• The Other Chicago Teachers’ Strike

    by  • 7 Oct ’16 • 0 Comments

    As the countdown to the Chicago Teachers Union’s October 11 strike deadline approaches, another teachers’ union in Chicago has voted to authorize a strike as their own contract negotiations have dragged on over strikingly similar disagreements. The teachers and staff at the fifteen-campus UNO Charter School Network (UCSN) have spent seven months bargaining for...

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    “I’ll miss you when you’re gone away forever.”

    by  • 15 Sep ’16 • 0 Comments

    I finally listened to Nick Cave’s new record, Skeleton Tree, on Spotify. It’s good. Really good. I hesitated because all the reviews I read had these lump-in-the-throat moments when the writers recounted the horrific death of his teenage son last summer and how the family is coping. That sort of thing didn’t really affect me until I became a dad. Now, it’s devastating.

    I think because the lyrics were completed before his tragic loss, listening only to the record is not as difficult an experience as I had been dreading. Yes, there are all kinds of eery coincidences (The record opens with the couplet “You fell from the sky / Crash landed in a field;” his son died when he fell from a cliff), but one is bound to see such coincidences when the modern master of the murder ballad experiences a violent loss of a loved one.

    But the final records by David Bowie and Warren Zevon, so assured that they were in fact living on borrowed time, offer much more difficult lyrical observations. And Lou Reed’s Magic and Loss and Songs for Drella (mourning the deaths of mentors Doc Pomus and Andy Warhol) and eels’ Electro-Shock Blues (initially about leader Mark Oliver Everett’s sister’s suicide…until his mom got diagnosed with terminal cancer, giving the record a somehow darker B-side) have far more specific and uncomfortable notes of regret and mourning.

    But then I saw the video for “I Need You.” If Skeleton Tree has a stand-out track, it is “I Need You.” It’s more droning and meditative than your usual Nick Cave song, and it has a hypnotic quality that is hard to get past.

    But the video…the video is devastating. I realize now that most of the early reviews of Skeleton Tree are responding more to the accompanying documentary than to the record itself. To cope with his son’s death, Cave rushed ino the studio to record the material he had been working on, and invited a documentary crew to record this train wreck as some sort of exercise in artistic self-flagellation.

    I doubt that the Skeleton Tree will ever leave medium-to-heavy rotation in my record collection (as soon as I find myself at an actual brick-and-mortar record store to buy the thing), but I doubt I can ever bring myself to watch the video of a slightly ragged and out-of-tune formerly-smooth crooner who just lost his son wail, “I’ll miss you when you’re gone away forever.”

    Review of Sarah Jaffe’s “Necessary Trouble”

    by  • 23 Aug ’16 • 0 Comments

    Something is happening. Socialism is no longer a dirty word (the “S-word”), but something a sizeable portion of Americans tell pollsters is their preferred vision for society. It’s no longer an anachronism to speak of “the Left.” A brave and quickly organized movement for black lives has not only sparked a new civil rights...

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    Making Abortion Rights Real

    by  • 27 Jun ’16 • 0 Comments

    The week began on a surprisingly strong note for reproductive justice advocates, as the US Supreme Court, by a 5–3 margin, overturned Texas’s draconian House Bill 2. The law, which Wendy Davis famously filibustered in her pink tennis shoes, purported to protect women’s health by requiring that health clinics providing abortion services “meet the...

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    One Day Longer

    by  • 15 May ’16 • 0 Comments

    As the massive strike at Verizon enters its second month with no end in sight, the stakes — for the workers, the company, and the broader labor movement — are rising. Even mainstream media outlets like the New York Times have taken note, casting it as something of an epochal battle over whether the...

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    The Pre-Posthumous Recordings of The Artist

    by  • 21 Apr ’16 • 0 Comments


    I’ll be the millionth writer to note that 2016 has been absolute murder on legendary musicians so far. And now Prince is gone. I don’t have a full obit, a critical reappraisal or anything terribly profound to add; just a few musings on record shopping that are too long for a Facebook status update....

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