Saturday, December 13, 2008

Best Music of 2008

I was going to wait a little longer to make my Best of 2008 music list, but I doubt there will be much more of interest coming out in the next few weeks. Last year I did a post of top 10 albums of 2007 in my livejournal, but unfortunately, I don't think there have been enough good releases this year to fill up a top ten. I guess it doesn't matter too much, since if I were to make a list of my top music of 2007 now, it would be a lot different than when I made it last year (for starters, The Shepherd's Dog probably would have topped my list instead of Sound of Silver) - taste changes. I imagine it will be the same with the list I made this year; come December 2009, my opinion of 08 music will have changed as well. Also, I've been listening to a lot of older stuff this year - but they'll get their mention at the end of the entry. So here it is!

Best Albums of 2008

1. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

So this was pretty much a no brainer. I'm sure it will be topping a lot of other people's best of 08 lists, but it's a very, very well deserved title. Although they've disappeared from my daily repertoire a little more in the last few months, this album was a complete smash hit. I thoroughly enjoy every single song on here. I still remember the day I first listened to the album. I listened to "White Winter Hymnal" about thirty times, as well as the initial run through of the rest of the album while I was at work. For the next several months, Fleet Foxes was my raison d'etre. After getting past the beauty of "White Winter Hymnal" I was surprised to find that pretty much every other song had the same listenable quality. "Ragged Wood," "Sun It Rises," "He Doesn't Know Why," "Your Protector," "Blue Ridge Mountains," and... well, yeah, all of them. When informing Adam via text of how he HAD to start listening to these guys, he replied asking for a description of the sound. I think that I came up with a pretty good one: imagine a perfect mix of the guitar based indie of The Shins and Band of Horses (not to mention the vocal similarities of Foxes's lead singer and Ben Bridwell of B of H), with the hauntingly beautiful harmonies of Grizzly Bear, and the Appalachian sound of some of Joanna Newsom's best work. It's easily the most rewarding listen (and re-listen) of the entire year.

2. Feed the Animals - Girl Talk

For anyone unfamiliar with Girl Talk (aka Gregg Gillis), he is a mash up artist/DJ. But instead of mashing up two songs with similar keys and complimentary tempos, imagine a whole album of mash ups. An album of mash ups with tracks of not just two songs, but twelve songs, fifteen songs, twenty songs all spliced together. A drum beat from "Umbrella" by Rhianna, and samples of Ying Yang Twins and Vanilla Ice, leading into Jay-Z's "Roc Boys," to the guitar riff of Radiohead's (masterpiece) "Paranoid Android." And that's just the first minute and a half of the 5th track. This is typical Girl Talk. Feed the Animals was more of the same, and when looked at objectively it's not very different at all from 2006's Night Ripper. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. Feed the Animals is filled with moments of pure pop perfection spliced with even more pop perfection, and it leaves the listener almost at a breaking point. But it never becomes too much. What normally turned me off to mash ups (before it became more of a legitimate musical endeavor at least) was it's typical inclusion of rap, which I don't care for, and the fact that the songs being mashed didn't always sit comfortably together in my ears. This is never a problem with Girl Talk. He's truly a master of what he does. There's something for everyone, no genre is left untouched. Some dutiful fans have even taken the time to dissect the entirety of Feed the Animals (and Night Ripper) on Wikipedia, so you can see exactly how many samples are contained in these 16 tracks. Styx, The Carpenters, M.I.A., Jay-Z, Radiohead, Rhianna, of Montreal, Metallica, Queen, The Band, Procol Harum, Missy Elliott, Avril Lavigne, The Cranberries, Kelly Clarkson. The list literally goes on and on. His masterful mix of Air's "Sexy Boy" and Britney Spears' "Gimme More" might be one of the most sonically satisfying 30 seconds of the entire year.

3. In Rainbows - Radiohead

I took advantage of the free download Radiohead offered for In Rainbows last October, so I had the album before it's December 31st, 2007 physical release date. But, as I've said, 2008 did not offer me the musical selection of 2007. So here it is on my list. I wasn't able to fully appreciate In Rainbows when I first got it. It took a thorough understanding and appreciation for Radiohead as a band (see end of entry) before I really took a shine to it. But after getting really into OK Computer and Kid A and seeing the innovation and skill that Radiohead has been continuously bringing to the music scene for the last two decades, I couldn't stop listening. In Rainbows is the "return to form" that everyone was waiting for from Radiohead, and they fully deliver. In Rainbows manages to recall the spirit of their rock roots on The Bends and OK Computer, as well as the experimental electronica of Kid A and Amnesiac, and it's pop sensibility makes it the perfect follow up for the anti-pop, Hail to the Thief. I finally saw (or heard) reason this year, and I'm so so so glad for Radiohead. With the current situation in the music industry, it's pretty much a given that the successes of classic rock acts like Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, and David Bowie will not be repeated. But I truly believe that when it comes to talent and innovation, Radiohead are their successors. Everything they've ever done is great, and In Rainbows has showed me that they are nowhere near finished.

4. In Ghost Colours - Cut Copy

I'm fairly certain that the reason I didn't find as much to like about this year's music is because I missed a lot of it. For whatever reasons. I missed this release at first. In one of our music trading sessions, I gave Adam some Cut Copy that I had downloaded and put on my flash drive. He texted me one afternoon while at work and told me that he was really enjoying listening to Cut Copy. I had given In Ghost Colours it's initial two or three cursory listens, and I remember liking what I heard. It became another album that I would put on, and not even focus on what the individual songs were. After the encouragement from Adam, I listened to the album some more, and it quickly became one of my new favorites. I love this album because it manages to throw me back to 80's synth, but also give a rich look at the future. I believe that electronica is definitely the new frontier in music, and I'll be looking to Cut Copy for developments.

5. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

I knew there would be a backlash against Vampire Weekend. Just like I know there's one in the works for Fleet Foxes. People say it was over hyped, and that it was a thoroughly average album. I thought that at first but not really in a negative way. It was an album I would put on and listen to the entire way through. Sometimes albums like that seem average at first, but there's a reason a whole album is tolerable. If the individual songs are consistently good enough to listen to the album from start to finish, then in my opinion, that's not average. It's spectacular! It's been a year long process, but I've really come to love Vampire Weekend.

6. The Mixtape Volume 1 - The Hood Internet

Not a proper album, but my list would definitely not be complete without it. The Hood Internet is a group of two mash up DJs from Chicago, and so far this year they've released three mixtapes on their website ( - go figure). The first was definitely the best, although the second has it's moments; I haven't listened to the third yet. The Hood Internet doesn't do the multiple songs like Girl Talk, but they do wonderful melds of indie favorites and mainstream tracks. Architecture in Helsinki vs Snoop Dogg ("That's the Whirlwind," which is probably my favorite), Dizzee Rascal vs Cyndi Lauper, R.Kelly vs Broken Social Scene, UNK vs LCD Soundsystem. All under three minutes, but all awesome.

7. Hold On Now, Youngster... - Los Campesinos!

I was taken with their Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP last year, and their release this year was one I was most looking forward to. During it's trial phase on my iPod, I was initially let down because none of the songs were as immediately catchy as the ones I fell in love with on the EP. But when I began to develop my playlists this spring, instead of always just listening to albums, I threw on a few songs from this album. I have one main playlist (Obsession for Andrew - the songs I like to listen to the most), and several others with more definite themes. After giving Hold on Now, Youngster... a more thorough listen, I began to hear the real gems of the album. They're a charming band, even if a little chaotic. I just got their latest release from this fall (two albums in one year? ambitious!), and I'm hoping I'll find even more to love about Los Campesinos!.

8. Microcastle - Deerhunter

I'm still in the beginning stages of fully exploring this album, but I really enjoy it so far. It's a big step up from Cryptograms, their release last year, which I thought was way too boring of a listen, even though it had its good moments. Microcastle shows them developing their sound into something I would actually listen to on a regular basis. It was released with a second disk which I haven't gotten yet, but from what I've heard, it's also very good. I'll be listening to this a lot more as we get into 2009, and I'm really excited to see Deerhunter develop. I think that they will have a lot more to offer in the future, and the difference I've heard between the snoozer Cryptograms and the dynamic Microcastle, has made them definitely a band to watch out for.

Honorable mentions: In Ear Park - Department of Eagles, Hercules and Love Affair - Hercules and Love Affair, Oracular Spectacular - MGMT, The Singer - Teitur, At Mount Zoomer - Wolf Parade

It would have been nice to have an even ten albums. I guess I've been kind of harsh on the releases of this year, but even though I've enjoyed other artists, fewer albums have made an impression on me this year than last year. But that's why I've been looking forward to doing a top singles list. Since I don't ever listen to the radio, I don't know what songs actually qualify as "singles," but in my world, these are the top singles of 2008.

1. Becky - Be Your Own Pet: hands down, no other song has given me such a rush this year. I'm honestly appalled that this song wasn't released on their Get Awkward LP this year - it's inclusion makes it a much more satisfying album to listen to. It's more of what I loved about Be Your Own Pet (lovED because they broke up this year; a truly tragic loss for the music industry); the lyrics are direct and speak for themselves (not to mention hilarious), Jemina Pearl performs with her trademark nuclear bomb energy, and the instruments are sharper and more precise than on their first release. Like my number one song of last year, Innocent Bones by Iron & Wine (still arguably my favorite song ever), I can definitely see myself singing Becky's praises well into my future.

2. White Winter Hymnal - Fleet Foxes: had it not been for Becky, this would have been my number one for sure. It's a simple song; it works almost like a round, though not quite. I'm sure if I were to sing this with others who knew the lyrics though, it would make an excellent round. 2008 was definitely the year of Fleet Foxes, and this song surely stands as the crowning achievement of the album. Of course, the others on the album aren't far behind, but this song defined my musical life this spring and summer.

3. Cath... - Death Cab for Cutie: I really liked Transatlanticism, and I really like Plans. I was disappointed that I found Narrow Stairs so boring. But this song definitely stands out as a gem. Strong guitars, and Death Cab's trademark storytelling lyrics. A girl gets married to a man she doesn't love, but it ends with singer Ben Gibbard telling her he understands, and would have done the same if in her shoes. It's a really strong piece of music, and gives me a little more faith that Death Cab can still crank out the catchy pieces of heartfelt heart-on-sleeve pop music they're known for, and that I love.

4. Lights and Music - Cut Copy: I love when music builds up to a breaking point and just overflows into sonic bliss. I love the tension and excitement that comes with a build up, and the feeling of just letting go when it reaches the tipping point. This song does that so well. The lyrics are simple "lights and music are on my mind, be my baby one more time," but it's a perfect accompaniment to the tension and release of the verse chorus structure of the song.

5. Bodysnatchers - Radiohead: I love how Radiohead can have a song that feels like more than one song, but still feels like just one song. Like Paranoid Android. Bodysnatchers fits this as well, and I love it.

I'll be doing the same thing with this list as the one I made last year; I described some reasons for why the first five songs were good, why I liked them, etc., and then just listed the rest, with explanations for the ones where I had a specific thing to say. And since I listened to so many mash ups this year, I have a separate section for those. It's pretty much impossible to decide which Girl Talk tracks are my favorite, so I just have ones for The Hood Internet.

6. Ragged Wood - Fleet Foxes
7. My Year In Lists - Los Campesinos!
8. The Singer - Teitur
9. Womanizer - Britney Spears: you knew it was coming. This song struck me as kind of forced and repetitive when I first heard it, which really made me question if Britney was ready for her big comeback. But the more I listened to it, the more and more I liked it. Way to go Britney; I never doubted you for a second.
10. I Know UR Girlfriend Hates Me - Annie: OMG, I've been waiting for Annie's follow up to her virtually flawless album Anniemal for what seems like forever. Unfortunately, the release has been delayed till early next year, but this single gave me hope for the content of her next issue. This song is everything I love about Annie.
11. Mansard Roof - Vampire Weekend: this was another one of those perfect album openers.
12. Out There On the Ice - Cut Copy
13. The Kelly Affair - Be Your Own Pet
14. Blind - Hercules and Love Affair: I was really glad Kristine encouraged me to revisit this album, because I love this song.
15. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa - Vampire Weekend
16. Nude - Radiohead
17. Time to Pretend - MGMT: the lyrics come off as trite, but this song is fantastic. When the rest of the song can make up for what would be sub par lyrics, it becomes not trite, but precious.
18. Graveyard Girl - M83: how could I not include a song about a graveyard? It helps that it's a pretty good song too.
19. Soldier's Grin - Wolf Parade
20. Kids - MGMT

Honorable mentions: Boston - Vampire Weekend, L.E.S. Artistes - Santogold, Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats - Los Campesinos!, Blue Ridge Mountains - Fleet Foxes, House of Cards - Radiohead, Electric Feel - MGMT, Circus - Britney Spears, You'll Find a Way - Santogold, Call it a Ritual - Wolf Parade, Agoraphobia - Deerhunter, In Ear Park - Department of Eagles, Jigsaw Falling Into Place - Radiohead, You Belong - Hercules and Love Affair, Melodies & Desires - Lykke Li, 15 Step - Radiohead

The Hood Internet mash-ups (in no particular order - it's hard to pick a favorite): That's the Whirlwind (Architecture in Helsinki vs Snoop Dogg), I'm Shinin' Like a Crystal (The Pack vs Crystal Castles), Girls Just Wanna Fix Up (Dizzee Rascal vs Cyndi Lauper), Stuntin' Like Black Rock (Birdman & Lil' Wayne vs Black Rock), Cyborg Umbrella (Rhianna feat. Jay-Z vs Menomena vs M83), Some Cut Like a Knife (Trillville feat Cutty vs The Knife), I'm a Flirt (Shoreline)(R.Kelly feat T-Pain, T.I. vs Broken Social Scene).

My other list of 2008 music:

1. Joanna Newsom - my introduction to Joanna by Adam last fall continued well into this year, and hasn't really abated at all. I listened to lots and lots and lots of Joanna Newsom this year.
2. Radiohead - winter and spring of this year, I began to listen to Radiohead a lot more. I really liked OK Computer already, which I finally got last fall, but this year they really took me for a ride. I couldn't get enough Radiohead.
3. The Avett Brothers - my good friend Lydia and her sister Alex introduced me to the Avett Brothers (pronounced Ay-vett) at the very end of last year. At first, I only liked a few songs, but (with help from Adam, who I shared them with), I gave them a second try in the spring. We recruited his brother Gabe and mother Colleen into them as well, and as my birthday present, Gabe and Adam and I all went to see them perform in last August.
4. Guster - I only have Ganging Up on the Sun, but Guster is an integral part of this list. I listened to a lot of them this summer. Satellite and Ruby Falls in particular. It sounds so juvenile, but for a couple of weeks, Ruby Falls was like a narration.
5. Pavement - I've had Wowee Zowee since last fall, and I loved it, but this year I finally got Slanted & Enchanted, and Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain. Not much to say, other than that I LOVE Pavement.
6. Rogue Wave - I'd heard of them several times before downloading their discography this past summer. I gave them the first listen and liked what I heard, but I didn't go back and give it the all important 2nd-5th listens to see which tracks really stuck out. But when iTunes debuted Genius this fall, a lot of their songs came up on shuffle. I really got into them after going back again and listening to their albums.
7. Belle & Sebastian - I've listened to a TON of Belle & Sebastian this year.
8. Interpol - this past winter and spring was all about three bands for me. Radiohead, Architecture in Helsinki, and Interpol. Mostly I listened to Turn on the Bright Lights. The entire album is beautiful, haunting, and a little melancholy. It was a really good album to have by my side this year.
9. Architecture in Helsinki - I know a lot of people who really love Architecture in Helsinki. I liked them, but I didn't see how you could love them. Until this spring.
10. Britney Spears - as many of you already know, I was already a big Britney fan before this year. But I hadn't listened to her very much in the past few years. For some reason this past summer I got in a Britney mood, and the mood hasn't completely disappeared since then. It doesn't hurt that I finally got Blackout, and Circus just debuted. Blackout, which by all logic should have been absolutely horrible, is probably her best album of all.
11. Band of Horses - the relative simplicity of Band of Horses is what draws me in every time. Our Swords is one of their most simple songs, but it's probably one of my favorite songs ever.
12. Pinback - I haven't been listening to them as much lately, but for the amount that I listened to them this winter and spring, they definitely deserve a place.

Top singles that I listened to that weren't from this year - ones listed on my Singles of '07 list won't be on here - in no particular order:

Satellite, Ruby Falls - Guster: these two songs, perhaps more than any of the others on any of these lists, have so much personal meaning and significance attached to them.
Sprout and the Bean, Peach, Plum, Pear, Swansea, the entirety of her album Y's - Joanna Newsom
Paranoid Android, Airbag, Optimistic, The National Anthem, Subterranean Homesick Alien, Electioneering, Let Down, Fitter Happier - Radiohead
PDA, NYC, Stella Was a Diver and She Was Always Down, Say Hello to the Angels, Obstacle 1 - Interpol
Maybe You Can Owe Me (this might be the only one to tie with the Guster songs in personal meaning), Frenchy, I'm Faking, Do the Whirlwind, Nevereverevereverdid, In Case We Die (Pts 1-4), Heart It Races (which would have made my top singles of 07 list, had I known about it then) - Architecture in Helsinki
Step On Inside, Priest, Poet, & Pig - Vietnam
Will You Return?, Die, Die, Die, Paranoia in Bb Major, Pretty Girl From Chile, Shame, I Would Be Sad, The Weight of Lies - The Avett Brothers
Break the Ice, Gimme More, Piece of Me, ... Baby, One More Time, Slave 4 U, Toxic, Everytime - Britney Spears
Our Swords, Wicked Gil, Monsters, No One's Gonna Love You, The First Song, Ode to LRC - Band of Horses
Nourishment Nation, Lake Michigan, Harmonium, California, Publish My Love - Rogue Wave
Grounded, Summer Babe, Cut Your Hair - Pavement
If You Find Yourself Caught In Love, Step Into My Office, Baby, Act of Apostle, Piazza, New York Catcher, Asleep on a Sunbeam, If You're Feeling Sinister - Belle & Sebastian

Well, I hope you enjoyed this. Music and making lists are two of my favorite things. I can't wait to see what happens in next year's music scene. I think what added most to my disappointment this year is that a lot of artists I liked already came out with boring follow ups to their previous awesome releases. I was really looking forward to releases from CSS and Tilly and the Wall, but they were both really boring. I was looking forward to Black Kids' debut album, but it wasn't really good. I was kind of disgusted by the treatment Pitchfork gave it - tearing it down in that way just because they could, even though they were a huge part of the Black Kids hype. I got the album anyway, just to decide for myself if it wasn't good (it wasn't good), but I thought what they did was just... really immature. But whatever, it's Pitchfork, and pretentious is what they do best. It's still my best source for finding new music, but I've been learning to take what they say with a grain of salt.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The case for drug legalization

I was on one of my economic sites today, The Ludwig Von Mises Institute, (Ludwig Von Mises was the frontrunner of Austrian economists - the father of classical liberalism, libertarian political theory) and I found an article that ran on AFP about how tomorrow (December 5th) will mark the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. Full article here.

It was a short article which basically served to re-inform me of the reasons for the enactment and repeal of prohibition. As most people already know, it was enacted by conservatives as a "noble experiment" to "enhance democracy and the political process, reduce crime and corruption, improve health, reduce addiction." It was a moral crusade against those sick of seeing the family wages blown on alcohol by abusive drunk husbands and fathers. A noble experiment indeed, and I mean that sincerely. Alcoholism is a horrible affliction, and trying to reduce and eliminate its existence is noble. Unfortunately, the crusade only half worked. Through most of the country, drinking levels did decline, and so the experiment was in that instance successful. However, it is also common knowledge that prohibition gave rise to enormous amounts of bootlegging and organized crime in larger, urban communities like New York, Chicago, etc. Prohibition was repealed in 1933, a consequence of the stock market crash. The government needed something to tax, and repealing prohibition finally put a little extra money into the incredibly stagnant economy.

As I said, from a moral point of view (and coming from a non-drinking family) I can understand why prohibition was a good idea, in theory. From a libertarian point of view I see why it was such a horrible idea. First and foremost, it was a gross violation of an individuals right to his own pursuit of happiness. It reminds me of being in elementary school and having the entire class receive punishments for the acts of a few obnoxious individuals who misbehaved for a substitute teacher. It caused many people to commit illegal activities in buying, consuming, manufacturing and transporting an illicit substance, and undermining the law is never good for anyone. It allowed for organized crime to grow, to spread it's evil influence not only across major cities, but to form links across the entire nation and grow in power. Prohibition was like communism; great in theory, but it doesn't work, and the negative effects far outweighed the benefits. I say, as I'm sure many, many, many others have said, thank the lord it was repealed.

Unfortunately, our society hasn't totally learned it's lesson from the failed experiment of alcohol prohibition. I present to you the case for drug legalization - specifically marijuana.

The term "war on drugs" was first used by President Nixon in 1971 (on a side note, must we really use the term "war" for everything? The war on terrorism, the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war on the environment - no wonder it always feels like the world is about to end). Since then, the United States has spent billions of dollars each year fighting drug trafficking, consumption, and possession not only in our own country, but in countries all over the world. The website Drug Sense gives us a "war on drugs clock" showing the amount of money spent at each government level on the drug war for just this year. The site provides other statistics on arrests due to drug possession and trafficking (771,172 arrested for cannabis possession), as well as incarcerations. As with prohibition, I can understand the drug war from a moral perspective. Drugs ruin lives, so it would be right to prevent people from using them. However, it all goes back to my abhorrence of being told what to do by the government. Instead of allowing us to use our own judgement when presented with the opportunity to use (or abuse) drugs, the decision has been taken away and made for you. You are told what's best for you.

I have faith in my own ability to stay clear of the kind of drug use that would ruin my life, and I believe that most people would be able to say the same. The main argument I would present in defense of drug legalization is that were it legal, it would not take away the social stigma of being a drug addict. When prohibition was repealed, it didn't become okay for a person to become an alcoholic, just because liquor was legal once again. The website Blogcritics has an excellent essay on the case for drug legalization, which I would urge everyone to check out. It's very clear and astute, giving the reader a short but thorough rundown of the cons of the drug war. Many of my opinions on the subject are probably better articulated there.

In many instances, the current drug war represents the past repeating itself. It is the prohibition of our times, and the two share many, many similarities. One of the key reasons prohibition was such a bad idea was that it gave way for the incredible growth of gangsters and organized crime. The same has happened with the drug war, except the consequences are a lot farther reaching. While liquor could easily be manufactured within our borders, many high demand drugs do not come from the United States. Take cocaine for instance. Cocaine is the second most popular recreational drug, with marijuana taking first. In transporting cocaine from it's South American origins, we have not mafia gangsters, but international drug lords. Drug legalization would stop these horrible people in their tracks. To quote Tom Donelson, author of the above linked essay "Conservative Case for Drug Legalization,"

"The drug war has strengthened organized crime and allowed international crime families as well as terrorist organizations to use the drug trade as a means to raise money. Billions of dollars reach the coffers of many criminal organizations and this money produces seed money to corrupt public officials and undermine law enforcement. This also happened during alcohol prohibition when gangsters received funding to expand their empires. Legalization of drugs would reduce cash to terrorist and criminal organizations and make it easier to police these illegal corporations."

Drugs are not something to be taken lightly, and neither are those who distribute them. If drugs were available legally, distributors (as well as consumers) would have set laws to follow and obey, allowing for safer consumption and distribution. Not to mention all of the underlings of the drug lords finally being freed from their mass amounts of corruption.

A product of being brought up in the public school system is that on many levels, you are unfortunately misinformed of basic concepts and topics - namely about drugs in health class (and economics, but I won't get into that here). While I have nothing against our school system (I believe that I received a very good education at all of my schools from Kindergarten to senior year), as I have grown older I have realized that many of the things I was told about common drugs weren't necessarily untrue, but definitely highly misleading. In school we were taught that marijuana was considered "the gateway drug." Through my health education I came to one conclusion, using marijuana would inevitably lead to using cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, crack-cocaine, meth, etc. By this "gateway drug" description, marijuana has been hyped up to be just as bad as hard core drugs. This description has the intent of scaring people away from trying cannabis, but I believe that it has the opposite effect. Many, many, many teens will be offered marijuana, and many will partake. It's part of the experimentation that goes on in your late teens and early twenties. The first time I smoked marijuana, it was unlike anything I had expected. I didn't hallucinate, I didn't see smiley faces and rainbows everywhere; I didn't "trip balls" like I was expecting to. Although marijuana is technically a hallucinogen, it does not produce the mind altering effects that one would expect it to if they've never tried it; while it obviously changes how you think, feel, and act, it is not on the level of say, LSD. Anyone who has tried it, and anyone who has looked at the statistics knows that the dangers of marijuana are comparably low to those of other drugs (including alcohol). When one tries marijuana and comes to this conclusion, it would be easy to assume that more hard core drugs are also as highly sensationalized, and not as dangerous as they really are. This is why marijuana has become the "gateway drug." We are so mislead as to it's effects and dangers, when a user learns this for himself, he sometimes assumes that it is this way with all drugs. Due to the nature of marijuana (not that dangerous), the marijuana trade, and it's unrightful inclusion with harder drugs, it is assumed that profits from marijuana traffic can be included with those of hard drugs in funding terrorist organizations. This is also a fallacy. Unlike coca plants (the source of cocaine), marijuana can be grown with ease in local settings. The profits don't often make their way into that of Colombian drug lords. In short, marijuana as "the gateway drug" is a self fulfilling prophecy. And the idea that pot trafficking adds to terrorist funds is perpetuated by gross misinformation.

During prohibition, beer and wine were not big sellers. The demand was for hard liquor, which consequentially paid the bootleggers more. Drug prohibition has seen the same results. While marijuana and cocaine are still the most popular of recreational drugs, we've seen a shift to the use of harder, more dangerous drugs. When I was in elementary school I remember attending assemblies where we would have motivational speaker types expound on the dangers of drug use, and I remember number one on the list of most dangerous being crack-cocaine. I graduated from elementary school 13 years ago, which isn't all that long ago, but I can't remember the last time I heard something more than cursory about crack. Now we have meth. If the war on drugs continues, I guarantee that a drug worse than meth is right around the corner. Were drugs to be legalized, I think that the legal availability of considerably less dangerous drugs would eliminate the need for ones like crack and meth. If it were easy and legal to buy marijuana, I believe that many users of harder drugs would make the switch. Not to mention that you wouldn't have to pay black market prices. Legalized drugs (particularly marijuana) would be a great deal cheaper. Being able to purchase more weed would discourage the use of the harder, more expensive stuff.

And there are obvious economic benefits to drug legalization, and clearly, now is the time to reap them. I saw the comedy-documentary "Super High Me," starring comic Doug Benson (well known among comics for his love of weed), this past spring. The premise of the movie was, you guessed it, based on "Super Size Me." Cameras followed Benson around for 60 days; the first 30 he did not use any marijuana at all, and the last 30, he smoked weed consistently throughout the day. The movie was interspersed with facts about marijuana, medicinal marijuana laws, government involvement in the drug war, and one thing that I found most interesting, the profits of the marijuana market in America. Of course, since drugs run on the black market, official numbers don't exist, but the industry netted an estimated 14 billion in marijuana sales. That's a lot of money. That's revenue that the government could be taxing. Instead, they'd rather spend over 47 billion combating it.

Some will say that legalizing drugs will see an increase in their consumption. This is true. It's only logical that if were drugs were to be legalized their consumption would go up, but this would not be exponential growth; it would level off. If drugs were legal, it doesn't mean that everyone would be inclined to buy and use them. It reminds me of a particularly facetious Simpsons quote from Reverend Lovejoy "once something has been approved by the government, it's no longer immoral." We all know that this is not true. It goes back to my first point - legalization would not take away the social stigma of being a drug user. And it's not like we don't have available data to predict the outcome of drug legalization. We all know that drugs in the Netherlands have been greatly decriminalized, yet they have 60% the drug use of America.

The always brilliant South Park did an episode "My Future Self 'n' Me" which portrayed marijuana in it's usually insightful, hilarious light. Stan and Sharon Marsh hire an actor to play their son Stan's future self, a loser who got caught up in drugs and alcohol and dropped out of school, to scare Stan into staying the straight path. The "I've learned something today" segment consisted of Stan finally telling his son the truth about marijuana.

Stan Marsh: "Well Stan, the truth is, marijuana probably isn't going to make you kill people, and most likely isn't going to fund terrorists. Well, son, pot makes you feel fine with being bored, and it's when you're bored that you should be learning some new skill, or discovering some new science, or being creative. You smoke pot you may grow up to find that you aren't good at anything"

And there you have it. The simple truth. People smoke pot for the same reasons they drink alcohol - because it's fun. But when this fun gets in the way of being a productive human being, it becomes a problem. Most people know this, and it should be up to us to decide whether or not it's something we want to partake of.

I would be neglecting my self imposed blog responsibility if I didn't mention the one con I would have in the case of drug legalization. Or, more accurately the one stipulation I have for drug legalization. If drugs are legalized, it needs to be done in a way that keeps responsibility on the individual. I am a believer in individual rights, so I believe it should be up to us if we want to use drugs. With rights come responsibilities, and it is the users responsibility to make sure drug use doesn't take over their life. What I mean by that is, if drugs are legalized, it needs to be done in a way where drug producers and distributors will not be held accountable if the consumer becomes an addict. We don't need a repeat of the lawsuits against McDonalds and the tobacco companies.

I hope that everyone this weekend will celebrate our freedom to drink alcohol, if not by consuming it, then by acknowledging that it is our right to drink it responsibly. I also hope that with the economic downturn of our country, the government can come to see the (wasteful) error of it's ways and decriminalize drugs.