Beirut Giving Away Movies: Or, Why I Love Indie Labels Against My Better Judgment

by on Dec.15, 2010, under general, media

I’m not a hipster, but one of my favorite bands is a little indie outfit called Beirut. They play Balkan folk – what I affectionally refer to as ‘horncore’ – with lots of beautiful, anthematic melodies and harmonies.

For example, here’s one of my favorite songs off of their album The Flying Cup Club:

In 2007, Beirut teamed up with La Blogotheque to film a series of “Take Away Shows”, where the band walked around cities in France playing their music live for people, like this:

These were such a success that Beirut and Blogotheque decided to make a feature-length music video movie, where the band wandered from hipster hovel to hipster hovel playing their horns all over the place.

I’ve been looking for this DVD for some time now. Some of the individual songs can be found on YouTube, Vimeo, etc, but I wanted high quality and the real thing. But emails to Beirut’s merch address went unanswered, and nothing was on eBay, Amazon, etc.

Finally, I emailed Beirut’s record label, BaDaBing Records, only to find out that they had ‘sold out years ago.’

In that case, I hazarded, is there any chance you’d make the files available for download? Since you’re not selling the DVD anymore?

I received two emails in quick succession:

Good suggestion…. Will look into that. Thanks!


Hey Chris, we just heard from La Blogotheque, and they’re fine with you sharing the video files wherever… since there aren’t any more dvd’s, I’m guessing you’ll need us to rip the files for you? Let us know if you have any expertise on how to go about that, but I’m sure we can figure it out. Sweet!

A week later, BaDaBing had mailed me one of two remaining copies of the DVD, with an express mandate to make them as widely available as possible.

So I did.

If you would like to have a copy of the no-longer-available musical movie masterpiece that is Beirut/Blogotheque’s Cheap Magic Inside, you have two options.

In either case, you can download the videos in one of two formats: 1) full-quality 720p H264 m4v files, or 2) iPhone/iPod Touch optimized m4v files.

If you want to replicate the DVD or prefer to rip the movie files in a different format yourself, you can also download a raw disc master in ISO, DMG, or CDR.

Please download / link / rehost / mirror these as you will to ensure the widest exposure and availability.

And, if you are so inclined, you might go throw some change at Beirut, BaDaBing, or Blogotheque to support them. While in some ways this move isn’t logically surprising – they’re not selling the DVDs anymore, so they haven’t lost any sales, and they’re making new fans – in the broader context of the music industry it’s stunning.

Merry Christmas, indie kids.

18 Comments :, , , , , , more...

Gladwell’s “Small Change” Misses The Mark

by on Oct.08, 2010, under general, media

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Small Change, published in last week’s New Yorker, the author (essentially) argues that social media is not only different from “true” social activism, it’s actually irrelevant to and perhaps hurting it.

My response – sadly unsolicited by either Gladwell or TNY, but sent as a letter to the latter nonetheless – is below:

In “Small Change”, Malcolm Gladwell made what has become a fashionably contrarian claim: that social media’s contribution to activism has amounted to little more than “helping Wall Streeters get phones back from teen-age girls.”

And in some respects he’s right. Gladwell correctly identifies the “Twitter Revolutions” of Iran and Moldova as nothing of the kind. There is scant evidence that Twitter actually helped folks inside Iran or Moldova, as opposed to simply give CNN something to talk about. Closer to home, the unhappy truth is that millions of teenagers sending texts and $10 to Obama didn’t transform him into a latter-day F.D.R.

On the other hand, Gladwell ignores examples from Shirky’s book (which he cites for the phone example) that weaken his argument. Kate Hanni’s use of social media to organize disparate dissatisfied passengers into the collective was a driving force behind the Passenger’s Bill of Rights. Voice of the Faithful, the organization of lay Catholics which drove the torrid response to the 2002 sex abuse cases, relied on social media to expand beyond its Boston origins. And Wikicrimes, a site which began mapping experienced crimes and police corruption in Fortaleza, Brazil, allowed its citizens to challenge local authority and evade police brutality as they couldn’t before.

Gladwell is right that we shouldn’t confuse texts and tweets with boycotts and sit-ins. But the two need not be mutually exclusive. Two million people texting may not be as effective as two hundred people sitting at a counter – but if, out of the two million texts, two hundred people sit at a counter where they would not have done so before, nothing has been lost. Social media need not be a substitute for real activism – the two can, and do, complement each other.

Gladwell’s argument holds true only if they do, in fact, become substitutes – if nascent activists content themselves with sending a text when they would otherwise be demonstrating. That is a real danger, and it may even be true. But it’s also a point Gladwell didn’t attempt to prove – or, truth be told, even care to make.

1 Comment :, , , , , more...

Literary Greatness

by on Jul.05, 2010, under general, media

During the past two weeks – during which I was on a family vacation to Alaska, which is more desolate and beautiful than you could imagine – I found out, via phone, that I had achieved literary greatness: a letter to the editor published in The New Yorker.

As follows:

As a newly minted and fanatical follower of Eurovision, I greatly enjoyed Anthony Lane’s piece on the contest (“Only Mr. God Knows Why,” June 28th). My only disappointment is that Lane did not mention what has arguably become the most widely beloved phenomenon of Eurovision 2010. The saxophonist from Moldova known as Epic Sax Guy entranced millions with his white Wayfarers, thrusting hips, and muscle vest. Epic Sax Guy has claimed the hearts (and perhaps the minds) of new Eurovisionistas everywhere. He is Eurovision in precipitate form, with all else boiled away until nothing is left but hips and kitsch. Long after we are dead in the ground, Epic Sax Guy’s hips and horn will be thrusting throughout the digital Zeitgeist.

For those of you who’ve missed it:

Leave a Comment more...

Mapping Banned Books Project

by on Oct.03, 2009, under media, papers

Soon after the WSJ article criticizing the Banned Books Map, I was approached by one of the administrators of the Barnes & Noble Unabashedly Bookish blog community. He wanted me to write about my experiences setting up the map, what I had wanted, and what I thought I could achieve.

The article is now up (and reproduced below the fold). Furthermore, I have a special announcement:

Today, I’m launched the Mapping Banned Books project. As you can read below, the project intends to create a grassroots, ground-up documentation of all the book bans and challenges that go on in the U.S. today. The website is still under heavy development – I’m rolling this out very quickly – but please, check it out, contribute what you can, and help us along the way. I’ll have more in the next few days.

(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment :, , , , more...

MIT Blogs Profiled in NYT

by on Oct.02, 2009, under general, media

The Grey Ladyruns a profile on our MIT Admissions site. Great read – glad they did it.

Leave a Comment : more...

Stay Tuned

by on Oct.01, 2009, under media

I’m thinking a lot about this banned books project. More to come in the next few days.

Leave a Comment : more...

WSJ “Censorship” Reponse

by on Oct.01, 2009, under media

As I mentioned, last week the Wall Street Journal published a really exceptionally stupid critique of a) the ALA, b) Banned Books Week, and c) the Google Map of Banned Books that I created with Alita Edelman from ABFFE’s records of book bans and challenges.

I contacted their letters editor, who today ran an edited version of my rebuttal bookended by a lengthier piece from the President of the ALA. Because their letters page is impermanent, I’m posting the full thing here below the fold.
(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment : more...

Banned Books Week!

by on Sep.29, 2009, under general, media

And with it, the LA Times features our “Mapping Banned Books” mashup. The Lake County Record-Bee had a nice piece too, as did trueslant, the School Library Journal, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and The Nation.

I am, of course, devastated that the WSJ doesn’t think too highly of it. But I suppose you can’t please everyone.

If you want to celebrate Banned Books Week in style, please feel free to check out the eponymous website and, as IO9 advocates, do your part by filling your head with subversive filth today!

Leave a Comment : more...

Debriefing the Twitter Debate

by on Aug.13, 2009, under media

I updated my media page today with a Radio Berkman episode asking whether Twitter is a revolution. The audio comes from a Berktern debate held earlier this summer. I wanted to give some background on the whole affair.

The question at issue was whether or not Twitter is a “revolution in communication.” And, as was to be expected from an Oxfordian debate, the resulting conversation consisted mainly in a shifting of the goalposts, with the sides continually redefining “revolution” to suit their purposes.

My position, as it was then, is still this: not yet.
(continue reading…)

Leave a Comment :, , , more...

OpenVideoConference Debrief

by on Jul.23, 2009, under media

Catherine White, Amar Ashar, and I debrief the OpenVideoConference. Via MediaBerkman.

Leave a Comment :, more...