Key to deconstructing C Eddy/ S Reynolds

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Interpretation according to biography=gossip.

Ben Williams, Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:06 (seventeen years ago) link

Basically, Sterling I was complaining about the rules of subcultures that, if taken too seriously, will force them to ignore the pleasures their subculture doesn't appreciate. When I was heavy into indie rock in high school, I never bothered listening to Led Zeppelin because every rag I read told me not to bother. Lots of people overrate media they don't enjoy simply because everyone else in their clique do. There are plenty more examples of this all over. Maybe I'm too much of an individualist for you, but the older one gets, the less I feel they should live their lives (and base their tastes) according to what "social category" they're in.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:23 (seventeen years ago) link

arguing for the definition of a word = placing yourself in a social category

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:35 (seventeen years ago) link

Of lexicographers?

Ned Raggett (Ned), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:44 (seventeen years ago) link

yeah. right. I used to hang out with all the word definers in high school and we used to whip eggs at those who didn't and only liked movies about word definers. Got me.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:44 (seventeen years ago) link

haha yes of course "indie" that nebulous free-form word that can happily include everything from britney to ECM — you got me

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:50 (seventeen years ago) link


Ben Williams, Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:50 (seventeen years ago) link

mark, strike word and replace "genre" and you got it.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:52 (seventeen years ago) link


mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 16:56 (seventeen years ago) link

Please remember I think that a definition of a superword must be extremely broad.

I mean, we can safely assume indie rock is not a pastry or an interesting new way to whittle. There for the definition of indie rock must exist, lest people think we're talking about pastries. However, if someone thinks ECM is indie-rock, there's logic to it. And if somebody is trying to say "Britney" is indie for some god-unknown reason, there might be logic to that too. But since no logic would define Millard Fillmore as "indie rock" we can assume the definition of Indie Rock would exclude Millard Fillmore.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:07 (seventeen years ago) link

my other point is just that I don't trust people obsessed with social category because social category can hinder individuality. I believe that's all I'm arguing here.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:08 (seventeen years ago) link

Individuality only means something in relation to social category is what my point is.

If there were no social categories, then everyone wouldn't all be individuals, rather we would all be the same, or at least unable to distinguish if we were individuals.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:14 (seventeen years ago) link

Did I say there are no social categories or that they shouldn't exist? Nope. Just said I don't trust people obsessed with BEING in one.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:16 (seventeen years ago) link

i.e. someone who thinks they're punker than the punkest punk.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:17 (seventeen years ago) link

But by refusing to define yrself as punk don't you see yrself as the punkest of them all?

Yancey (ystrickler), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:20 (seventeen years ago) link

well, all we are saying is that argument over definitions of genre is a major way of putting down boundary-markers for said categories

they can't be punker than the punkest punk cz that's me

mark s (mark s), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:22 (seventeen years ago) link

duh to the former. nuh to the latter.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Tuesday, 19 November 2002 17:24 (seventeen years ago) link

Why is social category so important in music criticism? When it isn't, really, in any other form of arts criticism. Movie critics don't make value judgements based on the audience's class/ethnicity/gender. But music critics do, often quite obsessively.

I blame Dick Hebdige.

Ben Williams, Thursday, 28 November 2002 13:52 (seventeen years ago) link

four weeks pass...
Ben, you're surprising me. From reading your posts in general, I'd expect you to like that social category is an issue. I've never read Hebdige. I doubt that he has much to do with it. I can't think of a time in my life when social category wasn't an issue. The thread title top 600 songs that would [have] gotten you beat up if you walked down the hall singing them loudly in grade six gives a reason why.

Movie critics don't make value judgments based on the audience's class/ethnicity/gender.

Yes they do - well, change "based on" to "taking into account," and they do. They may not be aware of it, though. Maybe they're not as thoughtful as music critics. (Should probably change that to "maybe they're even more thoughtless than music critics.") But smart movie critics like Otis Ferguson and Manny Farber and Andrew Sarris didn't ignore the relation between taste and social category.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Thursday, 26 December 2002 05:22 (seventeen years ago) link

I was being a little disingenuous...

I don't dislike social category as an issue. I do think it tends to be deployed in somewhat kneejerk fashion in music criticism. To wit: what the "working class" like (or rather are presumed to like) is usually valorized as good, real and authentic (because it questions and/or unmasks society's status quo through some combination of primitivism and montage effects), and what the "middle class" like (or rather are presumed to like) is usually dismissed as bad, fake and inauthentic (because it upholds the status quo through some combination of "lightness" and holistic investment in "quality"). Often class is invoked as a guarantor of value in itself; the question of who exactly constitutes the classes in question is rarely examined, or indeed whether there are any other classes besides this convenient binary. I mentioned Dick Hebdige because he created what has proven to be a very durable paradigm along these lines, one that still holds conscious or unconscious sway over British music critics (but not at all among Americans) who did a bit of Cult Studs at some point in their lives...

I haven't read Otis Ferguson and Manny Farber. I do read Andrew Sarris in the Observer, and can't say I've ever noticed social category playing much of a role in his work. But I'm not familiar with anything like its entirety. I'm not so well versed in movie criticism in general, but I've read a fair bit and issues of class just don't seem to be nearly as prevalent--although it might be fair to say that the difference between taking class into account and basing judgements on it is exactly what I was thinking of...

I think there's actually a simple reason why music critics tend to be more concerned with social category than movie critics (if you'll allow me to maintain that for a moment longer), which is that music is used much more as a marker of personal identity than movies are. Kids (other than movie geeks) don't get into fights at school over tribal identification with Spielberg vs. Scorcese.

I just wish the treatment was bit more sophisticated sometimes...

Ben Williams, Thursday, 26 December 2002 20:08 (seventeen years ago) link

Ben, keep going. I think I look at "social category" in a more local way, the locale not being so much geographic as socio-intellectual. And my particular locale (though this doesn't necessarily correspond to whom I see in person day-to-day) is Marginal Artists And Intellectuals And Bohos And Hobbyists. And I'm interested in social category not just as it plays out between this group (Boho Arties & Ints) and others, but within it. ("Within" being a problematic term, of course.) And that's pretty much all I'm going to say right now, because I promised myself to work on something else today. But here are some ideas: (1) Brits like Frith, Sinker, and Reynolds all take seriously the fact that there is oppression and that music can be propaganda, both good and bad. But they also take seriously that people in social groups other than our own often do a lot better job than we do of entertaining themselves. (2) Hebdige, as you describe him, is trying to recuperate "working-class" entertainment on behalf of the Protestant ethic. This makes people like Frith and Sinker and Reynolds (and me) very suspicious of people like Hebdige. [Notice I've just claimed to have identified two social categories.] (3) In my fanzine in the late '80s I'd complained that '60s progressive rockers wouldn't play what they couldn't justify, and that alternative-indie-postpunk rock had become the new progressive rock (hence wouldn't play what it couldn't justify). I said that this was the Protestant Ethic in hip and then punk guise. But I'm not altogether against the Protestant Ethic.

The best Ferguson is the out-of-print Film Criticism of Otis Ferguson, rather than the in-print Otis Ferguson Reader. The classic (and only, as far as I know) Farber collection is Negative Space, also called Movies. My complaint - "wouldn't play what they couldn't justify" - is one that Ferguson and Farber would recognize very well.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Thursday, 26 December 2002 22:09 (seventeen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
Also trying to map the model onto reggae, which seems to have an opposite thing going on, but I probably need to think about it some more.

Tim, did you ever do this, ever make your map? Did you post it?

Well, in regards to social category and punk, here's a big one. Is punk the apocalypse or the idealists built to survive it? Iggy Pop or Jello Biafra? Johnny Rotten or Ian MacKaye? If the interview from Popped still stands, then Kogan would vote for the nihilists. But Joe Strummer said in SPIN that nobody's punker than Fugazi, so there's one strong vote for the other side. Since I personally prefer broad definitions, I tend to think of punk basically means someone ACTIVELY outside of the mainstream who takes pride in the middle finger and/or the electric guitar.

But Anthony, to be actively outside the mainstream is such a mainstream ideal. "Middle finger" and "electric guitar" are hardly relegated to the fringes. Johnny Rotten comes from the main stream of modern life more than Celine Dion does. Iggy declared himself the mainstream in his very first stanza. It's 1969, OK, all across the USA, another year for me and you, another year with nothing to do. So here we are. I speak for you whether you listen or not. In every single person is a Slim Shady lurkin'. He could be workin' at Burger King, spittin' on your onion rings, or outside in the parking lot, circling, screaming "I don't give a fuck," with his windows down and his system up. So will the real Shady please stand up and put one of those fingers on each hand up and be proud to be out of your mind and out of control, and one more time, loud as you can, how does it go? But notice how you split up against yourself, how your inner Shady is spitting on your own onions, and anyway, I'm the real Slim Shady, and all you other Shadies are just imitating. I was Johnny Rotten before Johnny Rotten was. No one does Kogan like Kogan. So:

Is punk the apocalypse or the idealists built to survive it?

Both, both, both at once, each against the other, each embracing the other. Punk is (among many other things) the conflict between the apocalypse and the survivors. And this conflict can be within a person as well as between people. This is what Tracer is getting at, I think. Iggy and Johnny are idealists, not nihilists. The distinction you should be going for is between two different ways of using ideals: (1) To hold the ideal up against a world in order to keep prodding that world, tearing at it; the ideal is a Memphis that you can never get to, a Johanna that you can never have, but you use 'em to prod and pummel poor Mobile and Louise, because you like to pummel and tear, even or especially if you yourself are the one being torn; turn around bitch, I've got a use for you. Come and be my enemy, so I can love you too. Besides, you've got nothing better to do, and I'm bored. (2) As a practical guide for creating and correcting an ongoing structure (such as ILx) in which interesting people can pummel and tear and bond with each other.

(I developed the concept Superword to explain Dylan's "Memphis Blues Again" and "Visions of Johanna," took it from there to genre.) (Movie double bill: From Here to Eternity and From There to Genre.)

(The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and A Farewell to Arms.)

See, I would say you need a DAMN wide net to harness a superword, but if it literally meant ANYTHING, than why would you say it at all?

Anthony, you're running off the rails here, and also changing the subject, since no one said that it could mean anything. You don't need a harness and net to constrain a dolphin from flying to the moon.

punk rock /= punk

Don't know if you mean (1) that "punk rock" and "punk" are different concepts ("Yum, that chocolate eclair à la dead squirrel is so punk rock." "No, it's merely punk") or (2) that punk rock isn't very punk, or isn't punk enough, or isn't as punk as some other things. Would you elaborate?

Please remember I think that a definition of a superword must be extremely broad. I mean, we can safely assume indie rock is not a pastry or an interesting new way to whittle. Therefore the definition of indie rock must exist, lest people think we're talking about pastries.

They won't no matter what, since they know that pastries are punk rock, not indie. And "definition" isn't the word you're looking for. "Meaning," perhaps? But you're wrong no matter what word you use (see floundering W's below). But even if you were right, I don't see that you're addressing the topic at hand. For instance, if I differentiate myself by saying "Michael Jackson is punk but the Gang of Four aren't," it's simply beside the point for you to say, "But very broadly speaking, you and the Gang of Four fan mean enough of the same thing by 'punk' to prevent either of you from mistaking it for tuna fish." I'm sure that I and the Gang of Four fan have lots in common - otherwise, I wouldn't be trying to distinguish myself from him! - but what's at issue is where he and I disagree. And I'm arguing that if we didn't disagree on how to apply "punk rock," the term would be much less useful.

(Those teacher's pets in Gang of Four ask, "Is this so private, our struggle in the bedroom?" I don't know, is it? Listen to "Billie Jean" and "Dirty Diana" and find out. Or "Under My Thumb" and "Back Street Girl.")

wittgensteinisms flounder like lenored blouses in a warm breeze.

I'll stop imitating. Here's the real Slim Wittgy:

Imagine someone's saying: "All tools serve to modify something. Thus the hammer modifies the position of the nail, the saw the shape of the board, and so on." - And what is modified by the rule, the glue-pot, the nails? - "Our knowledge of a thing's length, the temperature of the glue, and the solidity of the box." - Would anything be gained by this assimilation of expressions?


Consider for example the proceedings we call "games." I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all? - Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games'" - but look and see whether there is anything common to all. - For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don't think, but look! - Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences to the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass next to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost. - Are they all "amusing"? Compare chess with noughts and crosses. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of patience. In ball games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis. Think now of games like ring-a-ring-a-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared! And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way; can see how similarities crop up and disappear.

And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.


But if someone wished to say: "There is something common to all these constructions - namely the disjunction of their common properties" - I should reply: Now you are only playing with words. One might as well say: "Something runs through the whole thread - namely the continuous overlapping of those fibres."


For how is the concept of a game bounded? What still counts as a game and what no longer does? Can you give the boundary? No. You can draw one; for none so far has been drawn. (But that never troubled you before when you used the word "game.")

"But then the use of the word is unregulated, the 'game' we play with it is unregulated." - It is not everywhere circumscribed by rules; but no more are there any rules for how high one throws the ball in tennis, or how hard; yet tennis is a game for all that and has rules too.

I've quoted all these for Anthony's benefit, since they ought to take care of his concerns, unless he's pathologically addicted to the Problem Of Universals. But as Wittgenstein himself would have pointed out, the ideas I've just quoted don't have any consequences one way or the other for how you yourself might use the words "tool" and "game," don't argue for preserving standard usage or modifying it. And they don't speak at all to my point, which is that standard usage of a term like "punk rock" includes our disagreeing over its usage, and that such disagreements are a creative, constructive, normal, everyday use of language. They're not a flaw, not a problem to be stopped. Agreement doesn't have to be the goal. (Check the Sociology of Pop thread, where I make a similar point about value judgments in general, not just about Superwords.)

[More to come. Ha!]

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Saturday, 11 January 2003 03:14 (seventeen years ago) link

Kogan yr. great! (Do you know anything about Levi-Strauss? -- post to my thread on ILE)

Have you encountered my relating of superword to supersounds theory cf. Reynolds on the "Amen" break in Energy Flash? I forgot where I posted it.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Saturday, 11 January 2003 04:15 (seventeen years ago) link

wowsers. Sweet post, Kogan. I haven't read much aside from music reviews and Pauline Kael books these days (sad, I'll admit, but I have pretty much no idea where to begin literary-wise so I've stuck to my bread'n'butter movies'n'music) so I did indeed appreciate the hefty Slim Wittgy sample.

It's been so long since I read this thread that I can't really remember what's being argued though.

Anthony Miccio (Anthony Miccio), Saturday, 11 January 2003 17:32 (seventeen years ago) link

Frank's former roommate Elizabeth once reported that no matter how when she dressed for a date, and asked, "Well? What do you think you think?" he would *always* reply, "Not slutty enough." Superword has spoke. ilx is thee superpost.

Don Allred, Tuesday, 14 January 2003 02:12 (seventeen years ago) link

But this field is not so super. Again: Frank Kogan's former roomie Elizabeth once reported that when she dressed for a date, and asked "Well? What do you think?" his verdict was *always* "Not slutty enough." Superword has spoke,ilx is thee superpost.

Don Allred, Tuesday, 14 January 2003 02:21 (seventeen years ago) link

three weeks pass...
Ben Williams emailed me this comment: "In that thread where I brought up Hebdige, and you mentioned the Protestant Ethic, I didn't get the bit about the Protestant Ethic at all. I understand the Protestant Ethic to mean the virtues which thriftiness, hard work etc. supposedly hold in the eyes of god, which according to Max Weber were translated to the service of Mammon. This is pretty much the opposite of Hebdige, who is all about rebel boys on the streets undermining the capitalist system."

My response:

Protestant Ethic = through the grace of God, if you're one of the elect, your actions, including your leisure-time pursuits, will serve a useful social and moral purpose.

rebel boys on the streets = the elect
undermining the capitalist system = serving a useful social and moral purpose

By the way, I have nothing against art or Frank serving useful social and moral purposes. I just don't like the clampdown that comes into effect when "serving a social and moral purpose" is tied to a vision in which (1) the capitalist world is fundamentally corrupt and all-engulfing (= puritan conception that worldliness is fundamentally corrupt); (2) if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem, so if you're not actively undermining capitalism, you're reinforcing it; (3) since your actions should serve a useful social and moral purpose, and since your actions - every single one of them - either undermine or reinforce capitalism, you should endeavor to make all your actions undermine capitalism; so (4) these people wouldn't play what they couldn't justify, and they have to justify their playtime and that of the people they champion by saying it undermines capitalism. So if some gutter punks are getting fucked up and going wild, and this rocks, by golly it better undermine capitalism too.

However, in r'n'r, the Protestant Ethic isn't so much the committed leftist's attempt to undermine capitalism as it is the hipster-freak-punk's attempt to maintain his vision of himself as outside of the mainstream; the ethic in full effect tells him that any action moves you either towards or away from the mainstream. Of course, not all punks buy into this (as a matter of fact, before punk became a movement, one thing that distinguished proto-punk-types from the freaks was that the punks didn't buy into the counterculture's vision of itself as a counterculture; but that was back in the days when punk = intelligent), just as not all leftists buy into the idea of capitalism as an all-engulfing system, or the idea that if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem.

The r'n'r Prot Ethic has interesting permutations: e.g. a full-time sex-drugs-and-r'n'r funster is still a puritan (undermining the prot ethic = serving a useful social and moral purpose); if he's attempting to purify rock'n'roll, cure it of its social pretensions and make it full fun like in the nonexistent good old days, he's still only playing what he can justify, even if he's flip-flopped the terms so that full-time morality = seven-day weekend.

A little bit of Prot Ethic is better than none, I think; it can be useful for pushing words into Superwords. If to be a freak or a punk you have to be outside of society, then "freak" and "punk" will always keep slipping from your grasp, will dart on ahead while you try to chase them. Any and every freak/punk will potentially fall short, will always be playing catch-up.

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Monday, 10 February 2003 17:20 (seventeen years ago) link

(sorry to interrupt: kogan i need yr deathless elven memory on my silly "qua" thread)

mark s (mark s), Monday, 10 February 2003 17:29 (seventeen years ago) link

Has anyone actually seen this Protestant Ethic person walking around in the last, say, twenty years? I gather that Hebdige actually exists, but then he resides within the cryogenic realm of the academy, where any number of extinct creatures feed and defecate. Even so, P. E. is by now something of a straw opponent, yes? And the rebel boy on the street is about as lively a figure as the embattled worker. Relative to this, Frank, would you care to enumerate those aspects of life that fall outside the capitalist world?

Luc S., Monday, 10 February 2003 19:33 (seventeen years ago) link

(Is evil a superword?)

Cozen (Cozen), Monday, 10 February 2003 21:56 (seventeen years ago) link

Praps by defining yrs elf as solution you become part of the prob-lem, probb-lemm oops my old vinyl Bollocks got stuck again sorry(examples of such ID might icl George W, and the (original, West-Endorsed)Saddam, and anysaviour really. Mark: "qua" comes from reading Ayn Rand's version of Aristotle while you should be listening to your 9th grade Latin teacher (at least in my case). Don't know which "form" 9th grade equivalates but obv. formative years (aint they all)

Don Allred, Tuesday, 11 February 2003 03:26 (seventeen years ago) link

three years pass...

Frank Kogan (Frank Kogan), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 16:24 (fourteen years ago) link

I smoked pot with Chuck Eddy's kid

Cee Bee (Cee Bee), Tuesday, 9 May 2006 16:45 (fourteen years ago) link

seven years pass...

this thread is the best

caulk the wagon and float it, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 19:43 (seven years ago) link

i desire an anthology of the ancient posts with as wonderful a thoughtful content : jokes/trolls/insults ratio as this one

caulk the wagon and float it, Wednesday, 22 May 2013 19:44 (seven years ago) link

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