|(Photo source: AMN Radio)|
L.A.'s Radio Korea, or as stand-up and Walter & PK Show co-host Walter Hong twangily pronounces it, "Radio KOH-rea," has been experimenting with a nightly block of English-language programming for Asian American 18-to-34-year-olds, which is unprecedented in terrestrial radio. Why the hell hasn't this type of programming happened sooner?
I don't live in L.A., so I wasn't aware of the existence of the AMN (Asian Media Network) Radio block until Korean American indie rapper/stand-up Dumbfoundead got his own weekly AMN program, a show that's slightly reminiscent of a podcast he's guested on, Shots Fired, the Earwolf hip-hop industry talk podcast hosted by Nocando and Jeff Weiss. SCRAM Radio, which, like other AMN programs, is archived in podcast form on the AMN site, is a pretty good industry talk show about the indie hustle (take a drink every time either one of Dumbfoundead's guests or one of the mostly teenage guest callers nearly curses on-air), with occasional interludes of ill scratching by DJ Zo.
"Zo is half-Filipino, half-Italian," says the K-Town king of battle rap at the start of SCRAM Radio's premiere episode from June, "which equals..."
"Mexican," jokes Zo.
SCRAM Radio, which gets its title from a track off Dumbfoundead's 2012 EP Take the Stares, has gotten me listening to a couple of other AMN programs, like The Walter & PK Show, which Hong hosts with another stand-up, Paul "PK" Kim (I haven't checked out AMN's K-pop program yet, but I'll get there). Walter and PK's whole entire hour about the abundance of white male/Asian female couples, a chat that also includes input from female hosts of other AMN programs, is one of the funniest and most entertaining discussions I've heard regarding a subject that can be such a heated and humorless one for Asian guys (many of whom resent being desexualized by everyone, whether it's the mainstream media or Asian women who prefer white men over Asian men). Nobody's safe during this frank discussion of WM/AF couples--not even Asian guys. Both guest caller Dumbfoundead and Irene Hsu, co-host of the ESL Show (by the way, the recent ESL Show episode where co-host Yvonne Lu recalls an awkward moment when Oliver Stone, who's known for having an Asian fetish, creepily hit on her is funny as well), refer to Asian guys as sloppier and dumber than white guys when it comes to attempting to hide their infidelity from their wives or girlfriends.
"All the Asian girls I know that date white dudes--[the white dudes] all look wack. They look like Mark Zuckerberg," notes Dumb hilariously at another point in the WM/AF couples episode. "All the white dudes that Asian girls date wear TOMS Shoes."
TOMS Shoes are nowhere to be seen during Dumb's clever video for "New Chick."
The Dork Forest
I've grown bored with WTF with Marc Maron-inspired comedy podcasts where the guests discuss at length the L.A. stand-up scene and how they got started and the thing God would say to them when they arrive at the pearly gates if heaven exists and so on. I've found myself drifting towards comedy podcasts with a different and slightly tighter focus. One such podcast is stand-up Jackie Kashian's The Dork Forest, where, instead of yakking about their career trajectories, her guests, who range from other stand-ups like Aisha Tyler to non-stand-ups like Fatale creator Ed Brubaker and Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein, yak about arcane subjects they have a buttload of expertise in. For example, Dana Gould is a Planet of the Apes nerd, so there's lots of talk about Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and Apes memorabilia during his first guest appearance on The Dork Forest.
Although I went through a brief phase of collecting baseball cards as a kid because I thought the cards I bought at the time would be valuable someday (they most likely aren't), I really don't give a shit about baseball (because I'm from the Bay Area, I care about baseball only when the San Francisco Giants or the A's are in the World Series). When you're a kid, baseball can be fun to play, but it's such a slow goddamn sport to watch. I've seen C-SPAN telecasts that are more energetic. But when Greg Proops, a Giants fan and a Negro League history buff, talks at length about a favorite old-timey player of his (like Satchel Paige or Dock Ellis, who astoundingly once pitched a no-hitter while on LSD) or when he drops science about a really obscure bit of baseball history, baseball suddenly becomes fascinating.
Proops has his own podcast, The Smartest Man in the World, but his most entertaining bit of podcasting took place not on his own show but on The Dork Forest. Kashian got Proops to school her and the listeners on old-timey baseball history (for instance, did you know Babe Ruth called everyone "kid," or as the Babe strangely pronounced it, "keed"?). Proops rarely cracked jokes during his Dork Forest baseball episode, but the episode is enormously enjoyable, as is Proops' later Dork Forest guest appearance regarding the Roman Empire and other periods of ancient history. Like Howard Zinn, Proops is the history teacher you always wanted.
You know you're listening to a decent DJ when he or she plays a track or two that makes you say "Who dat?" A terrific DJ causes you to say "Who dat?" during every single track he or she plays. Trinidad is frequently the latter. I like how a typical Trinidad playlist on KCRW is made up of lots of new, not-so-well-known neo-soul joints or deep cuts that catch my ear, and only two or three tracks are ones I'm familiar with, like "No Thing on Me (Cocaine Song)" off Curtis Mayfield's Superfly soundtrack.
If it weren't for Trinidad, I wouldn't have fallen in love with:
The hard-to-find Towa Tei remix of En Vogue's "Whatever."
"Consequences" by Bugz in the Attic.
"Sincerely, Jane" by Janelle Monáe.
"Jerk Ribs," the new Kelis single produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek.
Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, hatched a podcast idea that's hardly new: a series of discussions between a pair of Star Trek heads about a different episode of his late father's classic show each week. But there's a twist to this format: hosts Ken Ray and John Champion intend to cover every episode of every screen incarnation of the franchise in chronological order, including even the least-loved spinoff shows (the horribly animated Star Trek: The Animated Series from the '70s and the didn't-hit-its-stride-until-late-in-its-run Enterprise). So far, Ray and Champion have finished reviewing the first two seasons of the original Trek. They won't reach Enterprise, the last TV series that was set in the Trekverse before J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise, until about 11 years from now.
Produced by both Roddenberry Entertainment and Nerdist Industries, Mission Log isn't as boring as it sounds on paper, thanks to a pair of hosts who aren't too off-putting personality-wise and are able to say way more than just "Dude, that phaser array is awesome" or "Dude, Spock's such a rock star." (Have you ever listened to Zack Snyder talk? All he says during interviews or commentary tracks is "Awesome" or "So-and-so's such a rock star.") Ray and Champion take their episode discussions into interesting directions by spending more time on the characters' ethics and moral dilemmas than on gushing over the show's ships and gadgets.
Ray and Champion also tackle a question that's been asked about the '60s show from time to time: do the show's first two seasons live up to their vaunted reputation or are there episodes before "Spock's Brain" (widely considered the '60s show's nadir) that actually don't stand the test of time? "The Alternative Factor," the "anti-matter universe" episode about a mad scientist with hipster facial hair who slips and falls down a lot, is, for example, one such pre-season 3 episode that's a pain to sit through without downing a fifth of Romulan ale.
They're also willing to criticize some of the '60s Trek's outdated approaches to handling gender and race, a criticism that I appreciate hearing (yes, the show gave us Sulu, but it also chose to slap brownface and Fu Manchu staches on the Klingons to establish them as evil). I'm so looking forward to when Mission Log reaches the Deep Space Nine highlight "Far Beyond the Stars," where Captain Sisko experiences life as a black sci-fi author in the '50s and by the time of that 1998 episode's airing, the franchise had progressed to the point where it could look back and say, "Yes, that early Next Generation episode about that all-black planet was dumb and racist, and it never should have been filmed."
Ray's observations about the '60s show's outdated elements have led to some negative feedback from fanboys who think Trek should be immune from that kind of criticism. I wish Ray would tell those neocons to fuck off, but he's probably too polite to do so. Die-hard Trek heads aren't known for "colorful metaphors."
Secret Agent on SomaFM
San Francisco's SomaFM devotes an entire station to tunes that are either selections from '60s spy genre music cover albums or electronica and acid jazz tracks that channel the '60s spy genre sound. These tracks are interspersed with quick soundbites from 007 movies (and occasionally, Barbarella and Roman Coppola's CQ). Despite these 007 soundbites, SomaFM founder and Secret Agent music director Rusty Hodge rarely puts the themes from 007 movies into rotation. Film score music-wise, Hodge prefers more obscure Italian giallo or poliziotto score cues like Stelvio Cipriani's "Papaya" from 1975's La polizia ha le mani legate (The Police Have Their Hands Tied). Despite not being from the spy genre, these score cues are part of the station playlist because, as Hodge wrote in the station bio, they, like all the non-score tracks on the playlist, are all music that would fit a scene in any spy film.
In the mid-to-late '00s, I would frequently log on to Secret Agent, but I don't do it as much anymore. That's because the playlist doesn't seem to get updated that much, so I've heard everything that's on it. (The soundbites don't seem to be updated either--when I hear those soundbites, it's as if the 007 movie franchise never moved past Pierce Brosnan.) But there are lots of nifty obscurities on the playlist, like this one particular little-known track about Paris I lost the name of after my most recent PC died and took with it all the info I typed about that track on WordPad. I got worried about never being able to find the track again because ever since I first heard it on Secret Agent five years ago, I've been crushing on the breathy voice of the American spoken-word artist who chuckles over her memories of Paris. I wasn't able to Shazam it because I currently don't have a smartphone. I have what I call a dumbphone. The phone is an older Samsung that's not sophisticated enough to carry Shazam, so it took me a whole week to Google it.
The track turned out to be 1996's "Paris" by the German jazz group Trance Groove.
Damn, I feel like I'm in bed with this lady.