Sunday odds and ends

DMX hit the scene in 1998, my senior year in college, a time when my musical tastes were probably as far away from hiphop as they’ve been in my life. I can’t pretend I’ve ever really been a fan, although X Gon’ Give It To Ya is an immortal banger, and the guy’s voice was something else. But it’s been amazing to see since he died just how many people have been coming out of the woodwork to tell stories about him just being a great person, or stories about running into a generous stranger that end with “… and then it turned out that guy was DMX.” I’m at the age where more and more people close to my age (he was only about 7 years older than me, which doesn’t feel like much) are passing on, and I can only hope that when I go there are more positive stories told about me than otherwise. Rest in power, man.


Speaking of rap music, and forgive me, because given DMX’s placement on this it’s going to feel like shade, but this dataset investigating the vocabularies of various rappers is really interesting. Especially so when you scroll down and look at when they sort everybody by the era they’re most associated with.


I bought Taylor Swift’s reissue of Fearless, mostly because her last two albums were so (sincerely) fucking good. I’ve talked a lot of shit about her music over the years– and most of it I still stand by, frankly– and buying the reissue was almost more of a political decision than it was a musical one, because I so very much adore the idea of her responding to someone else refusing to sell her the rights to her own music back by shrugging and using her songwriter rights to rerecord every single bit of it. At some point a switch in my head has flipped with her, though, and where I used to have all of her music inadvertently memorized and didn’t like it, now I have all her music inadvertently memorized and fuck it I’m listening to it on purpose because I’m grown and if I wanna be inconsistent I’m going to.

I still think she and Lil Nas X should write a song together, just to see if the entire world wakes up the next day with it memorized.


I go back to work in-person tomorrow, for the first time in, basically, thirteen months. I’m surprisingly sanguine about it– I was expecting to be climbing the walls today, and I’m really just not right now– but I still haven’t resolved some basic issues about what the next few days are going to look like that I’ve been mulling over for the entire break. I still don’t quite know how I’m going to handle my at-home kids; believe it or not, me being at home is easier for doing in-person and at-home at the same time than being at school will be and I don’t know how well all of that is going to work. I know I need to do some grading today one way or another, and I think for at least tomorrow I’m going to more or less give the at-home kids the day off; I’ll do a review assignment of some sort (everything this week is going to be review, since ILEARN starts a week from tomorrow, which is the real reason they’ve brought all the teachers back) while I sit down with the in-person kids and get them sorted out.

I’m going to take a shower– it’s past noon and I’ve had lunch, so I feel like it’s maybe time for that to happen– and then get that grading finished (hopefully somebody did something to catch their grades up this week, but I’m not holding my breath) and then we’ll see how things go.

Sunday night music break

I’ve got nothing in particular to talk about tonight, and this song’s been running through my head all day, so take a few minutes and chill.

Three mini-posts

I did, unfortunately, end up watching most of the “debate” last night, giving up at about the 2/3 mark when it became clear that the Beast was not going to stroke out or have a heart attack while I was watching. It was every bit as horrible and depressing as everyone says it was; there simply should not be further debates while this person is in office. There’s no goddamn point. There have been some rumblings that the rules are going to change from the debate commission, but if they’ve provided any specifics I’ve not seen them yet. Basically unless the moderator has the power to cut microphones there’s no further point in entertaining the exercise any longer.

We missed the sadly predictable moment where he refused to condemn white supremacy. Which … no one should have been surprised. White supremacists, the Klan, and the Nazis are clearly his people, and there has been no reasonable doubt about that for quite some time. He’s not going to condemn them because he’s one of them. That’s all there is to it. And yes, you are a bad person if you continue to support him. It’s not up for debate.


I think it is still the case that I own every album-length release Public Enemy has put out, including their live album. I generally find out about them by accident now, though, and while it’s kind of depressing it’s been true for a while that the band’s best days are behind them. The fact that they continue to mine the well of songs from Yo! Bum Rush the Show and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back after all these years is … well, it’s a choice, is what it is, and true to form this release has three or four different tracks that pull material from those two albums, plus a remake of Fight the Power with a bunch of new verses by non-PE rappers.

That said … I think I”m on my seventh or eighth listen already, and I just discovered it on Tuesday, so they’re doing something right. I mean, it’s PE. It’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav, despite the fact that Flav has been kicked out of the band at least seven or eight times by now. I’m enjoying it.


I got an email from Human Resources this afternoon, late enough in the day (no doubt on purpose) that there was no real point in asking for any clarification, informing me that my request for a length-of-the-pandemic e-learning job had been approved. (I assume it’s length of the pandemic. How long this job is slated to last was not mentioned, and honestly I can’t criticize them for not knowing.)

This rather portentous paragraph was in the message:

As we begin to start school back next week,  please be aware that your grade level, subject, or building designation could change based on the demand for eLearning in the school corporation.   We will continue to modify based on student attendance, eLearning requests, and building needs. 

Now, next week is the last week of the quarter, so my assumption is that I still have my current job next week. But I literally have no idea what they will have me doing the week after that. None at all. I mean, I’ll probably still end up teaching math in my current building, because seniority, but I have no idea.

And, I suspect, neither do they.

The pandemic started in March, y’all.

So that’s fun.

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.

#Review: BEASTIE BOYS STORY

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.