24-year-old Millennial rips the 29-year-old Millennial who ripped the 25-year-old Millennial who worked for Yelp

On Friday, a Yelp/Eat24 employee wrote a lengthy open letter to her CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, about her compensation, which she said came out to about $8 an hour after taxes. A few hours later, she said she was fired. It created a hot debate about how expensive the Bay Area is to live in, and whether or not companies should pay entry-level employees more.

On Monday, a 29-year old hero millennial responded in a post on medium. That article was since re-posted on businessinsider.com and has been distributed throughout my facebook feed like a venereal disease for about a week. As long as we are writing open letters, this is an open letter to Stefanie Williams, the second woman in the correspondence.

Dear Stefanie Williams,

After reading your piece detailing the absolute struggle that you dealt with while working as a well-payed bartender in the suburbs of one of the most expensive cities in the world while living rent-free at your parents’ house, I just wanted to say your words are a powerful example for white millennials like me who are sick of other white millennials clambering for handouts . You and me, Stefanie, we get it. Life isn’t about sticking up for yourself in the face of corporate greed, it’s about getting by, hauling yourself up by the bootstraps 1 and getting picked up as a screenwriter while working at a bar. Our parents did it, and we did it. 2

My name is Joey. I’m not much younger than you. I will be turning 25 in a couple of months which puts me around the age of famed millennial cry-baby and likely socialist Bernie Sanders-supporting Talia Jane. It seems like a lifetime ago that I sat in my sophomore year frat house room crying over the curdled milk on my nightstand as I realized I would never again be able to smoke weed in the morning. But here I am, having survived my early 20’s with apparently whatever it is you call humility. 3

I can’t thank you enough Stef for teaching that ungrateful, young snake person Talia the value of a good work ethic. Despite sharing an age with Talia, I too understand the difference that a hypothetical 5 years can make. I imagine those years are incredibly important and I was proud to share in the narrative of your struggle.

You inspired me to put pen to paper to tell my own story of redemption, so it could act as a lesson to those young people who lack the conviction and the work ethic to succeed in the world our parent’s created for us – a world where we must rely on our wits, industriousness and privilege to attain respectably middling positions at semi-impressive sounding institutions, all so we can rub it in the faces of people we went to high school with. 4

When I was 21, I had just graduated College. I was sent into the employment-seeking world in the wake of one of the worst economic recessions in recent memory. In the middle of summer, young and (I guess?) scared about my future, I was deposited from the bosom of the liberal arts and welcomed to the “real world.” 5

I too, like both of you lovely young women, was an English major 6 and I also wasn’t sure what employment options my degree left me, having spent the majority of college just generally not thinking about what came next.

Like you, Stefanie, and fellow white people nationwide, my knee-jerk reaction to the fear of unemployment was to get drunk. Having set my mind to this noble task, I proceeded in getting a bit hammered outside of a bar in Seattle with some of my friends about a week after graduation. It was early in the day. A former professor of mine walked down the street and asked me if I was interested in getting into consulting. Not having a job, and with the accumulated angst of multiple days of unemployment threatening to dim the fire of my capitalist spirit – I said yes without thinking. I accepted reality and sold out to pay my bills, biding my time until I could, in your words:

“[find] another job that was more my speed, something my mother could be proud of, something worthy of my English Language and Literature degree and my Chaucer reciting mind.” 7

Little did I know that jobs pandering to creatives were few and far between. The experience I was getting was all geared towards business consulting and while it is hardly a bad industry, it didn’t play to the strengths or ideals that I held for myself. Like you, I struggled through the hardship of living with my parents in a beautiful white suburban home while commuting 2 hours to work each day. At times, I would reach into the pantry and find peanut butter captain crunch, when I had hoped for crunchberries. I again see in your words expression for that feeling of quiet desperation I experienced in moments like this. I passed by the parents of my high school classmates in the grocery store and using my stern power of discernment, I determined these looks were probably pitying and probably condescending accusations of how I had moved back in with my parents. Again, I turn to you:

“[I dealt with the pitying looks by ] laughing to myself knowing their child was addicted to coke and hating their ‘amazing’ job. I paid my dues. I did what I had to do in order to survive, with the help of my family. I was gracious and thankful and worked as hard as I could even if it was a job that sometimes made me question my worth. And I was successful because of that.”

There is nothing like a parent’s ignorance of a child’s drug addiction to brighten one’s thoughts in a gloomy time. This was my comfort as I spent years 8 charting the rickety path from middle-class white suburbia to middle-class white suburbia. 9

Again, I need to turn to your post. As usual, Stefanie, I call on your considerable mental firepower to put this millennial in her place. Prepare to be re-post-slammed, Talia!

“To [Talia], that is more acceptable than taking a job in a restaurant, or a coffee shop, or a fast food place. And that’s the trouble with not just your outlook, but the outlook of so many people your age. You think it is somehow more impressive to ask strangers for money by writing some “witty” open letter than it is to put on your big girl pants and take a job you might be embarrassed by in order to make ends meet. And as someone who not only took the “embarrassing job,” but thrived at it, made bank from it and found a career path through it, I am utterly disgusted by your attitude.”

We sure did slam that Talia girl, huh Stefanie? If she had just quietly put up with her perceived injustices and followed our trail-blazing example, perhaps she too would have found herself re-posted by businessinsider.com! Her little girl pants clearly didn’t have the perspective afforded by a couple years in the service industry or an entry-level office position.

I am tired of doing this so I will steal your conclusion.

Darling, darling, darling. Consider yourself double-condescended, darling! Memes!


OK

Let us adopt real-person speak for a second. The original poster, Talia, was making a statement against a perceived injustice. Her employer denied employees full benefits and didn’t provide a great wages. That sort of injustice exists, she was just not the perfect person to represent that experience. It is true that struggling is a part of life, it is also true that neither I, nor Talia, nor Stefanie are the people doing the struggling.

Stefanie, you can’t just take a moment of personal strife and pretend that strife is somehow universal. There are serious socioeconomic issues in this country that are exacerbated by all of these bootstrap narratives that make it seem as though everybody can just move their way up the ladder with hard work as though the opportunity for economic advancement is universal. Not everyone has a family they can stay with while they save money. Not everyone has a college degree to fall back on. The narrative of overcoming socioeconomic strife is not ours to tell and, for all 3 of the speakers in this exchange (though I really doubt anyone will read this so probably just two speakers), I think it is damaging and embarrassing for our stories to fill this space while the narratives of those who actually struggle are buried.

This is not a “get-em girl” moment. There are injustices that are perpetrated every day in corporate America. Talia, yours is not a great example. There are people who overcome struggle every day to make a better place in this world which is sadly defined by earning potential. Stefanie, yours is not really one of them (and neither is mine). The decision to put Talia down while humble-bragging about a life story that is rank with your own privilege doesn’t help anything.

The people who are reporting and liking this article are the same people who will use your story as an excuse to deny opportunities to those that don’t have them. The same people who could not only benefit from an improved minimum wage (or better healthcare) but may stake their survival on it are the ones hurt when Talia’s example can be brought up as fuel for an argument that says: “these young people are just asking for free stuff.” It is our job to deny the fuel that feeds the fire of socioeconomic injustice. The best way for us to do that is to shut the hell up and let people who actually have something interesting to say actually say it. I am sorry I had to be a condescending dick for like 3 pages to prove this point. It was really fun to do. Bye!

 

 

 

 

What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 3: Antonin Scalia’ death, the South Carolina GOP primary, and a losing type of politics

This thinkpiece1 is my final toast to Saturday. Quick recap of the crap that I couldn’t let go all week: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.

>><<

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” –George Washington

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia threw the entire political world out of focus. The haze had barely set in before the lights were up for the South Carolina GOP debate, and CBS moderator John Dickerson opened the show with the politics of nominating a replacement.

“If you were President, and had a chance with 11 months left to go in your term, wouldn’t it be an abdication to conservatives in particular, not to name a conservative justice with the rest of your term?”

It might as well have happened at this point that the audience started booing. South Carolina has a reputation for dirty, Real Housewives of Raleigh-type politics, and for the last two election cycles, the audiences at the debates have done their part to carry on that proud tradition.2

The GOP primary debates of the last few election cycles have been the highest form of reality television, and this latest iteration was the Jesse James of the damn bunch.  

The debate experience itself was wild. Less a group interview for the most important jobs in the world, it was reminiscent of an antebellum saloon brawl somewhere along the Mason-Dixon. The presidential hopefuls ran headlong into each other with onlookers swinging from the rafters and the barkeeper3 ducking out of sight. The GOP primary debates of the last few election cycles have been the highest form of reality television, and this latest iteration was the Jesse James of the damn bunch.

Perhaps the most shocking thing about the whole affair was how quickly the crowd got involved and, how even quicker, the GOP candidates—being as impressionable as they are to political convenience—indulged the mob. The debate devolved into “Liar, liar, pants on fire!,” “No, your pants are on fire!” exchanges. The moderators let it.

In an sudden show of one-upmanship,4 Ted Cruz started shouting in Spanish5 at Marco Rubio in an apparent effort to court the Hispanic vote by out-Latinoing each other.6 It’s unclear which candidate more solidified their bona fides, but it was clear who tried the hardest.

And we haven’t even gotten to the circus and utter lack of governing or policy detail that is Donald J. Trump’s campaign.7

<<>>

“I have never known a peace made, even the most advantageous, that was not censured as inadequate, and the makers condemned as injudicious or corrupt. “Blessed are the peacemakers” is, I suppose, to be understood in the other world; for in this they are frequently cursed.” –Benjamin Franklin

It’s easy to go there for a laugh—to make jokes, to indulge in the vitriol. Hairdos make for easy punchlines after all. Pettiness is cheap and self-reinforcing. There’s a case to be made—and more people should be making it—for elevating the level of public discourse, but what I don’t understand is the GOP’s embrace of a losing political strategy.

It’s not news that the GOP has been bending to its radical wing since for most of this century. Cow-towing to radical elements of any party through anger and fear is thoroughly untenable, and the Republicans’ inability to craft a coherent statement not involving prejudice or exclusion will come back to bite them.

A politics of negation only has one outcome—disagreement, which is not a position from which you can govern. The choice to govern comes with an implicit agreement to come together with whoever else is there8 in the common spirit of doing some goddamn good.

  The GOP strategy to the extent there has been one has relied on pitting white middle class insecurities against the ever-growing brownness of popular culture and the White House.

The GOP strategy to the extent there has been one has relied on pitting white middle class insecurities against the ever-growing brownness of popular culture and the White House.9 As a whole, the party has seemingly doubled down on that demo. As white middle class voices get pushed to the margins and mainstream America more resembles the cast of Hamilton, GOP adherence to a that demo ensures diminished votershare. They’ve set the course to be on the outside of the White House looking in for a long time.

Kasich did well throughout Saturday’s SC GOP debate—at least insofar as he was the only candidate who mentioned the word togetherness. There’s tinge of bipartisanship to him, and in 2016, that’s enough to make him look like a Roosevelt. At minimum, Kasich would be so uninspiring so as to not raise the ire or fervor of the crazy, hateful people that the GOP is committing suicide over right now. So, that is something to consider.

On Thursday, Marco Rubio picked up a trio of endorsements from SC Congressman Trey Gowdy, Senator Tim Scott and Governor Nikki Hailey. Hailey called the final photo op a “Benetton commercial.”[/note]Or a prospective students brochure cover from an exclusive liberal arts college. Although, I still can’t get the cast of Hamilton out my mind.[/note] Good for them. If they turn out to be the next ruling class of the GOP, I’ll hold some hope for a responsible opposition. Don’t underestimate a diverse electorate as a force to drive political will, and the class of Rubio, Hailey, and Scott may wind up with the keys.

>><<

“Americans have one of the greatest legal systems, but not a monopoly of the sense of justice, which is universal; nor have we a permanent copyright on the means of securing justice, for it is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive.” –Earl Warren

Public grief is a crappy phenomenon, and the social media spaces carved out by liberal millennials in the wake of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death were riddled with its most self-indulgent form. It was off-putting, if not shocking, two scroll through the argle-bargle. There were primarily two strains of responses: 1) “Ding dong! The witch is dead!” 2) “Stop cheering the death of a human being, asshole.”

Ultimately, this dialectic is self-indulgent and not even really about the person that died. Participating in the discussion and taking one of these positions becomes a proxy for the type of person you want to signify to the world that you are.10

As the most opinionated conservative on the Supreme Court, Scalia would time and time again give insight into the what conservatism really meant in the realm of law—an unshakable belief in a constitution preserved in amber and that with every new law, a little more freedom gets taken away.

Scalia was an important11 figure in American life. You didn’t have to agree with him to appreciate his impact. When he came to the high court, Scalia changed the dynamics of oral arguments. The question and answer section of proceedings used to be a fairly blasé affair, but Scalia arrived on fire and turned this part of the process into a line of questioning as a proxy for debate. Lines were drawn and feelers were dispatched. The intensity and insistence he brought to the bench made the whole affair a spectator sport and gave us a sliver of a window into closed door debates.

To the crowd who would dance on his grave, I would point out that liberal lion that she is, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg12 counted Scalia as her “best buddy.” There’s even an opera centered on their friendship.

As the most opinionated conservative on the Supreme Court, Scalia would time and time again give insight into the what conservatism really meant in the realm of law—an unshakable belief in a constitution preserved in amber and that with every new law, a little more freedom gets taken away.13

In today’s discussion on what and how much government can and should do, the US Supreme Court sits on a largely unexamined perch, wielding a tremendous amount of influence. And while the political side of American government has turned into a circus of flash and mob mentality, the Scalia-Ginsburg professional and personal relationship reflected a deep kind of affection forged out of fundamental disagreement.

<<>>

“[D]emocracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with use are all motivated by malice. It doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.” –Barack Obama

The GOP-controlled Senate will have to nominate a Supreme Court Justice—this year or next. Maybe Senate Republicans don’t want to give anything more to the Obama legacy, maybe they actually think they’ll get to vote on a nominee of their party’s own choosing. Either way, their decision to stall is a refusal to do a job.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell among others has gone even further, demanding that POTUS not fulfill his constitutional duty.14 I get it. The GOP doesn’t want the balance of the court to shift away from them. But that’s why there’s a process—supported by will of the people. Let the senate vote. Let senators run re-election campaigns on that vote. Republicans may win their primaries with obstructionism, but the calculus changes significantly in a general.

  Wherever one falls on the ideological spectrum, there’s plenty to argue about—where should education funding come from? How do we eradicate poverty? What can we do to build, once more, the most robust economy and vibrant literary and arts culture in the world?

In some ways, not taking up the vote is playing at good short-term politics—fighting to preserve a conservative court while not being able to hang the senate vote around Senate Republican necks. It’ll help keep McConnell and others in office this November, but selectively doing their job combined with a shrinking votershare spells a long presidential drought for this incar party.15

In my whole adult life, I’ve never known a responsible opposition.

If you lose an election over a position or vote, that’s confirmation that you’re not suited to represent that constituency. If the people want obstruction then stand for it and let them validate your position. That’s the ball game.

Alternatively, if you have to raise barriers to vote and redistrict yourself into a more favorable electorate, then you’re really not doing your job and you’re not doing democracy and favors. If Rubio and Hailey become the central figures in the GOP, gerrymandering becomes obsolete. A little less pettiness offers a little more room for real issues.

Wherever one falls on the ideological spectrum, there’s plenty to argue about—where should education funding come from? How do we eradicate poverty? What can we do to build, once more, the most robust economy and vibrant literary and arts culture in the world?

Fighting pettiness with pettiness yields only pettiness. When there is no substance to confront, no real ideas to engage with, you get the SC GOP debate,16 and an opposition party that’s alienated damn near everyone and now they’re looking at the date that brung ‘em, wondering how the hell they ever ended up here.

 

 

Scorsese, Winter, and Jagger’s new series “Vinyl’ is classic HBO programming at its most genric

Screenshot (38)

This past Sunday, Hbo’s new series Vinyl premiered to only about 764,000 viewers; a shockingly low number compared to other series premiers this past season: The Leftovers and True Detective 1. With household names such as Scorsese and Winter, a celebrity Executive Producer like Jagger, and the full monetary support of HBO, how could a series like this under-perform? How does power, sex, drugs, rock n’ roll, with an auteur storyteller not equal a compelling and addicting hit? The answer is simply “we have been here before,” and no amount of celebrity and quality, artistic production can make an old, generic story feel fresh.

It is hard laying down a review like this on this series 2, because I don’t find myself criticizing the technical craftsmanship of its creators. Terrence Winter is an incredible, detailed storyteller, and this paired with Scorsese’s style and eye has resulted in a visually engrossing world populated by multi-faceted characters. Scorsese then treats audience members to an array of colors and sets that transports you in the venues, offices, and musical waves of the 1970’s 3.

Similar to the final season of Boardwalk Empire , 4 Winter uses this pilot to tell two stories – present and past – about our protagonist Richie Finestra, portrayed by high intensity Bobby Cannavale. As our “unreliable” narrator Richie guides us into his world of corporate greed, celebrity ego, life long dreams, and that innate, magical ear it takes to make a hit record. In the present Richie and his partners, Zak Yankovich (Ray Ramono) and Skip Fontaine (J.C. Mackenie), are attempting to sell their dying record label to a German conglomerate while dealing with an unhappy Led Zeppelin. Richie then finds himself reminiscing over his first client, a black blues singer/ guitarist named Lester Grimes (Ato Essandoh), as he flashes back to the sounds of to classic Rhythm and Blues. Winter has not only created a multi-faceted front-man for the series, but has given him two intersecting narratives which he seamlessly transition between.

Bobby Cannavale, who was a bit too over the top for me in his role as Gyp Rosetti on season 3 of Boardwalk Empire 5, uses his physicality as a representative theme for the series. His character, Richie, is torn between the man music (the industry) has turned him into and the raw feelings and emotions that listening to music stir inside him. The contrast between the smooth label executive and the wild fan of music sings through Cannavale’s performance and he definitely adds a unique signature to the series.

Yet with so much going for it, how is Vinyl not a major success? Had it premiered five years ago this series would have been a hit, and arguably a must watch HBO series for America (both for critics and audiences)6. However, with all this new scripted programming7,  constant access to countless titles for streaming, and an over all progressive shift in the “quality television” landscape Vinyl in 2016 will likely continue to struggle with viewership. The average person, in my opinion, is not going to sit down on a Sunday night and watch a two -hour (no commercial) premier of a series. Often times, even critics will grimace in the face of having to do so. At the end of the day, Vinyl just doesn’t shine bright enough through all the other programming (period or other wise) being made. *cough* The Knick *cough*8

There are so many series about conflicted and corrupt powerful white men 9. Terrence Winter has even made two series centered around that: The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. Many viewers and especially critics are bored of seeing old, corrupt white men being misogynists and rich assholes, which, although beautifully and craftily done, is a lot of what Vinyl is. Juno Temple’s character Jamie Vine, the young dreamer of the series, would be an ideal character to center the series around; watching an outgoing, talented, and driven young woman climb to top of record label. This is exactly what made Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt a massive breath of fresh air. I can only hope that, like Halt & Catch Fire season 210, Terrence Winter will find a way to give a lot more narrative to Devon Finestra (Olivia Wilde), Richie’s wife with a Warhol connection, and the intrepid Jamie Vine (Juno Temple) as she potentially discovers a new genre of rock n’ roll. He literally wrote himself a potential Betty Draper and Peggy Olson 11.

So if The Leftovers represents HBO’s series for critical acclaim, Vinyl seems more like a shout out to the networks mid 2000’s content and fans 12. A series that will generically be entertaining, well made, and nuanced but, suffers from a lack of progressive content, topical and fresh for the times. And if anything, Vinyl most certainly signifies that HBO is playing into the content race that Netflix started.

I can’t say Vinyl is not worth your time, because I am going to continue watching the series… However, don’t suckered into thinking this is or will be a must watch series of 2016. Like most of America and their connection to HBO just sit tight for April 24 and the return of Game of Thrones 13.

 

 

 

What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 2: Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, Chance’s better angels, and Kendrick’s Grammy performance

This thinkpiece1 is the second of a tryptic of posts trying to wrap my head around what happened Saturday. Quick recap: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.

«»

“What if Kanye made a song, about Kanye?

Called “I Miss the Old Kanye,” man that would be so Kanye” – Kanye West, “I Love Kanye”

“[T]he mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of “personality,” not being necessarily more interesting, or having “more to say,” but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations…The analogy was that of the catalyst. When the [oxygen and sulfur dioxide] are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. – TS Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

»«

Of course the tragedy that is Kanye West would ensure that The Life of Pablo was always going to be disappointing, but fortunately, Kanye brought Chance the Rapper with him on SNL, lifting him and us up to new heights. TLOP has proven to be a decent album peppered with near-genius production, largely held up by a simulacra of emotional and intellectual depth that ultimately kept it coming up short and out of water.

Produced by any other hip hop artist, TLOP would be a fine work worthy of much praise. But Kanye is not merely another hip hop artist. Kanye is influential. Kanye is genre-defining. Kanye is enigmatic as hell, and Kanye, through Kanye’s sheer force of will, changed hip hop.

Kanye spends most of his time waxing about how Kanye is all these things.

I think I’m over Kanye.2

Alas, Kanye wasn’t the only thing to happen to hip hop since Saturday. The Grammy’s came and went. They weren’t the train wreck the Oscars3 were. Still stifled by its own injustices, we at least got to witness Kendrick Lamar perform one for the ages and hopefully the first of many cute, clever way to take shots at Kanye.

»«

I miss the old Kanye,

Straight from the go Kanye

Perhaps more than any other rapper since the turn of the century, the experience of listening to Kanye’s music matters. I remember a 15-year-old me falling onto my pillow with Late Registration pumping through the lightweight headphones of a JVC CD player. I spent the months after college playing pickup in the heat of a summer sun, blasting Yeezus to the displeasure of unsuspecting straight-laced park patrons.

Kanye was all about experiences back then too—even when his albums became more self-centered.4 Kanye didn’t just care about the experience of struggling and ultimately failing to keep a promise to his mother or the experience of turning that failure into an advantage or the experience of imposing your identity politics on a world so shockingly prepared to embrace you. He cared about the experience of listening to his story; old Ye wanted to make sure you heard yourself in him.

Ya. I miss the old Kanye. I miss the catalyst and product Kanye, the platinum and acid Kanye. I miss the “more finely perfected medium” Kanye.

I miss the old Kanye who cared about the people around him—not because he was a philanthropist or represented the struggle—but because that was his pallet, the subject matter he rapped about. For old Kanye, those stories mattered, and he was giving them voice. Kanye’s focus on fashion, and most recently, tech, has come to consume him. As a result, his singular vision—centered on what Kanye can do, what Kanye should do—has replaced what was truly remarkable about him in the first place.

Finally listening to TLOP after midnight, in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day, was unremarkable and flat. The album was supposed to drop Feb 11 after his fashion show. He added six new tracks though—in large part thanks to Chance. Fine. This pushed the release date to the 12th. Which meant I spent the day periodically checking his website, Twitter, Tidal5 to no avail.

Then somewhere on one of my timelines, the SNL performance popped up:

 

First impressions are dangerous. I kept asking myself, What the hell, Kanye? This is what you made me wait for? This is what you’ve been perfecting? But then the whole tone and texture of the performance changed when the other voices came in—the choir, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and Chance the Rapper—to lift him and the rest of us all up somewhere we’ve never been.

«»

I hate the new Kanye

It’s not the misogyny in the music, the bumbled release, or the sheer hubris it takes to say and believe “I am a God.”6 It’s not even the pre-pubescent lack of focus, which is, in large part responsible for the expansiveness and underlying disorder of TLOP. I don’t care that his words aren’t saying anything we haven’t heard before. 7 At least he’s saying enough to not tank the whole damn production.

   West excels at bringing people and styles together and assembling them in uncanny ways.

If there is brilliance in this latest iteration of Ye, it’s that TLOP is his first real synthesis. Each project before was distinct in its style8 and for the first time, he pulls together those influences in a single album. TLOP is a good album—an A-/B+ by Ye’s standards.9 He even captures and expands on the syllabic tripling made popular by Migos and now Future to set a pace which largely been unheard to this point.

What’s most striking about this Kanye project is that Kanye is at his best when Kanye’s not at the center. It’s no coincidence that the best parts of TLOP are when Kanye’s not rapping.10 West excels at bringing people and styles together and assembling them in uncanny ways. TLOP is the ultimate manifestation of this skill. Only Kanye could so convincingly tie the myriad of loose ends that are the samples, features, bloops and bleeps of his latest album into something semi-lucid enough to be considered whole. Kanye as composer. Kanye as fulcrum. Kanye as medium.

If that proved to be Ye’s legacy from here on out, that would be enough to crown him GOAT. If he remained the catalyst that pulled these previously disparate voices together, he’d be platinum for life. Think about the opportunity to continually influence the next wave of rappers and producers and then bringing them onto the next project to influence the next cadre of hip hop artists. Kanye’s own personal self-fulfilling echo chamber. What irony is this that the lack of Kanye’s presence could amplify Kanye’s impact.

He’ll never figure this out though. Tragic Kanye continues to hold GOAT Kanye back.

More insidious than anything is the work Kanye’s done to mar the window into Kanye’s creative process—a perspective I am always grateful for across any genre.11 Kanye, by being Kanye, has ruined Kanye’s music for so many who would otherwise adore Kanye and Kanye’s music, and that sad-ass fact is starting to impact my own perception of Kanye’s music12

There’s an established school of thinking in art and literary criticism that says any work is and should be independent from the biographical information of the artist. I wholly abide by this. We are all creatures of consumption, and if we had to question the morality, judgement, and character of every author of the things we consume, the whole world’s economy would seize into paralysis. I hate that Kanye makes me want to abjectly reject such a fundamental theory that’s underpinned my whole conception of art—largely on the weight of disgust. It’s not the type of questioning of assumptions Kanye should be proud of.

Kanye needs a break from Kanye—at least a breather or a step back.

»«

See I invented Kanye.

It wasn’t any Kanyes.

Now I look and look around and there’s so many Kanyes

“Ultralight Beams” is one of Kanye’s rare gems that rely on heavily on pace and layers.13 This is in large part due to all the features. Even the song title foreshadows the ambivalence between utter lack of substance and beam-me-up-Scotty transcendence. Which makes sense if you accept UB as a conversation with and within church. Within communion and congregation, in song or in practice, you accept the range of voices from the small-minded to the stoic to the soaring. This is in-the-room music for every room.

When they come for you, I will shield your name.

I will field their questions. I will feel your pain.

They don’t— they don’t know.

They don’t know. (Chano on 79th)

It’s no coincidence either that UB features more artists than any other track on TLOP. Each new voice represents an incremental tonal shift that traces the arc of rapture. First, Kanye’s trepidation as his “dream” falls out of pitch. Then enter The-Dream’s quiet restraint that sets the foundation for Kelly Price’s flight to a higher plane. And of course mid-air, Chance swoops in to reframe the very thing you were listening to, plucking these wings made for flight, pointing out you’ve been swimming this whole time.

Chance, who’s spent his entire waking life looking up to Kanye, casts his Lot with Genesis, imagining himself a righteous man of God. Generations above Jesus, he skips across the surface of genealogy like it ain’t no thing in the service of a lighthearted pun, a sincere dig at young love.14

I’m just having fun with it.

You know that a nigga was lost,

I laugh in my head because I bet that my ex lookin back like a pillar of salt.

Ughhhhh. (Chano on 79th)

In rhyme, rhythm and spirit, this 22-year old layers remarkable resonances until they falls back on themselves. A cascading kaleidoscope of shimmering light playing with our ears, signaling something about the way we listen: texture.

If you don’t like Kanye’s music, it’s easy to gloss over Kanye, to make Kanye the butt of every joke, and ignore Kanye’s hold on young minds.

In the shadow of Price’s reassurance, “that you’ll take good care of your child…we look to the light.” Enter Chance the Ultralight Beam. Throughout his verse, Chano reflects and imbues his relationship with a higher spirit with the love of daughter. At once, he is both father15 and child,16 teacher17 and student,18 at home19 and abroad.20 and the rest of him freewheeling into the present,21 Chance finds himself at liberty, squarely in the tradition of crafting new combinations. South side of Chicago folk hero Kanye West sets the stage for Chance—literally, in the case of the SNL performance. When Chano stops rhyming in the middle of the song, he insists that it’s his time to speak. He takes, occupies, and fills up the space Kanye once held while the old head looks on, smiling and struck by the spirit.

If you don’t like Kanye’s music, it’s easy to gloss over Kanye, to make Kanye the butt of every joke,22 and ignore Kanye’s hold on young minds.

One of hip hop’s loudest voices in 2016 croons in full-throated invocation of a higher power—full of rainbows and gosh darns, awe and power, soda fountain musicals and grand mama’s hands.

Ya, for sure, I love Chano like Kanye loves Kanye.

Every Chano cut pushes forward the boundaries of hip hop, this thing that we always thought we knew so well. He indulges fully—an approach ripped straight from his predecessors23—his better angels. And for that,24 we owe a great debt to Kanye.

»«

Still no one likes jazz rap

Kendrick Lamar gave a Grammy performance for the ages on Monday night. In nine minutes he compressed the sweeping expression of modern black culture that is To Pimp a Butterfly. He even added an air of theatrical plot development—yet another genre-bending move worthy of music’s highest honor.

The performance was painful, celebratory, and relentless.

It stole the coming days’ conversation but the Grammy voters stole his award.

After all, no hip-hop song has won record or song of the year at the Grammy’s. Only two hip hop artists have ever won Album of the Year, and one them beat out none other than your boy Kendrick. The institutional racism that uses a Kdot performance to boost ratings and credibility while denying him it’s top honor for a universally acclaimed album that skewers institutional racism among other things is an irony I cannot bear.

Taylor Swift is nice, happy, and marketable. I wish her all the commercial success in the world.25 I also wish her a fierce rebellious phase that rejects the comforts she’s been afforded.26 I wish the self-awareness and courage to recognize and publicly address that she wasn’t the underdog this time, probably wasn’t really ever27 and won’t be anytime soon.

I’d like to scream into the wind and whip up a fervor. I’d like to foam at the mouth. I’d like to disabuse ourselves of this duplicitous notion that the Grammy’s are about high art and not the safe, commercially successful alternative. But I’ll save it for next year when Kendrick loses AOY to the next Adam Levine.

 

 

New York Knicks Trade Target(s): Ricky Rubio

It is Wednesday.

Going into the break, the New York Knicks have choked and swallowed their way to an inelegant 23-32 record. With no draft pick in 2017 and an interim head coach, it is hard to determine what, if anything, the Knicks have to play for.

Recent head coach Derek Fisher preached player development within the system, but with a starting lineup with only 2 players south of 30 years old, it is difficult to understand if that premise ever had any merit beyond the desperate equivocations of a coach who knew this bitch was going south in earnest, teeth and all. Some have even speculated that the aforementioned comment factored into the decision to fire Fisher in the first place. As many of these people reside within the New York media, it is difficult to say if the speculation has any merit. Those guys tend to be fucking assholes (exceptions made for Seth Rosenthal and Chris Herring who are decidedly chill).

Beyond Porzingis, things look bad. But hope looms narrowly over the immediate horizon! The trade deadline beckons! Given that, let’s take a look at the well-intentioned wreck presently occupying the Knicks point guard position and the boyishly handsome also-Spaniard who I would love to see rocking orange on Friday against the Nets.

The Incumbent

The East (and West) is filled with point guards who routinely shred Jose Calderon’s decrepit ankles (ankles which have become better suited for pig farming than for playing defense in the NBA). While Calderon offers some value as a locker room leader and a sharpshooter within the triangle, his liabilities on the defensive end preclude him from functioning as an effective starting guard in a league where every team (save the Knicks) has a dynamic (and often young) talent at the point.

On offense Calderon is safe but hesitant and is a step too slow to take advantage of the driving lanes that Robin Lopez’ work within the post opens up. He routinely looks off cutters to swing the ball around the perimeter, letting slightly high-risk opportunities for easy buckets fall by the wayside in favor of late-shot-clock Aaron Afflalo isolation plays. These work more than they should but not nearly enough.

Ricky Rubio

If rumors are to believed, the Minnesota Timberwolves have made starting point guard Ricky Rubio available of late. Rubio is about as dissimilar player to Calderon as can be readily conceived. Beyond their native tongue, comparing Calderon to Rubio isn’t quite comparing a mountain to a volcano so much as it is comparing a mountain to a platypus that can’t shoot three’s.

Rubio is utterly incapable of making a shot from more or less anywhere on the floor but is a crisp and decisive passer who looks to get others involved. He does not fit the conventional mold of a triangle point guard insofar as he is ball-dominant and a poor shooter. He is a good basketball player, however, and the Knicks are woefully short on those. Phil has come out numerous times and stated that any player can function within the context of the triangle. Ricky Rubio is a basketball player. Checkmate.

Rubio is also in the midst of what may be his best season statistically (18.1 PER and .122 winshares per 48 minutes) but has seen his role diminish to provide playing time to Zach Lavine at the 1 and allow Andrew Wiggins more opportunities to play on the ball. He plays solid defense despite weird unfounded comments that seem to exist everywhere to the contrary. Rubio is currently +9.6 points per 100 possessions and Rondo, everyone’s favorite actually-terrible league assists leader is at -3.1 points per 100 possessions. I only included Rondo in this comparison because he fucking sucks and I relish any opportunity to use him as a negative foil to someone I like better.

Despite Rubio’s solid-if-imperfect play, he is not without his warts. He is due 14 million dollars a year through 2019. Even with the impending rise in the cap, that is a number that can affect teams looking to be players in free agency. It also could loom as an issue for a team that will have to offer massive extensions to both Wiggins and Towns towards the end of that deal.

For the Knicks, that number would limit their flexibility for the next three years, which could be problematic if they are serious about being players for Russel Westbrook in 2017’s free agency period. Being a sane and reasonable fan, however, I cannot bring myself to think that Westbrook would go anywhere near the Knicks, mostly because I have followed the Knicks in off-season’s-passed and been infrequently rewarded with anything beyond signing one of Amar’e’s knees or re-signing Carmelo.

As for next year’s free agency period, moving O’Quinn and Calderon (the two pieces most often discussed in Knicks’ trade rumors) would take 11 million off the books. It is likely the Wolves, being awake and presumably giving a shit about whether their team is good, will need more than Calderon and O’Quinn to move Rubio. A Lance Thomas or a Derek Williams would give them some young pieces that could contribute down the road or come off the books next year should the Wolves want to be players in free agency themselves.

All-up, Rubio would be a huge upgrade for a Knicks team that could use more talent and youth at the guard position. He is only 25 and has gotten consistently better throughout his time in the league. He is a long and underrated defender. He can’t shoot the ball but would hardly be the first player to become competent from distance late in his career. He is an excellent playmaker on offense and defense who has a glaring deficiency keeping him out of the conversation as an elite point guard.

Rubio would make the Knicks better. Make it happen Phil.

What the hell happened Saturday? – Pt. 1: The Slam Dunk Competition and other takeaways from NBA All-Star weekend

This thinkpiece1 is part one of a tryptic of posts trying to wrap my head around what happened Saturday. Quick recap: The night started out with a GOP Debate that was clearly written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. During this time, the greatest NBA Slam Dunk competition in the history of ever happened (and by extension, the best overall mini-games day of All-Star Weekend in recent memory). Then, Chance the Rapper killed Saturday Night Live—like I-was-transported-to-an-otherworldly-church killed—presaging the release of Kanye West’s latest album, which is singularly the most erratic, momentarily brilliant filament of platinum I’ve consumed in a long time. Needless to say, I stayed up late trying to make sense of it all. I’m still digesting.

»«

“Man, did you hear what Drake just said? He said this is the game with the 24 best players in the world. You’re one of those guys. Embrace it all, because you never would have thought that when you were at Michigan State, and I never would have thought that when I was coaching Division II, but we’re here.” –Coach Gregg Popovich [to Draymond Green pre-tipoff]

“I’m not a role model…just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” –Sir Charles Barkley

«»

But who’ll raise the kids dunking basketballs?

If the world ever figures out how to put a gif on a tombstone, let it be known at this time in this place, this is the one for me:

Quick breakdown: You’re watching fingers-crossed-heir-apparent Andrew Wiggins’s brain melt into the same fluorescent color as his metallic jacket, while the rest of his body perfects the platonic form of the hold-me-back-but-prop-me-up-DAYUMMMM-I’ve-just-been-struck-by-the-spirit pose. Karl Anthony-Towns’ look of absolute disbelief then sudden and extreme joy reminds me too much of my son when I pretend to take his sister’s nose. Demarcus Cousins has to help his Kentucky running mate John Wall, whose legs have apparently lost the ability to perform a routine standing up maneuver. Thank god for DeMarre Carroll who actually blinked during the dunk in question, but looks so damn fly it doesn’t even matter.

The dunk contest might well have been worth it for giving us this gif alone. Alas, there were some jaw-dropping, dope dunks to go along with it. 2

Aaron Gordon’s mission was to give us four dunks we’d never seen before. He did that, and in the service of originality, he helped uplift this withering event to new heights, recast a banal event into must-see television, and reframed the very limits of what is humanly possible on a basketball court.

Dunk 1

Dunk 2

Dunk 3

Dunk 4

Dunk 5

Dunk 6

For years, basketball fans have been lamenting the absence of marquee names—a departure from decades-previous competitions that featured Michael, ‘Nique, Clyde, Kemp, Kersey, Vince and Tracy. Zach Lavine did well enough last year to abate that criticism, and with Gordon’s help this year, slayed the detractors.

Dunk 1

Dunk 2

Dunk 3

Dunk 4

Dunk 5

Dunk 6

The value of the slam dunk competition has been historically misregarded. Conventional wisdom says you need the biggest and best superstars to restore the Slam Dunk competition to its former glory, but the truth is: we never needed star power; we just needed great, mind-bending dunks.

The slam dunk competition, after all, is about awe, wonder, and capturing the child-like imagination.3 It distills, in its most potent form, what is humanly possible on a basketball court and acts as the perfect metaphor for the “I believe I can fly” narrative. It’s actually better that the dunk contest be stocked with young guys that casual fans have barely heard of; the relative anonymity of the dunkers only makes their rise more unlikely, dramatic, and, in some ways, relatable. It breathes life into this kid’s hoop dreams and dusted off my own, which I’d shelved years ago.

Unless it’s still unclear, Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon gave us the. Greatest. Dunking. Duel. Ever. Reminiscent of Travolta-Cage or Westley-Inigo or Iago-Othello or Travolta-Slater, Lavine and Gordon went at it old school mano y mano in double dunk-off, but in the freshest, most post-millennial way possible.

We used to worship human highlight reels, but this peerless duo gave us YOLO Snapchat dunks that’ll live forever on Vine in the era of we’ve seen it all already on seven different streaming services. Lavine and Gordon demolished the idols of old and did it rudely. They didn’t leave a farewell note or even bother to look back at the mess.

Seriously these guys are both 20.4 Meaning they can’t even legally drink and also that they don’t remember Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady in 2000, which means they don’t remember that dunk contest being compared to the all-time greatest faceoff between Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins in 1988. So perhaps they don’t fully realize the magnitude of their place in slam dunk history, but hey, they broke Twitter.5

Zach Lavine’s airy hangtime made human flight seem possible, and Aaron Gordon’s carved-from-marble strength made you think you were witnessing a previously undiscovered force of nature.

Everyone forgot pretty exciting Skills and Three-point Shooting Competitions

Karl-Anthony Towns, rookie and owner of the absolute disbelief mug above, won the Skills Competition! Not only is he talented. He’s tall, really tall—like seven feet tall. In fact, he’s the tallest dude to ever win the Skills Competition. To match the hype and the height, KAT snatched the title from the smallest competitor Isaiah Thomas in final-round-of-48, first-one-to-hit-a-three-wins-the-game dramatic fashion. Bullyish ball, baby.

Klay Thompson beat out Stephen Curry and Devin Booker to take home the three-point shooting title. Thompson is the best pure shooter in the NBA and deserves it. He had to sink just two corner threes on the final rack to win, and he drilled every. Single. One. Of. Them.6

Mama, there goes that man.

Now the Splash Brothers have matching shooting titles and that silly moniker is for reals something to be feared across the league. They’re adorable. The whole damn Warriors phenomena is adorable.7

Speaking of adorable. Devin Booker was included in a conversation with Steph Curry and Klay, and he’s like super adorable. I mean:

devin booker 1

C’mon man.

devin booker 2

Devin, you have to stop.

devin booker 3

Studs.

His inclusion in this conversation of best three-point shooters in the NBA is further testament to a surprisingly deep draft class. This baby face assassin was taken 13th overall and is barely 19 years old. I can’t wait to see him develop into a faster, stronger Ray Allen, as well as star on ABC’s The Bachelor season 23.

Drake’s hosts and posts some sartorial game

It’s well documented that that NBA players wear some ridiculous outfits off the court. 2016 All-Star MVP Russel Westbrook leads the pack in this regard. As de facto Toronto ambassador to everything and host of this year’s festivities, Drake took the opportunity to get in on the action.

Do Right And Kill Everything:

Drake coach

Noted Kentucky fan Drake channeled his inner Coach Calipari as he led Team Canada to victory in the celebrity game.

drake pink vest

Noted Furby fan that he is, Drake channeled every millennial’s favorite elementary school toy as he watched Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon defy the laws of physics in this cool pink fluffy vest that says, “Go on, pet it. You know you want to.”

drake mamba

Noted Kobe fan Drake dons a Farewell Mamba jacket from a 90s-style sweatshop that zapped Kobe of his killer instinct. What possible other reason did he go 4 of 11?

All-star game sets a record for points

The West scored 196 points and the East scored 173 points in regulation making the 2016 All-Star Game the most All-Star Gamiest—setting records for individual team and overall points scored in an ASG.

Five free throws were attempted, two blocks recorded on 286 field goals attempted 8 and exactly zero defense played—even when Lebron squared up against Kobe and slapped the floor Michael Jordan-style.9

Yes, it was a record, and yes, it was tons o’ fun.

I only wish Kobe had completed his triple double so he could have been in serious consideration for ASGMVP. Kobe deserves everything, and if you don’t think so, you’re ignoring the fact that the NBA—and basketball and ball-like objects getting thrown at hoop-like objects in general10—is better because of his career.11

Lebron James changes up his free throw routine

Lebron James, perhaps the most scrutinized athlete in the world, changed up his free throw routine last week and no one noticed! To be fair, Lebron didn’t shoot any free throws this weekend on the biggest stage, etc.,12 so I suppose we can forgive the basketball media elite for this oversight.

Top Luckswing researcher Phi Phan,13 however, noted James’ new routine during the February 10th Cavs-Lakers game. In a thoroughly filed report Phan noted, “He now steps back with his left foot while spinning the ball in his left hand.14 More importantly, James has also added a right shoulder shimmy a la Kevin Durant before he squares up for the release.”

The sample size is small, but since incorporating this new routine, James has gone 40% on 2 of 5 free throw attempts. Sources close to the situation say, we’re about to have a crisis on our hands.

This isn’t the first time he’s changed his routine or his mechanics at the charity stripe. It was noted twice last year and in 2013 when he was with the Miami Heat. Which begs the question: where are the pundits?15 Where’s the outrage? Who’ll be the first to cry, “THUG!”? Why aren’t the media heads spinning in the back with their grinning gun slinging god fearing swinging blinging top of the ninth inning bringing winning outrage machinery-ing?

Even NBA Reddit is quiet on this, which is like your drunk racist uncle downing a fifth of Knob Creek at Thanksgiving then proceeding to not have an opinion on the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s weird.

My only hope is, everyone’s noticed but is choosing to remain silent because there are more important things in sports to cover.16 In which case, I’m the only asshole writing about it.17

“American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” – FX’s fun and topical new series

“It’s a tasty Proustian cronut that makes you remember the events of not only 1995 but 2015.”  – Emily Nussbaum, The New Yorker

That’s right, young (younger?) America! FX and Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story (not to be confused with Abc’s American Crimehas somehow managed to give us a chance (and for older America a second chance) to experience the O.J. Simpson Story (chase, trial, and media storm) through a dimer, but still national spotlight. Based on its subject matter this series could have easily yielded nothing more than an expensive and embarrassing Lifetime movie, but instead delivers a topical, thought provoking, and nuanced experience. Following the straightforward, expositive, storytelling techniques of more traditional network television (with a higher budget) Murphy and FX present a nostalgic, accessible series with loud themes and clear reflections on this period in American history.

Like myself, I assume when all of you saw the teasers for this series last fall we all had the similar feeling of “WTF!”After so many years of experiencing this story on the singular note of “He got away with it,” hearing about a big budget series being made feels tiresome, overdone, and like a waste of your time. I will admit, I only started watching the series after reading and listening to overwhelming positive reviews from critics. Contrary to the initial impressions, American Crime Story brings humanity to the spectacle of the case and, will not have audiences “re-trying O.J. Simpson” but, instead attempting to reevaluate the entire judicial system, media’s role, societal and political issues of the time, etc. The premier episode starts (before anything O.J. related at all) with real news coverage and footage from the 1992 L.A. Riots. The writers aren’t being coy about wanting us to engage the coming narrative with the tone the riots set in mind. It will not yield the standard, speculative TV discussion about what “could” happen but, instead a reflective what “should” have happened. A conversation close to the hearts and minds of Americans as police brutality and racial/ class inequality continue to be a issue for finding justice and unity in this country.

The “spectacle” nature of the series lends itself well to Ryan Murphy whose hit or miss career in spectacle speaks for itself: Glee, American Horror Story, New Normal, Scream QueensMurphy’s campy nature tends to overly niche characters into their roles: the geek, the cheerleader, the conservative grandmother, etc. This at times becomes problematic because it leaves you with very one dimensional characters lacking in agency. However, this technique lends itself well to the O.J. narrative as it is one where the cast of characters are already overly niched players: Marcia Clark, Bob Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, Robert Kardashian, and O.J. Simpson and use them as anchors for the viewers. From their Murphy is able to create something essential to the tone and ideological discussions of the series, the factions of L.A./ O.J. trial; the strongest of which are Johnnie Cochran, O.J Simpson, and Marcia Clark.

All of the performances in the series do it justice, including David Schwimmer (Kardashian), but Sarah Paulson (Clark), Cuba Gooding Jr. (O.J.), and Courtney B. Vance (Cochran) present an authenticity and energy that draws you in. Cuba Gooding’s O.J. is perfectly unbalanced and over the top, creating a character who is sympathetic and emanates the vibe of celebrity corruption. Paulson brings, to Marcia Clark, a fire and a passion that pierces through the apathy in her DA’s office; all she sees is a domestic abuse victim whom the system failed, Nicole Brown Simpson. Johnnie Cochran has yet to take a side in the literal case, but his presence in the series represents the racial wave that the show so far has slowly been building.  Vance portrays Cochran as pragmatic, intelligent, and the only man who seems to have a understanding of how racial tension in L.A. will lead to this man’s acquittal. All three performers are/ will act as our guides through the series, and so far the performances warrant following.

American Crime Story tackling the O. J. story first was a huge challenge as a first project to take on, and so far it has surpassed all of my expectations. Using hindsight at its most entertaining, it puts America’s celebrity worshiping culture under examine and, peaks at a dark side of America’s not too distant past with issues still very present today. If this style of storytelling will lend itself well to the Hurricane Katrina planned season 2 of the series is to be determined. Similar to Fargo, True Detective, and Murphy’s own American Horror Story another season of this anthology could have a completely different direction and style. That being said, Hurricane Katrina seems like a similarly great place/ time to discuss the themes of: race, class, government, and media bottled in a national spectacle/ disaster.

With so much new content constantly being released on various streaming platforms, and even on television it is rarer to find a series that everyone in America watches and talks about (Game of Thrones being the major exception). FX creating American Crime Story brilliantly attempts to fill that void with a universal and nostalgic series, and is notably the network’s first participation in the current true-crime trend, which arose over the past two years (Making a Murderer, The Jinx, Serial). So go call your folks and tell them to start watching. Just say, “We will have more to talk about when I call.”

American Crime Story: The People v. O. J. Simpson New Episodes Tuesdays at 10:20pm on FX, and/ or available for streaming with FXNow on your computer or various phone/ tablet devices.

http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/american-crime-story/episodes

 

We say we want a revolution: Sanders is our last hope for saving American Democracy

“The upcoming election isn’t about detailed policy proposals. It’s about power – whether those who have it will keep it, or whether average Americans will get some as well.”

–Robert Reich, Former US Secretary of Labor1

Head v. heart, pragmatism v. vision

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most experienced presidential candidate in the modern era and probably ever.2

Her most recent tenures as Secretary of State and Senator of a major state (New York) would forever be the first line of Clinton’s bio if the ride were to end here—already a longer resume than some former (and current)3 Presidents when they assumed office. As such, she understands foreign policy, the nuances of governing and institutional record more than anyone in the field, and will be the most prepared on day one to tackle the job.

As FLOTUS, she represented her husband’s more liberal 4 angels—universal healthcare, children and women’s rights. Before and throughout her stint as FLOArk, Clinton was highly politically engaged. It was during this time, she took up the fight—which she continues today—for women and children, all while playing “rainmaker” at her prestigious law and bringing home the bacon.5

Clinton’s broad experience and deep devotion to public service makes her an unimaginably qualified candidate. Her brand of pragmatism and “progressive doer” is vital to the health of the Democratic Party and American Civics. Hence our absolute, unqualified endorsement of her as Vice President of the United States and first alternate for the Democratic Presidential nomination.

In the preference of practicality, Clinton has eschewed a grand vision for America.6

Mario Cuomo7 famously said, “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.”8 Hillary Clinton is all prose and pragmatism—even in this, her most important campaign. We need political leaders with Clinton’s breadth and depth of knowledge and experience; it’s the only way we’ll ever get anything done.

In the same breathe, the Luckswing Editorial staff strongly believes that a candidate asking to be President of the United States should have a clear and sweeping vision of tomorrow’s America. It is not only poetic, but vital to our self-determined national narrative, which, frankly, is one of the last vestiges of American exceptionalism.

There is only one candidate in today’s Presidential election cycle—on either side of the primaries—that understands that elections present opportunities, not only for peaceful political revolution, but to recast ourselves in the image of what we believe we should be. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) not only represents a normalization of progressive politics and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to correct the atrocity of big money in politics, he has real support and hard numbers that can be leveraged into instruments of political will.

A real shot

Let’s be clear upfront: though the odds have shifted dramatically in the last six months, a Sanders inauguration is still unlikely. The headwinds of change come strongest during election year, however, and here are four headwinds to heed from the last week alone:

  • The 50-50 split in Iowa was a win. Hillary Clinton was ahead 30% in Iowa as little as four months ago.9 Make no mistake: that coin flips dominated the post-caucus narrative and not margin by which Clinton spanked Sanders is a major victory for the Democratic Socialist.
  • New Hampshire is a lock. The generous University of New Hampshire pollsters had Sanders up 30, whereas the stingy Suffolk University number-crunchers10 him up 9, and Fivethirtyeight is giving the neighbor Senator a greater than 99% chance of victory.
  • If money is speech, Sanders’ choir sings loudest.11 Sanders out-fundraised Clinton for the first time this cycle with $20M in January—$5M more than the Secretary. He certainly hasn’t closed the gap, but to put this feat in perspective, Clinton started the campaign with $47M in the war chest to Sanders’ $15M. His, at one point, novel fundraising model is gaining momentum too. He’s fundraised over $75M with over 3.5M individual contributions at an average of $27 and no PACs. The sheer number of individual contributions alone is unprecedented in American politics and makes its own case for populism.12

fundraising screenshot

  • Early states, momentum still matters as national poll numbers keep rising. A Quinnipiac University national poll released on Friday shows Clinton and Sanders in a virtual tie—44% to 42%, respectively.13 Six weeks ago, Quinnipiac had him down 61/30.14 The biggest difference? Sanders’ results in Iowa, of course! He outperformed expectations, which puts column inches and air time in his favor, which signals to the general political conscious that he’s electable because other people are doing.

The nomination is far from guaranteed, but if Sanders’ margin of victory in New Hampshire is substantial, then we’re off to the races.15

Unapologetic liberals are a thing now16

The rise of Sanders has coincided with the growing prevalence of unapologetic liberals and increasingly progressive political rhetoric.17 A chicken and egg situation to be sure, the fact remains his “for the people by the people” candidacy, campaign, and message resonates strongly within the liberal sweet spot.

Let’s pause to point out that in these flickering shadows of the Cold War,18 Sanders’ viability as presidential candidate is, without exaggeration, incredible. He was a child during the McCarthy19 years, and now he’s a self-proclaimed Socialist among the two most likely candidates to be elected President of the United States.

But more to the point of a more progressive America, socialism is gaining traction among young voters; a June Gallup poll showed that 60% of 18 to 29 year olds and 50% of 30 to 49 year olds would vote for a socialist.20

 

socialism pollPeople are responding to Sanders’ radical politics. They’re contributing real money and showing up in the tens of thousands.21 Should this trend continue, his political world view no longer remains radical but becomes mainstream. His presence in the presidential political landscape validates an increasingly liberal electorate, and, like it or not, his presidency would normalize progressive policies and ideals, redrawing the very boundaries of mainstream national politics to the left.

The importance of aligning American policy to progressive ideals cannot be overstated, if only to set up Sanders’ political revolution.

We say we want a revolution

Which brings us to why we’re for the man in the first place22—the revolution.23

The 2016 Sanders political revolution is two-fold, and his thus far successful insurgency is the opening salvo and the proof of concept for perhaps the most important part.

Part 1: Socialism is totally okay

Liberal policies are good for Americans.24 More education opportunities,25 broader healthcare coverage, greater access to civil rights—there’s no way anyone says that every American citizen wouldn’t benefit from all of them. Surely, there are debates to be had on where the money comes from, but the fundamental values these policy outcomes represent are irreproachable.26

We stand with the most liberal candidate in the field27 because, in this moment, the evolution of our political consciousness requires it.

Sanders’ strain of socialism presents as myopic, so says the criticism. There’s virtually no foreign policy experience.28 His world view is limited to middle-class economics and income inequality.

To his critics: yes.

To Sanders: stay strong.

The question every Democrat and eventually every American voter has to answer is this: Is it middle-class economics and income equality the defining issue of our time? And can my vote in this election serve to preserve opportunity, meritocracy, and the American Dream?

We think it is, and we think your vote can.

Part 2: Nothing short of preserving American democracy

A Sanders presidency will net out the best and only real opportunity to take big money out of politics, thereby reinvigorating the democratic process and the very nature of representation.29

Academics, a former president, and anyone with working knowledge of a dictionary agree America’s trend towards oligarchy—as opposed to a true democracy. Power is concentrated among the rich. And thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2009 Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (FEC) decision, money equates to speech, safeguarding the system for wealthiest Americans to keep the loudest voices in the halls of government.

There aren’t many options when it comes to overturning a Supreme Court ruling, but the most definitive is through constitutional amendment.

Constitutional amendments, however, are really really hard to pull off30—requiring a Congressional supermajority to propose, and 75% of state legislatures to approve.31

If Bernie wins, a constitutional amendment stands a chance,32 and he’ll point to this cycle’s fundraising, volunteer, and voter support as the model for subsequent elections. A Sanders victory would be a signal to elected officials33 across the US that in they in fact have leverage against corporate interests; it would represent the eye in the heretofore unthreadable needle of big money in politics. It’s a chance to fundamentally alter the nature of representation through our republican democracy at the state and federal level.

There is absolutely no guarantee that an opportunity like this will arise in our life time. It’s incumbent on us to seize it.