Yeah, I’m straight out of Compton

I haven’t been keeping track of the late night talk shows and I certainly haven’t kept up with The Tonight Show since Leno came back. I heard he left and that Jimmy Fallon took over. My problem is that I kept confusing Jimmy Fallon with Jimmy Kimmel. Hopefully I’ll be forgiven for not wanting to watch a talk show with Kimmel hosting… Turns out Fallon is  likable guy and seems to be funny enough to hold down the spot. The only reason I’ve seen any of the show is because of the popularity of the history of rap segments he’s been doing with Justin Timberlake. Haven’t seen those? Here’s the 5th installment:

 

 

I’ll start with the negatives. OK, yeah, it’s two white guys going over the history of a musical genre that was not only predominately written and performed by black folks but often spoke of a uniquely black experience. On top of that, outside of the band I don’t know if there were any black people in the building at all. If you wanted to be uncharitable you’d say that it’s another example of rich white people riding not only the efforts but the actual culture of black America for their own ends.

There was a little bit of that for me in this performance but I’m willing to forgive them mostly on the basis that they clearly love the music. They weren’t making fun of it, they were attempting as genuine a performance as possible, down to the dance moves and vocal mannerisms of the original acts. They were clearly having fun. Most of the songs they picked in this episode were top 40 hits. The exception is when they did a trio of “Gangster Rap” songs culminating in an aborted start of Straight Out of Compton. If you don’t watch any other part of that video, make sure to watch the few seconds starting at 1:50. 

That was gold. It’s a bit that everyone can laugh at. The idea that Jimmy Fallon could even attempt that song without descending into parody and/or become a laughingstock is just silly. As it was, he was able to pull it off for 4 seconds with only Timberlake seemingly pulling him back from the brink. Fallon went all in and took it as far as someone like him could. Timberlake making fun of him was the logical denouement. 

I think the reason that bit resonates with me so much is also the reason I think they “got away” with doing this. For those of you not familiar with Straight out of Compton, allow me to introduce you. To complete Fallon’s start…

”Straight out of Compton crazy motherfucker named Ice Cube

From the gang called Niggaz With Attitudes

When I’m called off I got a sawed off

Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off…”

 

It is, in a word, horrifying. If taken literally, it consists of mass murderers bragging about their body count and especially taking glee in gunning down cops. Oh, it has some truly grotesque misogyny thrown in for good measure too. So why is it popular? Are the people that like it just cretins? I’m sure some of them are. I can tell you that from the perspective of a well off, white (late)teenager, it was exhilarating. A pure dose of testosterone wrapped up in a fantasy of anger unleashed. Straight out of Compton was probably the height of bragging rap. It was understood to be hyperbole. Well, it was understood to be hyperbole to its targeted audience. To everyone else it was self described “Niggas” talking about killing people and they were from Compton after all. No wonder they scared white people everywhere! It was attractive to me because, as a frustrated male coursing with hormones, violent thoughts weren’t all that uncommon even if, and maybe because, I never gave in to them. Why was I frustrated? I dunno, aren’t all teenagers? As attractive as this was to me, I can’t begin to imagine what the effect could have been on people actually living in Compton. You know, people that had real frustrations in life, the kind that lead to making that kind of music…

For 4 seconds, Jimmy Fallon channeled that teenager, giving in totally to the rush. And while playing the cassette in your car as a teenager gave you the freedom to feel totally bad ass, a white guy on national TV has no justification. Having Timberlake bring Fallon back to reality was a gentle rebuke to all of us. It is this awareness that kept the entire exercise from veering into the stupid. Acknowledging that there  are limits and using them instead of the off limits material is a sign of a mature performer.

For those of you that want “to witness the strength of street knowledge,” I give you NWA. If you haven’t heard it before, it is definitely NSFW. Those of you that have heard it before I’ll leave it to you to decide how gangsta you want to be at work…

 

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Life as I see it episode #15. Sometimes the theory doesn’t work

 

Why in the world did systems with single ended tube amps sound good? By all rights they should sound terrible. Anything with that much distortion should only have made things sound worse. And yet, opinions are sharply divided. Why? Turns out there is a reasonable, if complicated possible explanation. This is a geeky story but I think it has some potential lessons outside the audio world… I actually recorded this a week ago but am just now publishing it. Gotta stay up to date!

 

 

Here’s the article on how second harmonic distortion could potentially be beneficial.

 

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Life as I see it podcast #14 Thinking of my grandmother

 

Random, silly things make me think of my maternal grandmother:) Tetris, gooey things, and upholstery…

 

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Life as I see it podcast #13 I got new speakers!

 

Yes, I got a new system. This time the system is mostly just the speakers. I have ditched my vacuum tubes (gasp) and ton to an active speaker system. A regular system gets a small signal from a source (CD player, computer, etc.), goes to an amplifier, gets sent to the speaker where it is split between the woofer and tweeter and then you hear sound. That is how 99% of all systems work. An active system does it slightly differently. You still get a small signal from a source but you send that to the seekers directly. It is then split into the different frequency ranges. Each driver in the speaker has its own amplifier, amplifying only the frequencies that are given to it. This has a lot of technical advantages, most of them revolving around the ability to have a sharper distinction of the frequencies going to each driver (steeper slope in the crossover) and much better control over the drivers (the amplifiers are directly coupled to the voice coil). The result is a much more dynamic, clearer, and more accurate speaker. Plus, this particular speaker uses Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to correct for some of the inevitable issues and compromises that are involved with every speaker design. I’ve gone from WWII vintage technology to 21st century!

 

I got a pair of Equator Audio D8 speakers.

D8

It’s a coaxial speaker, much like my long time favorites KEF. It shares the open, wide soundstage and wonderful tonality. It adds fantastic clarity and dynamics. I think this has been a great upgrade. Anyone looking for some kick ass single ended tube amps?

 

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Life as I see it podcast #12 Bitcoin part 3

 

This is the third installment of podcasts about bitcoin. It’s the last one I have planned but I reserve the option to make more if things get interesting. The Bitcoin protocol is actually pretty flexible. If it proves to not be flexible enough it is easy to fork the code base and make your own Bitcoin based system. Here are some of the articles and stories I referenced in the podcast.

 

Twister is a peer to peer, decentralized social network based on the Bitcoin protocol. Still in alpha, download it at your own risk!

Danny Bradbury writes about Colored coins. Colored coins pain sophisticated future for bitcoin. 

Bitcoin: How its core technology will change the world by Jacob Aron. 

A video introduction to Ethereum. Also a good, quick inter to the uses of the Bitcoin protocol. That page also has lots of info graphics and explanations, recommended.

Bitcoin is not just digital currency. It’s Napster for finance by David Morris for can.com. Not a fan of the comparison to Napster but a good article.

 

You can see all of my podcasts at bli.ms/u/eyes. You can subscribe using the RSS feed bli.ms/u/eyes/rss

 

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Life as I see it podcast episode #11 Bitcoin pt.2

 

This is my second podcast about Bitcoin. In it, I mention some links where you can read about some of the potential problems with bitcoins and then talk at length about some of the other potential uses of the protocol. Notice how I keep using the word potential? The links for the pitfalls are rather technical from an economics point of view, I don’t think there is any real discussion of the cryptology or network configuration. Ran across a great article in the NYT. Do read it, I found a lot to be interested in it.

 

How and Why Bitcoin will Plummet in Price by Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution

The Marginal Cost of Cryptcurrency by Robert Sams at cryptonomics.org

A list of 83 different cryptocurrencies

Why Bitcoin Matters from the New York Times by Marc Andressen

 

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