Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hot, Poppin'

1. Congratulations to Amal, for finishing up that Drexel U. Ph.D in Math yesterday (while seriously pregnant)! She called me up after her thesis/dissertation oral arguments stuff. Color Voguing to Danzig totally proud. We're also, belatedly, proud of Cecilia, who handled her own rarified Ph.D business (thesis: something about globalization, discipline: related to philosophy) like a month ago or something and graduated a couple weekends back. Yeah! HELL yeah!

2. "According to Monique, "over 100,000" people voted on which song 50 Cent should perform tonight. That's not actually a particularly impressive number. In any case, "Amusement Park" wins. A bunch of girls dangle upside-down on streamers at the back of the stage. For some reason, 50 declines to rap the first verse of the song, lip-syncing the chorus and then wandering around in the crowd muttering to himself instead. It's a really weird moment; even Yayo seems confused. 50's parting words: "Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Vitamin Water. It doesn't even matter anymore." Someone needs to tell 50 that there's a fine line between greatness and insanity." That's from Status Ain't Hood's rundown of the BET Awards, which doesn't even require additional comment from me beyond "50 Cent ain't a businessman, he's a business, man."

3. R.I.P. Chris Benoit, aka "the rabid wolverine." (The irony, indeed.) Shit is fucked up in pro wrestling.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

This Wednesday in Nodin

Nodin, to Gravity: “Soon enough I shall elude thine acursed grasp and defy thine domineering tyranny to stand – to stand proud and tall! – riumphant at long last, finally impervious to the cruel duress under which you would imprison me while denying me mobility that is my destiny as a sentient being, verily, etc.”
Gravity, in response: “...”

Monday, June 25, 2007

#999 Prodigy “Stop Fronting” [Koch, 2007]

There are so many other songs I could write about at this point in this intermittent series of blurbs that are equally great, and many of them are actually better than this one. (Bad Religion, Smiths, Pavement, etc. – you’re up next. I promise!) Plus it isn’t like hip-hop isn’t full of songs about nothing. Most of Cam’ron’s songs – despite being inventive, amusing, and appallingly predatory in equal measure – are totally meaningless! Pharrell’s entire solo album is an expensive exercise in emptiness (it also sucks, “Number One” nonwithstanding). I don’t know when Prodigy’s H.N.I.C. 2 comes out; I don’t even know anything about his previous solo records or the Mobb Deep back catalogue. I bought Return of the Mac solely on the recommendation of this guy, and I haven’t regretted it. “Stop Fronting” is drawn from that album, and it’s hands down one of my favorite singles (if we understand “single” as any song, not necessarily one that gets radio play) of this year. Not only is it a song about – basically – nothing, it’s the first of its kind for me, new to these ears: a song about driving around the city listening to one’s own forthcoming (eventually) album, convinced that one is on the verge of world domination, catigating one’s rivals as useless, laying out what one will be doing later in the year career-wise, suggesting that the possibility exists that one will be enjoying X-rated sexual relations with one’s rivals’ significant others. And – superficially, anyway – that’s it.

The rhymes are mostly pretty workmanlike, which squares with the rest of Return. I get the sense that Prodigy saved the best stuff for H.N.I.C. 2; Return is supposed to be the “mix tape” setting that unreleased album up or something. Alchemist’s blaxploitation production undergrids the whole thing, and it’s gorgeous and sweeping and grand; it almost seems to be going to waste. Prodigy sounds angry/paranoid/sinister/weary enough in tone that I can almost forgive his lack of lyrical invention, even though it means Return won’t make my Top Ten (or even Top Twenty) Albums list this year. Why does “Stop Fronting” implore me to return to it over and over again? Why not “Bang On ‘Em” or “7th Heaven”? Maybe it’s because on this song he just comes off invunerable and self-assured, as though everything he’s saying is pure fact; it’s like he doesn’t even have to say this stuff, it’s all universally self-evident. (T.I.’s “What You Know” worked a similar angle and shone.) “Ain’t shit changed but the diamonds got bigger/Watch mucho frio, something like a blizzard/It’s summertime, it’s hot/And you ain’t got no freon/I’m in the Bentley drop, to me you’re a peon/You got neon lights, underneath your Nissan/I got LeAnn Rimes, passing me the weed, son.” Prodigy probably isn’t smoking marijuana with LeAnn Rimes or driving a Bentley, but that’s still one of the finest I’m-better-than-you couplets I’ve come across lately, in part because of the timeless lameness of anyone tricking out cars (luxury or otherwise) with neon lights and in part because Prodigy delivers it as if he isn’t even interested, as if he just came up with that string of lines while waiting for the light to change and decided it was better than what he’d planned to say about guns or getting revenge or whatever (see: the rest of Return). The subtext: his next album is just loaded with commentary of this mint/caliber, so check for it. The tapestry of faux horns and strings, meanwhile, glows and pulses and threatens to fade out behind him; it’s as if he’s cruising through a fog-flooded city that’s slightly unreal, the streetlights indistinct bright globs, the surroundings possibly dangerous but probably not. There is, then, a blatant artificiality to the production (and the whole enterprise) that winks at the listener, that says “The situations portrayed here do not represent real life for either DJ or rapper, and we know that you know that we know this, but isn’t it fun for all of us to pretend that we have this sort of power and prestige, to escape the mundane truth – you know, that we are simply musicians entertaining you, while you’re a bored office drone whose day we’ve maybe made just a bit more exciting?” I won’t quote it, but the chorus re-inforces this idea. Later, he refers to himself as “the God MC” for no reason whatsoever – perhaps to mess with Jay-Z, perhaps just because – later hinting that he’s got a vault of amazing rhymes and urging his label to “put my shit out now, put that other shit down,” knowing full well that this command probably won’t effect progress though it sets up a rhyme that reiterates that this is simply a mix tape. Later still: tour plans! He will be touring with “50 and Em” as part of Mobb Deep. This is an interesting comment for several reasons. First, while “50 and Em” are industry titans, they’re also (a) old news even for those who don’t care about rap at large and (b) significantly more popular and wealthier than Prodigy. So he’s performing with dudes whose careers peaked long ago but in all likelihood opening for them; openers are traditionally up-and-comers. So Prodigy is in effect ascending, moving on up to the big time; it’s been a decade plus ride but there are rungs left to climb. He’s using them as stepping-stones. “Stop Fronting” concludes with a bit of perfunctory beat hiccuping about taking your girlfriend home (you = hater, adversary, etc.) that isn’t as clever as Prodigy thinks it is but fits for outro purposes and as a means of breaking the song’s hypnotic drag-spell – the verses are stutters, clipped and abrupt and pointed, so the illusion is given that like the song has reached its logical conclusion, even if more could be said, really. Alchemist’s sleepy, Xanax-y production trails off into the night, the action or lack thereoff drifting on without us towards some blurry distant climax – and we’re left wanting more. Something, anything? The three-minute mark hasn’t even been breached; this is the final track on the record. Dude, what happened? Did my non-existant girlfriend who I’ve set up with the highest-quality jewelry and designer clothes and who is a frequenter of chic nightspots go home with you, Prodigy? Are they putting your shit out now? Did they put that other shit down? Did Em pop pain pills on tour? Was there an intervention? Did your pre-show ryder include a gross of 50’s celebrated vitamin water? Why isn’t this track titled “Stop Frontin’” when that’s how you pronounce it? (Is grammar that important to you? If so, shouldn’t “Bang on ‘Em” be titled “Bang on Them”?) I want to know these things, but no matter how many times I listen to “Stop Fronting,” I remain as removed from the answers as I was the first time. That’s one of the keys to a great song, though: always leave ‘em wanting more.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Things I Learned Watching "Ocean's Thirteen"

-No Topher Grace cameo!

-No sulky Julia Roberts! No catty Catherine Zeta-Jones! No turkey ala-king!

-What does it mean that Grace’s absence disappointed me more than the absences of Roberts and Zeta-Jones?

-A lot of film critics took a perverse delight in panning this movie outright, panning it up to a point, or breezing through no-stakes reviews with what they probably imagined was the broadsheet equivalent of director Steven Soderbergh’s devil-may-care tone here. The New Yorker’s David Denby – whom I quite like, even when we don’t see eye-to-eye – didn’t even deign to give Ocean’s Thirteen an indepth review, instead tacking a one-paragraph flourish onto the back of a longish standard multi-flick thinkpiece. I sort of disagree with his estimation, but then I sort of don’t, and his closing sentence might be my favorite line of the, like, 30 writeups I read because I’m a loser: “Soderbergh ends the movie with a few jokes, which is casual and neat but leaves you wondering whether the practice of making enormous movies about nothing isn’t a little mad.”

-Baddie to restless/relentless police detective Al Pacino in Heat: “I could get killed for tellin’ you this shit!” Pacino, snapping gum and chewing scenery, to baddie: “You could get killed walkin’ your doggie!” God, Heat’s such an awesome movie, even 11 years later. Even though it totally could’ve lost maybe 50 minutes. Dear rappers: please make movies based around Heat instead of Scarface. Seriously, I saw Scarface maybe once and never want to see it again. It's like paint drying while Pacino tries, desperately, to be hispanic. Lame!

-Pacino’s the bad guy in this case. He’s Willie Bank. His casino’s called The Bank. He’s looking to make mad bank. Bank bank bank! That’s fun to say in place of swear words. “Holy bank!” “Bank you!” “Bank this bankety-bank, man! Bank it!” More seriously, I know this franchise is high-profile and I like Pacino as much as anybody, but why they didn’t get Christopher Walken for this role is beyond me. He’d have brought more to the whole asshole villian thing. Or Sean Bean. No, not Sean Bean. Sean Bean’s such a ubiquitos bad guy actor that he wouldn’t have even registered amidst all the glamour and high-voltage starpower on display here. Plus, I don’t know that he’s a bankable enough quantity. (Ouch.)

-Casey Affleck’s fake-as-all-fuck Mexican moustache steals the movie in an uncredited role. (Or was that Scott Caan’s moustache? I don’t know. Does it matter?) I’m not going to explain why Caan and Affleck go to Mexico, what result they instigate, or what it has to do with the plot because it’s so ridiculous and random that I don’t wanna ruin it for you.

-Yeah, about the plot. Read a couple reviews before you see this movie or nothing that happens will make any sense whatsoever. Rest assured that you will still have a fun time even though it’s a foregone conclusion how all this will end.

-The whiney guy who plays computer whiz Livingston Dell is the same dude from those Budweiser “Why Ask Why” television commericals from back in the day, right? Just asking.

-At this point, you may be getting the impression that I didn’t enjoy this movie; you’re wrong. I just like making dumb jokes.

-Matt Damon gets to pretend to be a vintage Bond villian. The guy who plays Saul gets to pretend to be Q pretending to be a British hotel critic. While driving to work this morning I remembered a scene from one of those early 007 movies where Sean Connery is informed, by M, that one of his fellow agents was killed in the field, and he responds by saying “We shared the same bootmaker.” I have no idea what that means in the context of this ongoing non-review of Ocean’s Thirteen.

-Alecia probably got sick of me making comments about how delicate and gravity-defying and earthquake non-impervious and building-code impossible Bank’s towering, cgi-generated casino/hotel/resort looks. It’s like a crimson and gold glass’n’steel Twisler or something.

-All those random shots of the Night Fox – you’ll remember him as the super-duper burgler extraordinare/nemesis from Ocean’s Twelve – do add up to something eventually.

-Bernie Mac doesn’t get enough screen time to talk about his nails or skin moisturizers.

-Whatever language Shaobo Qin speaks – Chinese? – is now understood by every member of the gang, even though he doesn’t speak any English. It’s a testament to the cast and the director that this linguistic incongruity gag is actually funny the third time around.

-Ocean’s Thirteen was a great deal of fun, though a subsequent sequel is unnecessary. The same could be said, in fact, about Ocean’s Twelve. Why try to top the Ocean’s Eleven’s perfect crime caper? The answer is: because they could. That nothing other than honor/friendship is at stake here is acceptable and besides the point, because these movies exist for their own sakes. The attraction lies in watching cogs in a heist-machine operate and succeed even though we as viewers might not understand exactly how the whole thing works until we’ve seen the movie(s) four or five times. This series could run forever, but should it? I mean, I’ve been trying to imagine what an Ocean’s Fourteen would look like all weekend and I’m just seeing George Clooney laying in a suave coma as the other principles live their lives all over the world for three hours. Ultimately, of course, we’d learn that the gang was surrepticiously bankrupting Halliburton via an elaborate plan Clooney communicated to Brad Pitt via telepathy. And I’d go see it anyway, and so would you. And when it ran on cable week after week we’d tune in everytime we stumbled upon it, without fail, and we wouldn’t consider this a waste of time. That’s what I’d call the mother of all (mod) cons.

Monday, June 18, 2007

YouTube if You Dare

Nothing of note to say, really, except that my cousin Kandace - who lives in Boston, I think, who knows, she doesn't keep in touch - has some goofy videos up at, well, you know. See her lobby to be America's Next Top Model! See her play a game with her friends! Somewhere, Madonna is pouting. No shame, no shame!

Thanks to our mutual cousin, Kevin, for bringing these curios to my attention. Kevin can rest assured that I'll be posting here about his wedding DVD before summer's end.

Friday, June 15, 2007

"Political Song for Paris Hilton to Sing"

My Darling Paris,

Excelsior! Bon jour! It is with great satisfaction that I, at long last, ship this parcel to you. Find enclosed a few CDs, a lyric sheet, some notes, a glitter-drenched poster collage tribute to your effortless fabulousness, and a manila return SASE in the event that the song I’ve written to launch your pop career into the stratosphere isn’t quite to your liking. Thought about fashioning a shiv and sending that along, too, but by the time you read this you’ll be outta the clink, in all likelihood. Maybe next time. So anyway, you live in a burned-out, boarded-up bowling alley in Malibu? Not very chic, but oh-so shabby, right? I guess the only intruders you’ve gotta deal with there are crack heads and rats. You’re probably wondering how I found your address. Well, funny story, well, not really funny ha-ha, but I’m prefacing with “funny story” because I don’t want to sound like a stalker – do I? I’m not! Your management company never returned any of the e-mails I sent or the voicemails I left while on helium, but it’s cool, turns out I know someone who knows someone who’s tight with your dealer, heh heh, so here we are.


1-800 CIA, union rep’s all on your case
Call me Matt Damon cuz my word is Bourne
I’m all outta flour, let’s go to Safeway
Del Monte on sale, I’m bout some creamed corn

Might be time to trade in the Nissan
Five-star black-op renditions, Darfur safari vacay
My online psych prof’s nicknamed “Brie” Sean
Gird thine loins for tomorrow’s front page:


Last night I dreamed I was Aeon Flux, sulking with Iranian sheiks in a Kenta burka
Last night I dreamed I could walk again, woke up screaming in a drainage ditch
I don’t know why I’m in a catatonic trance, slumped right in a stalled-out Prius
At a stoplight in central Los Angeles while strangers kick my tires
It’s as though nothing bears any consequence
It’s as though I’m imprisoned in dry, abandoned bong

Verse 2:

Repeat Verse 1 in Spanish.


Verse 3:

Repeat Verse 1 in Czech.


Verse 4:

Repeat Verse 1 in a halting Appalachian dialect.


(1) In the video, you should be slathered in all-natural honey and covered in swan feathers. You should also be wearing an onyx and white-gold tiara. I’m thinking David LaChappelle to direct? Or a gibbon? Or Wesley Willis, even though he’s dead.
(2) Also, we’ll need a rapper. Have you met Lil Wayne? Dude’s put out 125 mix tapes this year so far, never seems to sleep, and is apparently down for whatever. I know this because on a whim I sent the teen pop, zydeco, and bluegrass mixes of this song to his email addy – along with a zip file of Lightning Bolt’s Wonderful Rainbow – and a month later I got a freestyle tape from the guy where he’s freestyling about hobbits and unicorns and shit. I mean, he’s rhyming about buying coke from Shrek and hunting gnomes and Emerald City detainees testifying before Judge Wapner! Apparently our collabo – I Can’t Feel MySpace – has been downloaded 2,899 times, so even though you’ve yet to put your inimitable stamp on the track, it’s already blazin' hot on the streets! Or Same thing.
(3) My mom blasts this tune in her minivan on the regular and tells people in other cars that I wrote it! Which is embarrassing but maybe kind of telling because my mom hates pop music that doesn’t involve Michael Jackson. Do you think Michael Jackson would be willing to guest on a crunk remix? Think you could bring him onboard for what might be the pop event of the decade? Mom and I have a bet going; she thinks you can’t! But if you can she’ll forgive the $13,524 in back rent that I owe her. So no pressure.
(4) Back to the video. I was thinking that a white pigeon could be procured and trained to follow you around from start to end –through the exploding cacti and the cascading Skittles and the Mama Sunshine Singers dance revue and the part where you drive to Bill Bateman’s and order some wings but the waitress brings you a plate heaped with baby skulls – sort of like a benign falcon or something, perched on your shoulder most of the time but flapping around crazily whenever the Casio SK-1 keyboard hook-whine kicks in on the choruses. Anyway, when the video concludes with you selling yourself on the street in a D.C. slum, the pigeon transforms into Sanjaya! Wearing a hot pink baby tee emblazoned with the words “No Homo”! I think he’d be game; I think he’d be down.
(5) The first verse should be delivered totally straight, totally sincere, and from there each successive verse should be increasingly flippant and ambiguous. Maybe you mean it, maybe you don’t, and if you don’t, who could blame you? When my mom sings along to it you’d think she was shopping for apricots or something. Usually she’s just washing the dishes, though. Or brushing our daschund, Lars.

Yours truly,
Blaine Vancouver

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

This Month in Nodin

(don't let that cute smile fool you -- set this guy down and look away for just a moment and he'll have already crawled halfway to Rhode Island before you've realized it!)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Snapshot from a soiree I couldn’t make/wasn’t at

L to R: Matt Kory, Bill Denton

(Billiam: thanks for sending the photo. Matty: congrats on your nuptials! Thom: beware of Heather “Ronald McDonald” Noble!)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

News Blotta

I'm seriously starting to think that there's no bloody way I could ever be a reporter again, even if I truly wanted to be one, for reasons spread all over this site. Editorial job slots are getting axed like mad everywhere; it's really scary. What this probably means in part is that the freelance writing market's on its way to becoming more oversaturated than it already is.

Iraqi-born performance artist makes interesting points with paintball-related installation (all of which, as you'll see, is an understatement).

"Verse for Seasons"*

Mothballed mauraders hymn "Ave Mumia"
(the refrain's a swollen alabaster drone)

Sparrows shy South in a lopsided V
Bacchant at the very promise of

Soft, yperite rose
She's no albino poinsetta

From fragments and symbols
We'll assemble the Lord.

*This poem was written, in my handwriting, on a piece of tattered paper (that I found in my cubicle last month) sometime prior to this blog's inception. I don't remember what I was on about with this but I like it.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

"Deep" Thoughts

So the other weekend, on one of those extended pre-race preludes that NASCAR is famous for, there was a segment where various drivers and on-air commentators (and NFL stars) were shown playing in some charity golf tournament. The cause, I think, was autism, and so there were shots of these guys yukking it up and swinging at tees and posing with happy autistic kids for one of those panoramic photos in front of a long banner commemorating the occasion. Anyway, on to the reason I’m bringing this up at all: “Feel the Pain,” Dinosaur Jr.’s 1994 sorta-hit single, was among the selected mood music. Appropriate, given that the video for that song (which I saw like twice, once upon a time) depicted the members of the band – at that point it’d have been J. Mascis, Murph, and Mike Johnson, I think – goofily putting and fetching all over some city. If one is able to overlook Mascis’ typically disengaged sarcasm, the titular chorus – paired with that upbeat, chippy guitar motif – does an adequate job of conveying the sympathy/empathy of sports celebs for the somewhat disabled. (I guess. Hmmm. I mean, the full chorus is “I feel the pain of everyone, and then I feel nothing.” If memory serves, the producers edited the second clause out. Man, I sure hope they did. Darryl Waltrip seems like a totally nice guy, you know? I have every confidence that he did indeed care, that he did feel something.) I can’t remember what the other songs used in the video montage were, but none of them were this surprising to me or they’d come to mind, right? There must have been some vintage Hootie and the Blowfish in there somewhere, though, because those dudes were totally into golf and even had a couple golf-related videos out back when people gave a toss about them, back before Darius Rucker was reduced to suiting up as a lavender-rhinestone cowboy for conceptually WTF Burger King commercials. But I’m digressing, needlessly: the race was rained out and postponed for yesterday; I have no idea who actually won. Do you think Jimmie Johnson would listen to a copy of Where You Been? if I sent one to him? Doubtful. I hope that idiot didn’t win a-frickin’-gain.*

*This meandering, plotless, and ultimately unsatisfying post is dedicated to Charles “Chuckleberry” Thornton, a long-lost college classmate of mine who had this sort of meaninglessness- masquerading-as-profundity down to an exact science. Here’s to you, maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan.