apropos of the best country albums this year: sam outlaw's angeleno is excellent. now, honestly, i'd rather he had stuck with his actual name, 'morgan', which is also a pretty good country thing (oh how about george morgan and his daughter lorrie). 'outlaw' suggests yet another waylon revival act, of which there are so many i couldn't keep up if i wanted to, and which are often kind of...mechanical. plus we still have all of waylon's actual albums.
anyway, sam's music is not like that: the album is kind of low-key, fairly smooth country. the thing is beautifully produced by ry cooder, with calicountry and tex-mex touches and very fine original songs. sam is, in a laid-back way, a really good country singer. it's a pleasant and improving experience letting the thing play as one putters about the house or drives to target.
i might mention that alan jackson has a new album (angels and alcohol), which is really a fundamental traditional jackson album: not a bluegrass experiment or a set of covers, but a clutch of fine original country songs. it makes a good playlist on shuffle with angeleno.
right, donald trump has got to go. but not because he sort of made nasty cracks about john mccain. his rivals are saying things like 'that disqualifies him for the presidency'. pretty soon we'll be publicly flogging people for failing to refer to all who who have been in the military - timothy mcveigh, e.g. - as "america's heroes." 'i will say what i want to say': that should be a slogan for everyone. we have really reached the maximum of pc pall and the correlative cowardice: you wouldn't think we could have a safer, emptier, more dishonest presidential campaign than the last few, but we are going to. the supernatural power of phonemes and abstract designs (rebel flag) is self-evident to everyone, especially young people. both with your mouth and with your ears: show some fucking guts, little bitches. we'll never address race in this country, e.g. we'll just mutter pablum in unison and intern anyone who says...anything.
you're going to need to generate a list of all the things no one is permitted to say. sadly it's going to require infinitely many of you little monkeys and infinitely many typewriters, because there are infinitely many things we are not permitted to say.
I've been sulking in my cave as I follow the news avoiding anything about Presidential Politics that isn't outright hilarious, so obviously Bobby "Alligator Gar" Jindal and Donald "Singing Bass" Trump and Ted "Hey, I'm an asshole, all right" Cruz are amusing the hell out of me. Unfortunately, the rest of the world sucks.
The Mother Emmanuel killings were horrible, and the relocation of the Confederate Battle Flag to the the Statehouse Museum in Columbia was so overdue that the joy seems as sad as the tears and anger. I was slightly enraged about all the nonsense with the faces on the dollar bills, since I am a fan of Andy "By God" Jackson, the first true Democrat and elected man of the people as opposed to aristocrat who would have handled things a bit differently than Lincoln. Since he threatened to hang his Vice President, John C. Calhoun for sedition with his nonsense about "secession" and "nullification" I suspect he would have been very nasty to the south early on in the secession kerfluffle, resulting in a lot less death and destruction. I also think there's no reason to have the permanent fixtures on the bills anyway...rotate them with bona fide distinguished Americans and heroes who were not politicans; have multiple faces on the bills.Let each new Secretary of the Treasury usher in new placeholders on the Bills.
Then David Brooks wrote some nonsense about removing all the monuments to Confederate heros from the public byways and locations in the South. In a way, Brooks is advocating something a lot more draconian than just moving one flag and possibly changing a couple of others. Of course, his big focus was on Robert E. Lee which was silly. Lee made one ethical error that resulted in the destruction of his beloved Virginia, the loss of his estate, and the death of friends, family members and close associates including more than a few Yankees. It was an ethical judgement that he struggled with; had Joseph Jackson not been seriously wounded and forced to spend a couple of years recovering, Lee had been asked to fill and had agreed to fill a non-combatant job advising Jefferson Davis, whom he disliked, and who was not so fond of him. Lee also refused to be buried in his uniform and famously told his soldiers to go home. He was one of the first of the Southern generals to request that he be granted his citizenship back.
So, Brooks -- the smug, wealthy elitist who writes the same Capitalism is the answer/Globalism is great drivel as Tom Fiedman although less hysterically -- pissed me off. I mused over that article, but before I could get my teeth into it, the Cosby thing blew up. And continued to blow up.
Now, possibly alone in my generation and subsequent ones, I never liked Bill Cosby. His last original stuff was in the first couple of albums, and the rest of his body of work has been jejune and marginal. I never watched the show, and think anyone who goes out of his way to wear some multicolored vomit looking sweater needs help. I had no problem with his diagnosis of many of the problems in the Black community; I did think he was pretty smug about it and very good at blaming victims.
But, I'd never picked him as a serial rapist. Surprise! At the same time, it appears that Kim Fowley whom I've written of recently with a certain amount of respect, raped at least one and possibly more of the members of the Runaways...when they were minors. He wrote in one of his memoirs that he had never "made love" to any of the Runaways. Well, the HuffPo article bears no resemblance to a description of love making...he drugged her, ripped her clothes off and fucked her in front of a room full of people including some of the other members who were so intimidated that they never spoke of it.
Ok, the Kim Fowley I got to know a little and whose Underground Garage Show on SiriusXM that I enjoyed was the guy 40 years later. He was a rock and roll auteur; most of the stuff he produced and did himself was pretty awful dreck and he admits it. The Runaways were probably his greatest success after getting people to light their lighters to show John Lennon how much they loved him as he made his first Plastic Ono Band appearance and I shouldn't forget Alley Opp which was actually his first record and probably his biggest hit.
So, Cosby and Fowley were both reprehensible men. The difference between them is that Cosby held himself to be a role model; Kim Fowley never held himself up as anything except a rock and roll animal. One is a hyprocrite; one far less so. I know which I prefer.
"I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect on humanity."
edgar allan poe
ps. eat me, emerson!
well, i share poe's pessimism on this, but the flat formulation is too strong. human exertion has had and will have many appreciable effects on humanity; think about longevity since poe's time, for example, though of course things can regress too. but what emerson and poe are talking about is human moral perfectibility. here i do not think that we have seen any significant improvement since we clawed like swamp thing up from the primordial ooze; nor do i expect to.
perhaps you are now thinking to yourself: well, perhaps we could work on the genome, or hit singularity, and be much much better than we are right now. what i might note is that the people futzing with the genes or the medications or the information technology will be us. these projects, to whatever extent they are pursued or pursuable, will be pursued by people who themselves are vain and venal, self-deluded, self-seeking, megalomaniacal, obsessive, thick as bricks, and hosts for the imp of the perverse.
say they come to believe that they know what morality consists in and impose it through genomics or software. (1) they'll turn out to have been wrong about the content of morality; (2) the actual implementation of this, as any human system, will benefit some and harm others, and perhaps exponentially increase human hierarchy. i myself regard that hierarchy as central to our evil; (3) implementation will be chaotic, flawed, back-and-forth, cowardly; for god's sake you'll have politicians involved and shit; (4) the unintended consequences will swamp the intended effects, leaving us extinct or at least profoundly puzzled and irritated.
rummaging around in boxes of old files, i came across a number of drafts of my dissertation (finished '89), with richard rorty's marginal comments, as well as a number of typewritten memos detailing his responses. if i am recalling correctly i wrote three complete non-overlapping versions before they acquiesced. (he told my friend josh tonkel [a junior professor at uva at the time] "we better let him defend this one or else he'll just write another"). some highlights, for better and worse:
"As I said in my note about the new chapter 4, there seems no overall coherence to that chapter--but simply a series of jottings not synthesized by an overall plan of argumentation. . . I think you should map out an outline of what the thesis is going to argue, and go over it with me. Try to spell out what your grand plan is, and tell it to me in a perspicuous way."
"When I made a lunch date with you for this Wednesday, I stupidly forgot that I'll be out of town for the last three days of this week. Can we change it to lunch next Wednesday, the 9th? My office at 12:30?"
"You are going to have to write much more patiently and less hectically to get this job done."
"You will need to write up...your own detailed statement about what counts as a language, as representation, as resemblance, and as reference." [yo, no prob!]
"Between now and August ['86], I'd be glad to do some reading in Gombrich, Danto, Wollheim, etc. and discuss their stuff with you, if that would be helpful. I blush to say I still haven't read The transfiguration of the commonplace nor Wollheim's On art and the mind, and it's high time I did."
"This [early version of chap 1] is a convincing and notably well written (despite occasional lapses) presentation of the least common denominator of Dewey, Kallen, Heidegger, Gombrich, Goodman, et al. It's enlightening to have these diverse figures brought together. . . . My feeling is that, assuming you still cling to your project of confuting the pragmatist theory of perception and showing that Gombrich and Goodman are wrong in relativizing everything to contemporary practices, you still have the hard part of the dissertation to write. . . . Come talk to me about how things are going sometime.
well, there is a shitload of this stuff, most of which requires some context to get ahold of. i remember being maddened by the comment (feb 29, 1988), 'I really don't find much to disagree with'. i was trying to destroy his philosophy! but that there was dick rorty. one thing that all this reminds me of: how generous he was with his time and energy, and this at a period where he was taking up his role as a world-bestriding intellectual colossus, always jetting off to debate habermas or whatever.
of course i cherished 'notably well written' (even with the lapses).
i'm disappointed with the new kacey musgraves album. now, pageant material definitely has its strengths. particularly, in a gentle way, kacey shows the continued development of what could end up being one of the great voices in country music history: distinctive, light as air with a hint of power, effortless in the upper register, wonderfully melodic. there are some good songs, though i will say that none of them are as good as the best on same trailer, different park (such as 'dandelion,' 'it is what it is', 'step off', 'merry go round'). the arrangements are interesting and pretty various: good use of strings, e.g.
but i suspect that kacey just got too much positive reinforcement for "follow your arrow" (i tried to dish some out myself): a breakthrough moment in country music, even just for about the first charted affirmation of gayness. now no doubt the thing strayed close to cliche: 'you only live once' and you should just do you. but what a charming melody and sentiment, and what a charming person out there at the country music awards singing it. but you only really get one go at a moment like that. here she follows it up a good five times and more: seriously you just do you, over and over and over.
heavens, "(mind your own) biscuits" sounds like a kacey musgraves parody. when we were listening through the album the first time, my 15-year-old jane said, of "die fun", 'the kacey of two years ago would sneer at that lyric'. (anyway, who dies fun?, and i'm worried a little about the pro-substance-abuse theme at times.) but she sings the darn thing ravishingly.
maybe she a bit misunderstood the strengths of her own songwriting. listen to a song like "blowin' smoke" from trailer: particular lives, particular stories. here she mostly rests content with the most general banalities; the album is didactic, which is not necessarily the main thing you want from a country song. also her melodic sense, which is extremely distinctive, featuring half-step progressions and melancholy minor keys, is beautifully suited to her melancholic stories. but not to another self-esteem anthem or deck of affirmation cards.
but the title cut, for example, is pretty darn good. i could also recommend "fine," "this town", and "family is family." there's a duet with willie nelson (inhabited by his beautiful guitar) on the old willie song "are you sure" (it has the same tune as "ain't it funny how time slips away" and "don't you ever get tired of hurting me"), which begins to show what she might do in a completely trad vein. but also her contemporaneity is pretty unique.
i think people may be tiring of purely symbolic responses to substantive questions. charles blow is still spending all day complaining about what words we use to describe root, in a situation in which literally everyone is competing to condemn him most vociferously, in which the gov is calling for his death, etc. and most of the debate seems to have moved to the confederate battle flag. this is beacuse symbols and signs are more easy to adjust than real objects and attitudes. don't let people like that tell you that they also want to have a substantive conversation about race: all they want is euphemisms: all they want is unconscious racism. then again, obama talked about the word 'nigger' today, and he didn't go all 'n-word' superstitious. i've seen some black commentators here and there rolling their eyes. the symbolic stuff just takes the media down a miserable conetentless road of distraction, quite as though none of them want to do or say anything.
I'd like to think about Rachel Dolezal - the Spokane NAACP official who describes herself as black, though her parents describe her as white - as a transrace person, as Caitlin Jenner is a transgender person. The moral problem with Dolezal might be her seeming dishonesty or misrepresentation of herself, but that's an accusation that one way or another has been hurled at many a transgender person as well.
The idea of someone transitioning from one gender to another or from one race to another both presupposes and throws into question the categories of male and female, and of black and white. All sorts of people - men and women, black people and white people, rightists and leftists - are going to be extremely uncomfortable if gender and racial dualities break down, and a lot would be lost if they did. Then again, many wild and liberating possibilities might open up.
The idea that someone with male anatomy is really a woman deep inside - which is one of the ways transgender identity is being described in this very trans moment - presupposes the reality of the distinction between men and women, and it presupposes that the distinction is a or even the most basic aspect of human identity. It also appears to assume that there are exactly two genders, and that you must be one or the other, on the surface or deep inside. But the fact that people are migrating from one to another, or can be in a transition from one to the other also shows the duality breaking down; the road from one gender to another traverses a spectrum.
If at this moment of acknowledging transgender identity we think that we should take as dispositive people's account of their own identity, use the pronouns they prefer, and listen to and acknowledge as real their experience, why should we not do the same with race? If Rachel Dolezal feels black or declares herself to be black as a matter of deep identity, why shouldn't we extend to her the same sort of respect we do to transgender people?
Indeed, it is - obviously - even less plausible to think of race as a strict duality than to think of gender that way. It is widely held that race is a 'social construction,' the ultimate demonstration of that in the U.S. being that the child of a black person and a white person counts as a black person. Races - if the idea makes sense at all - are entirely liquid, and every combination, every point on the spectrum between races is occupied. People have been passing in one direction or another - transitioning - since there have been races.
Dolezal in many ways shows just how socially constructed the black-white distinction is. A few little signs - a spray tan and a perm, for example - and people will read your race completely differently. She shows how easy it is to do race drag convincingly. And drag - though it might be a deception in some cases - might also express outwardly how someone sees her or himself or wants to see her or himself. It might be more honest than non-drag.
Perhaps precisely because race is so obviously socially articulated and is so obviously a chaotic spectrum, it may need, in order to exist at all, to be enforced even more severely than gender. The outrage that is focused on Dolezal shows this policing in action.
Progressives have learned to respect transgender people, but they are having an extreme problem with transrace (consult the Guardian's opinion page, e.g.). Many aspects of the progressive agenda - affirmative action, for example - presuppose the reality and clarity of racial identities. White liberals can't help uplift the black community if there are really no white or black people, or if the social reality of blackness and whiteness disintegrates. Progressive politics is no less wedded to the reality and rigidity of racial identities than is reactionary racism.
If we lose the distinction between men and women, we lose a lot: rich histories of women's culture and identity feminism, for example. And if we lose the distinction between black and white we lose a lot too: black culture, black nationalism, black arts, and so on. These would be real losses. But as well, of course, these distinctions have been terribly problematic, the scenes of some of the most vicious sorts of oppression that members our species have ever inflicted on one another.
It is hard to know what might happen to us if we lose or wildly multiply racial and gender identities. New oppressions might emerge as old liberation movements die. But in our trans moment, a thousand new possibilities are emerging as well, for each person and for our society. It is an excruciating and beautiful moment, I think.
Crispin Sartwell teaches philosophy at Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA. He is the author of Act Like You Know: African-American Autobiography and White Identity.
the rachel dolezal reverse-passing case is pretty interesting. i see why it's a problem, especially in a situation where one might benefit from affirmative action, or have a job that is partly race-based. but...there just isn't any such thing as race either, right? a fungible social fact. so, why isn't rachel dolezal, for example, trans? maybe she can be the caitlin jenner of race. maybe people's surface doesn't always represent "who they feel like deep inside" etc. now, both in caitlin's and rachel's case, the idea of being something deep inside presupposes the duality. but keep migrating about through genders and races and pretty soon you've thrown the existence and nature of such identites into fundamental chaos, or even made yourself impossible, or problematized the notion of being male or female, black or white, at the surface or deep inside.
if your gender is a matter of how you self-identify, for example, then why not your race? if we should use the pronouns for someone that they declare or prefer (and i think we should), then why not treat people racially on the same sort of grounds? is your problem that people might reap advantages from being black? boy i don't even know where to start on the ironies.
now the sudden explosion of trans identity seems progressive, etc. but then again, many forms and moments of feminism presuppose the essentiality of gender identities. that includes affirmative action, or for example the sheer assertion that women make less money than men, and a million other things. and likewise with race: all the affirmative action and attempts to uplift the black community and black pride and so on presuppose that there is such a thing as race and that it is fundamental to identity. but what happens when - potentially in an apparently progressive way - these categories liquify completely, and all of that becomes impossible? i'd say the political reconfigurations that this entails are completely wild and unpredictable. progressive politics, no less than reactionary politics, presupposes the identities as fundamental realities. watcha gonna do?
one thing i'd predict: people are going to be more comfortable with gender-trans identities than race-trans identities. this is ironic because i'd say race is even more problematic than gender as an objective or biological fact, even more obviously 'socially constructed'. it has been liquid from the get-go, with a million variations, complications, and every possible mix. people have been passing one way or another or enacting the other, or defining themselves or one another as octaroons or whatever since they invented the concepts. but maybe for that very reason, the boundaries require extreme policing.
of course, if racial identities were to dissolve, that could be a terrible problem and a terrible loss. for example - and this would be typical of the history in various ways - it could just sort of mean that everyone gets to be a white person. you can't have black culture in a society with no or thousands of races, and that would be an astonishing cultural loss (i'd not mourn the death of white culture the same way at all, e.g.). on the other hand it might be a wild multiplicitous love-in, an opening up of a milllion now-inconceivable possibilities. race has been a nightmare too, hasn't it?
as you know, i am opposed to generations as explanatory entities, on multiple grounds. i've been in a comment-swap on this on aeon. so, we pretend to treat whole twenty-year-or-whatever cohorts as individuals with personalities. then, we pretend that these pretended individuals have experiences. mattmark, the anti-me in the comments, makes some pretty usual moves: 'we' were 12 when kennedy was shot; we knew hope and aspiration when we landed on the moon, then lost our simple faith in authority with watergate. my view is that this fantasy of identity needs pseudo-experiences because pseudo-persons can't have real experiences. so the pseudo-individual baby boom lost its innocence when kennedy was killed. lord knows how americans had any innocence in 1963, or any faith in authority in 1973. honestly, we didn't. with kennedy, our daddy died. people actually did cry, but it was a pseudo-trauma: a person you never met bit it. you 'knew' him entirely from television, where he inspired you with words written by someone else. it was not a real loss for almost anybody; it's quite like watching king rob bite it on game of thrones. i think what matters in both cases was that he was so pretty. be an actual person with actual connections to actual other people, not part of a giant pseudo-person with quasi-connections to fictional characters.
i think it's fair to say that one thing that irks me in some of these cases is the fact that the state is the actual imaginary individual involved; that is who or what is constructing the narrative by which we become one thing: the story we tell of losing dad when we were twelve, blasting off to the moon together when we were 18, and so on (i was born in 1958, btw, not '50 as in the example). i guess dad was a philandering, pill-popping dad, but you know that's pretty par for the course, and must be what we wanted or something. but actually, i don't like the narrative as the essence of collective identity in any way shape or form. what our generation is is just what the tv special tells, running beatles songs in the background. the times they are a-changin! the story is insanely superficial, but also fundamentally fictional, and i think the music sucks. instead of thinking about the incredible power of stories to be our identity, individual and collective, think about their incredible limitations. it's elisions all the way down, man. and it's so false.
well, that's better than dylan, anyway: more self-aware, more ironic, a little bit funny.
this npr commentary, in which the physicist adam frank does a very old thing - asserts that physics shows that "there are no solid objects" - really shows an endemic problem with science these days: let's go for the flashiest formulation while displaying the fact that reflecting on our own concepts is not exactly our strong suit. no, physics cannot possibly show that there are no solid objects, for that would entail, for example, that a chair can't actually hold up your butt, alright? now, what it shows, instead, is that solidity is surprising. we might say that it shows that what we meant all along by solidity is not exactly what we thought we meant. but it leaves all the objects in the universe with just the solidity they had before. it doesn't show, for example, that you could pass your hand through a tree after all, though that is quite how it sounds. when we found out water was h2O, we found out something about what we had always meant by 'water', for example, not that there is no such thing as water, right? surely you want to think about science as discovering things about this very world, not as showing that there is no this world after all.
i am incredibly tired of all the attempts to create and enforce collective consciousnesses. races, classes, nations are supposed to be historical agents. for example, generations are just ridiculous fictions (as i have often said, across any given population, people reproduce continuously, not all at once every twenty years), but all of these have, let's say, fictional elements: they are ontologically problematic at best. i am even weary of genders and sexual orientations conceived in terms that give them personalities: women think this; men want that; men are from michigan; women are from yonkers, and so on. right and left in politics are becoming collective agents. now, you might think that individualism is tearing us apart, and you might yearn to be as one with somebody or even everybody. but think for just one second about whether thinking of ourselves in terms of races, nations, generations, classes, political parties has united or divided us, whether collective consciousnesses and agencies have created unity or conflict.
i can hardly read dubois and his descendants anymore, for example, because races start doing things and deciding things and have talents and failings and personalities and so on. someone made that shit up, i'm telling you. (in fact, pale people made it up in an ecstasy of self-congratulation.) collective agencies are real to the extent that they are enforced: black people, let's say in 1900, are poor, lazy, ignorant: you might be too if you were enslaved, prohibited from various kinds of employment, excluded from literacy by law, etc. the fiction of the collective agent is made quasi-real by itself; it creates the agencies it then purports to describe. the structures by which genders, etc are enforced or made actual might be a little more subtle, but these are all artifacts of exclusion in one way or another. the french are busy enforcing frenchness, in language, dress, and so on, and then confirming empirically what they invented. it all has the same structure as, say, anti-semitism: 'the jew does this and that; the jew wants money; the jew has no nation. the jew the jew the jew. well, the american thinks that; women need x, y, and z; millennials believe this; the greatest generation was courageous, etc. solidarity and exclusion are the very same thing.
maybe we can't just ditch out of this kind of thinking instantly and entirely. but we can think about it critically every single time it comes up, or try to work our way out of it slowly. because it's liable to be fatal to our species. our species doesn't want that; or actually, our species is pretty murder/suicide-oriented.
here's an encyclopedia-type article on 19th century american anarchism, intended eventually for a 'companion to anarchist philosophy.' i'm proud of this, which i think is a pretty definitive account, reflecting decades of engagement with the topic. there are people i love inordinately in here, like william lloyd garrison, lucretia mott, josiah warren, thoreau/emerson, voltairine de cleyre, emma goldman. one thing i will say: until you get to the very end, with people like goldman and berkman, the left-right spectrum makes no sense of these positions at all.
the fact that i never saw b.b. king is the cause of some regret, and it does have me thinking about the people i am glad to have seen, and also the very best shows i've been present for. i worked as a rock critic for many years for many publications, so i saw a lot, though for other reasons too. alright, i am very grateful that i saw tammy wynette, george jones, waylon jennings, bill monroe, earl scruggs, ralph stanley, charlie louvin, muddy waters, john prine, loretta lynn, buddy guy and junior wells, james cotton.
some of the shows i remember as the very best: as a teenager i went with my dad several times to see the original seldom scene at the red fox inn in bethesda. as i said in how to escape, those shows had brilliant, loose virtuosity, incredible momentum, and ravishing beauty. can't do a whole lot better than that.
i saw the original pretenders and the second version several times: what a great rock band, with a great singer and songwriter at its heart. the other best arena-size shows i saw might have been the stones circa '78 and prince at the meadowlands in the early 2000s with a killer funk band featuring maceo parker. i have some reservations about prince; he can be gimmicky and the repertoire is a mixed bag. but man he just killed. oh also grateful dead/allman brothers at rfk stadium: '74? i did see the dead a number of times; it all really depended on garcia's chemical composition at that moment. anyway, i always thought they were kind of a mediocre country act, but people had religious experiences all around me.
one event that i always remember when i'm remembering is vince gill, alone with a guitar in a little bar in nashville. i think it was a benefit for a local arts organization or something. what an utter master of the guitar, and just a heartrendingly beautiful singer. he was loose, but every single note was exactly right. (also i recommend his 43-cut superset [not a greatest hits] these days.) i saw kim wilson in a similar context. i play blues harp but man that boy about killed me: he did sonny boy, little walter, big walter and everyone and everything else, and there have been few better white blues singers. i saw a very young patty loveless at the warren county, va, fair, before she even hit, though she was already doing 'timber, i'm falling in love', e.g. and she destroyed me on multiple levels. dailey and vincent and iiird tyme out have slayed my ass at bluegrass festivals over the last decade or so.
on several occasions in the 70's i saw bonnie raitt in dc, touring with buddy and junior. man those were fine shows by a fine woman. i went to a soul blues festival in birmingham, al, in maybe '91. i went by myself as my marriage fell apart and felt at once worse and so much better after taking in bobby bland, millie jackson, and clarence carter in an all-black audience. speaking of which, some of the go-go shows in dc in the '70s, with acts like trouble funk and chuck brown, were really unique experiences. i'm sure more will occur!
probably the show i saw that freaked me out the most or changed my sense of music the most was minor threat, ontario theater in dc in '81. not the best show, at all, but the most extreme.
i saw the end of the judge's presentation in the brelo case in cleveland. now, maybe there is a point to the idea that, in a situation where 12 officers are riddling a car with bullets, you can't tell which shot was fatal. i would think that's a good argument for prosecuting them all, actually. but judge john p. o'donnell quite gratuitously exonerated all the officers (though only one was on trial) by the end, saying that they all had an objectively reasonable belief that they were in immediate danger. offhand, that seems ridiculous to me: they were no more in danger than any other firing squad engaging in an execution. then again, it doesn't take much to make cowards feel endangered.
one thing to bear in mind as congress fails to stop universal surveillance: the nsa has their communications. i think that, down the line, senators should plead blackmail: that's a better excuse than not being able to read the constitution they have sworn to uphold, or quite intentionally and globally violating it. no need for explicit arm-twisting; all the intelligence dickheads have to do is blandly raise an eyebrow at a senator, or not even that.
i do not understand what everyone from kerry to the military mouthpieces think they're accomplishing by pretending all day every day that everything is going fine against isis, even as they get their ass kicked again and again. truly, perhaps they are deluding themselves in order to enhance their self-esteem? or perhaps they have taken on board the profound postmodern insight that appearance is everything, that confidence wins the battle, and that the world outside their fluffy little heads is a story that they can win through re-narration. isis prefers munitions. or perhaps they think that acting like they live in a hallucination will win them public support. no, on the contrary, they ought to be painting a dire picture instead of waving off massive defeats as little setbacks. that really might martial some public support if they intend to continue at all. meanwhile, they are degrading and defeating themselves, as well as talking jive all day.
the strategy is entirely incomprehensible: they are sending in iran with air support to re-take ramadi. it's quite as though they are trying to touch off a sunni/shia war to engulf the whole region, which is what is actually happening. i would like to hear what the government of saudi arabia is saying about this, and it would hardly be surprising if the saudis are more or less supporting isis in various ways. they have to read this as part of iranian expansion through the whole region and they have to be working on stopping it. one would think that the saudis are pleased if aqap controls large swathes of yemen, e.g. meanwhile the us is blowing up iran with "war rhetoric" as they also try to negotiate a deal on nukes with them and use their "militias" as the shia ground force to conquer the sunni bits of iraq. there is nothing - really, nothing - in this scenario that could count as a victory. they are fucking themselves from all angles at once (sorry, i've been watching veep), and their strategy is to act like they're enjoying it.
now i realize that it is a difficult situation, presenting no obvious solution. but this is just insane. the goal appears to be total defeat by definition and maximizing total corpses. seriously, what counts as winning? iran de facto taking anbar and killing everyone? their actual strategy is only to yap in a positive mode. but even these people with their pollsters and communications experts are going to be broken, thoroughly and deservedly, by reality.
blurb in new york review of books for plankton, by christian sardet (university of chicago press):
'Wow! Simply splendidly wow! Christian Sardet has found that sweet spot where science meets art. The stunning images are a feast for eyes and the fascinating information is a feast for the mind. This is a book that will gather no dust - it is just too beautiful to put down!"
there's something almost wholesome in america today about the sort of slaughter you get from a war of biker gangs. a battle between cossacks and bandidos at a 'bikini bar' seems relatively comprehensible or traditional, as opposed to just arming up and mowing down schoolchildren or moviegoers for no reason at all.
i want to express my admiration for ian mckewan, who gave the commencement address at dickinson yesterday. he only had one theme: a foursquare defense of free expression, including the right to offend. he directly criticized the people who protested charlie hebdo getting an award from pen. now, my colleagues with some reluctance stood up in their caps and gowns and hoods and applauded when he was done. but i can't imagine that most of them actually would agree with him when push comes to shove. like most academic institutions, we're beset by pc prisses and baby censors of various sorts.
the washpost has this headline on their obit for b.b. king: 'life of a grammy winner'. many people start with that or at least mention it. even the very greatest artists in musical history apparently need validation by little statuettes or committees of record-company executives or whatever. you might as well say he was a great musician because he drove a jeg-you-ar. some grammy winners for best album: billy joel, christopher cross, toto, lionel richie, phil collins, u2, celine dion, arcade fire, mumford and sons. maybe you think b.b. king is legitimized by being in company like that. if so, you really should be prohibited from listening to music. people overall are more interested in meaningless indications of prestige than anything substantive.
I strongly recommend political junkies and philosophy fans take a look at Anat Belitzki's The Stone column in the this morning's New York Times, Making It Explicit in Israel. Excellent piece by an Israeli philosopher about the implications of the stark differences between the incoming government and the way Israel has portrayed its intentions toward the Palestinian community. Not particularly optimistic, except that only by making underlying issues explicit can we begin to deal with them. Perhaps the reason yesterday's solutions do not work is because they never were solutions so much as bromides.
Belitzki is a professor at Quinnipiac University here in the US and at the University of Tel Aviv, and has a record of activism in Israeli civil rights. She references the work of American philosopher Robert Brandom who believes that it is possible to use language to make explicit what is real and implied in our social, cultural and political norms. For example, in Israeli-American dialogue, the two state solution is a given, and we're just discussing means and implementation and guarantees.
Bizetzki says that just isn't true, and that the most recent Israeli election shows that very starkly. She writes:
The government that will be formed this week is the most clearly articulated, narrowest, most right-wing, most religious and most nationalistic government ever assembled in Israel. A combination of the fundamentalist Orthodox clerical parties with the nationalistic chauvinism of the Jewish Home, led by Naftali Bennett who makes no attempt to hide his annexation plans, has been orchestrated by Benjamin Netanyahu in no uncertain terms. Along with Likud, Netanyahu’s home, which is the largest party in Israel today, and Kulanu (All of Us – a breakaway of Likud), this whole bloc is unambiguous in its Jewish, nationalistic agenda. (Emphasis added)
She believes that this explosion of truth into what was basically polite lies and cocktail conversation between Israel's leaders and the world was foreshadowed and made inevitable by the two month long attack on Gaza by the Israeli army in July-August 2014. The implicit issues between the US understanding of the agreed path forward -- Two State Solution, Camp David Accords, etc. -- and what Israel's government intends is pretty well illustrated by the odd mis-translation of the name of the operation. Operation "Tsuk Eitan." was announced to the world as Operation "Protective Edge" which has a somewhat defensive tone; she says that a more accurate translation would be "Firm Cliff" which has a vaguer yet more threatening tone. My use of a Google translator resulted in "A Rock" which opens a wide range of possibilities. Perhaps "Perhaps Operation Masada" or "Operation Stoning" would have been more appropriate.
people act like they are literally forced to vote for, say hillary clinton. when push comes to shove, are you going to vote for hillary or jeb? lesser of two evils, etc. no one else can win. but in this and in some other cases, you really are voting for exactly what purport most to repudiate, for exactly the hierarchy you say is the problem, with a slightly different rhetorical patina that somehow engages your social identity, though with no sincerity.
another thing that's supposedly forced in this system is that candidates - and again hillary is and will be an extremely clear case - have to, really have to, float with the polls, or the polling of the party base in the primary process. i am telling you, none of this is forced at all. or: hillary has no choice but to raise billions; she needs to do whatever she needs to do to accomplish that. people who suddenly found gay marriage when it hit 52% in the polls - oh, barack and hillary, for example - will then pay tribute to the memory of martin luther king, an example of moral courage for us all, etc. but you did not have to be a king to endorse gay marriage in 2008, you just had to not be a complete moral coward. they're ready to march over the edmund pettus bridge now that there's absolutely no risk involved. back then, they'd have been telling you that king was too extreme. they try to put passion in their voices so as to inspire you with the fierce urgency of let me focus-group that.
i think people want to feel forced in order not to make even a mildly hard decision. voting third party is not an excruciating choice with terrifying consequences. really it's not. it obviously is not if you live in a state that is clearly going one way or the other, which is most states. and of course it's a self-fulfilling prophecy that just makes it impossible to effect any significant change through the electoral process at all: it makes democracy nothing, really. and then, the idea that obviously a candidate can't possibly honestly represent their real beliefs places extraordinarily low moral standards on politicians. no, guess what: they can say whatever they like. i think in some cases they might be surprised by a good response to that. but if not, then the worst that happens is you lose the election. that is not an unfaceable personal calamity. it's not like a choice where you're picking who has to die or something. anyone can decide to do that anytime they like, and i hope that you expect better than that from any neighbor, colleague, spouse, etc.
also don't let anyone tell you that a vote for a third party is a vote for the republican (or the democrat). i really did prove that false mathematically long ago. and any way you look at it, a vote for, say, bernie sanders in the democratic primary cannot be a 'wasted vote' any more than a vote for hillary clinton, no matter who wins. indeed, if she's going to win no matter who you vote for, a vote for her is certainly wasted. and really, if you vote for a person whose real positions or whose persona you don't believe or believe in, or in the worst case whose positions or persona you on reflection repudiate, you are certainly wasting your vote.