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Over the last couple days, I have been drinking an herbal tea that contains Senna Leaf (Cassia Angustifolia), which a roommate had brought in with a large variety of other tea leaves. The front of the box was marked in all caps: REGULAR STRENGTH and DIETARY SUPPLEMENT. I had expected that like many other teas, the latter description was simply a palliative term that attracted individuals looking for anything that mentions “diet” as a means for weight loss.

However, after waking up with intense abdominal pain this morning and several rounds of diarrhea, I realized that I was not shortchanged on the concept of DIETARY SUPPLEMENT.

I have always kept an interest in oral supplements: as a child, I would start ingesting whatever new age pills that my stepmother stocked every few months; St. John’s Wort sticks in my mind. With the odd name and the very ambiguous benefits that the bottle implied (as some kind of treatment for depression), I became an optimistic skeptic for the supplement and others. A few years ago, I found online communities revolving around these treatments and member’s own cocktails for a supposed healthier life. The term was “Nootropics”, a fancy word for cognitive enhancers. Not only was St. John’s Wort the tip of a very large iceberg, it was at times barely registered as a legitimate substance compared to others.

To ingest selected parts of nature and gain physical or mental benefits — is that not the dream of an age (more than two thousand years old) seeking immediate effects over long-term processes? And it continues to be a dream: read into a nootropic substance long enough and all are validated and invalidated at the same time, creating enough doubt that I don’t fly out of my room to purchase a couple bottles, but instead keep reading about new developments in studies and individual stories.

Start from the benefits and drawbacks of St. John’s Wort (via NCIH):

“St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), a plant that grows in the wild, has been used for centuries for mental health conditions. It’s widely prescribed for depression in Europe.”

One starts with validation: “widely prescribed in Europe.” The dream appears! Society has deemed this ingestable substance as worth prescribing, worth speaking of in the same sentence as a treatment for something.

“St. John’s wort isn’t consistently effective for depression. Do not use it to replace conventional care or to postpone seeing your health care provider.”

And then the dream dissipates: “not consistently effective.” For all of its wide acceptance, studies put the supplement just above a placebo. And then:

“St. John’s wort limits the effectiveness of many prescription medicines.”

So at its worst, St. John’s Wort does do something; it can have the surprising effect of dampening the benefits of pharmaceutical medicines. And that’s the magic of nootropics: it does everything and nothing and sometimes exacerbates. It is akin to the old gods and the new: vengeful, merciful, loving, and most of all: ambivalent.

Despite my push-pull relationship with nootropics, I am still fascinated with the dream. So I ingest psyllium husk dietary fiber and take multivitamins and take laxatives: I want that immediate effect, and I know that these do something physical. I can feel my insides crawl and settle, my urine change colors. I am fascinated with my changing self, my changing excretions because of these supplements. They are beyond magic: they are real, passing through my body and taking their toll, positive or negative. They are the elementals of earth, allowing me to have one iota of understanding of the unknowable: my physicality, my mentality.

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In mid-May of 2018, an internal video from advertising-technology company Google leaked to the public. Produced by Nick Foster, the design head of Google’s experimental lab X, the video dove into a thought experiment: if all of one’s actions online can be recorded, could they be synthesized to better inform future generations’ own? The video analogized this digital ledger with a genetic organism, which — like the physical gene — may have the inherent drive to reproduce itself. So Google must jump in, ready to guide the digital gene — a supposed template for future digital/physical lives — with advanced tools to point out good behavior in purchasing and daily habits. Essentially, Google may reinvent itself as a morality company, with its advertising division the key to a higher human and better future.

What if the ledger could be given a volition or purpose rather than simply acting as a historical reference? What if we focused on creating a richer ledger by introducing more sources of information? What if we thought of ourselves not as the owners of this information, but as custodians, transient carriers, or caretakers?

Foster appears to ignore that the drive of epistemology and philosophy and betterment is in fact the Historical Reference — that is, the millions of textual and oral histories that are sifted and filtered to produce a certain narrative line, enabling a sequence of events to be intelligible. And doubly ignored: that (the) Historical Reference(s) are ceaselessly given purpose — for better or worse, as we can see in the successes and follies of humankind; the cruelty, breakthroughs, wars, and genius inherent to giving volition to ideas concocted from the Historical Reference. We have never stopped being the custodians, transient carriers, and caretakers of the Purposeful Historical Reference, sweeping away whole histories inconvenient or unintelligible — that we now sit on the Historical Reference, pockmarked with miles-wide and pitch black holes resulting from our faithful — fateful — custodianship over the ugly and bad and beautiful and good.

I find Foster’s willful ignorance admirable and innocent, the musings of an egomaniac that has discovered blessedness in their techno-idealisms. He believes that an advertising-technology company, doing what they do best — selling ads — could unlock the secrets of “depression, health, and poverty.” Who knew that making the Historical Reference — richer — also known as throwing one’s own two cents into the ocean — could finally break open the nut of the silent, the internal afflictions that don’t speak through digital purchases or relationships or movement. With this video, Foster has already contributed a huge insight for future healthcare: depression buys bananas too!

The goal I’ve always had with a new location is to make deep roots in the community. I’ve always enjoyed the notion that I could be in the know of what’s happening that I can get behind and be active in. In Seattle I would go to so many music shows and find whatever kind of clubs that would take me at the University of Washington. In Gainesville, I did the same, but it was even more helpful to have great friends that had a pulse on the alternative and punk scenes.

But for something like Seattle, I found little satisfaction with the music scene. You can go and enjoy the music, but my personality held me back from finding anything more than that. It was simply a photo on Instagram, nothing else. And for Gainesville, one-off volunteering gigs would allow me to expand my horizons but nothing could stick. I enjoy speaking with so many people, but I am certainly not the one to follow-up with a “hey, do you want to go hang out in [FUTURE TIME X]?”

I will be in Austin for at least a year, and I know that two, not even three years would get me well integrated into the community. At least past results have pointed to these strong trepidations. And just as things were getting great, I need to leave, and then start over again.

There are also some timing issues with most cities that I go to: I see the colorful past of these cities in broken down and abandoned buildings, where such great scenes lived and died, and then I am surrounded by individuals that say that the city in question is no long “what is used to be”. Gentrification and artistic stagnation reign, despite the promises from local newspapers and magazines and Facebook communities.

I want to be wrong about this. I want to find my slice of society within Austin, Texas — this discovery of the hidden, beyond the internet, beyond event schedules. The pessimism of modern culture has caused individual impotence; it is the sharing of ideas that make something larger! And for so many years I’ve searched for partners to make this “Larger”, to collaborate with others and forget myself for moments as I set up the framework for greatness. For now, Austin must be my ticket to my grand goals; I am here, I must make the city what I want.

What are the solutions? Start from the most shallow waters: look for the groups related to my essential nature: that is, music, the written arts, the outdoors. But then I have to go one step further. I am not connected to others via the outdoors but via one’s conception of it. Perhaps a Thoreau-ian ideal or Herzog-ified awe of the Texan desert. And for music: I don’t like music I like the artists and sounds that are classified under that most generic of art genres! How can one connect by staring at a stage? No, I must create music to solidify myself into a scene. I must create to connect.

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Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. Taken 180520

I re-subscribed to Spotify, which has a much more effective workflow for discovering great footwork / juke tracks from past and present. The key: Spotify notifies that you’re adding duplicates into a playlist, and will allow to you skip them. So I add any and all footwork-related tracks into one playlist, hit shuffle, add the tracks I like into a filtered playlist. Even better: on each track that I like, I go to “go to album” and add the whole album to the megaplaylist.

Lo and behold, I skip the duplicates again and continue shuffling. I’m approaching 600 tracks so far – I don’t want to just blindly add everything until I’m comfortable enough having discovered some good stuff from the start. By the time my filtered playlist hits 100-150, I’ll reshuffle that playlist and make an even more filtered one. Then maybe I can start cataloguing these sounds into more specific genres — most likely names proprietary to my tastes.

Anyway, what releases have come to Bandcamp and Soundcloud the past couple weeks that are either big names or great sounds? Let’s get into it:

DJ Manny – 8th In A Wood

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Released May 4th, 2018.

Manny released one of my top footwork albums last year, Greenlight. Where I first thought that its dance — a.k.a not footwork — orientation was cold but inspired, I may have just been taken aback by its self-sampling and un-jukey sound. It grew on me so much that it was a repeat listen — over and over and over and over — and became the centerpiece of my running playlist.

BackWood is most reminiscent to the previous album, with those ambling synth sounds that repeat with the vocals. But Manny does best when he mixes in the frenetic mid-bass beats of footwork with atmospheric synths — Maze Runner is the best example of this type of sound.

EQ Why & Traxman – WhyTrax

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Released April 10th, 2018.

EQ Why has only been on my radar the past few months, while Traxman has been on my mind since the beginning of discovering the genre. I’ve always associated Traxman on the “warm” side of footwork, with classic 70s funk sampling and that mid-bass lightness that may be opposed to something like DJ Tre. Last year, the producer released TEKVISION, which had a hugely diverse range of sounds but all with an energy that only Traxman can provide — listen to Drop It Down for what I think is a quintessential Traxman sound — a pattern I could think of is the juke-heavy clap and bass drum which has been hugely reduced in the past couple years since the new Teklife stars have grown.

EQ Why is not juke, but wholly within the footwork camp. Heavy on long pitched-sample patterns and analogy synth sounds, there are more atmospherics than dance on many tracks. Some comparisons could be made with DJ Nate sounds and the alienation inherent in those kinds of pitching dynamics.

Together, I hear mostly Why’s influences, with a few of Traxman signature sounds — especially some atonal sampling like in Jack Jack Jack, or incessant sample-mashing like in Pump Dat Jam — which leads to comparisons with Da Mind of Traxman.

LOS – Who Am I

Released May 18th, 2018.
Released May 18th, 2018.

I had been limited to Teklife characters for a couple years while being ignorantly unaware of just about everyone part of Juke Bounce Werk (JBW). LOS was the first of the collective for me to hear, and I was pretty impressed with his work, but I was more quickly enamored with the likes of Kush Jones or Swisha. But LOS has a solidity to his work that best seem suited for a larger album — an extended atmosphere rather than one enrapturing work. Who Am I adds to this oeuvre of album-enhancing theatrics, low-key and ready to pass the torch onto the next track (you can see that from the end, where it cuts off — most likely for something else).

I’ll limit it to three items so far – don’t want to create an extensive essay or anything. I’ll start more actively looking for stuff that I like so I can share even more!

Since 2010, I have dabbled in various aspects of computer technology; I built PCs from scratch, engrossed myself in the basics web dev files, or deployed small Raspberry Pi servers for storage or computation. It was always a wonder why I couldn’t tie these features together: I could understand the 101 of programming, of hardware and software architectures, and dealing with the funnels and tunnels of internet-based applications, but I did not know how to make a program, a self-contained block of code that could do something unique for myself. I was a scriptmonkey, which had its own delights and challenges, but nothing compared to the rigors of creating an application.

Over and over again I would start the education process over again, attempting to seek the one key that would “tie it all together”, but it never clicked. What was missing?

Rigor had much to do with the issue. I am one that loved to learn, to bask in theory and implement architecture as thought — but not as product. The dirty little details of gluing together several useful scripts together escaped me not because I wasn’t being taught the process, but because my personality simply didn’t warrant my mind the allocation of resources to think about it. So I hovered in the high-levels, of REST architectures and JavaScript 101s and articles about the differences between new and old languages. The discovery and wonder never ceased — I am an ignorant fool with just enough knowledge to be impressed but never involved.

The services I have provided to clients reflect these subconscious values. My output has been guidance at strategic or tactical levels, but the technical always fell short. I was a glue between directors and programmers, but not between program modules. Is this a curse or the benefit of specialization? I hate not getting every iota of knowledge out of the topics I love, growing up believing that love was complete understanding — feeling out problems on an empathetic level, not just sympathetic.

The question I have for the future: embrace my weakness, grow stronger in what has benefitted from focus, or pinpoint these issues and direct my energies on mitigating my shortcomings?

One could incorrectly surmise that the audio medium has hit cultural lows as its monetary value spirals to zero. Instead music has profoundly grown in importance – as a marker for personal identity. No other art form could attain such a status: there are no more political movements (in its most unpolitical definition) in the name of paintings or statues; populist movies are reduced to products of entertainment, inciting nothing but inane discourse on fantasy. Music burns at the heart, riles people into moving in fantastic and cruel ways, attacking naysayers and reveling within their in-groups. It is not surprising that movie prices will rocket as music becomes more convenient to access, freer — it will always be the eternal, priceless, art, where visual mediums pass on as trite affairs, begging its audiences to delight in repetitive Image-Effects.

How could capitalism contain the music form? Its major advantage is light feet: a musician could meld three or more genres at once, play a single note, remix existing tracks – there is no end to music’s destruction and resulting construction; how could a monetary system that survives in the obfuscation of arbitrary value continue to surround a form that wholly deals in arbitrariness? Music at its most essential is madness incarnate, illogical, and wholly aesthetic. Music is immoral, relishing in beauties that may not be discovered in decades or centuries or millennia, only to be appreciated once another individual has “progressed” or even “regressed” enough — or “moved left”?

Capitalism was successful with music when it could in fact obscure its pricelessness: the days of consolidated production and dissemination, when there was even price to creating something that would be heard — yet this era of physically recorded music was simply a subsection of the entire experience, the consumer subsection. My readers should understand that by tackling the subject of music in the 20th century, where consumption was determined by several companies dedicated to recording, mastering, manufacturing, marketing, and selling of music, I am trapping within the high walls of capitalist/anti-capitalist discourse. Remember my friends: what is visible may not be what is true. Just as the myth of the “successful”, money-making musician pervaded the 20th and 21st centuries – so did the myth of un-success: the decrepit group with no single recorded song, traveling through the United States without one producer discovering them.

And lo and behold capitalist music, conveniently discovered and recorded and mastered and manufactured and marketed and sold to the consuming individual – but did you miss it? Unlike the Marxists and the anti-capitalists, I do not understand all modern music as a product of this mode of production, but I have relegated the phenomenon as just a small slice of the entire pie. The myth that both the capitalists and their “antis” maintained was that the music “industry” solely consisted of that which is “visible” to the public at large. How myopic, how shortsighted, how fearful it must be to think that music could be confined to an economic system — a system not apart of human nature, even when anti-capitalists say it is! For those that have taken the opposite of capitalism are merely working within its confines for negation – I have negated both and have found capitalist music to be such a small part of the whole experience!

How fearful it must be! And how frightful for anti-capitalists to discover that their efforts were so small, for their adversary determines so little of music and culture at large — that they have swum among shallow waters and ignored the darker depths of greater self-honesty. At times that which is discussed does not exist — but does it occur to these people that topics not discussed – may indeed exist? The “unknown unknown”, as Donald Rumsfeld said; that which is still “invisible”, murky, cold, and unfamiliar. May the anti-capitalist look away from the honesty of the world outside of Capitalism!

Then let us be honest: “visible” music resides in a digitized ocean froth carried around via fiber wire and radio waves and copper cables. And let us be honest that the “invisible” may choose to piggyback on the Information Age’s technological currents, but may also — more commonly, choose  — the air between musicians and their appreciators. Live, local shows, “invisible” openers for “visible” bands, attended by invisible friends, family, and supporters; invisible communications at parties and gatherings, discussing new ideas for music and rejection of the old; invisible house shows at which audiences can discover a new sound while supporting their own. The death in the public space may be attributed to Capitalism – but has it been attributed to the private passions of individuals for their arts?

Human nature may have been visibly drawn to the convenience of Capitalist products, with music included. Capitalist music is a drop in the bucket compared to an art tradition forged over tens of thousands of years. The vanity of economic skeptics! To think that they could own a part of human nature -—rhythm and melody — and to think that one would have to resist those that were supposedly in control!