A popular parlour game has always been to see who shares the same birthday as you: for me, it’s the likes of:

But as Jerry Seinfeld observed: “It’s always an odd group of people too, isn’t it?”

It is rare that you can actually identify with those people who share your birthday (or more accurately, were born on the same date). Someone has to be; there’s more than 365 famous people in the world so chances are at least one of them will be born on the same date you are. Beyond that you’re living separate lives; it’s not like you’re getting together to blow out candles on a joint cake.

I submit that when you’re like me, there is a better group of people with which to compare: those that share the same initials.

Unlike birthdate-sharers, initial-sharers do have something more in common: an upbringing seared in the shared crucible of enduring taunts, insults and the like.

Your name (and by extension – or should that be contraction? – your initials) is you. Because we use language to communicate, the language a name contains helps us to identify others and to spur our memories of them. Our interactions with people revolve around this; it is why customer service jobs insist on nametags and it is why you have that awful feeling when you walk away from an encounter with someone whose name you should remember, but don’t.

So to the following people, I share a knowing glance, if not a raised and pinched nose and a ‘pee-YOU’. I know your suffering and have shared it with you. Collectively we have been reduced to BO – yes, body odour – but we are stronger for it:

* Not technically a BO, but close enough.

The original concept here was to pay homage to Rage, the Australian national broadcaster’s late-night music video jukebox on weekends. Expound upon how awesome it would be to host Rage and dazzle everyone with my eclectic taste in music. Describe the  first five videos I’d pick, and then open it up to the (most likely zero) folk who’d share their music video favourites.

But such a concept is beside the point. The allure of Rage was the unknown; which video was going to be on next, or who was guest-hosting this week, was a total mystery upon arriving home at 2am on a Sunday morning.

Now, you can get this information ahead of time, and moreover, thanks to YouTube, you can watch any music video you like any time you want. Or, in other words, thanks to the internet, you can be your own Rage host pretty much whenever the mood strikes you.

I don’t think the question, for me, is whether this is necessarily better – it’s that I’ve recognised that the question exists. There was something magical about stumbling across a Rage video late at night that you knew was being seen by few others – but it’s also magical to be your own Rage host.

It’s just a different kind of magic.

On to 3 videos I’m partial towards!

Efterklang – ‘Modern Drift’

I heard about this Danish group in passing from the New York Times Music Popcast: a five-second burst of this song that gave me that ‘who is that?’ feeling you get when you hear something you like and you need to know more.

The video also contains a naked woman (approx 1:00 mark) for no real reason, other than because they can. Ah, Denmark!

Harry Connick Jr – ‘Whisper Your Name’ (live on Letterman, 1994)

A very white-looking (and young) Connick Jr with his very black-looking band tear strips off this piece. I always liked Harry for trying to get out of the Buble-esque crooner pigeonhole around this time; he’s an underrated piano player and his band is tight here.

Beastie Boys – ‘3 MCs and 1 DJ’

It’s the start that kills me: one minute plus of no music as the one joins the three. Hilarious.

Random food which you tell me is delicious

Random food you tell me is delicious.

This is not a personal attack.

Many people I know and count as friends like to take photos of the food they are about to eat, and either share it instantly or later. You are all still nice people and I don’t hold your predilections against you.

I just don’t understand the concept of photo-eating; it baffles me.

I look at the photo you have taken. I can’t taste the food; I can’t smell it. I can’t touch it; I can’t eat it.

But more than this is the unwritten message that you send whenever you photo-eat:

“I am about to do something fantastic,” you say. “And you are not.”

You celebrate your good fortune by reminding me of my poor fortune. Your stomach rejoices; mine merely wonders.  It seems to be the opposite of social inclusiveness that the Web 2.0 has fostered, whereby we get to share in what other people we know and like are doing.

This is not sharing; there is no equitable distribution happening.

You are doing something fantastic, and I am not.

Twitter and Facebook are, of course, the dominant players in Socialmediaville.

I broadly – probably too broadly – summarise the difference between the two as Facebook allows you to get information from people you know; Twitter, information from people you don’t.

I came late to the Twitter party but am now a big believer: a couple of weeks ago, I cancelled my newspaper subscriptions – an incomprehensible act even as recently as a year ago – because they didn’t offer what I now want in my information provider: that is, timely news about what I’M interested in.

We all have our favourite Twitterers: mine is the now (sadly) defunct @MayorEmanuel, who showed how funny and clever the medium can be.

An exercise I recently concocted inside my own head: who, historically, would have had an awesome Twitter feed?

Main criteria: we’re not talking a lifetime feed; just for a month of ‘peak activity’. And they’ve got to be interesting.  Do you think Don Bradman would have had an interesting Twitter?  I think it would have been deathly dull: ‘Batted well today. Made 300. Gave chance on 197 – but it was a good ball, not a poor stroke.’

Here’s some I think would have been entertaining, plus a sample tweet from each – who’s on YOUR historical Twitter feed?

Wilt ChamberlainWilt Chamberlain (any month of his pro career):

Killed it again tonight: 72 points, 28 rebounds, plus #14,371 and #14,372 in the hotel. #averagenight


Lee Harvey Oswald

Lee Harvey Oswald (Oct/Nov 1963):

Tomorrow’s the day. Thank heavens I’m not acting alone. #likemyknollsgrassy



Antonio SalieriAntonio Salieri (Nov 1791):

WAM is REALLY beginning to get on my nerves. Upstart.


Monica LewinskyMonica Lewinsky (circa 1996):

My Mystery Man was SMOKING today!! PS anyone know a good dry cleaner in the DC area?


Muhammad AliMuhammad Ali (pretty any month in the 1960s):

Working on some new material. What’s the insect opposite of a bee stinging? #stuck

 

Few things make people feel smarter than having an opinion about Radiohead – which makes me feel like a certifiable genius.

Their latest release, The King Of Limbs, was released in a typical blaze of non-self promotion only a couple of weeks ago, and its musical qualities can be discussed another time (my six-word review: first half OK, second half terrific).

But I’m still coming to terms with the accompanying video that got dropped along with the album, as are some 6.5 million (and counting) viewers on Youtube:

 

So what’s going on here? I’m going to describe it as a pop cultural postmodern piece of art working on many levels:

Level 1: Gooby white dude dancing with seemingly little regard for rhythm, function or form.
Oh yes, it’s definitely that.

Level 2: Thom Yorke ditching the other four Radioheaders to dance in clip by himself.
Where are the other four guys? This day has been coming, mind you, with Thom grooving live with his super (backing) band featuring Flea on bass:

 

Or unleashing some baffling dancing in live Radiohead performances (around the 3:20 mark):

 

Level 3: Thom Yorke satirising other music videos which favour style (ie fancy dancing, costumes, etc) over substance (ie music)
We know this has worked due to the explosion of hilarious mashup videos, not to mention Thom Yorke dance guides.

Level 4: It’s not just a batch of random moves thrown together; it was choreographed by a real choreographer.

Level 5: Watch (and listen closely): like the music of a typical Radiohead song, the visuals ebb and flow, start and stop, push and pull – but also circle around each other and reward repeated viewing:

Exhibit A: he only takes his hat off twice in the clip (at 2:25 and at 4:14): the lyrics at both these spots? ‘Just to feed your fast-ballooning head’

Exhibit B: Thom’s face and dancing starts in darkness; the intro finishes at 0:51 and throws Thom into a harsh light for the vocals to kick in.  The song finishes by reversing that order, from light to dark, from 4:51, with Thom finishing with similar moves from the intro.

Level 6:  every so often, the fleeting but knowing glances straight down the barrel of the camera. These looks seem to say: ‘Is this a serious video?  Am I mocking my own dancing ability?  Maybe, maybe not:  you be the judge.’

I can’t decide, but by golly I’m entertained. To Mr Yorke, I take off my bowler hat.

I find captivating those athletes who commentators often blithely describe as ‘making it look easy’.

Two in particular held a particular fascination: Darren Jarman (below left, Aussie Rules footballer) and Mark Waugh (below right, cricketer).

It was more than them making the game look easy; it was how they made the others around them look that resonated with me.  These other guys had spent their entire careers striving to become among the best in the world at their sport, and reach the same level as Jarman and Waugh – and yet for fleeting moments they were reduced to near-spectators – barely participants – as Waugh or Jarman took their level of play to unassailable levels.

Of course, the Waughs and Jarmans of the world could not sustain this unassailable level for any length of time; in fact, it was that these periods of brilliant nonchalance were far outweighed by much longer periods of pedestrian, maddening play whereby they made the easy or routine seem difficult, or where they seemed to care little about what was happening around them.

(What was also interesting about Waugh and Jarman was that both had a brother (in Mark’s case, a twin) who not only reached the same level but extracted more out of their potential than their  sibling, or who were much more workmanlike in their play.)

For Jarman and Waugh, this sense of being anti-workmanlike – particularly as it was shown in sharp relief against their brother’s style of play – was to me compelling.  I would have rather watched Mark bat for 5 minutes than Stephen for 100.

Now, there have been those athletes who have managed to merge seeming effortless with fully realising their potential, with this combining to make fellow competitors look second-rate: tennis player Roger Federer and sprinter Usain Bolt are two.

But these Federer/Bolt types are less appealing to me than the ‘almost’ types such as Waugh or Jarman. I think it’s because it’s the sense of ‘us’ in them; if we were suddenly to become enriched with sporting ability and chose to apply it in cricket or football, then our best would resemble Waugh and Jarman at their best. Conversely, because their less-than-good can appear very bad indeed, it reminds us that they are, indeed, just like us: capable of doing dumb things at dumb times. They represent both our aspirations and our reality.

Let us dissect one such moment of grotesque Jarman skill in a bid to shine further light on the topic (from the 3:13 to 3:30 mark, apologies if the clip below doesn’t load in this spot):

In the 1997 AFL Grand Final, Jarman (#3) kicked five goals in the final quarter to seal the Adelaide Crows’ first premiership. From the video, you can see the skill utilised to kick one of those five goals with his non-preferred foot once he obtains possession.  But the part I find mesmerising occurs before he gets the ball: at the moment the ball is punched towards them both, Jarman’s teammate Kane Johnson (28) is closer to the ball, and by the time it lands the ball would be equidistant from them had they stayed still.

But something occurs while the ball is in the air: by the time it has landed and Jarman grabs it, he is metres in the clear.

Now Johnson was a fine AFL player, who no-one would doubt would be faster than Jarman over 20 metres, 50 metres or 100 metres and who had the required skill and ability to sustain a long, productive career.  But over 5 metres, when something outside of the ordinary is required, Jarman tantalisingly unleashes the sheer mental computational power – and consequent physical output – for a split second of very difficult made to look very easy.

In a split second, Jarman has processed what’s happened, what’s about to happen, and has taken two or three steps towards where the ball lands before Johnson has even taken a step.  By the time Johnson processes the same information, Jarman has the ball and has kicked it; Johnson concedes by not following the path of the ball and begins to run toward the goal instead.

In perhaps the best basketball non-fiction piece I’ve read, Sports Illustrated’s Rick Telander visits New York in the heat of summer in the mid 1990s to reacquaint himself with the city’s street basketball scene he’d previously covered some 20 years in an also brilliant book, Heaven Is A Playground.

Telander finishes the piece describing its hero, Booger Smith, in an apt and fitting description of the nonchalant brilliance of the few:

The remarkable thing about many of Booger’s moves is that he cannot replicate them off the court. They are unplanned, unpracticeable responses to stimuli.

Now Booger does something unbelievable … [it] does not seem possible without the cooperation of the opponent. But these guys want to bury Booger. They are not accomplices.

I doubt whether Jarman could have replicated that goal  – an unplanned, unpracticeable response to a stimulus – in a controlled, sterile, laboratory-like environment.  And that he couldn’t, I find kind of magical.

At some stage in the past few months I have become utterly addicted to Twitter, and I’ve been thinking about why this is.

I started my Twitter account in March 2009, and barely touched it for at least 12 months.  Towards the end of 2010 I applied myself to reapply, and found myself getting more out of it than anything I’d ever done anywhere else on the interwebs.

But why?

I think – without being able to prove it – that it’s not the ‘push’ part of Twitter that does it for me; rather, it’s the universe-collapsing ‘pull’ of information that it sucks in.

And this information (as presented by Twitter) – how easily I can access it, and how quickly – means that I am falling out of love with newspapers.  It’s something I thought I’d never say – and I still love the tactile experience of opening a new newspaper – but I just don’t need my newspaper fix like I used to.

Let’s analogise the situation by saying you’re sitting at a table in the information restaurant:

  • Newspapers present their information on one plate, a big steaming pile of everything, and you have to sift through it to find the bits you like.  You’re probably going to eat stuff you’d prefer not to have to eat.
  • On the other hand, Twitter is like an all-you-can-eat buffet; but rather than being served to you all by someone else, you can pick and choose exactly what you want; it’s all itemised and compartmentalised, and you can head straight to the stuff you’re interested in the most.

Either way, you’re not going to go hungry: but one meal sure is tastier and more satisfying because you’ve gotten exactly what you want.

And if you’re an information junkie like me, you’re going to get fat.