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Uncertain Principles

Physics, Politics, Pop Culture

Friday, December 17, 2004

A Musical Question

So, there's this act called "The Streets," which is really one gawky British guy sort-of-rapping. What's up with that?

I mean, why is this clown getting radio airplay, from "alternative" stations, no less? His "songs" marry plodding, uninteresting beats ("Fit But You Know It" would have the most crashingly dull hook of the year, were it not for the existence of Lenny Kravitz's "Lady") to obscure and unintersting British slang, and wraps the whole thing in a "Wot you fink about dat?" accent that's just this side of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

To top it all off, he's really not even rapping. I mean, I'm not the biggest rap fan you'll ever meet, but I do recognize that there's some talent to what people like Eminem do-- there's a rhythm and a flow to the delivery that requires some skill to pull off.

Not this jackass, though. I swear, he's just talking over a lame and repetitive beat. There's nothing the least bit skillful about his performance-- the lyrics, such as they are, are just spoken flatly.

This is utter crap, from beginning to end. And yet, it gets played at least once a day on both of the alternative stations I listen to. What am I missing here?

Posted at 1:24 AM | link | follow-ups | 11 comments

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It's Like a Whole 'Nother Country

When I walked out of the hotel to get in the cab to go to the airport, the cabbie got out to open the trunk for me. While doing so, he said, and I swear I'm not making this up, "Pretty frosty this morning, eh?"

Now, to be fair, this was the only time I heard somebody actually end a sentence with "eh," but really, it was just beyond parody.

That was hardly the only stereotypically Canadian thing I saw, of course, though most of the rest came from television. The Canadian equivalent of ESPN was pretty fascinating: the NHL is locked out, and they still found twenty minutes' worth of hockey stories and highlights (not county the twenty minutes spent on the latest breakdown in negotiations) for SportsCentre, including extensive coverage of an intra-squad game between players trying out for the junior national team. They do love their hockey.

Other sports coverage also tended toward the old ultraviolence, with a great deal of coverage of some boxing match or another, and a lot of pro wrestling. The first night I got there, I saw pro wrestling on three different channels, two of them simultaneously. I really hope they know it's fake.

Also, Sudbury has Tim Horton's like Boston has Dunkin Donuts. I think we passed at least six at various points, and it's not that big a town.

(This low point in international relations was brought to you by the letter "A.")

Posted at 7:44 PM | link | follow-ups | no comments

Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I'm back from my trip to Northern Ontario, bringing with me a deep and profound hatred of the Toronto airport, a weirdly bulbous mug, and three business cards.

The hatred of Toronto's airport is from the many, many stupid and inconvenient features of that place, from their exceedinly picky ATM's, to the vast spaces between gates and maps, to the teeny tiny little sign indicating the "US Citizens/ US Passport Holders" line at Customs.

The mug is from the conference, a freebie handed out to all attendees (it's not a real conference if you don't get a coffee mug or a bag with a logo on it). I'm not sure why it's that shape, but, hey, free mug.

The business cards are from people who were interested in my talk, and would like to know more about the technique I was discussing, and other applications of it. These are by far the most important of the things I brought home.

The trick now is to parlay those cards into something that will advance my research program. That's going to be hard work, but for the moment, they let me feel like a player-- look, Ma, I'm networking! Tonight, I'm going to savor that, and go play with the best Emmy ever.

It's good to be home.

Posted at 9:39 PM | link | follow-ups | 7 comments

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