My Ten Favorite Articles That I Wrote in 2014

Last December, I highlighted my ten favorite articles that I wrote in 2013, and I’ve decided to try it again this year.

First, here’s a quick summary of my 2014: I continued writing for the Austin Chronicle, mostly covering local news. I’m still the opinion editor for The Horn and still occasionally contribute to the Dallas Observer and The Dallas Morning News. I’ve kept writing for the Texas Travesty, which was named the “Readers Best Local Non-‘Chronicle’ Publication” by the Austin Chronicle (and during the fall, I was the Travesty‘s Senior Food Critic). At school, I’ve studied and written about a variety of topics, including history, Christianity, and hip-hop. In the spring, I rapped for charity. In November, I started working part-time for Pluckers Wing Bar, handling marketing and donations.

All in all, I wrote over fifty articles this year. Below, in chronological order, are the ten of my articles from 2014 that I’m most proud of:

1. “For popular rapper, an unusual calling card: sobriety” – The Dallas Morning News – February 14:

I grew up reading The Dallas Morning News‘ Points Section every Sunday morning, and those articles definitely helped inspire me to write. So it was a dream come true when my essay about rapper Macklemore and his struggle with addiction was published in the Sunday Points section.

2. “Facebook ‘Threat’ Case Unresolved” – Austin Chronicle – February 28:

While an especially frustrating case to cover, the story of Justin Carter is an important story for me  – and anyone else who values free speech. My reporting on the case was even cited by NPR.

3. “Online Privacy: Technical, Political, or Both?” – Austin Chronicle – March 28:

As a result of whistle-blower Edward Snowden’s leaks, many Americans are becoming more conscious of their online privacy and security. I interviewed multiple experts for the story, including Phil Zimmermann, Elissa Shevinsky, and more.

4. “Stand up to injustice, even if you stand alone — and remember the ‘tank man’” – The Dallas Morning News – June 5:

The Tiananmen Square protester known simply as ‘Tank Man’ has long been a hero of mine, so I was grateful to get to write about his heroism, twenty-five years after the event.

5. “The Texas GOP Stands on a Platform of Ignorance” – Reason – June 28:

Reason is one of my favorite publications, so I was honored to write for them. Earlier this year, the Texas Republican Party’s 2014 platform condemned homosexuality, arguing that being gay “must not be presented as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.” They even supported reparative therapy, a controversial practice aimed at helping homosexuals embrace their “authentic” heterosexual identity. And I wasn’t too happy about that, so I wrote about it.

6. “The Best Bible Verse-Checks in the History of Rap” – On Faith – July 29:

In 2013, I explored the profane by writing about “The 30 Most Disturbing Songs of All Time.” This year, I strayed from the profane and focused on the sacred – I wrote about the best Biblical allusions in hip-hop.

7. “A.Dd+ Chronicle Their Nawfside Love on New Nawf EP” – Dallas Observer – August 12:

Just this last week, Dallas hip-hop duo A.Dd+ won three Dallas Observer Music Awards – Best EP, Best Rap/Hip-Hop Act, and Best Live Act. Back in August, I interviewed the duo about their Nawf EP – which pays homage to ‘Nawf Dallas,’ the neighborhood where the duo is from (and where I’m from as well).

8. “Talking Songs with Joe Purdy” – The Horn – September 10:

Joe Purdy is one of my all-time favorite musicians, and I had the privilege of interviewing the singer-songwriter before covering his concert in Austin.

9. “Pluckers is the bomb – ISIS is not” – Texas Travesty – September 23:

If there’s one thing I love, it’s Pluckers Wing Bar. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s war. So I connected the two in one of my (hopefully) humorous articles as the Texas Travesty‘s Senior Food Critic.

10. UFC Fight Night Pounds the Erwin Center” – Austin Chronicle – November 24:

While I’m generally not too big of a sports fan, I do enjoy MMA, and I was lucky enough to cover a UFC event for the Chronicle. And before covering the event itself, I had the chance to interview UFC featherweight Cub Swanson.

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Recommended Readings – June, 2014

Every so often, I share some of the articles that I’ve really enjoyed recently, regardless of the subject or length or source. Feel free to check out some of my other recommendations from 2013 (February 17thJune 20thJuly 28th, & August 8th) or earlier this year (March 2014), as I try to make my suggested articles as timeless as possible – after all, as Henry David Thoreau suggested in his Life Without Principle, “Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.” Below, in no particular order, are seven articles that I highly recommend. Let me know what you think.

A cartoon by Tom Gauld, Guardian Review.

A cartoon by Tom Gauld, Guardian Review.

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Recommendations (July 28, 2013)

I’ve come across a lot of great works over the past few weeks, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites.  Most of these are not new, but they were new to me, so they might be new to you as well.

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Recommended reading (Feb. 17, 2013)

This weekend I’ve made time to read what I want rather than forcing myself to endure assigned readings.  Here are some of the articles that I especially enjoyed:

“The Essay, an Exercise in Doubt” by Phillip Lopate for The New York Times. A great article discussing what makes the art of an essay so intriguing: “Argumentation is a good skill to have, but the real argument should be with oneself.”

“The Killing of Black Boys” by John Edgar Wideman for Essence magazine. A powerful take on the lasting legacy of an unimaginable tragedy: “I cannot wish away Emmett Till’s face. The horrific death mask of his erased features marks a place I ignore at my peril. The sight of a grievous wound. A wound unhealed because untended. Beneath our nation’s pieties, our lies and self-delusions, our denials and distortions of history, our professed certainties about race, lies chaos. The whirlwind that swept Emmett Till away and brings him back.”

“5 Reasons to Grand Amnesty to Illegal Immigrants” by Ed Krayewski for Reason. A well-argued defense of an unpopular idea: “What’s wrong with granting amnesty to hard-working, tax-paying individuals whose only crime is their immigration status? Indeed, amnesty is not only the best solution to our immigration problem, it is the only feasible solution.”

“How Crazy Is Too Crazy to Be Executed?” by Marc Bookman for Mother Jones. A detailed account of Andre Thomas’ gruesome insanity: “Andre had cut out the children’s hearts and returned home with the organs in his pockets. For another, he was careful to use three different knives so that the blood from each body would not cross-contaminate, thereby ensuring that the demons inside each of them would die. He then stabbed himself in the chest, but he did not die as he had hoped.”

“American Citizens Split On DOJ Memo Authorizing Government to Kill Them” from The Onion. As always, The Onion uses satire to point out society’s absurdity: “On the one hand, I get it—it’s important for the government to be able to murder me and any of my friends or family members whenever they please for reputed national security reasons. But on the other hand, it would kind of be nice to stay alive and have, maybe, a trial, actual evidence—stuff like that.”

Stop Whitewashing History: The Civil War Was About Slavery

In one of my opinion columns for The Horn, I advocated removing the statues of Confederate leaders from the University of Texas at Austin’s campus. I’ve been surprised and disappointed by how many people are truly proud of our Confederate history. Many believe that slavery wasn’t the main cause of the Civil War, and that the Southerners were fighting “about autonomy/ freedom from a authoritarian government,” as one commenter wrote.

In fact, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2011 found that 48% of Americans considered states’ rights to be the primary cause of the war, compared to only 38% who said the war was mainly about slavery.

However, the vast majority of historians today, as well as firsthand accounts from the time, point out that slavery was undoubtedly the primary factor of the American Civil War (although, of course, not the only cause).

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Unredeemable Racism: A Review of D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation

While director D.W. Griffith‘s Birth of a Nation (1915) utilized revolutionary film techniques and influenced audiences nationwide, it is widely frowned upon today (and rightly so) for its grotesque racism. Lasting over three hours, the silent epic covers many personal, local, and national issues.

Griffith wanted the film to viewed as not only historically accurate, but morally true as well. Not simply a reflection of the culture, he hoped the film would help shape American culture (and it did, unfortunately).

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A Lone Star Solution: School Safety

In the wake of an unacceptable number of school shootings, the country is in agreement that something must be done.  As far as what should be done, well, we seem to be even more divided than we are on most other political issues – and in America that’s saying something.

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Football is king – but should it be?

“Sectional football games have the glory and the despair of war, and when a Texas team takes the field against a foreign state, it is an army with banners,” John Steinbeck wrote in his Travels with Charley.

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When I first considered myself a writer

I’ve known how to write for a very, very long time.  But knowing how to write doesn’t make you a writer, in the same way that knowing how to shoot a basketball doesn’t make you an athlete (although it took me quite a while to realize that).

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