The Null Device


Formulaic music isn't just for the teeny-boppers and pissed-off teenagers. Computer scientist and songwriter Loren Jan Wilson develops a system to analyse Pitchfork music reviews, finding which words have the most positive connotations, and then using that to write two songs, scientifically designed to appeal to the coolsies who write for Pitchfork.

There are positive values for "rough" and "primitive," and negative values for the words "shiny" and "polished." This points towards a preference for lo-fi recordings, which are usually associated with lower-budget independent music. This falls in line with the Pitchfork reviewers' dislike of capitalism, which I talk about a bit in the other interesting results section below.
The "sadness" group is by far the highest-scoring mood, beating the next mood ("dark") by over 1100 points. As a response to that, I've tried to make these songs as sad as possible.

The songs, Kissing God and I'm Already Dead are provided with MP3 form, along with detailed descriptions of how the analysis guided his creative decisions. The songs, as you'd expect, combine gloomy lyrics, lo-fi guitars, choppy beats and layers of effects.

It'd be interesting if he had gotten Pitchfork to review these songs before revealing their origin, if only to see whether he'd have been critically lauded as the next Radiohead or whatever.

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Scientists have finally monetised the formerly un-monetisable, the benefits of a happy sexual relationship. According to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a healthy sex life is worth A$71,500 a year; or at least that's how much happier couples who have sex at least four times a month are than than those poor unfortunates who only get to do so once a month. Meanwhile, if you're a man, the more educated and intelligent you are, the less sex you have.

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A list of things announced by journalists to be "the new rock'n'roll". Given that most of these are fairly staid things (suburbia, chicken-keeping, normality, cooking), I get the feeling that a lot of aging journalists with mid-life crises have been attempting to hand-wave their conservative, settled-down lifestyles into extensions of their long-gone youthful iconoclasm. Which, I suppose it is, though it's like saying that middle age is the new youth. (via Rocknerd)

And here's a Google search for "is the new rock'n'roll"; knitting, gambling, e-commerce, architecture and collective weblogging all come up.

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The Straight Dope answers the essential questions of our time, such as how long would the electricity stay on after the zombies take over:

Now, let's address a scenario where the zombification process is gradual. If the operators and utilities had sufficient advance warning they could take measures to keep the power going for a while. The first thing would be to isolate key portions of the grid, reducing the interties and connections, and then cease power delivery altogether to areas of highest zombie density. After all, it's not like the zombies need light to read or electricity to play Everquest. Whole blocks and zones would be purposely cut off to reduce the potential drains (and to cope with downed lines from zombies climbing poles or driving trucks into transformers). Operators would work to create islands of power plants wherever possible, so if a plant were overrun by zombies and went down it wouldn't drag others down with it. In cooperation with regional reliability coordinators, the plant operators would improve plant reliability by disabling or eliminating non-critical alarm systems that might otherwise shut down a power plant, and ignoring many safety and emissions issues.

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A Norwegian black metal musician is reportedly dismayed after discovering that there is a Bollywood romance with his stagename. Magnus Torbjornsen, who plays bass in Oslo band Immortal Mutilation, says he came up with the name Kraath five years ago in school, because it sounded "evil". Kraath the film, released a month ago, is the story of two Bombay taxi drivers in love with the same woman, told with lavish song-and-dance numbers. Torbjornsen is reportedly considering changing his name to Kharaoth.

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Spiky-haired dude with a bozotic name goes on some reality TV show or other and stages a sit-in protest with a sign reading 'FREE TA REFUGEES'. People look away anxiously, as if he had started masturbating in public or ranting excitedly about giant lizards or something, or else raise an uproar about this humorless right-on radical-leftist tosser violating their right to feeling good about being apathetic. Nobody likes a smartarse, you know. Meanwhile, the paper of the elitist inner-city latte-socialist chattering classes decry this as a shameful indictment on Australia, tripping over Godwin's Law in the process:

Rod Cameron, chief executive of the Australian polling organisation ANOP, was quoted recently saying, "Those who think about issues, read the newspapers, discuss events, make up only about 10 per cent of voters." If you are reading this opinion page of a broadsheet metropolitan newspaper, relax. You may count yourself as one of that 10 per cent. But sadly, you are vastly, horrifyingly outnumbered. So was Merlin.

Isn't that the case everywhere? I'd be surprised, for example, if half as many Americans paid attention to the Abu Ghraib scandal as the last episode of Friends.

Discussing the plight of the Jews at tea parties in Nazi Germany would no doubt have produced reactions similar to those we saw on Sunday night; jeers, taunts and entreaties to stop all the depressing talk. "Please, mein herr, sit down. Have some more tea and cake."

The chattering classes on, however, say that that Merlin chap is a "fucking coolsie chat", i.e. a wanker, mostly because of his hair and wardrobe. Meanwhile, you can make your own Merlin sign here, by editing the URL (if you don't know how to do that, then y0re not l33t enough, beeyatch). (via Alex)

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Instructions on turning an iPod and a radio transmitter into a pirate radio station. Not quite a latter-day Radio Caroline, but enough to pull various pranks, such as jamming obnoxious motorists' boom cars (hang on, don't most of those bring their own music; after all, if it's about showing what a mackdaddy you are, you want the beats you blast from your ride to be the absolute illest, and not necessarily what FOX-FM is currently playing) and transmitting bogus news reports over CNN at your local gym. It doesn't mention that, in this climate, doing any of those things could probably get you charged with terrorism, or at least ten kinds of crap pounded out of you by the gorilla whose boom box has suddenly started playing birdsong or Icelandic glitch-pop or the Village People or whatever. Not to mention that, in some jurisdictions (such as the UK, where an undeclared war between spectrum cops and yardie garage radio stations has been raging for years), unlicensed FM transmitters are actually illegal to obtain, regardless of their power. (via bOING bOING)

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Tony Abbott's bold campaign of restoring 1950s-style paternal authority to Australian society through legislation has suffered a setback with the withdrawal of a bill giving parents access to their teenaged childrens' medical records, overriding doctor-patient confidentiality. The bill suffered a blow after a Tory backbencher, a former doctor, threatened to cross the floor over it. Dr. Mal Washer asserts that the bill would cause vulnerable teenagers in troubled domestic situations to avoid medical help and thus falling through the cracks, and recounted an incident of a teenaged girl who committed suicide because help was not available.

The values of the Howard government embody an authoritarian, paternalistic strain of Australianness, much like those embodied by numerous outback patriarchs in films from The Cars That Ate Paris to Welcome To Woop Woop. Ostensibly laid back, relaxed and comfortable, and if you're in the majority, you'll have it easy. However, if you don't fit in with the Herald-Sun-reading majority, you'll find things getting difficult for you. The sooner you get the message and learn to conform, the easier you'll make it on yourself. But it's for your own good; after all, father knows best, and a country, like a family, is best ruled with a firm hand. Or, as the convict saying goes, cop it sweet.

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