The Richest Man in Babylon

Thievery Corporation
Realse Date
September 30, 2002

I purchased The Richest Man in Babylon [] sometime in late 2002 or early 2003 while I was living in Dupont Circle in DC. I purchased it at a music store that I can’t remember the name of, it was near Kramers bookstore. I spent a lot of time browsing both Kramers and that music store; several other albums I plan to cover came from there. I spent a lot of evenings and weekend afternoons sitting at Xandos reading books from Kramers and listening to albums I purchased at that music store.

I purchased The Richest Man because while I was living in Dupont I spent many evenings chilling at the Eighteenth Street Lounge []. The Eighteenth Street Lounge, or ESL, is a story in itself. Hidden behind a plain street level door, sandwiched between a mattress store and… something else at the time. Next to the door was a brass plate that said “Eighteenth Street Lounge, Washington DC”. Opening the door and climbing the stairs led you to the best live music and DJ place in DC. The ambiance was amazing: an eclectic mix of baroque and thrift store couches and tables, damask wallpapers and exposed brick walls, light from electric candelabras and chandlers, a well stocked bar and the best sound system you can imagine.

So what’s the connection to the Richest Man in Babylon? The band, Thievery Corporation, started when one of the lounge co-owners, Rob Garza, met Eric Hilton at the ESL. ESL played a lot of Thievery Corporation music and the music that inspired them. So I went searching for the album. ESL has it’s own record label, also ESL, that besides Thievery Corporation also released other amazing artists like Federico Aubele and Les Hommes.

I purchased both The Mirror Conspiracy [] and The Richest Man in Babylon at the same time. Richest Man became my favorite and still remains my favorite Thievery Corporation album. The music is an eclectic mix of influences, Latin American jazz and bossa nova, indian and middle eastern traditional music, with Jamaican dub most evident in the vocals. All layered over chill out electronic beats.

Any album on my best list has to be one I can, and do, listen too from start to finish, no dud songs. And Richest Man is defiantly there. From the opening sounds of Heaven’s Goona Burn Your Eyes, through to the end of Until the Morning. This is one of the best chill albums out there. The electronic beats blend with the world music precession and synth melodies providing a timeless background for the vocals. Often the vocals are non-english, like on Omid, which lend it an even more chilled out sound to me.

The best songs on the album are probably “Heaven’s Gonna Burn Your Eyes” and “The Richest Man in Babylon” followed closely by “All That We Perceive” and “Un Simple Histoire”. But have a listen from beginning to end. It’s all amazing.

Listen on Apple Music:

Listen on Spotify:

photography ranting

Stolen Bits & Bytes

Last week I found a few of my photos being used on a local website []. Specifically photos of the vacant house at 25 Grange Road. I never actually posted the photos here on Confusion back when I took them in 2006. I was not overly happy with them. The subject was very cool but I don’t think I captured it as well as I wanted. Anyway, you can see the full photoset on Flickr, such that it is, only 12 photos:

Abandoned: 25 Grange Rd, Singapore, May 2006 Photoset on Flickr.

It’s nice when others find my photos useful. A few small sites have used some of my photos before, even got published in a few books (here [] & here again []), the craziest usage was when the Ford Museum purchased the rights to this photo [] to hang somewhere in the museum. Always nice that someone finds my photos useful.

I release almost all of the public photos on my Flickr account under the Creative Commons Attribution License, so they are free for anyone to use including for commercial purposes. You don’t have to ask permission or let me know, sometimes people do email me via Flickr or post a comment on a photo they use, it’s nice because I can see the work. The license does requires that if you use a photo you provide an attribution, just my name (I tell people they are welcome to use “Brian Beggerly” or just “beggs”). Flickr terms require a link back to the Flickr page in addition.

In this particular case though the photos were not attributed to me, they were instead attributed to another web site. And on that site the photos are not attributed to anyone. It’s perfectly possible that someone took very similar photos to those that I took. But when I looked at the other page it contains five of the 12 photos from my photoset and there is no doubt left; they are identical, they are the same photo.

In any case, I reached out to the Smart Local site and let them know and they agreed and updated the attribution.

Before curtesy of the Wayback Machine []

I emailed the site where the photos were posted originally but no response yet. To be fair the site is no longer updated (per a banner on the site when you contact them) so maybe no one is looking at the emails. And while it’s the site that I contacted it seems most of the articles were submitted by independent writers so maybe it’s the author who didn’t add the attribution? But even if the author should have provided the attributions, the site should also a have some sort of editorial process to check that authors are attributing third party works, because it’s the publishers who are going to get the notice when an attribution is missing or wrong.

I have not heard back from the site yet. I’m not linking to them here as I don’t want to drive traffic to the site. If they reply and update the attribution I’ll add a link.

While I think information “should be free”, in the sense that I oppose companies extending copyright forever and hiding behind armies of lawyers trying to prevent people from making derivative works and taking inspiration… I also think people should give credit to other creators and respect other creators decision to charge for, or get paid for, their works. A derivative or an homage is fine, though there is a fine line between inspiration and copying.

Hum… would Picasso have supported Napster?

But credit should be given. People should have respect for the people who create, even if the creation is owned by some big, money driven, corporation. If you don’t want people stealing your work, don’t steal from others. I think this should be taught in school, to make sure everyone understands the laws and how to follow them or how to work to change them. Vote with your wallet, if the item is not worth the price being asked then don’t buy it, and don’t steal it, just don’t consume it. In a capitalist system voting with your wallet is the most effective thing you can do. And if you are able vote in election, if you disagree with the power corporations have over copyright and patents the only way to change that is to vote in politicians who will change the laws and empower regulators to enforce limits, to nominate and confirm judges who can hold the companies to account in the courts.

I am part of the Napster generation, I stole a lot of music, downloaded a lot of Warez. I don’t blame kids and college broke students for piracy, but I don’t support big corporations suing the individuals for outrageous amounts of money, I understand they want to protect their work and business but it’s the wrong message to me.

I do have an issue with adults continuing to steal long after they are old enough to know it’s wrong. When I started making a living producing work that could be stolen, computer code in my case, I came to understand that it is theft and it is wrong (even if, in my case, it was not a work that was likely to be stolen by people, I never wrote that type of software).

I deleted so much music… Today, I don’t produce anything in my career that would be pirated but I release the works I create as part of my hobby, my photographs, so that others can use it. They can use it even if I don’t like what they make from it or how they use it. Creative Commons [] tried to make this simple in the digital world with their licenses (they are 20 this year! So go and vote with your wallet, donate a few dollars). Flickr is a great source of Commons licensed works that you can use and makes it easy for it’s members to choose a CC license. But it still requires people to understand that you should respect others work.

We live in a complicated world, educate yourself and think about your actions. It does not take much effort to find a way to get others work for free, but is that how you would want others to treat a work your created? More power to you if you choose to release your work for others for free, but if you choose to charge for it or get paid by making something for someone else do you want others to steal it?

Ok, enough. It’s a complicated subject. In summary, if you are going to use someone else’s work, have some respect and learn the rules of the game, follow them. Don’t steal. Treat others works the way you want your works treated.


Love & Hate

Micheal Kiwanuka
Realse Date
July 15, 2016

This is going to be one of the newest albums on this tour of my favorites (at least, as of when I started this list. Let’s see how long it goes on…). An album has to be around for a while to move from current obsession to long term “favorite”. This one is from 2016, six years ago at this point and I still go back to it again and again. That’s long enough, it’s faded from any popular zeitgeist. The artist has released newer music since this one.

This is Micheal Kiwanuka’s second album, I had never heard him before this one. All of his albums are great, but this one is beyond great. I was turned on to it with this album via the BBC World Service’s Arts Hour program one morning while driving to work. They played part of an interview and then a live version of “Black Man in a White World” as I recall. I was hooked immediately, it was amazing! First thing I did when I got to the office was lookup the album, Love & Hate [] and listen to it. I listened to it all day, over and over again. I was obsessed with it for weeks and yeas later I am still listening to it.

Apple Music lists the album as R&B/Soul, while Discogs adds Rock, Funk and Acoustic to the mix. And it’s that mix that takes this album to a whole other level. It’s out of world. From the slow methodical opening of Cold Little Heart which takes it time to get going and sucks you into the album as it does so. To the gental weaping guitar of The Final Frame the album never settles down into one genre.

His follow up to Love & Hate, the 2019 KIWANUKA, might have won the Mercury Prize while Love & Hate only got a nomination but Love & Hate is my favorite. It’s perfect for a rainy day, laying in the dark and listening. The production and style is just the right mix of quiet and lyrics and crashing guitar and drums, a lush layered sound, sometimes soul, sometimes R&B and sometimes straight out rock.

Listen on Apple:

Or on Spotify:


Tiësto – Live at Innercity – Amsterdam RAI

DJ Tiësto
Realse Date
March 15, 1999

At the turn of the century (that sounds pretentious, but it’s true), I was deep into dance music. Rave music. Specifically the house and trance varieties in their various forms. EDM was not a term, it was all just “techno” to people who didn’t listen to it. It was just starting to become a thing in mainstream clubs. I started attending ‘raves’ when I was in high school, initially local underground parties in the basement of Club 216 and in the SERP house. Later driving to Richmond and beyond. All over the mid-Atlantic and eventually going way too far in pursuit of a good party.

Quck aside: I remember coming back from a party on new years morning one year and passing thought four separate sobriety check points. At each one I had to get out of the car and do the walk and touch my nose and whatnot. I was completely sober and passed all four, though I suspect I smelled of weed (along with sweat and tobacco smoke, specifically menthol as that seemed to be the only thing people smoked at Raves), given I’d spend the whole night in a warehouse party where more than a few people were smoking all manner of things. The funny part was the other 3 people in my car were stoned out of their fucking mind. And the cops didn’t care at all. They were only looking for drunk drivers.

Anyway, getting good dance music in my home town was not easy. The stores had little sections of CDs labeled “techno” that were filled mostly with cheap unmixed compilations of hit-or-miss tracks. I bought too many of these just to get a specific song. Often they were multi-CD bundles, two or three, or even four discs. And there would be two or three songs I actually wanted on them. But before Napster that was about all I could get. DJ mixes were things we bought or traded with others at raves on cassettes with hand written labels or low quality black and white dot matrix printed pictures.

It was Napster that really opened up access to electronic music; I was in college in 1999 and 2000 when Napster blew up. Free fast internet meant amassing an obscenely large collection of music. Browsing forums to find good DJs and downloading mixes — I had a library of more than 100 Radio 1 Essential Mixes at one point. I remember songs that I have never been able to find again – talking bout you Kai Tracide song with the crazy sax solo. Who knows, maybe it was mislabeled, or maybe it was a self release unique to Napster, but I could never find a legit copy of that one or many others.

I don’t know how I first stumbled upon Tiësto but I became obsessed. I spent hours finding good rips —high bit rate— of all his mix CDs that were released in Europe in the late 90’s: the Lost Treasure series (four releases), the Forbidden Paradise series (seven releases) and the first few Magik releases (eventually there were seven of these but the later ones were after I left college). Later when I had a job I ordered used copies of all of these, I still have them. But in 1999 Tiësto released two mix albums that blew my mind. In Search of Sunrise [] and Live at Innercity []. Either of which could be on my favorites list but if I had to choose one it would be Innercity.

I love the feeling of this mix from beginning to end. You can hear just the right amount of the crowd in the mix especially in the beginning; cheering and whistling. The way the energy of the tracks flows across the whole disc is amazing, the energy builds, dissipates and builds again across it’s 70 plus minutes. Perfect. Put on a good pair of headphones and listen. The opening track, The Universal Nation by Push deserves a lot of credit, but all the tracks are great and the mix has a wonderful gestalt. I also appreciate the fact that there is only 1 track that lists Tiësto as the artist, no other self-promotion, only one Tiësto track and no remixes. Too often mix albums, even live performances, end up being a self promotion, the DJ showing off their own tracks and remixes on after another.

My clubbing and raving days are far, far behind me but I do find myself listening to Innercity every once in a while. I Search of Sunrise too. A lot of nostalgia I guess. They don’t make me what to get up and dance, but the are relaxing. Great driving music, great music when I need to grind through some work, great when I just want to sit in the dark and relax.

Listen on Apple Music:

Or on Spotify:


The Logical Endpoint of American Culture

Happy Meals exist as a special way to lure kids in, so the news that McDonald’s was making Happy Meals for adults led to a lot of clowning online. One person said that the“creation of a Happy Meal for adults is the logical endpoint of American culture,” and another said that the concept of adult Happy Meals is a “pretty powerful index of mental and moral decline.”

Ana Diaz in McDonald’s Happy Meals for adults make sense in a Funko-obsessed world [] published on Polygon