[Write On] Adventures in Literature: My 2015 Reading Challenge

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Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
[Mark Twain]

First things first, let me just drop this knowledge on you – Reading is Sexy; and don’t let a person tell you anything differently!  I don’t mean reading articles from HuffPo, Lost at E Minor, Mother Jones or Science Daily on your smart phone or tablet. I’m talking tangible, hold’em in your hand and smell the page; wafting in wanderlust and adventure, syllable after syllable; ending up in a world you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest dreams while you’ve stayed static, stuck on the couch with your head in the clouds. When I was younger, my appetite for literature was almost insufferable for my family – every meal, every car ride, every turn – there I was, ears billowing out hushed musical tones while my mind wandered feverishly through the chapters. 

As I grew older, I realized that my penchant for reading was only matched by my aptitude for math.  Over the course of several family reunions in Washington I was taught how to use long division and counted by powers of two to fall asleep. Nature and nurture seemed to have a field day when it came to determining my true passion in life – on one hand, I could eat, sleep and breathe data, numbers and patterns – there’s something so simple, so logical, so straightforward about the output of data. In a similar but opposite context, I love extrapolating on the English Language, enamoring my work with poetic justice and jubilant prose while challenging the definition of sentence structure and simile.  And let’s not forget, the joys of reading – of travelling infinitely inwards, shooting through the future and somersaulting through the past while staying firmly, yet delicately, in place.

It only makes sense through both nature and nurture.  As the granddaughter of one of the creators of the ENIAC and great granddaughter of one of the only female writer of the Harlem Renaissance, it makes all too much sense that I’d find a unique penchant for both and be able to put it to work. But that’s not to say that I don’t find myself getting writer’s block every now and again. In my last few years as music journalist for The DJ List, I’ve had the wonderfully unique opportunity to ask music professionals how they get over an uncreative slump –  they all tell me that fully immersing themselves in art has always worked the trick – and by in large, I absolutely agree. Both literature and music have a therapeutic, cathartic way of affecting my daily outlook, and my daily output.   Fully immersing myself in another persons passionate creative endeavor more than fuels my fire to foster new ideas, or simply push through and finish what I’ve started.  As far as my writing, personal, music blogging, gonzo journalism and the like are concerned - reading is by far the best way to expand my horizons on what I’m capable of, and the literature that already exists within the world.  Through proper perusal of passionate creations, I see ways that I can make my own more harmonic, melodic, whimsical and descriptive.

Last year, my best friend challenged me to find my Top Ten Works of Literary NonFiction and that was a wonderful blast from the past but truth be told, my reading has waned in the last decade. Since College has ended, I’ve been on a perpetual mission to educate myself – in any way possible, and books have done just that for me. To out myself now – Book Clubs don’t do much for me, except potentially give me a room of disappointed faces when I announce that I’ve read three different books that definitely were not assigned while I’ve definitely avoided what we were all told to read. I get reading inspiration from across the board and I have to admit that for the last few years, with the influx of all sorts of social media, my reading offline had fallen by the wayside – but I’ve taken a bold stand to that and say no more.

Amazon has a wonderful book buy-back (well, technically – it’s an “anything” buy-back program, but whatever) where you can get books for as little as 1¢ (plus Shipping, so 5 bucks total – which is still awesome!) that I’ve been (ab)using since college.  Like rare wildflowers, there’ve been an influx of lending libraries popping up around Los Angeles, as well as Corvallis where my family lives – and there’s a corner of my heart that’s infinitely happier for that. Beautiful bookstores, though few and far between, are havens of literature and apparently, actual Libraries still exist – and now you can rent CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays, Video Games and so much more than just books! On the flip side, if you’re looking to catalog your library or expand your literary horizons – I’m a huge fan of GoodReads, it’s basically the Facebook of reading; you can find your friends, explore authors and use your cell phone to barcode scan your bookshelves.  It’s a book nerds dream – and if you go on it, you should definitely add me!

For 2015, I’ve decided to inspire my creative side with a reading challenge and figured 25 books over the course of the year was doable.  Sure, I have to basically billow through a book biweekly – but with all the absent minded things I tend to do around my house, not to mention the bouts of latent lackadaisical laziness and semi-permanent procrastination due to writer’s block, and I could easily reach my goal; if not surpass it!  We’re just past

The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture, Matt RidleyThe Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture

In my personal opinion, science is one of the most beautiful subjects to write about – taking a process, breaking it down with language and reinforcing connection through poetic prose, symbolic symbolism and delicate diction.  In a sea of science authors, Matt Ridley stands out with other greats of our generation like Richard Dawkins, Oliver Sacks, Simon Singh and Brian Greene.  A personal fangirl of his writing since I was graduating High School in 2003, as a budding young biochemist at one point in my life I was enamored by books like Genome, The Red Queen Theory and The Origins of Virtue.  ‘The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns On Nurture’ is a wonderful encounter with ideals we’ve been familiar with grade school – except instead of pitting them against each other, Matt Ridley makes an excellent argument for how nature and nurture work in tandem to produce the genetic world in which we thrive.

The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

The Joyous Cosmology, Alan Watts

I’ve been recommended various Alan Watts books over the years, but it took until the past month to finally get through one.  Taking into account how in love I was with Huxley‘s Doors of Perception and Pinchbeck‘s Breaking Open The Head, The Joyous Cosmology was a no-brainer first choice.

A lyrically written journey into the mind, Alan Watts impeccably conveys his journey into human consciousness, the ego and the psyche. A must read for anyone intent on exploring the bounds of the mind. Watts does poetic justice to moments where words typically won’t suffice, on a journey through the internal, mental and emotional manifestdestiny of the human race in the 21st century. And speaking of Watts and Huxley, while doing some research I found a wonderful interview from 1968 of Alan Watts and Laura Huxley, Aldous‘ late wife.

Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras: With Light, Color, Sound, Crystals, and Aromatherapy

Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras Joy Gardner

After experiencing a menagerie of types of healing and transformational moments at festivals along the West Coast, from Lightning in a Bottle to Shambhala Music Festival, I’ve been eager to learn some myself. During my first LIB, I watched as festies relaxed under billowing trees while a plethora of instruments were tuned around them and this past year, I watched as a sonic soundbath featuring tuning forks alleviated stress and relaxed my entire campsite.  In Canada, I had my chakras read and realigned by a happy camper, explaining beforehand that last year he set a personal record by reading the palms of 50 people – last year, he wanted to break 100.

It’s purported through ancient scripture that the universe is held together with vibration and sound, and the more I read into vibrational healing the more I truly understand what this means.

The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science

The Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael Schenider 

This is my latest, and it’s a goodie. Mathematics is the language of the universe, and this wonderfully engaging and hands on approach from Michael Schenider is one of the best explanations of how math plays into the world as we currently know it.  From the formation of gems and minerals to hexagonal shape of beehives and formation of historic sculptures and art from sacred geometry, this is a must read for math people, and non-math people, alike.  Every chapter contains a section on how to construct various shapes like the platonic solids, promoting a beautiful discussion while delving into the history of our current numeric system.

My bookshelf is literally toppling over with reads, which makes me incredibly indecisive on what to pick up next.  I’ve been reading The Alchemist outloud with Danny and it’s brings a whole new element to the read, and on my own I’ve been itching to get through some Alan Watts books, as well as an Alex Grey book on The Mission of Art. What are your recommendations for my next read? What’s on your bookshelf that you just can’t wait to dive in to? Let me know in the comments below!

[Tech Talk] The IFPI Shifts Global Record Release Day From Tuesday to Friday

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With the growth of the Internet, streaming media and haphazard album releases stemming from illegal downloads and pirating – it makes all too much sense that the industry standard for music would eventually shift, and artists across the genres are both actively pushing back. Within EDM, take into account Spor’s latest album ‘Caligo’, released weeks early because it was leaked in it’s entirety, Knife Party’s willingness to give up ‘Abandon Ship’ to eager fans, and of course – there was the media aftershock of Queen B’s self titled album release on a haphazard Friday in 2013. The simple fact of the matter, is that musicians far and wide have effectively been forced into forking over their music before it’s official release date.

In the wake of almost six months of discussions with record companies, musicians, music executives, music unions and retailers – the International Federation of the Phonetic Industry, commonly abbreviated by IFPI, has announced a pivotal shift in album release dates – moving it from the traditional Tuesday that we’ve all grown up with and flipping it to Friday. There’s been push back from indie labels and merchants, who are against implementing a change – but all things considered, they might not have much say.

From Frances Moore of the IFPI:

“…Moving a whole industry to a global release day involves big challenges. Inevitably a global project involving more than 50 countries is not going to make every stakeholder in every country happy. There will be upheaval for some, no doubt. However, the truth is that there has been no credible alternative to a Friday proposed that would work at the global level.”Considering labels such as Spinnin’ Records, Tool Room and Revealed aren’t part of the current IFPI – as a whole, EDM might not necessarily abide by the new regulations for music. However, considering the high rate of cross-collaboration and crossover between Pop Music and EDM, the question remains – how will the Dance Music Industry be affected? And for now, we don’t have the answers.

[The Audiofiles] A Rambunctious Chinese New Year with ill.Gates and The Good Vibe

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All creation myths and stories aside, the Chinese Zodiac has always been one of my favorites.  There are many tales, some taller than others, about its origins, and the order of the animals but first lets delve into the Chinese Calendar itself.  Unlike our current Gregorian Calendar, a calendar that revolves around the Julian Calendar and breaks up the approximate 365 day year into twelve, somewhat irregular, slivers –  the Chinese Zodiac is based around the LuniSolar Calendar, which treks from one Winter Solstice to the next. Unlike most calendars, she’s a wonderful marriage of Geography and Astronomy through exploration and astute observation.  Currently, the Chinese Calendar has over 100 versions and is a beautiful consequence of evolution with deep roots in both science and folk lore. More often than not, the Chinese Calendar encompasses 12, if not 13 Lunar Cycles, Moon-ths – or as we know them now – Months.

Using the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice as celestial markers, the year is then divided into 24 equal partitions. The first lunar month is dictated by the month with its first day closest to the “Beginning of Spring”, which ends up being around February 4th – 6 weeks before the Vernal Spring Equinox. With ornate costumes, boisterous music and vibrant life the week long Spring Festival for the Chinese New Years celebrates the coming of the New Year with enchanting style, grace and community.  Three years ago, I had the wonderful fortune of spending it in Shanghai with one of my best friends and let me tell you – it’s one festival not to miss.

As the fables go, one day – the Jade Emperor assembled the animals together in Heaven…for a race, or a banquet of sorts (FYI – there are a LOT of fables).  The first twelve to show up were the Rat, Ox, Pig, Ram, Monkey, Dog, Rabbit, Snake, Chicken, Dragon, Horse and the Tiger – and the Jade Emperor determined they were a perfect fit for the twelve calendar years. Over the course of their quest,typical shenanigans, mayhem and hijinks ensue – including the original prank of the Rat not passing on the invitation to the Cat. A cat lady through and through, I’ve always found it personally hilarious that I was born the Year of the Rat and was slightly dismayed – but now, I own it.  Rushing to the finish line, the Rat came in first place – the Ox next, but the Rat only won because he rode in on the Ox and jumped off at the last second, etc, etc; the Chinese Zodiac as we know it now is dictated by the order of the animals arrived in. An additional attribute from the Wu Xing, otherwise known as the Five Elements, governs over the universe and like the years of the Zodiac – each have their own unique characteristics. In the wake of the 2015’s New Lunar Year, we moved from the Year of the Wood Horse to the Year of the Wood Ram - and thanks to the Good Vibe, we did it in style. 

The upcoming year of 2015 will be rich in positive emotions and intoxicating amorous affairs; after all, its patron – the Wooden Ram – is exactly this way: it is kind, adventurous, easy to get carried away with something new and exciting, but similarly easy to lose interest…. Life is good and it is nice to have nice people around – this is the motto of this period’s patron; we should always keep this in mind. “

Living in Los Angeles, we don’t necessarily need an additional reason to celebrate – a Friday, Wednesday – or even a Sunday will suffice; but toss in an excellent festivity thrown by an impeccably run company, and the OG party people will come out to play.  Located in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, 333 Live was a new venue for my party pants and dancing feet – be it the amazing company, variety of vendors, wonderful vibe or the fact that there was ample space to move and groove to some sick beats, but I’m already excited for the next event thrown there, whatever and whenever it it might be.  From start to finish, the human species was on prime display as the evening was engulfed in delightful sets from two different rooms on separate levels of the club, which also boasted a tightly packed outside area fully equipped with delicious Dim Sum eats for anyone with an empty stomach. The Solid Gold room upstairs got rowdy to the sounds of Oh Diggz, Paragon, Lou E. Bagels, Mihkal and the Smasheltooth Pirate, while the Main Stage partied to Winnebago, The Good Vibe’s own J*Labs, and Ruffhauser before the midnight Lion Parade, fully equipped with a mobile, larger than life Ram that seductive dancers and an intoxicating cast of characters, including dance troupes, Bijoulette, the GoGo Stars and the Vibe Tribe.

The crowd got straight rambunctious when ill.Gates took control of the decks, wooing partygoers with epic drops and freshly improvised productions.  We managed to capture a couple on video, in case you want to relive the moment like we do –

Up next was Colorado native VibeSquaD, a favorite of ours from the Gem & Jam festival – I appreciated that he brought a new feel to his set for the night, throwing in more industrial bass than the first time I saw him.  And oh man, when he dropped “Chocolates” – the floor lit up.

As Friday the 13th evolved into Valentine’s Day morning, our night ended in the most perfect way – a wonderful set from Pumpkin that left us dancing until we were ushered out venue at 4AM. 

Photos shot by Daniel Leist Photography | For the full photo album head to The DJ List.

For more on The Good Vibe and the night’s headliners, head to their socials:

ill.Gates: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud

VibeSquaD: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud

Pumpkin: Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud

The Good Vibe: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud

[Oh, Snap] Sunday Funday at Thousand Steps Beach

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The tides are in our veins.

Photo by Daniel Leist

Calming and cathartic, the ocean beckons with a quiet roar masked as a whisper – cascading from shore to shore in enigmatic harmony. Growing up in the Bay Area, only a hop, skip and a jump from local beaches like San Gregorio, Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Capitola, and spending a good amount of my childhood on the Oregon coast – I have a plethora of fond memories building sand castles and feeding sea gulls while unearthing sea glass and haphazardly discovering beautiful raw stones.  And even though I spent my collegiate years right on the beach in Santa Barbara, I could’ve spent a lot more time actually at the beach. So whenever I get the chance to finally hit one up, the five year old trapped in this 6’0 body gets butterflies in her stomach and stars of excitement in her eyes.

Photo by Daniel Leist

Life, as they say, is what happens while you’re making other plans and the other weekend was no different.  After a haphazard morning leaving Los Angeles, timing had proven tumultuous and schedules had shifted. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and there’s nothing quite like hitting the road with some good jams and great friends. Soaking in the wonderful weather over Valentine’s Day weekend, a great few days filled with lots of love and great company, my wanderlust waved me over to Laguna Beach’s Thousand Steps Beach. Located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway, tucked away between two bluffs – Thousand Steps Beach is a gem among beaches with loads of soft sand, caves to explore and loads of blissfully breaking waves for hydrophilic humans.  Though it’s not technically a thousand steps to get down to the beach, there are definitely enough to warrant a lazy afternoon soaking up some rays.

Photo by Daniel Leist

We couldn’t leave before Sunset on the beach and as we thought, it was absolutely stunning. Sprinting out to the water to snap a picture, my body tangled in itself and the necklace I was wearing broke and my pendant, a beautiful little piece of Amethyst that I got at the Gem Fair in Tucson,  tumbled through my sweatshirt and plunged into the current.  I watched three or four waves swoop, swish and rearrange the stone and instinctively thrust my hand into the water. Miraculously, I saved it – and it hasn’t left my neck since.  This was almost two weeks ago and I’m still finding grains of sand on it!Last, but certainly not least – as the sun went down, the creativity heated up and we tried our hands on some light painting.  Danny took hold of the wand, our friend All Day Jimmy was behind the camera – and the result: magic!

What’s your favorite beach to soak up the sunshine? Let me know in the comments below!

[The Audiofiles] Rising Star Spotlight – /ˈl o͞ o s i d/

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Call me crazy, but music has the ability to make me smell colors and taste shapes; the backbeat of a melody propels me through the past while a flawless vocal track ushers me into the future.  Art takes the form of the artist, meaning that they’re as much immersed in the final product as the craft itself.  That being said, I’ve been scouring the internet for any and all information about /ˈl o͞ o s i d/, and they’re as elusive as their music is ethereal to my ears.  Seamlessly flowing through glitch infused, four to the floor beats that are equally trappy and sultry,  /ˈl o͞ o s i d/ is blazing the path for Future Bass – and doing it in style.

Each original song individually makes my head, heart and feet explode in a multitude of ways.  On a sonic stroll through his original tracks, I first honed in on the groovy, multi-layered, Dim the Lights – a sexy track marinating in Dubstep a few weeks ago and since then have single handedly been responsible for at least 100 of the songs plays.

My next discovery was the Festival House banger ‘Chaos’ – and I’ll say it now, as a writer – I’m in lust with how he names his tracks. From start to finish, this one just begs to be played at 3AM in the middle of a crowded sweaty warehouse.

Last but not least on the original single tip, there’s ‘I Want You’ – a future bass track that completely crosses over into Tech House, and does it absolutely right.

Not to mention the wide variety of sultry, slippery remixes ranging from Faithless’s infamous track ‘Sleepless’, John Mayer and Evanescence.  Each mix tip toes around the original foundation, pulling and pushing on the meter while injecting a seductive bassline into the heart of each melody. Not to mention, ‘Sleepless’ comes off as a wild, underground warehouse club banger – the way it always should be played.

On his Website, he hints at big things happening on March 2nd – do I smell an LP release? Or maybe, just maybe – you can tell us who you are. Until then, keep turning out the amazing tracks – and I’ll keep blasting them on repeat.

For more on /ˈl o͞ o s i d/, make sure you check out their socials –

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Soundcloud 

[Write On] This Coming March, Say Sayonara to San Francisco’s Bay Bridge Lights

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bridge

Over the last few years, The Bay Lights have become a shining staple of my visits home;  the sea and sky, both ablaze in sweet synchronicity.  The brainchild of the Illuminate the Arts group and Tisch trained artist Leo Villareal, The Bay Lights started sparkling almost two years ago on March 5, 2013 much to the delight of San Francisco Residents. From dusk until dawn, 250,000 LED lights sprawl the length of the Westbound bridge in seemingly haphazard patterns, ebbing and flowing with electric current to an unspoken but innately understood rhythm.   In the beautiful words of ItA themselves –

 “Our highly aspirational mission of changing humanity’s future for the better via public art—some would call it impossible—is a reflection of our core beliefs. The best of our projects will always be radically accessible, free to experience and widely viewable.”

Standing 500 feet high and almost 2 miles wide, the Bay Lights currently stands as the world’s largest LED Light Sculpture. Oh, and then there’s there’s that whole fact she’s a stunning, fully functional bridge bound by a singular cable woven through the breadth of the structure.  Crafted in honor of the bridge’s 75th anniversary, the reign of the Bay Lights unfortunately draws to a momentary close this coming March. As the two year art permit expires,Caltrans will begin simultaneous maintenance on the bridge’s cables which are purported to be suffering from both corrosion and cracking. There will be not just one, but two public ceremonies cementing the end of an enchanted era down on Embarcadero near Waterbar.  Join in the fun on March 5th at 8pm or March 6th at Sunrise – and if you’re one of the first 1000 people, you’ll end up with a free snazzy LED candle!

If you’re like me and a tad uber sad about the Never fear, because Illuminate the Arts is in cahoots with the State of California on a long term proposal that brings the installation back, brighter and better than ever in 2016 to. So go now, frolic to San Francisco and get your fill before the lovely Bay Lights go off in March. And while you’re at it, pay some tribute to Illuminate the Arts and the Bay Bridge Lights Project by visiting their socials –

Illuminate the Arts: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[The Audiofiles] Prowl for the Perfect Beat with LA’s Low End Theory

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Delve into the unique underground music scene in city of angels, as music aficionados at the Low End Theory Club passionately pursue the creme of the crop in the industry as they go ‘Looking for the Perfect Beat.’ Fall down the rabbit hole as you’re fully immersed in the hip happenings of the Summer of 2013 – an epic Summer of music in LA, indeed. Featuring the likes of auditory tastemakers like Thundercat, the Gaslamp Killer, TOKiMONSTA, Jonwayne, Baths, Daedelus, Ras G, Teebs, D-Styles, edIT of the Glitch Mob, Astronautica, Free the Robots, and Matthewdavid – this is a no holds barred look into creative process of these internationally acclaimed musicians. Stock up on some snacks and get cozy on your couch as the didactic soundtrack for the film virtually creates itself to the pulsing beat of LA nightlife.


Looking for the Perfect Beat – Trailer
from Alpha Pup on Vimeo.

Told in time as a 24 hour narrative, the viewer is firmly implanted in the heat of the moment and the heart of the dancefloor while given a creative fly on the wall perspective. ‘Looking for the Perfect Beat’ beautifully delves into the humanity of the artists, expunging their craft while learning about them on a more personal level. Directed by seasoned music documentarian Matthew F. Smith, and produced by Low End Theory club founder Daddy Kev, ‘Looking for the Perfect Beat’ provides a holistic view of L.A.’s key players in this generation’s electronic music landscape while instilling hope for the future of cross-cultural creative unions. Purchase the full movie on Vimeo here

You can catch Low End Theory every Wednesday Night in Los Angeles: 18+ at Airliner – 2419 N Broadway 90031, Quarterly in Japan: Tokyo – Osaka – Sapporo – Himeji, and sometimes in Europe, NYC and San Francisco.

For more on Low End Theory, head to their socials –

Website | Facebook | Twitter