Thursday, December 22, 2011

Paul's Gall

Now this is some deeeeeelicious racism.

The last time I had some tasty racism like that, I was still in school.

God bless America.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

There were moments where hip hop got quite dangerous for me.

Here's Pastor Troy with "No Mo Play in GA."

I'm a big fan of hip hop with meaning and thought.  But there are times I needed hip hop to be primal, rude, and downright belligerent.

My most fond memory of this track is during the first two years I attended college.  I was enrolled at East Carolina University at the time, a major North Carolina university in my hometown of Greenville.  One of the hubs of campus life was Mendenhall Student Center, the location of our bowling alley/pool hall, the campus radio station, and a movie theater.  It was actually a really nice place to be.

Every so often one of the African American fraternities or sororities on campus would throw parties in the Mendenhall basement, which was a large empty room with practically no chairs and no windows.  These parties were legendary.  Just about every black kid on campus would show up to these parties.  The music started at 10 p.m. and wouldn't stop until two in the morning and most of us would dance non-stop until the lights came on.  I've never sweated out more t-shirts in my life!

This cut by Pastor Troy was a particularly popular track played at these parties, and many in the room were quite excitable when this joint was played (including me).  If the d.j. wanted the crowd bouncing around like a bunch of maniacs, this song was the quickest way to make that happen.  There was one specific evening during which this song was played and I decided I was going to party toe-to-toe with the ECU football players that were in attendance.  Keep in mind, while I'm not a short guy (6' 1") I am quite a thin one (150 lbs).  And these football players are between 6' 4" and 6' 10" weighing anywhere between 260 and 350 lbs each.

As things are happening, I remember being surrounded by these enormous athletes and partying pretty hard.  Suddenly, as I jumped around in this wall of bodies, I felt myself bounce off of one of them during a moment of ascent.  As I reached an apex I bounced off another, then I ricocheted off of a third one on my way back to earth.  Needless to say, after pinballing around a group of 20-year-old giants, I felt it was time for a bit of rest.  I made my way to the perimeter of the room, away from the exuberant masses, and found a seat in an adjacent section of the Mendenhall basement.  For that night at least, I was ready to leave a little early.

That was a fun night.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Plague of Our Times

This could possibly be the most important set of clinical trials in the last 50 years.

Here's an accompanying article from The Vancouver Sun:

Canadian researchers working on a vaccine to prevent HIV announced Tuesday they have received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials on humans in January.

A team led by Dr. Chil-Yong Kang, a virologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., plans to start Phase 1 of clinical trials on 40 HIV-positive patients to test the safety of the vaccine.

"FDA approval for human clinical trials is an extremely significant milestone for our vaccine, which has the potential to save the lives of millions of people around the world by preventing HIV infection," Kang said in a news release.

It could be about five years before the vaccine goes on the market, Kang told Postmedia News.

The SAV001 vaccine, administered as an injection, has already gone through preliminary toxicology tests on animals. It didn't show any adverse effects or safety concerns and can be produced in large quantities, Kang said.

For more, please have a look here.

I have two initial responses to this news. The first is obvious; I truly hope this trial sees nothing but success. The untold number lives that could be saved with this vaccine is a wondrous prospect. I wish Dr. Kang and his team the best of luck with their work. I'm unconditionally on their side.

The other is fear. A few years ago, I was in a fantastic new play called Cocktail. It followed the story of Thai pharmaceutical specialist Dr. Krisana Kraisintu and her attempts to develop an inexpensive AIDS treatment for the people of Thailand. One section of the play specifically commented on the extreme pressure Dr. Kraisintu received from American pharmaceutical companies that saw her efforts as a threat to their financial health.

And that's exactly what I see happening with Dr. Kang.

Consider this. Bristol-Myers Squibb has been one of the leading developers of HIV/AIDS treatment medications. In 2009, BMS made a net income of $10.6 billion. One of their several AIDS medications, Reyataz, cost $890 per month. For that kind of money, I could rent a fairly decent one-bedroom apartment not too far from Center City Philadelphia.

I hope Dr. Kang takes the appropriate measures to protect himself and his work. These big pharmaceutical aren't going to let take this threat to their income lying down.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Rocky Rivera

Sorry I'm late everyone.

I've searched and searched for decent video interview of Rocky, but I couldn't find anything to my liking.  Fortunately, a fellow blogger (Hanalei Somar from the little I know) has been able to track Rocky down during a recent visit to NYC.

Here's an excerpt from their conversation.  It's a really good read.

During her recent visit to NYC, I was able to catch up with the extraordinary hustler/emcee, Rocky Rivera, for a quick talk about trick habits, community support, and her new life as the Gangster of Love. This is a full transcript of the interview intended for the upcoming ACV Cinevue blog article “Quality In the Age of Viral Video: Time with Rocky Rivera.”

h!: What are you up to in NYC? Any special projects going on right now?

Rocky Rivera: I have a mixtape coming out, June 7th. We haven’t even announced it yet. It’s called the Popkiller Mixtape; it’s basically a collection of beats furnished by the artists or producers themselves. The concept behind Popkiller is really a critique of the mainstream, but at the same time, it’s a way for me to utilize the same tools to get my message across. Whether it’s guerrilla advertising; basically trying to get my main message across using the same methods that a pop artist would use while simultaneously trying to keep the underground true. So, that’s really what Popkiller is about. It’s about utilizing those same methods to getting a really substantial message across, something that should actually be shared with the masses. 

 h!: What is “La Madrina” a part of? 

Rocky Rivera: It’s the first leak off the Popkiller Mixtape. It was a free download, and we’ll be doing more in the following months. But “La Madrina” is from Popkiller. I’m doing one last video for the Rocky Rivera LP, “Girl Like Me,” which is coming out in a couple weeks. We’re really transitioning into the next project. The video will be coming out in May, which is the final single from my Rocky Rivera LP.

h!: Aside from Jessica Hagedorn, there are other nods to sheroes that come across in your music. Dolores Huerta in “Heart” and even some Angela Davis peppered through some of your work. Is it important for you as a woman artist to pay homage to these revolutionaries? 

Rocky Rivera: “Heart” was such an exceptional beat for me, because as a female artist, I always have to keep my own personal life at a distance. There’s this whole double standard of being a woman in a male dominated industry. I know the challenges of that. For me to be able to channel that kind of inspiration from these different women on such an emotional beat was such a way for me to get in touch with my emotions and my own history, without really revealing too much of myself and my private life. It was a way for me to put myself in their shoes, and really think about their struggles. The things that made it possible for me to do what I have to do today. 

Whether it’s Dolores Huerta, whether it’s Angela Davis, whether it’s Gabriela Silang, or whether it’s cocaine QueenPin, Griselda Blanco. These are women’s stories that need to be told. These are important stories. I feel like I’m a storyteller. As a journalist, I’m a storyteller. I am the vessel in which their stories come back to life. I would take that role, but at the same time, it’s not the only thing that I do.

For the full interview, have a look here.

For good measure, here's Rocky track "Heart".  Like I've said before, I'm a sucker for those four-bar soul samples.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

1-Up (For My Gamer Friends)

I saw this guy's first Mario video that circulated the internet quite some time ago.  I'm glad to see he's still putting in the time.

I remember when my parents bought a Nintendo for me.  It was wonderful.  The console came with the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combination cartridge and that super-dope pistol.  I used to shoot at the Duck Hunt dog whenever it made fun of me for missing the ducks.  That mutt pissed me off!

The last Nintendo game I remember playing with considerable frequency was Super Mario Bros. 3, where Nintendo first introduced the concept of Mario and Luigi having more capabilities than just running and jumping.  After a year of messing around with that game I finally sold my Nintendo to make way for a spanking new Sega Genesis, which I still have.

In recent years, because many of us that are part of the Nintendo generation are coming of age, I've noticed numerous expressions of gaming nostalgia such as this.  From what I can tell, it seems as if we are the first generation to truly express such sentimentality and remembrance for the culture of gaming.  Certainly, there are people who spent time with the Atari systems that preceded Nintendo's dominance.  However, I would argue those folks saw video games as more of a recreational novelty rather than the electronic social movement it has become.  There would be no World of Warcraft if not for The Legend of Zelda.  Halo exists due to the path forged by Contra.  Nintendo was act one of the gaming revolution.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Greatest Thing This Week

The greatest thing I've discovered on the internet this week most certainly has to be this.

This is the full, uninterrupted of the 1983 film War Games. And the only way i knew it was there was by stumbling across this article. It lists 74 films that have been uploaded, in their glorious entirety, to youtube.

Have at ladies and gents!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

An Economic Tragedy

From The Associated Press:

'Dismal' prospects: 1 in 2 Americans are now poor or low income 

Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans — nearly 1 in 2 — have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years." 

Read more here.

It's been a while since I've made any mention of political or social issues here, but I simply could not let this one slip under the radar.

In what world is it acceptable for nearly half of everyone in this county lives at or near the poverty line?  Where's our heart, our compassion?  What happened to, "Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free..."?  What happened to our sense of innovation and revitalization?  Is this who we've become?  REALLY?  How much deeper into the abyss of economic drudgery will the childish and selfish tendencies of the Baby Boomers take us (They're the ones in charge right now, ya know.)?

I truly hope this all comes to a head soon.  I can guarantee this, it's going to be quite dangerous when it does.  In fact, it already is.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Voices We Know

I've always wondered who this guy was.

(Forgive me.  Apparently, my video embedding is on the fritz right now.)

Tonight, I made it my mission to find out.  His name is Charlie Pellett and he is a news anchor for Bloomberg Radio.  Here's a really good article highlighting his work during MTA's change over from spoken to recorded transit announcements.  And if you'd like to see what the guy looks like, have a look here.

Mission Accomplished!


Monday, December 12, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Rocky Rivera

For reference to these comments, see here.

As I've mentioned many times before, the first hip hop that really inspired me arose from the efforts of northeastern and southeastern rap artists. So whenever I heard hip hop from the west coast, it always struck me oddly. I just couldn't wrap my ears around the sound of west coast dialects, and I feel I missed out on a lot of good music due to that barrier.

What makes this track so fun for me is that, for the first time I can remember, I am attracted to the west coast speech sounds in a completely new way. It doesn't feel nearly as foreign as it did 12 or 13 years ago. And I don't know whether it's Rocky Rivera's doing or simply the development of my sense of hip hop performance, but it sure is nice discovering the ability to enjoy west coast hip hop.

Thanks Rocky.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Rocky Rivera

There's nothing like a bunch of lowriders on hydraulics in a hip hop video.

Here's the homegirl Rocky Rivera featuring Davinci in the clip for "SF CITY RETROSPECT".

I'll be back on the next one to make some comments. I hope you enjoy!


Saturday, December 10, 2011

...For the Kids.

This is one of the most amazing and heartwarming videos I've seen in quite a while.

You know, I've heard my share of complaints from older folks about their inability to understand hip hop lyrics. Many say the words are too indistinguishable or that they move too fast for them to decipher what's been said. For me, this video beautifully illustrates a core aspect of rap performance that is much more important than lyrical comprehension. Rap lyrics are the textual conduit for the rapper's percussive and melodic aesthetic. In fact, I would argue that what an emcee says in a verse is rarely as important as how s/he musically shapes the verse into something pleasing and exciting for the listener.

"It's not enough to know which notes to play, you have to understand why they need to be played." George Carlin commenting on the blues

This brilliant kid has already made this discovery (as kids will do if we simply leave them to their explorations). As soon as he reaches the age of adding lyrical content to his already sophisticated sense of musical awareness (and if he keeps rapping), he's going to be an absolutely magnificent emcee.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Mr. Bean

Tonight after our show, I got into a wonderful conversation with my castmate Dave about certain influential comedians throughout history. All of the greats came up; Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers, Buster Keaton. You know, the usual suspects. Then I mentioned to Dave my attraction to Rowan Atkinson, particularly my interest in his work in Mr. Bean. Have a look.

I remember being an eight or nine-year-old kid and watching Mr. Bean episodes on HBO with my parents. All of us would almost literally be on the floor laughing at this stuff. Rowan is an absolute master of an absurd and ridiculous brand of honesty and impoliteness. Dave said that Atkinson may be the best clown he's ever seen, primarily because he also works in the grotesque, which is an aesthetic that usually repels the audience. The ability to develop a character that is both repulsive and attractive is no small feat.

There are complete episodes of Mr. Bean on youtube (They wouldn't let me embed them!). I wholeheartedly encourage you to give them a look. Bring oxygen.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Rhymes of Our Lives

This is "Liberation" from OutKast's five-mic album Aquemini.

Since I have to be up at 7 a.m. tomorrow (again) I'll keep this short and sweet. I remember when I bought this album back in 1998. I had played OutKast's previous effort ATLiens like I was in search of the cure for cancer in Big Boi's lyrics, so I was primed for a new release from the dirty south duo. I eagerly slid this CD into the deck in my car and reveled in 'Kast's refreshing reinvention.

Everything was going just fine until I got to "Liberation". I was haunted by what I was hearing. Never had I witnessed a hip hop group take such risks on a record. It was impactful and mesmerizing in a whole new way.

And by the time they got to the end of Cee-lo's section, I was almost in tears. I love this song.


The Shatner

This isn't anything too reflective or insightful. It's just a really entertaining clip from Howard Stern's show in which William Shatner works over a voice-over director that may have been a bit in over his head.

Personally, I love everything about this.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The People's Car Factory

(sigh) This is a frustrating video.

There was a time in this country (as complicated as it is) when the greatest minds on earth traveled to America and became pioneers at the forefront of scientific discovery and the limits of engineering. So when I see videos like this and then read articles warning us of the brain drain of America, I become quite agitated.

I want a bullet train right now.


Monday, December 5, 2011

A Whole New World

How do they have a picture of it so fast!? No one has ever been there!

So NASA's discovered a planet in the habitable zone of another star. Cool. The next thing they need to discover is how to get there. I'm trying to visit some Vulcans.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Emcee of the Month: Rocky Rivera

Yea, I knew this was coming.

Since then, I've learned that Rocky is a Filipino Bay-area emcee who is also a mom. Her career as an emcee is relatively new, although she's been writing for a long while. She's been a hip hop journalist for Mass Appeal, The Source and XXL.

And she's super-fresh.

I've been listening to Rocky Rivera's Pop Killer MXTP for the last week or so and I have to say, I haven't heard too many emcees with the type of exquisite aggression Rocky puts on wax. She rhymes with an elegant relentlessness that is difficult to shape. I'm also incredibly impressed with her ability to construct a rich image life in her writing, a skill that's been developed by all of the best emcees in hip hop history.

I'll be listening to more Rocky in the next few weeks, because I'll most certainly be buying her album in the next couple of days. She doesn't have too many interviews or freestyles on youtube, so I'll be researching that a little more to see if I can find something along those lines. For now, I'll leave you with my favorite track from the Pop Killer MXTP called "Daydream" featuring Nitty Scott.

I'm a sucker for those two-bar soul samples.


Friday, December 2, 2011

Red Rover

A few days ago NASA launched its most complex and ambitious Mars rover, nicknamed Curiosity. Here is wonderful, albeit nerdy, animation of how the mission might go.

For more information regarding Curiosity's design and mission, see here.

You know, I dig this. I'm all about sending rovers and probes to other bodies in the solar system. However, the last generation of space exploration included the mission to put a man on the moon. If we aren't working towards that same goal in respects to Mars, then what is NASA for? Like Dr. Tyson says, "We don't name schools after robots."

Personally, I hope Curiosity saves Spirit. That would be cool.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tea Party Maids

I'm moving tomorrow, so I'm going to bed. In the meantime, check this out.

I could tell you all about what this is, but I think it'd be more fun if you checked out for yourself. Here's the link that will guide you!