Sunday, October 16, 2011

Meanderings about math and music

I can't remember where I heard it -- probably on "Radiolab" the podcast that blows my mind every time I listen to it -- and I probably misinterpreted it anyway; but I sorta remember some mathematician somewhere saying there's really no such as random numbers -- or maybe no such thing as a random number generator. Anyway, I contend there's no such thing as random shuffle on an Ipod. Most of the time when I have mine on shuffle I don't really think about any underlying theme to the supposedly-random songs, but the other night I was driving and a song from the Monkees came on ("What am I Doing Hanging Round?")
followed by Eddy Raven's "I've Got Mexico."
I've got like 1600 songs on my Ipod. What are the odds that a song about a man who left Mexico and lost a girl would be followed by a song about a man who lost a girl and moved to Mexico? I was anxious to see what the next song would be, and it turned out to be Steve Earle's "Guitar Town" which has nothing to do with Mexico (although it does reference Texas and "San Antone" neighbors of Mexico. I got home before it could start another song but I'm sure it would have been Johnny Rodriguez's "Riding My Thumb to Mexico".
Unless of course the Ipod realized that I was onto this little game it was playing to amuse itself. I believe this is called the Observer Effect but I could be wrong and I'm willing to bet that I am. Today I got in the car, first song up was "Ragged as the Road" by Reckless Kelly,
and #2 was "Going Mobile" from the Who. And I thought to myself -- I might have even said it out loud -- "oh, so we're doing road songs, eh?" But then the next song was the mega-depressing Christmas song "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Dan Fogelberg, by no means a road song -- unless, and this just occurred to me, you count the road the wise men traveled to give the baby Jesus those useless presents they had for him. (A few songs later when the Ipod thought I had forgotten it did try to sneak "Highway 61 Revisited" by me.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Rob's Reviews: "A Ship Made of Paper."

Scott Spencer writes about obsessive, all-consuming, damn-the-torpedoes Capital-L Love. That is why, although I recommend all of his books, he is probably never going to top "Endless Love", because that kind of love is most common to teenagers -- although most of them don't try to burn down their girlfriend's house to prove their love.
(I don't want to start talking about "Endless Love" because it's one of my favorite books ever, and I probably wouldn't get around to reviewing "Ship," but I will say this, whenever people look at me with confusion because I am unhappy that one of my favorite books is being made into a movie, well, here's a perfect example: "Endless Love" is a magnificent book, but a putrid motion picture. And more people are familiar with the film and when they think of Jade Butterfield they see Brooke Shields -- and that is a shame.)
In this book the protagonist is in his thirties, and living proof that when you chase after your heart's desire a lot of innocent people get hurt. Because of his obsession with a woman, this dude loses a girlfriend who really loves him, the love of his four-year-old stepdaughter, his house, his money, most of his law practice, the vision in one eye, and any semblance of self-respect. He also accidentally (no, really) shoots his girlfriend's husband in the throat with a bottle rocket, causing him to have a stroke. Ruined lives everywhere you look. And all for a woman whose appeal was impossible for me to see -- a woman he could never completely have, and he was okay with that. Well, as okay as this fool was about anything.
When I read "Romeo and Juliet" as a young man, I thought it was a tragedy of two star-crossed lovers whose love was too much for their narrow-minded world to contain. When I reread it now it seems like a tragedy of two knuckle-headed hormone-riddled teenagers who kill themselves rather than wait a week for their feelings to cool off. Sort of the same deal here, with David and Jade in "Endless Love" you understand those feelings -- heck, you've experienced those feelings at that age. But with the couple in "A Ship Made of Paper" you just want to shake these people and tell them to grow up.