Sunday, May 30, 2021

Taylor's 2nd Youtube Cavern: 25 of the Best 60s San Francisco Albums


This is the video I've been referring to. This guy Matt is super chill and has some deep knowledge of the topic. I wasn't familiar with all of these bands, and I also had no idea CCR was from SF. Always thought they were from the southeast or something. Some great recs in here, the comment section is worth a read too. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Tate the Great: A Small Victory on the Path Back to Glory


Not every season can end with a duck boat parade. Not every year goes according to plan. Some are disasters filled with disappointment and what-ifs. The 2020-2021 season for the Celtics was all of the above - a frustrating roller-coaster ride that left the organization and the fans that support it with more questions than answers. So it goes in the tumultuous world of sports.

But last nights 125-119 Celtics victory over the Nets was one to remember in a season of forgettable performances. Tatum dropped 50 points and legitimately looked like he could be the best player in the world. Is he the best Celtic since Bird? Possibly. Give him a few more seasons and some bolstered talent around him and we'll find out soon enough. It's insane to think he's only 23 years old.

There was also plenty of grit from role guys like Marcus Smart, Tristan Thompson, Evan Fournier, and Kemba Walker (despite his poor shooting). When Smart is on like that he is a treat to watch, and Fournier is certainly making the case for a re-signing. Thompson is finally showing the fans why he was brought in in the first place. Great stuff all around.

With all that being said, of course there's still a next-to-impossible hill to climb this season. It will take a miracle to beat this Nets team in 6 or 7, and even if that magically happens there are more goliaths to take down afterword. It's just not happening this year, and that's fine. But damnit if you can't cherish moments like this, even though the ship is going down, then why even root for a team? If you're only enjoyment can come off of titles being won, then have fun being miserable most of the time.

If the long war is the Celtics lifting banner 18 then last nights win was a small victory on the path back to glory. Tatum is becoming a legend right before our eyes, putting together masterful performances against some of the best in the history of the game. So for a few days I'm going to soak in the good feels and dream of what the future holds with JT as the leader of this team.

Not every season can end with a duck boat parade and there are still many questions to be answered. But there's one answer we definitely know: Jayson Tatum is a bonafide star and as long as this team has him there's hope.

- ZB James

Friday, May 14, 2021

ZB's YouTube Cavern #7: The Genius of Amy Winehouse's "I Heard Love Is Blind"


I couldn't resist him
His eyes were like yours
His hair was exactly the shade of brown
He's just not as tall, but I couldn't tell
It was dark and I was lying down
You are everything ' he means nothing to me
I can't even remember his name
Why're you so upset?
Baby, you weren't there and I was thinking of you when I came
What do you expect?
You left me here alone; I drank so much and needed to touch
Don't overreact ' I pretended he was you
You wouldn't want me to be lonely
How can I put it so you understand?
I didn't let him hold my hand
But he looked like you; I guess he looked like you
No he wasn't you
But you can still trust me, this ain't infidelity
It's not cheating; you were on my mind
Yes he looked like you
But I heard love is blind

This version of Amy's classic "I Heard Love Is Blind" is so damn good. She looks incredible, the guitarist and backing musicians are on point, and the singing is unsurprisingly phenomenal. Lyrically I think it's up there with her greatest works, and on certain days and in certain moments I believe it to be the finest piece of her tragically short career.

Thematically the song is brilliant. On the surface it sounds like a touching and sweet love song served to the listener in a classic pop jazz structure. But the words are completely flipped, and instead of a cliché love song about how perfect romance can be, Amy decides to plant the audience right in the middle of heartbreak. The words cut like a blade and taboo details are not spared, but her angelic voice numbs the delivery.

That is what I believe to be Amy's true genius - her ability to present hard truths and harsh realities beautifully. Whether it was unrequited love, breakups, addiction, or fading youth, she had an uncanny ability to wrap devastating subjects in a wildly pretty bow.

Hope you enjoy the cavern. This is how I try and remember her. Healthy, bright eyed, uncorrupted by the horrors of global fame and heroin. It's hard not to think of the tabloid shots in her final years - our society has a sick and twisted fascination with celebrity downfall, and those pictures tend to be all you see on the web. But if you dig a little bit you can find gems like this one of a star right before it shined too bright.

- ZB James

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Climate Change and American Politics

You might ask, why should we care about climate change when it's happening so slowly?  The reality is, in the grand scheme of things, it's happening very quickly and there needs to be a sense of urgency.  At the rate we are on, we have less than 3,300 days until we reach the 450 ppm threshold (i.e. carbon dioxide parts per million in the atmosphere).  We are now at about 420 ppm (not the fun kind of 420).  This time last year we were at about 418.3, 25 years ago we were at 360 ppm, and 250 years ago it is estimated that we were at 250 ppm.  I am 28 years old so most of the concerning rise has happened within my lifetime as rich national economies have obsessed over growth.  Even if we keep it below 450, temperatures may still rise above 2 degrees Celsius since pre-Industrial levels.  The intended result of the Paris Climate Accords was to keep temperature rise below 1.5 degrees...  that won't happen.

Due to the continued rise in temperature, the world will experience more severe flooding, heat stress, water stress, wildfires, hurricanes, and sea level rise, to name a few.  Different parts of the globe will suffer differently (i.e. the Midwest US won't be directly impacted by sea level rise but droughts will be severe).  Deserts will expand, and some parts of the world, where people currently live, will become uninhabitable for humans, causing mass migrations. Species will continue to go extinct at an alarming rate (the sixth mass extinction), and economists have said that the cost of not acting on climate change will total $34.5 trillion in the United States alone in lost economic activity and more than $100 trillion throughout the world by the end of the century.  To put that number into perspective, the world's total wealth is currently valued at $400 trillion.

So we have a big problem on our hands and we basically have until 2030 to determine if it's going to be bad or devastating.  What can we do to help?  Well, there are plenty of things you can do to lower your personal carbon footprint while the world is still very fossil-fuel intensive, and this is important and makes a big difference when done collectively, but we really need systemic change at a national/worldwide level in order to really move the needle.  Technology such as carbon sequestration will help, but it may never be scaleable enough to save the world.  There are also plenty of helpful technologies that have existed for many years (e.g., electric vehicles), but the free market is very slow to adapt as it is centered around the foundation of short-term profits.  Short-term profits do not factor in long-term issues such as climate change. This is why we need effective and aggressive policies to be put in place to accelerate the world to a clean energy, low-waste future that protects natural ecosystems.  A new study has concluded that voting conservative in national elections essentially triples your carbon footprint if you live in a rich democracy like the United States, Canada, or the UK.  Conversely, if you voted for the liberal party, it drastically shrinks your carbon footprint.  For example, if you voted in the 2019 Canadian election for Justin Trudeau's winning Liberal Party, the researchers calculated your vote saved 34.2 tons of climate pollution per year.  That's equivalent to taking 14 typical gas cars off the road.

Why is politics the most important way of fighting climate change?  Because it is essentially on the ballot in national elections.  Mainstream conservative party platforms deny climate change as a serious threat or even that it exists, while the liberal parties put in place policies that incentivize and accelerate the economy to move closer to a net-zero carbon future while protecting natural habitats such as forests and oceans.  But we are still wildly far away from that zero-carbon future, as conservatives have used all of their power to block any progress and even move us farther away.  While some liberals believe in more aggressive climate action (e.g., Bernie Sanders) than others (e.g., Joe Manchin), the Democratic Party and the Republican Party of the United States at a high level have opposite platforms when it comes to the environment.  Trump rolled back more than 100 environmental rules in 4 years, for example.  Miraculously, Joe Biden won back the White House while Democrats re-captured the Senate and maintained the House, and while some of Trump's rollbacks will take longer to undo, Biden has already reinstated many of those rules and seems determined to go much farther than Obama did in addressing climate change.

Why is American politics in particular so important?  Well, America is dirty.  The U.S. is the third largest country in the world by population, trailing only India and China, and the second biggest greenhouse gas emitter, trailing only China, but India and China both have lower per capita emissions than the US.  The US is the largest economy in the world (for now) and the most powerful country in the world (for now).  When the US does not take climate seriously, it gives countries like India and China an excuse to pollute themselves with few consequences.  If the US were to clean up their own emissions substantially, other countries will follow suit.

Given the urgency of climate action, Biden winning in 2020 was absolutely critical (for reasons beyond climate change too), and the Democrats controlling Congress has allowed Biden to carry out an agenda based on science and reason.  His proposed $4 trillion infrastructure plan could be passed in the next few months as well, which will probably go farther to address climate change in the U.S. than any other bill in history, while simultaneously addressing economic inequality.  While Bernie Sanders would have gone farther to address climate change and protect our natural world, Joe Biden has greatly exceeded expectations and, in my opinion, beggars can't be choosers.  While I voted for Bernie in the 2020 primary and stand by him and those like him, the difference between having Bernie vs. Biden as president is minuscule in comparison to the difference between having Biden vs. Trump.  We have until at least January 2025 with Biden, which is great, and if Biden continues to fight for the working people of this country (e.g., taxing the rich and assisting the poor and working class), he (or another Democrat if he decides not to run) will have a strong platform to run on in 2024 against the Republican Party.  However, if Republicans take back Congress, or even just the Senate, in 2022, Biden won't be able to carry out his agenda at will anymore.  Republicans will try to make him look unproductive and will shut down anything he wants to do.

So where do we stand with the 2022 Senate and House elections?  Democrats hold slim margins in both chambers, especially the Senate where there is a 50/50 split with Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker.  What I am hearing so far is that Democrats will have a tough time holding onto the House in 2022.  The president's party historically has lost, on average, 27 House seats since 1946.  I think this is because the challenging party has plenty of negative attacking content to bolster their platform and fire up supporters, basically telling the American people that the current president has done a horrible job.  I think in 2022, Republicans will campaign on the idea that Biden's plans are big-government and expensive, but I think that as long as Biden continues to fight to improve working people's lives while increasing taxes only for the wealthy, then Democrats might not lose as many seats as they have historically during midterms.  The vast majority of people are not wealthy.  Democrats will need to convince voters that they have their backs.  The Republicans, while they don't admit it publicly, have the backs of the wealthy and corporations.

Nonetheless, Democrats will still have a tough time maintaining the House while the Senate is also up for grabs (Republicans might have a slight edge there too).  The 2020 census did not go well for Democrats, and The Cook Political Report already gives Republicans about a four-seat net gain in the House from redistricting alone.  If the Republicans flip another seat or two on top of that, they should retake the Senate.  A lot will depend on the nuances of the individual candidates and races, but I think even more will depend on whether working voters can trust that the Democratic Party has their back.  So far, in 2021, they have, as the American Rescue Plan was geared toward low-income and middle-class Americans.  Another interesting thing to watch will be the primary races, as both parties are currently divided.  The Republican Party is currently united on the ends (conservative policies such as strict borders) but not on the means (democracy vs. Trump-inspired authoritarianism).  The Democratic Party has less of a concrete division.  It is more of a spectrum.  But Bernie Sanders has helped grow the Democratic Socialist left wing of the Democratic Party during the past several years into something very significant and still growing.  Biden has shifted left as a result, understanding there is a growing need for more systemic, aggressive policies.  Bernie's movement supports a Green New Deal, which would be the ideal policy to help mitigate climate change.  I'm not going to get my hopes up too much for that anytime soon, but it's the ultimate goal to strive toward.  In the meantime, let's see that $4 trillion infrastructure bill.  Tick tock Joe.