Monday, June 27, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 14

West Coast's unexpected win over Carlton has re-arranged the top half of the rankings, with the Hawks taking over third spot from the Blues, and the Eagles moving up to fifth.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 43.3 (Last week 46.1)
2 (2) Geelong 32.1 (32.4)
3 (4) Hawthorn 21.8 (18.3)
4 (3) Carlton 16.3 (22.5)
5 (7) West Coast 10.0 (4.5)
6 (6) Sydney 6.9 (4.8)
7 (5) St. Kilda 5.3 (5.7)
8 (8) North Melbourne 2.6 (-0.1)
9 (9) Melbourne 0.3 (-0.4)
10 (10) Essendon -6.2 (-3.4)
11 (12) Fremantle -12.6 (-13.4)
12 (11) Western Bulldogs -13.5 (-13.2)
13 (13) Richmond -14.7 (-13.4)
14 (14) Adelaide -19.7 (-20.0)
15 (16) Brisbane -28.3 (-27.6)
16 (15) Port Adelaide -29.9 (-27.3)
17 (17) Gold Coast -48.6 (-49.3)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Debut Albums Rock!: Which Number Albums Are The Best?

Following on from my evidence suggesting that the best tracks on great albums are weighted towards the front of the album - particularly opening tracks - I've gone on to see if the most highly rated albums tend to be albums that are early in a act's career. What I did was go back to the Best Ever Albums website, and note down for each of the Top 100 highest-ranked albums what album number it was in the act's chronology (for example, OK Computer is album No.3 for Radiohead). I excluded "Magical Mystery Tour" by the Beatles, which was originally an EP, and "Kind Of Blue" by Miles Davis, because it was too hard to work out which number it was (it was high). The graph below shows the outcomes:

As I expected, the top-ranked albums tend to be earlier albums within a band's chronology, with about one-fifth of the "Top 98" being debut albums, and about another 30 per cent being either the second or third album. After that, there is a general downward trend, which is in part to be expected, given that many great acts don't make it past a sixth album.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Opening Tracks Rock!: What Are The Best Track Numbers On Albums?

For a long time I've believed that a great album needs a great opening track, and probably a good closer too. To test this theory, I went through the top 50 ranked albums at Best Ever Albums (except for monster albums "The White Album" and "The Wall") and noted down all the top-ranked tracks (as voted by the site's members; note that one album can have multiple top-ranked tracks). And here are the results in graphical form:

OK, it's still a small sample, but my theory about great albums tending to have great opening tracks is looking pretty good. It also appears you need some heavy hitters around the Track 2 to Track 5 mark. After that, it drops off a bit; the results for Track 6 to Track 9 are all about the same, and it appears that you don't really need a good closer at all given the results for Track 10 onwards (although many older albums did end at Track 9). Actually, this kind of makes sense when you think about it: OK Computer? "The Tourist" was the last track - there were better ones. Dark Side Of The Moon? "Eclipse" was the last track - that was almost a coda. And so on.

Now to test my theory if great bands also tend to have great first albums...

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 35: Beer and Economic Growth

I'm not sure I'm totally convinced by the evidence here, but I like the thinking!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 34: Who Had The Best Civil War Facial Hair?

Over at the Smithsonian website, a survey is being run on who had the best civil war facial hair? Frankly, I think there is one obvious standout (and the voters appear to agree with me): Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside:

Meanwhile, though I don't usually talk about work on this forum, I thought I'd note that a bunch of FWA Research Reports are appearing on Australian Policy Online. I wonder though, if by linking it up with an image of Ambrose Burnside, I can get more hits for this report here.

AFL Power Rankings - Round 13

Nothing really to comment on this week, except I'm hoping that Melbourne continue their schizophrenic form and have an off day next week against the Tiges.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 46.1 (Last week 45.1)
2 (2) Geelong 32.4 (32.8)
3 (3) Carlton 22.5 (20.3)
4 (4) Hawthorn 18.3 (18.6)
5 (5) St. Kilda 5.7 (5.9)
6 (7) Sydney 4.8 (5.2)
7 (6) West Coast 4.5 (5.3)
8 (8) North Melbourne -0.1 (-1.6)
9 (10) Melbourne -0.4 (-6.8)
10 (9) Essendon -3.4 (-2.6)
11 (12) Western Bulldogs -13.2 (-14.6)
12 (11) Fremantle -13.4 (-8.6)
13 (13) Richmond -13.4 (-16.9)
14 (14) Adelaide -20.0 (-19.2)
15 (16) Port Adelaide -27.3 (-28.6)
16 (15) Brisbane -27.6 (-25.2)
17 (17) Gold Coast -49.3 (-50.4)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Final Thoughts on the 2010-11 NBA Season

Well done on the Dallas Mavericks for winning this year's NBA championship. Dirk Nowitzki and owner Mark Cuban have put their team in a great position to win for over a decade now and it's good to see it all (in Cuban's case, quite literally) pay off. Plus, the Mavs conform roughly to my ideal of how a team should be constructed: astute drafting, clever trading, a couple of handy free-agent signings, all combining to form a deep and balanced team that can handle just about any situation that is thrown at them. Essentially they're another version of my beloved 2004 Detroit Pistons team.

Meanwhile, I've grown well past tired of the level of vitriol that has been thrown at the Miami Heat over the past season. That Cleveland and Toronto fans will never forgive LeBron James and Chris Bosh for leaving I can understand, absolutely. But really, when you put it all together, what have they done to inspire the general level of hatred they have received from other fans? LeBron's "Decision" TV special? Yeah, it was self-promoting and a kick in the teeth to Cleveland fans, but it's not like he went up there and gave the middle finger to anyone - he seemed genuinely torn and sad to be leaving the only team he had known for seven years. (What he did behind the scenes might be another matter.) The "Welcome Party"? Yeah, it was over the top, but is it a lot different to how New York or Chicago would have reacted if they had managed to sign up the three most desired free agents in the league? The on-court and off-court posturing? It's no worse than a lot of other players; indeed, compared to what was going on in the early '90s when the league first gained global prominence, it's relatively subdued. If you're not from Ohio or Toronto, get over it. They lost anyway.

Now, unfortunately, it seems we are headed for the owners locking the players out over disputes around a new collective bargaining agreement. Presumably it's in no-one's interest for it to go on too long, but it may eat up a sizable part, if not all, of next season at least. This is during a time where interest in the NBA (according to TV ratings) has ignited again, and a lockout would surely slow this momentum.

Anyway, to finish off, here are my five most memorable moments from season 2010-11:

5. Following a mutiny in Detroit, the Pistons' bench laughs as their coach John Kuester is thrown out.
4. Jason Terry inexplicably lobs a long-range 3 in the dying moments of Game 5 of the Finals - and essentially ices the game for Dallas.
3. Blake Griffin dunks over a car.
2. Blake Griffin dunks over the Knicks.
1. The Miami Welcome Party - you have to admit it was memorable.

AFL Power Rankings - Round 12

North Melbourne in the top half of the rankings? Yes, a couple of big wins to the Roos - even against lowly-ranked teams - combined with the ineptitude of the teams directly above them, pushes them into eighth position.

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 45.1 (Last week 41.0)
2 (2) Geelong 32.8 (32.8)
3 (3) Carlton 20.3 (19.2)
4 (4) Hawthorn 18.6 (18.0)
5 (6) St. Kilda 5.9 (4.8)
6 (7) West Coast 5.3 (0.5)
7 (5) Sydney 5.2 (6.5)
8 (10) North Melbourne -1.6 (-4.6)
9 (8) Essendon -2.6 (-1.1)
10 (9) Melbourne -6.8 (-3.7)
11 (11) Fremantle -8.6 (-10.5)
12 (12) Western Bulldogs -14.6 (-13.1)
13 (14) Richmond -16.9 (-18.6)
14 (13) Adelaide -19.2 (-14.8)
15 (15) Brisbane -25.2 (-24.4)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -28.6 (-30.5)
17 (17) Gold Coast -50.4 (-47.7)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

@$&! ... Everyone's An Avenger

And talking about things in comics that piss me off - today I found out that Daredevil is joining the New Avengers. So much for being an Avenger meaning something. Excluding the X-Men characters, the only major Marvel heroes who do not have Avenger membership now are the Silver Surfer, Nick Fury (although it's recently been revealed that he led some 1950s Avengers group, and he hangs around so much he may as well be a member), the Human Torch, Ghost Rider, and the Punisher (who is not really a hero anyway). Sorry, despite his movie success I don't count Blade as a major Marvel hero. Luke Cage, Doctor Strange, Iron Fist, Spider-Woman, Nova ... they're all Avengers now... essentially if you've appeared in more than forty Marvel comics and haven't been given membership you should feel miffed (if you were something other than paper and ink, that is).

To some extent, this is an inevitability of the serial nature of the comics running up against the static nature of the Marvel Universe. The major characters at Marvel now are essentially the same major characters as there were in the 1960s. Take away the X-Men characters, and there haven't been any major Marvel characters introduced in 30 years. Things can change, only in the past five years have some of the characters introduced in the 1970s, including Cage, Spider-Woman and Ms Marvel, become cornerstones of the Marvel U. But Marvel seem to has missed their chance for generational change, and it seems that all we might get now are the shuffling around of the same basic pieces. Perhaps this is why one should stop reading comics at 20. I'll stop now before I depress myself...

My Mid-Season AFL All-Australian Team 2011

B: Matthew Scarlett, Michael Jamison, Heath Shaw.
HB: James Kelly, Sam Fisher, Brett Deledio.
C: Scott Pendlebury, Jobe Watson, Joel Selwood.
HF: Dale Thomas, Lance Franklin, Steve Johnson.
F: Josh Kennedy, Jack Riewoldt, Jeff Garlett.
R: Aaron Sandilands, Chris Judd, Gary Ablett.
I: Marc Murphy, Dean Cox, David Mundy, Nathan Fyfe.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The DC Relaunch

This one pisses me off. DC have announced that, in September, they will be relaunching most (if not all) of their titles at issue #1. This probably includes titles such as Action, Detective, Superman and Batman, all of which have had unbroken runs for over 70 years. 70 years of history gone, just like that, to a marketing gimmick.

One possible justification for the line-wide relaunch is that it will boost sales. But will it? True, #1 issues do tend to have higher sales, but often they settle down after a few issues so that within a few months it won't matter if it was issue #6 or #206. And it's debatable how much sales will spike for the new #1s, given the limited budgets of comic buyers.

What about from a creative standpoint? The shuffling around of most of the titles' creative teams could yield some hits - Brian Azzarello on Wonder Woman for instance sounds interesting - but couldn't this have been done without relaunching every title? Word of mouth about which titles are worth reading should spread regardless of the numbering system.

Really, DC have trashed 70 years of tradition for a short term gain. I wouldn't go so far as to say I hope it fails, but I hope they sorely come to regret it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

AFL Power Rankings - Round 11

Sydney make the most significant jump this week after their big win in Brisbane, moving from eighth to fifth, but another notable movement is Carlton knocking Hawthorn out of third place to become the highest-ranked team behind the "Big Two".

1 (Last week 1) Collingwood 41.0 (Last week 40.2)
2 (2) Geelong 32.8 (31.5)
3 (4) Carlton 19.2 (15.9)
4 (3) Hawthorn 18.0 (19.7)
5 (8) Sydney 6.5 (2.0)
6 (5) St. Kilda 4.8 (6.7)
7 (6) West Coast 0.5 (2.7)
8 (7) Essendon -1.1 (2.2)
9 (9) Melbourne -3.7 (-6.0)
10 (10) North Melbourne -4.6 (-8.1)
11 (13) Fremantle -10.5 (-11.9)
12 (11) Western Bulldogs -13.1 (-11.1)
13 (12) Adelaide -14.8 (-11.1)
14 (14) Richmond -18.6 (-17.5)
15 (15) Brisbane -24.4 (-19.6)
16 (16) Port Adelaide -30.5 (-27.9)
17 (17) Gold Coast -47.7 (-49.4)