Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

New layout

Abasing myself before capitalism’s incessant demands for meaningless change, I have reworked the template of this blog, in a way that should look almost exactly the same. If something doesn’t work, please let me know: you can email me or tweet me.

The Official Chart for September 27

chart 2105-09-27I wasn’t going to listen to Ryan Adams’s 1989 cover album, obviously, but then I started reading people saying it sounded like Bruce Springsteen. I really like Springsteen, and, actually, if any guy could cover Swift successfully it might be him (they both manage to present self-conscious story-telling as sincerity). Sadly, Adams’s version sounds almost nothing like Springsteen. I can just about hear the similarities between Adams’ version of “Shake it Off” and “I’m on Fire,” but his vocals have none of the dark yearning of the Springsteen track, and anyway the style of “I’m on Fire” isn’t a fit for “Shake it Off” at all. But that pretty much exemplifies Adams’s record; what’s baffling is just how incompetent it is. Why has he transposed the songs into keys that take them outside his vocal range? Why has he altered the rhythms of tracks without paying any attention to what effect that will have on the stress patterns of the lyrics? Read more↴

Appropriately, the 1000th post is about why I don’t write so many posts

One of the things I built in to the current design of this blog is that the layout for posts, and most especially for the front page, only really makes sense for long-ish posts. My thought here was that Twitter would take the strain of short comments and “hey look at this link” type posts, and indeed it has largely done so. But there’s a creamy middle of cases where I’d like to say a little more than can fit in 140 characters, but don’t have quite enough to say for a post here. I’ve finally got round to creating an extra blog for that purpose, and recent posts from that blog also show up in the “snippets” section on the front page here.

I’ve periodically added various other things to the front page, like my Flickr photos and loved tracks. If you read this blog via RSS, you won’t see these, which I imagine you’re fine with, but if not, they all have feeds of their own, and I’ve but together a Google Reader “bundle” which will let you subscribe to everything that shows up on the front page.

“There’s a red star up on the Christmas tree”

I think I may have been living in California too long, partly because I found myself saying “thank-you so much” to somebody the other day, and also because I was surprised yesterday when, on landing in London, the pilot wished everyone on the plane “Merry Christmas,” rather than some more generic holiday greeting. But of course this was a British pilot, who thus adopted the British form of secularism, which consists in removing the Christian content from nominally religious institutions while maintaining the form. People sometimes remark that it’s paradoxical that the officially secular US is a more religious country than the officially religious UK, but it’s not a paradox at all. As Marx pointed out in On the Jewish Question, when the state defines itself as secular, it does so by presuming a religious civil society against which to contrast itself; the secular state depends on and promotes religion in the private sphere. A better approach for unbelievers is to, well, simply not believe, an approach exemplified by the Christmas of Noddy Holder, mince pies, and public holidays; the nominal origin of these events in religion is irrelevant to their actual content.

All of which is to say, I hope you all have a good communist christmas.

Merry communist christmas

Happy Gay Christmas

Via Warren Ellis, I hear of the term “Goth Christmas” for Halloween. It’s also, at least here in the Bay Area, Gay Christmas. I like that there’s an, as it were, contingently gay holiday; and anyway, the American fall holidays are the best holidays: Halloween, a holiday celebrating dressing up, and Thanksgiving, a holiday celebrating eating. Anyway, for your Halloween pleasure, here’s a happy-hardcore remix of Tubular Bells.

Our other 1950s

Why the new 1950s-themed threads? Recently, I’ve been finding something strangely fascinating about the 1950s. Perhaps a picture will help explain.

Kotula\'s 1960 poster shows American road construction in the heroic style, reminiscent of socialist realism. To me, at least, this version of commercial design as a neon-inflected industrial heroic is bizarre, but also oddly inspiring. Now, the 1930s were also a time of inspiring aesthetic and political movements: but perhaps too inspiring. The inter-war years had a level of radicalism I find difficult to imagine, and so it seems to me that any left-wing enthusiasm for the 30s runs a real risk of being nostalgic in a paralyzing way. What’s so interesting about the 1950s is that many of the things that appear so radical in the 1930s—technological progress, social democracy, modernist design—reappear in the 1950s as banal. Read more↴