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Ground From Above

"Brazilian photographer Renato Stockler decided to pay tribute to soccer fields in his country with his series “Terrao de Cima”. He takes pictures of game fields that are getting more and more rare and that are seen as “oasis” and “a breath” in the middle of favelas and the poverty, by the photographer.”

Rug Rat

Amidst internet research/perusing, I remembered I should update this thing again, so here we go:

Feast your eyes on some decadently beautiful Navajo rugs and blankets courtesy of the Library of Anthropology in Santa Fe: 

*THIS IS NOT A SPONSORED POST*

Ugh, summer is quite the befuddling time for #fashun. No longer is it logical/safe to adorn yourself in endless layers upon layers of swag, so us dudes must opt for simpler things such as tees and shorts. But these simpler pieces are not to be knocked- summer style is a REFRESHING and NECESSARY escape from the doldrums of the sweater weather hoopla! 

"How can you stunt on them haters when your nuts are melting against your inner thigh and there’s a reservoir of disgusting perspiration pooling on the small of your back?" quizzically inquired Four Pins mad man and fashion prince Jake Woolf in a recent post.

Luckily, I’ve stumbled across one of the coolest brands doin’ it right now, AXS FOLK TECHNOLOGY, and NOW EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE. 

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27-year old Berkeley-bred designer KYLE NG, also known for his super cool utilitarian brand FARM TACTICS, is the brains behind the bustling AXS operations. The dude described the line as ”a conceptual collection weaving together past and present, inspired by commune life and the Whole Earth vibe of the Bay Area in the 1960s- living off the land while looking toward the future.”

The newest summer collection, gloriously capsulizing Ng’s modern take on the tradition of artisanal craft, is the funkiest stuff out this season and deserves its due recognition.  

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~ Connor

HEAT WAVES (SUMMER VIBES 2K14)

HEAT WAVES (SUMMER VIBES 2K14) by Connornorton on Mixcloud

A little musical compilation of sorts filled to the brim with funk courtesy of Pharrell, Jai Paul, Jigga, M.I.A., Andre 3K, Lionel Richie and more!
(Caution: The cover art may leave you breathless due to its majesty)
~Connor
Still Not Free: Expressing Modern Racial Frustrations through the Arts

            Nearly 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X fought arduously, and ultimately died for, their black brethren living in the still deeply segregated United States.  Their struggle for freedom and equality eventually paid off with monumental federal legislature, for example, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, an initiative declared the “most sweeping civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction,” most-notably prohibiting public discrimination  (“Civil Rights Act (1964)”).  Yet while these landmark legal breakthroughs put into effect laws against racism, racial oppression still flows through the veins of American society even after the 1960s.  By means of their respective mediums, poet Maya Angelou, contemporary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and rap star Kanye West express their personal perspectives concerning the continued racism and unjust treatment of blacks in modern America.

            Civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou was born on April 4, 1928, in St. Louis Missouri.  While growing up in Arkansas, Angelou was surrounded by the relentless racial discrimination of the mid-20th century.  Luckily during World War II, she moved to San Francisco where she eventually received a scholarship for dance and acting to the California Labor School.  Angelou had a brief stint on Broadway but soon decided to quit acting in order to focus on writing.  Her 1969 memoir titled I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is Angelou’s first great literary success and is a compilation of personal poems focused on her tumultuous childhood and young adult years (“Maya Angelou Biography”).  The book is a vividly-described coming-of-age autobiography that serves as an inspiration for young black girls growing up in America who are struggling with the same problems of racism, independence, personal dignity, and self-definition as she did in her youth (Choudhry).  The title poem of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is the emotional centerpiece of the collection that fully encapsulates Angelou’s thematic mission to passionately call readers to resist the ongoing Black American oppression still prevalent in their society. 

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            In the six-stanza poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Angelou tells the story trapped bird singing of freedom.  The caged bird, allegorical to blacks in society, is indignant yet hopeful, scarcely able to see through the “bars of rage” that attempt to control him.  Not only is the sorrowful bird imprisoned, but his feet are tied and his wings are clipped.  The free bird, a symbol for white men, “thinks of another breeze / and the trade winds soft through the signing trees / and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn / and he names the sky his own.”  Starkly contrasting with the imprisoned, the free bird is limitless, unrestricted by any societal constraint and is even able to declare something as freely-available as the sky his own property.  Yet while he soars, the caged bird remains trapped, cemented on a “grave of dreams.”  Although Angelou’s bird has never been free, he sings a song of freedom, because hope is what keeps him alive.  The poem ends, “The caged bird sings/ with a fearful trill/ of things unknown/ but longed for still/ and his tune is heard/ on the distant hill/ for the caged bird/ sings of freedom.”  Angelou uses this final stanza to explain that blacks do not know what the future has in store for them, but they must remain optimistic that their dream of breaking free from the cage’s clutches and destroying racial oppression will come true, if not for them, then for their ancestors.  The eloquently stoic and tranquil tone that Angelou uses throughout this poem ingeniously adds to her peaceful call to readers.  From what Angelou has witnessed throughout her life, she understands that violent protest only leads to further pain, and uses her medium of choice, writing, to best carry out her cause of revealing the continued racial injustices of society and inspiring young black readers with faltering faith.

            Born on December 22, 1960, in Brooklyn, New York to a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Jean-Michel Basquiat immediately became immersed in a befuddled, diverse array of cultures that came to influence his later artistic masterpieces (“Jean-Michel Basquiat Biography”).  Basquiat, a self-taught artist, first started to garner recognition throughout the city of New York in the 1970s by his witty graffiti he sprayed signed as “SAMO,” a play on the racial slur “Sambo.”  This early graffiti art caught the attention of many on-lookers for its ability to depict the artist’s “alertness to high art’s disingenuousness and the racist, unfair practices of the American mainstream media” (Rodrigues 228).  Soon thereafter, Basquiat picked up a paintbrush and began developing a signature style heavily-doused in intense, abstract creations with racial undertones.  The eye-popping clash of visual brilliance and intellectual sophistication of Basquiat’s work in the 1980s eventually led to him being deemed the “heir to the racist configuration of the American art exchange and the delimiting appraisals of blackness in the American mainstream media” (Rodrigues 227).  But although Basquiat’s life was cut short due to drug overdose in 1988, his radical paintings live on to depict the still-prevalent exploitation and oppression of blacks in society.

            Basquiat’s 1985 painting Hollywood Africans portrays the corrupt business behind the construction and exploitation of black celebrity Americans.  Like the black artists that came before him, Basquiat at this time was beginning to feel the anxieties of the “all-of-the-sudden” fame and wealth brought on by success and used his art as an outlet. 

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            The background of this painting is a radiant yellow with touches of turquoise possibly symbolizing the initial excitement and optimism one feels when first stepping foot in his or her new home- Hollywood, California. However, black is then thrown onto the canvas as a reminder for the harsh realities that comes with this seemingly-perfect, superficial way of living.  The eyes are then brought to the three portraits in the painting: Basquiat himself and two friends, rappers Toxic and Rammellzee.  The three men depicted here are simply the latest “Hollywood Africans” forever imprisoned to their “repressive, shameful past” (Rodrigues 236).  This enamoring painting features Basquiat’s unique graffiti-influenced style of bold words and phrases such as “SUGAR CANE,” “TOBACCO,” and “GANGTERISM.”  These words, some crossed-out to better catch the eye, all reference the limits and stigmas such as 19th century slavery that black actors/artists face through Hollywood and the media.  In response to this painting, Rodrigues states that, “the black artist is stripped of any complexity and packaged for consumption by the masses” (234).  This means that regardless of what talent that this black figure possesses, he is always first and foremost, black- a possession always bound to his less-educated, manual labor-doing past.  A continued statement on this theme is expressed further in another one of Basquiat’s renowned works, Zydeco.

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            Zydeco, a type of folk music conceived from a mixture of Cajun melodies, Afro-Caribbean rhythm and African American performance styles, is what is being shown in Basquiat’s piece, Zydeco.  Positioned centrally in the painting is a black accordion player on a stage surrounded by various words and symbols alluding to past “racial cultures and racial associations” that “play integral roles in the modern world’s consumption of blackness” (Rodrigues 234).  Specific symbolism in this piece consists of a pickax, referencing manual labor of the past, and the microphone and camera painted to show the outlets used to highlight black talent.  However, what differentiates this piece from Hollywood Africans is that “positive associations with blackness seem to be called upon in a positive vein” (Rodrigues 234).  The accordion player is being praised for his talents with less blatant focus on the negative sides of fame.  But nonetheless, Basquiat’s message remains the same for both highlighted paintings: society, especially the media, is still operating with the delusions that blacks are inferior, novelty subjects marred by their history and perceived lack of intellectual abilities as compared to their white peers.  Basquiat, and as seen in the musical work of Kanye West, is not just reacting to these racial injustices but is acting out against them in order for blacks to one day not be characterized as simply outsiders of a restrictive world of Western artistic expression, but as equal, gifted contributors to the culture. 

            Ever since Kanye West stomped onto the hip hop music scene exactly a decade ago with his debut release The College Dropout, he has garnered 21 Grammy’s and, undeniably, a huge platform due to his highly publicized, yet often scrutinized, music and actions.  West, born in Chicago to an English professor and a former Black Panther member, has never ceased to use this platform as a celebrity to speak his mind on relatable issues to him such as race.  From rapping “Drug dealer buy Jordans, crackhead buy crack/ And the white man get paid off of all of that” on his first album to exclaiming on live TV that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” to the 2009 Taylor Swift VMA debacle, West’s actions and racial critiques have helped him to be both idolized by younger generations while vilified by more skeptical observers of pop culture.  On June 18th, 2013, he let lose loose his most recent album to the world, a polarizing body of work shrouded in harsh language, an unrelenting tone, and bold racial declarations, titled Yeezus.  As a marketing strategy, 66 projections of a big and bold frontal headshot of West, unfiltered and exposed, rapping the lead single off the album, “New Slaves,” were aired on public buildings across the world in hopes to make a hushed subject explicit and visible.  As evidenced by “New Slaves” on Yeezus, West uses his talent of music in order to explicatively reveal and respond to the oppression of blacks in the 21st century. 

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            West, in a tell-all interview with the New York Times, explained that “frustration” built up was the inspiration behind the disorderly, minimalistic, industrial-sounding Yeezus (Caramanica 1).  This frustration came from numerous sources- the media, fashion houses, music executives- who tried to limit his artistic expression and conform him to their visions, similar to the Hollywood treatment that Basquiat depicted.  Audacious commentary on blacks in America came forth clearest through “New Slaves.”  The track starts off with a single bouncy, pulsating beat as West states, “My momma was raised in the era when/ Clean water was only served to the fairer skin/ Doin’ clothes you would have thought I had help/ But they wasn’t satisfied unless I picked the cotton myself.”  He does not hold back and immediately establishes the intent of this record: race.  West details that the segregation era of the 1950s and 60s in which his mother lived through, is not very different from his current situation.  Similar to how West’s mother was denied clean water, West was barred from the fashion industry and denied any help to achieve his vision.  He has been labeled a running joke who exudes unintelligence and barbarism due to his past actions and skin tone.  Additionally, this first quip features an ironic play on words with “fairer skin” since although their skin was “lighter,” there was nothing “fair” about what the white people were doing in the times of Jim Crow.  Next, West raps, “You see it’s broke n*gga racism/ That’s that ‘Don’t touch anything in the store’/ And it’s rich n*gga racism/ That’s that ‘Come in, please buy more.’ / ‘What you want, a Bentley? Fur Coat? A diamond chain? / All you blacks want all the same things.’”  West adamantly explains the full spectrum of racism that he has come into contact with.  Before becoming famous, West was seen as just a black man who wanted to steal, thus why he was told not to touch anything in stores.  However, when he became rich, these stores begged for his money since they now stereotyped him as a foolish black man who spends all of his income on cars and gold chains.  Ultimately, he realizes that the black man will be criticized and tried to be controlled regardless of whether he is poor or wealthy.  West believes that blacks have become “new slaves” by being oppressed by manipulative corporations, thus why he offers the unfiltered response, “F*ck you and your corporation/ Y’all n*ggas can’t control me.”  They are the victims of invisible systems of institutionalized racism fueled by the vanities of a consumerist culture.

            Illustrated by the emotional artistic outputs by artists such as Maya Angelou, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Kanye West, racial discrimination and exploitation is certainly a prevalent topic in American society even after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  While each artist used a different form of artistic medium as well as tone in his or her work, they commonly used their talents to reveal and react to injustices regarding continued oppression of blacks.  While Angelou’s work was highly regarded even in the intellectual world, achieving various literary awards, Basquiat was declared primitive, novelty art by high critics, and West’s work continues to polarize American opinions.  Yet regardless of the reception of each individual’s work from their respective time periods, it still is resoundingly crucial that all Americans are aware of these artistic expressions of modern black discrimination even with the aforementioned legislature set it place.  

 

Works Cited

Caramanica, Jon. “Behind Kanye’s Mask.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 June 2013. Web. 04 May 2014.

Choudhry, Sana Imtiaz, and Saiqa Imtiaz Asif. “”Ain’t I A Woman”: Exploring Femininities in Diaspora in Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings*.” Theory and Practice in Language Studies 3.3 (2013): 466-74. ProQuest. Web. 4 May 2014.

"Civil Rights Act (1964)." Our Documents. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2014.

"Jean-Michel Basquiat Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 04 May 2014

"Maya Angelou Biography." Bio.com. A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 04 May 2014.

Rodrigues, LA. “SAMO (C) As An Escape Clause”: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Engagement With A Commodified American Africanism.” Journal Of American Studies 45.2 (n.d.): 227-243. Arts & Humanities Citation Index. Web. 4 May 2014.

Cinema Caturday: I Love Casino Royale

Call me crazy…but CASINO ROYALE could be the greatest movie ever. Well, it certainly is the best Bond film at least.

Before you hit me with the unfollow, just let me explain.

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There are a bunch of reasons we watch movies- for joy, entertainment, inspiration, sorrow, love, hatred, etc. And what CASINO ROYALE is for me is ESCAPISM in its finest form.  I mean, every one of the 1000 times I’ve watched this masterpiece, I drool on myself in sheer awe of Bond’s SWAG as well as cry at the end because I will never be that DOPE.

I simply want to be Bond when he is hunking it up in the Bahamas, winning Astons via poker and whatnot. Or when he is saving a jumbo jet from exploding. Or when he shuts DOWN the poker game for a second when Vesper *swoon* struts in voluptuously and kisses him…You get the point.

So let’s condense and organize these thoughts a little bit into some easily-understandable reasons why I feel the need to make this post (I wrote 2 more points about the flawless costumes and the plot but decided to scrap those for length purposes…maybe there will be a part 2, who knows).

1. The script is absolutely marvelous

Let’s look at an example:

Such banter!

I sadly haven’t yet had the chance to read Ian Fleming’s novel, so I don’t know how much of the dialogue was directly taken from the text, but the writing really shines in the scenes between Bond and Vesper, in particular their first meeting. The writers and director Martin Campbell realize that she is the one woman that Bond ever truly falls in love with. She has a tremendous impact on his life and ultimately shapes him into the Bond that we all know, so thankfully her dialogue is equally beautiful, sophisticated, clever, mysterious, and complex. The dialogue in this scene stands out from the rest of the script, but not in a negative way. It reads and sounds like the great film noir CASINO ROYALE was meant to be.

I don’t want this to become a drudge, so let’s keep this moving.

Vesper Lynd: “If the only thing left of you was your smile and your little finger, you’d still be more of a man than anyone I’ve ever known.”

Bond: “That’s because you know what I can do with my little finger …”

(If you want to do further research on the script, click HERE for the whole thing)

2. Bond isn’t a big doofus!!

Daniel Craig’s Bond is a vulnerable, #emotional, and rugged character who starkly contrasts with Connery’s silly playboy Bond (no beef tho). This newest Bond is forced to use his wits throughout the movie, especially in the grand Texas Hold’Em match at the end, in order to complete the mission. He lost once to the twitchy Le Chiffre and required the help of the CIA bro, Felix, disproving an invincibility previously associated with the character. We see bitterness surface, we even see Bond forming real emotional attachments. And when his love interest, Vesper, is killed after her heart-wrenching betrayal, his line: “The job’s done and the bitch is dead”, says everything that needs saying. Damn, James. (This all being said, he can still charm ladies’ pants off when need be.) 

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3. The theme of “trust”

Finally, let’s talk about the theme of the movie: trust. CASINO ROYALE was written by Ian Fleming when he was just about to get married in the Bahamas and was reflecting on the Bohemian bachelor life he was leaving behind. The story he wrote is Bond doing the same thing. Bond falls in love with Vesper and decides to leave MI6 to spend his years happily with her. This story requires us to fall in love with Vesper the same way Bond does or else the twenty minutes where the two characters float around in Venice would be a momentum killer. Thankfully, the characters are handled well and one feels like one could see a whole movie of Bond and Vesper’s travels and enjoy it thoroughly.

Of course, this can’t last forever and Bond tragically has everything he cares about torn from him. His trust is betrayed in the worst way imaginable. Bond becomes a cold-hearted bastard thus launching him into a career filled with misogyny and one-night stands with only the most exotically beautiful women on the planet. I literally burst out in tears every time I watch the drowning scene. Shortly after Vesper’s death, M  calls Bond and asks, “You don’t trust anyone anymore, do you Bond?” He replies, “No.”

“Then you’ve learned your lesson.”

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Ok, let’s wrap things up with a few LAST POINTS

1. CASINO ROYALE is clearly the best Bond movie ever made for the aforementioned reasons and more. 

2. I feel strange admitting to people that this is among my TOP 3 MOVIES OF ALL TIME but it is.

3. Have a great Saturday folks, and for all the fellow college blokes out there, best of luck on finals. 

~Connor

I Just Spent 3 Hours Ogling at the Awesomeness of Peter Saville

Peter Saville, legendary Factory Records graphic designer most known for his work with Joy Division and New Order, is the reason I’m not doing any homework tonight.  I’ve been looking through his archive of insane covers and sleeves for an unhealthy amount of time. Fire graphic design to say the least. 

http://www.petersaville.info/index.html

Some of my favs:

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~Connor

Miri Ben-Ari: The Hip Hop Violinist

One may think that claiming the job title of “Hip Hop Violinist” is some utter tomfoolery, but my boo Miri Ben-Ari does just that and certainly does not mess around.  She co-wrote “Jesus Walks,” won herself a Grammy, and performed for Barry O among many other radical accomplishments.  Miri deserves more recognition, thus why I am blogging this here post.  Enjoy the vibes, my friends.

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~Connor

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Common’s “Be” is a certified #classic

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Although this is reaching past far beyond the memory capacity of many fellow classmates and/or Tumblr frequenters, there once was a time when Common, yes the bald dude who babbled those Man on The Moon skits and famously squabbled with Drizzy Drake Rogers, was on top of the rap game!

In 2005, Lonnie Lynn aka Common released the masterpiece Be and forever cemented himself into my iTunes Hall of Fame.

After flopping with his lame, lackluster Electric Circus album, Com called up his fellow Chicagoan, the self-proclaimed Chocolatey Socrates himself, Kanye West to produce him some soulful jamz (Apparently the beats he later turned down found their way onto Ye’s Late Registration). 

In an interview, Common quipped, “I named it Be to be who you are, man, and be able to be in the moment and not try too hard. Be is another way of saying just do without trying hard, like I said, natural and be true to the core of who you are; and this album, I wanted to just be and not just go and exist as just an artist, not worried about the past.” Word.

From the moment Com starts rapping his first lines, “I want to be as free as the spirit of those who left / I’m talking Malcolm, Coltrane, my man Yusef,” you know things are about to get really real.  One of the beauties of this album is its conciseness.  Throughout the mere 42 minutes of this thing, you’ll find a J-Dilla produced track, John Legend and Dave Chappelle features, sampling of legends like Marvin Gaye to Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose to DJ Rogers, but no skippable tracks.

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I’m listening to Be’s organic funktastic soul music as I type this imagining that I’m being spoken to, scratch that, PREACHED to by Com in his hemp beanie while inhaling Erykah’s mystical incense. 

From top to bottom, this thing knocks with a warm, smile-inducing feel perfectly depicted in the cover art.  But the sequence of “The Corner” to “GO!” to “Faithful”: WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So do yourself a favor and go revisit/take a listen to this joint.  By the time the ending quickly rolls around, Be will have you feeling like THIS.

And you say Chi City!

~Connor

My hombres Colin and Alex are in a band called The Separators.
They just released their debut EP, Sixes & Sevens.
It’s something special.
Get it here: https://soundcloud.com/the-separators

My hombres Colin and Alex are in a band called The Separators.

They just released their debut EP, Sixes & Sevens.

It’s something special.

Get it here: https://soundcloud.com/the-separators

YEEZUS

Even though everyone and their second cousin twice removed has posted on one social media site or another about Ye and DONDA’s grandiose tour of reckless abandon, I just want to say: ‘Twas awesome.

New year…new me (?)

As I perused through my old, sad excuse for a blog at the end of 2013, I had a very important epiphany: NO1CURR

I don’t have any magical talent with the reblog button & the Tumblr world sure doesn’t need more uploaded pics of Pharrell, BAPE, Supreme, etc. etc. courtesy of yours truly. 

So, yeah, starting now, it’s all original content. In 2014, things are getting a little more intimate here on the interwebs. 

Stay tuned for more nonsense.

~ Connor

That one time we went to Dewey Beach, DE…

THEME BY PARTI