Friday, June 24, 2005

coefficient of alrightness

you can either accept the fact that if you're going to keep the window open, then you are a slave to shuffle and you must suffer the consequences of your actions. if you really do like all the things in your 4 and 5 star rated playlist, then what does it matter that anyone walking past the window can immediately associate you with the 5 second snippet of music wafting out across the 30 degree, slightly smoggy street-level air? I mean, you'll never meet these people or ever talk to them, so what does it matter what they think of you at that moment? nothing. unless you're a half-baked insecure 30-something desperate wannabe who's constantly justifying your validity in a retro culture society that you remember the first time around when you thought you were the centre of it but you probably weren't even then.

so, it matters to you desperately that if ryan adams is trailing off, as a bunch of 20-something ex-university students in 70's elvis shades, just faded enough element t-shirts and fat face flip flops pass by, that it might suddenly cross-fade into wuthering heights and they'll all be swivelling their necks around to see where that stupid wailing noise is coming from. it would be something of a social disaster if LCD soundsystem come to an abrupt end and all too quickly, natalie imbruglia pipes up, just as the heigham park massive are drifting past with their nice white airmax 95s and their evisus hanging the requisite 3 inches below the waistband of their calvins. I mean, you'd be lambasted. you're just so culturally irrelevant. you're just like someone's dad. which you are, of course, but you've just given it all away, you idiot.

you have to develop a contingency. it's slightly extra work, but it'll be worth it in the long run. these are you favourite tracks. you know when they start and finish, but you can't give up the shuffle, no matter how hard you try, so you're caught between the freedom and gay abandon of randomness and the self-conscious straightjacket of predictability. you need broadcast control, but with the flexibility of choice. you like half man half biscuit, godammit.

the answer is the cultural self-preservation equation. it roughly states that the level of saving face is equal to the product of the coefficient of alrightness times the specific relevance capacity over the am I bovvered factor. as the level of saving face approaches 1, the requirement to mute approaches 0 and vice versa. so, for something like lilywhite lilith by genesis, on a nice sunny friday, this would probably look something like:

4 (coefficient of alrightness) * 0.2 (specific relevance capacity) / 2 (am I bovvered factor) = 0.4 (level of saving face)

so, I'd have my finger pretty close to the mute key for that one. however, if it were to be something like black and white town by doves, on a grey wednesday, it would probably look more like this:

15 (coefficient of alrightness) * 0.6 (specific relevance capacity) / 10 (am I bovvered factor) = 0.9 (level of saving face)

which is pretty darn high, so I'd be looking to the whack the volume up key for that one. it takes some practice, but you end up being able to perform this equation on the fly in no time and so within a second or so, you're able to direct your twitchy little fingers to the correct key that will enable you to remain comfortably smug in the knowledge that the most credibility-risky tunes are screened from the passing cultural commentators. at least, it's a bit less embarrassing when sheryl crow suddenly starts blaring out the window and you're able to catch it just before that nice girl with the purple hair walks past. mind you, if she knew about the jo dee messina track I'd have no chance.

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