Monday, September 28, 2009

World's Worst Songs

On my Facebook page, I have assembled a list of songs I like, but my critical analysis would not be complete if I did not create a list of songs I hate. Too many hit songs have lyrics that suck, and I'd like to give them credit.

To qualify for my list of World's Worst Songs, a song must (1) be a former hit, (2) have compelling music, (3) have words that are extraordinarily stupid if you analyze them without the music. My list is short, but I will add to it as new candidates come to me. (You can also email me your suggestions.)

Waiting On The World To Change by John Meyer.
Listen to the words. Translation: "We know the world needs to change, but we prefer to sit around and do nothing." Great social message!
Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston
This song is a compilation every conceivable adolescent cliche, starting with "I believe the children are our future." Duh! There's no obvious connection between the cliches. If you throw in enough of them, every teenager's going to find something to identify with. Basically, though, the song is about "me, me, me," which also helps sell it to teens.
You're Beautiful by James Blunt
"I saw your face in a crowded place, and I don't know what to do." This guy is beauty-fixated. I mean, this girl could be a total moron, and he don't care. The purest form of love, it seems, is based purely on appearance where you never actually communicate with the object of your desire.
Lady in Red by Chris De Burgh
Everything in this song is about superficial beauty. Not one word about this lady's abilities or anything she actually does, only about how she looks to the singer and others in the room. Complete and utter idiocy.
ALL Rap Music
The whole genre is crap! These guys know how to rhyme, nothing else.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Glenn's Photo Management System

One of my Facebook friends, Gavin Payne, writes:
How about a new blog entry on how you process all of your images, index them, make the libraries, add text to them etc?
As you wish. Let's see if I can give you the highlights in 15 minutes...
  1. I take a LOT of frames, only a tiny percentage of which I ever show to the world. The pictures are all free on a digital camera, so why not?
  2. On my laptop, I store photos in directories by year and month and setting. e.g. inside directory "2009" is a directory "September" which has a directory "BAR HARBOR".
  3. Inside the setting, I have four working directories: "raw", "web", "UPLOAD" and "UNPROCESSED".
  4. When I download the photos from my camera, they go into "UNPROCESSED" and are immediately deleted from the camera.
  5. I go through UNPROCESSED at my convenience, looking for good photos. I'll first "cherrypick" the very best photos, then I'll go through the rest of them as I have time.
  6. Each photo I choose will be cropped, corrected for color/darkness/etc and resized to 604 pixels across, as suitable for Facebook. (I use Corel Paint Shop, the cheaper equivalent of Photoshop.)
  7. For the clear, crisp quality, I "sharpen" at 604 pixels. (Makes all the difference in the world.)
  8. I save the edited photo under the same name in "UPLOAD".
  9. I move the raw photo I just edited into "raw", along with any original photos I know I won't be doing anything.
  10. Facebook is my main album medium. (I once had my own album system, but Facebook does it better.) After I upload the "UPLOAD" photos to Facebook, I move them into the "web" directory.
  11. If I have time to edit the whole batch, I'll end up having all the original photos in "raw", the upload photos in "web" and the other two directories empty. Then I delete those two directories and have only "raw" and "web" left. I'm done!
  12. More likely, however, I will still have some "UNPROCESSED" photos left by the time I move to the next project. I could come back to these later, but probably not. C'est la vie!
  13. As I pass through my parent's house once or twice a month, I back up my new monthly directories onto some terrabyte hard disks I have. Once I have backed each directory up on two or more media, I can delete the "raw" directories. (I keep the "web" directories because they are small.)
  14. My on-line index ( is of my own construction using Perl. (Remember that I used to be a programmer.) I can't easily explain how it works, but it all routes back to the albums on Facebook.
  15. For every album, Facebook provides a public URL that anyone can use to access the album, even if they are not on Facebook. (Look at the bottom of the album's page.) I use that address but don't have complete confidence that the address won't change. (It has in the past.) To protect myself from future address changes, I have an intermediate system that translates my own preferred address into Facebook's address. For example...

    I have a spreadsheet table I maintain that has both addresses, as well as some other info about each album, and this is what my online indexes are generated from.
  16. My Facebook albums roughly correspond to my monthly directories (e.g. "Bar Harbor"). At the end of each directory, I have a bumper image...
    On that page, I provide my preferred public URL, as well as links to my photo home page and any other albums that are related to this one.
That's my system (or at least all I can think of).

Most people can do everything I can do except the fancy index, but most people don't have hundreds of albums like I do, so it doesn't really matter. You can always create a similar index in html using Facebook's public address, since it has been stable now for over a year. (You could just copy my table at, edit the html and plug in your own album information. I won't object.)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kilroy Café #52: "The Shamanism of Luxury"

Here is the latest Kilroy Café philosophy essay. You can click on the image above for a larger version or print it out on a single page via the pdf file. The full text is also below. Also see other Kilroy Café newsletters and the KilroyCafe Twitter Feed.

The Shamanism of Luxury


In ancient shamanic traditions, one could supposedly gain power or good luck by ingesting, touching or possessing certain sacred or magical objects. A cannibal might eat the flesh of his enemy to gain his power. A pretty stone could be used as talisman to attract a mate. Even today, endangered animals are poached throughout the world for certain body parts that are seen to have medicinal properties when consumed.

Western society today generally rejects such beliefs as unscientific and destructive. Ground horn of rhinoceros is not an effective cure for cancer, except to the extent that any placebo is. The danger is that it displaces more effective treatments—not to mention threatening the rhino!

There is one form of shamanism, however, that remains strong in our society: the market for luxury goods. We don't necessarily believe that a Louis Vuitton purse or filet mignon dinner will bring us good luck, but there is always an implied belief that consuming the special product—ingesting, touching or possessing it—will somehow make us more valuable ourselves.

Behind most consumer products is a practical function. The function of a wristwatch is to tell time. The purpose of food is energy and nutrition. The role of a car is to get to you from place to place with minimal maintenance.

The luxury market says that function is not enough. The product has to have a right brand, the right cachet. It has to convey the impression that you are important, distinguished. That's where the shamanism comes in. By consuming the product, you believe you are gaining some sort of magical power.

Advertisers never exactly say what the magical power is (so they can never be accused of lying). Instead, they imply it with imagery, such as a gorgeous model displaying the product in a prestigious setting. And no one purchasing the product would acknowledge a belief in magic, but that's what their purchase implies.

You can buy a wristwatch for $10 or $10,000. What do you get for the extra $9990? Do you get a more accurate timepiece? Only marginally so—and how accurate does a wristwatch have to be? The purchaser might claim that the luxury watch conveys a good impression to business and social contacts, but does anyone you meet really care about your watch compared to your words and personality? A valuable watch has to be protected and locked up. It limits your movements through the streets. In functional terms, it's a pain in the ass.

There's only one reason you would own a $10,000 timepiece: the implied belief that possessing such an object makes you a better person.

There's always a cover story. The purchaser may speak of the watch as an "investment" or talk about its beauty or workmanship, but it's all a sham. The fact is, the purchaser suffers from low self-esteem and the luxury product is a magical talisman to salve it. "If I own such a valuable object, I must be valuable, too."

Luxury shamanism permeates our society, not just in the objects labeled "luxury" but in excess of all kinds: the premium hamburger, the exotic tourist destination, the expensive wine. It persists because of people's natural affinity for shamanic solutions to their problems. Buying something always seems much easier than actually changing one's life, which involves far more anxiety.

The other reason luxury grips our society is there's huge profit in it. There is little money in selling people things they actually need, because this is usually a commodity business where competition keeps prices low. Slap some premium cachet on the product, like a designer label or vintage year, and suddenly you can sell the same thing for many times more. This obscene profit margin fuels the advertizing that dominates the world around us. The luxury sellers are out there hawking, cajoling, pushing their products on you, while the things-you-really-need sellers can't afford to. You have to find them.

Take luxury out of our economy, and there wouldn't be much economy, but that doesn't mean it's healthy. When people seek talismans for their problems, they aren't taking real actions to solve them. They are burdened by luxury, not freed by it, and real solutions are pushed into the distance.

There are other remedies for low self-esteem. You could, for example, accomplish things you are proud of. If you're not inherently pleased with who you are or what you've done, then there's always luxury to tell you what you want to hear. That helps explain why drug dealers, mafiosos and scam artists are notorious consumers of luxury. The more reprehensible your industry is, the more you need the shamanic potion to try to feel right.

But the rest of us should be content with function. If you do what you're proud of then you don't need the false reassurance of your value. You don't need the better class of wine—or even any wine at all! You need to find the things that work, that most efficiently get the job done, so you can get on with your own job of doing what's important.

—G .C.

©2009, Glenn Campbell.
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