Archives For January 2013

Facebook invited me to check out its new Graph Search this weekend and like a complete moron I clicked “sure” or whatever it said. Boom! Just like that my old Facebook nav bar was gone and this fancy new Graph Search bar was there. Forever. No going back. Just like timeline. Oh well. Let’s try it out. Now, the hallmark of any new Facebook feature is that it has to materially make Facebook more intrusive and less privacy friendly. So I wanted to kick it off with a search for something that would really tell me how Facebook-y this new feature really was. Plus, I just wanted to laugh at my friends. I figured with ~2,000 friends most of them under 35 this must at the very least turn up some results. Let’s see.

Search For Pornography on Graph Search

No results? Hmm. I must have some really classy friends. Or Graph Search isn’t very useful. In fact, since it’s entirely based around what your friends have actively “Liked” it’s only as useful as the collective “Likes” of your network. Why did I ever want to search for the things my friends like?

In its promos, Facebook seemed to really like the example of searching for a good restaurant. Isn’t that what Yelp is for and has an incredible database of information on already? Isn’t Yelp already connected to Facebook? And doesn’t TripAdvisor kind of have a lock on the international version of that? Let’s find out.

I’m from Chicago and I have maybe 15-20 friends in New York. If I search for “restaurants my friends have liked in New York” lets see what happens.

Graph Search

The top result is a chain restaurant that has locations in many cities including Chicago. The second result returned by Graph Search has one like. That’s statistical noise. That’s not a definitive answer. Now, Graph Search may get better over time, but it has a long way to go to compete with this similar search on Yelp:

Yelp Search Results

That’s just a sampling, but the top restaurants in New York have hundreds and thousands of reviews. That’s not statistical noise. If I pick a random 5 star restaurant off of that list I’m going to have some confidence that I’m going to get something special. I can also read a few quick reviews to see why people rated this highly and what specifically they liked. A simple like on Facebook conveys none of that nuance. Maybe someone liked a restaurant for a coupon. Maybe they did it as a joke. Who knows. This is Facebook and it’s a site that for at least half of it’s life was filled with a user base that was there to post drunken pictures of their college debauchery and write stupid comments on each others’ walls. That’s what Facebook was designed for. That’s why it thrived. It did so in spite of search functions that worked. Each time it tries to move away from this function it gets more unwieldy.

Also, it’s not wonderful to have to type in “my friends who like” for every search. Searching on Graph Search is a bit like answering a question on Jeopardy. “What is friends who like restaurants in New York City, Alex?” Yuck.

Still, there was one area I figured Graph Search would be really useful. How many times has a friend sent you a video or shared something that you’ve seen in the News Feed and wanted to read later or show a friend two months down the road. At least graph search would help for finding those old posts and status updates faster than scrolling endlessly through timelines.

graph1

Ok fine, maybe that was asking too much. How about this:

graph2

Oh, ok, so graph search really is useless. Doesn’t this lack of functionality annoy the ever loving hell out of the people who work at Facebook? Do they use their service? No status search an incredibly annoying feature (or lack thereof) ever since Facebook introduced the Status Update. They essentially created the worlds most popular micro-blogging system without a search feature and still have yet to implement one. It’s really a wonder that people still put up with it.

It’s almost regression. This is how search was before Google. Remember doing a search for “cows” on Excite or Yahoo! back in the day and the top result would be “Tony’s Pizza”? It wasn’t a surprise that Google won the search war. Their search engine actually found really useful results when it searched. Facebook search is more like Excite. Yuck squared.

Another problem I see with the relevancy of results in Graph Search is that Facebook users have a very serious reason to curtail their liking of pages. Privacy wise this is invasive, but only if you liked some stuff you’d be embarrassed by. From Facebook’s point of view you wouldn’t like something if you didn’t want the whole world to know, right? Now, If I like “Playboy” or “pornography” (maybe as a joke, maybe because I worked there, maybe because I love them) is a potential employer going who does a graph search on me going to be able to make that distinction just by seeing that I liked something? I don’t think so. And so Facebook has just given folks a very good reason to stop liking things. It’s given it’s users a reason to unlike tons of pages. Pages Facebook is simultaneously trying to get to buy ads to guarantee that the people that have liked them actually see their messaging. That’s insanity.

When I signed up for Facebook in 2004 I filled out some interests and those became likes when the like system kicked in. Suddenly, my News Feed was filled with posts by those likes. Any new page I like invades my feed. Thing is, I never really wanted that functionality on Facebook. Facebook was wonderful for info on friends. There are a very select few brands or pages that I want in my News Feed. Any time I click like on something now I most likely change the settings so that I only see “Important Updates” or, more commonly, I uncheck “Show In News Feed” and simply banish the page from my feed entirely. Why? Because, while I may like Vans Shoes, I don’t want to hear about them every day.

All of this also begs the question: where is the value in using your real name or identity on social media? Facebook was beautiful because it did away with AOL Screenames and MySpace names and replaced them with real names. You could find your friends and not have to know that they went my XOXOCheerGirl5183. I think Facebook has proved once and for all that you really do want to go by something other than your real name online. (That is unless you’ve never like something potentially embarrassing or taken a crazy photo, then by all means Commander Boring use your real name. Though Commander Boring is a great option if I just made you paranoid.)

The last useless thing that Graph Search does is force you into a box. Google doesn’t correct or guide me when I type. I will suggest in the results that I try something else, but if I really want to search for something, I can. Here’s what happened when I searched for “my friends who like Nazis”:
graph1

Now, I’m not for anyone liking Nazis, but why can’t I search for it? Why does the search correct to this every time? It does this because Facebook is really just a big psych experiment to see how far it can push its users before they jump ship. So far, I’m pretty impressed at folks’ desire for punishment when a perfectly elegant Google+ sits pretty much unused.

Tonight while watching Homeland, a few of the local police descended on my back yard with flashlights….freaking me the eff out.

I cautiously opened the back door and asked what was going on.

Police: “Sir, have you seen anything strange tonight. Your neighbors reported that a black was wandering through the neighborhood.”

Me: (thinking, did you really just say that?) “I’m sorry, what?”

Police: “A male black with a red sweatshirt knocked on your neighbors door and asked for a loaf of bread. We followed his footprints (in the snow) into your backyard.”

Me: (you know, terrified) “Umm…no… I haven’t seen anything like that. Those are actually probably my footprints. I have dogs that I walk out there.”

Police: “Well, check all your doors and windows and make sure they’re locked.”

Me: “Uh…ok. Thanks officer. Have a good night.”

They wandered off and I went to get a Slurpee and figured that I needed to be prepared in case the suspect tried to come back to my house and finish what he started at the neighbors. So I picked up this little surprise and left it out front just in case.

7 Eleven White Bread

 

I have recently scored several job interviews via Skype. It’s great! I don’t even have to leave my house or stop watching Phineas and Ferb for all that long. I do really want to avoid any faux pas though so I went to the experts. In Mashable’s “The Ultimate Guide To Crushing Your Job Interview” they suggested:

This might seem like old news, but just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s not important. You need to dress to impress when it comes to your interview. If your interview is through online video, you might think you can dress down a bit and worry a little less, but this certainly isn’t true! Dress just as nicely as you would for an in-person meeting.

Now, I don’t know why it’s 2013 and we haven’t all agreed that things would be much easier if we just all wore designer jeans, snapback hats, and Star Wars t-shirts to work, but apparently it does still impress people when you dress up in a suit like it’s still 1960. And so, I will wear a suit. But that got me thinking: Do I have to wear pants? Skype is only going to show at most my upper torso in glorious 2 megapixel beauty. I know for sure I don’t have to tuck my shirt in. But, could I do the whole interview in my Justice League boxers?

Proper Skype Interview Attire

Hmm…apparently those are my Avengers/Marvel Superheroes boxers. Definitely inappropriate. They’ve got villains on them. I don’t want to convey that image. However, hypothetically if I switched to my Justice League boxers (with heroes only), would that be acceptable?

I don’t think Mercedes Benz expected that anything could go wrong with an advertisement featuring the beautiful Sports Illustrated cover model Kate Upton washing their CLA sports car. On paper it sounds like a great idea. A funny take on the “hot girl washes car” concept that’s been done successfully previously by Carl’s Jr./ Hardees who did it with Paris Hilton stuffing her face with a gigantic cheeseburger.

What’s wrong with the Mercedes ad? For starters it looks like a ten year old produced it. The camera work, the editing, and most importantly the script just fail to impress. Kate Upton looks downright frumpy.

So how do you fix this ad?

1) Sell the misdirection with a little more oomph.

The Paris Hilton ad plays on all your preconceived notions of what to expect from a “hot girl washes car” video. All the shots of her approaching the car put your mind in the schema of “hot girl washes car”. And then she starts eating a giant cheeseburger all over it and making a mess. Schema violated. Why not start the ad with Kate Upton in a robe filling up a bucket with soap. She could playfully blow bubbles and giggle as she got sprayed by the soap. If the goal was not to show skin, this could accomplish that. She could simply have her jean shorts and top on underneath the robe.

2) Change the title.

It feels like this should be called: How Kate Upton Washes A Mercedes. Why? It implies that she has some unique twist or method for washing this car and that helps set a hook right away.

3) Speed things up.

She stands there doing nothing, not showing off the car, not really being sexy or selling the story with an chutzpah for way too long. Give her something to do. Sell the joke. This is almost painfully awkward.

4) Make the reveal even more impressive.

After she’s done filling the bucket with soapy water in her robe. Have her remove her bath robe and reveal her regular clothes. As she picks up the bucket and walks towards the car pan the camera to show the drooling football team standing at the ready waiting to wash her car. She can give them the soap and then watch them wash the car allowing for the real parody to take place with the guys washing the car. Heck, you could even have the guys doing things traditionally associated with the “hot girl washes car” type videos. Maybe a guy accidentally gets sprayed and he washes and has to take his shirt off.

There’s a lot of fun that could have been had with this concept and that coupled with bravado associated with Mercedes leaking the ad early (a la Volkswagen Darth Vader) really invited the backlash.

And that’s how a dinosaur would fix Kate Upton Washes the All-New Mercedes-Benz CLA in Slow Motion.

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This isn't the worst name for a burrito place, but it's not the best either. It's just kind of ok.

This isn’t the worst name for a burrito place, but it’s not the best either. It’s just kind of ok.

 

Yelp actually suggest that OK Burrito might actually be better than OK, but you wonder what they were thinking with this nombre.

As a, er, Former Fat Boy myself, this clip made me smile out loud while on the treadmill last night. Probably the best #1 in SportsCenter history.

How do you smile out loud? It’s kind of a combination of laughter and sighing with a whole lot of joy in the mix. Really fun to see the joy of sports and being a crazy kid all rolled into one clip. Especially after writing about RG3 and my own thoughts on youth football yesterday and feeling like that came off a bit negative.

Watching RGIII this weekend was painful. Everyone with eyes saw clearly that this kid did not belong on that torn up football field. Everyone who has ever played a down of football understood why the kid didn’t pull himself out, but Nate Jackson really dissected it well over on Deadspin:

“Greatness is not given,” Robert Griffin III says in his national Gatorade spot. “Greatness is taken, when the weak and distracted are resting on their reputations.”

What that means is anyone’s guess. The football industry comes wrapped in so much epigrammatic tough-guy rhetoric that you never really stop to think whether any of it makes sense.

And then later:

The health of an athlete belongs to everyone but the athlete himself. It belongs to his team, his fans, the media who cover him; it belongs to the realm of myth. What’s the difference between a leg broken in front of millions of people and a leg broken in an empty sandlot? Only the former gets valorized by NFL Films. It’s the perception, real or not, that each game is of monumental importance that keeps these men sacrificing life and limb. Glory! Pride! Manhood! That’s the brilliant NFL hype machine at work. It sells the product. It brings in money hand over fist.

The problem is that the product permanently injures those who play it. Their lives are shorter for having played it. But the funny thing is that the players don’t give a shit. They’ll play anyway because that’s all they know.

I think what’s worse is that this doesn’t start in the NFL. It doesn’t even start in college (where Griffin finished the half in a game where he tore his knee up the first time). It starts in high school and younger. It’s beaten into a player since youth. If RGIII (or any other NFL player) is willing to trade mobility in old age for millions of dollars I don’t really have a problem with it. You can live a pretty good life with the $20 million or so that he’s already taken to the bank. I have a problem with that kind of mindset being instilled at the Pee Wee or High School levels where 99% of the kids have no chance of playing the game after they turn 18.

footballer

Back in my glory days…

My high school football team hadn’t won a game in 4 years. Our varsity offensive line probably weighed less than 700 pounds soaking wet. We regularly ended games early on account of the slaughter rule because our defenses couldn’t have stopped this girl on most Friday nights. Yet my coaches acted like we were playing NFL games. This was serious shit. Maybe that’s how you have to act as a football coach. Maybe that’s how you teach kids to run down the field at top speed on kickoffs and crash into other kids. (Tore my tricep on one of those sophomore year.) I don’t know. They finally moved my high school team down a few divisions and now they win all the time, but they still haven’t sent any kids on to the pros or made anyone a millionaire and I wonder if any of it is worth it.

I played football because I moved to town after soccer tryouts my freshman year. The year before I played traveling soccer and was a starter on a team that took second place at state. I played with several kids who were on the Olympic development team and later played college or pro ball. I went to the coaches office and asked the soccer coach if I could try out. He told me they already had tryouts and definitely had enough keepers that year. I was devastated. Pretty much near tears. I think the football coach at the time – a really great guy named Mike Ellberg – explained that the soccer coach was an asshole and he’d love to have me come play football. Sadly, the next season Ellberg was gone and they brought in a new coach. Still, I’d bought in to football at that point. All my new friends played football. That’s where sports, especially at the youth level, have an extra dimension in psychologically controlling players. You aren’t playing with just teammates. These are your friends. So when your coach insinuates that you’re letting down your team in the back of your mind you think, “I’m letting down my friends.” Peer pressure reinforces the mindset to play through the pain.

Now, football is pain. To play it you definitely have to play through some pain. From an aerial view it’s elegant and smooth, but it requires a tougher mindset and tougher physical mettle than most other sports to play. Maybe it’s necessary to instill this mindset young. But is it worth it? I never had a headache as a kid or teenager, but suffered a concussion senior year and had 5 years of migraines and still get them occasionally. I was really fuzzy mentally for a week, but back on the football field in 5 days. I had a bunch of knee contusions and found out in my mid-twenties that my cartilage had died. Two knee surgeries and some experimental stem cell magic (and $100K+ in medical bills) later I managed to avoid a knee replacement at or before 30, but was it worth it?

I remember peeing blood from a badly bruised kidney that I suffered on the last day of summer practice. On the last play of scrimmage against the scout defense I caught a touchdown pass. A scout defender speared me in the back after the catch. I went home and peed tomato soup and then went to the hospital. I sat out the first game and was told by various coaches that I was a “pussy” and a “wimp”. Some teammates reiterated that sentiment parroting the message sent by the adults in the room. I never started or logged much playing time in a game again. I got Alex Smith’d. That’s the kind of mentality these Neanderthal coaches have even on perpetually losing high school teams.

I was also the punter. In the next game after my kidney injury the special teams coach explained that he wasn’t going to let me punt in the game even though I’d been cleared to play. He reiterated that “maybe I shouldn’t be such a pussy next time”. Man, I felt like shit. Lower than shit. Dog shit.

Fun aside: karma is a bitch.  That punting decision worked out real well. By some miracle we had won our first game (against a varsity team at a new school that was filled with Juniors and Sophomores because they didn’t have a Senior class that year). Our second game was a non-conference game against a school as traditionally horrible at football as we were. We jumped to a 20-0 lead in the game and were en route to our first 2-0 start! Things were looking good! Then, on our first punt of the game the second string punter punted the ball backwards over his head and the other team ran it in for a touchdown. I asked the coach to let me punt. No dice. The next punt the punter forgot to count players on the field and with no personal protector had his punt blocked for a touchdown. He was replaced by the 3rd string punter who punted his first punt backwards over his head resulting in another touchdown. We lost 21-20. At least I got my starting punting job back. I should have told them to screw off.

I love the NFL. I love watching football. I love going to NFL and college games with my family and friends. I love going back and watching high school games. My kids will absolutely never touch a football. Ever. They just won’t. I won’t sign a consent form. I will gently push them to play any other sport. My parents finally gave in when I begged them to play. I love them for that because I was a little dick about it until they said yes. They’d never played the game. I have. I love the sport, but everything about it and its psychology is fucked and it’s not worth the physical toll.

Señor D. and Señor Dad

Señor D. and Señor Dad

I know you were waiting all year for this. Now, I can’t nominate either of the albums Former Fat Boys released this year, but you should consider adding them to the top spots on your list. You can listen to them on Spotify for free. Click THE LEGEND OF HARD COREY or WANNA BUY BEATS VOL. 2 and decide for yourself.

Setting aside my ego here are the best albums of 2012:

1)The Front Bottoms – Self Titled

This here band called The Front Bottoms reminds me of a band called Troubled Hubble that hailed from Chicago and disbanded some years ago. They were a great little rock band that sang songs about fun, regular adventures. They wrote great hooks and just seemed to be having a lot of fun. This band seems to me to be the natural heir to their crown and in a rare feat, I like almost every song on this album. Some of the lyrics in the song “The Beers” are my favorite in years:

“I will remember that summer as the summer I was taking steroids, cuz you like a man with muscles. And I like you.”

“It’s the cops are coming in kind of sobering up.”

Standout track: The Beers, Rhode Island, Flashlight, Maps, Swimming Pool, Father

2) Wordburglar – 3RDBURGLAR

I really wanted to give this one the top spot. Sean Jordan aka Wordburglar is a comic obsessed rapper with an impeccable flow and an incredible flair for inventive rhymes. He’s probably the best writer of traditional indie hip-hop that is operating in “nerdcore”. I think he’s probably better than the scene deserves. I feel phenomenally lucky to have had him guest on the our last album. The only other “nerdcore” rapper I’d consider on his level flow-wise is YTCracker and I think this year Wordburglar’s output topped YT’s. Frankly, he’s got one of the best flows in hip-hop period and easily had the best hip-hop album this year.

Standout track: Croque Monsieur

3) The Classic Crime – Phoenix

I found this album on Spotify’s New Releases tab one week and thought it was the new Phoenix album. Turns out that with a little bit of what I like to call “reading correctly” the band is called The Classic Crime. Whoops. I listened to the entire thing and recommended it to several people before I realized that it wasn’t what I thought it was. I guess it kind of reminds me a bit of more recent Jimmy Eats World. Kinda.

Standout track: Let Me Die

4) Eve 6 – Speak In Code

This is my favorite band of all time. They broke up after their label blew it releasing their 3rd album. That album was a better album, but to come back after almost a decade and record something this good is rare for any band. It picks up right where they left off.

Standout track: Victoria, Pick Up The Pieces, Curtain

5) All American Rejects – Kids In The Street

I like that these guys grew up a little bit and wrote some tracks that were still heavy on hooks, but not as obviously aimed at the Hot Topic-lite kids. Some cool music videos too.

Standout track: Someday’s Gone, Beekeeper’s Daughter

6) Mackelmore and Lewis – The Heist

Thrift Shop is undeniably incredible, but Macklemore’s smart flow and intelligent lyrics are such a stark contrast to the moronic hood grabage being put out by the likes of Chief Keef and 2 Chainz. This guy is poet and, I think, the best is yet to come. There were only about three songs I added to my iPod, but the whole album is a good listen.

Standout track: Thrift Shop, 10,000 Hours

7) Inspector Owl – Self Titled

Yes, IO frontman Corey Wills makes most of the beats for Former Fat Boys, but his main project is really great indie rock. Even if Corey weren’t one of my best friends and collaborators I think this record would still be on my list. Give Mousey a listen and make sure you make it to the explosive ending and tell me you aren’t sold. Do it.

Standout track: Mousey, We Are An Ocean

8) Carly Rae Jepsen – Kiss

Yeah, I dunno. It’s catchy, it’s fun. It’s here based on the number of songs I starred as I went through it. I’m not very excited about it, but it’s got some joyful tunes on it. I think the real problem with it is that it feels like a bunch of producers made a record that was very disparate in styles. Ke$ha is Ke$sha. You know what you’re going to get. This feels like they haven’t decided what Carly is going to be.

Standout track: Tonight I’m Getting Over You

8) Stepdad – Wildlife Pop

It’s so-freaking-catchy-you’ll-just-die synth pop made by a fat beard man that takes being a fat beard man very seriously. One of the rare bands that’s actually amusing to follow on Facebook. This might deserve to be lower on the list or higher, but the problem is that every time I listen to it I get a musical tummy ache. It’s basically pure sugar. After awhile you crave some substance.

Standout track: My Leather, My Fur, My Nails

9) K’naan – Country, God Or The Girl

His last album was better, but this album was pretty damn fun. K’naan is another great rapper who actually has something to say. I listened to this again recently to wash the taste of the giant turd of a second album that Wiz Khalifah released this year out of my mouth. K’Naan accomplished some incredible feats here and managed to make Nas and Bono interesting again for a second. Also, made Nelly Furtado worth remembering.

Standout track: Gold In Timbuktu, The Sound of My Breaking Heart,

10) DMX – Undisputed

DMX was arrested, went to jail, and did so much crack in the last few years I can hardly believe this is possible, but he’s back bark and all. I went in with super low expectations, but was reasonably surprised. DMX always had a good nose for hooks and infused his deeper tracks with gospel in a non-tacky way. That’s all on display here.

Standout track: I Don’t Dance featuring Machine Gun Kelly

Honorable Mentions:

YTCracker and Hairetsu – Who Live Like This EP (Standout: Sexting)

The Rocket Summer – Life Will Write The Words (Standout: 200,000)

Punch Brothers – Ahoy! (Moonshiner, Another New World)

Absolute Best Songs of 2012

And finally, this is the Spotify Playlist with my favorite individual tracks of the year. I compiled it by listening to nearly every album featured on Spotify’s New Releases feature each week of the last year picking my favorite tracks.

So….what did I miss? What do you recommend? What were your favorites?