Did You Hear? Jolene

I wish they would re-record this. It’s a kick-ass song from Cake’s early career, with incredible energy and a great arrangement. But the mix kind of sucks, and the drums sound horrible — like when I tap on my steering wheel and my drummer friend says it sounds like banging on wet sandbags. This is an incredible song, but I keep turning it up to try and compensate.

Brook Reeder

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The Urban Cyclist

No terrain is impossible for the Urban Cyclist. His powerful legs drive the pedals down in alternation, right, left, right, left, calculating the degree of incline by the strength required of his thigh and calf muscles for each complete revolution of the front sprocket. The soles of his feet and palms of his hands read each vibration transferred from the tires to the handlebars and frame, making microadjustments to his direction and balance at a speed faster than thought. The initial uphill stretch when he first leaves the house is short and serves to lubricate his joints and warm up his muscles. He quickly reaches Reservation Street. Its sloping cobbled lanes are separated by a grassy central reservation. Five blocks to the Strip. Knowing every inch of the way like the back of his hand doesn’t make the challenge any less dangerous for the Urban Cyclist. From one week to the next, so much can change. A resident might decide to have a new driveway put in so they can park their car in the garage more comfortably, and may have to deposit mounds of sand, gravel, and cement in the middle of the sidewalk, an example of the kind of mutant obstacle for which the true Urban Cyclist must be prepared. There are dogs that shoot out like rockets from behind walls to try to snaffle a bit of their favorite food, an unwary cyclist’s shin. Even trees, an apparently peaceful and inoffensive element of the natural world, from one week to the next push out branches and roots, which can obstruct the Cyclist’s path. Weeds sprout from the sidewalk, concealing pebbles, holes, and bricks that can catch one by surprise and cause serious accidents from which only the most skilled, experienced cyclists emerge unscathed.

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Non-Fiction by Non-Men: Miranda K. Pennington

Miranda K. Pennington is the author of A Girl Walks into a Book: What the Brontës Taught Me about Life, Love, and Women’s Work (Seal Press, 2017). Her work has appeared on The Toast, The American Scholar online, The Ploughshares blog, and The Catapult Podcast. Pennington received her MFA in creative nonfiction from Columbia University, where she also was a University Writing Instructor. In addition, she has taught academic writing at Touro College, SUNY Empire State, and the LEDA Institute, and she has led creative writing workshops for the AmpLit festival and Uptown Stories. This fall, Pennington will join the writing faculty of American University in Washington, D.C.

EB: How did you start writing nonfiction? Continue reading

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Ann Petry’s Clear-Eyed Inspection of Black Pain

There is a pervasive mythology—or perhaps “oversimplification” is the appropriate term—of Black life in the United States, in which the South, understood to be the epicenter of American racism, is molasses slow in ideology, movement, and progress. On the other hand, the North (particularly its cities, such as New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.) represents upward mobility, progress, and freedom from the bondage that created African Americans. Of course, the history of both North and South is far more nuanced than that, and the current Black Lives Matter movement—which evolved following high-profile police killings in Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland—provides contemporary evidence counter to this line of thinking. Continue reading

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Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Purnell

FA review tag

In an interview with a European journalist at the height of Nirvana’s fame, Kurt Cobain, in response to a question about his generation’s mythic indifference, offered instead an assured defense of punk rock and the vagaries of taste. “Punk rock should mean freedom, liking and accepting anything that you like, and playing anything you want, as sloppy as you want. As long as it’s good and it has passion.” This has always been my approach to reading. So I didn’t hesitate to put down Moby Dick (you could say I preferred not to finish it) and pick up the latest offering from Brontez Purnell, the Bay Area’s hardest working underground artist.

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Movie Drinking Game #1: The Enemy of My Enemy

Drink every time an antagonist becomes an ally.

The movie that made me fall in love with this trope is The Fugitive. We’re rooting for Dr. Kimble (Harrison Ford) from the beginning since we know he’s innocent, so Deputy Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) seems like the obvious villain as soon as he gives his famous speech about searching for Dr. Kimble in every “warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse.” But gradually we find ourselves rooting for Deputy Gerard as well, almost against our will. He’s a good man who’s doing a good job of trying to catch Dr. Kimble, and even though we don’t want that to happen, we admire his integrity and savvy. What makes this trope so satisfying is the moment you realize you’re actually supposed to feel this way, that the film has been leading you this direction all along without making it obvious that Gerard is actually a good guy. For me this happens when Gerard and his team start to put the pieces together about the one-armed man–we know him so well by this point that we trust him to do the right thing with this information and bring the right man to justice. Continue reading

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