Love

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“IN THE END, THE LOVE YOU TAKE IS EQUAL TO THE LOVE YOU MAKE”

– Paul McCartney, 1969. 

 

I have spoken to a countless amount of people that deal with a significant amount of self hatred and doubt, and it is confusing and bewildering to me– these same people that crave love and being valued walk around on their phones all day, looking for love from cute girls on Tinder using cheesy pickup lines. For these people, it’s a big decision to decide to love somebody, and something they themselves would only make a few times in their lives. 

I spent my last week doing something refreshing and inspiring– falling in love with dozens of people. My aunt and uncle organized a family reunion, and I met and talked with many people that had only recently become family on my uncle’s side. Over the week, I fell in love with all of my new cousins and uncles and aunts (and great-aunts). Luckily for me, it was hard not to– they were wonderful people. The love was contagious and spread everywhere, we endlessly toasted each other, told each other our most personal stories, and cried when we had to leave each other. Mathematically, it seemed to give further proof to Paul McCartney’s love formula. But I also realized that this formula was not an economical cost-benefit chart. It was pure profit–it felt good to love and it felt good to be loved. 

“I LOOK AT THE WORLD, SEE THE LOVE THERE THAT’S SLEEPING”

-George Harrison, 1968 

I do think to love someone is a big deal and a big commitment, but it should not be one that people should be so hesitant to take. Though platonic love may feel awkward and mushy at first, I think it is one of the most valuable things that humans have to offer each other. 

I love my family, and they love me– that feels good. I love many of my friends– and that feels good too. I have many more people to fall in with in life as well, and that excites me.

My Top 9 Songs of 2018

2018 has been a truly fantastic year for music. From Kanye West to MGMT to Judas Priest, some of music’s most renowned living heavy hitters came back to release some of their best work this year. Relative newcomers, like J.I.D. and Cardi B, released their first albums to critical acclaim as well. This year, picking favorites was not easy for me or any music fan, but without further ado, here are my top 9 favorite songs released this year. 

9. If You Know You Know – Pusha T 

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Pusha T’s album cover for Daytona is a picture of the bathroom that Whitney Houston was found dead in.

Pusha T is the undisputed king of Gangster Rap in modern times, one of the few who continue to consistently keep it in discussion and in the ears of the modern generation. This year, he released Daytona, an album fully produced by Kanye West and it is brilliant. The song “If You Know You Know”, a song dedicated to those that can understand and sympathize with Pusha’s somewhat cryptic lyrics, is my favorite song of the album. The beat is brilliantly produced–sampling a 1972 jazz fusion song “Air” by Twelve O’Clock Satanial. Another great cut from one of Hip Hop’s legends. 

8. Nice For What – Drake 

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Since 2016, Drake has been getting into New Orleans Dancehall, and one of the singles he released this year, “Nice For What”, is a culmination of that interest. Produced by notorious beatmaker Murda Beatz, this song is arguably his most refined and polished work yet. Drake compliments the uplifting and bouncy beat very well, also putting forth some his best verses yet as he admires the modern working woman. This song is more than a banger–it’s a jumper. 

7. New Light – John Mayer 

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John Mayer honors the past while trying to shed his own in “New Light”. In this single, he pairs up with legendary producer and Kanye West’s personal mentor No I.D. to create a pop song to top all pop songs this year. The result is John Mayer’s best single in over a decade, a beautiful double entendre of romance and a reconstruction of Mayer’s own image, asking both listeners and the woman he sings to to “give me just one night” and promises both that “you’re gonna see me in a New Light”. Great breakdowns, a tender and sweet guitar solo, makes for a relaxing yet enthralling listen. 

6. Jumpsuit – Twenty One Pilots 

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Jumpsuit is one the lead singles from Twenty One Pilots’ new album Trench, arguably their best album. Frankly, it was difficult to choose the best song off this album; between songs like”Levitate”, “Pet Cheetah”, “The Hype”, “Neon Gravestones”, and “My Blood”, I decided to choose “Jumpsuit” because it best embodies what this album is about. “Jumpsuit”, much like the rest of this album, is very dark and moody, yet incorporates elements of jazz, metal, rock, and many other genres into a swirling fusion of catchy pop refrains. It is intense, and the amount of time the band put into the track is felt in every second; it is just as intense when singer Tyler Joseph whispers “Jumpsuit, jumpsuit, cover me” as when he almost blows your ears out screaming the same line. 

5. High – Young Thug 

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When it was first leaked that Young Thug was singing over Elton John’s “Rocket Man”, I thought it was a bad idea, but five seconds of listening to the track quickly changed my mind. In singing over the classic, Young Thug has completely made his own song and a classic of his own. Interestingly, the idea for the song was created when Thugger’s producers saw an article in which Elton himself expressed his admiration for the rapper/singer. Their duet is breathtaking, and redefines what singing can be in rap song. As Elton goes deeper and deeper into space, Thug gets more and more stoned and muses on some of his uncomfortable relationships that only get more uncomfortable in his state of sobriety. This song finds Young Thug at his best in terms of singing and, ironically enough, his most sober.

4. Mo Bamba – Sheck Wes 

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This song will go down in history as the one of the songs that changed rap forever. This song makes so little sense yet so much at the same time–so mediocre yet one of the most if not the most enthralling song of the year. One of the more interesting aspects of the song is the way that people respond to it; at every college party I have ever attended many songs get people singing choruses and sometimes even verses, but nothing comes even close to the screaming and jumping that ensues when Sheck Wes screams “Uh-Ohhh, Fuck! Shit! Bitch! Huh!”– the energy is contagious, a fantastic and brilliant way to introduce the public to Sheck Wes.

3. Topanga – Trippie Redd 

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Trippie channels both his spirituality and his vengeful love on this gorgeous gospel-inspired track. This is the young Ohio rapper’s best song yet.

The extremely good production is complimented by Trippie’s great singing voice, which is better than ever now. Trippie raps about a very dysfunctional, abusive relationship, but he still wants to find peace for himself and his lover. Regardless, the melodies on this track are probably the best of the year, and if Trippie would make a little more sense on the track, this could have been the best song of the year. 

2. Stay – Post Malone 

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“Stay”, a cut from rapper/singer Post Malone’s sophomore album Beerbongs and Bentleys is a powerful love/hate song. In an interview with Uproxx, producer Andrew Wyatt said of the song: “For a while we were calling it ‘George,’ because it reminded us of George Harrison…”. In many ways, this song is “Something”-esque; both are brilliant takes on the mysterious ways in which love makes someone more than want a person, but need a person, and logic’s fight against it when the relationship becomes dysfunctional. Harrison isn’t sure whether “my love [will] grow” and Post Malone begs his lover to stay, yet in the final lyric of the song, he mentions, “Don’t count on me to stay”. The guitar toning throughout the song is extremely tasteful, and a great compliment to Malone’s voice, which has greatly improved since his first album, Stoney. A truly perfect song, “Stay” displays the many ways in which Malone has matured as an artist in the last few years.

1. Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2) – Kids See Ghosts 

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Kids See Ghosts is a joint project from legendary rappers Kanye West and Kid Cudi. Their self-named first (and hopefully not last) project is absolutely breathtaking from start to finish. Of this song, Kanye sings “You should quit your job to this”, and I agree. This song is the anthem of self-liberation, reminding listeners that everyone is in control of their own damn lives. The song begins with this quote from civil rights leader Marcus Garvey:

“Man in the full knowledge of himself is a superb and supreme creature of creation,
When man becomes possessor of the knowledge of himself, he becomes the master of his environment.”

And so, Kanye, Cudi, and guest Ty Dolla $ign all seamlessly alternate lines to at least impart some of the knowledge Marcus Garvey refers to. The “knowledge” that Kids See Ghosts give us is more of an emotion than anything, how good self-emancipation feels to Kanye and Kid Cudi. In a year marked by war, corruption, and foul play around the world, Kids See Ghosts is hopeful to the bone, and reminds us that we can be happy no matter what happens, because it is always better to be happy than to be sad 🙂

A Country Of Extremes

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The Presidential Debate according to South Park: A Douche vs. A Turd Sandwich

In American culture, moderation is frowned upon. You’re “either with us, or against us”; you are either good or evil, you are either in the 1% or in the 99%.  Ambiguity is a myth here in the US; there is only one right answer, one perspective. 

At Thanksgiving dinner, the premiere American celebration of family reunion, it is a social taboo to even discuss politics. That’s because your grandparents are Republicans, your uncle campaigned for Bernie, and you find yourself embroiled in a shouting match over taxes. How could it be possible for members of the same family to not be able to at least see each other eye to eye on our nation’s issues?

It is without question that our nation is now dominated by a duopolistic culture that is now more divided than it ever was before. Members of the Democratic and Republican parties no longer even have the ability to respect each other’s opinions, nor can they even understand the reasoning behind the opposing side’s argument. 

In 2016, citizens found themselves stuck between voting for a giant douche and turd sandwich. They voted for the giant douche because turd sandwiches are disgusting, and they thought the giant douche would be a better president. Or more accurately, a less awful president. The American people should never have to choose between a lesser of two evils. They should have the freedom to choose, without constraint, the person they believe would be most qualified to be president, regardless of whether they were pre-selected by one of the two centuries-old political organizations. George Washington famously warned Americans of the chaos and misery that forming parties would create. America ignored him then, parties now abuse their duopoly to further extremize their beliefs and hold the American people and government hostage. I demand Freedom, and not the  Freedom to choose parties, but the American Freedom to take action as a people, and to fight for common beliefs. 

External vs. Internal Existence

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In life, it is difficult to impossible to sort people into “categories”. While it may be possible categorize actions that humans perform or the things they believe, people themselves are immune to accurate categorization. 

For example, I often like to categorize the way a person is existing at any given moment. In my experience, I have noticed that people often either operate externally or internally. Internal existence occurs when there is a buffer between thoughts and actions or spoken words. External existence occurs when there is no buffer or a very thin buffer; thoughts about actions and things to say go smoothly and directly from the brain to the action performed. 

When we are alone, we often exist internally. Rather than talking to others, our primary conscience thinks to itself. When with close friends, our thoughts almost become entirely external, rather than thinking to ourselves, we think aloud to them. When we are in the presence of someone with whom we must choose our words carefully, we operate both externally and internally: we are preoccupied with both carefully choosing the correct words, and saying the words themselves. 

Though my categorization is probably somewhat inaccurate – people most likely operate on a spectrum of internal and external thinking – the idea is interesting. Perhaps a person’s public speaking skills falter when they exist more internally than externally during the speech. Or perhaps if they think more externally than internally, they fail as public speakers because they say things that were not thought out well enough. Perhaps this was Kanye West’s failure when he called slavery “a choice”; he simply had failed to process the thought internally before he verbalized it. 

Alan Dershowitz’s Chuztpah, 27 Years Later

In 1991, star lawyer and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz published Chuztpah, a book on “what it means to be a Jew in America today”, as ascertained by its Amazon page; “today” now meaning “27 years ago”. After reading the book, I thought it would be interesting to reexamine the book in the context of what Jewish Americanism means in today’s context. 

Perhaps most interesting to reexamine were Dershowitz’s predictions for the future standing from 1991. He warned against believing one political party is “for the Jews” while the other is not, all the while predicting a trend towards rising conservatism. However, Jewish politics have overwhelmingly shifted towards the democratic party. In 1988, at the time Dershowitz was writing Chutzpah, Jews were more supportive of a Republican presedential candidate as ever: 64% voted for Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis while 35% voted for George Bush, Sr. In 2008, however, it became much more clear that Jews were undivisably supportive of democratic candidates than almost any other religious group in the country, with 78% voting for Barack Obama. This trend continued in the most recent election, where 71% of Jews voted for Hillary Clinton. Shockingly, Jews continue to vote in line with the Democratic party as Democratic sympathy for Israel steadily declines; in 2018, only 27% of surveyed Democrats reported sympathy for Israel, an all-time low since at least 1978. Meanwhile, Republican sympathy for Israel has climbed to an all-time high  at a whopping 79%. 

In 1991, Dershowitz rallied against Anti-Zionism led by Jews, and urged to support Israel as a state, yet not be afraid to criticize its policies. Now, it seems as though Jews have ignored his call and have gone against his predictions, since the vast majority now associate themselves the Democratic establishment, a party in which even sympathy with Israel is felt by the minority. 

Dershowitz also predicted and hoped that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) would lose international credibility after openly supporting Saddam Hussein’s slaughter of innocent people during the Gulf War. But the World defied his predictions yet again, not only by continuing to lend credibility to the PLO but by recognizing it as a state in the United Nations in 2012. 

Chutzpah predicted a hopeful period of growth for Jews as they speak out for themselves and for Israel, yet it seems as though the Jews have suddenly quieted themselves one again in the face of Anti-Zionism. 

Meaning vs. Perception and Christopher Nolan’s “Memento”

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Leonard Shelby of Christopher Nolan’s “Memento”

“My wife deserves vengeance. Doesn’t make any difference whether I know about it. Just because there are Things I don’t remember doesn’t make my actions meaningless,” says Leonard Shelby — a character in Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Memento– with anterograde amnesia, or the inability to form short-term memories. Every 10 minutes or so, Leonard’s memory resets, remembering nothing but seeing his wife on the floor, evidently dying. 

Though the 21st century had just begun, Memento quickly has become one of its best productions, becoming one of the first movies to effectively tell a story in reverse and using a fascinating combination of black and white and colored film to create a cohesive movie told most uncohesively. 

At the heart of the movie is a question about meaningfulness in life and its definition in humanity. Many strive to achieve something meaningful in life, to leave a lasting mark on the world long after death. But in truth, as Memento reveals, humans shouldn’t strive to actually change the world to their liking. More accurately, they should strive to convince themselves that they have changed the world. 

In Memento, Leonard’s goal throughout the movie is to find and murder his wife’s killer, “John G.”, to find justice to his wife. At the same time, Leonard’s goal plays a much more important role in his life: to allow him to continue to live and be functional with his condition. Towards the end (or the start) of the movie, it is revealed that it was Leonard himself who killed his wife, that the one who gave Leonard his condition was killed long ago, and that Leonard continued the hunt for “John G” so that he could continue to have a purpose in his life. While most humans dream of achieving a goal or fulfilling their purpose, Leonard’s goal was to have a purpose. Leonard believes that his perspective is irrelevant, but in reality, his perspective is the only thing that matters. 

In this way Memento reminds the audience that perspective is also the only thing that matters is the perspective one, not the actual effect they had on the world. Vincent van Gogh died of suicide at age 37, a failed artist who had only sold one painting in his life. Oliver Cromwell died a hero, the destroyer of the British monarchy, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Yet two years later, the monarchy was fully restored, and three years later, Cromwell’s body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey and was posthumously executed for his “crimes”. These posthumous actions are irrelevant to van Gogh and Cromwell in every way but memory. It is a sobering and somewhat depressing thought that perception is more important than actuality, even if a person desires actuality above all else.

Genesis Metaphorically: How It Is and Isn’t

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God’s creation of Adam, by Michelangelo

This post was inspired by the great Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of Britain, and is now a member of the British Parliament. Four or five years ago, I had the honor of watching Sacks discuss religion, politics, and a handful of other topics at a panel in Palo Alto. After the discussions had ended, the panel turned to the audience for a question and answer session. Small slips of paper were distributed around the crowd, and I quickly raised my hand for one. Thinking of him as the chief authority on Judaism in the world, I nervously jotted down the question that had irked me since I had first read the Old Testament. The panel began to wind down, and the moderator of the panel said proudly, This question was written by a child! As I fought to cool my flushing cheeks, she continued: “How could it be that God created the entire world, with its millions of animals and plants, in seven days?” 

The honorable Rabbi scoffed and did not hesitate in his answer. He said: (and I’m paraphrasing) “He didn’t! The creationist story is metaphorical; God could not have possibly created the world in seven days, especially since he hadn’t created the sun until the fourth day. 

It was at that moment that I became a completely secular Jew. I could not believe that a text could be legitimately believed when one part was to be metaphorical and the other not. I was taught what metaphors were in fourth grade, and there seemed to be nothing at all metaphorical about the Book of Genesis! 

But I read the story again and there is something magical about it, reading it simply as a story of the divine. God making something from nothing, making everything the way that it should be, and gently creating the balanced and beautiful world we live in. It is a wonderful story, deserving of the many paintings great artists have devoted to it. Perhaps there is something metaphorical about it after all, a narrative on balance and order.

Crying

Crying is, without doubt, one of the more interesting expressions of emotion that a human being can perform. The biological intention of crying is as a means of clearing tear ducts, but the reason behind crying as an expression of intense emotion remains unknown to scientists. 

People cry for fake people and real people. People cry for animals and for lost objects. People cry for the sake of happiness and for the sake of sadness. People cry for the dead and for the living. It seems almost as though we can cry for anything, but that is not the case. We cry only for the things for which we care for the most. 

On the plane ride from Washington D.C. to Hartford, Connecticut, I cried for Matthew McConaughey’s character in Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar. The character travels through space and time, displays inhuman amounts of courage and ingenuity, and sacrifices seeing his entire family for the sake of what he thinks is saving humanity. But instead of being rewarded for his valor, the character is forced to stare at his daughter through a bookcase in a dark hole, for eternity. He is reduced to communicating with the one he loves the most through weak gravity alterations. Though eventually the movie ends happily, I could not help but weep for a fully fictional character’s plight. 

Tonight, my grandfather read to me, my grandmother, and my sister a few short stories he had written and collected about himself and our family. One story he read aloud was about my grandmother’s slow introduction and acceptance of our now deceased cat, Midnight. Halfway through the story, my grandmother wept for the cat, and told us through her tears, how she loved the cat almost as much as she loved any of us. I was moved by her tears, and almost wanted to cry for Midnight myself, but couldn’t bring myself to, even though I had known and loved the cat for so much longer than my grandmother did. I wonder why?

Work vs. Talent

 A very famous inventor named Thomas Edison once defined genius as “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”, putting forth the notion that hard work is much more important than any amount of talent. Earlier today, me and my family had a discussion on whether or not hard work is more important than talent. My entire family, including myself, agreed that hard work is far more important than any amount of talent in achieving “genius”, or more importantly success. 

As Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union, success is one of the common goals that our family pushed for and still push for today through their lives. They emigrated so they could have above average amounts of wealth, freedom, health, and happiness in our lives. In each of our experiences, we quickly came to understand that any amount of superior or above average intelligence did not matter at all in achieving success when no work is put in to refine and apply such intelligence and/or natural skill. 

My family says that I am intelligent, but fully unwilling to work hard. I think that at this time of my life, I possess neither an unnerving amount of intelligence nor a work ethic in any form. But I think it is important that at the very least, once I claim that passion to succeed and be happy as an adult that is encoded in my Jewish DNA, I will focus on what to me is the most important piece in the puzzle that is success: perspiration. 

A Case for Public Transportation

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As I spent the last week zooming from one side of London to the other with through “The Tube”, London’s subway system, a recurring thought stuck with me: “Thank God for public transportation.” 

Recently, Nashville voters shocked America when they voted in a landslide against a bill that would vastly improve the city’s public transportation system, adding 26 miles of light rail, multiple new bus lines, and 19 new transit stations. In a large way, this was due to the efforts of a political advocacy group called Americans for Prosperity, committed towards preventing the spread of public transportation in the United States. It is spearheaded by the oil tycoons David and Charles Koch, who argue that public transportation is becoming needless in the age of driverless fully electric cars. However, since plug-in electric vehicles only took up .9% of the American automobile market in 2017,  it seems as though the Koch Brothers may be acting more in the interests of their gargantuan oil company. 

To me, public transportation is perhaps one of the defining characteristics of a major city. Tokyo’s, New York’s, and London’s smoothly operating transportation systems are in part what contributes to their status as some of the most visited cities in the world. Without the systems that make different sides of the city easily accessible, cities (especially larger cities) begin to fail to realize the full scale of their resources and citizens.