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Showing posts from January, 2011

the damage done

Herc is in hard times.

But if you swim a certain depth of the music world, you'll see a dozen of these a year: benefit concerts for (usually) American musicians who can't pay their medical bills. It's chilling, and I refuse the idea that this is merely the chill of a spoiled European. This is the story of most people everywhere: but they're uncanonized, nor even are they mates with Billy Corgan.


Victoria Williams. She later founded a pretty life-affirming musician's medical charity, so this is welfare investment... yeah.
Vic Chesnutt recently went to his death $30000 under, despite a 1996 powow by Sweet Relief.

Skip Spence's one was too late.

Arthur Lee received a four-hour ordeal in 2006.

Natasha Schneider's was also posthumous, and poses one of the all-time serious existential questions: would I allow Tenacious D to play in my memory?

Without trying to be too insensitive, there's real absurdity in this one, featuring Roger Daltrey for Grand Funk…


© Roderick MacFarlane (2010)

For Armands, wherever roaming.

1. Song For Aberdeen - Mando Diao "Well I was never meant to be the good boy
I was never meant to go to school
And it's guys like me who get somewhere,
Cause everybody pity a fool.

2. Aberdeen 1987 - Xcerts "Let the boys sing out their pain,
Let the dreams just slip away,
Let them all howl out at night,
Under darkening lamp light."

3. The Misbegotten - Charlatans "I met a poet in a hotel
Just the other night
He said he lived in Aberdeen
and, would I like to take his life

4. The Northern Lights of Auld Aberdeen - Trad
(honestly the least disgusting version I could find)
"I've been a wand'rer all of my life and many a sight I've seen.
God speed the day when I'm on my way to my home in Aberdeen

5. Another Seven Years - Aberdeen City
"Cover yourself when you see them
To be much safer when you meet again
Greater numbers are greater judges
(time has a way of settling grudg…


"Something must be done.
This is something.
Therefore, this must be done
- Yes, Minister

An idea for a very lazy academic book: email a bunch of linguists & philosophers of language, polling their top 5 Worst Equivocations (in terms of: Whorfian damage to the world's consciousness, source of misunderstanding, or just plain distaste.)

Everyone gets what they want: they to moan about polysemes, I to have a free book. Here's mine:


So vague - but the speaker always has a determinate cosmocrat in mind. This allows much smugness in otherwise sincere discussion. I'm sure other languages but English and other cultures have their own "real" deity name. There's no excuse for it, but veiled, self-superior syncretism ("Well, you mean my god when you say 'God'"), either:
- Allah has loads!
- But not as many as that one.
- The African ones, rarer and rarer...
- Hinduism makes long bloody lists and sings them.
- Krishna Krishna…

Listen Cloze Now: "Good Luck" by Basement Jaxx & Lisa Kekaula

What was Jaxx? Jaxx are/were superlatively anonymous multicultural garage. (In both the US neodisco and UK dub house senses). Their only signatures were exuberance and two big bags of Latino-techno hooks dumped on each track. But they were too song-struck for techno; too detailed for house; too camp, messy and again, anonymous for hiphop; and too ???? for real chart success. They're time-capsuled now, hence my past-tensing. And yet they keep on at it. The voices they use these days are a lot more faceful - Sam Sparro/Yoko Ono/Kelis. This maybe might just let em get a foothold in identity-obsessed American pop, but I doubt it.

Now, "Good Luck" in particular: a compressed funk-rock operetta, all the generic frantic I WILL SURVIVE sentiment you could want for any 4 minute period of your life, layered with weapons-grade urbania: did you notice that the backbeat is all beatbox and claps? did you feel the sharp guitar bloom into the 2:27? did the wall-synths convince you to st…

Listen Cloze, Now: "Ah! ich habe deinen Mund geküsst, Jochanaan!" by Strauss, von Karajan and Behrens

"HEROD: Do you really want to give everything that I desire from you, Tetrarch?
HEROD: You swear it, Tetrarch?
HEROD: My riches are yours. What is it you want to have, Salome?
SALOME: (rising, smiling)
"Ah!" is the final scene in Richard Strauss' world-fucking opera of Wilde's world-fucking playSalome. Herein, after stripping for her stepfather Herod, Salome scares the shit into him by making out with a severed head. (Worse: the head of the prophet Jochanaan.) The supernatural world in which the action takes place is understandably upset; the moon disappears. A terrified Herod orders her killed.

She's quite a creation; a strong, sexual manipulator. Jochanaan resists her when alive, so she has him killed.

We only know this kind of harmony from horror films; it sounds like malign ghosts look. (Sure enough, it was actually used in the opening of the recent remake of the Omen.)

Strauss' composition is a scarily complex system of leitmotifs and recurring plot…

tolerate fools gladly

(c) Halsmann with Monroe (1959)

Am I a serious man? Do I take myself seriously?

You can't quote Carnap in dialectic with Wittgenstein and not have some of that, can you? Or write poetry to people you love. (Or write poetry.) Or say things like "Shall we do a Shakespeare readthrough?" or "I can't stand Roger Scruton!" Or ask this question.


My native language is Sexist English. I have learned the thoughtful dialect of it, but some find it terribly jarring, still.

Typical arguments against nonsexist language:

(1) Arguments from cultural noncorrelation

("No evidence exists that cultures using a sexist language have more discrimination than those using a 'liberated' language. There's no evidence to suggest that nonsexist languages or dialects (e.g., Japanese, Eskimo, Turkish) result in equal treatment of the sexes.")

But you don't need to be a Whorfian to oppose it. Whether or…

More or Less Critical Mysticism

(c) Roger Penrose, 1999

Can it be that so many men, of various times and nations, outstanding minds among them, have devoted so much effort, and indeed fervor, to metaphysics, when this consists of nothing more than words strung together without sense?"
– Carnap

I think now that the right thing to do would be to begin my book with remarks about metaphysics as a kind of magic. But in doing this I must neither speak in defence of magic nor ridicule it. In this context, in fact, excluding magic has the character of magic.
– Wittgenstein, PI manuscript

[Mysticism is] a philosophical urge gone wrong. Thousands of lesser philosophers are always with us to prove that it can go more wrong still, by trying to form systems out of no knowledge at all. Admirers of Ouspensky, Gurdjieff and Reich were all under the illusion that profundity can be attained by embracing principles with no basis in science. The occult and mystical are perennial short cuts to a supervening vision… Unfortunately it is …