Ghost in the soul

It was the mention of Negadon: The Monster From Mars in an e-mail to a buddy in the UK earlier today that caused me to remember the 2011 teaser for Soul Man. But I had no memory of the film's title. All I could think to Google was "french animated blaxploitation" and -- SHAZAM! -- the main character was there before me in all her afro-haired glory.

"Set in an alternate world built on two levels, "Soul Man" turns on a former Polish detective entangled in a shady multi-billion-dollar biotech deal -- the key to which is a baby girl the detective is asked to look after."

According to the original 2011 posts, this gorgeous-looking project from French animator Guillaume Ivernel and his Paris-based production house, Blacklight Movies, was originally slated for 2014 release date. Well, it's now 2014 and it will really make my "soul glow" if it does come out this year.


Moonshine Burrito – The sweetest hangover

Remember those old candy commercials where the one klutz snacking on peanut butter always somehow managed to crash into the other klutz munching on a chocolate bar? And remember the happy expressions on their faces when each bit down to discover the new taste that came from the blending of those two very different flavors? Well, now picture a rap song with country music guitar licks mixed with a slow, pimp struttin’ hip-hop beat. On the surface that mixture sounds like a recipe for disaster, right? But, like peanut butter cups, it somehow works! And when laced with rhymes by Moonshine Burrito -- and a funky Kenny Rogers sample -- the end result is a full-fledged sugar rush. The guitar-twanging...banger in question, "Roads Are Rough (Holdin' Up)", is featured on South By Southwest, the new ten-track album from SpaceLAB Recordings label mates Jake Palumbo and Ciphurphace. Together these longtime pals combine to form Moonshine Burrito and, as the name probably suggests, the music made by this dynamic duo is all about unholy unions and unlikely combinations. For a finger-lickin’ taste test of South By Southwest, sample "Roads Are Rough (Holdin' Up)" and "Diesel (Feelin' Lovely)" for free-ninety-nine by clicking on the links below. And be sure to drop by iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay or Bandcamp to get a full serving of South By Southwest. Woo-hah! – SP

Moonshine Burrito – Diesel (Feelin' Lovely)
Moonshine Burrito – Roads Are Rough (Holdin' Up)


Poster Child

 [Click to enlarge]

It's been mentioned that I have fairly cool collection of old school hip-hop paraphernalia. Next to my treasured original copy of Breaking and the New York City Breakers (1984), the poster shown above has probably been the second-most treasured item in the archive. At this late date its difficult to recall what year or from which magazine the poster was removed. But it most likely came from the centerfold of Right On! or Word Up!, as the artists within the poster's borders predate all those who after '87 came to dominate the pages of rap-focused mags--And the Adidas Stockholm jersey worn by DJ Red Alert (#21) kinda' has 1987 written all over it, as far as provenance goes. For such a major assemblage of rappers and deejays, the magazine got major cool points in my book. It also kinda' got the gas face too, though, for not getting MC Shan's (#4) name and actually going to print with a misnomer in the legend. But you gotta' love Run's seemingly irritated expression (#11), the cold weather sportswear -- including Dapper Dan jackets worn by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five -- and the classic fat gold chains.


Beat Fighter II – RUN-DMC vs. SNSD

In the early days of hip-hop parties, before any actual rap records were produced, the ten-second intro of Bob James' jazz-fusion masterpiece "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" was a party starting staple-- not that it ever had to be played at the beginning of a party, per se. But it was likely that at some point during a jam those valued ten seconds would be hyper-extended by a deejay who'd bounce between double copies twirling on parallel turntables. For the many of us who were exposed to hip-hop in the era of actual rap records, the first time the "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" intro was ever heard was most likely by way of "Piper Piper", the smash second single from Run-DMC's 1986 album, Raising Hell. Now three decades later (Four, actually, since its original 1975 incarnation!), the South Korean pop group Girl's Generation, aka SNSD, has breathed sexy new life into James' finely-aged jazz-fusion jam with the late 2013 release of the K-Pop hit, "Lips."

Press play 'n' enjoy.

[Press-N-Play®] Run-DMC – Peter Piper
[Press-N-Play®] Girl's Generation – Lips


The Sweet Taste of KJAMM

There are a few J-Pop podcasts to which I'm currently subscribed. At timely and sometimes not so timely intervals each one will download automatically to my mp3 player to serve up a tasty new batch of East Asian audio treats. The best of these, averaging three episodes per month and thus being the one I enjoy the most often -- as well as simply the most -- is the very affable KJAMM podcast. Devoted to the modern music of Korea and Japan, the show is hosted by the sweet-n-sexy Sam Brown, the diva-licious Jon Black and the willing 'n' able Abe White. With each episode the trio lovingly caters to listeners a very thoughtful mix of contemporary 'jamms' that range from r&b, pop and hip-hop to electro rock, dance and even jazz (apparently just to make sure the show provides all of the essential vitamins and minerals a growing ghost in the shell needs). On top of the musical main courses, each episode also offers various side dishes of pop culture laced opinion and commentary--courtesy of the multiple-personality disorders of the show's insanely quick-witted hosts. The 26th of January brought the hardworking KJAMM crew to the show's 50th episode, a noteworthy notch on the belt of any such labor of love. If you, like I do, often find yourself famished for the newest sounds in K and J-Pop (Yeah, it's filling--but then you're hungry again twenty minutes later, right?), pour yourself a cup of jasmine tea, grab a hot buttered biscuit and spread on a honeyed heap of KJAMM. The show is available at iTunes™, PodOmatic™ and through other fine podcast providers.

St. Paco
Your Kung Fu Sucks


What If Marvel Studios Made Blaxploitation Movies?

By St. Paco

If you were ever a fan of Marvel Comics from, say, 1977 to now, then you've probably run your eyes through an issue or two (or twenty) of Marvel's long-running What If...? title. For those who aren't familiar with the book, the stories in What If...? explore themes that deviate from or alter completely the established norms of Marvel's literary canon. For instance, on the cover of What If...? #1, readers were asked to consider, "What if Spider-Man was a member of the Fantastic Four?" Then, over the course of eighteen pages the writer and artist explored that idea without it actually impacting 'real' comic book continuity.

It was with a similar concept in mind that I made a limited series of "Marvel Blaxploitation" mini movie posters. The process permitted me to do some serious "What if...?" imaginings of my own. The very first of these was, "What if there was a fourth Iron Man movie with Ghostface Killah in the title role?" For those of you who don't listen to much hip-hop, Ghostface Killah is a member of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan. In addition to his main kung-fu movie inspired stage name the rapper also uses the comic book inspired nicknames, Iron Man and Tony Starks (ol' shell head's billionaire alter ego). To illustrate how much of a fan the man is, his first solo album was even titled "Iron Man."

Click to enlarge

In the bestselling book, The Wu-Tang Manual, author and Clan founder, RZA, reports that everyone in the nine-member crew grew up collecting comics. But it was Wu-Tang member Method Man who had, says RZA, "the most extensive collection...boxes and boxes of comic books." Like Ghostface, Method Man (another stage name taken from kung-fu flicks) also uses the additional comic book inspired nicknames of Johnny Blaze and Ghost Rider. In the Marvel universe, for you who don't know, motorcycle stuntman Johnny Blaze is the true identity of the flame-headed Ghost Rider. And it should probably be said that Meth's well-known love of marijuana 'blazing' has as much to do with these other nicknames as does his love of comics.

"It's my testament to those burned, play my position in the game of life standing firm / On foreign lands, jump the gun out of the frying pan
into the fire, transform into the Ghost Rider"
– Method Man, "Triumph"

Due to my own diehard affinities for hip-hop and comics, and sincere appreciation of Wu-Tang, Method Man and Ghostface Killah were obvious choices for the first pieces in the “Marvel Blaxploitation” mini movie poster series. It was originally only planned as two-parter but after finishing the two, I felt the urge to keep brainstorming to see what else might come out of it. The blaxploitation movie concept seemed like a good concept for at least one more mini-poster, which would give me a triptych/trilogy. But it was actually good for two more.

Although it took a few days to come up with the theme for the third piece, I eventually decided on one that would put Blade on screen (so to speak) with Nick Fury. Much to Marvel's credit, the company was already firmly on the cutting-edge of zombie lovin' pop culture with their Marvel Zombies comics. I even give them credit as trendsetters, since well before the other now-popular vampire franchises had come about, Marvel had three Blade films in theaters.

Mindful of the fact that Blade was also Marvel's first successful film franchise, the third piece permitted me to see him--quite deservedly--linked to the existing film universe of characters for which he paved the way. I also think that seeing Wesley with Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson resurrects his character's image from the muck of those franchise killing "sidekicks" played by Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel in Blade Trinity, the last Blade film.

(That’s right. I said it.)

The last piece in the series is based on a fairly popular "what if" scenario that plays out often in the minds of many comic book fans: "Who would win the fight between Storm of the X-Men and Thor?" Because Thor is the 'god of thunder' and Storm's mutant super-power enables her to control the weather, this one's a natural match-up. Thor is generally thought to have the upper hand in the battle, though, the most frequent reason being because: "He's a god!" But this…basically non-argument has less significance than many seem to realize.

Like virtually every god of ancient lore, Thor isn't immortal. He can be injured and even killed. Thus, with his mortality squarely in mind, I designed my mini movie poster...and then began writing a fan fiction piece in which Storm, who was worshiped by the people of her native Kenya as a goddess, opens up a shocking can of 'whup ass' on the god of thunder. It's a story rooted in religious lore and science-fact that would've made the late Dwayne McDuffie (who tried to tell a similar tale during his run on Fantastic Four, before nay-saying editors shot it down) very proud.

[Twirls mustache]

In addition to being just pure fun, the long process of making this mini-poster series caused me think a lot about power. More specifically, it made me think a lot about about the power of money and the power of images in American popular culture--as well as in traditional human societies. On a smaller and perhaps oversimplified scale, this series also allowed me to ponder what it must feel like to have the power to green light multi-million dollar movie deals, choose scripts, hire actors, directors, composers, musicians, and marketing & design firms.

Frankly, for a film buff like myself (yes, in addition to my many other obsessions), meditations on what it might be like to have movie mogul power was a wee bit intoxicating. But it also depressed the hell outta' me, too, recognizing even more now how very insular Hollywood is and how few have access to that world. Despite the fact that I may never get a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, for a little while at least the simple process of making these faux film promos enabled me to feel as if I had behind-the-scenes access (and front row seats) to some of the best superhero movies never made.