Tag Archives: music

Science + Hip Hop = The Genius

It was infinitely hot, so extremely bright…

In my eternal quest to discover new ways to make science engaging through innovative storytelling, I came across an interesting project that’s running through ten New York City high schools this year. It has students writing rap riffs to     talk about science, which might sound incongruous at first, but actually makes terrific sense. Actually, it is one of those things that you wish someone thought of sooner.

The pilot project is called Science Genius and it’s the brain child of bow-tie wearing Columbia professor Christopher Emdin. And while yes, it does have the kind of lame name that induces such teen eye-rolling as to issue concerns of retinal damage, (don’t get too turned off by the cheesy faux-graffiti logo,) some lucky students in the Bronx got any potential smack-talking handily silenced when who should walk through the door but freakin’ GZA.  It’s no coincidence this Wu-Tang clansmen’s other name is The Genius.

Watch him discuss the importance of scientific inquiry and inspired lyricism, and soon enough the kids are rhyming about natural selection, mutation, and adaptation–all relevant subjects in any environment, wild or wildly urban. Bunny Colvin is out there somewhere slapping his knee.


GZA’s solo album Liquid Swords is one of my all-time favorite albums. Ever. It is, well, genius. And not just because it samples Shogun Assassin, although yeah, that is pretty sweet. His mysterious forthcoming album called Dark Matter is apparently inspired by the Big Bang (“fastest growing infant since the time of birth”) and other universal magic. Awesome.

And if that wasn’t enough to win you over, watch him rap about Fallopian tubes and the periodic table and star-dust in this interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is himself, the dope show. It’s an interesting discussion between two very intelligent, poetic, and influential men about how art can make science better, and science can make art better, and how Novas aren’t just shitty cars. How we must continue learning both about the universe, and ourselves.

Wu-Tang and wavelengths forever!


… expanding, beyond comprehension, within a fraction of a second, a new dimension. At a marble size, very unstable, in time it would come with a periodic table…


Well, it happened. Again. I woke up with whiplash. Nah, I wasn’t in a car wreck. I didn’t slip on the ice. It was, predictably, the result of mild head banging. In the spirit of full disclosure, I will say that this occurs with the frequency of say, a partial lunar eclipse. I mean, it’s not happening every week, but I can expect it a few times a year. Why? Because I don’t learn.

But I’m tired of hiding this from the world. Of mumbling, oh, I must have pulled something chopping wood, or, mmm, slept on it funny… No, no longer. My neck feels like it was wrung because I got a little over zealous with my dance moves. When I was alone. When I was dancing by myself (I can’t in good faith count the dog, who was technically present, but mostly safely ensconced under the table), possibly less-than-fully-clad, in the mostly dark, for several hours.

Look, I don’t get as much exercise as I once did. I’m not currently getting paid to walk up mountains for miles in the rain, or hammer nails, or move rocks. And anyway, it feels like we get about four hours of daylight these days, and I’m not a gym person. It’s only natural that this build-up of energy must inevitably burst forth in song and crunk. I’m not ashamed. But, I wouldn’t say no to a neck rub.

November Rain

Oh, November, how often you torment me. Aside from Thanksgiving, you can be a pretty harsh month. No sun for days, rain instead of snow, very little daylight. A quick search reveals November is the declared Awareness Month for Epilepsy, American Diabetes, Lung, Pancreatic, Prostate, and Stomach Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis, Homeless Youth, and Souls in Purgatory. Is this a coincidence? I am not so sure. It is also National Novel Writing Month, which, when added to this roster of delights makes a sick sort of sense. I’d like to petition the additions of The Benefits of Ingesting Vitamin D Awareness Month, and perhaps Scotch Appreciation Month, too, as long as we’re continuing with the health-awareness theme.

Witness: The Forecast. Hit Repeat, Repeat, Repeat.


But I’m not trying to get too morose or poetic here. No, no, why bother when someone else has said all there is to say about the melancholy of this dark month and its ubiquitous, monkey-wrenching rain? You know what I am talking about. That’s right. Guns N’ Roses and one of the most expensive and most glorious music videos/songs of all time. I can not recall a single time when this pathos-inducing song did not cheer me up. Maybe this is because it is a good reminder that it could be always be worse. Or maybe its because it is simply an undeniable invitation to wail on the air guitar, which, in my experience, tends to lift spirits.

If those things weren’t enough, there is a lot of big hair. The video is broken into two, intercut parts–one, the band on stage, and two, the little dramatic enactment of a love story gone wrong. The concert footage features backup singers with big hair, and adulating hips, and prom-gloved arms sweeping upward in joy and agony. Then there is the biggest-haired orchestra you’ve ever seen, lead by the biggest-haired, mustachioed, head-banging conductor in the world. There are stadium lights, a blood-weeping crucifix, and a flute. A flute!
Slash wails atop a piano (with his own signature big hair), while Axl channels Elton. This is before the fall, and he still looks nearly wholesome, already addicted and violent, but mercifully free of botox and creepy ginger cornrows, almost normal on the cusp of his steep slide into the abyss of full-fledged assholery.

Then there is the wedding! A priest named Gianantonio! Stephanie Seymour (Axl’s then on-again, off-again girlfriend) in her designer dress, all business on top, party down below! And those Sergeant Pepper Pirate jackets! And Axl’s weirdo talon pinky coke ring! And that scandalous tongue kiss! And the moment where Slash nearly loses the rings before peacing out mid-ceremony into the highlight of the video…

Poor guy is feeling a little emotional. He needs a little time on his own. Time to execute a most epic shred in the perpetually windy deserted desert churchyard, with his enormous hair seductively billowing while invisible helicopters circle and swoop and zoom in on his shirtless, leather-jacket clad abs, excruciatingly tight pants, heel stomps, crotch thrusts, and incredible mega power stance in one of the greatest, most motherfucking badass melodramatic guitar solos in the history of the universe. Seriously, find me a person on this Earth who can watch that clip and not want to be Slash for even one hot minute. You can’t. There is no such person. Everyone wants to be Slash in that moment.

Cut to the strange Godfather-inspired reception, featuring rustically capped Mediterranean boys, 10,000 cigarettes, and the bride’s ultra-90’s black velvet dress with ribbon choker. Then comes the titular, panic-inducing November Rain, which drives the guests to lose their minds, upturning tables and knocking down the enormous wedding cake that was so recently and tenderly cut, telling us that the party is seriously over. For real. By now the orchestra’s conductor is headbanging as if he’s being righteously electrocuted, in a way perhaps only another big-haired human (say, me) can truly fully appreciate. Dude is stone-cold rocking it. Then, Boom. Funeral. Bride is dead for reasons unknown, suicide is implied. That blasted rain even interrupts the graveside attendance. Water-phobic mourners run, again, leaving poor booze and pill-addled Axl to toss and turn in his eerily-lit sheets while that same damn relentless rain slides down his enormous windows, the very picture of his poor, broken heart, failure, and sadly, future (Chinese Democracy, anyone?) And, scene.

This is what November is all about, man!

Watch the entire original music video in all of its glory here, and the comic summary here.

Your Sweetness Is My Weakness

With the new summer field season creeping in on us, I’ve been thinking about our bear friends again. You know we tramp all over the place collecting the hair they leave behind when they rub on tree trunks, power poles, sign posts, and wooden bridges. You know we do this to get genetic samples to monitor population and distribution and such. But why do they do it? Why do the bears rub? Well, we still aren’t totally sure, but here is a little evidence that may bode well for the because it feels awesome camp.

Last year my co-worker Brad put up a remote camera near an old bridge positively fuzzy with bear fur. He collected the gear several weeks later, and we were all pretty impressed by the images it caught. The following video is just one sequence. This one is of an adult male, with a, well, with a kind of bare ass. We also caught a mama and two little cubs rubbing, and a black bear, and some other animals sniffing around.

If I were a technological wizard, I’d find a way to sync up this visual with some sweet, sensual tunes. And when you’re talking about a big, sexy bear, in the privacy of this own forest, expressing himself to the object of his love and affection, no one gets it done* like The Barry White (RIP). Dude had a voice. Unfortunately, you’ll have to settle for playing this ditty in the background while you watch.

Disclaimer: It’s all night-vision up in here. You may feel pretty voyeuristic. The footage is dark and fuzzy. There are glowing eyes. Sometimes it is hard to see exactly what is happening. One thing is for damn sure though–that bear is really, really enjoying himself. If he could talk, I am quite certain his voice would sound exactly like the deep smoove groove of Mr. White.

The man knew what he was he was doing.
Just look at some of the best slow jams from his epic roster:

– I’m Qualified To Satisfy You
– It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me
– Beware
– Passion
– Sho’ You Right
– Never, Never Gonna Give You Up
– You’re My First, My Last, My Everything
– I’ll Do For You Anything You Want Me To
– Love Makin’ Music
– Super Lover
– I Wanna Do It Good To Ya
– I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby