Thursday, March 21, 2013


We celebrated my mother's and sister's birthdays tonight. It was nice at first... unforced.

But then my brother-in-law noticed smoke outside. I thought it was a grill, but it got thicker and we realized there was a fire. Someone outside said they had called 911, but it turns out they hadn't. Apparently they thought their small extinguisher would do the trick.

It didn't work. The smoke got heavier. Someone thought they saw orange light in a back room.

One of the cats came out right away, which is what I'd always hoped ours would do. But some guy with a blue bandana over his face said the other cat was still inside.

I just sat down on the sofa with q little boy in my lap. I clapped our hands to distract him from the commotion outside and in the living room.

"Oh my god. The other cat ran back inside."

That's when he and I went downstairs to my old room. We could hear the sirens as they finally arrived outside. The room is different now. Green Christmas wrapping paper is tacked to the parts of the corkboard walls that our cats ripped up when we stayed there for a summer. The half bunkbed I slept in from the month my mom moved out through high school was gone, replaced with stacks of cardboard boxes. I saw a yellowing copy of a 2000 edition of the Onion and stacks of debate files about nanotechnology. The little black and white tv was stil there so I turned it on to distract us. American Idol or something. While my son limped around the room and stared at the boxes and diagonal wood paneling, I remembered myself in this room ten years before. Despite my lies, I'd left school for a woman who no longer seemed to want much to do with me. Those late nights eating microwaved colby-jack nachos, camping on dial-up AOL with syndicated Seinfeld, Married With Children, and Jerry Springer in the background. That Rites of Spring CD that turned my stomach into a mustard gassed trench when I played it everyday. Marathon Sim City sessions until I could see the light step through the window, letting me know I needed to get ready to go to my art history class at the local community college. Terrible impressions of Saddam Hussein during the early weeks of the Iraq invasion.

I was lost in this for a moment before they told me it was safe to come up. The fire was out, but the renter had returned home to two dying cats. They tried to resuscitate them, but it didn't work. My wife said he fell over when he saw the blanket get pulled over one of the cats. I couldn't look out the window. I just sat on the couch and tried to show a little boy how to give me a high five with his tiny, yogurt-greased fingers.

Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Music

I wish I could think straight enough to say something interesting about the albums on this list, but I'm afraid I'm out of gas for the year. Too much time trying to figure out how to speed up conservation easement sales and not enough time thinking about music. :\ 

Lots of new artists that I was surprised to discover, as well as some familiar faces.

1. Swans - The Seer
2. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory
3. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
4. POS - We Don't Even Live Here
5. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
6. Screaming Females - Ugly
7. Dr. John - Locked Down
8. Panopticon - Kentucky
9. Guided by Voices - Class Clown Spots a UFO
10. Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
11. AC Newman - Shut Down The Streets
12. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
13. Guided by Voices - The Bears for Lunch
14. Chromatics - Kill For Love
15. Cat Power - Sun
16. Bob Mould - Silver Age
17. Grimes - Visions
18. Cut Hands - Black Mamba
19. El-P - Cancer 4 Cure
20. Lambchop - Mr. M
21. Frankie Rose - Interstellar
22. Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It
23. Dan Deacon - America
24. Daughn Gibson - All Hell
25. Grizzly Bear - Shields
26. Sleigh Bells - Reign of Terror
27. Leonard Cohen - Old Ideas
28. Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits
29. Acephalix - Deathless Master
30. Field Music - Plumb
31. Purity Ring - Shrines
32. Wild Nothing - Nocturne
33. The Boats - Ballads of the Research Department
34. Pilot to Gunner - Guilty Guilty
35. Sun Kil Moon - Among the Leaves
36. The Men - Open Your Heart
37. DIIV - Oshin
38. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
39. Passion Pit - Gossamer
40. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
41. Tame Impala - Lonerism
42. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
43. Pig Destroyer - Book Burner
44. Om - Advaitic Songs
45. Brian Eno - Lux
46. Lee Ranaldo - Between The Times & The Times
47. Metz - Metz
48. Deerhoof - Breakup Song
49. High on Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
50. Pallbearer - Sorrow and Extinction

Friday, December 28, 2012


It is a strange sensation being in a firm full of people who are furiously working on end-of-the-year projects while I just walk in slow motion. In case you haven't heard, rich people might have until the end of the year to transfer up to $10.24 million tax-free. That opportunity probably goes away at the end of the year, given Congress's lack of ability to cooperate on much of anything, whether it's a treaty to effectively export US disability rights norms to the rest of the world or an attempt to maintain the full faith and credit of the federal government.

I don't really have the multimillionaire clientele that justifies this crazy amount of work. I'm doing a handful of mostly non-billable projects about simple estate planning. I don't mind the work, but it lacks the urgency that keeps me from getting drowsy when I think for more than twenty minutes about estate planning.

But even if I had the urgent, exciting work, it wouldn't amount to much in the long run. That's not what I want out of my life right now. I would like to stop feeling sorry for myself, spinning my wheels, and feeling burnt out on things that aren't of much importance from my perspective and to just start creating things that really interest me. The only thing stopping me from reading and writing about things that I care about is my fear and my constant self-definition as a static being, rather than someone who is capable of becoming something else. I do have a baby to take care of, but I can make time if it's something that I care about.

It would be sad if billable work for rich people were the only thing left to give me passion and excitement. I want more out of this than that. This whole end of the year crush is as fake as events get. It kind of mirrors my broader attempts to inject energy into my life and overcoming how burnt out I feel by focusing on artificial stimulants. E.g. I'm depressed about the prospects for real political engagement, so I've resigned myself to cynicism, ignoring useful stories and focusing on whatever silly or snarky event this week excites my outrage.

I'm getting so tired of it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

This is unsettling.

Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” Mr. Holder said. “This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.”

I'm getting bad flashbacks of the Bush DOJ. As if we didn't have enough problems with the way that our justice system focuses so much on procedural due process, as opposed to substantive due process, now procedural due process is being gutted. Holder may argue that due process need not be judicial process, but how can there be any kind of meaningful process if there are no external checks or oversight on the President's killing power? "We promise we won't misuse state violence" is not compelling in a post-Iraq world (if it ever was). The pro-torture and invasion arguments had a similar ring. Congress's authorization of the use of force to fight terrorism seems to authorize practically anything. Look where "just trust us" has gotten us.

Holder would do well to remember the lessons of why, in the absence of exigent circumstances, due process requires some form of external oversight. First year law students learn about the problem of excessive cooperation between judges and law enforcement, noting how someone's views of whether a search is justified can be clouded by the competitive process of crime fighting.

The point of the Fourth Amendment, which often is not grasped by zealous officers, is not that it denies law enforcement the support of the usual inferences which reasonable men draw from evidence. Its protection consists in requiring that those inferences be drawn by a neutral and detached magistrate instead of being judged by the officer engaged in the often competitive enterprise of ferreting out crime. Any assumption that evidence sufficient to support a magistrate's disinterested determination to issue a search warrant will justify the officers in making a search without a warrant would reduce the Amendment to a nullity and leave the people's homes secure only in the discretion of police officers. Crime, even in the privacy of one's own quarters, is, of course, of grave concern to society, and the law allows such crime to be reached on proper showing. The right of officers to thrust themselves into a home is also a grave concern, not only to the individual but to a society which chooses to dwell in reasonable security and freedom from surveillance. When the right of privacy must reasonably yield to the right of search is, as a rule, to be decided by a judicial officer, not by a policeman or Government enforcement agent. 
 Johnson v. U. S. , 333 U.S. 10 (1948). Analogously, Holder's position seems to make due process a nullity and subject any given person's security against drone strike death to the discretion of the executive.

Yes, President Obama, I know that your intentions are good and that you're just trying to protect us. But when you're engaged in fighting crime or terror, you can put blinders on and not even be aware of whether a given use of state force is justified. That's why we require some kind of external oversight on executive law enforcement. Policing yourself obviously doesn't work, as evidenced by the crimes of the Bush administration and countless years of abusive domestic policing practices. We have a secret memo, which wasn't even turned over to Congress, making any kind of process, judicial or otherwise, somewhat impossible. Ugh.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Romney's Class War

Someone must be getting a little sleep deprived:
Lemme tell ya something. America is a great nation, because we’re a united nation and those who are trying to divide the nation as you’re trying to do here and as the president is doing are hurting this country, seriously. The right course for America is not to divide America, and try and divide us between one and another, it’s for us to come together as a nation. And if you’ve got a better model, if you think China is better, or Russia is better, or Cuba’s better, or North Korea’s better, I’m glad to hear all about it. But you know what? America’s right, and you’re wrong!
Romney said this in response to someone who had the audacity to ask what someone in the 1% would do for the 99%.

I'm not surprised a Republican presidential candidate would say this, but usually Romney does a better job of concealing his outright hostility to the unwashed masses. The issue of the class divide is a lot like racism in America: even if inequality exists, you are the problem if you dare to point it out.

The fact is that the US is already and has always been divided. Does anyone dispute the actual data? It's not just the growing gap between the rich and the poor, it's the growing barriers to economic mobility. People born to lower class parents are much less likely to be able to move upward than in other industrialized nations. A variety of policies systemically favor the rich in the United States and permit them to exploit labor and resources, avoid progressive taxation, utilize labor in nations with substandard labor, environmental, and human rights laws (such as China, the one that Romney thinks the questioner would prefer), and provide them with special access to the policy making process.

The policies Romney supports continue to "divide us between one and another." He just doesn't want anyone to point that out.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Music

I obviously can't claim that the order is precise, but these 50 albums are roughly ranked in terms of how much I enjoyed them over the past year. I'm looking forward to seeing end of year lists from places like Silent Ballet, Boomkat, and Pitchfork to see what I missed. Definitely not enough hip hop or experimental music.

There are some albums that might take more time for me to get. Watch the Throne didn't click, but I'd like to give it more time (I've heard that it became better for people who actually saw the tour, but I didn't have near that much cash to spare). There are also albums by Bjork, Current, 93, Deerhoof, Ryan Adams, Atari Teenage Riot (blast from the '90s past), Shabazz Palaces, Ford & Lopatin, and others that I'd like to listen to a bit more before I decide how I feel about them.

M83 was the definite standout this year. My favorite thing by them since their debut.

1. M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
2. True Widow - As High As the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth
3. Cults - Cults
4. WU LYF - Go Tell Fire to the Mountain
5. The Jezabels - Prisoner
6. Various Artists - Invasion of the Killer Mysteron Sounds in 3-D
7. ill.Gates - ill.Methodology
8. Fucked Up - David Comes to Life
9. Various Artists - For Nihon
10. Machinedrum - Room(s)
11. Wilco - The Whole Love
12. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
13. Arkasia - Evolution
14. Somatic Responses - Concrete Glider
15. Real Estate - Days
16. Rustie - Glass Swords
17. Shlohmo - Bad Vibes
18. Talkdemonic - Ruins
19. Black Tusk - Set the Dial
20. David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time
21. Blut aus Nord - 777 - Sect(s)
22. Kashiwa Daisuke - 88
23. Wormrot - Dirge
24. Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
25. Trash Talk - Awake EP
26. Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High EP
27. A Winged Victory For The Sullen - A Winged Victory For The Sullen
28. Grinning Death's Head - Black Sun Rising
29. Ygg - Ygg
30. The Caretaker - An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
31. Justice - Audio, Video, Disco
32. Vatican Shadow - Pakistan Military Academy
33. Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
34. I Break Horses - Heart
35. Hauschka - Salon Des Amateurs
36. Marsen Jules - Nostalgia
37. Tank 86 - Rise
38. Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial Lineage
39. Ghostfunk - Ghostfunk
40. Archnemesis - People's Radio
41. Beastie Boys - Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2
42. Atlas Sound - Parallax
43. Kill The Noise - Kill Kill Kill
44. New Look - New Look
45. Deaf Center - Owl Splinters
46. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
47. Necros Christos - Doom of the Occult
48. Adventure - Lesser Known
49. Sensual Harassment - Alpha Draconis
50. Wobbler - Rites at Dawn

Monday, December 19, 2011

Debt and Resistance

Debt by David Graeber

Graeber offers an argument for why debt constitutes society.

He also cites an interesting situation in Madagascar in which people were able to participate in imperialism only to the extent necessary to survive, but remained effectively subtracted from colonial control by refusing to use their money to buy into the narcotic trip of consumer products culture. I'm used to seeing situations in which that kind of gesture makes control more effective by making it livable (for example, the fact that I can buy fair trade coffee allows me to cope with my participation in global capital by calming my liberal guilt, foreclosing any kind of more radical act that would actually threaten the status quo). I'm interested in reading this book to see how that strategy worked and what became of it in the long run.