Lil B

Lil B is a hip-hop musician from the Bay Area who’s earned my respect and fairly loyal following in

Lil B generally uploads very unique (and obviously
photoshopped) pictures of himself to his Facebook page.
This one is but a sample.
A still from B’s music video, “Eat A$$”.
A very classic and widespread picture of the Based God
in one of his more “rare” outfit.

the weirdest of ways.

To this day, I’ve yet to compose a homage to one of the most unlikely role models I’ve come to respect. His name is Brandon McCartney, but the name he’s famous for is Lil B ‘The BasedGod’. The first part of his name satisfies the nature of standard rapper aliases, but the second part reveals the more interesting part of Brandon’s music and philosophy. Lil B regards himself as the creator and, in my eyes, sole practitioner of what he’s termed, “based music.” Music critics describe it as a “stream of consciousness” style of rapping, but I know it as an excuse under which to produce relatable, thought-provoking music alongside mind-numbing exposes about “fucking bitches” and “going dumb”. Just because it’s an excuse, however, doesn’t mean I don’t regard it in a positive manner.

Lil B originally got his music career started through his involvement with the moderately successful, hyphy movement-era group, “The Pack”, whose hit single “Vans” constituted an anthem to their cultural surroundings and was also a fairly catchy, radio-friendly hip-hop tune. Following “The Pack’s” success, however, Lil B split and began pushing his solo endeavors by posting MP3 file after MP3 file across multiple MySpace pages. Essentially, Lil B came to be through an incessant proliferation of content, some of which was admittedly trash. As the size (but not necessarily the depth) of B’s repertoire grew, so did his fan base, and soon he would reach a point where his videos of him executing poor lip-synching whilst accompanied by females who look like they’d rather be doing anything but pretending to be B’s groupies,

I’m aware that I’m describing Lil B as a pathetic, amateur rapper with a penchant for producing crap. In some respects, that’s true. But in other respects, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. You see, Lil B is a duplicitous artist, with the ability to produce fantastic music and the gall to produce music less so. That, in and of itself, is a fantastic quality. In multiple interviews, B has stated that his outlook on life involves being himself and loving others whilst rejecting the naysayers. Often, he expresses this outlook in less than noble vocabulary.

His philosophy is not unique, but his rise to fame and current ubiquity as due to his tantalizing musicianship makes it unique. It’s kind of like hearing the same thing from two different people – even though the message is the same, its purveyor might make you receive it differently.

Throughout my life, I’ve wrestled with the very concepts Lil B seems to have a handle on – understanding who one is, what one wishes to identify oneself with, how one seeks to behave oneself with other people. Lil B, in praising self-esteem and individuality as kindling of a full life, has helped me become more confident about the ways I answer those questions. I don’t want to be like Lil B – talking about fucking bitches and smoking “purp”1 and having a heater – but I want to be that which I want to be as ardently and decidedly as Lil B is himself.

That’s a little of a tongue twister. I apologize.

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Extradurable Goods / "Technological Perennialism"

A 1980s Sun Miami cruiser, that used to be mine,
is a wonderful example of “perennial” technology:
still going strong after 30 years.
1998 Volvo S70
1998 Volvo S70 (Photo credit: merfam)
Playstation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
IPad Mini
IPad Mini (Photo credits: Best Buy)
English: The “Boro Eye”, photo 1 of 4. Taken at dusk on an Apple iPhone 3GS. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here, I’m talking about a particular perspective I have on the nature of technology – that of “technological perennialism”. I’m also discussing the source of that idea of mine – my own experience with technology.
I have a fascination with a certain perspective about technology that would be difficult to make a reality in the current technological climate. Have you ever, or do you currently, owned a piece of technology whose workmanship was of such a caliber, and whose purpose was of such relevance across time, that it has “lasted all these years”? I can think of a few examples that people might own – a refrigerator, an air conditioner unit, a car, a house. These items are not just durable goods, they’re “extra-durable goods”, because they’ve been able to be used, in fairly unmodified and unrepaired form, for very many years.

Compare that to the current throw-away ethic dominating the cellular phone market, one that is familiar to the hundreds upon thousands of people that are always looking for the cheapest and most efficient way to get their hands on the next best smartphone. Is it the fault of the consumers, for being unappreciative assholes and not respecting the time and dedication that goes into designing and manufacturing each smartphone, or is it the fault of the manufactures for not creating sufficiently durable and reliable end-user machines?

Here’s another possibility: are the manufactures simply hell-bent on being assholes themselves and getting people to buy subsequent revisions of their hardware by doing the revisions on a very regular basis? Sooner than later, today’s hot and handy smartphone becomes the model that was hot and handy six months ago, and in an economic climate where people are both counting their change and are fascinated by having the latest thing, it’s an injurious practice to be constantly feeding the materialistic flame.

While all the heretofore described possibilities are, well, possible, I think the consumers are most likely at fault. I, for example, own an iPhone 4 alongside a 1983 Sun Miami touring-style bicycle. Both are perfectly serviceable, but both are “last year’s model” (more like “very many years ago’s model). The car that I drive – my dad’s 1999 Volvo S70 – hums along nearly perfectly at over 200,000 miles, whilst my friend’s year model car had to be brought in for repair.

Here’s my proposal to the technology world at large – let go of that throw-away ethic. In fact, throw it away. Then, create its antithesis: the dogma of technological perennialism. Much like the Sequoyah tree is described as a perennial, so should as much currently existing technology as possible (unless it’s designed to be disposable or single use, of course). Going back to the iPhone; imagine if you could buy the iPhone 5 today, and have it last you 10 years. Surely you’d have to maintain the thing by defragmenting its flash storage every now and then, backing up the contents of the storage every now and then… but the thing would last you ten years (unless you’re malicious towards it). You could take pride in taking out your iPhone in public, or feel incredible anger and frustration when it’s stolen. It could literally last you until it becomes obsolete, not way before (Apple’s iPhone 3GS, released in 2009, is still supported, four years later).

But other concerns likely govern a company’s decision to feed the throw-away ethic, one of the largest likely being a company’s desire to “stay fresh”. Perhaps, if Apple had manufactured the 3GS and not released a new model until now, people would’ve lost interest in the company as a symbol of innovation and would’ve regarded it solely as a place to get your immutable and unchanging and eventually boring 3GS, repaired or replaced.

I guess it’s just a personal frustration to see perfectly good technology be dismissed as useless crap, especially when it’s confronted by a prettier-looking or better-performing newbie. That frustration, in turn, likely stems from my own challenges growing up.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been into technology, of all sorts. It likely began with my first video game console (SEGA Genesis) and continued with the computer, then dial-up Internet, then DSL, then the smartphone. For as long as I can remember, it’s always been hard to obtain new things, especially expensive technological goods. Each time I did, then, was a momentous milestone in my growing collection of technology. Each time I would get a new item, I would evaluate, in my head, what I would be able to do with it that I hadn’t been able to do previously; I would then regurgitate this, in vocal form, to whomever was next to me and had ears, “Now that I have this, I can …”, or “Now that I have this, I’ll be able to …” To think such thoughts of opportunity always put a smile in my face, akin to the expression of boyhood wonder that one may witness on the face of a young child playing with his toys. Regardless of what else I would have to do – homework, chores, family bonding time – I would do my absolute best to get it done quickly, or not do it at all, in order to get some alone time with my new technology. I never humped the things or kissed them or gave them pet names, but I developed connections with each item, that I happily reminisce upon, in one way or another, to this day.

I’ll never forget, for example, the day my dad bought me a PlayStation One. It was a rainy day; one of those Hollywood thunderstorms replete with ferocious wind gusts and torrential downpour that didn’t seem to let up. We drove to the Best Buy store by the Dadeland North Metrorail station, ascending the spiral slopes to the third floor parking lot and parking as close as possible to the entrance of the shop. My dad, attempting to counter my excitement with nonchalance, walked in with me whilst pretending to be more interested in the musical instruments department, erected at the complete opposite side of the store, well away from the video games section. Being a child of about nine or eleven years of age, I saw no recourse but to grab him by the shoulder and steer him clear of any foreign influences. I wanted us to make this transaction quick, so we could dodge the raindrops outside and get back home. As I drew closer and closer to the video games section … there it was, in a compact black box with screenshots of the system’s then-most popular games on the back. It was beautiful. After we bought the machine for a whopping fifty bucks plus tax, we hurried home and I plugged it in to the television set. This set was also top of the last year’s line – a sixteen inch tube cathode ray tube television atop a wooden bookshelf enclosing Cosmopolitan and US Weekly magazines that my mom would often leaf through. I unboxed the thing with unprecedented excitement, only to find that the television set didn’t have audio/video inputs.

Had I been older, I would’ve said “Fuck!” But my then-innocent mind simply dawdled over to my dad, who was sitting at the dinner table, snacking on yesterday’s leftovers, happy that he’d made a purchase that made me happy, and told him my dilemma. Also the technology fanatic, he quickly acknowledged the problem and proposed the solution – an RCA to RF converter was necessary. We drove to the nearest Radioshack, bought the damn thing, and came back. Finally, I was able to connect my new plaything! One of the first games I played was Driver: You Are The Wheelman, a racing game which has the player filling the shoes of undercover cop Tanner, as he infiltrates criminal gangs by pretending to be a hot-shot getaway driver. The game featured the recreation of four American cities as its playing environment, one of which was my very own Miami, Florida. I recall being taken aback by one of the graphical effects in the game, the sun shining down on the lustrous hood of the Mustang look-alike that Tanner drives throughout the game. It was so unfathomable to me, back then, that a game could look and feel so real … nowadays, it’s the norm.

I have other tales of my appreciation of technology – my most outward being the time I cried when my parents set aside what little money they could and bought me an iPhone 3GS, complete with Apple earphones and an Otterbox case – but I think the point’s been driven home, away and home again. It irks me when people dismiss technology they own as being crap when it’s compared to something newer. I’ve spent a lot of time, for example, figuring out how to retrofit older technologies to fit modern standards. The very computer I’m writing this on is a ten-year old Dell PowerEdge server, which, as per the nature of technological progress and as per the very dogma of the company who manufactured, should be considered “obsolete” by now. But how could I consider it obsolete, when it’s accomplishing the very task I need it to accomplish – typing this journal entry?

Granted, some things do need to be thrown away or recycled for building materials (a computer any older than this Dell, for example, might cringe at the thought of having to run a word processor) but in my experience, people do so sooner than later, and it’s wrong. Always, always, always be willing to give your old technology, or someone else’s old technology, a second chance.

It might just work out.

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Common Slacker Identity / High School Recallings

Some of the elements of this tale are fictitious, but it’s based on a true story.
At my former high school, there was a “classroom” in the building’s television production studio that

Myself and some of my pals from high school. 

was situated behind the room where the technical direction equipment was installed. The place had seen better days, clearly – now it was reminiscent of a closet, with vintage lighting equipment and rusty screws dispersed atop the tiled floor. But the attractive quality of it was its seclusion from the rest of the television production studio – a perfect place for students to get away with any and all sorts of mischief.

The crew of kids that ran the show in that closet of a “classroom” was indeed students that, whilst perfectly capable, weren’t always very applied. They spent the majority of the time of their TV Production class hanging out in the back discussing heaven knows what. But in doing so, they formed a second home. To get to class was to sit in the actual classroom for roll call and then make the clandestine pilgrimage to the back room, away from the teacher’s eyes.

How she never figured it out is beyond me.

These kids would do all sorts of less than noble things in that room. None were perverse but a few were questionably legal. Among the more easily digestible ones were cutting out a square piece of red construction paper which was then placed under the large fluorescent bulbs that lit up the room in order to a create a darkroom effect; another was the removal of a few floor tiles, which created a safe hideout spot for when the teacher would make her rounds.

Throughout the course of my high school years, I wouldn’t applaud the crew for the mischief they engaged in, but I would always recognize the unifying power that something common can have. These kids – admittedly slackers – wanted a place where they could slack together. In searching for and then finding that room, that place where their purpose could be shared between one another; they stumbled upon a strong human bond, as facilitated by that room.

You might call this reflection insipid or inconsequential, but it’s special to me for a couple reasons. For

Graduation 2012 at FIU!

Winning Prom King!

one, it reminds me of the fun times I had in high school. Secondly – and more importantly – it illustrated for me, at a very early stage in my academic development, the concept of groupthink. The reason why the mischief that occurred in and around that room happened in the first place was partly because the group‘s constituents fed off one another’s motivation for an initially bad idea.

I remember just how the red light idea was born – one of the members of the group proposed the plan,

Myself and a friend of mine, Samantha, on one of the
last days of senior year.

and the rest quickly dismissed it as hard work that had no place in their “slackosphere”. A few days later, though, another group member recalled the idea as part of a larger list of ideas he was expounding. The other members of the group – hungry for ruckus – realized it’d be a way to satisfy their hunger. Despite the plan’s opposition to their work ethic, each member fed off one another’s latent desires to cause a mess, and hence the red light room was born.

This train of thought – not individual, but rather composed by many people – is the kind of thing that was most gripping about this back room society. It was like they were parasites unto one another, motivating themselves to do bad things. However ignoble the ends, the way the group worked together, both on the red light project and other endeavors, was simply beautiful.

And to think it was all because they wanted to do nothing.

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Room for Success

A shot of Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus,
taken on a sleepy Saturday afternoon. 

The college experience heretofore has been fantastic. Wonderful people, from the faculty to the friends

I’ve made; incredible resources, ranging from the technological to the social; and more.

But looking to the future, one thing concerns me. Being in an Honors program, there’s a degree of pressure fomented by the faculty, as well as the nature of the curriculum, to succeed academically with the objective of pursuing a prestigious post-A.A. (associate’s degree) education. This, combined with the idea that “we’re all a family” in this humble yet far-reaching academic collective of no more than two hundred students at a time (the Honors college), produces a sense of claustrophobia for me.

In an educational atmosphere where limited university admission quotas, limited scholarships and a limited availability of jobs (even with a college degree), how can I expect to be successful along with 199 other equally successful students?

So many people attend college, and many want to achieve
success. But is there room for everyone to do so?

Granted, not everyone will meet the Honors College‘s expectations, but the philosophy remains.

Such a feeling of claustrophobia comes from a sense of being in a small vector of perceived “success” along with many other success-driven/oriented kids that are seeking the same outcome.

A shot of my MAC1105 class this fall 2013 semester.

Essentially, the whole of it is akin to an accelerated version of society’s misuse of limited goods, a dynamic so often discussed in conversations about sustainability. Here, though, it feels much tenser.

It feels that way namely because of that map of American colleges and universities that adorns the foyer of the Honors College lounge, regularly attracting gritty students thumbtacking their next destination.

Every day, the map gets smaller. Or so it seems.
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