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 even have a soft spot for “Yellow,” but even though every Coldplay song sounds exactly the same, I do not like the rest of their 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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Why Does This Frighten Me So?

I am afraid of American Apparel.

I don’t know exactly why I am afraid of American Apparel.  There is just something about the clothing line, the stores, the catalog, the advertisements that creeps me out.

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For one thing the advertisements and catalog (both paper and online) are borderline pornographic.  I’m not opposed to all forms of pornography, so long as it involves consenting adults and the women involved are not being forced or abused.  But I don’t want to watch it, and I certainly don’t want a bunch of skinny, bored-looking, vacant-eyed, topless women posing suggestively as they try to sell me leggings… not that I would wear leggings anyway.  I’ve never really understood why this type of posing is always found in catalogs for women’s apparel.  Am I supposed to want to look like the women in the photos?  Am I supposed to think that if I purchase American Apparel’s Disco Pants that I will magically transform into this topless woman who is clinging to a fluorescent light bulb for dear life?  Am I supposed to want to look like this?  I’ve always kind of assumed that Victoria’s Secret actually designs their catalogs for men, but does anyone really fall for this as an advertising ploy?  I know that sex sells, but seriously?  Or is this all just an example of the Angie Dickinson phenomenon?

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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.

So long as I’m writing pleas, I figure another one can’t hurt.  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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A Plea to Sarah Palin

If you haven’t heard because you aren’t a news junkie like me, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is in a feud with David Letterman about a joke he made on his show, about her daughter getting impregnated by Alex Rodriguez during the 7th inning stretch at a Yankees game.

Palin thinks that he should apologize to women and teenage girls everywhere for being disrespectful and disgusting, because the daughter that was with her at the Yankee game was only 14.  Why is this even news?

Dear Governor Palin,

Please fade away into obscurity where you belong.

First of all, David Letterman was obviously not advocating statutory rape.  It is indeed a fact that your older daughter did get pregnant at the age of 17, and that you may or may not have been aware that your daughter was sexually active.  And your daughter obviously was not one of those rare cases where high school sweethearts actually do fall in love as teenagers, get married young, have children young, and stay together for 50+ years.  The joke, Governor Palin, was more about your bad parenting than your children.

Secondly, it’s a little presumptuous on your part to think that anyone knows which of your brood you had with you at the Yankee game.  You’re a public servant, not a celebrity.  While it is unfortunate that anyone’s children are publicity fodder, you might not want to take your underage children to a very public place in New York City when you are in the city for work-related reasons.  If you want to take your kids to a major league baseball game as a family outing, you may want to think about going someplace closer to home.[1]

Finally, having public feuds really makes you look bad.  It makes you look like someone who is sad and desperate for attention, someone who is more concerned about their public persona than doing their job, which, by the way is an important one.  When the people of Alaska elected you as their governor, they probably did so under the impression that you would focus on issues and policy-making that affected them, the people of Alaska, and not that you would try to be the face of the GOP and leave yourself open to be the butt of jokes.

Thank you,
Heidi

P.S.- Now, if you had gone to the NBA Finals instead, and Letterman made the joke about Kobe Bryant, this might be a different story entirely…


[1] Living in Alaska isn’t great for the professional sports fan.  And the Mariners, to whom you are closest, aren’t doing great this season, but they do play the Yankees during the season, as well as the Red Sox, and they are in the same division as the Rangers, so you could still see a good game with your children, be closer to home, and be away from paparazzi lenses.  Really, no one cares about the Mariners.

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 f***ing 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.

(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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