if i were going to speculate on why murder rates fluctuate, and why they're climbing, i would focus primarily on the epidemiology of addiction, which is extremely complex ('multifactorial') and in some ways mysterious. the h is back in town, baby.
I sense that like me, Crispin has been taking a vacation from giving a damn about US presidential politics, but occasionally feels pulled back into it. Certainly, in the progression of American culture, presidential politics, choices and elections have been used to make transitions. Kennedy replaced tired, worn out old Eisenhower with vigah! and such -- in reality, drugged to the gills for back pain, suffering from Addisons and various iterations of venereal disease. Ronald Reagan was going to reform everything after the weakness of Jimmy Carter and then should have been impeached for the Iran Contra deal. And so on -- Barrack Obama was supposed to mark out transition to being a post racial nation, and since then we have gotten to continually play out our dark night of the soul in communities all over the country.
Crispin's more populist work, like cheese it, tend toward an ironic approach which was my first reason for reading his stuff. This piece, which comes at least in part from his piece on the Philosophy of Edgar Allan Poe, contains more than a little of it. Basically, one could contend that Crispin examines the idea of human self-improvement as moral and ethical and compassionate human beings.
It's safe to say he approves that outcome, he just doesn't think it's very likely. I suspect most of us will probably agree, at least in part. As I tell the conspiracy freaks who normally read my stuff, if I'm looking for a reason why somebody did something stupid, I opt first for stupidity and then for the seven deadly sins. Dr, King was hopefully correct about the arc of human history being toward justice, but I'd hedge those bets with one's on sloth, gluttony, greed, lust, hatred, anger and pride.
watcha listenin to, crispy? i'm in a blues phase; been downloading i'm afraid. so let me feature four guys who inhabited the man-and-his-electric-guitar persona which has been so central to blues and rock. really, for many artists, their whole recorded output is a dialogue with a guitar, even a particular guitar: each speaks in turn, expressing the song through call-and-response or contrasting phrases. you sing a measure, play a measure, sing a measure. the guitar is lover, choir, etc.
it would be hard to argue against b.b. king and lucille as the best exemplars of this style, which also encompasses hendrix and stevie ray vaughn. i'm picking out four who i think are specifically are among the very best singers that blues ever produced: lowell fulson, magic sam, otis rush, and freddie king. they all worked in a vein we might call 'shouter', though in somewhat different settings.
lowell fulson worked on the west coast, often with what might be termed a 'jump' band, with a small horn section, doing driving rhythm and blues. i do particularly like the horn charts, and lowell's singing is always intense; often distorting in the mic, as all these guys.
download: the complete chess masters.
magic sam and otis rush were pure mississippi-to-chicago pipeline, rocking the west side through the 60s. sam has a very distinctive guitar style: juicy in a basically non-technical sort of way. but what a very fine blues singer.
download: west side blues and black magic.
otis has just had an amazing career: what a very fine and coherent guitar player, and what a fine blues shouter.
i love the later album ain't enough comin' in, which might be a bit hard to find. there is an endless supply of consistently excellent material; another highlight is mourning in the morning, made with the memphis house band including a young duane allman.
of all the texas guitar heroes, i will take freddie king, not necessarily as a guitar player every single time out, but as an amazing blues singer. (though his instrumentals san-ho-zay and hideaway are classics.)
[that should be 'tore down'.] someone needs to put together a good big freddie package: i can recommend boogie on down: the essential collection and burglar.
one message is: by the time you get to 1960, regional styles are not that pronounced; with some variations as much explained by time as place, these guys all play the same style; no doubt they were all listening to each other's recordings...
i was at the gettysburg bluegrass fest yesterday, seeing people who are to me what the beatles, springsteen, or taylor swift are to others: in particular, doyle lawson and quicksilver were frigging unbelievable. right he played mandolin and sang with the country gentlemen and j.d. crowe and the new south, got mandolin tips from bill monroe, etc. i got a selfie!
doyle focuses to a large extent on gospel, and has featured a number of the greatest bluegrass singers over the years, including russell moore (who appeared yesterday with his band iiird tyme out) and jamie dailey. he's got a relatively new ensemble now, and man the harmonies were as beautiful as anything i have ever heard. (also the dobro player, josh swift, is an astonishing virtuoso.) the new gospel disc open carefully, message inside, is truly excellent, but doesn't seem to be available on itunes.
more or less the current lineup:
with russell moore on lead vocals:
here is about as good a concert film as you will ever see. now, with regard to any style of music you may admire - from rock to high-end jazz or orchestral art music - i want to ask you something. do the very top people in that field play as well as that? do they sing any better? no, they don't. but perhaps they are more...affected.
earlier in the year i did a series of entries on poe'seureka, which was published in 1848 (text of the essay here). i have really basted in it now, and am working toward some sort of illustrated edition with the wonderful artist (and beautiful lover) jane irish. i was saying things like 'reminds me of kierkegaard, but i'm not saying it's comparable to kierkegaard', etc. now, however, i regard the thing with kind of unbounded admiration, which i will express in the following terms.
there is no greater work in philosophy or in natural philosophy, in cosmology or in aesthetics, in the 19th century. i would say there is no more important work, but i don't actually believe that it had any influence, selling just a few copies. (one possibility: it might have leaked into european physics via baudelaire's translation?)
[remark on the text with the image above: it represents a position that poe is ridiculing. there are no degrees of impossibility; something either is or ain't impossible. if it is impossible to imagine a limitless space, and impossible to imagine a limited space, they are exactly equally impossible to imagine. that's not the only spot where he sounds like a slash-and-burn analytic philosopher.]
eureka begins with a methodological essay, in the typically poean form of a letter from the future, found by poe in a corked bottle and dated 2848. in a semi-successful and sort of half-assed satirical way, it attacks rationalism and empiricism, or aristotelian and baconian science, on the grounds that the worst possible idea is to restrict methodologies before you even start your research. and he really attacks the idea that there can be only two roads to truth, or some sort of synthesis of them (as in kant and hegel).
human knowledge - including scientific knowledge - may come through careful observation/experimentation or plodding applications of logical principles to things already known etc. but the real breakthroughs are intuitive, or poetical, or aesthetic, and he quotes kepler among others as saying just that: i guessed these things. (cf einstein: there was little evidence for his biggest ideas when he put them forward: they were confirmed retroactively; they came in flashes of aesthetic/mathematical intuition.)
then he proceeds to blow you away by doing it himself: he gives you extremely clear statements of big-bang-big-crunch cosmology, the cosmological principle, and the multiverse hypothesis. there are possible gropings toward dark matter, the curvature of space, black holes, and many other wild and possibly true notions. now, if anyone else was putting anything like that down in the mid-nineteenth century, i would appreciate someone telling me who it was. (he calls the method intuitive or poetical, but it also included reading all the science and philosophy coming out of europe, and poe read the european languages; the intuitive part comes after absorbing all the available science).
the big bang/expanding universe hypothesis is often attributed to georges lemaitre, in 1927. lemaitre groped much as poe did to name the origin: he used the term 'primeval atom'. poe uses 'primordial Particle'. they conceive it on exactly the same terms. explanations run out for both when it comes to what forces caused this particle, containing all the universe's matter at an excruciatingly dense single point,to explode, but it did: and then matter and perhaps space itself exploded outward in a sphere. eventually the force of this explosion is expended and the dominant gravitational pull for each particle is back toward the center. then the thing crunches at an ever-accelerating rate, etc. after the first event, everything proceeds by regular physical laws. the whole picture is in eureka, i tell you.
that is not to say that everything he says is true or that physicists have come to every single one of his results. for one thing, he does not have sub-atomic particles. but who did? there could be no such things by the definition of 'atom' from the ancients (the smallest indivisible bits). he thinks all atoms are the same, for the universe is the utmost complexity generated by the most simple possible means (it is maximally beautiful in that sense). but perhaps it will turn out that quarks and hadrons etc compose all atoms, or even that they themselves somehow consist of the same sub-sub-atomic particles. also, he thought the universe was contracting rather than expanding at this stage. also his account of planetary formation was wrong, etc.
now, it will be more impressive to you that he anticipated einstein and hawking et al than that he anticipated me, but i have to find the latter impressive too. he should be read as holding that knowledge is merely true belief, deleting the justification condition. he has a relational ontology and an ecstatic vision of all objects as entanglements and of all things as in relation to all things (directly, by gravitational and repulsive physical forces). he centralizes aesthetics in human inquiry, and holds aesthetic properties to be real properties of the universe. (going the other way again, he also gives a clear statement of the coherence theory of truth, which i do reject completely.) (and, to throw in a bit more criticism: the title is unfortunate, and the quality of the writing is a mixed bag; poe's writing is a mixed bag throughout - quite wonderful at times, at others overwrought, clotted, over-elaborate.)
he ends in an ecstatic positive pantheistic vision, reminiscent of emerson, which is extremely surprising, given that he ragged on the transcendentalists mercilessly throughout his career. (the whole is an amazing combination of pointed rationality and epiphanic intuition.) i like this because - honestly - poe was extremely dark, and came by that out of an incredibly difficult life. but it makes me glad too, for that positive vision was almost the last thing he wrote before his death, passed out on the streets of baltimore.
then again, there are many anticipations of the ideas scattered among his writings throughout.
i think we can stick a fork in the donald, thank god. there are people you can insult and be a viable republican presidential candidate; megyn kelly is not among them. the idea that you could deal with women through an overly long life and throw that down is demented: you will get handed your head.
now, how does this comport with my anti-pc stance? well, notice that if other candidates thought like this, we would never know it. he should express who he really is; we are well within our rights to despise it.
I have placed an article that I originally published over at Veterans Today at the Defeatists, considering Norman Mailer in some contexts as well as using it for an allegorical lead-in to a question about a question nobody ever asks -- why the hell are we in Afghanistan? I'd appreciate a few readers of Crispin's and my occasional blithely spirited nonsense taking a look at it and answering the question what the hell they think we're doing there, besides spending blood and treasure and propping up narco-lords and war profiteers. I've gotten some good comments at Vets as well as the usual stuff blaming Kazakian Talmudic Mafia or whatever the hell that is?
If you haven't read any of Mailer, I'd recommend starting with his journalism; if you've read Harlot's Ghost or that bizarre thing he wrote about Ancient Egypt, I really recommend going back to the journalism. Advertisements for Myself, Cannibals and Christians, and The Armies of the Night. He is credited as one of the inventors of New Journalism which seems kind of unfair that he shares credit from Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote. He predated them pretty much, and was at least as fucked up as Thompson. He got in fights, ran for Mayor of New York City with Jimmy Breslin, made auteur-style awful movies staring himself and Rip Thorn, and pontificated about existentialism, art and why he had stabbed his wife. He was very much like Crispin, except Crispin has done none of those things.
If you have thoughts, please post them here, or at The Defeatists or find the article at Vets Today and let me know about them. I intend to consolidate them and publish a summary. So far, the verdict is split between stupidity, cupidity or crime.
alright, quick assessment: that's as good as any political debate i've ever seen. very good night for christie.
i think trump maybe goes down now, though everyone has often been wrong about that so far. he started strong but many questionable moments politically i think. it could even be a bit of a disaster.
carson maybe managed a wash by end, but maybe not.
bush is pitiful. the money is the only thing between him and total collapse.
i thought kasich did well. rubio didn't hurt himself.
walker was a wash-out. he's not going far.
huckabee was one of several who probably didn't do himself a lot of good.
i have already endorsed paul, and sent him some money. he did not come out of his tailspin, sadly. shrill up against christie, who was incredibly combative.
11:05: trump: 'we can't do anything right.'
11:04: jeb: 'because i did it as florida.'
11:01: carson has come on a bit toward the end. best closing statement.
10:51: cruz's story of how his alcoholic dad left his mom, then found jesus, came back to his family and became a pastor is interesting. i hope someone's checked it.
10:46: also christie projects detailed mastery of policy details on several matters, foreign and domestic.
10:39: trump looks kind of ugly tonight. talks kind of ugly too.
10:35: 'meryl streep is volcanic.'
10:32: everyone except paul will be pathetic on race and police violence.
10:30: i think kasich did well on gay marriage.
10:25: jeb: 'we were the first state to have a 'choose life' license plate'. ok then! you've got my vote. how could i not know that?
10:12: trump: 'i have never gone bankrupt.' cf. 'i'm not a witch.' 'i am not a crook.'
10:10 christie, on the other hand, may get a bump. maybe he's winning this thing right now. kind of a commanding presence.
10:02: carson says that hillary as the dem nominee would be 'a [republican] dream come true'. that's right. but i predict carson flatlines coming out of this.
9:59: there isn't enough money in the world to get me to ricki and the flash. i'd be praying for a shooter to take me out. meryl streep was amazing as sea biscuit, though. she really nailed the accent.
9:53: carson's biblical tax plan is insane. one problem: in his telling, it identifies the state with god. the government should have your tithe because god said 10% to me, supposedly. but really, run the numbers on a 10% flat tax. extremely regressive, obviously: that's one problem.
9:52: huckabee: the problem is that we've got a wall-street-to-washington nexus of power. true and that is the card to play. it's also basically why inequality increases under both parties. putting it mildly, it wiould increase under clinton.
9:50: that was beautiful on how trump got hillary to his wedding.
9:48: as much as anything, they want to take paul out. he's got to turn that around but is not showing that well so far.
9:47: damn i wish carson was foursquare against torture. after all, he's not a member of the american psychological association, i believe.
9:42: cruz 'we will not defeat radical islamic terrorism until we have a president who's willing to utter the words 'radical islamic terrorism'. people of al sorts really believe in the supernatural power of phraseology. it's all about the right incantation, not what you do militarily etc. they need to come to carson. he's getting gypped.
9:40: yipes, christie is ferociously confronting paul on surveillance. christie is hard to deal with, man. born to prosecute.
9:35: the obsession with immigration is out of all proportion to its actual size as a problem. now, what does that say about this party and the mood of its supporters?
9:26: mr. trump, tear down this wall. the hallucinatory quality - for example, the birtherism, as well as the flat assertion that the gov of mexico is sending criminals - is disqualifying. and the stuff does consistently have a . . . racial element. he might mutate into a fascisty demagogue, complete with cult of personality. i do love the fact that he started by ragging on pc; i feel like that liberated everyone to speak their minds a bit.
9:22: but i'm telling you, this is an impressive group. whether you disagree with them is irrelevant to that question, right? i say the least impressive are bush and walker.
9:13: donald really does kick ass. so does megyn kelly.
9:11: 'in florida they called me jeb, because i deserved it.' really, no one deserves that. he is a tub of goo.
9:10 not all these people are as good as carson and rubio.
9:08 as i said before, fox will be much more confrontational in this context than anyone else could be.
9:05 oh rand is giving donald a slapdown.
8:59 they seem to be saying that fiorina won the first heat. i didn't see it that way.
8:55 also megyn kelly can be extremely good.
6:15: they're optimistic about america! i am just so fucking inspired.
6:08 fiorina would 'repeal every single thing that obama has done'. as they try to top each other, it just gets ridiculous. [note: i do my best to give quotes verbatim, but i'm rendering what i just heard as best i can.] lindsey graham's parents are still dead. dead, i tell you.
6:05 on the planned parenthood question, graham managed to say he would send troops into iraq and syria. that is all he has, i guess, but he is losing simply by answering every question on everything else with irrelevant war-mongering.
5:50 in a question on iran, perry just offered fiorina the state department. other than that he made no sense whatever. fiorina: 'iran is at the heart of most of the evil things that are happening in the middle east'. that is absurd, considering that we are allied with iran and assad against isis. surely most of the world's islamic terrorism is sunni, but all these people want to vaguely indicate that it all originates in iran.
5:42 i do think santorum is the best on this stage. after graham completely failed to address a question on benefits programs such as food stamps (earning exasperation from the moderator, martha macallum), santorum went at it directly. whatever the quality of his proposals, at least he has some.
5:20 extremely pointed questioning in the game before the game. e.g. to pataki on isis: 'would you increase surveillance on mosques, given that conservatives are more and more concerned with religious liberty?'this might surprise you if you don't watch much fox. but in a way their conservative slant authorizes them not to go extremely carefully; their own cred is not at stake as it would even be on cnn. chris wallace, who moderates tonight, is about as sharp and confrontational as such a person can be. i actually have no idea what his politics are, even after watching him all these years. i do know that you better be ready if he's interviewing you.
alright, alright, i'm watching the candidate forum from st. anselm college on c-span.
first wave of cuts: perry, fiorina, jindal. pataki is a non-starter. graham will go out early too. this could be a worse group, though. much better than last time round. i'd cut bush too - he's a miserable candidate - but he has more money than mugabe.
8:57 wait, bush now totally rejects common core etc in the strongest possible terms? bowl of oatmeal. 'my dad's the greatest man alive, and if you don't think so, let's go outside.' he's the least scary bar-fighter who ever existed. let's send him outside with christie. let me say this: your father is not the greatest man alive.
8:45 as i guess some people are saying, kasich is a sleeper: quite impressive in his rumpled way; pretty thoughtful; very comfortable in his own skin. interesting and maybe fundamental religious commitments? potentially, the christianity of some of these folks at some moments could be used for moral decency rather then puritanical judgment. that's a whole wing of tempered conservativism. cf. michael gerson. hope kasich is on the stage thursday.
8:37 carly fiorina is sort of running against wall street. that plays anywhere. even clinton, wall street's serving girl, will pull up the rhetoric.
8:35 at least graham is a bit funny. he really thinks his parents' deaths when he was 22 should be brought up again and again, though. i guess maybe he wants us to vote for him out of pity for his trauma from 40 years ago? it's 'humanizing'. what a motley crew the parents of the candidates are; they keep getting gratuitously brought up. it's 'humanizing'.
8:30 jindal "has the band-width to get us through this." what the f?
8:27 yo, rick perry: get off my television. come back if you ever master subject-verb agreement or learn how to form plurals, etc.
8:25 on the other hand, i don't see walker playing long-term. i could be wrong there.
8:20 carson really is remarkably good. relaxed and confident and and sincere and he doesn't sound like everyone else. he seems human, which you wouldn't think would be that impressive. here, it is. i'd expect him to do surprisingly well here and there.
8:16 rubio, doing that scare-monger thing of which graham is the most extreme example: 'we are in the most dangerous era in our entire history.' seriously.
8:15 cruz 'will make 2016 a referendum on obamacare'. no, that moment is over. it's not going to play. it's done.
2nd round: paul doing well on a basic definition of his positions: constitution, individual and state's rights, and modified isolationism. criminal justice reform, etc. he's been an effective advocate for these positions, if you ask me.
8:07 rubio comes off as well as (or, better than) anyone. he's calm, seems actually to be thinking as he's speaking (also a property of rand paul), seems sincere and relatively knowedgeable. that's the nominee, i predict. back to immigration, of course.
8:00 tell you what: ted cruz will kick your ass. looking forward to seeing him in an actualesque debate on thursday. he's worried about iran's money going to 'jihadists'. i don't think he's got the right people on that, really. he's an iran obsessive these days. 'the greatest personal crisis you have faced'? 'serving in the united states senate'. well, that's a flub.
7:55 rand has been struggling the last month or two. doing ok, but maybe a bit deer-in-the-headlights at the outset. he's still obviously the best candidate in either party on civil liberties, nsa, etc. he said we made a terrible mistake with japanese-americans during ww2, and we need to 'individualize responsibility' instead of vilifying groups. who else in this field is going to come up with stuff like that?
7:50 ack! it's pataki! better and more substantive talker than some, though. this is a pretty miserable format; it just insists that you produce again your best three empty soundbites.
7:45 walker: "i was an eagle scout." that is totally disqualifying, i believe.
7:41 jindal has decided on the relentless hyper-partisan demonize-the-democrats approach. that's how he's going to unite america, he says. he blames democrats squarely for the partisanship, the classic meta-partisan approach. i don't think this, or he, is going to play this year, for either party. michael tomasky will retire.
7:36 not feeling fiorina: not responsive, just giving her boilerplate speech. very nervous, i think. ok, maybe picking up some momentum. ready to rip hillary up of course. benghazi: hillary 'stood over the bodies of the fallen'. what is that supposed to mean?
7:32 jeb bush on the war on terror: 'it must be reinvigorated; this is a war of civilizations'. christ. he was hinting that this civil liberties thing has gone too far. really he's promising another george w disaster. in the words of the indian chief: guantanamo!
7:27 ben carson, in a gentle way, is extremely compelling: principled, sincere, thoughtful even when extreme, whatever you may think of his positions. obviously he has some cred on healthcare. now, he describes planned parenthood as 'depraved' and committing 'atrocity'.
7:25 christie is always impressive, always formidable. bridgegate put paid, though. very clear: 'the war on drugs is a failure. addiction can happen to anyone. there but for the grace of god go i.' the last bit surprised me.
7:20 lindsey graham just said that under obama 'terrorist organizations have gained a greater capacity to distract the homeland'. good point. if he's elected, we'll be at war with everyone all the time.
7:15 with like two questions to each candidate, it's immigration immigration immigration. i think there really is a racist element.
7:10 santorum, on the other hand, is always pretty articulate and always a little better than you expect. i'm not sure why the candidates, and apparently the voters, are obsessed with immigration. i just don't see it as a problem compared to many others.
7:06 rick perry really is a dolt; there's just no blinking it. unable to respond to the questions except with semi-relevant material from his stump speech. many small incoherences, grammatically ill-formed sentences, etc.
on 'morning joe' this morning, josh earnest basically endorsed biden on behalf of the white house, without even bothering to pay hillary lip service. that will tell you how the obama/clinton relationship actually went.
also, i take this as an indication that he is indeed running. now, people say that hillary has the donors sewed up, but obama's operation can still raise money, i'd bet.
allow me to enthuse qualifiedly about ashley monroe's the blade. when the next great country singer arrives - and i think she has - she's not going to sound like dolly, loretta, emmylou, or tammy: she's going to sound like herself. but she will be a traditionalist, or else 'next great country singer' makes no sense. ashley is all that, and i would listen to her sing anything with anyone. she's supple, high-end, effortlessly in the main line of the trad with every breath. perfect country timing.
i guess i think she needs better writing, though. the songs on the blade are a mixed bag. a few are very strong, including the title cut. i'm not sure that any is as good as the best on like arose ("weed instead of roses," the title cut, "two weeks late," "you ain't porter" etc; also, where is the loretta-ish feminist wildness and wit embodied in those songs??).well, i said the same thing about the new kacey musgraves. maybe i'm just in a mood or something. but i do think the melodies are overly generic ("dixie"), and the lyrics struggle to distinguish themselves (as on "has anybody ever told you," "mayflowers," "the weight of the load").
the first single shows both the strengths and the weaknesses, i think:
this is better:
no one could sing that song any better than that.
her look is too processed right now for my taste, and the look kind of corresponds to the sound. this much glamor is unnecessary. she was more charming like this, i believe:
on the other hand, here, from my very own neck of the woods, is an approach to the rebel flag that i can respect. (also it shows our rural industriousness: we do our flag burnings at the convenience store at 5:30 am, cause that's when we coffee up and start working.) people really do fly that sucker around here. of course, we're just a few miles from gettysburg, where the army of northern virginia found its waterloo, and real buffs might have a series of union and rebel flags out on the porch, welcoming the flood of july re-enactors). but that's not really why most who people fly it do so.
the other day i was in the target parking lot in hanover when the guy loading groceries into his truck next to me - featuring several rebel flag stickers - walked over and said 'my wife and mother-and-law [who were sitting in the cab] say i'm a racist because i fly the rebel flag. what do you think?' (possibly, he was encouraged by my 'don't tread on me' front license plate.) he was also wearing a stars-and-bars ballcap. well, i say i don't know you at all, man, but they do, and i have a feeling they might have a point.
i think, as i may have remarked, that a bowl of oatmeal could beat hillary clinton. and, were they both to get nominated - despite the fact that no one has any reason to vote for either - the bowl of oatmeal named jeb bush will beat her. i definitely think biden could (also, and more severely, marco rubio could). i say again there's a 50/50 chance that hillary gets destroyed by scandal before she reaches the convention. unca joe has his drawbacks, however. not as bad as hillary's, though.
so i'd ask you this, progressive people: do you want to compromise all your beliefs in pursuit of victory and lose anyway? because that's how you're polling right now. let mitt romney be a lesson to you. here's what she and huma etc are saying this morning: oh no! people want 'authenticity', 'passion', etc. we don't have the foggiest notion of what that can even mean, but ok: how do we simulate those things? we should focus-group on that.
what the control-the-symbols approach to racial healing has accomplished here is more or less what it always accomplishes: it transforms the repressed symbol into a supernatural weapon. people really do think that you could assault people at a distance, perhaps hundreds of people at once, just by waving some rag around. that is, you've given your enemies super-powers.
i'm still puzzled by cnn's incredibly heavy coverage of malaysia airlines 370, built still on such thin info. but i still like the enrich-and-ditch d.b. cooper scenario, and i still would like to know whether there was anything or anyone extremely valuable on that flight, and whether the pilots knew about it.
continuing with the thing below, there have been cases in which novels had some sort of practical effect. apparently goethe's sorrows of werther caused a little suicide outbreak among romantic-era boys. it's often said that uncle tom's cabin increased abolitionist sentiment in the northern us. other than that....
as to the world-shaping cultural centrality of poetry: think about that for just a second. maybe you had a case with virgil or dante, not with the 17 people who read poetry right now.
after a few such cases, the thing consists of vague yet implausible quasi-assertion: novels remake the human personality. novels invented empathy. now, if you think so, i want you to try to square up and notice that the human personality is hard as hell to remake. it cannot be done by laying in bed with a book, even if you seem to yourself to have been profoundly moved and come to some new insights. say you've read a hundred really fine novels in your reading life. i guess your personality's been reforged a hundred times. funny, but you seem more or less just the same as you did last year. i'm telling you that these claims are ridiculous, and a realistic assessment and defense of literature would be much more valuable than a raft of hyperjive, and much less discrediting to its proponents.
the greatest literary novels of the twentieth century had a small, ephemeral effect on a tiny percentage of the population. ulysses remade nothing and no one, except the world of upper-end novel writing and publishing. why you want to pretend otherwise, and why people nod along as you do: really i have no idea. try to say what's true because issuing these giant gaseous clouds of hooey discredits your rationality, self-examination, and claim to be in contact with reality.
i'd say the same about the crazed shit people used to say about painting: oh, "picasso remade the visible world". not. at. all. you might squint funny coming out of the picasso blockbuster; but that's all over by the time you get to the wine bar. maybe these crazed claims are strategies to increase funding. maybe they're intended to get billionaires to make grants, by making what is happening in the arts venue seem superincredibly important, indeed making it seem like god. i love paintings. i go to museums and look at them. and the visible world ticks on just as it did before. that's not under my control, or matisse's, or even all of ours together. the way the world looks is the world's doing.
as to the idea that fiction is the repository of cultural memory, or its essence or something: think about what you just said, ok? because that means our cultural memory is fictional. i'm not saying our 'cultural memory' is not fictional, but of course then its not memory at all, but fantasy. plus the novel is not to a significant extent even the source of our memorious fantasies. but it's still a good thing to write and read good novels, alright? just not the thing you appear to think it is.
writing is a craft. it can produce well-made or interesting objects. it can be an absorbing process, important or central to the life of the writer, pleasurable or challenging to readers. that is enough, right? because that's all you get.
people really need to think about the globally transformative power of literature and suchlike. it would be nice to have a realistic assessment of such things, rather than a bunch of obviously false hyperbolic catch-phrases. in particular, people are extremely nostalgic now for modernism, which could be anything from yeats and joyce to allen ginsberg and picasso and de kooning and bob dylan. it is a territory infested by superduper stupendous geniuses, and one vaguely misremembers about it that in it half-cracked egomaniacs remade the entire universe. or maybe everyone's just nostalgic for that moment when they were 17 and some poem mattered.
an excruciating example of all this is an essay by joyce carol oates in the august 13 new york review of books titled "inspiration and obsession in life and literature". it's a very pretentious and yet half-assed journey through plato and wittgenstein, with plenty of yeats and updike and virginia woolf. that the whole thing is pseudo is nailed by the the end bit, which is a compressed little collage of cliches. her readers can be expected to nod along and think that finally someone's saying what they've been thinking; that just shows you the sad decline of the average aging dinner-party where the guests are quasi-intellectuals.
Without the stillness, thoughtfulness, and depths of art, we would have no shared culture - no collective memory. As if [sic?] memory were destroyed in the human brain, our identities corrode, and we "were" no one - we become merely a shifting succession of impressions attached to no fixed source. As it is, in contemporary society, where so much concentration is focused on social media, insatiable in its fleeting interests, the "stillness and thoughtfulness" of a more permanent art seems threatened. As human beings we crave "meaning" - which only art can provide; but social media provide no meaning, only this succession of fleeting impressions whose underlying principle may simply be to urge us to consume products.
The motive for metaphor, then, is a motive for survival as a species, as a culture, and as individuals.
that is, instagram is the apocalypse. lord knows how or why social media is incompatible with art (i'd say it demonstrably is not), making it impossible to write poetry or paint. perhaps it is itself a set of mediums for art. if you think facebook is incompatible with our survival as a species, as a culture, and as individuals, i think you've lost your marbles, if any. also, what a wretched bit of writing that is.
and if you think the modernist novel is a fundamental source of human memory or meaning, you have very little acquaintance with our species. relax and let the girls take their selfies or whatever. there are a number of threats to human survival (oh, the state, nuclear weapons, capitalism, perhaps climate change). that we haven't produced the next updike (if indeed we haven't) is not among them.
i say this to people all the time: your entertainments, and even your most moving experiences, do not have to be the meaning of everyone's life. even if the human species could survive perfectly well without the modernist novel, or indeed the novel, that does not show that a good novel is not a good thing. what you yourself do doesn't actually have to be the most important or the only important thing to be a valid activity, etc. also, read over what you write or think over what you say, and try to be sure it isn't just obviously false, even if your friends nod along.
if i said what she said, but i said it about philosophy, you might get suspicious that my lament had a certain self-serving quality. but what she says about lit is no more plausible - or in some cases it would be considerably less plausible - than saying the same about the discipline of history, or economics, or psychology, or for that matter seamstressing, or farming, or transportation, or trade, or statecraft, or religion, or residential construction, or etc etc etc. none of these are the only important thing, or the singularly most important thing, and though we lived for millennia without the novel, it's been a long time since we've gotten by without farming.
taking the thing where it goes after that: we are no more (and, to be fair, no less) the story-telling animal than we are the animal that calculates or emits polemics or navigates or plays games.
as people age, they often get disaffected by their grandbabies' culture and crank up the jeremiads and prophecies of doom, based perhaps on no real acquaintance with the alleged horrors being lamented. don't let that be you. the culture has never not been in a disastrous decline toward the end.
another privilege of age (along with gaining the right and responsibility to judge everyone) is that you've seen many moral panics and apocalyptic rants and can do some inductive reasoning: oh, this one's going to be okish too. television was the end of all things good and decent and artistic. so were comic books, for that matter, rock 'n roll, hip hop etc. we came out of them sucking no more or less than always.
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.