TAL: The Problem We All Live With

by Chris Burfield in

If you will recall the list of podcasts I listen to which was posted last week you will remember This American Life was in the top tier, a podcast which will never be cut from my subscription list. The last two weeks of episodes are proof for why it will always be there.

The two parter The Problem We All Live With delves deep into the segregation we still live with in everyday life, particularly in our school systems. The first part is as heartbreaking as they come, telling the story of Normandy High School in Ferguson, Missouri. The most heartbreaking and anger inducing part of the episode comes when at a public meeting parents of a neighboring school system voice their "concerns" about the Normandy kids being bussed to them after Normandy lost its accreditation. I use scare quotes in the previous sentence because they are nothing but dog whistles whose undercurrent pure racism.

The second episode focuses more on the bright side. Hartford, Connecticut is working to re-integrate its schools through some innovative marketing. There are drawbacks to the strategies they are employing and the episode covers those but the community is handling it much better than the parents outside of Saint Louis, Missouri.

Episode 1 is here

Episode 2 is here

They are well worth your time. 

True Detective Season 2

by Chris Burfield in

So I just finished watching the final episode of season 2 True Detective. Instead of helping to polish a lackluster season off it only tarnished it further. I thought season 1 was pretty good, it wasn't "The Wire" good but it was certainly worth the time invested in it. Season 2 did not get off to a good start and never took off. 

I would highly recommend reading Tom VanDerWerff's take at Vox on this season. Of his points that I particularly agree with it would be how the main characters didn't have a personal connection to the crime which drove the plot and how the convoluted plot had no payoff. If you are going to tell a complicated story then have the complications actually payoff in some way, this season seemed to find ways of being complicated without it leading anywhere.

From the middle (link to full):

The primary movers and shakers in this story turned out to be a couple of orphans who were wronged by the cops during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, deprived of parentage and maybe even an inheritance. If you look at the story from their point of view, it's a lot more inherently interesting — it's a story of two completely powerless kids who, through a thirst for revenge, end up almost taking down a gigantic criminal conspiracy that runs the state of California. There's something there!

But our main characters were Ray, Frank, Ani, and Paul. Ray's connection to the central crime was minimal, even though he worked with many of the people who perpetrated it. Frank was getting stiffed out of a land deal that never became worth paying attention to. Ani's dad was connected to the extreme fringes of the conspiracy, but not in any real way. And Paul had nothing to do with anything.

By and large, the characters were driving the story forward not because they had a personal stake in it but because the show needed somebody to keep pushing the story forward. In season one, Rust Cohle kept investigating the case because he needed to prove something fundamental about the philosophy he organized his life around. It wasn't a great motivation, but it was there. In season two, nobody has any reason to keep investigating the case except they're getting paid to do so. They all have something to prove — but only in the extreme abstract.

I would also highly recommend reading Chris Ryan's take at Grantland, he has been recapping each episode of this season and has some very good thoughts as well.

New Music: July 2015

by Chris Burfield in

Well July really seemed to fly by. It seems like I just posted the new music for June list and here we are with the July list. Despite the beginning of this list being more pop/electronic there is quite a bit of indie rock on this list. There are also a lot of singles, only 3 songs on this list come from a full album. Hope you enjoy.


1.) Leave a Trace by CHVRCHES, a single released this month

I was a big fan of CHVRCHES' first album released almost 2 years ago, listening to it over and over and over. The first single from their new album which releases this fall dropped and it immediately vaulted to the number one spot on this list. It is more of the same sound and lyrics which is fine by me.

2.) Painted by MS MR on How Does It Feel

This song almost made my May list but just barely missed the cut. I've listened to it a couple more times in addition to the full album which dropped this month and it really grew on me. There are strong Florence + the Machine influences and I really dig it.

3.) Gone by JR JR, a single released this month

The band formerly known as Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr has changed its name to just JR JR. I had heard of them before but had never really listened to their stuff until now. I really enjoyed this song from the music to the lyrics. The driving drum beat and the bass line which picks up in the middle of the song really carry it for me.

4.) Marks to Prove It by The Maccabees on Marks to Prove It

I really enjoy how this song seems to have separate movements, changing tempos and volume multiple times throughout. Indie rock all the way through.

5.) You Got Spirit, Kid by Coheed and Cambria, a single released this month

I first heard of Coheed and Cambria by playing one of their songs, Welcome Home, over and over again in Rock Band. This song is nothing like that one though, this has a lighter tone and a more pop sound. Dare I say there are shades of Fall Out Boy in this song. Still straight up rock and roll though.

6.) Stockholm by Atlas Genius, a single released this month

Now for a lighter tone to ease things up a bit. I like how this song begins with the piano and then how the guitar line picks up and drives the rest of the song.

7.) Feel It by Toby Mac with Mr. Talkbox, a single released this month

I just couldn't help myself here. It is hard to describe how much of a dc Talk and TobyMac fan I was throughout high school and college. I haven't really kept up with him since then but it was refreshing to hear this single drop and know he is still out there putting out good music.

8.) Pretty Pimpin by Kurt Vile, a single released this month

Kurt Vile is a name I've heard but have never really listened to his stuff before. I enjoyed the laid back southern fried guitar driven tone to this song though. 

9.) Love Spills by Radkey, a single released this month

And now to pick the pace back up with a punk track. I really like the straight up rock and roll meltdown in the back half of this song.

10.) Icon Love by On An On, a single released this month

Then I take you back down a notch with a more introspective indie rock song. 

11.) Make Your Mind Up by Moon Taxi, a single released this month

A fun little song which caught my ear. The saxophone breakdown in the middle sealed the deal for me.

12.) Mountain At My Gates by Foals, a single released this month

Just a really good rock song with some interesting guitar work. Indie rock all the way.

13.) My Love by Circa Waves, a single released this month

And now back up with a punk influenced track but still very much pop in overall feel. 

14.) Secrets by State Champs, a single released this month

To be completely honest with you this sounded so much like Relient K that I thought they had released a new album. But no, just a good punk song.

15.) You Know More Than I Know by Iron & Wine with Ben Bridwell on Sing Into My Mouth

And now a slow track to finish things off. I've heard of Iron & Wine before but had never really listened to them. This track makes me want to check out their other stuff.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

by Chris Burfield in

To be completely honest with you I mostly ignored and scoffed at the viral sensation that was the Ice Bucket Challenge last year. I thought it was gimmicky more than anything else, plus how much money was actually raised vs ice dumped?

I won't be having those same thoughts this year though. A friend passed due to complications of ALS last week just 9 months after being officially diagnosed. I will not be dumping any ice over myself because I will be giving money and I hope you do too.

But do enjoy this funny promo for it produced by Funny or Die.

Reaping What You Sow with Donald Trump

by Chris Burfield in

For 8 years the GOP and especially the conservative wing have reflexively opposed everything President Obama has tried to do. Granted, most of those things needed to be opposed, but too often the GOP has not given us a reasonable policy alternative. Now, after 8 years of that we have reached the inevitable conclusion of that path, a Donald Trump candidacy. Where no thought or care is given to the actual business of politics (the hard work of crafting workable policy) and he is loved for it.

Please read Peter Superman's take at Reason:

What Trump offers is a fantasy of governance without negotiation, of economic success without policy detail, of a president who does not particularly feel the need to act presidential. It’s a fantasy of politics without politics, for people who just don’t want to think about it too much. In this view, the fact that Trump has clearly put so little thought into it himself makes him seem sensible and relatable. All of which is to say that the mindlessness and stupidity of Trump’s presidential campaign are not incidental to the candidate’s recent success. On the contrary, they are key to his appeal.

All of this is, in some sense, an outgrowth of the Republican party's own mindlessless during the Obama era. The party has consistently refused to be clear about its domestic policy goals, and what it plausibly expects from government. And while it has not, as a general rule, fully embraced Trump levels of of vapidity, it has embraced figures like Trump, and allowed them to rise within the party. 

Because this and only this needs to be what you think of when you think of Donald Trump.

Because this and only this needs to be what you think of when you think of Donald Trump.

Podcasts I Listen To

by Chris Burfield in

I love podcasts. Full stop. I have been listening to them for almost 10 years now. How do I know that? I have been listening to TWiT podcasts for almost 10 years and they just celebrated their 10 year anniversary. They were essential during my time as a FedEx driver and I have been hooked ever since. 

The number of podcasts I have listened to has fluctuated over time. At one point I was listening to 29 different podcasts. Yes, I know I have a problem :-) I don't listen to that many now, having culled my subscriptions down to what I really wanted to keep, though I have to admit the list is growing again. 

Links are to the websites where you can find episodes at.

This Week in Tech (TWiT), 2 hours once a week

The flagship podcast of the TWiT network hosted by Leo Laporte. I remember as a kid watching Leo on The Screensavers and Call for Help on the now defunct cable channel ZDTV. It is a roundtable discussion of the different tech news from the previous week. It is essential and the first podcast I ever subscribed to almost 10 years ago.

MacBreak Weekly, 1.5 to 2 hours once a week

Also part of the TWiT network, this one focuses on Apple news and speculation.

Baseball Tonight with Buster Olney, 30-45 minutes every weekday

An ESPN podcast which recaps the previous night's baseball action and provides commentary on the baseball news of the day. This podcast was 10 times better when Keith Law and Eric Karabell hosted it, but Olney will do. Long live bias cat!

EconTalk, 1 hour once a week

This is the second longest subscription I have maintained over the years. I cannot recommend it enough to economists and non-economists alike. In fact I'm listening to it now as I write this post. The host, Russ Roberts, has libertarian leanings but he is honest about it and challenges both himself and his listeners by inviting guests from all over the economic and political spectrum. Topics can go from the economics of modern fishing to the art world.

Relevant Podcast, 1.5 to 2 hours once a week

I have been listening to this podcast since near its inception. I know all the in-jokes about whale sharks, Rambo, Canada, and more. I love this and listen to it almost as soon as it is available every week. Everything between the humorous slices, musical guests, to the games provides a good ending to every week.

Port City Community Church Sermons, 30-45 minutes once a week

I used to attend Port City Community when I lived near Wilmington and I still get to listen to the sermons now that I live in Charlotte. I have always admired Mike Ashcraft's ability to communicate the good news of the gospel in new and refreshing ways.

This American Life, 1 hour once a week

The essential NPR podcast. Individual episodes can be hit or miss for me but I end up listening to most of them.

Revolutions, 30 minutes once a week

A history podcast where Mike Duncan takes us through different political revolutions throughout history. Right now he is taking his time by going through the French Revolution but past seasons have focused on the English Civil War and the American Revolution. The first podcast he produced, The History of Rome, is also worth the time, but that has finished and I have caught up.

Grantland Pop Culture Podcasts, multiple formats and many episodes a week

This is the catch all subscription to all the pop culture podcast produced by Grantland. I don't listen to them all but the Hollywood Prospectus and Do You Like Prince Movies are essential listening for me.

The remaining listed below are all interesting in their own right but I would consider them cuttable should I ever cull the list of podcast I listen to in the future. The ones above are uncuttable to me.

99% Invisible, 20-30 minutes once a week

A podcast about both good and bad design behind some of things that are everywhere but often go unnoticed, like flags and money.

WTF with Marc Maron, 1-2 hours 2-3 times a week

Intimate conversations with comedians, actors, and even presidents.

Us & Them, 30 minutes every other week or so

A public radio show that brings together people from left and right and explores the history of our differences while trying to find common ground.

Stuff You Should Know, 45-60 minutes about 2 times a week

Exactly as described, each episode is a different topic and the humor is quite good thoughout.

Stuff You Missed in History Class, 45-60 minutes about 2 times a week 

Same as Stuff You Should Know but with history! Not the same hosts though.

Rebel FM, 1.5 - 2 hours once a week

A video game podcast featuring both press and video game designers, good stuff.

The Nerdist, about 1 hour up to 3 times a week 

I don't listen to every one, depends on the guest. Too often though the conversations can just devolve into shilling for the guest's latest movie or show being released.

The Late Show Podcast, 15-20 minutes once a week

Stephen Colbert lets us into, kind of, the process behind creating the new Late Show. Very interesting.

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History, anywhere between 4 and 6 hours every couple months

These are more like audio books than podcasts. These are great if you love a non-historian take on history and make an interesting radio show about some of the worst periods in human history. Everything from Genghis Khan to WW1.

The Canon, 1 hour once a week

A film a week is nominated to discuss whether it belongs in The Canon of great films. The hosts can be somewhat abrasive to each other and to the audience but this is a great podcast for checking out good films you've never heard of before.

Brew Bloods, 1 hour once a week

If you like craft beer then this is the podcast for you. These guys are not pretentious at all, they call each other doctors of stuff and things. The only drawback is that they often taste and review beers that are not available to most people because either they are limited release or just not distributed over a large area.

Ask Science Mike, 30 minutes once a week

Somewhat controversial but often excellent takes on the intersection of science and faith. Hosted by a guy who went from Christianity to Atheism and has returned to faith in Christ, all because of science.

The Liturgists, 1 hour each, inconsistent release schedule

Science Mike also shows up here but is often joined by Michael Gungor and others. Discussions revolve around the intersection of faith, art, and science.

That is it, hopefully you can find something you like on this list.

Very Good Words on Homosexuality & Marriage

by Chris Burfield in

My apologies for the recent lack of posts. I have been busy with things and have let this blog slide a bit. I hope to have a new post up every day this week, a new music in July playlist is in the works, a movie review or two, and of course there will likely be something I found funny along the way.

What I am posting today is about a month old but it is timeless in nature. It is the sermon preached by my pastor, David Chadwick, at Forest Hill Church regarding homosexuality specifically, and sexual purity in general. To be completely honest I was not looking forward to this message since I was not sure how he would handle it, but I was pleasantly surprised. His message is filled to the brim with both grace and truth. He emphasizes we all have sin that we deal with, that while acting out on homosexual desires is a sin it is no larger or smaller a sin than any other. Please watch it for yourself.


Buying Into the Hype of Episode 7

by Chris Burfield in

I have been trying to resist the hype machine gearing up for Star Wars Episode 7 but I'm giving in. They released a behind the scenes footage reel at San Diego Comic Con last week and now my expectations are going up. I have been resisting because episodes 1-3 which came out when I was in high school and college were such huge disappointments. 

3 reasons why I am getting excited because of what I saw in the clip:

Practical effects! - Of course there will be CGI but anything that can be done using practical effects and real sets is being used instead of everything being green screen.

People Care - You can tell everyone involved truly cares about Star Wars and the fans, this may be a mix of marketing and truth but I don't care.

Fidelity - there appears to be fidelity to the story which came before it with the inclusion of Han, Luke, and Leia.

Get excited!

Also, Seth Godin has some excellent words about the marketing strategy of the clip.

Jon Oliver on Stadiums

by Chris Burfield in

It does my heart good to see Jon Oliver take on the public financing of stadiums. I wrote several papers in grad school about the economics of stadiums and whether or not they generate the benefits the boosters claim they do. The evidence is pretty overwhelming against the boosters yet we keep giving billionaires millions so they can build lavish stadiums.

Please enjoy the clip from last night's "Last Week Tonight", hilarious as always.

New Music: June 2015

by Chris Burfield in

You can definitely tell it is summer by the way the songs being released have become more upbeat. At least most of them anyway. The mix below is truly that, crossing all genres. Enjoy!

1.) Coming Home by Leon Bridges on Coming Home

Leon Bridges first popped up on my radar back in February when singles from this album started dropping. I was immediately captured by his old school sound. Only 26, he sounds like soul singer from the 50's and 60's. And this track is one of the best on the album. I look forward to where he is going to go from here.

2.) Your Loves Whore by Wolf Alice on My Love Is Cool

Another artist which popped up on my February list, their full album finally dropped in June. I had a hard time picking just one song from it. This one earns by the killer intro, it starts off with an interesting drum beat but then builds by layering in guitars and bass and then finally vocals. In a normal month this would have been the top song.

3.) Dreams by Beck, a single released in June

Sad Beck has been pushed to the background, happy Beck is back! This is the perfect summer jam.

4.) Defector by Muse on Drones

I'm not familiar with Muse's overall catalogue but in this album they seem to be channeling Queen and especially on this track. It also balances out the song from this album which made my March list, that one was bleak while this one offers a ray of hope that we can opt out of the system.

5.) Summertime by The Mowgli's, a single released in June

The Mowgli's are no strangers to my lists and this one earns its spot by being a good summer jam, as the title implies.

6.) Fire Under My Feet by Leona Lewis, a single released in June

I'm generally not a fan of the diva genre of pop but this one earns a pass by being just catchy enough with a beat that has me moving my head.

7.) Hunger by Of Monsters And Men on Beneath The Skin

I've been a big fan of this group since their first album catapulted them to fame. The sound on this album is an evolution adding a little electric instrumentation while subtracting some folk. It is not as sharp a transition as Mumford is trying to pull off but it is noticeable.

8.) Golden Parachutes by Desaparecidos on Payola

This group made my list last month with a single from this album. I had a hard time picking a song from the album but this one earned its spot from the sheer in your face rock sound. A little social commentary about executives with golden parachutes doesn't hurt either.

9.) Come And Get It by John Newman, a single released in June

It is official, funk and soul inspired music is the new "it" genre of music right now. Folk had its time in the sun and now funk. I'm not tired of it yet.

10.) 4 U with Love by Giorgio Moroder on Deja vu

If you had asked me who Moroder was a couple years ago I would have given you a blank stare. Then he made a guest appearance on the latest Daft Punk album a few years ago. He apparently helped found disco and electronic music and he is still out there creating new stuff. Enjoy this purely electronic dance track.

11.) Flame by Sundara Karma, a single released in June

I had never heard of these guys before hearing this track. The sound just captured my ear.

12.) Fatal Flaw by Titus Andronicus, a single released in June

The name of this band is somewhat familiar to me but I don't think I could name another song by them. Either way this track is just good summertime rock and roll.

13.) Into the Sun by Bassnectar on Into the Sun

Another electronic track for you. Starts off slow but then gets going.

14.) Your Love is Enough by Jon Foreman, a single released in June

The lead singer of Switchfoot occasionally does some solo work which is more introspective and acoustic. I was tempted to make this the last track but felt like the lyrics of the next track worked better as the final. This song serves as a good reminder that God's grace and love are enough.

15.) Till Forever by Joy Williams on VENUS

I find this to be the perfect closing track. You can tell Williams is working through some deep thoughts and emotions on this album and it is all the better for it.