Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Do You Know What it Means?

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
And miss it each night and day
I know I'm not wrong, the feeling's getting stronger
The longer I stay away

Miss the moss-covered vines, tall sugar pines
Where mockingbirds used to sing
I'd love to see that old lazy Mississippi
Hurrying into Spring

The moonlight on the bayou
A Creole tune that fills the air
I dream about magnolias in bloom
And I'm wishin I was there

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans
When that's where you left your heart
And there's one thing more, I miss the one I care for
More than I miss New Orleans

Words By Louis Alter
Music by Eddie DeLange
Recorded by Louis Armstrong, 1947

More here and here, from Syntax of Things, and also here, from fauxreal, over at Moon of Alabama. All of which I submit, in place of an argument, against the sort of thinking that could come up with a response like this.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Wes Clark on Iraq

Gen. Wesley Clark has followed up his excellent Washington Post Op-Ed ("Before It's Too Late in Iraq"), as well as the interesting online discussion that ensued, with his first guest blog post over at TPM Cafe. The main subject in all three cases is the General's proposed "success strategy" for Iraq. My own summary of the first day's commentary by Cafe habitués--the good, the bad and the silly--is here.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Realism and Democratic Foreign Policy

John Ikenberry has an interesting and useful post up at TPM Cafe that touches on the relationship between "liberal" and "realist" schools in international relations theory and current orientations among Republican and Democratic policy makers. It struck me as a useful corrective to the utterly obsolete view that Dems are the stary-eyed idealists, and Republicans the hard-headed realists, when it comes to questions of power and foreign affairs. Anyone who still thinks this is the case, has been asleep for the last four years.

My comment elaborating on the point is here. Cafe denizen Dan K's thoughts on the matter are also worth checking out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The World's Best Bassless Rock Band Hearts Fender Amps

Guitar Player has an interesting interview with Sleater-Kinney about their new, apparently quite heavy album (The Woods), in the course of which Corin Tucker gives her vintage Fender Showman some major props:

GUITAR PLAYER: Corin, how do you manage to fill up so much low-frequency space without being a bass player?

TUCKER: My ’65 blackface Fender Showman is the absolute best amp for holding down the bottom end of the sonic spectrum in this band. That amp is the key to the versatility of my sound. It’s super heavy, flexible, and it has a really low, bassy sound.

If I were a marketing VP at Fender, I'd cut Corin a hefty check right now. You can't buy PR like that. In fact, as it turns out, lead guitarist Carrie Brownstein is into Fender amps now too. She's also got a mean collection of pedals:

GUITAR PLAYER: Carrie, what’s your setup?

BROWNSTEIN: I was using a Vox AC30 up until we recorded the new record, when I switched to a ’64 blackface Fender Super Reverb because I wanted more versatility. The Vox is overpowering. It’s very loud on stage, and although it has a grittiness that I love, the midrange is really pronounced. I feel like the Fender fills out the highs and lows a little better, and it’s a much warmer amp than the Vox.

My main guitar is a 1972 Gibson SG, and I also have a ’78 Guild with a Bigsby. The Guild is kind of brittle and “garage-y,” and the SG has a real warm sound. As far as pedals go, I have a Maestro fuzz, a Boss BD-2 Blues Driver, a Z.Vex Super Hard On, and a Roland AD-50 DoubleBeat—which produces some of the most blown-out fuzz distortion I’ve ever heard.

GUITAR PLAYER: The Super Hard On is an ironic pedal name for a female guitarist.

BROWNSTEIN: Yeah. Every time I set that one up on stage it prompts endless jokes from the front row.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

George W. Bush, Philosopher

Kudos to John Cole over at Balloon Juice, for parting company with Bush so decisively over the latter's massively stupid (or massively cynical--take your pick) endorsement of the teaching of so-called "Intelligent Design" alongside Evolution. Says Cole:
Intelligent Design in a religion class--fine. Intelligent design in a philosophy class--fine. Intelligent Design in science classes? Not fine.
That's a pretty sound position. I would like to add, however, that the proper place for "Intelligent Design" in a philosophy class would not exactly be a place of honor, either.

The argument does indeed have a philosophical pedigree, and a pretty long one at that. But it is chiefly remembered, these days, as one of the arguments that Hume blasted to smithereens over two centuries ago, leaving behind a smoldering pile of intellectual rubble. In the Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Hume puts the Argument from Design in the mouth of Cleanthes, and gives the most devastating criticisms of that argument to Philo, the skeptic.

Cleanthes tries to maintain that the material world, with its fantastic combination of order and complexity, somehow proves the existence and character of its Creator. Philo correctly identifies this as an anthropomorphic argument from analogy (just as the human mind is the author, or cause, of such artifacts as buildings and watches, so too the Divine Mind must be the Author, or Cause, of the natural order as a whole, of Being). He then proceeds to shatter the analogy with a barrage of counter-arguments, the two most powerful of which are:

1. That the Argument from Design commits the fallacy of composition--of assuming that what is true of a part (of creation) must be true of the whole. It assumes, without warrant, that the human mind is to the material on which it works, as God is to the cosmos. But, as Philo says, "What peculiar privilege has this little agitation of the brain which we call thought, that we must thus make it the model of the whole universe?" Why should the part of creation that is the human mind, in its relation to the limited number of things that can be considered that mind's artifacts, be treated as the template for the way causality works in the world at large?

2. That the Argument from Design is arbitrary in stopping where it does (with an ideal/mental world being the cause of a material world), because, if you take its premises seriously, there is no reason that an ideal/mental world should not itself have a cause. And with that, you have an infinite regress (turtles all the way down): "Have we not the same reason to trace that ideal world into another ideal world, or new intelligent principle? But if we stop, and go no further, why go so far? Why not stop at the material world? How can we satisfy ourselves wihout going on ad infinitum?"

The perception of the world as a glorious design that bespeaks the hand of its Designer is, like the perception that human beings both do and don't fit harmoniously into this design (both are and are not made for it), so commonplace that it seems to be almost a part of human nature. But it is not, for that reason, a proof of, or argument for anything--least of all for the existence of a creator, or the methods of creation. And the minute one tries to make it a proof, one ends up discrediting the very thing one was trying to establish. (Putting an end to that kind of thing is one way to describe the philosophical project Kant undertook after Hume--so the story goes--awoke him from his dogmatic slumber.)