Tuesday new release: Races, ‘Year of the Witch’

Photo Credit: A. Dola Baroni/Courtesy of Tell All Your Friends PR

The band Races haven’t done themselves any favors by giving themselves a name that’s difficult to find in a Google search. Yes, their Bandcamp page ranks high on the list, but it’s still far below references to Tony Stewart.

At least they didn’t call themselves “Santorum.”

But if you like music with lots of layers, strong harmonies and lyrics that can be melancholy without turning maudlin, Races are worth your search effort. The Van Nuys, Calif.-based sextet makes good use of guitar hooks and synthesizers to create a relaxed pop sound.

Their debut full-length album, “Year of the Witch,” comes out today. You can listen to the album stream on their Soundcloud page.

The first single, “Lies,” is available as a free download from their site. You can click on the video below to see them perform the song live:

Here’s a partial list of other new albums coming out today:

What are you looking forward to picking up next? Discuss in the comments.


Truth, fabrication and consequences

“This American Life” took another, badly needed step on its road to correcting the record on Friday when it pulled three more audio episodes from its Web archive. Professional liar — I call him that because he got paid to make up stories and pass them off as factual — Stephen Glass lied to the show’s creators long before Mike Daisey came along, and his crimes lasted longer.


Back in January, “This American Life” ran an excerpt from monologist Daisey’s show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” Most of what he said was factual, but Daisey made up parts about his experience, parts that helped give legs to the story of working conditions in the Chinese factories where Apple products are made. In the March 16 episode of “TAL,” Daisey as much as admits he lied for that purpose: to make people care about the story.

As a longtime listener of the show, and as a professional journalist, I was outraged — OUTRAGED! — that someone would fabricate a story they claimed to be nonfiction. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, also a journalist, half expecting the same reaction. Instead, she replied:

When will the show cop to the other falsehoods that ran in earlier episodes and weren’t retracted?

“This American Life” had Stephen Glass – no relation to the show’s host, Ira Glass – on three episodes in the 1990s, before he had been exposed as a fraud. On one of those occasions, he claimed to have worked for a while as a telephone psychic.

Not that I expect anything BUT fiction from purported psychics.

The story, adapted from one he wrote for Harper’s was one of many that Glass was known to have made up, either in whole or in part. It also included his unsubstantiated claim that 70 percent of the people who called his psychic hotline were minorities, and 85 percent had money troubles. The statistic would have been troubling if it were right. Being wrong just makes it offensive.

“This American Life” has since pulled the audio of Glass’ stories from its website.

I’m not trying to conflate the ethical violations of one man with those of another. But both men lied. They violated one of the basic rules of nonfiction writing, which is: Don’t make stuff up.

The difference is the magnitude of Daisey’s transgression vs. those of Glass. Daisey did not spend years writing fictions and passing them off as truth to national magazines and public-radio programs. He told a story that was mostly true but included nonexistent interviews, made-up details and incidents that didn’t happen the way Daisey said they happened. And he passed it off as a completely factual piece.

To his credit, Daisey eventually apologized. It took a public shaming on “This American Life,” a defiant rebuttal on his website and a barrage of more criticism from places like Poynter,  Slate, and elsewhere. Still, he apologized.

Stephen Glass’ crimes were of greater magnitude and he never went to the lengths Daisey did for contrition. Glass, for all we know, never worked a psychic hotline in his life. On the way to telling that whopper, he made sweeping generalizations about a segment of the population.

Daisey got caught once and the retribution was swift and brutal. Glass was caught lying dozens of times. His fall from grace is well documented — and, without question, his crimes are worse.

The only good thing to come out of the Stephen Glass scandal was this movie.

The producers of “This American Life” took the right first step Friday in pulling the Stephen Glass episodes. Here’s what should happen next: Host Ira Glass should announce on the next episode what they did with the other fabricated stories, why they did it and why it took so long to correct the record.

What about Daisey? He’s a talented artist and a captivating storyteller.

I just won’t believe him anymore.

Grammar never goes out of style; well, sometimes it does

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. So was Robert F. Kennedy. A Viet Cong prisoner was shot in the head by a South Vietnamese security official.

In short, it was not a good year.

Riots broke out in Chicago, as well as Paris. Richard Nixon won the presidency. The Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia.

And the Associated Press stylebook that year was a scant 52 pages and took just two staples to hold it together. This fact has nothing to do with the above historical events; I just wanted you to know how chaotic the world was at the time and how tough it must have been to hold onto any kind of order — even grammatical order — with just a pair of staples.

I want to drink an old-fashioned just looking at this.

Want proof that language changes? Exhibit 1,493,832: The 2011 AP Stylebook is a whopping 472 pages long, spiral bound (unless you’re a cheap skate and bought the perfect-bound copy, which was a couple bucks cheaper) and so thick I was able to write my name in nearly 72-point-tall letters on the bottom edge.

Only one of these has the proper spelling of Chiang Kai-shek.

This is as it should be. Language evolves, and the rules need to change with it.

That may sound like a contradiction: Why have rules for something in a constant state of flux? (If you seriously want to know that then please, I beg you: Don’t have children.)

But Sarah Palin tweets notwithstanding, rules – and rule changes – help us understand one another in writing and speech. And the rules of English are stronger than people think. I’ve been hearing for decades that “whom” is on its way to the linguistic graveyard, yet smart people still use it, and people who want to seem smart still use it incorrectly.

Martin van Buren knew the difference between "who" and "whom." I would hope.

I found the 1968 AP Stylebook amid a shelf of old reference books at work. One night this week, while life on the copy desk was continental-drift slow, I perused the nearly ancient tome to see what rules held up and which ones went out of style like a pair of bell-bottom jeans.

For instance:

  • The word “ax”: Two letters in 1968; two letters today.
  • In most cases, spell out nine or below, then use figures for 10 and above.
  • If you were the Beatles’ No. 1 fan, your grandchildren think Justin Bieber is also No. 1. For this I am deeply, deeply sorry.
  • Clergy get “the Rev.” before their title; never just “Rev.”
  • Not even in the tumultuous 1960s did the AP editors allow for a hyphen after an adverb ending in “-ly.” So those hash brownies were newly baked, not newly-baked.
Some rules still apply.

Then there are the changes. You don’t get from 52 pages to 472 without them, you know.

  • In 1968, the AP thought it important to stress that you can have “policemen, detectives, deputies, investigators, etc., but not ‘lawmen.’” In 2011, the word “lawman” didn’t even rate a mention.
  • Neither does “policeman,” by the way; the accepted term is “police officer.”
  • “Goodbye”was spelled without the “e” on the end in 1968 but by 2011 it had returned.

    This would have been completely different if they called it "The Goodby Girl."
  • “Wheel chair” in 1968 fused to become one word 43 years later.
  • It should go without saying that the 1968 AP Stylebook had an entry for “U.S.S.R.” but not one for “VoIP.”
  • In the 1960s, you could write a story about “paris green” – the insecticide made from reacting sodium arsenite with copper sulfate – without bothering to capitalize it, and do the same with “brussels sprouts.” Today, AP style dictates you refer to the Webster’s New World College Dictionary, which capitalizes “Paris” in the former and “Brussels” in the latter. C’est la vie.
I'm also fairly certain the phrase "teletypesetter" has gone the way of, well, the teletypesetter.

The most notable difference I saw was not in a rule, but in an example. Both editions stress that when it comes to hyphens, avoid ambiguity. But here’s the example the 2011 stylebook provides:

“The president will speak to small-business men” vs. “The president will speak to small businessmen.”

I think you’ll remember the older example better, if only for its vivid imagery:

“The 6-foot man eating shark was killed (the man was).”

“The 6-foot man-eating shark was killed (the shark was).”

We’ve come a long way, but I think the man-eating shark – or the man eating shark – would have stood the test of time.