Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Worry Men

Quote of the Day - Andrew Sullivan

You know, the more Sen. Clinton trots out her husband to trash Sen. Obama the more I worry about his influence in the White House. What happens when President Clinton decides not to listen to her husband?

Heinrich Kley and the Modern Fantasy

Heinrich Kley: Industry and Ecstasy, Fantasy and Fact - Meredith Yayanos @ Coilhouse

With the rise of interest in the spiritual at the end of the 19th century along with the progressively everyday sights of modernity it's no wonder many artists of the time incorporated elements of both into their work. This is especially true for those in countries like France and Germany, both before and after the Great War, whose writers, philosophers, and artists attempted to express the shift in their souls brought about by modernity. Many good and bad things came from these efforts (fascism for one) but we can still learn from these expressions of wonder, awe and fear at a rapidly modernizing world. It's only just now that we are returning to the questions these creators had asked a century ago.

The Calm Generation

The World-Spirit Through History - Matt Yglesias

Of course, David Freddoso is right in a way, a wacky way though. After the English Civil Wars the whole country tacked towards an anti-polemical attitude that was reflected in the debated and the creation of the public sphere in the English coffeehouses of the period. It was also after the fall of fanatical religion that some of the greatest works on liberty and democracy were written such as Hobbes Leviathan and Locke's Two Treates On Government along with the addition of an informed and politically active public that did not take to extremes. Of course, someone like Freddoso will overlook all of these facts just to make his argument, which both undermines his argument and his critical thinking abilities if he believes that citing one point in history is sufficient evidence. Besides, it was when nationalism became a religion of sorts that fascism took off. And it was when capitalism was at its worst that Marx wrote, only to have his work overturned by moral revolutionary Georges Sorel at the end of the 19th century. But that's neither here nor there, now isn't it?

Song of the Storm Night

My Robot Friend @ MySpace
My Robot Friend Home Page
My Robot Friend @ Virb

Something fun for the night. Nothing amazing, just good electro.

The Obama Ascension

Decency and a Generation - Andrew Sullivan
'My Commentators Is Smarter Than I': Go for the Jugular Edition - Ezra Klein
Depends On What You Mean By Surprise, I Guess... - Alex Masse
Known Quantity - Matt Yglesias

I have a couple more links to add when those site are back up again. I wanted to gather some of the latest posts about the whole issue of Sen. Obama's past drug use and the Clinton campaign's efforts to use that as a smear on Sen. Obama's character. A lot of the issue concerns the differences between Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton, both in leadership style and campaign style. I have no qualms about Sen. Obama's past drug use, both due to my own past usage and the completely forward nature in which Sen. Obama has conducted himself with the matter.
A lot of digital ink has been spilled about the growing fight between the Obama camp and the Clinton camp, with most of the more critical posts pointing to the faults of the Clinton campaign. In particular, the last couple of weeks have shown a Hilary Clinton people remember from the smears she suffered from during her time as the First Lady. She has gone on a serious offensive against Sen. Obama in attacking his experience, his 'known quantities', his drug usage and even some underhanded smear emails sent out by her own campaign staff (of which two have already resigned over, and another over the cocaine issue). Her husband has joined the chorus as well, arguing that much like his wife, he was for the war before he was against it, which considered how laughable it was when Sen. Kerry made that claim I don't know why President Clinton would attempt to do the same now.
Suffice to say, one would have expected Sen. Obama's polling numbers to have dropped in the key primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Yet the opposite has happened as Sen. Obama has overtaken Sen. Clinton in Iowa and has closed in to a statistical tie with her in New Hampshire. The negativity with which Sen. Clinton has assaulted Sen. Obama has reflected in the polls as Obama has remained cool and collected, i.e. he has remained on message as a candidate of hope and change.
What several people have noticed is that Sen. Obama is seemingly not afraid of the Republican party while Sen. Clinton still is. Her campaign style reflects an attitude of negativity and offense that is better suited for use against Republican candidates. In other words, Clinton doesn't know how to campaign against her own and that has led to the perception that Clinton is too cut-throat for the tastes of many liberals. Meanwhile, Obama continues to push his message forward with strength and conviction, and with seeming disregard for whether his position appeases everyone.
Another element, of which I can't link to at the moment, of Obama's current success comes from his ability to talk to conservatives on their own terms, acknowledging their positions and then rebutting them in such a way that most conservative listeners come to agree with. He growing stronger in his speeches and in the debates themselves while Hilary has begun to look more like the Mitt Romney of the liberal side.
All of this is to say that Sen. Obama has has some great fortune in the last couple of weeks, both due to his own abilities (see, The Moment) and Sen. Clinton's mistakes. As the primary dates come closer (Iowa is on January 3rd) Sen. Obama has a good chance of upsetting the presumptive frontrunner and turn that momentum into an even greater upset in New Hampshire.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Searchable Notes

Internet Archive to store researchers' notes, "raw" data - John Timmer @ Ars Technica

Oh good Lord, what an amazing idea. I'm surprised no one has done this already. A project like this could revolutionize the study of past scholars and the turns they took through their research. Imagine having all of Nietzsches' notes on hand and searchable, or Darwins' or even someone like Neil Gaiman. All the bad ideas run to the ground, the ideas passed by, the leaps in thinking, everything that a writer or scholar worked on but never published, right there for you to read. You could go back and take a look at the math of a respected physicist and see if he might have made a mistake, or find a solution to a problem not yet solved. More than just putting books up for online searching, you have the raw material that was pulled together for those books. This is the kind of thing that web 2.0 was made for.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Surreal Imagery Made Happy

Chromasia via Photoblogs

What a strange but obvious way to promote one's photography. It's all very Zen-like so that makes it perfect for me.

In the Basement

Warehouse 23 Basement via Coilhouse

This is the kind of randomness I love. What an opportunity to come up with truly weird ideas and have them mean something, even if only for a moment, to someone else.

Dumbest Damn Thing

Senator Kit Bond: Waterboarding is "like swimming" - Mark Frauenfelder @ BoingBoing


I repeat.


Set Brain to 0

Does Facebook Make You Stupid? - evolution @ Trumor

At first I thought this was bogus but after reading the post I think there is some true to this. Information requires a degree of processing before our brains make all the connections. When we cram all of the blog posts, music, pictures and videos into our heads like we do then we end up with this unsorted mass that lacks the connections we need to make sense of it all. Some days I just have to stay away from my blogs because I need a day to process. The same thing happens when I download too much music. Before I buy a cd I need to know if I really do like it or if I'm basing things off first impressions and not digging any deeper.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Real World

Less blogging tonight. I'm having a drink with an old friend and we have some catching up to do. Reality...might be interesting.

Monday, December 10, 2007

In the Erotic Stacks

Naughty Library in Paris - Hell at the Library - TrendHunter

Now why can't they make this a traveling show. I'm sure it would draw a lot of people to their respective libraries when they never would have gone in the first place. This is the perfect form of advertising for librarians.

Preview: The Dodos

The Dodos @
The Dodos @ MySpace

Can't remember where I specifically found this band but I believe it was somewhere on during one of my audio dives. Just bought Beware of the Maniacs from their website. They have this strange acoustic folk sound that runs closer to Battles or Parts & Labor than say Iron & Wine or Bonnie Prince William. I think a better comparison is the first Beirut album sparsely done with DIY beats, full-bodied guitars and some incidental keys in the background for added flavor. The lead singer, Meric Long, does well within his vocal range, neither pushing it nor attempting to understate it. He tells a story as much through his voice as he does the music. It's well worth your time to take a listen and visit their site. They have a full-length lined up for release in March of next years but you can pick up one of their eps for a cheap tenner from their site.

Containing Unrepentant Anger

"Not Us. We're Not Going" - Noah Shachtman, Danger Room

It's not surprising that a platoon of soldiers would refuse to go out on patrol due to some sort of fear. But in this case the scary part is that these soldiers are so tightly wound that any sort of movement one could loosely consider a potential threat would lead to an overkill situation. I applaud these soldiers for knowing their psychological limits and taking that into account before being put in the middle of dozens of civilians. When people talk about the 'breaking' of the American military, I want you to remember these soldiers and their commitment to do right.

Branding a Campaign

O-Mentum - Ezra Klein

This, I think, is what a lot of critics of Oprah's support for Obama don't get--she draws the most positive kind of attention to a wide swath of the American public. When a talk show host can send Tolstoy to the top of the best-seller list through her recommendation alone then you cannot discount the kind of influence she holds. Bringing new names and faces into the primary process will probably become the most cited reason for Obama's upset win in Iowa. Oprah is not a king-maker but she does have immense influence on the American public's perception of things.

Calvinball in Iraq

Muddling Along - Ezra Klein

Finally! I've been saying this for years now that the way our policy on Iraq has run was more like Calvinball than anything that had a coherent plan and direction. So now that Klein has finally said it we can start pushing the meme that nothing in at least the past two years has had any coherency and have merely been efforts to stave off the shame that comes with admitting a serious fuck-up. Yes, brave men and women of our military forces have died for nothing, because as soon as the rules change then their efforts are nullified. We've kept changing tactics when what we have needed so dearly is a serious change in strategy. Are we occupiers? Do we have a coherent plan to wind down our commitments? Have we tried every political and diplomatic solution available and are we using those solutions while the military keeps a lid on a simmer civil war? The violence has fallen so now is the time to kick the politics into high gear. But to do that we need at least some idea of what results we want to see. And more importantly, President Bush needs to tell it to the American public. But whatever is done, this ridiculously murderous version of Calvinball needs to end.

Kate Nash, A Preview

Kate Nash @ MySpace

Comparisons to Lily Allen aside, this Brit singer is pulling more on 80s and 90s indie than anything else. Fun stuff.

Bring Me the Head of Jack Skinner

Lack of sleep and six hours of music wears on the body, you know?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

International Law and its Enemies

Krauthammer on Fox - Andrew Sullivan

One of the elements that divided nations during the Interwar years between WWI and WWII was the idea that there was a common law shared between nations. States like Germany and Italy began to act against this idea, instead believing that only the preservation of their nation was necessary and any act that promoted their nation was ergo necessary as well. After WWII it was quickly realized by most of the fighting powers that international affairs needed a unified governing body of some sort, hence the creation of the UN. No nation should act completely on its own in relation to other nations but needed to act in some form of cooperation. International law is essential in the modern world as what one nation does can have serious repercussions on other nations. Diplomacy and compromise are essential tools, as are international agreements. One nation cannot simply withdraw from a commitment without suffering the consequences. That's what the point of the UN was. And you can't break one agreement and then expect other agreements to remain in place. Once you start going it alone then you have to expect to stay alone and bitching and moaning about it is just plain childish.

Mind Murmurs

We Feel Fine - Tasty Blog Snack

I was just having a conversation about Twitter and how it can turn a super-contextual thought into a context-free thought and then back again. Using Twitter like that is a giving of ourselves to the subconscious of the internet, bringing us closer together even though we may be thousands of miles apart. This idea of viewing the murmurings of the internet is fascinating as it acts something like the background thoughts we individually have. Love it.

Label in Review: DFA Records

DFA Records Home Page
DFA Records @ MySpace
DFA Records @ Wikipedia
DFA Records @ Discogs
Interview w/ James Murphy @ In the Mix

When James Murphy joined with Tim Goldsworthy to form a label in early September 2001 Murphy wanted to name the label Death From Above. But the New York based label quickly nixed that idea in the middle of that September and the two settled on the acronym of DFA. Since 2001 DFA has become a force within the independent indie-dance and electro-rock scene, releasing the Rapture's first album, Hot Chip's The Warning in the U.S. and creating a literal heap of remixes for acts ranging from Justin Timberlake to Nine Inch Nails to Gorillaz. Home to acts like the Rapture, the Black Dice, Juan McLean, Shit Robot, Prinzhorn Dance School, the Shocking Pinks and James Murphy's own band, LCD SoundSystem, DFA is typically on the cutting edge of electro-anything and pushing beyond New York and into the electro-scene of European discotheques. Their remixes are highly sought after both by listeners and artists.
What makes DFA so distinctive is the mix between Murphy's 70s funk and Goldsworthy 80s new wave sensibilities. In particular their remix of Hot Chips "Just Like We (Breakdown)" transforms an otherwise excellent track into a nine minute sonic experience. Their emphasis on a mix of live instruments and electronic sounds allows DFA to stretch the boundaries of dance music without pegging themselves as simply another 'experimental' label.
Murphy's own LCD SoundSystem is a perfect example of what DFA seeks to achieve as Murphy and drummer Pat Mahoney blend live beats with synths, looped vocals and out-and-out rock music. Recently LCD SoundSystem released a single for Nike's runners ad campaign that was 45 minutes long. It is through these sorts of efforts that DFA has grown its presence in the minds of indie and even a few average music consumers.
On a side note, as the Wikipedia mentions, a copyright issue arose between DFA and the band Death From Above 1979 when DFA 1979 was going by the name Death From Above. While Murphy is made to look like the good businessman in all of this, DFA 1979 did not take the forced name change well. Murphy claimed it was simply and issue between Capitol Records and their label but DFA 1979 took it personally. Yet the label still stands and continues to produce and release new records by both their in house acts and new acts they can find.
So far, DFA has built a reputation as a respected independent label while eschewing the typical 'sell-outs' stigma for many (although there are a few who argue otherwise). Much like Matador Records in the 90s, DFA has become a trusted label for quality acts and music. Keep your eyes peeled for anything with the DFA logo as it represents good music to dance to.

Fascism as Faith

Seriously? - Megan McArdle

Historians of the 30s and 40s had such a terrible time trying to explain fascism because they were trying to put fascism in line with other traditional forms of ideology and government. But fascism defied those categories because it wasn't a traditional political ideology but politics experienced as faith. More than any other ideology of the last century, fascism relied on the mass experience to drive its ideology, to turn culture in political culture where everything you do is done for the state. Theocracies have similar characteristics but the difference is those under a fascist rule worship the state and its leader, not a god and a religion. Fascism is nationalism turned into a faith.
This is why the term 'totalitarianism' is such a misleading one; it encompasses to much while blurring the clear distinctions between authoritarian government like Communism, theocracy and fascism. It's not a helpful term in that way because you have a hard time figuring out why a counter to a communist ideology doesn't work for a fascist ideology. The idea of totalitarianism does help somewhat when describing the differences between it and democracy but beyond that the term becomes less useful in understanding the totalitarian system. They all commit terrible crimes but the why of those crimes is still important and categorizing any authoritarian rule as totalitarian makes it difficult to understand and undermine that rule.