Category: internet

Last.fm Seasonal Impact Indices

Everyone’s experienced that thing where you’re listening to something, and you think to yourself, “Holy shit does this remind me of fall 2004.” How strongly certain music is correlated with certain periods of your life depends on many things, including but probably not limited to when you first heard it, when you first liked it, and when your listening to it was most highly concentrated. So, for instance, in my case, most Destroyer albums will recall times and places that are vague at best, and that depend mostly upon first exposure rather than concentration — this as a result of the fact that I listen to every Destroyer album all the time, approximately.

Blueboy’s Unisex, on the other hand, will probably always remind me of the winter of 2006-7, as I listened to it for the first time that season, nine additional times within that season (racking up about 150 tracks listened, according to Last.fm), and virtually never again once spring hit.

Ever since I began submitting listening data to Last.fm in November of 2004, I’ve wondered whether I’d ever enjoy direct access to all those numbers. Then came Last.fm Extra Stats, mercifully collecting all my listening data for me in a tab-separated file that can be pulled into Excel and manipulated to my heart’s content. Here, as a small example of the data, are my top ten artists (by tracks listened) from winter 2006-7, along with total listens for each artist (since November 2004) (now that I’m finally getting around to publishing this post, all the following data is very old):

Winter 2006-7
Artist Winter (S) ↓ Total (T)
Trans Am 163 163
Blueboy 148 163
The Lucksmiths 69 105
Ratatat 50 126
The Moldy Peaches 49 51
White Flight 36 41
Television Personalities 35 35
Beach House 35 64
Revolving Paint Dream 32 58
RJD2 31 52

Now for some methodology. Continue reading “Last.fm Seasonal Impact Indices”

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Scary Go Round Style Changes

Once described as being “pretty much perfect,” Scary Go Round is one of my favorite comics. As is the case with most things, I got into it kinda late, and it’ll probably die in the near future, making my weekday mornings cold and bleak. I wish I could remember where I learned about it.

One of the best things about it is its artwork. The colors are stunning, it’s peppered with painstakingly subtle, winking touches, and there’s a weird juxtaposition of ruler-guided lines and rough, endearingly sloppy details like lettering or rows of windows. But it didn’t used to be that way; it began as a spinoff to John Allison’s previous comic, Bobbins, which shifted from hand-drawn to vector art on January 15, 2001, a distinctly digital style that continued through Scary Go Round’s first couple years.

It was shortly after I started reading, in 2006, that the comic went “permanently” (for now) hand-drawn, which to me is far preferable, allowing for much greater nuance in gestures and expressions, and more equipped to carry John’s sense of humor.

Lamenting the fact that I didn’t get to watch its evolution in realtime, I decided to catalogue notable dates in its history, coupled with context from John’s blog and the Scary Go Round forum, because I am curious and anal.

John begins Scareodeleria, intended as a practice ground “to return Scary Go Round to hand-drawn art.” It’s pretty crude.

Continue reading “Scary Go Round Style Changes”

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Cinematic Titanic is a complete hoax

Only TWO days ago, cinematictitanic.com mysteriously appeared. Claimed to be authored by Joel Hodgson, it goes on to say that he is returning to the making-fun-of-movies thing, along with Trace, Frank, Mary Jo, and JOSH WEINSTEIN. So I think some healthy skepticism wouldn’t be UNfounded.

Nevertheless, Slashdot, Ain’t It Cool News, and doubtless thousands of other blogs are blowing up about it, and nobody’s asking any questions. Just fawning, ejaculatory cheerings-on.

The first thing you notice is how POORLY the page is designed. You even see a <meta name="author" content="John Stotler" /> in the source, that the domain is hosted at GoDaddy, and is registered through a privacy proxy. Okay, fine, so these people have hired an amateur designer. It’s possible.

But the announcement just resembles too closely every MST3K fan’s wet dream. They’re an easy target for a prank like this. They’ve been chanting Joel’s name continually for over ten years now, begging for him to come back. Pulling one over on people demonstrating such obnoxious behavior would be funny. What if it even made it on Slashdot? Or Wikipedia???

Besides the fact that it would be weird for all five of these people to be simultaneously inspired to beat that dead horse, Joel left the show because he wanted to distance himself from it. In a press release from 1993 he said,

It’s time for me to hang up my red jump suit and move behind the camera. Besides, there’s an old show business adage I once heard Adam West say: “Stay in the same costume and before you know it, you end up signing pictures at an R.V. show.” Maybe it was Clayton Moore, now that I think of it.

I want to become a behind-the-camera guy. I want to get on to the NEXT weird show. I want to be an idea man.

The new site itself is ugly, yes, but more than that, it’s very un-Joel-like through and through. Joel’s a smart, creative, funny guy. Would he really put his name behind such a stale, meaningless name as “Cinematic Titanic”? With this logo?:

Cinematic Titanic

Would he really say, “Our first release is at this time a total secret, however – I’m willing to say it makes ‘Manos the Hands of Fate’ look like ‘Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’ in a car wreck with ‘Eegah!’”? These are the words of a fan, naming his favorite episodes, not the words of a guy who wanted to move on with his life, fourteen years ago.

The site also reads, “I’ve just been interviewed by Lucasfilm online, in anticipation of Cinematic Titanic’s first live show and world premiere in San Francisco in December.” Lucasfilm online? Why haven’t they been talking about this? Wouldn’t an exclusive, rare interview with Joel Hodgson about his new project be something you might want to mention? Where in San Francisco is this premier? Why haven’t I gotten a confirmation email for signing up for the mailing list?

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Kirk Cameron, and stealing video from abcnews.com

Last weekend Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort debated some smug atheists over the existence of God. Kirk’s and Ray’s claim was, to paraphrase, that they could prove, 100%, scientifically, the existence of God, without invoking faith or the Bible. The atheists were to prove, not that God doesn’t exist, but that Kirk and Ray can’t prove otherwise. The debate took place on Saturday night and was taped to be streamed on abcnews.com the following Wednesday and Thursday, with select portions being televised on an episode of Nightline.

Here’s Slate on the subject:

First, I grew excited at this promise, then began to wonder why no theologian, philosopher, or sitcom star in recorded history had done it before—Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Tina Yothers, whoever—and realized I was in for a letdown. Comfort’s cadences were not even those of a preacher but of an infomercial host, and the God Squad had but three arguments on behalf of the big guy: All things have makers; the human conscience is evidence of a higher moral power; if you read the Gospel, then Christ will be revealed to you. For reasons too stupid to type, this was not an airtight case, and the atheists made quick work of it in tones of juvenile sarcasm.

They also threw in the first mover argument, which technically differs from the watchmaker argument. The content of the debate is of almost no interest, of course, as it closely parallels countless conversations that have taken place before it. But its being presented by ABC is significant, even unprecedented by recent standards of network television. Which isn’t to say that religion and God are never mentioned on TV, but that when they are, they are dismissed as irreconcilable, deeply personal things that don’t invite inspection beyond that of the effects they have on people’s behavior. They are approached as moral and cultural issues — never as metaphysical ones. And the idea that a large-ish portion of the American public might see people earnestly discussing the nature of infinity and causality, even if ineptly, only hours after Ugly Betty, fascinated me, despite my confidence that none of it would be illuminating, and that it was a ratings stunt.

I didn’t see the “distilled” version on Nightline, and the YouTube videos were removed before I could watch or save them, but I hear they did a pretty bad job with the material. At the moment, the entire debate is still available at the story’s ABC page, but, knowing that they probably won’t last, and with a tendency toward obsessive archivism and a disdain for ABC’s intractable flash player, I collected them myself. Altogether they’re about 97 minutes. If you’re short on time and have to be choosy, watch the “Mocking Darwin” segment, which contains the most lolz, and a guided, pictorial tour of an understanding of evolution so profoundly misinformed that even Lamarck is rolling his eyes. And he’s dead. As I watch this debate, I keep expecting Kirk to break character. Then I think, Ray must have some dangerously compromising photos of him.

From the Columbia Journalism Review:

We could go on, but why? Nightline felt no responsibility to take the issue seriously enough to include, say, a scientist or a theologian in the debate, so other than pointing out the dumbing down of the national conversation, we’ll just leave it at saying that we expect more of Nightline, and the American people deserve better than being forced to endure half-baked publicity stunts dressed up as news.

Thrown in at the end are some recent discussions Bill O’Reilly has had with Kirk Cameron and Richard Dawkins, in which Bill presents his own fucked version of an anthropic argument, expressing amazement that we could have “lucked out” by having such a habitable planet land on us, and plenty more frustratingly nebulous reasoning for your teeth-gnashing pleasure.

The videos were recorded using a years-old tool that I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. CamStudio records the activity in a selected portion of your screen, and spits out an .avi. Its current version is from 2003, but, thanks to its open-sourceness, is still being developed. It gives you the option to use different recording codecs and to tweak their parameters, but the only way I was able to get results was with enormous files, approaching 1GB for 15 minutes of 320×240 video. Which is a pain in the ass, but it works.

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