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Did Peter Jackson just jump the shark?

posted on Dec 23, 2013

I was stoked for the 2nd installment of The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug. Peter Jackson had so far proved himself an adequate steward of Tolkien on the big screen. I didn't agree with all of his artistic decisions, but I understood them at least, and could forgive him the occasional gaffe simply because he got most things right. I'd give him a B+, perhaps even an A- for his work on the Lord of the Rings, and the first installment of The Hobbit looked like it was going to continue in this tradition.

Spoilers Below!

The Hobbit is not a large book. So stretching the middle third of it out into a 2.5 hour movie was going to involve some creative plotting. But that's okay, there were actually quite a few little adventures the dwarves and Bilbo got into while crossing Mirkwood, plus I knew they would be delving into auxiliary material covering Gandalf's adventures with the Necromancer, so I wasn't too concerned.

So I was a little surprised and concerned when the band got through Mirkwood, apparently in less than 1 day. Literally, "We're going in circles, oh no, spiders!" and then they were in the Elven King's dungeons, and Mirkwood was dispensed with. Jackson apparently wasn't going to spin out the movie with the awesomeness of the dark forest. Shame, so much potential for medieval mythic imagery, and the Faerie-like trickery of the dark sylvan elves. But he just phoned it in, recycling old Elvish art direction from Rivendell and Lorien, despite the differences in the elf cultures described by Tolkien.

To make up for dropping all of the Mirkwood potential (perhaps the DVD will reinsert them as bonus scenes), he added a ridiculous barrel-riding chase scene, and an extended Laketown sequence that tried to evoke political intrigues for no apparent reason. It was here that I began to get deeply concerned about an impending shark jump. Jackson split the dwarf band in two, leaving behind 3 dwarves in Laketown, which then led to an orc attack, and an elvish counter-attack... inside Laketown. Perhaps I am alone in wondering how this could go down in a fortified town of hardy northern men without any of them getting involved. This skirmish did nothing to advance the story, so I can only assume that there is more nonsense to come that will only become apparent in the next movie, so we have that to look forward to.

Meanwhile, Thorin and the rest of the company rush to the Lonely Mountain in a single day, get into the secret side door, and send Bilbo in on reconnaissance. Another hasty rush through essential plot points--which is alarming, because there is close to an hour of movie to go.

And then the movie goes completely off the rails.

I'm not going to dissect it in detail, because frankly, it was just plain stupid and I have no desire to re-live it. But suffice it to say that the 10 remaining dwarves get into a running battle with Smaug the dragon, and defeat him by taking a few minutes out to smelt more gold than exists in the whole world, cast a huge statue of a dwarf, and use it to flabbergast Smaug long enough that they can attempt to drown him in a veritable lake of molten gold.

In a feat of 1990s-level CGI, Smaug emerges from the gold like a glistening T-1000, and decides at that point that he should just abandon his lair and gold to these intruders, and fly off to Laketown, because... well who the hell knows at this point!? I'd like to say "because that's what he did in the book!" but that clearly was not a concern during the preceding 45 minutes of fucktardery.

I'll be looking forward to the fan re-edit of this one--one that drops the idiotic "action" sequences that do nothing to advance the story, and restores some of the faerie whimsy tone that was enticingly present in the first instalment. I'll also spend a lot of time wondering what Guillermo Del Toro might have done instead.

10 worst best films of all time

posted on Apr 30, 2012
So Roger Ebert just added Tree of Life to his 10 best films of all time list. Which I don't get because it was poorly structured, unmemorable, and tedious, which is a pretty friggin' impressive achievement for a movie with dinosaurs and Brad Pitt in it. And that Hallmark greeting card version of the afterlife at the end--complete with sunsets, waves, and wheeling birds--was like a Sunday school orientation video it was so unspeakably clichéd and dorky.

And he chose this over Synecdoche, NY. I guess some things in life just defy analysis.

But this does raise the question: what are the absolute worst best films of all time? Here's my list, and I'm putting Tree of Life in the #1 position, just because it's annoying me right now.

  1. Tree of Life - I was ready to cut my own throat after the first hour, but I was pretty sure that the film would redeem itself in some way before the end. Perhaps a character would show up that we cared about. My money was on Sean Penn, since his purpose in the film was otherwise inexplicable. (I lost that bet. He talks about uninteresting things to someone on the phone, and he rides an elevator, and he looks annoyed about the stupid role that he has to play.) Perhaps something resembling a plot would become evident. Okay, forget plot--maybe something would just HAPPEN. Anything, please! Nope. The most exciting part of the movie for me was when the end credits started to roll. Yes!
  2. Forrest Gump - Here's a movie that celebrates how mental inadequacy and the American Dream go hand-in-hand. Seriously, wut?
  3. Citizen Kane - It's like the old joke about Shakespeare: it would be better if it wasn't so full of clichés. Except, it probably wouldn't. I think movies should at least be memorable, and the only thing I can remember about this film was the "Rosebud..." ending, which has been repeated in so many places, it's probably now a false memory that was implanted by a Simpsons episode.
  4. Vertigo - I just start laughing when the psychedelic effects start in. Okay, maybe there was a time when that shit actually worked, but it stopped being that time somewhere in the 1960s. And we are talking about the greatest films of all time, after all, not films that were great for 3 years until their special effects technology became comical.
  5. Raging Bull - I like De Niro. I like Scorsese. But I can't remember anything about this film. I think I didn't finish it for lack of interest. I figure that's got to count against you.
  6. On the Waterfront - To be honest, I can't think of any Marlon Brando lead roles that I've actually liked. We'll pick on this one, just because I was forced to sit through it in film class.
  7. Platoon - Hollywood loves Oliver Stone. But the dude's a bit of a hack, isn't he? He tackles issues that are sensitive to Americans, but that tricks Americans into thinking he's brave and nuanced. But he's actually a bit ham-fisted, which doesn't become clear until you see how he handles non-American subjects. Alexander, anyone?
  8. Empire Strikes Back - Okay, this was actually an eminently enjoyable film. I'm putting it here because most people say it was the best of the Star Wars movies, when in fact the first film stands head and shoulders above it as a piece of art. Empire is a boilerplate sequel--more action, better one-liners, upgraded special effects, and a cliff-hanger ending setting up a ridiculous third movie. It's actually nothing more than an extremely-well-executed piece of shite. But still a lot of fun.
  9. Star Trek II - Wrath of Khan - Same story as Empire, above. This one's a favourite of the nerds, who apparently just want their movies to be big-budget TV shows. The cinematic, Kubrickesque pretentions of the first Star Trek movie got swept into the garbage with this one, and the franchise rapidly went downhill after that.
  10. No Country for Old Men - This was actually a really good film, and I adore the Coen brothers and everything they do. Why pick on this film, in that case? Because they botched the ending. Just as the tension and storyline gets wound up to the snapping point, the filmmakers simply look away. They literally look away, and we don't see the end of the movie. We see Tommy Lee Jones looking a bit baffled by the ending, but he doesn't get it, so he goes and talks to his old dad about it, but he doesn't get it either. It's like the film broke, or the DVD was scratched and unplayable for the last 5 minutes, and we just have to hope that it was a good ending after all. But mostly I'm just annoyed that of all the Coen Brothers' films, this is the one that got an Oscar.

Dr. O

posted on May 2, 2011
Osama bin Laden's assassination was an interesting bit of political theatre. The news is enthusiastically trumpeting that the mastermind behind the 9/11 terror attacks has been killed in his fortified compound after a 10-year manhunt. It's a single-sentence story that makes use of all kinds of tropes to allow us to fill in the complex backstory with various villainous stereotypes, learned mostly from James Bond films.
Trope #1: The Impenetrable Lair of the Evil Genius. Doctor No is the archetype of the evil genius. By means of this trope, we are allowed to believe that Osama has spent his time holed up in ingenious, high-tech lairs, from which he directs a vast, many-tentacled network of minions to do his evil bidding.


This appears to be a Hollywood version of reality that has no basis in fact. There is no evidence that anything like the "Binladenland" super-villain lair actually existed in the mountains of Tora Bora. The early media reports from his assassination described his more modest lair in northern Pakistan as a "mansion", but the early photos and maps show more of an ugly suburban compound, such as might be expected of a minor drug lord or third-world gangster. Not to downplay the actual mission difficulty—storming the compound of a third-world gangster unquestionably means a shitload of bullets flying in your general direction, so it would certainly require some serious military professionalism to get the job done right.
Trope #2: The Many-Tentacled International Terror Organization. Dr. No's SPECTRE is the media's model for Al-Qaeda. But organizations like SPECTRE have members and a structure, which Al-Qaeda does not. Al-Qaeda is an invention of the western media, which uses the SPECTRE trope to gloss over the complex nuances of Islamic political extremism, by suggesting that it is a villainous organized body with a command structure and dedicated minions—something that we are much more familiar with through our dalliances with James Bond. It allows the media to tell a simple but compelling story without having to pause every second sentence to explain the politics of Wahhabism or the complex interrelationships between revolutionary politics and religion in the Islamic world. Nine out of ten viewers would get confused and change the channel if the media tried to explain that Al-Qaeda is really just an umbrella term that they invented to associate a diversity of radical movements with overlapping interests, in the interest of compressing complex news stories down to a sound bite.
We would get even more confused if they actually took the time to explain that these revolutionary movements are directing their primary wrath at their own middle-eastern tyrants, and the United States is only suffering collateral damage as the primary supporter of these regimes. We might start to wonder who the good guys are. In fact, you may be wondering that right now, so I'll just remind you that there are none. A better trope to understand all of this, is not Doctor No, but Scarface. There are numerous different groups of vicious killers engaged in a furious turf battle over… well, it's money, it's always just about money. And in the end, the decadent and coked out kingpin goes down in a blaze of gunfire, screaming "You wanna play rough? Say hello to my little friend!" as his gangland hideaway gets stormed by rival gangsters.
Trope #3: The Evil Genius and his Diabolical Plan. Dr. No planned to take out a U.S. space mission with his atomic ray. Bin Laden, on the other hand, planned to take out the architectural symbols of American power with airliners hijacked by suicidal pilots. Right?
Well... maybe. The FBI publishes its most-wanted terrorist list, and Osama bin Laden has held the #1 spot for years now. There is no doubt that he was a bad dude of the first order—he is directly cited for his role in a number of Embassy bombings that killed hundreds. However, the FBI makes no mention of the most heinous crime in U.S. history that killed over 3000 people. When questioned on the matter, their frank response is that they do not have the evidence to accuse him of involvement in 9/11. Instead, his wanted poster only mentions "other terrorist attacks" in which his involvement is suspected. Bin Laden himself corroborated the FBI's version of events—he disavowed involvement shortly after the attacks, and subsequent taped admissions that have made the news have been shown to be bald-faced forgeries or ambiguous "endorsements" of the attacks.


The whole evil-genius-and-his-diabolical-plan-to-blow-up-America trope was apparently started on September 11 itself, by Richard Clarke. He was speculating on who could have done such a thing, and since Osama Bin Laden had recently blown up some U.S. embassies in Africa, that was his best guess. It was a good trope, so the media ran with it, and it basically became accepted as fact by everyone except the people whose job it is to actually gather facts about international terrorists. When the media later questioned George W. Bush about why he wasn't trying harder to find the worst man of the 21st Century, Bush admitted that he just wasn't that interested, and it wasn't a priority. Which seems a pretty odd thing for the Texas Sheriff to say about the biggest mass-murderer ever to thumb his nose at the law, unless the Sheriff knew that Bin Laden's conviction in the court of public opinion had little to do with actual facts.
So if not Bin Laden, then who was the evil genius?!? Who the hell knows? If you want a half-baked wingnut theory, you can ask a conspiracy theorist, but their story is only going to be more trope-laden than ever. Maybe it really was Bin Laden—just because we don't have good evidence that he did it, doesn't mean he didn't. The point is not to fill in the blanks with crazy shit, the point is that you can't tell a good story about the worst terrorist attack in history and the various wars that broke out in reaction to it without a charismatic bad guy. The media needed to convict Osama in order to make their job of story telling much easier. And one way or another, this has served political interests enough that they really haven't gone our of their way to make corrections.
Which brings us to today. If it wasn't a priority for the most trigger-happy cowboy president to find and kill Osama bin Laden, then why did it suddenly become a priority for a bleeding heart Chicago lawyer? That's the most interesting question of this whole drama, but few are actually asking it. Most Obama fans are in fact gloating that their President is more bad-ass than the last one, secretly relieved that their guy can also enthusiastically kill brownies, despite his own suspicious pigmentation.
The icing on the whole TV-as-reality-cake is that the whole thing hit the airwaves during the middle of the season finale of The Apprentice, an impeccably-timed "Fuck You" to Donald Trump. Apparently finding and assassinating Osama bin Laden was judged to be easier than assassinating Trump, although politically it may have more or less the same effect.
We are being manipulated in ways that are obvious, and in ways that are not, and we are unconsciously doing it to ourselves as much as we wilfully do it to manipulate others. We interpret the news through a lens that has been shaped by comic-book plots, and action-movie villains. But the writers of the news are no different from us—they were raised on the same crappy television and formulaic movies that we were. They are writing the news to conform to these these same story models, because otherwise it would be hard to tell the stories at all. Our propagandists halfway understand this, and are concocting media spin that takes advantage of our subconscious indoctrination in these forms of story telling. But they are doing this in order to promote ideologies that are subconsciously built on exactly the same set of fictions.
There is an old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, because fiction has to make sense. The unfortunate corollary seems to be that if politics and news is an attempt to make sense of the world, then we are only able to consume it in the form of fiction.

Legalize Happy Birthday

posted on Oct 24, 2010
Even more strange, the song was actually written in 1893, and used and reprinted in numerous places. The copyright should have expired in the early 20th Century according to the laws of the time. However, it was republished and recopyrighted in 1935, after the original copyright should have expired. Under the new copyright laws, which have been extended to 95 years, the copyright will not expire until 2030.

Recent Results in Groovology

posted on Jan 10, 2010

I recently turned my attention back to groovology, in an attempt to find a scientific answer to an age-old question: who was the greatest band of all time? There are lots of opinions out there, of course, but unlike those musical pundits, I have data. Hard, hard data, and the numbers never lie.

I tried numerous formulae to aggregate the grooviness data for various artists, and finally settled on a formula that rewards not quantity nor quality, but quantity of quality. Furthermore, the formula punishes producers of inane drivel. A band with 3 consistently good #1 hits can outscore a band with 6 number ones of varying quality, and both will outscore a band with 9 hits that were pure drivel. The basic method is to sum the grooviness quotient for all of the band's #1 tunes, adjusted so that drivel counts as negative groove. The median score ("tolerably bland") is slightly positive, so a high number of hits should, on average, count as positive groove. For reference, a score of 100 is equivalent to 2 holy-shit-that-was-awesome number 1 hits, or 10 meh-that-was-okay-but-ultimately-forgettable number 1 hits.  Since this measures quantity of quality, this is really a measure of how good the artist was at making good music, and not a direct measure of the quality of the music itself.

On to the results, then. The 25 grooviest acts of all time are shown below. Aggregate grooviness scores are shown; ties are broken using average grooviness (this favours artists that make fewer but better #1 hits over artists that churn out more, but blander #1 tunes).

  1. Beatles (640)
  2. Elvis Presley (270)
  3. Abba (220)
  4. Rolling Stones (210)
  5. Blondie (200)
  6. U2 (180)
  7. Eminem (160)
  8. Madonna (160)
  9. Kinks (130)
  10. Police (130)
  11. Slade (120)
  12. Frankie Goes to Hollywood (110)
  13. Louis Armstrong (100)
  14. Queen (100)
  15. Oasis (100)
  16. Connie Francis (90)
  17. David Bowie (90)
  18. Mud (90)
  19. Shadows (90)
  20. Pet Shop Boys (80)
    (tie) Guy Mitchell (80)
  21. Everly Brothers (80)
    (tie) All Saints (80)
    (tie) Rod Stewart (80)
  22. Manfred Mann (70)
    (tie) John Lennon (70)
    (tie) Gary Glitter (70)
    (tie) Lonnie Donegan (70)

The Beatles took the #1 spot, by a shockingly large margin. Rumours of them being the greatest band ever appear to be confirmed. Elvis, who is also claimed to be the greatest rock-and-roller ever, actually had more #1 hits (23 to the Beatles' 18), but he also churned out a huge amount of drivel, which negatively impacted his overall rating. Abba turned in a surprisingly good performance at #3; they weren't musically great (not even making the top 10 in terms of average song grooviness) but they were very consistent, and they cranked out more #1 hits than the Stones, who came in at #4. Eminem beat Madonna for the #7 spot, on account of achieving a grooviness score of 160 with only six #1 hits, whereas Madonna's blander music required twelve #1's to achieve the same score. The Kinks got to #9, right below Madonna, on the strength only three songs.

Some other interesting facts:

  • Elvis' score was inflated because of a string of posthumous #1 hits in 2005, which were re-releases of previous hits. Removing these from his results pushes him down to 5th place.
  • With one formula for measuring anti-grooviness (average grooviness of the artists worst #1 songs, not shown here), Elvis is also #2 on the worst artist of all time list. This is because the sheer volume of Elvis' #1 hits means he also has one of the largest numbers of bad #1 hits. The Beatles did not have this problem.
  • Although the Stones have put out albums in every decade since the 1960s, all of their #1 hits were in the 1960s. Their grooviness rating is based entirely on those 60's hits.
  • Not counting Elvis' posthumous hits, the only artists on this list with hits in 3 separate decades are Blondie, U2, and Madonna.

We can attempt to normalize the grooviness of the band by dividing their score by the number of hits. This basically removes quantity from the above equation, allowing us to compare the actual grooviness of the music, rather than the artists' ability to produce grooviness. To exclude one-hit wonders, I only considered acts with at least 3 #1 hits. In this case, our top-10 are:

  1. Kinks
  2. Frankie Goes to Hollywood
  3. Beatles
  4. Blondie
  5. David Bowie
    (tie) Connie Francis
    (tie) Mud
  6. Rolling Stones
  7. U2
  8. Abba

Interestingly, this list contains only two American acts, both with female leads - Blondie and Connie Francis. The other eight are European, 6 from the UK, one Irish, and one Swedish. This is partly due to the data being UK #1 hits, of course. But it's not that Americans are under-represented: Elvis has 23 #1 hits in this data set, more than any other artist. But when we normalize grooviness, Elvis falls to a distant 35th place. The UK acts are more consistently groovy--the British Invasion was not for nothing.

If we reduce the threshold for inclusion to artists with at least 2 #1 hits, the top spot is taken over by Louis Armstrong. Other acts that sneak onto the bottom of the list are New Seekers, Outhere Brothers, Don Maclean, and Duran Duran.

Most Overrated Acts of All Time

We can apply the same general approach for determining the most overrated acts of all time. If we set a limit of at least three #1 hits to be considered for the title of most consistently awful hit musical act, we arrive at the following list:

  1. Westlife (-40)
  2. Ronan Keating (-30)
  3. Gerry & The Pacemakers (-30)
  4. George Michael (-20)
  5. Bee Gees (-10)
  6. Gareth Gates (-10)
  7. Peter Andre (-10)
  8. Cliff Richard (0)
  9. B*Witched (0)
  10. Robson & Jerome (0)
    (tie) S Club 7 (0)
  11. Elton John (10)
    (tie) Boyzone (10)
  12. Usher (10)
    (tie) Steps (10)
    (tie) Jason Donovan (10)
    (tie) Donny Osmond (10)
    (tie) David Cassidy (10)

For the record, I was a bit surprised that George Michael and Elton John appeared on this list, since they have both produced music that I like. But none of their better stuff made it to #1, apparently, so it's not in my data set. The UK public preferred different stuff than I did, and man was it awful. Really awful.


For the record, here are all the artists who are best at producing #1 hits, but who are neither groovy nor awful, in order of number of hits. This can be interpreted as a list of the most mediocre acts of all time.

  1. Spice Girls (10)
  2. Take That (9)
  3. Kylie Minogue (6)
  4. Michael Jackson (6)
  5. Frankie Laine (5)
    (tie) Britney Spears (5)
    (tie) Robbie Williams (5)

The Theory of Grooviness

posted on Dec 26, 2009

So I recently had the opportunity to go through a list of every #1 hit in the UK from 1952 until 2007 -- over 1100 of them.  At first I wanted to separate the good from the bad, to make a short(er) list of music I'd be interested in.  So I dutifully rated every song according to a quantitatively precise and scientifically robust system invented by... me.  Each song got a grooviness rating from 1 to 5:

  1. Oh god, I hope I never have to listen to that ever again.
  2. Intolerably bland.  Ick.
  3. Tolerably bland.  Hm, what?  There's music playing?
  4. Pretty good actually.  Who is that playing?
  5. Oh yeah.

But after completing this onerous task, I realized that I had an interesting data set:  over 1100 data points of grooviness versus date.  It's unclear exactly what this data set measures in aggregate, but I think it is one of the following:

  • the quality of pop music over time (if you assume that #1 hits are a reliable indicator of musical quality)
  • the taste of UK music consumers over time (if you assume that #1 hits are a reliable indicator of the sophistication of the typical pop music fan)
  • the skill of record promoters (this would be in inverse relation to the song quality, on the assumption that bland music reaching #1 is largely due to corporate manipulation of the public taste)
  • my deep and unspecified personal biases.  However, for the record, I have no specific genre bias, and I did my best to listen with fresh ears and rate songs by their objective grooviness, and not by the cringe factor brought on by decades worth of overplay by wedding DJs.  The Village People, Michael Jackson, and Madonna were treated as if they were fresh young stars, and not tired old hacks who make me want to throw up a little.

With 15-30 #1 songs per year, the simplest analysis was to compute the average grooviness by year, and then graph it to look for interesting trends.

I propose the following two theorems of pop music.  Proof will follow.

Theorem 1:
Music from before you were born is dorky and lame.

Theorem 2:
After you become a productive adult, the music of "kids these days" is idiotic and lame.

If these theorems are correct, the smoothed chart of grooviness should show a distinct bell curve, peaking at some point during my youth.  Let's see what the data has to say:

The graph speaks for itself.  I consider these two theorems proven beyond any reasonable doubt.  Surprisingly, the peak of grooviness is in 1977, a year that I would not otherwise have singled out as being particularly groovy.  I mean, seriously: Abba and Boney M at the all-time peak of grooviness?  But correlation is not causation, so perhaps Blondie and Pink Floyd had a little more to do with the late '70s being the grooviest years of all time.  By the way, I consider this to be evidence that I have kept my personal biases from influencing the data too strongly, otherwise the 1980s (my high school and university years, when I actually followed pop music) should surely have scored better.  On the other hand, perhaps the '80s really were as dumb as they now seem.

Curiously, however, the data shows that the idiocy of modern pop exceeds the dorkiness of classic pop.  This might have something to do with the fact that the grooviness of Frank Sinatra has withstood the test of time, whereas the purported grooviness of 'Nsync and Westlife have yet to be tested.

Here's another widely posited theorem that has never been quantitatively proven until now:

Theorem 3:
Music has a distinct character in each decade.  '80s music is different from '70s music, which is distinct from '60s music.  Etc.

Let's look at our chart to see if we can detect any 10-year cycles or patterns that might back up this thoerem:

Not only does the data support the theorem, but the pattern itself is very interesting:  grooviness has a natural sawtooth pattern, peaking in the last years of each decade.  It's pretty much common knowledge that the pop-culture movements collectively known as "the Sixties" were really just the years 1967-68, with '69 being the hangover.  This data supports the idea that the same cultural effect occurs in each decade.  That's why the '50s are associated with Elvis and tailfins on cars, and why the '70s are associated with big collars and bell-bottoms.

Why is culture (as reflected in pop music) comparatively lame in the early years of each decade, and notably awesome in the last?  I hypothesize that it is a decade-level variant of the millennial effect on people's need to celebrate.  As decades come to a close, a certain desperation for change takes over the popular consciousness, allowing truly innovative works to percolate up to general popularity.  In the early years of a decade, by contrast, there is a sense that the future is here, leading to a general sense of self-satisfaction and mediocrity.  For now we will identify this phenomenon as the "Party-Like-It's-1999" Effect, or PLINE.  (You heard it here first.)  Unfortunately PLINE implies that next year is likely to suck it big.

Arguing against the PLINE hypothesis is that the absolute peaks of grooviness seem to occur in years ending in 8, not 9.  Also, the PLINE effect is weakest in 1999, the year when you would expect it to be strongest.  In fact, the chart suggests that culturally speaking, the 1990s didn't actually happen at all, and we more or less threw out the whole decade and merged it with the noughties. Perhaps genuine millennial anxiety threw us off.  After all we were already starting to get a little worked up in the 1980s—the chart suggests that it took us until 1984 to completely put the 1970s behind us, and that the 80's actually peaked in 1992. 

Edit: I've been thinking more about PLINE theory, and realized something significant:  the fact that grooviness peaks in years ending in 8 is actually an important feature of the data, not an unexpected weakness of the theory.  Years ending in 9 seem to be on the cusp of the future—we are almost there, so to speak—so cultural mediocrity gets a head start.  If you scale up this "Party-Like-It's-1998" Effect to the century level, it suggests that the all-time peak of grooviness would be around 1980.  The charts support this analysis, with the highest peak of groove occurring in 1979.

For what it's worth, I was more than a little surprised that the 1990s were basically a no-show in grooviness.  I distinctly remember than the 1990s actually put out some damn good music, certainly better than what I was consuming during the 1980s.  But it appears that comparatively little of the damn good music made it to #1.  I think my correction to PLINE theory adequately explains this anomaly.


posted on Nov 30, 2009
So I'm not a huge football fan, but you don't have to be to recognize that last night's Grey Cup game had one of the most mindblowing finishes in the history of the game.  So I decide to head over to read some of the post-game analysis, and find out more about that last-second WTF penalty and what really happened.

But apparently I just dreamed the whole thing up.  It never happened.  I went to a news source that would surely have something to say about a venerable Canadian sporting tradition, the good ol' CBC.  But their front page (see below) was mysteriously mute on the subject.

Never mind, the CBC is a serious news source, right?  Obviously it's all in the sports section.  So I click through to the sports page, but mysteriously, they have nothing important to say about the Grey Cup.  The main stories are about some random regular season NHL dreck.  (See below).

Okay, well, obviously the CBC has decided that the Grey Cup is a special interest story, important only to a few oddballs out in the fringes, and has buried it all on their Football page.  So I click there.  Nothing.  (See below if you don't believe me.)

I kid you not. The lead story on the Football page of CBC news, on the day after the craziest Grey Cup in recent memory, is something to do with the NFL.

W. T. F.

La revoluçion in miniature

posted on Mar 21, 2009
I love this blog post on the death of newspapers.  It encompasses the subject so completely, in ways that it does not even appear to be fully cognizant of.  It's an A-list piece of Internet journalism, about the death of journalism at the hand of the Internet.  It is an incredibly important and insightful commentary on the revolution we are living through, and should be on the cover of Harpers or The New Yorker (and might be, very shortly, if they can pick up their heads out of the tar pit for a few minutes to read it).  But it's posted in a rude little blog with only four posts in its entire archive, using the lowest common denominator template.  It categorizes all of its articles as "uncategorized", so perhaps the author doesn't know how to use his blogging software, or doesn't care.  Most of the comments (and there are over 500 of them, a week after it was posted) are trackbacks, and not real comments.

It's not quite the future, but is soooo the present.  Viva la revoluçion.

Announcing Mobu TV

posted on Mar 20, 2009
You didn't ask for it, but you're getting it anyway.  It's what everyone has been waiting for, even the ones who didn't know it.  Yes, it's Mobu TV, the finest in video entertainment.  Guaranteed to meet your daily recommended intake of WTF?  Wow, I feel smart!  And Gaaaah, make it stop!!  Please!!!


Things that mobu likes, things that mobu does, things that mobu makes, things that mobu thinks.