And now, complete delight.

As it happens, our President wrote a couple books.

One of them, a personal memoir called Dreams from my Father, includes a number of anecdotes from Obama’s youth.

There is an audiobook of this book. And the President does the reading. And so…:

The main draw of the audiobook is that it’s actually narrated by Obama. It’s interesting to hear him imitate the voices of some of the people that have been important in his life. Like Ray, for example.

Ray, a former high school classmate, was savvy and streetwise, with a new take on black culture and white America. Best of all, Ray had an extremely colorful manner of self-expression. In other words, he cursed. A lot.

That means the President curses. A lot.

In fact you’re about to hear the POTUS swear like a motherfucker.

Follow the links, and you, too, can download a few choice MP3s. Heh. Get your own damn fries.

Our President spoke at the UN today

He did pretty well, speaking about Arab Spring, about Chris Stevens, about violence and tolerance, about democracy and values, and about America in the world.

Here’s a bit, but I think you should make time to read the whole thing. It won’t take long. The President does a pretty fine job of encapsulating what I think of as the best of American ideals, the backbone of who we’d like to be. It isn’t who we always are — America is an aspirational state — but it is our goal, and we are our best selves when we work toward it.

Anyway, a sample:

That is what we saw play out in the last two weeks, as a crude and disgusting video sparked outrage throughout the Muslim world. Now, I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity. It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and every faith. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.

I know there are some who ask why we don’t just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws: Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech. Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As president of our country, and commander-in-chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so. Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views – even views that we profoundly disagree with.

We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views, and practice their own faith, may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech – we recognize that. But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete. The question, then, is how do we respond. And on this we must agree: there is no speech that justifies mindless violence.

There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan. In this modern world, with modern technologies, for us to respond in that way to hateful speech empowers any individual who engages in such speech to create chaos around the world. We empower the worst of us, if that’s how we respond.

Things to Delight Us

Today, I am extremely pleased to have heard this sentence in conversation with my friend Igor: “A friend of mine met her years ago in the jungles of the Yucatan.”

(And yes, it’s a statement of literal truth.)

Strange things afoot in the music world

Make of these what you will:

Point the First Amanda Palmer’s record entered the Billboard charts at #10. A crowdsourced, Kickstarter record, completely free of label support. Or a label at all, really.

If you are a record label, my guess is that this scares the shit out of you.


Point the Second Running errands at lunch, I flipped over from NPR to a local pop radio station. It was playing Gangnam Style.

It’s 1981 somewhere

Specifically, here, where you can see shockingly high quality footage of a very, very young U2 playing “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” in a Berlin nightclub.

Presumably, West Berlin. Kids, ask your parents.

h/t to (@groovehouse](

HOWTO: Tell if a company sucks

If attempts to contact a local rep are routed without exception to a call center somewhere else, they hate you. Take your business elsewhere if you can’t get past the call center “customer deflection shield.”

A little bit more from the Palmer show

This is mostly a camera experiment.

In the years since I bought my old camera, the game changed a bit. The Rebel didn’t shoot video at all, but now basically every reasonable camera system shoots HD video really, really well — entire movies and TV shows have been shot with the now obsolete Canon 5D Mk II, for example.

Now, to do video at a professional level, you need to control lots of other factors (chief among them sound and lighting), but the core ingredients are there, which is pretty rad.

As an experiment, I shot this clip (1:10) of one of Amanda Palmer’s opening acts, a sax duo called Ronald Reagan who bill themselves as “Boston’s Premier 80’s Pop Saxophone Duo”. The focus drifts a little (operator error), but overall I’m totally shocked by the clarity. I was standing in a scrum of people on the floor at Fitz, holding the camera over my head to get a better angle. I mean, seriously, this is amazing.

Anyway, here it is.

I also grabbed a couple other clips, but this was the best of the lot. One is plagued much more by the focus drift issue, and the other was during an all-hands-on-deck finale of “Careless Whisper,” which was played at eleven, so the mic got a bit overloaded. But this one’s a good example of what this little camera can do.

Posted in Pix

Pix: Amanda Fucking Palmer

I took the new tiny camera with me to the Amanda Palmer show last night at Fitzgerald’s. I took a few pix.

The little Oly did VERY well, though I need to learn a bit more about keeping the focus constant when shooting video. It also appears I’m gonna need that battery grip (or just another battery), because I only got to about 450 shots before it was done for the night. I got super spoiled with the Rebel, which would shoot for days, but if this is the main drawback I encounter, I’ll be TOTALLY cool with it.

All shots with the Olympus M.Zuiko 45/1.8, which turns out to be a GREAT lens. It’s not the equal of the Leica 25/1.4, but for things like this it’s perfect.

Posted in Pix

Gangnam Style: Explained

Because the Internet is magic, I’m able to point you to this excellent thread at Reddit where a South Korean explains the cultural context of the now-iconic song and video.

Here’s a few bits that may not be clear:

  • Psy is not a one-hit wonder. He’s had a long and varied career despite having it interrupted twice by conscription.
  • While obviously somewhat goofy in presentation, he’s taken seriously from a musical and cultural commentary standpoint.
  • Even the phrase “Oppa Gangnam Style” is pretty loaded with meaning in Korean.

Go read both of juyunkim89’s posts there; this kind of cross-cultural perspective is what we all hoped would happen way more often with a global Internet. It’s pretty damn cool even if it’s just discussing a pop song.


Gawker (yes, Gawker) puts things in perspective in the wake of Newsweek‘s frankly irresponsible and ridiculous cover story.

Don’t miss this quote:

Indeed, as everyone knows, Muslims, and especially Arab Muslims, have no lives, feelings or thoughts external to constant, violent rage, directed at old white people living in the Midwest (due to their freedoms).

In honor of 9/11, let’s look at the record

Kurt Eichenwald has, including the volumes of Presidential Daily Briefings now public, and it turns out the Bush White House knew way more than has been previously discussed, and chose to ignore those warnings out of a misguided and unsupported belief that the “real” threat was Iraq.

By May 1, the Central Intelligence Agency told the White House of a report that “a group presently in the United States” was planning a terrorist operation. Weeks later, on June 22, the daily brief reported that Qaeda strikes could be “imminent,” although intelligence suggested the time frame was flexible.

But some in the administration considered the warning to be just bluster. An intelligence official and a member of the Bush administration both told me in interviews that the neoconservative leaders who had recently assumed power at the Pentagon were warning the White House that the C.I.A. had been fooled; according to this theory, Bin Laden was merely pretending to be planning an attack to distract the administration from Saddam Hussein, whom the neoconservatives saw as a greater threat. Intelligence officials, these sources said, protested that the idea of Bin Laden, an Islamic fundamentalist, conspiring with Mr. Hussein, an Iraqi secularist, was ridiculous, but the neoconservatives’ suspicions were nevertheless carrying the day.

Ah, neocons. Fuck each and every one of them, and then put ’em in jail. Jesus.

You can tell it’s all true, btw, because the right’s response has been to send out professional liar Ari Fleischer to smear Eichenwald as a “truther.” In this segment on AC360, the level of sheer smugtastic douchery from Fleischer is breathtaking.

August 3, 1983: Something extraordinary

These are Matthew De Abaitua’s words. They are awesome:

Wendy Melvoin is fresh from high school. She is a wearing a V-necked sleeveless top, and patterned shorts. She is playing the first chords of a new song on her purple guitar, opening chords that she wrote, a circular motif with a chorus effect. Wendy is eighteen-nineteen and she has the high cheekbones and diffident confidence of a Hollywood upbringing. She half-smiles at the faces that crowd close to the low club stage. This is Wendy’s first gig with the new band, and the song she is playing is “Purple Rain,” and nobody in the audience has ever heard “Purple Rain” before because this is the night that Prince and the Revolution record the song.

No, seriously. This video link is the foundation of the take you know and love and have been listening to for almost 30 years. They took it live, from here.

The gig is a benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theater. Prince and the Revolution are taking dance lessons and their tutor suggests the gig as a way of supporting the financially challenged theatre; because Prince is a local lad, born and raised in Minneapolis, a city he will always come back to, he agrees to play.

In 1983, Prince is an international star, thanks to “1999″ and “Little Red Corvette.” He has released five albums in five years, from when he was eighteen years old. He has so many songs he forms other bands like The Time and Vanity 6 to play them. He is an impresario and a producer and he is also only twenty-three, not so far away from the poor black kid who stood outside McDonald’s just to smell the food he couldn’t afford. His instinct for self-reliance, his tendency to be dictatorial, has been blindsided by these two sophisticated young women, Wendy and, on her keyboards, her lover, Lisa; for the first time in his life, he will collaborate in a meaningful way.


The crowd at First Avenue, their faces straining against one another, receive the brief benediction of a wavering spotlight: to them, “Purple Rain” doesn’t sound like any song that Prince has played before: the tight electronic funk, his harsh and weird sex songs, the soul ballads in which he asks for forgiveness — “Purple Rain” is something new, something different. They don’t know how to react. In fact the crowd is so muted that when this recording is prepared for the album, the engineer loops some crowd noise taken from a football game to give it some life.

What do great songs sound like the first time we hear them? Can you remember that feeling? When Bob Dylan heard The Animals’ version of “House of the Rising Sun,” he got out of the car and ran around it again and again he was so excited. The first time you hear a great song is so rare, and it can never be repeated; watching the crowd during this first performance of “Purple Rain,” I see that look on a few faces, a silent shocked awe. On the twenty-seven other recordings of “Purple Rain” on my iPod, the moment the first chord is strummed, the crowd cheer, acknowledging the anthem. They become a congregation, keen to be guided through the Purple Rain, and that has its ecstasies, even if it involves cigarette lighters held aloft, and hands waved in the air. But to hear silence flowing back from the audience, no singalong because they don’t know the words, is to eavesdrop on the shock of the new.

Oh, holy crap just go read the whole thing, and do NOT miss the first link up there — it’s the video.

Via MeFi. This shit, right here, is some quality Internettin’, boys and girls. Enjoy.

PS: The MeFi thread reminded me of this Hall of Fame peformance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, and others, which I previously mentioned here. The best part, even over Prince’s amazing solo and the degree of “holy shit” you see on the faces of the other musicians is what comes at the end: Prince finishes his solo, tosses the guitar up into the air, and walks — no, struts — offstage.

The guitar never comes down.

What We’ve Learned: Burglary Edition

Right, so, we got robbed.

Late enough Friday night for to actually be Saturday morning, someone tossed a big-ass decorative stone through our downstairs sliding glass door and made off with my laptop and my backpack, which contained a variety of other delights including my camera and some really nice headphones. Awesome.

Let’s take a look at the tape:

Amazingly, there’s good news
You know what I didn’t lose? Any data whatsoever, thanks to Time Machine, CrashPlan, and Dropbox. Well, mostly the first, since that was the only one I needed to reconstitute my working environment, but had the nefarious jackholes grabbed the backup drive, too, I’d have the extra backups. Food for thought.
So how’d that go?
I ordered a new Macbook online and scheduled in-store pickup in Highland Village. I picked it up, took it home, plugged it into my Time Machine drive, and went to this little guy’s birthday party. When I got home, my computer was basically right where I left it — browser windows and all. Beat that.
Amusing Lesson Number 1
You can, with a big enough check, have your glass door replaced in the middle of the goddamn night.
Did they bring a shop vac and help clean up the glass?
Yes, they brought a shop vac and helped to clean up the glass.
What about Brenda? Is she really gonna move in with that guy?
Apparently so.
Who’s Brenda?
I have no idea, but the glass dudes were seriously discussing it.
So did the alarm go off?
Nope. Somehow, the crazy single lady who lived here first didn’t think to put a glass break sensor in the room where *30% of the wall is glass**. Go figure. Yeah, fixing that ASAP.
Amusing Lesson Number 2
This being Texas, the cops were utterly uninterested in the (obviously, completely, totally unloaded) handgun on the entryway table once I told them it was mine and not evidence.
Do we feel good about that safe now?
You bet your ass.
In which the wonders of plastics are explored
In searching for security solutions to the back door problem, I came across the fact that 3M is doing some pretty amazing stuff with window film. Sure, they can block heat and UV, but they’ve gone much farther than that. Like, you can get stuff strong enough to prevent the “flying daggers of bloody death” hurricane feature, and that will slow down or stymie a would-be burglar. More noise and less progress is anathema to that line of work, so it may well be that we eschew the “ghetto prison” look and go for for some space-age polymers instead.
Amusing Lesson Number 3
If you make enough noise, ADT will promise to help you sooner than October. Score one for “firmly assertive” and “willing to take your business elsewhere”.
Amusing Lesson Number 4
I feel really, really good about my decision to consolidate sensitive information in 1Password now. You should seriously be considering this for your laptops, too, unless you have some sort of whole-disk encryption thing going on.
Do you leave the laptop downstairs anymore?
Are you fucking kidding me?
Does your downstairs look like a holdout set from a zombie movie?
Shut up.

Two more bits on Kluwe and the Vikings

So, yeah, it turns out this guy is a little odd by NFL standards — giant fantasy gamer, essentially disinterested in football beyond his niche (which he apparently does very well), and possessed of a genuinely quick and well-educated mind. In other words, he’s a huge nerd. That makes this even MORE awesome.

Also, if the first version of the letter offended your delicate sensibilities, well, he’s gone and posted a clean version as well.

Oh, and there’s a great MeFi thread on the whole thing, too. So that’s AN ENTIRE EXTRA BIT at no extra charge. See how good I am to you?

So that’s what he meant

I’ll admit that, for 25 years or more, I had no idea what Pat DiNizio meant in the lyrics to “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” but now that I’ve actually seen a picture of Jeanie Shrimpton, well . . . right there with ya, buddy.

(Here, in this nuturing group, I’ll admit that I also didn’t understand the Stones reference (“…she stood just like Bill Wyman…”) until at least 1988.)