Listen Cloze, Now: "Broom People" by the Mountain Goats


A long list of things in John Darnielle's step-house: tales of ordinary madness. The Sunset Tree is one long song sung to his past.

The title is obscure; perhaps it means "thrifty folk"; a household that has to repair its worn-out broom, (and sweep all sorts of things under the carpet). The food is no better than "fresh fuel for the sodium flares"; processed, salty crap that he gets his kicks out of burning.

It's more than Caulfieldiana. He's deeply affected by the mundane; depressed by untidiness and low-income ennui. But when he's "in your arms", "in the long tresses of your hair" this goes away. Things go elemental. He's a wild creature escaping out from under "the king of the jungle", an abusive stepfather. (We can find anything disturbing and anything profound.)

I'd thought that the arms he was saved by were his mother's, but in other places (Lion's Teeth) we see she's a stooge of his nemesis; 'You' is someone else. It's a bit of a leap to make Cathy (from "This Year") the object of each 'You' in the album, but let's make this leap. Love as exit door.


Every character is a fuckup whose future is nonetheless no bleaker than that of the planet we all inhabit. They aren't redeemed by Darnielle's love because he doesn't love a-one of them. But they are redeemed by his interest, in them and in the planet we all inhabit.
- Christgau, mistaken.

But this abuse escapism is tied to an uplifting, forward sound; a dirty car-exhaust bassline (a '36 Hudson?) propels a beautiful TV-theme piano intro into one of his signature staccato-block guitar lines. At 1:02 something like a back-masked accordion begins to siren the same six note pattern til the end. The piano keeps planting these emphatic, dignified chords into every other bar.

I don't want to imagine cover versions: Darnielle has an inimitable inimicability. But (though his fragile nasal frenzy is his own and only his own) he probably sings for you-as-a-teenager, too, no matter how little you were abused. Actually, I'm doing a crap job of lassoing him. It's a precise voice, not frenzied. Or: it's a demented fantasist, not autobiography. It's a deeply sincere voice, not a joke. Or: it's ironic, not sentimental. In any case: it's gotten milder in recent work, and he can breathe devastating things out casually: here, the terrible casual way he says "freeze to death".

The album is relentlessly comforting if you want to change, get over it, look forward (it's named after an optimistic Victorian hymn of renewal). But some things leave a mark that it takes a lifetime and maybe also a death to remove.


I was there on a Sunday, and observed the rigour with which the young people were taught to observe the Sabbath; they might not cut out things, nor use their paintbox on a Sunday, and this they thought rather hard, because their cousins the John Pontifexes might do these things. Their cousins might play with their toy train on Sunday, but though they had promised that they would run none but Sunday trains, all traffic had been prohibited. One treat only was allowed them--on Sunday evenings they might choose their own hymns.

In the course of the evening they came into the drawing-room, and, as an especial treat, were to sing some of their hymns to me, instead of saying them, so that I might hear how nicely they sang. Ernest was to choose the first hymn, and he chose one about some people who were to
come to the sunset tree. I am no botanist, and do not know what kind of tree a sunset tree is, but the words began, "Come, come, come; come to the sunset tree, for the day is past and gone."' ...

"Very well, Ernest" said his father, catching him angrily by the shoulder. "I have done my best to save you, but if you will have it so, you will," and he lugged the little wretch, crying by anticipation, out of the room. A few minutes more and we could hear screams coming from the dining-room, across the hall which separated the drawing-room from the dining-room, and knew that poor Ernest was being beaten
- Samuel Butler

Come, come to the sunset tree,
The day is past and gone,
The woodman's axe lies free,
And the reaper's work is done.
There shall no tempest blow,
No scorching noon tide beat,
There shall be no more snow,
No weary wand'ring feet.
And so we lift our eyes
From the hills our fathers trod
To the quiet of the skies
To the Sabbath of our God.
- Francis Weiland


Wilde and Warhol in bed

(c) Ronald D Gosses (2009) Andy Warhol & Oscar Wilde meet over Margaritas

Somehow or other I'll be famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious. Or perhaps I'll lead the life of pleasure for a time and then—who knows?—rest and do nothing.
- Wilde

If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films - and me - and there I am. There’s nothing behind it."
- Warhol

(Notes on wilful contrariness for a later work.)

Andy Warhol is heir to Oscar Wilde, but I've never read anyone noticing this. I don't mean just that their queerness crashed into and shaped modernism and postmodernism respectively (though that's a good one); nor just that they fundamentally share the role of the sparkling dandy riding atop our none-more-wishful culture; nor that they're the most quotable figures in history. I mean that their similar self-constructions - the effeminate, theatrical, aesthetically-fixated, charming, amoral queer - occupy a continuum and what we have become is at the sharp end. Flippant, giggling, wonderful nihilism.

Both reject practicality, but are often intensely unromantic too:
  • Wilde deflates love (his tools: the realist farce, the counter-induction, the epigram);

  • Warhol deflates Life in general (his tools: flat textures, block colours, impersonal industrialized production, print runs, trivialization, and glorification of the status quo which the artistic status quo reviles).

They also share a basic contempt for their audiences. I don't believe that Wilde meant much of what he ever said or wrote. Lord Henry, from Dorian Gray: "It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible."

And the opposite, from Personal Reflections of America: "Appearance blinds, whereas words reveal." (Although he also thinks "Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.")


It's not an original thought. The mercenary nature of his intelligence was clear enough at the time, and we loved him anyway:
One might go through his swift and sparkling plays with a red and blue pencil marking two kinds of epigrams; the real epigram (which he wrote to please his own wild intellect) and the sham epigram (which he wrote to thrill the very tamest part of our tame civilization).
- GK Chesterton, 1909

Warhol we didn't exactly love, but we lusted after his things hysterically enough to close the difference. Warhol is the logical conclusion of Public Wilde, a deconstructed dandy: he doesn't even need to be witty; he doesn't even need to be handsome; he doesn't even need taste; he doesn't need his talent!

These are lives aimed at glamour, and which feign indifference to all else. Wilde's greatest cultural legacy is to have tied campness to homosexuality, and, worse, vice versa. (You could call it "the birth of public gay identity" if you were feeling optimistic). While there is little that is elegant about Warhol, he freed art from the need to have any content at all; a development which Wilde would have adored.

The idea of a "fake Warhol painting" is ridiculous. There's no such thing, except perhaps for tax purposes. The Economist magazine uses him as the windvane for the art market general - metonymy which Warhol would have adored.

You might have heard the story about a Warhol exhibition in 1971; there were so many attendees (and so much writhing) that he took down the paintings, so that people could get in. Warhol was the point; he was the work. The actual paintings were derided at the time as "hoaxes"; and so they were. And so all art is. The idea of a "Warhol urban legend" is ridiculous... (What on earth has truth got to do with it?)


But beauty, real beauty, ends where intellectual expression begins. Intellect is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of a face.

(So speaks a man who loves men.)

I know a girl...she just sees a beautiful face and therefore she thinks she's a beauty. And therefore, I think she's a beauty, too, because I usually accept people on the basis of their self-images, because their self-images have more to do with the way they think than their objective-images do.

(So speaks a man who loves cats.)

Beckett might have slotted neatly in between them - another malin provocateur. But he's too stark, so lacking in ornament that he would burst my neat category apart. De Sade fits, and anyway would use a knife if he didn't at first. Lou Reed was groomed by Warhol specifically for the task of being a nasty little man. Damien Hirst is a macho shit who'd headbutt his own way out of the analysis. These people are the cattleprods we grab on to.

Is it Nietzsche they come from, then? Maybe not. (We never accepted Nietzsche in time.)


Wilde's too beautiful to ignore (e.g. try this, from his Canterville Ghost:
Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.)
but too dishonest to really respect. Maybe that's the point. (You can rightfully say "maybe that's the point" to any artwork; any ambiguity; any old piece of hollow crap. Maybe that's the point.) He exasperates me, but I am queer.

Warhol's neither beautiful nor honest, but the fact that his "work" happened has importance despite itself because, without its freshening sort, art will die; 'art-lovers' will kill it. It will become what classical music sadly has; a marginal, elitist, ossified time-capsule. This classist classicism is bad only because it's entirely false, traitorous and suicidal. I hate Warhol, but I am Pop.

Their indifference is horrific. Hopefully that's the point.

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about. "
- Wilde

The best thing for everybody now is to forget all about Oscar Wilde, his perpetual posings, his aesthetical teachings and his theatrical productions. Let him go into silence, and be heard no more.
- L'echo de Paris, 1895
(unwittingly immortalising 'Wilde' as a Name for a nameless love).

Warhol is a sphinx without a secret."
- Capote
(Yes, but so are you, you deep man.)


Listen Cloze, Now: "Stand By Me" by Ben E King

Schlep; schlep;
Schlep-schlep-schlep; schlep,
Schlep-schlep-schlep; schlep,
Schlepppschlep; schlep........

An old Drifter rolls into town, and your front yard, and your arms.

In the best version (1961 single, not this ^ one), the double-bass is a mess; waterlogged, flattened, hushed. It's just percussion. But out of it: glory underplayed, undertoned, motive, roadlike.

As in all this calibre of R&B, the guitar and backing trio are barely there. The strings creeping up, up, up on him are a masterclass in predictability; their 1:55 spotlight is painful, extremist contralto schmaltz. And yet! they are after all only the bassline given razored, tight wings, dream-come-true dignity.

There's only two bits to the lyrics (fidelity, and apocalyptic fidelity) and scarcely two in the sound (that stepwise homophony, which King's voice is just interpolating, but with such measured, accented passion that you don't notice). Is that enough for this song to "be about" anything?

: Yes. Who knows what loneliness is? Not I, when I've you there. Metaphysics of friendship is big and strange, child. By the end, it's changed, no longer a plea. "Whenever you're in trouble, won't you stand by me": he's offering. There are better things in the world than reciprocation, but they're usually illegal.

Note the varying volume in the vocals (2:25); he's let go, dancing around the mic. Well? Would you be standing still, ever, at all, if you were Ben E King? The fade-out is brutal, one-second-long, demanding a repeat play.

Why can't something be pedestrian and spiritual? Surely only shows our crap understanding of what spirit is (and, relatedly what pop songs are).

There are apparently 400 covers extant. (A lot of them drop the bass part, a profoundly senseless and anti-musical thing to do.) Lennon's one is wrongly dominant (breadthless Bowie stuff). Muhammad Ali did one, and he actually does alright until the end. The Otis Redding one just underscores how balanced King is; OR wasn't half a drama queen. Pennywise's is an above-average entry in the LimeWire comedy punk-cover tradition. Sean Kingston's only song grabs the bassline, but leaves behind its charm, momentum, emotional poise. Bloody Bon Jovi did it in Persian(!) last year, encouraging "worldwide solidarity for the people of Iran" (this is a fact I don't know how to respond to). And turgid bachata toy Prince Royce took it up charts again last year.


my word processor says the antonym of philosophical is "realistic"

(c) Rembrandt (1632), 'The Philosopher in Meditation'

Bertrand Russell once referred to Kant as the greatest catastrophe in the history of philosophy. C. D. Broad commented that this position surely belonged to Hegel. Russell and Broad were wrong, because this title undoubtedly belongs to Martin Heidegger.
- Paul Edwards,
two citations needed.


In eighteenth-century Europe, as in modern times, passports — quite literally documents which allowed the bearer to 'pass through a port' — had to be carried on most long-distance journeys... For identification purposes they contained a detailed description of the bearer. 'It is commanded to safely and freely let pass: Jacques Cazanua Italian thirty-two years old, five foot ten and a half inches tall or Thereabouts Face long, plain Swarthy. Heavy long nose. Large mouth. Brown, highly intelligent eyes.'"
- Judith Summers

People's passports used to have descriptions of them instead of pictures! Casanova's one could be made better though, something like: Irascible of brow, his heavily intelligent brown eye fills one's apprehension, and his cheek tapers down to a full, high chin.
Here, Arts students! Jobs! (Verbal portraiture.)


(which help in drawing neat lines through large clouds -
which is to say, "producing knowledge")

  1. "Unbiased" - (N/A) - Having great expectations.

  2. "Consistent" - The more there is, the more I am.

  3. "Free" (v) - Having lots of things to talk about relative to the complexity of the grammar.

  4. "Significant" - (t, F, P) - Having the right to say I am not nothing.

  5. "Efficient" - (N/A) - I do the best I'm able.

  6. "Sufficient" - (N/A) - You're all that I need to get by.

  7. "Unskewed" (γ) - Keeping an even keel in different waters.

  8. "Goodness" (R^2) - What stones do you leave unturned, my child?

Maths is very human, isn't it though? These are virtues in everything we do.


Everyone thinks their taste is eclectic.


Epigram to an essay on Russell's Paradox that I'll never write:

- Groucho Marx


Some literature prof (or Cultural Theory bod) must have done the legwork on a theory of monster movies. They're so great at expressing our nastiest fears, endlessly workable as satire, and have been doing it throughout history. From primal fear, to fear of science; to fear of sex; fear of Jews; or the trauma of nuclear genocide; fear of the anger of Gaia; fear of Communism; fear of McCarthyism; fear of atavism; physical insecurity; epistemic uncertainty...
Additions to dark symbols in very recent years (mostly single lumpen Ideas than anything elemental):

Worms do not posses any sense of hearing. They took not the least notice of the shrill of a metal whistle which was repeatedly sounded near them. Nor did they hear the deepest and loudest tones of a bassoon. They were indifferent to shouts if care was taken that the breath did not strike them. When placed on a table near a piano which was played as loudly as possible they remained perfectly quiet.
- Darwin

Good christ, science used to be fun.

EDIT: My mate Johnny says it still is, and he's made a fractal exclamation to prove it:


Is it any wonder he lost it in later life? Is it any wonder he pissed on nun's heads?
- James, possibly confusing Benjamin Britten for Little Richard



The Arrogance of Saints, 1

A friend said he wished to improve the world. Just improve yourself; that is the only thing you can do to better the world.
- Wittgenstein


Is [existing] not an act of repulsing, excluding, exiling, stripping, killing? … I fear for all the violence and murder my existing might generate. I fear occupying someone's place.
- Levinas

Observation statement #1:
The Shanghai district government is offering postgraduate scholarships to foreigners (even philosophers).

Observation statement #2:
I am relatively poor and want to know Chinese.

Observation statement #3:
The Chinese government publically-but-secretly executes about 6000 people a year, putting to shame the rest of the world, who are only unspeakable 2000 times a year put together.

Observation statement #4:
The Chinese government covertly tortures lots (illegally, even by their own fucking law).

Observation statement #5:
There is in place, in this "Communism", a hereditary class order (rural/urban) reminiscent of apartheid.

Observation statement #6:
China's media is the 171st free. Censorship is omnipresent and often absurd. This only shows you what constitutions are really worth (Chapter II, Article 35).

Observation statement #7:
All the power is in the hands of nine men who choose their next nine men, and all the other men.

Value disclosure @3:
I am opposed to capital punishment.

Value disclosure @4:
I am opposed to torture, absolutely.

Value disclosure @5:
I don't like apartheid very much.

Value disclosure @6:
See that thing where people can speak in public? That's well good.

Value disclosure @7:
Whatever democracy is, it ain't this.

The CCCP is authoritarian in dozens of other unacceptable ways, and when clever people point this out with helpful suggestions, they get fucked.

I hold the tacit approval argument, under which one's economic or indirect support for an immoral process is itself immoral. This degree will be wrongfully obtained. (Someone is going to accept it. Someone with no interest in reputation or plans for future political action I suppose.)

Value judgment:
"Oh bugger, not again."

Possible appeal:
To get anywhere with these regimes, the human rights movement needs people able to familiarize and engage, more than partial boycotts and self-righteousness.

Appeal result, from Supreme Court Judge Ethics: "Lisa, maybe if I'm part of that mob, I can help steer it in wise directions. Now where's my giant foam cowboy hat and airhorn?"

: Fuck off.

Arrogance #2 is on Responsibility

Arrogance #3 is on epistemological honesty


What various people said the most fundamental part of the world was - the bottleneck through which the rest of reality flows. (Or does now, after their work done unbunged it.)

  • ARISTOTLE: Begin with the first causes and the principles of things.
    "what is being qua being?" (metaphysical priority).

  • DESCARTES: Begin with yourself, with only the most evident things.
    "what is known?" (epistemic priority)

  • KANT: Begin with the interface of active subject & world:
    "how do we have knowledge"? (apperceptive priority)

  • RUSSELL: Begin at the most basic facts:
    "what are the real átomos?" (logical priority)

  • HUSSERL: Begin with the universal impression of consciousness:
    "what does the a priori shape of our experience say about the objective?" (phenomenological priority)

  • HEIDEGGER: Begin with the meaning of Being:
    "why something rather than Nothing?" (fundamental-ontological priority)

  • LEVINAS: Begin with the Other:
    "have I a right to be, given this Other?" (ethical priority)

  • BECKETT: "Don't begin." (No attempt.)

  • PUTNAM: Begin in medias res.*
    (No priority.)

  • MADDY: Skip first philosophy altogether.**
    (Naturalist priority.)

* It is as if they wanted to see ethics as a noble statue standing at the top of a single pillar. My image is rather different. My image would be a table with many legs. We all know that a table with many legs wobbles when the floor on which it stands is not even, but such a table is very hard to turn over, and that is how I see ethics…
- Putnam

** Modern science … has refused to recognize the authority of the philosopher who claims to know the truth from intuition, from insight into a world of ideas or into the nature of reason or the principles of being, or from whatever super-empirical source. There is no separate entrance to truth for philosophers.
- Reichenbach (& Maddy)

(Yes, it amuses me to say "Russell" and "Husserl" alternately.)


do not forget we live in the future

(c) Elizabeth Parker Hats

"We exist in a state of social and physical equanimity that is unparalleled in the history of humans. Why else would we alert the media every time we feel a little blue?"
- Dave Hickey

Look at this reverse image search thing! God, isn't it worth social atomisation and massively lower attention spans? Particularly when taken in tandem with this lovely thing.
And this.
And this.
And this.
And this.
And this, this, this and this.
And all that.
And this.
And this.
And this.
And this.
And this.
And this (alt).
And this.
And these.
And this.

(Prostate exam of justice.)

They've all got downsides. (Ok, not Child'sPlay) But that's built into the idea of "technology". Wikileaks in particular is a time-traveller from some future place where people actually control their governments. But in this spacetime manifold, it's fucking dangerous.

(Regarding that future "actual democracy", the Chinese 人肉搜索, "human-flesh search-engine" seems to be from the same portal, though it's reactionary and horrible rather than David and Goliath.)

Some music lights up the dark if you let it: GO FEAST YEAH PRESSED


what's eating him?

What are you so angry about?

1. When journalists attribute coherent thought systems to politicians who have no such thing. It becomes the duty of academics to "reconstruct" (i.e. construct) them. cf. Thatcherism, Reaganism, even Howardism.

2. When Peter Strawson sets the agenda for the metaphysics of the next fifty years with a bollocksy arbitration that William of Ockham wouldn't have touched.

Steve Pratt (2009), Metaphysics of Presence, elk shit on hessian

3. When geniuses are idiots, and loudly.

  • Freeman Dyson (denied that humans have damaged the environment, tried to discredit IPCC)

  • Ludwig Wittgenstein: "Pinsent enraged me with notions of women’s suffrage. The only women I know are idiots who flirt with professors." Also his life-denial and Natural Law stuff.

  • Salvador Dali

  • Martin Heidegger
(Fry, Watson and Meades don't make the list.)

4. The theoretical conclusion that "The free-market is an automatic producer of justice."

5. When music is dismissed on grounds of it "obscure". (The music in question was Jerry Lee Lewis' !) I understand that obscurity is social (quasi-real) and that the rule of what's obscure is just whatever most people don't know, and not what any given obsessive music nerd reckons is seminal - but that doesn't stop the rule being ridiculous. Empires call their provinces "obscure" (that is, "over-covered"; "exotic"; "dark"). And there is nothing dark about a far land to those who live in it. Accusations of obscurity are based in failure to navigate, and in fear.

When music is hailed on grounds of obscurity. The life-denying intellectualism of alt.crowds is clear to us. And though it takes serious effort to dislike pop, we are still very willing to supply that effort. it's worth remembering that people who care about music are often terrible.

6. When realistic films are unrealistic. When sensationalists are hiding a good point. When I realize that I actually should have walked out of the fucking thing. (When Gaspar Noé beats me.)

"Gaspar Noé does not want you to stay for his movies. He wants you to leave...He is on a search for the true nature of man...

If he can offend us enough, perhaps he will find what he is looking for, a humanity who finds his style of entertainment not worth watching; finds his views on the world to be incorrect, finds that the actions he depicts in his films are rare and not worthy of the obsession and exclusive foregrounding with which he builds his world

Lists of Songs in Songs

On Spotify Here

1. Plus Ones - Okkervil River
no one wants a tune about the 100th luftballoon,
seen shooting from the window of your room
to be a spot against the sky's colossal gloom, and land, deflated
in some neighbor state that's strewn with 99 others

2. Hot Topic - Le Tigre
(fuh all thuh gurrrrlz)

3. Losing My Edge - LCS Soundsystem

It is about being horrified by my own silliness. And then it became a wider thing about people who grip onto other people’s creations like they are their own.

4. Teachers - Daft Punk)
(You haven't heard of these, go away if you say you have.)

5. Teachers - Soulwax
(be nothing like one's heroes)

6. A Praise Chorus
(Wait for the bridge: Shondells, Madness, Promise Ring, Bad Company, They Might be Giants. This meant something to me, once.)
Crimson and clover, over and over
Crimson and clover, over and over
Our house in the middle of the street, why did we ever meet?
Started my rock 'n roll fantasy
Don't, don't, don't let's start, why did we ever part?
Kick start my rock and roll heart.

6. Life Is A Rock - Reunion
(Guyyysss...this didn't have to be a novelty tune, now did it?)

7. Labels - GZA
(Amazing! if you don't read the label you might get poisoned)

Tommy ain't my motherfuckin' boy
When you fake moves on a nigga you employ
We'll all emerge off your set, now you know God damn
I show living large niggas how to flip a def jam
And rough up the motherfuckin' house cause I smother
You cold chillin' motherfuckers, I still warn a brother
I'm ruthless my clan don't have to act wild
That shit is jive, an old sleeping bag profile
The soft comedian rap shit ain't the rough witty
On the reel to reel it wasn't from a tough city.

8. Pop songs your new boyfriend's too stupid to know about - Tullycraft
(I mean, he likes Sting ffs!)

9. Destroy Rock n Roll - Mylo
(The 80s on trial)

Duran Duran
Duran Duran
Duran Duran

10. Coded Language - Saul Williams

11. His Indie World - Mary Lou Lord
(These things are not so inclusive.)

(Here, no vid.)

12. Dear Resonance - Even in Blackouts.
Talk of war and actions that resemble such;
I dance in my club with the guilt of my apathy shaking this indifference.
And then I hear Lennon’s Imagine and the generations around me
waltz in mockery and irony. I want some distance.
It hurts to know history’s closeness can blow a hole right through your guile
Without showing its face.
The times may be constantly changing, Bob,
But what does that mean to resonance?

13. Irk The Purists - Half Man Half Biscuit.
(eclecticism eudaimon! épater le contre-culture!)


maybe partying will help

Avatar (2010)

We think that fun is radical and revolutionary fun actually was becoming quite subversive fun was very important it was a direct rebuttal of the kind of ethics and morals that were being put forth in the country to keep people working in a rat race. bakhtin saw the carnival as a popular expression of subversion a “world turned inside out” in which people could make fun of the systems the system of power that structured their everyday existence maan

Matrix 2 (2004)

"To dance is to rebel."

the performance principle denies people’s desire for “mindless pleasures”—sexual, playful, and nonproductive (or nonreproductive)—in order to promote labor that becomes ever more alienated from its products

The role of the father is taken by “the Man” who “has a branch office in each of our brains”

Fuck the rich! Fuck the cops! Everyone to the streets on Saturday November 20! We will party in Parliament Square and if the cops try and stop us with their usual violence - WE WILL FUCKING DEFEND OURSELVES! Unite against the bastards-whatever you call yourselves-student, worker, poor, Muslim, anarchist, socialist, communist, human-these fucking scum are destroying us and our planet-FUCK THEM!

equal enjoyment alone entitles you to equal enjoyment. Enjoy, then you are entitled to enjoyment. But, if you have laboured and let the enjoyment be taken from you, then – ‘it serves you right.’ If you take the enjoyment, it is your right; if, on the contrary, you only pine for it without laying hands on it, it remains as before, a, ‘well-earned right’ of those who are privileged for enjoyment. It is their right, as by laying hands on it would become your right.

Body smells are unique. Everyone has her own body smell. Capitalists don't like individuality. There are millions of body smells but only a few deodorant smells. Capitalists like that.

pornographic stimuli threaten to override not only rules about the place of sex in polite society but also conventional political resistance to taking pleasure in others’ exploitation or in being exploited Eros overflows the boundaries set for it by the productivity principle and threatens to divert the desire to dominate or submit from the work world back to the sexual body


advocating ostentatious libertinism as a political duty

The Young Hegelians known as Die Freien; Herbert Marcuse; and these days Crimeth!nc; Adbusters; can either fuck off or grow up

"As I look over this beautiful land,
I can't help but realize that I am alone.
Why am I able to waste my energy
To notice life being so beautiful?
What of the people who don't have what I ain't got?
Are they victims of my leisure?
To fail is to be a victim,
To be a victim of my choice. Huh.
Maybe partying will help."


Why Worry?

Rationalist walks into a job interview.

Interviewer: "Have you any experience in the field, Mr...Leibniz?"
Rationalist: "WHAT IF I DON'T?"


Reading a wee biography of Shane MacGowan which describes his childhood as "port-stained". Not "port-wine-stained", but worse.



"I found out I'm gay, a few weeks ago in Oklahoma.
That sucked - I had no idea! Some guy in a bar told me, he said:
'Hey, you're a faggot!'
And I thinks:

'Ahh shit! How am I gonna tell my Dad? It was hard enough breaking it to him that I was an asshole. He's gonna hate this!'"

- Doug Stanhope

MISSING: proper conception of male sexuality. If found, please return to

The Connoisseuse of Slugs - Sharon Olds

When I was a connoisseuse of slugs
I would part the ivy leaves, and look for the
naked jelly of those gold bodies,
translucent strangers glistening along the
stones, slowly, their gelatinous bodies
at my mercy. Made mostly of water, they would shrivel
to nothing if they were sprinkled with salt,
but I was not interested in that. What I liked
was to draw aside the ivy, breathe the
odor of the wall, and stand there in silence
until the slug forgot I was there
and sent its antennae up out of its
head, the glimmering umber horns
rising like telescopes, until finally the
sensitive knobs would pop out the
ends, delicate and intimate. Years later,
when I first saw a naked man,
I gasped to see that quiet
mystery reenacted, the slow
elegant being coming out of hiding and
gleaming in the dark air, eager and so
trusting you could weep.


There's a list of philosophical blogs here which is a diverting thing itself - the titles are a mix of:
  • the contemptibly arch ("Fides Quaerens Intellectum", "Atheist Revolution"),
  • the in-jokey ("This Is Not The Name Of This Blog", "What Is It Like To Be A Blog?"),
  • the poetic ("Warp, Weft and Way", "We Call Upon The Author To Explain") and
  • the goofy ("Brain Hammer", "Scottish Nous")
- a fantastic encapsule of what philosophy does look like.


This, recent of a friend, shames me with its purity and honesty. 


"The thing with a lot of Guardian readers is that they think they could write the Guardian better themselves. Whereas Times readers think they could run the country better themselves."
- Caitlin Moran

"Goverment!!! Tread very carefully. It is just beggining.
The poor of Britain will start hitting back.
Take stock and be very careful how you approach or deal with this. Remember it was not the poor who created this situation. The austerity measures should be directed at those who caused them.
We are only here for 70 or so years so why make it difficult and nasty for people!!
Government!! You have so much to learn
- apropos Millbank student protest.
(I should really stop reading online comments.)



  • an "Essay on Inarticulate Knowledge"
  • Big thing on Chinese pop
  • A series of cloze readings of pop songs.
  • Some long poems I wrote on going round the Scottish universities' 2008 Open Days.
  • Have started another blog, for disagreeing absolutely with myself. If it looks offensive to you:
    1) good, you're my kind of people and
    2) think what it is to write.
  • Also a big ass rewrite of my first-year essay on vegetarianism (so it's not to be a whiny mess). Hybrid of ethics, ecology and economics planned, and contains a section on what I'm calling Sentimental Vegetarianism.
  • also I appear to be at university.



Mr Levinas, Gamesmaster

When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity...When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.”
- Graham Greene







[cmd:/run {existence}]

---Welcome to Being!

---You usurp {Djellali Mohd}. What gives you the right to do that to him? You take {200} Shame Points!

---You see Dave, the guy who always gives you hassle about your hair!


---You see {9} Responsibility Points!

[cmd:/take 9RP]

---You receive 9000 Shame Points!

[cmd:/give sandwich: Dave]

---Dave is {still hungry}!
---Shame total {8999}

---Through Dave's Face, you realize you are related (always-already asymmetrically non-subsumptive divinely) to all Thirds! You now have {6.999999 billion} dependents!

[cmd:/fill conscience with RP]

---You don't feel good! Critical shame!


---That is abandonment! Are you sure?


---You abandon Others infinitely! You lose!



Name: Emmanuel Levinas
DOB: 12/01/06
This term's personal Project: Unconditional being-for-the-other in papier maché.
Timeframe: Hm.
Budget: Oh!
Progress: N/A

Comments: Must try harder.


The formal problem I have with Levinas is that so much of his work is sited beyond the lead curtain of the rhetoric of Being. This excuses his work for not being easily visualized or schematized (which Anglo-American philosophy tends to demand as a condition of relevance), but it also creates the stench of patchouli and a serious issue with being sympathetic to him as you learn.


  1. "ontology"" VS "meontology" (not-being, beyond being)

  2. The Other VS The Same

  3. ethics of freedom VS Levinasian ethics

  4. ethics of Sameness VS ethics of Alterity

  5. ontologies of power (every philosopher before him)

  6. Being-for-the-other vs Being-for-the-world

  8. (maximal exposure vs the “signifier beyond all signification”)

    It's not that this is how Levinas wants things to be. It's not; he'd concede that this is pretty shit, after all. But it's how he thought things are, and how they are before everything else, like perception, consciousness and choice. Like great gamblers, we make the wager before we know what a wager is.

    "From the very start you are not indifferent to the other.
    From the very start you are not alone!
    Even if you adopt an indifferent attitude, you're obliged to adopt it!
    The other counts for you; you answer him
    as much as he addresses himself to you;
    he concerns you


      the descent of man

      And, now, No.5; the ascent of the world...


      Listen Cloze, Now: Joanna Newsom's "Have One On Me" (2010)

      "...do her words really need to be broken down like formulae? I think not. Simply to escape into the world of Joanna and be incapsulated into it and applauding it is enough. And maybe not understanding completely is the more beautiful act of musical appreciation, lack of total understanding leaves the listener with a humbled nice sense of ignorant awe."

      - Guardian-commenter

      (Forgive me; I'm rarely satisfied by ignorant awe.)

      1. "Give love a little shove and..."

      It is commonly and truly noted that this woman's work is hard work. Well, Have One On Me is a map of the heart, and you shouldn't expect such things to offer themselves lightly. The album traces the several forms of love: divine or agape (tracks (3, 7, 14); filial (track 9, 14); courtly (track 2); obsessional (tracks 1, 5, 10); maternal (track 6! but touches in 1, 5, 11, 14); platonic (passionate friendship: track 8 and maybe 11); panicked (track 4); dependent (track 5, 10, 16); wilful (track 1, 16); of place (track 9); destructive (2, 8, 10, 15, 16?, 17?); forbidden (track 2); unrequited (track 18 above all, but 1, 7, 10, 15) and love of self (track 3, 4, 13). It exalts, despairs, casts about in the land.

      Rock reviews miss the point in territory like this. There was a great deal written about it being a triple!! album!!!, which obscures the real way it's ambitious; this 123-minute thing requires patience because of its richness, not its length. The songs' length (6min average), her remarkable vocabulary and voice, and the unfamiliar instruments floating about all slow us down, but it's the alien allusion of it that leaves us out, first of all.

      It ain't Renaissance music, but it sure is sacred. (American Secular Sacred). My mate James says it is "a book of an album. It's Middlemarch", and this is the case. Though, since it's episodic and woozy and dark, I'd call it Nabokov's Ada more. James also spits at people who emphasise the bits of her that appear Medieval - but the fact is, she is making historical music; it's drenched in dead music. But it's the blues; Ol' Opry cakewalks; cabaret; parlour-music; Appalachiana; and gospel, rather than the pre-Baroque. (Gershwin > Gibbons.) Given this marinade of early American popular music and William Faulkner, Newsom's stuff tastes lasting.

      I don't listen to her for complexity or historical satisfaction, though. What I love about it are the Epiphanies - the many moments of perfect sound and sense that pepper her songs. (Elsewhere they are called "hooks", but fuck off.) There's so many here, I suppose because the damn songs are so long and get the time to climb all the way up.

      2. Man vs Life

      A type of love pointedly missing in the above rundown is empathic love. Where Ys burbled with anthropomorphisations, companion animals, and a general affinity with the universe, Have One on Me, while still full of nature, is much more about the Rancher (a lonesome, domineering social-product nestling in a hostile world). HOOM is sensual, snug, and macabre where Ys was abstract, epic, and pure.

      "I hope Mother Nature has not overheard!
      (Though, she doles out hurt like a puking bird.)

      "Driven through with her own sword,
      Summer died last night, alone.

      - Autumn

      "Wolf-spider, crouch in your funnel nest,
      ...have I had a hand in your loneliness?

      - Go Long

      "Black nose of the dog / As cold as a rifle "
      - Ribbon Bows

      With nature so terrible, is the implication that the only safe place is in the arms of someone who may or mayn't stay? The cover (click to zoom) is filled with dead things: a judgmental peacock, half-plucked; a stuffed deer wearing a feather headdress; a divan draped in leopardskin - and her, langorous and deathly in the centre. And her animal motif-characters are this time uniformly malign - even Bess the horse makes "glad neighing", at highwayman-Joanna's hanging.

      This is significant because the animals are aspects of the human characters. Newsom deals with the coldnesses, stubbornnesses or malices of the male lead and female lead via animal symbols.

      Henri Rousseau, "The Dream" (1910)

      The best hope for a unified story arc comes if we pick out the farm couple, seen most clearly in track 5, "No Provenance". This easily ties into the Californian childhood arc, which is also the one intrigued by Lola Montez. My reading splits things into:

      • FARM COUPLE songs (tracks 1, 5, 17, and 18) most clearly, but the others fit pretty well.

      • ALLEGORIES (tracks 2, 3, 8, 11, 17). Aye; more allegorical than usual.

      Who are 'the farm couple' then? She is a grown woman on earth variously known as "Lola"; a mad horse; Birch's mother; Dick Turpin; a Nevadan; Esme's adorer; "slow-heart"; Joanna Newsom. I'll call her J.

      He is, variously: "King Ludwig I"; "dragon"; "Bess"; Bluebeard; a magpie and a bluejay; a wolf-spider; a "silly goose"; "long-life"; and various hinted-at male celebrities whom I'm not interested in gaping at. I'll call him B.

      We've only clues. I say "Newsom" when I mean "the songwriter", and "J" for the protagonist - nothing more presumptuous (history is just organised gossip).

      I suppose I should admit that I don't believe in any such thing as "overreading". Interpretations are made of the second-order features of works, and if you honestly see [x] in a thing, then [x] is there. Symbols don't take kindly to egoism. Where I am dogmatic in the following, remember that it doesn't really exclude alternatives.


      4. Disc 1
      1. Easy (6:01)

      Album makes its landing approach, voice borne down by violins.

      Heavy with gospel tones - "there's a river made of light"; "you must not fear / speak my name and I appear" - and a properly obsessive love, but they're masked by the jaunty piano and the witty backing strings, drums, and winds.

      Title's a shushing; think whispering to a jittery horse (your partner). She taunts and pleads for love, promises him all sorts. She's trying, desperately trying...to show that it will be easy. She feels "tested", he's "pained". Her man is compared unfavourably to a frog, who has stamina, goes courting all day.

      I love the little Wittgenstein line at the end of the first verse; "we are blessed and sustained by what is not said.", but it doesn't bypass me that it's a terrible piece of self-delusion.

      @0:00 - That voice, from space
      @0:48 - Piano touches down, too.
      @1:20 - two-part Epiphany: Strings add prim mischief;
      @1:30 - drums enter

      @2:09 - left alone again
      @3:14 - lovely flute licks
      @3:22 - Glory horns distract from terrifying telling B to "give your life."
      @3:33 - back down
      @4:47 - Reset; she calms her pleas.
      @5:30 - Jaunty, lazy horns and killer strings, out.

      The Bloody Mary reference is dark beyond its namesake, too: like some ghost, she only feels real when she has his attention - "I am barely here... speak my name and I appear."

      2. HOOM (11:02)

      Drug Jig. Stately burlesque.

      Parts are sung in the voices of the life-large dancer/adventurer Lola Montez and of Ludwig I, a King of Bavaria. It cycles around, through flashbacks, getting more and more hallucinatory until /- she snaps back to clarity (returns to the opening). About her arrogance and her suffering, dancing on the thread of the music.

      King Louis is daddy longlegs (a fly) and Lola thinks herself baby longlegs. Others ("Jesuits") see an immoral, gold-digging predator, dancing the tarantella before the King, a "shrieking six-legged millionaire".

      Montez toured Nevada after her flirt with Euro nobility, and it's not hard to see Newsom dancing around parallels between herself and Lola - an "innovative female performer in the West". (Note that Newsom writes Lola not as the opportunist flirt that many accounts depict, but a wronged, heartbroke woman in a malign world). Despite Bavaria being the setting, it's Nevada, really...

      @1:40 - Up suddenly, cheeky tambura line and a tarantella beat
      @2:42 - that weird chord break again (jump in time?). Metonymy - she is her brassiere.
      @3:14 - Pensive, sweet scheming.
      @4:00 - There is nothing I adore apart from that whore's black heart.
      @5:40 - Are you with me?
      @6:10 - Epiphany! Will carry on; recorders at the wedding. Drums!
      @6:40 - The descent. Have one...
      @8:34 - Up. Modulates, recovers jauntiness
      @9:05 - Up. Tarantella. (drums are the spiders, too.)
      @9:48 - The choir are decapitated; we're slammed back into 0:01, as if Lola just woke up...

      The most powerful reading is that, some time after Louis jilts her for political and selfish reasons, Lola tries to poison Louis (and maybe herself too). Throughout the last half of the song - where the humiliation and rejection plays out - she repeatedly encourages him to "have one on me", and it's an amazing idea that this is a sleight to murder someone. ("Mud in your eye" is both a toast and a "fuck you".) This reading only sticks if we also have someone else ("the blackguard") convicted for the crime and get beheaded for treason. In any case, the attempt fails:

      "Heard the cup drop, thought, 'well that's why they keep him around'"

      (i.e. the dead food taster has served his purpose. Stretching the metaphor, this could be a mutual friend harmed by the breakup.) If we take this gruesomeness to hold, what comes out? This is the titular theme - it should cover the whole album:

      Booze = Love = Poison
      (Each one highly desirable, sometimes)

      From which we derive littler themes like "relationships as intoxication", "heartbreak as an inevitable hangover", and all the alcoholism, vice and gluttony of love, and the homeopathic idea that it takes a poison to cancel another'n. (see "Jackrabbits") Note also that she "dies" in tracks 2, 5, 8, 12 (and speaks to a phantom in 6; is in Eden/Hell in 3; and reacts to a death in 10)

      3. '81 (3:51)

      The most Ys-y. Of pre-birth (Newsom was born in 1982) and rebirth (forgiving, getting past bullshit, starting again). Could be the transformative power of an early relationship (or the wistful friendship after one).

      @0:08 - "Dirt is all the same" - I know someone who'd see this as "emotions are universally uniform". (:
      @0:25 - lovely scale picking
      @2:32 - top of the harp's range sounds like a music-box, piercing, brittle.
      @2:36 - "Even muddiest waters run" - we move on from most things, eventually.

      "St George" and the "dragon" could be B and another of J's partners (Kingfisher?).

      A nod to independence, for a change? -
      "Farewell to loves that I known"
      "I shall want for nothing more."

      Content in oneself for once, though also
      "I'm inviting everyone"

      4. Good Intentions Paving Co. (7:01)

      THAT pedal in the piano! Engine.

      Tremendous fun - full of Sam Cooke, puns, energy, and WWII girlgroup harmony. This is the one that gets called "poppy", I suppose because reviewers were just glad to get something easier to listen to. "And I did not mean to shout 'Just drive! Just get us out, dead or alive!'

      A road too long to mention
      - Lord, it's something to see,
      Laid down by the Good Intentions Paving Co.

      @1:11 - just by adding a frigging tambourine, listen to beat change
      @1:31 - banjo breaks in, piano drops out @1:47 - back,
      @2:00 - Epiphany! Til the noise; and up.
      @3:11 - bouzouki?
      @3:28 - Down. Peace that only Hammond organ brings.
      @5:30 - Up, up, up. Coda; neat little jam, trombone on out. Banjo comes back in, bringing his friend Hammond. Piano gets insubordinate, plonking chords.

      Deciding to love. (Is love surrender? Fuck knows; to the sea!) Road to hell's westbound, and it's made of deciding to drive home together instead of fly. But now home is unfamiliar, and J's "heart cannot drive", she's dependent on getting B to do it. Agitation & uncertainty - but now she's locked in to the relationship (en route) but still unsure (gotten lost, gotten jumpy about the destination).

      • "I said to ya 'honey, just open your heart' / when I've got trouble even opening a honey jar"
      • "I can see you're wearing your staying hat, darlin"
      • "Auld Lang / Syne, sealed, delivered I sang"
      • "You ranged real hot and cold... I am at home on that range"

      Entering a relationship as "folding", giving up a round of cards? And: road metaphor, the two of them - "the course I keep"; "right here in the right lane". And "I'm sold". It's on.

      5. No Provenance (6:25)

      Title is "out of nowhere". But no providence either - as in, no guarantee about the future. Probably the most complex piece - 16 or 17 chords, and it modulates four times. Following the last track's surrender to love (as if the car goes over the cliff)...

      "Allelu, allelu, I have died happy".

      But there's trouble yet. They go for a walk; Rome collapses in their absence! (The farm, unguarded empire of their love...) He sees it coming.

      @0:40 - Rapture - the peace of arms, arms.
      @1:45 - "the Big Return"; an argument unsettled?
      @2:26 - wistful oboe, haunting her.
      @3:00 - oy, always with the "arms".
      @4:04 - Modulates. The horse strikes, to a sweet, patronising trio.
      @5:35 - "muzzle of a ghost", like Bloody Mary in Easy...
      @5:59 - Commands him to lay her down...

      Lying together in a field, they're set upon by an "etiolated", skittish little horse. (J: her doubt and discontentment.) It tries to escape, but the gate holds fast. Neither J nor her partner have much sympathy for the struggling animal (as usual, we resent our doubts). He accepts the horse's distress, just "nodding sadly". She wonders what he knows, what he's planned, his signed-and-sealed 'arrangement with Fate'. Ain't convinced. J asks to be led - she can't find her own way - back to the farm, to resume the certainty of his arms.

      She calls him Johnny Appleseed, the folk hero - horse-kind - but a committed bachelor too.

      6. Baby Birch (9:30)

      Country hymnal to an unborn who won't be. (Birch twigs were the traditional material for building cribs.) Has, I think, only four chords. So different - a C&W lilt, accelerating vocals and a haze of electric guitar.
      "How about them engine breaks?
      And, if I should die before I wake,
      will you keep an eye on Baby Birch?
      Because I'd hate to see her
      make the same mistakes
      Baby Birch herself is best seen as a miscarried relationship. I adore the idea of child as embodiment of a relationship - though of course they're sometimes a memento dolori. J had assumed so much, that they would have time, that they'd last. And she's not quite mourning - she imagines meeting the grown-up Baby Birch, in another "path" (possible world).

      @1:55 - "bulletproof cars" compared to the vulnerable vehicle of a (pregnant) body.
      @3:21 - Harp vamp. Dignified acceleration.
      @4:18 - Down. Back.
      @5:55 - Vamp returns.
      @6:22 - Handclaps make the stage light up.
      @6:45 - Gets rowdy - Morgan adds voice, and +his drums, makes a torrent
      @7:36 - Down, just harp. "Be at peace"
      @8:25 - Lovely mandolin/recorder bridge -> theme -> out

      "Dirty lake"... The goose might have beenan exception to HOOM's animals being unempathic - J calls the defensive, nesting mother "poor little cousin" - but then her offspring are dismissed as "dregs".

      Ends on a violent nursery rhyme. There's some abortion-worthy images, but it doesn't cohere. This cooing mother makes her own furs; J skins a rabbit alive, which runs off "as they're liable to do". Her violence is desperate - trying to make it stop kicking, make it stay, make it hers. Rabbit is the baby is a relationship she had hoped would last and grow; instead, finally, she skins it and lets it run. An exorcism, instead ("be at peace and be gone").

      Beginning the great rewrite, the great skin-shedding which getting out of love requires.

      DISC 1 STATS
      Key progression: Fmin -> Dmaj7 -> Dmin -> C -> Cmin (...) -> D
      Band progression:
      Chamber -> Old chamber -> Harp
      -> Band -> Old chamber -> Harp (+ band outro)


      5. Disc 2

      1. (7.) On A Good Day (1:48)

      So slight a thing, so soon missed. This is short by any standard, but in a Newsom album it's not half of a tease. A tiny pure speck, following "Baby Birch" right on. J&B have decided to part - or, well, he's given up on Them - and the song is curiously accepting, noble (premature).

      The key wordplay is "good day" - as in a clear day, elevated and seeing far ahead; but also as in an untroubled day. They only communicate properly "on a good day" now: once in a while...

      @0:21 - "for. the. re. main. der" - where else do you hear this sweet plod but in hymns?
      @1:02 - gets her crone voice on
      @1:36 - Stunning strength: "leave me be so that we can stay true/To the path that you have chosen"

      2. You and Me, Bess (7:12)

      Frontier sure is lonely. Go fetch that horn quartet and them campfire backing singers, that'll be cheering. (Dick Turpin's horse, or Porgy's dame...Guthrie or Gershwin, kids?) An intense, but doomed friendship. J "steals" Bess, and they try to eke out life in a terrible world's terrible winter - waves dangling the sea's entrails; outlawed; hoarding scarce food. J is captured because of Bess.

      There's a vague betrayal ("I believe you were not lying"), a closed trial, and a hanging, at which J's forgiveness is heartbreaking.

      @0:00 - J ghosts the trumpet melody.
      @3:00 - Epiphany! Duet, the beautiful moment of capture.
      @4:30 - Sweet harp defiance on the gallows.
      @5:08 - Heroic, perverse horns
      @5:35 - Epiphany! Humble bravery.
      @6:00 - La-la-la into the dark.

      But the harp chords are insistent and positive throughout, J Turpin's shrugging, gallows optimism. J dramatizes the breakup, tries to absolve him; accepts the sentence anyhow.

      3. (9.) In California (8:01)

      Personal highlight: an ode to home. (More delusion, but what sweet and self-assured lies they are!) Home as sanctuary, running from the breakup. "Time", nostalgia, "sometimes", time, time. The tick-tock harp marks structure - the main (theme) section builds up in three runs - sometimes, sometimes, sometimes. Running metaphor of herself as an uprooted and difficult plant.

      Can't shake him. J pretends to have everything just as she wants: 'home'. She's learning it properly for the first time, even. Tells him to leave her alone - but looks forward to him disobeying. She has "sown untidy furrows across her soul", been "pulling artlessly with fool commands" in moving on abruptly and categorically. It ain't working like that.

      There are two reasons you ignore a thing: either it's not important or you wish it weren't.

      @1:09 - Epiphany! "it feels like some kind of mistake"
      @1:25 - tick-tock modulates to D-add4th ...
      @1:42 - horn swell into...
      @1:53 - Epiphany!...sudden mood change - "But there is another..."
      @2:26 - theme introduced
      @3:00 - Epiphany! "I have sown untidy furrows cross my soul"
      @3:14 - "SoOmetimes" theme
      @3:46 - tick-tock returns
      @4:18 - develops! (piano, bass, and drum enter)
      @4:49 - back to the theme. "Pick off my goldfish / From their sorry golden state"
      @5:22 - Epiphany! An oil drum! strings enter us from behind
      @5:45 - ...and collapse
      @6:45 - strings launch the bird out the window, cawing weirdly
      @7:30 - drum+vocal break
      @7:47 - tension drops out; a little syncopated guitar
      @ End - an Axl Rose vocal gliss(!)

      Ends on the admission; "it has half ruined me to be hanging around here...I am native to it, but I'm overgrown." And where do you go when home isn't home anymore?

      4. (10.) Jackrabbits (4:22)

      The heartbreak really hatches - she crashes. She's almost whispering for much of this. The sweet manic hope of being taken back, being allowed to feel. Ain't no valley low enough.

      "It can have no bounds, you know.
      It can have no end...
      ...And it can change in shape or form,
      But never change in size.
      The water it runs deep, my darlin,
      Where it don't run wide

      @Fairly uniform, but picks up vigour at
      @2:02 - Flourishes; declarations.
      @2:50 - Resorts to folk medicine and the Bible. "You will be free" is never bad counsel.

      "Telling you I can" becomes "tell me that I can" - she has gone over to B's door: is standing there, asking.

      Echo from track 4's road: "like a rope gone slack".

      5. (11.) Go Long (8:02)

      "You were a prince...
      Who will take care of you..?
      There's a man who only will speak in code,
      backing slowly, slowly down the road.
      May he master everything that such men may know
      about loving, and then letting go."

      Ornate and sickly - the title and lyrics are sports metaphors; there's a Bluebeard reference and other grisly things. The song is a charm for a man, one she's oddly subservient to (pardoning his violences and self-isolation). Masculinity viewed from outside.
      Much was made of the "kora vs harp duel" in this, but it is of course no such thing. There is a power struggle, but it's J&B against B. (Each has their own melody.) Peering into your partner, coping with and treating the pieces you can see.

      "We both want the very same thing -
      We are praying I am the one to save you

      B's pet name here, wolf-spiders are solitary; the other pet names she gives him ("goose", "bluejay" and "magpie") are all species that mate for life.

      @0:00 - Cloying feel...who wants to hear your bad dreams?..
      @2:37 - Enter frantic, baroque kora part. (->@3:08) The Mekong runs through Vietnam. ...there's a horrible napalm image comes to me.
      @3:08 - Nursing, talking "Grope your little nurse".
      @4:07 - Bastard kora comes back.
      @5:44 - Kora again dischords. Bluebeard's chamber; a room full of woman's teeth
      @6:38 - Kora is hushed. A blessing, & more unsettling kora -> out.
      There's only so close you can get. And with some - "mighty men" say - there's no piercing the veil.

      "This is the hour of lead
      Remembered if outlived,
      As freezing persons recollect the snow,
      First chill, then stupor, then the letting go."

      -Emily Dickinson

      6. Occident (5:31)

      Minimal, solemn; song for dusk. Title means "the West" so, originally point of sunset: this is the end that "On A Good Day" sees coming at the start of the disc.
      "something is moving, just out of frame
      breaching slowly across the sea, one mast
      - a flash, like the stinger of a bee -
      to take you away, a swarming fleet is
      gonna take you from me
      What's left of her feelings, dealt with one way or t'other.

      @Whole piece progresses simply, but:
      @1:13 - "smoke me out of my hiding place" (...that is, out of 'California'. )
      @2:41 - "Slow-heart, brace and aim" ['at me']; next comes the order to fire.
      @4:00 - Drums blunder in, two-beat.
      @4:09 - Epiphany! (Callout this"Long-life" fucker)
      @4:32 - What passes for ostentation in track 12 (slow jazz)

      Mixed message. One last chance..? "State your case".

      DISC 2 STATS

      Key progression: Bb -> C -> C (up to D) -> C -> ?? (B) -> Amin 
      Band progression:
      Harp -> Harp n horns -> rustic Chamber-> Harp -> Harp -> Piano


      6. Disc 3

      1. (13.) Soft As Chalk (6:29)
      "...love is both the beginning and the end of possibility: a way to escape home and be exiled from it; to welcome children or be burdened by fertility; to be entrusted with secrets or betrayed."
      -Alyx Vesey
      If anyone can dig up the unmixed vocal track for this, there's an incredible house remix lurking in here. No, really; as TV-themey and ragtimey as it seems, I'm confident that there's a monster club choon here. Which is not to say that it doesn't function as the speakeasy blues romp it is. Be a shame to lose Morgan's fantastic drum parts under sub-bass, too.

      We get fun, & focus regained, after disc 2's predominating drunkness and pain. Still looking back, but empowered this time (feel the piano syncopating: matches track 4's giddy engine ostinato). J goes home again, and though there's still trouble ("sadness beyond anger and beyond fear") and boredom, this time it's hers.

      @1:19 - Up. Epiphany! Lawlessness
      @ - Life in nature; soporific, but life
      @2:44 - 3:01 - Spry piano breakdown
      @3:12 - Dramatic climb
      @3:30 - Epiphany. The way she says "there" (theyoh) kills me, and no doubt the bear too.
      @4:00 - Calms down, only so we can start piling on drums
      @4:19 - "Give love a little shove and it becomes terror"
      @4:47 - Grandstanding modulation. The best TV theme you'll find this side of the Sacramento.
      @5:55 - Did Jerry Lee ever sing about airports? Nvm; it's covered.

      An upbeat RnB romp against love. Regretting having put herself through all that. As if the options were:

      1. Freedom, & Loneliness or 2. Stability, & Entrapment

      2.(14.) Esme (7:55)

      God, you can warm your hands on her adoration of this child. Vicarious, but there's nothing wrong with that. (Also an Ys-y one.)

      She's stunned into a different place by seeing her friend's newborn. "Just what you have done." The child is a kite, a flying symbol for her. Her voice is tiny, the harp defers; J goes and hides in "branches" afterwards - a bird watching a birth and poring over its significance.

      @1:55 - a shock of syncopation, pickup
      @2:50 - "May kindness abound!" - drunk on the child, she commands the world, a prophet.
      @3:03 - Epiphany! exquisite 6/8 arpeggios.
      @3:30 - Back to syncop, getting wild, celebrating for everyone
      @4:08 - "Each phantom limb lost" - past loves remain with her, like amputations do. But even they are less lonely, in this light.
      @4:36 - KINDNESS, damnit.
      @5:36 - "Clean as a breeze, bright as the day" - offensively nice.
      @6:23 - Epiphany! Tiny soul-octave on "If you are blue"

      Song self-refers "I search for words to set you at ease" - so it's a gift to Esme, a blessing against her future being blue. A proper epiphany (none of my glorifying a few seconds of pop music); your perspective on the world realigned and buoyed up by a new, tiny piece of information.

      3. (15.) Autumn (8:01)

      Crash, again, though! Not only alone, but lonesome. Christ, she can barely raise her head. At home, waiting and taking stock of a shit run of luck ("Snowbound by thoughts of him"). Home now populated by ghosts and unsympathetic weather. There's excellent use of the horns again here, as well as a restrained string section.

      "I'll winter here, wait for a sign
      To cast myself out, over the water,
      riven like a wishbone.

      Tearing herself in half, here - wanting to stay and also to go back to him. It's not clear which half of her is the lucky half, which the useless bit of the chicken's collar.

      Compare the rain in "Esme" -
      "It's a beautiful town, with the rain coming down"
      - with, here:
      "rain...lists down on the gossiping lawns, saying tsk, tsk, tsk."

      @1:28 - optimism, like a break in the clouds
      @3:31 - Really great mind-rhyme - "no control / over my heart, over my...mind."
      @3:58 - UP! This time the optimism clears the bastard sky.
      @4:58 - song suddenly bursts (jarring key change). We veer offroad.
      @5:18 - bursts again
      @5:39 - bursts again
      @6:30 - "I loved them all, one by one" (as did Lola with her flies?)
      @7:21 - Crashing, scale down. -> Wry flourish.

      4. Ribbon Bows (6:10)

      Far more pragmatic - "I could use someone like you around". Destitute again, though! Dissatisfying hedonism, one way out of Autumn's terrible doldrum. (Another one where the music is deceptively positive: listen cloze, now. Shares the high country vocal with "Baby Birch" and "Esme".)
      J goes to a dog pound, picks up an "old hangdog" (Kingfisher? Long-life?) and makes do. Rolls in bad habits and lost-and-lorn revelry.

      Compare "For Pete's sake, what you have told me, I cannot erase!"
      with Easy's "Tell me your worries, I want to be told."

      @1:28 - nice mandolin frill
      @3:30 - Echoing strings, ride cymbal (oddly un-Newsom)
      @4:00 - Massive shift, drama and nighttime mania
      @4:20 - Bellowing at the dog about God.
      @4:34 - Vaguely Celtic lick there

      "Alone at last"

      Self-referring at the end, like Esme, but here it's the decidedly malign - "could swear the night makes a motion to claim me, around that second verse..."

      "Carrying on, whooping it up til the early morn
      Lost and lorn among the madding revelry
      Sure, I can pass / honey, I can pass
      Particularly when I start / To tip my glass

      (cf "Atlantis", by Auden)

      "Behave absurdly enough
      To pass for one of The Boys,
      At least appearing to love
      Hard liquor, horseplay and noise."

      5. Kingfisher (9:11)
      Probably the messiest thing she's written.

      Kingfisher/"Pro-heart" is perhaps the lover she took after breaking up with B - he's also "St George" from '81. She discusses the farm love with K, in his new arms..

      Renaissance & Oriental frill. References Book of Revelation (end of a relationship is an end of the world).

      6. Does Not Suffice (6:44)

      Ending on reasonable mourning; quiet fury. A fixin'-to-go song. Few autopsies but those of relationships are conducted with this bitterness. ("like somethin caught on a barbed-wire fence") After the gaudy whirl of "Kingfisher", this plays us on out: a bare but warm reprise of many melodies and thoughts of the last seventeen.

      Focusses on beautiful things going away, out of sight, into storage. She, who has let herself be these clothes and finery at some points in the album. Vocals are delicate, but not sulking. He is made to "deny the evidence" of something, probably simply his lack of commitment. She pictures him as Lady Macbeth, even: "scouring yourself red". And it's her that is leaving. She's had enough: it does not suffice to merely lie beside each other, as those who love each other do. Dignity and sadness and all that.

      @1:00 - Crushing admission.
      @1:42 - "sweet farewell" eee!
      @3:10 - The piano is more than it seems; she times it for certain phrases, slows the spread of certain chords.
      @5:00 - Only here, after she has finished her lyrics (her packing-up) are other instruments allowed in. Strings enter, take her gently by the shoulders and steer her away; the band slowly overwhelm it all. Once again she "la la las" out.
      @5:39 - Strange staccato chords, drums and electric violin (almost Amerindian)
      @6:08 - Explosion is allowed to reverberate, decay. Faltering pedal.

      "In California" is the named reprise; "It Does Not" has its middle chords (D-G-B-G) and switches IC's theme to a stripped-down, heavily struck piano. They share melodies: "I have sown untidy furrows..." and 18's "laa la la la la la la la..." outro. But there's more returning than just that. Hear also:

      + "Baby Birch": same chords (D-G-B-G).

      + "You and Me, Bess": the album's other "la la la"s.
      + "No Provenance": "bales" and "burn" point back to it; the Farm Couple.
      + "Good Intentions":
      + And "Easy" above all - she is removing from the house "everything that could remind you of how easy I was not" - this last song is the final collapse of the promising from the first track. The best laid plan, awry.

      Life goes on, but.


      7. VOICE

      Your vulnerability is making me vulnerable, miss.

      There was a collective, relieved wiping of the indie forehead when Newsom's voice was noted to have grown somewhat sane (closer to ordinary) after her vocal-cord nodules in 2009. This voice: that doesn't grandstand despite its constant foregrounding: that remains one of the more expressive instruments I've ever heard -and we applaud when it comes down! Ah well; she plays less innocent and girlish people on HOOM, in less need of squeaking device.

      An overview: she has been a trembling, shrill, unhinged, cutesy, baffling, slurring, feminine battering ram of voice. There's scarcely a nonchalant or boring word across four albums' worth of music. Her vowels elongate until they snap into a thick crack of consonants.

      She ranges, real hot and real cold - wide emotion, pitch, rhythm, as well as form, like:
      - hushed confessions,
      - recital, as if reading against her will
      - weathered and toothless, aged Texas Gladden (esp. track 2)
      - plodding homophony of hymns
      - repetitive gumption of blues
      - Kate Bush-banshee-psyche folk-Appalachian-choral-classical-nuts
      - nebulous whirl of modern folk
      - clout of stage Musicals
      - jauntiness of early jazz
      - the high winsomeness of country-and-western's women

      - Her enuciation gets mesmerizing - it hypnotizes and makes me frantic. (What did she say? "Hydrosyphilitic?" It was drowned by the whooping...) She plays with a Southern accent in places, hushing and cawing. Better than this is the colloquial, literary/slang language it brings, defying time ("Satellite feeds" and the Grand Ole Opry). More though, she throws clusters of words, crimping and distending her syllables. ("Par-tick-kyoo-lar-ly")

      - Her diction is bloody weird, too. In poetry, it's called caesura - a linebreak - but Newsom's are radical - breaks and lags come midphrase, midword, unpredictably and without much regard for trad emphasis.

      ("Down in the shallow ///// - gutter,")

      ("My pleasure-seeking ///// AMONG the tall pines")

      ("now you can see me fall ///// back here redoubled...")

      Key, glorious lyrics ("it seems I have stolen a horse") get scudded right over and are easy missed.

      - Her intervals (pitches and beats) are spiky - she uses the sudden octave-leaping of C20th avantgarde music (yeah, the ones designed to disturb us).

      - There's a thing that you can do with an electric guitar (flick a string up and outwards with your thumb...), a "pinched harmonic" - a sudden, unearthly spike in pitch. A certain kind of metal-music is enamoured of them, but Newsom's is the only voice I've ever heard that tries for it. Far fewer in HOOM; see the opening note of "Only Skin" on Ys...

      - I have a friend who uses "warble" as an insult, a catch-all for singing he dislikes. Others might call it warm-timbre vibrato. There's a word in opera, "melisma" (multiple notes per syllable). I can't remember its equivalent term in rhythm, but let's be clear: Newsom stretches English out - it takes a deal of reconstruction til the lyrics will be intelligible to you. Track 14, "Es-a-me, es-a-me" caused some confusion before it was officially titled. ("Sweet as a man?")

      - Hers is an unforgiving tone; she won't wait for you to get used to one enunciation before she changes it completely. She's often bizarre, and obscures her own lyrics. She's worth it because she means it - and because she does mean it, the music lends itself to you, and lets you mean it.

      - It's a bit of a stretch to describe Texas Gladden as a siren:

      "I realized that [Texas Gladden's] voice was conventionally not beautiful and yet it was SO worthy of being listened to, and so affecting. Before that, I knew that I wanted to make music and I knew that I had things to sing about, and I knew that I could employ my voice, to whatever degree it was polished, in my songs and do something with it that I wanted to do with it. But something about hearing her sing was a comfort."


      8. DRUM

      Neal Morgan's percussion work (writing and performing) is the only voice in the thing that can match hers (all the other instruments are in thrall). A couple of times he saves her from gaucheness - imagine; drums, adding sophistication! - like when she does her bird-swoops at the end of "In California".

      He's got a particular jazz-born genius, but it's far more obvious live. [/hipster]. He makes the first disc ring out, then retreats from disc 2 in all except his star turn in "In California". His drumwork is the album's weather or stage design. They thunder (In California) and give the upbeat (Good Intentions) a tailwind. And, in the plaintive explosion that closes the album, they're the sound and fury that J is too undone to have.

      9. Common calumnies

      She's most commonly derided as childish... or an antiquarian. I reckon this contradiction divides neatly along which of the reviewers have seen her live. In person she's hyper-feminine, and on record, superhuman.

      Criticism criticism:

      "Indulgent": No, unrestrained. See also "Artistically immature", and so on.
      "Pretentious": No, ambitious, maximal. One reviewer renamed it "The Audacity of Harp". Comes from indie's suspicion of grandeur, the amalgamation's inverse snobbery.
      No, subtle. "Proggy", at worst.

      "Understated" & "Direct": Also nonsense, can only come from listening to it right after Ys.
      "Joni Mitchell / Kate Bush / Laura Nyro / Tori Amos" : Shame we've so few women experimenting, I suppose. If anyone: Ruth Crawford Seeger in Elizabeth Fraser's throat.
      "Twee": No, romantic.
      "Affected": Jesus christ no; fantasy; theatric!

      It's not twee in the same way that the Dada movement and Alice in Wonderland aren't twee; they're too soaked in meaning for that - obscured and obtuse meaning, yes, but still intentionality.

      - "I only really put her on when I have PMS"
       nbsp;- a friend

      Consensus: having a vocabulary makes you ethereal, and if a voice is challenging, it is "affected".


      10. Suggested writing

      There's no bibliography; it's up to you.

      At the time I wrote this, I couldn't find any capital-c-criticism of Joanna Newsom, so I rolled up my sleeves. Since then I found this site, which does great feminist readings and signal-boosted me, which was nice.

      Someone go write things on:

      + I've no taste for "key dates" and recording minutiae, but perhaps someone feels it's worth their scholarly love.

      + A more unified story, uniting the farm folks with the phantastical interludes.

      + Haven't seen any proper explanation of the title (or album as drinking music) bar my poisoning-&-betrayal idea, either.

      + The animal symbolisms.

      + There's a really tasty job going: making comparative look-sees between HOOM and MEM, HOOM and Ys.

      + Also a treatment of its femininity, across the lavish art design, sound, lyrics.

      + There certainly is serious work in looking at the album's instrumentation. A CUBIT OF KAVAL, A BUCKET OF SACKBUT and so on.

      + Some proper musicians to listen and ferret out the detail. The rhythms could have a piece on their own; her diction deserves understanding. Half of the songs are in Dmajor; are we to leap, and say these are of the same narrative, or what?
      + A proper detailed look at her voice, comparisons to classical singing, etc. Technical appraisal of technique.

      + Centralized, but unrigorous narrativing: http://www.songmeanings.net/artist/view/songs/137438962756/
      + Impressive, but stalled project to transcribe her songs:
      + One of the few reviews that rose above mere evaluation:
      + Above-average foruming:
      + A good soul has made a direct reading of the chords...
      + And, of course, you should get up on your personal Have One On Me. This one's only on loan, though the Modes are free.



      + "WATERS"
      (thing which both separates and connects two banks, or, fertility)

      11. "...my ankles are bound in gauze, sickly dressage,"
      16. "My mama may be ashamed of me with all of my finery..."
      18. "I have gotten into some terrible trouble / beneath your blank and rinsing gaze."

      + GOD IS A BIT SHIT - (the indifference of Nature?)
      2. "like a cornered rat"
      10. "my faith makes me a dope"
      13. "I glare and nod, like the character, God bearing down"
      14. a feared mistress
      16. using your dog as your theologian
      16. "When I am alone, I take my god to task"
      17. "To whose authority do you consign your soul?"

      + FLAME / BURNING (mostly, means that feel.)
      + GETTIN DRUNKEN (as in, being heartbroken)
      + "KINDNESS" + "BLUE"

      "[When recording Have One On Me] I had the feeling of being a little kid coming home from church. I was in my tight, scratchy sailor dress and my tight, scratchy patent-leather shoes. It was the feeling of tearing it all off and running around outside in my underwear."