Category Archives: General

Background section submitted for a paper in progress

The importance of sampling as an instrument in hip-hop: a history 

“Press rewind if I haven’t blown your mind” 

-Redman, Blow your mind 

          In 1857, a Parisian printer named Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville received a French patent for the invention he called the “phonautograph”.  The word can be translated to mean ‘the self-writing of sound’. The invention was a “hornlike apparatus that ended in a membrane of parchment” (Johnson p 92).  Essentially the device would ‘hear’ sound waves and a stylus would decipher them as lines on the parchment, similar to the output of a polygraph.  This patent was awarded two decades before Edison ‘invented’ the phonograph and was approximately a decade before the scientific world as a whole had begun investigating recorded sound in earnest.  So why do we not know Scott as a true pioneer of sound recording?  Well, he never investigated an essential part of what people want from a sound recording, the art of the playback.   

“Dave cut the record down to the bone/ And now they got me rocking on the microphone” 

-Run-DMC, Sucker MCs 

       Moe smacks and pounds a rhythmic pattern on the lunchroom table.  Larry memorizes, annotates or records that rhythm.  Curly can take Larry’s memory, notation, or today, recording and use it to create a whole new musical piece. Shemp can take Larry’s memory, notes or recording and create an entirely different piece.  This is always how music how has been passed forth and learned.  In the last quarter of the 20th century, the technology came about that we are able to take previously made recording of sounds and music and use them to build new music.  This art of ‘sampling’ has become an important musical instrument in post-modern art, especially hip-hop, in a way that is a natural progression of culture, music and technology.   

      As more ambitious minds took hold of Scott’s scientific goal,  throughout the 20th century the recording, purchase and playback of music became a formative cultural and financial staple of American society.  A great example of this ubiquitousness is that by the 1950s young men in the United Kingdom were able to save up pocket change to purchase recordings of African-American blues and soul artists. Some of these scrappy rebels learned every guitar lick they could from the recordings and eventually amplified them and sold them back to America in the stolen art form of ‘Rock’n’Roll’ (Richards).  Some of this was pure imitation and others were changes of context for the riffs invoked. While this ‘change of context’ was happening to thousands of minds within earshot of a phonograph player, a similar theory was occurring to the literary intelligentsia.   

“Structures were to be undone, decomposed, desedimented”  

-Jacques Derrida, Letter to a Japanese Friend 

      In the 1960s, the philosophical world was introduced to a new thought in literary criticism by Jacques Derrida called deconstructuralism. This paper is not the place to go into depth of what deconstructuralism is or is not, vast papers and books have been written about the subject by greater minds than this author. For our purposes we will use a simplistic explanation by Richard Rorty: “That is, words have meaning only because of contrast-effects with other words.” (Rorty).  While Derrida decried that he in no way meant to represent a movement, deconstructionism was applied to many other arts besides literature.  Most notably for us this idea that a segment of something, say a musical riff, only has meaning within contrast to other segments, ie. other musical riffs, becomes vitally important.  

       What had sprung forth from learned men in their ivory towers of academia, the pioneers of the musical art of jazz bebop had understood innately and incorporated into their improvisations decades before.  Players like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker experimented with quoting melodies in their solos, sometimes slowing down or speeding up a melody to fit the different chord changes. In general bebop and the jazz forms that followed explored how to expand music while still quoting from musical history.   

     Now what had happened in jazz clubs among learned musicians and in the halls of Harvard is all fine and well.  It makes lovely stuff to discuss at the club over cognac and a good cigar. Outside the club, however, there is a whole world that exists betwixt the rubble created by the advance of modern civilization.  Forgotten by the oligarchs, people live here still and they are as vibrant and adaptive as humans can be.  For our purposes we will focus on a small part of New York City called the Bronx in the early 1970s.  We will see how a small segment of the population lived this deconstructionist theory as they fought to have good times in a concrete jungle.   

“Broken glass everywhere/ People pissing on the stairs, you know they just don't care/  I can't take the smell, can't take the noise/ Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice”   

–  Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message 

     In any discussion of any aspect of the history of hip-hop, it is important that the reader understand the physical place where hip-hop was born.   

      Throughout the 1950s and 60s, many of the rearrangements of New York City were masterminded by a powerful city planner named Robert Moses.  In 1959 the City began implementing Moses’ most momentousness municipal project yet, the Cross-Bronx Expressway.  The aim of this Expressway was to facilitate suburban traffic from Long Island and New Jersey to ‘money-making’ Manhattan. As has been often pointed out before, during and after this construction, the route could have been adjusted so that tens of thousands homes and commercial buildings did not have to be destroyed.  Yet the adjustment was never made. Some cynics have posited that the Expressway was aimed so that “black and Puerto Rican residents were disproportionately affected.” (Rose pp. 31)  Under ‘urban renewal’ programs, there was “massive relocations of economically fragile people of color from different areas in New York City into parts of the South Bronx.” (Rose pp. 30)  To put it simply, monied interests destroyed middle-class neighborhoods with a tax-payer subsidised construction and corralled poor non-whites into the destroyed area.  Berman describes it: 

      “Miles of streets alongside the road were choked with dust and fumes and deafening noise….Apartment houses that had been settled and stable for over twenty years emptied out, often virtually overnight; large and impoverished black and Hispanic families….were moved wholesale….Thus depopulated, economically depleted, emotionally shattered, the Bronx was ripe for all the dreaded spirals of urban blight.” (Berman pp 290-92)  

       This was the environment that hip-hop was born into.  

“A time of tension, racially fenced in/ One came off (and all the brothers blessed him)” 

 -3rd Bass Product of the Environment 

      The accepted date of the birth of hip-hop is August 11th, 1973.  Jamaican born DJ Clive Campbell, known by his stage name Kool Herc, was deejaying his sister’s birthday party at the local rec center.  Like your average party DJ, Herc worked off of two turntables so that when one song ended he could easily start the next without letting there be a lapse in the music.  Kool Herc took it one step further.  He had noticed that people danced more enthusiastically during their favorite parts of songs.  So why not give the people more of what they loved?  According to Professor Rhodes: 

“Kool Herc seldom played an entire song.  He knew which part of the record sent his audience into a frenzy. It was usually a 30 second “break” section in which the drums, bass, and rhythm guitar stripped the beat to its barest essence. Herc used two turntables to accomplish this feat. This technique became known as “beats” or “break-beats.” 

      His sets became long collections of breaks to spur dancers on.  To hype the crowd up even more, Kool, or more often a friend, would offer up quick rhymes and interjections, eg. “Yes yes y’all” or “Thrown your hands in the air/wave ‘em like you just don’t care”.  As the sets become longer and more beat-centric, the vocalists would spit longer rhymes.  

     Other DJs like DJ Red Alert, Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore took up the mantle of hip-hop and soon a party in the Bronx was nothing without a breakbeat DJ and his crew.   This trinity of vamped instrumentals, dance battles and party rhymes were the musical instruments of a generation in the Bronx from 1973 to 1979. Then hip-hop hit wax and the rest of the world started to take notice.  

“What you hear is not a test/ I’m rapping to the beat” 

 – Sugarhill Gang Rapper’s Delight 

     The first commercially released rap single was “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” by the disco group The Fatback Band.  Interestingly enough, this was all original music by the band with an original rap by their vocalist the eponymous Tim.  Of course, for these reasons, the song has nothing to do with this paper but it is nice to give credit where credit is due.  Within months of “King Tim III”,  the song “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang dropped. With regards to originality, this piece was a different case.  

        The Sugarhill Gang was created by record label owner Sylvia Robinson in order to cash in on this ‘new street sound’.  Sampling technology had not yet advanced enough to mimic breakbeat DJs and recording technology not yet enough to record a breakbeat DJ. So Ms. Robinson brought in a studio band to vamp on the main break from the disco band Chic’s song “Good Times”.  Add three young men who were hip enough to steal good rhymes and talented enough to rap them, and you have an iconic record that launched what was to become an international billion-dollar industry.  



Berman, M. (1982). All that is solid melts into air: the experience of modernity. New York.: Simon & Schuster. 

Derrida, J. (1983, July 10). “Letter to a Japanese Friend”. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from 

George, N. (2005). Hip hop America. New York, N.Y: Penguin Books. 

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. (2010). The message [MP3]. Sanctuary Records. (1982) 

Haskins, J. (2000). One nation under a groove: rap music and its roots. New York: Jump at the Sun/Hyperion Books for Children. 

Johnson, S. (2014). How we got to now: six innovations that made the modern world. New York, NY: Riverhead Books. 

Light, A. (1999). The VIBE history of hip hop. New York: Three Rivers Press. 

Rhodes, H. A. (1993, April 04). 93.04.04: The Evolution of Rap Music in the United States. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from 

Redman Blow your mind [mp3]. (1992). Brooklyn: Def Jam. 

Richards, K., & Fox, J. (2010). Life. New York: Little, Brown and Co. 

Rorty, R. (1995). Deconstructionist theory. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from 

Rose, T. (1994). Black noise: rap music and black culture in contemporary America. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan Univ. Press. 

Run-DMC Sucker M.C.s [mp3]. (1983). NYC: Profile Records. 

3rd Bass Product of the environment [MP3]. (1989). Brooklyn: Def Jam. 

Three Talking Teddies

{These are not movie reviews per se and may contain spoilers}

  The only time my wife will sit down to a horror movie is Halloween weekend.  She selects the fare off of Netflix, and I get to see some suspense/horror that is beyond my normal Cushing/Lee/Price diet. This last Halloween weekend we sat down to Housebounda 2014 New Zealand horror comedy about a young neer-do-well woman confined to house arrest in her mother's creepy house.  There is some detox going on, and the movie has a slow build. At one point our junky herione wakes up to a maniacal sounding Teddy Ruxbin.  Creepy, almost interesting, seemed mostly nostalgic.  One of her next selections was The Awakening, a 2011 British horror movie set in  1921.  The plot is apropos of nothing in this post.  However, our heroine breaks into a wall at one point to find a teddy bear that is repeating recorded clues to the mystery.  Seemed a little hi-tech for the time period.  

So the personal rule for synchronicity is three obscure references within 24 hours from non-related sources.  

The two above movies were chosen by someone else and had nothing else in common than being suspense fare on Netflix.  

    As often happens, my wife fell asleep soon after midnight and I eventually gave in to insomnia and returned to the living room.  My insomnia watchlist at the time included starting the second season of the 1960s British TV spy show The Avengers.  The first episode of the second season the evil genius bad guy talks to our heroes Steed and Gale through, you guessed it, a speaker in a teddy bear.      

   When I was 6 weeks old, I was given a stuffed bear with a music box in it. My mother had imaginatively named him Theodore.  I was told the music box worked once but since I was never given a straight answer so I assume that it was another victim of my father's violence. Theodore has somehow survived the years and the travels and now lives on a shelf up in the guest room.  He's never spoken to me, not even during my craziest days.  I don't think looking for a stuffed bear to talk to me is the meaning of the synchronicity.

   I just finished The Lovecraft Code by Peter Levenda.  His first fiction book, it's a wannabe military thriller with lots of second-rate Cthulhu musings and plot.  No surprises, we learn that 'the stars are right' whenever there is a mini-nova in the constellation of the Great Bear.  It is also implied that the Old Ones speak to their minions from Ursa Major. Get it, talking bear?  Nah, not going for it. It just seems a pale imitation of Robert Anton Wilson's Sirius theory. How many stars are supposed to be talking to us?

Demonized Deficit: We all owe

(a recently submitted essay)

      During the last presidential election cycle, we heard often about America’s debt and how terrible it is for all of us. When the Tea Party was all the rage, many Tea Party identified candidates held up the National Debt as an example of how the federal government was out of touch. “I have to pay my debts, why doesn’t the government” was the common refrain heard. Is this a realistic attitude to have? How bad is the deficit? Sure we are all taught that when we talk about the deficit we are supposed to emphasize the first syllable in TRIL-lion with incredulousness but in the grand scheme of things should we be worried?

     As of the second quarter of 2016, the average American household owed $132,158. This includes credit cards, mortgages, student loans, and auto loans. That is a total debt of 12.29 trillion dollars (Issa). According to the latest data from the Census ACS survey, the average household income in America in 2015 was $55,775 (US Household Income). This means the debt owed by the average American household is 237% of their income.

     As of December 1st, 2016, the official debt of the United States Government was 19.9 trillion dollars (Agresti). This is 107% of the United States Gross Domestic Product.

     Comparing the percentage of debt for the average American household and the Federal government, we quickly get the impression that the percentage of debt for the Federal government is not as big of a worry as one would think from the rhetoric that we have heard.

     What changes our perception is when we compare the current percentage to our historic high as a nation. As part of America’s spending during World War II, we reached a point where our National Debt was 121.70% of the Gross Domestic Product in 1946 (United States Government Debt to GDP). The past 10 years is the first time since the 1940s that we have risen above 80%. The good anonymous people over at call over 80% the “Danger Zone”. They also think a percentage over 100% turns the nation in a communist one (Anonymous).

      When we compare our debt percentage to other nations, the United States is 11th from the top with Japan’s debt being 229.20% of their Gross Domestic Product (United States Government Debt to GDP). Another thing to consider is the United States’ credit rating. In 2011, Standard & Poor famously decreased the United States of America’s rating from AAA, the highest there is, to AA+, which is merely excellent. The United States still retains a AAA credit rating from other agencies (United States Credit Rating). 

     This I think brings us to the crux of our argument that the national debt is not a horrible concern. While the percentage of debt to Gross Domestic Product has risen to over 100%, we must keep in mind that this is after a deep recession, a large bailout of the automotive and banking industries, and the United States still being entrenched in the longest ‘military action’ in the nation’s history. As a nation we still have an excellent credit rating and, as the adage goes, “credit depends on trust in the ability to repay” (Mayhew).

      Money is not the concrete object it was a century ago. Credit, debt, money in general are abstract concepts that we use to ‘keep score’. There is nothing intrinsically valuable about, say, gold. It is the almost arbitrary agreement we make about what is currency and what, like salt, is now just a table setting. We are not going to run out of a tangible amount of ‘money’.

     America is still a nation that other nations want to invest in because they have faith in our ability to repay. The beginning of this century has been a bit of a rough one for the United States. The fact that we have weathered bailouts, a recession and an ongoing war against a ethereal enemy as we have and that we show only the debt we do is amazing. This shows the amount of belief that creditors have in the United States.


Agresti, J. D. (2016, December 3). National Debt Facts. Just Facts. Retrieved December 4, 2016 from

Anonymous. (2011, April 06). U.S. Federal Debt. Retrieved December 04, 2016, from

Issa, Erin El (2016). American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics: 2015 – NerdWallet. Retrieved December 04, 2016, from

Mayhew, A. (2013, February). Why There is Nothing Scary about the U.S. National Debt. Retrieved December 04, 2016, from

United States Credit Rating. (2016, December 4). Retrieved December 04, 2016, from

United States Government Debt to GDP | 1940-2016 | Data | Chart | Calendar. (2016). Retrieved December 04, 2016, from


US Household Income. (2015, September). Retrieved December 04, 2016, from




What I Learned: Wolves and Ravens

      Recently, a patron that I've been instructing on website creation hipped me up to the symbiotic relationship between wolves and ravens. 

    Wherever there is a pack of wolves, there can be found a conspiracy of ravens.  (The fact that a group of ravens is even called a conspiracy makes it even more noir)  As far as pure efficiency, a pair of wolves work best in bringing down as much meat as they need to eat.  However, wolves tend to run in packs of 4 or more.   

     Now a single wolf is capable of taking down a moose on its own and quickly consuming 9 pounds of its kill.  So a pack could take down a moose or two and eat enough quickly to discourage carrion birds.  However evidence suggests that wolves hunt in conjunction with ravens in order to accommodate for both the pack and the local conspiracy of ravens.  A 2 pound raven will easily eat twice its weight from felled game.  So wolves form larger packs than the 2-unit couple, so that they may net enough meat to feed a pack and a conspiracy.

    What my patron postulated nest was the kicker.  This relationship, which seems to extend to ravens being aerial reconnaissance to wolf packs, really signifies that both species are bi-lingual, according to my wildlife specialist patron.

   Take your own time and dip into the intertwining mythology of the hunter, wolf and raven. Such symbiotic relationships between predator and prey are common in the animal kingdom, as well as American politics. The insinuation that there is a interspecial communication going on with packs and conspiracies is downright delicious.

So I Learned.   


Reflections on Globalization

{Excerpts from a recently submitted essay}    

      It is easy to ask the question “Does globalization do more harm than good”, take a side and engage in an Aristotelian either/or debate. It is also a childish way of addressing a complex topic. Globalization is here to stay. It is really more important to ask the utilitarian question of how do we gglobalizationo about globalization with the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people and the least amount of harm to the least amount of people?

     Globalization really started as soon as one nation-state began systematically trading with another. Of course it got much more complicated than that with coalitions and trade organizations. The world’s first attempts at globalization were in the Colonialist Age. Google gives us the definition of colonialism as “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.” Let’s adapt that to “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial economic control over another country, occupying it through trade and culture, and exploiting it politically” and I think we have a fair understanding of globalization. It has been said that “Globalization is a form of colonialism that prevents the development of third world countries” (

     One of the positive aspects of globalization versus its predecessors is that the tools used are much more peaceful and less destructive. Why send in expensive troops when you can send in jobs and sit-coms? We would like to think that this is an ‘exchange of ideas’ and that other countries are sharing equally with us. However for every “Gangnam Style” music explosion or the embracing of authors like Khaled Hosseini, we are exporting billion dollar movie franchises and selling cigarettes to low-income countries at a profit rate never before seen (

 USB Culture Bombs     

Let’s refrain from pure cynicism and mere capitalist bashing though. There is an organization called Flashdrives for Freedom that is sure that the best way to take down the North Korean regime by smuggling in USB drives with American popular culture on them ( Flashdrives for Freedom is certain that when enough North Koreans are exposed to the wonders of Western culture, regime change is sure to follow.

       There is no doubt that globalization has had an adverse effect on Middle America’s economic stance, taking away manufacturer jobs with sustainable wages in exchange for fancy smartphones and cheap prices at Walmart. As a whole for America, globalization has been a boon but it’s hard to appreciate that when Main Street is all boarded up. The demonization of globalization is occurring because the technocrats who are winning at this new global game are neglecting to share with the displaced factory workers. It is the phenomenon of the “McWorld” we read about. Worse, some of these American victims of “McWorld” are falling into the tribalist trap, blaming the ethnic Other for their ills.

      As always, I see the key to a better tomorrow in Education and Democracy. Globalization built upon educating everyone as much as we can will pay for itself. Productivity and success will be our proof as the world learns more about itself and its people stand and contribute for the good of all.


Variations of Self

   I am not a proponent of the Single Self theory. We wear variations on the various roles, job-titles and social labels we are given. Masks if you will.  The masks can take on a life and personality of their own and when we are weak-willed and/or merely superstitiously enthralled they can lead us and change us.  Jack Vance touches on this briefly in the first of his Planet of Adventure series The City of the Chasch.  citcha The tribal nomad humans that the hero Adam Reith meets incorporate masks (or Emblems) and the Emblems' personalities into their society.   Reith's first companion, Traz Onmale, wears the Emblem of the tribe's leader (Onmale, the origin of his surname) but Reith convinces him to give it up and escape the tribal life with him.  Be observant of what mask you are wearing when and if your actions are of your core self or the mask.  Learn to exert yourself above the Will of the mask.  Learn to give in to a mask when it best for a situation. 

   This can be used for self-programming.  Uncle Al used to use a large ring, probably some gaudy Masonic thing, and each finger would be assigned personality traits.  He would exercise his Will so that when the ring was on say the vegetarian finger, he would act accordingly.

  This may seem similar on a lower scale to when we fetishize objects into being our "lucky" T-Shirt or "holy" underwear.  However in these cases we think the object comes to us with these special 'magical' properties already endowed, having nothing to do with us ourselves as higher beings.  Like that T-Shirt came from the factory cosmically attuned to help Favorite Sports Team win or your G*d only approves of those in certain mass-produced undershirts. 

The Papa’s poetry

My initial fascination with the internet back in the late 90s and ongoing was the sense that all of humanity's quirks & eccentricities was slowly growing into cyberspace.  What was forming was a huge superconsciousness fueled by porn and cat memes. (For what it's worth, cats currently outnumber porn)   A new evolution of consciousness was upon us.

    As make-your-site places popped up, like geocities and angelfire, you got a true glimpse into people and their individual qabalahs for better or for worse.   I joined in the best I could, in those days of heavy shamanic self-medication, randomly creating accounts, dropping rants and then finds new places to sprinkle with my prose.  It was more personal as the content was created rathered than the recycled posting that happens on social media now. 

   My father-in-law has been going slowly deaf most of his adult life.  Years as a solitary self-employed lumberer tethered him to his own thoughts as the chainsaws help eat away at his hearing. He is retired now.  Recently the Papa and his new bride went and acquired iPhones, stepping bodly into the 21st century, tickled by the thoughts of being able to speak to the computers help in their hands.

    The Papa continues to be a man of nature. The sunrise finds him up and ready for a walk. He drives off to secluded spots with his trusted companion Windy and spends the first several hours of the day getting thick with nature.

     The new iPhone has made this ritual a little different.  The Papa sends out dozens of photos & videos to his children, bride and grandson of his morning explorations complete with the type of in-joke ridden captions you expect from a man who doesn't let the silence stop him from thinking.  When asked he apologized for not putting me on the list but I insisted.  This is what I enjoyed, 21st technology sharing with us the poetry of a man's soul.  The is what the internet, the Great Glass Bead Game, is for.

3 Lives

We all live three lives: a public one, a private and our secret life.  Most of us tend to work on one/the other or both of the former and ignore or work around the latter.

When we are in a relationship, at first we only share our private lives.  As the relationship deepens, we cannot help but be affected and effect each other with our secret lives.  This is not conscious.

This hidden part, this is where are neuroses, our 'demons' tend to be buried.  Our secret lives are secret for a reason. We are protective, if not ashamed of them and having someone so close to your inner core is frightening.  This is partly why familiarity breeds contempt.

To further a or any relationship, it our duty as a Lover to strengthen our 'inner core' as it were in order to deepen the relationship.  Tame our neuroses, lay the demons down on the talking couch.  Keep time for yourself to dwell in the 'crazy' continue to have a third secret life.  But temper yourself into your private life so that you be Love & Healing for those who share private lives with you.

I think they do it on purpose

A thoughtful piece by Jesse Walker:

Having lived through the neo-conservative revolution with it’s “stay on message” media philosophy, I tend to see shifts in media truespeak as orchestrated. A perfect example is the brilliant slander of the term “political correctness” to hurl against someone who calls you out on your bigotry.