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The Best Albums of 2012

10. Sun Kil Moon- Among the Leaves:
Lush guitars and lovely drawn out stories.

9. Bhi Bhiman- Bhiman:
Gorgeous folk music with a sense of humor.

8. Patrick Watson- Adventures In Your Own Backyard:
Dreamy pop under the direction of a supremely talented dude.

7. The Dirty Projectors- Swing Lo Megellan:
Interestingly danceable album from one of the more interestingly danceable bands.

6. Dark Dark Dark- Who Needs Who:
Piano-driven chamber pop with substance.

5. Trampled by Turtles- Stars and Satellites:
Country music done properly.

4. The XX- Coexist:
They keep stripping down, and keep getting better.

3.Father John Misty- Fear Fun:
Cheeky lyrics and classic rock make this more fun than fear. 

2. Alabama Shakes- Boys & Girls:
The best thing to come out of Alabama since, umm, Sun Ra?

1.How to Dress Well- Total Loss:
This album was a complete surprise to me. It's atmospheric indie soul, not usually my bag. If you let is soak in, it will be rewarding. A bit dark, a bit 90s R&B,…

Let them eat Twinkies

I don't like paying taxes. My dislike, however, doesn't stem from some half-thought theory yammering on about "liberty." I certainly acknowledge that my taxes pay for many essential services. My problem is one of return on investment. Instead of health care, I get a thuggish imperialist military, subsides for the rich, and so on. In short, I am not too keen on paying for a state that is not run for my benefit.

That, one would think, is understandable. What is less understandable, for me anyway, is this religious devotion many rich have to not paying a single penny more in taxes. Considering these people are supposed to be so clever, does it not occur to them they have to pay to for the state that shapes the societal structure that perpetuates their privilege? Thirty, forty, fifty percent, whatever; it's a small price to pay for power.

It appears many of these folks have convinced themselves of their divine right to rule. Granted, this "right" is less fo…

Hanging from a cliff

The day after Obama won his second term the markets took a bit of a tumble. The Dow dipped below 13,000 for the first time in a few months. US Congressional gridlock and the ongoing crisis in Europe are mostly to blame. What is more interesting, even if it's unsurprising, is the rush to bonds- US government bonds to be exact. Indeed, the yield on ten-year treasury notes dipped as low as it has since May. Even with our ratings downgrade (which no one now cares about in the slightest) and huge debt, it is cheaper than ever for us to borrow money. We are still the safest piggy bank out there. 

With the "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts looming, the spirit of compromise is being sprayed into the air like a bottle of Glade mountain berry. Democrats are fond of saying we need a "balanced" approach to reducing the deficit. Nominally this means some tax increases along with spending cuts. Republicans are now, apparently, open to some sort…

Bring on the crazy

During the next few weeks the Republican descent into madness will become sharper. They are losing, and the paranoia ripe within the party will reach levels where satire itself will become ironic. My sincere hope is these folks in the Republican Party seek a mental health professional for their paranoia. (I am completely serious.)

Having said that, please don't let this context allow you to conclude the Obama Administration has fundamentally been anything different than Bush's third term. If a few cosmetic differences gets your vote, fair enough; but I urge you to give it a second, third and fourth thought. I realize we have no electoral choice, but there are plenty of things we can do to make our lives better that don't involve voting for one of these two representatives of the one percent. So let's continue, or start, to do them.

What an awful party

My Facebook news feed is pretty much a never ending scroll filled with the embarrassing antics of today's pitiful Republican Party. It's a bit sad considering their history. While the Democrats were the party of slave owners, Republicans were largely united behind crushing the slave aristocracy, and in some cases they were radical abolitionist revolutionaries advocating the expropriation and redistribution of massive amounts of private wealth. They were our Jacobins.

Now they offer us Mitt Romney, a silly little man you wouldn't notice in an empty room.

To be sure, I'm no supporter of the Democrats. They are the party of perpetual war, among other horrible things. However, a quick look through their history doesn't offer you the same kind of teeth grinding question marks. Everything about them is suspect. They never offered hope. (Despite the latest rhetoric.)

The Republicans were, at least at one time, different. Granted they have been brutal enemies of working pe…

Never trust a man with two first names...

I find it interesting the Republican party, so hunkered down in religion, specifically fundamentalist Christianity, has picked a spirited (pun intended) critic of their faith to be Mormon Mitt Romney's running mate. Taken at face value, it seems at least strange. Why would such a religious party offer up another seemingly problematic candidate?

The answer, of course, lies in Ryan's criticism of Christianity. Ryan, like Romney, has no beef with the reactionary social views many fundamentalists espouse. In fact, Ryan would almost certainly deny he is a critic of the religion using "defense of marriage," or whatever other silly cultural cry to arms is currently fashionable, as undeniable proof of his belief. Ryan, however, firmly takes issue with the "Prince of Peace." His issue is with Christ's annoying insistence on helping the poor, his chicken-shit clamoring for peace, etc. In short, weakness. Like any true Randian hero, Ryan hates weakness. His soon…

Punched In

Every day I have an existential crisis.
Every day around the same time.
“Why am I here?”
“What have I done with my life?”
“Is this it?”
“Will I do this for another forty years?”

Not so long ago, forty years was a lifetime.

There are at least two different people whom my only interaction with is to point out which day of the week it currently is.
We share assurances.
It is better, I suppose, than having an assurance alone.

Fake outrage for dubious numbers always prevails.
“We must do better!”
I nod my head in agreement with the seriousness of an assistant to the regional manager.

“What time is it again?"

The Concert

(a sketch)

Two men are pressed close to each other in a long line waiting to get into a sold out concert. The line is tight and people are being bumped.  Tensions are running high.

Bouncer (shouting): Doors open in 2 minutes! Please have your tickets ready so this line will move as fast as possible!

Everyone is quite uncomfortable. Eventually the underlying tension is released and a confrontation is initiated. Near the middle of the line, a man unleashes on another man who is directly behind him. 

Man 1: What the fuck man!?! Stop fuckin’ touching me!

Man 2: Fuck you! I can’t move at all! Go fuck yourself you fuckin’ bitch!

The two men are nearly touching noses; ready to fight.

Man 1: Fuck you jerk off! I’ll fuck you up!

Man 2: Dude. I’ll kick your ass. Seriously.

Man 1: Fuck off. I’ll break your fuckin’ nose.

Man 2: Go fuck yourself! I’ll break your fuckin’ face!

Both men back up a small amount and share a brief moment of silence.

Man 1: Really? My face?!

Sounding a bit sarcastic…

 …

I Like my Justice, and Diamonds, Bloody

Historically, Charles Taylor isn’t that interesting. History certainly has produced no shortage of despots. What makes him a likely footnote in future textbooks is that he got caught. He, like Bernie Madoff, was tried and convicted.  Mr. Taylor, it would appear, was big enough to be a bastard to many, but not big enough to be “our bastard,” as the famous quote goes.

It’s been a few years since Hollywood made us associate Leonardo DiCaprio’s boyish grin with the phrase “blood diamond,” but the diamond industry hasn’t forgotten. I never gave it much thought until I went looking for a ring for my soon to be wife. Given her family is from diamond-rich west Africa, we both decided it would be the height of poor taste to not at least have some idea of where our public display of love came from. Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions in global capitalism creating an equitable structure to extract and trade shiny rocks rich people collect, but if I can get a cup of “fair trade” coffee one wo…

Happy Easter

Why did the British end the slave trade?

Despite what we've been told, the real reason behind the British banning of the slave trade is more economics and less Christian-inspired morality. The following is a brilliant passage (found on page 53 and 54 in the second edition revised) from C.L.R. James' classic book, The Black Jacobins

It was the growth of San Domingo that was decisive.Pitt [William, "the Younger"] found that some 50 percent of the slaves imported into the British islands were sold to the French colonies. It was the British slave-trade, therefore, which was increasing French colonial produce and putting the European market into French hands. Britain was cutting its own throat. And even the profits from this export were likely not to last. Already a few years before the slave merchants had failed for £700,000 in a year. The French, seeking to provide their own slaves, were encroaching in Africa and increasing their share of the trade every year. Why should they continue to buy from Britain? Ho…