The music of an overstimulated mind in an exhausted body

Low, released the week Bowie turned thirty, marked a new beginning. After burying himself in white powder in Los Angeles, he fled to Berlin for some personal detox and began his famous “Berlin trilogy.” Side one of Low consists of seven synth-pop fragments; side two consists of four brooding electronic instrumentals. Bowie sings about spiritual death and rebirth, from the electric blue loneliness of “Sound and Vision” to the doomed erotic obsession of “Always Crashing in the Same Car.” Thanks to producer Tony Visconti, keyboardist Brian Eno, and the fuzzed-out guitars of Ricky Gardner and Carlos Alomar, it’s the music of an overstimulated mind in an exhausted body, as rock’s prettiest sex vampire sashays through some serious emotional wreckage.  — The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, p. 98.

Low released forty years ago today, probably effected the biggest popular musical earthquake since Potato Head Blues almost fifty years earlier. For a close-grained commentary see the ever-fascinating Pushing Ahead of the Dame blog. The apotheosis of this electronic music being “Ashes to Ashes” some three years later but unfortunately from then on, in far less imaginative and talented hands, quickly morphed into the rot that has plagued music since then. Hence Bowie at his most scathing in 1980:

A broken nosed mogul are you
One of the New Wave boys

. . .

As ugly as a teenage millionaire
Pretending it’s a whizz kid world


Conversation between Yukio Mishima and John Bester

A tape recording of a conversation with novelist Yukio Mishima (1925-70) has been found in which he talked about his view of literature and life and death about nine months before he committed suicide by disembowelment. — The Japan News


Please don’t forget Rex Warner

It astounds me that even some of the most well-read of people have no sense of who Rex Warner is. My introduction to Rex Warner was via his translation of Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War some thirty years ago when I was studying the philosophy of history. Soon after I came to discover Rex Warner as novelist by reading The Aerodrome. I had prior viewed the BBC adaptation but my then understanding was less than superficial since I hadn’t read the novel yet. Years later the name Rex Warner popped out at me, if I recall correctly, in Tim Fuller’s annotation of Oakeshott’s Rationalism in Politics. Around this time I made contact with someone who knew Rex and told me that Rex went to school with Oakeshott though they were in different years and one assumes they stayed in touch (something I will inquire about). Anyway, I’m of the view that Warner’s novels (at least The Aerodrome and The Professor) are as timely now as when they were written. I’m very much looking forward to reading Rex’s student Stephen Tabachnick’s biography and checking out Look up at the skies: Poems and prose chosen by Rex Warner by Gerard Manley Hopkins (Hopkins and Warner: how can one resist?). For more on RW see the NYT‘s slight obituary (I can’t find others); The Independent‘s Forgotten authors No 59: Rex Warner as well as a BA dissertation entitled An English Kafka?: a reading of Rex Warner’s The Professor and Franz Kafka’s The Trial. See also here, here, and here for various shades of opinion.

The British critic V. S. Pritchett once described Mr. Warner as ”the only outstanding novelist of ideas whom the decade of ideas produced.”

[t]his dandyish vicar’s son and disillusioned Marxist led a life packed with colour, incident and, by his own admission, lechery.


Remembering Allen Toussaint

Commemorating the birth of the master. I think that of his more recent recordingThe Bright Mississippi stands as his best, far exceeding his posthumous American Tunes. I must be the only one who thinks that Toussaint’s collaboration with Elvis Costello is thoroughly overrated, though that doesn’t compromise AT at all. Though he has his moments Costello for the most part comes off as pompous, dissonant and forced when taking the lead (EC as himself in Treme was thoroughly irritating unlike Kermit, who in response to the Davis Roganish character, gave this characteristic response.)


Mind and Behavior 37:2

The latest issue of JMB is now available. I especially want to bring your attention to the Critical Notice of Susan Haack’s latest book Evidence Matters: Science, Proof, and Truth in the Law reviewed here by Erica Beecher–Monas.


Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words

Waiting with bated breath for Who the F is Frank Zappa? I chanced upon this documentary called Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words. Like George Carlin, more than ever we need Zappa. Even The Guardian gets his value: he along with Bowie was the most articulate, independent-minded and philosophical, the funniest and artistically, the bravest of the lot.

A Case of the Politicization of “Science”

Though there is nothing new in this phenomenon here’s a nice example of good science reporting by Jesse Singal, someone who has consistently taken on the left and the right on at best questionable or at worst outright junk science, the worst offenders these days emanating from the intersectional identitarians. It would be interesting to see how much of this stuff has been been uncritically assimilated and regurgitated by the priestly class of ideologues in philosophy. 

The scientific truth is that we don’t know exactly how big a role implicit bias plays in reinforcing the racial hierarchy, relative to countless other factors. We do know that after almost 20 years and millions of dollars’ worth of IAT research, the test has a markedly unimpressive track record relative to the attention and acclaim it has garnered.