WICKED WISDOM

04Article by Barbara Cornell.

Syndicated from Barbara Cornell’s personal blog.

Just checked out Jada Pinkette Smith’s death metal band, Wicked Wisdom. They ain’t fixing to take over Metallica’s market share anytime soon (too bad, really), but they’re not half bad. Even though metal is viewed as an angry, young, white man’s genre, it really is an equal opportunity crowd.

That’s not as true with other genres, which seem to be more comfortable in their own demographic. Yes, there are a few white rappers (Eminem, Vanilla Ice — if he even still counts; his most repeated lyric these days is likely, «Would you like fries with that?» and that’s really it), but mostly they’re black. Yes, there are a few old fart pop singers (Paul McCartney…um…), but mostly they’re barely post pubescent, pimplies. Try being a white blues singer or guitar player, and you’ll find yourself faced with «Who does he think he is? White man trying to be John Lee Hooker. Psht.» And try to sell pop music to the teeny-boppers, the Beliebers, if you’re old and wrinkled…good luck with that.

The metal crowd is as likely to embrace the Killswitch Engages, the Sevendusts, the Within Temptations, the AC/DC’s (I heard Angus and his school boy uniform recently celebrated their Golden Anniversary) among us, as they are the Avenged Sevenfolds, and the Five Finger Death Punches. Black, white, latino, asian, male, female, young, old, gay, straight, christian, satanist, atheist, liberal or conservative, the metal crowd just does not care. Just bring it hard, fast and intense.

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NO WAY IN NO WAY OUT (SILLS AND SMITH): ALTERNATIVE TO THE ALTERNATIVE

51omOu6uGcL._SL500_AA280_Article by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 9.0 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: Imagine yourself somewhere in Canada. There’s snow on the ground. It’s dark. It’s cold. As you walk down the ice-laden road, you see a bar nestled amidst the pines. The lights inside flicker a warm glow out onto the frozen ground below. As you approach, you hear a band playing. The music is as warm and inviting as the weather outside is cold and harsh. You step into the bar. The band’s drummer gives you a smile and a nod as you approach the bar. You order a whiskey on the rocks. The drink is cold, but sweet, and warms you as it goes down. You let the fire on the hearth, your stiff drink, and the full sound of the band wash over you until you’re relaxed from head to toe.

Highlights: The best part of this album is that it is so stylistically expansive. There’s something for everybody: metal, post-hippie jams, country, adult alternative, and good old alternative rock. This band’s sound is very thick, and the songs have good trajectory. Would it be Different is a Pink Floydesque favorite of mine. Lot’s of complex harmonies, good use of vocal technique, and amazing guitar solos. Melancholy World is another really good one; it’s a very upbeat, yet emotionally complex song with a beat that anyone can get behind, and guitar solos that make your soul ache. I Can’t Reach You is a good bluesy jam. In Pain, they demonstrate their artistic versatility by busting out a straight-up numetal anthem which is strangely consistent with the feel of the rest of the album. These Ghosts is a dreamlike song with a country feel.

Criticisms: My only real criticism is that, in some of their songs, they would do well to space out the lyrics a little more. It occasionally seems that they try to compress too many words into a short space. They would do well to use shorter poems, or else give their song a little more space to breathe. They’re choruses are usually the highlights of their songs; for example, in I’m Right Here, their verses are little too wordy, but the chorus: “I’m right heeeeeeeere, I’m right heeeeeeeere….” gives me chills every time.

Conclusion: This is an excellent album, overall. The more you listen to it, the more you like it. This album is better than their first one, a worthy effort in its own right (review pending) and I think the next one will be even better. I look forward to hearing it.

SILLS AND SMITH: TALENTED BAND AND CLASS ACT

photo2-e1363535258269Article by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

I discovered these guys on Reverbnation some time ago, and enjoyed their music. I wrote a short review of some of their songs.

A day or two ago I got the above card in the mail from them. I would just like to say that these guys are a real class act, and I look forward to continuing to track their career in the future.

Another review on their album(s) is pending.

AN UNFORTUNATE ENCOUNTER WITH OBJECTIVIST DR. DIANA HSIEH

0Article by Mark I Rasskazov, editor in chief.

UPDATE (2347 26 MARCH 2013): I offered the olive branch to Dr. Hsieh, but it seems we have irreconcilable differences.  Such is life.  We all live in glass houses.  Those who throw stones at mine tend to find it’s made of thicker glass than most.

TENTATIVE RETRACTION (1717 15 MARCH 2013): Dr. Hsieh has explained her response, and it seems reasonable, so my comments about her character may be false.  Also, her lack of comments may be more a function of the fact that her attention is taken elsewhere, than a reflection on her personality.  My comments about her career; some scholars pursue academics; others pursue activism.  Perhaps she is the latter.  My comments about the nature of Objectivism, I stand by; I’ve read most of the main items written by Ayn Rand, and have given them a lot of thought.  My comments about Rand’s personality, I stand by; I’ve met a lot of elderly Russian women, and based on video clips, her writing style, and accounts about her behavior, I would say that she was very much a Russian woman of her time and place in many ways.

NOTE: This is a tough love piece.  I am not down on Objectivists in general like so many out there are.  If there are Objectivists reading this, please have the intellectual courage to read it in its entirety and judge it objectively.

Dr. Diana Hsieh is one of the top figures within the current Objectivist movement.  My perception is that there’s Dr. Leonard Peikoff, Dr. Yaron Brooke, and Dr. Diana Hsieh — in that order.  She’s pretty high up on the Objectivist totem pole.

Now, I like Objectivism as a philosophy.  I don’t agree with it 100% — but I would say that I do agree with it about 90%.  Their politics are usually on point.  Their ethics are usually very close to the truth (if a little narrow, at times).  Their epistemological system is nearly flawless — although I have not encountered any Objectivist writings on cognitive philosophy.  The fundamentals of their metaphysics are sound (things are what they are), with the exception that they don’t seem to have a satisfactory answer to the mind-dualism problem.  Their Aesthetic is like a shot-gun blast — not very subtle, and not very accurate, but it gets the job done (their conclusions are on the right track, although they need to take a closer look at their premises in this field).

All of that having been said, I did encounter Dr. Hsieh online, and I am sorry to say it did not go well.

Now, Dr. Hsieh has a radio show podcast, and she has a blog.  I visited her blog, «Noodlefood.»  What I find interesting is that, whereas she is very prominent in the world of Objectivism, and whereas her blog has over 6,000 posts, intellectual interactions on her site are very sparse.  I commented on her second most recent blog post.  There are 8 posts between that one and the next one with any comments (2 comments — one of them hers — on that one; followed by two more posts with empty comment sections).  Now, the value of a blog’s content is not necessarily measured in the number of comments it generates, however, if a blog has been around as long and as prolifically as that one has, one would expect a little more interest in the content.

To give you an idea, this WordPress powered online newspaper and philosophy forum (the TDJ, that is), which has been around for about month gets comments almost every post, now; sometimes 6-7 comments per post.  Compared to Dr. Hsieh, I am a nobody.  How am I able to generate so much more interest in my writings than she is?

That’s not the only thing.

On her blog, she’s always asking for handouts; «tip your philosopher,» etc., whereas, I don’t see any advertising on her site.  Now, I am not, in principle, opposed to asking for donations, but I would expect a proponent of Capitalism to be just a little more savvy.  Why would she ask for donations?  She’s a prominent Objectivist.  It’s embarrassing!  How about providing a product for peoples’ money instead of trying to guilt them into donations?  WWJGD (What Would John Galt Do)?  I’m betting he’d sell t-shirts, coffee mugs, and books, and get sponsors — not grovel and guilt-trip for donations.  Jussayin.

Now, here is how she describes herself on her site:

«Dr. Diana Hsieh is a philosopher specializing in practical ethics. She received her Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. Her dissertation argued that Thomas Nagel’s «problem of moral luck» can be resolved by an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility. She began podcasting in 2009, then webcasting in 2010. She switched to internet radio in 2012.

Diana blogs at NoodleFood and podcasts at NoodleCast. Her other active projects include Explore Atlas Shrugged, Modern Paleo, and OList.com. She also contributes to Front Range Objectivism, the Coalition for Secular Government, and Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine. Diana lives with her husband Paul Hsieh and a small menagerie of beasts in Sedalia, Colorado.»

No books?  No teaching career?  Her major accomplishment as a philosopher is a dissertation about another philosopher’s work?  Kinda thin resume, considering her status in the Objectivist world.

This is Dr. Diana Hsieh.  Now, all of this having been said, I don’t judge someone on the basis of tokens of accomplishment — the substance of one’s work matters far more than the generation of tokens of accomplishment, and I did not make any premature judgments about this person prior to talking to her — in fact, I was hoping to establish a friendly, collegial relationship with her — I do not ascribe to the philosophy of Objectivism, but I do have a lot of respect for it.  I am an «Objectivist sympathizer,»  As Dr. Peikoff has put it, in the past.  However, while I approached her with an open mind, hoping for a meeting of the minds, I say all of this to point out that an accomplished thinker will usually have more to show for himself/herself than what has been described above.

The exchange that took place between us can be seen here, and is republished below:

Rasskazivats (me): Huh!  I published an article by Barbara Cornell about a «regretful parent» myself, recently: [http://transegoism.us/snake-mom].  Cheers!

Diana Hsieh: Playing (annoying) music automatically on opening a web page?!? AUGH. I can’t imagine any better way to drive people away from a web site.

NOTE: It is in poor taste to address someone you’ve never even spoke to before, and who is approaching you in a friendly, professional manner in this way.  However, rather express offense at this, I chose to remain friendly and professional by providing her with an alternate means of reading my content, without having to endure the «annoying» music on my site.

Rasskazivats: Here’s my RSS feed: [http://transegoism.us/feed/].

Dr. Hsieh has not condescended to resume our conversation.  The only thing I can figure is that she is offended that I did not immediately apologize to her for not running my site in such a way that she finds tasteful, and immediately complying with her tastes.  Now, that music was created by a good friend of mine.  I enjoy it.  I’ve received compliments elsewhere about it.  Beyond that, if it really were in bad taste to have music playing automatically, there’s a right way and a wrong way to bring that up.  Insulting me at a first encounter when I am projecting a friendly demeanor, is the wrong way.  I didn’t ask her what she thought about my site, yet I did provide her with a music-free alternative — and for the record, my month old site seems to be doing substantially better than hers.  With a personality as charming as her’s I can’t imagine why.

NOTE: A passage from The Fountainhead comes to mind; when Peter Keating asks Howard Roark for advice on his work, Roark, at first, balks, and says something to the effect of «Why would you even ask for my advice?»  Dr. Hsieh, with respect, I did not ask for your advice.

Which brings me to another point — Ayn Rand was a brilliant philosopher, but a flawed person.  Her main fault (so far as I can tell from reading about her) was that she was an extremely abrasive person.  Now, people seem to think that her abrasiveness is somehow a necessary function of her philosophy.  Her personality surely influenced the presentation of her work, although I think it has little to do with the content.  What most people don’t understand is that abrasiveness is a personality trait that is very common among Russian women — particularly women of her age (women who survived one or both of the world wars, and/or the Russian civil war).  People view her personality as being an integral aspect of her beliefs, whereas it has more to do with the Russian culture (which is not at all Objectivist, by and large) than with the belief system she created.  Yet, unfortunately, she managed to impress the worst aspects of her personality upon everyone who was associated with her — to a lesser or greater extent.

Dr. Hsieh, I find it to be a sign of weakness that you have failed to develop your own personality and have adopted the worst aspects of Rand’s character.

I am disappointed.

TDJ SING-ALONG: MAMA ECONOMY — THE ECONOMY EXPLAINED (TAYZONDAY AND LINDSEYSTOMP)

Editorial by Mark I Rasskazov.

This song is part of a series, which I periodically update (when I feel like it), which I call the «TDJ SING-ALONG;» a series of commentaries about songs I find appealing, and which help me illustrate the Transegoist ideology.  Sing along if you know the words!

This particular installment was brought to my attention by PJ Cornell (contributor; writes music reviews on this site), who was made aware of it by one Christopher Sperandio; Transegoist sympathizer and enigmatic New York socialite.  It is a delightful, Barenaked Ladiesesque little tune with some incredibly brilliant, insightful, and densely informative lyrics.

Tay-Zonday-Mama-Economy

TAYZONDAY & LINDSEYSTOMP — MAMA ECONOMY: THE ECONOMY EXPLAINED

Are you confused about the US economy?  Well have no fear!  I’m going to explain the American economy right now:

The dollar: just think of it like a promise from the government;
But the value of the dollar has to be there to be relevant.
The value of the dollar comes from China and Iran (!)
When they put their cash reserves in a U.S. dollar plan;

(Yep!  China and Iran.  How ’bout that?)

They buy treasury bonds from the Federal Reserve.
We say “we owe you extra money ’cause you gave us some of yours.”
And that’s a big part of the National Debt:
All the interest that we haven’t paid to China quite yet;

(Consider: how are we to ever pay off interest on «loans» that are taken out on the US Dollar itself?!  This is a scam.  It’s self-perpetuating debt.)

And a hundred other countries ’cause we’re such a good investment
The whole world gives us money; we say “Hey we’ll pay you interest!”
This is how money is created from air: bank bailouts, federal budgets;
Money isn’t really there!

(We’re suckers — and, ultimately, so is anyone who invests in the dollar.  The banking cartels are scamming the entire world.)

It’s an I.O.U., remember dollars are a promise; when you borrow from a bank,
It’s not from other depositors; the money for your loan gets created on the spot.
Then they put it in your name,
Gamble on your life and body.

(I’m roulette number 23/Red.  You?)

But if you lose your job then you were a bad bet.
(Whoops!)
If a million lose their jobs, then we have a recession
(Hello?)
Here’s the dirty secret: your labor’s too expensive!
(Compared to the Chinese?  You bet!!)
Wall Street wants you spending money but they never want to pay you.
(Redistribution, anyone?!)

In your life cash and credit: they are very different things.
(Usually you use one or the other, I’ve noticed.)
But your credit’s someone else’s cash once it leaves your name.
(I will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today.)
This is why money is debt, and your debt is good for Wall Street prosperity,
(Gravy, baby!)
And economic growth since the 1970s Is consumers getting credit without wages increasing.
(If you really want to get your mind boggled, look at how much these banks can lend out per dollar in cash reserves.)

So when they talk about the housing crisis they never say we need to lower housing prices;
We need better devices to afford high prices;
(Wait a sec…how did the stock market crash to begin with, again?)
Meaning higher debt — lower interest; ’cause you’re underpaid to begin with.
(Don’t worry; keep borrowing!)
That’s the cycle we’re in; we don’t understand, so all we can do is question:
(One would hope.)

Mama economy make me understand
All the numbers why Daddy’s on a welfare plan?
Turnin’ thirty, forty, fifty — gotta move in with my parents,
And the stocks go up, but the jobs disappear.

Because wages barely grew for 40 years: when you buy stuff,
They delay the cost of ownership
.
You can’t afford it, so they make it to depend
On endless small transactions which is more like renting.  

(What does your life lease for?)

You pay more for printer ink than you do for gold,
(Get refillable cartridges or pay out the @$$.)
And more for bottled water than you do for oil.
(Get a ProPur — it’s better for you than bottled water, anyway.)
Razor blades are made to oxidate, (!)
So you’re forever in debt to them just to shave.
(Whatever happened to straight razors?)

It’s a type of socialism called «market socialism.»
(Calling it like it is!)
The best designed product meets a need and doesn’t last.
(«Best» is a point of view, really.)
We subsidize waste with landfills and holidays like Earth Day,
Teachin’ kids: «recycle please.»

(Oh, the irony.)

Kids won’t learn in school we live one worldview;
(YOU VIL ZINK VAT VE ZAY!)
 Neoliberal economics in all of our politics.
(Neoliberalism!  Like Classical Liberalism, except, um, not at all like Classical Liberalism…It’s new and improved!!)
They don’t ask why corporations are human citizens,
(In point of fact, I don’t remember that coming up in class at all.  Do you?)
Or why grandma pays more taxes ’cause she lacks stock dividends.
(Granny’s gonna have to take one for the team.  And by «team,» I mean Mr. Rockefeller.)

Or why private bankers print the public money, (!!)
Or why democracy is broken: ‘cause their leaders won’t be cutting
Loopholes or subsidies for constituent industries,
(Constituent industries.  Geezus.)
Putting legislative bodies in a deep freeze.
(Fire your congressman; he doesn’t work for you.)

So the Ph.Ds and the G.E.D.s cry with Ayn Rand down at the temp agency,
Sayin’ “We believed in meritocracy, but there’s more to the story – someone answer me!»

Ingenious couple of lines, here at the end.  He invokes Ayn Rand.  If you don’t know who that is, you need to figure it out immediately (click the link attached to the name to get started).  She is the most controversial figure in the history of philosophy, and the controversy has no sign of doing anything other than getting more intense.  The thing is, she has been the most compelling proponent of Free Market Capitalism in the history of the world, clarifying it’s ethical aspects much further than any philosopher before her — and she integrated it into her comprehensive philosophy, called «Objectivism.»

Here’s the thing: her detractors (and many of her more ignorant supporters) associate her with the current US economic system, and commit a genetic fallacy, lumping her ideas with the multitude of injustices built into our economic system, whereas, if you read her book, Capitalism the Unknown Ideal, she, along with some other Objectivist authors (including, at the time, Alan Greenspan — no longer an Objectivist in good standing) more or less jumped up and down with their hair on fire about the dangers of the private fiat system that, she, even then, was able to see would destroy private wealth in America.

Consider the gall of the anti-free market crowd who have helped set up the market-socialist system, and then blame it on Ayn Rand when things go sour.  Incredible.

Ayn Rand crying at the Temp Agency.  Simply brilliant.

Wake up and understand that you are living in a system designed to destroy your wealth so that you become dependent on the government.

FLAVAROOM: THE CROATIAN TIGRESS

425455_397317286951594_1707773970_nMusic review by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 9.5 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: I love a good blues band. This is an exceptional blues-fusion band. The harmonic language is complex. The rhythm section is delightfully sophisticated. The vocals and solos are assertive, powerful, polished — rhythmically and harmonically complex, yet perfectly accessible and expressive. The feel is aggressively beautiful and dripping with class.

Highlights: These songs are subtly chromatic, and the harmonic textures are surprisingly varied, yet cogent — perfectly integrated with the rhythmic language. The vocalist is a virtuoso. These people are pros. I challenge you to try to listen to their songs and not get up and dance. I predict you will fail. Their hooks are beyond excellent. Their melodies tend to transition suddenly and seamlessly from being notey and dense to being smooth, simple, and plaintive. Their songs are complex while sounding simple, and the performance is flawless. Their best song, in my opinion, is Walking Down the Stream. Opens with a classic hook in the rhythm guitar, complemented with a sparse, laconic piano hook and warm bass hook. The genius of the melody is that it is assertively on beat — but sounds off beat against the jungle of hooks below it.

Criticisms: The only criticism I have of these guys, is that their sound builds on top of paths that have been explored before. I cannot think of any band that does it better, but they aren’t the first to do it. Don’t let that cause you to overlook them, though. This is some of the best blues I’ve heard in quite a while.

Conclusion: Amazing band with a gorgeous, complex sound. Listening to them is like eating Godiva in a hot tub. Utterly indulgent.