Travis y Moi

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Travis Scott, one of the biggest Hip Hop stars of today and Toro Y Moi, the biggest name to come out of the chillwave movement and a force in the Indie pop scene. These are two of my favorite artists, and for good reason. They make music in different genres, their themes and content may be different. But you’ll see that there are more similarities between them then one might think.

Chaz (Of Toro Y Moi) and Travis Scott have worked together on several occasions. The first being on Scott’s mixtape Owl Pharaoh on an interlude appropriately titled “Chaz interlude”. This mixtape was the first time Travis was introduced to the world. Although this mixtape was rough and met with mixed reviews, it proved that Travis was tailoring a unique sound and was willing to experiment with his music.

Toro Y Moi’s debut, Causers of This, shared many of the same characteristics. Although, where it really got interesting was with the release of his second album, Anything in Return.  The second album was a fast paced, Melancholy, break beat jam. This was the first time I was introduced to Toro Y Moi, and I like to think It was the first time Travis Scott was. Some of the vocal patterns of this album can be heard in future Travis Scott projects. Most notably Birds in Trap Sing McKnight.

Rodeo, Travis’s debut album, was where he established his unique style that would influence Hip Hop music for years to come. Toro Y Moi is featured again on This project, this time on the Pharell produced “Flying High”. On this track it seems like they met halfway to produce a nice rhythm and groove track.

The influence appears to go both ways. On Toro Y Moi’s latest album, Boo Boo, Chaz mentions Travis as an influence for the album’s creation. He also claims Daft Punk, and Frank Ocean as influences. The Scott influence is noticeable on the album especially on the first single “Girl Like You”. Hopefully this partnership brings more collaborations in the future. Who knows maybe even a Joint project?

AI Art

Imagine a world where a new type of art exists. A world where Music and Art is created by artificial intelligence. This world is very much becoming a reality. I won’t get into ethics of AI; whether it will take our jobs or eventually lead to our demise (I’ll leave that for another time). What I want to explore is whether computers are capable of creating art. Is art even art if you take out the humanity from it?

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Portrait created with AI by Mario Klingemann

Artificial intelligence can be divided into two types of learning; Deep Learning and Reinforcement learning. Deep learning uses massive amounts of computing power to create complex neural networks. When Deep Learning is used with art, it is done so by pairing two neural networks: a generator, which produces images, and a discriminator, which judges the paintings. The discriminator can scan through centuries of art in mere seconds. The end result is usually similar to something that already exists.

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developed at the Rutgers’ Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory

The second type of learning, Reinforcement learning, gives a detailed goal and allows the AI to find its own way and improve its performance without being given any explicit instructions. A good example of reinforcement learning is playing a level in a video game. There is more than one way to reach the end of the level. Just like in this scenario, the AI will try to reach the end of the level, learning and improving along the way. In regards to art, it allows the AI to create without using outline of established styles. The results are usually more unique.

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Trippy

Aiva Technologies is one of the leading startups in the field of AI music composition. Its Aiva AI uses Deep Learning to compose completely original music. It does so listening to about 15,000 pieces of music and using the information to create a model for a song.

 

So can AI create original artwork? It’s possible, yes. But the results are still completely oriented around what we as humans consider to be art. The thing that makes art amazing is the fact that it was made by person like you and I. While I don’t see AI artist taking over the art world, I do see the potential of it acting as a collaborator. Helping us reach our creative ambitions.

 

 

Destination: Tokyo

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Tokyo, Japan is one of the largest cities in the world and a popular travel destination. Tokyo is a unique blend of modern and traditional. It’s unlike any travel experience I’ve been on. So you’re planning a trip out there? Here are a few tips to prepare you on your journey!

Getting there

There are two major airports in Tokyo; Narita International and Haneda Airport. For a very long time Narita was the only option for foreigners traveling to Japan. However, in the last several years Haneda has been upgraded with a new International Terminal. Tokyo hopes are to reroute many of its flights to this airport in preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games. Both airports are a fair distance away from Tokyo’s city center. With Narita being about 90 minutes away and Haneda about 45 minutes. I recommend traveling through Haneda whenever possible. Besides being closer to the city, it offers advantages in both security and baggage claim times.

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Transportation

Once you get to the airport, you are given several options to get to your destination. You can choose to take a taxi, train, or shuttle bus. A taxi is the most expensive of these options and I would not recommend it for getting to/from the airport. Trains are the most affordable option and offer shortest travel times. The only downside is having to lunge your luggage around. The shuttle bus, in my opinion, is the best option. It is a reasonable price, easy to take from the airport, and will drop you off right in front of your Hotel (Depending on which hotel you are staying at).

For transportation within the city, nothing beats the trains. Tokyo has one of the best commuter rail systems on the planet. The lines are easily identified by color and the stations are equipped with signs in English. Combined with Google maps, getting around in Tokyo was a piece of cake.

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Cash/coins

When you arrive in Japan your first instinct may be to exchange your cash at the airport, don’t.  The exchange rates are often ridiculous at the airport. I would recommend withdrawing cash at an ATM machine. You can usually find a 7-Eleven or Family Mart close to your hotel. They let you withdraw your cash in Yen for a fairly low charge.

In the meantime, you can use debit or credit cards. There was a time when credit cards were not widely accepted in Japan. That has changed and now credit cards are accepted nearly everywhere (even cabs). That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t carry some cash on you in case. Just a note, the Japanese currency is heavily distributed as coins. There ain’t no shame in rocking a fanny pack or coin purse, It will help with the assortment of coins you will acquire throughout the day!

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Language

Can you get around Tokyo without knowing Japanese? The short answer is yes. Tokyo, the largest city in Japan, is well equipped for foreign travelers with almost all business catering to English speaking tourist. With that being said, knowing some Japanese will only make your experience better. You don’t need to be fluent, but knowing a few words will help you. Knowing words like please, excuse me, and thank you can go a long way!

 

English Japanese ( Romanji)
Please Kudasai
Excuse me Sumimasen
Thank you Arigato Goziamasu

 

Idol Life

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For the last few years K-pop has been showcased at SXSW. It has been a popular event over the years and is considered a platform for Korean artist to break into the west. This year I thought I would go check it out and see what it was all about. What I found was that it was extremely popular. The event was sold out and packed at capacity. My credentials couldn’t get me in. Instead of seeing the showcase, which featured the latest K-pop acts, I stood in the sea of people waiting outside the venue. This however wasn’t all bad; it gave me a chance to talk to some of the fans who came from all over the country to see their favorite k-pop idols.

There was a wide variety of people of all ages and nationalities. Apparently k-pop has taken off in the US and in much of the world. K-pop is the popular music of South Korea, influenced greatly by J-pop the popular music of Japan. Growing up playing Japanese video games and watching anime, I grew accustomed to the J-pop/k-pop sound (It’s the music heard in almost every anime opening).  It’s basically catchy pop music with an emphasis on cuteness. The difference with K-pop is that it was made to be marketed to a global audience. It takes the best things from j-pop and american pop music.

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The K-pop music industry is heavily manufactured. Most of the artists are managed by one of several massive talent Agencies. The biggest agencies are SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment. Not only do these agencies manage the artist, they help create their image. Sometimes a gimmick is added to differentiate and sell their image. The agencies do everything for the artists from production of songs, concepts, styling to choreography, stage design and directing.

Mainstream K-pop artist are sometimes called “Idols”. This word more clearly defines what they are, which is definitely not an artist. “An idol is someone with an image created by the company, while an artist would have a significant amount of creative liberty.” Idols are made to represent flawlessness. When a new k-pop group is created auditions are held. The potential artist must adhere to strict requirements. While singing and dancing ability are examined many of the requirements have to do with Appearance.

The majority of k-pop groups are girl bands or boy bands consisting of 3-5 young men or women. In these bands, Girls must be 95-110lbs 5’3-5’8; Guys at least 5’7’. They must be able to exhibit cuteness at anytime through poses and gestures. They also must be flawless in appearance, meaning that sometimes plastic surgery is required. Almost all K-pop idols have had some sort of cosmetic surgery done. While this may seem extreme, it is important to note that plastic surgery is the norm in South Korea. The country is now known as “The plastic surgery capital of the world”. A nose job or double-eyelid surgery is a common graduation gift to young Korean girls. Even a former prime minister has gone under the knife.

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While some may think the life of a k-pop idol is glamorous this isn’t always the case. They must be very careful as they are always being observed. They are expected to remain conservative and keep any relationships/ personal life completely out of the public eye. Usually any scandals means the end of an idols career. Age is another factor in an idols career. While other successful musicians can have a long and promising career, k-pop artist are often switched out for the newer and latest thing.

Bit music

Nostalgia is a powerful thing. Listening to a song has the power to take you back to a time, reliving happier memories. The idea of “Chiptune” or “bit music” is based on nostalgia. If you were alive in the 80’s or early 90’s then you’ve heard 8 bit sounds in some way, shape or form. Most of us grew up on Nintendo, Sega Genesis, or Atari. Chiptune is a genre of music that uses the 8 bit sounds from early video game systems. This creates a unique retro electronic sound. Chiptune itself can fall into many genres of music (rock, dance, jazz).  This type of sound has been used by many mainstream acts; most notably The Killers, Beck, and the Postal Service.

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This 8bit sound can be created in just about any device. However most bit artist prefer using actual 8 bit devices to make their music. The most popular being the original Nintendo Game boy. To make music on a game boy, an application called LSD (little sound DJ) is used. Little Sound DJ is a 4-channel step sequencer. It is text based and allows you to assign sounds to be played back on a loop. Based on my experience, there are much easier ways to create this sound. The 8-bit sound can be easily emulated by music software, but then it wouldn’t be authentic chiptune music. A typical Chiptune setup may include several consoles attached to a mixer.

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Curious to find out more about chiptune music, I decided to attend a show. Luckily, the most popular chiptune act just happened to be in town. Anamanaguchi, a band from New York, has achieved the most commercial success in the genre. Their music was featured in the film “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” (One of my favorite freaking movies). Their latest single, “Pop It”, is featured on TV commercials for Taco Bell and Target. While some musicians may have been inspired by the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, The Beatles; these guys were inspired by Super Mario, The legend of Zelda, and Final Fantasy.

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I really had no idea what to expect from Anamanaguchi’s live show. At first they appear to be a conventional rock band; 3 guitarists and a drummer. The difference being that the conventional instruments sounded like they were being feed through a NES game system. The sound of their instruments was cancelled out by background music, making the instruments seem more like props.  The background music was good though. I just feel like a live band is not required for this type of music, it can simply be played and mixed by a DJ. Their show did feature video game visuals, which took me back to my SuperNES days.

One thing that stood out at this show was the people. I’ve been to a lot of rock, hip hop and electronic shows, but these weren’t the usual concertgoers. There were some dressed in cosplay (A lot of sailor moons). Many were carrying their handheld gaming systems; casually catching Pokémon in-between sets. One word I would use to describe Anamanaguchi fans is Emo. I don’t mean in Emo in the traditional sense (Dressing in all black); I mean they all seem very emotional. Each wearing their emotions on their faces like human emoticons. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, things would be much easier if people were this easy to read.

Legalization: One Year Later

Colorado’s Amendment 64 passed in 2012; it was first implemented in 2014. In what was looked to be a monumental turning point in drug regulation, Colorado became the first state to fully legalize marijuana for recreational use. At first there was shock and outrage from opposing parties but now, after seeing the positive results of legalization, other states have started to follow in Colorado’s lead. It’s now been a little over a year since marijuana became legal in Colorado for recreational use. I went there to find out how legalization has affected the city of Denver, this is what I found.

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After exploring the Denver airport (See https://modernperspective.net/2015/05/04/the-bizarre-art-of-the-denver-airport/)       I went to pick up my vehicle at the car rental desk. The rental agent gave the usual car rental pitch but added in a disclaimer. He said, “Be careful when driving on April 20th”. You see I had arrived to Denver on 4/19, the day before Four Twenty. April 20th or Four Twenty has been a subculture holiday where people from all over North America gather and smoke Cannabis. The day has become something of a staple in Denver due to its lenient laws on the possession and consumption of Marijuana. Every year many people make the pilgrimage to Colorado to take part in the holiday and its festivities.10394005.0

First off I would like to be clear, while Marijuana is legal in the state of Colorado It is still regulated by federal laws. There are several other constraints in place. For example, you can’t smoke in public, doing so is a chargeable offense and is subject to fines. This is not the most strictly enforced law but I did hear of several people getting cited throughout the week. Most business, bars, and clubs do not allow the smoking of marijuana in their facilities. You are allowed to carry up to an ounce of marijuana but it must be kept in a closed container (similar laws exist for alcohol) and driving under the influence of marijuana is treated much the same way as drinking and driving is. The Colorado law states that you can have no more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood otherwise you could be charged with a DUI.

Now I’m not really much of a weed guy. I experimented a bit in high school and college but found out early on that it wasn’t for me — It didn’t make me better at guitar or anything else; it just made me paranoid and uncomfortable. Still I thought it was an important topic so I decided to look into it. I found a nice facility called “Good Chemistry” Once my i.d. was verified at the window; I was allowed to enter the heavily secured store. There was some Dr. Dre playing in the background and I was greeted by a friendly staff. I was helped by a girl named Mary (Real name) who gave me a quick lesson, a sort of “Weed 101.” Apparently all Marijuana falls into one of three categories, Sativa, Indicud and Hybrids (which is a hybrid of the first two). The effect of each one differs greatly. For example– Sativa is better for social settings, or daytime activities; Indicud is better for relaxation and sleep.

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At the store, I got a chance to talk to some locals. Most of them were young professionals just looking to relax after a long day at work. I also talked to a few people who opposed legalization. Their main complaint was that they did not want it around them or their kids. Still most could not argue the good that it had done for their economy. When April 20th finally came I went to see for myself how Denver was being affected. Following the rental agent’s warning, I decided to take an uber to Downtown Denver. The driver was telling me about how busy they were during the weekend. He dropped me off at a park which was the location of a 4:20 rally. There were several hundred people gathered at the park, lighting up, and enjoying the day. There were musicians and performers scattered throughout the area. Everyone here was very friendly and optimistic.

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I sat down and talked to a few participants. From what I gathered most of the people here were from out of town. I meet this couple from Chicago who were here for the “Cannabis Cup”. The Cannabis Cup, sponsored by High Times, was the premier event for 4/20. It is like a weed expo and many companies were represented at the event. There is no denying it; there is money in the marijuana business.

The Bizarre Art of The Denver Airport

The art that is found at airports usually represents the culture and spirit of its city. Memphis International Airport has several art pieces that represent its strong blues history. Albuquerque International has many Mexican paintings and sculptures. I, however, am not entirely sure what the art at the Denver airport is supposed to represent.

Peace and Harmony with Nature

Welcome!

First let me explain an interesting tidbit about Denver, Colorado. It is the center of several conspiracy theories. One claiming that it is the site of a top secret government base, another stating that is the location of the Illuminati’s Headquarters. This means that every year the most powerful people in the world meet here to discuss their evil agenda. Of course I don’t believe any of this, but I have to admit that its airport’s art does not help with the argument.

This meeting happened in Denver.

This meeting happened in Denver.

The airport itself is somewhat cryptic and mysterious. A large portion of it is underground with only certain parts of it being accessible to the public. This leads to more theories as to what lies behind its closed doors. I recently had the chance to fly in to Denver Airport. I had heard about the art in DIA and was on the lookout when I arrived there. The first thing I noticed was a large wall mural called “Peace and Harmony with Nature”. I’m not sure if this title was meant to be ironic because nothing looked peaceful about it. The image features a crying child at what appears to be an open-casket funeral. In the background is a forest engulfed in flames. After taking some time to take in the mural, I headed to baggage claim where I was greeted by some sinister-looking gargoyles. The gargoyles were emerging out of suitcases so I knew this had to be baggage claim.

The baggage claim gargoyles

The baggage claim gargoyles

Once you leave the airport, you are met by Denver very own gatekeeper “El Mesteno”. El Mesteno is a 32-foot-tall sculpture of a blue horse with glowing red eyes. Standing in full-on attack mode, it resembles something out of your worst nightmares. What makes it even more terrifying is its horrific backstory. El Mesteno was sculpted by a popular Mexican-American artist named Luis Jiminez. He had a great career but sadly this would be his last sculpture. Jiminez was killed in a freak accident when a piece of El Mesteno broke off and crushed him to death. The family of the artist, and the people at DIA still decided to go ahead and install the statue. El Mesteno aka “Blucifer” is said to be cursed and it still stands outside the mystery that is “Denver International Airport”.

El Mesteno will see you in your nightmares..

El Mesteno will see you in your nightmares..

Welcome

Hello, My name is Joshua Roa. I’m a frequent traveler who likes to explore subcultures and meet new people. I’ve always loved art and music. I have tried my hand in both and failed horribly. I wasn’t born with much artistic skill. I wasn’t too bad at music but not good enough to make it in the heavily saturated music industry. So I decided to do the next best thing, write about it!

I would like to go to Washington DC and check out the go-go music scene, New Orleans Bounce scene, and anything else I find along the way. I will write about topics that usually don’t get much publicity. Like most things I started this site because I felt there was a lack of coverage on American subcultures online. My main focus will be on art & music, but I’ll write about anything I think is worth discussing.

I’m not really a writer; I’m just a regular guy who likes to explore subcultures and meet new people. I’m not sure if this will go anywhere but my hope is that It shines a light on some great parts of our culture.