A mailman, a roofer, and a writer walk into a bar. They all look miserable and could use a stiff drink. The mailman says, “rain, sleet, and snow, my foot! Last winter I had to deliver mail in three feet of snow!” The other two nod sympathetically. After a swig, the roofer says “Well, this heat wave is killing me. All day long up on a sizzling roof in the blazing sun? No thank you.” The other two nod sympathetically. Finally, the writer says, “Well, those sound horrible but I think I have you both beat.” The other two brace themselves expecting the worst. “This one time,” he says, “I went a week without WiFi.” The other two hastily order another round for their friend.
Yes, having moved into my new apartment I found myself without WiFi for over a week now. It’s been a nightmare scenario that haunts my waking hours. It’s also why I have struggled to pump out the number of articles I used to be able to do: Researching and finding sources is tough when those sources are online and you aren’t.
It’s not a complete wash though because I have managed to write a lot more fiction and reflective essays in the interim. I am trying to look at this time as a bit like Henry David Thoreau’s time at Walden Pond (but with more electricity and less tranquility). Who knows, maybe while I’m missing the latest trending topic on twitter I’ll discover the next great American philosophical movement. Or perhaps I’ll just think up some more corny jokes.
This week’s Over-analyzing rap lyrics comes courtesy of the always great Wu-Tang Clan. But as I was researching, writing, studying, and singing in the shower (my normal over-analyzing process) I made a startling conclusion:
Wu-Tang Clan wrote a Taylor Swift song before Taylor Swift was even Taylor Swift. And it’s called “Ex-girlfriend” and Taylor Swift is probably kicking herself (yes she can!*) for not having thought of it sooner.
“Ex-girlfriend”, primarily rapped by Method Man, is a song about a crazy ex who continues to plague the singer’s life even after they stop being romantically involved. Even though it has more references to guns and “boning” it can still be considered a prototypical break up song, the likes of which Taylor Swift has made famous. For example, at one point Method Man admits that he knew she was trouble when she walked in:
Shoulda listened when my momma told me, soon as I
turn my back you try to fuck my homies, that was then
this is now I got a new friend, ever since
I cut them loose ends you wanna bone me
Yeah, Method, you should have listened to your momma, but you couldn’t help yourself and got entangled with a person you knew was bad for you. Tsk Tsk.
Luckily for Method, he realized what a “mean” person she was and so cut off the relationship, and wants this song to announce to his ex, “We are never ever getting back together”:
And used up, pull your shoes up, all you need’s affection
but you’re headed in the wrong direction
Tryin to make this nigga jealous, with other fellas
All up in my face actin overzealous
Like you want somethin from Meth, I hope it ain’t love girl
Cause I ain’t got none left for you, plus you miserable
Misery Love Company, shit I’m livin comfortably, don’t need no
nigga huntin me down for fuckin round, with his kitty
Talk to him, before my brother put a spark through him
Won’t be pretty, the situation got my whole attitude shitty
And got you actin high saditty with your slut committee
And because Method Man knows that happiness is the sweetest revenge for a lover scorned, he doesn’t hesitate to point out how happy he is with his – heavily armed – new girlfriend:
Let me find out that you fuckin with Boo, and y’all gon’ feel it
Waitin for the day that you front, and catch a lump
from my black butterfly, that don’t pack a lullaby
Sleep on her, she said you bitches tried to creep on her
in the mall and didn’t know she had the reach on her
Pearl-handled twenty-two, my Boo
She go ahead and walk her dogs, and represent Wu
to the fullest, you and hon can shoot the fair one
I’ll bring the bullets, knowhatI’msayin? Stop playin
It’s kind of like he’s saying his new girlfriend made a rebel out of a careless man’s careful rapper, and boy does it feel great. Also, he’s apparently really confident in her dueling ability, so sure in fact, that he even offers to provide the bullets. (Also, I think he’s suggesting she walks her dogs in the mall, which is probably not allowed.)
It goes to show that if you peel back the crude and vulgar veneer of a rap song, even one by Wu-Tang Clan, it exposes a commonality with simple human desires that anyone would wish for: to love, to live happily, and to be left alone by a crusty ass crew. Amen, Method Man. Amen.
Taylor Swift never seemed like a hardcore rapper but if she ever gets tired of winning 18 awards per Country Music Award show, she should consider trying her hand at the BET awards. I see a “Best New Rapper” award in her future, and even Kanye can’t argue with that.
[Author’s Note: I’m no stranger to intense research and exhaustively getting to the bottom of a topic that I plan on writing about, but the sheer volume of Taylor Swift’s body of work is stunning. I had no idea she was so prolific, not just in writing songs but also in making music videos for them. Having only picked up a rudimentary working knowledge of TSwift (kids call her “TSwift”) by simply being alive during the 21st century, I knew I had to do a closer examination if I ever hoped to write this article. That led me to her wikipedia page which… is probably one of the largest wikipedia pages I’ve ever seen. This thing is MASSIVE. Taylor Swift has apparently done more than the entirety of World War II. Her page is at least four times longer than U2’s Bono and about as long as The Rolling Stones’ entry. Next time you see that little “donation” bar at the top of the Wikipedia home page, just realize that 90% of donations MUST go to the massive, and constant, upkeeping and updating of Taylor Swift’s entry. Whether that causes you to donate MORE to wikipedia or LESS, that’s up to you.]
*If you get this reference you are A) nearly as pathetic as me and B) worthy of a prize. Name the song and singer in the comment section and I’ll be impressed and possibly give you a prize. Hint: the reference isn’t that hard, you’re just really unhip.
This week, I was planning on doing a Will Smith song. Specifically, I hoped to do something off of Willennium, the 2nd studio album by Will Smith and the one where he boldly predicts that the 21st century would go down in history as the Willennium. He also sings about Y2K because in 1999 that was a fresh and popular reference. Although there are tons of great songs on Willennium, including “Wild Wild West” which was based off the movie Wild Wild West, something still bothered me. There was something I was missing. Then I remembered this:
That’s the music video for “Men in Black” based off the movie Men in Black. It’s also insane. It’s also a lot of fun. It also has really poorly CGI’d aliens dancing some sort of variation of the electric slide.
As many people might remember, a variation of this music video played at the end of Men in Black. So the movie ends, the credits start, and this…thing… happens. As a kid, watching Men in Black in the theaters, I swooned. Now, I scratch my head at its audacity. If R.I.P.D. ended with Ryan Reynolds doing an extended dance number with a demon or ghost or whatever I would roll my eyes, laugh condescendingly at this pitiful attempt at “fun”, and probably write a scathing tweet making fun of it. But, for whatever reason, with Will Smith and Men in Black, it was fitting.
It does bring up the unanswered question of how exactly we are supposed to contextualize this video in the larger make up of the movie. For example, is this Will Smith – beloved Hollywood icon and rapper – singing, or is it Agent J – wise cracking, world saving, agent working for the MiB?
The video offers some clues.
One thing is that clearly the Will Smith in the video is supposed to be playing Agent J, and he certainly has enough inside information about MiB to make the case that he is, in fact, the agent himself.
From the deepest of the darkest of night
On the horizon, bright light enters sight tight
Cameras zoom, on the impending doom
But then like BOOM black suits fill the room up
With the quickness talk with the witnesses
Vivid memories turn to fantasies
Ain’t no M.I.B.’s, can I please
Do what we say that’s the way we kick it
In this verse for example, Will Smith makes passing references to many of the agency’s highly guarded secrets. I doubt he had clearance for that. Then again, Agent J never did like playing by the rules.
The movie never hints at Agent J being any good at rapping though. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if Agent J was good at rapping, he had a way of carrying himself that suggested a casual, hip hip-ness, but no where in the movie did he express any interest in saving the galaxy through verse. The only connection between the Agent J in the film and the Agent J in the music video is the general arrogance and swagger that both seem to possess and need to remind us of at every turn.
Another perplexing thing about the video is the location. Much of the song seems to take place in the MiB building itself. When was it filmed? How was it filmed? Despite it being a top secret government agency, I’m sure it has some form of governmental oversight that might view dancing around singing about being galaxy defenders with dozens of staff, agents, and one potentially dangerous alien, as a bit of a waste of tax dollars. Perhaps it was classified as an instructional video for the benefit of new recruits, although the teachability of that is questionable.
Instead, it appears the whole thing was done, without permission, by Agent J himself. He obviously didn’t get into too much trouble because he returned for two more adventures in Men in Black 2 and 3. It still must have been frowned upon. How else to explain the fact that NO ONE in any subsequent movie makes any mention of the time Agent J made a preposterous rap song and video using the MiB facility and staff? Whether that is out of respect for a great field agent who has saved the planet many times over or because bringing up the music video is simply too embarrassing for everybody involved, we’ll never know.
As far as I’m concerned, Nas is one of the greatest rappers alive or dead (like Schrodinger’s cat, Nas remains in a perpetual state of quantum uncertainty until we observe him). His “flows” are very flowy and his rhymes all rhyme. He even raps with a message, especially when he titles his song “The Message”. Now, I’ll admit, even though I’m considered hip hop’s “Giver”, bravely remembering the rap songs and lyrics that society has chosen to forget about, I still struggle understanding all of Nas’ references. So dense is Nas’ lyrics that I’ve often heard him referred to as the J.R.R. Tolkien of hip hop (usually in or around comic book shops).
Nas’ song, “The Message” is especially tough. It was written as both a “call out” to many of the rappers of the day (Biggie, Tupac, Jay Z, Vanilla Ice probably, etc.), but also a warning to any scrappy up and comers who may have it in their mind that they could take what Nas thought was rightfully his. Throughout the song, he litters the verses with references, inside jokes, and subtle jabs that can leave many listeners going “huh?” Well, no more! I took all night and, piece by piece, dissected every line until I felt that I had a firm grasp on the entire song.
Fake thug, no love, you get the slug, CB4 Gusto
Your luck low, I didn’t know til I was drunk though
You freak niggaz played out, get fucked and ate out
Prostitute turned bitch, I got the gauge out
These first few lines are a shot over the bow of Tupac and his west coast crew. Nas is saying “Listen, Tupac, you…FAKE! You are a fake thug! and fake thugs get no love. Not only that, they also get the slug (meaning “bullet”)” Discerning readers will pick up immediately on CB4 which, if you’ve read the Star Wars expanded universe novels, you would recognize as C3P0’s brother. He’s basically saying Tupac is a cowardly machine.
96 ways I made out, Montana way
The Good-F-E-L-L-A, verbal AK spray
Dipped attache, jumped out the Range, empty out the ashtray
A glass of ‘ze make a man Cassius Clay
96 is the number of songs on Nas’ “Illmatic” album, so he’s basically saying “Neener Neener, I made 96 songs and they’re all awesome and girls made out with me after listening to them”, it’s childish but it gets the point across. Montana is, of course, Scarface. Tony Montana has become popular with hip hop artists who relate to a man who comes from nothing and makes millions illegally and apparently not one rapper has bothered to watch the ending of Scarface.
A glass of ‘ze makes a man Cassius Clay because “‘ze” is a dark, heady Merlot and Muslim’s can’t drink alcohol, so he’s saying Muhammad Ali would revert back to Cassius Clay if he imbibed the ‘ze. There is no proof that Muhammad Ali ever did, though.
Red dot plots, murder schemes, thirty-two shotguns
Regulate wit my Dunn’s, 17 rocks gleam from one ring
Yo let me let y’all niggaz know one thing
There’s one life, one love, so there can only be one King
Legally, every rapper is required to report what firearms they own in every rap song they sing. This is not just for the public safety but also for their own as it gives the ATF agents a loose head count of potential murder weapons. Nas reports that he has thirty-two shotguns, a Dunn (also known as the Dunn 6 shot), and 17 rock(ets). This is about average, nothing really surprising here.
The final line is a slap in the face of Biggie Smalls, who was under the impression that he, not Nas was King of the East Coast rap game. This is Nas saying, “nope, I am the King” and Biggie felt pretty stupid after that and had to throw away all of his business cards.
The highlights of livin, Vegas style roll dice in linen
Antera spinnin on Milleniums, twenty G bets I’m winnin them
Threats I’m sendin them, Lex with TV sets the minimum
Ill sex adrenaline
Nas here is contrasting the life he once led (poor and disadvantaged) to the life he now leads (cushy and full of linens). “Twenty G” refers to the amount of force ( 1 G = Earth’s normal gravity) one can experience before the average person passes out. He’s betting that he’ll pass out because he’s so humbled by the weight of his success. Brilliant line. Literally not one human being knows what “Ill sex adrenaline” means. Some have speculated that perhaps that is – as the Bible alluded to – the true name of God (where the Hebrews abbreviated it to “Yahweh”). But that would be crazy…right?
Wet any clique, with the semi-tech who want it
Diamonds I flaunt it, chickenheads flock I lace em
Fried broiled with basil, taste em, crack the legs
way out of formation, it’s horizontal how I have em
fuckin me in the Benz wagon
Can it be Vanity from Last Dragon
Grab your gun it’s on though
Shit is grimy, real niggaz buck in broad daylight
with the broke Mac it won’t spray right
Don’t give a fuck who they hit, as long as the drama’s lit
Yo, overnight thugs, bug cause they ain’t promised shit
Hungry-ass hooligans stay on that piranha shit
I peeped you frontin, I was in the Jeep
Sunk in the seat, tinted with heat, beats bumpin
Across the streat you was wildin
Talkin bout how you ran the Island in eighty-nine
In the second verse, Nas paints a picture of a typical day in the life of Nas. He see’s a guy “frontin” while he hung out in a jeep, probably catching the end of a fascinating episode of NPR’s This American Life because that always happens to me. Across the street he see’s YOU wildin* (*wildin is defined as a colloquialism for “dancing” or “showboating”). YOU apparently were bragging about how you ran “the Island” in ’89. The Island, of course, being Rhode Island.
Rhode Island is America’s weirdest state because it doesn’t elect officials, anyone can “run” Rhode Island, assuming they have a large enough army of child soldiers and malcontents to impose their will. In this case, Nas has foreshadowed the rise of #Kony, the crazed warlord who took the framework for Rhode Island’s military dictatorship and said, “If it’s good enough for Rhode Island, It’s good enough for Africa”. Nas has nothing but contempt for, what he considers, the illegitimate rulers of Rhode Island, especially blowhards such as YOU.
Layin up, playin the yard with crazy shine
I cocked a baby 9 that nigga gravy mine, clanked him
What was he thinkin on my corner when it’s pay me time
Dug em you owe me cousin somethin told me plug him
A baby 9 is, of course, not a real baby. That would be insane. No, a “baby 9” is a 9 year old. In this case, Nas wanted (“cocked”) a 9 year old to rob a stranger across the street. But the kid refused, citing a moral objection to theft and murder, so Nas went himself.
He “dug em”, meaning he shoved him playfully. Then he said “you owe me, cousin” because, oh yeah, this was literally his cousin (skeeter).
But something in the back of his head kept saying “plug him”, meaning murder him because Nas is basically the Son of Sam and his cousin Skeeter is the barking dog.
So dumb, felt my leg burn, then it got numb
Spun around and shot one, heard shots and dropped son
Caught a hot one, somebody take this biscuit ‘fore the cops come
Then they came askin me my name, what the fuck
Nas gets shot. He feels pretty foolish about it, but not for long. He quickly spins around and shoots indiscriminately, probably killing that 9 year old because only the good die young. He “caught” a “hot” “one”, meaning he got shot which is something he already said but sometimes in rap you have to repeat yourself to make things stick.
He tells his “crew” to take his biscuit. This part is actually often misrepresented. The correct lyric is “take THESE biscuits” because Nas has both a gun – which he refers to as a biscuit because its “hot”, and he also has a real, actual biscuit because breakfast is absolutely the most important meal of the day and the science backs me up on this.
Then the cops ask Nas his name, which he is surprised by even though that seems like a pretty obvious question to ask when you find a person lying in a pool of their own blood ranting about biscuits. I’m actually pretty sure that this is what the Police call “standard operating procedure”.
I got stitched up and went through
Left the hospital that same night, what
Got my gat back, time to backtrack
I had to drop so how the fuck I get clapped
While he is being rescued by the brave men and women who go to battle daily in this nation’s Emergency Rooms and ask nothing in return except massive amounts of insurance money, Nas wonders how he got shot. He had the drop on this guy, he should have been the one murdering somebody that day NOT almost getting murdered. It really wasn’t fair.
Black was in the Jeep watchin all these scenes speed by
It was a brown Datsun, and yo nobody in my hood got one
That clown nigga’s through, blazin at his crew daily
The ‘Bridge touched me up severely hear me?
Now, Black could either refer to a friend of Nas’ or Lewis Black, outspoken comedian and political lightning rod. Let’s assume it was Nas’ friend. Black mentions to Nas that a brown Datsun fled the scene and nobody in his hood had one of those (they are taboo). Also, apparently, the man driving it was a clown or in clown make up or had clownish features, the lyrics here are intentionally vague. We, as the audience, are meant to imagine OUR OWN clown, enabling us to relate more deeply. Nas swears that guy is a goner. He also blazes at his crew daily which is not very nice.
The “Bridge” refers to Queensbridge, the neighborhood that Nas grew up in. He’s saying, “my neighborhood has severely touched me and I will DIE protecting its honor, and also I hope I make enough money to never have to go back there”.
So when I rhyme it’s sincerely yours
Be lightin L’s sippin Coors, on all floors in project halls
Contemplatin war niggaz I was cool with before
We used to score together, Uptown coppin the raw
But uhh, a thug changes, and love changes
and best friends become strangers, word up
Shameless Coors plug that netted Nas 10 million dollars in sponsorship money. He also mentions, although briefly, his plans to enlist in the military, perhaps as a way of straightening his life out. He contemplates going to war and decides he was “cool” even before being a soldier so he doesn’t need that to be cool. He also reflects on how life changes people, even ones you thought were close friends.
The song ends, not with a bang, but with a “word up” because, yeah, word up…
- Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics: “Hypnotize” – Notorious B.I.G. (jamesonstarship.com)
Now that Kate, that consummate “royal” did her job and delivered a son to England (If you needed one so bad, England, here take mine! Hahaha no, I kid. I have no children. My wife is barren and it’s tearing our marriage apart.), the question on everyone’s mind is: “What position is the new #royal #baby at in line to the thrown?” or if you’re Prince Charles: “Why won’t you die, Mother! WHY!”
The rules to Succession are archaic and byzantine so allow me to explain it as simply as possible.
First up we have Prince Charles, the current Queen’s son:
Prince Charles has been the longest serving “Heir Apparent” in history, which is not a title most Princes would relish, but Charles has handled this fact with grace and humility and only two known regicide attempts (both after watching episodes of Game of Thrones).
Then we have Prince William, Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s first born:
Prince William, was married off to Kate Middleton in order to seal a peace treaty between England and island nation of TMZ.com. By all accounts, it is a loveless marriage.
Then we have Prince William and Kate’s son:
The name of whom is so far unknown (but a diplomat from the TMZ.com consulate is reporting it is to be named “Chaz”). If a meteor strikes Buckingham palace today, killing everyone save for an infant child whose royal cries lead rescuers to him, he will be the youngest king is probably like 200 years or something. That would be crazy. He’s so young, how could he lead a nation symbolically?
After Prince Chaz, we have Prince William’s brother, Prince Harry:
Nicknamed “The Boy Who Lived” by the media and some stupid mommy bloggers, Prince Harry has had a few controversies in his time. First, photos of him posing nude in Las Vegas surfaced and then the already reeling nation learned that he was red headed. But since then, he has recovered gracefully, even earning the title “the Wizard of Menlo Park” because of the uncanny way he can light up a room and because he knows one card trick and demonstrates it at every party he goes to.
Should all four of those mentioned above die or abdicate, the crown would pass onto Prince Charles’ younger brother, Prince Blanket Jackson:
Although technically Michael Jackson’s son, Prince Blanket Jackson has Prince in his name and is therefore legally and traditionally in the line of succession to the English throne. If readers at this point are calling foul, might I remind them that who are we to question this time honored tradition? We just don’t “get it”, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to relieve ourselves of our ignorance. Some of England’s greatest Princes have been not of royal blood but simply named prince (Freddie Prince Jr.), or king (BB King), or Duke (John Wayne). That’s the way it has always been and everyone just keep calm and carry on. Keep calm…and carry on… Hmmm, that should be a slogan for something. It’s so catchy, I could see it being turned into a shitty meme and done to death. Somebody should do that.
Next up, we have Richard the Lionheart:
This one comes with a bit of a qualifier. Richard the Lionheart can ONLY be king if he A) returns from Jerusalem where he has been fighting in the Crusades for 800 years and B) he is somehow still alive after 800 years. If those two conditions are met, he will technically be King of England as we speak. Queen Elizabeth II will, of course, have to be quietly killed after a short stay in the Tower of London in order to prevent a possible coup.
Finally, we have hapless, unpopular American teenager Janie Thompson:
Knowing NOTHING of English royal life or even how to rub elbows with high society, awkward and unpopular Janie Thompson must learn quickly if she is to ever be ready to take the throne. Not only will she learn to walk and talk like a Princess, but she’ll learn to smile and wave, too. And hey, maybe she’ll just teach these posh Brits a few things about what makes America great too (Cut to: Pizza Bagels popping out of the oven of a confused Royal Chef’s kitchen, Janie rollerblades by grabbing the plate while listening to Cyndi Lauper on her walkman.)
This week’s Over-analyzing Rap Lyrics is the lyrical smackdown that is “Forgot about Dre”. As a reminder to rappers, and the white suburban kids who buy their music, that Dr. Dre was indeed still alive and rapping, Dre and Eminem released “Forgot about Dre” to set the record straight. While Dre’s two verses are stinging, fun, and genius, the portion I want to focus on is the insane, threat laden non sequitur that is Eminem’s verse.
Let’s have a listen (Eminem starts at 1:25):
“Forgot about Dre” came out in 2000 to critical and popular success. It was also during Eminem’s “controversial period” that last from roughly the time he sold his first record to about 2008 (with the release of his middling “Relapse” album, that was not as controversial for the simple reason that mom’s in Nebraska probably didn’t even realize it was out). Way back in 2000, though, “Slim Shady” was ruining America.
Slim Shady, or Eminem, or Marshall Mathers, or Rabbit, or that guy who is ruining America, was knee deep in a cultural backlash for his violent, profanity laden rap style that shocked parents and delighted their kids. It was an image he was both aware and cultivator of. Much later, perhaps as his daughter grew up, he became more reflective, mature and… actually still pretty vulgar. In 2000, he worked on a song with friend and mentor, Dr. Dre, but I’m completely blanking on the name (and yes, I’ve been waiting to use that joke for 13 years).
So what do you say to somebody you hate
Or anybody tryna bring trouble your way
Wanna resolve things in a bloodier way
Just study your tape of NWA.
One day I was walking by
With a Walkman on
When I caught a guy giving me an awkward eye
And strangled him off in the parking lot with his Karl Kani
I don’t give a fuck if it’s dark or not
I’m harder than me tryna park a Dodge
But I’m drunk as fuck
Right next to a humongous truck in a two car garage
Hopping out with two broken legs tryna walk it off
Fuck you too bitch call the cops
I’ma kill you and them loud ass motherfucking barking dogs
And when the cops came through
Me and Dre stood next to a burnt down house
With a can full of gas and a hand full of matches
And still weren’t found out
From here on out it’s the Chronic 2
Starting today and tomorrow’s the new
And I’m still loco enough
To choke you to death with a Charleston chew
Slim shady hotter than a set of twin babies
In a Mercedes Benz with the windows up
And the temp goes up to the mid 80’s
Calling men ladies
Sorry Doc but I been crazy
There is no way that you can save me
It’s OK go with him Hailie
I have a theory about what happened:
Eminem wrote this verse without having seen Dr. Dre’s song. Probably, Dre told him he wanted him to contribute to a song that was a “screw you” to the haters but that he didn’t have it written yet, and so, out on tour somewhere or perhaps in court divorcing his estranged wife for the 15th time, Eminem wrote his verse. If that isn’t the case then the verse makes absolutely no sense in the context of the song. It doesn’t even have the same vibe. Where Dre confines himself to bragging about his success and gently reminding that he is a legend in the rap game, Eminem departs from that theme to explore an altogether trashier hypothetical. It’s a narrative about himself as he paints the town red with unprovoked violence, drunk driving and attempted pet murder. If anything, it shows a level of immaturity that kinda makes me want to forget about Dre and Eminem. Biggie and Tupac dying in a silly, “west coast vs. east coast” pissing contest was tragic, but Eminem and Dre going to jail for life because they burned down a house and killed a barking dog is pathetic. Although Slim thinks that they “still weren’t found out”, I imagine it wouldn’t take much for a young, scrapping, enterprising prosecutor to connect the dots.
“And do you admit that it was you, Marshall Mathers III, who was seen by SEVERAL witnesses holding a can full of gas and a handful of matches the night of the fire? And might I remind you that you are under oath, sir!”
Eminem has made a career out of being a braggart. Even before he had anything to brag about, even on his first album, he spent the entire set list acting like he was entitled to more credit than he was being given. For a while, that credit went underserved, even as he sold a trillion records (citation needed). He eventually earns the credit he always felt he was due, but this song is a rather odd deviation. I don’t know, maybe he had just awoken from a night of drinking, driving, and arson and he remembered the old adage, “Write what you know.”
I love picking on Will.i.am. Unlike other goofballs, it never feels sad or pathetic to pick on him. Partly that is because his music is pretty annoying. Partly it’s because he steals music and then doesn’t apologize for it. But mostly, it’s because I have a sneaking suspicion that he is actually incredibly smart, caring and acts as a positive force in the world.
For some reason, maybe based on that same sneaking suspicion, the Wall Street Journal brought him on a video segment they call “Tip of the Week” and which we should all call “what is that? I’ve never heard of it.” If you had heard of it, you would know that it is a business show meant to help emerging start ups with various hurdles they may have as they try to find their feet in a crowded market. It has the potential to be a thoughtful and useful series for people hungry for tips from people who have “made it”. Instead, it’s a shallow, contrived mess that seems like it could have been produced by the Onion to satirize the very show that it is.
In another segment I watched, a professor explains why communicating with your customers is a good idea. Don’t bother taking notes the first time, just let that truth bomb sink in first and then move to processing it.
Now here is Will.i.am taking a crack at it (or possibly on crack):
Will.i.am, for his part, does seem to try to say something interesting. For about half of the two minute video, he is explaining the benefits of having a versatile logo which is probably a good idea, albeit one that is, I’m assuming, something one learns on DAY ONE of business or design school. Then, perhaps sensing that he needs to spice things up a bit, he randomly veers off course into a discussion on how India is going to be super freaking important in the future because “we saw what Silicon Valley did, we know what China does, but what India is going to do for the world is…” and then he loses me. Something about English, a different alphabet, and symbolic language. I think. Will.i.am seems pretty sure though, so let’s just assume he’s right. He’s got a feelin’ wooohoooo, that India’s gonna play a big part, that India’s gonna play a big part, that India’s gonna play a big part.
With his advice firmly in mind, I think I’m ready to finally launch my very own start up!
In this episode of Not in my back yarn! We have a very special guest in the form of our good friend Dan LaBrecque. We talk movies. What makes a movie memorable? What are the things that keep us coming back to a particular film again and again. How is water cooler talk important? We tackle these questions and more (including “what happened to M. Night Shyamalan and what did we do to deserve it?”). Check it out! More to come soon, listeners.
Warning: Because of the nature of this podcast, quite a few films will be spoiled during the discussion. Although you should have seen them already, be careful if you still don’t know the endings to:
Children of Men, Man from Earth, The Shining, Man of Steel, World War Z, Horsemen, and some ridiculous movie called “Happy Birthday to me”.
Sometimes I hate Microsoft Word. I wish I could tell it that I’m not writing a thesis paper, or perfecting my cover letter, or typing up a congressional report: I’m making ART. It’s going to be messy. I’m going to use fragments. My fragments are going to fragment. I’ll throw in a run-on sentence where it’s needed. Jackson Pollock didn’t have to deal with this crap.
If that little anthropomorphized paper clip were still around I would give him a serious talking to (I’m a writer, I don’t need to justify what I do at my writing desk. I’ll talk to a virtual paperclip if I please!). I’d inform him that maybe he should focus more on making sure I don’t accidentally use “there” when I mean “their” (yeah, I do it sometimes. Arrest me, grammar police!), instead of underlining every other sentence in obnoxious, judgmental green. “Um, stop writing please. You’ve got a fragment here. Consider revising.” Hemingway would have killed Clippy. He wouldn’t have put up this.
Don’t get me wrong, I bet Microsoft Word has really helped cover letter authors, thesis writers, congressional interns, but putting “Slaughterhouse-Five” into a word document should be considered high treason, such is the offensiveness. That masterpiece of a book would stand no chance against the silent, heartless, soulless grammarian that is this programs internal algorithms. Ignore the power. Ignore the sentiment. Does it violate “noun+verb=sentence”? Then, sorry Mr. Vonnegut, it appears you’ve got some fragments. Consider revising. So it goes.
Even if they can’t articulate it, I bet there isn’t an author on the planet whose favorite color is that shade of green. On some primordial, intangible level, that shade of green represents stagnation, interruption, and – the authors worst foe of all – doubt. How could an author love a color that represents such antipathy towards the creative process. Clippy is clearly not a writer, but surely he can relate. We, like him, are often ignored. Our egos are paperclip thin. We both tell inconvenient truths if we’re doing our jobs well. So back off. Let me write. If you think I need a semi-colon, wait until I’ve finished my thought. If you notice a fragment, consider that maybe it’s important. Maybe it’s exactly where I want it. Right where it belongs.
I know. I know. Just turn off “spell and grammar check”, some will say. It’s not that simple! That feels like cheating. If I did that, then I’d be wondering where the green lines would be. I can’t work under such fascism. Instead, I plead for understanding. Heck, maybe even give me some encouragement. When I write a particularly good line, grammar be damned, underline it in yellow. “Great alliteration!” that yellow line would say. “Wow, powerful stuff!” that yellow line would say. “Cool opening paragraph, but a bit contrived don’t you think?” watch it yellow line, don’t ruin this.
I doubt Microsoft can, or will, change Microsoft Word just for us writers. It’s sold in Microsoft Office for a reason. It’s for TPS reports and interoffice memos, not short stories and unfinished novels. Besides, the word “office” implies jobs and authors don’t have jobs (haha… aw), so it’s up to us – the authors – to soldier on, ignoring critics from without and, sadly, within. Like we always have. So it goes.