Here’s one that I’m sure hasn’t been mentioned: Ben Folds Five’s “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces.” It’s the best track to end on, especially when you need that extra kick. How many workout songs have that much piano in them?
“Army” from Ben Folds has been on my running playlist for years.
(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)
But the weirdest song—I can’t even remember where I first heard it—is Plaisir de France’s “Le Responsable Revisite.” I can’t even buy this anywhere! So I have to have it queued up on YouTube to work it in, but that’s how good it is.
(Track of the Day archive here. Access it through Spotify here. Submit via hello@)
A reader submitted this Trina song for our groupthink playlist of greatest, weirdest running songs—which may come as a surprise to any fans of mainstream rap circa the late ‘90s and early aughts. To be fair, our reader did designate it for our “best running tracks” list—surely a more fitting home for Da Baddest Bitch. I suppose we broadened the scope of our main playlist with our latest update, and honestly, who am I to turn away Trina on the grounds of mere semantics?
I’m not one for making hard-and-fast New Year’s resolutions. But I do tend to start the year with an idea of how I’d like it to go, who I’d like to be—sort of a rosy view of the months ahead.
I fell out of running last year thanks to a gnarly overuse injury (finishing a half-marathon and an overnight relay in the same month might’ve been a tad ambitious). But after some physical therapy and developing an intimate relationship with my foam roller, I’m ready to pick up where I left off as the new year gets under way. In 2016, I’d like to be a runner again.
So far, that’s meant rediscovering just how many excuses I can make to avoid doing something that doesn’t feel quite so breezy anymore. Thank God for playlists.
Last month, Adrienne put out a call for the underappreciated gems on your running playlists—the weirdest, greatest songs that maybe no one else would understand but get you amped to pound through the next mile.
Unless you’re in the later stages of marathon training (or a maniacal ultramarathoner), you probably don’t need a five-hour-long running playlist. This is meant for you to skip through and find songs that unexpectedly get you vibin’. I tried to include close to all the suggestions we got (Chris’s picks are published here as daily tracks), though some weren’t on Spotify or were too vague to decipher.
After putting Adrienne’s “Boléro” up top for this weirdo playlist, I grouped your submitted jams according to a general run’s flow: easing in at the beginning, building up with some heart-pounders, peaks and valleys throughout to keep your pace interesting (my greatest DJ triumph will surely be Sigur Rós leading into “Baby Got Back”), and some definitively laid-back tracks toward the end for your cool-down.
Have fun with this; try working out to something you never would’ve considered before. How, for example, had it not occurred to me to try sprinting to “In the Hall of the Mountain King”?
I’m a creature of habit in workout jams. And because I’m a weirdly emotional runner, I’ve managed to create some deeply entrenched, nostalgic connections with my playlist mainstays over the years. Kanye West’s “Monster”—specifically Nicki Minaj’s verse—still sounds like the two-mile climb up to Hurricane Point on the Big Sur marathon course, and the elated, rubber-limbed gallop down the other side. Queens of the Stone Age’s “Song for the Dead”—from about 4:40 till the end of the track—sounds like winter sprints, during a post-grad limbo in my hometown of Indianapolis, on what I had euphemistically deemed “the shredmill.” Spank Rock’s “Bump” sounds like jogging down the block near my Spanish Harlem sublet the summer in college I lived in New York, when I hated the city because I didn’t know how to function—but knew I was pretty decent at putting one foot in front of the other.
Most of the songs that readers sent had never appeared on one of my workout playlists, and a few of the artists here I hadn’t even heard before. But for each of the songs I picked in this shorter list, I imagined it playing at just the right moment of a future, deceptively profound run.
For our running playlist series, a reader submits a song from the inimitable Trey Parker and DVDA, his band that contributed all kinds of music to South Park, Team America, and the movie this song was featured in, Orgazmo.
Erm, the two songs on my running list that stand out the most as simultaneously weird and motivating are Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing in the Name” and Mika’s “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful).” That last one always makes me smile and do odd “jazz hands” type movements if it comes on at the right point in my run. I know ...
A long-time reader in San Francisco contributes to our ongoing series of “weirdest, greatest” running songs:
I submit Florida by Starfucker. It’s fun electro-pop with a solid beat. The weird part is that it features a recording of the late philosopher Alan Watts discussing the wigglyness of the natural world. Somehow it works really well.
Cannot believe I’m admitting this, much less inflicting it on anyone else, but my race-day running playlist has one epic, utterly ridiculous track: MmmmBOP. I put it late in the mix, because after all the great, rhythmic stuff that gets me through 12 or 13 miles, there is nothing better than the track that just cracks you up. Pure joy.
The most under-appreciated running song is Saul Williams’s version of “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” It’s the same great, recognizable drum as the U2 version, but with a much harder, more aggressive edge. (Also, “List of Demands” by Saul Williams might be the best running/workout song of all time.)
I’m a spinning instructor and an electronic music aficionado, so I’ve given a fair bit of thought to which throbbing songs will best fit with my classes while still being somewhat interesting. Dubstep works well for spin, i.e. trying to time hard efforts to “the drop.” A couple really fun and motivational songs I always turn to on my playlists:
The president’s campaign is behind in polls and fundraising, but could still pull out a victory.
It was late in the evening at Hillary Clinton’s victory party in 2016, and by that point, the guests understood there would be neither a victory nor a party. As Donald Trump’s upset sank in among the hordes at the Javits Center in Manhattan, I asked one Clinton supporter how he was feeling. “Like I want to kill myself,” he said.
Later, at a bar in Hell’s Kitchen, I stumbled upon a group of Clinton-campaign aides sitting together in tears. A tray of shots sat on the table before them. They shared a look of shock: How could this possibly have happened?
Trump trails Joe Biden by an average of eight points nationally, and is behind in every important battleground state. But his reelection still seems plausible, if only because 2016 seemed so implausible. “If I take my PTSD hat off, I can feel semi-comfortable about where things are,” Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist in Florida, told me. “But it’s impossible to take my PTSD hat off.”
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s tell-all book about the first lady is as sordid as it is fascinating.
Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is one of those patriotic Americans who went to work in the Trump White House, only to come soaring back over the gates, rejected by the host organism. Like many before her, she decided to write a book about her experiences, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady, and she proffers it to us as an act of public service, although possibly also as a comprehensive case for the defense if this whole acid trip ends up at The Hague. She is another member of Plastic Camelot, the ever-changing group of personal friends, celebrities, and weirdos whom the Trumps bring close to them and then, in the manner of bored kings, dispatch to the tombs. Maybe they’re no more disturbing a collection of advisers and jesters than the men and women on whom other presidents have depended. Who’s to say that Omarosa is so much worse than Henry Kissinger? She certainly has a better record on human rights.
Democrats could win decisively next week. But that still wouldn’t neutralize minority Republican power.
If Joe Biden beats Donald Trump decisively next week, this election may be remembered as a hinge point in American history: the moment when a clear majority of voters acknowledged that there’s no turning back from America’s transformation into a nation of kaleidoscopic diversity, a future that doesn’t rely on a backward-facing promise to make America great again. But that doesn’t mean the voters who embody the nation’s future are guaranteed a lasting victory over those who feel threatened by it.
With Biden embracing America’s evolution and Trump appealing unrestrainedly to the white voters most fearful of it, the 2020 campaign marks a new peak in the most powerful trend shaping politics in this century. Over the past two decades, and especially since Barack Obama’s election in 2008, voters have re-sorted among the parties and thus reconfigured the central fault line between them. Today Republicans and Democrats are divided less by class or region than by attitudes toward the propulsive demographic, cultural, and economic shifts remaking 21st-century America. On one side, Republicans now mobilize what I’ve called a “coalition of restoration”; on the other, Democrats assemble a “coalition of transformation.”
It almost killed me. A story of criminal neglect and mass death in South Texas.
Image above: Jesus Torres digs graves at La Piedad Cemetery in McAllen, Texas.
At half past one on the morning of July 1, my 60th birthday, I awoke shivering. Since summertime chills are rare in South Texas, I immediately grew concerned. As the director of public affairs for Hidalgo County, just one county removed from the bottom of the state, I had been spending my days urging people to be on the lookout for symptoms that might indicate a COVID-19 infection. Chief among them were chills and a fever. Looking at my sleeping wife, a committed germaphobe, I crawled out of bed to hunt down a thermometer.
Ninety-nine degrees; a low-grade fever. Crawling back into bed, I knew my life was about to change: Part of the public-health-education message I’d been hammering was Self-isolate if you begin showing symptoms. Over the next hour, my temperature continued to rise. I woke my wife and told her to leave the room. That was the last time we would share a bed for two months.
The longer we can prevent infections, the better prepared we will be to treat them.
During the first COVID-19 surge of the spring, the mantra was “Flatten the curve”—to buy time, using every tool available.
Seven months later, it’s possible to measure what that time has bought: The death rate for COVID-19 has fallen dramatically. Hospitals in most places are not overburdened, and treatments are improving in many small but cumulative ways. In one study of patients hospitalized in a New York City health system, the adjusted death rate fell from 25.6 percent in March, at the pandemic’s onset, to 7.6 percent in August.
This change cannot be explained by COVID-19 patients getting younger and healthier. The study’s authors adjusted the mortality rates for age and other risk factors. “People should take this as validation of all the hard work and sacrifices they have been making,” says Leora Horwitz, an internist and the study’s lead author. “It has made a difference.” Similar patterns hold throughout New York City and in the U.K., and they underscore the reason for flattening the curve. The longer we can prevent infections, the better prepared we will be to treat the people that might eventually get it.
America’s left and right are radicalizing each other, and the precedents from overseas are deeply unsettling.
As one of the ugliest and most divisive American presidential campaigns in our history coasts to its finish, President Donald Trump’s defenders are making their closing arguments. Some of them assert that they like Trump’s policies; his ethical violations or his abuses of his office for personal gain don’t bother them. These views come from deep conviction, and at this point, they can’t be changed.
But another argument that appears over and over again in these closing statements demands a response. It is often made by educated conservatives, people who know that the Trump administration and its incompetence have allowed the coronavirus to devastate America. They also know that Trump has left America weaker and less influential around the world. They even dislike Trump’s vulgarity and his cruelty; they just wish he would stop tweeting. Nevertheless, they will vote for him because the alternative—the left, the Democrats, the socialists, the “woke warriors,” whatever epithet you want to use—is so much worse.
Courage exercised only when the coast is clear is not courage; it is opportunism.
Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, the author John le Carré’s most famous creation, the fictional British spy George Smiley, reflected on a career spent fighting a now-vanquished enemy.
“There are some people,” Smiley said at a dinner among young recruits to the Secret Service, “who, when their past is threatened, get frightened of losing everything they thought they had, and perhaps everything they thought they were as well. Now I don’t feel that one bit. The purpose of my life was to end the time I lived in.”
With a bit more pensiveness, Smiley adds: “Or perhaps … our troubles are just beginning.”
I think of this passage often, not only because I spent the first part of my career fighting (in my own small and mostly insignificant way) the Cold War, but also because I have spent the most recent part of my career fighting the possible rise of authoritarianism in my own country. I was a founding member of the band of Republican defectors known as the Never Trumpers, and one way or another, “the times I have lived in”—the movement to protect American democracy from Donald Trump and to stop his reelection—will come to an end in November.
If the vote is close, Donald Trump could easily throw the election into chaos and subvert the result. Who will stop him?
Illustrations by Guillem Casasús / Renderings by Borja Alegre
There is a cohort of close observers of our presidential elections, scholars and lawyers and political strategists, who find themselves in the uneasy position of intelligence analysts in the months before 9/11. As November 3 approaches, their screens are blinking red, alight with warnings that the political system does not know how to absorb. They see the obvious signs that we all see, but they also know subtle things that most of us do not. Something dangerous has hove into view, and the nation is lurching into its path.
The danger is not merely that the 2020 election will bring discord. Those who fear something worse take turbulence and controversy for granted. The coronavirus pandemic, a reckless incumbent, a deluge of mail-in ballots, a vandalized Postal Service, a resurgent effort to suppress votes, and a trainload of lawsuits are bearing down on the nation’s creaky electoral machinery.
When The Office originally aired, its resident fool made for easy comedy. Fifteen years later, it’s hard to watch Dwight without seeing tragedy.
These are boom times for the lolsob. Watching the news, I sometimes find myself staring at the screen, eyes wide, brain broken, not sure whether to laugh or cry. The farce and tragedy tangle so tightly that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins. How do you make sense, for example, of a leader who, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, muses about the curative powers of bleach? How do you process a president’s attempt to edit a hurricane with a Sharpie? The words, after a while, stop working. The categories collapse. Many true things have been written about what living under this regime feels like; one of the truest I’ve encountered is a 2017 prediction from the writer Hayes Brown: “This is going to be the dumbest dystopia.”
“I want to feel hopeful about Joe Biden’s chances this year, but I just can’t,” my neighbor confessed to me, as we stood in line outside a coffee shop. What had begun as pleasant conversation—dogs, the temperature, clouds—had been pulled, through the vortex known as Late October in an Election Year, into an airing of political anxieties. “I’m still so afraid that 2016 is going to happen again and Trump is going to win,” she said.
Based on the sample size of my life, every Democrat feels this way. Yes, they’ll preface, the polls look all right for Biden. But four years ago, they looked good for Hillary Clinton too. And so, they fear, the horror film of 2016 is about to get its sequel.
There is a small chance that their fears will come true. But for the past few weeks, I’ve been stockpiling all of the quantitative reasons why the 2020 election is really, truly different from 2016, from new polling methodologies to fewer undecided voters. As always, do not allow any level of optimism (or pessimism) to guide your decision to vote. Just vote.