Friday, September 28, 2012

Wilco trivia - maybe Zach already knew this stuff but I just read it

What follows is an email I wrote to my friend Christina and then decided I should publish to a slightly wider audience because I spent something like an hour on it:

Here's the trivia:
The line "take the guitar player for a ride" and the rest of that verse on Being There was written by Peter Laughner, who was a Bob Dylan/Lou Reed-type guy who excessed himself to death (drink and drugs) really young. It shows up in this song

This isn't really trivia, but Being There is kind of a meta-album. The main theme of the album is the relationship between an artist and a listener, which is similar to writing books that work through (or comment on) the relationship between an author and a reader.

From Wikipedia:
During the two hundred-date tour supporting A.M., Tweedy began to write songs for a second album [Being There]. The lyrical theme of the songs reflected a relationship between musical artist and a listener; Tweedy chose this topic because he sought to eschew the alternative country fan base. Ken Coomer elaborated:[18]
The whole No Depression thing was funny to us because people seemed to forget that Jeff was a bigger punk-rock fan than a country fan. It led to things like us all switching instruments on "Misunderstood," where I'm playing guitar.
A number of songs were recorded with this theme, including "Sunken Treasure" and "Hotel Arizona",[19] however, Wilco also recorded a number of songs in the style of A.M.[20]Wilco named the album Being There after a Peter Sellers film of the same name.

For Being There, Tweedy wanted to blend the experiences he had making music with the ones he had listening to music. One of the first songs that Tweedy wrote was "Misunderstood", a song about a tortured musical artist from the point of view of a fan. The song contains several overt references to the breakup of Uncle Tupelo, including the addition of insults that Farrar used against Tweedy—specifically one calling him a "mama's boy". The song concludes with the artist lashing out against the listener with satirical self-pity, a rebellion against the way that fans saw Uncle Tupelo as only an archetype of Gram Parsons inspired country rock.

From me:
That Being There is a meta-album is not something anyone told me, yet, after reading the descriptions of it, it seems completely accurate to say that that's what's going on. I don't doubt that someone else has put this stuff together, but I don't see why none of the reviews or rock criticism I've read have mentioned it (Robert Christgau sort of vaguely commented on its "insularity," which I suppose is hinting at what I'm pointing at). 
I guess part of me understands that clinging to certain albums is the role of the fan and not the critic (although critics most certainly do it, and that's part of why the "Top 10"-type lists seem to stay so consistent over time), but the way I keep seeing things like this come together is part of why a band like Wilco matters to me in a way that's more than entertainment.
You can't find a happy
picture of this guy anwhere
What's uncanny (and I really would like to talk to Jeff Tweedy about this (HA!)) is that in Heidegger's phenomenology (I know, I know. Sorry.) "being there" is the literal translation of the German word dasein, which typically gets capitalized in writing about phenomenology, and is Heidegger's way of describing people. You could say that in phenomenology, a person is a "being-there." This gets into some heavy stuff about how to be human requires not just being, but, being-in-the-world. (At least according to Heidegger and philosophers who agree with him) Hopefully that makes sense, but the implications of that idea are vast and understanding how it contradicts things said by Descartes (and others) is a pretty cool topic.

(By the way, you should read, or read a summary of, Being and Time or something like that. I imagine this would be a good place to start, but I haven't actually read it.) Heidegger is one of the founders of postmodern philosophy. 

When I took a class on Heidegger, over and over I thought about how Being There and Being and Time might relate, and I thought Tweedy must have read Heidegger or talked to people about him or something. So far, it looks like I was wrong, but the alignment seems like more than coincidence.
I'm going to put this on my blog now.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Philosophy ain't no joke.

Just found this draft of a blog post that I never followed through with:

I just figured I'd whine about/show off the type of questions I have to answer on the exam I'm taking for a BYU Independent Study course tomorrow.
Q: What exactly did Gödel prove?
A: Gödel proved that no consistent axiom system for arithmetic can be complete and that no proof of the consistency of an axiom system for arithmetic can be constructed within that system.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

inconsequential post #1

One thing that bothers me a little is how the word conscientious looks totally different than how it sounds. Probably because I don't like how it sounds. The ch sound is so ugly and chunky sometimes. The reason I'm blogging this is because I couldn't fit the idea on Twitter.
This kid is doing math, but it's the same feeling I think you would have trying to learn English .  If you're frustrated, the side of an elevator is just as good a place to put your head as the chalkboard. And almost as public.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Assessing the influence of the King James Bible

The King James translation of the Bible will see it's 400th anniversary this year. An article I read on the Oxford English Dictionary's website discusses the influence of the translation. I think an important clarification to make is that assessing the influence of the King James Bible is very different from assessing the influence of the Bible as a whole. The article mentions this, but I think it could be missed, especially by anyone who just skims the piece.

"Compare this with other translations through which we can trace earlier, and greater, contributions to the development of English: for example, the 1400 OEDentries that cite the Wycliffite Bible as first evidence (a1382); the 200 entries from both the Coverdale Bible (1535) and later Wycliffite version (c.1425) respectively; and the 128 entries derived from Tyndale's version. If we expand the terms of reference to include first recorded senses (i.e. new meanings of existing words), the contribution of the KJB, as recorded in the OED Online, increases to over 300, including bushy (of hair), to cut short (a speaker), muddy (of thought), and lost sheep to describe someone who strays from an expected course. But once again, this falls short of first recorded senses citing earlier translations—nearly 4000 for the fourteenth-century Wycliffite, close to 1000 for the Coverdale, and more than 400 for Tyndale’s Bible. (Figures for the KJB would, of course, be still lower if ongoing revision were to discover earlier citations.)
These small totals mean that we should not exaggerate the influence of the KJB on English. It's true to say, as several commentators do, that no other literary source has matched the 1611 edition for the number of influential idioms that it contains; but it isn't true to say that the King James originated all of them. Rather, what it did was popularize them. It gave the idioms a widespread public presence through the work being 'appointed to be read in Churches'. The work was never 'authorized' (despite its popular name) in any legal sense, but no other translation reached so many people over so long a period as the King James version."

Read the whole thing here

Thursday, August 5, 2010

LDS Church statement on Proposition 8

  The Church issued the following statement today in response to the ruling by Judge Vaughn R. Walker of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Perry et al v. Schwarzenegger et al:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints regrets today’s decision.  California voters have twice been given the opportunity to vote on the definition of marriage in their state and both times have determined that marriage should be recognized as only between a man and a woman. We agree.  Marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of society.  
“We recognize that this decision represents only the opening of a vigorous debate in the courts over the rights of the people to define and protect this most fundamental institution—marriage.
“There is no doubt that today’s ruling will add to the marriage debate in this country, and we urge people on all sides of this issue to act in a spirit of mutual respect and civility toward those with a different opinion.”

Monday, August 2, 2010

fish that don't notice the water

This morning, an interesting study came upon the BYU home page that links relationships to survival rates. There's a short summary of it here

Here's a quote from that same story:
"'We take relationships for granted as humans – we’re like fish that don’t notice the water,' Smith said. 'That constant interaction is not only beneficial psychologically but directly to our physical health.'"

I feel like this study validates a lot of the things I've been thinking about lately. I keep noticing things that suggest pretty strongly to me that in many ways we really live for each other, whether or not we are aware of it.

Here is a quote from a commencement speech by David Foster Wallace:

"There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, 'Morning, boys, how's the water?' And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, 'What the hell is water?'"

The interesting thing about this seemingly coincidental link is that the speech Wallace gave is on a topic very similar to that of the study. The theme might be stated as something like: how people choose to relate to other people. The topic is a big part of the reason why Wallace's writing interested me so much in the first place ( As I take it, his work is in some ways a reaction to the "postmodern" literary problem of becoming totally self-centered, perhaps to the point of solipsism (Oxford English Dictionary "solipsism: The view or theory that self is the only object of real knowledge or the only thing really existent.")

Wallace described solipsism as an extremely sad philosophy.

The nice thing about blogs is that I don't have to link all of these thoughts together in a completely coherent way. I can make all sorts of wild, unsupported statements and just let my intuition do the publishing. Maybe someone else will do the research. Maybe I'll even hear about it.

So, here's some more to think about. My dad is getting older. He turned 50 pretty recently, and I've noticed how he has become more concerned with preserving his health.We've had a few conversations on this subject, and he believes pretty strongly that dementia and a whole load of other mental issues that are becoming more common in old age are linked to the lack of psychological demands made on people who are disconnected from the people around them. Divorce continues to be extremely common, and many people don't have good relationships with their children. These two issues alone often cut people off from what were traditionally the most important things in life, and I don't think Facebook will make up for them.

Could it be that as a society our intense focus on what is for me and what is mine will actually be a major contributor to losing our grasp on the real world when old age hits? It wouldn't surprise me, and a lot remains to be said about what results from the breakdown of relationships in economic, political, and other important areas of study.