The 10 Album Challenge

I just finished this the other day, doing it slightly wrong (my 10 albums was 15 albums, and this post will add at least two more) and I figured I’d at least post the albums I chose here, in no particular order beyond the first one:

This is the most important one, and it should probably be its own post, as virtually no one I met beyond high school would ever have met me had I never listened to this album. This is the single most important piece of music I’ve ever listened to, period.

The soundtrack to my junior year of high school.

I really could have chosen any of Pearl Jam’s first three albums and it would have been fine.

Similarly, there are about three Public Enemy albums I could have picked.

The part of my brain that wasn’t marinating itself in hiphop during high school was marinating itself in reggae.

Speaking of marinating in hiphop, this was either the first or the second hiphop album I ever bought, and it had much more of a long-term impact than the other, which would have been the Fat Boys.

The other soundtrack to my senior year of high school, and the album that was being played at incredibly unsafe volume during all sorts of high-speed, late-night drives in the boonies in southern Indiana during college.

I got very heavily into blues music in college; there are a half-dozen BB King albums I could have picked.

One of only two Dave Matthews Band albums I really like, this one got me through my sophomore year of college. Will never forget having this on in the background about three days after it came out while a friend and I were hanging out and her remarking after a few minutes, incredulous, “You’ve memorized it already?”

Speaking of memorization: another big car album, and an album that we were listening to during an unforgettable game of euchre in high school, where the only words spoken by anyone at the table other than loudly singing along were to claim the trump suit. Whistling in the Dark was fucking epic.

I used to actually meditate to a couple of the songs on this album.

Listening to this one right now. Another case where I could have chosen any of several albums.

The other utterly unforgettable album from my blues period. Things Gonna Change is a perfect song.

The soundtrack to my senior year of high school.

And, closing in on 30 years after I first bought it, an album I still listen to on the first really warm day of every year. It’s not spring until I’ve listened to No One Can Do It Better, preferably in the car.

8:17 PM, Monday May 11: 1,346,723 confirmed cases and 80,342 deaths, which represents a remarkable slowdown over the last couple of days, and the smallest two-day total in months, which I’m afraid is going to end up having something to do with people not reporting much over Mother’s Day. We’ll see how tomorrow and Wednesday go.


Man, it’s weird when rappers get old.

I’m in the odd position of wanting to review something that I’m pretty certain very few of you will actually be able to watch: the documentary BEASTIE BOYS STORY, directed by Spike Jonze, currently exclusive to Apple TV+. Which I only have because I bought an iPhone this year and you get a free year when you do that. So far we’ve watched this documentary and season one of SEE, which was entertaining and pretty and unbelievably, heinously dumb.

And the thing is, I’ve been a Beastie Boys fan for, functionally, my entire damn life. License to Ill came out in 1986, when I was nine, and if it wasn’t the first rap tape I ever got it was the second, since I don’t remember if I bought this or the Fat Boys first. (Also, Jesus, at least two of the Fat Boys don’t even scan as fat any longer. I’m bigger than all three of them, I think.) So it’s weird to see Adrock and Mike D on stage as, basically, two old dorky white guys telling terrible jokes and reading, mostly not especially compellingly, off of a TelePrompTer.

I was thinking this was going to be a more standard talking-heads type of documentary, but what it actually is is a two-man stage show, with Spike Jonze handling audio and video on a giant screen behind them and tons and tons of white people in their 40s and 50s in the audience. And while I definitely enjoyed watching it (and, perhaps more importantly, so did my wife, who doesn’t have remotely the attachment to hiphop that I do, and virtually none at all to the Beastie Boys specifically) I have to admit that there’s a certain bittersweet element to watching it, as MCA was absolutely and undeniably the brains and the soul of this group and he passed away of cancer in 2012. It’s as if Lennon got shot and the only members of the Beatles left were Ringo and Pete Best. The Beastie Boys didn’t have a Paul McCartney, y’know? Once Adam Yauch was gone, the group was over; there was never any chance of either of the other two even trying a solo career.

Seen as the artifact it is, this is definitely worth two hours of your time, especially if you have ever been a fan of either rap music or the Beastie Boys (and I can watch music documentaries all goddamn day long even if I don’t like the artists they’re about) but I did find myself wishing we could break away from the perspective of the two surviving band members from time to time. I’d like to hear what Rick Rubin or Russell Simmons have to say about the group’s split from Def Jam, or what Run-DMC had to say about their tour together, and oh my god this is what Rick Rubin looks like now:

Holy shit. Dude.

Yeah, well, point is, some other perspectives would have been nice, from time to time, and there are a couple of weird lacunae in what we get that could have used some shoring up– early bandmate Kate Schellenbach gets enough attention that you expect there to be some sort of payoff, which never really arrives, for example. But if you go in knowing what you’re about to see– Mike D and Adrock (who damn near never calls himself that; he’s “Adam” throughout the documentary, and Adam Yauch is “Yauch,” not MCA) talking about their lives on stage, mostly from a script, and some almost insultingly corny jokes from time to time, it’s not a bad way to spend two hours. Call it a B-, I guess.

4:49 PM, Sunday May 3: 1,154,340 confirmed infections and 67,447 Americans dead. Meanwhile, a whole lot of places open back up tomorrow, and … this is not going to go well, at all, for a whole lot of people.

Stuff what I don’t wanna write about

CW: Sexual assault. Skip the first thing if necessary.

THING THE FIRST: I have been deliberately Not Writing About Tara Reade for … God, time is meaningless right now, but for however long it’s been since I first heard about her allegations against Joe Biden. Well, as it turns out, apparently John Cole and I are the exact same person, as he’s written basically the exact post I would have had I chosen to write about the situation, with the single absent detail that this is why I decided to go ahead and vote for Elizabeth Warren in the primary. I doubt Reade’s story for a number of reasons, but it’s always possible other, more credible allegations could surface. If anything, that’s the strongest argument against this: nobody who does what Tara Reade says Joe Biden did to her only does it once.

I tweeted this a couple of days ago:

Y’all, this is Jack Harlow:

And, dammit, I admit it: I read that Tweet I was responding to, genuinely thought that “Jack Harlow” might be Macklemore’s real name or something like that, and he actually has a song called “10,000 Hours“, and then Googled and found out that no, he wasn’t Macklemore, it was this dude. And if anything this dude looks even less like a rapper than Macklemore. And then I pulled him up on YouTube, because I was in the mood to make fun of a bad rapper, and now it’s two days later and I own two of this motherfucker’s albums. He’s not the best rapper in the world by any stretch, but the kid’s got bars, and I went from Oh, this is gonna suck to this isn’t terrible to God damn it I hate it when I’m wrong in, like, ten minutes. He’s got this great, laid-back, chill flow to his music, and in complete seriousness I think the last time I discovered new rap music that I liked this much was Rae Sremmurd.

Anyway, point is, give this a listen, but maybe do it with your eyes closed. More later today; I’ve got like three posts queued up right now.

12:52 PM, Friday May 1: 1,070,032 confirmed cases, 63,019 Americans dead.

Friday music video break

what the hell do you mean its wednesday SHUT UP

Truth is, I’m posting this video mostly because I’m listening to this song right now and the line fuckshit is finished today is really resonating with me for some reason. I mean, it’s not, fuckshit is just the way life is now, but I appreciate optimism when I encounter it.

I’ve spent most of the day with a book in front of me; I did all of my office hours and responded to my email and all that but apparently today’s lesson clicked with the 25% of my students who looked at it, since grades were pretty good on the assignment. For the first time this week, tomorrow’s video is stolen from elsewhere on the internet, though, because I have to DM tonight and I don’t really feel the need to record my own video when I just did one on this yesterday. Maybe for the handful of them who didn’t get it hearing it from a different source will click, I dunno.

Also speaking of reading:

This book is the second in a series and occupied most of my morning in between those emails and video conferences. Luckily for me, morning office hours were sparsely attended, so I sat there and read while waiting for students to log in. You may recall that its predecessor Foundryside was, uh, a book I rather enjoyed, and the sequel is absolutely up to the standard of the first if not better– this is in the top 2 or 3 for the year so far. It’s fast-paced and complicated and heartbreaking and a masterclass in how to write a fascinating magic system. You should go pick both of them up.

Plus, God, that cover.

6:15 PM, Wednesday April 29: 1,036,652 confirmed cases, and 60,475 American deaths.

New Pearl Jam single!!!

Is this the best news I’ve gotten in months?

Yes. Yes, it is, without reservation. Enjoy.