Friggin’ Here Comes to the Internet Archive

WITR 897 Logo

I’m delighted to announce the completion of an historic archival project at Innerspace Labs! 

When I was a young man growing up in Rochester, NY, I routinely spent my weekends tuning in to the city’s comedy/novelty radio programme titled, Friggin’ Here. The show was broadcast on The Rochester Institute of Technology’s radio station, WITR 89.7FM in the 1990s. Friggin’ Here filled the comedy void of not having The Dr Demento Show in Rochester and featured many local and regional comedy artists who went on to national acclaim on Dr Demento’s show. And during the time these episodes were airing, co-host Devo Spice made it to #1 on The Dr Demento Show with his hit, “South Park Junkie,” recorded with his band, Sudden Death, and landed Dr. Demento’s Funny #1 of the Year three times in the years that followed. This was definitely a piece of history that deserved to be archived.

I taped 27 of the shows in my basement studio in the mid-90s, and recently considered the possibility of digitizing and making those recordings available online for fans around the world to revisit and enjoy. Tragically, despite my painstaking efforts at organization, I was unable to locate those old cassettes. Undeterred, I reached out to the members of an online community celebrating comedy music and inquired as to whether or not anyone else had recordings of the local programme from my youth.

As fate would have it, Devo Spice and a few of the show’s guest artists were members of that community, and the administrators tagged them in response. Astonishingly, I received a reply that Devo Spice had personally taped nearly all of their shows during his participation with the programme. Not only that, but he had wisely positioned the deck in the station’s studio with the signal going to the tape deck before it went out over the air, so the sound is as good as it can be! Best of all, just two years ago he had sent those very tapes to a friend named Dr Don who performed the laborious task of digitizing over 97 hours worth of analog audio content. Unfortunately however, the co-host had stored the resulting digital audio on a since-failed PC, and retrieving them was an undertaking.

There were a few weeks of baited breath, but at last he responded confirming that the tracks were safely recovered and he transferred the files to me. Examining the library, I found his tapes were vastly superior to my own home-taped cassettes. I ran the files through a spectral waveform analyzer and verified that they had been ripped using the Hydrogenaudio “Insane” preset of -b 320 – a constant bitrate of 320kbps, which is the highest possible audio compression standard for MP3 and is demonstrably indistinguishable from lossless audio. Evidently, Dr Don took every measure to ensure the very best quality for his digitization process. There is audible aging to the cassettes, themselves but every effort has been made to preserve them as best as possible. And in addition to the superior pre-broadcast sound, where I had omitted selections, (whether they be duplicate songs or just tracks I didn’t particularly fancy), the co-host’s archive was nearly complete with all shows unabridged from his years with the programme.

I immediately went to work analyzing the audio data, tagging, and uniformly-formatting the library. Once they were prepped for a satisfactorily archival standard, I embarked on the task of uploading each broadcast to The Internet Archive and attaching each programme’s track list and relevant metadata. After the entire library was uploaded, I drafted a summary and submitted a request to The Internet Archive to format the set as an official Collection. With that request now fulfilled, the archive is readily-accessible for listeners around the world to enjoy. It’s a small but important way for me to give back to the artists who filled my teenage years with laughter.

For those curious about the origin of the show’s title, Devo Spice provided the details on his official website’s biography at Devospice.com:

In 1997 Tom’s friend from college Tim Winkler (known affectionately as TWINK) managed to get a slot on RIT’s radio station WITR and devoted his entire show to comedy music. He had a two-hour slot, originally on late Thursday/early Friday from 1-3am, that he kept getting erased from. Finally one day he wrote “TWINK! FRIGGIN’ HERE!” on the white board, and that’s how the show got its name. At some point he invited Devo to co-host the show with him, mostly because he wanted access to Devo’s music collection. While Tom was never officially a member of the radio station (he had tried freshman year and had gotten the runaround) he co-hosted this show with TWINK until he left Rochester in late 1999. 

Check out the completed archive collection here!

https://archive.org/details/friggin-here?tab=about

A Review Of Cathy O’Neil’s “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy”

(There are exceptions, of course, like the writings of Cory Doctorow.)

But in “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy,”  Cathy O’Neil presents a concise case about the perils of Big Data through the examples she offers over decades of technological development, and this text will remain critically relevant in the years ahead. She addresses the pattern of fundamental flaws at the core of many of these systems and her cautionary remarks about increasing surveillance are perhaps the most pertinent points of the entire book.

Big_Bang_Data_exhibit_at_CCCB_17

Details of Big Bang Data exhibit at CCCB (Photo Credit: By Kippelboy (Own work) CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons)

Each of the examples of Weapons of Math Destruction are characterized by intrinsic flaws. To identify these traits, she poses three questions to ask when examining any Big Data system:

First – Even if the participant is aware of being modeled, or what the model is used for, is the model opaque, or even invisible?

Second – Does the model work against the subject’s interest? In short, is it unfair? Does it damage or destroy lives?

And finally –  [has] the model the capacity to grow exponentially? As a statistician would put it, can it scale?

Throughout the book, O’Neil explores several examples of WMDs and their socio-economic consequences. The introduction presents how IMPACT scoring unfairly resulted in the termination of good teachers, and how WMDs routinely target the poor where they hurt the most. The first chapter outlines her work as a hedge fund quantitative analyst leading up to the collapse of the housing market. Predatory lending is a key example of a WMD. Next, she examines the feedback loop created by the U.S. News college ranking report, and the resulting skyrocketing of college tuition, as well as the predatory nature of enrollment marketing campaigns.

From there, she dives into UCLA’s PredPol system, designed to optimize police patrol of areas where crime is statistically most likely to occur, and how the system inherently targets impoverished neighborhoods, creating yet another feedback loop of increased incarceration. Another chapter outlines the negative consequences of automated resume analysis and job performance metrics, and how the “optimization” of work shifts negatively impacts the middle class and the working poor. The final chapters present similar flaws in data systems determining insurance rates and credit eligibility, as well as Big Data’s Orwellian impact on the political process of voter targeting.

While the world painted by these flawed systems may appear dour, the text is not without hope. Scott Galloway’s book, “The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google” painted the apocalyptic near-future where Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook serve as the four horsemen of the end times. But O’Neil’s concluding chapter offers a number of proposed solutions to implement checks and balances into these systems to prevent that sort of abuse and exploitation. O’Neil presents the informed insight of a woman in a field severely dominated by men, and her perspective of big data through the lens of moral conscience. She humanizes and personalizes the societal effect of these systems and makes the subject of algorithms engaging and impactful.

“Weapons of Math Destruction” effectively outlines the characteristic flaws shared by many Big Data systems throughout history, and presents practical measures to reign in these unchecked operations. It’s a sharp and relevant text for anyone interested in the way these technologies shape our culture.

The Shortest and Easiest Music Survey Ever… for SCIENCE!

I’m putting together a piece on music and technology where I’ll discuss the various ways listeners discover new music.  To help gather info, I’ve put together a fun and easy one-question survey asking How Do You Discover New Tunes?

Slide the sliders for each of the methods you use for a total of 100% of your musical discoveries.  Give it a try and please – share it on your social media networks – the more users that take the poll, the better the quality of the info I’ll compile!

Take The Innerspace Music Discovery Survey!

Published in: on March 22, 2015 at 3:36 pm  Comments (2)  
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