Archive for June, 2009

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Outsourced List #2: FlickChart

26 June, 2009

This site is very much along the same lines as Pick One, but has a much more specific subject matter, as well as a more specific mode of doing it. At FlickChart, you rate movies. No; a correction—you pick movies. You are given a choice between two movies and, as long as you’ve seen both (you can change pairs until you have), you have to choose the one you prefer. These choices slowly form themselves into a list of your top movies. It’s a very addicting process, and one that really shows you how much time you spend watching movies… I have, at the moment, 416 movies in my list, and it’s just growing. If you take the average length of a movie as an hour and a half (which, I think, is low), that’s already 26 full days right there .

It is a lot of fun to do this, both just because, and also because it’s entertaining (although frustrating) to have to pick between two movies that have pretty much nothing to do with each other. Lost in Translation and the Little Mermaid (I’d pick the first, but it’s close), for instance. Or Terminator and Bowling for Columbine (definitely #1). You can limit your choices by genre, or year, or decade, or any number of criteria, but, to me, that takes some of the fun out of it. Sure, it’s easier to compare Starship Troopers with Alien (the second) than it is with Beauty and the Beast (that’s close. The first, I think), but you have to think less. It sort of makes you think of a film as being good or bad, in terms of its style, skill, etc, rather than anything specific to the movie.

There are some issues with the site. But it is a beta, so it’s still a work in progress. (Incidentally, this means that you also have to apply for an invite before being able to use the site, but it’s a great time-waster, so it’s worth it[?]) My biggest is that the method they use of converting the choices into rankings is seriously flawed. The picked movie either stays in the same place as it was (if the other movie was already below it), or moves up to directly above the other movie. This seems fine, but causes all sorts of issues, especially when paired with the fact that strictly only the top movie moves—when a new movie is added into the ranking, it automatically goes to the middle of the list. So, if you have 300 movies, any new one is going to be added at 150. Even if you’ve just ranked it as less good as a movie at position 200. It also doesn’t keep track of past rankings (which I think is understandable because this would require a much more complicated program). For example, if you rank Star Wars above The Empire Strikes Back, and, because of the limited choices you have made so far, have the following list:

  1. Gigli
  2. Star Wars
  3. Empire Strikes Back

Then the choice comes up between Gigli and ESB. I would assume you would pick the latter. However, despite the fact that Star Wars has been proven to be better, in your mind, than ESB, you end up with the following list:

  1. Empire Strikes Back
  2. Gigli
  3. Star Wars

This is because only the chosen movie moves, and nothing else. So, Star Wars is back to being worse than ESB, and, perhaps an even worse fate, it is still worse than Gigli. This is, however, a problem I don’t really know how to fix. I’ve offered them assistance in trying to figure it out (I don’t know whether they’ll respond), but I can only help from a math angle, trying to create a better algorithm, and not at all from the programming direction, which is probably the more difficult part.

Nevertheless, this is a fun tool to play with, and I expect it’ll only get better. It also solves (almost) my problem of not being able to choose a favorite movie. Bit by bit, film by film, this creates the list for me, and maybe one day I’ll be able post a top ten film list!

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A Note on Graphs

16 June, 2009

This is a bit of a cop-out of a post. but I’m looking for suggestions. I’d really like to get more graphs into this blog, not just the lists that have been previously populating its posts. Not to say that lists are lame, but a good mix is always to be desired. But, to avoid this turning into a) the lameness that is GraphJam, or b) just a cheap knockoff of indexed (I link when i like, not when I don’t), I ideally want to do graphs with specific data, not just generalizations. For example, my most played songs. I could do something like when I play music, during the day, or during the week, things like that, but that’s pretty much where my creativity ends on this front. Things that don’t come from iTunes would also be nice. So, what I’m looking for is advice. There are a bunch of things in life that I could graph (how often I watch movies, or TV, or something), but a lot of that needs preparation time. I don’t want to just pull something out of nowhere and pretend it’s accurate data. And I want to cater to you.

If you think of anything that it might be interesting to graph (in your own life, in life in general, in mine…) let me know, and I’ll take it on for you. I can’t guarantee it’ll turn out to be earth shattering, but it’ll at least be a start. Thanks!

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List #6: Ten Tracks I’ve Been Obsessed With at Some Point In My Life

14 June, 2009

There are obviously more than ten of these. But these are a selection that stand out for various reasons, such as the duration of the time in which I was so obsessed, or the recent nature of the obsession, or… The list (ha) goes on. These are all songs that I’ve just loved listening to, often on repeat, over and over again, over a certain period of time. They are not, it must be noted, the most played songs in my library, nor are they (probably) my favorite songs. This will probably be my last music-related list for a while; I’ll probably go on to more mundane things that often seem to be more interesting, such as a list of bets my brother has lost, or books people have borrowed from me, or things I have been lent and never gave back. As always, suggestions are welcome. And without further ado (I saw Much Ado About Nothing today), the list.

  • Bruises – Chairlift: As already mentioned, this is off the CD Does You Inspire You. A very nice peppy number, its only flaw to me is that I don’t really like when the second voice comes in (which is actually rare for me; I usually love duets). Nevertheless, it’s great musically, the beat is just fun, and the… synthesizer? Fake theremin? Instrument solo at the end is a great sound to end it on. And yeah, I guess it was in a commercial or something. Didn’t see it.
  • Chances Are – Bob Seger and Martina McBride: And here we go with me liking duets. This is sort of typical 90s melodramatic semi-country, which is great. Apparently from some movie Hope Floats, which I have never seen. Anyway, I like it a lot. I also love Bob Seger in general, so that helps. I basically got a bunch of his music, and this stood out because it was a duet.
  • Inama Nushif (Montage) – Brian Tyler: This is the reason the title of this list is “Tracks” and not “Songs.” The Children of Dune miniseries from the Scifi Channel is not good. Don’t see it. Its music isn’t that great either. But this track stands out. It’s fairly midde eastern with the calssic uplifting chord progression found in a lot of movies, especially over emotional montages. Like someone being buried alive. And breaking a tank of gas with an alien in it. You know, that kind of stuff. Anyway, this was really my first experience with the eastern-flavored trend in soundtracks which has become very common nowadays. It helps that all of Dune pretty much is Arabic culture and language, loosely altered. And aliens.
  • In the Sun – Joseph Arthur: This is another emotional montage song, although clearly it is actually a song rather than a section of a soundtrack. I actually first heard it in the alternate ending to The Bourne Identity, which I greatly prefer to the original, primarily because of this song. I hadn’t heard much of Joseph Arthur at the time, and still haven’t really, but this really stood out and I just loved the sort of unexpected way I found it.
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings – Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan: Clearly not a montage song. I heard this on the radio of all places, which is only very rarely the way I discover music nowadays. (I can no longer deal with ad breaks and not liking songs, I overly surf and I only listen when I have no iPod, and I’m usually pretty unsatisfied.) As I have mentioned (many times) before, I love two melodies converging, and this is just that. I also love the Barenaked Ladies, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is my favorite Christmas carol. So, this is pretty much perfect. I also still have marathon listening sessions of this song, even when it’s not Christmastime. Weird, I know.
  • L’aveu – Garou: This could be an emotional montage song, but isn’t, at least not that I know of. Garou is a French-Canadian singer who is very similar to the likes of Joe Cocker and Bob Seger. His subject matter is entirely different, but the voice is similar, especially to Cocker. The songs drip with melodrama and emotion, and for a long time I had a sneaking sense that, if they were in English, I would hate them, but the French carries them through with just the right amount of cool so I love them. I first heard them in French class, and was hooked ever since. I recently had the opportunity to test my theory, because Garou has released an English album. I was right. It sucked.
  • For the Widows in Paradise; For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti – Sufjan Stevens: Emotional montage! The last one in this list, I think. This one I first heard on the OC, played over a funeral or somesuch. It’s very calming and peaceful, if very melancholy. Probably my favorite song that Stevens has done, although I have an immense respect for his idea to do one album for every state. I don’t think it’ll ever get done, but I admire the man. This one is from his Michigan album, I believe (correct me if I’m wrong).
  • All These Things That I’ve Done – The Killers: Okay, well here’s another I heard first on the OC. Or at least I heard the Killers first on the show. I can’t remember if they played this song. Anyway, in the same vein as Meatloaf, this song is many in one, starting as a slow solo and ending with a gospel chorus number. I love it.
  • Graceland – Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas: This is, as far as I can tell, not officially released. I ripped this from the PBS broadcast of Paul Simon’s Gershwin Award Ceremony. I love the song in the first place (second only to “African Skies” of Simon songs in my book), and I love the performers, so how could you go wrong. The bending of the dobro goes just perfect with the feel of this song, and it adds so much. If anyone knows whether there is an album of this concert/ceremony officially, let me know and I’ll buy it in a second.
  • Glory Days – Bruce Springsteen: Last but not least. This song was one that I tried to connect with a specific time in my life, a specific relationship. It failed, as did the relationship, but I still love the song. I think I first heard it on the car ride back from meeting a girl, and the rest was (not) history.

So, there are ten. As I said, there are many more, some more temporally tied, others just because I loved the songs. For example, a song that satisfies both categories just came up on my iTunes (“This Year” by the Mountain Goats). Listening to my top 500 played I’m sure I’d come up with nine or ten more in an hour. Given that I listen to music pretty much constantly, it’s not hard to find them. What are some that you’ve loved at a particular time, whether you’ve discarded them later, or still love them just as much?

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Another Review! Be Kind Rewind

13 June, 2009

Check it out!

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Review: Pulp Fiction (RATING: 9/10)

8 June, 2009

As I have said, and you have hopefully noted, the vision for this blog has changed. But that doesn’t mean I’m not writing reviews. My latest one is on Pulp Fiction, and can be found here. This is a separate blog for reviews of things real and imagined, which will hopefully be updated fairly frequently. Check it out!

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List #5: The Last Ten Albums I’ve Gotten

6 June, 2009

Apparently I’m on a music kick right now. What follows is a list of the last ten albums I’ve gotten through some means. Some I have not paid money for, but for a few that is legal, and others less so. There’s more music that I’ve gotten recently, but I’m not counting anything that is not a full album, and also no samplers. (Very) short reviews of each album follow.

  • Kyle Gabler – “World of Goo Soundtrack” [This is the soundtrack to a pretty fun game I’ve downloaded the demo of, very atmospheric and entertaining music, available for free on his website. Not as good as some of the others in this list, but then again it’s not a professional quality, money-making album.]
  • The String Quartet – “Tribute to the Killers” [Hot Fuss played on violins and cellos. Need I say more? This is awesome, and I will buy it as soon as I have disposable income. Let’s just say I’m previewing it at the moment.]
  • Chairlift – “Does You Inspire You” [The single from this album, “Bruises,” was apparently popularized through an iPod commercial. I found out about it in this video about squirrels. The single is great (and will be featured in an upcoming list of “Songs I’ve Been Addicted to at Various Times in My Life,” the rest of the album is pretty good too, but in retrospect I probably should have just bought the single.]
  • Neko Case – “Middle Cyclone” [I only recently discovered Neko Case, and, as such, felt required to buy her newest album when it came out. It’s really cool; love songs written by tornados, tigers, and so on. Pretty sweet. Favorite track: “People Got A Lotta Nerve.” Second favorite? The half hour of crickets at the end. Really. Very relaxing.]
  • She & Him – “Volume One” [This is one of the very few bands that I’m fairly proud of finding out about before most people have. It’s a collaboration between M. Ward (whose solo stuff I actually don’t like much) and Zooey Deschanel. A mix of newish sounding stuff and their covers of sixties doowop, it’s a very odd but very nice sound. Favorite track: “Sweet Darlin’,” which I have no idea whether it is a cover or not.]
  • Barenaked Ladies – “Live at Universal Studios” [A nice set recorded as their first gig without former frontman Steven Page. Still pretty good, but it’s a little lacking. I really like the track “For You,” which again I don’t know if it is a cover, a new song, or what. They offered this briefly for free to the subscribers of their mailing list, which was nice.]
  • The Weepies – “Hideaway” [I love this band, and have successfully shown them to a few of my friends, who are spreading the word. A married couple of songwriters, they do great songs, trading off in a sound that for some reason I can only describe as “small.” But that’s a good thing. “Antarctica” is a wonderful track to check out. I got another album at the same time, but I like this one better and I figure one per artist is good.]
  • The Decemberists – “The Hazards of Love” [Another album I’m “previewing,” I don’t find this as compelling as their earlier stuff. It’s not the ballad-y folk-opera-ness of it, since I loved “The Crane Wife,” but I think this is just less interesting than it could be. I was also disappointed that the song “Annan Waters” was not actually a straight version of the Irish ballad I love and have many versions of, but rather an interpretation of it. Ah well. It’s still probably my favorite track, but since I find this album fairly mediocre it’s kind of hard to pick. Yet I’ll still see them in concert next week.]
  • Girl Talk – “Feed the Animals” [If you haven’t heard Girl Talk before, check him (yes, him) out. He remixes lots of pop songs together to make completely new things. This really features one of my favorite things in music, when melodies combine unexpectedly. First track I heard was “In Step,” which is pretty great.]
  • Death Cab For Cutie – “Narrow Stairs” [Another album I was looking forward to so downloaded, and another one that I wasn’t really impressed with. I don’t even have a favorite track. But I have a suspicion my copy doesn’t have all the tracks, so I’ll have to check out the real thing and see how I feel.]

Sorry to end the list on sort of a lame note, but that’s pretty much the order they came in, from most recent to least. I hope this turns you on to some new music, or justifies some opinion you’ve already had of a band. As a final request, can someone PLEASE tell me what the official way to list albums is? Is it italics, or quotes, or…