Birthing Harriet Brown

It serves us well to remember that the Band is different than the artist. That is to say, Harriet Brown is not a person. In keeping, Harriet Brown was not just born, on a day, as people are. Harriet Brown is a work; an outlet; the outward face of a body that’s been developed, designed; HB has been kneaded, channeled, likely shuddered over in the night.

Aaron Valenzuela’s music demands attention, but not in the extroverted way of an acquaintance or an instructor. It’s an inside job, calling up from the gut, begging you to close your eyes and humor what’s happening. Valenzuela’s voice and style recall plenty of contemporaries — anyone from Victoria Legrand to Dev Hynes. You only have to see him in person to realize that, quite obviously, he’s nothing like either of those musicians, and likely quite different than anybody who came before him.

There’s an official Harriet Brown release coming in June. Stay up.

Support The Russian LGBT Movement

In June of last year, the passing of Russia’s new anti-gay laws felt like a crushing defeat, but one can only hope the decisive, far-reaching, and absurd parliamentary ban on homosexuals was a great tactical mistake. With the Olympic Games in Sochi fast approaching and positive images of queer public figures, not to mention athletes, at an all-time high, Putin’s attempts to suppress information and turn back the clock on gender and sexuality will certainly prove to be, at best, delusional.

Sadly, a progressive reality doesn’t correlate with safety and freedom for the LGBT community in Russia [you can read more on]. And though the global athletic community will certainly try to push back against the oppressive force of Russia’s new laws next month, it is most important that the conversation doesn’t end with the Olympics–and isn’t limited to its celebrities. After all, our athletes will travel to Russia first and foremost to do a job and compete at high levels. They are strong symbols, and in many cases wonderfully outspoken, but they are not politicians or policymakers, and we can’t put that burden on them.

The Russia Freedom Fund is a unique opportunity o send aid directly to Russia’s LGBT community — one hundred percent of donations go directly to organizations within the country that combat the misinformation and organized violence that is set against queer Russians. If you want to make even a small donation, and want to be sure it is routed directly into the country, this is one of the best vehicles

Again, the most important thing is that we don’t let our attention simply rise and fall with PR campaigns such as the Olympics, and we look at the broader trends to support real, meaningful beginnings.

Read more, and consider giving to the Russia Freedom Fund, or a cause like it.

image from

The Music And Nativity Of Jess Williamson

Audio: Austin’s Chris Catalena talking about his outlaw days, mixed with Jess Williamson performing parts of two songs at Moonlight Manor in Austin, Texas last year.

Whether it sprouted in the warm waning Southern autumn or the threatening heat of Southern spring, my feelings for the city of Austin, Texas are somewhat of a perennial fixation. Now that it’s getting on March, the place is on my mind again, and I’m glad to see one of the more subtly unique voices in Austin is getting some shine. Above is a field recording from my trip last year.

Jess Williamson’s debut, Native State, is pre-streaming right now at Pitchfork, and it’s been a long time coming. I first met Jess in Austin last year, when she picked me up on S. Congress late one evening and drove me out to a farm on the outskirts of the city, where she was playing a show. The intimacy of the venue, the personal connection to the people, and the charm and spontaneity of the whole situation–it was elementally engaging. I had to resist gushing “If you don’t know Jess Williamson you might soon,” I said, recapping the day and plugging the then-unknown songwriter at VICE. By that time she had already recorded an album, but had little idea that it would take a year to get it released.

These aren’t tunes for laptop speakers. It’s not music for a fast-moving car. It’s for sitting still and letting your mind do the running. I love the album title not only for the geographical allusion but as a trigger for thinking about about a native state of mind, or state of being, and how we maintain or lose our nature by indulging or denying the urge to ramble and explore. If you’re into the sound, skip the stream and cop the pre-order from Brutal Honest.

How Apple Started The Touchscreen Revolution

A few weeks ago I was walking down Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission District, smelling the delicacies, hearing the chatter of hundreds of twenty-somethings lounging at café tables on their days off, admiring all the new small businesses, and of course throwing the obligatory sneer at the new frivolous indulgences. We all know there are plenty of cynical and non-cynical ways to think about Silicon Valley’s impact on once quiet San Francisco neighborhoods, but there was one idea, more a fact than an opinion, that I couldn’t shake, and it has popped back into my head many times since: I turned to my friend and said, “you realize — all of this — this is all because of the iPhone.”

Even back in 2010, when I had already owned an iPhone for nearly three years, I had a hard time understanding the idea that apps could become a predominant portal into the internet. And yet, truly, it’s come to fruition; the new luxury that we see in the Bay Area and a select few other cities in the country is, to put it simply, due to the business created by the iTunes store. Strolling down Valencia Street, ask anyone with a youthful look, an expensive pair of boots, or white earbuds who they work for. You can probably trace it back to an app: Box, Twitter, Square, maybe Zynga; and established companies like Google, Facebook, and Yelp only came into their own once they embraced the audience who accessed them mobile-ly.

The iPhone was unveiled almost exactly seven years ago today, and though it was certainly exciting, 99.9% of the world could never have predicted the rapid change it would bring. That’s one of the most interesting thing about the New York Times article introducing the iPhone. Obviously no one can predict the future, but John Markoff states outright, confidently even, that the iPhone “will not be for everyone.”

Besides vestiges like “Cingular,” “Macintosh Cube,” and “Treo,” there are some other interesting tidbits in the article: “Steven P. Jobs” is a format you almost never see anymore for describing  Apple’s late founder; by this point the cell phone was “30-years-old,” which actually does seem quite old; also, Jobs managed to usurp the name “iPhone” from Cisco who had already decided on it for a similar product — something I never knew!

Finally, the thing that resonated perhaps most of all, is that Apple took this opportunity to drop “Computer” from their company name, becoming only “Apple Inc.” This is a reminder of something that we often choose to ignore: to take on something new, we have to know what we can disown, too.

all iPhone generations: photo from

Clip: NPR’s Bob Boilen And Robin Hilton Talk Interviews

How To Start premieres 1.14.14

Next week we’re dropping “How To Start… A Podcast,” the meta-level, self-reflective, experimental first episode of the program. There are some great guests, two of which are Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton, the longtime hosts of one of the longest running podcasts, NPR’s All Songs Considered. I got my start in journalism working for Bob and Robin, and everything I’ve done since then I can trace back to what I learned as an intern at NPR. Here’s a clip from the episode, where we talk a bit about how to interview somebody, even a difficult interview subject like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke.

The Anti-Mission: What This Isn’t

Look at that nice white picket fence! Too bad there is a guy standing in the way.

You’re kidding yourself if you ever think you really know where you’re going. That’s why mission statements so often fail or are simply proved wrong over time. Still, I wanted to clarify a few things — particularly after yesterday’s post which may present this as some sort of human rights blog. Humans, right?

Rather than try to predict the future and take guesses at a bunch of things that we might do, I decided to take a slightly less daunting route and talk about what we’re not going to do. Here’s what this isn’t; I promise. Remove tongue from cheek. Let it be writ in stone.

To be clear: this IS a podcast that kicks off on January 14, 2014.

H-T-S   IS   NOT











that photo came from artheco

Start Something: Save An American Immigrant’s Life

Update (1/22/14, 1:09 p.m.): The petition received upwards of 1,500 signatures, and ICE has agreed to release the subject from detention. Thanks to everyone who played a role in this. (Names have been redacted to preserve the future of his asylum case).

Update (1/8/14, 9:04 a.m.): There is now a petition for [redacted]’s release from the detention center in Lumpkin, Georgia.

U.S. immigration law is an incredibly convoluted subject. Even news junkies and political activists with broad worldviews find it a hard topic to dig into. This is partially because of the clandestine nature of much of its operations. Whether you’re talking about border control, legal proceedings, or established, undocumented individuals, very few immigration concerns are debated in real time.

Here’s some real-time data for you though: Over the Christmas holiday (Dec. 23, 24, and 25), eighty-two Hondurans died from gunshot and stab wounds. That’s just what happens over the holidays in Honduras.

This morning I was alerted to the case of an American immigrant from Honduras, who’s seeking asylum from this exact type of violence. What we have right now is an opportunity to bring attention to it directly, and potentially even initiate some positive action. Here’s where [redacted] is right now:

Lumpkin, Georgia - Stewart Detention Center
60-year-old [redacted] escaped Honduras to end up here: at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, GA. To get a better sense of the place, you can read the recent ACLU report about detention conditions for immigrants in Georgia.
This case is not more important than that of any other asylum-seeker who came before him, except for the fact that it’s happening right now.  A good friend of mine who works at the firm representing him sent me over the press release this morning. She told me that the case is at a crucial turning point, and in putting pressure on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement,  public opinion could actually redirect the bureaucratic processes that put his life in danger.

Honduras is the world's murder capital
Honduras’ 18th St. Gang holds a press conference / NPR

The release gives a little bit of an idea of how this family unit was shattered this year, even and especially after they reached the United States:

Homeland Security detained Mr. [] and his wife after they crossed the Texan border in  late October 2013. The two fled Honduras after being threatened by the gang members  who killed two of their adult children in 2013. Mr. []’s wife suffered a stroke before  coming to the United States and cannot speak or fully use the right side of her body.  Homeland Security sent Mr. [] to the Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia,  about 140 miles south of Atlanta. His wife was sent to a facility in central Texas.

Mrs. [] was released (awaiting court date) and relocated to live with her son in Daly City, Calif., but Mr. [] remains detained in Lumpkin due to a legal error detailed in the release. As long as Mr. [] poses no danger to the community and is not deemed a flight risk (the grounds for which they are holding him), he should be released on bond so that he can prepare his case for asylum and serve as a witness for his wife’s own hearing. She cannot talk due to her stroke and will surely require witness testimony to have a shot at being granted asylum.

There are a couple concrete things that you can do, and relative to how these these people’s lives could be affected, it’s a immeasurably small amount of work.

1) Read the press release, try to understand it, and spread it around. This is maybe the most important part, and the easiest.

2) Contact ICE, or the immigration court directly, and let them know how you feel about this. Even if you didn’t fully understand the press release, ask questions. Be persistent. Remind them that they are our government and they are accountable to the U.S. public.

Here are some numbers

ICE’s Atlanta field office: (404) 893-1210

ICE’s district counsel’s office: 404-893-1400

Office of the Chief Immigration Judge: 703-305-1247

a new show about beginning


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