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SLHS Throwback: Tajai of the Souls of Mischief on Creativity, Being Independent, U.S. Politics, and more (2013)



Guy Evans is joined for Episode 56 of the Smells Like Human Spirit Podcast by Tajai of the legendary Souls of Mischief hip-hop group and the collective known as the Hieroglyphics. Tajai has been active as a performer for over twenty years and is a driving force behind the operation of the independent label Hieroglyphics Imperium, which since 1995 has attracted a huge underground following with fans in every corner of the globe. He’s also a graduate of Stanford University and is currently studying at the postgraduate level at Berkeley. In this episode we discuss:


*Creativity in modern music and popular culture;

*The relationship between limitation and creativity;

*His creative process and optimal environment to make music;

*How he developed his lyrical style of rapid-fire multi-syllabic rhyming patterns;

*Why the song and the album 93 ’til Infinity have had such a continued impact;

*The trend in mainstream hip-hop of phasing out the emphasis on lyricism almost completely;

*The influence and pressure of a major label when creating and producing music;

*How his Educational experiences have assisted in operating an independent level;

*Thoughts on Barack Obama and the current U.S. Administration;

*The contentious drone issue and the resulting affect on America’s global perception;

*Potential action the public can take to combat the system.


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Direct download: tajai-souls-of-mischief.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 11:06pm EDT

193: Louis Theroux's Weird Weekends...Reviewed!

Fresh off reviewing Syfy's 'Joe Rogan Questions Everything', Guy Evans enlists James Wilson to deconstruct an episode of Louis Theroux's classic documentary series 'Weird Weekends'. Enjoy!


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Direct download: LouisTherouxGurusSLHS193.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 10:52pm EDT

192: Reflections on the 'Tao Te Ching'

With the exception of the bible, the 'Tao Te Ching' has inspired more translations than any other book in the world. It is considered to be among the most profound and influential philosophical texts ever written on the nature of human existence, and is almost universally regarded as one of the great treasures of spiritual literature. Its timeless message of peace, simplicity and humility has been subject to a great many interpretations - and in this episode of SLHS, Guy Evans looks at three particularly profound excerpts from Lao Tzu's magnum opus.


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Direct download: TaoTeChingSLHS192.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 11:16pm EDT

191: Kevin deLaplante of the 'Critical Thinker Academy' on Learning How To Think Vs. What To Think

Kevin DeLaplante, creator of the 'Critical Thinker Academy' and former Chair in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Iowa State University, joins Guy Evans for Episode 191 of the Smells Like Human Spirit Podcast. Kevin's website at offers a variety of materials, including video courses and PDFs, all designed to assist in the process of learning HOW to think, as opposed to simply learning what to think.


In this hour-long episode, Kevin and Guy define what the study of critical thinking entails, discuss why it is important, and evaluate its application to institutions such as politics, business, and advertising.




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Direct download: CriticalThinkerAcademySLHS191.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 4:51pm EDT

190: The Analog Vs. Digital Debate



Conventional wisdom would suggest that consumers of music have benefited greatly in the digital age. Aside from the obvious advantage of portability, other long standing issues with the formerly predominant analog formats (vinyl records and cassette tapes) have become a distant memory.


For the iPod generation, the mere suggestion that repeated listens could induce degeneration of an album is incomprehensible. The digital revolution has ensured that never again will a song skip during playback. Never again will an audible hiss serve as the unofficial introduction to a track. Never again will it matter how conscientious the owner is with respect to preserving their music.


However, there is a growing sentiment that digitally encoded music may inherently lack elements once present in older media - vinyl specifically. So-called audiophiles, individuals who are heavily concerned with the playback and quality of their music, have consistently argued that a certain 'je ne sais quoi' is conspicuous by its absence in newer recordings. While the average consumer remains largely disinterested in debating the relative merits (or lack thereof) of a digital copy, favoring convenience over quality, concerned listeners and sound professionals alike have argued that an almost imperceptible 'warmth' cannot be achieved with the modern approach to making music. In an appearance on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, musician Jack White made his case for why analog simply sounds better:




With automation now ensuring that everything from the drum track to the guitar solo is perfectly quantized, many forms of popular music resemble less and less a human creation. The charm of many older records, in retrospect, is that they are not quite perfect. The snare drum sometimes does not hit exactly on beat. The lead singer may temporarily deviate from being exactly pitch-perfect. The tempo of the song tends to organically vary depending on intangible elements such as mood and emotion.


Of course, the concerns associated with computer-assisted music are hardly new. In 1993, MTV News reported that the industry was already trying to cope with the disadvantages of the digital, CD format:




If so much of the analog vs. digital debate involves intangible aspects that often are only noticeable to the trained ear, what are the tangible reasons for why the difference is obvious? Veteran audio engineer Carl Beatty explains:




In short, an analog signal is continuous, meaning that there are no breaks or interruptions, whereas the conversion of sound to digital data (1s and 0s) involves the loss of information due to the compression necessary to reduce file size.


Some have even suggested that the human ear itself is hard-wired to respond better to an analog signal. Perhaps this explains why the tactic of auto-tuning the recorded performances of vocalists is so jarring. With auto-tune, even a novice can be made to sound passable, as reporter Tanya O'Rourke discovered:




Although numerous, cost-effective hardware and software now make composition and recording easier than ever, an increasing reliance on computers has arguably led to a more 'hollow', even soulless sound becoming the norm. It is for that reason, along with the others mentioned earlier in this podcast, that some are rejecting MP3s in favor of the physical records of years past. Vinyl has made a resurgence in recent times, with sales reaching a 15 year high in 2013.


My experience with both analog and digital media has led me to believe that if the original performance was recorded using analog technology, the physical record does in fact reveal noticeable differences, particularly in the low-end frequencies. There is a certain warmness in the bass, and the lack of digital compression allows for a more realistic sense of dynamics and space.


Hip-hop producers in particular have long known of the virtues of vinyl. To this day, some prominent beat makers remain ardent followers of 'digging in the crates' - the process of finding obscure dusty vinyl samples to construct a holistic instrumental. Lo-fi drum samples are particularly valued for their punch and grittiness - despite the litany of digital plug-ins that purport to manipulate digital files in a similar manner.


If a song was recorded using digital means, the CD or a very high quality WAV file appears to be the way to go. However, as noted by Carl Beatty, the standard mid-range mp3 files listened to by most of the public have been deemed as more than acceptable for some time:




As of yet, there is no definitive winner in the analog-digital debate. It could be possible that some listeners may be so clouded in nostalgia for their dusty old records that the reported differences in fidelity are too subtle to be significant. Others have suggested that the actual physical mechanism present in playing a record is more aesthetic than auditory in its appeal. Could there be an 'analog placebo effect'' at play?


I'll give the final word to Dave Grohl, who insightfully weighs the pros and cons of each perspective in this final clip of the day:




For more:



Direct download: AnalogVsDigitalSLHS190.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 10:19pm EDT

189: The Power of Imagination





the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality


There is great power in our imagination - manifesting thoughts into actions, creating something seemingly out of nothing, sharing our vision for the rest of the world to see.


On a basic level, we can all recognize that almost nothing that exists around us (in our physical, man-made environment at least) would exist without imagination. Everything from a towering skyscraper to a zooming space rocket was once only a thought. Without imagination, progress would be impossible, understanding unattainable, empathy incomprehensible.


For more, download today's podcast!



Direct download: ThePowerofImaginationSLHS189.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 5:37pm EDT

188: Are CEOs Overpaid?

Words cannot describe this podcast.



Direct download: AreCEOsOverpaidSLHS188.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 11:01pm EDT

187: Miscellaneous, Etc (Part 2)

Social perception...self-reflection...the meaning of life! It's all up for discussion in today's episode of SLHS!


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Direct download: SLHS187.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 10:24am EDT

186: Miscellaneous, Etc

James Wilson returns to the show and joins Guy Evans to discuss everything from cigarettes to the meaning of success! Enjoy!


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Direct download: SLHS186.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 8:16pm EDT

185: Attribution Theory 2 - Avoiding Fear of Failure

In a continuation from yesterday's episode, Guy Evans examines the link between the psychology of attribution, and fear of failure.


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Direct download: FearofFailureSLHS185.mp3
Category:Podcasts -- posted at: 11:40pm EDT