Sunday, September 04, 2011

10 Crazy Things I Believe

I'm getting it all out in this post. After this you will be certain I am a certifiable lunatic.

I want to emphasize up front that I am not a physicist or scientist in any way. I took one physics class in college to fill my science requirement. As with most of the general courses outside my major, I skipped the classes, showed up to take the tests, and got a C. Then I returned to acting and drinking. I was not a good student.

What follows are my honestly held opinions.

1. The Big Bang never happened. Existence has no beginning and no ending. The universe cannot be measured by place or time, for it is all places and all times. The universe is eternal, which means "out of time." Time is the measurement of motion within the universe. It is impossible to step outside the universe to measure its size or time of existence.

2. Much of 20th century physics is nonsense -- Shroedinger's Cat, super string theory, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle -- it's all baloney. The problem is that modern physics has gotten away from reality, and is judged only by internal mathematical coherence. So physicists can spend their lives building cloud castles in the air that have nothing to do with the world we live in. Modern physics has been great for science fiction, because the physics theories themselves are science fiction.

3. God does not exist. There is no evidence. People exist, and people can lie. Religions are ancient lies. More recent lies are called cults.

4. Men and women are different. I've lived with many women. Not a one of them ever took out the garbage.

5. Western civilization is superior to all other cultures. This is why they are becoming like us.

6. Curtis LeMay and Joseph McCarthy were more right than their detractors. Unfortunately, history is written by the winners, and the left dominates academia and culture. LeMay was satirized in Dr. Strangelove, but his advice to bomb Vietnam into the stone age would have saved American lives. The Venona files have shown that McCarthy was right: there were communist agents in the US government.

7. The world will be a better place once the Baby Boomers are dead. This might seem cruel, but the death of every aging altruist/collectivist/statist/New Age fruitcake makes the world a better place. The New Leftist cultural revolution of the '60s and '70s left such a profound stamp on the Boomers that most of them are beyond redemption.

8. Some day Rock'n'Roll will be considered barbaric noise by most people. Only a small, drugged-out cult will listen to music with a backbeat; perhaps they will be called Deadheads. The rest will enjoy music that emphasizes melody, and that music will hit beats one and three, without the backbeats on two and four. Backbeat deemphasizes melody.

9. A rocket shot down TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996. I don't believe many conspiracy theories, but I do think Clinton stopped the investigation of Flight 800 before the truth was discovered because he did not want to go to war with Iran, especially not since he was in a reelection campaign. Airplanes do not just blow up in midair by themselves. Witnesses saw streaks of light going up before the explosion. Getting a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky is the least of Clinton's transgressions; ignoring the Islamist threat and giving missile technology to the Chinese are worse. The Clinton legacy will haunt national security for years to come. (To be fair, Reagan and Bush 41 also ignored the threat of Islamofascism.)

10. Environmentalism is not science. Ecology is an invalid concept. Environmentalism is an enormous pseudo-scientific attempt to destroy capitalism. The Old Left said it would be more productive than capitalism. In the 1930's many thought the west was doomed because Stalin had five-year plans, and we had no plan. By the 1960's it was clear that capitalism, without central planning, produces more than communism. (Read Mises.) So the New Left changed tactics and declared that productivity itself was bad; thus was the ecology movement born. Furthermore, there is no such thing as "the environment." There are environments -- my environment, your environment -- but THE environment is as mystical a concept as God.

If my 10 crazy ideas are true, then you can see that what most people take as normal is actually a twisted aberration. We live in a culture of lies and illusion. But when you've lived in a sewer all your life, you get used to the smell, and the air at the top of a mountain smells strange and unnatural.


Anonymous said...


Regarding point #2.

When Werner Heisenberg was living in Princeton after WWII, he was pulled over by a state trooper for exceeding the speed limit. After looking at his identification, the trooper asked, "Dr. Heisenberg, do you know how fast you were going?" To which, Heisenberg replied, "No Sir, but I do know where I am."

c. andrew

Inspector said...

You'd probably better mention that you nevertheless listen to and enjoy Rock'n'Roll, lest you'll freak out too many people.

My personal view is that I like it, but I'm only 90% able to dismiss folks that think it's degenerate.

At this point, however, it's really nothing more than speculative futurism of the science fiction variety though. Rock and Roll, may or may not be - as the song goes - "here to stay," but it's sure going to be around for a while.

Actually, I find its endurance kind of fascinating. Particularly, classic rock. A second generation carried on the genre from the mid 70's through even the 90's if you count a few diehard bands like Aerosmith and AC/DC that continued to make music. (Sure, arena rock and hair metal were a little different, but it's the same basic stuff.)

And movies like Wayne's World and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure... and, heck, even the show Beavis and Butthead transmitted Classic Rock to the next few generations.

10 to 15 years after that, Jack Black's movies have done the same. And everything from Iron Man to Megamind uses AC/DC in their soundtracks.

I'm young enough that this should all be "oldies" to me, but I listen to everything from AC/DC and Boston to Van Halen and ZZ Top. And judging from their Facebook pages, so do my high school age cousins.

Myrhaf said...

I play rock. I have a Strat Plus, a Gibson Nighthawk and a Les Paul, among other axes.

I'm also a Baby Boomer.

We Baby Boomers grew up rebelling against our parent's music. It was "square." The weird thing is that our children don't rebel against our music -- they listen to it. I feel like saying to the kids, "No, you can't listen to the Beach Boys. Go get your own music."

Kids listen to music made 40 years before they were born. If I had done that, I would have been listening to Caruso or Al Jolson or scratchy recordings of Gershwin playing piano.

If I were young, I think I would resent the cultural hegemony of the Baby Boomers.

Inspector said...

I've made the same observation as you say with Jolson. It's certainly without precedent in the last few generations.

I do resent their cultural hegemony - quite a bit in fact - just not with the music for some reason.

Inspector said...

Also, I may be out of my league with this, but what's with the claim that Rock'n'Roll de-emphasizes melody?

Quick, think of the song "Smoke on the Water." Now "American Woman."

What you hear in your head is likely a guitar riff, I'm guessing.

Ask anyone to describe a popular rock and roll tune and they'll hum the guitar riff to you. The melody.

Yes, there exists a beat. How does this detract from the melody?

I know it's not appropriate for every single feeling or mood, that I will grant you. But it does pretty good within its own range. I think there's room in the world for classical and rock music. And others.

Myrhaf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Myrhaf said...

Rock's melodic highpoint came in the early '60s with the Beatles, Beach Boys, Supremes, Ronettes, Everly Brothers, and so on. Since then melody has declined in sophistication. In heavy metal and rap there is little melody if any. Backbeat acts like a bad premise; if unchecked it leads to the destruction of melody.

If you listen to operetta songs from the late 19th-early 20th century, you will hear how much more developed their melodies are. You can't have melodies like that with a prominent, throbbing backbeat; it just does not happen. Melodies 100 years ago were actually constructed to have melodic climaxes, where the soprano his a high B flat or whatever. There are NO melodic climaxes in rock. At least, I've never heard one. Rock's climaxes, when it has them, involve harmony, tempo and maybe the singer will raise the whole thing an octave (a songwriting trick called modulation). The greatest climax I can think of is Bruce Springsteen in "Born To Run," when he yells "One, two, three, four"... and then the same melody continues with a more intense arrangement and driving beat.

People can listen to whatever they want. I'm not saying there's no room for any kind of music, nor am I casting a moral judgment on those who listen to rock or rap or anything. I'm saying backbeat and sophisticated melody cannot last together long. By the mid-60's distorted guitars and a heavy beat were already pushing melody aside.

I'm also saying that in the future, when children are taught to focus on reality and have active minds, our culture will want to hear beautiful melodies with pounding drums getting in the way. Eventually, they will be so unused to backbeat that when they hear rock recordings they will recoil. Perhaps they will think of our age as savage or an esthetic dark age.

We don't notice how odd prominent drum pounding actually is because it's all around us like the air we breathe. And that's okay -- it's our culture and it certainly won't change in my lifetime, so it's quixotic to worry too much about it.

Myrhaf said...

On modulation I should have written that the melody goes up a key, not an octave. But sometimes singers go up an octave to keep the song moving toward the end.

Inspector said...

I'm having trouble identifying precisely what you're getting at when you talk about complex melody - Do you mean to say that the guitar riffs in rock are simple - that is to say, they consist of a few chords, repeating? Because I could bring in plenty of counter examples where that isn't the case - across every era of what I would call rock and roll.

Usually there's a lot of melodic complexity in what the lead guitar does. Think especially Eruption by Van Halen. Tell me that's not a complex melody. (Hell, he's probably directly pulling a lot of that from a piece of classical music; I just haven't figured out which one yet.) But, really, there are lots of more mundane examples. Think of the instrumental lead guitar solos in Def Leppard pieces, such as Day After Day, at about 2:27 in.

(You don't have to worry about explaining what you mean about cultural change or the distance in the future you're talking about. I know what you're trying to say there.)

Myrhaf said...

Lead solos have a lot of notes played fast, and that takes technical skill, but usually they're too chaotic and fast to have any melody at all. It's just a flurry of noise. It's like bebop improvising: they completely lose the melody and go all over the place.

It's easier to hear melody in singing. They're repetitive and often they hammer one note, accentuating the ubiquitous beat of Rock'n'Roll. Compare any rock melody to Jerome Kern and you'll see how much more expansive and beautiful the pre-rock melodies were.

Inspector said...

Well, it can't be improvising, since they play the same notes every time, in live shows and recorded music.

Okay - so it's not the amount of notes involved that you're talking about when you refer to "melody." That still leaves me at a bit of a loss as to what you mean, though.

Or were you just saying that the *singing* in rock has less melody? Because that is a different animal altogether.

Do you have a specific Jerome Kern work in mind as an example? (i.e. one I can find on youtube?)

Myrhaf said...

Playing scales fast is awesome, but I wouldn't call it melody.

Just about anything by Kern has more melody than rock. I remember reading a book by an arranger of musical comedies called Engel, I believe. He said rock is a regression to the harmonies of 19th century church music. The pre-rock pop of the first half of the 20th century have much more sophisticated harmony, along with better melody. Take a look at the chords in Kern's "All The Things You Are." Jazz guys love jamming on that song because the chord structure is great. "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" is beautiful melody. That's why people used to say "They don't write 'em like that anymore." But the people who said that are dying and the rest have forgotten.

Inspector said...

It doesn't *sound* any more or less sophisticated in melody to me than some of the more technical rock I've heard. "Smoke" has more *different* melodies involved in a single song, that is definitely true. But then, it's not a pop piece. And most rock is. So it's really apples to... not even oranges. It's like apples to sofa cushions.

It's certainly hitting a different emotional mood. But I fully acknowledge that rock has a more narrow emotional range.

I see what you mean now, I just don't know if it's something that can even be compared like that.

And is it the drums themselves that preclude having a lot of melodic development like that? I don't know - I've heard prog rock and metal songs that have as much, but those are far from mainstream and not always even that enjoyable to listen to. And certainly the backbeat coincided with music like that falling out of popular favor, but that doesn't mean there is necessarily a causal relationship. There was also the invention of radio, of car radios so that people needed "road tunes," of television so that people less often sat in their houses and just listened to music by itself, of the general dumbing down of society... and so on.

Will people want more relaxed and contemplative music if the culture gets smarter? Very hard to say. It's not often as simple as that. When classical was king, it was only enjoyed live by rich aristocrats who had a very relaxed lifestyle indeed. Sure, music catered to a more intelligent and thoughtful set, but there is more to it than simply that. So I remain skeptical.

Either way, it would be great if I could live to see it. If medicine discovers a lot of anti-aging and disease cures - as it seems poised to do - before it's crushed under socialism... ah but I dare not get my hopes up about that.

Myrhaf said...

Sure, my "theory" is sheer speculation. And as I always say, there's nothing more frustrating than arguing with people about what has not yet happened. Objectivists do that a lot.

I would disagree on one thing. "Smoke On the Water" is popular music, in the original sense of the word. It's not Britney Spears, if you define "pop" narrowly, but it was a hit on the radio.

The saddest thing about the rise of socialism is that we don't know what might have been. Statists lower our standard of living because people don't understand how much better things would be if we were free. I do believe we would all be living longer if medicin -- one sixth of the economy -- were not under bureaucratic control.

Inspector said...

You meant "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," there, I assume? (hehe!)

Mike said...

As for #2, "Much of 20th century physics is nonsense -- Shroedinger's Cat...-- it's all baloney," I'll just point out that Schroedinger himself thought up the cat as a reductio ad absurdum of the Copenhagen Interpretation of QM, to show that it couldn't be an acceptable interpretation.

Myrhaf said...

I did not know that, Mike.

Inspector said...

Interesting, Mike! That is a very useful fact to know, thanks for sharing it.

Inspector said...

Oh, a side note, now that I've looked it up: The soundtrack for Megamind had AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, ELO, and Guns n' Roses. Oh, the scores were Hans Zimmer, who is an *excellent* classical composer. So I think, either way, both rock and classical music are being culturally transmitted.

Also: wow, that's a cool soundtrack. And on Zimmer: was anyone else as blown away by his Inception scores as I was?

Myrhaf said...

I saw the movie, but I didn't focus on the soundtrack.