Saturday, January 30, 2010

Finnish Eurovision Song 2010

In pop music, the listeners expect to hear a riff in the first 20 seconds. Good composers know this, and they use this expectation by implementing it, breaking it or gaming it in creative ways. Fundamentally music is communication. These expectations make the song comprehensible.

First I'll prune the contestants based on the riff in the first 20 seconds. Here are the criteria:
  • Riff is established. 1 point.
  • Riff is decorated. 1 point. When the riff is repeated, some instruments play differently in the background.
  • Riff variation. 1 point. When the riff is repeated, the riff ends differently.
  • There is a transition between the riff and the first verse. 1 point. Transitions are short bursts of less composed playing. They signal that the song is moving to another phase. They demonstrate communication by expectation.
  • Demonstration of speed. 1 point. In general, good composers and musicians are used to quick play. This makes slow play a conscious choice to express simple and clear message. After demonstration of speed, the listener takes slow portions more seriously.
These additional criteria flunk the song as too strange:
  • Drum challenged. Rhythm is really important for me. If there are no drums nor other rhythmic instruments, there's no point for me to rate the song, as it works on channels which I don't hear.
  • Alien style. Communication is not getting through.

Round 1 - Drum challenged or alien style

  • Nina Lassander: Cider Hill. Drum challenged, but a good song anyway. Goes to final round.
  • Antti Kleemola: Sun Puolella. Alien style. I've never understood these kinds of ballads.
  • Pentti Hietanen: Il mondo e qui. Drum challenged, sounds like music for people with sleeping disorders.

Round 2 - Pruning by riff

Kuunkuiskaajat: Työlki ellää
0 points, fails to establish riff. The first 25 seconds are musically just blank white paper, and then it starts to repeat the verse until the listener is bored out of his skull. You can see that when the girls emphasize the futility of working, they practise what they preach during composition work. I wonder what the girls "trade" as their hourly wage is so high that they get rich with it.

Heli Kajo: Annankadun kulmassa
1 point. Establishes a riff. Too much repetition.

Amadeus: Anastacia

2 points. Establishes a riff and decorates it at 0:13. Overall this is
too repetitive. It is amateurish to repeat the riff 8 times and then forget transition.

The dancers have prepared a fine choreography. Too bad that the video director had to cut it to pieces.

This is the only song where the first 20 seconds don't tell the whole truth, as the song gets quite intense towards the end.

Linn: Fatal Moment

4 points. Riff, decoration, transition and demonstration of speed are there. The first 10 seconds are quite good. The only room for improvement is that the second rep of the riff could introduce new musical elements. The rest of the song is somehow too slow and Alien Style so I drop it at this round anyway.

Sister Twister: Love at the First Sight

5 points. Great intro. One minus point for lacking riff variation, but one plus point for gaming listeners expectations at 0:07 - 0:14 (before riff), complete with a nice transition to riff.

Maria Lund: Sydän ymmärtää

6 points. The first 10s have all elements of a good riff. Extra point for Maria Lund for using her voice as a rhythmic instrument in the "pappa, pappa, padappaa" phase.

Eläkeläiset: Hulluna humpasta

7 points. One extra point for humppa-style opening in the first 2 secs. Another extra point for playing with listener's expectations by introducing the riff only after singing the verse once.

Round 3 - Whole songs

3th: Maria Lund - Sydän ymmärtää
Maria Lund is a great performer and musically this is good, though it should introduce new musical elements also after the 1:00 mark. However, the words are just plain wrong. For example, it says "The best men worship and understand a woman / if you find one, you won't need another kind.", while all seduction blogs warn against pedestalizing women, and also a female blogger (Vera) mentioned that signs of worship are major red flags.

2th: Eläkeläiset - Hulluna humpasta
Musically ingenious and humorous performance. But let's face it - we've been hearing Eläkeläiset since 1993.

1th: Sister Twister - Love at the first sight
The music is strong. The other areas are ok.

Honorary Mention: Nina Lassander - Cider Hill
Good but very different from others. I'll have to listen to it 20 times to find out what's the name of the game here. Can't make up may mind about it yet.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mobile phones in Haiti

Telecoms Sans Frontiers was one of the first crisis aid groups to reach Haiti. They work to restore telecommunications. Hat tip to Marginal Revolution for linking to this story.

Mr. PAUL MARGIE (Representative, Telecom Without Borders): They would go and they carried a satphone with them. And again and again, the people wanted access to that satellite phone even more than the clothes or the food that they were bringing. And so they changed and they said, let's make an organization that focuses on the communication.

The traditional argument against transhumanist solutions to speed uneven development is that those people need clean water, nutritious food and economic development, and only no-life tech nerds could suggest that geek toys like mobile phones matter. However, communication is very basic human need and also important to those who live for a few dollars a day. The quoted story about how the founders of Telecoms Sans Frotiers discovered the need for their organization illustrates that.

In Hyderabad, we had local mobile phone SIMs (they worked more reliably and were much cheaper). They were prepaid SIMs. We loaded time by visiting a phone shop. The shops also logged the bought balance to written books (no idea why), and there you could see how people had bought talk time a few euros at a time. Mobile phone operators have strong incentives to run their profitable business also in countries where average incomes are extremely low. For this reason, mobile phone service is available in many areas where no foreign aid group has ever visited.

The top 4 roadside ad categories I remember where construction cement, apartments, IT courses and mobile phone operators.

Mobile phones are as close to transhumanist technology as we have today - the only reason we are not amazed by telepathic ability to talk with anyone anytime is that we have lived with the technology for 15 years, and we had fixed lines before that. Privacy is the only reason they don't implement clairvoyance, where you input a GPS coordinate and see an image stream from the closest observation camera.

People in the developing world also grow from genetic blueprints, so transhumanist solutions are going to play new roles in the future.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Shooting sprees are good for Finland, because we are now more recognized.

According to a Haitian consul in Brazil, the earthquake was good for Haiti, as it made their country more recognized. Finland is more developed country also in this respect, we can make global headlines by killing just 6 people rather than 60000.

He also blamed the ills of his country on the fact that every place where there are Africans is fucked.

The last frog that leaped from his mouth, that the practise of macumba and muti and other witchcraft has brought a curse on Africans, is actually an excellent metaphor for the fact that no matter where they go and no matter how much development aid they get, they still can't build a civilized country.

As long as we exclude imperialism - importing enough smart fraction from outside to keep the countries out of trouble - no one has the social technology and knowledge to solve their problems. So it is anything but a joke to talk about illiterate goat herders at the same time as benevolent superintelligences and uplifting and genetic engineering - transcendental technology really is needed before their societies can organize themselves to provide what we consider basic human rights.

To cut the consul some slack, most of his relatives live in Haiti and he hasn't heard about them since the earthquake, and he thought he was talking off record. Who wouldn't be out of his mind in such situation.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In Haiti, a recently failed state is setting new standards in just how dysfunctional a government can be in the face of a crisis. Based on HS reports they don't seem to be doing much anything.

Functional states have an institution called army which is supposed to be a master of logistics in hostile terrain. Not in Haiti. They are not getting excavators to collapsed buildings. They are not getting injured people from streets to faraway cities with free hospital beds. Nor can rescue aid squads get transported to needed locations - HS reported that only 6 out of 27 squads had actually reached Haiti.

Fortunately, civil society is stepping in to maintain order - but not by rule of law but by rule of gun for the few minutes it takes to grab the valuables and run.

HS follows a crisis relief squad which carries a few Finns. They expect a few Haitian soldiers to join them in the border to protect against threat of robbing, which has happened to some food convoys. In some other country, those soldiers would be doing crisis relief by themselves.

My father visited Dominican Republic some years ago, and also Haiti for one day. He said that there were security guards with shotguns at every corner of the public enterprises, indicating very low trust and very low rule of law.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Next opportunity to see the top pole dancers of Tampere

This time in more classy setting, and without misleading advertising. Hat tip: Ashta.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Videos don't need cutting

Yesterday I saw the special effects movie 2012. Having watched too much Youtube videos where the same shooting angle lasts for 5 minutes, I found the cuts confusing. It did contain spectacular scenes of destruction (but no mosques were harmed while the film was made). The effects would have been even more spectacular had they not been cut every 5 seconds.

For example in this video the singer clearly has a choreography for hands, but frequent cuts make it hard to match hand movements to musical patterns and dramatic peaks. Half the time hand movements are cut away or too far to be seen. No cutting at all would have been better.

High-budget movies made by pros contain a lot of cuts while amateur videos often contain none. This does not make cuts any less distracting.

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Some main goals:

  • Clean up the blog. A year ago, this blog had about 5 readers, most of which I could name. There were no consequences whatsoever from writing embarrassing stuff. Quite the contrary, writing produced clarity and I got some valuable advice on a difficult area of life. (A difficult area of life is one where you make mistakes, so it is embarrassing almost by definition. On the other hand, a difficult area of life benefits most from extra clarity.)
    During 2009, this blog took first steps as a channel from which people hear about me for the first time. So embarrassing posts should be restricted a bit.

  • Year of bodyweight training. Hopefully by the end of this year I can do some headstand-to-handstand push-ups. If not, then it's time to move back to iron. I pretty much stopped going to gym after the post about one year training diary.

  • In the intellectual hobbies front, I should get Chinese to some kind of completion. This means that there is no longer need to set goals and allocate time for it - instead, I'll just read Chinese news and blogs and books in relaxed manner, slowly strenghtening vocabulary and routine. Currently that is not the case, but it's close as I've already started to slowly read Chinese trash lit.

  • More active social life is in my wishlist, and I have 2 promising approaches to get it. Should both ones fail (it always depends on other people too, so it's not possible to set fixed goals) I'll have to consider postgraduate studies as a way to make progress and use leisure meaningfully.

Last year:

  • Year of gym. Got my first spell of healthy lifestyle.

  • Year when going to India had fucked with my head. Fortunately it's over now.

  • Year diagnosing the problem. The problem is losing in the game of talking. Didn't make any breakthroughs solving it, though.