Tuesday, 19 September 2017

All My Muse Piano Covers

Video playlist of all my Muse piano covers.

  1. The 2nd Law - Isolated System
  2. Knights of Cydonia
  3. Uprising

Muse: Uprising | piano cover

Piano cover of the song Uprising by the British rock band Muse.

Audio here: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/muse-uprising-piano-cover

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Psychological Effects of Ideals & Utopias

It has been said that the wider the gap between how your life is and how you would like it to be the more unhappy you are going to be.

Therefore, as the reasoning goes, trying to be content with how one's life is, i.e. with its actual daily manifestation, may help narrow the aforementioned gap and increase happiness or at least contentment levels (happiness and contentment aren't necessarily the same, however: see My View of Happiness).

One thing that has helped me combat feelings of mild depression is ceasing to focus on all that is wrong with the world, i.e. how far it falls from the utopian ideal of little to no suffering, in favour of how much the world does right and is in an optimal state all things taken into consideration (which is my definition of optimism), including the relatively entrenched nature and even appeal of immorality.

Indeed, utopian, idealistic thinking is double edged in so far as it can lead one to constantly be appalled by far-from-ideal reality but it can also be used as an implicit benchmark to gage how much of reality is in fact ideal, depending of course on what ideal one subscribes to.

The point is, just as it is a good idea in one's life to focus on one's actual accomplishments and strengths rather than on how little one has achieved (compared to some self or externally imposed standard) and how far from perfect one is (there being no perfect - in the sense of flawless - way to be), so it is better for (my) mental health to appreciate all that is excellent about the world as it is rather than how dreadful it compares to how it could be in never, never land.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Pioneer | original piano composition

My 32nd piano composition and possibly my most epic sounding. I hope it will appeal to the explorers and pioneers among you!

Sheets here: https://www.scoreexchange.com/scores/198045.html

Audio here: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/pioneer-original-piano-composition

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Conflict & Progress

Context - This post was written from a place of emotion as I was processing extremely uncharitable YouTube comments made against a US black political commentator. More generally it touches on an emotional reaction I have to spiteful (political) invective online which I was trying to think my way out of by writing this admittedly rather weak blog post. In fact the majority of my blog posts are attempts at intellectually dealing with emotions, some difficult, others more neutral, by clarifying the issues and subtext of my psyche's data, which is perhaps the main purpose of the thoughts section on ScruffyOwlet's Tree

Text - It seems that in all fields of life, but most of all in the field of politics, conflict that expresses itself in bitter opposition as well as invective is evident (see, among others, my writing Conflict in Politics). 

I do not think that conflict and opposition are purely the result of divide and conquer strategies by a nefarious, omniscient 'elite' but are somewhat at the heart of the human condition. 

After all, despite broad types of human being manifesting amidst countless of its members, all our brains, let alone sensibilities, are slightly different since formed by the unique life that we have been privy to in our selves and in our environment.

Basically, as a bleeding heart socialist-anarchist, I am trying to rationalise why I find so many on the 'right' mean-spirited and nasty. 

This mean-ness baffles and even violates my sense of moral scruple and my conscience but I think that the opposing 'conservative' understanding is also in earnest and that they would interpret my own output as narcissistic, up its own arse and contemptible. 

All this to say, in coming to terms with what I perceive to be the cheap nastiness and mean-ness of 'right-wing' internet trolls, I have gained in philosophical illumination by understanding that, whatever my desires, the world is not meant to be a happy-go-lucky place where all get along and will never be rid of invective and inter (and intra)-human struggle. 

Rather, the endless and even tiresome conflict of all against all of a civilisation not at war with an external, common enemy is the default position of society and not one that will ever be overcome due to intrinsic and inherent oppositions in people's sensibilities and levels and qualities of moral awareness and general consciousness.

I think it a wise strategy to learn the lessons of phenomenological, political reality and rather than trying to make the latter conform to one's psychological comfort zones, the goal should be to make one's comfort zones conform to lived reality.

Therefore I am grateful to internet trolls for forcing me to become stronger and less complacent in myself, for enlightening me as to how low some human beings are willing to stoop on their power trips, and how this endless conflict between the noble and the vile, the misfits and the conformists, the sensitive and the rude drives the history of the world forward as well as the manifested shape of collective co-existence, for better or worse. 

Perhaps, indeed, conflict and suffering are integral to humanity's condition for reasons of evolutionary progress and survival in the sense that the existence of competing and discordant understandings and priorities force each and everyone to be at one with themselves and evolve past the antinomy of difference in whatever ways, violent or not, that seem necessary.  

Monday, 21 August 2017

Kicking Upwards v Kicking Downwards

Context - This blog post in some ways is a reformulation of an older blog post, written several years ago, that I made concerning 'Left' and 'Right'. It is again possibly a very weak post and perhaps overuses the weasel terms of 'left' and 'right' in their ideological meaning. It is also true that the right do kick upwards when they are in opposition to government and supranational institutions like the European Union. 

Text - As I have previously pointed out, right-wing conformists tend to blame the individual for his or her problems whereas left-wing misfits tend to put the blame on society for the problems it causes to individuals (and the planet). 

This touches on a broader phenomenon that distinguishes right-wing and left-wing people. Right-wing types kick downwards in conformity with established and prevalent hierarchical lines - according to which the unemployed, immigrants, even the disabled are at the bottom of the ladder as opposed to 'wealth-creating' business owners - whereas left-wing people tend to kick upwards in defiance of hierarchical establishments (as I have already pointed out in Considerations on the Right-wing Working Class Vote). 

Thus, for example, right-wing sensibility looks down on and despises welfare claimants, "who get something for nothing", because they are kept afloat in defiance of capitalist logic and the employment ethic and are therefore seen as benefiting from unjust privileges that violate the rules of the (capitalist) survival game. 

Left-wing sensibility will tend to look more kindly on welfare claimants, partly because welfare is usually claimed on grounds of disability or joblessness, and that welfare is therefore a form of economic redistribution, which redistribution of wealth is (or should be) a central left-wing concern and preoccupation.

Indeed left-wing people will far more likely look down on corporate employers - who, they will argue, also 'get something for nothing' through labour exploitation, paying their workers next to nothing, and State hand-outs (corporate welfare) as we are accustomed to witness in neoliberal states - and (hate) groups which proclaim their superiority over others and dehumanise those others so as to lay claim to the legitimacy of violating their natural law rights.

To right-wing sensibility, kicking upwards comes much less naturally for the simple reason that right-wing understanding interprets those higher up in the hierarchy as more successful and therefore more worthy; indeed, particularly in the United States, wealth and status are almost synonymous, so that the richer you are, the 'better' person you obviously are, providing as you do the most to society, unlike 'problem individuals' like drug addicts, petty criminals and the mentally ill who don't bring money in or create jobs. 

Thus right-wing understanding tends to underplay and minimise the crimes and flaws of rich people so that, for instance, wealthy Wall Street stock brokers who do drugs, break laws and engage in mass subterfuge, will be cheered and applauded whereas black American gang members, who follow the same materialistic ambitions and psychopathic values as the aforementioned stock brokers (see, for example, The Wolf of Wall Street), will fall prey to the punishing hand of the law and generally be reviled by the public.

Ultimately, and this will come as no surprise to my audience, I favour kicking upwards because it strikes me as more noble and more courageous. As someone said, it is a good idea to judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members or even, as Dostoyevky insisted, the state of its prisons!

However, abuses and violence occur on all levels of society, high and low, and while violence emanating from the top causes more widespread, long-lasting and significant damage, violence at the bottom is also a problem, and a far more immediate one for many people who live in violent, deprived areas.  

For Moral Law, as opposed often to man-made legislation, binds everyone equally regardless of status and power. And just because those at the top abuse power and act immorally should those at the bottom follow suit - and vice-versa.

The test for moral action is always ultimately whether or not the action results in there being a victim, whether or not everyone acting the way you do would bring good or bad consequences for the planet and whether or not you're using people as means or treating them as ends.

In practice, of course, things get more hairy, but moral principles are useful and even essential templates which should be followed as far as humanly possible.

Puppet Monst Plays Video Games

(or, at least, his idea of gaming)

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Nasty Fare Better

It is one of the hardest facts of life to accept that nasty, narcissistic people tend to fare better than kind, empathetic people - at least in the immoral money and power driven system that is ours. 

I laugh at those pundits who still believe in the power of the purse as a potential corrective when pretty much all the major corporations are guilty of evil malpractice and it would take uncommon not to say impossible will-power and lifestyle skills to boycott them all. 

Even initially moral companies like the fruity drinks brand Innocent get bought up by evil conglomerates (in the case of Innocent by Coca-Cola). 

Another example is how the self-declared 'nasty' party - UK Conservatives - unfailingly seem to be able to cling on to power and the one time they were out of power, the alleged 'left-wing' opposition, 'New Labour', were wolves in sheep's clothing, betraying those less prevailing sections of the population that form the left-wing vote. 

Having less or even no moral scruples, evil people can of course deceive and cheat their way to power and what is shocking is that clueless, misinformed electorates by and large validate this conduct by repeatedly voting such types into power, interpreting their immorality as 'strength' and as 'good leadership' (see The Strong Leader Complex).

Indeed it is immoral and deliberately hate-filled and stigmatising newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Mail who kick downwards rather than upwards which sell the most in the United Sickdom.  

In fact, as I've written before in Morality and the Big & Powerful, it is despite and never because one is moral that one may achieve worldly power.

Even outside politics, the competitive labour market will reward those who push themselves at the expense of others and compassionate individuals will probably wind up in low paid, low status and largely unpleasant 'care', 'charity' and 'teaching' jobs while narcissists will enjoy cushy lifestyles in high finance and as corporate executives, leaving the dirty, ground-level work to hapless, stress-filled employees. 

Let us be under no illusion. In the rat race of capitalist, commercial society, the nastiest rats are the ones who win and the more gentle, the most put upon and vulnerable. 

In other words, it could be that the majority of the so-called 'winners' of the rat race are shits and the majority of the so-called 'losers' of the rat race genuinely kind and unassuming types with, perhaps, symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

So if, like me, you feel on the losing side of the capitalist rat race and wish to be free of it, just remember that that is likely because you are a decent human being and have a heart!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Conformity & Pathology

A culture of relative or even extreme conformity where human beings of all stripes and sizes are expected to fit a certain (capitalist) mould could be argued to breed a subculture of pathology as is done today by the prevalence of psychiatric evaluations and labels for all those human beings who fail to adequately fit that conformist mould - which is often not free of normative ideals of what humans should be like. 

It is the fact we live in modern societies which are no longer static as in the old order but highly mobile that our own decisions, actions and emotions can be seen as maladjusted since no longer a pure expression of God's immutable will but the result of self-direction or, as the case may be, misdirection, i.e. free will.

This is also where the issue of numbers comes into play. For, as I have said to a few around me, in a world where the majority were like me - sensitive, philosophical, deep, artistic, intellectual, anti-employment, anti-superficiality and anti-partying - and shared my own sensibility, life would be much easier since conforming would merely require being myself. 

[It is the fact that I am very at odds with mainstream society, mainstream values and the mainstream instruments of control that has made me ask the following question in the past: can I afford to be myself? (the word 'afford' can here be understood very literally in a pecuniary sense). 

I guess it depends on whether I am able to continue to claim 'out of work' benefits or not which seems increasingly unlikely and more arduous a task due to orchestrated efforts to bring everyone who isn't rich into the servitude of coerced employment on the spurious and fascistic ground that
"Arbeit macht frei".]
Instead, being of a minority bent that despises society, the latter has chosen to pathologise me which has enabled me, paradoxically, to be myself and express my thoughts freely and independently. 

Pourvu que ça dure

(Long may it last). 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Ethos for Saving Money: My Precious

An amusing and, for all that, not untrue ethos for saving one's money is the insight that basically all of society and, indeed, the world would like some of it: government, landlords, businesses, charities, friends, strangers, institutions, supermarkets, parking metres, patreon creators, beggars and so on, ad nauseam.

By child's logic therefore, if everyone is after your money in some shape or form then it - your money - must be most valuable and precious; which means all the more worth keeping and not spending!

Think of a toddler who is rather indifferent about a toy he has but finds that those around him are really envious of him or her and would really like to have that toy for themselves; the toy will gain in value and perhaps in estimation in the toddler's eyes for being so coveted and he will likely lose his indifference towards it due to its being coveted by others. 

So it is with money - it gains in value the more people covet it. And don't be under the illusion that the world does not covet your money because it very much does. Looking at it this way, it may transpire that your monetary resources will gain in importance in your heart prompting you to save them rather than whisk them away on indulgences and frivolities. 

Besides, money is easier saved than earned given how strenuous and downright unpleasant most money-earning positions really are. As I advised in my poem Amazon
Resist if you may

For pennies are easier saved
Than by hard effort made.

Witness the world of work
That drives everyone berserk!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Diversity Includes Non-Diversity

I have already written about the phenomenon of diversity, whether political or natural (Political Diversity, Diversity as Natural Law Principle, Knowledge and Sensibility, Political Views and Identity). 

My girlfriend once wrote that fear of diversity is a nonsense because the survival of this whole planet and our species depends on diversity - which is a scientifically proven position. 

Yet it later occurred to me that diversity, including that which expresses itself in competing and often antagonistic points of view, includes the fear and hatred of diversity!

Of course there is a difference between cultural diversity and the biodiversity of the natural world and the human genome but I think the point still holds that the phenomenon of diversity is such as to include its very opposite: the existence of anti-diversity! 

That is to say, diversity expresses itself not only in endless and infinite variation but also in the co-existence of complex variety on the one hand and simple homogeneity, i.e. non-difference and sameness, on the other. 

Put more simply, therefore, diversity also entails the co-existence of difference and non-difference within its remit, because such a co-existence is itself symptomatic of a difference between one thing and its opposite (i.e. between what is different and what is the same) and therefore of diversity itself.

Individual v Societal Maladjustment

"It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." - Jiddu Krishnamurti
A quote such as the above highlights the concept of societal maladjustment (as evidenced by the expression 'sick society') as opposed to mere individual maladjustment, such as when someone has addiction problems, is isolated, is unemployed, has a mental illness, engages in criminal or threatening conduct and so forth. 

As I hinted in my Daily Mail Readers post, people of a conservative bent are far more likely to blame individuals for their (perceived) problems than 'society' - whose existence Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher famously put into question - whereas individuals of a progressive bent are usually quite explicit about things wrong with society itself and how these cases of societal maladjustment, so to speak, directly or indirectly lead to instances of apparent individual maladjustment. 

For example, lack of sexual education in schools and families - an alleged case of societal maladjustment - is said to lead to an increase in the amount of teenage pregnancies and risky sexual behaviour, i.e. alleged cases of individual maladjustment. 

Going further, a society founded on capitalist principles which put money and greed before people and their welfare (i.e. a society where those of the 'greed is good' philosophy are in power), and denies the social value of a service or organisation unless it makes a lot of money (such as low-paid care work and public libraries), will lead to the Donald Trumps of this world all coming into positions of power and influence at the expense of the empathetic, compassionate and ethical. 

This latter example would of course be seen as societal maladjustment by progressives but as rightful occurrence by conservatives who would interpret the aforementioned empathetic types as themselves being maladjusted as opposed to money-driven power mongers like Donald Trump who are in fact very well adjusted to society as it is, i.e. where money and greed are the name of the game, even though this manifestation of society be deemed sick by some less money-orientated sections of the population. 

The main insight to be drawn from this writing is simply that the question of adjustment, whether social or individual, is actually a value judgement symptomatic of our modern way of life where, things no longer being purely determined by the will of God as in pre-modern perception, each and everyone is accountable for his actions, including society itself, and that there is such a thing as wrong, i.e. maladjusted, actions which lead to negative consequences, whether for individuals or the whole of society.

The secondary insight is that, depending on political sensibility and persuasion, some, of a more right-wing and conservative bent, will tend to focus more on individual maladjustment as being the cause of problems occurring - not for once questioning the general values or systems of control propagated by society with which these conservative individuals usually identify - whereas other, more left-wing and critical individuals, will tend to emphasise societal maladjustment, i.e. things wrong with society's values and way of doing things, as leading to individual cases of so-called maladjustment.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

All My Star Wars Covers

Playlist of all my Star Wars piano covers.

  1. The Force Theme
  2. Duel Of The Fates
  3. Han Solo And The Princess
  4. Yoda's Theme

John Williams: Han Solo and the Princess (Star Wars) | piano cover

Piano cover of the Han Solo and the Princess tune from the soundtrack of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Audio here: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/john-williams-han-solo-and-the-princess-star-wars-piano-cover

Saturday, 5 August 2017

More Cynical = Fairer?

To see how far from (moral, philosophical, physical, aesthetic) ideals reality actually and practically manifests itself is often labelled being 'cynical' which prompted comic George Carlin's statement
"Scratch any cynic and you will find a disappointed idealist." 
I have recently toyed with the idea that in some contexts, being more cynical results in a fairer judgement in the sense of, perhaps, more accurate to reality as well as less biased and angled by prejudice.

Thus, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted on Facebook the statement 
"Women use men."
A woman replied to this post saying "I feel exactly that way about men."

While both the statements 'women use men' and 'men use women' reflect a cynical view of the opposite sex, they single out the latter for moral blame, excluding one's own sexual gender. 

Yet, while more cynical than the above, since including a greater number of people under its purview, the statement 'humans use humans' strikes me as fairer and more truthful. 

Another example I'm fond of is the statement often found on the internet as to the toxicity of the 'mainstream media', some commentators recommending looking at alternative sources of information for a more accurate and balanced view of the world. 

Yet, like I've suggested before, all media - whether mainstream, alternative or social - can be toxic and constitute poisons for the mind! This is both more cynical - since even alternative media is seen critically as potentially falling way short - and yet more mature in so far as it understands that no form of media is exempt from being manipulative and harmful. 

So, all this to say that, in some cases, the more cynical view, in the sense of the view that takes the more pessimistic angle, is sometimes the fairest and wisest one.

Differently put,  qualifying a blanket statement (e.g. politicians are hypocrites) with an even more cynical blanket statement (e.g. humans are hypocrites) may, paradoxically, result in an outcome less cynical in affect, since opening up the statement to include more than its intended original groups and categories and thereby making it less unduly discriminating and purposefully targeted. 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Nietzsche's False Courage

According to Nietzsche, his philosophy was a form of inverted platonism. 
"My philosophy is inverted Platonism: the further a thing is from true being, the purer, the lovelier, the better it is. Living in illusion as a goal!"
Thus, just as Marx claimed to have stood Hegel's system on its head with his concept of dialectical materialism, so Nietzsche identified wholly with the physical, material realm where Plato had emphasised the metaphysical, ideal realm above all else.

This led to various consequences. 
  • Morality based on the ideal of justice and the good in Plato gives way in Nietzsche to immorality and the glorification of animalistic will-to-power.
  • Plato's ascetic suspicion of the bodily vehicle is replaced in Nietzsche's philosophy by the body and its physiology taking centre place.
  • Plato's focus on eternal truths as opposed to the ephemeral nature of the physical realm contrasts with Nietzsche's genealogical method and the importance he places on the so-called 'historical spirit'. 
  • Where, for Plato, there is only one absolute truth, Nietzsche emphasises the concept of perspectivism, which is to say the relativity of point of view. 
  • Where Plato viewed art with suspicion to the extent of even banning poets from his ideal city because of the artificial deceit of their craft (as opposed to philosophy), Nietzsche exclaimed 'art nothing but art' since he saw it as the great stimulant that compelled us to life and prevented us from perishing from the truth.
Philosopher Hannah Arendt was of course right to point out that in merely inverting Plato, Nietzsche left Plato's conceptual apparatus pretty much intact and it took Martin Heidegger's controversial (and arguably unsuccessful) deconstruction of the 'metaphysical tradition' to really begin to transcend Platonic metaphysics.

My point in this post is really to highlight the problem with over-identifying with the physical as Nietzsche does. For if one lives to embrace illusion and forgo any higher power then, human existence being the existential challenge that it is, this can lead to a psychology of fear, in the sense that the physical is transient, often violent and harmful, and that refusing to see the underlying metaphysical unity behind the variation of sense perception and the diversity of phenomena rids one ipso facto of the grounding and redeeming power of that which does not lie before one.  

The Canadian pianist Glenn Gould once mused that one of the things that might lead one to forgive a great deal of humanity's folly and cruelty is that it has invented the concept of what does not exist. 

Nietzsche, in other words, was a victim of his own materialism and the courage and honesty he felt as a thinker was proportional to the degree of fear he felt in his person having forgone the comfort blanket and consoling solace provided by the invisible realm and its supremacy over the physical realm, whether as a higher power ('God') or as Natural, Moral Law.   

This is why Nietzsche's philosophical courage was in my opinion a false courage which was merely experiencing the failure of his rejection of metaphysics as a sustainable and durable spiritual stance without the self-insight and honesty of admitting as much. 

Like Heidegger after him, Nietzsche dug himself into a hole and trapped himself just as Arendt thought was the case with her one-time mentor (Heidegger) when she penned the little prose tale 'Heidegger the Fox' (available to read in The Portable Hannah Arendt).  

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

On Performance Markings in Sheet Music - Fidelity to the Composer

The main composer I grew up playing on the piano was J.S. Bach who avoided the use of performance markings in his written music, also known as 'articulation'.

Those who have glanced at my own written music will have noticed that, apart from a metronome mark at the beginning of each piece, which is placed there purely for the purposes of satisfactory computer playback, I tend to do away with performance markings entirely, except for a few slurs in my piece Riverflow

There are three reasons for this:

  1. A certain laziness.
  2. Not wanting to restrict or bind whoever decides to play my music in their preferred way of playing it, I myself varying in how I choose to play the same piece depending on the piano I'm using or my mood at a given time.
  3. My general snobbery about performance snobbery.
Concerning point 2, I have never been entirely convinced by the musical school that seeks to replicate utmost fidelity to the composer's intention, as evidenced by the articulation indications he leaves in his piece as well as other characteristics such as his period, his body of work as a whole, his philosophy and so forth. 

The reason for this is, while it may be argued that if the composer took the trouble to signal these indications they should be respected, the converse also holds, i.e. the interpreter of the sheet music is taking the not-too-small trouble of learning and playing a piece created by another. 

If I'm taking the trouble to learn a piece why should I feel bound by performance markings which disagree with my musical sensibility and the way I feel the music? 

It seems to me less presumptuous, and a big point in J.S. Bach's favour, to allow for maximum interpretative freedom as a composer to those who take the trouble to learn one of my compositions rather than force them into one direction or the other when I myself am not too sure which is the best way to play the piece, playing it differently as the mood and the instrument itself take me, for example, with or without the sustaining pedal. 

To be sure articulation markings are but indications but many schooled in the classical music tradition are proud to think themselves as close to the composer's intent as possible, short of the composer himself performing his works. 

This strikes me as a meretricious ground for pride since, when it comes to music, what matters is musicality, not fidelity. 

This joins up somewhat with point 3 above, which is that I tend to see many musical pedagogues, especially in so-called 'master classes', as too focused on performance considerations, i.e. on how a piece should be played, which is after all a matter of personal sensibility and taste, rather than those pertaining to actually delivering the piece itself, which is more than three quarters of the challenge. 

In other words, time spent (or wasted) on whether a musical passage should be played staccato or legato might be more fruitfully devoted to focusing on alleviating performance anxiety, understanding the chord structures of the piece, looking at the score away from the instrument, analysing the form and architecture of the music and so forth. 

In short, performance markings are best seen as a suggestion as to how to play the piece, a suggestion which as a composer I often don't bother making, but this how should never supersede the more urgent problem of playing and delivering the piece in the first place.

That being said it is true that to effectively deliver a piece, the manner, the how of its performance is not inconsequential. But views on effectivity vary from musician to musician, from period to period and from audiophile to audiophile. Which is why performance considerations matter less, in my opinion, than those of simple delivery