Archive for May, 2011

4 Hours

When I bought this shirt, I wondered how long it would take wearing it before someone would “get” it. I’m happy to report that only four hours into day one, I got my first response to it.

I was sitting out by the lake reading at lunchtime when a guy walked by and says, “Awesome shirt! I love it!” I reacted with surprise that he actually understood it and he explained that he’s the VP of Marketing for a well-known tech firm located in the next building over.

“I’m helping put together a big 6,000 square foot Art of Video Games exhibit at the Smithsonian,” he told me.

“That’s amazing,” I replied and then we went back and forth in a game of Odyssey^2 game tennis.

“Remember the Lord of the Rings knock-off? And Wall Street?”

Pick Axe Pete?”

“Hell yeah! KC Munchkin!”

Which reminds me. I totally need to create a Pick Axe Pete t-shirt.

The “N” Word and Being Down

Jay Smooth recently linked up an interview he did with Brother Ali a little while back:

Ali notes that when he was nine years old and had mostly black friends, he was fully accepted by them and felt that he was one of them. By this, I presume he means he felt entitled to use the n-word amongst them. But as he grew older, he realized why being down didn’t give him the right, as a white person, to use that word.

I remember struggling with this a bit growing up, too. While I wasn’t in a situation where my friends were mostly black (c’mon – my high school of 2000 people had 10 black students), I do remember feeling that because I was so deeply into hip-hop that I somehow had a pass to use that word in my lyrics. You know, artistically. I only used it once or twice, but looking back, I still feel guilt for ever even letting such a loaded word escape my lips.

A key point in this interview comes where Ali says, “We have to own our relationship to our injustice in the world.” We all are the culmination of the history that proceeded us and as a white person, it’s undeniable that I’m still reaping the benefits of the systemic discrimination of minorities in the years before I was born (and, indeed, in the years since). I can’t help what happened, but accepting it, realizing it, and “own[ing] our relationship” to it is an important step in addressing race honestly.

The Reggae Report Archive

When I was in college in the mid-1990s, I was a pretty heavy hip-hop fan and had been for a while, but I had only started listening to reggae a few years before. Shabba Ranks’ “Trailor Load of Girls” was the first reggae song I distinctly remembered liking. It took some time, but eventually I was listening to Half Pint and starting to dive deeper into roots reggae.

Somehow–and honestly, I don’t remember how–I was given the opportunity to write for Reggae Report magazine, one of the most widely (if not the most widely) circulated print reggae magazine. It was quite a privilege to write for them and I was in some truly good company, especially considering how green I was. I can remember editor Sara Gurgen’s surprise when she had to explain to me what “ital” food was (and look at me now, one of the top five Google search results for the phrase!).

During my college stint, I wrote lots of reviews and the occasional feature article, including interviews with Mad Professor and Half Pint. I’ve always been thankful to the magazine’s founder M. Peggy Quattro and editor Sara Gurgen for giving me that shot. Because of that gig, I was introduced to amazing music and amazing people.

Today, Peggy celebrates her 30th year in the reggae business. If you know your music history, you may also know that today marks 30 years since Bob Marley died. It was quite a first day on the job for Peggy, who describes the day on Reggae Report‘s Facebook page:

10 a.m., May 11, 1981, I walk into DTAM with a heightened sense that something big was about to happen. I was imagining getting to meet Bob Marley, although I knew he was very ill and passing through Miami on his journey back home to Jamaica. I was nervous and excited at the same time. Don wasn’t there yet so I took it upon myself to organize my new office. There were pictures of Bob and Jimmy, posters, gold records, and boxes of papers and receipts everywhere. Herman, Don’s go-to guy/driver had reported in to help. By 11 a.m. I had my space semi-worked out and Herman and I chatted about Bob and he let me know just how serious Bob’s illness was. I was devastated. No, not Bob, not now. There was so much more for him to do, concerts to give, songs to record, lives to touch.

Don came bursting in looking very grave and serious. He barked a few instructions to get ready for Jimmy Cliff coming into town in a couple days. Oh my, I thought, Jimmy Cliff! You can get it if you really want it, harder they come…I was going to meet my idol, the man drawing 80,000-100,000 fans in Europe and Brazil. This was great!

At 11:45 a.m. the phone rang. Rita Marley asking for Don. My stomach sank. Don grabbed the call and raced out the door. Not before stopping to look me in the eye and say, “If anyone calls, you know nothing.” In fact, I knew nothing, but the sinking feeling grew and Herman and I looked at each other with a knowing glance that this was possibly it. The moment everyone dreaded, the moment we prayed not to happen, we knew. Bob was gone.

30 years later, she’s launching a new project, raising funds through Kickstarter for the Reggae Report Archive. She’s making available the entire magazine archive as well as exclusive audio interviews (I’ll have to dig up some of my old tapes!) and video. It’s a great project and if reggae music has made a mark on your life, I encourage you to drop a few coins in the bucket:

Congrats to MPQ and best of luck with this great endeavor.

God’s Family Tree

Soul Liberty isn’t a site I exactly frequent (that is to say, today was my first visit) and I’m surely not the target audience, but you’ve gotta be impressed at the time and thought that went into putting together God’s Family Tree:

This post details how the graph was created: the sources, the decision to show only male parentage, and the applications used to delve into the complex data set. Creator Robert Rouse describes his filtering decisions:

I made this using a tool called Gephi which is great for deep analysis of complex networks, especially social connections. Instead of a social network, I mapped blood relationships. But, not all of them ended up in the final view. The first filter I applied was to show only the male parentage, for two reasons: 1) the Bible generally lists longer genealogies by fathers only, and 2) interconnections with spouses and mothers create an intricate web which makes it far too difficult to follow on a large scale (as shown above). The second filter I applied was to remove any person whose ancestry could not be traced all the way back to Adam and Eve. These people and connections appear as distracting “floaters”…

None of this is to say that spouses, mothers, and “floater” families are unimportant. If they were, I doubt they’d be listed in the Bible at all. Rather, the intent here is to make long, complex chains that link from God the Father to God the Son easier to follow and understand. For many people, visual displays are easier to comprehend than a list of names spread across multiple books of the Bible. But, not every kind of visual display does the job. Besides the filters I’ve mentioned above, I experimented with different layouts.

Fascinating stuff from a data visualization perspective alone.

(via My Heritage Blog)

Welcome to 2011

While working on the relaunch of this site, I was thinking in the back of my head that it had been maybe five-ish years since I last redesigned the site. Turns out it’s been nearly eight years. That’s, um, a long time.

And a lot has happened in those eight years. When I launched that redesign, I was in the middle of my third Blogathon (the first two I participated in; the third I helped monitor). I was in my just-barely-late-20s. I was blogging something almost every day. I was running a myriad sites.

What happened since then? Facebook. Twitter. Fatherhood.

In the last couple of years, my blog disintegrated into a dusty pile of auto-posted delicious links. I wrote one or two posts of substance per year. I moved the mundane thoughts to Twitter. I made a conscious decision to move more personal postings to Facebook. But I never quite figured out what to do with

So, here I am, in 2011. Mid-30s. Dad. Several sites lighter. And feeling ready to revive this thing and give it another go.

From a design standpoint, even though I’m calling this a redesign, it’s not really. I’m just tweaking an existing template a little bit. I decided it was time to move to a simpler layout and clear out some cruft on the site (yeah, I know URLs should never die, but some of this content is begging to be killed). I like the one-column look this theme has and am perfectly happy not trying to cram every bit of content I’m producing into a sidebar.

From a content perspective, I’ve killed the auto-posted delicious links and while I’ve kept all the old blog content (I couldn’t let Maury go away, could I?), I’ve moved it all under a category called “Zee Classic Collection1.” While I’m not going to be posting anywhere near everyday, I’m shooting for a few moderate-length posts per month. Think Kottke minus the posts about David Foster Wallace, Errol Morris, and foodie topics. I’ll write about the stuff that interests me at the moment: tea, movies, music, retrofuturism, and Japanese fiction with the occasional bits of parenting, politics, and technology. I’m going to do my best to not jump on a topic just because everyone else is. I’m done with that game. I just want to write some good stuff about things I care about.

This is definitely a work in progress. Stuff’s going to break. I may bring some old content back. I’m experimenting with different content aggregation methods.

Dig in, enjoy, and pass along any feedback. Not sure how many of my old visitors are checking in, but if you are, say hi!

1 Why “Zee”? Because “Zee” sounds like “the” when said by a stereotypical movie Frenchman. Oh yeah, and because it’ll cause it to sort last on my archive page.