Sunday, 17 January 2016

My Favourite Bowie Tracks

(Pic : Rolling Stone)

Losing Lemmy, David Bowie and Alan Rickman in the space of a fortnight isn't the most auspicious sign that 2016 is going to be any good.

I'm not one of these people to get overly sentimental or mournful over the deaths of people I've never met or don't know – you won't find me laying flowers in the street or sticking tags on profile photos. Having become somewhat world-weary I greet bad news with a shoulder shrug, however awful that news might be, and always expect the worst in anything. In what's becoming my favourite refrain - quoting Slaughterhouse Five - "So it goes".

Although there had been rumours about David Bowie's health for a while, that doesn't make it any less of a shock and I grimaced when I got the news alert on my phone Monday morning. I can't think of many other celebrities that would apply to, though as they're getting on a bit I won't tempt fate!

David was one of these once a generation types who'll be spoken about for, not decades, but hundreds of years. "True original" and "one of a kind" are apt descriptions. Musically, he influenced everything from flamboyant mainstream pop music, dance music, indie and you can even hear and see his influence in punk and some metal subgenres (like NWOBHM and hair metal) – anything trailblazing, brightly contrasted or slightly rebellious.

So it comes as absolutely no surprise that his passing has been particularly noted amongst the LGBT community. Even as a straight man it's fairly obvious that his, to use that antiquated term, "gender-bending" will have – as Arsene Wenger of all people said recently - sent out a strong statement to everyone in the post-war generation that it's OK to be yourself. Bowie was "being camp" when "being camp" was still considered at the very least extremely deviant behaviour.

The only people still living who can perhaps claim to have that level of Western artistic and cultural influence are Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney and Madonna. The only difference, speaking personally, between them and Bowie is while acknowledging their influence I've never liked any of their work as much as Bowie's - hell, I like more Madonna songs than Dylan's!

He was also a more than decent actor – Labyrinth might be cheesy, but it's still enjoyable - and although I'm no art critic, his paintings are quite impressive.

In perhaps his greatest achievement, David's the only person to have ever worn a bright ginger mullet and make it look good.

As is always the case, it's only when you look back at what he's left behind that you realise how good he was. Apart from The Laughing Gnome – which for a novelty song isn't that bad – and some of his more experimental stuff in the 90s I can't think of any he did that wasn't at least satisfactory.

Here are those songs I believe are more than satisfactory :)

5. The Man Who Sold The World

4. Let's Dance

3. Heroes

2. Ashes to Ashes

1. Life on Mars?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Tranquil, moi?

IBM recently launched something called "Watson", which – in their own words - is a programme that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.

One tool they're trialling is a programme which determines your personality traits from your writing style and vocabulary. Considering I have have quite an extensive corpus of work, I chose some recent blogs at random and inputed them to see what it came up with:
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I won't argue much with that description and it explains why I decided to go into science (I come back to the scepticism part later). It's not that far off apart from the prestige thing and the behaviours; I never click on ads and usually do buy eco-friendly. Though yes, I'm sure many people have noticed I don't reply on/use social media very often, so it got that right.
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This next makes me out to be some sort of brooding robot. Hmm, my scepticism's tingling. They're never going to properly judge artistic interests from writing alone, but it does imply I'm a marketers' nightmare as it seems I have little consumer need. Suggesting love (which is defined by Watson as meaning social contact and bringing people together, not romance) would be my second highest consumer need is so wide of the mark it verges on laughable.
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The conscientious ratings are fairly accurate, though I'd say I'm much more self-disciplined – it does take a certain level of self-motivation to do this - and a lot less cautious. I'm no neat freak, but I'm not THAT bad (5% orderliness). Emotional range – by IBM's own descriptors these ratings suggest I'm emotionally stable, self-controlled, calm under pressure and not prone to neurotic behaviour, which is presumably a good thing.
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Introversion – anyone who knows me will say this is spot on, even I'll admit that. It's been joked on more than one occasion that I should do a "sponsored talk". I'm probably much more cheerful and active than the ratings suggest though. I'm probably more agreeable too; it's fair to say I can be a grump but I will offer help when asked as long as I'm not  expected to be a mind-reader. I'm genuinely surprised the sympthy levels were that high though.

Time for the scepticism proper. These might sound accurate from a subjective point of view, but it could be the Barnum effect in action – the descriptions are vague enough to sound individually tailored but can apply to large numbers of people at the same time. It's the same principle behind horoscopes and their ilk. Although I like taking these silly tests to pass the time they should always be taken with a pinch of salt.

Just to prove my point, here's the analysis based solely on this blog :
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Watson seems pissed off.