Monday, July 15, 2013

List: Unarmed Citizens Killed by U.S. Law Enforcement Officers

I'm sure I'm not the only person who finds himself at a loss of words right now, feeling simultaneously outraged, saddened, and powerless, so I'll keep this brief. The issue is deep-rooted as American racism itself, and several people have discussed it more eloquently and trenchantly than I ever could.

Of course, no amount of jail time can restore life to Trayvon Martin or compensate for the suffering and grief inflicted on his loved ones. But the message sent by the "not guilty" verdict of the Zimmerman trial is clear: it is often both illegal and fatal to be young, black, and male in this country. So long as the American justice system continues to allow cops (technically Zimmeran wasn't a cop but a cop-wannabe) who murder unarmed citizens to get off with a light slap on the wrist, the number of Zimmermans-- and the number of Treyvons-- will only continue to grow.

This list is by no means complete, even without including the several cases which have gone undocumented. Also left out are the countless victims like Rodney James who were beat, shot, or otherwise brutalized by cops but have survived with their lives. It does not pretend to begin to tackle the systematic racism of the American legal system, the law enforcement agency, or the prison industrial complex. Just a list.

1973: Clifford Grover, age 10, black male. Shot. Officer acquitted.
1976: Randolph Evans, age 15, black male. Unarmed-- no apparent reason. Shot. Officer served 2 years.
1983: Michael Stewart, age 25, black male. Unarmed-- altercation after painting graffiti in a subway station. Beat to death. Officers acquitted.
1993: Johnnie Cromartie, age 40, black male. Unarmed-- became “agitated” after being arrested for arms possession and sent to the hospital due to an epileptic seizure. Beat to death.
1993: Don Myrick, age 53, black male. Unarmed-- during narcotics investigation, officers mistook lighter for gun. Shot. CIty paid fine of $400,000.
1994: Anthony Baez, age 29, hispanic male. Unarmed-- altercation after he and his brother hit a police car more than once with his football. Strangled. Officer served 6.5 years.
1994: Ernest Sayon, age 22, black male. Unarmed-- resisted arrest. Beat to death. No charges filed by city.
1996: Nathaniel Levi Gaines, age 25, black male. Unarmed-- altercation on subway. Officer sentenced to 5-15 years.
1999: Amadou Diallo, age 23, black male. Unarmed-- officers mistook his wallet for a gun. Shot 41 times. Officers acquitted of all charges.
2000: Patrick Dorismond, age 26, black male. Unarmed-- confrontation with undercover cops after they asked him where they could buy drugs. Officers acquitted.
2003: Orlando Barlow, age 28, black male. Unarmed. Shot from 50 ft. while surrendering on his knees. Officers acquitted.
2003: Alberta Spruill, age 57, black female. Unarmed-- officers mistakenly threw a stun grenade into her apartment. City paid fine of $1.6 million.
2003: Ousmane Zongo, age 43, black male. Unarmed-- officers were investigating an operation he was not involved in. Shot. Officer put on probation for 5 years.
2004: Timothy Stansbury, age 19, black male. Unarmed-- no apparent reason. Shot. Officer suspended for 30 days.
2005: Rigoberto Alpizar, age 44, hispanic male. Unarmed-- officers allege he claimed to have a bomb at an airport. No explosives were found, and no passengers who witnessed the incident heard the word “bomb.” Shot. No charges pressed.
2005: Aaron Campbell, age 25, black male. Unarmed. Shot while facing backwards with hands on head. Officer acquitted.
2005: Henry Glover, age 31, black male. Unarmed-- no apparent reason. Shot. Officers awaiting appellate court.
2006: Joseph Erin Hamley, age 21, black male. Unarmed-- no apparent reason. Shot. Officer served 54 days in jail and fined $1000.
2005. Travares McGill, age 16, black male. Unarmed-- confrontation in parking lot. Shot in the back.
2006: Sean Bell, age 23, black male. Unarmed-- officers were investigating the strip club where he was having his bachelor party and thought they heard someone say “gun.” Shot 50 times. Officers found not guilty.
2007: Fermin Arzu, age 41, black male. Unarmed-- fled arrest in his car. Shot. Officer sentenced to 15 years.
2008: Robbie Tolan, age 23, black male. Unarmed-- falsely suspected of driving a stolen vehicle. Shot. Officer acquitted.
2009: Oscar Grant, age 22, black male. Unarmed. Shot while lying face down after confrontation on train. Officer sentenced to 2 years minus time served.
2009: Victor Sheen, age 17, black male. Unarmed-- refused to pull over on his bicycle. Tasered and ran over. Officer acquitted.
2010: Tyrone Brown, age 32, black male. Unarmed-- groped an off-duty officer’s female friend. Shot 12 times.
2010: Aiyana Jones, age 7, black female. Shot during raid. Officer awaiting trial.
2010: Steven Eugene Washington, age 27, black male. Unarmed-- the autistic man approached officers and appeared to remove something from his waistband. Shot.
2011: Alonzo Ashley, age 28, black male. Unarmed-- refused to stop splashing water from a drinking fountain on his face and then threw a trash can. Shot. No Charges filed.
2011: Michael Nida, age 31, black male. Unarmed-- mistakenly accused of robbery. Shot in the back with a submachine. No charges filed.
2012: Wendell Allen, age 20, black male. Unarmed. Shot.
2012: Remarley Graham, age 18, black male. Unarmed-- was trying to flush a bag of marijuana down the toilet. Shot. Officer acquitted.
2012: Ervin Jefferson, age 18, black male. Unarmed. Shot. Officers acquitted.
2012: Kendrac McDade, age 19, black, male. Unarmed. Shot. Officers acquitted.
2012: Trayvon Martin, age 17, black male. Unarmed. Shot. Officer acquitted.
2013: Kimani Grey, age 16, black male. Unarmed. Shot 11 times.
2013: Timothy Russell, age 43, black male. Malissa Williams, age 30, black female. Unarmed. Shot 137 times in car chase. Awaiting verdict.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Best/Worst Book Covers

"The literary classic that inspired the epic video game."

Actually not bad as far as three-word alliterative summaries go. And if that ain't μῆνιν, I don't know what is.

Ah, then there's the arrant patriarchalism of the "let's make everything look like 'chicklit' because teenage girls won't read anything else" genre.

She looks like she may not be from the 1920's.

This looks strangely familiar.

As a scholar of medieval Christianity, I feel somewhat guilty for how much I laughed at this. Then again, there is no way Chaucer would've passed up this joke.

Shape your child's sexual identity, by requiring him to dress in identical plaid and bowl cut, and by always making sure to keep your genitals at eye-level while you speak to him.

But didn't he ask Eve to taste the 'fruit' of his 'forbidden tree'?

Is that a metronome in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

A near perfect academic pun. Not too much, funny, and accurate.

Likely the only time the word "posthuman" will ever appear in a Target.

Enter Bibliolis.

In fact, this cover is infinitely less bizarre than the actual book. Here's a wiki summary:

The mongoose attacks Arabella who shoots it to death. Arabella tears another mongoose apart with her hands. Arabella then murders Oolanga, the African servant, by dragging him down into a pit or hole. . . The White Worm has green glowing eyes and feeds on whatever is thrown to it in the pit. The White Worm ascends from the pit and seeks to attack Adam and Mimi Watford in a forest. Adam plans to pour sand into the pit and to use dynamite to kill the giant White Worm while it is inside the pit

. I'm sure psychoanalysts had themselves a heyday with this one.

With a work with as much imagery as the Divine Comedy, it's actually quite impressive that the artist chose one of the few animals that is mentioned nowhere (I'm working off of memory here so Danteans, please feel free to call me out if I'm wrong).

The horror, the horror!

I don't think this is what Austen meant by "Gothic."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hot Rap

If you follow hip-hop at all, this whole shebang will be old news for you. Lately, though, I've had quite a few people ask me for new music recommendations, in response to which I proudly referred them to my blog, humble man that I am, only to realize I hadn't recommended any new music in over a month. So I decided to draw up a handy guide. I noted which ones were mixtapes because they can be downloaded legally, for free, with a simple Google search. A more orthodox list might include the obnoxious Chief Keef, who is awful, and a quickly maturing Odd Future, whom I'm beginning to like but don't feel familiar enough yet to review their albums. Ol' timers apparently incapable of making a bad album like the Coup and Doom are still rockin' it.

Greedhead Records (Queens)

  • Essential: Das Racist, Relax; Heems, Nehru Jackets [mixtape]; Le1f, "Wut"
  • Also Great: Das Racist, Sit Down, Man [mixtape]; Das Racist, Shut Up, Dude [mixtape]; Heems, Wild Water Kingdoms [mixtape];
  • Good:  Kool A.D., 51 [mixtape]; Kool A.D., 19 [mixtape]; Big Baby Gandhi, No1 2 Look Up 2 [mixtape]; Le1f, Dark York

 Action Bronson (Queens)

  • Essential: Blue Chips [mixtape]
  • Also Great: Dr. Lecter
  • Good: The Program EP [mixtape]

Other NYC

  • Great: Joey BadA$$, 1999 [mixtape], his verse in A$AP's "1 Train"
  • Good: Long.Live.A$AP; Pro Era, The aPROcalypse

Black Hippy (L.A.)

  • Essential: Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d city
  • Also Great: Ab-Soul, Control System; Kendrick's verse in almost any song (and there are a lot now)
  • Good: Kendrick Lamar, Section.80 [mixtape]; Schoolboy Q, Habits and Contradiction

Death Grips (Sacramento)

  • Essential:The Money Store
  • Also Great: No Love Deep Web; Exmilitary [mixtape]


    • Essential: Azealia Banks (Harlem), 1991
    • Great: Kitty (Daytona Beach), D.A.I.S.Y. Rage
    • Good: Azealia Banks, Fantasea

     Big K.R.I.T. (Mississippi)

    • Essential: Return of 4Eva [mixtape]
    • Also Great: 4eva N A dAy
    • Good: K.R.I.T. Wuz Here [mixtape]; Live from the Underground

     Danny Brown (Detroit)

    • Essential: XXX (1st half), his verse in Ab-Soul's "Terrorist Threats,"
    • Good: XXX (2nd half) 

    Serengeti (Chicago) [been around for a while but still unknown so fuck it]

    • Essential: C.A.R.; The video for "Dennehy"
    • Also Great: Dennehy; Family & Friends; Beak & Claw
    • Good: Saal; Noodles Arm Whimsy; Noticeably Negro

    Spoek Mathambo (South Africa)

    • Essential: Father Creeper


    Thursday, April 4, 2013

    Yo, Anonymous Anglo-Saxon Poet, Imma Let You Finish, but Sega Made One of the Best Genesis of ALL-TIME

    This is a translation I did for class of a small excerpt from the Old English poem known as Genesis A, a poetic retelling of the first book of the Bible. This particular passage (which is not actually in Genesis or anywhere in the Bible for that matter, unless you want to count Revelation 12) tells of the war in heaven and the fall of Satan and the rebel angels.

    Embarrassment impels me to remind my Anglo-Saxonist friends that I am very new to Old English, and my creative writing friends that I've never written a poem in my life. This is how the original looks.
                                           Elles ne ongunnon
    ræran on roderum         nymþe riht and soþ,
    ærðon engla weard         for oferhygde
    dwæl on gedwilde.         Noldan dreogan leng
    heora selfra ræd,         ac hie of siblufan
    25     godes ahwurfon.         Hæfdon gielp micel
    þæt hie wið drihtne         dælan meahton
    wuldorfæstan wic         werodes þrymme,
    sid and swegltorht.         Him þær sar gelamp,
    æfst and oferhygd,         and þæs engles mod
    30     þe þone unræd ongan         ærest fremman,
    wefan and weccean,         þa he worde cwæð,
    niþes ofþyrsted,         þæt he on norðdæle
    ham and heahsetl         heofena rices
    agan wolde.         þa wearð yrre god
    35     and þam werode wrað         þe he ær wurðode
    wlite and wuldre.         Sceop þam werlogan
    wræclicne ham         weorce to leane,
    helleheafas,         hearde niðas.
    Heht þæt witehus         wræcna bidan,
    40     deop, dreama leas,         drihten ure,
    gasta weardas,         þa he hit geare wiste,
    synnihte beseald,         susle geinnod,
    geondfolen fyre         and færcyle,
    rece and reade lege.         Heht þa geond þæt rædlease hof
    45     weaxan witebrogan.         Hæfdon hie wrohtgeteme
    grimme wið god gesomnod;         him þæs grim lean becom!
    Cwædon þæt heo rice,         reðemode,
    agan woldan,         and swa eaðe meahtan.
    Him seo wen geleah,         siððan waldend his,
    50     heofona heahcining,         honda arærde,
    hehste wið þam herge.         Ne mihton hygelease,
    mæne wið metode,         mægyn bryttigan,
    ac him se mæra         mod getwæfde,
    bælc forbigde.         þa he gebolgen wearð,
    55     besloh synsceaþan         sigore and gewealde,
    dome and dugeðe,         and dreame benam
    his feond, friðo         and gefean ealle,
    torhte tire,         and his torn gewræc
    on gesacum swiðe         selfes mihtum
    60     strengum stiepe.         Hæfde styrne mod,
    gegremed grymme,         grap on wraðe
    faum folmum,         and him on fæðm gebræc
    yrre on mode;         æðele bescyrede
    his wiðerbrecan         wuldorgestealdum.
    65     Sceof þa and scyrede         scyppend ure
    oferhidig cyn         engla of heofnum,
    wærleas werod.         Waldend sende
    laðwendne here         on langne sið,
    geomre gastas;         wæs him gylp forod,
    70     beot forborsten,         and forbiged þrym,
    wlite gewemmed.         Heo on wrace syððan
    seomodon swearte,         siðe ne þorfton
    hlude hlihhan,         ac heo helltregum
    werige wunodon         and wean cuðon,
    75     sar and sorge,         susl þrowedon
    þystrum beþeahte,         þearl æfterlean
    þæs þe heo ongunnon         wið gode winnan.

    Well actually that's a transcription of the original. This is how the real deal looks (Caedmon Manuscript, Oxford, Bodleian, MS Junius 11, folio 1):

     And here's me:

    Else in Heaven
    they raised up** nothing      but right and truth,
    until the angel prince         with proud high-mindedness,*
    strayed into sin.         Then they ceased to work
    for their own gain,         but on God’s kin-love
    (25) they turned their backs,         boasting oft
    that by the might of their masses         they could share with the Maker
    that glorious home,         huge and heaven-bright.
                                        Then sorrow beset them,
    envy and pride,         and the arrogance of that angel   
    (30) who first put forth     the foolish plot,
    weaved it and thought it up.     Thirsting for war
    the angel proclaimed***        that in the northern parts       
    a home and high throne    and heavenly kingdom
    would be his.         Then God was enraged,   
    (35) and wroth at the rabble      which he had raised up before
    in radiance and renown.    To reward the work
    of the rebels he wrought    a wretched refuge
    of Hell-howling    and hard affliction.
    Our Creator       commanded that torture-house,
    (40) deep and doleful       to await the exiled,
    angel wards.        When he knew the place well,
    He enveloped it in endless-night        enwrapped it in misery,
    filled it with fire         and fearsome cold,
    with smoke and smothering flame.         He commanded the torture-fear to spread
    (45) throughout those wretched halls.         They had heaped sins****
    grievous against God;       grievous was their reward!
    Fierce-hearted,        They proclaimed that the kingdom
    would be theirs,    and they could take it easily.   
    This hope belied them    when their***** High Lord
    (50) heaven’s High Ruler        raised his hand
    high against the horde.    Headless and wicked
    their might was useless     against the maker,
    for the Splendid One        sapped them of courage
    hewed down their haughtiness.     Then he grew angry
    (55) He deprived the transgressors         of triumph and power
    of might and majesty,        and bereft them of mirth,
    His foes, and of peace    and favor and joy,
    and gleaming glory,        and with his great might
    He avenged his anger        on his vile adversaries,
    (60) with harsh ruin.    His heart was hardened,
    severely enraged,    he seized his enemies
    with cruel hands,     crushing them in his grasp.
    His heart incensed,       The Highest bereft
    His gloating foes    of their glory-mansions.
    (65) Our Judge    then adjudged to exile
    the haughty race    of angels from heaven,
    that faithless flock.        The Father sent
    the loathsome band        on a long journey
    those sorrowful spirits;    their pride was shattered
    (70) their boasting crushed,    their beauty corrupted.
    Their glory dimmed.       Henceforth they dwelt
    in horrible exile.    They had no cause
    to laugh aloud,    but in hell-griefs they lived
    accursed and weary.    They grew accustomed to woe
    (75) sadness and sorrow,    they suffered misery
    shrouded in darkness       a severe reward
    Because they strove            to struggle against God.

    * “Raised up” translates ongunnon ræran. Here, as in lines 30 and 77, I have assumed that onginnan is being used periphrastically with the infinitive, and have translated the compound as the historical aorist of the latter.

    ** “Proud high-mindedness” translates oferhygd. Elsewhere in the poem (29, 66) I have rendered oferhygd simply as “pride,” but here I have attached the more literal “high-mindedness” to emphasize its relation with ræran. Earlier, the angels had exalted only right and truth; now they lift up their own minds.

    *** "Proclaimed" translates I take worde cwæð, which I take as a pleonasm.

    **** No dictionary seems quite sure what wrohtgeteme meant. The idea seems to be that of several sins.

    ***** I have construed his as plural for the sake of consistency.

    As poetry, Genesis A doubtlessly belongs in the “expressive” corner of the translation triangle; as sacred scripture, it tempts us to identify an “operative” function as well, and we would not be entirely mistaken in doing so. But Genesis A is not really sacred scripture, not even a translation of scripture, but a imaginative retelling with manifest aesthetic ambitions. Indeed, if we were to evaluate Genesis A as a translation, foraging the Bible for passages even remotely similar, our enterprise would come to a screeching halt around line nineteen with the entirely extra-Biblical story of the war in heaven and fall of the rebel angels. As I focused on this lively narrative, I gave priority to the expressive function in both my prose and verse translations. Nevertheless, I strove to remain alert to theologically significant points, handling with care difficult terms with possible doctrinal implications. This endeavor quickly presented me with a stumbling block: how can one produce a translation that is consistent with the theological principles of an anonymous poet whom we scarcely know anything about? Perhaps the best we can do is to avoid saying the sort of thing that a typical, orthodox Christian in Anglo-Saxon England would strongly object to.  I by no means wish to domesticate the poem by imposing a tepid, homogenized Weltanschauung on what may be the work of a highly atypical imagination. Still, I felt safe in assuming a sort of minimal level of orthodox sensibility, a poet who, in the end, was not “of the Devil’s party,” knowingly or unknowingly.

    Old English poetry has structure-- this was the modest observation at the root of my poetic translation. Dismissing as unsuitable both free verse as well as any form whose structure was only visually (and not aurally) apparent, I opted to retain the original form of two-stress half-lines. Finding Sievers’ five patterns far too restrictive, I embraced what Judith translator and aspiring scop Richard M. Trask denounced as capricious alliteration. Still, I made certain that at least one stressed syllable in the first half-line alliterated with at least one stressed syllable in the second half-line, allowing, as did the poet, for a few inevitable exceptions (34, 40, 44, 48). Squeezing three alliterating words into one AAAX line, although a noble goal, often required me to dig deep into my wordhoard, emerging with a term that either distorted meaning or just sounded silly, jarring, malapropos-- in other words, unpoetic. Meaning and poetic quality-- with these two additional criteria, I balanced my adherence to structure, attempting to weigh each of the three equally. For most readers, I suspect the most ambiguous of these principles will be “poetic quality,” or aesthetics. What I mean by this murky term is best illustrated through example. For the sake of space I will confine myself primarily to two.

     In line thirty-one, Satan (specified only as engla weard (l.20)) delivers his most temerarious boast (worde cwæð). But what the devil is the Devil claiming here? The poem holds us in suspense. The adverbial clause beginning in line 32 (þæt he) proceeds in a series of increasingly impressive nouns: first on norðdæle, next ham, then heahsetl, and lastly heofena rices. Yet only after this sequence has concluded does the poet provide with the compound verb integral to its meaning: agan wolde. In order to mimic this effect, I closely followed the syntax, only switching the first two-half lines for the sake of clarity. The climactic moment-- agan wolde-- yielded the most difficulty. A literal and syntactically faithful translation might read: “He said in a speech, thirsting for war, that in the northern parts, a home, a high throne and heavenly kingdom he wished to own.” Such a “Subject-Object-Verb” construction will likely sound forced and archaic, and rather Miltonic (an effect that should be all the more avoided given the subject matter of the passage). So while I did save the verb for the final half-line in order to evoke suspense, I avoided grammatical awkwardness by rendering agan wolde as “would be his” and changing the series of nouns from objects to subjects. Unlike the more literal “he wished to own,” “would be his” can occupy the final place in the sentence without sounding cumbersome and confusing the reader.

     Terse and powerful, the half-line agan wolde reappears shortly after in line 48, this time in the plural, referring to the entire host of rebel angels. While the element of suspense is somewhat diminished, a mere line separating cwædon þæt from agan woldan, the syntax is identical to lines 31-34. As the construction “cwæð þæt he . . . agan wolde” appears to be some sort of a formula, I also construed it here as “would be theirs.” By stressing the parallel structure between lines 34 and 48, I sought to convey the contagious character of Satan’s overweening ambition. Evil, encapsulated in the phrase “agan wolde,” has swollen, and the singular has morphed into the plural: cwæð into cwædon, he into heo (I preserve these as possessive pronouns in the final half-line), and wolde into woldan. The repetition of the half-line agan wolde impelled me to adhere to the general rule of translating the same word in the same way throughout the poem. Similarly, since God’s commanding of the torture-house in line 39 (Heht þæt witehus) is echoed in lines 44-45 (Heht . . . witebrogan), I remained consistent in both my translation of heht as “commanded” and wite as “torture.” However, when a certain repeated word did not occur in the context of such perspicuous parallels, I believed myself more at liberty to disregard this law of correspondence. A word as rich and varied as niþ, for example, may quite obviously signify two disparate concepts in two different places, as it seems to in lines 32 (“strife” or “war”) and 38 (“affliction” or “pain”). Furthermore, as the poet’s own choice among synonyms was doubtlessly influenced in part by his determination to alliterate, I also allowed the demands of alliteration to impact my translations of common words such as werod (27, 35, 67).

    The difficulties of replicating alliteration is nowhere so obvious as in lines 34-37. After the skillful depiction of Satan’s ambitions in lines 31-34 is a brilliant understatement composed of four of the most dreadful words in the narrative: þa wearð yrre god. God is angry, and the poem expresses this terrible alteration by erupting into an alliterative frenzy. A torrent of “w-words,” eleven in four lines (34-37), drives home the awfulness of the passage. For the first time in the poem God has begun to take action against the rebel angels. While lines 19-34a focused entirely on the fallen angels, the poem now grants complete agency to the Lord, the subject of every verb from 34b-45a. The poet clearly wishes to emphasize something with the ostentatious alliteration pervading the first four lines of this passage, and any translation with the slightest concern for his artistic ability cannot neglect to consider this. In keeping with the general spirit of my translation, I decided to follow the poet in achieving emphasis through excessive alliteration. Working in a language less abounding in “w-words,” I settled on “r-sounds” (including “wr”) for the simple reason that it seemed to provide me with the most opportunities to alliterate without sacrificing too much of the literal sense. Taking only a few liberties (werode as “rabble,” wuldre as “renown,” ham as “refuge”), I managed to achieve, coincidentally, eleven “r-words.” Moreover, I felt it important to bring this alliterative promiscuity to a halt at line 38. Although the passage seems to describe the creation of Hell (wræclicne ham), the word hell itself does not occur until this line, where it is one of three “h-words” (an effect I found easy to replicate).

          While these techniques, the delaying of the verb and repeated alliteration, may provide the most salient examples of what I mean by “poetic quality,” there are several others as well. When describing the banishment of the rebel angels, the poet alliterates twice with the root-verb (scippan): sceop þa and scyrede scyppend ure. Because it depends on a double-meaning of scippan both as “create or shape” (in scyppend) and “destine or adjudge” (in sceop), the clever wordplay stubbornly resists translation into Modern English. Still, impelled by the belief that this device was more essential than the exact epithet being assigned to God, I allowed “poetic quality” (here coincident with alliteration) to trump literal meaning and preserved the repeated use of scippan by freely rendering scyppend as “Judge.” Like the original poem, my translation invites the audience to identify with God as he banishes Satan and his followers from heaven by linking us both with the Judge (ure scyppend) and, through repetition, his actions (sceop). In balancing the claims of structure (alliterative half-lines), meaning, and poetic quality, I assumed the three to be of equal importance, but, as the above examples make clear, various points in the poem imply the priority of one area above another. Although careful not to arrantly disregard any of the three, I allowed my priorities to shift on a case-by-case basis.

    Wednesday, March 27, 2013

    Books & Beers XVI

    Michael Azerrad, This Band Could Be Your Life, and Ommegang's Scythe & Sickle

    Wednesday, March 20, 2013

    Books and Beers XV

    I haven't posted one of these in a while. The color coordination is a mere result of what I happened to be drinking and reading on this particular night. The book the newer and better translation of Catherine of Siena's (1347-80) Dialogo della Provvidenza. The beer is Hop Whoppin' from O'so Brewing Company, which is quickly becoming one of my favorite Midwestern microbrews.

    Thursday, January 17, 2013

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    The Best Albums of 2012

    So of the 150 or so new albums I listened to last year, these are the top 20%.

    1.  Spoek Mathambo: Father Creeper
    2. P!nk: The Truth About Love [RCA]
    3. Frank Ocean: channel ORANGE [Def Jam]
    4. Jens Lekman: I Know What Love Isn’t [Secretly Canadian]
    5. Azealia Banks: 1991 EP [Interscope] 
    6. Burial: Kindred EP [Hyperdub]
    7. Death Grips: The Money Store [Epic]
    8. Beach House: Bloom [Sub Pop]
    9. Loudon Wainwright III: Older Than My Old Man Now [2nd Story Sound]
    10. Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d. City [Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope]
    11. The Mountain Goats: Transcendental Youth [Merge]
    12. Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas [Columbia]
    13. Allo Darlin’: Europe [Slumberland]
    14. Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Americana [Reprise]
    15. Lana Del Rey: Born to Die [Polydor/Interscope[
    16. Cloud Nothings: Attack On Memory [Carpark]
    17. Action Bronson: Blue Chips [Fool’s Gold]
    18. Disappears: Pre Language [Kranky]
    19. Serengeti: C.A.R. [Anticon]
    20. Elle Varner: Perfectly Imperfect [RCA]
    21. Saigon: The Greatest Story Never Told: Chapter Two: Bread and Circuses [Suburban Noize]
    22. s/s/s/: Beak & Claw EP [Anticon]
    23. Killer Mike: R.A.P. Music [Williams Street]
    24. Patti Smith: Banga [Columbia]
    25. Plug: Back in Time [Ninja Tune]
    26. Taylor Swift: Red [Big Machine
    27. Ab-Soul: Control System [Top Dawg]
    28. Skrillex: Bangarang EP [Atlantic]
    29. The Coup: Sorry to Bother You [ANTI-]
    30. Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream [RCA]
    31. Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Ever Do
    32. Japandroids: Celebration Rock [Polyvinyl]
    33. JJ Doom: Key to the Kuffs [Lex]

    Thursday, January 10, 2013

    Books & Beer XIII (Devil Week)

    Best Songs of 2012

    I've been slow on album postings because I've been thinking about songs a lot, which is something I don't do as often as I'd like to becaue I tend to consume the vast majority of my music in album format. Quite a few of these came out last year ("212," "Video Games") but since the albums came out this year and everyone else seems to be including "Thinkin Bout You" and "Call Me Maybe" (which also debuted in 2011) in their 2012 lists I say fuck it. So before I get on to my #1 album of the year (hint, it's not Chief Keef), give it up for these dudettes and dudes.

    20. Icona Pop (ft. Charli XCX)-- "I Love It"

    If we count Charli XCX here (as we should since she wrote the song), she is one of only two artists to appear in this list twice.

    19. Angel Haze-- "Werkin Girls"

    18. Todd Terje-- "Inspector Norse"

    Yeah, I'd dance to this in a club. Apparently they do in the UK. We still win though because we have Skrillex.

    17. Macklemore-- "Same Love"

    A great pro-gay hit that doesn't steal its hook from Madonna (ahem, Lady Gaga).

    16. Heems-- "NYC Cops"

    As Das Racist split up, it became clear that Heems was the stronger rapper by far. An absolutely brutal overview of the unarmed black victims murdered by the NYPD, ages 9-57.

    15. The Magnetic Fields-- "Andrew In Drag"

    A wonderful trifle from the ever-brilliant Stephen Merritt.

    14. Azealia Banks-- "1991"

    Like Charli XCX, second artist to appear twice on this list is also a few years younger than me. Fuck, I feel old.

    13. Elle Varner-- "Sound Proof Room"

    That voice, hot damn.

    12. Charli XCX-- "You're the One"

    The crush-song of the year, with groaning 80's synths and an excellent minor-major switch in the chorus.

    11. Frank Ocean-- "Thinkin Bout You"

    The clear stand-out on an already stellar album. Although "Sweet Life" and "Bad Religion" come awfully close.

    10. Carly Rae Jepsen-- "Call Me Maybe"

    Well, obviously.

    9. Usher-- "Climax"

    Usher is an excellent singer when we wants to be (which unfortunately is not too often), better than any of the new r&b artists to pop up in the last few years. As for Diplo, I'm beginning to really believe that everything he touches is gold.

    8. Taylor Swift-- "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" 

    I hope she means it, because this girl seriously lacks some judgment when it comes to boyfriends. That and music video directors.

    7. Miguel-- "Adorn"

    There's really not anything I dislike about this song.

    6. Chairlift-- "I Belong In Your Arms"

    I'm such a sucker for 80's pop, but I typically find modern indie imitations shallow and soulless. Here's an exception.

    5. Nicki Minaj-- "Beez In The Trap"

    Quintessential Nicki. Her best performance yet, and yes, that includes "Monster."

    4. Eric Church-- "Springsteen"

    Token country song. Maybe now that the cool kids think r&b is cool, they'll eventually come around to country also.

    3. Lana Del Rey-- "Video Games" 

    Such a sophisticated vocal style. Like Lady Gaga, her videos are usually cheesy and pompous, but her songs are pure streamlined pop glory.

    2. Solange-- "Losing You"

    Channeling a very different part of the 80's with a song that finally does justice to her voice.

    1. Azealia Banks-- "212"

    What I said earlier