Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Compilation of Residual 2009 Posts

    This is a compilation of miscellaneous posts from 2009, back when blogger didn't have automatic spell check and you linked to a band's Myspace profile when you wanted to tell people about them.  2009 was a brief renaissance between my 2008 hiatus and the questionable decision in late 2009 to "try to have a blog with no readers."  That worked out pretty well.

"New" "Band" Alert: Best Coast/Los Angeles, CA.

I listen to the myspace tracks, I hear a million bloggers poop themselves. I'm down for it.

Like: Abe Vigoda, No Age, Wavves

All credit Skull Kontrol

Best Coast (myspace)

Let's get her down here, Big Mar. I got five on it.

Define "Adult Contemporary" Music

Subject: Things I thought about in Las Vegas.

Adult contemporary music. Here was my thought: Those songs are all hits. Know any not-famous adult contemporary songs? Probably not. Know any hits that would be called "adult contemporary"? Probably a million. And I'm not talking about "anybody" I'm talking about you- the one of seven or eight people who actually reads this blog. What does that tell you about adult contemporary music?

Here is the (weak) Wiki lede:

Adult contemporary music (frequently abbreviated AC) refers to a broad style of popular music that ranges from lush 1960s, vocal-based music to predominantly ballad-heavy music with varying degrees of rock influence". AC radio plays mainstream music excluding hip hop, hard rock, some teen pop music and rhythmic dance tracks (though during the 2000s, these have been included), which is intended for a more adult audience. AC is generally divided into 4 groups: "hot AC," "soft AC" (also known as "lite"), "urban AC," and "religious AC." Some radio stations play only hot AC; some play only soft AC; and some play both. Thus it is not usually considered a specific genre of music, since it is merely an assembly of selected tracks of musicians of many different genres.

In other words, to even be "classified" as adult contemporary, the song has to be a hit already. I think wiki is wrong here- I think adult contemporary is quite so a genre. It's no broader then the group of artists considered 'hip-hop' or 'r&b.' If anyone even calls an act 'adult contemporary' it means "hey, you made it."

Bathroom @ The Smell Los Angeles, CA.

Memories... mists, water colored memories... of the way we were...

Book Review: The Social Construction of Reality
by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann
published 1967

If you're going to make it the culture-industrial complex (i.e. music industry) you really should have some understanding and insight into how people view reality. Whether you're trying to get people to buy your record, come to your show or listen to your radio station- it's all part of the same influencing project, more or less. In a certain sense, the Social Consturction of Reality is probably the only book a non-specialist needs to read about this topic.

This book, in language as clear and straight-forward as you're likely to get, explains how reality is constructed from social intercourse. The analysis here starts from what normal people consider reality: being "wide awake" and experiencing "everyday" life. All of reality proceeds from face-to-face encounters that occur during the normal course of every-day life:

The social reality of everyday life is apprehended in a continuum of typifications, which are progreesively anonymous as they are removed from the "here and now" of the face-to-face situation. P. 33

Based on these encounters, humans create bodies of knowledge and categories of interactions. As a society grows more complex, these face-to-face encounters become abstracted into "expertise" and then passed down to new members of a society (children.):

Primary socialization thus accomplishes what is the most important confidence trick that society plays on the individual- to make appear necessit what is in fact a bundle of contongencies and this make meaningful the accident of his birth. P. 135

In this schema, it doesn't matter whether the society is pre-historic, religious, philosphical or scientific- the transmission process of reality via the use of expert knowledge is the same.

Over time, clusters of ideas/knowledge become institutions- like a religion or a mythology for example. People use ideas to explain "why."

Ultimately, Social Construction of Reality concludes with an observation as elegant as it is profound:

All symbolic universes and all legitimations are human products; their existence has it's base in the lives of concrete individuals, and has no empirical status apart from these lives. P. 128

In other words- reality is what we make it. Or to be more precise: Reality is what generations of humans living and dying over time make it. No more, no less. This is reality.


Social Network Theory & The Music Industry After the Internet

The foundational observation here is that any system is just a composition of individuals linked by interests. By looking at groups of individuals, the system reveals itself. Another foundational observation is humans like to discover "new" things. But those things need to be familar, relvelant and interesting. That's kind of a contradiction, but true none the less.

The community that breaks bands is comprised of three sub groups: the musicians, amateur music enthusiasts, and music industry professionals.

An idealized model of this inter-relationship is presented in diagram one, above. In the idealized, (i.e. non real) model, artists, amateurs and industry professionals work together harmoniously in such a way that "cream" rises to the top. This has never been how the music industry has worked anywhere ever.

The pre-internet, or "Atlantic" model is represented in diagram two, above. The Atlantic model is clearly hierarchical, in line with general modes of capitalist development in the 20th century. At the top we see music industry professionals- exemplified by the "major labels" of the post WWII era. Beneath them are the artists. Collaboration between the music industry professionals and artists is then proffered to the amateur music enthusiasts, typically via mass-market advertising techniques. Success with the amateur music enthusiasts results in the dedication of greater financial resources in an attempt to create interest with the general public, and viability for the artist involved.

The post internet model replaces the intitial interactiom between artist and professional with a dialogue between enthusiasts and the musicians. Only afterwards are music industry professionals involved. This might be called the "pitchfork" model. The "pitchfork" model is demonstrated below:

The pitchfork model suggests a tri-parite schema of development for young musical artists seeking careers within the world of popular music:

1. Self-release or strong live performance creates interests among community of musicians and/or amateur enthusiasts.
2. Strong feedback to stage one products leads to interest among discrete elements of music industry professionals: booking agents, managers, independent record labels.
3. Strong feedback to stage two leads to full engagement by music industry professionals and an attempt to engage the attention of the general public.

All three models assumes a large community of "passive" music consumers who make decisions based on recommendations derived solely from music industry profess

Observations About Passive Listeners

Passive listeners, by definition, do not seek out new music. They are a huge percentage of the general public so unfortunately they are the most important audience because of their sheer bulk.

Passive listeners will consume music it if it intersects their physical or pyschological environment. The music must intrude on their day to day existence and generate a strongly positive association.

However, these listeners will react postively to basically whatever is put in front of them due to patterns of behavior established by consumer psychology. The mere provision of music to passive listeners often generates income for artists. For example, people who buy gum and magazines while waiting to check out at the grocery store. Or more broadly the behavior labeled "impulse buying."

The gatekeepers "know" what passive consumers "want." And monopolizing that knowledge allows them to maintain their position and authority over time. These gatekeepers are sometimes but not always "music industry people." They may also be "amateur enthusiasts" but those two roles may well be in conflict.

Artists and enthusiasts basically can't influence the "knowledge" that gatekeepers have about what passive consumers "want" because it is the role of the gatekeeper to know that information, and not be told it by non-professionals.

However, music industry professionals can influence one other in terms of selection of artists/property to the passive listeners. This relationship represents the considerable depth of the music industry in the United States. There are music industry professionals whose sole role is to represent artists: To take an artist from obscurity to being consumed by passive listeners in collaboration with other music industry professionals. You can see how these invisible encounters make a huge difference in which artists are succesful over time.

These encounters have literally nothing to do with the relationship between artists and amateur enthusiasts, and doesn't even attempt to assess what, if any, impact amateur enthusiasts may or may not have on the passive consumers that constitute the bulk of the general public.

Nobody blogs about licensing negotations, but they are a worthy a subject of interest for artists. Using licensing negotiations as an example you can see how artists have separate interest then amateur music fans. Pitchfork does not report on who got what licensing deal. There is no "business section" on either Stereogum or Brooklyn Vegan (although broad analysis of music industry business trends occurs some on Idolator and is the sole purpose of Coolfer.)

But looking at the pitchfork model, you can see how increased artist activity can generate the necessary "energy" to draw music industry "attention" and exposure to the general public through gatekeeper activity. The gatekeepers now "know" that passive consumers like band x by observing the interaction between artists and amateur music enthusiasts.

You can observe how collaboration between artists and amateur music enthusiasts can alter the "knowledge" of what passive listeners "like." My mother listening to blondie and the talking heads this weekend on a radio station in San Francisco, this weekend.

There is always a dialogue between artists generated purely by the music industry (atlantic model) and those generated by interaction between the artists themselves and amateur enthusiasts (pitchfork model) this dialogue is nothing "new" but rather is a collary of the existence of the music industry itself. I.e thr "heavy users" in fast food industry jargon. Think of jazz artists, for example for a non recent example. Depending on the whims of taste, certain genres may identify more with one model then the other. Hard to imagine pitchforky-teen-pop, less hard to imagine atlanticy freak folk, easy to imagine pitchforky noise rock.

The music industry's desire to maintain its gatekeeper function places it in conflict with an equally desirable goal of increasing interest among amateur music enthusiasts, passive listeners and artists themselves. To the extent interest increases among amateur musical enthusiast, the music industry control over passive listeners is lessened. As industry specific elite professionals, music industry "people" see that activity as a threat.

Book Review: History, Linguistics & Anthropology

Map of Indo European languages.

Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World
by J. P. Mallory
Oxford University Press (Amazon)
Published 2006

Basel in the Age of Burckhardt: A Study in Unseasonable Ideas
by Lionel Gossman
Princeton University Press (Amazon)
Published 2002

Tristes Tropiques
by Claude Levi-Strauss (Amazon)

If I had to hold the American higher education answerable for a single sin, it would be the proliferation of academic specialization in the "social sciences." First of all, "social sciences" ain't science. Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Fenyman once said of "social sciences", "When I want to say something about physics I go to my lab, come up with ways to test my ideas, then have those ideas reviewed according to universally accepted standards (i.e. "the scientific method") It's not like that with social science, where they just say "Well I say it's so because I say so."

The bottom line is that all social sciences is more or less the discipline of "history." You can parse it up however you want but it's all dealing with the same idea system. I think it's important to traverse those lines of academic discipline, since those walls/divisions are essentially bullshit designed to support the institution of tenure in universities.

After reading Doinger's The Hindus: An Alternative History (Amazon) and the much, much older book by MacDonnell about Sanskrit literature (Amazon)(Doinger's book was published this year, MacDonnel's book in 1900) I really wanted to learn more about the links between Sanskrit/Greek/Latin/German/Spanish/English/Hindi (they all come from the same language called "proto-indo-european.) It's an area of study that is full of crack pots (like Adolf Hitler ha ha!) so I wanted something that was as sober as possible. I ended up shelling out $50 for the very-imposing Oxford text-book on the subject.

When it showed up the "The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World" looked as imposing as the title sounds. Plain green cover, about six hundred pages plus. But my doubts were allayed by what is just objectively interesting material. In a lot of ways, linguistics delivers the kind of insight that other "modern" social-sciences disciplines like history and anthropology can only hope to match. So it turned out that this linguistic text book was actually the most interesting book I've read in several years. I mean, we're talking about the language spoken by 7 of the top 10 languages in the world. Including English, Spanish, French, German, Latin, Greek, Russian, Hindi, Urdu. Think about that for a second. About the world. All these people speak a language derived from one distinct culture that existed a little more then 5000 years ago, either in south east europe or central asia/Caucasus. You're talking about the ancient myths of the Norse, the Romans, Ancient Greece, Ancient Sanskrit. That's pretty much all of it.

It's mind blowing material, but the sober, sober, sober presentation takes you down from the edge of madness.

Moving from the beginning of time to 19th century Switzerland, Lionel Gossman's "Basel in the Age of Burckhardt: A Study in Unseasonable Ideas" is a recent fairly straight-forward intellectual history of the Swiss/German-speaking city of Basel, Switzerland. Although the title only references the historian Jacob Burckhardt, the book also focuses on Johann Jacob Bachofen (who actually is the focus of the book) and a philosopher you might have heard of... Friedrich Nietzsche? All three taught at the University of Basel- the first two were older the Nietzsche, and both were more/less "forgotten" as supposed to Nietzsche, who is read by every idiot in the whole wide world. Both Burckhardt and Bachofen wrote about the Ancient World (Greece and Rome) and both articulated a profound critique of "modern culture." Burckhardt is, in many ways, the founder of what we now call "art history" He pretty much "invented" the idea of the Renaissance as we understand it today. Bachofen was the progenitor of the "mother right" theory which postulates that originally matriarchal cultures were replaced by patriarchy. This fact is little known in the west, since little of his work was even translated into english until the 1960s. The theory itself has been discredited and to a certain extent rehabilitated, often without even referencing Bachofen.

But Unseasonable Ideas does a profound job of contextualizing their writing as well as linking both to Nietzsche. Like Oxford's Proto Indo European book, I felt like Unseasonable Ideas was first rate intellectual history and well worth the effort.

Finally I read "Tristes Tropiques" by Claude Levi Strauss. I randomly bought this book at a thrift store in Lemon Grove because it was a dollar and looked like something I should probably have available. I know about Levi-Strauss in a vague way- that he is associated with something called "structural anthropology." I lucked out, because as I found out later, alot of his stuff in ponderous french theory a la Derrida et al- and I hate that crap. But Tristes Tropiques is his first book and it has a breezy, anecdotal tone- sort of. The style, frankly, reminded me of Foucault. Levi Strauss is comfortable with making broad generalizations. To call his methods "anthropology" is to deprive the term of any scientific meaning, but he also packs observational and explanatory punch in his writing. Levi Strauss also inserts some chapters based on this experience teaching/travelling in India/Pakistan to fully explicate the title/thesis of the book "Tristes Tropiques" or "sad tropics."

To me, the essential point of this book is that the whole idea of the "noble savage" "state of nature" "natural law" is total bullshit. Even with the most primitive peoples, you find highly developed spiritual and religious ideas as well as complex cultural organization consistent with "civilization" in a broad sense. By working on this more broadly inclusive analytical level, Levi Strauss links his work (written in the 1950s) with writers like Rousseau, Voltaire, Burckhardt, Bachofen, Nietzche, Marx, Hegel, etc. That broadly expansive tone was carried forward by writers like Habermas and, to a lesser degree, Foucault.

So I doubt I'll EVER read Levi-Strauss again- who has the time for theory, you know? But Tristes Tropiques is an easy enough book to read (hint: skip the first eight chapters!) once you get to the "field work." I imagine Levi-Strauss, cigarette in hand, muttering to himself in french about the dreadfulness of the mosquitoes. I think alot of people interpret this book as being "anti-modern" or in some way being a precursor of "politically correct" thought, but I think such observations are meritless. He's more a theorist then an anthropologist.

This is all to say that you can hop between these so-called "disciplines"- like linguistics, anthropology and european history/intellectual history, and follow the same stream of thought- which more or less originates in the work of Hegel and the 18th century French philosphes and moves forward through the rise of the university of Berlin, through Basel and then continuing into Paris and Frankfurt in modern times. Then there is a separate anglo/american tradition- and that is what focuses so much on dividing books into different "specialties." And it's ridiculous- it's much easier to follow the European stuff, because it holds onto the philosophy/history roots and eschews the hyper-technical psuedo-scientific bullshit that plagues American "social scientists."

Concert/Book/Movie Review:  Phoenix @ the Wiltern; The Book of Manu; Land of the Lost, Transformers

Phoenix @
The Wiltern Los Angeles CA.
June 28th, 2009.

The Book of Manu
translated by Wendy Doniger

Land of the Lost
starring Will Ferrell & Danny McBride

director Michael Bay

I. Concert Review: Phoenix @ The Wiltern June 28th, 2009

Driving to the concert venue, I was thinking about an article I had read in the LA Times that day, about how Korea Air was going to demolish the Wilshire Grand hotel in downtown and construct an enormous luxury hotel, brand tbd. The Wiltern is in what is now known as "Korea Town" and if you've been to Los Angeles more then 5 times and haven't at least checked out the area (i.e. driven through) you are missing out. Korea as a culture is one the rise. Have you heard of Pinkberry? That was started by a Korean LA resident. She was 32.

The Wiltern is a Live Nation venue, but it's a top-of-the-line facility to listen to live music, even if the atmosphere made me think of the enormous Wilshire synagogue two blocks down: Live Nation: We're No Fun!(TM)

Awesome Baby opened. They have a connection to MGMT? Playing the Casbah tonight. I heard one song.

Phoenix took the stage promptly at 9:05 PM. Well, that is one thing that Live Nation has going for it: They're not afraid to start a sold-out rock concert at 9 PM. Rock and roll shall live forever on the NYSE.

Phoenix gave the crowd what it wanted- the material from their new album. It was a crisp 75 minute set that had us at the hotel bar by 11 PM. They opened with Liztomania and closed with 1901. And they were, with few exceptions, really good. The crowd was regular-people heavy. I imagine Live Nation has some closed circuit lounge where the VIP's can hang out with schmucks from the San Fernando valley who pay $2000 for the privliege. Or like, they're next to one another. Regardless of my personal animus towards Live Nation, the Wiltern is a good place to hear a rock and roll concert. I even saw someone toke up, which is something I would never do at a Live Nation venue. I guess I'm just a pussy.

II. Book Review: The Laws of Manu translated by Wendy Doniger

This is likely to be the last in my series of Hindu-related book reviews. Many will no doubt sigh with relieve but I wanted to take one last crack at emphasizing how interesting these books (The Rig Veda, Upanishads & The Laws of Manu) and accessible these books really are. Anyone who is comfortable reading Homer or the Bible can relate to the deep wisdom of this trilogy of Hindu cultural/religious works. Hopefully, that's everybody.

From a modern perspective, the Laws of Manu is probably your best bang for your buck of the three. The edition I read was less then 300 pages, and you basically get a comprehensive look at ancient/medieval hindu and indo european culture. It's more accessible then the Bible, that is for sure. Reading from page to page, the reader has to constantly confront apparent contradictions and reconciliations that make for energizing mental activity. It's easy to see why the British fell in love with the Laws of Manu, and also easy to see why this book is "most-often-burned" at protests held by members of the indian "Untouchables" caste. The Laws of Manu is probably the best single source on operating and maintaining a "caste system" in all of recorded history. Perhaps a dubious distinction, but an important one. Caste/class issues are common to all of humanity.

III. Movie Reviews: Land of the Lost with Will Ferrell and Danny McBride, Transformer directed by Michael Bay

These two movies are both the worst pieces of excrement and no one should see them ever.

Book Review: 
 Travelling Heroes(in the epic age of Homer)
 by Robin Lane Fox

Mount Arqaa in present day Syria.

Travelling Heroes (in the epic age of Homer)
by Robin Lane Fox
p.  2008  (1st ed. US 2009)
This is a map of the Ancient Near East and environs.
     Robin Lane Fox is a current professor of Ancient History at Oxford University, which is basically the most prestigious post of Ancient History in the entire world (English speaking or not) so he is a brilliant scholar just as a matter of course.  I would personally compare him to David Hackett Fisher in the United States, though I devoured this book in less then a day, and I gave Fisher's most recent book (biography of French explorer Champlaign) to my mother in law without bothering to read past page 50.

In Travelling Heroes Fox tackles would can loosely be described as "assorted scholarly debates over the greek epic era and sources of homeric myths."  Fox is conversant with many discplines outside of history, and in particular he uses recent archaleogical discoveries in the Middle East to buttress his argument that Homer wrote in the 8th century and the "Epic Era" was roughly 780- 720 BC as experienced by the Euboeans.

Through out the book Fox emphasizes linking mythic events to history by describing the myths in terms of physical geography that the Euboean travellers would have encountered in the 8th century B.C.

His chapter on the mountain that is presently known as Mount Aqraa is perhaps the single most illuminating chapter on any subject that I'll read about this year.  Mount Aqraa is a rather imposing looking mountain that happens to be set right next to the Sea on the Turkish/Syrian border.

It is equidistant between Greece and biblical Israel.  During the 8th century, and way, way earlier then that, the resident ethnic group was the neo-Hittite's and they worshipped a storm god named "Baal."  The Hittite's are a indo-european speaking people, and this storm god figure is consonant with Zeus, Jupiter, Odin, etc.  Anyways, the Hittite's worshipped this storm god at this mountain, and they were way, way older in terms of a civilization then either the greeks or the israelites.  So old, in fact, that the residents during the eighth century were neo-Hittites and not even the original Hittites.  Fox convincingly argues that this mountain and it's diety, similar to Zeus, made a deep impression on "dark age" greeks.  Similarly, this locus had a similar inspirational, shall we say, impact on the man writing the old testament.  In fact, Fox argues that Homer and the hypothetical author of the Bible ("J") lived within a single generation of one another.

Lane also gives other good examples of "Eastern" intrusion into Greek culture- particularly via the ancient, ancient cult of adonis (who might be the inspiration for Jesus, too.) but discredits just as many of these types of arguments, particularly those that seek to take away credit from Homer.  Overall he paints an ancient world where Greeks were eager to learn, but lacked the ability to really listen to other cultures.  

In the fine tradition of all ancient history, you can't help compare the Greek's cultural tone-deafness to our present American situation.  This book is literally filled with example of mythic names that came from Greeks not properly understanding what the "Natives"(who were more advanced in the east, and less in the west) were telling them.  It's similar to what happens here with Native American place names, although there the mistakes are always literal, i.e. monkey island because a Greek misheard an Etruscan and the Etruscan word sounded like the greek word for "monkey."

Fox undoubtedly takes some positions on specific dates and arguments that will arouse opposition but I didn't take all of what he wrote as true, it's quite easy to identify places where he is simply arguing a position and doesn't have enough evidence.  Specifically- the top of Mount Aqraa is a restricted Turkish military zone and no archaeological work has been done there in close to a century.

Book Review: 
Shamanism Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy
 by Mircea Eliade

Shaman, Norwescon 30
A modern take on an ancient look: SHAMANISM!!!!

Book Review: Shamanism
Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy
by Mircea Eliade
with foreword by Wendy Doniger
published by Mythos: The Princeton/Bollingen Series in World Mythology

              I'm not sure why indie musicians are, by and large, such uninteresting people.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that they all think that they are interesting people and therefore spend no time learning about new things or thinking about new ways to make themselves interesting to others.  It's not like everyone has to be interesting: I don't expect a gas station attendant to engage me in sparkling conversation, but it seems that if one is going to create art/culture that this person would go out of their way to learn about new things, try new experiences, etc.  Such is clearly NOT the case, here in San Diego, or anywhere else, for that matter.   The indie music world often seems about as interesting to me as junior high.  I don't have any truck with the social world of junior high, with it's cliques and posturing, but, simply put, it's a boring world.  It's the same thing with the indie music world:  Like junior high, but with bands.

             I was super excited to read Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy after seeing the citation in the Shape of Ancient Thought.  I was even more excited when I realized that Wendy Doniger, my favorite scholar/professor, was mentored by this guy (Mircea Eliade is a Romanian, and a man, not a chick.)  Shamanism was originally published in English (from the French) in 1951, but the book I have is a 2004 re-print with a new foreword by Doniger.  Eliade's scholarship is a leetle out of date 50 years on, but that doesn't detract from the fact that this book was the first comprehensive approach to Shamanism that treated it as something other then a "degraded" "uncivilized" object of scorn.  In fact, Shamanism appears to be the basis of all religious thought everywhere, showing up not only in the civilized religions of the Near East, West and East, but also in the indigenious peoples of Australia, New Guinea, Polynesia and North and South American.  Shamanism is the closest things humans have to a "universal" religion prior to the emergence of the great world religions of Christianity, Islam and Buddhism (sorry Hindus!!!!)

            So what is Shamanism?  Eliade defines Shamanism as religious practice governed by the reaching of non-conscious ecstatic states by the Shaman.  During this state, the Shaman travels to the sky or the underworld and rescues the souls of the sick/ill etc.  That is Shamanism in a nut shell, but it's the description of the ritual ascents and descents that I found most interesting.  I don't want to spoil the joys of the world tree, the soul egg and the bridge for those who might actually read this book, but suffice it to say that Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, contains enough food for thought to keep the reader thinking for months.  Also, all the quoted sources are in Russian or German, so you don't have to worry about follow up reading.

Book Review:
 The Birth of Tragedy
 by Friedrich Nietzsche

Statue of Dionysus

           It's hard not to write about Friedrich Nietzsche with out sounding pretentious. But the thing is that his ideas were really successful, and powerful ideas are interesting: that is almost a tautology.  Any idea that people continue to find interesting over time is an interesting idea.  If people stop caring, it's not interesting anymore.

           The three facts to understand about Nietzsche is that he was a professor specializing in Greece, he was a huge fan of Schopenhauer the philosopher and an even bigger fan of Richard Wagner.  So if you don't understand the context of his work including: what Schopenhauer thought about art, the music of Richard Wagner and the state of knowledge about ancient greece circa 1872.  And, you need to know that the Birth of Tragedy was his first published book.  Wow.  Stunner.  Still in print in 2009.  Whatever you want to say about Nietzsche, the ideas have staying power

            But what idea?  Basically, in the birth of tragedy Nietzsche sets up a dialectic between "Apolline" and "Dionysiac" spirit and talks about the impact of these traditions on ancient Greek music and theater.  What's funny about Nietzsche is that he was a huge music fan.  His view, derived from Schopenhauer, is that music is the salve for the human that appends the artificiality of existence (see Buddhism, Hinduism, Existentialism, Pre-Socratic Greek Philosophers).  In other words "If you are someone who has seen through the essential meaninglessness of existence, the only way to endure is by the appreciation of music, which expresses the Dionysian spirit , as supposed to theater, which is largely Apolline."(Thanks Euripides!)

        In the Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche is arguing Buddhist style about escaping from the wheel of karma, but music (specifically Richard Wagner and german style classical music) replces of meditation  and other such eastern practices.

Book Review: 
The Founders and the Classics by Carl J. Richard

Colonial Era Educator Benjamin Rush
Book Review
The Founders and the Classics
Greece, Rome and the American Enlightenment
by Carl J. Richard
Harvard University Press, published 1994
         I think politics, like other team sports, is an interesting subject.  I find anything that OTHER people find interesting to be interesting because large numbers of other people find that thing interesting.  The interest of other people is interesting to me.  That's the way it is for me and politics. I went to college in Washington DC but was turned off by that, but I still pay attention even if I want nothing to do with it.  I find debates over issues to be the most interesting thing our society does: illegal immigration, health care- it's amazing to me about how passionate people get.  It's almost like a mental disorder, but it's very human, very passionate.
         References to Greek and Roman thought are pretty scarce in the debate over illegal immigration and health care, but back in the day they were central to pretty much any debate you wanted to have about the future of America.  Everyone was terrified of Roman Emperors, everyone though the British King was a tyrant, people compared the American government to the Roman Republic and Greek city states: Every day.  That's because back then getting an "education" was equivalent to "learning greek and latin" in school.  In fact, that was pretty much it in the 1780s.  Either you had time and money to learn a pair of dead languages, or you were our working.
      This book takes aim at statements by other historians that the classical influence was either dead or dying in the early post-Revolution period.  Specifically, he demonstrates how concentrated efforts by luminaries such as Benjamin Franklin and Mr. Rush to strip education of Greek and Latin language instruction FAILED. Thus, he demonstrates that this way of thought had a tenacious hold on American political elites into the beginning of the 19th century.
Social epistemology and the Sociology of Philosophy

Epistemology Map
Epistemology Map

            I'm not going to stop until I have zero readers. Wouldn't it be awesome if there was some blogger who said "I do have a readership, my goal is to drive that readership down to nothing." Not to like, stop posting, but rather to consciously make posts that he/she knows his/her readers aren't interested in, but which interest the writer.
             I'm reading a book called the Sociology of Philosophy by Randall Collins. It's v. interesting- but you do a background in the area of philosophy to understand what's happening. Not like, you need to be a graduate student in philosophy, but you need to know your general way around Greek, Chinese and Indian thinkers.
           Before I write another sentence about Philosophy, I wanted to recommend a book which I view as the single best summation of Western Philosophy in the 20th century (German, French and Anglo-American), The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity by Jurgen Habermas (my fav philosopher as of the last time I read any philosophy- law school almost a decade ago.
     My feeling about western philosophy is that it's basically a failed project. No anyone who prefers philosophy to religion? Me neither.
         Anyway, in the Sociology of Philosophy Collins focuses on intellectual networks as they existed across generations and geographical space. He draws lots of charts to basically explicate his thesis: That intellectual ideas are spread by small groups of individuals, and that success of those ideas are only judged several generations after they have been created, which means that ultimate success goes down to how well your disciples "spread the gospel."
       In turn, individuals are motivated to become carriers of ideas because of conflicts that are generated by the originators of those ideas. It's the conflict of ideas which draws attention. Once the conflict is established, successive generations stake out their own positions over time. That's the "sociology of philosophy" in a nut shell mass or menos.

      Many call this field "social epistemology" which wiki defines as:

        a broad set of approaches to the study of knowledge, all of which construe human knowledge as a collective achievement. Social epistemologists may be found working in many of the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, most commonly in philosophy and sociology.
        I'M IN!!!!!

Understanding the Relationship Between Buddhism and Hinduism

Fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism
Fusion of Buddhism and Hinduism
       I'm moving through the excellent The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change, by Randall Collins.  Collins has a couple of main theses that he applies to all of the great philosophical/religious advances of the entire world.  The first is that intellectual ideas are developed by people through networks.  Individuals do create ideas, but only in conjunction with others.  The chief was that indivduals create ideas within these networks is by arguing with each other.  These arguing individuals are also influenced by the contingent circumstances of the world around them, as well as by their own allegedly non-contingent ideas.
      Collins is at this most provocative in his discussion of the formation of Buddhist and Hindu thought in India.  Collins argues that literally all Hindu thought was inspired in opposition to Buddhism, which began the tradition of sophisticated religious/philosophical thought within India.  For several hundred years, Buddhism expanded, sub-divided and dominated the debate over the nature of being in India.   Meanwhile, Hinduism maintained its position in newly settled area (southern inda) and among the rural land owning class, while curious Brahmans both became Buddhists and brought Buddhist ideas to Hinduism.  Collins points out that the original Buddhist were basically all Brahmans (the religious/legal caste in India) and that Buddhism supported the caste system in India, just like Hinduism.
     Buddhists, on the other hand, emerged first as critics of Vedic religious practice, which is the shared religious predeccesor of both Buddhism and Hinduism.  Vedic practice is what we would call "primitive."  Vedic practice is also largely an import from the Indo European invasions during pre-history.  Buddhism, on the other hand, incorporated many non Indo European practices that must have been hold overs from developed Shamanistic practices among indigenous Indian tribes who were "conquered" by those practices Vedic religion.  For example, the idea of crazy holy men wandering around naked and not cutting their hair etc.:  Not a Vedic practice.
   Basically, Buddhism charged onto the scene about 500 BC, managed to convert a big-time Emperor (Ashoka) who conquered all of India more or less.  He was replaced by an equally anti-Buddhist ruler, and then everything disintegrated.  Buddhism succeeded initially because it created an institutional culture (monks, monasteries) whereas the power of the Vedics/Hindus was concentrated among small land-holder Brahmans.
   Eventually though, the Vedic/Hindus learned from Buddhism (after all, they shared a religious back-ground and language), came up with their own takes on sophisticated Buddhism ideas, and proceeded to wipe the floor with the Indian Buddhists, who were pretty much done by the early middle ages (1100 AD, say.)
   Afterwards, Hinduism developed along the lines of western ideas of idealistic, abstract philosophy and in opposition to first Muslim, then British invaders.  As part of the process of this late development (1500 AD onward) those thinkers acted to obscure chronology as part of a nation-hood making exercise for Hindus.  And this is why I thought this discussion was particularly interesting: It's really hard to get a handle on that Buddhist and Hindu relationship.  But now:

VEDIC >>>>BUDDHISM(against Vedic ritualism)>>>>HINDUISM(imitating Buddhism)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>"MODERN" HINDUISM (like European philosophy)

New Band Alert: D/Wolves

D/Wolves (myspace)
Playing the Epicentre, tomorrow, September 24th, 2009 with a bunch of bands I am not going to write about. I am also not going to the Epicentre ever again. I'd go see them. They better have some hits.From San Diego. Kind of remind me of New Motherfuckers/Pizza. Write hits, guys.

Book Review: 
The Sociology of Philosophies:
 A Global Theory of Intellectual Change
 by Randall Collins

Well, I'm not sure how my project to alienate all my readers before October 31st, 2009 is going, because I deleted my site meter, but the goal is to have zero people visit my blog on the day of my October 31st 2009 grand sacrifice. Along those lines, I am publishing this book review, which is going to be long and tedious, and then I am going to leave it up until next, Saturday night, I which time I will post a review of the Dum Dum Girls, Crocs, Best Coast Show @ Che Cafe (October 2nd, 2009.)

I would also commend you to the Blessure Grave, Trudgers, No Paws show at the Casbah on October 10th, 2009. It is going to be fun!

See you on October 3rd!!!

The Sociology of Philosophies:

A Global Theory of Intellectual Change

by Randall Collins

Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (March 4, 1998)

For my less academically inclined readers, I would like to present a couple of bullet points from this immense, amazing book:

1. You never know who people will remember in 50 years, and it's just as likely to be a nobody as the famous guy, so don't give up on you idea/project/art.

2. Popularity is a good indicator that your idea/project/art isn't sophisticated enough to be something that people will remember 50 years from now.

3. You only need a small network, but you need a network.

The Sociology of Philosophies is, in a word, brilliant. It's also amazing, transcendent, spectacular and thought-provoking. Randall Collins, a sociology professor at UPenn, wrote this book in an attempt to apply ideas about the sociology of knowledge (AKA epistemology AKA symbolic interaction theory) to the entire history of world thought, from the Ancient Greeks, to the Ancient Chinese, to the Ancient Indians, all the way down to Sartre and Foucault. This book is not about philosophy at all, rather it is an attempt to show how intellectual ideas develop in common ways across all societies and through-out history.

At the same time that Collins tackles a subject that is extraordinarily complex, he writes in a style that is as readable as the ideas are complicated. Collins starts by looking at the growth of philosophy in ancient times and just moves right on through all the way up to the present. Perhaps the main thesis that Collins carries is the idea that all of human intellectual thought consists of a battle between epistemology and metaphysics. Epistemology is the investigation of how we know what we know and metaphysics is the idea that there is some knowledge that is the key to the meaning of the universe, more or less. Epistemology vs. Metaphysics, over and over and over and over again.

The different forms that this battle takes are the result of the institutional structure and material circumstances of the specific culture where the debate occurs. Thus while the debate between epistemology and metaphysics takes place everywhere that abstract intellectual thought developed, there are limits to the number of successive generations that can carry forth a dynamic conversations. These dynamic conversations are carried on within specific human networks, the description of which takes up the majority of this book.

The human networks in turn, are very much impacted by the specific situation that the humans in the networks occupy. To take the modern, western, example, the development of research universities in Germany in the 1700's created a need for academicians of all kinds, especially philosophers, who used metaphysics to ride herd over the increasing specialization of academic discourse. In other words, Kantian idealism was at least in part the result of young Germans who wanted to get jobs as Philosophy professors in newish Universities in Germany.

Although Collins takes great pains to include non-Western civilizations, this book contains, at it's very heart, a lengthy explanation of the progress of Western Philosophy that is, by itself, among the most illuminating explanations of the subject I have ever encountered, surpassing Jurgen Habermas's Philosophical Discourse of Modernity and Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment by a wide, wide margin.

In Collins eyes, Western Philosophy is the story of an autonomous research University meeting changes engendered by "rapid discovery science" in the context of places like Berlin, Jena, Oxford and Cambridge. Starting with Kantian idealism, successive generations of philosophers have fought across the Epistemological /// Metaphysical divide for close to four hundred years now. In their never ending struggle to occupy the intellectual "space" created by the tremendous growth in educational institutions, opponents of Kantian idealism resurrected Scholastic (Christian Middle Ages) Epistemological arguments.

However- and this is almost exactly what I wrote on my blog the other day- the successors of the Kantian opponents don't really know anything about Scholasticism, and thus they are an example of "loss of ideas," one of several ways that Collins identifies intellectual communities of declining creativity. In fact, Collins notes that the institution of the university as laboratory for intellectual creativity is just as often not true as it is true (Ancient China had huge universities, they sucked.) Collins also postulates that since we don't know how history will regard our contemporary thinkers, it is entirely possible that people will look at this time period as being a mere pale echo of the early part of the 20th century.

Collins also drops a pretty big bomb on Sartre, Camus and French cultural theory generally speaking, noting that Sartre was the first "mass marketed" intellectual, and suggests that they may be the key to his current popularity and a reason he may not stand the test of time. I agree with that, by the way.

All in all, I found this book kind of hopeful in an odd way, and I will illustrate what I liked best about this book via the following paraphrased excerpt:

In 1820 when Arthur Schopenhauer was a young-ish man he traveled to Berlin and set up a series of lectures that was scheduled at the exact same time Kant was lecturing at the University of Berlin. At the time, people thought this was ridiculous. Schopenhauer was a nobody and Kant was the most famous philosopher in Germany. The lectures were a total failure, two people showed up, tops, sometimes no one showed up. Mean time, Kant drew hundreds- standing room only. Schopenhauer was literally laughed out of Berlin. Well, 200 odd years later Schopenhauer is just as relevant, if not more relevant, then Kant. Now, it makes perfect sense that Schopenhauer did what he did- people at the time were just too stupid to appreciate it.

Book Reviews:
 Schiller, On The Aesthetic Education of Man and 
The Beauty of the Primitive: Shamanism and the Western Imagination

I. Thoughts About the Insult "Nobody Cares."

            That phrase has become the ultimate retort for me, personally.  It's like, how do you refute that observation?  Either A) "People DO care!" which makes you sound like a loser or B) It doesn't matter if people care, which makes you sound like a psycho.  The fact is, we do live in a world with other people, and it is only in relation to others that we ourselves exist.  Reality is, in fact, socially constructed.  This does mean that there is literally no point to doing x unless someone else is aware of it.   That last sentence has some profound implications, since I think we all like to think that there is tons of stuff we do just "for ourselves" but nothing could be further from the truth.  WIthout other people there is no separate self to be established.

    The Blue Flower of Novalis: Symbol of Romanticism

II.  Book Review:  Friedrich Schiller, On The Aesthetic Education of Man, in a Series of Letters

             Ok here's a little pop culture bit to sweeten the mighty load of Friedrich Schiller:  The intellectuals of this period, inspired and defined by Goethe's seminal teen-angst classic The Sorrows of Young Werther.  Werther's style is still seen today in the goth subculture- moopy, depressed, poetic, etc.  Basically that's a combination of Anglo Byronic romanticism and German romanticism.  One of the main symbols of the Werther/Schiller era of German Romanticism is the blue flower of Novalis.  (Wiki)

           I see Schiller as being the actual embodiment of the Werther character, particularly after finishing the Aesthetic Educations of Man, a book I've now read three different times (undergraduate, law school, last month.)  That's probably because I see this book as kind of the birth of Romantic Pop Culture.  Basically, Schiller took Kantian idealism and crossed it with a popular format (i.e. they're written as "letters")  Unlike Kant, you can actually read Schiller, since this book is only 140 pages long.

         The reason this book is still relevant is that Kantian idealism underlays most popular manifestations of Romanticism, but most people who consider themselves "Romantics" literally have no idea what Kantian idealism means.  Myself included.  Thus, by reading this one 140 page book, you can kind of get a handle on the relationship, and gain a better understanding of artists who are influenced by this time period.  Like Depeche Mode... or, for a more hipster specific reference, Dr. Octagon's classic Blue Flowers. Cue lyrics:

Look at the land... Blue Flowers!
Drawing by the purple pond, in the purple pastures Blue Flowers!
Drawing by the purple pond, yellow ink that flows Blue Flowers
        Romanticism runs strong and deep in all of the Western nations.  It is, in fact, the primary ideology for people dissatisfied with reality  Just think about the prevalence of the "lonely hero." It's also the primary posture of artists of all stripes.  The more "popular" the art, the more romantic it is likely to be.
       Romanticism is both current and 400+ years old.  Thus, contemporary artists can manipulate the audience by being more aware of the symbols and modes of thought of something like Romanticism, since the listener WILL respond:  Think of all the people wearing Depeche Mode T-Shirts with Blue Flowers and Tour Dates printed on the back.  That's pure, unadulterated, 18th century German Romanticism.  The modern artist is inevitably an interpreter/re-interpreter of symbols with long-standing cultural resonance.

III.  The Beauty of the Primitive: Shamanism and the Western Imagination by Andrei Znamenski  

     Romanticism isn't just an artistic phenomenon, its influence extends all the way through the social sciences, from soup to nuts.  The whole idea of social sciences is susceptible to romantic criticism/interpretation since any sensible practitioner of sociology or anthropology realizes that their field is about as scientifically rigorous as the comments section on Brooklyn Vegan.  Following that trend, there are certain subjects that have benefited from this relationship.  The study of Shamanism/Ancient Religion is no doubt one of those subjects.  A hundred years ago, people didn't take Shamanism seriously.  It was inevitably discussed in the context of Siberian tribes, the word "shaman" derives specifically from that usage.
   This entirely Russian and a little bit Finnish scholarship was seized by post WWII sociologists in Europe and America as there was a rise in academic critiques of modernist subjects and approaches.  Social Scientists began to elevate Shamanism and broaden it's application into North and South American indigenous culture.  This trend came to a head in the book Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy by Eliade.  Eliade was followed by the psychedelic revolution of the 60s, and we all know where Shamanism went after the 60s.
   Znamenski, a scholar of Russian decent, takes us all the way through from Siberia, to the United States and back to Russia without missing a beat.  In his knowledgeable eye, the "neo-Shamanism" movement is an extension of the great rise in post-60s "unchurched" spirituality. Znamenski repeatedly argues that most criticism of this movement is simply in denial about how wide spread these believes are, and notes that the rise of a now established religious like Mormonism happened within the same, observed, historical context.  In that way I would say that the unchurched are still waiting for their prophet, or that the whole movement is inherently unreadable, much in the same way Pagans were in Greek and Roman times.
   This book is both authoritative and as well written as a magazine articles, without suffering from any scholarly deficiencies. Znamenski knows his stuff.

IV. The Retort  to "Nobody Cares"

"Only one person has to care."

Comparing Business Models:  Bedroom Indie Record Label vs. Ebay Store vs. Indie Craft

I'm a small business owner. My business is law, and I'm the only employee. When I started this business, I proceeded from three essential propositions:

1) Accurately predicting where income derived from on a monthly basis, and being able to accurately predict that amount 6 months into the future.

2) Minimum overhead.

3) Success of a small business is measured solely in its continued existence at the beginning; later it's the amount of money you make at it that matters.

Couple of examples of those propositions in the context of law (tho it could be any professional service): You don't need a secretary. Have you ever heard of a computer? That's your secretary. In terms of income, when you are starting a new business you SHOULD be able to survive a year of little to no income or you are just destined to fail. So, if you KNOW what months those are going to be, it helps you continue. Also, if you make it a year and it "isn't happening" you know when to flip the script, so to speak.

I. The Business Model of the Bedroom Indie Record Label

I put out a couple records bedroom indie style in 2006-07. Total failure! But that doesn't mean I didn't learn from the experience. Bearing in mind the above three principles, here are some observations.

1) That income six months out is going to "0" or close to it. Starting a record label is like starting any other small business, you need to be capitalized for a year or so, need to plan on multiple, consecutive releases close in time, etc. That does NOT mean merely having enough money to open the business, it means having enough money to survive for a year, and to pay out what needs to be paid out during that time. If you can't get past this item, odds are your bedroom indie will fail.

2) I think this is a controversial issue within the bedroom indie community. One position is that you handle everything yourself, out of your apartment or whatever. This is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. Find someone who is already making a living at the post office, pay them a small amount to send your packages. You can see this in relationship to 1) above, by considering that unless you are the idle rich, you yourself will be working to earn money to sustain your bedroom indie, so the odds of YOU being able to do 1) and 2) are pretty minimal.

Unlike, say, an Ebay store, a Bedroom Indie is NOT a shipping operation attached to a listing service.  The bedroom indie record label needs to be good at stuff OTHER then mailing stuff, whereas such a skill is crucial in something like Ebay stores.

3) This is huge in the bedroom indie biz, since there is pretty much no "real money" in music until you are releasing full length albums and doing all the associated bullshit that people talk about to death. Good luck with all that, but being really focused on the actual selling of records is a better approach.
2. The Business Model of the Ebay Store
1) This is a business where the initial problem is having enough sales every week to actually earn a living. Selling stuff on ebay is not difficult, but generating sufficient profit to sustain oneself in any fashion seems nearly impossible. Thus, there is going to be alot of time intensive experimentation. Unlike a bedroom indie, where you put out a record and try to sell X copies, the Ebay store requires time spend on each item, which means the amount of money you need to make on each item needs to be higher AND you have less time to work a "real" job, which, again you may need to have to sustain yourself. Ebay listings are a real time suck, so you better have some good s*** to sell.

2) Well odds are that you're going to be shipping this stuff yourself, so you want to find ways to maximize your trips to the post office, since those are another huge time suck. Finding other like businesses might be a good idea (pooling resources) or finding OTHER small businesses that have minor shipping needs and want to 'contract' out. The Ebay store is essentially a shipping operation, and success or failure often depends on well-executed mailing procedures.

3) Given the huge time commitment that an Ebay store requires, it would seem like the main danger would be burn out, though I suppose you could just not sell stuff, which would be even worse. Plus, there is a limit to how many of item x you can sell in each listing period (each week) and that limit is... one. So you need to establish multiple product categories, or do bulk listings in some fashion.

Personally, I want nothing to do with either business, the law is more then enough for me. But it seems to me that there is potential collaboration between the following three separate business communities: bed room indies, indie crafts and ebay sellers. The efficiency in this operation is by having the Ebay sellers handle the pooled shipping, since they are a LOT more likely to be "full-time" then the bedroom indies or the crafters. Then the record labels and the crafts can focus on marketing their product, and the ebay seller will have an additional line of income. The goal of all three is the same: sell s*** on-line, f*** retail.

Book Review: 
Selected Tales by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm;
 Translated by Joyce Crick

Selected Tales
by Jacob Grimm and Wilhelm Grimm;
Translated by Joyce Crick
Oxford University Press

In the introduction, Joyce Crick says the purpose of this edition of Selected Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is to "give the book back to the authors" by which she means Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. The Grimm's collected these tales at a place and time that basically made them the first people in the "modern" era to do such a thing. Of course, their product, their "Tales" had an after life that spawned hundreds of years of children's literature in Germany and the US, and eventually became the substantial basis for all of the early Disney smash hits, more or less.  Say what you want about Walt Disney being a Nazi, but no one who has been to Salzburg can deny the similarity.

The Grimms, being who they were,writing when they were, didn't provide any context, just the tales.  However, over time they did edit the selection of Tales, taking out some of the more gruesome tales and editing some of the remaining tales.  This edition does a good job of running through those differences.

Although I had a clear idea that the original Grimm's tales were much darker then the American/Disney versions, until I read this recently published book (2009 in America, 2008 UK?) I had never actually READ any of the tales.  I would have liked more info about the pre-Christian elements, but that was beyond the scope of the edition.  Maybe next time...4

Book Review
Essential Works of Stoicism
Marcus Aurelius: To Himself
Epictetus: The Manual
Diogene Laertius: Life of Zeno
Seneca: On Tranquility
Edited and with an introduction by Moses Hadas
"Bantam Matrix Edition" p. 1961

I love the serious-minded paper back books that American publishers released in the 60s and 70s.  The copy of Essential Works of Stoicism I'm writing about is a pocket sized paperback, 200 pages long.  The pages are yellowed with age but the binding is tight and the text is v. readable.  It's just a sweet little book.

Ok things to keep in mind about Stoicism.  Stoicism got its name from the place where Zeno taught his students.  That place was called Stoa Poikile or "the painted porch."  I imagine like a kind of covered arcade overhang.  I think people get too hung up on the fact that today, "stoicism" is just used as a description of a personality.  In fact, Stoicism is just "teachings of Zeno" and Zeno is just a major bad ass philosopher, the equal of Socrates, Plato or Aristotle.  Zeno was a major philosopher and, personally, he's my favorite.  The problem with Zeno is that he uh, didn't write anything down, so when you read about Stoicism you are reading scattered materials from 500 years of history.

Stoic philosophy is really just the part of ancient Greek Philosophy that hands out the kind of usable self-help that is such  a big deal for us today (Oprah).  Thus, unlike Plato and Aristotle, Stoic writers are giving advice on how to live day-to-day.  The surviving books are mostly from the Roman Empire period, which was a pretty f***** time to be a rich white guy.... kind of like existenalism and the 20th century, Stoicism has appeal to any civilization under pressure.

In this volume, you start with Diogenes Laertius: Life of Zeno.  This is a terrible book that survives because Zeon didn't write anything down.  It's really poorly written, just like a five year old wrote it, but there is Zeno... larger then life.  Walking around, telling people to chill the hell out, and getting weirdly into grammar and logic.  There's no separation of any of the disciplines, it just gloms together.

Next, you've got Seneca: On Tranquility. Seneca was a Roman cat who was really wealthy and powerful but had some ups and downs, alternately rewarded and persecuted by an insane Roman emperor.  On Tranquility is kind of like the auto-biography of a politician:  Knows his references, not a particuarly deep of sytematic thinker, lots of aphoristic phrasing of philosophical principles.

The biggest suprise was Epicteus: The Manual.  Now, Epicteus was another non-writer, so in this book the actual writer is one of his students named Arrian.  If I was going to start an indie press, I would start with an edition of this work.  The Manual is awesome: It's like the least bull shit self help book you ever read.  He's right about everything, about how to conduct yourself in public, in private etc.  It's a timeless message, and it's literally broken up into numbered paragraphs and is only 20 pages long.  Amazing!  It's the only 20 pages you need read to derive a maximum benefit from a 1000 years of Greek philosophy.  I'm kidding, kind of, but I'm never going to read "The Republic" you know what I mean?  Aristotle? Probably not.  20 pages of numbered aphorisms?  Done.

Essential Works closes with Marcus Aurelis: To Himself.  Aurelis was, of course, a  Roman emperor, and allegedly this was a journal he kept for his private contemplation.  I'm calling shenanigans on that claim, but this book is from the 60s so I'm going to cut Hadas some slack.  Like Seneca, Aurelius is a rich white guy dealing with the terrible stress of being the Emperor of Rome.  Boo hoo.  I couldn't relate.


Book Review
The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
by Julian Jaynes
p. 1978

Julian Jaynes was an obscure, non-tenure academic when he published this book in the late 1970s.  His outlandish thesis was that consciousness was a relatively recent invention, dating basically to the 1000 BCs.  Before then humans were directed by the voices of gods that they heard in their heads.

His argument is well constructed and spectacular in its scope.  Starting in Sumerian Mesopotamia circa 3000 BC he discusses how Kings from that time were always depicted talking directly to their gods.  People of that time had little idols that they kept in their homes (to tell them what to do) and people actually kept their gods in little god houses.  Jaynes theorizes that this voice is something that comes the inactive right side of the brain (language is concentrated in the left part of the brain.)

In the second part of the argument, Jaynes contrasts the Sumerian/Akkadian Mesopotamians to the Assyrians, who showed up circa 2000 BC.  Unlike the Sumerian/Akkadian leaders, who were always shown literally getting their orders from their God, the Assyrian kings were shown talking to empty thrones.  They were also terribly cruel and their letters are full of behavior that prefigures consciousness (plotting, scheming, anxiety.)

During the end of the 2000 BCs there was a several hundred year period of chaos that manifested in the West as the destruction of Mycenean civilization, but had impacts all over the Middle East.  Jaynes theorizes that this chaos resulted in the abandonment of people by their gods.  I.e. they could no longer hear the gods talking to them.  Jaynes is at his weakest when he tries to explain what exactly happened inside the brain during this period.

He speculates that it was the remnans of these bicameral ("god talks to me") people who became "the Hebrews"- based on the fact that the word Hebrew derives from the Akkadian term for "crazy people who wander in the desert."  Thus, in Jaynes thesis, the Bible is the ultimate example of humans evolving consciousness- from "God speaks to us" to "Where has god gone" in one book.  He also talks about the Odyssey vs. the Iliad, and even talks about how modern schizophrenia is a remnant of the bicameral mind.

Can Jaynes "prove" any of it? Not really, not enough evidence.  But I found it pretty convincing.

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