My favorite videogame lately is Katamari Damacy. I've played so much I've just about shredded my left thumb.
The concept of the game is simple. I'll give the easy explanation first and their weird one afterward.
In a limited timeframe, you push objects together (thumbtacks, cats, a Godzilla-wannabe, and later countries!) into a big rolling junk-pile, until it reaches a certain diameter. If you don't roll fast enough, you lose.
OK, the weird version: the king of the universe - who has a penchant for dressing like well-known member of music royalty, Prince, in tight purple-blue top and pants - has knocked all the stars out of the sky. And, it's your job to roll junk together so he can release them into the night to replace stars. I never said it would make sense.
After a while the incessant rolling will give you a headache, but until then, the poppy Japanese songs that change in almost every level, and the delight of rolling elephants and humans, will satisfy.
Saturday, ch-check out Mike Antonucci's review of the game. We'll compare notes later here on the blog on the biggest things we've rolled up.
WHAT: E-Lumination: Raver Halloween
WHERE:Club Lamia, 3910 Geary Blvd., San Francisco
WHEN: 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday 10/29
TIX: $10 at the door
WHY: $5 if you dress up
SATURDAY: WHAT:Hallowed: An Underground Awakening WHERE: Oasis, 200 N. First Street, San Jose
WHEN: 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday 10/30
WHY: a multi-sensory journey of music with film and digital art representing the search for truth
WHAT:Fifty Years of Godzilla WHERE:Super 7 Store, 1630 Post St. San Francisco (Japantown); (415) 409-4700
WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday 10/30
TIX: Free WHY: Godzilla art from nearly 40 different artists' depictions of their favorite monster, with exclusive items like Godzilla vinyls and custom T-shirts
Last Thursday, at Jin's signing, Tower Records Bay Area Region Event Coordinator LeRoid David reports by email:
"Our Jin in-store was one of the best events I've done all year! It was a huge turnout of 400+ fans (mostly teens) and we sold over 270 CDs within the 2 hours he was there. I actually went to hang out with him and see his performance at 330 Ritch the next night. He has real good stage persona and he hyped up the crowd so well! My goal is to make Tower Records his number one retailer in sales!"
Here's Jin (below) and a slideshow of pictures, taken by Tower Records.
His album, "Rest Is History" weighs in at #54 on the Billboard 200.
Here's another thing I forgot to mention from the Mos Def and Jin concert -- they both took off their shirts, and girls wailed.
To which Jin said that it wasn't going to be a LL Cool J moment. And, Mos Def gave a shout-out to skinny guys.
Depicting presidents on Beach Blanket Babylon and pop art with Roy Lichtenstein
My friend Tom, also a reporter, came to visit this weekend, so a couple of my friends (Ellen,Ken, and I) took him to some Northern California sites.
SF's Museum of Modern Art and Roy Lichtenstein
It was the first day of the exhibit of one of America's foremost pop artists Roy Lichtenstein. In addition to the cartoon inspired artwork, there was one piece we particularly enjoyed - a slab of ribs that read "meat." Lichtenstein reportedly got inspired to draw pop art from one of his kid's candy wrappers.
One trick we learned (because we got there late due to the rain), the museum lets people in free near closing time.
They spoofed the presidential candidates, Paris Hilton and even P. Diddy and J.Lo. If you plan on going, be sure to bring earplugs, their voices are amazing, but they sure belt it out. Also, go an hour early to get good seats and don't forget your I.D. They got on Tom's case for forgetting his - and all of our baby faces (we're all under 30) didn't help.
Monterey Bay Aquarium The aquarium was celebrating its 20th anniversary over the weekend, so there were a lot of people there even though it was a Monday.
There are no discounts for the aquarium (I took an hour or so looking on the internet and nothing came up!)
I really enjoyed their new shark exhibit which featured the music of East Bay hula teacher and Lilo and Stitch composer Mark Keali'i Ho'omalu. If you can't make it down there, or the $20 admission price is too high, the aquarium website has live web cams of its otters, sharks and penguins.
The concert with Mos Def and Jin Tha MC Thursday night in San Francisco was one of the best I've gone to this year.
Jin was completely gratifying. He killed the mike, and showed why his prominence in the field firmly establishes that Chinese Americans could be hard-core hip-hop heads too.
So, after giving shout-outs to black, Caucasian and Hispanic fans, he said, "But I never hear them ask, where are all the Asians at?"
The crowd, filled with Asians, roared. It was the one of the most diverse crowd I've ever seen at a concert, and not just in terms of race, but also style of dress.
He introduced his last rap with "I get a lot of heat for this song." It was "Learn Chinese," ironically maybe the most radio-friendly single on his album.
For the hook on the song, he taught the crowd how to speak Chinese.
"Say each syllable with me - 'Jo, Ma, Ay.' It means 'what's poppin'," he said in Cantonese. "Also 'moya moya.'" It means no biggie.
After Jin warmed up the stage, Mos Def turned up the heat. He came out with a full crew in militaristic gear: faces covered in purple handkerchiefs and black jumpsuits.
He proved his versatility, easily jumping from rap-rocks like "Ghetto-star" to full on croons. He also showed his eccentricity, when he covered his face with his cap to sing and when he covered the stage in baby powder.
The show got off to a late start though. Doors opened at 8 p.m. and fans were warned through e-mail to show up early, but long stagnant lines prevented many of the crowd from getting in until after 9. Then, Jin didn't come on until 10:30 p.m. and Mos Def didn't show until midnight.
The venue, 550 Barneveld, also packed audience members like sardines, leaving many to stand on small platforms near the stage.
For pictures, check out photos my friend, DJ Edit, took. (They were open to cameras, just not camcorders.)
For this weekend, ch-check out some sick hip-hop:
FRIDAY: WHAT: JIN's record-release party
WHERE:330 Ritch St., San Francisco
WHEN: 10 p.m. Friday 10/22
TICKETS: $10-15; (415) 541-9574
WHY: Jin is a dope rapper.
SATURDAY: WHAT:Afrika Bambaataa; DJs: Coop D'ville, J-Boogie, Platurn, Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist; plus freestyle session including: Foreign Legion, Psychokinetics, Felonious, Spaztik, Real Live Show (Stimulus & Dionysus), Raashan Ahmad (Crown City Rockers)
WHERE:DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., San Francisco
WHEN: 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Saturday 10/23
TICKETS: 21+; $15; ticketweb WHY: If hip-hop is your beat, Bambaataa is your man.
SUNDAY: WHAT:KRS-One and Lyrics Born WHERE:Catalyst Nightclub, 1011 Pacific Ave.Santa Cruz
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Sunday 10/24
TICKETS: 16+; $17 in advance; $20 at the door; catalystclub.com WHY: KRS-One is the one emcee Bambaataa and Chuck D see themselves in. And, Japanese-American Lyrics Born is the next hottest Asian rapper.
Besides listening to music, a lot of what I do in my free time is play videogames. My latest favorites are musical. It all started with DDR (Dance Dance Revolution), which was so popular it instigated more Simon-Says-like musical games.
Karaoke Revolution Vol. 2: This game allows you to sing to your favorite songs in the privacy of your own home. It has more Top-40 pop songs than classics though. And, if you sing poorly, you can always increase the volume of the videogame over your own voice.
Get On Da Mike: This tests your ability to rhyme. The song selection is good, from the classic Snoop Dogg and Tupac, to the more recent J-Kwon and Lil' Flip. It's a really hard game though, and if you're not familiar with the song, there's no way to fake it. However, they do grade easily. So, if you ever had 8-Mile aspirations, this is a way to test your skillz.
Donkey Konga: Instead of a controller, the player gets a set of drums. The motive object of the game is to pound the drums to the beat of songs, like the dorky Donkey Kong rap or the cooler "All The Small Things" by Blink 182. Unfortunately, the songs aren't very new. This is basically a game to play when you're tired from a long day at work and need to release some stress.
Tonight, if you're not heading to see Jin and Mos Def in concert, there's another one in San Francisco worth checking out:
WHAT:PJ Harvey WHERE:The Warfield, 982 Market Street, San Francisco
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 10/21-22
TICKETS: $30; (408) 998-8497, (415) 421-8497 or ticketmaster WHY: Moody alternative music
Over the past few days, I've been listening to rapper JIN. His latest album "The Rest is History" is smokin'. It just came out yesterday.
More on his album: The guests on JIN's album are impressive: mile-a-minute-rapper Twista, hot producer-emcee Kanye West and Fugees rapper Wyclef Jean join in on raps. The producers at Ruff Ryders did a good job transforming the battle rapper into an artist.
JIN, who is a second-generation Chinese-American, also gives shout-outs to the Great Wall , Bruce Lee and Yao Ming. His name is written like a calligraphy seal and a dragon is emblazoned on his CD jacket. His earlier single was named "Learn Chinese" and has hooks in Cantonese.
"If I'm not getting flak for being Asian, then it's for being a battle rapper," he complained in Vibe. "You're losing on both ends."
It's must be a hard balance, representing for Chinese American and being a rapper without compromising either.
Earlier in his career, I spoke to him on the phone. In a thick New York accent, he said, "Being Chinese is pretty evident, it shows itself, and I always embrace it, and it shows up in my lyrics."
In his raps, JIN sounds a lot like Eminem, a fast tongue with a little attitude.
Back when I interviewed him, I waiting for his call, but didn't know when he would call.
I was at Old Navy, waiting for some friends, when JIN called. I scrambled for my cell phone, and used one of the sweater cubbies as a desk. Then halfway through the interview, the cell phone died.
I ran into the street, looking for a public telephone. Fortunately I ran into my friend, grabbed his phone without explaining, and called back to finish my interview.
In addition to opening for Mos DefThursday night, you can catch JIN earlier on Thursday and also on Friday. Ch-check it out:
Besides music, I cover a little fashion. One of my assignments is the weekly "Street Style," where Stephanie and I go out to different South Bay spots to find fashionable people to be featured in the paper.
Along with a photograph, we ask them what they're wearing, where they got it from and how much it cost. Most times, people have no idea what the label is, so, I often find myself searching for tags down people's bums. Not always as fun as it may seem.
We also ask: how would you define fashion? We've gotten answers from the mundane, like "What I see in magazines," or "What I threw together this morning," to the very deep like, "It's the soul on the outside," or "It's a self-filtration system in order to find friends."
Personally, I see fashion as a way to reflect how I'm feeling that particular day. I like hats because they're different, not as many women wear hats.
Anyone want to share your definition of fashion?
Speaking of stylish, ch-check out hip-hop emcee-actor extraordinaire, that is if you're willing to brave the rain:
Watching the movie was a pop culture must-do, but I was wary about the depictions of Koreans. But I admit I laughed to no end when North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il broke out in stereotypically-accented song, "I'm So Ronely."
Speaking of stereotypes, Greg Watanabe is an actor with the 18 Mighty Mountain Warriors, a comedy troupe that turns Asian stereotypes on their head. He recalled a time when some people watching their comic routine just didn't get it. They would laugh at obvious things, like Japanese tourists with their cameras, but wouldn't understand the larger point of the show.
I finally spoke to the godfather of hip-hop himself, Afrika Bambaataa. As the creator of this billion-dollar industry, he could have easily acted high and mighty, and I thought he was doing that by not calling back when he was supposed to.
But I read that he makes a point to treat all people as equals -- and he treated me that way during the interview. Still, I was taken aback at the end of the interview when I felt the need to say, "It was an honor to talk to you."
His reply: "It was an honor to talk to you too."
Now to answer readers' questions:
Nathaniel: Where does the term, "hip-hop" come from? Is it really just from that song by the SugarHill Gang, "Rapper's Delight"?
Bambaataa: The name and everything comes from Afrika Bambaataa who named the culture, Lovebug Starski who said the word in his rhymes in the early disco days and the father who brought it to our shores with the beats - DJ Kool Herc, and the GrandMaster Flash for all the extra mixing qualities to the culture and it comes from all the people who made the culture happen, and died for the culture.
Mark: How do you feel about the current state of hip-hop?
Bambaataa: I'm glad to see it evolve. There're people becoming millionaires and becoming movie stars. I wish they'd show more respect to the pioneers who helped die and make this. The so-called companies should be hiring some of these cats as A&R's (Artists & Repertoire) at some of these labels.
Mark: What are your views on the cultural and racial aspects of rap and hip-hop in white culture, or Asian culture or Hispanic culture, whatever?
Bambaataa: Now you got stars by their own rights in their country. I love it. Some talk about social issues, some use it to get out of the situations they in, some talk about fun topics or happy topics, some try to gangster, even though there are no gangsters in their area [laughs], but it's interesting to see all this going on.
R: In your songs, you've always given "shout outs" to people, cities, cultures, countries. Why do you do that?
Bambaataa: I'm a person who travels the world, so I like to give respect to all the different places that I go to as well as our universe and universes and Mother Earth and inside of Mother Earth.
The full story will appear Thursday.
Onto more hip-hop...
This weekend, check out "Think Critically!" - two community forums for youth to explore hip-hop and politics.
4-7 p.m. Friday, October 15, 2004
Laney College -Forum Center
900 Fallon Street - Oakland
10 a.m. - 1 p.m. Saturday, October 16, 2004
New Liberation Presbyterian Church
1100 Divisadero Street - San Francisco,
While I was waiting for Afrika Bambaataa to call, I thought about another time I was left waiting. (There'll be more on Bambaataa tomorrow, so check in and see!)
Back in 2002, I had to wait three hours for LL Cool J to call. I'm fine with waiting, but it would be nice if they told me about how long I'd be waiting - then I don't have to be stuck at my desk starving or having to go to the bathroom.
He apparently was at a VH1 shoot. And, true to his moniker (Ladies Love Cool James) he was into himself during our interview. When I asked, "So you've been in this game for a while now, what inspires you?"
He got miffed, and replied, "Do you know I'm on my tenth album (this was before his latest one) and I'm a movie star?"
I didn't have the heart to let him in on a little secret: "Rollerball" wasn't all that.
Anyways, tonight, ch-check out a very inventive female acoustic guitarist, Kaki King.
WHAT:Kaki King, along with Heather Combs and Essence
WHERE:The Independent, 628 Divisadero St., San Francisco
WHEN: 8 p.m. tonight (October 14)
TIX: $10 advance; $12 at the door; ticketweb; all ages
WHY: Her accoutic guitar performance is both inviting and peaceful. Plus, that name, how can you not like that?
Also, the sun is still out, so if you're heading to the beach during the day, there's some awesome socially conscious hip-hop to catch at night. Ch-check it out:
He's coming out with a new album "Dark Matter: Moving at the speed of light" at the end of October. The album is sure to be a mainstay at clubs, with fast funk and dance beats laced with lyrics that stick.
Since Africa Bambaataa established the grassroots hip-hop organization Universal Zulu Nation in 1973, hip-hop has become a phenomenon. Everyone from pre-adolescents to baby boomers listen, but many hard-core hip-hop heads criticize that fans forget the originators of the game.
A good example: when I wrote a story on the inventor of the scratch -- GrandWizzard Theodore -- many of my friends (hip-hop fans) didn't know there existed a single inventor. But when I called up the man at his home, he was more than willing to share his story.
The story goes that in 1975, GrandWizzard Theodore was messing around on his turntables at home. When his mother banged at the door, he scrambled to turn the music down, and ran his fingers over the record -- creating the "scratch" effect.
I'm a big fan of Cartoon Network's teen-age superhero show "Teen Titans," so when I heard that the Japanese pop duo Puffy AmiYumi (the voices behind the show's soundtrack) were touring, I made sure to set up an interview.
Problem was, they don't speak English, and I only know a few words in Japanese (judo terms). So their publicity person asked me to do the interview over e-mail. That's always problematic since I wouldn't really know who was answering my questions. Days later, I got an e-mail with
answers using the collective "we." They (Ami-29 and Yumi 20) supposedly answered together and then got translated.
QUESTION: How would you describe your music?
ANSWER: It's kitsch and pop and rock... Puffy's music has no specific genre or style so it's hard to describe our music. We're very open to new ideas, styles and sounds. I guess our music is very fun to listen to and makes you happy.
QUESTION: How would you describe you two?
ANSWER: We're both very close and always try to have fun and enjoy what we do.
QUESTION: How did you two get started?
ANSWER: Well firstly, I, Ami, joined our management and was prepared to go solo. Then Yumi joined the management. While preparing for my solo, I couldn't really figure out which direction to go and at the same time, Yumi was in the same circumstance. We got along really well and became friends. We wanted to work together so here we are today.
QUESTION: How did you come to do the soundtrack?
ANSWER: A producer from Cartoon Network liked our songs and we were first
offered to sing the Theme song for Cartoon Network's cartoon "TEEN TITANS".
Of course we gladly accepted and from there, the project of making us into
animated characters ... Then EPIC US got involved and compiled the tracks
that will be used in the cartoon into a soundtrack.
QUESTION: What do you think of the show?
ANSWER: The show is great! What's even better is that our songs can be heard in all the episodes.
QUESTION: Do you plan to push more of your music to American audiences? Why/why not?
ANSWER: There are no plans to "push" our music but it's great to think that because of the new cartoon, many people will have a chance to listen to our songs. And if people really like it they will listen to more of our music and albums.
QUESTION: If America is in the works, are you going to cater your music more for an American taste? Are you going to change anything?
ANSWER: It doesn't really matter what country we're in, we will be the same Puffy AmiYumi. We will continue to do the music that we have been doing and dressing the way we have been. We don't plan to change anything.
WHAT:Puffy AmiYumi WHERE: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco
WHEN: 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 11
TIX: $18.50; ticketmaster
First thing he tells me when I see him is, "You're wearing make-up today!" I guess he noticed I don't usually wear any. :op
During the interview, A-Yue was like a cartoon, squishing his face into silly expressions.
The promotion crew took up two adjoining rooms on the third floor while the band took up the entire fourth floor. Only the people playing in the band, Free9, could come. Everyone else (make-up, hair, etc.) had trouble getting visas. The government only allowed those associated with the band to come, anybody else, they said, could possibly be hired here in the States.
They brought 40-some pieces of luggage along with 6 or so guitars. "We hope we can make it through," said A-Yue's manager George Trivino, referring to A-Yue's penchant to throw his guitars during concerts.
One of my favorite songs of the moment is Bowling for Soup's "1985." Although I grew up in the '80s, my friends make fun that I better reflect the '90s or the millenium. Anyways, this song brings back memories.
The group, Bowling for Soup was hot a few years ago for the song "Girl All The Bad Guys Want," the male version of Avril Lavigne's song "Sk8er Boi." So right after this song came out, at the 2003 Warped Tour at San Francisco's Pier 30 and 32, Stephanie (who took the picture of me for this blog) and I went to interview the group, which made for a memorable backstage story:
...We walked into the back of the bus and felt a bit claustrophobic - clothes, videos and food were strewn all over the bus. And there was the very distinct smell of "un-bathed band."
Guitarist Chris Burney proceeded to take off his shoes - remember, this is after a LONG day in the sun of rocking out. The whole area started to stink. The bassist, Erik Chandler, kept talking as if he didn't notice anything. We wondered if he was just used to the smell or if his nose wasn't functioning.
By the end of the interview, Stephanie and I had gotten used to the smell, but hoped it didn't set into our clothes.
Onto other less stinky things: If you ever wanted to be a DJ, come test out your scratching skills.
WHERE: Sublounge, 628 20th St. @ 3rd St.
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6; and every first Wednesday of the month.
TIX: No Cover!! 21 & + w/ I.D.s
WHY: DJs (Amerriica, Celskiii, Deeandroid and Winst-Oner) on the main floor rocking funk, soul and hip-hop. While in the basement there are open tables for scratch sessions. Bring
instrumentals, beats and headphones.
In today's paper, read my story on A-Yue, the first Chinese language rocker to tour the states, backed by a mainstream promoter, the House of Blues. It's an exclusive you won't find in any other mainstream papers.
During Labor Day weekend, on their way back to Los Angeles to meet up with House of Blues, A-Yue and his manager George Trivino stopped by San Jose. For a man with a crazy reputation of giving the finger, mooning in public, and being nicknamed Taiwan's Eminem, A-Yue was shy and un-assuming while it was Trivino who was louder.
In their hurry to come to San Jose, Trivino forgot his luggage back at his San Francisco hotel and during the interview was on his cell trying to find it.
He was a man of few words, and I could tell that he thought hard before answering each question. Later I learned from a Taipei Times reporter that A-Yue doesn't like talking to journalists, so I guess I was lucky to have his time.
Showing their sillier sides, driving back to San Francisco (to retrieve the forgotten luggage) and on the way to L.A. the two shared a quart of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.
WHAT: A-Yue autograph session
WHERE: Vallco Mall, 10123 N. Wolfe Rd. #2072, Cupertino
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 6th
TIX: Free - sponsored by Chinese-language newspaper, The World Journal. WHY: If you go, you can get a T-shirt, CD, and get a chance to talk to the rocker himself.
Friday night, I braved going up 880 north and tested my sanity by trying to find parking in Berkeley to watch songbird Norah Jones at the Greek Theater. It was worth it. Her voice was right on and she was incredibly quirky. While singing, her silver scarf (which she bought on Haight Street the night before) got stuck in her metal chain-linked belt, which then got tangled up with her microphone - and then fell off. Luckily, she exclaimed, her belt didn't really hold up her pants.
Coming out Tuesday, ch-check it out: De La Soul's latest album, "The Grind Date."
The rap trio is one hardcore hip-hop heads adore. The beginning of the album is more of the same female soul hooks along with raps - but if you keep listening, Spike Lee gives a shout out, and De La Soul spout their thoughts on the current condition of hip - hop, which they deduce is not pretty.
Also coming Tuesday, my exclusive (you won't find it in other American newspapers, only Chinese media) - the first Chinese - language rocker backed by an mainstream promoter, A-Yue (pronounced A-You-eh), who's Taiwan's Eminem with a style like Limp Bizkit or blink-182.
If you're still fired up after last night's presidential debate or forgot it was on, get informed on politics through hip-hop:
WHAT:1st Annual Hip Hop Conference WHERE: San Jose State University Student Union
WHEN: 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2
WHY: Designed to address the issues of young hip hoppers from the ages of 18-35, this conference includes keynote speaker Dr. Tricia Rose, professor and chair of the American Studies Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
There will also be panel discussions and workshops on:
women in hip hop
police and community relations
the state of hip hop in San Jose
youth in activism.
Plus, a community resource fair and an art exhibit of local talent, film screenings, vendors and music throughout the day.