Things I Keep Coming Back To: Extreme, III Sides to Every Story

I’m fully aware that we consumers are products of our teenage years, and that our musical tastes are often formed for good during that same period.

However, in my case, that formation of my tastes also occurred at the exact same period in which big hair rock and rock in general died as grunge became big, and the album died as MP3s, MTV music videos (as much as I love them), and the internet destroyed it.

Having since lost the concept album as well as the music video, I think it’s fair to reminisce back to my adolescence despite the cliché of it.

I mean, here’s some of the new music videos this week (when I wrote this):

Basically, music videos now appear to be photo shoots in video form. A stylist comes in, sets the look, and they just take video of the artist. Instagram set to music. Bite-size content. The music is forgettable, and the video content is forgettable except for the stylist’s portfolio and the director’s résumé.

A lot has been written about the death of the album, and I myself wrote about the death of the music video.

With all that setup, let me then just leave it all there, and start up a new recurring segment of this blog where I try to figure out why certain things have stuck with me over the years.

At some point I wanted to write about the albums that meant the most to me throughout my life, but I sort of realized that I don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of, say, ?uestLove. I should probably just do me.

So, one of the few albums that keeps coming back to me is Extreme’s III Sides to Every Story.

Extreme was a “funk-metal” band from the 80s and 90s. I associate knowing about them solely through BMG and Columbia House as well as from their MTV music videos which were less of their rock songs and more of their ballad-type songs.

From that, I somehow ended up getting this album, bringing the CD with me as I moved, and always wanting to re-listen to it.

It wasn’t until I tried to write a blog post including it that I could make an educated guess about why I enjoy it so much.

The album itself, according to Wikipedia, was one of the last “concept albums” before singles became big.

From Wikipedia:

The album is structured as a concept album in three sections labeled as “sides” — a play on the notion of “different sides to a story” and that of “sides” of an album (in LP and cassette media). The sides, mentioned in the song “Cupid’s Dead” as “three sides to every story” are named “Yours”, “Mine” and “The Truth”, and each features a distinct musical style and lyrical imagery.

Yours is made of hard rock songs, the guitar-centric style which the band had explored the most on their previous albums. Their funk-metal tendencies are present in tracks such as “Cupid’s Dead”, which also features a rap section performed by guest John Preziosa Jr. As a whole, this side deals with political subjects: war (“Warheads”), peace (“Rest In Peace”), government (“Politicalamity”), racism (“Color Me Blind”), media (“Cupid’s Dead”). Summing up these matters, the side closes with “Peacemaker Die”, a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., which features a recording of his famous “I Have A Dream” speech.

Mine, in total contrast, deals with introspective subjects. In accordance, the band departs from its guitar sound and experiments with different arrangements on this side, with Nuno Bettencourt playing keyboards in addition to (and in some tracks, instead of) the guitar. The side opening song, “Seven Sundays”, is a slow waltz with prominent keyboards and no guitars. “Tragic Comic” is a mostly acoustic track telling a light-hearted love story. “Our Father” is sung from the perspective of the child of an absent father (although many interpret the song to be dealing with God as The Father). With “Stop The World”, the album starts to delve into more philosophical questions, expressing existential doubts — a theme that leads to religion, with “God Isn’t Dead?” (written with the verb form as an affirmation but with a question mark — the chorus says “Please tell me God isn’t dead… I want to know”) and “Don’t Leave Me Alone”, a dramatic plea. The latter was not included in the CD version because of lack of space; Nuno Bettencourt recalls leaving it out “was like cutting off my arm”. Despite not being bound by the limitations of the CD format, the version of the album downloadable from iTunes also omits “Don’t Leave Me Alone”.

Finally, The Truth consists of a three-part opus, titled “Everything Under The Sun”, ending the three-part album. This side nods to progressive rock not only in format but also in musical style, with changes in time signature and an intricate arrangement, featuring a 70-piece orchestra. Lyrically, the spiritual theme set up in the end of “Mine” is further developed and Christian imagery is very present,

I fully accept that most people who’ve heard this album would regard it as “garbage”. Like any person who’s ever loved a song, artist, or album, this only makes me more fond of it.

Extreme’s influences were supposedly Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, and Queen. Now, I guess every band of their time were influenced by those bands, but I definitely fall into the bluesy-rock family of music with my love for Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and Guns n’ Roses.

The first “side” of the album definitely reminds me of Axl Rose’s attempts at artistic narrative in Chinese Democracy (including the obvious audio clips of MLK Jr), while the third side reminds me of GnR’s epics November Rain, Don’t Cry, and Estranged. The second side aligns with GnR’s Dead Horse, Get in the Ring, The Garden, etc.

What I adore about all these songs is that they take me away from where I am, to a world of imagination that I’ve only closest explored when I was a teen exploring BBSs, early online gaming networks, and the mostly textual world of the 90’s/naughts internet. They put me into a contemplative and meditative state immediately.

In the old days, context was added through liner notes, music videos, and interviews in Rolling Stone and Spin. These days, none of those previous things mean anything. But for music, it’s not as though context has just transitioned to social media, at least from the artist’s perspective. The ability for a listener to find new music and control that experience is incredibly easy; just search Spotify, or even better yet, have Spotify’s ML search related songs for you.

Some bands do use fan newsletters, and I guess you could listen to some podcasts (I finally made the leap to listening to podcasts, primarily for engineering management advice and for NBA commentary). But really the conversation with the band and the audience happens even less now than it did before; unless you’re someone who’s been Baned into social media and you also happen to be a musician, you’re not so likely to be able to parlay the 2 worlds together in the same way that, say, Taylor Swift does.

That is to say, really the winners in music seem to be the listener and the marketer — the artist still relies on a lot of hard work and hustle in order to build an organic following, and most artists don’t have the energy, time, or knowhow for it. Social media is such an uncontrollable train that artists can’t really do a slow build. They’re really just bit players in a continually spinning engine of fleeting relevancy.

To me this robs an artist of the ability to transport listeners far away, or to construct a new environment within which to just be — Extreme was able to do this with their album, and I’ll always be thankful for that.

Dynamic Web Dev Final: Karaoke Flow

My NYU-ITP Dynamic Web Dev class ended up being fantastic.  We moved to Node.js Express, incorporated AJAX, MongoDB, Heroku, and Amazon S3, built a JSONic API, and toyed with and even some Processing + HTTP POST.  You can read the class notes and fork/view the github class code from Professor John Schimmel’s repositories online.

Karaoke Flow

My final project ended up being a party game.  People hit the site, probably best with a keyboard, and start creating “rhymes” based on a prompt of two topics, such as “yo momma” and “swag”, or “basketball” and “Maybach music”.

You start off with three choices: 1) start a new “flow” (an individual song) which 2) you can join into with the second choice (using autocomplete JavaScript to parse a list of open flows from the database), and 3) skip all the rhyme creation part and go right to performing a randomized flow.

If you work on an open flow, all the participants have five minutes (using a JavaScript countdown script) to come up with as many rhymes as you can.  When five minutes is up, everyone can submit one more rhyme before they’re sent to the performance page.

On the performance page, the next person up will (eventually) be able to grab a mic, start the random beat (so far I have random beats from Wiz Khalifa’s “Star of the Show”, Three Six Mafia’s “Hard Out Here for a Pimp”, and Drake’s “I’m on One”), and move up and down through the lyrics using the ‘j’ and ‘k’ keys.




I’m hoping eventually it can be recorded and people can vote on the best rendition of the performance.  People are judged (though this isn’t captured through the site yet) on how well they deliver their spontaneous flow.

I wanted to do a project related to music and parties, hence the project; hopefully at some point in my life, I’ll get to work on projects that make parties more kickass through technological integration with human party impulses.

Karaoke Flow was also my entrée into Node.js and Express, which I now love and will rewrite into it over the summer in preparation for my thesis next spring.

Online Presence

A demo of the site is up at Heroku:

I have instructions on how to clone the code and install it so you can run a node.js instance at github:

Previous documentation from my blog: post #1, post #2.

Things Learned for the Future

I think what I got most out of this was an appreciation for JavaScript objects.  To be able to package up variables and containers and clone objects or pass them along into JSON, it was like what I was missing in web sites.  I’m still on the road down to something more like Backbone.js, which will allow for even more use of objects and static templating filled in with data.  Definitely enjoying being able to JSONify data into something that I can use throughout the site or offer to others.  I’m sold.

Our professor showed us passport, which is a brilliant module for handling users and security.  I was missing something similar when I was using Ruby + Sinatra.


If anyone’s interested in taking this further with me, let me know.  I definitely think some combination of karaoke, rhyme-writing, parties, and randomness would be a huge hit.

Comm Lab (Video & Audio), Week 1: On Copyright

Ever since I downloaded my first MP3 in my freshman year of college in 1996, amazed at how small the file was (I think it was a Shaggy track), I don’t really think much has changed in the music industry with regards to copyright.  The timeline is (pock) marked with the detritus of used-up and destroyed start-ups and companies that tried to find a way around the RIAA.  Spotify and and others are the latest to find temporary ways to sidle into the prickly graces of the recording companies…until they are shut down or bought out and taken apart wholesale.  Google, Apple, and Amazon, with their priorities being to build distribution platforms via hardware, are the only real challengers short of a Renaissance of digital thought in Congress.

The arms race between downloaders and labels has been escalated to a fairly sophisticated level, resulting in an unofficial detente in the courts.  While I think to a large degree, even with the death of the physical act of interest in buying a CD, that the music industry has managed to formalize a lot of piracy through iTunes, Amazon, and other sources, what has been happening over the last fifteen years is defined more by what HASN’T happened than by what has.

The chilling effect is something I’m particularly sensitive about, since getting in trouble in the Army for blogging about my time in Iraq (though nothing was ultimately found to be wrong), and after witnessing the censorship efforts on communications networks during the Arab Spring and in Oakland during my time working for a Homeland Security contractor. The RIAA has lost most of its momentum (and the MPAA will soon enough be there too, but it’s still dangerous enough to conduct psyops and bully telcos into sending warnings to individual IPs), but it has certainly managed to turn artists against each other (not particularly hard, I guess), turn music fans into private consumers of music because they can’t remix and share and admit to downloading illegally, but most importantly perhaps the RIAA has turned its product, “art”, into something smeared as commoditized and fake, while at the same time making the act of obtaining music illegally an act of political defiance.

Rohter’s NYT article revealed two things to me that I think are worth investigating further:  1) the recording industry itself has significant disagreements about the public face of its position, and 2) the current Congressional trend is to argue in favor of extending the length of copyrights. The first is instructive because, since we can’t rely on artists to really share much of an opinion with each other, even in their attempts to unionize, we might find that the solution might be as simple as lobbying to prevent the current revolving door of recording industry executives into public policy positions in Washington (FCC, mostly) where they will argue for their RIAA masters. The second is interesting because it’s another representation of a chilling effect: block information and art from reaching the public domain where it can be freely remixed and reused.

Thankfully the internet has provided enough creative off-the-radar networks of music fans and technology to allow “illicit” sharing to continue.  While I do hope that artists can be paid for their works, I also think their main input to society is their labor — that is, relying on a one-off artistic creation to provide a lifetime of income is absurd, and that any human’s main contribution will not be one or two projects, but a continuing font of creativity and execution — in other words, labor which is rewarded with at least some basic regular wage.

The Garnett/Meiseles article was a rare take from both the copyright holder and the copyright abuser.  I understood Meiseles’ take on defending the context of Arauz’s act, but I strongly disagree with her.  Frankly I think she assumed far too much credit for Arauz, as if she became his guardian after taking his picture.  She certainly did her job as a photographer, and even followed it up with figuring out who the people were in her photo.  I would love to see a digital connection between people, objects, and locations in photos and the context for them, available through some sort of touchable interface, so that I could touch the kissing couple in New York City after World War II ended, and find out how they met, and what happened to them afterwards (they were strangers, I believe).

But once that photo was put out to the public, it’s game on.  It’s up to be remixed.  It’s up to be reinterpreted, reused in different contexts.  I thought immediately of Shepard Fairey’s famous HOPE portrait of President Obama, which now (somewhat contentiously) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in DC now.

Did Meiseles ever criticize non-Americans, outside of her legal system, for remixing the image outside of her own private context?  There was not evidence of her doing so in the article, nor would she be able to do much about bringing a Sandinista rebel to, er, copyright justice.  Meiseles was taking the position of a journalist here, but not of an artist, for she cared more for the importance of investigating the context than reimagining the emotion the image evoked. She should be happy someone else found her image so powerful as to use it for another work.  It begs the question of whether we need alternate systems for rewarding people, beyond a simple copyright or job system.  There is also the gift economy and the reputation economy.  If Meiseles were properly rewarded in the reputation economy (for taking a powerful photo), then perhaps this would un-burden the hulking inefficient system we currently have, which rewards in only one currency, the almighty dollar.

Naturally I loved Lethem’s essay for Harper’s, for its subtlety in addressing the underlying issues and for calling for the practical necessity of a gift economy.  Copyright holders who defend their turf have, in my opinion, made defiance and rebellion “cool” in the eyes of downloaders, anti-corporatists, etc.  I fully welcome their attempts to blow holes in the oligopoly which exists, and the mere acts of developing software and networks to circumvent weak and hamfisted attempts to block them have become acts of art in themselves.  Today’s artists and musicians are too beholden to the system to veer very far from it, so one is not likely to see many artists in today’s generation challenge copyright regimes without a lot of help from others.

But I would expect the generation of kids who grew up in the downloadable world of art (and in the age of Anonymous and 4chan) to create their own music outside of the formalized system, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the system assimilated that style of music as well, but it would bring along with it, perhaps, a better model for rewarding artists and avoiding chilling effects against their fans.

[Note:  The New York Times article was made available via PDF for class, but it does not include the second page.  Clicking the PDF’s second page link will take the reader to the web site though.  Suggest inclusion of second page into PDF for future students’ accessibility to the whole article.]

Where Did Rock Videos Go?

Being 33, when I grew up, I was witnessing the glory days of MTV.  The iconic moonman posting the MTV flag on the moon, Adam Curry and Downtown Julie Brown were my after-school friends.  I wanted to flip rhyming cards with INXS and felt eerily at home watching that poorly-rendered blocky 3D Dire Straits “I Want My MTV” video.  By the time I was in high school, everyone knew the latest Guns n’ Roses video, and it’s a cultural touchstone of my generation to be enamored with the imagery of the November Rain at Axl’s wedding, and Slash playing in front of the chapel out in the middle of the desert.

Guns n’ Roses remains my favorite band, and they were iconic of the days of rock to me.  GnR and their peers defined new music.  The pricey, visually powerful, epic music videos (Don’t You Cry, November Rain, Estranged) with hot models and rock star lifestyle fit in perfectly with MTV’s heavy music video programming.

The rock generation that had survived the late 70s and early 80s Wham! and Madness and Michael Jackson and Thompson Twins (which, while I love them, I was also bombarded with when I went to live in the UK for a year), so soon after receiving the greats of Led Zeppelin (2nd favorite band ever), AC/DC, Hendrix, etc., and before them, the Beatles and Rolling Stones, obviously.  See how this MTV promo reminds you of the androgeny of the boybands of the Naughts (2000’s):

GnR had all the dysfunction internally, the zen lead guitarist, the hotel room trashings, the successful movie tie-in (if your band created the ultimate Terminator 2 rock video, you are probably on the short list for the Heaven Rockers Hall of Fame), the introspective and brooding and wistful rocker lyrics.

Beavis and Butthead, the cartoon aside, cemented many rock videos into the heads of a generation, using the glue of sex, drugs, and rock and roll references from B&B as they watched from the couch, as my generation was doing as well.

World premieres, album drops, Kurt Loder informing a generation of Kurt Cobain’s suicide.  MTV led the way.  It was probably the only channel a lot of people my age watched when they weren’t watching Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Full House, etc.

Then rock seemed to die.  Rap and hiphop became the new powerhouses in the media, while MTV replaced its music videos with reality programming.  This happened some time in the 90s I guess.  It’s at its apex right now.  Maybe it was because Metallica chose copyright over its fans and attacked Napster, when MP3s became a better economic choice than purchasing albums for anyone with an internet connection.  Maybe it was that rock and roll, even with punk roots, decided that social media was for the nerds and the geeks and not for its own image.  For God’s sake, Myspace was still a cornerstone of a band’s identity even recently.  How many rockers do you know on Twitter?

When was the last time you saw a great rock video? (I’m definitely hoping for suggestions)  The closest is not even rock, but Weezer and Ok Go have embraced social media, which have endeared them towards Internet-Americans.  Corey Crossfield at the Music Think Tank also wondered about what technology did to rock. Here’s Ok Go’s Rube Goldberg video:

…and more relevant, Weezer’s internet meme video:

Radiohead and Arcade Fire have done a lot for social media as well.  U2 killed it with their 360 tour, featuring the best concert set ever designed.

But it’s all by no means the whole story.  Pretty much all the talk I’ve seen has been for rap and hiphop artists, or for pop.  Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Lil’ Wayne and crew, these people dominate the industry and all the digital chatter.  I certainly feel closer to rap and hiphop now while rock feels distant and old.  The closest touchstone I have to rock right now is re-watching School of Rock with Jack Black, as he tries to teach the stiff privileged private school kids what it means to be punk and to think for yourself.  The movie itself seems more of a eulogy to rock than a celebration of it, at times.

Actually there was another place I saw a resurgence of rock: in Iraq and in the military.  When you go to lift weights in the tent gym in Iraq, there’s a bunch of barrel-chested white dudes cranking up heavy metal and Metallica and Megadeth and the old hard metal while they’re looking like they want to destroy the piece of shit country they’re in.  Sometimes they even listen to it at superhigh volume in the tent’s speakers, so you better just learn to enjoy it.  Which I do — it’s hard to get more pissed off than when listening to metal.  So keep at it, uniformed vanguards of the old traditions of rock.  Here’s a video that ISN’T “LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR”:

Rappers and the new crowd regularly tweet themselves, worldstarhiphop is the current site just off the main strip that drives a lot of views toward musicians’ hijinx.  There’s heavy overlap of hiphop with video games (and rappers playing games online), artists getting their starts on YouTube (Soulja Boy), music endorsements for movies and games, product placement (rappers seem to make Cristal and G6’s pretty desirable), rappers tweeting photos and being involved in social media-driven concert tours, etc. etc.

Wait.... and I got a photo shoot in Japan Vogue and a show @ Colette tomorrow! Fuck yes! Paris is sooo fuckin' poppin'!! Thanks @!!
k2345h4wN ︻╦╤─

It’s even gotten so carefully crafted that there’s this chick, a white chick rapper from Oaktown, Kreayshawn:

Rap videos aren’t the greatest, but they are soaking in the sea of social media.  What’s the best rock video?  The best I’ve seen lately are these videos from Red Fang.  True rock.  Here’s “Prehistoric Dog”:

And this one, total mayhem and destruction, the perfect rock video, “Wires”:

Rock chose Myspace, the new rappers and record label creations stuck with Clear Channel, MTV, Twitter, leaking stuff on the radio and on music blogs.  Guitar Hero is mostly classics, isn’t it?  The new shit is mostly pop/hiphop on the newer games like Dance Central.  Could you say that rock chose to be anti-tech, anti-progress, anti-social?  What does it mean when Lil’ Wayne decided to go through a phase where he plays rock guitar?  Is rock just nostalgic, a reference to show that you’re sympathetic to punk?

Does it say something that Trent Reznor kept pushing his electronic sound and ended up winning an Oscar for the soundtrack to a movie about Facebook?  Where did his peers go?

Where did rock go?  Will it come back?

DJ Industrial Average – Chillin’ in the DMV

My latest mixtape, constructed (weakly) with a YouTube playlist of songs reminding me of my time spent in DC/Maryland/Virginia.

DJ Industrial Average – Chillin’ in the DMV

  1. Wale feat. Lady Gaga – Chillin’
  2. Guns n’ Roses – Civil War
  3. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
  4. Kanye West – POWER
  5. GoRemy – Arlington: The Rap
  6. Faith No More – We Care a Lot
  7. Guns n’ Roses – Madagascar
  8. Shams – Ahlan Ezzayak
  9. Rihanna feat. Jeezy – Hard
  10. Alicia Keys feat. Drake – Unthinkable
  11. Duke Ellington – Sophisticated Lady
  12. Coverdale Page – Shake My Tree
  13. Green Day – Wake Me Up When September Ends
  14. Cee Lo Green – It’s Ok
  15. Thievery Corporation feat. Perry Farrell – Revolution Solution
  16. Kid Cudi feat. Kanye West – Erase Me
  17. Marvin Gaye – Inner City Blues
  18. General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners – LOL – Loser On Line!
  19. Adele – Rolling in the Deep
  20. Fugazi – Give Me the Cure
  21. Meridian Hill Park Drum Circle, Washington DC
  22. Dance with Batala!
  23. General Patton vs. The X-Ecutioners – Fire in the Hole
  24. Amanda Blank – Something Bigger, Something Better
  25. David Guetta feat. Will I Am – I Wanna Go Crazy
  26. Jimi Hendrix – Castles in the Sand

Learned quite a lot doing this, such as how Fugazi was based in DC!

A little while back I made a mixtape with my buddy, with kickass party songs:

Lou Dubbs & DJ Industrial Average – Brown & Yellow Rice

  1. Major Lazer – Pon De Floor
  2. Bomfunk MC’s – Freestyler
  3. Dio feat. Sef – Aye
  4. G-Side – Huntsville International
  5. Major Lazer feat. Andy Milonakis – Zumbi
  6. Trey Songz – Say Aah
  7. Chelley – Took the Night
  8. Ghostface Killah, Nate Dogg, & Mark Ronson – Ooh Wee
  9. David Guetta feat. Akon – Sexy Chick
  10. Caribou – Odessa
  11. Pendulum feat. Fresh, $pyda, & Tenor Fly – Tarantula
  12. Gnarls Biggie – Gimme the Online Loot
  13. Major Lazer – Keep It Going Louder
  14. Mt. Eden Dubstep – Sierra Leone
  15. Cypress Hill – Armada Latina
  16. David Guetta feat. Chris Willis, Fergie, LMFAO – Gettin’ Over You
  17. LMFAO – Yes
  18. LMFAO – I Don’t Wanna Be
  19. Lloyd feat. Lil Wayne – Girls Around the World
  20. Thunderheist – Jerk It
  21. Dorrough – Ice Cream Paint Job

I made some other mixtapes under DJIA but I can’t find them.  I’ll have to re-construct them.  Here’s another one I made, for an ex’s birthday:

DJ Industrial Average – Show Me Your Birthday Suite

  1. Cibo Matto – Birthday Cake
  2. Future Sound of London – Smokin’ Japanese Babe
  3. Lovage – Strangers on a Train
  4. Outkast (Andre 3000) – Behold a Lady
  5. White Stripes – Fell in Love with a Girl
  6. Black Keys – Set You Free
  7. Nine Inch Nails – We’re in This Together
  8. Pixies – Hey
  9. Blue October – Come in Closer
  10. Jamiroquai – Love Blind
  11. Ima Robot – Alive.wma
  12. Outkast (Andre 3000) – Prototype
  13. Red Hot Chili Peppers – Storm in a Teacup
  14. Love – Always See Your Face
  15. Alessandro Nivola – Shade and Honey
  16. Ashanti – Only You
  17. General Elektriks – Take You Out Tonight
  18. White Stripes – Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine
  19. Julie Delpy – Je T’Aime Tant
  20. Spiderbait – Fucking Awesome
  21. Depeche Mode – The Bottom Line
  22. Blue October – Calling You
  23. Ima Robot – Dynomite
  24. Black Keys – Them Eyes
  25. Pixies – Velouria
  26. Massive Attack – Protection (Angel Dust mix)
  27. INXS – I Need You Tonight
  28. Gnarls Barkley – Crazy
  29. Sneaker Pimps – 6 Underground (The Umbrellas of Ladywell mix #2)
  30. Slow Train Soul – Slow Train
  31. The Kinks – Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy
  32. U2 – Walk On
  33. Type O Negative – Die with Me
  34. Lucas – Lucas Let the Lid Off
  35. Al Green – Sha La La

Another mix for an ex…wow, these sure worked.

DJ Industrial Average – Hoyas Reporting for Duty

  1. DJIA Intro + Hoobastank – The Rules
  2. Hoobastank – Born to Lead
  3. Party Ben – Galvanize the Empire
  4. Kool Keith (ft. Princess Superstar) – Eat It
  5. Timbaland and Onerepublic – The Way IR
  6. Victor Cha on the US in Asia
  7. Ludacris – Number One Spot
  8. U2 – New York
  9. Beastie Boys – An Open Letter to NYC
  10. Tai Mai Shu – Chinese Chicken
  11. Weezer – Pork and Beans
  12. Estelle (ft. Kanye West) – American Boy
  13. Carrie Underwood – All American Girl
  14. Shirley Bassey – Easy Thing to Do (Nightmares on Wax mix)
  15. T.V. Carpio – I Want to Hold Your Hand
  16. Kraak and Smaak – Squeeze Me
  17. Jamiroquai – Falling
  18. Maroon 5 – Little of Your Time
  19. Shaft – Mucho Mambo Sway
  20. Flo Rida (ft. Will.I.Am) – In the Ayer
  21. Baby Bash (ft. T-Pain) – Cyclone
  22. Estelle – No Substitute Love
  23. Lupe Fiasco – Paris Tokyo
  24. The Killers – All These Things That I’ve Done
  25. Justin Timberlake – My Love
  26. Moby – Live for Tomorrow
  27. Fred Turner on the Human Struggle
  28. Will.I.Am – Yes We Can
  29. Eartha Kitt – C’est Si Bon

Ticket Re-Sellers and Scalpers

Trent Reznor wrote a post on his Nine Inch Nails (NIN) forum about re-sellers and scalpers of concert tickets.  In it, he discusses the motivations for TicketMaster to encourage the secondary market for tickets, which leads to scalpers poaching tickets and re-selling to customers at huge mark-ups and at huge inconvenience to them.

As I’m sure you’re familiar with, event ticket purchasing is a scam, the bigger the event is.  Smaller events use an online purchasing framework and charge a usage fee, which you’re somewhat willing to pay because event organizers don’t have the infrastructure to go around middlemen.  But as events get larger, the more likely they’re swept up into TicketMaster’s orbit.  TicketMaster is tightly coupled with the physical venues where events are held, and thus they can control all distribution, access, and promotion.

If someone were so inclined, this subject would probably make for an excellent muck-raking book.  I certainly don’t understand the business and economics behind it but I think most of us can intuit what’s going on behind the scenes.

So Reznor, who put his last album up on his web site for free under a Creative Commons license, and who put his album with Saul Williams up for $5, is pissed off with the music industry labels and monopolists.

And it’s fair to say that most of us are too.  I have not been to many concerts in my life.  The sort of ninja moves you need to obtain tickets are not in my repertoire.  People fight over a small pool of tickets released online at a known time, crushing servers in the process.  Tickets are sold out in minutes.  This certainly incentivizes certain people to game the system, knowing they can re-sell the tickets at a mark-up that companies like TicketMaster benefit from (especially since they apparently own re-sellers, according to Reznor’s post).

TicketMaster is pushing a future of auctions, but this is still a closed system, so essentially all it’s doing is creating more profit for them while letting us see just how much we’re getting screwed in a public arena.

So I just skip out on concerts.  Some bands just plain suck live, anyway.  So the variables required for me to find a concert I can get tickets to while also enjoying and making sure my friends can all go too are too much for me.  I just give up.

Right now with the advent of internet collaboration (through web 2.0/web 3.0 tools) and the success of the movement, a bunch of people are looking to organize to solve systemic problems that have existed since before most of them were born.  A lot of problems were created in the 50’s and 60’s and were institutionalized in people like in my generation:  we grew up buying CDs from Columbia House and seeing a newspaper on our front lawn and watching junk food ads in between our Saturday morning cartoons.  The next generation won’t even know what I’m talking about.

It’s quite amazing to see the problem-solvers approach every entrenched, fucked-up problem out there.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I’m finally reading now, discusses our culture of corn and petroleum.  So people are trying to figure out how to wean our culture off the industrial food complex.

Electricity, oil, and cars go hand-in-hand.  They have promised us cheap solutions but those solutions are going to be far less palatable very quickly.  So people are now excited about solar energy, sustainable living, electric cars, the smart grid, and radically new forms of housing and energy usage to break away from the cartels.

American politics has become somewhat frozen — the Democrats and Republicans for a while became clients to Bush’s administration, both differing very little and unwilling to break too far from what the elite thought was.  So people voted in a candidate using web sites and community organization and grassroots initiatives.  That energy is now being put into transparency and collaboration tools for monitoring the government, and insurgents within Obama’s administration are now wanting to push government data out to the public, after Cheney’s attempt to classify everything.

Universities pay exhorbitant license fees for software and administration tools.  But MIT just decided to open up its scholarly articles for free while people like Kevin Donovan and CNDLS at Georgetown are pushing free tools and OpenCourseWare as alternatives.

Cellphones are notoriously tying together handsets, access providers, spectrum control, and software in the United States.  It’s a very restrictive model.  Google, while out to make a profit, is now testing the limits of the incumbent system with Android, its fairly open system that will work across devices.

Then there’s the busting of cable TV and the advent of online content streaming…  And new journalism models…  And more and more and more.  Information is being distributed faster than organizations can lock it down.  So what’s going on is a war.  And we’re winning.  All these shitty businesses that exist by locking people into a closet and abusing them are now being blown apart by the internet and by peoples’ sharing of ideas.  Facilitated by a brutal economic and financial crisis that no one can avoid.

Concerts are another battleground.  Why can’t music artists successfully organize against companies like TicketMaster?  If more of them worked like Reznor does, eschewing contracts and the desire to maximize profit without any of the negative effects of current ticket-selling schemes, then they could quickly tip the balance.  Wikipedia’s “Ticket resale” page lists alternatives.

Lottery…  Have a period of time where anyone can offer to purchase tickets.  But then winners are randomly selected.  This allows anyone a chance to get in.  Tie it to credit cards.

Authentication…  Print out names and photos on tickets, then verify at the gates.

Float prices…  Obviously some people will pay more.  Let them pay for the front seats, fine.  Float the front-row prices but make everything else lottery.

Distribution…  Must be combined with floating prices.  Bands should see concert tours as a way to promote their brand, not just make a shitload of money from each appearance.  That is, internet stream the concert to all those who couldn’t make it to the venue.  Bands may not want this kind of accountability though, to be judged by the same online viewers through each performance every other night.  But that drives up incentives to produce quality while maximizing potential future customers of your band’s music and product.

Venues…  Venues need the big acts to make revenue.  What if all these abandoned stores and buildings were turned into cheap venues themselves? (they’re already being filled with churches, libraries, and other public centers)  Then you don’t need the mid-size venues anymore.

It’s a war.  A war on the middlemen who begin to enjoy their cut a little too much and try to grow it.  A war on the people who act as gatekeepers between content and consumer.  It’s a war they are going to lose.

The Great Disruption is going to destroy the old infrastructure and build a sustainable infrastructure in its place, one that links value directly with those willing to pay for it.  In time, the middlemen will be back in new forms, but for now, the internet is giving us infinite tools to take control of our lives back.

Inauguration Weekend

I’ve been waiting for this weekend for years now…  When I first entertained the thoughts of going to Georgetown for grad school, I recognized that the timing would be such that I’d be in DC for this.

It will be historic.  Everyone’s a little nervous, not sure what will happen.  Hopefully a lot of good stuff will happen, a little surprising stuff too, and nothing bad.  America deserves to celebrate this one.

On Sunday there is a free concert at the Lincoln Memorial in front of the reflecting pool.  I jogged past there last night and the pool was frozen over and there were Port-a-Johns lining the mall.  A stage was being built as well.  I’m going to try to catch some of the music but it is going to be absolutely PACKED…  Not to mention freezing, since there’s a massive cold front moving in.  Guess I should record it off TV too…

“Confirmed musical performers include: Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Renee Fleming, Josh Groban, Herbie Hancock, Heather Headley, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, John Mellencamp, Usher Raymond IV, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor,, and Stevie Wonder.”

I don’t know what I’m doing Monday yet.  I tried to get tickets for a Beastie Boys/Sheryl Crow concert but it sold out online within ten minutes of being available. =(  Not ninja enough.

Tuesday I’ll try to go downtown and see part of the parade and fun during the day, but mainly to see the spectacle of the throng of people expected.  And in the evening I’m going to the Russian Cultural Center for their Unity Ball — celebrating freedom and democracy by sharing the night with the Russkies.

I’m taking my camera with me…and will try to provide photos and video of the splendor — I’m predicting there will be tons of cool media online after the national celebratory party is over.  Obama is certainly inspirational to the creative artists and “communitas” out there.


Mash-Up Culture is Still Young

A buddy of mine on IRC posted a YouTube video that mashes up (a phrase meaning to mix up different sources of music and video and other media into one product) drum n’ bass (dnb) music with footage from church sermons with people dancing and being overcome by religious experience and priests giving emotional sermons.  I used to listen to a lot of dnb so I enjoyed the video a lot.

These particular videos below are 3 parts of “Baptazia” called “Super Sunday”, posted on YouTube by a user named airloaf.  I don’t know much about him except for what’s on his profile.

Watch the three below:

Well done, dude! Indeed, there’s a whole slew of related videos that mash up gospel stuff with dnb. airloaf calls it “speedgospel”, but I guess it could be dnb gospel too.

It’s funny posting so many YouTube links; the “other” founder of YouTube, Jawed Karim, used to be in the IRC channel I still use to this day.

One of the more well-known mash-up artists right now is Girl Talk. The guy behind Girl Talk is mentioned quite a bit in Lawrence Lessig‘s new book about remix culture, entitled “Remix”.

Girl Talk, coincidentally, has a similar video for the new single off his album “Feed the Animals”; “Play Your Part” also uses church footage:

I don’t know who thought to put the two together, but obviously mash-up artists like using the crazy dancing in church sermons for their video bases.

Intellectual Property Law Hurting Innovation

In Lessig’s “Remix”, he talks about how intellectual property law is constricting innovation in video and music at a time when it’s possible for any individual to mash stuff up easily on their computers. The freedom we have to mash-up and remix text is what needs to happen for video and music next, but we’re a long way from that both in terms of technology and of legal protection.

The Concept of the Screen

Kevin Kelly, former editor of Wired Magazine and well-known internet visionary, recently published an article in the New York Times Magazine about “screen literacy”. Kelly makes similar points to Lessig, saying that we have already achieved “text literacy”, freely cutting and pasting text and bookmarking and Kindle-ing and quoting and referencing in papers freely. Both Lessig and Kelly point out that no one has any problem or legal disagreement with being able to quote someone else’s text without their permission, as long as attribution is made.

Kelly then goes on to say that video sharing is still in its infancy. We can’t yet really link an article about a scene from a movie to the actual scene from a high-quality feed of that movie. Says Kelly:

“With true screen fluency, I’d be able to cite specific frames of a film, or specific items in a frame. Perhaps I am a historian interested in oriental dress, and I want to refer to a fez worn by someone in the movie “Casablanca.” I should be able to refer to the fez itself (and not the head it is on) by linking to its image as it “moves” across many frames, just as I can easily link to a printed reference of the fez in text. Or even better, I’d like to annotate the fez in the film with other film clips of fezzes as references.”

Kelly then closes his article as follows:

“With our fingers we will drag objects out of films and cast them in our own movies. A click of our phone camera will capture a landscape, then display its history, which we can use to annotate the image. Text, sound, motion will continue to merge into a single intermedia as they flow through the always-on network. With the assistance of screen fluency tools we might even be able to summon up realistic fantasies spontaneously. Standing before a screen, we could create the visual image of a turquoise rose, glistening with dew, poised in a trim ruby vase, as fast as we could write these words. If we were truly screen literate, maybe even faster. And that is just the opening scene.”

The Four Screens

Interestingly, Nokia has been doing a lot of hardcore research into the future.  It employs the now well-known (as the result of an inspiring NYTimes article from April of this year) Jan Chipchase as an anthropologist who goes out and studies how people use cellphones or how they build solutions to everyday problems.

Nokia also published a video called “The Fourth Screen”, about how cell phones are a fourth screen of history that are just beginning to revolutionize our world:

Nokia argues that the moving picture or movie was the first screen we ever used.  It was a public meeting place-type viewing experience.  The second screen was the TV, which allowed us to stay in our homes.  The third screen was the computer screen and internet, which let us share with each other again, but still from our homes.

And now there’s the fourth screen, the mobile phone, that lets us go out and be social again, while still having the power of the internet and digital communication with us.

It is interesting to think about this only being the beginning.  In many ways we consider technology to have a predictable path now.  We have cellphones, and okay, maybe they will be a little faster on the internet and have better cameras soon.  But do we really imagine much more?

Nokia and more international development-oriented organizations (Grameenphone, etc.) think that cellphones can do a lot for poor people.  A lot’s been written on the topic.  But how will humankind interact and mash things up once technology is freed from the tyranny of the literate towards video and music, which even the illiterate and uneducated can relate with?  What will happen when we can search videos with the same relative ease as we can with text on Google?

It’s still too difficult.  I’ve been messing with ACID (audio editing) and Final Cut Pro (movie editing) and it takes a long time and it’s hard to get all the different file formats from different media under one roof.  You have to use the tools a lot to learn how to mix up the content well.  I just made a mixtape for a Christmas gift, under a silly pseudonym I like to use, DJ Industrial Average (for DJIA, the acronym for the Dow Jones index), and the quality of my mixing was poor, given especially that it took me many hours to do it.

So there’s still lots of work to be done before everyone can use this stuff.  But the flood is coming.

More on Girl Talk

To conclude this post, I’ll leave you with some more mashed up YouTube videos, this time using Girl Talk’s blend of 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s music with their accompanying music videos.  Make sure to watch all 14 parts, which are not all from one user as YouTube is probably removing them gradually for copyright infringement (sadly).

Searching for Perfect Tunes

I didn’t bring my MP3 drive to Iraq so I quickly got bored with the music on my MP3 player (which I didn’t fill with my favorite stuff because my old laptop is still USB 1.1) and on my laptop. So I started using iTunes again to find something new to listen to. I’d only bought The Pixies’ best hits compilation previously, which I loved. Now I wanted some new music, funky and fun and energetic. Luckily, I found some awesome stuff! Like Jamiroquai’s “Dynamite”, The Rolling Stones’ “A Bigger Bang”, Brazilian Girls, LCD Soundsystem, and General Elektriks’ “Cliquety Kliqk”. And off my lovely girlfriend’s deployment music mix, various Rasputina tracks including the “Frustration Plantation” album. What tracks I’m listening to off those albums:



Jamiroquai live in concert.

Previously mentioned, it starts with synth keyboard before bursting into riffs and a winding vocal chorus. It slows down into a love song and then morphs into an excited exclamation of love full of bass and uptempo. “Yeah, you’re gonna rock the floor tonight!”

Also listen to:
“Feels Just Like It Should”
“Electric Mistress”

General Elektriks & Lateef the Truth Teller

“Take You Out Tonight”

The mind behind General Elektriks.

A laid-back beat, whimsy vocals, and then Lateef with electronic blips and twicks: “I don’t just want your math. I want your algebra, trig and geometry, calculus and honesty. I want you to be mine but not in the sense of property, no. More in the sense of like the sharing of a commodity, so. Let me touch your mind and watch as our philosophies grow. Massage your spirit, caress your soul, let’s go.” And then the chorus, “Walk a miiile to see youuuuu, doo doo, doodoo dooooo. Cross the city with a smiiiile, doo doo, doodoo dooooo. To be with youuuu.”

Also listen to:
“Facing That Void”

An old Rolling Stones song book.

The Rolling Stones

“She Saw Me Coming”

Mick Jagger wails about seeing a woman in the bar and being held under her influence, while the guitar jams loudly to an easy beat. The Rolling Stones have still got that voice, that swagger, that rock and roll sound that makes you feel like you’re on the prowl.

Also listen to:
“Oh No, Not You Again”
“Laugh, I Nearly Died”
“This Place is Empty”

Slow Train Soul

“Slow Train”

Slow Train Soul's sexy album cover.

Lazy beat with electronic DnB bass flare hook. Smooth, seductive vocals work their way gently into a descending piano key cascade. “I want to ride your soul-oul train.” Industrial echoing Future Sound of London horns. Whispering. Sex music.

Brazilian Girls

“Sirenes de la Fete”

Brazilian Girls' mugshots.

A dance beat with French spoken word. But then it switches into loungey piano and strings. Then she softly sings, “Je veux me reveiller avec moi,” repeatedly and seductively. And then it turns into a brief, ranting, energetic jump-up-and-down bout of dancing and revelry during the
festival. Then it slows back down again and repeats.

Also listen to:
“Don’t Stop”
“Lazy Lover”


“High on Life”

Rasputina together on the couch.

Julie turned me on to Rasputina. An authentic, unique sound. This song starts off with a naughty little crush and then builds up with the trademark Rasputina cello to a rock and roll punkish chorus, “He was it, he was really hot shit. He was tripping, he was lifting, he was high on liyeeeefe.”

Also listen to:
“Hunter’s Kiss”
“Girls’ School”

LCD Soundsystem


The men behind LCD Soundsystem.

The LCD Soundsystem style vocals on fast-tempo electronics. “Everybody makes mistaaakes, but I feel alright when I come undone. You are not making me wait, but it seems alright as long as something’s happening.” Off-key synth key holds and plaintive vocals for the chorus.

Also listen to:
“Losing My Edge”
“Beat Connection”

I completely ignore music reviews so I don’t expect you to listen to mine. I hate music reviewers because they have nothing better to do except listen to music. They like music because it stops them from listening to the voice of thought in their own heads. They like pretty much anything that comes out. There is no discerning, differentiating perspective to music reviewers. They love knowing trivia about bands that don’t have any trivia. There’s so much generic music out there passing as great in the eyes of reviewers. I pretty much zone out when people mention Franz Ferdinand, Arcade Fire, M.I.A., Death Cab for Cutie, and all those other non-descript bands with non-descript music. Where are the music reviewers who swear by Lovage, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Ninjatune, or The Darkness, and then aren’t afraid to “sell out” to “Toxic” or “My Humps”, or puss down and listen to girl music like Julie Delpy’s “A Waltz for a Night” or Colin Hay’s “I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You”?

I guess I just love funky sounds. I also like songs that change tempo several times. Crescendos, orgasms, you know. I would like more electronica if it had more edge and if it had edgier vocals. I would like more heavy metal if it wasn’t so blatantly heavy metal. I would like rap if it included some singing choruses. I’ve been going back more to classics that I didn’t grow up with, classics like the Stones and the Beatles and Led Zeppelin and Hendrix. I don’t want my music to be understated, moody, restrained. I want it loud, energetic, loud percussion. I want great vocals — every song should have them, even if it’s just sampling. I want my blood to flow and my heart to sing. Otherwise, what’s the fucking point?