Resident Advisor’s “Between The Beats”

Resident Advisor – an independent electronic music online magazine – released a presentational series of videos about upcoming DJ’s between March and September of last year.

Even though the series is small – only 3 short videos – it presents amazing DJ’s who are getting bigger and better as time passes:

  • Nina Kravitz
  • Motor City Drum Ensemble
  • The Martinez Brothers

I’ve watched all three and have become a fan of Nina Kravitz and Motor City Drum Ensemble – Martinez Brothers’s style doesn’t suit me particularly. The videos show the artists from different perspectives while the producer follows them through their day-to-day activities – be it playing at a gig or simply cooking some dinner.

From the three, my favourite is, without a doubt, the one about Motor City Drum Ensemble:

I think it brings great insights into the pressures and sacrifices musicians, or most artists for that matter, have to go through to make it in their relevant fields – even though it sometimes looks as if they are completely free and under control of their lives…

Danilo Plessow puts it best:

“I’d say that when I was 18 or 19 years old, that I was also touring intensely, and that was the first time that I experienced a lot of flying and airports and hangovers but when I was young I was really going for it and I loved it.

I mean, I worked my whole life to get to the point that I was able to tour that much and ,you know…make a living with music and spread my music and make people happy.

At one point there was something happening to me that I couldn’t really put a finger on. For somebody that hears anxiety it sounds a bit like “Ok, you’re a little anxious, what’s the big deal?”…but it came to a level where I couldn’t sleep anymore, you know? That’s when I figured it was too much. I can’t perform, I can’t, basically, live like this…”

Other artists, like Nina Kraviz, share similar feelings:

“I’m traveling alone all the time. I like it – I like being alone a few times.

But the problem is that sometimes I have beautiful places that I arrive and I see landscapes that are just breath-taking, I eat this food, I’m surrounded by nice people and the first thought that pops out in my mind is “Ohh I really would like somebody to be here with me. Just to share this, just to show how beautiful is that.

I just realize that all this magical moments, they are all served for me to not enjoy them alone. This is a bit corrosive at times.”

Most of all, “Between the Beats” shows a whole different face to musicians, and specially, touring artists. A face that presents itself with a lot of flights, hotel rooms and, ultimately, loneliness…

Oliver Sacks on Memory as the Intercourse of Many Minds

Oliver Sacks is, probably after Freud, the most famous scientist on the fields of neurology, psychology and psychiatry – in part, not due to his theories, but because he has written so many best-selling books.

In an article written for The New York Review of Books, Sacks analyses how memories are created, or better, induced, into one’s brain even by the simple action of speaking – just by having a dialogue.

He starts by analysing a memory he had – it turned out not to be true:

I was staggered by Michael’s words. How could he dispute a memory I would not hesitate to swear on in a court of law, and had never doubted as real? “What do you mean?” I objected. “I can see the bomb in my mind’s eye now, Pa with his pump, and Marcus and David with their buckets of water. How could I see it so clearly if I wasn’t there?”

He quickly realizes that the experience he thought was his own, unique, experience might have been “transferred” from his older brother description of the actual incident:

My “false” bomb experience was closely akin to the true one, and it could easily have been my own experience too. It was plausible that I might have been there; had it not been so, perhaps the description of it in my brother’s letter would not have affected me so. All of us “transfer” experiences to some extent, and at times we are not sure whether an experience was something we were told or read about, even dreamed about, or something that actually happened to us.

In the midst of reflection about unconscious plagiarism, and retentive memory, Sacks gives insight on the inability of the brain to distinguish the difference between a “real” memory and a “false” one:

There is, it seems, no mechanism in the mind or the brain for ensuring the truth, or at least the veridical character, of our recollections. We have no direct access to historical truth, and what we feel or assert to be true (as Helen Keller was in a very good position to note) depends as much on our imagination as our senses. There is no way by which the events of the world can be directly transmitted or recorded in our brains; they are experienced and constructed in a highly subjective way, which is different in every individual to begin with, and differently reinterpreted or reexperienced whenever they are recollected.

He concludes by saying that the source of a memory is, sometimes, almost irrelevant:

Indifference to source allows us to assimilate what we read, what we are told, what others say and think and write and paint, as intensely and richly as if they were primary experiences. It allows us to see and hear with other eyes and ears, to enter into other minds, to assimilate the art and science and religion of the whole culture, to enter into and contribute to the common mind, the general commonwealth of knowledge. This sort of sharing and participation, this communion, would not be possible if all our knowledge, our memories, were tagged and identified, seen as private, exclusively ours. Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds.

Even at the rate today’s science is evolving, neurology is still, largely, an unknown field – Sacks sheds some light on the mystery.

We’re Going to Forget How to Live

The danger is that, as entertainment’s denials of the truth get even more effective and pervasive and seductive, we will eventually forget what they’re denials of. This is scary. Because it seems transparent to me that, if we forget how to die, we’re going to forget how to live.

- David Foster Wallace, “Both Flesh and Not

Leaving on $1 a Day

TIME magazine published a small article, written by Justin Worland, on their blog, promoting  “Living on a Dollar a Day” in which they showed 13 pictures of human beings around the world who live with $1 – sometimes less – a day.

This supports the research in the fields of social and economic disparity that conclude the world is a little bit more unfair and unequal – every day that passes.

In a world that is seamlessly socially connected – twenty-four hours a day – the fact that, economically, there exists such an inequality is just shocking. The fact that so much protest and revolution are arising nowadays is just an example that people are finally realizing the depth of the situation in which we are now and that the situation is here to stay.

In an article for The New York Times on the topic, mostly reviewing Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Eduardo Porter reaches a similar conclusion:

Mr. Piketty doubts that the enormous remuneration of top executives and financiers in the United States — enhanced by the decline of top income tax rates since the 1980s — really reflects their contributions. What’s more, he points out, inherited inequality has been lower in the United States mainly because its population has grown so fast — from three million at the time of independence to 300 million today — driving a vast economic expansion.

But this population boom will not repeat itself. The share of national income absorbed by corporate profits, a major component of capital’s share, is already rising sharply.

If anything, this means future inequality in the United States will be driven by two forces. A growing share of national income will go to the owners of capital. Of the remaining labor income, a growing share will also go to the top executives and highly compensated stars at the pinnacle of the earnings scale.

What this basically means is that most of today’s capital currents, in the future, are going to be directed to the same people as they are now. The middle-class is going to have difficulty breaking that chain which in turn is going to obliterate it as we know it today…which in turn will create an even larger lower-class and increasing disparity.

Research about the topic is widely available and there’s even a documentary about it but it doesn’t look like anything is changing – or maybe I just don’t see it.

(Image: Living on a Dollar a Day, Thomas A. Nazario)

“Google it!”

When you introduce a concept, or a speaker, or an opportunity, skip the reading of facts. Instead, make a passionate pitch that drives inquiry. In the audience, in your employees, in your customers…

The only reason people don’t look it up is that they don’t care, not that they’re unable. So, your job is to get them to care enough.

(via Seth Godin)

In a Sentimental Mood

Lasting music is, in itself, iconic.

Every day, hundreds – if not thousands – of songs are written, composed or covered, and I’d say that most of them, apart from a very small and distinct group, are promptly, or at least quickly, forgotten. There’s so much information – music, in this instance – passing around that it is very difficult to be able to process it all or even spare the time needed to appreciate the beauty in some of it.

That’s why whenever I discover, or re-discover, a song that has been around for ages and it still makes sense, I get all warm and fuzzy…

Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” is one of those songs, written circa 1935, that is as important today, specially to the jazz genre, as it was, probably, when it was written. It’s the perfect song for late nights and relaxing times.

As all music genres, jazz is evolving but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take some time to appreciate and remember some of its most astonishing compositions.

Just for future reference, another beautiful composition is Duke Ellington’s Melancholia“.

‘Cheap booze is a false economy…’

I’ve been a fan of Hitchens ever since I have read “God is not Great” – his book about the poison organized religion brings to the world and injects into humanity, ruining our core values and morals.

That said, when his autobiography “Hitch-22″ was published I readily bought it in the hope of learning what I could about a man as genius and controversial as him and of absorbing some of its brilliance.

In one of the chapters in which Hitchens talks a little more  intimately about his addictions he offers some advice about the perils and benefits of all kinds of drugs:

Of course, watching the clock for the start-time is probably a bad sign, but here are some simple pieces of advice for the young. Don’t drink on an empty stomach: the main point of the refreshment is the enhancement of food. Don’t drink if you have the blues: it’s a junk cure. Drink when you are in a good mood. Cheap booze is a false economy. It’s not true that you shouldn’t drink alone: these can be the happiest glasses you ever drain. Hangovers are another bad sign, and you should not expect to be believed if you take refuge in saying you can’t properly remember last night. (If you really don’t remember, that’s an even worse sign.) Avoid all narcotics: these make you more boring rather than less and are not designed – as are the grape and the grain – to enliven company. Be careful about up-grading too far to single malt Scotch: when you are voyaging in rough countries it won’t be easily available. Never even think about driving a car if you have taken a drop. It’s much worse to see a woman drunk than a man: I don’t know quite why this is true but it just is. Don’t ever be responsible for it.

It may seem strange, or even ironic, for a man known as being a heavy drinker and chain smoker, among other things, to offer advice on drugs but I do think he has an extremely valid point here…and he is experienced.

Mason Currey wrote an informative book about the daily routines of artists – “Daily Rituals” – with several examples and quotes from artists about the use alcohol, coffee and amphetamines as a creativity enhancement drug.

The Weekend Digest #1

1. How Bad Are the Colleges?

“Deresiewicz is clearly right to suggest that students should be encouraged to look around (experiment with different selves and different fields of knowledge) before deciding on a profession, and view college as an escape from the job market as much as a preparation for it. But he doesn’t leave it at that. Adopting a messianic tone, he urges students to rebel against their well-meaning parents (who may be understandably alarmed by a scary jobs outlook), just as they allegedly did during the 1960s, since “a child who never rebels remains a child forever.” “What do you owe your parents?” he asks. “Nothing.””

By Christopher Benfey, The New York Review of Books

2. Lab-made blood cells hunt cancer, leading to remissions

“Nineteen patients in the study remain in remission 2 to 24 months later, and 15 of them didn’t need any additional treatment. Seven patients relapsed between 6 months and 9 months after their infusion; those included three people whose cancers spread beyond the blood cells the new treatment targets. Five patients left the study for alternative therapy.”

By Elizabeth Lopatto, The Verge