Monthly Archives: April 2014

“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