The algorithms are scaring me now

By now I’m sure we’ve all had the weirdly unsettling experience that goes something like this:

I was talking to a friend about how to best slice tomatoes, and nobody else was in the room, and then the next day my Facebook feed kept showing me ads for mandolin slicers and tomato-slicing gadgets and kitchen cutlery! It’s SCARY, man!

I’ve kind of gotten used to this, to be honest. I find advertising an irritant and nothing more; I generally pay no attention to it. What’s a little frustrating is how often I’ll see a whole bunch of ads for a thing or a category of things–after I’ve already bought the one example of such a thing that I needed! Buy a new vacuum cleaner? Why then, here are a bunch of ads for vacuum cleaners! But…I don’t need another one, so why am I seeing all these ads?

But then these algorithms can get a bit too granular in their serving up content to satisfy very particular tastes. My mother has been out of town, so I’ve been hanging out at night with my father, and I’ve already noted that there’s been a lot of prime-time The Price is Right on lately, so I’ve seen more TPIR in the last couple weeks than I had probably in the last ten years.

Yesterday I visited YouTube just to kill time by checking out some videos, and YouTube suggested several TPIR clips, probably because I searched for a couple on the post from a few days ago. Leading the pack was this clip, likely from the early 80s, in which a young woman who looks a lot like actress Elisabeth Shue from The Karate Kid (if you were a straight dude in the 80s you crushed on her in that movie, it’s just a thing you did, like playing Pac-Man) plays for a car. And she’s wearing purple overalls.

Yeah, sometimes these algorithms get it right to an eerie degree.

I wonder if Konnie is still out there somewhere…she’d probably be in her early 60s by now, if I’ve timed this right.

(BTW, I noted that I spent a bit of Friday morning taking The Wife to a local hospital for an in-and-out procedure. When I picked her up I had to wait in the surgical waiting room for fifteen minutes or so. I walked in and plunked myself down in the nearest seat that wasn’t clustered by other people, and then I noticed that everyone else was looking in my direction. Weird…until I realized that they weren’t looking at me at all, they were watching the teevee that was hanging above my head. And on the teevee at that point? You guessed it. The Price is Right.)



Share This Post

Posted in On Bib Overalls, On Teevee | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Confessions of a Delaware Park First-timer

Sunrise over Hoyt Lake

Until yesterday, I had never walked through Delaware Park.

In Buffalo, this is almost a kind of heresy. Delaware Park is Buffalo’s equivalent to New York City’s Central Park: it is the biggest of Buffalo’s public parks, the one with the most variety in terms of things to do and see, all of it tucked into an energized urban environment. I’ve driven through or around Delaware Park many times (among other things, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery is on the park’s western edge), but somehow, in all my years of living in The 716, I’ve never actually stopped to spend a bit of quality time in Delaware Park.

Until yesterday.

What was more is that The Dee-oh-gee and I were there shortly after sunrise.

I am not a morning person–at least, I am not a sunrise person. We were all up that early because we had to whisk The Wife to a local medical facility for a scheduled procedure (she’s fine, just tendonitis in a foot that wasn’t responding to physical therapy), and of course we had Cane ride along with us; after depositing The Wife at the hospital where the thing was being done, I decided to take Cane someplace for a walk before heading home. I thought to go to Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, but I was in the vicinity of Delaware Park, and as I drove through it, I thought, Hey, why not walk right here?

Living in Buffalo’s Southtowns, Delaware Park is far enough off my normal beaten path that it simply has never been a destination of its own. That should probably change, and soon. For now, though, I’m happy to have been there on an early morning in June. It had been a cool night but was warming up, which made the waters misty in the golden light.

In light like that, even a distant cloud of gnats or whatever insects these were can be beautiful, as they catch the sun:


And many magnificent trees:

The best thing I saw yesterday was a great egret. We kept interrupting this bird as we walked along the path. There it would be, fifty feet or so ahead of us, and then it would fly farther down the lake as we approached. This happened several times until finally it took wing and flew all the way back down the length of the lake; we didn’t see it again after that. But what an impressive bird this is!

We walked along the southern edge of Hoyt Lake and then we turned around and headed back. It was very quiet and serene, with only the sounds of a few joggers breaking the spell of nature and, beyond it, the sounds of traffic and a city waking up. We also saw the stage for Shakespeare In Delaware Park, which we have likewise never attended; I suppose we’ll have to see for ourselves someday if that cockpit can indeed hold the vasty fields of France.

On the way back, I stopped to pluck a single blossom, and after taking in the rising sunlight one last time, Cane and I headed home. We got back just a few minutes before my normal work day, had I worked yesterday, would have begun.

Not a bad way to pass a morning, even if I am still quite sure that I will never be a sunrise person.


Share This Post

Posted in Life, On Buffalo and The 716, Photographic Documentation | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

“As if the way one fell down mattered.”

“When the fall is all there is, it matters.” (from THE LION IN WINTER)

I am disgusted by the Supreme Court’s ruling. I, like everyone else, knew it was coming, but the awful thing is no less awful for all the foreknowledge in the world.

I support reproductive rights for all persons, period. I reject the notion utterly that protecting a fetus is the most important thing in the world. (In fact, I’m not terribly convinced that protecting a fetus is all that important at all.)

I don’t know where we go from here, but I know it’s to a deeply ugly version of America that I have no desire to see or live in. We all have to act if we don’t want America’s bible-waving minority to force this country back to a time when abortion, birth control, and homosexuality are all illegal. And make no mistake: they’re not stopping at Roe. They’ve got the taste for blood, they think victory is in hand, and they’re coming.

Right now, the fall is all there is. But there’s a lot of future left. So let’s get up.

(I will reject any comments that try to argue in favor of what this Court has done. Not interested.)

Share This Post

Posted in Commentary | Tagged | 2 Comments

Something for Thursday

Continuing our survey of “Conversation songs”, in which the lyrics give us one side of a conversation, we have “I Don’t Want To Talk About It” by Crazy Horse.

“I Don’t Want To Talk About It” was written by Danny Whitten, a guitarist and songwriter with the band Crazy Horse before he died of an overdose in 1972. The song is a distillation of all the things a lover might want to say to his partner after their breakup, which to judge by the lyrics, was less than friendly. You can really hear the pain here, really feel it–and it’s not at all clear if the old lover is even there to hear any of this.

Share This Post

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

50 years of coming on down….

Apparently The Price is Right is 50 years old, which kind of blows my mind. I don’t know why, since it was my favorite game show as a kid* and I’m 50 years old. I’ve seen a few episodes of the show recently, thanks to the prime-time incarnation of the venerable game show, and…well, the show is what it’s always been, with a few updates here and there. TPIR has this really interesting blend of retro and modern going on these days. The set has dialed up the garish colors, but the 70s-era snowflake logo things still abounds. Anyway, some random observations:

::  Drew Carey is a pretty good host. He’s no Bob Barker, but then, who is? Carey has at some point eschewed his old short-haired look for a longer mane and a beard that makes him kind of look like a more cheerful version of Jeff Bridges from The Big Lebowski.

::  There’s a male model now! That’s pretty cool.

::  Who pays for this stuff? The prizes are WAY better now than they used to be! Everybody gets to play for something cool. I remember contestants winning their way onto the stage and then having to pretend to be excited for a new waterbed and a set of golf clubs. Even the items up for bids are nicer than some main prizes used to be.

::  I know it’s beloved, but Plinko sucks. There, I said it.

::  I love that the Rangefinder game is not only still around but apparently has never once been upgraded.

::  They still play “Cliffhanger”! That’s the one with the climber who yodels his way up the mountain in accordance with your ability to price the box of corn flakes or whatever. I always liked that one.

::  Some guy won a trip to Hawaii. Eff that guy.

::  The Family Guy really nailed what continues to be my reaction to contestants who up-bid the last bidder by a dollar:

::  I haven’t seen it yet in any of the episodes I’ve seen, but the “Clock Game” was always some really intense shit.

::  What’s the worst game? I’m already on record as disliking Plinko, but I just watched some dude “win” $6 playing “Any Number”. That sucked. I’d forgotten that game until I saw that happen. (You’re playing for a car, something way less nice than a car, and then the “piggy bank”. All the digits from 0 to 9 appear in the prices once; you just call out numbers and whichever item you fill in first is what you win.)

Finally–and yes, this post is just some stuff I’m writing to keep my “Days Posted” streak alive–here’s one of my favorite TPIR games of all time. The contestant in this clip has zero idea what she’s doing, she’s doomed, there’s no way she’s going to win…and then….

*If my mother ever tells you I used to use the turkey baster as a microphone and pretend I was Bob Barker, don’t believe her. That never happened. Well, maybe one time. Or two. You know, I don’t get why that pissed her off so much, it’s not like we were regularly roasting turkeys that needed basting!


Share This Post

Posted in On Teevee | Tagged | 1 Comment

Tone Poem Tuesday

Here’s an old favorite: Espana by Emmanuel Chabrier. This is one of the most delightful pieces I know, just pure delightful color for all of its six minutes. I got to play this work in college, and I’ve loved it since that very first rehearsal. For a work written in the Romantic era, Espana really seems to be anticipating the Modern era in some key ways: its rhythm isn’t just engaging or “catchy”, but it has that wonderful 20th Century sense of the bar line being made irrelevant.


Share This Post

Posted in music | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sundays at Chestnut Ridge

Twice in recent weeks I have taken The Dee-oh-gee to Chestnut Ridge on our Sunday adventure-nature walks. Late spring and early summer are great times to go to this particular park, when things haven’t really started to heat up or dry out just yet.

From the top of the sledding hill, you have a wonderful view–if it’s clear–of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, ON in the distance.

Notable here is the Buffalo Skyway, visible at center to the left of downtown, and the white roof of the Ralph Wilson Field House, which is the practice facility for the Buffalo Bills.

(You can see the full-size version here.)

I’ve walked past this spot many, many times–and only yesterday did I notice this old utility pole.

Cue John Denver: “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…!”

I love when sunlight breaks through the canopy, fifty to a hundred feet up, to light up lower trees like this four-foot sapling.

I don’t know if there’s a more evocative sight than a trail winding through the forest.

Two adventurers!

These are from a few weeks ago:

Sun-dappled leaves.

An old well-house. These structures, built by the Works Progress Administration, dot the park.

Brand-new graffiti. I’m glad for Faith and Shane, though I wonder what role cheese has to play in their romance.

A pine dotted with the year’s new growth.

Sunlight, from source to terminus.

One of many streams. This one usually dries up by mid-July.

Cones weighing down the top of this great pine.

The bib pocket on your overalls is a great place for a wildflower or two!

Adventurers, again. A greyhound is a fantastic fashion accessory. (The shirt is from Oahu!)


Share This Post

Posted in On Buffalo and The 716, On Dogs and Dog Life, Photographic Documentation | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Lessons from Fictional Fathers

  1. It doesn’t matter if you were the worst father in Galactic history! You can still redeem all of that by throwing the evil Emperor down a reactor shaft before he can kill your son and destroy the Rebellion.
  2. Maybe you grew up estranged, but if the last thing your son said to you before walking out was to cast aspersions on your personal sports hero, a mysterious cosmic force might mess with his head in order to allow you to reconcile. (First it will make him do weird stuff like build a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield.)
  3. It’s OK to be a shadowy presence cutting an impressive figure on a distant hill, just as long as you’re ready to step up and take over when your kid’s mother is shot by a hunter.
  4. If a comet’s about to obliterate the world and there’s no hope for you, go wait on the seashore where you took your kid when she was young. She’ll come join you, before the end.
  5. But! If you’re one of the folks ON a comet that’s about to strike the earth, sacrifice yourself to blow it up! She’ll never forget you.
  6. Give your kid privacy and independence! Let him go out and have adventures in the wilderness while you work at your academic pursuits! Later in life, he just might show up to help you find the Holy Grail.
  7. Downplay when you are doing dangerous shit that would freak your kid out, like when you go to hunt a great white shark. Tell him you’re “going fishing”.
  8. Let your kid join Starfleet. His associates will be people of good character.
  9. When your youngest comes home all excited because he met a forest god who’s basically a giant teddy bear and she took a nap on him, take that seriously! Not every kid gets to meet a Totoro.
  10. Maybe the kid isn’t your actual son, but you’re the one who raises him, even though he doesn’t realize it for a long time. That other guy might have been his father, but he wasn’t the kid’s daddy.
  11. It’s not cool to be so open about having a preference between your two daughters. It’s also not cool to pit them against one another in combat. Eventually, both of them might team up with others to stop your jewelry-centric evil plan.
  12. Your kid may one day end up with that poor student you spent all of high school bullying as his teacher, and he may even end up depending on your poor victim to help in defeating the greatest evil wizard of all time, so…maybe don’t be a bully in high school.
  13. Drawing up your will? And you can’t decide which of your two sons should inherit the controlling shares of the oil company you founded? Maybe don’t set up a year-long contest between the two of them to see which deserves it. That shit will cause all kinds of grief for your family.
  14. Defer to your wife on your son’s middle name, if you’ve already decided his first. That means going with “Tiberius” if that’s what she wants.
  15. Look, it happens: Your eldest of three moves out early on, and you live with your other two for many years after. But when your youngest, your daughter, gets married, it’s kind of weird to talk about “your two beautiful children.”
  16. Seems kind of odd to insist on having a big den all to yourself when your house only has two bedrooms to accommodate the three sons you’re bringing to the marriage and the three daughters she is bringing.
  17. That plan your son has cooked up to impress a girl by learning to be a rock drummer in the space of five weeks? Go with it. Your kid’s dealing with some shit, and it just might work. (You’re dealing with some shit too, you know.)
  18. It’s OK if your son has a whole ton of hobbies that you don’t understand, like growing roses and cooking Jewish food, and that he doesn’t really understand you all that well. He’ll get the important stuff (like grilling with propane).
  19. Be creative with your catchphrases. Don’t just threaten to kick your son’s ass. Say things like “Your ass just hung out a Vacancy sign, and my foot’s lookin’ for a room!”
  20. Even as you try to hew out a simple life in your house on the prairie (which is surrounded by hills, strangely enough), you can absolutely have your perfect white teeth and your head of thick curly hair. (Oh, and maybe reconsider having your entire house be essentially one room. I assume you’ll want to occasionally “get friendly” with your wife, and consider that your daughters are trying to sleep in a loft about seven feet above your heads, to judge by the ladder they use to get up there.)
  21. Just because your son turned evil and wants to kill you is no reason to fly off and be a space loser.
  22. So your son’s best friend is a stuffed tiger. Find ways to encourage his imagination! (And stop telling him that everything in the world that sucks “builds character”.)
  23. After a traumatic event, move with your son to Seattle. But maybe get some therapy or something before he calls a radio talk show to discuss your problems.
  24. I know it’s tempting to go with the aliens! They planted the psychological visions in your head! It’s not your fault everyone thinks you’re crazy! But…maybe don’t abandon your family to go with the aliens.
  25. If your son comes of age and wishes to go off to Paris to find his fate and fortune with the King’s Musketeers, let him do so, with the blessing of a kiss–but also give him a horse and a sword.

Of course, some of these lessons are unlikely to be specifically applicable to the situations in which one might reasonably expect to find oneself, but you never do know, do you?



Share This Post

Posted in On People | Tagged | Leave a comment

But I’m a Henry V fan….

Interested in the Plantagenets or the Stuarts? Keep checking telephone poles, folks.


Share This Post

Posted in On Things I Find Funny | Tagged | 1 Comment

Something for Thursday

I didn’t have a chance to come up with a “Conversation Song” this week, so in the meantime–though I would never suggest that she’s a mere placeholder–here is Audrey Hepburn.

Share This Post

Posted in music | Tagged | Comments Off on Something for Thursday