Monthly Archives: June 2008

Joy Division Review

Last night I saw a screening of the new(ish) documentary on the seminal post-punk group Joy Division, aptly titled “Joy Division”. I don’t think I liked the editing or directing job on it–there were numerous uses of iTunes and iPods (not kidding) which sort of made the whole thing feel like a joke. The interviews were great, but not very insightful.

I think the best part of the movie was its effort to emulate the aesthetic and feel of 1970’s Manchester. I think more than anything this treatment made me more receptive to Joy Division’s sound, and also made me think a lot more about how certain political and social atmospheres can give rise to artistic movements like Joy Division.

I don’t care much for the movie and can’t recommend it to anyone but the most die-hard Joy Division fans, but I can recommend the music itself–there’s no better way to learn about this timeless band than doing that.



Fred Thompson, the dinosaur who was never political, sent me an e-mail today advertising his new column in Town Hall, a new conservative magazine. The covers are great–one depicts a shining image of the statue of liberty set to a backdrop of brightly-lit clouds. Because New York is obviously too liberal a background for the mighty statue of liberty. Never mind as well that the statue of liberty more or less is a symbol of the U.S.’s liberal immigration policies (which the Republicans are staunchly running against in this election cycle). A choice quote from his e-mail:

“Primaries and elections sometimes do not turn out the way we might like. While campaigns cycles come to an end, the principles we fight for are timeless. These are the principles that inspired our Founding Fathers, and resulted in a Constitution that delineated the powers of the central government, established checks and balances among the branches of government and further diffused governmental power by a system of Federalism.

As conservatives, it is our job to ensure that these principles are maintained and preserved for future generations. But increasingly these values are under assault. In foreign affairs, our political opponents ignore our progress in Iraq and want to return America to isolationism. Economically, they call for dramatic tax hikes and increased government spending. Judicially, they support activist judges who strive to make the law rather than interpret it.”

Yes, Fred. Hate to break it to you but Isolationism and populism are just as if not much more so the so-called ‘principles’ by the definitions that your particular brand of conservatism seeks to propagate (timeless, old). Isn’t the American tradition bound up in anti-imperialism as well? By what criterion do you use to judge our foray into Iraq a truly ‘conservative’ version of outreach (though, in a way that is probably too ironic for Fred to understand, it is).

Thank god I can actually joke about this kind of tripe. A few years ago this would have had me genuinely scared.

market news

Dow is down ~350 points this afternoon at closing. Watching the tickers I see anecdotal evidence that the only stocks performing well during this particularly bad time are commodities and a few tech firms. I think the most interesting part about the current financial crisis is that analogies to primitive society can apply to the stock market today, even though it is so complex as to require a super computer to model it.

Basically, there’s a resource-grab going on. We’re running out of natural resource supplies that will match demand. On the other hand we are trying as best we can to avert crisis by coming up with alternative ways to generate energy (hence technology firms are doing slightly less poorly than manufacturing and retail). Interesting times ahead. I predict an official recession by October.

Mauren Dowd: Worst Columnist Ever?

Maureen Dowd continues to astound me with her aimless ramblings. After catching enough flack for launching a vicious attack on Hillary Clinton during the primaries, one would think that she would give her personal commentary a bit of rumination before clicking the ‘post’ button.

That is evidently not the case with her newest opinion piece, a petty sham of an opinion that addresses no real issues and targets the right people for all the wrong reasons–as well as doing damage to Barack Obama–her darling. Firstly, let me commend Maureen for calling out the Republicans on their idiotic charicatures of Obama. I could not be more on her side in calling out the Republicans on the inane and completely baseless picture they attempt to paint of Obama as an ‘Elitist’. Dowd writes:

“He’s not Richie Rich, saved time and again by Daddy’s influence and Daddy’s friends, the one who got waved into Yale and Harvard and cushy business deals, who drank too much and snickered at the intellectuals and gave them snide nicknames.

Obama is the outsider who never really knew his dad and who grew up in modest circumstances, the kid who had to work hard to charm whites and build a life with blacks and step up to the smarty-pants set.

He might be smoking, but it would be at a cafe, hunched over a New York Times, an Atlantic magazine, his MacBook and some organic fruit-flavored tea, listening to Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” on his iPod.”

Yes, because I’m sure the American voting public prefers its presidential candidates in the “hardworking bohemian” category rather than in the staid, completely tired, and oh-so-played “Elitist” category.

New in Music: Beach House

Beach House has captured possession of my earphones for the past few days. They’re a great two-piece from Baltimore that draws a lot of comparisons to the French two-piece Air, due to their first single, “Gila“. Their austere, playful sound does indeed evoke the two Frenchmen (whose music also enjoys a prominent position in my library). However I think they sound a lot more like more dark, gloomy bands as the Cocteau Twins and The Cure. I think what makes this band work so well is their successful combination of positive, curious harmonies of bands like High Places with darker, solitary melodies. For lack of better terminology, the best way I can describe their sound is “doleful sexy”. Any further pontification on my part will probably do little else than diminish the talent and impressiveness of this band, so instead of reading any further (that means stop, now–no, now!) you should just go check out their website (linked above) or their myspace.

why this blog is destined to failure

Hilarious little piece at Slate detailing the difference between “web-writing” and “real-writing”. From the article:

At home my boyfriend and I use a certain physical gesture as shorthand to describe it. To make it, extend your index fingers and your thumbs so that your hands resemble toy pistols. Then waggle them before you, like a dude in a cheesy Western, while you wink, dip your knees, and lopsidedly drawl, “Heyyy.” The internet is always saying, “Heyyy.” It is always welcoming you to the party; it is always patting you on the back to congratulate you for showing up. It says, You know me, in a collusive tone of voice, and Wanna hear something funny? and Didja see who else is here?

Christianity in China

I have long maintained that of all the countries I have visited in the world (not that many, but a good few), China is the most like the United States both in attitude and personality. The Chicago Tribune is carrying a good piece about the rise of Christianity in China. It’s a great, if a bit superficial perspective on the rise of this ideological movement in the face of rampant capitalism. It reminds me of exactly the sort of religious fervor that swept the United States when society was in the throes of an industrial revolution.

Even though I consider myself an atheist I think that Christianity will be more or less a good thing for China and the United States. There are many philosophically interesting aspects of the Christian faith, not least of which is the idea that God came to earth personally as Jesus Christ and subjected himself to man’s evil in order that God’s love for man and man’s inherent repugnance of it is all the more apparent (this is why I find Judaism and Islam, for all their strong points, ideologically inferior).

Christianity is a good thing for a communist society which is bereft of any moral compass now that the true powers of market capitalism have been unleashed. I think that hopefully it will cause the Chinese people to take a greater stock in their individual influence on society and the planet as a whole (something that Western democracies like the US have long stopped instilling in its youth either by the abandonment of any sort of ideological education or through the neglect of a civic responsibility curriculum in public schools).