Sunday, October 19, 2008

I was just talking to my mom on the phone...

So here I am listening to Mahler, my room smells like cat food, 2/3 of my bed is covered in notebooks and shoes...

And I'm talking on the phone to my mother, and I ask if she's going to see the Oliver Stone movie "W."

Now, no one has taken a less sophisticated or more vitriolic stance towards George W. Bush than my mother. She hisses him. She thinks he is "stupid." She has not done her homework, and everything he has done seems to her thoroughly "Republican"--even while he has been isolating himself from his own party with his positions on, for example, immigration. My mother's view of George Bush could not be more ill-informed or more partial.

And yet, as a good Christian bourgeois, my mother tells me that she had been hesitant about seeing the Oliver Stone movie, until she heard that it was "more balanced" than one might have thought.

If anything exemplifies the moral bankruptcy of "tolerance" and "understanding," it is this superficial desire to see even war-mongers and sponsors of crimes-against-humanity (like George Bush) as "having a story" that can be presented in a "balanced" and "even-handed" manner.

This is ideology in its clearest form. Balanced. Non-partisan. We present, you decide. Both sides of the story. Explanations based on childhood biography. Surprisingly fair.

My mother, who says she was wary of a film that would be a "hatchet job," is glad to hear that the film is "fair." But what *objective judgment* demands IS a hatchet job. Nothing could be more fair than a devastating, informed, and merciless hatchet job on Bush as president and man. There *are* political nuances to Bush, which my mother and other Democrats have not noticed, and which should be emphasized against the moral-superiority of bourgeois liberal "Blue State" partisans. There are also personal qualifications that should be insisted upon--the man is most likely *not* "an idiot" in the usual sense of the term, as my parents have always insisted. Does that make him more scrupulous? No. More dangerous? Perhaps. But all of that gets lost in the "night in which all cows are black" of his famed stupidity.

In short, what is "fair" in judgment has nothing in common with what is "fair" in the minds of the middle-class who have always encouraged us as children to share, say nothing if we don't have something nice to say, and that everyone is good at something. That their world is run as amoral thievery on all levels is nothing to be "considerate" of. [Please note this post has nothing to say about the film itself, but is ONLY concerned with the critical reception which praises its "even-handedness."]

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

sub specie aeterni

Rolling Stone used to (and may still) have an inset feature on classic bands in their reviews section, where you could read a brief bio of a group and also see an overview of their discography, wherein you would learn that, say, "London Calling" or "Houses of the Holy" were (surprise!) 5 star albums. Meaning, of course, not that Rolling Stone had given these albums five stars upon their release, but that *with hindsight*, these were impeccable and classic albums. A bit of a cop-out, from my perspective of really disliking Rolling Stone, but certainly the correct way of thinking of reviews. The only catch is, we can't always wait 20 years to find out if an album is good or not.

So: there is the "present moment" of a review, in two senses: for the "contemporary musical context" in which an album is released, and also the present moment of the listener's always-developing taste. As a 16 year old and huge fan of Black Flag, I was in no position to appreciate a timeless classic like Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush." In this respect, the "hindsight" can only be my *future* appreciation of a work, which is as imperceptible to me as its value to posterity.

The only ideal review is one that reviews the album "in-itself" or "for us" (Hegel), i.e. "sub specie aeterni" (Spinoza)--from the viewpoint of eternity, or as considered "timelessly" and with everything known.

This is not usually possible, for obvious reasons. What is possible? Well, the exact opposite. Not at all an "objective" appreciation, but the completely subjective and pragmatic one. I have a perfect test question. "How many times do you think you will listen to this record?" A "five-star" record would be the most-listened to, a four-star less listened to, etc. until the 1-star record would be the 1 or 2-listen album. By "pragmatic," I mean not treating the quality of a record as something existing IN it, and that will emerge with time (like a meaning), but only in the sense of its tool for us (as giving enjoyment).

Bad reviews confuse these two positions.