My 2010 Mixtape

It’s time to stop living a lie.

Over the last few years I’ve indulged in the annual ritual of posting a list of my top albums of the year. But the truth is, in this age of internet-induced ADD, of shuffling iPhones and thousands of tracks at my fingertips, I rarely listen to a given album all the way through more than once, and it has gotten harder and harder for me to say a given album is better than another.  The atomic unit of music has once again, as in days of yore, become the song rather than the album. While I don’t disagree that a set of songs can become more than the sum of its parts, as a songwriter my fundamental appreciation for my beloved medium rests at this very basic level — does this song, standing on its own, result in head-nods, pulse-throbs, or eye-sobs?

To that end I’ve put aside the pretensions of a top albums list and gone back to my roots: the mixtape. You can take a listen to a sample of each of my favorite songs of 2010 in the playlist below, and if you are so inclined, purchase each track individually (I should mention that doing so will also send a small pittance in the direction of your humble author).

Alternatively, if you value speed over supporting your friendly neighborhood blogger, and don’t mind spending $18.03 to feed the Apple monster, you can buy all 17 tunes with one click on iTunes.

Memo to the Missionaries

Our neighborhood has, for some reason, recently become the target of a group from a Baptist church in Hammond, Indiana who seem to be looking to drum up some new church members. I’m considering printing up some copies of the following to keep near the door and share with anyone looking to proselytize at our doorstep.

Hello, and thank you for your interest in converting me to (insert your religion here). I appreciate the effort you are making on behalf of my eternal soul, and — having spent four years as an undergraduate Comparative Mythology major and five years at one of the nation’s most respected divinity schools — I do enjoy a good conversation about the ultimate concerns of humanity. However, to avoid wasting your time, I have compiled this handy list of the tasks you will need to complete in order to convince me to attend your church/temple/drum circle/what-have-you.

1) Convince me of the existence of a transcendent being beyond the sphere of the human and natural realms. (I’ll give you this one for free, since a truly transcendent being would be by definition beyond the grasp of our limited human cognitive faculties; as a result, we would be neither able to prove nor disprove the existence of such a being.)

2) Convince me that not only is said being capable of comprehension by limited human faculties, but that it is a “person”-al being with the attendant desires, goals, and aims.

3) Convince me that the desires of such a transcendent being would somehow be concerned with what I as an individual believe, whom I decide to marry, what I do with my personal wealth, what I eat, etc.

4) Convince me that of the thousands of religious traditions that have claimed exclusive access to knowledge about this being’s wants and desires, yours is in fact the one that actually does have that access.

5) If, for some reason, you are not fluent in the language(s) in which your religious tradition was originally transmitted, convince me that each of the translators who passed that tradition down to you was in fact guided by that transcendant being.

6) Finally, you must complete each of these tasks without reference to your individual tradition’s scriptures or other religious documents, since accepting the authority of such scripture can obviously only occur after all of the previous conditions have been met.

If, having read this list, you feel that you can complete these tasks, please begin. If not, thank you for your time, and please get off my stoop.

Law School Project: Faculty Reading 2010

Each year since 2008, the Law School has compiled a list of reading recommendations from its faculty members as a sort of holiday gift for alumni. And each year, I design a new one-page site to house those recommendations. I think this year’s incarnation came out pretty well, as it’s a rather unusual way of navigating what is essentially just a *very* long list. Even better, we were able to tie this year’s edition into our recently launched Goodreads presence by making it easy for users to quickly friend us and become fans of our faculty members; accordingly our friend numbers on Goodreads increased by 50% within just a couple of days, and many of our new friends seem to have joined specifically for the chance to connect with us, an indicator of significant engagement.

Schubas on Sunday

Just a quick note that my Lost Cartographers collaborator, singer Gabrielle Schafer, and I will be playing a duo set this Sunday (Dec. 12) at Chicago’s most lovely small music room, Schubas. We’ll be opening for the forlornly beautiful sounds of Jill Andrews, formerly of The Everybodyfields. Luluc will also play. The show starts at 8, and tickets are just $10 — get ’em now on the Schubas website.And if you’re planning on coming, let us know on Facebook!