Monday, May 28, 2007

Sweet Wonderful wha - ?

WHOSE SICK JOKE was it to make panties for barely-teenage girls with a picture of a cute feline on the, er, bottom front panel, with the caption: 

Sweet Wonderful Kitty 

This is not being sold to grown women. This is all done in kid style, all cute in bright colors. Apparently some designer thought this would be funny. I'm not laughing, because my 12-year-old niece is wearing these. (Reason I would know: she visited and used my washing machine.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bring the noise

ALTHOUGH SIMON REYNOLDS has been doing pop music criticism for almost as long as I've been living, I only discovered his writing late last year via this blog -- (I think while I was Googling Style Council or one of those groups, or perhaps the term "postpunk.") He has not only encyclopedic knowledge, but lots of profound insights about music and pop culture. And he has a new book out too.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

For all artsy homo sapiens,
it’s a pleasure to introduce you to

I have never laughed so hard at a rap song. (The link is to the mp3.)

This is not new stuff, but SoCal's Soup The Chemist is still an atypical cat, still unknown and still deserving of his due. Probably because for much of his career he was rockin' the mic at churches instead of clubs. But as a true artist and a seminal figure in Christian rap, he raised the bar of a formerly very wack genre to a whole new level.

Born Chris Cooper, his original rap name as the frontman of SFC was "Super C." That mutated into "Sup the Chemist" and then its present form. The last several years of his career (he's "retired" from the rap game now, and I think started a catering business), he moved more toward positive hip-hop on a backpack tip. A lot of underground cats West and East peeped his style and I’m sure it has influenced some of the guys out there whom you’d least expect.

Soup's old website is down, but he just got a Myspace going, with only a couple of tracks so far. Check back for more. Meanwhile, there are some Soup gems hidden all over the Web.
Here. (I like the THC reference in this one)
This is by an artist named Immortal, where Soup guested
Also one here
This is Soup guesting on a Future Shock cut “Waxing Philosophical”
This is a guest appearance on Mark J “Headbobbers
Wewetalktalkininechoesechoes. Soup guests on a Peace 586 joint from a few years back.
More samples with Soup guesting on this page (if they move for any reason you can go to Soundclick main and search “Soup the Chemist”).
But corny, simpleminded people will never have a clue on how to enjoy this cat's flow.

* 2010 UPDATE: Full Soup album downloads, 100 percent free:

Eargasmic Arrangements

Dust (2000)

Microphone Theology (1994: one Soup track)

Phase III (with SFC, 1992)
and Illumination (1994)

Thanks to Po'Safe!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sad bastard songs

AS JOHN CUSACK'S character Rob Gordon muses, pop music really has screwed up entire generations with its pictures of "heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss."

As I listened to a local oldies station recently, I realized even the "innocent," saccharine teen love songs of yesteryear were completely disempowering to boys trying to become men. Just when they need to be developing confidence and strength in themselves and toward women, what did popular music give them? Emotionalism, heartbreak, desperation. Begging, pining, weeping, whining. Promises to do anything to win her heart or get her back, up to and including cutting off their genitals and handing them to her on a silver platter. The message to would-be men: you get the girl by acting like a girl.

But of course, as most of us discover sooner or later -- usually way later than we'd have wished -- acting like a girl does not get the girl. (Well, okay, some are into role reversal, but I'm not talking about those.) Nor do pop stars practice what they sing. In real life, they're nothing like the sad-sack, pitiful, whining, pleading protagonists of their songs: they're straight pimps, charismatic and self-assured to the point of absolute arrogance, because they know they may see more drawers come off in one night than many guys will in a lifetime.

Then they get on the mic and whine again. And because these singers are cute (and they're performing for teenage girls -- who, let's face it, are not hard to impress), they can pull it off. And because the teenage girls are going nuts over it, teenage boys listen to it and take it seriously. And that all makes me one sad bastard.

Spoiled brats, all

PARIS AND NICOLE: Non-producing rich brats coasting on family wealth.

Paris-and-Nicole-hyping media: Non-producers coasting on footage of non-producing rich brats coasting on family wealth.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Jen, Jane, whatever

THURSDAY NIGHT/FRIDAY: I have this dream about a beautiful artist/writer named Jenny or Jen, who is a white girl, with red hair. I pick her up on the street and take her for a spin in my car. Sadly, just as I get her back to my dream home, something wakes me up. (Damn!)

Friday morning, I feel moved to scour out the interior of my car, including the edges around the door frame, dirtied up by countless muddy shoes. I have a strong feeling that some new lady will be gracing my passenger seat tonight. (Not old friend Annabelle – as she will tell you, I don’t clean for her.) Who could it be? I had emailed Laura the schoolteacher, inviting her to tonight's Pilsen gallery walk; maybe her? In any case, I'm sick of the filthy car, so I clean it up and take it for an oil change.

So that evening, I leave work in the South Loop. I'm all set to head for Pilsen to the gallery district. But first, I figure, I may as well stop by the Fine Arts Building -- which itself has a formidable list of galleries and studios of all kinds, and is only two blocks away from my office.

At the FAB, I first visit Anita Miller, and then Barton Faist, whom I engage in some convo because I really like his art. He’s really into the Great Masters, which is obvious in his work. He goes on and on and on and on and on about light and color theory and how he obsessively layers colors to create translucent, vivid verisimilitude. Also he lectures me about the color wheel, color opposites, how he sees shades in what the normal person would label a plain white wall, how colors change according to the light level, how even the glow cast from a light bulb lights the air around it; how to make blacks look blacker and whites whiter.

Feeling like I’ve just earned an art degree, I go downstairs and pass by the studio of Barlow, a brotha I visited last time I was here. I remember that his pop-art collage style was not exactly my cup of tea, but still I peep in hesitantly to see what’s new. He sees me and waves me on in. And who’s sitting there but two ladies I know. The first one’s name I can’t even recall – I know her from Columbia College. But the second – who’d’ve thunk! –


Jane is a striking, high-cheekboned, chocolate-skinned beauty. She's been a model, dancer, and entertainment editor for a Hollywood publication, but also taught at some of Chicago's toughest schools. She was named one of Ebony’s “25 Most Alluring Bachelorettes” back in the early ‘90s. A Chicago political blogger posting her pic described her as a “stone cold fox” -- one of few such individuals who ran for public office in Illinois last year. Of course, she didn’t stand a chance, being a Republican in Chicago.

I met her nearly ten years ago now, at the youthful age of 23, while working as a public relations assistant. I was helping produce an awards dinner where she was one of the awardees. Afterward, a bunch of us went out to a Hyde Park lounge. A lot of cute flirting ensued: she told me I was "young and adorable" and "cute as a button" but I just needed "a little more experience."

I was intrigued. What ever could she mean?

"I'll train you very well," she promised, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. 

But she waited for me to make the move. When I could afford it, I finally invited her out. Our wide-ranging conversation included her claim to have psychic powers inherited from Hopi shamans on her mother's side. I imagined a pineapple, and I challenged her to guess what I was picturing.

"Well," she said, "it's more like I can read feelings, intentions. Not that you could think about, for example, a banana and I could guess it exactly."

"Close," I said. "It was a tropical fruit."

I drove her home, and she invited me in for a drink. By and by, I announced it was time to go, said good night, exited the house and went to my car. But my keys were missing.

I turned back and went up the steps to find Jane standing in the door, wearing a Cheshire cat grin --with my keys in her palm.

"Hey, how --"

“I told you,” she purred. “I'm a magician.”

You don't need to know what happened next. Let's just say I ended up staying a bit later than I'd planned.

Tonight, however, Jane does not recognize me. I am wearing glasses and I don’t have the goatee I sported ten years ago. Maybe she wouldn’t have remembered me anyway. After at least three drinks for Jane and one for me, the two of us end up walking down Michigan Avenue. Taking advantage of her memory lapse, I manage to fool her into thinking I’m psychic by pulling out little facts about her that she had told me years ago: the fact her father had been a jazz bandleader and producer, or that she had lived in Hollywood and danced on "Soul Train" and "American Bandstand." She seems mystified and even a little spooked.

She is thirteen years my senior, but she’s not boring in the least. Between cracking on me about my supposedly boyish appearance ("How did you get here, on a tricycle?") and me crackin’ back about what a great job they did on her dentures, we crack each other up quite a few times.

Well. Jane ends up in my car – the car I took such great pains to clean just for her. Or for "Jen," if you will.

I take her to Lobster King in Chinatown. She has another drink and by this time, her already goofy, dramatic personality plus the alcohol has her acting silly like a thirteen-year-old girl, cracking more jokes at my expense.

I end up dropping her off at her home. Unlike our first date 10 years ago, she does not invite me in, nor would I have accepted. It’s 1 a.m., and I have to be up at 8:30 for work.

p.s.: One reason why we had only one date way back 10 years ago was that I strongly suspected, based on her family background -- and family research I was doing in advance of a family reunion that year -- that she and I were, apparently, distant cousins. She got a little bit freaked out about that. I thought it was cool, but she thought it was somehow perverted.