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03 December 2005
Cool online discoveries

The holiday/Christmas shopping season is upon us and we're all draining our brains in an effort to come up with thoughtful, personal gift choices to convey our love, affection and admiration for our family and friends on our gift lists. I know I put a lot of pressure on myself to find just the right gift and often worry that I've fallen short of my noble intentions. How can I be sure I've selected a gift capable of conveying such emotional gravity? Maybe I'm putting too much stock in a material thing, but I think that is the ultimate goal nonetheless.

www.musicplasma.comHere's an online music and movie-searching tool that may aid your selections if you've included music and DVDs on your shopping list. Liveplasma is a relatively new online tool that visually 'maps' music and movie preferences. Artists and bands are arranged according to interest and style. A map is generated based on an artist or band that you enter. On the generated map, the size of the colored halo around the band indicates popularity and similar colors indicate similar styles. Relative proximity indicates probablility of listener preference. In the map to the right, I've mapped Gillian Welch. The other greenish halos mark similar styles of music with distance to neighboring halos to show the liklihood that I may also enjoy those musicians. I can confirm that this map nailed my music tastes pretty well, as I have many of these bands in my music collection. This is a fun and mostly accurate way to 'discover' new music that you, or someone on your gift list, might enjoy. Liveplasma's movie mapping works very similarly, though you can flexibly search by movie titles, directors or actors.

www.musicplasma.com/I'd also suggest that you check out Tony G's newly compiled list of obscure, but good movies. Tony, of milkriverblog fame, recently circulated a meme requesting that participants forward their favorite, obscure movies - similar to the book meme that went around awhile back. Tony has posted the complete list of submissions on his blog - and continues to update it. It's quite a compilation, including well over 100 entries submitted by blogger-friends everywhere. The list includes old and new films alike, as well as English language and subtitled foreign flicks. The only 'filter' on the list is that these films are relatively obscure and we are likely to have missed them. Combine the info in Tony's list with the Liveplasma movie mapping site, and you've got no reason not to find a good gift for yourself or others this month. The Sundance Channel's got nothing on Tony's list. Check it out.

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