Wednesday, December 8, 2010

'Decoded' by Jay-Z - My Experience

     Walking down the street to a non-specific destination.  Taking the BART train back and forth between final stops.  Hiding in the storage closet during down time in the office.  I found myself creating several respites during my consumption of Jay-Z' memoirs: "Decoded".  I could not take my nose from its pages.
     I was blown away to find his slick delivery translating perfectly into print; each line, each story, went down smooth.  Instead of a rags-to-riches tale accented with juicy details about BeyoncĂ©, Jay-Z presents a fresh and insightful perspective.  He thoughtfully connects points between big business & small-time hustling, art & rap and fatherless black boys & the heart of humanity.  Again, I had to check the cover several times to make sure I still reading the words of Shawn Carter!

There is a particular quote
that have been bouncing back and forth in my mind:

"Great rap should have all kinds of unresolved layers
that you don’t necessarily figure out the first time you listen to it.
Instead it plants dissonance in your head."

     When I read this, I let out a loud moan; a moan you would expect to hear at church when the pastor makes a great point.  Replacing the word 'rap' with 'art', I agree, what makes great art great is the cognitive dissonance that it invokes.  Art should stimulate and challenge, wires should be crossed in the mind of the audience.  Furthermore, great art isn't bite-sized, but mulled over and chewed upon for lifetimes.
     "Decoded" also features segments where Jay-Z elaborates on his own lyrics.  Taking a song, like my personal favorite, "Meet The Parents", he interjects his thoughts line for line.  He explains the art of stacking rhymes, the multiple meanings behind his metaphors and related personal stories.  I had a great time listening to the song while reading his commentary.  The dynamic of adding audio to the experience of reading literature excites me!
     I am now very impressed by Mr. Carter.  More than a self-made millionaire and a master lyricist, he has thoughts that wander and imagination that goes wild.  I awakened to the truth that crack dealers were once small children in the arms of their mothers...  Timeless poetry can be conceived on a brown paper bag...  A book can still be interesting without sexy references to BeyoncĂ© Knowles.

Check it out for yourself
and tell me what you think:


The Hits Collection, Vol. 1

Sunday, November 14, 2010

'Ptah The El Daoud' by Alice Coltrane

     I have always loved Alice Coltrane's second offering, "Ptah The El Daoud" because it personified pressure to me.  Gut-feelings and nudges translated into sound.  Listening to this album, I feel as if I'm caught in a predicament!  Once I hit the play button, the tree limbs begin to sway suspiciously and my intuition begins to whisper.

     The opening track, 'Ptah the El Daoud,' has always sounded meteorological to me.  On piano, the bandleader, Alice Coltrane creates an atmosphere of caution.  Drummer, Ben Riley, imitates the thunder swelling within the thick skies.  Giving Pharaoh Sanders my right ear and Joe Henderson my left, the horn section becomes as dense as the humid air before a storm cracks open.
     The second piece, 'Turiya and Ramakrishna,' is all about escalation.  Temperature subtly rising, logic softly dissolving in the warm water of desire.  The key changes flirtatiously, as if the seduction was taken up another notch.  The perfect chaser, the spacious 'Blue Nile' comes in third with soft horns and dreamy glissando from Alice's harp. Trickling.  Tickling.  Titillating.
     The storm finally hits with the final track, "Mantra".  It takes me back to watching a tornado as a child and being both amazed and scared by its power.  Giant trees bending and bouncing like the catail grass... Typically grounded objects floating in mid-air in slow motion...  Mesmerizing.  Frightening. Spellbinding.  Weathering a storm is, indeed, a beautiful experience.

Please listen for yourself!
I'd love to hear what you guys think of

Saturday, November 6, 2010

"For Colored Girls" - My Experience

     Watching "For Colored Girls" filled me with regret.  I regretted each and every time I revised my writing, revised my speech, to come across 'real'.  To keep my actual thoughts 'realistic' to the reader, I've dumbed down my sentences, unraveled my symbols and inserted slang.

Regret has never felt so beautiful.

      The language.  The eloquence.  The emotional delivery.  I beamed with pride from the opening credits to Kimberly Elise's closing monologue: poetry falling from black lips felt so real!  Reciting scripture in the alley ways of New York.  Serving metaphors alongside barbecue and soda.  Articulating tightly wound incantations while struggling with groceries.  This all felt natural.
     This was a heavy film, full of dark tragedies and secrets; the beauty of the script sliced through the shadows.  Full of brilliance and promise, I now feel so hopeful about the future of cinema and literature.  "For Colored Girls" marks the merge of the urban experience and more sophisticated means of expressing it.

Beyond entertaining, I found it challenging.
 I felt challenged to reverse my revisions,
and confront my complications.

I urge everyone to watch this film.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Lush Life: Fernet Branca

"It's your job...To like the things everyone else hates."

     My favorite drink in the world: Fernet Branca!  Yes: it tastes like a mentholated punch in the teeth.  Yes: there isn't enough cola in the world to dilute its bitterness.  But, I love it.  The taste reminds me that I am, in fact, living.  Mint shoots through nostrils and ears; my face goes numb.  What other beverage could have this effect?
     Composed of a myriad of herbs, barks and roots (not to mention, 40% alcohol), this Italian liquor is magic.  I have never had a hangover, no matter how much I drank!  I may have awakened with less friends and court dates, but I've never awakened with so much as a headache.
     When I first discovered Fernet, I became an evangelist for it.  Introducing all of my friends and family with a shot.  Many of them thought I was trying to poison them.  Only a few actually survived and felt its effects.  After a while, I grew weary of wasting my good drink; it's $27 a bottle.  At this point, I am convinced that only the sophisticated can acquire and appreciate this beverage.  To confirm this theory, whenever I order this at the bar, the bartender takes a shot with me!  Fernet Branca is like a secret handshake.

If you are brave and high-brow
Try Fernet Branca yourself
You'd love it after the second shot...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

One Fear Down: Balut

     I have always prided myself on being a person who could taste food objectively.  Gamy expectations doesn't sour undiscovered flavors for me.  Fear doesn't turn my stomach before the meal gets a chance.  If it's good: it's good.  If it's bad: it's bad.  However, one dish turns me in to a yellow-bellied hypocrite!  One dish that had me shaking in my boots..

     My bad responses stem from watching the "Dumplings" segment of 3 Extremes; where they subtly equivocate eating Balut with.....umm, maybe you should watch the movie for yourself.
     Anyways, the thought of chewing on a duck's embryo made my face twitch.  It also didn't help that balut is a dish that is eaten relatively slow.  It just seemed too far.  Having something I've never tasted on my blacklist made me feel bad.  Although everyone agreed with me, I saw my fear as a blemish on one of my best qualities: the willingness to try anything at least once.
     One day, a Filipino friend of mine invited me to eat with her.  Today's menu: rice, chicken and balut, her treat!  I reluctantly accepted her invitation.  Excited and nervous simultaneously, I didn't want to disrespect her culture by spitting out her food.  Millions of people consider this a delicacy, who am I to find it unnatural?

     She taught me the proper way of eating balut: cracking the shell at the top of the egg, after sprinkling a little salt, you sip the broth.  To my surprise, it wasn't bad at all, it was like a salty, egg soup.  The visual aspect was the trial I had to overcome.  Peeling the shell off, there was also a thin, veiny membrane encasing the yolk and embryo.  I couldn't help but think, "Poor baby," as I caught the first glimpse of his/her beak and eyes.
    (Side note: I never understood why people object to eating baby animals while devouring their adult counterparts.  As if veal and baby chickens were robbed of a happy childhood locked in a barn,  Barn life seems miserable.  I think eating them while they are young is a more humane approach.)

     The egg yolk was exactly like a hardboiled egg, no noticeable difference.  Although it looked slimier, the texture remained the same, as well.  Watching my friend eat her balut, she merely sucked the body out from the egg.  I followed suit.  I actually enjoyed the flavor, the bones were barely noticeable.  No feathers.  No burst of blood.  No tortured baby quacking.  

After my second and third helping
I felt silly for being so afraid.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sacred Space: Yusef Lateef Live

Iqbal Remembered

When I read:

Grace Cathedral’s soaring vault produces a natural, seven-second reverberation. This effect, different from typical concert hall acoustics, will be an integral component of this performance.”

I was instantly intrigued…

     From nowhere, a strange whistling sound fills the air.  Reverberating throughout the entire cathedral, we turn our heads like owls, looking all over for Yusef Lateef.  The sustained whistling, building atop its own resonance, gets louder as Adam Rudolph enters the sanctuary.  Twirling a long tube over his head, the source of the sound, he slowly marches down the aisle.  Suddenly, light and staccato notes from a flute enters the space; played by Yusef.  Ninety years old, He joins Rudolph’s small steps around the entire sanctuary.

This is the first time I’ve ever heard music with a fragrance.
Sage and Amber

     Taking center stage, they begin to make sounds that could be best described as impressions.  Clapping the palm of his hand at the end of his flute, Yusef, sounding like the first scattered drops of rain.  Softy playing his extensive collection of hand drums and cymbals, Adam impersonates a distant storm slowly drawing near.  Removing the instrument from his lips, Yusef begins to sing a haunting rendition of “When The Saint Go Marching In.”  Lamenting about when “The Sun refusing to shine.”  The sounds they were producing, painted a clear picture of dark clouds gathering…Geese migrating…Leaves trembling on windblown limbs.
     Seeing them live was an enveloping experience.  Skillfully, their instruments created images…spirits were invoked…mankind was dissected.  We witnessed eggs hatching alongside pristine riverbanks.  The audience were placed in the conflict between man’s loud thoughts and the small, still voice of God.  Our sneezing, shuffling pant legs and cracking joints became part of the musical suite.  Somehow, between woodwind instruments and percussion, they’ve managed to impersonate life.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Welcome to My New Blog!

If you haven't noticed, I have peculiar taste.

     Avant-garde and dissonant music.  Strange and exotic cuisine.  Crazy movies that gives me a headache. Anything experimental... Anything fresh... Anything the stimulates a strange response: I need it.
     This peculiar taste has proven to be an isolating quality.  I've never met anyone who listens to the kind of music that's in my collection.  Nor have I found anyone willing to go dutch with me at an expense, bizarre restaurant.  There is a lot in my iPod and refrigerator that I have to enjoy alone.  (And let's not get into my ill-fated, movie suggestions!)
     The primary purpose of this new blog is to put it out there.  John Zorn. Visitor Q.  Fernet Branca.  Alice Coltrane.  Holy Mountain.  Dinuguan.  These are a few of my favorite things.  Hopefully, I can find others that appreciate the lesser known pleasures.