Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The connection between Bowie and punk

It's something that looks unlikely at first glance. After all, part of punk is about being your own hero and not living vicariously through others, about getting beyond the notion of big stars dominating everything, and Bowie appears at first glance to embody that totally and completely. However, the link between Bowie and Iggy Pop, one of the god fathers of punk, sheds more light on the situation.

Why exactly would Bowie, who depended on presenting himself as sophisticated and arty, take Iggy Pop, a guy who wasn't sophisticated, at least initially, and who wasn't particularly art inclined, under his wing? If you look at Bowie's creative output, even from Space Oddity but particularly from Ziggy Stardust onward, much of it has to do with figures who are literally alienated from everything by being, well, aliens, or something similar as in the Halloween Jack character from "Diamond Dogs", a leader of a post-apocalyptic mutant gang. Bowie's characters may have a big presence on the stage, but in and of themselves they speak of individuals being personally alienated from the society they live in, of being out of place, awkward, not privileged, to use a loaded word. Bowie's sexuality is another great example of this, and it's striking that on the same record where the Halloween Jack character is introduced there's a long, over ten minute, ode to anonymous gay sex, in one of the most explicit terms ever recorded by a major artist.

Bowie comes, and came, at things not only from the perspective of a star who enjoys being on stage, but as an artist who's alienated from the rest of society for a variety of reasons who is expressing that alienation and presenting it on stage, dramatizing it in the character of Ziggy Stardust and others. Bowie performs stories of personal alienation on the stage, inviting people to identify their own alienation with it.

Iggy Pop coming from a poor background, being creative and having to fight against the system to get his place in society has much in common with this perspective. Although from different social backgrounds, Bowie being middle class and into the art scene, they must have been kindred spirits to a certain degree. Bowie helped Iggy Pop to get the cultural background that he never got a chance to acquire, teaching him about art and culture, presenting him to the European scene, getting him up to speed on things.

From Iggy Pop and his "Raw Power", and stories of alienation came punk and the punk movement to a large degree. Pop as a transitional figure was and is a star on the stage but engages in anti-star behavior, attacking the notion of stardom and of big figures on stage, and instead trying to include the audience in the show. It's a small step from that to the Ramones, for instance, who dispensed with the star motif altogether and said get a guitar, learn three chords, and start a band.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Scalia disagrees with freedom of the press ruling

That made it possible for people to criticize public officials without fear of libel. Here. He says that it's not what the "Founders" intended. I've got a thought: what about what's right and wrong? The "Founders" thought slavery was okay too, does that mean that we should put it back on the books? 

Hiding behind the Constitution does not absolve one of moral responsibility. Right and wrong, what's just and unjust, transcends a simple document--and should be what that document is in conformance with anyways. If it's not, the document should be changed.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Two great articles related to #CancelColbert, by Michelle Goldberg and TBogg

First, Michelle Goldberg's piece "#CancelColbert and the Return of the Anti-Liberal Left", which is good throughout but features this very nice paragraph: 

"There’s a cure for this sort of thing, though it’s worse than the disease. When the right takes power, the left usually discovers the importance of unfettered speech. In the 1980s, with conservatives leading a crusade against the National Endowment for the Arts for funding projects deemed anti-Christian and pornographic, tolerance no longer seemed quite so repressively bourgeois. The same was true during the Bush administration, when opposition to the Iraq War got Phil Donahue fired from MSNBC and the Dixie Chicks pulled off radio playlists nationwide. That’s why the Colbert Report was so cathartic when it first appeared—his relentless mockery cut through the bombastic jingoism, the right wing political correctness, that was stifling us."

Next, TBogg, from Rawstory.com "
An oppressive white privileged heteronormative look at Suey Park’s SQUIRREL! interview"
, that features quotes from the founder like:

 "I always paint my white characters to be singular, to be ignorant, to reverse the gaze onto them instead when they are our subjects, instead of always constantly saying people of color are fucked and a way to kind of always reinforce our subject’s location in reference to white men as some metaphor.I think it would be a more realistic socially commentary if I were able to joke about the totality of white supremacy, but I don’t think that’s going to happen on national television."

After which TBogg comments: "David Chapelle wept." Because people joke about stupid things white people do all the time on TV and no one really has much of a problem with it. Ms. Park wouldn't be a trailblazer there.

Both of these folks are progressive and are writing for progressive publications. Neither one are saying that you or anyone else should throw progressive policies out the window. What they are saying is that there needs to be an increased sense of real tolerance, in the original liberal sense of the term, instead of a renewal of the same things that Progressives criticized during the Bush administration. 

I would hazard to say that, in part, these articles, in particular Michelle Goldberg's article, captures in miniature much of what I've been trying to say with regards to the whole Decolonize Seattle/Occupy Seattle debacle. 

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Hegel's conception of the Absolute Ideal

Hegel's notion of the Absolute Ideal: three phases, the world of Theory, the world of Dialectic, the world of Mind or Spirit. What that means is that in the first place there's abstract logic taken in itself alone, with no reference to anything in real life. This leads to "Dialectic", which in Hegel is the analysis of how the world works from a scientific and sociological perspective. It's dialectical in the Socratic sense because it's a realm of give and take rather than something where absolute logic applies.

Hegel was very, very, big on the notion that world of nature doesn't embody things like perfect mathematical truth, for example that you never see a perfect circle in nature itself. Because of this, a different type of logic, separate from the absolute abstract logic, has to be developed that takes Nature and natural concepts as they are. This is connected also with the notion that nature doesn't deal purely with Aristotelian either/or logic but with many shades of gray, so to speak, and that's another place where the term 'Dialectic' comes in, because the Socratic method was about challenging absolute conceptions of truth and instead approaching ideas of truth through the process of a kind of back and forth of discussion and inquiry.  This process of trying to get at truth is more 'many shades of gray' than either or, more organic, almost, than absolute. Possibly, you could generalize from this to be a more naturalistic way of approaching things.

The realm of 'Mind' or 'Spirit' was formed by combining the previous two together, by applying the rules of pure formal logic to those of naturalistic logic. A way of thinking about this, and an example of it, is Newton's method of mathematical physics, which took observation from life and applied calculus to it in order to understand it. There are a lot of critiques out there, particular that of Alfred North Whitehead, that emphasize that drawing conclusions about the world often involves both observation of nature in itself combined with rational thinking, and this is what Hegel was getting at.

He described the results that could be gotten from combining formal logic with the more organic exploration of nature as describing the absolute ideal, the true form of the universe.

Supreme Court: no more spending limits on contributions. Yay for the Consitution!

So far, strict constructionism has sanctioned unlimited corporate contributions to elections and has certified that corporations are people. Now they've lifted all rules about personal contributions to political campaigns. Perhaps the Constitution is the problem.

Quite frankly, Constitutions are created by people, by legislation, and they can be abrogated as well. When it comes to the most heard objection, that if you just determine a Constitution by legislation there will be no standard of justice whatsoever but just arbitrariness--that's where political philosophy comes in. I'd much rather have people make reference to discussions about justice and rightness in a pure form, and justify or object to a Constitutional issue based on that, than have them blindly venerate a document as if it's a holy script, reading passages in the manner that fundamentalist Christians read the Bible.

*on edit: if there was a section about fucking dogs in the Constitution, I'm sure that Scalia and folks would be keen on interpreting it to mean that the Founders, in all their wisdom, were talking about business rights.

*on edit 2: which is another way of saying that the Constitution is tradition being revered for tradition's sake, blindly, and used for whatever purpose people want to put it.