YES LAWD! — My Affinity for Anderson .Paak

Do you ever have those moments where you hear a song in a commercial and it just cannot ever get out of your head?

Well. That’s how I discovered my favorite artist out today. That’s how I found the rapper, singer, drummer, and incredible human being that is Anderson .Paak.

Ever since I heard the “Am I Wrong” in early 2016, everything about his sound changed my perspective on music as more than merely a simple art form but rather an experience. The instrumentation that introduced me to modern funk, infused with jazz and rap, blended into a single artist package, is what makes Paak so damn special.

From that first song, I discovered “Come Down” and the Malibualbum, which is still consistently in my rotation every single week. It’s the strong percussion, provided by Paak, which he plays live in concert, and the bass melody that brings out the best of his voice. The more you delve deeper into the album, you only further find gems like “The Bird,” “Celebrate,” and “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance.” And even though the varying styles of all the different songs, you realize the true brilliance of his artistry, in his composition as a musician.

This viral video is perhaps the closest you can get to see the true brilliance of Paak without going to a show in-person. The Free Nationals, the band he’s performed with for over two years, match him both as a person, but as a musician who always improvises at every possible step. They help complete his sound. In this unjustly short video, you don’t just get to see his skills, but his charisma, his genuine, fun-loving personality. He’s the type of person I would love to have as a friend, not just because of his nerdiness, but as someone who just doesn’t know how to be anything but himself.

There’s also this incredible clip of him live, this time in front of thousands instead of at the famed Tiny Desk setup, and his incredible voice carries even better live. His vocal control is unmatched, and let alone that, but the fact that he can do this while playing the drums is why I admire him and his work so much.

The first we heard of Paak in 2018 was on the Black Panther soundtrack with “Bloody Waters,” and he continued on his upward trend. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he released a track we’d heard live for two years: “Bubblin,” one of the best songs of 2018. It’s the black James Bond soundtrack and it is nothing short of sensational. Paak went outside the box on this track, taking a far more punchy 808 track with a cinematic violin orchestra to elevate his performance. A few more weeks ago, we got the Kendrick Lamar/ Anderson .Paak collaboration, “Tints,” which only further set up for the final conclusion of the Paak story this year: Oxnard.

After almost three years, we are finally at the next installment to the Paak discography. We’ve had Venice, Malibu, and now Oxnard, his hometown. In just over a day and a half of listening to it, there is no denying that Paak has already outdone himself once again. I have yet to find to a track that I have disliked. There were ones I still liked over others, but as a whole project, everything fits together so smoothly, I am often at a lost for words. The live instrumentation once again is a strong point in this album and the variety in sounds, whether it’s a 70s funk sound in “The Chase” to the modern rap bass in “Brother’s Keeper.”

And if there’s anything indicator of Paak’s status in the music industry, just look at this feature list: Kendrick, Cole, Pusha T, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip, and more!!! Granted, being on Aftermath and having your whole album executive produced by Dr. Dre helps, but still. It is the most stacked feature list of any album this year, and every single feature fits cohesively with the album. They only further elevate his sound and make his efforts to create this masterpiece into what it is.

Perhaps the very best indicator of how I feel whenever I listen to Paak’s music, it is his own catchphrase that encompasses that feeling: “YES LAWD!” I’m not super religious, but that excitement in that phrase itself is what makes me so passionate about his music. So if you even care a bit about music in any capacity, you should listen to Anderson .Paak, not just for the technical skill exhibited in his art, but the feelings his music brings out in everyone who listens. You won’t be disappointed.


Being Noah Tesfaye #55: YES LAWD! — My Affinity for Anderson .Paak

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Racism is One Effective Tool

Midterms wrapped up. Kind of…

I’ve been following both from a distance and from up-close the midterm elections all across the country. It’s been fun to watch, but underlying all of those circumstances, there is one underlying theme that has really struck a chord with me. It was a message one of my favorite writers, Vann Newkirk from The Atlantic, tweeted on election night:

If anyone understands the heritage of this nation, none of this is new. Do I have to go into a long explanation about how much certain groups have gone to extend the reach of the right to vote? Racism is one of the most important tools used to establish this nation, regardless of what anyone has to say because it is the truth. Whether its slavery, the Trail of Tears, Japanese internment, and so so so much more, there have been many points when which this country has turned its back on people because of the way they look.

After people gave their blood, sweat, tears, and lives to grant all Americans with the right to vote, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. And for decades elections were at least protected through federal oversight. It gave way to decades of more fairly enforced elections. It seemed as though we’d finally turn a direction that would prioritize the most essential right of all Americans.

But then, it changed.

In 2013, Shelby County v. Holder ended Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, effectively restoring the states rights to change voting laws in any way their legislatures see fit. This law was put in place and enforced to specifically ensure places that had previously failed to comply with voting rights laws would now do so. This case ended that discussion and Congress have yet to put any new criteria for the coverage program used through this law.

Almost immediately, states began to impose legislation making it more difficult for people of color, poor people, and the elderly from being able to cast their ballots fairly. A North Carolina voter ID law that was struck down in 2016, after an Appeals Court loss, and during which, the 4th Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the panel that:

“The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist.”

If that doesn’t tell you the lengths to which people are attempting to restrict your right to vote, I don’t know what is.

But what is more important than just the decision in Shelby County v. Holder wasn’t in just the way the change of the law itself, it was in the very ideology it was created upon. This is what Chief Justice John Roberts had to say in his court-majority opinion:

A statute’s “current burdens” must be justified by “current needs,” and any “disparate geographic coverage” must be “sufficiently related to the problem that it targets.” The coverage formula met that test in 1965, but no longer does so.

Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The formula captures States by reference to literacy tests and low voter registration and turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. But such tests have been banned nationwide for over 40 years. And voter registration and turnout numbers in the covered States have risen dramatically in the years since. Racial disparity in those numbers was compelling evidence justifying the preclearance remedy and the coverage formula. There is no longer such a disparity.

That thinking is what has gotten us to this very point. This thinking that there is no longer a clear reason for having a true Voting Rights Act that is enforced in regions of past violations is the reason why we are at this very moment. When we embolden those who claim racism still plays no role in restricting the rights of some Americans, we get the circumstances we are faced with during this midterm.

Georgia’s gubernatorial race is still counting votes, where a black woman is going against the man who is literally in charge of elections for the state of Georgia and who helped remove 1.3 million people from voter registration rolls. We have a candidate who is running on voter suppression as we speak. This doesn’t even go into the voting machines debacle that occurred, where hundreds of voting machines were not being used, causing longer lines that extended voting hours.

You can get the official numbers on disenfranchisement. You can find the statistics to show racism has played a role on voting, and honestly, why is there such a debate over this nonpartisan issue? I will say that as someone who has always claimed to be politically independent, it abhors me that there is any discussion that we should just call and end the Georgia election, to give it to Brian Kemp, that so-called “liberals” are forcing this extension of an election. This is about doing whatever is necessary to protect the rights of all Americans. Let’s make sure that legislation is passed to restore those rights. Florida already took a step further this week. Let’s make this a future, not just a story.


Being Noah Tesfaye #54: Racism is One Effective Tool

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Rediscovering the Joy of Reading

This school year has been off to a solid start. I’ve had the chance to learn more in the first two months than I have pretty much any other year.

But to be completely honest, there is one class that truly that has reignited my interest in reading. That class, of course, has been English.

I won’t go into detail in the level of English class I’m taking, but the fact remains that the discussions, the writing, the books, everything have been on a whole new level of understanding what it means to understand literature. And it’s made me more eager than ever to pick up our books we’re reading this year.

Speaking of books, this year’s selection has been nothing short of inspiring. We started the year with Pride and Prejudice. As a lame person who never got the chance to really look into Jane Austen, I was blown away with the prose control and tone set out throughout the novel. I didn’t know till then nor read any other novel that was able to capture human emotions that were so real that they’d still be relatable today. Yes, it was difficult at times to read, and I won’t deny that I’ve read some pages three or four times to understand the true message. But, it was the story itself that kept pulling myself back into trying to get even better at understanding what I am reading.

After we wrapped up P+P, we read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. This novel, told from five different perspectives, frustrated me at first. I didn’t recognize the importance of the excessive (in my opinion) description that I felt didn’t really allow me to get at the root of each character’s motivations. But, as the novel continued, you began to discover the significance in this style choice by Carson McCullers. The fact a 23-year-old was able to write such a powerful book made me even more hopeful, albeit still in shock, that over time, one’s prose could become as poignant as hers, even at such a young age.

And now, we’re reading what is setting up to possibly become one of my favorite novels ever, probably top two: Beloved. I don’t even still have a grasp on maybe a third of what this novel is getting at, but for some reason, it connects me to a history so powerful I cannot ever ignore it. This is the very first novel I’ve read in high school as required reading by a black writer with black protagonists and focused on their own growth as humans. Obviously, being black, I’m definitely frustrated and upset at the fact there hasn’t been a novel yet we’ve read with these qualities until now. However, of any possible novel, I am so thankful that I get to read it in a class, amongst peers, discussing it together, because if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t pick up on all of the subtle things Morrison does as a writer. This novel truly tackles humanity and what we do under extreme trauma and stress. I just love it so much and I cannot wait to see how it wraps up!

I’d like to mention that none of this understanding would have been even remotely possible without the discussions that my classmates and I had throughout the classes and in group chats. There are always moments where someone has the epiphany that guides everyone towards a more comprehensive understanding of our work. But in that class, in particular, it is the help of our teacher that truly guides our thinking. He throws in random comments that make everyone almost simultaneously say, “OHHHHHH!!!” or “WAIT!” The people in that class make it not only the most interesting class I’ve ever been a part of but a class that pushes everyone towards succeeding. It’s almost like my experience at Columbia, only we just talk about books instead of political theory.

Some people at school like to joke that only crazy people decide to go our route and take this English class. But in all honesty, no matter how difficult this experience has been, it’s a weird feeling to somehow enjoy all of this challenge. This journey, this endeavor into learning about some of the greatest works in history is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in school. To think I almost chose film over this… Well… I’m glad I made this choice. I’m going to keep on hitting a wall reading or struggling to find the MOWW of a novel, but at least I love it. That’s what matters most.


Being Noah Tesfaye #53: Rediscovering the Joy of Reading

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Noah Tesfaye #52: How Writing for a Year Changed My Life.

52 weeks ago, I embarked on a journey.

Just a few days prior, I was complaining along with my friend about how much we hated the fact that we never got the chance to write as often as we wanted. We were always occupied with in-class writing, that everything we would do was always for a grade. We wanted the chance to just write about whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. This friend suggested that I start writing a blog. I had my domain name thanks to my dad saving it for me, and I re-configured it to become this: the blog.

52 weeks ago, I told myself I would try to write every single week for a year. Whether I was in the country or not, whether I was struggling in that moment of time, whether I was sleep-deprived, I told myself I needed to write. I didn’t know at the time why I needed to write, but I just had that inkling to just do it.

Every single Saturday, as I’m doing right now, I sit down in a coffee shop, block off two hours, and don’t do anything but just sit with myself, alone, and write. Whatever comes to me is what ends up coming onto the blog. Some weeks, that idea came throughout the week. Other times, I would sit for three hours in a coffee shop mindlessly surfing through news articles until I found the right thing to write about. But either way, the process would remain the same. I would go Medium, now Highland 2, open a blank document, and just write into a white screen.

When I started the blog, I felt as though I didn’t really know who I was as a person. I knew I physically existed, or at least maybe, shout out to AP Lit;). But I didn’t know what my purpose was, what the point of working so hard aimlessly at school if I didn’t know what I was striving towards. I wanted so bad to have that calling that I felt was necessary towards me achieving some accomplishment greater than my own. But, I told myself that if I just talked to myself, if I just wrote whatever I was thinking, maybe I’d begin to start piecing myself together.

And it worked.

From that very first piece on the point of diversity to most recently writing about my favorite coffee shops, I’ve discovered more about myself than I ever could just thinking without inaction. I’ve learned that I’m a more compassionate person if I always attempt to put myself in other people’s shoes. I’ve learned that I love writing more than almost any single activity in my life. This blog is, after all, the single reason why I began writing for my school paper and local paper because I became more confident in who I was. I’ve also discovered I have a passion for seeking out knowledge in ways I never knew were possible. From reparations to Justice Roberts to Malcolm X, I just want more than ever to learn in every part of my life. Writing the blog has allowed me to find new facts and narratives that I would have never been able to understand had I never written this blog.

Without a doubt, the clearest difference between the start and now is my writing skills. Practicing every single week, attempting to use language in random, unique ways for me has been eye-opening. It’s not just that through the blog that I love writing more, but I realize how much writing can do, and how much power words truly have. Especially when it comes to reading books now in English, I’m more apt in understanding more complex passages, and I pick up far more through a first read now than I could just a year ago. I value and admire my friends’ writing as well on a far deeper level. Without this blog, I would be a writer without the enthusiasm and desire to get better. But now, I’m an okay writer with the passion to take this skill to the maximum.

I also won’t go without saying that there’s a day coming up this week that’s also important for me and for a lot of other friends: November 1st. And I could not be honest with you and say how much writing this blog has helped me become ready for that whole process. I always thought before I started writing that it would be weird and very selfish to write about myself every week for a year, that this person/friend/peer who would do this is stuck up. But, in reality, this blog is selfish, and that’s okay. I wrote initially to find myself and what ended up happening was that I knew so much more about what I wanted, what I wanted to become, that it made this whole process more straightforward. How can you write about what you want if you don’t know who you truly are? I’m not saying I knew even 50% of what I want in life, but I don’t have the prose control or vocabulary to explain how much writing this blog has helped me with writing these essays. And even though I never started with that intention, it helped me so much that when it came to the summer, it was just like writing more blog posts for me.

I never had the intention of getting the blog to necessarily become the next big thing and become viral. But, I’ve been surprised that people will sometimes just come up to me or message me that they read and that they enjoy it. They appreciate the dialogue, the conversation that I try to kindle. Opening new topics amongst my peers is what makes me even more proud of the writing I’ve done this year. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read, swiped up on my Snaps, gone to my Instagram bio, or clicked the link on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks to you, this personal journey has become even more exciting than I ever imagined.

So what’s next? What’s the future? I said I’d write for a year, not thinking I’d make it this far, but here I am. The plan? To continue this journey. As I said, I still don’t really know yet who I am or what I truly want to do, but the plan is to just continue this blog until I get to that point. Who knows if that’s next week, or in three years, or twenty, but that is what’s next for this blog.

52 weeks ago, I chose to write a blog. And it changed my life. Write, even if you hate the idea of it, because, who knows, maybe it will change your life too.

Thank you so much for reading. I’ll see you all next week…


Being Noah Tesfaye #51: The Best Coffee Shops in Silicon Valley

Yesterday I made a mistake. What was that mistake? I decided to drink coffee at noon.

For the rest of the day, I was shaking a bit too much for my own comfort, and by the end of the day, I completely crashed.

But coffee is a part of my DNA. Whether remembering the jebena my grandparents would use to make coffee, to hearing my dad discuss the technical specs of an espresso machine that I had no idea were even possible, coffee is everywhere.

And as I got hooked onto coffee during my summer at Columbia, and now as a person who drives, I’ve been hunting for new coffee shops to try out. And when it comes to coffee shops in general, there are some essential criteria for finding out what place best fits you:

1. Price — As a student, there is nothing more important than how much coffee will cost me. It’s impractical to go every single, heck every other day, or every two days to get coffee. So whenever I do want to go and get some work done for four hours (sometimes even more), I want to make sure I can get coffee that’s worth my money and is a place where I can go in the future for a decent price.

2. Flavor — As much as the cost of coffee is the ultimate deciding factor, the flavor is a significant component in finding the right coffee shop for you. As a cold coffee drinker, you need to find places that have the right roasts for you, whether they’re Verve or Intelligentsia or any other roaster. Do they have the perfect balance of acidity and bitterness for you? Do they make the drinks that you want and like, and if not, can they create something new for you? If you don’t like the coffee, that’s an instant reason to never go to that coffee shop.

3. Location (crowdedness/space for friends to come along + ambiance) — This one is by far the most subjective out of my personal criteria. For me, the busier, the more crowded, the more chaotic the coffee shop is, the more focused I am. For others, it means going to a super quiet coffee shop, or getting coffee and then going to a library to get work done. Either way, find what makes you the most productive. Also, if you like to work alone or with friends, find a place that can accommodate the extra friend or two. If the place has unfriendly baristas, that’s also maybe something you may not like either, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

4. Wifi — Simple. Find a place that has good, reliable wifi. And if you can, get and use a VPN since most shops have open access wifi.

5. Outlets — If I’m working somewhere for an extended period of time, especially if I’m getting there directly after school, having outlets, accessible outlets at that, are crucial to ensuring you can get whatever work you need to get done.

Before I give my list of favorite coffee shops, I just want to say that always be careful with how much you spend on coffee, or anything really. I know at times I’ve spent too much and I couldn’t afford to eat dinner with friends or get something essential I needed. So please, please, please don’t let the caffeine dictate your wallet.

Now, here are my favorite coffee shops.

1. Red Rock Coffee

If you know me personally, there isn’t really any place that I spend more time besides home and school than at Red Rock. Price-wise, it’s about average for iced coffee, but it can get way up there for other drinks. It’s got the outlets and great wifi that are always working. There is no other coffee shop for me personally that matches the flavor that Red Rock has, and it’s their house blend (which I believe is from Honduras, but please let me know if I’m wrong) that reminds me why I go there often. But the single reason why I love this place so much is for the location, right on Castro Street, and its vibe is just unbeatable. It’s always packed, which works really well for my working style, and although it’s difficult to work there with friends since space is often limited, it’s worth it. Also, it’s the only coffee shop aside from Coupa Café that closes at 10, and 11 on Fridays and Saturdays (Coupa closes at 11!), meaning that I cannot be rushed to leave at a certain time. If you want to go to any coffee shop in the Bay Area, go to Red Rock.

2. Coupa Café

Just like Red Rock, Coupa on Ramona has the same kind of ambiance. The greatest thing about Coupa is the fact that it is always open till 11, seven days a week. And if you’re interested in working at a more quiet space, they also have a Coupa by the Palo Alto train station. Pricing on coffee is definitely pushing it to around $4, so I don’t really like to go that often. However, with its decent wifi, along with the two full spaces next door to one another, it’s always a good place to work with friends who are in that area.

The rest of these coffee shops are all good places to work if you don’t like busy spaces or want something different. For example, Prolific Oven in Sunnyvale is a hidden coffee shop off of Mathilda. It’s modern, empty, and happens to have a gastropub inside of it, so if you want actual food beyond coffee, you can do that too. Dana Street Roasting Company is a coffee shop with impeccable charm, one that is extremely affordable (cash only), and just exudes a vibe of “I want to write my memoir here.” It has wifi, and although its outlets are limited, it is just a one minute walk from Red Rock if it’s ever full.

I don’t really like to go to chains for a couple of reasons. For one, often times the coffee is average at best, and that’s speaking purely for Peet’s. From a flavor perspective, Starbucks tastes too much like water for me. I recognize that often times chains are more affordable, and I can attest to the fact that Peet’s is always a go-to whenever I am on a budget. However, going to your own local coffee shops has no comparison. Although more expensive, they are employing dozens of people and help support people more so beyond just a job. When you go to a local coffee shop, having a community that you see regularly, where everyone’s all trying to accomplish their goals, is something you can’t get at a Starbucks or a Peet’s or even a Blue Bottle (which makes incredible coffee by the way).

So those are my recommendations to you. Find a place that you like? Go whenever it’s feasible financially. If not, try another place. Find somewhere that fits you and what you want from a workspace. Until then, I’ll continue to sip on cold brew for the foreseeable future. I’ll see you all next week, for perhaps the most important blog post ever. Till then…


Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Noah Tesfaye #50: Teenage Things I Don’t Understand… as a Teen

I would like to consider myself an aware teenager. I like to keep up with what’s cool and what’s not, even when I genuinely don’t give to craps about any of that. And for the most part, I just understand and respect those my age for their favorite things to do and activities they participate in.

HOWEVER. No matter how much I attempt to make myself more understanding of teenage behaviors, I struggle to get these things. These are the things teenagers do that I, as a teenager, just don’t understand.

Private Instagram pages. Help me, please. Most of us have our own personal Instagram pages, where we don’t allow the public to see what we post. That’s expected. After all, I don’t really want the rest of the world to be super aware of cousins graduating or my dog passing away. But, most teens go even further than that with so-called “private” or “spam” accounts. Whether it’s memes or random wacky things we do our age, I just don’t understand it. I want to, but I just don’t get it. I know we are all insecure about things, and that’s totally fine to keep certain tidbits separate. But is there a point to having a whole sneaky, stealthy username that comes up only with your contacts? Maybe. But my ignorant teen mind maybe just doesn’t get it. I’m cool with it, but I just don’t get it.

What’s another thing I just don’t understand as a teen? Snapchat streaks. I totally see the point and respect the notion that I might want to stay in touch daily with certain people. I’ve had streaks with a couple people that would break every now and then, but for the most part, it didn’t matter a ton to me personally. But you know the side, 1/4 face look away standard streak message? I just don’t understand why we do it, why people my age do it. I remember how my brother got a couple of people to help keep his streaks while we were in Ethiopia last summer, and he was always paranoid every single day that he would lose them. I just don’t understand it. Most of my friends, to my knowledge, don’t really brag about how long their longest streaks are, nor do we discuss them out in public that much. So why do we do it? I honestly don’t know.

Another weird compulsion, which I am 100% guilty of, is whenever we share every single time we’re out and about with friends. I get this weird itch that for some reason, I need to post to my friends and show them that I’m with another friend. Does that mean I want to show off? Absolutely not, but maybe that’s just me. But for whatever reason, regardless of insecurity, I want to show people other people. I guess it really is my own insecurity, and you know what? Maybe I don’t really care. That’s why I stopped posting whenever I’m out and about, just cause I know the only people that I’m focusing on and caring about at that moment are the people I’m with, not whoever I am around.

Most of this stuff, not by coincidence, is all social media-centric. And for the most part, I want to help pull my focus away from that and the real world. I’m not going to say I’ll stop using Snap, Instagram, Facebook, and most certainly Twitter, but I think I could do more when it comes to understanding why I’m posting, or why I’m sharing whatever. If it’s because I find something cool and that others might be interested, you’ll see it. But if not, then there isn’t really a need to do anything with it. And that’s okay. Unless, of course, it’s to brag about coffee, in which, well, you’ve been warned…


Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Noah Tesfaye #49: We’re All to Blame

Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

That definitely doesn’t any ring to it. But that’s okay. And, as much as I disagree with him as a human, his temperament, his opinions, his accusations, all of it, I knew he would eventually get confirmed.

Back in 2013, the United States Senate, under Democratic control, changed the rules for federal judicial nominees and executive office appointments. Up until November of 2013, for forty years, the senate required a super majority of 60 votes to confirm these appointments. However, Democrats voted to change that, requiring only a simple majority in the Senate to pass a nominee right through.

This motion was designed to allow three more US Circuit Court of Appeals DC Circuit nominees picked by President Obama. The concern was future filibusters, that these nominees should be able to receive their nomination fairly and directly without any sort of holdback. This idea, to invoke this voting method, is what is known in politics today as the “nuclear option.”

Democrats saw that holding the Senate during the 2014 midterms would be able to prevent any sort of backfire for this decision, to break out the nuclear option. But, as we all know, that didn’t happen. Republicans ended up gathering control 54 out of the 100 Senate seats by the end of that election, and it set course for what we have just seen today.

Last year, the Senate Republicans decided to lower the threshold for a Supreme Court nominee to be confirmed, from the super majority to a simple majority of 50 votes. That enabled the confirmation of Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, who would not have been confirmed otherwise, with a vote of 54–45, the biggest split since Clarence Thomas’s vote (which is a whole different story to get into).

As I wrote last week, I was still in surprise at the complete lack of composure Kavanaugh demonstrated through his response to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony. And it was in that vein, on top of the very accusations themselves, that I did not and do not believe he should have been confirmed. How can I trust one’s judicial temperament if they cannot speak up for themselves respectfully? Again, I would have no issue with just disagreeing with someone on a philosophical way, like with Gorsuch. But I cannot deny how respectful and focused justices like Scalia were.

I don’t know if this system will ever be effective. A super majority could at least ensure that a higher percentage of the country has their values represented in the justices on the court. However, when the two past justices have been put onto the court by a president that did not even gain the majority of votes, that begs the real question: why have lifetime appointments? And if we want to have lifetime appointments, why not use the House to confirm justices, where population matters?

Representation with strong judicial experience is what is needed on all courts across the country, especially on the Supreme Court. What this court appointment has resulted in is a discussion about the process itself, the reasons for why we have decided to continue to place so much power in the judicial system, to trust that those in power will reflect our values. I’m that one avid Supreme Court fanatic amongst my friends, the one that bores people about the importance of the court itself. This confirmation has, I hope, brought the awareness the Court deserves. It needs to be watched, not just for its landmark decisions, but for every decision. Follow SCOTUSBlog on Twitter, keep your eyes on the court, but if we want change to truly happen, we’re going to need to do more than just vote.

Till next week…


Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Noah Tesfaye #48: What is Chief Justice Roberts Thinking Right Now?

There is no single news story that is more important today than this one. This story has been everywhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if people were claiming, “Can we just be done with this already?”

And to some extent, I could agree with you. Yes, this process is long and tedious, but it is imperative to the function of this democracy. It is, as I’ve said in previous posts, the most important branch of the US government. And the single question I really want the answer to is this: what in the world does SCOTUS, and Chief Justice John Roberts especially, think of these confirmation hearings?

If you remember, I wrote the weekend following Associate Justice Kennedy’s resignation that I believed that he would be a severe threat to so many precedents, and more importantly, as a threat to continue to make the court more partisan. I did not discredit him as a person, and it appeared, up until these hearings, that although strongly conservative, he appeared to be a good human being. That was, of course, until the accusations became public.

These accusations were clear and credible. They were fact-checked and backed with hours of research, and many major news outlets believed these stories to be sincere. I believe them.

After watching Kavanaugh’s Fox News interview that aired last Monday, I really began to feel like he wasn’t truthful. His outlandish claims about his virginity as a young man, along with his proud claims he only moderately drank in high school sound like jokes any kid who participates in similar activities at my own school would say. He didn’t accept the claims that he was sometimes seen visibly unaware while under the influence, and once his yearbook was discovered, what doubt was left to really believe 100% of that interview, let alone what he had claimed in public.

We get to Thursday, and Dr. Christine Blasey testified to her allegations as clear as anyone who has suffered sexual trauma could. She recalled clear details, yet at times did not remember other facts, like how she got home. There is psychological evidence to backup the idea that she very well does not remember due to the horrific events that could have taken place. Again, I believe her.

But the most convincing, telling behavior of that day was with Kavanaugh himself. He was erratic, indirect, and unclear with most of his direct answers. The questions about his drinking especially, which could have possibly caused lapses in his memory to not recall the events of that evening, were about as combative as I’ve ever seen. He lacked composure, poise, and most of all, respect for those questioning him. In one memorable moment, after Senator Amy Klobuchar asked him about him ever blacking out while drunk, he fired back asking if she ever had, not attempting initially to answer the question.

This, combined with the irrational display of anger by Senator Lindsey Graham all was telling of the fact that this was certainly one of the most important days in Senate confirmation hearing history.

And so we finally get to Friday, where right down party lines, 11–10, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move forward to a vote for Judge Kavanaugh. But, in a sudden change of pace, Senator Jeff Flake proclaimed that he would vote yes to the motion to vote so long as there was a thorough FBI investigation that would take place over the next week, delaying the vote. Whether it was to save his lobbying prospects after he leaves the Senate, or whether it was to assure that Kavanaugh did not do anything he was accused of, the nation is waiting for the FBI to, hopefully, figure this out.

We’re waiting. But back to my earlier question. Let’s set aside Clarence Thomas for a second, who’s confirmation most certainly warrants a whole other blog post, and let’s look at the court’s perspective on this. One could argue that some justices are appalled with these hearings, in both directions. As much as I believe that Judge Roberts has made some terrible decisions over the past couple years, for me most notably him striking down the Voting Rights Act of 1965, he does care about his reputation and the public perception of the court. That’s why the ACA wasn’t voted unconstitutional. Having a justice as divisive as Kavanaugh on the Court could not only hamper his court’s reputation, but it could motivate the country to drastically swing left both in the midterms and in 2020, facing off directly against the court.

Hypothetically, if I were a conservative, the risk is too great. Regardless of whether or not Kavanaugh is guilty of these allegations, which based on all current signs are most likely true, he hurts the conservative agenda at this moment. His confirmation, from both sides, is making the court even more partisan than it already is, especially when Kavanaugh went all after left-wing groups in his statement on Thursday. The best case scenario is to just to walk away from him and pick a new candidate for the court. The worst case? The allegations are true, he does not get confirmed, and in a demonstration of power, Democrats reclaim both the House and Senate, and no one is confirmed by January.

I’m going to say that, although for bad reasons, the court is at least in the spotlight. These nominations are so powerful, and who knows, maybe the lifetime appointment is not a good idea? I don’t know for sure, but that will be a post for another day. I’ll see you all next week…


Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Noah Tesfaye #47: The Brockhampton Story

It’s a cool summer June afternoon in 2017. I’m in Morningside Park, amongst friends, and we’re on our lunch break from class. In typical fashion, I bust out my UE Roll and ask for music suggestions. I get summer favorite suggestions like “Redbone” and others. But I got one suggestion, one song, from a small independent group originally from Houston and now in LA. Their name? Brockhampton. The song? “Milk.”

After that first day my friend introduced me to “The Best Boyband since One Direction,” it’s been a journey to see the group grow. From listening to Saturation just days after its release, to enjoying Saturation II at school. What made them unique, what made them truly special, was their commitment to just being themselves, expressing their hardships so genuinely. There was no “toning down” of content, nothing except for unapologetic honesty.

The first Saturation brought the world a style of music for the nerds, the outcasts, the forum browsers, a collective of rappers, singers, producers, and videographers, all living out their dream together. They made all their own videos, produced all of their music inside their house in South Central LA. They made an app filled with exclusive content, merchandise that was affordable and cool, and most of all, they kept that same energy for nearly a whole year.

Through Saturation II, and through Saturation III, Brockhampton continued to make music that I loved, music that made me appreciate life for even it’s most subtle intricacies. From “GOLD” to “JUNKY” to “BLEACH,” every single album provided a different sound that continued to develop, continued to sound more grand and majestic as the trilogy unfolded. There were no samples, which resulted in each song sounding truly unique. No track was the same. Everything seemed to be heading in a great direction. I saw them at the Warfield last March, and they played an incredible show from start to finish. It was one of the greatest experiences I have ever witnessed.

The group announced their fourth album, Team Effort, the day that Saturation III released, on December of 2017. They later called the album off on March 20th, but fortunately, they announced their next album, Puppy, scheduled for this past summer. Just ten days later, they announced that they had decided to sign with RCA. Things were proceeding like normal in Brockhampton, and we all were excited for another summer trilogy.

But on in May, rumors surfaced surrounding Ameer and possible sexual misconduct. And swiftly, on May 27th of 2018, Brockhampton announced that Ameer would no longer be in the group.

I was stunned. For one, Ameer was on every single album cover. He was the literal face of the group. Yes, Ian aka Kevin was the frontman for the group, but Ameer was the blue man. He was an great lyricist, with a great story. But, as the info began to leak, I knew it was the right decision. He did some very bad things in his past, and most of all, he wasn’t truthful to his family, the group. I don’t know whether he did anything he was accused of, but I know that his dishonesty about the circumstances to his group mates is what makes me believe they made the right decision.

Now, we’re in a new trilogy: It’s “The Best Years of Our Lives” era. Iridescence just released yesterday, and it’s the album that I’m the most proud of for the group. Against the odds they faced dealing with becoming a signed group to losing one of their core group members, this album is the perfect way to begin this new chapter. I will continue to be a Brockhampton stan for the foreseeable future. Thank you Ian, Dom, Matt, Joba, Merlyn, Romil, Jabari, HK, Ashlan, Kiko, Jon, Robert, and of course Bearface for helping shape music for the future. Let’s see what this next chapter holds…


Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Noah Tesfaye #46: Why Tweet?

I’ve been on Twitter for over six years.

When it comes to social media, I’ve been fortunate to jump on to most of the platforms early. That is, of course, aside from Facebook, which was known as the “parent/adult” platform. It makes sense that as a young kid, being in Silicon Valley especially, no one else was online outside of your local proximity. Your friends in other states and other countries wouldn’t be on social media because it wasn’t quite mainstream yet for teens (granted, I wasn’t even a teen yet).

It wasn’t really until the 2012 presidential campaign that social media truly began to become a platform where people would actually see and hear news. It became the place where certain events would be discussed and contested, how stories about people like Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown got spread so rapidly. Now, Twitter is the platform for where news happens, and whenever 45 tweets, it becomes the single headline on any major network.

For me personally, Twitter was the place I saw as a chance to connect with my favorite YouTubers. I would retweet for giveaways and tweet out my favorite videos, praying for those coveted likes by verified users. I remember the first day I got a like from Marques Brownlee, better known as MKBHD, and I ran up to my mom and told her about it. She barely even knew who he was other than him being the black tech guy on YouTube. But for those first few years, that was what Twitter was for me; it was me seeking validation from those I admired. Here’s that first tweet:

Those tweets are cringe-worthy of course. But it was just me trying to understand how to use a platform I thought I could be truly heard on. I thought that my life would instantly be better if someone like UnboxTherapy gave me a follow, or if LeBron James retweeted me. But (obviously), that wasn’t the case. In fact, the things I was searching for from Twitter was not validation; it was the opportunity to learn more.

Over the years, as I matured, I began to search for new ways to use the platform, ways to be able to learn about the world. I began to read more journalism, follow my favorite writers, and try to add my own input into any discourse for topics I was interested in. I still would tweet out random video game montages and EDM songs, but for the most part, I chose to use the platform as a way to better engage myself with the rest of the world.

But this past year, something changed. Instead of just engaging in dialogue with people online, I started to look for opportunities to gain in the real world through Twitter. I connected with local people I admired, trying to help make this world a better place. I reached out and got an internship from an initial Twitter exchange. I used Twitter to get in touch with two of my favorite writers at a major publication. I had no intention of ever receiving a complete “yes” or “no,” but I just wanted to ask if anyone wanted to help me accomplish my goals. It just took that first point of contact, that first opportunity to ask someone about what they do, how you can learn from them, and most often, people are always excited to help you!

Twitter is a weird place. It sucks out a ton of my time, makes e want to hate the world I am a part of, and even want to just delete my account and never look at it again. But for all of these moments of anger scrolling through my timeline, I see real relationships being forged, real people getting the chance to share their stories. We got to understand the Arab Spring because of Twitter. We got to understand the Ferguson protests because of Twitter. We saw first hand what was happening in Charlottesville because of Twitter. It’s a platform I learned about journalists and activists really changing the world. It gives me an opportunity to hear out perspectives on all sides of the aisle, which I don’t really get in my daily life.

This platform is by no means a perfect platform. But I’ve gained a lot because of the platform that has been written off as a place to completely waste every second of your existence on going after trolls (which I don’t really do either of). This isn’t a post on the backend, with what Jack Dorsey is doing, because honestly I have far more to say about that than a few sentences. But for what Twitter is, at its very core, is a place to share short bursts of ideas, ideas that if you’re open to thinking about, could very well change your life.


Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE