Tuesday, October 21, 2014

INTERROBANG (2014): Music Review















A sonic interrogation with a bang! "INTERROBANG" (2014) by local D.C. artist Navid Azeez (“Navi”) is a potent, purposeful mash-up of quip raps, quick beats, and a whole lot of indie funk. Needling through its musical fabric is a sort of loud lament (both vocal and textual), a longing call, for our attention to focus on the ordinary, all the while using a patchwork of extraordinary deliveries to orchestrate the larger vocal stunt of Navi’s fourth solo EP.

Vividly different from the back-story sounds of “Grayscale” (2010), “ITERROBANG” peels itself apart from the ethnic narratives and drops into a world, or a mode, of hyperrealism. The album aims to poke at the ordinary until the ordinary pops out its extraordinary essence. An English major in college, one finds no lack in analyzing Navi’s source texts for their own verbal mastery. A multitalented Sri Lankan-American hip hop artist by profession, he is also a producer, writer, graphic designer, illustrator, and a co-founder of the Washington DC-based collective/record label: Delegation Music. Note that all the images in this article, and the album cover, are Navi's original artworks.

First and foremost, I must admit—I did learn a new word: interrobang.

in·ter·ro·bang noun \in-ˈter-ə-ˌbaŋ\

Merriam-Webster defines this oddity as “a punctuation mark ‽ designed for use especially at the end of an exclamatory rhetorical question.” True to its semantics, all seven song titles are trite puzzles—left solely for the listener to disentangle. So disentangle we shall then. The verdict?

Navi - El Jefe!? (8.3/10)
Arguably my favorite of the lot, for anyone whose had that eccentric landlord from Hell (pretty much everybody) welcome to your “you get me!” song. The witty lyrics play on a multitude of themes, from economic lingo to pervasively political themes such as rent, real-estate, Morgan Stanley and even the Sandusky ordeal and wiretapping—all the while aiming to portray the landlord as that annoyingly successful all-seer, the One who sees through Febreeze and Lysol. The wild Western music in the background sets the aura for a showdown type narrative, further abetted by Navi’s on and off rapid fire raps which occasionally flit and then slowdown to a borderline mocking, yet infectious chorus that chants “El Jefe!?” This one's definitely a download for that morning commute.

Navi - Expiration Date!? (7/10)
The familiarity is itching, and the drawl in the vocals is somewhat reminiscent of Drake—I know not if that is a good thing or a bad thing—but I personally liked it. Most sentences are almost the length of phrases and the abrupt “I” that interjects the popular Tove Lo’s chorus is well delivered and even better received. Definitely a different track from the rest of the album, and that kind of variety is a good thing.

Navi - Picnibus!?(6.5/10)
If anything this will make one somewhat hungry; and the music in the background takes you to an almost nomadic trance. It reminds me of gypsies and European travel. Not the easiest song to digest from the bunch.

Navi - Alexandra's Clean Jeans!? (7/10)
Sound Cloud notes that “[t]his song is about laundry” but I’m willing to bet a lot that this is anything but. Once again, loyal to the theme, the song draws on a banal object, this time apparel. But the thrust of the song is in the expression of an awkward momentary infatuation that spins into a day dream!? There is a ghoul-like chorus that wraps itself like a mummy around the song and holds it in place. It plays into the adoration theme, like as if Alexandra is Cleopatra—only in this case it is somewhat mocking. Once again though, this song has an interesting story behind it under all that dirty laundry. The lyrics give us some insight but not enough to make any airtight conclusions.

Navi - Dead Man's Things!? (6.7/10)
As the title suggests, this is an investigation into the remains of a personal history that is now covered with dust. The music itself isn’t the main act, since Navi’s vocals alone carry the weight of the track. A bit more musicality may have helped blend the tome-type preachy feel that hovers till the last note. But then again the current somberness, perpetuated by the depressed mellow tunes, perhaps work to create that sound image of stagnation and mechanic narration—you almost see an investigator poring over a dead man’s things, his thoughts becoming the audible rap.

Navi - The Honey Spot!? (8.3/10)
You can’t deny giving merit to all the different elements that congregate to make this song work. The opening's choppy electronic beats and their hypnotic repetition evoke the type of beehive pulp image that make this song work. The lyrics are sexually charged, almost sickly sweet like the nectarous honey they try to ooze out. Overall this release  hits the sweet spot.

Navi - Expiration Date (Fatback Remix!?) (6.2/10)
A darker version of the previous un-remixed track. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t do as much to warrant itself a place in the album, especially when “Expiration Date” itself does such a stellar job on its own. Not really a bad track, but more a question of—why do we need this one again?

Overall, "INTERROBANG" is quite the intriguing mix of tracks, and its true value resides not only in the sound waves but also in the textual ink. Some of these tracks are without doubt already on queue for download to my iPhone. For doing it right "INTERROBANG" earns a solid 7.2/10 in our books. Adieu.

Be sure to have a listen: https://soundcloud.com/yourlocalnavi/sets/interrobang 

Friday, September 26, 2014

Neighbors (2014): Movie Review


Neighbors Official Poster - Universal Pictures Copyright
The last time I laughed this hard was probably for one of the better “Hangover” movies. In “Neighbors” (2014) Zac Efron (Teddy Sanders) and Seth Rogan (Mac Radner) team up to throw you a bash that is nothing short of epic.

Efron’s performance is solid; and his intentional flaunting of his own chiseled physique only adds to fuel the mild envy of the audience. After hearing the calls for Seth Rogan to take on a different role from all his ever similar movies—especially audible from the meta-criticisms hurled by his fellow cast members in “This Is the End” (2013)—we see this manifest, somewhat. While different from the typical “Pineapple Express” (2008) type roles he usually puts on, he hasn’t exactly diverged from his stoner days altogether. Here he is more of a husband stoner, really, as the remnants from his foggy days still cling to him like a smoker’s breath. It really is Rose Byrne (Kelly Radner) who blindsides us all with her laugh-out-loud comic chops. Her infectious Aussie accent coupled with her quirky lines and slapstick stunts give her character some well-earned comedic respect.

Directed by Nicholas Stoller, and written by Andrew Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, the plot is as follows: A young suburban couple just moved into a perfect neighborhood and plan on fitting into their quintessential yuppie lifestyle and age happily ever after into the American Dream until—the Greeks descend! Yes, of course, next to them in move a fraternity led by the alpha stud Efron and his henchmen, with their Delta, Beta, Gamma letter cutouts and all.

Commons - Wikipedia
It’s an intellectually non-taxing comedy, rolled tight with reams of slapstick humor. Sometimes it gets so ridiculous, and so outrageous, that we don’t even question the logic because the thunderous waves of laughter ram the theater and fill in for all the lack of reason. Interestingly, the movie tiptoes along the border of the generational divide, swaying between Generation X and Generation Y by picking two age groups of characters who are not too far apart from another: so much so that they almost recognize themselves in one another. It briefly stumbles into the terrain of seriousness, however, when it reflects on the brevity of college life and that lifestyle—that the frat’s lifespan is as short as the major that sustains it. For those who think otherwise, they are in for a rude awakening as with the case of Teddy.

Commons - Wikimedia
As with any fraternity-type movie the need to play on male homoerotic desire is high, and that card is well erected, stretching all throughout the movie and then doused with typical college accompaniments of binge drinking, pledges, rush, sex and all that good college stuff. Scene after scene the movie builds up well, from funny to funnier, with a plot line that knows oh too well how to steer away from stupid.

Rogan’s dopey antics and Efron’s self obsessed airheaded mantra huddle  at the core of this movie. Around this nucleus, the story is secured by the awkward bandwagon cast seen by the likes of the bumbling Ike Barinholtz (Jimmy); the dashing Dave Franco (Pete)—who injects the lessons learnt tingle of the movie; and the gorgeous Halston Sage (Brooke) who literally appears to be the living embodiment of every jock’s dream girl.

I loved this movie mostly because it was all good fun. It was laugh out loud college humor with a good looking bunch that can be aesthetically appealing and still not too dumb to not tell you a good story. For this and more “Neighbors” graduates with first class honors with an 8.8/10. Adieu.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Literartist Hits 50,000 Views!

Will keep this real short.


I honestly didn’t think I’d reach this milestone anytime soon. I also hadn’t set a timeframe for myself when I began because The Literartist bubbled from my own self-interests, particularly the need to express myself. Along the way, however, article after article, I noticed that my writing seemed to trickle its way down to certain audiences who wanted more. I still find it hilarious that my most popular post to date, the spine of this blog really, is my review of a Beyoncé song—"The Best Thing I Never Had" with 10,636 views alone. The month I released my critique on Queen B was the month I realized that a couple of hidden literary engines, buried deep inside the Literartist’s vaults, had suddenly roared to life. Even more enlightening is knowing where my readers are coming from. Sri Lanka, my home country, accounts for less than 6% of total readership; while curiously, this site has attracted readers from a 157 countries to date including Israel, Iceland, Belize, Sudan, and even one visit each from Rwanda and Burma (Myanmar).

I express my sincerest gratitude to you, the avid reader, for helping The Literartist hike through its ongoing journey of expression. Some of you have been with me and “it” from the start, and some of you are reading this announcement as your very first post. Regardless, I thank you for your visit(s) and for your support. I encourage you to sign up for updates on the top left via email, and to also become members and follow the site using your Google/other accounts (scroll down to the Followers widget on the left). I also pledge to you that together we will make this milestone the stepping stone for sprinting to greater heights. There are a lot more treats coming your way in the form of articles, reviews, pages, and interactive user interfaces via social media. Feedback is always welcome and encouraged. Tell me what you like, and what you don’t, that which you want and that which you won’t. Once again, THANK YOU dear reader. Without you this would not be this. You are truly my Literaudience. So read on! Adieu.

Monday, September 8, 2014

To Kill Another Person


How does a human rip the pumping life out of another? And then have the conscience to toss that victim's sacred soul into the air like some rag cloth?

Knife - PublicDomainPictures by Pixabay
Why is this act so inconceivable to me, to you, to us? Is it that we were brought up right, that we are so anchored down by empathy, ethics and morality to feel so alien when pushed up against this barbaric idea? Or have we not yet been confronted with the possibility? Even if we ever were, I still think we would emerge from the trial the greater person, victoriously hoisting our righter choice: to save.

So if the problem, then, is not "us", it has to be "them". The irony is that the "them" is a conjoined part of our larger "us". They breathe the same air as you and me, and occupy the same physical spaces on this one finite Earth. Yet between us and them dwells difference. Why?

Politicians become killers, their hands sticky with blood, when they bless wars. Soldiers turn killers when they jog into the thick of battle. Militants ripen more killers when they renegade against their foes. And we, the baffled harmless bystanders, become paint scabs on walls, watching with wide eyes, while we crack from disbelief as we witness it: The darkest nature of human nature—the ability to kill.

Commons Wikimedia 
Did Colonel Tibbets, the pilot of Enola Gay, really know what he had nesting in his undercarriage as he cruised through the strong icy headwind before dropping Little Boy at 08:15 A.M. on Hiroshima: 80,000 people dead. When a psycho ex-wife revengefully stabs her husband, does she know she is shutting off his breath as her knife twists in and out, slicing gut, muscle, and artery, bleeding the soul. 1 dead.  When a few individuals of a roused up mob in Aluthgama open fire on their own Sri Lankans and their bullets sear through bone, marrow, and skull, do they know they’ve robbed the lives of their victims: 3 dead. When Hamas launches a cluster of rockets that are vaporized by the Iron Dome, and when Israel's jets streak through the breaking dawn, raining fire bombs on a dome-less wedged strip, do they blink twice from their actions? 2000+ dead.

Humans have killed, are killing, and will keep killing humans. But why, damn it!?

A large existential question to wrestle with, and one that cannot be pinned down here. It is like trying to open Pandora's box to retrieve a precious truth soaked with reason. Because we cannot open it in this blog, this is more like sinking your arm into the box to scoop out one serving of truth so that we can then ladle it out, onto this article, to create meaning. My hope is that the essence of truth can flavor the whole.

Religiously, human acts are ordered to be pristine. The Bible remarks that "You shall not murder" (Matthew 5:21). The Torah specifies that "You shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17). The Veda that "you must not use your God-given body for killing God's creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever” (Yajur Veda 12.32). In Buddhism, of the Five Precepts the first is “No Killing”. Likewise, the Quran's elucidates that "whoever kills a soul... - it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one - it is as if he had saved mankind entirely" (5:32).

Tree Bark Texture - Deviantart
As a young adult I never understood what it meant when it said "it is as if he had slain mankind entirely". I thought it was being rhetorical or melodramatic until I heard an explanation. It warns of how the death of the one leads to the death of entire generations. Generations that could have been but will now never be. For example, that the murder of a young man prevents his child(ren) from being born, which then prevents his offspring's offspring from being born and so on. When the initial branch is cut, the bloodline meant to course through future branches will never flow. In essence, the killing of the one is the killing of the sacred lineage of humanity.

So why do we kill? The motives are many. Here are some broad strokes I've copied from others' writings. I take no credit for their work or their research. The remainder of this article contains direct extractions from two sources that I found to be very interesting and accessible. I have condensed them for the interest of time but their full versions can be read by clicking the original links below.

The first is from the writings of Dr. Sohail, who notes that unlike animals, who kill only in self defense or when they are hungry, humans can display malignant violence (which means humans add meanings to their violence). In his words:

If we review human murders we can classify them into the following seven groups based on emotional, social, religious, economic or political motivation:

1. PERSONAL REVENGE

2. SERIAL KILLERS

Wikipedia
Those who kill strangers, we call them serial killers and mass murderers. Serial killers, who were usually physically, emotionally and sexually abused as children, became revengeful against a particular group, be they blacks or women, gays or Hispanics, whom they killed indiscriminately until they were caught by police. Many such serial killers have psychopathic and sociopathic personalities.

3. SOCIAL VIOLENCE OF GANGS

As more and more people move from villages to cities and adopt an urban lifestyle, they face the pains of migration, social alienation and unemployment and some of them become involved in violent gangs. It is fascinating how these gangs provide a sense of identity and belonging to young men and women who feel lost, confused and isolated in big cities.

4. MENTAL ILLNESS

Some suffer from schizophrenia, manic depressive illness and paranoid psychosis. When these emotionally disturbed people feel threatened and attacked, they may think they need to kill before they are killed. Such people, rather than going to prison, are sent to hospitals for psychiatric treatment.

Harvest of Death by Family Tree Magazine
5. POLITICAL / NATIONAL VIOLENCE

As nationalism became popular in the West, states created national armies. Over the centuries, soldiers in the uniform of one country killed only the soldiers of the enemy army. As guerrilla war became popular, both sides have been killing innocent civillians. Some call it using human shields while others call it collateral damage. Human beings can be executed by their own governments, under capital punishment laws ordered by the courts. These are murders committed by legalized state violence.

6. VIOLENCE OF RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISTS

Some of those killings are done to create theocratic states. Many such murders are ordered by religious leaders who have charismatic and cultish personalities.

7. INTERNATIONAL VIOLENCE

In the recent past, governments have been sending their armies to other countries and invading sovereign states in order to topple their governments; they have killed innocent civilians and then rationalized their murders in the name of democracy, human rights and freedom. We are all aware that they are economic wars aimed at establishing the aggressor’s military presence all over the world, selling weapons and ensuring access to the conquered countries’ resources.

Similarly, “How Stuff Works.com” (an unconventional choice of a source, I know) also gives us further insight into the condition of violent consciousness. They write that:

A person with antisocial personality disorder feels no empathy toward others. This psychological designation includes people we call psychopaths and sociopaths. They feel very little emotion at all and may seek out dangerous or thrilling situations to get an emotional response. They tend to be deceitful and feel no shame or guilt for misleading others. While they may recognize right from wrong, they may not care about the distinction. Many serial killers and mass murderers fall into this designation -- they kill because they lack the inhibitions and empathy the rest of us possess.

What about acts of genocide? How do societies justify wiping out an entire subsection of people? According to a hypothesis posed by Ervin Staub, genocide is a result of a combination of environmental hardships and psychological coping. Staub suggests that when times are hard, people look for an excuse or scapegoat. That can include identifying a subsection of the population as being responsible for the hardship the community experiences. Wiping out that population is a way to cope with the hardship.

What about the rest of us? What could drive us to kill? Since our decisions are based upon both emotions and reason, we can sometimes favor one over the other. In emotionally charged situations, we may allow ourselves to act impulsively, ignoring rationality. These so-called crimes of passion can happen between people with strong emotional bonds. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 30 percent of all female murder victims were killed by their spouses. Another 18.3 percent were killed by ex-spouses. Only 8.7 percent of all female victims were killed by a stranger [source: Bureau of Justice Statistics].

DR. SOHAIL’S CONCLUDING COMMENTS:
 
Peace Please by IAP Community
It is sad to realize that violent consciousness is on the rise and that the borders between just and unjust wars have blurred. Even in the 21st century we have not risen above a tribal mentality. I am afraid that if we do not develop peace consciousness and do not feel compassion for all of humanity, we might commit collective suicide and may not evolve to the next stage of human evolution.

With all that said, I'll leave you with this. I love being left alone in peace. I think others would too. Peace people, peace. Adieu.


Text extracts from:

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Am I Right or Right?


At the center of your being,
you have the answer;
you know who you are,
and you know what you want
-Lao Tzu
PublicDomainPictures - Pixabay
I have always pondered the concept of what it means to be accepted by others. Either consciously or otherwise, we constantly judge others. That judgment is succeeded by selective treatment to one another. And thus, our own concept of what is right or wrong and acceptable or unacceptable is born. Our own concept is so ingrained in our lives and cultures that we forget it exists. We forget that sometimes it is simply an opinion and not a moral standard. We forget to consider what makes us think and perceive events, people or places the way we do. We forget equity in our strive for equality. We simply forget. My thought is that we reside in a biased world that is governed by persons' ideologies of what it means to "do the right thing" or what it means to be "accepted." One would assume that in today's world, it is much different compared to the past. That we are moving past prejudices and negative perceptions. While that may seem true to a certain extent, I see it as simply transferring to a different phase. It's not entirely eliminated but exists in a different shape or form, possibly unknown.


Cristiana Beta - Clique
Being an accounting major, I am inclined to draw upon what might be considered a very geeky example of the topic at hand. So, a professional was relating a story to me regarding his accounting professor who was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). The professor found two students cheating on an exam and as an experiment asked two simple questions from the class the next day. The first was, if a CPA was found guilty of fraud involving a client's business, would you choose among 4 answers that ascended in severity ranging from giving a warning to sent to prison. The students chose either c or d. The second was, if you found one of your classmates cheating on an exam, would you choose among the 4 answers with the same format ranging from giving a warning to dismissed from the university. The students chose either a or b. While the two scenarios are different in an obvious sense, they are alike in many ways. Therefore, what makes the CPA more wrong or less right than the student? While the outcome is an interesting phenomenon of how we make a judgment based on the facts given, limited as they are, it is not unexpected. We can expect people to make exceptions for others or themselves. People's perceptions and reasoning changes based on the factors affecting it. It's like the flowing waters of a river, changing its course along the way.


Geralt
Like many kids growing up, I let myself be governed by others' perceptions of who I was. I felt it was necessary to be accepted by those whose acquaintances I paid an unduly high emphasis on. Thinking back, I cannot fathom why I would succumb to another's opinion of me, but I could understand the rationale behind my actions. I wanted to be a part of what I thought was the "in" group. It's an age old system of using popularity as a determinant of what's accepted and not. Therefore, it wasn't until I was forced out of my comfort zone and realized that what seemed unacceptable was perfectly alright, that my thought process changed. I thrived and continued to do so by being who I wanted to be instead of being who I thought I should be. In some people's eyes' I may still be a nobody, but in those that mattered, I was and will always be somebody. However, not many kids may come to the realization that they are in fact somebody, if they simply took away the factors that held them from being so. As the famous words by Eleanor Roosevelt goes, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

Wikipedia 
The song 'Cool Kids' by Echosmith released in May 2013, brings up a similar point. It portrays a guy and a girl who simply want to be noticed. The lyrics go, "I wish that I could be like the cool kids, 'Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in." While the lyrics did a poor job in the creativity department, people still connected with the theme and the song became relatable. It's popularity surged and landed a spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 2014.  Self worth is a sensitive topic for some. Their whole life revolves around questioning if they've done the right thing or what others will think of them. So, for the next person that doubts their self worth because of the judgments of the universal "other", remember, time is better spent being who you are than chastising yourself for it.

This piece was penned by a guest writer, exclusively for the Literartist. Let us know your thoughts below

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Movie Review


Commons - WikiMedia
For being the designated underdog of superhero movies, “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) comes out swinging like a top dog—putting to shame some of the larger more well-known Marvel superhero flicks like “Iron Man 2” and “Thor 2”—sequels that lumbered to the ground from the weight of their own overblown egos. We all love a good underdog story, and this was excellent.

Once again the reactionary disclaimer lives in the level of entertainment one anticipates. If one strolls into the theater looking for medium to light entertainment, thou shalt be rewarded profusely. If one struts in, however, nose in air, expecting another Nolan-ian epic—then strut back out, please—because you must be really thickheaded to not know what you’ve come for in the first place.

The movie is an amalgam of many idiosyncratic parts that work. The diverse cast is solid, and their chemistry blossoms. What the flick does right is juggle its varieties like a seasoned clown, tossing emotion, humor, action, music and story up in the air in fluid spirals to create the appealing effects of feel-good summery entertainment. Ultimately, we find that we respect this clown when we clap for applause and stand for our ovations.

Chris Pratt - Wikipedia
Directed by James Gunn, “Guardians” begins with the story of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), a child in the 80s who faces an early tragedy with the loss of his mother to cancer. This is then followed by his alien abduction by space rogues. Zoom 26 years ahead and we have a hunk of a Quill whose main appeal is that he is, just, downright “cool”. He’s witty, rebellious, handsome, coolheaded and capable. Soon he is joined by stars Zoe Saldana (Gamora), Bradley Cooper (Rocket), Dave Bautista (Drax) and Vin Diesel (Groot) who then team up to prevent Lee Pace (Ronan), the manically genocidal dark lord, from mowing down planets via an Orb—a conveniently super powerful object that can help a loon to do this (kind of reminds you about nuclear warheads getting into the wrong hands doesn’t it). These characters are weird; yet they work. The weakest of them is Ronan, who is a bit cardboard-ish for a villain, looking like some misbegotten cross between Dan Brown’s albino monk Silas, and George Lukas’ Darth Vader. Unfortunately he inherited neither their brains nor impressionable auras.

Buried in this story, like a nugget, is an allegory. It is for our present day, and it touches on: weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, genocide, diplomacy, war and more. Strewn across are also some fantastic lines that resonate deeply with the human condition. So this movie does have a sub-level of serious content, but this is then quickly caked with light handed entertainment and baked for blockbuster digestion.

Pixabay
Not as overly reliant on slow-motion and freeze frames, the action sequences were good. Fast and snappy, it kept with the lightening pace of the movie. Quick edits at times did rob the movie of chances to explore character development (like in the initial scene of the two sisters where we are robbed of the deeper context) but it also kept us zipping through the story without any time for yawns. With all the time for laughter, the humor was witty, self-deprecating and genuinely funny—this could be the funniest Marvel flick yet, head-to-head only with “The Avengers” (2012). Originally, I was under the impression this would be a satire on superhero movies, but it turned out to be more meta critical of itself. Sympathy kills comedy, but “Guardians” was still able to make the movie rather touching at times while allowing us a grin or two, helping build on our fondness for Quill (or Star-Lord), Groot, Rocket and the others. The fact that this movie successfully pulled off two four minute emotional scenes was commendable, unlike the zero count seen in some other Marvel movies.

Public Gallery - Space
I’m not much of a space sci-fi fan, so the backdrops and interstellar landscapes might have passed over my head. The trailers too didn’t pay proper homage to the essence of this movie and I think it does remind us to not judge movies based on their trailers, if at all. But when, of course, you hear sounds like “Hooked on a Feeling,” “The Piña Colada Song,” and “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” all seems forgiven. The soundtrack is fantastic as it tastefully loops in some pleasantries from our bygone decades. I mean seriously, when you have the good ole music from the 70s and 80s playing in the background, you use them used for unconventionally awkward scenes by Star-Lord (you’ll see/remember what I mean) there’s not much you can do wrong, regardless of how out of place it all feels.

And with that, “Guardians” merits a solid 8.7 for doing things right, with its own crazy antics. Not your typical Marvel movie, but with the stack of stale units Marvel has given us recently, that really isn’t a bad thing. Adieu.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Shopping Thrifty in our Shared Economy




“Hey, Macklemore! Can we go thrift shopping?” squeaks the excited little darling at the thought of being taken by the grownup to the thrift store down the road to shop for secondhand treasures.

For a song about being cheap “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis went on to be the most successful track on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs Chart (source: BET). With over 6 million copies sold in the U.S. alone, this anthem for thriftiness made everything but spare change. Apart from all the thumping bass, the rhymes, the lyrics and euphonic melodies, what fascinates us and beckons our appreciation is how savvy the song really is. Every time I hear: “Only got twenty dollars in my pocket” I chuckle at the honesty. You and I both know what that is like: to scratch inside empty pockets. In a pop culture landscape plagued with the flashy shine of materialism, product placement and ostentatious pageantry, finally, arrives a musical message that is street-smart and sings difference.

By Moxlyn
The song is a social critique, and it jabs at how mindlessly we acquire the “things” we want. Commercialistic market forces in conjunction with mainstream media and consumerism constantly reinforce our ideas on how to buy “things”. They keep telling us that we only want something that is the “latest”, the “greatest” and the “newest” product and brand; and that to do so we also only need the Amazons, the Walmarts and Saks Fifth Avenues. Macklemore’s song grabs this notion by the collar and turns it inside out. He gives us a jarring way to think about how fun and cool it might be, instead, to shop elsewhere with bags studded with wisdom and thrift.        

In an interview with MTV, Macklemore says: “Rappers talk about, ‘Oh, I buy this and I buy that,’ and ‘I spend this much money and I make it rain,’ … [but] this is the kind of record that's the exact opposite. [The song “Thrift Shop” is] the polar opposite of it. It's kind of standing for, like, ‘let's save some money, let's keep some money away, let's spend as little as possible and look as fresh as possible at the same time.” Elsewhere, he remarks “[It’s about] how much can you save? How fresh can you look by not looking like anybody else?”

This revisionist thinking is so refreshing! It speaks to the idea of the peer-to-peer economy, or the “sharing economy.” This is an economic and social system that is built around the sharing of goods and services. It removes the “new” purchasing aspect and brings in the love of reusing to the equation. Some estimates put the value of this economy at almost $30 billion. In college we had book swaps to rebel against the hefty price tags of shiny retail shrink wrapped textbooks. At home we’ve had yard sales. And in the papers we still have classified ads. “Thrift Shop” reminded me of the same concept. The skyrocketing fame seen of Uber, Lyft and Airbnb are the result of harnessing the power of the shared economy. 

Wikimedia
“I’m gonna pop some tags” he sings. Well, why not? Why not save money by getting what you need for cheaper? Why not save the planet by reducing the waste from newly produced goods by reusing the stock of existing goods? Why not feel good from finding a steal of a deal? Why not feel refreshingly satisfied about helping someone else with a clean swap? Why not contribute to earthly sustainability in your own micro way? Exactly. There is no reason not to.        

When I read about WasteGate the first thought that came to my head was this song “Thrift Shop”. It helped me imagine the possibilities that could await us. Technology reduces transaction costs and makes sharing easier. This beta version makes me hopeful that we truly are in the midst of something larger than ourselves; if anything, about what this unique platform can unleash by tapping into our own, ever expanding shared economy—the same thrifty economy that Macklemore raps about.

Snap. Show. Swap. Earn. Do it again.

S. Jones - Flicker
With platforms like WasteGate, no longer will little darlings have to ask “Hey! Can we go thrift shopping?” No. With innovations like this the “can we?” disappears and the “we can” appears. Now it’s simply “Hey! Let’s DO thrift shopping” without all the extra effort of the physical going. This is the revolution of technology—the revolution that allows us to go forth and better ourselves and our communities in ways that are simple, doable, and user-friendly.

This is why we hope; and this is also why we WasteGate.

To learn more about WasteGate visit: http://www.wastegateapp.com/

Visit WasteGate's official blog here: http://wastegating.com/