Tag Archives: music video

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 Kottke.org, 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 57: Webcam-split-screen, Freaks and Potatoes

(Originally sent September 2009)

Forthcoming film
“Surrogates” is due to be released in the UK on the 25th of September. An adaptation of a graphic novel, it looks to be a solid Sci-Fi in what I consider to be the technically correct sense: positing a potential technological development, the story investigates what might happen in a society where such a thing is possible.

In this case the development is ‘surrogates’ – robot avatars that people control remotely, an idea just nicely at the edge of conceivable possibility.

I think the trailer gives too much away, so if you want to see the basic premise just watch the first 60 seconds, and I strongly recommend not watching beyond 1 minute and 30 seconds (seriously!) if you can possibly resist it!

Video
I saw a video pair on YouTubeDoubler (here – pause the left video until the right one tells you to start it) in which two people use two webcams together to create a video for a duet, and I thought “Good, but could do better”. Someone did:

(Starts to get clever at 40”, goes nuts at around 3’10”)

Quote
Webcomic ‘Pictures for Sad Children’ suggests an improvement on the ever-unsubstantiated ‘never more than 3 meters from a rat’ saying:

“We’re in earshot of two terrible things at all times”

Link
“Freaks survive because they are strange” – a great headline, a slightly silly experiment involving food-bearing model salamanders, and a plausible-sounding partial answer to the ‘maintenance of variation’ problem with evolution.

Potato Puzzle
You have 100 kilograms of potatoes that are 99% water by weight. You store them in a cupboard, and when you test them again a week later you discover they are now 98% water by weight. How much do the potatoes weigh?

Magical Ground Squirrel Puzzle Answer:
If the magical ground squirrel is able to position the bridges (say) East-West with such accuracy that an imp wanting to go North could not work out which one pointed slightly more Northerly and so had to choose randomly, then the squirrel has good odds of working out the result of the election by doing exactly that and leaving the bridges there the entire time.

If the imps are headed to the good training centres in the East and West, there will be no random choice made by them and when they have all come out 500 will have gone East and 500 West.

However, if the imps want to go to the evil training centres in the North and West, they will be choosing a bridge randomly. In that case, there is (by my calculation) only about a 2.5% chance that exactly 500 will choose each bridge. There’s a 97.5% chance more will go one way than the other, and in this case you could be sure they were evil.

Things 26: Shoe Friends, Gondry Music Video, Sushi Cat

(Originally sent August 2008)

I  am now initiating a more nuanced system for Things, as more people get added to the mailing list. [Things was originally, and still is, an email publication – T.M. 6/11/10]

There will now be two separate mailing lists.

By default, everyone will be placed in the BCC mailing list. With all email addresses in BCC, this means your email address remains private, and you do not get involved in any ‘reply to all’ discussion.

Anyone can ask to be put on the CC list instead. It’s redundant but I’ll say it anyway: the only other people on this list are other people that chose to be on the CC list. They can see each other’s email addresses and can reply-to-all at will.

So, if you want to be moved onto the reply-to-all see-each-others-addresses list, just let me know.

This week’s film
I saw Dark Knight for the second time at the IMAX, which I recommend. Seeing it for the second time there that is, not the first time. A lot of the action does not read well on such a big screen and would make things more confusing than they already are.

Next Week’s film
All the films out now are rubbish or I’ve already seen them enough times.

Last week’s Puzzle
Last week I asked why Olympic records keep getting broken. I had my own theories about this, but I asked John Broughton who gave me a very thorough response:

  • Better drugs. Drugs an athlete took to enhance their performance six years ago will still enhance their performance now due to long lasting body improvements, but will not show up in a test.
  • Better drugs. There is always an arms race between the drug tests and those developing new drugs that won’t show up.
  • Better incentives. More money in more countries is being shifted to support sporting activity.
  • Bigger potential population. Globally the middle class is expanding, meaning more people are able to take the time to obsess about something. Given a bigger pool, better contenders will tend to emerge.

This week’s Puzzle
Now in an experimental new format!

There is a plate in this office that reads “Shoes are like friends… you can never have too many!!” Since I disagreed with both halves of this comparison, I wondered if the fundamental tenet might still hold true. Are shoes like friends?

So, here is the challenge: complete the phrase “Shoes are like friends…” so it fits your own view of shoes and friends, and I’ll report on what people sent in next week!

A video:
My favourite Michel Gondry music video, mixing his penchant for in-camera effects with music, dance and mental disturbance:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmpxsk3dHaA

A link
One of the things I love about the paranormal is how easy it is for it to exist. Confirmation bias is such a powerful effect that even – in fact, especially – the most rational people will happily ignore or explain away anything that does not agree with their world-view. So things like this can happen, and nobody really bats an eyelid:

’40 die after deliverance prayer – Family of 3 dies of food poisoning’
http://www.tribune.com.ng/16072008/news/news2.html [Link is dead, luckily the article was copied wholesale here – T.M. 4/11/10]

Interestingly, this news story has the more exciting headline and is actually much more plausible:

‘Portal to mythical Mayan underworld found in Mexico’
http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSN1442474520080815

A quote
I was looking back on my life notes for the past 15 years to try and come up with a name for my forthcoming blog. I found that I once said this:

“You have to identify the things that will never happen, and avoid them.”

A picture
Food as art: