Playlist – Best of 1991

Best Music of 1991

This one was really fun. I started DJing regularly in 1990 or 91, so this is the era of alternative music I know best. Early albums from Nirvana, Massive Attack, and Teenage Fanclub, mature work from Billy Bragg, U2, and the Pixies–fun times.

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Youth doesn’t impress me

Something I’ve noticed about myself recently: I’m not very impressed by prodigies. I dislike the very sharp curve on which society grades young performers. Joss Stone is indeed a great soul singer for a white teenager from Devon. But she’s not in the same league as Etta James, Bettye LaVette, or Janelle Monáe. Johnny Lang, Nikki Yanofsky, Avril Lavigne, the never-ending parade of hardworking kids on YouTube–they’re just OK. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re doing what they’re doing. Good-looking kids with both broad pop appeal and genuine skill help initiate new listeners into rich musical traditions. But if you take their ages out of the equation, I don’t think any of the folks I mentioned are really brilliant.

Dream of a glorious town

Last night’s dreams were inspired by the game of Red November I played with Suri, Brent, and T-Dawg. We were living in an amalgam of Burlington and Natchitoches. Everything was sunny, bright, and clean. I soon found out that living in such a clean, well-maintained city came at a price: a large underclass responsible for maintaining everything. Anyone who’d ever been arrested, every juvenile getting detention, everyone doing community service had to clean, fix, and maintain the machines in town. At any given social gathering, or just walking down Front Street or Church Street, people around us were distracted, scanning their environment for things to fix. The entire justice system and most civil service was based on appliance repair.

Coming in from the cold

News outlets are reporting that Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the convicted bomber of Pan Am Flight 103 who was released on compassionate grounds, may be in better health than was previously thought. Between the anger at his release, New Jersey’s resistance to a visit by Col. Qaddafi, and the continuing calls from the bereaved of Flight 103 to keep Libya isolated, I’m left confused.

We won. Libya stopped supporting terrorist organizations years ago. They’ve ended their weapons programs. The government that once ordered and paid for attacks against civilians is working in U.S. courts to settle cases brought by their victims. No one is attributing this to a change of heart; Col. Qaddafi just saw the direction the world is heading and made the smart play. I’m sure he once thought of retaining power and prosperity indefinitely with Soviet patronage, but that dream is long dead. So with the new millennium he began changing the way his country does things. He wants to come in from the cold, stay out of the news, and sell some oil. This is, by any measure, a triumph of modern capitalism and patient diplomacy. Qaddafi’s willingness to renounce violence and terrorism shouldn’t be met with shouts and sanctions. He is doing exactly what we want every other autocrat in the world to do, and that should be rewarded.

Definitely in my top 10 ever bad weeks

A run of bad luck this week is leaving me more drained, frustrated, and fragile than I’ve felt in years. My car broke down, the fan on our video card went on the fritz, a friend’s computer that I built a few years back started doing poorly, and a malfunctioning air conditioner has left us with a hot, stuffy apartment and a sodden, mildewing carpet. I can usually cope with computer problems, but it took a coworker’s help to diagnose the problem with the graphics fan. My friend’s computer is a different story: that problem definitely started as a virus, but after reformatting and reinstalling, it still won’t even boot to Windows reliably. It’s acting less like a virus and more like a dying mobo. The car is fixed, but I’m still not sure what to do about the AC and carpet. I’m not mechanically inclined and just feel lost when attempting to deal with those sort of problems. There’s a chance that the one local appliance repair place can’t even look at our AC; if that happens, we might have to buy a new window unit because some nothing little part died. All I know about fixing carpeting is that it’s usually done by guys in tank tops. But there’s no one to take care of our building right now and not much money to spare, so I have to at least TRY before calling in a professional.

You’re accountable for your predictions

Daily Show host Jon Stewart was once asked how they made those great video pieces showing politicians contradicting themselves, backpedaling, lying, misleading the public, or just saying things that were flat-out untrue. He looked at the questioner unbelievingly and replied “An intern and a videotape duplicator.” Contemporary journalism imposes simplistic narratives on complex events, grabs viewers with ideologically pure programming and charismatic hosts, treats politics like a horse race with opposing sides, focuses on the trivial and immediate to the detriment of understanding big events. And in the 24-hour news cycle, reporters are always looking for new fodder, the latest news to beat the competition–last night’s news be damned. This last problem, at least, doesn’t HAVE to be this way. Modern technology stores everything written or said by a public figure, and that history is usually accessible within seconds by professional journalists. There comes a point when the most responsible action a reporter can take is to narrow her eyes, tilt her head, and tell a politician that he’s got it all wrong. The war in Afghanistan was not chosen by President Obama. The subprime mortgage crisis was not caused by bleeding-heart regulators forcing banks to loan money to undeserving minorities. Last year’s stimulus package did not lead to runaway inflation.

Holding public figures accountable for their statements and predictions has been on my mind lately because of Tea Party activists decrying the current administration’s spending. The entirety of President Obama’s agenda is responsible for only 10% of the deficit. That’s not up for discussion. It’s just how things are, and no amount of pundit spin or Glenn Beckian yelling or wishful thinking by teabaggers will change it. When reporting on Tea Party anger with the country’s budget, pointing out that the entire stimulus package accounts for only 7% of the deficit isn’t partisan–it’s CORRECT. David Brin has written more and better on this than I ever could (see his article on supply-side vs. demand-side economics, for instance),  and I think his focus on prediction is exactly right. I had a coworker ask me a few months back ask me why I continued to support the stimulus package, and my answer was “They proved themselves right.” The president’s advisers and economists implemented Keynesian economic policies, explaining why they took those actions and what the consequences would be. And they were right; the economy performed as they said. The economy is growing, jobs are coming back (although not as fast as we would like), exports and manufacturing are up. That’s why I continue to support current economic policies and progressive economic ideas in general: they don’t just coincide with my own ethics and beliefs, they have proven themselves right. And that needs to count for something.