Sci-Fi

On a warm afternoon in early May, I sat at a cafe in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn with a self-proclaimed hacker. The cafe was “Cotton Bean,” one of the many spouting up in the Nostrand Ave. corridor catering to a new influx of young professionals in the area. The hacker was Evan Stites-Clayton, former founder of Teespring, an e-commerce platform that was once considered a golden child of the Silicon Valley tech scene, commanding valuations approaching one billion dollars. Now, he was at the outset of a new venture, one that found a nest in Backend Capital’s Hacker Fellowship, a 10-week program that took place in a 23-bedroom brownstone a few blocks from where we now sat. 

“For you, it’s 1:15 EST. For me, it’s 4.65 hacker time,” Evan remarked, “As soon as I leave this meeting, my autopilot will tell me exactly what I need to do next.”

There was a clear feeling that even though Evan and I were sitting across from each other at the same cafe, in the same year 2020, his experience was driven by a technology that planted him firmly in the future. It was this technology which he had built initial prototypes of during the fellowship.

“The investors at first didn’t understand the concept — we had to let them take it home so they could experience it for themselves.

“We think of this as an Operating System for humans. By default we run "software" that results in greed, disharmony, and unhappiness. Ultimately it heats up the planet and destroys Earth's ecosystem.

“Our technology is an OS for humans that allows us to run different software, and thereby get different results.

“We expect most early users to think of it as a self-help or productivity tool, but really it’s much more than that.”

I was a little taken aback by what Evan was telling me, and even more surprised that he already had investors lined up to give his team over a million dollars in funding. Almost on cue, he gave me a knowing look. He pushed a stack of devices across the small table to me — a bluetooth headset, a fit-bit, and a cheap android phone. 

“The hardware solution is a bit of a hack at this point, but trust me, when you try it at home, you’ll get it.”

[ This piece was written as a part of an exercise at the Hacker Fellowship in which we were asked to envision an optimistic future vision of a reporter meeting with us a few months after the program. It was written on Friday March 6, before we realized fully what was about to happen. ]

keep it lovely

things will be whatever they are

let them be

life will tend towards over-complicating itself

keep it simple
keep it lovely

here’s an expression of absolute joy:

MmmaRGERGO MGLAGKERP YAY LLL! !! eooo … 

smile on your face
in the face of
in place of

there are these three 
sensations to really pay attention to:

(1) the blank contentedness you feel when you first wake up, with a ray of sunshine on your pillow, after you remember that your dreams are dreams and before you remember that reality is real.

(2) the tingle of adventure when you step out the door, into the bus, onto the train platform, onto the spaceship - every footstep is yours to select. you never know what you’ll find, but you know that one way or another YOU will find it.

(3) the warm comfort you feel towards and from those people in your life who truly care about you. 

Ojai (Lyrics)

afternoon im in the van 
sweaty cell phone clutched in hand
telling my love she’s not the love 
to meet my love demand
end the call on 3 percent
I google pay at hip vgn
torta sent from heaven
did an ojai angel serve

when she gets off she wants to hang
with me myself and motley gang
we peace and mistubeast it
to hot springs between the hills
on the drive I like her laugh
and way of never looking back
and off two reservations sneak in
four because we can

we splash in pools of water under
stars that wonder who we are 
this little shallow puddle 
full of love and sacred stones
here my friends are naked
frigid toes are soaked inside
this sweet sulphiric miracle
it stills the storm of love’s rough ride

when she leaves I take the plunge
cold river water and the stars above
back in the hot springs pop rocks
fizzle every inch of quasian skin
get dressed and hop in the Range
on the way home see something strange
a fallen orange companion
in the middle of the road

we turn back to check the scene
high as hell on pen vaped green
the strain was laughing buddha
but the road was full of pain
there lied a wide eyed, crumpled cat
a fluffy orange maine coon tabby that 
reminded me so closely of my old cat George, 
I gave away

I take the cat into my grip
one hand under each defeated hip
body warm but limp and lifeless
lay her down beside the road
there we did pronounce her dead
a stoned and tragic prayer was said
im sorry that you lost your life
to this world of moons and cars

a cat was killed
a bird was saved
a love was born
a love was razed
a red faced glitter sister packed for Pismo to the whisper
of a norcal techish mister locking eyes to thun thun uh

The Song:

palo alto

the hawk hangs her head on the street lamp
blinkers aim left for 101 south
out past the Ikea sign and the Home Depot
past two tall palms and a skinny redwood
broad purple dusk lullabies Palo Alto.

five rubber trees in the cul-de-sac on Tolman drive
one old Chinese woman
an even older British man
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
The Weeknd’s “Wicked Games”
Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood”
I pour out one gallon of gasoline 
for my grandparents
and another for the drive home.

Battle Rapper

If you’ve ever shared a drink with me it’s likely that you’ve heard me freestyle. In a certain state of mind non-lyricised conversation starts to feel trivial to me and the urge to flow bubbles up to the surface. So after listening to a couple of my late night verses in early 2018 my friend Albert said, “Hey I know this rap battle in Oakland that’s open to the public and you could easily win. You have to come battle.”

“It’s called Tourette’s Without Regrets” 

So the following Thursday, I went to “Tourette’s” with Albert and some friends, and two expectations were shattered. First of all, Tourette’s was much more than a rap battle: I watched audience volunteers fling mayonaise covered hot dogs at one another’s bared asses and a woman stick needles through her cheeks. Secondly, I could NOT easily win the rap battle. 

It was one thing to spit amusing verses while jamming with a friend at 2am in my own living room, and something totally different to be on a smoke-filled stage in front of a fired up audience, microphone in hand, with 30 seconds to insult another human being as much as possible over a beat I could not prepare for. I’m generally pretty comfortable getting up in front of people and I’ve done plenty of public speaking but this was another level of challenge. 

Not only did I lose that first battle, I lost resoundingly, barely getting in a single insult to my opponent, stumbling over lines I tried to prepare in the 30 minutes before the battle, and receiving zero votes out of five from the judges in the crowd. 

Afterward Albert said “It’s ok, you were great, you had a hard opponent.” It was true that my opponent was really good and he ended up winning it all that night (the rap battle is structured as a single elimination tournament between 8-16 people). I lost but had gotten a taste, and I was determined that I would go back and win a round. 

So I kept going back to the monthly event, whenever my schedule lined up such that I was in the Bay Area on the first Thursday of the month. Each time I had the same results: losing in the first round. 

That Fall when I heard that my friend Erik, another freestyle enthusiast, was going to be attending an 8 week freestyle rap training course in New York City - I decided to use it as a reason to move to NYC and attend the program. I was freestyling a ton to try to improve my game: in workshops, at parties, and at the end of every shower I took (waiting until I had spit a clean four-liner before turning off the cold water). 

In the new year, with all of that training behind me, I made my way back to Oakland and Tourettes. I had a new approach - less trying to plan out verses ahead of time, more being in the moment, focus on connecting with the crowd, staying on beat, and rapping out relevant things. 

I lost again. I went back the following month and lost again. 

At this point I started to wonder if winning a rap battle was actually something I could - or even should accomplish. As a (mostly) white dude from the Oakland Hills, why should I be trying to compete in a Hip-Hop art form? What was I trying to prove? Were there not more important things like saving the ecosystem from climate change that I could be working on? Was I even good at rapping at all?

In spite of those doubts I had a rule for myself: if I’m in Oakland on the first Thursday of the month, I’m going to Tourette’s and I’m going to compete — no exceptions. Plus I always felt encouraged by the battle organizer Asher to keep trying no matter how many times I lost. With my 0-6 record in December 2019 he enthusiastically welcomed me to come back and compete again. 

My first rap battle win started with winning a roshambo (rock-paper-scissors for my east coast friends). Before a each rap battle, a roshambo determines who will rap first. It’s much better to rap second because it allows you to give a rebuttal to whatever your opponent used to insult you. My opponent was the same person who I had gone up against the last time, and I remembered him throwing “paper.” So I went with scissors on my roshambo. Sure enough he threw “paper” again and I secured being second. 

Going into the battle my focus was to be as present as possible. I wanted to try to maintain eye contact with my opponent and an energetic connection with the audience. Because I was going second, my goal was to respond to my opponent’s verse. In his verse, he said something about me looking like Keanu Reeves. So when I started my rap I responded with:

“So I’m gonna say this, and you’re gonna hate this
I took the red pill and you’re still inside the Matrix”

After that round, the host decided that it was inconclusive and called for a second round (usually judging happens after just one back and forth, 30 seconds each). In my second round I started with a line inspired by my attempt to stay present and maintain an eye contact with my partner. 

“Let me tell you how we make it happen
He can’t even look at me in the eyes when I’m rappin’”

My opponent had a good flow, but none of his punch lines landed as hard as my rebuttals, in part because he was in the disadvantaged place of having to go before me in the rounds, and also because I had the support of three old friends standing in front who would scream every time I landed a line. Ultimately, when the judges raised their whiteboards three votes were in my favor and two went for him.

I went on to lose definitively in the next round, bringing my record to a triumphant 1-7.

Baby Paste (Lyrics)

strange face
acid makes my teeth leak
have you heard of:
stuffy mushroom l33t speech?

strange teeth
sorrow makes neck bulge
have you ever:
let yourself connect fully?

strange neck
hoping i can soak the tonsil
do you really:
trust your orthodontal?

odd words
why I even say them
will you try to:
find a way to save them?

look in the mirror man
and tell me hows your tonsils
look in the mirror man
the tiny house is haunted

strange dreams
castles made of alabaster
comic boxing matches
sparking a disaster

look at the mirror cats
who swallowed my investors
dumpling bureaucrats
losing all their luster

strange girl
kind of looks liek steph-ny
a missing collar bone
history of injury

I'm disgusted
trusted in you crusty mustards
now it's evident
holding the court without evidence
ever since Trump has been president
seek to impeach on the precedence
set by a prayer that heaven sent
(blown in the oval’s what evan meant)
I'm sick of fucking Russia
and Ukrainy on my TV screen
rather have a weatherman
say "it's rainier" or “grass is green”
but grass is brown from what i’ve seen
we lost in two thousand sixteen
can we focus 2020
instead of rolling in defeat?

look in the mirror man
and tell me hows your conscience
look in the mirror man
the tiny house is haunted

strange dreams
castles made of alabaster
comic boxing matches
sparking a disaster

hot priest
she eats me like a piece of pastry
she picked from the trash
complaining of a murder

I'm Spongebob
I'm Keanu Reeves
chat with the clerk its a joke
nibbanic peace as I chat with myself in dreams.


Greta Thunberg (Lyrics)

Greta Thunberg
look at the numbers,
unite behind the science:
there’s only one Earth.
(2x)

Trees we be choppin'
can’t stop shoppin'
nothing is enough
asking “whats my next option?”
end goal is profit
cream off the top it
all piles up
in a few deep pockets.
Juice from a socket
powers a product
we can’t live with out
which we’re told to be proud of.
Our time is now
and its time to be loud
if we want to be heard
for the life of the Earth.

The time is now.
The time is now.
The time is now.
Time is out.

Water is rising:
that’s the true pricing
of cheap mass goods,
our compromising
on the impact to oceans
soil and land;
pillaging the mother
is the legacy of man.
Air is polluted,
ask a good buddhist,
they’ll tell you our money’s
corrupt from the root. It's
true that we do this
act like we’re clueless
amazon searching for
the same old new shit.

Greta Thunberg
look at the numbers
unite behind the science
there’s only one earth
(2x)


the song: 

Turkey Murder (Lyrics)

(3x)

perky merger
turkey burger entourage
climate action pervert
horny warming fuselage

turnkey murder
killer little figure
body like infinity
pinched between two fingers

it's a wisdom it's a winning
it's a winding down
it's a business
cart we cash before the cow

cart we push before the cow
grass we thresh to feed a horse
dig to plant the seed of now:
sown by lust and greed of course.

(1x)

turkey murder
silent burger dinner
little sinner
soul cycle spider spinner


the song: 

Tijuana (Lyrics)

I'm on a balcony in LA by the beach
sippin' hot water as the sun begins to reach
over the horizon rising towards a crescent moon.
I'm writing out verses on an iPad to some tunes
my homie demon cheeks provided 'bout two years ago
but hope he’s now delighted that I'm finally gonna flow
and bring a little grim to these funky tracks
like i said it in the intro: "the Beast is back."

Right now im kinda homeless living all over the world,
reflecting on my privelege and relationship with girls,
the fact I built a business pumpin t-shirts from the earth
that's how i made a milli but the fuck is money worth
in a world that’s getting hotter every dollar makes it worse
cursed by a love of comfort thats a bumfuck to reverse.
Time for me to stop chasing dollars, dimes and shirts,
resort to permaculture put some carbon in the dirt.

Does it hurt? (Yeah)
Does it hurt? (Hell yeah)
Can you feel it in your heart
for every being on earth?
Does it hurt? (Yeah)
Can you feel it in your soul
north to the south pole?
Does it hurt? (Hell yeah)
Now learn to accept and embrace the pain:
the ledger is forever - can’t erase the gain.
Nothing on earth ever stays the same
but our actions impact the way it change.

I meditate vipassana for two hours a day.
I wake up every morning at 4:30 in the A.
For this room in Venice gotta thank my homie Dave
without you I’d be staying with my parents in the bay.
Not that that's a problem I got love for my folks too
but the vibe in Venice keep me running like what yolks do.
Hit the gym for fitness in the morning with ardell,
cookin' rice and lentils eatin cheap and living well.

My badass friend from college, Linhm got married in SD:
at the wedding saw a girl with whom I used to be.
I used to call her Maris but her friends all call her Mars.
In those years we shared together argument was sparse.
Really warmed my heart to see that we could still be friends,
I express my gratitude for how she loved me then.
We squaded up and went across the border a spurt.
I wont forget the glances that we shared across the church.

Does it hurt? (Yeah)
Does it hurt? (Hell yeah)
Can you feel it in your heart
for every being on earth?
Does it hurt? (Yeah)
Can you feel it in your soul
north to the south pole?
Does it hurt? (Hell yeah)
Now learn to accept and embrace the pain:
the ledger is forever - can’t erase the gain.
Nothing on earth ever stays the same
but our actions impact the way it change.

I made this whole mini-album in three days,
so please don’t hate me if it sucks.
Trying harder really wanna care these days,
wanna give but im looking for the fucks.
Read this book by David Deida taught me how to be
a better man but not relinquish masculinity.
He says “breath down the chest and up the spine”
see the big boys do it so of course its fine.

The purpose of my music is to lyrically express
stories thoughts and lessons and to get it off my chest.
It’s not a catchy tune, it might not be your jam,
but expect that it expresses truth of who and where i am.
Goenka showed me that even pain can be a blessing
and demons in my nightmares told me “treat this as a lesson.”
I'm grateful to Vienna for the past couple of months
promise you I’m changing - sorry it’s not all at once.

Saw my ex lover, the other day
San Diego Ped West to TJ.
She and friend found bed rest,
me I then left,
took an Uber to the Ped West.
Now me and friends are back in the US.
I could really use some bed rest.
Took a train up to Los Angeles.
Took an Uber to my friends nest.
Now I'm in the bed getting bed rest,
(sucked into a dream)
dream head while my head rest.


the song: 

humans are giants

how small we are compared to trees
and yet how big compared to bees.
our way of life, which kills them both
is larger than the land.

how hard we learn to work in school.
how sure we are we know the rules
of how to earn and spend out way
to comfort, love, and joy.

perhaps if we were half the size
or if our Earth were twice as wide
then we’d still have a chance to 
save her from man made demise.

sadly, that is not the case
we are a giant human race
in our bootstep’s wake the 
soil quakes with living fear.