I am a lawyer and a Phd candidate in Political Theory at the University of Florida. First off, I will use this place to host info about classes I am teaching (syllabi, assignments, etc). This is so that most people will be able to have up-to-date info. I might also keep academic works-in-progress here, as well as a current CV.
That being said, I write--academically and informally--about culture and politics. Stick around if you like left-ward slanted politics, discussions about academia, indie-rock, genre and subculture films, pomo literature, comic books, continental political philosophy, and/or TV shows like Lost, Buffy (RIP), The Office, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire (RIP), or Twin Peaks (RIP). I might also write about my family, my house, restaurants and shops I have enjoyed, the little hamlet of Gainesville, and/or how someone SERIOUSLY annoyed me today. But mostly politics, art, and culture. Enjoy and give me feedback.
My pick for the clearly the 3 best dramas on TV right now--LOST, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad--were all nominated for "best drama." And none of the other nominees were *bad* shows per se, and I heard that Big Love really hit its stride this season, so I need to catch up with that. Maybe this makes up for ignoring three of the greatest shows ever--Deadwood, The Wire, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer--for all those years. And, I would have to say that Breaking Bad deserves to win, but it probably will not. But Breaking Bad's second season was pretty amazing, beating the first season by a mile. I know some people find this show *too* painful to watch--a complaint I heard about The Wire too--but, even forgetting the drug-stuff, Breaking Bad has the best TV depiction of a marriage falling apart since Sopranos Season 4. The argument scenes capture the exact nature of marital power-trips and dishonesty-via-honesty.
Hugh Laurie was nominated *again* for playing Greg House. And, really, this character should be annoying and the show should be horrible, but he carries the whole thing on his back. He makes the show. That being said, Bryan Cranston should win for Breaking Bad.
And, YES, Michael Emerson--who I recently tributed on this blog--was the only *acting* nomination from LOST. This is forgivable, and even laudable, because LOST is much more of a writer's show. Its best episodes--Walkabout, The Constant--certainly have great performances, but the show is really about the possibility of a complex non-linear narrative on television. It is really a show concerned with narrative form itself. Only Terry O'Quine--as the pathetic/heroic John Locke--and Michael Emerson as Benjamin Linus are stand-out actors on the show. (That being said, bobody but Evi Lily and sometimes Matt Fox is particularly bad, it is--like the characters on the show itself--that the actors are more like chess pieces that the writers move around the "play-board.") Even great emotional LOST moments--"Kate, we have to go back: WE HAVE TO GO BACK" or the Desmond/Penny moments--draw as much from narrative cleverness as they do from acting. It is telling that most LOST fans are as emotionally invested in characters we barely know--Jacob, the Man in Black, Penny Widmore, hell, even, a smoke monster--as we are in Jack, Kate, and the rest. It is also telling that this year, Mad Men and LOST are the only two shows nominated in the Drama Writing category. Both are "writer's" shows, though Mad Men in a completely different way than LOST.
Anyway, decent job Emmys. And, good luck Michael Emerson!
Of course data doesn't matter as much as bland assertion on Fox "News." :(
On a similar matter, everyone who like politics should look at 538.com. It is run by Nate Silver, who is also a baseball statistician working for the wonderful Baseball Prospectus, and is a numbers-geek who makes love to a high R-squared every night. (Well, the nights he is not wet-dreaming to Rachel Maddow.) He clearly has center-left beliefs, but he is pretty bound by his empirical tests, and Nate is certainly not as knee-jerk liberal as the folks at TPM or Huffington.
And, Baseball Prospectus is a really cool page that embraces the Billy Beene/Bill James/MoneyBall/FireJoeMorgan approach to baseball analysis. (Called "Sabremetrics" or some shit like that.) BP will explain why "batting average" is a dumb stat, and OBP and SLG are much better indicators of the how valuable a player is.
Anyway, I am not a quant-toid, but I respect nice empirical analysis.
Dustin Fridkin sent me an email responding with picks, and it was great. I have to post it:
i will stifle my disagreement with the myriad assertions of the
goodness and/or perfection of many of the pop-song lines quoted by my
esteemed colleagues. surely, of course, others will similarly disagree
with many of those quoted below (the very volume of them, if nothing
else, must guarantee it).
furthermore, it should be noted that when i hear a pop song, i don't
tend to listen for this or that lyric, but rather to the thing entire.
as such, many of my favorite bands (sleater kinney or the band, for
example) don't appear here, in spite of the fact that they write great
songs. this is so simply because their songs don't have easily
extracted "great lines." on the other hand, some bands (the mountain
goats, for example) could, i think, easily fill a list of great lines
from pop songs by themselves. this sounds snobby. i don't mean it
too, and i apologize for it.
anyhow, here's my contribution. it's a bit over-long, i know. i don't
like much, but when i like, i have very little filter. some of these,
i'm sure, are included because of the strength of their delivery,
others by their placement in the context of the song, and the rest,
it's likely, by virtue of idiosyncratic (or, it's possible, idiotic)
judgment. it will be easily ascertained by the attentive reader that
this list did not come "off the top of my head." in my, and this
list's, defense: tho it was not exactly spontaneous, neither was it the
object of much thought. i just sort of cruised around my itunes
library and thought things like "oh, shit! this is awesome! what
about..." and so on.
enough. let's get on with the list.
for starters, and apropos of what's said above:
"it's the sonics, not the phonics, and it's all in the delivery"
- ted leo & the pharmacists
moving on to matters of the heart:
"i am not gonna lose you; we are gonna stay married in this house like a louisiana graveyard, where nothing stays buried"
- the mountain goats
"maybe she just has to sing for the sake of the song; and who do i think that i am to tell her she's wrong"
- townes van zandt
"why don't you show me now how to lose control"
- bikini kill
"your phone's off the hook, but you're not"
"i ain't no goddamn son of a bitch: you better think about it, baby"
- the misfits
"baby even the losers get lucky sometimes"
- tom petty
"i don't give a damn about my bad reputation"
- joan jett
"all i need in this world of sin is me and my girlfriend"
- tupac (which, i realize, isn't really about a guy and his gal; nevertheless, it goes here)
on to politics, history, and economics:
"we came from the farms and the city streets of a hundred foreign
lands, and we shed our blood in the battle's heat, now we're all
- steve earle
"if you've got a lot of money you can make yourself merry; if you've
only got a nickle it's the staten island ferry and that's hard times"
- bob dylan
"mixing pop and politics, you ask me what the use is. i offer up embarrassment and my usual excuses"
- billy bragg
"maybe somehow this scam will still save us all"
- against me!
"till things are brighter, i'm the man in black"
- johnny cash
"if this is what we're for, then this is what we get"
- allergic to bullshit
"the harder they come, the harder they fall, one and all"
- jimmy cliff
"louisiana, they're trying to wash us away"
- randy newman
"let me tell you 'bout your blood, bamboo kid. it ain't coca cola, it's rice"
- the clash
"it's so easy to defend the status quo, with everyone so cool an cynical"
"if you're out to get the honey, then you don't go killing all the bees"
- joe strummer
"the poor stay cold, the rich stay rich. that's how it goes, everybody knows"
- leonard cohen
"i'm gonna miss your money in my life"
- bikini kill
"i only had a corona; five cent deposit"
- the minutemen
or, perhaps, your interests are in philosophy, theology, and/or aesthetics
"hey suburbia, we're in love with you"
- screeching weasel
"new york's alright if you like saxophones"
"when i got the music, i got a place to go"
"that summer feeling's gonna haunt you the rest of your life"
- jonathan richman
"you can't roller skate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you've a mind to"
- roger miller
"stand! you've been sitting too long. there's a permanent crease in your right and wrong"
- sly and the family stone
"bend your knees and bow your heads; save your babies; here's your future"
- the thermals
"how we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me; that's why i love mankind"
- randy newman
"hey suburbia, we're in love with you"
- screeching weasel
"see the stars, where the birds make their homes, staring back at us,
indifferent, but distanced perfectly, projected endlessly, it's so
- rilo kiley
"every little memory has a song"
- ted leo & the pharmacists
okay, that was unnecessarily long-winded. hope it's fun to read, tho,
cuz it was fun to put together. it may be that none of the above are
perfect or great, but they all stick with me.
Seriously, a well-placed rhyme is a tune is brilliant. This transcends genre. Cole Porter's "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" has some great rhymes. I really like the "daddy" rhyming with "fine finnan haddie," which I think is a Scottish slang for a cigarette. Eminem has killer rhymes, and the third verse of "Lose Yourself" is one of my favorite. I always giggle when he raps: "Cuz, man, these goddamn food stamps don't buy diapersm, And there's no movie, there's no Mekhi Pfifer." Brilliant. A line like that rewards long-time fans for, you know, paying attention.
I do not mean to mock MJ or 9/11, but the amount of idolatry has been crazy. I guess it probably was the same when John Lennon or Elvis died. That being said, I have been listening to some early Michael Jackson lately, as well as some Jackson 5, and I am stunned. There is really no way to describe the quality of his vocals on something like "I Want You Back" or "Billie Jean." Those two singles stick out to me because they contain some of the greatest pop productions and arrangements, and yet, still, MJ's vocals are the stars. The vocals even outclass the tremendous chord progression in "I Want You Back" and what might be the greatest shaker in pop history--tied only with the shaker in used in the Rolling Stone's "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and "Jumping Jack Flah"--in "Billie Jean." Stuff like "Man in the Mirror" can be annoying, but "Rock With You," "Don't Stop to You Get Enough," "P.Y.T," and "Of the Wall" are stunning. Hence, I am throwing in my lot with the R.I.P. MJ crew. He truly made some of the best pop singles of all time.
So, MJ's death had me thinking about pop music in general. Also, I have been playing Ricky Nelson's "Garden Party" over and over on my Ipod, and I think mostly for the line "If memories were all I sang, I'd rather drive a truck." I just love that line.
Later, I started to think of just PERFECT pop music lines. Some of them off the top of my head:
"I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me." - Beatles
"My smile is my make up, I wear, since my break up with you" - Smoky Robinson and Miracles
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows" - Bob Dylan
"The underground is over-crowded" - Archers of Loaf
"I can't stand it, I know you planned it, I'ma set it straight, this 'Watergate'." - Beastie Boys
"Birthdays were the worst dayz, now we drink champagne when we're thirsty." - Notorious B.I.G.
"Take a sad song and make it better." - Beatles
"Los Angeles give me Norfolk Virginia, Tidewater four ten O nine. Tell the folks back home this is the promised land callin', And the poor boy's on the line." - Chuck Berry
"I know my kisses are not his; I'm not gonna tell you why that is!" - Bob Dylan
"The highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive" - Bruce Springsteen
And, I think, the best ever pop lyric is:
"Is this a lasting treasure, or just a moment's pleasure? Can I believe the magic of your sighs?
Will you still love me tomorrow?" Gerry Goffin and Carol King (made famous by the Shirelles)
This song/lyric survives pretty mediocre performances by Shirelles singer Shirley Owens and the author itself Carol King (with even worse back-up by James Taylor). (Of course, the Shirelles version is the pinnacle of Phil Spector's "wall of sound" and a great record, and Carol King was a great song-writer but a passable vocalist at best--e.g. compare her version of "Natural Woman" to Aretha Franklin's.) Side note, Dusty Springfield's version of this song is killer.
Ok, so what are some of your favorite pop song lines?
I mean on a political level. Alaska has about the least powerful governor in the country, but she couldnt hack it. Or, truth be told, she couldnt hack the media attention. Maybe that means she won't be running for higher office. Who knows. I am still confused by Charlie Crist would want to run for Senator when being Gov of Florida is such a more powerful position, and better launching pad for a presidential run. Of course, the social conservatives love Palin (and Huck) and hate Crist. So, who knows.