Recommended Read: “Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch

I love a good book, but one of my biggest challenges as a thinker is retaining key takeaways from the things that I have read. As a way to better collect my thoughts, I’ve decided to write a few paragraphs after every book I finish in 2019.

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What’s it mean to be you? That’s the premise of Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter, a stunningly plotted sci-fi thriller that I raced through in a single day. Astrophysicist Jason Dessen wakes up in a city that looks just like his, except his life is completely different. He resides in a lavish home filled with hard-won science prizes instead of teaching bored college students. His wife doesn’t know him and his child doesn’t exist. It’s as if he’s branched off completely, somewhere along the tree of his life. Continue reading

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Poem: “Anti Muse”

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Anti Muse

All my favorite songs used to be about myself,
crossing coastal highways and daring
cars to take a swing or wondering how
lonely the air must be
for birds seven stories up.

I spent intemperate days in the shade of linden trees,
dancing at strangers and their children
for subway tokens and some sense of who I am,
yelling into the night
until the cops sent me home.

Then I met you.
We made tacos, lost passports, climbed
honeycrisp trees, and found a thousand ways
to sing together
like leaves in the autumn wind.

And now sometimes I drive slower because I don’t want to leave you alone.
And sometimes I wear gloves because your hands get cold.
And sometimes I get scared because I don’t know where you are.
And sometimes I sit up late because you sleep so beautifully unaware.

You once called yourself “anti muse”
because I hadn’t written verse in a while,
as if broken words were the measure of how inspired I can be
while white noise drowns out this world
and we build a bridge from my arms to yours.

If you’re my golden hour can I be your dying star
or at least occupy the same sky as days pass away? We can argue
over whether I’ve been getting the words wrong all this time.
Maybe it’s not for me to say but I still hear it
as “I’m gonna love you either way.” And I will.


Happy Valentine’s Day 2019

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Recommended Read: “Williamsburg Shorts” by Lucio Zago

I love a good book, but one of my biggest challenges as a thinker is retaining key takeaways from the things that I have read. As a way to better collect my thoughts, I’ve decided to write a few paragraphs after every book I finish in 2019.

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I am a part of the gentrification of Brooklyn. My girlfriend and I moved to Williamsburg in June, transplants from Philadelphia looking for an area of New York City that wouldn’t be as stressfully crowded and loud as Manhattan, where our jobs are located. We live near the Bedford Avenue stop of the L train, in one of the most overpriced and trendiest neighborhoods in the country. But it wasn’t always like this in Brooklyn.

I picked up Williamsburg Shorts in a local bookstore while shopping for Christmas gifts, struck by its vibrant cover and bold font. The graphic novel was written and illustrated by Lucio Zago, an artist who moved into a place on Grand Street in 1994. From his vantage point 10 blocks south of my current apartment, he’s seen firsthand how the neighborhood has changed from a predominantly industrial community of settled immigrants to a white-washed hipster crowd. He’s been sketching those changes the entire way, and created this collection of short, punchy stories as an attempted preservation of that local history for the last quarter of a century.

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Recommended Read: “Twilight of the Gods” by Steven Hyden

I love a good book, but one of my biggest challenges as a thinker is retaining key takeaways from the things that I have read. As a way to better collect my thoughts, I’ve decided to write a few paragraphs after every book I finish in 2019.

Steven Huden - Twilight of the Gods

I went into Steven Hyden’s Twilight of the Gods expecting to read about death. Hyden can be an engaging thinker, and most of the promotion around his newest work positioned it as the bookend of a musical era, a rumination on what it means when all of the legends of the rock genre are dead or dying. That description actually made me less excited to pick it up at first, thinking that it would ultimately be a downer to read about fading legacies and early graves. I was pleased to discover that this explanation is not entirely true; though the book is subtitled “a journey to the end of classic rock”, Hyden focuses more on the journey rather than the genre’s seemingly inescapable destination. Rather than overly contemplate the end, it’s filled with the passion of a nerdy fan who wants to gather everyone around a fire and celebrate why we loved these larger-than-life figures in the first place.

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Recommended Read: “All the Pieces Matter” by Jonathan Abrams

I love a good book, but one of my biggest challenges as a thinker is retaining key takeaways from the things that I have read. As a way to better collect my thoughts, I’ve decided to write a few paragraphs after every book I finish in 2019.

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All the Pieces Matter is an oral history that dives into the creation of HBO’s The Wire through a series of interviews with the creators, cast, and crew. I’ve always loved how densely layered The Wire is constructed, literally building up a city over 60 episodes of television by showcasing the brokenness of different civic institutions in Baltimore and the human consequences of this failure — all without losing narrative momentum for dozens of characters. While I knew that this novelistic structure was intentional, it’s fascinating to hear creator David Simon talk about bringing his vision to life to go beyond a cops-and-gangsters story on the drug corners. The show writers paint labor unions, public schools, and local politics as all part of a failing cycle, ultimately arguing that the city’s infrastructure is rotten at its core.

My least favorite season of The Wire is its second (or “The White Season”, as a few cast members in the book call it), which famously shifted the show’s focus from the more visceral drug trade to a story about the decline of the American working class, as shown by the city’s dock workers. Though I’ve always recognized the value of broadening the scope of the show in Season 2 to “build the city”, I’ve also found many of the labor union characters to be a bit annoying. With that said, I really enjoyed how the cast and writers defend this season in the book, with actor James Ransome (who played Ziggy Sobotka, my least favorite character on the entire show) talking about how the audience criticism of the season in some ways pre-figures the election of Donald Trump.

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6 Emerging Artists to Watch in 2019

One of the great joys of being a music fan is finding a voice I’ve never heard before and immediately thinking “what is this?” In the streaming era, it’s easy enough to stumble upon a catchy track, but much more rare to be blown away by an actual artist — someone who delivers song after song that suggests a whole new way of interpreting the world.

Here are 6 musicians that I enjoyed this year, each of whom hasn’t yet put out a full-length project but seems poised for greatness. I’ve linked to one representative song by each artist. All of them have pretty expansive sounds, so I recommend diving further into their (limited) discographies if you like what you hear. I’m definitely excited to keep listening as they continue to catch ears in 2019 and beyond.

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Westerman is a craftsman from London who plays perfect pop melodies into empty rooms. I first discovered him through “Confirmation”, a slow surge of stacked hooks that somehow still leaves space for your mind to wander like you’re staring at a star projector. Continue reading

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Matt Chylak’s Top 10 Albums of 2017

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One of the things that I love most about music is how it can sweep me away.

No matter how many years pass or new albums I hear, I am still awed when it happens — the way a fragment of melody or barely-caught lyric can tune some dial in my brain and shift the world around me into a different color. It’s a personal alchemy. I break into involuntary smiles and unasked-for tears and dance to a song that no one can hear but me. I remind myself that I am alive and better for it.

I’m aware that it’s a cliche to wish for escape in a year like this one. 2017 has pushed hard against the idea that the world is a fundamentally good place. As I’m typing this, Alabama has just barely rejected sending an accused pedophile to the Senate and I’m happier than I’ve been in months. But I can barely believe what I typed. It’s confusing and it makes me angry to think that we’re so far from where we could be. Sometimes it feels like I am trying in futility to hold it all back.

My favorite music this year has been made by artists who help me push. They are black, white, straight, queer, gender-fluid, young, old… you name it. They come from places as far-flung as New Zealand and Sweden and as close to home (but still a world away) as the Marcy Projects. In their stories and rhythms and harmonies, I have found a release from all the regressive ideals and bullshit, the energy to rip the Twitter IV out of my arm and go somewhere else for three or four minutes at a time. In the words of one of my favorite artists: “fuck politics, let’s do some dancing.”

Here are ten albums from 2017 that created worlds of their own for me. Maybe they can do that for you too.

~~~~~*~~~~~

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10.   U2 – Songs of Experience 

U2 has gathered a global congregation by reaching heavenward, but their latest effort literally aims for the cosmic. Political and personal, existential and anxious — at its core, Songs of Experience is a series of missives on love and communion from beyond the grave. I have returned to it repeatedly since its December release, each time discovering something new, fresh footsteps on a journey that at this point stretches far beyond Joshua Tree.

So where are we going? Continue reading

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