Even for a “year realism” skeptic like myself, 2016 feels like a coherently terrible blur. No idea how we got here, but after all the excitement of 2008 it sure feels ominously like “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past”. The darkest past. Still, like Nick Carraway, we beat on.
Standing Rock/Winona LaDuke:
My mother claimed I was named after her father. My father counter-claimed I was in fact named in honor of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, with whom he was inexplicably and confusedly obsessed. I’ve always favored the latter of course. I first saw Winona LaDuke at a dorm party many years ago. She was a college freshman and on an otherwise good-prospects Friday night stood alone, delivering a fiery, heart-grabbing speech in the one sparsely-packed room of an otherwise jam-packed basement. In the midst of the Standing Rock resistance she appeared, again, like a piece of magic as part of Democracy Now’s brave and remarkably effective coverage, and again took my breath away with the purity of her conviction:
The world’s most prominent public intellectual, activist, and one of the greatest scientists, ever, in the Geisteswissenshaften, notoriously spends several hours every evening corresponding w/ pretty much any non-troll who writes. Try it. I once wrote to ask whether he could point me to a copy of his [at the time] recently delivered John Dewey Lectures. He wrote back that he had no idea when CUP would get around to publishing them. In the meantime, he was traipsing around Europe, doing interviews, giving talks, and his draft versions of the lectures were on his home computer; but that he’d sure to send those along as soon as he got back to Cambridge. Which he did. Promptly the following Monday morning. This year has to have been a weird one, even by Chomsky’s standards. Most gruesomely, perhaps, that foppish, Iraq War-defending malefactor, Tom Wolfe, of all people, reappeared and published an unhinged, scientifically empty denunciation of Chomsky’s 60 years’ worth of work in linguistics. [The book similarly denounces Charles Darwin, so Noam’s in good company.] Since I suspect more people will read Tom Wolfe, by orders of magnitude, than will ever get around to reading Chomsky’s technical work, and since I strongly favor Chomsky’s nativist approach in cognitive science (and owe him for the Dewey files), I thought I’d do what I could to tip the balances. So here are a couple of polemics in answer to Wolfe’s ravings:
My band Cuffs is on seriously extended hiatus. We have an unfinished record collecting digital dust somewhere and I think the only show we played this year was the fantastic Bent Shapes record release party. We were supposed to play one other gig in NYC, with Rundgren-esque Tallahassee whiz kid(s) Surface to Air Missive and implosion-prog whiz kid(s) King Cyst. That all fell apart for some 2016-type reason. But two of my favorite records of the year came from those guys. And speaking of Bent Shapes, Andy Sadoway has a side project (called “Andy Sadoway”) which released a 4-song flexi-disk this year. I bought it at Andy’s bandcamp. It came with a nice note scrawled in marker on the package stabilizing cardboard. The flexi skips like a motherfucker, but that’s all part of the cheap hooch fun. Plus there’s a download code, if you’re into that. Andy and King Cyst also served up my favorite music vids of the year. It’s all here, with us, below. And looking forward to 2017, it’s important remember that cocktail hour is just a state of mind.
Surface to Air Missive “Full Love Wonder”
King Cyst “Chinese Wind”
Based on this video Petula Clark’s performance of Burt Bacharach’s classic “Anyone Who Had a Heart”