I got nothing tonight, sorry

I like this song way more than I ought to, and my wife really hates it, so of course I’m gonna make y’all listen to it too.

In which I phone it in

I’m not a big Game of Thrones fan, and have really never even watched it seriously until this season– and I may not bother with the next book, either– but this is kind of a magical video and I want it where I can find it easily. And seeing as how I have nothing else to say tonight other than a generic reminder that I write books and maybe reading one or two of them would be something fun for you to do, here, have an excellent video:

On sharing a moment

It has been a succession of rough days. Several weeks of them at this point. I’m exhausted and crabby.

A complete stranger asked me how my day was going earlier today. And without thinking about it, I shrugged and said “I didn’t have to use my AK,” which is something I’ve literally never said out loud to anyone. Because why the hell would I?

And she got it, thank God, and she laughed, and somehow her reaction improved my day quite a bit.

I note that I used that phrase very different from the way Mr. Cube uses it; to him not using his AK is the capstone of an already good day; for me it meant “at least I didn’t have to kill anybody today,” which was pretty much the least I could expect from a typical Wednesday.

#REVIEW: HOMECOMING, by Beyoncé

Do y’all ever wonder if Beyoncé’s marketing people, like, hate her guts? Her last six albums or whatever have been released with no fanfare and no warning and everybody notices and spends lots of money and they end up topping the charts anyway. Is this always the plan, do you think, or does she have terrible conversations with the marketing team where the team produces a carefully thought-out multi-level marketing and release plan and Bey just goes “Oh, that? I got bored so it came out this morning. It’s #1 on iTunes. But you guys are great, really.”

I probably say this every time I talk about her: I consider myself a pretty big fan of Beyoncé as a person and a musician and a businesswoman and just as a general cultural icon and I’ve nonetheless never been hugely into her music. Here’s the thing, though: I really liked Everything is Love, the album she released last summer (again, out of nowhere) with Jay-Z, and Homecoming, her latest nearly-two-hours-long CD of her 2018 headlining Coachella show is fucking amazing. There are something like forty tracks included; she tends to bounce from song to song pretty rapidly and rarely if ever performs an entire song from start to finish. I thought at first this was going to be annoying but it works– it might help that I honestly don’t know the majority of the songs all that well, so the fact that she’s basically just singing the best parts is all good.

Also all good: the what appears to be an entire fucking marching band complete with a drumline and step team that backs her up for most of the show. There is a documentary included along with the music that I haven’t gotten around to watching yet (and I may not, to be completely honest) but the sonic effect of these guys is really cool and unique. The recording quality for the show is top-notch, as should probably be expected.

So: adjustment to my Current Theory of Beyoncé: her last two releases have been fantastic and I can’t wait for her next one. I’d tell you to go check it out, but statistically you probably already have.

#Review: ON THE COME UP, by Angie Thomas

I shouldn’t write this tonight. I am tired, y’all; there was no school on Monday because of Presidents’ Day and this week has still been at least six years long. I don’t even have to go to work on Friday because I have a training all day and I still don’t know how the hell I’m going to make it through the rest of the week. It’s just been bullshit on top of bullshit on top of bullshit on top of bullshit, and that’s just been within the walls of my building. It’s not like there hasn’t been substantial bullshit going on in the real world, too. There’s been plenty. I am as tired of white men and our bullshit as I have ever been in my life and the notion that I am almost by definition guaranteed to be less tired of white men than damn near every person of color and damn near every woman on earth is practically incomprehensible. I don’t know how any of y’all make it through a day without killing any of us. I really don’t.

You may remember that I liked Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give quite a lot. In fact, it was my second favorite book of the year. I ordered her follow-up novel On the Come Up a few weeks before it released and was up far too late last night because I couldn’t put it down. (Note: “follow-up” is a decent way to describe the book, which alludes to the events of THUG and is set a year later and in the same neighborhood, but does not share any major characters. There are a couple of shop owners and neighborhood figures and the like who I think appear in both, but I’d need to reread THUG to be sure.)

On the Come Up is not as important a book as THUG, but I think I might have liked it more anyway. Bri, the main character, is a neophyte rapper and the daughter of a local hiphop legend who was shot and killed when she was very young. Hiphop was a big part of THUG, but this book is utterly drenched in it, and honestly I’d love to hear some of the raps she performs in this book actually recorded. My understanding is that Angie Thomas at least dabbled in rap herself, and I can absolutely hear this kid performing the lyrics she writes throughout the book. Let’s be real here; given my previous experience with this author and the subject matter, there was no chance I was going to dislike this book. The only question was how much I was going to love it. Will it end up at #2 on my year-end list? Perhaps not, because, again, this book doesn’t feel as important as THUG— which is less a criticism of Come Up and more of a statement that if you haven’t goddamned read THUG yet you should get off your ass and do it.

I look back over this and realize I haven’t really discussed the plot of the damn book at all; chalk that up to being tired. In lieu of me rewriting it, let me just post the blurb from the back of the book, which is a perfectly fair description:

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons. 

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.  

Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.

Give it a read, y’all. Angie Thomas is a goddamn national treasure; you should be appreciating her while we’ve got her.