Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Neighbors for Sale: Modern Slavery in Atlanta

Hey! Do you live near Atlanta, Georgia? Are you interested in human trafficking (eradicating it, not how to engage in it)? Then you should attend the EPIC Conference.

Conference schedule

Details from the announcement

Date: Saturday, September 21, 2013

Time: 10:00 AM to 4:45 PM (continental breakfast served 9:30 to 10:00 AM)

Location: Emory University School of Law, 1301 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30322

The Emory Public Interest Committee (EPIC) invites you to attend its tenth annual conference, “Neighbors for Sale: Modern Slavery in Atlanta,” on Saturday, September 21, 2013. Led by keynote speaker Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, a host of state and local government and non-government organization leaders will assemble to discuss the realities of modern slavery in Atlanta, to share their own stories of modern abolition, and to share how attendees can become involved in the fight against slavery.


Please register via the link below by Tuesday, September 17. A continental breakfast and boxed lunch will be provided for as many as funding permits on a first-come, first-served basis. Attendance is capped at 250 registrants.


What to expect:

Attorney General Olens will begin the morning discussing the local realities of sex trafficking and all that can be done to combat it. After this primer, attendees will chose two from among a series of panel discussions addressing victim rescue, victim aftercare, the changing face of forced prostitution, criminal investigation, criminal prosecution, and structural transformation through lawmaking. The day will close with a full-conference panel on what more can and should be done to combat sex trafficking in Atlanta, beginning with the Attorney General’s “Georgia’s Not Buying It” campaign.

Selected Panelists:

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernan Keenan will discuss the work of GBI's Human Trafficking Unit.

Georgia Department of Education Chief of Staff Joel Thornton will discuss the DOE's efforts to identify trafficking victims in public schools.

Fulton County Prosecutor Camila Wright and DeKalb County Prosecutor Dalia Racine will discuss their work trying sex trafficking cases.

Representatives from Atlanta-based organizations Mary Frances Bowley, founder of Wellspring Living, as well as others from StreetGrace and Nightlight, will discuss their efforts to find and rescue trafficking victims.

It must be spring coz rape is in the air today...

Originally published on Facebook Notes on 18 March 2009


While I'm definitely glad Ms. Mai had the courage to stand up and formally accuse her attackers for their vicious crime, news of her upcoming nuptials leaves me with mixed feelings. Yes, I'm all for breaking the taboo of a raped woman being ineligible for a good marriage in Pakistan. The story even sounds heart-warming in a Lifetime movie kind of way when you find out her suitor, Mr. Gabol, is one of the cops assigned to protect her after her case sparked a worldwide news frenzy. Then you get to the part where he blackmails her to marry him by threatening to kill himself if she refuses. Did I mention he's already married so Ms. Mai will be his second wife? Mr. Gabol's first wife even came to plead with Ms. Mai not to reject the offer. Not to equivocate here, but it seems like she's being victimized all over again by the same cultural expectations of women.

I simply feel like throwing up my hands and exclaiming WTF.



Usually when we think about American Marines, rape, and foreign policy fiascos, the victim at the other end of our embarassment lives in the vicinity of the Ryukyu islands. This case, however, involves a young Filipino woman who has expressed some doubts about her story since emigrating to the United States from the Phillipines. While not a full on retraction as the headline seems to imply, she admits that she "may have been so friendly and intimate" with the accused after drinking, kissing, and dancing at a Subic City bar that when they later went to a van, he proceeded to have sexual relations (in the broadest sense of those words) with her under the assumption that his advances were not unwelcome or unwanted.

Here is what is purported to be a copy of her sworn statement:

As you can plainly read, she does not deny that anything untoward may have happened. In fact, she asserts very little at all, only raises questions and wonders. Of course, if the alleged victim was in fact drunk and/or possibly under the influence of other substances (no accusation implied there), could this not in fact account for her hazy memory of the exact nature of the events which transpired? And what about the shame and guilt she mentions at the end of the statement? A combination of the two seems a heady cocktail for questionable recollection.

My chief complaint here isn't about whether this particular rape did or did not occur but rather how these recent developments will effect our opinion of all previous and future reports of such unlawful acts by American servicemen abroad not only in the Phillipines, but stationed in Japan, South Korea, and all other points across the globe. Will it make it easier for military commanders to sweep such incidents under the rug and transfer the accused out of the country to avoid criminal prosecution in the host country? It seems easier to dismiss future accusations as mere female histrionics that will destroy a young man's military career and wreck his life without a fair airing of the facts. Will it evaporate the pressure of the government of a host country to leverage modifications to Status of Forces Agreements so that American servicemen can be held accountable for their misconduct? Representatives of the Phillipines government are already expressing their displeasure with the alleged victim's recent statements because of the huge consequences pursuing a trial, conviction, and negotiated sentencing have had on foreign policy.

Rape is an ugly thing, no matter where it happens. Unfortunately, when it happens at the intersection of a super-power's global strategic interests, "good liberty" abroad for American servicemen, and the oft-exploited human resources of the host country, things get that much uglier, ambiguous, and political. My only hope is that the truth will set the innocent(s) free in this case, whomever that may be.

cross examination jokes

The following quotations are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts by Charles M. Sevilla and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and published by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were taking place. Regardless of originations, they can be eye openers as to the mentality of those engaged in the drill...

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS: He said, 'Where am I, Cathy?'
ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?
WITNESS: My name is Susan!

ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.

ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?
WITNESS: No, I just lie there..

ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS: I forget.
ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?

ATTORNEY: Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS: We both do.
WITNESS: Yes, voodoo.

ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?

ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS: He's twenty, much like your IQ.

ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS: Are you shitting me?

ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS: getting laid

ATTORNEY: She had three children, right?
ATTORNEY: How many were boys?
ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?
W ITNESS : Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?

ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS: By death.
ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?
WITNESS: Take a guess.


ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?
WITNESS: Unless the C ircus was in town I'm going with male.

ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.

ATTORNEY: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.

ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?

ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?
WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I fini shed.

ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?

And the best for last:

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?
ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?
ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

Economic recovery diagnosed with March Madness, expected casualties 63

Originally published in Facebook Notes on 19 March 2009


It's that time of year again. The flowers are blossoming, the birds are returning, and a young boy's fancy turns to thoughts of how well 10 men can handle their balls for 40 minutes. You have to be extra furtive when checking the brackets this year; with the economy slumping and so much coverage available on the web, you don't want to be the fellow who wins the office pool and a trip to the unemployment line all in the same week. But reports of major productivity declines due to the NCAA tourney are just bunk.

Let's face it, if you and I weren't stealing away to see check on the scoreboards and reading up on scouting reports, we'd be wasting work hours doing something else equally useless like going for the high score on Scramble or complaining about what a douche Simon Cowell was last night. Work sucks. It's tedious. Companies know this and expect a certain amount of listlessness on the clock. But some a-holes, let's call them the Bobs, make a buck every year shopping around this nonsense that college hoops costs our nation billions (with a B) of dollars of each year in lost productivity. I didn't check any scores until I got home this afternoon but guess what, I wasted enough time to read this article and a couple of others, too.

So enjoy your NCAA tourney this year and let's lay the blame for the recession on those who are truly resposible: those AIG a-holes who got paid their contractually-obligated bonuses ;)



However, I do care (a little. Don't let that get out. Everything thinks I'm an a-hole, too) about the economy. Here's a handy little tool to know when it's safe to turn off the tv, close your browser, and pretend like you're working again because the game is a lock.

Note: there is no Reggie Miller exception.

New Sex Scandal Rocks Catholic Church

Originally published in Facebook Notes on 6 May 2009

Popular Catholic priest Alberto Cutie was relieved of duties by the Archdiocese of Miami and suspended from his radio talk shows for photos showing him 'in flagrante' on the beach. While the Archdiocese was appalled and disgusted to see the adult man kissing, holding, and fondling a young, comely brunette woman's buttocks under her bathing suit on Miami Beach, parishioners seem to have taken a different view. They are standing by "Father Oprah," dismissing his inappropriate behavior because he is a "good, good man" and "hey, he's Cuban, those guys don't got any control. And with a name like Cutie, what did you really expect to happen?"

A spokesman for the Archdiocese said the church would be praying for Father Cutie on his spiritual journey to Las Vegas, Rio de Janeiro, Bangkok, and Subic City this summer. "We hope to put this whole sad, sordid affair behind us as soon as possible so that Father Cutie can get back to his sacred duties of molesting altar boys and leaving deep, deep emotional scars that last until legal charges are filed and the Cardinals shuffle him around to another diocese to avoid scandal."

studying up to be a good judas, ahem, jurist...

Originally posted to Facebook Notepad 11 May 2009


It looks like the first ever Republican Tech Summit in February of this year is finally yielding fruit. The revolution will not be televised; it will instead be redistributed via youtube. You silly, silly libs. You actually thought moveon.org and the Daily Kos made you the "hip, techno-savvy party" while the GOP was still stuck with swift boat tactics? Those old, angry white men still own more than half the world. They might not know how to tweet but they can pay millions to a handful of MBA tech assassins to engineer muckraking campaigns for the digital age. That's why they call them the 'Grand' Ol' Party, you know. They can afford to toss more than a grand at any problem. Where was this sleaze mining when Roberts and Alito were being considered? I'm sure those two assholes have opened their mouths wide enough on camera to drive an Enterprise-class aircraft carrier through more than once. Too bad Demoncrats didn't have a Karl Rove or Fox News type to open fire with all salvos at the Bushies. Now we're stuck with Pain & Panic at the helm for 20 years.

Here's to torpedoing many fine jurists in the court of public opinion. They don't learn quick but that's what money is for. Never underestimate a billionaire and the depths he will stoop to in order to pander to the hysterical, foolish masses.

Draw a line through Sotomayor. She's done. There ain't no way she can make it through the tarring and feathering of being labeled a "damn liberal activist judge." Her own words have hung her.


And now for something completely different. This story sucks. Come on, now, kidnapping kids so Americans can have their precious "rescued foreign babies"? And we're not even talking Madonna or Angelina Jolie here. Are we now appeasing white guilt by paying brown people to steal babies from other brown people so we can manufacture a smug & superior sense because we can't stand to see a perfectly healthy baby be "thrown away"? Well of course they weren't going to throw away a healthy baby (except in China, where not having a penis is still considered a birth defect). But I need to feel progressive and better than foreigners some how. Here, let me pay white people to pay some brown people to do some awful, illegal stuff. The white guy with the nice teeth and dapper suit said it was ok so it must be ok. Well if those people would actually do such a thing as kidnapping for the small sum of 10x what the entire town makes in a year, then maybe this baby is better off with me.

WTF, America? It's this kind of shit that's gonna end up dragging me into some "public interest-y" area of the law like human rights and anti-trafficking. I need to make a visit to Bohemian Grove next year and sacrifice up all my tender feelings to a giant owl.


the love affairs of nathaniel p.: a novel

There is something particularly flattering about an entire book dedicated to the kind of person you are, even if that portrait itself isn't very flattering. I felt reading Adelle Waldman's debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. that slight swelling of the chest, as Hitler's ghost must whilst browsing the WWII section of every decent American library, to see so many words about one such as me. All kidding aside, I've steamrolled over a number of objectively decent relationships in the past few years for the same reasons as the titular literary Brooklynite at the center of this novel: because despite initial interest, after awhile, I just didn't feel it. And following simple laws of physics, Nate (and myself) finds that feelings of the other sort rush in to fill the void in ways that are often insufferable.

The novel opens with Nate running late to a party and running into a former lover, Juliet, on the street. Her reaction to the random encounter is less than civil and Nate seems stunned by it. True, the last time he saw her he did accompany her to the abortion clinic and pay for the procedure because of his role in that state of affairs. And then he had remained the whole of the day to comfort her before summarily abandoning Juliet because he hadn't truly liked her that much in the first place. But we, Nate included, shouldn't take this to mean Nate is heartless or cruel or indifferent to the sensibilities of women. After all, he is the "product of a postfeminist 1980s childhood and politically correct, 1990s college education. He had learned all about male privilege. Moreover, he was in possession of a functional and frankly rather clamorous conscience." This self-reassurance, by the way, is a quote you will see snipped and inserted into almost every review. And for good reason. It neatly summarizes Nate's opinion of himself (it is, after all, relayed to us through our ongoing privileged access to Nate's headspace) while also revealing his blind spots.

But I get ahead of myself. Nate is on the way to his ex-girlfriend's house for a dinner party consisting mostly of his friends. With this Elissa, the ex, Nate has not extricated himself from a frequent ritual of conversations and recriminations punctuated periodically by backsliding. This inability to let go, Nate tells us, stems from both his guilt over ending the relationship and his sympathies for Elissa's career plight as he sees it. At this party, he meets Hannah, an acquaintance of Elissa's that he initially downplays.

A few flirtatious emails later, thanks to the highbrow, left-leaning social conscience that defines and operates Nate's inner circle of friends, Nate and Hannah go out, followed by sex and a relationship, and ultimately, another breakup. The novel narrates the rise and demise of the couple through a series of set piece conversations and Nate's internal monologues staged at coffee shops, diners, parties, and the couple's respective apartments.

Despite eavesdropping on Nate's internal monologues, we actually learn very about him and his motivations directly from him. Sure, he tells us his irritation at Hannah is irrational or his cruelty is often perverse. He repeatedly complains to himself about the stifling realities of a relationship (the other person there all the time! they ask you things! you have to care about their emotional well-being!). And yet his relationship with Elissa lasted several years, through both career and personal highs and lows. And transitioning out of his relationship with Hannah, he takes up with Greer, an autobiographer of her sexual and other flittering, a woman with much the same jejune personality as Elissa without the real-word albatross of a stalled career to weigh Nate down (Elissa's dinner guests at the novel's opening gossip negatively about Greer's very sizeable advance for her next book).

Hannah is the type of girl Nate feels he should be attracted to: smart, successful, witty. She is not, however, the girlish kind of pretty Nate typically pursues. Nor is she the histrionic sort. Despite what Nate might say and perhaps even believe for a time, the high maintenance and conventionally attractive is the kind of girl he is interested in. To put it bluntly, the novel winds up and then unwinds Nate's punishment of Hannah for falling in love with him when she is none of those things. He comes to loathe her "neediness," her simple desire to make things work with him and pain caused by his failings; his failure to try, his failure to recognize what he wants, and his biggest failure, the inability to be honest with either himself or her.

For all the robustness of Nate's inner life, his careful reflections of why he did and harsh assessments of what motivates others, he actually tells us precious little about his desires. His contradictory desires are expressed through his two friends Aurit and Jason. In various conversations throughout the book, Aurit and Jason's advice rather than Nate's own thoughts give voice and reflection to Nate's inner life.

Aurit: female, intelligent, articulate. A woman of which Nate uses the word "maternal" as an insult. She and Nate have never dated. Their relationship is purely Platonic. Aurit blames men for relationships breaking down and attributes these failures to men's personal, often psychological, disorders. Nate chafes at her insistence that the normal state of a man and a woman is in a relationship and men who are not in relationships are somehow pathological. Aurit likes Hannah and feels Nate should work on the relationship. Nate, not openly, feels Hannah is too much like Aurit.

Jason, on the other hand, is priggish and prickish. He is controversial for the sake of controversy, to perform so as to suck the spotlight squarely onto himself at all times. He unironically suggests that pretty but not too bright women should marry the rich and litterati so as to prevent these upper classes from being dominated by uggies. Jason suggests to Nate that he doesn't want a smart but only moderately attractive as a mate; that he doesn't seek a mate who can be an equal, who can challenge him. In fact, he secretly desires pretty, melodramatic women of whom he can complain about the "pains" they cause him on the surface. Nate initially prickles at such a suggestion. By the end of the book, as he settles into his life with Greer, their petty fights, her demands for indulgences, his sidelining her thoughts for the much more serious and sober verbal sparring when out with his friends, confirms Jason's diagnosis.

Aurit and Jason, with Nate in the middle, do not represent the Freudian triumvirate of superego, id, and ego. Rather, Aurit and Jason are external manifestations of Nate's internal wrestling with what he truly wants out of life. And this struggle plays out as Nate stands at the threshold of success, the publication of his first novel. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. shows this seemingly bright, capable, and modern man to be rather boorish and superficial but with the good manners not to be blunt about it.

Slate's Katie Roiphe describes the novel as "deftly skewer[ing] the new literary man, the bookish, ambitious, N+1ish young man, with his stylish torment, his self-seriousness, his dangerous admixture of grandiosity and insecurity, and old fashioned condescension toward women gussied up as sensitivity, his maddening irony, his very specific way of treating people badly while worrying about liberal politics." Said targets would be the protagonists of Keith Gessen and Benjamin Kunkel's recent novels. Perhaps she's right, but only from the perspective of the jilted ex.

At her best, Waldman's novel feels less like grinding her own personal ressentiment axe against all the Nathaniel Piven's of the world. The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. is nominally about Nate, as it is through his eyes, ears, and voice that we experience the world. But where Keith Gessen's All the Sad Young Literary Men treats women merely as the overlapping props that connect the three male protagonists (Sam, Keith, and Mark) post-college, Waldman seems instead to give a voice to women who come into contact with the "sad young literary man" type; Hannah, confused and hurt by a Nate that runs erratically hot/cold; Elissa, whom he keeps on a leash through emotional affairs and backsliding; and even brief Juliet, whose reprimand "You could have at least—oh, never mind." truly baffles Nate.

Adelle Waldman's debut novel is indeed a reaction against the N+1 ilk, but not an agressive takedown. Instead, in clever, witty, and insightful prose, she not only examines a bright man, a type really, for whom Socrates' maxim to do so is merely an empty refrain, but also surveys the landscape for emotional craters left on a country's single female population as these self-assured, ambitious solipsists pass untouched and unaware over their lives.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sunday, June 9, 2013

star trek: tng

The episodes of Star Trek: TNG reworked with the title conventions of the sitcom Friends.

S1E1 The One With Space Jellyfish
S1E2 The One Where Data Fully Pleasures Yar
S1E3 The One Where They Raid the "Coming to America" Wardrobe

Monday, June 3, 2013

top 10 kinds of people you'll run into at a music festival

This past weekend was the 3rd annual Free Press Summer Festival in Houston. In honor of a fantastic weekend spent getting pummeled by the Texas sun and seeing some great bands, I present you with the top 10 kinds of people you'll run into at every music festival this year.

10. Girls in bikinis. Whether it's just a bikini top and extremely short shorts or they've committed fully to swimwear ensemble, you'll always see girls running around in the hot, hot sun with barely anything on.

9. White guy with the Native American headdress on. Oh, you think it's fun to dance around with feathers and facepaint on? Is it cool if Native Americans put on boat shoes and steal your land while goofing on your cultural heritage?

8. Body glitter. Always with the body glitter. Are you really a stripper, ma'am, or do you just like shopping at stripper stores?

7. Someone throwing up. Maybe they drank too much. Maybe they didn't stay hydrated. Either way, they're hunched over somewhere vomiting their guts out while a group of friends stand around acting concerned from just outside the splash zone.

6. People with things hanging from poles. I don't think they're leading a tour group. They just want to make sure the band sees them carrying their favorite pikachu doll dressed up as a leather daddy.

5. Old guy and a much younger woman with fake boobs. A subtype of the girls in bikinis, this woman always displays her obviously fake boobs in tiny top. Her boobs brought them together, either because he paid for them or they caught his eye at Hooters / the local strip club. She's there to prove she's still young, sexy, and fun despite her significant other by pulling the eyes of young guys; he's there to make sure no one else handles his investment's portfolio.

4. A really old guy watching the hardest bands there. Who the hell is this guy? He always seems to be at the festival alone. I suspect he's secretly one of the hardest anarchist punks around and he and the band have plans to do some wicked shit later that night.

3. Guy in a speedo or cross-dressing. You're so transgressive, just like every other guy here wearing a speedo or a bra on a lark. Or maybe you're just jealous of how those bikini girls don't seem to be sweating profusely. Sorry, I meant glistening profusely.

2. White guy with a Mexican flag cape. Almost everybody sees this guy and thinks "what a jackass." And then there's that one guy who thinks it looks cool and comes next year with a Mexican flag around his neck. And so turns the wheel of jackassery.

1. Frat boys and douchebags. So, so many frat boys and douchebags. Where there is alcohol and the opportunity to ruin a good time, they'll be there. Is it part of the pledge or something? They always turn up in droves. I guess that's what joining a frat is all about.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Kickstart My Heart

I made my first Kickstarter pledges today to help out two video projects I'm super excited about.

The first is for a web series by the Continue? fellows called Smart Guys. The trio set out to make the greatest video game in the world. The only problem is none of them knows the first thing about making video games. You can pledge here.

You should also watch the promotional video which is all kinds of weird A Team parody.

My second pledge is to help funny guy Zack Braff make his followup film to Garden State. Entitled Wish I Was Here, it's about a daydreamer father who decides to try his hand at home schooling his kids. You can pledge here.

Both Continue? and Zack Braff have brought me a lot of joy over the years. If a small donation can help them make their next dream projects come true, it's worth the price.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Black Super Heroes... DC

Originally, I conceived this item as a Black History Month piece prompted when I noted that DC Comics offered selected back issues featuring black heroes each week in February as part of its weekly $.99 digital sale. [read online][for iOS devices][powered by android] But February was a busy month for me. So instead, I've reworked it as a pre-emptive strike and companion piece to my original Race & The Comic Book Movie entry.

As you may remember, quite a controversy was stirred by Kenneth Branagh's decision to (re)cast the Asgardian Bifrost Bridge guardian Heimdall with (black) actor Idris Elba. I noted that Marvel's earlier decision to import the Ultimates black Nick Fury (based on Samuel L. Jackson) into the Marvel universe canon continuity for the movies by casting actual Samuel L. Jackson in the role elicited nary a peep. Well, we're a little under 3 months away from Warner Brothers' release of Man of Steel (14 June 2013), the Zack Snyder reboot of the Superman film franchise. DC Comics once again throws its hat into the ring of racial (re)casting this year with none other than Laurence Fishburne in the role of Daily Planet Editor-in-Chief Perry White.[1]

Snyder's got a lot resting on his shoulders with this film. Not only is he responsible for salvaging one of Warner Brothers' most recognizable (and hopefully bankable) properties next to Batman for the big screen following Bryan Singer's 2006 epic debacle Superman Returns. Now Man of Steel is pinned as the first strike for a run-up to a Justice League movie. Fresh off his wildly successful Batman trilogy, director Christopher Nolan has been tapped to produce Justice League.

The cynical me ignores Warner Brothers' past approval of casting decisions against the race of its comic book heroes for the big screen. It hopes Snyder et al didn't intentionally court Thor-like controversy in order to cash in on some of that sweet, sweet The Avengers[2] films revenue.

The optimistic me, on the other hand, hopes choices like this are directed at righting the race and gender imbalance in comics books, both on the page and screen. A majority of the most iconic heroes and their supporting casts were created during a time with very different social demographics. But the times, they are a' changin'. I hope DC and Marvel are taking the opportunity to (re)make their canon continuities to better reflect the modern, integrated world. You know, the one in which Americans elected a black man to be President. Twice.

So to (belatedly) honor Black History Month and the changing face of comics, here's my list of best known black super heroes in DC Comics. I've tried my best to arrange them in the order in which I encountered them. This is by no means an exhaustive list of black super heroes in DC Comics. Although Superman was (and may still be) hands down my favorite super hero, one thing becomes abundantly clear by reading this list: my primary access to the DC universe has been through its numerous fantastic animated series, tv shows (not Smallville) and films. I've briefly read runs of Superman and Batman comics over the years but never regularly subscribed like with Marvel's X-Men books. The recently relaunched Justice League, however, has caught my eye at the moment.

Black Vulcan (1977)
The original black super hero for me. He was a Super Friend. Perhaps a token minority character along with Apache Chief (eh-neeek-chok!) and Samurai (whom I'm not sure was Japanese) to balance out the white core at the Hall of Justice, I didn't perceive Black Vulcan that way. They, along with El Dorado, were each Hanna Barbera creations and not DC characters. To me growing up watching Super Friends in the early 80s, however, he was that guy with the lightning powers who wasn't Superman (my favorite), Batman,[3] Wonder Woman, or the other first class (generationally, not rank) of Super Friends. This is when I still bought coloring books instead of comic books so I wasn't yet aware of Black Lightning, whom Black Vulcan is "loosely" modeled.

Steel (1993)
I don't like Steel. It's not because he is (literally) a poor man's Iron Man, though that doesn't help. It's not even for that so-terrible-it's-kinda-good Shaq movie. No, I don't like him because of his origin. John Henry Irons, aka Steel, stepped up to the plate as one of four beings laying claim to Supes' crest after the Man of Steel's death-nap way back in 1993. That issue, Superman #500, has been blamed for single-handedly crashing the collector's glut back in 1993.

About that Shaq movie... The one good thing I can say about Steel is that, because of his inclusion in the Superman family, he is a high profile black hero. One that studio execs thought they could tap to bring "urban" audiences in to see a geek film. For being that kind of presence in pop culture, I don't despise him.

Static (2000)
Static appeared in an animation block along with Batman Beyond. I later learned he was an import from the now defunct Milestone comics line. He's kind of like a black Spider-Man, complete with quips and homemade gadgets. Unlike Spider-Man, Static never went the hero route alone. He relied heavily on his friend Richie for support.

Green Lantern (2001)
Jon Stewart, aka the black Hal Jordan. Seriously, whereas Hal was reckless and a lone wolf, Lantern Jon Stewart was a no nonsense former Marine. He debuted as the Green Lantern in the Justice League cartoon because the producers felt that his abrasive personality added a different dimension to the League. I wasn't fond of him and missed Hal Jordan. His romance with Hawkgirl felt forced.

Cyborg (2003)
I knew about the Teen Titans comics but never read them. Then came Cartoon Network's Teen Titans series and I was hooked. Cyborg was the mature Titan along with Robin but lacked Robin's moodiness, sullenness and lone wolf mentality. He was also best friends with my favorite, Beast Boy.

Vixen (2004)
I saw her in the Justice League Unlimited episode Wake the Dead (2004). She was Jon Stewart's black girlfriend replacement for Hawkgirl. Vixen is also a minor member of the Justice League in the comics. Her powers make her sort of a sexy Animal Man.

Mr. Terrific (2004)
Michael Holt version. First appeared in cameo in Season 1 Initiation and appears briefly in a few other episodes during seasons 1 and 2. He starts to move into role of JLU Coordinator after departure of Martian Manhunter in third episode of season 3 To Another Shore. For some reason I can't but think of the late 80s WWF heel Mr. Perfect when I hear his name.

[1] See Billy Dee Williams as District Attorney Harvey Dent in Tim Burton's wildly popular Batman movie; and Halle Berry as the titular character in the universally derided Catwoman. Well, don't actually SEE Catwoman.
[2] For those of you living under a rock for the past half decade, that would be: (1) Iron Man (2008); Iron Man 2 (2010); Louis Leterrier's reboot of The Incredible Hulk (2008) with Edward Norton as Bruce Banner; Thor (2011); and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). The films were initially connected through cameo appearances of SHIELD Director Nick Fury as he tried to recruit a team of super heroes.
[3] This was between the Adam West years and the Michael Keaton / Tim Burton collaborations, before The Animated Series, and long before the because he's Batman meme.

Thor: The Dark World

Here's the trailer to the new Thor movie, The Dark World, starring my guy crush Thor, ahem, Chris Hemsworth. Ever since the Ultimates launch, I have loved beardo Thor and am happy to see that version of the Thunderer translated onto the big screen. Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings reprise their roles as Jane and Darcy. Anthony Hopkins as Odin and even Tom Hiddleston as Loki also return. From the looks of it, Thor and Loki have to team-up to take down a new villain threatening all Nine Realms.

You can catch a quick glimpse of Jaimie Alexander as Sif (glimpsed at 1:06 as Mjolnir flies by and then a closeup at 1:14) but I failed to sight the Warriors Three on my first viewing.

Thor: The Dark World is set for release 8 November 2013.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot

This game looks fantastic! It mashes up Diablo-like action RPG gameplay (plus the emphasis on monty-haul loot gathering) with tower defense elements reminiscent of 2011's fantastic Orcs Must Die! (click here to purchase for XBLA or Steam) from Robot Entertainment and emphasizes AFK multiplayer. You raid castles designed by other players to collect sweet, sweet epic loot to beef up your hero and earn goods to fortify your own stronghold against would-be raiders. Currently, it's in alpha (click here to apply).

Story Trailer

Gameplay Trailer

Monday, March 25, 2013

top 5 songs for the week for 25 march 2013

1. savages - she will

Debut LP Silence Yourself will be out on May 7 in the US via Matador.

2. kisses - huddle

Long time fans of the feature (all zero of you) will recognize Kisses from previous posts. Their sophomore album Kids in LA comes out May 14 on Cascine Records

3. girls - alex

4. tame impala - why won't they talk to me?

5. kurt vile - never run away

The first single off Kurt Vile's new album Walking on a Pretty Daze, out April 9 via Matador.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

top 5 songs of the week for 18 march 2013

1. Yellow Red Sparks - Yellow Red Sparks

It's song 5 but I'm including the entire album streaming on SoundCloud for your listening pleasure.

2. Male Bonding - Bones

3. Tame Impala - Apocalypse Dreams

4. The Specials and Fun Boy Three - The Lunatics (Have Taken Over the Asylum)

5. Harvey Danger - Flagpole Sitta

In honor of the fact that I just discovered series 8 of Peep Show is available on Hulu Plus. You can try Hulu Plus for free for two weeks by clicking HERE.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

I Can Chang-e, I Can Chang-e (but not necessarily for the better)

Chronicling my mostly disappointment with season 4 of Community...

Season 4 Episode 6
dir. Jay Chandrasekhar

Something's off with this season of Community. The gang is all back and each episode still features a gimmick to hold it together, so the show is still playing the same old tunes. But I don't seem to be getting as much pleasure as seasons 1-3.

The easy thing to blame is the departure of series creator and notable pain in the ass Dan Harmon. Without him at the helm, the show doesn't feel the same. But what is it? What's missing? In other words, what is Harmon's signature?

It's easy to pick out a Joss Whedon production. The dialogue is smart and snappy; the entire ensemble is full of strong and individual personalities (no 1D or 1 note characters); and there's always a strong female somewhere in the mix if she's not in fact the lead.[1] Whedon's first two attempts to translate this formula into silver screen gold were less than successful.[2] But he hit one of the world's biggest jackpots ever last summer with Marvel's The Avengers.[3]

After mulling Community's season 4 "lack" with a friend, he finally hit upon the right description: this season isn't as dense as seasons past.

Take last Thursday's episode, for example. The frame and gimmick of "Advanced Documentary Filmmaking" is that Abed is shooting a documentary about Changnesia as part of a Greendale grant proposal to the MacGuffin Neurological Institute to study "Kevin's'" condition.[4] Everybody is on board with this plan except Jeff, who suspects Chang is faking and won't let go of the fact that at the end of season 3, a power-crazed Chang had tried to kill them all. Even the always fabulous but getting weird/stalker-creepy this season Dean Pelton is behind the grant proposal and he has perhaps the biggest axe to grind with Chang. After all, Chang kidnapped him, imprisoned him in the basement, and hired a Dean Pelton doppelgänger (a dean-pelganger) for much of last season.[5] But money and prestige for Greendale are always good as far as the dean is concerned, and anyway, "Kevin" is acting like a better person.

Jeff's plan is to pretend to go along with the grant proposal while secretly plotting to expose Chang. The side- slash meta-plot with Abed filming himself as director listening to Jeff's plan doesn't feel, well, meta enough in its comments on the whole documentary within a documentary within a sitcom setup. Britta remarks at the end of the episode that "the documentary" was actually a documentary about Abed making a documentary about being honest but this hits more like desperate hand-waving for acknowledgment ("yes, 4th wall, you are indeed broken," the writers seem to be saying through Britta) than a meta-joke. However, the scene where Abed is editing is one of the episode's biggest successes. Abed says he won't show us how Jeff's plot to expose Chang backfires and it works, both because Danny Pudi shines with his reaction shots and because he comments on the structure of editing itself when he tells the camera that the unseen scene isn't actually so bad but not showing it helps move the dramatic tension of his documentary along.[6] It has the elements of a fourfold joke, the hallmark of Community under Harmon (see below).

Britta's faux psychology chops, temporarily buoyed by last week's success with Jeff and his runaway father, is a one note joke.

The episode called back to Annie's interest in forensics as she and Troy team up to investigate more about where Chang was before showing up at the psychologist's office. The writers try to wring some laughs out of Troy doing the "buddy copy" routine (always contradict your partner) as Detective Houlihan's (Annie Edison) partner Partner, but they don't work as well as past season's comment-on-the-spoofed-homage dynamic like Abed doing Dinner with Andre, playing at Batman, or evil alternate universe Abed complete with cardboard "evil duplicate" goatee.

Shirley's role this week isn't even worth commenting on. It's a shame, too, because she was coming into her own with the previous week's Thanksgiving special.

The biggest blown opportunity this week was Pierce. Jeff tasks him with doing entertainment at the grant proposal presentation for the MacGuffin group. I expected full-on inanity with (accidentally) all the wit and force of "the play is the thing" in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Instead, we got an unfunny, racist bit that only related tangentially to the plot with reversed race roles of the principal players, Chang and his unremembered secret wife.[7] But beyond race, the episode doesn't even try to pull the trigger on this perfect moment to be brilliant and comedic commentary despite Pierce's awfulness. It feels like a moment pitched while Harmon was still with the show but one that couldn't come to fruition without a strong, single vision and overarching voice. In other words, I think Harmon would have hit it out of the park in the same way as last season's "Digital Estate Planning" or "Remedial Chaos Theory."

Whatever happened to the "darkest timeline" anyway? Is Chang's Changnesia part of that storyline? Did it survive Harmon's purge?

In an unsurprising but mildly amusing twist, Jeff's unmasking backfires and he ends up a pariah at Greendale, "accidentally becoming more Chang than Chang at his Changiest." Naive "Kevin" forgives him and Jeff finally seems to have joined (the duped side with) the rest of the Greendale community in believing Chang's Changnesia is real.

The last scene features Chang talking to some unseen person on his cell phone. He confirms that he is indeed faking Changnesia and his plot to infiltrate Greendale is successful, even gaining the confidence of alpha and skeptic Jeff Winger. In an homage to the classic espionage trope, he then ditches his phone in the trash and walks away, laughing maniacally. Then he comes back to retrieve it, asking why he did that.

Despite "Digital Estate Planning," I don't know if Harmon ever played video games (or at least those past the 8bit era), but I can't help feeling that under his control, Chang's big "reveal" would have felt more like revealing the hero to actually be the galactic villain Darth Revan in Knights of the Old Republic. Here the reveal is merely the setup to a single, barely amusing gag about (master spies failing at) covering your tracks while going undercover.

That's the big problem with this season: layering. Or, more accurately, a lack thereof. Under Harmon, Community was more than shout outs, callbacks, foreshadowing, and pop culture references. It was a densely layered show in which a perfectly executed Harmon gag would simultaneously be (1) funny in its own right, (2) an allusion to something previous in the show or setup a later joke [internal reference], (3) some kind of reference to pop culture or for the show's faithful [external reference], AND (4) some kind of meta-commentary on those references or the conceit of a episodic-with-serial-bits sitcom itself. This fourfold structure of a joke is what made Community unique. Each and every joke per 23 minute episode felt worked on and rarefied through rewriting alchemy until, by Harmon's Midas touch, it became pure comedy gold. Over the course of 3 seasons.

Another failed moment: Chang being named after his "rescuer's" dog leading to Troy realizing he is also named after his family's pets. But Jeff's comment about finding evidence to support a human trafficking claim usually being a good thing did elicit a chuckle.

Now Community feels more like you're average sitcom. Sure, the one-off episode gimmicks and nod and wink towards pop culture references are still there. But they don't feel unified in the same way as before, each molecule reoriented towards something bigger, some meta-comment about the current state of sitcoms and pop culture. Community, like your run of the mill sitcom, now drops jokes then moves on without any lingering thought about how and why they function as they do (a) during prime time (b) on a major network (c) in 2013.

This episode overall is a mixed bag. Dan Harmon still had scribe duties (his last credited one) and Broken Lizard alum Jay Chandrasekhar (who had his turn in the chair while Harmon was still with the show) directed. But this episode is the first crediting Hunter Covington as co-writer. His previous work? 100 Deeds for Eddie McDowd; Still Standing; Yes, Dear; My Name is Earl; 100 Questions; Other People's Kids. His twitter account also says he writes for It's Always Sunday in Philadelphia but IMDB doesn't credit him. Did NBC bring him in to "polish" a script Harmon left behind to broaden the show's appeal? Looking ahead as of today, IMDB doesn't include Harmon in the writing credits for any future episodes.

The comparison to pre-Avengers Joss Whedon may be most apt here. Despite the seeming cornerstone place of Buffy (and to a lesser extent Angel) in the collective pop (mono)culture,[8] before The Avengers, Whedon's projects failed to garner much enthusiasm beyond a small, vocal, diehard cadre. Even Buffy at its height never rivaled Lost in terms of viewers. Firefly didn't make it through a full season while Dollhouse lurched on longer than its viewership in this competitive business market probably deserved. Community, too, was a show with seeming little appeal beyond a small niche market who nonetheless supported it devoutly. Despite rumors of cancellation and then a delayed start to an abbreviated season 4,[9] Community continues to live on, at least for another half season. But now it feels like its is being retooled and dumbed down to appeal to a broader demographic.[10]

Community used to be a show about an autopsy. Now it's starting to shuffle like just another prime time zombie.

[1] Two of Whedon's four big tv shows were led by female characters: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse. Of the other two, Angel was a spinoff of Buffy; only Firefly nominally cast a male in the lead, Capt. Malcolm Reynolds. But Mal was surrounded by strong women, including his second-in-command and all-around badass warrior Zoe, hyper-competent engineer Kaylee, and the companion Inara.
[2] I was a huge fan of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. I loved it so much, in fact, that when I went to see it in the theater for the first time with my friend and his mother, I somehow managed to convince them to stay and watch it a second time through. The movie was nowhere as big a smash as the story re-worked for television was. Whedon had the opposite problem with his next feature film. Firefly, beloved on tv by rabid fans, didn't do well when transported to the big screen as Serenity.
[3] As of 16 March 2013, The Avengers had made over US $1.5 billion in worldwide box office. Only Avatar, boosted by its 3D only ticket sales (US $2.78 billion) and Titanic (US $2.18 billion) are ahead of it. [source]
[4] Following the framing device of season 2 episode 16 "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking" and season 3 episode 8 "Documentary Filmmaking: Redux." The faux documentary or mockumentary format is also spoofed in last season's 2 part Pillow War documentary (episodes 13 and 14). Also, haha, MacGuffin.
[5] When season 4's first episode featured Fred Willard as Pierce in Abed's (re)imagining of Community as a tv show, I actually thought that was a clever allusion to the obvious impostor replacement Dean Pelton running visual gag in season 3 as well as timely winks at Chevy Chase's known departure from the show in the middle of filming and Fred Willard's recent exposure problems.
[6] It's not quite the perfect Harmon joke. To reach 100% completion, some allusion to Nicholas Cage's infamous reaction shot acting would have needed to be made somewhere in the episode. This much maligned scene from Nicholas Cage's much maligned 8mm illustrates his reaction shot prowess at its best.
[7] Pierce plans to do a puppet show by painting and dressing his hands similar to the South Park episode in which Cartman's hand puppet Jennifer Lopez gets more famous than the real thing. Pierce has a Hispanic male puppet and a Chinese female puppet, the inverse of Chang's secret marriage.
[8] You can take college courses for credit on Buffy at, for example, DePaul University, Portland State University, and Brunel University in London. The latter offered its course in "Buffy studies" as part of the Masters curriculum.
[9] See the brilliant October 19th slash "Community Season 4 Premieres... Someday" video. Was Chang's attempted beard-as-disguise an allusion to season 4's Changnesia plot and evil Abed's role in the darkest timeline? And what about the timely reference to the salaciously titled news story about Crystal the Monkey, aka Annie's Boobs, being the 5th highest paid actor per episode of a sitcom [Annie's Boobs Make More Money Than You] that's also a not so subtle jab at NBC for greenlighting the abysmal new (now failed) sitcom Animal Practice, starring Crystal the Monkey, and slotting it to premiere in the fall in Community's place.
[10] Ever since its return to Fox, Family Guy has been trending this way, too. The family used to be a flimsy conceit holding together from week to week the pop culture schizophrenia of the cutaways. Now there are A and B plots about Griffins and other major Quahog folk, just like The Simpsons. This charge has been brilliantly leveled against series creator, song writer, and voice actor extraordinaire several times in the Comedy Central Celebrity Roasts he hosts. The problem for Family Guy "evolving" into a familiar sitcom structure in order to garner more viewers is that the characters, everybody down to a one of them, were created to be utterly and thoroughly unlikeable. It's hard to care what happens to them when you don't like them in the first place. When they were just paste to hold the cutaways together, that they were unpalatable wasn't a problem. And hey, if you liked them, congratulations, you were the paste-eating kid everybody made fun of in elementary school. Now that they're the white stuff holding the two cookies of the Oreo together, it doesn't work so much. Even Seth MacFarlane acknowledges this when he warns the viewers through Peter or Stewie that it's a "Meg episode" and everybody hates Meg so you might as well not watch. And oh, hey, yet another example of the creator of a fiercely loved niche product with a loyal fanbase who became uber-successful.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

satire fails

Having grown up watching stand-up throughout the 1980s, I hew to the rather controversial view that there are no bad jokes, only unfunny ones. This is a line I think a lot of stand-ups want to take but it's harder and harder to maintain and stay working in the era of instant internet outrage. See the public flaying of Gilbert Gottfried over his Japanese tsunami tweets. You tell a funny joke, people laugh, you keep telling it. Tell an unfunny joke, people don't laugh, and you rip it out of the act. Those non-stop hilarious, award-winning HBO specials aren't written in a week, folks. They're the result of months and months, if not years, on the road, night after night testing and refining jokes in comedy clubs all over the United States.

I extend the same theory to comedy in general. The Onion's Oscar Night tweet wasn't a "bad" joke. It wasn't funny. Period. Attacking the site, especially after they offered an apology, misses the entire point of comedy. Calling 9 year old Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis the c-word wasn't funny. We've registered that fact, the Onion owned up to it, let's move on.

In case you've had your head buried in the sand like I usually do, here's the gist of it. On Sunday night, the Onion published this tweet:

People lost their minds because the website called a little girl the c-word. The tweet was deleted within a few hours (but thankfully preserved via the internet). On Monday, Steve Hannah, the CEO of The Onion, issued the following apology.
Dear Readers,

On behalf of The Onion, I offer my personal apology to Quvenzhané Wallis and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the tweet that was circulated last night during the Oscars. It was crude and offensive—not to mention inconsistent with The Onion’s commitment to parody and satire, however biting.

No person should be subjected to such a senseless, humorless comment masquerading as satire.

The tweet was taken down within an hour of publication. We have instituted new and tighter Twitter procedures to ensure that this kind of mistake does not occur again.

In addition, we are taking immediate steps to discipline those individuals responsible.

Miss Wallis, you are young and talented and deserve better. All of us at The Onion are deeply sorry.


Steve Hannah
The Onion
The mantra that keeps getting repeated is that this is a rare apology from The Onion. No one seems to be citing other controversies in which The Onion refused to back down. The closest I could find is this index of stories over at the Huffington Post. Along with Onion staffers past and present, I guess I'm firmly in the camp against the apology. Even some members over at the staff at Forbes are against it.

I mostly agree with Movie Bob over at The Escapist. His analysis of the work it takes to craft a funny joke and the laziness of the instant age through so-called live snarking are spot on. I also think he does a pretty good job trying to break down what the joke was trying to do; i.e. to satirize the constant roll of comments about Hollywood, much of it nasty, and much of the nastiest of the nasty aimed at women.

I'm going to leave aside free speech and disciplining employees for work clearly within the parameters of the company's work. Instead, I want to look at the joke a little closer. Where I think Bob goes off-track is in concluding that "that joke wasn't worth telling in the first place." He overlooks a couple of key points.

First, those familiar with the Onion would immediately recognize the tweet for what it was: a joke. It was never intended to be an attack on Quvenzhané Wallis. In fact, they targeted her exactly because she wasn't supposed to be the target of an attack. She's a child and bloggers usually lay off the vitrol when it comes to children. Tweeting about her focused the satirical edge. It had to be her because saying something nasty about any other (adult) actress would simply look like all the other nastiness.

Second, part of the problem is that of audience. When you pay your money and take a seat at a comedy club, you (are supposed to) know what you're signing up for. There's a selection bias at work. Unfortunately for the Onion, twitter doesn't work with that same selection bias. Anybody reading the Oscar tweets would have been able to pick up their comment, even those unfamiliar with or not amused by the Onion. Satire, especially the hard edged kind the Onion is known for, isn't everybody's cup of tea. The internet and especially twitter spread offense at the speed of retweet.

Third, the context is pretty clear when you read the whole tweet. Summaries like "the Onion basically called Wallis the c-word" miss the context clues that should let you know this is satire. The "[e]veryone else seems afraid to say it" and the form of a question ending with "right?" indicate this isn't meant to be taken seriously. It isn't a declaration, it's a question in the familiar "amirite" form. And the fact that "everyone is afraid to say it" brackets off the conclusion. They don't say it not because they afraid to say it but because it's a wrong thing to say. The point was to transgress those boundaries to comment about the daily transgression of those boundaries by Perez Hilton, TMZ, and others. The tweet as a whole disavows the very conclusion that people made and shared about it.

All of this to say that I didn't think the joke was all that funny. I get what the writer over at the Onion was trying to do. Maybe 140 characters isn't enough to properly establish satire in. Maybe I would have found it funnier if I had been following their entire series of tweets about the Oscars so that I was prepared for a joke-mean on its surface-about a 9 year old. Or maybe I just don't think 9 year olds should be the target of such jokes even when they're not really the targets. Maybe we should leave the kids out of the politics. Even those kids who walk down the target range that has become the Red Carpet.

The difference between my view and Bob's is perhaps subtle but important. He thinks the joke wasn't worth telling. I think it was worth telling, it just wasn't funny. And maybe there's a place in this world, a critical place, for unfunny jokes. [roll out tired bit for cheap laughs] Except for Dane Cook. That guy sucks.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

day 2 - 30 days of write

Day 2 topic

To the other kids be nice
Is more than motherly advice
But little John didn't listen
So on that day we did christen
His black heart, a lifetime, his prison

Four rooms yet John lived alone
Only companion a throbbing low drone
Friends he had not
Regret he his lot
And ended it all with one shot

day 1 - 30 days of write

New Year's resolution for 2013: write more.

Day 1 topic

Nick watched the weird geometries of light, the collection of irregular shapes and long, parallel arcs flowing with small bright beads, slowly slip away into darkness underneath his feet. The plane banked right, ascended; jets rumbled him in his seat and in his chest. He cast one last look down at the glimmering city he had called home for the past twenty years then pulled the shade closed. They gathered speed eastward. Nick sighed, closed his eyes. It had been a strange year. He didn't know if he was fleeing or pursuing tomorrow this time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

best albums of 2012

To be fair, I can't really give my opinion of the "best" albums of 2012. After the first quarter, I kind of stepped away from listening to new music. My grandfather died as the spring semester wound down; this summer is a barely distinguishable haze. Then I disappeared to Singapore from August until December. Although I tried to keep tabs on release schedules, much of what happened in music after March has been lost on me. I did, however, get well acquainted with the back catalogs of both Big Star and Joy Division.

This top 5 isn't really a survey from January to December for the year's best albums. It's a more personal reflection on the songs and artists that made an impression on me through the dark times and the good that was 2012.

Before the countdown, here are my impressions of some other 2012 releases that I did hear but didn't make the cut.


The xx - Coexist
I liked this album. I also loved 2009's self titled from this British band. Their sophomore follow-up didn't stray too far from the original formula. When the formula's as solidly good as this one, maybe mining it once more before moving on isn't a bad idea.

Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't
Sounds like love letters to the one I fucked it up with ("the one that got away" disguises a blame that's fully mine) but somehow managed to still stay friendly with.

Grizzly Bear - Shields
When it was first available for streaming, I recall being particularly enamored with this album. A few months later, I couldn't even recall what a single song sounded like. Definitely plans to revisit it now that my turntable and I have been reunited.

Sufjan Stevens - Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, vols. 6-10
What can you say about a Sufjan Christmas collection? At moments alternately awe-ful and haunting. Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You from Christmases Past was instantly a holiday classic for me.

The Top 5 (in no particular order)

1. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory

This one was released so early on (January 24) I almost forgot it was a 2012 release until I started perusing other best of lists. It's louder and darker than Dylan Baldi's previous outings. Screamer No Future/No Past and deceptively peppy Stay Useless accompanied me through some pretty bleak moods this year.

2. Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Follow-up to 2009's widely acclaimed Post-Nothing, Celebration Rock continued this Canadian duo's despairing glimpses at what lies beyond the party while continuing to rock twice as hard to put the inevitable off. Themes of aging and mortality sat well with me in the year I officially joined the mid-30s and family members continue to degenerate and shuffle off this mortal coil.

3. Twin Shadow - Confess

In 2009, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart totally rocked my shit with their eponymously titled debut LP. A year later, George Lewis, Jr., aka Twin Shadow did the same thing with Confess. It blended 80s elements of new wave and R&B but created a singular sound greater than the sum of its influences. Equal parts sleaze and saccharine innocence, George had at it again in 2012, refining and sharpening his formula, to create one of the most memorable albums of the year for me. It speaks to both my better nature and worst half.

4. Ringo Deathstarr - Mauve

An Austin band that wears their influences on their sleeve, Ringo Deathstarr is a shoe gaze slash noise pop trio the BBC dismissed as "shoegaze drone-noise from Texas, done well but done several times before." I saw them ring in the New Year at a little east side bar in Austin called The Frontier. They delivered. Loud, fuzzy guitars, and fun. Originality and experimentation are great, but never discount the value of having a good time. The atmospheric guitars often soundtracked my crowded subway commutes to SMU, lending the push through the daily sea of erratic human bodies a quaint disconnected unreality. The right album at the right time in my life.

5. Beach House - Bloom

Apparently this was the last album I listened to on Spotify before leaving the country as it and Donovan were affixed to my Facebook page for the fall and winter months. Ethereal and gravid with so many not quite fully formed, ambiguous feelings. Often the lullaby to soothe my complicated pains and longings in the wake of my grandfather's death and the great uncertainty facing me as graduation from law school draws near, I age, and romances bloom and wither.

To Listen, To Pick Up

Trailer Trash Tracys - Ester
Introduced to me by the rotation on local college radio station Album 88 in Atlanta. Heard a handful of tracks but need to pick up this debut LP from another British band.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!
Almost positively would have made my top 5 favorites of the year if I had actually heard it in 2012. Looking forward to finally peeling off the shrink wrap and giving this legendary Canadian act's 4th studio album, the first in a decade, a twirl. Half these tracks were performed in their recent spat of shows so I'm sure to recognize a few after seeing them 3 times in 2010. Prominent on many critics best of the year lists.

Tame Impala - Lonerism
Another shoe-in for a top 5 slot if only I'd heard it in 2012, these Ozzies with a penchant for loud, guitar-driven psychedelia and vulnerable, introspective lyrics are among my faves. Listening to 2010's Innerspeaker always puts me in a better mood. Also making regular appearances on many critics best of 2012 lists.

Kingdom of Suicide Lovers - Distant Waves
Another Austin band. The album was released on CD as of August but I'm (not so) patiently holding out for vinyl in the near future. Tracks on the EP sold me on this "darkwave garage rock post-punk psychedelic" trio.

Best Coast - The Only Place
More songs about smoking pot, cats, body image issues, etc. set to snazzy surf rock tunes? Yes, please.

Teen Daze - The Inner Mansions
Don't remember how they showed up on my radar. Introspective electronic music (says the album description) from another Canadian group.

Cat Power - Sun
Supposed to be one of her best to date.

Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...

Eternal Summers - Correct Behavior
Was really excited when I bought the vinyl but can't remember what animated it. Let's hope it doesn't disappoint.

Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo, Magellan
David Longstreth isn't so much the creative force behind Dirty Projectors or even the conductor of a rock and choral band as he is the engineer ensuring every piece of this well-oiled, well-honed machine is moving perfectly on its own and in sync with the other moving pieces. That's no mean feat when you have the guitar, bass, drums, horns and/or other strings, and 3 part vocals all happening at once. This one is supposed to be less technical but no less a masterpiece. Also on many best of 2012 lists.

New Year's resolution for 2013: listen to more music.