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Showing posts from October, 2011

On the Eve of All Hallow's Eve: A Parafactual Ghost Tour of Aberdeen

[cowritten with Paul Crowe for Childreach International]

Scene 1. St Machar Power Plant (St Machar Cathedral, Seaton).

Night. One figure stands bolt upright atwixt the churchyard gates. Another, hunched and demented, flits between the tombstones, prodding the earth at each grave with a technical device of some sort. He minces over to the crowd and grants them all a trinket, mumbling "Talismans! Talismans!"

[incredibly long beat]

G: Welcome, friends! Do you believe I have brought you to a place of the past?

[beat] - You are then mistaken, friends! You stand in the very heart of modern, postmodern, metamodern, patamodern Aberdeen! A power plant supplying the whole of Aberdeen with carbon-free electricity, all year round! The largest green power facility in Europe - the very soul of modernity! How, you ask? How?

Oh, I do so love your questions. A mere nine years ago I would have had to demur a true answer - we were so maligned, so grey market in those days - thanks to the mor…


Further to my utopian blurt: now, say I don't like to self-medicate - what are the other treatment options, Doctor?

Materialism - traditional politics. Global growth, Development, Reform. (Yes, but for what? The eradication of poverty? Good, but not enough. The end of alienated work? Yes, but not the end of only that.)

Materialism - traditional hedonism. (with current drugs and people: cheap, unsustainable; for lucky unreflective folk only.)

Asceticism - traditional religion. (It had its chance.)

Asceticism - traditional philosophy. (Has worked badly and for few.)

Aestheticism. (life as art if not life for art. See also Absurdism.)

Existentialism - as affirmative philosophical anarchism.

Mysticism. (Eh. It takes all kinds. See also Romanticism.)

Other-directedness - the ruthless pursuit of Truth.

Radical psychoanalysis. (Fuck knows if or how this would work. They don't seem to know, themselves.)

Radical politics. (The odds are not good, but then, neither is the world.)


ad alienum

Said the peasant to the priest: "Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto!"
Priest: "Well, you would say that, wouldn't you?"

I come from philosophy. In that house there's an old and warming idea - that it shouldn't matter who raises a point, because good arguing is nil ad hominem - it has "nothing directed to the person" who's arguing, but all instead to what they argue. This is a noble idea. Unfortunately some new ways of thinking raise fairly fatal problems for it.

- When we talk about Difference in the new way, ad hominem is important. When an argument is politicised (as indeed even the abstractest arguments are), it can matter who is saying what. Some philosophical topics draw on experiences which are not universal nor easily mentally simulated.

For instance: gender. It's not hard to see what's problematic about a man stomping around telling a group of women what feminism should be, no matter how sympathetic and well-informed the …

taking maxims from economics somehow

Did you ever think that making a speech on economics is a lot like pissing down your leg? It seems hot to you, but it never does to anyone else.
– Lyndon B Johnson, supposedly

...nobody can be a great economist who is only an economist – and I am even tempted to add that the economist who is only an economist is likely to become a nuisance if not a positive danger.
– FA Hayek

The claim is: there is humanity and honesty available in economics. Here's a reconstruction of folksy theorems and maxims: together they make for an surprisingly open worldview, one nowhere near as sterile as what the field is usually thought to instil. My point's not that a pure standard-model economic worldview is a complete one – the best thing Hayek ever said is the epigram above – just that the sterility and absurdity we often see in it is the result of monological extremism, not anything about the subject matter or even the method.

Few actual economists embody or articulate these maxims - but th…


oh baby I love it when you talk rorty to me
and I love your
ample activism, your
heaving critique, your
insatiable reading, your
tight, pert logic, your
kinky perception, your
slender irritations, your
broad, child-bearing mind,
and yo' thighs.

LISTEN: "Mr Chainsaw" by Alkaline Trio

"Found out recently that you are leaving -
'For good I hope', I softly tell my ceiling.
It's better now to be alive;
Sleeping is my 9 to 5;
I'm having nightmares all the time...
Of running out of words that rhyme."

"See also
Byronic hero
Fear of death
- Wikipedia
Emo had its day. The word seems to have disappeared - usage peaking in, what, 2006? This is partly because it has been enthusiastically assimilated into pop. (This is the fate of hypersuccessful memes - to become ordinary. It's one of two standards in yoof visual style, and a go-to in chart pop too.)

What little ideological content there was in it - commodified Gothic Romanticism, and also what a charitable cultural theorist might one day see as a kind of genderqueering - is gone and not missed, since it took its chauvinism, hypocritical conformity and soft nihilism with it. Some funny relics of the age: whenever my broth…


One of the better phenomena in the last 20 years of rock has been a cluster of things I call rubinations:
an over-the-hill musicianis renewed, accrues critical acclaimfrom working with a young svengali producer,on an album containing covers (especially surprising ones).The festival circuit or very large sales follow.

On Spotify Here

Listen easily here. Or:

- Loretta Lynn (& Jack White) - on 2004's Van Lear Rose.
Satisfies 1, 2, 3, 4.

- Mavis Staples (& Jeff Tweedy) - 2010's You Are Not Alone. 1, 3, 4.

- Wanda Jackson (& Jack White) - on 2011's The Party Ain't Over.
Satisfies 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & perhaps soon 6.

- Shirley Bassey (& the world) - on 2008's The Performance. Satisfies 1,2,3,4,5, and of course 6.

- Johnny Cash (& Rick Rubin) - American Recordings (1994-2003).
Satisfies #1, 2, 3, 4, 6.

- Neil Diamond (& Rick Rubin)- on 2005's 12 Songs.
Satisfies 1,3,4,5 & 6.

- Vashti Bunyan (& Max Richter & Animal Collective!) - on …

on Waking Life

"Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled."
- Santayana

I'm not going to say much about Waking Life here - it is what we might call a naked film: you will get philosophical content from it on your own. Nor do I particularly want to mark its visual style - 'rotoscoping' - because that’s not its main innovation. What I will say is that it is pretentious in the best sense and talks total crap in only three or four places. It is in one sense the most philosophical film ever, because it’s overwhelming, has no real plot, and definitely has no coherency: it is a cutup of a couple dozen talking heads with different worldviews. It is a visual and conceptual poem about how inscrutable and irrational life is on the inside; verse lifejackets thrown into oceanic gaps in our understanding. It moves fast enough for its flaws to be minor affronts, though it does feel long, being both heavy and unbearably light. I recommend dunking your head in the pr…

being bioprogressive

(c) Bertel Thorvaldsen (c.1820)

"How might a happiness drug... find itself described in the literature?
Substance x induces severe, irreversible structural damage to neurotransmitter subsystem y. Its sequelae include mood-congruent cognitive delusions, treatment-resistant euphoria, and toxic affective psychosis. Eeek! Needless to say, no responsible adult would mess around with a potent neurotoxin of this description."
– David Pearce

The drug could be dangerous, after all. I was not a believer in easy solutions, something to swallow that would rid my soul of an ancient fear. But I could not help thinking about that saucer-shaped tablet...

Tumbling from the back of my tongue down to my stomach. The drug core dissolving, releasing benevolent chemicals into my bloodstream, flooding the fear-of-death part of my brain. The pill itself silently self-destructing in a tiny inward burst, a polymer implosion, discreet and precise and considerate. Technology with a human face.

– Don De…