Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Technology Rocks!



The technology age in which we live really astounds me. Think about it. In a mere 20-25 years, we have developed telephones that play music and videos, portable Global Positioning Systems so we no longer have to get directions from anyone, and we can order pizza and pay almost any bill via computer! But one of the technological advancements that continues to amaze me is Amazon.com’s uncanny ability to dictate what I should be spending my money on based on their Recommendations.

If you haven’t visited Amazon.com, it is an online one-stop retailer, where you can purchase almost anything. I believe the company started out merely as an online bookseller and exploded from there. Anyway, if you are registered with the site, Amazon has some form of quantitative data crunching technology that makes purchase recommendations for you based on a number of factors: things you have previously bought from them, tastes of other customers who also bought what you have previously purchased, items you have rated on the site, items you have in your shopping cart, and current market trends.

And beneath each recommendation, Amazon feels it must justify why it is telling you to buy this item, by trying to put the blame back onto you, the consumer, based on one of your previous actions on the site. It will say something like, “TOP GUN, Recommended because you purchased RISKY BUSINESS,” or “LE MORT D’ARTHUR, Recommended because you rated THE 13TH WARRIOR” or something silly like that.

Anyway, one of my little time-killing hobbies is logging on to Amazon, clicking on the Recommendations tab, and perusing through the 300 or so items they think I would have an interest in purchasing. I chuckle at some of the things, because they are dead wrong with my personal taste, but at other times, I am amazed and say to myself, “Yeah, I do want that! Thanks Amazon!” More often than not, it feels like Amazon has somehow reached into my subconscious and is telling me things I already know, but didn’t actually think about.

So, without further ado, here are the top 20 items Amazon thinks I need to own to be a happier person:

1. Craig Armstrong – THE INCREDIBLE HULK film score CD
2. Danny Elfman – HELLBOY II: GOD’S ARMY film score CD
3. Pyramaze – IMMORTAL CD
4. Susan Casey – DEVIL’S TEETH: A TRUE STORY OF OBSESSION AND SURVIVAL AMONG AMERICA’S GREAT WHITE SHARKS book
5. VIKING: BATTLE FOR ASGARD videogame soundtrack CD
6. ROBOT CHICKEN: SEASON THREE DVD box set
7. David Buckley – THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM film score CD
8. Steve Martin – THE PLEASURE OF MY COMPANY: A NOVELLA book
9. Symphony X – PARADISE LOST CD
10. Brian Tyler – EAGLE EYE film score CD
11. Tony Russell – THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO BLUES RECORDINGS book
12. Olivier Deriviere – ALONE IN THE DARK: MUSIC FROM THE VIDEOGAME CD
13. SPACED: THE COMPLETE SERIES DVD box set
14. Cathedral – SUPERNATURAL BIRTH MACHINE CD
15. Witchfinder General – DEATH PENALTY CD
16. Amon Amarth – TWILIGHT OF THE THUNDER GOD CD
17. DISNEY’S HAPPIEST CELEBRATION ON EARTH CD
18. QUO VADIS (Two Disc Special Edition) DVD
19. Watchtower – CONTROL AND RESISTANCE CD
20. Meshuggah – OBZEN CD

Strangely, Amazon recommended most of those CDs simply because I rated the AGE OF CONAN: HYBORIAN ADVENTURES videogame soundtrack. While I did truly enjoy that CD, I really don’t believe it sounds anything like the products mentioned above. In fact, all of the aforementioned soundtracks were recommended based on that one item. Not sure how that happened, though I would like to own the HELLBOY II film score. I reviewed it for Muze when it was released (yeah, I do freelance CD reviews for them, which pop up all over the internet – in fact, I linked HELLBOY II to one of them), and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though my review was based on what I was able to listen to on Rhapsody.com. So I truly would welcome the disc. Maybe I’ll get it this weekend.

Moving on, Pyramaze and Amon Amarth were recommended because I rated the new Evergrey album, Meshuggah and Watchtower were recommended because I rated an Anacrusis album, Symphony X was recommended because I rated an obscure Morgana Lefay album, and Witchfinder General was recommended because I rated a Cirith Ungol CD. What do these all have in common? Pretty much nothing. I don’t think any of the recommended titles sound anything like the rated items. Okay, I guess Evergrey and Pyramaze are progressive melodic metal bands, but Amon Amarth is a death metal band! I guess it was recommended because both bands are Swedish. That makes a lot of sense.

You’re probably wondering about the other stuff, so here goes. Cathedral was recommended because I rated another Cathedral CD. Of course, the logic here is, if you like one, you should like them all! Try telling that to all those snot-nosed ‘purists’ who thought George Lucas’ STAR WARS prequel trilogy diluted the divine essence of the original trilogy.

THE DEVIL’S TEETH was recommended because I put a book about great white sharks in my shopping cart (so that does actually make some sense). And in all honesty, I already own a copy of THE DEVIL’S TEETH, I just haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. ROBOT CHICKEN was recommended because I rated the ROBOT CHICKEN STAR WARS SPECIAL. Again, this makes perfect sense. However, SPACED was also recommended because of this same DVD. I guess Amazon thinks that Simon Pegg and Seth Green are the same brand of comedy? I dunno.

The Steve Martin book was recommended because I added another Steve Martin book to my cart. Okay, Amazon, you are currently winning this argument. THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO BLUES RECORDINGS was recommended because I plopped the similar guide to Jazz in my cart. The DISNEY CD was recommended because I rated the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN Disney Park ride CD. And although I also rated tons of other Disney CDs, somehow, it chose that one as the clincher.

And finally, QUO VADIS was recommended because I got a kick out of the 1945 film version of THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (and if you haven’t noticed, the very story from which this movie was based is also the place where my blog name originated – woo hoo!). This one doesn’t really make any sense at all either. One is a gladiator film about the rise of Christianity, and the other is an Oscar Wilde cautionary tale that borders on horror. I’m struggling to see the connection here. Maybe they had a cast member in common, or Warner Home Video coerced Amazon into advertising the two together to try to somehow piggy back sales from completely unrelated audiences. I don’t get it. I guess that’s why I’m not in advertising.

The one thing this tells me, though, is that I probably need more hobbies that don’t revolve around CDs, DVDs, and books, because according to Amazon, that is all I spend my money on. If only Amazon sold food, then my Recommendations would REALLY be interesting.

1 comment:

justherb99 said...

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