Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ain't no stoppin' this sixth man.

In the scene that provides the title of Chris Rock's newest film as writer, director, and star, Top Five, his character defends LL Cool J's talents as an MC—"before the show," that is:

Unless I'm way off-base, "the show" is NCIS: Los Angeles, the CBS drama on which the rapper-actor born James Todd Smith has starred alongside Chris O'Donnell since 2009. But LL's first network series was the family sitcom In the House, which aired from 1995 to '96 on NBC before moving to UPN for three more seasons.

Two years prior to its debut Mr. Smith released his fifth album, 14 Shots to the Dome. On the track "Ain't No Stoppin' This" he grouses, "I guess I need a TV show to get mine / But I don't feel like kissin' no director's behind."

Well, not yet anyway. And if you don't kiss the right behind, you may find yourself on the lowest-rated network at the end of the 20th century.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

EBOLA (reference) DISCOVERED IN NEW MEXICO (four years ago)!!!!

I didn't see Breaking Bad during its five-year run on AMC, so I've been catching up on Netflix a few episodes at a time over the past month or so. In the third-season episode titled "Fly," which originally aired on May 23, 2010, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) tells his partner in crime, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), that there's a contaminant in their underground meth lab. Jesse is unnerved by this revelation until he realizes Walt is talking about a single housefly.

JESSE: When you say it's contamination, I mean, I'm thinking, like, an Ebola leak or something.

WALTER: (condescendingly) Ebola ...

JESSE: Yeah, it's a disease on the Discovery Channel where all your intestines sorta just slip right out of your butt.

WALTER: Thank you, I know what Ebola is.

JESSE: Uh-huh.

WALTER: Now tell me: what would a West African virus be doing in our lab?

Well, you do live one state over from Texas, Mr. White. Do I need to draw you a map?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

food for thought via thoughts on food bags

Chipotle is currently placing snippets of writing (remember, portion control is important) by authors such as Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, George Saunders, and Michael Lewis — and actor-comedians Sarah Silverman and Bill Hader for good measure — on its carry-out bags and paper cups.

As Saunders says on the Chipotle-sponsored website, "I love the idea of putting something literary in a place we might not expect to find it." At the very least the pull quote above is more upbeat than the song lyrics featured on either side of the decades-old Treasure Island Foods bag I found in the archives at my last job. I'll take humorous optimism with my vegetarian burrito bowl over romantic pessimism with my European cheeses any day of the week.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

From the archives (i.e., piles of newspaper clippings on my dusty studio-apartment floor) ...

Terje, you might find this interesting. It comes from Miriam Di Nunzio's interview with veteran music producer David Foster, published in the Chicago Sun-Times on October 16, 2009.

Q: Is it getting harder for you to make albums today?

DF: I really love the music of today. I love Beyonce, Rihanna, producers like Tricky Stewart, Kanye, Jay-Z, Sean Kingston. I love those records but I have no clue how to make these records; suddenly, you're 60 trying to think like you're a 16-year-old. I know my place. People who complain about the music business as they get older and say they "had to leave it" are full of it. The business leaves them. Nobody leaves the business. I'm still getting [excited] musically, even more so now that I don't have the pressure of radio. Now I just have to make albums.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

giving credit where credit was due 20 years ago

In today's New York Times Jon Caramanica writes about André "André 3000" Benjamin's reunion with Antwan "Big Boi" Patton to celebrate Outkast's 20th anniversary as recording artists, plus his role as Jimi Hendrix in the new film biography Jimi: All Is by My Side, written and directed by John Ridley, who won the Best Adapted Screenplay earlier this year for 12 Years a Slave. A couple of points stand out in Caramanica's article:

For the better part of his career, André 3000 has been a pioneer, sometimes to his detriment. Outkast was a titan of Southern hip-hop when it was still being maligned by coastal rap purists. On the 2003 double album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," which has been certified 11 times platinum, he effectively abandoned rapping altogether in favor of tender singing, long before melody had become hip-hop's coin of the realm.

I would argue that P.M. Dawn were far more ahead of their time than André 3000 in that department. By their third album, Jesus Wept (1995), frontman Prince Be had abandoned rapping altogether in favor of singing, but even on their 1991 debut, Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, Be sang for the duration of the tracks "On a Clear Day" and "In the Presence of Mirrors":

In a possible nod to the duo's influence, rapper Childish Gambino, a.k.a. actor-comedian Donald Glover, covered P.M. Dawn's 1992 hit "I'd Die Without You" earlier this year for BBC Radio 1Xtra:

Here's another point of Caramanica's I disagree with:

His forays into fashion (Benjamin Bixby) and animated television (“Class of 3000”) would have made far more sense — and had a far bigger impact — a couple years down the line. In many ways, André 3000 anticipated the sound and shape of modern hip-hop ambition.

I don't care to argue his point about fashion, though I'm pretty sure Sean "Puff Daddy"/"P. Diddy" Combs's Sean John line of clothing came before André 3000's, but does Caramanica not remember Kid 'n Play's Saturday-morning cartoon on NBC in the fall of 1990?

Or MC Hammer's on ABC the following year?

Hey, nobody said pioneering had to lead anywhere good. Just ask the Donner Party.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"The future is now!"

"The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone, and computer. You'll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel or watch female mud wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home or play Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam. There's no end to the possibilities!"

—psychotic cable-TV technician Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey) in The Cable Guy (1996)

Eighteen years later, however, I still haven't found that female-mud-wrestling channel. C'est la vie.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Will there ever be peace in the Middle East (in Duck World)?

As you can see in the Topps trading card below, nothing has changed since 1986. But we mustn't duck and cover. We must not quack up or waddle away from the negotiating table. One day we will all break breadcrumbs together. One day we will finally have peace.