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Lester Plays Vegas (April 30)
koganbot
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.

From Chuck Eddy Who Is Too Lazy To Sign In

(Anonymous)

2012-05-01 10:47 pm (UTC)

Frank, I posted a link to the above on my Facebook wall. Some responses so far:

Brad Shoup I like, even as I'm indicted.
about an hour ago · Like
Chuck Eddy Yeah, me too.
about an hour ago · Like

Alfred Soto I certainly wouldn't turn down Vegas.
about an hour ago · Like · 1

David Williams Ouch.
about an hour ago · Like

Michael Daddino My problem with Kogan's concern, as he's voiced it for the last couple years, is that I honestly don't know what an intellectual conversation is supposed to look like. Or how "a joy in discovery, in unearthing the unknown" is supposed to square with something that's presumably, I dunno, *sustained*.
about an hour ago · Like

Scott Seward i'm glad he was talking about you guys and not me. i always ask the hard questions.
59 minutes ago · Unlike · 4

Chuck Eddy You might have a point, Michael. Honestly, I feel like I've detached myself so much from what passed for a conversation (one in which I used to be a fairly active participant, I think), that I'm pretty sure I'd have no idea if an intellectual conversation was going on even if there was one. But I have to give Frank credit for still looking, prodding, and caring about it, long after I decided I didn't have time for such things -- even if this has been his own obsession, or shtick, for at least 30 years now, which can make him sound like a broken record sometimes. (Sometimes I *like* broken records.)
43 minutes ago · Like

Scott Seward you ever read this: http://thehoundblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/lester-bangs.html


Scott Seward uh kinda long but basically says that lester was pretty burnt out on rockcrit by the time he died. so, who knows what he would have ended up doing had he lived.
34 minutes ago · Like

Scott Seward but james marshall also says there was very little racism in the punk scene in the 70's, so, a grain of salt...
32 minutes ago · Like

Chuck Eddy Has there ever been any question that he was burnt out on rock-crit at the time, though? That was pretty obvious from the last Pazz & Jop ballot he filed, I would think. (That doesn't necessarily mean something might not have revived his interest later, though.)
20 minutes ago · Like

Maura Johnston I was going to ask what an "intellectual conversation" looked like, too. I mean obviously there are a host of conditions that exist in 2012 that I don't think existed back in Bangs's heyday -- the economics of being a "leader" in that conversation are chief among them, and probably guiding a lot of the others. Believe me when I say I would love to have more than the meager amounts of time I do currently have to process and think and let questions gnaw at me, and I suspect other people involved -- whether paid or unpaid! -- would as well.

If anything, the questions gnawing at me are the ones I *don't* write about because the limited time I do have to do anything on the topic wouldn't give the topics at hand justice. (Off the top of my head, I can think of that Foxy Shazam song about big black asses becoming a hit on whiter-than-white rock radio, the ethics of disco edits and crediting in the age of contextless digital listening as inspired by that Kindness song I like biting Trouble Funk, etc. Shoot, the How Not To Write About Women piece that I did a few months back was the product of long-simmering annoyance at things I'd seen -- like, *years* of it, which is why I used that RS cover from the '90s as its illustration.)
5 minutes ago · Like

Re: From Chuck Eddy Who Is Too Lazy To Sign In

koganbot

2012-05-02 09:12 am (UTC)

Chuck, I've got February and April eardrums for you, but haven't found the time to write a cover letter. Cover letter in brief will probably go, "A funny thing happened while 2NE1 was busy being my official favorite band: T-ara became the band I actually want most to listen to."

i clicked "like" on maura's comment

joshlanghoff

2012-05-02 02:28 am (UTC)

Alright, Frank, consider me provoked. Partly, I think people ARE DOING what you're talking about on a large scale (which is what you're talking about, right? not conversations at the EMP bar or something?). Nitsuh, Maura, Jukeboxers, even ilxors still I think, play off one another's ideas and chew on them over periods of weeks and months and may actually let those ideas shape their own, which they then express in print and so on and so forth. But since it's on a large scale, the conversation doesn't move as quickly as a one-on-one. Like Maura says, it's hard to find the time, and the more people that chime in, the longer a conversation will take to progress because it'll keep going off into everyone's little personal tangents. And by the time you turn on the computer again, the focus of the conversation has changed and good luck if you're still a part of it. Which partly supports what you're saying, but partly not, because the bigger ideas -- Maura's piece she mentioned above, for instance -- last and shape future thought.

But also, the elements of your writing that you mention -- thinking, testing, challenging, re-wording and re-phrasing -- sound to me like acts of private meditation as much as intellectual conversation. Letting a question ride you and addressing it later is a private act, no? Whether you raise the question or someone else does? Maybe not enough people are doing that, maybe glibness is 90% of it, but it's not a failure of "all" your colleagues.

So I guess basically -- and this seems to be a common theme upthread -- I'm not sure what the heck you want. And it's sort of pissing me off. But that was your goal.

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

koganbot

2012-05-02 09:09 am (UTC)

This is a (half-assed) response to both you and the convo pasted-in by Chuck, and to the Josh-Anthony conversation that Anthony emailed me.

What I wrote was quite opaque. I didn't really make a complaint, I merely announced one. Of course, this complaint of mine's been coming out in bits and pieces since 1989.

A brief not-much-less-opaque-than-I-was-before reply to Michael's question, "how [is] 'a joy in discovery, in unearthing the unknown'... supposed to square with something that's presumably, I dunno, *sustained*[?]," is that the discovery and joy comes along with and as a result of sustained intellectual effort (good convo often making the effort easier and better). E.g., to be excited by finding a previously unknown species of moth, you have to know something about moths. To be perplexed and stimulated because a moth is doing something that moths are supposed to be incapable of, you have to have a good idea of what the body of knowledge about moths tells you that moths are capable of; and then you and your colleagues have to exhaust all the reasonable explanations you can think of that would tell you that the moth's novel behavior isn't really so novel. After which, maybe the moth flips your world.

That Lester question about "why and what we're loving" in regard to Iggy's death trips is territory that I own, but I'm really bugged to be the only guy who's got ownership of it. Why hasn't the ground been tramped and trampled into dirt by now? Was I the only kid who actually listened to Leonard Cohen, Paul Simon, and Bob Dylan as a teenager? (Yes, I'm still being cryptic.)

Maybe there have been good sustained conversations at the EMP bar. You can accomplish a lot in an afternoon. And conversely, if someone picks up something someone said twenty years ago and really takes it somewhere, that'd count as a sustained conversation.

I mean, I'm not claiming to have followed the breadth and depth of of all convos. But...

Someday I'll follow through on this post. But as I said, I'm not expecting that to help anyone (else).

I think Maura would be right to say that time is lacking, and to add that money is lacking (time is money), which is to say that the convo doesn't know how to finance itself. But I don't think time/money is really the problem; the "don't know how" is.

In any event, I've made my bed, and now I'll have to... er, make my bed (it's a futon that I have to unroll and put sheets on, the time being almost 3:00 AM).

Anthony E. writes:

maybe it's just me
but i think that one of the reasons pop music exists
is to help people fuck
and i think one of the rarest things you hear in music writing
is the sentence
this track makes me want to fuck


He should read my entry on Enigma in the Spin Alternative Record Guide.

My definition of "intellectual" is broader than almost anyone's I know of. Choosing a hairstyle is intellectual. Deciding what dance should go with "Lovey-Dovey" is intellectual. But my bar for "sustain" is higher than most people's. To sustain a journey you have to travel somewhere, rather than just keep pulling into the same driveway.

Edited at 2012-05-02 09:15 am (UTC)

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

arbitrary_greay

2012-05-02 04:33 pm (UTC)

1) then you and your colleagues have to exhaust all the reasonable explanations you can think of that would tell you that the moth's novel behavior isn't really so novel.

2) To sustain a journey you have to travel somewhere, rather than just keep pulling into the same driveway.

3) But I don't think time/money is really the problem; the "don't know how" is.


At least for me, how it goes is (not including my tendency to prefer to discuss identity/industry stuff over the music aspects) that in the process of going through the explanations,(1) we reach the inevitable wall of music theory, because more often than not a music theory analysis of the chords, structure, and how the melody fits into the two explains far more than what most music "analysis" blurbs do today, which is mostly based in arrangement and half-formed melody associations. There was this wonderful blog that was deleted a few years ago that not only featured piano/guitar rearrangements of Jpop bubblegum, but the arranger would write extensively about the influences on the original song and the arrangement. Brahms, Beethoven, or Chopin got brought up just about every time, showing how much good music techniques have already been discovered for centuries. One entry in particular taught me to really appreciate crafting of structure and arrangement over novelty in sound.

Sadly, all that's left of that blogger's analysis is one post dealing in the music theory on his new blog. (It's here, but there's also a lot of prologue that non-fans may find off-putting, as well as lots of bikini pics. To get to the good stuff, ctrl+f "The cryptic ending" ) I mean, look at that! Would completely blow over my head without him having read that, and adding also a throwaway line he wrote worshipping how this is a genius moment seamlessly modulating from Cmaj to Emaj, and since then I've begun to notice other instances of ridiculous progressions and key changes in Jpop, and analyzing to myself how they may or may not work. How many other genius moments have I missed out on because I wasn't aware of exactly what's going on, that music theory would point out? Which I also kind of waxed on about in my "Play it fun, make it good" post about only hearing the brilliance of some pieces because the conductor singled it out in rehearsal, or from how I learned to sync my own sheet music with that of the rest of the orchestra. (All of this came together when just three weeks ago I was given an orchestral score for which I had to cobble together a timpani part and fix a horribly written percussion part because the "composer" was just a choir member who had transcribed some songs into a medley by ear and orchestrated in low-quality synth MIDI. The whole orchestra held him in disdain, and the strings especially complained about how obviously he had no idea how to write for strings. But I digress.)

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

arbitrary_greay

2012-05-02 04:33 pm (UTC)

In addition, there's timbre to consider. Areia is a Kpop remixer notable not just for his work, but in how many of the information sections in his videos, (like so) he describes in great detail how he's created some of his sound timbres. Thanks to the stuff I've learned from areia and an introductory electronic music course, I've learned to further listen for things in synths, coming to realize how some other remixes, while much more beat heavy and initially more fun to listen to, are really quite noisy and lack some of the techniques Areia is utilizing. (Also, the difference between mixing and mastering.)

So. In order to achieve (2), I should be either hunting down sheet music. which is often simplified to fit piano/guitar arrangement, so it'll only get me chord progression, and then figuring out music theory stuff on my own. And then hoping that maybe someone will point out genius moments in the synth construction, because I sure as hell won't be able to figure those out, further muddled by file quality that may obscure master, mix, and/or synth quality. At least not without getting down and dirty with synth creation myself, which brings us to (3), because that would require time and money I am not willing to spend. I've already promised myself to learn the music theory stuff, as there are some bubblegum songs I can't write worship posts for without figuring out the progression of myself, and that has already been delayed for years by non-fandom priorities. But synth software, much less hardware, is very expensive, and even if I got my hands on some, there are tricks I still would never learn unless some DJ was kind enough to share them. Which, them sharing tricks with a non-DJ? Fat chance.

So really, at that point, I'm continually stuck at (1) when it comes to analysis, because I'm always aware of explanations that music theory/digital signal processing hold, which means that I rarely ever manage to pull out of the driveway because time/money controls the "don't know how" after all.
At least, where music itself is concerned. There's a reason I prefer to talk about the industry and identities instead. Much easier to read a book on philosophy/psychology to broaden my horizons on that front than to learn music theory.

On that note, tangent:
If 33 1/3 did Kpop, what album would you want to read about/write about, and if the latter, what sort of book would it be? History of composition? Analysis of artist's career in the context of the industry? Fandom meta?

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

koganbot

2012-05-08 06:08 am (UTC)

I love these two comments of yours. What I want to say first, though, is that the judgment I was making in my post — about rockwrite/musicwrite people not knowing how to sustain an intellectual conversation — wasn't about people being ignorant or untrained and therefore not able to talk knowledgeably on a subject. That's not the sort of problem I had in mind.

I mean, I don't even know Korean, or much about Korea, yet I'm presuming to talk about Korean music.

Of course I didn't explain what I had in mind. But I when I said, "don't know how to sustain an intellectual conversation," I was thinking about people, starting with whatever knowledge they had, whether it was a lot or a little, not knowing how to learn from each other, or how to recover when they misunderstood each other, or how to use each other's ideas. So if you and I, say, embarked on an effort to teach ourselves and each other music theory, even though we were starting off hopelessly ignorant, and even if we ended up almost as hopelessly ignorant as we'd been at the start, that doesn't mean that we'd failed to sustain an intellectual conversation. As long as we paid honest attention to each other, and when we misunderstood each other we said what the misunderstanding was, and when one had questions the other would try to answer, and so forth, then I'd say that we were sustaining an intellectual conversation, even if it turned out we weren't the ones to make any contribution to music theory, or to put music theory to much use.

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

koganbot

2012-05-08 07:07 am (UTC)

I feel my own ignorance of music theory, and I wonder how much I miss because of it. But my sense of myself is that, even if I knew a lot of music theory, I might not know how to put it to interesting use, at least in writing about music (rather than, say, composing it). I mean, I know what I ninth chord is, and what an eleventh chord is, and so forth, but I don't have any interesting story to tell about those chords, about their appearance in a particular song or composition.

My feeling about music theory — and I'm so ignorant in the subject that this could be all wrong — is that it's fundamentally about how the music is made rather than about what it does. Not that how it's made and what it does are unrelated. But still, you can drive a car very successfully, go on many fascinating journeys, without knowing anything about car design and only knowing the minimum about car maintenance that allows you to talk to a guy at the garage.* This doesn't mean that someone who does know about car design and car maintenance might not be able to take interesting journeys that you couldn't, or, during whatever journey, have an interesting story to tell about what's going on with the car, how it's riding as opposed to how some other care might ride, and so forth.

I don't want to overstretch that analogy. Knowing theory can help you identify what's being played and remember it afterwards, if you've got the language in your head of notes and progressions and the like. And with that knowledge, you can do what you described that guy on the music blog doing, identifying not only what the songwriter was doing but what the songwriter had probably listened to.

A book I like very much, even though I doubt that I comprehended even half of it, is Peter Van Der Merwe's Origins Of The Popular Style, which gives what in effect is a prehistory of 20th century popular music, so it's about where blues comes from (there are European as well as African sources), but also about 19th century parlor music and the like. And he goes into detail about what notes are played and what rhythms are used. I wish I owned it, so that I could quote from it. I remember that near the start he discusses "Pop Goes The Weasel," pointing out that for a kid to feel, when we get to the word "pop" in the second bar, that the song needs to return home, as it were, back to the tonic, the kid would have had to have absorbed "Western" expectations about melodies and chords, even though the kid wouldn't have a language to describe melodies and chords or know that the feeling is based on knowledge. For some reason, I found that analysis, or assertion, very exciting. Van Der Merwe also says, in regard to the difference between music at about 1800 in Europe and Europe-influenced America, and at about 1900, that by 1900 we'd come to the liberation of melody from harmony. I don't understand his argument, though I wish I did. Has something to do with the melody no longer being expected or required to lead us from one chord to the next. Seemed pretty interesting, though of course I was totally unable to evaluate the argument. If I'm remembering right, he used the second section of the "The Washington Post March" as an example. I wonder if the repeating riff in the first 14 seconds of David Bowie's "Man Who Sold The World" (and then later in the song, too) is an example of what he meant, or if I'm misunderstanding.

*But the people who design the car will need to have a good idea about how it's likely to be used.

Edited at 2012-05-08 07:12 am (UTC)

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 01:04 pm (UTC)

I think your comparison to "Man Who Sold the World" is a pretty good one -- it wavers just before returning to the root (actually the major third, signifying "returning home"). Also important is the IV-I or iv-I "returning home" of "Amen" in many hymns.

When I explored the music theory behind "I Luv Your Girl," it was important to note how Dream sustains the tension musically, never really giving us a home to return to -- instead using a series of suspended chords to ramp up our expectations but (somehow) never really making us aware of what we're missing.

It would be a mistake, though, to say something like "The-Dream uses suspended chords to ramp up our anticipation; so if you use lots of suspended chords, you will ramp up anticipation." That's the "know about the car but can't drive it well" analogy, I think, that following theory to the letter doesn't predictably ensure results. Theory can, after the fact, clarify things about what it is that's moving you, but it can't necessarily tell you about whether a similar thing will move you in the future. Like a journey, there's too much other stuff aside from the car and its mechanics that determine the success or failure. You can drive an amazing car to pick up the dry cleaning, too (the function of suspended chords in smooth jazz, maybe?). (Writing is the same way.)

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 01:08 pm (UTC)

As I write this, I'm now thinking I need to write an essay that compares "Luv Your Girl" to "Blame It" based on use of suspension and root. "Blame It" is similarly structured and (more obviously) references "I Luv Your Girl." I honestly hadn't noticed the similarities until I just tried to think of another song that uses a similar strategy.

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

koganbot

2012-05-08 04:10 pm (UTC)

I think your comparison to "Man Who Sold the World" is a pretty good one -- it wavers just before returning to the root (actually the major third, signifying "returning home"). Also important is the IV-I or iv-I "returning home" of "Amen" in many hymns.

Just to make sure we're on the same page. I'm guessing that "Man Who Sold The World" might be an example of Van Der Merwe's contention that melody became free from harmony, since the repeating riff in "Man Who Sold The World" doesn't itself lead us to the next chord, and the one that follows, and the one that follows etc. (since the riff is repeating, not leading). So, is that what you think makes my comparison good, that it's a good example of melody not being tied to the needs of the chord progression?

Btw, without the chord progression moving under the riff, so to speak, a whole lot of the excitement of the riff would be lost. And you can't have just any chords. So the chords and the riff are still interdependent; but the melody was able to give up its role in leading the way to the chord changes — if I'm understanding Van Der Merwe right and if this is a good example of what he meant.

The reason I ask if we're on the same page is that the returning home of "Amen" doesn't seem to have anything to do with that particular point, about "Man Who Sold The World" being an example of melody being liberated from harmony. Or does it? I don't understand. "Amen" seems to be an example of returning home, which the "Man Who Sold The World" riff isn't. Or is your "Amen" comment related to something else, "Pop Goes The Weasel," for instance, and it happens to be stuck right next to your "Man Who Sold The World" comment but isn't meant as a continuation of it?

I've long thought that your "I Luv Your Girl" analysis is one of the best things you've written; maybe in the top two, along with "Kill Me, Kill Me, Kill Me: 001/964," an Ashlee screed of yours.

Edited at 2012-05-08 04:13 pm (UTC)

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 09:15 pm (UTC)

I may have conflated two different points in those two sentences. "Amen" is related directly to Pop Goes the Weasel. But "Man Who Sold the World" does resolve to the minor at the end of the riff (before Verse 1 starts). But the pleasure in it is related to the tension before it resolves -- in our expectations of where the melody should go (given the harmony) is what makes the riff work.

Listening to "Man Who Sold the World Again," actually what it reminds me of is what makes a lot of Aly and AJ choruses and some other teen confessional tick/kick -- the use of the major third (if we're thinking in a major key) also doubling as the fifth in the minor key. "Rush" is a good example. The melody line is similar to the riff in "Man Who Sold the World" when Aly and AJ sing, "Don't let nobody tell you your life is over," starting minor (vi), then IV, then landing on I. But the tension is in that major third/perfect fifth (in the minor key). That tension happens all over teenpop, is in fact a hallmark of the confessional rock sound.

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

arbitrary_greay

2012-05-09 06:02 pm (UTC)

The group of people I usually have "intellectual conversations" in addition to general fandom sentiments (which is what I do on other fan forums) is the group that hangs out around snsd_ffa, and before that snsd_metacrack, and before that greywing's livejournal. If you read through the comment threads in this "community," the actual conversations worth anything tend to be about the industry, and the discussion of music in it usually relegated to music objectified as a mechanism of popularity. Threads about the music itself usually never get further than the initial statements of like or dislike, except for the few threads that begin discussing songwriting/arrangement credits, but by then conversation has shifted to the writers/arrangers as the subject, and again, off of the music itself. Perhaps no conversation results because no questions are asked, but at least for me, the songs that have evoked the most visceral reactions, the ones that drive me to write, produce questions that usually I can answer myself until I reach the wall of theory. Particularly, that one chord turnover thing that I absolutely cannot resist in bubblegum. I think it's a relative key modulation or something. So, at least for me, music theory is primarily a way to concretely describe an observation I have about the music, which in turn makes it easier for me to find it in other songs. It also standardizes description, so that others may be able to know exactly what part of a song has the most effect on me and easily identify it for themselves. (Take for example that Purchina link I made above. Without music theory, I'd have to describe it as "that one upward moving part in the prechorus, the way it moves upwards is cool" does not have the same connotations as "the pre-chorus modulates from Cmaj to Emaj, which is cool." The way the latter description codifies the technique better highlights why exactly it's so cool, something that may not be so apparent on first listen. Third time I'm using Bach's "Canon a 2 per Tonus" as an example of genius, but I don't think I would have picked up on the changing keys without the sheet music accompanying the audio because of how seamless it's written.

liberation of melody from harmony
The best guess I can make of this is that traditionally in classical music, the piece consists of themes and developments on that theme based on chords and structure, melody in most sections deriving from the structure developed from the original themes. "Modern" music skips development and just plays themes as is front and center. Especially in pop songs, there's a clear division between melody and arrangement, arrangement usually treated like the audio equivalent of a backup dancer. The fact that mashups are so easily done today simply by playing the backing track of one song with the vocal track of another shows how little the melody and its harmony depend on each other. You couldn't do the same with some classical music because the melody is not such a clear thing to pull, and playing the theme alone would miss the point of the piece. (How the hell you would do such a thing for sometime like this is beyond me, and why sometimes I find the reappropriation of famous classical music into pop songs falls flat. Like so, AAAHHH KILL IT WITH FIRE.)

I definitely want to check out that book, if only but to figure out what he said about "The Washington Post March." I couldn't figure out what he was pointing out just from listening.

Re: i clicked "like" on maura's comment

koganbot

2012-05-09 08:51 pm (UTC)

If I'm recalling correctly, and I may not be, Van Der Merwe believes that the same shift was happening in classical music. So in 1900 classical music, the melody is less responsible to the harmonic progression than it would have been a hundred years earlier. I'm just typing words now, not claiming to know what I'm saying.

My guess regarding the Sousa thing is that starting 36 seconds in we've got about six bars of what's essentially melodic repetition (and then again at 0:51) but with chord changes behind it. See especially that D C A C D riff that plays twice from 0:39 to 0:42. I've got my guitar out and I'm trying to figure out the chord change that's going on there, and I can't do so. Shows how bad I am at melody and harmony, I guess.

Especially in pop songs, there's a clear division between melody and arrangement, arrangement usually treated like the audio equivalent of a backup dancer.

Except the exact opposite is true in James Brown's funk. E.g., change the "arrangement" of "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose," especially the guitar and bass, and you've in essence gotten rid of the song. So the idea of, say, a reggae version of "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose" would be unintelligible; giving it a reggae bass would mean you've jettisoned the song in place of something else.* And the interesting dilemma of a lot of modern music is that you've got James Brown's invention, modern funk, as the supposed motor of the music, but you seemingly have to compromise that if you want melodies on top, or real outfront independent raps, or jazz soloing, since in funk the background isn't background. Of course, in any dance music, if you're dancing, the background isn't background, especially if you're a good dancer.

(If you're ever going to read one published piece by me, make it "Death Rock 2000," where I talk about James Brown having created a never-ending, irresolvable tension in modern music. And then I ask the Lester question, and try to relate the two. [But the piece is long, so do it when you can, don't sweat it, except I do think it contains ideas people need to know.])

By coincidence, by chance, it was James Brown, sort of, who got me into K-pop, which was a total accident. I read a brief UPI piece about some Korean group opening for the Jonas Brothers. Out of idle curiosity I went to YouTube to hear songs by the group. I wasn't taken so much by the music but by the video, which I posted. And I wasn't posting it because I thought, "Here's a new-to-me genre we've got to explore," but because, "Here's a clever video that allows me to use the headline 'Background Becomes Foreground,' which relates to my James Brown theories and my ideas about ongoing tension in modern music and modern life; and look, the comic singer dude at the start is doing a take-off on James Brown's mannerisms." So I posted, and lo and behold, a person named anhh, who'd shown up here previously to comment about "theory," appeared on the thread bearing knowledge of K-pop, and an embed. And petronia noticed and dropped by to tell us that "K-pop has the most insane and deeply frightening fanclub culture ever" (speaking of background becoming foreground), which of course pulled me in. And there we were!

*But I notice that on YouTube there are remixes of "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose," which I'll have to explore.

Chuck Again

(Anonymous)

2012-05-02 04:15 pm (UTC)

Hey Frank -- I'm looking forward to your latest Eardrum CDs as always -- saves me the time of having to keep up with K-pop (or singles in general) on my own these days. Anyway, the thread on my facebook wall continued after what I posted above, but for the most part went off on other tangents (mostly about Lester's 1981 Pazz & Jop ballot), until this comment below that just came in (as always, I should probably be giving all of this a lot more thought, but time and money tend to be my excuse lately, too)

-----------------

Michael Daddino: My issue wasn't with "intellectual" but with "conversation." Forget rock, forget rock criticism, forget journalism and blogs and Twitter, forget time and money--I'm not sure I can point to anyting in the whole history of thought that actually resembles the conversation Kogan wants, at least as I understand it and at least as he described it in his first post. (He seemed to soften his stringency a bit later.)
I was tempted to posit that what Frank is really after is a community of mystics until I realized that while mystics have powerful abilities to focus, what they meditate on is on the *unconditional*.
I'm not (entirely) saying this to be dismissive: for example, I'll never be a mystic but I feel in my bones that I have a lot to learn from mystics.


Re: Chuck Again

(Anonymous)

2012-05-02 06:01 pm (UTC)

By the way, you say "this complaint of mine's been coming out in bits and pieces since 1989," but I dated it earlier in what I wrote on facebook -- "for at least 30 years now." Guess I was thinking of your long Dolls essay (from ???), or your *Stars Vomit Coffee Shop* liner notes (which, now that I check them, are apparently actually only 28 years old -- oops.) But it's been quite a while since I read those, so it's possible I overestimated the extent to which they may have dealt with conversations about music, rather than just the music itself.

I'm not sure whether to recommend the "Orgasmusic" chapter in my second book to Anthony, or not. (Probably doesn't read horny enough.)

I'd say that what I wrote was mystifying in that I did not explain what I meant by "sustaining an intellectual conversation," or by "don't know how," for that matter. But I'm the opposite of a mystic. That is, I believe that if I think I have an idea but I find that the idea is unable to be communicated to another human being in such a way that the other person understands it correctly and can communicate it further, etc., then the idea does not exist. There was no idea there. I'd not had one. I'd just thought I'd had.

That sure doesn't seem at all like (first line of Wikip entry), "Mysticism (pronunciation (help·info); from the Greek μυστικός, mystikos, meaning 'an initiate') is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, or levels of being, or aspects of reality, beyond normal human perception, including experience of and even communion with a supreme being."

(My wording — "idea is unable to be communicated" — contains a quasi-escape clause, since "able to be communicated" doesn't mean that I've actually successfully communicated it to anyone yet. If I have a great idea and then suddenly die, that doesn't mean the idea never existed, assuming that I could have communicated it to someone had I lived to write it down. Or if I write down a great idea but no one understands it for fifty years and then someone does, whoopee! the idea is in business, and always was (in retrospect).)

In any event, in my post I didn't write down my ideas regarding "don't know how" and "sustained intellectual conversation," nor have I in this thread (the ideas do exist in emails, for what that's worth), unless my moth example communicates more than I think it does; I have to let this go for the time being. So this thread so far is a good example of my not sustaining an intellectual conversation.

I think plenty of people know how to sustain an intellectual conversation, e.g., Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong, though I'm not competent enough in macroeconomics to know how well they're actually conversing.

Edited at 2012-05-02 07:13 pm (UTC)

I suppose, if we come across an alien gas meter and can't read it, then it's "beyond human perception" — until we learn to read it. That moths can be divided into families, genera, and species is something that our ancestors couldn't perceive but we can, because we've learned how (through thinking, testing, challenging, re-wording and re-phrasing, arguing, etc.).

I think what threw Michael was the phrase of mine, "each time you look." I wasn't clear enough that this is the result, the payoff, of sustained intellectual effort, not the method. But I didn't soften any stringency. What my writing over the years seems to have failed to convey is that we get a payoff from testing, challenging, re-working our ideas.

"Conversation" isn't "meditation."

Re: Chuck Again

(Anonymous)

2012-05-02 08:32 pm (UTC)

I always liked these Mystics, myself:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4pUiHBiR3k

Snappy answers to stupid questions

skyecaptain

2012-05-06 06:08 pm (UTC)

It seems like part of the "so what" of this post (which is really an allusion to lots of interrelated ideas) is that at least three things need to happen for a good intellectual conversation:

(1) Ask a good question;
(2) Think of different ways to answer that good question in conversation with others;
(3) Don't give up on the question until everyone reaches some kind of new or shared understanding re: question that makes the world better than you found it.

I think that rock critics (and academics and maybe most people) by and large have problems with all three of these things, but the one that seems most glaring to me at the moment is (1). The problem is that intelligentsia-leaning types (which includes everyone who has responded to this post) are pretty good at merely "performing answers" regardless of the merit of the question or their answer. Tumblr is rife with succinctly-worded answers to terrible questions -- sometimes it's an easy zing on an obviously stupid premise, and sometimes it's an artful re-shaping of something whose intellectual foundation is suspect.

Here's one that's been bugging me today. The original quote draws weird (and untenable) distinctions between autobiography and criticism, pedagogy and artistry (via Mencken), "natural" and "not natural" criticism. That's to say that the original quote is useless -- the undergirding questions aren't worth asking, like "What's better for criticism, the tone of the pedagogue or the tone of the artist?" or "What is the most natural or artful form of criticism?"

These are bad questions because they're nonsense. They don't have any meaning when the terms are so vague and lacking examples that hold true in all or even most instances (which is probably impossible; the line of questioning is doomed from the start). The example given -- comparing the Colin Meloy 33 1/3 to the Carl Wilson 33 1/3 might say something about those two books if there was a single meaningful example from either text to actually found the observation (as is, I disagree about the "success" of the Wilson book, but I won't go into that here, except to say that the question that seems to spur the Celine book is a bad one: "If even Celine can be redeemed, is there no good or bad taste, or good and bad art?")

Mike's response is equally wrong-headed:

"There’s a big and very important difference, it seems to me, between “personal” criticism that’s using art as a kind of thematic center around which to write a memoir or personal essay, which is either not-criticism or not-good criticism, and criticism fundamentally about art that is open and honest about the critic’s personal experience. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about yourself, or even that you can’t talk about yourself at length; it’s just that this has to be in some way about your relationship with the piece of art and what that says about art, not what it says about you."

This is just wrong on its face. The best piece of music criticism I wrote last year, (take that for what it's worth), a comment on Warren G/Nate Dogg, was not "fundamentally about art" as opposed to "fundamentally about me" -- it's fundamentally about both, and there's no way to separate the two; I am not a "vehicle" through which art is analyzed. I analyze art and art analyzes me.

But why was anyone responding to this quote affirmatively in the first place? Why was there dysfunction on top of dysfunction from the start? (It probably wouldn't be impossible to build something useful on such a vague and untenable premise, but you'd have your work cut out for you.) It's true that it's hard to read carefully, think carefully, and be prepared change your mind, maybe in a profound and uncomfortable way, when your mind needs to be changed to make way for a better or more accurate idea. But that can't be all there is to it.

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

petronia

2012-05-07 02:08 am (UTC)

If you do get 1) it's very hard to reach 2), because many people will care enough about a specific 1) to want an answer, but few will care enough to come up with an answer of their own (it has to be your idee fixe or bete noire, not someone else's, and I feel like the thing with online crit is everyone has their own bete noire just like they have their own favourite bands), and 3) is just discouraging -- I mean, what really happens is someone comes up with a seductive theory that gathers supporters, and someone else comes up with a theory that contradicts the first theory, and both theories are wrong to a certain extent, but one fixes something about the other while introducing errors of its own, and the advance happens in the clash. But without wrongheaded conviction there is no conversation; if you say "all theories are kind of wrong, including mine," everyone will agree and no one will know how to move it forward. (This is what happens with Frank's conversations in actuality, at least the ones I've observed in my relative short time hanging around these here parts...)

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

skyecaptain

2012-05-07 02:47 am (UTC)

This is part of why it's also important to call out bad questions and bad organizing ideas when they seem to plague communities. Frank is particularly good at this (see his definitive takedown of the term "rockism" and follow-up [EDIT: OK, getting carried away with this "definitive" talk. It's a rekindling of issues that tries to move away from the term] -- key being that though "rockism" doesn't seem very useful, there are lots of related ideas that are worth talking about that "rockism" wrongly makes us believe we've taken care of -- in part by externalizing the issues onto, if not a strawman, than something that excuses us from the problem).

I don't understand why without wrongheaded conviction there's no conversation. I can't think of any time I've ever had wrongheaded conviction about something (at least, something I now understand to be wrongheaded) that a conversation was not improved by my abandoning said conviction. It was true when I was playing around with ideas of "irony" in listening to teenpop music, and it was true when I pegged Aly and AJ to the right wing in their (best) song "Not This Year" based on my own literal misreading of the song (to name two in a long line of mistakes).

In my experience with teaching younger people, the idea that "all theories are kind of wrong, including mine" can be quite empowering for students. For one thing, it makes for better and more accurate theories. And for another, it lets people who might otherwise be intimidated from the mere posturing of thoughtfulness into the process of becoming genuinely thoughtful. (For all I harp on people who relatively close to me, I also acknowledge that there are genuinely and dogmatically anti-intellectual people in the world who have never been given the opportunity, or have chosen otherwise, to follow intellectual curiosity for its own sake.)

But of course, even if my theory is "kind of wrong," it beats your theory that is just wrong. (Especially when your just-plain-wrong theory is competing for eyeballs with mine.) But that doesn't mean that it's wrong because I say so (the bread and butter of academic feuds); it has to be demonstrably wrong.

That's why I brought up the thing that was at the top of my head, the memoir/criticism thing. To say "[talking about yourself] has to be in some way about your relationship with the piece of art and what that says about art, not what it says about you" is just plain 100% wrong no matter how you slice it. And the reason it's wrong is because "what that says about the art" and "what that says about you" aren't separate concepts.

Edited at 2012-05-07 02:49 am (UTC)

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

skyecaptain

2012-05-07 03:03 am (UTC)

And some of this is framing. If instead of "kind of wrong," we said "generally right, except..." we'd actually separate a lot of wheat from the chaff. A lot of debunking happens this way, anyway -- we start from the premise not that a whole body of knowledge is "generally wrong," but that it's "generally right" but is missing some key idea, something that needs to be explained. And some of those ideas might completely and radically change our understanding of what came before.

For me, music is the often the "except" in a world of "generally right" thinking on a number of issues -- most related to education and social justice -- that points to something being more fundamentally off. Pet concerns: Why are progressive educators so afraid of the genuine pleasure that "problematic" (sexist, misogynistic, etc.) content stirs in their students? Why can't feminist websites take Taylor Swift seriously? Why do the people who align with me most closely politically have the worst taste in music? Here, in 90% of general social what-have-you progressive educators, feminists, and kindred political people are with me, but there seems to be this big problem with music, a problem that starts to align me with (for instance) Paris Hilton and now Snooki. (And here comes the rest of it -- hey wait, why am I assuming that Snooki isn't a progressive feminist left-leaning sort? Etc., etc., a lot of my assumptions have to -- and effectively did at some point -- change.)

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

petronia

2012-05-08 06:20 pm (UTC)

I don't understand why without wrongheaded conviction there's no conversation. I can't think of any time I've ever had wrongheaded conviction about something (at least, something I now understand to be wrongheaded) that a conversation was not improved by my abandoning said conviction.

But would the conversation have happened if you didn't start off being wrong and willing to argue it? That's really all I mean here - certainly there is no moving forward in the long run if no one is willing to change their mind. But I guess if we're talking about "conversation" then I believe in the Socratic, at least and especially online -- someone has to argue something at least sort of wrong, that's maybe exaggerated for effect, or contains good ideas poorly expressed, to get a "yeah but" reaction (look at this post!!). And I might think something, but I don't know I think it, certainly won't have expressed it to the best of my capacity, unless I've sharpened it as arms in an argument. If nothing is obviously wrong, it becomes hard to spot what the essay/post/article is NOT covering (there's always a case not covered). You click "like" or "+1" and move on.

Nota bene: of course this argument I'm making is itself an exaggeration for effect in order to get a response (not conscious at the time I first made it, but still...)

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 01:15 pm (UTC)

I don't feel as strongly about the quote I was venting about now, for what it's worth. It's not "nonsense," was overreacting, but it is vague and I don't think it's asking very interesting questions, even if they're not terrible.

The sustaining part of the conversation can turn bad or uninteresting questions into good or interesting ones, so long as two people agree to meet somewhere (not "in the middle" necessarily). To be honest, I wish I hadn't brought up the Slate quote and response here at all, as I seem to have created a weird decoy that others who might have engaged with the topic at hand are now shooting at rather than talk about the more interesting ideas at the heart of Frank's post.

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

koganbot

2012-05-08 02:30 pm (UTC)

"are now shooting at"

Where? Is this on that Facebook thread that Chuck was pasting excerpts from the other day? Is there any way for me to see that thread? I'm only friends with you and Tina, and I'm not sure how Facebook works 'cause I'm not trying to be on Facebook or to get any more Facebook friends [oops, left out the word "not" first time I hit submit]: I friended Tina 'cause that was the only way I could look at Campus Restaurant Revisited, and I friended you because that was the only way to get onto turntable.fm. But if I friend someone else (I've got an outstanding friend request from Chuck, among others), then I can't tell the next person who sends me a friend request, "I'm not really on Facebook; I only friended Tina so I could see Campus Restaurant Revisited and only friended Dave so I could be on turntable.fm." I still think that Facebook would turn into another distraction and time sink. Anyway, people need to learn to come to me (I mean that metaphorically/psychologically).

Edited at 2012-05-08 05:04 pm (UTC)

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

petronia

2012-05-08 06:22 pm (UTC)

On Tumblr, from what I saw.

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 09:16 pm (UTC)

Yeah, this was a weird back and forth (not really worth digging into) that spiraled into being about criticism/memoir/autobiography, a topic that I find abstractly interesting but wasn't really that interested in. Was trying to use a fresh example and I think it was overkill.

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

skyecaptain

2012-05-09 05:26 am (UTC)

"Weird back and forth on Tumblr" is what I meant to specify. Haven't contributed to Facebook (I don't tend to post anything substantive there).

The one thing I posted to Chuck's initial post was in response to a piece of Maura's that she mentioned:

Started writing about this a bit over at Koganbot, but I just want to say that this inspired me to re-read Maura's "How Not to Write About Women" piece and think this sentence is awesome: "Without straying too far off the indie grid, he's the perfect antidote to Bon Iver-Radiohead overload—dare we say, a skinnier Damian Abraham, a more stable Kurt Cobain?"

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

koganbot

2012-05-08 02:50 pm (UTC)

the more interesting ideas at the heart of Frank's post

It doesn't seem to me that I stated my ideas; I merely announced that I had them.

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.

The only thing that approaches an explanation of what I mean by "sustain an intellectual conversation" is the phrase "only by thinking, testing, challenging, re-wording and re-phrasing." That's not giving people a lot of information (though it should have given Michael D. enough to know that I'm not remotely akin to a mystic).

Btw, have you posted on that Facebook thread? Right now I don't know where it is or how to access it, or if I can. But if you posted on it, I might be able to see this because it's part of your activity. Though maybe not. I see some of your activity, but maybe some threads are restricted. As I said, I don't know how Facebook works.

Edited at 2012-05-08 02:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Snappy answers to stupid questions

koganbot

2012-05-08 04:47 pm (UTC)

I don't have time to click your link (and may never have time), but if you're presenting this correctly, the fact that Mike B. drew a dunderheaded distinction that he should have known better than to draw, based on some Slate quote that poses or is the basis for a bad question, may be an example of rockwrite screwing up, and of a bad idea that's persistent and seemingly ineradicable. And maybe it's interesting to ask how Mike B. managed to make such a mistake despite being part of a world that contains Meltzer and Bangs as prominent figures or figureheads and contains me as an ongoing presence, and despite his being pro-feminist and presumably having run into women's studies and such (girls and women being the ones who tend to write diaries and be most diaristic in their writing), and his probably having been unable to avoid "post-structuralism" and ilk which make such a fetish of "deconstructing" the dichotomy Mike blindly embraces that it became hackwork to demolish such a dichotomy. How could Mike not know that there's an alternative to the division he posited, that the bio can augment the criticism and the criticism can augment the bio without it mattering whether one is the master of the other? How could he not know that this alternative exists? These are not rhetorical questions.

But this isn't my complaint, that sometimes critics ask bad questions and embrace lunkheaded dichotomies. I'm claiming that my rockwrite/musicwrite/wrong world never sustains the discussion of any question, now matter how well posed, at least doesn't sustain it in a way that leads anywhere. And the community seems to offer no help or impetus or encouragement for exploring a question.

Edited at 2012-05-08 04:52 pm (UTC)

I also think that in singling out Delong and Krugman, Frank, you're overlooking the vast number of terrible intellectuals that Krugman is "in conversation with" to the extent that he mentions them by name (and they mention him by name). Krugman and Greg Mankiw can't seem to sustain an intellectual conversation, in part because (as in the linked example) Mankiw rarely engages Krugman on the merits of an argument. Krugman's argument is (as I understand it, which may well be poorly) that Mankiw [EDIT: and other economists] are, perhaps knowingly perhaps not, linking to a bunch of crocks whose scholarship should not be taken seriously by those same economists' standards. In this case, Krugman blames ideology for a temporary lapse.

One thing missing in rock criticism is a shared barometer for the quality of ideas -- perhaps separate from the question of "quality of music," which is the usual debate -- that would allow someone to make such a claim. And yet when I think of the hypothetical form such a criticism would take, it would look like this:

"What’s been disturbing, however, is the parade of first-rate critics making totally non-serious arguments about X."

(That's "X" the variable, not X the band or producer X-comma-Richard.)

I assume Krugman can take these economists' knowledge of "serious arguments" in good faith because of their credentials. And I still wonder whether or not he's subtly suggesting that perhaps these economists, despite their credentials, are not first-rate after all. (But if he didn't think so, it doesn't seem like he would have any problem suggesting that directly.)

Historically there's no shared foundation for what counts as good and reasonable for rock critics to agree or disagree on something. "I think Celine Dion is great" and "I think Celine Dion is terrible" is one kind disagreement, while "I think Celine Dion is great" and "I think anyone who doesn't write their own music is terrible" is another entirely. The second one probably is not the basis for any conversation that doesn't end in the latter person saying "OK, I lied, I'm just applying that to Celine Dion because I think she's terrible for reasons I haven't been able to articulate." And to the extent that the person is unwilling to say that, there's no conversation to be had.

So Krugman can't have an actual intellectual conversation with Mankiw about the stimulus, because Mankiw is not agreeing to reasonable terms. (The only way they could have the conversation would be for Mankiw to address the actual claim, which is that he's linking to bankrupt scholarship, if this charge is in fact true.) But Krugman is able to call him out for disagreeing to those terms, on terms that other economists can recognize. That's one thing that a rock critic lacks -- shared terms that other rock critics recognize or care about. (And there are other rock critics who recognize the terms, but they aren't really much of a community.)

Edited at 2012-05-06 09:17 pm (UTC)

Re: Krugman vs. Mankiw

koganbot

2012-05-08 03:35 pm (UTC)

I also think that in singling out Delong and Krugman, Frank, you're overlooking the vast number of terrible intellectuals that Krugman is "in conversation with" to the extent that he mentions them by name

I'm not overlooking this; it's just not relevant to the point I was making. Micheal said, "I'm not sure I can point to anything in the whole history of thought that actually resembles the conversation Kogan wants." I was saying in response that Krugman and DeLong can sustain an intellectual conversation. Michael was misled by my term "the everyday."

Do Krugman and DeLong see a new world every time they look at the everyday? Well, as I understand it, they build models about macro-economics that, among other things, show how stuff on the macro level has consequences for the everyday, so they can connect layoffs etc. to what's happening macro; not just that layoffs are caused by what happens macro, but when layoffs aggregate they have macro effects. But I don't suppose Krugman and DeLong see a new world each time they look, once they've seen it the first time. But it would be a new world for someone learning macro. I probably shouldn't have written "see a new world each time you look, each time you act," the word "each" being far too total (maybe this is what Michael means by saying I'm relaxing my stringency). But the fundamental idea is that the normal, the usual, will contain whole hunks of things you don't actually understand but that will reveal themselves once you harass it, test it, discuss it. So the "new world" you see (once you start testing, harassing, discussing) is just that there are stories going on that you didn't previously have access to because, e.g., you didn't know macro or you didn't know music theory etc. These stories wouldn't have been available to anybody without intellectuals building up a body of knowledge, and they're not available to us if we're not willing think, test, challenge, re-word, re-phrase, to learn what someone else knows but that we don't, etc.

If there is a new event, but it's part of a story that we don't notice, because we don't have knowledge, then we won't see that new event, because today looks just like yesterday to people attuned to only see the usual. But yeah, each time we look, each time we act, is too stringent. I don't see a new world each time I read a record review, for instance.

I like the word "harass" here. I swiped it from Bacon.

Re: Krugman vs. Mankiw

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 09:20 pm (UTC)

But is there honestly not a single person that can sustain the intellectual conversation? It seems like you have close allies and that by and large the community is dysfunctional. (That relates to my main point, which your subsequent Krugman post affirms -- that economics as a whole has a language where people who disagree can still be on the same intellectual grounds.) But I'm not sure it is that different in Krugman's field (isn't Krugman in your below quote making a similar complaint you are? That "fraudulence" permeates the conversation despite exceptions?). Is Chuck Eddy or Erika Villani or arbitrary_greay or me or any number of sparring partners your DeLong?

Re: Krugman vs. Mankiw

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 09:21 pm (UTC)

I mean, maybe we won't stick around -- but we're not critics like DeLong and Krugman are economists. That is solely what they do, and it's in their professional interest to be in conversation with one another. In rock criticism, it's not in anyone's "professional interest" to do much of anything, because there are lots of "interests" but no profession!

Re: Krugman vs. Mankiw

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 09:27 pm (UTC)

And I know you've already said that "time and money" aren't the core issue. You may be right about that. But the time and money thing does relate closely to why so few people take sustained intellectual effort seriously -- that is, why "sustain an intellectual conversation" isn't something that anyone wants to do -- there's nothing "in it" for them. Perhaps there's nothing "in it" at an early enough stage that they just go their whole lives without doing it, whether it's because they can't (are unable to) or won't (just don't even if they could). (Part of the dysfunction of academia that I've seen is that people are explicitly taught how to perform critical thinking without actually thinking critically about things.)

Re: Krugman vs. Mankiw

koganbot

2012-05-08 07:05 pm (UTC)

Fwiw, here's Krugman praising someone who disagrees with him; he's praising the guy for seriously debating the issues, and knowing what they are.

I wish more economic discussion was like this, as opposed to the fraudulence that permeates most of the "debate."

Or to put it another way, I don’t think everyone who disagrees with me is stupid and/or evil; just the ones who actually are stupid and/or evil.

Re: Krugman vs. Mankiw

skyecaptain

2012-05-08 09:24 pm (UTC)

I would think that the insights of (e.g.) Keynesian economics would have held between the time of Keynes and present, when something like Keynesianism, to the extent I understand it (very little) is needed right now. And yet perhaps the majority of the economic community involved with actual policy acts as though this issue were never discussed -- they aren't sustaining the intellectual conversation, hence Krugman's sometimes exasperated responses to policy (and especially to politics, which is even farther behind).

Again, economics has some intellectual foundations that rock criticism doesn't (critics come from all over, and criticism is something you can do -- well -- without any formal training). But at the same time, I would guess that one of Krugman's big-picture complaint is that the economics community as a whole can't sustain a serious intellectual conversation, as opposed to a fraudulent and political one. But I could be wrong.

Okay, seriously though, what is an "intellectual conversation"? Maybe that message doesn't get felt because nobody knows what the fuck "[seeing] a new world each time you look, each time you act, but only by thinking, testing, challenging, re-wording and re-phrasing" is. What are you even asking people to do?

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