Archive for April, 2013

“Just do it in a kind of breakfast-y tempo”

The Wrens, “Everyone Choose Sides”, performed in a fan’s apartment using his family’s guitars and a box of what appears to be Captain Crunch for percussion.

Spoiled by Video Game Technology

Me, on putting in the disc for my first DVD-based game, circa 2004:

“Oh man, a 5 gig install? That’s tons of data! This game must be awesome!”

Me, on putting in the disc for Defiance:

“WTF?! It requires install. And 5 gigs? Fuck, this game better be worth it.”

“Here we are, in the middle of something big”

If Sylver Tongue had a baby with David Bowie, the resulting child would be a walking Glam Singularity, from which no drum machine or androgynous outfit would be able to escape.

Bastiat on Legal Plunder

“There are people who think that plunder loses all its immorality as soon as it becomes legal. Personally, I cannot imagine a more alarming situation. However that may be, one thing is certain, and that is that the economic results are the same…

Moral: To use force is not to produce, but to destroy.” – Frédéric Bastiat

Found via Coyote Blog

Sing the Praises of Your Devourer

Eric Naiman, writing in the Times Literary Supplement, pens an account of the greatest literary detective story in years. I won’t spoil the story for you, because it really is a delightful tale of deception, and Naiman tells it wonderfully. But suffice it to say that academia is not as free from perfidy as some people might want to believe. And I hope that the sad, small villain at the center of the tale understands the mastery with which Naiman dissects his work and lays it bare across the pages the TLS.

A quote to whet your appetite for the mystery:

“Late in 2011, Michiko Kakutani opened her New York Times review of Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens with “a remarkable account” she had found in its pages. In London for a few days in 1862, Fyodor Dostoevsky had dropped in on Dickens’s editorial offices and found the writer in an expansive mood. …

I have been teaching courses on Dostoevsky for over two decades, but I had never come across any mention of this encounter. Although Dostoevsky is known to have visited London for a week in 1862, neither his published letters nor any of the numerous biographies contain any hint of such a meeting. Dostoevsky would have been a virtual unknown to Dickens. It isn’t clear why Dickens would have opened up to his Russian colleague in this manner, and even if he had wanted to, in what language would the two men have conversed? (It could only have been French, which should lead one to wonder about the eloquence of a remembered remark filtered through two foreign tongues.) Moreover, Dostoevsky was a prickly, often rude interlocutor. He and Turgenev hated each other. He never even met Tolstoy. Would he have sought Dickens out? Would he then have been silent about the encounter for so many years, when it would have provided such wonderful fodder for his polemical journalism?”

And so the mystery is afoot.

“6AM”, the second single from the upcoming Fitz and the Tantrums album, More Than Just a Dream. Top notch stuff as always. I’ve oft harped on the importance of sophomore releases. Between this groovy tune (love the chorus) and the prior release, “Out of my League”, the new FatT record is already shaping up to be a promising one.

Skywalk-loving Libertarian Urbanist Smash!

Literally everything about this article infuriates me.

Skywalks are badass. One of the very few things that Spokane (my former home) does right that every other city fucks up is its downtown skywalk network. It’s possible to get from one side of downtown to the other entirely using interconnected skywalks. This keeps you off the streets, out of the way of bikes and cars, and out of the inclement weather. Skywalks make cities more walkable and comfortable for pedestrians while also easing the flow of bike and car traffic. They are made of architectural magic and win.

Of course, it also doesn’t help Atlantic Cities that the hero of their article is this catastrophizing asshole:

“I’m not typically the activist type,” says Joe Baur, a 26-year-old writer who moved downtown two years ago and has now started a group called OurCLE to fight the skywalks. “I’m more a satirist. But this is like – well, you may not like kids, but if you see a kid about to touch a hot stove, you’re going to stop them.” Baur says Cleveland is that kid, and the skywalk is the hot stove.

First of all, being a satirist is like being powerful or good in bed; if you have to tell people you are, you ain’t. Secondly, what right does he have to ask the city to deny developers the right to improve their buildings and make life easier and more convenient for their customers?

Baur &co claim that the skywalk would: “…deaden the neighborhood, make residents more vulnerable to crime, and block sightlines of other historic buildings in the neighborhood.”

Making an urban core more “walkable” (a term I loathe for its connotations), i.e. making it easier for people to ambulate to their destination, with a good network of skywalks is as likely to enliven the neighborhood as not. This has definitely happened in Spokane. The skywalks and the businesses along them have a constant flow of foot traffic, and it allows people to easily access the parts of downtown they want to get to, in any weather. Downtown Spokane typically isn’t dead, even in rain, snow, or sweltering heat. If I had to guess, even if skywalks don’t enliven the city, they won’t deaden it either, and they will definitely make pedestrians more comfortable and increase vehicle traffic flow. Secondly, I can’t even see the argument for increasing crime rates. Do people turn into slavering criminals when they’re suspended 20 feet off the ground? Finally, skywalks have a very low profile and most are made of glass. Any views this skywalk would block would only be blocked in the most technical sense of the word.

Of course the ur-argument against anti-skywalk hysteria is the same as it is with any of the weaksauce anti-property-rights crusades in modern cities: lack of evidence. There is exactly zero evidence that the skywalk will have any negative impacts on the commons, or the neighborhood, much less evidence showing that the externalities are of such a magnitude as to warrant legally forbidding a developer to do what they want with their own property.

Skywalks are good for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, especially in dense urban cores. The only arguments against are the fashionable, evidence-free preferences of the Chattering Class segment of urbanism. So here’s hoping that Baur and his ilk lose their fight against skywalks and spend more of their time satirizing rather than trying to shit on property rights.

“I’ll be the last man on Earth”

“And a rabbit gives up somewhere / and a dozen hawks descend”

I hope everyone has the experience of a band dropping into their life at just the right moment. I’ve been lucky in that it’s happened for me not once, but thrice. The Mountain Goats’ Heretic Pride album wasn’t one of those magical experiences for me, but I can’t escape the certainty that it was for somebody. For one thing, I think the album is the best album of the millennium thus far. But for another, it might be the best articulation of alienation in all of Western Art.

Okay, that’s a strong claim. It’s not as good as “The Metamorphosis”, but it’s in the same class.

The sound of Heretic Pride is the sound of looking around to find yourself the only honest man in a sea of liars. Or the only Christian in a Colosseum full of lions and cheering Romans. Or the only man on a planet of apes (or vice versa). It’s a record that perfectly describes being alone because you are the only thing you’re capable of being. Which just happens to be entirely alien.

“Woke up afraid of my own shadow. / Like genuinely afraid.”

Peter Hughes’ bass lines on this track are the reason I own a bass. That’s not even hyperbole or a joke. I bought the album and became fiercely obsessed with this song. The part I kept coming back back to was the jumping, thunking of the bass that just barely grounds the frenetic drums and growling rhythm guitar. I love the nervous counter-melody it provides for John Darnielle’s vocal paranoia. So it was that I found myself walking through guitar center, hum-mumbling the bass line, and ended up walking out with an Ibanez bass and an appropriately modest bass amp.

Turns out it’s a pretty damned hard line to figure out. And to be honest, I haven’t made the time to become a bassist good enough to learn it. After all, you don’t become a good musician by learning good songs, but rather the other way around. Just as you don’t get to become an authentic human being by doing unique stuff, but rather the inverse. That’s a point that I think is at the root of the cultural plague of hipsterism, but that’s probably a rant for another post.

But it’s a cogent point. Authenticity can’t be bought cheaply. There’s a dear cost to being a unique, vibrant human being willing to commit to whatever it is that drives you and defines you. Heretic Pride serves as a beautiful and brutal ledger of that cost. That accounting has to bring succor to someone. At least convince them that the prize is with the price.

Well when the house goes up in flames / no one emerges triumphantly from it

The whole album is rich with Kafkarna. The feeling of finding yourself trapped in a world ludicrous on its face, and yet finding everyone else around you taking it seriously. Or of finding yourself cast, despite your nature, in the role of the villain. I think that experience is really at the heart of Heretic Pride. And the counsel it gives is that sometimes you have to embrace that role, because the alternative is to live a lie. If society claims you’re a villain for your very nature, at least be a good one. Epictetus says that the punishment of those who do not accept their nature is to be just as they are. You can’t change your nature, you might as well enjoy playing your part.

Aldous Huxley said of Isaac Newton, “as a man he was a failure; as a monster he was superb.” Heretic Pride gives us the courage to do the same, if being a monster is the part we’ve been written into.

Transfiguration’s gonna come for me at last / and I will burn hotter than the sun / … / I feel so proud to be alive

But no matter how bad our fellow apes treat us, in the end, Camus was right; the only answer to our flawed condition is to live. And Heretic Pride makes the case that we should live well. After all, if living well is the best revenge, then dreaming of a better life is the most satisfying revenge fantasy.

When you’re being dragged through the streets, smile and enjoy the ride. After all, you’re living the only way you can. And the only thing worse than living authentically in a world that hates you is giving in and living a lie in that same ugly world.

“I like to stay up after midnight and listen for the chimes we used to hear”

Sean Nelson of Harvey Danger recently announced his first album in 8 years. This is the debut single off the album, called “Make Good Choices”. I love the song. Sweeping, poignant lyrics over dancy, syncopated rhythm and drum lines, even a proper guitar solo for those of us who are into that kind of thing.

Great New Music Resource

Glenn McDonald, author of the excellent (though sadly now infrequent) The War Against Silence blog/newsletter/one-man-zine has created an awesome new tool to discover new music. This page aggregates new releases (according to Rdio), creating a nice, clean, all-in-one source to find some new music.

Unrelated, TWAS is single-handedly responsible for my desire to run a music blog. Which I did, for awhile, until grad school and work got in the way. Some of the reviews and essays I wrote for Fifty-Two Tuesdays are still among my favorite pieces of my own writing.

So thanks, Glenn, for inspiration, top-notch music journalism, and now a great source for new music.

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
5.) Pilsner should be in Roman type, and begin with a capital.
6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
7.) Spammers will be fed to the Crabipede.