Thursday, 20 December 2012

Keeping Our English: Movie, Book and Music Recommendation Sites and Board Games

8tracks is pretty damn cool
One of the side effects of teaching very basic English is that we have begun to speak “teacher English” even when we are off the clock. Our vocabularies are slipping and our grammar is becoming more and more infused with Japanese-English-isms ("let's enjoy with us"). Perhaps worst of all, we have begun to slip into using American English! Noooooo! We are making a conscious effort to hang
onto our native language by increasing our use of and exposure to English at home. Books, music, movies and board games are all good ways to do this. Word games in particular keep our minds in
English-mode: Taboo, Balderdash, Scattegories and Scrabble are all good. We also recently bought Geek Battle, which has been a lot of fun. You can read a review at Geek Dad.
For movies, books and music we have found some recommendation websites with really interesting systems. My favourite is Criticker, which takes a while to set up but has given me recommendations completely accurate to my taste.* It asks you to rank a bunch of films out of 100 (the more films you rank the better it works). It then creates a compatibility index and matches you to other users who like and dislike the same films as you. It recommends films that these other users with similar taste have rated highly but that you haven’t rated (assuming that you haven’t seen them). It’s like finding your movie soul-mate and having them hand pick the perfect collection for your next movie night. This works so much better for me than systems that try and find similarities between the things you like then recommend other things that share these characteristics. For example, I love the Colbert Report but can’t stand John Stewart. I am sure there are other people who feel the same way, but any mechanised system would have them in the same category and be unable to compute me liking one and not the other. Goodreads seems like a promising way to find new books, but I haven’t had time yet to really explore it. For music I’ve been enjoying 8tracks. We can’t access Pandora in Japan, but even if we could I struggled with it for the reasons outlined above. It had difficulty processing someone who likes Tom Waits, Amon Amath and Laura Jansen. Because 8tracks is a collection of play lists (mix tapes) submitted by users according to whatever theme or mood they chose, these problems disappear. You can search for an artist you like them listen to play lists featuring that artist and see what other artists the user has chosen to include together with him or her. You can search for a mood, a season, weather or a random keyword (“hot tea on a rainy morning” is a surprisingly popular inspiration).
Even if you aren’t an expat trying to cling to your own language and accent, if you just can’t decide what movie to watch or what band you are interested in listening to, try out these great (and free)
You can find me on 8tracks as djinnwired and Criticker as DjinnWired (just for something different).

*Since I wrote that it suggested a movie so terrible I stopped watching half way through… and I sat through Eragon AND Dungeons and Dragons. But it has still given me far more good than bad suggestions.
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  1. Not American English!!!
    I still remember when I came back from just 4 months in Japan and I was speaking in Australian English since I was hanging out with only Aussies ;P

    I've never heard of Criticker, but I'm going to check it out. I like Spotify as well, it lets you create playlists and view others as well, sounds similar to 8tracks.

    Good luck hanging onto your Aussie-ness!


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