January 2, 1998


Numbers lie. Numbers cover over complicated feelings and ambiguous situations. In this week's show, stories of people trying to use numbers to describe things that should not be quantified.


When she began working as a temp secretary in San Francisco, learning the computers, wasting time, Andrea put together a graph with Microsoft Excel. Its title: My Love Life: A Ten Year Span. It made her feel good. Seeing it all in hard numbers was so much less painful than remembering the actual people she'd been involved with. Numbers are easier to take. (4 minutes)
Act Two

Paint By Numbers

Alex Melamid and Vitaly Komar hired a polling firm to investigate what people want to see in paintings. Then, using the data, they painted what people want. It turned out to be a landscape, with a mountain and a lake, and deer, and a family, and George Washington. Then they applied these techniques to music with composer David Soldier. They surveyed audiences about what kind of instruments and topics they liked most in their songs. Then they produced one song based on what people most want to hear — and one song based on what they hate the most. The one people hate includes bagpipes, children singing, lyrics about holidays and religion, wild volume and tempo changes. If you'd like a copy of the songs featured in this segment, visit Melamid and Komar's website. You can buy both the Most Wanted and Most Unwanted Songs directly from them. (11 minutes)
Act Three

When Days Are Numbered

Jerry Davidson has been keeping a list of everything he's done since 1955 when he was ten years old. What makes it on the lists is very odd, and what isn't included is most of his feelings. His nephew Adam investigates, hoping to understand him better through these lists. He doesn't get very far. (11 minutes)