Monday, May 31, 2004
(1:53 AM) | Robb Schuneman:
The Real Truth About It Is No One Gets it RightA few posts back, Adam Robinson described himself as being on the middle rung of philosophy. If that is the middle rung, I must be somewhere amongst the dung heap. I mean..if I'm taking a class, where the prof invites questions and hits main points, I can be a leader in that class, and lead discussion of certain books. But, even given that, I can't escape tutelage, which is probably, or probably should be, the ultimate goal of the educational system.I need that person telling me which parts to pay attention too..or what this and that inside reference is. Who know, maybe, as the very cool head of the poli. sci department at YouCock has said, cojones are the most important tool of philosophy. To just step out and assume you understand what MOTHER FREAKING Plato was saying seems crazy to me, but is somehow necessary. Still, I feel like those Amazon Listmania! Lists where they're like "The Republic is a pretty good beginner, even if Socrates whole criticism of Cephalus' idea of justice was so waaaaay totally off man!" I mean..what? This is freaking Plato..and you're an undergrad at like, East Wisconsin University? You're right..you totally grasp him well enough to casually brush aside his work. Anyways, I'm attempting to gain some philosophical confidence, as I think it's probably necessary to think you understand something before you can really understand it.
Yet, it's crazy how one can go from glancing over words without understanding, to suddenly having a light turned on. Really. I started reading Slavoj Zizek's "The Ticklish Subject" like..2 months ago. At the time Mr. Kotsko advised me to just keep reading and feel no mercy for the stuff that made no sense, rather than, as I was, re-reading pages some 15 times. This made good sense, but eventually i couldn't take it. After reading 50 pages and then realizing I couldn't tell anyone any main points, I decided to start over. I got to about page 30 before I had to quit for a while. So, I read 6 novels in 6 weeks, and now feel back to a point to do philosophy of this sort, though maybe only at a 15 pages a night pace. Which is pretty daunting, considering I watched Kotsko sit on Adam Smith's sucky-cushioned wrap around couch and devour this book within 3 days of receiving it in the mail.
Still, I'm not Adam Kotsko, and I don't have the background he did before reading it. And, really, I sort of enjoy the fact that it took me a while to "get" the language of the book, to where now, I think I'm actually understanding it. It's like how you could simply get online and get a map to get through that part in Zelda: Ocarina Of Time where you have to switch boots 760 times to get through the Water Temple and be done within the hour..or you can spend months throwing controllers and cursing and hating everything around you, being in terrible moods all day because of stupid games and wishing you could die rather than see those stupid iron boots again..but finally defeat it on your own and be euphoric for at least as long as it took you to beat it.
There's something about finally reading a page, and then being able to think "MAN! Heidegger REALLY IS only right about Kant's 'retreat from the abyss of imagination' in so far as Kant is in effect trying to ground imagination in a system of Rational Ideas whose status is noumenal! FOR SERIOUS DUDE!" that is really satisfying, and worth the cursing and headaches that came along with the first weeks spent trying to get familliar enough with the language to understand what's being said.
I like the CD Change post because it allows me to take up space with stuff that otherwise wouldn't be worthy of blog-space under the guise of a pre-cursor to the musical talk. I think this is actually from 3 weeks ago, and I did the one from 2 weeks ago last time. Once we get through these 6, though, there is only last week and this week to go. Then, finally, all will be caught up, and maybe I can get into a routine for the first time in my life.
The Blood Brothers - Burn Piano Island, Burn
I made fun of The Blood Brothers a month and a half ago. Jordan, Johnny, Cody, Mark, Morgan - I apologize, fellas. The thing is..I'd only heard your album once at that time..and then I heard from MTV News or somewhere that you were produced by the guy who did Slipknot and Linkin Park..and I just sort of assumed. I didn't know you had such a history..I didn't know you were skinny white guys not trying to be anything but skinny white guys. I just saw the crazy screaming and associated it instantly with that mound of suck that takes up all the "rock" show hours on MTV2. But then, you got into my car. Then, in spinning Billy Ocean around, you got out of my car, and into my dreams. Hey - Hey - You - You..and all that.
The thing about the Blood Brothers is that every single instrument seems to be playing it's own song. Heck, even the dual screamers seem to be on different pages. And it is chaos. It's ridiculous, yet at the same time there's some sort of brilliant organization to it all. And..there's at least one moment in each song where somehow it all comes together and leaves you in awe wondering "where did that come from?" and it's all the more great for the chaos that spawned it. I still can't call this a favorite CD, as it's still somewhat out of my style range..but in certain moods, on certain days, it's a CD I can love. Even if all the kids who pimp The Blood Brothers pimp them for the wrong reasons, I have to say that the band seems to be doing it for the right ones. I can handle screaming..I just can't handle it when the band obviously sits down before hand and goes, "You know..it'd probably add a lot to the emotion of the song if you could sort of scream this part where you're singing about the pain of losing that girl, and stuff. Or at least like..sort of half-sing/half scream?" This is Creed-esque. This is Saliva-esque. This is an evening at the feelies in a Brave New Suck. Basically, I take any attempt at manufacturing emotions when even the singer doesn't feel them as a bit of a slap in the face.
By contrast, The blood Brothers just scream a lot out of habit, or because they can't really sing well and still want to be a band, because they grew up listening to hardcore, or because it just seems to fit the music amazingly better than singing. Any or all of these may be the real reason, I'm not sure, but it's truth that somehow the spazzy music would suck without the spazzy vocals, but together, they're quite good.
So, it's for stuff like this that I put "questionable" stuff in my car for closer listening. For every 10 Glennwoods or otherwise troublesome CDs I have to put up with for a week, it's worth it all to find out I was wrong about another band.
Songs: Ohia - Magnolia Electric Co.
Jason Molina is the man. This is gospel, and everyone knows this by now. Somehow Songs:Ohia seems to perfectly walk the line between country and rock..without becoming Country-Rock or alt. Country. There's not a hint of Cracker or Wilco here really, yet they undeniably draw from the same roots. However, I think this album shows that it's the vocals of Molina himself that make this possible. He seems to feel no need to throw in a country twang, or any other concessions to make even more obvious that he's borrowing some from country tradition. Yet, there is a little bit there, but it'd be there no matter what, even if he were a hardcore singer..it's just how he sings. And I like that - just because you're taking certain instrumentation and riffs from an established style doesn't mean you have to go out of your way to make sure people know this. It's obvious enough as it is.
What made me come to this revelation was the two guest vocal tracks on this cd. Both are very traditional country singers. Lawrence Peters sings on "Old Black Hen"..and he might win a Twang-off with anyone on CMT. And that's cool, but the songs sort of sucks due precisely to the vocals. Laying it on so thick just destroys whatever it is that works here.
On the next track, "Peoria Lunch Box Blues", Scoutt Niblett is on vocals. From what I can tell, she's brittish and a bit like PJ Harvey. The people seem to like this song a lot, but I think that's just because Scoutt has indie cred. galore from being on Secretly Canadian Records with Songs:Ohia...cause..I hate this song. Something about it just drives me through the ground. And it could be perfect if Molina had just ponied up and done the vocals himself.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that the way he sings ties it all together, like that rug in The Big Lebowski. Some people call him a knock off of Neil Young, but if I were to get drunk and mope, this would be the kind of music I'd get drunk and mope too. Instead, I just mope to it, which isn't nearly as fun.
Elvis Costello - Mighty Like A Rose
Remember when I ridiculed that guy on Amazon who supposes he can criticize Plato? Well, I'm about to go to hell, as I, with no recordings under my belt, except MC Mirror & Tinsel's ever upcoming album, now tentatively titled "The Circumstances Of Human Communication Made This Argument". am about to critique freakin' Elvis Costello, man.
There seems to be two schools - those who like the earlier 'poppy' Elvis Costello, and those who like the later, 'serious songwriter' Elvis Costello. Like many times before, i've flunked out. Yeah, I think I hate Elvis Costello, but I'm working on it. Admittedly, this is widely regarded as his worst album, so maybe this isn't fair to say. But, I haven't heard much else, even on the Greatest Hits CD I own, to convince me otherwise, even after repeated listenings. Like with Slanted & Enchanted, I seem to have missed whatever it is the world's going crazy about. Don't get me wrong - Elvis has his place. There aren't really any bad songs. In fact, in making a mix tape, I think adding an Elvis Costello song is almost essential to the flow. And I could take any single song, and enjoy it. The trouble comes when 10-20 of these songs are bunched back to back.
It's not the Everclear trouble..where you suddenly realize that they're playing the EXACT same song at a different tempo with different fills (seriously..listen to Santa Monica followed instantly by I Will Buy You A Garden..), the songs aren't really even similar. But somehow, it's like Elvis is reusing the same tricks. The same vocal stylings over and over..or something. It's really hard to explain, but I can't take more than 2-3 songs back to back. It's just that what's cute, or cool, or musically great the first time, somehow loses it's splendor that second and third time, even if it's done in a totally different way. This may be a problem with me personally, and I'll work to correct it if possible, but I'm starting to think..yeesh, can I say this?..Elvis Costello, one of the Godfathers of so-called "Punk" music, is OVER RATED (clap clap clap-clap-clap). At least the comments section should take off. If anyone can help me define whatever my problem is here, or show me how to get past it so I can feel good about myself again, it'd be highly appreciated. Thanks.
The Beatles - Anthology 3 (Disc 1)
The Beatles. The White Album/Abbey Road era Beatles. What am I gonna say here? Seriously. That this much greatness could come out of one group still astounds me, as much as we gloss over it because it's been said so many times before. I heard a guy actually call the Beatles overrated once. What the heck?
I guess all I really noticed from this "demos" cd was that John seemed to have his songs a lot more together before entering the studio for refinement than Paul did. At least, with Paul's songs, most of those defining riffs are missing, and the tempo just seems all wrong, but that's probably just because I like the old versions too much to be objective. John seems to pretty much have everything, and then just adds a few layers for the final versions.
I'm not really sure what that says about the greatest writing duo to ever live..but, it makes me look with scorn on that time back a few years when McCartney was trying to claim he wrote all the songs, and John just tagged along. It also makes me want to believe that song John wrote after the breakup where he said all Paul ever did was Yesterday..Not to side totally with John..but from these demos at least, it seems much more likely that John added more to Paul's songs than Paul added to John. Either way..still..haters step off, the Beatles are great, and just because we all know it doesn't make it any less true.
Camerata Academica des Salzburger Mozarteums f. Geza Anda - Mozart: Piano Concertos 13, 15 & 17
Yay for Mozart! Yay! Yay! It's really good, and pretty, and yay! for classical. Gosh..I wish I knew more about this stuff. 8 small paragraphs about it shouldn't be enough for me to run out of anything to say about freaking Wolfgang Amadeus. But, really, after tapping out with that Magical Piano reference last time..I got nothin. Has anyone seen that movie though? It was really good. I'm thinking possible UWC joint-viewing? Not really..but, have we ever thought of talking about a movie on the UWC? is that as stupid as it sounds to me?
Bela Fleck & The Flecktones - Perpetual Motion
I thought the idea of classical music re-cast from a folk/Bela perspective wouldn't work. Either it'd sound to similar, or too distinctly like folk music where you couldn't tell where it'd come from anyway. In a bit of a running gag - I was wrong again. Somehow the two meet in a very pretty way and show that the greatness of classical music can stretch across any instrumentation..so take that all you nay-sayers who claim that only works done with the original instrumentation are worth your while. Bela just took your preconceived notions and stuffed them up his own rear, not as a pleasure device, or a plug, but merely as the most convenient mixing point for the amazing stuff he craps out on a daily basis to coheed and cambriate with. And so, though you think it may smell or be too messy to be of any worth, it actually manages to be beautiful and odorless - as the product that went in was pure natural goodness, and thus what came out was the same. And, using this natural outtake, Bela fertilizes the flower bed of Righteousness (in the Bill & Ted sense), and sprouts little flowers of great, good, and totally tubular.
Is that..I mean..does that even still count as analogy when it just gets that messed up? I hope so.
In summary: This week wasn't that thrilling. It was great music, but not widely of the type that can span a great deal of conversation, a lot of cliche discs, what with Bela, Mozart and The Beatles. Elvis Costello would have been another one if I weren't such a wanker. Last week's (which is the next one to go) was probably one of the best weeks in a while, so I look forward to writing that tomorrow. If nothing else, maybe I've given you some stuff to read, and given Adam free reign to post some of that stuff I'm sure he's been archiving the past few days without feeling that he's posting to frequently. Which he isn't. And any who think he is, I despise you for keeping me from great stuff to read while wasting time, or seeking to further my education. Nyah!
Nyah, Nyah, Nyah!
Saturday, May 29, 2004
(9:09 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
My Response to the Manifesto
Orcinus has posted a tentative manifesto on the bastardization of the media. I think it is worth reading, but there are several fundamental flaws:
- It is clearly the document of a partisan Democrat, and as such it attributes to Clinton a degree of foreknowledge that is simply implausible.
- It misidentifies the problem with the media -- it's not that the media is too "conservative [e.g. Republican]." The problem is that the media is too corporate. All problems in this regard will not be solved by the election of a Democrat, since Clinton and the Democrats share the blame for the bastardization of the media.
That said, I highly recommend Robb's CD-change post and hope he follows through on his promise to deliver several such posts in rapid succession. (I wasn't going to post at all today, but this manifesto thing seemed to me to demand comment.)
Friday, May 28, 2004
(7:29 PM) | Robb Schuneman:
I've Done A Terrible Thing..It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you..without a dope beat to step to.
I apologize to all. I've got no excuse - I've done nothing. Well, see...I got the network adaptor for my PS2. I'm climbing the ladder in Madden online..as well as MVP Baseball...and NBA Live..and Rugby 2004..and NHL 2004..yeah..I own them all..how terribly redundant is that? But, I should have at least done the CD posts, really. Just pathetic. So, here we are: It is TIME to do the missing 2 weeks, and then we'll do this week in a seperate post.
Before we start though, I feel I should mention my cousin Michael. Mike and I are really close, as he came from a bad situation before my aunt adopted him (from her daughter), so I guess I'm a bit of a male figure to him. He has the craziest and most diverse imagination. When we play, we don't play cops and robbers. We play international spies stalking the evil goat who kidnapped all the yodelers in the world because their noise was ruining his ears! It's ridiculous the things he comes up with. Especially when he gets biblical - then it's just hillarious. Once he gave this long diatribe about putting lamb's blood upon our lentil...I was impressed. Sometimes he asks me to play Jesus, and I get super powers, and that's great. Ridiculously smart and funny kid. He also always calls me "The Dude" or "dude", so I get to laugh at unspoken Big Lebowski references in my head the whole time too..
But, see..this once he was complaining about how the food at a restaraunt was no good. So I told him he should open his own restaraunt if he felt that way. From this, came the elaborate plans that serve as the mental blueprint for.."Michael & Dude's Cafe".
Originally it was supposed to be "Michael's Cafe", and I was to be the cook. But then, one day, when the topic came up he started screaming that I would burn his soufflets! So I was removed from the head chef position, and given part ownership. He passed this old warehouse over by his school one day, and saw a for sale sign for the house in front of it. He figured the sign was for the warehouse. He decided it was the perfect place, and began telling everyone that he'd one day have Michael & Dude's Cafe at 15th & Bryant. We will have a stage, but, in an effort to appease Nan, my aunt, he has decided that we will only play Christian music, except for his favorite song "YMCA", which..I think is pretty much Christian music anyway. There IS going to be dancing though..he took a stand on that one. Needless to say, he takes it very seriously. I have never seen a 7 year old so bent towards entrepreneurship - and this has been going at least since he was 6..maybe 5.
But, the other day he was in school, and having trouble with the math requirement. Eventually, he threw down his pencil and books in frustration. When the teacher came over, he said "I don't understand why I have to do this STUPID math! Me and Dude are going to own Michael & Dude's cafe! I DON'T NEED STUPID MATH!"
Amen to that. I love this kid. Seriously.
Also - the guy at my local Music Wherehouse, the manager who looked like the stupid guy from STAIND but was extremely knowledgable, and helpful, and reccomended many awesome bands to me, The Postal Service and The Kings of Convenience amongst them - has disappeared. He has been replaced by this big black guy with an "indie rock god" attitude. The guy seems cool enough, except that he doesn't really seem helpful, doesn't say "ahhh NICE!" when I buy cool CDs (which..I stupidly loved, dangit) and I've noticed the ratio of cool cds ordered to Guns N' Roses Best Hits and similar stuff, has gone way down. Also, every time I don't find a CD, and I go to ask if they have any in the back, he's all like "It's not out yet" and I have to be like "Oh really? I could have sworn.." so that he'll look it up and see that "oh..yeah..the new Pedro the Lion album is out. I just forgot to order any, sorry."
I also think one of the two hot women quit. =_-(
All this to say..I guess I'll have to endure the scenesters at one of the independent record stores downtown. But, I swear, if I hear 2 more people ask "do you have the 180 gram yellow-colored vinyl of this?" in that "i don't really want to know, I just want to impress you" voice..I will have to shoot someone. Only YOU can prevent Indie Scenester Death!
Finally - with Brian Wilson AND The Pixies AND Mission of Burma all back in full functioning form, has the world ever been more primed for a reunification of all mankind? Seriously..3 things that were supposed to never happen again - can the music scene set the stage for the world as a whole?
Onward HO-OOOOOOOOOO! (that should be read as if HACKSAW Jim Duggan said it, tough guy).
The Bumblebeez - White Printz EP
The Bumblebeez are great. I saw their video on MTV2 the other night - whatever that means. They also just came off a tour with N.E.R.D. which..is perhaps not as great. But..before that they toured with Radiohead. And NEXT they tour on the tightly reformed LOLLAPALOOZA:
Have you all heard about the new Lollapalooza? No more old sucky bands. No more new sucky "NU-CORE" bands. It is indie all the way. Check these names: The Flaming Lips, Wilco, Michael Franti, Morrissey, Sonic Youth, PJ Harvey, Modest Mouse, Le Tigre, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Von Bondies, Broken Social Scene, The Walkmen, Wolf Eyes, Danger Mouse, The Bumblebeez, The String Cheese Incident, The Pixies, Basement Jaxx, Gomez, The Polyphonic Spree, TV On The Radio, The Thrills, The Fire Theft, Elbow, Wheat. And those are just the GOOD bands! INCREDIBLE. That's 25 of my top 30 bands I'd like to see in concert, ALL IN 2 DAYS (depending on the date, of course). So crazy. I will be ashamed if every member of the University Without Condition with inclinations toward this sort of music doesn't go. Disappointed for your soul.
The Bumblebeez are interesting. And I like it a lot. The band all plays different riffs or whatever and jam for a while, then one of the guys takes it all, cuts it all up, and distributes it throughout 3-5 minutes to create a song. This sounds a lot less structured than it is. Had I not read that, I might not have known they didn't do a normal songwriting gig. However, once I heard that, it made it all the cooler, as you caught stuff he must have just thrown in. It also results in great..um..well..it's sort of rap. I wish Rap-Rock hadn't been comandeered by Fred Durst and Suckers, as that'd be a good word for this stuff. Basically..it's almost indie rock, with all the goodness that entails, and then the guy sort of mumbles through an amplifier over top. This sounds much less appealing than it actually is. Amazingly catchy. It's almost a much more slowed down, laid back SSION, but..even in it's reserved state, it maintains the craziness that makes SSION great. I realize that Adam Robinson may be the only one that helps, as he may be the only other person with internet access to have heard the minor treat of SSION, but if we each one reach one...
Now take your candle, and go light your world, Robinson.
I once saw Twila Paris at Gaither-Fest with Orpheus Choir of Olivet Nazarene University. She had the microphone upside down for the first like..30 seconds, before she finally figured out what was wrong. She even tapped the WRONG END and looked questioningly at the sound guy trying to find out what was wrong. I cried with the pain of laughter.
Camerata Academica des Salzburger Mozarteums f. Geza Anda - Mozart: Piano Concertos 24, 25 & 5.
During the second movement of the third piece, Geza all played a wrong note! For real dawg! And I laughed at him, the great Geza "the lady pleaza" Anda and his magical piano. He probably had a deal like the boy with the magic piano in that old cartoon movie..where the piano all plays the songs for him, until the boy became ungrateful and thought himself the thackity-whackity of all things music, so the magic piano quit playing for him right when he went to CARNEGIE HALL! Anyone else see that movie?
Thursday - War All The Time
I'm not sure how long Thursday's been around, and I'm in no mood for research. But I know I've seen the patches on cool kid's backpacks for many a long year now. And I know they're the height of EMO/SCREAMO or whatever, along with Thrice and a few others. They are the lords of that genre. Which is why I expected them to be much further along. The album, were it released in a vacuum, is not bad. But, dude, The Juliana Theory was doing exactly this back 5 years ago when I was in HIGH SCHOOL! AND - they did it better. I have no problem with derivative music - heck, The Strokes would be in my top 20 bands easily. But, it needs to be one of two things:
1.) A harken back to a style or attitude or genre that seems to have been misplaced within modern music today.
2.) It takes what it derives from and casts it in an entirely new light.
This style you attempt to bring back must be one that still remains with a lot of potential for stretching and redefining either because modern means have enabled us to take different approaches not possible before, or because the style was unduly cut off because of the advent of something stupid. (IE..the slacker rock the Strokes go back to was cut off by the HAIR ROCK craze). If you start out at 1, you should definitely be moving to 2 by your third album at least, otherwise you risk becoming a mere gimick band, but hopefully others will have picked up from where you started and brought new nuances to the genre you called back. Any genre call-back is inevitably flooded with sound alikes at first, but this is okay, as hopefully at least 1 or 2 of these bands can then go on to do something interesting with the basis.
BUT - when you're re-calling EMO, a style that just got off the tongues of like..Kurt Loder and that really stupid MTV News guy Sway, you had better start at 2. And, if you are hailed as the champion of your genre, I expect a heck of a lot more, especially this far in. Okay, Juliana Theory sort of went astray with their last album - but we don't need someone to re-do what they did right, we need someone to take what they did right and progress it further. And I'm sure there's a lot of bands Juliana Theory ripped off who actually deserve the credit I'm giving them, but, again, I don't feel like researching something like Emo.
The fact remains that this is a listenable album though, if somewhat extremely forced sounding at times. But, given the preceding diatribe's reasons, I really can't give this a passing grade. Sorry Thursday. Sorry kid with Thursday concert Tee.
Fono - goesaroundcomesaround
I remember once hailing Fono as the saviors of Christian Rock, and I think they should have been, except they were released on small time, mostly repackaging old Altar Boys and Choir albums, KMG Records. So, instead they sort of wallowed around. The thing is, if I'm remembering right, they were somewhat big in England before coming over here, at least on the radio type big, which may have put them no more in the Brittist public consciousness than the Marvelous 3 were in ours, but still The Marvelous 3 made a lot more money than 99% of Christian bands.
So, I guess I find it strange that this band which was even picked up for secular distribution at one time, is now pretty much playing local shows around San Diego. I figured they'd broken up, as 90% of Christian bands do, after one album because THE STUPID LABELS SIGNED THEM TOO QUICKLY AND TOO SHORTLY INTO THEIR CAREER! (sorry, but this is a major flaw that is at the root of the predominately sucky Christian music scene, and it irks me. "Hey..this band didn't suck when I saw them open for Petra! They've been together a few months and played 20 shows..we should sign them and give them a big budget and national tour!")
The difference is that Fono is actually mostly good. And certainly good considering their surrounding on your typical Family Bookstore shelf. But, for every bit where they really sound awesome, they then start sounding a bit goo-goo dollish. But, on their website they reccomend the new Muse album, so I'd have to think that they've probably grown considerably in the 3-5 years since this release. All that said, there's at least 5 very good songs on this cd that are as good or better than any Christian songs released (minus Big Big House, of course), and would stand up well to secular competition. That this album wasn't a staple in youth groups around the country is sad indeed.
Gigantor - Back To The Rockets
Well. I guess Gigantor's from Germany, which I didn't know until just now when I found their website to provide you all linkage. Somehow that makes this album suck less in my mind, strange. I mean..the only other music I can associate with Germany is David Hasselhoff and, you know, the scary guy singing "Du Hast Mich". So, I guess now Gigantor somewhat gets a pass. It's like when my dad told me the biblical age of innocence was at whatever age you figured out what was right and wrong, so some people could never reach that point even. Prior to this I'd heard from someone, probably some other punk church kid, that it was 12, and I was fast approaching that, so I was getting scared thinking of all the responsibility.
So, you can't really blame Gigantor for being vanilla Pop/Punk. They might not have grown up with Green Day constantly played all around them, or Blink 182 running around all naked. They might not even know of all the bands who have come before them. Oblivious to it all, they've released pretty much the same thing - like how those cannibal tribes in Africa still named 8 of the 10 commandments as evil, without ever hearing them! I don't know if that truly happened, but I heard it as fact a lot when I was young. Anyway, there's nothing new here, and I can't reccomend it for listening, as it's no different than whatever local pop-punk band's cds you can go buy out of their trunk for 4-5 bucks. It'd be better if they'd just spoken with those really loud, constantly loud German voices that all German people speak in, rather than the American sounding stuff here. But, heck, they're named after that huge japanese robot cartoon that used to come on Saturdays after M.A.S.K.
MASK crusaders - working overtime, fighting crime! God, I loved that show.
The Paper Chase - Hide The Kitchen Knives
I really thought this CD was going to suck, I must admit. That was mostly because the band capitalizes their name like this: the pAper chAse. So many XXXSuCk BaNDXXX's came to mind. Yet, somehow, they overcame that to the point where this CD has entered regular home rotation. I think this may just qualify as scream-o..except that it's done correctly. The musicianship is so amazingly tight by all players, that it's just driving, pulsing, awesome music. It's also really really dark. That seems a strange way to describe music, but it really comes off like a murder mystery rock opera or something cooler than that sounds. The instrumentation is great, drawing in a lot of really dark piano that just scarily plays beneath the surface, and the bass lines serve as a perfect way to drive everything home. The lyrics walk the fine line between pretentious pondering and actually just fitting in perfect with the music, tending toward the latter though. The singer doesn't seem to force the screaming, just fitting it in where it almost needs to be done and would actually seem out of place if it wasn't done. I think I'm gonna risk all the emo scenesters in 2 weeks to go see these guys live, as it's also the week of their new CD release. There's no reason why I should like this band, between the name and the general surroundings of the music style, yet, somehow everything that's wrong with all the bands I complain about is done right here. Excellent stuff.
It just struck me that people who aren't into music probably never read, or are extremely bored by these posts. Especially given the somewhat "under the surface" nature of most of these bands. Am I alienating a large portion of The Weblog's audience? I apologize if so. Hopefully you all at least got a kick out of the Michael story earlier.
Also, it's all late, so I think I'll have to do last week and this week tomorrow. Hopefully tomorrow. Not like..in a week, as was the case this time.
Good cheer to all.
(1:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon Confessional
It's that time again -- time to unburden your soul of all the filth and loathsomeness it has accumulated in the last week. Time to dissolve the chains of sin in the acidic waters of a HaloScan comment box.
Time, in short, to mention that petty crime you committed at work.
My crime this week was simple: I took a two-hour lunch without asking my manager for permission. Business was slow, I was bored, and I just decided that that was what I was going to do. I did, however, reflect the change on my hours.
A second sin. I drank coffee to excess one day: three cups. It gave me a stomach ache. My body is, after all, a temple of the Holy Spirit, as Paul says, so anything I do to harm it must be a sin -- this, coming from the leading popularizer of a religion that worships a man who was crucified and that generally encouraged martyrdom in its early years.
Thursday, May 27, 2004
(9:33 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I'm Tired of the Iraq War
I'm tired of the Iraq War as a topic of discussion as well as a reality existing apart from those discourses. However, since this is a blog, and since, as we know, there is nothing outside the blog, I will treat of the level of discourse -- a structural weakness of the genre.
- I am tired of hearing liberal hawks talk about how great an idea the Iraq War was and lamenting that the execution was bad. Yes, the idea of toppling an evil dictator and building a society with liberty and justice for all is appealling. So is the idea of owning a Green Lantern power ring.
- I am tired of the "consensus" view that we need to "stay the course" and the repeated assertions that "no one is proposing we pull out of Iraq." Why not pull out of Iraq? If the alternatives are (a) staying, getting involved in a quagmire, possibly reinstituting a draft, and still likely having to pull out in humiliation in ten years and (b) pulling out in humiliation right now, then any economist will tell you to choose (b)!
- I am tired of hearing about Iraqi schoolchildren -- from liberals! I don't read conservative blogs aside from Volokh, but I think that the Iraqi schoolchildren get more mentions per capita in the liberal blogosphere than they could possibly get in the conservative blogosphere.
(7:30 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
It's been a long time since I've played Grand Theft Auto, but sometimes I still think about swinging into opposing traffic and hitting some sucker head-on, just for the hell of it.
Driving immediately after playing that game, or watching others play, was always interesting -- as if I had unlearned how to drive.
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
(1:52 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
In Memoriam: My Co-Bloggers
Each of my co-bloggers was scrolled to death over the course of the last week. For those who don't remember them, I will make a list:
- The cuddly, but tough, Robb Schuneman, whose indy cred is indisputable and whose job sucks.
- Anthony Smith, the temporary Frenchman, whose penchant for nihilism and homoeroticism make his company a singular pleasure.
- Michael Hancock, the tortured soul, who spends his days reading Steinbeck and composing jingles for local bars.
- The sultry, mysterious, and intensely athletic Monica Bennett, whose good, old-fashioned America-hating leftism exceeds even mine.
I've often thought that it would be interesting to have all five of us in the same room. It would also be interesting to do a cartoon show based on the fictional adventures of the contributors to The Weblog.
In any case, co-bloggers, I love you, and I miss you.
So let's say we were basing it on Scoobie Doo (as M. Gauche suggests). A few characters would be obvious: Monica would be Daphne, Robb would be Scooby, and Mike Hancock would be Velma. I'm leaning toward casting Anthony as Shaggy, though that's not a sure bet. I think this is something we need to discuss.
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
(5:32 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I stumbled across this passage in Thomas Merton's Confessions of a Guilty Bystander:
A great deal of virtue and piety is simply the easy price we pay in order to justify a life that is essentially trifling. Nothing is so cheap as the evasion purchased by just enough good conduct to make one pass as a "serious person."While I'm quoting, here's my favorite quote from Walter Kaufmann's introduction to Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals:
A great deal of libertinism, vice, and rebellion is in the end much the same thing. It does not "justify" trifling, but nevertheless expresses impotence and refusal to do anything else. The fact that the rebellion is an implicit criticism of the shallow and the respectable proves absolutely nothing.
And when you come to look more deeply into man's present condition you find that many forms of "seriousness" and "achievement" come to this in the end. In our society, a society of business rooted in puritanism, based on a pseudo-ethic of industriousness and thrift, to be rewarded by comfort, pleasure, and a good bank account, the myth of work is thought to justify an existence that is essentially meaningless and futile. There is, then, a great deal of busy-ness as people invent things to do when in fact there is very little to be done. Yet we are overwhelmed by jobs, duties, tasks, assignments, "missions" of every kind. At every moment we are sent north, south, east, and west by the angels of business and art, poetry and politics, science and war, to the four corners of the universe to decide something, to sign something, to buy and sell. We fly in all directions to sell ourselves, thus justifying the absolute nothingness of our lives. The more we seem to accomplish, the harder it becomes to really dissimulate our trifling, and the only thing that saves us is the common conspiracy not to advert to what is really going on.
Some men make it their business to cover their own emptiness by pointing out the fraudulency of others, but always the emphasis is on the fact that others have nevertheless done something, even though it was a matter of perpetrating a fraud. They have perpetrated something. And so the general myth prospers. No matter how empty our lives become, we are always at least convinced that something is happening because, indeed, as we so often complain, too much is happening. There is so much to be done that we do not have time to live.... Such is the cliche.
But it is precisely this idea that a serious life demands "time to live" that is the root of our trifling.
In reality, what we want is time in which to trifle and vegetate without feeling guilty about it. But because we do not dare to try it, we precipitate ourselves into another kind of trifling: that which is not idle, but dissimulated as action.
Nietzsche had an almost pathological weakness for one particular kind of ambiguity, which, to be sure, is not irremediable: he loved words and phrases that mean one thing out of context and almost the opposite in the context he gives them. He loved language as posts do and relished these "revaluations." All of them involve a double meaning, one exoteric and one esoteric, one--to put it crudely--wrong, and the other right. The former is bound to lead astray hasty readers, browsers, and that rapidly growing curse of our time--the non-readers who do not realize that galloping consumption is a disease.
(2:55 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Idea of the University Without Condition
Derrida’s essay on “The University Without Condition” was initially delivered in lecture form at Stanford University in 1999, with an introduction by Richard Rorty. In the context of a course on literary theory, I heard Derrida deliver virtually the same lecture at the University of Chicago in 2000, proving that Slavoj Žižek is not the only person who repeats himself. This lecture, together with the essay “Signature Event Context,” which Anna Street provided to our class as preparation for attending the lecture, has long held a special place in my heart and in my own understanding of Derrida. It is, of course, the inspiration behind the University Without Condition blog, which is still in the process of formation.
Derrida begins the essay by declaring that it will be “like a profession of faith: the profession of faith of a professor who would act as if he were nevertheless asking your permission to be unfaithful or a traitor to his habitual practice.” The essay that follows is in fact uncharacteristically straightforward and prescriptive. It is a profession of “faith in the university and, within the university, faith in the Humanities of tomorrow.” It is remarkably frank in insisting on a central role for deconstruction in the Humanities of tomorrow and in articulating the task of the Humanities in the political terms of mondialization or worldwide-ization, which he takes to be a continuation of the Enlightenment project. The responsibility of the university of tomorrow is to insist on the principle of unconditional resistance, which is (forgive the very long quote)
a right that the university itself should at the same time reflect, invent, and post, whether it does so through its law faculties or in the new Humanities capable of working on these questions of right and of law—in other words, and again why not say it without detour, the Humanities capable of taking on the tasks of deconstruction, beginning with the deconstruction of their own history and their own axioms.He has said it before and will doubtless say it again: no democracy without literature, no democracy without deconstruction. Both literature and deconstruction represent an unfettered freedom of speech, an already-but-not-yet of democracy to come. This is not an empty, formal freedom to find random new things to say, but the freedom of literary modernity proper—the freedom to “make it new.” This kind of freedom of speech requires a profound conservatism, forever winning again the great works of the tradition.
Consequence of this thesis: such an unconditional resistance could oppose the university to a great number of powers, for example, to state powers..., to economic powers..., to the powers of media, ideological, religious and cultural powers, and so forth—in short, to all the powers that limit democracy to come.
The university should thus also be the place in which nothing is beyond question, not even the current and determined figure of democracy, not even the traditional idea of critique, meaning theoretical critique, and not even the authority of the “question” form, of thinking as “questioning.” That is why I spoke without delay and without disguise of deconstruction.
The bulk of the essay is taken up with a complex meditation on the philosophical and theological resonances of the concepts of work (French: travail) and profession, with constant reference to the concrete economic conditions inside and outside of the university. Derrida is not explicitly a political economist, but it is clear that freedom of speech is not merely a matter of juxtaposing words, but carries instead a political-economic charge.
He concludes with seven “thematic and programmatic theses”:
- The new Humanities would engage in a deconstructive analysis of the key oppositions by which “man” has been defined in the modern age: man/animal, man/woman, etc.
- The new Humanities would study the history of democracy and the idea of sovereignty.
- The new Humanities would study the history of work, intellectual and otherwise, try to find the conditions to dissociate democracy from citizenship and indivisible sovereignty.
- The new Humanities would study the modern concept and institution of literature.
- The new Humanities would study the history of the professoriat and the faith which the professor professes.
- The new Humanities would study the history of the “as if” and of the distinction between constative and performative acts. (Yes, really.)
- Finally, making reference to the seventh day, Derrida says that the new Humanities must be open to the event, the arrivant that “by taking place or having place, revolutionizes, overturns, and puts to rout the very authority that is attached, in the university, in the Humanities,
- to knowledge (or at least to its model of constative language),
- to the profession or to the profession of faith (or at least to the performative language),
- to the mise en oeuvre, the putting to work, at least to the performative putting to work of the ‘as if.’”
- to knowledge (or at least to its model of constative language),
One thinks in the Humanities the irreducibility of their outside and of their future. One thinks in the Humanities that one cannot and must not let oneself be enclosed within the inside of the Humanities. But for this thinking to be strong and consistent requires the Humanities. To think this is not an academic, theoretical, or theoretical operation. Nor a neutral utopia. No more than saying it is a simple enunciation. It is at this always divisible limit that what arrives arrives. It is this limit that is affected by the arriving and that changes. It is this limit that, because it is divisible, has a history.
Of particular interest to participants in our University Without Condition is his extended comment on the potential of the Internet to propagate the university throughout the rest of society—to keep it from being a closed-off entity unto itself—and of the possibility of university-like activities taking place outside the walls of the traditional university. Certainly he would encourage us to pursue an ever greater rigor and creativity, but hopefully he would not completely disapprove of the efforts taking place under the title he coined:
The university without conditions is not situated necessarily or exclusively within the walls of what is today called the university. It is not necessarily, exclusively, exemplarily represented in the figure of the professor. It takes place, it seems its place wherever this unconditionality can take shape. Everywhere that it, perhaps, gives one (itself) to think.[The essay “The University Without Condition” can be found in Without Alibi, ed. and trans. Peggy Kamuf, Stanford University Press, 2002.]
Monday, May 24, 2004
(7:58 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I have been called out by Adam Robinson, and rightly so. Allow me to reformulate.
Kerry is inevitable. I sincerely believe that nothing short of a military coup will allow Bush to continue in office beyond the end of his current term. We all still need to vote for Kerry, no question -- though I hate the idea of allowing the Republicans to set the terms of the national debate, there is no feasible way in the next six months that this election is going to be about anything other than George W. Bush's miserably failed presidency and the need to end it. The fact that George W. Bush is arguably the worst president in history does not make Bill Clinton, John Kerry, or Millard Fillmore wonderful, saintly people. But the relative unattractiveness of John Kerry certainly does not make another term of Bush/Rove tolerable.
I'm taking the Chomskyan position: yes, the Democrats are morally bankrupt, but they are noticeably less morally bankrupt than the Republicans. It's a small difference, but in the context of the most powerful nation in the history of the world, that small difference can end up making a huge difference for a lot of people. Still, we need to take a long, hard look at the performance of the Democratic Party. I contend that while the Democratic Party can be embraced in itself, as the only realistic alternative to Republicanism within the next six months, there is no real way for a serious leftist to embrace the Democratic party for itself. We have to ask some very serious questions:
- Why did the Democrats vote for the tax cuts?
- Why did the Democrats support the USA PATRIOT Act?
- Why did the Democrats vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq?
- And a related question: Why is it that Tony Blair, formerly known as Bill Clinton, Jr., remains Bush's staunchest ally and defender?
The same events could have happened in a Gore administration. They would have been handled more competently; they would have had more finesse; they wouldn't have been so over-the-top -- but the basic sequence of events that has characterized the Bush administration is also a plausible sequence of events for a Democratic president.
That, to me, is a problem. That's something we need to work on during the Kerry years. Adam Robinson is right that domestic politics suck and we need a two-party system and whatever else -- there is no genuine, fundamental choice. There are significant choices. There are good, solid reasons to vote against Bush, and I don't want anything I say to be taken as anything less than fully supportive of a John Kerry presidency, given the present circumstances. We do get to vote on some very significant issues in 2004. But do we get to vote about whether we want CEOs to earn 5000 times more than their workers? Do we get to vote about whether we really want to substantially privatize what was hitherto a public sphere -- public schools, universities, the publicly-owned spectrum licenses, even the military? Do we get to vote on whether we prefer a system in which everyone has relatively secure access to food, housing, and medical attention over a system in which the very few are allowed to accumulate unfathomable amounts of money and power while the children of the homeless starve? That is a fundamental choice. That would be politics properly-so-called.
I don't want to denigrate the importance of the 2004 election at all. The depth of my disgust and revulsion at the Bush administration is well-documented. But we do need to look beyond 2004. We need to look at what it might mean to have real politics, real democracy in America. That might mean building up the Green Party into a nation-wide movement. That might mean taking the risk of criticizing the Clinton administration and the Democratic Party Clinton shaped for their complicity with an immoral economic order -- something that has heretofore been done only by a handful of radical thinkers (Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, etc.). And although I do believe that Ralph Nader is no longer a credible rallying point for a national left-wing movement, it might mean doing what Nader has been criticized for doing: reaching out to social conservatives, making clear to them the deep contradiction between their values and the economic model they are objectively supporting. It might seem cynical, like it would get one's hands dirty, but it is necessary, because the 1990s have shown us that "social issues" cannot help to produce a humane, egalitarian society without being articulated in a broader political-economic scheme -- and so I'm all for fundamentalist preachers, whose views I would otherwise find abhorrent, denouncing the evils of corporate power.
More to the point in this context, we have already witnessed the power of blogs to fuel political movements. The Dean campaign was a huge success on that level, and a new progressive movement might look into tapping not just into the model of the Dean campaign, but into the actual people who are still involved in it. Atrios has had a lot of success raising money for the Kerry campaign (which I think is completely appropriate and wonderful and to be applauded). It's been objectively demonstrated that the Internet is a powerful tool for grass-roots organization and fundraising. So during the Kerry years, the lefty blogosphere may have to take the step of ignoring entirely the multitude of slander (or perhaps even deserved criticism) that the right-wingers will be directing toward our dear president -- that is, it might have to use the opening of a Democratic president to think of ways to wrest the control of debate away from conservatives and toward the agenda of a more humane, egalitarian society.
And on a practical level, building a congressional block is probably more important than jumping straight to the presidency -- and also more doable.
Sunday, May 23, 2004
(10:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Uses and Abuses of Heresy for Everyday Life
This article on Harry Potter and Left Behind, which I got from Slacktivist, seems decent enough -- but why is every battle between good and evil an example of "Manichean dualism"? Is this an image with a lot of power in American society? Did the public schools in states other than Michigan spend a lot of time on Augustine? Seriously.
Some suggestions for other heresy-based memes:
- "Conservatives have an almost Pelagian belief that anyone, with sufficient hard work, can achieve prosperity."
- "The Donatists who believe that Bush is not a legimitate president due to the irregularities in Florida should be suppressed by the secular powers."
- "I grow weary of those who hold the monothelite view that George W. Bush has only a divine will and no human will."
- "If I may risk the analogy, many Republicans seem to hold the Jansenist view that those who defended our freedoms actually only died for supporters of the president."
- "Computer nerds often have a Gnostic disregard for the flesh, directing all their energies toward obtaining esoteric knowledge of coding."
For more information, see Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition (5 vols.).
(6:26 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Being first-order depressed is bad, sometimes overwhelmingly so: self-loathing, radical insecurity, a vague (or perhaps detailed) desire for the world to disappear.
Yet, in today's fast-paced society, there is a way for it to become noticably, qualitatively worse: to realize that one is unconsciously, as if by instinct, planning on using shopping as an anti-depressant -- that one believes, in the very depths of one's being, that parting with money is a genuine solution to this problem. That is meta-depression, because consciousness of one's thorough integration into consumerism robs one of the anti-depressant that would otherwise have been easily available.
Although I have not done extensive testing on this, I theorize that it is possible to reach a Ricouerian "second naivete" and enjoy shopping anyway, perhaps by purchasing a book of heavy theory and thus "sticking it to the Man" by belonging to a particularly rebellious and enlightened marketting demographic -- perhaps, even better, by stealing said book of heavy theory.
This is the kind of stuff you're not going to get from reading Kristeva.
Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. New York: Picador, 2002.
Frank, Thomas. One Market Under God: Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy. New York: Anchor, 2001.
(2:40 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
My Political Manifesto
I fully intend to vote for John Kerry, and indeed to vote a straight Democratic ticket, in November. I plan to do these things for two reasons:
- John Kerry is not George W. Bush.
- Democrats are (usually) not Republicans (Lieberman being the obvious exception).
I know that the modern nation-state is completely depraved, that it is incapable of being a community that sustains virtue, that it is a tool of capital and leads inevitably to imperial oppression, that its historical genesis is homologous to the formation of the mafia, etc., etc. I am aware of all those critiques, and I'm sure that if we reinstituted either a medieval theocracy or a Marxist utopia, everything would be a lot better. But I don't have the opportunity to vote for either a medieval theocracy or a Marxist utopia -- I just get a choice between (realistically) two people to administer the executive branch of our particular modern nation-state. It is possible to administer states well, and when states are administered well, things are generally at least less bad for people.
I view the welfare states of Europe as a desirable and feasible model for the state within the present political configuration, and if the United States achieved something akin to the European model, I would see no need for a radical overhaul of the system -- just prudent administration of what we had and the occasional tweaking when problems arise. Again: I know that such a model of the state is a "foreclosure of hope" or something like that, but at least in that model, people stand a good chance of obtaining food, shelter, and medical attention. I vote for Democrats because they seem less likely to want to completely destroy those aspects of the welfare state that we currently have -- and that still remains true despite the Clintonian "shift-to-the-right." I wish the Democrats were more consistently left-wing, but I view that as a problem to be solved within the Democratic party, not through the invention of a third party that splits the moderate-left vote and guarantees the victory of Republican idiocy.
Which brings me to my main point: contemporary Republicanism is stupid and destructive. I know there are responsible Republicans in government at all levels. I know it's unfair to paint an entire political party based on its worst elements. The fact remains, however, that in the contemporary Republican party, the worst elements have an overwhelming hegemony. I view the Christian right as a proof of the existence of Satan. I view market fundamentalism as a dangerously radical stance that, when implemented in actual policies in the real world, has wreaked untold devestation on entire populations (and yes, I know that Clinton was an advocate of the market-liberalization brand of globalization). Perhaps, in some fantasy world, it would be better to let the religious right and the market fundamentalists team up to completely fuck our nation and the entire world, so that "the multitude" could rise up. (On warm, sunny days, when I've eaten the right kinds of foods, I sometimes almost manage to convince myself that that could actually happen.)
I am sure that opting for "capitalism with a human face" through my voting practices exposes me as a moral coward. But really, if I have a choice between on the one hand, voting for a seasoned, experienced legislator who has firsthand experience of war, who took the appropriate moral stance against Vietnam, and who has been pretty consistently liberal-to-moderate; and a complete fucking moron who is surrounded by dangerous radicals whispering sweet nothings into his ear and who can't even be bothered to read a newspaper -- I don't see how it's even a choice. It's a categorical imperative: vote for John Fucking Kerry. He's not perfect. He won't completely reformulate U.S. foreign policy to respond to Noam Chomsky's complaints. Hold your nose if need be. Just make sure to register and to cast your vote against George W. Bush and for something that is bound to be noticeably less bad!
I am depressed that I just wrote that. But anyway, that is my contribution to the ongoing blogospheric debate about the relative merits of the two American political parties and, more specifically, their presidential candidates for 2004. Later tonight, watch this space for a post about Derrida's essay "The University without Condition."
Saturday, May 22, 2004
(4:10 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
G. W. F. Hegel on G. W. "F." Bush
A reading from Phenomenology of Spirit, para. 424 (under the heading "Individuality Real in and for Itself"):
"Everyone ought to speak the truth." In this duty as expressed unconditionally, the condition will at once be admitted: if he knows the truth. The commandment will now run: everyone ought to speak the truth at all times, according to his knowledge and convition. Sound Reason, this ethical Substance precisely, which knows immediately what is right and good, will also explain that this condition was already so much part and parcel of that universal maxim that this is how it meant that commandment to be understood. But, with this admission, it in fact admits that already, in the very act of saying the commandment, it really violates it. It said: everyone ought to speak the truth; but it meant: he ought to speak it according to his knowledge and conviction.... Sound Reason was at first supposed to possess immediately the capacity to speak the truth; now, however, it is said that it ought to know, that is to say, that it does not immediately know what is true. Looking at this from the side of the content, then this has dropped out in the demand that we should know the truth; for this refers to knowing in general: we ought to know. What is demanded is, therefore, really something free of all specific content.Now, from Josh Marshall's transcription of a Washington Times story about Bush's approach to the media:
"I get the newspapers — the New York Times, The Washington Times, The Washington Post and USA Today — those are the four papers delivered," he said. "I can scan a front page, and if there is a particular story of interest, I'll skim it."It sounds like George W. "F." Bush could give Georg W. F. Hegel a few lessons on the immediate availability of knowledge.
The president prides himself on his ability to detect bias in ostensibly objective news stories.
"My antennae are finely attuned," he said. "I can figure out what so-called 'news' pieces are going to be full of opinion, as opposed to news. So I'm keenly aware of what's in the papers, kind of the issue du jour. But I'm also aware of the facts."
Those facts are extracted from news stories each day and presented to the president by a half-dozen aides, Mr. Card among them.
"Since I'm the first one to see him in the morning, I usually give him a quick overview and get a little reaction from him," Mr. Card explained. "Frequently, I find that his reaction kind of reflects [first lady] Laura Bush's take."
Indeed, the president often cites articles that Mrs. Bush flags for greater scrutiny, even when he has not personally slogged through those stories. Mrs. Bush routinely delves more deeply into the news pages than her husband, who prefers other sections.
"He does not dwell on the newspaper, but he reads the sports page every day," Mr. Card said with a chuckle.
'A clear outlook'
Mr. Bush thinks that immersing himself in voluminous, mostly liberal-leaning news coverage might cloud his thinking and even hinder his efforts to remain an optimistic leader.
"I like to have a clear outlook," he said. "It can be a frustrating experience to pay attention to somebody's false opinion or somebody's characterization, which simply isn't true."
UPDATE: Blogger is behaving very erratically. It is taking forever to publish, staying on "0%" for a half hour at a time -- I don't even understand how the non-updated version of this post ended up there. If other people are having trouble with this, or are having any difficulty with the new template, please comment on the "Updated Template" post.
(1:08 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
The Traditional Link Post
No doubt, the practices of responsible citizenship and moral behavior should be encouraged in our young adults — but it's not the business of the university to do so, except when the morality in question is the morality that penalizes cheating, plagiarizing and shoddy teaching, and the desired citizenship is defined not by the demands of democracy, but by the demands of the academy.Some of Jonathan's fellow Cliopatriarchs "think perhaps that Fish was joking, either intentionally or unintentionally."
David Bernstein has a post at the Volokh Conspiracy about "the fact that George W. Bush has been pursuing some objectively liberal policies," although progressives are unwilling to give him credit and conservatives are in denial. (In this connection, see the Washington Monthly article from March 2001 on Reagan's liberal legacy.) Among his examples:
I've also discovered that Democratic propaganda on the Medicare prescription drug benefit has been so effective that some of my correspondents believe that the program is simply a giveaway to the drug companies, with literally no benefit to seniors. One correspondent even belived that theRepublicans have replaced a previously existing generous Medicare drug benefit with one that won't benefit a single senior.The entire affair reminds him "of nothing as much as conservatives' unwillingness to give Bill Clinton credit for holding down federal spending during most of his term, signing the welfare reform bill, or encouraging free trade." Most terrifying of all, because perhaps true: "Clinton and Bush are typical politicians trying to govern from the center while placating their parties' base, much more alike than they are different, and the constant attempt by partisans on either side to pretend otherwise is grating" (emphasis added).
The actual basis of the idea that the drug benefit is a giveaway to the drug companies is simply that there are no price controls as part of the package, and drug companies will therefore benefit from the plan. Yet physicians were among the primary beneficiaries of Medicare for its first two decades; their income soared as the government generously reimbursed basically any and all doctor visits from the over-65 set. Where are the retrospective condemnations of Medicare as a "giveaway" to the doctors?
Also at the Volokh Conspiracy, Tyler Cowen argues that the "starve the beast" strategy of cutting taxes to create pressure to cut spending has never actually worked, perhaps in part because "we have had two Republican Presidents, Reagan and Bush, who think that America is so great that deficits don't matter very much"; and Jacob Levy questions Jonah Goldberg's attempt to argue that liberals are ignorant of their intellectual heritage, by pointing out that the hard-core academic leftists with whom Goldberg would like to associate contemporary liberals "really aren't part of the intellectual heritage of a mainstream contemporary American left-liberal."
Josh Marshall finds patronizing and misleading Bush's remarks that "that the Iraqis are ready to 'take the training wheels off' by assuming power." But in perhaps his best line ever, Marshall muses that "the thought that an extra set of training wheels may now be available prompts the question of whether the Iraqis might be willing to hand their pair off to the White House." Meanwhile, Chun the Unavoidable disagrees, as always, with Timothy Burke, and congratulates himself for having "s[a]t in the library and read every damn word of the New York Review, the London Review, and even the thrice-damned TLS. All of it." He links to an article in The Nation on "the re-emergence of The New York Review of Books as a powerful and combative actor on the political scene." (One wonders when The Nation will become "a powerful and combative actor on the political scene.") I fully intend to pick up a subscription card for the NYRB the next time I'm at the dentist's office.
Matthew Yglesias contributes to the inadequacy of debate on religion in the mainstream media, arguing that he "honestly do[es]n't know" what the "upshot" of the simultaneous increase in irreligious and scary right-wing religious people will be. In a more helpful post, he draws on his postmodern intellectual heritage:
Flip over to, say, Instapundit and you'll see that Baudrillard simply spoke of the wrong Gulf War when he said it didn't really happen. Over there, it appears, the second Gulf War is just a social construction of the virulently anti-Bush US news media. Nevermind that the foreign news media paints a distinctly bleaker picture. Nevermind that some of the voices of bleakness (Bill Kristol, George Will, etc.) can hardly be said to be virulently anti-Bush or liberal. Just nevermind. Bad news can be dismissed because the media is biased, and you can tell the media is biased because they keep reporting so much bad news!Particularly encouraging is his assertion that "a narrow Kerry win is only going to produce a Weimar America," bringing to mind Timothy Burke's brilliant piece about the parallels between our contemporary situation and Weimar Germany.
Wonkette chastises herself for being "the little blog who cried ass-fucking." Michael Podguski, the boy who would be president, is still depressed, and Scott McLemee reviews a book on Stalin and his circle. Slacktivist is on a roll with his Left Behind series, which should be finished by March of 2042. Via Tom Tomorrow via Atrios, our nation slips into utter, unforgivable depravity.
At John and Bell's, we finally find out what Belle would look like as a blonde. Buried deep within Lenin's Tomb, we find that Abu Grahib is being renamed Camp Redemption (story here). David Brooks, the idiot, finds himself "turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to cheer [him]self up." The Onion announces, several years too late, Rumsfeld's intention to fight terror with terror. Finally, as others have mentioned, one might want to check out the new art blog on the block, where there is a continuing series on "found art."
But seriously, even with all these links, I have to admit: wood s lot is better than me.
Friday, May 21, 2004
(8:24 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
This current setup is my attempt to do a blog template without using tables. Let me know if you think it is acceptable. The only thing that I'd probably change would be to make a three-column table, which would make the main text of the blog narrow all the way down, instead of expanding to fill the entire page after the sidebars have run their course.
I just discovered, too, that Blogger has "conditional tags" that allow you to show certain things only on the main page or only on the individual item's page. I am currently experimenting with having a link back to the main page from each individual item and dropping the sidebars on the items' pages.
I realize that it's bland in a number of ways. If Jared Sinclair, or anyone else, has any advice for me to make this more beautiful, that would be great.
UPDATE: Jared's probably right that tables are not only for pansies. I have updated the main page of the template to use tables to remove the "awkwardness" of the text wrapping around it, then taking up the whole screen. If all goes well, however, when you click a permalink, you will get no sidebars, and the text will take up the entire page. That will allow people to print off individual posts quickly and easily, without clutter -- because I know the world is clamoring for a print version of The Weblog.
UPDATE (2): Okay, it worked -- so just give me a minute to republish the entire blog (which now takes forever), and we will all be able to enjoy the most advanced Blogger technology outside of Jared Sinclar's page.
(11:51 AM) | Adam Kotsko:
Friday Afternoon ConfessionalMy confession for this week is that I am posting this at work, where I am not officially allowed to use the Internet.
The theological implications of sinning in the very act of confessing are mind-blowing.
As always, you can be washed whiter than snow in the comment section.
Thursday, May 20, 2004
(6:41 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Lurking in the Footnotes
In John D. Caputo, Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida, I read the following in the body text:
This misunderstanding of deconstruction, which even supposes that the very idea of "misunderstanding deconstruction" is undermined by deconstruction, is often the result of too hastily construing the texts of a difficult, elusive and playful author. But this distortion of Derrida is not without political significance, for it is frequently attached to a reactionary political agenda which vigorously opposes the efforts of women, homosexuals, and ethnic minorities to have their voices heard, in the academy and in the church. In the world of Anglo-American philosophy, it arises from the hegemonic agenda of the "analytic" establishment, which has succeeded in making philosophy tedious and culturally irrelevant, and which feels threatened by a style of thinking which, to say the least, analytic philosophers have denounced but simply have not read. (15-16)I found the following in the footnotes:
The lack of an adequate Continental philosophy of science is at least as serious a problem in Continental philospohy as its obscurantist jargon and resistance to making itself understood. (349)The relative placement and emphasis seems about fair to me.
(1:49 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
I spent much of my evening yesterday revising and reformatting a paper to submit it to a journal (I just mailed it a bit ago -- please direct any prayers, finger-crossings, etc., toward Virginia, which is its next stop). The journal in question used a mutant form of Turabian style, which required all bibliographic references to be laid out in a table format.
One of my biggest regrets about studying theology is being obligated to use Turabian style, ever. The system of referencing texts by date is arbitrary and ridiculous. Since the date used is the publication date for the edition cited in the text, which is often an edited version or a translation for much theological work, the date hardly ever gives the reader any useful information at all. The MLA approach to references to multiple works by the same author seems to me to be far superior, in that the first few words of the title give the reader a much better indication of which book is really at issue here. For instance, if I were writing a study of Hegel, I think a parenthetical reference that said "(Phenomenology 45)" would be clearly preferable to one that said "(1987: 45)." Given the meaninglessness of the dates of publication for most such projects, an alphabetical listing of the authors' works is also preferable to a listing by date.
The Oxford style, with footnotes rather than parenthetical references, has its own charm, but my version of Word can't seem to put the footnotes on the same page as the reference -- even in the best-case scenario of only one brief footnote on a page, whose reference is right at the top.
In conclusion: down with Turabian style! All disciplines in the humanities must submit to the hegemony of MLA!
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
(8:45 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Today I went to Amazon and bought an anthology of John Welsey's sermons and Carl Schmitt's Concept of the Political. It struck me that the odds were fair to good that this precise combination has never occurred before in an Amazon shopping cart.
I must confuse their "you might like" generators sometimes, because it seems like all they want to sell me is Levinas. He must be their go-to guy.
(1:37 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Further Information on Good Bands from the 1990s
Amardeep Singh has decided to weigh in with a semi-autobiographical piece on the enduring importance of Fugazi (inspired, he said, by my Smashing Pumpkins piece from yesterday). It would be nice if we could start a trend of everyone reflecting on their favorite 1990s rock bands -- but commenter Brey is probably right when he says "the 90s probably isn't really even about rock as much as it is about rap, techno, and alt-country."
UPDATE: Text corrected to represent Amardeep Singh's actual gender. Also, Brey has written his own piece to continue our slow surge toward a blogosphere-wide trend. (Brey, if you're reading, did I get your gender right?)
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
(8:04 PM) | Robb Schuneman:
Come Truly, Come ColdI cried at a movie for the first time ever last night. The movie was The House of Sand and Fog. And it was freaking Ben "Ghandi" Kingsley, freaking Ben "Sexy Beast" Kingsley, who all got a full fledged tear. I can't describe the scene without ruining it all, but I think the only reason that movie didn't get more accolades in the great year of 2003 was because it's so dang sad. I'm glad Andre Dubus is dead, or I'd have to do some damage, as that is how my masculinity responds to being threatened. But, this movie is so sad because you can see so visibly how extremely simple it is to completely screw up our lives. All along the way the characters keep letting their own pride and fear lead them into the stupidest decisions possible, but this isn't some contrived plot, because about the time you're yelling at them for doing such stupid things, you realize it's exactly how you would have responded. So good.
That said, I also haven't done a CD Change post in a long time. This is one of those stupid things that I do that can completely screw up my life unless I swallow my pride and fear of rejection and just get it over with. I need to do this, I need to have some routine, and though you all may hate me, I need to review the 18 CDs that were in my car the last 3 weeks. This need is, of course, false, and merely an attempt at the worst possible tie in ever made. Except for one time when I watched a guy on Buffalo's Empire Sports Network give a 5 minute story about an earthquake in India and all the devestation before saying "Speaking of shaking things up, The Buffalo Bandits lacrosse team was looking to do just that against Calgary tonight." So ridiculous.
Oh, but before I move on, I have to update my post from so long ago detailing the greatness of Modest Mouse's new album. I've gotta say, the other day while mowing the lawn, "Float On" was on the headphones. It was then that it happened - I realized that Modest Mouse was simply Dexy's Midnight Runners for the 21st Century. Seriously, listen to that song, and every once in a while throw in a "too-ra loo-ra too-ra loo rye-aye" every once in a while, you'll see.
So, without further ado, I'ma do this. I'ma is what the cool kids say now. I am a cool kid. DANGIT ALL I MEANT I'MA COOL KID!
Week 1 (The Week Of Vulgarity)
Tori Amos - From the Choirgirl Hotel
When I was in high school, I heard the song "Both Hands" by Ani Difranco on Detroit's 105.1 The Edge. They used to play it a lot, sandwiched in between Korn songs. It was really good, and I thought I'd like all girls with piano. Then I eventually got that full album, and discovered that it largely sucked. I'm sorry, I'm enhancing my girl hating status, but I mean no offense by insulting that great standard of "girl-made music"..It's just largely rambling guitar and rambling vocals. From this, and from the time Tori appeared with freaking Jesse "I'm homeless so make me an annoying MTV STAR!" Camp on MTV and seemed to truly like that miserable loser, I assumed I would hate Ms. Amos. I've been pretty avid in this, and it lasted until THE SYSTEM made me break down and hear this album a few weeks ago. And it's actually pretty good. It's not hands-down amazing, but it is definitely no slouch in the CD player. I think her other stuff might be good too. Some day I'll have to investigate that. But, she'll still remind me of when Saved By The Bell "jumped the shark" with the "Tori" season. They robbed me of BOTH Jessie and Kelly for a full season and replaced it with THAT? My pubescent heart cries out for JUSTICE! However, I guess that was the season where Zack was all like "TEEN LINE, NITRO HERE" in that terrible Australian accent. I answered the phone like that for a week after seeing that, and elicited many a laugh. And THAT was even before Caller ID.
Ben Harper - The Will To Live
Ben Harper is a bit of an enigma to me. At times he seems almost to be trying too hard to be that artist who dances between the spiritual and the playful. When this doesn't work, it comes off like that guy in the quad singing "Lord, I Lift Your Name On High" after an especially rousing chapel. When it does work, it's great. This album is great. His new one, Diamonds On the Inside, I just haven't been able to get into yet for the above reason. There also, at the time of first listening to "Diamonds..", could have been some holdover resentment of the fact it was Ben Harper's "Fight For Your Mind" that had me distracted in the car when I had my accident that has permanately screwed up my knee and back. Or at least left me complaining about my back a lot more, though it's probably just fine. I am a poser with you Ben Harper, to whatever extent you are a poser, therefore, I love you. No, but this album really is great.
Some Guy Who Sang In Chapel Freshman Year - Dancing In The Rain I can't remember this guys name. All I know is that his last name comes alphabetically somewhere between Shorthanded and Silage. It may be a little off that too, sometimes, in the massive project that was putting new CDs into the folders back when I kept ALL of my cds in alphabetical order, rather than just each folder, I would get a little off, and invert a cd or two. If you know his name, please inform me. But, all in all, it's appropriate I forgot his name, because the music is totally forgettable. I remember thinking this guy was pretty cool at the time of his performance, but, after hearing the CD, realizing how pitiful it was compared even with Caedmon's Call and Jars of Clay. Yeah, it was freshman year, the summer before I had been music manager at a Family Christian Store, so sue me. However, my main fault with this guy is his earnest stupidity. He almost seems to think he's very clever at turning a phrase. Yet, when songs are based around such novel phrases as "I'm taking it one step at a time", I'm afraid this guy is just making a fool of himself. Seriously, whenever a TGIF series derives its name from a concept, it stops being "novel' and starts being "cliched". Everyone drops a cliche in a song now and again, but to base your whole song around it, and sing it with such a conviction that you really must think you're the first to see the analogy, is totally unacceptable. Poo on you, random chapel singer with guitar, poo on you, all random chapel singers with guitars ever. Except Derek Webb, who used the word "Bastard" in a song and spoke out against the theology of "The Prayer of Jabez", but will never, ever, be invited back, mainly because his music was actually good.
U2 - The Best Of 1990-2000 (Disc 1)
I think this could have been a great CD, but apparently impressed by the widespread re-birth of the rare(ish) track "The Sweetest Thing" off the 1980-90 CD back when we were in high school, U2 decided to do all remixes and some songs that weren't hits, and to leave off a lot of good stuff from the time period. So this isn't really that representative of the decade for U2. Maybe Disc 2 will be better. But, the expected hits are still good, but don't quite have the all surpassing power of the early stuff. Don't get me wrong, the albums still are awesome, but the standout songs just don't seem too stand alone-ish, they aren't what you'll replay over and over even now 5-10 years after you first heard them, thought the variance of the album you may go for. But..I'm far from the world's biggest U2 fan, and I got into them way late, so perhaps I'm totally wrong.
Camerata Academica des Salzburger Mozarteums f. Geza Anda - Mozart: Concertos 22,23 & 3
The trouble with 8 CD sets is that, no matter how great, you just eventually run out of things to say. Unless you're the type who knows each particular of every piece really well, and in Carmen Sandiego language, I am a gumshoe/flat foot/whatever-Where-In-Time-called-their-beginning-level people. So, I merely say "I'ma call this good" in my head, and move on.
Ms. John Soda - No P Or D
Glitch pop. It is the good. I don't know, is this what the Pitchforkaneers are calling IDM? I don't really know what IDM is. Is it Independent Dance Music? that's just my first guess. If so, this might barely qualify. It's pretty "dance-ish". However, I prefer to call it Glitch-pop, because it brings in all the skips and pops and crackles, and somehow melds them with the music in such a great way. I guess in that way it reminds me of a Kotsko favorite, Hood's Cold House..except this is happy where Hood is sad. For some reason, talking about dance music, and then describing this as happy music has "Groove Is In The Heart" totally running through my head. This is not like that, I assure you. But - that song will now be stuck in your head. GAME SET MATCH I WIN! Oh, and I just checked Pitchfork - it is confirmed, this is apparently IDM. I still think mine's better - better AND more amazing AND more gratifying if you ever have to make an acrostic about Ms. John Soda out of the word G-O-O-D.
I'm tired, and have to watch Elephant and Pretty Dirty Things before tomorrow at noon, or Blockbuster will Kite my money. Is it Kite or Kipe or something totally different? There aren't enough people who use that expression, and none who use it in print, so maybe I'll never know. Anyway, if interest is notified to me, I'll do the other two weeks. I would have skipped to this week, but I really wanted to see if anyone knew the name of the dude from freshman chapel.
(7:21 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
This is mainly an advice-soliciting post.
First, knowing that there are probably relatively few of my readers who could answer this: Would I be better off taking one of the intensive reading courses in Hyde Park (primarily oriented toward taking the U of C grad student language exam, though "open to interested adult learners"), or one (or two, in sequence) of the more general courses at the Alliance Francaise in Chicago?
Second, given that I already have a firm grasp of Spanish grammar, would "brushing up" on Spanish reading before taking the French course be of much benefit? I already own a collection of some Borges stories in Spanish; would any other particular work or works be preferable?
Third, given that I'm more prone to get pissed off about questions of theology than to produce reasoned prose or actually study theological works, should I look into comp-lit or English after I'm done at CTS? I'd ask about philosophy, but since I'm a continental-oriented guy, official philosophy programs seem like kind of a non-starter job-wise -- plus, I'm sincerely starting to miss working with Milton, Spenser, et al., especially Spenser. Is there any other poet writing in English whose works have such a high density of "WTF?!" moments? (If my creativity runs dry and the news remains monotonous, expect a Tribute to Spenser post within the next few weeks.)
(2:18 PM) | Adam Kotsko:
Smashing Pumpkins: An Homage (Autobiographical and Long)
[Upon posting this, I noticed a new post from Monica that was added shortly before this bloated and skipable tribute.]
Late have I loved thee, Smashing Pumpkins; late have I loved thee. I was not at your early club shows. I did not hear about Gish via word-of-mouth. I was in fact a poseur, an obnoxious high school kid first discovering the joys of “secular” music. I had heard “Today” on the radio several times and was impressed, but I had entered the “alternative” music scene on the cusp of the Mellon Collie era—and it was truly an era. Only Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill could compete with the mind-blowing six radio songs off of Mellon Collie: “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” “1979,” “Zero,” “Tonight, Tonight,” “Thirty-Three,” and “Muzzle.” I remember the news stories about the death of the touring keyboardist and the dismissal of drummer Jimmy Chamberlain—always the cornerstone of the group, despite Billy Corgan’s megalomania.
They were absolutely huge, the most dominant group of their period. They released a box set of five singles, with upward of 75 songs, and people actually bought it (among them, Mike Schaefer, who is actually a real person). They were the most prolific mainstream band by far. Why is it, then, that when people ask after the Most Important Rock Band of the nineties, they scratch their heads and then reluctantly venture to mention Metallica? Why isn’t the answer painfully obvious?
I listened to the radio obsessively, and I could probably reconstruct the playlist of 89X (a Canadian station, so they didn’t censor the swear words!) for the period 1994-1998 with startling accuracy. I listened through the static, not so much for the music itself, but to know that it was being played—to know it was there, to be able to talk about it, to be able to develop fine-tuned opinions about music that was, in retrospect, the golden era of rock radio but that was also, in retrospect, sell-out music. Adam Robinson would shake his head at the amount of deliberation that went into purchasing CDs back then. When one only has four CDs, adding another is a momentous act, a phenomenon parallel to Jared Sinclair’s logarithmic life-as-experienced thesis from his text-based days. Should I buy Mellon Collie? I had listened to it several times, even listened to it all the way through (a feat I would later replicate with Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile, but that’s another tribute)—but there was so much utter shit on there, it seemed to me. I wanted every song to be a gem, just like on Live’s album Throwing Copper. (Mike Schaefer, who is a decisive personage in the formation of my music taste, during this period always a little way ahead of me, but not so far ahead as to be inaccessible—recently dug out that album and remarked that the reason we thought every song on that album was wonderful was likely because every song on that album was exactly the same. That accusation could never be leveled against Smashing Pumpkins.)
Listening to Mellon Collie with more mature ears, it now seems to be a very strong album, full of a compelling diversity of music—I wonder at my former hesitance. Siamese Dream remains my favorite, the background music for that fateful week home alone after my freshman year of college, a week of almost total solitude in which I read voraciously, started journaling (at the astounding rate of ten pages a day), a week in which something changed. Siamese Dream was there for that. I love every song on that album, each in its own way. Even the pathetic “Space Boy” holds a place in my heart—the necessary disappointment, the throw-away song without which a Smashing Pumpkins album would not be a Smashing Pumpkins album. On Mellon Collie, that spot is held by “We Only Come Out At Night,” which is the preface to the “experimental” section of the second disc, whose first half contains classic after classic.
Already in that “experimental” section, the seeds of destruction are sown. Adore is, undeniably, a disappointment. It is a fine album on its own terms, though obviously (being a Smashing Pumpkins album) too long, full of interesting and innovative songs that reward multiple listens, above all “Pug” and “Tear.” (Mike Schaefer would add “Appels + Oranjes,” but we’ve always been in stark disagreement on that point.) Adore provided the musical setting for my last summer in the house I grew up in—once I moved to Olivet, my parents would move to a brand new house in a new subdivision, a house without large, established trees in the yard, a house with central air-conditioning that never felt like home, because honestly, can you feel at home in a place where you can’t sweat? Just as the Smashing Pumpkins had lost something, so had I. A long-standing dating relationship had lost its charm, and my relationship to my parents, which had always been strained throughout that dating relationship and my religious “questioning,” was reaching a crisis point.
I was more than ready to go away, although my behavior soon prefigured the fatal error that doomed to Smashing Pumpkins to irrelevance—I tried to go back, acting out a rehash of my high school behaviors that turned me into a parody of myself. At first glance, MACHINA: The Machines of God, released a year later, seems to be the same thing. It brought back everything that was embarrassing about the Smashing Pumpkins—the pretentious artwork and “concepts,” the awkward titles, the self-indulgent sections where Billy Corgan would stupidly sing a capella, excessive length—ensuring that the album would only appeal to hardcore fans, the ones who had not already been alienated by Adore. Machina does include some genuinely good songs, particularly “Wound” and “Age of Innocence”—but the whole album feels artificial, overproduced even by the Smashing Pumpkins’ standards. At the same time that I “procured” Machina, I also “procured” Gish and Pisces Iscariot, and the contrast couldn’t be more stark. Listening to it out of order, I couldn’t help but think of Gish as an anticipation of Siamese Dream, but both albums contained some solid rock songs—“I Am One,” “Hello Kitty Kat,” etc. In their new stuff, however, they were just trying too hard.
Only during my sojourn in Oxford did I finally get a taste of the full majesty and sweep of the late Smashing Pumpkins—the full Aeroplane Flies High boxed set and the final, illegal internet-only release, Machina II: Friends and Enemies of Modern Music. Here were roughly fifty brand new songs (to me), and almost all of them were wonderful. At the same time that I marveled at the wealth of material, I also despaired over the thought process that relegated this material to b-sides. Had Machina II been condensed into an album of reasonable length, it would have been unstoppable. Had they resisted the self-indulgent box set, they could have had a solid follow-up album to Mellon Collie while they tried to pick up the pieces after losing their drummer. Perhaps the relative obscurity of the Smashing Pumpkins in the popular mind is due to those poor choices—the decisions to use the leverage of fame to attempt marketing moves that were not so much daring as stupid. They had taken a much more sustainable route than, say, Pearl Jam, building a faithful following over the course of two solid albums before exploding into an unavoidable band with their double-album. After achieving fame, they could have had at least two more solid albums, just with the material they had already recorded in the studio, three if they had (wisely) decided to condense Mellon Collie into a brilliant single album—they could have continued to dominate rock music well into the twenty-first century. Instead, they ceded their place in history to... Metallica.
Yet even with all the disappointment and embarrassment, the Smashing Pumpkins remain my first true musical love, and I remain grateful to them.