(I know who I want to take me home)

Hello there 🙂

Welcome to issue thirty six of Manufacturing Serendipity, a loosely connected, somewhat rambling collection of the unexpected things I’ve recently encountered.

This newsletter is free to receive, but if you’d like to support me in this odd little endeavour you can buy me a coffee 🙂

Speaking of coffee, grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, let’s do this thing…


Part I: Things I’ve Encountered Online…

Dear reader, I’ve been thinking about this tweet way too much:

I think that both Dan and his lawyer are right: Closing Time is dumb AND great.

(I don’t love the use of the word dumb here – more on this later).

First things first, Closing Time by Semisonic was released in 1998; when I was 20?! For the uninitiated, here’s the song the tweet refers to:

The thing that’s been playing over and over in my mind since I read that tweet is this: Is there something in this “dumb enough” thing?

As I mentioned above, I don’t love the use of the word “dumb” here but I understand the intent; and I think there might be something in this. I’m going to substitute the word dumb for shallow – partially because this makes me a little more comfortable, but mainly because I think shallow is perhaps a better descriptor.

It occurs to me that lots of songs which are considered “hits” are pretty shallow, but, importantly I think, they are not so shallow that they actually offend the masses – they are just shallow enough.

I feel like possibly this just shallow enough thing is important for two reasons:

Firstly, songs that are “just shallow enough” don’t require much effort to understand – they don’t ask too much of the listener. Clearly, however, making a song that doesn’t require much effort to understand isn’t likely to be enough to generate a hit. As such, I suspect that in addition to being easy to understand, relatability might also be important.

As you know, I have a tendency to tumble down rabbit holes, and so I decided to take a closer look at the lyrics to Closing Time, and you know what? I feel like they really are shallow (for the most part at least) AND great.

Let’s do this:

Closing time, open all the doors
And let you out into the world
Closing time, turn all of the lights on
Over every boy and every girl

Pretty easy to understand, right? Kicking out time at the pub, lights come up, etc, nothing too deep here. Also, pretty relatable, I guess.

Closing time, one last call for alcohol
So, finish your whiskey or beer
Closing time, you don’t have to go home
But you can’t stay here

Again, very easy to understand. I also think think line is cute: “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” – it’s open enough to be relatable in a couple of ways – possibly home isn’t great for you, or possibly you’re just not quite ready for the night to end, either or both work, right?

Then we head to the chorus:

I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
Take me home

Now we’re talking. Yeah the wording is a bit clumsy but it doesn’t matter, because we’ve either got ourselves some fully requited love; or some devastatingly unrequited love – and we’re singing along very loudly because this song speaks to us in all the ways a song can speak to us.

All good so far. Easy to understand and relatable. But then there’s some strangeness:

Closing time, time for you to go out
To the places you will be from

“The places you will be from?” what’s that now? Then it gets more strange:

Closing time, this room won’t be open
Till your brothers or your sisters come

Wait. Are we still in the pub? Colour me confused.

Turns out Semisonic lead singer Dan Wilson wrote the song when his wife was pregnant with their first child. Apparently, halfway through writing the song, he realized it had a double meaning. “It’s all about being born and coming into the world, seeing the bright lights, cutting the cord, opening up into something deeper and more universal.”

For me, this felt like a strange parallel to draw – I think that getting kicked out of the pub at closing time is quite different to being born, and I wondered how he arrived there.

So it’s actually quite a sweet story. It turns out Dan’s daughter Coco was born three months premature, weighing just 11 ounces. For him, the song took on a new meaning with the line, “I know who I want to take me home,” as he was looking forward to the day he could bring Coco home.

Purportedly that day finally came nearly a year after Coco was born; she left the hospital in February 1998 on the same day Closing Time was released as a single. According to Dan, that’s when the full gravity of the song hit him, and he realised how much Coco influenced it.

But back to the song, we ‘re no longer in the womb, we’re in the pub:

So, gather up your jackets, move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend
Closing time, every new beginning
Comes from some other beginning’s end, yeah

And we’re back to easy to understand, and easy to relate. Also, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” is a lovely lyric huh? Sort of deep whilst remaining pretty shallow – you could see it on a motivational poster or mug, right?

Then we’re back to the chorus and our love is either requited or unrequited and we’re singing our hearts out:

I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
Take me home

Then to the bridge:

Closing time, time for you to go out
To the places you will be from

And the chorus comes back:

I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
Take me home

I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
Take me home

And finally the song ends quietly with this line reprised:

Closing time, every new beginning
Comes from some other beginning’s end

So much shallow-depth! My heart is breaking into a thousand pieces, my love is still unrequited, maybe I’ll get a kebab on the way home.


Overall I feel like Closing Time is a brilliant example of lyrics which hit that shallow sweet spot – they are shallow enough to be both easy to understand (for the most most part), and relatable, but I suspect that they aren’t so shallow that they turn off vast swathes of people.

I guess this is a very long-winded way of saying that if you want to write a hit song I feel like making it “just shallow enough” is almost certainly good advice.


Moar serendipitous finds:

I have no idea what the Mister Global Pageant is, but I am here for the costumes:

After a two-year COVID hiatus, the Mister Global pageant is apparently back. Each contestant is asked to dress as his country, and these are the top 5 costumes according to the judges:

Indonesia
Nigeria
Ecuador
Sri Lanka
USA

AI Generated Utopias

More brilliant things from Janelle Shane! Yay! Here are some of the GPT-3 generated utopias she’s created using the DaVinci model:

Robot Utopia – Robots do everything for us automatically. Occasionally they attack us with lasers, but otherwise it is a nice place.

Magical Utopia – We’ve got a wizard living in the shed, who occasionally comes out to do magic and eat cheese sandwiches. He has a very limited repertoire of spells, but at least it keeps the goats happy.

Bits Utopia – Everything is bits, bits, bits. There is an excess of poetry. But inside every bit is another bit and we’re always exposed to bits from the past.

Steampunk Utopia – All the cool guys have airships, all the dames have giant hats. Everyone has goggles.

When Shane used GPT-3 Curie, things got weirder:

The Applesauce Utopia – Quantum shearing maintains everyone’s hair nicely. If a few people go bald, they just have newspapers printed with computer facial filters.

Avarianian Utopia – Different birds live different lives. Weather changes the ooze into perfect snack for each species.

Post Industrial Utopia – We make our own medicine with Robots. Every Tuesday, someone slips on the banana skin, and we get one more robot.


Fat Girls on Film

As Kate Hagen’s mission to curate a cinematic canon for fat girls came up short, she searches out films that best transcend ‘fat girl’ tropes, and suggests how Hollywood can serve an audience neglected by decades of poorly drawn caricatures. 

“Hollywood itself needs to take a long look in its distorted mirror—on an individual and company level—and reconsider everything it thinks it knows about the fat experience. Any dramatic or cinematic curiosity around this topic first needs to come from a place of empathy and true desire to learn more about what it means to be fat. Maybe hire a fat person and ask them too, just an idea.

As a fat little girl from Ohio who grew up loving movies despite them often not loving her back, and who followed those dreams all the way to Hollywood, I demand a better viewing world for the fat little girls to come. Just think about what they might be able to do if Hollywood made them feel like their celluloid dreams were not only possible, but welcomed and wanted.

I hope another fat girl in Ohio who loves movies knows I’m writing this for her and that she deserves to see herself on screen too. Trust me, you’re already perfect just as you are.”


Opposites don’t attract

The old adage (and Paula Abdul) tell us that opposites attract. But apparently, experiments have shown time and again that this isn’t case, and today, it may be less true than ever.


This is what my personality looks like

It is very scientific and clearly true representation of myself.

Reminds me of flumps.


You might also like:


Part II: Books I’m Reading Right Now

You might recall that I included a link to an interview with Lucy Cooke in the previous edition of this newsletter, so this fortnight I was excited to read Cooke’s book – Bitch: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal, and I’m happy to report that it is ace.

In her book Cooke dismantles a raft of misconceptions about binary sex roles, many of which can be traced back to Charles Darwin. According to Darwinian dogma, male animals fight one another for possession of females, “perform strange tactics” and mate promiscuously, propelled by a biological imperative to spread their abundant seed. Females are monogamous and passive; they wait patiently for their large, energy-rich eggs to be fertilised by cheap and tiny sperm, then selflessly give their all to their offspring.

I learned a bunch of fun things from this book, but the most interesting for me was that the way in which we think about biological sex is wrong. For example, clownfish juveniles (yep, that’s Nemo from Finding Nemo), have immature gonads which have the potential to develop into either male or female reproductive organs. They have some testicular tissue, but it’s not actively producing sperm, and they also have ovarian tissue with undeveloped eggs. Essentially, as juveniles, they are neither male nor female, their sex is determined as they mature.

But it doesn’t end there, adult male clownfish can switch sexes and become female. During the transition period, these clownfish have female brains but male gonads. But they behave like females and are recognised as females by other clownfish, even though they still have testes. It’s a clear demonstration that brain sex, and gonadal sex can be uncoupled, and exposes the flaw in assuming a linear relationship between gonadal sex and sexual identity.


Part III: Things I’ve Been Watching

I watched Bad Vegan (Netflix), which is billed as the story of how one woman (Sarma Melngailis) was convinced by a man that she met online to drain $2m from her Manhattan raw-vegan restaurant, because he claimed he could make her, and her beloved dog Leon immortal.

Sensationalism aside, this is a story about a psychologically abusive and coercively controlling relationship.

The trouble is that the show is very much centred on Melngailis. It largely consists of a series of interviews with her, where, for the most part, she’s not really challenged about her role in all this.

In fairness to the documentary makers, I can understand why it played out like that. No matter which way you twist or turn it Melngailis was (I think) acting under duress at various points over the course of this story. Given that, challenging her too hard on this stuff essentially amounts to victim-blaming.

The problem is, it makes for a pretty flawed documentary though – Hanif Abdurraqib puts it way better than I can:


Part IV: What I’ve been up to…

Trying to make the most of the unseasonably sunny weather, falling asleep in front of the TV, and short story writing. I also had a lovely day with my friend Kirsty, grabbed dinner with my friend Nat, got to see my Dad’s band play a gig, went to an actual pub with my friend Steve, and spent a lovely morning with my friend Amira and her ridiculously cute baby.


What’s next?

BrightonSEO Training Course: Advanced Content Creation for Digital PR

On April 6th I’ll be running a training course in Brighton. You can find more details about the course, and book your spot here.


MozCon

I’ve been invited to speak at MozCon this July! The line-up looks great, and early bird tickets are available here.


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