When Ian died I had just been helping Mark Ohm translate Tristan Garcia's chapter on death in his Form and Object, and what Garcia writes continues to have an awful resonance for me. Garcia notes that the canonical wisdom of philosophers focuses* on how someone should deal with their own death. Plato, Seneca, Lucretius, Camus, and Heidegger are certainly the top five philosophers to have written about death (Boethius writing in the shadow of his own is certainly close), but in each case the normative lessons tell you first and foremost how to deal with the prospect of your own death.***
At least the kind of music to which I regularly listen (excluding classical and opera here) usually falls down on this same thing. We get all sorts of moving meditations on ones own confrontation with mortality. Here's Ralph Stanley ripping it up.
10. "God's Not Dead" was filmed at Louisiana State University; the location generally adds to a movie's unique feel (cf. the criminally underrated Johnny Knoxville/Willie Nelson version of "Dukes of Hazard"). But in spite of the setting, the overall filmic ambiance of the trailer of "God's Not Dead" is in its cheap bombast almost identical to the "Atlas Shrugged" and "Left Behind" movies. The weird conservative variety of emotional tone deafness works at all levels, visual, audio, and with respect to dialogue (e.g. minute 2:11- "Yeah but who are you looking to fail? Me? or God?")
9. The taxpayers of the gret stet of Louisiana almost certainly funded "God's Not Dead" via one of the many boondoggles that account for 7 billion (a full third) of our tax receipts being given directly to private industries (long story about how this 7 billion funnels down to Republican politicians around the country who will deliver primary voters to Bobby Jindal's unsuccessful 2016 Presidential Bid; cf. the tee shirts "My philosophy professor lives in Louisiana and all I got was this stupid presidential run.").
8. Gratuitous appearance of "Duck Dynasty" stars and famed Louisiana theists at second 13 of the trailer!
7. Weird Duck Dynasty theology expressed around seconds 16-18 that if we disown Jesus, Jesus will disown us. If that were true, in what universe would Got still be love? What's going on here?
6. Second 26! Kevin Sorbo! Kevin Sorbo! Kevin Sorbo! (That's Hercules to you and me). This. Changes. Everything.
This is the most beautifully haunting song ever recorded.
The title is from an older gospel song that is about the day Jesus died. I'm also pretty sure that Ry Cooder studied it intensely while preparing the Paris, Texas soundtrack, musical accompaniment to another sad story.
Her satirical imitations of various types of Minnesotans are amazing: her mom, her sister, irritating people she went to high school with, her therapist, the person at the temp firm who saw some of her comedy before her breakdown. And she does imitations of these other people imitating her. Her depiction of what it's like to deal with anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (and especially how other people react) is really new. I think you probably have to go back to Richard Pryor for this level of acted out observational comedy.
For the last decade or so I've been wondering whatever happened to Scott Thurston the keyboardist/guitarist who burst onto the scene in the late 70s, first touring on keyboard and harmonica with Iggy and the Stooges and then Berlin era Iggy Pop (I think he replaced David Bowie on that tour). Check out the 33 second mark on this video. That's Thurston suspiciously wiping his nose (so common gesture among 1970s musicians that one might call it an occupational hazard) before playing the harmonica:
Check out the makeup. What a beautiful man! Glam rock makes me happy to be alive.
There are at least four types of murder ballads depending upon: (1) whether the narrator is the murderer, and (2) whether the murderer or victim is the tragic and/or heroic figure in the song. I realize that (2) sounds perverse, but it really is not give the oppression experienced by the original audiences of so much great folk art. For examples, see all of the myriad versions of Henry Lee, Stagger Lee, Frankie and Johny, and Johnny Hart.
Mance Lipscomb's version of Ella Speed interests me for a few different reasons:
In particular, I'm obsessed with the anxiety of influence in good popular music. This version clearly inspired two other great songs, and is also sui generis in a couple of other ways.
I had it in mind to write something interesting about bands that take politics and organizing seriously, but I'm just too tired - at least locally, and perhaps globally. So I'm going to quote Chris Crass, from his fb post that brought the news to me.
"The greatest anarchist pop/punkie band of all time, Chumbawamba, have ended after 30 years. Their impact has been epic. The CD of their First 2 albums was one of the most important political education experiences of my life. They were working class artists actively involved in organizing and movement building. Thank you Chumbawamba for all you have done. The last song on each album - Invasion and Here's the rest of your life were anthems. "Organize, here's the rest of our lives!""
I'll just add that to have had this effect on someone like Chris - look him up; check out his work! - is worth more in my book than most anything accomplished by most any pop band. And Chris is far from alone in the sentiment.
Translation (by Mark Ohm, with the assistance of Leah Orth, me, and Emily Beck Cogburn) HERE.
The paper is Millière's inaugural piece for the Atelier de métaphysique et d'ontologie contemporaines. Anyone interested in the history of metaphysics and anti-metaphysics in continental philosophy (as well as contemporary accounts of what exactly metaphysics and ontology are) will need to read Millière's canonical discussion.*
It's a very weird sensation when something you helped to translate ends up being much better English language philosophical prose than anything you've ever penned yourself.
[*The whole ATMOC project is a philosophical gem. Millière's piece is the first publication that we've translated as part of our putting up an English language mirror site HERE. This is just the very beginning of an on-going anglo-continental metaphysics collaboration, since ATMOC will start up again next spring when Millière is back from NYU.]
While reading this I've been keeping score of how many of these same problems I confront during my day to day perambulations. I don't know if the score is technically high enough to make me a nerd girl though. . .
It would be nice to be the subject of yet another MC Chris song.
As the case of the Pussy Riot Three suggests, the Russian Orthodox Church seems a bit too eager to call on the Putin regime to silence opponents. [H/T Peter Momtchiloff on Facebook.] To note this is not to deny that these three brave women infringed on the right to peaceful worship.
There must be a natural language containing a word denoting bad people engineering reality so as to get otherwise sensible people to celebrate their own immiseration.
Tonight it occurs to me that if one were writing a dictionary for that langauage, then a picture of Teresa A. Sullivan would show up next to that word:
To the contrary, Sullivan embraced the principles of change demanded by the board that hired her. She oversaw years of no raises and a 2-percent raise pool distributed unevenly. She stonewalled hunger-striking students who wanted economic justice for the numerous on-campus employees of its vendors of outsourced services. She moved immediately upon arrival to implement a version of the responsibility-centered management championed over a decade earlier by her University of Michigan mentor James Duderstadt.
Often described as “every tub on its own bottom,” RCM financial models encourage resource-maximizing, perma-temping, and outsourcing, and strongly tend to over-reward and subsidize already-wealthy units and programs with access to external revenue in the form of grants, while under-acknowledging and poaching the revenue generated by undergraduate teaching.
In short, Sullivan has been a great president–for the Visitors. She is a largely conventional executive with a mostly conventional administrative vision. She was winning the battle that her board wanted waged on campus–and making the faculty like it too.
For the cool-headed among the Visitors, the smart play is easy: rehire Sullivan and calculate that the hoi polloi will retreat from the carnival celebration declaring victory–while continuing in their thralldom.
Full story from Marc Bousquet HERE. All I have to say is feh.
Horrifying story about Wells Fargo HERE. Just a sample:
The Rousseaus hired a lawyer. From the lawyer the Rousseaus learned that the loan they received was not the loan they were promised, including, “the 7.2% interest rate for the … loan was actually higher than the 2006 loan and greater than the 6.8% quoted,” had enormous fees, and the bank had increased the income the Rousseau had stated, from $76,000 to $136,800.
In other words, the lender had scammed them to get those fees, which was a widespread practice at the time.
This continues, with the bank scamming, lying, obfuscating, ignoring, contradicting, even producing signatures it claimed were the Rousseau’s but were not, every step of the way. And, of course, adding late fees to the amount it claimed was due.
In addition to all of this, Wells Fargo messed up their own paperwork and falsely determined that the Rousseau's had missed a payment, and through this mistake were able to successfully charge horrendous fees on the Rousseaus and foreclose on the house.
The first most horrifying thing is that this lead to Mr. Rousseau's suicide, and the third most horrifying thing is how widespread these practices were under the Bush economy. The second most horrifying thing is that there seems to be no chance that the rent-seeking companies who do these kinds of things will be held accountable in any way.
I don't know; I'm still hoping that the good guys will win. . . maybe that's naive.
[Update: Oops, I forgot to give the link that was the original reason I started writing this last night. Check out Ilan Dar-Nimrod on the supposed changing definition of cool HERE. As is clear from my post, I suspect that the research in question is actually a case of what happens at the end of the video at right. I would like to warn current sociologists of cool that it is with grave peril that we forget Lester Bangs' canonical praise of uncool.]
Last week I hit the nerd trifecta.
First, my brother-in-law showed up in town bearing an Atari Jaguar, the company-destroying console that is finding a weird third act resurgence among aficionados.
Then, my friend Neal Hebert once again got us employed as seat warmers for World Wrestling Entertainment. I should explain. In televised wrestling the stationary cameras all point in one direction and the action is choreographed towards those cameras. But because of this it's imperative that the seats on the other side of the ring always be full.
But people get up to go to the bathroom, smoke a cigarette, or stand in line at the concession stand. And sometimes people just leave. So wrestling promotions employ people to hop from empty seat to seat. It's actually a little bit scary because the marks in the audience think you are trying to steal their friend's seat and some portion of them don't believe you when you tell them that you are a WWE employee. Anyhow, this last Smackdown two people with eye level seats never came back from the concession stand, so Skylar and I ended up watching over half the show from the best seats in the arena (during a show which included matches with two of my favorite wrestlers, famed luchador Psichosis and Chicago powerhouse CM Punk). This had the weird result of Skylar and me reliably being blurrily on camera for large stretches. For example, go to the video HERE and pause it at 12:22. That's me just one person up from the right hand bottom of the screen. Skylar and I are not marks. We knew that Kane's pyro was about to boom and that's why we've got our fingers in our ears. Skylar is the bald guy next to me.
If apropos anything, someone asks you what side you are on, it is always felicitous to respond, "truth and beauty."
In this respect, I highly recommend Tim Kreider's NY Times tribute to Ray Bradbury HERE (if you are blocked by the pay-wall, just reset your cookies or "Clear Recent History" in Firefox).
When I read Bradbury's books as a young child I had no idea that the stuff of his nightmares were actually coming to pass. Nor could I have realized the extent to which I would later organize my life around fleeing those very things.
Kreider's conclusion is perfect:
I think of Ray Bradbury’s work often these days. I remember “The Murderer” whenever I ask for directions or make a joke to someone who can’t hear me because of her ear buds, when I see two friends standing back-to-back in a crowd yelling “Where are you?” into their phones, or I’m forced to eavesdrop on somebody prattling on Bluetooth in that sanctum sanctorum, the library. I think of “Fahrenheit 451” every time I see a TV screen in an elevator or a taxi or a gas pump or over a urinal. When the entire hellish engine of the media seemed geared toward the concerted goal of forcing me to know, against my will, about a product called “Lady Gaga,” I thought: Denham’s Dentifrice.
It is thanks to Ray Bradbury that I understand this world I grew into for what it is: a dystopian future. And it is thanks to him that we know how to conduct ourselves in such a world: arm yourself with books. Assassinate your television. Go for walks, and talk with your neighbors. Cherish beauty; defend it with your life. Become a Martian.
Also check out the song at right. Bowie understood Ray Bradbury. For all the suffering it entails, it is still infinitely better to be Martian than caveman.
My friend James Spence used to see Doc Watson in a little bar in Memphis on weekends. For the past several years I've sort of lazily been planning to take the Amtrak up there and wallow in Watson's genius for a few nights, but I put it off for too long.
Anyhow, Watson's Omie Wise (at right) is I think the best, most haunted, murder ballad ever put to wax, possibly equaled only by Son House's Death Letter Blues, Mance Lipscomb's Ella Speed, or Johny Cash's re-invented version of Ella Speed, Delia. Or perhaps Nick Cave's psychotic rendering of Stagger Lee. . .
And Watson had lots of songs like this, where he just set the standard for a whole genre.
A friend and colleague of mine was at Sartre's funeral and can tell really beautiful stories about it. Tonight, I'm completely weirded out that in the United States we do nothing even remotely comparable when laying to rest our own native geniuses.
Nice Slate story HERE on how excessive copyright enforcement killed a whole genre of art.
The rich sonic landscape of Paul's Boutique is produced by layering and repeating of over 300 unique samples. But in 1991 the outcome of Grand Upright Music v. Warner Bros. Records was that it became prohibitively expensive to do this, killing the artform. The Slate article concludes:
Even as hip-hop is more mainstream than ever, one of the key musical innovations has been pushed to the margins. That should serve as a reminder that the battles over intellectual property don’t merely pit the economic interests of creators against would-be freeloading consumers. The existing stock of recorded music is, potentially, a powerful tool in the hands of musicians looking to create new works. But it’s been largely cut off from them—for no good reason. Congress could enact a mandatory licensing scheme in which you pay a modest fixed fee to sample an existing recording for commercial purposes. Or it could create a legislative safe harbor, stipulating that samples under some set length automatically qualify as a fair use. But it won’t, because in the music and movie industries, the only kind of copyright laws Congress is willing to pass are ones that give more power to copyright holders, not less.
From their great album Southern Rock Opera ("Ronnie and Neil", actually a much better song, is after the jump). The narrator could be me, at least with respect to growing up in Bear Bryant era Alabama and having no appreciation for football.
After the jump, a picture of Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zant in a Neil Young T-Shirt (which he wore often in concert) and a picture of Neil Young in a Lynyrd Skynyrd T-Shirt, as well as an embed and lyrics to one of the Truckers' masterpieces, "Ronnie and Neil."