The Man With the Iron Fists [Red Band Trailer]

In the tradition of Afro Samurai, Sukiyaki Western Django, The Warrior's Way, Bunraku, The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and other east-meets-west themed period pieces comes the RZA's long-awaited directorial debut, The Man With the Iron Fists. Written by RZA and Eli Roth (Hostel), and starring Russell Crow, Lucy Liu and Jamie Chung, the film is currently without an official theatrical release date, but the teaser poster and (red band) trailer has officially dropped, so YKFS blog readers are gettin' a sneak peek courtesy of IGN. Dig it.


The Sony Boodo Khan™ Mixtape

Slow Jams by David Choe

Facebook bazillionaire David Choe is an artist who has often shared his deep love of music through his awe-infesting visual works. Slow Jams, one of his earliest and best-known zines, was named after the slang term for an R&B ballad. And in the pages of Cursiv, his 2003 sketch book, David dedicates two pulse-pounding pages to a dearly departed mixtape that was mangled beyond repair by a teething tape player.

Named the "Ultimate Jam," his crippled cassette showed the tastes of an eclectic 'selektah.' Scribbled on the folded Maxell insert are songs like "Just a Friend" by Biz Markie, "Glory Box" by Portishead, "Get in the Ring" by Guns-N-Roses, "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys, "Porno Creep" by Korn, "Girl/Boy Song" by Aphex Twins, "Blue Flowers" by Doctor Octagon, and a few dozen other seemingly random tracks.

Collectively, the mismatched music on the cassette reflects the patchwork essence of the misfits from various cliques who get crammed together for Saturday detention in a John Hughes movie.

"It's either the dopest or worstest mixtape you've ever heard," scrawled the artist above his playlist, making himself correct either way in the process.

While working on the design for my pimp-a-licious new poetry zine (Distant God Meditation), I often found myself flippin' through Cursiv. Somethin' about its "unorthodox...but effective" visual kung-fu chi power helped to keep me in the zone. And though I dig every illustration in the book, two of those that spoke to me most at present were Dave's drawings of his mutilated tape (top) and a jam drawing done with his homies, Eskae and Rhode Montijo.

With my zine work finally done (and with an eclectic music mix in mind) I made an mp3 compilation mixtape inspired by the vibe of Distant God Meditation. Some of my picks –Talvin Singh's "Distant God" and Marvin Gaye's "Distant Lover," for example – were immediate influences. Others were chosen because I felt that they could offer allusions to the project in either nuanced or blatantly obvious ways. The finished product is my own debatable rendering of an "Ultimate Jam."

For the record, the Sony Boodo Khan™ Mixtape was made to be heard though headphones (hence the name Sony Boodo Khan™ Mixtape). And I am not talkin' about those omnipresent, porcelain-colored earbuds. (Viva, Steve Jobs!) I'm talking about cushiony, cocoons-over-your-ears-drowning-in-sound headphones. To feel the soul sonic force of this master mix, this is what it's gonna require:

head•phones |ˈhedˌfōnz|
plural noun
a pair of earphones typically joined by a band placed over the head, for listening to audio signals such as music or speech.


And for those of you who somehow missed the British trip hop tsunami from which poured the down-tempo sounds of Massive Attack, Tricky, Portishead, Morcheeba, Statik Sound System, Hooverphonic and many others, the Sony Boodo Khan is a now-mythologized Walkman that was name-checked in two songs on Massive Attack's ground-obliterating album, Blue Lines.

Anywhoo, some of these track selections are gonna suck your earlobes. Others will sucker-punch you in the pancreas. And if you don't feel anything at all, then I feel sorry for you–because you simply have no soul. Okay, okay, maybe your soul just wasn't fed the 8 essential vitamins and minerals  that every growin' ghost in the shell needs. So, prepare to be nourished now, kiddies, 'cuz this mixtape is on some futuristic-5th Element-Blade Runner-Fruity Pebbles shit.

So sayeth...

Riddem Selektah St. Paco

001. Long Island Wildin' – De La Soul
002. Lot More – Portishead
003. Christiansands – Tricky
004. King Ghidorah  – Godzilla Sound Cues
005. OK – Talvin Singh
006. Tetsuwan Atom / Astroboy Theme (1966)  – Kamitakada Shounen Gasshoudan
007. Blue Lines – Massive Attack
008. Readymade FM – Pizzicato Five
009. Baby Love Child – Pizzicato Five
010. Scientific Civilization (Skit) – Monsta Island Czars
011. Jellyfish ft. Cappadonna, Shawn Wigs & Trife Da God – Ghostface Killah
012. In The Hands Of The Gods ft. Biz Markie – Morcheeba
013. One In A Million – Aaliyah
014. Midnight In A Perfect World – DJ Shadow
015. Audiomaze – Tabla Beat Science
016. Addictive ft. Rakim – Truth Hurts
017. Paid In Full (Mini Madness) – Eric B. & Rakim
018. Five Man Army – Massive Attack
019. Distant God ft. Leone – Talvin Singh
020. Distant Lover – Marvin Gaye
021. Lover ft. Aya – Sweetback
022. Toh Kami Emi Tame - Kenji Kawaii
023. The Ballade of Puppets: In a New World, Gods Will Descend - Kenji Kawaii

Bootleg cover illustration: Rhode Montijo • David Choe • Eskae

Note: Copies of
Cursiv are still available at the Giant Robot shop. So while you're there gettin' yours, pick up a copy of Giant Robot #64, which features the mind-blowing "Black Asians" article by yours truly. There's also a Choe-related joint in that issue by my zine-making comrade Jason Jaworski, so cop it, yes?



Distant God 1.0 (Hip-hop vs. Hindu Remix) by St. Paco (after Doze & Haze)
Limited edition inkjet print on genuine archival grade bamboo art paper
8" x 10"


Pixar's Austin Madison on inspiration

May 17, 2011

To whom it may inspire,

I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is the white-hot, "in the zone" seat-of-the pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.

The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.

In a word: PERSIST.

PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision. Remember what Peter Jackson said, "Pain is temporary. Film is forever." And he of all people should know.

So next time you hit writer's block, or your computer crashes and you lose an entire night's work because you didn't hit save (always hit save), just remember: you're never far from that next burst of divine creativity. Work through that 97% of murky abysmal mediocrity to get to that 3% which everyone will remember you for!

I guarantee you, the art will be well worth the work!

Your friend and mine,

Austin Madison


Thinkin' of a master plan...

 Taggers in the Temple by St. Paco
Limited edition inkjet art print on genuine archival grade bamboo art paper
8.5" x 11"


Open letter to a homeboy: Just 'jeet kun do' it

About week ago, as I rifled through a nearly ten-year-old folder on my older Mac (the G4 Tower), I was reacquainted unexpectedly with a letter that I wrote to a friend in late autumn of 2003. Planted throughout this dated missive are the seeds from which Kung Fu Grip! zine and several other of my projects, perhaps even this blog, have flowered.

I'd like to think that I've become a slightly better writer since then–but this letter wasn't originally intended for mass consumption, either. So, I should prolly forgive myself for its faults. I mean, it's still a good enough read, methinks. Most private letters are, right?

Submitted for your perusal, the Tao of Kung Fu Grip.

November 14, 2003

[Name withheld]

I feel like a writer today and so I'm writing you this letter. It won't be very long, though. Just an 'arts & life' update.

My phone service was interrupted this past Monday due to non payment. Apparently, I misread the disconnection notice, thinking that the payment didn't have to be made until 11/23. I was only half right and the phone was temporarily disconnected; if not paid by 11/23 it will be completely disconnected.

Hmmmmm...another lemon. So, what did I do? I made some proverbial lemonade.

Firstly, I cleaned the apartment––something I had neglected to do for almost two months. Sure, I had done some spot cleaning to keep some semblance of order, but there were other things that needed to get done that just kept getting put off...until the phone service was interrupted, that is. 

"Hello, my name is St. Paco and I am an internet addict..."

After my cleaning chores I got back to some of my research, rereading a lot of the stuff I've downloaded over the past few years and establishing connections on various points that had been hoverin' in the back of my mind for some time. I then drew up this timeline and spent more time looking into this largely unknown tradition in medieval Europe where religious icons of a black Christ began to appear around the 11th century and to flourish throughout the 15th century, when the Spanish began to colonize other parts of the world. 

After a day or two of that, it occurred to me that my more...secular writings were being neglected (again). I figured that – if nothing else – I could maybe get one more issue of Third Rail zine out this year; I have about six or seven essays in varying phases, from rough ideas to nearly finished. 

I then started working on the Upski Wimsatt short story again, that I want to have in the second issue of Third Rail. As it's now at ten pages in length (zine-sized) and almost complete, it'll significantly help to cut down on the amount of pages that I will ultimately need to fill. I'm thinking that it'll be 36 pages long, like the first issue.

And then there's this "Count Dante: Deadliest Man Alive" article that's been burnin' in the back of my brain since July.

It's funny how you take things for granted. For instance, I always just took for granted that Count Dante was from Chicago. But seeing his full-page ad again earlier this year in an old Fantastic Four issue that I was flippin' through really brought it home to me, that sense of wonder that not only comic books held for us growin' up, but the advertisements within–especially the old martial arts ads.

It probably goes without saying that I think that Dante's was the crown jewel of such advertising.

Now, the article idea actually came to me after, merely out of curiosity, I searched the web for more information on the guy and found it almost IMPOSSIBLE to get anything on him. He'd practically fallen off the map, it seemed. Ultimately, though, I would come to learn that he actually died back in 1975–which I'm sure I didn't forget and just never knew.

Afterward, it occurred to me then that since my zine was loosely about old school hip-hop perspectives filtered through my experiences growing up in Chicago, I should write about him. Nothing is as old school and identifiable as the Count Dante "Black Dragon Fighting Society" ads that our generation was exposed to by way of comic books. Well, save for the equally memorable full-page ads by Charles Atlas and the Hostess Company. 

With the Dante article, I even get to sneak in my deep appreciation of Bruce Lee and old kung-fu flicks. At the same time, too, I also get to throw in relevant references to my other childhood hero Muhammad Ali (who owned a home in Chicago back then) and even Jim Kelly, through utilizing that memorable movie quote that you also planned to use your own movie one day: 

"Man...you come right out of a comic book."
– Jim Kelly, Enter the Dragon (1973)

It seems that those handmade Black Dragon Society stickers that I gave you were only an early manifestation of the work on Dante that was still to come, which has now culminated in a biography on the man himself for Third Rail zine. Now that I'm nearly finished with it, though, I honestly think it's good enough to submit to Giant Robot or some other mag.

Yanno, it would also be PERFECT for the Raw Like Sushi zine that we talked about doing together. But gawd only knows when that project will grow it's proverbial other foot; it takes one foot to stand but two to walk.

Early this year, I had envisioned this "King Kong Versus Godzilla" article (based on one of the indigenous populations of the South Pacific islands) as my first commercial writing project, but KKVSG is still months away from completion. And now the Dante article – though originally conceived and researched back in July – was just started this week and will be done by the weekend. After a few more proofreads, it'll be ready for submission somewhere.

And, yo, while writing this article I almost felt like Tarantino did while working on Kill Bill. The night that it was started I had take a break to watch that Bruce Lee vs. Mako episode of The Green Hornet, cuz I was just so hyped–which brings me to a thought.

Stumped this afternoon as to how I should end the article, it occurred to me to pull out a magazine that I'd bought from Tower Records on Alma School & Southern back when I was still living in Mesa. Kung Fu Magazine had done this cool Bruce Lee retrospective issue to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of Enter the Dragon.

Well, as an inspirational distraction I opened the magazine and read again the interviews with Dan Inosanto, Taky Kimura, Bruce's brother Robert, and others. And something that was mentioned in an interview with Richard Bustillo, one of Bruce's old running buddies and sparring partners, really stuck with me. It also made me think of you.

It was Bruce's reiteration the ancient belief that the ultimate knowledge "is self-knowledge." This saying is virtually as old as human spirituality itself.

And then, as he confided how Bruce helped him to be really "honest" with himself, Bustillo reports that Bruce told him: "When you think you can do this or that...don't think...just do it! Either you have it or you don't. Don't just say things like, 'Yeah, I want to do this or I want to do that.' Just do it."

Bustillo says that those words, coming from Bruce, changed his outlook on life. Maybe you can get something out of them, too. But I don't mean by simply reading them in this letter and saying, "Oh, that's cool." Take them, write them down or...cut them from this letter! Tape them to your desk, wall or computer so that you see them everyday until you OWN them:

Click to enlarge. 

The way I see it, they're not just Bruce's words of advice to Bustillo. It's tried-and-true advice for you, for me, and for anyone else who dreams of doing something crazy...like changing the world. Sometimes the secret is so simple that we miss it:

Just do it, bro. Just Jeet Kun Do it.


St. Paco



Your Kung Fu Sucks! Grindhouse Cinemas™ is proud to present the "lost" Bruce Lee interview from Canada's Pierre Berton Show (1971). As always, this video is available to you as a free MP4 download courtesy of the fine folks over at Archive.org. You're also welcome to watch it front-row-and-center at the YKFS blog.



The lost gospel of St. Paco

Like an inward reflection of the imaginative collage cover produced by the author, graffiti writer and underground publisher St. Paco, Distant God Meditation is a multi-layered manuscript that brims with the fluid poems and rhymes of a drunk, cigar-smoking monk.


Jay-Z on Jean-Michel Basquiat

"When Basquiat painted 'Charles the First' he was only twenty-two. People always wanted to stick Basquiat in some camp or another, to paste on some label that would be stable and make it easy to treat him like a commodity. But he was elusive. His eye was always on a bigger picture, not whatever corner people tried to frame him in. But mostly his eye was probably on himself, on using his art to get what he wanted, to say what he wanted to communicate his truth."

–Jay-Z, Decoded (p.95)


Rammellzee vs. K-Rob vs. Basquiat

Many of hip-hop's earliest records have achieved the level of legendary status. Few hip-hop records, however, have ascended to a legendary status of near-mythic proportion. One disc that may have met this mark is Rammellzee & K-Rob's Beat Bop. Produced in 1983, NY street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat booked and bankrolled the studio session that resulted in this now-classic track. For the 'record' (haha), the artist apparently had the intention of rapping on the track as well, but his plan got the bum's rush when microphone fiends Rammellzee and K-Rob laid claim to the booth. Still, Monsieur Basquiat's missing link to early hip-hop music can readily be found on the cover of the Beat Bop 12" single, which today is one of the most desired discs in hip-hop and pop art circles.

Nerd note: Veteran hip-hop geeks and gangstas will now probably be able to hear in this record the sizable influence that it would have on not only the sound, but the very name of the West Coast rap group, Cypress Hill. "Shoot it up, yeah, shoot it up, ya'll yeah."

Rammellzee vs. K-Rob –  Beat Bop (1983)


Fist full of eyelashes

The photo that you see above is mucho months late to the YKFS blog, but it has been visible on my Flickr site since the day back in February when it was taken.

Casper, a stencil and block print artist in the Netherlands, wrote to offer in trade one of his canvases for a stack of my zines. The piece being offered at the time didn't really speak to me, but as I browsed through the other works that were posted to his Flickr space, a comic-inspired canvas that sampled John Byrne's cover art from Iron Fist #8 grabbed me by the eyelashes.

The piece that I'd immediately become interested in had already been traded to someone else, but I shot a note back to Casper asking if he would mind creating another one for me. A month later, live-and-direct from the Netherlands came a freshly customized canvas that I liked even more than the one that I had seen online. Best of all, it had a red background.

For the better part of a year, it has been a want of mine to decorate one of the walls in my studio with pieces produced by artist friends and acquaintances. Though the styles of art would vary widely, it seemed like a cool idea to see if I could create a sense of harmony amongst the differing styles on display by focusing on pieces that prominently incorporated the color red.

The color scheme, by the way, was dictated by pieces already positioned on the wall: an Afro Samurai poster signed by creator Bob Okazaki and a woodcut print made by my zine-making brother-in-arms, Kiyoshi Nakazawa (Drunken Master). Ink sketches like two that I own by David Choe and longtime friend Stormko, as well as black & white photos by soul-brother-from-another-mother Damon Daood would bring a monochromatic contrast to the redness.

Because I didn't want to impose on Casper's creativity in any way, I fought back the gnawing urge to request that his stencil work be somehow done with red. Still, without a single word the work came tailor-made to fit my wall. Great minds think alike, goes the popular proverb.

And although there are only five or six pieces in my collection now, as evidenced by the image posted up top, it is shaping up to be an eyelash grabbin' set.


April Fool's Punk'd

In one of the posts that precedes this one, a cover scan of the Marvel Milestone Edition of Giant Size X-Men #1 that I recently picked up at the Phoenix comicon was shown. Well, that one was actually one of two copies of this highly-prized comic book that I (kinda' sorta') got recently. The copy pictured above came in the mail from an unexpected source.

My buddy Darrell D knows that Giant-Size X-Men #1 is one – if not the holy grail – of comic books that I dream of having in my collection someday. I was six years old when the book came out and I never did own an original copy. What's more, by the time it became important to me, as well as every other X-Men fan, it was already priced well above my pay grade.

During the second or third week of April, a large manilla envelope came to town with D's return address on its face. I had actually been expecting the arrival of his newest DVD (Red Beans & Rice Vol. 2––did I mention that St. Paco designed the cover?), but the envelope in my mailbox seemed a lil' on the anorexic side to be holding a DVD.

Pimp-struttin' back to my studio apartment, I headed over to the kitchenette and picked up a butter knife from the counter. I slowly sliced an opening from which to remove the mailer's mysterious contents. Turning the envelope upside down, out of the freshly opened slit slid a slightly odd-looking copy of...Giant-Size X-Men #1!? What...the...hell!?

Amongst friends, Darrell D is known for doing things for and giving gifts to his homies that they wouldn't expect. Still, knowing the price tag on this book, my first thought when gazing at the cover behind its protective plastic sleeve was: I haven't done anything to deserve this.

Now, since I ain't the type to jump around like I've won the lotto – even if I have – I didn't jump around like I'd won the lotto. Instead, I patiently peeled up the strip of tape found on the back of the protective sleeve and pinched the book free. As I gingerly flicked back the cover to behold its vintage contents my spidey-sense immediately began to tingle.

I actually own a few issues of Marvel's Giant-Size series and know from years of experience with 'em how a 68-page comic book feels, in terms of its thickness and weight. But the alleged X-Men comic I had in hand seemed really under-sized. That said, I wasn't completely thrown when the photocopied comic book cover was opened to reveal the trap that the dastardly Darrell D had set for yours truly.

Fucking hell. I knew that something was up...that something just wasn't right about the book. But he still got me, technically, and I laughed my ass off for a good five minutes. When I had regained my composure, I picked up the cellular and speed-dialed the culprit. As soon Darrell D heard my voice on the other end he began to belch out a nervous chuckle.

"Ya got me," I admitted, as my voice quickly tripped into a boisterous laugh that the pranker's own laugh quickly echoed.

"Ya got me."

Ms. Badu, you and the Roots got me too