What It Is Ain’t Exactly Clear

Pandora Internet Radio is a fantastic creation.[1] You enter a song or a band you like and they will play that band and then offer you other songs by similar sounding artists.  You can approve songs or outright reject them.  It’s a great way to hear new music and to listen to a radio station that plays music tailored to your tastes.  It chooses songs based on your preferences and selects similar songs according to what the song sounds like, supposedly taking into account “everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony.”  The “Music Genome Project” as they call it is actually quite ingenious.

It has, however, one tragic flaw.  It does not know why you like the songs you like.

Just because I like the sound of one folksy singer-songwriter does not mean I like every folksy singer-songwriter that sounds exactly the same.  Just because I like one album or even one song by an artist does not mean that I like their entire collection.  Take Coldplay, for instance.  I love “The Scientist” and I have a soft spot for “Yellow,” but even though every Coldplay song sounds exactly the same, I’m not a huge fan of their entire discography.[2] So I end up rejecting songs that, based on their sound, I should like.

This realization got me thinking about an article of Chuck Klosterman’s.  (He is one of my favorite writers, comical and poignant, but most importantly, unapologetically music-loving.)  He wrote this article about how ridiculous the question “What kind of music do you like?” is, and proceeded to dissect his own answer were he to take the question seriously.  And the answer to this question is precisely what Pandora tries to take into account, but fails to really get to the heart of.

Well, in Chuck fashion, here is my answer to the question:

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Conan’s Shopping Spree on Rodeo Road

Update: Unfortunately, Hulu took down this episode of the Tonight Show, so alas, my video clip is also gone.  Hulu was the only place I could find it online, so if you ever see it anywhere else, please let me know.  It is one of the funniest bits I’ve seen Conan do in a while.  Here are some screenshots for your enjoyment.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

more about “Conan’s Shopping Spree on Rodeo Road“, posted with vodpod

Full episode can be viewed at hulu.com.

The Problem of Other Minds

I have an odd obsession with 48 Hours Mystery and Dateline mystery.  Part of me likes the glimpse into the human psyche.  Part of me likes trying to determine my decision if I were on the jury.  I have a feeling that if I ever have to sit on a jury for a criminal trial, I’m going to be a pain in the ass.  A lot of the decision in a criminal trial is based on physical evidence, but circumstantial evidence is also heavily employed and it’s usually the interpretation of this evidence that leads to some questionable verdicts.

Some of this circumstantial evidence includes character references, though I’m not sure this is such a good idea.  I think there are probably just as many people who could judge my character in some negative way as there are those who could describe it positively.  You can twist just about anyone into a bad person, and because hindsight is 20/20 you can convince yourself that someone you don’t really like is capable of murder.

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Please Hollywood, Don’t Do This.

ABC News is reporting that the much-fabled Jeff Buckley biopic that has been in the works for, well, what seems like longer than Jeff Buckley’s actual music career, has its choice of who is to play Jeff Buckley narrowed down to two actors: James Franco and Robert Pattinson.

Let me admit that I am skeptical of this report. First, it’s inaccurate as it seems to imply that “Hallelujah” was released posthumously, which is false. “Hallelujah” is on Grace (Track 6), released in 1994, while Jeff Buckley was still alive. Second, rumors of this film have been floating around for years. Third, I don’t want to believe it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against either of these actors. From the little I know about acting and the work of theirs I have seen, I think either could portray Jeff Buckley. James Franco is certainly a dead-ringer for him, and Robert Pattinson definitely has the hair for it. Of course if the singing is not dubbed, then all bets are off. They’d have to have a Grace-off, winner take the role.

But Hollywood, don’t do this, don’t make another biopic about a great and fabled musician.

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It’s Not Easy Being Green

I am not an environmentalist.  Though I probably appear to fit the profile of a typical environmentalist… or I did until the giant gaggle of yuppies and mass media acquired the rights to the word “green” only to start selling it off piece by piece.

I like polar bears.  And I kind of like penguins.  (I mostly just like watching polar bears and penguins swim. It’s therapeutic.)  And so I am very sorry that their habitats are melting away, but let’s face it, no one is recycling for the polar bears.

Once upon a time in a previous rant, I explained that I find environmentalism to be a misnomer, because no one really cares about the natural environment.  People aren’t “saving the planet” for the sake of the planet, they are “saving the planet” for the sake of the livelihood of human beings.  We need the environment to stay similar enough to how it is now so the lifestyles we have come to love can be maintained.  We don’t want California to fall into the fucking ocean.[1] We don’t want all of our coastlines to be washed away.

And while these may be catastrophic events that would alter the course of human events, frankly, I don’t care all that much.

But more importantly, if I did care, it’s too late.  Oh, I believe Al Gore when he says that the effects of global warming (ManBearPig) can be reversed to some extent if we do something about it now.  That’s not what I mean by too late.  What I mean is that we’re far to set in our post-industrial revolution ways to have enough people make enough lifestyle changes to make a damn bit of difference. Americans love their cars and eating meat too much.

(Incidentally, the other reason why I don’t care is because I want the color green back.  I’ve never really been a green person (I prefer blue), but I miss being able to say the word green without people thinking you’re talking about a bamboo floormat for your Toyota Prius.)

Green doesn’t even mean anything anymore, it’s a marketing tool.  It’s a fad.

Environmentalism has become a fad.

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Self-Improvement is Masturbation

This is one of my favorite quotes from Palahniuk, because he’s right isn’t he?  We’re all just playing with ourselves.

On a cop show I saw once, there was a detective who was in a therapy session having the following conversation:

Detective: “There is a school of thought that says self-awareness leads to transformation.  I don’t believe that.”

Therapist: “So where does self-awareness lead?”

Detective: “To self-justification.”

This seems right to me.  People don’t really change.  I don’t know a lot about childhood development, but at some point, maybe around puberty,[1] we just become who we are going to be.  I was negative, skittish, introspective and liked to push the limits of authority when I was on the brink of adulthood.  And what do you know?  Nothing changes.  Though it is becoming more difficult for me to get along in the world as an adult.

I think maybe I’ve always been somewhat self-aware, maybe hyper-aware is more like it.  But this does not mean I have enough self-knowledge to not try to justify some of the choices I make or to not make excuses for myself.  I’m not even remotely close to having self-knowledge.  I like to think that we all have some idea of who we want to be, but it’s a lot easier to make excuses than to actually try to change.

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