Geekiness

A long overdue separation

I got an email from the nice folks at Mitsubishi Motors today about “Important Windshield Wiper Tips.” I appreciate that Mitsubishi wants to keep me safe on the roads. Honest, I do. Though I’m not sure that they need to send me a special email full of tips to make this happen . . . especially when those “tips” actually boil down to a sales pitch to bring my Mitsubishi in to the dealer to get my wiper blades replaced.

But what really bugs me about this email is that “my Mitsubishi” is no longer mine. Not by a longshot. It gave up the ghost back in 2001 or so. Mitsubishi doesn’t seem to have noticed this, however, even though I have tried — over and over and over again — to get myself removed from their email lists. But the “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of those friendly emails has never worked out. This time, it simply took me to a page that demanded my name and email — without any other explanatory assistance — in ways that suggested I would actually be inviting more advertising into my inbox if I filled it out.

Normally, I’d shrug this off. But today I was feeling ornery enough to try and push this unsubscription thing through. After more than a decade and three other cars (none of which were Mitsubishis), I figured I could afford to cut my ties with the big M completely. (Side note: I have no idea if anyone actually calls Mitsubishi “the big M,” even within the company.) Trouble is, that advertising email came from a “noreply” bot and was completely devoid of other directly helpful contact information.

So I wander over to the main Mitsubishi website. Which has lots of information if I want to buy a Mitsubishi or find a Mitsubishi dealer. But nothing at all obvious for extricating myself from (or, for that matter, adding myself to) their marketing database. I look back at the Wiper Tips email and notice a link to their privacy policy. Buried deep in that page, there’s a different link that offers me the chance to escape from (or join) their advertising lists. Hooray!

Except that the page in question contains a form that doesn’t actually work. I tried loading it in multiple browsers — just in case there was something about how their site interacts with all the pop-up blockers (etc.) that I have configured in Firefox — and none of them gave me a version of the page that actually allowed you to enter your contact information. The page contains apparently usable boxes for doing so, but those boxes don’t permit ordinary mortals to input text of any sort. And so it was back to their privacy policy page . . .

. . . where there was a phone number to call if you had questions or concerns about the policy. So I called. Not surprisingly, I found myself listening to a menu of options to direct my call. A very short menu. I could press “1″ if I already had a Mitsubishi. Or “2″ if I wanted to buy one. There was no option for anything else. Waiting the silence out eventually got me an error message about needing to press a number and then cycled me back to the start of the menu. Very helpful.

So I tried pressing “0″ — a common default choice for “customer service” — which got me a new error message about how “0″ wasn’t an available option . . . but then asked me to press “1″ if I wanted customer service. Which I did.

The first thing that the very nice woman I spoke with there asked me for was my Vehicle Identification Number. I told her I didn’t have one, so she asked for my name. I gave it to her. She asked where my vehicle was registered. I told her that I didn’t have one and explained — more succinctly than I do above — that I was simply trying to get off their email list, and she was apparently my only option to do so.

She really was very nice. But she also explained to me that she needed my VIN in order to pull my records up in their database, since she couldn’t do so reliably using my email address or my name. I pointed out that I didn’t have ready access to a unique, difficult-to-memorize 17-digit number connected to a car I hadn’t laid eyes on this century. She asked for the phone number that I would have had back then — but the only old phone numbers I can recall with any accuracy at this point take me back to pre-teen childhood.

Then, surprisingly, she started describing my old car (lucky for me that Rodman isn’t a very common name) and she told me that she had changed their records to indicate that I was no longer the owner of the vehicle in question. So this story may have a happy ending — though it’s just as likely that their computer system will now inundate my with special offers to buy a new Mitsubishi, since I was clearly delighted to own my old one for 23 years . . .

Push off

[I've already forgotten where I first read this tip -- and since my efforts to backtrack to it by googling around are only helping me find dozens of seemingly independent versions of the same advice, I'm not going to worry as much as I might about a hat-tip the "original" source here. I send apologies into the ether for whomever actually deserves credit (in my world, anyway) for suggesting this idea as a productivity booster.]

The tip itself seems deceptively simple: wherever you can do so — your phone, your laptop, your tablet — turn push notifications off. Don’t think of them as helpful attention-getters. Think of them as interruptions from whatever it is that you actually need to be doing at any given time. It’s only been a few days, so I may be singing a different tune in another week or three, but I’m liking the general effect so far. Still, this has been both easier and harder than I’d imagined it would be.

It’s been easier insofar as I don’t actively miss most of the “real time” notifications I’d been used to. For example, I’ve recently discovered Letterpress, which is a delightfully addictive word/strategy game (iDevices only, I’m afraid) . . . but I also don’t really need an addictive game sucking up my time and attention. And, before I turned its push notifications off, it was easy to find myself pulled into it at random moments, just because the little chime on my phone went off to let me know that it was now my turn to play again. I haven’t given the game up, mind you. But now it gets relegated to those moments when I’m between tasks, and I actively seek it out.

It’s been harder, though, since I’m starting to discover just how many apps, programs, and so on I had set (or, just as often, were set by default) to grab my attention whenever something “important” happened. Several times already, I have thought I’d managed to turn off all the things I thought I needed to turn off . . . only to suddenly hear a beep or a chime or a buzzer from something I’d forgotten about. Slowly, though, I think I’m chasing all these stray notifications down.

To be sure, there are a few push notifications I haven’t quite managed to let go of completely. Email and text messages are the big ones . . . though I’m trying to find ways to screen those more productively. I get a lot of email (managing a sizable listserv will do that), but precious little of it is actually so time-sensitive that I need to deal with it within seconds (or even hours) of its arrival. What I need to do is to figure out a set of filters that will trigger the relevant chimes and tones when important email comes through, while letting the rest of it pile up so that I can deal with it when I’m done dealing with other, more immediately pressing tasks.

(Oh, and yes, of course, your email messages are always going to get filtered through as “Vitally Important.” No, no. Sorry. Not you. I meant the reader two screens to your left. Yes, you. Your messages will never get the silent treatment from me.)

XXII 2.0

I was born and (mostly) raised in Washington, D.C. So I’m a lifelong fan of the team with the most offensive name in all of sports. I won’t wear the gear, but I will still pull for the burgundy-and-gold every week during (US) football season, in good seasons and bad . . . and this season has turned out to be a pretty damned good one. But it’s not over yet.

I’m also enough of a geek to participate in a friendly pick-’em pool every season. I’ve got a system (it’s highly proprietary, so don’t ask) that was right a respectable 61.1% of the time, and that brought me to a very close third place finish this year (one pick out of second place, and two out of first). And that system tells me that the NFL playoffs will shape up as follows.

Wild-card weekend:
Houston over Cincinnati
Minnesota over Green Bay
Indianapolis over Baltimore
Washington over Seattle

Divisional-round weekend
Minnesota over Atlanta
Denver over Indianapolis
Washington over San Francisco
New England over Houston

Conference championships
Washington over Minnesota
Denver over New England

Super Bowl
Washington over Denver

As I write these words, the nice folks at Football Outsiders (one of my fave NFL-centric sites) figure that this particular matchup — which would reprise the 42-10 beatdown that Washington handed Denver in Super Bowl XXII — is only about 2.8% likely, but I’m not phased by those odds. After all, seven weeks ago, when they were 3-6, that’s about what my team’s chances were of merely making the playoffs. And they’ve done alright since then. With much more to come.

Name that status: The rules

If you’re my Facebook friend, you have probably noticed that I don’t use some of the site’s main features in the way that they were intended to be used. And while it’s been a while since I’ve toyed with Facebook’s check-ins, for several years I’ve held pretty steady to my routine of using my status updates as an ongoing game of “Name That Tune.” Barring major life or world events that seem too big to ignore, my status updates are always song lyrics, and an unusually eclectic spread of my friends will chime in with their guesses as to what song I’m quoting. What you probably didn’t know, even if you have been following those status-lyrics closely, is that there are extensive rules to that game. And the time has come, gentle readers, for me to share those rules with you.

To be clear, these are almost entirely rules for me. For folks who are playing along at home, there’s really only one rule: no cheating. If you can identify a lyric on your own, that’s cool. But if you need to start dropping my statuses into search engines to figure things out, that’s verboten. Still, even that rule is only enforced by my friends’ personal senses of honor. Once, I think, I suspected someone was Googling their way to correct guess after correct guess after guess, even across a diverse spread of genres and historical moments. But otherwise, I’ve simply assumed that everyone knows that the game isn’t really any fun (or much of a challenge) if you’re just firing up Google every time I change my status.

From my end, though, things are slightly more complicated.

  • I do my best never to repeat a song. Every so often, I screw this up. But I keep a running file of used songs/lyrics to try and avoid duplication. That same running file also contains long lists of lyrics that are still waiting their turn to be used.
  • The lyrics I quote never contain major words from the actual title. I also try not to be too obvious with the lyrics I actually choose, though what counts as “too obvious” is also a difficult thing to guess in advance. I do my best to pick songs that I expect more than a handful of people would know, but I’m often surprised by how quickly some of my (ostensibly) tricky efforts gets recognized, and by how lyrics that strike me as low-hanging fruit nonetheless flummox people left and right.
  • I try very heard not to use lyrics that appear in multiple songs. This is much easier said than done of course, since there are lots of songs I have never heard, and every so often, someone will swear that I’m quoting (for example) some obscure Gladys Knight tune that I’ve never heard of that just happens to use the same lyrics I’ve quoted. But I don’t aim for deliberate confusion of this sort.
  • This game began back when Facebook statuses were still set up (and mostly used) in such a way that your actual status was the back end of a sentence that began with your name: e.g., “Gil Rodman doesn’t trust you anymore” (which, incidentally, is Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddamn”). And I’ve stuck by that formulation, even as both Facebook and popular custom has moved away from it. One of the major consequences this has for status-lyrics is that I will sometimes make minor alterations to verbs and pronouns so as to fit this shift to the third-person singular. Otherwise, I leave the lyrics unchanged.
  • Statuses stay “live” until someone correctly identifies the tune in a comment. Typically, people do this with some other lyric of the same song, though I don’t get all Jeopardy-fussy about this sort of thing. If I can tell that you know the song I’m quoting, I’ll tip my hat your way, and move on to the next lyric. If 72 hours have passed and no one has IDed some lyric, I’ll post the answer and move on.
  • The bit you probably didn’t know, unless you’ve been paying exceptionally close attention (only one person I know of has figured this out on their own): lyrics are posted in alphabetical order by song title. My original plan was to do one status for each letter of the alphabet, and then cycle back around again to A every time we got done with Z. Not surprisingly, though, some letters (I, L, S, T) offer a lot more opportunities than others (J, Q, X, Z), and so I started letting some of those letters get multiple turns during any given pass through the alphabet. Right now, a little less than half the alphabet is “on vacation,” and so a typical sequence now may look something like ABBCDGHIIIJLMPRSSTW.

Admittedly, all this inside information will be of limited value if you want to play the game yourself. Knowing that the most recently used (and unguessed) lyric (as I type these words anyway) was from “I Got Rhythm” will tell you that the current tune’s title is probably going to begin with an I or a J . . . but that clue will only get you so far, eh?

The joys of online noise

Facebook gets a lot of abuse. And it’s earned most of it. They routinely make privacy an opt-in feature, and then compound that problem by making it hard for people to find the right settings to change if they do, in fact, want to opt in. They mine our friends’ profiles for pix and prose that they can turn into “personalized” ads, and then compound that problem by telling us that these bits of purchased hucksterism are merely “featured” content. They scrape our so-called private messages (and the public ones too) for anything that looks like a political preference and hand all that info (in aggregate form only, we’re told) off to third parties. They change major design features every other week or so, and then compound that problem too by largely ignoring the complaints of thousands — even millions — of their users who were perfectly happy (or happy enough, anyway) with the previous look and feel of the site. You can, no doubt, add your own litany of things that Team Facebook gets wrong to the items above . . . but that’s not what I want to talk about here.

No, for all the things that Facebook gets mind-bogglingly, astoundingly, stupefyingly wrong, they actually get at least one thing very, very right. And, significantly, it’s one of the things that an awful lot of people think they screw up the worst. For all the redesigned walls, feeds, sidebars, and timelines, the one feature — and I want to insist that it really, truly, honestly is a feature — that Facebook has never changed is that the site is incredibly noisy. If anything, most of those redesigns have made it even noisier.

Assuming that you have more than a dozen or so friends — and I mean “Facebook friends,” of course, who may or may not be people you consider your friends offline (but that’s a topic for another day) — your encounters with Facebook are most likely an endless barrage of information. Status updates. Check-ins. Uploaded photos. Event invites. Game annoucnements. And so on. The vast majority of these bursts of trivia about your friends’ lives aren’t actually intended for you in any directed fashion. By default, Facebook assumes that everyone wants to share everything with everyone else, so your friends generally have to make an extra effort not to share that status update about their great bike ride (or their recent bout of food poisoning, or their trip to see their grandmother, or what have you) with everyone they know. And since most people don’t make that effort, Facebook is a very noisy place indeed. This is a large part of why so many people run away from it. Or at least complain about it.

It’s also precisely why it works.

The best way to illustrate this is to compare Facebook to its latest major competitor: Google+. Trying so very, very hard to be the anti-Facebook, Google+ is set up, by default, so that you only share things with the people you specifically want to share those things with. You can, of course, opt to share things Facebook-style — i.e., with everyone you know on the network — but (again) most people don’t make that extra effort.

And so while Facebook is noisy to the point of being overwhelming, Google+ is almost deathly in its silence. Tomblike even.

Now, to be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with quiet social spaces — and nothing intrinsically superior about noisy ones. But Facebook seems to understand — much, much better than Google+ does — that a certain level of noise helps to produce a palpable sense of energy and excitement. Or, at the very least, it produces a measure of variety that, in turn, fosters actual engagement. Whenever I check Facebook, it’s almost always different — even if the time that’s passed since I last checked it is only a minute or two — and so even if 99% of what appears in my feed doesn’t grab my attention (mind you, that’s too high a figure, but only because I’ve hidden a lot of “friends” whose daily routines matter to me less), I’ve almost always got some potential reason to wonder if something has happened to someone that is actually worth my attention. Which, in turn, means I’ve got a reason to spend time on the site . . . and that often means I wind up finding something worth commenting on myself, and so I add to the overall level of noise, and the cycle continues.

Google+, on the other hand, can stay unchanged — at least from my perspective — for hours at a stretch. Sometimes days. To be fair, some of this might be a simple function of numbers: I have more Facebook friends than I have Google+ friends, so I’m likely to see more traffic on the former anyway. Still. The drop-off is much, much sharper than that. People who are my friends on both sites are almost always much, much more active on Facebook. They (and I, too, to be fair) could be much noisier on Google+ — but the site makes you work harder to do that. And so, for most people, it simply never happens at all.

Put a different way, Facebook is sort of like a giant, open-air house party. You walk in, there are lots and lots of people, they’re all engaged in lively banter of one sort or another . . . and while a lot of that is just noise to you, it’s still got a vitality and an energy that you can feel. And it’s pretty easy to drop in and out of conversation circles at will. The party as a whole may not appeal, but you can still have a pretty good time anyway. Google+, on the other hand, is like a high-rise apartment building where you know that there are parties going on all over the place, but where the walls are all soundproofed, the doors are all shut and locked, and you either have to be willing to knock on a few of those doors or you have to get lucky and hope someone opens one of them as you’re passing by . . . otherwise, you’re just going to wind up wandering the halls all by yourself.

None of this means that Facebook doesn’t still have serious issues with their privacy policies (they do) or that they don’t deserve a lot of the flack they get (ditto). And i have no doubt that there are people who are perfectly happy with the quieter, more buttoned-up atmosphere of Google+. But a large part of what makes Facebook actually work well — from users’ perspectives, mind you, rather than as a business — is actually bound up with many of the things that it seems to do so badly.

Resolution on a stick

It’s a cliché of the highest order — especially for us academics on the humanities side of campus — but I’ve resolved to be better about writing this year. Book writing. Essay writing. Correspondence writing. And, yes, blog writing. I’ve cleaned up my home office. I’ve rearranged it a bit to make it a more comfortable, ergonomic space in which to work. officeI’ve set myself some (hopefully) manageable goals and am trying to settle into new routines. We’ll see how this goes in the days and weeks to come, of course. But one of those new routines includes a target of 2-3 fresh blog posts each week, with a potential tie-in to the grad seminar I’m teaching this spring. So here I am, poking away at my iPad, and trying to breathe some life back into this dusty little corner of the interwebs.

And, yes, I’m aiming to blog from my iPad as much as I can. The laptop is still always an option — and it’s certainly a friendlier typing machine — but I’m also not a touch-typist, so I’ve got no indelible home-key habits or tactile rhythms to disrupt when faced with a virtual keyboard embedded in a sheet of touch-sensitive glass. The iPad is also a much more frequent companion than the laptop as I move about town (and beyond) these days. And, perhaps most crucially, several months back, I splurged on a WordPress-friendly blogging app several months ago that has simply been gathering dust in its corner of my home screen. So this piece of my resolution also helps me recoup my major economic investment in Blogsy. After all, that’s $5 that I will never, ever get back . . .

I’ll admit that when the iPad first came out, I wasn’t even remotely tempted by it. I simply didn’t see the point. I already had an iPod Touch and a laptop, and I was perfectly happy with both. More specifically, the iPad seemed to me to be precisely the wrong combination of the two: an iPod that was to big to fit in my pocket, and a portable computer that was too small and too weak to fit my everyday needs. But then I spent a lovely chunk of my July in Belgium, where I watched some good friends zip around with these light, bright, tight little machines for note-taking, emailing, game-playing (etc.) . . . and I got a serious case of Gear Envy.

And so I splurged. And, six months or so later, I haven’t regretted it at all. The iPad won’t replace my laptop as my primary computing device. I’m still too big a fan of the penguin and open source software to join the Cupertino cabal as a full-time member. And, even given all the wondrous things one can do with cloud computing these days, I’m not yet ready to give up on a machine where several gigabytes of files — from old syllabi to new music, digital photos to PDF-ified readings — are always available to me, even when I’m not online.

Regardless of what device I’m using, though, (and, truth be told, I’ve now worked on this entry on both my available options) I’m aiming to drop more text in this space in the coming year than was the case in 2011. I’ll let you decide whether that’s a promise or a threat.

Where do you want to live?

Like so many interesting things in life (or at least on Facebook), this began by chance.

places

Actually, to be honest, I’m not sure exactly when it began. Maybe it was when I first created a “check-in” entry for a place that did not yet have one. Maybe it was when I first noticed a check-in option that was clearly some random individual’s awkward misspelling of the place I was at the time. Maybe it was when I first realized that Facebook will suggest places to you when you “check in” that are a mile or two away from where you actually are — and so the relationship between your real location and your check-in location is pretty shaky to begin with. Whenever it actually began, “it” was the recognition that Facebook’s openness when it comes to its “Places” feature allows for an . . . unusual . . . degree of playfulness.

And so, over the past several weeks, I’ve been “checking in” on Facebook far more often than I ever did before . . . but I’ve almost always done so by inventing the name of a new place and adding it to the Facebook database. Sometimes these have been completely whimsical (Drunken Cheetah Cafe). Other times, they’ve been more abstract (that spot at the center of your back that you can’t quite scratch). Occasionally, they’ve had some small relationship to where I’ve actually been (Brown. Tall. Who Are We?). But I’ve rarely used the same invented check-in more than once, even when I’ve gone back to the same place repeatedly.

What this now means for some locales in my usual circuit is that when I — or, presumably, anyone else — open up the check-in dialogue, I will see the actual name of wherever I am . . . surrounded by a dozen different invented check-ins. And so the digital city around me isn’t just filled with the names of various businesses: it’s checkered with a host of more fanciful locations. The First National Bank of Soul and Funk. Uptown Ska Palace, Divorce Court, and Tobacco Emporium. Fort DeSoto Park (East Beach) (secret Minneapolis extension). And so on.

I have mild regrets — though only mild ones — that, by avoiding the “proper” check-in choices for my favorite coffee shops and bars, I’m blurring their online visibility somewhat. At the same time, however, I’d much rather help to create a map of the city that isn’t based entirely around commerce. And I’m happy to undermine, even if only in a very little way, the logics of surveillance and marketing that “checking in” are intended to perpetuate.

What I’m still waiting for, however, is to open up that check-in dialogue and find that someone else has started inventing fanciful place names of their own. I can’t be the only person who’s started doing this. And it wouldn’t take a lot more people doing so to slowly fill the digital versions of our world with the places that we really want to be. Consider this your invitation to join in on the fun. . .

60 ’65 45s

spindle

A fella only turns 45 once (time travel and reincarnation notwithstanding). And, being the pop music geek that I am, I decided to honor the occasion by making a couple of suitably themed mix CDs to give away as door prizes (first 45 celebrants only!) at today’s birthday bashes. And, just to make folks who can’t be here today jealous — or to make the locals who were still deciding whether to show up for the festivities — the playlists and liner notes look like this.


I’m turning 45, which certainly seems like an important number, but I’ll be damned if I know what it’s really supposed to mean.

Growing up, though, “45” meant only one thing: a 7” inch circle of magical, musical vinyl. I can still recall the first pop single I ever got as a gift (Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)”) and the first single I ever bought for myself (the Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight”). I once spent the better part of two straight days in an Austin record store flipping through their massive (and completely unsorted) collection of used 45s for hidden gems. And while it’s been ages since I’ve played any of them, I have several hundred 45s tucked away in my living room. Even hidden and silent, they’re still magical.

Despite growing up in the era of the concept album, I’ve long believed that the single is vastly underrated. Rock’n’roll didn’t really take to the album as a major aesthetic form until 1965. Even then, it took a few more years before the LP truly replaced the 45 as the center of the rock universe. Take away Rubber Soul, Highway 61 Revisited, and Bringing It All Back Home, and all the great “albums” of 1965 are merely collections of singles padded out with a few filler tracks.

So one of the obvious (to me anyway) things to do for my 45th birthday was to create a mega-mix of 45 of my favorite 45s from 45 years ago. But when I sat down to tackle this project, two big problems quickly presented themselves.

First, there was the length problem. I can usually fit 22 or 23 tracks on an 80-minute CD, so a 2-disc set should have worked fine . . . but my mixes typically don’t draw from a pool of songs that mostly run less than three minutes. So either I needed to trim the project down to one 30-song disc, or I needed to scale it up to 60 songs.

Second, there was the “favorite child” problem. My initial list of viable candidates was about 150 songs long. Some of these were easy to eliminate: Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” has its schmaltzy charms, but there were clearly at least 60 better songs on that list. Nonetheless, even after I made those easy calls, there was still a lot of great music to consider. Chopping things down to 30 songs was out of the question. Even getting down to 60 felt too brutal.

I made things a little easier by imposing several rules on myself.

Any eligible song had to have appeared on a single. It didn’t have to be the A-side. It didn’t have to have hit the charts. But if it were strictly an album track (e.g., Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam”), or if I wasn’t sure it had been released as a single, it was out.

The song had to have been released in 1965. A few tunes here may have first entered the world in late 1964, but the historical record is also fuzzy enough that I gave a few tunes the benefit of the doubt.

No artist was allowed more than one slot in the finished mix — which made things easier and harder. I didn’t have to decide whether, for example, Edwin Starr’s “Agent Double-O-Soul” deserved a spot ahead of two James Brown classics . . . but I did have to choose between “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good).”
Other obligatory disclaimers and explanations:

These aren’t absolutely, positively, unmistakably the 60 best singles of 1965. My goal, after all, was to make a really good mix: not to define some sort of canon. And the sequencing is more about creating a mix that flows well than about trying to rank these tunes top to bottom.

Still, quality matters. I paid some attention to chart success, but I also didn’t let the vagaries of Billboard’s rankings rule the day. You don’t really want to hear Freddie & the Dreamers’ treacle-filled “I’m Telling You Now” (which was a #1 Pop hit) instead of the Apollas’ totally divine “Absolutely Right” (which never charted at all), do you? And you’d stop being my friend if I’d included any of the seven Top Ten Pop singles (including two #1s) that Herman’s Hermits released in 1965 — especially if I’d left low-charting gems by the Who or Them out of the final mix. If you really want “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” or “I’m Henry VIII, I Am,” you can find them yourself. But I don’t have to be party to such insanity.

I sometimes chose tunes that you most likely know from some later version. Gloria Jones, for instance, did the original “Tainted Love” more than a decade before Soft Cell. You may already know “Thanks a Lot” because of Neko Case (if you don’t, you should; it’s on The Virginian), but she clearly owes a lot to Brenda Lee (even more than she does to Ernest Tubb, who did it first). The J. Geils Band would later cover the tracks by the Contours and the Marvelows. “Respect,” of course, was a hit for Otis Redding before Aretha Franklin made it her own. And many of you may not realize that one of Britney Spears’ biggest hits was first recorded by a band out of England called the Rolling Stones. No, really, it’s true. I wouldn’t lie about that.

A few tunes wound up on the cutting room floor because they pushed too hard against the feel of the rest of the mix. The Wonder Who (a pseudonym that the Four Seasons used for a handful of singles in 1965 and 1966) went to #12 on the Pop charts with a so-bad-it’s-great version of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice.” The We Five (a semi-folky two-hit wonder) had a #3 hit with “You Were on My Mind” that I’ve always loved. Elvis had a few forgettable movie-related hits (“Do the Clam,” “Tickle Me,” and “Puppet on a String”) that I wouldn’t inflict on you, but he also reached #3 with the genuinely worthy “Crying in the Chapel.” And yet these tracks would have muddled the vibe of all the great garage band and soul that simply had to be included.

The final mix also held a few surprises for me. While he was a true maestro of the pop single, there’s nothing here from Phil Spector’s stable of artists, largely because the great girl groups he worked with didn’t do much of note in 1965 — but also because I’m not fond enough of the Righteous Brothers to include either (yawn) “Unchained Melody” or (mega-yawn) “Ebb Tide.” I expected the Stones would provide me with tough choices to make . . . but none of their other 1965 hits (“Heart of Stone,” “The Last Time,” “Play With Fire,” “Get Off of My Cloud,” “As Tears Go By”) come anywhere near “Satisfaction.” On the other hand, I didn’t expect quite so many great singles from the Animals and the Yardbirds: “It’s My Life,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “For Your Love,” and “I’m a Man” all missed the final cut (though none did so by much). And I hadn’t thought of Nina Simone as a singles artist — or even as an artist who reluctantly played that game to keep her record label happy — so I was thrilled to find that her deliciously smoky version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” made it onto a 45, so that I could share it with you here.

Disc One:
1. Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs — Wooly Bully (#2 Pop, #31 R&B)
2. Animals — Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood (#15 Pop)
3. Contours — First I Look at the Purse (#57 Pop, #12 R&B)
4. Marvelows — I Do (#37 Pop, #7 R&B)
5. Shirley Ellis — Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap) (#8 Pop, #16 R&B)
6. Strangeloves — I Want Candy (#11 Pop)
7. Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders — The Game of Love (#1 Pop)
8. Gentrys — Keep On Dancing (#4 Pop)
9. Dixie Cups — Iko Iko (#20 Pop, #20 R&B)
10. Cannibal & the Headhunters — Land of 1000 Dances (#30 Pop)
11. McCoys — Hang On Sloopy (#1 Pop)
12. Sir Douglas Quintet — She’s About a Mover (#13 Pop)
13. Brenda Lee — Thanks a Lot (#45 Pop)
14. Beach Boys — Help Me Rhonda (#1 Pop)
15. Beatles — Day Tripper (#5 Pop)
16. Knickerbockers — Lies (#20 Pop)
17. Martha Reeves & the Vandellas — You’ve Been in Love Too Long (#36 Pop, #25 R&B)
18. Marvin Gaye — I’ll Be Doggone (#8 Pop, #1 R&B)
19. Jr. Walker & the All-Stars — Shotgun (#4 Pop, #1 R&B)
20. Stevie Wonder — Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (#3 Pop, #1 R&B)
21. Apollas — You’re Absolutely Right (didn’t chart)
22. Ad Libs — Boy From New York City (#8 Pop, #6 R&B)
23. Len Barry — 1-2-3 (#2 Pop, #11 R&B)
24. Lou Christie — Lightnin’ Strikes (#1 Pop)
25. Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons — Let’s Hang On! (#3 Pop)
26. Gloria Jones — Tainted Love (didn’t chart)
27. Edwin Starr — Agent Double-O-Soul (#21 Pop, #8 R&B)
28. Little Milton — We’re Gonna Make It (#25 Pop, #1 R&B)
29. James Brown — Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag (#8 Pop, #1 R&B)
30. Fontella Bass — Rescue Me (#4 Pop, #1 R&B)

Disc Two:
1. Sam Cooke — Shake (#7 Pop, #4 R&B)
2. Otis Redding — Respect (#35 Pop, #4 R&B)
3. Betty LaVette — Let Me Down Easy (#20 R&B)
4. Ray Charles — Crying Time (#6 Pop, #5 R&B)
5. Nina Simone — I Put a Spell on You (#23 R&B)
6. Zombies — Tell Her No (#6 Pop)
7. Shirley Bassey — Goldfinger (#8 Pop)
8. Moody Blues — Go Now! (#10 Pop)
9. Who — I Can’t Explain (#93 Pop)
10. Them — Gloria (#71 Pop)
11. Marvelettes — Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead (#61 Pop, #11 R&B)
12. Velvelettes — He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’ (#64 Pop, #21 R&B)
13. Mary Wells — Use Your Head (#34 Pop, #13 R&B)
14. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles — Going to a Go-Go (#11 Pop, #2 R&B)
15. Four Tops — I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) (#1 Pop, #1 R&B)
16. Temptations — My Girl (#1 Pop, #1 R&B)
17. Barbara Lewis — Baby I’m Yours (#11 Pop, #5 R&B)
18. Don Covay — See Saw (#44 Pop, #5 R&B)
19. Lee Dorsey — Ride Your Pony (#28 Pop, #7 R&B)
20. Major Lance — Come See (#40, Pop, #20 R&B)
21. Kim Weston — Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me) (#50 Pop, #4 R&B)
22. Diana Ross & the Supremes — Back in My Arms Again (#1 Pop, #1 R&B)
23. Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels — Jenny Take a Ride! (#10 Pop)
24. Dave Clark Five — I Like It Like That (#7 Pop)
25. Paul Revere & the Raiders — Just Like Me (#11 Pop)
26. Yardbirds — Heart Full of Soul (#9 Pop)
27. Rolling Stones — (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (#1 Pop, #19 R&B)
28. Bob Dylan — Subterranean Homesick Blues (#39 Pop)
29. Wilson Pickett — In the Midnight Hour (#21 Pop, #1 R&B)
30. Solomon Burke — Got to Get You Off My Mind (#22 Pop, #1 R&B)

You know you’re a geek when . . .

Yesterday, my body rebelled against me.  Or against something.  I don’t know just what I did — I didn’t actually seem to be stretching things further than was reasonable, I didn’t slip on a patch of ice, I didn’t twist my ankle and land awkwardly — but I put a serious wrench into my lower back yesterday.  The sort of thing that reminds you just how important your back is to the most basic of movements . . . because the most basic of movements suddenly hurt.  A lot.

So I wind up taking a long, hot soak in the tub.  It doesn’t cure my ailing back completely, but it’s relaxing and it feels good.  I stand up to get out of the tub . . . and my body does that woozy-dizzy-headrush thing that happens when you get up too fast.  So I lean against the wall for a moment and I kneel down again to help clear my head.  Which works.  Until I stand up again, that is, when the headrush thing comes back.

Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

The third or fourth time this happens, I realize that I’m also feeling nauseous.  And I have an internal debate with myself about whether it’s better to try and fight this feeling off, or if it’ll be restorative to give in to it and get it out of the way.  My body, however, decides it doesn’t need to wait for the conclusion of this debate.  So I find myself briefly enjoying the pleasures of the dry heaves.  In retrospect, it all makes perfect sense.  I’d had about four hours of non-contiguous sleep the night before.  I hadn’t eaten anything all day.  I’d just given my body a major change of temperature by climbing out of a steamy hot bath.  All a lovely recipe for a moment or three of woozy purging.

The geeky bit?  The first thing I thought of when I realized that I might be getting ready to pray at the porcelain temple was that this could be a useful way to “reboot my system.”

Anywho . . . it has been a long time since I blogged properly.  Sorry to come back with a stomach-churning post.  Better things to come soon, I hope.

Baby’s first theory

Ted Striphas is running a caption contest on his blog involving a photo of a baby holding a book by every toddler’s favorite French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze. I’m still working on my entry (how could I not? Ted’s offering such fabulous prizes!) but — in the meantime — I was reminded of a moment about 18 months ago when I found myself watching after an almost-a-toddler for a few hours while her parents were otherwise occupied. And watching Svetlana play with her fuzzy books while surrounded by Ron and Z’s mountains of critical theory tomes inspired me to do a few literary mash-ups of my own.

Baby’s First Spivak
see the happy people. we call them “altern”

see the sad people. we call them “subaltern”

see the altern speak. hear the altern speak.

see the subaltern … no. no, you don’t.

the end.

Baby’s First Gramsci
karl was right. but karl was wrong.
let me tell you how in song.
rich men rule. rich men bad.
rich men make the poor real sad.
karl thinks poor are fooled by rich
who turn poor’s minds off like a switch.
i think poor are pretty smart.
rich don’t rule their minds — they steal the heart.
poor can still defeat the rich
but it’s not easy — life’s a bitch.
poor folks minds are full of doubt
but strength of will should see them out!

Baby’s First Said
once upon a time, there was a happy land called “the west.” only the people from the west didn’t know they were part of “the west.” they thought they were the whole world.

then one day, some people from the west met some people from “the east.” and the people from the west realized that they weren’t the whole world anymore.

but the people from the west liked to think that they were the whole world. so they pretended that the people from the east were weak and lazy. and so they sent soldiers with guns to kill the people from the east and steal their gold. and they told lies about the east that made the people from the west believe that all this was fair and good and right.

eventually, the people from the west forgot that the stories they were telling about the east were lies. but they couldn’t stop telling those stories because those stories made it possible for them to still believe that the west was the whole world.

and they all lived unhappily ever after.

I never got around to Baby’s First Deleuze, but maybe now I need to do so . . .

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