How Much a Dollar Cost?

Earlier tonight after work I went into a CVS near my house to pick up a quick prescription when I came across a gentleman trying to do the same. The only difference was that he couldn’t pay for his.

I didn’t really tune into the conversation until I heard him give his birthdate. “Twelve, thirty-one, fifty-nine.” The guy’s got a New Year’s Eve birthday. Then I noticed him getting frustrated because he didn’t have enough cash to get what he needed.

At first, he was trying to get ten pills for $17 and change. He didn’t have insurance, and he kept saying his cousin was supposed to come through for him.

Then he asked about five pills. $8 and change.

Then just one. $3.50.

All he could afford was just the one pill. He had a crumpled up Lincoln in his pocket and that was it.

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As I approached the counter, I gave my name, DOB, etc. and then I asked if I could pay for the gentleman’s medicine. After a quick glance and a nod to her coworker, the lady behind the counter said yes. She motioned over to the gentleman and said that I was paying for his medicine.

I quickly paid, shook the man’s hand and told him not to worry about it. As I was walking away, I heard him yell “thank you” over my shoulder. I turned around and could see that his demeanor had changed from frustrated to grateful. Tears were welling up in his eyes as he reached out to give me as genuine and heartfelt of a hug as I’d had in a while. “Thank you,” he said. “I’m so sick.”

“It’s hard out here for all of us, and we can use all the help we can get. God Bless you, sir.” I replied.

The gentleman, still holding back tears, walked on his way and I walked on mine. We might have been two different people, but in that moment we were two people just helping each other make it through the day.

I helped him with his meds. He helped me see the hope for mankind that I like to believe in despite daily evidence to the contrary. The $8.38 didn’t mean much to me, but it meant the world to him.

All this happened after I had just been listening to Kendrick Lamar’s “How Much a Dollar Cost”, a song about the high price of poverty. The answer to that question varies depending on who you are. If you’re like me, and you have resources, that dollar might not cost much to you, but it can literally make a world of difference to someone in need.

Thoughts on the 2017 Solar Eclipse

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Just moments after the moon had begun its shift past its darkest point (98% here in Charlotte), people celebrating the 2017 solar eclipse at Camp North End here in Charlotte began looking around as if they pressed the Dr. Pepper button on the soda machine and it spit out an RC Cola.

“Is that is?” a slightly befuddled crowd thought in unison.

That was, indeed, it.

There was no blackout, no wide swath of darkness blanketing Uptown Charlotte, where I watched the event. That 2% gap makes quite a bit of difference, as people just 90 minutes south of us in Columbia and surrounding areas actually got to see midnight in the afternoon.

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There’s nothing wrong with being a bit underwhelmed with the whole spectacle. There was an enormous build up on social media, and that brand of hype rarely lives up to its promise. I’m sure some people bailed on work and felt guilty that they missed out on prime work flow hours. All totally reasonable.

To me, it was a moment I’ll never forget.

In the days leading up to the eclipse, it was clear that this was the only story that was able to provide some emotional relief from a week’s worth of heinous images from Charlottesville. People slowly but collectively put down their differences in order to make plans to watch the eclipse. Google searches for specially-certified glasses and watch locations soared.

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And for a brief moment on an otherwise hot and steamy Monday afternoon, everyone stopped what they were doing, gathered together in groups and marveled at a natural phenomenon that maybe isn’t once-in-a-lifetime rare, but definitely remember-where-you-were worthy. Snacks and drinks were shared while paper sunglasses with shiny silver lenses and necks craned high in the air made everyone looks equally goofy. Many people had homemade viewers, constructed out of cereal boxes, no doubt a memorable science project.

As for me, I found myself marveling at how the sun, reduced to just 2% of its strength, still lit our little part of the planet quite brightly, with the temperature still toasty. A testament to life’s indomitable will to live, I’d like to think.

It’s fitting that it takes an event of literally cosmic proportions to get everyone to forget about the daily grind of work, family, and world news and appreciate the natural beauty all around us. The beauty of giant, celestial objects intertwined in an unbelievably precise two step. The beauty of this display happening in a way that visibly reminds us of our trivial size relative to the universe. And the beauty of people of all backgrounds putting everyday worries behind to come together and enjoy it all.

Moments like that only come around so often.

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I stuck around a little while longer after most people had cleared out of the boiler yard at Camp North End. Just as it had on its way up, I took periodic glances at the moon as it made its way past the sun. The eclipse was something I hadn’t ever gotten to see to that degree in my life, so I wanted to get the most out of it. With my corneas intact (as far as I can tell), I look forward to 2024, when the next eclipse makes its way through the US, and hopefully close to my hometown of Bloomington.

Until then I’ll always remember the random day in late summer 2017, where even a country that is as volatile and chaotic as ever, could come together, put on silly glasses and enjoy a natural spectacle.eclipse-gohjo-charlotte-2017

Why Charlotte is the Mecca of Disc Golf

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RenSke Disc Golf Course. Photo by Andy Goh

This post originally appears on charlottesgotablog.com.

Just off of Tyvola and South Tryon, you can find a golf course whose name recognition is greeted with respect and reverence by top players around the world. Travel further north to the Beatties Ford Road area for a course that is not only universally thought of as one of the best in the world, but hosted a world championship round in 2012 that was the first of four consecutive titles for one of the game’s greatest players. Finally, take a 30-minute drive south from the center of the city to step foot on the home of the sport’s most prestigious title held annually on a picturesque course for 17 straight years.

No, we’re not talking about Augusta, Las Vegas or Orlando, we’re talking about Charlotte. And we’re not talking about “ball” golf, we’re talking about “disc” golf.

And Charlotte is the mecca of disc golf.

Read the rest on charlottesgotablog.com.

A Shot That Does Not Move the Net is Not A Perfect Shot

It’s conference tournament week so now seems like as good a time as any to rant about something that you are sure to hear plenty of this month.

Despite what numerous basketball announcers will say, a shot that goes in the basket that does not make the net move is not a perfect shot.

Shots that do not make the net move actually are slightly long. They still go in, of course, but they are not perfect. When a shot creates no movement from the net, it grazes the back/bottom of the rim, which alters the trajectory of the ball, causing it to go from a smooth arch to falling straight down. When it drops straight down, it causes no movement from the net. Again, not a perfect shot.

A perfect shot goes through the hoop at its exact center, meaning the ball does not touch the rim in any way, nor is its trajectory altered. When the ball goes through the rim like this, it pushes the back of the net backwards, which in turn pulls the front of the net back and up, creating a “splash” effect.

You can see this here:

Here:

Or here:

So the next time an announcer calls a shot that doesn’t move the net a perfect shot, you can smugly (yet confidently) tell your friends that they are wrong.

Or you can lead a relatively well-adjusted life and not be bothered by mindless minutiae like this.
Your choice.

Seven Questions with Jen Band of Playing for Others

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Jen Band of Playing for Others. Photo courtesy of thesavageway.com

People with disabilities, especially children, often times miss out on some of the joy and wonder than most of us take for granted as we grow up. Events like birthday parties, proms and vacations many times minimize the involvement of the disabled, limiting the exuberance that others routinely enjoy.

Fortunately, organizations like Playing for Others make it a point that kids with disabilities don’t miss out on feeling like they’re the superstar. One such event is happening this Sunday at McKnight Hall on the UNCC campus. For the ninth consecutive year, Playing for Others presents its Red Carpet program which makes the buddies (PFO’s affectionate term for kids with disabilities) the star of the show, both literally and figuratively.

At the center of the Red Carpet program is a production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which features performances from both the teens and buddies. Before the show, however, the buddies are treated to a VIP experience, as they will arrive at the show in style. A limo ride to the venue is followed by a walk down the red carpet, where spectators, PFO teens and the buddies themselves are dressed like movie stars at the Oscars. As the cameras flash, the buddies and teens strike poses and bask in the adulation of the event, which is the culmination of homecoming weekend.

Playing for others was formed in 2006 to teach teenagers that you can take what you’re passionate about and use it to benefit the greater good. Today, 75 teens (eighth grade through high school) from 37 different schools participate in the Playing for Others program. Two teens team up with each buddy for friend dates, art experiences and relationship building. One of the program’s main focuses is diversity, with teens and buddies of all races, nationalities, sexualities and economic backgrounds included. Through this mentorship, teens in the program learn personal development, leadership training and public service.

To get a better idea of what to expect at the Red Carpet Event, I asked seven questions to Jen Band (formerly of Children’s Theatre of Charlotte), Executive Director of Playing for Others.

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What are some of the other activities in homecoming weekend leading up to the red carpet event? Friday night we will host HeARTbeat, an evening celebrating 12 local non-profits by bringing their story to life through the music, dance, spoken word, and digital art. Then on Saturday night we’ll gather to celebrate 10 years and watch a premiere of our first ever original musical, Ready. Set. Go.

What was the inspiration for the red carpet event? The Red Carpet event is a PFO staple. It’s a time for our “buddies”, children with disabilities, to be celebrated and treated like the rockstars they are! We believe that every human being deserves love and belonging.

How many teens and how many buddies participate in each homecoming? We have 75 teens in the program and 36 buddies that all come together for a weekend of hugs, high fives and dance parties :)

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How are the performances (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in this case) selected? You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown was the very first PFO show. It seemed fitting to do it for our ten year anniversary.

What has the response been like from previous parents or caregivers? Parents are blown away by their experience with PFO. Many talk about how important these friendships are for their kids. The care, attention and love given to the buddies is simply beautiful to watch.

How often do you hear from former buddies and what do they say? Many of our buddies stay in the program year after year, they just can’t get enough of it! Those that move on come back for performances and stay in touch with their former PFO teen buddy. It’s a life-long relationship.

Personally, what is your favorite part of the red carpet event? That moment when I get to open the door to the limo and see all the excited faces inside. It’s honestly one of my favorite moments of the entire PFO season :)  

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Playing for Other’s production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is this Sunday, March 5 at McKnight Hall on the Campus of UNC Charlotte (9025 University Rd.) at 4:30 p.m. with red carpet festivities starting at 3 p.m. Show up in your freshest attire, and pay what you can at the door.

My Super Bowl Prediction

Ready for my official Super Bowl prediction? Here it is…

Honestly, this is the first Super Bowl in 20 years that I literally do not care about at all.

Not only has this been the least interesting and most apathetic NFL season in about that same time, not only is the NFL becoming more and more of an exercise in cognitive dissonance (which I have a feeling will become a defining term for 2017), but most importantly, the US is quite literally doing its damnedest to impersonate 1925 USSR and 1935 Germany.

With each passing day, it’s more and more clear that we are on the cusp of a frightening new world. One built on populism, nationalism and xenophobia. One that’s less “We the people” and more “Us versus them”. 

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Photo by Brian “BT” Twitty Photography

As a country, we are not that far away from repeating the mistakes of the past, specifically race-based internment camps like those that held Japanese people in incarceration during World War II or the Immigration Act of 1917, which, in addition to barring people whose bloodline I share, is eerily similar to the one that is currently being haphazardly pushed through by Donald Trump.

Knowing that this is the direction we are headed, where many of our friends, family, associates, educators, political and activist figures might face a similar fate, how the fuck can I muster up any real enthusiasm for this game?

Admittedly, it would probably be different if one of my teams (Colts or Panthers) were playing today. But with the NFL becoming harder and harder to watch each year, and society beginning to fray at the seams, what good is a Super Bowl title ultimately?

What good is a Super Bowl title if we’re locking away the millions of non-white non-straight people in this country? If we’re trading a volley of missiles with North Korea? If Russia is invading our soil?

What good does the Lombardi do then? For Boston, Atlanta or any other city?

My prediction: New England DGAF, Atlanta DGAF.

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Albums (7-1)

KING – We Are KING

7. KING – We Are KING This album was a short list contender for most spins in 2016 for me. This is an exceptionally well done album by a trio of ladies who hopefully won’t be mired in obscurity much longer.

KING first came on the scene in 2011 with their three song EP The Story. Though the quantity wasn’t much, the quality was such that it caught the ear of heavy hitters like Questlove, Phonte and the one and only Prince, who reached out to them, mentored the young trio and eventually had them open for him while he was playing in Los Angeles. He also was adamant that they retain all rights over their work, which may partly explain why there ways a five year gap between The Story and We Are KING.

The wait was well worth it, however, as We Are KING is a tight production, with each song displaying a psychedelic, electronic, neo-soul feeling that is still rooted in a progressive pop bedding, making for a dreamy and luscious listen. This is an album that I play all the time, but each spin still sounds fresh.

Read the interview I did with KING’s Paris Strother for CLTure here.

Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.

6. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered. What this album lacks in cohesion (it’s a collection of material that didn’t make the cut on To Pimp a Butterfly), it makes up for in raw energy, explosive lyrics, and a refined mastery of form that K Dot displays.

With all the tracks left unnamed, the titled clearly stripped down and the lack of album art, this project is clearly focused on making Kendrick’s transcendent rhymes take center stage. That they do, and the production provides fertile ground for Lamar with a mix of jazz, soul, avant garde and funk providing ample room for work. You don’t need me to tell you that the lyrical output of this album is in top form throughout, with Kendrick’s rapid-fire delivery never missing a beat or delivered with even a moment’s hesitation. There’s not much to say about the lyrical display on this album other than K Dot is really at the top of the game as an MC.

While the album may suffer micro point deductions because of its untethered structure, this is still an absolute heavyweight. The only way songs like these hit the cutting room floor is if they’re being left off of a timeless instant classic like TPaB.

Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3

5. Run the Jewels – RTJ3 Killer Mike probably won’t ever get the true props that he deserves as one of the game’s undeniably great MCs, much to the chagrin of the aforementioned Kendrick Lamar. That didn’t stop El-P and Killer Mike from dropping RTJ3 early and for free on Christmas Day. Thankfully, I waited (lol, procrastinated) to write this post long enough that I could give the album a few listens before properly placing it on my Top 15 Albums list.

The early returns? Another *fire emoji* album from RTJ. Even though this album doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table (which I’ve already shown is important to me), there’s just too much *fire emoji* here to deny it. Venomous rhymes, slamming electro beats and a bombastic core of energy that perfectly suits the group’s punk-crossover appeal are the signature tones of this album.

While the formula of RTJ3 follows that of both its predecessors, the duo continue to sharpen and refine their sound to perfection. Now both fully confident and comfortable in their roles, Mike and El trade witty and biting rhymes that either end with a hilarious punchline or a thought provoking bon mot. The gas can is poured fully onto the fire of social justice on tracks like “Talk to Me”, “Thieves!” and “Kill Your Master”. That final track features a verse from former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zach de la Rocha, which is fitting in a sense because RTJ has firmly picked up the political revolution baton from Rage’s cold, lifeless hands. 2017 goal: see RTJ live in concert.

Frank Ocean – blond

4. Frank Ocean – blond When it was finally (and legitimately) announced that this album’s release was imminent, a wave of anticipation quickly swept over most of the music listening world. Ocean’s 2012 debut, Channel Orange, was a massive critical and commercial success, thrusting the enigmatic R&B singer to world stardom. Singles like “Lost” and “Sweet Life” carried Ocean to a place of prominence in the neo-soul world that rivaled established acts like D’Angelo and Erykah Badu.

With blond, however, Ocean shifts gears to a project that is decidedly anti-pop, producing few, if any, tracks that will be considered for a Top 40 rotation. What the radio misses out on is the discerning listener’s gain. blond is a remarkable album, one that explores Ocean’s inner monologue, contradictions and conscience in a dark, spacey and moody package. There are no “Lost”’s on this project, anything with a danceable beat has been replaced with slow tempo, arrangement driven songs that make a great use of sonic blank spaces, adding emphasis to Ocean’s crooning. The result (with help from key contributors like Beyoncé, Kanye West and one of André 3000’s finest verses of his career) is an album that truly captures a mood and feeling that makes no compromises to what is expected of the mainstream. Ocean even made it clear that he has no intention of appeasing the masses by deliberately not submitting this album for Grammy consideration.

While this is not a record you would want to reach for first during your next house party, it is an album that will stir your soul when you sit down with it in solitude to reflect on your own demons.

Anderson .Paak – Malibu

3. Anderson .Paak – Malibu It’s fair to say that Anderson .Paak came out of nowhere to become on of 2016’s most celebrated new artists. The Dr. Dre protogé burst onto the scene early in the year with Malibu, and stayed busy throughout with a collaboration with Knxwledge (Yes Lawd!), a string of hit features (including the new A Tribe Called Quest), a spot on NPR’s Tiny Desk series and relentless touring. Malibu was the catalyst for all of that, however, as the album brought a fresh, smoky and grooving feel to 2016.

The album is a rolling mix of styles, from funk to pop to R&B to doo wop and beyond. .Paak is clearly a diversely skilled artist who shows a great deal of expertise in each area. A drummer by trade, .Paak kept his affinity for percussion and rhythm at a high level while developing his vocals into the tool that separates him from his peers. .Paak effortlessly shifts from singing to rapping to rhythmic spoken word with each verse. His style is always smooth, funky and cool, which was desperately needed in 2016.

You can read more about Malibu in my full review, which can be found here.

David Bowie – Blackstar

2. David Bowie – Blackstar I think it’s pretty safe to say that there’s never been an album quite like this one, and there may never be another like it in the future. An outstanding album in it’s own right, the fact that Bowie recorded this album while he knew his body was failing him, and that he was able to distill the feeling of facing imminent mortality and use that feeling to produce a bold and brutally honest record is something that may never be replicated by an artist of Bowie’s stature.

Blackstar was released January 8, coinciding with Bowie’s 69th birthday, and just two days before his death. The resulting album is haunting, chilling and yet hopeful, the sound of a man who is resigned to his own fate, but one who is also at peace with it. The production is classic Bowie, reinventing himself again and always on his terms. Songs like “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” find a lucid Bowie making no pretense about his place in pop music. Bowie cryptically reflects on how he’s given everything to his art form, but his body won’t let him give any more.

Like Frank Ocean’s blond, this is not an album that you will want to spin while getting ready for a night on the town, rather one that is much more reflective in nature, and demands to be listened to intently, marveling at what so few people will get to experience in their lives: a sober and accepting contemplation of one’s lifetime work just inches from death’s doorstep. That’s why Blackstar ranks so high on this list, not because it’s the best instrumentation or the most innovative style etc., but because it’s such a powerful, honest and brave look into the eyes of death by one of the world’s most unique cultural icons at a time when he still had the clarity and strength to produce it.

A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

1. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service Even now, almost three months after the release of this album, I’m still trying to find the right words to describe it. This is an album, much like David Bowie’s Blackstar, that could perhaps only have been produced by this particular artist with it’s very specific timing.

What makes this album great is a combination of three factors. For one, it’s an old school hip hop head’s delight. Jazzy and effervescent beats lay a groundwork for ATCQ’s introspective, observational and sharply resonant lyrics. There’s a supreme return to form for fans of The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders that incorporates relative newcomers like Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, grizzled veterans Talib Kweli and André 3000 with absolutely zero insincerity.

Second, this album absolutely *had* to pay a proper tribute to Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor, who passed away in March. Tribe pulls this off expertly, including a bevy of previously unreleased Phife verses (many of which recorded after the group’s appearance on The Tonight Show in late 2015). The surviving members of the group also penned heartfelt tributes to their departed partner in rhyme on songs such as “Lost Somebody” and “Black Spasmodic”, the latter of which finds Phife coming back to life via Q-Tip, delivering a reflective verse that serves as the proper send off that Phife never got to do in person.

Third, the timing of this album’s release was absolutely critical from two points of view. 2016 was filled with heartbreaking moments from legends who passed too soon to what seemed to be a deterioration of rap as an art form with the sudden popularity of “mumble rap”. This exaltation of rapping that placed the emphasis purely on style, leaving lyrical content an afterthought, was something that absolutely perplexed and disappointed many long-time fans of the genre. Also, this album was released just days after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, leaving many segments of the American population feeling vulnerable and lost. It felt as if Tribe knew it had to step up to the plate to stand against both of these developments, and they delivered a vicious retort with this album, especially on songs like “We The People”, “Melatonin”, “Kids…” and “Dis Generation”.

Simply put, Thank You 4 Your Service is an album that not only stands squarely on the merit of quality contained, but also one that becomes transcended in the scope of what it represents on a larger scale. There could not have been a more timely or important album to be released this year, and despite sky-high expectations, Tribe delivered an album that smashed the bar and gave hope to hip hop and thousands (if not millions) of people cautiously entering Trump’s America. For me, it was a no-brainer that this was my Top Album of 2016.

Image via okayplayer.com

So there you have it. My somewhat belated but fully comprehensive review of my 2016 Year in Music. What did you think? Did you read all the entries? What stood out to you? What did I miss? My scope of music is wide, but not wide enough to catch everything. I’m sure your year in music may have included some very different highlights. Some of you may be much more knowledgeable about jazz, vinyls and local music, and you may be sitting there thinking to yourself, “Damn, Andy doesn’t know shit about jazz/vinyls/Charlotte music/contemporary music.” If that’s the case, let’s talk. It’s clearly one of my favorite subjects to talk about.

Hit me up on twitter (@andygoh) or email me at andy@gohjo.com and we’ll chat. Hopefully I can learn something from you, and hopefully I can at least explain how I came to many of the lists described above. Lets make 2017 a year for discussion, and music is one of the best places to start.

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Jazz Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Vinyls
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Live Music Events
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Garbage Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Honorable Mentions
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Best Local Projects
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (15-8)