June 4

Geek Stuff | FLCL Progressive

This past weekend saw the resurrection of one of Anime’s weirdest, most beloved series, FLCL.

Pronounced Fooly Cooly, FLCL originally aired in Japan back in 2000 with an American dub later on in 2003. I’ve tried in the past to sit thru these six episodes to no avail. Fortunately, with Adult Swim re-airing the first season every Saturday night I was able to manage a half hour a week for what is no doubt one of Japan’s harder to comprehend animes. And trust me, it isn’t the easiest thing to follow. In short, the plot revolves around a boy who gets hit by an alien with a guitar and then proceeds to try to be normal despite the robots that keep growing from his head no thanks to the alien with a guitar. There’s heavy sexual overtones, weird references to things I’m not totally sure exist, violence and the overall sense that this is supposed to be a coming of age story for the main character, Naota. All of those things are great but they hit you at a sprinter’s pace until the episode ends and you’re left scratching your head like Krusty the Clown declaring “What the hell was that?!”

FLCL: Progressive is the long-awaited second season to all the aforementioned above. And while it had a more focused feel to the storyline, one thing was for certain: this is still a very weird and sexually charged world.

The episode opens with a mysterious girl walking thru a tattered landscape. Everything is in black and white with the exception of a sharp horn growing from the girl’s forehead. She somehow finds herself in front of a giant red eyeball before waking up. Thru the course of her day, we learn that her name is Hidomi and she spends the bulk of her time ignoring the waking world whenever possible. Her neon blue cat ear headphones (which are always affixed to her head) represent her refusal to acknowledge anyone before they have a chance to get to know and subsequently reject her for whatever reason. We meet a few of her classmates, who are obviously part of the sexual overtone of the show, her mom and a brand new guitar wielding alien who rides in the back of a self-driving low rider instead of a bright yellow Vespa. Like Naota in the first series, Hidomi gets struck by the self-driving car and before the end of episode one, finds herself in the exact area where her dream took place.

Before the new alien with a guitar parts ways with Hidomi, she remarks “It looks good on you.” referring to the bright red horn growing from Hidomi’s forehead. The next day in school, Hidomi is left reflecting out the window as it’s revealed that her teacher is actually the original alien with a guitar from the first series. The class cheers, Hidomi looks hesitant and I feel a lot less confused by this FLCL than the one that came out over a decade ago.

The hallmark of this series is the music. The Pillows are the original J-rock band who composed an entire album just for FLCL 1 and it’s safe to say that they have done it again! One of my favorite parts of this show is the song “Little Busters”, a song that when it starts playing, signals to the audience that the episode is almost over. Every other track is brand new just for FLCL: Progressive and it feels like The Pillows never fell out of love with the series (Although I really wish “Ride on Shooting Star” was still the ending credits theme). Hopefully as the show goes on there will be more to enjoy, but for now, I am sated, mainly because we have new The Pillows to look forward to but partly because I know exactly what the hell is going on this time around.

-DD

 

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May 22

Robservations | The Clapback Culture

Hey man, Rob Lee here and I have something on my mind – the clapback. I’m convinced that we’re living in a ‘clapback culture’ – we’re obsessed. Allow me to take a step back, explain and then compare. I habitually question the status quo. I’m your contrarian Aquarian – while I may like something or do a particular thing but it doesn’t mean it’s not beyond my criticism or review.

So here goes, as of 2017, noted tastemaker, Merriam-Webster defines clapback as ‘responding to criticism with a withering comeback.” The clapback is very popular – often I look forward to the #ThanksgivingClapback and #Clapbackseason on Twitter. I get it the clapback is protective in nature but I think it goes too far.

Personally, a clapback is fine and can be hilarious. I think people go for it too much. We aim to be loved despite what many cynics contend. So a good clapback is how one gets attention and gets love. That pursuit runs counter to this faux-sanitized, contrived golden-rule culture we say we’re living in. It’s like being of two minds. We’re hyper-sensitive to criticism so we respond with a scathing clapback while saying don’t bully people. That shit is weird to me. Also, wrapped in that is the prevalent odyssey to be offended. There are offensive things – macroaggressions, microaggressions and so on that, if left unchecked, are dangerous. That said, there’s a case for clap-back being needed. My observation is that we’re quick to use a sledgehammer on an anthill criticism. It’s weaponized.

Back in the late 90’s Major League Baseball MLB, had a campaign for “Chicks Dig The Long Ball” and that connects to this clapback craze. The long ball means home run – I love baseball and who doesn’t like dingers. The pursuit for home runs lead to the steroids era – think Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa and increased strikeouts. This pursuit for love and money impacted the lives of players and the game as a whole.  Now instead of getting of how to play the game – bunting, situational hitting, etc – kids are going for the home run – there’s always been home run hitters and there’s always been great hitters. I would take a Tony Gwynn over a Barry Bonds. This idea carries over into the fundamentals on how to navigate through criticism and life we aim for the clapback. Use the #ThanksgivingClapback for instance, the criticism is coming from a relative – there’s intimacy there so instead of telling the relative that what they’re saying is inappropriate because it hurts one’s feelings, they clapback and a specific, premeditated way. The relative may not even consider what they’ve said to be offensive – it may not be coming from an offensive place but the clapback is. Chasing the home run failed baseball – it made hitters one dimensional – that one dimension is wanted until it’s unwanted. It’s not sustainable, like the clap back.

In summation, be weary of the clapback. It’s not sustainable, it’s lightweight trolling and can impact relationships, friendships and your own growth. Acknowledge being sensitive and take a step back before you clapback. If you feel the need, let it rip but think about how you appear. It’s all funny, catty or what have you until it’s not.

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April 25

KOD won’t change your opinion on J Cole, but it is the album that will define him

If we’re honest, J. Cole has been a mixed bag for me.

When he’s on his high points, he’s incredible, but his low points are cringe-worthy. The same artist that can deliver powerful tracks like Be Free and False Prophets (his mixtapes are still unbelievable) is the same guy who made goofy downright stupid tracks like Folding Clothes and Wet Dreams (Workout too ugh). Ever since his verse on Jay-Z’s A Star is Born track, the world has been enamored with Jermaine Cole. However, his body of work regarding LPs has brought a divisive response. One side will consider him one of the best in this current generation the other side find him as a lifeless act in the rap scene that has received undeserved praise.  This disconnect has caused a massive question to many regarding Cole’s place in the best current act of rappers. A question Cole himself has no say because he refused to want to be placed in such superlatives. (Seriously Cole the person is way more fascinating than the Cole the rapper). Thus, bringing us to his new album KOD. After middling critical and fan reception 4 Your Eyez Only (I hated this album), this was the album a lot of skeptics (myself included) were waiting to hear to see if he would be able to bounce.  KOD in short for three phrases (Kids on drugs, king overdosed, and kill our demons) was released on 4/20 (great marketing tactic) covers the topic of addiction and what seems to cover the issue what plagues the new crop of artists and kids today (social media, drugs, and influence).

This is not the 1st time Cole has brought up addiction in his music. 2011’s song Breakdown, Cole details the addiction his Mother had to overcome and the absence of his father, but in a spiteful deposition, he attacks society and the dominant influence it had around that time as well as the culture that promotes drug use today like it is a way of living. 4 Your Eyez Only he tackled drugs in the eyes of his Childhood friend who was a drug dealer. He was murdered, and Cole tells the stories to the daughter he left behind. Where attack this issue in more seemingly direct response to the climate then, he takes a very satirical approach to the topic on this album before closing in on the problems similar to the way he did Breakdown. Based on the 1st 4-5 songs on the album everyone, will be able to gather some thought on this album. Each song Cole uses flow and cadence out of his norm and sound eerily similar to the new and popular wave of ‘Mumble” Rappers. Even the beats resemble their beat selection as well. The self-titled KOD plays into such a persona as brags about his skills as a dealer critiques the criticism surrounding him and bring up his introduction into the world of drugs. Photograph cover the impact/addiction social media have towards social interaction amongst the world.  The most radio-friendly on the album ATM discusses the more dilemma of chasing money and fame and the consequences of seeking such.

This 1st of half of this album covers the narrative in his eyes. I’m personally not sure he’s playing the kid in this current and hence why the songs sound as they do, but I found them brilliant in concept but lacking elsewhere. The track The Cut Off is one of the most cringe-worthy tracks on the album. Granted the message is strong regarding eliminating folks in his life due to his lack of trust and felt he was taken advantage of; with his alter ego (I’ll get to that later) telling him to deal with such problems based on the issues presented as Cole whole premise is against drugs. It’s a great idea, but man this song sounded horrible. The middle of this album from Motiv8 to Brackets (The first verse that is) is absolutely skippable.  I will say the second verse in Brackets is one of the best set of lyrics he has ever written and it is worth listening to the track just for that verse alone.

The album picks up at Once an Addict Interlude, a song discussing his mother’s addictions again this time discussing her mom’s drinking problems after her an affair by his step-father which led to a child being birthed. Cole brought up his time in College and believed he escaped her problems, but she eventually calls him at 1 am drunk, and he realized he wished he intervened in her problems more than run away. This was Cole’s most personal track and what I wanted the album to explore further in. More than often rappers bring up problems without specifying about their reason for being so against other than common knowledge. Once an Addict provided the layers most of this album lacked, and I hate the fact I have to treat this as an interlude.  Friends felt like a step backward based on how incredible Once an Addict was. Kill Edward returns but not as annoying as the previous track and the song just lacked for me. Now the two songs which are the best two on the album came at the end of the record with Window Pain (horrible title for a track) and 1985.

Window Pain provides an excellent story begins with a girl seeing her cousin get shot, and Cole begins to reflect on the all the actions and problems he presented in the 1st half of the album. Cole attempts to bring home a very up and down beginning and a middle that is mediocre. 1985 which led to rumors of a second album coming. Was initially seen as a diss to mumble rappers, but funny enough this wasn’t a critique more Cole is advising this new crop of Rappers to stop caving into these influences as well as take control of their lives before they are on Love & Hip-Hop in 5 years.

Coming someone who is diagnosed with depression, I can appreciate the effort here, but the results came off mixed. Cole needs features badly. I believe some of these songs would be better if he had someone who can you know sing do the hooks. Kill Edward was very corny I understand it is Cole’s opposition in his head (hi, I go through this every day), but it didn’t work for me. Cole brings about a very polarizing group of hip-hop fans, one side loves him to death, and on the other hand is bored to death by him. Both sides bring up valid points as disconnect on Cole’s placement in this current landscape of Hip-hop still grows massive. The problem with Cole will be replay value when it comes to an album. Will I return to this album two, three months from now? Probably not and that’s the problem with Cole. The lyrics and concept are excellent, but Cole’s way of creating songs have severely lacked for so long, and some of these songs would be better if he had help. You can make songs that ‘Bangers’ and have important messages in them Kendrick has proved this constantly. This album is a MASSIVE upgrade over 4 Your Eyez Only. But the album is mixed for me. His best songs are incredible, but the rest is inconsistent. I don’t like reviewing things after one watch or listen because overreactions are bound to happen which is why I wait after the 1st few days to talk about it.  If I honestly have to give this a score out of 5, it would be a very strong 3. This album was his most easy to listen to the album, and I would argue his best album to date. The issue here is some of the songs have no replay value outside of his core fan base that will treat this as gospel. Cole usually places in the top 3 in this current landscape. Drake’s popularity/impact is off the charts, and Kendrick’s critical acclaim and awards got him in the all-time arguments now, Cole is here which isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s needed for this generation. This album made me interested in what is next for him, and that’s good in my book.

 

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