The words we’ve heard

After much procrastination, I can present The illustrated Brett Anderson, a rather messy series of infographics (delusions of grandeur, right there) based on Brett’s most frequently used words.

Geeky method and stuff
It was pretty simple really. I took all of the lyrics to every officially published Suede, The Tears and Solo song and ran them through a frequency count. I also manually checked each one (kill me now) and adjusted for declensions, congugations, plurals etc. An information science degree does not prepare one for the sheer tedium of this and I nearly gave up at Suede, but felt guilty about abandonning The Tears and solo material. I think this means I have issues.

Almost all words which occur more than 20 times are included, and quite a few down to 4 occurances as I chose. I discounted all pronouns, bits of sentences that had no meaning (e.g. because, so) and variations of ‘to be’ (e.g. am, were). I didn’t include ‘la’ or ‘awwwwhowwww’ because that would have tipped me over the edge, and there’s a few more like ‘make’ that seemed too abstract to bother with. I wanted to include phrases like ‘you and me’ but I let my data integrity slide in favour of leaving the house occasionally. Basically it started off as a statistical exercise then I got bored and wanted to draw doomed spaceshuttles.

I drew all the pictures in Powerpoint. This is because I felt like giving myself an extra level of misery and is in no way an excuse to cover my poor design skills.

Anyway, here are the results.

Pretty pictures

You can download the whole lot as a PDF, should you be so inclined.

Why?
I don’t bloody know. There’s something distinctive about Brett’s lyrics, Suede in particular and I wanted to investigate. In essence I guess it’s that whole suburban apocalypse thing, which I hope is reflected in the images. I’m not sure if this exercise brought me any closer to understanding it, but awwwhowww well.

Beauty is duty and duty beauty. So there.

I’m sure you’ll all be delighted to know that I’ve written some poetry in Latvian. You might wonder how, being here less than two months, I’ve grasped enough of the subtleties of the Latvian tongue to delve into the true depths of love and life that poetry requires, but let me assure you that it’s all here: time, beauty, and a very real sense of hunger all permeate my early work.

As anyone who’s thrashed their way through GSCE English will know, it’s not just about the overarching themes but the personal context in which the poems are placed. Here I am in this far flung land – so cut off I can’t watch the 6 o’clock news in English, never mind Scotish dialect – perhaps it’s only natural I should find those very English reflections on the weather and the decline of aristocratic classes creeping into my work. For they have, as you will see when you enage with my lines:

1. Skatās Debesīs
Laiks ir skaists,
Bet skaistums ir laiks.

Translation:
1. I stare at the sky
The weather is beautiful,
But beauty is time.

I think this speaks entirely for itself. No explanation required. If you don’t grasp its multi-layered sensations as they ripple past one another, you are heartless indeed.

2. Čau Ģīvs!
Man ir viens piens
Tev ir divi zivi
Mums ir trīs pilis
Bet mēs esam izsalcis.

Translation:
2. What ho, Jeeves!
I have one milk
You have two fish
We have three castles
But we are hungry.

What better way to express distate at our worship of property at the expense of proper financial management than by invoking an image of a lonely breadline existence against a backdrop of comparative wealth?

I await my Nobel Prize.

New generation calling.

On the face of it, this post might seem like it’s about yet another obscure piece of fan trivia, the kind that Fact & Breakfast makes its bread and butter. But it isn’t. This post is about the internet, libraries, user generated content and how – despite what some might have you think – they are not diametrically opposed but work together for all kinds of end. (Including, admittedly, solving obscure bits of fan trivia.)

Side A: Problem finding

In October 1994 Suede released their second album Dog Man Star. In October 2002 I fell in love with it. In June 2011 Suede re-released it as a ‘deluxe’ edition featuring demo and pre-edit versions of some tracks. Last week, I played these new versions for the first time and awoke some old curiousities.

So I did what I always do.

There are no results except a link to the Suede forum. Well, I guess if anyone’s going to know it’s them.

Oh.

I have come to rely on the internet to tell me things. Before I was merely curious. Now, after being told I shall never know, I am determined that I will. So, I think, maybe there’s some clues within the clip. The newly-released deluxe version is two minutes longer and has more samples. There must be a hint of something in there.

I listen. You can listen to the standard album version. The extended version is similar. The main difference in the sample is a few seconds seemingly broadcast from the Cheltenham races. But can any of it help me? As it turns out, yes. And it all hangs on the closing seconds of the song. …here at Cheltenham.

Side B: Problem solving

How? Here’s how my thought process went:
Key assumption: That the Suede forum is right and the sample was recorded directly off TV. This thesis is supported by the white noise sounds that break up the sample.
Therefore: TV has a broadcast date. Broadcast schedules are published. Determine the date > Locate schedule > Name film.

Easy. What’s the date?

We need TV schedules across three months in 1994. Range too big.


We need TV schedules for every day in April-July 1994 that there was racing at Cheltenham. Still a potentially large range.


The sample mentions that the horses will also be at Newton Abbot today. We need TV schedules for every day in April-July 1994 when there was racing a Cheltenham and subsequent racing at Newton Abbot.

Let’s compare racing schedules for Cheltenham and Newton Abbot and see where they coincide.
Cheltenham race schedule
Newton Abbot race schedule

There’s only one match: 20th April 1994. (The 27th April is also a possibility as there’s racing at Newton Abbot two days later, and I can conceive that horses might travel a day or so before a race. We’ll keep that one as a back-up).

Cool, who has TV schedules?
Not Google, it’s too long ago. But in those pre-historic days of the early 90s, they were at least published. On paper. But who’s got a copy of them now?

Enter Westminster library, who kindly give me access to UK Press Online.

A bit of boolean querying. I knew that degree in Information Science was good for something. Not that one really needs a degree to understand boolean operators.


Dear UK Press Archives. Please can you show me all pages from the 20th April 1994 with the words ‘Television’ OR ‘TV’ please? Ta.

Yes, indeed it can.

Full image

There’s the Cheltenham races on BBC2, and then at the same time:
– On ITV a studio talk show which accounts for the If you’d like to take part in fu-… bit of the sample;
– On BBC1 Hawaii Five-0 which might explain the violent punching sounds. Or that might just be Brett and Bernard finally loosing it;
– and, wonderfully on Channel 4 a film, Woman’s World, from 1954 (plummy accents) and according to Wikipedia a character called Bill.

Bing-bloody-go.

I posted my findings back on the Suede forum with the caveat that (a) I’m a complete geek and (b) I could be wrong and it’s all been a collossal waste of time.

A day later, this was posted:

Here’s the video clip – a direct result of all this wrangling.

My level of excitement was beyond embarassing:

Hidden track: Why bother?

16 years of uncertainty over in a couple of hours. But like I said, this isn’t a post about obscure fangirl things. I’ve written this screed to prove a point.

As meaningless as this discovery is, I couldn’t have made it without databases (racing and TV schedules), search engines (Google), or user-created content (forums and wikipedia). And I certainly couldn’t have made it without Westminster library telling me the press archive even existed, and then paying for me to access it. I reached it from my own PC and all I needed was my library card number.

Those TV schedules are on the net, but not Google-able. So are dozens of other databases, reference books and collections. Not only do we collectively not know they’re there, we don’t know how to work them and are unwilling to pay for them when we do. Libraries, God bless libraries, solve the last one, though I really wish they’d shout more about the first two.

But this isn’t a post about how wonderful libraries are, though I’ve been known to write them in the past. The point I want to make is that databases and early computers did not kill libraries, or render them obsolete. The internet did not do away with structured information or negate the need for books. User-generated content, when used with sound mind, enhances rather than destroys ‘proper’ sources.

I needed all of these to make this meaningless discovery. We could make things of actual value if we learned to stop polarising old and new, formal and fun, tactile and virtual, and just enjoyed the wealth of information that – with a little effort – is available at our fingertips. This rant is a little without context, but think of the number of X or Y debates there are – Mac OR PC, print OR screen, facebook OR real friends – and think of this as the same. Not or, both. BOTH.

High horse off. Over and out. Time to listen to Still Life.

The sitemap falls apart, the breadcrumbs cannot hold

Talent borrows. Genius steals. I greatly enjoying messing with great works for comic effect.

Past works include: What have the NHS ever done for us; In a flash, Jeeves; IA the musical; Henry V in V minutes; and Star Crossed-Dressed Lovers (a Manic Street Musical). All these lie in various states of completion on my desk.

The lastest then twitter hashtag #uxpoetry (of which I have sole use, hmm), sparked by Keats as an introduction to a UX link.

This seemed like great fun, and crucially didn’t involve annotating wireframes. So for my own posterity more than anything, here’s my timeline of #uxpoetry nonsense. Very sorry.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever, its loveliness increases it will never pass into nothingness till it’s deleted to reduce costs
~ Keats, Lines from Endymion

The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est Pro sales targets mori
~ Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum est

On the ning nang nong where the cows go bong and the monkeys all say ‘boo!’ there’s a ironic gif farm from 1995
~ Spike Milligan, On The Ning Nang Nong

I am an architect, they call me obstructrive. I am a pioneer, they call me a luxury
~ Manic Street Preachers, Faster. Not technically poetry, I know.

And the two I am most pleased with:

There’s some corner of a foreign field that is for ever Advanced Search […] In that rich earth a richer content concealed
~ Rupert Brooke, The Solider

Follow your spirit, and upon this whim, Cry ‘God for JQuery, Standards, and Saint Tim!’
Shakespeare, Henry V ‘Once more into the breach’.

And so, dear friends, the end.

The relentless chime of lessons not being learned

It was 20 years ago today that the Berlin wall came down. And what have we learned? Nothing, I tell you, nothing!

For in my office, in free England, a wall has gone up! Where there was once a pluralistic sharing of ideas, the free exchange of embittered rants and mutual appreciation of the latest xkcd comic, there is now just a cold hard barrier.

My poor colleagues, in the name of ‘protection’ and ‘security’ have been shut off, excluded from the variety of office life. As in Berlin, it happened overnight. One day, an open-plan office, the next a bisection of glass and tracing paper, cutting through the heart of collaboration, and taking souls with it.

Injustice, I cry! Injustice! How will I opportunistically annoy the bunch of techies with my creative spasms now?

Love’s Labour’s Lost

It’s widely known that the economy of our green and pleasant land is not at its healthiest right now. Many have found it helpful to look back to other such periods in our history and examine the actions previous governments took to restore our economic strength, and to determine whether such a course of action might be appropriate today.

I am only to happy to assist this process with a suggestion of my own.

In the early nineties, one entrepreneuring couple created a small start-up business which quickly grew to provide regular employment for their friends and family. Before long, their operations expanded, even breaking into foreign markets.

Sadly, as is often the way, the two parted company to set up their own firms, but not before facilitating further partnerships among their clientele. There have been some attempts to reunite the partnership, across franchises and remote working, but unfortunately these have failed to have the same impact as earlier ventures.

But it is thanks their efforts, that a whole generation of graduates was able to find work, and what this country needs right now is a revival of those efforts. I would implore the government to get behind small, family-owned businesses such as these, and remind previous visionaries that being involved in the creation and marketing of such an illustrious industry is nothing to be embarrassed about.