Things September 2017 – Roads, Fish, DJ Shadow

Road Diet

If expanding or adding roads induces more people to drive and so creates worse overall flow, does it follow that reducing or removing roads could improve it? In some cases, yes. (Incidentally, that’s on, which you should definitely follow if you like Things, since it’s the same sort of idea but better).

Up All Night

Beck’s recent music video directed by Canada reminds me of what was (for me) the golden age of music videos, with a simple conceit, intriguing editing and strong visual metaphor, all well executed. I also like the way the choice of frame for the video thumbnail sets expectations:

If you want to know about Numbers

Via Clare, there is a Wikipedia article for the number 1001, which is nice, but does raise certain questions. Fortunately, some of those questions can be answered in the ambitiously-titled article List of Numbers.

Death and Social Media

As Facebook continues to execute its global man-in-the-middle manipulation/monetisation of social interaction, it unsurprisingly runs into some very difficult territory. Reading their blog series on these topics, I’m actually quite impressed with their approach to social media mortality, and was very interested to read how they balance their policy on hate speech.

Generic Film Trailer

With Inception’s percussive brass sound slotting in alongside plenty of other tropes, witness a surprisingly compelling and fully generic trailer:

Would you Rather be a Fish?

Laurie Anderson’s song “Monkey’s Paw” has plenty of strange memorable phrases, but one stayed with me over the years: “Would you like to be… a fish?” The video embedded below is edited from relevant shots from the Terminator TV series, so don’t watch if you’re averse to cyborg gore:

In Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson (2016), the strange power of the phrase is explicitly noted in a poem:

… except of course he was referencing the song “Swinging on a Star”, which I assume first coined the phrase:

I rather like the idea that much as I was struck by Anderson’s aquatic question, she herself must have been similarly struck by it in Swinging on a Star, as were Jim Jarmusch (writer-director of Paterson) and/or Ron Padgett (poet for the film). All of which makes it all the more tragic that (via Clare) the opening of late 80’s kids series Out of This World reworked the lyrics to “Swinging on a Star” to present the dilemma of aliens choosing to live as humans on earth, but singularly failed to suggest the fish alternative.

What is it that makes a short phrase like this stand out? I’m reminded of Admiral Ackbar observing “It’s a trap!’ in Return of the Jedi, a far more banal turn of phrase which nonetheless gathered enough pop culture awareness that you can make a comic like this, and people will track down the original voice actor and get him to deliver the line eight different ways 33 years later and get 36,000 YouTube views as a result.

Mind you, Star Wars is the kind of overblown phenomenon that has entire phalanxes of fans dress like an obscure background character who happened to be carrying an odd-looking prop, so may not be the most reliable of reference points.

Find, Share, Rewind

DJ Shadow goes long on both the ‘D’ and ‘J’ elements, shooting to fame in 1996 with his debut album Endtroducing, possibly the first album composed entirely from samples, which he drew from his extensive and ever-growing vinyl collection. If you’re not familiar, the result is a lot more interesting than one might suppose.

DJ Shadow in his natural habitat

More than most artists, while he moves on musically, much of his fan base clings to the past. In a moment I expect is repeated often, at his recent gig in Brighton when he announced he would play “some old stuff and some new stuff” a member of the crowd shouted “No! Artistic stasis or death!”

Kind of. I mean, they actually just shouted “Old stuff!” but we all knew what they meant.

Anyway, the reason I bring up DJ Shadow is that he has (had?) a monthly 2-hour slot on KCRW to present some of his favourite music, and if you enjoy best-radio-station-in-the-world Fip, you might also like this, as it is similarly diverse and intriguing. There are four episodes up so you have an interesting eight hours ahead of you, if you choose to brave that path. Admittedly it starts at the less accessible end, but skip ahead in 15 minute increments for each major section if industrial electronic drone isn’t for you and you’d rather get to the Jefferson Airplane section.

Prince of Darkness (1987)

Things trivia postscript
Endtroducing’s brief ‘Transmission’ tracks (“You are receiving this broadcast as a dream”) – which I later found are sampled from the film Prince of Darkness (1987), a horror film just as mysterious and unnerving as the samples imply – are the reason I end Things posts like this:

– Transmission ends


Things 27: Shoe Friends, Dog Frisbee, Dying

(Originally sent September 2008)

As I had suspected, Things is not by nature interactive – one person requested to be on the CC list (and this also happened to be the one person to reply to last week’s puzzle). Since the functionality with one person is identical to keeping everyone on the BCC list that is what I will do, until someone else wants to be CC’d!

Nothing wrong with this, it just reaffirms my decision to switch to BCC by default.

Films continue to be rubbish, ‘Rocknrolla’, ‘Step Brothers’ and ‘The Duchess’ all having zero appeal to me.

Last week’s puzzle
Shoes are like friends…

“You only need a few and even then there’s only one or two you really spend much time with”
“You’ll always know which the best ones are because you like wearing them constantly and you never feel like they’re worn out.”
“They come in pairs”
“You only know their true value when it rains”

Additional answers from 2010:
Richard: “Shoes are like friends … everyone needs two good quality ones that they’ve worn-in over many years”
Phil: “A good thing to put on before going out, but there were far too many episodes which are all basically the same?”

This week’s puzzle
Sometimes it seems as if a shampoo becomes less effective the more you use it, and by the end you have to switch to a different one entirely. Why is this? (Note, I don’t have a good answer on this one, please do send in any theories you may have).

A video
I taught our dog to catch a frisbee and thought I would upload some video of this to YouTube. Then I reasoned that someone had probably already done this to a much higher standard, and upon searching discovered the amazing world of competitive dog frisbee catching:

For anyone interested, I did end up including some of my dog’s frisbee-catching skills in the background of my review of the Bourne trilogy:

A link
A lovely game (in the very loosest sense of the word) involving a cat and some dots.
(Possible challenges to set yourself: enclose the cat in the largest area possible, let the cat escape with the most dots filled in possible)

A quote, or rather a poem
I went to the funeral of my great aunt this week. During the service my mum read this poem:

Gone From My Sight
I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white
sails to the morning breeze and starts
for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength.
I stand and watch her until at length
she hangs like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come
to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says;
“There, she is gone!”

Gone where?

Gone from my sight. That is all.
She is just as large in mast and hull
and spar as she was when she left my side
and she is just as able to bear her
load of living freight to her destined port.
Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone
at my side says, “There, she is gone!”
There are other eyes watching her coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad
“Here she comes!”

And that is dying.

by Henry Van Dyke, a 19th Century clergyman, educator, poet, and religious writer

Personally I’m a bit of a nihilist when it comes to death, but I can see how this would be comforting to others.

A picture
Something went horribly wrong when I searched for video of the Edinburgh Fringe festival – it seems they have some kind of automatic title generator. Result number 2 is the most problematic (click for full size):