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The final fallacy: Nalt, Suppression, and the Unreliable Narrator.
TL;DR: The fallacy Kvothe calls Nalt is the fallacy of suppressed evidence. Suppression of evidence is a recurring theme in the series. Kvothe is an unreliable narrator who suppresses relevant information in the retelling of his life story. Suppression of evidence is a major theme in the series Two of the biggest questions in the series are who are the Chandrian (or why do the Chandrian) and where are the Amyr. Kvothe searches the archives for these answers and concludes during a conversation with Maer Alveron that the Amyr themselves are suppressing evidence about their own existence.
“I found the same thing at the University,” I said. “It seemed as if someone had removed information about the Amyr from the Archives there. Not everything, of course. But there were scarce few solid details.” I could see the Maer’s own conclusions sparking to life behind his clever grey eyes. “And who would do such a thing?” he prompted. “Who would have better reason than the Amyr themselves?” I said. “Which means they are still around, somewhere.”
Similarly, information about the Chandrian is being suppressed.
More important, one of the few things I knew about the Chandrian was that they worked to viciously repress any knowledge of their own existence. They’d killed my troupe because my father had been writing a song about them. In Trebon they’d destroyed an entire wedding party because some of the guests had seen pictures of them on a piece of ancient pottery. Given these facts, talking about the Chandrian didn’t seem like the wisest course of action. So I did my own searching. After days, I abandoned hope of finding anything so helpful as a book about the Chandrian, or even anything so substantial as a monograph. Still, I read on, hoping to find a scrap of truth hidden somewhere. A single fact. A hint. Anything.
Lorren makes an effort to suppress Kvothe’s curiosity about the Amyr.
“I am not accusing you of engaging in boyish fancy. I am advising you to avoid the appearance of boyish fancy.” He gave me a level look, his face as calm as always.
Lorren brought out a pen and drew a series of hashes through my single line of writing in the ledger book. “I have a great respect for curiosity,” he said. “But others do not think as I do.
So not only does Lorren stymie Kvothe’s search, he warns against further inquiry and crosses out the evidence that shows Kvothe made the search in the first place. This is suppression, not just of questions, but of evidence that the inquiry ever existed. Kvothe glosses over his trial in Imre and his shipwreck. This may be evidence that as a narrator he is suppressing relevant information. These events are clearly missing. Why? Are they just unimportant or are they inconsistent with the argument Kvothe is making about himself and thus intentionally left out by Kvothe. Chronicler thinks the trial at Imre is relevant. When he pushes Kvothe to include it, Kvothe teaches him a lesson by telling the Waystone crowd the story of the Chronicler. When Kvothe skips over the shipwreck and it’s aftermath, Chronicler doesn’t push again. Ultimately, it would take more information to be certain if these events are relevant, but at 25:55 in an interview, Pat has hinted that readers should be asking why certain events are left out. Special thanks to u/BioLogin whose work makes media references easily accessible.
People assume that I wrote it and then I took it out, and it is simply not true. I didn’t write it. So then why did I put something like that in, implying that there was a story and then not giving you the story therefore making you want something you are not gonna get? Why would I do that? And that’s a good question.
This supports the notion that parts of the story are left out to a purpose, or in other words, intentionally suppressed. If entire events are suppressed, perhaps there are more minute details that are suppressed. Inconsistency may be an indicator of a suppressed detail. One inconsistency is Kvothe amazing memory and his purported inability to recall the the formal name of the ninth prime fallacy during his first admissions interview. Kvothe claims to have an excellent memory.
“Ben’s training has given me a memory so clean and sharp I have to be careful not to cut myself sometimes.”
And when attending Hemme’s class
I was a jangling mass of excitement as I watched other students slowly trickle into the room. Everyone was older than me by at least a few years. I reviewed the first thirty sympathetic bindings in my head as the theater filled with anxious students. There were perhaps fifty of us in all, making the room about three-quarters full. Some had pen and paper with hardbacks to write on. Some had wax tablets. I hadn’t brought anything, but that didn’t worry me overmuch. I’ve always had an excellent memory.
His memory is so great that it provides the basis for all his other skills.
I have a good memory. That, perhaps more than anything else, sits in the center of what I am. It is the talent upon which so many of my other skills depend.
He also memorized Caesura’s Atas twice as quickly as the best estimate of the Adem. So why, when asked about the nine prime fallacies, does Kvothe’s memory fail him? He can rattle of the first eight and he specifically tells us that he’s just read Rhetoric and Logic.
“Simplification. Generalization. Circularity. Reduction. Analogy. False causality. Semantism. Irrelevancy….” I paused, not being able to remember the formal name of the last one. Ben and I had called it Nalt, after Emperor Nalto. It galled me, not being able to recall its real name, as I had read it in Rhetoric and Logic just a few days ago.
Did Kvothe actually forget its name or is he suppressing the name of the fallacy to a purpose? What motivation could Kvothe have for suppressing the name of a fallacy? The name of that fallacy must be important and extremely telling if it’s something Kvothe is leaving out. Additionally, recall that Kvothe both hates the book Rhetoric and Logic, the subject of Logic and the Master Rhetorician, Hemme. His hatred of Hemme is well explained, but the rest seems...unreasonable. Eight prime fallacies briefly explained The fallacies Kvothe names can be sorted into three general categories: fallacies of presumption, fallacies of relevance, and fallacies of ambiguity. These are not definitive categories, merely a tool logicians use to help think about fallacies. Often reasoning that looks similar will fall into different categories based on the specific information contained in the premises. These are amateur, but researched, guesses. Presumption fallacies Simplification, generalization, circularity, false causality, and (maybe) analogy are presumption fallacies. Common names for these fallacy might be as follows: Generalization is Accident). Simplification is converse accident . Circularity is begging the question or curricular reasoning . False cause is non causa, pro causa. Analogy is weak analogy . Ambiguity fallacies Reduction and semantism are ambiguity fallacies. Reduction is causal reductionism. Assuming semantism refers to language use/word choice, it includes the fallacies logicians call equivocation, amphiboly, accent, composition, and division . Relevancy fallacies Irrelevancy equates to the entire category of relevance fallacies. This includes many of the most familiar fallacies: appeal to authority/money/emotion/force, straw man, ad hominem and more. After naming eight of the prime fallacies, Kvothe cannot recall the name for the ninth. Going by the fact that so many presumption fallacies are listed as prime fallacies and others categories are not broken down into specifically named fallacies, Nalt could be an additional fallacy of presumption. Also, there is no other term among the prime fallacies that seems to incorporate the scope of presumption fallacies the same way irrelevancy and semantism encorporate the categories of relevancy and ambiguity. Browsing the internet for fallacies of presumption, one stands out as especially fitting given the themes and events of the series: The Fallacy of Suppressed Evidence, or as u/HHBP put it, Suppression. The finally fallacy is Suppression The fallacy of suppressed of evidence occurs when true and relevant information is left out for any reason. The audience presumes it has been give all the relevant information and fallaciously draws conclusions. Kvothe has an excellent memeory. What if Kvothe just doesn’t want to say the name of the final fallacy because it’s the fallacy he is committing while giving his interview with Chronicler. Excluding its name is both a tool for Kvothe to conceal his commission and a tool for Pat to alert readers of its importance. It would be extremely clever and satisfying for Pat to have Kvothe suppress the name the supression fallacy in order to suppress the fact that Kvothe is suppressing evidence. But why would Kvothe and Ben call that fallacy Nalt? One of the the things we know about Emperor Nalto is that he is “history’s favorite whipping boy.” A whipping boy has a historical literal meaning, but figuratively it means that someone who is blamed for the faults of others. Assuming a relationship between calling the fallacy Nalt and Kvothe’s observation that Nalto is history’s favorite whipping boy could be the basis of any number of fallacies. More context is needed to support the idea that Nalt indicates suppressed evidence. Recall that Kvothe and Sim have a bet on whether the Amyr are part of the church or part of the Aturn bureaucracy. Both Kvothe and Wil find the order that abolishes the Amyr, the Alpura Prolycia Amyr. Wil supports his position with The Lights of History by Feltemi Reis, staring that The Alpura Prolycia Amyr was Emperor Nalto sixty-third decree. Kvothe brings Fall of Empire by Greggor the Lesser staring the decree was issued by the church. They take the issue to Puppet.
“I was wondering about the Amyr, actually.” My eyes remained on the scene unfolding at Puppet’s feet. Another marionette had joined the show, a young girl in a peasant dress. She approached the Tehlin and held out a hand as if trying to give him something. No, she was asking him a question. The Tehlin turned his back on her. She laid a timid hand on his arm. He took a haughty step away. “I was wondering who disbanded them. Emperor Nalto or the church.” “Still looking,” he admonished more gently than before. “You need to go chase the wind for a while, you are too serious. It will lead you into trouble.” The Tehlin suddenly turned on the girl. Trembling with rage, it menaced her with the book. She took a startled step backward and stumbled to her knees. “The church disbanded them of course. Only an edict from the pontifex had the ability to affect them.” The Tehlin struck the girl with the book. Once, twice, driving her to the ground, where she lay terribly still. “Nalto couldn’t have told them to cross to the other side of the street.”
Kvothe goes on to ask Puppet if he has read Reis and why Reis would say the Alpura Prolycia Amyr was Emperor Nalto’s sixty-third decree. Puppet answers that Reis wouldn’t say that. Wil goes onto speculate about the inconsistency.
“It could be a transcription mistake,” Wilem mused. “Depending on the edition of the book, the church itself might be responsible for changing that piece of information. Emperor Nalto is history’s favorite whipping boy. It could be the church trying to distance itself from the Amyr. They did some terrible things toward the end.”
Now recall the suppression of evidence fallacy occurs when true and relevant information is left out for any reason. Technically what Wil is suggesting looks more like falsifying evidence than suppressing evidence. Without knowing what specific information is left out, it’s impossible to conclusively distinguish between the potential for the falsification of evidence from the suppression of evidence. Imagine that the church and Nalto acted in concert somehow, but for some reason each author only included part, or as Wil suggests, the church somehow erased their part in Reis. Or what if Nalto was both Emperor and Pontifax? This contradicts Puppet’s assertion that Nalto could not have told the Amyr to cross the street, but who knows what evidence Puppet uses as the basis for that assertion. This is a lot of speculation, but it’s the possibility that would most obviously link Nalto with suppression. Also look at what’s going on with Puppet’s puppets during this conversation. A girl puppet is asking the Tehlin priest puppet a question and he beats her with the Book of the path.
“I was wondering about the Amyr, actually.” My eyes remained on the scene unfolding at Puppet’s feet. Another marionette had joined the show, a young girl in a peasant dress. She approached the Tehlin and held out a hand as if trying to give him something. No, she was asking him a question. The Tehlin turned his back on her. She laid a timid hand on his arm. He took a haughty step away. “I was wondering who disbanded them. Emperor Nalto or the church.” “Still looking,” he admonished more gently than before. “You need to go chase the wind for a while, you are too serious. It will lead you into trouble.” The Tehlin suddenly turned on the girl. Trembling with rage, it menaced her with the book. She took a startled step backward and stumbled to her knees. “The church disbanded them of course. Only an edict from the pontifex had the ability to affect them.” The Tehlin struck the girl with the book. Once, twice, driving her to the ground, where she lay terribly still. “Nalto couldn’t have told them to cross to the other side of the street.”
Kvothe is asking questions about the Amyr. Puppet puppeteers a scene were the Tehlin Church suppresses questions. The priest puppet also brandishes the book at Wil for betting, turns away from the girl he’s just beaten, as if to pray, dances when Kvothe asks about Reis, and bows to Wil’s suggestion that the church changed Reis’s work. Altogether, this seems to confirm that the church suppressed the truth about the abolishing of the Amyr and provides a basis to associate Nalto with suppression, albeit suppression by the church. Kvothe is an unreliable narrator Whether Kvothe is an unreliable narrator is a frequent question among readers. Two common positions on this issue are that Kvothe is a liar (even lying about being a good/bad liar) and that, to some extent, all first person narration is inherently biased. If Kvothe is leaving out truthful relevant information, he is suppressing evidence. This makes him unreliable. Edits: typos and formatting, fixed link for weak analogy Edit: Least it get overlooked, u/BlueRusalka poinst out the similarity of suppression of evidence to the secrets of the heart in the comment section. I’m including the relevant text here.
IN THE THEOPHANY, TECCAM writes of secrets, calling them painful treasures of the mind. He explains that what most people think of as secrets are really nothing of the sort. Mysteries, for example, are not secrets. Neither are little-known facts or forgotten truths. A secret, Teccam explains, is true knowledge actively concealed. Philosophers have quibbled over his definition for centuries. They point out the logical problems with it, the loopholes, the exceptions. But in all this time none of them has managed to come up with a better definition. That, perhaps, tells us more than all the quibbling combined. In a later chapter, less argued over and less well-known, Teccam explains that there are two types of secrets. There are secrets of the mouth and secrets of the heart. Most secrets are secrets of the mouth. Gossip shared and small scandals whispered. These secrets long to be let loose upon the world. A secret of the mouth is like a stone in your boot. At first you’re barely aware of it. Then it grows irritating, then intolerable. Secrets of the mouth grow larger the longer you keep them, swelling until they press against your lips. They fight to be let free. Secrets of the heart are different. They are private and painful, and we want nothing more than to hide them from the world. They do not swell and press against the mouth. They live in the heart, and the longer they are kept, the heavier they become. Teccam claims it is better to have a mouthful of poison than a secret of the heart. Any fool will spit out poison, he says, but we hoard these painful treasures. We swallow hard against them every day, forcing them deep inside us. There they sit, growing heavier, festering. Given enough time, they cannot help but crush the heart that holds them. Modern philosophers scorn Teccam, but they are vultures picking at the bones of a giant. Quibble all you like, Teccam understood the shape of the world.
Does this mean Kvothe is suppressing evidence equivalent to a secret of the heart?
A Lengthy, Comprehensive Analysis of “The Last of Us: Part II”’s Controversy, Responding to Prominent Criticisms, and Discussing Criticisms of My Own
About a month ago, I wrote a post to provide some clarity regarding the leak Naughty Dog sprung about a month ago. In it, I addressed some of the criticisms that were being levied at the time without unveiling any of the spoiled material, that way my curious spoiler-virgins would go unsullied until release day. There, I explained why all the major criticisms at the time weren't (and still aren't) warranted. Toward the end of the post, I noted that the outrage was not only political, but also emotional. I correctly predicted that there would be some spoiler-virgins that would not be pleased with the game's controversial narrative direction. I wish I'd been taking bets because not only was I right, I was right to an extent I never imagined. The response to this game has been chaotic, to say the least. This post will explore this phenomenon, directly respond to the most prominent criticisms and those who make them, and address my own criticisms of the game (as well as how I believe those flaws can be fixed).
Part 1: The Chaotic Controversy
I need to lay my cards on the table: I thought this was a fantastic game. Having purposefully indulged in the leaks back in April, I knew about every major death/plot twist before it happened, and I approached the story with an open mind. While I thought TLOU was a great game, TLOU2 blew me away with its darker, more complicated themes, the tiny details that collectively enrich the game's themes of gray morality, superb character interactions, the gosh diddly darn adorable relationship between Ellie and Dina, the endearing big sister-little siblings dynamic between Abby and Yara/Lev, and the excellently crafted set pieces that made each part of the game unique. I also loved the new gameplay mechanics that made stealth satisfying, such as crafting silencers for the pistol or taking cover in tall grass/ferns. It irks me to no end that such an obviously great game has received so much undeserved abuse. Can it be criticized? Of course it can. There's always room for criticism, but I think this is downright pathetic. It should be noted that this avalanche of negative reception is not coming from a single body of grievances. It is, in fact, coming from up to at least three different factions. Sometimes there is crossover between factions, but a member of one faction should not be immediately assumed to belong to another. Faction 1: "Get Woke, Go Broke!"- The Reactionaries Not every person who dislikes/criticizes TLOU2 is a homophobe/transphobe/racist/misogynist. Make no mistake, though: there is a significant portion of "h8ers" that most certainly are angry at this game solely for its unapologetic progressivism. These are The Reactionaries. The anti-SJWs.The anti-feminists. The "YouTube skeptics". The traditionalists. Whatever you want to call them. Back in 2018, TLOU2 took E3 by storm with not only a gameplay trailer but also a front-and-center kiss between Ellie and Dina, marking a historic moment for LGBT inclusion in video games. While the explicit romance did receive some negative feedback from The Reactionaries1, the worst was yet to come. Fast forward to April of 2020. Naughty Dog sprung a devastating leak that revealed every card TLOU2 had up its sleeve. Controversy ensued, particularly around a new character named Abby, who was presumed to be male-to-female transgender due to her masculine features and silhouette. A contemptuous amount of abusive anti-transgender slurs and jokes were subsequently forwarded against Abby on places like 4chan, Reddit, and even YouTube. These assumptions ended up being bullshit, but that didn’t stop TLOU2 from solely representing itself. No, April 2020 was the moment this game became more than itself; it became a symbol for progressivism in high-profile video games–a perceived weapon in a culture war. If you think these people and their audiences only make up a small portion of this outrage mob, think again: 1Name: "Naughty Dog's SJW Agenda in Gaming Exposed" Uploaded by: No B.S. Views: 160,000+ Name: “Last of Us Part 2 Ending Leaks Reveal Progressive Agenda” Uploaded by: No B.S. Views: 70,000+ Name: “Last of Us 2 Influenced by SJW Anita Sarkeesian” Uploaded by: No B.S. Views: 100,000+ Name: “Last of Us 2 Spoiler Talk, This Gets Really Woke!” Uploaded by: No B.S. Views: 65,000+ Name: “LGBT Activists: The Last of Us 2 Needs MORE WOKE Representation!” Uploaded by: Lauren Chen (Roaming Millennial) Views: 30,000+ Name: “The Last of Us Part 2 LEAKS ONLINE | Another Franchise Falls To SJW Pandering” Uploaded by: Geeks + Gamers Views: 180,000+ Sometimes it seems like TLOU2 goes out of its way to stick it to these people, what with its female-driven narrative, unapologetic pro-LGBT stance, and racial diversity. It should be said that TLOU2’s progressivism is a neutral element in terms of how it contributes to the story’s quality, and the game should be neither defended or criticized solely on these grounds. It is, however, a heartening sign that these people’s neanderthalic values are dying out. Stay mad, you slobbering troglodytes. To close this section, it is undeniable that this specific contention with TLOU2 is not in the minority of the overall controversy surrounding the game. If you are not a fan of this game for unrelated reasons, I’m afraid it is a fact of life that you are going to have to perpetually disavow and distance yourself from these people when you criticize the game. Some of The Reactionaries are wise enough to realize that “it’s bad because it’s woke” is a flimsy criticism, so they will cling to any other criticism that simultaneously grants them credibility and tears the game down, no matter how unwarranted or slanderous that criticism is. They are disguising themselves as one of you. If you are arguing about this game with someone, do not get mad at your interlocutor when they have to verify that your criticism doesn’t come from a place of bigotry, and stop pretending everyone is eager to use bigotry as a scapegoat that dismisses good-faith criticism. Faction 2: “Neil Disrespected the Fans!” - The Entitled Fan The Entitled Fan thinks TLOU2 is a poorly-written game simply because they did not like the themes it explores or the narrative direction it takes. Whatever it was they wanted, TLOU2 didn’t do it, so that means the game had bad writing! Faction 2, on the surface, is similar to another group of people I dub “The Disappointed Fan”, but there’s a key difference that separates the two: whether or not they think the game was poorly written, and if they do think the game was poorly written, why they think the game was poorly written. The Disappointed Fan is not its own faction because they can fall into either Faction 3 (which I will discuss next) or Faction 2. When The Disappointed Fan falls into Faction 2, that is when they evolve into The Entitled Fan. Before we proceed with my addressal of this faction, let me make something really clear: if you didn’t like the game because it wasn’t what you wanted it to be, this section doesn’t apply to you unless you think the game was poorly writtenbecauseit wasn’t what you wanted it to be. Got that? This isn’t me calling you entitled just because the game disappointed you. With that said, let’s move on. Never go into a piece of media with expectations. Judging by a lot of the discourse I’ve seen regarding this game, many people were expecting to simply get more of what TLOU was, this time with prettier graphics. As such, I’ve seen several posts, videos, comments, etc. that keep comparing TLOU2 to TLOU, then criticizing it for not containing a certain element that was in TLOU. “TLOU Ellie was funny, but now she’s not.” “TLOU was about a blossoming father-daughter relationship, but TLOU2 shits all over that.” “TLOU had Ellie’s immunity as a source of hope. TLOU2 is just nihilistic and depressing.” “TLOU didn’t throw a character I don’t like at me and force me to play as her.” Stop. Stop judging this game for what it’s not. Judge this game for what it set out to do and how well it did so. So what did this game set out to do? TLOU2 sought to be a dark tragedy surrounding the true toll of violence on the end of the perpetrator and the recipient. It’s a tale showing how a tragedy blackened our plucky heroine into a beast aching for destruction which, in the end, only resulted in more tragedy. It’s a tale that explores how the heroes in our eyes may be the villains in the eyes of another and vice versa. Hot dog did it depict these themes with brutal proficiency. Whether or not you personally like these themes or the writer’s decision to explore them is irrelevant to the story’s artistic quality. To act otherwise is beyond annoying; it’s childish and entitled. Yeah, I said it. I think it’s outrageously entitled for someone to lash out at a writer for not writing a story the way they wanted it to be written. I think TLOU2, for its depressing themes/atmosphere, is of a specific, bitter taste many may not find appetizing. That's fine. Personally, I get a thrill out of stories that take the Shakespearean tragedy angle because stories that give its protagonist(s) an undeservedly tragic ending are rare and particularly gutsy. I think this direction, on top of being unique, is fascinating... and most of all, especially fitting for a world like TLOU. Let me ask you something: did you honestly think this game was going to give Ellie or Joel a happy ending? TLOU has always been a grim series about the loss of everything people held dear. Their homes. Their security. Their family. Their friends. Their own lives. Those who are calling TLOU2 "ToNaLlY iNcOnSiStEnT" must've missed how TLOU depicted this inescapable aspect of this hellscape: it sucks for everyone, and nobody is safe! If TLOU2 never had the guts to pull off what it pulled off, the series as a whole would've wound up bankrupt of stakes and suspense. Who the hell’s going to care about an action scene if we knew the author couldn't scrounge up the temerity to disrobe the main characters of their plot-armor? If you were disappointed that the game did not meet your expectations... I'm sorry. I genuinely am. It sucks when something you've been looking forward to ends up being different from what you were expecting. This is why I said what I said near the beginning of this section: never go into a piece of media with expectations. Chances are, they won't be fulfilled. Not only will expectations leave you disappointed, they'll also close you off to something you may have otherwise appreciated. Unfortunately, many fans were already too emotionally attached to Ellie and Joel to possibly consider the idea that they're villains in another perspective (especially the latter). The game wasn’t even asking the players to like Abby and co. over Team Jackson; it just wanted you to at least acknowledge that Abby’s course of action was sympathetic in her perspective. There's nothing inherently bad about being emotionally attached to a character, but Jesus Christ is it frustrating when that emotional attachment makes people unreceptive to an unconventional narrative direction. Naughty Dog decided to take a controversial, but fitting, route with the next chapter of TLOU, and whether some people like it or not, they did an outstanding job. No, the professional critics were not bribed by Sony. No, the defenders are not deliriously fooling themselves into liking the game because they spent years emotionally invested in the project. No, the defenders are not SJWs who “secretly know the game sucks but are defending it because it advances their political agenda”. We've simply looked beyond our emotional biases and saw this game for what it is: a nuanced, gut-wrenching tragedy. I'm sick of hearing otherwise from a bunch of entitled children who are too busy longing for a game that isn't there instead of analyzing the game that is. Faction 3: “Why ‘The Last of Us: Part II’ Doesn’t Work” - The Good Faith Critics The final hostile faction against this game are The Good Faith Critics. While they accuse TLOU2 of being poorly written, they do so not through an emotional or political lens, but through a critical lens. While I have counterarguments to almost all of their criticisms, Faction 3 tends to be the least toxic of the three factions. For that, I tip my hat to most of them for actually behaving like civil adults that are capable of having a critical discussion about TLOU2’s potential hiccups. I will address their most prominent criticisms one-by-one in the next part of this post. But first I need to mention the last combatant in this bloody battleground: The Opposing Side: The Professional Critics While the audience response to TLOU2 is almost literally split straight down the middle, the professional response to has been overwhelmingly homogeneous in TLOU2's favor. It has been a common sentiment that professional art critics/reviewers are pompous and not worth listening to–that their "professional opinion" is not worth more than the average Joe's. This sentiment stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of the job of a media critic. It is the job of critics and analysts to know how to take a story apart and understand what makes it tick. Once they've arrived at a proper diagnosis, they relay it to their audience. The audience can then make an informed decision over whether or not that movie/game/book/etc. is worth their time or money. Professional critics are supposed to abandon their personal opinions and emotions while reviewing a work and view it strictly through an analytical lens. That said, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that almost all of this game’s praise is coming from the people who are specifically trained to disassemble and analyze the inner mechanisms of a story… and almost all of the antagonism is made by... oh, how do I put this... casuals who in large part have no interest or experience in the art of storytelling (in addition to the YouTubers who’ve realized they can make some sweet ad revenue off the outrage). And no, I'm not siding with the critics here because they affirm my enjoyment of this game. There are plenty of cases in which I agree with critical praise for pieces of art I personally don't like, my favorite example being "Persona 5". I went into "Persona 5" with an open mind genuinely believing I'd fall in love with it. The opposite happened. I couldn't connect or empathize with the characters for the life of me. I thought the gameplay was restrictive and repetitive. I didn't like the jazzy music style. I didn't like the minimalistic, toon-shaded art style. Suffice it to say I don't like "Persona 5". However, despite my personal opinions on "Persona 5", I'd be insane to dare insist it is a bad game. While they failed to click with me, the characters were fleshed out, rarely written with inconsistent behavior, and had a ton of rich dialogue. While it's not to this metalhead's taste, the snazzy music is competently composed and played. The gameplay features unique mechanics that were sturdily programmed (i.e., very few bugs/glitches). "Persona 5" deserved every 5/5, 10/10, 90%+ score it got because it is a well-crafted game. Anybody who's honest should be able to say the same for TLOU2, regardless of whether or not they personally enjoyed it. It is worth mentioning that there is a certain sect of the internet, usually those from Factions 1 and 2 (or both), that insist there was an under-the-table quid pro quo that occurred between Sony and major game reviewers. As I do with every conspiracy theorist I encounter, I’ll simply quote the late Christopher Hitchens to these people: “that which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” Let’s move on.
Part 2: Responding to Criticisms
Ellie behaves out of character, which is a sign of inconsistent writing.
"If I were to lose you, I would surely lose myself." Joel's song at the beginning of the game foreshadows Ellie's spiral into darkness. The blackening of Ellie's personality over the course of the game was not bad or inconsistent writing, it was intentional and seamlessly executed. One of the first things that struck me as I played through the first few hours of the game was how consistent Ellie's dialogue was with the last game. As the game progresses, Ellie devolves into a restless, cold-blooded girl who is fixated on nothing but vengeance, even if that means throwing away a peaceful life. All of this culminates into one of the game's most important scenes, where Ellie finally realizes that her pursuit of revenge stripped her of everything she held dear–even herself. A tragic hero at its finest.
TLOU2 perpetuates the stereotype that lesbians are never happy, seeing that the story ends with Dina leaving Ellie. The game that tried to be pro-LGBT only ended up being a hindrance.
I appreciated how TLOU2 starred a variety of characters that fall under the LGBT umbrella. Not only does it normalize LGBT people (which is good), it was also a refreshing change of pace that truly makes this game stand out. I also appreciated how TLOU2 had this sort of diversity without patronizingly pandering to these groups. TLOU2 treats every LGBT member of its cast as real people whose status doesn't make them exempt them from hardship. Dina and Ellie's disagreement is a component of this, for it is treated no differently than any straight couple's. They're not two lesbians who have a bitter end; they're two romantic partners who have a disagreement, which, believe it or not, happens to people in relationships. If Ellie were Elliot, the dynamic between him and Dina wouldn't have to be altered. That, friends, is how you write LGBT people: you don't treat them any differently than non-LGBT people!
Abby is a poorly written character that is difficult to empathize with. Unlike Ellie, Abby never shows any visible dismay or regret when she kills key figures in the story. She is also shown to be overly enthusiastic to kill Dina after Ellie reveals she is pregnant.
I should briefly lay another one of my cards on the table: I approached Abby with an open mind, but also trepidation. Unexpectedly, she ended up becoming my favorite character from the franchise. What is discussed in my response to this particular criticism is part of the reason why. Ellie and Abby are different people with different backgrounds. Unlike Ellie, Abby is a literal soldier who distinguished herself in the WLF as one of their top Seraphite killers. The result is a jaded girl who copes with trauma on an internal level; she bottles up her sorrows, seldom making them outwardly apparent. When her stoicism does slip, her insecurities usually escape in the form of snappishness2. No, this isn’t me desperately clawing to delegitimize this criticism. It is simply a fact that (and I hate to sound pretentious here) Abby is indeed a well-written but also complicated character that is difficult to read on a surface-level. Diagnosing her thoughts2,3,4, motivations5, reactions, and desires6 often requires a more attentive analysis, as they are rarely expressed in a straightforward manner (except in extraordinary circumstances). Here are some independent points that should paint a picture of what I mean: 1.
2Abby: "Hey. Why have you been avoiding me?" Mel: "I wasn't avoiding you." Abby: "C'mon. You've barely said anything to me since Jackson." Mel: "I don't know... I guess I was... Shook by Jackson too." Abby: "You don't think Joel deserved what he got?" Mel: "I think he deserved worse, I just... I just wish I didn't take part in it." Abby: "I get it. What kind of person could do that, right?" Mel: "I'm not saying that." Abby: "Let's see if there's a way to the hatch." Mel: "All right..."
This exchange from Seattle Day 1 more than suggests Abby has begun to internally acknowledge that the way she killed Joel was inhumanely brutal, and she’s already having second thoughts. 2.3Since the player is not always directly told Abby’s thoughts, they are often relayed through dream sequences. Each of Abby’s dreams return her to the exact same hall in St. Mary's Hospital and end with her opening the door to the operating room where her father was murdered. The repetitiveness of these dreams communicates that Abby has never gotten over Jerry’s death, and it is constantly on her mind. This is further exemplified by her continued interest in collecting state quarters: one of the only connections she still has to her father. You'll notice, however, that Abby never speaks of this issue–not even to her friends. Compare this to Ellie, who is very open about her grief over the death of Joel. 3.4At the end of Seattle Day 1, Abby finds Owen in the cabin cruiser at the aquarium. This is when Owen reveals his plan to travel to Santa Barbara to find the remaining Fireflies, a decision for which Abby chides Owen. We then get this exchange:
Abby: Sorry I grew up. You should try it. Owen: Oh yeah? How do I do that, Abby? Should I go find the people who killed *my* family? Cut into 'em? I could torture them until they're crying in their own-"
Abby interrupts Owen violently, shoving him into the cabin’s walls. She does this because she knows what she did to Joel was cruel and perhaps unjustified, and she cannot bear to listen to Owen remind her of her monstrous actions. Their clash then shifts into a rough lovemaking session. This sex scene was not implemented arbitrarily; this is Abby trying to make the guilt go away. She’s desperate for any kind of temporary pleasure (like a night of coital bliss with the man she loves) that could distract her from her regrets. Unfortunately, this rash action ultimately exacerbates her guilt. 4.5Abby’s motivations for returning to Yara and Lev are externally dubious. Some players may think Abby helped them out of pity or a sense of obligation since they saved her from being lynched. Mel suspects that Abby wanted to use the kids as a means to manipulatively gain the favor of Owen (who’d begun to grow sympathetic toward the Seraphites). In reality, it’s none of those things. Abby was motivated by a desire to cleanse herself of guilt. Guilt for animalistically torturing Joel to a degree that even made her friends uncomfortable2. Guilt for betraying Mel by sleeping with Owen. Guilt for not being there to save her father. The most beautiful part of Abby’s arc, I believe, is how these selfish motivations evolve into a fiercely protective fraternal love for Yara and Lev. 5.6In the scene where Abby prepares to slice Dina’s throat, her enthusiastic “good” upon discovering that Dina was pregnant was born not out of sadism, but a grief-fueled desire for Hammurabian justice. This is a component of how she copes with losing her friend Mel, who was also pregnant. “Good”, in this instance, translates to: “oh, you killed my pregnant friend? Then I’ll kill your pregnant friend”. Lev, thankfully, pulls Abby out of her vengeful tunnel vision before she could follow through with the deed. 6. All of this is not to say Abby is 100% a hardened killer who never reacts to trauma in the moment; during gameplay, after you kill your first two Wolves as Abby, she is programmed to always exclaim: “oh shit… shit!” in a severely distressed tone. She is mortified that she is killing her own comrades to protect Lev. Does this complex style of characterization make Abby difficult for many to empathize with? Probably. I can understand why many people are unreceptive to her semi-abrasive disposition, especially if they’ve already decided to hate her from the get-go. Is it impossible to empathize with her? Absolutely not, especially if you are willing to analyze her with an open mind. Does her polarizing depiction make her poorly written? Hell no. A well-written character is not always universally likable, and Abby is an exemplar of this. For her nuanced portrayal, subtle execution, endearing dynamic with Yara and Lev, and continued mercifulness toward Ellie, I think Abby is a remarkable (and woefully misunderstood) character.
In the scene where Ellie is drowning Abby, a glimpse of Joel suddenly flashes across Ellie’s mind. This image causes her to have a change of heart about killing Abby, who she subsequently lets go. This turn of events is the result of poor writing due to its randomness.
While Ellie does hate Abby for killing Joel, she also hates Abby because she represents something Ellie has spent years wrestling with: what Joel did in Salt Lake City, an act for which Ellie has never forgiven Joel. It was never revealed to Ellie that Abby's quest to kill Joel was to avenge her father, so she has always operated under the notion that Abby and co. traveled to Jackson to avenge humanity, which had been robbed of its only chance at a cure. Thus, in Ellie's perspective, Abby is an agent of karma–the inevitable consequence of Joel's actions. Abby's very existence, to Ellie, is a reminder of how Joel took away her chance of making her life meaningful. While drowning Abby, a glimpse of Joel strumming his guitar on his porch flashes through her mind. It isn't too long later in the game when it is revealed that this is a memory of the night Ellie makes her first conscious effort toward forgiving Joel for his selfishness. When Ellie releases Abby, this isn't her forgiving Abby; this is her forgiving Joel.
It’s too violent.
This particular criticism is so silly I almost consider it to tread in the “dishonest” territory. While TLOU2 is undoubtedly more violent than a bulk of its M-rated peers, it has most certainly not earned the crown of that category. Here is a fatality from “Mortal Kombat (2011)”, where Kung Lao drags his opponent crotch-first through a buzz saw until they’re sliced perfectly in half. Here is the first combat scene in “Bioshock: Infinite” where Booker DeWitt slams the face of a policeman into an operating Sky-Hook. Here is a scene from the beginning of “Resident Evil 2: Remake” where Elliot Edward’s hip is torn off his torso, entrails hanging out in all their glory. Here is a scene from “Spec Ops: The Line” where the player is revealed to have deployed white phosphorus on military relief efforts and civilians. For Satan’s sake, here is Joel getting his jaw torn off his face by a Bloater. This objection against TLOU2 is nothing more than a red herring that has been brought up and blown out of proportion for dishonest purposes. Since when were Gamers™ concerned about violence in video games? That’s the job of Karens and Republican politicians. If we take a step back from the outrage, we’ll see that the degree of violence portrayed in TLOU2 is not abnormal–if anything, it’s tamer than some of its contemporaries. But even if TLOU2 were the most violent video game ever made, that has no bearing on whether or not the story is well-written. If anything, its exorbitant violence is justified since it actually serves a narrative and thematic purpose in this game, unlike the scenes I mentioned above (except “Spec-Ops: The Line”). In a story that focuses on the emotional consequences of horrendous acts the main characters perpetrate, violence is an excellent tool that adds stakes, highlights the ruthlessness of its world, and most importantly, shows the audience how traumatizing brutalization can be, which helps you empathize with distraught characters. If your stomach is too weak to handle this kind of violence, that’s fine, but it isn’t an objective mark against the game.
TLOU2 disrespects Joel by by cheapening him to a call to action.
Frankly, I'm of the opinion that TLOU2 respects Joel by making him the most important figure in the entire game. Joel is at the center of everything. His morally gray legacy lives on in an adult Ellie, the privilege she gets to experience in her peaceful life with Dina, her pursuit of revenge, Abby's pursuit of revenge, and the continued misery the rest of the world faces with the Cordyceps fungus. Killing off a character is not always the end of that character’s role, and that’s especially the case with Joel. His presence, be it implicit or explicit, can be felt everywhere in the game. I believe this was an excellent way to handle a character as morally dubious as Joel. It wouldn’t be right if the story allowed him to live the rest of his life peacefully in Jackson–not after condemning humanity. Millions will continue to die and suffer because of what he did. However, it would also be cruel of the story to simply kill and leave him by the wayside. Selfish or not, he was still a grieving father who obeyed the urge to save the one he loved, something anyone can empathize with. Joel deserved death for his betrayal of humankind, but he did not deserve to be demonized. TLOU2, as demonstrated by the flashback sequences, treated Joel as anything but a villain.
Part 3: Criticisms From Yours Truly
It's time for me to lay down my shield and pick up my sword. Here we go! A neat addition to the game was how human enemies call out to their fallen comrades by name. This humanizes the enemies and tremendously adds to the game’s exploration of the consequences of violence. However, this remarkable detail falls flat on its face thanks to one hiccup: names are repeated a lot. By the time Ellie killed her third Ashley, I was having a difficult time taking this detail seriously. But that’s just a nit-pick. Time for me to break out the big guns. My biggest grievance with this game can be summed up in two words: Santa Barbara. Santa McFreaking Barbara. Like a malicious Cordyceps that hijacks the mind and distorts its host into something unrecognizable, the Santa Barbara segment takes TLOU2 and warps it until you have to keep reminding yourself you're playing the same game you were playing an hour ago. The characters it built. The message it built. The themes it built. It is allthrown out the window. Here's why: 1. The Rattlers and their portrayal betray the game's theme of ambiguous morality. The Rattlers are unapologetically sinister, what with how they enslave their captives with a degree of brutality that makes death preferable. They keep and taunt their captives even after they become mindless zombies, which is unjustifiably sadistic. They tie up and leave their misbehaving slaves to die in a macabre yard of decaying bodies that wouldn’t be out of place in the middle ages. Unlike the Seraphites or the WLF, both of which are shown to have sympathetic qualities, the Rattlers are blackened to the bone and indefensible. This results in the most explicit case of thematic inconsistency I've ever seen in any professionally-written story. 2. Finally, the worst offender: the time skip. While I felt a tense emotional investment in the Ellie vs. Abby fight in the theater, I felt the opposite during the Ellie vs. Abby fight on the coast of Santa Barbara, which was supposed to be the emotional peak of the story. Here's the difference between these two events: -In the theater, I had a deep investment in both of the involved characters. I'd spent 25+ hours watching both girls brave the dangers of Seattle. I saw Ellie banter with Dina, cope with the trauma of losing Joel, discover a new type of infected, chase and beat the snot out of Nora, discover the Seraphites, kill Owen and Mel, and surrender to Abby to protect Tommy. I saw Abby's interpersonal drama with her WLF comrades, meet and bond with Yara and Lev, cross the bridges, descend deeper and deeper into the infected hotel, face the terrifying Rat King, refuse to move from Isaac's line of fire, and grieve after discovering her murdered loved ones. These were the characters I was with every step of the way as they seamlessly evolved during the trio of days in Seattle, and I wanted neither of them to get hurt by the end of it. -On the shores of Santa Barbara, I didn't know who either character was. I guess Ellie helped Dina start a farmhouse and deliver a baby, dealt with chronic PTSD attacks, and shared a peaceful life with Dina and JJ on the farm, but I never saw any of that, so why should I care about the person these experiences made her into? I guess Abby had been enslaved, beaten, starved, and on the cusp of escape (only to be denied it), but I never saw any of that, so why should I care about the person these experiences made her into? Whoever these new characters are, they're not the ones we spent the entire game getting to know. Those characters are long dead and gone, lost in the 1-2 years between Seattle Day 3 and the moment we first find Ellie in the farmhouse. As much as I hate to say it, the Santa Barbara segment, in only a mere hour, renders all the hours that came before it obsolete. Worthless. A waste of time. This isn't me getting upset at the ending. I have no qualms with it at all. How we got there is where the issue lies. Is there a solution to this massive problem? Yes, and it's quite simple: time. It would've been worlds better if this game ended with Abby and Lev leaving the theater (preferably on this screen), which makes for a juicy cliff hanger that leads into Part III (which is probably inevitable with sales like these). If Part III was almost or entirely dedicated to fleshing out the Santa Barbara segment, I firmly believe these problems would cease to exist. Time would allow us to marinate in the aftermath of Seattle. Maybe we get to see Ellie and Dina search for a farmhouse to claim. Get some sheep. Plant their crops. Dust up the house and make it a home. See Ellie's simultaneous terror and joy when JJ finally comes into their lives. See the ups and downs of Ellie and Dina's shared parenthood. In the meantime, packs of infected and wandering bandits are sure to spring up, providing the player with some stimulating combat as Ellie and Dina defend their new home and family. But in the meantime... Ellie wrestles with night terrors. She continues to see and hear Joel in his final hour. She sees Abby lurking in the theater, but she can't reach her weapon fast enough! The PTSD Ellie carries provides an undercurrent of negativity to her and Dina's otherwise peaceful life, and the pressure only builds over time. It makes her colder. Snappier. Maybe she even occasionally lashes out at Dina, only to quickly apologize afterward. But one day, Tommy pays his first visit in months, and he's brought a map and some information... Time would allow us to see Abby and Lev's journey to Santa Barbara and their search for the Fireflies. Their big sister-little brother bond grows stronger in their adventures. They probably have lots of run-ins with the infected. A trader probably tips them off to the Rattlers in the area. When they're ambushed and kidnapped, Abby does everything in her power to resist their captors to make sure Lev isn't mistreated, as his transgender status likely puts him at considerable risk for abuse. Resistance is her initial instinct, but she quickly realizes that she can exchange her compliance for Lev's safety. So she works gruesome jobs for gruesome hours. Maybe after realizing how much leverage they have over this talented soldier, the Rattlers give her a weapon and force her to help hunt for escapees and unfortunate travelers (of course, if she turns her weapon against her captors, they'll make sure Lev faces a fate worse than death). After months, Abby finally builds up the confidence to stage an escape with Lev... but their operation fails. She is punished severely for her misconduct. She's starved. Tortured. Beaten. We see her spirit break, and her body emaciates until she is just as weak and helpless as the man she killed in Wyoming. She thinks of him and wonders if this was how he felt. Once the Rattlers are through with making an example out of her and Lev, they're strung up and left to die among dozens of corpses... until a familiar voice comes calling through the fog... Unfortunately, as it exists now, the rushed nature of the Santa Barbara segment alienated the player from all of the characters involved-even Ellie, who the player is in control of throughout the entirety of the segment. Now, alienating an audience from characters via a time jump can certainly be used to great effect in some stories, but one such story is not this one. For 30ish hours, TLOU2 established itself as the kind of story that earned your investment through subtle character growth. What is the natural predator of incremental character growth? Time skips that gloss over major character-altering events. This was a disastrous decision on the writer's part, and it critically injures what I'd otherwise call a nigh flawless game.
Yes, my criticism of the Santa Barbara section was harsh, but it heartens me to remember it was only ~1.5 hours long. I wouldn't dare condemn the entire ~30-hour game for a fraction of a fraction of its content, especially not when the rest of it was as masterful as it was. A poorly paced ending does not make a story bad, and shame on anyone who thinks it does. It's about the journey, after all, not the destination, and by Satan was this an emotionally thrilling journey indeed. Excluding its ending, I’m glad to give it the highest praises I can offer. Unfortunately, due to a perfect storm of circumstances, this sequel may have cemented itself as the most controversial game ever made. I think that’s a crying shame because this is a great game that often goes where no game has gone before. It is one of the few games that not only challenged its players mechanically, but *mentally,* for it encouraged them to question their biases and see the reasons behind every seemingly evil action. It made giant steps forward for social progress, playing a part in making the world a better place for everyone. I sometimes fear the vitriolic reaction to this game may intimidate future screenwriters from making such bold decisions for their stories, and I believe that would ultimately hold the medium back from its fullest potential, particularly in the storytelling department. I have hope and a little bit of faith that this work of art will eventually stand the test of time, especially once the outrage simmers. Cheers to the developers for making such a wild ride, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.
I usually do an annual write up but here’s a bonus. NOTE: These are lyrics that somewhat defined the artists who in turn defined 2010-2019. These ARE NOT the best lines said by an artist nor their most memorable bars. Most of these lines also are from early in the decade/career as they seem fitting (self-fulfilling prophecy and shit). Also, this list is popularity over skill. Any of the relatively smaller artists mentioned are from my own bias of their skill and impact/notoriety in hip hop during the 2010s. I ask posters to tell me their favorite/memorable lines, and to try and put me onto an artist I perhaps never listened to. There are several of my favorites that I simply cannot put on here or are regulated to the honorable mentions. This is a thick list so I cannot do a proper write up for all entries.
“Rap is the new rock ‘n’ roll! We the rock stars!” - Kanye West, BBC Radio 1 Interview
The most defining line of rap this past decade is not from a song, but is from a Kanye rant. My feelings on Mr. West has changed over the years, and while I disagree with his recent statements, this quote from 2013 is still stands. Rap is the new rock. Rap is now the genre that is at the top. Rap is the genre full of the “bad influences” that middle America is too ignorant to actual look at. Rap is the genre with the bad words, the political statements, the party tracks, the nonsense, the soul, the spirit, the drug overdoses, the groupies, the strong women, the breakoffs into sub-genres, etc. After 40 years, Hip Hop music is the dominant genre and its influence is worldwide. We can’t be stopped.
“If I die, I’m a legend,” – Drake, Legend
I remember when Best I Never Had dropped its music video and my sister called me into the living room to watch it on MTV2. Halfway through, I asked her, “Isn’t that the wheelchair dude on that show you like?” Who fucking knew that Jimmy from Degrassi would turn into the biggest star of the 2010s. Love him, hate him, he’s broken records in sales/streaming and he made a lot of money in the meantime. When Drake said this bar in 2015, there was some arguments, but he’s right: If he died at that position, his fans would force the culture to see him as a legend. And despite my issues with him, I can name three) strongreasons that makes his statement true. A toast to the Champagne Papi.
“Step on my neck and get blood on your Nike checks. I don't mind 'cause one day you'll respect - The good kid, m.A.A.d city” – Kendrick Lamar, good kid
Despite other rappers being more popular than him in certain circles of entertainment, Kendrick Lamar has earned his position as the King of Hip Hop. From his rise under Dre to beating Drake in sales, Kendrick’s journey to the top was an amazing experience for listeners. In three fantastic albums, Kendrick cemented his legacy in the 2010s and until another rapper can outdo him, he holds the crown. (Plus, three great albums tends to throws you into GOAT talk). Put it this way: Kendrick Lamar is a better rapper than your favorite rapper. His “throwaway” album was great. His soundtrack album was great. And yes, MAAD city is the better song, but dammit, the song before it should get loved as well.
“I can’t relate to my peers. I’d rather live outside. I’d rather chip my pride than lose my mind” – Frank Ocean, Siegfried “I’m a fucking walking paradox” – Tyler, the Creator, Yonkers “It hurt cuz I can’t keep a date or put personal time in, or reverse to the times when my face didn’t surprise you before I did the shit that earned me my term on that island” – Earl Sweatshirt, Faucet
This applies to the previous three lines: At the start of the decade, Earl was rapping about sexual assault, Tyler was pissing every one off, and Frank was putting out projects at a steady rate. Oh yeah, they also were all form the same group, named “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All” which is connected to “Golf Wang” “Flog Gnaw,” and had a few members appear in the beloved “Gucci Gucci” music video with Kreashawn (more about that in another thread). The changes from 2011 OF to the standalone acts of Tyler, Earl, and Frank are crazy to review. Others have, so I won’t, but man I’m glad to have witnessed these three artist grow in and out of their music.
“I'm just playing, but all good jokes contain true shit, same rope you climb up on, they'll hang you with” – J. Cole, Fire Squad
I consider Cole the amongst Drake and Kendrick as the “Three Musketeers” of 2010s rap, at least popularity wise. The trio laid down so many good tracks. J. Cole fits a lot of what people wanted from a rapper after the ringtone-rap era. But, once he started doing it, it’s like people didn’t want it anymore. Folks called him boring, but everyone knew he could spit. In comes 2014 FHD, and boy, Cole cemented his place in the Big 3, and he’s pretty good at ball, too. While 4 Your Eyez Only and KOD split some fans apart, I liked the albums. He has pushed his image as a bigger brother in rap, or at least, a middle child, so let’s see what he can do in 2020.
“The kid that used to pitch bricks can't be pigeonholed” – Jay-Z, Family Feud
In the third decade of his (studio album) career, Jay has blessed us with another classic in the form of 4:44, expressing the maturity of a former drug dealer turned rappebusinesscomma man. Fanboying aside, Jay has taken up the role hip-hop’s dad. One that lectures you about what’s right from wrong at the end of a sitcom. Shout out to Uncle Phil, Carl Winslow, Pops, and even Dre from black-ish.FuckPillCosby Jay also collaborates and give shout outs to rising rappers he deems fit for the mic. It was a bit of a rocky start with MCHG telling people to appreciate art, but it took a retrospective of Shawn Carter and several guest features to remind people that Hov’s still alive.
“I’m beginning to feel like I’m a Rap god” – Eminem, Rap God
Another legend in his third decade of rhyming. After the divisive Relapse in 2009, Eminem took on a different persona, or at least cut down on Slim Shady, until he wanted to promote a sequel. He has a “father of rap” role amongst the younger rappers of this generation, but it’s the dad whose jokes don’t always land well. For every Caterpillar verse or Chloraseptic Remix, there’s a Revival. He keeps doing those songs with [insert female pop vocalist] on the chorus that don’t land like they did on his first few albums, and yet, he’ll still give you a career just to destroy it in a rap beef. It’s like, we know he can spit, but he keeps releasing shit that proves otherwise. (I originally used a line from his 2011 BET Cypher, so go check that out )
“It's so different now, everything is so different now” – Logic, Till the End
It’s like, we know he can spit, but he keeps releasing shit that proves otherwise. He keeps doing those songs with [“I’m biracial!”] on the chorus, but it don’t land like his first few mixtapes, yet, he’ll looks up recent Logic lyric . . . yet he’ll “suck a dick just to prove it ain’t that way”. . . Huh? I honestly Logic gets caught under pressure and the hate on social media gets to him. Here’s another white rapper that people say is killing mumble rappers and “saving rap.” Look, Logic and Em got skill, and they’ve proven so. If anything, their fanbase can be too much. White people really love white rappers, eh?
“I'm underrated, don't fit on nobody's playlist, If I ain't in your top 10 then you're a racist” – Mac Miller, Here We Go
And all types of people really respect Mac Miller. From frat rap to philosophical lines to rapping about pussy to introspective lines about his drug habits, Mac gained a lot of respect from his peers. I know I said I can’t write a lot for everyone, but I’ll be unfair for Mac: he helped me better understand my own issues in life, namely any possible issues with my mental health and my thought process on certain destructive behaviors. He wasn’t my favorite rapper, but I loved listening to his shit. This lovable goof sadly passed away in September 2018, and it was arguably the hardest a celebrity’s death hit me. Partly because he was around my age, partly because he influenced my train of thought, as corny as some internet thugs believe that sounds. Thus, I did NOT pick one of the many lines that talk about him overdosing or dying before he turns 27. He will be sorely missed, by family, friends, and peers. Mac Miller is another example of a beautiful character arc, as much as the road was rocky and the end sucked. I really do hope people don’t just see him as an ex-boyfriend of Ariana Grande. . . R.I.P Mac Miller. Don’t do drugs, kids.
“Fuck it, mask off” – Future, Mask Off
Don’t do drugs. Future’s influence on rap is something I probably cannot truly describe. From his cadence, to his subject matter, to his drug habits. He’s seen as a figurehead for toxic masculinity as well as someone hiding his some sad lines behind rattling hi-hats and neat beats. From autotuning his voice in the early years to collabing with Drake to give us a great time to be alive, to getting credited for being on Father Stretch My Hand pt 2, Future proved himself a staple in 2010s rap. It was hard to NOT hear him this past decade. . . Wait, that wasn’t Future on FSMH? He- . . .who? Desiigner? What?
“This ain’t a fucking sing-a-long” – The Weeknd, Crew Love
The Weeknd gave his song to Drake for Take Care, but everyone fucking knows this is a Weeknd song ft. Drake. The Trilogy was some of his best work, and there some type of beauty in his tracks. It’s an R&B dude, but his lyrics aren’t soft. He’s talking about railing chicks and cocaine and shit. None of that between-the-sheets beauty. He’s fucking women on that island they got in their kitchens. And yet, he managed to break into the MAIN-mainsteam, getting kid awards for his drug songs. When will they learn, this ain’t a fucking sing-a-long.
“We don’t do the same drugs no more.” – Chance the Rapper, Same Drugs
Originally, I picked the opening bars form Pusha Man off Acid Rap. It’s one of my favorite projects from the 2010s (Can you tell I post on hiphopheads? Wanna watch this video essay on Tyler, the Creator and then bump some Griselda?) but, I think Same Durgs is a great metaphor. Chance talks about living a different life than an old friend, but it applies to some of his listeners. Many of us loved 10 Days and Acid Rap. But Chance can’t be that forever. He grew up from the kid who got suspended for 2 weeks. For as much as I don’t like The Big Day, he sounds happier. Plus, I’m not forced to listen to him.
“Mitch caught a body about a week ago” – Bobby Shurmda, Hot N---a
So, Bobby wasn’t the first, nor the last, but he’s a great example of this distinct trend in rap. Guy puts out song and blows up for it. I’m talking this shit goes viral. Music video is him and the homies. He’s talking about girls, women, cars, clothes, . . . oh yeah, and his crimes. Cops pull up, and they lock him up. Exhibit A. Exhibit B. Exhibit C is just going to be a song and not lead to an album. Bobby took a plea deal and after gracing us with the Shmoney Dance, was held up in Riker’s for the rest of the 2010s. This line, and others, were used against him and his team. Fun fact: this was one of the things I remember before it got big. A few friends of friends were sharing the music video via FaceBook, and I never guessed it would’ve blown up more than the other rising rappers I watched. Also, shout out to Bobby for dancing better than the women in his Bobby Bitch Music video.
“These bitches love Sosa.” – Chief Keef, Love Sosa
This one I was late on. I didn’t hear Chief Keef until Mr. West put out the remix to Don’t Like. But you can bet your ass I heard his influence on rap this decade. Drill music was what all the kids wanted to hear. And I’ll admit, my best friend and I loved seeing kids our age making music. Joey dropped 1999, Chief Keef was half naked and toting guns, it was crazy seeing people who not only looked like me blowing up, but who were around my age. Keef’s attitude would help push rap into a sound for the mid 10s and is still being heard today.
“Who put this shit together? I'm the glue” – Travis Scott, Sicko Mode
La Flame provided a good spark for music this decade. I’d argue he has his own lane in rap, mostly centered around his sound, but the sound is gonna get tired one day. . . and that day ain’t tomorrow, that’s for sure. With three solid projects, including the long awaited Astroworld, Travis has achieved what many dreamed of: Being on pre-game playlists for both white AND black people.
“Twenty-plus years of selling Johnson & Johnson/I started out as a baby-faced monsteNo wonder there's diaper rash on my conscience/My teething ring was numbed by the nonsense” – Pusha T, Nosetalgia
The past decade has given Push a chance to showcase that he is more than a duo-rapper. Good mixtapes, great albums, and a few nice slaps in the face of certain rappers. He raps about many topics, despite the memes about him only rapping about coke (although he still raps about it). Thank God for all the great music. Everything is Pusha T.
“Influenced by Houston, hear it in my music/A trill n---a to the truest, show you how to do this” – ASAP Rocky, Palace
He bes that pretty motherfucker, repping Harlem while experimenting with different sounds in his raps. Making strong strides at all points of the 2010s, Rocky proved his staying power in hip hop and in fashion. Although he got a cocky attitude, he isn’t afraid to shed light on what hurts him. Keep making music, Rocky, and I pray you find peace with all those around him who passed away.
“I ain’t sorry” – Beyonce, Sorry AND “Okay, ladies, now let's get in formation, cuz I slay” – Beyonce, Formation
Who wants that perfect love story anyway? Sucks when you eat some of your words as Queen B, BUT, Beyonce is more than a cheated-on wife of a rapper. She’s her own person, her own icon, and despite the terrorizing fanbase, she’s a role model to many fans and other artists. This decade saw a rise in people fighting back against bigotry, and while she’s no Harriet Tubman, Beyonce carries herself with some respect, enough to be a dominant figure in black culture and sisterhood. Mad about the double feature? Oh well. Queen B can’t trip up
“Much cooler than the cool kids. Can you believe every night we do this?” – Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd, Powerglide
The pre-games have never been the same. Two young brothers hit the scene mid 2010s and boy, has America loved ~Swae Lee~ these two. Perhaps not Black Beatles, but much more than “new age Kris Kross.” I must say though, bad bitches ARE a type.
“Name a n---a that want some, I’ll out-rap his ass, out-trap his ass” – 2 Chainz, No Lie
From Tity Boi to 2 Chainz, this dude managed to redebuted himself under a more advertisement friendly name (take notes, Mr. eXquire). And now, he don’t need Wayne pouring out his soul on a chorus to be remembered. I will say, revisit all his features from the past decade. I wanted to use one of them as a quote.
“Came out of jail and went straight to the top” – Gucci Mane, I Get The Bag
Gucci’s home and it’s over for your Gucci clones. As you can tell, loads of people on this list influenced the rap playground this past decade, with Gucci doing the same. East Atlanta Santa spent years in jail (hasn’t stopped him for rapping) and came out a new man, or at least, a man running up the charts. He definitely running now that his lean belly is gone.
“Real n---a's dreams coming to fruition. Stumble but I never fall, leaning on my pistol” – Rick Ross, 3 Kings
Fat jokes from the early 10s aside, Ross really played a good role in rap music. BMF was big, I remember Diddy comparing him to Biggie ( yep ) and he always came through with good tracks. . . but then he rapped about drugging women. And on a lesser note, “Reeboks, I just do it,” is a weird fuck up, man.
I got a lot but want a lot more, yeah, we in the building, but I'm tryna take it to the top floor” – Big Sean, IDWFU
A strong player in terms of popularity, Detroit’s biggest ass-man was able to give us quotables and showed some softer edges on tracks about family or being single.
“One's for the money, two for the bitches, three to get ready cuz I feel I finally did it” – ScHoolboy Q, Blessed
TDE is more tHan Kendrick. In fact, tHere’s many well versed rappers in the crew, and ScHoolboy Q managed to pusH Himself more into the spotligHt. Now, He needs drop a collab witH Rocky, because Hands of the WHeel is STILL my most played track.
“Always be a real n---a, I never learned how to be nothin' but a real n---a” – The Game, 100
Can you believe Born 2 Rap is his last album? After all these years, and here it is: The Game’s last project. And still, people say he name drops too much, but at least he’s in on the joke.
“Free the Carter, n---as need the Carter” – Lil Wayne, No Problems
This is cheating, as this is a guest verse and NOT a Wayne song, but it is important. After bad business tactics and after putting an end to stuntin like his daddy, it took Wayne years to finally have Tha Carter V get released. Goes to show that sometimes, it’s really the ones close to you that fuck you over. Top ten hip hop betrayals of all time. . .
“I ain't never need a man to take care of me” – Nicki Minaj, Truffle Butter
Hot take: Nicki gets a lot of underserved hate, or at least, misdirected hate. She definitely deserves bad looks for some of her antics, or her support (lack of calling-out) of sexual deviant, but at the end of the day, she truly made some great songs. There’s a ton of pop shit, but let’s not undersell her role in the game. Also. . . obviously. . . That fucking verse on Kanye’s Monster. I made the argument in a Daily Discussion thread before but. . . HOT TAKE: Nicki’s verse on Monster is a top 5 verse of all time in rap, fuck you. While Wayne helped take her to the top, for her to stay relevant and to still sell records for the whole decade on her own is a great feat.
“Ball so hard motherfuckers wanna fine me” – The Throne, N---as in Paris
Yep, Jay and Kanye get a second line here. Watch the Throne is debated about being a classic or not. My take: Whether you like it or not, this album is iconic for its influence, or at least, how many people referenced watching the throne all these years after. Collab albums are not new. Collab albums with Jay Z are not new. Some are loved), some want to be forgotten) but, it’s not everyday when Kanye can team up with his big brother. Well, at least it’s not happening these days. But for the moment, it was dope watching the throne get in their zone.
“Do it for the culture, They gon’ bite like vultures” – Quavo of Migos, T-Shirt
Expecting a list of adlibs, right? Rap’s favorite triplet done flowed their way to the top. Constantly in people’s playlist, it took one rain drop, drop top, and the boys hit #1 on the charts, plus they’re hit day time television. Argue who’s the best, since it feels like the general consensus shifts around too much. It was Quavo when he was doing hooks and features, Offset when they hit #1, and now Takeoff for laying in the cut and always coming through.
“You say no to ratchet pussy, Juicy J can’t” – Juicy J, Bandz A Make Her Dance
Someone whose influence I think was overlooked a bit in the 10s. Three 6 Mafia’s legacy was proven this decade through samples, interpolates, and features. However, Juicy J shone in a lot of places, such as here, spitting one of my most quoted lyrics of the past few years.
“Me to rap is like water to raves” – Danny Brown, XXX
You know how people go out, party, drink, and turn their noses to water when water is gonna be the thing helping their asses? Yeah, that’s Danny. People hear the voice and instantly turn it off, but we need some straying from the norm. Also, his music ain’t that out there. It’s not like Death Grips. Plus, ignoring Danny means you’ll miss out on the best verse on 1Train. Yeah, I said it.
“ “Man, why does every black actor gotta rap some?” I don't know, all I know is I'm the best one” – Childish Gambino, Bonfire
He grew up past the mixtape era of strong puns and punchlines. He also survived a hard rating on some of his early works. Because the Internet was dope and good lord Awaken My Love was beautiful. A talented man who can seemingly do it all. To be a bit controversial, I see him as this generation’s Jamie Foxx. Sue me.
“Push me to the edge, all my friends are dead” – Lil Uzi Vert, XO TOUR Llif3
A figure in emo rap for all teens to look up to, Uzi was one of the artists to help push the genre in the last half of the decade, to the point where old heads got all sensitive about mumble rap. Who knew rapping about depression, sex, and suicide would top the charts?
“ Hopped up in my car Swag! then I drop my roof Swag! Wet like wonton soup. That's just how I do Swag!” – Lil B, Wonton Soup
Yep. Closing this out with Lil B. The exit is over here This decade, the internet went mainstream. As in, no longer was it something to do when you’re bored with TV or the PS3/Xbox/Wii. This decade, every day we’re using the internet, with several different social media accounts, blogs, news, etc. Videos of incidents are seen in an instant. At the very beginning of the 2010s, a young Brandon was blowing up on everyone’s radar. He was on WorldStar cooking, he was putting curses on KD (which actually worked), he’s been beefing with rappers and athletes, he’s been pissing of Myke C-Town, he’s been posting on Reddit, he was feature on Lil Wayne mixtapes, he’s been dropping his own mixtapes like a maniac, hopping on songs with Mac & Gucci & 40, he’s been creating memes before your mom knew what a meme was, etc. Him and Budden did what would become the norm before the norm became what it is now. Crazy to think. But yes, Lil B is getting recognition for his work. Based God truly came out and showcased what meme culture would bec- What now? . . . whoa, whoa whoa. . . Jay Electronica dropping his album?! Woah Well, that’s the list. Tell me who I missed. Ask me why there’s no Post Malone. Post better lines than the ones mentioned here. Honorable Mentions:
Kendrick’s Control Verse
The real hot take here: Kendrick’s verse on Big Sean’s Control only an honorable mention? He called out his contemporaries and made it clear: He’s gunning for number one. It’s a good verse and it’s even better that he called people out by name, but most of the list are people he’s cool with.
“My parents’ were making the best when they were naked in bed” – Joey Badass,
I really want Joey to be better remembered. I really wanted to include him in the main list. He’s actually in my top 5 of the decade.
“As a kid all I wanted was to kill a man” – Vince Staples, Nate “Don’t ever say that my music sounds like Ghost’s shit” – Action Bronson, Ron Simmons
“I was good on my own, that’s the way it was” – Rihanna, Needed Me
Looking at her resume, Rihanna has a strong career for 2010 alone. Dance songs, pop songs, a dancehall(ish) track, rappers as features, features as rappers. Call her a bad bitch, a savage, just remember the game needs her. At least, her fans are begging four another album after the four year drought, so we need her to drop one more time
“Live fast, die young, Bad girls do it well,” – MIA, Bad Girls
“Is it homophobic to only hook up with straight n---as? You know like closet n---as, masc-type? Why don't you take that mask off? That's the thought I had last night” – Kevin Abstract of BrockHampton, Junky “Don’t” – Bryson Tiller, Don’t “Fuck your publication that say I'm a third wheel” – Flatbush Zombies, Palm Trees “Might move away one day but I'm always gonna belong to the streets” – Freddie Gibbs, Thuggin “By the beer, by ear, by boo what Yari saying?” – Isaiah Rashad, 4r Da Squaw “Such a lost boy, caught up in the darkest I had. What's the cost, boy? Losing everything that I had” – Kid Cudi, 4th Dimension
The original sad boi, the original “emo rap”. Shout out to his comparison of himself to an orgasm.
“K to the I to the N to the G/Claim you the hottest, but I disagree” – Denzel Curry, Ultimate
Denzel is better than the memes from this track.
“I don’t dance now, I make money moves” – Cardi B, Bodak Yellow
Cardi made big moves in the second half of the decade, arguably enough to be above HMs. She’s more than the one hit wonder many detracts tried to pin her as. If she started a year earlier, she’d be up there. I really want her to strive in the 2020s as well.
“Better recognize when I see you” – PARTYNEXTDOOR, Recognize
“Kinda silly though, but I'm lyrical, Bet I put him in the dirt with the penny loafs” – A$AP Ferg, Work Remix “I bet I make you respect me, when you see the man dem are selling out Wembley” – Skepta, Shutdown “Me, I try to leave the best for later, But Pusha tried to put me on the respirator” – Pharrell, “They don't make 'em bar none, they don't make 'em real, they don't make it where I'm from, they don't take it here” – Nipsey Hussle, Victory Lap
R.I.P. Nipsey EDIT: I dun fucked up, and totally forgot Young Thug, who played a big part in the decade more than half this damn list. Please, share your favorite Thugger lines, I personally like his feature on Sacrifices the most but that’s not his own track. Also, the obvious fuck up: Fuck Donald Trump.
[Behind the Curtain] ***** Tabhoade, Please assemble all of the memoranda received from our ambassador to Earth regarding the past few months. I am including the following documents that I have in my possession. Once you have done this, deliver them to the Yarud Library of Diplomacy, directly to Edaelig, where they may be classified away from routine public record. Then, send our data scrubbers through our systems to eliminate the memoranda. Our ambassador would not benefit from a leak. It is imperative you take this up with all discretion. The Terran Republic is not to know. Our ambassador is not to know. I do this for his sake. He has always been a dedicated public servant. It is upon us to close ranks to protect him. -Khor ***** Tabhoade, I once told you I would never ask you to compromise your professional ethics. As the minister’s personal assistant, you have naturally always been under a measure of pressure, of judgment and of scrutiny. When we broke off our engagement all those years ago, we understood each other to be on different paths, and that there was tacit understanding and respect there. Understand that what I ask of you might go against typical procedures. I assure you that in agreeing to my request, history will remember you as the penultimate bastion that averted disaster. If you cannot trust in my record of diplomacy alone, then trust in what we once shared. It is with the utmost importance that this report be sent directly to Minister Khor without redaction or abridgment. I know he is a busy man. I am but one ambassador to one of many consulates in this sector alone. Nonetheless, it is imperative, that he be made aware of the full context in which my report comes. This is why I have determined to deliver my report directly to him, rather than in the third person. He must understand the magnitude of what I am about to say. He alone has the power to save four trillion souls from the ravages of conflict. Should we fail, I implore you to gather both of your husbands, children and Matron Nuva, and flee the quadrant. Give them my best. Tell Matron Nuva that she’ll always be ‘Nuvi’ to me. -R ***** Minister Khor, First, I will tell you what you must do: You must issue a full apology to the humans in all haste. You must apologize for the Yarud people’s condescension. Specifically, you must apologize on my behalf, for my offense, whatever it may be. You must assure them of my immediate punishment and your intentions to remove me from my post. If possible, also send an extraction team for me. If any of your advisors or generals advise a course of action, please hold off on agreeing until you have read my full account. Now, I will explain why: I have made historic progress relations with the Terran Republic. Of course, almost anything would be, by definition, historic. I am, after all, the first ambassador to Earth since the Fhreghian War’s end. I was originally assigned to the consulate in one of their stations that orbits a star several parsecs away from their home system. Even though our people had fought a common enemy in the Fhregia, there was initially enormous distrust. This was before you were made Minister, and I am aware that your educational and professional background is chemical engineering and astrophysics, not history. Don’t take this as an insult – I am simply stating that you were chosen because of your policies to boost the Yarud Commonwealth’s technological advancement. They are policies that belong in an administration of peacetime. You have always listened to your advisors, your specialists, generals and admirals, which does you credit. Again I cannot impress upon you the importance of holding off on any sort of retaliatory strike, be it economic, diplomatic or military in nature. Therefore, I must briefly fill you in on the history between the Yarud and Human people. I am sure you remember the basics. A terran vessel was mining ores from a backwater asteroid belt where a Yarud passenger ship spotted it. It’s make was so unique and it was clear it was an alien make. Per regulation, they called it in and continued on their way. My old mentor from my days as a consulate aide, Ambassador Pebha, made first contact. First contacts are delicate matters, and don’t happen every day, so she made me stay back on the corvette in the event things went wrong. Pebha told me that I was, as yet, too excitable and fanciful. Also, I wasn’t cleared for first contacts anyway, in case I did something impulsive to trigger galactic war. Still, I watched on the feeds as she stepped out and met with the crew of this new ship. You have no idea the magic of seeing a new sentient species for the first time. Mammals, like us. They were bipedal. Completely bipedal, you understand. Sure, we can sit or stand back on our hind legs, but these people stood. They ambulated on just their two hind legs. They don’t have tails to balance. I was amazed that they didn’t periodically fall over. It was immediately clear they were an omnivorous predator species, but far less intimidating than Fhregians or Quarundi. Rather unremarkable, in comparison. And dull in color. Ambassador Pebha is, by Yarud standards, standard. She is nice looking enough, but to them, she would have reminded them of an animal from their home planet. They call them pangolins, although our tails are shorter. The Earth version of pangolins are also pigmented to match soils and vegetation barks, it seems, whereas we have a much wider range of colors for our scales. To them, we resembled humanoid pangolins. I bring up the pangolin because on the Terran home planet of Earth, the pangolin had long struggled with survival due to impacts from humans themselves. They were as in awe of Ambassador Pebha as we were in them. First contact went well, all things considered. The humans contacted their home planet and they soon sent representatives of their own. We could tell they were mixed in their feelings towards us. We were, after all, their first contact into the broader galactic stage. Typical of a pre-contact society, their media and lore was filled with hypothetical scenarios of meeting aliens and falling immediately into war. They didn’t know our intentions. They didn’t know if they needed to prepare defenses against a planet grab, or attempts to extract resources. Luckily for our relationship, though not in any other regard, war did come, but not from us. Fhregian society had been struggling to try to lead the rest of the quadrant. They wanted to create a sphere of dominance, typical to many before them. They struck hard and fast. They invaded Shruvian space and annexed much of their territory without breaking a sweat. They expanded into Calwedh’s borderlands. The galaxy was in shock. Sure, relations hadn’t been great. But we’d all been kicking the proverbial can down the road for so long, it never truly dawned on us just how precarious things had become. Excuse the human expression of kicking cans down roads. It is similar to the Yarud phrase of spritzing one’s scales with talc rather than taking the time and effort to do a full brush down and oil. Well, wars were declared. Alliances were made and these humans were newcomers who had no way of making an informed decision. But it was clear to them that if they did not make a decision, it would eventually be made for them. They started off pledging only to provide Yarud and Quarundi forces with goods. They already had a well-run system of surveying and mining resources from around the sector, so their contribution made sense. They essentially kept doing what they were already doing, and sent us shipments of additional ores, raw materials, medical supplies and the like. Things continued this way for the first couple of years of the war. And then a Quarundi battalion made landfall on a Fhregian base and discovered Terran supplies in their stock. Both Yarud and Quarund war ministries made feverish inquiries into our own supplies to ensure Fhregian forces hadn’t found a chink in our supply chain to bleed us dry. All of our shipments and supplies were accounted for, however. This meant Fhregian forces had gotten these supplies directly from the source. It was a deep betrayal, but not a surprising one. Humans knew there would be a winner, and if they had stayed out of it, that winner would eventually come knocking. Their calculation had been entirely sound. Ambassador Pebha was dispatched to treat with the humans. As her protege, I went with her. It was my first trip to Earth. A beautiful planet. So rugged and gracious and deadly and nurturing all at once. I will limit myself to tell you that it would behoove you to send that apology to the Terran Diplomatic Corps. Then, you might have the opportunity to visit Earth sometime. Trust me when I tell you it’s tumultuous diversity in climates and other phenomena cannot be understated. A visit to Earth is a visit to a hundred planets. This first trip to Earth, however, was limited to a place called C Station. It was so called because it was one of their prototype generational space stations. It was situated in one of their oceans, called the Atlantic Ocean. Over four hundred years old, it is a testament to their skill in designing structures that do more than function. They last. Even some of the structures from their most ancient civilizations still stand – if you ever get to Earth, I implore you to visit the Taj Mahal, or the Great Pyramids of Giza. For something still more ancient, the settlement of Skara Brae. But back to C Station. C Station is self-sufficient. It runs on several energy systems, among them thorium. It can sit atop the waves or settle into the ocean floor. It contains several reproductions of Earth’s climates. They were testing their ability to create what they called an Ark. They have several species that have been living on C Station for generations. It was C Station that gave me my first glimpse of Earth. Their diplomatic corps gave me a tour of the place. In retrospect, they likely chose C Station to hide the rest of Earth from us. As the newcomers to the galaxy during galactic war, they were understandably guarded. They showed us some polar bears playing in the reproduced environment that suited them, and some tropical fish tending to a reef. In another section, there was a pasture with wild plants being pollinated by all sorts of insects. Ambassador Pebha and I got to business once the pleasantries had been exchanged. She was masterful. She was nonjudgmental, but frank in outlining what Lieutenant Rafkeev had discovered when he had taken the Fhregian base. She included documentation of the discovery, and images of the find. She pointed out the characteristics of the supplies that led Yarud and the Quarund intelligence offices to conclude the supplies had originated from Earth. To Ambassador Guan’s credit, he did seem somewhat embarrassed. And he was candid. Earth’s precarious position was clear. They didn’t know the entirety of what they were up against. They didn’t want to go up against anyone. Sure, there were many on Earth who held the opinion of aiding the Yarud, Quarund, Shruvian and Calwedh’s cause. But internal politics exist. Many wanted nothing to do with the rest of the galaxy, to say nothing of partaking in a war. Still others had closely followed the news and wanted to avoid conflict with the Expansionist Forces, as they had come to be called. The Fhregians had recruited the Moimet Republic to their cause, and had make a pact with the Dicahl Empire. Each of these entities were fearsome on their own. “So you are committed to remaining neutral in this conflict, aside from material shipments to appease both sides?” Ambassador Pebha confirmed. “Well,” Guan seemed to vacillate. “We have a vested interest in surviving this conflict. Make no mistake, we’ve been retrofitting many of our exploratory and cargo vessels for combat should the need arise. But while Earth’s leaders generally support your cause, there isn’t the political will behind it.” “They will likely set their sights on Terran regions soon,” Pebha warned. Guan gave a depressed smile. “We know. It seems we find ourselves in something approximating a Hobbesian trap, and our threshold will require a Pearl Harbor of sorts.” I later researched what he meant by Hobbesian trap and Pearl Harbor. In short, he was referencing human theory on how fear spirals. Pearl Harbor was the site of a preemptive strike made on the named harbor in order to leave territory open for annexation and control. “I do wish your leaders would reconsider, for the good of both our people and yours.” Pebha tried again. She later told me she felt comfortable pushing because of Ambassador Guan’s aura of congeniality. Pebha frequently reminded me not to be too excitable, or too fanciful, but she had gauged Guan to be of a mild disposition who would not take offense. He cocked his head sideways the way humans do. Our xenobiologists believe it is an action designed to take a sample of sound from a slightly different angle, to better triangulate and analyze what they hear. Their ears have a fleshy external structure with whorls and ridges to funnel sound and quickly gauge the direction from which a sound came. “I think you misunderstand, Ambassador Pebha,” he said politely. “When we prepare for the possibility of war, we go about it as a certainty. There’s a saying, you hope for the best but prepare for the worst. From one military standpoint, it might make sense to join you now. However, we are not yet there, logistically. We’re getting close, but no cigar. And we simply don’t have the political capital to spend on a preemptive strike.” Minister Khor, I know you know what happened later. It was only eighteen of their “months” later that the strike came. Apparently it was time enough for them to prepare as much as they’d ever be, considering they were untried and untested in intergalactic warfare. And I know you know the ultimate outcome. A disastrous, hard-won victory. And the realization that humans are good – scary good – at war. Not because of their technology or physiology or any single factor, but of the sum of their whole. In particular, their ability to wage war with subterfuge has become something of a legend in the galaxy. They are unmatched in subterfuge and misdirection. After the Fhregian attack on their outlying mining station, we realized just what Ambassador Guan had meant by preparing for the worst. As “bad” as the Expansionist Forces may have been, it wasn’t as though they were out to destroy the galaxy. You can’t reap the benefits of a rich galaxy when resources have been reduced to pulverized fields of debris, and labor killed in the conflict. The humans knew they weren’t fighting for the survival of the human race. They had studied and listened and watched. They had already researched everyone and cross-referenced rumors on everyone else. They knew they weren’t facing extinction, or anything close to it. They were facing trade agreements and treaties that would likely benefit the Expansionist Forces, and leave Earth with a raw deal and limits to where they could explore. The humans didn’t care about such a distinction. They treated the war the way they treated their boogey-man. They went to war as though they were out to destroy fictional villains against annihilation. Their fiction, by the way, is a lot. That’s the only way I can think to describe it. They treated the Expansionist Forces as though they were the Sith Lord and his Empire, the Borg, Romulans, Cylons and a bunch of other references I don’t understand all at once. This brings me to my post-war appointment to our Embassy on one of their stations, placed deliberately far away from their home system. They had taken heavy losses during the war and were taking no chances with their home. Ambassador Pebha had been assigned to the Fhregian Embassy at this point. She was an institution unto herself. It made all the sense in the cosmos to send her to work with the Fhregians, to try to calm choppy waters. This left me assigned to the Terran Republic. I had enormous shed skins to fill. But, I also had the benefit of her tutelage and was more seasoned. When the war ended, Minister, you’ll remember how the members of the Anti-Expansion Pact celebrated. Once the post-war agreements were drawn up and signed, we all got to rebuilding and having end-of-war celebrations. Even Expansion Pact member planets and colonies toasted the end to the war and held a few raves. Everyone held ceremonies that simultaneously honored those lost and decommissioned warships. Best of all, we partied. Days-long parties spread out over months to wile away our hurts and experience hope anew. Not the humans. They seemed confused at everyone’s antics. They threw a couple of parades, popped a few bottles of alcohol and called it a day. The Terran policy of wartime production shifted to include civilian and scientific vessels and they funded new exploration and research. But they seemed to be waiting for another war. They looked out and tried to predict the next one. Can you imagine? The galaxy had just gone through war of an unanticipated scale and the Terran Republic was already preparing for more of it. I was determined to make a deeper connection with humanity. A connection to something other than war. I arrived at my post and worked hard to foster trade agreements and shipping lanes of goods. My human staff consisted of bright, hard-working people. Ambassador Guan introduced us all personally. There was Justin Ivanov, Amy Battacharjee, and Robert Ethrington. There was also Jess Connolly, Ian Nakasingh, Vivian Hong and Evan Fitz. If you look into my record, Minister Khor, you will find that together, we were quite successful in our endeavors to tie our economies and people closer together. Our efforts inevitably brought us closer together as people, and as sentient beings. Ambassador Pebha’s training had left me well off in relating to my fellow sentient beings. To underline just how close we became, let me share a couple of examples. It was my third Earth year serving at H Station. At this point, the team of humans assigned to me had opened up a bit more. I met some of their siblings who visited the station, had the occasional meal after work with them. We spent an awful lot of time together, working on projects that included finalizing aid packages for hard-hit areas post-war. It was rewarding work. Vivian Hong invited me to a celebration of her child. They called it a birthday celebration, or birthday party. Now remember, I was into my third Earth year working with these people. Vivian had given birth into my first year. I knew very well this woman’s child was well over a full human year out from it’s day of birth. In fact, it was closer to two years. Of course, I accepted. If it’s a party, it’s a party, right? These humans didn’t seem to celebrate much, given their suppressed reaction at the end of the war, so I wasn’t going to complain. I also figured that given human physiology, perhaps a year was about the time it took after giving birth that she felt able to finally party. The entire birth process is very taxing for humans, it turns out. I went to this party. I had thought the celebration would have been for Vivian and her mate – her husband – to celebrate having a child, albeit after the fact. Instead, it was a celebration for the child, named Jack. Apparently Jack was supposed to be the one having the greatest time, even though he was not yet developed enough to appreciate much, let alone celebrate it. I arrived to the party with a bottle of Yarud spirits and Vivian was happy to accept it. Several other infants from Jack’s day care were there and rolled around with each other in a side room. Their parents and Vivian and me, along with several others from the office, mingled in some of the other rooms. It was, what I was coming to realize, a typical human party. In other words, a somewhat low energy affair. Nice, but more of a quiet event than the term ‘party’ implies. Vivian, Jess, and the father of one of the other infants put in a great deal of labor into a baked dessert. Once it was done, they placed flammables – candles – on top and lit them! I had heard of this trend, but assumed it was a figure of speech or a mistranslation. Make no mistake. I have no doubt their obsession with war starts with early in life. Children train in overcoming one’s fears by having to defeat combustible material in order to access the reward of the dessert. Little Jack, only two years old now, was eager to show his fearlessness in the face of fire. He couldn’t string a sentence together, but he could quench the flames. They had even hired had a “clown.” Someone who professionally exaggerates humanity. He specialized in educating children on hiding misdirection behind curtains and sleight of hand. I asked Vivian about the tradition of a child’s birthday. She explained that birthdays are one of the traditions practiced by nearly all humans, regardless of ethnic background or religion. With some exceptions, most everyone valued their date of birth as a testament to having survived the trials their planet had thrown at them. Annually marking a human’s day of birth is a reminder of survival and endurance. “Wait, you don’t celebrate birthdays?” Robert Ethrington asked me. I explained how, no, birthdays do not hold the same meaning with Yarud people. We celebrate anniversaries of certain historical days, holidays, births (at the actual birth, not annually), deaths, and many other occasions that held no meaning for humans. Yarud people love celebrations, but someone’s continued existence was not something we’ve learned to celebrate. “Huh,” Robert said. “So you’re like a Jehovah’s Witness?” “I haven’t met Jehovah’s witness, so I don’t know. But if the witness also does not celebrate birthdays, then yes, I think the comparison fits.” I answered. Little Jack opened presents – a strange affair where Jack’s fellow infants supposedly made or purchased items for Jack as gifts in celebration for his birthday. It was clear to me that the parents of said children had done all of the work, but claimed it was from their one or two-year-old instead. And when I say Jack opened them, I mean Vivian and Randy, Jack’s father, opened them on Jack’s behalf. See? They train secrecy early on, right down to wrapping gifts to hide their contents until opened. Though the ‘party’ was a pleasant event, it was far from the sorts of parties a Yarud family would throw. I found myself leaving at the end, having imbibed in much alcohol along with the other parents. I remember leaving with a warm, contented feeling of closeness and camaraderie. This is the first example of how close we had become. Vivian had felt comfortable allowing me into her home, and into the presence of her offspring. It was becoming clear to me humans don’t celebrate the same things, nor do they celebrate to the same extent as us Yarud. It made my invitation into Vivian’s home all the more significant. As for my second example of how close we became, I will detail it here: Perhaps three months or so had passed when the Terran Republic determined to move our Embassy to Earth. It seemed relations were progressing nicely. It would be some months before we would make the move, but Vivian had winked at me. [Wink: a facial event where only one eye is closed ‘at’ someone else to warn of deception.] Apparently, she had been wanting to be closer to her extended family for the sake of Jack, and my behavior at the birthday party had been ‘good.’ Another example of how humans use misdirection to test the waters. A few weeks later at the office, Robert asked me whether I would like to visit Earth to celebrate his birthday. Did I ever. Little Jack’s birthday was a small affair, but Little Jack was small, to be fair. I instantly accepted and began imagining what an adult human’s birthday party would entail. Robert could ‘hold his liquor’ quite well, as the saying goes. Alcohol consumption was a safe bet. He was a veteran of the war. Perhaps some sort of war game? It had been several years since my first visit to Earth, and we wouldn’t be spending it on C Station. I was eager to tour Earth like no non-human had been permitted to before. Robert had invited everyone from the office and several of his friends from years past to his family’s home in a place called Wyoming. It is located in the contiguous region of one of Earth’s larger nation states. Compared to H Station, it was desolate. It was big. It isn’t even considered that big on the scale of states in this part of the world, but trust me. It’s big. Minister Khor, I know you hail from the Chanviol region, one of Yarud’s most developed and advanced regions. I, myself, come from Prilshen, which is also rather metropolitan. Therefore, we have had similar upbringings in metropolitan and industrialized spaces. This place, Wyoming, it is not so. I mention it is big. It is small in population, but big in space. They have cities and towns, yes. But they are relatively inconsequential in population and situated far from each other. Beyond their limits is a vast land. Much of it is agricultural. Much of it is wilderness. I was given instruction not to stray out of ‘earshot’ of Robert’s parent’s house alone. Their house is situated in a place in the wilderness. I do not know the exact address or placement. It is on a mountainside, hidden by enormous trees with enormous wild animals roaming the land. As I say: wilderness. It turns out Robert’s idea of a good birthday celebration is also what Yarud people would consider to be laid back. There was alcohol, certainly. It seems Robert enjoyed the quiet of the outdoors. We went in groups on something called hikes, where people travel in a pack over rough terrain for the enjoyment. Navigating and surviving in a harsh environment was so ingrained into human culture, they saw this practice of traversing dangerous ground as a pleasant, even spiritual practice. “I get to connect to my roots!” Robert told me, wiggling his brows. I believe it was a double meaning. He was wandering along the forest floor, with the roots of the trees. He was also ‘reconnecting’ as he put it, with his sense of home. Robert wanted to show me the sights and he took me out to go fishing, as he told his parents. I had researched what fishing meant in this region, so I was surprised when we arrived at the fishing spot. It turned out Robert never particularly liked fishing, but instead wanted to show me how he truly enjoyed his time outdoors. “I’ve done this ever since I was a kid,” he told me. We retreated up the hill a ways into a clearing. He set the fishing poles aside and laid back into the grasses. “Look at that one,” he said. “What do you think it looks like?” He was pointing at a cloud. Clouds, Minister, are quite common on Earth. While Yarud has them only rarely, precipitation is frequent around the planet Earth, and clouds are abundant. I had some misgivings about laying supine on the ground where any predator species, present company aside, could happen upon us. Nonetheless, I trusted Robert. I lay down and looked at his selected cloud again. “It looks like an elephant splashing in water to me.” Robert explained. “What about that one?” Robert taught me about his self-declared favorite activity when outdoors. He called it ‘The Cloud Game,’ although my research on it later revealed that it is also known as ‘Cloud Watching.’ It is exactly what it sounds like. Participants sit or lay down and watch clouds. They attempt to superimpose a similar image in what they call their ‘mind’s eye.’ Essentially, Robert would pick a cloud and imagine what else it might resemble, that is not cloud-based. Perhaps a cloud’s outline might resemble a dog or a plane, etc. I believe it is an activity originally developed as a method of training children to examine their surroundings with critical observation. “Thank you for coming with me.” Robert eventually said. “I haven’t gotten to do this in a few years.” Just like with Little Jack’s birthday, I felt an internal warmth and closeness at having been included in such a meaningful ritual. It turns out that Robert and his sister played this game together throughout their lives. They would participate upon returning home after bouts of education or occupation and the like. Given how close they were, I wondered at her absence at Robert’s birthday celebration. Robert’s sister, it further transpired, was killed during the war, and he felt close to her whenever he took up cloud watching. Unlike Little Jack’s birthday, I now had an additional feeling layered on top of these sentiments of closeness. A visceral, pulling sensation of anguish and guilt. I had taken, however fleetingly, his sister’s place. I asked Robert about his sister, as I had been told that talking about lost loved ones can be therapeutic and helpful. She had been brave. Strong. And smart, and silly and beautiful and witty and spontaneous and ridiculously funny. She had a bunch of awards, ribbons and achievements. She had volunteered for some of the toughest of jobs during the war. She had been fearless. Mostly, she was his baby sister. We suddenly realized the sun was hanging low and we were expected back. Robert was experiencing what he called ‘hay fever,’ with leaking eyes and a running nose, so he thoughtfully went off for a couple of minutes to clear his sinuses before guiding me back to the house. The two instances above explain how integrated I became with my human colleagues. Therefore, you may wonder what has transpired to result in such a drastic breakdown of friendship. Alas, perhaps it never was friendship. I wonder now whether any of it was true. Humanity is excellent at smoke and mirrors and misdirection. They are trained from infancy in all manner of concealment. We soon moved the embassy to Earth, and I was enjoying my ability to explore different areas freely. The Terran Republic had tentatively decided the embassy would be located in one of the major cities of New York. Apparently, it had also been the location of the headquarters for their planetary United Nations. They were also leaning towards other cities, and C Station, but for now, I was able to roam freely while being based in New York. Considering I look like a ‘Giant Armadillo’ according to many of the residents, they took my presence in stride. I know I previously noted our resemblance to a humanoid pangolin, but apparently the people of New York’s region don’t have those. The closest-looking animal they thought of was the armadillo. I have sent a series of memos which tell of my increasing concern over something called Operation Shawkenaw. It was perhaps seven months after the Wyoming trip that I first heard Ian Nakasingh murmur it to Jess Connolly. I heard it before I rounded a corner in our new office, and came face to face with them. Ordinarily, I am fairly certain I wouldn’t have thought much, if anything, of it. But Ian and Jess’s immediate expressions of guarded suspicion stuck to my mind. Weeks later, I happened upon Ian and Evan Fitz discussing, in hushed tones, something regarding Shawkenaw having enough time. Ian told Evan not to worry, because they had plenty of time to prepare. The memoranda that I filed previously chronicles a long series of instances of suspicious mentions regarding Operation Shawkenaw. You will note that from the first time I stumbled upon it, Operation Shawkenaw was clearly already an operation that had been green-lit. Now, it was clear that whatever it was, it wasn’t necessarily imminent. As I continued to tally up my colleagues who all seemed to know of and have a roll in Operation Shawkenaw, my worries grew. I could not ignore the twitching curtain. I began taking extemporaneous notes, many of which you have at your disposal to review. In summation:
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A Complete Subjective Musing on Every Song in the Vulfpeck Discography
Greetings! If you recall, u/MeanMrMusician posted rankings of each album. And I commented, with my own all-too-thourough ranking and reviewing. They didn't get a lot of views, so here I am reposting them all! They might be incoherent as heck but oh well. Lmk if u want me to do other albums/songs in the vulfiverse! MIT PECK
Tomboy - funky as hell, wildly underrated, but not very hooky
Rango - excellent drumming by jack. Joe's bass is practically at a normal volume here. the second one is still miles ahead
Cars Too - I have a soft spot. it's low-key genius, the video is hilarious, and it's not entirely unlistenable.
Prom - absolutely love this song. They really gotta bring it back. Jack at his finest on the drums
Beastly - the FRESHNESS in the room. it just feels so hopeful, so full of potential. not much needs to be said about this one
IGF - Woody kills, Joe kills, Theo kills, but we gotta take a sec to talk about the MIXING. Jack's wurli is indistinguishable, yet provides this backdrop, this color behind the piano. absolutely brilliant.
VOLLMILCH 6: Barbara - absolutely legendary track. not a bad track on this album. drumming is excellent, just a very solid song. not as much going on, which is why it's at the bottom. 5: Outro - CLASSIC track. Something's gotta go below the others. i cannot comprehend theo's hi hat work. absolutely fire. 4: Mean Girls - incredibly solid song. Woody, theo, and joe just get such space to shred here, and it's wonderful. While jack does some truly weird shit all the while. 3: IGF II - on the longer side, but just so unique. nothing else like it in the vulf catalog. spotlight on joey's work on the moog- absolutely makes the track. there's a few runs there which are just WILD. Woody's pocket piano work is real nice too. 2: Walk to Remember - Just so. much. pocket. jack's finest drumming right here, with an amazing drum sound to boot. joe's playing is off the charts, as is woody's. great composition as well. wish theo was on the track, but that's it. 1: A&A - of course this is #1. just the grooviest. Theo slays, woody/jack are iconic, joe lays back, it's all been said. criminally underrated. MY FIRST CAR (wow so apprently these got longer as they went on) 6: IGF III - the only vulf song i truly don't like. it just feels so unimaginative- there's just nothing that pops. it feels tired. also, while i love joey, he's just not woody, and his lines on the moog just don't carry the track the same way. the drum sound is nice, though.
Kuhmilch - i know a lotta folks don't love this one, but I quite like it. it's a very different and cool vibe, and it's sick how everything's distorted. i just wish the video was a bit less wonky, so i could actually tell what anyone's playing..
4: The Speedwalker - just a super solid vulf song. little to say here. very excited for flyers remake. 3: Birdwatcher- is it jarring after WFTM? yes. but still an excellent song. joe's bassline (if it is him) is super lyrical, woody's keys playing is spot on, and every overdub just makes sense. 2: My First Car - it's a testament to the strength of this song that it's #2 and the original is the worst version. everyone just performs their role perfectly. the fat snare took time to grow on me, but it grooves. theo and woody do a great job holding out too. but the MSG version is spectacular, and the vulfy xmas verison is SUBLIME. 1: WFTM - it's just gotta be this song. joe and theo are right in the pocket, woody's fills are tasteful as hell, and the vocal- holy heck. one of the greatest vocal perforances of all time. beautiful mix on the vocal too, with the gradually increasing echo. but moreover, WFTM is just perfect. it's incredible. no other vulf song, or really any song period, has touched me and been there for me in the way that it has. i'm not a religious guy, but hearing this song is an exhilarating, enlightening, and downright spiritual experience. FUGUE STATE 6: Xmas in LA (inst) - it's an undeniably groovy track. doesn't quite need to be an instrumental imo tho; it's just a very minimalist song, with not enough variation to warrant it. and they were write to cut that second verse. 5: Newsbeat - ridiculously overlooked track. really sophisticated composition by woody, the way it casually modulates and finishes a whole step down. theo also cops a guitar part quite nicely. 4: 1612 - okay, strike me down, god. don't get me wrong- this is a fabulous song, and it's ridiculously catchy. I'd argue it to be the poppiest song they've made, owing to the sheer simplicity of it. but it is great. 3: First Place - criminally underrated tune. Jack and Woody play some of their finest keys, and theo's drumming is really tight. the tune is just really well constructed too, it's got such a nice build. shoutout to the amazing live version at the blind pig gig. 2: Skymall - one of the best vulf videos of all time. Joe is inhuman, the wurli leg is a thing of legends, and theo's expressions just crack me up. i wanna hear woody's guitar part is all.... 1: Fugue State - a masterpiece in throughcomposed funk writing. tight playing from everyone involved. just so immaculate. THRILL OF THE ARTS 10: Guided Smile Meditation - It's freaking hilarious and Jack Stratton is a genius, but it just ain't a song. 9: Walkies - Only at the bottom bc of its length. it honestly accomplishes a whole lot for being so short. love the echo'd theo drum solo. 8: Christmas in L.A. - don't worry, OP. it's an absolutely genius song, and David T's work on it is a lot of fun. agree that the live performance is somewhat weathered, but it's fun to give Theo a moment to shine as the mc. 7: Game Winner - Joey pulls out this song a lot, but for good reason - it's really solid. Charles Jones sounds amazing, as does David T, and the swish is just *perfection*. It's sort of a harbinger of Finish Line, to me; Theo and Woody are totally sidelined in favor of guest vocalists, Joey songs, and David T. 6: Smile Meditation - it's morphed into the go to guest number live, but it's really just such a chill track. Tyler Duncan's whistle is exactly the right choice here. sure, the squirly noises at the end are annoying, but that's usually when i pause. 5: Funky Duck - Antawun Stanley is extraordinary. the way he practically yodels on this song and manages to make it sound sick is just incredible. Jack plays some very solid clav on this one. check the version done live at Lockn - they drop the Cory-in-the-crowd shtick for some INCREDIBLE solos. 4: Welcome to Vulf Records - I really considered not putting this one as high, but it's really, really good. shoutout to Theo's excellent drumming on this one. 3: Back Pocket - is it poppy? yes. is it catchy? holy shit, yes. and it still feels like vulf. everyone's right in the pocket and it wORKS. richie makes this track. quite enjoy it live, too. 2: Conscious Club (Inst) - thank god for instrumentals, in this case. I LOVE this track so much. stripping back the massive layers of the one w/ vocals, this one highlights some WICKED bass playing and Richie's congas, which absolutely (again) make the track. Jack's tambourine overdub may be one of the most tasteful and genius mixing choices I've ever heard. 1: Rango II - yeah, sorry OP. it's just. so. good. Blake Mills is a literal sorcerer if i've ever seen one. the build in this song is ART. blake really leads the charge in the actual take, with woody and joe following suit and matching him just perfectly. Jack totally runs with it in post, muting himself and theo, and adding that ridiculous crescendo. it's just a masterpiece. THE BEAUTIFUL GAME 10: Conscious Club - yeah, swing at me, other commenter. it's just messy. the instrumental was a sleek, minimalist funk piece. This thing is a washed reverb-y mess, with somewhat cringey spoken word. yeah, i said it. I love vulf's shtick, but it's weird when it's not jack stratton. the tambourine is gone, replaced maybe with trap hats, which don't provide the same definition. Laura Mace does a good job with what she's got though. And I do like the cascading harmonies at the end. It's not all bad. 9: Sweet Science - it ain't quite a song. But it is a sick intro. I love getting confused looks from others only for them to fall away as Animal Spirits kicks in. 8: Margery, My First Car - It's nice enough. It's a cool vibe, and unlike anything else on the album. Nothing too groundbreaking. i wish cory's overdub didn't completely wipe out theo's original part - this happens at MSG too. 7: El Chepe - It's a vibe. rich hinman is a legend, and woody is super laid back in it. theo quietly makes the track on drums. I really, really prefer the live version at SiriusXM, tho. 6: Aunt Leslie - A sMashing song. we're getting to the good stuff now. Cory does a lot of heavy lifting. the real mvp here is Jack, for really creating the vibe of this song in post. you've got that snare sample, the high piano in the chorus, gaudy strings, the whole deal. banging song. 5: Cory Wong - okay, sue me. The live version is aMAZING. Cory Wong is a wonderful addition to the band. Joe is a maniac. But the studio version is fairly simple, and almost tame in comparison to the live stuff. It's still an all time classic though; every song on this album is. (It also birthed many of the particularly oft-overused vulf references, such as "this is all i know", "woody smiles..." "funky/low volume", etc. not bashing any of these, just saying that they aren't the only funny things the band has done. a discussion for another time,...) 4: Dean Town - once again, sue me. The actual song doesn't have a whole lot to it. It really, really works. Joe is amazing, but that's not news; the band is incredibly funky, locked-in, and tasteful; also nothing new. Dean Town to me represents more of a cultural phenomenon, a zeitgeist, in a way. It takes an album track featuring the bass player recorded in the living room and gives it 10 MILLION(!!) views on yt and the entirety of MSG singing along to the bassline. That's the infectiousness, and the true gift of Dean Town. 3: Animal Spirits - the A-side to Dean's B-side. A lot of folks really can't stand the song, and it is quite poppy. but beneath the poppy vocals lies a really well-written and complex-yet-catchy keyboard song. Also, Jack Stratton plays the trombone. For real. 2: 1 for 1, Dimaggio - a lot of people are annoyed by it yes. and maybe I'm biased because ik how baseball works. but my god, this track is good. to me, it represents everything vulfpeck is special for. every instrumentalist does his job perfectly, and the balance is amazing; Joe and Cory are an absolute machine propelling this track, while Jack/Woody manage to give it that old-timey feel. The organ synth makes so much sense on this. And Antawun is just full of joy and happiness and by god it's so catchy and agghghh 1: Tesla - This is it. The ultimate groove machine. Jamire Williams SLAYS. Joe is OUTsTANDING. also some of the best Stratton guitar plonking around. but it really morphs into a different sorta thing live. Tesla at MSG is one of the most exciting things I've ever heard. Nate Smith is glorious, and Joe/Cory/Theo are a powerhouse. Also, Joey Dosik. Holy shit, that sax. This is just the ultimate track. MR FINISH LINE 10/9: Vulf Pack/Grandma - I can't decide. Vulf Pack feels like exactly what the generic-ass name implies: a sad lil number dedicated to appeasing the instrumental and just-the-four-of-them side of the fanbase, and to be a nod to the olden days. It fails at that miserably. Jack on guitar is something that no one asked for, and the track itself just isn't catchy and feels sparse. It's the only time we get to hear Joe, and Theo on drums is sorely missed on the rest of the album, but that's it. Grandma was just not a great song to bring to the boys. It's really, really long, and quite repetitive. Antawun kills as always, but even he wears thin by the end. And it just feels like a waste of the amazing musicians. Gadson is j sitting there the whole time whacking his knee. The bicentennial riff at the end is nice, but feels like charity for Gadson and Joe. At least Woody and Gabe Noel (bet you forgot he was on this record) get some time to shine. 8: Business Casual - Really not the worst song ever. Joe kills, and Coco O sounds nice. And it's a nice song, with fun quirky lyrics. The Back Pocket solo feels super hackneyed, though, and drags it down a good bit. And I quite like the gentle ending of the song. It's just unfathomable to me how that group of backing singers can possibly sound bad. Antawun's voice sticks out like a sore thumb, and all the boys are singing like they have to poop. Perhaps it's a mixing thing, or a delivery thing. 7: Captain Hook - Okay, memes aside, this song kinda slaps. The instrumental is what Vulf Pack couldn't do; a super tight song with just the four of them. Jack kills on drums, and it's the only time on the album we can actually hear Theo play guitar. The lyrics are also some of Jack's finest, with wordplay abounding. Wait, what are the downsides? Oh yeah, Bootsy doesn't play on it and Baby Theo gets old. Yeah, not the best. But not the worst. 6: Baby I Don't Know Oh Oh - It's a lovely song. No particular reason that it's down here, only that the rest of the album is a bit tighter. I don't love the hihats being low in the mix, and theo and woody are underutilized. but it's super sick. Charles is ridiculous, Ryan Lerman is an excellent guitarist, and Joey's solo is very hooky and good. 5: Running Away - An excellent and brilliantly written song by Joey Dosik. I absolutely love the mix on this one, and Gadson builds it perfectly. There are a lot of musicians here, and they run together a bit, but it's a washy sorta song. The sax feels a bit unnecessary, but all aroung a killer track. 4: Mr. Finish Line - ridiculously catchy. Jack's drumming on this is pure funky goodness, and Cory carries. This one is minimalist to the max, and executed perfectly; you've got four musicians playing the same riff at the same time and it doesn't get heavy. And somehow the Back Pocket solo feels more deserved here, perhaps cuz it's a cooler synth tone. 3: Hero Town - I get that not everyone loves this song, but hot DAMN is it funky. The glorious chunkiness of Jack's piano and Theo's/Cory's guitars just make this song move right along. And Michael Bland delivers some sorcerer-level pocket here, and whoo lord that break. Add in some super tasteful wah organ playing by Woody and sick sax and goddamn this is good. 2: Tee Time - Woody Goss does it again, folks. I don't have much to say about this one, but my god is it a banger. it manages to feel fresh and surprising listen after listen. 1: Birds of a Feather - good god, i love this song. where to start. Jack's pancake work is ingenious, and brilliantly in time. Joey plays some of his best keys, augmented by Woody's ridiculously tasteful wah pianet. and Antawun is one of the greatest song architects out there today, building this song perfectly throughout and just being amazing. And the backing vocal sounds insanely perfect and serene. This is just one of the best sounding songs in existence. I love falling asleep to it at 2am, waking up to it in the morning, or just being calmed by it. Literal art HILL CLIMBER 10: Darwin Derby - sorry about that. it's undeniably catchy. the bassline combines with the guitars in such a sick way, and the boys are skilled, no doubt. but it all just feels really heavy; Jack's kick sound is way too big, the interlocking guitars are genius yet fill up the whole track, and Woody's improvising just feels messy over top of it all (Joey is virtually inaudilble, probably an astute decision). And I really wish we could hear Antawum a bit more, and that we actually had a song for him on this album. He gets screwed on For Survival as well. 9: Lost my Treble - okay, don't laugh yet. once again, every song on this album is great. Joe is as much of a maniac as ever, Theo on congas is fun, and the Tiny Desk video is a hoot. But let's be real, there's not a whole lot that's groundbreaking here. Joey's sax melody is insipidly simple, and Cory being panned in a different place every five seconds is uncanny. Great song, just never been my favorite. 8: Cup Stacker - I didn't love this one at first. It's so dang repetitive, and besides the sick Jack/Theo drum gimmick, not a lot going on. But then you realize that in the zen of it all, there's a lot more to it. Idk who put together these parts, but it is wizardry the way they work together. Joey's is the perfect subtle bolster to Woody's playing, which is delightfully sloppy. an excellent track. 7: For Survival - Yeah, a lot of people don't like this track. Mike Viola sounds really abrasive and is a jump after the Theo section, it's a loud and brash song, the animojis are annoying, etc. But in the end it's just an absolutely banging bluesy song. Cory's break at the end is ridiculously tasty, and Joey is the unsung hero of this track on the b3. 6: Lonely Town - it despairs me putting this song at #6. I love this song very much. It's nice to see the four of them in a room again. The bed of acoustic guitars is so cozy, and Woody's piano is super tasteful. The lyrics/melody is also so lovely and quaint and Beatles-y and I love it. 5: Soft Parade - good lord these guys are good musicians. this is the Vulf Pack we wanted. Jack and Woody are absolutely locked in on keys, and Theo's one-handed drumming is some of the sickest shit i've ever seen (i honestly prefer it to Nate's one-uppage on FFII). Also, the panning of the keys with the video is GENIUS. so good. 4: Half of the Way - it's just a damn good pop song. So freaking good. (I made an acapella cover of it that might see the light of day someday.) Jack plays some of his best drums here. And yeah, the mixing is undeniably weird; Cory is almost inaudible, and Joey's been sidelined by some synths. But it still bops, and it makes sense. Vulf is really leaning into the pop side of it on this record, but it's executed so well. 3: Love is a Beautiful Thing - A beautifully simple song by Theo. Is this the ultimate version? who knows; it's such a different animal from the acapella stuff from solo Theo. But holy shit the execution is amazing. Each band member does exactly what they need to support the track. Joe's playing is super tasteful, and Theo does exactly what a rhythm guitar is supposed to. Cory's bari work is really really sensitive. But the kicker for me is Woody. His wurli swells are ever so subtle, but just extraordinary. Gosh. Oh yeah, Monica Martin is an angel and her and Theo have insane vocal (and more?) chemistry. 2: Disco Ulysses - This is it right here, boys. The perfect instrumental pop funk song. It's so perfect it doesn't even feel like a single take thing. Where to begin.... Everything is mixed ridiculously well, and all the boys execute their parts really solidly. Theo and Woody in particular add so much depth and color to their parts. Also, Joe Dart. 1: IGF IV - I just had to. I made a previous comment about this that I can't find, but just- the mixing. Imma leave it at that coz my computer's boutta die but will elaborate on request damn this is long tl;dr - vulf good, igf III bad
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