A free album (Chrome Children, Vol. 2) from the genii at Stones Throw Records, available for download.
Most of the tracks feel like the outtakes they are — background music and soundscapes. But hey, you can’t beat free. Recommended: Aloe Blacc, Clifford Nyren, the Jazzistics (yet another YNQ pseudonym), Madlib’s two video-game-themed instrumentals, and (best of all) Roc C’s “Living in the City.” (Which samples this.)
He was one of my favorite writers. Or, more accurately, he represented some of my favorite ideas about writing — namely that there was a vector between newspaper journalism and literary greatness. (He was a foreign correspondent for a Polish wire service by day, but he wrote terrific works of Greenesque globetrotting nonfiction on the side. As he put it in an interview: “It’s not that the story is not getting expressed [in the newspaper]. It’s what surrounds the story. The climate, the atmosphere of the street, the feeling of the people, the gossip of the town; the smell; the thousands and thousands of elements that are part of the events you read about in 600 words of your morning paper.”
Another choice quote of his: ““There is, I admit, a certain egoism, in what I write, always complaining about the heat or the hunger or the pain I feel. But it is terribly important to have what I write authenticated by its being lived. You could call it, I suppose, personal reportage, because the author is always present. I sometimes call it literature by foot.”
The big looming problem with Ryszard was that, to be blunt, he made stuff up. (I, like Jack Shafer, was surprised this wasn’t brought up more often in the obituaries.) Even the most attuned bullshit detector can be thrown off by translation; the phrases that sound a touch too perfect could be the fault of the person pushing Polish into English, I suppose. But Kapuściński’s stuff always had a slight whiff of fakery about it; in particular, The Emperor put the narrative voice in places it was clear Kapuściński was not and created a palace environment that, while artistically pleasing, didn’t sound reported. (More about the subject here. And here.)
How great a crime did he commit? I’ll leave that to the ethicists. I tend to have little sympathy for journalistic fakers, but I suspect Kapuściński wasn’t raised in the same sort of fact-devoted journalism culture American reporters are. His books may not be true, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great.
Shortly before reading this, my iPod turned to Ultraglide in Black, the great album by Detroit’s The Dirtbombs. While I wouldn’t call Mick Collins a black hipster, per se, he does do the black-man-playing-rock thing. (A thing of which there should be much more.) The Dirtbombs are sort of a skronkier, filthier, rocked-up version of early ’70s soul; imagine Stevie Wonder with a guitar, a fuzz box, and a love of shouting. (Ultraglide actually includes a pretty good cover of Stevie’s “Livin’ For the City.”)
More importantly, Ultraglide features “Ode to a Black Man,” which features perhaps the greatest lyrics in recorded human history:
If you see Stevie Wonder, tell him I’m here
If you see Stevie Wonder, tell him I see
I don’t want no songs for plants, I want songs for me
I don’t want no songs for plants, I want liberty
From 1971 to 1976, Stevie had recorded six of the greatest albums of all time, absolute classics and political statements. Then came a boring, confusing double album about…plants. And he hasn’t been worth a damn ever since. I don’t want no songs for plants, indeed.
The state official in charge of the TAKS test has a new employer: the company that produces the test.
Lisa Chandler, the Texas Education Agency’s director of assessment, will join the testing giant Pearson on March 5. She resigned from her state position Dec. 29, saying only that she was considering several job offers in the private sector.
TEA’s contract with Pearson – a five-year, $279 million deal signed in 2005 – puts limits on any agency employees who move to the company. The contract bans them from working on Texas-related matters for 12 months after the switch. A separate state ethics rule would prevent Ms. Chandler from working on the TEA contract until it is up for renewal in 2010.
Also, happy would-have-been 75th birthday to my grandmother. Strange to think it’s been five years since The Mazie Project.
The state’s chief regulator of teachers is increasing the priority it places on policing cheating on the TAKS test.
A new set of rules, approved by the State Board for Educator Certification this month, will devote more resources to investigating teachers suspected of doctoring student answers. The rules would also make it easier for school districts to know whether someone applying for a job is suspected of cheating in another district.
“There’s no point in giving a TAKS test if we can’t know the results of that test are the true reflection of a child’s knowledge,” said Bonnie Cain, the superintendent of Pearland schools and the state board’s acting president. “There’s no good in having a test if it doesn’t have integrity.”
The changes come after a Dallas Morning News story in October that found problems with the way schools were informed of the findings of a state investigation into cheating in the now-defunct Wilmer-Hutchins district. That investigation identified 22 educators who it said “were involved in testing irregularities,” like giving students answer keys or doctoring test documents.
At least 10 of those educators quickly found jobs in other districts, many of which had no knowledge of the findings until informed by The News.
“I’m going to the airport,” [Saints fan Stan Gelpi] announced. “They brought hope to this city when nobody else could. The mayor sucks. The governor sucks. The legislature sucks. The president sucks. The only thing that doesn’t suck is that team. They brought hope to this city, and I’m going to the airport.”
The investigation into TAKS cheating in Wilmer-Hutchins schools is moving up the district’s chain of command.
Jatis McCollister, the former principal of Alta Mesa Elementary, knew that cheating was going on and that the school’s high test scores were unearned, according to a complaint filed by officials in a state administrative court on Friday.
She is the first administrator in the defunct school district to be targeted, but she may not be the last. State officials said that a number of other district and campus officials could face sanction hearings before a state judge in the coming months, both for TAKS cheating and falsifying attendance data to generate more money from the state.
“If you take on the role of being the leader of a campus, that comes with responsibilities,” said Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman.
The French prime minister, Guy Mollet, argued that the French wouldn’t have any problem with, oh, becoming subjects of Queen Elizabeth. I suspect Guy was not a good judge of his people’s thoughts; if the plan had ever become public, I’d wager we would have seen the Fifth Republic a few years earlier than we did.
I’d also like to point out how proud I am to be from a state where football fans break out in a spontaneous second-line dance party when their team wins its third-to-last game of the season to the NFC championship game. (Wait until 0:35.)
(This is what you find if you Google the phrase “for true,” which I have taken to using as a synonym for “really.” Example: “Josh is really the most handsome man alive, isn’t he?” “For true.” I don’t know whether I made up this annoying usage or whether there is precedent. Google has proven unhelpful.)
The Bible does not say that cats were not present at Herod’s birthday party when John the Baptist was beheaded. History shows that cats were most likely present at this tragic party that Jehovah did not approve of. Clearly then, as loyal Christians, why would we even want to associate with animals that are without a doubt of such bad influence, remembering how true are the Bible’s words: ‘Bad associations spoil useful habits’! -1 Cor. 15:33. Some have exposed themselves to possible spiritual contamination in this way. To invite cats in our house is to toy with disaster. Can one deny that the chance exists that the same grave consequences could visit your home that fell upon John? Clearly, God disapproved of this ‘birthday’ party. Should we not then disapprove (without showing any malicious intent, only Godly hatred) of cats the way the scriptures recommend?
One of the great things about funding your Roth IRA every January — something everyone should do if at all possible — is buying something new, watching it go up a hair the next day, and seeing some absurdly large number in the annualized-gain column of your portfolio. 1,500% annualized gain! Or, more accurately, up 54 cents. Something tells me VNQ won’t keep up that pace for ever.
(For the curious, the other three equities are EPP, HFCGX, and VWO, each of which has done well for me and which I’d recommend to any investor with a long time horizon.)
Update: Now up 5,990%! Updated update: Er, 11,106%!
Maybe, in other words, we have underestimated the value of impartial, professionally-motivated, under-paid and overworked generalists in tackling the kind of information-rich, analysis-dependent “mysteries” that the modern world throws at us. All of which, of course, points out the irony of what’s happening in the newspaper business right now. We are dismantling the institution of newspaper journalism precisely at the moment when it seems to be of greatest social value.
I don’t know how far the buzz penetrated beyond the Ivy League world, but a few months ago Aleksey Vayner was the talk of certain corners of the Internet. See, Aleksey is a weird Yale student known for making up stories about himself: he was employed by the Mafia as a child; he gave tennis lessons to Sarah Michelle Gellar; he is one of four people in Connecticut certified to handle nuclear waste; the Dalai Lama wrote him a college recommendation. You know, that sort of thing.
The tipping point was this video resume he created when looking for a job after graduation — a six-minute span in which he appears to be almost miraculously self-interested and self-deluded.
Anyway, all that is prologue for the video below: a parody of the Aleksey Vayner video by my hero — and one of North America’s great actors — Michael Cera, better known to the elect among you as young George Michael on Arrested Development.
By the way, speaking of Arrested Development — as we all should more often — series creator Mitch Hurwitz has signed on to do an American adaptation of a British political office comedy. Hopes are high.
My stealthy campaign of Cajunization at The Dallas Morning News continues apace, with this column that ran on New Year’s Day (meaning it was read by roughly four people):
The first prediction I can remember making came two decades ago, in 1987. My beloved New Orleans Saints, after a full generation of losing, were somehow 12-3 and in the playoffs for the first time.
Drunk on unfamiliar success, I made a bold proclamation: “The Saints will make the Super Bowl this year!”
Didn’t turn out that way. (Minnesota 44, New Orleans 10. A sad, sad day for this sixth-grader.)
But despite that unfortunate start, the opening of a new year brings out the prognosticator in all of us. Therefore, I give you my five predictions for what 2007 will bring to the world of Texas public education.