One of my favorite childhood TV shows was Voltron: Defender of the Universe. The basis of the show was a team of five heroes who each commanded a robot lion. The five lions would combine to form a large ass-kicking robot named Voltron, smiting bad guys with his gigantic sword (see picture). Each episode the Voltron team would fight to protect the planet Arus, usually from the evil galactic ruler King Zarkon, his son Lotor, or the witch Haggar.

According to earlier comics, Voltron used to be a wholly intelligent entity not the five piece robot I’m used to. This fact I did not know. Apparently, Voltron was tricked, by the scheming Haggar, into landing on a black comet, in which she subsequently attacked and blew him into five pieces (five lions). The five lions each have a distinctive personality, along with the heroes who piloted them. Captain Keith pilots the Black lion, and is the leader of the Voltron force and does leader-like stuff. Lance Charles McClain pilots the Red Lion, and is the second in command and the reckless ladies-man of the group. Darell “Pidge” Stoker pilots the Green Lion, and is the scientist and academic of the group. Princess Allura, of the planet Arus, pilots the Blue Lion, and is the beauty and can also raise the dead (Nice combo). Tsuyoshi “Hunk” Garett pilots the Yellow Lion, and is the strong-man of the group but with a soft heart and an affinity towards Fruit Loops.

Anyways, when this show appeared on TV, I would watch every minute of the show including commercials. I cried out when I found VHS tapes of the show, and would watch them repeatedly. One of my favorite toys was the Black Lion and the Yellow Lion. I sadly never completed the entire set. Luckily, other people shared my enthusiasm. I recently found the Reebok Voltron pack. With each shoe comes a Lion, so after getting all five shoes I could form Voltron: Defender of the Universe. Too bad the shoes are so terrible, even though the Voltron robot might be worth it.

Hip Hop is Alive

April 29, 2008

2008 could be the year that applies a defibrillator to the chest of hip hop, revitalizing a genre currently comatose amidst ringtone rap and Rick Ross. If I have to sit through another commercial threatening me to call and make Flo Rida my phone ring, I might put my head through a window. I find solace in the fact that this year will see releases by Kidz in the Hall, The Knux and Cool Kids, artists whose style and aesthetic hearkens back to the days when hip hop was about more than how many kilos you could push, it was about creativity and having fun.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been genuinely excited about a slate of hip hop releases. I grew up on rap and count De La Soul, Tribe, Pharcyde, Eric B. and Rakim and Big Daddy Kane among some of my favorite artists. These were artists whose fundamental priority was the progression of an art form and I believe the cats mentioned above, from Chicago, LA and Chicago respectively, have that same agenda. I’ve heard people call Cool Kids et al “hipster hop,” perhaps due to heavy stylistic and musical borrowing from 80s-era rap, or due to the amount of attention they’ve received recently in the blog community, but I’d equate these haters to those who originally called De La, Tribe and the Native Tongues Posse “hippie rap” back in the day. I’d love to see these kids usher in a new era for hip hip based on originality and leave cookie cutter club rap in its wake.

Here’s “Hard Days Night” by The Knux, a song that reminds me a bit of old-school Souls of Mischief:

Here’s “What It Iz” by the Cool Kids, which could easily be at home on the Juice soundtrack:

RIAA

April 26, 2008

I hate the RIAA. In my opinion, there’s nothing sadder than this collective group of rich old bastards who think they are the truth. They stand upon their mountain of money, throwing lawsuits at their customer base hoping brute force will save their industry. The lawsuits are so numerous that they’ve even set up a 4-step online claim settlement site at www.p2plawsuits.com, with a cheery “Thank you for your money, looking forward to future business together” message after payment.

Music piracy will not end, they should have realized that years ago when the fall of Napster gave rise to Kazaa, Grokster, Limewire, etc. They are completely blindfolded by their arrogance and ineptitude to change, and have turned off an audience/customer base on the global scale. Instead the RIAA needs to embrace the change that the digital age has brought upon us. File sharing clients like Bittorrent have widened the distribution of music worldwide, reduced the distribution costs to almost zero, and rendered CDs obsolete. Now artists themselves are turning to indie labels who understand this opportunity. Money is still being made, and those labels are proof. A new business model needs to be implemented by the RIAA before it’s too late. I would focus more on generating revenue through advertisements, concert ticket sales, merchandising, etc.

I, for one, wouldn’t mind seeing this dinosaur go extinct.

A Broke Down Melody

April 25, 2008

To this day, one of my ultimate goals in life is to be a pro surfer. A life with no deadlines, exotic locations and gorgeous women…I could probably handle that. Considering the fact that I’ve only attempted surfing once and failed miserably, that dream might not come to fruition any time soon. So until it does, I’ll continue to live vicariously through A Broke Down Melody, a surf film produced by Jack Johnson’s brahs Emmett Malloy and Tim Lynch for Woodshed Films.

Shot in beautiful 16mm, the film documents swells throughout South America, Polynesia and Jamaica. Featuring legends such as Kelly Slater, Gerry Lopez, Rob Machado and Jack Johnson himself, A Broke Down Melody makes riding waves look as easy as riding the A train. The perfect cure for those Sunday afternoon blues, the film glides along to tunes by Beta Band, Matt Costa, Kruder and Dorfmeister, Doug Martsch of Built to Spill, and others. (Quick note: my buddies and I have even created our own soundtrack, convinced that ours “fits” too…I recommend you try the same). Whether you’re totally gnarly and can rip it up, or you’re like me and just dig surfing, I highly recommend you pick up A Broke Down Melody; it’s guaranteed to turn that frown up-side-down. Here’s a clip:

It’s not easy to get a crowd excited on a school night, but The Virgins did just that on Wednesday at the Mercury Lounge. Sporting gear they may have picked up at Salvation Army on the way to the show, dudes rocked a full house, burning through tracks from their recent EP, as well as a few songs I hadn’t heard before. Each one was on point with funky basslines and sharp guitar riffs.

The crowd was equally intriguing. Let’s put it this way, if you want to meet a hipster chick, go to a Virgins show. Although the audience showed lots of love and the band was genuinely appreciative, I wish kids would’ve been a little more willing to dance…but how much can you really expect with the hipster set.

Their performance was short, just shy of an hour, but The Virgins showed why they just might be the new face of the Downtown rock scene. Here’s a live version of “Rich Girls.” Funky fresh:

The Odeon

April 24, 2008

When it opened almost thirty years ago, iconic Tribeca restaurant The Odeon was a place to see and be seen for Manhattan’s cool crowd. Today, the city’s social elite has found hipper, more exclusive spots, but that’s perfectly fine with me. This means I can actually get a table.

The Odeon maintains an aura of history and you can almost sense the ghosts of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and the Brat Pack hovering around the bar. The atmosphere is cool and whether you go to drink and socialize or go for a good meal, there’s always an interesting crowd. The menu can be pricey, but I can’t think of a better place to go for a special dinner with friends.

All this adds up to one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Oh yea, that and The Odeon appears on the cover of Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights Big City, one of my all-time favorite books. What up Tad Allagash?

Doraemon

April 23, 2008

As a child, I was always entertained by cartoons and comics, be it Transformers, GI Joes, Ninja Turtles, etc. This trend has continued through adolescence and into adulthood. The content, however, has changed away from the sappy Saturday morning cartoons, and into the darker and more insightful realm of Japanese comics, aka manga. Anyways, as I finished reading my most current manga series I was shocked to find a comic from my childhood, Doraemon.

This manga follows a young Japanese boy named Nobita, who is destined for a life of misery and failure, and his robotic cat Doraemon. Doraemon was sent by Nobita’s relatives in the future to change his gloomy destiny of an unhappy marriage and professional collapse. Armed with Doraemon’s weekly assortment of gadgets, Nobita gains the upper hand against his bullies, overbearing mother, and life as a mediocre student.

The entire manga spans 45 volumes. Currently, you can view volumes 1-33 on www.onemanga.com. Definitely worth taking a look…