Monday, January 31, 2005

Tang ‘sang’ and Ying Yang ‘bangs’

cold / heat
refined / crass
Yin / Ying Yang Twins

I watched the “Pootie Tang” movie this past weekend. Some good jokes drawn out waaay to long but it had a great ‘emperors-new-clothes’ joke when Pootie drops the hot single called “ “ (which I think samples portions of John Cage 4'33" for the track) which provides Pootie room to 'bring da silence' full blast. Miles Davis would have been proud, er… utterly ashamed.
But the new Ying Yang Twins single (called either ‘Wait’ or ‘Whisper In Your Ear’) is actually getting very close to a SILENT hit single.
As I mentioned here, I can’t help but think that the Neptunes “Drop It Like It’s Hot” track will spawn a slew of imitators… and I think this might be the first… or at least it’s fashionably late doppelganger.
It contains a truly unforgivable chorus that I don’t even want to repeat here. The fact that it’s whispered makes it even sleazier. The WHOLE song is whispered over a barely-there pulse plus a finger-pop. A “Paul’s Revere”-like beatbox and single howl provide the track with it’s only changes. ‘The Twin’ sounds like he’s on his deathbed making one last play for the nurse checking his oxygen tank. But this track is not for the faint at heart… or could it be that it’s perfect?!?
I can’t wait to hear this cranked up to 11 in a club… just to see how quiet a dancefloor rush can be.

(thanks to

Sunday, January 30, 2005

maya in action

can't stereotype my thing yo
The NYTimes runs a ‘Playlist’ by a critic, or ‘person of note,’ which is an unscientific ‘heavy rotation’ list for that week. Kelefa Sanneh’s lists are almost always on point but his (appropriately) wide range of musical tastes can sometimes leave me (with my relatively homogenic musical interests) saying “Huuuuhh? Nah-nah-nah-nah” like a confused Master P.
But Maya Arulpragasam, b.k.a. M.I.A. nails my excitement about new pop-songs. She continues her aboveground “Arular” buzz-build with a ‘Playlist’ today (as recorded by Joel Topcik).
It is in some ways a predictable but nonetheless fascinating and energizing list because it captures most if not all of the ‘underground’ dance musics (no typo) on the verge of replacing or, at least, redefining what hip-hop music is. Outside of her dancehall selections, all of the genres she references have not had a pop crossover success (hell, even the hipsters are scrambling to find ‘baile funk’ tracks) and are absolutely contemporary hybrids on the verge of taking over the world.
The genres she represents in her list are the prime examples of ‘World music’ as brilliantly redefined by Sasha Frere-Jones in last year’s New Yorker piece about M.I.A.

Frere-Jones exposes the culture-centrism of ‘old-World-music’ fans as he observes “Entirely disparate performers… lumped together in American record stores simply because they don’t sing exclusively in English.”

His redefinition of ‘World music’ describing pop-music as “synthetic, cheap, colorful, staticky with power” captures M.I.A.’s music perfectly and, naturally, applies to her ‘Playlist.’

A few of her comments are worth highlighting as they expose the ‘right now’ of rebellious folk music. That’s right, ‘folk music’… maybe THAT needs a redefinition in our ‘global moment’ as well… ‘Folk’ hinges on autonomy and although the new folk continues development of the ‘local’ it uses any and all sources available to the ‘global’ villager. The borders of that village are no longer mountains or rivers but a geography of dubplates, mixtapes and MP3s.

My favorite quote from M.I.A. is her description of Spice and Toi’s ‘Right There (Bad Gal Riddim)’ as “the most fun song I've heard all week.” Probably the highest praise you can give in the fast and furious dance music context.

Some excerpts and a few of my comments…
'Bad Gal Riddim'
"Dancehall producers come up with a new 'riddim,' … every week… and send it to different artists. Everybody does their own version…and it becomes a compilation. ….I heard it on pirate radio, which is where I get most of my music. The pirate D.J.'s are always six months ahead of everyone else."

(No ‘rockism’ here, Kelefa. Producers and Djs rule.)

Ivy Queen
"… the biggest reggaeton star….the sound coming out of Puerto Rico that's really huge in America now. Dancehall is much more stripped down, but reggaeton has a Caribbean sound…Ivy Queen and the dancehall rapper Sasha did a Spanish reggaeton remix of 'Dat Sexy Body'…that represents a kind of unity between dancehall and reggaeton."

(I appreciate the distinction she is drawing between genres even as she applauds the cross-pollination)

Baile Funk
"Brazilian kids in the favelas (ghettos) going crazy, screaming the dirtiest lyrics over Clash songs…Kraftwerk.… 'booty music' - and produce something so fierce and angry that reflects the absolute chaos around them.”

(Admittedly the least familiar of the genres repped here but what I have heard is so off-key and home-made that the enthusiasm you hear from the kids on vocals can’t help but inspire cathartic joy. The punk and hip-hop connection is always attempted by young global folk but the addition of a karaoke element sends chills up my spine… it sounds simultaneously awful and awesome)

Jim Jones, the Diplomats
"'Crunk Muzik' … Such a powerful beat - and you can't tell what the chorus is, it's like 32 bars long…It's the guerilla side of hip-hop."

(I love that the lack of catchy chorus is a plus for her. I’m surprised she didn’t mention the fact that this song title is an adaptation of another region of hip-hop that got hugely popular this past year. The Dips are not from that region and yet they have captured the ‘throwing bows’ attitude of that music without mimicking the style. And, yes, it is spectacularly successful, original and independent.)

Lethal Bizzle
"'Forward Riddim Remix' of 'Pow!'… reflects the London streets in the most aggressive way possible. People call grime the new punk - electronic, minimal beats and mad bass lines… There are like 20 M.C.'s from around London on this track…I live in a place with Somali refugees, Polish people, a lot of Arabic people, and this song is blaring out of every single car. It's what's empowering them now.”

(Although there’s closer to a dozen Mcs on this track, the energy sounds like twice that. Like a grime-‘Proteck Ya Neck,’ the variety of vocal texture used to express street energy is astounding. Her hood description is like some William Gibson dream... or a walk through Queens.)

"… with the producer Jacques Lu Cont on 'Na Na Na Na,' … reflects what I like in a sound. It's minimal - just vocal and beat - with a synth-y drum loop. There are almost no changes at all - when the chorus comes in, Lu Cont just brings in an extra snare and pitches it up and then back down again. It's brilliant… If something like this could get on mainstream radio, it would be so great."

(She nails my delight in the less-is-more production style. The Neptunes raised the bar with ‘Grindin’ and they may spawn a whole new genre with the out of nowhere QUIET of ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot.’ The Yin-Yang Twins whispering track follows suit. M.I.A.’s appreciation of mainstream radio is, I feel, ‘post-hipster-cool’ and a key to her appeal.)

I will be going to her Knitting Factory show in NYC on February 5th prepped for Djs Diplo and Catchdubs selections to capture the excitement that this playlist provides. See you on the dancefloor.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Gene splicing

i can't stand the rain

Fuck what ya heard, it's Kells!
(Legit) V-Dub remix of S.I.T.R. namesake scene.

(thanks to DJ Julian Bevan aka DJ 138)

Friday, January 21, 2005

D’s nuts

Arroyo flush

Dude delayed ‘Dream’ dudes’ drive and doubled doubts. Dumars digs dude… and, dashing doubts, dude does the damn deal and draws draft dues (Don’t ‘double-Darko’!)… develops Detroit’s diversity and depth …and dishes dude.
D’s nuts!
Doubts, dude?

this was a remix… part 1

for enquiring heads

Thanks to We Eat So Many Shrimp for bringing my attention to Cosmo Baker’s recent post of some old On The Go Magazine pieces that he and Ben Velez wrote.
And since he kicked in the door I figured I’d rush in and start posting some of my stuff from that ‘legendary’ glossy.
I had written a little abstract ode to the DJ for the Battle Sounds Newsletter which was a little flyer John Carluccio and I put together to promote our ‘film’ “Battle Sounds: Hip-hop DJ Documentary.” OTG’s Music Editor/Motorman (and now world renowned DJ) Max Glazer ended up with a copy and stepped to me at some club (that the fire department had to shut down). He said Steve Powers, OTG’s Publisher/Editor-in-Chief/Token Booth Attendant, asked if they could run it their mag. Basically, I replied “Oh hell yeah” with the caveat that I could “remix it a little bit” which was just my way of adding a few footnotes.
What was great about OTG is that they didn’t change one word of anything I wrote (except the title of a De La Soul piece that I’ll post here soon). The disadvantage of course was that stupid typos also made it through to the final print. For example the word ‘unacknonwedged’ should have been ‘unacknowledged’ (and I suppose it was!).
The idea of ‘remixing’ text seemed appropriate when talking about DJs and I still like the way you have to switch your focus back-and-forth between the main body of text and the notes the way a DJ switches between turntables.

this was a remix...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Zoot Sutra (song for my father)

'Hot 16' by Leo Valledor

My dad was raised in The ‘Mo of the ‘Sco aka the Fillmore district of Sucker Free aka San Francisco. Leo Corpus Valledor was born January 18,1936. He told me his mother, Geronima, died, while embracing him. He told me his father, Abdon, abandoned him soon after. Leo was left with a house full of bachelor ‘uncles’ the recently immigrated men looking for work who continued Geronima’s card games and often forgot to pay rent to the new, young ‘landlord’ Leo.
He negotiated the Fillmore ghetto as a minority in another minority’s community. Leo strode the strut and rapped the slang in order to communicate with, navigate through and yes, imitate fully, the hustlers/players/cornermen of that era’s hood. He was a teenager during the Birth of Cool and so that became HIS music but he shared it with the Beats over in North Beach.
Although he was naturally skilled at drawing, it seems that the music allowed him to make a leap from designing the Galileo Yearbook cover to receiving a scholarship to California School of Fine Arts from 1953-1955 (now the SF Art Institute) and under the mentorship of Wally Hedrick he was soon having solo shows of his paintings at The 6 Gallery, the Spatsa Gallery and the Dilexi in the late Fifties. The title of a piece he made in 1956 simultaneously summed up the against-all-odds ambitions and his street swagger: “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Cat”
His first large paintings were in the ‘abstract expressionist’ style of the time but his interest in ‘Eastern’ philosophy brought him to a series of “monotone” meditative works with titles like “Becoming” and “Presence.” He soon developed a new ‘Eastern’ philosophy when he moved to New York in 1962 and, along with the Park Place Group (the ‘first’ ‘downtown gallery’ included Mark di Suvero, Peter Forakis, Forrest Myers, Dean Fleming, Robert Grosvenort, Anthony Magar, Tamara Melcher, Ed Ruda), explored Einstein’s theories through various artistic media with Bucky Fuller’s geometry, Buck Rogers energy and mind-altering substances. Oh, did I mention this was the early Sixties?
Mutual admiration amongst Leo, Donald Judd and Sol Lewitt surfaced at the Kaymer Gallery and bold shows at the Paula Cooper and Graham galleries upped his profile. Paintings as currency led to a tab at hip-mecca Max’s Kansas City which allowed for free lobster dinners but he struggled to make less-than-$30-rents for illegal lofts on Park Place and then Walker. He was part of the group that INVENTED ‘loft living’ and ‘downtown.’
And he and my mom left it all in 1968 to return to SF. I was born a year later. ‘Summer of Love’ indeed.
He tried teaching at the Art Institute but didn’t understand why the kids didn’t just ‘paint what they wanted.’ When I was a kid I knew he was a Painter but didn’t realize what being an Artist was. I knew he showed at ‘The Museum’ but I didn’t realize there were other museums besides the SF Museum of Modern Art. And I thought everyone had parties for their ‘openings’ and worked at their ‘studio’. He used to use masking tape to clearly delineate what parts of the studio a kid could play in. He would play Pharoah Saunders as my lullaby and Nina Simone as Sunday gospel. He played the sax ‘freely’ but couldn’t read music… so he invented his own notation. His painting ‘God Bless The Grass’ alluded to other distractions. He couldn’t hold his liquor and danced like fellow jazz-head, Bill Cosby. He showed HUGE paintings at the Oakland Museum but when times got lean he learned to paint small, jewel-like pieces on discarded door-skins he would find in the Mission District. His titles were an artform of their own alluding to culture…
The Flip Side, Disoriented Oriental, Okasian, Culi, We Shall Overcome

Rothkokoro, Quintessence (for Edward Varese), My Ship (To R. Buckminster Fuller), In the Balance (To Mark)

Duop, Milespace, The Bridge (to Sonny Rollins), Zoot Sutra (song for my father), Work of Art (to the Jazz Messengers), Bluzing

Or just wordplay…
Ultimojo, Solidude, Mama Sutra

He took me to James Bond flicks and “A Clockwork Orange” when I was too young to get it. He listened along to my favorite mix-shows on KPOO and KSOL when he was too old to get it. He used to bring me to the Marina to listen to the big Latin and Samoan dudes play the drums and he took me to the early show of an Art Blakey/Jazz Messengers gig featuring an up-and-comer named Wynton Marsalis.
And he was always painting. He showed at the Modernism and at Daniel Weinberg.
He was excited that I was moving to New York but had never been to Brooklyn when he lived there. He was in good spirits but bad health after he had a tumor removed from his brain and he died quite suddenly at the age of 53, apparently from a related growth. He died when I was visiting SF and when I was finally feeling like I could have a serious conversation about art and music and things like that.
Obviously there is a lifetime of details and stories that are between these lines and one day I’ll put them together but today, on my fathers birthday, I just had to remember a FEW things...
Leo Valledor 1936-1989

Monday, January 17, 2005

say it loud like James Brown

poor or rich or rich or poor

‘Hip-Hop Game’ has posted Styles P’s new one, ‘I’m Black,’ appropriately on MLK Day. It doesn’t have the dancefloor drive that PE’s pride anthems had in ‘the day’ and it doesn’t hit the contemporary reportage that Styles (and company) brought in the ‘this just in’ ‘Why? Remix’ but it does collapse many of the more tread upon issues linked to the black community public image into simple digestible rhymes for a new generation. Styles brings his typically straightforward, unaffected delivery to couplets with some odd declarations (I don’t need a tan in the winter) along with some relatively bold ones (I don’t need jewelry to shine) and some obvious exaggerations (90 percent chance we get hung up in the courts). Alchemist brings his alternating beat bars (thump thump thump thump / boom-ba-clap boom boom clap) with dramatic theme music floating above with Primo-style repeat-note-sample triggers and then he brings Floetry in to lift the chorus towards a light and simple gospel (So proud to be just who I am / So proud to be so free). Styles may not be a ‘genius’ as he claims but his economic street preaching qualifies him as ‘a motherfuckin poet’ well enough.
And he IS one of the proven heavy-weights…In this round he’s less interested in ‘stinging like a bee’ than exploring a ‘rope-a-dope’ of conciousness for the hood… he’s drawing us in and winding up for the political punch he promises for his next solo LP ‘Time Is Money’ which will have Talib Kweli in his corner for the song ‘Testify.’

He throws a couple ‘jungle-fever’ jabs …
…my skin is kinda light
Means my ancestors were raped by somebody white

Don’t you be scared of me, mister
Cause you don’t seem to be scared of my sister

… nails the ‘round-the-way punch…
So I like to sing, dance and crack jokes
Eat good food and be around black folks

So I like the O.E.s on Sunday
Drink all night and still go to work Monday
… brings a flurry of standard connections …
I’ma say it loud like James Brown
People be proud cause we all up in the game now

I’ma hold my right fist real high
Might see my man and we might get real high

So I got a heart full of bravery
Do it for my people that went through slavery

…but the image I’m left with is a contemplative contender mulling over a change in Styles…
Even with a caramel complexion
Look in the mirror see a Malcolm and Martin reflection

They focus on the negative attention
Do some positive and never get mentioned
… but not abandoning his killer combos.
Look at my eyes, the wool can’t get pulled over
Look at my car, it stay getting’ pulled over

You can almost picture Styles speaking in the mirror…

" I'm trying to be more grown, I'm trying to go deeper. I don't want to be classified for the same thing all the time." –from Hip-Hop Game

break out (before you get bumrushed)

I ain't pissed off.
I'm in fucking wonderment.

“Don't play that shit where you make me drag your words out. Declare, or shut the fuck up.”
—Swearengen to Farnum

“God bless you, Mr. Swearengen."
"Well, not likely. But my prospects have just improved.”
—Swearengen and rider

“I'm waiting to be kept happy by another fucking fairytale.”

Monday, January 10, 2005

'30' dirty words?

I’ve been marinating on Greg Tate’s assessment of 30 Years of Hip-Hop and have clearly fallen behind on the blog debate… but it looks like most folks who are still listening don’t agree with the maestro Tate. What I thought was going to be his argument AGAINST the overlap of art and commerce slides into an argument FOR the overlap of art and activism. The former got my interest and the latter seems to be the same old argument that fans find themselves in, especially with people around my age or older. But at least Tate has writing skills and a reasonable premise.
I hope I sufficiently sum up the premise as ‘Hip-hop should be using it’s lines of communication to further political activism.’ Which is different from the statement ‘Hip-hop should ONLY be using it’s lines of communication to…’ fill in the blank (I ain’t wid it).
Understanding the minor scope of my blogiverse I will assume for the moment that most folk reading this are still into some form of hip-hop and believe in it’s diversity of form and content.
Emphasis on ‘believe’ because at times it seems as if one style and subject blocks out all others, testing our ‘faith’ that hip-hop’s ‘evolution’ will continue (that’s right faith and evolution in the same sentence).
But continue is what it always does… even if you call it gangsta, crunk, grime or reggaeton.
I am one of the few folks who believes that hip-hop IS dead… AND was reborn… MANY times! (A future post on that…)

If Tate proposed to fight against hip-hop ‘monotheism’ then I think he would have less opposition. But instead he takes a position that attempts to protect him from an attack by the ‘faithful’ hip-hoppers when he says
Against my better judgment, I still count myself among that faithful.

But we realize he has left the congregation when he refers to his ‘better judgment.’ We don’t need anyone who doesn’t ‘feel’ the spirit pretending that they do. And it surprises me that Tate would embody that.

What’s interesting to me is that Tate’s criticism, in general, is the same that heads make amongst themselves constantly (most often with less articulation)…but when someone steps into the cipher from ‘outside’ they will defend the generic term ‘hip-hop’ ‘til they run out of breath. And that, I believe, is proper positioning. A ‘position’ is always relative to circumstances.

Tate is a fantastic writer and anyone who has ever listened to hip-hop should read this article… you can agree or disagree… but savor every turn of a phrase, left-field reference, colloquialism, social theory tidbit and hilarious juxtaposition. He is masterful … and has provided a few passages I’d like to comment on…
globally speaking, hiphop is…a valued form of currency where brothers are offered stock options in exchange for letting some corporate entity stand next to their fire.

Tate beautifully criticizes this corporate tactic but ‘their fire’ would have been burning ANYWAY and although it has finally attracted the cold corporate hearts they will gladly keep feeding the flame as long as there’s the potential for heat.
True hiphop headz tend to get mad when you don't separate so-called hiphop culture from the commercial rap industry

Fair criticism of the ‘headz.’ The truth is that the culture and the industry always overlap. Sometimes parts of the culture-circle don’t overlap with commerce but that condition always changes to some degree. We saw b-boying burn at the center of the overlap, swing out to return to a pure folk art and THEN return to a ‘commercial’ player in recent years. DJs and Writers have felt similar movement through the commerce circle.
"They don't pay niggas to sit on the bench," hiphop was never going to not go for the gold as more gold got laid out on the table for the goods that hiphop brought to the market.

That metaphor just seems off. They DO pay ‘niggas’ to sit on the bench in the NBA but their role is between games.
And where hip-hop entrepreneurs have found many opportunities for EASY money in other ventures it’s clear that the art TENDS to maintain it’s own level… the extras only come when the people still love the art.
Problem today is that where hiphop was once a buyer's market in which we, the elite hiphop audience, decided what was street legit, it has now become a seller's market, in which what does or does not get sold as hiphop to the masses is whatever the boardroom approves.

Tate again takes the premise that whatever is sold to the masses is what defines hip-hop. The hustle 50 put into reinventing the power of the mixtape was pre-boardroom and NOW the boardroom is earning off that previous hustle but it was the streets (plus a couple interested mega-platinum artists) that determined his earning potential… Compare that to the boardroom attempt to earn off of D12 (even with their multiplat backer, hell, frontman!)… VERY different results.
Now the boardroom knows that the mixtape scene is the hustle to watch… and pounce at the right moment… but the trigger is always the streets support of an artist.
Hiphop's ubiquity has created a common ground and a common vernacular for Black folk from 18 to 50 worldwide. This is why mainstream hiphop as a capitalist tool, as a market force isn't easily discounted: The dialogue it has already set in motion between Long Beach and Cape Town is a crucial one, whether Long Beach acknowledges it or not. What do we do with that information, that communication, that transatlantic mass-Black telepathic link? From the looks of things, we ain't about to do a goddamn thing other than send more CDs and T-shirts across the water.

Eloquent summation… but doesn’t it disrespect the musical and (one) graphic representation of the culture in a very dismissive way? The CDs ARE the MUSIC that Tate refuses to ‘easily discount’ which provide, not one half of the dialogue, but material FOR a dialogue.
Hiphoppers… were the… first generation for whom acquiring those legal remedies so they could just do the damn thang wasn't a priority requiring the energies of the race's best and brightest.

An excellent point that I’ve never heard before. They are the self-determined ‘best and brightest’ of their non-institution. It’s not clear if Tate is criticizing the condition but it comes dangerously close to reading like ‘sour grapes.’
If we woke up tomorrow and there was no hiphop on the radio or on television, if there was no money in hiphop, then we could see what kind of culture it was, because my bet is that hiphop as we know it would cease to exist, except as nostalgia.

There would be nostalgia because it WOULD be something different from ‘hip-hop as we know it’! Just the way b-boying, djing and writing moved on to other spheres of creativity without the love of RAP music in tow… there is no question their existence is still hip-hop even if none of the participants give a fuck about a Ludacris record. Now those of us who do love the new Luda would (most likely) still be digging whatever he decided to do even if he couldn’t release another record. Again we’re in the MIXTAPE PARADIGM, Greg, (and some are even catching the first ripples of the AUDIOBLOG wave that will wipe out what we understand as music distribution).
Cronies, Dame Dash and Camron have both expressed similar viewpoints recently (go figure!). They both have stated that money is not made through their music (Cam was speaking pre-Purple Haze release and Dame was speaking of ‘not recently’-money). Through their satellite ventures, into Tate targets such as liquor and fashion, they earn their profits. They just do the music out of love or, as Cam says, because he’s ‘NICE!’ They are clear on the distinction of culture and business as are many of their discerning (music!) fans.
If enough folk from the 'hood get rich, does that suffice for all the rest who will die tryin'? … I remember the Afrocentric dream of hiphop's becoming an agent of social change rather than elevating a few ex-drug dealers' bank accounts.

More than a few (and more than a few who were never drug dealers) but isn’t that direct social change if they are not dealing anymore? And isn’t it social change when these new industries hire others who may have been in the street?
Tate’s rhetorical question addressing ‘the rest that die trying’ is brilliant. I’m no Buddhist (‘but Buddha’s a master’) so I can take pleasure knowing that many more folks are making ALL levels of income in relation to an ARTFORM… dare I say ‘CULTURE’… that didn’t exist when Mr. Tate, or I, was born.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

callate la boca

The one that's got you screamin 'Esta loca!
Dale huevo!' is my mic. Leggo my Eggo!
Spanish Harlem all the way to San Diego
Make it happen, you know, like movin yayo.

Top 5 reasons to brush up on my Spanish…

5. To potentially speak Spanish better than Angie Martinez and Fat Joe (neither fluent)
4. Northeast Numbers
3. Further Ronda and Mexico exploration
2. ‘Chosen Few El Documental’ had no subtitles!!!
1. I live in Jackson Heights, New York near Roosevelt Ave... and I’ve gotsta make sure that the waitress gets my order right.

when The Spirit moved me

Will power

The second best thing about ‘The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou’ was seeing the Sin City posters in the theater lobby. Gun Yoga and Robert Rodriguez are making me feel like a fool for not buying the ‘Sin City’ books back in the day. I’ve still got time but according to Atlas, Frank Miller is only top 25 of the 100 Best Artists of American Comic Books. Will Eisner, who died earlier this week, takes silver (can’t really fuck with The King’s gold though).

The clips from ‘Sin City’ look incredible and are the closest incarnation to Miller’s own version of chiaroscuro I've ever seen. Like most comic artists Miller is indebted to Kirby but what often gets overlooked is the influence Eisner had on Kirby (this is not to diminish the astounding Kirby-visual language that still breeds and/or trumps most comic imagery).

I am not an expert in Eisner’s work nor have I read much of his work but reproductions of his splash pages have stuck with me since I was yay high.

His whole-page/splash compositions often integrated word balloons, titles, sound effect/visual words with the action. Every graf writer should study these pages before they tackle a burner. Eisner’s use of shadow lives on in Miller’s boldest panels and his renderings of the-less-than-perfect-city permeate so many frames of ‘TheWatchmen,’ less in drawing style but in mood and atmosphere.

He often combined grit with the ‘funny comix’ tradition and here is the greatest distraction in his work… not his extreme femme fatales but the racial caricatures embodied in his sidekicks Ebony and Blubber. They glare out from the page like the ‘Japs’ or cleaver wielding Chinese sidekicks of WW2 era heroics (I wonder if the reinvention of Captain America addressed any of those images). I can half-heartedly forgive them as products of the times

Eisner always viewed the medium as an artform of the highest level and always considered it greater than the sum of it's parts (word plus text). He invented the graphic novel form by demanding that "Contract with God" be distributed as a novel, not a comicbook... and by dealing with adult themes (meaning ‘grown-ass’ not just ‘ass’).

He didn't accept the ‘Superman’ job offered to him, which is probably for the better of the Superman myth. The melancholy and quiet moments in striking wordless panels would have brought more ambiguous levels to the early Superman which wasn’t the intention of the character. Michael Chabon based Joe Kavalier of ‘Kavalier and Klay’ on Will Eisner. You can see the layers that The Escapist had in origin, metaphor, superpower and adventure were based on many of Eisners ideas about the potential for serious (not un-funny... worthy of deeper thought) storytelling through comics.

Check out Eisner’s concise resume on geocities and a nice interview from Badazzmofo.

Monday, January 03, 2005

wood wheel, white guts and jordan tweezies

if I rapped I'd say somethin' significant
but now I'm rappin' 'bout money, hoes, and rims again

Mannie Fresh may have to rethink his post-bling philosophy once the tweels hit the roads.
Even the name has a dirty fabulous ring to it like a mash-up of ‘trill’, ‘one-tweezy’ and ‘twi’ (that’s ‘totally wid it’).

Norman Mayersohn reports for The NY Times that the Tweel is
an experimental tire and wheel combination developed by Michelin, (and) is designed to replace today's air-filled tires. Flexible polyurethane spokes deflect over obstacles.

And of course
military vehicles… would come years before automobiles…

Almost everything else about the Tweel is undetermined at this early stage of development, including serious matters like cost and frivolous questions like the possibilities of chrome-plating