Tuesday, June 15, 2010

purple censorship

How does one decide what to censor?

Perhaps the most threatening content is the unknown.

Consider the video for the song "Purple Stuff" by Houston singer Big Moe (2002). The song evokes a fun carnival atmosphere celebrating lean and the htown drug culture. The characteristically purple codeine laced cough syrup is euphemistically referred to throughout as "purple stuff".

In the video version, a single line is censored (2:18):

What is this offensive line? What handful of words in the midst of a song about illegally imbibing prescription cough syrup could rise above the rest as demanding censorship?

[Play along at home! (line audible at 2:18)]

Context alone is unhelpful:

...Drank stains on my FUBU and I still feel like a star
Now Ima blow up behind the wheel cause I done woke up
Wrapped around a pol(e) (-ice ?) took a sip from my cup now
Can't slip up,

[censored line]

Catch a playa leanin (impala ?), (wind? one?) up in the trunk now
now hut, two, three to da four
I done slammed up the (floor? four?) wit a crushed pineapple
got it gonna let it on but I ain't sippin wit dat Moe
drinkin wit' the Barre Baby I be way too throwed
And I guess a playa had about enough...

Purple Stuff (etc.)

If the playa "wind up in the trunk", then the previous line may have some violence oriented content. One possible rendering is

My "R"s a clip up

Two possibly offensive sounds in this line are the one rendered above as "R"s, which might also be "whores", in which case something sexual may have been meant; or "clip up" if "clip" is meant in the sense of a bullet dispenser.

Unfortunately, internet sources are unhelpful here. The most common rendering of the offensive line seems to be:

(?) clipper

Some presumably lesser sources omit the "?" leaving the unintelligible (and rhythmically inadequate): Now i can't slip up clipper.

Now, presumably, these transcriptions of the lyrics all originate from the same source, as they are nearly identical in other respects, including, for example, the mistranscription of "drinkin wit' the Barre Baby" (Barre Baby being an old nickname for Big Moe) as "drinkin at the bar baby". This error, simply the result of a lack of familiarity with the singer's previous works, seems to indicate they had no feedback from the actual rappers.

Maybe whoever censored the "Purple Stuff" video did have access to complete and accurate lyrics, discovered there some unsufferable profanity at 2:18, and removed it for our collective public safety. This seems extremely unlikely.

I find it doubtful that the artists provided the TV station with a complete lyrical transcription, OR that the TV station could easily decode said line more definitively than me and the collective internets.

Most likely, it seems to me, is that the line was censored precisely because it could not be understood. And since the censor could not understand the line, he could not discard the possibility that it was profoundly offensive and damaging to the public good.

Of course, I may be mistaken about the theme of the song. Dave Chappelle identifies a (slightly?) less insidious meaning behind "purple stuff":

And, strangely, his analysis is corroborated:

mega radical!
k, mega groceries . . .

However, if Big Moe's Purple Stuff was indeed intended as a song about "grape drink" (and it most certainly was not), then the possibility of a line in it actually worthy of censorship is even less than on the obvious reading.

So, we are left with this: a single, unintelligible line is censored from a song, the entire theme of which is more socially disruptive in its gleeful endorsement of illicit drug consumption than any single line could be. In order to remove this feature of the song by merely silencing isolated phrases, the song as a whole would have to be completely eviscerated and left totally unintelligible.

Much better to just let the unintelligible slide, and trust the wit of the listener clever enough to decipher it to resist whatever profane suggestion it offers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

the day before yesterday

When I have seen by time's fell hand defaced
The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay,
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
William Shakespeare, sonnet 64, 159-
lek: jump, leap. Gk lagdon: a leap and kick; hence, some suggest E leg . . . Lacertilia: order of reptiles, lizard, chameleon, etc. polatouche: flying squirrel. Sp (Arab al: the) alligator.
Shipley, The Origins of English Words, 1984
With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.

By brooks too broad for leaping
The lightfoot boys are laid;
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade.
A. E. Houseman, With Rue My Heart Is Laden, 1896

Friday, June 11, 2010

lazy colorist

I regularly come across colorist bloopers that make me question if they've really read the product - a background character's hair color changing from one from to another, or even parts of a main character's costume, colors which clash with those mentioned in the narrative, etc. One has to wonder sometime if anybody sits down and reads a comic cover to cover once it's complete, but before it's published.

I suppose these bloopers should be slightly more forgivable if the product was originally B&W and is being recolored for a new release. At least in this case, there's no reason to expect a close scrutiny of every page by the original artist(s). It can be frustrating, however, if the blooper appears to be the result of sheer laziness.

Consider for example the recent single volume rerelease of Brian Michael Bendis' (1999/2000) true Hollywood stories comic, Fortune and Glory.

Much of the story revolves around the endless hell of waiting rooms and pitch meetings which drives the business of Hollywood. As such, repetition in both images and story elements drives much of the humor of the exposé. Unfortunately, the gag on this particular page is sullied by the laziness of the colorist:
Not all the details of the art come across in this scan—in particular, the main character (our little bald friend)'s eyes are shifting back and forth in every frame. Then, in the final full panel on the page, the eccentric holding his pen in the air briefly puts his arm down for a rest. This nuance seems to have been lost on the colorist, who clearly just pasted the exact same colors onto this panel as the previous ones.

The finished product, however, is obviously f-d up—surely once the colors and inks were merged, only a quick glance (or the glance of an actual reader) was needed to spot the error?

Monday, June 7, 2010

space streakings

"Special Karaoke King" off the album 7-Toku, classic Japanese noise rock, amazingly still in print.