Experiencing the Strangeness of Eternity (@NYC)

Imagine walking around TriBeCa, NYC, on a Saturday and hearing a faint buzz. You walk up to a seemingly ordinary apartment and get rung in. You then walk up three flights of stairs and enter a room. Imagine, then, being surrounded by rays of purple light and wisps of incense. The buzz is now an enormous, complex drone that is unchanging. You take a seat on the carpeted floor, and witness nothing other than purple walls, shadows, and this fixed drone.

You stay seated for an hour, and nothing really changes. It’s the same sound, same light, same shadows. However, the shadows dangle a little bit, and the sound changes when you move your head. After being here for a while, you notice minute intricacies of the drone and light. The sound and light are complex, though fixed in time and space. People come and go, sometimes for minutes, sometimes for hours.

I was at the Dream House three years ago. As I write this, the sound and light is still being generated. Here I am three years ago, getting buzzed in:

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I’ve changed, the Dream House pretty much has not.

The Dream House is a concept by La Monte Young and his wife Marian Zazeela. It dates back to 1966. Young is credited as the “grandfather of minimalist music.” His work spontaneously inspired a generation that involves Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, John Cale, and plenty of others. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then think of the general  art scene of downtown Manhattan during the 60’s. Some of La Monte Young’s counterparts include Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, and Lou Reed.

La Monte Young’s main goal was to have people experience sound inside of it. He wanted us to appreciate sound in the physical sense, and witness the objective harmony of noise and waveform. He was also concerned with the concept of eternity. He was fascinated with machinery and tortoises, both being symbols of prolongation.

What I appreciate about Young’s work is that it’s pretty straightforward. It’s not art that you spend days contemplating and laboring to understand, just to conclude that the meaning was that there is no meaning. Young’s work has a meaning and it’s simple: each moment is a representation of eternity. And though this is simple, trying to experience this eternity with full and uninterrupted awareness can be quite challenging. It’s what Zen practitioners spend years trying to master (through the ironic method of not trying).

This is not to say that Young’s works aren’t bizarre. They are. One of his works is entitled Map of 49’s Dream The Two Systems of Eleven Sets of Galactic Intervals Ornamental Lightyears Tracery. A recorded portion of this work, 31 VII 69 10:26-10:49 PM, is 23 minutes of voices and sine waves.

Drones can drive some people crazy. And that’s okay. You don’t have to like it. You do have to understand, though, that the drone itself has no intent. It’s your mind and thought that is driving you crazy. The drone simply is.

Take a look at some pictures, and if you decide to go, visit the website for more information. As a weirdo/New York state native, I highly recommend it.

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“Camping Hacks” Tested by an Actual Camper

A Review of Camping Hacks

This BuzzFeed article, “41 Camping Hacks That Are Borderline Genius,” has received a lot of buzz. The article has various tips and tricks to use on your next camping trip. The author, Peggy Wang, is a great media marketer. However, with “shopping and bubblegum” as her main interests, I’m not sure how much time she spends outdoors.

I want to salute her for putting that together. I also want to provide a little insight on what’s useful vs. what’s impractical. Here are popular camping “hacks” that we’ve tested in the actual wilderness.

1.    Using tic-tac containers as a spice holder.

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(chipotle powder/paprika/oregano/garlic /sea salt)

This one works out if you eat tic-tacs a lot. I don’t. I found myself buying a pack for $1.39, eating way more tic-tacs than I wanted to, and filling it with $.70 worth of spices. For this “hack,” just use a ziploc baggie, a tiny tupperware container, a used salt shaker, a dime bag, one of those tubes that glasses repair kits come in, or any of the countless other things that can hold small quantities. If you do have empty tic-tac containers lying around, go ahead and use them.

2.    Twist-tying coffee in filters to make a portable “coffee bag.”

This is a very cool idea. You simply put a few scoops of coffee in a paper filter, twist it up, and use a twist-tie to seal. Then, you soak it in hot water as you would a tea bag. This is nice if you have room for a container to seal them in. It’s good to have good coffee in the backwoods. If you’re backpacking and going micro, however, stick with the instant coffee self-serve packs. The taste is pretty bland, but it saves a lot of room in your pack.

3.    Using play foams pads to create a comfortable floor for your tent.

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This “hack” is totally impractical. I’d rather save trunk/pack space with a portable camping mattress or compact sleeping pad. You don’t even spend that much time in your tent anyway.  Skip the foam pads, invest in a sleeping pad.

4.    Using a vegetable peeler to make single-use soap shards.

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I’d advise against this, for ecology’s sake. Most soaps that we use are toxic to freshwater. Liquid biodegradable soap is not that expensive, and comes in a portable container. It’s also concentrated (usually), so you get a lot of use out of it. Do the fish a favor and skip this hack.

5.    Bringing microfiber towels

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Yes. They’re fast-drying, ultra-lightweight, and can be found at the dollar store. The only drawback is that they’re very uncomfortable if you have rough patches of skin. Other than that, very practical.

6.    Using dirt to clean out cookware, plates, bowls.

This is a great one. Dirt is phenomenal at scrubbing cookware and eating-ware. Try rubing some sand and water around the pot, rinsing it, then using the biodegradable soap to sanitize

   *      *      *

EZContacts For Brand Name Sun Glasses

Original #HMPYG hacks:

Now, here are some real and original tips from our staff!

    1.    Prepare oatmeal and pack in a virtually vacuum-sealed ziploc.

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I do this about every time I go camping or backpacking. Oatmeal is dry, nonperishable, really good for you, and warming in the morning. For the spices/sugar, I usually use:

  • a few dashes of cinnamon
  • a tiny dash of nutmeg
  • a generous helping of brown sugar

Mix it in a bag with a good portion of 1-minute oats. Stick a straw in the ziploc, zip up to the straw, and suck all the air out. (Be careful to not inhale cinnamon straight into your lungs.) Then close it up, and make sure it’s not by any objects than can puncture it.

2.    Pack a can of Stillhouse moonshine whiskey.

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Before one of my trips I was looking around for some booze that would be easy to pack. This immediately caught my eye. It comes in a metallic can that looks like a fuel canister. Expecting the product to taste like butane, it was actually incredibly smooth. You can pass it around with the homeboys, and then reuse the can for some much-needed spring water afterwards.

(Note: this article isn’t sponsored by Stillhouse, but totally should be).

3. For colder temperatures, stick a hand warmer in your sleeping bag.

From my experience, sleeping bag temperature ratings are pretty off-the-mark. For example, 30°F (0°C) bags usually leave you shivering in the 30-40°F (0-5°C) range. Adding the hand warmer is good for a little heating component. (Additional tip: if it’s too hot on your skin, put it in a sock.)

4. When traveling in a large party, bring a set of uniform bandanas.

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Pick a brightly-colored bandana, and buy a set. This is a great way to signal others in your tribe. The bandana itself has many different uses. Protect your mouth/nose when hiking through dusty areas, wipe your sweat, use as a small tourniquet, soak it to cool your forehead, and so forth. But in a large group, this is a way to signal others where you are, signal for help, or just have some squad steez.

Use these tips and have a great trip!!!

Please use caution when you’re out camping. Don’t get drunk on Stillhouse and light your tent on fire while trying to wash cups of oatmeal with hot dirt coals. If these tips have been helpful, help fill our tip cup!

See Antarctica Through “Whale Cam”

Scientists affiliated with the World Wildlife Fund are “tagging” whales using suction cup cameras. This helps the researchers build information based off the video feed. The team is aiming to conserve the populations of Antarctican humpback and minke whales.

See the Antarctic for yourself through the lens of WWF’s Whale Cam:

 

 

 

Support #HMPYG, and 15% will go to World Wildlife Fund

Music Feature: Joshua Redman

If you’ve read my previous post, you know of my undying conviction that jazz must be preserved in this country. That’s not only up to our government, but up to us as a community. We must direct our attention to the struggling jazz artist, even if we can’t get enough of the new Beyoncé album.

(This is a digression, but as I wrote Beyoncé’s name, WordPress autocorrected her name to add the little accent onto the e. Beyoncé is now in the realm of autocorrect. She is an archetype of the digital unconscious.)

Anyway, Joshua Redman is no struggling artist. With NPR features, a $13,000 horn, and a Grammy award for his album Songs of Joy and Peace, you could say he’s doing pretty well. And he deserves it. Listening to this man flow through warm, miraculous tones is like getting lost in an oceanic reverie. Here’s one sample:

For those not familiar with the saxophone, it requires an intricate control of breath and lip over the reed to play well. This selection is a perfect example of how the tone should sound. It has to be free from extraneous noises, go from quiet to loud subtly, and sound on time. Redman plays with a sensitivity that is deceptively simple. This particular piece was written by him, and he’s joined by Brad Mehldau on piano. When you have one of the world’s greatest living pianists at your side, magic is bound to happen.

Joshua Redman doesn’t just play the soft romantic stuff though. He can swing, and he can attack a melody with abounding energy. Here’s one of his more upbeat pieces that still maintains the quality tone:

I’m pretty certain that this man has worked harder than we could ever imagine. A summa cum laude graduate from Harvard, he turned down Yale Law School to become a professional jazz musician. He won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 1991. Since this time, he’s put out 17 feature albums. He’s touring as I write this, performing in venues from Reno to Geneva. His trio is going to be featured at the upcoming “Bachfest” in Leipzig, Germany. Though he’s been on the scene since the mid-90’s, he shows no signs of slowing down. Except maybe on a ballad 😉

What I also respect about Redman is that he’s a true thinker. And I’m not the only one who feels strongly about the United States’ nationalistic connection to the spirit of jazz. In 2014, he was quoted as saying:

“I do feel there’s something special and unique about playing for audiences that are really engaged when you’re in the United States. There is a connection that’s special, and I think that has something to do with the fact that this is a music that comes from this country. Although it’s become a world music and, obviously, there are great jazz musicians from all over the world and it connects with audiences all over the world, there is a fundamental core of this music that comes out of an American experience.” – Joshua Redman

I wish I could articulate my point that well. I also wish I could get my tenor to sound as pristine as he does. But I’ll leave it up to the pro. So I’ll leave you with this, a supreme collaboration between Joshua Redman and the Bad Plus. I urge you to sit quietly and do nothing other than listen. Close your eyes if you have to. Even if you don’t “get” jazz right now, I promise there will be some meaning you gain from it…

Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau’s latest album, Nearness, is available on iTunes. This blog is not affiliated with them in any way. But I do suggest you buy the album right now. Or at least stream it on Spotify. Because it’s awesome.

To support Harmony and the Many Places You’ll Go, click here.

Check out the #HMPYG Spotify playlist!

The Must-See Destination in Phoenix, AZ

This August is going to mark my sixth year living in Phoenix/Tempe. When I moved, I was a Long Island transplant, not really sure how long I’d spend here. With a beautiful wife now at my side and lifelong liberation from raking leaves/shoveling snow, it’s looking like forever I’ll stay. In this article, I’ll share with you the one location that captured my soul and kept me living here.

Recently, as I was getting ready for a camping/fishing trip up to Bartlett Lake (80 minutes from Phoenix), I was stopped by an out-of-towner. He was here for the NCAA Final Championship, taking place in our great city. His question was simple: where should I go?

I dropped my kayak in the truck bed and thought about this for a moment. What defines the Arizona experience? What can’t you miss if you come here only one time?

The obvious answer is the Grand Canyon. But if you’re limited to just the Phoenix area, there’s one destination not known to many tourists. Even people who live here take it for granted. It’s not some hip Mexican restaurant. It’s not the Musical Instrument Museum (even though that’s cool as s#*t). It’s the grandest and most pleasant sight you can find within the 50-mile radius.

The McDowell Mountain Regional Park

Local Phoenicians may disagree with this. Don’t listen to them. The McDowell Mountain range was the experience that made me fall in love with this area. Though technically located in Scottsdale, it’s considered part of the greater Phoenix area. It’s home to a wealth of various hiking trails and networks. If you like crowded and cramped trails, you’re better off heading to Camelback mountain. But if you want to experience beauty and freedom, head to the McDowells.

The Hohokam gathered here over 500 years ago. Now the surrounding area is a magnet for the wealthy and affluent. The trails vary from easy to wheezingly difficult. When at a high elevation, you have your choice of two sublime views. Look to the west, and you can see the entirety of Phoenix, bustling and buzzing like a giant electric circuit. Look to the east, and you witness the vast empty stretches of desert that extends for miles and miles. Look in either of these directions, and you might undergo a mystical transformation that I myself have been through.

…every time I took a drive, I was drawn into the scene of the setting sun illuminating eastward mountains. I later learned that these were the McDowell Mountains.

I was never much of a hiker back in NY. How could I be? I lived on the south shore, where the most strenuous walks were on the sands of the beaches. But in general, I wasn’t even that physically active. I had a few gym stints, took one fitness class, and probably kept up a routine for eight weeks at best. It didn’t look like this would change in Arizona, where one of my first destinations was In-N-Out Burger. But every time I took a drive, I was drawn into the scene of the setting sun illuminating eastward mountains. I later learned that these were the McDowell Mountains. I did some research, grabbed a backpack, and drove out to roads I had never seen before. It was 5 a.m. and the world was quiet. I stepped out of my car, and had no idea where I was going. I took a wrong turn and my hike seemed to be done after .4 miles. Determined to reach greater heights, I turned around and ventured deeper into territory unknown to my cognizance. I spent the next few hours in awe, my body numb to the agony I was putting it through. Fast forward, and I spent the next few years going from trail to trail, park to park, mountain to mountain. I got to be immersed in the glory of love with my wife in Havasupai. I spent countless hours in solitude bonding with my dog on slabs of rock. My life was transformed, and it started with the majestic McDowell Mountains. I know this all sounds like subjective biased nostalgia. Maybe it is, but you’d have to find out for yourself.

For your convenience, I’ve narrowed down three trails with varying characteristics…

For popularity and interactive exhibits, check out GATEWAY TRAIL

For silent contemplation surrounded by beauty, check out LOST DOG WASH/QUARTZ TRAIL

For challenging your hiking fitness and endurance, check out TOM’S THUMB TRAIL

  Hopefully that college basketball fan was able to go out and find these trails. Maybe he got too drunk at the game and went back to Ohio in regret. I’ll never know, but at least the Tar Heels came out on top. In any case, if you find yourself in Phoenix, make it out there for your own sake. Your heart and your mind will thank you.

…here it is, the gorgeous behemoth herself…

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Can Music Improve Your Sex Life?

When I was in college, my housemate was constantly working on, modifying, and adding to his prized “sex playlist.” He took a special pleasure-staking pride in this craft. I won’t give away all his secrets, but selections ranged from Pinback to Kendrick Lamar. He was entirely confident in his playlist’s ability to set the mood and enhance his coitus. Though it’s obvious that music and sex go together, I’ve found myself asking: how great is this potential?

  According to contemporary research, it’s very, very great.

A University of Japan study showed that single people’s perceptions of potential partners improved favorably with background music on. They had 20 minutes to chat, and rated their impression of the other person afterwards. Potential partners with no music on were less impressed. With music on, people were more impressed. But this simple experiment doesn’t explain much. If music helps with interpersonal chemistry, what about our body chemistry?

 

One of the biological compounds responsible for both relaxation and regulating penile erections is nitric oxide. (Note: Do NOT confuse this with nitrous oxide.) I can recall nitric oxide, or NO, being mentioned in a text from my early experiences with music therapy, Musical Healing (2003) by Stefano, Bernstein, & Kim. Here is an excerpt:

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“…NO has been shown to be a necessary molecule in the development of the auditory system, which is required to enable music to act as a relaxant…we believe that the complex NO signaling system is the primary and fundamental method by which music acts as a relaxation device.”

 

Not only is this NO good for healthy hard ons, but good for us in general. With heart disease being the leading cause of death in the U.S. (and possibly the whole world), we need all the stress relief we can get.

The next compound to talk about, oxytocin, gets mentioned a lot in magazines and other blogs. There’s even one of those trendy posters for it…

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We’re still finding out much about oxytocin, but what we do know is that it increases bonding and affection between people. And guess what? Music is linked to higher levels of oxytocin. In one experiment, singing for 30 minutes was shown to significantly boost oxytocin levels. If you want to see this in action, just talk to a woman at a Michael Bublé concert.

 

So how do we make this all work? Sitting around playing your Prince album is not going to magically make you a better lover. It is highly recommended that you consult a music or sex therapist to get the maximum benefit of interventions and techniques. And guess what? My wife a music therapist that works with engaged couples, helping them to both plan their weddings and bond through music therapy.

 

You can find her info here: weddingtherapistaz.com (Another note: You do not need to be planning a wedding to take advantage of her services!)

 

This is a very brief overview of how music can greatly enhance sex and create the necessary conditions for intimacy in our body. Don’t take my word for it though, get in touch with your local music therapist and/or sex therapist. If you want to keep it basic, here’s my very own sex playlist…

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