Daddy, you can drive my car

There is, I suspect, less here than meets the ear:

The pitch:

Scientists at SONY CSL Research Laboratory have created the first-ever entire songs composed by Artificial Intelligence.

The researchers have developed FlowMachines, a system that learns music styles from a huge database of songs. Exploiting unique combinations of style transfer, optimization and interaction techniques, FlowMachines composes novel songs in many styles.

“Daddy’s Car” is composed in the style of The Beatles. French composer Benoît Carré arranged and produced the songs, and wrote the lyrics.

One YouTube commenter said that it “sounds more like The Beach Boys on antidepressants,” which is about where I’d put it. By 1968 Beatlesque stuff outweighed actual Beatles stuff by megatons, and while this is cute, it hardly seems essential.


Lyft and separate

Says the guy at Lyft: “By 2025, private car ownership will all but end in major U.S. cities.”

James Lileks demurs: “That’s 9 years away. Let me just put down a marker here and say no.”

And there are perfectly understandable reasons to say no. Says the guy at Lyft:

Cities of the future must be built around people, not vehicles. They should be defined by communities and connections, not pavement and parking spots. They need common spaces where culture can thrive — and where new ideas can be shared in the very places where cars previously stood parked and empty.

Not happening, says Lileks:

Now, I’m all in favor of replacing surface parking lots downtown with housing and offices, providing they build ramps to accommodate the cars driven by private citizens. In nine years I am not going to Lyft or Uber to work, or to shopping in the evening or weekends. I will drive because I like to. The suburbs are not going to do away with the parking lots outside of malls and big-box stores, and build big apartment buildings where Culture Can Thrive. If everyone sells their cars and the streets no longer have parked cars, no one is going to drag a chair into the street and SHARE NEW IDEAS where cars “previously stood parked and empty.” There are no new ideas that are going unshared because there’s a parking lot on the edge of downtown.

Magical thinking, informed by Lyft’s need to keep the vulture capitalists happy, and reinforced by nonsense like this:

Technology has redefined entire industries around a simple reality: you no longer need to own a product to enjoy its benefits. With Netflix and streaming services, DVD ownership became obsolete. Spotify has made it unnecessary to own CDs and MP3s.

Yeah, right, says Lileks:

Until you don’t have a connection or the service goes away or the studio removes the movie.

Or, to use another example, you are inexplicably blacklisted from using the Lyft fleet for reasons they do not explain, and cannot be appealed.

Yeah, it costs me more than two grand a year to keep a motor vehicle for my own use. But that’s the point: it’s for my own use. And I resent the idea that I need to throw in my lot with the Social Arbiters for the sake of some nebulous “civic” good that mostly benefits corporations with connections.

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If it seems to fit, you must submit

Amanda has completed an item from her short-term — there’s also a long-term — bucket list:

This one was kinda scary. Last night I submitted a piece of writing to a poetry journal and I’m like, freaked. In no way, shape, or form do I believe that this piece of writing will be published. It’s not that good. But I did it because I want to start submitting more writing on a frequent basis, and the only way to do that is, well, to do it. But it does feel kind of raw to give out pieces of work to people and ask for their blessings on it. It’s like saying, “Hey! Here is a piece of my most vulnerable self! Tell me if it’s worth anything or if it’s stupid and I should never try this again!” So there’s that. I’m trying to learn how to be okay with putting my writing out there even though it feels like I’m opening up myself in a frightfully open way. This blog is helping with that some.

This is the sort of thing one has to applaud. I have always suspected that all the poets who got published on the first try this century could fit into a single elevator. I can’t possibly pass myself off as a poet, but I do know something about putting writing out there, having done it for pretty much half my life. (I was doing online stuff 11 years before I put this place online, and that was more than 20 years ago.) And even if it does occasionally feel kind of raw, it’s something you have to do now and then.


Three to make me

In which I attempt to define myself by invoking three fictional characters.

Warning: one is female, and a non-human female at that; and one exists only because Elvis said so.

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She carries her own weight

I doubt the authenticity of this clip, but not its wisdom:

Some people like dump trucks.

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Yes, she can can

“Immoral,” sniffed Nikita Khrushchev during a visit to the Can-Can set, his Soviet sensibilities evidently upset by the dancing of Juliet Prowse. My own thinking is that it was 1959, and therefore Khrushchev’s objections were probably good for a 20- to 30-percent boost in the American box office for Can-Can. (Today’s communists are inexplicably treated with less disdain.)

Juliet Prowse signs her name across your heart

About this time, Prowse costarred with Elvis Presley in G. I. Blues.

Juliet Prowse with Elvis Presley

Not quite so successful was Mona McCluskey, a 1965 NBC sitcom that starred Prowse as an actress married to an Air Force sergeant; the shtick was that they were going to live on his salary. Mona lasted 26 episodes and was not renewed.

Just your average military wife

And when the roles became fewer and farther between, well, there were always commercials:

In 1994, Juliet Prowse was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; the disease went into remission for about a year, allowing her one final tour in Sugar Babies with the evergreen Mickey Rooney. But cancer, as it too often will, returned, and she died in September 1996, a few days short of her 60th birthday.


The late, great Cousin Itt

So they tanned his hide when he died, Clyde, and Gucci made a pair of loafers out of it:

Gucci shoes that look entirely too much like Cousin Itt

“Actually really scary,” says Cristina:

During their Fall show last year, Gucci had their runway models strut their stuff in what appeared to be wig adorned & human hair lined footwear. Hair shoes, really. Seriously, though, some of the ugliest shoes of 2015, if you want to check them out!

But apparently these horrid shoes were soooo popular, that they’ve come out with the exact same line of wigged out shoes for the current, Fall 2016 season. With some newly added special designs. And yes, I’m talking that kind of special.

The effect is something like bunny slippers made from actual bunnies:

Natural hued, real long animal hair is particularly grotesque. Like these Gucci designs, that give me a serious case of the creepy crawlies. And I’m not even a vegetarian or anything. Can you imagine the disgusted reactions of the vegans to shoes that look like wearable, taxidermied animals? Ick.

Except to the magazine editors during fashion weeks, because they live in a world that is theirs (and theirs alone!).

As if the thousand-dollar price tag wouldn’t be offputting enough.

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Among the meteor myths

This seemingly goofy Russian film came out in March:

I say “seemingly” because I have no command of the Russian language. It’s pretty broad physical comedy, though; various family members, affected by a meteorite that crashed through the house, seem to exhibit a variety of weird superpowers — so long as they’re in proximity to one another. Unfortunately, they decide to put those powers to, um, work.

I sat through most of its 95 minutes, and it wasn’t terrible, exactly, but my expectations were admittedly not very high. The semi-invisible girl, however, was kind of cute, and a sequel has already been announced.


Tweets to come

A prediction by Christopher Johnson:

Twitter, the single greatest collection of idiots, morons and nitwits ever assembled in one place anywhere in the universe, will eventually become so gigantic that it will collapse in upon itself and form a massive Black Hole of Stupidity which will destroy existence as we know it.

Compare this outcome to the one projected by Conan O’Brien:

In the year 3000, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will merge into one super time-wasting site called YouTwitFace.

I don’t think it will take that long, really.

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Lately I’ve been losing sleep

I know this situation entirely too well:

My buddy insomnia does nothing fun to offer up as blog fodder. He has no antics, no card tricks, no dirty jokes. He just keeps me awake.

I yawn a bit as I wiggle my rear deeper into the recliner. I close my eyes for a second, but I know I’m not yet ready to fall into the arms of Morpheus. Insomnia and I have hung out many times in the past. I know his ways. In the old days these late night sessions found me at my creative best. That part of my brain withered long ago. I have always had strange sleep patterns. Even as a boy, I often got up for thirty minutes or an hour at a time in the middle of the night. I would walk the house, go outside and sit in the warm months, read or watch TV before heading back to bed. I know it drove my parents crazy. Until I was probably thirty it was rare if I averaged more than five hours of sleep each night.

Which is about the best I can do today on weekdays.

And for what it’s worth, my weirdest dreams are about two or three orders of magnitude more interesting than anything I try to pass off as fiction.


We got your free health care right here

However, you probably won’t like it much:

No incubators, and no cribs, in this hospital; the newborns are sleeping in cardboard boxes.

And as seemingly always with Venezuela these days, it’s actually worse than it looks:

Experts say hospitals in the cash-strapped country, which is suffering from a shortage of food and fuel, are being starved of resources.

Douglas Leon, president of the Venezuelan Medical Federation (FMV), claimed some hospitals are working with just five percent of the medical equipment that they need.

The world’s tenth-largest (as of 2014, anyway) oil producer is suffering from a shortage of fuel. How bad is it? They’re having to buy oil from those horrible Americans.

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La Femme revived

Dodge tried this back in the 1950s, and it did not work:

The Dodge La Femme was as capable as any top-line Dodge of that era, but it was glitzed up with Detroit men’s ideas of girliness, with “accessories” such as a rain hat, bag and umbrella, which stored behind the front seat. The La Femme moved a mere 2500 copies in two years, or about as many workaday Dodges as fell off the transporter on the way to the dealership.

Can women do better? That Cosmo girl certainly can’t:

Welcome to another cringeworthy attempt at redesigning a product to better market it to women. The magazine Cosmopolitan unveiled its own version of the Seat Mii at FashFest in London last week and the entire thing, from press coverage to the actual vehicle, is a complete mess.

Seat, usually styled as SEAT, is Volkswagen’s Spanish budget brand, and the Mii is a modestly remodeled version of VW’s Up! The Mii is made, not in Spain, but in Bratislava, Slovakia, as is the Škoda Citigo, from Volkswagen’s Czech budget brand.

First the Seat launch site, which kicks the generalization and infantilization of half the planet’s population into high gear. The site features a “Girls just want to have fun” banner with a grown woman riding a merry-go-round in the background followed by another image of a woman holding a lollipop. Cosmo sure understand the modern woman’s love of sugary, colorful treats and boring carnival rides. It’s like they have a glimpse inside the lives of me and all my friends!

Of course, a company with such a savvy understanding of what women want would produce a glittery purple car that’s “easy to drive and park.” This Mii’s headlamps are even design to look like it’s wearing eyeliner, just like you! Then came the reveal on a catwalk during FashFest. The car, designed for women by a women’s magazine, was driven out on to the catwalk amidst much confetti and fanfare by a man. Because as all we ladies know, the best accessory in life isn’t a cute car, it’s a dude who will take over all that pesky driving and door opening for you.

There’s a video of the reveal at the Autoblog link. It’s gotten over 2000 views, and at this writing no one has thumbed it up.


Among the greatest hits of all time

This might be an odd way to characterize “Friday,” the song that made Rebecca Black famous, considering it peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #58 and has sold somewhere around half a million downloads but zero physical copies.

Then again, you probably remember these tracks, and they, too, never got above #58:

And despite having had the view counter reset once already (at about 166 million), “Friday” is closing in on a hundred million YouTube views:

Four days later:

This works out to about 2800 a day, and none of those days were a Friday. And if there are seven thumbs down for every two thumbs up, well, she gets paid just the same either way. I’m happy to attempt to pad out the count:

After which, I will of course look forward to the weekend.

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A scene I wish I’d seen

LeeAnn mourns the loss — well, the totaling — of her hardy Mopar, by telling us about its acquisition:

The car, my baby, the first car I ever walked into a dealership and performed a TKO on an eager beaver of a sales vulture (that is a hybrid you never want to see in nature) by letting him go on and on and on and ON about financing and low terms and extra packages, by making him write down IN BIG LETTERS that the price he just announced was the final, all-inclusive, out the door and on the road price … and then plunking down that EXACT AMOUNT in cash on his desk.

The guy never knew what hit him.


Quote of the week

The national pastime, says Mike Hendrix, continues to endure:

[G]iven the reverence baseball has for its own traditions, it has proved nicely resistant to so much of what has made popular culture so damned rotten, so degrading and demeaning and sordid. I’ve always said that every time some player trots onto the football field with a yard of disgusting dreadlocks hanging out from under his helmet, the grave-rotisserie Johnny Unitas is on by now cranks on another 100 RPMs of speed. Meanwhile, I’d bet a goodly portion of the people who casually watch football have no idea who Johnny Unitas is in the first place. But you can be dead certain that everyone who watches baseball even occasionally can tell you at least a little about Ted Williams or Joe DiMaggio.

Baseball history is never more than the next pitch away, and it still has the power to amaze. I remember looking up something on Los Angeles Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully, who retires after this season, and up to that point it had never occurred to me that Vin was calling Dodgers games while the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn.

Yes, there are always going to be Unfortunate Events:

Of course, there’s always villainous, crusty old Ty Cobb to consider, too. And the Black Sox.

But there’s poetry in baseball still, and plenty of it. The rhythm and pace of a baseball game hearkens back to an earlier, better time. It’s casual, relaxed, and unforced. And the beauty of it is, there are no dodges: fiddle and fidget around on the mound all he likes, scratch and spit and adjust his cap by way of stalling, sooner or later, the pitcher has to throw the ball. And the batter has to either hit it or not. Ain’t no running out the clock. Sooner or later, the game will be played, and one team will win, and one … won’t.

When you sense your own clock might be running out, this means even more.

I am grateful for the fact that no team is ever going to go 162-0. With a week and a half to go this season, only one club — the Chicago Cubs, yet — is playing better than .600 ball. Get one hit out of every three at-bats and you’ll at least be considered for Cooperstown. And there’s always a smile when I consider that the Arizona Diamondbacks started playing in 1998 with one uniform number already retired: 42, for Jackie Robinson.

But maybe more important, in the grand scheme of things, is the sheer ubiquity of baseball: below the majors, there are several levels of minors, and they play by basically the same rules. (One anomaly: in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, a double-header consists of two seven-inning games — except when it doesn’t, as has happened a couple of times this year when one of the games went into overtime extra innings.) You can be in the nation’s capital, or you can be way up in Hagerstown, Maryland — where the Washington Nationals have a class-A affiliate — and if the Nats play a hair better, the hot dogs cost less in the South Atlantic League.

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I’ve seen this road before

Chevrolet’s Find New Roads site evaluates you, or at least me (and Doc Searls), on perceived positivity, as calculated from recent social-media statuses. Out of a possible 200 points, I scored a whopping 71; the average, they say, is about 114.

The Social Personality Summary is pretty much spot on:

You are skeptical, somewhat inconsiderate and unconventional.

You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. You are reserved: you are a private person and don’t let many people in. And you are philosophical: you are open to and intrigued by new ideas and love to explore them.

Experiences that give a sense of discovery hold some appeal to you.

You are relatively unconcerned with both tradition and achieving success. You care more about making your own path than following what others have done. And you make decisions with little regard for how they show off your talents.

This was followed by the suggestion of a New Road: take up a musical instrument. Color me, um, skeptical.