Monday, November 29, 2010

What's On My Loop Today

Just got to Radiohead's In Rainbows. It's growing on me, especially this song.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Social Media As Narcissistic Utopia

[Marshall McLuhan] argued that Narcissus was in love not with himself but "with a technological extension of himself" and that electronic media may permit one to have the contact with one's own image - to manipulate it and change it - that was denied to Narcissus. Is this narcissism really a utopia?

Kevin E. Korsyn, Decentering Music: A Critique of Contemporary Musical Research

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Intellectual's Voice

Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming controversial; you need the approval of a boss or an authority figure; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced, objective, moderate; your hope is to be asked back, to consult, to be on a board or prestigious committee, and so, to remain within the responsible mainstream; someday you hope to get an honorary degree, a big prize, perhaps even an ambassadorship. For an intellectual these habits of mind are corrupting par excellence. If anything can denature, neutralise and finally kill a passionate intellectual life, it is these considerations, internalised and so to speak in the driver's seat.

And finally a word about the mode of intellectual intervention. One doesn't climb a mountain or pulpit and declaim from the heights. Obviously, you want to speak your piece where it can be heard best; and also you want it represented in such a way as to affiliate with an ongoing and actual process, for instance, the cause of peace and justice.

Yes, the intellectual's voice is lonely, but it has resonance only because it associates itself freely with the reality of a movement, the aspirations of a people, the common pursuit of a shared ideal.

Edward Said - The Reith Lectures: Speaking Truth To Power

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Cultural Theory of Information Exchange

The theory, as formulated by Eve E. Sweetser in "The Definition of Lie: An Examination of the Folk Models Underlying a Semantic Prototype," in Cultural Models in Language and Thought consists of three relatively straightforward propositions:

  1. Try to help (do no harm). This rule is combined with the belief that knowledge is helpful and that misinformation is harmful (which leads to the next rule).

  2. Give knowledge (do not misinform). Sweetser argues that what counts as knowledge, in everyday terms, is what we believe. All things being equal, we assume that what we believe matches some state of affairs or possible state of affairs: we take what we believe to be true, to count as knowledge. Using this understanding of knowledge together with (1) and (2), we arrive at the final rule.

  3. Say what you believe (do not say what you do not believe). If what we believe counts as knowledge, and if we wish to be helpful, we must give knowledge.


Zbikowski, Lawrence M.. Conceptualizing Music: Cognitive Structure, Theory, and Analysis. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002: p. 226.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Training Americans to Submit to the Security State

Last week, California resident John Tyner was harassed by Transportation Security Administration officers after he refused to submit to the new body scanning and groping searches at the San Diego International Airport.

On Monday, the TSA announced that it was investigating Tyner to determine whether to impose $11,000 in fines on him. John Cole observed that "this isn’t a punishment for Tyner, it is a message to everyone else." Jane Hamsher argues that "whether Tyner is prosecuted or not, people will hear about what happened to him and think twice before refusing to become fodder for their new machines." She has launched an online petition to investigate the TSA.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Got Balls?

Apparently, some Americans feel the need to attach fake plastic balls (most likely made in China) to the rear of their cars. I wonder if that could be a sign of insecurity. Regardless, it is definitely something we don't need.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The New Left and the Counterculture of the 1960s

And excerpt from Chris Hedges' Death of the Liberal Class:
Protest in the 1960s found its ideological roots in the disengagement championed earlier by Beats such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Borroughs. It was a movement that, while it incorporated a healthy dose of disrespect for authority, focused again on self-indulgent schemes for inner peace and fulfillment. The use of hallucinogenic drug, advocated by Timothy Leary in books such as the Politics of Extasy, and the rise of occultism that popularized Transcendental Meditation, theosophy, the Hare Krishna branch of Hinduism, and renewed interest in Zen Buddhism and study of I Ching, were trends that would have dismayed the Wobblies or the militants in the old Communist Party. The countercolture of the 1960s, like the commodity culture, lured adherents inward. It set up the self up as the primary center of concern. It, too, offered affirmative, therapeutic remedies to social problems that embraced vague, undefined, and utopian campaigns to remake society. There was no political vision. Herman Hesse's Siddhartha, with its narrator's search for enlightenment, became emblematic of the moral hollowness of the New Left.

These movements, and the counterculture celebrities that led them, such as the Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman, sought and catered to the stage set for them by the television camera. Protest and court trials became street theater. Dissent became another media spectacle. Anti-war protesters in Berkley switched from singing "Solidarity Forever" to "Yellow Submarine." The civil-rights movement, which was rooted in the moral and religious imperatives of justice and self-sacrifice, what Dwight Macdonald called nonhistorical values, was largely eclipsed by the self-centeredness of the New Left, especially after the assassination of Malcom X in 1967 and Martin Luther King Jr. a year later. And once the Vietnam War ended, once middle-class men no longer had to go to war, the movement disintegrated. The political and moral void within the counterculture of the Bohemians or the Beats, was always in tune with the commercial culture. It shared commercial culture's hedonism, love of spectacle, and preoccupation with the self.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"No Ethnic Cleansing Without Poetry"

In an interview with Riz Khan of Al Jazeera, philosopher and author of Living in the End Times Slavoj Žižek makes an interesting point about the role art and poetry play in providing people with an ethnic national myth which, in turn, gives people the perverse strength to kill other people.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bonaire in November

My favorite picture from this trip.