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In 1987 I tossed an insult at a loose aggregation of people that included me, calling us "PBS for the youth." Basically, I was fingering the punk/postpunk indie-alternative "underground," but also worlds and hairstyles and rampages that surrounded it: rock critics, letters-to-the-editor, on-edge heroin poetry zines, the appreciation and appreciators of American eccentrics and outsiders and outsider art, pop detritus, etc. A music marginal intelligentsia. My insult turned out complicated, since having some PBS impulses was better than having none, I decided, and the process of PBSification had grown out of what had initially seemed like untrammeled strength and was embedded in seed form in the most disruptive music of the 1960s; I cited the Rolling Stones in particular:

Richard Meltzer was right: Rock 'n' roll collapsed the distinction between awesome and trivial. Overall, rock 'n' roll could not have been great had it been merely awesome. I say "overall" because, when it comes down to the sound of specific bands, I prefer the awesome-awesome to the awesome-trivial. I prefer the Rolling Stones to Elvis. Meltzer tried to portray the Stones and Dylan at their 1965 peaks as trivial and silly (not to mention awesome and serious), just like the rest of rock 'n' roll. Meltzer was wrong, the Stones and Dylan were simply awesome — but I understand why he portrayed them in the way he did. He was trying to save them. Triviality protects awesomeness. The Rolling Stones, even more than the Beatles, saved white rock from being Bobby Rydell/Las Vegas shit but put it irrevocably, despite all their intentions, on the PBS path. By being merely awesome, the Stones laid the seeds for the destruction of rock 'n' roll. PBS can co-opt mere awesomeness. They can turn it into "seriousness" and oppose it to "fun." The Sex Pistols (who were the Rolling Stones reincarnated thirteen years later, and that's all they were) were a lot closer to PBS than to Elvis. The were better than Elvis, too — the awesome, sociofuckological aspects that made them closer to PBS helped make them better. But, though they saved punk for a couple years, they made punk socially significant hence digestible by PBS. (So do I, by the way — though I’m not great like the Sex Pistols or important.*)

I'm being a bit loose with the term "PBS." I mean a certain PBS head (attitude), which can include a cult taste for shitty horror movies, pro wrestling, African pop, comic books, Hasil Adkins... all this pseudofun is a covering for a mind set that's ruled by PBS. We're making horror movies safe for PBS. We have met PBS, and it is us. I mean an imaginary PBS of the future, with pro wrestling, splatter films, and leftist analyses of the Capitalist Entertainment Industry (scored by a reformed Gang of 4). All rendered lame in the context of our appreciation.
--Frank Kogan, Why Music Sucks #1, February 1987.

I don't consider this the most intelligible passage I've ever written. It was part of a long, unruly essay, in a long, unruly fanzine. For a clue as to what I thought I originally meant, here's a Cliff Notes version I wrote 20 years later for the Las Vegas Weekly (including, for non-Americans, a description of the actual PBS):

The Rules Of The Game No. 24: The PBSification Of Rock

I wouldn't say the LVW version really delivers: missing are the tumult and anguish of the original Why Music Sucks essays, the social life and the social detail, as well as the multiple twists and back-and-forth of my own thinking;** but it does clarify several points, as well as throwing a couple of pointed questions at me at the end.

Anyway, last month, in response to my quarterly list of top singles, Dave in passing referred to my PBS metaphor, which prompted a longer conversation in which I let loose with a bunch of reassessments and qualifications that I've thought of over the years. And lots of twists and back-and-forth. I'm reposting our convo here. This isn't the "PBS Revisited" essay I ought to write someday (I make reference to a 32-page email I sent Dave and Mark where I wrestle an issue I barely touch here), esp. given that what I value most in this interchange are the Elsa and Anna analyses; but it does give some indication as to where such a reconsideration might go. As I say, the PBS metaphor is never not going to be half-assed, and I'm never not going to feel it's essential. Dave = David Cooper Moore.

Kendrick and PBS on the cultural corner, with gentrification )

Elsa and Anna go for broke )

PBS wrap-up )

Footnotes )
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Missed most of February (and most of everything else). Ash-B is the great discovery here, a strong and throaty rapper like Choi Sam but with a tone that's more supple and subtle. Will say more when I post my 2014 albums list. "The Song Of Love" is a low-rent slow dance from Core Contents Media (yeah, it's not Core Contents Media anymore, but in my dark heart it always will be). "Yumeno Ukiyoni Saitemina" scrunches together two acts I never really got and it's catchy. Azin's the sort of respectable-type well-controlled quality singer I always intend to be indifferent towards except every year there's another one who gets to me. I can't tell if Rihanna's goofing. I'd have called it "Bitch Betta Have My Ice Cream." Red Velvet take the cake. Christine and the Queens sing "Christine." ZZBEst kinda go soul horny in the early evening. Lizzy trots. GFriend are trying to sound like early SNSD and kinda do. They don't dance remotely as well, unfortunately. Jason Aldean does rote party roteness with good guitars. J'sais pas, I dunno.

Looking forward to Crayon Pop, Miss A, Blady, Exo. What'd I miss?

1. Ash-B "매일"
2. The Seeya "The Song Of Love"
3. Momoiro Clover Z vs KISS "Yumeno Ukiyoni Saitemina"
4. Azin "Delete"
5. Rihanna "Bitch Better Have My Money"
6. Red Velvet "Ice Cream Cake"
7. Christine and the Queens "Christine"
8. ZZBEst "랄랄라"
9. Lizzy "Not An Easy Girl"
10. GFriend "Glass Bead"
11. Jason Aldean "Just Gettin' Started"
12. Brigitte "J'sais pas"

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I've been wanting to comment on an ever-increasing number of Mark Sinker posts, especially this on Freaky Trigger where he continues a convo (prior installment here) that, among other things, draws on my hallway-classroom metaphor. Here's a preliminary map (or something) of how I might start responding, when I get the chance.*

1. I'll start with the question, "What would Mark say that he's saying here?" although, in order for this to be an exercise in understanding rather than typing, I'll try wherever possible to avoid using the words he uses.

Or you should try, if you want to anticipate me in taking a shot at it. Also, "saying" is a generic here that includes "doing."

2. You can walk and chew gum at the same time.

In other words, if I say or do A, that doesn't necessarily mean I'm not also saying or doing B, C, D, E, and F, including some K's and L's and M's I'm unaware of.

3. A special instance of the principle "You can walk and chew gum at the same time" is my attack on the hallway-classroom split.

The split goes, in the hallway you talk to and about each other; in the classroom you talk about some third thing: the subject matter. My claim is that good rock critics don't buy into this divide, so they refuse to honor the boundary between hallway and classroom.

4. I'm an alienation addict.

Notes )

*Posting here on my lj since I don't know if Freaky Trigger has fixed its spam filter problems, which had been delaying the posting of comments on old threads.
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Emailed this to Dave and Mark the day after the election:

As for yesterday's election, it went even worse than I'd feared (though so far it looks as if the Dems held onto the governor's office in Colorado, though just barely). My only thought, which is not necessarily correct as far as winning elections goes, but:

Of the commercials I saw (mainly while trying to watch YouTube; watching, say, Spanish-language TV could've been a different story), the commercials for Mark Udall, the Democrat, and loser, in the Colorado senate race, mainly attacked his opponent on social issues (Gardner's long opposition to abortion, his confusion around birth control, etc.), while the Republican commercials, for Cory Gardner, consistently attacked Udall on his economic policy. Of course what the Repub ads said was wrong, but that's not my point. We Democrats need to be running against the Repubs on economic issues. But — this is my opinion and my wish, and I'm sure that lots of people would consider it unrealistic — this means that at some point the Dems
have to decide that a significant portion of the electorate isn't too busy or stupid to understand some basic, comprehensible, but counterintuitive principles of macroeconomics, if we're willing to take minutes at a time to teach them. Otherwise, the Dems have no good response when the Repubs simulate being responsible and thoughtful by attacking us for running up debt and deficit and accuse us of burdening the future with our current profligacy etc. etc. Of course, most Dems don't know macro either (and I hardly do, but I've got some sense from Krugman of the basic principles), and whom I mean by "Dems" and “Democrats" and "we" and "us" in this paragraph isn't altogether consistent...
This means that a significant number of Democratic leaders themselves need to understand a few core macroeconomic principles and be willing to communicate them to voters, and a significant number of us rank-and-file Democrats need to understand those principles and communicate them to other Democrats and to the independents and Republicans who are willing to listen.

I'm not claiming to understand macroeconomics enough to truly evaluate the core principles, but I think I know a few of them:

(1) If, in order to save money and pay down debt, everyone is cutting back expenditures at once, none of them will succeed in cutting their own debt. This is because your spending is my income and my spending is your income; so when a lot of people are cutting back, your and my and everyone's respective incomes will fall as far or farther than our cutbacks, we'll turn out to be worse off, and the economy will go into a depression.

(2) In these conditions, cutting taxes on private industry and the very rich will have little or no stimulating effect. This is because private industry and the rich are not going to invest in factories, goods, and services when demand is falling. Instead, they'll sock their savings away.

(3) But a government can counteract the debt spiral and the savings glut by stepping up and spending money. This will get the economy back on its feet.

(4) In the conditions I described in 1 and 2 (so, in these conditions, not in all conditions), this extra government spending isn't going to cause interest rates to rise or cause excess inflation. Now, not having studied macro, I don't claim to understand all the reasons here. But, for example (I'm quoting Paul Krugman), since the private sector has excess savings that can't be invested, government borrowing "gives some of these excess savings a place to go — and in the process expands overall demand, and hence GDP. It does NOT crowd out private spending, at least not until the excess supply of savings has been sopped up." (See here and here.)

(5) Overall (so, now not just talking about current conditions), if the economy is growing faster than interest on government debt, we're not burdening future generations by government borrowing or by deficits. (Which doesn't mean we should always run deficits. But that's a different matter.) I'm sure I'm being too simplistic in the way I've written this point. But I hope it gives a gist and that it's correct.

As I've said, I'm not claiming the expertise to evaluate the ideas I've written here (which are basically my attempts to copy what I've read). But the thing is, it isn't that Republicans and pseudo-responsible centrists have counter-arguments to these points. They don't know that the points exist.* Neither do most lawmakers, and neither does most of the populace. And neither do most of the people likely to read my livejournal, I'm guessing. (Not that many people read my livejournal.)

Anyway, while we may have the constitutional right to be ignorant, it's time we weren't. And billions of people will suffer and millions will die if we don't decide to learn something, and communicate what we know.

*There are exceptions, of course. Ben Bernanke is a Republican, for instance.
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Can you imagine Teena Marie writing for The Singles Jukebox? —Well, she's dead, but I mean someone of her social type and sensibility.

Or Trey Songz or Ty Dolla Sign or Taeyang or Sturgill Simpson or Enrique Iglesias?

Actually, I could imagine a few Sturgill Simpson types doing so. Not the others, though I don't know much about them so perhaps I'm wrong. But a combination of selection and self-selection would keep most of them out.

I'm six days late on this, but The Singles Jukebox is looking for writers — go here for the full pitch, and yes I encourage you to try. Here's an excerpt:

We are not a Pitchfork or a Rolling Stone; we are an international site that thrives on diverse voices and opinions. We are particularly interested in applicants who are under-represented in music writing and strongly encourage women and people of color to apply.
Except the additional women and people of color they get will end up resembling the people who already write for the site, and I don't think the Jukebox could do anything about this even if it (they/we) wanted to. Don't know how many people involved in the site know how to go about wanting to, though.

I don't know if I know how to go about wanting to, but I do have a good idea what "wanting to" means. It means wanting the Jukebox to read more like the comment threads on gossip sites and YouTube but ideally, in utopia, with even more self-reflection than the Jukebox already has.

Gossip sites and YouTube comment threads frequently scare me.

If you're going to think about diversity you have to have to have to think about social class and social types and social conflict, or you're just not serious. How many bank officers write for The Singles Jukebox? How many house painters? How many who back in high school had been called rocks, hoods, greasers, grits, burnouts, dirtbags, jells, farmers, rednecks? (Showing my age here. Don't know the current terminology.) How many of the socs, debs, preppies, jocks?

The Jukebox is volunteer; nobody gets paid; so it's all in people's spare time. What sort of people are socialized to do this in their spare time?

In the pitch, the Jukebox asked applicants to blurb two from a list of tracks. That's where I got my performers above. Here are all of them. So, how many of these performers — i.e., members of their social sets — can you imagine writing for the Jukebox? Or posting on a koganbot comment thread, for that matter? Or posting at Freaky Trigger?

Trey Songz
Nicki Minaj
Migos
Brett Kissel
Kira Isabella
Blake Shelton
Gwen Sebastian
Skepta
JME
Kasabian
Faith Evans
Missy Elliott
Sharaya J
Annalisa
Black M
Jennifer Hudson
Timbaland
Taeyang
Zoe Muth
Ty Dolla $ign
Wiz Khalifa
Sturgill Simpson
Enrique Iglesias

To my embarrassment, there are six names here I don't recognize. I can kinda imagine Nicki Minaj and Blake Shelton getting a kick out of doing something like the Jukebox, though don't know how many in their prime audience would want to themselves.

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[I'm not at my home computer, so I don't have the quote exact, but I'm doing a variation on an old riff of mine from 1987, from my fanzine Why Music Sucks, some of whose readers and writers also wrote for or edited at the Village Voice. I said that coverage at the Voice was broad but tone of voice wasn't. Could you imagine Teena Marie or Merle Haggard writing for the Village Voice? Music editor Doug Simmons read this and told me he'd love to print Teena and Merle. But over the years, Teena and Merle types never ended up as Village Voice writers. Fuller Teena quote, from the liner notes to Emerald City: "Once upon a time there lived a little girl named Pity who decided more than anything in the world she wanted to be green."]

*I could be someone helping to run the Jukebox, if I had time and made it a priority. But have barely even posted in half a year.
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Posted this on a Freaky Trigger comment thread:

The elephants in the room of popular music, the ones who not only don't get talked about by critics and who (as far as I know) don’t get paid attention to on news or entertainment sites either, but who also get undercounted on Billboard and are mostly excluded from the Brit singles chart and therefore Popular, include what was historically called "easy listening" or "beautiful music," as well as smooth jazz, quiet storm, lite rock, adult contemporary, urban AC, and oldies. Music liked by the audiences [for such genres and formats] will always get undercounted because their listening is less concentrated on specific tracks and less concentrated on recently released ones but also because these audiences are less likely to buy the music directly, whether on a single or an album. They're nonetheless consumers, and presumably respond to what gets advertised on radio and TV (and now on YouTube?).

But I’m guessing these audiences download a lot that in the old days they'd never have purchased in physical form, and that there's been a change in e.g. the way people listen on the job from, in days of yore, hearing a radio station piped into an entire office to, nowadays, listening to their individual iPods and such. I emphasize that these are guesses.
Ref. to "Popular" is to Tom Ewing's project over the last decade of blurbing and shepherding a discussion on every track to hit number 1 on the British singles chart from 1952 to the present — hence also my reference to the Brit singles chart.

The phrase "elephant in the room" usually refers to something that everyone affected by knows is there — a mother's drug addiction, for instance — but that, owing to e.g. family members' desire to sustain their habitual ways of working around the problem and getting through the day without too much pain, no one is willing to talk about. Whereas (1) "adult contemporary" and ilk are only a problem for someone, if there is such a person, who takes all of Anglo-American popular music as a good hunk of their remit and (2) such genres, though big enough, are generally barely attended to by those who don't deliberately tune to the stations, so are in effect invisible, and so discussion is simply not generated rather than being psychologically suppressed.

I myself don't feel a great imperative to try and take the measure of e.g. Jason Mraz and Michael Bublé; they're part of the general environment of the music I do care about, so I'd rather have knowledge than not have knowledge. But the world is full of other relevant stuff, such as the economics and sociology of music, music theory, J-pop, and so forth, that I'm also not paying enough attention to, and that I'm more interested in. So Mraz, Bublé, et al. will continue to get short shrift from me.*

Actual elephant hiding under the cut )

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Footnotes )
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Scott at rockcritics.com links some of the commentary that's followed Lou's death:

http://rockcritics.com/2013/10/30/reed-obits

At the Jukebox we blurb a number of Velvet and Lou songs:

http://www.thesinglesjukebox.com/?p=8234

I make the case for the oft-derided Sally Can't Dance. Regarding my closing sentence: I was thinking of giving The Blue Mask a relisten but felt that, since I was basically looking to compare it invidiously to Sally, I wasn't really going to be listening with good ears.

Waitin' for a better day to hear what Blue's got to say.

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Someone had dibs on "Heroin" but didn't make it. If anyone had paid me to write a proper memorial I'd have given prominence to a basic screaming fact that all the memorials and obits have managed to avoid and evade or not even notice, which is that the Velvets, like Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel who were already doing it* (and it was in the Stones and Airplane and a whole bunch of others then and now, really is all over modern culture), were — however ambivalently — promulgating the idea of dysfunction and self-destruction as a form of social protest against a contaminated and compromised world that had contaminated and compromised the self. A refusal, a denial. Being fucked and making an issue of it as a semi-social-marker, part of a sort of an identity politics of freaks and punks and bohos and ilk. The intersection of social class and conspicuous self-destruction.

Of course, you can like the music without this stuff being a big deal to you. But I doubt that so many people would have liked the songs so much if it hadn't, at least subliminally, been a big deal for a lot of them.

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*Not that the idea is new. Presumably goes back at least to Germany in the mid 1700s. See "Romanticism, Age Of." I know almost nothing about Gothic novels of the time, but later on it was in Byron and Stendhal and later still all over Hemingway and Faulkner (when I was rereading Absalom, Absalom! for college I'd put "Sister Ray" on in the background). But I don't know how much it makes it into popular song until the 1960s. Is kinda there as potential in the Delta blues of people like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters.
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A couple of posts last month by Sabina that I bookmarked and am only returning to now, hoping that she'll return to them as well:

Here's a thought, by the way

One effect of growing up with parents who didn't get rock

The question that leaps into my mind is why haven't Sabina's immigrant parents taken to rock? As she says, "access" isn't the only issue. Words like "generation" and "culture" don't work as explanations here: they're the very concepts that need explaining. Of course, I don't have a good explanation for why my (nonimmigrant) parents didn't take to rock (they being a generation older than Sabina's), and why most of their friends didn't either.

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The Yardbirds, 1965

Did people such as Sabina's parents, in that first post-Mao generation, read, say, Hamlet, and Faulkner? I wouldn't be surprised if they did. I ask because I remember fantasizing making a film about a high school drama club, 1968, the real lives of the students as they were confronting everything from the specter of the draft to their own confused and fraught love lives; meanwhile, they're acting in a production of Hamlet, from which we see scenes. This fantasy didn't develop much further, except that the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" plays near the start (the need for action but no idea what to do), and "Paint It, Black" a little later on, as the various protagonists in the play and in life refuse to reconcile.

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The Rolling Stones, 1966

These are a couple of the many ways into hard rock )

What about Italodisco? )
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Wrote about "Harlem Shake" at the Jukebox, but I chose writing my own dance over writing about the viral dance meme. So here are some undeveloped thoughts about the latter:

The original Australian dorm-room version: Starts with people in their individual, isolated activities. Then the bass drops, and now they're in wiggly motion. Cuts off after 15 more seconds, before it's really an issue — for me* — whether or not they're dancing well, whether or not they're dancing with each other.



The Norwegian army version: Soldiers in order, in formation. The bass drops. Formation lost, everybody in wiggly motion.

Beat as infectious agent, which I brought up in my 2011 wrap-up regarding LMFAO's vid for "Party Rock Anthem," the 28 Days takeoff: We start with one person infected with the dance. Others apparently ward this off either by not noticing or by pretending not to notice. Bass drops. They've all got the dance fever. But are they taking each other into account any better than before? (A metaphor for writing? We see something, at first we try not to let it change us, then we flail about? Repeat?)

Beyond well and not well )
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Writing has its own versions of Auto-tune and plastic surgery: they're called "rewriting" and "editing" (incl. in-the-head and unconscious editing, before your own or another person's hand even starts reworking the prose).

Okay, those aren't great analogies and I'm not going to push them. Just, I have a gut-level aversion to the idea of someone undergoing plastic surgery (not counting to repair injuries and to compensate for gross disfigurement), but "gut-level aversion" is not the same thing as an idea or an argument. And, you know, we do alter ourselves in the way we face the world — words and demeanor. So why especially recoil when the altering is done by knife? Anyway, I'm not of the age or gender or profession to suffer negative consequences from refusing plastic surgery. Whereas I've read (though what I read was unsourced) that some K-pop contracts give agencies the right to force female trainees to "alter [their] look or image if necessary," presumably with a scalpel.

Here're Brown Eyed Girls, pushing back at the antis:



I'm not dead sure how to interpret this. Plastic surgery is here, it's real, we've probably done it ourselves, deal with it. There's aggression in the skit, but not necessarily a clear target, or a clear reason for the laughter. The issue causes discomfort; you milk the discomfort for comedy. This YouTube comment probably comes close:

This is just awesome and right on the spot. I can't [get] with men (society in general) who hate 'ugly' girls but criticize those who do plastic surgery or even put on make up! Not everybody naturally fits beauty standards, so fuck you.
Grimes' Vanessa )

Brown Eyed Girls' Abracadabra )

h/t Mat
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Proposal for a social psychology experiment:

We'll use four separate, sizable groups of people, say 75 people in each group. (Not that I know if that amount is any good or not, or if we want our overall pool to be similar socioeconomically. I'm not a statistician.)

Ask each member of Group One:

What arguments would you use to try and persuade an atheist to consider that there might be a God after all?
[It's likely that at least a few people in each group will be atheists, but that's no reason they shouldn't try to answer the question.]

Ask each member of Group Two:

Cheryl tells you she is an atheist. What arguments would you use to try and persuade her there might be a God after all?
We're trying to see if by giving our atheist a name, so a potential personal, individual history, we elicit responses here and there that are different in type from what we generally got in Group One.

Ask two questions of each member of Group Three:

Group Three Question 1: Cheryl says she is an atheist. What arguments would you use to try and persuade her there might be a God after all?
It's important that the subjects complete the first question before seeing the second.

The crucial question is under the cut )

How to have fun in groups )

Four hypotheses )

Fishing expedition )
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Another one! Nate Silver cites Kuhn in a footnote, Silver probably** being unaware that his own passage (Nate Silver, The Signal And The Noise, p. 260) not only runs opposite to a couple of Kuhn's major ideas, and not only isn't in the same ballpark as Kuhn, it's barely in the same sport. Again, I'm not giving you the answer, this being a quiz:

The notion of scientific consensus is tricky, but the idea is that the opinion of the scientific community converges toward the truth as ideas are debated and new evidence is uncovered. Just as in the stock market, the steps are not always forward or smooth. The scientific community is often too conservative about adapting its paradigms to new evidence,64 although there have certainly also been times when it was too quick to jump on the bandwagon. Still, provided that everyone is on the Bayesian train,* even incorrect beliefs and quite wrong priors are revised toward the truth in the end.

*And that they don't hold priors that they believe to be exactly 100 percent true or exactly 0 percent true; these will not and cannot change under Bayes's theorem.

64. Thomas S. Kuhn,
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Kindle edition).
A couple of hints:

(1) Incommensurability
(2) Darwin

But this passage is a botch in whole hunks of other ways as well, e.g., the word "the" in the phrase "the scientific community."

Look, I've read enough philosophy to know that Kuhn is not hard, though he vagues out too much and he leaves some difficult problems in his wake. That near everybody gets him wrong isn't due to a fundamental ideological barrier or to any drastic unfamiliarity/novelty in his concepts. More griping )

**"Probably," since I don't know how much of Structure he read, and I myself had only read about half my nephew's copy of the Silver book, skipping around, before it was time to fly back to Denver.
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Here are the worst five sentences from what's otherwise a pretty good book. The sentences are in no way essential to the book, and didn't need to be there. So I'm just giving you the sentences without the book title. My point in printing them is that most everybody gets Kuhn wrong. There's a mass mental block.

Historians of science have often noted that at any given time scholars in a particular field tend to share basic assumptions about their subject. Social scientists are no exception; they rely on a view of human nature that provides the background of most discussions of specific behaviors but is rarely questioned. Social scientists in the 1970s broadly accepted two ideas about human nature. First, people are generally rational, and their thinking is normally sound. Second, emotions such as fear, affection, and hatred explain most of the occasions on which people depart from rationality.
That passage doesn't mention Kuhn or Feyerabend as his "historians of science," but if the author wasn't thinking of either of those two — but he likely was! — he was thinking of someone else who was thinking of them. In any event, if you think you know something about Kuhn, and that passage doesn't strike you as way wrong, you gotta go back and read Kuhn again (or at least click the Thomas Kuhn tag and read our discussion).

I will say a little about the two "broadly accepted" ideas, since they're not particularly relevant to my Kuhn quiz: there were still Marxists and Freudians* running about in the 1970s, and whatever they did or didn't believe regarding the soundness of human thinking, they most definitely would not have considered the phrase "emotions such as fear, affection, and hatred" to be at all adequate to what's going on in ideology and oedipal dramas. (But that's a side issue.)

(I imagine that someone reading this might say to herself, "Frank falls into the category 'somebody'; so if everybody misunderstands Kuhn, Frank too must misunderstand Kuhn." Well, I think there's a way that I veered wrong in the past. But I think I've now substantially got the guy right. May be a subject for a future post, what I got wrong.)

*Yeah, I know the passage uses the word "most," and Marxists and Freudians were never the majority of social scientists. But the word "most" is one of the very features that cause the passage to careen off into wrongness.

(Also don't know if Feyerabend is considered a philosopher or a historian, but he definitely knew plenty about the history of science, whatever field he was officially in.)
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 photo Hwayoung w. Boram amp Hyomin.png


Imagine a girl in her young teens; her mother and father are fundamentally kind and supportive. Occasionally, there will be a strange, hard-to-interpret interchange between the two, one or both of them disturbed about something. But in general, this is her family: when she comes home there's mommy and daddy. And then one day, out of nowhere, the announcement, "Daddy is moving out." Or, "We've decided to separate." Along with denial and guilt ("maybe if I'd behaved better they'd have stayed married"), the girl starts to ask why. "Why did you and daddy break up?" But the answers she gets are always vague, stuff about not getting along or wanting to follow different paths, never any details and never a real story. Unless there's something specific that provides a (pseudo) explanation, such as a new boyfriend, the question, "What happened?," will never get an answer. The kid doesn't understand that, her parents being decent people, neither is going to say, "These are the things your mom did wrong," or "This is why I'm disappointed in your dad and in my life." No one will bring up the extramarital affair, or the dead sex life, or the compulsive spending. —Right, there are plenty of parents who will tell all, to the children, to the lawyers, to the judge, but in my story the parents aren't the sort to do that.

What some of the fans don't understand is that Hwayoung's not going to get up and tell the world, "Here are the ways they treated me unfairly; and this is what Jiyeon did and what Eunjung said, and this is where I felt cast aside," or anything like that. It'd be like trying to hurt each other further. And the remaining members of T-ara aren't going to say, "This is what happened," because to do so would be to compound the original horrible insinuations of Kim Kwang Soo when he fired Hwayoung and implied that it was owing to her continual mistreatment of staff.

Even if Hwayoung or T-ara have moments when they want to tell the world, there's no way any of them can look good doing so. They'll just look like they're trying to restart the war.

Analogy is limited, neglects conspiracy theories )
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In a New York Times Op-Ed ("Compassion Made Easy"), social psychologist David DeSteno describes experiments designed to test whether "empathy with the suffering of others is... a special virtue that has the power to change the world." The results are interesting, but I have one little pissy point to make.

The relevant definition of "empathy" (definition 2) in my American Heritage Dictionary says, "Understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts, and motives of one are readily comprehended by another." Now, that's a pretty high bar for empathy. The social psych experiments were designed to explore the impact not of such wholesale, overall empathy but rather of people's localized empathetic understanding of another person in a particular predicament. That's fine with me, and worth exploring, and I can be on board with that. But nonetheless, even with this reduced standard for empathy, there's still the one eeny teeny tiny pissy little quibble I have with the piece, which is that the experimental subjects show absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the people towards whom they feel compassion or "empathy" or "commonality." None. Whatsoever. The people they are feeling compassion towards are acting, faking, lying; are confederates, stooges; and the experimental subjects don't know this.

You could say that the experiments actually explore the effects of compassion, whether the compassion is warranted or not, and of feelings of commonality, whether warranted or not. But not of actual empathy. "Empathy" that is not actual understanding of someone else (not just a feeling of understanding, based on what you think someone else is also feeling, but rather understanding what someone else actually is feeling, and thinking, and attempting) is not empathy. Empathy requires knowledge.

What the Dickens? )
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On one level I suppose all of this is very funny, but if you look past the surface violence and simple abusiveness to the person at the center it's not funny at all. The reason it's not is the aforementioned ambivalence. Jungle war with bike gangs is one thing, but it gets a little more complicated when those of us who love being around that war (at least vicariously) have to stop to consider why and what we're loving. Because one of the things we're loving is self-hate, and another may well be a human being committing suicide. Here's a quote from a review of Iggy's new live show in the British rock weekly Sounds: "Iggy's a dancer and more, a hyper-active packet of muscle and sinew straight out of Michelangelo's wet dreams... who leaps and claws at air, audience and mike stand in an unsurpassable display that spells one thing—MEAT." Ignoring the florid prose, I'd like to ask the guy who wrote that how he would like to be thought of as a piece of meat, how he thinks the meat feels. Or if he thinks it feels at all. Yeah, Iggy's got a fantastic body; it's so fantastic he's crying in every nerve to explode out of it into some unimaginable freedom. It's as if someone writhing in torment has made that writing into a kind of poetry, and we watch in awe of such beautiful writhing, so impressed that we perhaps forget what inspired it in the first place.
--Lester Bangs, "Iggy Pop: Blowtorch In Bondage," Village Voice, 28 March 1977

I remember, not well, someone having written, probably in the early '70s, maybe a letter to the editor, maybe it was to Creem, and someone wrote maybe a brief reply to the letter, maybe unsigned, maybe it was Lester who wrote the reply. The writer was lamenting the absence of Buddy Holly. If Buddy had lived, he'd be doing great things, said the letter, said the writer. And the reply was No! If Buddy had lived he'd being playing Vegas just like any other oldie living off his past, his work no longer mattering except as a walking corpse of a reminder that it once had mattered.

So Lester. He never totally got his shit together, not just chemically but intellectually. But he didn't give up. If he asked a question, the question didn't disappear, didn't get a glib answer from him and then evaporate or hang around like a vague fart, a mist of buzzwords answered by another mist of buzzwords. The questions gnawed at him, repeated, didn't leave him alone.

If he'd lived, I think it would have made a difference. I don't know what his follow-through would have been — he could get lost in an enthusiasm of words and anguish — but I know there would have been one. Maybe it'd just end up as Lester's filibuster. But the questions would ride him, would at least fight to stay addressed. And this is where Lester is different from all my colleagues. I complain from time to time that rock critics, music critics, people in my rockwrite/musicwrite/wrong world, don't know how to sustain an intellectual conversation. My complaints don't help anybody, since whatever the message is in my own writing, the idea that there's a joy in discovery, in unearthing the unknown, that you interact with what's in front of you, with the everyday, and see a new world each time you look, each time you act, but only by thinking, testing, challenging, re-wording and re-phrasing — this message doesn't get across, doesn't get felt, I guess. There's a basic unshakable dysfunction and incompetence in my world, which amounts to dishonesty, a pretense of thought without actual thinking.

Don't know that Lester really knew how either, but given that the conversation, the questions, wouldn't leave him, I imagine he'd have given it a shot.
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Hyori trades banter with Big Bang on her variety show:

Part 1: http://youtu.be/AyZhMV6nJsY

Part 2: http://youtu.be/FH2lz4MoAjQ

She, co-host Jung Jae-hyung, and the boys are all quite personable, though even with subtitles I'm not understanding whole gobs of the interchange, due some to my not knowing the history, some to my not knowing the culture. But I do get that a hunk of what they're doing at the end is How To Pick Up Girls. And yeah, they're doing it for fun, and it's funny; but still, it's reminding me that these people are fundamentally mainstream and I'm not. (Or if one or more isn't/aren't fundamentally mainstream he/they are going along with it.*) I'm not averse to getting to know attractive women who happen to be passing by, including attractive mainstream women, and letting them know I'm potentially interested; but still, even though I can't totally put my finger on why, the how-to-pick-up-girls mentality epitomizes exactly what's mainstream about this clip and what's not mainstream about me. Maybe it's the assumption that this is our common ground. Or the assumption that we assume a common ground rather than discovering and creating it.



Of course, when various counterculture groups fundamentally go dead for me, and they all pretty much do, sooner or later — freak, punk, postpunk, indie-alternative, "poptimists," [your group name here] — it's exactly because they've gotten into a rut of assuming assumptions, e.g., assuming I'm like them more than I'm like Hyori. (See "The Death Of The Cool.") I don't assume that Hyori and I, for instance, or G-Dragon and I, etc., don't know how to find common ground. One common ground would be if they like to think about such things, about assumptions and how to test them. In 2006 Samsung was willing to postulate that Hyori seeks to see through a multiplicity of eyes.

How did he get )

h/t Mat
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Let's say I'm having affairs with ten married women, two married men, and a couple of geese. Now, unrelated to these — and this is actual fact — I have only two Facebook friends, my friend Dave so that I can take part in turntable.fm, and my friend Tina so that I can read posts on The Campus Restaurant Revisited community (the Campus Restaurant was the long lost freak hangout across from my high school). Now, there's no crossover between those two sets of friends — my musicwrite world and my high school reminiscers — though I really hope that some of the latter will eventually enter the former world (esp. Tim Page, who's been publishing music criticism for longer than I have and has won a Pulitzer for it, Steve Nesselroth, John Freeman, who plays bass and lives in Chuck Eddy's part of Texas, and someone named Steve Gregoropoulos, whom I don't remember if I've ever met but he likes Britney's "I Wanna Go" and the Osmonds' "Crazy Horses"). But that fact is neither here nor there. What's directly pertinent is that none of the people in either of these two worlds, musicwrite and the Campus, have anything at all to do with the ten women, two men, and several geese I am having affairs with. And no one who has ever asked to friend me on Facebook, or has ever written me via Facebook, has anything to do with the ten women, two men, and assorted geese. Yet not only have all ten women as well as both men shown up in the constant barrage of "Add people you know" and "You may know this person" that Facebook is pelting me with, but their spouses and friends and spouses' friends have too. (Either the geese aren't on Facebook or they are but Facebook hasn't yet grown wise to them.)

So how does Facebook know I know them? )



EDIT: Kat points out in the comments that this actually has fuck all to do with cookies, is rather people willing to give up their address books or email activities to Facebook.
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Continuing a thought from the last entry's comment thread, my opinions on political issues, on macroeconomics, on global warming, on a whole bunch of stuff, aren't based on much knowledge but rather based on whom I've decided to believe; in effect I've farmed out the ideas to others, owing to lack of time. And the result is that my opinions are the ones that Someone Like Me would have — I vote my hairstyle — and often the people who disagree with me on these issues are the ones who make me the most wary; and so these issues, the ones that I don't understand, are where my own views are most resistant to change. That's because the views are based on my social identity not on my knowledge, and people opposing them represent a potential threat of deep social conflict: conflict between types of people. Someone not believing in global warming somehow represents to me the possibility of my being killed in a civil war or a genocide, even if the particular person I'm disagreeing with happens to be sweet and kind, and even though I hardly know the science or the evidence for global warming.*

Not to say that the ideas I do think my way to and through have nothing to do with my social identity or that people's reflected-upon and well-worked ideas don't nonetheless cluster by social type, since they usually do. But at least I've got a sense of the uncertainties as well as the certainties, and of where potential counterarguments and counterevidence might be coming from.

*Of course, if I did know the science, the person who disbelieved in global warming might nonetheless represent the exact same threat. Whereas if we both knew the science, while this is no guarantee we wouldn't feel the social threat, we might not be arguing from the depths of our insecure social selves. [And yeah, I know that People Who Are Like Me don't think it's possible for someone to both know the science and disbelieve in man-made global warming; but as I said, I don't know the science, so I don't know this.]
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Yes, we have no "Banana."

MBC is refusing to let G.NA perform "Banana" on Music Core. According to CNN International: "'Goin' bananas,' is the problematic line flagged by MBC, who apparently think that the phrase is imbued with all sorts of innuendo. Co-lyricist Verbal Jint took to Twitter on Sunday to explain the phrase's meaning in English, but G.NA's agency Cube Entertainment says it will not be contesting the Friday MBC ruling."

This seems beyond ridiculous. Could CNN have gotten the reason wrong? I checked an English translation of the lyrics, and I don't find anything else bannable (else?) — unless mention of short skirts and rising heat is deemed to inherently place children at risk.

I suppose someone had to put the ban back in banana.

At the moment, South Korea is doing better than America at making hit music that's good, and maybe absurdities like this contribute, somehow, adding risk and meaning even where not needed. Still, imposing an insane world on people is always destructive, no matter how creative the ensuing struggle.

UPDATE: YouTube killed the original embed; here's a fanmade vid:

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