May 13, 2007
The sublimely postmodern style of The Books has had me hooked literally since I first heard them at my friend Josh’s apartment. We were having a fun and spirited philosophical discussion, which had a momentary lull. That allowed me the opportunity to experience The Books for the first time, which, previously in the background of our conversation, jumped to the foreground in an almost seamless manner continuing on as a veritable and formidable third party to our colloquy. Since then they have remained the first thing I think of whenever someone mentions either “music” or “postmodernism.” Postmodern in the sense that their music is a contestable whole comprised of seemingly random spoken word samples, their own guitar and cello snipets, etc. This patchwork structure gives the music a feeling of a composed instigation, rather like the feeling one gets from reading a good essay. Rather than pontificate further on the subject, I’d prefer to illustrate the point by simply quoting one of their songs at length in a play format. That is, I will introduce each “voice” in the song as a character and add additional narratorial comments in italics to indicate that they do not actually appear in the song itself. The song is, “Be good to them always,” from their 2005 album “Lost and Safe.”
A middle-aged British man: “Here we are. Here we are… We are antici… There it is! There it is. That’s the picture.”
(A record plays an electric cello. The record skips repeatedly throughout the scene.)
A middle-aged British man: “You see.. see it for yourself. There it is. It’s a man… There it is. With… uh…”
Narrator (in a tone of increasing depth): “Be good to them always.”
May 2, 2007
The stale mediocrity of the traditional left-right dichotomy was probably apparent the moment it was first uttered. Luckily there are many great alternative ways to view the geometry of the political. My favorite of these is a very simple extension of the left-right division made by Political Compass. Instead of a simple line, the geometry to which Political Compass assigns your endlessly unique belief is a plane in which the horizontal axis encodes your economic beliefs (collectivism vs. laissez-faire capitalism) and the vertical axis encodes your social beliefs (libertarianism vs. authoritarianism).
You can take a quiz online here to determine your place on the Political Compass. As I expected, my own beliefs placed me in the anarcho-communist quadrant, in pleasant company with The Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, and thankfully quite far from both Hitler and the current occupant of the White House. In the above picture the libertarian-capitalist quadrant is strangely absent of any examples. Some extreme historical examples include Milton Friedman and Robert Nozick, while less extreme and more current examples include anyone in the American Libertarian party.
This geometerization of political thought made me wonder if there was an obvious third axis we could add to make the diagram three-dimensional. I can’t think of any good ones off the bat, but let me know if you do, or alternatively if the existing axes should be replaced with something more apt.