Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lyrics (Over)Analysis - Everyday Is Like Sunday by Morrissey

This song is often one of the examples used to demonstrate Morrissey miserable nature and whilst I would certainly say that reputation is somewhat deserved, I don’t believe that completely captures the message of the song. Usually the line “Everyday is silent and grey” is often the line that is focus on to show his miserable nature but I think that is quite deceptive

This song was inspired by Morrissey visited a seaside resort and thought it was terrible idea for a holiday resort to be based in England due to the infamous English weather where normally it is “silent and grey” This context adds a certain dark humour to the song about spending time in a british holiday resort on the beach marred by terrible weather wishing for the town to be nuked to end the drabness of the experience.

However the one thing people often overlook when discussing this song is the title. If you notice the song is called “Everyday Is Like Sunday” not “Every Day Is Like Sunday” and the fact that everyday isn’t separated is done deliberately.  Singing, “Every Day is like Sunday, every day is silent and grey” would be a hymn to miserable depressing life where every single day of life is terrible without a light at the end of the tunnel.

However “Everyday is Silent and Grey” doesn’t project that message and is a clever switch by Morrissey.  Everyday is defined as “the ordinary or routine day or occasion”. This song isn’t telling people that every single day is silent and grey but is essentially having message that the routine normalcy of life is silent and grey.

If that’s what the line says then perhaps the message is actually a more optimistic calling people to not behave, dress, think and live in such an everyday manner as life would be dull if everyone was like that. Perhaps this song is call to arms of a free-spirited mentality by depicting the drudgery of the outcome of “everyday” mentality. The call for the nuclear bomb is less of a call for wishing you were dead to but a rather dark humour call for something exciting to break the tedium of "everyday" life .

This song plays with the expectation of mopey and miserable Morrissey and the downtempo music adds to that vibe. The song was deliberately written for people to misinterpret it to be how "every day is silent and grey"  but with just a single change in word from Every Day to Everyday Morrissey subverts that expectation in a clever way.  

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lyrics (Over)Analysis – Rubber Ring by The Smiths

The Smiths developed a reputation of attracting a fan base of lonely socially awkward teenagers that used The Smiths as a sort of therapy for their own problems because they were able to relate to his introspective lyrics.  There was a criticism of the The Smiths that their target audience are immature teenagers and that once those teenagers grew up and overcome their shyness and get laid, they will no longer need The Smiths and the band will become obsolete. This song explores the phenomenon that adults tend to think of troubles they suffer as kids and as adolescent as trivial and now they are more “clever” then that.

Cleverly enough Morrissey decided to satirically write about this phenomenon and this song is about Morrissey lamenting the fans “growing up” and abandoning The Smiths when they no longer needed the band as therapy. I have to say it’s one of the things I like about Morrissey and The Smiths that elevate them above other mope-rockers is that they have a sense of humour albeit a self-mocking one. This is probably my favorite Smith song in terms of quality of the lyrics.

“A sad fact widely known
The most impassionate song
To a lonely soul
Is so easily outgrown”

The song starts off with Morrissey acknowledging that even the greatest song that speaks for the lonely broken hearted person will become obsolete when the person becomes happy.

“But don't forget the songs
That made you smile
And the songs that made you cry
When you lay in awe
On the bedroom floor
And said : "Oh, oh, smother me Mother..."”

This is Morrissey pleading to his fan base not to forget him and his songs and remember the times when they were depressed lying on the floor listening to ‘I Know It’s Over” with awe (smother me mother is a reference to that song from Queen Is Dead album which is probably known as one of his most emotionally dramatic song of his career).

Rubber ring, rubber ring, rubber ring, rubber ring

I interpret that the ring in the chorus is used to symbolise a wedding ring. This is recognizing the loyalty that the fan has with their favourite group to be akin to a marriage. However because the ring is made out of rubber which I believe is connected to the ring-shaped flotation device that was originally made out of rubber that prevented people from drowning.  Essentially this is a disposable ring that may save the lives of the fan but the fans will eventually discard and dispose when it is no longer useful to them once they have grown up.

“The passing of time
And all of its crimes
Is making me sad again
The passing of time
And all of its sickening crimes
Is making me sad again”

The passage of time will make Morrissey to remain cynical and sad as he considers the fan that “grows out” of the music to be considered a betrayal or a “sickening crime”. As all his fans will eventually move on, he will always remain the same.

“But don't forget the songs
That made you cry
And the songs that saved your life
Yes, you're older now
And you're a clever swine
But they were the only ones who ever stood by you”

This is another plea from Morrissey to his fan that even though the fan is now older, wiser and “clever” and more emotionally stable, that they should always keep his songs close to their hearts because those were the songs that stood by them and “saved” their lives  when life was rough.

“The passing of time leaves empty lives
Waiting to be filled (the passing...)
The passing of time
Leaves empty lives
Waiting to be filled
I'm here with the cause
I'm holding the torch
In the corner of your room
Can you hear me?”

However despite the passage of time leading to people growing out of listening to The Smiths, the passing of time also leaves a new generation of depressed lonely socially awkward people needing their lives to be fulfilled by someone that can empathized with them. Morrissey will always be available to comfort the new generation of fans and will hold the flame for every generation of socially awkward youths.

“And when you're dancing and laughing
And finally living
Hear my voice in your head
And think of me kindly”

He is reminding the people that when the depressed socially awkward fans finally recover to be happy with their lives to continue to remember and honour Morrissey for keeping thems afloat when times were tough.

“Do you
Love me like you used to?
Rubber ring, rubber ring, rubber ring, rubber ring

Morrissey then emotionally pleads to the fans that grew out of him whether they still love him and then lament that his songs are just the rubber ring to the fans. Just like previous Smiths songs cover the topics of shyness and social rejection and isolation, this song is about the isolation and rejection he feels about fans who previously had kinship and related with him.

“You're clever
Everybody's clever nowadays”

The audio sample plays over Morrissey lament over the chorus snidely remarking that everybody is clever, too clever for The Smiths when the teenager becomes adults.

“You are sleeping
You do not want to believe”

The song end with an enigmatic sample from an LP "Breakthrough: An Amazing Experiment In Electronic Communication With The Dead" by Latvian psychologist Konstantin Raudive that supposedly is translation of people who hear from the dead. I interpret the last line of the typical Smiths fan who do not believe in themselves and are waiting to be “awaken” by The Smiths and eventually grow out of the group.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Psychology Of The Code Wars

Once in a while a Code War article pops up on The Roar and they are generally the most commented article of the day. It is obvious why the code war exist for the CEO of the sporting organization as there are limited resources and the different sports are competing with each other for the share of the market. However, this blog post is trying to analyse why the code war exist for the supporters of the sport who often don’t care much about the economic machination of the people in suits upstairs.

1.      The ties that bind us is the ties that divide us

It is often say that sport is entertainment but although that is an aspect of professional sport, it is a limited definition as video game, movies, TV shows, theatre, music are also entertainment. It could also be argued that sport is any activity that displays any degree of athletic ability but even if that is a component of sport, however people don’t always consider working out in the gym as “sport”. What binds all sports fan together is the love of competition. There have to be individual or teams competing with other individuals and teams. Generally there is a side that represents you and you are supporting that side to defeat the opposition. It is the sense of competition that unites all sports fan together to follow the game but divide us as we are competing with each other. The fact that the codes are all considered to be called a variation of “football” and have historical linkage, it makes the football codes natural competitors.

Also in sports the fans who attend the match often are active participants of the match and often the fans feel they have a role in making their side “win” with their support (such as the home ground advantage phenomenon). It’s not far fetch that people will bring that competitive active support mentality over the internet where they can do battle with the opposition with written words.

Of course this explains why fans of one particular club do battle with a fan of another particular club. However you may ask why they will battle with a completely different sport?

  1. The Code War is the internet fandom equivalent of representative football.

The bread and butter of most of the football codes are club football. However once in a while players from two different clubs that could actually be bitter historical rivals suddenly are united  and become brothers in arm to represent their country or state. 

The Code Wars have fans of competing clubs suddenly become brothers in arm arguing against supporters of different codes of football. The code war has a role in developing a sense of unity within the football community when normally they are divided amongst club lines. As a coincidence a code war article general pops up in a similar infrequent but regular occurrence as an international fixture in association football.

This is in combination with the nature of the internet that also adds to the unity where instead of relying on some degree of luck with meeting someone out there with similar interest, the internet allows people to seek out community with similar interest. The resultant is that the internet represents the most hardcore fans of the sporting community where in the general community; people generally have broader taste and have a higher proportion of crosscoders. However in the internet, where you are surrounded by people who are interested in the same sport as you, bring out the club mentality. That this is Club Association Football, Club Australian Rules Football, Club Rugby League, Club Rugby Union. When this club is form, you are going to look out for another club to compete against and the code war article are a lightning rod to demonstrate your loyalty to that club.

Of course, if there is a code war, surely there must be a winner and a loser of the war. Then why does code wars article keep on popping up?

  1. Person A: Hey, look at the scoreboard. Person B: Which scoreboard?

Often players on the pitch in response to a sledge will respond in look at the scoreboard if their side is winning.  The same is with fans of two different clubs. Look at the scoreboard. Or look at the ladder or look at the name engraved on the trophy. Sure people may argue about the referee or whether one side cheated but in the end what matters in the end is who is leading in the scoreboard and everything else is academic. Two side debate and the debate is resolve when the match is played or when the season is finish before the cycle is repeated next season.

However what is the scoreboard used to determine who is winning the code war?
Is it crowd attendance aggregate? Is it crowd attendance average? Is it revenue the league makes? Is it the value of the TV rights? Is it the value of the TV rights per game? Is it participation rate? Is it international appeal?

The answer to that question is whatever scoreboard shows your side to be winning. The Code War is essentially a sporting match where there are 20 different scoreboards and each one showing a completely different side is winning and people are arguing which scoreboard they should use.

So people may ask, why do people keep on arguing when there is absolutely no way to definitively determine who is winning the Code War?

  1. Everyone is a Winner

The Code War is one of the very few wars where there is no loser. In fact it’s impossible to lose a Code War because there is always a scoreboard out there that shows your side is winning.

Of course I previously mention about measures of the success of a code such as crowd figures or revenue or participation rate which have some degree of objectivity even whether its importance and value can be subjective. Often code war debates revolve around even more  subjective matters such as which game is more entertaining to watch? This type of debate again is something that is impossible to lose. For example to used Association Football and it’s low scoring nature of the game, from one perspective that low scoring makes the game tense as any goal can prove decisive and it makes any attacking move to be a nail biting affair. Or alternatively the lack of goals could make the game really boring as there is a lack of end product to a lot of the play of the game. Which one is right? The answer is both of them are right… from a certain point of view.

Hence two sides will argue against each other and both of them can make perfectly logical arguments without any logical fallacy and then walk away thinking they won the war. You know what they say, everyone loves being a winner. So whenever another code war article pops up, it’s a moth to the flame for any code loyalist whose competitive nature will always be fulfilled as they will always win.

To summarise, the competitive nature of the sporting fan + unity and loyalty to the sports + no objective method to resolve conflict + everyone is a winner will results in a perpetual code war that will never end.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Lyrics (Over)Analysis – You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones

To me “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” is one of the best songs of all time (in my top 10 songs) and one of the most positively emotionally resonant rock songs ever made. In fact in my opinion this song approaches a spiritual and religious experience that no other song I’ve heard in rock music has ever captured.

I know people may baulk with the idea of The Rolling Stones writing “spiritual” and “emotionally resonant” songs during this period and there are people who even believe “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” to be a pessimistic song reflecting the end of the idealism of flower power at the end of the 60’s. So I have to give some context why I feel that way about this song.

I'll mention I do come from a family with a Buddhist background. One of the key tenants of that religion is the idea that happiness can't be fulfilled by external forces and the environment as it is out of your control. The idea is that our desires or “attachment” is the root cause of unhappiness.  People desires and want can never be fully satisfied and the only way to reach happiness is by accepting that "You Can't Always Get What You Want" and that you’ll have to be happy despite whatever you face in life. For someone to be truly happy, there happiness has to be unconditional. As long as you put conditions to your happiness then the person is destined to be unhappy and dissatisfied with life. Whether Jagger/Richards intended it or not, I believe this song captures that message perfectly. Who knows maybe they did intend it as Mick Jagger is a practising Buddhist.

So after the choir intro (that I always felt a bit tacked on), the song starts off with just plain acoustic guitar strumming with Jagger painting a bleak picture of a women drinking her sorrows with wine about her relationship with a man who display no commitment or responsibilities. Then Jagger starts singing in a mournful way "You can't always get what you want" however the organ appears with some chords and there is this gorgeous descending and ascending piano line (one of the best keyboard moment in rock music IMO). To me that combination of the piano and organ signifies a religious epiphany where the protagonist discovered “the truth" and he sings “But if you try sometime you find” and then the female gospel singer joins in and sings “You get what you need" which explodes into music that is filled with joy. You see the protagonist realized the basic truth “that you get what you need” (which is happiness) when you accept that “you can't get what you want” and the song explodes into one of the most joyful and soulful music you can ever hear signifying the wave of happiness out of discovering that “truth”. 

Also notice that throughout the following verses, the music still remain joyful despite the lyrics about the various disappointments various characters experience in life which signifies that the person is remaining happy despite the troubles in life. Also notice how the chorus throughout the song differs to the chorus at the beginning as the first chorus sounds sad and desperate with the sparse arrangement and the absence of the female backing vocalist until the “epiphany” but in later chorus the female backing vocalist sings at the beginning of the chorus signifying that the character of the song is embracing the joyfulness of not getting what he wants.

For a person who is raised in a Buddhist family but grew up in a Western culture, this song resonated with me especially as it is in my opinion a perfect synthesis of Eastern Buddhist philosophy with Western music. Gospel music is a western music that is associated with spiritual joy with Christianity and it is an ingenious arrangement choice to mesh that spiritual joy with the line that is superficially pessimistic “You can’t always get what you want” to bring out the message that spiritual joy is derived by realizing that message.  The female gospel backing vocalist that jumped in throughout the song did the perfect job in delivering that message.  This song is a perfect example of how the arrangement can be used to craft the message of the song

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Should the DRS system use sound to dismiss batsman?

This article has been publish on “The Roar” as well

This has been a controversial issue throughout the Ashes. There is a caught behind decision that is referred to the DRS system. Hotspot shows nothing, but there is audio and the batsman are given out. Every time this has occurred there has been controversy with many people arguing that if hotspot shows nothing then the batsman shouldn’t be given out.

However, I disagree with that argument and I support the use of audio in the DRS system.
The reason is that throughout the history of Test cricket, on-field umpires have used a combination of sound and watching any deviation as a guide to dismissed batsman for caught behind decisions. There are many times throughout history where we see batsman being dismissed by on-field umpires based on sound alone for thin edges without any controversy.  Long before hotspot was invented, commentators would often judge the accuracy of the umpire’s decision on whether they can hear a sound during the replay.  

Considering that hotspot is known to have ‘false negatives’, audio should be used to assess whether the batsman has edge or not.  If we used the argument that decision needs a mark to show on hotspot to dismissed the batsman, then we might as well tell the on-field umpire not to used sound of an edge to dismiss batsman as well.  That they should only give a batsman out if they see deviation caused by an edge and therefore only thick edges would ever be given out in cricket.  I doubt many people would accept that umpiring standard in cricket especially when people argue that cricket is too batsman friendly already. It’s a bit hypocritical to demand on-field umpires to hear edges when making a decision whilst at the same time demanding third umpires to ignore sound.

There are a few people who argued that audio can be unreliable as it can hear sound unrelated to the edge like the squeaking of the glove.  However, I’ll argue that same standard could be applied to ignore any sound of the edge by the on-field umpire and hence ignore any audible edge as the audio in the DRS just shows what the umpire hears in the stump microphone. The stump microphones picks up what is going on the field and the chance that out of all the time the glove squeaks just at the moment the ball passes the bat is unlikely. We have to say that on the basis on probability it is far more likely the sound is caused by an edge if the bat is far away from the pad or the ground.  Also umpires can listen to the audio and make the judgment call on whether the audio sounds like a nick.

Now people may wonder that if audio of a nick is given a greater weighting than a blank hotspot then what’s the point of hotspot?

The issue with audio is that it has ‘false positives’ especially when there are issue of bat on pad or ball on pad or bat on ground and it’s difficult to determine what is the source of the sound in the audio.  Hotspot can be used to help determine whether there was a ball on bat impact in those scenarios where audio is unreliable.

I’m hoping that snickometer will eventually be incorporated into DRS. The reason why snickometer is not used in DRS is not necessarily due to inaccuracy but the slowness of the process of getting snicko available to the umpire in a timely manner. Right now snickometer requires a technician to manually sync up the audio from the stump microphone with the video footage and this can take minutes to prepare and since the synchronisation is done manually by a technician it is possible that human error and inconsistency could occur if the technician makes a mistake.

A timely review system requires information in a few seconds and also requires consistent synchronization of audio and video and that isn’t good enough.  However reports are that Alan Plaskett has developed a system called ‘Real Time Snicko’ or RTS, which is an automated system that could produce a snicko-type result within 5-10 seconds which will solve that issue.
There have been calls to introduce RTS to be incorporated in the DRS system and hopefully it will be ready for the Ashes in the Australian summer.  The combination of RTS and Hotspot will assist the umpire in making the correct decision for thin edges and in my opinion would improve the game.