“A wind shear environment that promotes rotation”

I cannot say this news surprises me. Please note the equivocations, which won’t satisfy the deniers.

a September 2013 study from Stanford, “Robust increases in severe thunderstorm environments in response to greenhouse forcing,” points to “a possible increase in the number of days supportive of tornadic storms.” In particular, the study found that sustained global warming will boost the number of days experiencing conditions that produce severe events during spring, representing “an increase of about 40 percent over the eastern U.S. by the late 21st century.”

Tornadoes “come from certain thunderstorms, usually super-cell thunderstorms,” explained climatologist Dr. Kevin Trenberth in an email last year, but you need “a wind shear environment that promotes rotation.” Global warming, it was thought, may decrease the wind shear and that may counterbalance the impact on tornado generation from the increase in thunderstorm intensity. But the Stanford study found that most of the decline in wind shear occurs on days that weren’t suitable for tornado formation anyway.


The climate change effect is probably only a 5 to 10% effect in terms of the instability and subsequent rainfall, but it translates into up to a 32% effect in terms of damage. (It is highly nonlinear). So there is a chain of events and climate change mainly affects the first link: the basic buoyancy of the air is increased. Whether that translates into a super-cell storm and one with a tornado is largely chance weather.

We — I — like to say that I worry what kind of world my nieces will mature in. I’m wrong. The question is what kind of world will I die in.

Haim: You lead me to no other line

I don’t know if the Fillmore Miami Beach adjusted its mixing to give Este Haim a sound commensurate with the expressions which have set The Internetz ablaze, but it sure was high. The Filmore’s acoustics, suited for opera or theater, exert an erratic influence on rock bands, which is to say it was hard from my vantage point to distinguish between too many notes and a zealously mixed instrument. Whatever. The bass player, one-third of the sister group Haim, proved a formidable stage presence during yesterday night’s performance, responsible for the conventional stage patter (“Alright, MIAMI”) and the anecdotes that “personalize” relationships between bands and fans (hanging out at a crazy Y2K party in town when she was thirteen).

Days Are Gone is like She’s So Unusual, Boys from Pele, Pretenders, Contra: the kind of album you hear at the right age and press close against your chest, loving every second, judging subsequent albums against it, caring about these song as if they were friends. The sisters demonstrated no preciousness during their sixty-five-minute set, treating each song like a twelve-inch remix of itself. “Falling” got a ZZ Top-esque solo. Alana Haim, stage right for most of the performance, added extra percussion and synthesized fills. To treat songs like a series of interlocking but discrete parts and gears is the secret of a compelling live performance, and to their immense credit Haim play and look as if they can never get tired of playing this material, not when there’s a harmonic that has heretofore been left unembellished, a variant on a chord sequence undiscovered. How appropriate that these L.A. vets have absorbed Keith Richards’ adoration of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”; songs are palimpsests, not texts.

What the set also revealed was Haim’s impressive commitment to synthesizing warring elements. Rolling Stephen Morris-inspired toms and snares undergird the glam choruses of “The Wire” and “Falling.” Big booming glam choruses: think Gary Glitter or Mott the Hoople. Choruses designed for singing along, made complicated by rhythmic patterns that can’t stop calling attention to themselves. At times pure prettiness usurped power: the crinkled “Sweet Jane” hook of “Honey and I” first straightened into Fleetwood Mac’s “Honey Hi” before Danielle Haim’s eighth notes returned it to Reedlandia with a faint nod to “New Sensations.” Danielle switched without fuss from rhythm strumming to howling leads. Always the sisters relied on hip hop cadences for their vocal melodies.

In short, Haim is a band whose second album is going to be splendid or a splendid mess, with their live chops the essential caveat.

Midterms: “Raise the dollars and secure the volunteer commitments”

Goodness me – the millennials are sick of politics (thanks, Ron Fournier; you just earned yourself a slot on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”). A long articleby Sasha Issenberg is getting attention, detailing the ways in which midterm elections have broken for the GOP since 2004. Barack Obama was, of course, wrong. According to Issenberg, there are two Americas:

There is the America that votes in presidential elections, which has helped Democrats win the popular vote in five out of the last six cycles and supports the view that Hillary Clinton can continue that streak should she run. Then there is the America that votes more regularly, casting ballots in both presidential and midterm years, which led to the Republican wave in 2010 and gives its party’s leaders reason to be so sanguine about their odds this time around.

There are about 127 million people in that first category, and among their number is the ascendant coalition—young and diverse, urban and mobile—that now gives Democrats a huge advantage in presidential races. But only 78 million of those people, or about 40 percent of the country’s voting-age population, belong to the group that goes to the polls every two years, and those regular voters carry a considerably more conservative cast. (The number of unregistered voters is almost as large.)

Over the past four years, the consequences of this schism have made themselves clear. A Democratic president is handed a progressive mandate by a convincing electoral-college victory. But he has his agenda unilaterally obstructed by a Republican House empowered by the right-leaning midterm electorate—an electorate that also disadvantages Democratic Senate candidates and sustains Republican governorships and state legislative majorities. Indeed, Democrats are facing an inverse of the four-decade span in the late twentieth century when the party controlled the House of Representatives and largely dominated the Senate but suffered through three two-term Republican presidencies. The bad news for Democrats is that the imbalance could take a generation to work itself out naturally.

How long is a generation? Well, sit down and wait, says Issenberg:

Since Obama’s first appearance on a presidential ballot, the population of Americans over the age of 55 has increased by nearly 13 million. By 2022, it will have increased by another nine million. People tend to grow more conservative as they age, but as a cohort, Generation X—whose oldest members will soon reach their fifties—is appreciably more conservative than the Millennials who follow them. “When the Millennials are fifty-five, they’re going to vote more Democratic,” Lake says, not exactly cautioning patience. “That’s thirty years away.”

But the Obama campaign had an advantage: it took advantage of research showing that millinos of dollars in ads had little discernible effect on voters. What worked? “A conversation on a doorstep between a potential voter and a well-trained volunteer,” Issenberg writes. Also: direct mail campaigns, oddly, of the kind pioneered in the late seventies by Brent Bozell and his ilk on behalf of what political commentators called the New Right. Donors and activists need to be persuaded of their efficacy, the article urges. “Passion,” the descriptor often stuck on Republicans during midterm elections, didn’t produce a Romney administration in January 2013.

his is why it’s not intensity scores on polls but rather the bustle of field offices and the sums on fund-raising reports that are the best guide to the Democrats’ midterm prospects. When those indicators sag, says Mike Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director and chair of the Analyst Institute’s board, “the effects are cascading.” For a party populated with Unreliable voters, the midterm imperative is clear: Raise the dollars and secure the volunteer commitments. Then go and turn out those who are already on your side but won’t show up without a friendly nudge.

We’ve got less than seven months.

“It scares me a little bit”

You know those climate change articles, the ones showing Florida is gone in 50 years? Alton Road on Miami Beach is what I’ve got in mind. Here’s the proof:

The Florida Department of Transportation has torn up Alton Road to install three new pump stations, new inlets and piping to improve drainage and alleviate flooding. In addition, FDOT is trying to better understand the impact of sea level rise after a 2012 report prepared for the department by Florida Atlantic University warned that some roadways, bridges, airports and railways in Florida are vulnerable.

The FAU report did not mention Alton Road, but noted that major roads in the Dania Beach area are “potentially vulnerable” to sea level rise. The roads listed in the report include Federal Highway, A1A, Griffin Road, Stirling Road and Sheridan Street.

“FDOT is supporting adaptation planning and long-term understanding of the impacts of sea level change through research,” said Brian Rick, an FDOT spokesman in Miami.

Specifically, Rick added, FDOT has developed an application, in coordination with the University of Florida’s GeoPlan Center, to assess the impact of sea level change on roads. The tool is based on a research discipline known as Geographic Information System through which experts can obtain, store, analyze and display vast amounts of geographical data.

Love and a question


A day after my weekend at EMP Pop Conference in Seattle, I was reassured: rock criticism remains as thoughtful and febrile as ever. Contentious too. Panelists and listeners batted around the differences between “archiving” and “curating” at one session (me: yes, there is a difference, and we use the words interchangeably). The second phenomenon: the often literally papered-over schisms between critics who ply their trade for websites, blogs, and what’s left of newspapers and magazines, and academics with tenure track jobs at universities. The reaction is neither boredom nor derision; it’s closer to impatience with the deliberate way in which academic conference papers get to there from here. No one’s fault. A conference is a conference. Indeed, unlike, say, the Modern Language Association’s members, many academics began as and still are journalists. And in a state like mine where dollars will be contingent on the number of students an academic institution graduates in four years, finding those jobs in American or liberal studies departments is, as they say at my institution, a challenge. Politics and personalities didn’t open this schism; critics and academics and critic-academics often share biases and iTunes playlists. Language does. Writing for mass audiences compels the rock critics into writing slangier, crunchier sentences – a vulgate, in essence. The advantage of EMP to an academic is an audience probably larger than what will ever read a journal article asking questions and sometimes offering suggestions; I saw this at a couple of panels. I know, I know: knowing your audience is one of a journalist’s responsibilities. I screw up. I wrote a master’s thesis in which my predilection for slang and crunch provoked two of my committee members to gently remind me to get rid of the contractions. It’s silly. In 2014 it’s possible to write about pop in an approachable way and still fold “parataxis” into a sentence. Anyway, I’m still figuring shit out. I have much to do to improve my own writing on both ends.

I missed Sunday’s closing session, a discussion about the future. My suggestion: finding a way to integrate EMP museum visitors into presentations. What this would entail I don’t know, but these are the consumers whose visits to the Kurt Cobain exhibit reflect listening habits; these are the people we want to reach. Surely we can figure out an “interactive” way of soliciting their remarks, questions, opprobrium?

Best of 2014 – First quarter

The first quarter’s ended, but I haven’t posted my favorite albums yet. Beyonce made it because I had the rare privilege of time and a purely personal interest in enjoying it through Christmas. Wish it was a longer list. It’s disgraceful that no country and hip hop qualified yet (Future, Schoolboy Q, and Eric Church among the disappointments). Look for Wussy’s and tUnE-yArDs’ records to be released soon.

In no order:


tUnE-yArDs – Nikki-Nack
Wussy – Attica!
The Hold Steady – Teeth Dreams
Toni Braxton & Babyface – Love, Marriage and Divorce
Neneh Cherry – Naked Project
Beyonce – s/t
Miranda Lambert – Platinum
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Owen Pallet – In Conflict
Katy B – Little Red
Hercules & Love Affair – The Fear of a Broken Heart
Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
Young Thug – Black Portland
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo
Eno + Hyde – High Life
Marsha Ambrosius – Friends and Lovers
Robert Plant – Lullaby and…the Ceaseless Roar
The Juan MacLean – Inside a Dream
Jhene Aiko – Souled Out
Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems
Luke James – s/t
Orlando Julius with the Heliocentrics – Jaiyede Afro
Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’


Paramore – Ain’t It Fun
Beyonce – Blow
Slow Club – Complete Surrender
Haim – If I Could Change Your Mind
Tori Amos – Trouble’s Lament
Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’
Rochelle Jordan – Follow Me
Hedley – Crazy for You
Duke Dumont ft. Jax Jones – I Got You
Owen Pallett – On a Path
Polly Scattergood – Subsequently Lost
Isaiah Rashad – Soliloquy
Le Youth ft. Dominique Young Unique – Dance With Me
Future ft. Pharrell, Pusha T & Casino – Move That Dope
Nicki Minaj – Lookin’ Ass Nigga
Mariah Carey – You’re Mine (Eternal)
Robert Ellis – Good Intentions
Kiesza – Hideaway
Schoolboy Q – Man of the Year
Tamar Braxton – All the Way Home
Eric Church – Give Me Back My Hometown
Gordon City ft. MNEK – Ready for Your Love

Singles 4/25

Tori Amos for the win, and I haven’t followed her in years. Don’t confuse the high score in the Sotobook for an Alicia Keys song for quality; it’s due to Kendrick Lamar’s brief appearance. As for Ed Sheeran, his song is climbing the charts, which means we gotta deal with him for a while, at the same time as Justin Timberlake’s “Not a Bad Thing.”

Click on singles for full reviews.

Tori Amos – Trouble’s Lament (7)
Crayon Pop – Uh-ee (6)
S. Carey – Crown the Pines (6)
Lana Del Rey – West Coast (5)
Sarah McLachlan – In Your Shoes (5)
Fight Like Apes – Crouching Bees (5)
Gybzy & Baitoey – Don’t Cha (5)
Janelle Monáe – What is Love (5)
Alicia Keys ft. Kendrick Lamar – It’s On Again (4)
Kent – La Belle Epoque (4)
Sigma – Nobody to Love (3)
Pia Mia ft. Chance the Rapper – Fight for You (3)
Icona Pop ft. Ty Dolla $ign – It’s My Party (2)
Ed Sheeran – Sing (2)

A terror by which I hoped never to be engulfed: James Baldwin

To a point I understand why James Baldwin has vanished from Common Core required reading lists (I understand why Bayard Rustin doesn’t appear in hagiographies about the civil rights movement). Complexities of style has nothing to do with it; for years high schoolers had no trouble reading “Sonny’s Blues.” The fiction is easy. The fiction is often didactic, diffuse, and not compelling. The void at their center is the absence of the righteous, sad intelligence that wrote “The Fire Next Time” and Nobody Knows My Name. Watch that clip. Royalties and acclaim insisted on turning him into a statue in the park, but he would not go quietly. The royalties and acclaim were ashes in his mouth. Being a black gay man in America required an awareness and an instinct for survival that in the end wore Baldwin out. Ta-Nehisi Coates, scoffing at the idea of progress, has written well in recent weeks about the persistence of pathologies. Only whites, often with good intentions, can insist on progress, on happy endings. We have this luxury.

In The Devil Finds Work, a collection of film essays that is my favorite of his books, Baldwin writes about Stepin Fetchit, “It is also possible that their comic bug-eyed terror contained the truth concerning a terror by which I hoped never to be engulfed.” But good novels resist the imposition of a triumph narrative. It still hasn’t occurred to school bureaucrats that the purpose of a liberal arts education is to create what Harold Bloom called a sense of “interiority” — a self. We are most ourselves when novels and poems become cracked mirrors in which the sights often causes us to flinch. “It simply was not the aim of Appendix B to create a list of important authors to read and wade into the canonical arguments of the 1980s,” sighs Susan Pimentel in the NYT article. Don’t think — smile!

“Sharing a bed is a sign of intimacy”

I’m single because I like to sleep alone. It comes down to this fact. Relearning the joy of sleeping face down in the X position, Holly Allen doesn’t want to return to sweating and inadvertently spooning her husband:

Our first married bed was a queen. It sagged terribly in the middle and made us roll together. We’d wake up spooning—forced that way by the bed—and sweaty. Our second bed, also a queen, developed a rather large hump in the middle from all the edge hugging we did during the night. Ten years into our marriage, we finally have a king. There is more than enough room for our whole family to sleep comfortably, yet that twin the other night—it was amazing.

So what’s holding me back from selling our king mattress and ordering two twins? Society! Mention separate beds today and most people assume marital troubles.


In our culture, sharing a bed is a sign of intimacy, and it could also be a barometer of the health of the relationship,” sleep expert Dr. Anne D. Bartolucci told me when I called her for backup. “Falling asleep in the company of another person puts you in a very vulnerable position, and it shows a certain amount of trust. There’s a reason that ‘sleeping with’ someone is one of our expressions for sex

Let’s not discount bedhead, eye boogers, bad breath, snoring, sweat stains, and hair on the pillow either.

On the Human Rights Campaign

The Human Rights Campaign sends young volunteers to collect signatures at my university at least once a semester. When I reject the request, the volunteer looks sad, as if I’d reminded her of her bigoted dad; when I explain I’m gay and still won’t support it, she looks stricken. It’s a reflex to associate the HRC with Bill Clinton: as the first presidential candidate to win election having promised explicit support of homosexual initiatives like the rescinding of the military service ban, he recoiled after the ’93 backlash and spent the next few years avoiding controversy until he realized that he could get end it with a stroke of his pen after midnight on September 1996. Yet HRC stood beside him. The point isn’t that its leaders wouldn’t have been allowed in Bob Dole’s hotel room; it’s that these people, confusing “gradualism” with inertia, still stood by Clinton after the Defense of Marriage Act.

I have no investment in the refutations of Jo Becker’s book about the Obama administration’s embrace of gay marriage posted by Andrew Sullivan, among others. I did register my disgust at how Becker drew a gorgeous halo around the artificial hair of Uncle Joe Biden. But the bowdlerizing of a incremental and laborious state by state effort by Lambda Legal deserves correction. Barack Obama and ally Chad Griffin deserve credit. So do Ted Boies and Ted Olsen for their successful legal case against Proposition 8 in California. Three straight men and a member of the urban gay haute DC bourgeoisie, though — this is not my idea of diversity, however well-intentioned.

Nathaniel Frank:

if any single group in the “gay establishment” was counseling gradualism, it was the Human Rights Campaign, the world’s largest gay lobbying group, which ate up more than $40 million in gay money every year and, up to that point, had not a single major national legislative win to show for it. Becker might not know about HRC’s retrenchment from the marriage battle or the years of righteous anger directed at HRC’s failures by the rest of the LGBTQ community because she seems not to have done any real research outside her access chamber. And she wouldn’t likely have heard about it from Chad Griffin, because, on the strength of his high profile in the Prop 8 case, he became the group’s president in 2012. Again and again HRC had pulled back from the marriage-equality battle, with its leaders and spokespeople defending incrementalism, touting civil unions instead of marriage, and even reportedly pushing out one leader because she made marriage too high of a priority. Following the 2004 ballot losses, the New York Times reported that HRC planned to “adopt a selective and incremental approach to winning rights rather than reaching for the gold ring of marriage right away.” Critics of HRC said it was “entirely characteristic” of the group “to believe that what is required is a sort of retrenchment and a return to a more moderate message.”
The point is not that incrementalism is necessarily a bad or cowardly strategy; it’s that what Becker paints as a contest between the entire gay rights “establishment” and a tiny sliver of outside-the-movement saviors was in fact a principled strategic debate within the gay rights movement across decades.

We’re going to see a lot of this hero worship soon. It reminds me of the erasure of Bayard Rustin from civil rights discussions.

“Miami, as we know it today, is doomed”

My neighborhood doesn’t flood. Cockroaches and star spiders hang out in Westchester to escape flooding. In 2010 Allstate and Florida thought otherwise. For the first time in memory, the area was classified as a flood zone. Owning a condo meant I paid a much cheaper group rate, so the yearly burden wasn’t onerous. Still. Florida and a formidable insurance company knew something. A field meeting today at Miami Beach City Hall chaired by Senator Bill Nelson mentioned what doesn’t need to be said but nevertheless must be repeated.

Now that climate is changing, and as Nelson said at the start of the South Florida hearing: “This is Ground Zero.” Scientists have documented that the seas along the Florida coastline have risen five to eight inches over the last fifty years, and Biscayne Bay now floods the streets of my neighborhood just about every month at high tide. “It’s real. It’s happening here,” Nelson said. “Yet some of my colleagues in the Senate continue to deny it.”

It is real, and it’s already a problem in my low-lying part of the world. Saltwater intrusion is increasing in the freshwater Everglades, which is causing problems for farmers in southern Miami-Dade County, and will make the government’s $15 billion Everglades restoration project even more expensive. The Army Corps of Engineers has estimated that over the next fifty years, Miami-Dade’s beaches will need about 23 million cubic yards of new sand to deal with erosion. Mayor Philip Levine says Miami Beach alone plans to spend $400 million to upgrade drainage infrastructure to prepare for a warmer world. The Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change’s “likely scenario” for 2010 includes seas rising as much as three feet; our county has $38 billion worth of property at three feet elevation or less. And while it’s too early to tie any particular storm to climate change, all the models predict more intense hurricanes coming through the Sunshine State. “The risk posed by coastal flooding is indisputably growing,” testified Megan Linkin, a natural hazards specialist at the reinsurance giant Swiss Re.

Gore Vidal’s Abraham Lincoln wearily remarks to William Seward that one of the salient phenomena of political life is reminding people of the obviousness of certain facts. Here’s a fact:

But the unavoidable truth is that sea levels are rising and Miami is on its way to becoming an American Atlantis. It may be another century before the city is completely underwater (though some more-pessimistic­ scientists predict it could be much sooner), but life in the vibrant metropolis of 5.5 million people will begin to dissolve much quicker, most likely within a few decades. The rising waters will destroy Miami slowly, by seeping into wiring, roads, building foundations and drinking-water supplies – and quickly, by increasing the destructive power of hurricanes. “Miami, as we know it today, is doomed,” says Harold Wanless, the chairman of the department of geological sciences at the University of Miami. “It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when.”