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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EXPANSIONS (KRIS BECKER): THE KIND OF ART MUSIC THE MARKET MIGHT ACCEPT

photoArticle by PJ Cornell.

Syndicated from the Asterisked Music Journal.

Assessment: 9.7 out of 10.

Bottom line up front: For several decades now, the culture of the so called “art music” genre, which, in most cases might more aptly be called “academic music;” the institutional heir of what is known as “classical” music, has been to shun anything which might be construed as being accessible enough to be sold to the general public. This condescending attitude toward the listener has, predictably, led to the decline of art music consumption to an amount approaching zero. Kris Becker (composer and piano virtuoso) is a refreshing exception to this trend. This release abounds with clever quartal harmonies set to jazzy rhythms, and an upbeat attitude that, while sophisticated, does not take itself so seriously as to be a burden to listen to.

Highlights: This album, while being largely consistent in style (as opposed to some of his earlier releases, which were eclectic, to say the least), expresses a very wide range of emotional content, from the pensive Elegy, to the blindingly bright and upbeat Piano Sonata #1. One thing this release is not is boring — at any point in time. The harmonic center tends to shift suddenly, with little warning, and by the time we’ve processed the occurrence, we’re on to something else. The harmonic content, in general, is stable enough to not lose the audience, yet varied, dissonant, and progressive enough to hold the attention of the listener throughout each track.

Criticisms: This album does not break new ground in any revolutionary way; it sounds a lot like some of Barber’s better works — but it certainly displays mastery of the art. Think Hindemith spruced up for the market place. This isn’t even really a criticism; you could say that creating market-acceptable art music is a massive innovation in and of itself.

Conclusion: This is a highly sophisticated and listen-able release that displays a lot of theoretical, compositional, and performance mastery, while avoiding the common pitfall of being out of touch with what people want to hear.

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.

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.

POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL MOMENTUM

526707_10151161308506608_1069795696_nArticle by Mark I Rasskazov.

Human power grows from positive resonance with the superorganism.  In a well-functioning system, intelligence, competence, and respectability are rewarded, because they increase the health and benevolence of the system as a whole.  This happens when the people in charge have an expansive sense of self which is well integrated into the system they guide (and great leadership is primarily the guidance of the led and the enabling of their success and personal power-integration).  This is the benevolence-power.  Unfortunately, all too frequently, we encounter a different situation in our institutions and organizations today — in the private world, and much more in the government organizations.  Too frequently, the super-organism has dysfunction stemming from the people at the top, and spreading inexorably to the bottom.

The reason that positive psychological momentum is so important is that it is the repository of mental positivity that makes us psychologically attractive to our fellow human beings — facilitating the human connections that make success more likely; and it feeds into our self-esteem, which increases self-confidence, without which it is impossible to exercise any conviction related to the truth as we see it — and without this, we are bound to become impotent victims of whatever current happens to carry us along; and the current of the zeitgeist today is carrying us swiftly over the edge of a rocky cliff.  If you want to be successful: be happy!

SnooksituationA dysfunctional system uplifts the ignorant, the sycophantic, and those that habitually engage in self-deception.  One cannot overestimate the importance of positive psychological momentum to the increase of personal power — and a dysfunctional system designs situations such that an intelligent, self-honest human being is kept in a constant state of self-defeating negativity, anger, and discontent.  This creates a natural advantage for those who are stupid and ignorant — and provides an incentive for the intellectually capable to adapt by engaging in constant self-deception — which, while making it easier to establish positive psychological momentum in the short term, undermines the bedrock of their character in the long-term, potentially stunting their intellectual development permanently; thus feeding back into the vortex of socio-intellectual destruction.

To overcome this, the Transegoist must relearn what our society has attempted to weed out of the human psyche: that his natural state is that of a predatory animal.  Most of the people that still have a predatory instinct are, incidentally, the same people who are the most successful in the system; the ones who are too stupid to be susceptible to the subtleties of the anti-humanist zeitgeist being brought to bear upon them in their schools, churches, and colleges.  The intelligent must rediscover their instincts — our eyes are at the front of our heads; we were designed by both God and nature to tear flesh from bone.

200px-Objectivist1Now, this is not to say that we should hunt people down, or commit acts of violence against innocents; on the contrary, we need to embrace our warrior spirits in resistance to evil.  And evil people have the instinct, not of a predator, but of a parasite.  A predator’s instinct is to weed out the weak.  A parasite’s instinct is to destroy the strong.  A healthy predator increases the viability of the superorganism.  A parasite destroys the superorganism by bringing the strong to their knees.  The parasitic and the weak have a symbiotic relationship: the parasite clears the way for the weak by destroying the strong, and the weak lend credence to the siren-call of the parasite by ineptly blundering into situations that make the arguments of the parasite seem rational.  Practically, the parasite is defeated by the strong when the strong recognizes, and hypnotically inculcates into his psyche: «I am superior to the system.»  Upon the integration of this thought into his soul — a process which takes years — the individual must proceed to think carefully about how to interact with the system.  There are three factors that must be taken under consideration:

1.  His rediscovery of his predatory soul enables him to shed false guilt inculcated into him by the parasitic educational system.  This frees his mind to reestablish positive psychological momentum.

2.  This momentum is sustained by identifying the elements of strength within the system and integrating with them.

3.  This momentum is protected by identifying when confrontation with weak people and dysfunctional superorganismal elements is either necessary, or worth the risk.

Successful implementation of this by superior individuals defeats systemic dysfunction.

It can be done.

If you are strong then exercise your will to take heart and take power.

Rise with us.

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.