“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, June 30, 2017

I Just Submitted This Review of Pink Floyd's Animals to iTunes

After a lifetime of listening to every Floyd album pretty much all the time--they're etched--Animals is the one I can listen to again and again. I mean out of both Syd ones and non-Syd ones, even.

It doesn't hurt that they gigged what turned into "Dogs" and "Sheep" for years before they put them down on vinyl.

For me, Animals is paired with Meddle, which is all about inner space (this one is about social space). Both predate one of the canonical "best" ones (Dark Side and The Wall respectively). Yet both are somehow really amazing, especially in how they show the band as a tight unit that can rock out. "Dogs" is the "Echoes" of this one while "Sheep" is an obvious rhythmical successor to "One of These Days." Both covers feature One Thing and both are greenish. Meddle has dogs and crows and simulated whales.

On Animals we hear Gilmour entering his majestic phase with a widescreen coldness that is also found on his first solo album. Some amazingly strong singing on "Dogs." And that basic arpeggiated seventh chord: fantastic. Likewise on Meddle he's pulling away from Barrett and starts to feel it his way. That parched guitar solo in the middle of "Dogs" where at times it sounds like the guitar is smacking its lips trying to feel some moisture. Which eventually comes in the form of slime (I'll explain in a sec).

And you'd have to go back to live versions of "Embryo" around the time of "Meddle" to find anything like the intensity Waters puts into the pig-harmonica solo in "Pigs."

The musique concrète-like use of recorded sound is done with incredible dexterity, so that it's a whole extra instrumental layer or several. The initial sheep bleats are in tune with the outro of "Pigs."

And possibly this is the best line ever, found in "Sheep": "Wave upon wave of demented avengers marched cheerfully out of obscurity into the dream." I mean, wow.

And I actually love the framing song. It's got that waking up from a dream quality you also find on Meddle, only in this case it's waking up from nightmares, aka the dreams that haunt social space, their phenomenology realized in horrific detail. A shelter from utopias: a utopia within utopia; love it.

But in the end, what remains the most mindblowing on the nth listen is the Rick Wright keyboard work about 2/3 of the way through "Dogs." It's haunting and slightly disgusting and beautiful, unwinding in some sweet spot between nausea and ennui. Melancholic yearning and disgust yet beauty: nice one.

In many ways it's the uncanny double of stuff Wright plays on Wish You Were Here. Rather than wasting away like evaporating mist as on that previous album, the feeling here has more to do with sinking down into the earth, dragged down by the stone, indeed, falling into water, vibrating with intensity. Earth and water: slime. This is an expressionist tune, but in a much more subtle way than anything on The Wall except for "Another Brick in the Wall Part 1," which also features lovely Wright (and/or Wright-like) work.

This part of "Dogs" is central to the overall project. And this is how it goes beyond Meddle, though the basic theme of being in a dream is similar to the strange dream-like (in a bad way) expressionist social space of Animals, in a sort of blurry and less disturbing way. Wright and this section in general really vividly exemplify in scary detail how the animals on Animals live in the uncanny valley between humans and nonhumans, the space of zombies and other abject beings, a kind of mass grave whose invisibility makes the nonhumans (such as the whales and crows on Meddle) look nice and different (so that it's mostly funny in a flat way how the dog howls along to the blues, and whales sound alien; hey maybe the pig-harmonica on "Pigs" is Roger's way of atoning for making the dog do that on "Seamus.") It's good Cooper and evil Cooper. Which is awesome because these are domesticated animals and therefore subject strictly to the uncanny which has to do with home. The full uncanniness of the human "home" and how it becomes the Island of Doctor Moreau aka Nature is exposed on Animals. Yeah. It's an ecological record. Pollution is everywhere, in that ancient Greek sense of miasma, guilt experienced as abject body fluid, moral pollution defining what kinds of beings count in social space.

If you think this tune is all about Gilmour that's not correct. Rick's work is sitting in a Gilmour chord structure for sure. But listen to something like that structure on his solo album from the time and you'll definitely get what I'm saying. It's the Wright slime and the vocoding dogs and humans that make this into something very special.

I know the rest of the band wasn't rating him at the time. Doesn't matter. Just listen to it.

Rick's piercing, pitch-bending, minor-key modulating "Dogs" solo is intertwined with the word "stone" that vocodes into the muffled moaning of the primordial slime, while dogs bark in tune as if rippling in a deserted underwater disco on either side of the stereo image, a sardonic human whistle vainly attempting to bring them to heel. It's a siren, it's that human whistle transformed, it's a funk keyboard rotting away in the compost by the railway line. Bingo.

You can easily compare what Wright does there to what Gilmour does in the very strange part of "Echoes," also about 2/3 in. Gilmour is also piercing, and vocal-sounding.

PS: When people who have never been to the UK ask me where I'm from, I say I grew up on the cover of Animals. Which is geographically and psychologically and aesthetically (always loved that building) pretty accurate as it goes. I grew up in a haunting postindustrial landscape where prehistoric ferns grew among tens of railway tracks surmounted by brilliant arc lights where birds nested and sang in the dead of night, because for them it was day. A couple of miles, give or take, from Battersea Power Station. Some of that technologically mediated melancholia can be heard in early drum and bass, where the use of sirens is quite Rick Wright-ish. My fried Heitham and I talk about growing up in this region all the time.

This actually explains a lot about my stance on ecological things.

Automated Sadism

The puzzle — and it is a puzzle, even for those who have long since concluded that something is terribly wrong with the modern G.O.P. — is why the party is pushing this harsh, morally indefensible agenda.

Think about it. Losing health coverage is a nightmare, especially if you’re older, have health problems and/or lack the financial resources to cope if illness strikes. And since Americans with those characteristics are precisely the people this legislation effectively targets, tens of millions would soon find themselves living this nightmare.


[T]his story began with a politically convenient lie — the pretense, going all the way back to Ronald Reagan, that social safety net programs just reward lazy people who don’t want to work. And we all know which people in particular were supposed to be on the take.

Now, this was never true, and in an era of rising inequality and declining traditional industries, some of the biggest beneficiaries of these safety net programs are members of the Trump-supporting white working class. But the modern G.O.P. basically consists of career apparatchiks who live in an intellectual bubble, and those Reagan-era stereotypes still dominate their picture of struggling Americans.

Or to put it another way, Republicans start from a sort of baseline of cruelty toward the less fortunate, of hostility toward anything that protects families against catastrophe.

In this sense there’s nothing new about their health plan. What it does — punish the poor and working class, cut taxes on the rich — is what every major G.O.P. policy proposal does. The only difference is that this time it’s all out in the open.--Paul Krugman

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Healthcare Is My Third Rail

"Under Obamacare, the majority leader’s home state, Kentucky, experienced one of the biggest reductions in the rate of uninsured people of any state in the nation."--NYT

The beyond stupid sadism of this only has to do with the momentum behind the effort to destroy Obamacare: "a black man created a law, so thousands of Americans must now die." (About 29 000 per year it has been estimated, once they go back to being screwed by the insurance companies.)

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My Letter to John Cornyn (TX senator) on the Republican "health care" bill

Dear Sir,

I'm a Texan who is very concerned about the Republican health care bill that the Senate is about to vote on.

I'm almost tempted to encourage you all to pass it, just so that everyone will always remember that the thing that killed and made bankrupt so many people all over again was done in the summer of 2017 by the Republicans, a summer that will always bear that infamy.

All right then, do it. Pass it. Let thousands of people die, and reap the consequences of being so blinded by hatred of a black man's bill that thousands of actual Americans had to die.

Yours sincerely,
Timothy Morton

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The UK Election

This is much better than the 1997 Labour landslide. Why?

It's not happening inside of Tory space. The Conservatives owned political space since 1979 and were able to vilify and pathologize Labour. No more.

Now they will have to compromise, and been seen to do so, aka "being weak" from the point of view of the rigid right. UKIP will abandon them therefore. Labour will be the moderating voice of reason in Brexit.

The media will have to take Labour seriously and in a different way than simply saying "they're just like Thatcher only better."

The Tories won't be in charge of the symbolic framework at all, for the first time since 1979. People will see them having to listen to and respect Labour. They won't be able to idealize May or whatever, idealize what might have been, because she wasn't defeated massively. They will own all the failures. May and the Tories as currently configured will wither away. Labour broke their serve. The Tories are finished in a much worse way than in 1997. Bye!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

You Can Pre-Order Humankind

If you're in the USA, the UK or elsewhere I think you can do it on Amazon. I haven't looked at other places yet.

Look at the nice blurb (that's what the description is in fact called; an endorsement is in fact traditionally a puff!):

A radical call for solidarity between humans and non-humans

What is it that makes humans human? As science and technology challenge the boundaries between life and non-life, between organic and inorganic, this ancient question is more timely than ever. Acclaimed Object-Oriented philosopher Timothy Morton invites us to consider this philosophical issue as eminently political. It is in our relationship with non-humans that we decided the fate of our humanity. Becoming human, claims Morton, actually means creating a network of kindness and solidarity with non-human beings, in the name of a broader understanding of reality that both includes and overcomes the notion of species. Negotiating the politics of humanity is the first and crucial step to reclaim the upper scales of ecological coexistence, not to let Monsanto and cryogenically suspended billionaires to define them and own them.