Sunday, July 30, 2006
Saturday, July 29, 2006
...rock n' roll dis songs
(Recently another site linked to Sparkles' Top Ten Hip-Hop Dis Songs of All Time, saying "nobody ever got killed over a rock n' roll beef." Far be it from me to disagree with someone who is showing love to the Spark, but I humbly submit that Lynyrd Skynyrd will torch your ass just as nicely as any hip-hop band could ever hope to.)
1. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama
2. Ricky Nelson - Garden Party
3. Don McLean - American Pie
4. The Smiths - William, It Was Really Nothing
5. Guns n' Roses - Get in the Ring
Posted by TMH at 10:20 AM
Friday, July 28, 2006
It usually takes me several dozen beers before I start seeing double, so I was astonished to see, completely sober, the striking resemblance between the Oriental Brewing Company's redesign of their beer, and Labatt's flagship pilsener. Even their websites are nearly identical:
OB Blue Zone? C'mon!
Personally, I am utterly shocked that a Korean company has ripped off the concept and design of a western product. When has that ever happened before?
What's next, Cass Blue Ribbon? Hite Life?
Here's the real kicker: apparently BLUE stands for "Brewing of Low temperature matUration & fErmentation". I wish I were joking.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:07 PM
Thursday, July 27, 2006
First, let me say that I greatly enjoy your station. I deliver furniture so I am in my truck all day and I always have KATS on. I find that it gives me the hard-rock edge I need to get through my exhausting (and blistering hot) days. I think you guys have an excellent playlist that has a nice mix of Seventies (AC/DC, Black Sabbath), Eighties (Guns n' Roses, Ozzy Osbourne), Nineties (Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains), and today. I have to admit I like the old stuff better, but many of the new bands carry the hard-rock mantle proudly and I have recently been glad to discover Mudvayne, Hinder and a few others.
One band I didn't discover on your airwaves, though, was Disturbed, and this brings me to my purpose for writing. I am a big fan of Disturbed--I think they have true talent, and I missed their last show on the west side of the mountains only because of poor timing. I thought Disturbed's debut, The Sickness, was one of the best rock albums of this decade and the sophomore effort was very strong as well. I had high hopes for their recent release, 10,000 Fists, and was gratified when the first single off the album, "Just Stop", kicked a more than respectable amount of ass. So I'm a Disturbed fan.
But brothers, that doesn't mean we write them a blank check, and it doesn't mean we indulge them when their artistic instincts lead them astray. I refer to, of course, the cover of Genesis' "Land of Confusion" included on the new album that you have decided to include on your heavy rotation.
I know that you have had people call in and complain about this song because your on-air personalities have taken to reassuring each other that it kicks ass. One of them recently remarked to another, "Y'know, I like that Disturbed cover." To which his co-host responded, "That's because you understand that it's Disturbed doing Genesis, not Genesis doing Disturbed."
Brothers, I've never worked in radio and like I said, I think you do a great job. But if you have to talk your listeners (as well as each other) into liking a song, isn't the writing kind of on the wall? It's not like it would be a hard spot to fill.
I mean, c'mon, Genesis? And we're not talking about the 60s- or 70s-era Genesis with Peter Gabriel. Those guys were actually okay. I'm talking about motherfucking-middle-of-the-Eighties-I'm-fat-and-balding-and-rock-slightly-less-hard-than-Michael-Bolton-and-my-name-is-Phil-Collins Genesis. And there's nothing rock n' roll about that.
I consider myself pretty politically savvy. I understand what the boys in Disturbed were going for when they picked the song. Genesis was talking about Reagan sucking in the 80s and now Disturbed thinks President W. sucks in a similar way. I get it. That's pretty insightful, in a way. But making your point by covering Phil Collins doesn't punish the President so much as it punishes your listeners, and I am a member of that latter group.
Why not cover Springsteen's "Born in the USA"? That started out as a protest song against conditions in Reagan-America until Reagan himself adopted it as a campaign song. Or how about "Blackened" by Metallica--that's actually a hard-rock song. Or "Goodbye Blue Sky" by Black Sabbath? There are all sorts of good, politically relevant hard-rock songs Disturbed can cover where I won't have to feel conflicted about listening to a song where Phil Collins is credited as a fucking songwriter.
So, in closing, I would like to request that Disturbed's "Land of Confusion" be removed from the playlist post-haste and that we all forget this shameful incident as soon as possible.
Thanks for the great station and thanks for taking the time to read this. I'll be listening; keep up the good work.
Posted by TMH at 10:13 AM
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Maybe it's because of the rainy season, and the fact that I haven't been able to play basketball for the past three weeks, but...
To me, nothing -- save perhaps peanut butter and chocolate -- goes together better than pretty women and basketball. The above photo is of Park Jeong-Eun, starting forward for the WKBL's Samsung Insurance Bichumi (삼성생명 비추미), which by the way is possibly the greatest team name in the history of everything. You can view her fan page here, and more photos here.
Additionally, until I can find a way to reach Han Chae-Young, she's next in line for the (vaunted) Psychedelic Kimchi interview.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 10:35 PM
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
It's Halloween. Everyone's entitled to one good scare.
-- Sheriff Leigh Brackett
Is John Carpenter's Halloween terribly dated? In the 28 years since its release, has it lost its impact?
First let me state that such questions are ridiculous, and are akin to disputing the staying power and significance of such monumental breakthroughs in cinema as animated feature films and stop-motion special effects. Sure, the CGI age has perhaps lessened the output and use, respectively, of each; but it certainly has not affected their relevance. Is a 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville any less majestic because of the automobiles which would come later? Is the Roman Coliseum any less extraordinary when compared to structures built during the nearly 2000 years since its erection?
Absolutely not. Only an untrained or uneducated mind could harbor such nonsense. No, the important question, the one which bears careful consideration, is Is it still scary? Is it still an unforgettable experience? In the intervening years between 1978 and 2006, has Halloween become tame? Has it become boring?
It is important to note that the film never was a gore-fest, its violence somewhat restrained even for its time and genre. Blood is only seen once in the film, and most of the film's violence occurs off-screen. Compare this to almost any other slasher film of today or yesteryear, and the film may seem tame -- but only to those with little or no imagination.
Remember the old adage of suspense and horror: that not seen is often immeasurably more frightening than what is. This is what makes the shark in Spielberg's Jaws so intimidating. It is also the reason why the ear-cutting scene in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs -- or about a billion scenes from Hitchcock films -- are so disquieting. Gratuitous blood and gore will never be as effective in scaring an audience as the suggestion of blood and gore, much in the same way that full-frontal nudity will never have as big an effect on the libido as wondering what lies underneath that sexy pin-up's bathing suit or lingerie.
And this is how Halloween ropes the viewer in. Michael Myers and the violence he inflicts is shown so sparsely, so restrainedly, that his menace grows to a palpable fever-pitch, culminating in the film's final, horrifying moments. Contrast this symphonic build up of tension to the wall-to-wall gore of most films in its genre, and then try to tell me that Halloween isn't a scarier film than, say, the recent Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes remakes.
Halloween is the cinematic equivalent of a nightmare. I believe that that is the highest compliment anyone can pay the film. After all, people watch horror movies because they want to enjoy a good scare, right?
For Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), though, the nightmare doesn't end; and viewers looking for a happy resolution are instead treated to, in the film's closing seconds, a series of shots of suburban houses -- suggesting that the story could take place in any town in middle America.
Halloween didn't pioneer the slasher genre (Hitchcock's Psycho, the original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Bob Clark's Black Christmas were all released prior to Carpenter's masterpiece, and thus hold precedence), but it revolutionized it in terms of both direction and concept.
Naturally, anyone who has seen his or her fair share of horror movies can easily recognize the genre cliches that the success of Halloween birthed: female heroine, deaths of promiscuous and/or drug-using teenagers, unstoppable killing machine antagonist, creepy phone calls...and so on, and so forth. And this leads back to the question of whether or not Halloween is still as effective today as when it was first released.
Again, the answer is yes.
For while modern viewers are undoubtedly used to -- and likely tired of -- the cliched horror film devices made popular by Halloween, there is no denying that, in the film, they are extremely effective. Likewise, even to the most accustomed or jaded horror fan, there is no denying that Halloween is one of -- if not the -- most frightening films ever made. It certainly gets my vote.
Watch it in the dark. Watch it alone.
And later, when you have trouble sleeping without the light on, or wake up in a cold sweat, try telling me it's lost its impact.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 11:32 PM
Monday, July 24, 2006
It occurred to me today that
(I really should be on television)
one way in which this site could benefit would be to have frequent restaurant reviews and recommendations. Now, I am aware that there are a few worthwhile Korean food blogs already in existence, and that those sites are undoubtedly more knowledgeable when it comes to cuisine than yours truly, whose predilection for SPAM and hot dogs has been well documented; but I also feel that Psychedelic Kimchi offers more humor, sexiness, and panache than those sites, and a regular food column would, in the hands of the right person, help us achieve cyclopean greatness. Or further cyclopean greatness, rather.
There's also the small fact that this site is partially named after the staple food of Korea (besides chocolate-covered corn chips, I mean), and a distinct lack of exposition on the arts culinary has gnawed at me for some time. Seriously, most nights I find I can't sleep.
I am therefore soliciting a new, food savvy, writer for Psychedelic Kimchi. Unique sense of humor and temperament for gastrointestinal adventure are a must. Smoking, drinking, gonzo-journalist preferred but not demanded. Vegetarians need not apply.
Those interested are encouraged to contact me at email@example.com. Note: I am really, really hoping some females are interested. Seriously, this place is such a sausage-fest.
Perhaps I can get the ball rolling with a restaurant recommendation of my own. On Saturday night, Idealjetsam -- truly this site's Jarobi -- and I had dinner at the prosaically-named 참치마을 (Tuna Village to you troglodytes).
Located near Seohyeon station in Bundang, for 25,000 won per person they serve the choicest cuts of tuna (and perhaps dolphin), and it's all-you-can-eat.
Eat all we could we most certainly did. We also enjoyed a kettle of 오십세주, which I mistook for regular 8% 백세주, much to my own inebriation.
My only two knocks on the place are that, while most of the side dishes were great, the enoki mushrooms topped with cheese and ketchup left much to be desired; and, midway through our meal, the chef served us -- ensconced in a lettuce leaf -- tuna sprinkled with roe, garnished with a sweet pickle and a dollop of peanut butter.
Sparkles's rating: 4 and a half out of 5 hot dogs.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:26 PM
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Calling fellow musicians out on record is a long-standing tradition in nearly every genre of modern music, but in no other is it best exemplified than in hip-hop. The entire foundation of the culture -- from grafitti, to b-boying, to DJing, to the music -- is practically based upon upstaging one's peers. Usually, through all the bravado and the insults, it remains good-natured (if vitriolic) competition; but sometimes shit turns ugly. The separate shooting deaths of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G.), are the most glaring testement to this, but they are, sadly, not exclusive. And while 'Pac and Biggie's murders are still unsolved and most likely not directly related to their war on wax, I don't think you'd find many who would argue that, had their beef never escalated, they would have BOTH still been killed.
The aftermath of those tragedies still affects hip-hop music to this day. No true fan of the music wants to revisit the coastal wars -- perhaps propogated by the media, but still embraced by most artists at the time -- of the mid-nineties. And no true fan wants to hear the painful news that another of the music's great talents (those few which remain) has been taken away from us.
This of course doesn't mean that MCs should stop making dis records. Never that. All it means is that they should focus on why dis records were made in the first place: to show and prove that artist A had more skills than artists B-through-Z.
It should be about the music.
With that out of the way, let's get into my list of the greatest dis records in hip-hop. I usually don't rate these songs, but I had to make an exception in this case. The situation sort of demanded it.
First, the short-list of songs omitted: Ether by Nas (I know denz is going to hate me for this, but I just don't think the beat or the impact is worthy of the Top 10); Jack the Ripper by LL Cool J; Roxanne's Revenge by Roxanne Shante, 10% Dis by MC Lyte, and any other female MC vs. female MC song (I've always felt that female MC dis records are a novelty, like when two goalies get into it during a bench-clearing brawl in hockey); Who Shot Ya? by Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie doesn't get specific enough); Wanksta by 50 Cent (for the same reason as Who Shot Ya?); and Fuck Compton by Tim Dog (which was shamefully only made so that Tim could make a name for himself).
By the way, each song is divided into 4 categories: Genesis, Beef, Execution, and Aftermath. The first briefly explains how the song came to be. The second rates, on a scale of ground chuck to filet mignon, the animosity between the artist and the party (or parties) at which the song is directed. The third gives a description of the song, and the last explains where things stand today.
Good. Let's get ready to rumble.
10) Linda Trip by Company Flow
Genesis: When underground MC Sole took offense to a line from Co-Flo's single, End to End Burners (Diss me on the internet like picket line crossin Teamsters), he shot back with the song Dear El-P, then went on to claim that New York City's independent vinyl Mecca, Fat Beats, at El-P's behest, wouldn't sell his records.
Beef: Ground chuck. C'mon, they're white MCs. Sole's from Maine! Throwing eggs, soaping windows, and toilet papering each other's property is probably the worst that could have happened.
Execution: El-P and Mr. Len, Co-Flo's DJ, called Sole, who was secretly recorded (hence the song's title). On the track, Sole can be heard saying -- among other things -- "I love Company Flow," "I don't wanna be against you guys," and "I wanna be down."
Aftermath: El-P is probably the most respected independent hip-hop artist working today. Sole works at Burger King for all I know.
9) Second Round K.O. by Canibus
Genesis: Up-and-coming battle rhymer Canibus was at the time making a name for himself and his ferocious delivery by guest-starring on various artists' songs, and LL Cool J recruited him for the track 4,3,2,1. But the legendary MC, himself no slouch when it came to throwing barbed disses, took offense when Canibus referenced the microphone tattoo on LL's arm (L, is that a Mic on your arm? Let me borrow that). LL went on to rewrite his final verse as a dis towards Canibus, who had previously agreed to edit his own misunderstood line from the song. Pissed off that LL went back on his word to summarily change his own verse, 'Bis shot back with Second Round K.O.
Beef: T-bone. The two MCs would go at one another for a while, though people stopped caring not long after Second Round K.O. was released.
Execution: Give the young lyrical pugilist his props: the track is scathing, targeting LL's short-lived sitcom, his family, and preemptorily stating that not even Minister Louis Farrakhan -- who at the time was mediating a lot of standing beefs in hip-hop -- could make them see eye-to-eye.
Aftermath: Canibus's debut album flopped, which was probably a godsend for Mr. Smith, because most fans agreed at the time that 'Bis was the victor. He later joined the marines, and released a handful of albums that were similarly as disappointing as his first. Meanwhile, LL continued to tarnish his legacy with poorly-received albums of his own, and had numerous roles in Hollywood movies.
Shitty Hollywood movies.
8) Girls by Eminem
Genesis: Eminem, no stranger to beef throughout his career, was in the midst of a feud with former House of Pain MC Eric "Everlast" Schrody (maybe it's the white MCs who are the real "goalies fighting each other during hockey brawls"). Em thought former HoP/current Limp Bizkit member DJ Lethal had his back in the dispute, but when Lethal appeared on MTV News stating that he thought Everlast would kick Eminem's ass, Slim Shady got heated and realized that, in popular rap music, one can never have too many foes. He therefore stretched his beef with Lethal to include Limp Bizkit singer, and genuine douchebag, Fred Durst. Well played, sir.
Beef: Ground chuck. I'm sure no one really cares these days.
Execution: Em released Girls independently, although it was later included on the debut release of his group, D12. It's in Em's delivery and detailed account of how the situation unfolded that the song is most noteworthy.
Aftermath: Eminem is taking time off until his inevitable comeback. DJ Lethal and Limp Bizkit still suck. And based on the contents of their last 2 albums, Dilated Peoples, who were briefly mentioned in the song (Pupils, Peoples, whatever your backpackin' cypherin' name is), will probably sing Boyz II Men covers to pay the rent these days.
7) To Da Break Of Dawn by LL Cool J
Genesis: Kool Moe Dee, he of the Treacherous 3 (how's that? Better ask somebody) took numerous shots at the young upstart Cool James, culminating in the track How Ya Like Me Now? LL shot back with Jack the Ripper, which basically crippled Moe Dee, although he managed to hang on for one last jab with Let's Go. The final nail in the coffin would come when LL dropped To Da Break Of Dawn, which also took aim at Ice-T and MC Hammer.
Beef: Sirloin. This ongoing battle was to hip-hop what the Bird/'Nique shootout was to hoops: a beautiful slug-fest.
Execution: Marley Marl synthesized it, LL memorized it. The Ice-T and Hammer disses are great (the line directed at Hammer, You couldn't bust a grape in a fruit fight, deserves particular mention), but the opening verse, reserved for Kool Moe, is the best part, and an absolute K.O.
Aftermath: Kool Moe Dee subsists on a diet of nothing but Cool J cookies.
6) Hit'em Up by 2pac
Genesis: Once the best of friends, Tupac and Biggie Smalls would become the bitterest of rivals. It's almost Shakespearian.
Beef: Filet mignon wrapped in bacon and smothered in gravy.
Execution: Oh, man. Seriously, oh, man. Let's allow the song's intro to speak for itself:
I ain't got no motherfuckin friends
That's why I fucked yo' bitch, you fat motherfucker
He wasn't lying, either.
And then there's
Fuck Mobb Deep
Fuck Bad Boy as a staff record label
and as a motherfuckin crew
And if you wanna be down with Bad Boy
Then fuck you too
Chino XL, fuck you too
All you motherfuckers, fuck you too
Chino XL!!?? Jesus.
Aftermath: Do I really have to tell you?
5) No Vaseline by Ice Cube
Genesis: Ice cube left NWA due to what he perceived to be financial wrongdoings on the part of their manager, Jerry Heller. Though NWA would nickname Cube "Benedict Arnold" and dis him sparsely on a few songs, everyone was waiting for Cube's response.
Beef: T-bone. It was all about money, after all.
Execution: 4 against 1? Those aren't some good odds, but Cube took out his former comrades in glorious fashion, saving the most venomous lyrics for Eazy-E and Heller. His castigation would prove true when, amidst further financial disputes, NWA disbanded shortly thereafter.
Aftermath: Cube and Dre were once rumored to be working together on an album, but that's never going to happen: Cube is busy tarnishing his career by making god-awful movies and crappy albums (he and LL should hook up), and Dre is busy being rich and powerful. Eazy-E died of an AIDS-related illness. DJ Yella produced porno flicks. MC Ren, to quote Mike Tyson, faded into Bolivian. And who knows what became of Heller.
[/American Grafitti epilogue]
4) The Bitch In Yoo by Common Sense
Genesis: After Common's poignant and thought-provoking single, I Used to Love H.E.R., Ice Cube and cohorts WC and Mack-10 (*cough* wife beater) took umbrage with what they perceived as Com's criticism of West Coast gangster rap. They shot back (figuratively) on the Westside Connection song Westside Slaughterhouse.
Beef: Sirloin. This occurred during the highly-publicized East/West feud, and none other than the Honorable Marriage Counsellor Louis Farrakhan took it upon himself to call the men together in order that they reconcile their differences.
Execution: This Pete Rock-produced track is singlehandedly the most witty and biting dis record ever recorded. But history, and the following 3 beats, prevent it from being number 1.
Aftermath: After the uber-awful Electric Circus (props to Monica Deol), Common somewhat salvaged his career with the Kanye West-produced Be. You already know what became of Cube.
3) Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin') by Dr. Dre (feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg)
Genesis: Tim Dog and Luther Campbell (aka Luke Skywalker, aka Uncle Luke) each took shots at Dre. Why they garnered mention I still can't fathom, but Eazy-E also gets his comeuppance here.
Beef: T-bone. I'm sure a lot of listeners were scratching their heads and saying Who? when Snoop lambasted Tim Dog.
Execution: While not the best dis song by any means, it's the opening track on one of the most influential hip-hop albums ever recorded, and it's the first time many people heard Snoop Dogg. So it's certainly one of the most memorable.
Aftermath: Dre's already been covered. Snoop has perplexingly gained celebrity status despite not doing anything notable for almost a decade. As for their "adversaries," that's what http://www.weht.net/is for.
2) The Takeover by Jay-Z
Genesis: After Biggie's death, Jay was anointed King of New York. And like Frank White, everyone kept gunning for his crown.
Beef: Filet mignon. I mean, dude revealed at Summer Jam a photo of Prodigy wearing ballet tights, and almost singlehandedly destroyed Nas's career.
Execution: Jay had performed a version of the song in concert, but his biggest target went purposefully unmentioned. After giving Mobb Deep's Prodigy a thorough lashing, Jay finished his verse with "You guys don't want it with Hov'/Ask Nas, he don't want it with Hov', nooooo!" The bait was set, and Nas all too quickly snapped at it, providing Jay exactly what he needed in order to take the simmering beef to a boil. The then largely-unknown Kanye West hooked up the beat, a maelstrom of rock samples which included The Doors' Five to One and David Bowie's Fame, and the result was the best dis record anyone had heard in over 15 years.
Aftermath: Nas shot back with Ether, a response that was equally scathing, but lacking the triumphant (word to Bill and Ted) sound of Takeover. Jay's final, cryptic warning (Don't be the next contestant on that Summer Jam screen/
Because you know who/did you know what/with you know who...but just keep that between me and you for now) would turn out to be that he had slept with Nas's woman (word to Tupac), and he would later claim that he had left used condoms on the estranged couple's daughter's car seat.
The two have since squashed their beef, apparently. Now Jay is the president of Def Jam. He signed Nas to the label late last year. So, essentially, Jay is now Nas's boss.
1) The Bridge Is Over by Boogie Down Productions
Genesis:After MC Shan dropped The Bridge, which claimed that
(the sun revolves around the earth)
hip-hop started out in Queens, Kris and Scott La Rock responded with a history lesson titled South Bronx. But the final blow would be dealt when, instead of fighting a battle already won, KRS would direct his attention toward Shan and the Juice Crew.
Beef: T-bone. Because it was all about the music.
Execution: Possibly the illest sample in hip-hop history was given to Scott La Rock by none other than the Ultramagnetic MCs' Ced-Gee. He would not fail to utilize it effectively, creating not only the best dis record ever, but arguably the best hip-hop record ever. KRS showed a flair hitherto unheard in hip-hop, switching from ragga-influenced chat to playful taunting to downright nasty (Roxanne shante is only good for steady fuckin'), finally ending the song with an interpolation of Billy Joel's It's Still Rock & Roll To Me. I'm telling you, mention The Bridge Is Over to any hardcore hip-hop fan, and if their face doesn't instantly light up, don't ever trust a word they say.
Aftermath: Scott La Rock was hit and killed by a stray bullet. The Stop the Violence movement in hip-hop was begun in his memory. KRS continues to get crazier as the years pass. Marly Marl would form a new, improved Juice Crew. But Shan I don't think will ever escape the stigma of being KRS ONE's whipping boy. He did rap on Snow's Informer, though, so he's got that going for him.
-- MC 900 ft. Sparkles_*_
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 2:02 PM
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Most of this is intended as tongue-in-cheek, and I hope it doesn't appear too cantankerous. If I'm critical, Korea, it's only because I love you.
Without further adieu, here's what's big and not big in Korea:
Queer Eye For the Straight Guy...homosexuality...The Scorpions...The Smashing Pumpkins...Choco Pies...Wagon Wheels...the Korean National Soccer Team...the Korean National Soccer League...stunningly gorgeous women...pornography...Christianity...Judaism...the Talmud...the Necronomicon...Paris Baguette...French cuisine...The Lord of the Rings...Star Wars...stem cell research...reliable data...tiny cell phones...large condoms...Dan Brown...Stephen King...dried squid...licorice...Shih Tzus...Collies...Korean traditional medicine...Pepto Bismol...Wong Kar Wai...Akira Kurosawa...corn on pizza...tomato sauce on pizza...spitting in public...toilet paper in public restrooms...Lebron James...Dwyane Wade...filial piety...retirement homes...Naver...Google...abortion...adoption...English education...English Spectrum...StarCraft...Mario 64...Lotte World...Wally World...passionate spirit...logic...kimchi...guns...Cyworld...MySpace...Crayon Shin-Chan...Bugs Bunny...Hines Ward...black people...assigned seating in movie theaters...queueing...high-speed Internet service...flushing toilet paper...smoking...smoking up...Metallica...Slayer...pro gaming...competitive eating...rock, scissors, paper...tic-tac-toe...sugary pop music...salty corn chips...Rocky...Raging Bull...racing girls...racial sensitivity...Dokdo...Takeshima...chopsticks...sporks...hwighting...pighting...dancing promo girls...ugly stewardesses...Gag Concert...The Kids in the Hall...fake goods...fake breasts...yellow dust...angel dust...reading while walking...looking while walking...Pocari Sweat...deodorant...5000 years of history...52 years of USFK...Crunky...Reese peanut butter cups...consuming live octopus...vegetarianism...cosmetic surgery...aesthetically pleasing architecture...Deep Purple...Deepak Chopra...American sports teams with Korean athletes on their roster...American television shows with Korean actors in their cast...slapstick...satire.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 3:50 PM
NEW YORK, June 28, 2006 – The NBA is introducing a new Official Game Ball for play beginning in the 2006-07 season. The new ball, manufactured by Spalding, features a new design and a new material that together offer better grip, feel, and consistency than the current leather ball. This marks the first change to the ball in over 35 years and only the second in 60 seasons.
This is an even worse idea than Superman Blue. You can read the rest of the stomach-churning news here.
I'm going to get drunk, listen to The Mars Volta, and cry myself to sleep.
LONG LIVE LEATHER!
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 3:40 PM
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Does the film V For Vendetta, as critic David Denby wrote in The New Yorker, celebrate terrorism? Is V a terrorist?
It depends on your perspective. To the fascist government of the film he certainly is; and his activities, his "crimes", closely mirror those of latter-day terrorists. There's also the fact that he wears a mask of Guy Fawkes, an early-seventeenth century English soldier who was tried and executed for attempting to blow up the British houses of Parliament.
So what separates Fawkes -- and V, who has an identical plan -- from the terrorists (read: Islamic extremists) of today?
Fawkes sought religious freedom, not oppression. I am by no means claiming that his and his co-conspirators plot was just, but there is a marked difference. I'm unsure, having the regrettable character flaw of not being British, whether most people in the UK consider Fawkes a terrorist, but I suspect that's the case. Yet one must remember (remember, the 5th of November) that to the oppressed citizens of the film, Fawkes can easily be seen as more of a hero, more of a martyr, than a terrorist.
And just like a Che Guevara T-shirt or poster, the symbol has taken on a meaning all its own (in the case of a Che T-shirt, usually that its wearer is a twenty-something, unemployed slacker who smokes a lot of grass). So forget about whether or not Fawkes was a terrorist, and let's focus on V.
No, V is not a terrorist. He is a freedom fighter. When you live in a democracy, grassroots campaigns, signed petitions, peaceful sit-ins and the like are all fine and dandy, but how can one hope to bring about change in a society where those who criticize the despotic regime are locked up and never heard from again?
Answer: blow shit up.
Violence is the only way in which to fight against tyrannical rule. Or am I way off base here? Am I being completely obtuse?
And while, yes, the filmmakers* purposefully included many similarities and allusions to the current American presidency, this by no stretch of the imagination means their message is to blow up the white house, and I sincerely fucking hope no one walked away from the film with that idea. One piece of controversial dialogue is as follows:
...A building is a symbol, as is the act of destroying it. Symbols are givenAnd yet V, instead of massacring thousands of innocents, first blows up a deserted monument, then has the gall to go on television and detail his ultimate goal, giving fair warning and ensuring that on the eve of its fruition no harm will come to those who don't deserve it.
power by people. A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people
behind it, blowing up a building can change the world.
Is he a terrorist? Absolutely not. Does the film celebrate terrorism? Don't be bloody ridiculous.
I'm inclined to believe that anyone who would label the film as such is someone who would support totalitarian rule, someone who would willfully cede his basic rights of freedom.
Seriously, who in their right mind would argue that it is wrong to rebel against tyranny? Word to Luke Skywalker.
The genius of V For Vendetta is that it prompts us to ask these questions, demands of us to question the morality of its titular character. It's not an easy film to watch; it definitely isn't your typical big-budget FX-fest; and neither does it provide easy answers. As V says to Evey when she asks what he hopes to accomplish, "There's no certainty - only opportunity." In other words, freedom only guarantees freedom; but given the alternative, that's enough.
Say what you will about The Matrix films and their pseudo philosophy, but Andy Wachowski and his sister Larry deserve a ton of credit for the wonderful script they crafted, based on Alan Moore's graphic novel of the same title. I've never read the graphic novel (and summarily my geek cred may be revoked), but the film feels like an Alan Moore story. Sucks to that worthy for refusing to have his name attached to the project.
Hugo Weaving plays V, a man whose face we never glimpse; and, hidden behind a Guy Fawkes mask, it is remarkable how well his character is developed. Hiding the face of one of your film's main actors is a big no-no, which is why, if you've seen the Spider-Man films, Peter Parker spends a considerable portion of the two films face uncovered. This makes perfect sense from an expository perspective; which is all the more reason to praise the filmmakers of V... for triumphantly creating an absorbing character out of a man with the visage of a mannequin. This is in part due to the impressive dialogue he's given (probably from Moore's original writing). Call me a sucker for alliteration, but V's first meeting with Evey instantly became one of my favorite all-time cinematic moments:
Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both
victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of
vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this
valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified, and has vowed to
vanquish these venal and virulent vermin van-guarding vice and vouchsafing the
violently vicious and voracious violation of volition...
The only verdict is vengeance; a vendetta, held as a votive, not in vain,
for the value and veracity of such shall one day vindicate the vigilant and the
Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose, so let me simply
add that it is my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V.
Evey: Are you like a crazy person?
I'm quite sure they will say so.
That absolutely kills me.Even better than Weaving, though, is Natalie Portman. This is her film, and in my opinion the best performance of her career. Evey Hammond is the real protagonist, and her gradual journey from run-of-the-mill citizen to enemy of the state is a marvel (can I say the 'M' word here?) to behold. Her British accent is outstanding, too, by the way.
There is not one weak link as far as the film's actors are concerned. The character of Inspector Finch, in particular, is extremely well-written, and Stephen Rae deserves praise for his portrayal of a man whom we dislike at first, but for whom we begin to take a liking to as he himself begins to experience his own catharsis. Similarly intriguing is Stephen Fry as Gordon Deitrich, a man with a secret to hide. Perhaps my favorite surprise was seeing the legendary John Hurt play Chancellor Adam Sutler, the autocratic ruler. It was Hurt who played Winston Smith in the adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel, 1984, and watching him assume the role of Big Brother is jarring, albeit in a good way.
I have only two criticisms. The first involves a scene in which a large number of dominoes fall to reveal -- surprise, surprise -- a large red 'V'. This works symbolically, and interspersed with scenes of the other characters is actually somewhat chilling, but in the context of plausibility it is unrealistic and borderline laughable: an idea which would have been suitable for the movie's trailer, but which deserved to be edited out of the film.
My second criticism has to do with the plan which allows the film's final, memorable scene to occur. It's too goddamn convenient, too easy, if you ask me.
But perhaps that was intentional. In a film that doesn't hide its political analogies, it is apt that V's goal relies on complacent and misguided ignorance towards security on the government's part.
[Roger Ebert moment]
This is one of the year's best films.
*It remains to be seen how much of a part, directorially, the Wachowskis had on the film. I'm not trying to take anything away from James McTeigue, but given the tone and style of the film, I'm hesitant to call it his.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 1:52 PM
Monday, July 17, 2006
It's not widely known, but I am a total Philistine when it comes to poetry. Truth told, I'm more Kipling than Keates (peace, denz).
There is one poem which I am particularly fond of, however. As I was drunkenly telling Idealjetsam last night (shortly before I leapt over the table and bit him on the shoulder for disparaging the works of Dostoevsky), I find the following poem to be everything I think good poetry should be: surreal, haunting, picturesque, and, unlike the vast majority of poems written since time immemorial, completely devoid of pretension.
Lads and lasses, I give you Wallace Stevens's The Emperor of Ice-Cream:
Call the roller of big cigars,
The muscular one, and bid him whip
In kitchen cups concupiscent curds.
Let the wenches dawdle in such dress
As they are used to wear, and let the boys
Bring flowers in last month's newspapers.
Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
On which she embroidered fantails once
And spread it so as to cover her face.
If her horny feet protrude, they come
To show how cold she is, and dumb.
Let the lamp affix its beam.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.
Now go ahead and marinate on that for a minute.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 4:58 PM
Saturday, July 15, 2006
I question Thom Yorke's motive(s) for making this record. Certainly he's had enough room to stretch the creative boundaries of what defines his band, radiohead, so it's not as though he's branching out and trying new things. In fact, this solo-record-that-isn't-a-solo-record sounds like it was cribbed from the Kid A/Amnesiac recording sessions. So he's not breaking any new ground. Fine. But that then begs the question "what is he trying to do?" Get all the electronic stuff out of his system in order to gear up for the next radiohead album, which will be a return to the arena rock sound of The Bends?
I wouldn't hold my breath.
Still, Thommy is my motherfucking boy, and I won't fake moves on the genres he employs. As big a fan of radiohead's sophomore and junior albums as I am, I'm equally fond of the genius that would follow with Kid A and Amnesiac. And although 2003's Hail to the Thief is, like you, not entirely what I want it to be, in 2006 I'm still in full-on fanatic mode. If Thom wants to populate an entire album with sitars, pots and pans, I'm there.
So how's the album? We'll get to that in a sec, but first I want to make a few points/comments:
1) The only thing which differentiates this from a radiohead album is a distinct lack of guitars. And, no, I'm not being cheeky. The gang's all here, for the most part: Nigel Godrich produces, Jonny Greenwood contributes very little (OK, now I am being cheeky), and Stanley Donwood does the art.
2) Obviously jewel cases are NOT rock-and-roll. Way to rage against my CD rack, Thom.
3) Nifty! My copy came with a promotional bus pass holder. Think I'm lyin'?
Now that IS rock-and-roll. Totally better than the fake library book (w/ card) that came with my copy of Amnesiac.
Hey, just like that old CBS drama starring Edward Woodward! No wait, that was The Equalizer. Anyway, the piano on this is great. As is Thom's crooning. Please excuse me but I got to ask/ are you only being nice because you want something? Then he actually does a bit of meta-songwriting by singing Be careful how you respond/ because you'd not end up in this song (the last part actually sounds more like because you might end up in this song, but whatever). If I didn't know better, I'd say that this was a break-up song. As in "I'm pissed at my band mates and going solo."
That's not the case, right?
British spelling. Dig it. Not a particularly good song, but Yorke, perhaps realizing the fact, makes up for it at the end by contorting his voice in all manner of directions.
A fantastic song, even though a) the drum track appears to be lifted directly from Idioteque, and b) the vocal melody resembles Morning Bell a little too closely.
The humming kicks ass, though.
(By the way, I'm right with you in wishing that my use of letters of the alphabet to illustrate points soon comes to an abrupt halt. Please bear with me; it's just a phase I'm going through.)
Probably the album's best song. Groovy. Seriously, I want to groove. I want to move and groove. Bonus: my wife yelled at me for listening to it while my daughter was in the room. Could have something to do with the word 'fuck' being used roughly 89,000 times in the span of 5 minutes.
Hey, I'm not adverse to blips and beeps, which this album has in spades; but this song is simply not very good. Scratch that, it's fucking terrible. No effort at all appears to have been put into it. Thom doesn't even bother to sing, and ad libs near the end to disastrous, unintentionally-hilarious results. This is like watching MJ when he came back to play for the Wizards. Just an outright debacle.
Atoms For Peace
OK, that's better. This is Thom's best vocal performance of the album, even if he does sound like a sleepy kid who doesn't want to get up for school.
And It Rained All Night
What do you know, it really did rain all night last night. And the night before. And tonight.
Replace the whining croon of the previous track with a cocksure swagger. When he sings But I can never reach you it's nothing short of beautiful.
Who played bass on this? Because it really steals the show. Instead of giving you my long-winded explanation of what the song's about, please read here.
The song is also notable for containing 26 seconds of guitar. And what a great 26 seconds they were!
Sarcasm aside, this really is a terrific song.
Two vocal tracks are used here. Not a big fan. Also not a big fan of naming a song 'CYMBAL Rush' and then not delivering on the cymbals. Motherfucker pulled the same thing on the Amnesiac track Like Spinning Plates. I mean, I know what spinning plates sound like. I'm not stupid.
Conclusion 1: It's a good album, maybe even a very good album...but it's not thrilling. It lacks thrills. It is thrill deficient. I was hoping it would be the best album I've heard so far this year, but alas. That honor still goes to The Strokes's First Impressions of Earth (I will not argue this).
Conclusion 2: This would be a very worthy addition to the radiohead oeuvre were it not for the fact that we'll likely have to wait another year or two (or three, or four, or...) until the band's seventh studio album is released. Maybe it's just me, but I'm a stickler for momentum; and this album, while good, doesn't exactly have me anticipating the next radiohead CD with bated breath.
Which is weird.
Conclusion 3: 4/5 *_*
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:10 PM
Friday, July 14, 2006
Released in 1954, Seven Samurai was well ahead of its time in terms of just about everything: technique, style, character, plot, writing...you name it. Show me a man who doesn't appreciate the film for any of these aspects, and I'll show you a man with no soul.
It is unequivocally one of the finest films ever made; and every action film which followed -- good or bad -- owes no small debt to the brilliance of Kurosawa's masterpiece. For example, traces of Toshirô Mifune's Kikuchiyo can be seen in such classic characters as Han Solo, Martin Riggs, John McClane...hell, even Marvel Comics' Wolverine. Kikuchiyo is THE prototypical loose cannon, the likeable savage.
And certainly Mifune is the film's most memorable character, but he's far from its only one. The incomparable Takashi Shimura (whom, truth be told, I've always been more fond of than Mifune) is marvellous as Kambei Shimada, the Samurai's leader and the most noble of the group; Yoshio Inaba plays Gorobei, a man so easily likeable and with such a pleasant smile that, just as with Kambei when he first sees him, our affection for him comes in an instant; Seiji Miyaguchi's Kyuzo is the stoic, a man who takes no apparent pleasure in his job but who possesses an innate sense of duty and loyalty; Minoru Chiaki is Heihachi, the band's most amiable and witty spirit; Isao Kimura plays the novice Katsushiro as a young man learning and maturing in the ways of the samurai; and Daisuke Katô's Shichiroji, a comrade who has previously fought beside Kambei, rounds out the posse.
The farmers, whom the samurai vow to protect from bandits who would steal their crops and pillage their land, have their fare share of interesting characters, too. There's Manzo, grateful for the samurai's assistance but afraid that one of them may seduce his daughter; or Rikichi, whose wife was kidnapped by the very bandits who threaten the village; or the sage Gisaku, the village's patriarch, who initially proposes the idea of hiring samurai, but who stubbornly refuses to abandon his home -- despite the samurai's advice to the contrary -- when the bandits finally strike.
I could go on. Needless to say, the film is driven by its intriguing characters. Many a lackluster film has been made watchable -- and sometimes even exceptional -- due to its strong characterization. The genius of Seven Samurai is that both its characters and its story are riveting, and this is no mean feat for two reasons: 1) balancing the characters and making sure they are all properly and equally (for the most part) developed is an accomplishment of gargantuan proportion, and 2) making sure the story doesn't get bogged down while developing said characters is perhaps an even greater achievement.
All that said, do I consider Seven Samurai to be the greatest film ever made? No. I don't even consider it the greatest film Kurosawa made*. Admittedly, I have only seen the film twice, and my esteem for it may rise in the years to come; but there are some major flaws which inhibit it from being a prime example of cinematic perfection.
First, the thing most ironic about the film is that when the action picks up in the final act, the pace actually slows down. Kurosawa would later refine his ability to film epic battles, but here a certain awkwardness is evident. The fight sequences are not terrible by any means, but the master's skill in this regard is definitely not as honed as it would be in later films such as Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo, Ran, Kagemusha, and others.
Second, the deaths of the samurai are handled with about as much depth as insects hit with a fly-swatter. This was likely intentional: I believe Kurosawa wanted to show that the four samurai deaths were no more important than those of the farmers or the bandits who were killed. But that doesn't mean I like the idea. Here are four characters whom we have a strong liking for, and who are taken out of the story with only a few words of mourning and a sword sticking out of their graves. I still can't get over the fact that the last we see of Kikuchiyo -- again, the film's best character -- is a brief shot of him lying on the ground, face-down after being shot. As I said, I realize that this was intentional, but I still hate it.
Finally, the character of Shichiroji is, in a film overpopulated with terrific characters, notably weak. He is not so much a character as he is a script device -- a way of showing that, though their numbers are diminished, the way and code of the true samurai will persevere, and that they will continue on in their thankless tasks.
One aspect of the film which some may find flawed -- yet is anything but -- is the lack of clearly-delineated villains. The bandits are given very little screen time and dialogue, their threat vague; and the paradigm of effective storytelling states that a hero (or, in this case, heroes) must have an equally-compelling nemisis/nemeses in order to be compelling. This is true; however, in the case of Seven Samurai, the bandits, while definitely the de facto villains, aren't the film's focal source of conflict, which instead lies between the samurai and the people whom they have sworn to protect. The film's final scene, which shows how the naive Katsushiro is played (in the colloquial sense) by Shino, the object of his affections, is a wry statement on human selfishness and our inability to appreciate the efforts of those who've helped us once our needs have been met.
It's an appropriate ending. It may not be the happiest or the most optimistic, but I'm willing to concede that it's the one that works.
Two more quick notes:
1) I was hoping to include one of those "Which (film name here) character are you?" surveys, but, I'll be damned, I don't believe one exists for Seven Samurai.
And my faith in mankind slips a little more each day.
2) I'm curious: on a scale of stupid to insanely idiotic, where does the Japanese tradition of women shaving their eyebrows rank?
* Unsolicited, here's my list of the best Kurosawa films:
3) Seven Samurai
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 7:25 PM
Thursday, July 13, 2006
On Monday afternoon I went into a public restroom in order to
(admire my handsome features in the mirror)
push the mail, and upon entering the stall I was surprised to see a set of keys dangling from the hanger attached to the door. And not just any old set of keys, mind you, but the keys to a BMW.
(threw them in my pocket)
weighed my options: 1) surprise my wife and make up for forgetting her birthday, 2) do my business and leave the keys where they were, or 3) be a Good Samaritan and try to track down the keys' owner.
Obviously I picked the first option, but unfortunately a moment later there was a knock at the door.
The absent-minded driver had returned.
He apologized for disrupting my moment of zen, asked if his keys were inside, I begrudgingly said that, yes, they were, and handed them to him over the stall door.
And I ask: who hangs their car keys on the stall door of a public bathroom?
Goddam BMW owners, that's who.
Quarter Pounder with Cheese
Yesterday I caught Kurt Russell (of 3000 Miles to Graceland fame) in Soldier on OCN. Boy, what a stinker that was. Which I found surprising, seeing as how it's directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.
I can't believe the same guy who directed this piece of junk also directed possibly the best film released in the 90's not named Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption:
(Wait for it, wait for it...)
What really confused me though was that, the whole movie, Kurt talked like Peppermint Patty's sidekick, Marcie.
6-Piece Chicken McNuggets
This will blow your mind. Press rewind if it hasn't.
The 18th Letter had the day off from pre-school today, and I had the esteemed honor of looking after her. Here's a (truncated) diary of what transpired:
9:02 -- My wife has been gone only two minutes, and already the little girl is crying for her. Weird, that usually occurs after I lock her in the closet.
9:35 -- I have to do some work (really!), so I put a Dora the Explorer DVD on for the little angel. Minutes later I hear her from the other room shouting "say backpack, say backpack!" "Swiper, no swiping! Swiper, no swiping!" and "death to the wack MCs!!!"
OK, that last one was from me.
10:16 -- The little girl is at me, tugging my shirt and whining.
"What's the matter? Can't you see that Daddy's busy? Now go watch Dora the Explorer," I say.
"More like Bora the Explorer," she retorts, then pokes me in the eye, steals my wallet and runs out of the room, cackling maniacally.
10:25 -- I give in and agree to read the little darling a book.
"'This is Elmo's favorite toy, David.' What's your favorite toy?" I ask.
"Mommy's boobies," she exclaims.
What a coincidence, mine too.
10:27 -- Further reading includes Green Eggs and Ham (homosexual propaganda) and One Fish Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish, which, if it's ever turned into a Hollywood movie -- and let's face it, Hollywood would turn an empty can of Pringles into a movie if it could* -- should totally be directed by David Lynch and star Kyle MacLachlan's chin.
16 oz. Frosty
I know it's vexingly hot and humid these days, but that still doesn't make the idea of taking a cold shower an enticing one.
While I was alone at home this afternoon, our gas boiler decided to act up just as -- wouldn't you know it -- I was about to shower.
You know how you can, after diving into frigid water, eventually become acclimated to the temperature? Well, the same thing doesn't work in the shower. Weird; you'd think it would.
Oddly enough, I found that this unique brand of torture makes me speak like an old Irish man ("Oh Lard, 'tis cold!"), and that sometimes it's OK to only wash one side.
* Actually, an empty can of Pringles has been used as the concept for a Korean TV show. My question though is, who wants to spend 30 minutes watching someone play keepy uppie with a small can of Pringles when their time could be better spent watching two greasy-looking youths battle head-to-head for Star Craft supremacy?
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:35 PM
...Songs With the Word "Rain" in the Title
1. November Rain - Guns n' Roses
2. Purple Rain - Prince
3. The Rain Song - Led Zeppelin
4. No Rain - Blind Melon
5. South Central Rain - REM
I never wanted to be your weekend lover, Korea. I only wanted to be some kind of friend.
Posted by TMH at 9:22 AM
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
If you live in Korea and this is the first you’ve heard of Nancy Lang, it definitely won’t be the last.
She is fast on her way to becoming one of Korea’s biggest celebrities. But that’s not her ultimate goal. Instead she wants to become world famous, and though a lofty ambition to be sure, one day she may very well be able to make that claim.
Longtime readers of this blog may be familiar with the way in which I came to know of Ms. Lang. The story goes thusly: I was at home one weekend in early April, taking care of the little girl, when I caught Nancy Lang on TV, in an interview recorded for Ch. Art (에술 TV). I was instantly captivated, and that day composed this Psychedelic Kimochi entry, the final paragraph of which reads: “I'm hoping to in the future get an interview with her; here is a woman Psychedelic Kimchi readers want to know more about. I know I do.” And I meant it. A few days later I sent her an email, requesting an interview.
I certainly didn't imagine she'd respond, though.
Much to my surprise, she did, accepting my invitation. Initially the interview was going to be over the phone, but we could never schedule something solid (she's got one hectic schedule, as you'll soon discover). Nevertheless, she kept telling me that she wanted to do the interview, and she sounded completely genuine.
Finally, this past Tuesday she said she was available on Sunday, and instead of the telephone interview I had imagined, she suggested we meet in Apkujeong.
Fast forward to Sunday. While on my way to Apkujeong, she called me to re-confirm our meeting place, the Hyundai department store. I arrived early for our five o' clock meeting, so I decided to check whether the CD store where I sometimes used to shop was still in business. It wasn't. At a quarter to five I made my way back towards the department store, but while walking in the underground subway passage, I ran into her.
And let me say this: as comely as she appears on television and in photos, she is remarkably more stunning in person. I say that without a hint of pretense. She is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous.
“Nancy,” I said.
She looked up, a little surprised. Then she told me she thought I was going to be much older. Ajeossi was the word she used. I asked her if she was disappointed. Not at all, she said.
The feeling was more than mutual.
We made our way above ground and headed towards Starbucks. Upon entering, however, we both realized how crowded and noisy it was, and Nancy led the way straight out the back door.
We ended up in a basement-level beer hall close by; and it was an infinitely better environment in which to conduct the interview. In fact, for the majority of our conversation we were the only patrons in the place.
After settling down and ordering two beers and a fruit platter (which, lamentably, was left untouched), we each took some photos and then began the interview. I actually had a notebook containing questions which I had prepared prior, but Nancy Lang is such an engaging, easy-to-talk-to person that I ditched them in favor of whatever came up during our conversation.
And what a revealing hour and a half I spent with her. Trust me, she's got a fascinating story. My only regret is that we couldn’t speak longer.
Let me reiterate: if you haven't heard of Nancy Lang until now, chances are you will again soon. She's everywhere these days: in the business world, in advertising, fashion, modeling, art, television and publishing. If Howard Stern can profess himself to be King of All Media, then this writer is dubbing Ms. Lang the Queen of All Media.
Yes, Nancy Lang is her real name. Born Park Hye-Ryeong (박혜령), she legally changed her name to Nancy Gloria Lang to better reflect her art and help in her international aspirations. She was born in New York City (and, thusly, possesses dual citizenship), where her mother lived for 20 years, running a very profitable promotions business which used to schedule such legendary performers as Frank Sinatra and Anne Murray to perform on Korean variety shows. However, not long after Nancy's birth, her mother decided to return to Korea and start a new business, importing and exporting luxury furniture and designer clothes.
An only child, during elementary school Nancy studied piano, figure skating, tennis and tae kwon do. She realized early on that she had a penchant for art, and focused on her talent during her formative years. Later, shortly before Nancy was to begin middle school, her mother contracted cancer -- a fact she withheld from her daughter -- and Nancy was sent to live with her two uncles in the Philippines. There she attended the Brent International School in Manila, where she learned to speak fluent English -- though she fears her fluency has since declined -- and found she was able to better express her creativity than had she remained in Korea. Like many, Nancy feels creativity in the Korean education system is stifled.
“In high school, they have art and music and athletic programs, but they don't do it...the students study other subjects with other teachers.”
Her family's considerable wealth enabled Nancy to spend summers vacationing in Korea (as well as in the U.S. and Japan), but she returned to Korea for good 3 years later, and, studying under the International Baccalaureate program and receiving her IB diploma, during high school was fortunate to further pursue her dream of becoming a famous artist. After graduation she planned to attend Yale, but her mother worried because she had no relatives in the States, and instead wished for her to major in English at Ewha Woman’s University. Nancy adamantly opposed the idea.
“I didn't want to study with women!” she says with a laugh.
She eventually enrolled at Hongik University, where she would receive her bachelor's and master's degrees in Fine Arts. Many of those years in university were very tough for her, however.
While Nancy was a university senior, her mother was again diagnosed with cancer and had to spend a year in the hospital. Consequently, and combined with some other factors, her business collapsed, and Nancy's family's once-substantial fortune all but disappeared.
She admits that the 3 or 4 years during her senior year and into graduate school were very difficult. She began drinking and partying a lot, and at one point even contemplated suicide. Tragically, she also lost her father in an automobile accident not long after finishing her graduate studies.
These combined hardships were very sobering for her. Pursuing art was difficult with limited financial resources, and she was faced with the very possible reality of having to forsake her art and take a nine-to-five office job -- a prospect which frightened her because, as she says, art was all she really knew.
So she continued to work on her art. Fortuitously, in 2003, through a mutual acquaintance she was contacted by the head of Warner Music Korea and invited to produce artwork for Linkin Park in conjunction with the Korean release of their sophomore album, Meteora; though at the time she admits she had never heard of the band, whose debut is certified Diamond (10 times platinum).
“I don't watch TV that much,” she says innocently.
Although she was unaware of the group at the time, she was more than eager to sign on for the project, her primary motive being -- due to the financial problems which she was facing -- monetary gain.
“I love dollars,” she states honestly, with the tone of a struggling artist who knows how it is to be without them.
Her career picked up somewhat, and she had several exhibitions in Seoul, but she longed to reach a broader audience. She would get her wish when, later that year, she showed up unannounced at the Venice Biennale, showcasing her Uninvited Dreams and Conflicts; Taboo Yogini Series project. She would repeat this form of guerrilla art exhibition in various locations in Manhattan, as well.
It was at this point that her career really began to take off. She was quickly becoming not only a well-known figure in the Korean art scene, but also in the media. A self-admitted lover of designer fashion, she says that she always made sure during a photo opportunity to show off her favorite Louis Vuitton handbag, an idea which, as fate would have it, would lead to a future collaboration between her and the couture brand.
As the story goes, during an airplane flight Louis Vuitton's Asia Pacific President, Francois Delage, saw, in a copy of the Korean magazine WHO, a photo of Nancy posing with her LV handbag. He tore the picture out and later showed it to Louis Vuitton Korea president Cho Hyun-Wook. Cho contacted Nancy, who was eventually commissioned to produce visual art for the opening of a Louis Vuitton store in Myeong-dong, Seoul.
“I'm very thankful to him,” Lang says of Cho.
It’s fairly safe to say that, these days, Nancy doesn’t have any problems finding projects to keep her busy. When I ask whether she has considered acting -- which besides music appears to be the only media outlet she has yet to conquer -- she tells me that a few famous directors have contacted her, but so far she has refused because the roles offered haven’t meshed with her art concept.
Amazingly, she doesn’t have a manager.
“I’m a one-man army,” she says proudly.
It’s clear that she relishes the recent comfort of being able to pick and choose her creative endeavors.
Here’s an exhaustive list of her current projects, as well as a few recently completed: she hosts the show Trend Report Pill (트렌드리포트必), which airs Monday to Friday on music station Mnet; she writes a weekly fashion column for the Ilgan Sports tabloid; Korea Telecom’s Megapass brand based an entire ad campaign around her; she has her own eponymous clothing line, designed by herself and an assistant; she recently published her first book, Bikinis In Modern Art (비키니입은현대미술); she runs her own website, http://nancylang.com; she makes frequent TV appearances and does modeling work; and for the past year she’s worked as an art director for Ssamzie Sport, a domestic fashion label -- although she says she won't renew her contract once it's completed later this month. Once a notorious sleeper (“I used to sleep between 12 and 15 hours a day when I was young”), she deserves to take a rest. These days she says she only sleeps around 5 hours a day. A salaryman might be able to handle that kind of schedule, but it's tough on her, she says.
But if, as she insists, she is exhausted, it certainly doesn’t show in her outward appearance and manner. She wears an expression that exudes energy, enthusiasm, and friendliness, and when she speaks she uses a lot of body language to accentuate her points. One gets the impression that she is an eternal optimist; surprising given the hardships she's had to face, but also admirable and endearing.
When I ask about the major influences on her art, she lists Picasso, Dali, and Warhol as inspiration, not only for their art, but for their eccentric and gregarious lifestyles. Conversely, she claims she's not a big fan of Van Gogh -- not because of his works, which she likes, but rather because of those who find his difficult life and poor mental health a source of twisted, vicarious pleasure.
“People are cruel,” she says, giving the impression that, in art and life, she prefers lighter, happier fare.
Any other major influences?
“Jesus,” she says without hesitation.
Listening to Nancy talk about her faith and belief in god is delightful. Although she says she doesn’t consider herself particularly religious, she attends church (“I cannot go every Sunday, but I'm trying to”) and says that, in the afterlife, she believes god will be proud of her, then mimes a beneficent god patting her on the head like a child who has done a good job.
She's not entirely an angel of mercy, though. There’s a slightly sinister part of her that has revenge planned for her two uncles, who cheated her family out of money when times were hard. Her first act of revenge -- which it appears she has fulfilled -- is to become a better and more successful young woman than her cousins, who are approximately the same age as her. The second act of vengeance, which she plans to enact when she is “rich and powerful enough,” she will not reveal to me.
“You'll know what it is when I do it,” she assures me.
Yet another future project to look forward to from the alluring, multi-talented Nancy Lang.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 9:41 AM
Monday, July 10, 2006
It's not widely known, but I am the merely the second most prolific head in my familial unit. Truth told, I'm more Bragg than Brand Nu.
My older brother, the infamous DJ Sean B, is the professional 4-elementalist in the family. And I mean that literally – he does it for a living. Having a few years on me, the guy is single-handedly responsible for superimposing hiphop over my childhood. Other kids had footballs, I was 9 and I had a roll of linoleum.
With that as an introduction, I present a baker's dozen defining moments in the denz hip hop evolution.
13. Mullet (Spoken Word) – Sage Francis
Sage’s history 101 holds up a mirror to the whiteboy evolution of and in hip hop. In three and one half minutes. If you haven’t heard this, find it. If you can’t find it, you shouldn’t be on the internet.
Sure, it isn’t a hip hop track. But that’s how I roll in my dozen, baby
12. Connected – Stereo MCs
0 for 2 on pure hip hop. In 2001, just prior to my second sojourn to Korea, I saw the Stereo MCs at the Livid music festival. Myself well lit. One of the finest live music moments I have been a part of. And in the middle of it was Rob B, pumping away like the poster child for taxidermy.
11. So Whatcha Want - Beastie Boys
Mike D is to skinny white kids, as Mike J is to skinny black kids.
10. Yes You May (Remix) – Lord Finesse (Feat. Big L)
Finesse is unheralded. For sheer battle like rhymes, he was a pioneer. Then again, he was once more topped by Big L. That's life.
No pun intended.
9. Time's Up – OC
I think it was Bobbito that said that every head remembers first hearing 'time's up'. Bottomline, if it isn't true, why spit it? It's just too bad that OC's line 'I'd rather be broke and have a whole lot of respect' ended up being prophecy.
8. Respiration – Blackstar & Common
The perfect subway track. Well, this and 'Code of the Streets'.
7. The Choice is Yours – Black Sheep
My latter day pet peeve? The fact that hiphop never gets a classic hit/golden oldies stations. That said, a few months ago I was driving down the M1 with the lass when this track came on one of the community radio stations. I nearly slammed my car into an overpass in glee.
6. No Regrets - Aesop Rock
Beautiful storytelling. Nowadays, I find it hard to seriously get into the whole Game, Kanye, etc experience. Give me Aesop, El-P, Cage and Slug for some post backpacker rhymes. As Sluggo says 'I must be getting old cause the bass sounds ridiculous'.
5. Wrong Side of the Tracks – Artifacts
An ode the the elements. I think it was an Aussie kid that said it best - Out in suburbia, I prefer my walls bombed up like Serbia. Or something.
4. 93 Til Infinity – Souls of Mischief
If there is a warmer, more goose bump inspiring sample than that of 93 I haven't heard it. Oh, you crazy hiero cats.
3. Industrial Revolution – Immortal Technique
The politics can be a little undergraduate at times, but that's better than the preschool politics of a lot of other rappers. Industrial Revolution is like 'time's up' on some bad meth. I mean, come on:
And if your message ain't shit, fuck the records you sold
Cause if you go platinum, it's got nothing to do with luck
It just means that a million people are stupid as fuck.
2. Ego Trippin – Ultramagnetic MCs
With this pick, I restore equilibrium to the universe. That being the cosmic tilt that occurred when Sparkles included the De La version over the MCs Ultra – magnetic, magnetic – version, way back when.
To wit: you can’t fuck with Ultra, stupid motherfucker.
1. New York State of Mind - Nas
Posted by denz at 7:49 PM
Sunday, July 09, 2006
I've got a huge Psychedelic Kimchi post coming in the next few days. Remember the hints I've periodically dropped since April? Well, this afternoon the big thing became a reality, and you'll soon have the pleasure of reading about it yourself. Trust me, it's really, really cool.
In the meantime, take a seat, kick up your feet, and enjoy these snapshots of the 18th Letter:
Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 9:12 PM
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
One thing about playing basketball (wait, where are you going?) as exercise: it's so fun for me that I have a hard time knowing when it's time to quit, to walk away and give my body a rest.
Today I was lucky enough to finish work early, and, knowing so ahead of time, took my backpack -- containing a change of clothes, my sneakers and my ball -- with me to work. Jesus, with my Adam Morrisonesque mop, whispy facial hair, and the fact that I was walking around with a backpack all day, I sorta felt like those shifty-looking waygooks I see all the time.
Wack like me.
Anyway, after arriving in Bundang I got off the bus at Seohyeon and dashed into a phone booth/officetel bathroom to change. What's up with all the nicest bathrooms in Bundang being in Seohyeon? They're always empty. Couldn't they spread 'em out a little?
Whatever. I got changed, headed down to the court, and arrived at 3:30. Typically, no one was there, so I shot around, practiced free throws, layups, circus shots, you name it. It was a bit cooler today than it has been these past few weeks, and cloudy, so the heat didn't zap me of my energy too quickly. In fact, I shot around non-stop for two and a half hours.
Now, you may be thinking, so what? But let me tell you, when you're the only guy shooting and have to collect your own rebounds, you can get worn down pretty fast -- a lot faster than if, say, you have a buddy or two with whom to shoot. So I was kind of tired by the time 6 rolled around.
I was about to call it quits and head for home, but just then a stocky-looking guy, who looked about 25 or so, walked onto the court.
I had a feeling he was going to suggest some one-on-one (get your mind outta the 5th grade), and though I contemplated saying no on the grounds that I was too exhausted, I figured I'd continue shooting for a little while longer and see.
But the dude just stood there, not 3 meters from where I was practicing. At first I figured he was waiting for a friend or something, but as the minutes passed, I guessed that that probably wasn't the case.
Now, I gave the guy every opportunity to ask me to play, taking small breaks between shots and looking him in the eye; but he just stood there stoically.
He was the first weird-acting Korean male I've encountered in nearly 6 years here.
But seriously, I began to get the idea that he had every intent of requesting a match, but was purposefully waiting for me to wear down further before doing so. Paranoid? Maybe. But I still believe that was his plan.
Finally, he asked "you wanna play?"
"Ahhhhhh," I let out a sigh of apprehension. Let me reiterate, I was really fucking beat. "To what?"
"Five-five," he said.
And here's what I don't get: in such games, you play to five, then take a short break (or not, as is often the case), and play to ten. Why not just play to ten (or eleven, which is what I'm used to)? I think the point is that, because it's winner's out, the player trailing is given possession; but more often than not it doesn't work that way, and today was one such example.
(But I tend to clear the ball at the 3-point line, so what the hell do I know?)
Back to the story. I accepted, believing I could take the guy, even though I was worn out (have I mentioned yet that I was worn out?).
We shot free throws for possession. He airballed his first attempt (Nelson Muntz: Ha, ha!), I nailed mine. On the first play I drove right (note to anyone who plays me: I always drive right) and from 7 or 8 feet kissed the ball off glass.
But Stubby (which is what we'll call him from here on) tightened up on D, getting his arms in my face everytime I tried to replicate the move or post up, and my shots were way off.
At "halftime" he was up 5-3.
I can't lose this game, I can't. I won't be able to live with myself.
This is what was running through my mind at the time. But what could I do? I was beat like Neal Cassady. Not even my reliable jumper was falling, and Stubby was giving me more than ample room with which to heave.
Put your goddam legs into it! some part of my conscience (the part that sounds like Pat Riley) shouted.
Sometimes, it's such a small thing that can throw a player off his game. For me, my shot wasn't dropping because I was tired and not putting my legs into it. After I did, presto Change-O.
The score was 8-5 in favor of Stubb Rock when I rebounded, cleared the ball at the perimeter, and let fly with perfect form.
And again. And again.
Score tied, this dude still wasn't coming to pressure my shot. So I kept shooting.
(And, as a brief aside, it's always amusing when the guy you're playing can't stop reminding you the score when he's winning, but clams up as soon as you're ahead. Good times.)
Final score: Sparky 10, Stubby 8.
And the only reason I mention this, apart from being a self-centered braggart, is that, whenever I'm asked by Koreans to play one-on-one, I don't think their primary reason is for genuine, sportsmanly competition, but rather because young Korean males see it as a huge ego boost to beat a foreigner. To wit: when I lose, my opponents tend to stick around and make small talk; when I win, they hightail it faster than Daniel Day-Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans .
Again, paranoid? Maybe, but I doubt it.
Anyway, after my lights-out J clinic I walked home. No mean feat, because I live a 50-minute walk from the court. But I hate getting on the bus all sweaty.
I'm considerate like that.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 7:51 PM
Monday, July 03, 2006
I am determined in my resolve, my will as iron as the exoskeleton which sheaths Tony Stark.
After many false starts and stops over the years, I am now 100% resolute in my plan to see whether or not I can achieve a decent facial growth.
I presently look like a Latino adolescent, and my upper lip is as bristly as a brush made by Fuller, but I will not be deterred.
I will endure.
I will embrace.
I will be.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 10:55 PM
Before we get started, let me first make a quick movie recommendation. If you haven't seen Craig Brewer's awesome film, Hustle & Flow, do so as soon as you can. Yes, it's a hip-hop-themed urban drama, but don't let that deter you. Even if you hate hip-hop (which ironically begs the question "why are you reading this post?"), I can almost guarantee you'll dig this flick. It's phenomenal, possibly the best film I've seen this year.
You've probably heard already about Terrence Howard's career-defining performance, but this movie is far from a one-trick pony. The cast, direction, and score are all amazing. I never thought I'd say this, but Anthony Anderson (of TV's Hang Time, and Kangaroo Jack fame) and DJ Qualls are both surprisingly outstanding, and the rest of the actors -- particularly Taryn Manning, Taraji P. Henson and Ludacris -- are pitch-perfect.
I won't talk your ear off any further, save this: Chud.com's Devin Faraci said that if 8 Mile is hip-hop's version of Rocky, Hustle & Flow is its Raging Bull. A very apt analogy, in my opinion.
Trust me, this is a film you need to see. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure you'll contract cancer.
Scenario by A Tribe Called Quest (feat. the Leaders of the New School)
Has the distinction of being possibly the best posse joint AND the best hip-hop video ever created.
Live at the Barbecue by Main Source (feat. Joe Fatal, Akinyele, and Nas)
Ladies and gentlemen, Nasir Jones. He kidnapped the president's wife without a plan. I have a feeling he'll be a star someday.
Back to the Grill Again by MC Serch (feat. Red Hot Lover Tone, Chubb Rock, and Nas)
Ladies and germs, Nasty Nas. He enjoys waving automatic guns at nuns. His stardom doth approach nearer.
Also, that kid Tone is going to produce some tracks for Nas and parlay that into a multi-million dollar entertainment venture. And Puffy will break a champagne bottle over his dome (or was that Poke?).
Represent by Showbiz & AG (feat. D Shawn, Big L, and Lord Finesse)
You know you've got a remarkable young talent on your hands when the kid manages to outshine Lord Finesse on a track. That's Starks dunking on MJ-level shit. R.I.P.
Bring It On by the Geto Boys (feat. a shitload of dudes you've probably never heard of)
Just a superb posse track from the Rap-A-Lot roster, most of which (save for Devin the Dude and, um, that's about it) would never go on to anything bigger and better. But each MC's energy and level of hunger here are undeniable. The best part: it goes on for over 7 minutes. The best posse cut not titled Scenario to end an album.
Buddy (remix) by De La Soul (feat. The Jungle Bros., A Tribe Called Quest, and Monie Love)
I'm not even sure the remix is better than the album version, but I figured I'd throw this up instead, because there's a chance Monie might read it. I figure she needs the love.
The Symphony by Marley Marl (feat. Craig G, Masta Ace, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane)
THE prototypical posse cut. Also contains the most recognizable piano loop save the one Ced Gee, via God, relayed to Scott La Rock.
Left It To Us by Cage (feat. El-P, Aesop Rock, Tame 1, and Yak Ballz)
Is it too early to proclaim this a classic? Only time -- both the song's running length, which is way too short, and the fact that it was released just last year -- says yes.
But fuck it. It gets the nod regardless. I don't even care that one of the MC's has the unfortunate moniker Yak Ballz.
I Shot Ya (remix) by LL Cool J (feat. Keith Murray, Prodigy, Fat Joe, and Foxxy Brown)
While technically not a posse cut (I'm pretty sure LL recruited the guest-starring talent with greenbacks rather than through friendship), and featuring a slew of artists who suck something terrible these days, at the time it was released the guest stars were all at the top of their game (except Foxxy, because we all know her raps were ghost-written by Jay-Z), and they re-ignited LL's hunger.
By the way, if I had to compare LL to a ball player, he's gotta be Charles Barkley. He had the charisma, the talent -- yet I don't think he ever reached the caliber of a champion. Yes, Radio and Mama Said Knock You Out are classics, but LL always lacked consistency.
Bring The Noise (remix) by Public Enemy (feat. Anthrax)
Before I get any hate mail for this, let me first state that I loathe this song. It's not very good, for one thing; and it can be attributed (along with Faith No More's Epic, which is actually quite good) to jump-starting the rap/rock fusion that was lying dormant since the Beastie Boys and RUN-DMC ceased to be relevant years before. Yes, some bands got it right (I'm looking at you, Rage Against the Machine), but far more got it horribly wrong, and this song is largely to blame. But it deserves its place in music history. In that way, I consider it to music what DW Griffith's Birth of a Nation is to film.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 5:31 PM