Sunday, November 30, 2008

SirFozzie for ArbCom

This year only one candidate gets my strong support for the Arbitration Committee. Although many are worthy candidates who would make excellent arbitrators (and I've supported quite a few of them), it's worth a few more electrons to share why.

SirFozzie first came on my radar screen two years ago when I received a request too look into the BooyakaDell RFC. What turned up was that he and few other editors were contending with one of the most destructive vandals in site history. The main account was JB196. To sample the scope of the problem:
As big as that problem obviously is, the manner of disruption was even more problematic. While most of the other people who were contending with it gave up or fell by the wayside, SirFozzie kept on the ball. His success in that regard might make him underrated now: it earns more kudos to clean up a huge mess than to prevent a spill from turning into a huge problem in the first place. But obviously he was working extremely hard, and not tooting his own horn about it either.

In two years of firsthand observation SirFozzie has demonstrated uncompromising dedication and integrity across a variety of situations. I have never known him to take an action he didn't believe in, and he neither grants nor asks for favors.

Most importantly, what has plagued the 2008 arbitration committee has been a lack of willingness to take the bull by the horns. Too many arbitrations have ended with the Committee asking the parties to play nicely together; too many have passed the buck to arbitration enforcement in the form of discretionary sanctions. What's needed is a Harry Truman: someone who gets things accomplished and solves problems. Someone who isn't afraid to be decisive. Someone who values results over popularity.

SirFozzie and I don't always agree (he edits Wikipedia Review and I don't, for one), but he's a smart fellow and his reasoning holds together. He's here to help the project, not vice versa. SirFozzie has no idea I'm writing this, by the way. He knows my opinion can't be swayed by campaigning--not that he would try. Most of the candidates I've supported this year are doing well. But if only one of them actually gets a seat, it's obvious who I'm rooting for.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Okay, breaking the promise to womankind about the May Aufderheide biography (well kinda...been taking offsite notes). Overall I'm on semi-wikibreak this month. Broadly defined, that means reducing useful editing to a minimum.

What else is there in life? Besides Thanksgiving etc. etc?

Music. Bad music. On Skype and gmail chat a bunch of people have been trading YouTube links to really awful music. There's a strange fascination to this and an impulse to one-down each other. So sharing the highlights...erm, lowlights...of this monumental waste of time.

Earth Wind, & Fire, "Boogie Wonderland"
In order to be truly awful a song needs to have a few good points going for it. Quality sound engineering, a chart appearance in at least one country, and video production values. "Boogie Wonderland" is a typical bad song: something that kind of seems tolerable if the first hearing happens during one's third drink at a noisy party. It's got a danceable beat and an infectious melody. The next morning, though, that beat resembles a pounding headache and the melody is still infectious in that other sense of the word. The few lyrics that aren't garbled are inane. Then add those late seventies disco costumes...for a couple of months a whole lot of people had a terrible lapse of taste.

Yes, the video is contributory copyright infringement (which I would not do on wiki). Most of these links are. If a copyright holder complains I'll delink the darn things. I dare anybody to admit ownership.

Robert Palmer, I Didn't Mean to Turn You On
Robert Palmer deserves his own special place in rock 'n roll hell for inventing a music video cliche: models in black minidresses pretending to look like a backup band. It was a little bit witty the first time with Addicted to Love. He also used it here (smaller minidresses this time) and the models don't even try to finger chords on their instruments. The dude used the same gimmick again for Bad Case of Loving You, recycling sets and models. Other artists picked up on the idea and for several years MTV got really boring for heterosexual female viewers. Its last gasp was probably Tone Loc's Wild Thing. The particular touch that makes I Didn't Mean to Turn You On more dreadful than any of the others is its saccharine paean to neoconservative morality: Palmer in a dark business suit pleads innocence surrounded by eleven models, all of whom wear too much makeup and too little clothing. The title phrase juxtaposes against close-ups of the dancers' wriggling backsides. You didn't mean to be a tease, Robert? Yeah, sure.

Laura Branigan, Gloria
What's with the hairstyle? Was it a fashion in 1982 to deliberately mimic a unibrow? Just because a singer has a voice doesn't mean a song is any good. The lyrics she doesn't slur seem to be a warning to a friend who's developing schizophrenia, delivered with all the schmaltz and bad judgment of a teenager who thinks she can lecture a buddy out of psychosis. Except Branigan was already in her late twenties when she recorded the thing--which is a bit too old to be forgiven. Please, lady, close your lips and look up 'psychiatrist' in the yellow pages. Extra irritating points for the synthetic mock-trumpets in the final seconds.

Doobie Brothers, What a Fool Believes
Gotta hand it to this video for including subtitles. Problem is, they eliminate the good faith extended to misheard lyrics that maybe the real song would make sense. It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to sing and remove all doubt. Pity the radio audience of 1979 as they fled from the frying pan of Earth, Wind & Fire and landed here. Bad hit songs tend to zing around inside the cranium consuming spare brain cells until something else drives them out...usually another bad song. Want to get rid of this one? Well, the only melody that really outdoes What a Fool Believes for moronic relentlessness is It's a Small World.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brave new articles

There are no articles left to conquer.
- Alexander the Great (the original Greek appears to have been garbled)

For a while now I've been working on getting twentieth century popular song articles compliant with site policies and the law. That means removing copyrighted lyrics, taking out citations to Angelfire, and excising other things that simply shouldn't be there. Lots to do there because the area is poorly tended. Wikipedia has 16,000 song stubs and an additional 10,000 unassessed song articles, most of which are also stubs.

This sort of gnome work means removing material. And when an area isn't maintained to normal standards it ends up with well-meaning people who think whatever they see around there is the way things ought to be. So we end up with thousands of stub articles that are almost meaningless.

Three from 1957:
You might think that with stuff like that, the site has everything. While taking a break last evening a post from JzG looked interesting:
Most of the problem is that there are now so few significant topics left to write about that those who lack specialist education or resources have nothing left other than politics and their favourite band to occupy their time here. They come along, want to be significant in this huge edifice, and fail to realise that they missed the boat. Plus many of them are grossly immature and lack any understanding at all of anything other than the mores of their own town. I'd hazard a guess that the vast majority of Wikipedia editors have never left their home country and have no idea at all about the social codes of other nationalities. And the less they know, the more uptight they get about it.
Ah, he mentions music. Well here's a quick summary of Wikipedia's coverage in the area:
What's interesting is that coverage really plummets just as things get to public domain--where it's finally okay to republish song lyrics (although I prefer to do so on Wikisource).

So in order to balance out the karma I've been expanding a few of those stubs into real articles. For example, most people know I'm Just Wild About Harry from the 1955 Warner Brothers short One Froggy Evening, and perhaps recall that it was Harry Truman's presidential campaign song in 1948. Actually the song has a bit more history than that: it was the most popular number from the first successful Broadway musical to have an all African-American cast. And the song broke a major racial taboo. Times have changed so much that few people would guess what that taboo used to be. The article explains that now, although it didn't say much at all before the expansion began.

The goal with these expansions is like cloud seeding: create examples of what an article should actually look like. Then--with a little time and luck--other editors will expand more articles into pages that convey meaningful information instead of unreferenced regurgitations of when something supposedly charted and names of artists who recorded it. I'm Just Wild About Harry is a foxtrot--one of only four lonely entries at Category:Foxtrots (a major ballroom dance genre and Wikipedia barely touches the subject).

More than foxtrots, though, I've been working on ragtime. Ragtime dominated North American popular music for a quarter of a century. And ragtime was the basis for jazz. I used to read up on jazz history and get frustrated when the explanations stopped with a gloss about ragtime. So signing off and heading back to the biography of May Aufderheide, the genre's leading female composer. The expansion probably won't take her bio past start class, but I have hopes of raising List of compositions by James Scott to featured list. It was a lot of fun chasing down all that sheet music.

So to JzG: Wikipedia has enormous gaps and it doesn't take specialized education to start filling a lot of them. Ever tried Google Books?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lady Catherine de Burgh

"Elizabeth soon perceived, that though this great lady was not in commission of the peace of the county, she was a most active magistrate in her own parish, the minutest concerns of which were carried to her by Mr. Collins; and whenever any of the cottagers were disposed to be quarrelsome, discontented, or too poor, she sallied forth into the village to settle their differences, silence their complaints, and scold
them into harmony and plenty." - Jane Austen

Friday, November 21, 2008

Support censorship

Here is a new version of the Birth of Venus you'll need to start using if you're a Botticelli fan and want to share your appreciation of fine art in userspace when a new Wikipedia proposal passes. It takes a few minutes to Photoshop a bikini onto the lady; call it a public service to save others the trouble.

There's another solution, of course. Head over to Wikipedia:Sexual content to have a look at the proposal firsthand. Then weigh in on it. I can't wait to start on Michelangelo's David...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kiss me, Kate

For a change of pace, went over to Wikiversity and started a course in troll sockpuppets. Oddly, the day after course planning began it was already no. 4 on a Google search for "troll sockpuppet". Not sure whether that counts as good or bad.

So since I'm on semi-wikibreak this month I offered one of the sockpuppets space here to promote the new Wikiversity project. Hamlet, Prince of Trollmark volunteered to do a guest post on this blog. Forgive him if it's a bit over the top; he's a drama sock.
(Hamlet marches over to this thread and hits 'edit').

=== Statement by Hamlet, Prince of Trollmark ===
[[Image:Hamlet, Prince of Trollmark.jpg|right|thumb|250px]]
It wouldn't be November without a fresh episode of Giano v. Arbcom. By all means, accept. ~~~~