New World Beats

The swing beat can be seen in most modern beats — from DC’s go-go and pop artists like Major Lazer, I think it’s pretty cool that I can turn on my radio in 2018 and hear a beat created in  1875. Very few cultural relics survive the turning centuries, and the displaced accent popularized by the opera song, Habanera, is one of those idyllic few. This displaced accent is seen in many genres of music as well, like Cuban and Argentinian, as well as opera, jazz, and pop. An interesting band that plays with the musical timeline, Post modern Jukebox covers modern pop songs in a more vintage/jazz version. I actually like the Jukebox version better. The female vocalist sings with a raspy, sultry voice that echoes the underground cafe singers of the 40s and 50s. The accompanying band plays behind-the-beat, a perfect string of piano and bass beats that captivate the listener. One reason I may be so enamored with this style and genre of music is it is reminiscent of a time with more wonder and fun. It may be a stylized, stereotyped vintage utopia, but in my mind, swing jazz played on a jumping record symbolizes America’s golden years of music. Just after WWII, America emerged as one of two global superpowers, and although it was tinged in something darker, we had the only nuclear weapons in the world, making us more powerful — and dangerous — than any other nation. It was an age of invention and revolution, and I want to be as much a part of the past as I am the present. The lovechild of minstrel shows, the swing beat has captured a cultural in America from decades ago and transported it into the future. The swing beat is like a musical time machine, relevant in the past, present, and certainly will in the future.


Real life time traveller

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Boundary Transgressing Animals

A boundary transgressing animal is something that doesn’t fit into a predetermined category, and also (even worse for those who stake their lives on these categories) cross the boundaries between, fitting into multiple categories (very dangerous stuff indeed). There is no room for the  middle ground of Venn diagrams — there is only completely separated circles. Minstrel shows could be considered a kind of boundary transgressor. By enabling white people to act out desires considered socially unacceptable, like laziness, romance, and even obnoxious glee, they are able to cross that line through blacking up their face. While the actions and lyrics may not have been an accurate representation of black life style and customs (really more of a trippy distortion in which white people had no idea wtf was going on) their perception was perhaps an extension of their more basal desires. Similarly, minstrel shows were surely a way in which African-Americans eventually found their way into professional entertainment businesses. Black artists were not allowed to perform in theatre, broadway, on the radio (and then not on the ‘white’ radio), however blackface helped introduce a white audience to the idea of black performers. By mixing the white and black races on stage, minstrels became a weird and almost otherworldly liaison between the two populations.


We’ve come a long way to make this happen

Cultural Appropriation and the Minstrel Show

I find it very ironic that during the Civil War, confederate soldiers would sing songs about black people and their beautiful mulatto girlfriends, while fighting to keep the very institution of slavery. What did then-slaves think about this phenomenon? I would have laughed and shook my head. It’s the same thing when it comes to how country music became what it is today. Instruments we associate with country, like the fiddle, banjo, harmonica, etc. were originally used in black folk music. And popular country singers covered songs musicians used to perform trying to imitate a black person. This is crazy ridiculous to think about — a music genre stereotypically classified as ‘white people music’ was the original ‘black people music’. It doesn’t really make sense to me. Maybe they liked the way it sounded, or wanted to capture a perceived sense of a carefree fun-spirit they thought blacks harbored. What’s even more weird to think about, is African-Americans would also dress in blackface to perform these songs. Maybe it was perceived differently back then, but in today’s world, it looks like they were only perpetuating discrimination and highlighting ‘us vs. them’ factors. I can’t imagine that minstrel shows were the only way a black man could make a living. It just seems so vulgar now, and so ‘out there’ that’s it’s a little hard to wrap my head around.


Like, what even is this?

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How the Cold War Changed the Internet

It’s strange to think that memes and IM and Marvel movies and e-textbooks all came from the government wanting to bomb the shit out of Russia. Without a centralized hub, it would be next to impossible for Soviets to take out communications between the bases. From this need, an entire network blossomed into the insane genius of the internet we know today. It’s pretty incredible that such creature came from war — the threat of total nuclear annihilation is what enabled me to be typing this post here today. That’s pretty wild. One problem (of many, my goodness) that the military was, ironically, the free spirit embedded in the internet’s core. We needed something that could morph and switch lanes on it’s own, yet that’s just it — on its own, the internet was free to make connections everywhere, to bring information across the country, and then across the globe. There is an inherent independence to the internet that made –and still makes — it hard to control. No one person has the ability to dictate the web, and however ironically, that’s what makes it so powerful.


It could happen

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Claude Shannon’s so-called Information

Information is not the same as meaning.

At first glance, it’s pretty easy to understand, but actually, it doesn’t actually make a lot of sense, and I would disagree with Claude Shannon that the meaning of a sentence is less important than the informational bits gleaned from it. Which is another point that gets me confused. It seems like Shannon’s ‘information’ is something new and uncertain. For example, that man is fishing. If you and I were to look at that man, holding a fishing rod and wearing river boots, there would be no uncertainty that indeed, that man is fishing. So because there is no uncertainty, there is no information to be had. This concept doesn’t really tango with me. If the man is fishing, you can get all kinds of information. Like, the man is by a river, the man is about 50 years old, the man has not caught a fish yet, etc. How come this is not information? These are facts you would not have known had you not looked outside and seen the man, yet after you’ve witnessed the scene, there is no uncertainty about what’s happening. The information may not be relevant to you, but it is still information. Maybe that’s what he means? Like the ‘u’ after a ‘q’ is irrelevant, and can be implied, it’s not information? But it still holds meaning in the English language — just not information??? The dictionary says information is “facts provided or learned about something or someone.” It’s a fact that in English, a ‘u’ comes after the ‘q’. I still don’t get it, Shannon.


Is this man irrelevant?

An Information Revolution

Vanever Bush’s memex inspired the internet as we know it today. It was a radical way of researching and reading that would allow the reader to take control, go at his own pace, and create unique pathways to different conclusions. By enabling the reader to jump quickly from book to book, passage to passage, author to author, the ultimate authority of the writer began to dissolve. Today, it barely requires a thought to jump from one link to the next. Our internet is the very reflection of how our mind processes information. And I don’t think it’s a detriment to research or the self, rather, this ability to take control and choose our own path is empowering. No where else in history can one find this kind of power — the infinite possibilities the internet promises is kind of scary. Turning the unimaginable into reality was truly a revolution, and I just hope that our progress is worth the consequences. It’s true, my generation has a shorter attention span, we live with our parents longer, and by golly we listen to the radio when we drive. Despite this, I still don’t think that having instant access information is completely a bad thing. In a way, we’re forced into it, technology is all around us, every single second. Even in going ‘off the grid’ technology is still at work affecting peoples’ lives. I’ve mentioned before that a robot takeover is imminent, and I only half-joke. Human progress is natural and inexplicable, but if we keep pushing the boundaries, life will give way to something much less human, and much more dire than a teenager obsessed with his phone.


Behold, The Internet


Can Technology Alter Perception?

The idea that we had a different self now than we did a hundred years ago is a little strange, but it also makes sense. A hundred years ago there was not the same influences that we have today — like cars, and television, and electricity. These inventions literally changed the world, and I think as our society was revolutionized, so was our inner self. It’s hard to picture myself without modern commodities (I seriously don’t know what I would do without modern plumbing), but have these things actually done more harm than good? Are we in the process of de-revolutionizing? Socrates believed that the literate self was a lesser self, but I think that’s ridiculous. Just because we don’t have to memorize passages anymore doesn’t mean we are less intelligent or have a weaker self. Are world moves forward too quickly for us to survive without adapting. My complete and total dependence on my computer and it’s internet connection is not entirely my fault. The natural and oftentimes radical progress of our world will not stop just because I want to read a book. Rather time will push relentlessly on the edges of innovation, and the best I can hope to do is hold on tight.

Pure genius

The Omniscient Viewer

I’ll be the first to admit it: I can count the number of black and white movies I’ve seen on just one hand. I’m not particularly proud of it, in fact there seems to be some sort of elitist better-than-you vibe I get when someone can name more black-and-whites than me — oh ho ho. But why is it so difficult for these classics to hold my attention? Or maybe they would if I just gave them a chance. The combination of a shorter attention span, an expectation of extreme quality, and the assumed need for full-color has driven myself, and just about everyone else in my generation, to essentially banish black-and-white films.

One particular aspect of modern movies, the idea of an omniscient viewer, is something we take for granted. I never even stopped to think how it was physically impossible to be the main character, the main character’s friend, a pilot, a dead man, a bird, etc. all at the same time. In real life, we don’t have the luxury of witnessing life from all possible angles — like the firemen in 1903, we’re either inside the house passing out, or we’re outside looking at the rescuers. As viewers, this cut-and-paste, one point of view at a time, seems almost alien, but why? We’ve gotten so used to being everywhere all the time that it seems strange, or even boring, when older movies force us back into reality and slow down. Movies and TV shows have evolved into a fantastical new world where literally anything is possible (my goodness I love sci-fi and fantasy). Directors from the early 19th century didn’t think about escaping — it was more about documenting people’s way of life. And this isn’t a bad thing, just different. It’s what divides a ‘classic’ and modern flash fiction.


Here’s lookin’ to the future of film.


Radical Change

Without a doubt, technology has permenantly altered the way we live our life. Modern technology, like laptops, iPhones, TV, and the Internet, is an essential part of our personal and professional lives. It never really ocurred to me before, but the very first thing I do when I wake up is check my phone to browse texts, emails, and pictures. My eyes are still blurry — I can’t even really see what I’m looking at — but if I didn’t check my phone first thing, I feel off, maybe even incomplete.

When my family and I travel to West Virginia (which we do a lot, like very nearly every weekend, it’s ridiculous), there is very poor satellite connection. My aunt’s house doesn’t even have wifi (I literally die), so it’s very difficult to check the things I normally do. I find that a couple hours into the ride back, I have two feeble bars of connection, just enough to load my email and YouTube and Instagram, etc. And it’s as if the world exploded and came back to life in two short days. There are new videos and new posts, breaking news articles, internet-breaking photos, and I feel at once isolated and connected again. So much happened when I wasn’t there! But here it is, all of my friend’s posts of cheesy pizza and the latest Kim K diet, and Donald Trump’s million dollar refrigerator.

But why are these mundane and silly updates so important to me? They don’t mean much, and really have no direct effect on my life. I think we’ve become entirely dependent on technology and the social media connectedness that ensued. It’s like going through withdraws. When I consider the way I live now, an actual robot take-over isn’t entirely out of the question. Modern day is defined by its technology — and without it, we would be completely lost, our position in this world out of whack. Technology is more than just a convenience — it’s a necessity. And it’s a need that we have forced on oursleves, no matter how innocent it may have appeared in the beginning.


The future is now. Ex Macina ftw

Why Has Our Aesthetic Changed?

I often find myself having mixed feelings about today’s pop music. Sometimes when I turn on the radio, I’m rocking out to Adele’s latest hit, or shakin’ my hips to Shakira, but other times as I drive to class I’m so over every station that I end up turning the music off. At times it just seems like everything sounds the same, and it’s only when something really unique happens (I’m thinking Melanie Martinez, though she isn’t really on the radio which is super sad) that my interest is peaked again. My poor car is a 1997 Honda, and it doesn’t even have a CD player (OMG) but it does have a cassette player. It’s kind of funny because, especially during the summer time, I find myself more and more putting in my mom’s old cassettes (why did she keep those?) and listening and singing along to The Beach Boys, Rick James, and Otis Redding. There’s something about these artists that are so much more timeless and exciting to listen to than today’s Top Twenty. But why? Why do I keep classics from the 60s, 70s, 80s on my YouTube playlist, but often rotate out more recent songs?

For myself, part of the reason is how ‘groovy’ something is. It may be fun to sing along to Adele’s apparent emotional strife, but there is nothing else to do. Songs today aren’t that fun. Unlike James Brown (actual bae) I can’t dance to Adele. Maybe it’s the retro aesthetic vibes that are inseparable from listening to the oldies, but for some reason, it’s always more fun to rock out with my friends to a catchy, groovy, happy oldie than it is any of the squeaky clean pop music of today. I mean, America is pretty much the most diverse place out there — we have a lot of opinions and a lot of different aesthetics, it doesn’t really make sense to me that as a collective, we would prefer to simplify and conform to one way of creating pop songs. We’ve removed a lot of the individuality and specialness that Americans are so proud of and encourage in others. There is definitely pressure on Millennials to be more and more perfect — more perfect grades, more successful careers, a more beautiful body, a more ideal life. Perhaps this pressure has forced it’s way into music as well. With the goal of creating more perfect music, editors and publishers have actually taken away some of pop music’s value.


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