Monthly Archives: September 2006

How to improve BART signage

Via 43 Folders, here’s a proposal for improving the signage in Bay Area public transit stations (i.e. BART and Muni). It mentions two issues I had noticed before: Why aren’t the BART lines referred to by color, despite being color-coded on the map? (My first experience with a subway system was DC’s Metro, which has color designations.) And, why aren’t there any signs to the 16th St Mission station? (Obviously it’s at the intersection of 16th and Mission, but one at least needs to know which direction Mission St is…)
That website has a number of other interesting-looking articles on SF urban design.

Hoist the Jolly Roger! [Open Thread]

Arrr, mateys! It be Talk Like A Pirate Day once again! Of the holidays celebrated here at Arrrcane Gazebo, few be more highly anticipated.
Though my lists of the year’s best music won’t appear until December, it is now time to announce the winner of the coveted Arrrcane Gazebo Pirate Song of the Year. And the winner is…
Pretty Girls Make Graves, “Selling the Wind”
I buy these winds
to venge my children and their ghosts
I stole their ships
and every castle from their coasts
Need no advice
nor approval from the queen
I live my life
forever hellcat of the seas

Last year’s (unannounced) winner was, of course, The Decemberists’ “The Mariner’s Revenge Song”.
Here be a comment thread fer ye scurvy dogs t’ parley with each other.

Consequences

Miraculously, none of those Justin Timberlake songs got stuck in my head.
Instead, because I mentioned it once in the review, fucking “My Humps” got stuck in my head. If ever there was a song that could make “SexyBack” sound like an intricate and nuanced work of musical genius…
Return to Cookie Mountain is an effective cure for this malady.

Mainstream Pop Hell: Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds

It’s the album the indie kids are raving about! Pitchfork rated it 8.1/10, and Stylus, well, Stylus gave it a B+, but keep in mind that this is the guy so bland that he wrote the theme song for McDonalds, so that’s pretty good. Did they send a wad of hundred-dollar bills with the review copies? Or is the album really that good? The only way to know for sure is to actually listen to it.
So I’ve started a long automated measurement, and I’ve got a stream of the album ready to go. (I’m going to assume that I’m not missing any subtle sonic nuances by listening to an internet stream over earbuds, rather than a CD on a proper set of speakers.) But first, let’s take a look at the album cover.
The Title: On either side of the slash, you have a decent title for an album. Really, FutureSex would be fitting for, say, an Ellen Allien record. And LoveSounds, while somewhat generic, signals a certain mood for the album (and maybe alludes to the Beach Boys). But to use both titles suggests indecision. One imagines a marketing team sitting around a room, brainstorming names for the record, and being unable to choose between these two. “Let’s just use both!” It’s an indicator that this CD is targeted to the broadest possible audience. But wait, this is also indicated by the fact that the album cover says Justin Timberlake.
The Album Art: Courtesy Amazon, this is the front cover:

Here we see the artist gleefully stomping on a disco ball. Is this because the record is a stunning artistic breakthrough that will destroy the world of soulless, manufactured dance music? I find this unlikely. Turning to the back cover, we find a pair of mirrored images of the disco ball, with the tracklist extending phallicly above it. Perhaps stomping the disco ball is meant to be an emasculating image—a strange choice given the subject matter of the album, unless Timberlake is actually parodying the notion of the horndog pop star. Or maybe he just felt that it was a beautiful day to be stomping on things.
Taking a look at the background, I find that there’s no better way to signal “bland and generic” than to use a completely blank, white room.
Well, I can’t put this off forever. Let’s get started.
1. Futuresex/Lovesound
The title of the album is also the title of the first song and the first lyrics, along with some assorted moaning (ew). Were they short on ideas? It goes on like this for about a minute and a half and–wait, that thing with the synth was actually pretty cool. But then it goes away, and we’re back to the title of the song.
Hey, that cool bit came back with the chorus a couple more times. Otherwise, I am unimpressed. Rating: 2/5
2. SexyBack
In future, computers will not have space bars to increase sexy efficiency. This is the big single? It’s a chaotic mess. I’m sure it’s ubiquitous on the radio, which is why I lined my apartment with tinfoil in order to avoid it. (This is the first time I’ve heard it.) Indeed, the sexy went somewhere, but I don’t think he’s brought it back.
Is it still going? This song is about a minute and half too long. Rating: 1/5
3. Sexy Ladies
Justin finds the space bar, and also (apparently) sexy ladies. He’s gone to a rapid-fire falsetto, possibly a result of stomping on his disco balls. At first this is a welcome change from the previous track, but it gets old at about 1:27 and now I’m grinding my teeth as the backup singers repeat the word “sexy”. I’m going to send Justin a thesaurus. Rating: 0.5/5
4. Let Me Talk To You Prelude / My Love
“Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” Ok, you’ve got my attention now. “My love! My love! My love! My love!” This is going to go on for six minutes? What is this, the “My Humps” school of songwriting?
Is that still Timberlake singing? It must take a lot of stomping to reach that octave. But thankfully the lyrics have diversified and there is something that sounds like an actual verse. Following that some digital effect is going “eee! eee! eee!” in the background which is truly obnoxious.
A minute of so of somebody (presumably Timbaland) rapping. It’s tolerable, and when verses emerge from this song it’s not half bad. However, that eeping thing has got to go. Rating: 1.5/5
5. Lovestoned/I Think She Knows Interlude
Ah! An interlude, excellent. Wait, this track is seven minutes long, I guess there’s a song first.
Ok, I’m a sucker for violins. Get rid of Timberlake and this would be a pretty good song. Once again he’s only written about four lines of lyrics which get repeated. Then about a minute of beatboxing (but that violin’s still around, happily). The vocals return, with the same lyrics of course, but the instrumentation’s gone to “cheesy piano”. Damn!
This song is so long it needs an intermission, not an interlude. Rating: 2/5
6. What Goes Around…/…Comes Around Interlude
What is that, a shamisen? I was in a Chinese restaurant yesterday where they were playing the Best of Andrew Lloyd Webber on an erhu. Anyway, we’re in for another seven-minute marathon here.
“What goes around goes around goes around…” Timberlake is the master of the two word chorus. This song is reminiscent of his N’Sync origins. Because we didn’t get enough of that the first time.
There is no excuse for this song being as long as it is. It’s like one 30-second clip copied and pasted 15 times. Wasn’t I promised an interlude? Oh, there it is. Finally.
In fact, this album is seventy minutes long, with only one song clocking in at under four minutes (and it’s 3:58). I’m happy to get long albums from Yo La Tengo or Spiritualized, but does the world really need seventy minutes of Justin Timberlake songs? Rating: 0.5/5
7. Chop Me Up
Timbaland’s back. The really good rapper names evoke yuppie clothing retailers. In fact, he’s most of this track, with Justin jumping in for the chorus, but it still manages to be one of the blandest tracks yet. Incredibly boring. Rating: 0.5/5
8. Damn Girl
Actually not “Damn girl!” but “Damn, girl!”. Hoping for punctuation in this album is somewhat futile, however. Hey, guess what the lyrics are! “Damn, girl! Damn, girl! Damn, girl!” These songs have very low entropy.
There’s an electric organ here, which almost sounded cool except that it played a progression suitable for a baseball stadium. Charge! Rating: 0.5/5
9. Summer Love
Mercifully, a four-minute song. Isn’t three minutes the canonical length for a pop song? Someone should tell him that.
I think he’s under the impression that the word “girl” is punctuation, like an exclamation point or something.
“I can’t wait to fall in love/ with you/ You can’t wait to fall in love/ with me” I realize not every song can have Belle & Sebastian-quality lyrics, but damn, this is insipid. Rating: 0.5/5
10. Set The Mood Prelude/ Until The End Of Time
“Until The End Of Time” describes how long this song lasts–at 7:33 this is the longest track on the album. The prelude here is two minutes of “ooo ooo ooo”, followed by a torturously slow transition into the main song.
Here the lyrics talk about “all the darkness in the world”, but exhibit the level of insight into geopolitics displayed by my typical comment spammer. Lots of wailing here. “Everybody sing– aaaah oooh woooaaaooo yeah!” Did he run out of words?
One minute left and it feels like a year. So slow… this song would be much better if it were sped up by a factor of four. But then JT’s falsetto would be pitched outside the range of human hearing… like I said, much better. Rating: 0.5/5
11. Losing My Way
“Can anybody out there hear me, ’cause I can’t seem to hear myself?” Yeah, obviously. Here’s the sad tale about a guy trapped in a Justin Timberlake song. No, wait, he’s a crack addict. Bonus points for having several verses with distinct lyrics, but they are canceled out by repeating the chorus approximately two hundred times. Rating: 1/5
12. (Another Song) All Over Again
Another slow ballad with lots of “woooo yeah”. This would normally signal the end of the album except he’s already done this two or three times. At least the title is accurate! One of these “I’m asking forgiveness, please give me another chance” songs. In fact, those are the exact lyrics. Naturally there’s a sappy piano. An excruciating end to an overly long album, as if he’s trying to squeeze every last minute out of the CD format. “Let me start over again,” he pleads. Hell, no. Rating: 0.5/5
It’s over! At last, blessed silence! Or, blessed hum of mechanical pumps anyway. The first half wasn’t as bad as I expected, but the second half was agonizing. And it was so, so long. I think I hit the wall somewhere in track 10. Overall Rating: 1/5
Time to cleanse my brain with My Bloody Valentine.

Shouldn’t the companion be named Norton?

Via Dynamics of Cats, the “dwarf planet” whose discovery led to Pluto’s demotion has been named Eris, losing its previous informal name of Xena. Steinn responds with an appropriate “Hail Eris!”, but then wonders if dwarf planets should have dwarf names.
As a sometime-admirer of the Goddess (one of the patron deities of Kaos Alley), I am pleased to see her recognized here, even if it is a dinky little dwarf planet. (At least it has an appropriately eccentric orbit.) In her honor, I suggest going bowling, eating hotdogs (especially tomorrow), or generally doing something chaotic. Initiates can go here, and click randomly in the table of contents.
Via Pharyngula, the Bad Astronomy blog finds a wingnut who thinks that this naming choice is… a vicious liberal attack on George W. Bush. His argument is based on the fact that the Caltech is in California and therefore must be a major liberal enclave. I would like to propose a slightly more plausible theory, in which the game Illuminati is an accurate representation of world affairs, and the Discordian Society has just added the IAU to their power structure.

SexyBlog Alert

By popular demand, I will liveblog my review of Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds tomorrow (Friday), starting around 2 pm Pacific, so be sure to tune in. The truly masochistic can even find a copy of the album and listen along with me…

Drastic Measures

As I struggle with a particularly severe case of writer’s block, I am starting to wonder whether, like many writers, I should look for inspiration in personal suffering. And it has been noted that my reviews of CDs and other media tend to be almost uniformly positive, and maybe some negative reviews would be more interesting. So, I am going to consider the interesting and exciting new CDs released yesterday—TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain, Yo La Tengo’s I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, the Junior Boys’ So This Is Goodbye—and then I am going to ignore them, and instead write a detailed review of Justin Timberlake’s new album FutureSex/LoveSounds. I’m hoping that the experience of listening to it will provide enough pain, rage, and existential angst to fill a blog post.
Due to time constraints, it probably won’t appear until tomorrow, but you may consider yourselves warned. Maybe I should liveblog it?

On the Nerd-Off

Many of the science bloggers are competing over the question of who among them is the biggest nerd, apparently starting with this post. I’m going to stay out of this one, since I’ve been tapering down my nerdy activities somewhat over the last few years in a (possibly misguided) effort to pass for “normal”. Besides, there’s no way I could compete with entries like Rob Knop’s.
On the other hand, being a nerd is more of an attitude than it is a particular subculture, and this is not so easily escaped by diversifying one’s interests—I may listen to hipster music (by coincidence!) but my meticulously maintained iTunes library with detailed tagging and multilayered Smart Playlists gives away my nerdish tendencies.
I suspect, however, that my nerd level peaked that time I wore a Starfleet uniform to a Renaissance fair.