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30 July 2014 @ 10:27 am

[Via Space Ghost Zombie]

The Force is strong with this one,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Disco Bay, Pac Coffee
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: Ambient acid jazz
Here’s a sort of book meme:

io9 has posted a list of 21 of “the most influential science fiction and fantasy books”. It’s not meant to be definitive or complete. But a list is a list.

And this is what they came up with:

1) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
2) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

3) Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delaney
4) Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien
5) War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
6) Foundation by Isaac Asimov
7) Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein

8) Dangerous Visions, Edited by Harlan Ellison
8) Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
9) Ringworld by Larry Niven

10) The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
11) Neuromancer by William Gibson
12) Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

13) A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin
14) Kindred by Octavia Butler
15) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
16) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
17) The Wind-Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
18) The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
19) Slaughter-House Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
20) The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

21) Dune - Frank Herbert

You can read the justifications here.

The ones in bold font are ones that I’ve read.

The ones in italics are ones I have considered reading.

As for the rest … either I have no real interest or (in the case of Tolkien and Herbert) I’ve attempted to read them and gave up.

The same goes for Ursula Le Guin, though not for that specific book. I tried The Dispossessed and couldn’t get into it, but I could be tempted to try another one of her books. Certainly enough people whose opinion I respect have suggested I try the Earthsea books. So I can see myself giving her another try.

Octavia Butler I’m less sure about. I read one of her Patternmaster books (Mind Of My Mind) and while I actually finished it, it didn’t really do much for me. Maybe some of you can advise me if Kindred is worth trying.

I’m sure some may question the presence of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. I’m not entirely convinced about the latter. I’ve never read the books, but the justification provided by io9 isn't very strong – I don’t know if simply spawning a crop of cash-in imitators counts as “changing SF/F forever”. And anyway, it’s not like overthrowing authoritarian regimes hasn’t been a SF/F staple since at least the 1930s.

However, I think an argument can be made for Harry Potter, in the sense that I can’t name another book series in the history of book publishing where acquiring and reading the latest episode became a global group activity. Maybe it happens with the latest Game Of Thrones novels, but not nearly on the same level.

Speaking of which, I’m still not interested in A Game Of Thrones. At least not right now. I’m not ruling it out, but it’s not a big priority for me right now. I’m also indifferent to Samuel R. Delaney. I’ve never read him, but the books of his I’ve seen on shelves didn’t really interest me. Maybe one day they will.

As for the ones I have read … the only one I’m not that excited about is 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. It’s good, and I won’t deny Verne’s influence in SF, but I found it tedious at times. Apart from that, I’d highly recommend any of the others.

I’m gonna change yr life,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Now Playing: Yello, "Drive Driven"
ITEM: Psychologists at the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) are developing an interview system that uses a responsive on-screen avatar for the first stage of the national security clearance process.

Put another way: in future, people applying for government jobs requiring national security clearance will be interviewed by robots.

Motherboard explains:

Initial screening for a variety of government jobs currently requires applicants to fill out a form disclosing past drug use, criminal activity, and mental health issues, which is then reviewed during an interview—with a human.

But a recent NCCA study published in the journal Computers and Human Behavior asserts that not only would a computer-generated interviewer be less “time consuming, labor intensive, and costly to the Federal Government,” people are actually more likely to admit things to the robot.

Obviously the bot doesn’t get the final say on whether yr cleared. And it’s not an AI program so much as something similar to those computers some companies use for telephone customer service.

But I’m intrigued by the idea that yr more likely to be candid about yr past history if you talk to a machine.

Especially a machine that “is racially ambiguous and looks like a sort of cross between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin.”


You just want to pour yr heart out to it, don't you?

Dashboard confessional,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: blahblah
Now Playing: James Brown, "Down and Out In New York City"
Two words:


vhscoverjunkie: HIT! (1973)

[Via The Cult Of Ray]

Hit me,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Disco Bay
Mood: blahblah
Now Playing: Allah-Las, "Don't You Forget It"
25 July 2014 @ 09:16 pm
As I’ve mentioned before, I bought most of my 45s between the ages of ten and 17, at a time when most of my musical knowledge was informed by whatever was on Top 40 radio at the time.

Consequently, there’s more than a few 45s that I listen to now and wonder just what I was thinking at the time.

Which brings us to Little River Band.

They were from Melbourne, Australia, but they slotted in pretty well with the mellow soft-rock sound that was dominating the charts in the late 70s – Fleetwood Mac, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Atlanta Rhythm Section, etc. In fact, it seems the late 70s was a good time for Australian acts like Olivia Newton-John and Air Supply to make it big in America, so why not LRB?

Anyway, I had this on 45.

Listening to it now, I’m not sure what I saw in it at the time. It’s catchy, I suppose. But you can definitely file it under “songs I haven’t listened to since high school”.

Don't be thinking that I don’t want you,

This is dF
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Where the hell am I?: Disco Bay
Mood: sickunwell
Now Playing: Falco, "The Sound Of Musik"
24 July 2014 @ 10:53 am
Saaaaaay, this would make a good movie.

science70: Douglas R. Mason, Matrix (Ballantine Books, 1970).

[Via 70s Sci-Fi Art]


This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: Sonic Youth, "Dirty Boots"
23 July 2014 @ 10:19 am
The Hong Kong Book Fair has come and gone.

And despite this one being the 25th anniversary of the event, I don’t have a lot to report – partly because it wasn’t much different from last year’s (apart from seeing an awful lot of John Green books on the tables, and slightly more Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Hillary Clinton than usual), and partly because it was a rushed visit for me.

I didn’t even think we were going to go this year, due to incompatible schedules and recent developments at work and at home taking up more free time than usual. But I was able to wrangle about 90 minutes out of my morning yesterday (the last day of the fair), and by now I know which booths to hit and where to find them, and which ones are more likely to have anything I’d want to read.

(For example, if all you tend to carry every year is mass-market writers like Stieg Larsson, Sophie Kinsella, Stephen King, Jodi Picoult, Sidney Sheldon, James Patterson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mitch Albom, Clive Cussler, Matthew Reilly, Dan Brown, Malcolm Gladwell, George RR Martin, JRR Tolkien, Stephanie Meyer and Donald Trump, then there’s really no need for me to check and see if you happen to have anything that interests me – and if you do, it’s likely to be Neil Gaiman, and odds are I already have that one.)

So that helped expedite things.

Normally I like to take my time and browse for new discoveries or writers I hadn’t paid much attention to before and see if there’s anything worth risking for a bargain price. But there was no time for that this year, so I basically kept an eye out for the more familiar names and titles.

And so here’s this year’s comparatively modest haul.

I’m pretty confident about that stack. I’ve read Schlosser, Mailer and Greenwald before, although I’ve read Greenwald’s online work, not his books. Also, I didn’t actually like Mailer, but that was Barbary Shore, which it turns out everyone agrees is far from his best work, and anyway I’m willing to give his non-fiction a try, and hey, it’s about the moon landings, so why not?.

I’ve been meaning to try Bolano for awhile now, so it's good to start with something slim and cheap. I've been less enthusiastic about trying Keigo Higashino, but mainly because the book's publishers describe him as "the Japanese Stieg Larsson". (Tip to publishers: when you try to promote an author by comparing him or her to someone popular and famous, I'm automatically going to assume he/she is actually nothing like that author because whenever you do that, I'm invariably disappointed if I read it with that benchmark in mind. Alternately, if you compare him/her to someone I have no interest in reading in the first place, that doesn't really motivate me to give it a try.) On the other hand, the bride has read a couple of his books, so for 50% off, I’m game.

And of course, lots of friends have namedropped David Foster Wallace as a must-read, so it’s probably time I tried him out.

As for the Big Data book, that’s somewhat more relevant to my day job (we cover that topic from the perspective of telecoms companies), but I saw Viktor Meyer-Schönberger speak at an event in Singapore last month, and was very impressed with his holistic view on Big Data and the pros and cons therein, so I’m interested to read an expanded version of that view.

And so much for the Hong Kong Book Fair.

Same time next year,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Now Playing: The Goasst, "Devil You Know"
James Garner is gone now.

And like most people of my generation, I grew up with him on TV via The Rockford Files in prime time and Maverick in reruns, though I watched more of the former than the latter.

Other people have said it, but The Rockford Files was one of the best detective TV shows of its time primarily because it was so character-driven. James Rockford went against the grain of every other TV detective out there – an ex-con barely getting by as a PI who’d rather talk than fight. And Garner was perfect for it. (Okay, so the show was basically created with him in mind. Still.)

However, I thought I’d take the time to highlight Garner’s film work. A lot of people have brought up titles like The Great Escape, Murphy’s Romance, and Victor Victoria.

But one of my favorite Garner films that doesn't get mentioned is Support Your Local Sheriff.

On account of its that goofy 60s humor I tend to like. Granted, it’s sort of Garner playing Maverick with a loonier sense of humor. But it’s still a lot of fun.

My other favorite Garner film is Tank.

That one is a little harder to justify, perhaps. But I was in the Army when I saw it, and while it’s not exactly an accurate portrayal of military life, the spirit is there, so I kind of identified with it somewhat.

And of course, Garner is great as CSM Carey. Also, I’m a sucker for “corrupt small-town sheriff in the South abuses his authority and gets his comeuppance” stories. Anyway, I find it entertaining.

So, yeah, respect.

Leave a message,

This is dF
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Where the hell am I?: Disco Bay
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: Blondie, "Denis"
Comics fans may have heard by now that Marvel Comics is diversifying its character line-up further away from usual White Male Superhero demographic by making Thor a woman and Captain America an African-American.

More specifically, Thor will be replaced by a female character who will wield the Mjölnir (that big hammer that gives Thor his power), and Sam Wilson will replace Steve Rogers as CapAm.

There is much freaking out, both from diehard comics fans and those people who tend to view political correctness as oppression of straight white guys. (O the poor straight white guys!)

At least I assume so. I haven’t really looked. But there usually is. Maybe there’s not as much freaking out over CapAm, if only because Wilson has been CapAm before. In fact, so have around 19 other people at one point or another (around half of them official, the rest imposters).

Come to think of it, there have also been alternate Thors, some of them women. Even Steve Rogers was Thor for a bit. So really, the current changes are a case of history repeating.

However, as Wired has pointed out, that will probably also include a return to the status quo. Marvel can talk all it wants about the importance of diversity – and this is true – but the fact of the matter is that the Marvel Universe™ (and the DC Universe® for that matter) is designed so that editors can make changes like this, and change them back if it results in dropped sales. And both publishers have a history of doing just that, whether its costume changes or killing off characters.

Which really makes the CapAm/Thor changes another gimmick, rather than any concerted effort to diversify the roster.

As someone who isn’t really a fan of either character, I admit I don’t have a horse in this race. I will say I don’t object to the changes. I’d just think if Marvel really wants more diversity in its line-up, I'd rather it create new characters who can build their own identities.

On the other hand, I’m fully aware how hard it is to do that from a purely business perspective. Marvel is first and foremost a business, and if new titles/characters don’t sell as well as the marquee names, they get dropped (albeit sometimes with good reason). So realistically, I suppose, the most expedient way is to repurpose old intellectual property characters. Except then the fans complain. Unless you start an alternate universe

That said, even with those limitations, Marvel does seem to be somewhat better at it than DC, or at least more willing to take risks just to see how fans react.

Either way, it’s really indicative of the problems inherent in the comics empires that Marvel and DC have built for themselves. Their ability to innovate is limited to the point that they can’t diversify easily, even though their demographics have diversified considerably.

Of course, there’s always comic books published by companies other than Marvel or DC. But c’mon, no one reads those.

Changes aren't permanent but change is,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: The Beatles, "Dear Prudence"
19 July 2014 @ 11:21 am
I don’t have any real opinion on the immigration reform debate in the US. Or rather, I do, but it’s basically the same opinion I’ve had for awhile – there’s no question reform is needed, but I think the horror stories conservatives throw around about illegal immigrants in America are at best overblown and at worst xenophobic and racist.

In fact, the biggest problem with immigration reform could well be the inability of conservatives to frame it in any other way as an us-against-them invasion of American sovereignty that is, of course, all Obama’s fault (him being from Kenya and all).

This is not only counterproductive to any sane discussion on what to do about it, it’s also providing the batshit wing with incentives to stage really dumb photo opportunities.

Some are relatively harmless – like Sean Hannity and Rick Perry pretending to patrol the Rio Grande with machine guns looking all butch. (I’m assuming they weren’t actually allowed to man the guns. I’d hate to think Hannity was in a position to actually decide whether or not to fire the thing if they’d just happened to come across a bunch of people trying to make it across.)

Others are more stupid and potentially dangerous – like sending angry mobs out to stop buses full of child refugees gawdamn foreigners.

For one thing, you never know when you might scream and yell at the wrong busload of kids. Which just makes you look even more stupid.

Also, it doesn’t actually solve anything. I really don’t know what the protesters think they’re accomplishing – maybe they think the buses should be driving the kids back to Honduras? Or they should just dump the kids in Mexico somewhere? What do they think we do with illegal immigrants who get caught anyway? Give them an Obamaphone and a job in Walmart or McDonald’s?

Whatever it is they think they’re doing – and whatever you think about immigration reform, etc – it still comes down to this:

Dudes, you are yelling and screaming at a bunch of kids. More to the point, you are yelling and screaming at kids on the run from countries steeped in gang violence and poverty and have probably seen things no kid should ever have to deal with. They probably don't need a crowd of angry white grown-ups screaming “Go back to Mexico!” in their face (especially when they’re not even from there).

It’s a dick thing to do. I’m sure many of the protesters are only doing it because they’re angry about the situation and they can’t yell and scream at Obama and they gotta yell at someone, and the kids are just convenient targets. It’s still a dick thing to do.

What’s really striking about all this is how, if this were happening almost anywhere else, this situation would be described by most people regardless of political affiliation as a humanitarian crisis – child refugees fleeing their decimated home countries by the tens of thousands in the hopes of staying alive and finding a better life somewhere else, etc.

But in America, it’s treated mostly as another tool in the political toolbox for conservatives to beat up on Obama and whip up Big Fear of Alien Invasions.

My Republican friends like to tell me this is all Obama’s fault because of his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which they say is basically the same as posting a big sign on the border saying “Hey Central America, send us yr kids!” There’s quite a bit of evidence that this isn't the case, but it’s an election year, so it looks to me like Republicans are more interested in talking points that blame Obama and the Democrats for everything than actually analyzing the situation, much less doing anything about it apart from mass deportations.

Anyway, Jon Stewart has a good breakdown of that, and the ludicrousness there of.

Tell it to the kids,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Disco Bay
Mood: annoyedannoyed
Now Playing: Mike Oldfield, "Tubular Bells"
19 July 2014 @ 08:34 am

[Via Nudie Suits]

Faders up,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Disco Bay
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: Van Halen, "Panama"
18 July 2014 @ 08:31 am
Neil Young has always had a reputation for doing whatever he wants to do, regardless of what fans or his own record company expect. In the last ten years, he’s had a tendency to push his limits with gimmicky projects like rock operas (Greendale), political screeds (Living With War), echo overloads (Le Noise), a concept album about electric cars (Fork In The Road) or an album of classic American murder ballads (Americana).

So naturally his new LP is a covers album recorded in a refurbished 1947 Voice-o-Graph vinyl recording booth. Owned by Jack White.

As you’d expect, the sound quality is the equivalent of an old 78rpm record or Alan Lomax’s Folkways recordings. And sure, it’s another gimmick. But the thing about Young is that more often than not he employs gimmicks that work to his strengths, and this is certainly the case here. Young has always been good enough to get by with nothing more than a guitar, harmonica and voice. And this gives him s chance to run through some songs by some of his favorite songwriters, including Phil Ochs, Bert Jansch, Gordon Lightfoot, Willie Nelson, the Everly Brothers, Tim Hardin and (of course) Dylan and Springsteen.

And it all works, generally. Even the spoken-word letters to his mom give the album an old-timey feel to it.

That said, some people may find it hard to listen to more than once, depending on how big a fan they are of old-timey vinyl. As Neil Young music projects go it’s interesting, but it’s not essential.

Either way, it’s just like Young to put out a no-fi record like this around the same time he’s also starting up PonoMusic, a digital music service/player intended to make digital music a better listening experience than those crap MP3s you kids listen to today (though there’s some doubt as to whether Pono’s proposed 192kHz/24-bit audio can accomplish that).

Anyway, listen to this.

Straight to vinyl,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: On the ferry to HK Island
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: See above
16 July 2014 @ 10:12 pm
Time for new music from the only band on the internet that sounds and tastes like bananas.

This time around, we are all about the Man Business.

What is the Man Business?

Just listen. Or read the lyrics if you want to save some time.

Sing along, kids!Collapse )


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Lyrics by dEFROG
Music by Banäna Deäthmüffins

©2014 Terribly Frog Music. Derechos Reservados!


Like this song? Why not down it and other fine lo-fi tracks from the official Banäna Deäthmüffins page on Soundcloud?

Also, be the first to like us on Facebook.

I need a vacation and change for a dollar,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Disco Bay
Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Now Playing: See above
This is a bit dated, but I only just found out about it:

On July 4 in Dallas, a local musician staged an Open Carry Guitar Rally.

And 300 people showed up with guitars.




Obviously, the object was to parody gun owners staging open-carry protests, although the actual event wasn’t an anti-gun rally in itself. You can read the details here.

The local open-carry group, Open Carry Texas, was of course supportive of the rally in the sense that “we totally support the First Amendment” – which implies that yr now supposed to return the favor and support their 1A right to freak people out in Target and Chipotle and wherever the hell else they feel like carrying iron.

Ha ha. No.

It’s a shame the Open Carry Guitar Rally didn’t get nearly as much coverage as the open-carry gun protests. But anyway, it’s a great idea. I like the concept of showing how people react differently when you carry a guitar over yr shoulder en masse than an AR-15.

Of course, I’ll admit when I heard about it, my first thought Robert Rodriguez’s Mariachi Guitar Army.

And also this song by Deadbolt.

Don’t shred on me,

This is dF
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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: amusedamused
Now Playing: Cheap Trick, "Cold Turkey"
15 July 2014 @ 09:38 am

[Via Jugtown Radio]

Satisfaction guaranteed,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: Ros Sereysothea, "Cold Sky"
So Tommy Ramone – a.k.a. Tommy Erdelyi, a.k.a. the last surviving founding member of The Ramones – is gone.

>Ya no nos queda más nada del póster, solo el recuerdo.Tommy Ramone que en paz descanses. <br />

A lot has already been written about this – how Tommy wasn’t just a timekeeper, he was as much a driving force of the band both behind the kit and behind the scenes as Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee, etc. All of which is true.

But it did occur to me that this marks the very first time that all of the original members of one of my favorite bands have all passed away. Every other band I can think of has only lost maybe half the original line-up.

I may be overstating the significance of that, not least because the Ramones had been inactive since 1996, and Tommy quit the band around 18 years before that. And of course, Marky and CJ and Richie are still with us.

Still, a milestone is a milestone.

And while there’s no point in decrying the unfairness of a world where all the original Ramones are gone but every member of The Eagles are still alive, I kind of understand the sentiment.

[Image via Roger Wilkerson]

Hey ho,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: Neil Young, "A Letter Home"
I am Marlow, hard-boiled private dick, and I am on a case to find a woman who is locked in a time capsule and get important information from her. My client believes she knows something that will provide him with an alibi.

The time capsules are run by the military, so to get access to the facility, I have to pose as someone who wants to get his own capsule, and take a physical. People aren't supposed to leave the capsules until they’re scheduled to be opened, so I have to get the woman out of the capsule and back in again without anyone noticing.

The physical is also a challenge because the person who hired me has arranged for me to get a bio-implant that will nullify the effect of the time capsule. This is necessary because once you go inside the capsule, time and reality become subjective. My client could be kept waiting 50 years for me, while to me it might only seem like a day. If the military doctor discover the implant during the physical, my mission will be blown.

Somehow I work out that the only way to get her out of the capsule is to open all of the capsules – partly because the resulting confusion will give us cover, and partly to protect my client. The woman is very high-profile, and if she’s the only one freed and we get caught, the military will know my client was behind it.

I get the time capsules open, and but when I talk to the woman, it turns out she doesn’t know anything that can help my client. To complicate things further, once she’s out of the time capsule, she refuses to go back in. Someone put her in there against her will. I’m sympathetic, but now my client risks exposure.

And then I woke up.

Out of time,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: awakeawake
Now Playing: Neil Young, "A Letter Home"
11 July 2014 @ 09:57 am
Speaking of Classic Rock™ ...

I posted this on Facebook recently, but there’s no reason not to post it here.


Name ten albums that have stuck with you over the years

By no means comprehensive or definitive, but these are ten that definitely stick out.



1. David Bowie, Diamond Dogs
Bowie’s homage to 1984, and arguably my favorite Bowie album ever. There’s an otherworldly vibe to it that you just don’t get from his other classic albums, as though he had to tap into an alien universe to get it done.

2. Husker Du, Flip Your Wig
Definitely the most solid Husker Du album, and a major influence on my own attempts to play the guitar.

3. Devo, Freedom Of Choice
My first Devo album, which means that every song is ingrained into my skull, as is Devo’s satirical art-pop theories on devolution.

4. Butthole Surfers, Independent Worm Saloon
Butthole Surfers’ Hairway To Steven showed me just how terrifying and demented a rock band could sound. Their major label debut – produced by John Paul Jones, no less – somehow managed to make them sound scarier.

5. Black Sabbath, The Mob Rules
Black Sabbath showed me how dark a guitar sound could get – especially when you have Ronnie James Dio singing over it.

6. Rush, Moving Pictures
My first Rush album. Seven songs, not a dud on it. Changed my life forever. I can’t really add to that.

7. Electric Light Orchestra, Out Of The Blue
The more I listen to this, the more I realize how layered and diverse an album it is – and how Jeff Lynne’s lyrics actually don’t make as much sense as I originally thought.

8. Ramones, Rocket To Russia
I could also choose their first two albums, but Rocket To Russia is the one I always come back to. It’s the album where everything they were about just gelled. And production-wise it sounds better than their debut, so points for that.

9. Blue Oyster Cult, Secret Treaties
Probably BOC’s most consistently good album, with all the elements you’d want – horror, conspiracies, aliens – wrapped up in really strong songs. Also, it ends with “Astronomy”, the best BOC song ever.

10. Queen, Sheer Heart Attack
I should go with A Night At The Opera, probably, but I had a cassette of this when I was in US Army bootcamp, and I listened to it obsessively. So listening to it now taps into some serious memories for me.

Now I’m here,

This is dF

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Where the hell am I?: Causeway Bay
Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Now Playing: Ramones, "Chinese Rock"
Ever since Classic Rock™ emerged as a radio programming format, the challenge has been to define just what qualifies as “classic”.

Back in the 90s, it was relatively clear-cut, at least to me – classic-rock was defined by both time period and sound. It didn’t include anything from the 50s, and very little before 1964, when The Kinks invented power chords. Generally speaking, “classic rock” focused on the period from the latter half of the 60s – by which time rock was becoming more oriented around albums instead of singles – to roughly the end of the 1970s, when the old school stopped dominating the charts and the New Wave began.

Put another way, Classic Rock™ in the 90s was basically a rebranded version of the AOR format of the 70s, only with no new releases past 1980 or so.

Obviously that’s changed, and now we hear U2 and Nirvana and Guns’n’Roses on Classic Rock™ stations – which makes sense when you remember that those songs are over 20 years old now. But that means “classic rock” is no longer defined strictly by a specific time period.

Or is it?

Five Thirty-Eight’s Walt Hickey wondered just that after hearing Green Day’s “American Idiot” on a Classic Rock™ station. So he did some number-crunching, and came up with a few interesting results.

1. Classic Rock™ depends to a degree on what city you live in. (z.B. Billy Joel gets lots of airplay in NYC, but the Eagles rule the roost in Tampa)

2. The 10-year period from 1973 to 1982 accounts for 57% of all song plays in the study.

3. The top 25 most frequently played artists (including Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rolling Stones etc) together account for almost half of the spins on Classic Rock™ stations in the US. Put another way, 5% of all the bands played on those stations made up nearly half of song plays.

But what about the Green Day?

Well, Hickey doesn’t provide much explanation for it. But his study does basically confirm that, for the most part, Classic Rock™ is still generally rooted in the 60s and 70s, and extends mostly to around 1991 (the year punk broke, and also Metallica). Sure, you’ll hear R.E.M. and Simple Minds and Ratt too. But it’s mostly still locked within that “classic” time frame. If there’s a common denominator here, it’s probably longevity – i.e. songs that stand the test of time.

The other common denominator is, of course, market research. Classic rock is what listeners – or at least listeners crunched down in to data sets – say it is. That’s not news. Radio stations have done that for years.

However, in the age of Spotify and digital media and crowdsourcing, there are new ways to gather and crunch those data sets. Spotify owns a company called The Echo Nest, which uses data and genre algorithms to generate song recommendations. Here’s how they go about that, according to Glenn McDonald, the guy in charge of developing the genre algorithm:

In addition to the web-crawlers and listening histories, The Echo Nest uses sophisticated music-analysis software to figure out the qualities of different songs. McDonald looks at 13 dimensions when evaluating genre: tempo, energy, loudness, danceability, whether a song is more acoustic or electric, dense or spare, atmospheric or bouncy, and so on. Some genres are defined by one of these dimensions in particular — electronic music with a very finite range of beats per minute, say — and some are painted in broader strokes, like classic rock.

Classic rock, McDonald said, has a much wider range of tempo and rarely is powered by a drum machine. The Echo Nest can detect whether an actual person is behind a drum set based on minor imperfections in tempo, or beats that a drum machine can’t mimic. “The timing will be very human and unmechanical,” a dead giveaway, he said.

So there you go. No drum machines. (Sorry, Jesus & Mary Chain.)

Anyway, the numbers seem to confirm that Classic Rock™ is still mainly confined mostly to the late 60s/70s, with leeway for more recent releases depending on the demographics. That said, those demos are primarily drawn from the baby-boomers and Gen Xers that grew up with that music. So what happens when the millenials start defining what is Classic Rock™? Will DJs start segueing from Thin Lizzy to One Direction?

I’m not that worried. For one thing, I don’t listen to radio anymore. And anyway I’ll probably be dead by then.

PRODUCTION NOTE: I recommend reading the article. There are very interesting charts in it.

Rock’n’roll fantasy,

This is dF

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