Saturday, January 23, 2010

Musical Interlude: Cabaret Voltaire

Here's a live version of "Gut Level" from 1983:



While you're at it, check out an interview with CV's Richard H. Kirk from the BBC documentary Synth Britannia.

Finally, here's a track from Red Mecca (an album Kirk mentions in his interview), titled "Black Mask":



That whole album (Red Mecca) was solid, menacing, paranoid soundtrack music that was right for the times. For better or worse, the recordings hold up remarkably well nearly three decades later and are every damn bit as relevant. "Black Mask" was possibly my favorite track off the album, and fits very nicely with this video of vintage 1950s sheeple. I keep waiting for someone to take the tune and turn it into a soundtrack to a video of people going through airport security, obediently taking off their shoes, and getting full body scans from those radiation emitting monstrosities that are supposed to keep us "safe" from "terra."

Now here's some change I can believe in

More Senators are threatening to show Bernanke the door. Whether of course his nomination for a second term heading the Federal Reserve gets derailed still remains to be seen, but the chorus of opponents is growing larger and louder then the last time I made note of it. It should also be noted that his opposition has been bipartisan. Bernanke and (thankfully) soon-to-be-former Sen. Dodd would have you believe that the sky will fall if he isn't confirmed. Don't believe the hype. The Fed needs people who are competent and who weren't responsible for the mess that our economy is currently in. Maybe that's asking a bit much. We'll see.

New Vanity Fair article up on Charles Johnson

About six or seven years ago, Little Green Footballs, run by Charles Johnson was a notorious right-wing blog. There was just one little problem: Charles was not your run-of-the-mill wingnut. In fact, it's questionable if he were ever truly "conservative" in the sense we currently use the term. Anyhoo, here's a VF article on Charles. If there's a lesson that can be learned, I think it is this: as activists, advocates, writers, bloggers, whatever, we would be served well to ditch the sectarianism. What I value most in writers, regardless of perspective, is an open-minded skepticism. It's one thing to have a passionate set of beliefs (heck, I'd even encourage it), but it's quite another thing to be so blinded by passion that one fails or refuses to consider other points of view. What probably drew wingnuts to his blog was his disdain for Islamic extremism, which fit in well during the early years of the "war on terra." Problem was that much of his audience belonged to a different extremist group identified as Christian. So when it became apparent that he was actually pro-science and pro-theory of evolution, these folks freaked.

Of course once one actually takes a look at what a fair number of these movement conservatives and their self-appointed leaders believe, there is cause for concern. I refer periodically to much of today's "conservative" movement to be an American version of the Taliban for good reason. Just look at the so-called "tea party movement" or the birthers or some of these other wackos and it begins to remind me a bit of a zombie movie without the humor or entertainment value. Then I start to ask myself some rather uncomfortable questions, such as, what ever happened to critical thinking? Can we really expect to have a functioning society for much longer when such a large proportion of our citizenry seem perfectly happy to parrot whatever nonsense their chosen tribal leaders spout off, even when solid contradictory evidence is staring them in the face? Is a society in which too many are caught up in their tribe's scoring political points at all costs (i.e., scorched earth politics) even worth trying to salvage? I haven't quite reached the point of cynicism with regard to the last question, but I definitely am increasingly concerned. Plenty of the bloggers and columnists I link to share that concern from their varying perspectives. Regardless of our probable disagreements on plenty of topics, what I respect is the willingness to think reflectively. That's something we need more of: people (hopefully with much more influence than me) who are willing to wake up and think critically. Failing that, I would offer that it's a safe bet that the America we inherit a decade hence will be even less salvageable or worth salvaging than is currently the case. Food for thought.

Musical Interlude: M. Sayyid

Time for some night music from one of the Antipop Consortium Crew, M. Sayyid. This one is called 'Soul'.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interesting article on jobs and typecasting

Professor Is a Label That Leans to the Left, looks at the influence of typecasting of jobs on career aspirations. One reason that many professors are more liberal to leftist on average may well have to do with the way the academic world has been typecast:
The academic profession “has acquired such a strong reputation for liberalism and secularism that over the last 35 years few politically or religiously conservative students, but many liberal and secular ones, have formed the aspiration to become professors,” they write in the paper, “Why Are Professors Liberal?” That is especially true of their own field, sociology, which has become associated with “the study of race, class and gender inequality — a set of concerns especially important to liberals.”

What distinguishes Mr. Gross and Mr. Fosse’s research from so much of the hubbub that surrounds this subject is their methodology. Whereas most arguments have primarily relied on anecdotes, this is one of the only studies to use data from the General Social Survey of opinions and social behaviors and compare professors with the rest of Americans.

Mr. Gross and Mr. Fosse linked those empirical results to the broader question of why some occupations — just like ethnic groups or religions — have a clear political hue. Using an econometric technique, they were then able to test which of the theories frequently bandied about were supported by evidence and which were not.

Intentional discrimination, one of the most frequent and volatile charges made by conservatives, turned out not to play a significant role.
The rest of the article is pretty tantalizing, and I hope to read the published findings once they've been through the peer review process. To my conservative friends - especially the movement conservatives, I'll assure you that there is no conspiracy going on to keep conservatives out of the so-called "ivory tower." Rather, conservatives often weed themselves out long before they'd even be in a position to consider an academic life. And yes, the more loudly mass media pundits complain about how awful the academic world is, the number of potential conservative academicians probably continues to drop. Look at it this way: if all I ever seem to hear is how "this job sucks" or "the people who work there suck", that career option is going to become a big turn-off for me.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Interesting Eno Interview

On gospel, Abba and the death of the record: an audience with Brian Eno (h/t). As a long-time admirer of Eno's work, there really isn't anything earth-shattering in the interview or article. If anything, like Eno himself notes, the consistency in his words over the years is quite striking. Still, it's an interesting read, simply for the fact that one of the more influential figures in pop music takes stock of his lengthy career.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Musical Interlude: Cabaret Voltaire

Since I'm on a 1990s kick, here's a tune from 1991 - "Colours" by Cabaret Voltaire.



After 1987's Code (which was okay) and 1990's Groovy Laidback and Nasty (which sounded flat, and on which Mal gave a creepily dead-on Phil Collins impersonation on vocals), the Colours ep was a nice return to form. I was a bit gunshy at first, after being disappointed with Groovy Laidback and Nasty, but was glad that curiosity eventually got the better of me and that I gave the recording a chance.

The title track featured here offers a bridge between their earlier days, back when Mal's vocals were either whispered or barked and their last three full-length albums which would be exclusively instrumental affairs. Mal, even at his calmest, could add an air of menace to whatever music accompanied him. The sound here also strongly hints at the direction Richard H. Kirk would take as a solo artist. The musical theme seems reminiscent of "Kino" but with a healthy dose of then-contemporary house music and ambient. There are so many textures, for lack of a better term, that one could listen to this tune over and over and still hear something new. Or you could just "shake yourself and get up" and hit the dance floor.

Musical Interlude: 808 State

"Pacific State" by 808 State. Man, does this one bring back memories.



I loved acid house, and I loved ambient. Somehow 808 State was just a bit of both, creating some chill soundscapes a couple decades ago. Their first stateside album, Utd. State 90, would get practically worn out alongside with some early Aphex Twin and Orb recordings I was digging on during the period. In some of the nujazz music I've heard in recent years, it's been nice that some of those old 808 State ideas (well, in general ambient and house influences from the late 1980s & early 1990s) have resonated with a younger generation.

Bonus - Here's "Cubik" from the same album:

Would moving your money do any good?

A few days ago, in DIY, I mentioned the idea of depositors moving their money from the "too big to fail" banks to credit unions and local banks. The question is, of course, would it actually change things, or would it be something that would merely make bank customers "feel good" momentarily? Here's an answer:
People have asked whether moving your money from your giant bank to a small community bank or credit union will have any real affect on the too big to fails, given that most of their profits come from speculative investments instead of normal banking deposits.

According to the Nation, the answer is yes:
The cynics either do not understand banking or misunderstand the widespread public anger. Dennis Santiago, [influential bank-rating firm, Institutional Risk Analytics'] CEO and managing director, explained that banks compete fiercely for the “core deposits” provided by individual and small business accounts–this stable money is their preferred base for profitable lending. Take away core deposits, and bankers feel immediate balance-sheet stress. Expand the account base for community banks, and they gain greater stability and greater lending power. “Will moving your money have an effect?” Santiago asked. “And by effect, I don’t mean making a momentary political statement. I mean making a structural difference to the country’s financial system. The answer is yes.”
The Nation points out that a wide variety of campaigns to take back power are being launched from diverse sources:
A campaign launched by faith-based community organizations associated with the Industrial Areas Foundation identifies sky-high interest rates on credit cards and other lending as the ancient sin of usury. IAF groups are asking churches, foundations and local governments to withdraw funds from the usurious banks that profit by destroying borrowers. Organized labor, likewise, has launched an aggressive movement to insist on responsible investing values for the pension-fund wealth of working people, urging state treasurers and fund managers to invest for society’s interests as well as good returns.
The Nation is right. There are numerous efforts to stand up to the giant banks.

Congresswoman Kaptur advises her constituents facing foreclosure to demand that the original mortgage papers be produced. She says that – if the bank can’t produce the mortgage papers – then the homeowner can stay in the house.

Debtors are revolting against exorbitant interest rates and fees and other aggressive tactics by the too big to fail banks. See this, this and this.

Portfolio manager and investment advisor Marshall Auerback argues that a debtor’s revolt would be a good thing.

Popular personal finance advisor Suze Orman is highlighting the debtors revolt phenomenon on her national tv show.

And see this and this.

What is fueling the debtor’s revolt?  Economic conditions are obviously a large part of it.  But the fact that the big banks are not abiding by “free market rules”, but are gambling with taxpayers’ money on the taxpayers’ dime, is a contributing factor.  In other words, many people apparently feel that since the banks aren’t playing fair or by the normal rules of contract , they shouldn’t have to, either.
 Basically, what's important to realize that if the government can't or won't reform the very dysfunctional financial system, we as citizens have to do it ourselves - we have the tools to do so, and it doesn't even require brandishing torches and pitchforks.