Internet Getting Worse Dept, File #34 Finding Songs Through Their Melodies

This is just more proof of the internet getting worse with each new update and every iphone sold. A few years ago I wanted to know the name of a piece of classical music. I googled something like ‘find song by melody’ and a few pages came up. The first or second page was easy enough to use (I think it was based on entering notes on a stave) that within a few minutes of tinkering I found the name of the piece in question (Arabesque by Debussy for the curious).

Today I heard a composition on the radio (it sounded familiar and I thought it sounded like a film soundtrack). Wanting to know what it was, I went to google and entered the same kind of phrase. And all the pages that showed up were useless. They were not only passively useless (I can deal with those) but aggressively useless in that they prevent you from finding what you want by hogging the results.

About nine tenths of the hits were articles about mobile phone apps. One of the few potentially useful hits ended up being terrible as it kept freezing (the newest update to Firefox makes more and more pages useless this way, part of their multi-pronged policy of self-immolation). Other sites where you hum the melody were even worse as they just fed back a bunch of pop crap that sounded nothing remotely like the song in question.

The way I finally found the song was to think to go to the stations website where they list their playlist by the hour. I quickly found it there (The instrumental version of The Wings, from the soundtrack to Brokeback Mountain for the curious).

Everything useful in the internet or personal computers seems to come from before 2006 or so. EVERYTHING that has come since represents a net loss of usefulness for anyone but brainless consumers.

There was plenty of crap on the internet before the cut off but it was also easy to avoid it and find the useful information. That’s getting harder and harder.

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It’s Not Just the Weather, it’s Also the People

I think some people are taking the wrong message here. I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida (spent a lot of time in the middle of the state, including on a cattle ranch) and here’s a fun fact – I almost never felt hot and I have no memory of people complaining about the heat. I have more memories of being cold than of being hot. Of course, in that environment anything under 60 degrees Fahrenheit felt very cold and under 50 felt like end- of -the-world, bitter, bone piercing cold. Maybe because those kinds of temperatures weren’t the norm that I remember them. But the only time I felt hot was when I spent a lot of time in the direct sun doing work type things…. which wasn’t that common. And none of the houses I spent the most time in had air conditioning and neither did the schools I went to. At most we might also have an electric fan or two at home.

The crucial difference between then and now was, I think, fear of crime. We never locked the door and we left windows open all the time,. Close to the Gulf there was almost always some kind of breeze and that was enough, along with the long term acclimation and a fan or two, to keep things very livable, even in the summer. Even further inland natural breezes and a fan or two were enough to keep things okay.

When I went to university, in Gainesville, things were different. I left the window open once when I went to the movies and when I got back home I found out why nobody else on the street was not doing that. I was living in an old wooden house (divided down the middle into two shotgun apartments) and it would have been very livable if I could just leave the window open but that wasn’t feasible and so it became a hellish sweatbox until I bought an air conditioner (which I usually only used a few hours in the early evening).

Back around 12 or 13 years ago there was a major heatwave in France and thousands of older people died and it turned out this was partly because they were afraid to leave their windows open at night (and I remember similar occurences in the US). Another problem (and change from when I was a child) is that modern buildings in Florida are built around an air conditioning system and quickly become unbearable without it (the same way that cities built around cars are unlivable for people without cars. And maybe retiring to a place where air conditioning is a necessity to feel good is maybe not the wisest idea.

I like air conditioning just fine, especially when I travel to hotter places since I’ve lost a lot of my former heat resistance (Poland will do that to you) but I think it’s often more a human created necessity rather than a basic necessity.

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New Header Picture – Knights of Malta?

Decided to change the header picture. This time it’s part of a mounted escort accompanying a diplomat (from Macedonia IIRC) in Malta.

If any of the riders, or horses, would like me to remove this (or just want to be credited) they should contact me and I will change the picture (or give them credit) at my earliest convenience.

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Too Many Bullets to Dodge…

In 2008 I supported Hillary Clinton over Obama because I thought he was too young and inexperienced (his terms did not change this perception for me). Part of me thought that his 2008 run was a rehearsal for a later run that got out of hand. I didn’t think Clinton would be a very good president but I thought she’d probably be a respectable place holder and certainly better than anyone the Republicans were likely to come up with (esp McCain, what a terrible choice….).

In 2016 I thought Clinton’s time had past and she should give up her idea of being the first First Lady to transition to the Big Office. I wasn’t tremendously happy about Sanders (so oooold, including his ideas). In retrospect it seems like another example of Baby Boomers hogging the spotlight (Sanders is on the cusp of the Silent and Baby Boom generations) instead of actively working to pass the torch to the next generation. And the Republican field seemed even worse – a rainbow of crapitude in which even Donald Trump didn’t seem worse than the average.

I didn’t vote in the final since I don’t live in the US but if I was I wouldn’t have voted for Trump in the general, I would have held my nose and voted for Clinton.

But here’s the thing. I don’t think things would be one bit better if she had been elected. They would be bad in a different way that might make some people happier, but I’m more and more convinced that she was/is fundamentally no more suited to the office of POTUS than Trump is.

A lot of this is connected to excerpts or summaries of her new book. Now the chances of me actually buying and reading this are only slightly less than me leading an army of super intelligent rhinoceri across the Mediterranean and conquering Morocco, but the excerpts and summaries showing up all point in two very clear directions.

First, she’s a terrible leader. She never accepts responsibility for anything going wrong. It’s always someone else’s fault. Unable to inspire, she looks for scapegoats for her own failures and serving up rationalizations rather than facing the unpalatable truth – she ran a deeply flawed campaign.

Secondly, she’s not giving up. This book is clearly the opening salvo of her 2020 campaign. She’s going to try again unless the Demcoratic apparatus unites to stop her. If Democrats want a shot in 2020 they have to find some other candidate, no matter how much she guilts them or how many connections she has.

Some Trump supporters portray his victory as ‘dodging a bullet’, but it wasn’t. He’s fundamentally unsuited to the political process of give and take interactions a president needs to get stuff done and he has no idea how to deal with the incrusted bureaucracy of Washington or the office of president itself that can’t simply be fired.

In retrospect there was no way to dodge a bullet in the 2016 election, the only question is which bullet got the country and how and where the damage would manifest itself.

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Russians Ruin Everything (in TV)

Okay, I’m watching Salvation a moderately entertaining political thriller with some sci-fi thrown in and then they bring in a Russian plotline and my interest starts cratering. US movies and TV never get Russians right. Instead they’re mostly built on an old stereotype from Cold War era TV and movies.

In this iteration (House of Cards had the same problem) Russians are hyper-organized and super-efficient, cold and calculating and effortlessly multi-lingual and likely to have some kind of lingering affection for American pop culture and slightly sad at the prospect of its destruction.

This is ridiculously unlike real Russians who (in my experience) are more likely to be disorganized and (over) emotional and able to use foreign languages only at great mental and psychological cost.

Of course most Russians don’t fit any neat checklist of national stereotypical characteristics but the distance between the real life Russians I’ve known (including university professors) and the US TV stereotype really bugs me.

And they get stupid things wrong. A character, the Russian ambassador to the US, is named Katya Osinov which is wrong twice. Katya is a nickname used in private life by friends and family and would not be used in official circles (it would be Ekaterina I think) and Osinov is a male form (in Slavic languages last names often have distinct male and female forms and a woman would be Osinova, maybe Osina). The only way a woman in the real world would be named Katya Osinov is if she was born and raised outside of Russia (and therefore unlikely to become an ambassador).

I’m sticking with the show to see if I can ride out the Russian detour without being forced to rage quit.


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Irma, Irma, Bo-Birma, Banana Fanna Fo-Firma

So now Irma’s long and winding road is set to hit the Gulf Coast of Florida, the place where I grew up. At the intellectual level I know it’s a terrible storm and much suffering and financial (and other) loss will follow but I’m finding it hard to really get upset and worried at the ur-level that some people are experiencing.

Part of that is being very far away from Florida and not having any connections with people there any longer so there’s a distance but it’s more than that.

Growing up in Florida, hurricanes are part of the mental landscape and never too distant in ‘hurricane season’ (a third or so of the year) and so I can’t perceive them in the rare wrath of the universe way that some do. Here are some random and disjointed hurricane memories.

As a child I grew up in the shadow of Donna, a 1960 major hurricane that became the touchstone for comparison each hurricane season. “Think it’ll be another Donna?” “It’s no Donna” or people would say evaluating the latest mass of wind gathering in the Caribbean as it approached the peninsula.

Stores used to give out hurricane tracking maps and local TV stations would update the coordinates every few hours. Most of the time it came to naught but the slow game of chicken was an effective way of dealing with the tension.

A few times my mother took me and my brother out of elementary school to retreat inland to where her widowed sister and mother lived. I don’t remember much of those beyond the emergency drills my crazy aunt would inflict on me and my brother (finding things in the dark, practicing wrapping up potentially broken limbs). A bit of family lore surrounded the time my aunt accidentally locked my father out of the house when he went outside during the calm eye of the storm and he was stuck on the porch for most of the second half of the hurricane.

In the late 1960s my crazy aunt moved to the town my family lived in and when a potentially threatening hurricane approached she gathered up me and my brother to sleep in the office she worked in the courthouse (the sturdiest building in town). That hurricane passed through but was a dud and our house was untouched.

Another time I remember driving around town with my father, a journalist, before a potential hurricane hit and noticed a kind of…. electric charge in the air. Everybody was in a buzzed, excited mood almost daring the hurricane to pass through and relieve the usual small-town boredom (that’s my earliest memory of the contagious nature of crowd reactions).

I remember reading a novel where a hurricane shows up out of nowhere and thinking how clueless the author was. Hurricanes are usually preceded by days of cloudy rain and wind of a kind that is unmistakable and subtely different from the usual rainstorms – hurricane weather it was called. You almost didn’t need the tracking maps to feel hurricanes approaching.

Later, I was working in a convenience store during a major hurricane scare. The store was next to a main highway and the northbound lane got clogged and movement stalled. Almost all the people leaving were very recent transplants while the native and longer term residents (over 15 years or so) were getting prepared in various ways stock up on fresh water, do what you can to secure windows… but not really considering moving.

That hurricane was a dud but a couple of years later a no-name storm (called by everyone in the area ‘the no name storm’ showed up almost out of nowhere and did massive damage, especially to buildings built too close to the coast on sand (it washed the sand out from under the buildings with predictable results). That was the only time I was actually afraid for the house I grew up in as the winds and tides were pushing the canals close to the banks even as the rain had overfilled the ditches. But in the end even though the water lapped at the sides of the roads the house stayed dry.

There was no major hurricane in Florida to match Donna until Andrew in 1992. I was in Poland at the time (my first illegal alien experience) and it was very odd in the pre-internet days to get information, but I remember being sad that Homestead, a small town I knew fairly well had been so badly hit.

Then ten years ago two major hurricanes hit the area I grew up in within a few months. It was very weird to hear CNN International mention small towns I knew well….

So anyway, Irma’s going to hit. Snowbirds and recent transplants will freak out and maybe leave (maybe forever) but the real Floridians will ride it out and then when it’s over assess the damage and get on with things.

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I’m Empowered, Hear Me Buy!

I think it was Edward Bernays who first made the conscious connection between resistance to male institutional power as a magic switch to ignite (American) female consumerism. He was the one who came up with the idea of tying female liberation to smoking in public with the catchy phrase “torches of freedom”. The product wasn’t cigarettes, but a non-tangible consumer good known as “freedom” (from male power in this case).

Female “Empowerment” seems to be a modern version of this. “Empowerment” is a perfect non-tangible product for an insatiable neoliberal market and mentality. For one, the phrase is, on the modern western context, semantically vacuous. Like “freedom” it means whatever the user wants it to mean at any given time. Ultimately anything any female does can be seen as ‘empowering’ to someone or other.

At the same time, just as a woman can never be too rich or too thin (in the words of Wallis Simpson) a woman can never be “too empowered”. A tangible product like lipstick can fill a need (maybe a vain, superficial need, but a need). But if shades of lipstick are framed in terms of empowerment, then no number of new shades and textures will ever be enough.

Finally, it is entirely, in its market sense, individualized and subjective. The more a young woman reads and sees news of other females being empowered, the less empowered she is likely to feel herself. This creates an intolerable mental burden so the young woman who buys into this crap (which is a lot of them) can easily end up spending most of leisure time and income pursuing “empowerment”. in ever more extreme and/or nonsensical ways. Bought new shoes yesterday, take that Patriarchy!

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