For those who wonder what the fuss is all about, someone has taken an episode of Deadwood and reduced it to seven minutes of nothing but dialogue that includes cussing:
I was wandering around LiveJournal ... that's a story in itself, you don't hear of people "wandering around TypePad" ... and I came across this:
I'm going to enable anonymous posting and I've disabled IP address logging. Now post anonymously and tell me a secret. Post anything! There's no way to find out who it is or who said what; do it more than once if you so choose. I'll post my own in there, as well. We've all got secrets.
One of the most popular secrets, if not indeed THE most popular secret amongst the replies, is that the anonymous poster likes to masturbate.
I usually enjoy watching Penn and Teller: Bullshit, because they take on sacred cows in an amusing fashion, and, let's face it, because I agree with their take on many issues. Actually, my agreement with them is fairly easy to define: I'm with them when they talk about science, I'm more skeptical when their ideas are overrun with libertarianism. I suppose many of their fans think libertarianism and science go hand in hand ... I confess I don't see it. In any event, their usual mode of attack is to take extreme examples of whatever they're attacking that week, and making the opposition seem stupid. Which is fun to watch when I am on their side, like last week when they trashed Mother Teresa, but as Sara, among others, has pointed out, it may be fun to watch, but it's not necessarily airtight argumentation.
Often, P&T are talking on issues about which I know little ... science, in other words. And I tend to take their word for it in that regard. I'm a believer in science who knows precious little of it myself. Once in awhile, though, they have a show on a topic about which I actually know something, and on occasion, their position is different from my own.
This week's episode is on college. I looked forward to their approach ... there is certainly much wrong with our system of higher education. The crushing and faceless burden of institutional bureaucracy at the biggest schools ... the ways in which a college degree has become less about learning and more about getting a good job down the road ... even areas where I am part of the problem rather than part of the solution, as with grade inflation (although, to be honest, I don't give a shit about grades so I don't really see it as a problem, but I'm always getting students who have no business being in my class, but someone else passed them in a pre-requisite ... sometimes that someone is me, so it serves me right).
But nope ... P&T used this episode for another tired rant about how leftists are taking over the universities, squashing freedom and promoting anti-Americanism.
I'll just address three of their points. First, they complain that liberal professors, "speech codes," and diversity movements run counter to the notion that college should be a free marketplace of ideas. That's their notion, of course ... I just want to draw attention to their use of the term "marketplace." If you accept that the laws of the market are appropriately applied to everything in society, including education, then you won't have a problem with the above statement. Me, I think learning can take place outside the logic of the marketplace.
Later, they claim that attempts to increase diversity send a message to "blacks, hispanics, asians, women, gays and lesbians, etc etc etc" that they are too weak to survive without assistance. If the playing field was indeed level, their claim would make sense. If I have two baseball players, and one hits the ball 350 feet while the other hits the ball 375 feet, I would be stupid to sign the lesser hitter. What this claim ignores is that it is difficult to ascertain where home plate lies in the real world of the university. If, in fact, the second player gets to hit at Coors Field and the first player is stuck in San Francisco at China Basin, if in fact both players are hitting the ball with equal power, but the second one seems to be hitting it farther because of the advantage he gets from hitting a mile above sea level, well then, you've got to come up with a new method for evaluating the hitters before you sign one of them to your team. Of course, in the "free marketplace," every ballpark is the same ... any other suggestion is un-American.
The stupidest thing of all came when they trotted out David Horowitz. I'm embarrassed to like the fucking show when I see them kiss Horowitz' ass. Here's what Dave had to say on Bullshit:
The university has been redefined from being an institution dedicated to the disinterested pursuit of knowledge to an institution for social change.
Well, Dave's got one thing right: the university is an institution for social change. It's even possible there are better uses to which we can put a university than as a tool for social change. Where he, and by extension Penn and Teller, has his head up his ass lies in his assumption that there was ever a time when the university promoted a "disinterested pursuit of knowledge." There has never been a time when that was the case. And it's only because of the work of those commie liberal humanities professors that we now challenge silly notions like the "disinterest" of the powers behind institutions. That's right, P&T: the ones who called "Bullshit!" on this pile of, well, bullshit, were the very people you are now demonizing.
For people of my generation, at least, this is a powerful story (link is to a pdf file):
I was watching a documentary about Emile Griffith, and they showed Griffith killing Benny Kid Paret in the ring, and I saw that on television when I was a kid. Griffith had Paret in the corner, Paret was helpless and Griffith was punching with amazing speed, and at one point he quit using combinations and just whomped on Paret's head one, two, three, four times in a row with the same right hand.
This afternoon, Robin and I saw Unleashed with Jet Li. Whenever Li is unleashed, he offers his usual brilliant array of violent dance moves, but once in awhile, he switches into "Griffith" mode, and just punches a guy a bunch of times in a row with the same hand.
When I get back to the motel, I pick up the book I'm reading, Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads by Greil Marcus. One of Marcus' trademarks, something I think he does very well but his detractors probably find annoying and pretentious, is to tie things together that don't seem on first glance to have any connection. Like Harmonica Frank and Elvis Presley and Herman Melville, say, or the Situationists and the Sex Pistols. There's a segment in his new book where he takes us on a trip through the Top 40 charts in 1965 and somehow manages to relate them to the entire world, before, during, and since.
I feel like listening to "Like a Rolling Stone," and the only version I've got on my Karma is the famous "Judas" one from 1966. So I start listening. And Mickey Jones, the drummer with Dylan and the Hawks on that tour, really destroys his drums throughout the song. And every once in awhile, he hits them rat-tat-tat-tat, and it sounds exactly like how Jet Li would sound if he were a drummer in Unleashed, exactly like hhow Emile Griffith would sound if he were a drummer in the ring against Kid Paret. And the connection I'm making is just like one Greil Marcus might make in a book on "Like a Rolling Stone."
Well, I can still apparently steal wireless access, so here goes.
We drove down about noon time. Tunes for the trip are from an MP3 mix I made that includes only artists we've seen live together. Got here, Robin took her usual nap, we did a little shopping, then went for dinner as usual at Shadowbrook. I had the blackened lamb, Robin had halibut. Now we're back in our motel room, stealing net access.
We're going away for the weekend. Might get a chance to post, might not. Chat here if you feel like it.
In 1968, the Steve Miller Band released their first album, Children of the Future. Side two of the LP gave a hint of where Miller's career was headed, and Boz Scaggs', for that matter: call it blues pop. Both Miller and Scaggs had fine solo careers in the 70s, Scaggs as a blue-eyed soulman, Miller as a reliable top-40 hitmaker whose signature tune, "The Joker," crossed lots of musical lines, at least in terms of the variety of listeners who were influenced by it.
1968 was the summer AFTER the Summer of Love; if the Summer of Love was already the tail end of the good side of hippiedom, '68, which was the great global political year, made hippies seem almost quaint. Me, I turned 15 in the summer of 1968, and I confess I didn't have politics on my mind ... I was reading and rereading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and wishing I could get the whatever to take some LSD myself (I didn't get around to it until 1970 ... or was it 1969, who remembers). I listened to FM "underground" radio and imagined life as a hippie.
The great San Francisco Bands were the Airplane, the Dead, Quicksilver, and Big Brother (not that there weren't other great and popular bands, but those were the Big Four). Country Joe and the Fish represented Berkeley. But the Steve Miller Blues Band was the first of those bands I actually saw live, in the summer of '67. The Airplane released their fourth album in 1968, and in Surrealistic Pillow they'd already issued the greatest of the SF psychedelic-folk albums. The Dead released their second that year, Quicksilver their classic debut, and Big Brother gave us Cheap Thrills. Most of those bands faded away, the Grateful Dead excepted, of course. The transformation of the Airplane into Jefferson Starship was the most depressing part of the story. The point is, when the Steve Miller Band made their first album, there was no reason to think it would be a psychedelic classic, nor is there much in Miller's subsequent career to lead one to suspect he had such an album in him.
But Side One of Children of the Future is, for me, the greatest psychedelic music of all time. When I first heard it, I wanted to take acid. When I took acid, I wanted to hear it while I tripped. When I hear it now, decades since the last time I took psychedelics, I want to take acid again. It's an odd place to find such music, let me tell you.
Poor Robin ... never took drugs in her life, yet when we started going out in the fall of 1968, one of the first things I did was sit her down and force her to listen to Side One of CotF. I guess she forgave me ...
The keyboard combo of organ and mellotron is what gives the music it's airy feel, and for that, a tip of the cap to Jim Peterman. But Miller wrote the songs, and sang them with more subtlety than he showed in the more popular phase of his career.
In one of those paradoxes where I can't put into words what I mean, but I'm going to quote some words anyway, my feelings about Side One are encapsulated in the title of the last song of the side-long suite:
The Beauty of Time Is That It's Snowing (Psychedelic B.B.)
Here we go again:
1. John Scofield, "Green Tea." Don't know if I've ever even heard this one, so I'm not sure what it's doing on my hard drive. (I just looked ... it's NOT on my hard drive, it's in my MusicMatch library as an On Demand streaming track.) It's a light jazz thing, nice background music.
2. Bruce Springsteen, "Highway Patrolman." "Man turns his back on his family, well he just ain't no good."
3. Crosby & Nash, "Lay Me Down." I mostly avoided these embarrassing tracks before, but they're coming out of the woodwork now. They cut this one last year, and it's the same old mellow folkie shit.
4. Bobby Darin, "Mack the Knife." This is much cooler than #3.
5. The Grateful Dead, "The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)." The single from their very first album. I'm not a Deadhead, so of course I always loved this song.
6. The Pixies, "Caribou." The first song to make a second appearance on the Friday Random Ten, which is pretty amazing, considering I'm shuffling 3,647 tracks.
7. Magic Sam, "21 Days in Jail." Hot git-tar on this one.
8. Muddy Waters, "Rollin' Stone." These last two are both nominally blues, but they don't sound anything the same. I shook Muddy's hand once. Might be the greatest hand I ever touched.
9. Albert Collins, "Ice Pick." Yet another blues song, yet another different style of music. All blues does not sound the same. Saw him at Slim's once ... his trademark, which he did that night, was to leave the stage during a solo and play his way out onto the street.
10. Graham Parker & the Rumour, "Don't Get Excited." I've seen a lot of the artists on this week's list in concert. Parker was one of the best. Between 1976 and 1979, Graham Parker made four studio albums, and even the lesser one had its moments. All Music Guide gives those albums 5, 4 1/2, 4 1/2, and 5 stars out of 5. Christgau gave them A, A, A-, A. "Don't Get Excited" was the last song on the last of those albums, and while he's made some good music over the last 25 years, you could have quit listening to him after "Don't Get Excited" and not have missed much of Parker's essence. It's not like Rod Stewart, where he pissed away his great talent. It just kinda disappeared.