Monthly Archives: November 2007

Yahoo Guest Speaker: Bradley Horowitz

Today there was a guest talk by one Bradley Horowitz over at the Computer Science building on North Campus. The title, “Innovation and Evolution -How Search, Social Media, and New Ideas can Shape the Next Web,” intrigued me enough to compel me to check it out.

Much of the talk was devoted to Flickr, and how lots of useful information can be extracted from the inherent metadata of tags, traffic, and geodata of the photos on the site. For example, Flickr can make a list of “interesting” photos, figure out correlations between tags and photos (it can semi-distinguish between photos of love between two people, love as a symbol, and love as puppies), and figure out the location of Route 66.

I was vehemently unimpressed by an earlier Yahoo talk this year, but today’s was neat. Probably because the speaker knew what he was talking about. Fun fact: the speaker is VP of the Advanced Development Division at Yahoo. Or ADD. Apparently the name was not an accident. He mentioned quite a few interesting things like their “Brick House” incubator, and a few products of it like Pipes and something called Kickstart.

Kickstart seems to be something of a mix between Facebook and LinkedIn. Or something. I had to sign up for a Yahoo account to use it. Minor tangent: I hate Yahoo because I can’t get the login info for all of my old usernames (because I don’t use them anymore) so whenever I want to use something Yahoo, I have to sign up for a new account. And since Yahoo has so many users, no sane usernames exist anymore. It took me like 30 minutes to come up with escargoal (like a cross between escargot and goal)!

I’m not sure how many social networks Yahoo wants… They’ve got that Yahoo 360, Mash, Kickstart… I guess an alternate strategy to buying Facebook could be diluting the social network market…

But anyway, the talk was pretty cool, though somewhat high level for a crowd of CS kids (and SI kids, I suppose). Where was the talk of computational complexity and algorithms in Flickr!? The talk has at least rewarmed my interest in looking for a Summer internship at Yahoo, possibly in the ADD…

Jazz Song Currently Stuck In My Head: Stella By Starlight

So currently, I’ve got Stella By Starlight stuck in my head. It’s mostly the Chet Baker version that appears on “The Best of Chet Baker Plays.” I’ve got a few other versions that are pretty good, like the Bill Evans one.

My friend David always likes to point out how bad the words for this song are. They really are probably the worst lyrics to a jazz standard ever:

The song a robin sings,
Through years of endless springs,
The murmur of a brook at evening tides.
That ripples through a nook where two lovers hide.

That great symphonic theme,
That’s Stella by starlight,
And not a dream,
My heart and I agree,
She’s everything on this earth to me.

Does anyone know what a song that a robin sings through years of endless springs sounds like? Or a murmur of a brook rippling though a nook? And Stella by starlight is a vision, not a sound, right? Couldn’t we say something about Stella herself, rather than babble endlessly about stupid rhymes (brook and nook make me stabby)?

If you can look past the shitty lyrics, the melody is really nice. Plus this song has the distinction of having some unique changes that I can’t really say sound like any other song. Off the top of my head, at least. The tune works well uptempo or as a ballad, too.

If only I had my Real Book with me and some kind of trumpet practice mute so I don’t bug (and by bug, I mean serenade) the neighbors…

$10 Holiday Sale at Threadless!

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There’s another $10 sale going on at Threadless. I think the quality of Threadless shirts has kinda been waning in recent months. There’s a few fun shirts, but I’ll wait on ordering since this sale lasts until December 16th. Especially funny is this “November Was a Good Month” shirt. Going to a (sort of) library school, I think I’m starting to think more and more like a librarian. So I kind of find this shirt more interesting than I really should. But yeah, maybe I’ll hit the jackpot with a round of good shirts sometime between now and December.

Pachebel’s Greatest Hit: A One-Hit Wonder

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While waiting for the TMBG concert, I killed some time at the Borders across the street from the Michigan Theater. Apparently this is the headquarters of Borders, though it isn’t the first Borders ever. Originally it was located above the State Theater. Anyway, I was in the music section, and came across this cd entitled “Pachebel’s Greatest Hit.” Yes, greatest hit. Singular.

The cd consists of a bunch of different versions of Canon in D. If the inherent repetitiveness of the song (it’s a fucking canon!) wasn’t enough for you, now you can listen to it 8 different times! Next up, “Variations on ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat!'”

They Might Be Giants Concert @ The Mighican Theater!

I just got back from the TMBG Concert.

So the opening band was called Oppenheimer. They’re two guys from Northern Ireland, apparently. The band seems like a suitable opener for TMBG, since they consist of two guys. The bald guy plays drums and sings, and the slightly chubby one plays guitar and sings with the robot-inducing keyboard thing. Voicebox?

I’m glad I got The Else before this concert, because it sucks not knowing the songs when a band plays it live. Something about having to process the song instead of sort of knowing what’s going to happen. With Oppenheimer, I didn’t know any songs, so it was sorta hard to get it. Plus their songs were all very electronicy. Like with sustained chords and such. They were pretty cool though. The chubby guitarist also seemed really into it, sort of like a guitar-playing Star Wars Kid!

TMBG started off with one of their new songs, The Cap’m and ended up playing quite a few of The Else songs. After the first song, Flans told everyone to go stand in the front, so I ran into the aisle to the 10th row or so. Maybe closer. That was cool, since my seat was right behind an Amazonian lady. Nothing against her, but I couldn’t see Oppenheimer because of her massive head (and its height).

So I got to rock out in the aisle the whole show. It was cool! They played a mix of songs mostly from their newer albums (The Else, The Spine, and Mink Car) and a few of the “classics.” They didn’t play Ana Ng, Don’t Let’s Start or She’s an Angel, which was kind of dissapointing. But they did play The Famous Polka! Without the words… Ooh, they played Why Does The Sun Shine? and Meet James Ensor though, which almost makes up for it. And Doctor Worm. And New York City. It was a good show.

If I could have done the playlist, I’d have taken off Cyclops Rock (though it actually sounds good live) and XTC Vs Adam Ant. They also played this weird song where they listed countries in alphabetical order that I’ve never heard before. It must be off the kid’s album. With those songs removed, I would’ve added those previously mentioned unplayed songs, and maybe some of Linnell’s state songs (Montana!).

Also strange was the absence of my favorite song of the new album, Upside Down Frown… It made me turn my smile upside down. Temporarily. They did play the Mesopotamian one though.

Singing-wise, they were very good. I actually think they sound better live. There’s a lot more energy in their live show that doesn’t get transmitted in the CDs. Linnell really belts it out, as well as Flansburgh (especially during Istanbul (not Constantinpole)’s interlude part. Some songs that I’ve disliked in the past sounded better live.

They also had some weird skits, like they made a phone call with some dead person. Tonight (I dunno if it changes) was Jerry Orbach, who I didn’t even realize was dead! Apparently the rest of the audience didn’t know who he was by his name (along with me), since They sorta had to explain the gag. Then Jerry (Flans) and Linnell (Linnell) had a duet.

TMBG left somewhat suddenly after playing their Mesopotamian song. Then the audience started clapping and the house lights didn’t go on, so we kept clapping and yelling until the band came back to play more songs. Then they played a couple more songs and left again. Then we got them to come back again. I know it’s part of the showmanship thing, but playing a part in this rehearsed set of events kind of makes me feel used. Psychologically though, I guess it was better than if they just said “so long!” after their real last song.

Having played quite a few gigs in a band myself, I can say that people sort of expect you to play another song after you say you’re done. So it’s always kind of good to cover your ass by saying you’re done when you’re not. Because fans get pretty pissed when you quit without doing an encore. Except if you fucked up that night, which also happened a lot in the band I was in. But I digress…

Overall, it was a cool show, and I think I got my money’s worth. It’s sort of strange seeing these people that you’ve heard for years actually making music on the fly. Like “whoa, this music is made by real people!” I’d have stayed and tried to get something autographed, but I heard that they weren’t going to meet fans after the show. I went to the merch place and they had CDs that were pre-autographed. Sort of lame, really. It’s not like the CDs were priced any higher than normal, but at least show up to say hi to the fans! Okay, I didn’t stick around, so maybe they did, but they definitely gave the impression of not caring with the pre-autographed stuff.

If I ever get a chance to see them again, I’ll probably take it. I had a good time. If this was an eBay transaction, it’s probably go something like: “SUPER FAST SHIPPING GREAT COMM WOULD BUY FROM AGAIN AAAA+++++++!!!!!!” But don’t they all?