Category Archives: Silliness

If you’re happy and you know it…

well-beingThe Chicago Tribune posted an article on their website about the ’10 happiest states’ based on a Gallup poll.

The Tribune article lacks any nuance, and reflects the lazy journalist’s unquestioning faith in surveys and statistics. Maybe it should be excused because it’s in the travel section, but still…

After reading the original Gallup article I noticed one glaring problem with this whole idea. The ‘Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index’ — note that it’s ‘Well-Being’ not happiness — is a zero to 100 score.

Zero isn’t actually defined, though presumably it means “everyone is dead or dying in a blasted, toxic landscape” and 100 means “ideal well-being.” The whole-country index is 66.2, and has oscillated around an average of about 66.5 for the past 5 years.

The highest-scoring state scored 70.4 and the lowest 61.4, meaning to me that the best and worst are actually very close together. Where ‘close’ means the two numbers are close numerically, in a system where the meaning of distance is entirely undefined.

What does this actually mean? You tell me! Would I notice the difference of 2/10th of a something-or-other if I went from Iowa (68.2) to Massachusetts (68.0)? Probably not.

North Dakota’s winning score comes substantially from the increase in jobs and wages due to the boom in the petroleum industry. Just the other day I was reading about the problems arising from the influx of out-of-state workers, rising housing costs, increases in pollution that are happening there. So are they really… err… being weller, or are they just momentarily glad more people have jobs, and in a bit they’ll realize their rural paradise is going to be ruined by high-impact resource extraction?

Bottom line, the happiest people involved in this whole business are Gallup and Healthways, both of whom have something to sell. And, of course, the Tribune, who suckered people into giving page views to a story with exactly zero relevant information.

In which SoundCloud sends me a hilarious takedown notice

Anand and SchatarSo today I got this interesting message from Soundcloud:

Hi chaircrusher,

Our automatic content protection system has detected that your sound “Rubber Duckie (Wub Machine Remix)” may contain the following copyright content: “Get Some Fruit (Wubstep Dubstep Remix)” by Anand Bhatt, owned by Favorecido Productions. As a result, its publication on your profile has been blocked.

You can dispute this report, if you believe the copyright content has been mistakenly identified or if you have obtained all the necessary rights, licenses and/or permissions to upload and share this material on SoundCloud.

Please do so by filling out our dispute webform at the following link:https://soundcloud.com/settings/disputes/6512879

If you would like to learn more about copyright, please visit our copyright information page.

Thanks,

The SoundCloud Copyright Team

FYI I didn’t even remember uploading it to Soundcloud — it was just a joke that took about 5 minutes to put together. I kind of love how it turned out, since Sesame Street is embedded in my DNA. If you need to hear it:

[audio:http://www.cornwarning.com/xfer/RubberDucky-WubMachine.mp3|titles=Rubber Ducky Wub Machine Remix|artists=chaircrusher] http://www.cornwarning.com/xfer/RubberDucky-WubMachine.mp3

There are several things that are awesome about this:

  • Soundcloud’s automated copyright infringement detector did NOT detect my actual ‘infringement,’ which was against Jeff Moss and Jim Henson, who wrote and performed the original Rubber Duckie.   I claim this is fair use, but I’m not going to the wall on that; this was a JOKE track, it isn’t worth it.
  • Soundcloud’s audio fingerprint software did detect that there was some common source material in the Rubber Duckie Wubstep remix and that track by Anand Bhatt. That common material is there because Bhatt and I did the same thing: Took an audio file and fed it to the Wub Machine, which is a neat hack that ‘converts’ any audio file into bad dubstep.  Feed the Wub Machine random songs, traffic noises, outgoing voicemail messages yadda yadda, and hey presto! Bad dubstep! it’s hours (well, minutes) of fun.
  • The most hilarious part of this debacle?  This guy Anand Bhatt has released a digital EP which you can buy here on Amazon.  Bhatt took what sounds like random crappy songs, ran them through the Wub Machine and released them as his own original ‘remixes’!

What conclusions can I draw from this?

  • Soundcloud’s audio fingerprint software is able to detect common elements in two songs.  That’s great, but it can’t distinguish between one song sampling another, and two songs containing common source material.  So it’s going to generate thousands of false positives.  I guarantee that the worst-paid people at Soundcloud are the poor shmoes who have to wade through all the people contesting false positives for copyright infringement.
  • Anand Bhatt is a complete tosser.  Don’t believe me?  Visit his mega-awesome website, or his Amazon Store.  All those pictures at the Grammies are curiously absent of any other people, as though he snuck in after hours to get his picture taken in front of the Grammy background.  This man has been spending his time inventing an imaginary international rockstar career.

Here’s the transcendent, timeless, original “Rubber Duckie”

Obtuse Strategies Deck

I’m sure most people know about Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies — a deck of cards with gnomic suggestions to consult at random during creative work.

I propose my own, new deck, informed by my jaundiced world view, and in no small part, my own failings as a human being.

  1. Cultivate the disreputable
  2. Lie gratuitously
  3. Argue extravagantly over minutiae
  4. Blame the innocent
  5. Solve the wrong problem
  6. Construct the trivial sturdy, the crucial shoddy
  7. Give misleading directions
  8. Damn with faint praise
  9. Make a virtue of waste, a vice of thrift
  10. Play dumb
  11. Make incorrect change
  12. Celebrate incompetence
  13. Value syntax over meaning
  14. Imagine things to complain about
  15. Leave out the important part
  16. Flatter the deluded
  17. Argue with those who agree with you
  18. Subvert while appearing to cooperate
  19. Niggle, always
  20. Curse the virtuous
  21. Speak authoritatively when ignorant
  22. Say the opposite
  23. Laugh hardest at the unfunny
  24. Meet sincerity with sarcasm
  25. Hold grudges
  26. Complain operatically
  27. Suspect every kindness
  28. Swamp any straightforward motive with ulterior ones
  29. Purport falsely
  30. Implacably oppose the reasonable
  31. Deliver less than you promise
  32. Ridicule caution
  33. Value yourself negatively, others less
  34. No such thing as excessively literal
  35. Prevaricate, Obfuscate, Denigrate
  36. Puncture someone’s good mood
  37. Pursue empty ambitions relentlessly
  38. Exasperated sighs, sour grimaces
  39. Let people try to drag you with them
  40. Whenever possible, disappoint
  41. Deny the problem
  42. Smirk at people’s misfortune
  43. Boast without justification
  44. Give up early
  45. Assign everyone else sinister motives
  46. Squander the irreplaceable
  47. Disturb the tranquil
  48. Afflict the unfortunate
  49. Cut in line
  50. Waste everyone’s time
  51. Take no stand
  52. No pity, ever
  53. Profit from misfortune

U of Iowa Socialists and their First World Problems

This headline definitely rubbed me the wrong way. I’m all for small-‘s’ socialism where appropriate — health care, education, social security, appropriately modest defense — but I’m having a hard time imagining many people who would receive a University-wide e-mail who could credibly complain of being oppressed. Sure, there’s racism, sexism, and the erosions of personal freedoms in the US, but when I think of oppression, I think of having your home bulldozed, or being kept naked in a cell with a bag over your head and receiving daily beatings.

There’s hardly a more privileged group of people on the planet than the faculty, staff, and students of the University of Iowa. We worry more about cell phone reception & the price of Lattes than we do about actual oppression.

Will the U of I Socialists do anything useful to liberate the oppressed of the world? If they actually do something that in some small way comforts the afflicted or afflicts the comfortable, more power to ’em. But somehow I don’t imagine they can do much beyond holding weekly meetings.

Forensic Examination of the Slowed Down Justin Bieber “Love U”


This will be my last post on the subject. It’s been fun to get a lot more site visits, but just for perspective, my friend Jerry’s Retarded Ravers Of America site was getting ten times the traffic ten years ago that my blog does today. It also feels a little weird riding Justin Bieber’s coat tails to this new level of web notoriety. As it happens the PaulStretch OS X posts consistently generate more traffic than anything else on this blog, which puts me in my place–doing a port of PaulStretch may be my most enduring Internet legacy, even if I wish I was known more for my own music.

Anyway, as regards the “Love U” stretched version, there was some speculation that it was a hoax, and then some speculation that the ‘group’ claiming they’d made the track themselves was itself a hoax. I decided to investigate, and came to these conclusions:

  • It was, in fact, produced using PaulStretch, perhaps even using my OS X port
  • The actual slowdown was actually on the order of 10x
  • It was pitched down a little more than a half-step.
  • Either it was MP3 encoded at a low quality/bitrate, or slightly lowpass filtered. My version (which is encoded from the raw output of PaulStretch) sounds noticeably brighter.

[audio:http://www.cornwarning.com/xfer/JB-USmile-Stretched.mp3]
http://www.cornwarning.com/xfer/JB-USmile-Stretched.mp3

The original:
J. BIEBZ – U SMILE 800% SLOWER by Shamantis

My Children’s Treasury Of Helpful Misinformation — now downloadable/printable

I drew a book for my niece Lucy for Christmas 2007, based on an anecdote from her mother Tessa: Tessa was in a bookstore in Park Slope Brooklyn with my niece Lucy, who was two and a half years old. Lucy tells Tessa “Mommy, let me read to you!” So Tessa sits down with Lucy, Lucy holding a random book. Lucy began to read with the title “American States In The Thirties and Forties.”

So I decided to write that book, and fill it with as many lies and as much misinformation as I could muster.

Today I took all the scanned images and stuck them together in Word and made a PDF file out of them, the better to print out or browse through on a computer.

http://www.cornwarning.com/xfer/AmericanStates.pdf

Lucy's Favorite Page
Lucy's Favorite Page

It’s still available as individual images on Flickr.com.

Typography joke T Shirt made me laugh

From Boing Boing

We’re really talking Meta here: The audience who’d instantly get this joke would be anyone who works in the Web Ghetto, and old-school nerds like myself. But consider this: this joke wouldn’t exist 30 years ago. Comic Sans was invented in 1994 and I’m not sure when the Comic Sans backlash started. Helvetica was born in 1957 — it’s the same age I am! But Helvetica as a signifier to the common folk dates back only to 2007 when the Helvetica movie came out.

So long as we’re deconstructing — consider the black guy in this picture. In the age of Obama, the slim, light-skinned black man is a signifier. It says ‘hipper than standard issue white guy, but not all ghetto.’ Would they ever try and sell a shirt like this with a scowling black man in a Sox cap rocking a 5XL? I think not*

*and yes go ahead and call me racist, but I see black men rocking this look every day at the bus stop.

Clip Art WTF

This was at the top of an e-mail from a University of Iowa office. The mail had nothing to do with penguins, top hats and monocles, penguins wearing top hats and monocles, or Lyndon Baines Johnson. It is surreal and random in a way that can’t possibly be intentionally surreal and random. The people that write e-mail newsletters at the University of Iowa are way too earnest for those sorts of hijinks.

wtfclipart