Excerpt #3: “Playing Hard”, from”The Wisdom of Boodha: Life Lessons I Learned From Man’s Best Friend”

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Hanging out with friends yesterday, watching football and being around their older dog made me miss my boy. There was so many times I remember hanging out in my man cave, with Boodha, watching football, and in between plays, tossing his favorite ball or playing tug a war with his industrictable rubber rings.  That said, I thought I would share an excerpt from my “work in progress”” or possible novel called “The Wisdom of Boodha: Life Lessons I Learned From Man’s Best Friend”. This chapter was called “Playing Hard”.

Playing Hard

On Boodha’s very last day, we played his all time favorite game, fetch, with his all time favorite toy, his neon green ball. This ritual was remarkable because despite his old age and many of his physical faculties being compromised, like eye sight, and speed and agility, Boodha always played this game with the same intensity as day one. When he was younger and spry, and full of boundless energy, he had plenty of games he would also play, like tug a war with ropes, running with the big dog packs at the park, and long wooded hikes. No matter what the game was, he always played hard.

This lesson Boodha taught me, was that no matter what the prior circumstances up to that point or what might happen afterward, when it was play time, it was all about playing hard. Wether sick, or old, or when or where he was, I was always taken back at Boodha’s ability to remove any focus on prior or post circumstances, situations, and settings and the focus and intensity lied in the game itself and the participation in the game. This penchant for unbridled intensity of play and participation was always consistent and always at a certain level with Boodha, no matter what.

I remember when he once had an allergic reaction to something, and was vomiting and his face swelled up. While he was growing sicker and prior to the eventual prognosis, when I was not fully aware of the situation and was playing fetch with him as normal, I remember him still fetching and running and playing as hard as he could despite the circumstances. As a matter of fact this incident and others similar to this, were what helped me detect when something was wrong based on not a lack of participation, but rather a slight tick in pace and length of play.

I remember a few times where Boodha strained his leg or muscles and his mobility was compromised. Obviously, my sympathy for his injuries, would not allow me to force playing but I can honestly say that if I attempted to play or if when I played with him, delicately with him in these situations, he was always a willing participant, he always went as hard as he could, and he never boycotted this call to play.

There was even a bit of guilt on my part, on his last day, when we had a very long session of fetch, and later that evening he grew sick and shut down and passed. Part of me wondered if I pushed him too hard, knowing he was always a willing participant and he always played hard no matter what the circumstances. At the same time, I always tried to be vigilant, especially in his later years when it came to the fragility of his health, so that evening was no different for me as his play partner. As a matter of fact, I was equally vigilant and purposeful on making sure Boodha and me had a certain quota of playtime each week. This was because I could see the stimulation that playtime provided him, the bond as playmates it helped create, and the positive effects on his mental, spiritual, and physical health.

These benefits that I mentioned were the life lesson of playing hard that I learned from him. As humans if we can remove external factors and avoid focusing on the past or future situation or circumstance, and allow ourselves to be fully immersed in whatever play we are participating in, there are a host of benefits. We find stimulation in the act of playing hard. We create bonds with the fellow participants in the game, and we find mental and spiritual solace in act of playing hard. Playing hard helps us physically get stronger. By avoiding any excuses as to why we shouldn’t play the game, and by avoiding playing the game, half assed, and by always being a willing participant in the game, and by playing the game with same intentional intensity no matter what, we can find fulfillment and satisfaction for a lifetime. We can get past barriers and excuses and manifest the energy and drive to be a willing participant of play from childhood up to a last days, long after when our physicality is compromised.

 

 

Excerpt #2 From my Novel, “Boodha’s Wisdom: Life Lessons I Learned From Man’s Best Friend”…”Health Consciousness”

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This is a second excerpt from the possible novel I have been working on about the life lesson’s and wisdom my dog, ironically named Boodha, who passed away this year taught and gave me.  This one is from the chapter titled, “Health Consciousness”.

 

Health Consciousness 

When I elected to get a pure breed dog, versus a mixed breed, and in particular this breed, the English Bulldog, research informed me of a myriad of potential health issues that I could be facing with this animal. Skin issues, overheating, joint issues, obesity, respiratory issues were just a few health issues synonymous with this breed of dog.

When we first brought Boodha home as pup, my now wife and I decided to feed him a popular, name brand food based on our breeder’s recommendation, and whose brand also happened to sponsor their breeding operation. Betweeen being a complete neophyte when it came to raising a dog and being in a more challenging financial situation at that time, the decision to feed him this food was an easy one. However, I didn’t realize or even care that the food was comprised of poor quality ingredients that had an adverse affect on his health. At that time in my life, a lot of decisions were made based on ignorance, convenience, and financial motives, and it was at the expense of a lot of things in life, such as health and wellness as one example. Making a simple decision like feeding my dog this kind of poor quality food, based on cost, my own convenience, and a lack of understanding, had a direct affect on Boodha’s health and well being. This kind of affect on his health manifested as chronic skin and bowel issues to name a few.

The lesson of health consciousness that Boodha taught me took a long time to learn. As a young adult when I first adopted him, I was personally operating from a place of blind ignorance when it came to my own physical health. This was based on the assumption that being young comes with a certain invincibility and resilience, that no matter how much damage I were to accrue, I would be fine and could quickly recover. This youthful ignorance applied to the choices I made initially, to Boodha’s physical health. The idea and energy required for true health consciousness were curbed by excuses and justifications. Bowel issues that he had from eating poor quality food were laughed off and chronic skin issues and inflammation were written off as just part of this breed of dog. This dynamic continued to parallel my own life. My own poor diet and physical lifestyle choices were justified as being young and having fun, or my body image was just the way I was or part of who I always was.

However, beneath these lies, Boodha’s introduction into my life helped push me into an eventual obsession with physical health and wellness in all fascets of my life. Though, my young adulthood was wrought with these poor physical choices there was always something inside me that was fascinated with health consciousness and part of my lifestyle did incorporate this cousiousness from the very beginning. However, it took the observation and accountability of another being in Boodha, before I truly learned to make it a top priority and focus of my life. It took extra medical expenses pertaining to him to help learn this lesson. Even though and fortunately it didn’t come to any major surgeries or health crisise, things like the vetinarians wanting to prescribe a lifetime of expensive meds and in turn spend a lifetime addressing chronic issues, it taught me that the root cause must be explored when it came to physical health. I was made aware that I could improve the quality of Boodha’s physical life with preventative measures and better lifestyle choices. This included a long quest to find high quality food for him, to eliminate real foods that had adverse affects on him. It included regimented excercise and physical stimulation for him. It included practicing good hygiene to mitigate chronic skin issues.

Reaching this point of health consciousness with Boodha was not an overnight change. It took literally a lifetime of awareness, experimentation, and dedication. My own physical transformation in terms of becoming more health conscious coincided with raising Boodha. For example the regimented excercise with him forced me out of my own more sedatory lifestyle choices since I was the one responsible for scheduling and implementing them. Seeing the adverse affect of poor diet and hygene choices with him, prompted the question with my own life. Like, “what is the cost of eating or drinking that? What will happen?”. “How do I feel when I don’t go for a walk?”. “How do I feel after I do?”.

Even as Boodha aged and much of his physical health was diminished, the lesson of health consciousness proved to be even more critical. Prognostications by his vet and by others with similar experiences as pet owners, often painted a grim picture of what his physical life would become as he grew old. I couldn’t blame or judge this outlook, since often it was prompted by a compassion to avoid pain and suffering or it was just someone else’s account and experience as a fellow dog owner, however I could clearly see that I could avoid much of these pitfalls and maintain a long healthy life with him, counter to the norm, by awareness and making consistent health conscious choices with him.

These same principles were valuable to myself as I grew older at the same time as Boodha. He taught me that achieving physical balance and homeostasis, long into life, was possible if the majority of choices about physical health such as diet, hygiene, sleep, and excercise were sound and made with a certain awareness and consciousness. I also learned that although a lot of science was out there, it was never a perfect science in the sense that there was never a sudden moment or place of acheivement, but instead it was a perpetual process. Learning about better physical health was a continual process and the application required consistency and commitment. Mistakes were and would continue to be made along the way, but it was important that they were learned from and better choices were made the next time around. The benefits of health consciousness were not always immediate or glaring, but instead manifested in a subtle end or minimization to physical pain and suffering, or the avoidance of disatorous medical implications such as cancer, emergency surgery, or a lifetime of side affect filled, expensive, medications.

As my family grew and we introduced kids into the equation, all the while watching Boodha live out an entire lifetime, the consciousness of physical health that I learned a lot about by raising Boodha from a pup, permeated into raising our human pups. Our kids up to this point were not sickly and were able to avoid major medical issues, and carry balanced, happy demeanors to this day. I would like to think this is in part, because of many of the health conscious decisions we made with them such as diet and excercise and good hygiene. Just like with Boodha and myself this is a continual learning process and a lifetime of commitment, but I can always see a difference when a practice these principles compared to when I neglect them.

 

Happy Birthday Boodha

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Today, August 28th, 2019, would have marked Boodha the Bulldog’s 13th birthday.  When we lost him back in May, I wrote on this very platform, about what he meant to me, my wife, and our family.  After the grieving subsided somewhat, I decided to dive a little deeper and was really thinking about not just the cherished memories with our beloved family pet, but the life lessons I learned from Boodha’s time on this earth.  Since he touched and taught me so much, on so many different levels, I decided to write down many of these lessons.  I am far from a novelist, but I have aspirations of eventually refining the writings and putting them into novel form, maybe even two versions.  The first version would be an adult, almost “self improvement” book and the second version a condensed, kids book, complete with illustrations by yours truly.

So on this  “would be” birthday, I included an excerpt from my work.  It is one of many of the life lessons I pondered that Boodha the Bulldog taught me about life.  In the coming months, I look forward to posting more of these that I have in the pipeline and ones that I will continue to create and refine.

… Happy Birthday my friend, I truly miss you!

Patience:

By far one of the most valuable lessons I learned from my time with my beloved Boodha, was patience. The very task of being the caretaker of another being, which begin with Boodha as a helpless young puppy, totally reliant on his caretaker to survive and ultimately thrive, taught me early and often, that I must take a step back and wait for certain things to unfold if I wanted to yield positive results or progress. Necessary tasks when rearing a puppy, such as house breaking him, integrating him into a new home, and setting his daily routine, all proved to be challenging exercises in patience. Whether one buys into the idea of animals having unique personalities or if it could be attributed to his notoriously, stubborn English Bulldog breed, Boodha, from the time as a puppy, all the way up to his final days, always projected a stubborn, disposition about nearly everything. With what seemed like a very high level of animal intelligence and an ability to pick up on things quickly, I always got the sense that he would understand any corrections, instructions, or concepts taking place but then would make a decision on whether to comply or refuse, in that moment. Boodha was not a low intelligence animal, complicit in all of his owner’s commands, as some sort of blind desperation for affection, nor was he an animal suffering from deep trauma and complicit out of fear, and terror of repricussions. Any attempts on my part to expedite or force the compliance process with him were futile and it became a game of waiting and consistency, both of which it behooves one to be patient.

Even with an emphasis on discipline and establishing a physical routine, like when walking him, or bathing him, required me to learn how to hang in there, not push too hard, and wait for things to unfold, almost organically. When I tried the opposite approach and tried to force the issue, the results were always counterproductive or disastrous. Even as Boodha became older and his eyesight and mobility were severely compromised, in order to still be able to play his favorite game of fetch with him, or take him up and down the stairs after using the bathroom or taking him out, places, I had to learn how to slow down, calm down, minimize any anxiousness, and let him know what I wished of him but not in a negative, forceful way, based on my own impatience and my own urgency. When I was able to pull off this more patient approach, he was always more responsive and it really allowed me to maintain high energy levels and active participation from him, all the way up to the very day he passed.

The lesson of patience I learned from Boodha was invaluable and I was able to and am still applying it everyday to rearing my two children. Although my children have gained verbal communication and reasoning skills, which change the equation some what, the ability to take a step back and just let things unfold naturally versus aggressively pushing the situation have proven to work well just like with Boodha. Especially as they grow older, I can see the value of taking a step back, after whatever I asked or requested from them, and letting them process it, and giving them time and the freedom to produce. When I do lose patience, and I have an anxious, aggressive attitude looking for immediate results from them, like Boodha, they become less responsive, and in many cases they even react the opposite of what I think I want from them, as a reminder that pushing is problematic and patience is a virtue.

Don’t get me wrong, the idea of practicing patience that Boodha taught me, does not in any way, diminish a sense of urgency, nor the aggressive pursuit of something, both of which there is a time and place for. However, Boodha was a very tangible, literal example of the idea of practicing patience. For example, having on many occassions, to literally pull and drag him on his leashe just to get him started walking, knowing it was necessary to keep him healthy and knowing he would, most of the time, eventually enjoy it after getting started, patience had to be prevelant with him on these walking expeditions. If I had little patience in this scenario and I tried to drag him, he would dig his heels in like a stubborn bulldog and would fight me tooth and nail, to not walk. As he blossomed into a muscle bound, 70 lb adult dog, the idea of tug a war with him, was just a way to exhaust me and make me give up walking him, altogether. If I lacked patience in this same walking scenario and I refused to walk him and went right back inside, and gave up, I could expect a dog later that day, bursting with excess energy, not wanting to eat all his food, or having a bathroom accident in the house, all possible scenarios from a dog that did not get proper excercise and stimulation. Instead, stern and consistent verbal commands from me, and a slow game of nudging by the inch and then foot, while continually waiting on him to progress, eventually led to momentum, and then led to a full walk, and in turn, led to a happier, balanced dog.

This literal example of walking Boodha is a metaphor for practicing patience in real life. Regardless of the scenario, whether child rearing, a romantic relationship, or a career, etc., often when we lack patience, and seek immediate results, and we tug on a metaphorical leashe and try to pull instead of taking time out to let the situation unfold and let the other person or thing respond, we are met with resistance from the other and a refusal to comply. Then there is little or no progress foward or a complete digression takes place. This is because we are not considering the other’s time, abilities, or desires and are trying to impose our own upon them in this moment. Instead we must express our own sense of time, abilities, and desires to them but at the same time encourage the existence of their own. It is at this point progress begins to take place and even if initially, it is not at the pace of our expectations, eventually since expectation is dissolved and both parties are equal participants in a sense, the ultimate progress and results take place, naturally as a result of practicing patience.

My Kids as Pokemon

 

Inspired by my two girls love for Pokemon and having just watched Detective Pokemon, I had the idea to create Pokemon characters of each of my girls and do some sketches of them.

The first one (left image) is “Ezzybear”which is my youngest, and is actually her nickname. I did a bear Pokemon who can harness power from the round chamber in her stomach, known as “the powerhouse” which is also a nickname for my daughter based on her short, strong, and powerful stature.

The second one, (right image) is my oldest, and I call this Pokemon, “Noodella”.  My oldest girl has a longer, skinnier stature, and a penchent for eating noodles of all kind, so her nickname, we call her is noodles. For this Pokemon, I made her entirely of noodles and her power is wrapping her opponent up or turning into a ball of noodles that can roll over her enemy.

Size Ain’t S@#t!…R.I.P. Bushwick Bill

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Rumors of Bushwick Bill’s demise were greatly exaggerated, the morning of June 9th when social media had prematurely reported that he passed from his battle with Cancer only to be disspelled by his family members, as still alive and fighting for over the next 24 hours.  He did eventually lose his battle on the evening of June 10th, but I thought it was only fitting given this man’s career and character.

As a fellow, long time hip hop musician, if you ask me what is the greatest rap album and my favorite music album of all time is, I often refer to the early nineteen ninetees Rick Rubin and Def American, produced “Geto Boys”, self titled album.  The Geto Boys were a Houston Texas based gangster rap group that Bushwick Bill was part of and that released this self titled album when gangter rap as a musical genre and cultural phenomenon was rising to prominence with groups like NWA and artists like Ice T and Ice Cube.  This album and this group was particularly unique not just because of the music, but because of the motley crew of group members.  Bushwick Bill was literally a midget who used this physical stature to create a unique persona and perspective that fit so naturally into the insane nature of this group and it’s music.

One of the singles on the album, and a Bushwick Bill solo effort, “Size ain’t S@#t”, summed it up best.  He proclaimed that he “might be short but wasn’t taking no shorts”, which epitomized his mentality and his fight for the disenfranchised, oppressed minority community he came from and the fight out of the deplorable conditions he grew up in.  Having referred to the myriad of physical conflicts he encountered in his life for being a small person, he turned his stature from small to large, both metaphorically with this kind of music and lyrics, and physically as a member of a historic, multi platinum selling music group.

I remember having viewed the cover of the album, and the black and white mugshot was not telling enough to surmise Bushwick’s physical size, and the attitude and aggression of the music itself made this fact even harder to determine.  It wasn’t until other pictures and interviews took place, as the group gained mainstream notoriety, and then subtle references in his music to his size, could be gathered, that I shockingly discovered this about Bushwick Bill.  It was when I found out this fact, that I was not only more intrigued about this artist, this group, and this music, but that I was also inspired.

As a volatile and impressionable teenager around the time of this music, I too felt challenged by the “big world” around me.  As an ethnic minority myself and having grown up in a place that challenged this fact in many different ways, I could relate to Bushwick, who had grown up on the receiving end of constant challenges.  I was fascinated by his unapologetic, demand to disregard these so called limitations and fight to be treated as an equal.  His references to getting respect one way or the other, although many times violent, and proving his belonging to a world much bigger than him, was in inspiration to me.  His courage not to back down or be type cast and forge his way with unbridled ferocity, grit, and toughness helped show me a way through my own life challenges. His fiery disposition and big energy that came across in his music helped fuel my own music and creativety.

It wasn’t just his ferociousness that defined him and his music.  Bushwick had a huge amount of charisma and crazy wrapped up in a small package.  Whether it was his macabre, cinematic story telling or violent, dark humor, in interviews and his music, he was always so intriguing and original, especially when you consider the manufactured image of most of his fellow gangster rap comtemporaries.  His music and style was always unique, with horror movie references like Chucky and Phantom of the Opera, eye patches, braids, overalls, and just strange dark tropes that he would espouse.

When the Geto Boys dropped their most commercially successful album, “We Can’t be Stopped” and the cover was a real picture of Bushwick being rushed to the emergency room having shot his own eye out, we got a glimpse into the chaos and darkness of this man’s life. This kind of emotional vulnerability that came from a suicide attempt was unheard of in the often guarded, bravado, and posturing personas tha existed in gangster rap music.  At the height of his commercial success as a musician we got to hear through interviews and in his actual music, stories of a troubled soul that had faced the ultimate adversity of nearly losing his life, and then later we got to hear of his redemption and rise again.

And at 52 when he passed fighting cancer long after it was diagnosed and announced publicly, we saw the short man live a long, fruitful life and create a legacy that will be remembered for a very long time.

R.I.P. Bushwick Bill… pound for pound, inch for inch, on of the baddest motherf@#kers that existed on the earth!

 

Creative Theory Part 1:Overcoming Fear and Excuses and Beginning the Creative Process.

“The hardest part of creativity is just getting started.  We tell ourselves why we shouldn’t write the words, or stroke the brush, or play the note.  We tell ourselves that we don’t have this or enough of that in order to become the author, the artist, or the musician we might seeourselves becoming. We tell ourselves that we don’t have any business being part of the creative world because we are not worthy, or not good enough, or skilled enough.  We tell ourselves that we shouldn’t even try because we will only get hurt and humiliated, and that we should stick with what we know. Our creative craft never gets better, because it never begins, because of these fears and excuses. “

I recently had a conversation with someone close to me and we were talking about the challenge of overcoming the fear and resistance that meets one before the creative process even takes place.  I had told them that I was attempting to write my first novel (more on that later), and how daunting the idea of this was, having been new to the novel writing process.  The fear and daunting nature of this creative endeveor were comprised of a few things.

One, this being a new venture and medium for me, I quickly began to think about those experienced writers out there, educated, fully immersed, and well versed in this specific creative medium.  I thought about the very best and the legends of, and at the height of this trade, and those with the peak refinement of their craft.  I began to compare my novice self to their expert level of skill and their credentials and I quickly began to be discouraged.  I started to tell myself that I have a lot of audacity to even want to try my hand at this, given the well established names that exist in this world and the historical relevance of this particular medium, i.e. writing books.  This fear of not being worthy or skilled enough compared to those who were, discouraged me from even trying my hand at it.

A second form of resistance surfaced, when considering the idea of writing my first book.  This was a scarcity of resources that I began telling myself , existed, and were reasons why it was futile to even try.  This scarcity of resources, were things like, I don’t have a person in the literary world to help my writing, proofreading, and to bounce ideas off of.  I don’t have an educational background in this thing.  I don’t have the means or adequate research tools to validate my writing.  Things like, who is going to listen to little old me, that is not a professional expert in what he is writing about.  Again, it was more excuses on why not to try, and in this case it was because I don’t have enough of this or that.

The third barrier that confronted me before I even started to write my first word, was comfort and complacentcy.  There were things that I was comfortable with, had invested a lot of time in, and decent enough at, specifically in the creative world, that had me telling myself that I should stick with what I know or am good at and not try anything new, like writing. If I were to try something new and uncertain, I risk failure or risk finding out that I might not be good at it.  By leaving the comfort zone of what I know I can do and am familiar with, I were to risk facing criticism and rejection from others.  And again, it was more excuses on why I shouldn’t try, because this wasn’t in my wheelhouse and wasn’t something that I was use to, or knew I could be good at it.

Good news is that despite all of this resistance and excuses, I decided to plow forward and try my hand at writing a book.  After unpacking all these excuses I was telling myself, I realized they were nothing more than excuses born from my fear of failure and uncertainty.  I thought a lot about my other creative endeveaors and skills and I realized that with those, I was once in this exact starting position of fear and apprehension. It wasn’t until I discarded these kind of excuses and just started the creative process before I gained any kind of confidence, momentum, or refinement.  I also thought about other creative endeveours that were failed, and how with many  of them I didn’t learn that I truly disliked them or decided to cease  doing them until after I began the process, or tried my hand at them. I thought about the growth process and refinement of creative craft and how it can only take place after that first stroke of the brush or first note is played.  Sure, misstrokes take place and bad notes are played along the way, but they are part and partial of the learning and growth of the creative process.

By silencing our internal chatter and diving in and then fully immersing ourselves in the creative process and not worrying about the background or baggage, beforehand, and not focusing on the results or outcome that take place after, we allow ourselves to begin the creative process and truly see the creative process all the way thru its life cycle.  The authenticity that comes from being fully immersed and indulgent in the creative process itself and not focused on the external before and after, of the process, makes us worthy of any of our creative comtemporaries, regardless of status , accolades, or accomplishments.  This is because the process itself is everything and we must put everything into beginning and completing the process itself.

 

 

The Emulation Theory : A Chiptune Adventure – Programmed by Sickman VC

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Here it is, a new EP, compliments of yours truly.  This is quite a departure from my normal hip hop stylings but listeners will definitely hear the hip hop influence, even in this chip tune experiment. Family duties and just being a responsible adult take away from my indulgence, but video games have been, since I was young, and still remain a regular part of my life.  That said, my childhood began with Atari and Arcades but really peaked as a kid from the Nintendo 8 bit era all the way thru the 16 bit Sega Genesis days.  Haven taken long lapses, but ultimately coming back to gaming, I have kept my eyes on nearly every iterations of gaming, all the way up to the current generation.  Finding myself playing a lot of retro games as well as modern games created in the retro format, and being a lifetime as a musician, I found myself obsessed with some of the retro gaming music.  Notably, Yuzo Koshiro as well as the classic gaming tunes of Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania, and Super Mario.  This obsession even led to following and listening to chip tune music, i.e. Anamanaguchi, as well as the soundtracks to modern games.

So for this experimental project, I took my current gear and setup (for those who have kept up with my journey, will recall that I finally got my setup down so I can focus on creating new music instead of experimenting with different gear and tweaking the setup) and I wanted to take a break from hip hop, just to see what I could do.  Of all the experiments I considered, video game music felt the most organic and comfortable genre.  I could easily recall the sounds and the style of my favorite video game tunes over the years and having recently gotten comfortable with the command of the music tools at my disposal, this was a quick, fun, and light project for me.  I used much of the knowledge I’ve acquired over years of hip hop production, composition, and song writing and was able to apply it to making these relatively simple chip tune instrumental tracks.

Since this was a fun, side project for me, I didn’t spend much time, tweaking each instrument and sound and adding effects and doing intricate, methodical mixing like I would for my hip hop records.  After all, retro video game music was very limited as far as audio tools at the composers disposal so I did not want to depart from that simplistic sensibility, even if in my case, it was not a limitation that forced the decision to go basic.

As far as the instruments and sounds go, I tried to use sounds, especially at the top end, having an 8 bit retro feel, with bright synths, and bleeps and bips for bass, and low bit rate strings and pianos.  I even filtered the final two track stereo mixes of each song with the infamous 12 bit SP1200 drum machine sound to give it a more vintage feel and pay homage to my bread and butter, hip hop.  Speaking of, with a lot of the drums and percussion,the hip hop producer in me used more hi fi sounds and drum kits, but I think this worked out. I wanted to encapsulate both the 8 bit and 16 bit eras since they were both the impressionable gaming eras of my childhood.  The 16 bit era marked better sound chips in gaming consoles and gave a more hi fi sound experience to video games as well as the birth of CD Rom gaming introduced live recorded CD audio tracks with no instrument and sound limitations, per say.  Since the highs and mids on most of this EPS songs were inspired by 8 bit gaming, the more hi fi drum sounds paid homage to the 16 bit era.  This better low end also made for a more palatable and versatile  listening experience, especially in the modern landscape of music, rather than being relegated and limited to a novel, but throw away retro gaming music experiment.

When making this music, I tried to imagine an entire video game from beginning to end.  This way, the listener has a theme and title screen song at the beginning, and then the listener can follow the gaming protagonist as they journey through various game levels, until finally, the journey comes to a close and the final ending song takes place. Each stage of the game had a fully imagined environment, mood, and atmosphere which inspired the sounds and music notes.

As for the name of this EP, it was a fun play on the popular, ultra modern, “simulation theory”, but since it was a tribute to retro gaming, I called it Emulation which represents emulations of retro games. Lastly, the pixel art is compliments of my designer extraordinaire, wife, and is meant to look like an 8 bit video game title screen, with the only thing missing, the “press start” and ” options”!

This one was short and sweet, and a blast, no pun intended, to make, so I hope all my listeners, even my hardcore hip hop heads, enjoy!

The Emulation Theory: A Chiptune Adventure- Programmed by Sickman VC (tracklist)

01_The Heroes Journey (75 bpm)

 

02_First Encounter (120 bpm)

 

03_Digging Deep (75 bpm)

 

04_The Overworld (55 bpm)

 

05_Platformance (57 bpm)

 

06_Adversity (110 bpm)

 

07_The Road to Victory (90 bpm)

 

 

Goodbye My Friend…

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It’s with a very heavy heart that I share the news that a best friend, family member, and bringer of joy in my life has passed. My beloved English Bulldog, Boodha has left this world at twelve and a half years of age.

I don’t know where to begin as far as describing his role in my life and the lives of my family. In his twelve plus years of existence, not a day passed in which I didn’t pour love, affection, and attention into him and he always reciprocated it in spades by bringing joy, humor, and drama in my life.

He fit every stereotype of his bulldog breed; tough, stubborn, powerful, and dignified. Tough, all the way up to his  last dying moments when his heart appeared to be quitting on him but he kept snapping back into consciousness and fighting the surrender until it was no more.  Stubborn, when he would fight tooth in nail, in defiance to go on long daily walks only to eventually enjoy them, once I could get him started. Powerful, like when he was playing tug a war with two fully grown pitbulls at the dog park and pulling both of them, mouth bloody, and refusing to let go, until I intervened.  And lastly, dignified as he stood proudly at my wedding looking on this momentous occasion with a regal tuxedo tie on, and chin up in the air, as if he knew his rightful place in this moment.

He also fit the alpha, K-9, archetype written about in the pages of books and projected on the silver screen. He was fiercely loyal, protective, and tender and gentle with our family, aka his pack. So loyal, always by my side, when in the midst of large crowds at the many events and festivals we frequented with him, or at the beach, or at dog parks, never straying too far, with a watchful eye. Never did I have to worry about him escaping his leash and fleeing like some sort of fugitive of justice. The rare times he wasn’t with me, he showed his loyalty when our time apart ended in a sort of rejoiced, reunion, that he would show in his own unique and subtle style, but not in the “jump up on you and lick your face” variety.  Protective, when he would bark at the sights and sounds of a tv screen, at percieved threats such as dogs, bears, etc., especially in the prescence of my wife. With Boodhas powerful prescence I always had the feeling of safety and  security and the understanding that he would do whatever it takes to protect me and the family from any physical threats. Was he a guard dog? Far from it, but aside from the toungue and cheek, “beware of dog” sign we posted, if you were a stranger and you entered the house, one look at him at the top of the stairs and believe you me, you might want to go the other way.  Like the time he got loose outside and lunged at a cable installer working on our neighbors house, or the time he lunged at my friends face, when they decided to get down on his level while playing fetch with him.  Finally, Boodha was always tender and gentle to his pack aka our family. Whether with our often annoying cat who liked to pick on him, or with my pregnent wife, or with our two daughters, he always showed a soft and gentle side to them, never doing more than sniffing them, and never displaying jealous, excitable  or hostile behavior towards them. We won’t count the time he nipped my daughters hand during a 4th of July celebration , since it was a clear attempt to protect the pack by extinguishing the fireworks. Never once do I recall having to worry or correct him for inflicting harm on the physically  vunerable members of the family. As a matter of fact, I had to correct the family members instead of him because I had the sense that he would never harm them even if he was at the receiving end of their provocation.

My beloved Boodha also defied plenty of conventions. Despite his breed and the shorter life span and known health issues, he lived five years beyond the average age of his contemporaries and never had the myriad of health issues so synonymous with these dogs. As a matter of fact, despite the powerful build, he would always surprise me with his speed, agility, and stamina, whether that was the long hikes we would take with him, playing with other dogs, or playing tug a war with his favorite rubber  rings, or fetch with his favorite green ball. Even when he was old and half blind he approached fetch with the same intensity as in his youth and even partaked in this favorite game of his, with me, on his very last day alive.  As for his health, besides chronic skin issues from time to time, frequent and potent flatulence, and a few, close overheating scares, he was a model of health and vitality that defied the odds. He always kept a healthy appetite and was mobile all the way up to the night  of his passing.  Despite his “meat head”, lumbering, appearance, he was no dimwit either. His ability to follow commands and know what you were asking of him were second to none. Whether that was training him to go up and down stairs in a specific manner and position or training him to sit on command before receiving a treat, his ability to pick it up quickly was uncanny. Now once he learned something, whether he chose to listen or comply was a whole another story!

Lastly, even though he wasn’t a human companion, he defied my expectations of what a true bond and friendship could be. He was unconditional about everything he did for me and his only concern seemed to be showing his love and bringing joy in my life. Sure, he made me mad sometimes, and he made me cry like right now, and he also made me laugh all the time, but most importantly, my quality of life was better with him.

So in his passing I have to go back to his last moments on this earth because it epitomizes how his life and our relationship was:

After a routine day with Boodha that culminated in his favorite game of fetch with his cherished green ball, with me in our man cave, while watching sports, he uncharacteristically clamored to go outside and proceeded to behave very strangely. At that point, I had the suspicious feeling it might be time. So late at night, as he lied on the ground with me and my wife, and I watched him close his eyes for the last time and drift away forever, I thought to myself how I would so dearly miss my friend. However, I also rejoiced and sought solace that he lived a fulfilling life and gave me a fulfilling life in return. He got to leave this world in my arms, a way so  fitting for him, with so much grace, dignity, and beauty, without pain and suffering.

And so I say, “Boodha, I will forever remember you, and you will be missed my best friend and family member. I am eternally grateful for the gift of joy that you brought me and my family and the lessons of unconditional love that you taught me.”

 

The 2018 Sasquatch Sketch Collection

This was the entire collection of sasquatch sketches I did last year, over the course of 2018. Most of these were very rough sketches and very gesture driven just to experiment with different poses, creature anatomy, and habitat, and establish some basic light and shadow. I am considering taking my favorite ones or favorite aspects from this collection and doing refined versions of them.

 

“Ashitaka vs The Boar Demon”- Day Three from 3-15-19

This is day 3’s progress on “Ashitaka vs The Boar Demon” from my fantasy art, Studio Ghibli inspired drawing series.  This might be my final touches but i focused on making the darks heavier and subtracted subtle lighting with an eraser. I added fidelity primarily to the boar including his mame. I also defined its tentacles and main body shape.  I still wanted this one to have a rougher sketchier  feel as compared to the previous cleaner more fine detail focused drawings from this same series.

 

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New Tracks and the Inspiration and Techniques Behind Creating Them.

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I wanted to start something new.  I wanted to post some new tracks I have been working on for my new solo album and also working on for a long time collaborator and friend’s new album (both coming soon) and talk about the ideas, inspiration, and production techniques behind making them.

Drnem79 – 79 BPMs.  This track was inspired by one of my all time favorite music producers of all time and his many classic collaborations with one of my all time favorite musicians of all time.  This is the legendary Dr. Dre and his work with the shady one, Eminem.  “What’s the Difference” from Dr. Dre’s second solo album Dr. Dre 2001, first came to mind when composing this particular track, based on it’s epic, large scale, orchestrated sound and how complimentary it was for Eminem’s crazy delivery and lyrics. If I recall, Dre actually recruited a small symphony to play on the track.  For this one, I started with a simple string section and built from there. Obviously I don’t have the means to introduce an actual symphony on my track, but  I wanted this song to have the same feel of a symphony playing.  The best way to try to achieve this on a small scale, was to include many of the components or instruments you would expect to hear with a symphony and using the reverb and effect techniques to create a large open feel or create a good amount of head space in the recording with EQing and mixing techniques.

After the strings, I wanted to add a lead instrument during the middle of the verse sections so I decided to add brass as well as a piano lead.  One thing I noticed with Dr Dre’s hip hop production specifically and generally, high level music production is that the song builds layers of instruments as you go along, almost like a crescendo effect to build a climax within the song.  This is a departure from most hip hop production which is a lot of times, just simple samples or drum and bass loops played repetitiously and they then rely on the vocalist and or simple instrument or sample drop outs to create the variety and climactic action.

The introduction of the lead brass and piano were placed midway through each of the 3, 16 bar verse sections, in order to build a climax within the lyricist’s verses.  Taking it further, I also used instrument drop outs and other mixing techniques to further build on the climactic effect and add to the variety with each verse section.  One thing I always found appealing with better composed songs of any music genre, for example, “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, is that you have things to look forward to as far as musical changes and climaxes within the same song and you are not just subjected to a secondary instrument backing that relies solely on the vocalist to create these dynamics.  When both the music composition and the vocalist can contribute to this dynamic and do it synergistically, you have a stronger song as a whole.  Achieving this musical philosophy is a bit different and somewhat challenging in terms of my individual recording process and the typical electronic/hip hop work flow.  This is because my own recording process consists of creating and producing the instrumental track nearly 100 percent before the vocals are created and recorded. Aside from this being my own approach it is also very common both in today’s electronic based music production and hip hop as a genre since the actual tracks are mostly composed entirely electronically and in a lot of cases the producer is the composer. Also it is common that the tracks are given to and often remotely, to the artist to record vocals over as opposed to the producer and composer actually working in the studio, hand and hand, with the vocalists before and during the vocal recording process. That said, for this track I had ideas of how the verse and knew where and when I wanted the verses delivered and composed the music around these ideas.

After deciding on all the instruments for the verse sections, for the chorus sections,  I introduced a sustained electronic piano note and 16th note hihats, along with different effects and EQing on the other instruments in order to differentiate this chorus section from the verse sections and allow for the verses to reach a crescendo up to and into the chorus sections.  This technique is used by Dr Dre constantly and in the track “The Difference” that inspired this one, the chorus section introduced a rather infectious, whining lead synthesizer in this same way.

Lastly, I imported this track into Pro Tools to put the final touches and mixing on it, before it becomes a finished track, and ready for the vocals to be laid. Although most of my levels, panning, and general EQing are mostly decided by the time it leaves my Akai MPC system, the Pro Tools phase is for further EQ tweaking, panning, and level setting and additional effects.  Also during this Pro Tools stage of my recording process, I have some outboard effects I can and often introduce which further enhance the track.  From here, there will be more overall levels and efffects added after vocals are recorded but for the most part this is all decided after this phase of the recording process.

Aside from the technical aspects of this track, artistically, I wanted this track to be near the beginning of an album and be an epic, anthem track that announces the artists return to the game.  I left the overalls structure as a 3, 16 bar verses, with pronounced chorus sections which will make this an attention grabber on an album.   The sparse instrumentation and mixing with a lot of head space and clean EQing, are made for consise and articulate lyrics, with simple intelligible deliveries, and meant to play loud and often.  The highs are mixed very clean and the lows do not drown out the other instruments.  The drums are crisp and stand out in the mix which will compliment clear, simple delivered vocals all done at a good, head nodding tempo.

 

“Ashitaka vs the Boar Demon” – Day two from 3-6-19

More from my third Studio Ghibli inspired drawing, “Ashitaka vs the Boar Demon”. This drawing series is me taking scenes from the legendary animated movies and adding a dark, fantasy art twist to them. This movie “Princess Monanoke”, the first Ghibli movie I saw and my favorite is dark enough to stand on its own in a  fantasy art sense, so I wanted to do a more rough, gesture, and sketch feel. If I don’t put this away and move on, I will add some fidelity to the demon but will primarily focus on the light and dark transitions via subtractive erasing and hard sketched lines.

 

 

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