Why do I love The Hold Steady? Because they’ve been making non-stupid ROCK music for ten years. It’s miraculous that a band can deliver so many songs about heartbreak and drinking with the requisite choruses and bridges and still sound smart. Part of it is that the band has a knack for air-guitar-worthy riffs, but it’s really singer/songwriter Craig Finn’s storytelling that sets The Hold Steady apart. Craig’s also possessed of a unique charisma on stage - check out the band on tour in the U.S and Europe from now through October for an undeniably fun and sweaty time.
The new Hold Steady record is called Teeth Dreams and I’ve been dying to share my favorite song “Wait a While” with you for months. It’s a deceptively simple gem that you’ll want on your summer playlist. I personally would slug nearly any man who called me “little girl,” but somehow Craig Finn can get away with it and even get me to sing along. Download it below. Read the rest
Sound it Out # 71
Buddy is an evolving collection of Los Angeles musicians, the singer & songwriter of which is a man named Buddy. Buddy’s songs are full of brilliant turns of phrase and suffused with beauty, longing, and sadness.
In live performance, the band feels like a group of tight friends coming together to support someone they love. Often, six or seven musicians cram onto the stage behind Buddy the singer to become the larger “Buddy” - the greater expression of a man who appears genuinely surprised and grateful that people enjoy his music. Buddy is now on tour with a stripped-down (and equally powerful) version of the band, and you should go check them out in your town.
Buddy has a new album coming out on August 19th called Last Call for the Quiet Life. The sound is lush where his previous work was spare, and it features lots of lovely vocal harmonies. It’s his best work and I’m proud to premiere the first single “Weak Currents” and offer you a free download. Grab it below. You can also pre-order the record on iTunes if you dig it. Read the rest
Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Locus column, How to Talk to Your Children About Mass Surveillance, in which I describe the way that I've explained the Snowden affair to my six-year-old: Read the rest
A new Say Hi record is reason for celebration in my home, and a new (and free) song should make you happy as well. Eric Elbogen is the one-man-band called Say Hi and he makes music that is a slippery study in contrasts. His songs are at once catchy and tragic. They are simultaneously fun and substantial. They’ll make you want to dance and cry at the same time.
The forthcoming Say Hi record is out on June 17th and it’s called Endless Wonder. It’s already one of my favorites from 2014. Download “Hurt in the Morning” below. Read the rest
I was on American Public Media’s Marketplace yesterday talking (MP3) about our posting of a rarer-than-rare Disney treasure, the never-before-seen original prospectus for Disneyland, scanned before it was sold to noted jerkface Glenn Beck, who has squirreled it away in his private Scrooge McDuck vault. Read the rest
Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Guardian column, Firefox's adoption of closed-source DRM breaks my heart, a close analysis of the terrible news that Mozilla has opted to add closed source DRM to its flagship Firefox browser:
The decision to produce systems that treat internet users as untrusted adversaries to be controlled by their computers was clearly taken out of a sense of desperation and inevitability.
It’s clear that Mozilla plans to do everything it can to mitigate the harms from its DRM strategy and to attempt to reverse the trend that brought it to this pass.
Like many of Mozilla’s longtime supporters, I hold it to a high standard. It is not a for-profit. It’s a social enterprise with a mission to empower and free its users.
I understand that Apple, Microsoft and Google are for-profit entities that have demonstrated repeatedly that their profitability trumps their customers’ rights, and I fault them for this. But it’s not unreasonable to hold mission-driven nonprofits to a higher standard than their commercial counterparts.
Mozilla says it’s doing everything it can to reduce the harm from what it sees as an inevitable decision. As a Mozilla supporter, contributor and user, I want it to do more.
Mastering by John Taylor Williams: email@example.com
John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."
Here's a reading (MP3) of a my recent Guardian column, Why it is not possible to regulate robots, which discusses where and how robots can be regulated, and whether there is any sensible ground for "robot law" as distinct from "computer law."
Read the rest
One thing that is glaringly absent from both the Heinleinian and Asimovian brain is the idea of software as an immaterial, infinitely reproducible nugget at the core of the system. Here, in the second decade of the 21st century, it seems to me that the most important fact about a robot – whether it is self-aware or merely autonomous – is the operating system, configuration, and code running on it.
If you accept that robots are just machines – no different in principle from sewing machines, cars, or shotguns – and that the thing that makes them "robot" is the software that runs on a general-purpose computer that controls them, then all the legislative and regulatory and normative problems of robots start to become a subset of the problems of networks and computers.
If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I believe two things about computers: first, that they are the most significant functional element of most modern artifacts, from cars to houses to hearing aids; and second, that we have dramatically failed to come to grips with this fact. We keep talking about whether 3D printers should be "allowed" to print guns, or whether computers should be "allowed" to make infringing copies, or whether your iPhone should be "allowed" to run software that Apple hasn't approved and put in its App Store.
Matt Taibbi is touring the States with his new book, The Divide, which is on my must-read list right after I finish Capital in the 21st Century. Rick Kleffel caught up with him for his San Francisco NPR show and posted the interview, along with his notes (which includes links to his previous interviews with Taibbi).
Taibbi was, until recently, the best reason to read Rolling Stone: a finance writer for the 99%, whose incandescent and meticulous columns were terrifying and enraging by turns.
Yesterday, I posted about the publication of More Cute Stories, Volume 4: 1964/65 New York World's Fair, an audio memoir of Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump. I've been listening to it today, and enjoying it immensely. I wrote to Bamboo Forest, the publishers, and secured permission to share a couple of MP3s from the collection with you. Read the rest
Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Guardian column, Internet service providers charging for premium access hold us all to ransom, which tries to make sense of the disastrous news that the Federal Communications Commission is contemplating rules to allow ISPs to demand bribes from publishers in exchange for letting you see the webpages you ask for. Read the rest
Here's a reading (MP3) of a my November, 2013 Locus column, Collective Action, in which I propose an Internet-enabled "Magnificent Seven" business model for foiling corruption, especially copyright- and patent-trolling. In this model, victims of extortionists find each other on the Internet and pledge to divert a year's worth of "license fees" to a collective defense fund that will be used to invalidate a patent or prove that a controversial copyright has lapsed. The name comes from the classic film The Magnificent Seven (based, in turn, on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai) in which villagers decide one year to take the money they'd normally give to the bandits, and turn it over to mercenaries who kill the bandits. Read the rest
Chapter nine of Homeland opens with about 400 digits of Pi. When Wil Wheaton read the chapter, he soldiered through it, reading out Pi for a whopping four minutes! Here's the raw studio audio (MP3) of Wil and director Gabrielle De Cuir playing numbers station.
Science fiction radio-host and podcaster Rick Kleffel writes, "Lucius Shepard was one of my guiding lights for reading; he worked in all the spaces I loved best. Here's a link to my one conversation with him [MP3], back in 2005. He'll be missed very much; and remembered every time we read his work." (Thanks, Rick!)
Before he died, Aaron Swartz wrote a tremendous afterword for my novel Homeland -- Aaron also really helped with the core plot, devising an ingenious system for helping independent candidates get the vote out that he went on to work on. When I commissioned the indie audiobook of Homeland (now available in the Humble Ebook Bundle, I knew I wanted to have Aaron's brother, Noah, read Aaron's afterword, and Noah was kind enough to do so, going into a studio in Seattle to record a tremendous reading.
Here is Noah's reading (MP3), released as a CC0 file that you can share without any restrictions. I hope you'll give it a listen.
And a reminder that the complete Humble Ebook Bundle lineup is now available, including work from John Scalzi, Mercedes Lackey, and Ryan North, as well as the core bundle, which features Wil Wheaton, Holly Black, Steven Gould, and Scott Westerfeld! Read the rest
I've just finished listening to the entire, three-year run of Oh No Ross and Carrie, a podcast hosted by two former Evangelical Christians turned skeptics, who join cults and fringe religions, visit psychics and healers of varying degrees of woo-ness, and partake of quack remedies and other newage rituals. After dozens of hours of listening, enjoying, laughing and learning, I'm totally converted to their faith. Read the rest
Two of my friends contributed afterwords to my novel Homeland: Aaron Swartz and Jacob Appelbaum. In this outtake from the independently produced Homeland audiobook (which you can get for the next week exclusively through the Humble Ebook Bundle), Jake reads his afterword at The Hellish Vortex Studio in Berlin, where he is in exile after several harrowing adventures at the US border. Hellish Vortex is run by Alec Empire, founding member of Atari Teenage Riot. Alec recorded this clip (MP3), and also mixed an alternate version.
Originally Jake had intended for his afterword to be anonymous (I didn't understand this at the time, and there was no harm done!). In keeping with this, Alec mixed this vocoder edition (MP3), that is pretty awesome.