Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013
13

I Broke Up With Writing (And It Feels OK)

I'm torn on advice. Sometimes you're given some and it matters right there on the spot. Then there's the advice that sits alongside pathetic life-as-lit, lit-as-life devices—think fantasies of watching your own funeral or accurately narrating your life as it unfolds. This is the kind of advice that, either in the moment or as memory, arrives perfectly formed and quotable, a single well-turned line that turns your life into a teaching tool for all humanity. And then there's the advice that slips by unnoticed at the time, that you cull meaning from only in retrospect, out of metaphysical necessity. How did I get here, anyway? Someone must have told me [...]

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9

The Condition: Chronic Self-Disclosure

A decade ago, the internet's signature feature was obfuscation. You could invent a new identity; embellish your life to make it that much more interesting; buff out the imperfections; or just hide without feeling like an anti-social creep for it. Message boards, chat rooms, and nascent blogs, all depended on a technology-induced veil, a curtain that shielded online actions. What you saw was what people had selectively chosen as representations of themselves. Sometimes, though, information flowed in the opposite direction. Insider-y knowledge that had previously been the mark of real-life, earned inclusion in a community now could be readily acquired online. The internet was an unstable space; it allowed us [...]

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12

Drake's "HYFR": Whose Bar Mitzvah Is It Anyway?

The text at the beginning of Drake's video for "HYFR"—"On October 24th 2011 Aubrey 'Drake' Graham chose to get re-bar mitzvah'd as a re-commitment to the Jewish religion … the following is a clip displaying the event that took place"—can be taken as seriously or sardonically as you want. Drake's much-anticipated "bar mitzvah" video, released on the first night of Passover, was originally hyped on the web as a "re-creation" of his original childhood ceremony. We get actual footage from baby Drake’s celebration at the intro, but beyond that, this is a music video staged at a bar mitzvah. If we hadn’t been told in advance that it means [...]

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32

How 'Try A Little Tenderness' Got Its Soul (And Lost It)

"Sounds so soulful, don't you agree?"

That's Jay-Z, breaking in to admire the long, pitched-down passage from "Try A Little Tenderness" that opens "Otis," the second official leak from Jay and Yeezy's Watch The Throne. The track on "Otis" alternates between interpolation and staccato bursts, as if torn between literalism (reverence?) and avoiding a lawsuit (its own kind of nostalgia). Since it's 2011, and Otis Redding's estate is well advised of its rights and powers, Redding is credited as a featured artist on the track, a featured role that almost makes it seem like "Otis" is the King of Soul's posthumous tribute to himself, "Unforgettable" minus the filial right, [...]

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7

The Condition: Personality Seepage

I can’t tell if the Internet is a never-ending job, an inescapable workplace, or both. I suppose my job is “writing” (I try to stay a notch above “warrior of content”) but it still feels weird to introduce myself as “a writer." In my ears this always sounds like I've been revising a historical novel about my great-uncle's flight from a Cossack bandit gang in the latter part of the Crimean war, complete with an appendix explaining several varieties of cannon.

For pretty much all my waking hours, I sit in front of a laptop, juggling windows and frantically typing as the world goes white behind me. Multi-tasking was a [...]

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12

The Highly-Authentic Ghost of Townes Van Zandt

The twelfth highest-grossing film in America this past week was Country Strong. In it, Goop plays Kelly Canter, a boozed-out, decrepit country star just looking for another chance. Tim McGraw tackles the role of James Canter, the long-suffering cardigan that also happens to be her husband, manager and occasional tormentor. Leighton Meester is Chiles Stanton, a sweet young thing making the leap from pageants to the music biz. Garrett Hedlund is Beau Hutton, a dreamy rehab janitor who lives to play the honky-tonks. It's the second film from Shana Feste—not a stage name—and Tobey Maguire snagged a production credit.

I saw it recently, on the smallest, dingiest screen at [...]

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5

How Twitter And Facebook Are Changing Internet Buzz

I have never understood how critics, outside of the few tenured at operations with their heads above water, manage to make a living. I say this as someone who, for several years, more or less got by writing about music. The primary audience for criticism seems to be other critics, or at least consumers with, for lack of a better word, "critical" sensibilities. But maybe I'm denying the awesome, fundamental power of the written word. Criticism—and in this, I would include any form of review or preview—passes judgment so that others might be free, or at least spared any inconvenience.

Naturally, this is an essay about Twitter.

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1

What We Mean When We Say "The End Of The World"

As a child I realized I would die, and thought about it often. My parents, now divorced, both like to recount the time I made this sad, if fairly inevitable, discovery. We were driving by a cemetery; I asked if all animals died, then if people were animals, and when I got my answers, was quiet for a long time. In second grade, I realized that looking forward to summer vacation was the same as eating away at the balance of my time on Earth. It was hard to enjoy the tire swing after that. Two years later, it was even worse. My family went to Montreal (again, the [...]

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5

Captain Beefheart, Gilbert Arenas And The Fate Of The Weirdo

Captain Beefheart died with the mark of the weirdo on him. If the twelve-tone Howlin' Wolf acolyte who dabbled in Surrealism and late Coltrane hadn't once been mistaken for a rock musician, his passing wouldn't be national news. But he was, and thus became the kind of eccentric who can't simply be ignored. Beefheart had to be confronted.

Some records don't get reviews, they get epigrams. Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica isn't "the sound of a generation", "when [insert genre] grew up", or "the greatest no one ever heard." Instead, it's "that one you have to listen to at least once"—after which, presumably, you're either converted for life [...]

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20

Ikea Shelving And The Impossible Pursuit Of Perfection

For as long as I can remember, I've gone out of my way to enjoy eves, precipices and the part of a roller coaster right before that first drop. Even though I hate everything that comes next—and in the case of holidays and other special occasions, I bore easily. I just love the anticipation. Still, the night before my second book came out, all I could think about was my fucking record shelf.

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11

Solomon Burke, Still Just Out of Reach

As callow as it sounds, I used to be really into trying to see so-and-so just once before he passed away. If it wasn't downright morbid, a close cousin of ambulance chasing, it was a waste of time that too often left me grasping at those few seconds during which I could feel the past right in front of me. Then again, I did see Solomon Burke play for half an hour at Penn's Landing in 2002.

Philly native Burke, who passed away this weekend on an airplane on his way to a gig, was only in his early 60s when I saw him and yet he spent most [...]

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6

Barack Obama's New Council of Advisors

As anyone who once gave $15 to the Obama campaign knows, POTUS had a birthday this weekend. We signed the card, along with the family dog… and Michelle left town.

Naturally, the most powerful man in the galaxy had but one option: invite over a Murderer's Row of basketball greats past and present to play some ball and have an informal cook-out. Footage from this unusual event is fast becoming the Holy Grail for, well, me; if nothing else, we deserve a few choice vignettes. There's infinite grist for jokes-"did you hear the one about Kobe Bryant, Bill Russell, and the last bag of chips?"-and, more seriously, a thousand [...]

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11

Amar'e Stoudemire And My Jewish Problem

Pish to the LeBron James television special, or Kevin Durant's unassuming tweet that he would be keeping his talents in Oklahoma City. At least within my little world, no NBA star has generated more multimedia tailspin this off-season than new Knick Amar'e Stoudemire.

Last week the impossibly sculpted, explosive 28-year-old power forward proclaimed, via Twitter, that he was a Jew headed to Israel to study Hebrew, Yesterday saw the release of a completely baffling sitdown with the Israeli station Sport5, where Stoudemire insists on stumbling through the tough questions that the interviewer is trying to avoid. As much of a professional mistake as this may prove to [...]

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21

Why New Yorkers Should Still Be (Kind Of) Excited About The Knicks

I could have changed the history of the city of New York. Back when the Mayor was busting his pockets trying to land the NBA's prime free agent-back when anything was possible and any team could land LeBron James-I got recruited to help. A friend of a friend asked me to select soundtrack for part of the campaign, presumably because I write about basketball and the perils of Ikea's Expedit, exclusively.

But journalistic ethics got the best of me, and I politely declined. So if you're still looking for a scapegoat, I'm your man.

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