12.31.2012

Celebrating 75 years of American...rap music?


"Listen close, I don't want you to miss
none of this here story, 'cause it goes like this..."

Yeah, yeah, KRS-One. The Bronx may be the birthplace of hip-hop music, but some of its precious "blueprint" appears to have come from the rugged suburbs of Virginia. That's right, Virginia. It was in the Norfolk suburb of Berkley that the gospel music act known as the Golden Gate Quartet was formed in the 'durrty' 1930s. Negro spirituals were this crew's specialty, but they were famously known for rocking the mic with a trademark brand of toe-tapping gospel, marinated in the secular styles of jazz, blues, pop and rap -- decades before rap even had a name! And to my ears, the Golden Gate Quartet's 1937 cover/remix of the Arthur Collin's song "Preacher and the Bear" seems to be one of the earliest and best examples on wax of a familiar sound that would come to revolutionize music four decades later, with the release of Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." Yowza! Talk about old school.

Submitted for your approval ... "Preacher and the Bear."


[Press-N-Play®] Golden Gate Quartet – Preacher and the Bear
[Press-N-Play®] Golden Gate Quartet – Mockingbird

  
Shout outs to Word Is Bond for the heads-up, and to the ever reliable Archive.org for an even better version of this song, as well as others by the Golden Gate Quartet.

12.15.2012

The Secret Santa: How a Black Bishop from Asia Became America's Favorite White Saint

Jolly old St. Nicholas, lean your ear this way
Don't you tell a single soul what I'm going to say...


 THE SECRET SANTA

By Paco Taylor
       
Ten years ago, while conducting somewhat unrelated research on the interwebs, I got an unexpected clue from an old Russian painting (seen above) that Americans really know nothing about St. Nicholas, aka Santa Claus. And after two hundred years of Christmastime tradition in this country – and him with that deer driven sleigh having free 'rein' to fly our protected airspace – you'd think that we'd know all that there is to know about a dude who also has full access to our chimneys.

But, alas, like all the other mental mavericks who once also believed in Sarah Palin (just kidding, folks), I simply trusted that this guy's background had been thoroughly vetted. But, oh, by gosh by golly did we get our intel wrong. 

Never in a million cups of sauced eggnog would I have guessed that in the older Dutch tradition, St. Nick would have an African sidekick--who's probably Muslim to boot. Even more, though, you could've knocked me over with a snowflake when I gradually discovered that in the old paintings and statues of Italy and elsewhere, even the patron saint of Christmas himself is shown as a grandfatherly-looking black man. 

I mean...holy Barack Obama's second term, Santa! Just wait until Beck, Palin, Trump, and the Fox News fruitcakes get a load of you. Those 'real' Americans are also going to want their white Christmas back.

Sinter Claes

Today, people around the world are familiar with the popularized depiction of Santa Claus: a chubby old gnome with a snow-colored beard, eight tiny reindeer, and an army of freckle-faced elves who leap at his beck and call. In light of the multi-million dollar impact that the legend of Santa has on the American cult of retail, he is a commercial icon in this country, more powerful than Batman, Barbie, Thor, Dora the Explorer, Oprah, Optimus Prime and all of the other Transformers combined.

And though commonly thought of as an American folk legend, Santa Claus actually owes much of his existence to old religious customs that came to this country with immigrants from Europe. Interwoven in the American holiday tradition are the holiday traditions of Spain, Germany, Italy, and, above all, the Dutch Netherlands, where one of the clearest connections to the Santa tradition can be found.

Before becoming known in America as Santa Claus, this magical gift bearer was called “Sinter Claes” or “Sinterklass,” a Dutch language corruption of the name and title of Saint Nicholas, a 4th century bishop of the Eastern Orthodox Church. And as Dutch tradition tells it, Sinterklass doesn’t travel by sled or live at the North Pole. He also doesn't dress up in a red velvet suit trimmed with polar bear faux fur or manage a year-round sweatshop staffed by toy-making elves.

According to the Dutch, Sinterklass leaves his home in Spain around mid-November, traveling by steamboat to the Netherlands to deliver gifts on December 5th, the eve of St. Nicholas’ Feast Day. Garbed in a red Episcopal robe with the pointed miter of a bishop on his head and a gold shepherd’s crook in hand, Sinterklaas' role as a high priest of the Church is on full display.

Upon his eagerly anticipated arrival, Sinterklass rides from house to house and rooftop to rooftop on the back of a white horse. Acting with impartial authority, down the chimney of every home he drops gifts for the children who were well behaved throughout the year, and single lumps of coal for those who were naughty! Then, after a long night of work, Sinterklass returns to the steamboat on the morning of December 6th and travels back home to Spain.

It isn’t exactly clear why the Dutch consider Spain to be the home of Sinterklass, not that the North Pole makes a better a locale for the toy-making racket. The actual St. Nicholas was born and raised in Patara, a city once located on the northeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea. But there are theories that suggest how Spain got the job. One of these has to do with the Moors, a northwest African people who were once viewed as the Islamic terrorists of medieval Europe.

Odd as Africa having any connection to the Santa Claus legend may sound at first, it will make perfect sense when you understand that in the Dutch tradition, Sinterklass isn’t assisted by pointy-eared elves dressed in green velvet suits, as seen on TV's animated Rudolph special. According to Dutch tradition, the helper of Sinterklaas is a colorfully dressed blackamoor.

Zwarte Piet

Making a list and checking it twice to keep an accurate record of who's been naughty and who's been nice throughout the year is a monumental task, even for a magical old dude like Sinterklass. So, assisting him with his gift-giving enterprise is Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), a Moorish youth with an old school feathered cap on his head and 24-karat 'bling' in his ears.

According to tradition, Black Peter holds the book in which the names of every Dutch child is kept, as well as the records of their behavior. Spirited and strong, Peter also carries the sack of toys for the elderly saint. In some versions of the legend he also brings along a bundle of switches that parents can borrow from to heat up the hides of mischievous children.

Click to enlarge

While the genesis of Sinterklass is generally accepted, the origin of Black Peter, though considerably more recent, is still a matter of debate. Moreover, as Europe’s relations with black populations has varied over the centuries, so too has the nature of Black Peter, whose connection to Sinterklass has ranged from devilish 'bad cop' (who tosses bad children in his sack and drags them off to a hell somewhere near Spain), to loyal sidekick, to noble servant, to clownish slave.

Whatever his exact origin, today Black Peter clearly represents the Islamic tide that once swept out of Africa and threatened to overtake medieval Europe. The fact that he is most often described as a Moor, and therefore a Muslim, firmly places Peter into the historical timeline when armies from northwest Africa advanced into southern Europe to secure a foothold that allowed the spread of Islam across portions of its then Christian and pagan lands.

Moorish Science

It was in 711 AD when the Moors crossed the Mediterranean Sea to reach what is modern-day Portugal and Spain. Within a decade they controlled nearly the entire region. Nine years later, they crossed the Pyrenees Mountains that divide France from Spain, taking parts of southern France. It would take three long decades of battle before France succeeded in driving the Moors back through the Pyrenees. Their occupation of Spain, however, would last nearly 800 years.

Around 827, the Moors also took the Mediterranean Island of Corsica and then secured control of Sicily, which they held for more than 260 years. In 846 Muslim armies of Moors and Arabs sacked the Christian holy city of Rome and then occupied several cities along the northern and southern coasts of Italy. These captured areas included cities like Taranto, Brindisi and Bari, the place where the skeletal remains of St. Nicholas would later come to be enshrined.

It is this lesser-known history of Africa's Moors, as well as Dutch involvement in the African Slave Trade, that factor largely into the figure of Black Peter. Once the ultimate bogeyman of nightmares and parental threats, the ever-adolescent Moor mostly serves now in the neutered capacity of comic relief: A black fool set against a white and godly St. Nicholas with silly pranks and mumbling mouthfuls of quasi Afro-Dutch Creole.

Throughout the Netherlands at holiday, it is traditional to have one person dressed up as St. Nicholas and one, two, or as many as a dozen others dressed up as Black Peter. However, over the past two decades discussions about whether Peter is a not-so-subtle racial stereotype have come to divide the Dutch. The crude blackface makeovers and the acts of buffoonery used to portray the character are disturbing to many.

In the mid 1990s, Dutch activists began to demand that Black Peter be removed from the festivities, or replaced by a White Peter. In response, attempts were made to also feature yellow, red, green and blue-faced Peters, which met with even louder public outcry. And so, despite continuing controversy, Black Peter remains a prominent figure in the holiday traditions of the Netherlands.

Snowblind

“Saint Nicholas, on whom the character Santa Claus is based, was of Northern European descent,” says Monica Suraci, an acting spokesperson for the US Postal Service. For nearly half a century, stamps that commemorate the Christmas season have been issued by the Post Office, and dozens have featured the popular, blue-eyed image of Santa Claus.

Suraci’s statement echoes the long-held belief of most Americans: Saint Nicholas was of Northern European decent. The fact is, though, he actually wasn’t. As with many of the religious figures who are today revered throughout Europe and America, the birthplace of Nicholas was Asia, the western peninsula that was once known as Asiana or Asia Minor, to be exact.

Click to enlarge

According to legend, Nicholas was born to wealthy parents in Patara, an ancient city that was situated on the southern coast of what is now modern-day Turkey. Orphaned when his parents fell victim to a plague that swept through the region, Nicholas was taken into the care of both an uncle and the local Orthodox Church.

After reaching adulthood and believing that he was called to a life of service, Nicholas donated his inheritance to the poor and joined the monastery. Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, he traveled the pilgrimage routes to Palestine and Egypt. Some time later, after a triumphant return to Patara, Nicholas was appointed to serve as a bishop in the nearby city of Myra.

Frankincense

In Nicholas’ day, Myra ("myrrh") was a major port city of the Eastern Roman Empire, located just opposite of Egypt on the far side of the Mediterranean. In the Bible, Myra is mentioned as a stopping point where the Apostle Paul, who was under arrest for inciting a riot in Jerusalem, was transferred to a ship bound for Rome.

According to legend, Nicholas once saved Myra from a famine when he took grain from a ship with goods being sent from Egypt to the Greek city of Byzantium. Miraculously, the appropriated cargo was never missed. Because of that daring deed, Nicholas would eventually come to be viewed as the protector or patron saint of clerks...and thieves.

Another legend says that while on a voyage across the Mediterranean, Nicholas calmed a violent storm with a prayer, thus making him the patron saint of sailors and travelers. In yet another tale, he miraculously brought back to life three children who were killed by a madman and pickled in a tub of brine, thus making him the patron saint of children.

The very best known legend associated with Nicholas laid the ancient foundation upon which the modern Santa Claus legend is based. It tells of a poor man who had three beautiful teenage daughters. This man had once been a noble but, through a series of misfortunes, he'd become nearly destitute. So much so that he considered selling his daughters into prostitution, since he could not provide the dowries that were necessary for them to become acceptable brides.

Eventually bishop Nicholas came to hear whispers of the despairing man’s plight and took it upon himself to devise a more saintly solution. In the dead of night, Nicholas crept over to the man’s house and quietly climbed up onto the roof. Upon reaching the top of his precarious destination, he dropped three small bags containing gold coins down the chimney.

Now, earlier that evening the man's daughters had done the laundry and their wet stockings were hung at the fireplace to dry. Each bag of gold that Nicholas dropped down the chimney was miraculously deposited into one of the stockings belonging to each of the girls. Or so the famous legend goes.

When the family awoke the next morning, they promptly discovered the gifts that some anonymous benefactor had delivered to them. And due to the generosity of Nicholas (whose identity they later discovered), the man and his daughters went on to live the “happily ever after” life.

Black Bishop

For centuries after the death of Nicholas, recorded as December 6th, 343 AD, legends of his miraculous acts and charitable deeds continued to spread. By the 9th century in Asia, and the 11th century in Europe, the bishop had become one of Christianity's most revered figures. His tomb at Myra became a popular pilgrimage site, and visitors often claimed to have received healing from sickness there.

For the early Church of Europe, religious relics from Asia – including the skeletal remains of its holy men – were of immense value. Thus, churches were all about the business of acquiring relics. So much so that on May 9, 1087, a group of men from the Italian port city of Bari raided Nicholas’ tomb at Myra and stole the bishop’s bones. Back in Bari, a basilica named for Nicholas was built to shelter his remains. They lie beneath the altar in the crypt to this day.

On a wall above a 17th century altar in a side chapel at the Bari basilica hangs a painted portrait of the bishop of Myra. It is called “San Nicola Nero,” which translates from the Italian as “St. Nicholas the Black.” Positioned at the center of this very surprising image is the much-heralded bishop of Myra, rendered as a bushy-bearded black man.

The identity of the painter who created the image, dated to between the 17th and 18th century, appears to have been lost to history. But for centuries now his art has been a spiritual focal point for regular parishioners of, and visiting pilgrims to the Bari Basilica.

Out of the painting, Nicholas’ eyes stare forward. The saint’s head is surrounded by a golden halo, which is symbolic of divine light. He is dressed in blue Eucharistic vestments, probably woven of velvet or silk, as is customary in the Eastern Church. His tunic is richly accented with an iridescent check pattern and a wide trim of gold brocade.


Nicholas’ right hand is raised in the gesture of benediction, while his left hand holds up the Book of Scriptures. Atop the scriptures rest three gold coins, which symbolize the legendary act that redeemed the lives of a poor man and his daughters.

On all four sides Nicholas is flanked by various figures. Christ and Mary hover in the clouds above his shoulders. To his left is the tub of brine with the three children who, according to tradition, were restored to life by the saint. Standing on the right of Nicholas is an alter boy who holds up a silver plate and a wine cruet, items that represent the ritual Communion of Saints.

 Secret Santa

To say the least, the San Nicola Nero painting is a surprising image, rich with reverence and religious meaning. Much less surprising is the lack of documentation anywhere that details how, in addition to popular images of St. Nicholas with a European countenance, for untold centuries images like this have depicted him with characteristics of African or Asiatic black populations.

Also located in Bari, tucked inside the chapel at the 11th century Norman Castle of Sannicandro, an old statue of San Nicola Nero looks out over the faithful. And elsewhere in Southern Italy, in the churches of Maglie, Mileto, Picerno, and Volturara Irpino, similar images of the Moorish-looking St. Nicholas are treasured.


Beyond Italy, in Spain and Russia, where St. Nicholas is one of the most revered of all the saints, images depicting him in a similar fashion are revered. As far away as South America, at the Cathedral of San Nicolas de Bari in La Rioja, Argentina, a life-sized statue of "San Nicholas Negro" (Black St. Nicholas) has been a celebrated icon of the church since 1640.

Despite their surprisingly widespread presence, though, almost nowhere is the existence of images such as these mentioned. One cryptic sentence in the Catholic Encyclopedia will only go as far as to say that depictions of St. Nicholas in art “are as various as his alleged miracles.” And met with an old-time secret so guardedly kept, this maverick writer cannot help but wonder if there are still other places left in the world where the old image of St. Nicholas with a warm, chestnut complexion yet lingers.


“The Secret Santa: How a Black Bishop from Asia Became America’s Favorite White Saint” © St. Paco (Paco D. Taylor, aka Professor XXL) 2006 – 2012, Year of the Dragon edition

12.14.2012

[Press-N-Play®] Kanye West ft. Teyana Taylor – Christmas in Harlem


[Press-N-Play®] Kanye West - Christmas In Harlem (Feat. Teyana Taylor, Cam'ron, Jim Jones, CyHi Da Prynce, Pusha T, Big Sean & Musiq Soulchild)

Sylvester Stallone's Rocky-like Determination



In 1974, Sylvester Stallone was a broke, discouraged, and disillusioned actor. He was also struggling screenwriter.

But one very fortuitous evening, while in a attendance at a boxing match at Madison Square Garden, Stallone watched in awe as what he described as a “nobody boxer” slugged it out for twelve astounding rounds with the World Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali. 

He was inspired.

After the fight, with a flame burning in his belly, Stallone rushed home and began writing. Three days later, he finished the first draft of the screenplay entitled “Rocky.”

He submitted the script to his agent. His agent submitted the script to a film studio. The studio liked what they read and offered $20,000 for the script. They also named Ryan O'Neal and Burt Reynolds as possible actors to play the role of the southpaw pugilist from Philly.

Stallone was thrilled with the offer but – despite only having about $100 bucks to his name – he declined. He wanted to play the role of Rocky himself. 

In fact, he wanted so badly to play the part of Rocky that he offered to work on the film for free. But he was advised emphatically by the studio heads that, "That's not how it works in Hollywood." 

Still wanting the project, they upped their offer to $80,000 on the condition that Stallone give up on the idea of playing the lead character. He turned them down again.

The studio informed him that Robert Redford had become interested in the project and raised their offer to $200,000. Stallone wouldn't budge. 

The offer shot up to $300,000. Stallone refused again, explaining to the studio that he couldn't risk giving up on his dream role and going through the rest of his life wondering "What if?"

An additional $30,000 was tacked on to the studio's already hefty six-figure offer. Stallone informed them that he would rather not see the screenplay made into a film at all if he couldn't play Rocky.

Stallone won the fight.

The studio agreed to let him play Rocky, but he would only be paid the original $20,000 that had been offered for the screenplay. Also, while working as an actor on the film, he would only get an additional $340 per week–the minimum scale for an actor. 

After his expenses, agent fees, and taxes, Stallone netted roughly $6,000–a far cry from the $330,000 offer that had been on the table. But two years later, he received an Academy Award nomination for his moving portrayal of the pig-headed pugilist named Rocky. 

The film won three Academy Awards in the categories for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing. It also fostered a lucrative film franchise that has since grossed nearly $1 billion dollars and made Sylvester Stallone an international movie star.

What’s the moral of the story?


Trust your instincts, stick to your guns, and always look at the big picture.


Reference: The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen

12.12.2012

Twilight of the Twinkie

 Since the 1930s, the taste of Hostess snack cakes were an integral part of snack culture in America. Maybe nowhere was this more apparent than in the pages of comic books in the 1970s and '80s. In the full-page Hostess ads that were regularly featured, costumed crime-fighters relied on their wits – and the irresistible bait of Twinkies, Fruit Pies, and Cupcakes – to capture hapless bad guys. Odin only knows how many times Hostess snack cakes saved the day. And not just in the pages of comics but also in the real world, when appetites craved a cream-filled or a fruit-filled treat. In sweet remembrance of the Hostess Company, which turned off its ovens after an 80-year run in the snack business, YKFS brings you a few of those pulse-pounding pages. If you got lucky enough to get your hands on a pack of Twinkies before they were all bought up and posted on Ebay, I hope that you poured out a little milk on the curb for the dearly departed and savored every last crumb.


Click to enlarge






[Press-N-Play®] Blondie vs Fab 5 Freddy - Yuletown Throw Down (Rapture Christmas Mix)

Blondie, Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash & friend + Chris Stein, NYC (1981)


11.26.2012

Top 20 Slept On Reasons Why Nicki Minaj Is A Geek Goddess

                                                                                  Jacked pic courtesy of Honeymag.com


TOP 20 SLEPT ON REASONS WHY NICKI MINAJ IS A MAJOR GEEK GODDESS 

By St. Paco

In spite of all of her richly deserved props (haters, baccdafuccup), Nicki Minaj has never received the credit that she's due for being a super sexy geek goddess on the DL. Thus, this stan astute listener is pullin' Ms. Nicki's Yu-Gi-Oh card to give all you 'Sheldons' twenty spine-tingling reasons why she is the slept on pinup queen of comic book hoarders, action figure fanatics, street-smart geeks and 'toon loving anime freaks.

Top 20 reasons why Nicki Minaj is a pinup goddess of the 21st century nerd herds:

1. Back in the day (meaning, three years ago) Nicki rocked a knock-off Wonder Woman costume in a photo used on the covers of her pre-major label mix-tapes, Harajuku Barbie and Beam Me Up Scotty.

2. The fact that she's 'brick' enough to fill out a Wonder Woman costume

3. The fact that she even had a mix-tape with the title Beam Me Up Scotty.

4. The fact that she has made countless references to the über fly Harajuku fashion district of Tokyo.

5. Nicki has proven that she has a mutant-like ability to speak in a rather (pronounced "rah-thur") convincing British accent, similar to hardcore Harry Potter cosplayers.

6. Nicki used the Barbie logo as the template for an eye-popping pink and white iced nameplate.

7. Nicki has rapped that she's a ninja, and that "Lil' Wayne is my sensei."

8. Nicki screamed like Godzilla at the end of that fire-spittin' verse on Kanye's "Monster."

9. Nicki's lyrics reveal a strong fixation with caped crusaders like Superman and his luscious lovely cousin Supergirl.

10. Lyrical exhibit A: "That's why I put that 'S' on my chest, and I'm gone."

11. Lyrical exhibit B: "I'm a comic book heroine."

13. Lyrical exhibit C: "Superhero by night, r-r-rapper by day." 

14. Lyrical exhibit D: "'S' on my chest, 'cause I'm ready to save him."

15. Lyrical exhibit E: "Put on my cape and hit the sky: Heroine." 

15. Nicki bragged that she's flyer than Darkwing Duck on Keri Hilson's "Get Your Money Up" remix.

16. Nicki boasted that her money's so tall that "my Barbie's gotta climb it" on Kanye's "Monster."

17. She stuttered like Porky Pig and said "that's all, folks" on Lil' Wayne's "Sweet Dreams" remix.

18. Did I mention that Wonder Woman costume?

19. Mattel Toys produced a one-of-a-kind Nicki Minaj Barbie, which places her on the topmost shelf of an illustrious glass case filled with action figures modeled after legendary hip-hop idols like Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Biz Markie, MF Doom, Ghostface Killah, Notorious B.I.G., and, um…MC Hammer. 

20. Nicki has more bifocal-fogging curves than Olivia Munn, Kristen Kreuk and Penny from Big Bang Theory combined.


[Cue Letterman audience applause]

11.17.2012

They drank Sprite and then formed like...



Although it was originally Method Man and the Wu-Tang Clan who coined the phrase "We form like Voltron," it was a different mix of hip-hop artists who starred in a series of Voltron inspired Sprite commercials in 1998. Today, we can only daydream how those TV spots might have looked – and sounded – if the RZA, Meth, Raekwon and the rest had been placed behind the controllers of Voltron's black, red, green, blue and yellow lions. Instead, but much to their credit, the marketing heads at Sprite assembled a crew of hip-hop artists who represented the East Coast (Afrika Bambaataa, Jazzy Jay, Fat Joe), West Coast (Mack 10), Northern (Common) and Southern states (Goodie Mob). The beats and rhymes were appropriately bubbly, and the campaign showed a sparkling effort by an advertiser to sample the mouth-watering flavors that can result when American hip-hop gets blended with a Japanese giant robot.

Submitted for your approval...the Sprite "Voltron" commercials.






10.28.2012

About #@$% time – The Ultra Seven Complete Series DVD box set is finally coming!!!


With the release of an über-affordable Ultraman: The Complete Series DVD collection from Mill Creek in 2009, many of us hoped that it would only be a matter of time before "Ultra Seven," the popular 1967 follow-up to "Ultraman," would also punch its way into the American marketplace. And now, according to August Ragone, author of Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters, this long hoped for collection is finally coming! December 2012 will bring fans the eagerly-awaited release of Ultra Seven: The Complete Series, a six disc collection from Shout! Factory. This striking boxed set will include all 48 episodes* of the Ultra Seven TV series in the original Japanese with English subtitles. Also included with the discs is a 24-page booklet on the making of Ultra Seven written by August Ragone, and a...special surprise bonus?! The release of Ultra Seven is slated for December 11th. Pre-orders can be placed today with the good folks over at Amazon.com($34.99 SRP). So grab a purple crayon, kiddies, scribble this baby down on your 'wishmas' list, and make sure to stay on Santa's good side from now until December 25th. If you can do that, then it's highly likely that Christmas this year will be incredibly mer–ultra.

*Batteries the controversial episode 12 ("From Another Planet With Love") not included.

10.27.2012

NOW SHOWING...

 
It's Saturday again, gang, and you know what that means? You betcha! It's time for Your Kung Fu Sucks! Grindhouse Cinemas™ to bring another installment of the Monsta Mashin' Matinee to your desktops! This month's creature feature is a showing of Korea's first entry into the daikaiju genre with the 1967 classic, Yongary: Monster from the Deep (aka Great Monster Yongary). As always, this Vintage Video™ is available as a free mp4 download courtesy of the fine folks over at Archive.org. But you're also more than welcome to watch it front-row-and-center at the YKFS blog. But do bring your own popcorn, Sno-Caps and Jujubees, please.


10.26.2012

Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge give you "Twelve Reasons to Die"


In this hard-knock life of ours, there are three things we can always count on: death, taxes, and Ghostface Killah. And on November 20th, this ever reliable member of the Wu-Tang clan is dropping his 10th solo album, Twelve Reasons to Die. Produced in collaboration with Adrian Younge, the maestro behind the Black Dynamite soundtrack, and executive produced by Wu Abbot the RZA, you can bet your candy store money that this album will be on some next level $#@%. As such, in the direction of the next logical level, Ghostface (aka Tony Starks, aka Iron Man) is also launching a related comic book project in December! With Christmas right around the corner, the Twelve Reasons to Die album and comic book sound like they'd make great stocking stuffers for the Wu-fan who has everything–like you, me and everyone we know.

10.25.2012

Prelude to The Man with The Iron Fists - "The Encounter," narrated by the RZA

  
Eric Calderon and RZA, the creators behind the sights and the sounds of the smash hit Afro Samurai, brings to the web an artful-looking prequel to the Universal Pictures film The Man with the Iron Fists. Check out the YouTube exclusive video by clicking here.

Director: RZA 
Release: 11/2/2012 
Studio: Universal Pictures 
Website: http://www.ironfists.com

[GFM] Nat King Cole – Autumn Leaves

Grown folks music.

[Press-N-Play®] Nat King Cole – Autumn Leaves (English Version)
[Press-N-Play®] Nat King Cole – Autumn Leaves (Japanese Version)

The Enlightenment of 'Uncle Rush' in Forbes

      (Image Credit: ForbesLife)

"The Enlightenment of Russell Simmons" by Forbes Staff writer Hannah Elliot appears in the November 5, 2012 issue of Forbes Life. Read the entire article for free-ninety-nine by clicking here.

10.24.2012

Russell Simmons on stillness


"When Albert Einstein developed the theory of relativity, he was operating out of a state of stillness. When Biggie Smalls wrote his greatest rhymes, he was operating out of a state of stillness. When Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb, he was operating out of a state of stillness. When Gandhi went on his first hunger strike, he was operating out of a state of stillness too.
  Stillness is the fertile soil in which imagination is nourished, and ideas can grow to incredible heights. The stillness inside of us is a field of dreams from which we can reap our most abundant harvests."

– Russell Simmons

Source: Super Rich, pg. 32

10.23.2012

Soul Clap for Piano in D Minor

There's something deeply soulful about to the piano strokes of the appropriately nicknamed Soul Hug. It's hard to explain, but if you're the kind of listener who hears music deeply, then maybe no explanation will be necessary. Maybe you'll be similarly affected by the pure and simple sound of a solitary piano under the hands of a musician with a sincere passion for the instrument, and a knack for hitting just the right notes.

The nine original songs on Soul Hug's recently released Elepianote EP are mellow and sweetly melodic. If you're not in the right mindset for that today (or tonight), it's okay. Save it for when you need something in that vein, and nothing else in your mp3 player is doing it. And when that time does come, do what I did: Press play, lower your eyelids, and see where the music takes you.

As for me, I'm wandering into a hotel lobby in some strange city situated in the Pacific Rim of my frontal lobe. It's just after 2 AM when I push inside the nameless hotel through the brass-and-glass revolving doors. Once inside, my ears are caught by the warming notes of a piano that beckon to me from around a nearby corner. Following the sound, I'm guided to the doorway of a dimly lit bar.

Stepping inside the double-doored entrance, my eyes make out the dimly lit shape of a young, hip-hop-looking cat who's seated at a piano, twenty or so feet away. His head is wrapped in a brown wool-knit cap with its brim 'broken off' to the left. A lit Marlboro pokes out from the lips of a thinly haired goatee. His slim frame is garbed in a white tee-shirt and baggy Phat Farm blue jeans that flood down over the tops of wheat-colored Timberlands.

Like myself, the musician is also in town from someplace else far away. Needing an escape from the solitary confinement of his friendless hotel room, he took to wandering the hotel's hallways. Before long, he'd found the sanctuary that he needed in this darkened bar with a Wurlitzer piano parallel parked in a corner.

Mesmerized by the plinking of the keys, I slink into the cushioned booth just inside the entrance. As my eyes finish adjusting to the darkness, they reveal to me that I'm not alone here; hidden in the cushions of other booths nearby are a dozen more mesmerized listeners who were–just as I was–beckoned there by the warming allure of piano notes. 

A skinny little server saunters over and asks what I'll be having. I ask what the guy at the piano is drinking. "Thirty-year-old sake," she replies with a knowing smile. Slowly, I nod my head to signal agreement. And as she twirls her narrow hips to leave, I place a palm on the small of her spine, and ask that she also take a bottle to the wandering virtuoso with his fingers on the keys.


Soul Hug: ELEPIANOTE   

1. Love Note 
2. 月下美人 (Gekkabijin) 
3. Street
4. Three Color Of Night View
5. Kiss 
6. 侍 Samurai 
7. World Prayer 
9. Pirates of Legend  


Link courtesy of J-MP3 
• • • 
Thanks to Mr. Tang @ Word is Bond for the Soul Hug hook-up (by way of Otokaze).

10.14.2012

Freight train of thought


 Click to enlarge


Art: NG Crew (Fyse, El Mac, Equis), Tucson, 2001
Photos © 2002 St. Paco

9.30.2012

[Excerpt] Buddha in the Robot


Buddha in the Robot
By St. Paco

Ever since that giant protector of mankind known as Ultraman first punched his way out of television screens in 1966, Japan’s live-action giant robot shows have been immensely popular with audiences in Japan and around the world. In addition to Ultraman, other youth-oriented programs that featured over-sized super-heroes would find equal favor with an expanding worldwide audience. These include shows like Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, the Space Giants, Super Robot Red Baron, Spectreman, and The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.

From the time of my early exposure to imaginative shows such as these I was a fan–a big one. But, like everyone else in the target demographic who tuned in daily to follow their enormous adventures, I never gave much thought to the origins of Japan’s biggie-sized protectors. All I knew back then was that they captured my imagination like nothing else on the television. But recently, while paging through an out of copyright e-book on Japanese tourism downloaded from the Internet, I came across an aged photograph of a now barely remembered Daibutsu (Giant Buddha) statue that once loomed over Tokyo's famed Ueno Park. And though I had never seen it before, something about the expressionless giant with a comparatively small man standing in his palms seemed oddly familiar.

As you may have guessed from the picture (or from the obvious trail of bread crumbs dropped in the previous paragraphs), a connection was quickly drawn to giant robot shows. Just as those other giants had done when I was young, the super-sized statue put a judo hold on my imagination. But, more than that, the photograph also provoked me to ponder if there could really be a connection between such statues and those larger-than-life TV guardians of humanity.

War Machine

To be completely honest, I didn’t immediately begin contemplating the possible links that could exist between the giant Buddha statues of Japan and its giant robot TV shows. At first, my fertile mind was too preoccupied with untamed ideas about a computer generated movie, or a comic book, or even a limited-edition action figure modeled on the Ueno Park Buddha.

Oh, and yes, I do realize that such thinking is kinda' inappropriate, in that it's a representation of the Enlightened One and all. But if you have a good imagination, and you like giant robots, then you simply must admit that a massive mechanical man modeled after the statue would be pretty frickin’ awesome. I mean, look at him! He’s big, he’s bad, and even the curls popping out of his cranium look like they could kick some butt.

Within a few short minutes, I had roughed out a quick synopsis about a reclusive roboticist that I named Mori Masamune, who had built a giant robot cast in the image of the Ueno Park Buddha. This act was done as a gesture to honor the memory of his mother who used to visit the statue as a girl in the 1940s, before it was melted down for use in the Pacific war effort.

If that idea sounds good as a clever bit of fiction, it’s because it is rooted in historical fact.

During World War II, the bronze foundation, body and head of the Ueno Park statue were claimed under Japan’s Metal Acquisition Law, which mandated that various metals be turned over to the government for weapons production. Somehow the face of the Tokyo Daibutsu escaped destruction. Today, it sits enshrined in the park where the full statue once stood.

With my thinking cap still in place, several glorious titles for the CG movie/comic book/action figure project came to mind. But the list soon dwindled down to a ‘title bout’ between “Metal God One” and “Black Guardian Daibutsu.” As much as I liked the first one, though, the second really seemed to be the most fitting, since Tokyo’s long lost religious statue clearly depicted Buddha as a ‘brother.’

Heavy Metal

When the making of Tokyo’s Daibutsu was finished in 1660, it was just one of nine large bronze Buddha statues casting long shadows on the landscapes of Japan. The nation’s oldest dates to the 8th century, when a royal edict was issued that called for the building of Buddhist temples across Japan. The city of Nara was actually the nation’s capitol then, and the first and largest Daibutsu (52 feet) was completed there in 752.

Until about the 18th century, when an earthquake lessened their number, Japan’s other giant bronze Daibutsu statues could be found in temples located in the towns of Gifu, Echizen, Takaoka, Hyogo, Nikko and Kyoto. Japan’s second largest but most visited bronze Buddha was finished in 1252, and belongs to a temple in the tourist destination city of Kamakura.

Introduced by priests from China and Korea in the 6th century, India’s Buddhist religion quickly spread across Japan to become the second most practiced faith after Shinto, the native religion of the Japanese. Initially viewed as a dangerous rival to Shinto, the priests of Japan eventually authored a doctrine that would put the foreign faith on the path of harmonious co-existence with old gods of Japan.

It was in the 9th century that a philosophy called honji suijaku was developed in order to reconcile the ancient deities of Shinto with India’s more recently embraced buddhas and bodhisattvas (buddha-like saviors). According to this principle, the Shinto deities were considered the shadows or the “trace essence” of Buddhist deities, who were in turn viewed as the true forms or the “original essence” of all Shinto divinities.

It seemed that an understanding of the honji suijaku philosophy could be extremely useful in my attempt to discover possible links between ancient Buddhism and the giant robots of 20th century, an age when technology was like a new religion in Japan. What's more, the very existence of such a doctrine made it seem even more plausible that the super-sized saviors of modern television could also be reconciled somehow with the deities of Japan.

Or the ‘trace essence’ of their images at least.

Before trying to establish connections with Ultraman and the others, it seemed like a good idea to investigate yet another modern giant protector figure. One that might possibly have preceded the entry of the others into J-pop culture by way of the silver screen...


The YKFS management hopes that you have enjoyed this teaser excerpt of St. Paco's "Buddha in the Robot." The complete essay appears in the pulse-pounding pages of Kung Fu Grip! #5.

9.29.2012

[Rewind] Japanese Cartoon – In the Jaws of the Lords of Death


The year after Chi-town's Kanye West blind-sided pop music by freeing his inner torch singer on the critically acclaimed 808s & Heartbreaks, his West Side connection, Lupe Fiasco, let loose his inner punk rocker on the even more unpredictable In the Jaws of the Lords of Death. But, in contrast to Ye's clearly branded tunes, Lupe's guitar-grinding post-punk songs were clandestinely leaked to the web under the unknown band name of Japanese Cartoon. For weeks after the release of the first singles–which featured Lupe singing in a faux British brogue–the rapper even feigned as if he had nothing to do with the tracks. And though he wasn't exactly foolin' anybody, Lupe had managed to impress nearly everyone. In the Jaws of the Lords of Death gave new and old Lupe fans a splendid set of '80s flavored rock. It was cool music from a mysterious punk band with a famed front-man whose Grammy-grabbing forte is hip-hop. And yet, despite that successful genre-jumping accomplishment, Japanese Cartoon would ultimately turn out to be little more than a clever experiment by a brilliant artist who seems to bore quickly and threatens to retire from hip-hop often. Nonetheless, the project provided Lupe Fiasco (aka Lupin III) with a much-wanted opportunity to flex his creative muscles. It also gave listeners a chance to hear and see that when it comes to making music, Lupe is an Akira-like force to be reckoned with. – SP

[Press-N-Play®] Japanese Cartoon – Crowd Participation
[Press-N-Play®] Japanese Cartoon – Gasp

[:::Download:::] In the Jaws of the Lords of Death (2010)

9.28.2012

Masahiro Mori on the proper flow of learning


"To make water flow, it is necessary to create a difference in height, for water will flow only from high places to low places. In human society, we can increase the flow of nature by maintaining a low posture. 
  When you go to a scholar or an expert and ask him to teach you, the best way to ensure a flow of information from him to you is for you to practice humility–put yourself on a lower level than your instructor, so that his knowledge can flow down more freely. If you attempt to be his equal–to stand on the same level–you are not likely to learn much. Still less will you learn from anyone whom you hold in contempt."

– Masahiro Mori

Source: The Buddha in the Robot: A Robot Engineer's Thoughts on Science and Religion

9.26.2012

9.25.2012

[Book Report] Super #1 Robot

Super #1 Robot: Japanese Robot Toys, 1972-1982

The difference between men and boys is the age of their toys, and Tim Brisko's Super #1 Robot (Chronicle Books, 2005) showcases within its glossy pages a tantalizing taste of the candy-colored playthings that were once made for boys in Japan between 1972 and 1982.

That ten year time frame marked something of a golden age in robot toys, which were largely based on the towering titans of the animated TV shows of the day like Mazinger Z, Getter Robo, Brave Raydeen, Space Dragon Gaiking, Space Knight Tekkaman, Beast King GoLion (aka Voltron), Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, Mobile Suit Gundam, and others.

Boasting more than 200 pages of gorgeous color plates by photographer Tim Brisko, a fascinating 24-page essay by toy historians Matt Alt and Robert Duban, and a touching afterward by Bullmark Toys founder Saburo Ishiuziki, Super #1 Robot is the Christmas Wish Book you never had as a kid, and a compendium of classic robot toys that no full-grown otaku should be without. – SP


 1973 - Miracle Fighting Red Baron [Super Robot Red Baron], page 38

1974 - Great Mazinger [Great Mazinger], page 49

 1975 - Getter Dragun [Getter Robo G], page 75

1975 - Grandizer [UFO Robo Grandizer], page 85

 1976 - Combattra [Super Electromagnetic Robo Combattra], page 111

 1977 - Danguard Ace [Planetary Robo Danguard Ace], page 130

 1979 - Gundam Combination Set [Mobile Suit Gundam], page 165

1981 - Future Beast GoLion [Master of a Hundred Beasts: GoLion], page 188

Today - Meka Godzilla [Toho Kaiju], page 245