2015: Best Words (Books)

An alternate title for this post could be Books I Read This Year since I buy about 40 a year, start 30 and finish even less. If I finish it, I loved it.

Of course I don’t limit myself to books released in the calendar year but rather books that I get around to reading, whenever their release.

 

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A Brief History of Seven Killings / Marlon James

Dizzying fictional epic on the real-life plot to assassinate Bob Marley. Pulls no punches.

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Modern Romance / Aziz Ansari

Curious comedian expounds on the paradox of choice and how technology has aided and crippled some aspects of decision making in dating.

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Dataclysm / Christian Rudder

Founder of dating website OK Cupid explores the gap between what we say we want and what we actually want.

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Several Short Sentences About Writing / Verlyn Klinkenborg

For anyone who wants to learn how to get the most impact from writing concise sentences and therefore become a better writer.

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Daring Greatly / Brene Brown

Verging on self-help, this is a great look at the psychology behind shame and vulnerability and how they work to hold us back or push us forward.

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The Beautiful Struggle / Ta-Nehisi Coates

The eloquently written first book from this year’s most celebrated writer.

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The Mathematician’s Shiva / Stuart Rojstaczer

Funny and poignant look at what makes a family with all of its flaws.

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The Obamas / Jodi Kantor

More than just another D.C. insider book or a story about politics. It’s really a fascinating read on the work that goes into maintaining the highly visible and scrutinized marriage of America’s most ambitious power couple.

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On Writing / Stephen King

The best advice on writing and the sacrifice and courage needed to pursue the life you want.

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Slaughterhouse Five / Kurt Vonnegut

Classic that I never got around to in high school.

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How to Get Away with Murder in America / Evan Wright

Short story on the CIA, Cuban refugees and drug murders in Miami.

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Gilead / Marilynne Robinson

I decided to read this book after figuring anyone being interviewed by the president must be worth reading. Robinson writes beautifully without being distracting, tackling religion, mortality and familial bonds with wonderful clarity and insight.

2015: Best Words (#Longform)

People are writing and creating more text than at any other moment in human history. We also have myriad devices that allow us to read that text — tablets, laptops and phones which are causing us to walk to our deaths and ruin our posture — but catching up on all that reading can be daunting. (I recommend an app called Pocket.)

This year was no different. There was lots of great #content to be read, through blogs, newspapers, even Twitter.

There were lots of great pieces on sports, modern relationships, celebrities, politics and music.

Of course you can’t talk about the year in longform journalism without mentioning the demise of one of the great pop culture websites: RIP Grantland. I’ll miss it but on the bright side my daily productivity has increased 57 percent.

 

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“Swipe Right on Monogamy”

Charlotte Shane / Matter

 The problem with “only fucking” isn’t that sex is dangerous or wrong outside the confines of certain social containers like the boyfriend label or an engagement ring. It’s that in 2015 and before, casual sex, as practiced by straight Americans, was routinely bereft of physical pleasure, mutual respect, and interpersonal maturity. Hook ups were supposed to be fun but they… well, weren’t.

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“Inside Jeremy Lin’s life after Linsanity and the New York Knicks”

Pablo Torre / ESPN Magazine

Hard to believe Linsanity was over three years ago.

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“Augusta National is a Fake Southern Wonderland Inspired by Trench Warfare”

Spencer Hall / SB Nation

Hilarious take on a tradition unlike any other.

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“The Third Revelation of Father John Misty”

Sean Fennessey / Grantland

Everyone grows up eventually.

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“Ask Polly: Am I Too Smart for My Own Good?”

Heather Havrilesky / New York Magazine

All of Havrilesky’s “advice” columns are worth reading but this is the best of the bunch.

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“Has Europe Reached the Breaking Point?”

Jim Yardley / New York Times Magazine

Is the European Union experiment doomed?

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“The Late, Great Stephen Colbert”

Joel Lovell / GQ Magazine

Stephen Colbert on the eve of his Late Show takeover.

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“Ann Coulter is a Human Being”

Mitchell Sunderland / Vice Magazine

I AM VAST I CONTAIN MULTITUDES

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“How to Fix a Racist Frat”

Kate Dries / Jezebel

The kids are not alright.

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“What Kind of Person Would Vote for Donald Trump? These People”

Drew Magary / GQ Magazine

An in-depth look at the political base of our next president.

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“The Broad Strokes”

Rachel Syme / Grantland

Who says stoners are lazy?

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“A House Divided”

Ryan Lizza / The New Yorker

Inside the plot against John Beohner and the battle for the conservative soul of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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“The Katrina Disaster That Hasn’t Ended”

Michael Grunwald / Politico

This was the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and for the occasion lots of people wrote retrospectives. I didn’t read many of them because I suspected they were overly sentimental or about jazz and New Orlean’s resiliency or George W. Bush, which is fine of course. But this article tackles a problem that played perhaps the largest role in the death and destruction resulting from that terrible storm: the self-serving relationship between Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers.

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“Out of Bethlehem”

Louis Menand / The New Yorker

How the greatest writer of her generation became a radical.

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“The Public Life and Private Doubts of Al Sharpton”

Eli Saslow / The Washington Post

Sharpton in Winter.

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“Against Chill”

Alana Massey / Matter

For well you know that it’s a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder

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“Praise Kaitlyn Bristowe

Jada Yuan / New York Magazine

Let’s talk about sex, baby.

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“How to be a Friend Indeed”

Bruce Feiler / The New York Times

Practical advice on how to be a friend to those in crises.

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“The True Story Behind ‘Zola,’ the Epic Twitter Story Too Crazy to be Real”

Caitlin Dewey / The Washington Post

Background on the greatest story every written 140 characters at a time.

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“Sea of Crises”

Bryan Phillips / Grantland

Sometimes it’s all about the journey, ya know.

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“Da Art of Storytellin’ (A Prequel)”

Kiese Laymon / The Oxford American

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2015: Songs of the Year (25-1)

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Phillips Arena on June 20, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Here’s the conclusion to the year’s top songs along with a Spotify link to the playlist.

Pt. 1 can be found here.

25. “Jumpman” / Future and Drake

24. Major Lazer and DJ Snake (feat. MØ)

23. “Let it Happen” / Tame Impala

22. “Do It” / Tuxedo

21. “Hotline Bling” / Drake

Goofy, unconscious dancing and instant memability aside, “Hotline” holds its own as more than just another song about Drake holding women to standards the he would never abide himself. It’s a chameleon once again proving he can slip on any style and find gold. Drake is so plugged into the zeitgeist he can take a throw away track from a batch of internet leaks and top the charts. Praise be to the 6 God.

Continue reading 2015: Songs of the Year (25-1)

Best of 2014: Top 50 Singles (#25-1)

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Welcome to the 50 Best Songs of 2014. After listening to every single sound recording released this year, without bias, I have determined the 50 catchiest, provocative and just plain best songs of the year.

Catch up on part 1 here and check out the complete list on Spotify.

25. “Prince Johnny” / St. Vincent

What Instagram filter would you call this song?

24. “Heavy Metal and Reflective” / Azealia Banks

The Ice Princess closes her Twitter app long enough to make a hot song.

23. “Money Baby” / K Camp (feat. Kwony Ca$h)

So disrespectful SMDH.

22. “Lazerray” / TV on the Radio

This is as close to the majesty of Dear Science as you will get.

21. “West Coast” / Lana Del Rey

Not quite “gangsta Nancy Sinatra,” but more like “stoned Bette Midler.”

20. “Move That Dope” / Future (feat. Pharrell WIlliams & Pusha T)

This may finally be the rap song that convinces me to start selling drugs.

19. “Bet” / Tinashe

Slow builder that Tinashe wrecks.

18. “Shake it Off” / Taylor Swift

PUMPKIN SPICE PUMPKIN SPICE PUMPK

17. “Sanctified” / Rick Ross (feat. Kanye West & Big Sean)

(Prayer Hands emoji)

16. “Ain’t it Fun” / Paramore

#NoRegrets.

15. “About the Money” / T.I. (feat. Young Thug)

T.I. hasn’t sounded this interested in making hot music in years.

14. “Seen it All” / Young Jeezy (feat. JAY Z)

According to Jeezy, Jay Z cried while recording this song. I don’t believe it for one second but I want to.

13. “Do You” / Spoon

Dad Rock for dudes without kids.

12. “Drunk in Love” / Beyonce (feat. JAY Z)

Jay Z rhymes “foyer” with “foreplay.” Respek.

11. “Cadillactica” / Big K.R.I.T.

O-U-T-K-A-S-T.

10. “Your Love Will Blow Me Away When My Heart Aches” / Son Little

I got tha blooze.

9. “Turtles All the Way Down” / Sturgill Simpson

All ya need is love. And maybe some LSD.

8. “Seasons (Waiting on You)” / Future Islands

Let this hypnotize you.

7. “Telegraph Ave. (“Oakland by Lloyd”)” / Childish Gambino

Weirdo finally finds perfect combination to the rapper/singer formula.

6. “Water Fountain” / tUnE-yArDs

I wish this song came out when I was four. I would probably be a rock star by now.

5. “Flawless (Remix) [Live in Paris]” / Beyonce (feat. Nicki Minaj)

I still have no idea what happened at this concert after this performance.

4. “0 to 100 – The Catch Up” / Drake

Yep.

3. “Two Weeks” / FKA Twigs

Absolutely filthy.

2. “Who Do You Love” / YG (feat. Drake)

DJ Mustard, YG and Drake ride in on their noble steeds to set The West ablaze.

1. “2 On” / Tinashe (feat. Schoolboy Q)

I once made a list of the best songs from the 2000s. About 60 percent of them were produced by Lil Jon, Timbaland and the Neptunes (a full 100 would include Kanye and Just Blaze). I have no doubt that when I put together a list a decade from now DJ Mustard will be dominating it. No producer owns the pop music zeitgeist like him right now.  He is ruler of all that he surveys. (And somehow he still got snubbed for a Producer of the Year Grammy nod!)

This ode to getting drunk and hashtag turnt is his slickest work yet. Tinashe slinks all across the track. Schoolboy Q comes in with a nasty rap that doesn’t even dirty the track. The perfect party anthem.

Best of 2014: Top 50 Singles (#50-26)

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Welcome to the 50 Best Songs of 2014. After listening to every single sound recording released this year, without bias, I have determined the 50 catchiest, provocative and just plain best songs of the year.

50. “Man of the Year” / Schoolboy Q

Jackie Treehorn treats objects like women.

49. “Doses and Mimosas” / Cherub

I tried to put this song on a playlist for my friend’s birthday. He removed it and said he didn’t want to attract what he calls the “Molly element.”

48. “Easy Rider” / Action Bronson

“I heard ya bitch still wears Ecko.” Well-played, Bronson.

47. “Lost on the Way Home” / Chromeo (feat. Solange)

Not the greatest lyricists but these boys work a groove nearly as hard as their forefathers Hall & Oates and Steely Dan.

46. “Blue Suede” / Vince Staples

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.

Continue reading Best of 2014: Top 50 Singles (#50-26)

Reactions to Ferguson

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Like a lot of people around the country, I’ve been intently following the crisis in Ferguson, MO since the killing of teenager Michael Brown. There’s been no shortage of commentary surrounding the events; both around the deadly confrontation between Brown and Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, as well as the ensuing protests and police reaction. It’s been fascinating to read and watch the reactions pour in. Some expected, some not. Here is a round-up of the best commentary so far.

Rembert Browne with a first hand account of the protests:

I kept running. I didn’t know where I was running, but I was running. Now there were explosions and sirens and smoke and gunshots and a helicopter shining its light through the neighborhood. We scattered like roaches, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the cops thought of us that way. — “The Front Lines of Ferguson”

Ta-Nehisi Coates on “changing the subject” and black on black crime:

Let’s all get together and talk about how Mike Brown would still be alive if Beyoncé would make more wholesome music, followed by a national forum on how the charge of “acting white” contributes to mass incarceration. We can conclude with a keynote lecture on “Kids Today” and a shrug. — “Black People are Not Ignoring Black on Black Crime”

Joel Anderson on the Ferguson community and its conflicting views on race relations:

“This whole thing is getting blown out of proportion,” said a white resident. — “Is Race an Issue in Ferguson? Depends On Whom You Ask?”

The Guardian profiles the supporters of officer Wilson:

While the crowds protesting in Ferguson have been predominantly African American, all but one of the demonstrators showing their support for Wilson were white. A stack of dark blue T-shirts, on sale for $7 and bearing a police-style badge stating: “Officer Darren Wilson – I stand by you,” quickly sold out. — “Ferguson Police Officer was ‘Doing His Job’ Say Supporters”

A story in Politico about a white father whose son was killed by a police officer and how the father fought for justice:

Yes, there is good reason to think that many of these unjustifiable homicides by police across the country are racially motivated. But there is a lot more than that going on here. Our country is simply not paying enough attention to the terrible lack of accountability of police departments and the way it affects all of us—regardless of race or ethnicity. — “What I Did After Police Killed My Son”

Republican Senator Rand Paul on the “militarization” of the police and the need for criminal justice reform:

Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them. — “We Must Demilitarize the Police

Matt Lewis on the growing disillusion with the police among conservatives:

In recent years, conservative opinion leaders have been more willing to question authority. They’re more skeptical of the police and the military, and don’t just accept everything these institutions do as being in service of their “protect and serve” purposes. And the way conservative opinion leaders have reacted to Ferguson illustrate this reordering. — “How Ferguson Made Conservatives Lose Faith in the Police”

Jamilah King on the usefulness of a “perfect victim”:

These tidbits are an obvious distraction from the most urgent matter: a police officer’s killing of an unarmed young man. — “Michael Brown and the Danger of the Perfect Victim Frame”

A look at the Pew study detailing the wide gulf between blacks and whites and their views on Ferguson:

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… these kinds of numbers were all too predictable, as they have been repeated over and over in high-profile situations like those involving O.J. Simpson, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin — in large part because black and white Americans have vastly different views of the biases of  the American criminal justice system. — “African Americans are Concerned About Ferguson. Whites are Not”

Gene Demby writes about how the Ferguson community is dealing with the intensity of the national spotlight:

One dude walks up to Jackson and daps him up. “Reverend Al!” he says. “What up!” Everyone snickers. Jackson does not correct him. — “In Ferguson, MO., a City Meets the Spotlight”

Ezra Klein on the frustration with Barack Obama among the first black president’s supporters:

If Obama’s speeches aren’t as dramatic as they used to be, this is why: the White House believes a presidential speech on a politically charged topic is as likely to make things worse as to make things better. It is as likely to infuriate conservatives as it is to inspire liberals. And in a country riven by political polarization, widening that divide can take hard problems and make them impossible problems. — “Why Obama Won’t Give the Ferguson Speech His Supporters Want”

CNN anchor Jake Tapper is incredulous regarding the Ferguson PD’s show of force: