Thoughts on CISPA.

Posted in Opinion on April 27th, 2012 by byronkho

It is pretty disturbing that the version of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act that passed the House yesterday had been amended to cover three additional purposes: “investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crime,” “protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury,” and “protection of minors from physical or psychological harm.” It was supposed to clarify and limit the scope of the bill, but seems to be even more ridiculous than the original bill itself.

The use of “Protection of individuals” as a reason to share and exploit otherwise privileged consumer information is nonsensical. It completely upends our 4th Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause. The Supreme Court additionally ruled, in Katz v. US, that a party will be considered to have been searched if they had a “reasonable expectation to privacy.”

Technically, since we are sharing our information with private businesses that have privacy contracts in place, we should have a reasonable expectation to privacy based on the language on those contracts. But then, at some vague notion of harm to an individual (and assuming, of course, that the authorities will be creative enough to spin any given situation like it could be harmful to somebody, anybody), the proponents of this bill believe that 1) the 4th Amendment can and should be overridden and 2) any other privacy contracts that are agreed to by willing parties (ie. customer and ISP) can and should be overridden as well. Worse, the companies being, er, asked to share such info are being given immunity from privacy or collusion lawsuits. Thus, you would have no data protection or privacy in the first place, and then no legal recourse later.

Funny though: another amendment prohibits the government from using library records, gun sales records and tax returns that it receives from private entities under CISPA. So gun sales records are exempt but ranting blog posts are not? Curious.

The point of this bill was for protection against (mostly foreign) cybersecurity attacks utilizing botnets and whatnot, but the price the American people pay is an abolition of Internet privacy. The worry for businesses like ours is not that dissolving civil liberties may necessarily change our operations or threaten our bottom line, but that it is an extremely slippery slope. What will business be asked to give up in future to protect national security? Who or what are the powerful lobbies pushing for legislation that is onerous, malicious and possibly more dangerous than the threats they are trying to protect against, and how do you fight back once we’ve given up too much? In this day and age when corporations are allowed to spend unlimited sums of money on elections with the blessing of the Supreme Court (but yet foreign bribery is a crime), all these are worries.


Jenny Suk.

Posted in Music on April 26th, 2012 by byronkho

In a good mood after winning my match today. Clean sweep!

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The last couple weeks.

Posted in Personal on April 24th, 2012 by byronkho

February 12: Valentines at Fish and the Salon (run by Andrea Clearfield). Great food, tanked a whole bottle of wine REALLY quickly, some amazing music. And Jess C didn’t fall asleep during all the classical bits.

February 18: Glee Club 150th Anniversary gala. Fun show, good singing plus I get to play a new piece with the Glee Club. Hotness! And they raise a lot of money really, really quickly, thanks to the last-minute appeals and the Pottrucks being ridiculously generous.

February 23: Posted about this before, but did I mention just how awesome it is to have one hand around a mug of nitro’d stout and the other around Marit Larsen? Yes. Plus, from an extremely cute Hanson groupie (they exist? and are of legal age?), I learn that the balding Hanson is the hot one and that Hanson will be alone with 1000 screaming girls, including her, on a cruise this summer. I am still flabbergasted.

February 25: American Sardine Bar with Becca Berkowitz and Brian. Good times.

February 29: On a day that comes but once every four years… I’m singing in front of a large crowd. (Not implying the Orpheus concert is only once every four years, though.) Well lubricated with drinks from Liberte, then off to First Baptist Church. Concert goes off well, especially after the champagne intermission. Afterparty at Orpheus Club, where Jess L wows some of the crowd with the ooh-la-la. Look at us crashing the party!

March 2: Friday night with Jess C at Meme and then in for the win with Max Raabe and the Palastorchestre at the Merriam Theater.

March 3: Hotpot with the crew at Norm’s place. Chippy really knows how to throw down. Frankford Hall, later, for Mitchell Dean’s birthday. Meet Allison Fox from Pepperjam… didn’t really expect to meet anyone in affiliate marketing around Philly anywhere. Late night dancing with Ashlee Vosters and Tracey at Fado.

March 9: Spooge-ifusa’s birthday at Liberte, then Farmer’s Cabinet. Hanging out with Sean Mullen, Meade Morrison & John Haslett (who is now a superstar dance host on Dancin On Air, PHL17 on Saturdays at 10 AM), Greg Nickerson, Julia Wirts, a bunch of other Orpheus and Racquet Club guys and gals. Lots of too-sweet Sazeracs.

March 10: Lisa Smith is in town! Back at Farmer’s Cabinet with Lisa, Missy and her beau. Nobody uses the word beau any more, why is that?

March 11: Singalong at Jeff Barg’s, then something or other in South Philly. Can’t remember what, but it was fun.

March 12: I am a hit at Dockenwamp. Boo-yah! Solo on Ain’t Misbehavin, with Alex for Billy Joel’s Lullabye, Steve on Lullaby of Birdland and Alfred on… er… forget which number. But we sweep the prizes. Problem: what to do next Dockenwamp…

March 16 – 18: 3 days of gorging on Harvey’s (PICKLES on the side! What a simple thing to do, yet none of the US chains do it.), duck soup, yamcha, ketchup and all-dressed chips plus Rolling Pot in Toronto. A hell of a lot of driving. Happy birthday, grandpa.

March 19: My annual dose of Eisley! Fun show, great fans, and I know quality when I hear it. Though… their sound designer is a little lacking. Everything was blaring and I had to strain to hear certain parts amidst the noise, including most of the vocal lines. Tallheart, who played just before Eisley did, had a much cleaner sound and I could hear the lyrics crisply above the wailing guitars. I wonder what Eisley would sound like at Union Transfer instead of TLA too – it’s a bigger room so maybe the sound spread would be much more even in my usual spot (upstairs balcony baby!).

March 23: With Becca at Ten Stone, Sawatdee, a quick game at Tops, and finally Pistola’s. A good barhopping night.

March 24: Chips turns … er… some non-public number. Han Dynasty for dinner, then Buffalo Billiards for birthday cake shots and hours of shuffleboard and pool.

April 2: After Orpheus and quartet rehearsal… off to Fergie’s with the Pages! So much fun. Got my groove on to some Southern country-rock stuff. Whew.

April 6: Prohibition Taproom with the infamous two. Really like the Prohibition+Yards brew. Get to get my nerd on, talkin about video games and all that jazz. Then, A Silent Film at Union Transfer!

April 8: Easter brunch at Melissa Page’s. Awesome place, good food (lamb!), fun people. Dinner with Steve at Rex 1516. Hello there, Christine!

Best wall art in the city.

April 11: Curtis Crescendo Club happy hour at Brick, with R.C. Atlee, Bobby Towcimak, Suzie Pierce, Marija Ugrinich and Melisa Page, among others.

April 12: The Hill and Wood house party night, see previous post. Small world.

April 13: Friday the 13th! Ants Pants for brunch with Rachel Dlugash! I met the owner at the Orpheus afterparty. Later… Ramen Boy for dinner with CGC EM. Then Kung Fu Necktie for some Reptar – see other post.

In the 2nd floor bathroom of Kung Fu Necktie.

April 14: Rehearsal with Sean Mullen, Timothy Weymouth and Matt Lewis for our quartet (“Not While I’m Around” from Sweeney Todd). This is the view from the roof of St. Marks, overlooking Lenfest Hall and Locust St. No guardrails, and after several splashes of good bourbon:

With Judith at the Grape Room in Manayunk. Played some really great pool upstairs, watched some pretty decent bands play (and met some dude who was at the house party on Thursday… REALLY small world), then left my credit card there. Oh well. With 3 cuties on a dark corner in the Yunk, getting told to “work it” by random dudes driving by. Fun times.

April 15: Lunch with Tess at Marathon Grill! Haven’t seen her in a while, and we did need to catch up. She’s really, really nice.

April 17: The University of the Arts band plays on the street sometimes. They were magnificent, as usual, with some real powerhouse singers along for the ride. Getting funky to Superstition on Broad St. is just so fab.

April 18: Background music gig for RIMS conference dinner (risk management/insurance) in the Academy of Music ballroom (yep, it’s nice). The event was catered by good friend Vicki Pohl (Monty’s niece), catering director for Wolfgang Puck Philadelphia. Right afterwards: Mayer Hawthorne at UT! Then drinks at the Trindle Inn, late night dinner at Jade Harbor and then home.

April 20: A concert recreating the first student concert put on in the space currently known as Field Hall. Orlando Cole was in the first class at the Curtis Institute of Music and was the cellist for the Brahms trio ending this particular program. Afterparty at Quig’s. Had a few with John Papianou and Bob Paul, also with Alyssa and new beau, plus Jamie and Brian Grace-Duff for the random meeting of the night. Met fun people: Anne Marie Frohnmayer, Emily Butler, Jennifer Kallend, Beth and Amy (an oboist, on a third degree of separation: knows Tim Ribchester, who knows Jess L, who knows me). Finished up at Nodding Head.

April 21: Went to Bensalem to see Jess C’s production of Damn Yankees at Holy Ghost. Some decent talent, a better band than last year, a few awkward moments, but all in all, a very good production. Getting back from Bensalem… roommate time.

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Emily Ghamrawi.

Posted in Opinion on April 22nd, 2012 by byronkho

Re: getting fluent Arabic speakers for languages in Touch and other TV shows. There’s probably a pretty small pool of photogenic teenage girls that speak fluent Arabic and are allowed to be actresses by their families. In any case, I can’t imagine there’s a great diversity of roles for any kind of Arabic speaker in the US film and TV industry. Then again, getting proper representation in Hollywood for any minority is a slow uphill battle. Having the Korean guy in “the Walking Dead” be a romantic lead was kind of “whoa”. Other notables: that T-Dogg in “the Walking Dead” is still alive by the end of this last season is a minor miracle.


Reptar, Wordburglar, Kendrick Lamar.

Posted in Music on April 14th, 2012 by byronkho

Kung Fu Necktie last night seeing Reptar. Hadn’t heard them before but they’re pretty amazing live. Lots of energy, and a ton of performers performing COHERENTLY at the same time… I wondered how they were dealing with a decreased amount of dough per person every time they do a show. Must be some really good friends in that band. Not totally convinced that the lead singer’s voice is absolutely right, but in a small room with a really loud sound system and screaming girls, it’s not that big of a deal. KFN now has an upstairs “bar”… the pool table is up there now, and finally having the opportunity to play on it, I now know it’s much much too small to be worth $1.25 a game.

Sorry, too many fans jumping up and down in front of the stage. Plus they had this keyboardist who wouldn’t stop jumping either (in some sort of spandex), and the rest of them had the shakes. Couldn’t get a clear pic.

OMG it’s time for more Canadian hiphop! Spend 4 minutes with Wordburglar. How many MCs are gonna namedrop Peter Mansbridge?

One of the commenters mentioned that Kendrick Lamar was “a new rapper that doesn’t sound like Wiz…” Very astute. I never liked Wiz Khalifa and didn’t know how he could ever have gotten so popular. This guy is pretty decent and the production on this track (ahem, Dr. Dre) is pretty sweet.

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House party with the Hill and Wood, A Silent Film.

Posted in Music on April 13th, 2012 by byronkho

I spent tonight at a house party in the company of Diana, her cousin and a German PhD student, currently finishing out at Penn. After picking up liquid sustenance, we were on our way to a house party in West Philadelphia for a band I’d only heard of days earlier: The Hill and Wood. As we walked into the place, I realized I wasn’t walking into a room full of strangers; I had seen Ross, the present tenant of said house, at Fergie’s last week where he played awesome guitar licks in a couple bands – one of whom included Melissa’s brother on a visit from Texas. The Hill and Wood came on after the house band had finished their set (their singer lived upstairs, and they also traded hosting with the Hill and Wood so this was sort of a fulfill-my-end-of-the-bargain type gig). Afterwards, they were friendly and approachable, as all bands looking to get popular should… the keyboard and backup vocalist was almost done with a PhD in creative writing at UVA and balancing out trying to decide what her life should be with this whole music thing. She noted that the band was lucky to have flexible jobs and life paths that allowed them to do this whole touring-part-time lifestyle, though it was still easy seeing as none of the tours were longer than 10 days.

Last week: after a bout at Prohibition Tap Room with Bec and Brian – the fried green beans there are fantastic, as is the house IPA brewed in conjunction with Yards – I went to Union Transfer to see A Silent Film play. Since Alix had raved about them, I thought it was a good idea. Initially, I was under the impression their opening acts would be better than A Silent Film (based on the music videos I had seen of all the bands in question) but I was wrong. Yep. They’re actually good live: comfy with their setlist and with audience engagement, so no awkward fumbles with “er… Philly… I had a cheesesteak…” Not as full a house as for Joy Formidable but still, well, formidable nonetheless. A lot of very young fans: weirdly enough, I saw some teenybopper near me who looked exactly like Dora – I wondered a little at the biology of that kind of thing happening. It was weirder still when she asked me if I was having fun. I also found out that really hot chicks who look like they’re there alone and are having mild bouts of fun despite not being huge fangirls are very possibly exactly what they look like.

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Hoodie Allen, Rizzle Kicks.

Posted in Music on April 12th, 2012 by byronkho

Hoodie Allen and his producer both lived in Hill House at the University of Pennsylvania in 2006. Then Hoodie won a MTVU Best on Campus Award and toured with The Cataracs, Das Racist, Chiddy Bang, Mike Posner and RJD2. WTF. North Star Bar, May 20… which I’m (un)fortunately not around for.

FREE DOWNLOAD (via Get the Leap Year mixtape.

Rizzle Kicks look way young but they’re 20ish, so they’re old enough to be singing about, you know, life and shit. They just did a collabo with Mayer Hawthorne (April 18, Union Transfer) and are thinking about another one with Olly Murs (after Heart Skips a Beat from last year). Yeah, prodigies.

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The Style Council, the original Muppet Show pitch.

Posted in Personal on April 12th, 2012 by byronkho

Paul Weller of huge UK 80s band Style Council on a collabo with Oasis frontman Gallagher and “Macca”, at Abbey Road Studios. Plus a cameo from Johnny Depp. The mercury in the cool thermometer just exploded.

And even after that amazing pitch, CBS turned it down. To save himself from doing Sesame Street in perpetuity, Jim Henson then pitched to UK network ITV, who agreed to produce and syndicate the Muppet Show around the world. He made a further effort to get into “adult” entertainment via collaborating with Lorne Michaels on the first season of SNL. That stopped when the SNL writers threw a hissy fit about writing for felt characters. US network idiocy in the 70s may have been an obstacle, but that crazy Brit exec made it possible for Henson’s genius to find all-age media outlets. Thus later generations could enjoy Statler and Waldorf, Yoda, Sir Blunderbrain, Junior Sinclair… even Fizzgig.

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More Animals!

Posted in Personal on April 8th, 2012 by byronkho

From TextFromDog

Mongrels is a ridiculous show. Animals being animals, plus dirty jokes in British accents. And songs!

And more, much more from Whittier Frees in the March 1, 1937 edition of Life magazine.

Young elephants in the surf.

A flood in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales caused spiderwebs to engulf an entire town.

Cute, but to some really toxic level.

I wanted to include the video of the 2010 IgNobel award-winning gay duck f***ing his dead mallard brethren (yeah, really), but 75 minutes of it was probably enough for the researcher who came across it to begin with.

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The Raid: Redemption.

Posted in Opinion on April 7th, 2012 by byronkho

Seriously, probably the best action movie I’ve seen in a long while. The blockbuster action movies out of Hollywood usually have little to no martial art talent, and it usually takes a boxing movie to get real nitty-gritty fighting in. Possibly because they hire really expensive lead actors who can’t get hurt due to contract regulations – and who can rarely actually fight. Which leads to two usual conclusions: 1) shots from many different camera angles and really short fights, so the doubles can be inserted without “losing” global placement of the actor/character, and 2) way more guns blazing and skulking through corridors and taking cover and fancy gun mechanics shots, because getting CGI done is way easier than getting people pummelled.

So if you want real fist to flesh action, you need to go to the Asian films. Generic Chinese action movies from the Crouching Tiger school tend to use lots of amazing wire-fu. Fun to watch, but not fast enough, not painful enough, not bloody enough. A lot of the fantastic about it, which is the point – the films are depicting somewhat mystical heroes who are more enlightened than others, a logical extension of using a martial art form practiced by monks. Thai action movies are much more real. Tony Jaa and his ilk have some crazy fights (ie. the long one-camera-shot running up the tower sequence from Ong Bak comes to mind) and the pain he dishes out is visceral… basically it’s a step closer to real street fighting. Stuff that happens in bars all the time, and in dark alleys, but stepped up to the nth level. However, it gets kind of ruined with the terrible, terrible scripts. Sure, it’s Thai society and maybe they talk differently, but one can tell stilted, generic dialogue in any language. There’s no sense of fine-tuned motivation in the scripts, so it’s really hard to feel for the main characters. The HK movies are about as bad with the scripts. The Hong Kong crime “auteurs” (ahem, Johnnie To, etc.) employ hacks (or themselves) who churn out pointless drivel, which get made into a ridiculous amount of movies every year. When the filming and production are way, way, way too quick, you know that there’s an emphasis on quantity rather than quality. So what’s good? Well, not most Indonesian movies. Until this one!

The director, Gareth Evans, (also the writer and editor) is Australian but all the actors are Indonesians. It’s filmed in Jakarta, and a lot of the stars are from Jakarta. The movie itself is in Indonesian, and the first Indo language and film that I’ve seen in a dingy theater in Philadelphia that (usually) plays only the huge stupid blockbuster movies. When I was watching, I couldn’t help but compare the subtitles to what they were actually saying (since I understand Bahasa). It was close, but they definitely took some liberties… appropriate ones. When people say phrases accompanied by certain facial movements or with a certain style, they are sometimes implying other things. If the translation can include that sentiment by adding in a few extra descriptors, why not? It’s also the first movie I’ve seen over here that uses “pencak silat”, and with such high production values!

The script is a bit short on character… the hero is a new recruit in the police, has a preggers wife, and promises his dad to bring back his brother – who is ensconced with a devilish crime lord in some crappy apartment building that is scheduled to be raided that very day. The setting duly established, they get to the building, get their asses kicked (with the help of old friend betrayal and greed) and it’s up to the hero to resolve this predicament. However, the “weak” story isn’t a real drawback, as it’s just enough background to make the twists and turns more palpable, and the tension more biting. I’m not sure I actually need the hero to have much more in the way of internal conflicts! Surprisingly, the actors are well-cast and feel natural in their roles. They never feel awkward or misplaced. The sergeant is leadership material; his lying SOB lieutenant is cowardly but a perfect snake; the hero is idealistic but street-smart; the crime lord is slovenly but convincingly evil; and his Mad Dog bodyguard is a real nasty piece of work that enjoys the violence that comes with his job.

The violence part is capably managed by the fighters: one (Yayan Ruhian) is a skilled martial arts instructor who taught the Indonesian presidential security team and the Indonesian Special Forces the art of “pencak silat”, and the other (Iko Uwais) is a driver and part-time martial arts student who got discovered by the Australian filmmaker who was filming a documentary on silat at his dojo, or whatever the Indonesian version is called. The final battle is a real knockout, and while you know the bad guy will eventually get his due, he REALLY makes a great effort. Mad Dog, as an action movie villain, is probably the best. He’s definitely a mad dog, who always chooses the hard way to get things done rather than the easy way. Using fists, he says, is what makes me a man. OK sir, now go to it. You can see the detail in every punch and kick thrown during the movie. There are no weird angles and no cut-away shots and no fidgety camera operators; it’s a real bonus to action fans to be able to see ALL the action. Which makes the result even more exciting. Those actors are delivering every single punch, kick and knife thrust, and they’re taking such a beating… when they execute extremely difficult moves on their hapless foes, you know it’s all them and not a huge team standing offset with CGI at the ready and already utilizing their computers to paint out the wires or process the motion capture data. How do I know it really was good? Everybody in the theatre held their breath during the fight, and then clapped when Mad Dog got beat down… a good 10 minutes later.

Also, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park did the music. Bam.

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