Monday, April 12, 2010


Pick o' the Post: "Chasin' the Trane" by John Coltrane ... gets a little "run-on-ish," but I think PBS puts it best: "it's not about every word being right... it's a novel [, not a poem]."  I just heard this for the first time tonight and there are some amazing moments in this 80+-chorus-long solo.  There are some spots that require some endurance by the listener as well - like one part, around 11:00 that just sounds like an elephant... and then he makes some other unintelligible noises.  Definitely worth the 15 minutes.  Listen as we contemplate how we might measure a cliché... ooohhhhhmmmmm,

My flight'd just gotten in to BOI @about 7:45p this evening, and I gave Aaron a call about some questions he had.  He told me, "don't work to hard"; and I felt the complete opposite since I'd missed Thursday and Friday of last week.  So, I responded with a twitter reply: I guess we would be more succeptible to overworking ourselves, when our work is a passionate one. I'll be careful.

It's true, but... it sounds preachy.  Oh well. it got me thinking about clichés.  What are clichés? ... computationally, what are they? .. is that possible?

I remember, as a kid, really wanting to be able to say the right thing at the right time... all the time, like a wise, old man.  That seemed very valuable to me - poignant little truths.  A very efficient form of communication maybe.  My work at Booklamp is a little ironic in that I don't really seek out time to read, but always (in retrospect) had a passion for how to use words.  I've come to learn that saying the right thing at the right time - when you pull it off - is much more than words, but the words are (most times) the most critical ingredient to the social concoction that illicits that electric feeling of and sense understanding.  This is very much a result of how my father raised me - Happy birthday Dad (April 12th)! ... one word: details.

Anyway, it occurred to me that clichés have similar properties; being efficient, sometimes comedic, poignant little sayings, or phrases.  What's a cliché? computationally, what's a cliché?

I'm not (directly) trained in how this question might be answered, but I think my definition is a thought provoking one.  A cliché is:

The redundancy of some given meaning, conditioned on a given context.

There's probably much more to it then that, but that (for me) does a pretty good job of explaining what I think I believe [<=redundancy, but no cliché..] a cliché is.  Come to think of it, maybe there should be a measure of irony in a general definition of what a cliché is.  Regardless, the italicized definition above sounds very much like a matter of probability.  The trick - which, I know is not an easy trick - is to create some sort of measurement to quantify a cliché's "meaning" and "context".  Then you gotta use that info to separate (some how) ordinary redundancy from clichéd redundancy, and context.  That sounds like a lot of work.

I know for a fact, that is very hard.  But if you can do it, then maybe you too can measure the clichéiness in your life, or your books.  If Booklamp does it, then we'll possibly know something about how original a text might be... that we with millions of other texts.  Maybe later we'll license services to measure you're own clichéiness... probably not though.

My job has taught me that statistical inference can be a bitch sometimes.  I have no idea what I'd do without my text books and the interwebs.  Thank you Algore (I made it all one name now.. Algore) for our great series of tubes... I don't know what I'd do without you... Well put Senator Ted Stevens, very well put.

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