Category: Music

Must Listen: “Kozmic Blues”

File this one under, “how has this been around my whole life and I never heard it before.”

Janis Joplin’s, Kozmic Blues, is hauntingly beautiful. The vocals are raw (as one would expect), and the instrumentals are superb. The way that the song slowly builds is wonderfully well-done, and the soaring finally is perfect.


Get the album:

Amazon (CD) (MP3)

Why I Don’t Review With Scores or Numbers

All of my product, movie, concert, game and music reviews are written long-form, and never have any numerical rating associated with them.

They almost did. I had this clever idea to have a 5 star scale and have the rating system be glasses. Each pair of glasses would equal a star, and a monocle would equal half a star. However I sacked the idea.

It would have looked better than this.

Why did I change my mind?

Joe Woelfel.

Joe was one of my undergraduate professors, and learning from him was one of those rare life-changing teacher experiences. But I digress.

Why 1 – 5 Scales Suck

His classes were unconventional in a lot of ways, but the most significant example was his strong opposition to generic scale rating systems. This didn’t make him popular in the social sciences because 1 – 5 rating systems are pretty much the standard means for measuring any human experience in psychology, sociology, political science, and communication.

He illustrated this very simply in what turned out to be the most memorable five minutes I had in two decades of school.

Joe began a class by instructing us to take out a piece of paper, and create four 1 – 5 scales on it. Then he asked the following four questions and had us answer on those scales:

  • How big is the Moon?
  • How big is the Sun?
  • How big is a penny?
  • How big is a dime?

The answers were pretty much along these lines:

  • How big is the Moon? – 5
  • How big is the Sun? – 5
  • How big is a penny? – 1
  • How big is a dime? – 1
Or for those who went back and changed their answers:
  • How big is the Moon? – 4
  • How big is the Sun? – 5
  • How big is a penny? – 2
  • How big is a dime? – 1

The problem was immediately apparent to everyone with a pulse. According to this research, students perceptions are that the Moon and Sun are the same size, while pennies and dimes are the same size. The kicker being that the Moon and the Sun are five times larger than pennies and dimes.

His point was that these methods of measurement are meaningless because the ratings have no context, and there’s no opportunity for logical mathematical comparison. So he (and a few others) created a system of measure that was based on comparison. It’s complex, and I’m not going to get into it here.

Why 1 – 100 Scales Suck

So you might be asking yourself, why not use a 1 – 100 scale?

It still has no comparison value, but mostly I don’t know the difference between an 83 and an 84 in terms of quality. Whenever I see ratings like 93, I find myself completely baffled by how someone came up with that number. Sometimes I reach the bottom of a review and see some strange number and I actually laugh as I imagine my eighth grade algebra teacher yelling, “Show your damn work!”

The bottom-line

I don’t know how to boil my complex thoughts about something into an arbitrary number. Plus, if I write a number it devalues all of the rest of the thought and nuance that went into the review.

Read a review, don’t read a review. Numerical rating systems distort reality. I won’t be using them.

Will Hologram Performances Become Common?

Tupac’s alive! Dre & Snoop Dog’s incredibly effective Coachella publicity stunt worked big-time. People can’t seem to shut the hell up about it.

I’ll admit, it was kind of cool. It was also cheesy, shameless and tasteless, but kind of cool.

The big question that more than a few people have asked me is, “Will we see this become a new trend in ‘live’ music?” Will people actually pay money to sit in a theater and watch a projection of a dead performer?

My guess is to a certain extent, yes.

Lots of people are already willing to pay a great deal of money to watch Britney Spears lip-sink and dance without her pants on. This is just one more step in the same direction.

Nostalgia can be a powerful force, and I wouldn’t be shocked if there were a good number of people who would want to see Tupac, Elvis or Michael Jackson on a stage again… Even if it’s soulless.

Someone’s Going to Try

This is inevitable. It’s what big companies do.

Here’s how the meeting will go:

Director of BS: “This innovative Tupac Hologram idea worked really well for Dre. It had millions of views in no time. Let’s copy it…”

Vice President of BS: “We’re not copying Dre. We’re benchmarking against him. Our’s is going to be super innovative too. After all our brand is hip and with it.”

Director of BS: “Great, I’ll ring up someone to throw money at to make this thing work.”

Vice President of BS: “It’s going to be great! Finally my kids will appreciate why I’m never home to tuck them in.”

What our intrepid business leaders won’t realize is that there will be dozens of these conversations happening, and this is going to get real old, real fast.

Also, “cool” is a diminishing asset. By that I mean, when a person looks at something and says, “Wow, that’s really cool,” it’s all downhill from there. The second time that person looks at the same thing, she’ll say, “Yeah, that thing’s still pretty cool.” The third time she looks at it, she’ll be bored. Cool never lasts.

So, what are we left with?

This just might work for a dead artist who is incredibly popular. I’m betting that one of these hologram shows becomes a fixture in Las Vegas, or Atlantic City. “Come to the Trump Blah Blah Blah Hotel Casino & Resort to see Michael Jackson.” You know it’s going to be a Trump establishment.

However there won’t be many successes; especially longterm.

This just won’t work for Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Pantera, or The Doors. Holograms don’t have soul. They can’t improvise, and they sure as hell can’t replicate the kind of raw emotional power that comes from being there at that fleeting beautiful moment, when a musician does something that changes you in a way you never thought possible. That moment won’t happen at the next show. They will have their own moment… Or maybe they won’t.

There’s something magical about seeing a passionate performance. Watching and hearing a musician pour their heart out through their instrument. Hologram Tupac can’t do that.

But I have no doubt that we’ll be seeing Hologram Dick Clark’s Rocking New Year’s Eve sometime in the near future. Hologram Dick will have an almost life-like conversation with that Seacrest robot.

And for the record, holograms of famous people is ridiculously Futurama-esque.