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donderdag 30 augustus 2007

Shrooms

I read an article this morning on Magic Mushrooms (Knack, vol. 37 nr. 35). Shrooms, as you well know, induce a hallucinogenic experience when eaten. The outside world looks distorted, in the sense that it changes your perspective. A bit like looking at something through a lens that focuses on one point. It’s a powerful trip that lasts from 4 to 8 hours (in general). Afterwards you need a few days to recuperate and to give your brain the chance to figure out what the hell happened. It’s a drug that confronts you with yourself. This implies that it is best to stay away from it when you’re not feeling well psychologically. Mostly, it’s also a good idea not to combine shrooms with other substances. If you keep this in mind you can have an amazing trip.

Recently however there has been some negative publicity about mushrooms. This teenage French chick jumped from a building in Amsterdam after taking them, among other incidents with foreigners. Most problems come from the English. Britons tend to come to the Netherlands to get wasted legally. But, as always, they overdo it. The minute their plane lands they start quaffing beer, then go to the coffeeshop to smoke some weed, and then to the smartshop for some mushrooms. Surprise, surprise, they get fucked up. Now there's talk of banning paddos. Let's hope that it doesn't come that far.
In Brussels some kid has been involved in a family drama. At first it was thought that he had eaten paddos. It’s not entirely clear what he has to do with the murder of his parents. One thing is for sure, his story doesn’t hold up. He might have been wasted, … or not. It seems very unlikely to me that you would kill someone while tripping, since you have no proper coordination of your body. He claims he didn't do it, although he was in or the near the place where it happened. It is known now that he didn't take any drugs whatsoever at the time of the murders. But the damage is done. Yet another link to 'drugs bad!' has been made in the minds of the public.

Immediately afterwards the youth detox center De Sleutel (transl.: The Key) was asked for an opinion. Although they have a lot of experience in dealing with addicts, they tend to say the dumbest things. Apparently shrooms cause dizziness, vomiting, mental instability and paranoia. The concerned parents hear this and they wonder how anyone would get involved with something as “dangerous” as that. What the good people of De Sleutel forget to mention is that you can have an awesome experience on shrooms. The same goes for other drugs as well. They always tell you what the negative effects are. Then some kid tries xtc, for example, and he has an amazing flash. As a result they don’t believe a word of what the counsellors are saying, and he will probably abuse, instead of use, his substance of choice. But hey, how would they know? In the interview about the drama, this woman from De Sleutel told us that “she was told” what the effects are. That feels to me like an IT technician who doesn’t use computers. I’m not saying they should try it all out, although something wouldn’t hurt.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. I guess I feel that people should chill out more and stop going paranoid over everything that happens. Sometimes someone or something is to blame, and sometimes things just are. I just don’t trust people that get morally righteous. Most of the time it’s the anti-gay activist that pays for blowjobs by twelve year old boys in Thailand. My point is, I guess, drugs don’t destroy people, people destroy people. Most of the dope on the market can be used sensibly by sensible people (I’m not talking about crack or shooting heroine). A friend of mine summed it up by stating that “an addiction is not a problem as long as you can function in society”. This being said, magic mushrooms are certainly not addictive. The effect is too intense. Coke, xtc and speed are easy drugs. The flash you’re on is relatively mellow, whereas with mushrooms you go into a slightly different world for a rather lengthy period of time. In all fairness, not everyone can be trusted to act in a sensible manner. Honest information would help though. Also, it's probably best not to take anything before adulthood since your brain isn't fully developed until you're about twenty.

Anyway, I’ll stop ranting now, just remember two things: firstly, whatever you do, moderation is the key. If you take some dope only a few times a year it’s not that big of a problem. Just don’t go bother other people when you’re on some trip; and secondly,

dinsdag 28 augustus 2007

Cut it, Out

Last Friday, Steve Montana and I went to the Meeting of Styles 2007 at the Kavka Youth Centre in Antwerp. This is a graffiti event that takes place in different cities all over Europe, with original artwork (of course), live shows and parties. Although graffiti interests me, I mainly went to see Senses Overloaded, a project by Lamont (Antwerp) and 2tall (London), both accomplished dj’s and turntablists. Lamont has been working together with dj Grazzhoppa for some time now, as a member of the latter’s DJ Big Band and as co-founder of Realtablist Records, and has released a number of mix tapes and battle records (e.g. DJ’s from Earth, Unknown Break Project). 2tall started out as a drum and bass dj, but he evolved into a premier scratcher. As a member of the Truesicians crew he won several turntable competitions. The now (sadly) defunct label Needlework Records (founded by Turntable Radio and Rhythm Incursions’ Mr. Trick and DJ Monk-A) released his first EP (The Rise), which was very well received, and the following solo album (Shifting Tides), which got critical acclaim. After that he produced several mix tapes (e.g. Loose ends for divination) and has made some notable remixes (e.g. Quasimoto’s Broad Factor). In the near future his new album should be coming out, on which he has collaborated with a rapper (Dudley Perkins) and a singer (Georgia Anne Muldrow).

DJ Monk-A has lived and worked in Brussels for three years (up till about a year ago). Connections were made with Belgian turntablists like Lamont, Killa Tactics, IFC and dj Reck (Grazzhoppa was already known across the channel through his collabos with, amongst others, Blade) and during that time 2tall paid a visit to his friend as well. He met Lamont and they decided to make a record together, which resulted in the Senses Overloaded EP. A very decent record I might add that I’ll be buying at the first opportunity. So, with great expectations I went to the Kavka youth centre, where the event took place, and Steve (indulging me) went along. The place wasn’t exactly crowded. As in: it was half empty. But, that couldn’t dampen my spirit. For the occasion the two dj’s had brought a vj or something, to add some images to the show. Their setup consisted of turntables, loop stations and samplers. They started doing their thing: images were rolling, beats were made, soundscapings placed on top and the scratching began. After about two songs I realized that I was thinking about other stuff. 2tall and Lamont were blending the sounds expertly, their scratches were on point, … and I couldn’t be bothered. It dawned on me that I’ve had it with all that scratching that’s making you itch. With all the evolution that it’s made, from transform to crab to hydroplanes and more, it can sound interesting at best, but it doesn’t make you want to sit down because the emotion is overwhelming you. When I heard Toots Thielemans play John Lennon's imagine (a song we've all heard way too much) I got a lump in my throat. It was that beautiful. I had the same problem with Ninja Tune founders Coldcut. They make very good sample based music, but live I couldn’t be entertained by two guys pushing buttons and projecting images. I can still dig turntable and sample based music. But, more on record than at a live venue. A few years ago I saw Gunkhole (D-Styles, Mike Boo, Ricci Rucker, and a drummer called Ace). Beforehand I had bought the Bastard Language Tour DVD (D-Styles, Mike Boo, Excess, Toadstyle and Ricci Rucker). At the time it was revolutionary to see these guys make easy listening, smooth turntable music, as opposed to the style that was set in motion in the nineties by the Invisbl Skratch Piklz. Live, it was very interesting what they were doing, especially to see these subtle scratches. But in the end, it didn’t seem to go anywhere. You have the build up, some cuts, and … that’s about it. The same goes for Grazzhoppa’s Big Band. As a concept, 6 dj’s and a saxophone player (later 12 dj’s), brilliant and a first in the world, but it didn’t add anything more to the musical evolution of a turntable band. In the same genre, I’m more of Kid Koala fan though. Most of the time I’m not really into his records, because, there, as well, there seems to be something missing. But the ever friendly Canadian has enough personality and ingenuity to make his live performances worthwhile. Especially when he comes with a live band, i.e. Bullfrog. I think that’s more the direction turntablism should take. As a part of a band, the dj can add to the whole. A band with just turntables is a bit like a cappella singers or all guitar bands, interesting to listen to but after a while you’ve heard what there is to hear. I’m not dissing the dj crews that have been and are. It was at the time very necessary for dj’s to stick together so they could find their place in the world of music. What's more, this way they were able to evolve faster than they could have on their own. Before the Piklz, the dj was nothing more than a prop at a rap show. And even afterwards, often he didn’t get a chance to really add something. At the Alicia Keys show (in Vorst Nationaal, Brussels) the dj couldn’t even be heard (not that a great dj would have been able to lift a mediocre concert to a good one).

Since, it has become clear that turntable music is here to stay, thanks to the Picklz, X-ecutioners, Beatjunkies, Scratch Perverts, Allies and others, but it’s time for a new direction. Guys like Ricci Rucker, A-Track and Q-Bert are trying out new stuff. Every now and then something new is added. So I keep an eye out for new evolution. But, in the meantime I think I’d rather check out some good funk or jazz. I’m not putting down what Lamont and 2tall did. In the turntablism context they put up a decent show and I would recommend their albums to anyone. They can both scratch with the best of them. Only, scratches, in my humble opinion, are at their most effective when used sparingly. At the right moment they can really add something to a song. Live everybody likes to show off what they can do, which is perfectly normal. The effect it has on me though is that I lose interest after a while. Anyway, hip-hop wise we’re living in the twilight zone. Every decade or so styles switch dramatically. The dj/producer can help shape the sound of tomorrow. Quality in music won’t come from the 50 Cents, Missy Elliots or Timbalands of this world. So I’m rooting for the Lamonts, 2talls, Ricci Ruckers, Joey Beats and Recks. Only a few years left to go, and then we’ll see what the future holds.

vrijdag 24 augustus 2007

Introduction

This is my first blog. I hope you will enjoy it.

I tend to read a fair amount of books. The problem is that I'm under the assumption that uninteresting topics don't exist. As a result, my collection of books is somewhat ecclectic. Since I can't read everything, most of my non-fiction is historical literature, but since history covers most of what we have done ..., well you get the idea. As you can imagine I forget quite some details of what I've read because of the different subjects. Repetition works, so the initial idea for this blog was simply to write about what I've read. More as a mnemonic tool for myself than anything else.

Gradually the object changed somewhat in my mind. A friend of mine told me once that, in essence, everybody in the entire world is completely mad besides himself. And I think he's right, everyone is mad besides myself (this idea works for you as well). So, I'll be talking about the things that I see around me (in my personal life or in the world in general) that illustrate the madness of the human race. Don't get me wrong I'm no goody-two-shoes on a self righteous trip. I just feel it's a comforting thought to know that at least someone around here isn't crazy. The general madness of life can be sad, but mostly, it can be very amusing.

I'll try to post on a, more or less, regular basis, but I can't make any promises.

donderdag 23 augustus 2007

Outside the Asylum

"His house was certainly peculiar, and since this was the first thing that Fenchurch and Arthur had encountered it would help to know what it was like. What it was like was this: It was inside out. Actually inside out, to the extent that they had to park on the carpet. All along what one would normally call the outer wall, which was decorated in a tasteful interior-designed pink, were bookshelves, also a couple of those odd three-legged tables with semi-circular tops which stand in such a way as to suggest that someone just dropped the wall straight through them, and pictures which were clearly designed to soothe. Where it got really odd was the roof. It folded back on itself like something that Maurits C. Escher, had he been given to hard nights on the town, which is no part of this narrative's purpose to suggest was the case, though it is sometimes hard, looking at his pictures, particularly the one with the awkward steps, not to wonder, might have dreamed up after having been on one, for the little chandeliers which should have been hanging inside were on the outside pointing up. Confusing. The sign above the front door said, "Come Outside", and so, nervously, they had. Inside, of course, was where the Outside was. Rough brickwork, nicely done painting, guttering in good repair, a garden path, a couple of small trees, some rooms leading off. And the inner walls stretched down, folded curiously, and opened at the end as if, by an optical illusion which would have had Maurits C. Escher frowning and wondering how it was done, to enclose the Pacific Ocean itself. "Hello," said John Watson, Wonko the Sane. Good, they thought to themselves, "Hello" is something we can cope with. "Hello," they said, and all surprisingly was smiles.
[...]
"Your wife," said Arthur, looking around, "mentioned some toothpicks." [...] Wonko the Sane laughed. It was a light easy laugh, and sounded like one he had used a lot before and was happy with.
"Ah yes," he said, "that's to do with the day I finally realised that the world had gone totally mad and built the Asylum to put it in, poor thing, and hoped it would get better." This was the point at which Arthur began to feel a little nervous again. "Here," said Wonko the Sane, "we are outside the Asylum." He pointed again at the rough brickwork, the pointing and the guttering. "Go through that door," he pointed at the first door through which they had originally entered, "and you go into the Asylum. I've tried to decorate it nicely to keep the inmates happy, but there's very little one can do. I never go in there now myself. If ever I am tempted, which these days I rarely am, I simply look at the sign written over the door and shy away." "That one?" said Fenchurch, pointing, rather puzzled, at a blue plaque with some instructions written on it. "Yes. They are the words that finally turned me into the hermit I have now become. It was quite sudden. I saw them, and I knew what I had to do." The sign said: Hold stick near centre of its length. Moisten pointed end in mouth. Insert in tooth space, blunt end next to gum. Use gentle in-out motion. "It seemed to me," said Wonko the sane, "that any civilization that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instructions for use in a packet of toothpicks, was no longer a civilization in which I could live and stay sane." He gazed out at the Pacific again, as if daring it to rave and gibber at him, but it lay there calmly and played with the sandpipers. "And in case it crossed your mind to wonder, as I can see how it possibly might, I am completely sane. Which is why I call myself Wonko the Sane, just to reassure people on this point. Wonko is what my mother called me when I was a kid and clumsy and knocked things over, and sane is what I am, and how," he added, with one of his smiles that made you feel, "Oh. Well that's all right then." "

With thanks to the great Douglas Adams for pointing out the madness of the world we're living in.