Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'80s Synthpop at Its Best

'80s Synthpop at Its Best: New Wave music in the 1980s can be characterized as a synth-revolution. Although synthesizers had been around since the late 19th century, it was not until the 1970s that they became compact enough to be used on a wide scale. These new synthesizers could synchronize with other electronic instruments and even tap into the developing world of computer software. For the most part, New Wave music originated from the British punk scene in the late 1970s. Bands like New Order and Soft Cell came to define the New Wave genre in the early 1980s. But by the mid-1980s, New Wave music had spawned a sub-genre called "synthpop." With its central focus on the synthesizer, synthpop first gained notoriety in underground music circles. In fact, New Order and Soft Cell scored their biggest hits, "Blue Monday" and "Tainted Love" (which was actually a cover) with a synthesizer at the center of each song. Synthpop, fortunately, continues to evolve even in today's watered-down pop scene, as bands like Ladytron and Justice are still pushing the sub-genre forward.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Infamous "K-Hole"

The Infamous "K-Hole": Recreational use of ketamine has skyrocketed in recent years. Like most anesthetics, its recreational value went undiscovered until decades after it was first synthesized. In the early 1960s, scientists began to develop anesthetics with reduced psychoactive side effects. Ketamine was one of the primary drugs to originate from this development process. And as such, it underwent immediate testing in both animals and humans. Essentially, the drug acts on the central nervous system by inhibiting neuron transmission, which impedes the brain's ability to access memory. This effect made the drug a hit among wounded soldiers in the Vietnam War, as their brains were unable to process the pain "memory." Today, ketamine is primarily used in veterinary medicine because it still possesses a variety of hallucinogenic effects, many of which are similar to PCP. As a result, the drug is also used in the "rave" scene, where ecstasy (MDMA) and other amphetamines are popular. Where the term "K-Hole" becomes relevant is when a ketamine user consumes a particularly high dose. The net effect of such an act will cause a kind of paralysis where the user experiences a psychedelic detachment from the body.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nat Turner's "Confessions"

Nat Turner's "Confessions": In the early morning hours of August 21, 1831, a slave rebellion erupted in Southampton County, Virginia. Led by Nat Turner, an African-American slave who saw himself as a prophet, the insurrection resulted in nearly 200 deaths overall. Although the revolt only lasted two days, Turner evaded capture until October 30, 1831. While awaiting trial, Turner's lawyer, Thomas Ruffin Gray, visited him in jail. Gray subsequently proceeded to interview Turner about why he decided to organize and carry out such a heinous act. Turner's responses were deeply religious. Rooted in Judeo-Christian principles, Turner wished to deliver his people from bondage, much like Moses and the ancient Hebrews in the Book of Exodus. He claimed to have visions from God, which inspired him to take up arms. There were solar eclipses and other celestial happenings that also pushed Turner to act. After the interview, Gray compiled his notes into a book and published it as The Confessions of Nat Turner. But to what extent can this book be considered historical evidence? Authorship is the primary question of concern, as Turner merely dictated his responses to Gray. Nevertheless, the book does offer valuable insight into Turner's mind.