Saturday, August 22, 2009

Playing with the Pitchfork list

I agree with my friend Mike that Pitchfork's list of the top 500 singles of the aughts is very strong, and in fact I find myself nodding more vigorously the lower the numbers get. Pitchfork's #1 choice is perfect and actually the whole top 10 or 20 are a nice, varied list. There are a lot of songs there I adore like "Get Ur Freak On" and "Idioteque."

But it's no fun to read someone else's list unless you can argue about it. Using this site's list as a simpler way to scroll through the rankings, here are some quibbles I came up with...

Songs not on the list that should be:

- Spoon, "I Turn My Camera On"

- Kanye West, "Can't Tell Me Nothing." Everybody likes "Flashing Lights" off Graduation but I like this one.

- The Hold Steady, "Your Little Hoodrat Friend"

- Bright Eyes, "Old Soul Song (For the New World Order)"

- Clipse feat. Pharrell, "Mr. Me Too"

- The Dixie Chicks, "Not Ready to Make Nice"

- The Hold Steady, "Chips Ahoy!" Beats "Stuck Between Stations" in my book.

- R. Kelly feat. T.I. and T-Pain, "I'm a Flirt (Remix)" Not better than "Ignition," I agree, but pretty great.

- Young Jeezy feat. Kanye West, "Put On" !

- Justin Timberlake, "SexyBack" !!

- Eminem, "Stan" !!!

Songs that are on the list but are undervalued:

- Rich Boy feat. Polow da Don, "Throw Some Ds" (351)

- Loretta Lynn feat. Jack White, "Portland, Oregon" (305) Top 100 at least, right?

- Three 7 Mafia, "Sippin' on Some Syrup" (222) A classic.

- Britney Spears, "Toxic" (141)

- Kelis, "Milkshake" (113) On my list "Toxic" beats "Milkshake" but both probably break into the top 50.

- UGK feat. Outkast, "Int'l Players Anthem (I Choose You)" (43) Top-ten material for me.

Songs that are on the list but are overvalued:

- Daft Punk, "One More Time" (5).

- Animal Collective, "My Girls" (9). I like Animal Collective but to me they are about a groove, not any single song.

- Antony and the Johnsons- "Hope There's Someone" (28).

- Dr. Dre feat. Eminem, "Forgot About Dre" (68). Great song, but it's ranked as the best Eminem song of the decade, which it is not.

- Kylie Minogue, "Love at First Sight" (208). Sure, "Can't Get You Out of My Head" is a great single of the decade. But this one is strictly an also-ran.

My overall score on the cool-o-meter: 246 out of 500. A lot of artists I sort of know about but never actually listened to. What's your score?

Streak of songs I recognized: 21 in a row -- from 69 to 49. The fact that I never bothered to listen to the Knife or Hercules and Love Affair messed me up in the top 20.

UPDATE [8/26 11:40pm] ... VERY IMPORTANT! I just realized the list contains the absolutely inexplicable and unforgivable omission of "Shooter" by Lil Wayne. INSANE. That is all.

Media critic criticism

I love that Howard Kurtz is scolding Usain Bolt for being immodest. Dude. He is the fastest human being in history. "Legend" is a reasonable word-choice.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


It is R. Kelly so it cannot be bad, but I am not sure I'm really feeling "Number One":

For instance, I don't think this is as good as "Skin," the single from the scuttled/retooled/reconsidered 2008 non-release 12 Play, 4th Quarter.

On the other hand, I'm very excited to learn that the new album contains yodeling!

Friday, August 14, 2009

An ounce of logical prevention...

I've been, over the past several months, been engineering a new personal political equilibrium, that is something at odds with my traditional knee-jerk libertarian instinct. It's not a rejection, per se, but an accommodation of certain physical and political realities. I realized that I'm willing to make compromises on certain dogmatic fronts in order to weakly achieve Pareto improvements. It all really started with an NPR interview with Doug Holtz-Eakin a while back where he actually made some sense on these kinds of tradeoffs Republicans have to be willing to make. A full response to him has been in the works for some time, and some day will appear here.

For now, I just want to ask the obvious questions begged by this Charles Karauthammer column. He writes:
This inconvenient truth comes, once again, from the CBO. In an Aug. 7 letter to Rep. Nathan Deal, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf writes: "Researchers who have examined the effects of preventive care generally find that the added costs of widespread use of preventive services tend to exceed the savings from averted illness."

Think of it this way. Assume that a screening test for disease X costs $500 and finding it early averts $10,000 of costly treatment at a later stage. Are you saving money? Well, if one in 10 of those who are screened tests positive, society is saving $5,000. But if only one in 100 would get that disease, society is shelling out $40,000 more than it would without the preventive care.
Clearly. But then isn't the correct adjustment to at least fund population-wide preventive care for those diseases where the benefits outweight the costs? That is, fund the screenings for diseases that occur with higher frequency and also have sufficiently high late-stage treatment costs. Maybe there are none that meet this criteria - I dont know. But an out-of-hand dismissal seems, well, dismissive. From CDC and private research, we have a pretty good idea of how common various conditions are in a given population.

Also, if preventive care is instead restricted to sub-populations (maybe this is unacceptable to some people), then we can increase the positive/population ratio by selecting into higher risk populations. We do this informally by telling women there's no need to get a mammogram until your 30s (at least) because occurrence of breast cancer is so low among teens and young adults. In the same way, we could fund heart disease preventive care for say those over 40 (or 30 if you have a family history of heart disease), but not 20-year olds with no known risk factors.

I would think somewhere in either of those criteria would be a preventive care regime that passes the cost-benefit muster. Maybe the data says otherwise...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


I am kind of sad that I am not really a blogger anymore. More on this another time.