Music / February / 2011

Keeping with my new year's resolution to listen to more (and new) music, here's what I picked up in February:

  • Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: I picked this up because I respect any album that gets a perfect 10 from Pitchfork and appears on virtually any informed "Album of the Year" list. It doesn't hurt that Kanye's famous critique of George W. Bush ranks high as one of my favorite examples of highjacking kairos. The album lives up to its praise--anyone who has ever appreciated a single hip-hop track will likely appreciate MBDTF's care to detail and creativity ("Hell of a Life"'s electronica-infused Sabbath sample would epitomize these qualities).
  • G. Love - Lemonade: I just grabbed this album last week and I remain a bit undecided. Initially, I was drawn to his brand new Fixin to Die, but, previewing a few tracks, I was a bit turned off by the bluegrass feel. I think I still harbor a subconscious fear that listening to anything remotely related to country music will make me want to drive a pickup and purchase firearms. A few of the iTunes comments praised Lemonade, so I figured I would grab that one instead. Its a very funky album, as opposed to Fixin's twang, but its also highly polished, and feels a bit too commercial. Admittedly, its a very fine line--between carefully constructed and commercially manufactured. But something about this album doesn't feel quite right--it misses Electric Mile's spontaneity (something that I suspect the new album might supply, being a collection of covers assembled with and produced by the Avett Brothers).
  • …And you Will Know Us By the Trail of the Dead - Tao of the Dead: Given the amount of electronic music I've been listening to lately, I wanted something that rocks. A few searches later, I found this offering. As much a continuous rock opera as a collection of individual tracks, Tao of the Dead delivered what I was looking for (sans large haired guitar solos). I'm quite pleased with the purchase, and will probably dig deeper into their catalogue.

I've also picked up a few other oddities this month. First, I downloaded Ramen music's free debut issue. The project is essentially a peer-reviewed, independent music publishing collaboration; a number of the 12 free tracks are quite impressive--especially Graham O'Brien's "CFC's...". I'm still debating whether to subscribe to the magazine (I give myself a 10$ a week music budget and a yearly subscription to Ramen would cost me almost an entire month's allowance). I also came across, via Metafilter, the Nerdcore Now project. Take Weezer's "In the Garage," remix with some Run-DMC, repeat. This provided some nostalgic amusement, but there's really no reason to keep going back.

Thanks to the shared iTunes library at work, I listened to quite a bit of Cut Copy and Arcade Fire last month, too. I like the former--its seems perfect for sitting outside or on the beach in nice weather. There's nothing especially wrong with the latter, though I can't say I'm in a rush to purchase it either.


Latour, Gorgias, and Levinas Take 15

This article keeps beating me up--every time I think I know what I am doing, it runs away. I believe I am finally whipping it in to shape, but I want to make sure the following paragraphs make sense to someone else beside me. Here's what I think my thesis is...

Bruno Latour, Gorgias of Leontini, Emmanuel Levinas. At first glance, such a union might seem antithetical. Casting aside Platonic misrepresentations of Gorgias as a swindler and a cheat, how can Levinas’ Humanism, so intense that it fails to recognize animals as having ethical status, be reconciled with Latour’s Actor Network Theory, which refuses to distinguish any hierarchical ontological distinction between a human being and a laboratory beaker? Without dismissing these differences, I reconcile Latour’s challenge to Humanism’s traditional anthropocentrism with Levinas’s humanism of the Other person by highlighting how each shares a strong aversion to the isolated and autonomous Cartesian self operating at the core of much Western philosophy and rhetoric, an aversion shared by Bruce McComiskey and Scott Consigny’s versions of Gorgian sophistry.

The essay first reviews Latour’s challenge to the late 20th century critical tradition, calling instead for a renewed invest in political practice that he terms “concern.” Working in response to Graham Harman’s disavowal of any connection between Latourian politics and ancient sophistry, I will highlight how Latour’s turn toward “concern” shares both metaphysical and practical overlays with Gorgian sophistry (if, unlike Harman, we attend to recent studies of Gorgian sophistry and do not rely on the tired, cliché, and impoverished image of Gorgias offered to us by Plato). Gorgian sophistry offers an ethical defense for agonistic encounter. Finally, I turn to Levinas’ opposing obligations of responsibility (infinite hospitality to the other) and justice (inevitable violence stemming from the infinite obligation to both the other and the neighbor) to construct an ethical disposition requisite for the concerned political-sophistic-agonistic practice advocated by Latour and Gorgias.