Quick Roundup 223

Thursday, August 02, 2007


(1) A "Comment Culling"

Since Google took over Blogger, some aspects of Gmail and Blogger's comments have been integrated, but not always well. One side-effect is that sometimes, the same comment pops up twice in the Blogger comment queue, but once in Gmail.

A result of that is that when I look at the comment queue to check for comments missed by Gmail (which happens from time to time), I find duplicates of old comments in the queue. I keep them around for a time in case I mistake a new comment for a repeat of a comment I've already moderated.

So I've piled up a fair number now and as soon as I post this, I'm rejecting the duplicate comments. I don't know whether commenters are notified via email when I reject comments, so in case that occurs: No, I didn't really reject your comment!

(2) How to link to subsections of my roundup posts.

Generally, take the first three letters of the first word of the subtitle (ignoring "a" and "the") and add them to the URL for the permalink after a pound sign. For example, the link to the next section would look something like this: "http://gusv ... html#imp".

I know that this is somewhat inconvenient, but posting these roundups saves me enough time on editing and posting that it is justified.

Improved Communication through Censorship?

Elton John's beating the drum for censorship ... again.

We're talking about things that are going to change the world and change the way people listen to music and that’s not going to happen with people blogging on the internet.

I mean, get out there -- communicate.

Hopefully the next movement in music will tear down the internet.

Let's get out in the streets and march and protest instead of sitting at home and blogging.
While there is something to be said for not spending all one's time seated in front of a computer, John clearly does not grasp (or care) that the whole purpose of the Internet is to foster communication. (It was indeed through the Internet that I learned of his desire to shut it down.)

Not only that, as I blogged ages ago, the best that could be said for John is that he does not fundamentally understand the purpose or nature of communication among rational entities:
One could understandably chalk up Sir John's professed desire to ban religion to hyperbole, but what of the following? "Sir Elton said people were too busy blogging on the Internet to go out onto the streets to stand up for what they believed in." This is a blatant confession on his part that he regards intellectual debate as futile. In fact, his strong preference for sixties-style protests is a manifestation of his own rejection of reason as a means of communicating with others.
My odds of communicating with Elton John from this site are magnitudes greater than were I to pin my hopes on randomly colliding with him in a street protest like some aimless molecule. Furthermore, my words are longer-lasting and far more likely to reach more rational minds than his by being posted here than by being shouted at the top of my lungs in the middle of a crowd.

Whether or not the silence of countless people like myself is John's goal, it would be the result of what he advocates.

Please, Sir John, do stick to what you know, the piano, in the future.

Now They're against Flushing Toilets. And Sewers.

If you thought low-flow toilets were annoying, the Greens are nowhere near done with you yet. Now, they're taking aim at your very health by attacking the whole concept of the modern sewage system. From an article that dismisses the prevalence of flushing toilets in the West as an "addiction" and stumps for squat toilets comes the following.
[W]ith the introduction of sewer systems in major cities and new moral attitudes toward human waste products, the labor-intensive method lost out to the convenience of the flush, according to [Maj-Britt] Quitzau's research, detailed in the August issue of the journal Technology in Society.

The flushing toilets required water and sewage system to facilitate easy and enclosed removal of waste. Even with its added expense, Quitzau said, "city planners and health personnel became some of the principal spokesmen for flushing toilets. They were troubled about the problems that growing urbanization brought along in the Western cities at this time."

In the city of Stockholm alone, the number of water-flushing toilets rose from 127 to more than 80,000 between 1890 and 1925, according to a study reported in a Swedish Science Press journal.

At the same time, environmentally sound earth closets, considered less sanitary, went extinct.
As reader Dismuke, who drew my attention to this story, stated:
[N]owhere in the entire article is any mention at all of the word "cholera" which is exactly what people were prone to get and, in some parts of the world, still get as a result of "sustainable" alternatives.
Indeed. If we in the West forget John Snow, we stand to pay with our lives.


Not that I'm the best-looking man in the world, or that I'm aging particularly well, but....

This picture and its caption (below), which come from an article about "vegansexuals" -- vegans who say they're sexually boycotting those of us who eat meat -- invite ridicule.
Christchurch couple Nichola and Hans Kriek are vegans. While she would not describe herself as a vegansexual, Nichola Kriek said she could understand people not wanting to get too close to non-vegan or non-vegetarians.
What is this? A clever ad placed by the cattle industry? And is it true that a dubbed-in Fred G. Sanford is slated to make cameos with gorilla cookie quips in the television version of these ads?

Cheap shots aside, a vital part of the beauty of a woman is her intelligence and rationality. Not only that, while sex is important, there is much more than that to any worthwhile relationship. The thought of having to listen to endless environmentalist ranting -- not to mention being unable to share a good meal -- would have been enough during my single days to repel me from a vegan.

Hearing of this boycott would have been like learning that raw sewage had spiked at ten dollars a gallon.

New Aesthetic Anti-Concept: "Curating"

[Please see the update below.]

I forgot to mention something yesterday that I noticed when reading Heather MacDonald's article on Regietheater. She also introduced us to what Ayn Rand termed an "anti-concept" (See note below.): "curating".
Wadsworth unapologetically embraces one of the most toxic words in the operatic lexicon today: "curating." The last thing a solipsistic director wants to be accused of is lovingly preserving and transmitting the works of the past. Wadsworth, however, accepts the charge. Those given responsibility for an opera production are akin to those given responsibility for great paintings, he believes. "It is not our job to repaint them. We should only be concerned with: Where to hang it? How to light it? In what context? How do we present it to the public in a way that the public can appreciate what it is, perhaps even contextualize it in terms of that painter's body of work or some other trend or school or idea? The list of curatorial concerns and responsibilities is long. And I think that a lot of productions that we see simply fail to meet them."
While the role of the performers and directors in the performing arts clearly not only allows for, -- but also depends on -- some degree of artistic interpretation, Regietheater clearly represents a case of the director violating the integrity of the composer's work -- while falsely claiming that not to do so would be to fail as an interpreter.

The dismissal as a mere "curator" of a director who attempts to remain faithful to the artistic vision of a composer is clearly intended to enshrine the destruction of great operatic works as if said destruction constituted art.

[Update: A commenter raises some good objections to my contention that this really is an example of an anti-concept. I am interested in hearing more opinions on this matter as I now realize I need to consider this question further myself. Note that I will be traveling this weekend, so I may be slower than normal moderating comments.]

-- CAV

Note: Ayn Rand defined an "anti-concept" as "an unnecessary and rationally unusable term designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept." (The Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 23)


: Added note on anti-concepts.
8-3-06: Added update to last section.


Dismuke said...

Regarding this Elton John person, there are two quotes from this article that explain all:

The first is a quote of John:

"Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision."

The second quote observes:

"Sales of Elton’s last album The Captain & The Kid were disappointing — it barely shifted 100,000 copies. And in the past Sir Elt has opposed illegal downloading of his music from the net.

Yeah. And I'll bet that there aren't very many illegal downloaders who are bothering with it either.

Too many people are too busy checking out new groups on myspace or on Live365 or on YouTube or even downloading the recordings that some up and coming artists put on p2p networks hoping that people will download them. People are so busy doing those things that they don't have the common sense and decency to be interested in Elton John's latest CD.

The old media types who hate the Internet all have one thing in common: it annoys the heck out of them that they no longer are the "gatekeepers" as to which ideas, which artists, which news stories and which opinions are brought to the public's attention and which are not.

Elton John is typical of the old media Big Music Establishment in that it bugs the heck out of them for reasons far deeper than the threat to their own financial viability that a bunch of nobodies are able to make records in their own make-shift studios or in rented professional quality facilities, distribute them to a world wide audience and attract enthusiastic fans - and, in some cases, even enjoy professional success as a result.

This hits very close to home for me as this is exactly the sort of mindset that I have been having to fight in the Internet royalty mess. The major labels are basically attempting to preserve their historical "gatekeeper" status by using the government mandated royalty rates they asked for to price emerging competitors out of the market for airplay and thereby bring to the Internet the same old media financial barriers to entry that exist in terrestrial radio. According to a couple of studies, 90 percent of the music played on terrestrial radio is from the four major RIAA labels. By contrast, less than 45 percent of the music played on the Live365 Internet radio network (which is one of the networks Radio Dismuke is carried by) is from the RIAA labels. The other 55 plus percent is by the sort of artists that Elton John looks down on (and envies) and who scare the holy heck out of the Big Four music companies.

That is why Elton John and his fellow Luddites at the RIAA want to shut down the Internet.

At least Elton John has the honesty to admit that he is a Luddite.

One might ask why Elton John would care - he has made his success. Why wouldn't he be happy about all of the many wonderful opportunities that things like home recording, Internet radio, myspace, YouTube, etc. bring to today's aspiring musical wannabes?

Well, it is the same mindset of anyone who feels he has "paid his dues" and is upset and jealous whenever those who follow escape some of the garbage and pay a lesser price than he did. It is the mindset of upper classmen who torment freshmen on grounds that "I had to suffer through it when I came here so now it is their turn." It is the mindset of the human resources bureaucrat who refuses to hire the most qualified candidate for a job on grounds that the person lacks a college degree (assuming, here, one of many professions where a degree might be a plus but is not a mandatory requirement) for no other reason than his fear that doing so would somehow invalidate and lessen the importance of his own degree.

Getting to the top of any field in entertainment is an extremely difficult thing to do. There are so many wannabes out there who are just as eager and just as talented and more than willing to take your place. I am sure that very often those at the top had to pay a very heavy price in order to get past the "gatekeepers" who held the power to make or break people's careers. My guess is that, considering the total sewer that post counterculture popular music has been, the powers that be in that particular segment of the entertainment industry are probably more arbitrary than most. I have no doubt that the old fashioned Hollywood "casting couch" that Howard Hughes famously ran is still very much in use in the entertainment industry.

I don't care for his type of music so I have no idea whether or not Elton John had to suffer through similar humiliations in order to get where he got or whether he managed to successfully navigate around such people by virtue of his potential public appeal.

Regardless, it is thanks to the power of digital technologies and the Internet that artists of the future will no longer have to deal with such garbage as the price for success. The sort of gatekeepers that will exist in the future will only control access to but a small percentage of their total potential audience. No artist is going to feel pressured to sell his soul or perform sexual favors in order to please a webcaster or even a myspace.com executive because there are countless other webcasters and even a great many other social networking sites one can go to instead. Thanks to the Internet, the artists of the future will not have to beg for an opportunity to prove themselves. The opportunity to prove one's self and put one's talents on display before a worldwide audience will never be more than a few mouse clicks away.

Perhaps that is what Elton John is jealous of. If so - well, then the man is nothing more than a pathetic has-been who, in his mind, never really was.

Gus Van Horn said...

Excellent points on John's possible motivations for wanting to destroy the Internet.

Something I noticed when read your comment is that although I did explain the possible consequences of his idea if fully implemented, my not having made this connection caused me not to consider the more likely and possible results of the kinds of restrictions he is probably really after.

In this pragmatic day and age, most people don't "get" the idea that a threat to any freedom of speech is a threat to all of it. So it is not just helpful, in opposing someone like John, to indicate the shorter-range effects, but probably essential to motivate some people to oppose their efforts, to the degree their very limited opposition can help.

Burgess Laughlin said...

In what way is "curator" (or "curating") an anti-concept?

As far as I can tell from the article, the term, even as used sneeringly by European nihilists, names the traditional idea of caring for, that is, preserving something (a person's soul or a painting, for example).

As an English term (drawn directly from the Latin), "curator" has a lineage going back at least 600 years. Most, but not all, anti-concepts are identified by neologisms -- e.g., "McCarthyism."

Accordingly I do not see how "curator" now becomes an anti-concept if it is used properly, even by bad people. The bad people are merely revealing that they sneer at the objective value named by the term. They are not creating a new term which labels a "sort-of" idea for the purpose of obliterating another, properly definable concept.

Ayn Rand gives several examples, in the excerpts recorded in The Ayn Rand Lexicon. "Polarization" is one. It is, for a social context, a new term, one identifying a nonessential characteristic of a situation -- differences of opinion -- for the purpose of destroying an objective value: discussion involving fundamentally opposed principles.

In summary, I would say "curator" is a term used properly by nihilists -- that is, it names a certain fact/value -- but employed in a way that shows they sneer at the fact/value named.

I do not see how European nihilists are here creating an anti-concept rather than simply revealing their own hatred of objective value.

Gus Van Horn said...


I am hardly an expert on opera and could indeed be wrong about this, assuming that the verb "curate", which the online, "concise" version of the OED defines as, "select, organize, and look after the items in (a collection or exhibition)", is a term properly used to describe what an opera director is doing.

(I may or may not get a chance to track down the answer to this question for a few days as I am going to be out of town.)

Having said that, I took the term as a misuse of the legitimate (and non opera-specific) term "curate", where the "mere" use director's powers of interpretation to attempt to render a production faithful to the original intent of the composer were dismissed as adding nothing creative to the production and therefore of not being truly "artistic".

Regardless of the standing of "curate" as a technical term in opera, I will need to think a bit more about whether this is a real anti-concept.

Your further input (as well as that of others who happen by) is welcome in the meantime.


Gus Van Horn said...

One more thing. I probably should have mentioned that I am looking at the role of the director as fundamentally different from that of a caretaker in that he must make artistic decisions in order to bring an operatic work to life. Whether I am out of line here is an important question here.