this craziness why?
Where I Am, Where I Am Going

Great realizations, great moments of beauty, always feel like dying. It is in these moments that the architecture of our lives shakes and becomes transparent. A clear light seems to shine through the body of facts by which we constitute our existence. The wise silence grabs us and holds us and we see for just a moment how fragile our lives are. 

I walk down my cul-de-sac underneath a sky full of rolling clouds and though I have retraced these steps thousands and thousands of times it all seems unreal, miraculously unreal, the way heaven is unreal. The street, the houses, and the palm trees all hang frozen around me like glass about to break. This is the stage on which seven years of my life played out, like a dumb-show … this is the little plot of land on which I lived my adolescence. And yet I just as easily could have been born into any other body, in any other household, in any other place. I have done nothing to earn my tremendous wealth, my absurd good fortune, my compassionate family, my blessed group of friends, my beautiful university, my disposition towards learning, my love of words and music and meaning. All of this is me … and yet it is not mine. All of it will be gone soon enough, and I am just some small eye that watches all of it come and go. Watches and cries.

I am only in Florida for a week, but I have seen more beautiful faces than I can count or remember. They rise before my field of vision and smile at me, talk to me, kiss me, shine at me from tear-lit eyes … and then they are gone. Some of them I have gotten to see for long hours by the light of day, but some of them I have only seen for a few minutes under the cheap fluorescence of the moon. It will be months before I get even the chance to see them again, but the likelihood is that I will not see all of them again. The likelihood is that I may have said goodbye to someone for the last time this week. Every time I come back my reunions are more exquisitely sweet and my goodbyes more unbearably bitter. The strings are fraying and breaking because I am shooting off into the sky.

I remember what I was like seven years ago, when I first came to Florida—puerile, obsessed with electronics, oversensitive and petulant. I remember lashing out at my mother when she tried to help me with a project and I remember jumping down the last five stairs of the staircases at my middle school, trying to look cool and limber. I remember my long hair and I remember crying alone in the bathroom. This spring, when I interviewed with Wendy Olmsted for the Fundamentals major, she told me about a moment of interiority in the Odyssey, an ancient poem whose verses my fingers have never parsed, when the great Odysseus sits on the beach alone and weeps. Those are my tears and that is my beach and my solitude and in the eyes of the world I am not a great man or even a man but in our own hearts and minds we must of necessity seem great because every life, no matter what shape or length, is a tragedy in which we are the tragic hero. Tragic because we are always losing everything we have, often before we even know we have it, because we are standing in the river as it rushes past us and we are doomed to waste time. 

The beautiful faces I saw this week are already gone and I do not know when I will be able to get them back. In two days I will fly to another city and see the most beautiful face I know, and then I will fly back to the city where I live—to my home—and see even more beautiful faces, the new dramatic personae of my strange and shifting life. I am moving and I do not know how to stop. Maybe I enjoy this wild and beautiful life, full of words and music and lips and laughter and discovery, but there is no sense of my having achieved it for myself. There is only the sense that this wonderful dream is something that is happening to me … a fantasy this little eye gets to watch for a few decades before it ends the way countless days have ended: before I know it. Nothing ever stops and everything is a verb. Sooner or later, in a matter of a decade or two, I will walk down the treelined avenues in Hyde Park or over a sparkling Loop bridge and it will seem to me the way my suburban cul-de-sac seems to me now. This street was my home, my world, the place where I stored all my gravities. But no longer. Now I am elsewhere, and God knows where I will be next.

It is perhaps my greatest blessing that I know exactly what I want to do with my life. I have journals and scraps of paper I filled out in first grade and I wrote that I wanted to be an author. For whatever reason—I do not think it has anything to do with ambition or dedication I have been graced with a love of literature and books and the written word. The accidents of my race, my gender, my economic situation, and my temperament all seem insignificant in comparison to the fact that I will never have to search for my fire of fire or for a reason to keep waking up  every morning. In my heart of hearts, no matter how vain and prideful it sounds, I want to be distinguished, accomplished, and significant as a writer and a thinker. But what would it matter if I was? What would that change about the fact that my whole life is just an index of facts and that very soon the whole beautiful dance of my life will be wiped clean from the canvas of the earth? No matter how many books I sell or how many people I reach, I am still only a few slight modifications away from being anyone else on earth, in the same way the human species is only a few genetic blips away from the chimpanzee or even the rat. 

My life is filled with beautiful faces and beautiful words. Two nights ago I held a small party at my house where I got to see most of my best friends from Florida, most of the people with whom I have had the privilege of growing from a child to an adult. I laughed until I was hoarse and cried until my eyes were red. It felt like being around angels, but when I walk alone by sunset I see clearly that there is almost nothing to hold it all in place … that I myself am nothing but an outgrowth of these beautiful people but that one day I will have to say goodbye to each of them and I may have already said goodbye to some of them. In such a sudden moment of beautiful clarity I realize the twofold transience of this life: I am nothing but the people and places near which I have spent these eighteen years—my friends, my family, my home, my body, my interests—and yet these facts themselves are mere dreams and accidents blossoming in the small garden of my life and the garden itself will soon drown under the great wave which is already rearing its watery head somewhere decades away. No matter how much I love the people in my life there is nothing I can do to prevent them from being taken away from me or me from being taken away from them. I think on them and I melt into tears: they are everything to me. My seven years in Florida have been heaven almost entirely because of their kindness, their beauty, their willingness, their energy. I would be nothing without them. 

And yet in two days I will be flying away from all of them if they have not already flown away from me. The cords of our lives will stretch taut and stay stretched until the winter and if I am lucky I will be able to feel my way along the rope and find my way back to them again. But I may not be so lucky. Some of the angels who have inhabited my life for years, who have changed me and helped me in more ways than they could imagine, may have already left my life for good. Every day I wake up and float through an endless tornado of color and light and taste and  love and when I lie down at night to sleep I get the sensation that I am falling down through a vast and glorious sky. I am flying naked through the world with nothing but my words to defend me, nothing but this stream of sentences that somehow always wells up in my fingers. This art. My art. My life. Sometimes when I let this wellspring flow, or when I read some other beautiful book or hear the right piece of music or walk alone during sunset, I slip out of this little box of facts and into a cloudless noiseless place, a chamber without walls, an endless house of beauty. In this place of beauty I both know and ignore the fact that my life is fragile and thin and very, very short. I am thrust towards death and saved from it in the very same moment. It is like closing your eyes as you jump from a very tall place. You convince yourself you are not falling so that you can fall. You forget so that you can remember. 

Here I am, falling. 


rock n’ roll music is one of the main things that drives me to write. i think in all honesty i prefer music to the written word but i’m totally inept and almost tone-deaf and so i’m a little jealous of musicians because i think their creative mode affords more direct communicative opportunities than prose or even poetry do. when i hear a really good piece of music i listen to it almost actively … i want to imitate it somehow, and since i can’t imitate it musically, i end up wanting to write, which when it goes correctly often feels really cathartic, the way i imagine ripping a really good solo must feel.

Notes on Vomit

You go to bed sick and fat with liquor and you wake up like an empty bottle half-thwarted and whistling and nobody ever wants to speak to you again. Those who stick around stick around and those who do not you see when you see. Your morning body is sloshing with pent-up vomit and as you walk through the ruins of your house you step over all the faces you love. Your hands shake when you hold the spoon and you cannot stand up too quickly or take the stairs two at a time and when you finally do throw up you throw up all your youth. Some gross and growing tar is pushing it out of you. The faces hover around you in the kitchen, wobbling on some well-contested line, half-vision-half-memory, and your face is also like this. They put their hands on your shoulders and your stomach and your back and they tell you No nothing is your fault and when you stand out in the black blasted field with the bugs swarming around your legs he tells you You’re the best man nothing’s wrong and you know as the tears blossom and choke in your overworked ducts that you will never, ever be able to believe him or them or anyone when they tell you you are great, fine, wonderful, honest and undisgraced. They will insist that it is you who brought them all together, who locked them in the palace underneath the chandelier so they could smell and feel each other in ways they never had. They will say that you are their showman and their prophet, that it is you whose hands reach across the abyss. They will thank you over and over again and when you stumble around the room face cratered by tears and fizzling with sorrow like a soaked firecracker they will try to drag you down to earth and nurse you gently towards some memory of warmth.

But you know what it is like in there in the tar-pit. You have heard the gibberish echo against the sticky walls and seen the heads of the snakes bobbing just above the surface of the murk. You know that you are not honest and you know that if you have ever loved anyone it has only been by accident. You know that your life is nothing but a great emetic arc, that your only gift to the world is that putrid recollection pouring from your mouth into the toilet on a stillborn sunday morning, that acerbic shadow of all your misdeeds and misthoughts, that proper symbol of all you have done and then undone or maybe undone and then done. It is a strange feeling to be sucked so clean of tears and words and to wander still through the world like a beast stitched-up and reanimated, like a slobbering madman in the garden. It is a strange feeling to walk loose-limbed and wine-stained and to be told still that It’s okay, that There’s no need to be sorry. Because you know that you must be sorry because you opened your mouth and for eighteen slimy years you retched on their floor and even now as the last heaves and drips subside you have not once thought of cleaning up your mess. Maybe you will be able to flit away to the few people on earth who are still blind and strung-dumb enough to love you but even that will not be for long. Soon enough they will smell the dried vomit caked on your lips and they will know that you are the kind of person who Messes Things Up.

Maybe for a few hours you conducted some boozed-out carnival, maybe you guided a few mouths together, but all the unions you touch you stain and when you stand in the center of the room to make the toast you will shatter the glass and they will cut their feet on the shards. You are a suitcase stuffed full of words, you are a species vile and volatile, and still they come to you like birds, still they break your knots when you are standing with your eyes gushing and your knees wobbling, still they pour drinks and clink glasses and shout glorious obscenities in your honor and you deserve none of it because you are a messy and ungrateful animal and if you do one thing before you leave this wretched earth it will be to find those beautiful people groping in the grass and heave all your undigested evil onto them or to pop a bubble of gold and light and maybe if you are lucky the greatest reward you will get at the end of this uncharmed life of yours will be the privilege of knowing that after all the planes have flitted west over water and after all the strings have squealed and broken some chosen broken few might misremember you as the boy with swirling hands, as a mouth with sudden dirty wings, as that nauseous figure standing on the hill on the heath and quaking with fear and noxious wonder.

the ten best-written songs written by white guys in the 20th century are

-the sound of silence

-stairway to heaven

-hey jude


-thunder road

-gimme shelter

-like a rolling stone

-smells like teen spirit


-hotel california

(honorable mention) free fallin’


just so unbelievably beautiful


Ooo, I know you love it when this beat is on
Makes you think about all of the niggas you been leaden’ on
Makes me think about all of the rappers I been feedin’ on
Got a feeling that’s the same dudes that we speakin’ on
Oh, word — ain’t heard my album, who you sleepin’ on
You should print the lyrics out and have a fuckin’ read-along
Ain’t a fuckin’ sing-along unless you brought the weed along
And just … (Okay, I got it) 
And just drop down and get your eagle on
Or maybe we could stare up at the stars and put the Beatles on
All the shit you talkin’ bout is not up for discussion
I will pay to make it bigger, I don’t pay for no reduction
If it’s comin’ from a nigga I don’t know then I don’t trust it
If you comin’ for my head then motherfucker get to bustin’
Yes, Lord — I don’t really say this often
But this long-dick nigga ain’t for the long talkin’ now, beast

Bands I connected with most, year by year:

7th Grade: Coheed and Cambria

8th Grade: Hollywood Undead

9th Grade: Avenged Sevenfold

10th Grade: Iron & Wine

11th Grade: Okkervil River

12th Grade: Counting Crows

First Year @ U of C: Kanye West

19:50"We work in our own darkness a great deal with little real knowledge of what we are doing." — John Steinbeck, from “The Art of Fiction, No. 45,” The Paris Review (Fall 1969, No. 48)

(Source: theparisreview, via apoetreflects)




"And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt."

Ode to a Teardrop

The page is not a pond,

so when the teardrop fell upon it,

there were no ripples. 

There was only

a sudden dark

where the water touched whiteness.

The droplet bloomed and now

its stain on the half-empty paper

is like the core of a sunflower,

but too small and solemn

to field any colors

or host any bumblebees.

Soon it will not be there at all—

but where will it have gone?

The ever-friendly void

takes such drops

into herself,

embracing them

until they are no more.

Life too does this:

she steals us from ourselves

and subsumes in her our sadnesses—


like the one

that fathered this teardrop

in the glassed eyes of some poet

who will not write anything more 


He hangs over the page, watching the teardrop

disappear into the air,

until there is nothing left

but a slight wrinkle

where the drop first landed,

the sort of wrinkle

one usually only finds

in the mind. 

By the time the wrinkle

becomes too hard to see,

the poet may have forgotten what it was

that made him cry the teardrop,

if there even was a teadrop.

This forgetfulness, this hole in the sky,

will drive the poet 

to cry another teardrop,

and say what use is it to feel

if feelings so easily slip away,

but this new teardrop will soon dry up,

because everything will soon dry up,

even poets

who sit all night

with their heads held over blank pages

searching with tear-filled eyes

for the mysteries

that the salty tides

leave washed up

on shore. 


19:52 R U N A W A Y
for MK, RE, WB, GM, SB, KS, KW, EL, SK, CV, ZM, EC, LR, ND, GL, ER, ML, SM, MF
thoughts on synths in the year’s best female dance pop songs

Many of the most popular dance-pop songs with female vocalists this past year all featured the same kind of splash synth in their choruses. It’s a buzzy sort of synth; it kind of breaks fuzzily over the course of a couple seconds. It’s obnoxiously there in the chorus of “Slow Down” by Selena Gomez. In fact, it’s all that’s there except her vocals, and it works because everyone loves that sound’s long explosive quality. I think this noise is probably borrowed from the mainstream dubstep hits of 2011 and 2012, because “TiK ToK,” which is a dance-pop benchmark, was released in 2010 before the mainstream advent of dubstep and features no such noise. It’s in Britney Spears’s “Work Bitch,” but that doesn’t make the song worth listening to. The chorus of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” has it, even though it doesn’t need it. It is hinted at in Ellie Goulding’s “Burn,” which is only an interesting song because of the way its maddening repetitions work against all odds. It’s in the background of the instrumental portion of the chorus of “I Need Your Love” by Ellie Goulding and Calvin Harris. It’s pretty much there in the chorus of “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities, which is a truly awful song. Icona Pop’s “I Love It” employs the noise throughout the entire song, which is rare, but Icona Pop are Swedish and are not exactly confined to the recent American dance-pop traditions. Still, anyone with an ear for music can tell that the fatness of the noise makes it irresistible. if “I Love It” fails, however, it is because it is too saturated with the splash-synth. It is a short song, however, and even its verses are punchy, so it doesn’t wear itself out. Even Taylor Swift, as she transforms herself into a formidable pop queen, uses the noise in the chorus “I Knew You Were Trouble,” acutely conscious of how foreign it is to her former sound. Her splashes are clear and audacious; few, surprisingly, have done it better than her. The most distinct place where the splash noise is not is in Lorde’s “Royals,” because the whole ethos of that song is Lorde differentiating herself from the shallowness of other pop stars. The backing beat on “Royals” is absurdly simple, something a high-schooler could beatbox without much trouble. That is the point. Shockingly enough, though, the splash shows up unabashedly in “Tennis Court,” Lorde’s other big hit. The biggest other place I can think of where the splash is missing in pop overall is in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which adopts a sort of anachronistic maraca-groove aesthetic in self-conscious contrast to the futuristic sound of most of today’s dance songs. But that song is noxious, regardless of how maddeningly easy its melody is, what with its pulls and holds and self-interruptions.

2013: The Year In Music

Albums of the Year

1. Yeezus, Kanye West

2. Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend

3. The Bones of What You Believe, Chvrches

4. Reflektor, Arcade Fire

5. Nothing Was The Same, Drake

6. Acid Rap, Chance the Rapper

7. Beyoncé, Beyoncé

8. Random Access Memories, Daft Punk

9. Days Are Gone, Haim

10. Walkin On A Pretty Daze, Kurt Vile

Songs of the Year:

1. Vampire Weekend, “Hannah Hunt”

2. Kanye West, “Blood On The Leaves”

3. Miley Cyrus, “We Can’t Stop”

4. Chance the Rapper, “Good Ass Intro (I’m Good)”

5. Lorde, “Royals”

6. Arctic Monkeys, “R U Mine?”

7. Drake, “Too Much”

8. Kacey Musgraves, “Merry Go Round”

9. Arcade Fire, “Oh Orpheus (It’s Never Over)”

10. Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”

11. Chvrches, “Recover”

12. Bastille, “Pompeii”

13. Zedd, “Clarity”

14. Keith Urban, “Somewhere In My Car”

15. The National, “I Need My Girl”

16. Daft Punk, “Get Lucky”

17. Haim, “The Wire”

18. A$AP Rocky, “Fuckin Problems”

19. Jay Z, “Picasso Baby”

20. Sara Bareilles, “Brave”

Worst Albums of the Year: 

1. Indicud, Kid Cudi

2. #WillPower,

3. Reincarnated, Snoop Lion

4. 13, Black Sabbath

5. The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Eminem

6. Britney Jean, Britney Spears

7. Crash My Party, Luke Bryan

8. I Am Not A Human Being II, Lil Wayne

9. Black Panties, R. Kelly

10. Paracosm, Washed Out

Worst Pop Songs of the Year:

1. Capital Cities, “Safe and Sound”

2. Robin Thicke, “Blurred Lines”

3. One Direction, “Best Song Ever”

4. Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive”

5. Ke$ha and Pitbull, “Timber”

Worst Song I Can’t Actually Say I Hate Without People Getting Mad At Me of the Year:

Macklemore, “Same Love”

Worst Song I Actually Can’t Stop Listening To of the Year:

Lana Del Rey, “Summertime Sadness”

Most Pretentious Album of the Year:

Ohm, Yo La Tengo

Least Pretentious Album of the Year:

Prism, Katy Perry

Pop Album of the Year:

Beyoncé, Beyoncé

[Runner-Up: Bangerz, Miley Cyrus]

Country Album of the Year: 

Same Trailer Different Park, Kacey Musgraves

[Runner-Up: Fuse, Keith Urban]

[Actual] Rock Album of the Year:

AM, Arctic Monkeys

[Runner-Up: …Like ClockworkQueens of the Stone Age]

Best Album Title of the Year:

Walkin On A Pretty Daze, Kurt Vile

Worst Album Title of the Year:

Kiss Land, The Weeknd

Lamest-Album-That-Shouldn’t-Have-Been-Lame of the Year:

ARTPOP, Lady Gaga

Lamest-Album-That-Was-Always-Going-To-Be-Lame of the Year:

because the internet, Childish Gambino

Best Attempt At Stylistic Change of the Year:

Fuse, Keith Urban

Worst Attempt At Stylistic Change of the Year:

Bankrupt!, Phoenix

Best Hashtagged Song of the Year:

Miley Cyrus, “#GETITRIGHT”

Worst Hashtagged Song of the Year:, “#thatPOWER”

Least Memorable Indie Album of the Year:

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

[Runner-Up: Let’s Be Still, The Head and the Heart]

Best Rap Album Nobody Gives A Shit About of the Year:

Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels

"Yum!" of the Year:

Kid Cudi on Big Sean’s “First Chain”

Best Cover Art of the Year: 

Sunbather, Deafheaven

Worst Cover Art of the Year:

Paradise Valley, John Mayer

Catchiest Anti-Conformity Song of the Year:

Katy Perry, “Roar”

Least Catchy Anti-Conformity Song of the Year:

Arcade Fire, “Normal Person”

Best Comeback Album of the Year: 

The Next Day, David Bowie

Worst Comeback Album of the Year:

13, Black Sabbath

Comeback Album That I’ll Be Honest I Just Did Not Listen To of the Year:

m b v, My Bloody Valentine

Most Impenetrable Album of the Year: 

Sunbather, Deafheaven

Most Penetrable Album of the Year:

The Bones Of What You Believe, Chvrches

Album That I Can’t Decide If I Like Or Not of the Year:

Repave, Volcano Choir

Best Self-Introduction of the Year:

Arcade Fire, “You Already Know”

Worst Self-Introduction of the Year:

Justin Timberlake, “That Girl”

Most Serious / Sobering Rap Guest Feature of the Year:

Chief Keef, Kanye West’s “Hold My Liquor”

Least Serious / Sobering Rap Guest Feature of the Year:

Action Bronson, Chance the Rapper’s “NaNa”

Most Serious / Sobering Line About A Father-Daughter Relationship of the Year:

"Father never taught me how to be a father, treat a mother / I don’t wanna have to just repeat another, leave another," — Jay Z on "Jay Z Blue"

Least Serious / Sobering Line About A Father-Daughter Relationship of the Year:

"Why I need his millies when I got Billy on the speed dial?" — Miley Cyrus on "SMS (Bangerz)"

One-Hit Wonder of the Year:

Bastille (with “Pompeii”)

Furthest-Risen Pop Star of the Year:


Furthest-Fallen Pop Star of the Year:

Justin Bieber

Sexiest Horror Song of the Year:

The Weeknd, “Kiss Land”

Most Horrifying Sex Song of the Year:

Kanye West, “I’m In It”

Best Song Called “Heaven” of the Year:

Beyoncé, “Heaven”

Worst Song Called “Heaven” of the Year:

Jay Z, “Heaven”

Most/Best Feminist Song of the Year:

Beyoncé, “***Flawless”

Least/Worst Feminist Song of the Year:

R. Kelly, “Cookie”

R.I.P. of the Year:

Lou Reed

See you in 2014. —Jake