Friday, February 18, 2011

Google Reverb Effect

I browse the internet in Google Chrome. I stay signed in my Google account the whole time I'm browsing. So I've noticed a lot of customizations, things that Google has built into its search software to try to help me along to what I'm looking for.

I should have suspected that there would be some kind of holdover effect from search to search, but it was still kind of surprising when I did the following two isolated searches to do some light research for a tweet I was writing. (Click on pics for larger views.)

Search 1: "the hold steady"

Search 2: "twitter"

These searches were done within a minute of each other. You'll notice that the term from the first search has influenced the results of the second separate search, as the band The Hold Steady's Twitter account appears as the #2 link in a Google search for "Twitter." Just to be sure this wasn't an exactly organic result, I opened up Firefox and did a search for "twitter" without logging into my Google account:

I also did a back-to-back search in Firefox of "the hold steady" and "twitter" again, and it didn't influence the results the way it did the first time.

Although the lingering influence in this particular instance is relatively insignificant, I think this method of carrying over information from previous searches can be counter-productive to those who are used to working with Google a lot. I'm sort of a proponent for "pure search" in terms of seeing what everyone else sees when I search for a term. This, of course, doesn't happen for several reasons, one being that Google automatically maps to your geographical location to provide more relevant data, which is nice and convenient about 90% of the time.

Anyway, the bigger problem here is that Google is trying to make search idiot-proof. In doing so, their measures make it slightly more difficult for users who have adapted to Google's searching methods. There are a couple of ways to customize your search experience (by turning off instant search, for example), so hopefully Google will not try too hard to fix something that's not broken.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs (Play by Play)

Radiohead surprised everyone last Monday (Valentine's Day) by saying that their album would be available in 5 days' time. They really meant 4 days' time. If you've pre-ordered the album, go here to login and download it. If you haven't and don't plan on buying it, enjoy this video:

And here are my impressions upon first hearing the album...

Only 8 tracks?

Bloom? In Bloom? Nirvana? Some scattered frantic beats reminiscent of Amnesiac. When Yorke starts singing, it starts to remind me of his solo disc, The Eraser. I left my cord at home — can't load this album on my iPod. Dammit. [Musical interlude, swells, standard dramatic stuff.] I'm thinking I shouldn't even try to parse words during the first listen. I think he's saying "I'm moving out..." Is this about when he moved out of his parents' house? Bloom?

Not a particularly strong opening track.

Hope the second one grabs me like "Bodysnatchers" did before.

Morning Mr Magpie ... more schizo beats. Did I just drop 50 bucks on The Eraser 2? Gimme at least one bangin' track here, guys. Throw Jonny on a solo or something. I can appreciate their need to not make In Rainbows 2, but, uhh... There's nothing like several seconds of silence at the end of a track... I paid for this silence... but it's not the thoughtful silence at the end of Kid A... it's the annoying silence.

Little By Little shows more promise straight out of the gate. Still got an electronic beat feel, but it's got a bit of ummph to it. And some weird castanets thing going on. And a mechanically droning bassline, and backwards guitar. I can dig it. [Thank god for Blogger's auto-save feature. I just accidentally closed the blog tab! Talk about suspense...] Why have I never noticed that Yorke's singing has been more and more like Enya. Or Mira (for you Tallahassee local band buffs). What's up with that? Primal vowel sounds. No idea what he's saying. Little By Little just went into a weird lurching slump-thump. Yeah, I can bump to this one.

Aaannd Feral sounds pretty much like the first two tracks here in the first minute. If I wanted some looped beats, I'd go to an ecstasy-laden rave at Club Rayn or wherever. Or I'd go listen to Kid A and Amnesiac again. I mean: I get it. Trance-like. Get in the zone. What a fucking waste of a track.

Lotus Flower: Not that art should be judged on how long it takes (otherwise Chinese Democracy would be the best album of all time, amirite?), but I seriously wonder how long it took them to cobble together these beats. I can recognize that Yorke's default now is electronica and I'm sure he rocks back and forth listening to these tracks and fucking chills the fuck out. And, I mean it sounds good. He just did a reverberated delay on his vocals. So. You know, if you're looking to mess around with technology that has been around for quite a number of years, check out the new Radiohead. Ok... it's not that bad. I guess I just need to digest this.

On a side note, I can't remember how long it's been since I've listened to Hail to the Thief. I thought that one was the bee's knees when I first got it. I listened to it quite a bit. Then it kind of fell by the wayside. Kid A has been a good go-to. And I played the hell out of In Rainbows. And then there's the back catalog, I mean... oh, new track started.

Codex has got some light piano. "Videotape"-type piano, but... not as good? Srsly, though, did Radiohead even listen to their older songs? Maybe they just forgot what they recorded before. Codex is like half over now and "Videotape" beats the shit out of it. At this point, I'd rather they take some risks and have it fail than do stuff like this. What if Radiohead did a straight-up pop album? I saw them cover "The Headmaster Ritual" — it'd be great if they went all straight 4/4, synth, bubblegum pop on us. They could do it well, I think... Lemme guess. Another 30 seconds of silence at the end of this track now. Mm-hmm.

I'm hoping there's some really good artwork with the package that gets mailed to me. Because I'm on Give Up The Ghost and I'm kind of ready to strike this album from Radiohead's discography. Can we pretend it didn't happen? Can we go back to when you guys said you wouldn't make albums anymore because it's a single-track download culture now? Because then you could have just released Little By Little and be done with it.

I'm also slightly embarrassed that this material is entirely workplace-friendly. When I play hip-hop at the office, I feel like a fucking badass. When I play this... I could play Give Up The Ghost at a nursing home and it might go over well. But somehow I expect that there will be above-average reviews for this album. The world needs Radiohead, and every new review is a chance to grab a new person and show them that Radiohead has a wonderful catalog, despite having a few missteps. (15 MisSteps? lulz.) I think this track is wrapping up, though, so I get to start a new paragraph.

Separator is at least named in an In Rainbows vein. (You know, like "Reckoner," which is a great song name, I think.) Let's see how it comes out........ Ok. I guess I need drugs for this... "Every woman... does a goblin?" What is he saying here? I can't understand it. I feel like a cranky old man. Like, for example, this percussion loop. I could easily create this in less than five minutes. Where's Phil Selway? I'm thinking if anyone quits, it's him.

I expected more.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Academically Adrift

Commenting on links in Facebook can be invigorating, but can then feel like a wasted effort that will soon fade away into the wave after wave of information posted there... So I'll post it here!

A Lack of Rigor Leaves Students 'Adrift' In College

It's clear to me, after 7 years of higher ed, three of which involved working full time administratively assisting graduate students, that college is not for everyone. Graduate school is not for everyone.

But America doesn't understand this. Parents don't understand this.

College is so many things all at once — as much as it's a classroom education, it's (usually) moving out of your parents' house, moving out of your hometown, setting your own schedules, buying and making your own meals, making new friends, exposing yourself to new activities. If the drive to learn how to think, how to process information, how to manipulate information, and how to see through information manipulation — if that drive is weaker in a person than the drive to alter physical states with drugs and alcohol, to try out new foods, music, clothes, parties, attitudes, images, etc., etc., then college is nothing more than a four-year or longer postponement of entering the 9-to-5 grind.

There are so many other factors involved — sense of entitlement, sordid state of financial practices (predatory student loans! healthcare!), sordid state of payment for graduate students (overworked! underpaid!) — that I'd be very, very surprised if more than half the student population DID learn how to think, reason, and write. (I'd venture to say that every instructor I've had took for granted that every student in the class could write properly. Wasn't a problem for me. Was for others.)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Proposed Florida State Park Cuts

Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

7 February 2011

Dear Governor Rick Scott,

I recently read in the Orlando Sentinel (online) that “Fifty-three state parks, including three in Martin and St Lucie counties, could be closed” in response to your plans for cutting the state budget. I know the state is facing a lot of financial turmoil, but I urge you to reconsider where these budget cuts will be taken from.

My favorite places in Tallahassee are parks. I’ve lived here for seven and a half years, and I’ve had the opportunity to explore many of the parks around here, from the enormous places — Tom Brown Park and Maclay Gardens — to the tucked away places — Lafayette Park, Winthrop Park. I assume these are not among the state parks targeted for cuts, but their presence in the city has been invigorating for me and I assume that other Florida state parks are equally invigorating to the Floridians who frequent them. I can still remember the feeling I had when I got out of my car after driving down to Ochlockonee River State Park to visit it for the first time. I was surprised, utterly taken aback, by the silence of the place. There were no car sounds to be heard, and no one else was at that park on that Saturday afternoon. But as my fiancĂ©e and I stepped out of the car, we were rendered breathless by the awesome power of nature. This quaint anecdote goes to show (to me at least, hopefully to you as well) that even if it is only a few people who visit a park in a given year, that park can still have a great impact on the local culture, on society’s psyche.

These days we are battered nonstop by technologies that bring us further from nature. I have a cell phone and iPod that beep at me daily with dozens messages. I am glued to a computer screen at my job for 40 hours a week. However, in the evenings and on the weekends, I am able to experience a complete detachment from hyper-civilization by walking through these parks, these places of natural beauty. As the Florida State Parks website says, “More than eight centuries ago, Native Americans inhabited the area around Lake Jackson, just north of Tallahassee,” and, on the weekends, I can go there and see the same things they did — see their burial mounds and experience much of the same natural settings that they did. That, to me, is more amazing than our technology. Preservation is important to us as a way for people to understand their place on the planet, and city, state, and national parks contribute to this process in an irreplaceable way.

Upon reading this news of proposed park closures, I wondered whether these spaces would eventually be opened to commercial development. This would be one of the worst ideas. Before Tallahassee, I lived in Melbourne, FL from 1990–2003, and I witnessed a great amount of natural landscapes there torn down and paved over to make way for strip malls. These were areas that weren’t protected as parks. Dirt paths in woods that I would bicycle through where I can now purchase eyeglasses and medical supplies.

So I have a simple request. I respectfully request that you and your administration visit every single state park on the budget’s chopping block. And get out of the car. And walk around. And take note of the wildlife. And breathe the air (free of exhaust fumes). And feel the breeze. And hear the cicadas. And see the children having a birthday party. And then imagine it all being turned into a McDonald’s.


Justin de la Cruz, M.A., B.S., B.A.
Florida State University Administrative Support Assistant, Department of History
Florida State University Graduate Student, School of Library & Information Studies

Juice v. Petty

I heard this Juice Newton song over the weekend. Is it just me, or...

Juice Newton — Queen of Hearts (1981)
(if you get an advertisement, skip to ~1:22 in the song)

Tom Petty / Heartbreakers — Runnin' Down a Dream (1989)
(~0:43 in the song)