Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Getting saved through laughter

There's way too much seriousness in the world. Today I ran across this great essay by Ryan Bachtel on the American Democracy Project.

Lorenz believes that humanity’s one ace in the hole might be our capacity to laugh. In his words: “It redirects threatening behavior [and] forms immediate bonds … Humor is a lie detector. It unmasks pretence, debunks arrogance.” He takes this further, quoting G. K. Chesterton, who wrote: “the religion of the future will be a highly developed sense of humor.” You might have noticed that people do not generally kill one another over ideas that are acceptable to joke about.

Keep laughing!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Time and iTunes

Time is most definitely not a river, or if it is then the one that I'm riding on crashes and bounces down waterfalls most of the time. Who has time to keep a blog? Not me, apparently.

But I refuse to drown! Very soon, really, I'm going to blog about progress on the local electronic communities front. But for now I have to make note of my idea for a future update to iTunes software.

Playlists for the Lazy: I run; I cook; I clean; I fold clothes; I drink wine -- all while listening to my iPod, usually in Shuffle mode, and the music I like to hear is likely to change depending on what I'm doing at the time. Many people create playlists for just this purpose. But I am lazy. (Or perhaps I have a bad relationship with Time. See above.)

I have profound and revolutionary ideas when I run. Here's Saturday's idea. This grew out of 1) an earlier conversation about Clippy, the annoying MS Office help thing, 2) a sense that my iPod has a mind of its own, and 3) endorphines. It's AI for the iPod, especially for the lazy. You load up your iPod with music, set it on Shuffle, and start living your life. The software takes notice every time you skip to the next song. Over time it detects patterns.

One day you're running, and instead of having to skip on by Wynton Marsalis in order to get to the Tom Tom Club, your iPod says, audibly, "It looks like you're in the mood for upbeat music. If true, press yes. Otherwise, I'll continue with Shuffle." (Or you're cooking dinner, and it says, "I believe you're in the mood for something quiet and atmospheric. If true...") After awhile these new categories appear on the menu and you can select them before you start an activity.

And no, I'm not just talking about selecting a genre. It's about the mood of the music, not the genre. I have an old Chris Isaac album that can make me feel like I'm either crawling through a swamp of self-pity or bounding happily like a cat. You can keep running to the last movement of Beethoven's 9th, when that huge chorus is screaming out its joy, but Mozart's Requiem is best left for folding laundry.

Playlists for the Lazy.