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TinyMixTapes. [Aug. 12th, 2008|05:24 pm]
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Elvis Costello with a return-to-formalism, if not to form. Sera Cahoone with an album that bored me so much I wrote my most boring review to date trying to be fair to it. I don't get your genre, Cahoone. Never have, don't expect I ever will.
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Ridiculous and irresponsible hyperbole! [Aug. 11th, 2008|05:17 pm]
Putin invades Czechoslovakia! I mean South Ossetia!

We're going to wind up at war with them, this is hilarious! It will be unavoidable, too, because it's so passingly similar to the circumstances of the Second World War. I guess we'll see if that nonsense about the end of history is really true; if history is over, then we'll go to war, but not for the sake of the Georgians, because all of our ruling turkeys will be terrified of being called "Neville Chamberlain" by
The Weekly Standard.

The government of Georgia is upset because we're allies with them and NATO hasn't done shit. Wake up, that's the new reality. NATO can't do shit. The United States faces a potentially hostile alliance (Russo-Chinese, ratified c. 2003 and sealed with joint wargames in Central Asia), with only Nicholas Sarkozy for help. It's actually not that much like WW2 - no blitzkrieg, Putin is swelling on oil money, not looking at a fuel crisis, instead of isolationism we've been proving how shit we are at conquest, plus modern China isn't remotely the same shape of object as the Japanese Empire - but expect those little differences to go out the window the moment someone mentions Chamberlain. Oh, and it'll be a Democrat out to score a few Reagan points who says it first. Of course.


EDIT - this isn't irresponsible hyperbole, it's just ridiculous

I'm leaving it up because I am an hero
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Purity concerns, etc. [Jul. 31st, 2008|06:27 pm]
Kerry Howley at Reason Hit & Run, writing not about her experience selling ova, but about the response of the Huffington Post writer who questioned her and her fellow donors later:

I spent my allotted time explaining that my emotional response does not seem to conform to the acceptable cultural script. Reporters call and ask “How painful was it?” and “Do you regret it now?” It wasn’t painful, I reply, I’m quite happy to have had the experience. Awkward silence. They ask whether I know someone else they can talk to. I’m never quoted. In conversation I generally feel pushed to say that I feel somehow traumatized, and I have at times felt ashamed for not feeling more seriously affected by the transaction. I’ve since come to recognize this as a kind of emotional bullying, a push to elicit expected emotional responses.
The author of the Huffington Post piece goes on to equate the voluntary sale of ova with date rape and sexual abuse, presumably because all three often involve vaginas. What I want to know is how that's different from the "purity" objection that associates a thing like homosexuality with moral failure. The interviewer obviously went into it with the implicit expectation that all of these women would have some basic ick with getting their eggs "sucked out through a needle." Okay, most people are uncomfortable with the idea of surgery, but why that operation in particular and not others? I'm convinced that the answer would reveal a lot about hidden moral structures in the Western consciousness. Too bad it's one of those areas where you'll never get an honest response from anybody with a strong opinion either way, including probably Kerry Howley.
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In a conservative's nightmare. [Jul. 14th, 2008|09:13 pm]

It's easy to get bored of political writing. It usually takes the form of airbrushed policy hackwork that you could as easily read on a FAQ or on Wikipedia, or someplace else where you don't have to endure subscription nags or the pretense of topicality. Happily, “Obama, Shaman” by Michael Knox Beran is just the opposite: a piece of unintentional art whose hypotheses reveal so much about the psyche of the author that the subject itself practically vanishes.

 

Beran wastes little time in getting to the basis for his anxiety. He compares Sen. Barack Obama to a rock star, Adonis, a superhuman, and Percival of Arthurian legend, and ascribes to popular belief the notion that Obama possesses miraculous healing powers. “It is a sign of growing maturity in a people,” he concludes, when they acknowledge “a residue of pain in existence” that cannot be cured. There is an undeniable pathos in Beran’s juxtaposition of Obama’s popular heroism with his own declaration of inalterable pain. Obama claims to be a “panacea,” but Beran knows his own disease is incurable.


No, Beran accepts his own pain and urges us to accept ours. He characterizes modernity as possessing the "childish dream of an anodyne world," crediting to this dream the philosophies of Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler, and tracing its beginnings to Machiavelli’s resentment of modern capitalism. Beran argues that Machiavelli wrote The Prince and other works in order to sabotage and undermine the growth of capitalist society. Machiavelli's prince is a "demiurge" possessing "demonic virtù," this latter a superhuman quality that enables a leader to overcome self-seeking and look to the common good. It's clear "virtù" is the part of the story that bothers Beran the most. He returns to the word again and again. Nor does "demiurge" appear to have been a haphazard choice; the Gnostic Cathars believed in a blind, evil creator-god by that name. To many of those sects, earthly good was inherently suspect - the guise under which the Lord of the World comes to steal our worship. Beran echoes the idea: exhortations to virtue are temptations to damn ourselves by pride, out of the folly that earthly suffering can be diminished.

Moreover, he argues that as a category, virtù is exclusively the territory of the charismatic demagogue. It is a claim that demagogues must make, otherwise the masses would realize that political will is a symptom of utopian delusion and reject princes' prescriptions. Machiavelli sought to assist the demagogue by working to overturn older morality, inducing the masses to forget or willfully ignore our "fallen condition" and succumb to the belief in superhumans. According to Beran, he did so by writing a story in which he humanized the devil and made him ultimately ineffectual. The importance of this literary reversal: by regarding archetypal villainy through the lens of virtù, he lulls us with the false belief that evil itself is curable by empathy. He describes how Machiavelli’s Belfegor was imitated by Voltaire, Diderot, Balzac, Shaw and Goethe. The popularity of such depictions is taken as a stark reflection of Europe’s moral decay, and likely a precursor to its widespread acceptance of socialist philosophies.

The free-associative final half is a masterpiece of escalating anxiety. Beran connects Obama with Oprah Winfrey, the "matriarch" of a "talk-show culture" oriented around deceptive images of redemption and dialogue. In one illustration, Winfrey is shown lounging atop a stack of books like an idol, wearing a negligee and reading in a provocative pose while nearby an aproned Obama pushes a cart full of babies. Like rock stars, Adonises and Percivals, Obama masquerades as a heroic figure but is in truth subservient, the sum total of matriarchal ideals projected onto a male mannequin. That's because virtù, like all other utopian fantasies, is believed to originate with women. Beran shows that where in the past, leadership charisma was associated with "authority," "muscular strength" and "testosterone," Obama is instead "nurturant" and "metrosexual" – a demagogue appropriate to an "age of sagging sperm counts." The message is clear: it is on the back of this placid beast that the Whore of Baby Bust arrives to be worshipped.

Moreover, Beran invites us to share his fears about the incompatibility of Obama’s "relativism" with the Founding Fathers' visions. These, he argues, were rooted in traditional morality, itself rooted in the idea that earthly suffering cannot be changed – the American constitution, he tells us, is shaped by a bedrock belief in original sin. He further connects America’s resilience with literal belief in the devil, which remains even after faith in God wanes. Now, we are pursuing "false gods," Beran tells us, but hope is to be found in our faith in the devil's evil and the irascible shoddiness of our condition. That certainty is the lifeline floating in the disastrous landscape that Beran shows us: no matter how charismatic a faggot we crown, America knows – as did the Founding Fathers – that we were born deserving of "the painful limitations of our condition." We suffer by the design of a supreme Father, a design which will continue to frustrate our hubris even if we join Barack Obama in mincing displays of weakness on television. Our pride, like the targets painted onto the supplicating masses in the first illustration, marks us out to a God whose hostility is implacable. Punishment is coming. Like pain, it cannot be avoided.

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Tiny Mix Tapes [Jun. 7th, 2008|02:15 pm]
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Robert Pollard has made an album bad enough to be an epitaph.

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Tiny Mix Tapes [Jun. 2nd, 2008|04:47 pm]
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Richard Swift styles himself a soundtrack artist. Islands are still not the Unicorns; expect Pitchfork to whine about it. Imaad Wasif and his band Two Part Beast make the difficult crossing from middling indie-rock to middling post-grunge. Experimental Dental School bring the prog, but all the wrong ones.
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Latest reviews. [Apr. 28th, 2008|02:34 pm]
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[Current Music |Os Mutantes - Trem Fantasma]

O! The Joy make dull, prog-heavy indie-rock and have a stupid name. Beequeen are Dutch and so very austere. Portishead want to confuse people this time.
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New reviews. [Mar. 31st, 2008|03:32 pm]
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Orthodox find metal intersections with jazz. Lafcadio find post-hardcore, call it metal 'cause the beards dig it. R.E.M. return with another lazy entry into their questionable 00's catalogue.

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Tiny Mix Tapes [Mar. 1st, 2008|01:30 pm]
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Reviews of Chris Walla and Future of the Left.

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More Tiny Mix Tapes. [Jan. 27th, 2008|02:20 am]
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I lob unfair criticism at BJ Nilsen.
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