Knowing What It’s Like: Why Jeff Tweedy’s “Warm” Made Me Cry

jeff tweedy_warm

WARM. Credit: dBpm Records

This isn’t an album review. This a story about a person who was curled up on a couch, severely sleep-deprived, full of anxiety about life and death, listening to Jeff Tweedy’s Warm for the first time.

I’ve written about Wilco before. About how their music and Jeff Tweedy’s lyrics are one of the few things in the world that makes me feel tethered to it, not alien. About how one of their songs, lyrics I have tattooed on my body, saved my life in a not-quite-metaphorical way.

It sounds odd to say, but I forgot that I’m probably always going to be a little bit in need of saving until I started listening to Warm.

Warm is mostly a quiet record, more folk heavy than rock, with songs built around the acoustic guitar. And it’s easy to listen to, until it punches you in the gut.

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What was so bad about the 1980s?

I was going to write a birthday post, but most days I feel like I have profoundly screwed up my life, and I have to deal with the overwhelming sense of dread that comes with thinking about how I’ll never get a do-over. So… I wrote this instead.

2018 is bleak. I don’t really like playing the “better” or “worse” game, because human beings have done (and continue to do) some pretty atrocious things. In certain regards, our current time might be “worse” than the world I was born into 35 years ago today, but, then, Ronald Reagan was president when I was born, so worse is truly a relative term.

Your judgment of good or bad, better or worse, depends on what you value. When you’re trying to evaluate the state of the world, you’ll probably run into internal inconsistencies and conflicts about said values, especially if you do the work of asking yourself if your actions support your values.

But to be pleased with living in the US in 2018, then it seems like you would have to value the following:

That said, we had this coming.

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Why I Still Love College Basketball

The day after the NCAA tournament is always a sad day for me, and not just because after binge-watching basketball for a month, I feel wrung-out. It’s because in spite of everything I love this stupid sport, this annual event.

Photo: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes I joke that the IOC and FIFA are the most corrupt institutions in the world. But I think the NCAA surely comes close. So many schools have been riddled with scandals of academic fraud, point-shaving, illegal recruiting, even drug dealing over the years with little consequence, that I don’t even know where to start. When you look at the Duke lacrosse rape case, the Penn State child sex scandal, Larry Nassar molesting gymnasts while at Michigan State, there is clearly a huge problem in college sports that reflects a lot of bigger social problems.

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But the World Has Never Understood Me

Disclaimer: Every year since 2011, I’ve posted a self-reflection on New Year’s Day, looking back and forward. I hope you’ll grant me this self-indulgence once more. It was a rough year.

I’m adaptable. I have to be.

It seems that every one or two years, I pick up, move, and live a totally different life. Since finishing grad school, I have been an editorial assistant, a communications writer, a professor, and an environmental compliance specialist. A Memphian, a Virginian, a Chicagoan.

The Brutalism of Chicago. Credit: Heidi Samuelson

I’m pretty good at rolling with these external changes. I have to be.

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When Bad People Make Good Art

I grew up watching The Cosby Show. It’s hard to even think about watching it now, knowing that as it was being filmed and airing on TV, Bill Cosby was (allegedly)* drugging and raping women.

As it comes to light that Kevin Spacey, an actor who starred in some movies I loved (The Usual SuspectsAmerican BeautyBaby Driver), serially preyed upon young men (also allegedly)*, it makes me question what other terrible things have been done by people whose creative work I have enjoyed. It makes me wonder what I should do about it as a consumer of art.

The Usual Suspects. 20th Century Fox.

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The Ubiquity of the Male Revenge Fantasy

Warning: contains spoilers for a lot of movies, mostly notably American Assassin and Captain America: Civil War.

Imagine this. A man has had some hard times, maybe a parent (or both) died when he was young, maybe he grew up in a bad situation, but he has managed to grow up and find love. Then something unfortunate, something violent, happens to the love of his life. Maybe the violent event harmed or killed their child as well. So he vows to get his revenge on what, or who, caused the untimely death(s).

What movie am I describing?

If you answered:

Braveheart, Captain America: Civil War**, Collateral Damage, Confessions*, Death Wish, Django Unchained, Drive Angry, Equilibrium, Faust: Love of the Damned, Gladiator, Godzilla (2014), Hamlet, I Saw the Devil, Inception, John Wick, Kill Bill*, Law Abiding Citizen, Lethal Weapon, Lethal Weapon 2, Looper, Mad Max, Memento, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rolling Vengeance, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan**, Straw Dogs, Taken 3, The Bourne Supremacy, The Brave One*, The Bride Wore Black*, The Crow, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Fugitive, The Punisher, Unforgiven, X-Men: Apocalypse, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or, most recently, American Assassin, you would be correct. Continue reading

Sports aren’t apolitical because sports are an industry.

ESPN is about sports. ESPN is not a political organization.” — ESPN president John Skipper

This has led to me seeing variations of the phrase “politics has no place in sports” plastered all over social media.

If only this were true.

In 2005, the United States Congress held hearings about doping in baseball. Top players testified. Jose Canseco famously admitted to using steroids in the past. Mark McGwire, feeling as though he’d be vilified either way, famously said “I’m not here to talk about the past.”

In 1972 at the Munich Olympics, 11 Israeli athletes and a German police officer were killed by a secular Palestinian terrorist group. They were aided by German neo-Nazis.

In 2015, a movie titled Concussion was made based on a 2009 GQ exposeabout the NFL trying to suppress a forensic pathologist’s research on brain degeneration due to chronic trauma that football players sustain.

In 1991, the Baseball Hall of Fame voted Pete Rose to be permanently ineligible for induction, after he agreed in 1989 to a permanent ineligibility from baseball due to betting on games while he was a player and manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Rose is the all-time MLB leader in hits, games played, at-bats, and singles.

In 2017, TV deals kick in for the Big Ten conference from which athletic departments will reportedly get payouts of $43 million in 2017–2018. Most schools the U.S. don’t profit from athletics and siphon off money from academic budgets to keep pace. College athletes, even at schools that doprofit, are not paid for their work.

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