This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Stop Snitchin' Apparel

News article this post references.

Almost 20 years ago, a white rap pioneer named Snow had his only hit, a little diddy called "Informer." In this song, the geeky-looking bespectacled Canadian talked about "going blam" on an unnamed "informer" who told the police about whatever racket he had going on at the time. One can only speculate about what phrases like "going blam" or "leaky boom boom down" mean, but they sure sound violent. The whole point was intimidation -- if you inform on Snow, he will go blam, and you won't like that. In the middle of the song, a real rapper talked about how the Toronto police were all up on him, trying to get him to become the next Informer on his boy Snow. Thankfully, the guy resisted, and presumably went to prison because he wouldn't cut a deal. Snow then got to continue his criminal activity unabated. I love a happy ending.

The whole debate over whether or not to talk to the police about neighborhood crime is coming to a head right now in Milwaukee, where t-shirts that say "Stop Snitch'n" are reportedly flying off the shelves, many even being purchased with real money. This movement is gaining ground, and local black community leaders(?) like Alderman Michael McGee have endorsed the shirts, saying that they're a positive message, i.e., "You should do the time for your crime rather than taking a deal from the police so that someone higher up can do more time." And while that kind of thinking is certainly unselfish, there's also probably a good reason why the police are cutting you a deal to get at your Crime Supervisor or whatever you call him (I don't know the titles, since I'm not really involved in crime). So it all depends on the entity you dislike more -- the criminals or the police. I don't think I have to tell you which side of that ongoing debate Mr. McGee is on.

There is a good question tucked in there somewhere about the rightness or wrongness of cutting deals to save your own neck. It certainly seems wrong, because it benefits you at the expense of others. Should you do it just because the authorities want you to? Maybe you should be asking why the authorities want you to rat out your superiors. If it's for the betterment of yourself and society, and at the expense of someone who's way worse than you, what do you do then? But for the criminal, this whole "informing" thing isn't really about the crime, is it? It's about honor, or at least a perverted concept of honor. Ever hear of "honor among thieves"? Well, that may help the thieves live in peace, but they still have our stuff and we want it back.

The police are there (as representatives of the people) to fight crime, not dispense justice. They will go after the person who they perceive to be the source of the crime -- they don't want to waste their time with small-time scum. The problem with the "Stop Snitch'n" idea is that it views the police not as representatives of the people but as representatives of the Establishment (commonly referred to as "the Man") who have been sent to oppress the people, criminals and non-criminals alike. If a man snitches, he is betraying the community to save himself from some jail time, in their view. It's no wonder these shirts drive the police crazy.

In the absence of a crime-fighting alternative, the view of "Police=The Man=Something to be Subverted" is clearly something that hurts the community, no matter what the community may believe. But are these shirts really part of a campaign to stop people from cooperating with prosecutors, or are they just the cool thing to wear right now? I tend to think the latter is true (especially among suburban kids who are on an endless quest to appear more tough), but if so, why are Aldermen coming out in support of the idea? Why are anti-snitching DVDs starring Denver Nuggets being made?

Every once in a while we (non-poor people) get a window into the attitude of poor urban communities. At the OJ trial, we learned that poor blacks will root for a black man to be acquitted even if he's filthy rich and guilty as sin. In this case, we can see that the inner city of Milwaukee is a place where the police can be worse than the criminals, where snitching can be viewed as worse than murder, and where there is no hope for peace and justice because the authorities get no respect. It's a pretty bleak picture, so it's no wonder why we shut the drapes and try to never look out that window again. This is not right, but it's understandable. Kind of like the "Stop Snitch'n" movement. Maybe from now on everybody should try being less understood and more right. Let's see if that works a little better.

So the next time I see one of those t-shirts on somebody, I'm going to wait until they're alone and stab them, confident that they won't tell the police anything. Because if there's anything worse than a snitch, it's a hypocritcal snitch.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Anatomy of a Semi-Bad Mix Cd

The Second Most Recent Mix CD I Made For Myself.

I’m terrible at making mix CD’s. I don’t know if it’s my lack of taste in music or what, but I always end up with: at least 2 songs I absolutely hate and will skip over every time; a bunch of songs back-to-back-to-back that are confusing and don’t really flow together; and one song I end up putting on repeat because it towers over all the others. The thing is, I try to get it right every time. It’s not like I want a bunch of disks that I pop in just to hear one song – I mean, we make mix CD’s to get away from that very thing, right? Every time I think I’ve gotten it right, and every time it turns out I’ve gotten it wrong. I’m like the Wyle E. Coyote of song-mixing.

With that in mind, I present to you a mix CD I made last month, a CD that embodies both my effort and my total failure. In doing so, I hope to discover what’s wrong with my CD-making methodology as well as my musical preferences. Self-discovery is fun!

And it’s not like I hate the CD. It’s actually one of the better one’s I’ve done lately. It’s good, but deeply flawed, much like Kobe Bryant’s game. I’m full of analogies today.

TRACK 1: “Ana Ng” by They Might Be Giants

Great opening – to the CD, and the song itself. I love it so much that when I get to the end of the first chorus, I just go back to the beginning to hear that staccato guitar part again. If I were a tool with a ringtone, that would be it*. This old TMBG song isn’t perfect, and drags at the end, but I still love it. The lyrics are cool, too – “My apartment looks upside-down from here” to signify being on the other side of the world. There are other examples, too. You can’t really go wrong with TMBG (unless you go with something off of John Henry, but even still, it’s probably right anyway), so congratulations, me.

TRACK 2: “Concrete Bed” by Nada Surf

This song sounded good in pre-selection, which means it started out snappy. That’s how it ended up on this CD. I have no idea how it ended up as Track 2, which should theoretically be one of the best tracks on the CD. It’s not. Imagine my shock as the chorus belted out the self-help axiom, “To find someone you love, you gotta be someone you love.” This is a confirmed lie. I mean, just love somebody. Now, selfish self-loathing is destructive, yes, but the solution isn’t “being someone you love.” That’s a dead end. Again, just love people. Just decide to, because it’s the right thing to do. I may be guilty of oversimplification here. Anyway, this is a decent enough song, but I turn it off when it gets to the self-help b.s.

TRACK 3: “Enjoy the Silence: Linkin Park 2005 Remix” by Depeche Mode, or at least their vocal track.

First of all, I enjoy this song because it’s a great song. It’s a top 5 Depeche Mode song, which is saying something. Second of all, it’s the perfect song to sing along to if you’re trying to perfect a David Gahan impression (and I happen to think mine is better than most – the hardest part is the ending vibrato). But there’s just something wrong about this version, which has Linkin Park bombastic crap-rock playing behind it. Now, I’m on record as admitting I like Linkin Park, but I also recognize that they truly suck. If they were going to do a version of “Enjoy the Silence,” they should have had their little guy with the glasses sing it, the guy who sounds as if he’s always constipated. At least that would make sense, and we could laugh at it. This just sounds like a good song that they almost ruined with overproduction. Still, I sing along with the whole thing.

Track 4: “Go Junior, Go Senior” by Junior Senior.

So what’s the deal with Junior Senior anyway? Are they a father/son duo? Brothers? Friends? More than Friends? Nobody knows**. This song is very bouncy and happy, and totally enjoyable to listen to – even if I feel myself getting dumber as I listen to the inane party lyrics that mean nothing. The song it reminds me of most is “Mickey” by Toni Basil, and that’s not a bad thing to be reminded of.

Track 5: “A100” by Billy “I Can’t Sing” Corgan.

This is the first of three songs in a row by Mr. Corgan, and one might wonder why I’d put 3 songs by a guy whose voice I can’t stand on a mix CD that I expect to like. I think you might be onto something there. The truth is, I really like the opening synth riffs to these three songs. They would be really good as instrumentals, but Billy just has to stick his overrated voice in there. When the ratio of crappy voice annoyance to cool music hits 1/1, I flip to the next song:

Track 6: “DIA” by Billy “I Still Can’t Sing” Corgan.

This song is about half as good as “A100,” and therefore gets turned off twice as fast. Hey, it gets me through the CD faster, which I suppose is the exact opposite of the point. You know, I really like that one song from this album, that “Can I give my old house to you?” song. The rest, well, I don’t really know what I was thinking. Maybe I thought I could overlook the voice, the bald head, the shadow of ugly James Iha. I was wrong.

Track 7: “Now (and Then)” by Billy “Razor Voice” Corgan.

Bring the house lights down and bust out the lighters, because Billy’s trying his version of a ballad. The first part (the one without his voice) sounds like it could be the theme for a Twin Peaks-like TV show or something. It’s cool, with fuzzy guitars and slow synths. I don’t think I need to tell you what happens when he starts singing, though. Yikes.

Track 8: “It’s All About Us” by TATU.

No, its not the famed Dallas-area soccer player, it’s two underage girls from Russia. I say underage instead of teenage because their handlers have done something almost unconscionably sketchy – played up their friendship as some sort of proto-lesbian love story, complete with kissing in videos. Most of their songs have to do with “we don’t care what other people say, we’re just fine as long as we stick together,” which would be great in another context but terrible in this one. To say that I’m conflicted about listening to them is an understatement. On the plus side, they never mention their fake love affair, and keep everything in completely general terms. Also, songs like “It’s All About Us” kick all kinds of butt. Some would say its overproduced dance-pop (for example, my wife just walked in here and said “Whatever song you’re listening to – it super sucks”) -- But it’s awesome overproduced dance-pop, and the girls can sing. In Russian accents, no less. I just pretend I’m listening to girls who are Russian, adult, and who attend church regularly.

Track 9: “Perfect Enemy: by TATU.

I feel like I have to justify this TATU-listening some more. I would definitely never buy a TATU album and support their evil moneymaking scheme, nor would I even call them talented (especially since there’s no guarantee that the girls proclaiming themselves to be TATU are the ones singing on the album), but this song in particular, with it’s chorus of (as far as I can tell – it’s in a Russian accent remember), “You don’t tell me off I will never fail, please I like (?) before I not for sale, keep yourself away far away from me, I forever stay your perfect enemy,” could have hundreds of decent life applications. Ok, maybe not hundreds. Maybe just two or three. But you see what I’m saying, right?

Fine -- they suck. But I still like them.

Track 10: “Dangerous and Moving” by TATU.

I freely admit that I have no idea what this song is about, since the girls just sort of throw concepts out there that don’t seem to be connected at all. Dangerous and Moving? Opticals and Signs? If it were a good song, that could be a plus. It’s not, and it just serves to confuse us. Bad TATU song.

Track 11: “Stand (feat. Xhibit) by Alice Cooper.

We move unstably from TATU to Alice, who I’ve come to realize is actually a pretty good pop songwriter, even if he tends to be lame lyricist. This song is a great example of that, as he takes the cliché “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” and makes it the clichéd chorus of his song. Xhibit takes some time off from pimping rides to rap over the pop-rock, and he sounds funny as he throws out random gangsta “yeah’s” and “uh-huh’s.” When they showcase him, however, he’s very good. Alice just sounds old, especially when he’s talk-singing the verses with no sense of the beat. He’s still a pretty good rock screamer, though. It also must be said that the message of the song (that individual voices need to be heard) isn’t bad, it’s just unfortunately phrased as a series of bumper-sticker messages. Yeah, I fast-forward through most of this most of the time.

Track 12: “Popcorn” by Crazy Frog.

As I understand it, this Crazy Frog sells ringtones in the U.K., and the people behind him created a number one hit by putting munchkin-noises (actually, it sounds a lot like Twiggy from the old Buck Rogers TV show, complete with “biddy biddy’s”) over the 80’s classic “Axel F” and making a video where said Frog acts all crazy. Not content to frog up just one classic pop instrumental, the ringtone company responsible for the Crazy Frog followed that up with this version of “Popcorn,” which I downloaded solely because I must own a copy of every remake of that wonderful song. You see, I grew up in a home with brothers that owned the 45’ of the original 70’s version of the song by Hot Butter, a song I loved. All later incarnations pale in comparison with the original, but I still like them. As for this version, the frog noises are totally over-the-top, which cracks me up. I usually listen until the frog starts to beat-box. That’s right, the frog beat-boxes, and it sounds just like Twiggy would if he was beat-boxing at Erin Gray. After those heights of unintentional comedy, the song has nowhere to go but down.

Track 13: “Hey Mama (original album version)” by the Black Eyed Peas.

I’m not going to comment on the merits of this catchy yet brainless song, but I will point out the many changes the song has gone through as it was homogenized for radio: obviously, “s___” was changed to “stuff” in the chorus; “n_____” was changed to another word I can’t think of right now in the first verse; also in the first verse, “drop bombs like we’re in the middle east” was changed to the way less interesting “drop bombs like we’re shakin’ to the beat” ; in the second verse, the whole end of it was changed from “we don’t want to squeeze triggers we just was to squeeze t___” to something way less sexist; the second time the Jamaican guy raps his verse is interrupted by Fergie, and she does her “off the rictah” chant – it originally was all the Peas singing, “Till Infinity”; the entire last part of the song is cut off, the part where the Jamaican guy goes on an insane-sounding rant about chicken stuffing or somesuch. Totally different song. And don’t even get me started on “Let’s Get it Started.”

Track 14: “We Be Burning” by Sean Paul

I find Sean Paul to be a fascinating lyricist, probably because I can only understand about one out of every three words he says. The meaning of this song, however, is crystal clear – weed is good. As he hammers home that point, he goes into some rather hilarious soliloquies about marijuana that would probably make even the President of NORML blush in embarassment. This song is just begging to be parsed, line-by-line, to show how ridiculous it is (at one point I think he says that those who smoke pot have the “wisdom of Solomon.” Worst. Biblical Reference. Ever.) But give him a break – after all, he’s Jamaican. It’s not like this is coming totally out of the blue.

Track 15: “White Flag” by Dido.

I just love this song – the trippy backbeat, the sad lyrics, the killer voice of Dido. See? I do so have musical taste. It’s not all Mexican Techno*** and Early 80’s moron-pop. I have some substance…at times.

Track 16: “(Reach Up for the) Sunrise” by Duran Duran.

Duran Duran aren’t even trying anymore. Remember “Rio,” with the energy, the base line, etc.? That’s all gone and has finally been replaced with a bunch of bland pop robots rehashing the latest crappy musical trends. While this song is ok, it only serves to remind me of and make me pine for their past greatness. Oh, and no song named “Reach Up for the Sunrise” will ever be good. It’s just too generic. What was I thinking? I just ended up with a burned-up hand.

Track 17: “This Fffire” by Franz Ferdinand.

I appreciate Franz Ferdinand and what they’re trying to do. They’re cool, but somehow this song doesn’t add up to as much goodness as I thought it would. Maybe I’m just not the target audience, since I have no real desire to “burn this city.” If they give me another speeding ticket, I’ll think about it. Until then, I fast forward through most of this.

Track 18: “Kids in America” by Kim Lian.

This song sounds exactly like the early-80’s Kim Wilde version. Exactly. It’s perhaps the least needed song ever made, and it ended up on my mix CD. Even though I recognize it’s inherent lameness, I can’t help liking it. I have a weakness for catchy pop anthems with lyrics that make no sense, what can I say?

Track 19: “I Can’t Get Behind That” by William Shatner and some unknown Fred Willard sound-alike.

Shatner is a brilliant non-singer, and he shows off his chops here by ranting about a variety of things ranging from suicide bombers to leaf blowers to himself. It’s kind of funny the first time you hear it, but suffers from the Law of Diminishing Shatner (LDS) from the second time on.

Track 20: “88 Lines about 44 Women” by They Might Be Giants.

I really like the kickin’ music, but the song’s “bit” – 2 lyric lines summing up each of the 44 women referred to in the title -- gets exhausting after about girl 20. They do four women, hum for a while, and then do four more. That would be 11 verses, holmes. No song should have 11 verses, no matter how short the verses are. It’s just too much. Plus, this is the last song, and pushing forward means I go back to song 1, which has the awesome opening guitar riff. Needless to say, I only hear about 22 lines about 11 women or so.

What have we learned from all this?

1) I really have no musical taste.

2) Sean Paul loves weed.

3) I need to reevaluate my love for TATU.

4) I tend to enjoy catchy songs with no real meaning.

Maybe next time I can make a CD that generations of Papes can listen to and not be bothered by…nah, forget that – bring on some dubious techno that cracks me up instead.

*I’m not saying that all people who use ringtones are tools. Some of my best friends use ringtones. It’s just that I would feel like a big ol’ tool if I personally had one. I’d feel like I was trying to be cool, and that would make me a classic “poser.”

** I wrote this because it sounds good. It is obviously untrue.

***Unimportant side note: I name all my mix CD’s, so I can get a gist of what they’re about when I bust them out later. I’m actually pretty good at remembering what song is associated with what name. This particular CD is called “Power Meex,” which is a reference to the Mexican techno station I used to listen to. Every Friday night would feature said “meex,” which is apparently Spansh for “mix.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Upward Mobility

Right: The poor man's Kate Blanchett, Kari Manchett, tries to figure out the right way to react to the CGI in the next cube. She fails.

I don't want to alarm anybody, but the chick from Cube II is now on the ABC TV series Invasion. I knew I recognized her from something awful. That show can't be any good.

News You Can Use

Hello again. There are plenty of things you need to know about going on in the world, so let's get to it:

Apparently China has a space program, and there's now another "race to the moon" going on. The chinese managed to send two of their billion people into space, and this is not the first time they've done this. If there was ever a reason to fear China, this is it. Only countries with bad bad intentions race us to the moon. Remember the Soviet Union, how evil they were? Maybe the Chinese are different, but I can't help feeling like they're doing this just to make us look bad. Btw, the linked article mentions that the U.S. is planning another manned expedition to Mars in 2018. Can't we move the timetable up on that a little bit? I mean, we've done it once -- we can do it again, right? I suppose all the problems we've had with the Space Shuttle and the o-rings and the foam and the explosions has made us understandably cautious, but that caution may cause us to get to the moon and find a bunch of Chinese flags and empty fried rice containers lying around.

I'm just kidding, of course. The Chinese consume nothing but Tang up there, just like everybody else.

In Germany, they have elected a woman President, er, "Chancellor," for the first time ever. She's for better relations with the U.S. and keeping Turkey out of the European Union, which makes her a conservative, but she also made some deals with the "social democrats" who want to help the poor. Also, apparently there is a news source named the Khaleej Times, because that's where I learned this all from.

Another weird newspaper, the "ADNKronosinternational," tells us that the Iraqis have made a historic constitution deal. It is historic because not everybody hates it. Well, most of the Sunnis probably still hate it, but they're not violently opposing it. Except the ones that are. Everything in Iraq is so confusing these days, we probably won't know for years what's really going on. I can't even tell if things are getting better or worse. There are a lot of killers out there, to be sure, but are we making progress? I'd like an honest person who knows the answer to that to e-mail me. If you're a partisan shill or hack, please don't respond, because nobody needs what you have to say.

Watch out, evil AOL! Microsoft Windows Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger are lining up against you. Soon, the two IM platforms will be able to talk to each other, leaving AOL users out in the cold (again). It's going to be like the AOL people are the only Norweigans at a party where people are speaking Swahili.

Remember when AOL went to "unlimited dial-up" from their previous limit of 20 hours a week? Remember how you couldn't get a connection because so many people were just leaving their phone lines connected to AOL all the time? Remember what a P.R. blow that was to them? Somehow, they're still around. Evil.

I love this headline: Bones Prove the Existence of Hobbits. Ok, so not really, but as recently as 12,000 years ago a Hobbit-like people existed, so say some scientists. Others are quite skeptical of the whole thing. As usual, in these journalistic articles regarding science, the truth is buried under an avalanche of differing scientific opinions and flawed research techniques. Anyway, my favorite part of the story is where they hunt a diminutive form of elephant. It's like Miniature Island! What is this, a 1950's comic book? Somebody needs to make this into a movie right now! And think about it -- in World History terms, 12,000 years ago is quite recent. Who's to say that they aren't still around, hiding in an undiscovered cave somewhere. They are small. Maybe they saved up enough miniature elephant meat to last them thousands of years, or they have their own world down there, complete with miniature casinos and buffets.

Also, last week GW Bush nominated a lawyer buddy from Dallas for the US Supreme Court. There has been much debate about this in every news outlet, because she could end up being one of the 9 people who shape our laws in this country, and nobody really knows what she believes. News outlets have also been reporting that there may or may not be a fight on Capitol Hill over her nomination. GW Bush seems to have befuddled the world with this. Either it's a brilliant move to get a "stealth conservative" and a good friend onto the Super Supreme Court, or it's a clueless move that could blow up in his face. Either way, he always keeps us guessing, and that's why he's a fascinating President to watch.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Look How Cool I Am

That post that was formerly here is now gone. In fact, it may have never existed. Kind of like Michael Vaughn.

A few words on last night's season finale of that completely ridiculous show, My Super Sweet Sixteen. I have found that all the episodes of this season sort of blended together for me, except for: 1) Is he not a man? He is "Devo!" 2) That little adopted nut-job, 3) Sophie the Hun, and 4) Amanda and her Money-Flashing Dad. Notice the absence of last night's Sweet Sixteener, a pleasent enough girl we'll call "Carpathia." Her episode played out almost exactly like last year's season finale, right down to her being the fame-seeking daughter of a respected African-American recording artist. And speaking of last year, did you notice the two shots of Sierra there, acting like the party didn't hold a candle to hers? It was practically the same party! Carpathia even made her dubious debut as a performer, just like Sierra! She stunk, but everyone loved it -- just like Sierra! See? Carbon copy!

And compared to the other subjects on this show, Carpathia almost seemed...nice. Her friends genuinely liked her, they razzed her for being rich, and she just appeared to be of a better quality than your typical, "I'm the queen, I get what I want" type of girl the show had been feasting on. I know Carpathia kept saying that she always gets what she wants, but there was a twinge of self-awareness in it, almost like she wasn't serious about it. I don't know. I might be splitting hairs that don't exist, but I don't think that this girl was nearly as bad as most of the others. That's probably why the episdode was so boring -- the only drama came when the guy from "artist development" (dangerously close to the name of that great TV show) made her cry. But you know what? She sucked it up and ended up putting on a performance that you and I know was horrible but that everybody seemed to be pleased with. And that, my friends, is boring.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

My Oh My

That last post created a little bit of controversy. This blog needed a bit, no? Maybe. Anyway, it's clear I need to pass off the "Dear Abby" duties to somebody who's going to get into less trouble. Later this week I will unveil him and name him.

I've had some sort of stomach thing since Friday night that's just driving me crazy. It feels like I have gas pretty much all the time. I just got Gas-X, and it seems to be working a little bit, but my stomach still feels nauseous. What also helped was the Packers winning 52-3 today, but then I remembered that they're still 1-4 and I felt bad again. My stomach shouldn't be ruled by a football team, but as an American, it is.

To justify this post's existence, here's another cute picture of my dog.