Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Me at the 4/20 Celebration at the University of Santa Cruz, 2009.

Me at the 4/20 Celebration at the University of Santa Cruz, 2009. Note the pendant and T-Shirt.

I would have got this up on 4/20 itself but I was busy working a ten day week at the world’s largest dispensary, making sure our festivities went off successfully (they did). Now I am back with the facts on this unique American holiday.

Growing up in California, specifically in Marin county and San Francisco, I have been steeped in cannabis culture all my life. This makes sense since San Francisco is where the hippie movement originated. So it is no surprise that I have known the significance of 420 and the myths behind its origins from a tender age, since before I knew the significance of 666 (one of those side effects of being raised as a Buddhist hippie). Over my twenty six years in the Bay Area I have heard all manner of stories about why 420 is associated with cannabis, ranging from the plausible to the ridiculous. I’ll be profiling and debunking the most prevalent ones then giving you the real low down on how 4:20 became the time to smoke and April 20th became the day.

I’m going to start with the most ridiculous then move to the most plausible.

Bob Marley’s Birthday/Death: April 20th is not either Bob Marley‘s birthday or the day of his death.

April 20th is the Best Day to Plant Cannabis: Any experienced grower will tell you this is a load of bull. The best time to plant depends on where you live, current climatic conditions, whether you are planting indoor or out, and numerous other contextual factors. Many people choose this day as a day to begin planting but there is no real reason other than a personal choice.

The Number of Chemical Compounds in Cannabis: While more plausible still wrong, there are currently 315 identified chemicals in the cannabis plant. We still don’t have the full chemical profile of cannabis, and we knew even less back in the 70’s when 420 was started.

Police Code for Cannabis: Police codes change from one country to another and from one region to another, but to my knowledge 420 is not a police code for cannabis related activities anywhere for any agency. 420 does happen to be the code for a homicide in Las Vegas though (in many area’s it is 187).

The Number of the Congressional Bill to Legalize Cannabis: Unfortunately no, there is no bill currently introduced that would legalize cannabis this session, usually there is and there is bipartisan support for it. 420 is the number for Senate Bill 420 which expanded California’s medical cannabis program in 2003.

That’s it for the major rumors and myths in need of debunking. You may now be left wondering, if that is all bogus then what’s the real story?

The Waldos

The real story on how 420 became the magic number for everything marijuana related is the story of a group of kids from San Rafael High School in the early 1970’s. This group was known as the Waldos because they would gather and smoke around a wall after school at 4:20pm. Or at least that is how the Waldos’ legendary story was first passed on to me many years ago, when I was a highschool student myself, smoking near a wall at 4:20pm after school. But here is the full story of the Waldos and how 420 originated in the words of Waldo Steve himself.

One day in the Fall of 1971 – harvest time – the Waldos got word of a Coast Guard service member who could no longer tend his plot of marijuana plants near the Point Reyes Peninsula Coast Guard station. A treasure map in hand, the Waldos decided to pluck some of this free bud.

The Waldos were all athletes and agreed to meet at the statue of Loius Pasteur outside the school at 4:20, after practice, to begin the hunt.

“We would remind each other in the hallways we were supposed to meet up at 4:20. It originally started out 4:20-Louis and we eventually dropped the Louis,” Waldo Steve tells the Huffington Post.

The first forays out were unsuccessful, but the group kept looking for the hidden crop. “We’d meet at 4:20 and get in my old ’66 Chevy Impala and, of course, we’d smoke instantly and smoke all the way out to Pt. Reyes and smoke the entire time we were out there. We did it week after week,” says Steve. “We never actually found the patch.”

But they did find a useful codeword. “I could say to one of my friends, I’d go, 420, and it was telepathic. He would know if I was saying, ‘Hey, do you wanna go smoke some?’ Or, ‘Do you have any?’ Or, ‘Are you stoned right now?’ It was kind of telepathic just from the way you said it,” Steve says. “Our teachers didn’t know what we were talking about. Our parents didn’t know what we were talking about.”

You may be wondering how something that began 40 years ago as an inside joke to keep things discreet in front of teachers has since become a world-wide phenomenon spawning any army of “genuine 420” Made in China swag. The rest, they say, is history. The Waldos weren’t just ‘some kids’ they were some kids who had connections to people like Phil Lesh, David Crosby, Wavy Gravy, and The Grateful Dead. 420 spread out along the same vectors as Tim Leary‘s acid trip and the hippie movement, spilling out to touch every corner of the globe.

In 1990, Steve Bloom of High Times was given a 420 flier at a Grateful Dead show and High Times began to incorporate 420 into their magazine. Rick Pfrommer, former Director of Education at Harborside Health Center, was working for the Cannabis Action Network at the time and they used their access to Kinko’s to print thousands of copies of the original 420 flier that Bloom saw. Thanks to Pfrommer and Bloom 420 went viral in a very short period of time and soon April 20th became a day for smoke outs and concerts everywhere.

Unfortunately, not everyone is okay with the spread of cannabis culture and the mass acceptance of this utterly harmless drug (seriously, less harmful then potatoes).

I take comfort that it was only angry white men with signs. Soon they will die out from a lack of mates as crazy as they are.

I take comfort that it was only angry white men with signs. Soon they will die out from a lack of mates as crazy as they are.

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Hey readers, I’ve recently begun wondering if my blog might be too diverse in focus for my readership and I am debating limiting my focus on this blog and starting another one for other posts or possibly something else. As a person who has many focuses in life and does many things I wanted a blog that reflects that, but I worry people might feel spammed with posts that are not relevant to their interests (you are here for DIY but I just keep posting about politics, or vice versa).

Here is your chance and your place to tell me what you come here for and what you’d like to see more of. You can choose up to 3 options on the poll and even add your own options if I missed something.

If you’re a comic book fan you’re probably familiar with the DC comics group of supervillians called the Legion of Doom. That is not the Legion I am talking about. Lex Luther, Bizarro, and The Riddler didn’t start a grunge rock band.

The Legion of Doom is a duo of music producer Chad Blinman and Trevor Keith (frontman of punk band Face to Face). After Face to Face broke up in 2004, the Legion was formed as a way to experiment in new genre-redefining ways. Their first album, Incorporated, was a beautiful blend of hiphop, hardcore punk, emo, metal, and more into a magnificent synthesis of 14 mash-ups. This album has a bit of something for everyone, it has some upbeat songs, some downtempo songs, happy sad, light dark, and it transitions between all mediums with complete fluidity. It almost sounds as if the songs were written to be heard symbiotically rather than as distinct entities. For example, I don’t like Dashboard Confessional at all but my 2nd favorite mash on the CD, “The Quiet Screaming,” is half a Dashboard song, “Screaming Infidelities.” Check it out for yourself in this fan made music video.

Incorporated was redefining not just genres but also to the entire music industry and method of doing business. Instead of selling a CD they gave it away. Yep, you heard that right, free. Though it was eventually released as a limited edition CD and is on iTunes, you can still find it all over the Internet for free and the band still encourages you to obtain it on P2P software, as I would. If an artist creates a work and wants that to be free it is wrong for anyone other than the artist to change their mind and charge money for that work. You may get the vibe I don’t like record labels much and you would be right.

The next major project they worked on together was composing the soundtrack to the independent philosophical/existential horror film, Eyes Front. I love independent movies and have seen my share of the stereotypical artsy over the top indie films, some were good many sucked. This was a good one, but somewhat hard to follow. Eyes Front wasn’t the first nor the only soundtrack the Legion made an appearance on. They have songs on the soundtracks for Las Vegas, Saw II, Saw III, Underworld EvolutionResident Evil Extinction, and more. Check out their downloads page for some free downloads of their music.

Many musicians and other artists might be baffled by this business model of investing lots of time into something you intend to give away, but it worked well for the Legion. I am a huge fan of this business model and thank the Legion for showing me that it can be a big success. The CD got them most popularity which guaranteed songs in movies and royalties from those songs, a constant revenue stream. The limited edition CD was effectively self-produced giving nearly all the profits directly to the artists themselves, instead of to a greedy money vampire (read as: record company). As a huge fan of the Legion, who wants to support them and all the artists I like any way I can I bought a CD. I viewed my purchase not as paying for the music, I already had that; I was buying the album art, I was buying a 1/3000th share in the Legion. I was incorporating myself into Incorporated and distinguishing myself as a fan from a listener. While I haven’t hear much of their new music I still listen to Incorporated on a regular basis.

I’ll leave you with the sage words of Sage Francis.

This year’s theme for Burning Man has been announced, and it is Caravansary. If you are like me then your first thought was probably, “what the hell is a caravansary?” Quickly followed by the realization that it is a very tricky to pronounce word. A caravansary is a type of walled inn with a large central courtyard that was built along the Silk Road to protect caravans at night from marauders. You can think of a caravansary as a man-made oasis; they offered the same level of protection in their stone walls that an oasis saw from the harsh climate of the desert itself. Caravansaries and the Silk Road were crucial to the flow of information as they served as meeting places for all sorts of people from every corner of the globe, the crossroads.

Now, if you are like me, you probably then realized that this theme doesn’t really add much to the event like previous themes have. Burning Man has had themes for art since 1998, but the art-theme area of the website gives no hint as to the purpose of these themes nor their goal. Perhaps I am off base in assuming the themes are meant to modulate the event to make it somewhat different every year. Sure, Burning Man is always totally different, yet always the same, but the theme offers participants a filter or locus through which to view the event, it points us in a direction and says “go.”

Past themes, like Green Man, Metropolis, Cargo Cult and American Dream have forced us to re-examine our relationships with the environment, our cities, ourselves, and likelihood of realizing the American Dream. While Burning Man is always a leave no trace event, thus environmentally conscious, Green Man took it to new levels with art pieces like Crude Awakening. This was a giant oil derrick which showed humanity’s worship of oil which ultimately erupted into a mushroom cloud of fire when nearly 3,000 pounds of propane and jet fuel were ignited at weeks end. While that might not sound terribly green it is equivalent to “the amount of energy consumed in the Bay Area in one minute” and since the Bay Area was on vacation that week at Burning Man I imagine it balanced out. So while past themes have provided direction to the event in addition to the existing matrix of Burning Man laid out in the Ten Principles, this years theme does not.

Let’s break down this year’s theme. A caravansary is an inn where people from all over the world would get together, drink, swap stories, and perhaps swap more than that in gifts, trade, and lovemaking. By default, in order to be at a caravansary, you were on a pilgrimage of sorts or you worked at the inn. If you have never been to Burning Man let me do a quite comparison for you. If you are at the Burn you are on a pilgrimage of sorts or you work for Burning Man/the Government (“the inn”). Burning Man itself is a caravansary protecting inhabitants from the harsh Black Rock Desert that surrounds, it is our oasis in time and space in a vast sea of dust. Within this grand caravansary there is arranged a smaller assortment of taverns, bars, inns, and lounges, nearly all having some sort of inner courtyard to offer weary travelers repose.

While I am rather underwhelmed by the theme, because it is basically saying “this years theme is Burning Man,” I am similarly impressed. I was forced to learn a new word and I’ve already had my consciousness expanded thanks to my initial opposition to the theme. Sometimes what sounds utterly moronic at first proves to be the best idea imaginable and Burning Man is a great place for testing the bounds of imagination and idiocy. I am also impressed by this year’s Burn because instead of placing the Man ever higher from the desert floor on huge structures, making him ever less ADA accessible, he is returning to the floor of the desert as a MASSIVE effigy.

So how is Burning Man a grand caravansary? And if it is what sort of folks go there on pilgrimage to trade ideas and craft a collective narrative?

Well, there are these kinds of people…

Burning Man – Fun for all ages, old and young.

There are there sorts of people too…

Sometimes a dance floor at Burning Man just looks like a forest of fuzzy coats and furry top hats. This can be both wonderful and very disorienting if high on drugs.

And yes, they’re out there too…the infamous sparkleponies.

A wild herd of sparkleponies have appeared. Not always female, know a sparklepony by their sass, ass, and magical ability to vanish whenever it is time to do work.

Burning Man is representative and inclusive of everyone, including the aforementioned stereotypes of sparkleponies, people wearing furry coats, and naked old people; honestly, they make the event what it is, God bless the sparkleponies and shirtcockers. Past the usual stereotypes and tropes, Burning Man has a lot of techies. Hordes. It’s like SF moved to the desert for a week. The Burning Man census reveals this to be true, showing that over a third of participants still come from northern California, mostly the Bay Area. Most participants identify as being white/not a person of color; the question has been asked in different ways in different years yielding different results.

There also are retired army generals, like former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, who was hanging out at this last Burn in conversation with John Perry Barlow (an EFF founder and Grateful Dead lyricist) and Larry Harvey (the main co-founder of Burning Man and its informal mayor). It sounds like the start of a joke; a Dead-Head,  a retired General, and the founder of Burning Man all walk into bar to sit down for a drink. It would be funny if it wasn’t real and didn’t have major significance. The usual belief is that Burning Man is only a place for the fuzzy hats and that clean-cut Good-Ol’ Boys would scarcely want to go let alone be accepted there. Only he did want to go there, no one is forced to be there other than the police and Burning Man staff who provide the crucial infrastructure to keep the event functional and safe. Not only did General Clark go to the Burn he also was accepted and given a rather warm welcome.

Everyone knows that world-class DJs are at the Burn every year, such as Junkie XL, Paul Oakenfold, Beats Antique, and The Crystal Method, but many people don’t realize that non-electronic artists also go to Burning Man, they just aren’t performing yet. P Diddy was sighted around this last Burn as well, sporting a stylish pink parasol. Hopefully P Diddy will join the vast legion of performers who gift their crafts to Black Rock City every year. As previously stated there are hordes of techies at Burning Man, this includes the God-child of all techies, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is not alone, he is joined by the whole cast of The Social Network, including the identical Winklevoss Twins and Dustin Moshkovitz. Moshkovitz wrote a great piece about why the presence of techies and plug and play camps should be embraced rather than spurned. I still have mixed feelings about plug and play camps, but much of the bad taste has been cleansed from my palate. Some people need a very sterile environment in order to enjoy the Burn, sometimes for valid medical reasons; who is any one person to deny them that experience? I’m not that guy and I don’t care to meet him.

Mostly you find lots of people like me. We dress however the hell we please regardless of where we are; I wore a three piece suit many days this last Burn, then other days I looked like a “steampunk hobo wizard” to quote a friend. People like me do work, often more than our fair share because we recognize that without someone doing work Burning Man doesn’t happen. People like me are kind of artists, maybe writers, often wearing many hats at different times filling many different roles in camps and in life. We’ll gift you things at the Burn unprompted and without any expectation of return, the way any true gift should be given.

The only people who are not welcome are asshats like Krug champagne who either cannot read, can’t be bothered to read the rules, or worse of all read the rules and think they are exempt from them. Burning Man makes it very clear that you are not to exploit the event for marketing or promotional reasons; this isn’t your photo-op to make your brand seem edgy. Krug thought it would be in the Burner ethos to have a huge invite-only champagne party out on the Playa, exclusively to take promotional photos. They then felt it would be neighborly to leave the place trashed; isn’t that one of the Ten Principles? Oh wait no, it’s not “leave it trashed,” it is leave no trace. Way to go asshats. Some Burners did come by to help clean the mess up, but it wasn’t their mess and that really wasn’t fair to them, but then when is life ever really fair? Burning Man often teaches us, sometimes brutally, that life is not fair (see the yearly ticketing melee).

All things said and done, I love Burning Man as much as ever and would love to make it back out there this year, though I worry about the chance of that given massive medical bills. People complain every year about the theme, how it’s not like it used to be, and how it used to be free, etc. Nope, it’s not how it used to be, no one is driving over tents in the night or shooting guns in city limits. Nope, it isn’t free either, but there are bathrooms provided and other services (an awesome medical system with 3 major locations in the city). Burning Man used to embrace anarchy more than it does today, now it is radical self expression that is embraced. I prefer what it is today, a temporary experiment in city building and the world’s largest living art museum/gallery, and I for one love being part of that grand social experiment in the most famed caravansary of our time.

Last night I went out to see Infected Mushroom and Savant, it was my first time seeing either and the first I had heard Savant (who was amazing). It inspired this poem, I may still add more I may leave it here. I want to do some readings on it before deciding, but I am definitely bothered by one stanza ‘missing a line,’ but not sure what I want to add/subtract. Time till tell.

The Man Burns (2013)

The Man Burns (2013)

Silence

In that silence you can hear a pin drop,

Like the bass dropped only moments before.

Body still thumping pulsing to ghostsounds,

That drown out the reality that surrounds.

 

Body becomes subwoofer, reacting to bass and sub-bass,

That falls loud enough to drown out the treble and mid-bass.

The bass that falls like a thunderclap, manna from Heaven.

The bass that plays now only for me, a mental music box.

 

And now, in that eternal silence… lifetimes, eons, fit into seconds.

Like a furry coat fits into a handbag on your way home,

Too overheated still to wear despite the winter’s cold chill.

 

All around, the silence dwells, a veil covering mouth, muted speak no evil,

Stuck on introspection, pausing for self reflection in these quiet moments.

The joint sits burning in his hand, my hand, her hand, our hands.

It burns but doesn’t go out, like the sound resounding in my head.

 

What I wouldn’t do for a beat that grabs my heart by the strings,

Forcing me to dance like a marionette, DJ as puppetmaster.

What I wouldn’t give for a beat that massages my neo-cortex,

Producing vortex of thought, paroxysm of emotion.

 

And in that silence, I see the joint drop,

Like the pin I heard a moment before,

Reminiscent of the bass, but a memory

Embers on the floor.

I was listening to one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite folk-punk artists earlier today and wanted to share it with you all. I was introduced to Evan Greer‘s about five years ago through a friend, aside from countless phenomenal political discussions that I will forever cherish, Evan’s music is the greatest gift she ever imparted to me. Evan is a transgendered political activist songwriter with an anarchist bent, she is a very multifaceted individual with a lot of amazing things to say. Her music is to our generation as Bob Dylan was for the hippies; her lyrics better capture the mood of our times than any other songwriter I have come across.

Evan is part of a musical collective known as the Riot Folk Collective, a group started by folk musicians Ryan Harvey and Mark Gunnery in the 90s. While it appears that Riot Folk no longer has their own website with all the music available for donation, it is on both soundcloud and last.fm. I highly recommend checking them out if you’re into melodic punk.

While I am making this post about Fame, Evan’s entire catalog of songs is amazing. Check out I Want Something, Never Surrender, and Love Me I’m a Liberal (Phil Ochs cover) for more good tracks. If you like what you hear Evan is currently on tour around North America. I picked this song because I love the message contained in the lyrics dearly,  though that is quite true of damned near everything Evan writes.

Fame, By Evan Greer

What’s the point of fame
Except to reinforce the social hierarchies we oppose


What’s the point of a name
If it just becomes something that you drop


When you feel insecure
And you’re not sure
If everybody in the room will have heard of your band before
And you’re on tour


And haven’t seen a friend in at least a couple of days
Let me count the ways that I abuse the privilege
Granted to me by this mandolin


And my white skin that bought me my first guitar
Everybody told me boy you’re bound to be a star
Oh yes you are
Boy you’re bound to be a star


And like every major threat
They somehow find a way to buy it
They co-opt what we create
While they get rich and we deny it


The TV tells us there are stars and fans
And there’s just one way to make it
Follow the label’s rules
Use the master’s tools
And when the big deal comes you take it


You’re selling hope to angry kids
Who think that you’re the only ones
Who sing about what makes them sad
Who understand the way they feel


That’s just cuz your label pays
For multi-colored tour posters
So no one ever hears about
The kids doing it for real


And I’m so tired of these anarchist celebrities
Selling $10 shrinkwrapped CDs
Full of paper made from old growth trees
And I know that we all have our hipocrisies


This isn’t about purity or punk rock points
It’s about taking back what’s left of our ideals
And trading in our egos for our dreams


And if I start to act like them
Please call me on my shit
Cuz sometimes I get jealous
I’ll be the first one to admit


I’ve been brainwashed all my life
And now I’m trying to think for myself
I think that I might need your help


Believe it or not I am hugely into metal and have been for years. This post is going to give you a little bit of Heavy Metal History, history and metal in one united form.

From ANJ‘s album With Honor To Live, the song Mikhail Gorbachev tells the story of the former leader of the Soviet Union who presided over its conversion from communism to capitalism. The music video artistically depicts the fall of the Soviet Union in quite possibly the most hilarious manner possible, while still being (generally) historically accurate.

It depicts the process of reconstruction, which Gorbachev called perestroika (literally ‘restructuring’), he unveiled his restructuring plans at the 1986 XXYIIth Party Congress. The plans remained little more than loose sketches and Gorbachev never finished filling in the gaps later. The goal of perestroika was to confront the intense economic stagnation that the USSR was experiencing in the 1980s.

It also accurately shows the change from Stalin’s harsh totalitarianism to Gorbachev’s much friendlier and open world of glasnot, or openness. In 1988, Gorbachev introduced the other half of his reform strategy which included giving more rights to the people and the press. These rights included greater freedom of speech, more press freedoms, and the release of thousands of political prisoners. The goal of glasnot was to pressure conservatives in the Communist Party to support his policies of perestroika. While glasnot did open up his opponents to political criticism it also allowed much greater critique of Gorbachevs (arguably) poor handling of the situation.

The Stalin zombies depicted in the music video may be symbolic of the specter of Stalinism coming back from the grave, only to be lasered, axed, and annihilated by the powers of Super-Gorby. There were and still are some in Russia who would like to go back to the old days, many still admire Stalin despite his many atrocities. Super Gorbachev won’t be stopped on his path to capitalism, he even makes it rain Twinkies and Coke.

In case you were curious about the rest of the album it’s all pretty mediocre, nothing to write home about. It isn’t bad but not something I listen to regularly. Apparently iTunes felt the same way and has removed the album from sale since I bought it back in 2009.

Hey you! Yes you! Do you like mimes? What about singing steampunk mime robots? I sure do! As esoteric as that may sound there is a band for that, Steam Powered Giraffe. It may sound a little kitchy and weird but they are like nothing else you have heard.

They also have a new album coming out right before my birthday in a couple weeks, I can’t wait. I just need them to come up to the Bay Area on tour now.