In general, I am suspicious when someone dismisses a view for being “radical” or “extreme.” There is usually sloppy thinking behind that designation. Why not just say what is wrong with the view? How for instance are we supposed to feel about “radical Christianity”? Good or bad? Does it mean Origen or Ted Cruz or something altogether different? Can’t we just debate the question itself?
The same is true in politics. Let’s say someone favors free trade and the First Amendment. Is that “radical”? Or is it mainstream and thus non-radical? Does labeling it radical further the debate on whether or not those are the correct positions?
The passage of time makes the whole trilogy seem wise and humble, in ways it never could seem in the eighties or nineties or aughts, because the entire thing is really and truly a time capsule—not of any temporal-physical reality, but of a particular strain of American cultural posturing circa 1985-1990. All movies, particularly time-travel movies, have a touch of this. But the “Future” films are different because, unlike the vast majority of time travel stories, they are anchored very strongly in the “present.” The present is not merely a framing device or a launching pad for adventures, as is the case in most time travel films. All visits to the past or future are related to the present – and the stakes are not just personal (Marty’s existence, his parents’ happiness), they are cultural. Marty doesn’t just change his family, he changes the town, and by implication, American life.
The trend for digital detox holidays and other fashionable manifestations of spare, minimalist, decluttered living: what if they’re at least partly motivated by avoidance?
Startups that redefine social and economic relations pop up in an instant. Lawsuits and regulations lag behind.
Internet writers live on Twitter and it greatly distorts their understanding of reality.
As someone who loves Twitter, this can be hard to admit, but ultimately Twitter is an ephemeral online forum that nobody really uses, and our tiny politics subpocket of Twitterdom almost certainly has no effect on anything.
There’s a nefarious, Mobius strip quality to “sneaky feminism” as a piece of rhetoric. If the point of using it is to satisfy readers that the product in question is ideologically sound, but also chill (Lean in! Not too far!), then this ostensible attempt to make feminism palatable is rather anti-feminist, if sneakily so. That’s because one of feminism’s foundational goals has always been to release women from their disproportionate obligation to show tact, delicacy, and sweetness—to say their piece without being aggressive or annoying about it. Yet we’re asking feminism itself to shimmy through a window and creep down a corridor dancing between laser beams before whispering its claims in the cultural ear.
This is one of the best interviews I’ve read in recent months. I could feel my brain stretching and warping throughout. Thanks to @mattthomas for recommending it. Some good morsels, unapologetically out of context:
My modus operandi in general: to try to be as precise and informed as possible while also taking metaphors seriously as paths to insight.
Since mortals cannot read (or write) very many books, I think an author should thank the reader for choosing your book by not wasting their time.
The history of media theory from McLuhan to Kittler was always also an implicit theory of gender. What if the philosophy of technology focused on birth as much as death? What if we appreciated container technologies as much as power technologies, or labor on life as much as work on things? What if we took domestication not as lost vigor but as the site of the hardest and greatest work? The book doesn’t answer these questions at length, but suggests they are essential to any future philosophy of media.
It would take a lot of thought to detail my research techniques but they include the following imperatives: write early in the morning, cultivate memory, reread core books, take detailed reading notes, work on several projects at once, maintain a thick archive, rotate crops, take a weekly Sabbath, go to bed at the same time, exercise so hard you can’t think during it, talk to different kinds of people including the very young and very old, take words and their histories seriously (i.e., read dictionaries), step outside of the empire of the English language regularly, look for vocabulary from other fields, love the basic, keep your antennae tuned, and seek out contexts of understanding quickly (i.e., use guides, encyclopedias, and Wikipedia without guilt). As to tools, the body is the writer’s essential tool, and I have not quite resolved the question of how to write and read and have a body at the same time.
His new book sounds great.
Good stuff here. I appreciate the range and pace. It’s a little bit obnoxious, too, but better that than boring.
TYLER COWEN: It’s like Beach Boys music. Sounds optimistic on the surface but it’s deeply sad and melancholy.
PETER THIEL: I remember a professor once told me back in the ’80s that writing a book was more dangerous than having a child because you could always disown a child if it turned out badly.
PETER THIEL: I think often the smarter people are more prone to trendy, fashionable thinking because they can pick up on things, they can pick up on cues more easily, and so they’re even more trapped by it than people of average ability.
Just down the road from me, Georgia State professor Scott Heath doing work that needs to be done.
“He’s aware of the criticism and the critiques that come his way, and he then critiques those critiques. This is a guy who gives interviews where the entire interview is about another interview that he gave earlier,” says Heath, pointing to conversations with Jimmy Kimmel and Ricky Smiley as examples. “That, to me, is very keenly discursive.”
“He’s having to process or deal with other people’s interpretation of what he’s saying and who he happens to be,” says Heath, alluding to Du Bois’ assessment that black people in America are tasked with the emotionally arduous task of filtering their own identities through the lens of dominant white culture. “An exciting moment for me was the students reading Du Bois and the lightbulb going off and them making the connection to Kanye.”
Filed under: Kanye West.
I’ve never followed HONY, and I’m not sure if I’ve actually seen any of the posts, but I’m familiar with the project. Interesting how it’s pretty much inevitable that even our most noble efforts will be compromised somehow. You can’t observe and document people as some kind of inert, neutral, sociology-less being… so it’s important to take criticism well when you run with projects like this.
It goes without saying that “culture” is a confusing word, this year or any year.
Authenticity is seductive; we embrace it because it makes us feel exclusive. Hating Bourbon Street has valuable social currency, and it’s an easy step toward assuming co-ownership of “real” New Orleans culture. But declaring something to be inauthentic positions the critic in the dubious position of arbitrating reality. […] Worse, inauthenticity rests on the troubling supposition that not all human beings or human endeavors contribute equally to this thing we call culture.
We often have it stuck in our heads that science communicators have only failed to speak to the religious right. But while issues of science-and-society are always tied up, in some ways, with politics, they’re not bound to any particular part of the spectrum.
And while the intentions were good, and helped shift some of the conversation about him back in his favor, it shouldn’t be a primary argument when given the all-too-common task of proving someone isn’t a thug. If anything, it’s harmful logic. Because the next Richard Sherman may not have attended Stanford. So what then?
This is what genres do really well, for good and for ill: They make large amounts of music easier to talk about (and, by extension, sell). Most often, genres do not stand up to scrutiny, yet they’re a fundamental part not only of music discussions online and off, but of any conversations we have about culture more generally. Particularly with the infinite online options for music access and conversation, pithy and memorable genre names can make it easier (if not necessarily accurate) to classify, discuss, and compare music. Genres arise out of tastes, and are often institutionalized (I wrote about one such example here), though online there’s infinitely more space to create, market, sort and search by micro-genres. (Remember “witch house”?) People have lengthy, years-long arguments using genres as combatants. If nothing else, genres make music easier to fight about.
There are days when postwar art history starts to sound like a Classic Rock radio station.
Through this reliance on Netflix, I’ve seen a new television pantheon begin to take form: there’s what’s streaming on Netflix, and then there’s everything else.
When I ask a student what they’re watching, the answers are varied: Friday Night Lights, Scandal, It’s Always Sunny, The League, Breaking Bad, Luther, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Arrested Development, The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, Weeds, Freaks & Geeks, The L Word, Twin Peaks, Archer, Louie, Portlandia. What all these shows have in common, however, is that they’re all available, in full, on Netflix.
Things that they haven’t watched? The Wire. Deadwood. Veronica Mars, Rome, Six Feet Under, The Sopranos. Even Sex in the City.
It’s not that they don’t want to watch these shows — it’s that with so much out there, including so much so-called “quality” programs, such as Twin Peaks and Freaks & Geeks, to catch up on, why watch something that’s not on Netflix? Why work that hard when there’s something this easy — and arguably just as good or important — right in front of you?
Markets influence taste.
The modern assumption that writers and artists are dreamy, impractical people is both odd and quite insulting to creative people. Sophocles was a general, Goethe a scientist and statesman. Shakespeare was the most successful entertainment entrepreneur of Renaissance England. I had no particular interest in business, but I had to make a living, and I realized that I had a talent for managing enterprises such as literary magazines and films series. So I took the plunge and went to business school. I found the business world very demanding but also a good place for hard-working and talented people—better, I think, than the university.
I let absolutely no one at General Foods know that I was a poet. I kept my two lives entirely separate. It wasn’t until years later when Esquire featured me in a special issue of “Men and Women Under Forty Who Are Changing America” that my secret life was revealed to my colleagues. I didn’t enjoy the sudden celebrity. It only complicated my life. Never underestimate the advantages of anonymity.
Dana’s brother Ted Gioia:
If you asked me to sum up my view of music in one sentence, I could do it: music is a change agent and a source of enchantment. When people start understanding the arts in those terms, you don’t need to sell them on culture. They come out of curiosity, desire, and self-interest. Teachers can help spur this process, but it’s a different kind of teaching than you find in most classrooms
The movies will only get bigger, shinier and more thoroughly standardized, like airports and hotels in big, business-hub capitals. But this is only half the story. […] Both the metastasis of the blockbuster and the viral replication of the small-scale art movie are digital phenomena.