Saturday, November 24, 2007

Imagined Communities of Music

The Segmented Society - David Brooks, NYT

I didn't mean to do it. It's not as if there aren't hundreds of other articles, posts and op-ed pieces I could write about. But goddamnit Brooks, if I ever catch you on the streets I'm punching you in the nose, hard. You and Steven Van Zandt. Fucking old men and their old opinions of music developed during that brief period when music came in album form. But oh no, we have to bitch and moan about how music isn't as good as it was 'back then', how the bands of today are ignorant of their musical heritage and since they no longer attempt to play for the widest audience possible they are one of the causes for the social dissolution we are witnessing. This is the tack Brooks and Zandt take; arguing that since a band like the Rolling Stones wouldn't have made it as big now as they did then there must be something wrong with the music scene of today.
Of course, this is ignoring the whole series of movements and scenes that took place between 1969 and today. Take a gander at the British Isles alone and you'll see bands that played to more people in less time than the Beatles or the Stones have. Didn't anyone bother to mention the whole Brit-Pop thing and the Oasis versus Blur competition that lead to huge sales and concerts? Or how bands from 60s, 70s and 80s continue to heavily influence the bands of today? Garage rock would not have been possible without the Sonics or the Kingsmen and how long did those bands stick around? And if longevity is the key component then shouldn't Michael Jackson be considered one of the most unifying musicians of all time?
Sub-cultures happen and sub-genres will always exist. Despite our ability to categorize a band into a particular 'sound' each band is always different. And to say that these sub-genres are isolated is more than ridiculous as the sub-genre generally forms because a few musicians, either together or separately, dabble with the sounds of another genre. Hip-hop would not exist without funk or R&B. Metal would not exist without 70s stadium rock. Rock'n'Roll itself was a fusion of blues and electric instruments with Bo Diddley.
What so infuriates me with Brooks and Zandt is their attitude that modern music requires a 'canon'--some sort of grand narrative that music teachers can impose upon students and the public consciousness. Yet, much like in history, the grand narrative is false; it doesn't exist and never did. No single line exists from one musical act/movement to the next that you can point to and act as if ignoring one point along the line is blasphemous. Certain eras have certain tones but that's more due to our need for classification than of some real, concrete effort by that era's bands. Music, particularly the sub-genres, is one of the more raw forms of culture and so it moves in odd and unusual ways. There's only so much you can say about one time period through its music since music is so close to the ground of cultural production. It's just unfortunate that Brooks and Zandt don't get this and attempt to cover up their old-man-syndrome with some argument about the unifying aspect of music when that aspect never really existed in the first place.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Proof of Concept - Updated

The Go! Team - Proof of Youth

Two months after its release I finally picked up the Go! Team's latest album. Quick summation, it's exhausting in its enthusiasm and has secured a place in my current cd rotation. Far more 80s hip-hop influenced than their last effort (Chuck D himself guests on one track), the band does expand its arsenal of genres to pilfer. 60s Go-Go music alongside Blondie-esque 80s jams work together brilliantly. Yet, the segue into 70s AM radio on the third track "My World" almost throws the whole album off beat. Otherwise, the rest of the album blast from one bombastic banger to the next with little down time (hence the exhaustion).
On the production side a better quality ends up cutting both ways. Taylor and Tsuchida's vocals are more pronounced while the cheerleader chants are a rarer commodity. Cleaner production allows the band's performance to shine yet restrains the raw emotion of Thunder, Lightning, Strike. Thus the album is distinctly different from the Go! Team's previous album without sacrificing their artistic integrity.
Proof of Youth is an excellent follow-up to Thunder, Lightning, Strike but for those of you who fell in love with the cheerleader chants the album will come as a bit of a disappointment. Still, the hooks are great, the lyrics hopping and the drums continuing their efforts to crack the firmament and extinguish the stars.

The Go! Team - Grip Like a Vice
The Go! Team - Flashlight Fight

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Advertising Torture

Amnesty's Unsubscribe Me video reenacts CIA stress-position torture - Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

For the longest time I've wondered why one of the more leftist organizations with a good deal of money and connections haven't produced advertisements or short films showing the effects of declared 'coercive interrogations'. It a pretty well known thing that most Americans have no idea what coercive interrogation means nor the effects on the body. They hear the words 'sleep deprivation' and think of the times when they had to go into work early for a week. A stress position doesn't sound so bad. And waterboarding has become such a confused concept due to the rightist punditry that most people completely misunderstand the idea. I've had the urge to hire someone to climb into a filing cabinet and stay there until they're screaming to come out (this is in public of course). And I often point to the experiment a radioman did back in the fifties in which he attempted to stay awake as long as possible. By the end of it, he was seeing spiders coming out of his shoes and other such hallucinations.
Naturally, papers like the Weekly Standard, National Review, and the Wall Street Journal will cry foul and declare these aids nothing more than scare tactics by a bunch of leftist radicals bent on destroying America, the rule of law, security and puppies. Of course, that is their right (no matter how wrong they are). I simply hope that those of use who do oppose torture show these aids and make the appropriate arguments. The whole idea of 'coercive interrogation' is bunk as it often leads to false confessions weeks or months after any possible 'good' intelligence has become useless. And as for the 'ticking-timebomb' scenario, you are describing a situation where we have an individual in custody perfectly willing to die as a martyr who, more than likely, will simply lie to his captors long enough for said bomb to explode. Now even if such a scenario took place and did result in the stopping of an attack, no grand jury in this country would even let the case go to trial. It's akin to justifiable homicide. Of course proper procedures would take place but that's simply the way our justice system is supposed to work.
So next time you meet someone who knows little to nothing about 'coercive interrogation' or even supports it, remind them of the consequences and how their supposed killer arguments fall rather flat.

Guns at the Ready

Via Warren Ellis's blog is this uncommented on image from Libby Bulloff. But I have to offer one comment: gorgeous.

Quiet Genes

Is The Inability to Express Emotion Hereditary? - Science Daily

Now this I believe in since from my grandfather to my father to me we each have this amazing ability to internalize everything. Until, of course, it breaches our emotional walls and manifests as some sort of severe quirk (is alcoholism a quirk?).

What About Spam

Email is NOT Dead - Publishing 2.0

I have to agree with Scoot Karp here that email is certainly not dead. Instead, email has simply become like the telephone of old; something that has become so ingrained in our everyday life that we no longer notice is prevalence. But I email every day, along with using other services like Blogger and Twitter and text messaging. These are all form of communication that serve different purposes. But email is a one-to-one or one-to-few communication that allows for less time sensitive reading and response. It allows for a greater amount of information to pass that texting and twittering do not and it's not meant for mass consumption like a blog is.
Email also allows for image and audio communication in ways that YouTube or Flickr do not. Links to those sites are easily added but for a lot of people that kind of embedding doesn't occur to the or, for the business world, not allowed. Email is still the most viable form of communication in most ways since email allows for more verbose messages while not needing an instant response or a modified language for faster communication. So I sincerely doubt we will see the fall of email any time soon. There's no real replacement for it and it is still one of the standard-bearers of what the Internet means.

Thanksgiving Blogging

Today is a day of food, drink and a lot blogging that I'm catching up on. Some of the posts are weeks, if not months old, but I tagged the item because I wanted to write something about it. So, today I will.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Weekend in the City

Lee Harvey's
Darkside Lounge
Lollipop Shoppe
Lizard Lounge

Eventful weekends typically aren't the planned for sort of thing. You might have in mind a few places you'd like to visit during the night, but it's difficult in the Dallas scene to know what precisely to expect, which is a bit of the fun (even if there's the occasional night where everything turns into a bust). First, house party, friend of a friend and that sort of thing. Nicely done but quiet and far too tame. Even so, it was a fine way to work oneself into the evening. Some light chatter and a beer to ease yourself to the next thing, which became a cop-infested set of the Happy Bullets, who were allowed to rock their particular style of poppy Irish-inflected music.
This is where the 'until' comes into play. Apparently some soon to be without a working car or front door asshole decided things were too loud and had the fuzz bring down the Bullets' fuzz. Lameness ensues for a few moments until decisions are made, plans developed and cars started. The Darkside Lounge, not one of my favorite places but worth going into once in a while, had what appeared to be a semi-punk, semi-hardcore show going on. While on my way in I had to quickly duck out of the way of a slew of bouncers with some poor but deserving soul leading the way, hanging from his jacket and fading dignity. Cheap beer was bought, so was a burning shot of Jameson's, and after a few songs and questions I come to find that one other person had already made his bouncer-driven launch from the bar. Things like that only raise the quality of the bar in my opinion.
However, boredom settled in quickly and we made a mad dash for the Lollipop Shoppe to witness the dance stylings of modern mods and freshly-pressed go-go girls. Some pictures were taken (naturally not by my camera since I only received the new repaired item today from a burly UPS fellow). Go take a gander at fotophonic if you'd like to see what images made it through the night.
Despite the burgeoning fun at Sloppyworld, my wild hare of a idea to go to the Fetish Ball at the Lizard Lounge took hold among my companions. Can't say why, but we scurried over and took in the lovely leathery sights for some time. After my friends made a quick exist for the door I meandered a while longer, suffering at the hands of a dominatrix for a few minutes (the flogging way fine, the choking I could have done without). After that, mind, body and soul declared me done for the night and ordered a long walk to the car.
Long night--fun, adventurous, a little dangerous but entirely worth what little cash I had left. The holidays always seem to bring out the better events. Something about the Dallas cold that gets people all frisky and active. Next year, no fetish, unless in private. But more of the Lollipop Shoppe and the Happy Bullets please. They satisfy that space between my stomach and diaphragm.

Holographic Lives

What you see to the left is a four-dimensional sphere--a tesseract. Basically, the idea is that the object is larger from the inside than from the outside. Either way, it a different way of looking at our spatial dimensions. String theorists claim that our universe has another six dimensions or so along with the dimension of time. For the most part those dimensions are too small to see; wrapped up in the strings that form the subatomic particles of the universe. Now that alone is quite interesting but not the point of this particular missive.
I've taken some inspiration from both watching Heroes and reading Warren Ellis' Planetary. My moment-in-the-shower thought was what if one of the dimensions of the universe was a one dimensional informational plane? Ellis toyed with the idea in Planetary with the claim that we are all three-dimensions holograms of a one-dimensional informational plane. Where I got sidetracked was with the character Charlie from season one of Heroes and her ability to pick up on information intuitively.
To make information a fundamental part of the universe is actually quite brilliant because information differentiates one object from another, one particle, person, building and anything else from another. Sure, the means by which we measure information is subjective but the fact that the information exists is made no less real by that. Moreover, it says that there is an underlying structure to the universe holding everything together by giving it different informational properties. Information becomes the new aether, the substrate that the universe rests upon.
Another interesting (and this is where my mind starts going wonky) element to labeling information as a dimension is that it answers Heidegger's old question of why is there something instead of nothing? Nothingness becomes impossible in a way since to use the label of nothingness is to ascribe an informational fact. Nothing becomes something because you can call it something. I still can't quite wrap my head around that idea because I believe that nothingness is possible, the absence of existence, of information, but much like the waveform collapse or Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, nothingness remains only until observed.
The strange thing about turning information into a dimension is the question of how large of a dimension it is. Personally, I believe that the information dimension is one-dimensional and spans the entirety of the universe. Information is constantly holding up the universe by constantly providing informational facts to the rest of the dimensions. The way the character Charlie was able to pick up on information so quickly shows that there are informational channels we can attune ourselves to much like we can see a wavelength of light. Micha, another character, can read technological information in much the same way. The Drummer from Planetary can do much of the same thing.
What I don't believe is that the information-dimension is deterministic, i.e. I don't believe that it locks each of us into a particular set of facts that we can never remove ourselves from. Instead I believe that the information-dimension allows for many different facts to take shape, and like the uncertainty principle, doesn't resolve itself until measured. Time has no internal means of measurement nor does length, width or height. Thus information does not become determine precisely until it is observered.
I think this is an idea that I will kick around in my head for a few days. I warn you that another post may come along, but so be it.