioning, among other things, the Pope and the Vatican.
1993 was a good year for hip-hop, and this album is one of that year's best. If you haven't heard it, check it out. If you have, do like I did today and revisit a classic. It still holds up.
A couple of hip-hop-related thoughts:
- I can't believe it's been 5 years since Stankonia's release and no soap company has used So Fresh, So Clean in a TV commercial.
- I want to revise my original review of the Little Brother The Minstrel Show album. I've listened to it a few times recently and it's really grown on me. It's still not a classic (there's too much singing on it, Big Pooh is mediocre as fuck, and the album deserves at least a half-star minus for Joe Scudda's guest verse alone), but it's a solid 4/5 for me now.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 4:36 AM
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
All this spinning is making me dizzy. So Stan the Hedgehog wants to spend more time with his fam. Yeah, and I'm Malcolm X's illegitimate grandson.
You got your job back, Mr. Riley. Now let's see if you can clean up the mess you made. Better it happen early on in the season.
Let's see if you can help make Antoine Walker a team player. Better start by telling him taking the ball cross court and keeping his head down while practicing his PG moves only to cough it up by bouncing the ball off his knee just won't cut it under the new order. In fact, tell him if he does that shit again (and you know he will -- he's Antoine Walker!) you'll trade him to the Bucks for Mo Williams and a large order of curly fries. If you can reign him in, Mr. Riley, I'll buy you a donut.
Next order of business: trade for a decent point guard. The two guys you have now are back-up dancers. One is on his last legs; the other has visions of grandeur and thinks he's a star. You signed them both, I believe. Again, pick up your toys. Call the Bucks and see if maybe they're willing to take one of them for Mo Williams. He could be the '05/'06 Damon Jones...with exponentially better nerves in clutch situations.
Remember what worked last year. Don't play James Posey and 'Toine at forwards when Udonis Haslem should be out there doing what he does best: being a role player. One thing you can improve upon from Van Gundy is realizing a working rotation. Stan had it fucked up since the beginning of November, for sure. I'm trusting that you will do better.
Finally, don't insult our collective intelligence and expect us to believe that Senior Hedgehog wanted out so he could spend more time with his family. You pushed him out. Admit it.
Now let's win some fucking ballgames.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:14 AM
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Worst Book I've Read This Year Award: A Confederacy of Dunces. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, I hated, hated, hated this book.
Strangest Dream I've Had Award: Yao Ming scores 73 points in a single game. I read ESPN.com many nights before bed, and when I woke up the next morning after this dream I wondered, in the shower, if it might be reality. I can believe some crazy shit before breakfast, boy.
Biggest Regret Award: my underestimating Boris Diaw. By the way, Diawg and TP need to team up, make a hip-hop album, and call it The French Connection.
Biggest Disappointment Award: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. The first 3/4 of the novel is vintage Murakami, right up there with his greatest novels. Too bad the final 1/4 totally shits the bed. Still, I'd recommend it.
Top Two Reasons I Am Completely Enamored by Han Chae-Young (aka the Korean Jennifer Love Hewitt) Award:
The Biggest Sonuvabitch Award: The cretin who stole my cell phone shortly after we moved. I hope a higher power gives him a nasty cold sore. And testicular cancer.
Funniest Parenting Moment Award: The little girl farting and blaming it on my wife. It never gets old -- unless you're my wife, I suppose.
Biggest Load of BS Award:
Ever since we started the Music Genome Project, our friends would ask:
Can you help me discover more music that I'll like?
Those questions often evolved into great conversations. Each friend told us their favorite artists and songs, explored the music we suggested, gave us feedback, and we in turn made new suggestions. Everybody started joking that we were now their personal DJs.
We created Pandora so that we can have that same kind of conversation with you.
Make that "we created Pandora so that we can get really fucking rich."
The thing's never heard of KMD or Lord Finesse? Sorry, I can't endorse it.
The "People Magazine Is Buggin'" Award: Vince Vaughn is runner-up as sexiest man alive? Have you fucking seen that guy!?
The "I Told You So" Award:
Sopranos star Lillo Brancato is a murder suspect:
This means I win an argument I once had with my brother, who swore that Robert DeNiro's son in the film A Bronx Tale was, in fact, DeNiro's real-life son.
You owe me 6 beers, Mike.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:14 PM
Is this from Raekwon's next album? I dunno, but if it is, and if the rest of the joints on it are as sharp as this RZA-laced track, we may be looking at that Wu-Tang resurgence I said would never happen.
The track is called 'State of Grace'.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:09 PM
Keeping with the "Blind black musical icons" theme:
I was browsing the aisles at the Evan record store in the COEX mall while killing some time in Seoul this morning. I tend to buy CDs on impulse, basing that impulse on either name recognition, or not thinking the artist(s) in question sucks donkey balls. I'd never randomly buy a Kelly Clarkson CD, for instance. And I rarely wander into the K-Pop section of the store.
I almost picked up a Ramones compilation, but I remembered that I already had the same CD a few years ago and sold it after I got bored with it. I also remembered that the Ramones are the band spaztic poseur punk-rockers like. Y'know, like how some kids claim they love 50 Cent because he's "real"? Yeah, it's a shame because they were a fun little band, but sometimes the fans of something ruin it.
For example: Witness the Star Wars picture below.
But I needed iPod fodder, and I wasn't going to leave Seoul until I got it.
Stevie Wonder... He's one of those guys like James Brown who, back in the early days of hip-hop, would be sampled endlessly. The beats he created back in the 70s for some of the best soul/ funk music of the era are still used today. He was an innovator, an originator, and made some excellent damned music like Superstition, Living for The City, and Higher Ground.
Then he did that song for that movie... You know THAT song. The one that made an entire generation of music listeners hate him. With the "...called to say, I..." Yeah, that one.
But, Musiquarium is one of my favorite collections, so I figured I'd make his new one, A Time To Love, my latest sacrifice to the iPod.
It wasn't too bad. There were a few too many songs that sounded like they were out of the cheeziest Vegas lounge act ever, but the tracks that worked the best were the ones that were a bit of a throwback to his work in the 70s. Now that I'm older and wiser, I no longer assume that he's just mining an old vein looking for new gold. Like last year's Duran Duran and Prince CDs, or Johnny Cash's final four discs, this is just a guy who's totaly relaxed and making the music he likes to make. And in that respect, the CD works well.
So if you like yourself some classic Stevie, this wouldn't be a bad record to add to your collection. Otherwise, download or pass on it.
Posted by William George at 5:07 AM
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Ray Charles was a genius, and it's a relief that Taylor Hackford's biopic doesn't waste any time trying to explain why he was one. Because that'd be as foolish as trying to explain why water is wet. Instead, it shows as faithfully as possible, warts and all, the road this genius' career took, and how he fared. As a Hollywood biopic -- the tendency of which is to make everything fit as smoothly as liquid in a container -- it misses its mark, slightly; but I hope that was intentional, because, as an honest portrait of the real man, it's a lot more accurate (and interesting) than most of the "reasonable hand-drawn facsimile" biopics we're usually offered. The film doesn't come right out and say so, but many viewers will be faced with the realization that Ray Charles as a man wasn't a very nice guy. He's never a downright bastard, but, like most musical geniuses (and most people, for that matter), we get the impression that he cared very little, at least in his early career as an artist and husband, about anyone but himself. In fact, the only reason we give a damn about him is because he was an amazing musician; and because his blindness made him an underdog, and we always root for the underdog. The film's honesty is refreshing, even if it leaves us a bit cold by its conclusion.
That doesn't necessarily mean it's a better film than, for example, The Aviator, a biopic that takes a ton of liberties and glosses over some of the more reproachful aspects of its subject, but is ultimately a more enjoyable picture...though it's unfair to compare Hackford to Scorsese, which is tantamount to comparing apples to pterodactyl testicles (you thought I was gonna write oranges, didn't you?). It does make it a more candid picture, however.
Certainly, Jamie Foxx's portrayal of Ray Charles is the number two reason (number one being Charles's remarkable life) the film is so engaging. If Foxx's impersonation were to come off as too blatant, too much of a caricature, the entire film would have suffered. Thankfully, Foxx pulls it off terrifically. He's in A-plus form here, subtle when others would choose to be overt, and it's easy to see why he won the Best Actor Oscar for this role. The rest of the cast is wonderful, too. Watching the film, I was both pleased and saddened by this, because it's so rare that such an ensemble of fine black actors is together in a great film like this, which is too bad. The fetching Kerry Washington is particularly impressive as Charles's first wife, Della Bea Robinson. Other notable performances are from Terrence Dashon Howard (who apparently is the nicest guy in real life, but looks like a dangerous, malicious bastard in every role I've seen him in), Larenz Tate (the black Ralph Macchio), Bokeem Woodbine, Regina King, Sharon Warren (whom I swear used to be on the Cosby Show during its final years, although the Internet Movie Database lists this film and another -- Glory Road, set to be released in 2006 -- as her only credits), Curtis Armstrong (Booger from Revenge of the Nerds!), and literally dozens more. I was a little disappointed that one of the Atlantic studio engineers was not in fact Judd Nelson, however. That guy looks exactly like JL! Check out the movie and tell me I'm wrong.
Hackford's direction is above-average, though by no means the most notable thing about the picture. His use of what is obviously stock footage to show city scenes is pretty annoying, and there are two borderline cringe-worthy scenes that should have been cut out of the film or at least better realized. The first is a scene in a diner where Ray, courting Della Bea, points out to her that he can hear the sound a hummingbird is making just outside of an open window. It's corny, and it doesn't help that the hummingbird is a very poor CGI. The second comes near the end of the film, while Ray is in rehab and experiencing heroin withdrawl. There's an awful series of nightmarish flashback shots that look as though they were teleported into the film from a teen slasher flick. Also, the film bafflingly claims that Ray Charles's biggest achievement was getting Georgia to lift its lifetime ban on him performing there, and having the state adopt 'Georgia On My Mind' as its state song. I think Charles's musical legacy is a far greater accomplishment than being exonerated for challenging Georgia's racist Jim Crow laws, although it must have been pretty cool to have one of your songs become a state's anthem -- though, if I had my druthers, the song would be REM's 'Orange Crush'.
Another minor gripe is that the film wraps up far too abruptly. The DVD comes with an extended version, which is probably closer to Hackford's vision, and which hopefully doesn't rush towards its conclusion so quickly. I'm not kidding when I say I wouldn't have minded if the film, already 2 1/2 hours long, were an hour or so longer, if only so that we could see Jamie Foxx singing 'You Got The Right Thing Baby' in a Pepsi commercial (I am kidding on that one). I'll try to write a mini-review of the extended version if I ever get around to watching it.
I suspect that, just like Ray Charles, this film will be remembered most for its music, which remains with the viewer long after the film is over. For a biopic of such a gifted musician, that's probably how it should be.
Note: most of this review was written before I read about Richard Pryor passing. I hope that, when the inevitable Pryor biopic is made, it is as great and as honest a depiction as Ray is. It at least has to be better than Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 9:26 AM
Friday, December 09, 2005
David Stern has again taken it to a completely 'nother level:
So players can't wear shorts considered too baggy by Stern and Co. I bet it's because dude misses seeing their tight buns and strapping thighs. Because he's all Brokeback Mountain and shit.
Here's a real (imagined and fictional) argument recorded between Stern, New York Knicks cancer Stephon Marbury, and Ricky Davis:
Marbury: Look, man, all we need is the long shorts, alright?
Stern: No, you don't get the long shorts. I'm doing you a favor; you don't understand how stupid they make you look.
Marbury: In our situation, that doesn't make any fucking sense!
Davis: Look, we can't play in short shorts. If we do, everyone will make fun of us and call us pussies.
Marbury: Hello? Exactly!!
Stern: That's not an MP, that's a YP, your problem. Suit up in nut-huggers or get fined.
Davis: Okay, now you're talking above my head. I don't know all of this commissioner jargon, YP, MP. All I know is that I can't wear no tight-ass shorts, we cannot get on the court wearing that faggot shit. And granted, we work for you, we uh um oh, you own us, alright... but the magic, that is in our style, the way we dress. That fucking heart and soul that we put into basketball while wearing whatever shorts size we choose, that is ours and you don't own that! Now I need to take that magic to Philidelphia. And they're waiting for us, we were supposed to be there a half hour ago. We look like assholes, man! Assholes with pansy-ass shorts!
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 9:19 AM
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
On weekends, the wife, little girl, and I often visit the Kyobo book center, where we pick up books and educational material for the 18th letter, and I invariably wind up buying a bunch of new books and DVDs. Asking me to merely window shop in a place that sells books and movies is like asking a nymphomaniac to stop touching penises: it's simply impossible, much to my wife's chagrin (me buying DVDs and books, not nymphos' penis-touching predilection, just to be clear). The problem is that I have so many unread books cluttering my shelves, and a fair amount of films I haven't gotten around to watching; and, like that fish in the children's story by Helen Palmer and P.D. Eastman, it keeps growing at a frightening rate. Because I have so little time, what with work, parenting, and dancing at gay bars in Itaewon. All kidding aside, it's pretty easy to write a blog entry late at night (late for me, at least), but having a chance to sit down and watch a movie, undisturbed, or to read more than 20 pages of a novel, is pretty hard with my schedule. I usually manage to watch a DVD on Friday nights, but even if I watched a new one every Friday for a year, I'm afraid I still will not have watched every movie in my A Fish Out Of Water collection.
And then we have our bonus features . Should I just quit work? Because that's what it would take for me to have any hope of seeing all the cool (but usually mundane and shitty) stuff they pack discs with these days. I realize this kind of stuff wouldn't bother a normal person, but I have this weird OCD-level inclination to finish everything I start. If I don't, I feel like a failure. This character trait helped motivate me to earn honors at university, but, I'm ashamed to admit, if applied to watching DVD bonus features and slogging through directors' commentaries, I'm a total slack-ass.
Of course, this is a small gripe in the big picture that is my life. the little one grows smarter and cuter by the nanosecond; the relationship I share with my wife ages (tired cliche alert!) like a fine wine; and I, the 23-year-old (*snicker*) wunderkind with a killer smile, continue to mature. Everything considered, I'm walking on air.
Still, I'm dying to hear the John Carpenter and Kurt Russell Anschauung of their work on Big Trouble In Little China. I fear I will not rest peacefully until I do.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 7:11 AM
Monday, December 05, 2005
Sunday, December 04, 2005
The year is drawing to a close, and I'm handing out awards like Paris Hilton is handing out VD. Some are serious, others less so. More awards will be handed out in the next few weeks. I think.
Best Movie I've Seen This Year Award: The Aviator
Best New Book I've Read This Year Award: Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. I was actually slightly disappointed when I finished it, but it has come to grow on me.
Biggest Obsession and Waste of Time Award: my quest to become the Ms. Pac-Man champion at Expatinkorea.com (http://expatinkorea.com/forum/index.php?act=Arcade&do=stats&gameid=39). I hope nobody beats it, because if someone does I'm likely to waste another 3 months trying to regain my title.
Best Hip-Hop Record of the Year Award: The Documentary by The Game. I can't front: even though the subject matter no longer interests me, it has incredible beats, and the rhymes are none too shabby, either.
Best Rock Record of the Year Award: Frances The Mute by The Mars Volta.
Most Guilty Pleasure That Involves The Internet Award: http://xiaxue.blogspot.com/
Funniest Movie I've Seen This Year Award: Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. At times it ventures a little too far into gross-out/stupid territory, but Neil Patrick Harris (don't front on NPH) and riding a stoned cheetah make up for it.
Most Winning Smile Award: you have seen the subject of most of the photos on this blog, right?
Best Meal Concocted By My Better Half Award: Budae Tchigae that has to be laced with crack or something.
Biggest WTF Moment of the Year Award: Shirley Temple is still alive and Toni Kukoc still plays basketball (tie).
Stupidest Name For a Kid Award (aka The "There should be some sort of diploma you have to receive to become a parent" Award): Toshiro Lucas McWeeney.
Hot Korean Actress Award (Newcomer): Kim Ah-Jung
Hot Korean Actress Award (Ajumma): Kim Hye-Soo (stay sexy, baby)
Hot Korean Despot Award: Kim Jong-Il
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 2:44 AM
Friday, December 02, 2005
Another busy week. In between work, fatherhood, and getting a certain Internet psychopath's website shut down (it turns out there ARE nightlights in Hell -- big fucking ones), I've been reading The Brothers Karamazov for the umpteenth time, watching a flick here and there (The Polar Express is great if you have kids. Trust me), and, whenever I can manage, sitting on my ass, daydreaming about Mandy Moore having a pillow fight with Jennifer Garner.
I apologize for both the lack and brevity of my postings of late. However, I do have The Man and The Myth, William (O)G, at the 4, and debonair denz should be blessing us with his welcome presence any day now. And that's not all: Andy Rooney has expressed his desire to get on board. Hopefully he doesn't die first; I'm anticipating his take on how hard bags of potato chips are to open these days.
For now, here are some Friday Night Lights:
1) So my Franz Ferdinand CD comes with a DVD. Cool. Yesterday I finally have a chance to check it out, only to find that the DVD is region 1, even though it was printed and manufactured in Korea (which is region 3). Go figure. I was able to watch it on my PS2, though, so not a total loss. My biggest complaint being the videos, interviews etc. all have an annoying border around them, which can't be very good for the plasma, I would surmise.
2) Busta Rhymes has cut his dreadlocks. Stop the fucking presses! You can watch it by following the link, but be forewarned: it is extremely gay. And stupid.
3) If anyone knows an indoor gym in Bundang in which to play basketball, e-mail me immediately. I will be eternally grateful.
4) Do yourself a favor and check out Brother Reade's 'Crushed by a Truck'. Absolutely killer song. I can't believe it took me so long to discover it. I discovered it like Columbus discovered America, by the way.
5) If the Lohan Freestyle (apparently MIA from http://www.lohanfreestyle.com) was Illmatic, http://www.joliehomewrecker.com/ is surely It Was Written.
6) Pro tip: don't do like I did earlier today and cook buldak mandu and eat it before using paper towels to absorb the oil. Trust me. I felt like Davey Hogan (from Stand By Me) at the pie-eat. Chow down, wide load.
7) I wanna let allllll y'all niggaz know in here tonight that this is that Wu-Tang shit. This that shit that's gonna get you high. See, when you stimulate your own mind for one common cause, you see who's the real motherfuckers. See what you see is you what you see. Be the original G rhymin' on timin' and in the place to be. They love see meeeeeeee!
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 5:43 AM
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Now that I've bitched about dorks, allow me to be one myself.
Here's a cut n paste from my own blog about ten webcomics that I happen to think are decent bits of reading entertainemt. And I figured that I'd spread the word around a bit since this here blog caters to a different sort of clientele than mine. Feel free to give them a looksee. You may find something you enjoy, or you may not.
I hold no responsibility for not meeting your expectations.
- MY COMICS! Bwahahah! I'm so funny.
- Naoko Muragama: Video Game Champion. A proudly low-brow comic about chicks with large boobies playing videogames.
- Dinosaur Comics. The same comic every day with different text. It's a writer's medium
- Same Difference. A guy is dragged to his hometown by his friend to spy on the guy she's been stringing along for a few months. Won tonnes of awards.
- When I Am King. See, the pharaoh goes for a walk one morning, loses his pharaoh pants, and is forced to wander the desert. It's very "European"
- Ghastly's Ghastly Comic. A very not safe for work... or decent folk anywhere... sex comic that aims at making light of all of the twisted Japanese porn stuff that we all know and love.
- Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life. Two robo-bohemian buddies, Chris and Ben, bum their way across the solar system looking for... Well, they have no idea. Just like all good road trips.
These are just what I happen to like. One of the strengths of webcomics is that there's a LOT of material out there. Okay, a lot of it is shite, but you can probably find something to your tastes if you look for it. A good place to look, if you give a damn, is here at Comixpedia.org It's a wiki for webcomics. Hit the genre page. You may find something that'll help you waste time at work.
Now, back to pics of Tibs Sparks' super cute kid.
Posted by William George at 9:58 AM
Mind if I bitch about a pet peeve of mine?
I like comics. I like to read them. I like write about them. And I like to draw them. I could probably be easily tagged as a geek, and I suppose that's a fair cop.
But I don't think they're real. And they're not so important to me that I'd view anyone who doesn't like them with an unquenchable hatred that will burn like the stars in the sky for a near eternity. They're a passtime. A form of enterntainment that I enjoy. And I can enjoy them without being a psychopath about it.
So, why can't so many folks do the same with their entertainments?
Now, I don't know about you, but I find spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars to make a plus-sized stormtrooper costume with the sole aim of impressing other fellows in plus-sized stormtrooper costumes just a damned bit... insane. I admit that I don't know if the people above are insane or not, but given the sort of crazy-assed emails I've gotten over the last year or so from fans of a certain videogame webcomic I shat on for sucking beyond my tolerance, I'd be willing to bet at least one dollar (Canadian!) they're a few basements shy of the sunlight...If yah get my meaning.
I've been there, I know how seductively cult-like that lifestyle is, so I'm not hating on them. But being obsessed with your pop culture entertainments to the point it takes over your life: It's called being a fanboy. A fanboy is kinda like a porno in that they're hard to legally define, but you know one when you see it. Fanboys come in all stripes and walks of life. They just have to be obsessed with something like comics, or videogames, or pro-wrestling to the point it damages their ability to interact with regular people. The anonymity of the internet just makes them more extreme about it.
So, I beg you... If you know someone like that, try to get them help. Or at least try to keep them from constantly annoying me while I read the internet. Out of my sight is happily out of my mind.
Posted by William George at 9:23 AM