February 22nd, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

I guess this is how they work?—a public radio station in Minnesota gives its blessing to listen to rap music, so long as it’s sufficiently “vintage”:

I’ve never tried to calculate the value of forty acres and a mule in current dollars, but I doubt this gesture would make a dent, assuming you aren’t a member of Public Enemy.

I kid, but really I don’t mean to mock The Current, despite their regrettable choice to join the parade of awkward ethnoracial outreach awareness gestures that passes through town every February. Hey, at least they don’t turn the antenna lights pink in October to endorse unnecessary mammography (as far as I know). The Current is actually quite wonderful. I encourage you to listen to The Current. And please donate to The Current, mainly so I won’t have to worry about the lack of federal funding sinking the station. Seriously—it’s my only lifeline to the world of music outside my head. Become a member… to-day!


February 13th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

You know, Cee Lo and Lady Gaga are great—I love them both; I really do—but there comes that point in the cyclisoidal helix of popular music that begs for something ugly, cynical, subversive, and—yes—raw to take hold hold of the mainstream, and I think we’ve hit that point. I love popular music; I’m not an “it was better better in the old days” person—I hate speculation, and I hate overreach—but it seems like everyone’s just stretching to stick a fingertip on the golden calf right now. Who’s trying to knock it over? Surely not Arcade Fire. If it’s not too fun, it’s too pretty. Aren’t we sick of it yet?

It doesn’t have to be accurate or coherent or artistic. It’ll have a good hook; it will get marketed, but that’s the point. Just make us want it bad enough that it can’t be ignored. If I had my way, I’d create it rather than beg for it, but, you know, I just can’t find the time to practice.

UPDATE: I think I should yank this post. It was a knee-jerk reaction to watching the video of Cee Lo’s Grammy performance tonight. But I’m sure someone says this exact same thing every year, and honestly, I have no idea what I’m talking about. But hey, if you agree with me… well, that’s not validation either. Whatever, I’ll own it. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. (I’m wrong.)

Sandwich in a can

February 4th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Look—I’m as big a sucker for doomsdayism as you’ll ever meet, but even I can raise an eyebrow when I read a sentence like…

We are in fact witnessing a severe collapse of creativity and innovation in spite of the newest apps on your phone.

Hmm. Ok. And the evidence?

The first mechanical computers go back to the 1600s and savants such as Blaise Pascal and Gottfried von Leibnitz. Indeed, the cryptology and mathematics involved are older yet, since the binary number system used for computers originates with the ancient Indian mathematician Pingala. The 1800s saw the rise of punch-card computers and the first modern electrical computers were designed by Alan Turing in 1936 and built during the Second World War. This is old stuff.

[Current band] is totally unoriginal and derivative. They’re just rehashing [classic ’60s album] with melodies pulled straight from [style of ethnic folk music], repackaged with an [’80s genre] aesthetic. There’s nothing unique at all about it.”

The Internet is from the 1960s, the cellphone is from 1973, the first satellite was put into orbit in 1957, the details of which were put forth by Clarke in a Wireless World article in 1945, but Konstantin Tsiolkovsky had already calculated the necessary orbital speeds in 1903. The first heart transplant was in 1967 and the first kidney transplant in 1953. The list of technology goes on and on: television, radio, nuclear reactors, cars, refrigeration, rail, internal combustion, reinforced concrete, aeroplanes, industrialized agriculture, robots, windmills, solar panels, in vitro fertilization, and so on. These were all invented in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, one would be hard pressed to suggest a single innovation from the last 30 years that has changed, improved or eased everyday life for ordinary people in a radical way, such as those mentioned here.

Isn’t that sort of… self-refuting? Like, the very nature of innovationas these conveniently-cited historical examples showis that it takes time—say, 30 years, give or take—for truly groundbreaking technologies to take hold in any sort of practical, scalable, marketable, useful-to-your-grandma form. But that doesn’t mean progress is dead. Unless…

innovation peaked in 1873 and that within a few years, the rate of contemporary innovation will drop to levels not seen since the Middle Ages.

Have you ever heard the saying, “Sometimes precision is the enemy of credibility”? I don’t know if anyone’s actually ever said that, but this would be a great example. I shouldn’t mock the research or the conclusion; I’m sure it’s far more thorough, thoughtful, substantive, useful, valuable, etc. than anything I’ll ever produce in my lifetime, but… but…

“We are at an estimated 85% of the economic limit of technology, and it is projected that we will reach 90% in 2018 and 95% in 2038.”

How do I take that seriously?

Don’t get me wrong. I wanna believe the human race is spiraling toward catastrophe as badly as the next guy, but you have to give me something solid to work with!

Window to the self

February 3rd, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Due to a heavy workload and some weather you may have heard about, I’ve spent roughly 49 of my last 50 waking hours at the office, where my only internet access is the heavily-filtered variety funneled through my company’s server. As such, I was able to read (God bless RSS!) but not comment on my pal and co-blogger Zuch’s post on speculative mind-reading as manifest in reactions to the Jay Cutler knee injury. I’ll rectify that now in this space (in the process boosting my own post count and plugging his blog to my +/-5 readers).

I think Zuch’s take-home message…

Yes, I unfortunately realize that body language is strenuously evaluated and that I will need to improve on that during interviews.  No, that does not make it any less superfluous or lazy manner of evaluation.  If people were not so fake in their verbal communication, nonverbal communication would not be so critical.  Instead, this cycle of superficial behavior continues and people continue to make evaluations based off outward mannerisms.  Apparently, we still judge a book by its cover despite that saying being taught to people from their first moments of lucidity.

…is exactly correct. And to that I would add: Reading body language is one of those “skills”—like seeing the big picture or anticipating the next move—for which most people vastly overrate their own ability. In general, I wonder how much body language reading is genuine insight and how much is projection. If we were to test skill in interpreting body language with controlled experiments—I’m sure it’s been done; I don’t have the time to look it up—I would imagine that most people are much worse at assessing intent via physical cues than they claim to be.

In practice, of course, our interpretation is all we have, and it scores 100% in all trials, no matter its inseparability from our own disposition, preexisting impressions of our counterparts, and all sorts of other biases that confound our judgment.

Sometimes people are just sleepy. Sometimes a joke in the midst of calamity is too damned funny not to laugh. And some people are just good actors. So what Jay Cutler’s a perpetual mope. So what I don’t look you in the eye. Sometimes it means something; sometimes it doesn’t.

On a related note

February 1st, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

Can’t we make it through one extreme weather event without some yahoo spinning it into a lecture on peak oil or climate change? I mean, enough already… Yeesh!


February 1st, 2011 § 3 comments § permalink

It’s easy to be flippant about the situation outside my window right now, but lest we forget, it’s no so long ago or so far away for a blizzard to literally be a matter of life and death, even in the most populous and civilized places. For now we’ve been spared such a tenuous existence, but for the grace of our sweet crude servant, we could quickly return. Sleep tight and sweet dreams.