See Similar Recommendation Engines:

Plenty of taste-based businesses want to sell you more or keep you happy with what you’re getting.  So far that’s mostly meant the media industry, but establishments like grocery stores and restaurants will probably join in before long.  They set up recommendation engines.

I am curious why, though, because every one I’ve tried worked thus:

  1. You either input something you like, or they extrapolate it based on the data they gather on you
  2. Their application looks for similar things
  3. It tells you those similar things, possibly with a sample

These bug me, because if I’m resorting to trying a recommendation engine, it almost always means I want something different.  I don’t want something similar, because then I would go to the one I already had or knew.

But it’s the easier problem to solve, to build a system that can determine similarities, than it is to actually elicit and provide the work or the taste to fit the person (and the person’s mood).

The latter would actually go something more like:

  1. Provide a random sample, preferably one that the user hadn’t encountered before
  2. The user provides feedback (too heavy, not enough color, overcooked)
  3. The system then provides new samples based on the feedback
  4. Repeat until satisfied

Note that step two needn’t be formal feedback, and could be accomplished through split sampling.  In that case, the user experiences two random offerings, and picks the one that’s a better match.

I sincerely hope that better recommendations come forward.  Every time I’ve used such a system I am utterly frustrated.

Examples are worth the time.  If you go on to Google Blogger and click the “Next blog” link at the top, you are typically forwarded to a similar blog.  That means (real example) if you were on a blog about digital scrapbooking written in Bulgarian, the next one will likely be another blog written in Bulgarian, and it will probably have a craft theme.  There’s no escape hatch that says, “oops, not Bulgarian, don’t speak it, sorry,” or “well digital scrapbooking isn’t my bag.”

The thing is, Bulgarian digital scrapbookers do really neat work.  But after I’ve looked at one, I didn’t click next because I got the wrong one.  I clicked next to see something completely different.  As there isn’t an alternative link for that, I feel stranded, so I return to the homepage, and go next from there.  That leads me down a similar path, but this time with middle class Christian blogs from Canada.  Again, once I’ve read one, I want to move on, and not to another one of the same type.

The other example comes from music.  The new music sites say, “tell us what you like, we’ll tell you some music that sounds the same.”  Why would I want that?  For gods sakes, I’m not trying to hear the same thing over and over.  Variety is the spice of life, after all.

There are other ways to implement my suggested alternative, though.  I might be equally happy to see, “last 10 shown to people that are not you,” or such.  It’s less overwhelming than the sites that let you browse others’ profiles and see what their entire taste is like, since you only get a single instance per each person (at least initially), and you do get more variety (provided they are chosen randomly enough to prevent spammers from trying to game them).

Do you feel differently?  Do you like the recommendation to give you things similar to what you already like?


Just what is this ‘Chocolate Rain?’

First I’ll let you a link to the YouTube video if you’re not familiar. It’s here.

I’m keeping myself from posting the lyrics and trying to do a line-by-line interpretation, but I’ll do some quoting which I’ll separate for clarity.

And now I’ll press play and start. Thanks to TayZonday [site still under development, redirects to his YouTube account] for this song. People may criticize it for the repetition of the title lyric, but I think that it’s such a broad concept and its perpetual inclusion between the content lyrics just drives down what it’s really about.

Okay. Chocolate Rain is very much like the so-called American Dream. It’s this drive of nations and men toward wealth and power despite the consequences. Now here’s some of the lyric to back that up:

Some stay dry and others feel the pain
Build a tent and say the world is dry
Zoom the camera out and see the lie
Seldom mentioned on the radio
Its the fear your leaders call control
Worse than swearing worse than calling names
Say it publicly and you’re insane
Dirty secrets of economy
Turns that body into GDP
The bell curve blames the baby’s DNA
But test scores are how much the parents make
Which part do you think you’re ‘livin in?
More than ‘marchin more than passing law
Remake how we got to where we are.

Those are hopefully in order. Those were some of the major lines that brought me to the conclusion of ‘what is Chocolate Rain?’

It’s especially apparent in lines like Build a tent and say the world is dry. The implication being that most people focus mostly on themselves and if they are okay the world is okay. That’s a fair accusation, I think.

The chocolate rain that falls and we try to catch it is the other big clue here. Imagine you are in a field with 1,000 people and chocolate rain, or maybe a little more effective for my case, $100 bill rain, begins to fall. Look at the parade scene in the first Batman movie. People would start trampling each other for the value that is all around, even if, maybe especially if, there’s enough for everyone.

And that seems to be the nut of this song as far as I can tell. People I know and the internet I normally come across doesn’t especially discuss the meaning behind songs or works that much so I’d be interested in hearing your take on what this song means.




Happy Mothers’ Day

And in the spirit of mothers’ day (?!) here’s some links to some youtube videos…

The Day Today – Satire on political campaign coverage

Bill Hicks – Gays in the military

Rev. Eman Laerton – Before a John Mayer concert

Thom Yorke – Pretending he’s a clock (?!)

I could go on, but rest assured, I will. Just later.



10,000 Days

From a poignant tribute to Maynard’s mother to railing against television, messages of hope and indictments of man’s great crimes culiminate to form the latest Tool record.

As Tool is my favorite band I’ll do my best to keep this review brief. The album really speaks for itself.

The album contains very classical elements, including influences of 1960s & 1970s rock & roll (including Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd), as well as the influences of Jazz & Blues. These are found alongside the “progressive rock” sound Tool is known for, and the two sounds transit seamlessly between one another.

Part of the motive for Keenan’s vocal stylings are revealed in the two-song tribute to his mother Judith Marie Keenan (“Wings for Marie (Pt 1)” and “10,000 Days (Wings Pt 2)”). In the latter, a mention is made to the gift his mother passed on to him, which seems to indicate a large role Keenan’s mother played in his development of his voice.

Each song on the record hits hard in its own way.

Loving rememberance for his mother and dispisement of superficial Christians who would attend her funeral are brought out in “Wings for Maire” and “10,000 Days.”

The human tendency toward being swept up in illusions and habits in “Vicarious,” as well as the two-part “Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann),” and “Rosetta Stoned.” The last even gives claim to the doom of man under a particular ailment.

“Vicarious” may fit the bill for “radio friendly,” as I don’t listen to the radio enough to make that determination. It seems odd to me, however, for a song as anti-television as it to be deemed such. It details the commercialization of tragedy via the media, to turn us all into their vehicles of profit.

“Rosetta Stoned” and its introduction “Lost Keys (Blame Hofmann)” are a story about a man on an acid trip who finds himself in the hospital still coming down. The medical personnel ask him what has happened, and he reveals the strange journey he has been through to be told the horrible fate man has in store for himself, except he has forgotten.

“The Pot” and “Right in Two” reveal the predatory, self-righteous nature of man in his quest for dominance. Musically, both are candidates for protest songs of Vietnam, transformed into a modern climate.

“Jambi” and “Intension” walk a line between hope and malevolence.

Finally, “Lipan Conjuring” and “Viginti Tres” confound us in their abstract, fragmented natures. The former is a First Nations track of chanting and drums, while the latter is a bizarre soundscape in the vein of “(-) ions.”

Anyway, as I said I’ve kept it short. I may add more if I feel it necessary, or alternatively write up my in-depth interpretations at a later date.



(Note: I’ve added a link to a live review I found, as well as lyrics in this post)
Butcher is Sasha Popovic, Camella Grace, and Alex Menck. Their first album, Auricle just came out a few weeks ago on Air in Motion Records. In addition to the five tracks they wrote, it also offers a pair of songs written by Blair MacKenzie Blake, and a video for Elements of Turandot directed by Camella Grace.

This is something like a review of Auricle.

First and foremost this album has a proper original feel to it, spit and polished it erupts at times, and then pulls back to give you a chance to recover, this is sometimes called a game of cat and mouse. The artwork, as should be expected from the artists involved, provokes hesitation in me. It is confrontational, but also very serene, very matter of fact, calming, and accepting.

Black Dahlia >> This is the longest track to be found on Auricle. It is a very emotional (not emo) song involving beautiful pianos and powerful lyrics that are directed at a murder, of which “Black Dahlia” is the victim. “Black Dahlia” (Elizabeth Short) was murdered, cut in half and mutilated, and found on January 15, 1947 in Hollywood where she was visiting at the time. The murder was never solved, but certain aspects of her life and death contribute to Los Angeles’ reputation as a failed, broken, sick excuse for the American Dream. In a particular sense, the explication of this song might lead one to believe it is also a metaphor for the dreams of individuals who venture to that altar in search of the grail of fame and fortune in the entertainment industry.

Elements of Turandot >> Again, beautiful sounds grace us with this song, but it stands out for its juxtaposition of the song with faint whispers, and at a few points coincide with the lyrics being sung. There is a video included on the CD for this track. It is, again, directed by Camella Grace. Given her experience in film, she sets a beautiful watermark for her future efforts with this. I am not familiar with the opera by the title Turandot but it would stand to reason this song relates to it.

Cold >> This track is not listed on the back of the album, nor are the lyrics included (the other songs do have their lyrics included); the credits are, however, included in the liner notes. A long instrumental build up for about the first five minutes of the song deliver us to a fitful end of the album. The lyrical focus seems to be on a death, possibly the Black Dahlia murder from the first track. Cold also utilizes justaposition, this time between the long instrumental march to the lyrical segment that ends it, as well as soft-sung lyrics broken up by high, long-held banshee wails (okay, anachronistic banshee wails).

I feel very glad to have heard this album. It is such a joyful departure from what you inheret from the mainstream, that its morose lyrics are not seen as despair, but instead a charged expression of remorse with the intent of action to reclaim the fallen, in spirit anyway.