Friday, August 31, 2012

Killer Mike: R.A.P. Music. Album Sketch

year: 2012

tones of: beasty boys, UGK, Run DMC, dungeon famly - cee lo + outkast, KRS one, public enemy

genre samples: gospel, electronica, real hip hop, funk, soul

music: atmospheric, rhythmic, soulful, moody, bass & drum heavy, sonic

lyrics: serious, honest, political, street, educated, truth, real, story telling

flow: fluid, on point, adaptable, southern, underground, greater or equal to the music, solid

favs: big beast, southern fried, reagan, anywhere but here, willie burke sherwood, R.A.P. music

fav bar: "put a pause on your life, just like a comma b*tch" on go!

best guest: T.I. on big beast

score: 9/10 (not an instant, but a time release rap classic)

Frank Ocean: Channel ORANGE. Album Sketch

year: 2012

tones of: usher, stevie wonder, michael jackson, maxwell, teddy riley-black street (pyramids), elton john

genre samples: gospel, funk, r&b, jazz, electronica-funk (pyramids)

lyrics: complex, hidden, simple, honest, forward, earnest, historical, personal

music: glitzy, smooth, somber, soulful, modern, amazing, real, playful, creative

early favs: thinking about you, pyramids

best guest: andre 3000 on pink matter

late favs: lost, pink matter, forest gump

score: 8/10

This Is Not A Music Review

I have been meaning to write a couple of music reviews for weeks now and the thought just dawned on me - why write when I can sketch?  As I was listening to the records, I found myself mentally noting words, feelings, phrases, artists, genres - whatever, evoked by the music. This was clearly what I thought in its rawest form. So before I am (self)pressured to make my presentation of these things sound good and before I can really influence how you feel about the music by stringing words into sentences, let me just offer them up. Arguably, this is the purest and most digestible form anyway.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Motorbike Meet Roadbike

Mobile Photo Of The Day: I took this with my grainy, crack ridden, iphone 3G, but the point is not that I need a new phone (I do). The point is that I think this is awesome. This photo is at once a contradiction and an inspiration. I imagine this guy weaving efficiently through traffic from point A to point B on the moto, and then going all eco-friendly under his own power for the short distances. The kicker is, I think he is carrying an orange vitamin water in the water bottle slot and wearing gray Toms shoes. Amazing. If I could change anything it would be only to put me behind the handle bars.

Meat-eaters, I Refer You to This

I am often asked why I am a vegetarian. Well here it is:

It felt more authentic for me to move forward and not look back.

That is a bit cryptic, so let me now give you more than you asked for.

The story of me being a vegetarian is an odd one. From 1998 to 2002, I was not quite all the way there yet. I was a semi-vegetarian or technically, a pesce-pollotarian. I did not eat beef or pork, but I ate poultry and seafood. This run up traces its roots to my father. He had a health problem that required an immediate change in our diet. Considering the fact that what I ate was largely controlled by my mother, when the pork chops and steak stopped showing up, I simply ate what was put in front of me. The real change was that after my father got better, and my whole family went back to its adjusted but regularly scheduled dinner menu, I did not.

I have not particularly settled on a good reason why. It could have been the influence of Rastafarianism - some of my friends had recently converted (the religion comprises vegans and vegetarians). It could have been my burgeoning consciousness of health as a result of what happened and the change it had on the family, albeit temporary. Or maybe simply and superficially it could have been that I just wanted to be different. I cannot rule that out.

Thanksgiving 2002. That was the period. I do not remember the exact day, I just remember the result. I made thanksgiving dinner for friends. Yes, sir. I did. Calm down. It was a feast, but not necessarily a feat. I did bake and baste the turkey, steam the carrots and green beans, but I only opened the cranberry sauce, mixed the breadcrumbs with water, scooped the vanilla ice cream, warmed the apple pie from my grandmother's house in the frozen section and watched the crispy biscuits rise courtesy of America's favorite dough boy. I was told the turkey was good too, but I did not eat it that year. I was done.

Again, there is nothing moral about this story. It was not that I had read seminal works like "The Omnivore's Dilemma" or "The Way We Eat". I had not suddenly developed unconditional love for animals either. It was that I had worked out that I was in limbo - and I did not like it. It was a personal ethics question. I did not like the feel of semi. It felt just like that, very halfhearted. I either wanted to do it or not do it. I knew that it would be harder if I became a full vegetarian than a non vegetarian. In my system, doing the harder thing felt more consistent. I debated it for months, but it sneaked up on me that November and started with a turkey being served not having been tasted by the chef. It ended with me not eating any other bird, or seafood from then on. I suppose it only helped that I had somehow acquired an allergic reaction to shellfish a year earlier (read: no lobster, no crab, no conch - devastating).

Fast forward almost ten years later and I will now tell you I am still a vegetarian mainly for environmental reasons. It took me a while, but I got outside of myself. I did the research. That was how I got from feeling my way to thinking my way there. I will just distill that discussion into one thing: Being a vegetarian is incredibly more resource efficient and has the side effect of being generally healthier. As a flag waving supporter of the union between practicality and reason, that was all I needed to hear.

I miss meat on occasion. I admit it. Bacon still smells good to me in the morning (or any time of day really). I do not mind the smoke from an afternoon barbecue. I will not eat it though, at least not willingly. Sometimes surprisingly, I will have a nightmare about that scenario - someone slipping some bacon bits in my soup and telling me afterwards or feeding me a veggie burger that turns out to really be too good to be true. I would wake up either really angry or in a cold sweat. Then I would laugh at myself. I do not mind having to eat a salad or order a vegetable plate at a non friendly restaurant. I do mind the jokes from meat eaters who also happen to be jackasses, but I surprise them with a few snide remarks of my own. Until recently these were the biggest "challenges" I had being a vegetarian, but I found them breezy in comparison to the discipline of the years. That was until I ran into a futurist and China.

The futurist made me think about a world in which meat could be manufactured to be environmentally efficient - a theoretical exercise in what would I do then. I wrote a thirty page paper on it. Being in Asia made me confront a world in which there was no word for the word vegetarian - a real life exercise in what was I going to do right now. The intersection of these exercises was familiar, but they were in an altogether different dimension. I changed in the face of it. If one day science allows us to consume meat without consuming the planet then I am open to the possibility of changing my behavior. And last December, in Beijing, I did change my behavior. While there I eventually had to ask myself how much of the culture was I missing by not eating the food. I figured it to be a lot. And so I ate, not full meals but I sampled. It was delicious, but afterwards I went back to my steady state.

So things are a little more complicated for me than pure vegetarian ideals, but there it is. That is the whole story. Forgive me if I referred you to this post. I was not trying to be dismissive. I, like most people, just think better when I write than when I talk in real life.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Take Off With Me

I used to fly planes.

That is the saddest thing I ever wrote.

At any given moment there are something like 5,000 airplanes in the sky across the fifty states, but I grew to know one of those very intimately. Every Sunday, for several months, I sat behind the wheel of a single engine 1972 Cessna and defied gravity for one or two hours. The morning would start something like this. I would wake up, walk to the garage, drive my car, and get on a plane. Walk. Drive. Fly. If I speed up that sequence in the context of humanity, I can't help but think about a slick production short.

I took lessons because ever since I was little I wish I could fly. I used to run around the house in red gear and a blue bathroom towel twice my size. I would only be airborne for less than the second it took to jump from one sofa to the other, but it felt good - really good. I actually preferred Peter Parker as a super hero, but I often pretended to be Superman. Not because he was superhuman or from another planet, but simply because pretending to fly was so much more elegant and appealing than trying to climb walls. Or so I thought.

Staring out the window on a flight looking down gave me perspective. It really helped that we did most of our cruising over a lake. It only takes to close my eyes and I can see everything painted on the inside of my eyelids. Imagine the water glistening.  Imagine trees enclosing. See the miniature houses off in the distance. Imagine white boats. See the long, white conical wakes. Imagine random patterns of people in color. And imagine circling above all that. Picture that. These are my flashbacks of flying. Then think of it as much an emotional feeling as it is this visual sketch.

Flying feels like freedom. Freedom from the physical limits of our limbs tied to the ground by gravity. It makes you feel weightless - in your mind. Flying feels like it shouldn't be possible, but it is real. It's like looking up at the stars and fully realizing what it means to be alive and not just to exist - embracing the improbability of it. You feel small and yet you feel important. It feels like breathing, deep, long breaths. The kind that give you the energy to keep going after you think you've reached your aerobic limit. "No, you can go further". What's next?

Most of us take it for granted - the physics of  fluid dynamics, thrust and drag, lift and weight, Bernoulli's  principle - but every time I get off a plane from one coast to the next or one continent to another I can't believe what just happened. It still amazes me how we can switch cultures and time frames and temperatures in a few naps, a few movies on a small screen, a good book, and some bad food. I don't think I'll ever get over it.

Someday I'll get back to flying planes. And then I can redeem myself from having written that first sentence.