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The Word “Broken” is Broken

After the recent DDOS attack that launched via the “internet of things,” I read that Anonymous might have been responsible. Turns out they were not, but it did remind me that Anonymous existed, and led me to their web page. The first item on that page was titled “The American Political System is BROKEN,” and to a screed about how the US should get rid of the “two-party system” and change to instant run-off voting. This led me to 3 conclusions: Anonymous is a group with radical means but not a radical agenda; Anonymous does not really understand how instant run-off voting would affect the two-party system; Anonymous, like so many other entities, uses the word “broken” when they do not understand how something works. It is the third item that concerns me most. I’m sure many of us have sat with a child and tried to show them how the toy they believe is broken actually works; I’m sure most of us have been that child. It is this meaning of the word—that is, the wrong one—that pervades the media universe these days. At the very least, people use “broken” to mean “a very complicated problem,” which is another…
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Of course, it might be the Vril Society

I need to get back into the groove of daily writing, I have gotten away from the habit and was working more in spurts, which did produce some good work, but not enough. Writing every day helps mollify the obsession in ways that bursts of creativity cannot, though I should not avoid such bursts, of course, and must ride them wherever they lead. Daily writing also helps me sort my mind differently, since I do not approach the page with a pre-existing idea, project to work on, or even formal structure in mind. It is a bit like doing tai chi or yoga, in that it helps my mind be more supple, and stronger, though I don’t think “mind” is actually the right word here. Suite of ideas? Cognitive flow? Mind will have to do for now. The problem now is that I have too many things to say, they all want to come spilling out at once. So, I will choose one: I have been meaning to go back and read Hofstader’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” for a while, first when Donald Trump used said style to win the Republican nomination for President, and then even more…
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Some housekeeping

I started this blog in 2008, after we moved from Atlanta, GA to Lockport, NY, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. A few months later, my wife challenged me to listen to all the CDs I owned (well, all the store-bought ones, not copies) and post them to the blog, and I seem to have lost track of that divine purpose, though I have been listening away. So, since the last time I posted CDs (July 2014! damn.), I have listened to: 822) Delicious Vinyl: Waxing Off: The First Decade; 823) Pedro the Lion: Control; 824) Bob Dylan: Desire; 825) Harry Nilsson: A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night; 826) Ladytron: Witching Hour; 827) Orb: u.f.orb; 828) Noi Albinoi: Slow Blow; 829) Dillinger: Cocaine; 830) Various: Quiet About It: A Tribute to Jesse Winchester; 831) Executive Slacks: The Complete Recordings; 832) Dntel: Life is Full of Possibilities; 833) Honky Hoppers: Standing Room Only; 834) Kermit Ruffins: Kermit Ruffins; 834) Brian Setzer Orchestra: The Dirty Boogie; 835) Space’n’Bass: Disc 9 and 10; 836) Swap Dogg: Cuffed, Collared, and Tagged/Doing a Party Tonite; 837) Das FX: Dead Serious; 838) Sue Foley: Without a Warning; 839) Howlin’ Wolf:…
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More to thee than the economy

I read an interesting article in Jacobin about how children are increasingly seen as investments, largely because of the increase in income disparity–Erickson article. Jacobin can be a too strident for me at times, but this article (which is a condensation of a book, I believe) really rang true, at least in part because I see the same effect—the corporatization of culture—everywhere. I think sometimes I am overstating the case, seeing everything as a nail because I have a hammer, and then I find others who see the same insidiousness: “The young children of the wealthy are increasingly diverse portfolios of applications to private schools, enrichment classes, play dates, and nanny shares. These little Einsteins go on to attend prestigious high schools and Ivy League colleges. But it starts in preschool. A whole culture has risen around the cultivation of the child into a successful adult, equipped for the global economy. Its language is English plus Spanish or Mandarin; its literature is the mommy blog. Working-class children, on the other hand, are objects of suspicion defined by what is perceived, within the economic superstructure, as a lack — of high-enough test scores, of self-confidence, or the inclination and facility to self-regulate behavior. Childhood is…
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Kindness is Never Small for Tod W. We were all born, for fuck’s sake, and we all saw through that con, but some of us figured the con was all, no way out, only fools thought otherwise, the ones at the other end of the cafeteria with spoons hanging off their noses. I was always enamored of the gallant dancers, aware of the terrible undertow   but just as ready to dance with the shades of Lethe, Maslow’s brood, because they were such willful cowards, did their weeping up in a nice, neat bow and spread their gifts about, always keeping tally, always ready to call in that favor, that time they simulated kindness and you bought it, you ass.   They were not my people, just ones I thought more clever than I. My people could not see around the con, imagine carrying a javelin around and every time you met someone, you had to explain why you carried it. Meeting someone else with a javelin, wow, there was nothing sweeter, and we forgave all kinds of things, and goddamn did they fly, when it came to that.

Surrender, Udaya Kumar

The snow falls, and parts of Buffalo, 30 minutes south, are being buried in 7 feet of snow. We are used to blizzards here, but not blizzards of this violence. The earth is changing, beneath our feet and above our heads, and for all we know, humanity might be the next great extinction. And yet, we lack will, it can never be us, after all, we will never die, that other one will and that one, but not I, the inverse of the solipsistic apocalypse: when I die, the universe dies with me. Or like Kanaka Dasa, we say Nanu Hodare Hodenu (ನಾನು ಹೋದರೆ ಹೋದೇನು). Snow melts, sand blows away, we dig bits of bead and seal from Harappa, while in the south: Let us hope some day fingers like ours might dig our buttons and eyeglasses from the dried mud.

Late epiphany

I’ve been puzzling over the zombie phenomenon for a whole now, not the least because I, too, enjoy a good zombie movie or show or novel (no, Colson Whitehead, yours was not so good, sorry. The Intuitionist, on the other hand…). Why the wave of popularity? Why the associated wave of scifi and fantasy and superhero related fantasy? For a while, I tended toward the anxiety release explanation: a post-apocalyptic world, shoot folks in the head if you don’t like them, no worries about the wrong fork, whatever, as long as it eases contemporary angst. My epiphany, which I’m sure others have had a-plenty, is that zombie narratives are exciting because MODERN LIFE IS BORING. For us, in the first world, and so suburban kids from the first world drift off to join ISIS, and I watch Walking Dead. It’s not so much the anarchic lack of rules that makes these narratives exciting, it’s that our decisions matter in a profoundly meaningful way. Most of my decisions do not matter much. No CDs today, I will grind them out next time, as I start a new, equally pointless archival project. Woohoo!

I forgot…

The Million Song Dataset is an interesting thing: MSDS. Although, witnessing art through data analysis sure seems like it would lead one toward the mean, as is happening in pop music these days, songs structured and run through focus groups, with all the rough edges smoothed out, analyzed to a sheen (never thought I’d agree with Trent Reznor, but there you go). Then again, using the Million Song Dataset, researchers figured out contemporary pop music features “…less variety in pitch transitions, towards a consistent homogenization of the timbral palette, and towards louder and, in the end, potentially poorer volume dynamics.” (Source) So it’s not only less adventurous, but also has worse sound because everyone tries to be louder and louder and louder. And what does Reznor do, to oppose this trend? Bigger and bolder stage show. Whoopee. The audience is in a state of semi-permanent distraction, and if anything, needs music (and other arts) that nurture our need to focus deeply on one thing, not more bombast and flashing lights. And, of course, if it’s too loud you’re too old, bla bla bla. No, it’s volume being used to disguise poor songwriting, factory craft, and an extremely limited set of…
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the critic

I got  review of a CD one of the bands I’m in put out recently, readable here, and what struck me most was the somewhat confused attitude our music provoked in the reviewer. Victory! This quote stuck out: “if I knew what the band wanted me to take serious and what to laugh at, the recording would be a greater success.” I realized that most of the reviews of any artistic endeavor I’ve had subject to critique evoke the same confusion, the “what do I do with this” reaction that validates why I make art in the first place. It’s what I cherish in other artist’s work, and what I tend to critique first in art I find wanting. I don’t mean that I prefer art that is difficult or that one must struggle to understand. That approach is usually as predictable as the most mainstream art (witness: just started reading the Flounder, Gunter Grass, how drab experimentalism for its own sake seems, detached from the historical moment). To make art that eludes easy categorization and produces confused emotional states, yeah, that’s what I like.

Work and play

Because I just made a “to-do” list, and because I’m running an Intro to Games Studies class this semester, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about play, angles of definition, what the opposite of play might be—the quick answer is “work,” but saying work is the opposite of play is “cheap,” as J. Huizenga put it. He also said: “Since the reality of play extends beyond the sphere of human life it cannot have its foundations in any rational nexus, because this would limit it to mankind. The incidence of play is not associated with any particular stage of civilization or view of the universe. Any thinking person can see at a glance that play is a thing on its own, even if his language possesses no general concept to express it. Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.” For Huizenga, play is always voluntary. Work is voluntary, though it might not seem so. We are all free to not work, in the sense of a job that produces income, and in the sense of an avocation as well,…
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