It Takes ID To Get ID: A Lesson in Opening an Office in Korea

Back when I covered Texas politics, the voter ID debate came up time and time again. Lawmakers eventually passed it in 2011, the legislative session I never finished covering. One of the complaints about a measure requiring voters to show ID and not just a voter registration card in order to cast a ballot was this: “It takes ID to get ID.”

Democrats argued that the measure disenfranchises seniors, minorities and the poor, like many of the Texans born to midwives, who might not have issued formal birth certificates. Or those who didn’t have a drivers license to start with and are now in their seventies and eighties. Being able to exist all your life without certain documentation, and then suddenly having to get it, would be too onerous a task for many voters, voter ID opponents argue.

This kind of hassle is really coming into full focus for me lately, in a totally unrelated situation. You may recall we are preparing to open the first ever NPR bureau in Seoul, South Korea. The paperwork hoops started with the gruff visa guy who wouldn’t grant me a visa for journalism activities until I had a business certificate. How does one obtain a business certificate? Your business must be registered with an address. How do I lease a place in order to have an address? I need a bank account. How do I start a bank account? I need a Korean alien registration card. How does one obtain an alien registration card? With a business license or visa.

You get it.

I leave for Seoul tomorrow, to try and resolve some of these issues in person. I’ll blog along the way. Wish me luck.

You Should Totally Waste Some Time Watching These Music Videos

I would like to assemble a panel of art critics who have never before been exposed to Go West’s ‘King of Wishful Thinking’ video to review this absurd and delightful artifact from 1980s humans. It really deserves far more attention than it’s gotten. I was reminded of it this morning by my friend Johnathan Woodward, who put it this way:

I sent it to friends Claire and Wes, who looped in Friend Mito.

CLAIRE: Oh my god what is this.
MITO: The keyboard guy at 1:01 and 1:43!!! SO GOOD.
[pause]
MITO: Oh I get it. Are those kitchen sinks being tossed in at the end?
WES: It would make a pretty good musicless music video, I think.
[pause]
WES: Wait, the Singin’ in the Rain one is better. Have you all seen it?

MITO: I love it. It’s even better than Phish Shreds:

WES: Ahh, I’ve never seen that before. I can’t stop laughing.

Credit: http://slugsolos.tumblr.com/

Credit: http://slugsolos.tumblr.com/

What I’m Reading: Post-Labor Day Edition

How did this summer pass us by? I think it might be all the doom and gloom. I’ve tried to not think about it too hard, to avoid a malaise spiral in which I end up playing Radiohead’s ‘No Surprises’ over and over.

Anyway, now that I’m more or less recovered from Ferguson, I’m back to reading too many periodicals and posts. Some of them are:

The Worst Governments in America are Local Governments

Contrary to what we hear all the time about local governments being more responsive and accountable, this Jonathan Chait piece shows how state legislatures merely get elected because of the national mood, and local governments can be worse — downright oppressive. Ferguson’s problem is not police militarization, he argues, but the Orwellian attitudes that come with it.

With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility

Friend Om, who inspired me to put together these What I’m Reading lists in the first place, wrote this piece a couple months ago and it comes packed with a lot of big ideas. One of them I’ve been wrestling with is that so much of our privacy and subsequent feelings of security online are due to the benevolence of the Googles and Amazons of the world. How long will they be benevolent?

The WTF Did I Miss? recaps of Masters of Sex

If you’ve spoken to me anytime within the month of August, you’ve heard me wax rhapsodic about the wonder that is Showtime’s Masters of Sex, starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan. Their acting is heartbreaking and the show plumbs the depths of so many topics that fascinate me; love, work, identity, intimacy. But reading these spot on and belly-achingly funny reviews took my Masters of Sex experience to another level. You must read them if you’re a fan of the show.

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Left DC, Went All The Way To Denver And Obama Showed Up

DENVER — It’s weird living in the nation’s capital, with Marine One constantly buzzing over your house as POTUS or VPOTUS head to Andrews Air Force Base. And “powerful people” wearing special lapel pins to indicate they are lawmakers or People Who Are Professional Pundits On Cable TV hanging around at the same restaurants and parties you do. It’s nice to get away and go to the real Amerricuh, where you can remove yourself from the proximity to power and its pitfalls.

But tonight, my escape to Denver was thwarted by the President. Blocks away from the bar where my friends Tim and Danielle were awaiting my arrival, my cab got blocked by cops. There was clearly Something Important Happening. I ended up walking to where I needed to be, only to be stopped because at the same moment I was supposed to arrive at the Wyncoop Brewery (co-founded by now Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper), a guy named Barack Obama pulled up with at least a dozen other black SUVs in tow.

As I’m outside being blocked from entering, the press pool rushes by, scurried in through a back door. That’s when my colleague Scott Horsley and I ran (almost literally RAN) into one another on the sidewalk. No time to talk, Secret Service rushed him in. I should have just joined them and snuck into the restaurant in that confusion, but instead I obeyed the rules, got pushed to this gawking area behind a barricade, until I talked two cops and a secret service guy into escorting me into the bar while the President was upstairs playing pool with the governor.

See all those people behind the motorcade? That's where I was stuck for a few minutes until talking my way into a personal escort into the bar. Thanks Secret Service!

See all those people behind the motorcade? That’s where I was stuck for a few minutes until talking my way into a personal escort into the bar. Thanks Secret Service!

My gal pal Danielle wanted a photo with the President's personal physician.

My gal pal Danielle wanted a photo with the President’s personal physician.

Best part of this whole random Denver incident was running into my journalist pals in the traveling press corps. There's old friend Colleen Nelson waving at me after the pool had to leave but regular bar patrons could stay inside.

Best part of this whole random Denver incident was running into my journalist pals in the traveling press corps. There’s old friend Colleen Nelson waving at me after the pool had to leave but regular bar patrons could stay inside.

Hadn't been this close to him since the time I interviewed him in a bathroom.

Hadn’t been this close to him since the time I interviewed him in a bathroom.

After POTUS got in the car, Hickenlooper (right) hung back. I later asked him to join us for a beer, like that one time in Salt Lake City, but he had to go to two more events.

After POTUS got in the car, Hickenlooper (right) hung back. I later asked him to join us for a beer, like that one time in Salt Lake City, but he had to go to two more events.

Chicago, Cambridge: A June Travel Blur

The Tumblr-sponsored green room at MCON14. There's our pal Azita in the middle, and at left is record exec Todd Moscowitz. Pizzas just cause.

The Tumblr-sponsored green room at MCON14. Pizzas just cause.

Between my day job and teaching our master’s program journalism class at Georgetown, somehow I squeezed in a few trips. Was delighted to moderate the final on-stage chat at the Millennial Impact Conference in Chicago, in which Warby Parker and Harry’s co-founder Jeff Raider and I joked around about beards. We followed that up in Tumblr’s green room, in which we made a shitty gif.

Goofing off with Jeff Raider after closing out #MCON14.

Goofing off with Jeff Raider after closing out #MCON14.

When I tried to go home from Chicago, your standard incompetence at O’Hare (which they called “weather” — a huge affront to actual weather situations) led to the cancelation of my flight home. So I stayed an extra night in Chicago, in a lovely boutique hotel called the Ivy. My only beef with it was the mattresses there rest on these dark wood bed frames that jut out to stab your ankles when you’re not careful. I am pretty banged up from my bed.

Spent one night at home before flying to Cambridge for the Knight/MIT Center for Civic Media’s annual Civic Media Conference. That conference is always special because of the sheer brain power and wit that gets squeezed into an overly-air conditioned room. And it’s a reunion, of sorts, for a lot of the Knight family of friends and advisers.

This year I also got a story out of it, when Friend Noah laid out the complexities of a legal debate over whether a burrito qualifies as a sandwich. Seriously.

All of this was punctuated with you sending me Yo’s at random times. Thanks, yo.

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Into The Woods

Tim endured SIX layovers when going home from my wedding in Amsterdam, so there was no way I would miss his nuptials, no matter where it happened.

Tim endured SIX layovers when going home from my wedding in Amsterdam, so there was no way I would miss his nuptials, no matter where it happened.

Went into the Santa Cruz mountains the glorious Northern California redwood trees for the Tim Leong-Rachel Swaby nuptials-slash-YMCA-camp. We didn’t have to kill our own food. There were pretty nice little cabins shared among groups of 14 of us, just like Girl Scout camp. We had flushing toilets, but not two-ply toilet paper. These are some things that happened:

First I spent a night in SF hanging with my friend Chris. We came back to the apartment kind of drunk and promptly parked on the street. The next morning the car was gone. Guess what the minimum tow rate in SF is? $476. And on top of that, there are about $160 parking tickets to pay. So…somehow my one bad parking mistake cost more than my roundtrip airfare to San Francisco.

After getting out to the camp, we wandered into the “town” of Boulder Creek, CA and met some anti-government guys trying to get us to sign a petition against more gun restrictions. Had we signed, we could have gotten a “I don’t call 911″ t-shirt with a giant AK-47 on it. We passed. But that night, one of our bunkmates was wearing the shirt.

Justin and I tried to go on a hike. The trail was awfully rocky and steep. The sign at its entrance told us it was named the Nit Trail, but upon turning back because of the rough terrain, we pulled away a leaf to realize the sign actually said “Not a Trail.”

Patrick Terpstra, yes, that guy, officiated the ceremony. He did a brilliant, funny, heartfelt job despite my utter disbelief anyone would choose him to officiate a wedding ceremony. After the bridal party exited, he ended his emceeing by saying, “Okay we’re good then.”

During a walk along the Embarcadero, I got some sage life advice from the appropriately-named Om, a lovely and generous human being who is now a venture capitalist but always a journalist at heart.

Capped off the weekend back in SF, where I took a nice long shower all by myself in a boutique hotel. The photos. Click on any image to begin the gallery:

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SXSW 2014: Magic Night

South by Southwest, for all its somewhat dystopian unwieldiness, is also a place where chaos breeds the best kinds of spontaneity and streetside serendipity. Today I ran into dozens of old friends and familiar faces quite literally on the street, but tonight, a string of good luck made for the most magical, memorable and hilarious SXSW night yet.

1) Justin, Reeve and I ran into one another on the street and the guys were complaining about hunger. I was complaining I needed to put my computer down. We three stopped by my hotel room and walked in to find two huge bags of Taco Cabana (my favorite fast food) had been delivered courtesy of my friend Todd, the COO of Taco Cabana. It was the perfect mix of tacos and endless flour tortillas and queso and guac, and delivered at the perfect moment.

2) The weather this weekend is downright shitty, with temperatures hovering around 40 and a misty rain falling all day. Reeve didn’t want to be out tonight without a jacket, but decided to suck it up and join us for a special cast party for AMC’s upcoming drama, Halt and Catch Fire, down at my favorite Austin hotel, Hotel St. Cecelia. The event was intimate but  a clearly well-produced situation. Comfy classic seating, heat lamps and fancy decor were set up with Halt and Catch Fire blankets so the screening for about 60 of us could feel like we were in a really expensive living room together. As we were leaving, AMC handed out jackets. Reeve needed jacket, jacket appeared.

Me: What are we doing? Scoot: Rage partying! YEEEAH!

Me: What are we doing? Scoot: Rage partying! YEEEAH!

3) The one guy I regretted not chatting with at the party was actor Scoot McNairy, who plays a brilliant engineer on the new show and was also in some movies like Argo and 12 Years A Slave. I met him earlier in the day when my pal Voggie was coincidentally interviewing him while I was interviewing the showrunner, and was sad we didn’t get to visit. Only, luck struck again! An hour after we left the cast screening and after attending another event, the three of us decided to do a non-SXSW locals bar. As we walked up, we realized the CAST HAPPENED TO GO TO THE SAME BAR. Fate. Everything came full circle and ol’ Scoot hung out with me and Justin for hours, drinking beers, talking Texas and trying to profile the people in the bar who might have weed. I think Justin is still recovering. I should check on him.

 

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Liveblogging My Day With Two Toddlers

Hello from Baltimore, Md., where about 1,000 data journalists and the-people-who-love-them have converged on an EveryMarriott for NICAR 2014. It’s the annual gathering of the best nerd journalist/technologists in the land, convened by the National Institute of Computer Assisted Reporting (which needs a name change, yes, we know everything is computer-assisted).

We (my fam) and the Bowerses (another fam with a similarly-aged tot) are staying at a lovely row home appointed with lots of doilies somewhere between Federal Hill and Locust Point neighborhoods of Baltimore. All four adults are journalists — the husbands are both on the NPR News Apps-turned-Visuals team — so in order to free up the guys and Becky B. to attend the conference, I am in charge of the toddlers today.

“You’re not very maternal,” my spouse says, citing my general dude-like sensibilities. But a girl can try! Since the girls are napping, I’ll offer my “live-ish” blog of the day and attempt to continue throughout. This will be really different than that day I live-blogged jury duty, that’s for sure:

8:47am: Becky, Stiles and Bowers leave me alone with a pair of one-and-a-half-year-old girls. After they leave, Eva runs to the window and puts her nose to the glass, looking out. After about two minutes of standing there, she goes, “Bye bye!” (I’ve been working on a bit where I deliberately laugh at jokes WAY after the punch line. Perhaps it is rubbing off on my daughter.)

9:15am: I dispatch with Eva by putting her down for a morning nap. She talks to herself for the first 15 minutes. I hear her trying new consonants while Amelia (a.k.a. The Squeezle) and I read Goodnight, Moon downstairs. We tried to play with one of those books in which you push on various buttons for different songs, but I discover Eva has destroyed it somehow, and it’s now cutting off songs after a few notes and/or buzzing. downdog

9:53am: Squeezle is also down for the count, after she and I played some serious Simon Says. I did a downward facing dog yoga pose to see if she would do it, she one-upped me by reaching her head to the floor. I subsequently tried several times to down-dog my head all the way down to the floor but could not match her flexibility.

10:07am: Toddlers tend to phase out morning naps at this age, but both girls awoke earlier than usual this morning (sometime around 6:30am instead of 7:30am). So I think I might have at least an hour to myself. Should I open my work email or watch last night’s Scandal episode? Besieged as I am with SXSW-related pitches lately, I think I’m going with Scandal.

10:17am: Don’t judge me, but since I want to save Scandal to watch with a friend — that show is much better when you can trash talk it while watching — I’m going to watch Grey’s Anatomy instead. Again, don’t judge. I realize it’s bad.

11:35am: After finishing most of Grey’s Anatomy, I hear Eva stirring. Then she calls “Mama! Mama!” Rest time is over. Sounds like Squeezle is still asleep, so I feed Eva lunch, first. She has now downed a bowl of cooked tofu, a blueberry pancake and a pouch. This may not be enough to satiate her, however. She has the appetite of Michael Phelps.

11:54am: I have just ordered a cheesesteak. And seasoned fries! Should be delivered in 30 mins. I do not plan on sharing these with the girls. ALL MINE.

12:15pm: Started jamming some Mariah Carey’s greatest hits in the kitchen. Eva is only somewhat interested into it, despite my great hopes that she’d enjoy “Dream Lover.” We then had a pretty raucous pillow fight in the guest room.

12:22pm: My cheesesteak/fries arrives at the same time Eva poops her diaper. Moment of decision: change her or down cheesesteak? I did the responsible thing.

Lunching with the Squeezle.

Lunching with the Squeezle.

1:03pm: First toddler-destruction of the day is at the hands of my daughter Eva, who yanked the open cheesesteak wrapper off the table, releasing all my unfinished cheesesteak bits with it. At least I was able to finish the fries, first.

1:19pm: Amelia’s awake! She’s pretty groggy from her long slumber, but I’ve distracted Eva with a Sesame Street episode on my iPad while I feed Amelia some lunch. She’s into it.

1:49pm: Eva’s got some sweet dance moves, as you’ll see in the clip. She’s entertaining herself while Amelia and I finish lunch.

2:18pm: Eva keeps trying to hand objects to Amelia, who is skeptical of all these giveaways. The only thing she happily accepted was her pacifier, when Eva stuck it right into A’s mouth.

2:19pm: I’m now deejaying the dance party with classic The Cure songs, such as “Just Like Heaven.” Both girls dig it. Friday, I’m in love.

2:37pm: Eva started crawling up the stairs, indicating she was ready for her afternoon nap. So I’m back down to one kid. Amelia and I continue our dance party.

2:44pm: I smell poop.

2:45pm: I was right. Okay so we know both babies have excellent gastrointestinal systems. All healthy.

She didn't do it.

She didn’t do it.

3:11pm: Tiny humans are pretty hilarious play friends. It’s kinda like hanging out with your grownup friends when everyone’s punch drunk at 3am. For instance, Amelia just found some leather gloves in the house and we take turns trying them on. Every time it’s my turn, I try to do my best Johnnie Cochran “If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit” impression. Amelia doesn’t understand why I keep cracking up. OJ jokes really are generational.

4:15pm: After the Squeezle (Amelia) and I had a lovely quiet hour of reading together, Eva awoke ready to destroy some stuff, as usual. She ripped apart her Doctor Maisy book (which is one of her faves) and now I’m quizzing both girls on their IDing of objects in a “First Words” book. It’s a bilingual experience. Eva’s saying the things she recognizes in Mandarin Chinese, while I’m quizzing Squeeze in English.

4:54pm: One of my girlfriends, Skyler, just called.
Me: I’m with two toddlers right now.
Skyler: You’re with two tacos right now?
Me: Toddlers.
Skyler: Two tacos?
Me: No, toddlers.
Skyler: Oh, wow. It’s just a lot more natural to assume you’re with two tacos.

And with my spouse on his way home soon to relieve me and dinner to prep for the girls, I should wrap up this liveblog. All in all, not a bad day. Eva’s saying a new word — baby, and Amelia is CRUSHING IT at playing the xylophone. Thanks for reading along. Until next time…

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Bounce Bounce Bounce Bounced To Miami For My Birthday

Michael and Chris have become two of my closest compadres in my thirties, so I feel so lucky to have spent my b-day with them.

Michael and Chris have become two of my closest compadres in my thirties, so I feel so lucky to have spent my b-day with them.

My semi-annual trip to Miami for my side-hustle collided with my birthday weekend. Just like I like it, absurdity ensued.

I’m really fortunate to have a crew of brilliant and hilarious friends down in the 3-0-5, so Friend Chris organized a whole day/night featuring my favorite activities: beachtime, sunshine, pooltime, delicious cocktails, celebrity sightings, Justin, meat and cheese, Korean liquor, the 90’s and private karaoke. These are some things that happened:

Just seeing the glowing orb they call the sun was pretty amazing.

Just seeing the glowing orb they call the sun was pretty amazing.

Justin, my partner-in-crime, came down for the shenanigans and while we were catching up at Starbucks, Jesse Something, The Bachelor circa 2004, walked in. He’s still on TV as an ESPN commentator, and he paused at the sugar/cream station and kept looking at me as if he either knew me or was waiting for me to realize who he was, but it took me too long. Wah-wah. I didn’t get to invite him to my birthday party.

After getting drunk on the beach thanks to a pitcher of some refreshing vodka concoction, we decided to do some poolside time at Soho House even though the water was flooded with children. I looked left and BAM! Spotted Sofia Coppola reading a magazine just a few chairs down from us. I was too chicken to say anything to her, so Justin and I took weird surreptitious photos. Then we noticed her husband — the lead singer of Phoenix — and her daughters, playing in the water. We avoided taking sketchy photos of the kids.

The Coors Light ladies gave us free bead medallions which I will treasure forever.

The Coors Light ladies gave us free bead medallions which I will treasure forever.

Tim Elfrink (who just won a Polk Award, woot) lives in Miami, and our mutual Mizzou friend Nick was also in Florida escaping DC’s wintry gloom, so they joined in on festivities. We started at a divey pool bar with excellent cheesesteaks and $5 drinks.

We got some ridiculous Coors swag and posed with the beer girls. Then we had to drink some free Coors Light.

Tucked away in our private-karaoke room by midnight, these are some of the selections performed by the group to celebrate the 1990’s, my halcyon days of youth:

“Birdhouse in your Soul” They Might Be Giants
“Spiderwebs” No Doubt
“Always be my Baby” Mariah Carey
“The Sign” Ace of Base
“Livin’ La Vida Loca” Ricky Martin
“Man in the Mirror” Michael Jackson
“Callin’ Baton Rouge” Garth Brooks
“Unpretty” TLC
“Too Close” Next
“Mmmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” Crash Test Dummies
“Thong Song” Cisco

So much fun.

So much fun.

Despite four attempts by different people, the song system was unable to choose R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix)” which is infinitely superior to what kept coming up — just plain ol’ “Ignition.”

Karaoke participants — on four separate occasions — chose R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” which is an inferior song that is most definitely not the catchy, viral “Ignition Remix” of 2003. Then I came home and discovered Jimmy Fallon had sang it for us.

While squished on our leather karaoke room couch for 12, pal Michael and I went through two and a half bottles of soju on our own. I think Justin enjoyed his own bottle on the other side of our karaoke coffee table. He nursed a hangover for two days, since we started drinking some kind of refreshing vodka stuff around 3pm that afternoon.

Rebekah Monson is my favorite new friend of 2013. We killed it on some Garth Brooks together.

Rebekah Monson is my favorite new friend of 2013. We killed it on some Garth Brooks together.

There is something involving 3am sandwiches at some famous place on South Beach, but I don’t remember it clearly except that Justin awoke the next morning with two of those sandwiches in bed with him.

On the actual night of the birthday, Michael Maness took me out to a smokey dive bar where he got to control the jukebox. Yes, there was David Allan Coe. And yes, we did stop to eat 1am Cuban sandwiches on the street. Happy birthday, indeed.

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