Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Not Dead Just Moved

As the title implies, I'm not dead! I'm just moving to a new blog at wordpress, which is what - like Ivan -I should have done to begin with. The pretentious title has been changed to another pretentious title, Kierkeguardians, and there's a short post up already on philosophy called Thinking the Limits.

"Every so often I ride past a primary school on my way to the city. (I say this so you don’t think I’m some kind of perverted child-watcher.) Every time, if there are any children out on the oval, at least one is always walking along the line of the fence. I remember people, including myself, do the same in high school: gravitate to the limit of where we were allowed to be. You often see caged animals – other caged animals, I mean – patrol the edges of where they can go. It doesn’t even have to be an artificial cage. Consider the attraction of cliff-top walks, for instance. Like probing at a loose tooth or scratching at a scab, this appears to be a basic animal instinct."

Read the rest of it over at my new home (how many links to my new blog can I fit in this post?). Expect more philosophy, less hip-hop, and more frothingly contrarian posts on politics.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

History Being Made

Given the sheer number of photoshopped pictures on the internet, and the fact that we have situations like this where a giant mecha robot found its way into a painting of the Russian Revolution that was used in an actual high school senior exam, I predict that in five hundred years students will be taught the history of our current period from a curriculum that is at least fifty percent pop culture. At the very least it's going to confuse the hell out of the alien archaeologists that dig up our planet in five thousand years.

That was an actual thing that happened.


This is awesome as well: it's the producer from Blue Scholars rapping about how much he loves pho. Somebody snorts Siracha sauce. Go watch it.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Crispin On Himself

This post by Crispy is interesting:
my view is that each of those things - specifically because of its status - is extremely likely to be false. and deep inside you know they're false, or you wouldn't need to exempt them from examination. indeed, i take, for example, the inquisition, as a demonstration that no one - least of all the inquisitors - actually did believe catholic theology. well have you ever looked squarely at catholic theology? honestly no one could believe it or even figure out what it could possibly mean to believe it, so simulation had to be enforced. that's why pol pot had to execute you: not because he was a fanatic, exactly, but because deep in his heart he knew marxism was bullshit, and he knew you knew it too.
 I have a great deal of sympathy with this position - that there are a host of unquestioned beliefs most people hold, unquestioned precisely because they are almost certainly bullshit - but I think Crispy is doing here what he accuses Democrats and Republicans of doing to each other in this post. It's obvious, Crispy says, that people who hold mainstream views (the importance of voting, christianity, etc) don't actually hold those views in a considered way! They get them wholesale from the dominant culture and treat them like holy writ, never to be questioned. There are shades here of the infuriating Christian critique of atheists: "atheists don't actually disbelieve in God; in their hearts they know He exists and they deny him out of spite".

Crispy, is this what you're saying? That people who disagree with you know you're correct, deep down? That is the kind of worldview that evokes a rich inner mythology; another way of putting it would be 'conspiracy'.


I do want to agree that this stuff: "Everything which belongs to Christ - everything which makes Christ Christ ‑ is present in the Blessed Sacrament. This consequently means that Christ is present in His divinity as God and in His humanity as man. Christ is present in the Eucharist with His human body and human soul, with His bodily organs and limbs and with His human mind, will and feelings ‑ "the whole Christ." Latin reads Totus Christus," along with a ton of critical theory and philosophy, can only be believed by fiat since it is so obviously incomprehensible. Indeed the incomprehensibility seems more a feature than a bug - if it were stated in plain English in a way that avoided obvious contradictions (or was at least ashamed of them) it would be much harder to believe.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


Alright, enough already. I'll answer the question you all keep screaming: what do I think about Crispy's post on Taylor Swift's new album, Red, and by extension the album itself? In short, I think Crispy is too optimistic in his assessment of Taylor's new direction, and while I'd like to celebrate Red as a successful creative work, there are some problematic elements in the music that need to be unpicked.

Red marks the end (or at least the final stages) of Taylor Swift's metamorphosis from chintzy small-town country-pop girl-next-door to fully-fledged pop princess. The music is much more obviously produced, the synth lines are more prominent, and the familiar Taylor guitar is in the background when it's audible at all.

Let's deal with the obvious criticism: that Taylor's sold out, that she's gone corporate and abandoned her authentic roots, that she's now indistinguishable from any other successful pop robot. Crispy does a good job of dismissing this argument. All the major threads of Taylor's style are still present, if a little muted - from the occasional clever line in the bridge, put there to catch you off-guard, to the use of a "stepped-down version of the chorus as an intro", in Crispy's words - so long-time fans will find plenty to like here.

What about Crispy's claim that Taylor inverts the current pop paradigm? It's undeniable that instead of singing about partying and a commitment-free life, she generally sings about family and marriage. This is a clear continuation of her past work - even songs like Back to December, which feature a protagonist who casts aside commitment, demonstrate clear regret. But is this as interesting or as desirable an antithesis as Crispy says?

Taylor's good-girl attitude is an (authentic or manufactured) product of Small Town America. With her blonde hair and summery dresses, she projects the image of a girl-next-door. Think about the music video for You Belong With Me, where Taylor plays both the cute blonde love interest and the hot, black-haired cheerleader rival. Just as the girl-next door can't exist without the cheerleader, Taylor's focus on commitment in her music relies upon the current pop paradigm instead of subverting it. Rather than providing something truly new, she satisfies herself by occupying the other end of the current dichotomy. It's like the old madonna/whore dilemma in feminist theory - when the Catholic Church venerates the Blessed Virgin, that works to prop up its traditional misogyny instead of undermining it.

Enough with the themes, though. What about the music? It's, well, okay. Not bad. Starlight is good, as is The Lucky One, but songs like I Knew You Were Trouble fail to grab me. Taylor's country roots are still there, but they're in danger of being smothered. In his post, Crispy assumes that Taylor has arrived at her pop-princess pedestal - and if she has, that's fantastic - but I'm not so sure. What worries me as I listen to Red is the direction Taylor's taking: less guitars, more synth; less soul; more pop. Can she pick a path forward without drifting towards Britney Spears? I don't know. And I'm not sure I can bear to watch.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Harlem Roulette

The loneliest people in the whole wide world
are the one you’re never going to see again.

And four hours north of Portland, the radio flips on.
And some no one from the future remembers that you’re gone.
Armies massing in the dusky distance, ghosted in the ribbon microphone.
Leave a little mark on something negative, take the secret circuit home.
Nothing’s in the shadows but the shadow hands,
Reaching out to sad young frightened men.

The loneliest people in the whole wide world
are the one you’re never going to see again.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Essential Driving Safety Tips

Every year, hundreds of people are killed on our roads by drunk drivers. It's a sobering thought - that this carnage is happening all around us - and it shines a spotlight on the reckless and cavalier behavior of many drivers. Of course I'm talking about the victims: those who die, or are left with horrific injuries, or a lifetime of chronic pain. Now, to be clear, I'm not saying that these people are at fault; I'm just saying that if they had made different, more responsible choices, they wouldn't have put themselves in their predicaments. It's a hard world, and we have to be sensible about the risks we take. There's no use taking up the mantle of victimhood and whining from the comfort of a hospital bed about how bad and evil drunk drivers are - it is, in the words of the philosopher, what it is. Instead, follow these driving safety tips and change yourself from a potential victim to a proactive and adult participant in the dangerous world of traffic.

1) Drive a Visible Car

You were crashed into from behind, were you? You were following all the road rules and the driver who hit you was off his mind on cocaine? Well, let's think about it rationally: if you had been more visible to the cocaine addict behind you, you wouldn't have been hit at all. Was your car black, or grey? Even bolder colours like red and yellow don't show up well at night. Really, unless your car is bright pink you've only got yourself to blame. To be safe - after all, safety is the goal here, and who could argue with that? - drape bright Christmas lights all over your car. It's expensive, sure, and ugly, but such is the price of responsibility.

2) Drive on Safe Roads

As responsible adults, we have to recognize that many roads and highways are very dangerous. To avoid an accident, only drive on roads with working streetlights. If a streetlight is broken or damaged, turn around and find another route. Especially in the country, highways will often have few streetlights. If you are forced to drive in these areas, park your car as soon as the sun sets and don't start driving until it rises again. Lack of light isn't the only issue - there are regions where the traffic is more unruly and less trustworthy in general, like cities or suburbs. If you see more than one other car on the road with you, pull over immediately! Otherwise you're accepting a serious risk (along with a degree of responsibility for the inevitable accident).

3) Drive at Safe Times

It's a statistical fact that most drunk driving accidents occur at times when people are likely to be drunk. Friday and Saturday nights are the most dangerous - really, if you're in a car on a weekend night, you've only got yourself to blame - but during the weekend, any driver you pass could be drunk as a sailor. Of course, if you're driving your children around, you'll want to be completely safe and never drive after midday, even on weekdays. Need to pick them up from school? Don't - instead, move house so you're living a short walk away.

Of course, following these helpful tips doesn't guarantee your safety. Risk is an inevitable and healthy part of life. However, if you get hit and injured by a drunk or drugged driver and you weren't following these tips, don't expect my sympathy. We live in a dangerous world, and it's hardly 'blaming the victim' to suggest that making yourself vulnerable to a risk that you could potentially avoid is foolish. In the aftermath of an accident, concentrating on driving visibly and safely is much more helpful than wallowing in self-pity. Let's work together to take responsibility for our actions and avoid the toxic mindset of victimhood.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Cry For Judas

Some things you do / just to see / how bad they make you feel

I love the song - and the new Mountain Goats album, oh my - but this music video doesn't really live up to my expectations for Mountain Goats music videos.

On the one hand, all the ingredients are there - from the obviously symbolic, like the rat poking its way around the dollhouse/maze (and at one point freaking out in the 'bathroom', I have no idea how they got that shot) to the completely impenetrable, like John Darnielle reciting lyrics to a silent child in a tiger mask. There's the child researching and performing his Satanic ritual, echoing The Best Ever Death Metal Band out of Denton. There are even strains of the lapsed Catholicism that informs so much of Darnielle's efforts. But they don't fit together very well. What's the significance of the pregnancy test? Why does John Darnielle get killed by Peter Peter Hughes?

Thematically it's a jambalaya, a mix of all the elements in the music of the Mountain Goats, thrown together in the hope that it will work. It sort of does, like the music video for This Year. Still, it's got nothing on the best Mountain Goats music videos, which pick one visual theme - pictures in pictures, say, or dynamic text - and run with it.