Ayn Rand Selfies Are The Best Selfies

Ayn Rand, ever the purveyor of selfish smiles.

Ayn Rand, ever the purveyor of selfish smiles.

Danish philosopher Kierkegaard and American mythologist Joseph Campbell share a home next to books on Lincoln, World Wars I and II and early Southern Baptist leaders on my dad’s sprawling wooden bookcase in south Louisiana. What I respect most about his eclectic collection is not that he has amassed hundreds of books on a wide variety of thought-provoking topics. What I respect most about the contents of his bookcase is he does not shy away from works that challenge his beliefs. For instance, when I moved to Portland he loaned me his copy of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian. My dad is an ordained Southern Baptist minister. I would venture to guess few ordained Southern Baptist ministers are comfortable enough in their beliefs in Christ to own, much less read and contemplate, such a book.

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My R-Rated Takeaways From Nobel Economist Stiglitz’s TPP Speech

The world will not be smiling if the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week in Queens. Photo via The Guardian.

The world will not be smiling if the Trans-Pacific Partnership passes, economist Joseph Stiglitz warned this week in Queens. Photo via The Guardian.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will fuck us. It will fuck our 11 nation partners. It will fuck their residents and small businesses, their environments and their healthcare systems. It will leave us all fucked. And for what reason? The bottom line of multinational corporations. Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.

That was my abbreviated, R-rated takeaway from Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz’s speech Wednesday night at P.S. 69 elementary school in Jackson Heights, Queens on the proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership. The 73-year-old Columbia professor and Clinton administration veteran, of course, did not resort to vulgarities while questioning the Obama administration for supporting the “trade agreement” which could have devastating impacts for all countries involved. The plan being drafted in secret by the Asian-Pacific partner nations and 600-plus corporate lobbyists is its own obscenity, a potential stain on the global market that will not be easily removed, the economist warned.

“When you have issues of secrecy … ” Stiglitz said to the hundreds gathered inside the auditorium, “the natural question is why. What are they trying to hide?”

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Alabama Shakes: “Gimme All Your Love” (On SNL)

Alabama Shakes performed "Gimme All Your Love" off their new album, Sound & Color, on SNL this weekend.

Alabama Shakes performed “Gimme All Your Love” off their new album, Sound & Color, on SNL this weekend.

Alabama Shakes singer/guitarist Brittany Howard’s lung capacity will one day allow her to:

A) power a Mars expedition

B) summit Everest without additional oxygen

C) build a Stairway to Heaven

D) stop bullets in mid-air Matrix-style

E) breathe life into the lifeless corpse of rock’n’roll

F) all of the above

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How I Will Know I Arrived In NYC

MTV cribs, Astoria edition.

MTV cribs, Astoria edition.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 53 titled “How I Will Know I Arrived In NYC” is a tongue-in-cheek peek at adulthood and materialism in the Big Apple.

Three years ago I moved to New York City with little more than my family name and three suitcases filled with clothing not suitable for polar vortex temps and enough books to start my own Washington Heights library wing. I lived out of those suitcases for months. Eventually I purchased a flimsy, three-drawer Target plastic dresser to appease my then-girlfriend. My suitcase and plastic Target dresser days are no more, although what that means is hard to pinpoint. I’ve accumulated Earthly possessions – a flat-screen smart TV, a chair allegedly used as a prop on “30 Rock”, a mini-fridge and a framed Royal Tenenbaums poster I rescued from a storage facility – but I would hesitate to say I have “arrived” in NYC.

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How To Avoid Going Broke in NYC

Viewing a Jackson Pollack original, surprisingly, is one of the ways not to go broke in NYC.

Viewing a Jackson Pollack original, surprisingly, is one of the ways not to go broke in NYC.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 52 titled “How To Avoid Going Broke In NYC” explains how to rough it on a budget in NYC.

Months ago while “working” on my roommate’s short film one of the female production assistants inquired about my role. Producer, I replied with a grin that suggested the title suited me. When she pressed for more details I fed her legit-sounding bullshit about coordinating the project’s Kickstarter fund and even provided her a fictional web site address for myself. She hung on my words, convinced she was talking to “somebody”. When I tired of the deception and revealed I didn’t produce the short film she fled, presumably to find the real producer.

I experienced a similar situation earlier this month with a high school teacher I had not seen in over a decade. He asked me where I lived, and when I answered New York City, his heavily moisturized, wrinkle-free jaw dropped. My esteem in his eyes rose like a skyscraper. He sat up straight, devouring details of Big Apple life. Would he have done the same had I revealed I never left the bayou after high school? Of course not.

Thing is, anyone can live in NYC if they’re crazy, adventurous, and/or determined. Sure, rent is almost as high as One World Trade, people here give no fucks about courtesy and everyone thinks they will be the next big star. How does one survive then in this concrete jungle of chaos and material excess? For starters, you have to know how to avoid going broke or have a trust fund. Full disclosure: I do not have a trust fund.

Here are tips on how to avoid going broke in NYC that I have cobbled together over 2+ years living here.

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Sufjan Stevens: “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross”

Sufjan Stevens's new album, Carrie and Lowell, releases March 31.

Sufjan Stevens’s new album, Carrie and Lowell, releases March 31.

A song as painful as it is beautiful, “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross” finds the artist best known for portraits of other places and people turning his lens inward on his own grief following his mother’s death. For longtime Sufjan Stevens fans hearing the 39-year-old Michigan-born storyteller whisper-sing the words “Fuck me, I’m falling apart”, as he describes trying and failing to use vice to fill his void, will damn near rip your heart out. No one is spared grief in this life but few capture it in song in as haunting a manner as Stevens does here with just his shaky voice, finger-picked acoustic guitar and window a/c unit.

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Things I Would Rather Do Than Go Outside

A heat wave is coming!

A heat wave is coming!

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 51 titled “Things I Would Rather Do Than Go Outside” is fairly self-explanatory. :)

New York City is in the midst of a heat wave. AccuWeather predicts temps in the city will hit 12 degrees when the clock strikes noon. That may sound dreadful, and believe me it is, but it marks a 10-degree upswing since overnight. So yeah, NYC heat wave 2015!

Here’s a list off the top of my head of things I would rather do than go outside:

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My Grammys Crystal Ball Is Cracked

Queen Bey, the Album of the Year winner?

Queen Bey, the Album of the Year winner?

Beyonce will win four Grammys Sunday night. Book it. If she doesn’t Brit old/new soul Sam Smith will win four. Again, book it. Or Taylor Swift will win three. Maybe don’t book it. Ya know, maybe they will split the awards among themselves or someone else like Iggy Azalea, Ed Sheeran, or Meghan Trainor. Yeah, that could happen. All I know is Grammys will be awarded.

On Friday I made Grammy predictions on Mixology‘s web site. One day later, my Grammys crystal ball is cracked. I dropped it on the slick NYC pavement. Beyonce, Sam Smith, and Taylor Swift each sold millions of records that launched inescapable singles. Beyonce and Sam Smith are performing at the Grammys. It would seem a two-horse race. Except, in every category, it’s a five-horse race so I am back to square one.

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My Life Off The Rails

The train does not stop for light snow nor does it stop for light sleepers.

The train does not stop for light snow nor does it stop for light sleepers.

Cajun Tomato’s NYC 100 is a periodic series chronicling my experiences and observations as a New Yorker. Post No. 50 details what it’s like to live a stone’s throw from NYC subway tracks. Short answer: Loud.

When I was seven, the nightmare known as Hurricane Andrew woke south Louisiana in the dark, cutting power for hundreds of thousands, ripping off roofs and downing trees with impunity. I slept through it. My first three months in Northwest Portland I lived in a dilapidated three-story house next to the kind of karaoke bar whose real entertainment was the shoving matches that happened outside at closing time. I slept through it. Today, an above-ground subway line passes 30 feet from my window 24 hours per day. It’s a damn good thing I can sleep through anything. If not, my life off the rails would be hell.

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The Dodos: Individ

The Dodos' new album, Individ, is out now on Polyvinyl Records.

The Dodos’ new album, Individ, is out now on Polyvinyl Records.

Am I becoming a grumpy, old bastard incapable of writing anything positive? This question, in all its negative glory, lodged in my brain a few weeks back after I submitted my second album review for Spectrum Culture, a Portland-based arts site. I didn’t exactly pan the first two albums I reviewed – Ty Segall’s Mr. Face ep and The Sidekicks’ Runners in the Nerved World – but I didn’t have much good to say about them either.

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Observations of a Cajun living in NYC