Monthly Archives: December 2011

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 15,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Just found a great World Music blog

Just stumbled across another great WordPress blog. Or rather, they stumbled across me. I got a “like” from Xandimusic, a 16-year-old music fan who runs xworldmusic, with the help of contributors MirĂ­lia, Wendy and Kapitololo. The blog focuses on one of my favorite types of music, the nebulous genre known as “world music.” It features music from all over the world, posting links to Youtube vids, often by suggestion from others. There’s a lot to explore, but I’ve already found some great music.

Check out this video from Wanlov The Kubolor, a half-Romanian, half-Ghanaian musician who performs a mix of Afro-beat, reggae and pidgen music.

And check out xworldmusic. I could spend hours there. Probably will, when I get some more time.

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The Listening Room is no more – RIP

When you take things for granted they tend to go away when you’re not looking. That has apparently happened to The Listening Room, one of my favorite places to share music (I posted about it a while back).
I got busy for a couple of months, as did some of the friends I used to use the site with. Then last night I got a rude awakening. I went to go fire it up and instead I found a link to a message from the founder, explaining why he had shut the site down effective Dec. 2, 2011. It wasn’t fear of SOPA or Protect IP as I expected (although I wouldn’t be surprised if it had some impact on his decision – I can definitely imagine the RIAA going after sites like his, unfair as it might be).
In a nutshell, he started it as a hobby and it mushroomed beyond what he could handle without seeking investors and hiring employees, something he isn’t prepared to do.

It’s a shame. I thought it had a ton of potential. Maybe someone will take it off his hands and resurrect it? I’m going to miss that feeling of listening to records with friends. I tried Turntable.fm once, but it didn’t have that same intimacy. The environment seemed a bit snarky to me. Maybe I should give it another chance.

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Boxing Day Junkanoo in the Bahamas (and all we get is Christmas?)

Does anybody really celebrate on Boxing Day? In the Bahamas, yes they do!

Growing up in America, Boxing Day has always been a mysterious thing, something we know little about except that it says “Boxing Day (Canada)” on a lot of calendars. Every now and then we look it up to find out what it means, then promptly forget it again. Per Wikipedia, it began as “a day following Christmas when wealthy people and homeowners in the United Kingdom would give a box containing a gift to their servants.” But it is now better known as “a bank or public holiday that occurs on December 26, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws.” Doesn’t sound too exciting. Just another day off, and one Americans don’t even get, right?

Well… I just discovered there are places where Boxing Day is a very big deal. In the Bahamas (and The Turks and Caicos Islands) many towns hold a big street parade known as Junkanoo (named for a 17th Century slave, John Canoe) with music, dancing and costumes that to me look very much like the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans.

Here are a couple of examples. I’m going to have to see this in person one day.


Pretty cool right? Kind of makes you wish you hadn’t wasted your day off on Christmas.

Edit. Boxing Day 2011 videos are starting to turn up on Youtube. Check ’em out. Here’s one:

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We’ve lost the King, but not his face…


Watching the mass displays of grief upon Kim Jong Il’s death, it’s hard to even imagine what it would be like, living in a totalitarian personality cult, then having the focus of all your fear and worship die. You probably would grieve and be afraid for the future – especially if you knew your very life depended on how sincerely you grieved. This story probably has it about right.

After seeing that I couldn’t help but think of the Legendary Pink Dots song, Death of a King, which I think was inspired by the death of Kim Jong Il’s father, Kim Il Sung. (Obviously whoever made this video had a different vision.)

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Jogja Hip Hop Foundation – tradition, innovation and mad beats


Tradition and innovation… You might think those are polar opposites, but it turns out that isn’t true. I just discovered something new and amazing that is helping to keep some beautiful traditions alive. Young people tend to like novel ideas and hip new trends. Traditions can seem stale and boring to them, even traditions that people from other places find exotic and powerful. An infusion of strange new ideas can sometimes breathe new life into old traditions.

That’s happening in the Yogyakarta region of Indonesia, on the island of Java. The region is very unique, with wonderful artistic traditions.

An Indonesian group called Jogja Hip Hop Foundation has created a style of hip hop that turns the beats, raps, attitude and dress of American hip hop into a celebration of native culture. The group’s music includes the sounds of gamelan gongs and other instruments. The rappers have also shown their love for the home turf by quoting classical poetry and working traditional Javanese shadow puppets into their shows.

Check this out. Incredibly musical and catchy. Beautiful video also.

This one is also damn catchy…

Intel also produced a video about the young group of cultural innovators.

You can find more about the group at their website: HipHopDiningRat.com
You can also like them on their Facebook page.

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2012 could be a very bad year for the Internet. Did the Mayans foresee SOPA?


Imagine riding in a car and the driver smashes through a sign that says “Bridge Out!” You try to warn him but he tells you to shut up. “This road will take us to grandma’s house. It says so right here on the map that nice man gave me! Stop bothering me, I know what I’m doing.” When you remind him the sign said “Bridge Out!” he not only tells you to shut up, he steps on the gas and goes even faster.

That’s what it felt like, watching the Judiciary Committee hearing on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) on Wednesday night. They are “debating” a bill that could make radical changes to the Internet and they don’t seem to have a grasp what the Internet even is. (If you want to know more about what SOPA and the related Senate Bill Protect IP are about and what they could do to the Internet, check my blog post from a few weeks ago.)

Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post compares it to amateurs getting ready to do heart surgery on someone – amateurs who don’t understand the difference between a valve and a neuron.

For a while it looked like discussion on the bill could be delayed till after the holidays, but no, SOPA is essentially being rushed through, and the final hearing or “markup” will take place on Dec. 21. After that it could go to the House floor for a vote.

I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach the other night as one after another, amendments were brought up that were intended to make SOPA less horrible, and the committee shot them down one by one, by large margins. The lobbyists (mainly entertainment industry organizations like the MPAA) have told them what needs to happen and they want to get on with it. They don’t want to hear about technical things like DNS or IP addresses.

On Thursday, Congress got an open letter from the engineers who helped invent the internet, warning about the damage SOPA will do if it passes. Based on what I saw of the hearing the other night, I am afraid congress won’t listen. They’re just “nerds” after all. They MIGHT listen if they get enough phone calls, e-mails and letters from constituents, however.

There are already some restrictions aimed at stopping piracy and limiting copyright infringement. Maybe we need more. Bring the experts in and find out what can be done.

But the kind of Internet SOPA would lead to is just horrible. It would basically become a top-down media device like radio or TV. You wouldn’t have any more of these wonderful bedroom recording artists like the Venopian Solitude who manage to get known and get fans through social media.

You wouldn’t have all the web-based dramas and comedies. No one would know about Zach Anner, who used social media to win a show on Oprah’s network.

And of course, more importantly, social movements and political protest would be shut off. Police could go back to beating the shit out of people without worrying about the video turning up on Youtube.

This guy from a gaming website gives a pretty good explanation of SOPA and PIPA:

The Internet as it is now is not ideal for creative people, but the Internet SOPA would create would be a disaster for them. Much worse. Maybe not worse for the big labels and studios, but for creative people who want access to the world without a filter, it would be the end of an era. We can’t let it happen.

I know this is an inconvenient time as we all prepare for the Christmas holidays, but it would be a very good idea to call, e-mail and write your representative this week and tell them to think twice about voting for SOPA – or at the very least postpone things and listen to the people who understand how the Internet works. Stopping Congress from destroying the Internet as we know it is about the best Christmas present you could ever give.

If you’re not sure who your representative is, this website will help you figure it out and give you an easy way to contact him or her. I just fired off an e-mail to my representative. It only took a couple of minutes.

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