Saturday, 15 December 2007

Pop Music: Year 2007 review

Solange Deschatres—A 2007 Review of Pop Music—London Lite

EMI/Capitol records is an old fart. So are most other big corporate labels. With music industry and media companies boasting technology all over the world, swaggering like Keith Richards on their last leather-clad legs; crooked, mean middle fingers poised on the pulse of the hip and now, one would think that a drastic change in the way people hear and receive music would have occurred by the year 2007. Instead, years crawl by with the same digitally re-mastered re-releases, packaged in metallic jewel cases at the nearest overpriced, corporate megastore.
Smashing Pumpkins had it right in 2000, heave-ho-ing the huge Virgin label by releasing what was supposed to be their last album via Internet mp3 files. Early 2007, the band reunited, continuing its love affair with the digital market by releasing the “Zeitgeist” EP on ITunes in the US. Aside from a few other artists, Radiohead followed suit with the 2007 Internet release of “Rainbows.”
The ITunes and digital phenomena will not be ignored. The kids are hopping on the Internet all the time and downloading as fast as their high-speed connections will allow. Most of them use software programmes like LimeWire to satiate their desire for new music. While the stone idols of media Mecca stand proudly, defiantly stomping on these so-called “delinquents,” the deftly-clicking, persistently downloading fingers will slowly pick away at the bottom line until the rock facade disintegrates into the sandy desert floor from whence it came.
The time has come for a change in tactics. The fact that record companies claim that they want to stay on the up and up with trends and technology smacks a little bit of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” transported to a colorful new, world, only to realize that it’s more comfortable back home in the silvery panorama of 65mm. Media companies are hesitant to loosen a grip on physical album sales just yet, but 2007 proved yet another year for the idea of passing the baton.
The more things change, the more they wallow right where they’re at and leave a ring around the bathtub. How many artist comebacks did we witness this year? Besides Smashing Pumpkins, we had Genesis, Ace of Base, The Police, Rage Against the Machine, Joni Mitchell, The Sex Pistols, The Spice Girls, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, My Bloody Valentine, The Verve, Kriss Kross, and the one-time smash performance of Led Zeppelin. What do all of these huge comebacks mean? Is the once overflowing sea of new artists so shallow that we need to keep diving into the old bathwater?
At the risk of tossing out the New Year’s infant, 2007 made meek progress in the world of pop music. Even the brave comebacks stood as weak blips on the music radar. No one asked for a comeback. Us kids are bored. A fantasy for 2008 would be a noticeable shakeup to clear the stagnant, thick air that’s beginning to scent of cedar chests, mothballs and rehab. Somebody, smash a window, please!

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Best of Album Review





When the follow-up smash, “Odelay” dropped, it was clear that Beck Hanson wasn't "mellow"-ing out on his "gold" laurels. His artfully and technologically advanced rock-fi hit rocketed him from “Loser” to a pop star pimp with nothing more than a “Devil’s Haircut.”

The former California busker and poet employed his mastery of multiple instruments
and genres while romancing the industry’s newest production techniques of the time.

With help from production prodigies, the Dust Brothers(first regarded for their own techno-magical tricks on Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique"), “Odelay” was encrusted with electronic samples and technologic gems, crafting an album fit for the snazzy, new millennium.

The result jacked the mid-90s alternative rock scene, drawing the line for itself far beyond the popular teen angst-riddled, angry guitar solos, and blending jazz, rock, rap, folk, blues, with hi-fi-tastic tricks. “Where it’s At,” materialized a bangin’ party, with Hansen’s gritty, vo-coded words melting over obscure samples and keyboard loops. “New Pollution” married sizzling electronica with the poet’s lyrical conundrums.

Many fans would argue that Beck went on to release increasingly intellectually complex creations, but his Billboard opus cracked glass confines and allowed the popular music world's ongoing discovery and experimentation in the worlds of rock, rap, jazz and EDM.

Rumours of a re-release with additional tracks have circulated, but “Lord Only Knows” if that will become a reality.

Monday, 19 November 2007

We're Guilty

It's 10 am on a Sunday morning and I'm furiously pumping my legs against the weighted pedals of the bike at the gym. I've just switched on MTV's dance music channel and am listening to my Ipod simultaneously (I like to have completely different music connecting to videos--sometimes they actually make sense that way). Suddenly, this video comes on and I find myself wavering between disgust and wanting to suppress out loud laughter at its outrageousness.

The video of De Souza's "Guilty," a monsteriffic hunk of stinky disco house cheese, plays out like a soft core porno, featuring barely-dressed women playing inmates who are "frisked," handcuffed, and "searched" by other women dressed as "cops," who seem to have half of their "uniforms" missing. As if the comedically terrible action weren't enough, the directors added a lesbian "shower" scene and a male "cop" dressed in hot shorts spanking an "inmate" with a thick, purple, uh, "billy club."

I'm no prude when it comes to videos. Sexuality and sensuality has its place, but this was ridiculous. I sincerely hope that this video was some kind of tongue-in-cheek thing. If anyone knows anything about the production of this video, please share.

Of course, immediately following the "Guilty" nightmare, was Armand Van Helden's "MyMyMy," which is, in my opinion, a really nice house tune, especially the Joy Kiticknti electro house remix. However, in the first shot is a bikini-clad ass. On a beach somewhere a creepy, white, flab-bellied dweeb is suddenly surrounded by a bunch of bikini clad models who fondle, grope and lick him throughout the entire video. Isn't this a bit of a tired theme?

More and more all I see on dance music videos are thin, fake-breasted women groping on each other, or surrounding one man, or even themselves all alone. The commodity of female sexuality in the music industry, neverminding the fact that it degrades women, has taken all of the fun and creativity out of the music video.

It's not sappy nostalgia that brings me back to the early days of music video, it's the entertainment. Look at A-Ha's "Take on Me," for example. The animated motorcyle chase scene, the fantasy of going into a comic book, the action, the heroism, the romance, it was all like a mini feature film, and it was noteworthy. We used to be able to discuss music videos intelligently like we would discuss feature films. Now, it all looks the same: Chick on Chick, Guy on Chick, Ten Chicks on One Guy, Chick on Self, brilliant, genious! I suppose that it keeps people watching videos these days, but, honestly, do these videos reflect a world that doesn't appreciate anything unless it involves T and A? We no longer have attention spans for anything with a plot?

The excessive amounts of these sexually explicit videos insult the intelligence and sophistication of most human beings. They subliminally transmit the message that, A) We're only interested in sexuality, that which translates only to a thin, leggy, long-haired female with enormous breasts and a curvaceous rear end, and involves homeoerotic activity and masturbation, but only among females, never males, and B) That we're unable to understand or process anything more complex than watching human beings interact on a sexual level. Everything else is too much.
Videos like this one featuring the Beastie Boys, hold a slim margin compared to the "sexy" ones.
I'm feeling a bit disillusioned, a bit deflated by the state of affairs in the music industry at the moment. I sense desperation and lack of direction at the moment. I can only hope that we'll hit a new wave and renaissance of the music video industry. In the meantime, besides the ones I've listed, enjoy my following favorite music videos:
"Get Yourself High" by The Chemical Brothers

"All is Full of Love" by Bjork (directed by Chris Cunningham)

"It's Oh So Quiet" by Bjork (directed by Spike Jonze)

"Weapon of Choice" by Fatboy Slim

"Where it's At" by Beck

"New" by No Doubt

"Like A Prayer" by Madonna

I'll leave you with those for now. For those of you who are sick of watching the inane, enjoy!

Friday, 16 November 2007

That Frenzy--Is it Worth It?

The Dow Jones recently reported that the most popular weight loss drugs on the market in the U.S. have proven not to provide significant weight loss. I think I speak for most educated individuals when I say, "No, duh!"
The drugs themselves actually do little to accelerate weight loss. Those who have been successful using the pills have been successful mainly because they have had to change their life habits in accordance with the pill's reccommended programme. Most pill manufacturers provide a reccomendation of a certain amount of daily calories plus a regular exercise regimen. Wait, isn't that how doctors reccommend one lose weight--through diet and exercise? I think this little pill has received one too many pats on its brand-stamp.
It's mostly women who have snapped up these products, according to sales and marketing figures. In my opinion, most women who have purchased such products either don't want to do everything it takes to lose weight healthfully or have unrealistic expectations of what their bodies should look like. Usually it's a combination of both.
At the risk of sounding like Meme Roth, the truth is that, every single one of us could potentially find a programme for weight loss that would make us thin if we somehow gained superhuman willpower and spent our whole lives obsessed with our calorie and fat counts, workout schedules, etc. And it is, true, many women make excuses for why they can't lose weight. I know that if I cut my calories to 1600 or less I would lose weight. The truth is, sometimes I'm just not satisfied with that amount. I go to sleep on an angry, growling, empty stomach a lot of the time. Yes, I could shut up and suffer, but would being the ideal size be worth the agony?
Reality steps in all too gracefully at this point. Slightly overweight women like myself face the nastiest world of all in the battle for self acceptance. We are caught between an obesity epidemic screaming at us like an angry American football coach and a feminist movement that says, "Screw that, love your body!" We face little health risks. Our risk is purely emotional or aesthetic, but how do we cope in a world that tells us that, although we are pretty much healthy, we still don't look good enough?

Many women find a solution in that little pill, like that new one, Alli, released earlier this year. It absolutely flew off of the shelves as soon as it came out. I suppose they think it will solve all of their problems. Pop a pill, like the box says, and all of the bad stuff will be absorbed. Sure it does, but what is absorbed has to go somewhere.
All of the fat is expelled in oily, uncontrollable diarrhea. The more fat you eat, the more will leak out of you. Splurge on doughnuts at the office, get doughnut fat coming out of your bum all day long while you work.
I'm fairly certain that if this question was posed to any heterosexual male: Which would you prefer--A) A beautiful, smart girlfriend who was 15 pounds (1.1 stone) overweight, or B) A beautiful, smart girlfriend who was the ideal weight but had oily diarrhea all of the time? --the man would probably pick the former, unless he had some kind of a weird, gross fetish, but I won't get into that one for today.
Only pure evil could have gone ahead with a pill like that. Glaxo Smith-Klein, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the thing, claims it is a "useful addition" to one's regular weight loss programme, according to the Dow Report. I don't see anything useful about anal leakage, unless a person likes purchasing and wearing disposable diapers, which again is something I will not get into.

What's even more disheartening is women's reaction to the drug and how hurriedly they whisked it off of drug store shelves. Has our culture bogged us down with such self-loathing that we cannot stand to be as we are? Year after year, I see women hating themselves, while a few men, the commercial world, and the media take turns at throwing stones.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Thoughts Like Fumes, Really

The United States has a female candidate running for the presidency, yet, amazingly, big corporations down to smaller entrepreneurs make money off of the objectification of women. More shocking is that the very skeleton of the misogynistic monster is the number of women who have been brainwashed into believing that male objectification of them is pro-feminist.

An exotic dancer once told me when I asked if she felt comfortable doing what she did, "I'm in total control of what happens when I'm doing a lap dance."

Another defense is that they make good money. I understand the sentiment. If men are dumb enough to waste lots of money on watching women shake it, why not take it?

The dancing in and of itself isn't that bad, to be honest. Women are beautiful. The female body is beautiful. Artists across centuries have known this. It's more than that, though. It's the idea that women are a commodity, an item to be bought and sold. For the right price, lads, you can have "Sparkle"'s tits in your face all night long. Or you can just keep her around for company while you get wasted, it's up to you.

Waggling tits and flapping ass cheeks aside, the idea that women can be won or bought creates a more dangerous culture. The existence of these kinds of clubs or even women musical artists or celebrities who flaunt themselves in a sexual manner contribute to a collective male consciousness that women can be seen as sex objects. An object is a thing, a thing can be manipulated and manhandled. A thing cannot protest when it's being wronged and a thing isn't asked permission to do things to it.

Let me say that my statements do not represent all men. Obviously, I'm talking about a wider, global male culture as opposed to individuals. Many more thoughtful men aren't even aware that objectification still exists for women. I had a friend say to me, "Oh, I didn't know it was still that bad." Perhaps feminism has taken a back seat in recent years. Women have gained more power in the workforce and in politics. Still, it's evident that this crude culture still exists.

Go to any nightclub or have an attractive female walk around with a hidden camera for a week. See the undressing stares, the pathetic come-ons, the horny, unwanted dry-humping on dance floors everywhere. Misogynists say that women "like the attention" or that they "ask for it" when they wear something tight or low-cut.

I go out in jeans and a regular t-shirt whenever possible and I don't act friendly. I still receive the same treatment as if I was wearing nothing larger than two postage stamps and a matchbook. I get pushed around and cut in line by big, burly guys on a regular basis, who often look back at me smugly, like, "Sorry, sweetheart, but I've got a penis, so you'll just have to wait."

Again, however, I don't blame the men. I blame the women. These so-called neo-feminists who objectify themselves to supposedly "control" men, may have had temporary mind control powers, but have since lost the war on misogyny. The parting shot at the end of the day is a scantily-clad woman with a drooling man at her feet, forking over the dollars. Who's in control? It's that chicken and egg thing, but it started with the object, the egg.

If you want your slice of the cake, you're going to need eggs. If women are to take back their sexuality, let it be on their terms, not on the terms of the man. When are we going to say, "Hey, the dick in the butt is not the proper way to say hello to someone at a dance club!"? People just accept this behaviour as normal. Oh, these guys are just horny jerks, never mind that they've just touched a woman with an erect penis (do clothes really matter in a case like this?). This is honestly the most offensive underrated encounter that occurs in the Western world. Men that get away with this sort of behaviour surely have attempted or committed date rape, a sorrowfully under reported crime. Yet, no one stands up for us and no one bans it in a club setting.

A male friend pointed out that if they banned "fockering," which is this move's technical police term, in one nightclub, it would lessen attendance. By men, perhaps. Why women? I would think it would increase female attendance because of the knowledge that they wouldn't get harassed by men. I would attend.

Women need to step out of the gold lame bikinis and uncomfortable pumps to sell themselves to the opposite sex and instead get clever. Bottom line: Sexy isn't a stereotype. A stereotype is a thing. Women: Be sexy. Be true to yourself.

Monday, 22 October 2007

The Multi-Tiered Tower of Insecurity

I don't think that the profession of journalism works like a corporate ladder. It's more like a series of platforms with no stairs leading up to them, requiring a person to pull and clambor his or her way up. When a person finally struggles his or her way up, he or she feels a sense of accomplishment--that is, until he or she discovers the next platform up.

From an early age people told me that I was a "good writer." One doesn't realize how relative the word "good" is until her work is being railed upon by the instructor in the middle of her grad-level reporting class. In that context, good has no meaning and one is left to feel like all he or she is good for is sitting on the top of a rubbish heap, between brown banana peels and used condoms. Yeesh.

In print journalism there are rarely any superstars. Even if you are successful in your career by industry standards, the most fame you will receive will be when you write your tell-all book at the end. After that, you might be asked to speak at industry events or universities, but only then will you actually be recognized for all of the hard work you put forth.

As writers, most of us don't do it for the fame. We are content with our little byline and are happy to get whatever money we need to survive. We do it for its purpose in our lives and some of us do it for its more humanitarian purpose. Some of us do it for the excitement and the constant intake of knowledge, but little glory comes with our guts.

Sometimes I wonder, as I hurtle toward this uncertain future, if I am doing the right thing. I once attended a lecture by Ridley Pearson, a famous U.S. crime novel writer. He said that the difference between a writer and a non-writer is that a writer can't not write. I can't stop writing, no matter what I do, and little makes me happier. It's funny, I always thought that I needed to choose something to do with my life, but my profession chose me in a way. Sometimes I wish I'd been chosen by a more lucrative skill, but I suppose we can't all be millionaires.

The future of journalism is changing, however, and I am excited to be on the cusp of this technology boom. I feel kind of like a surfer, poised and ready to roll with the waves and catch the next one as the tide tumbles in. And, of course, when duty calls for it, I'm ready to dive in the salty fray, head first.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Rising Questions

As a journalist, I become instantly critical when faced with controversial news. I study it from all angles and resist sensationalist propoganda in favor of as much research and logic as I can gather. That being said, I'm afraid that I've become increasingly concerned about the issue of 9-11 and the neoconservative agenda.

I'll admit, I never was in favor of President Bush. There were many reasons I felt the guy was incapable of being a good leader, most of all his low intellect and his track record in Texas. I felt, as I always feel, a good leader should be selected irrespective of political party, but this guy reeked of extremism in politics and policy. Still, the Florida incident helped him to win the presidency, and there we were.

What happened on 9-11? After watching several different deconstructive 9-11 videos, reading expert research and watching several videos, I am left with an unsettled feeling. The movie, "Zeitgeist",
although sensational in it's presentation, provides a logical connection between historical facts and the Bush agenda.

My biggest question, as has been a big question posed by celebrity, Rosie O'Donnell, is: How did the steel towers collapse? Jim King, an MIT engineer explains scientifically how the towers could not have collapsed based on burning jet fuel alone.

More videos show eyewitnesses hearing several explosions and show both buildings pulverized to dust. Does a mere fire do that? One really strange eyewitness gives testimony just minutes after the attack. How could he know what he knew and how could he be so calm about it?

Also, listen to the phone call by a supposed stewardess on Flight 11, Betty Ong. Does she seem abnormally calm to you? Also, the government says that her body was found at ground zero after the crash. Uh, okay, an entire building pulverized into dust by jet fuel, yet a single intact body of a stewardess from the vaporized plane remained?

Speaking of "vaporized" planes, there was no sight of any plane hitting the Pentagon, nor one at the crash site of flight 93. No bodies, no smoke, no smoldering wreckage, just pieces of metal remained and a crater that could have been anything. Of course, no one noticed it at the time, we were all too freaked out about what had happened in New York. In all the chaos, someone must have figured out that we'd never realize that this seemed abnormal.

If a plane did hit the Pentagon, why haven't government officials released the video that would confirm what happened? Why was each crash site immediately scrubbed clean so that scientists could not forensically re-create the incidents as is usual procedure?

Logically, nothing the government has done makes sense. The fact that the initial investigative report says that finding out who funded the attacks is of little importance is insane. Little importance? Isn't that the root of the issue? And honestly, do we think that one person is responsible for funding such an elaborate attack with no government support whatsoever?

Even if somehow one person could afford such a scheme, how on Earth could everything have worked out so perfectly for him? Security was lax that day in the airport, nothing was seen in the skies, most of the evidence was vaporized, and he managed to get two of the buildings to collapse just by flying the planes into the towers! Amazing!

Scientifically and logically all of the evidence points to something else going on. I'm not drawing the pistol automatically and blaming the government, but it seems odd to me that a government would not want to find out everything about an incident that changed the U.S. and the world forever. Instead, we set out to war to invade the "bad guys" and covered up all of the evidence that led to the truth. Why?

Why is the government so quick to deny that the buildings collapsed due to explosives? If Bin Laden could hijack planes and evade all security, he sure as hell could find a way into the building to plant explosives. Why wouldn't we want to investigate that? That's where it all begins to give me that sick feeling at the pit of my stomach.

The people of New York City, the United States, and the world have a right to know what really happened that day. However, if no one tells them, no worries. The truth will out itself eventually. It always does.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

It Has Come to This?

Boy, 11, in 100mph police chase
An 11-year-old boy and his parents have been arrested after he fled Louisiana police in a car chase at speeds of more than 100mph (160km/h), it is reported.

The child's mother and father have been accused of letting him drive for about six months, the Associated Press said.

The pursuit began when a patrol car spotted the boy's car speeding on Interstate 310 near New Orleans.

Police gave chase but the car sped away, only stopping at a Burger King restaurant where his mother worked.

The boy had been driving home from a hospital where he had dropped off his disabled father for an appointment when the chase began, police told AP.

His parents have been charged with the improper supervision of a minor and allowing an unlicensed minor to drive - something authorities said had been going on for six months.

The boy was reportedly released to the custody of an aunt after being arrested for fleeing from an officer, reckless driving, speeding, passing on the shoulder, improper lane usage and having no driver's licence.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/10/06 23:16:34 GMT


An 11-year-old boy on a high-speed chase. That's what the BBC and International news stations deem newsworthy. Does anyone else see the real story here?
Here, this kid's got a disabled father and a mother who works her ass off at Burger King in order to help pay Dad's insurance so that he can get the treatment he needs. Meanwhile, this poor mother, who probably works 70 hours per week at that hellhole, needs to be able to get Dad to his appointments. Her friends all work, she obviously can't hire a caretaker, the public transportation in Louisiana sucks or at least is not wheelchair accessible, and all she has is this loyal little kid. She knows that teaching him to drive is against the law, but at this point she has no other alternative.
Consider this situation for a moment. True, this family probably made some unwise decisions when it came to the law and perhaps the safety of their child, but I'm certain that this is not the only family that faces this type of situation. What does a low income family do when one parent falls ill and insurance and medication are so high? How can they survive? And with the dollar failing, everything seems more expensive.
As for transportation, forget about it. Most U.S. cities are built to rely on cars only. Many don't even have sidewalks for pedestrians. Gas is so pricey it's forced many low income people to give up much of their driving time. Buses are usually run down and smelly and often drop people off in strange or hazardous places, like on the side of a major highway with no sidewalk. That's of course, if the buses run in a person's area.
As a woman who used the St. Louis, Missouri public transportation system as often as possible, I experienced disconcerting sexual harassment on a daily basis from other passengers. A friend of mine witnessed a person masturbating across from her on the train. Metrolink staff did nothing. Does this sort of apathy make a person want to use public transportation in the first place?
The United States is not a country that allows its lower income inhabitants to survive. Yet, the number of them is increasing. I suspect that we will see more desperation like the acts detailed in the article come about in the near future. Eventually, one would hope that these people would gain a collective voice against the government and the war, but we'll see. Without a voice, the people will continue to fall and the future looks grim.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

When Does Liberal Become Conservative?

This MeMe Roth woman has me seeing red. For those who don't know who she is, she is the president of the National Action Against Obesity organization and a militant extremest against obesity, both for children and adults. This woman makes inaccurate, generalized statements on public television in the United States without presenting any scientific evidence to support her views. She's a dangerous you-know-what and she must be stopped.

Ms. Roth states that you can't be fit and fat. She attacks the overweight population with a vengence, stating that just 10 or 15 extra pounds can put a person at risk for health complications. A 1995 study published in the International Journal of Obesity claimed that cardiovascular health played a bigger role in predicting the health of a person than weight. Also, Roth overlooks all of the thinner people with higher metabolisms that shovel down calories because they don't seems to stick to their lithe frames. A 2006 London-based study concluded that both thin and overweight non-exercising people had similar health risks due to high cholesterol. It's almost worse for the thin people because fat builds up around their organs on the inside and they can't see what it's doing to them.

Furthermore, Roth and her organization push for a ban on certain types of foods, her most recent target being Girl Scout cookies. Banning foods is not the way to go and certainly wouldn't solve the obesity problem. Do you realize how much Samoas would go for on the black market?

Creating good foods is an art. People go to school for the purpose of pleasing the palate. It's not the devil. People who think that a food ban is the answer to all of our problems are naive and don't spend a lot of time thinking, to be honest.

To deny that a problem exists would also be naive, but at this point we've dug ourselves into such a deep hole that it will take a long time to dig our way out. Corporations like McDonalds are guilty of creating this problem, true, but we as a people must change in order for food-based businesses to change. Remember, the corporations are only as strong as their consumers. They make Big Macs and Supersize fries because we WANT them, because we will buy them. If the climate changes and suddenly everyone wants smaller portions and healthier options all around, the corporations will have no choice but to follow consumer demand. We blame the corporations for starting this crisis, but we are guilty of perpetuating it.

Overall, I think the reason that U.S. citizens have become as large as they are is portion distortion. Only in the United States can one walk into a restaurant and come out in five minutes with a one pound burrito. Those Chipotle or Qdoba burritos clock in, at minimum (we're talking a vegetarian bean burrito with no cheese) at 1000 calories. That's almost a full day's worth of calories in one sitting. Half of that would be a large lunch meal, forget about chips.

Diet experts say when eating out to cut the portion in half, but, even at that, sometimes we're still getting way more than our bodies can handle. In some restaurants, the normal portion size for a dish is one quarter of what is served! Combine extra calories with zero activity and you get extra weight, period. We all know that formula.

Education about food choices is the most important way to control obesity. Teaching people how to create delicious healthy meals in little time would be an asset to controlling the problem. Why not provide a nutrition class to kids in grade schools as part of science? What about offering mandatory seminars in hospitals before parents give birth as to the nutrition and health of a child?

I do agree with Ms. Roth that junk food machines should be removed from schools, but why not offer healthy snacks instead? When kids are hungry, kids will grab for things besides candy and chips if that's all there is. I don't believe that children don't desire to be healthy, it's the perception that unhealthy food is tastier than healthy food. That's a perception that starts at home.

Roth says that fat parents produce fat children because of their eating habits. While that may be true in many cases, we have yet to fully understand the concept of genetics. I tend to believe (as some researchers also believe) that if everyone ate the exact same diet and performed the exact same activity day in and day out, that we would still be all different shapes and sizes. Morbid obesity I do think can be controlled, but the tendancy to put on weight might have a solution until we figure out what role genetics plays in weight gain.

It's unrealistic for Roth to say that those people who aren't at their ideal weight should exercise more or eat less. Some people exercise for an hour a day, have cut calories to the minimum and still cannot lose that last 10 lbs of fat. Should people give up another hour of their work lives to lose the weight? Should they become obsessed with weight like Ms. Roth?

Life has to have a balance. There's a happy place between obsessing over every step of exercise and every mouthful of food and living one's life to the fullest. There are solutions, but people like MeMe Roth need to buck their own insecurities and get a life of their own.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Try it! You'll Like It (not)!

I have read many an article to the contrary of what I am about to say, but, through my own personal observation, I find the majority of the British food I've tried unsavory. Although I grew up in the United States, I did not come from a household whose diet consisted of fare from the crude network of fast food conglomerates such as McDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken. With homemade, healthy meals as a staple and the occassional sojourns to France and Morocco, I developed a taste for flavors that reign in some of the most popular cookbooks in the world.

My French father says, "Give food to British people and they ruin it."

I hate to perpetuate this statement, but I've tried a variety of foods form the local market, only to discover the sauces watery and lacking spice, the noodles limp and mushy, and the complete and utter fear of garlic, basil and other beautiful flavorings. In other words: Yucky.

Brits do make some tasty desserts, such as puddings and chocolate tartes. Anything fried, they do with flair. But cooking, as it traditionally stands, the British take last place to any nationality I've sampled.

Still and all, the food is really the only thing I find absolutely unacceptable about living in London. So far, so good.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Bigger in Person

U.S. people have a variety of misconceptions regarding Europe and the U.K. Smaller, more central U.S. cities have a wildly disproportioned view of everything. They can't help it, they're in the middle of a huge land mass. Information sometimes just does not travel there. In between dirt and more dirt, we're like earthworms, wriggling through our own plots of land with only a vague idea of what's going on elsewhere. Mmm, dirt.

We have an idea that cities like London and Paris and even New York City are full of glamour and magic, where everyone's sophisticated, thin, has a great haircut and an automatic sense of style that lends itself to the creation of an amazing wardrobe. I wholeheartedly blame movies and celebrities for these notions, of course. Plus, the media for covering fashion shows, which reflect a teeny square block of the city usually.

Before I came to London, I felt under the impression that I would be the only person here above a size 4. One can but imagine the immense fear and pressure I felt when stepping off of that plane, only to find myself amid a swarm of people who carried ten, twenty, maybe fifty extra pounds! This was not the London of picture books, for sure, and it baffled me as to why people were overweight when they walked everywhere.

Becoming acquainted with the city, I discovered the sinister truth behind London's weight problem. It seemed that, for every two feet of concrete, a restaurant, take away, quickie mart or pub appeared. I had always complained about the prevalence of food in the U.S., but this, this was beyond compare! Chinese food, Indian food, Greek food, Thai food, French food, Canadian food, American food, Middle Eastern food, sushi, pastries, Starbucks, fish and chips, vending machines, supermarkets, candy, cafes, all poured superflouously out onto the streets and all teemed with action within. I'd never seen more people stuffing their faces in more places in my life!

To make matters worse, the food's unhealthy and tasteless. Even ethnic foods change their flavoring to appeal to British consumers. British people have no interest in the tang of exotic spices. Even Indian curry posesses a blandness that knocks the wind out of the enjoyment of the meal. The result is flat, fat-laden food that can be eaten without much thought or satisfaction.

As a Franco-American in London I've lost all pleasure from eating. I go to the supermarket and pick things which I know I can choke down. The only thing that I look forward to is my morning Nutella on wholemeal. Everything else goes down because of necessity.

Perhaps we think that people are thin in London because we, as Americans, lose weight when we're here. Between the nasty food and the walking (which we never get), it is inevitable that we should shrink in size.

Perhaps the only way to beat the international obesity epidemic is get people to switch countries. Move Ethiopia to France, France to the U.S., the U.S. to London, London to Ethiopia and there you go! No one's fat, no one's too thin. I think my plan could work, right?

At any rate, being here definitely causes me to dissolve any preconceived notions I had about this city. People don't even seem to do their hair here. Women wear their hair long and styleless and in ponytails. No one's interested in spending money on hair. It's the tourists, I imagine, that make the industry go round.

At least, that's what this "tasteless American" has observed.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Light a Fire

Lighting a fire under one's arse can prove difficult, especially in the U.K. As a journalist, how does a person inspire another person to talk to her? As a regular person, it's difficult. As a journalist, it's maddening. Deadlines aren't forgiving. Pursuasiveness is an art.

On the other hand, Brits with an agenda have a fabulous ability to pursuade. They will pull off a complete screw job with the finesse and polish of David Copperfield.

"Now you see your time and hard-earned money, now you don't!" And somehow you walk away thanking them for it.

Life moves slower here in the U.K. than it does in the U.S. It takes some getting used to and I haven't worked out all of this planning ahead business. It seems that one has to be extremely organized to live here. Practically nothing can be done off the cuff in just five minutes. No, even going to pick up a can of soup proves to cost a person almost fifteen minutes of precious time. As a wise New Yorker once told me, even seconds add up. It's true!

So, deadlines looming, I decide that the best way to get the job done as a journalist covering an event or other time-sensitive matters, is to let them know you're coming and just show up. In most cases, "May I have an interview?" does not work. They will politely put you off until infinity. No, you must charge in with your pad and paper (because we print student people don't have digital recorders like the broadcasters were given) and start asking questions.

It just so happens that on Sunday I'm going to be interviewing puppets, or puppeteers, same diff. It will prove itself an interesting endeavor. I'm charging into a Punch and Judy festival with eyes and ears open. Wish me luck!

Also, I've been given the opportunity to write for a new UK night clubbing publication online. I will keep everyone posted on the developments.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Album Review

Boys Noize "Oi Oi Oi" Boys Noize (2007)

Review by Solange Deschatres

Berlin-based Boys Noize’s first self-produced album, “Oi Oi Oi”, proves that robots have feelings too. Alex Ridha, "the man behind the motherboard," intuitively combines the organic nature of the humanoid with electronics, channeling emotions through a digital interface. The album contains the sorrowful, dark electro single, “Don’t Believe the Hype,” in addition to 13 other tracks that range from steady electro grooves to body-breaking electro-tech.
Folk rock artist, Feist, gets a cyborgian makeover with a remix of, “My Moon, My Man,” a gritty, liquid thumper meant to metallicize the spine of every fem-folk lover who gets lost at night in the club districts this summer.
Like humans, robots aren’t perfect. The messy and chaotic track, “Superfresh” throws in everything but the kitchen sink like a dishwasher gone haywire, and the lackadaisical “Let’s Buy Happiness” takes on a journey as boring as mowing the lawn on a Sunday morning, complete with distorted robot humming. These tracks, thankfully, are saved by the superhuman strength of more pumped-up ones like, “Deny Selected,” with its heavy-flowing bass, and the electro epic, “Shine Shine,” which engages a cacophony of synth horns. Counterintuitively, this work reminds the mechanical workings of the body what it’s like to be human. Grab this album and some motor oil and prepare to be transformed.

Monday, 16 April 2007

JJ Flores Profile Feature

Spotlight on JJ Flores

Is there really much difference between work and play? Not if you love your job. One half of a duo that has pumped new life into the US and UK house music scenes talks about being a child prodigy, playing with fans, and trying to juggle a band and a DJ career while seeking international fame.

By 5.30 in the evening, Chicago-based house music producing dynamo, JJ Flores, has been mitts-to-the-metal all day, knocking out tracks with producing partner, Steve Smooth, before sitting down for a chat and a microwave meal of "creamy mushroom pasta." He and Smooth, have been tirelessly chinking out a new album, due to hit the public around the fall of 2008, since their recent signing to Ultra Records. It’ll be he and Smooth’s second album release since The Collection in 2006, which showcased a selection of the duo’s wide catalogue of hit singles, including the UK chart-topping, floor-lifting remix of “Dancin” by Aaron Smith, featuring Luvli.

“Now we’re actually building an album from scratch,” says Flores, explaining the nature of his current studio toil.

The new album again features Luvli, adding her uplifting vocal stylings to the preview single, “Being in Love,”, released on March 13, 2008. Fellow Chicago DJ and producer, Alex Peace also re-joins the crew for a yet-to-be-released, filthy booty-shaker, ‘Sex Fiend’. Flores’s girlfriend, singer-songwriter Lil’ Lisa, will also be featured on a few tracks. As for other artists, negotiations are still in the works.

“We’ve been talking with a few artists that are a little more known, but I don’t want to drop it now in case it doesn’t happen,” Flores explains apologetically.

Big-name vocals, however, were not what originally launched the duo into US fame—the sizzling disco-flavoured “Get Naked” featured Smooth’s electronically deepened voice, where dance floor dynamite, “Freak You” and the belly warming, bass-pounding, “Time for Love” featured Flores.

Now that Ultra has welcomed them on board, they are going for a slightly wider audience: “We’re bringing in different talent who are writing and singing, so we’re going for more potential dance radio play.”

Radio play is nothing new to the child prodigy-turned-producing powerhouse. His first club mix, D’zyre’s ‘Forever Amor’, was picked up by Atlantic Records in 1991, when Flores was 17 years old--which seems funny given Flores’s creaseless complexion, and unpretentious, spry comportment. Seventeen doesn’t appear to be that long ago.

“It was a long time ago,” Flores laughs.

“I actually started making music as a kid,” he explains. “with little pieces of equipment and old computers when I was a lot younger, like maybe 12 or 13. Just being in the basement and trying to make music with little toy Casio keyboards or whatever I could get my hands on. I didn’t even know it was called producing when I was doing it. I just knew I was trying to make the electronic music that I kept hearing.”

Growing up during the height of Chicago's house music heyday fostered Flores’s passion for electronic music and fixed his interest throughout most of his childhood. Hearing tracks on the radio, then, later on, going to nightclubs, collecting the vibe and bringing it back home, Flores spent hours recreating sounds and adding his personal touch to a growing hobby.

“ I was never really into sports or anything,” he admits. “Once that first record hit, I was like, ‘this is too fun; this is what I wanna do.’”

After hitting the radio waves, there was no stopping the JJ Flores production train. Remixing for big name pop artists like N’Sync, Christina Millan, and Vanessa Williams, and house music royalty like Bad Boy Bill, he began to bang out tracks for US and international audiences. Simultaneously, he helped launch the careers of several artists-- such as Gillette (‘Short Dick Man’, 1994) and Roula (‘Lick It’, 1994)-- with record company SOS Records and his production team, 20 Fingers.

Several years of discovering new talent and putting out novelty records began to take their toll on Flores emotionally, juggling egos and dealing with a growing stable of artists. By the early 2000s, Flores decided he’d had enough and went back to basics, back to producing the house music he knew and loved.

Around the time Flores had decided to go back to producing house, Bad Boy Bill officially introduced Flores to Steve Smooth. The two bonded instantly and created Ménage Music. Their first release, “Get Naked,” in 2003 was snapped up and played around the world by DJs like Seb Fontaine, Roger Sanchez, and DJ Dan. Since then, they’ve repeatedly hit the target dead-on with an upbeat, wallflower-picking style that has even the sourest of sourpusses leaping between lights and linoleum before the second track drops.

“We liked having these records where it’s like, these are the peak hours, this is where everyone starts going crazy, happy,” Flores explains. “There’re a lot of more minimal, laid-back, less abrasive tracks out there that are awesome, but we chose to go with the very loud, peak-hour, driving type house records and we chose to keep that as more of our signature.”

That signature style created a vast following for them in the US, first with Bad Boy Bill’s “Behind the Decks” tour, and then 2007’s “Debauchery Tour.” People have begun flying all over the US to see the duo in action, hooked on the addictive uppers of the team’s signature sound.

“A lot of times at the end people will come up to us and say, ‘How come you didn’t drop ‘Get Naked’ or ‘Deep Inside These Walls’ or ‘Release’ or ‘Time for Love’?’ And we try to fit all that in, but sometimes it just doesn’t work with the night, you know? Plus, we did a lotta records. I mean, we can literally do a two-hour set with all of the stuff we’ve done. I don’t think people really wanna hear that,” Flores explains, chuckling, but then adds, “Maybe they do, I dunno.”

Surprisingly, Flores has only been performing as a DJ for three or four years, after he and Smooth had released the first two singles and their popularity caused him to get calls for live bookings. After studying Smooth’s and Bill’s techniques, he decided it was time to get behind the decks.
“It was the best decision I had made; I wish I’d done it sooner,” he chucks in.

Touring has actually helped Flores in getting inspiration for new music. In fact, he now confesses to liking the performance aspect better than the production end.

“I love the traveling,” he describes wistfully. “I love meeting new people. I love just going out and playing with the people and just seeing how they react to the music and seeing them appreciate it.”

Moving back into the studio, Flores ruminates on the new stuff: “The Collection was during the time when a lot of filtered disco was big, and I guess right now we’re going in—I guess it’s more electro. It’s definitely more vocal, but we’re trying not to lose too much of the party edge that we had.”

After years of close-knit work, it’s surprising to know that Smooth and Flores are still driven to work together and even enjoy each other’s company.
“We’re in the studio every day and going on the road and touring, and sitting in the friggin’ airports and whatever, and we’ve definitely been doing a lot together, but we’ve been pretty fortunate that we’ve not gotten into any major fights yet,” Flores reflects. “It’s been a lotta years. So far, we’ve been pretty lucky. Now that I just said that, we’ll probably just blow up at each other tomorrow.”

Perhaps Flores’s friendly, positive nature is the fuel that propels this dynamic partnership. Don’t let his hardworking nature fool you. In spite of all this studio time and long traveling hours, JJ Flores is just as much of a partier as he is a party-maker.

“For some reason, all my friends love it when I’m drunk,” the self-admitted ‘happy drunk’, laughs. “I go crazy. My tolerance is really low, but I know how much I can drink to where I just let loose and am feeling free and I’m just taking everybody with me.”