Sunday, May 31

Classical + Jazz + Hip-Hop = Black Violin

(Jonathan, you will probably be interested in this)

As a Black violinist, this is something that strikes me as interesting because African-American musicians who were classically trained are few and far between. I feel like this group, Black Violin, is on the verge of another classical music revolution led by Black classically-trained musicians, similar to the one almost a decade ago led by Regina Carter, where she travelled to Italy to play jazz violin on an instrument formerly owned by Niccolo Paganini. I'm just going to copy the biography from their website, because it speaks volumes for this group and the types of musical genres that they have shifted and molded to create this new sound.

To most people, jazz, hip-hop, funk, and classical are musical genres. But to revolutionary music group Black Violin, they're nothing but ingredients.

Combining a daunting array of musical styles and influences to produce a signature sound that is not quite maestro, not quite emcee, this group of two classically trained violinists and their DJ is redefining the music world-one string at a time. With influences ranging from Shostakovich and Bach to Nas and Jay-Z, Black Violin breaks all the rules, blending the classical with the modern to create something rare-a sound that nobody has ever heard, but that everybody wants to feel.

When the members of Black Violin first learned to play their signature instruments-Wil B at the viola 14 years old and Kev Marcus the violin at the tender age of 9-neither could have foreseen that it would become their livelihood, though it was already becoming their passion. The two Florida natives first met while attending the Dillard High School of Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale, a school whose exceptional music programs served to nurture their already budding talents.

But it was not until the two were exposed to the work of legendary violinist Stuff Smith that the seeds that would one day become Black Violin were truly planted. Smith, born in Portsmouth, Ohio in 1909, was one of preeminent jazz violinists of the swing era, who went onto perform with names like Alphonse Trent, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Sun Ra throughout a long and storied career. His final album and most soulful, entitled "Black Violin," so inspired and influenced the young Kev Marcus and Wil B that they would eventually name their band in honor of the man who had shown them that there were no limits to what the violin could do.

After graduating from high school, both Wil and Kev were granted full music scholarships to college, Florida State and Florida International University respectively. It was at FIU that Kev first encountered the group's future manager, Sam G, with whom he and Wil soon formed a production company: DKNEX. Now they had a platform for their dream, and the talent and inspiration to back it up. Black Violin was born.

Once formed, the group wasted no time in making a name for itself, starting with the rigorous touring that would become a trademark of the group. Black Violin was making ripples in the music industry, but it wasn't long before these ripples became waves. In 2004, the group joined superstar Alicia Keys on stage at the Billboard Music awards, delivering a performance that made the tastemakers and music enthusiasts of America sit up and take notice. Not long after, in 2005, the group was awarded the coveted title of Apollo Legend by the esteemed Apollo theatre in Harlem, effectively confirming what many were beginning to suspect-Black Violin was on its way to the top.

The next step in BV's journey came in the form of Mike Shinoda, lead singer of legendary rock act Linkin Park, who had had his eye on the two virtuosos for a while. Impressed by their imaginative composition and finely tuned musicianship, he invited them along on a world tour with his hip-hop side project, Fort Minor. Finally granted the worldwide platform their talents deserved, the members of Black Violin now introduced their own brand of genius to audiences across the globe. In addition to Shinoda, BV has worked with musicians as diverse as P.Diddy, Kanye West, Fifty Cent, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Aretha Franklin and the Eagles-among many others.

But Black Violin is only getting started. The group recently released its eponymous debut album-a record whose top notch production and musical cohesion make it feel like the work of seasoned veterans rather than industry upstarts, as many patrons of the iTunes store and are discovering for themselves. The group continues to tour far and wide, opening for hip hop mainstays like Fat Joe, Akon, and the Wu-Tang Clan in locations as diverse, as Prague, Dubai, and South Africa. The group's rising fame has also made it a highly desired act for celebrity events-Black Violin just recently provided the music at both Minister Lois Farrakhan's 75th birthday and at NFL star Santana Moss's wedding.

But beyond all the glitz and glamour, the members of Black Violin just want to give children the same opportunities that they had. With school music programs being culled all across the country, Kev and Wil are concerned that urban youth will not have the benefit of music as a positive alternative to other, more destructive pursuits. With this in mind, they have embarked upon a campaign of social change-using youth orchestras and reinvigorated music programs to show children and teens that they are capable of expressing themselves in ways they have never dreamed.

In an age where music is coming to be more and more defined by the labels given to it, Black Violin shows that music does not exist within a box, but rather exists in another space-one as open and unrestrained as the minds that produce it.

Saturday, May 30

School over the Summer?

While cleaning out my bookmarks I rediscovered Academic Earth, a website that provides lectures from world renowned professors covering diverse subject matter, ranging from Astronomy to Entrepreneurship to Religion. So if any of you are feeling a little lost in your summers now that you don't have those 75 minute lectures to look forward to everyday, this maybe a good way to pass an hour or two of your time.

Some Interesting Lectures:

Mixed Strategies in Baseball, Dating and Paying Your Taxes - Benjamin Polak

Shaping China's Choices - Thomas Christensen

The World is Flat 3.0 - Thomas Friedman

Raising the Flag of the Minnesota Twins Nation

(If your name is Jonathan you might want to stop reading now)

I was born in Manhattan close to the end of 1989. From there I proceeded to live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (2nd St and Avenue A) and in the Bronx (off of the Henry Hudson Parkway around 236th st) until August of 1997, when my Dad decided to close his law practice and attend Princeton Theological Seminary. Both my parents were from New York, which would give us an inherent imperative to support all New York teams. Although my mom is rather nonchalant when it comes to sports, it might be fair to say that my Dad's first love was baseball. He was raised in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and used to shine shoes outside of Yankees stadium so that he could get enough money to buy a ticket to get inside the stadium and watch a game. My dad is a Yankees fan for life. And it was these experiences that defined my life as a sports fan and my identity as a Yankees fan. Until Michael Drost.

Mike is a die-hard Minnesota Twins fan. Issue: Mike was born in Vermont and raised in Connecticut.


Both places are a ways away from the twin cities (rougly a 23 hour trip driving according to Google Maps. (see image below for reference)

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How do we reconcile this issue with the fact of the matter? Well, Mike is an identical twin and with his twin he formulated this cute idea that as twins what better team would there be to support besides the Twins? And so two Twins fans were born. From then on they made an oath to switch as many people over to be Twins fans as much as possible. And at this point I would like to say that Mike has succeeded in switching me over.

It really began a couple of weeks ago when the Twins were playing the Nationals in DC. Because Mike and I go to school in DC and he had cable he was very excited about being able to watch the games live instead of on MLB Gameday. Being the obliging girlfriend I watched all of the games with him. I was raised as a Yankees fan, but since I come from a baseball family watching the game was exciting in itself, but I didn't want to admit this. Since then I've gone from mocking every Twins loss to watching MLB Gameday on my own with MLB Network on TV in the background, getting offended by every bad call and upset with every bad Twins at bat or fielding error. Then today I was at Bank of America opening a checking account and when you get a check card they let you personalize it with anything you want. And one of the options was MLB teams. They also had Georgetown and that was tempting as well. It came down to deciding between a Minnesota Twins vanity card or a Georgetown University vanity card. When the woman helping me told me that with the Keep the Change process the bank offers I would get more money matched by the bank with the Twins card it was a done deal.

While there was the added incentive of the Twins card being able to get me more money, I think it speaks volumes about how my opinion of this team has changed since Mike first made me even consider their existence back in freshman year. And I think that I can honestly say that I am a Twins fan now.

Friday, May 29

The Rise of China = Fall of the World Economy?

Nowadays it is almost impossible to talk about rapid modernization and economic growth without one uttering the words "rise" and "China". The rise of China this and the rise of China that. Everyone is quick to credit China for it's remarkable modernization and economic development and how its integration with the world has been nothing but positive. Yet the only person who was willing to dish out some of the blame for the financial crisis was Geithner and he was given a slap on the hand not just from Chinese officials but also from China-friendly US officials. Four months later NPR has stepped up to the plate and presented a brief and concise analysis of why China is partly to blame for the current world financial crisis.

It's an interesting piece and I'm happy to see that someone is willing to stick to China and at least dish out some blame even if they aren't going to take it at the expense of "losing face" and some legitimacy in the eyes of their people. However, I'm not sure if NPR's case about the culpability of China can come close to years of shortsightedness in terms of America import-export imbalance that has forced us to borrow ignorantly and endlessly to pay for these products as well as continuously print dollar bills while ignoring the fact that inflation will imminently get the best of us.

H1N1 is soooo last month

Guess the Chinese didn't get the memo that Swine Flu is soooo last month (Right, Mike!). First it was the Mexicans, which I briefly discussed in an earlier post, now they're quarantining American middleschoolers. When will the madness end?

Thursday, May 28

Liberalism, Conservatism and Your Morality

Nicholas Kristof published an interesting column this morning in the New York Times describing the differences in the thought process between the politically left and the politically right, particularly in terms of one's moral calculus. Apparently Conservatives tend to be disgusted by things ranging from what is physically disgusting (dirty faucets) to what is social threatening (whatever behavior they deem that to be). Liberals, on the other hand, are much more casual about authority and more apt to derive conceptions of morality based on fairness and prevention of harm toward others.

Here are some quizzes to see how you weigh moral factors. Maybe it will give you a little more insight into your political leaning as well. Or it could just be something to pass the time when you should be working *cough*...

Tuesday, May 26

The Second Coming of Baby Jesus?

Here's an interesting interview on Baseball Today with Joe Mauer, also known as Baby Jesus, of the Minnesota Twins. He's a phenomenal catcher and hitter and has really caught my attention after coming into the season a month after the rest of the team and hitting a home run at his first at bat (that's right, Mike, even I'm impressed).

For more Twins related news and knowledgeable insight check out Twins on Twins.

As far as race relations goes, there is nothing more inquisitive than a young, impressionable child (though I bet Mike could give one a run for his/her money). Here's an article about how a mother "learned" about race relations when her child visited her at work and asked why one of her coworker's face was brown. It's not so much an issue of a child asking an honest question than some unfortunate situation on the part of the parents that allowed the child to only be exposed to other fair-skinned people like himself rather than being exposed to a diverse group of people. Or maybe I should just put my race card back into my wallet?

Monday, May 25

Reflections on New Milford

I just came back from a 4 1/2 day trip to New Milford, Connecticut, my boyfriend's (Twin #2 on Twins on Twins) hometown. My first trip to Connecticut was in late December 2008 to watch the UConn-Georgetown Men's basketball game, an epic event, as the mediocre and, later in the season, disappointing Hoyas dominated the Huskies from the beginning to the end of the game and we were graced with the presence of The Red Panda Acrobat. We had to drive about an hour and a half to get to UConn and because it was dark and Connecticut is very hill-y and rural, which made me feel like I was in the middle of a Freddy Kruger movie. I warmed up to the place toward the end of the trip but I felt as though I had to commit to the idea of just being frightened of the place so that my boyfriend would not have the satisfaction of knowing that I actually liked his town.

This second trip, on the other hand, was great. New Milford is a quaint, pretty town, actually the largest town in terms of area in Connecticut. It is about 30 minutes outside of Danbury and 90 minutes outside of New York City, which allows it to be isolated from the city but close enough that you can take advantage of what the city has to offer. And it is a little less than 2 1/2 hours from my house which makes it a reasonable trip for me. Overall, I really grew to love the town and the rolling green hills that lined every horizon in every direction. I'm looking forward to my boyfriend's trip to Princeton Junction but I can't wait to plan my next trip to New Milford.

I'll have some pictures from the trip up within the next couple of days.

Sunday, May 17

MIchelle-Mania spreads to Cosmo

I admit that I read Cosmo. It's terrible, it's trashy, the guy advice is stupid at best and just plain wrong at worst. But those confessions stories are hilarious, and even Mike will have to confess that he laughs out loud at at least half of them each month. Well in the June 2009 copy there is an article on How to Get Arms Like Michelle Obama. Part of my last post was about how Michelle Obama's arms have garnered a cult following and this is just evidence of how people have taken notice and want used her as a paragon for jacked working women in America. And I'm just psyched that it's Michelle Obama, because, as we all know, she's my she-ro.

Wednesday, May 13

Feminists and Fitness Enthusiasts on Michelle Obama

I've been putting off this blog post for the past couple of days but I'm sure Twin #2 and Twin #1 have been anxiously awaiting an update so this one goes out to them.

I'm going to keep it short and simple.

On May 10th, NPR did a feminist review of Michelle Obama's role in the White House since the Obama administration began. Think of it as a first lady's first 100 days. It has been interesting how, after being touted as a new kind of first lady, likely to play an active role intellectually in her husband's administration, Mrs. Obama has instead become the "Mom-in-Chief". I personally hold the view that she is selling herself short given her intensive educational background and the opinion of her as a strong, black woman. Perhaps this is a way for Obama staff people to personalize her and make her less threatening, a way of preventing the sapphire sterotype from overtaking White Americans view of Michelle Obama. Basically, this piece "has sparked lively discussion in the feminist blogosphere" and I thought it would be an interesting thing to share.

We all know about how much media attention has been given to Michelle Obama's toned biceps and swelte triceps. Well now there is an entire blog dedicated to Michelle Obama's arms, Thunder and Lightning, the First Guns of the United States. It speaks for itself. Check it out.

Sunday, May 10

60 years Later, The People's Republic persists

As the 20th anniversary of the May Fourth Incident, keeping up with the trend in Chinese to name important events after the date they occurred on and known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre in the West, approaches, as well as the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (October 1), I thought it would be interesting to look at student activism in China and what it means to the Chinese Communist Party.

The protests were originally a way for people to commemorate the life and mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, a pro-democracy official in the central government who supported political reform and the creation of a capitalistic China. The participants were mostly students and mostly opposed to authoritarian governments, probably as a result of watching the authoritarian governments of Eastern Europe disappear, and some even called for economic liberalization and democratic reform of the central government.

The May 4 Incident in 1989 is important as the students who participated in these demonstrations were most likely strongly influenced by the student protests during the May 4 Movement in May 4, 1919. In fact, during the demostrations students made parallels between their situation and the situation of students opposing the Treaty of Versailles and Imperialism in 1919. In the view of Chinese officials at that time, "The May Fourth Movement was a thoroughly anti-Imperialist and anti-feudal revolutionary movement. Young students acted as its pioneers...Its great contribution lay in arousing the people's consciousness and preparing for the unity of the revolutionary forces...The May Fourth Movement promoted the spreading of Marxism in China, and prepared the ideological foundation for the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party. The October Revolution pointed out the direction for the Chinese revolution."

These student protests helped pave the way for the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and so there is an inherent link between student protests and the Chinese central government. The party chose to hold student protest and demonstration to be an icon of the social and creative aspect of Chinese communism. However, the recent history of student demonstration matters to the leaders of the People's Republic of China, who become nervous every May as these dates begin to approach, as the student protests of May 1989 posed a formidable challenge to the party's post-1949 run of power in China. And there is always the possibility that history of challenging student protest will repeat itself.

Friday, May 8

100 Days and Beyond: Changing Impressions of Barack Obama and his Presidency

Sorry about the recent lack of posts. I'm deep within the final period at this point and have had lots of studying to do. Luckily the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to show and I should be completely done by tomorrow around 10:30 or 11:00 am.

My friend Jonathan sent me a link the other day of some findings from the Pew Research Center, based relatively close to Georgetown, on L st. in Foggy Bottom. These findings looked at the top 20 words used to describe Barack Obama, noting the frequency at which they were used at the beginning of his campaigning in September 2007 versus the frequency that they were used to describe him in April 2009.

I thought it was a pretty interesting picture of how feelings about the kind of president he would be have changed. For example, more people have said that he is "good" and "intelligent", yet while less people have called him out for being "inexperienced", less people are calling him "charismatic" or "hopeful".

Anyways, it is an interesting piece so check it out for yourself. Frankly, I would like to see the same kind of research done for Michelle Obama. Back during the beginning of President Obama's campaign, Michelle was being characterized by conservative pundits and media outlets as an unpatriotic, black pather-esque radical and depicted by magazines in an afro (as though unrelaxed hair is synonymous with a hatred for America or a supposed White America), camo and a AK-47 slung over her back. Now she has transformed into one of the most popular and prominent figures in Obama's administration. What do the people have to say about her now?

Monday, May 4

SARS versus Swine Flu - China's Attempts to Contain Potential Pandemics

The Chinese just can't get it right. SARS was a huge issue because they tried to suppress it for so long and tried to keep it out of the eye of the international media. So now it seems that they are trying to make up with overarching measures to contain the spread of swine flu by quarantining dozens of innocent and healthy Mexicans in China. But their actions are unnecessary and discriminatory and flirt with the line that marks what is just simply racist.

F.Y.I: I realize this post is much shorter than my other ones but I'm working on writing blerps, mini-blog posts commenting on different websites, which means I have learn how to not ramble in posts like I usually do.


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