Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Shining: All Work and No Play


As I surmised in my Note on the Shining and has since been confirmed by my watching related videos by the talented film analyst Rob Ager (collativelearning.com), the Overlook Hotel in that film represents the United States of America in many of its less happy aspects. 

Anyway, this post to add that there was no way a genius like Kubrick would film a veiled critique of the USA without at least hinting at the most damaging and toxic puritanical work ethic, which is at the heart of the capitalist project.

[Indeed it seems to me that the whole ethos of 'earning one's living' has something of the 'original sin' philosophy about it, in the sense that one has to make up for the mere fact of being born by labouring one's entire adult life as a kind of penance for the guilt of being alive and requiring food and shelter. 

Debt slavery through fractional reserve banking and the issuance of fiat currency - a phenomenon alluded to in the film with regards to the whole 'Gold Room' sequence - can indeed be viewed in terms of that puritanical guilt derived from Christian 'original sin'.] 

And indeed when is Jack Torrance revealed to be utterly bananas other than the moment his wife discovers mountains of his typed papers that all read, for the most part, 
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."
Interestingly, it is only once this crazy hamster-wheel-ethic of work for the sake of work is shown in its raw, naked insanity that the film begins to enter its final phase, when Jack becomes openly predatory and murderous towards his wife and son, thereby in a sense fulfilling the 'dull boy' observation of the typed papers.

The scene where Wendy discovers the papers - a turning point in the movie - may also be a hint by Kubrick at how the capitalist work ethic makes white and blue-collar male workers lash out at their families as they vent their frustration at being superfluous, creatively compromised slaves and cogs in the hierarchical, compartmentalised and technocratic machine of corporate America.

Just as so much of the film The Shining deals, in a veiled way, with the topic of intergenerational abuse - on top of 'the detail' of Native American genocide which forms an implicit backdrop to the movie - so it was essential for Kubrick to place the live-to-work paradigm of the United States in its proper unsavoury and dystopian context.

Addendum - As regards the distinction between work and play, the esoteric wiseman Manly P. Hall was of the view that play is activity done for oneself and work is activity done for others. Narrowing the gap between the two, i.e. trying to do what one loves (play) whilst serving others (work) - be it employers, the public or both who will (or should) compensate that service with money - is often a priority for people of a creative bent who want to minimise their capitalist alienation whereby the spiritual currencies of time and attention - premised as they are on the bodily currency of energy - are exchanged for (an often pitiful) monetary, i.e. quantitative, currency that is technologically and sociologically required - and enforced - to enjoy the benefits precisely of technological society. 

All Muse Piano Covers | playlist

All Terminator Piano Covers | playlist


All Beatles Piano Covers | playlist




All my Beatles piano covers, including piano solo and piano & voice.

Tracklist:

All Twin Peaks Piano Covers | playlist


All Star Wars Piano Covers | playlist


All James Bond Piano Covers | playlist


All Godfather Piano Covers | playlist




All my Godfather-themed piano covers.


Tracklist:

All Piano Covers Part 1 | playlist




The first batch of my piano covers (excl. piano-only classical and piano & voice).


Tracklist:

All Piano Compositions Part 2 | playlist




The second batch of my original piano compositions, in the order they were written and recorded.


Tracklist:
4. Poppy

All Piano and Voice Recordings | playlist




All my piano & voice recordings, including original songs and covers.


Tracklist:

All Piano Compositions Part 1 | playlist




The first batch of my original piano compositions, in the order that they were recorded.


Tracklist:
4. Musing
6. Melancholy Melody (piano solo version)
9. 2 in 1
13. Rising
14. Craving
25. Upwards & Forwards (piano solo version)

All Classical Piano Recordings | playlist


Muse: The 2nd Law - Isolated System | piano cover




Piano cover of the instrumental track The 2nd Law - Isolated System by the British band Muse.

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/muse-the-2nd-law-isolated-system

Thursday, 7 December 2017

What is the Meaning of the Brain Bug's Capture in Starship Troopers?

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I have yet to watch the analysis of the film Starship Troopers by the gifted artist and analyst Rob Ager (collativelearning.com), but what has caused me to ponder the film for a number of years now, aside from what to me is the obvious anti-war propaganda angle that hides itself precisely as war propaganda, is the underlying meaning of the capture and torture of the 'brain bug' at the end of the film, the brain bug being the alien entity that controls the enemy alien race in the film. 

The way I have tended to read it is as an allegory and powerful image, if properly grasped, of the triumph of low brow and gung-ho anti-intellectualism, even as a revolt of the weak-minded against the broad-minded for, in the immortal words of Alexander Pope,
"There is no stronger antipathy than that of fools to men of wit."
It is not hard to see how this anti-intellectualism lends itself well to the fascistic and militaristic human society on display in the film - which can be seen as a barely covert commentary on aspects of contemporary society prevailing outside the film -  that would certainly not welcome thoughtful anti-conformity and any significant degree of introspective mindfulness within its midst.

Belief and the Value of Money Meme


This meme is rather amusing in its display of faux enlightenment. It wouldn't be a lot worse if it said 
"The only difference between these two colours
 is your belief that one is redder than the other."
In the case of the money meme, perhaps the statement would be more accurate if it read
"the only difference between these two notes is other people's belief that one has more value than the other."
[It seems to me this money meme fails to take into account sociological as opposed to merely individual factors at play in the difference in value between the two notes and, suspecting as I do that this meme is American in origin given it is a US dollar bill being used as an example, it shows up the limitations of individualist explanations for societal and large scale phenomena that prevailing American thinking seems to be particularly fond of using, allergic as it appears to be to collective and holistic realities. 

For, everyone might privately believe that both notes are of equivalent value or equal valuelessness (as the case may be) but if this private belief isn't collectively put into practice by a critical mass choosing to use the monopoly bill as opposed to the dollar bill for the exchange of goods and service, then the dollar bill will continue to have more value in manifested reality than the board game one. Also, as my girlfriend amusingly points out, if the author of this meme genuinely believes in it, then he would be okay being paid in monopoly as opposed to federal reserve money.]

Moreover, the meme is false from the outset when it states that "the only difference between these two notes is...". 

What, aside from the fact one is a US dollar bill - that I can use in the real world to buy things with - and the other is a note taken from a Monopoly board game - that I can't use to buy things with - and that both look markedly different in a variety of ways, including ways, such as having a water mark, that would indeed affect their value?

Moreover it amuses me how this meme assumes I believe one to have more value than the other and that that belief - which I do not actually have - is the actual cause of the difference between them, whether in value or otherwise. 

This meme is so illiterate on so many levels - sociologically, epistemologically, logically, even economically - that it borders on genius. 

To its credit, however, it does raise interesting questions, such as how beliefs come to be formed in the first place, what belief is as opposed, say, to knowledge (i.e. the much-vaunted and taunted difference between γνῶσις and δόξα in Greek philosophical terminology), the effects of belief on the world, particularly of a collective nature, and, indeed, the extent to which things do not require your personal belief to have an effect on you.

For, in contradistinction to the point suggested by this meme, i.e. that the value and therefore hold of money is based purely on belief (see The Power of Money), I would maintain that money's universally entrenched and sociologically-as-well-as-technologically enforced nature is such that it does not require your personal belief to affect you or indeed anyone else you know, including and especially those who choose to live without money (like the author of Moneyless Man, Mark Boyle) - for they are affected by money in simply choosing to face and carry out a life with-out money. 

Brad Fiedel: Main Title from Terminator 2 | piano cover




Piano cover of the opening credits tune from Terminator 2: Judgement Day.

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/brad-fiedel-main-title-from-terminator-2

Brad Fiedel: Main Title from The Terminator | piano cover




Piano cover of the anthemic main title from the movie The Terminator (1984)

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/brad-fiedel-main-title-from-the-terminator

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Heidegger's Oedipal Anti-Americanism


An angle I have not heard stated as much as Heidegger's anti-semitism is his pronounced anti-Americanism (and anti-Bolshevism) which reading of his lecture Introduction to Metaphysics, delivered in the summer of 1935, as well as of his so-called 'black notebooks' from that period, could put forward as at least one of the reasons for his support of the Third Reich, since for him Germany lied 
"in the great pincers between Russia on the one side and America on the other"
, which political entities were ironically to become the two global superpowers after the Second World War - but which, quite famously in fact, French thinker Alexis de Tocqueville already regarded as "the two great nations of the world" as early as 1835 (Democracy in America - see the full Tocqueville quote here).

In an odd sense, therefore, if Heidegger's support of the militaristic Third Reich was, at least in part, informed by a desire to stop the Bolshevisation as well as Americanisation of Europe - which political phenomena he regarded as well-nigh identical metaphysically because they are both forms of modernisation - it transpired that that decision only precipitated the (relative) Bolshevisation (witness East Germany) as well as the (outright) Americanisation of Western Europe in so far as the defeat of the expansionist Third Reich put Russia and America at the forefront of the geopolitical chess game.

[Rather like Oedipus, 'the man who knew too much' according to Michel Foucault (and indeed, as that thinker noted, the verb οἰδα, to 'know' or 'see', is frequently used by Oedipus and resembles the root of his very name: Οίδιπους), who, in full knowledge of his fate, sought to avert it by fleeing from his native city but in so doing only brought that fate closer to realisation, with the effect that it was his foresight through the knowledge he had of the prophecy that caused his demise, Heidegger's support of the National Socialist movement, borne out of a genuine foresight as to America's (and Russia's) looming ascendancy over the globe, turned out to be a boon, historically, for the triumph of America - which came out of the war with Germany richer, stronger and as leader of the occident - over Western Europe, a fate which Heidegger, at least according to my interpretation, had precisely sought to avert by lending his very temporary and largely unappreciated philosophical authority to the Nazi cause.]

As revealed by the black notebooks, Heidegger came to see the woeful spiritual inadequacy - more aptly termed bankruptcy - of the National Socialist movement not long after the aforementioned lecture but not, controversially, because of the Nazis' mistreatment of Jewish people and other groups perceived as undesirable, but because, in their philistinism and scientism, they were not radical and philosophical enough and guilty, in Heidegger's reversal of the Cartesian motto, of a mindset according to which
"non cogito, ergo sum" (I don't think, therefore I am).
But as is also clear in the aforementioned notebooks and even in his published lecture What is Called Thinking?, Heidegger, while full of contempt for the Soviet Union, nonetheless espoused the Russian tradition and nation as the worthy one, in contrast to the uprooted dystopia of the United States of America (see Note on the Shining) . 

The fact that today Russia has experienced somewhat of a revival on the world stage and is seen favourably by a (vocal) minority of political observers in the West shows that the Russian v American dialectic is far from over and that the political struggles of Heidegger's era are still material today - including in terms of the growth of the far right who use fear and hatred of the left as a political platform, along with anti-semitic conspiracy theories. 

Coming back to Heidegger, it remains that, for a lecture given in the summer of 1935 (published under the name Introduction to Metaphysics), Heidegger's tirade against modernity and Tocqueville's 'two great nations' according to which
"Russia and America, seen metaphysically, are both the same. [In them, we find] the same hopeless frenzy of unchained technology and of the rootless organisation of the average man. When the farthest corner of the globe has been conquered technologically and can be exploited economically; when any incident you like, in any place you like, at any time you like, becomes accessible as fast as you like; when you can simultaneously 'experience' an assassination attempt against a king in France and symphony concert in Tokyo; when time as history has vanished from all Dasein of all peoples; when a boxer counts as the great man of a people; when the tallies of millions at mass meetings are a triumph; then, yes then, there still looms like a spectre over all this uproar the question: what for? - where to? - and what then?"
is undeniably quite prescient, seemingly anticipating the world wide web and sites like YouTube (where 'the symphony concert in Tokyo' could be streamed live) and Facebook (where 'the assassination attempt against a king in France' would undoubtedly feature in the trending news items on the home feed).

However, to add even more to the irony as well as potential hypocrisy of both Heidegger's position and my general approval of his stature as a thinker, let it at once be said that the edition of Heidegger I've quoted from is American (Yale University Press) and that I'm sharing this post on an American website (blogger, itself owned by Google). 

Sensitivity = Perceptiveness


It could be argued that sensitivity connotes perceptiveness, both in its accurate astuteness and in its inaccurate touchiness - for perception, even when perceptive, is not always accurate (see posts Sensitivity as Emotional Astuteness and Truth is Objective but No One is Omniscient for more details). 

The Beatles: In My Life | piano cover




Piano cover of In My Life by the Beatles from their Rubber Soul album.

Audio: https://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/the-beatles-in-my-life

Music as Rhythm and Quantum


In his exploration on aesthetics, The Man without Content, Giorgio Agamben, in one of the later chapters, pinpoints the dual aspect of the concept of structure, i.e. 
"structure as rhythm, as that which causes something to be what it is, and structure as number, element and minimal quantum."
This binary structure of structure is reflected in the Greek terms ῥυθμός, rhythm, which comes from the verb ῥέω, to flow, and ἀριθμός, number (whence our word 'arithmetic'), which, morphologically, conveys the idea of that which does not flow, that which stays the same, the άλφα in this latter interpretation being privative, as in our English word a-symmetrical. 

In light of these two components of structure, the constitutive, minimal quantum (such as the infinitesimal particles that form the concern of quantum physics) and the overall outward form, say, of a work of art (such as the picture reproduced above), he discusses the priority given to numbers by the Pythagoreans "as the original principles of all things" and how this quantitative element needs be combined with something else, an αἰτία τοῦ εἶναι ('cause of being') in Aristotle's formulation, which we may designate as rhythm, so that the whole, the overall structure, be more than than the mere sum of its elemental, structuring parts, a process that thinker refers to as μορφὴ καὶ εἶδος, an installation into shape. 

All this to say, the combination of numbered quantum, i.e. the mathematical, with rhythmic movement, i.e. the flow of life, is arguably achieved by the art of music since music is based on different pitches or vibrations - whose positions relative to each other can be quantified on a ladder or scale (scala in Latin meaning 'flight of stairs') - combined with the play of time, in the sense of both duration - of the notes themselves and relative to each other - and beat, the living, breathing pulse of the piece.

It is notable that Pythagoras himself regarded music as one of the queen disciplines, along with mathematics and astronomy, and the North American esotericist Manly P. Hall described music as the line, the motion of the dot that constitutes creation (i.e. the beginning of time), as part of what he called the fundamental symbolic triad of the dot (time-spirit), the line (motion-intelligence) and the circle (force-body). 

In his essay The Disciplines of Salvation (collected in Lectures on Ancient Philosophy) he states
"In music the Real and the ideal are blended. The mathematical basis upon which the science of harmonics is founded insures preservation of the principle of exactness. At the same time music stimulates lofty emotional reactions and thus ameliorates the austerity of numbers. [...] Like a flowering vine twining itself about the harsher outlines of mathematical procedure, music softens and beautifies the angles of cosmic discipline."
A little further, capturing the aforementioned idea of music combining rhythm with number, he writes
"the exactness of divine procedure is the absolute standard of harmony, and the order of universal flow is the perfect pattern of all rhythm. [...] While mathematics inspires awe for the immutability of divine jurisprudence, music reveals the all-knowing Lawmaker as tempering justice with mercy." (my italics)
We could say therefore that the art and science of music combines the divine quantum of unchanging mathematical truth (ἀριθμός) - number - with the mortal rhythm of flowing existence (ῥυθμός) - time - thereby providing an entry point for humans to access or at least have insight into the immutable, Platonic aspects of Being. 

Monday, 4 December 2017

Capitalism v Conspiracy


From a socialist, anti-corporate viewpoint, it might well be asked whether the majority of popular 'conspiracy theories', not to mention the truth movement itself, do not have, on top of their truth-claims and therefore positioning in the realm of politics (see The Warfare of Standpoints - Truth as Necessary Error - Differently Formed Views), the covert effect of deflecting blame away from the normal consequences of capital's predominance and the profit motive for all manners of human and planetary suffering, in favour of narratives that blame hard-to-pin-down secret societies and hidden global (banking) elites for the woes of mankind and, in the most crude of cases, usual-suspect demographics like Jews and 'social justice warriors'. Whence this picture: 


In the aforementioned blog post (The Warfare of Standpoints) I surmised, drawing from my own experience with conspiratorial discourses, that they fulfil needs quite separate from a purely disinterested desire for truth. Rather they allow one to have (easy-to-grasp) reasons for why there is suffering in the world and reasons why one should not conform (when one never really wanted to conform in the first place) as well as provide blameable groups for all the world's ills (such as psychopathic elites) and enable people on the ground level to vent their populist, anti-elite, anti-government sentiment, all of this while never really challenging the structures of what Noam Chomsky calls 'corporate mercantilism', including the capitalist employment ethic (the word 'employed' meaning, strictly speaking, 'being used'). 

It is often shocking at how blind many conspiracy theorists are to the fact that the pathologies and hypocrisies they detect in elites are also present in the population at large, and that petty power expresses itself within a single family unit or workplace just as apparently less petty power manifests in the corridors of sanctified governmental and corporate officialdom. It might be asked, further, whether the reports and footage of the occult gatherings of the elite, such as those at Bohemian Grove, are not themselves also part of a conspiratorial charade or fake (as per the words of character Victor Zeigler in Eyes Wide Shut) to make this elite seem more powerful and knowing than it really is.  

Two recent films offer a neat allegory for this two-pronged angle and critique on things, namely the conspiratorial and the capitalist one (which is to say, in the latter case, the socialist angle, since capitalism can only be apprehended critically from a model outside of its prevalent ideology). 


In Guy Richie's Sherlock Holmes, the villain, Lord Blackwood, while indeed having aspirations to rule the world through an Anglo-American hegemony, one very much in tune with Professor Carroll Quigley's disclosures in The Anglo-American Establishment and Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, uses a veneer of hocus-pocus dark sorcery to terrify and win over the minds of not only the common people but also the rich elite themselves. Only our friend Sherlock Holmes is clever enough to see through and expose the man for the human, all too human, fraud that he is. 


By contrast, in the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, while indeed orchestrating things from behind the scenes such that war between the European nations be precipitated rather than delayed, so that he may reap the profits as the main arms industrialist and supplier to all the warring parties (war in fact being shown here as a form of controlled opposition that serves the wider interests of those who stand to make money from armed conflict, no matter who wins or loses), the villain Moriarty can be said to be lucidly investing in pure capitalist fashion in the likelihood of war breaking out - the outbreak of which he merely accelerates through his actions, understanding as he does that it is always a matter of time before the war economy eventually takes over - so as to make a significant monetary and power gain. 

In this second case, the conspiracy is unbridled money-making itself, because Moriarty, in his masterful scheme of creating both demand and supply, is merely showing how supposedly 'free', capital-friendly markets, can be and in fact often are rigged to maximise profits, regardless of human cost, and that there is nothing intrinsically moral and self-regulating about the profit motive pursued in ignorance of and often in direct contravention of human and planetary welfare. And, despite the claims of those of capitalist faith, such as Libertarians and anarcho-capitalists in the United States, human and planetary welfare are not inherent in or inextricably tied to a system of production based solely on profit for those who control the capital (see Carroll Quigley's definition of capitalism - see, regarding the moral overtones of economic discourse, Economy v Morality - see also The Problem of Taxation - the Importance of Morality for difficulties with both socialism and capitalism).

With this post, I do not intend to pour scorn on all forms of conspiratorial discourse, especially those that offer empowering narratives; in fact, in some cases, I think such discourses can serve a useful and even helpful critical function as well as open up whole vistas of worthwhile research, including into factual reality, on top of the very real emotional needs they fulfil for millions of people. But precisely as a critical lens, the conspiratorial view of world events remains but one lens through which the mind's eye can view things and therefore can be usefully supplemented and at times amended or even corrected with other, non conspiratorial, lenses which, while losing in entertainment value for being more prosaic and less dramatic, may still have much to offer in the way of increased understanding and nuance, not to mention philosophical selfhood. 

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

John Barry: The Persuaders | piano cover




Piano cover of the theme tune from the TV show The Persuaders! which starred actor Roger Moore who died this year.

Audiohttps://soundcloud.com/scruffyowlet/john-barry-the-persuaders