“About You:” A Study in Samples

I feel it’s happening with less frequency these days, but from time to time you’ll still come upon a Sample Hater: individuals whose blood boils at the idea of the scads of songs these days that draw directly from the work of others (with or without the owners’ knowledge or permission) in order to create something new. “New”?

Well whatever, haters gonna hate, but I personally think it’s a super cool way to produce art with ties to so many other genres of music; to see the new direction a musician can take an idea that developed in the head of another. It can also be fun to track down the various components of a song like some sort of musical scavenger hunt.

Take the song “About You” by XXYYXX (the moniker of Marcell Everett, a 17-year-old from Orlando who made this super psychedelic album in his bedroom). The self-titled album had kept coming up as a recommendation on YouTube, and finally I gave into its super Illuminati-inspired allure. I thought the production was really good and got pretty drawn into the hypnotic experimental progressions for awhile, but I’ll admit to getting distracted by something else in the bottomless world of the ‘Tube before long.

Until a friend was in town this weekend, and, upon meeting Ollie (you know, my Thai Domestic Fox), told me I had to watch the video for this cool track that featured fox masks that greatly resembled him. That track was “About You.”

If you’re like me, at some point you found yourself wondering just what that mysterious and ethereal theme meant, and in what language (“Something Slavic, I bet!”). Or… maybe you’re way smarter and deduced instantly that ol’ Marcell had just employed one of the oldest and most beloved techniques of hiding Satanic propaganda in popular music and simply reversed a sample.

Someone did us the favor of turning the entire track as we know it backwards:

we discover the vocalist is crooning, ‘here forever inside.’

At some point I realized that line must have an origin of its own and a quick search led me to the song “Just Hold On” by a producer called zircon, featuring Jillian Aversa. It’s just crazy to me that someone can… hear one teeny little line, think “I’ll turn that… backwards,” and then make something new and beautiful in a completely different way from it.

And just for some added sample-related cool, something that turned up when I downloaded Kanye West’s discography back in my torrenting days: Gold Digging: As Sampled by Kanye West. It’s a collection of the original versions of songs Kanye has sampled, and is just another testament to some of the really creative ways these guys are making new from old in music.

(There’s also a second disc.)

One year ago: Mattayom 3 Graduation
Two years ago: Mumbai (the Unbelievable Five-Photo Post)
Three years ago: Breathing, Contact, and Kissing… It’s Infective!

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Snow Day (and Maddy’s Lion Heart)

You may have heard we got a bit of snow in Virginia on Wednesday.

charlottesville snow

We had a little pool going at work over how much snow we’d end up  getting. Everyone thought Bryan was crazy for throwing down for eight inches, but he took every penny of that $9 pot. The office was closed and I braced myself for a day of lounging with the pup. (And a little bit of chasing him through Belmont in knee-high snow when he ran off from the playground again.)

I did a bit of baking as well. It was just the Toll House Cookie recipe from the back of their chocolate chips bag, except I only used one cup of chocolate chips and substituted the other cup with Heath bar pieces (an old trick I learned from Momma). Oh and I didn’t have vanilla extract so I used two teaspoons of vanilla almond milk instead. But they were good! Wish I had one now.

chocolate chip cookies

But the fact that we just had nearly a foot of snow dropped on us in Virginia should serve as evidence that we have a way to go before we’re out of scarf season, don’t you agree? Well today’s your lucky day because I found the perfect scarf for you.

The Burns family is like an extension of the Calonder family– for over twenty years we’ve been putting up with each other already! They lived across the street from us a whole lifetime ago in Colorado Springs and through the years and many moves on the parts of both families we’ve just remained phenomenally close. Maddy, a sophomore at Appalachian State, is their youngest and has had this Africa fascination for years now. She’s been passionately involved with Invisible Children since high school, and was able to actually go to Uganda a year or two ago for… some charitable purpose (pardon, the details are spotty for me). She’s now all lined up to go on a fantastic three-month excursion to Kenya, Uganda, and South Sudan with a friend of hers to participate in a number of philanthropic endeavors. And she’s raising money to do it by knitting beautiful, high-quality scarves for an online “shop” she’s calling Lion Heart. And if that weren’t enough, there’s even an option to donate a scarf to cancer patients. She’s really just the sweetest, guys, so do take a look and see if there’s not something you’d be interested in?

i must become a lion-hearted girl, ready for a fight before i make the final sacrifice!

stop sign snowOne year ago: Mattayom 2 Menagerie (et al)
Two years ago: Chapora Fort and the Wednesday Market
Three years ago: Saw the Western Coast, Saw the Hospital

Devendra Banhart: ‘Mala’

Today the brand-spakin’-newest album from an old favorite was brought to my attention in the form of an NPR “First Listen” piece devoted to Devendra Banhart‘s ‘Mala.’ I think I discovered DB on the downloading-binge I went on after my laptop was stolen from my apartment in January 2007 and I had a full iTunes library to restock. (In fact, I’m quite sure I remember being in the library, presumably needing to work, when I first read the name in the “Favorite Music” blurb of one of my ex’s friends’ Facebooks whose taste I knew I could rely on. I guess not much has changed…)

I’d have to imagine I didn’t instantly take to all of the tracks I downloaded. While he has plenty of readily palatable tracks, his nasally voice, quirky style and lyrics, and sometimes starkly simple and repetitive guitar lines mean that some of his material can be more of an acquired taste. The more I listened and read up on him, however, the more I was endeared both to his work and him as a person. He’s Venezuelan, he dated Natalie Portman (and starred her in a video), he submitted one of the first T-shirt designs to the Yellow Bird project (at a time when I was quite sure I wanted a tattoo of a yellow bird! On account of that Bright Eyes song. And that other Bright Eyes song)… In a few months’ time I’d become so big an enthusiast as to feature “Santa Maria Da Feira” in the video I made to document my family’s vacation to Spain (the honor of honors, really). Oh and actually, more recently, I used “Chinese Children” in my Jiaxing video.

And… I’ll admit I haven’t really kept up with ol’ Devendra much beyond that. (Oh right, there was “Brindo.” Was there ever “Brindo”…) Which made it doubly exciting to come upon this new album, which is only really out on March 12. While he retains some of his old quirk and uniqueness I think this might be his most universally approachable album yet. If you haven’t listened to or been able to get into Devendra Banhart before I think this album might be the one that does it for you (and if you’re already a fan I don’t think you’ll be disappointed).

Check it out:

(Oh, and David Bowie also has a new album out? I guess that’s old news but I only found out yesterday haha. Haven’t had a chance to listen yet.)

And… oh, one last little thing.

On one of our trips to Koh Tao Wayne, Collette, and I made friends with an interesting trio on our dive boat: an American hair-stylist, an Australian artist, and a French video director in the middle of an adventure meandering from Australia to their respective homes, by way of Egypt, Europe, and Russia (don’t worry, I do know that Russia’s part of Europe. But that Russia’s only partly Europe?). We enjoyed their company and it’s been exciting to voyeuristically keep up with their antics via social media. And so today I learned that Nico (the French gentleman) directed a totally badass video for the French DJ crew Birdy Nam Nam. The song is called “Defiant Order,” and if you like ridiculous bike stunts on snowy French highways and/or ridiculous European dance music (Caleb’s reaction was, “Wow, that is easily the most European thing I’ve ever seen.” In a good way, I’m sure.) then you’re gonna want to click this photo:

Congratulations, Nico! You’re a star!

This Fortnight-and-a-Half in Links

I’ve been busy these past few Saturdays… Coming home to hang with friends and family in Northern Virginia; entertaining a guest last weekend. I’m actually in Northern Virginia again but have the house to myself for a moment and thought I’d make an attempt at throwing a post together.

(Also, I think it’s worth mentioning that I have to call people in the UK for work sometimes, and someone actually used the word “fortnight” as a genuine part of his everyday lexicon the other day. It’s moments like that that make it all worth it.)

Without further ado (and I did weed out a number of the links I’d made note of, on account of the lengthier time tin which I let them build up, but you’ll still notice a bit of an outdated Valentine’s Day/Grammy theme. Yeah, I’ve been off my game haha.):

Outdated Valentine’s-Themed Link #1: A very touching story about a married interracial couple, whose last name was “Loving,” and the societal and legal troubles they had to overcome in prejudiced 1950’s Virginia; from a recent UVA Student Newsletter. I actually took a rural poverty course with the professor being discussed my final semester at school; it was one of my favorites at the time (the fact that she’d order Take It Away sandwiches to have at the end of a longer class period didn’t hurt in that regard!). I also want to make a mental note of watching the HBO documentary, The Loving Storybased off of their tale. (As always, pictures link to their respective pages.)

loving in virginiahttp://artsandsciences.virginia.edu/foundation/emails/newsletter/feb2013/loving.html

Outdated Valentine’s-Themed Link #2: A Matador Network piece on international aphrodisiacs.

aphrodisiacshttp://matadornetwork.com/life/from-goats-head-soup-to-skink-flesh-aphrodisiacs-around-the-world-pics/

Outdated Grammy-Themed Link #1 (actually there’s only one): A… well the title really captures the essence of it all. A “hilariously grotesque email from network standards and practices” concerning what was and was not appropriate to be on air at the Grammy’s. The rules are… detailed and specific, and include the terms “bare fleshy under curves” and “‘puffy’ bare skin exposure.”

hilariously grotesque email atlantichttp://www.theatlanticwire.com/entertainment/2013/02/heres-hilariously-grotesque-email-network-standards-practices/61864/

And… the rest of the links, at random.

My brother achieved practically celebrity status in the Reddit world by being terrible at his job, apparently:

reddithttp://i.imgur.com/zCGtK9h.jpg

I told him he’d better be careful, though… there was that scandal with the Applebee’s waitress that happened over a similar offense…

My friend Tam also had a sort of brush with fame (anonymous fame, I suppose, oxymoronic as that may sound) when she discovered illustrations she’d designed on a freelance job a year and a half ago had actually become popular T-shirt graphics. She says:

In July 2011, I was approached by an NYC entrepreneur who’d seen my work. He wanted to create a company selling products based on vintage cameras, more specifically t-shirts featuring illustrations. I was commissioned for 6 different camera illustrations. Fast forward a year and a half, and I discover that people all over the world are wearing my artwork and it has been featured in a number of blogs and other press outlets. I still remember brainstorming about branding ideas and social media, and it’s finally come to life! So very cool. Check it all out below. I illustrated the Fast Shooter, Rangefinder Classic, Streetshooter, Swede, Tank, and Twin Lens Reflex.

dodge and burnhttp://www.dodgeandburn.com

In… entertainment news:

Remember that “Who Is Bonnie Bear?” Twitter that arose in light of the 140-character gold flowing from the fingers of dedicated Skrillex fans during the “Best New Artist” Grammy debacle last year (hey! I guess I do have another somewhat-Grammy-themed item!)? Ol’ Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) is back in the social media spotlight with this sugar sweet Tumblr:

i hope it's not too much of a spoiler to warn that they're PG at best, but you won't even mind.

i hope it’s not too much of a spoiler to warn that they’re PG at best, but you won’t even mind.

http://boniverotica.tumblr.com/

Any karaoke fan will appreciate this next one, and wish there were someone like John Brophy building cool and custom karaoke tracks on request at your local karaoke hangout. Why does Portland get the best of everything?!

portland karaokehttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/magazine/portland-karaoke-scene.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all&src=longreads&

So by now everyone’s seen approximately three billion videos of the Harlem Shake (or, if you’re me, just the UGA Men’s Swim and Dive one and the washing machine one, because I was curmudgeonly-annoyed by their ubiquity pretty quickly [“You see what she just did? She claims to hate it then frikkin’ links to two videos… what a hypocrite.”]), but something else has come out of Harlem that I don’t think is getting nearly enough attention: the Globetrotters, and specifically the fact that they’ve gone to North Korea for ‘basketball diplomacy.’ This is… a 30 Rock plot, no? The Guardian brings you up to speed.

his teammate's face looks like that because he's in the process of saying, 'i've always liked korea. north korea, south korea... don't matter. i've always liked korea.'

his teammate’s face looks like that because he’s in the process of saying, ‘i’ve always liked korea. north korea, south korea… don’t matter. i’ve always liked korea.’

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/video/2013/feb/26/harlem-globetrotters-north-korea-video

And finally, just because I can’t help including articles that make people of my generation feel hopeless:

age of the permanent internhttp://www.washingtonian.com/articles/people/the-age-of-the-permanent-intern/

amazingly, history didn't make the list!

amazingly, history didn’t make the list!

http://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/college/T012-S001-worst-college-majors-for-your-career/index.html

One year ago: Ricotta Pancakes
Three years ago: Lantern Festival

Cutting for Stone (and Somewhat Associated Things Like Marley and Chang and Eng)

cutting for stone cover

If you’ve been around me in the past 2 months (since that’s how long it takes me to read a novel these days, apparently) and the subjects of nuns/medicine/twins/
Ethiopia/India/Rastafarianism/Haile Selaisse happened to come up, chances are I couldn’t help but mention the very, very good book I finished last weekend: Cutting for StoneIt had come to me on recommendation from my parents and an aunt, and I’ll admit I didn’t know what to expect. While they all swore that it was definitely a book worth reading, other adjectives that speckled their reviews included ‘weird,’ ‘odd,’ and ‘dark.’ Not that any of those things are necessarily bad, especially when it comes to literature.

I’m still feeling out how I want to approach the sharing-of-books on my blog. I have no interest in supplying spoilers (where’s the fun in that?!) and I realize I’m in no way a qualified book reviewer, but suppose I could present a brief summary of the basic plot? And, however ridiculously, I’m including a catalog of my favorite quotes from the book at the end of the post. To be honest, this was a pretty gratifying part of the reading experience, for me. I’d make a small dog-ear at the bottom of the page where a memorable quote appeared, then when I finished I went back to all those pages and found the pertinent passages. It was a good way to really refresh and absorb some of the more interesting parts without having to re-read the entire story, though I’d say this is a book that certainly deserves a Second Read.

Dr. Marion Stone narrates our tale, which takes place predominantly at the Mission (or “Missing,” as it’s referred to for the entirety of the book on account of a mispronunciation on the part of the local people) Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The story follows the childhood of Marion and his brother, Shiva– [formerly]-conjoined twins, the almost-instantly-orphaned love children of a young Indian nun (who dies giving birth) and the English surgeon to whom she was a loyal and invaluable assistant (who flees upon delivery). (Their birth and the circumstances leading up to it– most of them, anyway– take up the first quarter of the book.)

Their orphancy is short-lived, as they become the cornerstone of what becomes a family unit between them and Hema and Ghosh: the remaining two surgeons at the hospital, also Indian immigrants. Abraham Verghese paints a vivid and intricate scene of 1960’s Addis Ababa– the blend and clash of the influences of various North African ethnicities, Indians, and Brits (and not without the residual Italian touches); the precarious politics of Emperor Haile Selaisse; the scents of the stews, the grime of the bars, and the warmth and comfort within their little homes. Perhaps even more vivid and intricate are Verghese’s periodical descriptions of a variety of medical procedures; which, though detailed, graphic, and at times grotesque, are fascinating above all. As any good story should, it’s got its fair share of love, heartache, betrayal, and forgiveness as the boys grow into men and demonstrate that they have very different things to offer to the medical world (and each other).

Lolzlolzlolz that ended up turning into a super cheesy review anyway but I’m over thinking about it so, voilà.

To make up for that I’ll take this time to make a quick plug for the 2012 Bob Marley documentary simply titled Marley. I won’t even make a lame attempt at a review, I’ll just tell you it’s awesome and (of course) chock-full of great music and you won’t be sorry you watched it.

What the hell does that have to do with Cutting for Stone?, you may be wondering. Emperor Haile Selaisse is the link… I have a bit of a fixation right now (as I mentioned in my People’s Key post, because Conor makes a number of Haile Selaisse references on that album as well). The Rastafarians believed he was their new Messiah and he was also revered by (most of) Ethiopia for awhile as well, but you see in the book that he has his share of skeletons. But his whole story has struck such a deep chord with me… I like, almost feel like I want to get a Lion of Judah tattoo or something. (I mean, not really…)

Oh and one last somewhat-associated thing that I promise is worth your time:

The story of Chang and Eng Bunker, the Thai conjoined twins whose condition (and circus appearances) inspired the name “Siamese Twins.”

Chang-eng-bunker-PDhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chang_and_Eng_Bunker

Alright and finally… my preferred quotes from the book (as I said this was as much for my benefit as anyone’s haha): Continue reading