True Crime

Have you read the awful news event about the death of journalist Kim Wall? This story has been haunting me since it was released a few days ago. At first, I thought I was only freaked out because it drew so many parallels to the thriller novel “Woman in Cabin 10,” by Ruth Ware. People everywhere are captivated and horrified by this story, and one news source compared it to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” saying that people were hooked on the brutal mystery taking place in Scandinavia. I want to check the romanticization of violence against women right at the door and learn more about this woman, her impassioned work, and the circumstances that led to her death.

A Swedish native, Kim Wall listed her address on twitter as “China/NYC,” two places she frequented. Fluent in English, she wrote many articles for papers in the UK and USA. Her self-described bio on twitter reads, “I studied foreign policy & now I write about hackers, hustlers, Vodou, vampires, Chinatowns, atomic bombs, feminism, etc.” Her bio describes her work easily. Wall traveled all over the world, often to remote areas taking risks to get gritty details on tough stories. She was an old-school foreign policy journalist in a new world age. Her friend who wrote about her life in The Guardian highlights the bitter irony that even though she traveled to communist nations and third world countries, riding motorcycle taxis and reporting when it was illegal, it was in her seemingly gender-forward (parity?) homeland where she was brutally murdered.

The more I learned about Kim Wall, the more I understood my equal parts despair and fascination with the events surrounding her murder. Kim Wall was a self-driven, confident and independent woman. She was a world traveler and an extremely successful freelance author, writing pieces that mattered and received a global audience. Kim Wall was the picture of what many young women would like to be: free, independent, and influential. Her murder was brutal and unjust. Now that I have come to terms with why this event seems so significant in my eyes, I would like to learn more about Kim Wall through her writing. Here are some important pieces I have selected to share with you, in an effort to learn more about her.

The Weekly Package
Many Cubans who have no access to the internet receive regular deliveries, “The Weekly Package,” of hard drives jam packed with news, music, movie trailers, and more. With an underground network utilizing over 45,000 foot soldiers, this “offline media” is used all over Cuba. This article was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Haiti Sees Tourism Promises Fade Amidst Electoral Tensions
When the only thing you hear about a country are stories of destitution and corruption, you are not inspired to go visit that place. However, tourists are starting to see Haiti as the “last untouched corner of the Caribbean.” Which could be good for Haiti’s economy, and terrible for their ecosystem and national independence.  Kim Wall takes a close look at how the tourist industry could revive or destroy Haiti.

Fetish lovers begging for freedom: ‘Fifty Shades of Grey is our Stonewall moment’
I have never read “Fifty Shades of Grey” or any articles about BDSM. However, I found this article captivating. It is interesting that people find power in these role play situations, and equally interesting that the US has laws against it. The groups represented at this writers conference explain that their relationships are based on open communication and consent. This article serves as a reminder to refrain from judging people living lifestyles different from your own.

Vodou is elusive and endangered, but it remains the soul of Haitian people
One more story from Haiti, because as the saying goes, “Haiti is 70% Catholic, 30% Protestant, and 100% Vodou.” A tender look at religion, culture, history, and as with most of Wall’s writing, gender, this piece reveals purpose and meaning of Vodou practice. “Vodou tends to be radically unjudgmental. The alcoholic, the thief, the homeless, the mentally ill, all of these people are welcomed into a Vodou temple and given respect.”


Ten Best Album Covers of Summer 2017

The 10 best album covers of summer 2017. The albums are ranked by the artistry of the covers, but they are all so good! Each listing has a summary of the album artwork and music, followed by a linked track for a first listen.

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10. “OKNOTOK” by Radiohead

Radiohead rereleased the album, “Ok Computer” with previously unreleased tracks from the original recording session. This refreshed compilation “OKNOTOK” revisits the love and fear of technology, and reminds the listener to maintain a healthy skepticism. The album cover for “OKNOTOK” is the 20 years vintage cover of “Ok Computer.” This album is ranked #10 because the artwork is iconic but… recycled.

First listen: Man of War


9. “Process” by Sampha

It is fitting that, as many of us are introduced to Sampha on his debut solo album, the cover features his face. It is like we are meeting him for the first time. Seemingly in deep thought or repose, Sampha’s image emobdies his album’s message of overcoming grief, his “Process.” Whether or not you know his name, you have likely heard Sampha’s voice singing with Solange, Frank Ocean, Drake, or Kanye. His tracks are heart-wrenching, especially in the context of his story, and his approach to the music is tender and sweet.

First listen: No One Knows Me Like the Piano


8. “What Now” by Sylvan Esso

Cynical lyrics are masked in lyrical melodies and pulsing electronic rhythms in “What Now.” The duo took their time in completing this album, in order to meet the high standards held by fans after the success of the first album. Tracks like “Radio,” capture the wishes of a generation of young hopefuls with appropriate bitterness and vulgarity. Sylvan Esso’s album cover, with an impassioned kiss and brightly colored parrot, is playful and personal, just like the featured tracks.

First Listen: Die Young



7. “More Life” by Drake

Featuring Drake’s father, Papa Graham, on the album front, “More Life” is a personal and reflective compilation. Weaving words with his characteristic flow, Drake shares poetic, intimate stories and lets the rhythmic accompaniment give shape to his words.

First listen: Two Birds, One Stone

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6. “The Order of Time” by Valerie June

Valerie June’s sound is a surprising blend of old Appalachia and contemporary city. Before you hear her speak, you see her wide-curled dreadlocks and feminine attire and you expect her to sound youthful. Her untamed voice, though, carries old stories from the hills of Tennessee through the bold, unique warbles of a seasoned Memphis-raised musician. June’s distinct voice is sweetly balanced by her gentle picking on the guitar or banjo. This album infuses a haunting roots sound with rockabilly electric guitar and a tambourine straight out of church.

First Listen: Shakedown


5. “Melodrama” by Lorde

Telling the story of a party from start to end, Lorde takes a step back from what is popular and a step toward what is true. In a delicate painting by artist Sam McKinniss, the singer-songwriter is featured tucked into bed and cast in the blue light of the evening. The track “Sober,” inspired by the anticipation of a cab ride to a party, is lively and upbeat, describing the desires that inspire a party. The reprise of the track, “Sober II (Melodrama),” taunts of the melodrama that transpired, describing the calm clean-up after the party: “Oh how fast the evening passes/ cleaning up the champagne glasses.”

First Listen: Sober II (Melodrama)



4. “Not Living in Fear” by Hear In Now

A perfect trio of violin, cello, and bass, Hear in Now is jazz, but more. Occasionally, a voice winds through astral strings with purposeful vocal melodies. “Not Living in Fear” features a cover that embodies their sound. The three musicians embrace, set in a field of bright waves and pastel clouds. Each track is titled in such a way that it focuses the listener’s intentions like a meditation.

First Listen: Not Living in Fear


3. “Folklife” by Jayme Stone

Jayme Stone is a prominent ethnomusicologist of our time, not documenting but living the music traditions. It is only fitting that a collection of reinvented folk music features images of contemporary people represented by folk art. Stone’s tracks are as distinct and captivating as the images on his album cover. His music draws sounds from uniquely American landscapes,such as the deep south, which is distinctly represented in the visual cover art with cotton and watermelon plants.

First Listen: Wait on the Risin’ Sun


2. “Good For You” by Aminé
This bold cover art is referenced in the music video of the track “Red Mercedes.” In this narrative, the toilet is the only brief reprieve from the arduous 9 to 5 grind. (Reminds me of the app Poop Salary… sorry!). The track “Yellow” gives us a little insight into the bright backdrop for this comedic image. In other news… millennial pink is dead.

First Listen: Yellow


1. “Planetarium” by Bryce Dessner, James McAlister, Nico Muhly, and Sufjan Stevens
This album art extends beyond the imagery of the cover. There is a dedicated website in the same extension of galactic beauty. The songs are named after many elements of our planetary system and the album is arranged as a collective of art. Space is found in the multimedia of “Planetarium,” from the sounds of electronic waves to the visual feathered flames of the sun.

First Listen: Saturn


Eclipse Experiences in 5 Regions

20934215_1082763131859241_8233165566228508705_o.jpgMy sister, Kendra, took this photo through a telescope lenses in Muncie, Indiana.


15351.jpegThis photo was taken by my friend Sara’s Dad at a farm in Shawnee, Illinois.


Director of the New Harmony Music Festival, Christopher, took these photos of the eclipse projections in his backyard in New Harmony, Indiana.


20914753_10157532092638647_2388459190941288514_n.jpgMax, scholar and philosopher, was standing on a hill in West Nashville, Tennessee when he experienced the totality. Here is his account:

“This was three minutes prior to totality. Everything had a very surreal silvery-blue sheen, sort of as if you were wearing a certain hue of sunglasses but the SUN IS DISAPPEARING. Minutes later, totality hit. The borders of the sky had a late sunset glow, the hills were washed in darkness, and in the center of it all was this floating ring of light. Deeply strange, totally rad, psychically shattering. No amount of scientific knowledge prepares you for the sense of actually being there.”


Rikky was working at the veterinary clinic in Moab, Utah when the eclipse happened. With ingenuity and questionable visual safety, she viewed the 84% eclipse through old x-rays, which she took these photographs through.