Entries by laze

Poorly Organized Thoughts On Turning 40

Turning 30 for me was absolutely no big deal. It didn’t feel like a milestone, I didn’t feel “old” all of a sudden, it was just another birthday. 40, though? Gotta admit: it feels different. It feels like a big number. For the first time, my idea of “old” didn’t shift along with my own age.

I know, I know. You’re only as old as you act, etc.

Despite feeling “big” in some undefinable way, it’s been difficult deciding what to write about turning 40.

I don’t feel like I have any deep wisdom to share, despite having learned a thing or three.

While I’ve clarified a lot of my own beliefs in my mind, I know they continue to be in flux.

A lot of things have happened during the last decade. Two kids and three dogs came into my life. I was vegan for the full decade (and then some). I was laid off, started a side business, and then took my second job since graduating college. Ran a few thousand miles. Yet, these things have nothing to do with entering my fifth decade. They just happened to happen.

I guess the only thing I have to share on the eve of my 40th birthday is this: I’m still figuring this all out. And I’ve got a ways to go, so I’m going to keep going.

Here are a few plans of mine going forward:

  • I won’t become the creepy old guy.
  • I don’t want to be the culturally or technologically out-of-touch old guy, but I also don’t want to be the old guy that looks like he’s trying too hard to hold onto his youth.
  • I will get over the hang-ups I’ve had since I was a kid that still haunt me.
  • I will embrace gray hair gracefully.
  • I will continue to look forward to New Music Friday. Forget this mess.
  • I will let my kids teach me.

As I was finishing this post up, I realized one thing I’ve gotten better at with age: taking things in stride (usually). And maybe that’s why I’m having trouble making too big of a deal about this birthday even though something deep in the back of my mind tells me this is big. Can a day be both monumental and just another day?

The mystery of the bricks

As I was going through some photos of my grandfather’s, I came across this great shot of him I presumed was from the 1930’s:

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Note the “With all my love” scribbled at the bottom. I’m guessing he gave this to my grandmother while they were still dating.

Naturally the question came up, “Where is he standing? Is there any significance to the location?”

I posted to Facebook and Metafilter to see if anyone had any ideas:

A few things worth noting:

  • Initially, I thought the “927” was an address, but I think it’s more likely the year (“1927”)
  • This was almost definitely taken in Philadelphia, PA
  • The brick configuration is unusual in that they’re all lined up [called a “stack bond,” I later found out]
  • Perhaps a church, given the cross, but the simplicity of the door may be more indicative of a church-related institution (like a school or convent)
  • My grandfather was Catholic, but that may or may not be relevant

I did some initial searches of Philadelphia buildings built or dedicated in 1927, but couldn’t find any images that seemed to match that unusual brick layout.

I got a bunch of good suggestions from the Ask Mefi thread that I followed up on: a company that does historic brick restoration in Philly (I wrote, they replied but didn’t recognize the building), the Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Center, and @roccopalmo (tweeted at him, no reply).

Things went quiet for a while until I was digging through a large box of photos my mom had brought by for me to scan and archive. Digging through some very small prints, I came across one of my grandmother that made me pause:

Irene Chmielewski - March 28, 1937 - Easter Sunday - McAdoo - Front

No doubt, that’s the same building that my grandfather was standing in front of. To make things more interesting, the back had an inscription:

Irene Chmielewski - March 28, 1937 - Easter Sunday - McAdoo - Back

Turns out that my assumption that the building was in Philadelphia held me back from finding the answer. I’m going to let my mom take over the story from here:

I Googled “McAdoo” and found that it is a small town in Pennsylvania. I thought perhaps it was a place where mom’s oldest sister, Sister Albertilla, had been stationed. I searched for Catholic schools in McAdoo but couldn’t find any pictures. Then I searched for “Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth McAdoo, Pa” [Sister Albertilla’s order] and found reference to St. Kunegunda Parish. I looked at a biography we received from the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth when Sister Albertilla passed away and sure enough she had been stationed in McAdoo. It went on to say that “in the school and convent of St. Kunegunda, Sister served as principal and local superior. Here, too, she played the organ, gave piano lessons, and painted lovely pictures of nature in addition to her other responsibilities.” I did a search for “St. Kunegunda School McAdoo, Pa” and found a real estate listing for the building. Fortunately, it had a wonderful picture so we were able to compare the brickwork, doors, etc. After so many years the date was no longer visible [or they could have been standing in front of a different set of doors elsewhere on the building -ram] but we were pretty sure we had solved the mystery.

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I then did one more search and found a PDF of “A Brief Historical Sketch of St. Kunegunda’s Parish.” Next to the last paragraph on the first page this was written: “On Sept. 23, 1927, the new school was blessed: the following year, Sept. 23, 1928, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth of Torresdale, Pa., opened the doors of the St. Kunegunda School to the increasing student enrollment.”

There was further proof! The year “1927.” It had to be the same building! Mom and Dad probably went to visit Sister Albertilla and took pictures of each other in front of the school.

What satisfaction to have finally solved the mystery of the building with unusual brickwork.

Well said, Mom.

Update: December 2, 2015

This past weekend as I was on the way home from northern Pennsylvania with my family, I noticed an exit sign that read “McAdoo.” “Folks,” I told them, “We’re taking a short detour.”

Less than five minutes later, we were parked in front of the former St. Kunegunda School and I was taking this photo:

DSC_0004

There are spaces I visit frequently (ie. my parents’ house) where my grandparents had also spent time, but being able to take this shot today sent some chills up my spine. My grandmother was only 18 at the time and my grandfather 24, so standing in that place 78 years later as a 40-year-old was a connecting experience for me. The older I get, the more these odd little moments of connection to the distant past move me.

(Thanks to Chuck and Huyen for taking the shots.)

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I am a runner, part two.

In June of 2013, I declared myself a runner. Yes, I was only running occasionally, but I’d been doing it for long enough and enjoyed it enough that I felt it was OK to stop putting air quotes around “runner.”

A year later–almost to the day–Rasine was finishing up first grade and I realized I’d gotten used to rising early to get her to school. After school finished for the year, I figured I’d try an experiment: I’d keep getting up at the same time but instead of getting her ready and walking her to school, I’d grab a light breakfast and head out for a run. And, what do you know: it worked.

A few weeks passed and I was knocking out between three and five miles, five days a week. A few more weeks passed and I got the crazy idea in my head to sign up for a half-marathon, one suggested to me by a friend from middle school. This particular race was a notoriously hilly one, one that snaked through the battlefields at Antietam. I had three months to prep myself for a race that was three miles longer than that one time years ago I ran ten miles on a training run.

Here’s the weird thing: I did it. And it wasn’t that hard.

My half-marathon time.

Now, a year has passed since I’ve started a regular running routine. In that 365 day period (which I’m marking as starting on the first day of my morning running routine, Monday June 16, 2014), I:

  • Ran 1002.86 miles, more than quadruple my previous best calendar year
  • Ran over 210 times
  • Averaged 83.57 miles per month (19 miles per week)
  • Ran 3 races (5k, 8k, and half-marathon)
  • Am on my third pair of shoes (started in Brooks Ghost, then Hoka One One Cliftons, and now Mizuno Wave Runners)
  • Was bitten by one dog
  • Took one week off in January to rest up and get rid of some nagging knee pain
  • PR’ed the Poplar Spring 5k (which I’ve run all 12 years it’s been in existence), running the semi-hilly course in 23:27 (7:33/mile pace) and finishing 28th out of 354
  • Suffered one injury, a sprained ankle at mile 1000.25 during a nighttime run that put me out for the last three weeks of my one-year experiment. Probably shouldn’t have run that extra 2 1/2 miles after spraining it.


Year two has begun, fresh off my ankle injury, and while I have no plans for any half or full marathons, I don’t plan on letting up. I probably won’t hit my 1000 mile goal for 2015, but I’m going to keep at it and try to knock out as many 100-mile months as I can from here on out. I turn 40 this year and I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life, so there’s no stopping now.

After my first half-marathon with Tara (a friend from middle school who told me about the run) and Sue (who forced me to think about running a half in the first place)

After my first half-marathon with Tara (a friend from middle school who told me about the race) and Sue (who forced me to think about running a half in the first place)

Important unimportant goals for 2015

Every year there are certain goals that repeat themselves: be a little better of a person every day, finish that album I should have finished in 2007, write more, etc. This year, I decided to instead think about the little things I wanted to do or learn that would make this year more fulfilling. And preservation, both in the forms of archiving digital and analog materials as well as digging deeper into family history. I’m approaching 40 and the big career goals and life goals don’t interest me quite as much. They’re still there, of course, they just occupy a further corner of my mind.

The theme for my list of 2015 goals is “doing stuff almost no one cares about (or has forgotten about) because that’s the stuff that’s most important (or not).” Interestingly, these items all have to do with history, archiving, or revisiting some part of my past. Maybe it’s the age inspiring reflection. I don’t live in the past, but I do like visiting.

  • Release one (two?) albums of old material, including some stuff I’ve never put out into the world. I’ve already started the process of the getting the first re-(re-)release ready to go. This may be up in the spring.
  • Bowl a few games of Canadian 5-pin. Requires going to Canada, so we’re getting our passports in order. Prerequisite: teach myself 5-pin scoring (even if I bowl at lanes with automatic scoring).
  • Finish archiving SJAUG Candy Apple newsletters from 1990. I got a good start on these last year and want to polish them off this year.
  • Launch the Raw Deal Radio archive. This Normal Bias spin-off site is underway but still needs a fair bit of work before it’s ready for the world to dig into. (Done as of Apr 4)
  • Learn more about the nuts and bolts of digital preservation (and digital preservation of analog content). Listening to podcasts. Taking classes. Talking to people.
  • Play and finish “A Mind Forever Voyaging.” I still have the original box and all its goodies, so I can have that beside me as I either play on my Apple IIe or as I fire up an emulator. I never finished it as a kid, but the game drew me in and inspired me to start on a few of my own pieces of interactive fiction.
  • Read up on the story behind (and impact of) the Attica prison riots of 1970. This will likely involve reading A Time to Die (done, 8/31) and watching Criminal Injustice: Death and Politics at Attica, if I can find it.
  • Finally launch my protected family history site for my family (with audio, stories, etc.) (Done! Announced it to family before I published this post.)
  • Figure out the mystery behind my great-grandparents’ life and trip to the US. The story is that my great-grandfather was scheduled to be executed for organizing labor strikes and he and his wife escaped the country (which we assumed to be Poland but may have been Lithuania) and came to the United States, their months-old baby dying the day after arriving at Ellis Island. This will likely take hiring someone in Lithuania to hunt down records, land deeds, etc. to build a picture of who they were and where they came from.
  • Run 1000 miles in 2015 (added 4/10/2015)

There are other more “important” goals, too, of course, but those are less fun to share.

2014: My Year in Review

2013 was a year of great change (well, I changed jobs and started a business, but for someone that spent 14 years at his first job out of college, that qualifies as a “great change”). If I had to classify 2014, I’d have to say it was one of the best years I’ve had in a while. It was the year I started a serious running regimen and ran my first half-marathon. It was the year I started a podcast. It was the year I started archiving old user group newsletters on the Internet Archive. (On the downside, I lost both a cousin and a neighbor to cancer.) Of course, this is strictly on a personal level; at a nation and world-level, ish was pretty awful this year.

Here’s a look back at my year with unimportant events mixed in with unimportant events. A few pictures are thrown in. Some links. Etc. Thanks to ThinkUp for making it particularly easy to find content to include in this post.

(Previous years-in-review collected here.)

The Year, By Month

January

  • First (non-RT) tweet of the year: “Fans of the Daily Ping, rejoice! @paulmcaleer and I are happy to announce the launch of the Yearly Ping – http://yearlyping.com/”
  • We enter the 21st century with a new HDTV
  • The Sears TV stand saga begins

February

  • My cousin Carolyn passes away after a battle with cancer
  • 18ish inches of snow
  • Sears TV stand saga nearly ends

March

  • Apparently, nothing happened.

April

  • Apartment complex right by my work burns in a three-alarm fire
  • Met up with Arquay at MWC, our old stomping grounds
  • The podcast launches
  • Ramsey turns two. Birthday party is a combo train/flip-flop party.

May

  • Easy Star in Leesburg!
  • Apple is a jerk
  • 11th Poplar Spring 5k
  • Found a dog in Medford, kept him for the night, found his people the next morning

June

  • Rasine’s softball team wins their division’s championship
  • Ramsey does his Tall Man impression
  • Caught two flies humping
  • Ramsey makes his Washington Post debut
  • Started the second half of the year off by stepping up my running routine big time
  • Ran a good Race for Independence 8k (7:50/mile pace)

Ramsey in the paper

July

  • Hit the batting cages with Alex and Rob for the first time in years. Got an enormous blister.
  • Helped a turtle that was on his back

August

  • I get an e-mail from a third cousin that found me via a DNA match on 23andme. We’ve been in close touch since fleshing out our family tree!
  • Family trip to Smith Mountain Lake
  • Family trip to Lancaster, PA and Dutch Wonderland
  • Ran 13 miles and felt like I’d run into a brick wall by the end

September

  • Our neighbor Ron passes away after a long fight with brain cancer.

October

  • Ran my first half-marathon, the Freedom’s Run, which goes through the battlefields of Antietam. I finished in just under 1:57 (the official time was a bit off since it was gun time and not chip time). Ran it with middle school friend Tara and Loudoun Veg friend Sue.
  • The Bing Maps street view camera caught a shot of me walking at lunchtime. When they came back around, I mugged for them with the full-on gunshot finger points, but sadly that image did not get captured.
  • Ten years vegan!
  • My last birthday before turning 40.
  • 2nd Annual Vegan Food Stamp Challenge
  • Bitten by a dog while running.
  • Halloween: Rasine – Warrior Cat, Ramsey – Babymetal

Freedom's Run finish
Freedom's Run with Tara and Sue

November

  • Rasine in the Washington Post
  • Family trip to NYC for Thanksgiving
  • 10-minute catch-up with high school friend Dave one-year-and-a-day after our last meeting

December

  • Got called for jury duty, but was sent home after someone key to the case didn’t show up.
  • Rasine and her softball team make the Loudoun Times-Mirror

Shepp & Santa Paws

Favorite Picture of the Year

yir-hair

(courtesy of Deb Durant)

RIP

Based solely on the folks I RIP’ed on Twitter (or FB). People I knew personally in bold. Dates are when I tweeted, not the actual death date.

  • 1/10: Rynn Berry
  • 1/12: Sam Berns
  • 2/5: My cousin Carolyn
  • 2/17: Wayne Smith
  • 3/6: Geoff Edwards
  • 3/6: Edith Kramer
  • 4/15: Rocky the Goat at Poplar Spring
  • 6/2: Yuri Kochiyama
  • 7/30: David Middlesworth
  • 9/7: Ron Leoni
  • 11/14: RA Montgomery

Media Consumption in Numbers

Books finished: 21
Movies watched: 83
Songs listened to: 17,737

Books I Finished Reading

This year my goal was to finish Jan Potocki’s The Manuscript Found in Saragossa after having false-started a half-dozen times in the last ten years. Success! Finished the year out with three books tied in some way to death or dying. For those in the midst of dealing with it (or just looking to think about it after avoiding it), Being With Dying and Being Mortal are highly recommended and compliment each other nicely.

Listed in order finished.

  • A Straight Road with 99 Curves: Coming of Age on the Path of Zen
    by Gregory Shepherd
  • Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac (From Works of Eugene Field Vol VII)
    by Eugene Field
  • Confessions of a Mask
    by Yukio Mishima
  • The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad
    by Adam Gnade (zine)
  • A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
    by Jimmy Carter
  • 33 Revolutions per Minute: A History of Protest Songs, from Billie Holiday to Green Day
    by Dorian Lynskey
  • Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men
    by Mara Hvistendahl
  • The Late Starters Orchestra
    by Ari L. Goldman
  • The River of Souls
    by Robert McCammon
  • Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece
    by Ashley Kahn
  • The Manuscript Found in Saragossa
    by Jan Potocki
  • The Fun Parts
    by Sam Lipsyte
  • The Dhammapada: A New Translation of the Buddhist Classic with Annotations translated by Gil Fronsdal
  • The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances
    by Matthew Inman
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A novel
    by Haruki Murakami
  • The New Kings of Nonfiction
    by Ira Glass
  • Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year
    by Tavis Smiley (with David Ritz)
  • Being with Dying: Cultivating Compassion and Fearlessness in the Presence of Death
    by Joan Halifax
  • Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
    by Atul Gawande
  • Nine Horses: Poems
    by Billy Collins
  • Rashomon and Other Stories
    by Ryunosuke Akutagawa

Total number of books finished: 21 (three fewer than 2013)

Books re-read: 0

Books written by someone I know or have at least spoken more than a sentence to: 1

Physical / Ebooks (incl. Kindle Singles) finished:
20.5
.5
Fiction / Nonfiction / Poetry:
7
13
1
Buddhism / Music / Death (Buddhism & Death overlap by one book):
3
3
3

Books in progress at the end of the year: 2

Movies I Watched and Re-watched

I declared 2014 the Year of Argento, with a goal of watching all of Argento’s films (mostly) in order. I got just about halfway there and will continue the effort (which will surely get more difficult as I venture into his significantly less interesting later years).

Discovered a new favorite director this year in Krzysztof Kieślowski. Absolutely loved his Three Colors trilogy and got started on his Decalogue series. As usual, I didn’t see too many films from this year, but the ones I did see I really enjoyed (Birdman, Grand Budapest Hotel, Big Hero 6).

Listed in order watched.

Number of movies: 83

Number of those movies I’d already seen: 22

Average year: 1994

Average rating: 3.73

… more fun stuff at Letterboxd

2014 Music Year in Review

Since 2007, I’ve posted a year-end music wrap up that serves mainly as a reference for myself and a few other folks that like to see what I enjoyed (I wish more friends would do the same). I try to stick to new music, no re-releases (well, one compilation album snuck in this year). Here is this year’s.

Everything’s sorted in alphabetical order. (Note: My general rule of thumb is to try and link to the album at the location the artist will get the most money (Bandcamp, their label’s site), but there are still a few Amazon mp3 store links in there (and they’re affiliate links).

(See also: all previous years-in-review.)

Best of 2014

  • Amerigo Gazaway: Yasiin Gaye: The Departure and The Return
    When mash-ups were popular a few years back, you’d occasionally get some mildly interesting pairings, like King Tubby & Wu-Tang but for the most part, they were lazy remixes with little creativity and thought. But Amerigo Gazaway took the mash-up to a whole new level, a level on-par with the best remixes, with The Departure and The Return, where he pairs Mos Def and Marvin Gaye.
  • Babymetal: Babymetal
    On paper, there is no reason that teenaged girls singing J-Pop tunes over speed metal (and occasionally reggae, hip-hop, and electronica) should work, BUT IT DOES. This was my 2 1/2-year-old son’s favorite album of the year and it’s one of mine, too. There’s no denying that since they play the bizarre genre mash-up straight rather than as a gimmick, that’s why it plays so well. They’ve shot a bunch of great videos, too, including Gimmie Chocolate and Headbangya.
  • Busdriver: Perfect Hair
    I miss rappers being unafraid to sound weird, say anything, and turn away purist hip-hop fans. Busdriver’s that dude. Love “Eat Rich” & “Ego Death (feat. Aesop Rock & Danny Brown).”
  • Castle & Has-Lo: Return of the Gasface
    It’s pretty rare that I closely check for the lyrics and the production on any given hip-hop album, but Return of the Gasface delivers that pay-attention, thoughtful, lyrical hip-hop I love and well-matched soulful, jazzy beats.
  • D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah
    A late, somewhat surprise entry from the dude that hasn’t released an album in 15 years. Great variety with lots of funknsoul.
  • Divine Styler: Def Mask
    I’ve been a Styler devotee since 1989 and over the years he’s released some of the most innovative, non-trend-following hip-hop of anyone. It’s been 15 years since his last album (which was amazing) and he picks up where he left off: futuristic funk with bass that will shudder your eardrums and flows for days. Twenty-five years after his debut as part of the Rhyme Syndicate, he’s still an enigma… and I love that.
  • Hollie Cook: Twice
    Recommended to me by Herbivore Josh. Reminds me of a young Sade over reggae riddims. Her mom was in Culture Club and her dad was Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook. And… and! Her godfather is Boy George!
  • Joshua Redman: Trios Live
    In high school when I was first discovering jazz, I was a big Joshua Redman fan. Got a chance to meet him in 2001 and compliment his circular breathing. But over the last decade, I was basically clueless about what he was doing. Thankfully, I checked into Trios Live and was super pleased to hear Redman in a different role than I was used to hearing him: more intense, experimental, and even more awesome. I mean, c’mon, he even gave the nearly 90-year-old “Mack the Knife” some new life!
  • Kalbata & Mixmonster: Congo Beat the Drum
    Dark, heavy roots and conscious dancehall. The title track will blow your car windows out.
  • Kavita Shah: Visions
    Perhaps the year’s most beautiful album.
  • Khun Narin: Khun Narin’s Electric Phin Band
    Modern Thai psych rock (well, technically, “phin prayuk”) with that rare combination of a great backstory and incredible music recorded live “in a field outside the city of Lom Sak, in the valley of mountains that form a rough border between Thailand’s North and Northeast.”
  • Lee “Scratch” Perry: Back on the Controls
    It is so nice to hear a Lee Perry album worthy of his Black Ark era productions by recreating the signal chain using original equipment and configurations and then letting Scratch loose on the dub.
  • MindsOne & Kev Brown: Pillars
    I love me some Kev Brown beats and MindsOne just fits with him… it’s one of those pairings that works perfectly (“Manipulated” feels like a classic Jeru/Primo collabo or Dilated, depending on your coast).
  • Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens: Cold World
    Shelton is somewhere around 70-years-old and still belts it out like a champion. Love her soul, love her voice.
  • The 1978ers (yU & Slimkat): People of Today
    DMV represent. Love “One Nine 7 T 8” and “P.O.T. Act II.”
  • O.S.T.R. & Marco Polo: Kartagina
    If you followed this series over the years, you know I love me some O.S.T.R. He’s an old school hip-hop head in Poland that’s not only a great MC (well, he’s got a great voice — I don’t speak Polish, so I have no clue if he’s actually a good lyricist), he’s a killer producer. Teaming up here with Marco Polo, O.S.T.R. strictly plays the MC role. Solid through and through. “What is the Question?” will surely stick in your head for days.
  • Pharoahe Monch: PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
    It’s hard to overstate how important Monch has been in hip-hop, consistently pushing boundaries and telling the stories few others are telling. On top of that, he’s still got bars every bit as fire as what he was spitting over 20 years ago. Don’t miss his appearance on the “Bullseye” podcast, either. Great interview (the part with Huey Lewis is worth listening to, as well).
  • DJ QBert: Extraterrestria and GalaXXXian
    Exactly what I wanted from a 2014 QBert album: heavy thud rumbles and vicious cuts that show why this dude is still the best in the world on the decks. Even better: he released two albums (one focused on turntablism, one on teaming up with MCs — or one from space and one from earth, if you prefer)!
  • Quantic: Magnetica
    If you’ve liked Quantic’s earlier work, you’ll get more of what you love here: soul, R&B, cumbia, highlife, etc. Really dig “Sol Clap” and “You Will Return (feat. Alice Russell).”
  • Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2
    A second chest thudding offering from El-P and Killer Mike. The only thing they could do that might top this is the forthcoming Meow the Jewels. Love “Blockbuster Night Part 1” and “Lie, Cheat, Steal” (dig the use of the Soul Searchers sample previously used in “Jack the Ripper”).
  • Shawn Lee: Golden Age Against the Machine
    The mighty Shawn Lee takes inspiration from early-80s through mid-90s hip-hop and makes a b-boy friendly album with just enough throwback vibe to be fun without being overly serious and technical. Dig the Newcleus electro vibe on “Back to the Future”
  • Supastition: Honest Living EP
    Hip-hop’s everyman Supastition is about as consistent as they come: a dude making a living, doing honest music on the side, hence the title and (familiar) theme of this EP. For us grown ass adults, this type of hip-hop is particularly appealing, especially when well done.
  • Tono S. & Beyuz: Návraty
    Slovenian hip-hop, almost 90s throwback in nature like Poland’s Hurragun, but uses 70s Slovenian rock samples.
  • Tuff Scout All Stars: Inna London Dub
    Another Herbivore Josh recommendation. Super heavy dub, love “Dub It Inna Long Acre” and “The Marshall of Inverness St,” which pulls in some vocals from “Truths & Rights.”
  • Various Artists: Spiritual Jazz 5: The World
    Compilation of re-released material from 1961-1979.
  • Vienio: Etos 2
    Solid Polish hip-hop with broad true school appeal. Tek from Smif n Wessun guests. For fans of O.S.T.R.
  • Your Old Droog: EP
    I never bought for a second that he was a pitch-shifted Nas, but I do buy that he’s one of the few of the new breed of MCs that deserve the hype they’ve gotten. Sure, he could be labeled “derivative,” but I prefer the term “influenced.” “Nutty Bars,” indeed.

Almost Best of 2014

  • Chris Read: Small Steps
    Original hip-hop, funk, dub, and afro-beat from the dude that brought us the classic Diary megamix. One of those easily overlooked albums, but don’t miss it.
  • DJ Connect: Well Connected
    Swedish hip-hop producer teams up with (mostly) US-based MCs of varying renown.
  • Eyebrow: Garden City
    Like 70s Miles with some modern electronica leanings. Spacy and subdued. Herbivore Josh recommended.
  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Piñata
    Dirty, gritty blaxploitation-esque soulful funk. Love “Scarface” and “Real.” Dope guest spots from Danny Brown, Scarface, and others.
  • Ghostface Killah: 36 Seasons
    Another cinematic epic from Tony Starks with repeated appearances from Kool G Rap and AZ. Not quite on the level of last year’s Twelve Reasons to Die, but dang, two years in a row with albums this strong? Impressive.
  • L’Orange: The Orchid Days & After the Flowers EP
    One of my favorite new(er) producers, I love the warmth and how he manipulates a mood. Sometimes things get a little choppy on the production tip for me, but overall, these are two wonderful, connected albums.
  • Meridian Brothers: Salvadora Robot
    Wonderfully odd, slightly “off” tropical music.
  • Michael Jackson: Xscape
    Surprisingly fresh takes on material recorded as far back as 30 years ago. A template for how posthumous albums of unfinished materials should be handled.
  • Prince: ART OFFICIAL AGE
    The mysterious one returned sounding way fresher than I expected from someone who released his first album 36 years ago to sound. Fun fact: Prince was a Reagan supporter back in the 80s.
  • Prince Po: Animal Serum
    It’s so dope to have great albums from both members of Organized Konfusion in one year. And this one features a track with Saafir & Rock and another with OC and Pharoahe, so yeah.
  • Ranee Lee: What’s Going On?
    Ranee Lee was the first jazz album I ever got to revie over 20 years ago. Though her style of mellow vocal jazz is not usually the way I swing when it comes to the genre, I eagerly await everything she releases. “Where Do You Start” is beautiful and the cover of Marley’s “One Love” is better than one would expect.
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: Give the People What They Want
    The album’s release was delayed while Sharon battled (and beat the crap out of) bile duct cancer, but worth the wait. Soulful and funky as always, it throws no curveballs. Favorite cuts: “Retreat!,” “Now I See,” and for Sharon, the aptly titled “People Don’t Get What They Deserve.”
  • The Budos Band: Burnt Offering
    Budos has got that block rocking funk. As always.
  • Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: Polka
    Love the cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bombtrack” where they shift from more traditional jazz into aggressive Jerseyband-style metal jazz.
  • Ziggy Marley: Fly Rasta
    One Ziggy’s best albums with positive, upbeat reggae that’s exactly what you’d want from a Marley album.

Best of 2013 I missed until 2014

  • Clear Soul Forces: Gold Pp7s

My Daughter’s Favorite Tracks This Year

My daughter, now eight, is much less influenced musically by me than she was in previous years and moreso by classmates, cousins, the radio, etc. As a result, many of her favorite songs absolutely horrify me (“Whistle”) or confound me (“Life is a Highway”). But, she’s finding her way in through the pop morass and occasionally likes some pretty non-pop songs she hears (Roy Budd, Babymetal). Here’s her list of songs she really dug this year.

  • Roy Budd: “Getting Nowhere in a Hurry”
  • Charli XCX: “Boom Clap”
  • One Direction: “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful”
  • Owl City: “Good Time”
  • Gummibär: “I’m a Gummy Bear (The Gummy Bear Song)”
  • Tom Cochrane: “Life Is A Highway”
  • OneRepublic: “Counting Stars”
  • Owl City: “Fireflies”
  • Meghan Trainor: “All About That Bass”
  • Demi Lovato: “Let It Go”
  • Babymetal: “Gimme Chocolate”
  • Taylor Swift: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
  • Taylor Swift: “Shake It Off”
  • Ylvis: “The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)”
  • Magic!: “Rude”
  • P!nk: “Just Give Me A Reason”
  • Katy Perry: “Roar”
  • Train: “Hey, Soul Sister”
  • Pharrell: “Happy”
  • Flo Rida: “Whistle”
  • Taio Cruz: “Dynamite”
  • Flo Rida: “Good Feeling”

My Son’s Favorite Tracks This Year

My son is two-and-a-half and this year started developing some favorite songs, so it’s time for him to get his own section.

  • Idina Menzel: “Let It Go” (like every other two-year-old on the planet)
  • The entire Babymetal album
  • Owl City: “Good Time”
  • OneRepublic: “Counting Stars”

Best Tracks of 2014

Here’s my list of favorite tracks of the year, along with a Spotify playlist of as many are available there. (Songs not available in the playlist are denoted with a * and a link is provided.)

Note that while the list below is sorted alphabetically, the Spotify playlist has been carefully organized to provide the Optimal, Cohesive Listening ExperienceTM.

  • The 1978ers (yU & Slimkat): “One Nine 7 T 8”
  • * Amerigo Gazaway: “Ms. Fat Booty (Yasiin Gaye)
  • Aphex Twin: “s950tx16wasr10 [163.97][earth portal mix]”
  • Army Of The Pharaohs: “The Tempter and the Bible Black (feat. Vinnie Paz, Planetary, Esoteric, Apathy & Celph Titled)”
  • Babymetal: “Gimmie Chocolate”
  • Bear Hands: “Sleeping on the Floor”
  • Benjamin Booker: “Spoon Out My Eyeballs”
  • Billy Idol: “Postcards From The Past”
  • The Bombay Royale: “(Give Me Back My) Bunty Bunty)”
  • The Budos Band: “Magus Mountain”
  • Busdriver: “Eat Rich”
  • Castle & Has-Lo: “Casual Friday”
  • Chokeules: “40-Year-Old Vegan”
  • Chris Read: “Disco Cumbia”
  • Chronixx: “Here Comes Trouble”
  • The Custodian of Records: “Absolutely”
  • D'Angelo and The Vanguard: “Sugah Daddy”
  • Daniel Bachman: “Coming Home”
  • Denmark Vassey: “Let the God Eat (feat. Scud One)”
  • Dice Raw: “Never Be a Gangsta”
  • Divine Styler: “Carrier's IQ”
  • DJ JS-1: “Turn the Tables (feat. O.C.)”
  • Doc Strange: “Monster Mashin' (feat. Chino Xl & DJ Menace)”
  • Esoteric & Stu Bangas: “Repercussions (feat. Ill Bill)”
  • Eyebrow: “The Golden Road”
  • The Flaming Lips: “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (feat. Miley Cyrus & Moby)”
  • Flying Lotus: “The Protest”
  • Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: “Real”
  • Fumaça Preta: “Fumaça Preta”
  • * Gese: “On Ill
  • Ghostface Killah: “The Battlefield (feat. Kool G Rap, AZ, and Tre Williams)”
  • Hollie Cook: “Win or Lose”
  • J-Live: “Money Matters”
  • Jo Mersa: “Rock & Swing”
  • John the Conqueror: “Golden Rule”
  • Joshua Redman: “The Ocean”
  • Junior Stress: “To Nie Ja (feat. Vienio)”
  • Kalbata & Mixmonster: “Congo Beat the Drum (feat. Major Mackerel)”
  • Kavita Shah: “When… (Bonus Track)”
  • Khun Narin: “Show Wong Khun Narin #3”
  • L’Orange: “The End (feat. Billy Woods)”
  • * L’Orange: “My Magic Is The Best Magic (inst.)
  • Lee “Scratch” Perry: “Words Re-vision (Dubplate Cut)”
  • The Legion: “Stereo (Remix)”
  • Luciano: “Music is Life (feat. Turbulence)”
  • Madlib: “Yeti Movie”
  • Me'Shell Ndegeocello: “Good Day Bad”
  • Meridian Brothers: “El Gran Pajaro de Los Andes (instrumental)”
  • Michael Jackson: “A Place With No Name”
  • MindsOne & Kev Brown: “Legion of Doom (Remix)”
  • Molly Johnson: “God Bless The Child”
  • Muneshine: “Life Goes on (feat. Fresh Daily & ELMNT)”
  • Mungo’s Hi Fi: “Nice It Up (feat. Charlie P)”
  • Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens: “Get Up, Child”
  • Nehruviandoom: “Great Things
  • Nostalgia 77 & Prince Fatty: “Quiet Dawn Dub”
  • O.S.T.R. & Marco Polo: “What is the Question”
  • Onyx: “One 4 Da Team (feat. Reks)”
  • OOIOO:”Gamel Ninna Yama”
  • Orlando Julius & The Heliocentrics: “In The Middle”
  • Pep Love: “Evergreen”
  • Pharoahe Monch: “D.R.E.A.M. (feat. Talib Kweli)”
  • Prince Po & Oh No: “U Already (feat. Saafir & Rockness Monsta)”
  • Prince: “FUNKNROLL”
  • Quantic: “You Will Return (feat. Alice Russell)”
  • Ranee Lee: “One Love”
  • The Roots: “Understand (feat. Dice Raw & Greg Porn)”
  • Run the Jewels: “Blockbuster Night Part 1”
  • Sage Francis: “Make Em Purr”
  • Sarius: “Tak Bardzo Ja (feat. Ras)”
  • Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings: “Now I See”
  • Shawn Lee: “Rock Steady (feat. Lightheaded)”
  • Sick of it All: “Disconnect Your Flesh”
  • SlimKid3 & DJ Nu-Mark: “Boullion (feat. Del & Murs)”
  • Souljazz Orchestra: “East Flows the River”
  • Supastition: “Honest Living (feat. DJ Jon Doe)”
  • Swollen Members: “Jackson Pollock (DJ Makeway)”
  • Tommy Guerrero: “The Gunslinger”
  • Tono S. & Beyuz: “Nudny Chalan”
  • Tuff Scout All Stars: “The Marshall of Inverness St”
  • Verbal Kent & DJ Eclipse: “Beast Mode”
  • Vienio: “Wszystko Jest W Ruchu (feat. Kosi & Łysol)”
  • Willow: “8”
  • Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: “Bombtrack”
  • Wu-Tang Clan: “Mistaken Identity”
  • Your Old Droog: “Nutty Bars”
  • Ziggy Marley: “Fly Rasta”
  • Zion I: “Get Urs (feat. Mr. Lif, Kev Choice, Deuce Eclipse, Opio, and Sadat X)”

My Top 15 Scrobbled Artists for 2014

1 Washboard Sam 187
2 Lee “Scratch” Perry 96
3 Shawn Lee 93
3 Amerigo Gazaway 93
5 De La Soul 90
6 DJ QBert 85
7 Augustus Pablo 84
7 Syl Johnson 84
9 Half Pint 83
10 Gang Starr 82
11 Skillinjah 79
12 Geto Boys 72
13 Madlib 71
14 Kool Keith 68
15 Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings 67

Other Stats

Total tracks: 17737
Total unique tracks: 15489
Song Repetition: 1.16

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2014: The Year in Tweets

Here’s the first of my three year-end posts: my year in Tweets. It should be noted I felt a lot less active on Twitter this year than previous years.

Actually, that’s understating it. My tweets this year were primarily links and retweets with almost nothing of personal substance. Maybe I’ll change that up in 2015.

(EDITED: added a few more tweets; thanks to ThinkUp for the reminders)

2013 Music Year in Review

(It’s almost absurd for me to post a year-in-review post for the previous year in November, but I’ve had this post sitting near-done for a long time and it’s time to just get it posted so I can start on this year’s!)

Since 2007, I’ve really enjoyed putting together these year-end personal “best-of” lists. Since most of my music “journalism” these days is limited to Twitter, I take the time at the end of the year to put together a list what really grabbed me.

Everything’s sorted in alphabetical order. (Note: Many album links are affiliate links to Amazon’s mp3 store.)

(See also: all previous years-in-review.)

Best of 2013

  • abolitionist: the growing disconnect
    Punky punk punk punk punk punk from Portland!
  • Banda Magda: Amour, T’es La?
    I read about this fun little album on the NPR Music site and really dug the French ye-ye influence mixed with samba and other international sounds.
  • Colossus: Colossus
    Rochester, NY-based big band Colossus doesn’t play big band music (if they did, they likely wouldn’t be on this list). Instead, they play that slightly dark, modern jazz oft dubbed nu jazz or future jazz. Whatever the case, this six track album showed me that this style of jazz doesn’t have to be played only in a small group setting for good effect; it actually works really well in a big band setting.
  • Cornell Campbell Meets Soothsayers: Nothing Can Stop Us
    It seems so hard to find new roots reggae that features classic singers and a solid backing band with a real feel for the 70s roots sound. This is one of the rare new reggae albums that fits the bill. Favorite cut: “With You My Heart Belongs.”
  • Demigodz: Killmatic
    Celph, Apathy, and crew give you that aggressive drive time music you need and love. Peep how they flip the Rocky theme.
  • Erin McKeown: Manifestra
    Not my favorite of her releases, but it’s hard to deny that Erin McKeown loves what she does and isn’t afraid to try new sounds. She can always be counted on for a good album.
  • Franz Ferdinand: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
    Sounds Buddhist-y from the title, but isn’t. Super catchy title track. Actually, the whole dang thing is catchy.
  • Ghostface Killah and Adrian Younge: Twelve Reasons to Die
    One of the most interesting Wu albums in years. Based on a comic of the same name, it’s hard to imagine a hip-hop concept album that doesn’t feel at least a little corny, but this is it. Though the main theme is Godfather-esque, I actually get more of a 70’s giallo vibe from Adrian Younge’s excellent production, which makes me love it even more. Fantastic stuff all the way through. (Apollo Brown’s remix version of the album called Twelve Reasons to Die: The Brown Tape is also well worth checking out.)
  • Jazz Addixx: Tomorrow’s Yesterday
    I’ve known Ragz for 15 years and Mudd for even longer, so I’m a touch biased. These three guys worked so long and hard on this album and it really shows. They’ve managed to stay true to their 70s-and 80s-soul-jazz-influenced roots while adding layers of complexity and nuance to their tracks that make this one of the most engaging albums of the year. Unown tears the ish out of the mic and his own beat on “Far Out” and you can hear the group’s effortless interaction on “Love Song” and “Ahhh!” where Un and Mudd trade lines while Ragz adds his signature cuts. This is grown up hip-hop that’s not afraid to battle every so often.
  • Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: Unvarnished
    The Joan Jett sound hasn’t changed all that much since the 80s (shoot, since her time with the Runaways), and that is totally, 100% OK. The fact that a 55-year-old can still rock (and be engaging when doing it) like she did at 25 is good enough for me.
  • Justin Timberlake: The 20/20 Experience (Volume One)
    What can I say? It’s about as engaging as pop gets. The second volume, oddly, was exactly the opposite.
  • Kid Tsunami: The Chase
    I’d never heard of Australian-based Tsunami before this album, but I’m glad I found him. The Chase is a brilliant slice of the 90’s boom bap sound. All of key players of the 80s and 90s are involved, including Kool Keith, OC, Percee Pee, El da Sensei, Bahamadia, and KRS-One, and they’re all at their best.. The title track is like “Crooklyn Dodgers part 4” with Buckshot, Chubb Rock, Pharoahe Monch, and Jeru. There’s not a single piece out of place here.
  • Klaus Layer: The Adventures of Captain Crook
    As they say, Klaus Layer is “skilled in the trade of that old boom bap”… with a nice dash of psychedelia to round things out. Love this dude’s instrumentals.
  • Meerenai Shim: The Art of Noise
    Super awesome compositions that combine classical, experimental noise, and blippy chiptune. (Meerenai is an uber-talented flautist my wife knew in elementary school. And she’s vegan. So she’s got a lot going for her.)
  • Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2
    Yeah, I mean, come on now. The Quintet sounding absolutely awesome on this late-60s date.
  • Shawn Lov: Grotesque Heads
    Shawn’s an underground NJ hip-hop head from way back (his dad ran the recording studio where many south Jersey classics were recorded) with a deep catalog dating back to when he was only 12 years old. He’s living out in San Fran now and running an arcade, but hooked up with Custodian of Records (aka Self, aka Grizzly Adams) and German producer Sebastian Hochstein to put together this tight collection of tracks with “old days” reminiscences and straight battle rhymes. Nothing fancy, just what I’ve grown to love about Shawn’s music.
  • The Sign of Four: Hammer, Anvil, Stirrup
    Miles Newbold’s (Natural Yogurt Band) new band serves up fantastic funky space jazz with just the right balance of almost exotica melodies, swirling cosmic tones, and jazzified funk.
  • Son Lux: Lanterns
    Synthpop with downtempo breaks and a little boom bap for added depth.
  • Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: We the Common
    Thao Nguyen is on that short list of artists I will check for each and every time. We the Common kicked off 2014 nicely with her blend of catchy indie folk-rock. The title track and “Holy Roller” are awesome.
  • Valerie June: Pushin’ Against a Stone
    Pushin’ Against a Stone held the same appeal for me this year as Michael Kiwanuka’s Home Again did last year: a soulful album with classic sensibilites that doesn’t feel like a kitchy retro-throwback. And the new spin the style gets doesn’t feel forced or mashed up; it feels natural. This type of album is not an easy thing to pull off. Love the lead off track “Workin’ Woman Blues,” “Wanna Be On Your Mind,” and “You Can’t Be Told.”
  • Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ: Three-Mountain Pass
    Beautiful modern Vietnamese folk. “3 Gnossiennes” is stunning. See also her NPR Tiny Desk concert.
  • Yatha Bhuta Jazz Combo: Yatha Bhuta Jazz Combo
    Onra’s is one of my favorite producers of the last ten years thanks to his pair of Chinioseries albums and 2012’s Deus Ex Machina by Buddy Sativa was pretty great, too, so naturally I was looking forward to this spiritual jazz collaboration between the two. It didn’t disappoint.

Almost Best of 2013

  • Aceyalone: Leanin’ On Slick
    Acey’s one of those super talented dudes that keeps dropping quality albums quietly. I’ve been a big fan since All Balls Don’t Bounce and (especially) A Book of Human Language. His latest effort is bouncy and jazzy and all growed up, a nice extension of the doo-wop and funk influenced “The Lonely Ones” from 2009. The MC-as-lounge-singer (in a good way) vibe is evidenced by “30 and Up” where Acey declares, “This is for the 30 and up, / Grown folks who’s earnin’ a buck.” He also rocks it on “Workin’ Man’s Blues'” (ever-so-slightly different than the version on The Lonely Ones) and “Hit the Road,” which is way better than it should be using “Hit the Road Jack” as its base.
  • Al Supersonic And The Teenagers: It’s Alright
    If I were a soul singer performing classic soul-style tunes, I’d also call myself Al Supersonic.
  • Archie Shepp and the Attica Blues Orchestra: I Hear the Sound
    It’s going to be hard for Shepp to ever hit me like he did with his 1960s albums, but he’s still got the fire on this Kickstarter-backed album. This orchestral take on some of his classic work is generally quite enjoyable (though I was definitely disappointed by the “Attica Blues” rendition). He brings back “Steam,” “Mama Too Tight,” and “Ujaama,” all of which fare better than “Attica Blues.”
  • Danny Brown: Old
    I never messed with Danny Brown before. The little I’d heard didn’t grab me and I just couldn’t understand why he was held in such high regard among the newer breed of MCs. The first half of Old made it all clear to me. “The Return (feat. Freddie Gibbs)” has funk and soul elements with spacey synths and touches of eastern flutes that is compelling as it gets. “Wonderbread” is wonderfully odd and erratic, like if Sun Ra and Kool Keith covered a nursery rhyme. The first half of the album is significantly more enjoyable than the second, but it’s still a carefully conceived album best ingested as a whole rather than its independent pieces.
  • DJ Dister: Roll Wit Dis
    Artifacts, G Rap, Kool Keith, KRS, and other old school favorites keep rocking over dope Dister tracks.
  • Eminem: The Marshall Mathers LP 2
    Em’s audience may not be as rabid as they were ten years ago, but no one can deny the guy’s still got bars who “can just walk up to a mic and just bust.” And he’s still capable of making aggressive, offensive music that makes you want to punch someone in the face. Can you imagine back in 1988 the idea of a 40-year-old white rapper (hell, anyone over 35 at that point) being a legit MC? It’s not a perfect album (those sung hooks, man), but it’s a good listen. Favorite cuts: “Survival” (a song there’s no reason I should like, but I do), “Berserk,” and “Rap God.”
  • Hieroglyphics: The Kitchen
    This one didn’t seem to get much attention after its release, but it’s a solid, classic Hiero crew album. Not everything clicks, but if you’re a long time Hiero fan, you didn’t leave disappointed.
  • Jasiri X: Ascension
    It’s hard not to like a dude like Jasiri X who is out with a new track with accompanying video within what feels like moments of any major politically-charged event. Though his beats don’t always grab me, Jasiri X is this generation’s Paris (who had the same issue with beats after his first two albums).
  • Las Supper: Back to the Future
    Big Daddy Kane’s “grown-up” rap/soul/funk band certainly offers a matured, relaxed version of Kane, but there are still some classic fast rap Kane moments throughout. The guy’s still got it and though this new project didn’t always hit on all cylinders, it’s a fun listen and probably a pretty awesome live show. Dig “Where Do We Go (From Here)” and “Last Chance.”
  • L’Orange and Stik Figa: The City Under the City
    The mighty Stik Figa mayne sounds great over L’Orange’s soulified beats.
  • Mary Halvorson Septet: Illusionary Sea
    Halvorson is certainly an acquired taste, but if you’ve acquired it, you’ll want to taste this.
  • Mikrokolektyw: Absent Minded
    Mikrokolektyw’s second album on Delmark (!!) is just as enjoyable as their first. Fans of Suchar and Majewski’s work with Robotobibok will be pleased.
  • Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels
    El-P + Killa Mike = pretty much what you’d expect. Industrial strength beats, hard bars, and a nice dose of don’t-give-a-fuckness. “Banana Clipper (feat. Big Boi)” is pretty boss as is the non-album late-year leak, “Pew Pew Pew (feat. DJ Q-Bert).”

Best of 2012 I missed until 2013

My Daughter’s Favorite Tracks This Year

My daughter, now seven, has been gravitating more toward pop tunes, but every so often still surprises me with a random song I’m playing that she’ll like. Here are her new favorite tracks from 2013 (not limited to songs from this year).

  • Donald Byrd: “(Fallin’ Like) Dominoes”
  • Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: “We the Common (for Valerie Bolden)”
  • Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: “Holy Roller”
  • Quiet Riot: “Cum on Feel the Noize”
  • Owl City: “Fireflies” (this kills me a little bit inside)

Best Tracks of 2013

Here’s my list of favorite tracks of the year, along with a Spotify playlist of as many are available there. (Songs not available in the playlist are denoted with a *.)

Note that while the list below is sorted alphabetically, the Spotify playlist has been carefully organized to provide a cohesive listening experience ™.

  • abolitionist: “Bright Red Blood Letters”
  • Aceyalone: “30 and Up”
  • Adam Pieronczyk Quartet: “The Storks of Marrakech”
  • Al Supersonic And The Teenagers: “It’s Alright”
  • Archie Shepp & The Attica Blues Orchestra: “Blues for Brother G. Jackson”
  • Banda Magda: “Amour, t’es là?” *
  • Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite: “I Don’t Believe A Word You Say”
  • Colossus: “Up and Up”
  • Cornell Campbell Meets Soothsayers: “With You My Heart Belongs”
  • DJ Dister: “Regardless (feat. Artifacts & DJ Stylewarz)”
  • Danny Brown: “Wonderbread”
  • Deltron 3030: “What is This Loneliness? (feat. Damon Albarn & Casual)”
  • Demigodz: “Dead in the Middle” (almost “Demigodz is Back”)
  • Dooley-O: “Burn Dem Up (feat. Smoke)”
  • Dr. OctoTron (Del & Kool Keith): “Good Stuff (feat. Motion Man)”
  • Elvis Costello & The Roots: “Cinco Minutos Con Vos”
  • Eminem: “Survival” (almost “Rap God” or “Berserk”)
  • Erin McKeown: “The Jailer”
  • Franz Ferdinand: “Evil Eye”
  • Ghostface Killah: “Beware of the Stare”
  • Grand Daddy I.U.: “Sasquatch Feet”
  • Hieroglyphics: “Passing Fads”
  • Jasiri X: “42 Bar Thesis”
  • Jazz Addixx: “Lemonade”
  • Justin Timberlake: “Pusher Love Girl”
  • Kid Tsunami: “The Chase (feat. Buckshot, Chubb Rock, Pharoahe Monch & Jeru the Damaja)”
  • Klaus Layer: “In My Mind (Instrumental)”
  • L’Orange and Stik Figa: “Decorated Silence (feat. Open Mike Eagle)”
  • Las Supper: “Last Chance”
  • Mary Halvorson Septet: “Red Sky Still Sea (No. 31)”
  • Meerenai Shim: “Mercurial”
  • Mikrokolektyw: “Little Warrior”
  • Oh No: “Controlled Riots (feat. Souls of Mischief)”
  • Quantic, Alice Russell, and Combo Barbaro: “Here Again”
  • Red Baraat: “Shruggy Ji”
  • Run the Jewels: “Banana Clipper (feat. Big Boi)”
  • Rustee Juxx: “Countdown to Def (feat. Chip-Fu and Brother J)”
  • Shawn Lov: “Another Level (feat. Self as Grizzly Adams)” *
  • Son Lux: “Easy”
  • Soul Sugar: “East of the River Nile” *
  • Souleance: “L’Insoulence”
  • Tanya Morgan: “The Vehicle (feat. Spec Boogie & 6th Sense)”
  • Tech N9ne: “My Haiku/Burn the World (feat. Kriss Kaliko)” *
  • Thao & The Get Down Stay Down: “Holy Roller”
  • The Godfathers: “Crook Catastrophe & The Gunblast Kid”
  • The Hip Abduction: “Why Say One”
  • The Sign of Four: “Jumping Beans”
  • U-God: “Zilla” *
  • Valerie June: “Workin’ Woman Blues”
  • Van-Anh Vo: “3 Gnossiennes: Gnossiennes No. 3”
  • Yatha Bhuta Jazz Combo: “Honey, Hash, Rose”

My Top 15 Scrobbled Artists for 2013

1 Johnny Clarke 115
2 King Tubby 107
3 The Roots 104
3 Jungle Brothers 104
5 Hieroglyphics 92
5 Half Pint 92
7 Twinkle Brothers 90
8 Max Romeo 87
9 Stevie Wonder 86
10 Horace Andy 79
11 Brownbird Rudy Relic 77
12 Jazz Addixx 73
13 Dennis Brown 71
14 Ultramagnetic MC’s 70
15 Del Tha Funkee Homosapien 68

Other stats

Total tracks: 15670
Total unique tracks: 13969
Song Repetition: 1.12

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Genealogy: Get that dang family tree started today!

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while, but it took a post by Chris challenging bloggers to post more frequently and a personal request from the same Chris for some information on this topic to finally make me sit down and write it. And it still took me a few weeks.

Let me start by telling you this: no matter how long you work on your family history, you will never, ever type genealogy correctly the first time. Now, with that out of the way…

Growing up, I remember one member of my family (hi, Aunt Jeanette!) who was known as the person in the family taking care of researching family history. She worked on it for many years and got some outstanding information. I always thought it was great that she was doing it, and an interest in genealogy started to spring. I put a simple tree together with my dad, presumably for a class project.

tree

tree1

Though my interest waxed and waned, I never really did much aside from buy a piece of family tree software, install it, and then forget about it. But eight years ago when my daughter was born, the interest came back with a passion. I wanted to put together a family tree with her as the root and research not only both sides of my family, but my wife’s family as well.

This post outlines the approach I took and what I found useful, then develops a set of steps around it for others that might just be at the cusp of getting started with their own family tree.

Choose a platform

Before you do anything, give some consideration to how you want to keep track of all the information you’re going to gather. While there quite a few choices, the good news is GEDCOM. GEDCOM is a simple file format developed back in 1984 that (almost) every piece of genealogy software that exists can export to and import from. So, if you choose a tool that you end up not liking, you’ll be able to transition to another tool with a minimum of fuss.

While it might be tempting to use an online service as the primary location to store your tree, I’d highly recommend instead choosing a piece of desktop software that syncs with online storage. The two major choices here are MyHeritage Family Tree Builder, which syncs with the MyHeritage site, and Family Tree Maker, which syncs with Ancestry.com. It’s quite a crowded field, of course, so set aside some time to try out a few.

I ended up choosing MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder because I liked the interface and the price is right (free).

Just get started

With software in hand, jump in. Pick the root of your tree and start entering everything and everyone you know off the top of your head. If you know a name, but not a birthdate, that’s OK: add them and what you know you about them. I promise you that you’ll be circling back around to every person in your tree multiple times over the years adding more and more information. And if you’re not, you’re doing it wrong.

Ask family

At this point, you’ve done your initial brain dump and probably gotten pretty used to it. Now’s the time to start reaching out to family members for additional names, details, and stories. Ask for paperwork, photos, family bibles, death announcements, newspaper clippings, and anything else you can think of.

I found that family started getting very interested in the project once I started asking questions. I think genealogy is one of those things that everyone gives a passing thought to, but few end up making the leap into heavy research.

Sign up for a service (or more than one)

Another reason I liked MyHeritage is that their online service has a decent free tier, allowing a tree of up to 250 people and 500 megs of storage for photos. As you get further into your tree, you’ll probably want to move up to a paid version of a service not only for storing your tree, but for doing research.

The two major sites, again, for this are Ancestry and MyHeritage. Which is better? Which should you subscribe to? Here’s my wishy-washy take: either and, at times, maybe both.

I have an ongoing subscription with MyHeritage that covers storage for my growing tree of over 1200 family members and also a fair number of databases for research. However, every so often Ancestry will run a really good promotion and I’ll sign up for six months with their service as well. Ancestry’s database depth, particularly worldwide, is better than MyHeritage’s, but it’s also more expensive.

Research, match, contact

Once you’re signed up for a service (or more than one), dive into your research. This is simultaneously fun, informative, time consuming, and exasperating. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent digging through records, entering data, and then looking at the clock through bleary eyes and shaky hands realizing it’s 2am and I really need to get to bed.

Beyond just researching records, though, family tree storage sites are also excellent for their ability to match members of your tree with members of other trees stored with the service. This is what ended up breaking open the most doors for me. My own tree went back a little over a hundred years, but there were lots of questions. Thanks to research others had done and shared, I was able to expand certain branches of the tree back as far as 1300s Germany (when I didn’t even know I had any German ancestry in me!). Granted, you’re putting a lot of faith in other people and there are plenty of garbage trees out there with questionable data (parents four years older than their children). But, if you know this and go into this stage of research with an open, but skeptical, mind, you’ll get leads that you never even imagined.

The last part of this step involves contacting others beyond your own known relatives. You’ll start bumping into third cousins all over the place and reaching out to them can help illuminate sections of your tree you’re getting stuck on.

DNA services

At some point, when you’ve been at the research thing a while, you’ll want to test technology even further and try one (or more!) of the DNA matching services. The main ones are 23andme, MyHeritage’s Family Finder, and Ancestry’s AncestryDNA. Again, there are pros and cons to all of these services and you need to spend some time comparing and contrasting to decide which you want to go with. You may decide on none, or under certain circumstances, you may want to try all of them. If you’re going to go in, do so knowing all the risks that come with DNA testing (would you be comfortable finding out you were adopted? outing a relative as a parent of an unknown cousin?). “Uprooted” gives a good rundown of the new privacy implications we’re just beginning to run into with widespread DNA testing.

I decided on 23andme and found the results quite interesting, though it took almost a year before I made a connection with a new relative–a third cousin–solely through DNA matching. She had tried all three services in an attempt to find out more about her father’s side of the family, which she knew nothing about. After matching with me and one or two other cousins, we found out we shared great-great-grandparents. She also turned me onto GEDmatch, a completely free site that allows you to upload your DNA (creepy!) and compare it with others across DNA testing services. No matter which of the three major services you go with, consider uploading to GEDmatch as well.

The next level

At this point, you may need more information than can be found online. Large amounts of data have yet to be digitized and indexed, so at this point, you’ll want to look for genealogy experts living in various parts of the world to do feet-on-the-ground research or maybe even plan a research trip yourself.

I’m not here yet, but I’m getting close.

Loop

The great thing about working on your family tree is that you’ll never be done. There’s always more to find out, more paths to follow, more stories to archive, more mysteries to solve. Keep looping back around and enjoying the process over and over. It’s a blast.

The Boulder City Pet Cemetery

Last year on a trip to Las Vegas, I was on the lookout for off-the-beaten path places to visit. Of course, I had to hit up Redd Foxx’s old house, but even more fun and further off the path was the Boulder City Pet Cemetery, which got a brief mention in Weird Las Vegas and Nevada. There was surprisingly little online about it, especially about its specific whereabouts. I was able to find a blurry map and enough of a textual description to get to the general area. Given that it’s in the middle of the desert right off of route 95, you might figure it’s obvious and easy to see, but it’s amazingly well obscured considering it’s only a hundred feet off the highway. It’s not something you see when driving by, even if you’re looking for it.

It’s rumored that people started burying their pets in this surprisingly expansive area as early as the 1930s. Over the following decades, dozens–if not hundreds–of families came to build memorials to their dogs and cats. Some are very simple crosses with a name written in pen while others are more complex, involving fences, decorations, and professionally chiseled headstones. The cemetery is on what was originally federal land (and now owned by Boulder City) and it was never legal to bury any remains there, yet folks did anyway. And the remains are undisturbed to this day.

This site (which refers to the “El Dorado Pet Cemetery,” but it’s the same place; I’ve also seen it referred to as the “Searchlight Road Pet Cemetery”) offers up an explanation from Brok Armantrout, Director of Community Development for Boulder City:

The pet cemetery was an unsanctioned use of federal land from the very beginning (1931). At one time, friends of the cemetery tried to work out a deal with the federal government to legitimize the site, went as far as getting congressional assistance, but for one reason or another, the project stalled and died. If you have three hours of free time, the history of the effort can be found at the BLM field office on the far northwest side of the LV Valley.

When the City purchased the Eldorado Valley in 1995, roughly 85,000 acres were designated as Desert Tortoise Habitat through a formal easement designation that was adopted by ordinance. The ordinance prohibits all sorts of activities, one of which is the internment of remains.

It’s unclear why citizens started burying their animals in the desert (I don’t believe for a second the idea laid out in this piece that offers the unlikely possibility it’s a mafia dumping ground). I suspect it grew out of a simple need: folks needed to bury their pets, had no where to do it, and wanted to find a location that would remain undisturbed.

While there is an element of eeriness about this rogue pet cemetery (I swear I heard the sound of a leash jingling), I found myself moved by the tributes to clearly beloved family members. If it hadn’t been 150 degrees outside, I suspect I could have stayed there all day.

Here’s a video I shot in an attempt to show the expanse of the cemetery. Excuse the annoying lens dust.

And some photos:

The cemetery has still-readable graves dating back to the mid-1960s and technically shouldn’t be there, but the (first federal and now local) government has wisely left it alone.

The cemetery is still in use today and had a grave that was only a few months old.

There were some heartfelt tributes, like this one to “Mr. Kitty.”

Magic’s was amongst the more elaborate, complete with a fence, dog house, and a sitting bench.

Friskey’s grave was adorned with dozens of stuffed animals.

Jazz’s name seemed to be written out in dried poop… but that can’t be, right?

No caption needed.

Here’s the full slideshow of all the photos I took at the cemetery.