(Click here for the whole list.)
70. Goldfrapp - Happiness
69. The Darkness - I Believe in a Thing Called Love
68. Iron & Wine - On Your Wings
67. Death Cab for Cutie - The New Year
66. Locksley - Don't Make Me Wait
(Full disclosure: I know them from high school.)
65. Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe
64. Rilo Kiley - I Never
63. Radiohead - Nude
62. Alicia Keys - You Don't Know My Name
The "Just My Imagination" of the '00s.
61. MGMT - The Youth
Friday, October 30, 2009
(Click here for the whole list.)
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
A chillingly utilitarian rebuff to vegetarians.
The argument is that if you eat or drink dairy products, you're supporting the existence of male calves, since "dairy cows must give birth to provide milk." These calves "are unsuitable for beef production and too costly to keep on the farm." Something must be done with those animals, and the best result -- even just from the calves' perspective -- would be to humanely raise them for meat.
But even if I accept that practical argument as far as it goes, the only thing it would seem that I "should" do is: hope that veal is produced -- and eaten by someone (of course), but not necessarily me. That's different from saying that I "should" be one of the people eating the veal. It doesn't seem like I'd have that kind of moral obligation unless I somehow knew that the amount of veal being consumed were insufficient to use up all the male calves already being born.
By the way, this is a noteworthy passage from the linked article:
The renaissance of humanely raised veal is driven in part by small farmers who embrace old-fashioned animal husbandry and see veal as an extra revenue stream. But it also has been spurred by the success of animal rights campaigns and the resulting collapse in demand for veal. In 1944, Americans ate 8.6 pounds of veal per person annually, according to Agriculture Department figures. In 2004, the latest year for which data are available, consumption had fallen to less than half a pound. It hasn't topped one pound per person since 1988.This illustrates Mark Bittman's principle: "Let's get the numbers of animals we're killing for eating down, and then we'll worry about being nice to the ones that are left." (Quoted here, from the video here.)
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
"[I]n the hierarchy of victimhood, young beats old, female beats male, domestic beats foreign, fur beats scales, defenseless beats well-armed, pregnant beats nonpregnant, and kittens beat everything."
So says this Slate article on why the press gets hoodwinked by fake victims. Of course, the point also applies to real victims.
Do you think an earlier -- perhaps censored -- draft of the article had one more item in that list: "white beats black"?
As for the part about "female beats male," I'd be interested to know if Nicholas Kristof honestly disagrees with that observation.
(Click here for the whole list.)
80. Amy Winehouse - You Know I'm No Good
Surely an autobiographical song. Let's hope she straightens her life out.
79. Shout Out Louds - Tonight I Have to Leave It
Ripping off, and improving on, the Cure.
78. Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Me and My Imagination
77. Ms. John Soda - Hands
A song that sounds like optimism being built on an assembly line.
76. Regina Spektor - Better
This was originally the "rock" track on her breakthrough album Begin to Hope, but she refurbished the production to make it subtler and more Regina-Spektor-like. This video gives you the newer version and a dozen Reginas.
75. Daniel Powter - Bad Day
Admittedly, this is a bit cloyingly mainstream for my taste and maybe yours. It still makes me feel good.
74. Imogen Heap - Headlock
Incongruously enough, this song always reminds me of making a bagel sandwich and stovetop-percolator coffee in my old apartment. I had one semester in law school where I had no morning classes on most weekdays, so I had time to have breakfast at home, and I'd always play her album Speak for Yourself (which begins with "Headlock") to get the day started.
73. The Arcade Fire - Wake Up
David Bowie joins the band in this performance.
Arguably the greatest melisma of the decade: the joyously drawn-out "adjuuuuuuust" (starting at 3:08 in the video).
72. Justin Timberlake - Cry Me a River
71. TV on the Radio - Dreams
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Some common-sense optimism on how the internet is changing our lives by Tyler Cowen, who insightfully compares the rise of online social media to getting married after a long-distance relationship.
(Via Arts & Letters Daily.)
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
My dad spotted these:
I'm reminded of the New York Times article that reported, with a straight face, on the family (a married couple with kids) that was purporting to give away its possessions. (Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, both the family and the car with the bumper stickers were in Austin.) I blogged the story and said:
They're also going to give away their current cars ... and get new cars ... and drive all the way from their current home in Texas to Vermont (where they've never been) to start a new life. I'm not sure how driving across the country -- which is to say, using up the world's resources and unnecessarily contributing to carbon emissions, just to give a partial list of the evils of driving -- is part of simplifying your life and returning to nature. Americans are so obsessed with our car culture that using a car doesn't even register as something that goes against the ideals of simplicity, counterculture, anti-consumerism. Thus, the Times write-up never mentions their car situation, and I doubt that the writers had a second thought about this. Or if they did, it was quickly dismissed: "Come on, you have to have a car!"I don't mean to attack people who feel that they need a car. Maybe they do. But if so, they should think twice about whether to hold themselves out to the world as paragons of monastic counterculturism.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
This is just a notice that I might not be posting much this week, as I'm traveling out of town for some job interviews. The top 100 songs of the decade list will be updated on Friday (as usual), but there might not be any new posts before that.
Friday, October 16, 2009
(Click here for the whole list.)
90. Grizzly Bear — Two Weeks
89. Yeasayer — 2080
88. Hanne Hukkelberg — A Cheater's Armory
87. The Notwist — Pilot
86. Norah Jones — Don't Know Why
85. Styrofoam — Couches in Alleys
Ben Gibbard (of the Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie) does guest vocals for this one-melody masterpiece. It's initially disconcerting to hear Auto-Tune applied to the vocals of an indie rock star, but it's ultimately more effective than the average dance club track. The insistent syncopation of the drum-machine beat is oddly affecting.
84. Thom Yorke - The Clock
83. Ted Leo and the Pharmacists — Counting Down the Hours
82. The Flaming Lips / Kylie Minogue — Can't Get You out of My Head
The Flaming Lips' cover is pretty much the antithesis of Kylie Minogue's original. The latter reached #1 in the charts in 40 countries.
81. Dirty Projectors — Stillness Is the Move
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Bruce Bartlett in this Bloggingheads video (embedded at the end of this post). He's plugging his new book, The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward.
Here are a few of the points he makes in the video (paraphrased, not direct quotes). These are hardly original, but they're refreshing to hear from a conservative (he worked in the Reagan and first Bush administrations):
1. America needs to raise taxes. Conservative leaders know this will eventually be necessary, and they're being brazenly irresponsible by fighting against tax increases for now.
2. The idea that cutting taxes raises government revenue is a conservative myth. So is the idea that you can "starve the beast," i.e., cut taxes so that government spends less and deficits shrink.
3. We have the least efficient health-care system in the developed world.
4. The United States should become more like Europe.
On that last point, he calls out conservatives in a way that needs to be done more often:
We're traveling down the route of Europe. And many Americans just hate that idea. If you're in any group of conservatives, and you say, "Oh, that will take us down the route of Europe," they will say, "Oh no, we don't want to do that! That's awful!" Nobody ever explains what's so terrible about Europe.
By the way, I'm not saying I agree with everything he says here. I'm not convinced by his main idea, the value added tax. On the other hand, Matthew Yglesias makes the liberal case for it.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Here's a well-done list of the world's heads of state, in order of hotness.
It's interesting to look at some of the lower-ranked heads of state and try to detect the hallmarks of unattractiveness. Many of them look like the photos were taken with a fisheye lens or distorted with a Photoshop tool.
Not surprisingly, the photos of some of the higher-ranked heads of state seem chosen to be flattering. But I've always found that photo of President Obama strangely unflattering.
In a discussion about vegetarians and Thanksgiving, an AskMetafilter commenter said this:
Food isn't just fuel - it's a whole lot of what symbolizes who you are and where you come from. One of the problems with giving up meat, especially if it's not by your own choice, is that you're giving up pieces of culture, heritage, family traditions, ties to your childhood memories, ties to the way your great grandma cooked for her children...More recently, in a personal essay in the current New York Times magazine, Jonathan Safran Foer says:
For some reason that's an aspect of vegetarianism that isn't often addressed.
When I was young, I would often spend the weekend at my grandmother’s house. ... We thought she was the greatest chef who ever lived. My brothers and I would tell her as much several times a meal. And yet we were worldly enough kids to know that the greatest chef who ever lived would probably have more than one recipe (chicken with carrots), and that most great recipes involved more than two ingredients. ...That sounds like Foer basically agrees with the AskMetafilter commenter. But he has a second thought:
In fact, her chicken with carrots probably was the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten. But that had little to do with how it was prepared, or even how it tasted. Her food was delicious because we believed it was delicious. We believed in our grandmother’s cooking more fervently than we believed in God. ...
My wife and I have chosen to bring up our children as vegetarians. ... [M]y choice on their behalf means they will never eat their great-grandmother’s singular dish. They will never receive that unique and most direct expression of her love, will perhaps never think of her as the greatest chef who ever lived. Her primal story, our family’s primal story, will have to change.
Or will it? It wasn’t until I became a parent that I understood my grandmother’s cooking. The greatest chef who ever lived wasn’t preparing food, but humans. ... [S]he would tell me about her escape from Europe [in World War II], the foods she had to eat and those she wouldn't. It was the story of her life -- "Listen to me," she would plead -- and I knew a vital lesson was being transmitted, even if I didn’t know, as a child, what that lesson was. I know, now, what it was.Foer explains the lesson at the end of the essay.
It's actually not the kind of essay that most appeals to me. I prefer to read writing that gets straight to the point instead of taking extra time to build up characters who gradually embody that point.
I also find it unfortunate that Foer puts down the role of "reason" in decision-making, saying that "stories" are more important. Of course, this is a self-serving view for a professional storyteller. But he himself relies on reason when he says:
A vegetarian diet can be rich and fully enjoyable, but I couldn’t honestly argue, as many vegetarians try to, that it is as rich as a diet that includes meat. (Those who eat chimpanzee look at the Western diet as sadly deficient of a great pleasure.) I love calamari, I love roasted chicken, I love a good steak. But I don’t love them without limit.But none of that gets to the heart of the "tradition" argument. I would argue that tradition simply isn't as important as numerous other factors -- but that's not likely to be satisfying to those who raise the tradition concern in the first place.
This isn't animal experimentation, where you can imagine some proportionate good at the other end of the suffering. This is what we feel like eating. Yet taste, the crudest of our senses, has been exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses. Why? Why doesn’t a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to confining, killing and eating it? It’s easy to dismiss that question but hard to respond to it. Try to imagine any end other than taste for which it would be justifiable to do what we do to farmed animals.
Perhaps it is better to use "stories" rather than "reason" to respond to that concern. That's what Foer does in this essay -- to chilling effect in the final section.
Monday, October 12, 2009
The obvious thing is usually the most important thing.Well, I thought that went without saying.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Ibrahim Assem, a man-on-the-street in Cairo interviewed by the New York Times, says:
"They are handing him the Nobel Peace Prize because he isn’t George Bush."That's from the New York Times' roundup of reactions from around the world. See if you can tell which of those reactions are honest.
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus says Obama should turn down the prize. Kaus has the right idea, and so do people writing for The New Republic and the Telegraph and Gawker and Metafilter and DailyKos -- and plenty of other bloggers.
UPDATE: Obama reacts: he's "surprised and deeply humbled." "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformational figures who have been honored by this prize." "I will accept this award as a call to action." Though he stopped short of turning it down, the subtext -- that he hasn't yet accomplished enough to deserve this -- was clear. President Obama, you handled this awkward moment well.
Whatever you want to call the decade spanning 2000 to 2009 -- the '00s, the aughts, the naughts -- we're reaching the end of it. So it's time to take stock of the past 10 years by answering the question: What were the 100 best songs?
(Click here for the whole list.)
First, some criteria and notes:
1. A list like this is inevitably going to short-change the strongest artists. I've used a general rule of one-song-per-artist, with a few particularly worthy exceptions.
2. The original version of the song must have been released in 2000 or later. In other words, covers of pre-2000 songs are out.
3. As far as this list is concerned, a "song" is, by definition, sung. Instrumentals by Medeski, Martin, & Wood, Amon Tobin, Four Tet, Daedelus, Kaki King, the Bad Plus, the Avishai Cohen Trio, Mouse on Mars, the Octopus Project, Ratatat, and others might deserve to be mentioned in a discussion of the best music of the 2000s, but they don't qualify for this list because they're not songs.
4. Many such lists give extensive commentary on each song. I don't plan to do this. For the most part, just including the song on the list is the commentary. Trying to justify your feelings about a song is usually an exercise in futility. Anyone making a list of the best songs of, say, the 1980s would probably include Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," but who could convincingly explain why? I'll add my own thoughts if I have something to say, but this will be the exception rather than the rule.
A major exception is the commentary on song #96 (see below), where I've spelled out 5 factors for whether a song makes the cut. Also, after I've posted the whole list, I'll draw out some general themes of the decade's music.
5. Each artist's name links to his/her/its Wikipedia entry, and each song title links to the Amazon page for the album that has that song on it. I'll provide videos when possible. In the few cases where this isn't possible, I'll link to free audio.
As I'm sure you're aware, streaming online video is an inadequate, low-quality way to listen to music, but a useful tool for discovering music you wouldn't have otherwise listened to. If you like a song enough that you find yourself listening to it repeatedly, please consider buying the album so you can get the full experience and support the artist.
6. A million thanks to the 100+ Metafilter commenters who helped me out in response to my call for song suggestions.
7. In order to mitigate the arbitrary, subjective, and presumptuous nature of this project, here are some other people's lists:
- Pitchfork's top 500 (This seems to be the most high-profile list so far, though there are some rather scandalous omissions. If you just want to scan the whole list at once, without audio or Pitchfork's commentary, this is the link to use.)8. I'm starting the list now so that it'll be finished before the end of the year. This is obviously flawed since I'm sure to miss out on eligible songs that happen to be released in the final months of 2009. Summer Anne plans on dealing with this problem by taking note of any new songs that come up. That's a clever idea, but I'm not sure I'll be alert enough to put it into practice. Instead, here's my vow to artists releasing great songs in late 2009: 10 years from now, when I'm putting together the list of the greatest songs of the 2010s, I'll include songs from 2009 that this list overlooked.
- Summer Anne's top 125 (A highly personal list with an emphasis on the heart-breaking. Still in progress, with about one new song a day.)
- Jonathan Bogart's top 100 (This list has an unabashed pop/radio focus.)
- The Factual Opinion's top 100 + 100 runners-up (No shortage of drum machines or subtle analysis.)
- Telegraph's top 100 (These aren't intended to be the best songs released in the past 10 years; rather, they're the songs that "defined" the decade, dating as early as 1981.)
- 50 Songs, 10 Years (Scrapping any pretense of objectivity and just telling the stories of how these songs changed the blogger's life.)
- NME's top 100 (Possibly the least idiosyncratic of all these lists.)
- Largehearted Boy is keeping a huge meta-list of "best of the decade" music lists. (As well as song lists, there are also lists of the best albums, the best music videos, etc.)
9. I'll post 10 songs every Friday for the next 10 weeks. I'm going to store all the links in this post so it's easy to access the whole list.
10. Here we go!
100. The Shins - Kissing the Lipless
Possibly the silliest song title of the decade.
99. Cat Power - He War
98. Bon Iver - Skinny Love
This song, along with the rest of the album it's on, emerged accidentally from a state of illness and hibernation in northern Wisconsin. (Wikipedia has the details.)
97. Psapp - Hi
96. Sara Bareilles - Love Song
Some might find this one of the odder choices, so I'm going to take this opportunity to list a few of the main questions I've asked myself in selecting the songs:
1) Is it capable of giving me chills? (Or: does it emotionally affect me?)
2) Is it capable of getting stuck in my head?
3) Do I enjoy listening to the singer's voice?
4) Does the music have some sort of dramatic arc or development? (A bridge or other deviation from "verse/chorus/verse/chorus" is especially helpful.)
5) Is there a sense of "inevitability" -- that is, does each note seem to lead naturally to the next?
A song where I'd answer "Yes" to all those questions is going to be a good candidate for the list. A song where I'd answer "No" to at least a couple of those questions is unlikely to be on the list.
So, if I have to choose between (1) a sappy, top-40-ish song that might not be too well respected, where the answer to all those questions is "Yes," or (2) a song with all the indie cred and critical acclaim in the world where the answer to some of the questions is "No," the first song will easily win out.
This song -- which has a nonchalantly effervescent quality that reminds me of Paul McCartney -- gets a "Yes" answer to all 5 questions.
95. The Knife - Silent Shout
One of the few songs that's on the list mostly for the instrumentation rather than the vocals.
94. The New Pornographers - My Rights Versus Yours
The truth in one free afternoon...
93. Edith Frost - Cars and Parties
Here's a video of her lip-synching the song on a cable-access show (her words).
92. Animal Collective - Leaf House
91. Beyonce - Crazy in Love
In the middle of this spectacular performance, she briefly veers into another great song of the 2000s.
Credit is also due to the Chi-Lites; the brass-section hook is sampled from their 1971 song "Are You My Woman? (Tell Me So)."
100-91 (with criteria for the whole list)
Runners-up: 200-151, 150-101
What was it all about?
Short URL for this post: tinyurl.com/jaltcoh100songs
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Life Magazine has a gallery of 30 dumb inventions from the '50s and '60s. (Via Metafilter.)
Some are silly but seem harmless enough, like glowing tires:
Some, on the other hand, are disturbingly dangerous. Here's a couple carrying a baby while going ice skating:
Other risky inventions include the quick-draw robot, the cigarette-pack holder, and the suspended baby cage.
Sadly, one of the inventors was killed by his own invention -- the "birdman suit":
"Birdman Leo Valentin demonstrates his method of flying from a special harness. Valentin died when his invention failed him after jumping out of an airplane in 1956."
Monday, October 5, 2009
Penelope Trunk said this on Twitter:
I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin.The mainstream media has swarmed around that three-sentence comment about what's going on in one woman's life. Penelope Trunk is one of the more successful bloggers, but she's hardly a household name — so why has this caused a national furor?
Ann Althouse (my mom) says the Twitter post sets back the cause of abortion rights by undermining the perception that pregnant women are on a "serious search for meaning."
Maybe it's true that the real-world net result of the Twitter post will be bad for abortion rights, but I wish it weren't. People should be allowed to post something to Twitter that doesn't include, within the maximum 140 characters, an obligatory qualification about how they realize that abortion is a very serious and somber thing.
And women should be allowed to write honestly about abortions and miscarriages.
Is the problem that she's glad she ended up having a miscarriage rather than doing what she had been planning to do and get an abortion? Well, if that's surprising to people, then that itself is a serious problem that her Twitter post might go some way toward rectifying. Many, many people would prefer a miscarriage to an abortion.
Maybe you think she should have somehow drenched her statement in emotion. And maybe that would have been more effective. But it can often be more subtly effective to take an issue that's usually considered too taboo or tragic to speak about honestingly and -- speak about it honestly. (And let's also remember that this is a Twitter post we're talking about; it shouldn't be held to the same standards as a magazine article.)
Being told just the plain facts can be a more powerful reading experience. It puts more responsibility on you as the reader to do some of the thinking and evaluating instead of having everything pre-judged by the author. Even if this doesn't happen to be your favorite kind of writing, it's not immoral for someone to use that style when writing about miscarriages or abortions.
Trunk has also written a blunt blog post about getting two abortions, and another one about being sexually abused. Like the Twitter post, these blog posts don't broadcast their own emotional or moral significance.
But I'm glad I've had the chance to read stark descriptions of distinctly female experiences that I, as a man, haven't had to endure. We'd be a little worse off if people like Trunk felt the need to censor themselves.
I also agree with pretty much everything she says in her defense in this CNN interview (via her blog):
Friday, October 2, 2009
(Click here for the whole list.)
Here are 50 more runners-up: songs number "150 to 101." (Here are 200-151.)
Andrew Bird - Imitosis
Of Montreal - The Party’s Crashing Us
Decoder Ring - Traffic
Bjork - It's Not up to You
John Mayer - No Such Thing
Broken Social Scene - Anthem for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl
Spoon - The Way We Get By
Kate Havnevik - New Day
Amerie - 1 Thing
St. Vincent - The Apocalypse Song (Link requires free registration with imeem.com.)
The Futureheads - Robot
Jenny Lewis - The Next Messiah (Click on the song title in the mini player.)
Hot Chip - Over and Over
The Killers - Read My Mind
Radiohead - Everything in Its Right Place
Cut Copy - Feel the Love
Camera Obscura - Let’s Get Out of This Country
Clue to Kalo - Seconds When It’s Minutes
Franz Ferdinand - Auf Asche
Rufus Wainwright - Shadows
Goldfrapp - Ride a White Horse
The Go! Team - Ladyflash
OutKast - B.O.B.
Of Montreal - The Repudiated Immortals
Uh Huh Her - Not a Love Song
Regina Spektor - Flowers
Feist - My Moon My Man
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Is This Love?
Estelle (featuring Kanye West) - American Boy
Rilo Kiley - The Good That Won’t Come Out
M. Ward (featuring Zooey Deschanel) - Never Had Nobody Like You
The Arcade Fire - Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Sophie Ellis Bextor - Murder on the Dance Floor
The Strokes - Hard to Explain
Hanne Hukkelberg - Ease
Rihanna - Disturbia
MGMT - Electric Feel
Polydream - Juner
Regina Spektor - 20 Years of Snow
Mika - Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)
Herbert (featuring Dani Siciliano and Shingai Shoniwa) - The Audience
Death Cab for Cutie - Soul Meets Body
St. Vincent - Black Rainbow
Youth Group - Someone Else's Dream
Lenka - Trouble Is a Friend
Sufjan Stevens - All Good Naysayers, Speak Up! Or Forever Hold Your Peace!
My Brightest Diamond - Golden Star
The Postal Service - Brand New Colony
The Dodos - God?
Phoenix - Lisztomania
Thursday, October 1, 2009
A memorable conversation from Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 movie Rope:
Rupert Cadell: After all, murder is — or should be — an art. . . . And, as such, the privilege of committing it should be reserved for those few who are really superior individuals.I've seen many defenses of Polanski (see my previous post on two high-profile petitions for his release), and they typically argue that his greatness as a movie director makes it somehow wrong to imprison him upon his conviction for child rape.
Brandon Shaw: And the victims: inferior beings whose lives are unimportant anyway.
Rupert Cadell: Obviously. Now, mind you, I don't hold with the extremists who feel that there should be open season for murder all year round. No, personally, I would prefer to have . . . "Cut a Throat Week" . . . or, uh, "Strangulation Day". . . [transcript from IMDB]
Maybe they're right: Roman Polanski is a superior individual. Maybe his victim just didn't matter as much as he does.
Well, I really don't think so. But wait a minute — I could be wrong. After all, you and I might both be among the inferior beings. Maybe we should defer to those with more refined moral faculties.
Actually, I shouldn't even refer to what's "moral." It's a lowly concept, as you might remember from Brandon's speech in Rope:
The few who are privileged to commit murder . . . are those men of such intellectual and cultural superiority that they're above the traditional "moral" concepts. Good and evil, right and wrong, were invented for the ordinary, average man — the inferior man, because he needs them.Likewise, the petition signed by over 70 movie-industry figures (including Martin Scorsese and David Lynch) doesn't dwell on unimportant details like what Polanski actually did to the 13-year-old girl; it doesn't even refer to a victim at all. It tells you only what you need to know:
His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals.That's it — that's all the petition says about the nature of the allegations. Surely a mere case of morals doesn't provide a sufficient justification to punish a great man, does it?