Amoeblog

Always Bet on Black? Looking at who dies first in some 80s action films.

Posted by Charles Reece, February 28, 2010 11:54pm | Post a Comment

The folks over at TV Tropes have a handy system of weights ("scream scores") assigned to character types, called the Sorting Algorithm of Mortality (SAM), that when added up predict who's most likely to die first in a film or TV show. Under the category of race, the SAM gives a weight of 5 out of 5 for black or twofer (the latter being two token minorities represented in one character). At least since Renny Harlin's ironic homage to 80s sci-fi/action films, Deep Blue Sea (1999), the trope that the "black dude dies first" has been taken as a truism among pop culture aficionados. If you'll recall, it was Sam Jackson's Russell Franklin who, during one the actor's trademarked badass speeches, was the first major character to get eaten by a shark. The joke actually compounds two factors that aren't that easy to separate: star power and race. One wouldn't expect Will Smith to be the first to go, so Jackson, being the biggest star in the picture, shouldn't have been either, but his blackness (as the film satirically put it) won out. LL Cool J's Preacher makes explicit reference to the trope throughout the film, and is surprisingly (against the race-based common-sense expectation) saved at the end. But he's the second biggest star in the film (with the possible exception of Thomas Jane, whose character survives too). So are all the joking references to the fate of black men in action films really hitting their target, or are they merely beating a "dead unicorn"? I figure the topic makes for a fitting end to Black History Month here at Amoeblog.

      

Since this ain't a doctoral thesis and I've limited time to rewatch films, my sample is going to be real limited based on memory, friend's suggestions and to the 80s (since it's that decade that mostly suffers the brunt of the jokes). Still, I believe the four films here were the primary source material for Harlin's film: John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), James Cameron's Aliens (1986), John McTiernan's Predator (1987) and George P. Cosmatos' Leviathan (1989). All four feature an ethically diverse ensemble cast (but with a white star actor being a little more equal than the others) fighting against a newly discovered life form that stands to win the Darwinian struggle. (Click on the titles for plot summaries.)


Carpenter's always been a racially conscious filmmaker, so perhaps it's not all that surprising that his two black characters make it to the final act. As MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Nauls (T.K. Carter) are laying dynamite to blow up the compound and the Thing with it, Nauls goes to investigate a mysterious sound. He's not seen again, but odds of his survival become pretty low when MacReady throws lit dynamite at the alien, laying waste to the entire building. As the explosion spreads from building to building, MacReady meets up with the remaining black character, Childs (Keith David). With no hope of rescue, they share a drink as they wait to die from the cold. The final scene portrays a sort of realpolitik solution to underlying race relations, namely Cold War stalemate:

Childs: How will we make it?
MacReady: Maybe we shouldn't.
Childs: If you're worried about me …
MacReady: If we've got any surprises for each other, I don't think we're in much shape to do anything about it.
Childs: Well, what do we do?
MacReady: Why don't we just … wait here for a little while. See what happens.

As Watchmen attempted to demonstrate, nothing brings people closer than a common fear of the Big Other ... that, and exhaustion.


With all the violent penetration going on in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979), in addition to the H.R. Giger's dark, phallic design of the creature itself and the lead being Ripley, a white woman (Sigourney Weaver), it's not hard to read the entire film as a parodic take on racist views of black men and potency. As a friend recently suggested, the fact that one of the last remaining characters is a black man (Parker, played by Yaphet Kotto) helps to subvert/mock such a lingering/repressed fear. However much truth there might or might not be to that reading, it's clear that Cameron's sequel takes all of the subtextual sex out of the explicit violence. Likewise, it lacks the literary, cinematic and design pedigree of Scott's film, and with this textual simplification as just a good action yarn came a bunch of generic character types, some of them ethnic, if not exactly racial.

Marked for an early death by the SAM is the film's twofer character of Private Vasquez (Jeanette Goldstein), who's both Mexican and a lesbian. Unfortunately, to symbolize her dual-token status, she dresses and speaks in a pachuco style -- wearing a bandana, of course -- and is so butch that she out-muscles most of the men (she carries one of the biggest guns). That's a lot of targeted stereotypes, yet she survives until the final act, valiantly giving her life to save what remains of her team (albeit, all of whom are white). 

The two black characters, Private Frost (Ricco Ross) and Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews), are among the first to die, but they do so along with more than half of the team as they go up against the aliens. Frost is killed by the "friendly fire" from one his impaled teammates (see above) and Apone is shown looking up at a descending alien just before his helmet cam projects white noise. I guess this kind of supports the black-guy-dies-first intuition, but I'm betting Mexicans and lesbians have more to complain about, since the worst cliché being used on a black man is that of the war genre's gruff, cigar-chomping Sarge.


Hardly the poster boy for multiculturalism, Arnold Schwarzenegger made a career in films that killed off one cultural identity after another. On the one hand, Predator could be considered his most racially sensitive film, since the two black characters, Dillon (Carl Weathers) and Mac (Bill Duke), are given the most complex characterizations and dramatic scenes (such as they are in a film that primarily exists to blow shit up, rainforest included). On the other, the film does trot out all sorts of stereotypes about American Indians in the character of Billy (Sonny Landham), the group tracker who mystically stares into the trees, sensing "heap big trouble." Rather than continuing to run from the predatory alien, Billy throws away his gun and chooses to face the creature with nothing but a bare chest and big knife, undoubtedly showing another warrior soul the respect it deserves. Regardless, the black guys and the Indian make it through most of act two -- longer than most of the white cast members.


An Alien ripoff set underwater, Leviathan has the longest lifespan for a condemned black character, Justin Jones (Ernie Hudson). With the two white love interests/leads, Beck (Peter Weller) and Elizabeth (Amanda Pays), he makes it all the way to the ocean's surface at the end, having survived a bloodthirsty, morphing monster, the implosion of the underwater base and a shark attack, only to be seemingly drowned by the last-minute reappearance of said monster as the rescue chopper is a mere 50 feet away. If he wasn't dead from the drowning, he was surely killed when (recalling MacReady and the dynamite) Beck throws a grenade into the monster's mouth. Not exactly a nod towards equal representation, but definitely not support for the SAM's scream scoring, either.  And, as with Aliens, blacks fare a good sight better than Mexicans, who are here "represented" by DeJesus (Michael Carmine), a researcher of some sort who looks more like a drug dealer from some bad 70s film.

So what did I learn? Well, it would seem that race, ethnicity and even sexual identity aren't the best predictors for who's going to die first in 80s sci-fi-action films. A better question is who's going to last until the end? The biggest star, of course. And there is where race comes into it, since there weren't that many non-whites who were given the chance to carry a big budget spectacle. As Wesley Snipes, Will Smith, Sam Jackson, etc. became increasingly bankable stars in the 90s, the black male began to survive all the perils of the action genre. One might say that racism can't beat the abstracted exchange value of actors in an amoral market economy. And, finally, the representation of blacks was a good deal more "progressive" (complex and less stereotypical) in these movies than that of certain other minority types.

February 28, 2010

Posted by phil blankenship, February 28, 2010 11:02pm | Post a Comment





BIRTH! Relights the California Synthpunk Torch

Posted by Aaron Detroit, February 28, 2010 03:30pm | Post a Comment

California’s music underground has had a certain strain of Gothy Synthpunk running through its veins for over a decade now. In the late Nineties and early Aughts, bands like San Francisco’s Phantom Limbs and Subtonix and LA’s New Collapse delivered heavy doses of frenetic, trashy and dark Synth-based punk heavily influenced by 70’s seminal LA groups like The Screamers and Nervous Gender with liberal dashes of O.G. LA Deathrockers Christian Death, the UK Batcave scene, and a noticeable pull from 90’s West Coast Post-Hardcore and Punk. Picking up this torch left dwindling for some years is the LA-based one-man band, BIRTH! AKA Douglas Halbert (also of Industrial noise-purveyors Elephant Skull). BIRTH!’s full-length debut, I Will, is an exemplary addition to the pantheon of California Deathrock and Synthpunk – raw yet compelling anthems soaked in funeral organ and cutting old-school Hardcore vocals.

I Will’s opener, “Value,” is a classic Deathrock stomper in the vein of Christian Death’s “Face” or Subtonix’s “Black Nails In My Coffin” with an extra dose of bile. On “Arms Crossed,” Halbert simultaneously skewers the apathy of a prospective lover and the affected apathy of punk-show spectators over a filthy Sci-Fi dirge. However, despite the throat-destroying, incendiary vocals, there is a sensitivity and creeping light at the heart of this seemingly vicious animal of a record. “My Home To Keep” is what one might call a “Deathrock power ballad,” -- if one can imagine such a thing. Over a downright pretty synth melody, Halbert characterizes childhood traumas following a mother’s death, but even with such intense subject matter and the general crestfallen atmosphere, Halbert’s lyrics still have a defiantly positive outlook. On “Value” he ends his rant with the line “I'll look inside myself and find a life I can value!” and one can truly believe his insistent tone on “Free of This” when he bellows, “I am free of this!” I Will, indeed, seems to be Halbert’s will --his sigil--for a better life.




Halbert brings BIRTH! To LA's Silver Factory Studios tonight (February 28th) for what he promises will be his last LA show for some time. Amoeba Music Hollywood has quantity of BIRTH!’s I Will on CD for the bargain price of $6.98.

SOUNDTRACK SERIES #3

Posted by Job O Brother, February 28, 2010 12:35pm | Post a Comment
Directions: Imagine Mr. Brother living another day, as always, with music playing. Whether it’s one of his trusty iPods, or his home stereo, or working the soundtracks section of Amoeba Music Hollywood, Mr. Brother is eating, sonically, with the mouths of his ears.

To simulate this experience, as you read the below story of a day lived, you will be given certain music clips to play. These are inserted to provide you with the same tunes Job was hearing as he was doing what you’ll be reading.

For example, while he was writing the above directions, he was listening to this:

The other day, while I was counting my number collection, I was interrupted by a knock on my front door. As is customary in my country, I went to see who it was. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be none other than myself.

“Oh!” I said with a start, “How did you get out there?”

“You mean,” I said with a sly grin, “How did you get out here.”

“That’s exactly what I said,” I retorted.

“But not what you meant,” I corrected.

I slammed the door in my face and went back to my numbers. I don’t have to take that kind of snarkiness, you know – not even from myself.


Hours later I was eating some broccoli that the Lord My God made, when a second knock came – this time at the back door. Worried that I was up to my own tricks and hoping to avoid another awkward confrontation with myself, I peaked out the kitchen window to see who it was.

To my delight, it was filmmaker and performance artist, Miranda July. Most people know her from her critically acclaimed debut feature Me and You and Everyone We Know. What they may not realize is they can also find some of her albums at Amoeba Music, as I have. While not the best music to play at parties (unless you exclusively party with Yoko Ono), Miranda July’s albums are certainly an adventure, and one is never sure what will happen. They’re almost like listening to old radio dramas while peaking on purple micro-dots. (That’s a good thing.)


I quickly combed my hair and opened the back door.

“Hello, Miranda July,” I greeted, trying not to appear too excited. But then I threw-up, because I was too excited. And then I was so shocked that I’d vomited that I peed my pants, but as all this happened I pretended to be sneezing, hoping she wouldn’t catch on. I mean, a sneezing fit is embarrassing, but less so than excreting every juice the bowels have to offer from both ends of my shivering body.

“I don’t know who you think you’re fooling,” snarled Miranda July, “Unless it’s yourself!”

The full meaning of her admonishment didn’t reveal itself until she removed her latex mask and feminine attire, at which point I discovered it wasn’t Miranda July at all, but myself in disguise.

“How did you manage to find such stylish clothes in your size?” I asked, trying to appear unperturbed (which I was, of course, and very!).

“Easy,” I answered, “I had them custom made by a fantastically famous fashion designer whose name escapes me. He’s done all the great women of rock – from Polly Jean Harvey to Muslimgauze.”


“I’m pretty sure Muslimgauze isn’t considered a ‘great woman of rock’,” I corrected, popping eight pieces of gum in my mouth, the scent of which had suffered from my retching. “Anyway,” I continued, slurring for the chewy gob now lodged in my mouth, “How did you afford that? I barely have any money.”

“True,” I sighed, “That part was difficult. I’m afraid you’re gonna be receiving some disturbing letters from various credit card companies. Also, you should get tested immediately.”

I didn’t know what I was implying, but I knew I didn’t like it. I slammed the door in my face and returned to my broccoli, which was, by now, cold. This made me sad, and I wept over my plate; tears drenched the broccoli and made it salty, which made matters worse, as they’d already been perfectly seasoned with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Now it was too salty.

There was nothing to be done. I would have to prepare more broccoli. Thankfully, God made more. I put on some Annette Funicello records and set to cooking.


Most people know Annette Funicello from her critically acclaimed debut on the Mickey Mouse Club. What they may not realize is they can also find some of her albums at Amoeba Music, as I have. While not the best music to play while making sweet love (unless you exclusively have sex with Yoko Ono), Annette Funicello’s albums are certainly a delight, and one is never sure what will happen if you listen to them while locked in a cage full of tigers and monkeys.

Night came, and I put on my pajamas and brushed my teeth, making sure to use my tooth brush and not the more unwieldy chainsaw that had caused me so many dental problems in the past.


As I was pondering the magical properties of fluoride, I heard a rapping on my bathroom window. I left the underwater dungeon (where I always care for my hygiene) and went upstairs to the bathroom, only to find myself precariously balanced on the window ledge, grinning madly and looking disheveled.

I gesticulated for me to open the window, but I was hesitant. So far, every conversation I’d had with myself that day had been annoying and in some cases disturbing, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear anything more from myself, especially just before bedtime.

Against my better judgment, but worried after all that I was trapped outside, I opened the window.

“How did you get out there?” I asked.

“You mean, how did you get out here?”

I was already wishing I hadn’t opened the window.

“Well come inside, in any case.”

I tumbled onto the bathroom floor, giggling.

“Are you drunk?” I asked, furrowing my brow.

“No,” I answered, “I just remembered how funny floors are.”

I didn’t respond, because I didn’t understand what was funny about floors, and also because I felt that I was only saying things for the sake of themselves – a pretense.

Me and I went to bed, and while I’d been unhappy with my behavior, it was nice to have someone to curl up with.

“Would you like me to sing you a lullaby?” I asked.

“Why yes,” I answered, surprised at such a lovely thought.

I cleared my voice and snuggled close, and this is what I sang:


By the time I finished, I was fast asleep, dreaming that I was at a sex party with Yoko Ono. It was nice, and it only goes to show that for all the trouble I cause myself, at heart I really am supposed to pay my rent today.

The end.

The Wrong Way: African Americans in Rock, by Cas

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 27, 2010 03:01pm | Post a Comment
kyp malone tv on the radio

Kyp Malone and I shared an “Afro-punk moment” a few years ago. We were at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco where Kyp’s band, TV on the Radio, had opened for The Faint. The show was just letting out when I ran into the furry, bespectacled guitarist and co-vocalist milling about in the lobby of the venue. I struck up a conversation, letting him know I’d caught the previous night’s show of the same bill at The Grand Regency Ballroom. We’d been talking for some time when a young white indie kid broke away from the pack of even more young white indie kids that passed by and approached Kyp and me, smiling that “OMG” smile. “You guys were great tonight” she beamed, at first addressing me. There was this split second of confusion when I didn’t know how to respond since, you know, I was holding it down in thetv on the radio audience that night. I kind of chuckled and motioned towards Kyp, remarking that he was the guy she wanted to thank. Kyp, being mischievous, motioned right back at me, letting her know that I was the guy to thank. We let it hang for one beat before letting the embarrassed girl off the hook. Kyp thanked her for the compliment, his genuine smile defusing the girl’s embarrassment. After she dove back into the throng, Kyp turned to me and said, “That happens all the time...whenever I’m standing with any other black dude.” We laughed. 

Taking the diplomatic route, I guess I couldn’t really blame the girl for thinking I was a member of the band, except I don’t bear that much of a resemblance to any of the guys in TVOTR. Sure, we share some African ancestry, taste in eyewear and facial hair grooming concepts. But we don’t really look alike. Do we? Regardless, amongst all of the people that were at Bimbo’s that night, Kyp and I stuck out, even though only one of us was on stage under spotlights.

Continue reading...

Warnings & Brags

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 26, 2010 10:00pm | Post a Comment
A great collection of promotional stickers. I'm still pondering what exactly a "quivering classic" is...

In A Cloud Release Party in SF Starring Kelley Stoltz, Sonny Smith, Tim Cohen and More!

Posted by Miss Ess, February 26, 2010 02:32pm | Post a Comment
I'm pleased to announce that local San Francisco record company Secret Seven Records has a new release! It's called In A Cloud and it's an exclusive compilation of previously unreleased tracks starring many famed and talented local artists such as Kelley Stoltz, Thee Oh SeesSonny & The Sunsets, Fresh & Onlys, Hannah & Raven (of Grass Widow), Jacques Butters, Ty Segall, The Sandwitches, Exrays, Donovan Quinn & the 13th Month, Trainwreck Riders, Dylan Shearer, and Paula Frazer. This special release comes as a limited edition of 500 on vinyl only. The record was mastered by Paul Oldham, sometime bandmate and always brother to Will Oldham. Listen to The Sandwitches' track "Grey Wizard" right here. You can also hear Kelley Stoltz's sweet "Pinecone" hereIn A Cloud will be for sale at Amoeba starting on Tuesday, March 2! Come an' get it!

There will be an extra special release show at Amnesia in San Francisco also on this Tuesday, March 2, starting at 9pm. It's gonna be a real treat, because it's all acoustic for your listening pleasure. The lineup includes artists from the comp such as Sonny Smith of Sonny and the Sunsets, Donovan Quinn of Skygreen Leopards, Tim Cohen of the Fresh and Onlys, Jon Bernson of the Exrays and Mr. Kelley Stoltz. Come out and support local music!

Amoeba Music Weekly Hip-Hop Round Up 02:26:10: Ras Kass, RasCue, Snoop, Ya Boy, Big Rich, Rob Swift, Dan the Automator, Freeway & Jake One, etc.

Posted by Billyjam, February 26, 2010 10:07am | Post a Comment

Amoeba Music San Francisco Weekly Hip-Hop Top Five Chart: 02:26:10



1) Big RIch & Ya Boy Guns & Roses EP (Black Card Music)




Big Rich & Ya Boy "Street N*gga" (2010)







2)  V/A Snoop Dogg presents West Coast Blueprint (Priority Records)


 
Kid Frost "La Raza" (West Coast Blueprint)







3) Rob Swift No The Architect (Ipecac)


   Rob Swift "The Architect" (title track)

This Week At The New Bev: 2/26 - 3/4

Posted by phil blankenship, February 25, 2010 10:32pm | Post a Comment
This Week At The New Beverly

Our March calendar is now online!
www.newbevcinema.com/calendar.cfm


Friday & Saturday February 26 & 27


A Judy Holliday / George Cukor double bill!

Born Yesterday
1950, USA, 103 minutes
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0042276/
dir. George Cukor, starring Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden, Howard St. John, Frank Otto
Fri: 7:30; Sat: 3:40 & 7:30, Watch The Trailer!

Academy Award Winner Best Actress Judy Holliday plus 4 other nominations including Best Director & Best Picture

The Mezzanine Shuffle - Turn and face the strange

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 25, 2010 02:55pm | Post a Comment

Do this don't do that can't you read the sign?

As some of those who know me know, I used to work in the movie department here at Amoeba Hollywood. I was assigned to Black Cinema and Latino Cinema. You could say they were my beat. But I was a bit of a lone wolf who played by my own rules. But after one too many high-profile disasters, the sarge stuck me with a desk job, writing this blog. But I still take interest in my old neighborhood and some (OK one) of the customers still tell me to come back... he also gave me a couple of candy canes for Christmas which (since I don't much like sweets) sit in the guampa on my desk. They're yours if you want 'em. ,

Anyway, so the mezzanine just went through a major overhaul, which I had/got to be a part of...

 
The Mezzanine - Officially the largest selection of movies in the universe

Occasionally, when something big like this goes down, the powers that be will promise me some nice change if I bust the right brains. Or, to paraphrase Sean P, "They callin' me to come back to the streets, Eric B, a.k.a 'Sharp Crease'/Said it was necessary, these sucka weddoz out here very scary/They comin' whole they livin' in the month of February" to which I replied, "OK den." Also I was promised pizza. More about that later.

 
      Documentaries (and some hokum - what the bleep?)                                 Action Jackson (and Willis and Bond)

Now, some may wonder why we needed to expand. With over 50,000 titles already and every other video store extinct, it may seem like overkill. But we've been sitting on a lot of titles we didn't previously have space for. Consider the documentaries. Every conspiracy theory spawns a thousand DVDs. And the already enormous Action Section literally exploded. (I like to misuse "literally," so shut it.) Sad to see we removed the poliziotteshi section. Even though I've never watched any of those movies, I felt an affinity for movies about mustachioed Italian cops who play by their own rules... 


Blu-Ray

The Blu-Ray (seriously, why'd they drop the "e"?) section grew considerably, as you can see. And now, it's a lot closer to the VCD section.


The TV section went vertical. Very nice. And don't let the sign confuse you, the BBC section includes British TV from all the English networks, whether it's Channel 4, Grenada, ITV, &c. It's just a case of a brand going metonomic -- like NPR, Coke, Kleenex and Band-Aid. To further complicate things, it doesn't include the BBC's many productions which aren't television series. Luckily the TV section is flanked by two info counters, where Amoeba staff can help make sense of it all.


Comedy, already massive, just got massiver. Everything from 1965 to 2010 that can possibly cheer you up is in there somewhere... except Oscar Wilde, it seems. The English language's second-most-read author and greatest comedian of all time no longer has a section. And gone too is Jane Austen's section... yet Kevin Smith remains -- although, to be fair, he's twice the man most of us are.


Once, under my watch, we absorbed Mystery/Thriller into drama, action, classics, &c due to space issues. When I informed this fact to a customer, he replied somewhat threateningly, "Big mistake." Well, as you can see, it's back and bigger than ever. Sadly, as with Action, the (in my opinion) most interesting section, Giallo, has been removed. But unlike Poliziotteschi, I actually did watch some of those. When I asked why we removed Giallo I was told, "Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."

Lisa V. bringing the drama

With apologies to Mary J. Blige, there's a whole lot more Drama now.


Even the Short films had a growth spurt. 


By the way, the promised pizza proved to be a red herring -- and unlike my partner, Rakim, fish is my least favorite dish. No sweat. I went home and made my patented collard, turnip and mustard green pizza and ate the whole thing. So put that in your pipe and smoke it.

out this week 2/2 & 2/9...album leaf...massive attack...sade...hot chip...rachel grimes...

Posted by Brad Schelden, February 24, 2010 04:05pm | Post a Comment
lionel richie hello
Hello! and sorry I have been away for so long. The month is almost over and I have too much to talk about. I don't know if anybody has made time for anything but the new Sade, but I have been listening to many other albums. In fact, I have not even had time to listen to Sade. I was never a huge fan, but like most people, I was a casual fan of "Smooth Operator." It was the single on their first album, Diamond Life, from 1984. Hard to believe it was that long ago! I was only ten years old and easily influenced by top 40 radio. 1984 was the year of some big singles. Songs that will forever be part of my memories. Songs that I know all the words too whether I want to or not. This was the year of "Owner of a Lonely Heart" by Yes, "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club, "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham!, "What's Love Got To Do With It" by Tina Turner, "Time After Time" by Cyndi Lauper, "Hello" by Lionel Richie, "I Just Called To Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder, "Out Of Touch" by Hall & Oates, "Carribbean Queen" by Billy Ocean, and "The Reflex" by Duran Duran. I know all these songs are now swirling around in your head! Can you think of any bigger songs than these? I may have not owned all these albums, but you can bet I had them all taped onto a cassette tape from the radio! These songs were monumental in shaping my life. They could not be avoided. And this was way before the Internet. Way before music blogs!

1984 also featured huge songs from huge movies. This was back when songs were really a big part of the movie and were really written for specific films to be a part of the plot. Music videos were made featuring the artist singing in front of a screen with the movie projected on it. And some of these songs went on the be nominated for Oscars. 1984 featured "Footloose" by Kenny Loggins and "Let's Hear it from the Boy" by Deniece Williams from the movie Footloose. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" by Stevie Wonder was from the movie Woman In Red and "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Phil Collins came from the movie of the same name. "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy" by Prince were from the movie Purple Rain. "Ghostbusters" by Ray Parker Jr. was of course from the great classic film Ghostbusters. All of these songs except for the Prince songs were actually nominated for best song that year. The songs nominated for Oscars these days are never nearly as popular. The year ended with possibly the biggest song of my childhood, "Like A Virgin" by Madonna. I really forgot what a listener of mainstream music I was when I was a child, but indie rock did not exactly exist in 1984. And I was a bit too young still for punk rock and more obscure new wave stuff. Anyway, just in case you didn't know, Sade is back with a new album. They have done a lot since 1984 but it has been 10 years since the 2000 album Lovers Rock. The new album is called Soldier of Love, and I do have to admit that I like the single, although, unlike in 1984, I really don't like much else in the top 40.  

Also out this month is the new album from Hot Chip. I highly recommend it if you like that kind of thing! It is fun, goofy and nerdy dance music, just like what I have come to expect from them. They are sort of the modern version of Devo. The title track is "One Life Stand." Hot Chip is one of those bands you either love or hate. I can't really talk you into liking them. You just do or you don't. Take a listen to "One Life Stand" and decide for yourself.



I have been a big Album Leaf fan for a while. Jimmy Lavalle is the mind behind The Album Leaf. He was also in fellow San Diego bands GoGo Airheart and Tristeza. This is the third Album Leaf album on Sub Pop. Into the Blue was one of my favorite albums from 2006. I have to admit that I have not fallen in love with this new one as much as the last, but there has been a lot going on. I blame it on the Winter Olympics! I have not had a whole lot of time to listen to music since they have started. I normally hate watching sports on TV but I get Olympic fever whenever they are on and have to watch them every night. I mostly just watch them in anticipation of people falling. I really don't want anybody to get hurt but I do live for the moments when ice skaters fall on their jumps or when skiers miss their turns and tumble down the mountain. I think it just makes me feel better about myself knowing that nobody is perfect. So back to Album Leaf...Listen to their old stuff and then get into this new one. I think the new one is good for sure, I just need to spend some more time with it. I just can't not like this band. They do not hit you over the head with their greatness. You need to give them some time to let yourself fall in love with these albums. But you will. Check it out.

If you know me at all then you probably know that I am not a fan of jazz music. I have tried over the yearsbut I will admit that I have not tried very hard. That's not to say I don't often get out of my indie rock bubble: I love tons of soul music old and new; I love blues and old country; I listen to a ton of dance music; and I often get obsessed with film scores and listen to them over and over; I also love modern classical music (but I will get to that later). Jazz is just the one genre that I have not been able to jump into. And of course Gil Scott-Heron would be the man to possibly get me into jazz music. However, his new album, I'm New Here, is nothing close to a typical jazz album. That's not new territory for Gil though. This new album reaches into the genres of soul and hip hop and electronica more than jazz. It is more of a spoken word, bluesy trip hop album than anything. I am still not sure if I am ready to jump into the world of jazz, but for now, this might be as close as I am going to get. Gil Scott-Heron has had a long and interesting music career and I am not going to pretend to know much about it, so if you would like to know more about his life and music, then read here. I do know that this is his first album of original stuff in more than 16 years. Take that, Sade! And I do know that I love this album. You should too. I am not nearly done listening to it, but I will be exploring his older albums very soon.


I am also very excited about the new album by Rachel Grimes called Book of Leaves. It seemed to come out of nowhere, but it is out now and you should love it. Rachel Grimes is the pianist from the brilliant group The Rachel's, a minimalist post rock classical group out of Louisville, Kentucky. They put out some brilliant, beautiful albums in the 90's on the label Quarterstick: Handwriting from 1995 and Music for Egon Schiele from 1996 remain two of my favorite albums of all time. They often get labeled post rock and associated with bands like Tortoise and Godspeed. I have always called them indie classical, mostly just because of their association with an indie label, but also because of their fans. I was introduced to them my last year in college and became a big fan very quickly. Most of their fan base is made up of indie rock kids that are not the usual fans of classical rachel's music for egon schielemusic. My love of The Rachel's got me into bands like Tortoise, LaBradford, and Bowery Electric, but this is probably the band that first got me thinking about classical music. I really didn't know that there were interesting things going on in the 20th Century in the world of classical music until I first listened to the Rachel's. They really opened up the door for me. I don't know if would have ever explored the albums of Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Max Richter, and Nico Muhley without the influence of The Rachel's. The band sometimes uses guitars and drums as well but they play mostly classical music. I have always thought of them as people that I would be friends with that just happen to play classical instruments. Rachel Grimes is one of the main 3 members of The Rachel's along with Jason Noble and Christian Frederickson.

 

I finally got to see them perform for the first time 7 or 8 years ago at Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco. I thought I could look forward to more albums and tours after that but I have still been waiting! The last album they put out was Systems/Layers in 2003, so I was very excited to listen to the new Rachel Grimes solo album. The piano and keyboard have always been my favorite musical instruments. I absolutely love the keyboard and most bands that I like usually have a keyboard involved, and the instrument that stands out for me in classical music and film scores is always the piano, so it is nice to hear Rachel Grimes all by herself -- just her and piano. I love this album. It is one of those records that you can put on in the background but that is impossible to ignore. The music can get deep into your soul and bring out those emotions you might be hiding from yourself. This is one of those albums that I think can be used for therapy -- you can go on an emotional journey with this one. I found myself wanting to cry a couple of times while listening to this album. Thank you, Rachel Grimes! Thanks for helping make those brilliant Rachel's albums. And thanks for not letting me forget about you by reintroducing yourself with this solo album. Check it out. You owe it to yourself.


also out 2/2...






Chorus of Storytellers by The Album Leaf












Paper Dolls by The Brunettes












Ugly Side of Love by Malachai












Courage of Others by Midlake












Soft Pack by Soft Pack












Origins by Voice Voices







also out 2/9...






Maintentant by Gigi












One Life Stand by Hot Chip





massive attack heligoland




Heligoland by Massive Attack







sade soldier of love




Soldier of Love by Sade







gil scott-heron i'm new here




I'm New Here by Gil Scott-Heron












Odd Blood by Yeasayer


GRIPPING GRAFFITI DRAMA WHOLETRAIN SCREENS IN SF & LA

Posted by Billyjam, February 24, 2010 02:30pm | Post a Comment
Scene from the making of the film WHOLETRAIN, which was shot in Poland

Graffiti fans should make a point of attending the California screenings of the powerful new European graffiti themed feature film WHOLETRAIN that screens this evening (Feb 24) in San Francisco at the Goethe-Institut and on Monday (March 1st) at the same institution's center in Los Angeles. After the screenings in each city director Florian Gaag will be on hand for a Q&A session.

Gaag's first feature, WHOLETRAIN was shot in Poland, has English subtitles and has already been a film festival fave. It tells the story of a tight knit crew of graffiti writers, Tino, David, Elyas and Achim, who go through a lot of troubles (including run-ins with the law and a growing feud with a rival graf crew) in pursuit of their art.
WHOLETRAIN
WHOLETRAIN is full of wonderful, memorable scenes like the one where Tino (convincingly played by Florian Renner) is trying to persuade his friend and ever-frowning crew mate David (played by Mike Adler), who is on his last strike with the authorities, to go back out that night on an important train "bombing" mission in which they have a final opportunity to prove their worth against the rival graf crew.

If they miss this last chance, "We look like a finger painting group. Unless we do a wholetrain, we can battle housewives in the local drawing class," warns Tino. 

Chilly B Of Old School Group Newcleus Died Today

Posted by Billyjam, February 24, 2010 12:53pm | Post a Comment
Chilly B
Bob "Chilly B" Crafton
, one of the original members of legendary early 80's electro hip-hop outfit Newcleus, died today from complications associated with a stroke. He was 47 years of age. The Brooklyn based old school group Newcleus was best known for the early eighties hit singles "Jam On It" and "Jam On It Revenge (The Wikki Wikki Song)," both punctuated by the Chipmunks-like voice contained on their tracks. The tracks were released on the Sunnyview label -- records that any hip-hop DJ back in the day had to have in their crates for dancers and breakers as well as almost a requisite for a mixtape.

"Chilly B was a gifted artist who played keyboards and bass. He laid down that famous bass line in 'Jam On It,'" said friend and fellow old school New York hip-hop artist Scratchmasta Jazzy G via email to me this afternoon. "He was a cool person too. He will be missed."  As well as laying down that famous bass line on "Jam On It," Chilly B also busted out such well known lyrics on the song as "Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Chilly B/ And I'm a surefire, full blooded bonafide house rockin' Jam-On Production MC/ If you want the best, put me to the test, and I'm sure you'll soon agree/ That I got no force cause I'm down by law when it comes to rockin' viciously, you see." Rest in peace to another hip-hop great.


Newcleus "Jam On It"

Dragons and Reptiles

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 24, 2010 11:20am | Post a Comment

With Komodo Dragons back in the news, I figured it a good time to do my reptile/dragon post.

 

Novmichi Tosa of Maywa Denki pays a visit to GR2 - めいわでんき

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 23, 2010 05:01pm | Post a Comment

Novmichi Tosa, the Willy Wonka-like figure like genius behind Maywa Denki made a rare US appearance at GR2 in Little Osaka. They were selling the Otamatone, a new instrument/toy that's sort of like a cross between a đàn bầu and a theremin.

 

Maywa Denki's so-called Nonsense Objects are kind of like a mix of Harry Partch's instruments, Rube Goldberg's overly elaborate machines, a bit of Kenji Kawakami's absurdist Chindōgu filtered through the utilitarian, mid-century futurist spirit (if not the aesthetic) of prop designer Wah Ming Chang.



After the soft-spoken Toshi san signed autographs and demonstrated the pachi-moku and otamatone with stirring renditions of "Greensleeves" and "Amazing Grace," it was all over and I went outside, where a beaming stranger said to me, "Now my life is complete!" as she proudly clutched her new toy.

***

What follows is my really... avant-garde version of "아리랑" ("Arirang"). Very dissonant and occasionally atonal. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "I don't play accurately -- anyone can play accurately -- but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the otamatone is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."


California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Echo Park

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 22, 2010 05:44pm | Post a Comment


Cloudy skies over the bottomless Echo Park Lake

This blog entry is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Echo Park. Please vote for more neighborhoods by clicking here. Also, please vote for more Los Angeles County communities by clicking here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


INTRO TO EP


Echo Park
is a Mideast Side neighborhood located north of Downtown Los Angeles in the Elysian hills west of the LA River. Echo Park has long associations with several arts, most notably literature and film. It's one of the city's oldest neighborhoods and is full of many old (by Angeleno standards) Craftsman, Spanish, and Victorian homes built between the 1880s and 1930s.



HIP-HOP AND BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Posted by Billyjam, February 22, 2010 04:06pm | Post a Comment

The Last Poets
From its early days, hip-hop has been closely interrelated with black history and culture. Hip-hop is really a continuum of many previous black art forms. Rapping or MC'ing, for example, is merely carrying on a tradition of various oratorical forms in black history that include West African griots, talking blues, the sharp verbal flow of 1950's & 1960's hipster-jive talking radio DJs, the spoken word of artists like The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron, and of course, the toasting style in reggae. Additionally, hip-hop music, through both its lyrical content and its endless sampling, is responsible for teaching black history in a non traditional way.

Thanks to hip-hop's ubiquitous sampling of such historical black figures as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (especially in the 80's and 90's), many young people first learned about the philosophies of these black leaders and black history in general. One of the earliest popular hip-hop songs to sample Malcolm X was Keith La Blanc's "Malcolm X - No Sell Out" 1983 single on Tommy Boy that utilized absolutely no rapping, just samples of the black leader speaking. In later years most hip-hop artists sampled bits of Malcolm X to Malcolm Xcompliment the emcee's message. In 1988 Public Enemy's politically charged album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back opened with a powerful Malcolm X sample.

Make Mine A Triple: Joanna Newsom says, "Have One On Me"

Posted by Kells, February 22, 2010 02:09am | Post a Comment
Have you ever been so hungry for something, a rare treat that smelled so good sizzling on the coals, that against your better judgement, you burned your mouth in your wolfing haste to taste it? Upon procuring my copy of Joanna Newsom's latest opus, the fresh-from-the-fire triple LP Have One On Me, Christmas morning-ish feelings of borderline maniacal anticipation welled up in my belly and I imagined my immediate consumption would be not unlike taking a rich, slow-baked indulgence dish to the face and, Lord knows, how I tried. Eighteen songs and two hours later I felt pleased to have a feel for the depth and complexity of the bounty, but proper digestion recommends dipping in --- all the better to savor the flavor. Seriously folks, this big 'un is a whole mess of treasure that takes time --- sweet, precious time --- to appreciate in both fathomed comprehension and measured worth. So approach with a mind to settle in and absorb each third accordingly, one by one (because you know we'll be referring to them from now 'til eternity, respectively, as record one, record two and record three), and be sure to make time and take it, like Joanna's first cooing words on the opening track, "easyeasy."

"Easy"
Have One On Me as a complete work, generally speaking, plays like an almanac harkening a bygone age which, when you think about it, encompasses everything we've come to expect from Miss Newsom. The album artwork appears to draw heavily on art deco influences, what with the choice of typography, the subtle design notions featured on the insert and, of course, the cover image in which we see Newsom, sprawled kittenish on a couch, pictured in what appears to be a vintage tinted photograph of a disheveled dressing room decorated by a deranged zoologist. And it's all show inside as well: the black box houses three individually sleeved albums and a booklet packed with lyrics, credits, and a curious lack of thanks set against a series of four, seemingly sequential black and white candid shots of our girl in a simplified portrait setting evoking a subdued recollection of the madness depicted on the cover, looking very lithe, long-limbed and undeniably beautiful in bib-and-brace short-shorts (something tells me this look'll be trending a little while longer) as she twists her hair in a fix, gorgeous. Then there is the music.
For me, Joanna Newsom is as much Elton John on holiday as she is a harp-wielding Morgan le Fay. "Easy," the opening number, showcases the shadow and the light of Newsom's "Elton" leanings, that is to say, her ability to lay down a playful yet solid piano track that is as much of a portal unto itself as it is a portent of things to come. "Easy" begins slightly dormant in bed, yawning with lyrics suggesting the movements of a doomed relationship from contentedness to conflict to confrontation and, interestingly enough in the end, to conjuring. It's good stuff and good enough to rouse the listener into readiness for the multi-instrument maelstrom of musicianship to come in the eleven minute title track where Newsom flaunts her penchant for folklore and the storytelling origins of the bard instrument that have sensationalized her skills internationally. The song "Have One On Me," like "Easy," features a host of arrangements around Newsom's central vocals and instrumentation, providing a lushness very much like that of Van Dyke Parks' orchestral wizardry that graced the strains of Ys, not to mention the four man and a lady Ys Street Band (still a corn-nut of a moniker) that provided a miraculously scaled-down live distillation of the aforementioned orchestration on a scattering of instruments for Newsom's Ys tour (three of the original five comprise the core of the guest players on the new record). I suppose that's why Newsom claims that Have One On Me reflects an amalgam of her previous works. 
While there are a few uncluttered, straightforward harp or piano plus vocal compositions on the record, many of the songs are dressed up in one way or another with arrangements attributed to the guest musicians themselves, some of whom play such exotic oddments as timpani, kora, Bulgarian tambura, kaval, vielle, rebec, and coronet (the bulk of the latter lending "Kingfisher," on record three, courtly virtue). Still, at first spin, these endowments make for a complicated, tight-lipped listen that takes a little getting used to and may, at least in my case, leave the listener wondering what some of these songs might sound like en deshabille. Still again, what works for songs like "Go Long," where Newsom plays three harps (!), and the jaunty seventies (1970's, not 1870's or earlier like some of Newsom's other pieces suggest) feel of "Good Intentions Paving Company" is the motley mélange of guitars, percussion, banjo, mandolin, trombone, piano and (especially!) the warm waves of the Hammond organ and layered vocal harmonies à la Joni Mitchell or Fleetwood Mac or --- so clearly single-worthy a track it was no mistake that it was leaked as a teaser (in fact, all the pre-release date treats are stand out numbers by now, just as surely as impatient hunger for the feast has broken them in). 

"Go Long"
The songs that lay latent for discovery are the slew of slow-burners, the nigh-on ten minute jams that sometimes build to a catchy peak or sprinting leap or sometimes languish in utter frankness like a solemn hymn (like in "Occident," on record two where she sings, "Lord: is it harder to carry on or to know when you're done?") or some kind of cold sober confession whether it concerns a lover ("Does Not Suffice"), a king ("Have One On Me"), a child ("Esme"), time ("Occident") a rabbit ("Baby Birch"), or a horse ("You And Me, Bess"). While it's nearly impossible to provide a track-for-track review of this record and remain brief, especially seeing how I've only spent a little over a weekend soaking it in --- not nearly enough time to grasp the gist of it --- I'll say that each song, like a jewel, owns its own little fire and comes alive in whatever light is shone upon it and that between each set of ears (maybe this goes without saying but, like a miner needs a headlamp, this record demands a headphones-on listening situation) lies the most precious, independent understanding that justifies Newsom's uncompromising approach to music-making, dream-weaving and what some might consider her overdoing it with the will-'o-the-wisp. But then there are the words.

"Baby Birch"

Evidently, and I am aware that there be haters preening in the wings ready to disagree, Joanna Newsom has a giant brain. I arrive at this reckoning by taking into account facts that, first of all, like a rare bird, she makes complex, stew-like musical compositions sound effortless. Secondly, she somehow flawlessly guilds the lily in haute couture (which makes crackpots like Tyra Banks, in her tired efforts at trying, and repeatedly failing, to prove that you "need brains" to look good seem, well, like an idiotic hot mess). And, lastly, though one might suspect her of being overdrawn at the word bank, Joanna Newsom always finds time to thoughtfully craft tidy yet extremely meaningful lyrics that often necessitate a certain proximity to reference materials. Coming from a certainly bookish, girly think-tank like hers, the mind that put together a demo with songs like "Yarn And Glue" where words like "Panopticon" and "rabble-rouser" dash against allusions to "antediluvian crafts" and "mellifluous chimes" and "dandelion wines," the wit and wisdom of Have One On Me lies in the usual sticky web of well-spun loquaciousness that fans, like those who recently made news due to their impending publication of Newsom-inspired writings, will undoubtedly revel in. Once again, Newsom knows no dearth of excessive verbosity, no want for charming metaphors nor lyrics that just plain get to you. For example, in "Autumn," when she softly drawls, "Driven through by her own sword, summer died last night, alone/ Even the ghosts huddle up for warmth/ Autumn has come to my hometown," the wheel of the year switches gears in my mind for a second and I feel somewhat transported; I imagine it must be a little difficult for one to live so openly with their poetry as she does. After all, I don't think I'll ever relax the impact of her sweet cautionary line from 'En Gallop', "never get so attached to a poem, you/ forget truth that lacks lyricism," as uttered on her debut LP The Milk-Eyed Mender, no matter whose words I choose to live by. 
Anyhoo, listening to Have One On Me again (and again) I'm finding so many pockets, hollows and niches of listening pleasure of both the appealing comfort and thrilling anti-gravity variety that I feel my theory about this heap of new material being a long-burner in the heart and in the mind growing as sound as the fully fed belly of a beast on the brink of hibernation. The fact is, love to love her or love to loathe her, Joanna Newsom seems to know no limit when it comes to purging her soul and turning it out artistically; no amount of bitching shall ever levy her oceanic powers of expression. And those folks who, like me, find their interests once again streaming alongside hers (at long last, for there is so much of it to go around of late thanks to this heavy well of a new release) will find solace in "Jackrabbits," when she explains, "It can have no bounds, you know/ It can have no end/ You can take my hand in the darkness, darlin/ when you need a friend/ And it can change in shape, or form/ but never change in size/ The water, it runs deep, my darlin/ where it don't run wide." A sagacious effort to say the very least.

"Jackrabbits" -  live in Sydney, January 2010

Oscars 2010 Predictions

Posted by Charles Reece, February 21, 2010 11:07pm | Post a Comment

Using the most advanced heuristic available to me, namely my own cynical reasoning about the Academy, here are my predictions:

Leading Actor

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Both Bridges and Firth are exceptional in not particularly good movies that play to Academy tastes, addiction and identity politics. Clooney is in the best movie here, but he'll lose to Bridges for the same reason Firth will: Bridges has been around for nearly 40 years and has always been excellent. Call this his "should've won for The Big Lebowski" win. Renner is competent in a stereotypical hot shot role -- big deal. Freeman plays the Freeman role once again -- this time they call him "Nelson Mandela."


Jeff Bridges

Cinematography

Mauro Fiore, Avatar  
Bruno Delbonnel, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Barry Ackroyd, The Hurt Locker  
Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds  
Christian Berger, The White Ribbon 

My friend Will said Avatar looks like a moving Yes cover. And was it all the shadows in Half-Blood Prince that got it nominated? No quibbles with the other three, though. I'm going with the master of the down-and-dirty-shaky-cam, Ackroyd, because this is Bigelow's year (on which, I'll have more to say anon). I'm more infatuated with Richardson's colors, though.


Barry Ackroyd

Foreign Language Film

(In which Job introduces the character Ryan.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 21, 2010 06:56pm | Post a Comment

Ryan "Mouth-hole" Cassano

This weekend I played host to a friend of mine, Ryan “Mouth-hole” Cassano, who was visiting from my beloved home town of Nevada City, California. He had come to investigate 1980’s video arcade games and literature concerning it for some future enterprise that I’m not at liberty to divulge but involves alcohol, supermodels, and rooms of plastic balls.

He met me after my hard but spiritually fulfilling shift at Amoeba Music Hollywood, waiting out the last few minutes of my shift by browsing the clearance section of soundtracks, where he found two items that made him squeal like a flame-covered, 500 pound, chocolate gorilla who sounded like a happy little girl: the soundtrack to the film Kill the Moonlight (which features some very early work by Beck), and to the documentary King of Kong: Fistful of Quarters.

The latter was serendipitous, as it was related to his arcade quest. In fact, he was traveling with a copy of that very film and insisted I watch it with him. I told him he wasn’t the boss of me and I can do whatever I want and I hate I hate him I hate him, then we drove back to my place for a home-cooked dinner of gimlets.
Just like Ma used to make!

I introduced him to the refined art of Tom of Finland, who’s work is so lovingly collected in my Taschen art book. He found it deeply educational and oftentimes frightening. Imagine my embarrassment when, half way through flipping through the book, I realized it was a souvenir photo album of my trip to the Anne Frank House! A common mistake, sure, but no less silly.

Puzzler: Can you tell which one is which?

After half an hour of explaining to him the difference between gay sex and the methodical genocide of six million people, we decided to go to bed.

I had a dream in which I was at a garden party and ended up befriending Petula Clark. We casually chatted about mutual interests while noshing on celery sticks and cucumber sandwiches. I woke up feeling refreshed and utterly disappointed by the profound wholesomeness of my subconscious. What happened to my suppressed anxieties of homelessness or the crippling self-doubt that’s sabotaged my sense of worth? Them’s always make for the juiciest dreams.


The next night was swell. We went to see Brett Shady and Golden Shoulders play in Hollywood. Both sets were awesome, and I eagerly await Brett Shady’s debut album, due to come out “in two months,” he said. He didn’t mention what it would be called, but let’s assume the title of it will be Mr. Brother’s a Rad Guy.

Once home, we went to bed again. (We’re totally into that.) Then I had a dream that an FBI agent was pinning me down and slamming coat hangers into my face!!! Way to go subconscious! Welcome back!

The next day we went to the LACMA and perused the Joseph Beuys exhibit, which makes me hungry every time, I guess because he incorporates so much butter into his work.


Just like Ma used to make!

Once home, we cuddled up with my boyfriend and watched King of Kong, which proved to be utterly gratifying. If you like things like that, be sure to check it out.


It came time for Ryan “Mouth-hole” Cassano to leave. We hugged and said goodbye. I mentioned that I would blog about his stay, and he told me to tell you "hi," but I told him it would be better if I assigned him an arbitrary, vaguely disturbing nickname which would hopefully stick. He didn’t like the idea at all, but that’s ol’ “Mouth-hole” for ya.

By now he’s descending into Sacramento International Airport, enjoying a stomach ache from eating a $9.00 Snickers bar from LAX. And isn’t that what family is all about?

No. But it’s a nice way to end a blog, right? And isn’t that what family is all about?

February 21, 2010

Posted by phil blankenship, February 21, 2010 04:32pm | Post a Comment







Hip-Hop Weekly Round Up 02:19:10

Posted by Billyjam, February 19, 2010 07:01pm | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music Hollywood Weekly Hip-Hop Top Five Chart: 02:19:10


1) The Madlib Medicine Show 1, Before The Verdict featuring Guilty Simpson (Stones Throw)

2) Strong Arm Steady In Search of Stoney Jackson (Stones Throw)

3) Slum Village Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 2.10  (Barak Records)

4) Mathematics Presents Return Of The Wu And Friends (Gold Dust Media)

5) DJ Green Lanern & Styles P The Green Ghost Project (Invasion Music Group)

New releases on the latest hip-hop chart from Amoeba Music Hollywood include the Slum Village reissue by Barak Records of  Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 2.10 (in a two CD set), and also the equally recommended producer DJ Green Lantern and rapper Styles P collaboration The Green Ghost Project which features cameos from Styles P's fellow D-Block cohorts Jadakiss, and Sheek Louch, as well as guest shots from M.O.P, N.O.R.E, Uncle Murda, and Junior Reid. Appearing on DJ Green Lantern's label, the renowned mix DJ, who initially built his rep as the main DJ for Eminem's Shady Records label, shares production credits here with the Alchemist, Scram Jones, and Statik Selektah, a great combination of two of the best. Also new but not recommended, unless you don't have a lot of Wu Tang in your collection already, is the Feb 16th release Mathematics Presents Return Of The Wu And Friends, which really offers little new to the true Wu fan, with re-released tracks and some slightly modified/remixed ones, as the website HipHopDX so accurately pointed out. The tracks "It’s What it Is” and “Iron God Chamber” both appeared on Masta Killa’s album Made In Brooklyn four years ago, while the songs “Strawberries & Cream” and “Rush” are scooped straight from DJ Mathematics’ very own 2005 album, The Problem. It is not that this is a bad album by any means, but rather it is slightly misleading in its presentation, which implies it is chock-a-block with fresh new material.

Midnight Mass: Teen Witch Feb 20

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 19, 2010 03:20pm | Post a Comment
teen witch midnight mass

Smoke Pt 2.

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 19, 2010 10:20am | Post a Comment
Check out my orig. smoke blog here.
 

Jason Reitman at the New Beverly plus More!

Posted by phil blankenship, February 19, 2010 10:10am | Post a Comment
This Week At The New Beverly

Our complete February calendar is online:
www.newbevcinema.com/calendar.cfm


Jason Reitman at the New Beverly

Jason Reitman takes over programming this week at the New Bev! The award winning director of Up In The Air, Juno, and Thank You For Smoking wants to share some of his favorite movies with YOU! He will appear in person on the first day of each double feature (Friday, Sunday & Wednesday), schedule permitting, to introduce & discuss the films.
 
Jason Reitman discusses the festival, his history with the Beverly and the film pairing specifics at IFC.com.


Friday & Saturday February 19 & 20


Jason Reitman guest-programs the Beverly

Could It Be The Best Mardi Gras Yet??

Posted by Amoebite, February 18, 2010 03:18pm | Post a Comment
We won't know til next time... but we keep topping it every year at Amoeba LA! Just when you thought it couldn't get any wilder and crazier, Mardi Gras 2010 blew the roof off! Maybe it had something to do with the nice weather, or the Saints' Super Bowl win, or all the kids and families that joined us this year, or Doc playing that cello, but something about it was the best darn party jam this side of the Mississippi. If you haven't experienced Mardi Gras at Amoeba, check out these pictures and see what you're missing! And then join us next year!


Mardi Gras at Amoeba always involves a lot of preparation. We spent days decorating the store and hanging more and more shiny purple, green & gold stuff up until it looked like a meltdown at a Brazilian nuclear reactor, which is the effect we desired. We here at Amoeba are very inspired and in touch with the folks and the music in New Orleans and we are proud to pay them as much tribute as we can. For us Mardi Gras is one of the truly great holidays and it deserves some extreme visual expression. Next came the music and the food... we started rockin' the tunes on the stereo first thing in the morning, lots of classic jams from Dr. John and the Meters, the Wild Tchoupitoulas, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band (check out their new CD with lots of special guests here). It's hard not to get in the mood when the sun is shining and some second line funk is jumpin'... and when all your co-workers are banging on tambourines and honking on party horns too. Sometimes it takes a while to get all the Amoebites in the Mardi Gras mood... this year folks were into it from the get-go. Just about everyone I saw was sporting ridiculous amounts of beads and crazy party hats. At least one pretty straight-laced floor guy wore a mask all day long! Now THAT is what you must do when you go to the Mardi Gras! And we were helped along by some yummy red beans and rice catered by Chef Marilyn from her fabulous soul food restaurant down on Crenshaw and Adams, which I heartily recommend after tasting this grub.

New Orleans Block Party - Bounce Music goes to SXSW 2010

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 18, 2010 09:04am | Post a Comment

This looks incredible. South By Southwest is hosting a bounce music showcase. This is your chance to experience some of the biggest talents to come out of the New Orleans Rap scene.

Although they made their pledge goals, you can still donate and get various merchandise. Now I may have to go to SXSW for the first time.

THE BOUNCE 

Partners-N-Crime DJ Jubilee

PNC were one of the star attractions at Big Boy Records in the '90s and were pioneers of that gangsta bounce sound. Jube is the glue that holds Take Fo' Records together and the man who wrote "Back That A$$ Up," among many other classics.

Magnolia Shorty has released several bounce classics, my favorite being "Monkey on tha D$ck" when she was on Cash Money Records.

THE SISSY

Katey Red , Big Freedia and Vockah Redu

Katey is the most widely recognized name in bounce's off-shoot, sissy rap. Another big name in the sissy scene, Freedia gave us the classic "Gin In My System." Yet another big name in the sissy scene, Vockah Redu created sissy beef with "F*** Katey Red."

AND THE SONGSTRESS 

Ms Tee
Ms. Tee was the R&B hook singer for Cash Money's early releases who often continues to collaborate with Magnolia Shorty.

HIP-HOP HISTORY: TOP 15 ALBUMS & SINGLES CHARTS, MARCH 1992

Posted by Billyjam, February 17, 2010 01:27pm | Post a Comment

Welcome to another installment in the Amoeblog Hip-Hop History series that takes a look back at rap/hip-hop album and singles charts from previous decades. Last month's Hip-Hop History chart showcased a Top 30 Hip-Hop Singles chart from February/March 1993. This time we flashback to a year earlier, March 1992, for both a Top 15 Hip-Hop Albums Chart and a Top 15 Hip-Hop Singles Chart both courtesy of The Source magazine's March '92 issue.

Considering the delayed turnaround period for magazines (from writing to actual publishing/street date) and the fact that many records stay on the charts for several weeks or even months (especially back then), you may notice that some of these March 1992 chart entries such as Ice Cube or Black Sheep were actually released in late 1991. You will also notice, as with the previous chart, which also hailed from the so-called "golden age" of hip-hop, that damn near every release on each chart is a quality one that has stood the test of time. The charts were based on a combination of sales and the tastes of the editorial staff and some of its writers (which included myself) at the time.

UMC's "One To Grow On" (Wild Pitch/EMI)


TOP 15 HIP-HOP ALBUMS CHART: MARCH 1992 (c/o The Source)

Moving beyond bipolarity - da meeja, favoritism, fairness and equality

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 17, 2010 11:25am | Post a Comment
Just a little pie chart to ponder... First, the demographic percentages of the US's major minority populations:

 

...versus the google results for their respective national, month-long cultural observances.

...which suggests that, as I assumed, Black History Month is far more of a concern than Hispanic Heritage Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and Native American Heritage Month. Black History Month is all good, but why not recognize the rest? And, although not a minority, Women's History Month deserves some recognition too... as does Gay Pride Month. This year of the tiger, resolve to move beyond bipolarity! 

Timeline:

Black History Month began in 1893 as Colored American Day.

Women's History Month began in 1911 as International Women's Day.


Native American Heritage Month began in 1915 as American Indian Day.


Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week.


Asian Pacific American Heritage Month began in 1978 as Asian American Heritage Week.



February 16, 2010

Posted by phil blankenship, February 16, 2010 04:30pm | Post a Comment

Getting to Know...Xeno & Oaklander

Posted by Aaron Detroit, February 15, 2010 02:15pm | Post a Comment

In the tradition of the DIY Minimal Wave and Synthpop bands of the 1980's, Xeno & Oaklander make music with strict guidelines: no digital instruments or recording. The New York-based duo of Sean McBride (of the quite excellent synth-project Martial Canterel) and Liz Wendelbo implemented the exclusive use of analogue synthesizers, instruments and equipment to write and record their darkly brilliant debut full-length, Sentinelle (one of our 20 Dark Music albums of 2009,on the always-superb Wierd Records). Recently, I got the chance to have the band expand on these principles as they were preparing for a series of upcoming globe-trotting live dates in New York, Rotterdam and Paris. Please, get to know...Xeno & Oaklander.

Black Light District: First things first. Why is analogue better than digital?


Liz Wedelbo:
Analogue is immediate and raw. Sean McBride: It's alive -- a current which can be shaped in infinite ways. It's quite elemental, like fire.

BLD: Sentinelle is available on CD and LP, but being an exclusively analogue band in a digital age, do you prefer vinyl? Your presentation as a band seems pretty complete in sound, concept and artwork – so in the age of downloads and streaming, how important is the physical piece to you?


LW:
I'm fond of the weight of objects. SM: The physicality of vinyl has some earthly origin. LW: ...with traces, marks and scratches.

BLD: The press release for Sentinelle expresses that the album's laments of industrialization are meant to mirror our fast-evolving and totally isolating digital age. With this bleak message, what are you hoping to incite/inspire in your Xeno & Oaklanderlistener?

LW: I would wish to inspire a new form of rebellion. SM: and a return to a craft and community.

BLD: Sean, you've been credited as the founder of the current Minimal-Synth revival with your other current project, Martial Canterel – what led you to synthesizers as an instrument and chosen tool?

SM: My college had an electronic music lab with all sorts of esoteric analogue synths. This was absolutely inspiring and I owe much to the many nights spent there patching the Arp 2600 and the Serge modular creating a music I couldn't quite describe.

BLD: What musical artist was the ‘one’ that made you want to start your own project?

SM: It’s a particular methodology in music that inspired me, not a singular band.
LW: Mozart.

BLD: Do you feel an affinity with any other current 'Minimal-Synth' bands of the moment?

LW: There is a great community of like-minded musicians around the world, who have a similar approach to music. Here in the US, there's the Miami scene with bands such as Staccato du Mal, Opus Finis, Ronin and Nina Belief -- Miami is the darkest scene in contrast to the sunshine. On the west coast, there are new bands like Frank Alpine in LA, and Futility in Portland. Here in New York there's bands such as Sleep Museum and Epee du Bois -- seminal first wave Wierd artists who have been working in the genre with great rigor and dedication – and Led Er Est; also more recently Light Asylum, Figure Study, and Further Reductions.
SM: And outside of the US this affinity is felt strongly in the Ruhr Valley, Germany, such as our friends Dirk Klein of Silent Signals / Echo West, Andreas Sippel from Second Decay, the lads from Epic Dreams, Automelodi in Montreal, Frank (Just Frank) from Nice; too many to name here.

BLD: Sean, is there something separate or different from your work you are trying to achieve or communicate with Xeno & Oaklander and Martial Canterel?

SM: There are a lot of similarities with X&O and MC, however with MC there isn't the fine art of cooperation which exists in X&O, the counterpoint, the fusion of two hearts and two minds. MC is quite isolating, which figures heavily into many of the themes I deal with. Naturally, there is a greater immediacy as I can just turn on few step-sequencers, patch them into a synth and the song has started.

BLD: Liz, do you also work on music separately from Sean? When can we look forward to hearing this?

LW: I'm a visual artist, so when I'm not doing Xeno & Oaklander, I make films, books and take photos -- that is my solo project. I'm a punk at heart though -- I like the idea of community and being in a band is that for me. I'm fond of collaboration, and have released music with other artists, such as Staccato du Mal in Miami, the 'Xeno & Staccato' 7inch, or Epee du Bois and Martial Canterel with our 'Three to Forgotten' Cdr Music for Ruins.

BLD: Sentinelle has been described as a “cinematic” record. What films or directors would you say helped shape the album or your music in general? In what way?

LW: I've been making films for many years. It's a kind of cinema I refer to as 'Cold Cinema', which is based on similar principles as the music of Xeno & Oaklander: one take, all live effects, no post-production. So it only makes sense that our songs are visually charged. Japanese directors such as Teshigahara and Ozu were formative during the making of Sentinelle -- dehumanized urban experiences, arid landscapes and the recurring character of the lone wanderer. The sparse aesthetics combined with great attention to detail and texture of 50s and 60s Japanese cinema are affecting. There's always a slight sense of menace lurking beneath the surface, an uncanny sort of tension.


BLD: Being such a “cinematic” band, are you interested in scoring a film or -- the next step -- collaboratively producing one yourselves?

LW:
Sean has been scoring soundtracks for my films from the moment we met (one can see a few on our site). We've also shot the video for "Rendez-Vous d'Or" on super 8, which was cut by director Jimi Patterson. Soundtracks are a passion of ours, and ideas often come from specific fixations on a detail, such as the sound of the wind in Fellini movies, or the sound of a door closing in Teshigahara's Face of Another -- and recreating that feeling with the specific sounds of a filter on the Serge, tubes rattling in the Arp 2600, or two oscillators coming in and out of phase. A new series of short films is in the works.



BLD: How do you see Xeno & Oaklander evolving in the future? Are you firm on working within the confines of analogue synths or would you ever consider using or adding other instruments?

SM:
Certainly. The track "Another" features Liz playing live Indonesian percussion, Maracas, Flute, and I play trumpet -- my first instrument. With some of the soundtrack work I have done, I have incorporated non-synth instrumentation, such as using the voice to imitate raven song, drumming on an aluminum bread box, using SuperCollider to create 36 tone aleatoric clusters. Having said all of that, the synthesizer still affords us the greatest variability and breadth.

BLD: It took you nearly 3 years to release Sentinelle, can we expect a follow-up sooner?


SM:
We are already working on new material...

BLD: Excellent, so finally and just for fun, recommendations -- your guiltiest music/film pleasures?

LW:
Devil's Daughter
by Michele Soavi -- written by Dario Argento, a Horror film set in the provincial suburbs of Frankfurt, Germany, starring classic actor Herbert Lom and Kelly Curtis (Jamie Lee's Sister). Devils' Rain by Robert Feust -- a 'melt movie' set in a Western desert awash with sunlight starring Anton Lavey.
SM: Stuffy septuagenarian British Murder mysteries: Midsomer Murders, Inspector Morse, Lord Peter Wimsey (Edward Petherbridge), to name a few. For music I quite like smooth jazz and DC Go-Go.


Xeno & Oaklander's Sentinelle is available at Amoeba Hollywood on CD & LP. Also check out other great new Minimal Wave and Synthpop releases; Frank Alpine Night Tripper  7",  Led Er Est LP, Cold Cave Love Comes Close CD/LP and Death Comes Close 12" and The Minimal Wave Tapes, Vol. One -- all filed in the always awesome Goth/Industrial section.

Black Cinema Part III - the TV age and beyond

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 15, 2010 12:42pm | Post a Comment
This is the first installment in a three part history of early Black Cinema.
To read Part I, covering the independent Race Movie years of the 1910s and '20s, click here
To read Part II, covering the Hollywood Studio years of the 1930s and '40s, click here



In American silent films, minority roles were almost invariably filled by white actors in exaggerated and offensive make-up. Latinos in silent films usually played greasers and bandits; Asian-Americans usually played waiters, tongs and laundrymen; and blacks usually played bellboys, stable hands, maids or simply "buffoons." Not surprisingly, both Asian-Americans and blacks responded by launching their own alternative silent cinemas. But whereas Asian-American Silent Cinema quickly faltered, silent, black "race movies" flourished. In the 1930s and '40s, Hollywood began to phase out the practice of blackface (while continuing the practice of redface and yellowface) and successfully wooed race movies' sizable and thus profitable audience. By the 1950s, with its enormous budgets and star power, Hollywood had effectively co-opted and destroyed the independent Black Cinema known as race movies. The result was that there were far fewer examples of Black Cinema in the decade. In the years that followed, as TV chipped away at film’s dominance, a few black actors began appearing on the small screen in shows like Beulah (1950-1953) and The Amos 'n Andy Show (1951-1953) which, whilst hardly socially progressive, at least offered more acting opportunities for black actors.

 

Valentines Day Recap

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 15, 2010 09:45am | Post a Comment

A collection of passionate covers that may or may not resemble your V-day...

 

 

DOUG FIEGER, LEAD SINGER FOR THE KNACK, HAS DIED

Posted by Billyjam, February 14, 2010 07:25pm | Post a Comment

The Knack "My Sharona" (live)

The Knack
Doug Fieger, the lead singer for The Knack, has died after a prolonged battle with cancer, it was confirmed earlier today by The Detroit News and several other sources. The Detroit native was 57. Fieger, who was living in Woodland Hills, CA, was being treated for the cancer at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Fieger and his band will always be best known for their 1979 mega hit single that he co-wrote, "My Sharona," which was the No. 1 Billboard pop record for six weeks straight. Likewise, the album it was culled from, Get The Knack, also spent six weeks atop the album charts.

A Los Angeles memorial service for friends and family of Fieger is being planned. For more information on The Knack visit their official website.


LOVE IS PRESSING A RECORD AS A TOKEN OF ETERNAL COMMITMENT

Posted by Billyjam, February 14, 2010 06:47pm | Post a Comment
Acco + Top Bill
Love is......well, love is many, many things, including, of course, the inspiration for innumerable songs. But perhaps the highest form of love is to make a record for the one you love as a token of your eternal commitment. Amoeblog reader and sometime contributor Acco, who lives in Japan and did the five part Graffiti in Yokohama Amoeblog series, did this when she got married to Top Bill some months back. For their wedding ceremony they had a special hip-hop song recorded and pressed up on 7" vinyl and nicely packaged to give away to guests at their wedding party.

The track, "Coupling Song," was produced by Top Bill, a Japanese hip-hop DJ/producer who lived for a short time in the Bay Area, with vocals by SoCal based Japanese transplant, producer/emcee Shing02, and with the song's hook sung by Emi Meyer. The design for the seven inch record and its packaging was all done by Acco, who told me that the idea for the record ties in with a Japanese tradition called Baumkuchen. "In the Japanese custom, we give Baumkuchen as gift at a marriage party. The Baumkuchen look similar to the rings of a tree. This mean a happiness to eternally." she said. "When I was a child, my mother told me that  'An old vinyl grow into Baumkuchen, it's very delicious.'" As pictured above, at the couple's wedding reception last October they played the "Coupling Song" single, which includes such romantic record-themed lyrics as "Every B needs an A, every B needs an A. Will you be my A? And I can be your B?" The full lyrics for this song appear below along with the audio for the vocal version. They pressed up 300 copies of the record (which has an instrumental version on side B) and saved some copies to give away but never sell.

February 14, 2010

Posted by phil blankenship, February 14, 2010 04:28pm | Post a Comment



(In which we learn the true story of St. Valentine.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 14, 2010 11:54am | Post a Comment

Violating child labor laws is romantic!

It’s Valentine’s Day, dear readers, and you know what that means! Time to dress up in our festive knickers with the edible tassles and frolic in the underground glitter pits!

While many people celebrate this day with awkward, workplace greetings, or by forcing their children to bestow amorous cards upon classmates they normally wouldn’t even sit next to for a meal, or by showing their paramour their affection by gifting them confections with so much sugar and saturated fat in them they could kill a cat, still so many of us don’t know the origin of the day.

Valentine’s Day is one of the world’s most ancient holidays. Archaeological evidence has shown texts referring to the celebration of Valentine’s Day from as far back as 1965 AD, but we have reason to believe  Valentine’s Day may have been older.

In Great Britain, Paleolithic ruins suggest that there were, in midwinter (around our February) great festivals in which Stone Age dudes would construct impressively huge, heart-shaped boxes, in which nougat-shaped rocks were placed inside wrappers made of shale. These were then buried with females, who would die after eating them, because when you eat a lot of rocks you die.


(I hate the ones with coconut inside.)

In ancient Japan, during the Asuka period (538 to 710), the proto-Japanese Yamato politically gradually became a clearly centralized state, defining and applying a code of governing laws, such as the Taika Reform and Taih? Code. The introduction of Buddhism led to the discontinuing of the practice of large kofun.

Buddhism was introduced to Japan in 538 by Baekje, to which Japan provided military support, and it was promoted by the ruling class. Prince Sh?toku devoted his efforts to the spread of Buddhism and Chinese culture in Japan. He is credited with bringing relative peace to Japan through the proclamation of the Seventeen-article constitution, a Confucian style document that focused on the kinds of morals and virtues that were to be expected of government officials and the emperor's subjects.

A letter brought to the Emperor of China by an emissary from Japan in 607 stated that the Emperor of the Land where the Sun rises (Japan) sends a letter to the Emperor of the land where Sun sets (China), thereby implying that he would like the Chinese Emperor to be his sweetheart forever and his truest, darling Valentine. Candy hearts made from candy and hearts were included with the message.

But who was Saint Valentine? Oddly enough, while people have been celebrating his life and death for millions of years, St. Valentine himself wasn’t born until 1587.

"I'm too sexy for my codpiece."

His father, Geoffrey Hamhawk, a wealthy slave trader and professional poker player, married Jane Moneypenny, a woman ¾ his age, who had inherited the largest parcel of land under the Atlantic Ocean. Upon their marriage, Hamhawk invested his entire holdings in a playing card manufacturing company which, because he built it on his wife’s property, fell into almost immediate disrepair. He realized too late that building a factory on the ocean’s floor was problematic, and no amount or kidnapping and torturing the indigenous people of Africa would help.

Having lost everything, the couple sailed for the New World where they became first in a long-standing tradition of destitute people with bankrupt morals who have babies.

Their first twenty children died during birth, possibly due to the then-common medical practice of anointing a crowning newborn’s head with a live grizzly bear, but their twenty-first child was born without incident, and they named him Valentineboroughnevilleighbourne.

Valentine, as his nickname became, did absolutely nothing of note or interest his entire life. No one wrote or cared about him beyond the average custom.

But then, on February 14, 1608, Valentine did something so epic, so magical, and so absolutely, unbelievably superhuman, that he has forever been known as the most spectacular human to have ever lived in the history of the entire universe.


And now you know the true story behind this special day. I hope you use it wisely – to meditate on the true nature of love and how it can make you money, to ridicule evil-doers, and to treat those who have less than you with compassion and mercy, but tempered with real boundaries so they don’t take advantage of you.

Also, Amoeba Music Hollywood is having a very special promotional offer! If you come in today and buy one of any poster (with a tag value of $60 or greater) you can legally marry any jazz room employee you choose!* What a great deal!

Happy Valentine’s Day, earthlings! Let’s kiss!

*Offer only valid on Valentine's Day. Offer will not be good if it violates applicable California laws regarding polygamy. Will not be offered to any customers under the age of 18, or who actually try to marry one of us. No humans, please.

Vinyl Princess: Interview with Author Yvonne Prinz

Posted by Amoebite, February 13, 2010 04:57pm | Post a Comment
vinyl princess

Yvonne Prinz is a co-owner of A m oeba Music who also happens to have written a new book geared toward teens called Vinyl Princess. The book chronicles a summer in the life of 16 year old vinyl infatuated Allie while she works at the fictional Bob & Bob's Records on Telegraph and blogs about her love of music.

Yvonne will be signing books at Booksmith on Haight Street in San Francisco February 18th! There will also be a musical performance at the signing by Matthew Edwards of The Music Lovers (who has a song on the mix cd that comes with the book) and accordianist Isaac Bonnell. You can also check out her Vinyl Princess blog!

WHAT RAPPERS ARE REALLY SAYING

Posted by Billyjam, February 13, 2010 04:19pm | Post a Comment

The above satirical video "Freestyle Rap Battle: Translated," based on footage of a battle between Hydrogen and Boost, is pure genius. I love how the voice over so perfectly captures the essence of so many stereotypical rap battles like this one with interpretative lyircs such as, "The alleged facts you've uncovered in regards to me are unfounded and without merit. My birthplace is not only vastly inferior to yours, but my neighbors were much more resilient. In terms of your claim to my sexuality, Sigmund Freud theorized that in some cases the semi-conscious mind manifests repressed desires, therefore leading me to believe that you, sir, are indeed the homosexual." Brilliant!

Tonight! The Last American Virgin w/ Special Guests in Los Angeles

Posted by phil blankenship, February 13, 2010 10:19am | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music and Phil Blankenship are proud to present some of our film favorites at Los Angeles’ last full-time revival movie theater. See movies the way they're meant to be seen - on the big screen and with an audience!



February 13

The Last American Virgin

Stars Lawrence Monoson, Diane Franklin & Paul Keith will appear IN PERSON, schedules permitting, to discuss the film!

New Beverly Cinema
7165 W Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Midnight, All Tickets $7

Advance tickets may be purchased at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/92896


February
February 20 Razorback
Nine hundred pounds of marauding tusk and muscle! Co-Presented by Shock Till You Drop. Russell Mulcahy will appear IN PERSON, schedule permitting, to discuss the film.

February 27 David Cronenberg's Videodrome
First it controls your mind...then it destroys your body

March
March 6 Terror Train (1980)
The boys and girls of Sigma Phi. Some will live. Some will die.

Briny Bivalve Soundings: Ween vinyl reissues hit the shelves this week!

Posted by Kells, February 13, 2010 07:41am | Post a Comment

For all of us who slept on the bus and thus failed to jump on the limited edition Ween 1996-2000 vinyl box set that dropped last September, don't fret, because all three Ween albums are now available for individual sale, finally! Personally speaking, I feel like I've been waiting for ages, however patiently, to get my paws on The Mollusk, pressed on 180 gram lushly marbled turquoise vinyl no less. The other two albums in the series of three released this week include 12 Golden Country Greats and White Pepper, also pressed on 180 gram colored vinyl, brown and white I believe, respectively. Happiness! 

Like many others to come of age in the early nineties, Ween played an important part in my grasping a hold of reality and flinging it as far as I imagined I could away from the mundane commonplace-ness of everyday happenings. I was first exposed to the idiot dance of Ween's Pure Guava by a small, motley crew of arty stoners I'd sometimes roll home with after school for lack of anything better to do. It didn't take long for me to need Ween; I became a fast fan when I discovered that their kooky alterna-jams are the best thing to listen to when everyone else around you is high and all you wanna do is interpretive dance. It helped that MTV liked them too and that, what with the awful death of Headbangers Ball, 120 Minutes made Ween's "Push th' Little Daisies" video a played out hit. I thought Ween could never top themselves after Pure Guava. I mean, Chocolate and Cheese is fun and 12 Golden Country Greats is a pants-ripping hoot and everything, but The Mollusk is, in my opinion, Ween's finest work to date. 

The Mollusk was to be a return to home recording for Gene and Dean Ween. They gathered up their gear and rented a beach house on the Jersey Shore to begin work on the album only to shelve it for a bit after a pipe burst, flooding the then unoccupied house, greatly damaging much of the band's equipment and thus making it difficult to salvage their recordings. After recording 12 Country Greats in Nashville, Ween returned to work on the drowned beginnings of The Mollusk, something of a concept album, as every song is drenched in dark nautical notions and ocean themes, heavy on the progressive rock influence yet splashed with the usual array of genre-informed quips and psychedelic quarries. Finished in 1996, The Mollusk was released in 1997 to critical acclaim despite its uncertain and disastrous beginnings. In the words of Dean Ween, "I will say that the only record that I ever felt really confident about was The Mollusk. That's my favorite record we've ever done."

Ween live on MTV:


and live Public Access jams too!

This Week At The New Beverly: February 12 - 18

Posted by phil blankenship, February 12, 2010 10:59pm | Post a Comment
This Week At The New Beverly

Our complete February calendar is online:
www.newbevcinema.com/calendar.cfm


Friday & Saturday February 12 & 13

The Exiles

1961, USA, 72 minutes
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0054861/
written & directed by Kent MacKenzie
starring Mary Donahue, Homer Nish, Yvonne Williams
Wed/Thu/Fri: 7:30; Sat: 4:10 & 7:30, Watch The Trailer!

A cinéma vérité look at the rootless Native American community that once upon a time lived in Bunker Hill and hung out in downtown bars such as Club Ritz, this Kent Mackenzie film is a brooding picture of a darkly beautiful, long-gone Los Angeles.
- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

AMOEBA MUSIC WEEKLY HIP-HOP ROUND UP 02:12:10

Posted by Billyjam, February 12, 2010 09:41pm | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music Berkeley Weekly Hip-Hop Top Five Chart: 02:12:10

Strong Arm Steady
1) Slum Village Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 (Barak Records)

2) Slug & Murs + Aesop Rock FELT 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez (Rhymesayers Entertainment)

3) Strong Arm Steady In Search of Stoney Jackson (Stones Throw)

4) Evil Empire/Drake It's Been A Pleasure (Urbane)

5) Young Lay Black N Dangerous (Atlantic)

That classic newly reissued Slum Village CD, Fan-Tas-Tic Vol. 1 on Barak Records, that has been a popular item at Amoeba San Francisco recently, is similarly doing well at the Berkeley Amoeba Music, where this week it is number one. Other chart entries at the Telegraph Avenue store include the Khaynree-produced 1994 release from Vallejo rapper Young Lay Black N Dangerous (this is the album that includes the killer track "Got 2 Survive" featuring Ray Luv, Mac Mall and 2Pac), the third installment in the FELT series (Slug and Murs, who teamed up with producer Aesop Rock this time out), and the Evil Empire Drake mixtape CD It's Been A Pleasure (with a very impressive guest list that includes Gucci Mane, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne & Young Money, Usher, Young Jeezy, & Rick Ross).

Watching Big Brother: Russia under Global Capitalism

Posted by Charles Reece, February 12, 2010 09:27pm | Post a Comment
Insight into another culture, or the Russian Big Brother is some crazy shit:


"[W]hen people stop being polite ... and start getting real":

Los Angeles' Pan-African Film Festival ...a year heavy on Nollywood and South African films

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 12, 2010 03:46pm | Post a Comment
Pan African Film and Arts Festival
Los Angele
s’s Pan-African Film Festival is currently in effect (February 10-17). I have a long-lasting love-hate relationship with it. On the one hand, their website (despite improvements this year) remains hard to navigate, is rife with typos, incomplete information and omissions. In other words, it’s inexcusably bad. How about a calendar, folks? 

In addition, every year I take issue with the selection of films. The programmers have a very odd definition of “Pan-African.” Last year was the worst, with the focus on the African diaspora coming at the expense of even a single African feature. Thankfully, this year there are several African features but still some questionable choices. It’s nice to see films about Africa’s many-but-usually-ignored non-black people, such as Finemachiyamoché, about Moroccan Jews, and Florida Road, starring members of South Africa’s sizable south Asian population. On the other hand, Forgotten Bird of Paradise, about Papua is, regardless of its possible merits, an embarrassing example of the organizers' colorist, transracialist equation of African-ness with pigmentation rather than actual African ancestry. The inclusion of an Iranian film, The Stoning of Soraya M., is a real head-scratcher. Are they equating Islam with African-ness now? Another odd choice is Darfur, directed by German hack Uwe Boll (BloodRayne 3, House of the Dead, Postal Zombie Massacre and other garbage).

Walter Fredrick Morrison 1920 – 2010

Posted by Whitmore, February 12, 2010 11:59am | Post a Comment

The man credited with inventing the Frisbee, Walter Fredrick Morrison, died this past Tuesday. He was 90 years old and passed away at his home in Monroe, Utah. He had been battling cancer.

A former pilot during the Second World War, flying a P-47 Thunderbolt in Italy, where he was briefly a P.O.W., Morrison applied his knowledge of aerodynamics to tinker with the pie tins he was tossing on the beaches of Santa Monica with his future wife, Lu. In 1946 Morrison sketched out a design of a flying disc object he then called the Whirlo-Way. Two years later in 1948 Morrison found an investor, Warren Franscioni, who paid for molding the design in plastic, christening the new toy the Flyin-Saucer, (the previous year, 1947, was a big year for UFO sightings, with Roswell and Mt. Rainer/Maury Island incidents.) By 1954, Morrison found he could produce his own discs. With the help of his wife and further upgrades on the design they developed the Pluto Platter, the prototype of all modern flying discs. He would sell the discs at local fairs and dime stores, eventually the disc came to the attention of Wham-O Manufacturing. On January 23, 1957, Morrison sold the production and manufacturing rights for the Pluto Platter to Wham-O. Initially Wham-O marketed the disc as the Pluto Platter, but by 1958 they adopted the name Frisbee, the name college students in New England were calling the discs. The new official name referenced the Frisbie Pie Co., a local bakery whose empty pie tins were often tossed around like a Pluto Platter.

Five decades later, sales have surpassed 200 million discs, it is now a part of the landscape at beaches, parks, college campuses and rooftops world wide, spawning sports like Frisbee golf, and team sports like Goaltimate and Ultimate. An official disc golf course at Creekside Park in the Salt Lake City suburb of Holladay is named for Walter Morrison.

In 2001 Morrison co-wrote a book with Frisbee enthusiast and historian Phil Kennedy.

Walter Fredrick Morrison is survived by his three children and four grandchildren. The family is planning a service for Morrison's friends and relatives Saturday at the Cowboy Corral in Elsinore.

If You Don't Like Funerals Don't Kick Sand in Ninja's Face

Posted by Smiles Davis, February 11, 2010 03:10pm | Post a Comment

Ever heard the song "Shackles on My Feet" by RJ’s Latest Arrival? There’s a famous line in that song that goes, “I wanna hit the DJ with a baseball bat.” The truth is, we’ve all been there, we’ve all at some point or another, maybe even for just a millisecond expressed similar sentiments towards a loathsome music selector. Every once in a leap year the very opposite happens-- something new raises my hair, slaps me upside the head and forces me to pay attention. It’s tough to be original when everything has already been done. I’m so thankful DJ is what I write on the line next to the question, “What do you do for a living?” It’s completely unrestricting; I’m the driver of this ship, I can explore whatever I want. Recently, like an hour ago, I discovered Die Antwoord. Are you familiar? Let me just tell you the story gets tricky somewhere in the middle, but basically the Ali G of South Africa started a group with some of his cronies, and, as you can probably imagine, it’s brilliant, like sucking on a lollipop and finally making it to the gooey center. 

Die Antwoord is a “white-trash” personified, 90’s coat tailing, self proclaimed “zef” rap trio consisting of  Front man Ninja aka Max Normal, DJ Hi-Tek and then there’s Yo-landi Vi$$er. If Peaches and Bjork married and had a little blonde rapping baby girl, Yo-landi Vi$$er would be it. Together the ‘three-piece rap-rave’ is like The Three Stooges meets Napoleon Dynamite meets Dirt Nasty. It’s good, damn good, but...there’s always a but: “Amy Winehouse can sing and write, but…” “R Kelly is one of the greatest R&B producers of our generation, but…” and the list goes on and on. Die Antwoord is one big walking farce and folks don’t really know how to take to it. I say to that, it’s not Calculus people. Just look at the success of already establish tongue-in-cheek groups like Lonely Island and Flight of The Concords, Genius! If there’s one thing we’ve learned as a culture in the history of everything, it’s that good things always come with an abundance of haters.

I’ve read some comments on blogs implicating the eradication of Die Antwoord in the near future, saying things like ‘they’re done before they even got started cause it’s a joke’. Really, haters? I like my music to be all encompassing, to uphold all the elements that separate good music from great music. There’s music for the sake of making music, for the sake of art, forget the image and the accolades, i.e., Cody Chestnut. Then there’s music that incorporates it all, tantalizing ever nerve in your body from head to toe, from the image to the persona, from the visuals to the message, and of course, from the lyrics to production. Die Antwoord is the ambassador for all encompassing and satire only plays in their favor, especially in a world, in an over-saturated industry plenty lacking in that department. Let them be silly dilly till the cows come home, seems pretty authentic to me. Isn’t that what we all want, a little reality? Sorry to get all Bob Lefsetz on you, but I’d believe that to be false if companies like 51 Minds and Bunim Murray weren’t so successful, but even they have their niche, they’ve carved a lane so wide, so deep for themselves you can see it from outer space. Hell, even the Home & Garden channel has reality shows, in this day and age it’s suicidal not to. But I digress; Die Antwoord is the Truth. So, let the parody unfold, we could all use a good laugh. Henry Miller said Genius was dead, who in the world ever said comedy was? So, tap into your inner zef and embrace it if you know what’s good for ya! If you want to see more, check out what happened when Die Antwoord visited the Hollywood Amoeba store and showed us some of what they were buying right here! Till next time…



Max Normal

A BRIEF HISTORY OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH

Posted by Billyjam, February 10, 2010 11:34am | Post a Comment

Dr Carter G Woodson
Since a lot is being blogged about Black History Month both here at the Amoeblog and in the blogosphere in general this month, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a moment to briefly examine the history of Black History Month itself, as well as present a general timeline of black history. One thing that amazes me is the short time span that Black History Month has been around, especially considering that African Americans have been a part of the American fabric dating back to the colonial times. Black History Month only officially started a short 34 years ago, even if the practice of observing black history dates back to the 1920's, which is still not that long ago in a historical context.

Originally known as Negro History Week, it was created in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a scholar with a Ph. D from Harvard who was the son of parents who were both formerly slaves. Woodson was so incensed that there was little or no proper written documented history of blacks in this country that he fought hard to initiate change. Up until that point on the rare occasion in which blacks were included in the American history books it was in a negative light -- they were typically portrayed as inferior human beings to the white ruling class.

A decade before initiating Negro History Week, Woodson laid the foundation by establishing the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History which began with careful documenting and writing the history of blacks in this country. The formation of that association led to the creation of the Journal of Negro History which, in turn, led to the launching of Negro History Week 84 years ago for which the second week in February was designated. Black History Week officially began in 1972, and four years later (in 1976) it became Black History Month. Below are a few random select key dates (by no means fully comprehensive) in American black history -- many officially documented by Woodson.

New Latin Releases For February 2010

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, February 9, 2010 12:56am | Post a Comment

Nacional Records
seems to be the only choice these days for any Latin Alternative music these days. While releases by artists such as Mexican Institute Of Sound, The Nortec Collective and the Zizek crew show the electronic future of the genre, Banda De Turistas reaches back to 60’s era Kinks for inspiration. Magical Radiophonic Heart contains fifteen songs of garage/psyche/pop bliss that would please the kids discovering a past that they never knew. Those kids that look retro yet weren’t born when The Dukes Of Stratosphere first came out, let alone The Kinks! Banda De Turistas is available on CD only.

Speaking of retro, Vampi Soul just released a couple of reissues. Spiteri, a band of Venezuelan brothers (Charles & Jorge) who moved to England, hung out with the likes of Traffic, The Animals and Osibisa and, in 1973, released a gem of a debut album. Spiteri, or as it was known in Venezuela, Disco De La Culebra (The Snake Record…because the band logo was a cobra), which was their only proper album. They were supposed to be Venezuela’s answer to Santana. But like the band’s original press release stated, “Santana is a rock band influenced by Latin music…Spiteri are Latin musicians influenced by rock.” Within the heavy 70’s rock and onslaught of percussion, one can hear Spiteri’s Venezuelan roots. As Jorge Spiteri put it, the band played “With The Beatles and Traffic in our minds and Joe Cuba in our hearts.” Sadly, due to immigration problems, most of the band started to leave England and the brothers were left with a line-up that consisted of them with English musicians. The band soon broke up but not before recording a killer funk version of The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m A Man” that sounds like something Mandrill would have done. This release is available on CD and limited edition vinyl.

The other reissue Vampi Soul released this week is from El Gran Fellove, a totally underrated Cuban singer that made most of his career in Mexico. Born and raised in Cuba, he was a contemporary of the likes of Cachao, Perez Prado, Celia Cruz and Chano Pozo. He was known for his scatting, a style that he later dubbed the “Chua Chua.” El Gran Fellove could have been much bigger if it wasn’t for his loyalties. He was asked to play in both Machito and Tito Puente’s groups while performing in New York in the late fifties, but turned them down because he didn’t want to cause friction with the singers that those groups already had. On top of that, he had a career in Mexico. There, he starred in a few movies and released recordings on the RCA label. Vampi Soul's collection, Mango Mangue, focuses on the work he did in the 60’s on RCA, including the song “El Jamaiquino,” a Ska/Mambo fusion that has been the desires of deejays for many years. This release is available on CD and LP.

Nuart Noir

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 8, 2010 10:40am | Post a Comment

I haven't been to Sawtelle's major movie house since their first screening of The Apple back in the early 2000's, but this week I may just make the trek. Their UK noir festival continues through Thur. & they've got  some serious gems lined up.  Although most films that get peddled as UK noir are in fact nothing more than dull crime pictures, the Nuart has lined up a fantastic little festival. Programming includes Peeping Tom, It Always Rains On Sunday, Brighton Rock, The Fallen Idol & The Third Man.



The Nuart

11272 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
90025
(310) 281-8223


Mon Feb. 8th
It Always Rains On Sunday 7:30
Peeping Tom 5:30 & 9:35

Tues Feb 9th
The Fallen Idol 7:30
Brighton Rock 5:40 & 9:35

Wed Feb 10th
The Fallen Idol 7:30
The Third Man 5:30 & 9:35

Thursday Feb 11th
Brighton Rock 7:30
It Always Rains On Sunday 5:40 & 9:35


 

Who's Lying in the Shadow of the Statue? Lost Season 6, "LA X"

Posted by Charles Reece, February 7, 2010 10:00pm | Post a Comment

One of the big questions from last season on the show Lost was "what lies in the shadow of the statue?" To which Richard Alpert replied, "Ille qui nos omnis servabit" ("He who will save/protect us all"). Latin's the secret language of the Others, and being able to answer that question demonstrates a knowing fidelity to Jacob, the island's god-like seeming protector/ruler/primary servant. Those with the answer have been (it seems) in personal contact with Jacob, rather than merely receiving his orders through some tertiary representative. Complicating the exegesis here was the appearance last season of another figure in the statue's shadow, Jacob's nemesis (as yet unnamed, but many have suggested Esau for good reason -- which is only reinforced in Season 6's premiere when he, in the form of Locke, states his rasion d'etre is to go home, or, one might say, reclaim his birthright -- "home" would appear to be the Temple, where he once resided as the smoke monster, but is now kept out using that protective ash). At the beginning of Season 5's finale, while watching the arrival of the Blackrock (an old pirate ship), there was a God versus Satan sort of dialog between Jacob and his nemesis, expressing their respective positions towards man (qua island visitors):

Nemesis: They come, they fight, they destroy, they corrupt. It always ends the same.
Jacob: It only ends once. Anything that happens before that ... is just progress.

A straightforward reading would be the tried and true and utterly boring good versus evil, but Lost never does anything straightforwardly, so I ain't buying it. First, notice the pun on 'lies' in the question: both Jacob and the Nemesis are shown existing by the statue, but, like that old riddle of the doors (cf. Labyrinth), we viewers don't know which one might be lying, leading to damnation, or telling the truth, leading to salvation (or if they're both liars). The Nemesis has certainly been a deceiver, but it might prove in the service of truth (e.g., the classic case of hiding Jews from Nazis). The clearest case of his deception is in taking the form of Ben Linus' dead daughter, Alex, in order to get Ben (who's a master of deception in his own right) to follow the Nemesis' other avatar, Locke, in his plan to kill Jacob (and thereby giving the reason why Ben wasn't supposed to return to the island after leaving it at the end of Season 3). Which brings up the second problem: who's plan necessitated the death of Locke and the return of the Oceanic 6 to the island?


The apparition of Jack's father, Christian, informed Locke that he'd have to die (as a "sacrifice") in order to bring the 6 back (there was a time loop involving Richard Alpert, but basically it was Christian). Now, it's questionable whom this apparition is serving, but it seems clear enough in Season 5's finale that Jacob was the one taking an interest in having the 6 come together on the island in the first place (he's shown visiting each of them at a point in their lives). Furthermore, he gives Hurley a guitar case whose content -- a big ankh with a message inside -- plays a crucial role in Season 6's premiere, namely in getting his Temple followers to repair Sayid (who's shown dying and then resurrected at the end of the episode). Thus, the loophole that the Nemesis needed to kill Jacob came about through the latter's own machinations, namely the former begins to use Locke's form only after he's died due to Jacob's devising. Being fully aware of the rules of the game he's playing, it is to counter the Nemesis' likely (preordained?) move (i.e., the taking of Locke's form) that Jacob requires the real Locke's body to be returned to the island (as material counterevidence to this guy who looks and sounds like Locke). My point is that both of these island entities practice deception to get their "game pieces" into place (Jacob, for example, withholds foreknowledge of Sayid's death to get Jack and his team to the temple), and we viewers have no reason for suspecting one is more benevolent than the other. So what about Sayid?


It would seem that the resurrected Sayid is being set up as a new body for Jacob to go against "UnLocke," pointing to some simplistic Manichaean battle on the horizon. And, sure, we see Sayid in a variety of crucified Christ poses leading to his being baptized in the Temple's fountain. But the Last Supper promo poster (shown at the top of this post) suggests a third ambiguity. UnLocke is in the position of Jesus, Sayid as Judas. And, as I discussed previously, Lost has so undermined the use of faith as a crutch (cf. the Nemesis' take on Locke's dying thought: "'I don't understand.' -- Isn't that just the saddest thing you ever heard?") that even if the narrative comes down to two opposing forces, the decision to side with one over the other will in and of itself be unlikely rewarded with some Divine assurance, gratitude or redemption. Note the common element of determinism in both of the theistic players' interpretation of their game: Jacob's version is that of teleological progress to one point, a straight line being drawn through possible worlds. The Nemesis' view is that of the eternal return, the same players and events going round and round. (The alternate universe that's now been set up could support either view.) Locke's faith reduced him to a point on the line, or cog in the wheel. As UnLocke suggests of his source material, there's something admirable about Locke's fidelity to this newfound order and his rejection of the "pitiful life he left behind," but, then again, Jack's assertion of his own agency, his existential resistance to the deterministic order by attempting to nuke it out of existence, has left him alive.

February 7, 2010

Posted by phil blankenship, February 7, 2010 07:31pm | Post a Comment

(In which we consider Paul Robeson.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 7, 2010 03:22pm | Post a Comment

Harry Houdini vs. Laurie Anderson

My actual heroes in this world are few and disparate. From Harry Houdini to Laurie Anderson, from John Lennon to Mrs. Mary Eales, they reflect people who may inspire and impact me with their art, their political activism, their bold-faced chutzpah, or any combination thereof.

But perhaps no one embodies all these traits to such heightened super-awesomeness for me than the great Paul Robeson.


Rad.

Robeson was born in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1898. His father was an escaped slave-turned-church minister; his mother was from a Quaker family, and died tragically when Paul was six, which isn’t funny at all, so don’t laugh.

Paul received a full academic scholarship to attend Rutgers University, which I hear is a pretty good school, though I’ve never been there myself because I’m allergic to schools. Seriously. If I even step foot on a campus I start itching, sweating, and my head comes completely off and falls to the ground and rolls away.

While attending Rutgers, Robeson distinguished himself as one of the finest football players. He was valedictorian of his class, which allowed him to excuse himself from class to get water from the drinking fountain without the need of a hall pass.

Robeson went on to study at Columbia University. He continued to pursue sports and also performed on stage in theatrical productions. Sadly, it was during this period that his mother died a second time. The young Robeson soldiered on despite grief, occasionally finding solace in rowing, sometimes in boats, other times, less successfully, in giant holes dug into the earth by mole-people.

It was also at Columbia that he immersed himself in language studies – an interest that would come into play throughout his life. He would become fluent or near-fluent in twelve languages, with many more languages represented in his musical repertoire, such as Russian, Japanese, Yiddish and Klingon.

In 1921, Robeson married Eslanda Cardozo Goode, and while their marriage lasted until her death in 1965, it wasn’t a monogamous relationship, and saw near divorce when Paul was going through his (historically misunderstood) “lederhosen phase.” They gave birth to one child, a son, Paul Robeson, Jr. (It’s interesting to note that he was not named after his father as many people assume, rather an entirely different Paul Robeson of no familial relation, who’s similar moniker is merely a remarkable coincidence.)


"I love looking at floors with you, honey..."
Paul Robeson & Eslanda Cardozo Goode

Robeson became increasingly popular as an actor and singer. He found acclaim performing the lead role in Shakespeare’s Othello, which, though the character is black, was most often played by white dudes in blackface. He also originated the role of Joe in Show Boat, one of the most significant pieces of American musical theatre.


The ballad "Ol’ Man River" from Show Boat would come to be Robeson’s signature song. It was through his insistence that the original lyrics were changed from…

Ol' man hamburger,
Dat ol' man hamburger
He mus'know ketchup
But don't say pickles
He jes'keeps grillin’
He keeps on grillin’ along.


…To the now famous lines we know today. Throughout his career, and reflecting his increasingly political beliefs, he would continue to change the lyrics to the song, transforming it from a soulful but depressed ballad to a defiant and triumphant call for justice and equality.




Robeson and his wife moved to and lived in England for a little over a decade, until the outbreak of World War II. During this period, Robeson starred in a variety of films – many of these roles being strong, dominant men and profoundly disturbing to the more racially intolerant American audiences. Besides the film version of Show Boat, perhaps Robeson’s most famous film was The Emperor Jones, an adaptation of a Eugene O’Neill play he had also starred in on Broadway. The movie had a scene in which Robeson’s character killed a white man – a first in film at that point. This scene was cut for U.S. audiences, some of whom were enjoying scrumptious bags of buttery, hot popcorn! Yum!


His radio performances of pro-American songs during the War won him national celebrity. It was also during this time that he did other stuff and, y’know, things. He probably ate some good food, talked to peeps – whatever. I mean, I don’t have any evidence, but the odds are pretty good. I’m guessing he probably didn’t vanquish fire-breathing dragons and steal their treasures, or follow dwarves into underground caverns where he learned to forge weaponry from enchanted silver, but again, this is speculation based on educated guesswork. I can’t know everything, people!


Robeson’s travels and interest in cultures exposed him to the suffering and hardships of the poor and working-class. His fight for racial equality evolved into a fight for equality of social classes. Increasingly, he saw the capitalist structure as an oppressive force. He became more outspoken about his politics, supporting many controversial, socialist institutions. His support of the newly founded U.S.S.R. invited generous and heated criticism from the conservative and paranoid U.S. government and conservative and paranoid white supremacists.


Robeson sacrificed his career and reputation to fight against injustice as he saw it. He was vilified and persecuted by those in power. Like fellow crusader Martin Luther King, Jr., Robeson was under constant surveillance by the FBI and CIA. Between 1950 and 1958, Robeson’s passport was confiscated by the U.S. Government, who wanted to suppress his political activism. Also, they were mad at him for not inviting them to his totally awesome pool party.


By the early 1970’s, as hella cool hippie types began to undermine the controlling grip of right-wing squares, there was a resurgence of appreciation for Paul Robeson. By this time, poor health and exhaustion led him to keep a low profile. He lived in his sister’s house in Philadelphia, until he passed away there in January of 1976. Since then, he has recorded no new songs, though there have been talks about a possible side-project with T.I..

Paul Robeson is my hero because he is everything I want to be when I grow up: a Renaissance man, skilled in sport and the arts, a linguist, a brave and noble fighter, never shrinking from the dictates of his conscience, and totally mother-effing handsome. I wish there were a lot more like him.



Black Cinema Part II - Race Movies - The Hollywood Studio Era

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 7, 2010 12:13pm | Post a Comment

This is the first installment in a three part history of early Black Cinema.
To read Part I, covering the independent Race Movie years of the 1910s and '20s, click here
To read Part III, covering the TV Age of the 1950s and '60s, click here


In the silent film era, most roles for minority characters were filled by white actors in make-up. As a result, Asians and blacks began making their own, alternative cinemas. But whereas Asian-American silent film quickly faltered, black silent film flourished and a great number of race movies were cranked out to eager and under-served black filmgoers. 

By the 1930s, though yellowface and redface continued to be common practice, blackface began to disappear from the mainstream as Hollywood began efforts to woo the audience it had previously been content to insult. This meant there were many new opportunities for black actors, albeit mainly as musicians, porters, chauffeurs, waiters, hat check girls, maids, bootblacks, convicts, bartenders, bone-through-the-nose Africans or buffoons. Because of the improving but still less-than-satisfying opportunities afforded by Hollywood, many black actors supplemented their Hollywood bit parts with simultaneous careers in race movies.

BLACK CINEMA OF THE 1930s

                                               

HIP-HOP AND SUPER BOWL XLIV THEMED RAP SONGS

Posted by Billyjam, February 7, 2010 12:12pm | Post a Comment
Unlike the most recent World Series, which showcased hip-hop music when Jay-Z (along with Alicia Keys) performed, today's big Super Bowl XLIV halftime show will feature rock n roll with The Who performing live. Reportedly their set should include the songs "Baba O'Riley," "Pinball Wizard," "Tommy, 'Can You Hear Me?'," "Who Are You," and "Won't Get Fooled Again." But rock music at a Super Bowl halftime show is nothing new; it almost always tends to be rock or pop music, along with university marching bands. Recent years have included Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and U2. But Prince, James Brown, and, of Nascourse, Janet Jackson have also performed over the years. Some hip-hop or rap flavored halftime performers that have represented include Queen Latifah in 1998, Nelly in 2001, and again in 2004, along with P.Diddy and Kid Rock when they were on the small stage; that same halftime was when Justin Timberlake was on the main stage with Janet Jackson during her much talked about and controversial "wardrobe malfunction."

Come think of it, the perfect song for a halftime performance would be Nas doing his great 1992 debut single "Halftime"...  but that's probably not gonna happen. However, you might hear his music, or other true hip-hop artists in a Super Bowl ad. One thing that is guaranteed is that there is always hip-hop popping up in the much hyped & mega costly TV commercials that premiere during the Super Bowl. Last year during a Bud Light Lemon ad the music of indie Oakland hip-hop crew The Baby Boy Da PrinceHigh Decibels ("That Dude") was exposed to millions of new ears. And odds are there will be hip-hop in the slew of brand new commercials being unveiled during today's big game in Miami. There is also a lot of pre game hip-hop surrounding the Super Bowl. In fact, for yesterday's scheduled Miami Big Game Extravaganza, Lil Wayne along with Sean Kingston and Trey Songz were all supposed to be performing as a warm up, but the show, all set to take place at Jungle Island, was canceled at the last minute due to some contractual dispute.

AMOEBA MUSIC WEEKLY HIP-HOP ROUND UP 02:06:10

Posted by Billyjam, February 6, 2010 06:30pm | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music San Francisco Weekly Hip-Hop Top Five Chart: 02:06:10

lil wayne

1) Lil Wayne Rebirth (Cash Money/Universal)

2) The Madlib Medicine Show 1, Before The Verdict featuring Guilty Simpson (Stones Throw)

3) Oh No Dr. No's Ethiopium (Stones Throw)

4) Thavius Beck Dialogue (Mush)

5) Eligh Gandalf's Beat Machine Level 3 (Legendary Music)

The terms "highly anticipated" and "long overdue" each accurately apply to Lil Wayne's Rebirth on Cash Money / Universal, this week's number one hip-hop album at Amoeba Music San Francisco. However, it seems the term "disappointing" could also apply based on the overall negative review the album has received since its release earlier this week. The artist's seventh studio album and the follow up to his 2008 multi-platinum full-length, Tha Carter III, Rebirth is (as written about here) a repeatedly delayed release that should have come out almost a year ago. Due to one thing or another (many speculate that Lil Wayne's label insisted it needed more work & hence postponed its arrival in stores) the release date for the popular rapper's rock/hip-hop hybrid album (with Carter on the cover posing with electric guitar on lap) had been postponed about a half a dozen times in all. But now that Rebirth is finally available, what is the consensus on the music? Overall not good.

Mountain Man Chats - A New Band Made Up, In Fact, of Three Lovely Ladies...

Posted by Miss Ess, February 6, 2010 03:03pm | Post a Comment
Mountain Man is my favorite new band -- the most enjoyable new music I've heard in quite some time. It's made up of three women, Molly and Amelia, who live in Vermont, and Alex, who lives in Virginia. They formed just last spring, and when they sing together their connection is magical. Their sound is a pleasing mix of the very old and the very new. They each write and contribute songs about nature and life as they live it, delicate yarns that are at the same time hardy and strong, and it's so refreshing to hear these three distinct voices coming together and darting apart in completely unique combinations. I find their songs haunting. You can hear some of them here.

They are embarking on their very first ever West Coast Tour right now, so please check out the tour dates here and read on for an interview with these fabulous gals! They will have a new 10" available at Amoeba sometime very soon.


Miss Ess: How did you all come together and realize your voices could combine well? What did it feel like then? What does it feel like now?

Molly: Wow. It felt refreshing, my whole body was vibrating. Singing with Alex and Amelia is so gratifying because the voice is so vulnerable and pure, to mix my voice with other voices and share it with the world is the ultimate form of living in the world (for me, right now).

Amelia: Well...

Alex and I spent a summer sitting on the porch of a house singing "My Roots are Strong and Deep" by The Microphones over and over, and making a plan to cover the entirety of Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual. This project unfortunately never happened.

Some time passed and I heard Molly singing "Dog Song" in the living room of my house on campus, and convinced her to sing it to me at least ten times until I had memorized it.

I then taught it to Alex.

A while later I wanted all three of us to play separate sets at a house show at my home off campus, and we figured out that we just needed to be a band. And so we were and are. It feels wonderful to sing together, it feels like homespace.

Alex: Singing together for the first time felt like some magic was happening, and that is still how it feels. Warm and happy and exciting.

Miss Ess: Do you think the intensity, Amelia and Molly, of not necessarily liking each other at first has now transcribed itself into a creative relationship of similar intensity?

Molly: Wow, you just went there. I think the force of our personalities is inseparable from the music we make and manifests itself in the overall power of our sound. The intensity of our relationship is both released and represented, through our willingness to make dissonant harmonies, in Mountain Man.

Alex: Obviously I am neither Molly nor Amelia, but to deepen things -- Amelia and I really did not get along for the first year of our coexistence. I was not very nice to her. We became friends by singing Cyndi Lauper songs on the front stoop of my studio late at night in the spring time, and that intense dislike has transformed into intense other stuff.

Amelia: I think Molly, Alex and I are all rather intense humans. We feel things very deeply. Yes, I think that our natures influence the depth of our connection. It is nearly impossible not to have a beautiful and fierce connection with people you live in a tiny car with for extended periods of time.

ME: Did you all have a similar vision of the music you wanted to make? How did you discover your sound?

Alex: We didn't start singing together with any sort of vision or idea. What you hear is just what comes out of the three of us singing together.

Amelia: We did not really have a vision when we began. We happily fell into place.

Molly: We...just listened to each other, were inspired by each other and sang.

ME: Were any of you harmonically trained? If so, by who/what/when?

Alex: I never was, but I took Vocal Chamber Ensemble with the wonderful Tom Bogdan at Bennington College (Amelia was in it too) and I learned a lot from him.

Amelia: Not really, I grew up singing Bruce Springsteen and Janis Joplin around a huge dinner table with my families in the summertime. Since Mountain Man began, Molly, Alex and I have all been singing with Tom Bogdan, a friend and teacher who works at Bennington.

Molly: Not me, my mom sings a lot of harmonies though.

ME: What inspired you to sing in the style that you do?

Alex: I don't feel like there was a decision to sing in a particular style. I think our three varying personalities and interests and ways of song-writing just converge to make us sound like we do.

Molly: The way it feels in my body to sing that way.

Amelia: Nick Lowe, Jeff Mangum, Joanna Newsom, Cat Power, Maria Muldaur, the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Maia Friedman, Trevor Wilson and being young in the summertime.

ME: What influence would you say the atmosphere around you in Vermont has on your music, if any?

Molly: Vermont is stark, lonely. It is beautiful without trying to be.

Alex: Vermont is very beautiful and isolated, and there are so many dirt roads to walk down and bike rides to take, and so many swimming holes and streams to find and hikes to go on, that it encourages the kind of introspection and quiet that leads to making up songs.

Amelia: Vermont is wonderful. There are lots of swimming holes, and in the winter you spend most of your time being sick. Not very much influence other than [that] Alex and Molly and I met in Vermont.

ME: How is it going being somewhat separated, with Alex no longer in Vermont? How do you make it work as a band?

Amelia: We just make it work! We are figuring it out slowly and learning all the time.

Alex: It is certainly difficult. It has involved some serious traveling for me. We keep it together via the internet, but that does not allow for much collaborative song writing or practice, obviously. We are figuring it out as we go, and are totally excited to be together on the road in Feb.

Molly: It is hard, I miss Alex a lot. We haven't had time to collaborate on the new songs we are writing. Mountain Man is such an empowering part of my life. Alex has come up twice this fall/winter though, and we managed to play 5 shows and record an album and sift through a band breakdown... so we are managing alright, I think.

ME: When did each of you write your first song? Was it something you've been doing a long time, or fell into more recently?

Alex: I remember writing rambling little songs when I was a little kid, and sitting down at my dad's kitchen table to figure out how the chords on the guitar should go. But I did not really start doing it until a few years ago. The first song song I wrote was "Follow the Buffalo."

Amelia: The first song I wrote was called "I'll Be In The Kitchen." I wrote it in a 100 degree warehouse in the Philadelphia summer heat while on a lunch break from rehearsal for a musical I made with a band called The Extraordinaires. I just started really writing songs, and since I don't play an instrument it is an adventure.

Molly: Oh man, I have been singing and making up songs for ever! The first song I wrote on the guitar was "Dog Song."

ME: What inspires each of you to write?

Molly: I can't say anything in particular, just life in general (milkweed, men, my sister, the way the clouds look). When I feel I need to express something, to get it out of me, I write a song.

Alex: Listening closely to music that I love, and being young in the summertime! Well really, just thinking about being a human/a thing that lives on planet Earth.

Amelia: Being a woman, seeing small humans, making food with people I love, trying to be a child again.

ME: How do you write separately? And when you are together, are the parts written already or individually contributed once you sing together?

Alex: We tend to write songs separately and then come together and figure out harmony parts as a group.

Molly: The way I write a song is, I have a specific feeling and I sing lyrics over and over until the sounds and the words match the feeling exactly, usually trying to incorporate the guitar.

ME: You will be coming to the west coast for the first time this winter! How do you feel about playing to West Coast audiences?

Alex: Excited!

Amelia: Molly says the West Coast is the place to be, and I trust her explicitly.

Molly: I am from Santa Cruz, California; I can't wait to share Mountain Man with my home!

ME: Tell me about the recording of this 10" and the songs that are on it! How did they come to be together on this disc? When and where were they written and why did you choose to record it as you did?

Alex: They are the songs that we have been singing together all along, just on a record. They were written over the course of the last few years separately, while we've been living in Bennington, or wherever -- Minnesota, New Orleans, NY, California... Underwater Peoples heard us this past summer and asked us if we wanted to put out a record with them, and we said yes! So they are the songs we have been singing together since the springtime when we first got together musically.

Amelia: We recorded the album in two sessions, one with candles in a big mansion and one in my kitchen in the Blue House with jam jars. Our friend Trevor produced it.

Molly: "Dog Song"- I wrote the "Dog Song" in New Orleans when I was visiting one of my best friends Ally, I think that song was a searching cry in a wide, chaotic, place. I needed to comfort myself, and I was missing someone a lot.
"Soft Skin" - I wrote "Soft Skin" at Bennington, from walks on dirt roads...
We chose the songs we were most excited about and which gave the most range of what we have done so far.

ME: Will your first album ever be back in print or will it stay as a download-only record?

Alex: We make some every now and then -- besides on the internet, it has only been available at shows.

Amelia: Each copy of our tour album has its own hand collaged cover, which usually means that in order to make them we need to make them in the car on the way to the show. At the recent Greenpoint, Brooklyn show we had some that our friends made at an end of term party, but other than that I am not sure.

ME: How is writing going these days? When will more of your music be available?

Alex: Writing is good. We are all still doing it on our own, and we will probably put out new songs sometime in the summer or a little later.

Amelia: Soon! We have songs we have not recorded yet, and new ones are growing. Tour will help.

Molly: Writing is great.

ME: What are your plans for the immediate future? New album? More touring?

Molly: Rolling with it.

Alex: Well, we...hope to record some new songs for another record sometime in February. And then we are probably going to do some touring in the summertime?

Amelia: Finish college, more touring, hopefully in the UK this summer!

ME: How's the music scene out where you are in Vermont? Any other local bands we should check out?

Amelia: Yes! You should check out everyone on Openface, our VT label. My partner Jackson Emmer is on there. Tooth.ache from Burlington, too. We do a cover of her song "Holy Father."

ME: Could you each select a song (by someone else) that best describes your life right now?

Alex: "Rainy Day Woman," by Waylon Jennings.

Amelia: Ohhh that is a tough one. Um...
"Wild Billy's Circus Story" by the Boss or "Look at What The Light Did Now" by Little Wings

Molly: Um. Bonnie Rait - "Love Me Like a Man."



ME: What have you all been listening to lately?


Alex: Wanda Jackson! Waylon Jennings, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris.

Molly: Laura Nyro, Bonnie "Prince" Billy.

Amelia: I have been listening to The Wild, The Innocent and The E Street Shuffle on repeat. When the guitar comes in at that beginning of "New York City Serenade" I have to grip hold of something to not fly off the ground.

ME: What are each of your best record store finds ever?

Alex: Well, I am very excited about this Wanda Jackson cd I found over Thanksgiving. It is called Wanda Jackson: Queen of Rockabilly--The Very Best of the Rock 'n' Roll Years.

Molly: Well, this isn't from a record store, but from my mom's record collection I like to listen to Gilda Radner's Saturday Night Live songs- they are HIlarious!

Amelia: Get on Jolly by Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and the Marquis de Tren and also Willis Alan Ramsey's self titled.

ME: Thanks so much for your time!

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner: Mountain Man [Part 2 of 14] from Ray Concepcioñ on Vimeo.

Contact Highs, Lows: Awaiting Mad Men, Loving Kurosawa's High and Low

Posted by Kells, February 6, 2010 01:23pm | Post a Comment
I can't say I've ever counted myself as a big fan of Akira Kurosawa's films, but I can say that, despite having never completed a healthy film study of the man's abundant works, I've heartily enjoyed Kurosawa film I've seen, the latest being a first time viewing of his 1963 thriller High and Low (Tengoku to Jikoku).

I love a film that is simultaneously heavy on the symbolism and rife with gorgeously composed frame after jaw-dropping frame of gray scale captured with every possible shade and highlight of true black and true white intact. The good people at Criterion love this sort of film too, perhaps almost as much as they love Kurosawa's handiwork (more than twenty-six of his films can be obtained as Criterion Collection issued DVDs), or perhaps almost as much as Kurosawa loved to cast internationally acclaimed film star Toshiro Mifune as his leading man (I reckon Mifune has Kurosawa to thank for his fame and good fortune). There's a lot of love in the room. But what really makes this cinematic gem sparkle and shine presently in my eyes is the fact that it took a little of the edge off of my pining for the release of the Mad Men Season Three DVD set.
High and Low is the first full-length Kurosawa film I've seen that wasn't a period piece (which also means that it was my first look at Mifune in a suit and tie instead of his de rigeur samurai threads) and I'd like to think that it offers an somewhat accurate look at an affluent family living in 1960's urban Japan. I find the overall look of the interior sets very similar to Mad Men, save for occasional signs of traditional and cultural differences that mark the setting as somewhere other than Madison Avenue, which is a reminder of how long we've all been living under the some of the same aesthetic influences. The story, however, is a clean cut one with as complicated a network of writing credits as one can get (which in all probability resembles Mad Men more than I'll ever know), what with director Kurosawa teaming up with Eijiro Hisaita, Ryuzo Kikushima, and Hideo Oguni to adapt a screenplay loosley based on Hayakawa Shobo's translation of Evan Hunter's novel King's Ransom, written by Hunter under the pen name Ed McBain --- whew! I can only hope there was a lot of love in the room for all those involved!
Storywise, High and Low reads like a detective thriller and plays like film noir. Short of saying, "don't take my word for it, find out for yourself" (cheers to you, Levar Burton), High and Low stays busy with plot complications unfolding like a budding branch succumbing to rising heat all the while dazzling the eyes with a veritable smorgasbord location settings (a glorious beach, a summer home in the mountains, a garden in full blossom, a booming port-side dancehall, back alleys dripping with smack addicts, crowded police briefing rooms, a hot hospital waiting room, corridors of speeding commuter train) and stellar cinematography. All of this framing the eerie quiet of a well-feathered nest about to unravel and a man who finds himself (and his loved ones) caught in the center of a no-win shit-storm. This is a great movie.
One thing that I'd like to mention: the original title of the film, Tengoku to Jikoku, when directly translated from the Japanese reads as Heaven and Hell. However, I understand why the translator here chose to affix what appears to be a pretty-near-but-not-plum, slight mis-translation of the title in favor of more straightforward, unassuming one. I believe the reason for going with the title High and Low is suggestive of the many interpretations such a header provides for a complex film steeped in multiple struggles operating on many levels be it class-related, or altered emotional, behavioral or mental states of being. In any case, the title is a beginning in more ways than one; this movie has stayed in my thoughts for days and highs and lows keep surfacing. Maybe a Kurosawa bender is in order. Or maybe just more noir-y, Mad Men reminiscent films to further dull the longing.

Cartoons

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 6, 2010 11:14am | Post a Comment

February 5, 2010

Posted by phil blankenship, February 6, 2010 12:16am | Post a Comment



A Giacometti sculpture sells for an ungodly amount of $$

Posted by Whitmore, February 5, 2010 09:58pm | Post a Comment

Crisis, what financial crisis!?
 
Earlier this week at Sotheby's Auction House in London, a rare life-size bronze statue by Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti (1901 – 1966), L'homme qui marche I (Walking Man I) broke the record as the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. You’d better sit down for this: $104.3 million. The “fast and furious” bidding was over in less than eight minutes. According to Sotheby's, at least 10 people were in on the trying to pin down the iconic cast. The final price was five times higher than the pre-auction estimate.
 
The price, which includes the buyer's premium, barely eclipsed Pablo Picasso's Garcon a la Pipe, which sold at auction for $104.2 million in New York in 2004. But that was back in the heady days of the boom -- fast flying Wall Street, Krug Clos du Mesnil Champagne breakfasts, Clay Aiken CD’s, real estate’s unstoppable climb -- back then Facebook was just a blip in the dotcom ether. This astounding auction result suggests that though the financial crisis still looms, the art market has survived and its doomed collapse and catastrophic time bomb is no longer ticking down.
 
The bronze of a man walking, cast in 1961, was first acquired in December of that year by legendary New York art dealer Sidney Janis, who bought it from the Galerie Maeght in Paris. Janis debut it at his gallery in 1968. This time around, the statue was sold by the German banking firm Commerzbank AG, who obtained it in 2009 when they took over the Dresdner Bank. Dresdner had purchased the sculpture in 1980.
 
Giacometti's previous personal best at auction took place back in 2008, at Christie's New York for the piece Grand Femme Debout II, (1959-60). That piece sold for a relatively paltry $27,481,000.
 
William Barrett, author of the classic mid-century study, Irrational Man: A Study in Existential Philosophy (1962) wrote that the attenuated forms of Giacometti's figures reflected the existentialist view that modern life was empty and increasingly devoid of any meaning. "All the sculptures of today, like those of the past, will end one day in pieces... So it is important to fashion ones work carefully in its smallest recess and charge every particle of matter with life." Giacometti claimed his forms were not based on the human figure but the shadow that it cast.
 
Just before the Sotheby’s auction, the buzz on the street was that the Giacometti might actually hit $50 million, though all the heavy hitters scoffed at such a ridiculous notion. No one in their right mind thought it would hit and top $100 million.
 
Sotheby's of course did not identify the buyer, saying only that it was an anonymous telephone bidder.

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Little Tokyo

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 5, 2010 01:12pm | Post a Comment
This blog entry is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Little Tokyo. To vote for other neighborhoods to be the subject of a blog entry, click here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.


Little Tokyo Village Plaza

INTRODUCTION TO LITTLE TOKYO



Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Little Tokyo


Little Tokyo (or 小東京) is a small neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles. It's generally considered to be bordered on the west by Los Angeles Street, on the east by Alameda Street, on the south by Third Street, and on the north by First Street.




Little Tokyo is bordered by the Boyle Heights to the east, Civic Center to the north, the Financial District to the west, and Skid Row, the Toy District and the Arts District to the south. As with many neighborhoods in the Los Angeles, the borders of Little Tokyo aren’t officially designated. It used to be considerably larger and there remain many vestiges of the neighborhood’s more expansive past beyond the current boundaries.


Little Tokyo Shopping Center - not part of Little Toyko according to some
 
Lying outside, but within a few blocks of, Little Tokyo are Aikido-Aikibujutsu, City Cat Karaoke Studio, Fugetsu-Do, Ginza-Ya Bakery, Hana Ichimonme Restaurant, Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, Izakaya Honda-Ya Japanese Restaurant, Issendoki, Japan Arcade, Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society, Japanese Swordsmanship, Jodo Shu North American Buddhist, Kaigenro USA, Kato’s Sewing Machine, Kuragami Plant Boutique, LA Japanese Auto, Little Tokyo Car Wash, Little Toyko Cosmetics, the Little Toyko Library, Maryknoll Japanese Catholic, Mifune, Mikawaya, the former Mitsuwa Marketplace, Niitakaya USA Inc, Nishi Hongwanji Child Development, Shojin, Morten's beloved Sushi Go 55, Tajimi Pottery USA, Utsuwa-No-Yakata and Zenshuji Soto Mission.

 
Today, as the Little Tokyo's Japanese-American population continues to age and dwindle in number, many have expressed concern about the possibility of the neighborhood losing its long-standing, historically Japanese character. That could happen, although Little Tokyo, like all LA neighborhoods, has undergone many demographic changes throughout its history. Regardless of the current and future make-up of the neighborhood’s visitors, residents and business owners, for the time being, Little Tokyo's Japanese-American character remains vibrant and rumors of the neighborhood's demise seem comically premature. Although it may not be the draw for Japanese immigrants that it once was, at the very least it remains the cultural heart of the city's Japanese-American culture and one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in the city.
 
EARLY HISTORY OF LITTLE TOKYO

The area now designated Little Tokyo in the past passed from the Tongva to the Spaniards to the Mexicans. After the US took over, many Chinese workers moved to the state of California. At the height of anti-Chinese racist sentiment, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed in 1882. As a result, many Japanese immigrated to the state to fill the void and many of the new arrivals settled in the eastern portion of downtown Los Angeles that soon became known as Little Tokyo.

 

Accounts about the beginnings of Little Tokyo are hard to verify. According to one account, two Japanese, T. Kamo and I. Nosaka, immigrated to the area in 1869. A restaurant, Charlie Hama's, was said to have been opened by a former seaman, Hamanosuke Shigeta, at 340 East First Street. According to another account, Shigeta's establishment was actually on Jackson Street and opened in 1885. Another version of the story claims that the first Japanese-American business was a small restaurant near First and Los Angeles Street operated by another ex-seaman, known as Kame. Sorting out reality seems about as likely as figuring out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop. Suffice it to say, some Japanese restaurants may have opened in the 1880s and were run, perhaps, by Japanese ex-seamen.


East First Street

    East Second Street

Almost immediately after the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants, the Japanese began to assert themselves. The Japanese Association of Los Angeles was formed in the neighborhood around 1890. In 1903, Rafu Shimpo, the first Japanese newspaper founded outside of Japan, was established. By 1905, the area was commonly referred to as "Little Tokyo." After the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, many Bay Area Japanese moved to Little Tokyo and across the river in Boyle Heights. 1907 was the peak year for Japanese immigration to the US, with 30,000 crossing the Pacific that year alone. By 1908, there were over forty Japanese-owned businesses along the two block stretch on First Street between Los Angeles Street an Central Avenue. Reflecting the changing demographic, in 1911, the Hotel Empire became Little Tokyo Hotel

  
     First AME Church Apostolic Faith Mission           S.K.Uyeda Building                                   Yamato Hall

Little Tokyo has never been a homogenous neighborhood. In Little Tokyo's early years, there were also large numbers of Chinese, black and white residents as well. The latter two peoples were central to the birth of pentecostalism in the neighborhood, at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church Apostolic Faith Mission, founded in 1888. In 1906, at the Azsua Street Revival, 1,500 nutters jammed into a what was essentially a wooden barn to be baptized by the Holy Ghost. Black preacher William Joseph Seymour and his white counterpart, Hiram Smith, preached about hellfire whilst musicians in the congregation banged on cows' ribs, played washboards and clacked thimbles. At one such revival, their congregation even included no less a hoity-toity character than Arabella Huntington, who was chauffeured all the way from posh San Marino. By 1909, racial tensions divided the formerly harmonious congregation and they split. The building was ultimately demolished in 1931.

 
                         Japanese Union Church                                                               Little Tokyo Street Scene

Alarmed by increasing numbers of non-Chinese Asians, the Asian Exclusion Act was signed in 1924. By that time, the area on both sides of the LA River was home to about 30,000 Japanese-Americans. In Little Tokyo's early days, most of the shops were clustered along East First Street. On the other hand, Central Avenue was home to many vegetable markets. Today, First Street  continues to be the main commercial corridor and the sidewalk features a timeline of important dates in Japanese-American history as well as the names of past businesses that occupied the buildings.

          Japanese-Americans rounded up onto trains                      Interred Japanese-Americans   
                                             
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the FBI raided Issei associations for evidence of disloyalty. Even though to this day not one case of espionage has ever been proven against any Japanese-American, at the time roughly 120,000 Japanese-Americans were rounded up and shipped to concentration camps. Following their forced removal, roughly 40,000 black and Native Angelenos moved to the then vacant Little Tokyo and the neighborhood became known for several years as Bronzeville.

   Kiichi Uyeda (right) returns to Little Tokyo, then Bronzeville

 
When the Japanese internment ended, the neighborhood once again reverted to being a Japanese-American enclave, albeit on a much smaller scale. At that point, most Japanese-Americans instead chose to move to neighborhoods like Pasadena (rather than the historically Japanese neighborhoods in Boyle Heights, Compton, GardenaLong Beach, Little Osaka/Sawtelle, Monterey ParkSan Pedro and Torrance). As Japanese-Americans moved outside traditional ethnic enclaves, the number of officially designated J-Towns dropped from 43 to just three today (the other two being in San Franciso and San Jose). In Little Tokyo, the LTBA re-emerged to help develop and revitalize the neighborhood. Another group, the Los Angeles Japanese American Association, formed in 1947 to help protect Japanese-Americans from racially motivated discrimination and abuse. 


The David Hyun-designed Yaguro Tower and Little Tokyo Plaza

 
 
REVITALIZATION OF LITTLE TOKYO

For many years, Little Tokyo stagnated. In 1970, however, the seven-block, sixty-seven acre core of Little Tokyo was designated the Little Tokyo Redevelopment Project Area. By the late '70s, as the Japanese economy grew, several new banks, shopping plazas and hotels opened in Little Tokyo, bolstered by overseas investment, and the area began to revive. In 1978, the iconic Yagura Tower (aka The Japanese Village Plaza Fire Tower) was built as part of the revitalization effort. Due in part to the internment, the Japanese American community was highly politicized. Thus, even though Little Tokyo's Japanese residents continue to decrease in number, the community has preserved the Japanese character of the neighborhood as a tourist attraction, community center and shopping area. In 1986, Japanese-American community activists established First Street as a historic district. In 1995, Little Tokyo was declared a National Historic Landmark District.
 

Nishi Hongwanji Temple





Higashi Honganji


Zenshuji Temple





Koyasan Temple

CHARACTER OF LITTLE TOKYO

Unlike most of Los Angeles’ other ethnic neighborhoods, the Little Tokyo physically reflects the neighborhood’s longtime residents' background in its architecture. Though not limited to religious structures, it can be seen in Higashi Honganji, Jodo Shinshu, Koyasan Buddhist Temple, Nishi Honganji, Shingon, Soto Zen Temple and the Zenshuji Soto Mission.
 
 
Ellison S. Onizuka  
                                                                                   
 
Statue of Kinjiro Ninomiya

Besides the neighborhood's architecture, the Japanese character of Little Tokyo is evinced by the many monuments to Japanese-Americans, including a monument to astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka, a mission specialist who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Weller Street, formerly a stagecoach road from the Wilmington Harbor, was renamed Astronaut Ellison S. Onizuka Street in his memory -- even though such a designation exceeds the city's sixteen letter street name limit. There's also a monument called Righteous Among the Nations in honor of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul to Lithuania before WWII. The Go For Broke monument commemorates Japanese-Americans who served in the US military during World War II, despite the extreme racial prejudice they faced. There's also a statue of philosopher Kinjiro Ninomiya. In addition, there's the highly suggestive Friendship Nod and many other works of public art as well.


Seiryu-en  
                                                                    
Kyoto Hotel Gardens  

Union Church Garden
 
Befitting a Japanese neighborhood, there are two lovely public Japanese gardens in the neighborhood -- the James Irvine Japanese Garden Seiryu-en and the rooftop garden in the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens (formerly the New Otani). In addition, there are many impressive private gardens within the neighborhood that one can stare at appreciatively through fences.


KOREANIZATION OF LITTLE TOKYO
 
Many Angelenos have experienced paranoia about growing numbers of Koreans in the city and their perceived takeover of neighborhoods in the city. Using the announcement of the Rodney King verdict as an excuse, 40% of stores looted in South Los Angeles were Korean-owned. Online, some Midtown residents occasionally froth at the mouth when their historically white enclaves are accidentally referred to as being part of Koreatown. In 2009, when Mitsuwa Marketplace (the first and largest Japanese market in California) was purchased by Korean owners (and changed to Little Tokyo Marketplace), the response of many suggested the loss of a loved one rather than an ownership change. For the record, the Korean owners still stock Japanese products and in addition, there's still Marukai Market and Nijiya Market.
 
With the presence of more Koreans in the neighborhood has come an increasingly Korean character. On a leisurely stroll through Little Tokyo, one encounters large numbers of Koreans and passes numerous Korean businesses such as Zip Fusion, Han's Bibimbap, Keunsub Yun, Ko Hang Kim Bob, Korean Kitchen, Hankook Barbecue, Ock Sul Sun Sik USA Corporation, Park Je Myeong, Pinkberry, Sohoju and Tofu Village. While their presence may be bemoaned by a segment of authenticity-obsessed Nipponophiles and cultural watchdogs (presumably ones who don’t live in the neighborhood), Koreans actually have significant ties to the neighborhood that stretch back decades and, following a decrease in overseas investments from Japan, the Koreans have done more than anyone else to invigorate the neighborhood. Even the Japanese Village Fire Tower, the symbol for many of Little Tokyo, was designed by David Hyun.

 Little Tokyo Towers

Not that there hasn’t been tension between Japanese and Korean residents. Japan, after all, is home of the Hate Korea Wave. When the growing Korean Angeleno population began reaching retirement age, many found themselves crowded out of nearby Koreatown and moved into the historically Japanese-dominated Little Tokyo Towers. Today, a third of the residents in the towers are Korean. But tensions have been eased largely due to the respectful efforts of the new population. Residents of the towers created a Korean-and-Japanese bilingual newsletter called Bridges. Korean residents also purchased a karaoke machine for the building, graciously adding 2,500 Japanese songs. A Good Neighbors committee was created specifically to dispense helpful hints to Koreans to help avoid conflict, with tips including not leaving kimchi jars in the hallways.
 
Outside the towers and around the neighborhood at large, many Korean business owners have also done their best to respect the Japanese character of Little Tokyo whilst necessarily accommodating the changing population, adding American, Chinese and Mexican items to their shelves. In 2008, the Jana Korea Society put on the Harmony Concert, at Union Church, which featured both Japanese and Korean music and dance.
The latest example of Korean-Japanese bridge-building is the Little Tokyo Korea Japan Festival, a joint production of The Korean Cultural Center, The Japan Foundation and the Japan Korea Society. On February 6th, 2010 they're showing Hun Jang's Kim Ki-Duk-penned film Rough Cut. There's also a documentary about Little Tokyo called New Beginnings: Cultural Harmony in Little Tokyo and the 2007 remake of Tsubaki Sanjuro. The event also is also scheduled to include live performances and is to be hosted by Asian-American actorsJames Kyson Lee (Heroes, Asian Stories (Book 3)) and Eriko Tamura (Heroes, Reaper). 


Kitsch and Haiku


View of First Street
 
HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS IN LITTLE TOKYO

Although the internment was the biggest blow to the Japanese character of Little Tokyo, as early as the 1930s Issei merchants began expressing worry that English-speaking Nisei were increasingly favoring nearby hakujin stores and turning their backs on their heritage. As a result, in 1934, the Downtown Japanese American Citizens League started the Nisei Week Festival, still held every August in the neighborhood.

 
                                          Obon                                                                Little Tokyo Community Mochitsuki

In addition to Nisei Week, there are (or have been till recently) many other cultural expressions of Japanese culture in the neighborhood. From 1995 to 2007, the Los Angeles Tofu Festival was held in the neighborhood. Hinamatsuri is still celebrated every year, as is the Little Tokyo Concert & Food Fair every June. In the summer, Obon festivals continue to happen. In December the Little Tokyo Community Mochitsuki is still widely observed.

 

JAPANESE RESTAURANTS


In fact, despite the concerns about the supposedly vanishing character of Little Tokyo, it is still very much represented by the incredible number Japanese restaurants, including Aoi Restaurant, Azalea, Curry House, Daikokuya, Daisuke Japanese, East, Ebisu Japanese Tavern, Frying Fish, Furaibo, Garden Grill, Gaya Tofu BBQ, Hama Sushi, Hanabishi, Hata Restaurant, Ichiban-Tokyo, Izakaya Haru Ulala, Izayoi, Joy Mart Restaurant, Kagaya, Kani Mura, Kappo Ishito, Orion's beloved Kouraku, Koshiji, Kushi Shabu, Kushinobo, Maguro-Tei, Mako Sushi, Matsuki Japanese Noodle, Mitsuru Sushi & Grill, Mr. Ramen, Oiwake, Oomasa, Ngoc's beloved Orochon Ramen, Reikai's Kitchen, Restaurant Imai, Restaurant Yutaka, Rokudan of Kobe, S & W Little Tokyo Ice Cream, San Sui Tei, Senka Café, Shabu Shabu House, Suehiro Café, Sushi Gen, Sushi Imai, Sushi Komasa, Sushi Teri, Takumi Restaurant, Tamon, Teishokuya of Tokyo, Tenno Sushi, Thousand Cranes, Tokyo Café, Toshi Sushi, Tot, Usui, Wakasaya, Yagura Ichiban, Yakitori Koshiji, Yamazaki Bakery, Yatai Japanese Kitchen,Yomochan, Zakuro Shabu Shabu and ZenCu

Fugetsu-do  
 
Mikawaya

One such establishment, Fugetsu-do (which claims to be the birthplace of the fortune cookie), was founded in 1903 and today is the oldest still-operating food establishment in the Los Angeles. Another, Mikawaya, was founded in 1910, is still in operation and is well known for having introduced mochi to the US in 1994.


(Sorry for the blurriness)





LITTLE TOKYO VS. LITTLE OSAKA

Although overall Little Tokyo seems more buttoned down and less hip, less kawaii and and less otaku than Little Osaka, being a much larger neighborhood it displays far greater diversity and is not without its share of youth-oriented businesses, as evidenced by the Little Tokyo establishments above.

 Señor Fish

DIVERSITY IN LITTLE TOKYO

Little Tokyo is still fairly diverse, in spite of the preponderance of Japanese and Korean establishments. In addition to the many Korean and Japanese restaurants in the tiny neighborhood, there's Aloha Café, Azalea Restaurant & Bar, Cafe Cuba Central, Cafe Take 5, Capperi Restorante, Cefiore, Chin-Ma-Ya of Tokyo, Green Bamboo, Pho 21, Spitz, 2nd Street Café, Senor Fish, Tapas and Wine Bar, Via Dolce Café, Lars's beloved Weiland and Wok Inn... and honestly way more than I care to mention.



 
 
SHOPPING IN LITTLE TOKYO

Little Tokyo has several shopping areas that boast a large number of Japanese establishments including Weller Court, the Japanese Village Plaza, Honda Plaza and the Little Tokyo Shopping Plaza.


Little Tokyo Shopping Plaza  

 Little Tokyo Mall

ART IN LITTLE TOKYO

Japanese culture has long been recognized for the way art infuses so many aspects of their culture. In Little Tokyo, shopping centers and even apartments are no exception. Right now, Heisuke Kitazawa (aka PCP) has examples of his art installed at Weller Court. Nearby, Nancy Uyemura's piece, Harmony, is a permanent fixture at Casa Heiwa.

Heisuke Kitazawa art at Weller Court   

Nancy Uyemura's piece, Harmony, at Casa Heiwa

In the shopping areas there are stores like Kinokuniya and Video Paradise that specialize in Japanese-language videos and DVDs -- ones that you would be hard pressed to find, even in Amoeba's healthy Japanese DVD section. However, at Little Tokyo stores, many of the DVDs are NTSC-2 and the majority probably don't have English subtitles.




VIDEO GAMES

Other shops and arcades in Little Tokyo carry and specialize in hard-to-find Japanese video games that you can't even find at Amoeba! The exceptional Little Tokyo Arcade is no exception.

JACCC  
                         

Japanese American National Museum  
               

East West Players

MUSEUMS AND THEATER

There are many theaters in and museums focused on Japanese-American, Pan-Asian and Asian-American culture in the neighborhood, including the aforementioned Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, the Japanese American National Museum and East West Players. The horribly-named ImaginAsian Center opened in December, 2007, one of the first movie theaters to show mostly Asian films since the 2001 closing of the Garfield Theater in Alhambra. It closed after a couple years of operation. 

  
                                       Tsuru Aoki                                                                                  Sessue Hayakawa


LITTLE TOKYO AND FILM

Tsuru Aoki began her acting career on Toyo Fujita's stage in Little Toyko where she and Sessue Hayakawa often acted sided by side before and after marrying in 1914. After being noticed by Thomas H. Ince, he placed her under contract. With a debut film performance in 1913's The Oath of Tsuru San, she became one of the first Asian-Americans to appear on silent screen. It was at her recommendation that Thomas H. Ince returned to the theater to attend a production of The Typhoon. Afterward he offered its star, Hayakawa, a movie contract which led to his becoming the first Asian-American superstar in Silent Film.
 
  

The easily recognizable Japanese Village Plaza Fire Tower featured in a scene in Brother (2000) where Takeshi Kitano’s Yamamoto and Susumu Terajima’s Kato memorably try to forge an alliance with the strikingly handsome Masaya Kato’s Shirase – the yakuza boss of Little Tokyo. Other films shot in part or in whole in Little Tokyo include Solar Crisis (1990), Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991), The Bodyguard (1992), Talk to Taka (2000), American Yume (2002), Girl with Gun (2006), MobiUS: A Little Tokyo Ghost Story (2009) and Sakura (2009).

 
 A sad looking dog in Little Tokyo
           

*****


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This Week At The New Beverly February 5 - 13

Posted by phil blankenship, February 5, 2010 11:14am | Post a Comment
This Week At The New Beverly

Our complete February calendar is online:
www.newbevcinema.com/calendar.cfm


Friday & Saturday February 5 & 6

Revanche
2008, Austria, 121 minutes
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt1173745/
written & directed by Götz Spielmann
starring Johannes Krisch, Irina Potapenko, Andreas Lust
Fri: 7:30; Sat: 3:20 & 7:30, Watch The Trailer!

Nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar

TEN YEARS LATER & DREAM'S LEGACY CONTINUES TO GROW

Posted by Billyjam, February 4, 2010 06:15pm | Post a Comment
Mike DREAM Francisco
Senselessly gunned down and killed during a random street robbery on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland ten years ago this month, Bay Area graffiti legend Mike "DREAM" Francisco's legacy has grown exponentially in the decade since his tragic murder. And tomorrow, Friday, Feb 5th friends, family, fans, along with those who never even met the late artist but who were somehow touched by his life, his work, and/or his spirit, will congregate en masse for the big annual DREAM DAY.

The sure to be packed event, which takes place at the New Parish on 18th Street near San Pablo in Oakland, will feature graffiti artists, DJs, b-boys and emcees all celebrating, through their respective elements of hip-hop culture, the life and legacy of the man known to many as King DREAM.

As well as graffiti art by DREAM's graffiti collective, the TDK CREW, there will be music provided by a long list, including F.A.M.E., emcee Equipto, DJ Apollo, Shortkut, Fuze, Myke One, Sake One, The Bangerz, and DJ Platurn. Former Amoeba Music Berkeley employee DJ Platurn is among those who actually never met DREAM but whose life was impacted by DREAM's work. "The first time I heard of Mike Dream was through Saafir's Boxcar Sessions. Not only did his art grace the cover but his voice on the record resonated with community and a sense of pride in his craft," Platurn commented earlier today. "I never knew the man personally, being a recent L.A. transplant around that time, but he was always someone that I knew to be a hero and legend in the Bay Area hip-hop game and I'm proud to honor his legacy in any way that I can."

Electronic New Releases 02/01/10 - Four Tet, Mark E, Lindstrom, Pop Ambient, Monolake & more...

Posted by Oliver / Matt / Jordan, February 4, 2010 03:43pm | Post a Comment

Four Tet
There Is Love and You
Domino

Kieren Hebden embraces the sharp and brazen musicality of his 2003 album Rounds, but with a more club-friendly feel. Hebden's
interdisciplinary sonic collage is at full force here, with melodious house, 80s synth design, repetitive minimalism a la Cluster and Steve Reich, italo disco, and dusty jazz records chopped up and redefined. (MT)

Listen - "Angel Echoes":




King Midas Sound

Waiting For You
Hyperdub

This debut very much sounds like a ghostly carnival procession out of a psyche ward -- and in line are wayward dub daydreamers and heart-broken lovers rockers'. A deeply narcotic album reminiscent of Tricky's Maxinquaye, crooked hip hop nodding to RZA's darkest productions, with male female vocals densely lacing the songs in smoked paranoia. A magnificent killer of noir-like austere grandeur, a modern classic. (MT)


Listen - "Outer Space":




Pop Ambient 2010
Kompakt

Kompakt opens 2010 with the latest in their sound-sculpting series. Highly recommended! Exclusive tracks from Wolfgang Voight, Dettinger, Thomas Fehlmann, Marsen Jules and many others provide a shimmering concrete soundtrack to a twilight in an icy winter scene.
(MT)
Listen - Wolfgang Voigt - "Zither und Horn":





Magda
Fabric 49
Fabric

The dark queen of mnml on Richie Hawtin's M_nus label presents a patchwork yet flawless blend of tasty techno blip-funk for Fabric's well-lauded series. Spooky prog-horror jams from Goblin appear in a
relentless trail of burners by Farben, Isomer Transition, Christian Vogel, Yello, and Magda's own cuts. Killer dancefloor-fillers. (MT)

Listen - Gaiser - "Mfnstmp":

 




Scuba
Sub:Stance
Hotflush

Scuba operates at the cutting edge of the whole dubstep/techno/house/bass axis, and this mix boasts a vast number of HEAVY artists contributing to 70 minutes of undulating rave-emotion and chest-caving big room vibes. Featuring Joker, Surgeon, Joy Orbison, Shackleton.
(MT)

Preview 9 minutes of Sub:stance:






Lindstrom & Christabelle
Real Life Is No Cool
Smalltown Supersound

Scandinavia's space cadet number one, Lindstrom, drops an album with gal pal Christabelle aka Isabelle H. Sandoo, whose vocals propel Lindstrom's productions into pop-realization from outer space. Features previously released tracks from 12s, and the highlight are the bonus 7 tracks with edits from Idjut Boys, Prins Thomas, Sally
Shapiro
and others. Psyched-out house, crystalline 80s sparkle, and hi-NRG jet propulsed disco-trance sugar coat this record into a much-welcomed release opening 2010.
(MT)

Listen - "Let's Practise":




Mark E
Works 2005-2009
Merc

This disc compiles 8 of Mark E's finest tracks from said dates, including edits of Labelle, Gabor Szabo, and Birth Control. A fine lesson in tripped-out hypno-psychedelic effects, and slowed
down/reduced tempo arrangements for the quirky disco house dancefloor. Fans of Trus' Me, Lindstrom, Tom Trago and Theo Parrish will definitely dig these heady deep grooves.
(MT)








Monolake
Silence
Monolake

Monolake has consistently been at the forefront of exploratory and experimental techno for the entirety of this decade, blending hi-end
complexity with a personal and ultimately human vision of sound construction that goes beyond the academic to evoke rarified feelings of technofied wonderment. A stunning album meant to be heard in 3-D!
(MT)

Listen - "Watching Clouds":





Convextion
Convextion
Down Low Music

Holy fook! Unearthed from some warehouse are the very last copies of this holy grail of dub techno. If youre into Basic Channel, Maurizio, Model 500, Deepchord, etc, etc, this record has most likely been on your
wish list. And now you can grab it on CD, too. Gerard Hanson, aka Convextion, has provided us with some of the most indulgent,
trance-like, soulful techno that simply needs to be shared and heard.
(MT)

Listen - "Solum Ferrum":


Dave Rawlings Machine - A Friend of A Friend and Two Amoeba Instores!

Posted by Miss Ess, February 3, 2010 03:07pm | Post a Comment
If you are anything like me, you have been missing Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, two of the finest songwriters around! There hadn't been a new release from the twosome (who usually record under the misleading single name "Gillian Welch") for 6 years! And sure, they've toured some, always playing the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival here in SF, but us diehards, we've been waiting what feels like forever some new material here!

And finally...


I'm so pleased to report that the Welch/Rawlings drought is over. New project Dave Rawlings Machine released A Friend of A Friend this past November! And, even better (if you are in the Bay Area or Los Angeles anyway), they will be playing instores at Amoeba Hollywood Feb 4 and Amoeba SF Feb 9!! The time has come at last to get our fix. (See pics from the SF instore here!)

I finally got to hear A Friend of A Friend this past week. The album's production and arrangements have a more upbeat and orchestrated feel in spots than any of the albums under the Gillian Welch banner. I tend to like my music as doom and gloomy as it can get, so this change feels a bit strange, but when you really listen to the lyrics, in spots it's as much of a downer as you want it to be! It's just the music itself on several tracks that feels more buoyant than usual. The album is kind of Brian Wilson-esque in that way (and only that way!). It's also more padded out with strings, singers and such, I think due to the collaboration with Old Crow Medicine Show.

But then again, aside from the fact that David Rawlings is the lead singer on everything, and the fact that he wrote a large portion of the songs without Gillian, much of it still sounds a whole lot like a Gillian Welch record. Maybe he got tired of being out of the spotlight in Gillian Welch and was ready to switch it up and take the lead! Gillian is still there on many of the tracks, matching David in warm harmonies.

Track for track, the album is solid, although it's a bit disappointing that relatively few of the songs are new material; the rest are covers, some of them songs that Rawlings partially wrote that have appeared on other artists' albums. That said, the "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)" cover, a song Rawlings wrote with Ryan Adams and that appeared on his Heartbreaker, is great and raucous. "Sweet Tooth" is a perfect example of flawless songwriting skill, as is "It's Too Easy." Love the bass singing on "Ruby." Even the Neil Young cover, "Cortez the Killer" (added into a cover of Conor Oberst's "Method Acting") doesn't bug me, and I tend to be picky about Neil covers. I must say though, the songs I like best on this album are the quieter, more well-crafted ones that sounds like they'd be more at home on a Gillian Welch record.

If this is as close to a new "Gillian Welch" (the two headed beast) album that we get for a while, I'm ok with that. It's whet my appetite for more...Whether it comes as Dave Rawlings Machine or Gillian Welch, I'll take it either

Happy Birthday James Joyce

Posted by Whitmore, February 2, 2010 05:36pm | Post a Comment
... as for the following blog, what can I say, perhaps an apology for my nod to Finnegan, but what the hell, “A man's errors are his portals of discovery.” – James Joyce.
 
2 February 1882, sprowled future of his fates yawled, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce, becaught the fornicreators John Stanislaus Joyce and Mary Jane Murray. Elderest of ten progeny; though two sibships swerved absent from life, bowed by typhoid, James by a commodius viscous of recirculation back past, found his chance out of Rathgar and Clane o’ County Kildare. Re-sur, inventilated, as Stephen Hero violer d'amores, fr'over tracted rails, passen hub rearrived as a Young Dubliner, there to truduce a shining star and body! O’ Fate fanespanned most high heaven, the skysign of soft destiny to the lashstroung side of Nora Barnacle, re-nee Molly Bloom. Thus the unfacts, he did possess, too imprecisely, yes, a few retaletolds to idendifine the individuone, his sly slopperish matter of history. But within time, the facts chase towards the east in quest, past the scraggy isthmus to Europe Minor Himalayousness to his penisolate war in the heights of topsawyer's rocks, Zürich, where the Hero writ the poemsies, writ Ulysses. Arms nixed with larms dangling, appalling Killykill toll, a toll. The camibalistics fall (bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner), clashes cease and none so soon, never too soon the pharce for the nunce come to a setdown. Soon Joyce’s secular phoenish and arc flight settled in the centre-ville de Paris, la Ville-Lumière. Here nouvel wordsies flocked to the papyrush, swiftease on the leftlet banks drawn to the age. Oftwhile balbulous eyes, poorly in life since a youth spent in Baile Átha Cliath, attempts goodly cheirurgery neuflike times, but success – a minutias worth, so addle liddle a pawn, suchess.
 
Somethemores Vita animas wakes, comes to Leopold Bloom, Molly Bloom and Stephen Dedalus and Malachi Buck Mulligan, Finnegan, Paddy Dignam and so many more dreamydeary pholks, brings pocketbarely of farthingscads trinkets by way of green clapboard Shakespeare & Cie. Came Exiles, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Pomes Penyeach, Finnegans Wake, breathed and bred in the century loinings of wordscrafts, the broadest way immarginable.
 
Then, onset of the new nonanon camibalist, offwall entailed at such short notice the pftjschute of Joyce. Never a solid man, he spent retaled days in linens and in leaps of mind in alltitude and malltitude. Auld age not, but Stercoral perforation did, sent him on exodus alone. Joyce relapsed brought about by tragoady and indespite transfusions, slipslid into a cataleptic dreamsy. In grey grays, he lifted away at 2:15 AM on 13 January 1941, blackguardise the whitestone hurtleturtled out of heaven to resclaim his soul. As oaks of old now lie in peat, elms leap where ashes churn, he rests in Fluntern Cemetery within a rroarslieds of the Zürich Zoo. A skyerscape of the most eyeful entowerly was James Joyce. Whish! Far calls. Coming, far! End here. Again! Take. Mememormee! Till thousandsthee. The keys to. Given. A way a lone a last a loved a long the


Help Haiti with One Click

Posted by Amoebite, February 2, 2010 12:51pm | Post a Comment
Do something good for the world...by buying the latest from your favorite artists!

How?!

For the month of February, Amoeba will be offering some insanely low prices on hot new releases, and matching all online sales dollar for dollar, with the money going to Doctors Without Borders to help the people of Haiti. Pick up any of a select group of bumpin' new releases online from Amoeba, and help out a very important cause at the same time! It couldn't be simpler. For a full list of titles, please click here.

doctors without borders

You know you wanted that new Charlotte Gainsbourg where she's working with Beck that everyone's talking about or the new Beach House, Teen Dream! You know you were drooling over Robert Pattinson in New Moon and Twilight, so you must have Little Ashes, where he takes his acting chops to new levels playing Salvador Dali! Stop Making Sense is out on Blu-Ray! What better way to celebrate the release than to both get it and also give back? Sade's brand spankin' new, highly anticipated Soldier of Love is obviously gonna blow it up, and now you can get it and do good simultaneously! Help out your record collection and people in desperate need in one fell swoop!

Jukebox

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, February 2, 2010 11:40am | Post a Comment








out this week 1/12 & 1/19 & 1/26...surfer blood...vampire weekend...beach house...

Posted by Brad Schelden, February 1, 2010 04:40pm | Post a Comment
The year is flying by so quickly -- it is already February! I don't know about you, but I'm not really ready for January to be over yet. I feel like I say that every month! There have been some great new releases this last month and there are so many exciting things coming up soon. I will tell you all about them later. I just saw the amazing Pee-Wee Herman Show this last week. I highly recommend it if you can get down there to see it! It really is worth it! I hope that they decide to take the show to Broadway or at least get it up to San Francisco. Pee Wee has tons of fans up in the Bay and I am sure that they would love to see it. I know that I would be dying for it to come up there if I still lived up in SF. The show really was all that I could have hoped for and so much more. I got the chance to meet him a couple of years ago when he did an instore at Amoeba in San Francisco and it was fun, but this was really so much better than just meeting him. I also saw him do a live interview a couple years back. Nothing can really compare to this stage show though. I envy the people that got to see the live show back in the 80's at the Roxy, but like most of my generation, I grew up watching the show... or at least spent my 20's watching the show on VHS and DVD. It is hard to even explain the brilliance of Pee Wee unless you are actually a fan. It is just an amazing hilarious show! Pee-Wee's Playhouse was a kids show but also an adult show meant for grown up kids. It works on both levels, and there's really not much else out there like that. I can't bear to watch most things meant for kids. But the humor in PWP can be understood by both kids and adults. It has something for everyone.

This live show is much more like The Pee-Wee Herman Show DVD than the actual TV show. It is basically a more adult stage show version of the TV Show. I was mad at Paul Reubens for weeks after they moved the show from the Fonda to Club Nokia. I already had my tickets and was upset that I had to buy new ones. We got refunded for the initial tickets of course, but I still didn't want to bother with getting tickets all over again. But I forgave him eventually and realized I would be really mad at myself if I missed this show. And after seeing it, I am really glad that they moved it to Club Nokia. It just made more sense to have a nicer permanent stage set up. The whole thing was fantastic and really professional. I can't imagine it being nearly as good at the Fonda.

He was able to get Lynne Marie Stewart and John Paragon from the original cast to join him for this production. They played Miss Yvonne and Jambi the Genie. I was hoping for a surprise like Edie McClurg or S. Epatha Merkerson but it didn't happen. I also figured there was no way that Laurence Fishburne would be reprising his role as Cowboy Curtis. But it really didn't matter. Paul Reubens was amazing. He is obviously a bit older but it was really amazing how it felt just like the old show. The set really was fantastic and I just couldn't even believe it after the curtain first opened. All the puppets were perfect. Conky and Chairy were two of my favorite characters and they were both perfection. It really did feel like the old show! The highlight was probably Jambi. He had all the best lines. The show was already a weird make believe show that felt like it was made in an older time that never really existed so it doesn't feel out of date. Pee-Wee is timeless! I was really hoping for an old Penny cartoon when it came time to show the cartoon but instead they showed one of those old weird cartoons that they also used to show on the original show. It was a great cartoon about a evil pin man that tries to pop all the balloons in balloon land.

Who's Really Listening?: The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume One

Posted by Aaron Detroit, February 1, 2010 04:00pm | Post a Comment

Over the last few years, Amoeba Music Hollywood has stocked a slew of obscure but quite excellent and endlessly exciting limited-edition vinyl reissues of DIY European and North American dark and minimal analog synth-based music from the 1980’s -- all thanks to the stellar underground label Minimal Wave. Originally these recordings were released in ridiculously small quantities either on cassette or vinyl by the bands themselves or by equally-unknown labels local to the band. Albums by the likes of Spanish Industrial pioneers Esplendor Geometrico, the Belgian Linear Movement (featuring Peter Bonne of New Beat progenitors A Split Second), and French New Wavers Martin Dupont have all recently seen the light of day on quality vinyl pressings via the loving care of the Minimal Wave label.

Minimal Wave’s label head/überfan Veronica Vasicka struck a deal late last year with Peanut Butter Wolf’s Stones Throw label to issue a series of “best-of” compilations featuring choice cuts from the MW roster and beyond. Recently, the popularity of new minimal synth-based bands like Cold Cave and Xeno & Oaklander has heightened, making this the perfect time to issue the first in the series of Minimal Wave/Stones Throw team-ups, The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume One (available on CD and 2LP). It is a wonderful thing to hear these rescued gems and decades-old transmissions mostly recorded in isolated bedrooms miles away from any bustling cityscapes. Volume One very much invokes a familiar nostalgic feeling, like a mixtape would from your way-cooler friend or older sibling did in your formative years. Vasicka functions here as that cooler friend or sister and thankfully, she doesn’t mind spreading her cool around -- making us ear-opening mixes from her even-cooler record collection.

Volume One will suit anyone longing for jams from the age of pre-Some Great Reward Depeche Mode, Visage, early Human League or OMD. Linear Movement opens the volume with some icy Euro-Electro warmed by disco guitar and a catchy, memorable chorus before the compilation really takes off with the heavy attack-and-decay noise patterns of Crash Course in Science’s “Flying Turns.” On the track “Radiance,” British duo Oppenheimer Analysis offers a dead-pan vocal delivery over classic Numanesque Synythpop blips & bleeps, evoking a slightly friendlier-sounding Camera Obscura-era Nico, while Mark Lane's “Who’s Really Listening?” provides propulsive electro that is a pot-au-feu of Fad Gadget and Soft Cell with odd Industrial drum fills and cool falsetto vocals. Later on the tracklist, French duo Deux is revealed as one of the most obvious ancestors of current analog-wavers Xeno & Oaklander, examining the feeling of isolation and disconnection in an age of rampant technology with Male/Female vocal interplay intoning what is now a not-so-Sci-Fi tale of ominous businessmen and computer programs lurking “in the shadows of the night.” Elsewhere, Turquoise Days ‘ “Blurred” features an “I Wanna Be Your Dog” bassline, Synthpop melodies, urgent post-punk vocals, and lots of jangly-yet-edgy guitar effectively keeping the tracklist surprisingly varied for such a genre-specific collection. There are no clunkers or duds here, just essentials.

Listen:
Deux "Game and Performance"


Listen:
Linear Movement's "Way Out of Living"

Amoeba Music Hollywood has copies of both CD and 2LP of The Minimal Wave Tapes, Volume One in stock now. Also check out our current Minimal Synth favorites; Cold Cave’s Love Comes Close CD/LP and Death Comes Close 12” and Xeno and Oaklander’s Sentinelle CD/LP, all filed in our amazing Goth/Industrial section!


Featured Releases This Week, Amoeba Hollywood

Roma Amor Femmina CD [Old Europa Cafe]
Sophomore album from Italian Noir-Cabaret project. 10 songs inspired by female figures of Mediterranean folklore that celebrate the feminine dark side. Awesome late night listening.

Florence Foster Fan Club Everyday Theatre CD [Wave Records]
Straight-forward old-school EBM and crisp, dark Electropop with heavy 80’s Belgian influences and a touch of darkwave atmosphere.

Osoka Caustic Smoke CD [Rage in Eden]
Osaka is an experimental dark rock group hailing from Russia. Caustic Smoke is one expanded track, 45 minutes long, slow, repetitive and crushing, with heavy sections of distorted guitars often interspersed with dark ambient and industrial interludes.


In Next Week, Amoeba Hollywood

Rome L’Assassin CDEP [Trisol]
Includes previously unreleased material plus string versions of 2 classic Rome tracks!

Nachtmahr Madchen in Uniform CD [Trisol]
Brand-new 13-track remix collection of Naughty Title-track and others.







Still Fresh…

Steve Stapelton & Tony Wakeford Revenge of the Selfish Shellfish CD [Robot]
Awesome reissue of 1992 collaboration between, essentially, Nurse with Wound and Sol invictus. Includes Bonus CD of remixes by Andrew Liles and others! Faithfully restored artwork in mini-LP package.

This Immortal Coil
Dark Age of Love CD and 2LP+7” [Ici D’Ailleurs]
Tribute to Coil and the late John (Jhonn) Balance. "The most extra-ordinary, beautiful, and moving, re-interpretations of Coil I have ever heard!" - Peter Christopherson. Includes amazing version of “Ostia” by Bonny “Prince” Billy! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

Amoeba Hollywood World Music Best Sellers For Jan. 2010

Posted by Gomez Comes Alive!, February 1, 2010 09:13am | Post a Comment


1. Charlotte Gainsbourg-IRM
2. Aventura-Last
3. Shakira-She Wolf
4. Mahssa-Oyun Havasi Vol. 1
5. Manu Chao-Baionarena
6. Charlotte Gainsbourg-IRM (LP version)
7. Tinariwen-Imidiwan: Companions
8. V/A-Colombia!
9. V/A-Tumbele! Biguine, Afro & Latin Sounds from the French Caribbean, 1963-74
10. Buika-El Ultima Trago

Even though Charlotte Gainsbourg’s IRM has only been out for the last week, it has already sold well enough to take the top spot on Amoeba Hollywood’s World Music chart. IRM was produced by Beck and was the first anticipated release of the year. The vinyl version of IRM also took the sixth spot and probably could have sold more had we not sold out over the weekend. Last year, Charlotte's father, Serge Gainsbourg, was the only artist to also have the CD and vinyl version of a record in our top forty best sellers of the year, with the reissue of Histoire De Melody Nelson.

At number five is Manu Chao's second live album, Baionarena, which includes two CD’s and one DVD. Baionarena was recorded and filmed over the last couple of years while supporting the La Radiolina release. Having caught two shows during this tour,  Baionarena triggers many great memories I had attending the shows. Baionarena is also available on vinyl, which also comes with the DVD.

Most of the January sales reflected post Christmas sales. Aventura and Shakira continued their dominance of the Latin Music, as people bought for themselves what they really wanted for Christmas with gift certificates. Artists such as Buika and Tinariwen topped many 'Best of 2009' lists and their sales reflected that.

With the disasters in Haiti came, so did people’s interest in Haitian music. Our Caribbean section, which had been the bastard child of the Reggae section, has found new life ever since it was added to the World music section the middle of last year.  Unfortunately, many releases by popular Haitian artists have gone out of print over the last few years. I hate to think that it would take a disaster to spark people’s interest in Haitian music, but hopefully the renewed interest may spark some new releases and reissues from Haitian artists in the near future.

On the local front, we now have the CD version of Chicano Batman’s self-titled debut, with the vinyl version coming in a month or so. Local Cumbia heads Buyepongo also dropped off some of their debut release as well. Coming up in February will be, Bassekou Kouyate + Ngoni ba's I Speak Fula, which is hands down one of my favorites of this year thus far. Another favorite is the Now And Again compilation of Fela Kuti covers entitled Black Man’s Cry, which includes covers from around the world. There will also be a limited edition 4X10' vinyl box set version of this compilation as well, so start saving your money! I expect it to be a top seller for most of the coming year.