Saturday, December 12, 2009


Pinball Machine as tableAbout 20 minutes after I turn on my laptop and start writing, my machine has begun crashing and flickering like that fluorescent light flicker that gives you a headache. I've decided not to take it personally and let the Genius Bar live up to its name on Monday. We shall see.

Anyway, here's some cool stuff that's made an impression lately:

- A few months ago, I saw Martin Atkins of Killing Joke & Ministry on his book tour behind Tour:Smart. Book tour is a misnomer since he didn't talk about his book - which goes into great detail on how not to kill yourself on tour and the reasons why being a tour manager can be one of the worst jobs ever. He did talk a lot about marketing yourself though and had some fantastic examples to pass around. I thought these were really cool: 1) Moldovar's CD with a working light theremin, song titles written using circuitry, a headphone jack, and a built-in speaker, which altogether make the CD into an instrument of its own, and 2) Shogun Kunitoki's picture vinyl with animation loops that you can see if you get the strobe light that goes with the vinyl. I have a hard time caring overmuch about the music when there's so much extracurricular fun to be had with the packaging. As long as it's not Top 40 crap.

- Last month's issue of Outside is outstanding with a timely article on the perils and challenges of fighting in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan.

- Clone-themed entertainment I've enjoyed lately: Dollhouse Season 1 and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. There's definitely a creepy factor to both of these, but it's a good creep.

- Music Hack Day featured lots of boys slinging code for a couple of days to make music apps talk to each other. I'm still unclear on the need for the table full of soldering irons. But still, it's always informative to look at the music industry from a heretofore unknown angle and see how the consumer challenges get fixed. Check out the hacks.

- Stevie Wonder performing Superstition on Sesame Street. Money says that was the only time Cookie Monster got name-checked during a performance of that song.

- The Muppets redoing the music video of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. Mama! Mama?

- The Puppy Channel from this episode of This American Life. That is, unless you think we've gone over the cuteness deep end?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Missing Pieces

I went back and forth with my friend Shane last week having one of those political science discussions that could've gone on forever - and still might - and ended with us agreeing for the most part.

Shane argues that the progressive movement lacks strong enough convictions to hold Democrats accountable. The conservative movement has the Federalist Society, Ayn Rand and the Christian right to ground its ideas independent of the GOP's political desires. The movement demands allegiance for its votes and its money and in turn, the GOP slavishly listens. For better or worse, the movement has succeeded in kicking out those whose beliefs differ - thus, no more moderate Republicans. This winnowing might eventually undo the GOP if the conservative movement's demands exceed its vote-getting power...but for the moment, the marriage thrives.

The Dems don't have the same ideological obligation to a movement. While the conservative umbrella gets smaller and more exclusive, the progressive umbrella gets ever bigger. I've always liked that the progressive movement has a bigger umbrella and can handle dissent within, but if the term "progressive" is too broad, it loses meaning - the Stupak amendment to the House version of the health care bill is the latest example of the problem. If a cohesive progressive movement had held Dems accountable on the defense of a woman's right to choose, then poor women wouldn't have been sacrificed at the alter of politics. But if a movement doesn't demand or can't agree to demand an action, then why should a political party strictly uphold any belief beyond its own political ambitions? After all, where are traditional Democrat voters going to go?

I bring this up because I've been gaining new respect for the conservative movement while reading Jeffrey Toobin's The Nine which looks inside the current Supreme Court, profiles the justices, their opinions and legal philosophies, the legal strategies that worked and didn't, and chronicles how the conservative movement gained influence in the Court. It's been a fascinating look at how the groundwork was laid and built upon for decades for the confirmations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

After seeing the history laid out, I find myself chagrined that the best the progressive movement seems to have is "Palin 2012" and "Down with the crazy Christians!". I exaggerate, but it was easier to be a progressive when it was solely a reactive movement that could blame everything on Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. Now, Dems have power and I supposedly agree with them because I don't agree with the GOP...and yet Bush's policies are still in place on trying detainees held at Guantanamo, the definition of torture, warrentless wiretapping, a woman's right to choose, and don't ask don't tell policies on gays in the military. I'm disenchanted. And I wonder who actually represents me. Well, no one represents me since I'm a DC resident, but that's another blog post.

So, who represents me? Before I can answer that adequately, we need more political parties - after all, I might align with the Dems but if they're not advocating on my behalf then who am I going to vote for instead? And most assuredly, we need election reform - voters should never be put in the position of voting "strategically" as it was artfully called in the 2000 presidential election. So, while I've certainly been talking about convictions, I see the lack of convictions as evidence of structural problems. Consider that a promise for part 2!

And thanks, Shane, for the links and the arguments.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sugarcane Candles

I had my second annual Divali dinner last month (I just realized that when I say it like that, it sounds like a real tradition!). It's a tradition I really enjoy keeping, though my dinner parties don't resemble the Divalis I grew up with.

For one, it wasn't called Divali. It was Divari with the accent on the first syllable. The Indian New Year I grew up with had lots of family and the homemade sweets that you could only have at that time of year and maybe little presents for the kids - or maybe I'm making that part up, not sure. My grandparents' apartment was always alit with candles to keep away the evil spirits and the doorways were decorated with wreathes of flowers and scrolled designs on the thresholds made of colored powders. Everyone endeavored to get along for the night and usually did. Which meant they'd all get together and urge on the child of the house - me - to do the prayer/benediction/ceremony that involved walking around the house with a homemade sugarcane candle chanting the Aireu Maireu (anglicized obviously). I'd wonder at how the piece of sugarcane with the cotton ball wick turned into a candle, get horribly bashful about the chanting, thrill to the moment and then ask for another of the sweets. All the food was always delicious - not just because of the holiday but because my grandmother was a great cook.

Cooking is one of the arts that I wish I had cared to learn from my grandmother when she was still alive to teach me. She died about 10 years ago and it was a few years before I realized the lost knowledge. But I still missed eating good Indian food so I started cooking anyway using cookbooks. It wasn't the same, but I had to start somewhere and I got better the more I cooked. After moving to DC, deciding to have the first Divari dinner party was a big deal - would we end up eating anytime that night? would it feel like something was missing if there weren't sugarcane candles and chanting? what if someone was allergic to something? and of course, would it taste good? It all came together beautifully though and that's when I started branching out beyond Indian food for people other than myself.

I'm not experienced enough with Indian cooking to be the intuitive cook that my grandmother was but, in getting to a place where I enjoy sharing my cooking, I feel like I've reclaimed some of what was lost. Except the sweets. I need to figure out how to make those to complete the lesson!

It's probably just as well that I forget to take pictures at my dinners since these and these are much, much cooler.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Civic Duty

I finished a week long jury trial last week - my first time serving on a jury. The defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance - pot - with intent to distribute and possession of an unlicensed, unregistered firearm - a semi-automatic Tec-9.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to serve though I'm left wondering how anyone ever gets convicted. My fellow jurors and I were told after we delivered a verdict that the first jury to hear this case couldn't come to a decision. We came close to doing the same, but after endlessly discussing the definition of "possession", we ended up compromising enough that I doubt anyone but the defendant was satisfied. Of course the law needs specific rules, but I'm dismayed at how much of the law is about technicalities and finding the right one to suit the occasion. Technicalities serve both sides, but it's also easy to see how an inexperienced public defender can be overmatched.

I was more bothered by the semi-automatic than a little pot, so convicting the guy on possession of less than $200 of pot stung a bit. But without more evidence there was nothing more to do. Despite popular rhetoric on the sanctity of the Second Amendment, actually getting caught with a gun you're not supposed to have is apparently much more perilous than such small quantities of marijuana.

I also hadn't thought about the impact of having a law student on the jury. It was like having a medical student around when they're learning how to diagnose people: everyone's sick with an exotic condition...rather than just having a cold. The same was true for this guy: why didn't the cops watch longer, were they profiling the neighborhood, maybe the defendant was passing candy bars, how come they didn't find this and that piece of evidence. All valid questions, but you can only judge what's there.

The best part of the experience was talking to both attorneys after rendering a verdict and learning their opinions of their cases. The defense was resigned to losing the drug charge but both attorneys thought the case for the weapon was leaky. It felt very much like being inside an episode of Law & Order and watching the attorney work a little sleight of hand to obscure the missing evidence. These people weren't Sam Waterston, but in retrospect the diversions and the glamours weren't hard to see.

Anyway, my $4/day travel payment is in the mail and I'm off the hook for at least another two years.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bookshelf: Genes & Julia

Latte ArtI've been reading Steve Olsen's Mapping Human History, which looks at genetics through the lens of ancient history and describes possible migration patterns that brought the human species from the couple of people we're descended from who lived in Africa 100,000 - 150,000 years ago to the 6.7 billion humans we are today.

The big reveal: A few mutations and 150,000 years and it turns out we're all descended from a half-human, half-Cylon hybrid kid named Hera - if one were inclined to mix their media like that. But really, he spends a lot of time methodically disproving the teabagger-types and talking about how, genetically-speaking, we're all much, much more similar than we are different and how race is a social construct and not a genetic fact. The actual surprise is that that's still news.

One of the more interesting sections examines the biologically Jewish population, a distinction that it wouldn't have occurred to me to make. The discussion also reminded me that I've never read the Bible and maybe I should. Ultimately I found the cultural implications of migration more interesting than the biological ones, but still glad I read this.

Also, just finished Julie Powell's Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously. For the most part, I'm inspired to stay far away from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. But then, I'm biased right now since I didn't like Julie Powell's book - maybe the movie's better? It got better the less time she spent feeling sorry for herself.

I'm feeling burnt still from the last few months of craziness, so I've been burying myself in books and the television I've missed. On the reading, I think Freakanomics is next. And I've finally caught up to television on Mad Men and How I Met Your Mother and now have a crush on Neil Patrick Harris. Dollhouse next?

Monday, October 12, 2009

What's Next?

Setting the SceneWell, it's done. FMC Policy Summit 2009 is over. I'm very proud of the conference we put on. I'm also in an unfamiliar place personally as a result. This multi-day, three-ring circus of a conference has been my goal for a few years...and now it's a goal attained.

Graduating high school and college count as milestones reached, but those were expectations as much as achievements and weren't choices I made. Moving to DC and making a life here is a personal goal that I've also seen through (four years today, as a matter of fact!) Organizing this conference was different though, because it was the first long-term professional goal that I chose and embraced.

What also makes this moment unique for me is that there isn't an obvious next step. When I graduated from high school, the next step was college. When I graduated college, the next step was getting a job that had something to do with college. Those were questions and answers that were anticipated and prepared for. But I didn't anticipate these questions to spring up right now: What's the next big goal? What drives me professionally now? Are incremental goals enough for the moment?

All questions I'll be figuring out how to answer. But don't mistake me, this is a very cool place to be. Having decided to do something and then succeeding is a point of pride and glee.


Self-Portrait: me & ShayneAs to the conference itself, here were a few of the moments that stand out:

- The sight of the line to get into our SRO crowd on the first day. I know we put on a great conference, but I never really believe other people agree until they start arriving
- Finally getting to see Copyright Criminals; trailer here
- Rob Kaye's hair (one day we'll get him to dye/shave the FMC logo into his head before he arrives)
- We had to get a campus group to relocate their canned food drive when we arrived which resulted in statements like "I gotta go get rid of the food drive."
- Maps, directions, signs, maps, more directions, bad directions, driving directions, what if they take our signs down?, no clue how to direct you here, and the wonderful volunteers who took it upon themselves to stand at strategic locations and direct people
- Sorta making the live video feed work and "beaming" Peter DiCola in for the sampling panel
- The rock show...and having already seen it before so missing the last half wasn't so tragic
- Scene from Office Space + the room above + two turntables = Mike Relm soundchecking on Tuesday morning
- Our closing night cocktail party at the Eighteenth Street Lounge
- Thursday evening after the Summit at 7:46 PM, when I shut my computer down and realized the marathon was over

Thursday, September 10, 2009


From BelowBusy since FMC's Policy Summit is only three weeks away. Ack! The more conferences I attend, the more I realize I like ours - it's not just smart, but it makes an effort not to talk into the vacuum. Among the many cool things planned, I'm really looking forward to the screening of Copyright Criminals, hearing Radiohead's Brian Message, and our panel on IP, privacy and network rights. I guess I've been looking at the title long enough that "Up in Your Bits" is no longer snicker-worthy!

Among my recent thought-provoking, smile-making, huh?- or cringe-inducing moments online:

The Family Guy maybe inspired 179,997 indecency complaints in March. Yeah.

Short and pithy take on the effect of Facebook and Twitter on us. And longer and more insightful take on "white flight" from Myspace to Facebook.

Having watched The Contrarian daily declare war on Comcast, this ode to Netflix is nice to see. That plus the crazy vacation policy, well, I'm jealous.

I like.

Food-related: Cereal-packaging fun. Hubby-hubby. Absolut's newest flavor is Absolut Boston - I wonder if you end up with that awful accent after drinking it? I can't help but cringe at "Fat Princess", a video game that involves saving a princess who the other team has made hard to move by feeding her lots of cake. But I'm also just weirded out. Really? What's the command for feeding her cake? Circle-up-up?

Visiting whattheinternetknowsaboutyou was a little creepy. Not surprised however that browser history is so easy to detect.

Alrighty, off to bed with Guillermo del Toro's The Strain, i.e. non-chick-lit vampire novel. Jury's still out on whether the payoff will be worth the lengthy build-up.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yes, No, Maybe

Phenomenal Hand Clap BandI was watching this TED talk by Alain de Botton on success and failure and how meritocracies don't actually exist and got to thinking about the question "what do I care about?"

It's a question I ask myself a lot lately - because it helps me organize my mind and because knowing the answer makes it easier to articulate what I want if I've sifted through the choices already. Since I'm in the midst of my semi-annual event-related frenzy, the question is timely and allows me to loosen up on my micro-managing tendencies. Most importantly, it lets me define success. Botton, whose Art of Travel I really wanted to like when I read it on vacation last month but it didn't resonate for me - meanders his way more successfully in this talk through snobbery, envy, and the comparisons one makes in modern society. Interesting stuff with an equally insightful conversation in the comments.


In non-work-related things: I caught The Phenomenal Handclap Band, who mercifully didn't feature a full chorus of hand clapping. To be honest, I can't remember what exactly they sound like - the review I just read described them as "indy soul rock jam-core" which could be just about anything - but the crowd - including the two tiny little schoolteacher-looking-ladies-complete-with-pearl-necklaces next to me - and I had a great time dancing and I only paid $5 to get in.

Looking forward to seeing Numero Group's Eccentric Soul Revue and my friend Stew's musical Passing Strange as a concert film by Spike Lee. I will never be fortunate enough to see Tsunami, but instead I've had the good fortune to work with both Jenny Toomey and Kristin Thomson.

Speaking of Jenny and Kristin, come to FMC's DC Policy Summit (my baby) on October 4-6, 2009 if you're a musician or at all interested in the music industry's future. Register! Apply for a musician or student scholarship! Watch the live webcast! Come to the shows! Watch the film screening! Have a few drinks! Talk too much! What? Ain't that enough???

Friday, August 14, 2009

Kickin' It Live

Run for CoverOn the live music front lately:

I caught Run for Cover, a DC tradition where local bands remake themselves into crack cover bands for a one-night-only benefit show. These musicians knew, too, what make cover bands work as entertainment: complete knowledge of the material and total commitment to it. After all, making fun of the music is only funny if you're playing it properly. Otherwise, you're just being lame. Confession: I saw Bon Jovi in high school when Extreme opened for them at Great Woods outside of Boston. I might have thought the music was cheesy, but they were excellent performers because they knew how to put on a show...and it was the same thing with my friends David Brown and David Durst of Poor but Sexy who were part of the covering band. The Runaways and the Top Gun reenactment were also great; sad I missed Casper Bangs leading the Bee Gees finale though.

Tinted Windows (a "supergroup" - a term I hate more and more), in contrast, excelled at playing OK filler songs. Maybe if they'd stuck to covering songs by each of their bands - Cheap Trick, Smashing Pumpkins, Hanson, and Fountains of Wayne? The only upshot to the evening: US Royalty, the openers, who were worth seeing again.

I don't have plans to see any other live music at that moment, but I am trying to produce my first show for FMC's conference in a few months. I know booking shows and audio and marketing and budgets to varying degress, but putting it all together is new and a little scary since I'm trying not to lose money and put on a show from scratch, i.e. not in an existing venue. But then what's to worry about? It's not like the concert business is losing so much money that they're giving away tickets for free? Hah.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Barcelona: No Straight Lines

When you're going through airport security in the US, you often see signs telling you not to joke about bombs or otherwise try to lighten the asinine process. When I was proving to the disarmingly good-looking gate agent in Madrid that I was eligible to fly to the US, he was simultaneously looking at passports and conducting a poll of the best food to eat in Spain.

That story exemplifies for me what made Spain different. Airport security has fun. There's more PDA on display than I've seen anywhere else: from teenagers making out to middle-aged couples grabbing ass - and I do mean grabbing and squeezing - to the elderly couple who'd probably been married a lifetime sneaking kisses while schooling passerby on how to dance the flamenco. The street entertainment never stops: the guy who keeps the soccer ball off the ground to the guy dressed like the alien from Alien pretending to bite people for spare change to the person who is inexplicably headless with his head on a table next to him. I was wandering around one night after dinner and came across an emo-girl with a faux-hawk and Docs who was blowing enormous soap bubbles to earn spare change.

Even the city's most well-known art feels looser. There's no Mona Lisa primly displayed behind glass - instead there's Antoni Gaudi's fantastical buildings with no right angles. There's the Picasso museum where he recreates Velazquez's Las Meninas paintings in multiple cubist renderings. I admit I don't get Picasso and get tired of assembling his cubes to find the complete image but I enjoyed watching his art evolve over the course of his life from straight forward portraits to cubes that focus on the whole rather than the parts.

Some other highlights:
- The food! Predictably, the farther off the tourist track, the better and cheaper the food. House wine was as cheap as water in many places and I got used to drinking it with every lunch, the egg sandwiches were an excellent breakfast, and tapas were so easy and delicious. I tried all sorts of random edibles: local hard cider, fried codfish balls, some killer blue cheese, all sorts of funny sausages, fish of various sorts stuffed into things, rice cooked in pig's blood, panther's milk which a kindly bartender handed us when we were paying our bill. (The explanation took some doing: "Por favor, que es esto?" "Leche de pantera." "Que es leche de pantera?" "Leche de animal." "Leche de que animal?" "Pantera." "Pantera?" "Si, pantera." "Ah, si, si, panther.")

- The Tour de France: I got to watch in person the end of Stage 6 into Barcelona and the beginning of Stage 7 leaving Barcelona en route to Andorra. The tour has become part of my summer routine - for reasons that would need another post to explain - and this was the one of the nicest surprise moments of scheduling I discovered. Very cool moment to be that close to the action.

The notable lowlight was having all my electronics and my passport swiped in Barcelona on my second day. Other than my photos, it was all thankfully replaceable though caused some hassles at the time. Between my cousin Elizabeth getting sick at the end of the trip and my lost stuff, I ended up visiting all the places one doesn't want to go on vacation: police station, consulate, and hospital.

The free and easy way about Barcelona didn't translate that well when things weren't going well: my police report was full of typos and they couldn't have found me even if they had found my things. The place where my bag was stolen was unsympathetic and told me I should've paid better attention and handed us our astronomical bill. But then, Elizabeth's trip to the emergency room was completely free - a courtesy that the US certainly doesn't extend to travelers.

I'm still replacing crap, but the upside is my new iphone! Elizabeth's photos, too, will arrive eventually.

Anyway, that's it, folks. I seem to have fallen out of the blogging habit while on vacation, but my brain is now considering blog-worthy topics again, so I'll be back on a more consistent basis.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Morocco: At the Beach

Or maybe I should say "Le Moroc: A La Plage". My experience was the same kind of disconcerting as a foreign language that moves too quickly and keeps slipping away. It was the same when I was trying to write in my travel journal: lots of moments but no narrative. Which is probably why it's taken me so long to write this.

This trip is the first time I've really enjoyed all that goes into a beach vacation: getting overheated in the African sun in Cabo Negro, cooling off in the Mediterranean, finally learning how to swim (well, the doggy paddle and crawl), eating beignets on the beach, watching people get fleeced to take camel rides, spending long afternoons reading, speculating on the fishing boats on the water every night, and - one of my favorite parts of every day - late nights spent gossiping on the porch with Mark, Kristin, our cousin Elizabeth and our pilfered beers. We ate on a different schedule in Morocco than usual, which seemed to accentuate the length of the days: a light breakfast in the morning, a bigger lunch around 3 or 4 pm, and a snack with mint tea and pastries (le goutte) around 10.

The best of the day trips was having my father show us the Tetouan of his childhood. You remember that Sesame Street skit called "This is Your Life" with Guy Smiley? The afternoon felt just like that. The fantastic maze of the medina there had spice and thread and fabric merchants as you'd expect, but odd bits of the west, too, like an outdoor television display showing the NBA.

Other day trips were in some ways more memorable for their journeys than for the towns themselves. Chaouen was a beautiful little town all done in blue white-washed paint at the top of a mountain. In addition to beautiful crafts and the only tourists I saw anywhere in the country (probably because the town's a main hashish producing area), the drive to and from was a sliver of a mountainside road of switchbacks that reminded me of traveling through Asia.

A few days later, we went to Cebta, a Spanish protectorate that's simultaneously a half hour and a whole world away since it's technically part of the EU. The border crossing to Spain was helacious and took two hours in the dusty, honking-filled lines. The town itself had some fine architecture, but might have been more interesting if we hadn't spent so long getting there.

By then, we'd been in Morocco a few days and the ways in which women participated in public life was plenty obvious. I've never been in a Muslim country before, so I was somewhat surprised that the local women were dressed in everything from western clothing with their hair out to a full-length chador and everything in between. Women were certainly out and about but never sitting at a cafe. Every cafe - and there were two or three on every block - was filled with men and not a single non-Western women. Even on the beach, the men and women - dressed in clothing ranging from a chador to a bikini - obviously knew each other, but wouldn't sit together. Like women, alcohol was available but kept at a distance since devout Islam forbids drinking and frowns upon drinking in public for everyone - especially women - but makes alcohol easy to find and legal though expensive to buy. Despite recent political changes, my father says that even ten years ago the country was more culturally progressive than it is now.

Still we were somewhat removed from local living and preoccupied once all the rest of the cousins arrived with many children in tow. I loved having the opportunity to reconnect now that all the younger cousins aren't quite so young. Despite the language melange of 3/5 French, 1/5 Arabic, and 1/5 Spanish with occasional English translation, a surprising amount got communicated. Or maybe the semi-immersion experience left me dangerous enough to think I knew more than I really did? Anyway, their presence alone made me sad to move on to Barcelona...which is the next post.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Books & Music

I've spent the last week stocking up on boring banalities. This is always how it is. I start with some crazy list that includes doctor's appointments, electric coverters and buying stuff. I cross stuff off until I'm finally left with the more intriguing choices: books and music. Here's what I'm traveling with.

Books: The music question's interesting since this is the first time I'm going overseas with an ipod. The last time I left town for months, I left my music collection behind, too. I don't see a specific reason to do it again, but truthfully, I didn't miss it. When you visit places that are so different from what you know, most music that you already know sounds jarring and incongruous to the landscape anyway.

So this time my ipod is well-stocked. I kept all the Daft Punk and Justice I've been listening to, and before I left work on Thursday, I added:I'm most likely being wildly optimistic in thinking I'll get to read or listen to half of all that, but it's nice to have choices!

Anyway, I'm signing off for a few weeks. Be well and look for photos and blog posts upon my return.

On Luggage

SFOYesterday I dug out my backpack to look for traveling stuff and found 116 Indian rupees and 84 British pence from my trip in 04.

Luggage-wise, I've gone upscale since then. Not that I've ever really been a hostel-partier but I've abandoned my backpack for my rolly suitcase.

When I bought the backpack, it felt like a rite of passage: student travel, rail passes, Lonely Planet guidebooks, and living cheaply. The first time I went overseas on my own I was 23 and newly single from the boyfriend that didn't like to travel. Post-breakup I decided to skip Christmas with my family and fly across the pond solo. God, it was lonely and exhausting to figure out everything on my own. But I needed that first trip to figure out how to do it better next time: to try to plan a trip around something that I wanted to see/do, to stick to one country, to decide what I was going to a place for rather than just seeing "the sights". Whenever I traveled with that backpack, I knew who my people were instantly even if I chose to continue on my own. I felt pride in being so mobile as to carry all my possessions on my back.

Later when I bought the rolling suitcase for my first "business trips", I felt all grown-up and vaguely important. I was about to spend the summer of 2005 commuting back and forth to DC from Boston. Since I had to look semi-professional, it didn't make sense to cart a backpack around. At that moment, with my rolling suitcase (which I never checked), I fit in with the other road warriors that flew the US Airways shuttle with me. No, I couldn't carry all my stuff on my back anymore, but now someone else was paying for the trip.

Since both of those times, I've discovered that business travel is overrated and that I can indeed live out of a small backpack for months but that maybe I don't always want to anymore. I've also given up the childish construct that frugality automatically equates with adventure. Having a little more money is nice since it lets me do more and do it more often. At this point in my life, I think it's more important to find the time and go, just go. At the time of purchase, the choice of luggage was about the sort of traveler I aspired to be - which pack of people I felt like I belonged to. Now, it just carries crap.

Anyway, I dumped the rupees and pence in the funny money jar for the next time I go to India or England. Since the jar awaits a deposit of Morccan dirham and Euros, I decided to finish packing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Open Source Ethos

The intern book club has turned into my favorite reason to read hyper-music/tech-focused non-fiction. The last selection, and my favorite thus far, was Jonathan Zittrain's Future of the Internet.

I found most interesting his discussion about what the internet was built to do: 1) perform only actions universally useful since specific problems could be fixed later and, 2) trust that all its users were working towards the common good. In short, the engineers built dumb pipes that don't care what information is being sent or where it's coming from or going to.

It's insanely naive and endearing to me that people built a network on the assumption that no one would want to mess with it intentionally. I heart geeks. But those assumptions, especially about the lack of malicious intent, are how we arrived where we are today: a glorious place that's revolutionized how we interact with each other and a place where spam and viruses and copyright infringement abound.

What I find so fascinating about the theories underpinning the internet and code and collective endeavors like Wikipedia is that the way they're built run counter to capitalism. In the brick-and-mortar world, we pay people for knowledge, solutions to problems and functionality. Our Constitution specifically encourages creativity by granting people an exclusive right to license for a time their creativity for a cost. The value is created by retaining your right to keep information scarce and then profit from its sharing.

In the digital world, websites are easy to build because you can grab code from any other website; solutions to problems are shared freely so someone else probably has already fixed your problem and left you with time to fix another problem; and the network is flexible enough to accommodate any functionality you want to build on top of it. The value instead is created by sharing information to build something greater. This student gets that and his professor certainly doesn't.

So, are the "problems" with the digital revolution only those of mindset? That we're giving away things we used to sell? And now are we trying to overlay the old economy of goods-for-money onto an open source ethos when instead we should be rethinking altogether?

I don't know, but it's nice to stumble upon a new way to view the same problem, which is why I'm interested. So check it out: the book's available free via Creative Commons license or here's an interview for just a taste.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Salad Days

I'm Tellin' YaAfter all that traveling, I had a most necessary three day weekend. I've since lost that easy, relaxed feeling, but it was a fun mish-mash of lots of activity and not.

Among the highlights, I explored the Capitol Crescent Trail, which I hadn't realized was so nearby in Georgetown. That day it was a sun-dappled, multi-use trail full of people well-schooled in passing etiquette. My knee was being a bit gimpy so I didn't go all the way to Bethesda, but I'd like to return soon and try it on wheels rather than on two feet.

On Saturday night, I checked out The New Gay's dance night "Homosonic" at Town. Music was eh and all sounded the same unfortunately and the DJs were secreted away in a booth so you couldn't just go ask them to play something else. Cheap, strong drinks though.

Thoroughly enjoyed the most recent issue of The Atlantic, whose feature article was about the 72-year-old longitudinal Grant Study and George Vaillant, the latest guy to conduct the study on what makes people happy, healthy and well-adjusted. I found the whole issue interesting enough that I'm thinking of supporting print media and getting a subscription.

I also spent some time inhaling my new Angel box set. I'm appreciating it on its own terms this time around rather than strictly in comparison to Buffy. Season 3 in particular is excellent. The show does occasionally succumb to the standard network requests for more stand alone episodes rather than season-long arcs. Doesn't that approach just end up disappointing everyone? The hard-core fans want stories to move and the newbies sort of understand what's going on but don't understand the fuss since they're not seeing the fuss-worthy bits.

Anyway, I'm back at it now and trying to keep everything afloat. I think that extra day off has made this week's push possible.


Discovered last Friday while taking advantage of an empty office to crank the tunes, my new summer song is Passion Pit's candy-coated "Little Secrets". Fits right in with summer songs of years past: Mint Royale's (featuring Pos from De La Soul) "Show Me" and Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs' cover of The Left Banke's "She May Call You Up Tonight".

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Mother-in-Law LoungeThere's a terrible statistic that the population of New Orleans passed away at a far greater rate in the years immediately following Katrina than they had previously. It makes sense: your neighbors are missing, your home's in shambles, your doctor's still out of town, you have nothing but the clothes on your back - so many of the things that made your neighborhood into a community are missing. All that and then your government humiliates you and your city by making you beg to be treated humanely. Even nearly five years later, note all the empty space around Brad Pitt's eco-friendly homes in the lower 9th ward. It didn't use to be that way.

And yet.

The hope and devastation bus tour on my fifth trip to New Orleans had more hope than devastation but it's because of people like Doc and Annabelle Watson who are in their seventies. They've just finished rebuilding their home for the fourth time in 40 years and were practically more interested in telling us about their grandchildren. And it's because of Big Chief Ironhorse of the Black Seminoles who spends four hours a day beading his outfit for next year's Mardi Gras parade because he knows that his city and his tribe are still going to be there to appreciate that outfit.

I had a fantastic time as I always do in New Orleans - lots of great food, a rockin' show, a chance to catch up with friends new and old, my very first crawfish boil, photographic evidence here and here - but I also feel like I owe it to the people who I've met there to use my corner of cyberspace to talk about the New Orleans that's been forgotten because the world has moved on.

So watch the Spike Lee documentary, get pissed off all over again, tell your friends and then go visit (and leave Bourbon Street).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Well, the most recent stop on the world tour was 40 hours in San Francisco.

I was there to attend SanFran MusicTech, schmooze and watch panels and panelists.

Along the way, I got to be on my very first panel about activism through music/by musicians. It went well despite a good-sized case of stage fright before we started. During the first few seconds I was convinced my heart was going to burst out of my chest and run screaming down the street...but then I calmed down. It wasn't exactly a focused conversation, but I'm glad I did it. Certainly a confidence booster for me.

One niggling observation: I was surprised by the hard-core attitude from audience and my fellow panelists about musicians "not risking anything these days" when they speak about social justice issues, i.e. musicians choosing to advocate on issues like voter registration rather than the death penalty.

I guess I look at activism and efforts to engage music fans around causes as umbrellas that are better the bigger they are. OK Go advocating for net neutrality doesn't preclude Springsteen from railing against Ticketmaster which doesn't preclude orchestras around the country from collecting food bank donations.

I admire the passion and fearlessness of musicians who use their pulpit to talk about controversial topics, but activism isn't a zero-sum proposition and there are certainly plenty of causes to go around.

Aside from my panel, I like going to these conferences because I can steal ideas on ways to make FMC's events better. Having broad power to try new ideas is one of the big perks of working in such a tiny office. As a result of SanFran MusicTech and last week's Free Press Summit, I'm interesting in finding ways to make networking a goal for our events, rather than a happy byproduct of getting lots of interesting people in the same room.

Anyway, off to go talk activism in New Orleans tomorrow. Expect my flickr feed to be abuzz!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Nights of Americana

Public Service AnnouncementI missed the Stax Museum when I was in Memphis a few years ago because we went to Graceland instead. Graceland was fun and kitschy, but I suspect I would've enjoyed the Stax Museum more. Respect Me: The Stax Records Story, a documentary about Stax Records, was filled with archival concert footage and interviews with Isaac Hayes, Booker T. Jones and all the surviving MG's, Carla Thomas, both founders of Stax, Jesse Jackson, and the Staples Singers. There's even a shout out to the evil record company that stole Stax' early catalog through some fancy fine print. Go watch this.

As it happened, the same week I heard some of Booker T. Jones' new solo album with the Drive-By Truckers and Neil Young backing. Hearing his new and classic material in the same week was a study in contrasts. The new material was a bit blah and turned the assets of his trademark organ into liabilities. Maybe I'm reacting to his cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya" where he played the vocals on his organ? Ugh.

More of a lost opportunity was the American History Museum's Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn exhibit, which might have been more compelling if I were a sheet-music-geek. Do such people exist? For the rest of us merely interested music fans, it's too bad the museum didn't marry the music and the scores better. I can see the right kid (and me, too!) having a "hey cool!" moment if they were able to see a few bars of music while hearing the whole group play them and then listen again while soloing each track. Interactivity! Technology! Alas it was one of those tiny exhibits tucked away in a quiet corner on an afternoon that the rest of the place was mobbed.

Most definitely not disappointing was Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings at the 930 Club. Not that show, but NPR has some other live performances here. My highly-enthused tweets. A little stranger because of the overwhelming country & western vibe but just as delightful was John Doe with the Sadies at Iota.

On the whole, it was one good musical week.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I find lately I'm considering my dwindling attention span.

It started as a general malaise, but then Salon and The Atlantic made me think about it a little more carefully.

At the moment, I'm blaming Google Reader for my difficulty focusing. Before I started working at FMC, I had no clue what an RSS feed was. Since then, my RSS feed has slowly opened up a new world of information for me.

In the category of too much of a good thing, the quantity of information is staggering and impossible to keep up with, especially since a lot of what's available just needs to be filtered out. I like knowing that if I want to read about the "sexiest" iPhone app that Apple initially rejected, Boing Boing's new time-wasting find: the hospital food photo blog, TV on the Radio's summer tour dates, or Matthew Yglesias highlighting bus stop shelters from around the world, I can. But I digress.

My point is that I wouldn't have bothered reading any of those things, except maybe the bit on Apple, since I'd rather be reading Jess's thoughts on what it's like to graduate from college to possible impending joblessness or WaPo's extensive feature on the President's First 100 Days.

Then again, I could also place blame on my job. I've had stressful, multi-tasking-filled jobs before, but none at a time when distractions seemed so prevalent. A good bunch of the active work of filtering goes on while at work which maybe is only enhancing my fluttering nature. That, combined with actually trying to do work, leaves me feeling scattered rather than enriched by the end of the day.

I'm aware that some of this flitting is my own doing. I consolidated my blogs into an RSS feed for ease of use. I like reading blogs so that I can share them with you, dear reader. I enjoy the random stuff. Who doesn't? And some of it's just my nature to cover broad swathes of territory rather than fully investigate one small section.

But one thing's has become certain: I don't want to give in to the beast with the short attention span.

I'm grateful that I'm at least aware of my brain's habit of flitting from thing to thing. After that, I now need to make the choice to be present to the thing I've decided to do and create an environment for myself that enables focus.

On the musical side, I'm thinking about having a summer of (pick a genre). The idea is that for two or three months I'd listen to nothing but that genre. I'll start in order from history to the present and follow the important players and the evolution of sub-genres. Not sure what genre yet.

On the upside: I made it through both Salon and Atlantic articles on the way the internet is changing our brains and our attention spans. Small victories.

Monday, April 27, 2009


I highly recommend taking your birthday off from work if you can swing it. I write this from Boston after spending the weekend in Chicago with Alicia and Davide.

Chicago was cool - quality time with friends, good food, drinks, White Sox vs. Blue Jays at Comiskey, a little window-shopping, a bunch of episodes of West Wing season 7, and the puppy even finally stopping her violent barking at me. Yeah, we got rained on more than planned, but I'm so glad I went. Somehow taking time off at home doesn't seem nearly as relaxing as doing far more away from home. More photos here.

I'm now in Boston, which is a quick trip to see family, get my hair cut and do whatever else is possible in 50 hours. The best part though has been talking with my parents about our upcoming Morocco trip this summer. I'm looking forward to hanging with the cousins in Morocco, but the trip has also inspired lots of thinking about what else I could do while I'm in the general vicinity. I'll be wandering around Barcelona for a few days, but the future trips are enticing: hiking in Corsica, trekking around the Maritime Alps, being in Paris for the last stage of the Tour de France, or visiting my friend Bek in the Netherlands.

I'm finding, too, that the methods of transport intrigue me particularly. Flying has annoyed me more than usual lately, so the idea of getting to Corsica by boat and traveling to the Maritime Alps by train and then walking for a week or two to get to the Mediterranean is appealing.

I won't get to do any of that on this trip probably, but wanderlust is an intoxicating yet comforting feeling that I hadn't realized I missed.

For a few years, I planned and took one trip off the continent per year. I couldn't afford it after I returned from two plus months in Asia homeless, jobless and savings-less, but now that I'm not quite so poor...well, it may be a plan I should resurrect.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Whole Story

Last week Hypebot explored the future of the album as an organizing principle for music with, among others, Bob Lefsetz as resident anti-album crank and New Music Tipsheet's Scott Perry on defense.

While I spend plenty of time shuffling my ipod, there are still releases that need the context of their album to make aural sense: any Wilco release from the last 10 years, Radiohead, Arcade Fire, David Bowie, and that's just from the very limited contents of my iTunes library. What ties all these releases together are the artists who craft for the format by curating works of art that hang together like an arch and need every piece to be fully realized.

Though albums might not be appropriate for all genres of music, I don't see all artists wanting to give away the chance to make an album-sized statement. Gang of Four's Dave Allen may disagree with me (though not entirely coherently), but I don't see the album-length format disappearing until artists stop creating for it.


Speaking of albums, I missed Record Store Day but still struck out when I went digging at Crooked Beat on Sunday. Right now, I'm mildly obsessed with the new Metric album and its no-labels-need-apply release strategy.

More than tunes though I've been devouring books: Murakami's Wind-up Bird Chronicles last week snuck up on me in an excellent way and Eyal Press' Absolute Convictions this weekend. Absolute Convictions, in particular, is a remarkably even-handed social history looking at how economic conditions, religious fundamentalism, and increasingly violent anti-abortion tactics resulted in the murder of Barnett Slepian, a colleague of the author's father. While I'm waiting to for the library to deliver the next great read, I'm hop-scotching through Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.

This weekend I'm off to do a little road-tripping to Chicago and then Boston and then a leisurely train ride back to DC. I'm really looking forward to the train ride!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Value of Music

Last week, FMC released a document detailing some principles for artist compensation in the digital age.

Reading through the echo chamber that resulted made me think.

We have copyright and patent law:
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.
"Promot[ing]...the Arts" means to me that our Constitution encourages and rewards creativity that has value. All artistic creations aren't meant to be equal; instead, the Constitution sets up a meritocracy. In short, a creator has an exclusive right for a limited period of time to benefit from their creation IF others put value on it.

In some of the best parts of Larry Lessig's latest book Remix, he discusses what copyright used be for (sheet music and player piano rolls), who it used to affect (not you, me and your grandma), and how a bunch of small, unnoticed changes got us to where we are now. The problem now, of course, is in trying to derive money from a creation that's no longer tangible but freely available.

But doesn't anything that you want have an intrinsic value to you? The problem is only in not having found a way yet to collect money on that intrinsic value.

Skill, talent, creativity and experience have value. I wouldn't go into a restaurant and eat a meal and expect to skip out on the tab. I wouldn't hire a carpenter to frame my house and expect to stiff him. The intangible thing - the song - that a musician creates is no different.

And if copyright is abolished and musicians in the future only get paid on live shows and merchandise and whatever their fans will donate to help them record?

Well, musicians will continue writing and performing music, but it would be harder for some to make a living since they'd have to tour to be paid resulting in more musicians with day jobs; songwriters would suffer since they don't tour; recordings would probably sound worse since more of them would be done on Garageband rather than in studios; the recording/producer/studio industry would shrink since fewer bands would be able to afford a studio recording; recordings might become akin to a vanity press; the way we promote music might change since we'd no longer necessarily be promoting an album...and I could keep going.

Maybe that will be the next incarnation of the music industry. But, for better or for worse, I don't think so. There are too many people with too much at stake for that to realistically happen. The ISP levy experiment on the Isle of Man is an interesting step towards the future.

It doesn't matter how, by whom, or whether the system of payment to musicians resembles the train wreck that it is now. The important part is ensuring that the inherent value of creativity gets recognized.

My guess is that everyone will finally strike a balance that makes no one entirely happy - which is the mark of a good deal anyway - and we'll all attribute today's kvetching to growing pains.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


DancersWatching The Chorus Line last weekend brought back memories of high school when I actually knew huge portions of it. It's a dreadful movie - oozing self-important melodrama, missing some of the best dance numbers, and containing every bad 80's haircut possible - but my recollection of dancing it is one of glitz-filled excitement and sheer terror.

Terror owing to my stage fright, but it was also hitherto the most awed moment of my 12 or 13 years. It was a show that people knew so it felt important that we were doing this professional piece and it had all the crazy glammy costumes and endless rehearsals and a weekend of shows! Stage fright be damned, I thrilled to the show biz of it all.

Anyway, The Chorus Line arriving in the mail started the trifecta of dance.

The documentary Ballerina had some beautiful dancing in it but the narration was so dispassionate and clinical that I'd have sworn they were talking about the mating of some rare species of bird. Too bad, since they missed an ideal opportunity to find out more about the art and the artists.

To complete the trio, I caught Bill T. Jones at The Kennedy Center performing a vaudeville-themed dance/theater show called "A Quarreling Pair". Fun times and the q&a afterward was cool, too.

It all half made me want to dig out my tap shoes and find a class...we shall see.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I am not at SXSW this week. So, I won't sitting here bragging, but I'd be hard pressed not to read about it, between the tweets, facebook, and the bloggers. Six-word band reviews that are surprisingly informative. Stubbs - been there, but never had the BBQ. This film looks cool...and it's now queued up on Netflix.

Chris Cornell releases a crappy album. Trent Reznor slams him. Chris Cornell retaliates incoherently. Via Tweets.
\m/ (>_<) \m/

Speaking of albums, you can either change how you design covers for a 1 inch square view or you can let the interwebs do it for you.

I feel hyped and contrary (and cheap) when it comes to the iPhone, but the ability to use it as a modem might finally sway me. This is an interesting point that gives pause for the pay-for-your-apps portion of Apple's revenue stream. Idolator vents, and makes another point.

Things I've like this week:

- The crazy pro-lifers always present abortion as having devastating emotional consequences (and women, of course, are too feeble-minded to understand this so they must be forced to see ultrasound photos before they have the procedure, so it'll all be gosh-darn clear), but putting a child up for adoption has always seemed like the more harrowing option to me. Then, and now.

- Despite not owning a record player, I'd buy this for kitsch value in a heartbeat.

- 3-D dragonfly wallpaper

- And last but not least, I was a late convert to Battlestar Galactica (thanks, Mark). Last night's series finale wasn't perfect, but it was the same character-driven sci-fi that I love to watch. The best sci-fi, like the best entertainment, isn't about the McGuffin or the monsters, it's about people and how they react to adversity.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

That's Rich

I love walking home from work while listening to This American Life. It gets me out of my head and satisfies the need for a story. This was their latest well-executed effort at lessening the modern jackass effect when discussing anything related to a bank. Their previous shows from May and October are excellent, too. Collectively, they gave me a warm fuzzy when I realized I sort of understood this.

Also, big props on act 2 from their Valentine's Day episode where they featured two amazing and brave little transgendered girls.

By now, everyone's seen Jon Stewart take down CNBC. 60 Minutes though matched CNBC's performance with this fluff piece on the FDIC.

Really. If you believe that, I got an ugly brown mp3 player to give away to...ahem, sell...Wired. No wonder the only place I see "Fast Company" magazine is on an airplane.

In other news, Apple is getting greedy with its new Shuffle. You now can only use Apple's (crappy and uncomfortable) headphones with it or you won't have volume or skipping control. Third-party manufacturers will have to pay extra for a special chip that enables the additional functions. That's rich.

The intern book club finally finished Larry Lessig's Remix. I think it'd be good for your dad to understand "the new digital economy" and how people use culture now. But for you and me, it's a tad simplistic and seems to aspire to more than it reaches. Jonathan Zittrain's Future of the Internet is next.

Club Passim now serves beer. Going there used to be an exercise in drinking cranberry juice when all you wanted was one single beer to make the folk go down better.


OK, off to go see The Class and maybe finish off my Netflix backlog? A red envelope with In Bruges awaits.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Faulty Introductions

Well, it's time to do a link dump since I've been sick and/or gimpy most of the week (the bad, bad gym beat me up). Now doing fine and on to the links!

Civility and the filibuster, will ne'er the twain meet? I gotta say, if a constant threat of filibuster means that it actually takes 60 votes to pass something, either nuke it or just say that, skip the sit-ins and marathon readings of Winnie the Pooh (more like "The Hill" since Pooh would actually be interesting) and get ON with it already. Otherwise, it's just obstructionism - from both GOP and Dems, I might add. Good comment thread on that post as well.

Author's Guild, meet the mainstream music business, you might have a lot in common. Amazon's new Kindle can read your ebook aloud to you. The Author's Guild doesn't like that because it might get in the way of the audiobook format and diminish income. In addition to stacks of other reasons that this is stupid, text-to-speech conversion is hardly illegal since the computer you're reading this on can probably do it, too. So, of course, Amazon rolls over.

Sebastien Tellier: Lecherous and French and visiting from the 70s. Oh, yeah.

Money I can spend. This presumes that you actually want to spend time on myspace as well? Do you know anyone who doesn't use Myspace grudgingly?

Sigh, but how can you not celebrate the people and the technology? And other sigh because this is just creepy and sad.

I always wanted red hair, though of course, not actually on me as I am now since it would look funny.

Dear Facebook: I know, I know, you're just trying to be more like Twitter, but could you not eff it up like last time? Love, me

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Micro & Macro

Busy, busy. I haven't captured the elusive balance that I started the year resolving to, but I've kept up with the things I have to do and the things I want to do and maybe that's balance enough.

I cut out of work a little early one day this week to go a National Air and Space Museum lecture by Dr. Sandra Faber titled (with webcast available) "The Milky Way: Why We Need Her and How She Was Formed". The Milky Way's a girl? It wouldn't have been hard to get lost in the talk about dark matter or string theory, yet she did a great job at explaining concepts like Big Bang theory, why life may have had an easier time forming on Earth, the life cycle of stars, recent discoveries and interspersed it all with lots of animated simulations. The evening left me feeling very small - which I think any good discussion on the cosmos should. I want to check out Google Sky, Worldwide Telescope (Windows or Bootcamp on Mac only) and sky-map now, too.

Also caught my friend David's band Poor But Sexy at DC9 the other night. They were kind of indie rock, but with chops, soul stylings/vocals and some coloring by Steely Dan. I haven't heard that particular stylistic marriage before, but it worked and I'm looking forward to seeing them again.

Ticketmaster and Live Nation: To me, the fact the brand name "Ticketmaster" is so toxic that they have to change it to "Live Nation Entertainment" gives you all the reasons you need to know this merger is an awful idea for anyone that sees live music. Do tell, why isn't inventory control a perfect science? Ver-ti-cal In-te-gra-tion. A good overview on how we got here, some of the issues in play, and live blogging from Thursday's House hearings.

Touch and Go shut down its distribution arm; the music industry mourns and explains why indie distribution was good.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

No Dice

Fujiya & MiyagiCaught School of Seven Bells opening for Fujiya & Miyagi the other night at the 9:30 Club. I can't remember the last time I commented on a lack of musicianship, but 2/3 of School of Seven Bells seems to need lessons in playing their instruments and in stage presence. They sounded like the same beautiful, noisy, dreamy pop from their debut record Alpinisms, but I might as well have watched my ipod since there was nothing to watch on stage...except their guitarist Ben Curtis who played and fiddled with enough sampling gear for a couple of people. The mix didn't do them any favors either since it buried the interesting bits and contributed to the sameness factor of a lot of their set. *Sigh* Baby bands...they get better and then they get their own soundperson.

Fujiya & Miyagi weren't overly endowed with stage presence either, but they were pros and they could play and had this cool animated backdrop. So I liked them, if only because they were so much better than their openers. They'd be ripe for remixing, too, so I want to see what I can dig up.

In other news: Muxtape is back and not like it was. Wish I'd gotten a chance to talk shop with Justin Ouellette when he was a panelist last week.

Comeuppance, please come in. Why should my rinky-dink non-profit have to bear all the burdens of accurate and transparent accounting?

Need more ways to make your cassettes obsolete? Options include converting and recycling.

Speaking of obsolescence, John Strohm explains the legal issues surrounding selling used MP3s. Legalities aside, I doubt Bopaboo has a viable business model - you'd need such massive buy-in from the public to have a database of used MP3s worth searching - but the issues around the concept are sadly evergreen...which is why I dug it out of the old starred items.

Move over, Charm City Cakes for this really cool Darth Vader cake. I love you still though because you would never unintentionally do this.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Notes on the Day

Ever since I took over the Events gig at FMC, I've been particularly aware of the large shoes of my co-worker Kristin Thomson that I've been working up to filling. She's so good at everything she touches that it's been a long learning process.

In that light, Wednesday's Policy Day was an especially proud professional moment for me since it's the first event that I either did or oversaw all of from beginning to end. (Reminded me of that feeling I used to get when my visa applications would successfully get the band from some African country into the US.)

A few thoughts on a fantastic 24 hours:
- Free Press Policy Director Ben Scott gave one of my favorite bits of the day during the Broadband panel: certainly there are challenges to telecom policy right now but citizen input is still important. It's so easy for problems to seem huge and out of reach but when that's all anyone hears I feel an essential empowering message gets lost. Case in point: Pandora's campaign around webcasting rates so deluged Congressional offices that the switchboard overloaded. Topics du jour during that time? Iraq and webcasting rates.

- How did people ever run events without text messaging set to vibrate? The walkie-talkies with earbuds from a few years back were incredibly clunky in comparison.

- Our event evaluations ask a question on whether there's enough diversity of gender/race among the panelists. In answering the question, interestingly, this time a couple of people said the question was unnecessary.

- Live webcasting, yay! And archives are available, too.

- One round of pool at the Black Cat = $1 in quarters. Watching the rock stars play pool and do the victory dance afterward = priceless.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


It was a weekend of entertainment that either made perfect sense or not much at all.

The film The Secret of the Grain lets you into the life of this family so thoroughly that you might as well be walking into their kitchen for dinner. Unhurried in its pace and willing to take the time to get to know its characters, the film lets you into its world for the two and a half hours you're at the movies. Sure, it could've been at least a half-hour shorter if the editing had been tighter, but it's an interesting place that you get to when you're turning away from the screen because you're seeing too much and the camera's gotten too close. Trailer here.

David Rousseve's Saudade (excerpts here and here), however, was the opposite experience. Rousseve talks about so many themes throughout this non-linear performance art/modern dance piece: slavery, racial and sexual subjugation, joy, the emotional trauma experienced by Hurricane Katrina survivors, the tortune of Abu Ghraib prisoners, sickness, identity - and it's all combined with a fado soundtrack and a chameleon-like tiled backdrop that draws considerable attention to itself. So, yes, it lacked narrative coherence, but still managed to achieve a sense of closure at the end.

Visually, the dance was arresting and intimate but also repetitive. The constant breaching of the fourth wall was distracting, too. I'm glad I went, but I'm not convinced that a moment of closure and a tableau of interesting images was enough to outweigh spending most of the piece hop-scotching around the choreographer's brain.

So, I'm now off to spend a few days skipping through the collective brain of the media/music/tech community. Come out if you can...or watch the live webcast on Wednesday, February 11 from 9 am - 6 pm (*fingers crossed*).

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


A Bout de SouffleIck: nipple-shaped candy for kids

Double Ick: She's selling her virginity. If this is legit - admittedly a question, she could end up with millions for selling herself, but isn't she just playing into the virginity-is-sacred meme that she claims to find so unfair?

It's strange times when you're left to praise Ashlee Simpson for talking back to media that was calling her sister fat. And let's not forget Lily Ledbetter.


Ugh-inducing: Chris Cornell's latest solo release produced by Timbaland. This song is laughable and the video's worse. He, of Soundgarden fame, used to have the best voice in rock music and integrity to boot...and now I don't know who he is musically. Also I think I preferred when I couldn't figure out what he was singing about. "That bitch ain't a part of me" indeed.

The things that haven't inspired funny faces from me lately:

- December and January's issues of Outside magazine. They outdid themselves with these issues covering Three Cups of Tea's Greg Mortensen's project to educate girls in Afghanistan, the creepy guy that held his family of 15 hostage in Alaska, the dangers of the container shipping industry, and the requisite articles on people climbing in crazy places/conditions. Don't let the over-the-top cover photos of Michael Phelps or Kelly Slater scare you way.

- Spencer Tweedy's blog. Jeff Tweedy's (Wilco) oldest son is 13 and has one of the best-written blogs I've ever read. In addition to being cheek-pinchingly cute, he also manages to rip a new one for Bill O'Reilly, write up the history of M&Ms and talk about his trip to New Zealand to visit uncle Neil Finn.

- NYT Magazine had this fascinating piece on researchers who are studying the psychology of sex and desire in women. It's lengthy but incredibly interesting.

Whew. I guess I've been catching up on my reading.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

One Year of Blogging

So, this experiment is now one year and six days old. In that time, I've learned over 49 posts that this blog is not a diary.

If I'd really thought about it, I'd have known that. In reading back, I'm struck by how proud I am of the writing and even more so by the regularity of it, but equally noticeable is just how much is unchronicled.

Though the existence of this blog belies the fact, I'm a fairly private person...who chose to start a blog about me and the stuff I do, see, hear, think, read, eat, and feel. In the process of writing this blog, my sense of privacy changed. It became easy to share the ordinary things, but when it came to the more intimate details of my life, did I want to share that? How much of it? Could I tell a compelling story that didn't include crucial facts? You're the better judge, but I don't look back and wish I had said less so I think I've struck a balance I'm comfortable with.

The more interesting questions though: Is there a reason not to share crucial facts? How honest do I want to be? Who am I really lying to if I lie? Where's the line between the things I share and those I don't?

The questions bring me to the larger point: Is the most fully-realized existence also the most fully-shared existence? On a personal level, I think so, but this isn't personal.

This is not a letter from me to you. I don't think I realized all of that that until I just wrote it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Go. Stop.

Stage is SetI didn't get to the Inauguration with the pre-dawn masses. In fact, I left home an hour before the swearing in and happened to make it to the Washington Monument as Copland's "Air and Simple Things" was playing.

It was like walking into a bubble of emotion - I couldn't help but cry at the moment. I was surprised to be moved though. I was happy of course - as much for Bush to be gone as for Obama to be his replacement, but I didn't expect the gravity of the moment or the current of collective anticipation which were awe-inspiring. I stayed for Obama's speech, the poetry reading, and Dr. Lowry's benediction - which I loved and thought was perfect - and then I left.

And that was the spectacular end of a week that was. Lots and lots of live music filled the rest:

- James Intveld: I'd never heard of him until my friend Puck suggested going. It was an evening of swinging rockabilly complete with couples taking to the floor. It was a fun night that had great players.

- Mobius Band: I enjoyed the band, but they were under-rehearsed and they'd be much better live if they had someone whose sole job was to trigger samples. It gets herky-jerky to sing, play, trigger samples and rock out. Major points for having a xylophone as a major instrument. Middle Distance Runner, who headlined the show, are big in DC, but they were kind of boring.

- The Holmes Brothers: These guys are friends of mine from my days at their management agency, Concerted Efforts. They've been playing their blend of blues/soul/gospel for decades and they're the real thing. One of them has been struggling with health issues, so it was especially good to see them play and catch up with them.

- Dueling Playboys (I think that was their name?): This was more an excuse to not go anywhere for a night while still catching up with the peeps in the hood. A non-amplified, acoustic hootenanny ensued.

Big Shoulders Ball: The Hideout in Chicago bussed a huge group of musicians to DC to play a benefit inaugural ball for FMC and the Chicago Public School marching band program on the night before the Inauguration, so I got to work the event. DCist's take and mine is below. The marching bands didn't make an appearance (boo!) but a dozen acts did. The ones that stood out:

- Waco Brothers, who always look like they're having the most rollicking good time ever. My co-worker Jean rocking out on violin with them was an added bonus. "I Fought the Law" even inspired me to tweet about it!

- Andrew Bird solo looped his way through a 20-minute set. I admit I don't pay attention to the lyrics because if I did I'd spend time deciphering them rather than listening and I'd rather listen. The violin virtuoso was ALL that.

- Icy Demons were cool and a breather from the indie rock.

- Tortoise. I kept hearing how they were so great and I liked their soundcheck, but the live set meandered and left me underwhelmed. Eh.

- Janet Bean from Freakwater/Eleventh Dream Day. While I wasn't so much for Freakwater - except for their oddly swinging country-fried cover of Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" - Janet Bean demolished that drum kit during her set with Eleventh Dream Day. I witnessed a magnificent sighting of the rare species known as "female drummer".

See photos from everything above on my flickr page!

Since the Inauguration, I've been home sick with a bad head cold...which has brought my adventures in the land of 24-hour-party-people to a halt.