” An international chorus of horse laughs or nausea, depending on one’s Weltanschauung”

“Tom, don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell. You know where I learned that from? The Don, my old man, The Godfather. If a bolt of lightning hit a friend of his the old man would take it personal. He took my going into the Marines personal. That’s what makes him great. The Great Don. He takes everything personal. Like God. He knows every feather that falls from the tail of a sparrow or however the hell it goes. Right? And you know something? Accidents don’t happen to people who take accidents as a personal insult.” — Michael Corleone

“I tell ya, I don’t get no respect. Last week my house was on fire. My wife told the kids, ‘Be quiet, you’ll wake up Daddy.'” Rodney

“In the early 1880s New York’s social parvenus—the people who were the Sculls, Paleys, Engelhards, Holzers, of their day—were the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Huntingtons and Goulds. They built the Metropolitan Opera House for the simple reason that New York’s prevailing temple of Culture, the Academy of Music, built just 29 years before at 14th Street and Irving Place, had only 18 fashionable proscenium boxes, and they were monopolized by families like the Lorillards, Traverses, Belmonts, Stebbinses, Gandys and Barlows. The status of the Goulds and Vanderbilts was revealed in the sort of press coverage the Met’s opening (October 22, 1883) received: ‘The Goulds and the Vanderbilts and people of that ilk perfumed the air with the odor of crisp greenbacks.’

“By the 1960s yet another new industry had begun to dominate New York life, namely, communications—the media. At the same time the erstwhile “minorities” of the first quarter of the century had begun to come into their own. Jews, especially, but also many Catholics, were eminent in the media and in Culture. So, by 1965—as in 1935, as in 1926, as in 1883, as in 1866, as in 1820—New York had two Societies, “Old New York” and “New Society.” In every era, “Old New York” has taken a horrified look at “New Society” and expressed the devout conviction that a genuine aristocracy, good blood, good bone—themselves—was being defiled by a horde of rank climbers. This has been an all-time favorite number. In the 1960s this quaint belief was magnified by the fact that many members of “New Society,” for the first time, were not Protestant. The names and addresses of “Old New York” were to be found in the Social Register, which even 10 years ago was still confidently spoken of as the Stud Book and the Good Book. It was, and still is, almost exclusively a roster of Protestant families. Today, however, the Social Register’s annual shuffle, in which errant socialites, e.g., John Jacob Astor, are dropped from the Good Book, hardly even rates a yawn. The fact is that “Old New York”—except for those members who also figure in “New Society,” e.g., Nelson Rockefeller, John Hay Whitney, Mrs. Wyatt Cooper—is no longer good copy, and without publicity it has never been easy to rank as a fashionable person in New York City.

“The press in New York has tended to favor New Society in every period, and to take it seriously, if only because it provides “news.” Tom Wolfe, ‘Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s

“Surely, it is much easier to respect a man who has always had respect, than to respect a man who we know was last year no better than ourselves, and will be no better next year. … In civilized society, personal merit will not serve you so much as money will. Sir, you may make the experiment. Go into the street, and give one man a lecture on morality, and another a shilling, and see which will respect you most.” Dr. Johnson

” I worked in a pet store and people kept asking how big I’d get. RD”

This weekend marks the 18th anniversary of this site. Here now are some things that have been coagulating for several months.

Shall we begin?

In summary

Which is an odd place to start, granted.

Here’s Chapo Trap House’s 206th podcast. It takes up a position on the page today because – minus the stuff about being invited and/or being disinvited to Yale – it pretty much sums up my opinion of what’s really been going on.

For those of you have no interest in listening, let’s go back to this line from Gravity’s Rainbow, ” If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers.”

And do you know why you kept asking questions like, “Where oh where did that find that vulgar woman? Why did she say such awful things? Why did she have to pick on Sarah Sanders like that?”

Here’s a transcript of final minute of Michele Wolf’s speech –

There’s a ton of news right now, a lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour news networks, and we could be covering everything. Instead, we’re covering three topics. Every hour is Trump, Russia, Hillary, and a panel full of people that remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving. Milk comes from nuts now all because of the gays.

You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. If you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money, because he doesn’t have any.

Trump is so broke he grabs pussies because he thinks there might be loose change in them. Like an immigrant who was brought here by his parents and didn’t do anything wrong, I’ve got to get the fuck out of here. Good night.

Flint still doesn’t have clean water.

That’s why.

Politics is now a matter of which culture you belong to. There’s no viewpoints, philosophical under pinnings, or side of the aisle anymore. Once you’ve accepted your culture you’ve also accepted your way to get played.

And played badly.

You know my doctor? Doctor Vinny Boom-Botz?

As you might have notice this space had been fallow for a good many months. Every time I think I have something to bring up it suddenly slips away.

For no damn good reason at all.

Over the past couple of weeks I didn’t really come up with some bright idea so much as I started to notice something – so many people think they are owed respect and they cry out as their much desired respect alludes them. Case in point – the Intellectual Dark Web – a gathering of folks who are seeking and failing to find respect and they don’t get it.

Didn’t 2016 change everything?

Wasn’t political correctness vanquished?

Where is the acknowledgment that they have lead us all to a bright new day?

And isn’t this nothing more than the same thing the A-list Bloggers were after c. 2005?

The solution here is simple. Pack all of ’em up and move ’em over to Pajamas Media. They’ll find a good home there. That way they won’t have to worry if the NY Times will publish what Mom calls their “butthurt” in the Sunday edition.

The only reason to mention any of this as it was concurrent with Tom Wolfe’s death. Almost 50 years ago he created the thumbnail history of how New York City had the ability to confer respect on people when Mr. W wrote about that evening when The Bersteins entertained The Black Panthers. It was an elegant take on how the monied flocked to one city in order to become respected because New York society was a pantheon.

Sure, other cities had something they called high society, but it was merely a codification of the existing petit bourgeois pecking order. Hell, even small towns had something they called society, but no matter how many luncheons your Aunt Agnes put on for the local auxiliary she was only known by the name she was born with. No one ever called her Babe, or Tex, or Slim and Truman Capote never thought of her as one of his “Swans.”

That sort of thing was reserved for New Yorkers.

Today it’s a bit harder to find that kind of respect. Make no mistake, NYC still has its social circles, but who seeks them out for respect?

Once -assuming you make a pile of it elsewhere – money would get you on the social register after moving to town.

Now?

Warren Buffett lives in Nebraska, Bill Gates still lives in his hometown, and Elon Musk has taken up residence inside a plasma conduit aboard the Starship Enterprise.

So long Mr. Wolfe and thanks. You a wellspring of wily observations and and firecracker prose. While Mailer wrote about his favorite subject, Mailer and Thompson hid behind his persona to bring forth amazing observations, you met it all head on. You documented the 60s and mad it look oh so effortless.


Vigilate Est, Canes

(ed. note: Here now to spread some enlightenment around is a special guest contribution from our own Alaska Wolf Joe.)

Abstract: The current decay of images is due to the revelation of their utter contingency, their failure to prove that our cultural narratives were necessary and permanent depictions. Now, a great reversal has taken place. We have learned that it was the other way around, and that our cultural narratives were put in place to encode these relations in the first place. When certain individuals realize this contingency, it drives them to attempt to exchange their contingent narrative for a new one which they truly believe is necessary. One of these most archetypical exchanges is the failure of a masculine narrative to prove itself as narrative, which replaces itself with violence. In the acceleration which we currently face, such exchanges are more likely to take place, and as such, the rate of violence will increase.

“Several days later Murray asked me about a tourist attraction known as the most photographed barn in America. We drove twenty-two miles into the country around Farmington. There were meadows and apple orchards. White fences trailed through the rolling fields. Soon the signs started appearing. THE MOST PHOTOGRAPHED BARN IN AMERICA. We counted five signs before we reached the site. There were forty cars and a tour bus in the makeshift lot. We walked along a cowpath to the slightly elevated spot set aside for viewing and photographing. All the people had cameras; some had tripods, telephoto lenses, filter kits. A man in a booth sold postcards and slides–pictures of the barn taken from the elevated spot. We stood near a grove of trees and watched the photographers. Murray maintained a prolonged silence, occasionally scrawling some notes in a little book.

“No one sees the barn,” he said finally.

A long silence followed.

“Once you’ve seen the signs about the barn, it becomes impossible to see the barn.” He fell silent once more. People with cameras left the elevated site, replaced at once by others. “We’re not here to capture an image, we’re here to maintain one. Every photograph reinforces the aura. Can you feel it, Jack? An accumulation of nameless energies.”

There was an extended silence. The man in the booth sold postcards and slides.”Being here is a kind of spiritual surrender. We see only what the others see. The thousands who were here in the past, those who will come in the future. We’ve agreed to be part of a collective perception. This literally colors our vision. A religious experience in a way, like all tourism.”

Another silence ensued.

“They are taking pictures of taking pictures,” he said. He did not speak for a while. We listened to the incessant clicking of shutter release buttons, the rustling crank of levers that advanced the film.

“What was the barn like before it was photographed?” he said. “What did it look like, how was it different from other barns, how was it similar to other barns? We can’t answer these questions because we’ve read the signs, seen the people snapping the pictures. We can’t get outside the aura. We’re part of the aura. We’re here, we’re now.”
He seemed immensely pleased by this.”

Don DeLillo, ‘White Noise’

The image is decaying. Images, themselves, are stable. But their meaning – the sum total of what any image means – is decaying at an exponential rate.

There is too much to see. Think of how many images you have seen in the past hour, how many things are engravings and not the object themselves. I would estimate at the minimum a hundred; possibly several hundred. How many of these did you pay attention to? Very few, likely, but they saturated: they do not go to the operations of the unconscious (it no longer exists, a fiction also drowned in a sea of truths), but they undoubtedly have saturated your memory, whether that memory retrieved or unretrieved.

Images encode. Given a sufficiently complicated enough series of images, it provides details for replication of its information in real life. Driving-school car-crash scare films, YouTube tutorials for petty household tasks or software manipulation, Stranger Danger PSAs played anywhere after the 1970s in American elementary school classrooms, the exercise video series you might see on a late night infomercial, the infomercial itself, the highly complicated world of television and cinema with its portrayals of life (at all class stratifications) ready to impel us to associate ourselves with those images. All of these function as depictions which intend to replicate lessons, morals, instructions in reality. They are a sequence designed to produce a behavior.

Complex enough images become complex cultural narratives.

The societal standards of romance and sexuality are prevalent in popular culture because popular culture is the method of societal conditioning. The cinematic image pervades as the standard which we judge our lives against, compare to, imitate, and associate. It is the last gold standard – the method of exchange for which our every life event can be traded to in some value. “It feels just like a movie.” Even for us sickening freaks who attempt to take a position of detached postmodern irony, the cinematic image invades us at some level – its fantasies still poison us. We know the cultural importance of the game that we play with culture, we take it seriously. We take it seriously enough to think that our absence of totalizing faith in it is in some way also a noteworthy cultural action. We are not free from its grip on our reality; its dialectical play is always in opposition to those of us who even proclaim it to not have an effect on our lives. We feel the shadow of the cinematic image. Just like Nietzsche’s proclamation that we have not taken the death of God seriously enough, we are not taking the death of film seriously enough. We endlessly compare ourselves to images, privately and publicly, even in our claim that we are atheists of the image. Disavowal is impossible. To complete dissociate oneself from the cultural grip of the image is either a sign of delusion, privilege, or a dysfunction of thinking sufficient enough to show one is incapable of taking in the hot medium of cultural instruction. If you are not mentally ill, you are susceptible to the wiles of the popular image. Inevitably then, the cultural depiction of romance and sexuality in the cinematic image (whether comedic, romantic, pornographic, childish, “adult”, in a theater, television, or the internet) is the standard from which we judge our relationships.

This is ten-cent knowledge. Even our most bourgeois and bland feminisms know the importance of cultural encoding from popular images. We wouldn’t fight over cultural representation if we think it didn’t reflect itself in some semiotic bliss. There are few who would contest that today, save for certain Darwinists who claim that the cultural mythology reflects an inherent biological drive which can never be destroyed. But they suffer from the same plight of images: is not this image of a bifurcated nature, a totalized image of man against the elements, clutching his junk and swinging his club to impress the savage women also a Hollywood fiction, an imbued cultural narrative from which we cannot even trace the origins of?

A point I will return to.

Our conflict now is a conflict over the remnants of the cinematic image, over its significations, its power, and it future. We fight over this image because we know that the threshold that any image has on our lives is decaying under the horrendous weight of over-saturation. We are hoping to fight against entropy; to create a position of cohesion. In the thermodynamics of culture, this is not likely.

The figure of the violent atrocity in America is inextricably bound up with the cinematic image. Harris and Klebold could, epistemically, separate their world from that of Stone’s ‘Natural Born Killers’ and Id Software’s DOOM (1993) but they could not narratologicly. And a similar resurgence seems to haunt itself under so many of the recent acts of violence: the difference between the perpetrators of violence being able to integrate the reality of their circumstances and the cultural images which they either fight within the confines of, or fight against the loss of. It isn’t a matter of culture corrupting the individual; it is a matter of the individual’s relation to culture itself becoming corrupted in the same sense a set of data becomes corrupted within a machine: the encoding itself is breaking down.

There is a process,I fear I cannot truly argue for its existence, but nonetheless have a gut feeling for: in the age of the decaying image, in the age of immense chaos and an accelerating glut of information, it is impossible for our realities to ever match that of the images we created to thread together a narrative of social reality.

Saul Kripke, philosopher of language, spoke of the concept of “necessary a posteriori truths.” These were things which were necessarily true, but their necessity could not be discovered without experience. This is in contrast to certain things which (debatably) hold true without empirical experience. The most traditional of these examples being mathematical truths, such as 2 + 2 = 4 being a fact which it seems no one can experience, but which is necessarily true. An example of one such of these necessary a posteriori truths is the concept that water is H2O. Without getting into the painstaking specifics of such a linguistic example, we have encountered water, but it took an experiential observation to have it revealed to us that it had the chemical structure H2O. But now knowing this, we can’t imagine an instance in which this is false: water is always H2O. As such, it becomes a necessary truth, but a necessary truth we only knew by experience.

We treat our relationship to the cultural narrative in some way. By our relentless comparison to images, we seek to discover their truth: to affirm it, to make it necessary in some way by our experience of it. We either look for the image to affirm our lived experience to make it appear necessary that we are living in such a way, and that the reflection reinstates this truth, or we look to see the image first and then live in such a way that our lives affirm the truth of that image. This is the image’s truth as a form of social encoding.

But the accelerating instability of culture in the information era has made it so that our relationship and knowledge of images has become contingent. We cannot process the social encoding as necessary, or in any way real, when our experiential sensibilities fail to prove them necessary. This failure to prove the necessity of cultural narratives as real drives those most affected by it to the point of madness.

The example par excellence: Sexual paranoia is in the air, and it is only increasing at the rate at which it spreads. This is the signification of some of these recent atrocities. I give especial light to the Toronto “Incel” attack. But in some ways I speak of the broad significance which this supposed crisis of the libidinal economy really signifies: the relation between the necessity of sexual and relational narratives and real life decays as those relations become irrelevant. The problem is when one learns of the contingency of such narratives.

From the NYT article on Jordan Peterson (who I will return to): “He was angry at God because women were rejecting him,” Mr. Peterson says of the Toronto killer. “The cure for that is enforced monogamy. That’s actually why monogamy emerges.”
God died long ago in culture, and now, man and woman is dying as well. Gender is the fiction which we see most rapidly decay in culture because it is in no way a necessity of the neoliberal model. The political economy (if it can be trusted as a reality whatsoever) cares nothing of identity in consumption. Consumption is identityless, and frequently, unrelated to any biological necessity whatsoever. Not only have we seen the arbitration of gender as the violence of the patriarchy; we have seen its irrelevance in consumption. But do we know this? Do we have faith in it, or is it a theoretical understanding that gender has died – and like those men that Nietzsche’s madmen is attempting to convince, we have not truly taken the death of gender as a serious prospect, professing faith in it even though we claim to know it no longer exists?

I suspect that the Toronto killer shows us this relationship between experiential evidence and our dire psychological need for our cultural images to be true. Bombarded with enough media which sells a performed image of gender and sexuality, to face the violent reality that such things are not only false, but that their entire foundations are crumbling under an age in which Eros is quickly becoming as deterritorialized as possible, shows one the utter contingency of those narratives.

Violence takes the place, because it is the only other gendered cultural narrative we have. It fills the place, and forces certain of those most shook by the revelation of cultural contingency to act upon its demands. Violence can still be proved necessary: the “masculine”, when shook of its foundation and position within cultural narratives, can attempt to replace its decaying cultural narrative by proving a narrative of masculine dominance and death true. It is not that this spectacle is inherently masculine, rather, it is the other way around: the ‘acting-out’ of the masculine murder fantasy reaffirms the masculinity in its existence, makes it so that the image is necessarily masculine. It fills the narratological void brought upon by the encroaching decay of all images and associations of identity.

The power of the new psychological demagogues is their attempt to reverse this process, to reverse the entropic disordering of images and the destruction of what we previously thought were the necessary a posteriori truths of our lives and their relation to cultural representations and narratives. This is my interpretation of Jordan Peterson, the most key “intellectual” figure that exists at this moment.

It is no accident that he is a Jungian, and that his usage of a vague and unfalsifiable system (analytical psychology, as Jung termed it) is so good at creating cultural analogy. If a person can re-encode their entire life to resemble the images and analogies of archetypes, then the restoration of understanding and a sense of the necessity of the interpretation returns. New meta-images (femininity, masculinity, anima and animus, the rest of the narratives) can make sense of a world by attempting to retroactively jam the dissolving images into thinner boxes. How absurd it is for someone to tell young men to “slay the dragon” – we know the inherent falsity of fairy tales now, we have critiqued them, we know their relation to a fading patriarchal order. But if we can take our life experiences and rejam them into these images by making them necessary parts of the psyche, necessary parts of all things, if we can make these previous cultural constructions into hallucinations of the very atoms of social constituency, then there is at least a temporary metaphor which allows us to make sense of things. By creating a permanent semiotic chain of all events – “Oh, it’s just like this archetype, you just don’t realize it yet!” – then the fact that the image means nothing is solved. The semantic reference of images is fixed by circularity: with the presentation of an inherent psychology, of the necessary truths of cultural depictions by their ossification into permanent features of humanity, there is no reason to fear the truth which is the absolute bombardment of the senses.

But this process drives us to a point of blithering idiocy, towards the danger of actual fascism, towards the danger of needing to act upon it to prove its absolute necessity in a chaotic world.

The presentation of an inherent and cynical social Darwinism, the brand sold by hucksters such as Peterson, and affirmed politically by the rise of a neo-fascism is a grand retroactive lie to make sense of the decay. They do not realize that they too are the victims of consumer imagery, as Darwin’s legacy is little more than another image prepackaged for easy-made consumption in this time. Its foundation is a lie, and so is its analogical power. Eventually, the effect will wear off.

Every relation which can be described as biologically necessary, every single thing which can be crammed under the discourse of biological inevitability will also dissolve as identity becomes only more digitized, discrete, and torn apart from familiar relations. As the necessity of increasing consumption seeks to make all those in the first world more and more faceless, more and more alienated, more and more pieces of data, our very relation to that supposed and intrinsic human nature will decay. So too will the images of biological necessity which currently fuel the Jungian machine which hopes to make “order out of chaos.”

The violence committed will then undoubtedly increase, not because it has been repressed, but because the action reaffirms the necessity of the image which has been sold. As the images run out, and politically, people are forced to align to smaller and more tribal images (and yet paradoxically, more grand and sweeping images) they will force themselves to make those images a reality. Such is what waits for us on the other end of Peterson’s tirade: the actual threat of fascism, the actual threat of people needing to prove themselves racially superior, to prove masculinity and femininity necessary divides. While these actions themselves accelerate, so too will the remnants of political economy and the deconstruction of images and fiscal relations. Parallel forms of violence: the structural violence of social relations from the continual bombardment, processing, and maintenance of information (all that is solid melts into air) and the violent force of those attempting to literally react against this process which they know threatens their image with death.

There is no pithy way to end this. I can only hope that, like Malthus, the image which I have presented becomes another in our great repository of images. I do not know it to be a necessary or contingent truth. This is my myth.


“Once when I was lost I saw a policeman and asked him to help me find my parents. I said to him, ‘Do you think we’ll ever find them?’ He said, ‘I don’t know kid. There are so many places they can hide.'”Jacob Cohen 1921-2004

This summer I shall attempt to write more. (There’s much to be said now that we’ve retreated into different cultures.) It’s also the 50th anniversary of the Summer of ’68 and God knows we can’t let that slip by unnoticed. Heck, there might be some room to run off 1500 words on Aunt Lydia vs. Roseanne. Not that I’ve seen either show, but in good old fashion blogging tradition that shouldn’t stop me.

DISCLAIMER: This place is not in Sedona, it’s in Seattle, we’ve had lunch there, and I have – at one time or another – photographed, interviewed, or personally know everybody in this video. So to celebrate the 19th anniversary of this page, let me leave you with my culture’s re-imagining of Toby Keith’s, ‘I Love This Bar.’

‘Bullshit makes the flowers grow & that’s beautiful’

“HERE FOLLOWS SOME PSYCHO-METAPHYSICS. If you are not hot for philosophy, best just skip it. Different philosophies use different grids. A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids… The Aneristic Principle is that of APPARENT ORDER; the Erisitic Principle is that of APPARENT DISORDER. Both order and disorder are man made CONCEPTS and are artificial divisions of PURE CHAOS, which is a level deeper than is the level of distinction making. With our concept making apparatus called “mind” we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality are mistakenly labeled “reality” and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see “reality” differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper than is the level of concept. We look through the world through windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts). Different philosophies use different grids. A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on our grid, and thereby understand it. The ORDER is in the GRID. That is the Aneristic Principle. Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened westerners) be True. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians call the ANERISTIC ILLUSION. Some grids can be more useful than others, some more beautiful than others, some more pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True than any other.DISORDER is simply unrelated information viewed through some particular grid. But, like “relation”, no-relation is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex. To say that male-ness is “absence of female-ness”, or vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE.The belief that “order is true” and disorder is false or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the same of disorder, is the ERISTIC ILLUSION.The point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirelyThe point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely. Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered. Reality is the original Rorschach.” – Robert Anton Wilson

“Talk some shit so I can refute it!” Fact Wino

“There is no crime more infamous than the violation of truth. It is apparent that men can be social beings no longer than they believe each other. When speech is employed only as the vehicle of falsehood, every man must disunite himself from others, inhabit his own cave, and seek prey only for himself.” Dr. Johnson

“Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.” Mao

‘ALLO MRS. PREMISE

For the better part of two months this, that, and the other have popped up right in front of my eyes making me wonder if I should blog or not. While I was held up by some things I had no control over (e.g. the flu) it was largely me being frustrated for not coming to terms with my own urgent need to loudly express my narcissism by failing to come up with some over-arching half-ass’d idea that would make sense of not just the present but the future as well.

For two months, and for the lack of a better term – that dog would not hunt.

What finally put things in motion was Bruce Sterling’s SXSW 2018 keynote. This year he said he wasn’t going to bring out some of the usual topics especially those topics which talked about where we’re all headed. As he succinctly said about five minutes into his talk – nobody in Silicon Valley is inventing the future – they’re all too busy trying to fix the future they came up with.

That got me to thinking that if you are to see what might happen in the future you do need to see some sense of order in the present. In finding that order then you might see a thread of related information that can lead to a conclusion, but right now peering into the future is difficult because the present looks like nothing less than a mud covered wind shield.

And we’re all out of wiper fluid.

Despite that those things that popped up in front of me did lead to one small thread about how most of us – of a certain age- are ill equipped to make sense of it all.

And what were those popped-up things?

– Last month I got an invite to a banquet celebrating the 50th anniversary of an event I used to be associated with many years ago. I was not there at the start 50 years ago, but my time more or less coincided with the event’s heyday. Time, work, and a mere 10-day notice of the event put it out of reach. Updates and photos of the banquet arrived in my inbox and provided me with great relief that once again the past had to the good taste to stay put in the past.

So, so many old guys trying so hard to act like they haven’t aged a day.

Put another way – imagine the old high school football team getting together. After a few drinks the general consensus states they could still play the game. Hell, they could even show these kids today a thing or two. That’s when Dave says he can still get down in his three-point stance so he takes off his jacket and huffs and grunts, and chugs and just at the very second he’s about to achieve a moment of middle-aged glory his blood pressure goes sideways and somebody has to call 911.

Kinda like that.

– Mom got her picture in the Sunday paper a few weeks ago. It was a good photo and there was a short blurb which she was pleased with because “At least they spelled my name right.” Since then many people have complimented her on making the paper – none of whom are under the age of 70.

– Speaking of the Sunday paper – Facebook took out full page ads in many of the Sunday papers in the larger cities to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica mess. I have no doubt that this lead to mad scramble by the readers of the Sunday paper (see above) to make sure Facebook is on the National Registry of do-not-call numbers.

Nobody wants some punk on the phone tryin’ to sell ’em a Facebook subscription.

No sir!

Oh the Hume-manity! or How did We get Here Part I

We’re not living through a crisis about what is true, we’re living through a crisis about how we know whether something is true. We’re not disagreeing about facts, we’re disagreeing about epistemology. The “establishment” version of epistemology is, “We use evidence to arrive at the truth, vetted by independent verification (but trust us when we tell you that it’s all been independently verified by people who were properly skeptical and not the bosom buddies of the people they were supposed to be fact-checking).” The “alternative facts” epistemological method goes like this: “The ‘independent’ experts who were supposed to be verifying the ‘evidence-based’ truth were actually in bed with the people they were supposed to be fact-checking. In the end, it’s all a matter of faith, then: you either have faith that ‘their’ experts are being truthful, or you have faith that we are. Ask your gut, what version feels more truthful?” Cory Doctorow

God knows there’s been no end of hand wringing over fake news. The usual conclusion among my ilk is to immediate deploy people who will teach media literacy. Most of them are put off by my response that you can’t teach media literacy – you can only inflict your bias on others. If you get some high school English teacher to do an exercise where he or she runs out A Story from His or Her Preferred Brand of News to compare against A Story from His or Her Least Liked Brand of News all you have in the end is an argument for Coke vs. Pepsi. What’s needed is to teach some sort of rudimentary form of epistemology to get the kids thinking about how a thought resides in the mind and how that thought and all the others form a larger patchwork of ideas that lets them navigate the world.

A couple of weeks ago at SXSW MFST’s Danah Boyd gave a fabulous speech on this very topic.

She said:

“It’s one thing to talk about interrogating assumptions when a person can keep emotional distance from the object of study. It’s an entirely different thing to talk about these issues when the very act of asking questions is what’s being weaponized. This isn’t historical propaganda distributed through mass media. Or an exercise in understanding state power. This is about making sense of an information landscape where the very tools that people use to make sense of the world around them have been strategically perverted by other people who believe themselves to be resisting the same powerful actors that we normally seek to critique.”

Video and a transcript of the speech can be found here. I don’t agree with the whole thing, but it is an excellent insight in how we should move forward with the simple fact path we can no longer trust all the printed words that appear before us.

“I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was.”- Abe Simpson or How Did We Get Here Part II

A few weeks back I came across the term “savvy gap” which can trace its roots back to the term “generation gap” which disappeared at about the end of the last ice age. Simply put the kids know stuff and the oldsters don’t.

Example?

Many years ago pre-recorded music came on plastic coated aluminum discs. These discs were sold in something called a “record store.” (The word “record” was an accepted atavistic use for an earlier form of mechanically reproduced sound.) While looking around one of these “record” stores I heard an older man yelling at the clerk. A local band which went by the name, The Kidney Thieves would be performing at the store later in the day. It seems the clerk behind the counter explained the origin of the band’s name and gave a thumbnail description of the well know urban myth.

The old guy kept yelling, “Who would think of such a thing? Who would think of such a thing?”

Oh hell Gramps, if we knew that I wouldn’t be here typing right now, would I?

Keep that one in your back pockets because we’re getting close to our destination.

‘ALLO MRS.CONCLUSION

We’re screwed no matter how you look at it.

Boomers have passively ingested media for most of their lives. The newspaper arrived daily and it was busted up into sections. The big stuff was up front, then there was the part with the sports, and behind that lurked Ann Landers and Beetle Bailey. TV was no different – it too was pre-chewed food. Every night you got the same thing – big-ass story right off the top … stuff … stuff … weather .. stuff… sports …. oh look, some guy taught his duck to whistle … Johnny Carson.

As such everybody gobbled up what was put in front of them because that’s all there was. That’s either gone or on its last legs which means Boomers are in a similar situation to a 14 year-old dog turned loose in the woods.

Gotta go find your own Alpo now, Bowser.

Are we equipped?

There’s probably a few here and there, but mostly it’s another edition of ‘Who Moved My Cheese?”

The kids know what is and is not bullshit because they never consumed information in the same way as their parents, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have an understanding of their own own epistemology – their own internal fact checking.

But that’s not the end of it.

As Ms. Boyd points out you cannot stand aside yourself, you will always bring your biases along even if you know that they are biases. Meanwhile there’s the age-old problem that any system which can be identified as flawed must use itself to prove that it it’s flawed. Given that humans are – very much in fact – flawed we cannot come to any conclusion about how we see the world without having to admit that our own human thinking is flawed.

What constitutes “fake news” is something that needs you to think about – not in relation to what any given article says – but how you own the thought process lead you to that article and how you use that same thought process to sift through the content.

And then understand that your conclusion could very well be bullshit. (QED)

Between now and then let’s all agree on one thing.

We all want those shoes.

‘Lot’s wife was the first victim of nostalgia’

“Did Lot’s wife and I share the same perversity of nature that compelled us to take stupid risks for no very good reason at all, for no reason that really went beyond the risk itself? And was it for this that her punishment had come swift and horrible? Or was it rather for the whisper of a doubt, soft but irrepressible, that is perhaps always spoken in such actions as looking where one is told not to look? Were there moments in history during which God simply would not tolerate the existence of the skeptic? The symbolic significance of the gesture of looking back wasn’t lost on me. A child’s knowledge of nostalgia is one of the mysteries of childhood. Perhaps it wasn’t so much that there were moments forbidding doubt as that there were places that merited no sense of attachment. Was it the regret and longing she had directed back to her home in Sodom that had drawn God’s wrath down on her? And yet another sort, a meaner sort, of motive behind her action suggested itself, one that would remove her to a safer distance from myself: a kind of cold enchantment with the drama of death. – Rebecca Goldstein

“People look to the President of the United States not as a personwith an important but limited and particular job, but as a god-like emperor. All outcomes in our massive, complex society areattributing to him/her. Economic growth. Jobs. Individual happiness.The moral character of “the nation”. All are attributed, for good orill, to the executive.Such grandiose talk has always been with us, but as the role of the state has grown larger and more complex, the difference between this linguistic fiction and actual reality has become more jarring. No president or party can measure up. Political promises have grown to match expectations for god-like power, but the capability of our politics, of government as an institution, to deliver hasn’t. It can’t. And so our politics oscillates from one increasing disappointment to another, with our culture dividing itself along political lines with increasing intensity as a result. Trump.Sanders. Brexit. Le Pen. These are symptoms of our unrealistic expectations.” John Papola

“The sarcastic Marx of the ‘send-up’ gets a look-in here, too, portraying economists as the bumbling numbskulls Seacole and Dogberry (from William Shakespeare’sMuch Ado About Nothing), and then scoffing at their very evident yet hypocritical self-satisfactions.” Nigel Warburton

“When I was running about this town a very poor fellow, I was a great arguer for the advantages of poverty; but I was, at the same time, very sorry to be poor. Sir, all the arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil, shew it to be a great evil. You never find people labouring to convince you that you may live very happily upon a plentiful fortune. — So you hear people talking how miserable a King must be; and yet they all wish to be in his place.” Dr. Johnson

Here’s this week’s roundup of the weirdness that passed across this desk.

NB: All the items listed below came from either articles of links that were sent to my phone through the use of the Quartz app. Quartz is the business arm of The Atlantic Magazine and as such runs out about a dozen headlines a day that speak directly to all those illegal, immoral, and fattening things us libtards love.


FATTENING

OK except for this one which I had to sit through to watched one of the newer Rick and Morty episodes.

While there’s probably a whole ‘nother blog post about the fringe making its way into daily life, we’ll have to save that for another time. I’ll just leave that up there so we can all contemplate the thought, “Given the state of the world today can you really prove that it’s not being run by the drive-through help at Taco Bell?”


IMMORAL

The week ended with Quartz passing along CBS MarketWatch’s discovery of Theodora, an assertive, go-getter business owner who believes her clients should only remit payment in cryptocurrency. While this makes Theo a bit of pioneer in her field,anyone who has even been married and/or had a family knows the experience of being a human ATM is far, far less exciting than how she makes it sound.

But you gotta admit her mission statement is both clear and concise.

Her inclusion here is not so much for shock or titillation as a marker of sorts as the only thing people wanted to talk to me about last week was BitCoin.

ILLEGAL (… maybe)

To begin with I have no interest in explaining cryptocurrency, and since Our Reptile Alien Overlords have gifted us with th’ Google, you can explore the new forms of money, wade through the Blockchain hype, and review Gresham’s Law at your leisure.

The first problem with all of it is predicting the future. Hegel’s line about the Owl of Minerva speaks more to how current events will never do anything but frustrate the would-be Nostradamuses (Nostrodami?) among us. As a young man Hegel watched Napolean destroy the Europe he understood. To use a deadly term – in that fog of war – it’s hard to see what’s next. However there are times an places where you can see things in motion. You can observe events and find that there’s a enough momentum contained in that single happening or cluster of small seemingly insignificant event to understand something will come of it.

Which is to say that we’re on the verge of the Big BitCoin Poo-Pooing.(tm pend.) This morning a single BC sits at $16K (USD) while Ripple, the most interesting of the lot, took a hit. Bad news will circle all highly visible mentions of cryptocurrency this year because that’s how unsecured markets work. Sooner or later the gloom will also include articles on how each transaction depends on a gigantic capital-intense electronic infrastructure.

But in long run?

As Lord Keynes said – in the long run we’ll all be dead, other than that who are we to say that the current version of cryptocurrency is nothing more than what the Commodore C-64 was to early computing? And as such who are we to say that this form of monetary exchange which bypasses both the banks and the world governments will not permanently alter our economic relationships to one another?

At the risk of being redundant – the changes wars and economic upheaval bring about never present themselves immediately. Nine going on 10 years after the initial shock of The Great Recession we can look back and observe a few things – Trump, Brexit, and the inability of those in power in the US and Europe to really grasp what’s going on. While I don’t really completely sign on with the entirety of Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebowsky’s libtertarian-centric recap of the past year, there is a great deal of credence to their conclusions about life moving on without a single thought of how government will play a role in what they do.

And why not ignore government?

Realistically all that’s happened in the past 50 years was a labor intense effort by both parties to create pols who seem to have no other interest that to either defend or destroy the pillars of The Great Society. Whats worse is that we’ve all been along for the ride and – more often that not – we get so caught up in that atavistic harangue that we lose site of what’s really going on around us.

Here comes the part where I needlessly repeat myself –

A FIAT CURRENCY IS NOT A BUNCH OF CLOWNS HOLDING GREAT BIG SACKS FULL OF MONEY GETTING OUT OF A LITTLE CAR

Last summer there was this post which suggested that we are moving towards a new economic order which is unlike anything we’ve known before nor will it be like the alternatives (e.g. communism) that modern capitalism spawned. The rise of not just one, but several forms of money who know no master is a re-ordering of the economic macro-verse which was have not seen inn the US since 1865.

To recap –

The modern American economy was put into motion by the following few items:

– The defeat of the South meant the rise of a nationalist government.

– The creation of eminent domain.

– The creation of laws creating the modern form of the corporation.

– The (albeit grudging) acceptance of paper money.

To get to BitCoin we had FDR deny the ownership of gold and Richard M. Nixon to do away with the idea that the dollar was backed by gold. So in 1971 we joined the greater community of nations using a fiat currency, the money that’s the money because we say it’s the money and the reason we all use it is that we have a certain reasonable belief that the money has some sort of daily utility.

BTW – in the BitCoin world the preferred pejorative for government issued money is “Fiats.”

Yet another New Order of the Ages is upon us.

How will it be handled?

Given the average pol’s grasp of modernity we shouldn’t get our hopes up. This week a friend got a response from one of our elected regarding his email on Net Neutrality. The response was little more than a note of thanks and a solicitation to sign up for the elected’s newsletter. It was a very pleasant way of saying that the elected’s has no idea what all of this is about, but is opposed to it because Trump’s people are for it.

How then will folks like that grasp the shift in the use of currency?

They won’t and neither will the Boomers. When you stop to look at it the Boomer worldview runs along a spectrum that – on one end – suggests a narcisistic personality disorder and stretches to a point of Being at That Advanced Age Where You Think You Know Everything There Is to Know. In the latter half of that curve nothing new is taken seriously and is dismissed as little more than what’s on the cover of this month’s Tiger Beat. Eventually they’ll all wind up in the home comparing notes on knowing everything there is to know and staging a sit-in in the rec room to once again protest the mining of Haiphong Harbor.

History will then remember the Boomers as the largest collection of Lot’s Wives ever assembled.

Conflict over change will come rapidly spread by the use of modern media. The streets will be filled with those who want The Big Boss Man to set it all straight, but The Big Boss Man having come from the Great Society Wars will have no idea what to do.

While all this plays itself out Theodora rocks out on her yacht to a little … well … yacht rock.

At this point most people would say that I should take all this and slap it up on Medium.

I would but I don’t feel sorry enough for myself to use Medium.

Instead I’m going over to Taco Bell to give that kid running the drive-through lane a piece of my mind.

‘One of the unfortunate minions held hostage by their own ideas’

“It was a time of my life when I was frequently “named.” I was named godmother to children. I was named lecturer and panelist, colloquist and conferee. I was even named, in 1968, a Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year, along with Mrs. Ronald Reagan, the Olympic swimmer Debbie Meyer, and ten other California women who seemed to keep in touch and do good works. I did no good works but I tried to keep in touch. I was responsible. I recognized my name when I saw it. Once in a while I even answered letters addressed to me, not exactly upon receipt but eventually, particularly if the letters had come from strangers. ‘During my absence from the country these past eighteen months,’ such replies would begin.” Joan Didion


“We are constantly underestimating capitalism’s extraordinary ability to come up with new bullshit jobs, and that could go on for quite a while. I think that basic income is much more than just another policy, it’s a complete rethink of what work actually is that will have quite radical effects. For the first time in human history, everyone will have the power to say no to a job they don’t want, which will mean that people with lower incomes will have much more bargaining power, wages will have to rise…it will be a radical redistribution of power. Rutger Bregman

“An audible groan went up from a portion of the gathering, implying, “fuckin’ stupid hippie asking that ridiculous question again.” So there they were accepting…
Raising people from the dead
Becoming more or less immortal
Making intelligences many times more powerful and capable than our own
Individual earth humans privately owning big chunks of the galaxy
…but they could not imagine that the local (local in time, perhaps, more that space) currency and the nuances of its valuation and growth would be irrelevant in that envisioned world.

This, it seemed to me, represented a stunning and peculiar kind of stasis sitting at the heart of radical technological change or the imaginings of same, a clinging to the most trivial and boring sort of continuity by the very sort of people predicting extreme “disruption” and radical discontinuity. The Singularity then, if any, would present before us as an unthinkably complex quantum accountant, as — figuratively speaking — a godlike 1950s bespectacle nebbish, a bean counter (literalized already by the fashion for ‘quantified life.’)” R. U. Sirius

“Here is how it will go. Men with no fewer than four boats and at least as many divorces, whose monetary interests are best served by going entirely unreported on, will continue to purchase existing media properties, either gutting them, running them into the ground, or rendering them effectively toothless, as we’ve seen with numerous alt-weeklies and newspapers throughout the country in the past few years.Sometimes we won’t even know whose hand it is pulling the lever on the guillotine. The publications who would’ve reported on who bought the publications won’t exist anymore. … There’s a trope in dystopian fiction and apocalyptic films where it’s almost worse to have survived for just a little longer than everyone else wiped out in the original disaster. Better to be consumed in the nuclear blast than to live rummaging among the ruins. Those of us still left in the business are the poor survivors. We’ve peered into the cannibals’ cellar.What’s worse is that we are still pretending it didn’t happen. We’re fighting over pools of shit-water that have settled into the craters and bartering with dog meat under the mistaken impression we’re carrying the fire.” Luke O’Neill

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good. Dr. Johnson

As 2017 is coming to an end it is possible to take part in the tradition that has people post their best-of lists for all to see. What you’re about to see isn’t anything like that. Instead I’m taking this time to boorishly run out everything I said in the previous 12 months because I have nothing better to do this weekend.

BTW – what follows isn’t anything doom-y and/or goloomier that most of what you saw last year and in case you need to turn away here’s a list of 99 things that went well in 2017.

And with that –

“Emotionally speaking, Shoney’s is my home”

What follows are some fine points about various revealed factoids that concern the use of social media.

1. OK first thing – you need to watch the first 12 minutes of this specifically the parts with Rick and the bug.

I’ll wait here.

The parts with the bug resemble my current relationship with social media. I know Zuckerberg wants my info and that’s why I keep feeding him shit. Not that it does any good. For all my efforts all I get in return are ads asking me if I want to sign up for the AARP or meet women of a certain age.

2. You mean like Jenna Abrams?

Jenna Abrams, the freewheeling American blogger who believed in a return to segregation and said that many of America’s problems stemmed from PC culture run amok, did not exist. But Abrams got very real attention from almost any national news outlet you can think of, according to a Daily Beast analysis of her online footprint. Abrams, who at one point boasted nearly 70,000 Twitter followers, was featured in articles written by Bustle, U.S. News and World Report, USA Today, several local Fox affiliates, InfoWars, BET, Yahoo Sports, Sky News, IJR, Breitbart, The Washington Post, Mashable, New York Daily News, Quartz, Dallas News, France24, HuffPost, The Daily Caller, The Telegraph, CNN, the BBC, Gizmodo, The Independent, The Daily Dot, The Observer, Business Insider, The National Post, Refinery29, The Times of India, BuzzFeed, The Daily Mail, The New York Times, and, of course, Russia Today and Sputnik.

All good and fine, but what was the best line in that article?

Her account was the creation of employees at the Internet Research Agency, or the Russian government-funded “troll farm,” in St. Petersburg.

And how did “she” worm her way into our lives?

Kardashian jokes.

That means over the course of the last 70 or so years we’ve gone from asking who lost China to worrying about a missile gap, to discovering our soft white underbelly belongs to a Kardashian.

And that should alarm you.

Why?

Very early in the year I got to rub elbows and drink warm soda pop with the social media “editors” from two of the largest tv ownership groups in the country. What followed was an evening of discussion so light and thought free that you’d think the speakers should have been tied to the table lest they float away on the breeze. Most of the conversation revolved around ‘What color is that dress?” and whether or not a zoo animal was pregnant.

What’s problematic about all this is that local tv news is the least hated and most consumed form of media. Roll that up with the fact that – as far as I can tell – these “editors” have no editorial checks as no one thinks what they run out is important enough to look over their shoulders.

Which is OK if you’re wondering what color that dress is, but how do you go about spotting the next Jenna Abrams?

3. Around the start of October some kid sends email which I mark as spam. Undaunted he follows up with a phone call. Having no need for his services I tell him the reason he hasn’t heard back from me is that I think his product is bullshit and I’d be grateful if he hung up and forgot all about me, but the little punk wouldn’t let it go. He was going to keep me on that phone until I gave in.

What he was selling are those ads you see around the side and bottom of lots and lots of web pages. You’d know them as the ones usually slugged with, “You won’t believe what (character) from (beloved old tv show) looks like now!”

The most perfidious of these came along in the summer of 2016. It was a small box that showed Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson being taken away in handcuffs. None of it was true and you could assume it harmless until you realize that this box appeared on The Hollywood Reporter. That meant that a perfectly reasonable person could see the box and rightly assume that if The Rock was arrested then The Hollywood Reporter would know.

What The Hollywood Reporter probably doesn’t know is that ad was on their site.

Oh, forgot mention one small hitch – if you accept those little boxes onto your site you have no control over what appears in them.

Conclusion?

Jenna went the convention route of eventually stirring up somebody’s gut while The Rock is strictly reality swindled. Meanwhile you’re left to sit in front of the screen while others weaponize your emotions and loose havoc upon your ability to associate cause and effect with no third party “editor” to help navigate a way forward.

The kid on the phone?

I told him my current age which is divisible by 2, 12, and 5. He said I did not sound that old on the phone and I told him he wasn’t the first guy who had to make one more phone call before the week was out to placate the the bosses. I told him flat out – I had jobs like yours once and sooner or later you have to turn in the paperwork to prove you did … something…

What followed was a short silence as it sunk in that I was old and mean and emotionally speaking Shoney’s is my …

I said that already didn’t I?

“And thirdly, the code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.”

What follows isn’t so much New Year’s resolutions, but a list of shit that’s gotta stop.

– Stop using the word “community.”

OK – slight amendment to that – it’s OK if you use the word as part of an established name, you know, like The Frostbite Falls Community Center and Natatorium. Otherwise the word has gotten out of hand. Yesterday we discovered a web page that lets the owners of those video doorbells post video to the others in their video doorbell community.

God knows, and stranger things have happened, but is it really possible to come together as citizens by uploading 30 seconds of the Fed-Ex guy adjusting “himself” before he drops off all those yummy goodies from Harry and David?

The specific use of the word hit home when the new tv wouldn’t fire up until I gave it an email address. (Luckily I have a bullshit one just for such things.) A day or so later there at the top of the stack in my crap-catcher account was an email welcoming me to The Samsung Community.

Can’t wait to see what that secret handshake looks like.

– Let’s try to purge the term “virtue signaling” from regular use. It now points both ways and a better definition of the term I stumbled on recently involved Nietzsche’s definition of humans’ herd nature or how you can lose yourself to the point where you are no longer self aware of what you are saying.

– Lastly let’s celebrate the 50th anniversary of 1968, the year where everybody lost their shit, by no longer using the phrase, “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Why we have no reasonable dialog is that too many of us were directly affected by the 1960s in this one way – we don’t so much talk past each other as we’re walking confident in the belief that we are possessed of no end of Revealed Truths and we’re not going to be happy until our Revealed Truths supplant your Revealed Truths. Otherwise the statement only pertains to deconstructing the other guys’ talking points. Put another way we bring chainsaws to prune the rose bush.

And there you go – Mom said social media is little more than emotional quicksand that you voluntarily let yourself sink in and what just proceeded her statement was proof that you’re on your own with fake news and most of what we know isn’t as solid as we think it is.

Welcome to 2018 and I promise to be in a better mood when you next stop by.

Going outdoors now.

As you can tell – the fresh air might do me some good.

“When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.”

“I think it’s rooted in who I am and my background and how I grew up. I was always a really political kid. I grew up on punk rock (and) very much into anti-establishment stuff.I had always loved this band called the Dead Kennedys. Their singer, Jello Biafra once said ‘Don’t hate the media, become the media.’ That’s always stuck with me. Over dinner after the Women’s March (in Washington, D.C.) I was talking to my good friend … and we were talking about how difficult it was to keep up with the news. And for us, we’re all affluent white people, we’re so privileged. One: That we have downtime, and two: that we’re able to spend it knowing what’s going on in the world. How would a normal person in the world that has a family, a job or two jobs ever keep up with this stuff? No one likes to follow politics unless they’re like a junkie, you know?” – Matt Kiser

“Without knights no chivalry, without court no courtliness, without salon no charm, without material support no deference will last indefinitely, not even as make-believe. In the same manner what shrinks in a world that cheats us out of leisure and other preconditions of our privacy, are the subtleties of our emotional private lives.” Günther Anders

“In questions diffuse and compounded, this similarity of determination is no longer to be expected. At our first sally into the intellectual world, we all march together along one straight and open road; but as we proceed further, and wider prospects open to our view, every eye fixes upon a different scene; we divide into various paths, and, as we move forward, are still at a greater distance from each other. As a question becomes more complicated and involved, and extends to a greater number of relations, disagreement of opinion will always be multiplied; not because we are irrational, but because we are finite beings, furnished with different kinds of knowledge, exerting different degrees of attention, one discovering consequences which escape another, none taking in the whole concatenation of causes and effects, and most comprehending but a very small part, each comparing what he observes with a different criterion, and each referring it to a different purpose.” Dr. Johnson

World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation. H. Marshall McLuhan 1970

Last Tuesday’s off-year elections mean that some time has been freed up in Mom’s and my respective schedules. For the past several months we’re been expected to go to campaign kickoff events held in small windowless basement, fund raisers held at some unspecified locations at some unspecified public park, and election night galas usually held at a bowling alley or Elks Club.

As you’ve probably gathered, these events are not tied to some high-powered campaign for a readily recognized local office. Most of the ones we’re asked to attend involve irrigation commissions, fire districts, and other public offices that no one had any idea that the people who held those offices were elected. One position was so small that someone asked, “Where’s that victory party, in a liquor store parking lot?”

Hey – don’t laugh.

I expect that invite will be coming along at any time.

In the meantime we all go back to doing what we were doing before the election started which in my case meant wrestling with a problem so complex that it cannot easily explained.

Not even if you even use puppets.

Have a look –

Here’s an illustration.

Using a neutral example – let’s say that there are those (Group A) who squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom while others (Group B) squeeze from the top.

So let’s say that in either case one group really doesn’t pay any mind to the other. In fact, they rarely if ever cross over to talk to the other. Therefore, following what the video showed, Group A will most likely never see what Group B is up to and vice versa. Moving even further into what the video shows, it is then possible for people in a given group to also be unaware of what the entire group is doing because the algorithm moves people further and further into the margins.

How far?

Let’s say that one day someone in Group B discovers this:

It is then possible that it would go unnoticed by some portion of Group B. So some poor guy in Group B who married a Group A individual could be unaware that there’s something out there that could bring peace and balance to his home medicine cabinet.

Rolled up together it means that the Net, which was supposed to be the greatest assemblage of information ever devised is largely becoming a narrow range of possible outcomes. So what’s changed is that it is no longer a democratic vessel for knowledge. The people who came forward to dump their vast knowledge of some obscure topic on Geocities have been replaced with problematic formulas which are only concerned with who you know and not what you know.

And as Master Yoda said, “Meditate on this I must!”

While I do that you can have a look at Pew’s numbers on cable news viewership. The single most important factoid shows viewership up 55% over this time last year which means cable news in prime time is now being watch by over 1.5% of the American population. Or you can take a few minutes to read about icky and creepy Facebook is getting.

And when you’re done we’re all gonna hold hands and sing along.

Rickymortis setting in

“Macklemore’s new album, Gemini, has been positioned as a “liberation” from the ponderous interrogations that came before. He’s done, as he put it, with “preaching to the choir”: rapping politics to the white liberals who compose the majority of his fanbase. Which, for many, comes as a relief. He remains the avatar of white guys trying hard not to be the worst, but he’s also — especially in this new incarnation — a salve for those exhausted with the enduring conundrum of white guilt. His endurance makes sense, but it’s also proof of the fickleness of so many components of white liberalism: When you can put a conversation aside when it ceases to thrill you or feed you, how deep was your investment? Is the ability to stop talking about injustice the greatest white privilege of all?” Anne Helen Petersen

“The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being list; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal; the reader is without his without history … he is simply that someone who holds together, in a single field, all the traces by which the written text is constituted.” Roland Barthes

“We were instructed to write with something of the ease in which we might speak, and that is a good rule for beginners. In time it can be absorbed, taken for granted, and finally disobeyed. The best writing comes, obviously, out of a precision we do not and dare not employ when we speak, yet such writing still has the ring of speech. It is a style, in short, that can take you a life to achieve.” Norman Mailer

“When a man writes from his own mind, he writes very rapidly. The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Dr. Johnson

Now that we’ve all spent another week getting out of bed asking the question, “Oh what the hell is it now?” I thought it might be time to look at a couple of things that were overrunning my various feeds which were in no way related to the larger events in the news cycle just passed.

Ready?

Do I have something on my teeth?

Years and years ago when the Bloggitysphere was new some people wondered if sooner or later every possible topic would be exhausted given the total number of people blogging. The question went nowhere until last week when I noticed that the gaping maw that is Medium, Patreon, and the other contributor powered sites started running out titles that seemed like people just thinking out loud.

OK – well … not so much thinking out loud as taking down dictation – sorta like they were writing down stuff that popped up in the interior monolog. You know, your inner voice, that little voice in your head that acts like your brain’s idea of post-it notes.

There were titles like, “Maybe Not” and “Is That What I Think It Is?” which leads me to believe that the email article roundups I get from the various contributor sites might look like this any day now.

Can’t be sure if it’s a trend or not, I’ll let you know if it keeps up. Or maybe I’ll just write to one of these “authors” and ask why he or she doesn’t have the simple common courtesy of talking to him or herself in public like normal people.

Smells like R. Kelly’s sheets

Up top there’s a pull quote from an lengthy article on Macklemore which came out a few days ago. Largely it’s about race and his place in the recording business. I only found it interesting for the first sentence –

Last week, while Twitter was focused on Cardi B vanquishing Taylor Swift to become the first unaccompanied female rapper to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in almost 20 years, Macklemore’s new album, Gemini, hit the top of the iTunes charts — a prime indicator of the listening habits of people too old to understand streaming.

This pretty much fits with our encounters with his fan base – they’re either over 35 or under 15. As the article goes on to say –

This might explain why white people in the Pacific Northwest proved such an accepting audience for Macklemore: We don’t fancy ourselves liberal sophisticants. Macklemore has been called suburban dad-rap, and Seattle is nothing if not filled with suburban dads. You don’t have to be male or even live in the suburbs to fulfill the archetype: You just have to like the Seahawks and local IPAs, live in a “starter home” that cost more than half a million dollars, and own multiple iterations of puffy jacket.

An interesting take, but let me offer you another.

You don’t have to beat the Seattle bushes very hard to turn up someone who is directly related to Macklemore. You can meet all manner of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. While I’ve had several close scrapes with meeting him the closest I ever got was talking to his wife, who is whip-smart and a p-r natural, at a luncheon. The rough distribution of family means that any number of people can easily find a connection to him. Failing that he is the Seattle local boy made good and when you roll that up with the native provincialism found here in The Great North Woods, he is regarded as America’s most beloved rapper/hip hop artist.

Whether or not that’s true.

That provincialism expresses itself in odd ways. The earliest example we encountered was people buying pc’s instead of Macs because Bill Gates’ folks gave lots of money to Seattle charities. The most frequent expression comes when the life-long folks encounter a local phenomena they don’t like. If they don’t like something then it can only be the work of outsiders.

You know, like grunge.

Sure Kurt was from up the road, but he wasn’t from Seattle.

Worse yet?

Eddie Vedder is from out of state.

All those dirty boys all dressed alike playing that awful loud music!

Make no mistake – they aren’t from around here even if their mothers went into labor under the Space Needle!

Case in point and speaking of luncheons – one afternoon I was at a function (sans Madame Macklemore) and while poking at my food wondering if it has ever spent time as an organic life form I thought I heard some one mention my name at the next table. Then I could have sworn I heard it again. Half a minute later the emcee gets up to the podium, calls me up, and asks if I have a minute to explain “What a Sound Garden is.”

Omitting the rumors that Kim Thayil goes to many local restaurants and doesn’t pay because he’s Kim f’n Thayil I gave them a thumbnail sketch. Several questions ensued mostly about where the band members were born. While I wasn’t sure the crowd was certain they weren’t from around here. By the time I got back to my seat my Montsanto Chicken Entree Slurry was cold.

Where were we?

Mom likes Macklemore, but I have no serious opinion of him one way or the other. Also, as a sorta semi-suburban dad I have been exposed to much of the music the young people like by way of Alaska Wolf Joe. As such we’ve heard MF Doom, Tyler the Creator, and Death Grips among others. Thankfully we’re old enough that, while we can appreciate some of the genre, we will never be drug into a conversation about Kanye vs. Kendrick. Should it come up all we have to do is look glassy eyed and a tad confused.

Sorta like somebody needs to take us back to the home.

Otherwise please remember this about streaming. You can hide you streaming history. Unlike cd and vinyl albums no one can reach into your streaming and produce the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and ask, “What the hell do we have here?!?!?!?”

DISCLOSURE: while AWJ isn’t under foot these days I do get suggestions via Twitter and Spotify about new music that’s out there and that’s why this is my idea of suburban dad rap.

And for those of you who like a little something about current affairs –

Moving along –

A Rick-orous vetting of the subject

The front page and the lede are pretty obvious. My own interest usually lies in what you find several pages in or long after the jump. Digitally what starts to pile up around the edges during a week like the one just past says something about how people are expressing their inner voices. Despite all that’s happened in the past seven days an unusual number of posts about Rick and Morty have been turning up in my various feeds.

Why?

Most of the content revolves about how dark and realistic the show is. My mini-binge of watching four whole episodes did show that – even for a cartoon- the knock-down drag-out fights between Morty’s parents are less cartoon-y than anything you’d see on Dr. Phil. Otherwise the show strikes me as somebody’s serious allergic reaction to every family sitcom from the 80s.

Since the show is broadcast way past my bedtime and since I’ll never figure out how to access the streamed version (QED) it seemed natural to reach out to Alaska Wolf Joe for an explanation of all things Rick and Morty.

AWJ asks that you watch this one-minute clip before reading on because:

For context, Rick has turned himself into a pickle to avoid family counseling. I should note, for further context, the the family counseling itself is mixed with absurd coprophagia jokes – which serve to diminish the counselor’s accreditation – and which seems to highlight the suspicion that, as usual, the mental health profession is nothing but one huge scam which is insincere. Rick attends this session as a pickle.

AWJ writes:


Rick and Morty is an animated television comedy series which concerns the adventures of one Rick Sanchez, grandfather to Morty Smith. In between this is what may or may not concern a paper cardboard rendition of the American family circa 2010, which entreats an evenly distributed apathy. We have a chronically depressed mother with deeply inhibited anger, and a father who no longer functions as the patriarchal arbiter of control but rather a haunting of the old patriarchs to be mocked – an accelerated Homer Simpson, drunk off of his own oafishness to the point of banality but a deeply subversive impotency. And of course we have something of the strange figures which millenials occupy in the form of their children, one being a generic teen girl (who’s only personality is signified by some mild-mannered form of consumer vanity, make what feminist critique of that you will), and the other being the eponymous Morty of Rick and Morty.

Of course, in this, I have not characterized exactly what the foremostly eponymous character stands for: one Rick Sanchez. The problem being is that Rick Sanchez does not bear even the faintest resemblance to the rest of paper-mâché renditions of media clichés blended with our own postmodern anxieties. Well, perhaps he resembles the latter part, that part being a certain unwritten postmodern anxiety – for Rick Sanchez is more or less a walking caricature of a certain egoism which openly calls itself nihilism. And this is why, of course, the show is truly despicable. Our main character is a strange caricature of the ubermensch, who is an alcoholic “great man of science” (independent of any lab, and independent of any research) who attempts to play fast and loose with intergalactic aliens not as any form of moral superiority, not as means to a Will to Power; no, he simply does it because he is bored.

The show is intent on forcing you to listen to the same unfortunate talking points that anyone who wants to tell you that they are a self-professed existentialist will offer you; namely that there is no God, there is no meaning, and that Science proves that our universe is inherently chaotic. Therefore, instead of truly grasping for any intrinsically person moral truths in this chaotic world, we instead should just know that there is no truth, and accept that our fate is ultimately meaningless, and that science was right all along. This last point perhaps is the one which is most curious, considering that it really was not a talking point of the existentialists, who more or less were concerned with the human experience in regards towards life and death – not in meaninglessness, but applying the recently developed phenomenological model towards these inquiries of meaning and authenticity. But even as Nietzsche or Kierkegaard predated phenomenology, and are both clichéd as being rather dour individuals, they too were nowhere near the supposed blind-faith “scientific” nihilism of our current predecessors. They stressed an individual’s choice, continually, to find meaning or to affirm faith – and especially for Nietzsche, in defiance of this apparent void which could come to fruition as the idea of “Nihilism.”

Indeed, this show is most despicable because it professes this bleak void in self-styled smugness, and despite this, offers no ethical perspective whatsoever. Life is horror, we are all going to die, no one will speak our name at some point, etc. etc. And this is comedy. That is precisely what is so despicable. This is comedy. Who are we supposed to be empathizing with? Who are we supposed to be laughing at, or laughing for?

But I would like to justify that the problem is not itself a worldview of virulent and universal absurdity. In fact, there are two authors which I could consider immediately who also regard a form of universal and cosmic absurdity, if not total nihilism. But what is more, I would like to establish that I believe that they fulfill some duty within the content of their own work, such that they can be considered morally responsible for the ideas which they espouse. One of these authors would be Franz Kafka, and the other would be H.P. Lovecraft.

Regarding Kafka, I want to establish that his universality is the universality of the absurd – a world in which all of its proponents were equally absurd as one another, and that it was inescapable. But what is important to note is that he thought that this universal absurdity was human made, and implicitly, could be fixed by human action. This is most evidenced by his behavior towards his own works. It was reported that when he wrote them, he read them out to his private circle of friends, and these were extremely rapturous events. They would all break out in laughter – even if a bitter laughter – over the terrifying and absurd moments in his novels. Nonetheless, I find this laughter moral. The importance of what makes something moral is precisely that it prescribes a world that is other than it already is; at the minimum, it serves a hypothetical which tells us how we should regard the future of human life. It is impossible to read Kafka’s novels and feel that, despite the banal horror which haunts the lives of his protagonists, that he ever condones this system. Kafka, if he is to be remembered at all, is one of the first satirists of the horror that could become the capitalist, socialist, and fascist bureaucracies of the twentieth century – and we are sure to remember him not just a satirist, but as a moralist who strictly warned us of such systems. As such, it is only fair that we can say that Kafka concerns a moral stance within his work.

Lovecraft, on the other hand, is a much stranger case. A large amount of the fear of alienation and destruction which haunts his works is the production of xenophobia and racism. It is hard to encounter his works without seeing the hints of something which became repressed in his more significant works – namely, the suppression of the Other. But in between that, he forecasts a void which is no less significantly universal, and which distinctly forecasts scientific nihilism but also the limits of scientific nihilism. The fear of Lovecraft, of course, is that when we finally pierce the veils of human knowledge and of the scientific method, we find out that what exists beyond the veil either hates us, will annihilate us, proves that we are infinitesimally small within the scheme of the cosmos, or all three.

I will consider that Lovecraft is a wrong moralist. The world which resulted from the racial intermixing of American culture hasn’t destroyed us, and for the most part, the discoveries of science haven’t come to destroy us yet – pace, all the horrors of warfare (primarily the nuclear, which Lovecraft did not live to see.) But it is unmistakeable that Lovecraft had a moral purpose of his world in which he forecasted cosmic nihilism and annihilation, fear of the Other and fear of man’s knowledge – he advocated what can be considered an almost reactionary turn within society. He may not necessarily have literally advocated a politics, but it is hard to read Lovecraft and think there is not something hidden underneath this Gothicism which is profoundly in desire of something. And that is why I, if somewhat dubiously, have to call him a moralist: he is a moralist of science, in saying that we should watch ourselves lest we find the wax wings of our scientific innovation too close to the sun. The cosmos may be a horrifying blur of chaos which man has best left untouched, but we can avoid this fate if we return to a purified humanism.

I want to connect this to the fact that I feel ultimately that Rick and Morty lacks any sense of moralization in the goals of what it satirizes or what it portrays. It is worse than simply misunderstood Nietzscheanism, it is Nietzsche’s enemy, the raw prospect of nihilism. Rick and Morty asks us to laugh at a hollow parade of pop cultural clichés underneath the guise of a minimal science fiction plotline. And indeed, isn’t it somewhat absurd I can be saying all this of what essentially amounts to a watered down cartoon version of Back to the Future? But Rick and Morty no doubt has philosophical pretensions, and what is worse, it is undeniable that certain elements of its audience take it to be philosophical on the whole. As such, it is a work which must bear the weight for the morality of its representations, and clearly fails to do as such.

This is why it is despicable. Of course it is absurd to ask that a work which essentially amounts towards being a pop cultural distraction should be moral. But it is hard to find in the entire work a single point of prescription, of hope, of meaning. Rick and Morty is the worst type of fiction, for it is neither aesthetically pleasing, nor wholly entertaining, nor does it open us up towards anything which can be considered a new perspective. Instead, it seeks to reaffirm ourselves of our worst suspicions: no alternative is viable to the society that we live in, family is a banal formality which makes everyone miserable, the universal is uncaring and chaotic, morality is wrong, religion is wrong and God is dead, the only good interest is self-interest, and scientific development is always Good and Right. This is the ideology of Rick and Morty. The ideology of Rick and Morty is the ideology of Late Capital. It professes these values because it allows us to become subservient to the disappearance of the human subject under the masses of data, underneath the metaphysical burden of the scientific world which the scientific model has produced. Rick and Morty is a popular portrait of what we can establish as the current human condition, and now more than ever is it apparent that our current human condition is the dissolution of humanity into data points. Rick and Morty is complacent with our current cynical world view beyond all other complacencies. And complacency is morally irresponsible. Thusly, it is morally irresponsible.

There is no need for us to create any piece of artistic media which claims to kill idealism, for we are already all materialists. We are materialists wandering through the black night of morality, in which one can look up at the limitless stars, which looks suspiciously like the monitor lights of server stacks, and realize that they are all dying – and in which no elder god or bureaucrat can screech at us from the deepest reaches of this infinite moral abyss. In this night, under the faint and dying light of the moonless cosmos, all cows are black.

And if you have 23 minutes to spare – here’s the Readers Digest Condensed and/or meta episode that sufficiently sums up the series.

If you’ll excuse me I have to go now and see if Medium would be interested in 5000 words because I was just wondering if it’s hot in here or is it just me?

Please enjoy this musical interlude while I’m away.

I ain’t gonna work on Marky’s troll farm no more

“News media has become a marketing industry for the most profitable culture in preparation for next season. They control the speech, they control the narrative and will destroy anyone who gets big enough the matter. Now with the permanent ban of Milo Yiannopoulos from Twitter, many are asking if free speech as a concept is under siege. The answer is of course a mighty YES! However, it’s not coming directly from the State this time. Today it’s coming from the corporate cultural and the daytime talk shows they invest in. This is an age of government partnership, as though acting indirectly is less communist. As if killing less people when we steal their production is less fascist.” – Anthony J. Mountjoy

“To alert advertisers caught on junk or blatant fake news sites, Storyzy sends them an email with eloquent screenshots attached. ‘We contacted about 400 brands, says Pierre-Albert Ruquier, marketing director and co-founder of Storyzy. Reaction varies. Some clearly don’t care and don’t even bother to respond. The biggest advertisers usually refer us to their media buying partners. We talk to most of them, even though we are often received coldly. Weirdly enough, we are also sent to large to consulting firms that advise big clients on brand safety issues. The vast majority of advertisers don’t know where their ads land. Or choose to ignore it. That’s why when they refer us to their media buying agency these won’t budge. The reason is that almost all campaigns are ROI-based, a field dominated by behavioral targeting and retargeting.’” – Frederic Filloux

“This is a very boring, simple explanation as to why the NFL’s ratings are declining. It is not an opportunity for you to shoehorn in your feelings about Colin Kaepernick protesting the game. No one really cares about your feelings about Colin Kaepernick’s protest, because if you are the kind of person who gets really offended by Colin Kaepernick’s protest, then your feelings in 2017 are the most boring and predictable thing about you, and telling on you in a deeply unflattering light. The simpler and also boring systemic problem with the NFL that might actually explain something is its success, and how that success made the ownership class in the NFL fat, lazy, and locked into a business model they have no real reason or incentive to change, even with falling TV ratings. The absence of real risk of failure is a start. Stakeholders in the NFL cannot lose—at least not under the league’s current structure.” Spencer Hall

“Pro football in America is over the hump. Ten years ago it was a very hip and private kind of vice to be into. I remember going to my first 49ers game in 1965 with fifteen beers in a plastic cooler and a Dr. Graybow pipe full of bad hash. The 49ers were still playing in Kezar Stadium then, an old gray hulk at the western end of Haight Street in Golden Gate Park. There were never any sellouts, but the 30,000 or so regulars were extremely heavy drinkers, and at least 10,000 of them were out there for no other reason except to get involved in serious violence … by the end of the third quarter of any game, regardless of the score, there were always two or three huge brawls that would require the cops to clear out whole sections of the grandstand.” Hunter S. Thompson c 1971-72

“I believe marriages would in general be as happy, and often more so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancellor, upon a due consideration of characters and circumstances, without the parties having any choice in the matter.” Dr. Johnson

“In an electric information environment, minority groups can no longer be contained—ignored. Too many people know too much about each other. Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other.” H. Marshall McLuhan 1967

Here’s a scant few items to move along.

Psycho and Cupid

Most weekdays I have lunch at the desk while also listening to the news on the radio. That means sitting through some amount of talk as the only stations with news these days like to call themselves “news-talk radio.” What you learn from news-talk by either listening or, in my case, being involved with it for all of a week, is that the average person in American has no idea how many books are being published at any given time. The short time I spent with the format was little more than a parade of USPS, UPS, and FedEx delivery people bringing book after book after book. Sometimes when we drive to the WA coast I will look at an old patch of clear cut and wonder if all it went to making the books that turn some portion of financial minutia into alarmist economic porn.

And sometimes I wonder if all those trees were turned into self-help books.

Which is where I came in on the news last Wednesday. While waiting for the headlines I had to sit through an interview with a marriage expert, or rather an expert on why marriages go wrong. His general take was that humans, as far as he knows, are the only primates who fall in love, in turn, as of the late 19th and early 20th Century people adopted love as the central core of marriage. Prior to that he believed that marriage was a utilitarian venture – an easy way to acquire more labor. Put another way – a man can only afford one ox, but he can cook up five little laborers if he can find a woman to go along with his long-term business plan.

Mr. Expert wound up by saying that’s all out the window today. Per him- marriages fail today because people are no longer interested in utility much less love. Today’s marriage is all about finding someone who will turn you into a fully self-actualized human being and if that doesn’t happen in a reasonable amount of time then…

Time to find a lawyer and see who gets custody of the Tony Robbins DVDs.

Companionship? Child rearing? Taking the trash out? Looking out for each other? Seeing what that noise in the basement is? The ability to keep the US mortgage companies in business?

All out the window.

As many of you know, and I’ve said this in this space for a very long time, we don’t hold back. By God, we’re proud of the world-class synchronized snoring routine the two of us have worked on for years and years. Instead that’s all for naught as this entire time – if we were true moderns- Mom would have been busy liberating the blue light from the crystal prisms of my mind.

Or visa versa.

I had no idea.

Speaking of Mom –

Allow me to introduce myself

Here’s a quick 60 seconds of video that sums up Facebook’s latest set of problems.

A couple of days ago Rob Beschizza wrote:

Zuckerberg got played by people smarter than he is. All we see of him now is the bottomless narcissistic injury inflicted by the fact one of them was Donald Trump.

Which brings us back to the subject of marriage.

Those of you who’ve met us know that I married up. In addition to being a hot leggy blonde Mom’s smart and smart if a real razor sharp way. Her current take on FB states that of all the local platforms FB is quicksand.

This came up tangentially. A rage filled FB post has been floating about for a few days regarding how a transaction was handled at a local business. Having once worked in retail it struck me as a customer service thing that went off the rails, but those who’ve read the post have broken out the digital pitchforks and iTorches in order to join the digital lynch mob.

Mom’s had a couple of invites to weigh in on this one. Some invites ask for her wisdom, others want her to put up a quick, “I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU KIDS!” post. She has declined saying that – once you look at that kind of post on social media – you’re sucked in with no way out. Admonish, conjole, beg or rant, nothing changes. There’s something about our natures that pull us in and make us drown in someone else’s anger.

Long story short – pick your battles, but be really, really picky about the ones you chose. Don’t lose your own time and your emotional energy.

k?

And while we’re talking about readily losing your shit…

Profits of Rage

“Trying the politicize science fiction fans is like trying to teach a paramecium to play jazz piano.” Harlan Ellison

Oh yeah?

You should what happens when you try to do that with football fans.

Let’s start with some unassailable rock-solid facts:

1. Tim Tebow is a deeply religious man.

2. Tim Tebow couldn’t make it in the NFL.

As most of you remember from tuning into last Sunday afternoon’s episode of “Oh Say Can You Knee?” Various pundits and double domes were casting about looking for anybody who went genuflecting on the grid iron. The name several landed on was Tim Tebow.

For those of you just tuning – Tim Tebow is no longer a member of the NFL. He suffered from what some call the Heisman Curse, i.e. those who win college football’s highest honor never make it in the NFL. Normally the victims of the curse aren’t much known outside of the city they play in. Tebow was different in that his knee taking, in the name of his faith, made him known to a wider audience. That in turn lead the culture warriors to weaponize this knee taking. Granted, the rage then was minuscule vs. what’s happened in the past couple of weeks, but it part of a larger interpretation of fact by the shadowy figures in the culture wars and those in the media who profit from using our emotions against us.

Put another way – the very recently deceased Hugh Hefner made a fortune playing off men’s essentially horny nature. The cable news outlets, talk radio, and various web sites do the same thing with your misdirected rage. Don’t think that Mom’s the only one who noticed the angry morass on social media. There are others who know that – to slight restate Mr. Pynchon – if they can get you to talk about the wrong thing, then there’s money to be made. Which means that if Mr. Bannon is what he says he is, then in his Lennist America the useful idiot abound and they need little or no direction and the money will come rolling in. (See M. Falloux above)

Say anything.

Throw it out there and see what sticks.

Want an example?

OK – is standing for the National Anthem little more than your own virtue signaling that you understand the previously established form of political correctness?

How’s that?

Been pnwed by your emotions yet?

Give it a second.

Moving along –

Kaepernick?

He’s about two weeks away from starting in the NFL should someone take him on. But as the article mentioned above states – the average NFL team is little more than a portfolio asset these days. So it’s not that Kaepernick is completely frozen out solely based on his actions. Seattle was mentioned as his most likely landing spot as it would come with the least amount of public outrage. But Seattle has a solid starting quarterback in Russell Wilson who is 1-1 in Super Bowl starts. Like Tebow, Mr. Wilson has an expanded fan base beyond the city he plays in due to his openness about how he and his fiancé were saving themselves for his second marriage.

Kaepernick’s frozen out because there are teams who could use him, but they’re getting by as there’s money in mediocrity. Behind the scenes there a mess of teams who don’t want him because those teams might improve and that might upset the delicate balance of the bottom line.

Hell, if you want to be mad at somebody – go pick on Jerry Jones.

The Cowboys haven’t won the Super Bowl since 1995 and they’ve been out of the playoffs for 11 of the subsequent years while turning his multi-million dollar investment into a $4 billion asset.

And did you see the J-man take a knee last week?

You sure did!

Long story short – anybody looking to display the head of the NFL as if it were the Gorgon or Meuda’s is a fool. The NFL has been its own best tackle dummy for several years now. The only thing Mr. Trump has done is give them an external push down the stairs because, God knows, the’ve been taking that tumble for some time.

Why?

The number of games on tv is its own form of pollution. What was one or two games on a weekend and one on Monday night has turned in a 12 to 14 broadcast marathon on Sundays. Prime time now has both Monday and Thursday night games and if that’s not enough the NFL has their own damn cable channel, streaming service, and a cozy deal with DirectTV. The commissioner has tried to edge the CTE problem and he wouldn’t let Junior Seau’s daughter give a speech that basically said – my Dad’s job ended his life early.

So before winding this up let’s go to the replay:

“In an electric information environment, minority groups can no longer be contained—ignored. Too many people know too much about each other. Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other.” H. Marshall McLuhan 1967

Moving from the industrially based media of the 20th Century to the wide open digital present means we move from the slightly off key chorus of the few voices to relentless cacophony. Like an old Altman movie we drop in and out of no end of conversations. We struggle to listen to one at a time. In that environment we are enthralled by the shouters, the loud ones who put forth their point of view leaving us to do the one thing none of us want to do.

Master our emotions.

Feel free to have your spouse help you. You know, the other day I heard that marriage is nothing more than getting your old lady and/or old man to get you to go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.

And then tell you to take out the trash.

With that – let’s go out on one of Mom’s favorite videos.

Ain’t that America? We’re something to see, baby!*

“Twitter’s a collective scrolling howl of bitterness, bile, animadversion and obloquy. It’s the social media place to tell people they’re wrong, express political despair about the coming nuclear apocalypse, and personal unhappiness about yet another rejection letter. Twitter’s a bubbling vat of dissatisfaction and dismay leavened with occasional harassment. Facebook is organized around wishing people happy birthday, sharing family photos, and announcing career successes. If Twitter is staring into a pit of sadly writhing maggots, Facebook is cartoon bunnies hopping about the screen and looking up at you, waiting for you to festoon them with medals for meritorious conduct. No wonder everybody’s on Facebook, while Twitter glumly sheds users as it begs old and potential tweeters to please stop backing away slowly. And yet, the bleakness of Twitter make it oddly cheering and comforting—while the relentless optimism of Facebook feels like all those billions of cute bunnies are sitting on your head, or using their oversize buck teeth to chew out your heart.” Noah Berlatsky

“The wind carries the rhythm of drums through the birch trees. Long-haired and bearded people stand around fires, many with their eyes shut, appearing to be in a trance. The scent of burning wood, mead, and leather wafts through the air. The pagans have gathered at the burial mound to pay homage to the gods through music and dance. This isn’t a scene set a thousand years in the past. This happened few weeks ago at the pagan and metal festival Midgardsblot. The three-day event, which takes place on an ancient mound cemetery on the southern coast of Norway, combines heavy metal and folk music with Old Norse pagan culture. Among this year’s lineup were new big names in black metal such as Gaahls Wyrd and Oranssi Pazuzu, as well as old pagan metal legends like Moonsorrow and Týr, the Mongolian pagan horde Tengger Cavalry, and the Icelandic Sólstafir. And to top it all off, there was a recreated Viking village, plenty of historical knowledge, and the Blót—the sacrificial ritual for the old gods.” Ruby Morrigan

“It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid shit we have to deal with in this country.” Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase

“When there were periods of crisis, you stood beside him. When there were periods of happiness, you laughed with him. And when there were periods of sorrow, you comforted him. I realize that as individuals we can’t just look back, that we must look forward. When I think of President Kennedy, I think of what Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet: ‘When he shall die take him and cut him out into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.’ I realize that as individuals, and even more important, as a political party and as a country, we can’t just look to the past, we must look to the future. So I join with you in realizing that what started four years ago–what everyone here started four years ago–that is to be sustained; that is to be continued….If we do our duty, if we meet our responsibilities and our obligations, not just as Democrats, but as American citizens in our local cities and towns and farms and our states and in the country as a whole, then this generation of Americans is going to be the best generation in the history of mankind He often quoted from Robert Frost–and said it applied to himself–but we could apply it to the Democratic Party and to all of us as individuals: ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.'” Robert F. Kennedy 1964

Lately it seems we’re consumed with one side or the other’s harangue that we can barely hear ourselves think. For example – just this morning I was at our farmers market waiting for Mom to pick out something while I fumed and stewed on recent events. Then in the midst of my compulsory daily outrage I began to hear something. As I concentrated on the sound rather than my thoughts it came to me – I was hearing the Goldberg Variations. So lost in my thought I did not notice that right there – right next to me – a teenager had been furiously hammering away at one of my favorite Bach pieces.

On an accordion.

Rather than bring the kid up to speed on how the accordion is the essence of Satan set loose upon the world, I decided instead to think about those things that uplift both mind and soul and in that moment I thought it might be best to get away from the turbulence that has come with this year and look at the things that are getting swept to the side. So what follows is a collection of items that have been bookmarked with the intent of getting around to them sooner or later. Some touch on the relentlessly thorny issues at hand and some are merely things to note.

Do with them what you will, but take them in stride.

Remember that we are all not only a good people, but the good people who dared to think that we could send a Shemp to the Moon and return him safely to Earth.

With that in mind:

1. While the USAF admits that Lieutenant Colonel Eric Schultz died in a crash a couple of weeks ago, the same USAF doesn’t want to talk about what he was flying when he crashed. Luckily, the crack investigative journalists from Popular Mechanics are on the case.

2. Alaska Wolf Joe sent this with an email that only said, “Derrida weeps.”*

3. Under the heading, Florida Man vs. The Hurricane comes the story of the gent who suggested – as a joke- taking up arms and taking a shot at Hurricane Irma. He was quoted as saying:

”I’ve learned that about 50 percent of the world could not understand sarcasm to save their lives. … Seems the joke may have gone over many people’s heads. I’ve got people in my inbox mad as hell because they think this is actually happening. I don’t know whether to laugh or sigh.”

(Ed. Note: JEEPERS MISTER, SAY IT AIN’T SO! SAY IT AIN’T SO!)*

4. While everybody’s been hearing lots and lots about DACA, North Korea, and God knows what some ideas have crept back into style. If you listened to Bruce Sterling’s SXSW keynote this year you’d know that age-old McGovernite idea of a guaranteed income is making the rounds.

Yes, George McGovern, the man The American Conservative once called a better conservative than most of the conservatives who hold office today.

OK – except for the Kid Rock guy.

That speech was AWESOME!*

Sterling’s version was a bit more expanded than lifting people out of poverty. He’s anticipating a world where AI and The Internet of Things displaces workers. In that situation the guaranteed income would create new ways to keep people occupied. Retirement could start as early as 4 or the military could be expanded so that it not only prepared for combat, but would provide forrest rangers or youth counseling.

Crazy?

Once the gang at Davos got through having a good cry over why their home-girl Hilary didn’t get elected they moved on to talk about the guaranteed income.

5. I forgot if this is something I sent AWJ this or if AWJ sent it to me.

It begins:

Bernard Stiegler in his unreadable scholarly postmodern account of the coming automation of society – Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work (Polity Press, 2016), “demonstrates once again (as he has done in virtually all his many previous books),” according to Bert Oliver, “that our technological era, like every distinctive technological epoch before this one, has generated novel technologies in such rapid succession that they have the effect of disrupting social life fundamentally, continually requiring new cultural practices and social adaptations – in this case the probable massive shrinking of employment because of digitalization”.

That is my favorite thing I have read in a long, long time because it begins with the words, “in his unreadable scholarly postmodern account.”

6. The Koi Division?

uhhhh … sure

In a semi-related matter we’re coming up on the one-year mark for getting genealogy updates in broken English from some sort of cousin who moved from Finland to Sweden in the past year. So far she’s pushed our history back to about 1350 CE. Along the way we’ve picked up some Swedish ancestors and, as we get into the 14th Century, there seems to be some Norwegians in the mix – ergo the mention of the Viking Blood Metal Gathering. (See above.) Bad enough I was having trouble keeping up with all the Finnish metal bands, now I have to keep track of the Swede and Norwegian ones as well. Along those lines – we do need to take a minute and see how a band performing the popular music of the day almost had a scrape with a Hegelian epoch defining moment.

First – a bit of background – most of us have long heard the phrase, “Everybody remembers where they were when (x) happened.” Pick one – JFK, the Challenger, 9/11 – they’re all memorable historic moments, but they’re not necessarily big-picture game changers. In Hegelian terms the fall of the Berlin Wall is an epoch event as such events come with realignments of power and social structures. One almost happened this weekend when the pro-Trump Mother of All Rallies (MOAR) march was scheduled for the same day as the Juggalo march on Washington.

From the UK Independent:

As the rally wound down, some participants said they were heading over to a protest nearby: a gathering of “horrorcore” rap fans who call themselves “juggalos”. The juggalos are super fans of the rap duo Insane Clown Posse, identifiable by their black-and-white, clown-like face makeup.The Juggalos gathered outside the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday to protest the FBI’s classification of their group as a “loosely organized hybrid gang”. The Justice Department has placed the Juggalos in the same group as overtly violent gangs like the Bloods and the Crips – a classification the fans dispute. According to the National Park Service, some 3,000 people were expected to attend the rally on Saturday – almost double the size of the MOAR.

(Tip o’ the tinfoil lined Bruins cap to Mr. Taylor for that one.)

Sadly, the gathering took place about a mile apart and nothing happened. This was disheartening to me as if both sides had clashed I expected the sun to be blotted out by all the think pieces flying through the Sunday morning sky.

So we’ll have to wait for another day.

Oh well –

Going out with two clips:

First, the uplifting one to stir your soul and encourage your better self to always step up when needed.

And the other to celebrate ourselves.*

*Denotes sarcastic remark.

Then you flew your Lear Jet to Novia Scotia to see the total eclipse of the large adult sons

“The more total society becomes, the greater the reification of the mind and the more paradoxical its effort to escape reification on its own. Even the most extreme consciousness of doom threatens to degenerate into idle chatter. Cultural criticism finds itself faced with the final stage of the dialectic of culture and barbarism. To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. And this corrodes even the knowledge of why it has become impossible to write poetry today. Absolute reification, which presupposed intellectual progress as one of its elements, is now preparing to absorb the mind entirely. Critical intelligence cannot be equal to this challenge as long as it confines itself to self-satisfied contemplation. (Prisms, 34) Theodore Adorno c. 1955

Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems. But it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question whether after Auschwitz you can go on living–especially whether one who escaped by accident, one who by rights should have been killed, may go on living. His mere survival calls for the coldness, the basic principle of bourgeois subjectivity, without which there could have been no Auschwitz; this is the drastic guilt of him who was spared. By way of atonement he will be plagued by dreams such as that he is no longer living at all, that he was sent to the ovens in 1944 and his whole existence since has been imaginary, an emanation of the insane wish of a man killed twenty years earlier. (Negative Dialectics, 362-363) Theodore Adorno 1966

“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. … We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.” Karl Popper

“Global capitalism is brutal and heartless. In other news I got a great app for my phone that allows me not to feel!!!” Eddie Pepitone

“Drama is beneath me considering our age.” Chuck D on getting sued last week by Flav

“If I wanted your opinion I’d beat it out of you.” Elvira Mistress of the Dark

“In a time of war the nation is always of one mind, eager to hear something good of themselves and ill of the enemy. At this time the task of the news-writer is easy; they have nothing to do but to tell that a battle is expected, and afterwards that a battle has been fought, in which we and our friends, whether conquering or conquered, did all, and our enemies did nothing.” Dr. Johnson

Remember Harmabe’s grieving mother, Covfefe?

This was the week where someone asked when I got past my existential crisis. The quick answer is, “Never.” In fact I’ve come to think of it as my companion animal.

Why?

Some of us have a deep inexplicable need to put our thoughts down in writing now and then and lately it’s been getting harder and harder to focus on those thoughts. The news cycle and its tawdry lover, Outrage have been coming at us so fast and so furiously that I just can’t get a grip on anything. Facts, factoids, news, both real and imagined fly over the transom like that shower of arrows in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Not long ago things were so much simpler. Every morning you’d open your inbox and find a note from Barbara Streisand telling what to think and when to think it. Then once or twice a month FedEx would bring a stack of papers which were the rough equivalent of that the Brits call a white paper. A few would be from Amal Clooney, but the bulk were written by Sean Penn.

Now?

Not to conflate this with Adorno’s statements, (above) but you have to wonder what you’re supposed to blog when you can’t focus?

Therefore – here comes a few items that need to move off the desk before they hit their expiration dates.

I can’t unsee what you did there!

Earlier in the week this article popped up which introduced me to the right-leaning rapper, Baked Alaska.

No, really.

Casting about for further info on Mr. Alaska I learned a term I had not heard before, The Dirtbag Left. Two guys who call their podcast The Chapo Trap House were busily trashing Mr. Alaska while performing an audio skit which portrayed Seb Gorka as little more than a loud, talkative, stock character straight out of a Republic Serial.

So what is The Dirt Bag Left?

Per Eve Peyser

“The dirtbag left”: A term coined by Amber A’Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House, a popular politics podcast that was once described by the Guardian as “leftwing Breitbart,” “the dirtbag left” describes a political movement that champions socialist ideology with an aggressive disinterest in pandering to prominent liberals (any Hillary Clinton advocate, for example). Dirtbag leftists disdain the average liberal’s commitment to pomp and circumstance, to upholding civilized discourse. Moreover, the dirtbag left believes vulgarity can be a powerful political tool. (In an essay on the necessity of political vulgarity for Current Affairs, Frost writes that in the Trump era, “If we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility.”)

Or this from Jeet Heer

Chapo is the flagship show of the Dirtbag Left, a phrase coined by co-host Amber A’Lee Frost to describe a take-no-prisoners style of American socialism that’s ascendent in the age of Trump. While examples of the Dirtbag Left can also be found in publications like The Baffler, Current Affairs, and podcasts like The War Nerd and Street Fight Radio, Chapo remains the purest example of the species. “It’s a movement that uses many of the tactics of the online alt-right—humour, memes, Twitter trolling and open animosity—while remaining committed to progressive leftist ideology,” John Semley wrote earlier this month in Maclean’s. “A given Chapo episode sees the hosts yukking it up at the expense of hacky mainstream media op-eds (New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is a favourite target of the gang’s derision), or critiquing the limp, liberal identity politics of the recent, and much-lauded, Wonder Woman movie.”The comparison Semley draws with the alt-right is apt. On substance, Chapo upholds the democratic-socialist politics of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, but in style it is much closer to the vituperative, insulting, shock-jock tactics used not just by Twitter users with Pepe the Frog avatars, but Trump himself. The response of mainstream liberals to these tactics on the right has been to double down on the importance of civility. “When they go low, we go high,” as Michelle Obama famously said. But the Dirtbag Left has no use for civility, and instead wants to counter the alt-right’s mudslinging in kind. Their slogan could be, “When they go low, we go into the gutter.”

A better grasp of the Dirtbaggers’ inconoclatic ways are also found in this article which Alaska Wolf Joe called the best think piece he’s read all summer.

It starts off with –

SOMETHING HAS GONE BADLY WRONG with our atheists. All these self-styled intellectual titans, scientists, and philosophers have fallen horribly ill. Evolutionist faith-flayer Richard Dawkins is a wheeling lunatic, dizzy in his private world of old-fashioned whimsy and bitter neofascism. Superstar astrophysicist and pop-science impresario Neil deGrasse Tyson is catatonic, mumbling in a packed cinema that the lasers wouldn’t make any sound in space, that a spider that big would collapse under its own weight, that everything you see is just images on a screen and none of it is real. Islam-baiting philosopher Sam Harris is paranoid, his flailing hands gesticulating murderously at the spectral Saracen hordes. Free-thinking biologist PZ Myers is psychotic, screeching death from a gently listing hot air balloon. And the late Christopher Hitchens, blinded by his fug of rhetoric, fell headlong into the Euphrates.

Critics have pointed out this clutch of appalling polemic and intellectual failings on a case-by-case basis, as if they all sprang from a randomized array of personal idiosyncrasies. But while one eccentric atheist might be explicable, for all of the world’s self-appointed smartest people to be so utterly deranged suggests some kind of pattern. We need, urgently, a complete theory of what it is about atheism that drives its most prominent high priests mad.

Shorter answer – the Dirtbaggers are the Anti-Pelosi.

And I get that. We have this running joke in the family that’s based on people we met back in the wayyyy early 90s at the Utne Reader Salons. Every so often someone would bring a friend who could only be described as a Poo-Ass Progressive who felt obliged to go way off topic and present their liberal bona fides which always started with, “You know, there’s some very good rap music and I was watching Cossi fan Tutte the other night on PBS…”

And on and on without every coming back to the topic at hand.

It’s what the kids call, ‘virtue signaling’.

You know, like when you tell pollsters you think Kid Rock would make a good senator.

Same thing.

Where were we?

All of this seems to be a subset of the larger issue of whether or not it’s OK to punch a Nazi. There are those, like the Dirtbaggers, who are all for the idea. Then there are the Poo-Ass Progressive who fear that if you punch a Nazi they win and history will repeat itself. We’ll be faced with our own version of Germany in the 30s where the Nazis will get the upper hand after force is used against them.

Can it happen here?

It is plausible, but is it possible?

I’ve come to believe that there would be a collective sigh of relief if history would repeat itself. Regardless of the outcome people could finally let their collective hair down for a minute and bask in something that was coming back around. Which is to say what I started out with here – lately things have come at us at such a furious pace that made – just maybe – for a few days or even a whole week it would be nice to be able to get a grip on what’s going on.

But in a way that would be more like taking a couple of Tylenol when you have the flu.

You’d feel better for a little while but, but you’d still have the flu.

While you’re thinking about that, here’s a quick how-to guide.

You try so hard but you don’t understand just what you will say when you get home because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is,do you, Mr. Jones?

Someone asked if Alaska Wolf Joe had required summer reading.

Yes.

He assigned us The Politics of Aesthetics by Jacques Ranciere.

If we were going to spend a portion of August driving around Colorado to see how little time we could spend in Unincorporated Rio Blanco County (4 hours awake, 7.5 hours asleep, and .5 hour in misc. activities) then we would need something to talk about.

The book opens with a definition of artistic hierarchies which sorta kinda fits with some ideas I’ve had about the future of the economy. Lately I’ve come to think that we might be at the early stages of transformation into what the next dominant form of economic organization might be. Ranciere begins with defining art by talking about the dominance of modernism, especially modernism’s emphasis on the rules and hierarchies of what constitutes great art. Out of that he sees the old avant guard as a reaction to those rules – a naysaying of a kind or the taking up of an opposite point of view. As such modernism could only be undone if its core was either ignored or replaced. Which is what happened under post modernism. The rules were never challenged. The rules were reduced to text, meaning was no longer the possession of the creator, but became the sole property of the observer.

Much the same can be said of what everybody likes to call ‘late-stage capitalism.’ (LSC)

Sooner or later it will be replaced, but not by socialism or communism. In face, and this is my current thinking, it will be replaced by something we cannot grasp in the same way modernists could not believe their rules of art would become an artifact. Under this definition of LSC neither communism nor socialism are replacements. Like the old avant guard they were merely reactions to the existing order rather than the future. Even the definitions of left and right, liberal and conservative are defined by a single system of economic order. Prior to it one was from France or England and a loyal subject – without further qualification – of his or her respective monarch.

No, there might be something coming and it could be evolving at this minute, but we can’t see it. At a bare minimum someone might get a glimpse, but like the physicists of the 19th Century – it’s all speculation until someone develops the math – the correct set of proofs – to find out if it’s truly real.

Until somebody comes up with the math at least we can all consider the alternatives to how to conduct ourselves in polite society.

EL&tl:dr


“When you step up the environment to those speeds everything becomes psychedelic, you create the psychedelic thrill. The whole world becomes kaleidoscopic and you go inward, it’s not an outer trip.” Marshal McLuhan

“You don’t know Grand Funk? The shirtless antics of Mark Farner? The competent drumming of Don Brewer or the bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher?” Homer Simpson

“It’s not a well defined line. If you’re in despair, if you’re in trouble, if your heart is broken, you turn to Jesus. In country music if you’re in despair or if your heart is broken then you go have a beer.” Larry Gatlin

“Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.” Dr. Johnson

Last Wednesday only one piece of analog mail came through the slot. It was my invitation to experience something called “Senior Summer Camp.” This was my chance to spend a week at a nearby assisted living community to find out what the place was like and to supposedly, “Connect with people your age and have experiences just like the ones you had at camp all over again.”

There’s a panty raid you won’t wanna miss.

Know something?

I’m seriously considering it as it might be my only chance to live in one of those places Alaska Wolf Joe calls ‘the people pound.’

Why?

For openers our insurance company says we’re cancelled after TrumpCare (TM pend.) passes. Then there’s the small matter that the NRA has declared open season on registered Democrats, which doesn’t bother me because, as you can see below, the NRA is a little late to the party.

Lots of people have told me that’s a joke and that may very well be true, but none of them will be the one who finds out that somebody took it as an action plan.

When you pull those two items together then I might as well spend a week at the assisted living place as there’s no time like the present. Besides I might be able to help move the place into the future. Sooner or later there won’t be anybody left in the weekly Matlock Discussion Group. In a few years us Boomers born after 1955 will be plentiful enough that the weekly Matlock group will be replaced with bingo which means – as I’ve said many, many times before – sitting next to some guy who wants to tell you how he put bug spray in his bong while Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon comes screaming over the senior center’s public address system.

Heyyyyyyy speaking of Pink Floyd, that brings us to today’s topic – David Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock. While the book is jam packed with info it tends to be a bit subjective in that it probably comes closer to reflecting Weigel’s personal taste than being a prog-rock Baedeker. But realistically when you deal with niche music genres that’s bound to happen.

Therefore I shall give you my personal take on the alleged rise and fall of prog.

Say ‘YES!’ to Yes

In the 1990s several musicologists in Britain put forth the idea that much of the composition in the 19th Century suffered from Beethoven envy. They thought that the Ninth Symphony paralyzed some composers who thought that unless they came up with something that out 9th’d the 9th then they would only be remembered as artistic failures. Oddly enough musicians and performers in the 1970s were faced with the same problem when this irreproducible gem appeared in the early half of the decade.

Obviously you can only take in that exquisite melody and nuanced performance so many times before you find yourself emotionally drained and mentally spent.

So what were you to do back then?

Stereo equipment was reasonably affordable and records were less than $5 each so all you really had to do was find something else to listen to until you were in the proper frame of mind to experience the man we called, le Dandy.

Sure, there was plenty of popular music going around, but what was there to chose from?

God knows, the woods were full of sensitive singer songwriters. They’d put out all their feelings on the very first track of and then repeat the process eight or nine times to flesh out the album. This lead many of us to ask, “How many goddam feelings do you have?”

While I’ve never bought into the whole Beatles/Adorno/Frankfurt School conspiracy theory I am pretty much convinced that all the sensitive singer songwriters were part of a cabal lead by Rod McKuen.

So much for that.

And the cosmic cowboy stuff?

You listened to that at your risk. Back then people would listen to that stuff and be so overcome with such a peaceful easy feeling that they became motionless for weeks at a time. Even after they snapped out if it their movements were slow as if they lagged behind reality by a second or two. If you asked them a simple question like, “Do you know what time it is?” they would struggle to focus their attention on what you had said. Years later they saw the 70s as so much missing time and irretrievable memories. That’s why when people ask me, “HEY, did you see The Walking Dead last night?” I smile and say, “No, but I went to a Poco concert once.”

This didn’t leave much and as the sky was dark with Englishmen riding their winged dragons long enough for Roger Dean to get a pencil sketch down, prog seemed to be the best choice.

Proggy went a’courtin’

Weigel spends little time letting prog bask in its glory days. His summary of the peak years deals with personnel changes and band infighting. As such the back half of the book is pretty much about the genre’s decline.

For me the decline in the number of prog-rock albums I bought can be summed up in one word.

Girls.

A key element of popular music is that it lets you get up and work off some excess energy while allowing you the opportunity to get all sweaty with a member of the opposite sex.

Such was the case with Glen Miller, such was the case with Joey Ramone.

Back in my day prog was not something the young women liked much less tolerated. They’d flip through your record collection and when they got to the Fripp, Giles, Giles, Gong, and Fripp section they’d make a face like there was something nasty smelling in the room. If you said, “Look, I got the new Yes Album!” It didn’t register. Instead they could have sworn you said, “You know, my job at the rendering plant complements my passion for taxidermy perfectly.”

As an aside – yes, we went through people’s record collections. Back then there was no FB, Tinder, or credit scores. You judged people by the vinyl they owned. Today you look through somebody’s medicine cabinet, back then you took a couple of fingers and flipped through the records. You know, …Grand Funk … Bachman-Turner … Grand Funk … Doobie Brothers… Doobie Brothers… Doobie Brothers … what a maroon!

Don’t give me that look.

I saw you do it.

Prog was a total failure when it came to courtship. You can’t dance to it, there’s not one single album that features anything anybody would admit to as being “our song,” and what kind of relationship would you be part of if you met somebody who was OK with making out to Van der Graaf Generator?

Because … damn … that’s just … damn

Weigel says there was one single moment when it was obvious prog was done. Early in the book he spends some time talking about how Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale as the one song that lead Brit pop musicians into prog. Some of them had long wanted to break out of the 4/4 structure and let things like an organ take the lead instead of the guitar. So when Peter Gabriel ran out his punk version of the song in 1979 it was an announcement, from no less that one of the major figures in prog, that its era had come and gone.

Days of Future Passed

The book does deal with the current state of the genre which begins with elders introducing the music to their young (see the video above) but finding it’s not something the kids take to readily.

The book’s intro and last chapter talk about how prog hasn’t really come back around again. Jon Anderson tried to get newer proggy kind of groups to tour with some of the Yes reunions, but it was a bust. Us potty old duffs don’t want to hear anything new – we just want to hear what we listened to in our teen years over and over and over again. That’s why prog nostalgia cruise ship tours do very well with middle aged high-school science teachers and graying tech workers.

Not surprising. When he was much younger AWJ liked DSOTM and we even went to see Roger Waters perform it live. But I think that’s a far as he got. A few years ago while stuck in traffic we got to talking about prog and he brought up some on his phone to play over the car’s sound system.

His verdict.

“Wow, that’s awful.”

Oh well.

And what of the book?

It’s an interesting read, but the breathless style leaves something to be desired. Sorta like the author staged a 50th anniversary celebration in a train station with people coming and going and talking over each other while others strained to hear the departure announcements. You might want to wait for it to come out in paperback or pick it up at a yard sale while you’re out on some fine Saturday morning looking for old Roky Erickson records.

The book’s single greatest fault is that Weigel is no fan of Krautprog. In fact he dismisses all of it in one sentence saying the German language and understanding of musicality never lent itself to prog.

But he carries on about PFM for five pages.

No shit.

Again – what to make of a given genre is always subjective, but no mention of Can, Air, Guru Guru, Neu, or even the more accessible stuff like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk?

If we take that at face value that means I’m walking around with this massive body of useless knowledge – half of which – Weigel thinks is as practical as hoarding Weimar pfennigs.

Bastard.

FYI

On a wholly unrelated note – the family reunion is progressing well. A cousin from the midwest and I will be comparing our genealogy research notes and hoping like hell we’re not related to these two.