My 50 Favorite Songs of 2011

Wahoo! With the end of the year comes the annual tradition where I share my favorite songs of the past 12 months with you. It’s an opportunity to learn some new songs/bands, as well as laugh at my taste. It’s also an opportunity to kill your browser when it takes forever to load… YOU’RE WELCOME.

Each year as I compile this list, I note a new trend in how my musical preferences are skewing. Last year I was more into mainstream and R&B, but this year is a return to indie acts. There’s a bunch with male and female vocalist harmonizing and plenty of sing-along choruses.

This post is set up so you can sample/download songs individually (click play or share then download), or you can download them all as a ZIP file here. As always, the best way to support artists is to buy their music… hopefully by discovering them here, you’ll go out and do that on ITunes or something.

50. Over My Dead Body – Drake

This song is a clever and insightful look into the life of Drake, the man who puts the word “artist” in hip hop artist.

49. Louder Than Ever – Cold War Kids

The Cold War Kids are consistently good, so it was difficult choosing a favorite song from this year’s album. I suppose this is the track I play louder than ever, however.

48. The Honest Truth – Typhoon

I’m not going to lie, this song starts out a little slow, a little typical, but by the time it swells into a massive sing-along and the horns come in, the payoff is well worth the wait.

47. Under Cover of Darkness – The Strokes

It’s been five years since we’ve had a new Strokes album, but some things never change. It’s a new CD, but the same old Strokes style – and I like it.

46. Arms – Christina Perri

Though the song is slightly irritating due to its saccharine qualities, it’s one that got stuck in my head more than I care to admit. Besides, if Vanessa Carlton isn’t around to write this kind of song anymore, who will?

45. Lipstick – Jedward

Not many Americans will be familiar with the mischievous twins Jedward (John and Edward) who gained infamy on the UK’s X-Factor for staying long past their talent warranted. Nonetheless, the duo turned out a legitimately catchy song (in the best guilty pleasure kind of way) while representing Ireland in this year’s Eurovision contest.

44. Moonlight to Sunrise – Electric Valentine

Electric Valentine is a fun electronica band that puts on a great live show. This acoustic track is a vast departure from the rest of their music, but there’s something excellent in its simplicity.

43. Get in Line – I’m from Barcelona

I’m a sucker for an unreasonably large band, so with 29 members, I’m from Barcelona is a favorite of mine. When you have this many people singing and playing instruments, how can it not be a good time?

42. Good Feeling – Flo Rida

Sure, he caught my attention a few years ago with his Apple Bottom jeans and, more importantly, boots with the fur, but I wouldn’t have guessed one of his songs would become something that I genuinely like. The rapping’s all right, but it’s the Etta James sample that really makes this track. Respect your elders and use them well!

41. Cough Syrup – Young the Giant

Playing on the usual conventions that make alternative music enjoyable, Young the Giant made a song that goes down as smooth as cough syrup.

40. Estate Sign Sale – The Mountain Goats

I’m the first to admit that the Mountain Goats’s sound is more of an acquired taste. But I’ve got to give credit to my fellow Pitzer alum – the passion in his music is palpable, with this song being no exception.

39. Icarus – BASTILLE

BASTILLE is a new alterna-pop band coming out of London. BASTILLE still hasn’t released a full-length album yet, but I expect big things from the act. In fact, I know you’ll hear from BASTILLE again… much higher on this countdown.

38. Super Bass – Nicki Minaj

She’s received accolades for a while now, but “Super Bass” is the song that shot her from a featured performer to a superstar in her own right. This hit proves she can spit rhymes in a pop-friendly manner, too.

37. Paradise – Coldplay

The song starts out like your typical Coldplay fare, but once it reaches the midway point and the chorus offers up an infectious “Para-para-paradise”, it’s not hard to admit you’ve been suckered in.

36. Getting Me Down – Blawan

With all due respect to Brandy (so… a moderate amount?), I don’t think Brandy could make this good of a Brandy song anymore. Taking a 90s sample of a Brandy song and combining it with a subtle beat, Blawan has created the ideal club jam.

35. Berlin Wall – The Heavenly States

I never thought I’d be nostalgic for the Berlin Wall – truthfully, I don’t even know much about it – but this song has me interested. Every song I’ve heard by The Heavenly States is well-crafted, so check them out.

34. S&M – Rihanna

You’ve got to admire how Rihanna doesn’t just not shy away from sex, she throws it in your face with this raunchy hit. Even if chains and whips don’t excite you as much as it does Rihanna, it’s still an enjoyable song.

33. Expanding Anyway – Morning Teleportation

I enjoy the vocal trill the lead singer does on the verses, the staccato bounciness is reminiscent of a stone skipping on water. It pairs quite well with the slow shouting in the choruses.

32. What the Hell? – Avril Lavigne

I’m an unapologetic fan of Lavigne, as well as a fan of this unapologetic song about wanting to sow her wild oats. (I wonder if it stings her ex-husband from Sum41.) Sure, it’s still got some of Lavigne’s trademark brat in it, but it’s clear she’s come a long way in her songwriting from the “Sk8r Boi” days.

31. Lovers’ Carvings - Bibio

I’m not usually a fan of music without many lyrics (how can I sing along?), but I’ll make an exception for Bibio’s well-orchestrated songs. This song in particular starts out simply, then halfway through transitions to a poppy, peppy tune.

30. Squealing Pigs – Admiral Fallow

A bouncy, ho-down type song that got a deserved re-release this year. While I’m not sure the male and female’s harmonies come together that well, it’s the imperfection that sticks with you and will have you singing the chorus well after listening.

29. Little Talks – Of Monsters and Men

Because it’s time Iceland had a well-known musician other than Bjork! The back-and-forth between the vocalists is cute, and the “hey!”s that get peppered throughout are a real mood booster.

28. Colours – Grouplove

There’s something about the stuttering in this song that’s enjoyable. You don’t have to be a kindergartener to have fun listing colors (sorry, colours) when this song is playing.

27. Shake It Out – Florence & the Machine

I feared that the mainstream would turn Florence’s “Dog Days Are Over” into a one-hit wonder, but this equally enchanting song is helping to cement her presence. Commanding without going too far over-the-top, I’m down to shake it out with her.

26. Get It Daddy – Sleeper Agent

Borrowing some elements from punk without straying over too far from pop/rock, this knee-slapping sing-along from an emerging Kentucky band is worth your attention.

25. Call Your Girlfriend – Erato

Maybe this spot should go to the brilliant Robyn who originally performed this song, but I’m even more taken with Erato’s simple, harmonious cover of the boyfriend-stealing anthem. Accompanied only by table tapping, the women of Erato are pitch perfect and give the song a more somber point of view than Robyn dance song offers.

24. Katy on a Mission – Katy B

Katy B’s sweet voice is on just about every dubstep song you can find lately. However, I’m most taken by this lead single from her solo album about navigating her way through a dance club. Kind of an obvious narrative, sure, but sing what you know… and sing it as well as Katy B.

23. Novacane – Frank Ocean

Ocean is this year’s smooth-voiced R&B singer to watch. If this song were released in the 90s, it’d have been a top ten jam. While Ocean’s rise to fame hasn’t exactly been meteoric or anything, I wouldn’t count him out just yet: he’s got the pipes.

22. There Is No Sun – I’m from Barcelona

Contrary to the song’s title, there is plenty of sun when the massive chorus of I’m from Barcelona sings. These fine folks always put me in a good mood.

21. Hooked – Mayer Hawthorne

When I first heard this song, I assumed it was a Motown hit from decades ago that I wasn’t familiar with. Imagine my surprise to learn that it’s Hawthorne’s apparent ode to our favorite soulful jams. This song could lead a modern Motown revival; I’m digging it.

20. Take Off Your Shirt – Bibio

Though Bibio’s music is generally instrumental with sparse vocals, the act’s attempt at a genuine rock song is a certain success. You’d think they specialized in this style given the addictive results.

19.212 - Azealia Banks

Banks may bill herself as a rapper, but she can sing in so many interesting styles with her voice, I wouldn’t want to pigeonhole her. “212” showcases a bunch of different vocal approaches, all of which show remarkable talent. In fact, the song is so pleasant to the ears that it’s easy to overlook that the lyrics are super filthy.

18. Rolling in the Deep – Adele

Those in the know have been paying attention to Adele for a while now, but it’s no surprise that this great song would catapult her to superstardom. It proves that a song can highlight strong vocals (something pop radio generally lacks) without being just another boring ballad.

17. I Follow Rivers – Lykke Li

She may look like a timid, diminutive Swedish girl, but make no mistake: Li is a musical powerhouse. She always manages to do inventive thing with her music without losing her indie sensibilities. While her whole album is great, this track is the standout.

16. Why I Love You – Jay-Z & Kanye West

Though the duo’s collaborative album has gotten middling reviews, you can’t deny a hook this contagious. The interplay between their raps works well here, too.

15. We Found Love – Rihanna & Calvin Harris

Everyone wants to work with Rihanna, and who can blame ‘em? Good things come from her collaboration, with this song being no exception. But it’s Harris’s dance arrangement that really makes this song shine, complete with – as some pointed out to me – the song climaxing into a musical orgasm near the end of the song.

14. The Edge of Glory – Lady Gaga

Making a dance-backed power ballad that tops “Bad Romance” may not be an achievable feat, but Gaga shows she can pen more songs that entertain in the same way. Out of a bunch of good tracks on Born This Way, this one is the standout.

13. Headlines – Drake

I like Drake and really respect that he released a subdued song like this one for his first single rather than something super flashy. The content is still there, making for satisfying listening.

12. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys

Even great bands are guilty of having many of their songs sound alike, but I’m constantly impressed how each of the Black Keys’s songs has its own distinct sound. This lead single demonstrates the band’s creativity and range. If you haven’t checked out the jolly fellow who dances to this song in the video, do yourself a favor.

11. Exile Vilify – The National

Gentle yet haunting, the National’s ballad created for the soundtrack of Portal 2 is wrist-cuttingly good… if wrist-cutting were good, that is.

10. Night – Kavinsky

Yeah, so I called the Drive soundtrack cheesy, and while I stand by that, this track isn’t JUST cheese – it’s gorgonzola. And talk about evoking a mood: put this song on while you’re cruising and there’s no way you can’t feel important – and better still – totally cool. Juxtaposing a thuggish electronic voice with a quiet female voice shouldn’t work this well, but it does.

9. Young Blood – The Naked and Famous

This famous (not sure if they’re regularly naked) New Zealand band has finally made some noise in the U.S. I tried to resist this song initially, but its youthful exuberance with a dash of underlying hipster cynicism won me over.

8. Shake Me Down – Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant became had several hits on alternative radio this year, but it’s this song’s intermittent anger and repetition that suit lead singer Matthew Shultz’s nasally voice the best. Seven consecutive utterances of the lyric “even on a cloudy day” may seem excessive, but I’m still not ready for him to be done with the line as the song concludes.

7. You Know What I Mean – The Cults

It’s not normal to feel so compelled to snap along to a ballad, but you’re going to have to sit on your hands not to want to participate with this song. Moreover, each time the song swells to a dramatic crescendo, the intensity is contagious. I may not know exactly what the Cults mean, but I’m prepared to agree with whatever she’s singing about.

6. Flaws – BASTILLE

A lot of performers lose their accents while singing, but I love how BASTILLE’s British charm is still identifiable as he makes his way through this catchy tune. If BASTILLE can make the leap from the indie scene, I reckon this song is destined to be a smash.

5. This Is Why We Fight – The Decemberists

This year’s Decemberists album is solid and I’m especially smitten with this track, which showcases what the band does best: blending a complicated arrangement with meaningful lyrics.

4. Someone Like You – Adele

Adele deserves all the adoration she receives: she definitely has the songwriting talent to match her magnificent chops. In another artist’s hands, this song might be forgettable, but Adele makes you feel every ounce of hurt in her performance. If this song doesn’t make you want to weep, you’re already dead inside.

3. Till the World Ends – Britney Spears

After several “comebacks” over the years, it takes an apocalyptic song, easily her best in a decade, to get me excited again. It’s not just pop, it’s arena rock; if Jock Jams were still a musical institution, it would fit perfectly. Surely a stadium full of people would want to chant the “whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh”s with me?

2. Helena Beat – Foster the People

Radio stations are still playing the hell out of “Pumped up Kicks”, my #11 song from last year. It’s a shame that people haven’t opened their ears to this even better Foster the People song. “Helena Beat” is slightly unusual, but a whole lotta fun.

1. The City – Patrick Wolf

In a rare feat, my first favorite song of the year is still my favorite at the end of the year. I’ve been a fan of Wolf for a few years now, particularly enjoying how his music manages to be both grandiose and whimsical simultaneously. It’s a style all his own and I give him a lot of credit for it.

Again, you can download all 50 songs here.


Buried Gas Line

Just uncovered some photos from a previous New Year's Eve.

I found a flag that said "buried gas line" in the hosts' yard that was there for what I assume was safety's sake and then I pulled it out of the ground and shoved it down my pants because - HA - buried gas line. FROM MY BUTT!

This year I'll probably ring in the new year in a classier manner. I'm not resolving it or anything, but you know, odds are I can't get more lowbrow than that. Guess we'll just have to see...


Away in a Coffin

The other night I recounted how, just two years ago, my sibling thought Christmas was a holiday that commemorated Jesus's death. My friend diplomatically reasoned that my sibling has a gift for blocking out information that's not relevant to her. If that's the case, as far as I can tell, only fashion and Kate Hudson movies are relevant to her.

At a Christmas Eve service last night, the minister read Bible verses about Jesus being born and we sang no fewer than five carols about Jesus being born. A redundant message, sure, but the reason for the season, after all.
Turning to my sibling, I whispered, "So, when did Jesus die?"
"I don't know... Christmas?"
I laughed at her joke.
"What?" she asked earnestly.
I laughed even harder because it turned out she wasn't joking.

Not only was my sister not paying attention to the service, including the words she was singing out of the hymnal, but she had managed to forget the very fact we had teased her for relentlessly just two Christmases before.

Some things never change.


Please Knock

Melinda's niece hung this sign on her door.

I understand the need to knock first, that would be quite an awkward thing to walk in on.

In the words of Bing Crosby, "And may all your Christmas gifts be raped."


Do They Know It's Offensive?

Do They Know It's Christmas? - Allison, Kevin & Friends

When Allison and I recorded our Christmas CD last year, we invited a bunch of our friends to join us on the holiday song featuring all of your favorite 80s artists, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" While everyone was familiar with the tune, other than the chorus, we all needed the karaoke track lyrics to do the verses. And I think it's fair to say we were actually shocked by how offensive the words really are.

"Do they know it's Christmas time at all?" Given that the majority of Africans aren't Christian, the better question is whether they even care. And then the lament "there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time" is absurd. If it snowed, the residents would probably freeze and be ill-prepared to deal with it.

Even though the song raised money for Ethiopia specifically, the lyrics merely refer to "Africa" as a singular place, thus contributing to the ignorant misconception that Africa is a country. On top of that, they make it uniformly sound like a hellhole. According to the lyrics, Africa is "a world of dread and fear, where the only water flowing is the bitter sting of tears. And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom."

The worst part might be Bono's sole line, "Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you." Um, how about not "thanking God" that other people are starving? That's a pretty awful thing to be thankful for. Anytime someone refers to Bono as a humanitarian, I wish someone would counter by playing his heartfelt take on such a cringeworthy lyric.

Look, it's nice that the song raised a lot of money for famine in Ethiopia, but how cool would it be for me to donate to a charity while saying, "This is because you suck and are hopeless without me." Why not just spit on the check?

I can't believe that celebs like Sting and Duran Duran didn't object to the un-PC words. In a sign that the artists aren't remotely aware, I direct you to wikipedia's awesome behind-the-scenes story that says Boy George called George Michael "camp" at the recording. Talk about a ridiculously catty pot/kettle moment.

Merry Christmas, everybody! Especially you, Africa, because boy do you need it!


LA Corrections

Two things about my recent What-To-Do-In-L.A. post:

First an error spotted by Andrew:

Apparently, I suggested getting authentic Korean food in Korea. Wow that's a particularly hostile attitude toward Los Angeles! Well, Andrew, maybe I was one of the first to know of Kim Jong Il's death and was encouraging people to travel there while the getting's good. Did you even think about that?

No, actually I was trying to finish that post quickly since I had an elk-loaf in the oven (for realz) and made quite a few typos in my haste, as evidenced by the phrase "all-you-can Korean". Koreatown. I meant Koreatown.

Second, Stacy has a new important addendum to the story about the performance artist dressed as Jesus in a diaper that I referenced as one of the worst thing in LA:

Oh dear! Leah and my other sightseeing readers, there's hope you can still see that freak show yet! Just beware the milk.



Time to step your game up. Lindsay and her roommates' Christmas card is better than yours.


In Heaven

I’m really excited about the new Facebook Timeline and its ability to immortalize how drunk I was the other night.


My Suggestions for Visiting LA

Thanks for the kind words, I genuinely appreciate hearing from readers.

At the same time, I also question whether you’re thinking of the right person! I live in LA, but I don’t think I’m too complimentary of it on my blog. Don’t get me wrong, I like it here, and I’m positive you’ll thoroughly enjoy your overdue vacation because there’s so much for tourists. That said, I’m broke and prefer dive bars and vaguely dangerous hangouts; Molls would be a better person to ask about the trendier aspects of the city.

I know I recently said that the LA tourism board should hire me after referring a visitor to our interactive homicide map, but that was a joke. When I browse back through my blog, I mostly see things that would scare away tourists. In fact, my blog kind of reads like recommendations from SNL’s Stefan.

Come to LA and see…
In case you need clarification, please don’t try to see any of those things. They will ruin your vacation. Now if you’re a local looking for a little adventure, I’d be happy to hook you up with the addresses of some of these places.

Since you asked so nicely, allow me to step out of Stefan/my normal blogging mode to give you a few genuine suggestions for those visiting LA:
  1. The Griffith Observatory is my favorite place in LA. You can drive to the top, but I’d actually suggest hiking to the top on one of the trails in the late afternoon. Bring a picnic dinner/take-out with you and stay until nightfall, so you get to see the stupendous view of LA from both vantage points. You can also see the Hollywood sign well from there, so you can check that off, too.
  2. LA actually has some great museums. The Getty is an experience (and on the coast if you want to double up on a beach trip) and is free other than parking. I like the Natural History Museum, too. And if you’re in the mood for something odd, give the Museum of Jurassic Technology a try. Just promise not to google it for anything other than its address because it’s something best experienced blindly.
  3. Since you’re not from LA, you might be a person who actually eats/eats meat (we have a lot of beautiful anorexic vegans here.) One dining experience I’d recommend is Wurstkuche. It may sound dirty, but it’s actually a trendy (so go on a weekday) place with exotic sausages. And if you enjoy eating A LOT of meat, I’d say go to for authentic all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ in Koreatown. And in all honesty, eat at least one meal from a truck. Food trucks are locals’ preferred mode of dining, and you can find trucks with not just Mexican food, but grilled cheese, mac & cheese, sandwiches, lobster, etc.
A lot of the best events will be time specific, so grab a copy of LA Weekly when you’re out here to make sure you’re not missing anything exciting! Have fun!


Person of the Year

Raise your hand if you've been named Time's Person of the Year twice in the past decade.

As a blogger and Occupier, I'm flattered by the repeat recognition. While it's not easy to bear the burden of being your Person of the Year, I assure you that I take the honor seriously. I promise to be a better Person than any damn corporation anyway.

Next year, it is my intention to win this distinction yet again, only this time as an individual. It is time for the publication to realize that I'm pretty awesome in my own right. I'm willing to share the accolades for now, but everyone's going to take notice of Kevin when I singlehandedly save the world in 2012. I can't tell you how because it's a secret plan, but when the apocalypse doesn't happen next year, the masses will be shouting, "Thank you for saving our lives, Kevin, Person of the Year!"

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Two wins is quite the achievement in itself. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a resume to update.


Insert Joke Here

There is nothing lazier than a comedy writer who uses an [insert *whatever* joke here].

Has anyone ever even laughed at one of those? Like, haha, a joke could go there! I'm giggling just thinking of a potential joke that fits there!

I suppose the implication is that the joke flows so obviously that there's no reason to even write it. But isn't "[insert joke here]" even more of a cliche at this point?

If a joke is so simple, why not just write one then? It shouldn't be that hard to just push one out. [Insert poop joke here.] Besides, if your reader can just as easily make a comparable joke, it's time for you to get out of the game.

In conclusion, [insert poignant and hilarious joke here.]



So one of the more memorable people I encountered at Occupy LA was a performer by the name of Man GooGoo. [Like the Goo Goo Dolls - but more mature.] He was handing out lyrics of protest songs he had written to passersby.

I glanced at the first song, curiously titled "Stroke":

Stroke to the left
Stroke to the right
Stroke all day
Stroke all night
Stroke to the left and stroke to the right
Come on everybody let's stroke tonight
Stroke to the left and stroke to the right
Come on everybody and grip it tight
The government strokes you
So does (sic) the cops
Your neighbor strokes you
It never stops
You go to work
Get stroke (sic) there too
Now it's your turn
The strokes on you

I mean, it's labelled a protest song, but it "strokes" me as a bit more masturbatory. You know, a song that puts the "man goo" in Man GooGoo.

Nonetheless, it's a shame that none of the protesters knew the tune that accompanied "Stroke"'s lyrics. Perhaps chorally breaking out in unison would have been enough to sway the cops to halt the raid instead of, you know, stroking us.

On that note, it appears that Man GooGoo was the first person to be arrested that night. Yeah, that makes sense.


Sportspeople of the Year

There is no way that Sports Illustrated isn't purposely giving a middle finger to UConn basketball fans with this cover. I mean, either one of these people* wouldn't faze me much, but to put the coaches of both the men and women's teams' main rivals on the cover as sportsman and sportswoman of the year is like declaring war with the residents o Connecticut. In absence of an actual professional team to root for, Connecticutians take this stuff seriously, and best believe that there will be a bunch of cancelled subscriptions in the Nutmeg State.

Look, I'm not saying that the UConn coaches deserve to be named sportsmen either. In fact, over the years, I actually have developed negative opinions of them, too, given their numerous ethical and personal flaws. Yeah, yeah, you can cancel your subscription to me, too, Connecticutians, but you know it's only blind loyalty to the teams that lead you to ignore the stories.

But still! This cover is too much! Sports Illustrated has managed to rile me up after I vowed not to care about sports anymore.

* I take it back, Pat Summit alone would upset me. She is a nasty, poor sport. I know there's a lot of pity and sudden admiration for her now that she's been diagnosed with early onset dementia, but that doesn't excuse her sour attitude... unless she's had dementia for the entirety of her career.


3-Way Thrift

If not my favorite thrift store, 3-Way Thrift is definitely my favorite named thrift store.

Because nothing says used goods like feeling good and used. And while secondhand is great, having a fifth&sixthhand in the mix is even better.

It may surprise you to learn that 3-Way is a Christian thrift store. Apparently, they've disregarded a threeway's sexual connotation and chosen the name to signify that the proceeds from the store go to three Christian charities. All of the charities receive an equal amount, which is not generally how it shakes out for threeway participants, so that's pretty considerate anyway.

You might be understandably nervous the first time you go to this place, but I think you'll wind up liking your 3-Way experience. With a good selection, affordable prices, and a friendly staff, you might even call it a ménage à trois. Bring a friend --preferably two.



Even though sleep should be a reprieve from waking life, I tend to bring the stress in my life into my unconscious moments, too.

In college, when I was burdened with essays, I'd go to sleep and dream about working on the essays to the point where I'd just decide to get up and work on them since it was consuming my every thought anyway.

When I started teaching, it overwhelmed me to the point that I sleep-dialed (the tired man's drunk dial) a friend to check on a student, and would routinely wake up and freak out that a giant bed had replaced the desks in my classroom until minutes later I would grasp that I was in my bedroom, not at school.

Another time, after considering the horrors of war, in my sleep I took off my sock and hung it on the wall as a sign of surrender.

And now it's happening again. Ever since the raid of Occupy LA, I dream a lot about it. Some of the Occupy delegates warned us beforehand that some people wouldn't be mentally strong enough to handle watching the scene unfold, but I didn't think that would apply to me.

I'm terrified of the police state. Last night I dreamt that my home was being raided by the police. So caught up in my dream narrative, I sleptwalked and put my wallet in my pocket so I'd have my ID on me when I was arrested. In the morning, my side hurt because I had actually slept on my wallet. I can't believe that the dream was so real to me that I got out of bed to do that.

Nightmares are generally an exaggeration of real thoughts, but it doesn't help to have my conscious mind corroborate my nightmares. I really do fret to see those in power overriding other's constitutional rights because they can get away with it.

A friend of mine agrees with the concepts of the movement but will not participate in any manner out of fear of repercussions. He very pointedly asked, "What if you don't succeed?" His feeling is that if the corruption is as systematic as some suspect, that makes you vulnerable should the powers that be stay in power.

I'm not really a conspiracy theorist, and I don't yet think things are that bad that protesters will start mysteriously disappearing on a grand scale, though I do believe we are setting the precedent to have such things happen in the future if we don't solve it soon. However, I do realize there's a risk in speaking out against the government... a risk, as I see it, that's worth taking.

The word "patriot" has been co-opted to mean not questioning authority and blindly declaring the US the best country in the world. And the only way to honestly believe that right now is to not pay attention to all of our country's problems. I believe that the US has the ability to be the best country in the world, but that's going to require changes. What's more patriotic than trying to improve your country?

So, yeah, I'm fairly scared, but not deterred. Any screaming in the night that may result from my participation just mirrors all of the screaming we should be doing during the day.


Deliciously Evil

"She would offer me her old clothes because they were 'too big' for her but might still fit me. Oh, and she would ask mutual friends to hypothetically state who'd they rather eat if we were stranded on a deserted island to trick people into saying I had more meat on my body than her."

- My friend describing her freshman roommate with a "competitive eating disorder"


The Usual

How do you spell the abbreviation of the word "usual"? As in: "I'll have the uzj."

Hey, I said I didn't know how to spell it.

It can't be "us", that's just too confusing. Is there a Z? a J? a G? It rhymes with rouge and luge, so maybe "uge" is the way to go? Maybe it needs a Y to start it off?

All of my questions might lead you to one of your own: Why would you ever need to know how to spell the abbreviated form of usual?

Shut up.


My Firsthand Account of the Occupy Los Angeles Raid

I stood with the 99% in defending the Occupy Los Angeles encampment around City Hall last night. While I witnessed no outlandish displays of violence, what I did see still terrified me, so I want to share my account for all who couldn’t see the madness in person.

Truthfully, I was still a bit weary after staying up most of the night Sunday, the night the raid was initially supposed to occur. Whether the police ever planned to actually raid on Sunday night was irrelevant, I suppose, because they couldn’t have. Not effectively, anyway, our numbers were too strong. But maintaining those numbers permanently was never going to be feasible, so the cops waited until we were tired and depleted. When word spread that it looked like the raid would actually happen, I cancelled my plans and got down there immediately. I didn’t think we could stop the evacuation, but that wasn’t going to stop me from voicing my opinion and standing in solidarity.

While I occupy full time in my mind, I rarely physically occupy. I’m not out there camping at night. For me the camp is a symbol, a symbol that I obviously want to see stand. That said, I know the movement is strong and will continue with or without tents. But it’s not just a symbol for many who live there. About 1/3 of the campers are homeless. I hate when critics bring up this statistic as if to suggest their numbers shouldn’t count – as though the homeless haven’t been affected most drastically by bad economic policies and have no grievances about the system like the other protesters. At the encampment, the homeless have found something they can’t find elsewhere in LA – a safe place to pitch a tent, regular and free access to a bathroom and food, and most importantly, a community that not only acknowledges but includes them. Shame on a society that deprives people of so much and wants to take this away from them, too.

But anyway, you want to hear about the raid. About a thousand protesters amassed in support of the park, less than half of Sunday’s count. Like Sunday, however, there was a lot of listlessness. The protesters were just waiting for the police to make a move. While there was some strategizing (kudos to those who climbed trees and made capture especially difficult for the police), given that it’s a peaceful demonstration, there was no need to plan a counterattack. However, we all had our theories on how the police would handle the situation. Even though we all knew it was going to happen, the manner in which the police invaded took us all by surprise.

Without warning, hundreds of officers came out of nowhere storming the protesters. They emerged running from streets, alleys, and even City Hall itself to surround the park. It was like a well-choreographed scene from a hundred million dollar action movie. Their swift movement was brilliant and caused the crowd to run, scream, and cry. I’ve never shouted the word “fuck” so much in my life. We were very blatantly under attack.

Here’s the thing – they didn’t have to actually be shooting at you to make you feel attacked. In that instance, when hundreds of armed people in riot gear are charging right at you, everything in your gut says, “We are about to die.” And I say that as someone who always thought the police were going to behave. We still haven’t healed from the Rodney King era, and after the mistakes of other cities like Oakland and New York City, I figured the LAPD would go to great lengths to avoid a PR nightmare. But even if they didn’t brutalize most of us physically, they certainly did it psychologically. They purposely made us all feel like we were about to be slaughtered. Tactical, sure, but remember these are extreme measures against people who were guilty of staying in a park after hours. The same park the Mayor promised protesters they could stay in as long as they wanted until a sudden change of heart, undoubtedly do to corporate and political pressure.

Rather quickly, the police had circled various areas, trapping everyone in. People who wanted to go home were not permitted to leave. Officers would say, “You can get out over there,” and point in some direction, even though there was no exit. Every few minutes, the police lines would move in closer to make protesters feel more claustrophobic and imprisoned. Once we were all successfully divided and corralled, the police finally announced we were an unlawful assembly and that we had ten minutes to disperse. They claimed to make this proclamation on behalf of the “people of California”, which the protesters rightfully heckled, “We ARE the people of California.” Many attendees panicked because, despite a ten-minute warning, they still weren’t letting anyone leave. Was this a trick?

I was stuck in a section next to some mainstream reporters who had not been cleared to cover Occupy LA. Beforehand, the LAPD threatened that all media in the park who hadn’t been handpicked by LAPD itself would be subject to arrest no different than protesters. The reporters, like the protesters, probably figured there would be at least some warning before being kettled, so they were visibly nervous and frustrated when the police denied them an opportunity to exit. I hope they report this experience, but I suspect that

The initial ten-minute timeframe expired so as to thoroughly frighten all the would-be dispersers who couldn’t disperse. Then another ten-minute warning was issued, and after a few minutes of that, protesters trapped in the street areas were permitted to exit. Those who remained in the streets would be the first to be arrested, as they wanted to clear out that area first and establish an even stronger perimeter. I wanted to be in the park for the big showdown, but that was no longer an option. When the police swarmed initially, I tried to rush into the park, but was blocked out, so I missed out on that opportunity, although a couple of my friends managed to get inside. So at this point, I had the choice of being civilly disobedient on the street and being in the first group hauled away, or to cross to the other side of the police line and watch from a greater distance, which was the option that myself and most of the demonstrators in my area chose. My feeling is that if I’m going to keep participating in demonstrations, I need to limit my arrests to when I’m not given an option to step away at the last minute, though I have a lot of admiration for the 292 Angelinos who stood their ground. The nearly 300 that were arrested were/are held on $5000 bail (talk about excessive). Many of the lawyers had assumed the protesters who did not resist arrest would just be cited and released due to the prisons already being full (heck, Lindsay Lohan was just SENTENCED to hard time and left after an hour), but they clearly wanted to make an example and scare them from participating again. That much is evident.

Now outside of the perimeter, we became a chanting mob of hundreds on the other side of the barricade. From time to time, the police would push us backward a few feet. At one point, I was at the front and was getting bumped with an officer’s baton as he kept demanding we step back. The baton was held the long way and not painful in itself, but I was getting crushed between the officer’s pushing me in one direction and the pushing back by the crowd trying to stand its ground. “Stop shoving!” I screamed at the officer. After all, they were trying to get us back a few feet for no purpose other than to display their power.

From that distance, I wasn’t able to witness the events in the park for myself, though I’ve since seen YouTube videos of guns being pointed in unarmed protesters’ faces and others being shoved to the ground by officers. What I did see was the crowd growing rowdy on the outside of the police line, wishing to show support to the hundreds being arrested in the park. Effectively, what the police did was push the people away from the park and to the other side of where they were standing, but that did not succeed in breaking up the protest. Now people were just assembled in the streets forty yards away from the park. Eventually the police had to declare this new gathering an “unlawful assembly” and try to disperse that too, which involved some baton whacking and what would probably look like comical chase scenes if Benny Hill music was playing as a soundtrack. It wasn’t so amusing in the moment, however.

When one of these sudden clashes/chases broke out with police and protesters, that’s when my friends and I sprinted down the street away from the scene. Even getting out was a fiasco. A cop who said she would escort me through police lines grabbed me by the arm (without warning – it wasn’t especially rough or anything, but it’s scary when you’re all of the sudden grabbed by an officer after everything else that had gone down) and an officer at the other end of the street still didn’t want to let me through. The officer holding me asked what she was supposed to do with me, then, if not let me leave. Yet again, there’s a lot of “you must leave the area/you can’t leave the area” and finally the second officer gruffly let me pass. My car was behind a separate barricade. I probably would have had a lot more trouble getting back to it were there not a business man parked next to me who was also waiting to have access to his car. An officer first searched my car with a flashlight, and then when given the go-ahead, I was again restrained by having both arms grabbed (again, not that forcefully, BUT STILL) when escorted to my car.

The press conference afterward made me sick. The mayor and the police officials cheered themselves on doing a perfect job. First, let’s give them some credit: to my knowledge there were no tear gas, no rubber bullets, and seemingly fewer police violations than in other such raids, but I think at least half of that credit is shared with the protesters whose response to the police’s advances did not make them feel like they had to use such measures. But while you can give the police kudos for the execution, you can never call it a job worth doing. There was no reason for that kind of intimidation for that petty of an infraction.

For as much as I’ve been watching live feeds of Occupy scuffles in other cities, I didn’t fully grasp the extent to which we live in a police state until I saw the police swarm on peaceful people with my own eyes. If this is indeed “the finest moment in the history of the LAPD” as Mayor Villaraigosa said, then the LAPD should be ashamed. Shouldn’t their finest moment involve protecting and serving LA residents rather than suppressing them? My friend recently had her home robbed of her valuables and you know what LAPD told her? They can’t investigate or do anything about it because they are understaffed and under-funded. Yet they can afford to pay 1400 officers to terrorize and apprehend a few hundred campers who have the first amendment on their side.

And I think that’s perhaps the most frustrating conclusion I’ve drawn: the LAPD is powerful, clearly capable of pulling together a masterful plan to take down an opposing operation. So why aren’t they harnessing this man and brainpower against the rampant gang violence or any of the other things that make this city notoriously unsafe?

Witnessing this all unfold, seeing how the people at top so desperately want to squash this movement just cements my commitment to the cause even more. But there are so many rich entities working against it that the only way this populous movement will succeed is to genuinely have the population behind it. So I urge you to not just acknowledge that what’s happening is wrong, but to find a way to participate civically to change our current course.

(Above photo from the Guardian; I like their signs.)