Isaiah Austin

Read: NBA.com – NBA selects Isaiah Austin in draft

Last night after coming home from somewhat lengthy New York commute, I sat down with my brother to watch the NBA Draft. We didn’t watch the whole thing; Probably just beginning to middle, stopping in between to eat dinner.

I don’t follow college ball at all. Maybe once in awhile I’ll catch a game on TV with my brother, but that’s about it. Despite the fact I was unfamiliar was the players getting drafted, it was still really nice to watch. What a dream come true for all those players! It’s inspiring to witness.

I played Girls Parks & Rec Basketball in middle school. I wasn’t a superstar, but I wasn’t half bad. My (shall we say) intimidating defense tactics earned me the nickname “Beastmaster” for a season. I also scored a few baskets here and there. I played soccer and softball too, but never seriously pursued sports in high school mostly because of my heavy involvement in the music department. My rigorous schedule didn’t allow sports. It would’ve been extracurricular suicide.

When it comes to basketball, over time I’ve forgotten the rules, what it all means. Luckily I’ve had my brother there to rehash everything, re-explain the dos and don’ts, pick and rolls, alley-oops, jump shots, goaltending, rebounds. We talk about legendary players and watched a documentary on Len Bias once. He’s my go-between in the sports world. He even taught me everything about football, simply by helping me play Madden on Xbox when I wanted to learn after seeing him play it. Now I’m a rabid football fan; I’m all about NFL Redzone (and I’m probably going to join his Fantasy League this coming season -no shame).

But last night while watching the Draft, something interesting happened.

NBA prospect and outstanding Center for the Baylor University basketball team, Isaiah Austin, was recently diagnosed TD_IsaiahAustin_4with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects connective tissue in the body:

Features of the disorder are most often found in the heart, blood vessels, bones, joints, and eyes. Some Marfan features – for example, aortic enlargement (expansion of the main blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the rest of the body) – can be life-threatening. The lungs, skin and nervous system may also be affected.

It affects 1 in 5,000 and Isaiah Austin was that 1, testing positive for the syndrome at a routine physical for the Draft about a week before; It ended his playing career before it had even begun.

But instead of the NBA disqualifying him outright, perhaps with an impersonal letter of apology regarding his diagnosis, they did a wonderful thing – Between the 15th and 16th picks NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Austin up to the stage, allowing him to participate and be a part of what should 201406262027736664565-p5have been his Draft night. The overwhelmed athlete stood up, embraced family and friends, was given a generic NBA cap, and made his way up to the stage to shake Silver’s hand and pose for a picture – A ritual undergone by all draftees turned players that night. NBA stars Kevin Love and Kevin Durant have outwardly applauded the NBA and Adam Silver for this gesture. Plus, this morsel of positivity seems to be getting press everywhere, which is only inspiring and moving others from hearing Austin’s story. It was a beautiful thing to witness.

Despite this unfortunate blow, Austin seems to be looking at the rest of his life with an open and mature perspective. He knows this isn’t the end, merely a roadblock of sorts that is leading him in another direction. I credit him with his positive mindset and wish him all the best. He’s already been offered a coaching position at Baylor, so perhaps we will be hearing more of him and his successes in the future.

Watch his highlight reel here:

Of Course Lana Del Rey is Controversial


Read: Vox – Here’s Why Lana Del Rey is so controversial

When I first listened to Lana Del Rey, it was my junior year of college. I was sitting in my Advanced Electronic and Computer Music class and my professor put on the music video for “Blue Jeans”.

We’d have an assignment later on that week to analyze the production of “Video Games” and read an detailed article about it, written Lana-Del-Rey-Ultraviolence-ThatGrapeJuiceup by Sound on Sound. If I remember correctly, throughout the whole class time we watched an assortment of music videos talking about sounds, panning, style, song structure maybe? Just basically bouncing ideas and thoughts around in a communal analysis of what we were hearing (and seeing). Lana wasn’t on my radar. That day was the first time I had ever heard her name.

I’ve always prided myself in thinking I listen to a lot of diverse music. I make a point to do so; All genres, from all different time periods, from current Top40 Pop (which I loathe) to Delta Blues. It all has educational value to me. You can even see in my ‘Boombox‘ tab above – I meticulously keep track of what I listen through via last.fm, list artists I plan on checking out (“Playlist on Deck”), am logging my favorite and what I consider to be the best albums of 2014, and am eager to hear your thoughts and opinions as to what else I should be listening to. I have a very open mind when it comes to this stuff. I don’t want to miss out a song or artist or album that could change my life.

“Blue Jeans” was slow. A lot slower than the music that was out at the time. And I was completely put off by Lana’s singing. What the hell was this soft falsetto bullshit? Where was her emotion? What a fake, a phony.

But the collaged music video was enticing and the lyrics, very mysterious. There was a storyline there – definitely heartbreak of some kind. Who was this girl, really?

As I delved into my assignment that weekend to analyze the production of “Video Games” and listened over and over and over with my studio headphones, I became very aware of the goosebumps and chills that spread throughout my body with each listen. I suddenly couldn’t deny it anymore: I’d warmed up to Lana – and considerably so. I began to really fall in love with it all; The whole package – vocals, lyrics, production, instrumentation. I realized its perfection. It was beautiful. My heart was telling me so, dragging me into her hypnotic vortex of mystery.

Through my own undeniable emotional responses, I began to notice how much feeling was actually being expressed through Lana’s sad, low, gentle, cool-as-a-cucumber vocal delivery. I related to it; That kind of apathetic, roll-with-it attitude you get when you’re stoned, drowning head-over-heels in unrequited love, somehow loving every moment of your misery.

I had a dawning realization that you didn’t have to be a Whitney Houston or Christina Aguilera to show the audience you were conveying emotion through a performance. (Not exactly the same vein, but think of Elliott Smith) It’s in what Lana wasn’t blatantly expressing that was being expressed. That’s the best way I can describe it. When you get it, you get it. You feel it. It’s an affirmation. It’s seeing something that was never there before that was in front of your eyes the whole time…Or in this case, in front of your ears.

I ended up buying Born To Die on vinyl, becoming smitten with every song on the album, practically kicked myself for not getting tickets in time to see her perform at Irving Plaza that year, and have been a fan ever since that day I listened to “Video Games” 100 times in a row, trying to convert friends into believers ever since I recognized the absolute beauty in the heartbroken, melancholy, troubled, Hollywood starlet persona that is Lana Del Rey.

Lana Del Rey is controversial because she is a unnatural beauty, she is not a rags to riches story, but is a daughter of a wealthy father portraying lanadelrey_png_630x535_q85a character; She brings a sense of old Hollywood values and a black and white sentimentality to her music. I suppose it’s ironic that I view her as authentic; I’m not sure where Elizabeth Grant ends and Lana Del Rey begins. Where does fact meet fiction? Perhaps we’ll never know. Perhaps we’re not supposed to. Either way, I cannot simply dismiss Lana because she is different from the rest of the Pop swill we’ve been fed for so long. She is a cool breeze of fresh air and a welcome change to contemporary Pop music (which if I may say so, has been becoming increasingly stale).

Lana is changing everything we think we know about the Pop landscape; She’s playing with our expectations. Lana is the embodiment of a post-modern popstar – Reappropriating past styles and sounds and integrating them into her persona. She expresses her sexuality without seeming trashy, her sadness without compromising beauty, her stories all the while keeping her honesty in tact. Though on the surface she may seem submissive and emotionless, she is actually one of the strongest acts out there today. Lana is not easily swayed; Her coolness is confidence. She exudes the atmosphere of days gone by, but is bringing something back into the present – something important.

It’s something worth listening to.

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RIP EDM

01109818.interactive.aI’m calling it. Well, I’ve been calling it. Probably close to 4 years now.

Mark my words, EDM will soon go the way of Disco. And thus is the cyclical nature of the music beast.

Don’t worry, it’s normal. Death and rebirth – A absolute truth in the foundation of all things.

Like Rock n’ Roll, what was once an underground phenomenon emerged into the mainstream becoming Pop, fell subject to assimilation from just about every Top40 act not associated with the movement at all, and sold out – as everything/everyone often does.

There’s a rainstorm coming; A cleansing of the pop culture landscape, if you will. And the first few drops have already begun to fall.

Let me paint you a timeline of how these events have already started to unfold:

  • September 3, 2013 – A lengthy article entitled, Finding Molly: Drugs, dancing, and death is published on the dangers of MDMA or “Molly” and the behind-the-scenes goings on of the EDM Festival world. It goes viral.

mollyThis was a eye-opening read to me, to hear the unabashed perspective of someone who witnessed full-on the shadiness of the MDMA/Molly scene and its connection with the EDM culture: Molly could be any drug and you’d have no way of knowing, easy to sneak, smuggle, and deal; risk of overdose always imminent, venues and security in cahoots with the promoters receiving cuts as incentives for their silence:

The agents win because their shows have…inflated attendance numbers, due to the false attendance reporting. This allows them to command higher guarantees. The promoters win because they collect…a percentage of the Molly sold in the venue. The extra money they get allows them to buy better talent in the future and boost their profit margins. The security wins because any “non-promoter-approved” Molly dealer is thrown out and/or arrested, so they keep appearances…The drug dealers win because their product is sold in a monopolized environment, free of competition, where they are free to set the price. The venue wins because they can…feign ignorance. The artists win because they’re playing to packed houses full of young people losing their minds and dancing on drugs.

Of course I was aware of that this all was potentially happening but to hear it confirmed in such grave detail put a shock to my system. We oftentimes forget of how prevalent death is within EDM culture, which is naturally connected to the MDMA/Molly culture. How long must one go through the ritual to suddenly grow tired of it and reconsider the mere temporary escape it has to offer?Outkast: Big Boi and Andre 3000

  • April 16, 2014 – Tim Hirsch publishes an article on EDM.com entitled, Why It’s EDM’s Fault Outkast Flopped [at Coachella] and gets a shout out from Bob Lefsetz.

I did a little writeup myself on this one. Hirsch basically explains the obvious: Our senses have been practically blow to smithereens by light shows, pyrotechnics, drugs, and big beats we can practically reach out and touch that lyrical Hip-hop just doesn’t have the same appeal it once used to; It doesn’t fufill the need anymore! The audience feels bored and expects to be taken on a mind-altering experience, expects the 3 sense assault. By now we expect:

stratospheric production values, insane light shows, and flawless control of crowd energy: in summary, an opportunity to lose your fucking mind. You can plop down hundreds of dollars without knowing a single artist and still know you’re going to have a blast. The needle has slowly shifted away from “music,” towards “party”.

The artists on the bill used to determine the success of a festival. Now no one cares. A festival like Coachella, Bonnaroo, Electric Daisy Carnival, Ultra; They have a reputation of a good time. It doesn’t matter who’s playing anymore. Your face will get melted off no matter what so you buy tickets and go – for the experience.

  •  June 2, 2014 – The lovingly-termed ‘Grandfather of ecstasy’, Alexander “Sasha” Shulgin dies.

shulgin_alexander9_medDeveloping a new synthesis method for MDMA in 1976, this was the man who devoted his life to scientific research solely within the psychedelic realm. The former Dow Chemical employee, “synthesized and self-tested hundreds of psychoactive chemicals, including MDMA”. Shulgin made the exploration and scientific documentation of psychedelics his life’s work. Based on the article linked above and a 20 minute interview I watched (also included in the link), Shulgin seemed respectable, brave, and intelligent man. Not a scientist-turned-hippie trying to get high, but rather a curious individual privileged enough to have studied MDMA, LSD, and amphetamines (along with several other drugs) up close having himself serve as guinea pig to subjectively document their effects. Shulgin even admitted that once he was done studying a drug, he never went back to it. Meaning, he was not a recreational user. When asked how many times he had used MDMA in this lifetime Shulgin responded:

Not that many…Once I find the activity of a drug, [I] go on to something else. So I’ve pretty much avoided…repeated experiments once I know the activity.

MDMA has always been a huge part of club/dance culture, reaching its first high point (pun not intended) during the 80s and has made a huge comeback within the past few years with the rise of EDM in the mainstream, accompanied by a barrage of festivals promising mind-blowing assaults of the ears, eyes, and senses. We can interpret Shulgin’s death as a real-life metaphor, signaling the beginning of the end of EDM and its surrounding drug culture. To his fanbase and community, he is considered very much a genius of incredible stature and an irreplaceable mind in the field of psychedelic science.

  • June 13, 2014 – Deadmau5 announces EDM is dying and denounces music festivals and assures his involvement in them has come to an end…Not counting his own independent production for his solo tour, of course.AN_45604789-(Read-Only)

Deadmau5 is notoriously known for being outspoken and brazen. Some might even say honest to a fault. I think Joel Zimmerman calls ’em like he sees ’em. In his exclusive interview with the London Evening Standard, he spats at his disdain for what these huge EDM festivals have become, similarly in the same vein as what Tim Hirsch described:

It’s another thing I can’t fuckin’ stand, you know? Festivals are being branded bigger than the acts, which is totally backwards in my head. It’s ’cause of those acts that you’re a festival! Who wins? The promoter. The guy who’s throwing this festival that’s branded bigger than you, that you think you’re awesome for headlining. It’s a shame, so that’s why I’m pulling out.

According to Stereogum, Deadmau5 has also, “developed contempt for the build-drop model he helped pioneer and is moving away from the genre”. If EDM isn’t on its way to the grave, there is most definitely a transformation underway. But who’s to say that’s not death in disguise? We must follow the breadcrumbs to see where it all leads.

Like anything else, EDM has become an enormous money-making business; A cash cow for drug dealers, promoters, even electronic gear and software companies: Digital turntables, DJ and music production software, speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, keyboards, samplers, etc. Think of all the kids who aspire to be like Girl Talk, David Guetta, Deadmau5, Daft Punk, Zedd, Steve Aoki, Calvin Harris, Avicii. You get the picture.

To those questioning my somewhat eager writing tone, I suppose I don’t have anything against EDM personally. It just never struck me much to begin with. And I’m not a fan of sheep; Blind followers who are the first to volunteer themselves to be consumed by the tendrils of assimilation without a shred of resistance or questioning. I’ll be glad when it goes.

On Molly-fueled, music-filled journeys to the Promised Land of unauthentic bliss, with eyes wide and pupils dilated, fans writhe and shout to the 4-on-the-floor stomp of electric static, rhythmically moving to the buildup and beat drop, to the minor key to be reused (albeit, with a different timbre) at their own forgotten funerals. Whether of the mind, body, or of the Self is no object. A death will occur – Perhaps fully permanent, with no phoenix tears shed to resurrect the mere possibility of its return.

So stomp upon the fresh earth of the almost filled grave and the mirror that lay atop it. Stick the largest shard in the soil as a makeshift headstone and in blood you will see the words painted:

EDM Lived Here

#FreeTheNipple?

baby_bottleI recently read a surprising article on The Daily Dot about Facebook finally allowing breastfeeding photos to be displayed and posted online. It is, shall I say, an interesting read but one that has left me slightly baffled. I was never aware that there was a significant anti-censorship movement and that showing breastfeeding or mastectomy photos was in such high demand.

From being friends with/following new mothers on social media, I am aware of the “baby spam” that often gets posted. And FYI, when I use “baby spam” it is in no way derogatory. It’s all adorable (except when a parent decides it’s a good idea to post the results of a successful potty training day. That is completely unnecessary. Keep that one for the private, physical album at home). And I guess that’s the new norm. Of course you want all your friends and connections to see your kid. You made that little human. You’re documenting their growth and sharing all their cuteness with the world. How cool is that?!

Now granted, I am not a mother (yet?). So I don’t know if what I’m about to say will be considered “ignorant” because I have not had the maternal experience, but why do many feel compelled to take selfies of their breastfeeding sessions? Is it absolutely necessary to have such a huge part of your private life be made public? People who you don’t know could be looking at that! When the baby turns 18 is he or she going to be embarrassed with that picture of his/her mother on the Internet? What if someone copies and pastes it and puts in on their site? Technically, I could do that now; I could easily look up pro-lactavists with a simple hashtag search, find a photo of them breastfeeding and integrate it into this post, all without their permission – without their knowing.

Isn’t that slightly terrifying? A little creepy?

It’s the 21st century. It’s so easy to cut and paste! Are these new mothers (and mastectomy patients) okay with that kind of fluidity? Do they realize that nothing is private anymore? It’s a gamble, that’s for sure. Because one that photo is posted, you don’t know who could potentially be saving it to their hard drive. What if the new mother begins looking for a job after maternity leave and their potential employer sees that photo? Couldn’t that be a little awkward?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for freedom and sharing online. But do not get duped – What you pacifier_blue_greenmay regard as freedom now may have a way of enslaving you later, and you will find yourself trapped in a hasty decision made years prior that can never be taken back. And that doesn’t just go for breast photos, but all photos and everything posted on social media. It may be fun and games now but we must stay vigilant and aware within a system landscape that is rapidly changing before our eyes. It is one that we have only a superficial knowledge of. Remember that. We are pacified with the control we think we have when in reality we have none.

It’s in Facebook’s interest to allow the photos because that means more time spent on the site posting and/or viewing, which then means more ad revenue, etc. And the nudity is not pornographic or vulgar. It is simply life. It is the conceptual need to share that nudity publicly that I am struggling with.

I think motherhood is a beautiful thing and I think it’s wonderful that so many mothers are open to sharing their lives and new journeys with the world. But what is happening to privacy? It seems with everyday that passes we are giving it away. Well, you know what they say:

You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

Why The Golden Girls Will Never Die

Dorothy_QuoteFirst off, let me just begin by saying – I am Dorothy Zbornak.

I love Dorothy. She’s the greatest; Never failing to deliver killer zingers, one-liners, sarcastic quips. She’s a cynical idealist who never fails to speak her mind and stand up for her beliefs and principles. She’s a intelligent bibliophile with a generous heart and a loyal friend to the end.

I gravitate to her character because I relate with her the most. I’m a book-loving, loyal, cynical idealist too. Not overly concerned with romance or dating but if something real comes along, I’ll take it. If I could recreate her in a holodeck, I think we’d be great friends. Although, many of my own friends tell me I’m a spot-on Sophia. I can understand where they’re coming from with that.

The-Golden-GirlsOn occasion, I’ve been known to forget my filter and just say whatever hits my mind without really thinking about it. I’m known to spit out a little hard-earned wisdom every now and then…You know, now that I think about it I can even be naive as Rose or sometimes as fun-loving like Blanche. I think that’s what so wonderful about the Girls; It’s almost as if they are parts of a whole; various personifications of one psyche which enables viewers young and old to resonate with each and every one of them in an interesting, yet authentic way.

The Golden Girls represents something I’ve termed “positive pop culture“. Positive pop culture is music, film, television, or theatre that evokes positive qualities of ourselves by bringing out the best of our human nature in the real world whether it be compassion, doing the right thing, or following our heart. The Golden Girls accomplishes that. These 4 female characters playing out fictional scenarios based in (a not too distant) reality resonates deeper than one would assume.

Blanche, Dorothy, Rose, and Sophia are all independent women but in their own way, coinciding within a (at times dys-)functional, lovable relationship. They are firmly in control of their personal and sexual lives, living on their own without needing to depend on men but rather, on themselves and each other. I’m not afraid to admit that The Golden Girls empowers me. It may sound silly, but I feel compelled to say these things aloud being as I currently exist within in a domineering patriarchy that tends to count me out more than in. So when these realizations come along when watching something like The Golden Girls, I embrace it – and want to actively talk about it.

The Golden Girls will never die because they means so much to so many people – women especially. Their trials and tribulations transform ours into comfort and consolation. They are a pick-me-up when we’re down and out. Their mistakes and life experiences become character builders, not only for them but for us. Despite the approaching 30 year anniversary of the original air date of this show, these characters play an important role in our waking lives even when the TV gets turned off. We carry them with us to live a more authentic life, perhaps giving us the push to become the individuals we’ve always aspired to be.

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