Tuesday, May 10, 2011

beside the side effects

Feelin' ill but I still wont mess with Estrogen
Doc got his right foot forward and his best probe in
Do you mean pharmacologists or arrested men?
They got one patent right but they messed up 10
Homegirl was taking Yaz? Might wanna test her then
She ain't bled a single drop, but then her chest caved in
Justified the holy lie and then she blessed the sin
While her boyfriend was just waiting to have sex again

Friday, May 6, 2011

Laboratory Tape Collage

While I was in college, I had a work-study job at one of the research laboratories on campus. It was a very sleek, newly renovated, state-of-the-art microbiology lab which received millions of dollars in private and federal grants to conduct on-going genetic research on geobacter sulfurreducens- an anaerobic bacteria found in river beds which produce tiny amounts of electricity as a byproduct of their cellular respiration. This Geobacter species has the ability to transfer electrons onto the surface of electrodes, which has made it possible to design novel microbial fuel cells which can efficiently convert waste organic matter to electricity. Post-doctoral scientists from around the world worked in this lab, as well a many microbiology students eager for the opportunity to assist in such ground-breaking research.

I got this work study job through one of my friends. At the university, you are not required to be a microbiology student to work in the labs. So me being a Communications major, I found it a completely fantastically foreign environment to work in.

 I started off in the lab's dish room, collecting dirty glass ware and waste from the labs, washing, and redistributing various flasks, graduated cylinders, and beakers back into the labs. In addition, a majority of my time was spent processing the stacks upon stacks of dirty 10mL test tubes and 150mL bottles used in experiments.

Since the majority of these experiments required anaerobic materials, all the tubes and bottles were capped with rubber stoppers and sealed with aluminum crimps. And since there were so many variations and reactions being tested, each tube usually had one, two, or three different colored tape labels. Sometimes I would just sit there for two hours, peeling the tape off old test tubes and throwing this tape in the trash. But after a while, my artistic itch got the best of me. I mean, this tape came in all colors of the rainbow, and the pieces of it I was discarding had each scientist's unique scribbles on it.

The last time I took a chemistry class was back in high school, and so some of the terminology written on these tubes and used throughout the laboratory was kind of interesting when taken out of context. I found phrases like, "Dying and advancing cultures" , "Too acid?", and anything involving "media" interesting as a Communications major.

So I began waiting until the end of my shifts to begin "de-stickering" old test tubes, and instead of throwing it away I would make little tape collages. I decided to post some pictures of the first collages I did in which I only used the tape from old test tubes. When I was finished with a particular design I would laminate the entire piece with clear packing tape. The result would be an interesting collage of colors and scrambled up bits of words, symbols, and numbers. I wanted to treat what ever was written on the tape as just another texture or material, and create a more abstract rendering of the tireless work the scientists were putting in on a daily basis.

Often the scientists would come into the dish room while I was making these collages and talk to me about what each label meant in the context of their experiments. But since I was not very science-minded,  their words came out sounding a lot  like what my collages looked like:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Classic samples: Lonnie Liston Smith to Jay Z

I though maybe today I would share some music, as I dabble a little in producing. I've mainly been using Adobe Audition and learning stuff as I go. About a year back I wrote a rhyme to the original Jay Z- Dead Presidents instrumental. I recently decided to cut up and rearrange the beat a little so it would be different from the original. Unfortunately I couldn't find a higher quality version of the track to use so I just went with the one I had:
The Precedent 2.0 by The Velvet Vulture
I'm a sucker for that plush mid-90's sound. The original Dead Presidents track is so smooth and has those classic 90's hip hop snares and kick drums. Plus like a lot of other instrumentals from the era, it features a sample from an old 70's jazz, soul, or funk record. In this case, the original track is Garden of Peace by Lonnie Liston Smith off the 1979 record Dreams of Tomorrow. One of my friends posted it to their Facebook wall, and it was great to finally hear that classic hip hop sample in it's original context. I find whenever I can trace a song or sample that I really enjoy back to it's roots, it makes me appreciate it so much more. It also opens up new avenues of music and different artists to explore based on the original artist and all the artists who sampled the original track.

I'm out for presidents to represent me: Off the 1996 release Reasonable Doubt

Here is the original track by Lonnie Liston Smith. The piano is really beautiful.

I remember I was first introduced to Jay Z's Dead Presidents by a friend who suggested that it would make an excellent Drum n Bass sample. And lo and behold someone had taken my friend's advice:
Other artists which have sampled Garden of Peace include Dj Krush, Mary Jay Blidge, O.C., Dave Owen, and Dj Deckstream. Its interesting to hear how many different ways this track can be chopped, altered, and manipulated. And although my production skills are novice at best, I find its fun to cut up tracks myself and make my own remixes and beats out of them. There are a bunch of other musical sample connections I wanna make in up-coming posts so keep your eye out if you are into this kind of stuff or have a slight interest. Peace!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recycled art: brought to you by STARBUCKS

One summer while I was still in high school I worked part-time as a barista at the newly opened Starbucks in the local mall. I lived in a pretty rural community so although Starbucks offered a new and exciting alternative to the usual Dunkin' Donuts or McDonald's coffee options, business was often slow. Most of my shifts occurred during weekdays, which proved to be a very slow time for business. Although I was visited by the occasional hoarde of middle school kids freed from the shackles of Algebra and Social Studies and eager to spend their allowance on Venti mint chocolate frappuccinos, most of my shifts I spent sitting behind the counter idly waiting to replace the containers of iced and hot coffee every 4 hours.

It didn't take me long to start devising new ways of keeping myself entertained. I started off making small doodles and drawing designs on the back of receipts. But by the end of the summer, I had created two pretty cool looking art pieces made out of materials that we had laying around. The first piece I made started from being bored one day and cutting patterns out of the small paper bags we use when serving cookies or pastries to customers. I got the idea from cutting out snowflake designs from paper for Christmas or other winter festivities. I created the large middle one first then decided to create eight smaller ones to encircle it. Then I placed my paper "flower" pieces on one of the large coffee filters we used, which I cut a rough eight-sided flower-like shape out of. Then to ensure that my new creation would not get wrecked, I covered the front in strips of clear packing tape as a sort of makeshift lamination. I was very pleased with the result:

The next piece I made I started while on the job, and finished at home. Some times I would idly play with the coffee stirrers as we had an abundance of them at Starbucks. I thought how cool it would be to make a paper  fan out of them and coffee filters. So I began designing the layout of my coffee filter/stirrer fan, always undercover so as to not make it seem like I was slacking off on the job. We had a few informational pamphlets given to new employees explaining the different type of tea Starbucks sold, and it the pamphlet were photos of the tea plants themselves. I cut these pictures out as well as small snippets of colors and patterns from the pamphlet and put them aside to use later for decoration.

Although I originally wanted the fan to be a functional piece that could open and close, I found that the coffee filters were too cloth-like and would not hold a fold very well, and the materials I was using to decorate the fan made it very stiff and hard to fold. So after taking all of my raw materials home from work, I assembled my fan as more of a decorative piece. I used simple Elmer's Glue to bond the coffee stirrers together with the coffee filters and the materials from the tea pamphlets. Then I cut the tea leaf pictures and the other colored paper into various small circles, arranged them onto the fan and glued them into place. Then using some paint I had left over from a "Paint-by-Numbers" lying around, I added more color and detail to the fan. For a finishing touch I fixed a hole through the bottoms of the coffee stirrers, threaded a small length of string through the hole and added some odd beads I had left over from a necklace I had previously made. Again out of some disposable objects, left over materials, and sheer boredom at work I managed to create a cool art piece that I really enjoy:

My career at Starbucks only lasted that one summer, but these two art pieces have been hung on the walls of all the dorm rooms, and apartments I have lived in since then, and I hope to keep them forever. I think that creating things yourself allows you have a much deeper connection with that object. Instead of buying something similar to these two decorations, the fact that I made them means that they are unique, one of a kind pieces of art.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gummy Vitamins: Good Idea/Bad Idea

Good Idea: Gummy Multivitamins. I used to have a really hard time taking a multivitamin every day. Usually, they would be in pill or capsule form and I have a hard time swallowing a big pill even with a lot of water to help wash it down. The thing would always feel stuck in my throat, and I'd have to eat something like a piece of bread or fruit just to get it down. The result would be me taking one every day in the morning for maybe about 4 days then forgetting and taking them sporadically, and then forgetting to take them all together.

However, I find that gummy vitamins are much easier to take. I bought a bottle of the store brand Up & Up gummy vitamins at Target a month ago, and I've been taking them ever since. I think what makes them most appealing is the taste. They taste just like regular fruit snacks or candy. I find the ones I bought were delicious and I've had a hard time eating only the daily recommended two per day. The Target ones come in berry, peach, and orange. Each serving gives you 50% or more of your daily requirements of Vitamins A, C, D, E, B-6, B-12, and Niacin.

Bad Idea: Gummy Omega-3 Vitamins. When I ran out of my first bottle of regular gummy vitamins, I went back to Target to buy some more. I saw that they were having a sale on Omega-3 gummies, and I remembered that my doctor recently suggested that I try to get more Omega-3s in my diet. It is sometimes difficult to do this, when you can't afford to buy a lot of salmon or other Omega-3 rich foods to eat on a daily basis. My friend had told me that she was taking fish oil capsules for a while as part of her diet, but they caused her to have fishy-smelling burps. This seemed rather gross, plus I knew that taking large capsules has proven to be a difficult task for me. So I figured that since the regular gummy multi-vitamin I had been taking was so deliciously successful, that adding another gummy vitamin to the routine would be an easy way to further supplement my diet.

I found these new gummy vitamins to be a huge let-down in terms of taste. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that they taste down right awful. Vita-fusion tried very hard to mask the taste of fishy Omega-3s, but they did so by replacing the fishy taste with a very moldy skunk taste and smell. One whiff after opening the jar let me know that these were not going to be as pleasant to ingest. When I tired eating them for the first time I nearly gagged from the odor. They are covered in granulated sour sugar, and taste okay for the first few seconds that they are in you mouth. But even while being careful not to breathe while chewing them, the awful skunk taste caught up to me. I had to "chase" them with cranberry juice just to get the taste out of my mouth. Yuck. But since I bought the bottle I decided to take them every day when I woke up. And despite the awful taste I have noticed that they have made my skin and hair softer.

So if you decide to take a gummy vitamin supplement remember that although a regular multivitamin can be delicious, be prepared for an unpleasant taste if you want to take one that contains Omega-3s.

Reebok Freestyle Hi

I love these shoes. I now own three different pairs. I find that they are really comfy and I love the bold patterns on them. I'm really into hi-top sneakers and I think this is probably one of my favorite shoes. The top two velcro straps are great for switching up your style. You can fix them how they are show in the picture, or you can do like I do and stick them to themselves un-strapped and let the tongue stick out as much as possible. Even the shoe laces are rad. My shiny gold Reebok Freestyle Hi's came with two sets of laces, pink and maroon. I tend to mix and match my laces with all my shoes to make them more custom and unique. My neon green Geo pair came with patterned laces that are so cool. I haven't been able to find any shoes laces around that were so colorful and awesome. Another thing I love about this shoe is the fit. Kicks tend to run big in womens sizes, but I find that the Freestyle Hi's stay pretty true to your normal shoe size. These sneakers are great to wear out if you want to dance and be comfortable and stylish while busting a move.  Who says you have to wear heels all the time? :)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Valley Below

Making ends meet in a dead end town
With a dead end job to which you are bound
Can't break the circle, can't get away
Got car insurance and bills to pay

Used to cut class never followed the rules
Suspended twenty times cuz you hated high school
Never had to listen to what they had to teach
Now a college education is far beyond your reach

Your report card used to have gold stars
Now you're just another drop out living in the trailor park
That's alright, cuz the weekend's here
Time to drive around aimlessly and chug some beer
And pretend that you're letting the good times go
While ignoring the emptiness you feel in your soul

Cuz there's nothing to do, and nowhere to go
When you're living in the valley of the shadow below

Demolition derbies and Country Fest
Got your 12 pack of Bud and your Marlboro cigarettes
Sitting on the back of your pick up truck
Feeling like you just bagged yourself a 10 point buck

But you still can't help but wonder if there's more to life
Then waiting around town til ya meet ya wife
Become a real adult and buy your own place
Cutting off your nose to spite your own face

So you blame it on fate who dealt you this hand
I guess life is what happens in between keg stands
But nothing ever changes it just stays the same
Slowly chipping away at the time that remains
Man it sure is easier to drink away your fears
Than to deal with the shame of your wasted years

But there's nothing to do and no where to go
When you're living in the valley of the shadow below