Band Websites Suck.

Much like university websites, band websites suck. It is just too hard to archive all news items and to compile a complete list of concerts and releases. There have been some promising sites but one by one they got sacked. A lack of updates would have been bad. Still, every band homepage I’ve ever cherished has been cut down during the past 13 years. There might be a couple of artists I’m not really a fan of who still have a proper web presense. And there are, of course, some fan sites that provide all the info. (That’s what I attempt to do on anglagard.net.) Most offical band pages, however, have simply been replaced by shallow marketing schemes. New album out soon! Winter tour dates. And only then did they stop the updates. It used to make me angry. Now it only makes me sad, because I still don’t see why the old stuff has to go as soon as a new album is coming out. Our rather, a new social media campaign manager is on board.

Woher wissen Sie das alles eigentlich?

Part of my job is statistical consulting. Recently, I explained the use of plausible values in PISA to someone, who then asked me a question I found very interesting: “Where did you learn all this?” I really liked this question, because it goes beyond the search for a particular solution to a particular problem. So now I resolved to ask it myself more often when I get advice from others.

Peter K. Rosenthal Rules!

The funniest* online thing of the last 12 months has certainly been The Onion‘s Film Standard featuring Peter K. Rosenthal. Here are four brilliant movie reviews to get you started:

  1. The Onion Reviews ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’
  2. The Onion Reviews ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug
  3. The Onion Reviews ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’
  4. The Onion Reviews ‘Gravity’

* Funny as in I fell from my chair due to laughter-induced stomach cramps.

The Pine Hill Cover Album According to Jutze

Richard Shindell and Lucy Kaplansky announced a new album of cover songs. One of the crowd-funding options is a cover version of your choice. The current price (3,000 US$) is off my limits, so I could just stop there. Or I could fantasize about which songs would make a good choice. After a couple of days of rumination I’ve begun to see a silver lining: It’s terribly difficult to pick just one song. Of course, I still hope they lower the price – but well, here is my current list of potential covers with some remarks.

  1. The Hooters: “May You Always Fit the Shoe” – an unreleased song that was played live in 1992. I only have a noisy live version, so I’d love to get a better recording. The original has some nice vocals by the late Mindy Jostyn, so this would be a great duet for Richard and Lucy. Fun fact: Co-writer Rob Hyman has collaborated with Dar Williams on all of her newer albums.
  2. Dave Carter: “Calvary’s Hill” – another unreleased song that I only heard played by Ron Greitzer and Tracy Grammer (in a lo-fi mp3). A hauntingly beautiful song with great harmonies.
  3. The Brandos: “Hallowed Ground” – my favourite Band with one of their folk-influenced songs.
  4. David Kincaid: “Paddy’s Lamentation” – an Irish traditional with lyrics from the Civil War. This one would suit Richard perfectly, in my opinion.
  5. The Coalminers’ Beat: “Take Me High Above” – a song about violence in Northern Ireland. The combination of male and female vocals makes this a very good contender; also, I’m still not over the fact that the band broke up.
  6. The Del-Lords: “Poem of the River” – it is very tempting to simply list my favourite songs. Still, Richard and Lucy should be able to contribute something unique to the compositions.
  7. Bruce Springsteen: “My Hometown” or “Dancing in the Dark” – Richard already tackled a couple of Springsteen’s songs. I’d love to hear more!
  8. Bon Jovi: “Last Man Standing” – the slower version from “100,000,000 Bon Jovi Fans Can’t Be Wrong” already hints at the potential of this song as a folk number.
  9. Chris de Burgh: “Last Night” – possibly an odd choice. Yet, it’s a tale told in a song and could possibly be turned from pop to folk.
  10. Iron Maiden: “Alexander the Great” – certainly an odd choice. This one would need a thorough transformation. Not sure how the outcome would sound. Quite a gamble for 3,000 bucks.
  11. Traveling Wilburys: “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” – Richard already did a Dylan cover. This one has more narrative elements and also a group feel to it that maybe could be translated in the duo setting.
  12. Per Gessle: “Elvis in Deutschland” – this is the demo from the re-release of the album “The World According to Gessle”. Another experiment in terms of turning pop into folk.
  13. Genesis: “Smalltalk” – I’m embarrassed that I listed so many songs from major label releases. Anyhow, Richard could make this one even more intense, I guess.
  14. Pat Algar: “Once in a Very Blue Moon” – Richard’s take on this one is stunning to say the least.

I’m tempted to add more songs, say, CCR‘s “Someday Never Comes” and “Brothers in Arms” (Dire Straits); but I think these songs are already perfect. Any cover version would be bound to disappoint on some level. And the list above would already be 42,000 dollars, no need to increase the costs further.

PS: Naturally, I’d love it if they were to include some of their unreleased songs, for example, “Walden Well” (Richard) and “If You Love Someone That’s What You Do” (Lucy).

Kleine Presseschau

Kürzlich erschien der Artikel “Belastet, aber hochzufrieden? Arbeitsbelastung von Lehrkräften im Quer- und Längsschnitt“, den ich zusammen mit Manuela Münzer-Schrobildgen und Jörn R. Sparfeldt geschrieben hatte, in der Zeitschrift für Gesundheitspsychologie. In Zusammenarbeit mit der Pressestelle gab es daraufhin eine Pressemitteilung, die ein in meinen Augen erfreuliches und interessantes Presseecho hervorrief, das ich hier kurz resumieren möchte.

Einige Stellen griffen die Mitteilung auf (z.B. der Saarländische Rundfunk) und am nächsten Morgen gab es sogar eine kleine Glosse zum Thema auf der Titelseite der Waiblinger Kreiszeitung (in meiner schwäbischen Heimat) mit dem Titel “Jammern will gelernt sei”. Es folgten Berichte u.a. bei SpiegelOnline.de, Wirtschaftswoche.de, FAZ.net sowie im Ausland DiePresse.com (Österreich) und Cihan Haber Ajans (Türkei). Zu Beginn der neuen Woche folgte schließlich noch ein Artikel auf Sueddeutsche.de.

The Bleeding Dragon

Miracously, I made to the final round of SpinTunes #8. The challenge was:

Painful Progression – Write a song about PHYSICAL pain, and do so using a I-V-vi-IV chord progression in the chorus.

My naive assumption is that I can deal with the musical restriction more easily than the other contestants this round, who are a bit jazzier in my ear. Anyway, for this round I couldn’t just throw out a quick song like I did last round. I’m not a good singer, so a “normal” pop song wasn’t my aim. My first idea was to write some kind of Irish folk song, instead. Even before I picked up my guitar I decided to write about the pain of a menstruating dragon. I had this idea for the first time back in 2006, when I took the Hammerfall song title “The Dragon Lies Bleeding” literally. It took me a couple of hours to come up with a jolly chorus. The rest of the song manifested itself more quickly. I had a percussive click track resembling a bhodran, which I kept in the final version. I went a bit crazy with all kinds of keyboard sounds (including some banjo!) but most of them are buried in the mix. Needless to say, I would have loved to have real instruments. Anyway, there was a deadline to meet and I am quite satisfied with the outcome.

What made me very happy was the following review by Dave Leigh:

This sounds like the sort of thing that Hobbits would sing at the pub. Really demented, sick hobbits. Hobbits who need therapy. Who in his right mind writes a song about a menstruating dragon? Nobody, and that should tell us a thing about Jutze. However, this is the form of insanity that’s just really, really entertaining.

Check out all entries! I also filmed a quick sofa video that ended up with an over-enthusiastic preview thumbnail.

Deep under the mountain in the dark and the cold
Sheltered from the wind and the rain
Sitting on a pile of silver and of gold
The mighty dragon is in pain
Maybe it is time to leave this cave behind
Time to get some fresh air

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

Only the elders have seen this once before
Almost a century ago
They shut all the windows and they lock every door
Hiding in the cellars below
Maybe there’s a chance to escape the burning flames
Maybe they will survive

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

High above the lake the dragon’s breathing fire
Feeling that the cycle is complete – once again
There’s no way around it, no use in climbing higher
The time has come to bleed
Maybe it is time she should start to procreate
It sucks to menstruate

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
In agony and pain the dragon is flying
Nobody knows how much more it’s going to take
The dragon in the sky feels like dying

And it’s raining blood on the town by the lake
Everybody screams, the children are crying
Nobody knows how long it’s going to take
It looks as if the dragon is dying

2014 Creative Commons by-nc Johannes “Jutze” Schult

Dar Williams live in York

Dar Williams played at the Fibbers in York on March 11, 2014. She was her usual charming self and played a wonderful collection of songs. Given her back catalogue, it’s impossible to honour all requests. The upside of this is that pretty much every track is a winner. First, there were some gripping songs from her recent album, “In the Time of Gods”, and standard songs from her live repertoire. I was really happy that she played “Buzzer”, not only because I was there with some other psychologists. “The Ocean” and “February” were also personal highlights. The mix of upbeat and softer songs was perfect. Needless to say, the classic songs like “The Babysitter’s Here”, “When I Was a Boy”, and “As Cool as I Am” received the loudest applause from the roughly 90 people in the audience. I was pleasantly surprised that they sounded as fresh as the first time I heard them many years ago.

The music was great. The guitar was a tad too loud sometimes but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment. And there was, of course, a lot of insightful and funny banter between songs. The unique voice of Dar’s storystelling alone is worth the (humble) price of admission. I do hope there won’t be another eight year until I get to see her in concert again!

Dar Williams - live in York (2014)

Setlist:

  1. The Light and the Sea
  2. The Beauty of the Rain
  3. Spring Street
  4. I Have Been Around the World
  5. Buzzer
  6. Holly Tree
  7. I’ll Miss You Till I Meet You
  8. The Babysitter’s Here
  9. The Ocean
  10. The One Who Knows
  11. As Cool as I Am
  12. Storm King
  13. February
  14. When I Was a Boy
  15. The Christians and the Pagans

Over.

Estimating the Release Date of Richard Shindell’s Next Album

Richard Shindell has been working on his next album for quite some time now. His fans (that includes me) try to be patient. Several new songs have already made their live debut. The album is supposed to be called “Viceroy Mimic” (VM), but a couple of weeks ago he also mentioned “Same River Once” as a contender. Pressed about a release date, Shindell said (during a recent concert in Boston) January 2015. Regardless of this, here’s the statistical perspective – just for fun! The linear trend across all album releases (including live albums, cover albums, Cry, Cry, Cry etc.) suggests that a new album should have been released on November 4, 2013.

Graph: Linear prediction of the release dates of Richard Shindell albums (incl. live albums etc.)

The quadratic trend across Richard’s original studio albums, however, would imply a May 11, 2014 release date for “Viceroy Mimic”. The linear prediction appears to be worse in this case; it the lag between original albums is increasing.

Graph: Quadratic prediction of the release dates of Richard Shindell albums (only original studio albums)

Given the projected 2015 release, a cubic function might be necessary, soon. Anyway, below you can find the detailed data and the Stata code to replicate the graphs.

Continue reading ‘Estimating the Release Date of Richard Shindell’s Next Album’ »

Konferenz-Gedanken

Zum Ende der 2. GEBF-Tagung in Frankfurt habe ich ein paar Überlegungen festgehalten. Sie beziehen sich nicht zwingend auf die konkrete Konferenz, die insgesamt sehr kurzweilig war (und u.a. Kekse beinhaltete).

  • Alle Pausen (mindestens) 30 Minuten lang machen! Redezeiten werden überzogen, man geht zur Toilette, man deckt sich mit Kaffee und Keksen ein, bisweilen sind die Vortragsräume über verschiedene Gebäude verteilt – und es bleibt (bei 15-minütigen Pausen) kaum Zeit für Gespräche, Orientierung und Regeneration. (Im Zweifelsfall dafür eine Keynote weniger ins Programm nehmen.)
  • Hilfskräfte mit Wasserpistolen ausstatten, die immer dann zum Einsatz kommen, wenn ein Redner die Zeit überzieht! Ich fände es auch sinnvoll, eine Datenbank mit der Vortragsdauer (bzw. der jeweiligen Abweichung von der vorgegebenen Redezeit) anzulegen, damit bei zukünftigen Tagungen die “Überzieher” (Konferenz-übergreifend) identifizierbar sind.
  • Kekse anbieten! Zur Not die Teilnahmegebühr erhöhen.
  • Zum Starten von PowerPoint-Präsentationen F5 drücken! Ich persönlich wurde freilich das pdf-Format bevorzugen (bzw. ganz auf Folien verzichten). Bei Adobe Reader ist Strg+L die Vollbild-Tastenkombination.
  • Wer in einer Session zuletzt vorträgt, kann sich häufig die Einleitung sparen! Eine wiederholte Vorstellung der Konstrukte und Theorien ist redundant.
  • Vielleicht wäre es eine gute Idee, beim Tagungsbüro in der Nähe einen Stadtplan auszubreiten bzw. aufzuhängen, damit die Teilnehmer sich besser orientieren können (ÖPNV, Restaurants, Kneipen, Plattenläden).

Lektüre 2013

A list of books I finished reading in the last 12 months:

  • Patricia Highsmith: Zwei Fremde im Zug
  • Theresa Couchman: The Unmapped Lands
  • Elizabeth George: A Suitable Vengeance
  • Khaled Hosseini: Drachenläufer
  • Ian McEwan: On Chesil Beach
  • Marc-Uwe Kling: Die Känguru-Chroniken
  • Greg Cox: The Bestseller Job
  • Elizabeth George: For the Sake of Elena
  • Bertram Job: Bis zum bitteren Ende – Die Toten Hosen erzählen IHRE Geschichte
  • Allan Pease, Barbara Pease: Why Men Don’t Listen & Women Can’t Read Maps
  • Johan Harstad: 172 Hours on the Moon
  • Robin Sloan: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop
  • Robert Galbraith: The Cuckoo’s Calling
  • José Carlos Somoza: Das Einstein-Projekt
  • Winston Graham: Marnie