Jennifer Davis will be appearing on WNYC’s Soundcheck program today at 2.00pm EST alongside the legendary Specials discussing the history of ska. Last year she penned “The Ska Will Go On” for PopMatters where she claimed, “ska never died… it merely sank back underground to the grimy clubs from whence it sprang, while the genre’s biggest stars took time to rest, regroup, and strategize their comebacks.”
Here’s the description of the planned Soundcheck program: “Ska started as a politically volatile offshoot of reggae in the 1960s. It returned in the Thatcher-era England of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s with seminal bands like the Specials and the English Beat. And it has resurfaced in the songs of groups like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. Now, as the Specials and the English Beat embark on major tours of the U.S., we look at the roots of the genre and find out where it’s traveled. Our guests include two original members of the Specials and Jennifer Davis, a journalist who covered the history of ska for PopMatters.com.”
The trailer for Big Tits Zombie (Kyonyu Dragon)—done all grainy and presented by Snobbish International Pictures, no less—is a testament to what irony has done to popular culture. Director Takao Nakano is quite content to straddle the line between genius and insanity, and while he might envy genius, I feel insanity is more his cup of tea.
Look, the concept is simple and one would say, blissfully so. What could an audience want more than zombies and tits? If this was made in the ‘80s, it would be considered the High Temple of Camp—no less than four out of ten hipsters would be carrying an official “20 Year Anniversary Tote Bag”. It has everything that the West has come to expect from “Weird Japan”: nonsensical plots, batshit insanity, gratuitous nudity, cannibalism? Check and CHECK.
But there has to be so much more. The Japanese culture so adored/reviled in the West is not Japanese culture. The truth lies somewhere between the Zen-and-Geisha-and-Tea-Ceremony ideal, and the Anime-and-Neon-and-Schoolgirl-Fetish debasement. And so when a young, irreverent filmmaker makes such a film, a foreign audience might be baffled where a Japanese audience might detect all those digs and jibes at them thar gaijin.
Japanese culture has been expropriated to various ends in the West since at least the rage of Japonisme made Western European artists swoon in fanning adoration. Director Takao Nakano is merely aping that trend. If the likes of Quentin Tarantino can make an homage to old Japanese films based on Western perceptions of Japanese culture, then why can’t contemporary directors make an homage out of that? The hilarious/ridiculous/brilliant Sukiyaki Django did a quite wonderful job a few years back.
And now, we have Big Tits Zombie. It clearly is a joke. The badly narrated English, the misspelled adult model names (Sola? oh, haha, Japanese people can’t pronounce the letter ‘r’), nyotai mori, samurais-geishas-MountFuji-oh my!
There has been a recent-ish trend (of sorts) in Japanese cinema that has been mocking Japanese pop culture. Few other cultures have had the reset button pressed on their national ideas like Japan in the post-World War II period. Films like parody Everything Other than Japan Sinks, Machine Girl, and Big Man Japan can’t be taken at face value: there’s so much misinterpreted baggage left to decipher. You could nearly say, ha ha, that it has been Lost in Translation. Instead, films like this that mock and sneer at the Japanese self should be viewed as one of the pre-eminent forms of national self-mockery—and not as, say, confirmations of those “Japan Is Weird” boo-boys.
After slipping into a heart attack-induced coma late last February, hip-hop artist Guru succumbed to cancer yesterday. The legendary MC, whose real name was Keith Elam, somehow managed to sound both rough and smooth at the same time. In addition to his partnership with DJ Premier in Gang Starr, Guru spearheaded the 4-volume Jazzmatazz releases, which saw him collaborate with jazz musicians, other MC’s and artists from across a broad spectrum.
Guru’s alleged final handwritten message, released by producer Solar, included harsh words for DJ Premier.
“I do not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name likeness, events tributes etc. I had nothing to do with him in life for over seven years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ.” (NME)
But rather than speculate on what led to that tension, let’s instead celebrate the musical life of the legendary Guru.
Here’s the latest from the AV Club’s “Undercover” series, which prompted 25 bands to choose from a list of songs to cover in their Chicago office. This week it’s Retribution Gospel Choir covering the Beach Boy’s “Kokomo”. The original was prominently featured in the 1988 Tom Cruise movie Cocktail and is notable for being the first number one Beach Boys single since “Good Vibrations”, a 22-year span. It is generally more of a guilty pleasure than a critical favorite, but Retribution Gospel Choir embraces the song unironically.
When the family film How to Train Your Dragon debuted about a month ago, Hollywood insiders were surprised that it didn’t do much better. Back then, the only thing the movie had going for it was its 3-D screenings and critical acclaim. Now, those same experts are surprised that the much-hyped Kick-Ass failed to meet its expectations, because it was narrowly outperformed by Dragon.
The reason why this happened is obvious. While most adults don’t want to see an R rated movie about crime fighting adolescents, all adolescents aren’t allowed to see it alone. This leaves families, a huge part of the movie-viewing audience, looking for something else to see.
Recently, Wal-Mart launched a slew of print ads and TV commercials touting their in-store displays of Dragon themed clothing, toys, and food, making it seem as if the movie was the latest, biggest trend among today’s kids. So there you have it, Wal-mart slayed the box office.