The Magic of Technology

I finally purchased an album from Apple’s online music store, Van Morrison’s Magic Time, based on Jonathon Delacour’s recommendation at Burningbird.

Now iTunes’s bot is recommending songs based on that sole purchase, and it’s frightening how right-on they’ve been based on the albums they’ve suggested so far.

Their first recommendation was David Gray’s White Ladder, an album I already own and one of my favorite young artists. Also recommended Tracy Chapman’s Where You Live, one of the few albums I don’t already own. Bruce Springsteen, another favorite, though I probably own too many of his albums already. The Rolling Stones used to be a big favorite, too, until the Altamont Concert where they used Hells Angels as guards.

Am I really that predictable? Can I be classified by one song? Do you think Apple knows I also like Mahalia Jackson? Can they predict I’d like Jeff Lorber because I met him when I lived in Vancouver? Do I dare buy those albums, or will they know so much about me that I’ll constantly be bombarded with a list of songs I want to buy?

What happens if I buy a John Denver album? Will my records be turned over to the FBI because I sympathize with eco-terrorists? If I buy a Cat Stevens album, will they see my name mentioned on the alt-muslim site and assume I have muslim-terrorist leanings?

If the FBI could somehow combine my Amazon recommendations, my Apple recommendations, my Yahoo groups, and my Google searches, they could probably tell how many times a month I did or didn’t sleep with my wife. Turn the same information over to retailers, and I probably wouldn’t have enough money left to buy food at the end of the month.

I don’t know if I’m more worried that I might be little more than a Living Stereotype of the Past or that there are databanks and artificial intelligence bots out there that our government could use to target us through the Patriot Act. Considering my support for both Greenpeace and the ACLU, I think I’m more worried about Big Brother.

I suspect if the Bush administration really understood how subversive to the present administration human intelligence is they’d be on my trail in a nanosecond. Yes, I know that sounds egotistical. Teaching thirty years will give you vague, or not-so-vague, feelings of superiority, not to mention a sense of humility once you realize how few people really want to appear intelligent.

I’m probably just being paranoid, though. Bush’s cronies probably don’t give a damn because they’ve figured out that intelligence isn’t contagious, and there’s little chance that anyone on the internet is going to make a a bit of difference in the real world of high-rolling money peddlers and influence buyers.

Larkin’s Early Poems

I’ve finished the first two sections in Larkin’s Collected Poems, “The North Ship” and “The Less Deceived” published in 1945 and 1955 and so far haven’t found many poems that reach out and grab me. There were a couple in “The Less Deceived” that were interesting, but apparently the rights to those poems belong to a different publisher and they’re quite adamant about not using them “throughout the world,” so I’ll not include one here.

That said, the poems published in 1945 seem reminiscent of Hardy’s poetry, though not as appealing to me. A few of them actually seem rather Romantic, in a dark, Poe sort of way. And that’s not a good thing as far as I’m concerned. I guess it might appeal to others, though, considering the number of Google searches I get for dark poetry.

My favorite from the early collection is shorter than most and more direct:


Kick up the fire, and let the flames break loose
To drive the shadows back;
Prolong the talk on this or that excuse,
Till the night comes to rest
While some high bell is beating two o’clock.
Yet when the guest
Has stepped in to the windy street, and gone,
Who can confront
The instantaneous grief of being alone?
Or watch the sad increase
Across the mind of this prolific plant,
Dumb idleness.

I guess I’ve lived alone long enough to identify with these feelings. Even though I thrive on being alone, it seems impossible not to feel lonely at times. I’d hate to not have at least one person I can call “friend” at all times in my life.

There’s a good reason why almost every campsite I’ve ever visited in the wilderness has a long-established fire-pit. Sitting next to a campfire and talking the night away is one of the best reasons to go backpacking as far as I’m concerned. Even when you’re dead tired from hiking most of the day, it’s hard to walk away from the campfire and hit the sleeping bag. There’s something primeval about sitting next to a fire talking, keeping the darkness away.

I can’t identify quite as much with the “dumb idleness” except for a few notable illnesses where I’ve been incapacitated because of surgery, but the few times I have experienced it have certainly been “sad,” if not downright depressing.