it's like you're fagin or something … he was a grasping miserable jew who made other people miserable.
Dissertations are to me what cocks are to you. (this one isn't verbatim.)
Such Truths certainly involve a basic decision - the choice whether or not to go down that road - but once you make the basic decision to follow that path, to try to make some unattainable idea true in musical practice, it's no longer a question of mere random preference, but it becomes a question of logic - of a new, unforeseeable logic that you unfold by working on it. Preference is simply too weak a word, too suggestive of whim, for what it means to make decisions of that order. Again using Badiou's terminology, if you admit some such Truth, you are 'faithful' to it - which is for Badiou exactly the only way to achieve subjectivity! (his notion of subjectivity is a little more abstract than most folks' - a subject is not a person, but is a process of fidelity to a truth that persons can subscribe to; a subject is something you partake in, not something that you are; if you're not engaged in some such truth, you're basically living some sort of animal life, just prolonging your existence while working, watching tv and paying off your mortgage etc.)
So sez Samuel Vriezen in a comment to a post by Kyle Gann on John Cage. If you remove that "decision" claptrap from the beginning, you're left with something rather familiar, n'est-ce pas?
Elsewhere on Gann's blog: sweet ink, man.
The meaning of a word is a type of semantic change, also known as "pejoration" (alternately "peioration"), in which the word moves from being positive or neutral to being neutral or negative. This is more than just a change in connotation; the words affected need not simply pick out the same things, but with a grimier cast to them. The reverse process is known as meliorization. Hans Heinrich Hoch, in illustrating the former in his textbook Principles of Historical Linguistics, engages in a little compositional sleight of hand:
An even farther-reaching development is found in OE cnafa 'child, youth' which via 'servant' eventually turned into NE knave 'villain'. And note that the word villain, used to gloss NE knave, likewise is a pejorization of a word whose original meaning was 'belonging to the villa/estate or to the village', i.e. 'servant, serf' or 'peasant = serf'.
Note the way he slips in that "And note that" as if using "villain" to glosse knave were merely some happy coincidence that he just noticed as he was typing, or something like that (and as if no other word could be used to gloss knave). Not that I begrudge him this way of slipping in the information, of course.
The tour of meaning and melioration in the textbook is brief but contains numerous interesting examples; he mentions silly, which developed from a word that, as its descendant in German and cognate of "silly", selig, still does, meant "blessed/blissful", though he does not mention Auden's (famous, or notorious) deliberately anachronistic use of the word in "In Memory of W. B. Yeats": "You were silly like us"—certainly an odd thing to say in an elegy, if "silly" is taken as we tend to take it today. (There is a paper about it, of which I have read the first page.) He closes the section with a consideration of the many negative terms for women of whom society disapproves (listing hussy, quean, Dirne (Old High German, that one), slut, slattern, and whore, though explicitly marking only the first three as instances of meaning), and notes that both meaning and meliorization are of interest in part (in fact he goes further than that, saying "evidently") because they can reveal past cultural and sociological history and the social attitudes that (one presumes) led to the particular changes. But it's not clear, at least from Hock's examples and short exposition, at how high a level any of this can proceed. Take hussy, from housewife, 'housewife' (hence the conceit of the metaphysical poem "Huswifery"): are we supposed to believe that people thought ill of housewives, or that they were slatterns? Presumably not; what is of interest is rather the fact that the change in meaning occurred. We can deduce, perhaps, that women were looked down on, and, from the extension of the already-demeaned "hussy", something of the terms in which the looks went down, and perhaps also why. But from the process itself, the intermediary stages, why this origin concept, etc., what can we learn? Similarly regarding his analyses of meliorization, which I have not mentioned.) The fact that cognate words in predecessors of English and German wound up as the meliorized "knight" and the demeaned "Knecht" might be worth considering.
Incidentally, "mean" itself appears to have undergone meaning; this makes it one of those terms in linguistics that, like "haplology", whose first or second "lo" is often deleted, has a sort of self-application. The OED explains:
The semantic development shown by the Old English spec. sense of I-MENE adj. was carried further with Middle English mene, mean (as with Dutch gemeen and German gemein; compare COMMON adj.), so that the word acquired the general senses of ‘ordinary’, ‘not exceptionally good’, ‘inferior’. In English this development was aided by the fact that the native word coincided in form with MEAN adj.2, which was often used in a disparaging or reproachful sense. The uses in branch II. might be referred almost equally well to the native or to the foreign adjective; the truth is probably that the meanings of two originally quite distinct words have merged.
Probably the simplest way to talk is simply to start saying things without really thinking about it. If you can trust yourself enough to get over the initial hurdle of your own silence, you will soon find yourself carrying on a conversation that seems to run itself, so little is your intervention required. Indeed, this is the way most people talk most of the time, and as soon as you get the hang of it, you'll understand why—its simplicity and ubiquity are matched only by its usefulness, and when employed, the talk that results seems perfectly natural and spontaneous—as indeed it is.
Sometimes, however, if you know what you want to communicate in advance, but are afraid that when you meet your interlocutor some of the details might escape you or you might fail to hit upon an adequately happy phrase to bring the right belief about, a two-step process suggests itself. This is more complex than the preceding, of course, but since the first step can be completely practically arbitrarily far in advance of the second, the amortized simplicity of the method is only slightly lesser. What one does here is plan out in advance the locution or sequence of locutions to utter, and in doing so one must bear one's audience in mind.
What will he think if I say p? should be the question that guides the process, bearing in mind that what he thinks will in part depend on what he thinks you might be getting at! You'll be best able to get underway with this method once you're quite comfortable with the preceding; one tack to take might be reviewing previous conversations in your head to see how the utterances of the different interlocutors fit together. You want, in your planned utterances, to mimic the ones that, in the spontaneous conversation, brought about the right sort of beliefs—and of course you want to mimic them not only as regards the content but also as regards the manner of your speech, for if your interlocutor suspects that you've chosen your words with as much care as, in fact, you have, he will likely become suspicious (which means that you can employ such stiltedness strategically—but now we're getting into advanced talking).
Another simple way to talk is—if you'll pardon the expression—to spare your voice and let your fingers do the talking. Gestures, whether manual, facial, or whole-body, are often perfectly adequate to the task of maintaining one's part in a conversation, signalling interest, querulousness, questioning, anger, skepticism—a whole gamut of actions and reactions are available to the practiced gesturer. (Not to mention sign language.)
I hope these methods, briefly sketched as they have been, are helpful, and in closing I'd like to caution against one technique that gets recommended frequently for helping one to talk, but never seems to work out well in practice, namely, that of imagining one's audience naked. The most obvious drawback here is, of course, that it offers no advice whatever to anyone who finds himself addressing an audience that is already naked, a state of affairs that is increasingly common. Are we to imagine that, in this case, one should imagine the audience clothed? Bosh. Furthermore, it is all to easy to imagine scenarios in which such imaginative activity is a great impedance to talking, at least to the production of the right sort of talk, because it causes strong passions of one sort or another to arise in the speaker. Finally, even if those pitfalls can be avoided, it seems a recipe for distraction.
We read in the Da Xue that
The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge.
"Rectification", here, I assume, is the zhengming discussed here in the SEP. One usually sees this idea expressed using the same verb for each of the successively smaller objects; one wishes to order well one's kingdom, hence orders well one's state, family, person, heart, &cetera. Now, the interesting question is, what happens when one's reached the innermost state? Here I can discern several possibilities, though I don't pretend that this list is exhaustive:
1. Having reached the well-ordered state of knowledge, one realizes that actually everything else is in order. It was only the disorder in which one previously languished that made one think anything was amiss at all.
2. Having reached the well-ordered state of knowledge, one need undertake no further actions specifically to bring about the outer ends. This might happen in one of two ways. 2a: One needn't do much of anything in particular; others, observing the well-orderedness one enjoys, will bring themselves of themselves into their proper states. 2b: the actions that one undertakes, having attained the desired innermost state, do tend to bring about the outer ends, but one no longer seeks those ends as such; part of what it is to have the well-ordered state of knowledge just is to act in ways that bring about the outer ends.
3. Having reached the well-ordered state of knowledge, one is able to see what the proper means are to the outer ends, and able to accomplish them, and does so.
If I were a twerp, I would say that (2) is kind of like dynamic programming and (3) is kind of recursive.
I don't think we should really take (1) seriously; it's basically just self-deception and implies that any starting state of the kingdom is actually well-ordered provided one can simply get oneself into some state of belief that it is. My further claims for this post will be that, insofar as one wants to know what is involved in the well-ordering of a kingdom, (2b) and (3) are indistinguishable, and (2a) is implausible. The first of those claims shouldn't be very difficult to establish. Just because the actions of the newly well-ordered ruler do not flow from actual courses of deliberative thought concerning the outer ends which previously occupied him (or, for that matter, any other ends), but rather come simply from his state of well-orderedness itself, that does not mean that we cannot classify the actions according to the ends which interest us and make the judgment that this action promotes that end; teleological judgment of that sort is a leading thread without which we would never get anywhere. And recall that, at present, we are interested simply in the question of what happens next, not, primarily, with the psychology of this ruler. So it doesn't really matter whether we take (2b) or (3). (Similarly, if the actions of others in (2a) are not a simple falling-into-place, but a regulation in which the ruler does not take personal part, there is little sense in distinguishing it from (2b) and hence from (3).)
Similarly, regarding (2a), the implausibility is manifest. Surely it takes a foolhardy optimism indeed to deny the existence of those who are simply unreasonable. And even if we exclude the unreasonable, there are always those who are all too reasonable: the beautiful souls* who can sniff out a profanely self-interested motive behind every action, no matter how high-minded it may really have been, who are only too eager to inform us that bravery in the ranks is nothing but a dangerous way to earn one's living, or friendship—not unlike marriage—is simply a system for the exchange of personal advantages and favors? And we know that, as Lichtenberg put it, man is so perfectable and corruptible he can become a fool through good sense: a clever child brought up with a foolish one can itself become foolish, and even if there be but one original of these cynics at large in the population, surely imitators and students will arise in his train. Such a state of affairs is not ended by a well-ordered ruler or family. On the contrary, the moralist will thrive in such an environment. So it could hardly be the case that simply having a well-ordered state of knowledge in the ruler will bring it about that the kingdom as a whole is set aright.
Note that in ruling out (2a), we have already made progress on our original question, for now we know that, at least if a state is really a kingdom, hierarchically organized (which was, after all, our starting assumption, which our conclusion ought not transgress), one must have a censor for Rochefoucauld.
*Is it just me, or is the section on the sections on conscience and the beautiful soul in the Phenomenology in Tom Rockmore's introduction to that book quite bad indeed?
The "it" in question being first turning himself in to the CIA for being a spying for some bugbear or other in a nuclear power plant and then, that accomplished, committing suicide: one must admit that he had a point.
If memory serves that takes place in The Road to Calvary. Although I have long been a fan of Joe Frank, I don't think I've listened to more than two of his shows since my first or second year of college, and not long after that, when KCRW fired him, they were no longer available for free on KCRW's site (wonder why) in glorious realaudio; now, although he does have a website to which one can give money for the privilege of hearing shows both old and new, well, he wants money, and even though I reckon him a capital-A Artist I've been oddly reluctant to fork it over. (It doesn't help that one really has to devote a full hour to listening to the shows; background listening they aren't.) And so aside "Escape from Paradise" and "An Enterprising Man", and the great segment on Joseph as a cuckold that appears on multiple shows (Joseph, hearing the last words of Christ, thinking: if I were your father, I wouldn't have forsaken you), most of my Frankian knowledge is fast fading. For that matter, I came a bit late to listening to him on the radio, though I do remember hearing many of his "Karma" radio veritë shows of a Sunday morning—"Bad Karma" and "Karma Don't Deny Me" in particular.
Hence I have been looking at the Joe Frank wiki a bit. The synopses of the shows are frequently excellent in themselves (though some are straight-up downers):
Working in a packing house, sex in the presence of death, the evil plant manager. Working in a nuclear plant, sex and electricity, plant disasters, spies. Getting rich by black mailing a spy. Working as a test subject on addictive substances. Running out of gas in the desert and having a meaningless encounter with an Indian. Jesus on the road to calvary - he considers alternatives, witnesses lovers with an audience, stops at a blues club. Praying in a godless world. Woman talks about a man's illness. (that's "The Road to Calvary".)
A German prisoner of war is comforted. Kierkegaard - despair that does not know it is despair compared with living in Glendale. The invisible man and what people see when they look at you. The lives of animals. Hole worshipers. Uncertainty and human knowledge. Naming things so as not to fear them. Being lost on an elevator, getting off at 39th street in the wrong city. Joe addresses cheering crowds. Discordant monolog against cello music: Joe's father is a famous physician who sues his patients. Joe hunts his father's killer. A church in honor of evolution. Honking at an apartment building. Meeting a ghost in a cemetery while dressed as a nun wearing an alarm clock. A rich man thought dead awakens, loses his memory and joins a religious sect. Joe is a king whose power is linked to the phases of the moon. A roman army attacks the sea. A factory owner who only discusses aesthetics. Scenes from the bible portrayed by actors dressed as concentration camp victims. Our reason for existence is to nurse parasites. "What the world needs now," sung in a exaggerated Indian accent. A human being is a pile of secrets. A jealous husband discovers that his wife has given birth. A child's sense of time. A Dutchman who sees people's skeletons. All the things my right hand does for me. The earth was created all at once. (Excerpted from the "At the Border" synopsis.)
Joe buys a classic car and tries to sell it years later. Joe working as a used car salesman buys a stolen car and then chases the guy who sold it to him. Joe buys whiskey for an Indian in a wheelchair. ("Green Cadillac".)
Joe is on a passenger boat on the Nile along with a gender reversed German couple, two identical monks, an Egyptian prefect. The German couple's dog disappears. The river makes you feeling a part of god, suicide in the shower, a man with a javelin in his back, missing an eye, a woman who speaks a nonsense language and the linguist who believes it's genuine. Joe is a guide in Africa attacked by animals. Mounting animal hind parts on walls. Being covered with watches. The burial of an anthropologist by the banks of a river. ("The River".)
Joe is a helicopter traffic man reporting on bizarre disaster scenes in Los Angeles. Checking into a hotel and overhearing phone conversations. A list of chores that spirals into psuedotechnical nonsense. Kornfield: life force, paying the toll for the car behind you. Joe survives a helicopter crash and has only one eye. Preparing for the end of the world. Joe reports on a police chase. Watching a ship sink. Empty roads after a chemical spill. A traffic report that degenerates into an endless stream of Los Angeles streets. ("Eye in the Sky".)
Though maybe you need to be familiar with the texture of the typical Joe Frank program to find these as compelling as I do. "Green Cadillac" was also published as a short story; that page is interesting not just because of the "stet comma" that erroneously made it into the Publisher's Weekly review, but also because of the way that "Fat Man" evidently begins:
"You know, when I think about myself and the life I've led, I feel self-loathing, shame, disgust," says the grossly obese main character of the story "Fat Man." "But when I imagine myself as a character in a novel... well, I think I'm pretty interesting, kind of offbeat, intriguing, entertaining."
Pretty cool, and the justification for employing a picture proof for the arithmetic mean/geometric mean inequality (on p 48 of the textbook) is interesting as well:
Maybe you agree that, although each step is believable (and correct), the sequence of all of them seems like magic. The little steps do not reveal the structure of the argument, and the why is still elusive. For example, if the algebra steps had ended with "(a + b)/4 >= sqrt(ab)", it would not have seemed obviously wrong. We would like a proof whose result could not have been otherwise.
A picture is evidently supposed to provide this (admittedly in this case the picture proof is, I don't really want to say more convincing, since the algebraic proof is convincing, but more satisfactory, anyway).
Relatedly I have hit upon a cunningly idiotic proof of the proposition that propositions are zeroth-degree beliefs. Many people will say that, say, one's belief that p is a first-order belief, and that one's belief that one believes p is second-order. But clearly the only proper thing to say about these beliefs is that the first is an nth-order belief and the second is an n+1th-order belief. After all, in the first, p could have been "one believes that ρ", and in that case, the post-substitution proposition would clearly not have involved a first-order belief. So obviously when you say something like "he believes that p", you are attributing an belief to him whose order is one plus the order of p. Type safety demands that p also be a belief.
On the way to dining at the restaurant my sister executive chefs, we (my mother and I) stopped first at some bookstore in LA, and then at Amoeba; I exited the former four books richer, yet no poorer as to the supply of cash at hand nor in any greater, albeit temporary, debt to a credit card company. Each book I accrued I got instead when my mother asked me, had I read anything by X?; to my in each case
no she responded by adding another book to the pile; in this wise I became the owner of Madame Bovary (the book which started this off, since she decided some time ago that it was a scandal! that I hadn't yet read it—I then decided that I also wanted Bouvard & Pécuchet—it has the dictionary of accepted ideas in the back—but was rebuffed; I would have to shift for myself (and that's why I don't have it)), Saramago's The Cave (true story: I was attempting to think of Pamuk's The Black Book, but could only remember that it was written by a recent Nobelist, and for some reason assumed that the author was Iberian; since Saramago's Nobel was actually awarded ten years ago, I think we can chalk this up as further evidence that my awareness of literary goings-on peaked in high school), and hot property Bolaño's The Savage Detectives.
But wait, you perhaps think.
Those books number three. What about the fourth?. Well, I didn't want to have to admit it, but I lied above when I described the manner in which I came by the four books I came by. For, in the case of the fourth, I was actually seeking out books by its author (not because there was any that I particularly wanted, or so I thought, but because I wanted to see what was in stock). Since the bookstore had the confusing policy of stocking all the McM-authors before any of the Ma-authors, it was actually not obvious at first that there was anything by either Harry Mathews or David Markson, both of whom I was seeking; it is Markson's recently reissued The Ballad of Dingus Magee that completes the foursome. If I read it, then I will have read, barring Going Down (and I always bar Going Down), all of his novelistic opera, and two entertainments, to boot. Not that I got it for that reason. I certainly don't have that sort of collector's mindset about these things. Only the sublime and shit for me.
What I actually wanted to mention, though, was that despite my bellyaching about its title, the remastered rerelease of Univers Zero's first album is really fantastic; the remastering really does mark a change which is almost everywhere an improvement. (The only part that I don't really care for is the way the spinet now sounds on
Carabosse—it's both quite forward in the mix and really bright in a way that doesn't fit very well with the rest of the track.) In particular, the best track evar,
Complainte, now has a feature that , having long since sold my soul to Junichiro Tanizaki and Yoshida Kenko, can't but admire: the bassoon, playing the melody in the first, I dunno, minute or so, stands out much less; I, knowing and liking it, therefore have to work a little harder to hear it, and risk (suppose I'm not paying close attention) not remarking it at all. Instead the melody's being out in front and easy to get to, it is now (comparatively, anyway; this is just the way I, used to the more bassoon-centric mix, hear it, and I'll probably get used to it in a while) treated on a par with dronier background. (Something similar is one of the reasons why I like the guitar solo in "Shore Leave" so much; even though I wouldn't change it, often in listening to it I can't help but think of how Marc Ribot would have played it differently, or how great it would be if the person who did play had done X instead (sometimes these can be quite determinate thoughts)—that is, it's both good as it is, and shades off on all sides into all the quite easily imaginable other ways it could also have been good, maybe even better—so you get the pleasure both of listening to it as it is and of imagining the similar solos it might have been, which those similar solos, even if better by themselves, might not have afforded.) Of course having listened to the two mixes I know that this particular track sounds good both ways, but that needn't always be the case, of course; there's a bit of Radiohead's "Wolf at the Door", a little guitar not really riff, that I think is by far the best part of the song (I don't currently have access to the track, but apparently I once claimed that it takes place "2:02ish to 2:14ish, then 2:16ish to 2:29ish. The second one is easier to hear." and that it "[e]choes the trumpet part at 1:02-1:16ish. Sorta."), to the point of making it—and whenever I hear it I always wish it were further up in the mix and clearer, but I'm also willing to believe that if it were, I wouldn't find it nearly as interesting. [The magic of scp puts the Radiohead at my fingertips, and makes me wonder if I only ever thought the guitar part was hard to make out because I was listening on crapp speakers: ah well.]
This, even if I couldn't follow it completely (thanks in part to not getting much of the notation used), is an interesting paper.
Two quotations, both from the most recent NYRB, but which illustrate a sentence structure found quite widely elsewhere as well:
One senator who, strangely, didn't sign on to the bill was John McCain.;
Two recent collections are Matha Ann Selby's Grow Long, Blessed Night: Love Poems from Classical India (Oxford University Press, 2000) and Andrew Schelling The Cane Groves of the Narmada River: Erotic Poems from Old India (City Lights Books, 1998).. One thing I detest is such sentences; there seems to be an oddly pointless inversion about them, which results in lenition and bathos rather than fortification. In the first sentence quoted, for instance, I assume that the author's purpose was to defer mentioning McCain until after it had been established that some senator did something strange, but it doesn't quite work very well as a shocking revelation (and not just because I already knew who it was who hadn't signed on and would be relevant to mention as not having done so). Though I can't quite articulate why.
Of the four grappa glasses brought back either by me or to me from Glasklar (Knesebeckstr. 13, near many bookstores, a couple of indian restaurants, a record store that had some bizarre LP covers up, and, I think, Schwarzes Café!), three are now broken. I'll get the last one yet.
I have recently seen Gino Robair twice, once performing in a duo with Carl Ludwig Hübsch and once as part of the sfSound collective performing with John Butcher (who was absolutely fantastic, both in the group improv and in the two solo improvs, one on tenor and one on soprano sax, and who in addition to being a virtuosic and creative improviser also has a PhD in physics—Brian May also has a PhD in, I think, astrophysics—what's next, Damon Albarn wins the Fields Medal?). I suppose I also saw him as I was walking out of a different concert, in which Carla Kihlstedt sucked it up to high heaven by doing an nth-rate impersonation of Iva Bittová in a duo with Fred Frith, pissing me off to no end (I was already inclined to be displeased by the extremely breathy, fit for NPR in tone and content introduction she gave to her first set, with a band whose most interesting member by far was Chris Sipe)—but I was talking about performance contexts. The duo with Hübsch was ok; he seemed hampered by the extraordinary amount of stuff he had, and what he could do with it, as if he had to fit it all into the set, a problem that did not seem to arise with the Butcher set, even though a decent enough portion of it (hard to judge time, really, but maybe ten minutes?) was spent in a duo with Butcher. In fact during a large part of that duet he was only using one implement, a thin rod of some sort (wooden? metal?) which he would hold upright on the drumhead and rub in a downward motion continuously first with one hand and then the other, creating a drone whose volume and tone he could vary by its position on the drum and the vigor of the rubbing—quite effective, really.
Anyway, sfSound's started up again doing monthly concerts, and the one on October 12 lists in the program:
local percussionist Gino Robair performs Potluck Percussion (you bring it, he'll play it—guaranteed!), which is obviously a challenge, not to Robair, but to the audience. After some thought, the two best things I can think to bring are:
A raw egg.
Water. Not a water bottle filled with water, or a bowl filled with water, but just water. Of course one must bring it in a container of some sort, but I imagine that there will be a table or whatnot on which people bringing things can deposit their items. One would simply pour the water onto the table. This is potentially messy, but that's art.
But I'm not convinced that these are really the best possibilities. Obviously one must exclude the puerile (uncleaned fish!) or potentially hazardous (ground glass!).
1. Davidson consistently misuses the semicolon.
2. His essays, like aesthetic ideas, occasion much thinking in me, without any concepts ever being attained—that is, I find the experience of reading them extremely frustrating. (Perhaps I will illustrate this at some point in the near future!)