It Is Enough

“It Is Enough” by Anne Alexander Bingham

 

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

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Favorite Albums of 2013

2013 was a great year for music. A few of my favorite bands had new releases (some good, some okay, some bad), other up and coming artists released stellar debuts, and some folks appeared out of nowhere.

There was no unifying theme for the year; instead, 2013 reflected the continual diversity of modern music. There is something for everybody. Whether you love psychedelic rock, country, hip hop, soul, or jazz, an artist is making new, ear-warming tunes for you right now.

So, before folks call me out for not including their favorite band, let’s acknowledge these are just albums that I have enjoyed and stuck with me.

I’m not going to lie and call this the best of 2013, because everybody’s taste is different, and there are a lot of albums that I didn’t listen to, barely listened to, and never heard about.

Nonetheless, through the power of the internet, particularly Spotify, I have tried to listen as many new albums as possible. Checking the releases each Tuesday, exchanging recommendations with friends, listening and rating festival prospects through our stupendous project Hippohonk (check it), going to shows (and watching openers!), and keeping my ears open.

All together, I have listened to around 340 albums. Certainly not all as many times as I would like, but still, there’s a lot out there.

Why make a list?

To help these artists make some money!

Let’s share the love. If you like an artist, tell your friends, tell your parents, tell the world. Maybe somebody will buy an album, wear a tshirt, go to a show, or stream it online. Whatever you do, it helps artists and hopefully leads to more music that you love.

Listen to new music, support your favorite musicians, and tell your friends what you love. Sharing is caring.

That being said, here are

Tony’s Favorite 50 Albums of 2013

Note: Band name links to a youtube video; album name links to Spotify.

Also rankings feel somewhat arbitrary; I love all these albums. After #10, you can pretty much discount the rankings, and after #25, I just list them alphabetically. Definitely recommend watching the youtube videos for some fun. 

futurebirds

1. Futurebirds - Baba Yaga - Great debut album from these Athens, GA boys. This is new Americana; each song has a beautiful drawl in the lyrics and the music.

2. The National - Trouble Will Find Me - Dark, brooding, and beautiful, The National’s new album is my favorite of theirs. Absolutely perfect.

3. Portugal, The Man - Evil Friends - This band and this album are just too much fun. These guys blend all sorts of styles from jam band to funky David Bowie, but are all around a joy. If you can see them live, do it. “I just wanna be evil!”

4. Rhye - Woman - These guys are channeling Sade. It’s new, it’s fresh, it’s funky, and you should listen to it. Beautiful.

5. Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God - Well, if we can’t have a My Morning Jacket album this year, at least we got this piece of gold from Jim James. Intensely personal and unique solo album with even better live performances.

jimjames

6. Wild Cub - Youth - This album was one of my favorites of 2013, but apparently it’s been de-released and is being released again officially in 2014 on a different label? You can still hear the single, Thunder Clatter, online. Regardless, it’s a joyful, indie rock/pop/ funk album reminiscent of Passion Pit and so forth but better in some ways. It always makes me smile.

7. CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe - Yeah, it’s on everybody’s list, but yeah, it’s really good. The full album dropped following a fantastic SXSW performance, and they’ve been back to Austin twice since them. These British kids are working hard. Indie-electropop badassery.

8. Phosphorescent - Muchacho - I love all of Matthew Houck’s work as Phosphorescent, particularly his 2010 album Here’s To Taking It Easy. This followup is softer, more personal, and more beautiful. You’d maybe call it indie folk.

9. Haim - Days Are Gone - We were loving these sisters so much when all they had were a few singles and music videos, and I’m so happy they are having all this success. Three badass sisters that sound like Fleetwood Mac meets grittier indie rock and roll. You can’t lose.

10. Okkervil River - The Silver Gymnasium - My favorite Okkervil River album yet, The Silver Gymnasium is more upbeat, whimsical, and accessible than past releases. I can listen to “Stay Young” on repeat without it ever getting old.

okkervil

11. Arcade Fire - Reflektor - Haters gonna hate, but I love the new Arcade Fire more than any work they’ve done since Funeral. Funky and fresh, with a touch of David Bowie and James Murphy. What more can you ask for?

12. Typhoon - White Lighter - Holy cow these guys are good. Indie folk from Oregon. You probably haven’t heard much like them.

13. Arctic Monkeys - AM - Maybe not as gritty as their first albums, the new Arctic Monkeys release is more polished and perfect. They hit each note at the right time, and it still freaking rocks.

14. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories - How could I not include Daft Punk? They have been one of my favorite acts for 15 years. While Random Access Memories is different from some of their past works, the departure is towards greater artistry.

15. Caveman - Caveman - Their live show was really disappointing this year, but I still can’t get this softly subtle, indie-Americana album out of my head.

whitedenim

16. White Denim - Corsicana Lemonade - I didn’t love White Denim, but with this new album (Jeff Tweedy of Wilco produce) they really took it to a different level. Good solid rock and roll.

17. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers - Some 2.5 million people have seen their cover of I Can’t Go for That recorded in their tour van (see the first link), but Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers have more to offer than just covers. Channelling Bonnie Rait, these guys are packing some great 70′s style rock and roll. This album was even further reinforced by a badass live show at the Parish this fall on Nicki’s birthday. (Note: I also love Bonnie Rait)

18. Elvis Costello and the Roots - Wise Up Ghost - What collaboration did you least expect in 2013? If you guessed Elvis Costello and the Roots, then you guessed right. At first it seems like a surprising pairing, but the more you think about it and listen to it, it starts to make perfect sense. It has funk. It has horns. It has rock. It has a beat.

19. Wild Belle - Isles -  What can I say? I have loved Wild Belle since randomly seeing them on a side stage during SXSW 2012. This brother-sister duo of Elliot and Natalie Bergman from Chicago brings lethargic but well-layered reggae with an indie twist. Still can’t believe I used to regularly see Elliot in the afrobeat band NOMO while in grad school in Ann Arbor. Also helps that Natalie is both gorgeous and talented.

20. Latasha Lee & the BlackTiesLatasha Lee & the BlackTies – Wow, this girl can SING! She reminds me of Amy Winehouse but with more soul and reggae.

21. LordePure Heroine – Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everybody loves Lorde, but damn, this shit is good.

22. Jenny O. - Automechanic - Why are more people not listening to this lady? She’s a singer-songwriter with some attitude and her own sound.

umo

23. Unknown Mortal OrchestraII – These guys are definitely different, but when they bring out that low-fi ’70s soulfullness, I cannot resist.

24. CultsStatic – At first I didn’t like Cults’ sophomore release as much as their self-titled debut (which everybody should listen to), but after seeing them perform it live, I was sold. It’s like the 1960′s meets indie rock meets some electronic.

25. CayucasBigfoot – They sound like the Beach Boys meets 2013. It’s fun, summertime music that is hard to resist.

cayucas

  • AlpineA is for Alpine - A is also for Awesome, which is what this Australian indie pop debut album is.
  • Bear MountainXo - Eccentric, cluttered, electropop tunes from Canada
  • Busta Rhymes & Q-TipThe Abstract and the Dragon - I haven’t had a lot of time to listen to this album yet, but man, this is some great hip hop. How can you go wrong with these two? Listen online via the second link.
  • Cage the ElephantMelophobia - I really don’t know much about these guys but can’t help but really like this solid indie rock album that has a nice mid-90s feel at times.
  • Charli XCXTrue Romance - Unadulterated Britpop fun.
  • DeloreanApar - More beautiful, spacey, indie-electropop Basque tunes.
  • Deltron 3030Event II - Solid follow up to one of the best underground hip hop albums of the 2000′s.
  • Empire of the SunIce on the Dune - Great followup to their 2008 debut, Walking on a Dream. This is the best dance-pop album of the year.
  • HockeyWyeth IS - Slept on the new Hockey album until recently, but this is a great indie rock album and probably would have made my Top 25 if I’d started listening to it earlier in the year.
  • Kurt VileWakin on a Pretty Daze – This is a really great, mellow rock album from Kurt Vile, who at times sounds like Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, but overall it’s a bit too repetitive and similar from track to track.
  • Little DaylightTunnel Vision EP – Another great electropop act, this time from Brooklyn.

loscamp

  • Los Campesinos!No Blues - Not as great as their previous masterpiece, Hello Sadness, this is still a wonderful ironically bitter and sarcastic punkish indie rock album from one of my favorite bands.
  • Los Porcos“Sunshine / C.F.W.” EP – Love, love, love what the ex-members of WU LYF (minus frontman Ellery Roberts) are doing. This electropop goodness is candy for my ears, and I can’t wait until they cut a full album. If you’re wondering what Ellery Roberts is doing with his distinct voice, you need to see this video for Kerou’s Lament.
  • MS MRSecondhand Rapture - Dark, brooding, and awesome. Lizzy Plapinger can rock.
  • Neko CaseThe Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You – I still don’t love this as much as 2009′s Middle Cyclone, but it’s still Neko and unique, enigmatic, and badass.
  • Noah and the WhaleHeart of Nowhere – Sometimes this guys voice reminds me of They Might Be Giants. The songs are also very upbeat and sound a bit like the ’90s.
  • On An On - Give In - Solid indie rock debut.
  • Only RealDays in the City EP – Another fantastic EP from the English youth. I cannot wait until they come for SXSW and cut a full album next year. Seriously love this. It sounds like WU LYF meets Arctic Monkeys. Irreverent and yeah. Good stuff.
  • San CiscoSan Cisco – I like to describe these guys as the Australian Vampire Weekend but better. 
  • Sir SlyGold EP – Badass indie rock debut EP. These guys put on an energetic live show.
  • Radiator HospitalSomething Wild - Indie rock with a fast pace and a punk feel at times. This is some good stuff.
  • Trails and WaysTrilingual [EP] - Fresh and light indie pop from Oakland with lyrics sometimes in, you guessed it, three languages. Personally, I love the Ghost Beach cover of their song Miracle, which isn’t on this EP, best. Listen here.
  • Washed OutParacosm - New Washed Out is dreamy and beautiful and fresh like his first album.
  • Wolf AliceBros [Single] – While not an album, I love all the singles from Wolf Alice and cannot wait to see them at SXSW. Bros is upbeat indie pop and excellent.
  • Pretty Lights - A Color Map of the Sun - Best hip hop DJ album I have heard since Pretty Lights’ debut.

prettylights

Honorable Mention (Most of these I just haven’t listened to enough)

Final Thoughts

After putting this together, I now say, screw it. These albums are all #1 and worth your listen. Have fun.

“I fuck up all the time, but I don’t feel like I’ve ever sold my soul to the devil, and I don’t feel like I’ve ever sucked anybody’s dick to get anywhere. I don’t feel like I’ve ever played that game.”

-Jim James in Rolling Stone, 2013. 

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Happy Birthday, Thanen

I want to wish a happy birthday to my brother, Thanen, who passed away in the summer of 1995.

Eight years older, he and I shared the same birthday, November 28 (1974 and 1982 respectively).

He was a great older brother: letting me watch horror movies way too young, locking me in his room with my other siblings and pretending to be a zombie, hiding a tape recorder and getting me to say bad words and using the tape to blackmail me, letting me have his old Marvel toys, creating elaborate games and obstacle courses with us in the house and yard, being really cool, telling me not to smoke as he had a cigarette, learning to play guitar first, growing his hair long, telling me that I’m an annoying idiot, doing his own dubbing over ridiculous Hindi soap operas, and just being my brother.

I’ll never forget him and always think of him on this day we share.

Life wouldn’t be the same without him and isn’t the same without him.

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We are Winning the War on Crime

In case anybody has been feeling concerned about the state of the union, here are some interesting facts about crime trends in America for y’all.

The gist? We are Winning the War on Crime!

Thank this guy

Thank this guy

First: Crime is at a 45 year low in America.

As a whole, we have never been safer, and that is awesome and something we should celebrate!

Yes, we can always do a better job, but instead of freaking out about how bad things are, let’s throw ourselves a party.

mf_ddp_large

I’m not going to go into the Why’s (although I’m told there is a pretty fascinating study correlating the reduction in lead paint to the reduction in crime), but here are a lot of facts (sources at the bottom).

Note: I find the downward trend in crime particularly interesting considering we are poorer than ever.

Statistics Time

Overall Violent Crime is at its lowest level since 1970.

  • In 2012, the US had 387 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. That’s down 37%  since 1997
  • Tennessee had the most violent crime (644 per 100k)
  • Maine had the least violent crime (123 per 100k)

Crime1

Within violent crime:

  • Murder is at its lowest level since 1963
  • In 2012 the US had 4.7 murders per 100k, down 31%  since 1997
  • Louisiana has the highest murder rate (10.8 per 100k)
  • New Hampshire has the lowest murder rate (1.1 per 100k)
  • Even Chicago, which has seen an uptick in murders since hitting a 20 year low in 2007, has seen the murder rate drop 34% since 1997.
  • Rape is at its lowest level since 1976
  • In 2012 the US had 26.9 rapes per 100k, down 25%  since 1997
  • Alaska has the most rape (79.7 per 1ook) (and also the highest male to female ratio)
  • Virginia had the least rape (17.7 per 100k)
  • Robbery is at its lowest level since 1967
  • In 2012 the US had 113 per 100k, down 39%  since 1997
  • Nevada has the most robbery (178 per 100k)
  • Wyoming has the least robbery (10.6 per 100k)
  • Aggravated Assault is at its lowest level since 1976
  • In 2012 the US had 242 assaults per 100k, down 37%  since 1997
  • Tennessee has the most assault (480 per 100k)
  • Maine has the least assault (61 per 100k)

Crime2

Overall Property Crime is at its lowest level since 1967.

  • In 2012 the US had 2,860 property crimes per 100,000 residents. That’s down 34% since 1997
  • Arkansas has the most property crime (3,660 per 100k)
  • New York has the least property crime (1,922 per 100k)
  • Idaho was a close second least with 1,980 per 100k

Interesting stuff huh? That data comes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports. This data is collected from all local law enforcement agencies each year. It’s not perfect, as every agency has different policies and statistical collection and reporting methodologies, but it is the best we’ve got and is fairly comprehensive.

Now, some even more fascinating details on homicides and gun violence. This data comes from the Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. There are other sources that show similar trends.

Homicide & Guns

There’s a lot of interesting data on trends in homicide by type, relationships, gender, and race. The data I examined looked at the US during the period from 1980 to 2008. Here are some facts I pulled out:

  • The number of homicides has dropped consistently since 1980. I’m not talking just about the rate falling. The absolute number of homicides in the US fell from 23,040 in 1980 to 16,272 in 2008, a 29% decrease
  • The absolute number of gun homicides fell as well, dropping 24% for all guns during this period (27% for handguns and 18% for other guns)

Let’s stop a second and recognize this. Gun violence has reached a 30 year low in America. Just remember that.

  • A majority of homicides (67%) involve guns. This is a higher share than in 1980, but actually represents a lower number of gun homicides. It is just that other forms of homicide (knives, blunt objects, etc) have fallen even more quickly
  • Most gun homicides (71%) involve handguns
  • During the same period that gun homicides fell 24%, the number of gang-related gun homicides rose 447%

Crime3

This is another one to stop and recognize. Gang-related gun homicides only comprised less than 1% of homicides in 1980 but are now over 5%. Even though it is a relatively small share of homicides, this is the only significant category of homicide that has increased. If you read much about it too, it generally involves handguns, not automatic weapons.

  • The number of law enforcement officials killed in the line of duty by guns has fallen 63% since 1980.
  • Justifiable homicides comprise only 4% of the total and has remained flat the past 30 years. In 2008, roughly 3/5 of these were police vs. civilians
  • Of all homicides, 95.5% involve only 1 victim. Another 3.7% involve 2 victims. Only 0.8% involve 3 or more victims (up from 0.5% in 1980)
  • The share of homicides involving 5 ore more victims has remained flat at 0.1%, and the absolute number is down from 26 victims in 1980 to 16 in 2008

Another important point to consider with regards to all the fears about mass shootings. They’re incredibly rare.

  • The most common age group for homicide victims and offenders is 18 to 24
  • The largest share of homicides are committed by Friends/Acquaintances (26%), followed by Family/Intimates (18%), and then Strangers (12%). 44% are undetermined
  • Among family homicides: 37% involve a spouse/ex-spouse, 25% children, 19% other family, 13% parents, and 7% siblings
  • A vast majority (90%) of homicides of intimates (spouses, ex-spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends) are committed against women
  • Overall, men are 7 times more likely to commit homicides and 4 times more likely to be victims of homicides than women

There’s a lot to digest there, including both really positive trends and disturbing facts. Let’s celebrate that as a country we are hurting fewer people. We’re stealing, attacking, and murdering less than we have in generations. Of particular importance to remember is that as a whole we’re actually less at risk of gun violence than ever before.

But major concerns still remain. Women are disproportionately victims of spousal homicides, rape, and other violent crimes. Concentrated poverty raises crime rates, and we have seen economic disparity getting worse across the country. And even though it’s not on the scale of the late 1980s/early 1990s, gang related homicide has ballooned in recent years.

Let’s have an honest conversation about what is happening though. Let’s not exaggerate the problems or obsess over poorly crafted solutions. I also would like to hear more conversation about what we’re doing right, because clearly something has been working. We are winning, America.

charlie-sheen-e2809cthe-only-thing-ie28099m-addicted-to-right-now-is-winning

Topic for another day: We are Losing the War on Drugs: And Why That’s Not Necessarily a Bad Thing

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The Actually Most Academically and Athletically Dominant Colleges in America – Nerd & Jock Ranking

If you don’t know this about me, I’m a huge nerd.

This morning I saw a Buzzfeed article on Facebook titled, The Most Academically and Athletically Dominant Colleges in America, and I thought, Wow, that sounds pretty cool. So, I checked it out, and lo and behold, one of my alma maters, The University of Michigan was ranked #1. While at first at thought this was awesome, I quickly realized that it was also bullshit. Because I know for a fact, that my other alma mater, Stanford, should be ranked #1, because we kick ass.

Okay, now I just sound like an asshole, but seriously, this ranking is nonsense in general because it doesn’t include private schools. The should at least title it “The Most Academically and Athletically Dominant Public Schools in America For Which We Have Data.”

Here’s how they describe their methodology:

“BuzzFeed plotted Forbes’ academic rankings of colleges and universities against USA Today’s tally of total athletic expenses (which doesn’t include private schools like Stanford or Notre Dame, FYI) to determine which schools value both athletics and academics. Then we weighted both ranks equally and tallied them up for our top 10″

So, not only does this not include private schools, but it uses Forbes’ ranking of schools (Forbes’ ranking lists tend to use dubious statistics) and athletic expenses, which in no way indicate a school’s dominance. Dominance is flatly measured in wins.

Here’s where I nerded out hard. Tony’s methodology:

Tony plotted the US News and World Report’s 2013 rankings of colleges and universities (the de facto standard) against The Director’s Cup 2013 final rankings (if you are unfamiliar, the Director’s Cup measures the overall success of NCAA schools in ALL sports each year, thus measuring overall athletic dominance) to determine which schools kick ass at both athletics and academics. Then he weighted both ranks equally and tallied them up for a top 159 (I know it’s a weird number, but I had my reasons).

How does it look? Check out the Top 10 below, and you can see my entire spreadsheet here.

Top 10 Most Athletically and Academically Dominant Universities in America

1. Stanford
2. Duke
3. Notre Dame
4. UCLA
5. Michigan
6. Princeton
7. USC
8. California
9. North Carolina
10. Virginia

Go Card! Go Blue! #nerdation

Okay, I also put together a bonus and ranked the major conferences:

Top 7 Most Athletically and Academically Dominant Major NCAA Conferences

1. Ivy League
2. Big Ten
3. ACC
4. PAC-12
5. SEC
6. Big 12
7. Big East

Sorry Big East, you fail. Also, had to include the Ivy League, because they really kicked the most ass on average when you look at all sports plus academics, but we all know they can’t do anything in sports that matter.

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Wishes

Wishes
Ted Berrigan

Now I wish I were asleep, to see my dreams taking place
I wish I were more awake
I wish a sweet rush of tears to my eyes
Wish a nose like an eagle
I wish blue sky in the afternoon
Bigger windows, & a panorama — light, buildings & people in street air
Wish my teeth were white and sparkled
Wish my legs were not where they are — where they are
I wish the days warmly cool & clothes I like to be inside of
Wish I were walking around in Chelsea (NY) & it was 5:15 a.m., the
sun coming up, alone, you asleep at home
I wish red rage came easier
I wish death, but not just now
I wish I were driving alone across America in a gold Cadillac
toward California, & my best friend
I wish I were in love, & you here

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Flowers

I plucked a tiny purple flower while walking with my dog today, but as we continued down the street under the Texas sun, the flower began to wilt, losing its fragile star shape.

I felt bad, because I had picked this flower for its beauty, and now it was dead.

Little matter that flowers only live a week maybe two in the spring around here, and this flower was already nearing its time.

But I didn’t know what to do with this thing, the flower that I plucked because it was pretty and thought maybe, if it doesn’t get crushed while I manage the dog’s leash in one hand and indelicately grip its stem between thumb and forefinger of my other, I could press it in a book when I get home.

Anyway, by now this flower is essentially dead and certainly not worthy of a book pressing. But what to do with it? How can I throw it in a trashcan like a crushed can? This flower was beautiful.

Suddenly I laughed at myself; a lot of thinking over a flower. Well, maybe only a split second, but funny that I pondered it. Or was it human instinct. Afterall, when did the flower lose its essence? When did it stop being something that I treasured?

When the human body stops functioning, we still honor the corpse. We observe gray flesh but see a person we knew, shared time with, maybe loved, and probably will miss, but mostly we follow procedure.

We preserve the body with chemicals, we put the body in a wooden box, we view the body in a quiet room, we put the body in a special car, we drive the body to a garden, we slowly lower the body into the ground, and we mark the earth above the body, so that it will be remembered forever.

But how is a corpse different from this dead flower? When does a person lose its essence?

This shell holds an imperfect shape, a ghostly reminder of something beautiful. But I am still alive, and I remember that beauty. No amount of care will give this flower back its value; it’s just another loose association of elements, like the ash on a cigarette, bound to be picked up in the wind or stuck to the bottom of a shoe.

I let the flower fall out of my left hand as I walked, feeling a momentary pang as I watched it land in the grass next to the sidewalk.

Then I saw a piece of broken glass and the plastic lid from a fast food soda cup.

Then I saw another small purple flower; it is spring afterall. I picked it, and hurried home to put it in a glass of water.

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