I’m working my way through Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget, a gaggle of essays and blog length bits oriented around the idea that much of the internet, thanks to things like Facebook and Twitter and other “web 2.0” applications (including, importantly, the whole idea of cloud computing) has become an exercise in groupthink. I’m very inclined to agree, even as I type these words into a textbox made by WordPress… but I’m not sure the software is so much the point, except in as much as the way software is written encourages us to think and shape our personalities in reductive, fragmented ways (which also sounds about right). Social networking sites should allow for more individual expression, certainly, but the software is too brittle, from UNIX on, to encourage anything but conformity, which in turn encourages more conformity. I think that is the thrust of his opening arguments, but the book is written in fragments too, which almost seems like one of those parlor game lit theory ideas from the 1970’s and 80’s, Derrida “resisting” meaning through intentionally avoiding meaning, jumbling up the text as a means for resisting the “linear”–but I just think that’s how Lanier organizes things, like a programmer would, into modules of meaning. Perhaps I will know better when I’m done, and the book requires careful reading, lest you sound like this dolt , who makes the old “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” argument and sounds like a preening teen on American Bandstand. In fact, Agger (the dolt) actually helps prove Lanier’s point by reflexively, and with little depth, attacking any critique of the “hive mind” romantic and undemocratic. Decisions made by a mass of anonymous folks are NOT democratic decisions. Gary Kasparov commented in a recent article that more and more, chess masters are playing the way a computer would play, because they are trained by computers, but who wants to watch 2 computers play chess? Or, have a computer program that describes the outcome of a baseball game, rather than actually watching the game… or that makes music, or any one of the manifold human activities that are interesting because of how they deviate from the norm, not because of how the hive anoints them.

237) Animal Collective: Strawberry Jam

Interesting enough noises and production stuff, but not much to the songwriting, and no soul that I can see, not even digital soul… not sure what the hype is about, except that people confuse production values with song quality quite a bit (see: movies that are CGI experiments).

238) Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus

Also some great production here, but production meant to emphasize a great set of songs, interesting, dynamic, challenging songs, rather than production being an end to itself. Try playing “Hiding All the Way” at your local bar during happy hour, you will be much loved.

239) Minutemen: Double Nickles on the Dime

Still pretty stunning, twenty years and hundreds of listens later. If you are a musician and don’t dig this, you need to go back to school.

240) N.E.R.D: Fly Or Die

And again, production as the key to the kingdom… 2 or 3 good songs, and a lot of wallpaper. Wallpaper is fine, I just don’t want to stare it for long peroids of time.

1 thought on “Systemization”

  1. Ah, crap, now I’ll have to go back and listen to it again. Luckily, the internet allows me to do so in 5 minutes, at least with N.E.R.D…. ok, yes I do think that it’s not a great song, but not a bad song either; that’s what I meant by “wallpaper,” and also i was trying to reference Immanuel Kant, who spent a whole lot of time talking about looking at patterns in wallpaper as a way to interact with art and decide what one likes. I absolutely understand associating the lyrics of a given song to a scene from one’s life, and since it’s a song, the way the melody makes it even more poignant. But I’m listening from a different place, and the double time parts, for example, sound like a bunch of guys in the studio trying to figure out how to make this song sound less like the one before it, rather than thinking about how the change added to the meaning of the song (or not). And the lyrics, while well done, are not earth shattering, far more people talk about having to deal drugs than actually deal drugs, it’s a motif that hasn’t got much left to it… I am disappointed in Pharell, so far, he’s made some good stuff, and a whole lot of crap he could’ve made in his sleep, and I think that’s cause part of the mindset of pop stars these days is that they are pushing product, like rolling out a new car or burritos at McDs. What if Pharell went out in the woods with a laptop, a crate of batteries, and tried to work out his version of Mercy Mercy Me, if he really challenged himself as an artist, rather than as a businessman who sells art. But, then again, when a song becomes something special in someone’s life, or a book or a painting or a movie, then it becomes more than the artist ever intended. Sometimes, though, the artist can really push the envelope and make this moment happen, instead of just floating their work out on the radio and seeing if anything catches on….

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