Miscellaneous and Useless Information

Art and music


Time to plow through my backlog of stuff to post. Last month I went to the BayCHI meeting on Beyond Search: Social and Personal Ways of Finding Information, which was about social search and recommender systems. I got a few things out of that meeting.

How do you recommend to someone that they'll like obscure song B if they like popular song A? How does the connection between those two songs get made in the first place? The speakers from Netflix, Live365, and Pandora agreed that you need experts to make that connection, since the public at large doesn't know enough to make that connection on its own.

Also, if a person likes a popular song, you can't recommend a completely obscure song that appears unrelated even if it is. The user must be gently led down the long tail.

Finally, I started using Pandora for listening to music. I gave it one song, "Venus de Milo" by Miles Davis, and it set up a station that played that song and about 100 other songs that are similar. An instant instrumental jazz station, perfect for listening to at work.

Once upon a time there lived a comedian named Chris Bliss. Chris liked to tell jokes, and he also liked to juggle. One day he juggled to the tune of a Beatles song, and audiences were thrilled. The act was taped and posted on the web, and soon e-mail started flying through cyberspace. "You gotta see this act, it's amazing!" they exclaimed.

But not all were amused. The juggler enthusiasts were incensed. "Juggling three balls like that is easy!" they cried. "And his movements, they are not graceful!" One of them was particularly sick of the praise that Chris's video got, so he made his own. It was set to the same music, but this time, Jason Garfield used five balls, not three.

True, Jason's act was more skillful technically and it was arguably more graceful. But Chris's "lack of grace" has a point — the juggling was set to rock music, so Chris's juggling mimics the jerky, abrupt movements of a rock musician. It's the whole package that's impressive, not just the juggling.

And so the moral of the story is… uh… just go watch the videos…

“For those of you keeping score at home, I just want to make something very clear: Martin Scorsese, zero Oscars; Three 6 Mafia, one.” — Jon Stewart

Three 6 Mafia Steals Oscar Song Award • Washington Post
Still-Stunned Three 6 Mafia Say Jamie Foxx Gave Them ‘Pimp’ Confidence • MTV

Once again, it’s pledge time on PBS, when they bring out all their special shows, including reunions of soul and doo-wop singers from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Which means that when I’m in my 60s, I’m looking forward to a pledge special of hip-hop and R&B. Picture it now: a PBS special featuring Ice T, Ludacris, Salt-N-Pepa, 50 Cent, Destiny’s Child (“for the first time in 30 years”), Snoop Dog, Missy Elliott, … After all, if the Smithsonian can exhibit hip-hop, surely PBS can.

A couple of weeks ago I went with Norman to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It was the first time I’ve been to SFMOMA. I particularly enjoyed the exhibits on Architectural Abstractions, the 1906 Earthquake, and the self portraits of Chuck Close.

Next up, I plan to see After the Ruins, 1906 and 2006: Rephotographing the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire at the Legion of Honor, and International Arts and Crafts at the De Young Museum.

Later this year I’d like to see Suburban Escape: The Art Of California Sprawl at the San Jose Museum of Art. And admission is free…

Today was the second day of the grand opening celebration at the de Young Museum, and it was in full swing. Ben and I planned to meet at 10 AM, but when I got there, I found no parking within the park and settled for the new parking garage underneath the Music Concourse. It ended up being $15 for 4 hours — painful, but worth not circling the park for an hour. Then I got in line, which at the time stretched from the museum entrance all the way out to 8th Ave and JFK Drive, about 200 yards. A volunteer guessed it would take about 1½ hours, but it ended up being “only” 45 minutes, and granted, the line moved faster than I expected.

There is so much to see at the museum that we chose to concentrate our visit in three areas: the tower, where you get great views of the city; the special exhibition on Hatshepsut, the only female pharoah of ancient Egypt; and American paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries. I really enjoyed the Hudson River School and trompe-l’oeil paintings, but there were a few pieces of contemporary art that also caught my eye, including a stainless steel “fake rock” by Zhan Wang. As for the building itself, it’s very unusual, but in a good way (IMHO). I hope the copper holds up in the salt air… [photos]

Thanks to the San Jose Mercury News, I am tuned into the Asian music scene. Or something like that. Case in point: the 12 Girls Band (女子十二樂坊), a band of classically-trained 13 women (originally 12) from China who use classical Chinese instruments to play contemporary Chinese and Western songs, including a cover of Clocks by Coldplay. I am intrigued…

My previous post on an African-American boy who sings Chinese opera reminded Rich of a former Chinese scholar named Abigail Washburn who sings bluegrass songs in Chinese. She is currently touring China and getting a good reception.

Tyler Thompson doesn’t speak the language, but he sings it very well.

Oakland: Boy, 9, a rising star in Chinese opera • San Francisco Chronicle

Boy who sings in Chinese draws oohs, ahs • Oakland Tribune (link good until Feb. 20, 2005)

(Chronicle link added on Febrary 16, 2006)

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