Four and Three and Two and One

Here is one way to write a post.

Make a small observation to yourself. I don’t mean a momentous observation, a significant observation, or a worthy observation of any sort. I’m talking about an observation so insignificant that you consider it unworthy even of recording in your personal diary, where you note all kinds of trivial minutae. Oh, also – and this is critical – make this observation back in 1992. (at which time, your journal was a hardbound notebook that you wrote in with an actual pen. I get writer’s cramp just thinking about it).

My friends, the kind of observation I’m talking about is the sort of trivial observation that skits through your brain in a millisecond and is gone, and usually never troubles you again. But in this case, this ridiculously inconsequential observation continues to pop up occasionally, when you observe that your original idea is reinforced. Despite it being reinforced, it is still without doubt, an idea so utterly trivial that is not worthy of noting anywhere, for any reason. Declaring your observation to the world will make no impact, lasting or otherwise, on the history of humankind. No-one will, upon reading of your pronouncement, sit down and reconsider the choices they’ve made in their lives, and vow to make a change. No breakthroughs in medicine will be made, no children will be saved, in fact I’d go so far as to say that not even a single reality TV show will be created around your theory.

In the time since you originally made this trivial observation, the world continues to turn with regularity, the seasons come and go, the universe continues to slowly expand, you get older, perhaps you finish a visual arts degree and get a job answering the phone at a bank.

Soon, people who are not computer boffins are talking about the world wide web. More time passes, and you create an email account and start writing electronic communications to people, increasingly in place of phoning or speaking to them in person. You eventually lash out and buy a second hand laptop with a dial-up internet connection. At times, when the connection does not drop out, you perceive with some excitement that the internet appears to open up new avenues for writing. You learn about about web logs. You start to read other people’s web logs – or, blogs – and toy with the idea of writing one yourself.  But what can you write about?

You procrastinate. Instead of starting a blog, you read other people’s blogs, and notice that people are writing engaging blogs about food, about parenting, about books, or about building their own house out of egg cartons, but you are not a food expert, don’t wish to write about parenting, don’t have the confidence to write book reviews, and don’t have a lot of egg cartons lying around.

You read more blogs, and try to hone in on some that you really like. Based on these blogs you decide that your blog is not going to be “about” anything. It will be a blog of observations, reflections, ramblings about anything. (Later on, you will wish you had thought more carefully about the name and url because if you had, it would be, in an homage to Waiting for Godot, located at blatheringaboutnothing.wordpress.com, but changing the address once the blog is established sounds too fraught with difficulty to contemplate.)

So, you start to write a blog. Writing the first few posts is fun but then you realise that you have to come up with observations, reflections, ideas and ramblings worth writing about with some kind of regularity. Oh dear. What a predicament you have put yourself in!

Lacking the time to work on ideas for blog topics other than when you sit down to write, you find it difficult to post frequently and consistently about highbrow ideas such as the nature of human existence, whether there is life after death, or whether painting really is dead. Your blog rapidly begins to be filled with writing about eyeballs, moustaches, rhinos, and the weather. In your credit, you do manage a few posts about Nietzsche, but unfortunately you are no scholar of existentialism and your explorations of the philosopher’s ideas remain sadly inept and superficial, and focussed mostly on his repugnant facial hair. Time goes by, and you reach a point where one day, that trivial observation from 20 years ago pokes its head up and says, just like the Labour Party did in 1972, It’s time.

You decide to accept the challenge and write a post about your frivolous observation, made 20 years earlier. Thinking about how to turn such a trivial idea into an entire post, you decide the best approach will be to write an amusing piece, covering the lengthy research undertaken to come up with your theory, and then present the evidence for and against. It seems possible that you might be able to cobble together something amusing. You sit down to write it.

Cue the present, and a first person narrative.

Here is my observation, made some 2 decades ago: I notice that on many of my albums, my favourite track is track number 6.

Trivial? Certainly. Banal? Exquisitely. Not worthy of being recorded in writing? Undoubtedly.

In the real world, the one that exists outside the world wide web, would I attempt to craft an interesting piece of writing based on such a completely trivial thought? Probably not. But this is the blogosphere, so let’s press on, sticking to the challenge at hand.

The Hypothesis: that on a random selection of albums, Track 6 will most often be a “favourite” track.

Definitions: For the purposes of this experiment, I have defined “favourite” as the outstanding favourite. If there are many tracks on an album considered to be equal favourites, then the answer to whether the song is a favourite is “no”. For the purposes of scientific rigour, I am being very tough on myself! (Eeek!)

Method: my research, conducted over the past 20 years on this topic, has consisted of listening to a lot of albums. Data has been inconsistent, and record keeping has been poor, to say the least. Analysis of anecdotal data indicates that on some albums, track 6 was my favourite track and on others, it was not.

Today, in the interests of proving or refuting the original hypothesis once and for all, I have selected a sample of albums to check. This sample consists of two sub categories: albums I was listening to in 1992, at the time that I developed this theory, as well as a random selection of more recent albums, for comparison, in case for some reason 1992 had a strong bias towards putting the best track at number 6.

Data:

Albums I was listening to in 1992:

Massive Attack, Blue Lines. Track 6: Unfinished Sympathy. Favourite track? Yes.

Not Drowning Waving, The Cold and The Crackle. Track 6: Little King. Favourite Track? No.

The Velvet Underground, V.U. Track 6: Foggy Notion. Favourite track? Yes.

Primal Scream, Screamadelica. Track 6: Come Together. Favourite track? No

Tom Waits, Bone Machine. Track 6: The Ocean Doesn’t Want Me Today. Favourite Track? No

The Clouds, Penny Century. Track 6: Too Cool. Favourite Track? No

R.E.M.  Automatic For The People. Track 6: Sweetness Follows. Favourite track? Yes

Leonard Cohen, So Long Marianne. Track 6: Bird On A Wire. Favourite track? No

 

Random* selection of other albums :

 

Sonic Youth, Goo. Track 6: My Friend Goo. Favourite track? No

Kim Salmon and The Surrealists, Sin Factory. Track 6: Come On Baby. Favourite Track? No

Beastie Boys, Ill Communication. Track 6: Sabotage. Favourite Track? No

Radiohead, Kid A. Track 6: Optimistic. Favourite Track? No

The Rapture, Echoes. Track 6: House of Jealous Lovers. Favourite Track? Yes

LCD Soundsystem, Sound of Silver. Track 6: Us V Them. Favourite Track? No

Grinderman, Grinderman 2. Track 6: Evil. Favourite Track? Yes.

The National, High Violet. Track 6: Bloodbuzz Ohio. Favourite Track? Yes

 

Analysis:

Out of 16 albums, track number 6 is my favourite track on 6. Track 6 does not rate significantly higher on albums from 1992, so I can’t even try to claim that there was a conspiracy in 1992 to always put the best track at number 6.

Conclusion:

Analysis proves that track 6 is not always my favourite track. However, what this analysis does not prove, is, whether track 6 is my favourite track more often than any other number? Track 6 has come up strongly, but in a sample of only 16 albums, I can only conclude that the sample is too small and therefore the data is inconclusive. Damn.

*

So finally, dear reader,  you reach the end of your post. You have learned how to let an idea, first thought of as completely insignificant 20 years earlier, stew away in the back of your mind for 2 decades. You’ve learned how to take that totally frivolous thought, and milk it for all it’s worth when you need a topic to write about on your blog 20 years later. Here we can see the end product of this creative process: a post that is an odd mixture of a “how-to” style guide to writing a post, combined with a research experiment into whether or not track 6 is always the best track on an album. This is what the internet has done to us.

 *

*As this is a personal blog, and not a scientific journal, I will admit that there was some licence taken with the “randomness” of albums selected in the second section. The prompt for this post was in fact when I put on Ill Communication today, and noted that Sabotage, the biggest hit from that album, but not my clear favourite on the album, was track number 6. I decided to get my “track 6” theory sorted out for once and for all, however in that endeavour I have dismally failed. Research continues.

 

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7 Comments

  1. So after 2 decades we have a definite “inconclusive” 🙂 You did, however, get a very amusing post out of your 1992 observation, and that was the point!

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    • That was kind of ridiculous, wasn’t it? I realised just at the end, that it had not proved anything, in fact it kind of showed that #6 was a pretty common favourite. But at that point I’d spent too long writing and the post was getting too long, and I just wanted to publish the damn thing and go to bed. As I’m sure BBC journalists say to themselves every night.

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  2. Great. Now I’m totally going to have to obsessively start paying attention to track numbers. 😉

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