Tag Archives: Jesus

selections from Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

No one ever said that you could work hard—harder even than you ever thought possible—and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt. Continue reading

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selections from Sadhana: The Classic of Indian Spirituality by Rabindranath Tagore

Mind can never know Brahma, words can never describe him; he can only be known by our soul, by her joy in him, by her love. Continue reading

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selections from Room by Emma Donoghue

Presents

“It’s called mind over matter. If we don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” (10)

—————

I climb on Rocker to get the books from Shelf and I make a ten-story skyscraper on Rug. “Ten stories,” says Ma and laughs, that wasn’t very funny. (16)

—————

[R]aw things make us extra alive. (20)

—————

Silly Penis is always standing up in the morning, I push him down. (28)

—————

The cartoon planet’s not in evenings, maybe because it’s dark and they don’t have lamps there. I choose a cooking tonight, it’s not real food, they don’t have any cans. The she and the he smile at each other and do a meat with a pie on top and green things around other green things in bunches. Then I switch over to the fitness planet where persons in underwear with all machines have to keep doing things over and over, I think they’re locked in. That’s over soon and it’s the knockerdowners, they make houses into different shapes and also millions of colors with paint, not just on a picture but all over everything. Houses are like lots of Rooms stuck together, TV persons stay in them mostly but sometimes they go in their outsides and weather happens to them.

“What if we put the bed over there?” says Ma.

I stare at her, then I look where she’s pointing. “That’s TV Wall.”

“That’s just what we call it,” she says, “but the bed could probably fit there, between the toilet and…we’d have to shift the wardrobe over a bit. Then the dresser would be right here instead of the bed, with the TV on top of it.”

I’m shaking my head a lot. “Then we couldn’t see.”

“We could, we’d be sitting right here in the rocker.”

“Bad idea.”

“OK, forget it.” Ma folds her arms tight.

The TV woman is crying because her house is yellow now. “Did she like it brown better?” I ask.

“No,” says Ma, “she’s so happy it’s making her cry.”

That’s weird. “Is she happysad, like you get when there’s lovely music on TV?”

“No, she’s just an idiot. Let’s switch the TV off now.” (41-42)

—————

[E]verything’s breakable. (43)

—————

“If you play you won’t mind and you won’t matter.” (44)

—————

—————

Unlying

But when I want something I want it always, like chocolates, I never ate a chocolate too many times. (56)

—————

She goes to Sink and washes her face, I don’t know why because it wasn’t dirty but maybe there were germs. (57)

—————

“I don’t know.”

They way she says it, it’s strange. I think she’s pretending. “You have to know. You know everything.” (59)

—————

“Stories are a different kind of true.” (71)

—————

“My ears hurt,” I tell her.

Her eyebrows go up.

“It’s too quiet in them.”

“Ah, that’s because we’re not hearing all the little sounds we’re used to, like the heat coming on or the refrigerator hum.” (76)

—————

“What I’m doing is the opposite of lying. It’s, like, unlying.” (85)

—————

—————

Dying

When I was a little kid I thought like a little kid, but now I’m five I know everything. (102)

—————

I can think and do interesting stuff at the same time. Can’t she? (104)

—————

“Nobody’s going to rescue us.”

I don’t say anything. And then I say, “You don’t know everything there is.”

Her face is the strangest I ever saw. (104)

—————

“Scared is what you’re feeling,” says Ma, “but brave is what you’re doing.”

“Huh?”

“Scaredybrave.”

“Scave.”

Word sandwiches always make her laugh but I wasn’t being funny. (116)

—————

Ma’s still nodding. “You’re the one who matters, though. Just you.”

I shake my head till it’s wobbling because there’s no just me.

We look at each other not smiling. (128)

—————

Outsider don’t understand anything, I wonder do they watch too much TV. (152)

—————

“Yeah. I’ve seen the world and I’m tired now.”

“Oh, Jack,” she says, “we’re never going back.”

The car starts moving and I’m crying so much I can’t stop. (155)

—————

—————

After

catatonic (adj., Psychiatry)
of, relating to, or characterized by catatonia.
—informal: of or in an immobile or unresponsive stupor.
“The despot’s victims have an eerie pallor and appear to be in a borderline catatonic state after the long nightmare of their incarceration.” (165)

—————

Ma wipes my face with her hand, that spreads the tears. “Sorry,” she says, “sorry, I guess I’m moving too fast.” She gives me a hug that wets me all down me. “There’s nothing to cry about anymore.”

When I was a baby I only cried for a good reason. But Ma going in the shower and shutting me on the wrong side, that’s a good reason. (173)

—————

Every wall’s a different color, that must be the rule. (175)

—————

The glasses are invisible like ours but the plates are blue, that’s disgusting. (177)

—————

I go look at the tray Noreen brought. I’m not hungry but when I ask Ma she says it’s after one o’clock, that’s too late for lunch even, lunch should be twelve something but there’s room in my tummy yet.

“Relax,” Ma tells me. “Everything’s different here.”

“But what’s the rule?”

“There is no rule. We can have lunch at ten or one or three or the middle of the night.”

“I don’t want lunch in the middle of the night.”

Ma puffs her breath. “Let’s make a new rule that we’ll have lunch…anytime between twelve and two. And if we’re not hungry we’ll just skip it.”

“How do we skip it?”

“Eat nothing. Zero.”

“OK.” I don’t mind eating zero. “But what will Noreen do with all the food?”

“Throw it away.”

“That’s waste.”

“Yeah, but it has to go in the trash because it’s—it’s like it’s dirty.”

I look at the food all multicolored on the blue plates. “It doesn’t look dirty.”

“It’s not actually, but nobody else here would want it after it’s been on our plates,” says Ma. “Don’t worry about it.”

She keeps saying that but I don’t know to not worry.

I yawn so huge it nearly knocks me over. My arm still hurts from where it wasn’t numb. I ask if we can go back to sleep again and Ma says sure, but she’s going to read the paper. I don’t know why she wants to read the paper instead of being asleep with me. (184-185)

—————

I never saw Ma hug a someone else. (187)

—————

“Why did she laugh about me knowing all the words when I wasn’t making a joke?” I ask Ma after.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter, it’s always good to make people laugh.” (189)

—————

I remember manners, that’s when persons are scared to make each other persons mad. I say, “Please may you have me more pancakes?”

The she with the apron says, “He’s a doll.”

I’m not a doll, but Ma whispers it means the woman like me so I should let her call me one.

I try the syrup, it’s super extra sweet, I drink a whole little tub before Ma stops me. She says it’s only for putting on pancakes but I think that’s yucky.

People keep coming at her with jugs of coffee, she says no. I eat so many bacon I lose count, when I say, “Thank you, Baby Jesus,” people stare because I think they don’t know him in Outside. (192)

—————

“Are you enjoying it here?”

“I’m enjoying the bacon.”

He laughs, I didn’t know I made a joke again. “I enjoy bacon too. Too much.”

How can enjoying be too much? (194)

—————

“‘World is suddener than we fancy it.'” (194)

—————

“Everyone’s got a different story.” (195)

—————

In Outside the time’s all mixed up. Ma keeps saying, “Slow down, Jack,” and “Hang on,” and “Finish up now,” and “Hurry up, Jack,” she says Jack a lot so I’ll know it’s me she’s talking to not persons else. (196)

—————

“You were born with your eyes open.” (206)

—————

“The very best thing you did was, you got him out early,” says Dr. Clay. “At five, they’re still plastic.”

But I’m not plastic, I’m a real boy. (209)

—————

“Because we didn’t belong to him.”

“That’s right.” Dr. Clay’s smiling. “You know who you belong to, Jack?”

“Yeah.”

“Yourself.”

He’s wrong, actually, I belong to Ma. (209)

—————

When we go see Dr. Clay, Ma makes me tell about my dreams.

He thinks my brain is probably doing a spring cleaning.

I stare at him.

“Now you’re safe, it’s gathering up all those scary thoughts you don’t need anymore, and throwing them out as bad dreams.” His hands do the throwing.

I don’t say because of manners, but actually he’s got it backwards. In Room I was safe and Outside is the scary. (218-219)

—————

“Be gentle with it, Jack, it’s my present from Paul.”

I didn’t know it was hers-not-mine. In Room everything was ours. (220)

—————

“I keep messing up. I know you need me to be your ma but I’m having to remember how to be me as well at the same time and it’s…”

But I thought the her and the Ma were the same. (221-222)

—————

Lots and lots of hes and shes on the sidewalks, I never saw so many, I wonder are they all real for real or just some. “Some of the women grow long hair like us,” I tell Ma, “but the men don’t.”

“Oh, a few do, rock stars. It’s not a rule, just a convention.”

“What’s a—?”

“A silly habit everybody has. Would you like a haircut?” asks Ma.

“No.”

“It doesn’t hurt. I had short hair before—back when I was nineteen.”

I shake my head. “I don’t want to lose my strong.”

“Your what?”

“My muscles, like Samson in the story.”

That makes her laugh. (222-223)

—————

“Jack, there’s a lot of things in the world.”

“Zillions?”

“Zillions and zillions. If you try to fit them in all your head, it’ll just burst.” (228)

—————

I think buddy is man talk for sweetie. (240)

—————

I take Dora out and put my arms in her straps and I’m wearing it, I’m actually wearing Dora. (243)

—————

—————

Living

“That was Dr. Clay, your ma is stable. That sounds good, doesn’t it?”

It sounds like horses. (258)

—————

“He wants me not born.”

“He wants what?”

“He said I shouldn’t be and then Ma wouldn’t have to be Ma.”

Grandma doesn’t say anything so I think she’s gone downstairs. I take my face out to see. She’s still here with her arms wrapped around her tight. “Never you mind that a-hole.” (259)

—————

At breakfast Grandma takes a pill. I ask if it’s a vitamin. Steppa laughs. She tells him, “You should talk.” Then she says to me, “Everybody needs a little something.” (263)

—————

In Room we knowed what everything was called but in the world there’s so much, persons don’t even know the names. (267)

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God’s yellow face has a cloud on top. Colder suddenly. The world is always changing brightness and soundness, I never know how it’s going to be the next minute. (268)

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“‘Human kind cannot bear very much reality.'” (274)

—————

“She’s in the other wing, she needs to be on her own for a while.”

I think he’s wrong, if I was sick I’d need Ma with me even more.

“But she’s working really hard to get better,” he tells me.

I thought people are just sick or better, I didn’t know it was work. (275)

—————

“Why are places to eat called coffee shops?” I ask him.

“Well, coffee’s the most important thing they sell because most of us need it to keep us going, like gas in the car.” (278)

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The little cards with numbers all over are called a lottery, idiots buy them hoping to get magicked into millionaires. (285)

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I didn’t know persons could be private out in the world. (285)

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In the world I notice persons are nearly always stressed and have no time. (286)

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“Remember,” she says on the way to the white car, “we don’t hug strangers. Even nice ones.”

“Why not?”

“We just don’t, we save our hugs for people we love.”

“I love that boy Walker.”

“Jack, you never saw him before in your life.” (288)

—————

“Noreen tells me you’ve had a haircut.” Ma’s voice is tiny on the phone.

“Yeah. But I still have my strong.” I’m sitting under Rug with the phone, all in the dark to pretend Ma’s right here. “I have baths on my own now,” I tell her. “I’ve been on swings and I know money and fire and street persons and I’ve got two Dylan the Diggers and a conscience and spongy shoes.”

“Wow.”

“Oh and I’ve seen the sea, there’s no poo in it, you were tricking me.”

“You had so many questions,” says Ma. “And I didn’t have all the answers, so I had to make some up.”

I hear her crying breath.

“Ma, can you come get me tonight?”

“Not quite yet.”

“Why not?”

“They’re still fiddling with my dosage, trying to figure out what I need.”

Me, she needs me. (292-293)

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“Well, celebrity is a secondary trauma.” (306)

—————

Ma says everybody’s got a few different selves. (310)

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Grandma says why doesn’t Ma take me to the zoo but Ma says she couldn’t stand the cages. (312)

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“Do you sometimes wish we didn’t escape?”

I don’t hear anything. Then she says, “No, I never wish that.” (313)

—————

“‘The Soul selects her own Society—Then—shuts the Door—'” (314) Continue reading

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Paris · Farningham · London · Amsterdam

~ 0 ~
horrible traffic
in n out
4-hour delay
“this is the worst airline ever”
chili’s out of salad and Mexican food
geographically challenged hostess
know your rights!
sleep? dreamy purple pinkish tint thereof
a moment in Oslo
Paris
nightmare on rue chaptal
Moulin Rouge

~ 1 ~
walk to espresso
Tour Eiffel
walk along the Seine
lunch in the Latin Quarter?
Notre Dame
espresso for the Louvre
kill in the garden
fancy ass French food
Arc de Triomphe
legs falling off
white wine and Lucky Strike

~ 2 ~
Père Lachaise
Indian at Chapelle
Musée d’Orsay
USA WINS 0-1
fancy ass fucking ave (dck sp + chkn brst)
farewell to the Seine
1-2-3!!! something something Algérie!!!

~ 3 ~
omelette complet at the Gare du Nord
Eurostar to Ebbsfleet
tea (twice) on the Tabsfield green
tomato basil, cheesy mushroom quiche, fresh strawberry creme brûlée, and a couple pints with the wedding party and co.
the cottage

~ 4 ~
fresh fruit, meat, a poached egg, and coffee
dressing for the wedding
Frost on the green
wedding at St Peter and St Paul’s Church
half Indian feast and dance (the Brits, the delicious Indian food, the champagne beer red and white wine, the light rain, and heavy dancing)
afterparty at the cottage

~ 5 ~
breakfast redux (hungover version)
football w Maya on the green
to London
appetizing Indian leftovers
The Tower
wandering in the rain
St. Paul’s
old fucking white egg-headed, perfectly circular black spectacle-wearing, pound-grubbing pieces of shit ushers guarding against pilgrims at the footsteps to the house of god
covent garden
pho
lazying and familying

~ 6 ~
waking up sans Natalie in a nasty mood
bacon on a roll
cold shower
Tate Modern
Eat.
The Globe
Parliament
Westminster
Evensong
Upminster then Whitechapel
ALG v GER

~ 7 ~
waking up w Natalie, happily
full English breakfast in Whitechapel
Natural History Museum
Kensington Gardens
fancy ass Indian food
£5 to the girl from Canada Macedonia CA
USA v BLG :(

~ 8 ~
scratched iris
mushroom omelette
nap to
Stonehenge
and nap from
Nando’s w David and Evelyn

~ 9 ~
to Amsterdam
grocery shopping
white wine
Concertgebouw
a spliff at Rookie’s
shoarma on the corner

~ 10 ~
homemade breakfast
double espresso
spliff on the diagonal green
Rijksmuseum
shopping, snacks in bed
Little Thai Prince
red light district
overpriced and pre-rolled
stoned wander home
ice cream

~ 11 ~
bacon breakfast
Blue Bird
Myrabelle, bartended by a more muscular and more feminine version of John Dwyer.
gluten-free crackers, goat cheese, smoked salmon, olives dripping in oil and basil, water, and wine
second Thai dinner
Vondelpark
Amstels all night at the cafe
NED v CRC

~ 12 ~
nightmare
check out
fresh fruit pancake across from Anne Frank
spliff on the green
Van Gogh Museum
rest in Vondelpark
walk
coffee
bus
plane
tube

~ 13 ~
tube
train
plane
Oslo
plane
Oakland
home? Continue reading

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selections from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo… Continue reading

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my favorite Oscar Wilde poems

LIBERTATIS SACRA FAMES

Albeit nurtured in democracy,
And liking best that state republican
Where every man is Kinglike and no man
Is crowned above his fellows, yet I see,
Spite of this modern fret for Liberty,
Better the rule of One, whom all obey,
Than to let clamorous demagogues betray
Our freedom with the kiss of anarchy.
Wherefore I love them not whose hands profane
Plant the red flag upon the piled-up street
For no right cause, beneath whose ignorant reign
Arts, Culture, Reverence, Honour, all things fade,
Save Treason and the dagger of her trade,
And Murder with his silent bloody feet. (699)

—————

REQUIESCAT

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman, so
Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone,
She is at rest.

Peace, peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life’s buried here,
Heap earth upon it. (709)

—————

THE HARLOT’S HOUSE

We caught the tread of dancing feet,
We loitered down the moonlit street,
And stopped beneath the harlot’s house.

Inside, above the din and fray,
We heard the loud musicians play
The “Treues Liebes Herz” of Strauss.

Like strange mechanical grotesques,
Making fantastic arabesques,
The shadows raced across the blind.

We watched the ghostly dancers spin
To sound of horn and violin,
Like black leaves wheeling in the wind.

Like wire-pulled automatons,
Slim silhouetted skeletons
Went sidling through the slow quadrille.

They took each other by the hand,
And danced a stately saraband;
Their laughter echoed thin and shrill.

Sometimes a clockwork puppet pressed
A phantom lover to her breast,
Sometimes they seemed to try to sing.

Sometimes a horrible marionette
Came out, and smoked its cigarette
Upon the steps like a live thing.

Then, turning to my love, I said,
“The dead are dancing with the dead,
The dust is whirling with the dust.”

But she–she heard the violin,
And left my side, and entered in:
Love passed into the house of lust.

Then suddenly the tune went false,
The dancers wearied of the waltz,
The shadows ceased to wheel and whirl.

And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl. (779)

—————

THE ARTIST

One evening there came into his soul the desire to fashion an image of The Pleasure that abideth for a Moment. And he went forth into the world to look for bronze. For he could only think in bronze.

But all the bronze of the whole world had disappeared, nor anywhere in the whole world was there any bronze to be found, save only the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that endureth for Ever.

Now this image he had himself, and with his own hands, fashioned, and had set it on the tomb of the one thing he had loved in life. On the tomb of the dead thing he had most loved had he set this image of his own fashioning, that it might serve as a sign of the love of man that dieth not, and a symbol of the sorrow of man that endureth for ever. And in the whole world there was no other bronze save the bronze of this image.

And he took the image he had fashioned, and set it in a great furnace, and gave it to the fire.

And out of the bronze of the image of The Sorrow that endureth for Ever he fashioned an image of The Pleasure that abideth for a Moment. (843)

—————

THE DOER OF GOOD

It was night-time and He was alone.

And He saw afar-off the walls of a round city and went towards the city.

And when He came near He heard within the city the tread of the feet of joy, and the laughter of the mouth of gladness and the loud noise of many lutes. And He knocked at the gate and certain of the gate-keepers opened to Him.

And He beheld a house that was of marble and had fair pillars of marble before it. The pillars were hung with garlands, and within and without there were torches of cedar. And He entered the house.

And when He had passed through the hall of chalcedony and the hall of jasper, and reached the long hall of feasting, He saw lying on a couch of sea-purple one whose hair was crowned with red roses and whose lips were red with wine.

And He went behind him and touched him on the shoulder and said to him, “Why do you live like this?”

And the young man turned round and recognised Him, and made answer and said, “But I was a leper once, and you healed me. How else should I live?”

And He passed out of the house and went again into the street.

And after a little while He saw one whose face and raiment were painted and whose feet were shod with pearls. And behind her came, slowly as a hunter, a young man who wore a cloak of two colours. Now the face of the woman was as the fair face of an idol, and the eyes of the young man were bright with lust.

And He followed swiftly and touched the hand of the young man and said to him, “Why do you look at this woman and in such wise?”

And the young man turned round and recognised Him and said, “But I was blind once, and you gave me sight. At what else should I look?”

And He ran forward and touched the painted raiment of the woman and said to her, “Is there no other way in which to walk save the way of sin?”

And the woman turned round and recognised Him, and laughed and said, “But you forgave me my sins, and the way is a pleasant way.”

And He passed out of the city.

And when He had passed out of the city He saw seated by the roadside a young man who was weeping.

And He went towards him and touched the long locks of his hair and said to him, “Why are you weeping?”

And the young man looked up and recognised Him and made answer, “But I was dead once and you raised me from the dead. What else should I do but weep?” (843-4) Continue reading

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spacing out

lord, can you hear me?

lord, can you hear me at all? i want to be an ear.

lord, i want to be an ear, not a mouth. i don’t want to talk to anybody about anything anymore. i don’t want to have arguments or agreements, disputes or discussions. i don’t want to update my status and i don’t want to comment on others’ status updates. i don’t want to tweet. i don’t want to whisper and i don’t want to tell secrets to the redwoods, because i talk too fast for them anyway.

lord, i want to listen. i want to hear everything the redwoods have to say, but i’d need to be an ear to do that. i want to hear the crashing of the ocean waves over and over and over and over again for all eternity until every last crashing drop of H-2-O is dried up and evaporated into nothing. i wonder what Yellowstone has to say. or Yosemite. or Jesus. Jesus on the crucifix. Jesus crucified ten billion times in mind, in wood, in iron, in ions of all kinds for two thousand years and counting.

lord, i want to hear the earth scream. (because i know it’s screaming.) i want to hear the universe wailing. (because i know it’s wailing.) i want to hear the sun singing. (because i know it’s singing.)

lord, i want to know what my cat is saying.

lord, can you hear me? Continue reading

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my top ten albums of 2013

in the twelfth month, like the rest of the stinking Internet and its rabid music fans, i like to compile my top ten favorite albums from the past year. i do things only slightly differently from the rest. for one, i don’t rank them. i used to rank the albums, but it’s truly an exercise in bullshittery because–let’s be frank–a list of the “top ten” albums is silly enough already… no point in making it any sillier. secondly, like the rest of my blog, i keep it pretty personal. so don’t mind the two albums from 2012 and the two from the late 1970s that accidentally found their way in. whoops!

without further ado…

a1744531296_10

Allah-Las — Allah-Las (2012)

it’s worth noting that this is the only rock & roll album to make my list this year. certainly that says more about me, and how much disco took over my life this year, than it does about the current rock scene. or so i hope.

thankfully, there’s at least this album floating around my mind. hailing from southern California, this would be modern-day garage rock revivalist at its finest… if it weren’t for Thee Oh Sees. but where dOCs are violent, Allah-Las are chill… where dOCs jam and jam for ten minutes at a time, Allah-Las are content with a little four-minute ditty… where dOCs push garage rock into its punk rock tendencies, Allah-Las wade into the psychedelic center between beach and the desert. “Sacred Sands.”

from the straightforward drums to the steady bass to the twangy guitar to the inviting voice, this music easily tricks listeners into thinking it came out in 1967, not 2012. even the number of tracks–12, or six to a side–feels like a throwback to 60s LPs. it’s only 40-minutes, and it’s just plain good.

—————

Cest+Chic+Chic

C’est Chic — Chic (1978)

i’m just going to be straight up: Nile Rodgers appears on this list three times.

it’s quite overdue. if ronblog were a shitty music awards program, i would be making a big speech about how we all worship Nile before handing him a “lifetime achievement award,” secretly masking the fact that we basically snubbed him for 40 straight years from the actual awards. in short, 2013 is the year i discovered how much Nile matters to music.

Carly Simon. Chromeo. Daft Punk. David Bowie. Diana Ross. Duran Duran. Larry Levan. Madonna. Notorious B.I.G. Sister Sledge. The Sugarhill Gang. Will Smith. the list goes on… and yet it doesn’t matter. the influence this man had on disco, funk, soul, and all music forever and ever cannot be computed.

while i had listened to many the above artists and even a ton of songs performed and produced by Nile, it wasn’t until Daft Punk’s collaborator series that i actually sat down and listened to Chic albums. i listened to a handful of the essential ones, but none are quite as perfect through and through as this one. unlike much of the disco hits of the late 70s and early 80s, “Le Freak” is actually far from the highlight of the album. from the opening cheer to the b-side’s house-y opener to the closing track’s irresistible grooves and laughter, it never lets up. even the slow songs are superb.

what more can i say? music like this never goes out of fashion. c’est chic!

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good kid, m.A.A.d city — Kendrick Lamar (2012)

i am a sinner who’s probably gonna sin again
Lord, forgive me… Lord, forgive me things i don’t understand
sometimes i need to be alone
bitch don’t kill my vibe, bitch don’t kill my vibe
i can feel your energy from two planets away
i got my drink, i got my music, i would share it but today i’m yelling
bitch don’t kill my vibe, bitch don’t kill my vibe, bitch don’t kill my vibe, bitch don’t kill my vibe

the year wasn’t yet halfway over, and i was already treating these lines like a prayer. whether freezing in a lake in Yellowstone National Park or freezing while biking through San Francisco streets or pissed off or annoyed or frustrated at somebody or no one, all i have to do is close my eyes, breathe, and recite these lines. what mantra could be better than “bitch don’t kill my vibe”?

and yet, at the same time, the very use of the word “bitch” makes some of the feminists in my life (and even a bit of the feminist in me, if such a thing can be said to exist) flinch at the word. not just the word, but the aggressive, over-the-top, gangsta machismo. “i pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower, so i can fuck the whole world for 24 hours!”

it’s silly… stupid even. but is it excusable? is it okay for a black kid from Compton to throw around “bitch” at the expense of women just so he can tell his own troubling story of an unprivileged life, of unavoidable heart-wrenching loss? does he even know he’s doing it? is this a step forward for everyone, or a step backward? is he talking about real pain? is this real pain? is this okay?

these are not my questions to answer. all i can say is “bitch don’t kill my vibe” while i rock my head to these sweet beats. and listen.

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Random Access Memories — Daft Punk (2013)

big. fucking. surprise.

no, but really, if you had asked me a year ago whether i’d put the upcoming Daft Punk album on my 2013 list, i’d have responded, “i don’t know… i really hope so.” it’s like i was traumatized from an experience in high school, when Nine Inch Nails made its epic comeback with the dullness of “The Hand That Feeds” and the okay-whatever of With Teeth. poor teenage ronny.

what would i do this time, besides try desperately to not have expectations? i would hope.

i still remember the moment when i heard the name of the album for the first time. when i saw the album cover for the first time. when i heard the first 15-second clip of “Get Lucky.” when i heard the second 15-second clip of “Get Lucky.” when they released the minute-long teaser at Coachella, complete with sparkly Pharrell, Nile, and robots. i remember playing that minute over and over again. i remember watching the collaborators’ videos. i remember waking up in the morning to see if a new one had been posted. i remember telling all my friends that the video series was too much, it was becoming a shitty marketing gimmick. i remember i kept waiting every day for more and more. i remember the full release of “Get Lucky” and playing it in the living room. i remember playing it multiple times at my house party that weekend, no shame. i remember the video they released the morning of the album’s release, i remember hearing the beginning of “Give Life Back to Music” with its epic dad rock intro, and i remember–at that very moment–feeling, at its most potent, the insane concoction of fear, hope, humility, and ecstasy that had been brewing in my brain for months, years.

then… i remember reserving a conference room at work, stepping inside, and pressing play.

i didn’t know what to think. it felt so cheesy. the intro to “Give Life Back to Music.” the emo voice on “The Game of Love.” the two whole minutes of talking on “Giorgio by Moroder” and its F-Zero finale of a guitar solo. more emo piano and singing. emo indie rock. and then “Get Lucky.” and then the rest of the album.

everyone was talking about the album online. most people loved “Giorgio,” which i didn’t quite understand. maybe, to their ears, it made up for the album’s lack of hard-hitting house music. the lack of Discovery. i didn’t really have a strong opinion. i felt confused and intrigued, and that delighted me.

i listened again. and again. and again and again and again and again. and it kept getting better. an accelerating Nilephile, i quickly cherished the funky-as-a-feather guitar work on the first track and the two singles. the perfect musicianship on “Game of Love” floored me time and again, and still does today. “Get Lucky” doesn’t get old for me. “Beyond” feels like the 70s and, like the songs we love from that time, so far beyond. the ending track… an experiment in noise and rocketry. and… “Touch.” the track that Xanthe thinks i only claim to actually like because she hates it so much. but i understand. it’s out there. it’s almost ten minutes long. it’s orchestrated, it sounds more like Sufjan Stevens than Daft Punk. but it’s so joyous and heartfelt and wonderful that once, while listening to it on a pier at the Embarcadero, i almost cried along to its sublimity.

they’d captured me. they brought in virtuosic studio musicians, recorded an orchestra onto tape, toiled over hundreds of tracks, and released not just an homage, but an autobiography. a love letter. a perfect, beautiful album.

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Random Access Memories Memories — Daftside (2013)

only one month after the release of RAM–i swear to god–Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington released this ridiculous rework of Daft Punk’s entire album. and i loved it.

every single component that made RAM what it was, they inverted. Nile Rodgers, the guy who played drums on Thriller, orchestras, and analog tape decks? we’ll just do this in Ableton. millions of dollars of hype and months of marketing? we’ll just upload this to SoundCloud. seven years making your album? we’ll do this in one month.

it’s half a joke, which is obvious when you hear the 2-second version of “Lose Yourself to Dance,” but, taken as a whole, it’s really not bad! Darkside knows what sounds good, so their screwing around with a great Daft Punk album in Ableton for a month actually isn’t a waste of time.

it sounds good, and they get a thousand points for creativity.

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Shaking the Habitual — The Knife (2013)

The Knife challenges you to look at this art, as they challenge you to listening to this album. The Knife challenges you to listen to this album, as they challenge you to understand what it’s about.

life is hard. waking up for work is struggle enough for some of us, but making it to 5pm can be even harder. when we get home, we want to drink beer, smoke a bowl, put on the game, and/or hear the smooth, pleasant “Heartbeats” of our favorite artists’ best songs. we don’t want to think about how many people don’t have jobs or money. we don’t want to think about the countries where, with our salaries, we would be considered the 1%. we don’t even want to think about how 50% of the world–our mothers, sisters, and daughters–automatically face a disadvantage in what we call the civilized world. we don’t want to wonder whether these things could possibly be connected, or how.

but we probably should.

you are given time to think about these things on the 10 eerie minutes of “Fracking Fluid Injection,” nothing but shrieks through a delay pedal and clings and clangs for percussion. you are given time to think about these things on the 20 spaced-out minutes of “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized,” which sounds like the soundtrack to a haunted planetarium show from 1972.

no, we are forced to think about these things on all nine-and-some-minutes of “Full of Fire,” which you think starts abrasively, but only grows increasingly frantic and insane as the minutes going on… until the last 10 seconds, when Karin ruins your favorite Salt-N-Pepa chorus with the line, “let’s talk about gender, baby, let’s talk about you” in a toilet flushing frenzy of distortion and noise.

you can feel the passion.

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Slow Focus — Fuck Buttons (2013)

to be honest, i can’t say too much about this album because i’ve only listened to it a couple times. so why does it make the list?

one, because it’s that damn good. Fuck Buttons is always damn good. to my ears, they’ve maintained consistently solid jams from Street Horrrsing to Tarot Sport to this. i wouldn’t say they’ve changed what they do very much, but that’s fine. they’ve got a good thing going.

two, because i saw them play it live. i was right near the stage in a small venue, i had ear plugs in, and i still felt myself going deaf. it’s just two guys, a shitton of electronics, and a floor tom, and yet their energy infected the crowd. electronic drone post-rock should be electrifying… just like this.

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Tomorrow’s Harvest — Boards of Canada (2013)

like the Fuck Buttons record, i’m not really an expert with this one. but i’ve listened to it just enough times to know it’s damn good.

even moreso, Boards of Canada have selected a tone for themselves and they know how to house themselves within that tone in a way that doesn’t become boring and repetitious. instead, they make the tone work for them in new and strange ways that keeps listeners like me and Mark F coming back for more.

besides, its theme shares sentiments with The Knife’s album: if we don’t look at this problem seriously, the problem being all of us, then we’re most certainly fucked.

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We Are Family — Sister Sledge (1979)

damn, look at those pretty sisters.

their luscious, harmonious voices match their smooth brown skin and the flowers blooming in their dark hair. they sing about how “He’s the Greatest Dance” and how they’re “Lost in Music.” they even plead at the end of the album that you “kiss me, say it one more time.” two decades before Daft Punk asked anyone to do anything “One More Time.”

from beginning to end, it’s all Edwards and Rodgers ripping up the bass and electric, laying down divine disco guitar for the four lovely ladies above to help you lose track of time.

dance music that Larry Levan, James Murphy, and your mom can very much get behind. we are family.

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Yeezus — Kanye West (2013)

Kanye says a lot of stupid shit. i mean a LOT of stupid shit. the shit on Kendrick’s album becomes standard fare salad at your local buffet when you compare it to the raw steak dripping fat and blood that are the words that never cease to spew from the mouth of Mr. West.

it’s worth repeating: anyone who listens to the Kanye’s music for the lyrics first is walking a risky road. even on The College Dropout, this guy was no poet.

but those beats.

i listen to the first 33 seconds of the first track–you know, the whole 33 seconds before Kanye says a single word–and i’m already convinced that this album is better than 99% of the music released in the past decade. i restart the track, just to make sure, and turn the volume up to 11… oh god yes. that’s the good shit. it’s that crack music.

how much does Kanye not give a fuck? enough to drop an angelic sample singing, “oh… he’ll give us what we need…. it may not be what we want,” in the midst of the hellish analog synth terrordome that is just song number one.

next song? panting human breath all throughout. next song? ghoulish screams chained to ice cold death. next song? Kanye thinks we’re trying to make new slaves, and he makes a damn good point. i’m not feeling very comfortable at this point. i feel somewhere between Kendrick and the Knife, and it’s a bit maddening.

it doesn’t get lighter. if anything it gets darker and madder and more ruthless… until “Bound 2.” gentle singing women, sampled brilliant by Yeezus to carry us away on a cloud of… confusion and love.

if any musician created passionate, unrelenting, avant-garde art in 2013, that musician is Kanye West. Continue reading

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Yeezus

http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/kanye-west/2013/oracle-arena-oakland-ca-6bc77226.html Continue reading

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who can judge me?

in which the Hero doesn’t give a shit. Continue reading

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