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Archive for September, 2011

Perspective

I’ll admit; I’ve gotten into “Kitchen Nightmares”.
The Chef Ramsay show where he enters these failing, dysfunctional restaurants and tried to fix them over the course of a week. Gordon Ramsay is a famous top-rated chef who has met incredible success from years of education, training, and most importantly, work. He starts by simply checking out the produce, looking at the menu, investigating the equipment and checking cleanliness of the restaurant. He then sits down and experiences what their lunch service is like, and then later observes how they perform during the dinner hours. He’s able to find nearly everything wrong with the places during these three phases of survey. These are the remarkable activities where the viewer can watch Chef Ramsay spew onto the local staff his knowledge and expertise that spans decades and continents.

What’s often intriguing about the show is how often the previous mentioned aesthetics are only half of the problem. A tougher issue to deal with are the family restaurants who are distraught for interpersonal reasons. People who are tied together with a close personal history yet are being broken apart piece by piece from slowly going under day by day. Most of the time it’s the business that begins to do poorly that later causes the people involved to grow apart, but in this case it seemed to be the young married couple who brought their problems to the restaurant.

Some young newlyweds thought they would start a fun little restaurant and put their heart and souls into it. They got it off the ground and got ready for the roles of entrepreneurship; where they won’t know if they’ve made the cut to survive until much further down the road. Things moved along and the business grew, and they settled into cushy jobs as owners of a budding establishment. They grew comfortably in their new marriage and the life they had created together, and soon enough began trying to have a baby. Though the restaurant was very much their first child and it required their constant investment of time and money, they wanted to place that same dedication towards having a real family.

Time went by – and it didn’t happen.

The restaurant continued to operate decently as usual, though went a bit on auto-pilot while it was slowly yet steadily neglected by its parents.

The couple, no longer fresh from the chapel, had their up’s and down’s but were still giving it their best to both endeavors. As the stakes rose they decided the business was bringing in enough money to look into IVF* as a means to become pregnant.

(*IVF is a way to get pregnant. You’ll find no information here.)

The IVF process can be incredibly taxing on a couple, and it was astonishing to hear how it tore the lives of all parties involved.

The wife took shots regularly. Big needles with bio-chemical solutions that might burn as the plunger is pressed deeper into the canister.

The solvents are manufactured to have quick as well as gradual effects on the female body.

You become hot.

Irritable.

Angry.

Depressed.

Tired.

Horny.

Exhausted.

People will tell you, it’s hard.

Some may stride right through it. Others you become completely unsatisfiable, all in hopes to later create a family for yourself and the person you want to be with most.

What role did the husband play in this?

How would you want your best man to support you during this?

This guy was out. Hanging out. Partying. Whatever you might call it, or however you want to paint it. Everything I know about this process is that whether it ends in pregnancy or not, an non-negotiable result is two individuals who have been tested, nightly, weekly, monthly, about their dedication to their marriage, their love, and their desire to share it with a child.

It takes a very strong couple sometimes to surpass the very experience and its life-changing remnants.

The wife was making immense efforts, relying on her commitment to her husband and the family she wanted most.

The husband handled the stress with abandonment.

It’s like trying to build a home with crumbling bricks.

The stress of the IVF experience was of course magnified by how the husband dealt with the situation.

They argued.

They couldn’t be in the same room together – and the process of fertilization was ultimately more painful than it needed to be.

Here you would have found the restaurant in a state of abuse also.

They argued in it. They separated into two individual units that put each other down in it. What used to be two people with a vision was then two separate owners with individual agendas. He was too nice and didn’t handle his responsibility, so he stayed in the kitchen. She was detail oriented and driven. She stayed in the front.

At the point when they could no longer be in the restaurant at the same time, he moved out and got his own apartment.

Everything was failing. Gordon saw this and hoped he could fix it.

Well into the week he put them together in the kitchen and said “Your mission is for the two! of you, to make me one!, delicious entrée. Talk it out, figure it out, and make it together.” When he left they didn’t talk.

She made her shrimp.

He saw what she was doing and made his chicken. Chef Ramsay came back on two attempts to check on their progress and after some reiteration and bickering gave up on his strategy and let them be.

They gave him two plates instead of one. The shrimp was good. The chicken was ok.

He later met with them outside the restaurant. He had improved every other aspect of the business. They stood out the cold outdoors and he told them that he gets it. Not foreseeing any chance of them ever being together again, he then told them flatly “You do have a child though; that restaurant! And if you can realign your sites, and make this thing happen, make it work, after I’ve given you every tool possible, you… will be two successfully happy people, whether apart, or together. If you can’t understand that then there’s no hope for either of you, or the restaurant.”

And he left.

The finality in his voice was cold in the air. They half-glanced at one another and saw themselves, finally, as apart. And you know what; I’ve seen people do this. It’s like their live becomes one big publicity stunt to show the other that they’re not needed, that they’ve hurt them so bad they have made them mean nothing to the other person. And the deeper their love, the further away they retreat. They recognized the harm they had done one another and that they were still indeed strung together by the years of fibers they wove between themselves and their lives. They had hurt themselves as much as they had hurt the other. Their abuse to their baby showed clearly.

They also saw how their employees, after all this time working for two bosses who treated each other like Gods of war more than respectful co-owners, still loved it too.

The next day Chef Ramsay came in and they told him about that night’s special entrée. And how they came up with the idea together. They even traded places in the restaurant that night at dinnertime and with a SNAP, everything made sense. He was not only comfortable greeting and working with the guests, he excelled at it. He was easy-going and made sure everybody in the dining room was happy. She rocked and rolled in the kitchen. She delegated work and made sure everything moved with good speed and quality-checked every item before it left for the tables. After all this time, they were for the first time where they should have been from the beginning.

The show left them in a positive state of mind, and though at that point they still did not plan to become a couple again they were finally doing something good for themselves, for each other, and for everyone involved.

It makes you realize how much time we can waste once we get addicted to cultivating our weaknesses.

The human condition makes us unique in the way that our mentalities allow our unresolved emotions of the past to not only waste the present, but cause us to unobservantly negate our futures as well.

How often are we missing our greatest strengths in light of a difficulty that we really should approach?

How many of us have good enough a friend to do what Chef Ramsay did and call them out on their bullshit, and say “Quit the struggle. You’ve made your point. Now you’re just dragging the other down with yourself.” the Shit or Get Off The Pot mentality.

How many of us are fortunate enough to have survived the hardships of IVF with a healthy understanding of the feelings of the other? And whether or not you were fortunate enough to conceive, in the end you have two paths. By the time it’s over there has been two submental decisions that occurred. You either go on by yourself and carry the weight of the entire misfortune, or you share the experience with your dedicated partner and metabolize the challenges of this world together, and let the challenge you overcame tie you closer to one another.

I’ve only been watching Kitchen Nightmares for a few weeks, maybe even a month now, but none of the 15-plus prior episodes gave me such an introspection to the lives of others whom I am not.

What would be the world in the case that we always strive for understanding, and empathy for those around us?

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This I Believe

*Disclaimer: This post contains the liberal use of scatological terminology and slang. Do not proceed if you are prone to offense by the use of any word or reference to any subject.

No entry appearing at ineverycurve.com is created for the purpose of derision or personal assailment. Ever.

Inspired by NPR’s “This I Believe” series, taken from a 1950’s radio show of the same name, Americans from all walks of life share the personal philosophies and core values that guide their daily lives. Less specifically, the series has featured all sorts of people from young to old, the famous and the previously known, all sharing a basic element of who they are while reflecting over a few moments to consider what core ideas and experiences have helped shape their framework. Now in its 4th year, This I Believe also promotes the readers to consider themselves and their own lives, interests, and credos.

http://www.npr.org/series/4538138/this-i-believe

I didn’t decide to base anything off of this excellent publication as much as I simply had my own thoughts and ideas start churning while I was reading. Incidentally I more or less was handed my next blog entry from my own self. I felt like one of those dual-process Intel Pentium computers this morning because while I was working and focusing on other matters, I simultaneously had the material presented below printing out in the back of my mind, needing only the consideration of a fractured second for the pages to continue rolling out.

Simply put, I believe in Hip Hop.

I grew up listening to music in the car while motoring around with my mom, wherever you go as a kid. It was just wallpaper at the time.
Though when I was 7 or 8 years old I heard “Parents Just Don’t Understand” one morning on the way to school and the world changed. I leaned over, put my face practically in the radio, and… listened. That was one of the most relevant moments of my childhood; one of the first noteable events at that point in my life. My first introduction to a state of pure focus.

Hip Hop though, has always been a music of the people. That’s one of the things that grabbed me from the beginning. Hip Hop was 10 million stories from out the heart of the people; mostly then living in the city. Nowadays it’s given voice to people across the globe.

When Amadou Diallo was wrongfully killed in 1999, being shot as an unarmed man by the NY police 41 times (you read that right), Hip Hop answered.

Hip Hop reported it to Virginia youth more so than the media. 41 MC’s gave their time, effort, and money to producing an EP to spread the word. Words of, yes, condemnation, but more so of respect.

Mos Def quoted on that album “We proceeded on a country road. His mother’s eyes withered swoll’. Her child was never coming home. Said a prayer for his soul. As the coffin had closed, committed to the earth below. First seed she would sew, would be a tree never grown. Shade that was never known.”

I felt like I could relate to the situations I had no experience of. See and feel the pulse of life in places I’d never been. The details don’t seem to have any relationship with one another but at a more general level we all deal with the options we’re presented in life with the teachings we were given and what we absorbed from the world. Whether to be more than you thought you could be, or settle for mediocrity, or even let yourself fall to a life of swindling and crime.

There’s a lot of stories in the annals of Hip Hop.

When you played songs like these for somebody their eyelids rose when that beat dropped.

When you played someone a track with a style of tongue yet unheard of faces stayed silent but eyes screamed “Ohhh shit!”. The biggest pound to the heart of a Hip Hop head came in the form of an intent listener and then a ceremonial “Where’d you get that??” after it was over.

I’ve done it a thousand times.

It was this act of sharing and displaying that makes Hip Hop such a demonstrative culture. Back in the day the boom boxes rode on shoulders to share this life. To spread it around for astonishment.

You show off what you’ve discovered, what you found, so others could get that same buzz off it.

This is where people started making connections with other heads on the streets, making friends and networks so they might stay on top of what someone else was doing and stay on the fresh tip with who was using what to make new music.

Because none of it was on the radio. It wasn’t in stores.

The sound and the life got passed around by word-of-mouth and trading mix tapes, either from the radio or from a friend.

Cassette tapes and pause-buttons were the carrier of the disease. And after you realized that the writing on the tape in your hands isn’t yours, and doesn’t look like any of your friend’s, and hell, you might not even be able to find out where it actually came from – that’s when you knew that tape was sick.

That it was ill.

“The kind of shit you wouldn’t hear anywhere else is what Hip Hop was doing” Sage Francis toted on a personal Hip Hop documentary entitled “Life Is Easy”. A Rhode Island misfit who grew up out of place but found his way through this fluidly dynamic music.

Hip Hop kept people talking. It had you out, living, and interacting. Standing in a circle people’s minds were jazzed and pulsing with something as big as life itself.

Legendary acts have been formed from bumping into people at shows time after time.

And seeing one guy do it, made you want to. Brother Ali mentioned one time how seeing Slug perform a sold-out show at First Ave in Minneapolis (a venue that native hero Prince was the first to sell-out) made him think “Well, if he’s doing that, then I could do that too.”

And until the internet, a lot of our music stayed localized around the country’s areas while regional styles were germinating. These regional styles have now been blooming for decades. It wasn’t always so obvious that it was going to be as easy to name a rapper from Chicago, and Florida, and Georgia as it was New York or California. Due to moderate exposure and choosy, usually private distributors it was the tour schedule of an MC or a DJ that dictated what kind of year it was going to be for them. Who was going to know them. Doing your art from town to town was how you kept your name on people’s minds. In Hip Hop you have to show people what you’re doing.

I remember thinking how awesome the first time I found an online lyrics database. I remember Hiero had a website up when it was all still young and it was so cool you could click on a rapper and choose which song lyrics you wanted to see. Hieroglyphics.com as one of the earlier Hip Hop collectives to embrace the internet. I think there was a period where putting more and more resources and time to your online presence and access was yet to be determined as being nerdy or not. Like you were going to lose some street cred if you started moving a lot of albums from your website or had products from a cheesy online store. But look at where we are now. I’m sure it was a no-brainer once rural heads got a hold of websites like Sandboxautomatic.com and UndergroundHipHop.com where the inventories were huge and more than worth biting the bullet and spending more than seemingly necessary for shipping. I remember we’d do group orders because I had a computer and Erol’s dial-up internet (and a mom who would let me use her credit card for the order).

The internet has increasingly evolved the way Hip Hop music and culture continues to spread. I’m on more mailing lists for artists, groups, and labels that send out notices for early-street date releases, downloads for mixes, remixes, free singles and promos…

There’s a lot of followers out there – but it’s still the artist’s responsibility to keep up their game and try to do the next thing whenever possible.

That is not meant to say the purpose of the music is to always be trying to do the next new thing. Hip Hop is and will always be poetry. It’s poetic. When Blueprint said “When somebody I don’t know gives me compliments / seeing humbleness replace overconfidence / hearing MC’s that rap about the consequence / instead of glorifying a lifestyle that lacks any type of common sense.” That was poetry. Not to mention this song is called “My Favorite Things” taken from the famous song from The Sound of Music and featuring samples from the original Rogers and Hammerstein classic.

Hip Hop represents life. Past, present, and future.

From praise God, to God bless my Mama, to God damn!

A favorite line of mine regarding spirituality has always credited to Common (Sense), ” Who am I or they to say to whom you pray ain’t right. That’s who got you doin right and got you this far, whether you say “in Jesus name” or “Al hum du’Allah” as recording on “G.O.D.” (Gaining One’s Definition).

Pigeon John, Braille, and the London Symphony showed us you could be Christian and be Hip Hop.

Brother Ali, Guru, Mos Def and Vinnie Paz devoutly praise Allah across their albums.

On women and sex Hip Hop gave us conceptual lectures, boasts, brags, tragic stories, and lessons on safety.

The Juggaknots had an awesome 2-way conversation about a white father’s issues with his son dating a black girl. Clear Blue Skies was knowledge in the late 90’s.

Hip Hop had people from insanely different places all growing up under the same roof. I find more examples of this the longer I live.

Hip Hop let a person’s self-esteem explode in ways never before thought possible. Hip Hop showed you something new and brought what you were looking for.

On tracks where the writer is what we call strictly spittin the voice of the MC is simply claiming full responsibility for keeping your attention on lock for minutes on end.

Brother Ali lays a perfect example: “Most my heroes don’t even compete with me, I’m on my own kinda sucker- free frequency. I got a IQ I refuse to speak beneath, and to lie to you would only cheapen me.”

Hip Hop gave you role models who were tired of taking it. It showed you what it’s like to get right up in the face of your problem and say “Fuck you”.

It put you front seat in a classroom for not taking anyone’s shit. Hip Hop controlled that attitude.

Hip Hop dealt with friends who turned face and burnt you: “Stolen Moments” (Common), “Frienemies” (Arsonists), “Toxic” (Tame One).

It came with true grit. MC’s command’s receive response through the microphone and the speakers that boost them.

It’s a disproportionately male art and the songs of love are endless. So are the proud father tracks, and the reflective vapors of the occasional “what if she’s pregnant” verse. Further on love was Method Man’s “All That I Need” or the Lifesavas’ “Feva’ ”.

Whatever the subject, we all felt like we were there.

The music told us about the newest trends, styles, slang, and everything that was cool. As a teenager I was always digging up more beats and lyrics from East and West coast and sharing them for that “wow” effect. Fortunate or not one can argue, these are easily commercialized also. so you end up with the real yet marketable “Wu-Wear” from Wu-Tang Clan or the cool for a minute Dazy Dukes by Deuce. Timberlands, Ugs, Adidas, Iceberg, FUBU, Gucci, and countless others owe a lot to Hip Hop. Applebottom jeans and all kinds of fads are born or epitomized in the industry.

Whether it’s modern and fresh or old and dusty Hip Hop can wow you. It’s funny how a track made from vinyl samples, drum beats and 50-year old horns can be as brilliant to a listener as a new single with digital sampling and hi-end mastering.

But that’s another thing; Hip Hop is also funny. There’s “Food Fight” (Humpty Hump and Del), “Ya Mama” (Tha Pharcyde) and more songs than I can count that show off the sense of humor of the culture’s various rappers and collectives. Ugly Duckling are a crew of gifted MC’s who always take the time to poke fun at themselves about their personal lives and careers.

It’s a front-runner for more good memories than I can ever remember, but also many memories are linked to what was coming out, what I was listening to, or what was hot at the time. Songs really help me find dates for what has happened in the past.

Also amazing is the languages Hip Hop is in. Okay, someone in most any language is rhyming to beats now, but the prevalence of songs either in Spanish, French, and Portuguese (and more) or those with a verse or couplet in another language is a testament to hip hop’s universal, natural connection with life. I’ll even mention Eminem’s pig Latin spit on the 8 Mile soundtrack. (Yes!)

Nowadays you see Hip Hop in rural American more than ever. There’s a lot of rappers who grew up in the counties, out in the woods and away from the cities and they represent that feel with other groups and crews from similar places. Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, Washington, Oregon… they all have something to represent in 2011.

It may not have been picked up on widespread like if the event should have occurred in New York or LA instead, but it was fresh as well as honorable for Kentucky’s Cunninlyguists to mention Virginia Tech in a song, serving as an example an unnecessary modern day tragedy.

Ana Tijoux, a French-Chilean female MC just released a great Latin Hip Hop album entitled 1977 that even samples local Richmond, Virginia favorite Mad Skillz from his late 90’s rise to fame.

I love hip hops collaborations. I have never known of another music to so blatantly socialize and build careers alongside of friends and peers than this business. BlackStar, Distant Relatives, Haiku D’Etat, EMC… Groups made of different combinations of members of the generally same crews: Wu-Massacre, The Mighty Underdogs/Latyrx/Maroons/Quannum, and the extensive Aceyalone-funded The A-Team/Freestyle Fellowship/The Good Brothers/Haiku D’Etat/The Good Life/Project Blowed and the Lightning Strikes album and The Lonely Ones collaborations released under his solo moniker.

The nostalgia songs; I Was There (Ed OG), Growing Old (Pigeon John), Back In The Day (Ahmad).

I think it’s awesome how albums I had to dig and search for and songs I couldn’t find anywhere now show up on my Pandora stations.

I need to stop and say thank you for letting me spew with such personal idolatry for so long here. If you’re looking for an old CD or wondering what’s coming out this Fall, just holler.

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