Saturday, April 06, 2013

10,000 Times: It begins.

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I am listening, as I write this, to the song "I Love It," by Icona Pop:

This is, officially, the first time I am listening to, so far as history will want to record.

I was driving home last night, and I heard this song, which I had heard before, and listened to it, and thought "I like that song," and reflected on how I had heard this song a lot lately, not just on the radio, but on Youtube, where I'd played it a lot, too, while I was at work or cleaning up, and I thought to myself, "I bet I've heard that song 100 times already."

Then I did some math, because that is what I do, especially when I'm driving along alone: I do math, to myself, sometimes.  I don't know why I do it.  I just do it.  I don't even like math, really, not in

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I just restarted it.

As I was saying, I don't even like math, not that much, but I still do it, in my head, like the time I was jogging 8 miles on an indoor track, back when I could reliably jog 8 miles on an indoor track (I can do about 3, now, but that's pretty good for me), and I kept seeing the sign that said the track was 12-laps-to-a-mile on the outer ring, and I began to wonder if you jogged on the inner ring how much farther you'd have to go and so I sort of mentally rounded the track to a rectangle and did some figuring and decided that on an 8 mile run you'd only have to go about 1 1/2 laps further so it wasn't worth worrying about, really, especially on shorter runs, but even now I don't use the inner track because that feels like cheating.

So I tried to figure out, last night, if it was possible

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(This may be easier than I thought)

if it was possible to have heard this song 100 times since I first heard it, about two months ago.  I wasn't sure exactly when I first heard it.  I thought "winter," but, then, in Wisconsin it's always winter, lately, as today -- April 6, 2013-- is thirty degrees and there's snow on the ground, and even the rain that's falling won't probably take away the snow, as the rain is cold.

Then I found the question of whether I could have heard this song 100 times, already, superseded by the thought of how many times, in one life, I could have heard a song, period.

If, I wondered, I were to take a song I had heard when I was in my teens, like the song I have long said is the greatest rock 'n' roll song ever recorded, Modern Love, by David Bowie

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which came out in 1983, when I was fourteen, 30 years ago, a song I loved and still love, I wondered how many times I could have heard that song in my lifetime.

Could it have been 10,000 times? I wondered, hitting on that number because it is supposed to be the number of hours someone has to do something before they master it, a number which suggests that nobody can ever master anything because that's a lot of hours, 10,000 hours.  If you did nothing but one thing -- play the harmonica, cook

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cook pizza, dance like Christopher Walken in that video a while back, whatever it was you did, to do it for 10,000 hours straight would

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(You may be thinking, Man, it is taking him a long time to write this, but as I write this and listen to the song I am in my office, on a Saturday morning, getting caught up after a busy week, and taking some time out to write this, and I have Mr F and Mr Bunches with me, and periodically I have to stop and help Mr F go get more plastic forks from the office kitchen -- he likes the plastic forks, as they make good tappers -- and then I have to help Mr Bunches with Mega T-Rex,

and so I'm not just writing straight through.  Instead, the song

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has become the soundtrack to the morning, which is kind of what I was hoping for.)

to do something, as I was saying, for 10,000 hours straight would require you to do it for just over 416 days, straight through, no breaks, no sleep, no timeouts to go get forks or anything, so that's clearly impossible because when are you going to eat cheeseburgers?

I wondered, is it possible for me to have heard Modern Love 10,000 times in the thirty years since it was released?

Probably not.

I would have had to have heard Modern Love an average of 333.333 times per day, every day, for 30 years, to have heard it 10,000 times.

An average.  I hate averages, by the way.  Averages are the worst possible way to measure anything.  Everytime I hear someone say "On average" or "the average" I think (I really do) "My god, averages are a dumb way to measure things, so you sound stupid."

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For example, I have listened to the song I Love It an average of 8 times per day since I started this little experiment.

Or, looked at another way, I have listened to I Love It 0.000495 times per day since I was born, and with that, you see how stupid averages are, because those two numbers are vastly different.  Don't use averages. Ever.  Don't say "the average" ever.  Averages are a terrible statistic.  Use medians and modes.  They tell you something.

I would have had to have heard Modern Love 333 times per year, at least, to have heard it 10,000 times in my lifetime.  Nearly once per day.

I decided, then, it was impossible for me to have heard that song, or any song, 10,000 times in my lifetime, because given that I've been alive just a shade over 16,000 days,

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(I'm not even sick of it yet.)

given that I've been alive just a shade over 16,000 days, I would have had to have heard a song about 1.6 times per day over the course of my entire life to have heard any one song 10,000 times.

(On average.)

(That being the only time averages can be used.)

I figured it was impossible that I'd heard any song, even the greatest rock and roll song ever, 1.6 times per day for my life, and so I had never heard a song 10,000 times and then of course you have deduced what happened, because my mind immediately said:

Run that hill.

Which probably needs some explanation.

I live in Madison, Wisconsin.  There is, in Madison, a hill called "Bascom Hill."

which serves as kind of the centerpiece of the University of Wisconsin.  It's a tall hill, and steep, too, and when I first moved to Madison back when I was fit and young, I would go jogging, and when I first mapped out my jogging route, it did not include going up Bascom Hill but then I thought to myself Well, that's wimping out, and so I changed the route to run that hill, and that is how I think of challenges since then (or, well, one way I think of them, as I have others).  When faced with a challenge of any kind, I am apt to think:

Run that hill.

Which sometimes is literal, like when we went on vacation to California and we stayed in Oakland with my father-in-law and there was a steep hill near his house and I went out jogging and deliberately ran up that hill, and sometimes is figurative, as in this current quest, because it is a quest, or sorts -- not everything needs to involve walking or not walking into Mordor, after all -- to listen to a

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to listen to a song 10,000 times.

Run that hill, I thought.

Which is to say, I thought: I should try to listen to a song 10,000 times, and overnight, I decided I would do just that.  I would make a song, some song, the right song, maybe, the soundtrack to my life, essentially:  I would listen to a song 10,000 times or die trying, and with that decided, the only question was which song would I choose, and that decision was not nearly as hard as it might have been because while I kicked around a couple of other song ideas (Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk by The New Pornographers, Common People by William Shatner, Modern Love, among them) I rejected them all, for a couple of reasons.

First, they were all songs I'd heard before, a lot -- innumerable times -- and so I didn't want this quest to be bogged down with questions of whether the prior repetitions would count or would not count, and while that would apply to any song, including I Love It,

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at least I Love It was relatively new and couldn't have been heard more than a (relatively) few times in that span, making those earlier repetitions not as important.

Then, too, there was the fact that most of the songs that popped into my head as candidates for the 10,000 Song were songs that I loved and associated with other things in my mind.  Sweet Talk Sweet Talk is Mr Bunches' favorite song, more or less, unless one counts "Shapes Song," which I don't, because I don't think Shapes Song is of the caliber to last for years, and Common People, among other things, is the song I tend to listen to at the hard part of exercising.

I wanted to choose a song that didn't have any pre-associations with it, and I was still undecided about whether or not I even wanted to buy "I Love It" to have on my iPod, because I put far more thought into whether or not to blow $0.99 on a song than that decision warrants, for reasons that it would take an entire team of psychologists to ferret out, sort through, and use to commit me.

I also didn't want to just pick some song at random, though, or a song I'd never heard before, and I kept coming back to I Love It because that was the song that got me thinking about this in the first place, and part of my view of the universe is that everything happens for a reason, that the universe works like a steampunk clockwork robot created by God...

...if I may be serious for a moment, that is exactly what I believe: That there is a purpose to everything we do and everything that happens to us, a purpose and meaning that we often don't see until after the fact, and, further, that we can consciously affect that purpose by the choices we make, the Universe being a machine we can mold, in part, at least.  It's a complicated philosophy, but if you just remember that nothing is an accident

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if you just remember that nothing is an accident, and that the choices you make have to fit into the Universe, you'll get the gist of it...

...and so the fact that I Love It was what got me thinking about this seemed to me to mark it

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(I stopped writing to talk to someone, and had to explain why I was listening to this song over and over.)

seemed to mark it as the song I should listen to for this quest, and so I decided to just go with what the Universe wants.

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And so I am beginning, today, to try to listen to this song 10,000 times over the course of my life.  I'm just a shade over 44 years old.  The average life expectancy for guys in America today is 78.2 years, so I've got 34 years left, or 12,410 days.  Which means I would have to listen to this song not even one time per day, which means I am way ahead of the game, at this point.

I'm not even sure, yet, what this is supposed to prove, other than that I can do it, and it's relatively easy to try.  If I can stick with it, I have the feeling that at the end I will have accomplished... something?

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We'll see.


PT Dilloway, Grumpy Bulldog said...

I would bet on the under for 10,000 times.

Mega T-Rex looks pretty badass.

Liz said...

The real question is: on what listening will you finally be sick of the song?

Andrew Leon said...

How in the world will you keep track of that?
And, now, I'm wondering how many times I've heard The Joshua Tree and specific songs from The Joshua tree.

I want a dinosaur like that...:(

Briane P said...


I'm thinking that'll happen several times over.


I'm counting. On my phone. It's very scientific.


Mega T-Rex demonstrates where the dinosaurs went wrong: had they actually developed missile technology, they'd never have been beaten by Adam and Eve in that battle.