Well, I'm not sure how my project to alienate all my readers before October 31st, 2009 is going, because I deleted my site meter, but the goal is to have zero people visit my blog on the day of my October 31st 2009 grand sacrifice. Along those lines, I am publishing this book review, which is going to be long and tedious, and then I am going to leave it up until next, Saturday night, I which time I will post a review of the Dum Dum Girls, Crocs, Best Coast Show @ Che Cafe (October 2nd, 2009.)
I would also commend you to the Blessure Grave, Trudgers, No Paws show at the Casbah on October 10th, 2009. It is going to be fun!
See you on October 3rd!!!
For my less academically inclined readers, I would like to present a couple of bullet points from this immense, amazing book:
1. You never know who people will remember in 50 years, and it's just as likely to be a nobody as the famous guy, so don't give up on you idea/project/art.
2. Popularity is a good indicator that your idea/project/art isn't sophisticated enough to be something that people will remember 50 years from now.
3. You only need a small network, but you need a network.
The Sociology of Philosophies is, in a word, brilliant. It's also amazing, transcendent, spectacular and thought-provoking. Randall Collins, a sociology professor at UPenn, wrote this book in an attempt to apply ideas about the sociology of knowledge (AKA epistemology AKA symbolic interaction theory) to the entire history of world thought, from the Ancient Greeks, to the Ancient Chinese, to the Ancient Indians, all the way down to Sartre and Foucault. This book is not about philosophy at all, rather it is an attempt to show how intellectual ideas develop in common ways across all societies and through-out history.
At the same time that Collins tackles a subject that is extraordinarily complex, he writes in a style that is as readable as the ideas are complicated. Collins starts by looking at the growth of philosophy in ancient times and just moves right on through all the way up to the present. Perhaps the main thesis that Collins carries is the idea that all of human intellectual thought consists of a battle between epistemology and metaphysics. Epistemology is the investigation of how we know what we know and metaphysics is the idea that there is some knowledge that is the key to the meaning of the universe, more or less. Epistemology vs. Metaphysics, over and over and over and over again.
The different forms that this battle takes are the result of the institutional structure and material circumstances of the specific culture where the debate occurs. Thus while the debate between epistemology and metaphysics takes place everywhere that abstract intellectual thought developed, there are limits to the number of successive generations that can carry forth a dynamic conversations. These dynamic conversations are carried on within specific human networks, the description of which takes up the majority of this book.
The human networks in turn, are very much impacted by the specific situation that the humans in the networks occupy. To take the modern, western, example, the development of research universities in Germany in the 1700's created a need for academicians of all kinds, especially philosophers, who used metaphysics to ride herd over the increasing specialization of academic discourse. In other words, Kantian idealism was at least in part the result of young Germans who wanted to get jobs as Philosophy professors in newish Universities in Germany.
Although Collins takes great pains to include non-Western civilizations, this book contains, at it's very heart, a lengthy explanation of the progress of Western Philosophy that is, by itself, among the most illuminating explanations of the subject I have ever encountered, surpassing Jurgen Habermas's Philosophical Discourse of Modernity and Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment by a wide, wide margin.
In Collins eyes, Western Philosophy is the story of an autonomous research University meeting changes engendered by "rapid discovery science" in the context of places like Berlin, Jena, Oxford and Cambridge. Starting with Kantian idealism, successive generations of philosophers have fought across the Epistemological /// Metaphysical divide for close to four hundred years now. In their never ending struggle to occupy the intellectual "space" created by the tremendous growth in educational institutions, opponents of Kantian idealism resurrected Scholastic (Christian Middle Ages) Epistemological arguments.
However- and this is almost exactly what I wrote on my blog the other day- the successors of the Kantian opponents don't really know anything about Scholasticism, and thus they are an example of "loss of ideas," one of several ways that Collins identifies intellectual communities of declining creativity. In fact, Collins notes that the institution of the university as laboratory for intellectual creativity is just as often not true as it is true (Ancient China had huge universities, they sucked.) Collins also postulates that since we don't know how history will regard our contemporary thinkers, it is entirely possible that people will look at this time period as being a mere pale echo of the early part of the 20th century.
Collins also drops a pretty big bomb on Sartre, Camus and French cultural theory generally speaking, noting that Sartre was the first "mass marketed" intellectual, and suggests that they may be the key to his current popularity and a reason he may not stand the test of time. I agree with that, by the way.
All in all, I found this book kind of hopeful in an odd way, and I will illustrate what I liked best about this book via the following paraphrased excerpt:
In 1820 when Arthur Schopenhauer was a young-ish man he traveled to Berlin and set up a series of lectures that was scheduled at the exact same time Kant was lecturing at the University of Berlin. At the time, people thought this was ridiculous. Schopenhauer was a nobody and Kant was the most famous philosopher in Germany. The lectures were a total failure, two people showed up, tops, sometimes no one showed up. Mean time, Kant drew hundreds- standing room only. Schopenhauer was literally laughed out of Berlin. Well, 200 odd years later Schopenhauer is just as relevant, if not more relevant, then Kant. Now, it makes perfect sense that Schopenhauer did what he did- people at the time were just too stupid to appreciate it.
Dedicated to classics and hits.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Book Review: The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change by Randall Collins
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Playing the Epicentre, tomorrow, September 24th, 2009 with a bunch of bands I am not going to write about. I am also not going to the Epicentre ever again. I'd go see them. They better have some hits.
From San Diego. Kind of remind me of New Motherfuckers/Pizza. Write hits, guys.
Definitions: Music blogs - Blogs which focus on providing mp3s, show reviews, artist interviews and event previews of newer and emerging artists.
To say music blogs failed is not the same as saying "How Music on the Internet Failed" quite the opposite- the internet is a huge success music-wise, particularly for enhancing the "direct to fan" experience. It's the blogs that have failed, and them which need to be swept from the earth, Biblical flood style.
As much as I would like to inveigh and fulminate against music blogs for their failings (and I will, a little) the main explanation for "How the Music Blogs Failed" is structural: Artists can have their own blogs, communicate "Direct to Fan" and render the mediating function of music blogs obsolete in a minute. The DIRECT relationship between ARTIST and FAN is THE future of the music industry, and music blogs, with their poor functioning for this purpose, will be swept into the trash can of history.
Definition: Fail: As in, fail to produce new ideas or cultural product, ossification of format, content restriction. Music blogging emerged alongside other advances in music consumption technology, perhaps as an adjunct to ehe MP3/digital music format. Music blogging at it's origin was a mixture of "pirate" distribution of cultural product and an extension of magazine style rock journalism and "zine culture." Because of the socio-economic status and gender of many of the leading music bloggers (male, college educated, white, from the midwest or east coast) their tastes formed the basis for the style of music that would largely become synonymous with music blog culture. In response to the initial emergence of music blog culture, others responded. This is a pattern that is often repeated in the history of ideas.
A philosophy/religion/scientific idea emerges as a result of material conditions (here, advances in technology) and the backgrounds of individuals involved. If the idea has power, it expands to others outside of the initiating group, then it is challenged, a back and forth ensues. Powerful ideas expand, diversify and then wither as they assume wider impact. New ideas are generated, process repeats.
Due to the impact of technology on the creation of music blog culture, responsive cultures were not limited by geographical proximity. A New York city/Chicago axis was challenged and in many ways joined by London, Paris and other smaller cities in the United States. Perhaps a seminal moment in music blog culture was the emergence of No Age, a strong music blog act that emerged from a strong DIY scene in the nation's second largest city. Another key moment in the history of the music blog was the admiration of bloggers for French dance music acts like Daft Punk & Justice.
The embracing of musical acts from outside the local environments of the music bloggers challenged the unspoken assumption that these blogs maintained universal control over the canon of associated musical acts. Another major event in the history of music blogging was the emergence of "popular" hip-hop as a legitimate artistic force. Bearing in mind the milieu of music bloggers: WHITE, MALE, COLLEGE EDUCATED, FROM THE MID WEST OR EAST COAST. it is not hard to see how commercially successful hip hop challenged their claim to universality. Perhaps it should be noted that both of these destructive cultural events were perhaps induced by separate articles in the New Yorker Magazine, the first, a profile of No Age, was published on November 19th, 2007. The second, an article about the accomplishments of T-Pain.was published on June 9th, 2008. Both were written by Sasha Frere-Jones.
It is interesting to observe the relationship between artists who follow in the "lineage" of both No Age and T Pain, due to the challenge that they offered to music bloggers. They "call into question" some of the assumptions that underly music blogging itself, and thus, you would expect to see "frayed nerves" exercised as well as a critical apparatus that is sometimes non-functional/mistaken, etc.
Music blogs could save themselves, creatively speaking, by abandoning their unsuccessful attempts to interpose themselves betweens artists and fans and instead engaging in dialogue between blogs, which is actually an easier way to draw the attention that all music bloggers, by their very existence, must crave. It speaks to the low quality of music bloggers generally speaking to see the familiar links to other blogs on the side bar of the page, but to see literally no discussion of those blogs within the content of the main post. How backwards! My friend, the whole point of your blog is to draw attention to it, and how better to do so then by summoning your betters for a spirited debate. Instead, opinion is crudely displayed in the "comments" section. This comments section does more then other feature to ALIENATE the very ARTISTS upon who ALL MUSIC BLOGGERS DEPEND.
Think about that for a second. Commenters poison the relationship between artists and music blogs, and the embracing of comment culture is a proof of their failure.
All of this is a side-note to the main reason that music blogs have failed: Artists have figured out that literally any moron can operate a blog, that you don't need to blog everyday, that myspace and facebook are perfectly fine if the goal is to have a direct to fan communication, etc, etc, etc.
Ironically, this direct to fan experience leaves "traditional" media to RESUME their privileged position as arbiters of taste to the general public, since Artists are now seeking exposure to additional fans in the general public (because they can always communicate to the enthusiastic directly.) If music blogs aren't "breaking" new bands, they don't really have a privileged mediating function in the artist/fan relationship, let alone the artist/music industry relationship, and therefore they don't matter.
This should not take anything away from those bands that "broke" during the hey-day of the music blog culture, I would imagine that they will wholly maintain their status within mass culture. In the end music blog culture is simply an adjunct to the proliferation of the mp3 and the tastes of white nerdy guys from the mid west in the 90s. They got a jump on everyone, but by the end of the 00's everyone caught up.
Also, it's the artists who will benefit from the failure of music blogs.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Kip Berman: Singer, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, also a star.
This was the first time Pains of Being Pure at Heart appeared in San Diego, CA, and I would just like to say, to them, "Thank you for coming!" I see a lot of hot indie bands pass San Diego by, often so that they can play a tuesday night show in Phoenix or Tucson. I've also noticed a fair amount of bands play in San Diego for their first show and then never come back, and I have a sinking suspicion that Pains of Being Pure at Heart may be in that second category, since they are a five piece, and five pieces can be difficult to take on the road even when the money is rolling. So thanks, Pains of Being Pure Heart: I really enjoyed watching you perform.
Here are some facts that are relevant for the purpose of this review:
- My wife is a huge Pains of Being Pure at Heart fan.
- Through my wife, I became a casual Pains of Being Pure at Heart fan, though my casual fandom was interspersed with comments like "Gee, I can't wait to see Belle and Sebastian on Monday night!"
- The show did not sell out, but draw a large-ish avid fan base that lined up after the show to buy a shit-ton of merch from the band.
We walked in to the opening chords of Depreciation Guild (myspace). No offense to Depreciation Guild, who are no slouch in the myspace metrics department (207K profile views, 192k listens), but they are surely opening for Pains of Being Pure at Heart because their singer, is the drummer in the headlining band. Kurt is his name. Also, the guitarist, Christoph, played guitar in Pains of Being Pure at Heart though he is not listed as a full time member of that group. Having overlapping personnel like that is a smart move, in my opinion. More touring bands should figure that out.
I had received positive word-of-mouth about Depreciation Guild but I don't mind saying I wasn't that into it because hey, they're from Brooklyn, so they aren't real people and, 2/3 members are in Pains of Being Pure at Heart, so I'm not knocking a meal out of anyone's mouth. Depreciation Guild is easily pigeonholed by the phrase "sounds like My Bloody Valentine."
Bearing in mind that I've seen the older band twice in the last 18 months, perhaps this would be a good point to interject an observation about the relationship between older bands and newer bands that draw inspiration from the older band: HAVING THE OLDER BAND AROUND REALLY FUCKS UP YOUR GAME PLAN. Not in all circumstance, sometimes it can be a help. But take this instance, the fact that I was watching Depreciation Guild and vividly recalling seeing My Bloody Valentine last year at the Santa Monica civic center was NOT beneficial for Depreciation Guild. I heard maybe 1.5 hits. The set closer is a hit. They need more hits. The total lack of stage presence is not a problem for a band. The crowd enjoyed it, it appeared Depreciation Guild already has avid fans in the area.
Pains of Being Pure at Heart did not sell out, maybe I blame myself a little bit for that. I just assumed it would. If I thought it wouldn't, I would have pushed out the show some. I have only a couple of observations to make at this band, all of them premised on the fact that prior to the show I was a "casual fan" and that this was their first show in the San Diego market:
Kip Berman, the singer of Pains of Being Pure at Heart is a Ben Gibbard (in terms of "size of star" not in any physical resemblance way) level indie rock star in the making. He held down the audience with little more then his melt-worthy eyes and his voice. This was an audience that had more then it's share of larger sized bros, so I don't think the "lady music" label really sticks with this band. Kip Berman has real star potential.
The band impressed me with their professionalism. Nothing pisses me off more right now when I read criticisms of touring bands that include comments like "their set was too short" or "they didn't interact with the crowd" or "they seemed stuck up." Hey: Local yokel, writing in St. Louis or wherever- they're touring musicians. You came to see them not the other way around, stop acting like a spoiled 12 year old. And to all the other bands I said that about- Ratatat- for one, I apologize to you. Pains of Being Pure at Heart came on the stage on time, reeled off hit after hit after hit, dealt with sound issues with aplomb and had almost no pause between songs. It was the set of band on the rise, projecting their brand 3000 miles away from Brooklyn, in a strange city, Monday night, with no local bands on the bill. I'm impressed by Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I will pay attention to them in the future. Last night is what you call a conversion experience.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I know 90s nostalgia is the thing right now, but I think 50s nostalgia is next, and in anticipation of people coming around to that idea, I'd like to point how such nostalgia, will itself be mediated by 80s nostalgia. For example: Back to the Future.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism
I'm moving through the excellent The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change, by Randall Collins. Collins has a couple of main theses that he applies to all of the great philosophical/religious advances of the entire world. The first is that intellectual ideas are developed by people through networks. Individuals do create ideas, but only in conjunction with others. The chief was that indivduals create ideas within these networks is by arguing with each other. These arguing individuals are also influenced by the contingent circumstances of the world around them, as well as by their own allegedly non-contingent ideas.
Collins is at this most provocative in his discussion of the formation of Buddhist and Hindu thought in India. Collins argues that literally all Hindu thought was inspired in opposition to Buddhism, which began the tradition of sophisticated religious/philosophical thought within India. For several hundred years, Buddhism expanded, sub-divided and dominated the debate over the nature of being in India. Meanwhile, Hinduism maintained its position in newly settled area (southern inda) and among the rural land owning class, while curious Brahmans both became Buddhists and brought Buddhist ideas to Hinduism. Collins points out that the original Buddhist were basically all Brahmans (the religious/legal caste in India) and that Buddhism supported the caste system in India, just like Hinduism.
Buddhists, on the other hand, emerged first as critics of Vedic religious practice, which is the shared religious predeccesor of both Buddhism and Hinduism. Vedic practice is what we would call "primitive." Vedic practice is also largely an import from the Indo European invasions during pre-history. Buddhism, on the other hand, incorporated many non Indo European practices that must have been hold overs from developed Shamanistic practices among indigenous Indian tribes who were "conquered" by those practices Vedic religion. For example, the idea of crazy holy men wandering around naked and not cutting their hair etc.: Not a Vedic practice.
Basically, Buddhism charged onto the scene about 500 BC, managed to convert a big-time Emperor (Ashoka) who conquered all of India more or less. He was replaced by an equally anti-Buddhist ruler, and then everything disintegrated. Buddhism succeded initially because it created an institutional culture (monks, monasteries) whereas the power of the Vedics/Hindus was concetrated among small land-holder Brahmans.
Eventually though, the Vedic/Hindus learned from Buddhism (after all, they shared a religious back-ground and language), came up with their own takes on sophisticated Buddhism ideas, and proceeded to wipe the floor with the Indian Buddhists, who were pretty much done by the early middle ages (1100 AD, say.)
Afterwards, Hinduism developed along the lines of western ideas of idealistic, abstract philosophy and in opposition to first Muslim, then British invaders. As part of the process of this late development (1500 AD onward) those thinkers acted to obscure chronology as part of a nation-hood making exercise for Hindus. And this is why I thought this discussion was particularly interesting: It's really hard to get a handle on that Buddhist and Hindu relationship. But now:
VEDIC >>>>BUDDHISM(against Vedic ritualism)>>>>HINDUISM(imitating Buddhism)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>"MODERN" HINDUISM (like European philosopy)
- ► 2013 (179)
- ► 2012 (401)
- ► 2011 (298)
- ► 2010 (377)
- ▼ 09/20 - 09/27 (7)
- ► 2008 (67)
- ► 2007 (158)
- ► 2006 (85)