Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Lookout... Here Comes Stream-of-Conscious Blogging

The title was no joke. I have all these little ideas bouncing around in my head. I have no idea what order they're coming out in. After trying and failing to organize the little buggers, I decided to let them duke it out themselves. Here goes.

I'm planning to head down to Keegan's tomorrow night to watch the great Fraters Libertas trivia team defend their title against the All-Star team Hugh Hewitt is putting together, including James Lileks and Michael Medved. Apparently, it isn't a sure thing that Hugh's team will show up. But I figure plenty of other bloggers and blog fans and Patriot listeners will be there. Sounds fun, and I got the thumbs-up from the World's Greatest Wife and Mother (take notes newly-weds, that one gets you WAY better mileage than "little woman" or "ball and chain").

I have images of Medved sipping Mogen-David from a tiny glass, Hugh nursing a Miller-lite, Lileks drinking coffee and looking longingly at the Fraters table which is over-flowing with top-shelf martinis, pitchers of dark beer, and tequila shots. Naturally, I'll be gravitating toward the Fraters. They've already taken out smoking in Minneapolis. Booze could well be next. It's our civic duty to make public displays of our affection for the stuff. Out of towners like Hewitt and Medved (and hometown suck-ups like Lileks) do not appreciate the urgency.

Speaking of urgency.... ok I just liked the transition. I got nothin' to back that up. How urgent can a guy be who just admitted he's going to go boozin' at a bar to be a spectator at a trivia contest tomorrow night.

Though it does call to mind the ginned up urgency preached from both sides of the political aisle as the election approaches. That's not in itself surprising. In fact, that's literally the job description of some of those in the political scene. During every election someone has to make us believe there is something really important going on and you'd better not miss it. Otherwise a majority of the electorate stays home and watches Seinfeld re-runs.

What's surprising, and not entirely comforting, is how earnestly a large part of the electorate is starting to take this stuff. A frightening number of them seriously believe we're on the verge of a Nazi or Stalinist regime depending on which party wins this upcoming contest. That's not a healthy perspective for a functioning republic. In fact, if we can't pull back and gain a little more perspective, that's a sort of situation one might find in a nation heading toward civil war - and not the metaphorical kind.

These thoughts were already floating around the edges of my political mind when I came across this excellent comment by Freeper "Nick Danger" on a Free Republic thread commenting on this excellent piece by Wretched from the Belmont Club:

The undercard in the Kerry vs Swiftvets bout is Mainstream Media vs Kid Internet

Is that the undercard? I think it's the main bout. K- k- k- Kerry and the Vets will be history by mid-November. The struggle over the soul of the nation will not end so soon.

The leftsream media will lose, of course. They are outnumbered and outgunned.

This might not be a good thing. The better thing would have been for the journalism profession to have remained honest. It is not bad to have an entire nation agreeing on a commonly-held set of facts. We're losing that now, and you can see it on the Internet. Democrats who come here regard 90% of what we say here as absolute BS. We look at their sites, and all we see is BS.

We know for a "fact" Clinton was lying scumbucket. Democrats know for a "fact" that Clinton was he victim of a vicious right-wing smear job. The same thing is happening now with Kerry.

We used to argue over opinions. Now we don't even agree on the facts. Reagan tried to make ketchup a vegetable in the schools. No, he didn't. Clinton did make salsa a vegetable in the schools. Democrats don't even know about that — the leftstream media spiked any mention of it.

Had the mainstream media remained even somewhat honest about things, we would not now be degenerating into a society of two (at least!) disagreeable camps going at each other with hammer and tongs.

But the mainstream media is not honest anymore, and they can't fix themselves in time to do any good. No one who is politically active trusts them anymore. So what we are going to see happen is a lot like the Tower of Babel story, with the body politic disintegrating into ever-smaller segments, each of which follows its own "media" and "knows" its own "facts."

I don't know how 300 million people can govern themselves with that going on. It is a situation ripe for a strongarm dictatorship.

He's right. It's depressing, and no one I know has a clue how to correct it. Truth be told, the history of republics in general suggests that there is no reversing that sort of thing once it starts. My own further thoughts on the history of the republic some other time, but suffice it to say I do not find this any more comforting than Mr. Danger.

Incidentally, Nick Danger is one of a handful of Freepers who are worth seeking out via the "posted by" search tool on Free Republic. It's like reading a combination of a good blog and that blogger's comments on other blogs.

But anyway, the Swiftvet deal prompted two very good articles today; one by Robert Samuelson at the Washington Post, and another on the same topic by Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online. Both of these are about how it's impossible to justify surpressing political speech as exercised by the "527" groups in this election while simultaneously upholding the First Amendment.

Money quote from Samuelson:
The First Amendment says that Congress "shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government" (that's "political association''). The campaign finance laws, the latest being McCain-Feingold, blatantly violate these prohibitions. The Supreme Court has tried to evade the contradiction. It has allowed limits on federal campaign contributions. It justifies the limits as preventing "corruption" or "the appearance of corruption." But the court has rejected limits on overall campaign spending by candidates, parties or groups. Limiting spending, the court says, would violate free speech. Spending enables candidates to reach voters through TV and other media.

Unfortunately, this artful distinction doesn't work. If groups can spend any amount on campaigns, their spending can easily become unlimited contributions. All they need to do is ask the campaign how their money ought to be spent -- on what TV ads, for example. To prevent this, the FEC imposes restrictions on "coordination" between candidates, parties and groups making "independent expenditures." John Kerry alleges that the Swift Boat Veterans and the Bush campaign "coordinated" illegally. Republicans see similar ties between Kerry and Democratic 527s.

But "coordination" is really "speech" and "political association." It's talking and planning among people who want to elect or defeat the same candidates.

and from Goldberg:
What is so thoroughly absurd and tragic is how we've come to accept as the "enlightened" position in America that political speech needs to be regulated as much as the instructions on prescription drugs. These 527s are the inevitable consequence of the fact that Americans who don't have the opportunity to appear on television or write columns for newspapers want to have a voice in politics. They're also the result of the fact that very rich people — like George Soros — can always find a way to be heard. Campaign-finance "reform" holds that only "legitimate" voices can be heard in a democracy, which should be repugnant to the crowd that usually waxes pious about First Amendment rights.

What the heck has happened to liberalism? I mean the real deal, as opposed to whatever happens to be the current political preferences of the American left, which is what the term "liberalism" has come to mean colloquially. The old kind was something to be admired, even when one disagreed on its application to a particular situation. The wretched creature that goes by the name these days is responsible for some of the most illiberal concoctions imaginable, and is enthusiastic about enacting even more wildly illiberal creations.

I suppose David Horowitz has the best take. No matter how much you might loathe Joseph McCarthy, Stalinists really did infiltrate American academia and media in the days of the Cold War to a frightening extent. It doesn't matter if you believe that this was the literal infiltration of Soviet agents, or the independent intellectual acceptance of the basic tenets of Stalinism by Lenin's "useful idiots."

In either case, it certainly wasn't John Stewart Mill who proposed a "diversity" imperative that excluded disagreable political diversity - that came from Lenin. The speech codes which have turned our universities into idealogical monoliths didn't bleed into our laws by accident - they got there when the generation that praised Karl Marx and Mao Tse Tung at the political rallies of their youth achieved tenure. We've seen this stuff before. Only we saw it on the other side of the iron curtain.

No great point to make here. Stream of conscious, remember? On to pop music.

I don't rightly know what makes the "rock and roll" genre so lasting and popular. When you study music history, it's fairly easy to see why it made such an impression to the pop scene when it hit in the 50's. It was new. It had catchy tunes. The rhythms took the most infectious parts of swing, and blues, and gospel and shaved off anything too complicated for a teenaged ear.

Skip forward to today. The stuff is more popular than ever. But it's terribly dull. Sure you can find something interesting going on in isolated pockets at the edges of noticability. But consider the size of the monster. The sheer numbers suggest that someone somewhere must stumble across a catchy tune or decent idea at some point. And blind squirrels sometimes catch acorns.

Sorry to those who invest considerable time and effort in modern pop/rock/hip-hop or whatever the heck it pretends to be these days. It's all minor branches off the "rock" tree. But the tree itself is largely dead. The difference between Swing and Be-Bop is huge, interesting, and worth exploring. The difference between alternative, pop, classic rock, hip-hop, and modern county is the modern equivalent of deciding how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

I wonder what the next interesting music trend will be. If there is one out there, it hasn't happened yet.

And while we're on the subject, let's dispell the notion that I think all the music I listen to is on some higher plane. I listen to plenty of the stuff I just condemned above. I just don't pretend my interest makes it important.

Example: Just last night I was - shall we say "jamming" - to Styx Greatest Hits: "Lady," "Come Sail Away," "Renegade," "Blue Collar Man." I had a blast. But does that mean it's great music? No. It was a combination of personal nostalgia and musical elements Styx artfully copied which were developed in the 50's and 60's.

Another example: One of the best albums in my CD collection is the Bill Elliot Swing Orchestra - Live at the Hollywood Palladium. This is a band from the late 90's swing craze. Their unique niche? They were one of the most faithful recreations of the authentic original swing sound. You wanted a punkier swing? Cherry Poppin' Daddies (who played more than just swing for the record) had you covered. You wanted a Dixieland-ish, small set sound? Squirrelnut Zippers was the way to go. You just wanted something that sounded like Glenn Miller or Benny Goodman, only with original material and/or performances? Couldn't do better than the Bill Elliot Orchestra. But again... this is aping stuff that came before. Sure, it's fun stuff and good to listen to. But the only way it speaks to us artistically is via a nostalgic intermediary.

Which is sort of my point about the whole rock genre. Sure, to some extent it was always a bit of a posseur thing. But at this point the possuers are aping posseurs of other posseurs. Where is a real original artistic voice that strikes something original on its own AND speaks to a respectable audience?

I dunno. But I expect one to show up eventually. Art just pops out at some point. Human beings can't help it, no matter how much the dictates of fashion, or morality, or censorship try to keep it down.

And without much more ado, let me leave on a positive note. Clos Du Bois is doing nice things with Shiraz (also known as Syrah) in the California wine scene. Their early attempts are commendably approachable, tasty, and affordable. We're not talking about a premium wine here. But as far as wine for the masses goes, this is a step in the right direction.

The stream of conscious is approaching lack of consciousness. Goodnight.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be drinking Effen vodka. I have a driver.

Suck-up? Come over to the table and say that to my face! (Said the brave guy, posting anonymously.)

12:51 PM  

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