The end is near! Again!
Should the unthinkable occur, and meaningful health care reform fail to materialize, I think we can all agree that one of the most important tasks to be dealt with immediately following will be the assignation of blame. Out of many worthy candidates, I offer here two for your early consideration:
- The Democratic President, the Democratic Congress, and their corporate owners, especially in the insurance industry
- An op-ed written by John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods
I wasn’t aware he had a normal side:
Catholic League President Bill Donohue presented a paranoid side of his personality to Fox News Monday morning, declaring that “militant, dogmatic” atheists are “out to get” Catholics and dismantle American society.
And I know the Lebowski quotations are IOZ’s thing, but still, this is just too tempting:
“But the new radicals are the nihilists, all they want to do is tear down the cultural edifice of American society. They are intellectually spent, they have nothing to offer.”
Walter Sobchak: Nihilists! Fuck me. I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.
“This was the most Nazi-like assault,” Donohue said. “The most unrelenting half an hour of bashing I’ve ever seen.”
The Nazi comparison appears to be Donohue’s theme for his publicity battle with Penn & Teller, which he blames on CBS, as it owns Showtime, the network that airs Penn & Teller’s show.
“The Nazis couldn’t have done better,” Donohue said in a statement.
Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?
Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists. There’s nothing to be afraid of.
Writing about music in the previous post reminded me of something I’d read recently, somewhat related to the topic of depression. Some relevant passages:
Yet the ancient Greek conception of mousikê is much more complex than our conception of “music.”
…First, unlike our conception of music, mousikê includes tones, rhythm, dance and words. The idea of “absolute music” (i.e., music without words) is simply foreign to the ancient Greeks, who normally thought of poetry being sung with accompanying movement as mousikê.
…But of course, “musical” here would be used in the richest possible sense of mousikê, which includes thinking, writing, composing music, dancing and singing — or living life in a way in which one is utterly “in tune” or in harmony with life. One would be a mousikos in the complete sense: musician and scholar, writer and dancer, one fully developed.
…First, Nietzsche thinks that music allows us to face the tragedy of human existence, not so much in the sense of a diversion but as a means of “speaking” about life. There are things that can be “said” musically — or perhaps sung — that cannot be said philosophically.
…Since language is always metaphorical – and so never delivers to us the “thing itself” – music is all the more significant. For Nietzsche (like the German Romantics) thinks it has a directness that is unlike language…Of course, whatever it is that music conveys cannot be conveyed by words. So, at a certain point, we are — by definition — unable to “describe” exactly what it is that music says. If it could be put into words, we wouldn’t need music.
…For Nietzsche, music proves capable of sharpening his mind, which in turn gives him critical distance, new insights, and new ideas — to the bursting point. Moreover, life becomes more natural, which is precisely what Nietzsche seeks.
…Music also proves ecstatic for Nietzsche. It has the power to take us out of ourselves, allowing us both to see the world in a different way, and also to transform us.
…Although Nietzsche never explicitly speaks of decadence in terms of “de-cadence” (falling out of rhythm), that way of thinking about decadence actually fits quite well with what Nietzsche says about it.
…But one can also interpret decadence musically, as a “de-cadence”, in the sense of a loss of rhythm. On that read, decadence is the loss of life’s rhythm in which we are out of step both with our true selves and with the earth.
…But that “change of heart” requires finding a new rhythm to life. More accurately, it requires getting back into life’s true rhythm…
…In contrast to Socrates, the early Greeks viewed life as inherently tragic. Not only is existence full of suffering, but there is no explanation for it. In an important sense, the early Greeks were not philosophical: that is, they did not live with an acute sense of the contingency of their existence, wondering why suffering takes place and asking deep philosophical questions about it. Rather, they simply accepted its existence — and its inexplicability — as a matter of fact.
I included that last paragraph because I think that a certain fatalism about suffering (or depression) is not only a more accurate way to view life, but a more beneficial one as well. I know that’s at odds with our teleological progressivism that insists that every day should be an improvement over the one before, and life should be a neverending series of goals set and challenges met, but I find an acceptance of a more cyclical worldview makes suffering seem like less of a wrong or a failure. It will always be there in one degree or another; as a Russian expression has it, if you wake up feeling no pain, you know you’re dead. Accept that fact, and fall back on tried-and-true methods for overcoming your “de-cadence” and regaining your rhythm.
Well, I suppose it depends on how you define depression, doesn’t it? Melancholy has been called the thinking person’s disease, so it does seem that deep thought and the “black bile” go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and in a limited application, it could lead one to find solutions to everyday problems that require extra concentration and willingness to see past surface appearances. But obviously, it doesn’t take much for depression to cross over into being debilitating, and one could probably convincingly argue that too much thinking, especially about the big picture as opposed to a specific problem, will lead one to nihilism. All is vanity. Bring on the heat death of the universe.
I don’t doubt that if I were to walk into a psychiatrist’s office and say, “Hey, here’s what I think about things,” I’d be classified as moderately depressed at least. I’ve never taken medication for it, but not out of any strident anti-pharmaceutical principle. I just figure I’ve managed to make it this far in mostly sound mind and body, and I definitely value the insights I feel I’ve gained by nature of my saturnine temperament. The trade-off is the fact that a lot of energy gets spent just trying to come up with reasons to get out of bed or do anything besides watch TV and play video games.
I’ve always thought of it as being comparable to a pair of colored lenses — when you’re depressed, you still see things the same way and in the same relation to each other; it’s just as if everything takes on a different hue. What seemed golden and bright before now looks cool and blue. Nothing has essentially changed, it all just strikes you differently.
Several studies have found that expressive writing promotes quicker resolution of depression, and they suggest that this is because depressed people gain greater insight into their problems.
To an extent, yes. You’re looking at the proof, even! For a while now, I’ve been facing the imminent deaths of two loved ones in addition to the slightly longer-term prospect of major upheaval on the employment front, and that of course is in addition to the general weltschmerz any person with general awareness and at least a modicum of intelligence feels. Yet, when I’m able to find the time to write and something to write about, I’m content, at least for a while.
But in my experience, the same applies to music. Writing a song has the same effect, and it’s not because it somehow “captures” the way you’re feeling, just like how I don’t necessarily write about sad topics when I’m feeling that way. Plus, it’s not even that writing when you’re depressed or frustrated gives you any answers; sometimes, it’s more like it gives you the energy to tackle your problems again. I imagine there’s just something life-affirming about the act of creativity. It’s a small way of shaping order and structure out of chaos. It’s a way of gaining a measure of control over your experience, a way of feeling your own power to affect your life instead of feeling helpless and adrift. And it’s also the case when appreciating other people’s creative output — experiencing good writing or musicianship can be uplifting, whether or not it has anything to do with whatever’s specifically bothering you at the time.
I loved House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects (especially Sid Haig as Captain Spaulding) but Rob Zombie needs to keep his fucking hands off the Halloween movies before he does any more damage. His remake of the first one was so atrocious as to defy description, though many heroes step up and give it their best effort on IMDB. (Those almost make up for the agony of watching the film. I watched the fucking thing for free and it still wasn’t worth it.)
One cool thing about the original 1978 version was the way there was no explanation given for why Michael Myers was a killer. He just was. And even though they tried to unnecessarily (and unconvincingly) explain him in the sequel as being motivated by a desire to kill his siblings, he still remained not so much a personality as simply a force of nature, not entirely human. They even referred to him in the credits as “The Shape”, which fit perfectly with Dick Warlock’s portrayal of him as the lumbering man-mountain who never hurries and never shows the slightest emotion. (That, plus the fact that the second movie took place in the eerie, antiseptic setting of a near-deserted hospital during the graveyard shift, makes it my favorite of the two.)
Zombie, of course, gave us the revised image of Michael Myers as a fat dork with an alcoholic stepfather and an oblivious stripper of a mother, who gets bullied at school and finally snaps, after giving helpful warning signs such as torturing small animals (okay, one funny deleted scene: Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis, trying to convince Michael’s mom of the seriousness of these actions: “And this canary has clearly been raped!”), before growing up to be a greasy-haired, giant, mute redneck with a thing for making masks like an obsessed Slipknot fan. You could almost imagine the Oprah episode about it. Now he wants to fuck up another version? Bastard. Get back in the studio and release more music. Knock this moviemaking shit off.
And on that note, here’s what I know: I still want the two hours of my life back I wasted watching the execrable Grindhouse: Death Proof. It’s rare for me to find a movie where you wish for almost every single character in it to die quickly and horribly, but there you have it. I would rather stab my own eardrums with an icepick than sit through the most inane dialogue delivered by the most obnoxious, unlikable bitches imaginable again.
Oh-ho! Must he, now? (Or what? You won’t vote for him again?) Yes, I’m sure he’ll get right on that, given his appetite for confrontation and his steadfast refusal to be bullied by people who think anyone to the left of Mussolini is a communist (though, goodness me, wouldn’t it be fun to see the apoplectic reaction from the right wing if he did.)
I remember people being optimistic that another charismatic young Democratic president would free Peltier. I was at a concert/rally back in 1994, where the excellent band Red Thunder performed. I didn’t really believe anything would come of the trip up to D.C. the following day, but at least one cool thing occurred: a kindly, elderly man came up to my table, shook my hand and thanked me for coming, asked me my name, where I was from, and so on, before introducing himself as Dennis Banks. (I believe I responded with something brilliant like, “Ah gur duh hoouh…”)
Haven’t washed that hand since!
For secrets are edged tools
And must be kept from children and from fools
— John Dryden
I am — yet what I am, none cares or knows
— John Clare
The gauntlet has been thrown down!
Some bloggers who post under their real names say that those who write under pseudonyms have something to hide or don’t want to be held accountable to their audiences.
Heather B. Armstrong, who was fired from her job after her employer discovered her blog, Dooce, where she posted under her real name, said there are few valid reasons a blogger should veil his or her identity.
“I think if you’re doing something anonymously you’ve got some issues going on,” she said. “There’s a reason that you’re hiding.”
“If you’re not doing anything wrong, what are you so afraid of?” It really is a stupid argument no matter what the context, no? I would say that if you’re more obsessed with a writer’s name, address, or place of employment than whatever’s being written, you’re the one with the issues. How interesting that she doesn’t seem to feel that anyone, including herself, apparently, should be able to write anything unless they’re willing to lose their job over it. Hey, I wish we did live in a society where controversial opinions were accepted as a banal fact of life, and not something one should act ashamed of, only to be discussed with close friends behind closed doors lest they cause a fatal attack of the vapors in people unwittingly exposed to them, but given recent events, I’m not holding my breath.
I happen to be self-employed and a member of no particular standing in the community, so it’s no skin off my back if anyone knows who I am or not. No money or reputation on the line. Yet, I write pseudonymously for several reasons, not least of which being that it just doesn’t matter who I am or what I look like. Go gawk at celebrities if that’s your thing; but if you’re reading what I write, I would hope it’s because it somehow resonates with you or makes the time pass a little easier, not because you’re desperate to know where my house is or what I had for breakfast.
Largely, I wanted to have a space where I could focus on writing just for the fun of it, and possibly to even improve at it. A space where the words and ideas are everything, and the person behind them next to nothing. I’ve got the whole rest of the day to deal with my personal life; this is a place to escape all that for a while.
And also, to some extent, pseudonymity is my little protest against a fishbowl world where everything about everybody is a topic for discussion or a plot for a reality TV show. I’ve come to appreciate the value of sometimes seeing people as characters in an artistic sense, not specimens in a laboratory to be closely studied, poked and prodded under harsh lights. An element of mystery or surprise is important, too; knowing where not to look, what to leave unsaid. So, yes, this blog is somewhat of a project of that sort, a way to develop what’s interesting about me and leave the rest in the shadows.
Apparently Mozart died of strep throat
Even as a kid, Mozart was always appealing to me. My gateway drug into the world of classical music. I’ve always thought it was odd, because if I had never heard a note of any composer and had to rely on written descriptions and impressions, I would think “Yeah, Beethoven sounds like the guy for me.” And I do like a lot of his work, but I always found Mozart a little more compelling, and could never understand why some people didn’t hear more depth to his music.
I would try to say something worthy of the great man’s almost-incomprehensible talent, but luckily, my friend Arthur said something eloquent in an email exchange last year that beats anything I could come up with (in reference to his clarinet quintet in A major):
This is one of my favorites. Absolutely right about Mozart. It’s not Mozart who’s superficial, it’s people who think he is. There’s great sadness in this quintet (written, I think, in the last year of his life), but the complete absence of self-pity and emotional exaggeration makes it too subtle for many people to notice it’s there. There’s great consolation, too. This is someone who has suffered, but his devotion to his craft and his delight in his own inexhaustible inventiveness take precedence over self-dramatization. The more familiar you become with the milieu in which he composed — the cookie-cutter classicism of his day, with its bland, homophonic textures (studiously avoiding the complex counterpoint of Bach) and standardized orchestration, the clearer and more deeply gratifying Mozart’s subtle but consistent pushings of the envelope become. None of the bang-crash-boom of Beethoven (whom I of course also revere, but not as much as Mozart), just constant delight and surprise at his turns of thought, his remarkable ear for sonic textures, his limpid but always piquant use of counterpoint. Not to mention that he is one of the great melodists of all time. It goes on and on…
The homily on Mozart and Haydn is that Haydn dances and Mozart sings. Beethoven wanted to study with Mozart but “settled” for Haydn when Mozart died. This may explain in part why dynamic rhythm plays such an important role in his music. Who knows how he would have turned out if he’d had the chance to study with Mozart?
Another favorite piece here.
We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.
That’s all? I suspect a generous allowance of wiggle room when it comes to defining “pointless”, given the amount of mind-numbing trivia that makes up most conversations. At any rate, I’m still amazed at how many people I know who initially rolled their eyes at Twitter only to shamefacedly admit to having joined shortly thereafter. I can barely find enough stuff I feel is interesting enough to comment on, leaving aside the immense problem of trying to find an interesting way to do it. I can’t imagine subjecting anyone to my random, passing thoughts and other assorted mental effluvia, and I shudder to think how desolate of a life one would have to have to even want the experience!
For some reason, I don’t get invited to many parties.