Lifestyle

The Week in Live Hip-Hop

Before Curtis “”50 Cent”” Jackson started dropping quarters into his piggy bank, before Mike Jones held his dentist at gunpoint to chisel little diamonds into his grill, before crews gave themselves names like Cash Money Millionaires – before $100 bills grew on screen-imbedded trees, there was Erick and Parrish Making Dollars. The underdogs of the funkier, rock-fueled strain of hip-hop that kick-started in the late ’80s, EPMD often get side-noted to simultaneous groundbreakers Run DMC and Public Enemy. But the rough-edged smooth of Strictly Business, their first, and definitely most awesome, record, has stood the test of time as the untouchable godfather of money-minded raps. And after five more albums, all with “”Business”” in the title (yes, that’s called overkill), EPMD are still around to teach the blinged-out crazies a thing or two about the original hustle. Joining the pair is the more recently famed duo People Under the Stairs, known to pop a few wisecracks and bounce skits off the audience in between the heavy, labyrinthal beats and rhymes of their live show. EPMD will perform live with People Under the Stairs at the Belly Up Tavern on March 14. There actually is something better than Akon and Bubba Sparx – but just as catchy – to blast at your dorm room dance party Sunday night! Diplo, short for Diplodicus (even wordly DJs had childhood dinosaur fetishes), chooses no favorites, weaving anything that catches his fancy – from foreign beats to UK garage/grime and top-40 – into the bumpin’-est bangers this side of Timbaland. Diplo can also be credited for the synthey dancehall of M.I.A.’s Arular, the straight-up sexiest dance album of the last two years. Diplo will perform live at the Casbah with Blondo do Role on March 11. JDilla’s art has seen more light in the mourning period since his 2006 death than life ever gave him, between countless live tribute sets and the release/re-release of everything he ever touched. Stones Throw Records has been a key player in this memorium, now reissuing the DJ’s most experimental release – 2003’s Ruff Draft – over two discs, including orginal rejects. Now imagine if he’d been shot! Stones Throw will hold a listening party for the reissue of Ruff Draft at Kava Lounge on March 9. ...

The Money's for Nothing Even if the Therapy Is Free

I suppose it should come as no surprise that I’ve been a customer of the campus’s psychological services. As the youngest sibling of three, my persona draws from a childhood spent tableside and bedside, ears open to stern, long-winded and often conflicting advice from elders. I’ve since been a walking sponge of sorts, drinking in all the counsel and input possible in preparation for an unforeseen day when I’m asked, “”Do you understand yourself?”” So, contextually, it makes sense that later in life, I would find my comfort zone in an easy chair, in front of another adult telling me what things mean and what to do about them. This month, I will have spent a year away from that chair and the shrink across from it. So, in therapeutic fashion, this piece is meant to chronicle a trek across years of psychological development (or regression, if you want to be mean about it), and hopefully provide some amount of useful introspection for other furniture-familiar students – and there are many. In 2004, UCSD Psychological Services served 2,000 students (a figure pulled from an article this newspaper published on issues of staff shortages and budgetary deficiencies). A year later, a university-commissioned report on students’ mental health formalized the problem: UCSD, specifically, had about 11.5 full-time employees at the time, a ratio of one psychologist to every 2,300 students. In some cases, the picture was even darker for other UC campuses, most of them reeling from the same state and administrative budget cuts that racked our campus in 2003-04. Modern-day politicalization of all things is inevitable, though it is truly sad when such a mindset is applied to health care. A personality becomes a number, and the intangibilities that we enjoy about life become demarcated in a colder, more definable manner. Revelle College then-sophomore Tracy Ho, an interviewee for the previously mentioned Guardian article, was one of many statistics forced to wait weeks for one appointment. Ho was then referred to UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest, after her on-campus counselor told her there were not enough staff to accommodate her longer-term needs. I was luckier. My own campus therapist was both earnest and excitable, always pushing mental homework – which included forced conversation, Excel charts scribbled with daily emotive discourses and physical exercise. My give-to-get mentality kept me in the program week after week, but throughout it I realized, “”Man, mental health is hard to sustain.”” It’s a hard world out there. The hermit archetype is all but dead; it’s impossible to drop all things to wander into the desert alone, Biblical-like. Today’s world is a primitive one, where we are forced into moral fights as we sit and deal with our problems, our spouse’s problems, our neighbors’ problems, our children’s problems – the list is infinite. I often reflect on my own therapist’s investment in me (he extended me past the 12-session limit and continued the meetings until I cut them off), and realized further that other students lack such a luxury. Even a small deterrent – i.e. having to take a weekly bus trip to Hillcrest – is enough to stymie a student from seeking help for mental health issues. The last of my regular sessions occurred in the campus’s newest offices, in a collection of buildings that emanated an unsettling dead-tech, postmodern ambience. It was an unabashedly cold design for an environment meant to fit every warm, welcoming, couch-laying typecast. By the tail end of my therapy, I concluded that there was something self-serving about paying to talk about yourself – sessions became, for me, something unbecoming and shameful. But because departmental fees are divvied up to make on-campus psychological care free, students can enjoy one more degree of separation from embarrassment, and I can stop prying conversations with the “”hey, it’s free”” defense. But are psych services “”free,”” in the word’s strictest sense? Students pay mandatory fees, which have been directed to other campus units in previous years. But this is no whine-fest, stumping for psychological services while cutting down Student Affairs officials (who dole out fee money); this is a sincere reflection on the street-level impact of budget movers and shakers. I’ll be forever indebted to my therapist’s devotion, though such an extended experience in therapy is an anomaly for the cash-strapped state and university. But even just one session offered me a memorable epiphany: There is a gaping abyss between self-awareness and self-improvement, and I’m still trying to build a bridge to the latter. The issue of mental health, in all its sensitivity, can be supported by even a simple act, such as enrolling in one session. A simple slight, however, can be damaging on an equal level, and staffing and funding shortfalls are in no way simple. ...

The Closing Scenes of a Labored Love

What’s a cowgirl like you doing with such a small truck?”” asks Jim, the head honcho at the Media Checkout. He smiles at us tying down dolly tracks protruding from the already-overstuffed bed of my truck. It’s Friday morning, and this is the last time Devin, Randy and myself (the small Friday crew) will pick up equipment and head out to Temecula before the rest of the cast and crew arrives. I am inwardly ecstatic. Rewind to a few years ago: me, terrified of going inside the Media Checkout – I don’t know what the equipment is called or what it’s for, and the gruff student employees have no time for newbies. “”It’s OK to be ignorant,”” says one of my film professors. “”But you must work to bridge that gap of ignorance.”” Skip back to this Friday: I waltz in with my cowboy boots on, I don’t have to say my name or what I am here for, because the people at checkout already know. I smile mischievously at the students just beginning, clutching their checkout forms while we stand next to our truck, roped and weighed down with hundreds of pounds of equipment. These are the kind of moments that interest me – moments of aftermath, where scenes drip with that invisible ghost of action that has led up to this moment. You can see the traces of movement, the invisible marks of my hands on the windowpane, Randy’s sweat on the truck bed and Devin’s fingers tying the rope, all intangibly marking the struggle that preceded this end product. This is, in part, what the world of my film is about: characters living in an aftermath. But this is also a parallel for the process of filmmaking. Film is an end-product, nothing more than two-dimensional ghosts existing in a frame, referencing the moment that existed at one point in time when these images were recorded on tape. Cut to a few hours later, in Temecula. I hold the camera while Randy and Devin throw logs into the water to simulate the truck crashing in – but the log keeps floating back into frame like an albino alligator. “”We should just drive the truck in the water,”” says Randy. “”Yeah, I guess we could,”” I respond. Ten minutes later, the back tires are spinning out of control, hopelessly stuck in the mud. Back up five days: Paul is spraying a violent storm of white powder from the fire extinguisher to put out the fire creeping up the side of the wooden shack we’re filming. Fast forward one day, Steven is yelling on top of the truck because I’ve slammed his hand in the closed truck door. Rewind a few hours and the sound of shattering glass rings in the canyon as Josh does a somersault down the side of a rocky hill. Fast forward to six days and five guys with hardhats are pushing the Volkswagen van up a hill; it’s my crew, my dad and my cousin, acting the role of construction workers, but we are not filming. We can’t get the key in the cantankerous ignition, so for every take where the van goes downhill, they must push it back up under the midday sun. Skip to the last Sunday. “”Dad, what’s the best way to cut a glass bottle evenly?”” A moment later my dad is raising an axe up while I hold a glass bottle against cement. Skip back to a quarter to midnight on President’s Day, and we have been rehearsing and setting up lights in an old abandoned house for hours. Everyone has gotten very little sleep in the past two days, and it is starting to show; the camera operator is nodding off, the assistant director has his eyes closed, the actors are falling asleep in between takes. Coffee keeps coming in, but is having no effect. I am shouting and trying to pretend I could go on all night. I pick up a c-stand and it drops limply out of my hand. Every glance I get and word I hear is asking me to utter those three pleasant words … that’s a wrap. A slow fade in to an empty field. It’s Saturday a week later, after the last shoot. I am back in Temecula by myself, filming forgotten shots. Holding the camera in one hand, a rock in the other, I am trying to scare some quails so they will fly up in front of the camera. It’s so quiet, you can hear the wind in the grass and the distant sound of children playing. The clothesline has fallen down. The plates are all askew inside the van, next to paper shreds gnawed by mice, and outside I can see a tiny piece of purple fabric stuck in a cactus. It’s another moment of comedown, of aftermath. No more Devin, no more Randy, no more Paul, Steven, Tricia, Mom, Dad, Tom, Josh, Jake, Norbert, Christie, John, Salomon, Adam. Just me in a field with a camera. Filming is done and now what’s left to show for all the action are seven Mini DV tapes, holding all our efforts in their tiny digital ones and zeros, like phantasms trapped on electronic tape. This is film, a 2-D memory. ...