Thursday, February 16, 2012


JOSS surely would have killed off Daniel.

And if you understood that statement, we are tv soulmates.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Karmin, Karmin, Karmin, Karmin, Karmin Chameleon

It’s fitting that my first blog post here (like my first blog post ever) would be the result of Zooey Deschanel—that short, dark glass of quirk. Now that we’re getting older, Katie and I have started watching Saturday Night Live again to stay on top of what the kids are talking about. Or at least we DVR it and watch it on Sunday afternoons.

Second from left.

This week’s show was hosted by Ms. Deschanel and included at least three skits that lasted the right amount of time as well as an appearance from Nic Cage which further proved that he is awesome at playing Nic Cage.

Then the musical guest arrived—Karmin. Here I have a confession to make. In my darker moments, I consider myself a musical snob. Not that I have high standards for what qualifies as art of the musical variety. I just think that I know more about music than you. This belief stems largely from the fact that I read on the reg and once hosted my own college radio show (like I said, my darker moments). Due to my fleshy physique, my lack of tattoos, and my ability to enjoy Jersey Shore non-ironically, however, I’ve never been accepted by the truly hipster elite.

I totally knew this post when it was just a Google Doc.

Either way, I was shocked that I would have never heard of a musical guest on SNL. Lana del Rey? Please. Played it for Katie in the car back when I still had a car (See, that comment is funny because my car was stolen). Sleigh Bells? Totally bought Treats like eighteen months ago. But Karmin? Nothing. I panicked for a second. Where did they come from? Apparently I need to spend more time on Reddit and Youtube.

You had me at hello, Imgur.

Karmin performed one of their originals, an upbeat number entitled “Brokenhearted.” As the lead singer bopped around on-stage, the place in my soul where I put my hands up because they’re playing my song started to stir. An eyebrow was raised when she broke out into a rapid-fire rap in the middle of the song, but by the end, I barely even reacted when she ended several lines with “Cheerio!” and put her fingers in the shape of a monocle over her eye. The second performance was equally bouncy. After the dour and dreary del Rey performance or the overwrought Coldplay experience, it was nice that people seemed genuinely excited to be on stage. I figured I might check out a clip of the songs on Itunes, but that would be about it.

Shortly afterward, however, I found the following Gawker article which gleefully proclaimed: “The Hater’s Guide to Karmin!”

Is that what the White Stripes look like?
Written by Max Read as a mock interview in which he gets to enact his dream date and ask all of the questions as well as provide all of the answers, the article attempts to eviscerate Karmin for being… too cutesy? Too internet-y? Too plastic? If that was it, I could let the article slide. People like some types of music and hate others. For example, I think that people who like the song “Pumped Up Kicks” exist on the musical spectrum between those who collect DMB concert tickets into scrapbooks and those who put Pink songs on mixtapes for potential significant others because of their emotional impact. So I get being judgmental when it comes to music.

But Max Read couldn’t stop at just knocking down these Berklee College of Music graduates for their “cutesy covers of popular rap and R&B songs.” And it wasn’t enough that he trashed their physical appearance: “What’s wrong with her face? ‘Experts tell me that Heidemann [the lead singer] suffers from a tragic syndrome known as ‘theater kid’ that manifests itself as extreme and frequent facial and gestural tics.’”

Finally, someone knocks those bully theater kids down a peg.

Side note: It seems problematic that critics still go straight for commenting on a female artist’s physical features as a sure fire of discrediting them. Lana del Rey totally has plumper lips than she should! Kelly Clarkson has weight problems! Madonna looks like ET!

Then Read slammed in what I thought would be the final nail in the coffin: “Yeah. It’s kind of horrible, isn’t it? The way they’re desperate for you to like them, and you’re desperate to (sic) for the song to stop playing so you can set fire to the entire planet for having provided an opportunity for something like this to exist.”

Oh snap! Someone must have been that editor at his college newspaper! You know. The one who thinks being a newspaper editor in college is actually something worth putting on a resume. So far, the article is Gawker-esque in all the right ways—snarky, vengeful, and poorly edited. 

Then Read reaches out for the journalist gut shot: “I don’t want to guess at people’s motives for liking this cover, because that would require me to think about this cover, but isn’t it kind of shocking that so many people who claim to hate rap or R&B suddenly like it when it’s performed by approachable young white people playing ‘real instruments’? Just something weird to think about.”

That is something weird to think about. I was under the impression that since Obama was elected, racism doesn’t exist, but I was willing to go along for the ride. The real instruments part seems odd as in most of their videos and in their performances, the couple stuck to microphones, a cowbell, and a keyboard, but I suppose those instruments can be classified as real. Does it matter that all of the songs that Karmin covers were already Billboard hits and largely accepted by the mainstream? Or that they also cover such non-rap standards as “Firework” and “King of Wishful Thinking”? What makes them approachable? Because they’re white? Because they smile? Oh well, maybe he was just trying to flavor up a throw-away piece with some of the gravitas that invoking racism can bring to the table. He wouldn’t be the first.

But does Read really think the people who like Karmin are racist? Back to Mr. Read: “No, not at all. Just that you, know, for some people, there may be some unspoken cultural biases at play. Like racism.”

What he said.

Well now that you bring it up. I did think there was something Klan-y about their performance. In the sense that both groups start with a K and are theatrical. So people who like rap covers by white people are racist? To be fair, Read supports his case with zero evidence—even of the anecdotal nature. Both he and Maura Johnston, a music critic from The Village Voice who calls Karmin’s music a “pile of garbage and fronting,” seem very concerned that Karmin lack street cred, having come from Berklee and not making their way up the musical totem pole the real way—ie car commercials or being born in Brooklyn.

I wonder if it’s not threats of racism but that conservative urge to criticize intelligentsia which drives these snide dismissals of Karmin. If Amy Heidelmann and Nick Noonan weren’t engaged white folk from Berklee’s ivory tower but strung out heroin addicts or vegan chefs from Williamsburg, would they have more street cred? Both Read and Johnston attack Karmin for their name which stems from a Latin word carmen meaning "song" with an altered spelling to “hint at ‘karma’” (Thanks Wiki!). Johnston’s response? “The only thing I can say to this…is ‘Shut up, college.’” 

Shut up college? C’mon Maura, that seems downright Coulter-esque of you. I know all the really good names like Lady Gaga and Hanson were taken, but what’s wrong with a little Latin now and again? Where would Gawker and The Village Voice be if it wasn’t for overly educated liberal arts majors with a bastion of cultural allusions and a dearth of real world skills?

Maybe it’s that chimerical notion of authenticity in music. Willie Nelson has it. Taylor Swift doesn’t. Or at least that’s what music critics might want you to think. Is it that when Heidemann sings “You're so misunderstood/ Cause you're so complex,/ you and your complex/ and you claim you’re so low key/ Well you coulda fooled me, Mister TMZ,” she must be “fronting,” but when Miley tells us about not getting the memo, we really feel it? Is Rihanna’s “We Found Love” deeper lyrically because we know what happened with Chris Brown? Would Karmin be more musically “serious” if they wore meat on their clothes and had less of an internet following?

Has anyone actually read my lyrics?

Why do I care about Karmin you ask? Why have I been listening to “Brokenhearted” and “Crash Your Party” for most of the night/today? Maybe it’s because Karmin samples the beat from Black Sheep’s “The Choice is Yours”, and I would listen to anything sung over those bass lines even Max Read’s sloppy, race-baiting piece of fronting garbage. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t mind enjoying music contrived to make me enjoy it. Because that’s the beauty of pop music. Sure, it’s bred in a factory, and yes, it’s formulaic, but man is it ever delicious.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Still enough time to figure out how to chase my blues away...

It was the night of April 24, 2010.  We are in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

And by we, I mean me, because I am at Maggie and Matt's wedding and David has chosen to go to Hawaii for someone else's wedding.  Someone not nearly as cool, Maggie and Matt would have me add.

I was feeling a little sad about David's absence: he is a great wedding date, and also, I like him.  All the speeches had been made, and people were wandering back to their tables, for that traditionally awkward time between food and outright ridiculous dance time.

And then I heard it.

I wanna dance with somebody

Someone else beat me to the floor, but Bre and I weren't far behind.

I wanna feel the heat with somebody

Shoes were off.

I wanna dance with somebody

Hips were shaking.

With somebody who loves me.

Somebody who?  I didn't know, didn't care.  David may have been in Hawaii but I was here, with all the friends I love, and this song is a call to dance.

So dance we did, and dance we shall.

To you, Whitney Houston.  To your voice, to your songs and to the legacy you left behind.

8/9/63 - 2/11/12

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jobs, Home Ownership and Other Crazy Things People Do

I manage to kiss up to David AND make fun of Katy Perry all while reporting on the news in this week's edition of Stuff You Didn't Read When it Came Out and Still Won't Read Now.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stop Colbert

This is the first bit of smart media messaging that I've seen the Dems do in a while.  Kinda.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Internet Knows Where you Live

Let’s establish some scope here. The objective of this article is to help you prevent third parties from obtaining information about you using legal methods. Out of scope is protecting you against those using illegal means: phishing, viruses, worms, etc. Hopefully everyone knows how to protect themselves from the latter category: run anti-virus, don’t give out your password, update/patch all software, and drink plenty of fluids.

With the upcoming IPO of Facebook it seems that online privacy is the topic du jour. I’ve been hearing a lot of talk and some mischaracterizations in these news pieces. It’s occurred to me that a lot of what’s being discussed about online privacy is not widely understood by most of us. This being (the) one topic I’m somewhat qualified to speak on, I’d like to take a crack at helping those unfamiliar with this subject understand it a little better (and protect themselves in the meantime).

This is a huge topic, and I could easily write pages about each of the items I touch upon so distilling them into something brief yet understandable is difficult. Some of what I’m writing is a significant simplification, but done so as to make this more digestible for everyone. Additionally, I broke each section into “What it is” and “How to stop it” sections in case you want to skip to the important parts.

The way I see it, most of the information you’re hemorrhaging to third parties on the internet is coming from about five main sources:

What it is
Cookies are pieces of data that your browser sends to a web server whenever you request a page. They are specific to a web site, so any cookies you have for will only be sent to pages in They’re a slight of hand to make the stateless internet feel stateful. It’s okay if that sounds like nonsense, the point is that its data your computer is sending to a website every time you type in a URL. It was told to store that data by some webpage within that site on a prior visit.

Here’s an example of a cookie:
  • username=JSMITH 
Every time you request a page from “username=JSMITH” is sent along with it. That’s really handy when you have a login form on your website and you don’t want people to have to keep typing in their user name.

Cookies are also exceptionally good at helping companies track your movement across the internet. Here’s how:
  • You type in a URL, let’s say it’s
  • That website returns to your browser a webpage. It’s really only sending back text and information on how to display it (no images or videos usually). Within that text are the URLs to other resources you’ll need to view the web page (like pictures, videos, and scripts). Your browser will go out and download them all. Every time it requests one of those items, it’ll pass all the cookies it has for that website with its request. 
    • Pretend one of those resources is “” 
    • When you request that image, part of your request header tells the website you’re requesting the image from “” 
    • Mean nasty web tracker notices you don’t have a cookie for their website, so they create a random identifier for you (say, 293), puts it in a cookie, and returns it to you along with the image you requested. 
    • Now you visit another completely unrelated website. “” and the same process happens again. The page they return also refers to that image. Only this time when you request SomeImage.gif, MeanNastyWebTracker sees your ID (293) and now knows whoever 293 is has visited both these web pages. 
    Do that over and over again and MeanNastyWebTracker begins to learn a lot about you. In this example, both SomeSite and SomeOtherSite are in cahoots with MeanNastyWebTracker because they enjoy learning things about the people visiting their site. This becomes even more evil and pernicious when MeanNastyWebTracker knows that 293 is actually John Bumbletuck. Google and Facebook do exactly this. Facebook knows about every webpage you ever visited that has a “like” button on it.

    Something you may not realize, is that even if you don't have Facebook or haven't signed into it on your current computer/browser, Facebook still tracks you through these sites. Instead of associating the traffic to you, John Bumbletuck, they create a placeholder account and log the traffic to that account. I heard an NPR commentator refer to it as a "shadow account" which has just the right sinister fear-mongering tone I think.

    How to stop it
    Let’s start with your first line of protection: AdBlock. AdBlock is available for Chrome, Firefox and probably a bunch of other browsers you shouldn’t be using. Remember when we typed in the URL “” and got back information with the text, layout information, and the list of other resources needed to display the page? AdBlock culls through that list of other resources first, and removes requests to advertiser content. No more ads on your pages and MeanNastyWebTracker never knows you visited SomeSite. AdBlock maintains a giant list of URLs of advertisers and trackers, so they know what resources to shoot down and which to allow.

    It’s also expandable, you can custom block certain sites if you’d like or use some others have made. Go into options for AdBlock, then to Filter Lists, and you can enter this URL:
    This one stops Facebook from tracking you through websites with Facebook “Like” buttons (i.e. every news site on the planet). You can still use Facebook, but Facebook won't know about anything you do outside their site.

    Most modern browsers have a second line of defense as well: private mode (Firefox)/incognito mode (Chrome). Among other things, this tells the browser not to persist these cookies. It’s a big hammer because you lose the good stuff cookies do (like remember passwords) but a lot of the time you don’t need this. If you’re planning on researching divorce procedures and don’t want your credit to suffer, this will guarantee privacy. Google and Facebook will see you doing stuff, but without those cookies they won’t know you’re the same person.

    Network Sniffing
    What it is
    Network sniffing is using tools to inspect web traffic. Google and Facebook wouldn’t do this, but your employer or ISP (Internet Service Provider) probably does. Let’s introduce an inappropriate metaphor: if the internet is the US postal service, your unencrypted HTTP web traffic is a post card. Anyone who handles your postcard can read its contents easily (like your ISP or the Gateway/Proxy Server at your office). 

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    A Blog Post In Which I Discuss Not Writing Katie a Blog Post While Avoiding Writing Katie a Blog Post

    Katie hasn’t had a drink in four months. I feel bad for her. Otherwise I might never have written her a blog post as I’d promised to do way back in October. (At the time, I had my own blog, which I started when I moved to Doha in August. I took the blog down when I found it a) interfering with my manuscript, b) possibly being taken the wrong way during some administrative changes at the school where I teach, and, most importantly, c) too often causing me to look for experiences to write about, rather than writing about experiences and things that just happened [good writing being a shit substitute for a good life, after all]. Oh, and d) I’m lazy and didn’t feel like writing it anymore. Which also explains why it’s taken me four months to write a post for The Famous Last Word. Until KD suggested today that I write about the alienation of watching the Super Bowl in a foreign country where the locals don’t care about the game or American football in general. Capital idea, I wrote [on gchat]. The problem is, I am so alienated from American culture that I missed the game completely. I slept right through it. [The game began at 2.30 in the morning here.] I woke up to find the Giants had won, which was nice, though I’m a Jets fan by virtue of the fact that at the age of [too young to know any better] I decided I liked green more than blue. We watched a recorded version of the game this evening, but mostly we sat around, bored, and talked about long distance relationships, new relationships forged out of mutual loneliness and resignation, whether or not we’d sign contracts for another year, and vacation plans for Spring Break. [I have not yet succumbed to loneliness or resignation and I am debating the respective merits of Istanbul and Beirut for Spring Break.] That’s how I watched the Super Bowl. But honestly it doesn’t bother me. I watch lots of sports. I watch lots of basketball. I play tennis and squash and basketball too, when I can find a game. Sports are not a problem. [As it turns out, there isn’t much I really miss. Except for one thing, though it isn’t really a thing exactly. I miss an organic social life. There are things to do socially in Qatar, sure, but unless it’s going camping or someone’s throwing a party, most everything is a production, a manufactured cultural event. Latin night. A film festival. Multicultural fest. Stadium rock. A sponsored talk at an institute. This is all fine and well in and of itself, but often I find myself missing just paying ten bucks and seeing a show. Or getting stir-crazy and walking down to an honest-to-God pub or dive. Things to do here too often scream THIS IS A THING THAT WE ARE DOING rather than just doing it, and often this THING is the ONE THING that is going on that night. People give opening remarks and closing remarks and they thank other people for making this THING WE ARE DOING possible and everyone smiles and pats themselves on the back for being there, for being conspicuously cultural. {This phenomenon does not, however, apply to eating. Good food is a casual enterprise in these parts. As is overeating. And as are carbs. So. Many. Carbs. The mountains of rice and bread are really impressive. I gained some serious weight in my first few weeks here.} As a result of this privileged sort of alienation, I find myself engaging in other privileged activities, like spending a lot of time on music blogs or streaming documentary films. It’s my way of staying connected to a world in which I can no longer take part. But it's not really that world--it's more the obnoxious idea of a past life I wasn't ever really leading in the first place. {And of course, like most English speakers here, I stream a lot of American and British television. Really into Revenge right now. And I’m happy that Justified is back. And I can’t wait for Game of Thrones.} So if you ask what it’s like watching the Super Bowl in the Middle East, that’s my roundabout answer.] On the subject of sports, I recently quit smoking, and that’s improved both my wind and given me significant chunks of time to fill now that I am no longer lighting up as I gaze listlessly off the balcony or try to appear disaffected and #overitdotcom for the cute Australian girls at the end of the hotel bar. Hopefully at some point I will use that time to write Katie a proper blog post.) I promise, I will write one soon.

    Monday, February 6, 2012

    Did you read?

    Matt:  so how did you discover the article about Dave and Beth?
    me actually i was looking for articles for the blog and saw the caption "i just remember being really, really happy"
    and clicked on it
    and hence the discovery
    Matt because evidently you found it before they even knew it was up
    me:  hahahahaha
    well i read a lot of news
    Matt:  didn't know you were such a Wash. Post fan
    i like trashy news like NY Post
    me:  hahahah i mean, it's my job
    so i read the nyt, wsj, wp
    and then for fun, the la times
    and of course CQ and all the hill rags
    Matt:  http://ww​​.com/watc​h?v=P7VgN​QbZdaw   

    Matt:  take that, nerd!

    Calvin and Hobbes, 26 years later...

    Click to enlarge.

    Still hard to read?  Click here.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Vote for me! (until Sunday at midnight!)

    Hola lovers,
    Just wanted to let everyone know that we will be posting every day as per usual, but, in the words of one Mr. Bruce Springsteen, we take care of our own around here and will be leaving this post on top to encourage as much voting as possible for the incredibly talented Miz Bre Duffy.  (Also check out her webpage here at
    "Rockets" is being displayed in Chicago, and the winner of a round of voting this week will have their artwork used as inspiration for a play.  You can read Bre's message below. 

    Good Afternoon, blog readers. I'm abusing my blogging privileges today for selfish reasons. Please vote for my artwork here:

    This is the artwork:



    This week: a whole bunch of reasons not to be friends with people

    In this week's rendition of all stuff-that-made-me-giggle, there are a whole lot of people in the news who nobody wants to play with.  We've got a group of moms who can't count, another mother who prefers her sons make their own chicken stock when they cook her dinner, an Alabama senator who wants to keep teacher's salaries low "for the kids" and a man who actually graphs out his friendships.  After the jump.

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    Awkward moments that kind of make you either want to cry or laughhysterically.

    1. When your headphones aren't plugged in and the entire office hears you start playing Salt & Peppa's "Push It" on blast

    2. When you take said iPhone to the Apple Service and the first song that comes up to play is Britney's Hit Me Baby. (Even better when the second is that ridiculous joke song, "I know my calculus, it says you + me = us" )

    Not joking.

    3. When you admit the more embarrassing additions to your iPod to an entire blogging community.

    4. When you take the dogs out wearing a pair of fleece pants, glasses, and bed hair at 3am and the most beautiful man in the world watches you trip over their leashes.

    5. When you try to use a q-tip and have your earbuds in (oh wait, that's another post)

    6. When you fall off of a pyramid (hahaha, oh right another post :P)

    7. When you think a guy is leaning in to kiss you because it may or may not have been a date, and then you lean in too and he doesn't. (Seriously, I'll stop now, I promise)

    8. When you receive an email from one of your contractors, not in reference to your work, but with a "your boss said you were single, and so is one of my reps, and we thought you'd really hit it off... Can I give him your number?" and you realize that your office is trying to pimp you out. :P

    9. While mobile app text typing this blog post on the metro, you nearly miss the metro doors closing and have to make a beeline to get off, mowing people down so as to not have to take the Greenline into ANACOSTIA.

    10. When you get an urgent email FROM YOUR MOTHER with info about the Pfizer birth control recall and the subject line is not, "Does this affect you?" which would be embarrassing enough, but "Do you think you're pregnant??"