Happy Leap Day — and my brain is toast

Something later tonight, likely enough — and there’s more to say about all sorts of things! But right now I’m mostly looking towards a relaxed weekend, and really, I mostly feel like this guy:

My brain is full

Why William F. Buckley died (thanks to Bill Hobbs)

Balloon Juice, among other sites, has been having fun with this, so credit to them — this is more of a redaction. But think of it as one-stop shopping.

A few days ago, I started a post this way:

There’s a famous definition of conservatism courtesy of one William Buckley, who I am still convinced looks at everything that’s come afterwards and asked himself where he screwed up (and well he should).

His passing, therefore, makes a clear sense in terms of his desiring to depart this life to avoid seeing what further strangenesses were afoot, and it should be honored appropriately.

Now, it’s worth noting, as has been the case since his death, that the reason why Buckley intrigued any number of left-leaning commentators was all the erudition and involved vocabulary and air of genteel patrician regard. If, as Alfred suggested over ILX, Buckley was one of those people at any point on the political divide fascinated by (and making excuses for) power as willfully exercised, then in turn others were fascinated by (and making excuses for) Buckley and his own power, such as it was. Even when he was saying ugly things, he dressed them up very well, and at least admitted that some conclusions of his were the wrong ones to draw — giving a little to hold on to a lot, though, even while his preferred audience said he was a coward. One imagines, however, that he well used the advantages of his birth and standing in society well to enjoy it to the full, and did, even if he had to sail to international waters to smoke some marijuana — a certain, if conditional, zest for life.

Bill Hobbs, sadly, lacks that joie de vivre.

Mr. Hobbs had some things to say, and he doesn’t only say them on his blog — he’s got a whole political party to work with, or at least the Tennessee GOP, as can be seen in this press release from a few days ago which he happened to author. Starting out such a release with the bold words ‘ANTI-SEMITES FOR OBAMA’ might be seen as inflammatory, but such is the nature of political work (one could equally draw up a post reading ‘ANTI-SPELLERS AGAINST OBAMA,’ say, but there might not be as much traction).

Now, Mr. Hobbs has since let it be known that he was rather annoyed by the fact that people, perhaps including one John McCain, seemed to think that his use of Obama’s middle name was out of line, instead urging them to please think of the issues. Noble, but woundedly aggrieved — appropriate enough for a disciple of Buckley, as we can see from Hobbs’s post immediately prior to the one on the middle name. Fight the good fight and all that.

Yet, strangely, something else happened soon thereafter. See, Josh Marshall over at TalkingPointsMemo, perhaps inspired by the nobility of the likes of Hobbs — but there’s a lot of it to go about — posted a little something which he had to then follow up with an edit: “A distressingly large number of readers weren’t clear that this post was satire.” Well, who can blame his audience for being confused — these are strange times after all, and biting humor, sadly, seems often to hide out while quirk predominates (but this is a post for another time).

One of his readers, though, was Mr. Hobbs, who posted a link to Marshall’s story in his own brief post. His error was the object of sport at Balloon Juice and doubtless elsewhere. Hobbs, feeling further annoyed by being the object of complaints — it must be said, some of his words are rather intemperate — could perhaps have been forgiven if his own sense of humor, sadly, had been dulled by the great work he’s engaging on for the good of us all, though it’s unclear what that is besides complaining about people who are not home-schooled, gun-carrying Republicans. No matter, we each have our preferences.

A curious thing was noted, however — a variety of people, including this author, decided to point out, each in our fashion, doubtless, that the post regarding Marshall’s satiric post was perhaps inaccurate. My own words were a brief ‘Never change. Really.’ This advice, however, has been imperfectly followed, though I thank him for following it. You see, the link I provided above, you’ll note, still works — at least for now. But if you go to the main feed on Hobbs’s page, you’ll see that the story isn’t there at all.


Politburo Diktat discusses this in more detail
, as well as thoughtfully providing a screencap of the post, in case, through some mistake or error, it disappears entirely. It does lead one to sadly reflect on the ineluctable regression on this part of the conservative commentariat, though, to engage in what is, after all, a somewhat curious, perhaps even childish step. It would have been perfectly acceptable — understandable — had the post remained as it was in the general feed, along with a brief, updated note regarding how he had since learned he was in error regarding Marshall’s intent, and fallen victim to a jape. He might have expressed his own dissatisfaction with said jape, to be sure, but by acknowledging it, he could have demonstrated an admirable realization that one is not always accurate in initial conclusions, as well as indicating that, yes, there is a value in comprehending making oneself the object of laughter, as possession of a sense of humor that is self-directed enables the writer and thinker to learn not to elevate one’s airs too much, even in the most passionate of moments and times.

Instead, regrettably, Mr. Hobbs chooses to pretend his lapse of judgment never happened — though somewhat imperfectly, as noted. A piteous state of affairs.

It is noteworthy, then, that William F. Buckley died shortly before this incident was called to general attention. I imagine the scenario was this — Mr. Buckley was working at his desk, considering issues ranging from the best sailing conditions in the Pacific Ocean to whether or not Whittaker really had used the best possible disdain for Ayn Rand all those years ago. Then, a vision! St. Peter came to him with a gentle smile and acknowledged that, yes, his time was nigh. Overwhelmed but not entirely surprised, Mr. Buckley thanked the good archangel kindly, but asked if he could not stay a little while longer, to see how this year’s political season worked itself out — he had seen so many before, surely one more could be acceptable.

St. Peter sighed and shook his head kindly. “No, I am sorry, sir. For you see, you have realized long ago that many of the people who have followed in your footsteps are coarse, having taken your own flaws and that of your beliefs and worsened them with their own paranoia and pre-ordained conclusions. You understand this?”

Buckley nodded briefly. “It is something I’ve long since realized is an unacceptable state of affairs, but even the magazine I founded seems only to wallow in stupidities now. And yet, surely the grand tasks are still to be pursued?”

“Ah,” said St. Peter, “there is something even worse about many of your followers. See here, in what is to happen tomorrow regarding one Bill Hobbs in Tennessee.” And he kindly showed Buckley a brief glimpse of the future.

“Oh dear,” said Buckley. “He cannot even laugh at himself?”

“I am afraid,” responded the saint, checking his watch as he did so, “that he lacks that capacity. He appears to be a dullard — and would likely be even more of a dullard if he tried to defend himself, so let us hope he does not. The mangling of the language would be saddening. Now, we must go — and you see why you should as well.”

Buckley shrugged his shoulders gently and prepared to depart, letting his body rest as he hoped it would be found. But then a last thought overcame him: “Does this not mean that Gore Vidal has the last laugh?”

“Oh, for now, certainly,” chuckled the saint. “But fear not, you will yet see him again when the time comes.”

“What! Gore Vidal will be in heaven?”

“You’ll find many surprises. Come, we must not dally — Mr. Wilde is giving a speech tonight, followed by a series of duets between Mr. Mercury and Mr. Nomi.”

[UPDATE: Mr. Hobbs has had some further problems sent his way. But fear not, his elan remains intact:

Hobbs said Thursday that the party will no longer use Obama's middle name in news releases.

"We're not going to be using the middle name now, because apparently, it's become a distraction," he said. "But I would note, not too long ago, I saw a wire story out of the Middle East that talked about how a lot of people there are hungry for Obama to win and, in part, because his middle name gives him a connection, and that story used his middle name, so we're not the first people to notice and use his middle name."

He seems to have spoken not a word on his blog so far about this, allowing therefore the mass media to speak for him, which perhaps distresses a noble writer like himself. Doubtless his pearls of wisdom there will be forthcoming.]

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Baked acorn squash with mustard and honey

Nice…very nice.

3 acorn squash, about 1 1/2 pounds each, stems cut off
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Set the squash on its side and, with a large knife, cut in half vertically.

Trim a piece off the bottom of each squash half so they will lie flat in the pan. Scrape out the seeds and stringy membranes with a large spoon. Place cavity side up in a large roasting pan.

Mix the butter, mustard, and honey in a small bowl until blended. Fill each squash cavity with 2 tablespoons of the butter mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until the squash is very tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

And now, for everyone’s enjoyment, how I feel right now

I envy that cat

Beautiful day out. That’s probably why I just want to take a nap in the shade right about this second.

To watch a debate be, or not watch, etc.

Was in a slightly sharp mood this morning over here on ILX regarding the question of needing to watch last night’s debate between Obama and Clinton — which, like all the other debates, and like pretty much every high level debate since 1992 I haven’t watched at all, quite honestly. In the brief give-and-take there were some good responses from all sides, but the best, from Dimension 5ive, more clearly summed up the source of my unease than I could:

I think a better argument to be made is that DEBATING HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE JOB OF BEING PRESIDENT. Televised persona is infinitely more important to the “job” of being president than any kind of spirited mediated arguing and nitpicking.

This distinction strikes me as sound. In that television and tools of mass communication exist and are going to be used, that there needs to be a televised persona — or a media persona if you prefer — is obvious, and ever since the Kennedy/Nixon debates (or perhaps more accurately the perceived impact of those debates upon watchers, as compared to simply listeners), much time and care has been spent on that persona by every high-profile candidate, ranging from the massively successful to the crash-and-burn. That I’m not a TV watcher much is just who I am at present, and I make no apology at all for that, but it’d be foolish of me to deny the place of this persona in the process, perhaps even more especially in the era of YouTube — as I was reminded elsewhere the other day, this will be the first presidential election where YouTube and similar sites will have a core role, and it’s precisely because we won’t know that impact of it yet that we’re all waiting to see what exactly will happen.

So with this being the case, why my general uninterest in debates for all these years? Part of it can be ascribed my general preferences — being registered without a party, there’s been little chance for me to vote directly in party primaries, while in general terms I’ve yet to meet the GOP candidate who I’ve wanted to vote for based on the party’s general platform (most especially thanks to the continued kowtowing to the religious right, even if more in word than in deed) — a debate’s not going to clear that up any further, though it’ll be interesting to see just how far McCain leverages the ‘maverick’ image to his personal advantage, as opposed to his party’s.

Another part of my uninterest, as I mentioned on the thread linked, is that there’s any number of ways one can get a sense of a candidate’s position — in much more detail — than a debate performance, but one can even get that aspect via a debate transcript if one likes. Quite obviously for many people it is helpful and convenient, but it’s not like watching a debate is the only way to find out what a candidate thinks and does, or how they react to charges and differences across the political aisle, or on the same side of it.

And part of it is something I’ve already referenced — it’s a performance, it’s not necessarily reflective at all of how a candidate will actually act in any given situation. The theater around the debates — a clash of ideologies in the general debates, a potential narcissism of small differences in the primaries — obscures everything that goes on in terms of actual decisions, negotiations, discussions internal and external to the candidate’s pool of advisers and resources. How we see a candidate answering a question under klieg lights to a nationwide audience in the millions with a potentially angry opponent two feet away — especially if it’s a question that may be utterly irrelevant to what a president actually does (thus in part D5′s note about part of the inflated mystique of the debates being that they are ‘mediated’ — seems like the person most everyone hated in this debate was Tim Russert) is not the same as considering the actions of that candidate, now president, up late at a conference table with five or six close associates facing a tough legislative situation, discussing the best possible new justice for the Supreme Court or responding to a national emergency. That the mass voting audience hopes one reflects the other is understandable, but they are still not the same.

Deej, in his positive comment about the debates, rightly notes this: “i really enjoy watching these tho i have no illusions about ‘what they mean’ or whether they in some way impact the person’s ability to be a president.” A perfectly sensible conclusion! And others speak about how in comparison to recent years they sense much more of an elevated level of discussion this year, which is also good to hear. Still, to me it’s all a distraction that I’m not all that interested in, and if I rubbed feathers the wrong way by openly kvetching about it, my apologies, though I don’t think my take — especially after this endless campaign season — is all that surprising!

If, as is likely but hardly yet set in stone, Obama rolls to a commanding enough win in Ohio and Texas next week to put the idea of a brokered convention to bed, then one of the side benefits is that we’re not going to see any other mass level debate until late September or early October. A lot can happen in that time, and in fact one interesting thing that *will* likely happen is that there will be running debates as such on the Senate floor — laws are there to be introduced, debated and voted on, and all the candidates currently serve their states there, whatever higher prize they might be aiming at. These debates aren’t going to be moderated by TV hosts, will have their own set of rules, will actually be part of the process of the government as opposed to hypotheticals or speculation. I’d almost say we’d all want to keep an eye on those more in the meantime — if, or as, they happen. We’ll all yet see.

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Dream magazine issue eight is out (and I’ve got a story in it)

Just passing on the word from George Parsons, Dream’s editor, who made the announcement tonight — my piece is an interview with the great guitarist (and great guy) Ilyas Ahmed, done last spring in the run-up to the Bottling Smoke festival. The issue includes a CD with a piece of his on it, for further goodness.

George’s announcement follows, including ordering information:

The eighth issue of Dream Magazine is finally here.

Issue eight has longtime contributor Mats Gustafsson (late of The
Broken Face) doing his inimitable interviewing journalistic thing on
Los Angeles brotherly duo Antique Brothers, and New Zealand’s
singular Rory Storm. Ned Raggett talked to guitar genius Ilyas Ahmed.
Steve Sawada interviewed Portland, Oregon’s Plants. Brian Faulkner
talked to Tom and Christina of the Charalambides, Mark Dagley chatted
with Natalie Rose LeBrecht aka Greenpot Bluepot. I interviewed: The
very wonderful Damon & Naomi, tripped-out vocal adventurer Dredd
Foole, great guitarist Sir Richard Bishop of the late lamented Sun
City Girls, legendary Japanese guitarist Michio Kurihara with
translation by Alan Cummings, the deeply beguiling husband and wife
acid folk duo Arborea, American singer songwriter Stephen Yerkey of
the late great Nonfiction, Argentinian sonic explorer Anla Courtis
late of Reynols, the great Swedish psychedelic band The Spacious
Mind, the unique and brilliant British composer and vocalist Johnny
Parry, I talked to Myc James lead vocalist of Nevada City band of
yore Absalom, psychedelic home-recording Brit madman Reefus Moons,
singer songwriter Lys Guillorn, ambient masters Stars of the Lid,
Sacramento Valley’s own psych-pop wizard Anton Barbeau, and the truly
wonderful The Handsome Family. We also feature artwork by the
stalwart Peter Blegvad, the charming Andrew Goldfarb, and myself.

We recieved exceptional pieces for this issue’s complimentary CD
from: Arborea, Rory Storm, Anton Barbeau, the Slow Poisoner, Natalie
Rose LeBrecht, Rory Storm, Lys Guillorn, Reefus Moons, Absalom, Anla
Courtis, Antique Brothers, M. Jarvis / A. Jarvis, Powell St. John,
The Spacious Mind, and Ilyas Ahmed.

112 pages perfectbound
$12 postpaid in the United States.
Payable to George Parsons.

George Parsons
Dream Magazine
P.O. Box 2027
Nevada City, CA
95959-1941

geo@gv.net
www.dreamgeo.com

www.myspace.com/georgeparsonsdream

Reminder to get your Terrastock tickets now…

Festival isn’t until June, of course, but tickets go up in price from $55 to $85 at the end of the month. Therefore, best to buy ASAP!

Here again is their main page:

http://www.terrascope.co.uk/Terrastock7/main.htm

Given the ridiculous explosion in overlapping — and increasingly generic — festivals following the general model of Coachella, to my mind it’s nice to know that a classic niche gathering like this exists. I could go on, and later I doubtless will!

Stratfor on Afghanistan (and a bit on Stratfor)

I’ll introduce this post by talking a bit about Stratfor, short for Strategic Forecasting — a private think tank/global security analysis outfit founded and run by George Friedman, a policy wonk in the grand mode. I first heard about them shortly after 9/11, when Chris Barrus pointed them out in the welter of discussion which understandably overwhelmed ILX. Friedman, a self-described conservative Republican, is far from the only voice and site examining global security and the state of the world, public or private, but it’s easy to see why he’s received the attention he has.

While it should be said that the site’s claim that there’s no ‘ideology, a partisan agenda, or a policy prescription’ might be slightly overstated (overt ideology, true, but there’s an unspoken one), Friedman and his Stratfor writers and analysts aim for discussion in as cold a way as possible — not entirely dispassionate, but not arguing ideology either. Rather, this is strategic shop talk on a grand scale, for those who love power politics, amorality and Machiavelli. That may sound extreme, but as much as I do have my own beliefs and deeply held convictions — on capital punishment, torture, individual freedom and so forth — I have a fascination with Realpolitik as it is (often badly) carried out. It’s not that I want to be someone involved with it all, rather that I prefer to try and look at things as coldly as I can in turn. It appeals to a certain part of me that is…not inhuman, I would say, but self-consciously removed.

I remember during 9/11 that I was thinking and discussing in as flat a way as possible as the circumstances allowed (the first couple of hours were rough in that there was a possibility a friend had been caught in the towers; happily he had not gone into work yet that day). Given all the folderol since, that cold flatness has its place more than I might have appreciated before then, and so while I’m not a full subscriber to Stratfor, I appreciate being on the random mailout list and look forward to what I call their ‘tea leaf reading’ — because that’s what they do best, see what can be seen and concluding and speculate, without absolute guarantee of what will happen next, what is likely going on around the world.

Anyway, their latest mailing is on the situation in Afghanistan, and I’ll excerpt a brief bit here to call to your attention. The longer war and battles draw out over there, the more I wonder what the end result will be. Emphasis, towards the end, is mine:

Supporters of the war in Iraq support the war in Afghanistan. Opponents of the war in Iraq also support Afghanistan. If there is a good war in our time, Afghanistan is it.

It is also a war that is in trouble. In the eyes of many, one of the Afghan war’s virtues has been that NATO has participated as an entity. But NATO has come under heavy criticism from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates for its performance. Some, like the Canadians, are threatening to withdraw their troops if other alliance members do not contribute more heavily to the mission. More important, the Taliban have been fighting an effective and intensive insurgency. Further complicating the situation, the roots of many of the military and political issues in Afghanistan are found across the border in Pakistan.

If the endgame in Iraq is murky, the endgame if Afghanistan is invisible. The United States, its allies and the Kabul government are fighting a holding action strategically. They do not have the force to destroy the Taliban — and in counterinsurgency, the longer the insurgents maintain their operational capability, the more likely they are to win. Further stiffening the Taliban resolve is the fact that, while insurgents have nowhere to go, foreigners can always decide to go home.

The real issue is the hardest to determine. Is al Qaeda prime — not al Qaeda enthusiasts or sympathizers who are able to carry out local suicide bombings, but the capable covert operatives we saw on 9/11 — still operational? And even if it is degraded, given enough time, will al Qaeda be able to regroup and ramp up its operational capability? If so, then the United States must maintain its posture in Afghanistan, as limited and unbalanced as it is. The United States might even need to consider extending the war to Pakistan in an attempt to seal the border if the Taliban continue to strengthen. But if al Qaeda is not operational, then the rationale for guarding Kabul and Karzai becomes questionable.

We have no way of determining whether al Qaeda remains operational; we are not sure anyone can assess that with certainty. Certainly, we have not seen significant operations for a long time, and U.S. covert capabilities should have been able to weaken al Qaeda over the past seven years. But if al Qaeda remains active, capable and in northwestern Pakistan, then the U.S. presence in Afghanistan will continue.

As the situation in Iraq settles down — and it appears to be doing so — more focus will be drawn to Afghanistan, the war that even opponents of Iraq have acknowledged as appropriate and important. But it is important to understand what this war consists of: It is a holding action against an enemy that cannot be defeated (absent greater force than is available) with open lines of supply into a country allied with the United States. It is a holding action waiting for certain knowledge of the status of al Qaeda, knowledge that likely will not come. Afghanistan is a war without exit and a war without victory. The politics are impenetrable, and it is even difficult to figure out whether allies like Pakistan are intending to help or are capable of helping.

Thus, while it may be a better war than Iraq in some sense, it is not a war that can be won or even ended. It just goes on.

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Where and when to test the comfort zone?

A cryptic title for this post, perhaps, but one that best sums up the combined welter of thoughts resulting from an excellent one-two combination of posts today on Idolator.

First, Dan Gibson had an obituary up for Larry Norman, one of those musical figures I’d irregularly heard about over the years but hadn’t really pursued much. There was, frankly, a specific reason — he was, as Gibson notes, legendary for being the ‘Father of Christian Rock,’ and any time I hear that phrase (or CCM, short for ‘contemporary Christian music’), I heave a mental sigh and move on. I’m not offering any excuse for that, it’s as much an ingrained, kneejerk position as any one I’ve heard over the years saying that, say, rap isn’t music or country all sounds the same or whatever have you. I find those attitudes close-minded and mine on these bands, ultimately, is no less so.

The closest thing to any sort of explanation grows out of a few sources — my own disinterest in religious belief, my emphasis on music and sound rather than lyrics when it comes to musical appreciation, a lingering belief that nearly every overtly Christian rock/CCM identified group essentially seem to only offer a cloning of a popular (or alternately, formerly popular) style but with different lyrics and nothing new brought to the table.

It didn’t help that the audience for such music has always seemed rather…self-limited, to perhaps unfairly say. For a while in the mid-nineties I lurked a touch on a Usenet board dedicated to CCM, partially at the instigation of friends who regularly winnowed wheat from chaff in trying to find good bands out there in the field, but I grew tired of the attitude of fans there who would regularly say things like “Is there a band out that sounds like [band x, singer y, whatever], but Christian?” This ended up annoying me because it seemed very shallow — to turn it around, I really don’t have any problem in the slightest with the Christian symbolism prevalent in C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books, say, and while Philip Pullman’s work in creating an alternate children’s fantasy with His Dark Materials is lovely stuff, I didn’t go around asking “Is there a young adult fantasy series that reads like Narnia, but agnostic or atheist?” Frankly, I’m still surprised at the idea — which I’ve encountered more than once, in many guises — that to read/listen/watch something not specifically identified as ‘Christian’ is an attack upon your mental and spiritual integrity, which presumably fed into the worries on the message board noted above, with people desperate to enjoy a sound but only if the lyrics were not simply palatable, but explicitly focused on something to the exclusion of anything else.

The irony of course is that attitude can go many different directions — turn it around and you get people complaining “Love the way that band sounds but I wish they wouldn’t be so preachy,” and not simply in terms of religion. So rather than it being a case of one group locking themselves away from broader possibilities, it’s more like an overwhelming layer of biases, where knowing what works best for an individual means more automatic conclusions on what would be worse than should be made. Gibson notes this in his piece, prefacing a sharp, angry condemnation of the fly-by-night financial practices of supposedly godly independent record labels that regularly ripped off Norman and many others — a good warning sign for anyone who thinks that a fish symbol automatically means financial probity, or probity in general — with this pithy observation:

if someone had been this influential to a more popular genre of music (say, Lou Reed), they’d be lionized with an extensively reissued catalog, allowed to put out whatever their whims brought forth, coasting on whatever brilliant moment flickered once in the past. Instead, Norman’s obituary contained a thanks for “prayer and finance” in the past and a mention of likely future financial difficulties for his survivors.

Intriguingly, this question of audience acceptance and expectation unconsciously dovetails with the other excellent Idolator piece this morning, Michelangelo Matos’s latest entry in the Project X series of posts he’s made for the site. This one is a discussion of the legacy of John Peel, the rightly famed British DJ who was an icon for anybody who had hopes their radio show could somehow change the listening world, as well as for general music obsessives. Matos’s article is in part a response to another from Tom Ewing at Pitchfork, also worth the reading (as Matos notes, Ewing, who is from the UK, has a handle on Peel’s role that’s much closer to home and more knowing by default), and both talk about a quality that distinguished Peel and (sadly) still does in comparison to many DJs and people his age and younger — his sheer breadth of musical enthusiasm and interest in listening to all kinds of music from all over the world, from obscure African highlife to murky-as-hell grindcore and back again. Ewing himself sounds an appropriately aware, cautionary note that this reputation is as much image-making as anything else, but at the same time it’s very much part of the historical record.

Matos captures the spirit of this enthusiasm — and why it is important — perfectly:

His integrity had little to do with specific musical tastes and everything to do with being open to possibility. A good critic, as much as a good broadcaster, aspires to communicating the pleasures to be had beyond that which she encounters regularly, be it singer-songwriters or teen-pop or horrible noise, and that pleasure leads to knowledge, or at least more pleasure.

To fully discuss this in the detail it deserves will take much more time than I have to hand right now — maybe even ever, because it’s been both my own lodestone and problem as listener over the years. Problem because at a certain point a few years back I had to get out of the mindset of trying to keep up with everything at once, to fully explore as I ought, because the sheer volume of available music out there — formerly the type of thing that was an issue faced by a few people like Peel, who had labels and bands worldwide sending him huge streams of physical product on a daily basis — had fully exploded via the Net and mp3s. The adjustment I went through is something I’ve mentioned here and there on the blog and elsewhere and was a fairly internally violent rethink — melodramatic perhaps, but I had to realize (and, I hope, did) that life in the hothouse of music and cultural overload was untenable given all my other interests, and especially given whatever creative endeavours I wanted to pursue, however fitfully.

So while I still hold that Matos’s point about being open to possibility is crucial, I don’t regularly practice it as I could — indeed, we’ve all come to a point now where the accumulation created by decades’ worth of favorite styles and genres, increasingly broad and deep, means it’s easy to dwell in there. Arguably I experiment more these days with food — a recipe or foodstuff is suggested and I go to town with it, seeing what can be done — but I don’t find that a loss, if anything it’s a major gain, in part because it does give an outlet to that creative impulse I mentioned earlier. But the larger point to be had is that this is a natural consequence of finding a new balance in one’s life, as interests and obsessions shift, and as new matters of importance rise.

Matos himself touches on the idea of split decisions and differing priorities at the end of his piece with his irritation at a ‘typical’ Peel fan Festive 50 tempered by his own acknowledgement of his love of classic film noir, wryly noting “There’s a thin line between a lost cause and emergent classicism.” And in a way this ties back in obliquely with Gibson’s point, with his passionate take on a ‘lost cause’ — that of trying to establish the place of Norman in wider musical discussion, in a canon that is now simultaneously hardened into the most sclerotic of forms (look to the Grammy Awards a couple of weeks back if you dare, how all sorts of obvious signifiers and past-worship were piled on to create a formal history of music for the mass market) and fraying at the edges more and more.

More really can and should be said about all this — I’ve only just read these pieces and these are initial thoughts touching on a variety of questions. If nothing else it shows that the question of importance of music (of art, really — even, if you like, of what and how we spend our time in our lives with, a life which as Norman would have argued is only transitional anyway in preparation for something more, thus the title of his early seventies album that Gibson rightly cites as a logical obit meme, Just Visiting This Planet) still holds a prime place in my head and those of others in this time of political uncertainty and future concern. And given that it does, no surprise also, perhaps, that I’m content with a certain comfort zone still — something to rely on in a gathering swirl that might yet be a storm.

How not to advocate for cancer research

[UPDATED INTRO: Hello folks who've clicked over from Yahoo's Buzz list and Rhodri's LJ feed! Browse around the archives as you like -- and trust me, I do write about more things in general than animated cancerous glands.]

I’m going to just copy/paste something I posted over at ILX, but let me just preface what I’m calling attention to here by saying, I’m sorry, but NO. BAD IDEA. Surely SOMEONE realized this was a BAD IDEA.

(And as I said at ILX, I am extremely interested in prostate cancer research and diagnosis for many good reasons — the cancer killed my grandfather and almost killed my uncle, and my dad’s been affected by it as well. I certainly am all for further attention to this, even if motivated by obvious self-interest. And I don’t believe in being humorless about something as grim as this either, humor and lightness can have its place and probably should. But…not…this…way…)

So, I’m reading this article — as I’ve muttered elsewhere, prostate cancer runs in my family and it’s very likely I’ll get a diagnosis one day, therefore reading up on it is something I do as stories catch my eye.

And I notice this paragraph:

Prostate cancer groups have tried to replicate the success of the pink ribbon campaign with their own blue ribbon, but it has yet to gain widespread acceptance. A group advocating the development of imaging technology for prostate screening created a mascot, Prosty the Spokesgland, complete with a theme song, to the tune of “Frosty the Snowman.” Not surprisingly, it has not caught on, either.

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So of course I search for it, and I find it, complete with video.

Prosty the Spokesgland
Is a prostate gland, we’re told
Buried deep inside largely out of sight
He’s ignored by young and old

Prosty the Spokesgland
How we hope that lump’s benign
But it’s hard to say
Cause the only way
To diagnose and treat is blind

There might just be some cancer
In that lump they found today
But we really can’t be sure right now
Cause you can’t trust the PSA

Oh. Dear.

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