Atvelonis's recent activity

  1. Comment on Fans are convinced the Starfield trailer reveals The Elder Scrolls 6 location in ~games

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Kirkbride was contracted for some writing in Knights of the Nine, which is why we ended up with the excellent Song of Pelinal as a counterpart to the otherwise relatively non-boundary-pushing...

    Kirkbride was contracted for some writing in Knights of the Nine, which is why we ended up with the excellent Song of Pelinal as a counterpart to the otherwise relatively non-boundary-pushing Oblivion. I think Kirkbride also did some consulting for Skyrim, or they at least used many of his ideas (direct quotes or otherwise). But I get the impression from C0DA and some of his interview comments that he is not particularly interested in working that closely with Bethesda? I know that he likes Kurt Kuhlmann a lot, who I believe is still at the company, so it's certainly not out of the question! We will have to wait and see.

    2 votes
  2. Comment on Fans are convinced the Starfield trailer reveals The Elder Scrolls 6 location in ~games

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I've been periodically updating the wiki page on The Elder Scrolls VI with the non-info that is the "development process." I find it very amusing to see a wall of text chronicling the countless...

    I've been periodically updating the wiki page on The Elder Scrolls VI with the non-info that is the "development process." I find it very amusing to see a wall of text chronicling the countless ways Todd Howard and Pete Hines have stated "We're not releasing this game for like 10 years" in interviews.

    3 votes
  3. Comment on Tildes Screenless Day Discussion Thread - June 2021 in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I started around 10:30 AM, took a (long) break for lunch around 1 PM, and was finished by 4:30 PM, give or take. This patch of woods is a couple square miles, but almost all the garbage I picked...

    I started around 10:30 AM, took a (long) break for lunch around 1 PM, and was finished by 4:30 PM, give or take. This patch of woods is a couple square miles, but almost all the garbage I picked up was centralized in an area perhaps the size of a basketball court. Because the legal drinking age here is 21, many young people are conditioned to party in the woods—which is dangerous for them and irritating for anyone who is trying to get away from the suburban hellscape for a breath of nature. I grew up in this town, so I know all the spots (they're not hard to find anyway). Most of the endlessly accumulating trash is found either in these locations or along relatively specific paths from nearby streets. The rest is dumped by nearby institutions that shall not be named, or blows in from neighbors' recycling.

    I don't own a wheelbarrow. I take out the bags on my back, one per trip. The worst of the garbage swamps happens to be within a reasonable distance of a road I can take to reach a residential dumpster, maybe a quarter mile. I'm probably not supposed to use that, but no one's ever stopped me. The neighbors know better than to anger the Lorax.

    As in, went to sleep?

    Sorry, I should clarify. When I say "turned in early for the night" I really mean "turned into a werewolf, my accursed nighttime form, so that I can eat the children who are littering so ferociously instead of picking up after them." One of these days I think I might buy a nice heavy metal trash can and carry it out there as a permanent citizen-operated receptacle. Would make my job a heck of a lot easier.

    3 votes
  4. Comment on Tildes Screenless Day Discussion Thread - June 2021 in ~life

    Atvelonis
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    I did my first "screenless day" this past Sunday. My rules were no digital screens from the time I woke up until just before the time I went to sleep (to set an alarm for work, and check Slack...

    I did my first "screenless day" this past Sunday. My rules were no digital screens from the time I woke up until just before the time I went to sleep (to set an alarm for work, and check Slack notifications just in case). I held to that, except I suppose for the clock on my stove. :P I had a leisurely morning, and spent the rest of the day hauling out garbage that had collected in the woods—ended up with four 55 gallon contractor drum liners of junk, mostly cans (lightweight and crushable, so I could get a lot per unit volume). It was about 95 degrees and sunny, but the trees offered enough shade that I didn't pass out from heatstroke. In the evening I had a pleasant dinner and spent some time reading. Turned in early for the night. A nice experience overall and I'll probably try it again later this month.

    5 votes
  5. Comment on Where do you get your sense of community from? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I'm watching some videos of Scandinavian dance now, and it looks like a lot of fun. I thought this performance in particular was very cute—and exciting! I'd love to give it a try at some point....

    I'm watching some videos of Scandinavian dance now, and it looks like a lot of fun. I thought this performance in particular was very cute—and exciting! I'd love to give it a try at some point.

    Scottish country dancers also tend to be a little older (relative to highland dancers, at any rate: their joints can't take all the hopping!), but from what I can tell the community appears to be stable or maybe growing. I joined a group in college that coordinated with our local branch of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society for resources and events. I think the RSCDS has figured out that they need a pipeline to keep the traditions alive. They even offer young dancers little "scholarships" to dance camps in the summer.

    I'm a northern laddie, but a friend of mine from Charleston remarked to me some time ago that there was a surprisingly robust community for contra dancing in the area—populated largely by young people, no less (that's actually how she started before I dragged her to Scottish). Apparently it's pretty hip. That was news to me, but it gives me hope that the folk arts have an actual future.

    1 vote
  6. Comment on Where do you get your sense of community from? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
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    It's been a year and a half since I've been able to participate, but the community in Scottish country dance is surprisingly close-knit. The first time I went to a ball, I remember being surprised...

    It's been a year and a half since I've been able to participate, but the community in Scottish country dance is surprisingly close-knit. The first time I went to a ball, I remember being surprised at the emphasis people placed on individuals—they all knew who the callers and the musicians were (and were very excited about them), and they all knew each other. I guess there's a reason they call it social dancing.

    7 votes
  7. Comment on How can I better engage Tilderinos on my philosophy posts? in ~talk

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Tildes users are influenced by the space they write in as much as the content they're writing about. A thread with no comments is "quiet," and that silence is difficult to break in the same way...

    Tildes users are influenced by the space they write in as much as the content they're writing about. A thread with no comments is "quiet," and that silence is difficult to break in the same way that you may feel physical difficulty in speaking from silence in a group setting in person. The distinction is merely that you can't see the other people being quiet. But on a site with this level of activity, you know that they're there; the vote tallies show it. For people who are engaged with the material, then, you have two types of commenters:

    • People who like being the first voice in the room
    • People who are happy to talk, but who don't like breaking the silence

    For almost all topics, almost all users fall into the latter category. This is why most threads are quiet. However, everyone has a few topics they're very interested in or can engage with at that moment. Fundamentally, the reason many people are reluctant to break the silence is because it's easier to respond to someone else's original thought than to create an original thought of their own. A first-level comment is ostensibly a response to the article, but we are socially conditioned to construct it as a more formal, decisive, or coherent statement than a second-level comment. The stakes are higher because we expect more people to engage with it than a lower-level comment. It addresses the group; a second-level comment addresses a single person.

    This isn't unique to Tildes. Think of every social meeting you've been in that's awkwardly silent until someone makes a joke, and then the whole group breaks into pleasant conversation. It's not like any random sequence of syllables uttered during the conversation has any more inherent significance in and of itself than any other sequence—but the very first one is given special significance because of the context it finds itself in. That is, it finds itself the breaker of silence, addressing the group.

    I specifically avoid putting my own spin on it because I don’t want to color people’s read on it with my own take before they have a chance to take it in for themselves unvarnished.

    I understand and appreciate this perspective, but I think it takes too formalistic an approach to the material being shared here, à la Wimsatt and Beardsley. The literary criticism of the mid-20th century was frequently concerned with making interpretations rooted solely in "the text in itself and for itself," ignoring any manner of authorial intent so as to separate literature from the academy's expectations of it. This is a reasonable idea, but it doesn't work as well as one would hope. The "affective turn" we've inhabited in the decades since has shown us quite clearly that writing sans context loses a substantial amount of its essence, and we are better off analyzing texts contextually if we want to derive meaning that informs an external context.

    If we apply this principle a level up—where the "author" is the submitter of a post on Tildes, and the audience is the set of commenters on that post—we also find ourselves in a situation where both the identity and opinions of the submitter ought not necessarily to be omitted or ignored. By posting an article on Tildes, you are not simply sharing information in a vacuum. Rather, you are contributing to a "canon" of works posted on a specific medium; really you are contributing to an infinite number of canons, such as "Articles posted on Tildes in the last 24 hours," "Articles posted on Tildes during a global pandemic," "Articles posted on Tildes while an article about breakfast cereal is on the front page," etc. Importantly, some of these canons are going to be related to the source material and potentially to the submitter. Tildes' proclivity for meta threads comes to mind—an article on race relations is inextricably linked to a meta post about Tildes' overall discussion about race. What does it mean for a controversial article to be posted in the wake of such discourse? Clearly, we are not operating within a framework where the submitter is a non-entity. Thus we may reasonably conclude that the submitter's opinions should not necessarily be hidden from public view. Why did they submit the article to begin with? What drew them to the material? In what ways do they feel it contributes to the site? Commenters will be curious about these things in any case, so perhaps it is more useful for the submitter to explain their perspective firsthand than to prompt speculation on it.

    A different line of reasoning would be that anyone who is voluntarily reading the first-level comment of a submitter before reading the article is relatively unlikely to break the silence themselves. They are looking for material from other community members to engage with, probably because they feel that going into an article blind won't help their understanding as much as doing so with an opinion in mind which they can contrast with their own (while initially reading the material and not after).

    One thing I have noticed is even when there is engagement people tend to bike shed on stylistic stuff or drag various nitpicks in the piece (e.g. complain about the headline, complain about writing style, speculate on the author’s intentions.) So it’s rarely any kind of discussion on the content of an article itself. It’s kind of frustrating.

    I think these are all legitimate elements of an article for people to comment on, though I agree with you that focusing on them at the expense of the content sort of misses the point of using a link aggregator. At some level we are here for the material, not just other people's reactions to it. I'm often disappointed by the frivolity of some of the discussions here, those with commenters too heavily in an "internet state of mind." Such threads remind me how much time people spend glued to their screens, and that I should go outside myself.

    My impression is that Tildes users model most of their behavior on Reddit's commenting etiquette (modifying it only slightly to reduce noise, or to impose an aura of seriousness), which is generally superficial. On that website, most commenters do not read the source material at all, and if they do, they often intend to engage with it unfairly. I feel that this is influenced more by the expectations of the spaces they are operating in than by any specific introduction from the submitter or other commenters on an article. i.e. this cultural practice originates from the structure of the site more so than the structure of any given discussion.

    So on a structural level, Tildes obviously lacks most of the ideological forces that Reddit has, but it retains many of them culturally, probably subconsciously. Why this is the case (beyond simple inheritance) is unclear to me, but I can speculate. @Akir made a useful observation in a response to a comment of mine last month that may serve as an adjacent piece of analysis:

    I've long believed that the biggest problem is that people don't understand what the internet is from a simple conceptual point of view. People tend to think of it as some kind of simulacra; like things on the internet are somehow less real than 'the real world'. If you understand that, you realize the root of all the stupid and evil things you find on the internet.

    I think this may apply here. Why engage with the source material, which takes a great amount of effort, when one may engage with a simple but misleading characterization of it? Why analyze six paragraphs when just the headline will do? Why analyze the author's statements in detail when one can assume they're writing in bad faith? Obviously we will still find people intentionally nitpicking arguments or being intentionally dense in real life too, but I think we're conditioned not to let that fly more robustly than we are online. On Tildes we have something of an expectation to think critically, but we have neither the rigorous expectations of an academic journal nor the forgiving ones of a face-to-face conversation. We stand, rather, in a liminal space. That uncertainty prevents us from developing our ideas with as much grace as we should. The solution to this behavior is unclear to me, and probably can't be addressed quickly, but I would be curious to hear other thoughts on the matter.

    5 votes
  8. Comment on <deleted topic> in ~health

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    For sure. There are agonizing moments during exercise, but they generally come in the form of injuries, not the activities themselves. There should be no serious pain if you're doing everything...

    For sure. There are agonizing moments during exercise, but they generally come in the form of injuries, not the activities themselves. There should be no serious pain if you're doing everything right. Of course not everyone is at the same base ability to start off, and we all have our own physical inhibitions that make certain types of exercise more challenging than others. My ankles are not as strong as they once were because I've had the misfortune to sprain them, but I can alleviate that while running with some athletic tape and by working my way up to a high mileage over a period of time rather than diving straight in.

    Where I think a lot of people go wrong is in assuming that they can or should push through a substantial amount of excruciating pain to reach some goal they aren't ready for. Our bodies are actually pretty good at letting us know how they're feeling, it just takes a while to learn all the cues. If my joints are feeling a bit weak, that may not necessarily stop me from going on a run, but I'll dial back my pace and be more careful not to roll anything. It's a different story if I can't even walk without getting a sharp pain in my arch.

    Last week I injured some of the muscles in my upper back, neck, and rotator cuff, which severely limited my range of motion in my left arm and made even miniscule uses of my back unbearable. I can confidently refer to that as "agony." By contrast, my calves getting tired on a run isn't necessarily pleasant, but it's not even close to the same level. When people mix up the mild natural resistance they feel toward exercise (the body saying "move less please, I don't want to work") with the active pain associated with muscular or other injuries ("AHHHHHHH STOP STOP STOP DON'T MOVE THAT AGAIN OR YOU'RE GOING TO DIE"), they open themselves up to long-lasting and potentially irrecoverable damage.

    When I was taught how to properly exercise for the first time, it changed my life. My anxiety dissipated somewhat, my self-esteem improved, and I realized that I'd found something I got a real kick out of. Whether it's my sport itself or adjacent hobbies like dance, getting a good handle on the physical component makes the activity far more accessible. One of my initial motivations was definitely to look ripped, but in many ways that became secondary to the overall experience once the novelty of being in shape wore off. At this point the main draw of exercise for me is that it delivers all the good brain chemicals (especially when I'm outside!).

    2 votes
  9. Comment on <deleted topic> in ~health

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
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    I'm not sure how to respond to this article. I find it condescending in its attempt to frame something so mundane as "over-exercising is bad" as a novel thesis, because it makes no serious attempt...

    I'm not sure how to respond to this article. I find it condescending in its attempt to frame something so mundane as "over-exercising is bad" as a novel thesis, because it makes no serious attempt to analyze the psychological component of fitness in a fair way. I can't quite tell who its audience is, because its title and much of its body suggests that it's speaking to gym rats, while the actual argument is really only useful as a warning for people who have never exercised not to let themselves be pressured into doing things they don't like doing. I don't think there's any need for the author to insult what is an important personal aspect of many people's lives just because she personally happens to find calisthenics boring.

    Shriver is evidently trying to fight the apparent Western obsession with "fitness fanaticism," which she believes "naturally nurtures narcissism." I'm stunned at some of the characterizations being made here, because they're rooted in completely false premises. We are in the midst of the worst obesity epidemic of all time. The American obsession with cars has diluted our interest in any mode of transportation that requires physical exertion. Exercise is barely taught in public school—with very few exceptions, "gym class" in the 21st century means standing on a field for 45 minutes while the two athletic kids throw a football at each other—and it is absolutely not used as a benchmark for success in the way that academics are. High school football is a big deal in some parts of the US, but a holistic athletic curriculum is not by any means instilled in students. The only part of our culture that is steeped in athletics is watching sports on television: a decidedly sedentary activity.

    The author also makes a weird generalization in suggesting that exercise for cosmetic purposes begets "narcissism." I reject this description—a better term would be "self-love." Certainly there are narcissistic qualities to many gym-goers, but it doesn't really manifest in a harmful way. In the abstract there is no reason to be ashamed of wanting to improve one's physical appearance, for the same reason that an interest in fashion is perfectly acceptable. Shriver does qualify her description here by saying that this applies only when "taken to excess," and that "what we need is not to go back to being slobs, but to restore a sense of proportion. However, I am unconvinced that this came from the heart. Indeed, anything "taken to excess" is harmful, but this is a truism. The article's title is literally "Your gym routine is worthless." I detect some "bad vibes" here that I think have infected the argument as a whole.

    The elevation of fitness to the highest of attainments is a sure sign of a culture grown neurotically inward and stunted. It’s a sign of diminished aspirations. When “self-improvement” entails not learning German but doing star jumps, we’re aiming to clear the lowest of bars. We’re not producing superheroes, but gym bunnies.

    I'm an athlete, so take this as you will, but I think her assertion that a cultural interest in physical fitness suggests that we have become "neurotically inward and stunted" is obnoxious and maybe offensive. Grammatically she is speaking collectively; rhetorically this is just a dig and comes across very poorly. This is the sort of judgmental remark that an unathletic high schooler makes about the jocks they've never even spoken to because the nerds are the ones who get the best grades, and of course all that matters in life is going to Harvard and making ten billion dollars through your immense brainpower.

    If Western culture is obsessed with anything—because it isn't exercise—it's with singularizing personal success as achieving material wealth through academics and the high-paying careers they afford. The "idolatry" she speaks of in regard to exercise is virtually nonexistent. This is absolutely not the case for the traditional epistemological processes of the educational system. Go to the honors cohort of your local high school and ask the students what they do for fun: the answer is very little, because they are much too occupied with a barrage of overwhelming AP or IB classes with which they hope to impress university admissions counselors. Oh, and by teaching themselves three different programming languages on the side, doing research on quantum physics with their uncle who works at NASA, and running five different academic clubs. Those are all valid interests to have, but Shriver is gatekeeping "self-improvement" in the worst way possible—by feeding a machine that has been in the process of actively destroying the mentalities of the youngest members of our society for many years now. If you reach self-actualization through exercise, that should be viewed with no less admiration than doing so through intellectual hobbies; one of those is already so dominant as to be causing an acute mental health crisis, and, again, it's not over-exercising. Both of these things involve a tremendous amount of dedication, consistency, and personal resolve. It simply doesn't make sense to insult one or the other for somehow being the inherently worse way to live one's life. If the author is going to make vague critical remarks about scourges on society, she has better things to choose from.

    In the end, no matter how much agony we undergo to build our biceps, those perishable muscles will still atrophy in old age and then end up on the scrap heap — at which point, what have we got to show? We could stand to demote the press-up back to the floor where it belongs.

    Ah, the mid-life existential crisis rears its slowly atrophying head! What a terrible outlook on life, and one utterly incompatible with any form of self-improvement that exists (not just exercise). I continue to take issue with the presumption that genuine "agony" is an essential component of exercise, and I am particularly irritated by the author's suggestion that "if it doesn't last forever, it's completely meaningless." This is a discouraging sentiment and not in keeping with many of the principles I personally try to live by, particularly appreciating the present moment (see: mindfulness meditation) and living with some amount of hedonism more generally. The "perishable muscles" you've worked to develop are not going to last you into your seventies, but… they can serve you well right now, whether that's because your favorite hobby is obelisk carving (delivery included, naturally) or because you and/or your significant other find them aesthetically pleasing. The latter has no less utility than the former and should not be so ardently construed as a deadly sin.

    By contrast, plain exercise — calisthenics, running when you’re not in the mood (almost always) — is drudgery.

    The real takeaway of this piece is that the author doesn't enjoy running anymore and should probably find a better way to exercise instead of knocking the concept as a whole. This is just projection and should not be taken to apply universally. A lot of people seem to have gotten this idea into their heads that "exercise" means running and some very specific manner of strength training; and because they happen to dislike most of what that entails, they conclude that exercise means awful horrible pain and how could anyone ever like it? You can place a lot of the blame there on the imagery we tend to use in athletic montages and the way specific exercises are popularized in media. But the reality is that, even as they may joke about the "drudgery" of exercise, many people do it because they enjoy it. To some extent I also feel that the popular description of exercise as necessarily painful is an exaggeration or misrepresentation of the experience. In the same way that you can enjoy solving an intellectual problem for the challenge it presents, there is no particular reason that the physical obstacles associated with exercise need to be considered so negatively. It is masochistic only in the extreme.

    In general I would not take articles like this seriously. There are a few good points here—mainly just that you shouldn't devote your life to a hobby you don't enjoy simply because society tells you to, and that exercise for its own sake (like anything) has the capacity to hurt more than it helps. However, these are heavily outweighed by misleading and childish characterizations of exercise and by extension anyone who makes it an important part of their life. Greater substance may be found in reviews of the activity that make more reasonable efforts to reconcile the many potential drawbacks to excessive or dangerous forms of exercise with the numerous physical and mental benefits it provides—and without unnecessary condescension.

    5 votes
  10. Comment on Biden: “Great day for America;” Vaccinated can largely ditch masks in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    But the maskless are already maskless. The incentive we've been operating on doesn't work for everyone, and never will. It has an ambiguous timeline, in many places an extremely long...

    By enforcing a measurable number to be met there's an incentive because they'll be in a prisoner's dilemma if they don't.

    But the maskless are already maskless. The incentive we've been operating on doesn't work for everyone, and never will. It has an ambiguous timeline, in many places an extremely long one—technically it has no guarantee of ever being met. This makes it a psychologically weak incentive, something that produces applause from scientists and groans from public health communicators. Vermont will be lucky to vaccinate 75% of its population in the next month; that's not so bad, but states like Mississippi are looking at more than a year.

    This is a Catch-22, but we don't live in a world where it can be resolved by continuing to yell about rules without changing any other variables. There is no realistic chance that a masking recommendation from the CDC would see widespread adherence through the end of the summer outside of pockets of hyper-liberal population centers. (This would require enforcement via jail time or non-trivial fines, which is never going to happen in the United States.) Most vaccinated people I know are also okay with wearing masks right now, but only because they've been waiting for an announcement like this one. The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, and a masking recommendation that is indefinite in practice obscures that. The current incentive (in and of itself) eventually directs us toward a deadlock state; a more nuanced solution is clearly needed.

    Broadly speaking, I feel that social pressure is better instilled through focusing the brunt of our efforts on empathetic personal messaging, not behavioral protocols that are abstracted from the problem. Anecdote: I visited a friend from my hometown last week for lunch. We got sandwiches from our favorite deli and sat in a park by the river to eat. I asked in passing which vaccine he'd received, and it turned out he hadn't scheduled anything at all! No particular reason, not even hesitancy, he just didn't consider it a priority—despite months of quarantining and masking. I suggested that he make an appointment, and he did. That's all it took. In his case, which I suspect represents a larger portion of the unvaccinated than actual anti-maskers/anti-vaxxers, the tipping point was not a vague future incentive but just encouragement from a trusted figure.

    In true liberal fashion, we have a proclivity both on this website and in political science as a whole to prioritize widespread systemic solutions to complex societal problems, but this unfortunately takes a relatively unspecific look at the individualized psychological mechanics that are necessary for sociological theory to operate in any meaningful capacity. Different strategies are going to be necessary at each progressive stage of the problem, even if that means sacrificing elements of the idealistic solution. The post-utilitarian within me also emphasizes that even something as ostensibly insignificant as daily mask usage (among other things) can have profound impact on people's mental health! For many individuals, the negative cognitive effects of potentially indefinite masking eventually outweigh the potential for reduced social pressure in their absence. Human behavior is tricky to work with and I think we need a much more robust approach if we actually want to end the pandemic faster.

    I agree than mandates are needed, but are unlikely to happen for awhile. American's hate mandates, and that's why we never really exited first wave.

    I would like to note that several hundred universities have already declared vaccination requirements for the fall semester, and any number of workplaces have done similarly. When the vaccines are approved for full authorization, public school districts will have a substantial defense for requiring it as well. Because young people have the lowest vaccination rates right now, I feel that this is an underappreciated development in the vaccination process. The government will never make the vaccine mandatory for all adults, but a substantial number of people will be forced one way or the other to take the shot.

    9 votes
  11. Comment on Biden: “Great day for America;” Vaccinated can largely ditch masks in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    If they weren't vaccinated and still weren't masking, I don't see how this announcement changes anything. It was going to come one way or the other. These people obviously aren't going to do...
    • Exemplary

    If they weren't vaccinated and still weren't masking, I don't see how this announcement changes anything. It was going to come one way or the other. These people obviously aren't going to do anything voluntarily, and as such there is little value in maintaining a recommendation that is not scientifically necessary merely for the sake of instilling social pressure. At this point, we would get more out of public or private vaccine mandates (school, work, etc.) than misleading the populace with overwhelming pessimism and undue paranoia about the virus.

    From an individual standpoint, there's no reason for a person who isn't particularly concerned about the virus to get vaccinated unless it makes their life easier to do so; i.e. if they don't have to wear a mask anymore. Indeed, this does create the potential for people to pretend to be vaccinated, explicitly or implicitly. But if we maintain a charade that you actually have to keep wearing a mask after being inoculated with an extremely potent vaccine, that provides similarly little incentive for the vaccine-lazy to get the shot, and additionally undermines public faith in the entire vaccination process.

    It's a reasonable deduction: if we need masks to stop the spread of COVID as a stop-gap for a vaccine, but that vaccine actually doesn't stop us from having to wear masks, the natural conclusion for a lot of people is going to be that the vaccine is useless. There's already a great deal of hesitancy over its side effects, and I would strongly contest the idea that doing anything except promoting the vaccine for what it is—an extremely safe and effective product—is going to help us end the pandemic.

    20 votes
  12. Comment on Weekly coronavirus-related chat, questions, and minor updates - week of May 10 in ~health.coronavirus

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I totally feel that. I got my second Moderna shot on Wednesday and was exploding with a strange manner of energy yesterday evening—I would have gone and done some sprints to loosen up, except that...

    I totally feel that. I got my second Moderna shot on Wednesday and was exploding with a strange manner of energy yesterday evening—I would have gone and done some sprints to loosen up, except that any lateral motion of my arm was so painful as to prevent me from moving. The spot around the injection site was sore, but within a few hours of the shot, all the nerves in my arm were lighting up. I couldn't help but amuse myself by imagining that I had gotten a new superpower, shooting laser beams from my fist or something, and just had to figure out how to use it. If I sat absolutely still my arm didn't hurt, just tickled, a feeling that also extended to my core (which was both agitating and really funny). I'm shocked that I was able to get any work done considering how on edge I was. I somehow fell asleep for the night, and upon waking up I was sure that the most intense part of the sensory overload was now behind me, but I'm still a bit "wired" as you say, haha. But more than anything else, I'm just glad that I'm fully vaccinated now.

    7 votes
  13. Comment on To be more tech-savvy, borrow these strategies from the Amish in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link
    This reminds me of a comment I wrote on Tildes last month. I suggested that as our technologically infused society matures, perhaps over the course of some decades, the internet and related...

    The foundation of this ‘honourable alternative’ is to not adopt every single new technology, or use cars, phones and social media as soon as they become the norm. Instead, the Amish make slow and deliberate decisions as a collective. Rather than rushing optimistically or blindly into the future, they move forward cautiously, open but sceptical.

    This reminds me of a comment I wrote on Tildes last month. I suggested that as our technologically infused society matures, perhaps over the course of some decades, the internet and related advances will be seen less as "the essential next step of the human experience" and more as simply an option of how to live. The corollary is that while tech will never disappear from our lives, we will probably self-moderated our use of it more heavily.

    As it happens, Amish communities are home to plenty of tinkerers, hackers and technophiles. Just like early adopters who read the news online when ‘the internet’ was still a strange term, they rigged up light bulbs, bought telephones and surfed the web before their peers or church leaders knew much about them. Due to the decentralised nature of Amish religious life (there’s no Amish pope), no one set a policy for addressing these novelties. Contrary to what outsiders might expect, early adopters often aren’t censored, nor necessarily discouraged.

    This is a quality of the Amish that most people don't recognize: each individual community has vastly different norms on what constitutes a legitimate and collectively beneficial use of technology from one another. I feel that this maps appropriately onto the "rest of us" insofar as everyone who has "embraced technology" obviously has their own standards, preferences, and no-gos with regard to usage and manners of information-sharing. We absolutely can learn from communities who are selective about their adoption of technology, and I think we should.

    4 votes
  14. Comment on What it takes to become the world's best whistler in ~arts

    Atvelonis
    Link
    Thank you for sharing this video. Ultra-niche gatherings like this are heartwarming to me. They seem like such a nice crowd, and I'm amazed at the variety of people's backgrounds and whistling...

    Thank you for sharing this video. Ultra-niche gatherings like this are heartwarming to me. They seem like such a nice crowd, and I'm amazed at the variety of people's backgrounds and whistling styles shown here.

    4 votes
  15. Comment on What’s so bad about digital blackface? in ~life

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    If you really want to go down the theory rabbit-hole, the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 3rd ed. is one of the most detailed collections of such materials I am aware of. The book is...

    If you really want to go down the theory rabbit-hole, the Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 3rd ed. is one of the most detailed collections of such materials I am aware of. The book is monstrously long—over 2800 pages—and still far from comprehensive. There is just so much to read! Some of the critics in the compendium are linguists, anthropologists, or sociologists; some are authors who simply talk about language (or applications of language). Almost every single one of them are also men, so take that as you will. Below are several such critics; most of the works listed are in the anthology, though a few are not.

    • Ferdinand de Saussure, "Course in General Linguistics" (1916)
    • Zora Neale Hurston, "Characteristics of Negro Expression" (1934)
    • Mikhail Bakhtin, "Discourse in the Novel" (1934–1935/1973)
    • William Wimsatt & Monroe Beardsley, "The Intentional Fallacy" (1946); "The Affective Fallacy" (1949)
    • Martin Heidegger, "Language" (1950)
    • Claude Lévi-Strauss, "Tristes Tropiques" (1955/1961)
    • Roman Jakobson, "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances" (1956); "Linguistics and Poetics" (1960)
    • Roland Barthes, "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narrative" "Elements of Semiology" (1964/1968); (1966/1975); "The Fashion System" (1967)
    • Jacques Derrida, "Of Grammatology" (1967); "Speech and Phenomena"; (1967); "Writing and Difference" (1967)
    • Tzvetan Todorov & Arnold Weinstein, "Structural Analysis of Narrative" (1969)
    • Paul de Man, "Semiology and Rhetoric" (1973); "Allegories of Reading" (1979)
    • Julia Kristeva, "Revolution in Poetic Language" (1974/1984)
    • Adūnīs, "An Introduction to Arab Poetics" (1991)

    These are mostly essays and a few books. That list may be slightly heavy on structuralists, who are at least partially outmoded in linguistics but not so in literary theory (for the same reason that Freud is still so relevant to literary analysis). Saussure, for instance, has many ideas that I understand Chomsky et al. have largely refuted. But it's not like his work doesn't contain any useful information to linguists and/or frameworks through which to analyze literature; many elements of his formulation of semiotics, for example, are critical. Martin Heidegger had some interesting thoughts on the way language shapes one's perception of the world; he was also a member of Germany's Nazi Party. And though I entirely disagree with formalists like Wimsatt and Beardsley, they had good reasons for trying to democratize literary analysis given the context they were writing in; that is, they sought to move it away the literary tradition accepted by the academy.

    The interesting thing about theory is that it's able to build on itself in very unpredictable ways over time, old and new theories constantly being revived and discredited and adapted and paraded and denounced and what have you. Hopefully you find this useful. I really would recommend buying the anthology if you want to read all of these, as it's quite convenient and you will stumble across interesting works by many other authors too.

    2 votes
  16. Comment on What’s so bad about digital blackface? in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    Yes, that's what I was going for. As far as I'm concerned, language on its own is just a process to convey a series of concepts experienced in your mind, in the same way as a visual art like...

    If I'm understanding you correctly, you're saying memes are like language in the sense that meaning is mediated through language…

    Yes, that's what I was going for. As far as I'm concerned, language on its own is just a process to convey a series of concepts experienced in your mind, in the same way as a visual art like painting; i.e. they are channels for information and not really information as such. A meme is just the multimedia synthesis of various forms of expression. I think we can assume closure under the union of those individual media, so something like a meme has the same properties as its constituent parts.

    I actually don't have a problem with mild forms of linguistic relativism: I probably wouldn't go full Saussure and say that word predates idea (see: "Course in General Linguistics," 1916), but I don't think it's unreasonable to suppose that there are certain constructs in language that can subconsciously influence the way we think. I'm not really multilingual, but I'm pretty sure I fundamentally formulate my thoughts differently in English than I do in French, which is is proof enough of this to me. Each language lacks or avoids certain constructs that are in the other, so when I'm actually thinking in a given language, I have a different set of tools to work with than in any other given language. I still have the same brain, so it's not like I'm incapable of reaching the same conclusions in some way or another, but in practice I might not, or if I do, I might get about it differently. I just think it would be a little excessive to say anything explicitly deterministic about all linguistic signs in a given language having a specific, shared meaning in their collective usage. Under the same logic, it would be odd to say that all possible memes in a given format (e.g. containing Black people) qualify as racially harmful or insensitive if shared by a White person. It's not that they can't individually contain racist messaging or implications, but I hesitate when I see universal statements like that.

    I am not a linguist and mostly just come across these concepts in works of literary theory that touch on semantics or semiotics in order to make a point about literature or culture. I have never gone beyond cursory readings of many important linguists like Noam Chomsky, and am not qualified to really talk about linguistics from a scientific or epistemological perspective, though I may attempt it sometimes.

    I think capitalization ascribes a kind of unity or oneness to blackness that is often projected onto it even when it is not always present (or usually present).

    Right, that's the concern I'm having now with committing to this stylistic choice for a sociological reason. Your reference to Táíwò is very apt, and this all reminds me of a situation I recently found myself in. Some months ago a strike was held in my real-world community in reaction to what many community members felt was a continued institutional indifference toward racial discrimination and other unsavory attitudes (conscious or otherwise). I agreed at least vaguely with most of the demands and was involved in documenting the event, but I was a little uncomfortable with some of the strike's messaging, which either explicitly or implicitly suggested that participating was necessarily "beneficial for Black community members." Some White community members were so adamant about striking ("for racial justice") that they even tried to pressure Black members who weren't on board into joining on the basis that it would help the majority even if a minority of Black people found it unhelpful. I have to squint pretty hard to consider that appropriate. Obviously a decision to capitalize a certain letter doesn't operate at that same level of assumption, but it's still a pitfall I'd like to be careful to avoid. I'm not sure there is a way to avoid it except to make it a personal decision, rather than one based in deference to the "[marginalized] group opinion," though that ignores the whole idea of "listening first." I suppose I'll just have to reflect on it more.

    2 votes
  17. Comment on What’s so bad about digital blackface? in ~life

    Atvelonis
    Link Parent
    I felt that the author's intent was pretty clear in suggesting that the term, which is already in use elsewhere on the internet, is not necessarily valid in the contexts in which it tends to be...

    I felt that the author's intent was pretty clear in suggesting that the term, which is already in use elsewhere on the internet, is not necessarily valid in the contexts in which it tends to be used. It is a little silly to suggest that they should not use the word in the title of a piece trying to deconstruct it.

    11 votes
  18. Comment on What’s so bad about digital blackface? in ~life

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link
    Thank you for sharing this very interesting article. Whittaker makes a very reasonable, nuanced analysis of a phenomenon I was familiar with at a high level but had never seen described as...

    Thank you for sharing this very interesting article. Whittaker makes a very reasonable, nuanced analysis of a phenomenon I was familiar with at a high level but had never seen described as "digital blackface." Spillers and Hartman, as always, introduce some very important concepts in our understanding of contemporary racial discourse.

    Spillers and, especially forcefully, Saidiya Hartman have argued that this fungibility did not disappear when slavery did. We live in what Hartman calls “the afterlives of slavery,” and much of what was true then is true now. A prime example often pointed to is that of images of black death and the black dead. These images – of George Floyd, of Breonna Taylor, of Tony McDade – and, worse, the videos of the their murder, the brutal beating of black children, etc., are heavily circulated through social media and news reports. This repetition, these theorists argue, is an aestheticization of the spectacular violence that defines antiblackness. There’s much to say here; the point for the present is that this circulation reduces the human character of what’s portrayed into fodder for clicks, likes, and views. These images are not employed for the sake of a radical politics or emotional affiliation, but as products in service of the pursuit of profit.

    In this vein we are working somewhat within the postmodern, at least to the extent that in the context of the internet we are led to a system of traumatic recurrence that characterizes Black trauma as an "aesthetic," a self-fulfilling cycle in our age of capitalism and very much a harmful one to the collective identity-actualization of the Black community targeted indirectly by this material. But I agree with Whittaker that this line of reasoning breaks down somewhat when the content being shared is a meme disconnected from trauma, not only because memes are inherently a "reduction or annihilation" of the "real" (assuming, for the sake of argument, the intelligibility of such a thing within the hyperreal context of the internet), i.e. it is their nature to be "fungible," but additionally because the online medium to some measure creates a magnified variant of the already non-computable problem of discerning the "trueness" of a person's stated racial identity—that is to say, the "prescriptive" notion of verifying who is Black and who is White through an "objective" lens (disregarding subjective identities) can for obvious reasons already be an unintelligible one in the real world, and becomes infinitely more unintelligible when obscured through pseudonyms and avatars: the hyperreal at play. Within the realm of theory we may analyze the semantics of meme distribution on a basis of a determinable morality if we are assume a system of defined acceptability and unbounded time and resources to distinguish Black from White (on behalf of the subject(s) of the meme and the persons involved in its sharing); but again this is merely an exercise and cannot for all intents and purposes be taken as a realistic course of action in the "real" world, where there is more content to be analyzed than we are fundamentally capable of analyzing, both in regard to memes and personal beliefs about one's identity.

    So not only is it somewhat pointless to suppose in practice that we ought to universally assign truth values to the morality of a specific person's supposed inhabitation of a Black body via the digital medium, but, to return from my logical extreme to Whittaker's actual argument, memes as we know them today are something of a construct of the internet and not the "real" world, and, unlike the explicit and determined fungibility associated with the Atlantic Slave Trade, "underdetermined, by which I mean they open themselves up to a vast multiplicity of meanings." I feel that this term can be very useful in our understanding of semantic and semiotic subjectivism. What I think is important to bear in mind here is that memes, as Whittaker implies, are less of a specific, unified construct and more of a medium or modality of discourse. Language, for example, has the capacity to introduce a specific emotionally and culturally harmful social recognition of the manner of being of a given racial group by means of stereotypical or degrading terminology, structures, and assumptions (among other things), perhaps unbeknownst to the audience and/or author—and can therefore serve as an incredibly useful framework through which to analyze case studies—but has no inherent quality prescribing racist or otherwise discriminatory meaning; that is, unless we are to subscribe to a strong form of linguistic determinism. Similarly, memes can be used effectively to make a point about societal attitudes, behaviors, and even individual subconscious mental processes related to the interplay of race with the lived experiences necessarily accompanying one's inhabitation of the human condition, but are not in and of themselves (or in context) necessarily instances of racial signification. Taylor's example of the meme of the boy moving his eyes away from the camera being used in an implicitly racial context is a remarkable instance of emergent racial semantics in the use of a meme that is otherwise not specifically racialized. Thus, per Whittaker, the meme has become "overdetermined." It would be important to note that the author of said meme in the stated context would not necessarily have to have assigned it a juxtaposition to "that white people shit" on purpose, but focusing on that detail somewhat misses the point of an overdetermination occurring at all (whether conscious or subconscious), and why that can be problematic in the context of racial stereotypes.

    This is digital blackface. The problem isn’t that nonblack people are “pretending to be us,” or that black people are being reduced to fungible. Digital blackface is actively skewing our perception of what blackness contains, and thus what possibilities are open to all of us, regardless of phenotype (if, that is, I and hooks are right). Importantly, though, this is possible because memes are underdetermined and fungible; it is because memes in general are open to this kind of manipulation and projection that a distinctly antiblack manipulation and projection can happen.

    I'll admit I've never actually gotten around to reading anything by bell hooks (I own a copy of All About Love: New Visions, but have not touched it yet), but the observation she makes earlier in Whittaker's essay is certainly interesting and inclines me toward putting her work higher on the list. The conclusion that Whittaker makes based on the analysis presented by hooks and the other authors cited in the essay is one that I wish I had the eloquence to articulate: "what would – as silly as it may sound – a generative, radical, socially connective, powerfully black memeing practice look like?" I'm not sure either: I'd also like to find out.

    Something else I found extremely interesting in Whittaker's essay:

    Editorial note: The author prefers to leave “black” uncapitalized, in order to resist the notion that ‘blackness’ is a coherent, discrete, and sovereign Identity.

    I've just recently gotten into the habit of capitalizing the term in my writing, so this is an interesting take. My impression is that there has been a growing sense of a "Black" identity in the wake (à la Christina Sharpe) of rising recognition of and opposition toward Black violence, although this may ultimately be an American phenomenon. Whittaker, like the people who have asked me in the past to make this stylistic decision, is himself Black (as far as I can tell), so I am somewhat at a loss as to what precisely should be done in this regard.

    6 votes
  19. Comment on Are r&b, funk, soul and jazz the least controversial music genres or is it me? in ~music

    Atvelonis
    (edited )
    Link Parent
    I can say with confidence that it's one of the most innovative musical genres of all time, and for that reason one of the most complex—and intense. I have a great deal of respect for the classical...

    I can say with confidence that it's one of the most innovative musical genres of all time, and for that reason one of the most complex—and intense. I have a great deal of respect for the classical tradition and its devotees (the modest amount of musical training I have largely originates from this perspective), but first-rate jazz musicians operate at a level of instantaneous creativity that I can barely comprehend. Witnessing a live jazz show with talented performers can be genuinely awe-inspiring, in an almost Biblical sense of the word (the hotter the better, in my opinion, to induce this feeling)—perhaps that remark is irreverent to God, or to jazz, but I'm not sure how else to describe my experience.

    The first such concert I recall attending was in a dark, crowded dorm basement when I was a first-year college student. There was an "A" band and a "B" band; I was there because I had friends in the latter. The second group played well, but when the A band stepped up and started their first piece, it was like they had broken through to another dimension, playing with a preposterous level of dexterity and improvising off each other's improvisations to no end. They had a soprano saxophone who often took the lead; he had an amazing range, such tight control of his solos, and most impressively managed to come up with half of what he played right on the spot (I play the alto, and I was proverbially knocked off my feet. I'd played Charlie Parker before, but this was completely beyond me). The pianist was equally talented, and I could see the way she took influence from Thelonious Monk and made it into her own thing—we had class together, and the professor would sometimes comment on her technique. Coming from a classical background, it's astonishing to see what a jazz pianist can do when they let loose. I think they also had a couple guitars, one leading and one backing, who complemented each other and the rest of the band with incredible grace. Don't even get me started on the drummer: this man was a legend the school over, and when he finally got his solo, you could see the fire burning in his eyes like an inferno! He translated that raw energy into powerful, ornate, and fascinating rhythms that made the audience shout with giddiness. Just when you thought he was done, he'd start up again and amaze you a second, third, fourth time. And how! It was unbelievable. Occasionally they'd also have a vocalist come up to breathe even more life into the performance. My poor first-year mind struggled to wrap itself around the possibility that such sounds could even exist; they were quite literally beyond the realm of the plausible. It was a bastion of pure expression, pure creativity, and pure love. The intimacy of the setting gave it an additional charm; there being 50 or 60 attendees (I have no clue exactly) meant that this was no grand arena performance, and the willingness of the musicians to play with such ferocity for such a small audience was humbling. It was a scene untouched by institutional or corporate expectations, being instead completely by and for the musicians and their art.

    I'm afraid I might've set the bar a little high by my description above, but I've simply never seen this sort of unbridled enthusiasm and skill elsewhere. I like a lot of music; hot jazz is always going to retain a special place in my heart. I can promise you that I was at least mostly sober for the duration of the performance (perhaps having had a cocktail or two, but nothing to seriously impair my critical judgment)—it was a groundbreaking experience that I'm happy you've prompted me to recall in such detail.

    4 votes
  20. Comment on Are r&b, funk, soul and jazz the least controversial music genres or is it me? in ~music

    Atvelonis
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    Link
    To expand on your comment that "a lot of people don't consider [smooth jazz] actual jazz," there's been a tremendous amount of disagreement within the jazz community on what exactly constitutes...
    • Exemplary

    To expand on your comment that "a lot of people don't consider [smooth jazz] actual jazz," there's been a tremendous amount of disagreement within the jazz community on what exactly constitutes "good jazz" or "real jazz" over the past century; it's not just whether or not you like Kenny G. Though the general populace may not have much of an opinion on the genre, its internal turmoil arguably makes it the most controversial one out there.

    It's been a while since I've gotten into the sociological component of the music, but jazz's roots as a form of self-expression for certain cultural groups (mostly Black and Creole communities) introduces an extremely complex integration of identity "realness" to what would otherwise be reproducible performances comparable to any other. Because improvisation is so important to jazz musicians, and because jazz has historically had a great deal of resonance within Black communities, a significant number of jazz artists and critics have reached the conclusion that to perform jazz as a White person is an inherently different (and generally worse) form of creative expression than to do so as a Black person. i.e. there is such a thing as "White jazz," and the way the jazz scene has evolved since the genre's inception has highlighted the elements associated with this style to the detriment of the genre's "true" roots as Black music. The famous critic Amiri Baraka in particular comes to mind as a proponent of this belief, though there are many others. Personally I am not a huge fan of the idea of "Black jazz" and "White jazz," because (as I will explain henceforth) the distinction was never really that clear to begin with, and because it also implicitly erases the contributions to the genre from people of other racial identities. Generally I prefer terms like "hot jazz" to describe the energy of the material. I do think that it's very important to recognize the sociological component of the music and all associated debates, though. I don't wish to disregard the historical fact that jazz was, until being surpassed by rock and roll, the absolute embodiment of evil to the White establishment. We can laugh at that today, because jazz is frequently (and ironically) associated with being "classy," but it was highly subversive for its time.

    The precursors to the smooth jazz of the 1980s extend back to the 1920s and earlier, when White theater owners and big band conductors actively sought to change the way jazz existed as a musical form to better suit the tastes of White audiences. From a socio-artistic perspective, this was problematic because the style specifically arose from explicitly non-transferable elements of Black identity. Jazz from the late 19th century had very little European influence relative to later iterations because it was fundamentally not created by or for White people. The sociological component of Creole jazz is too complicated for me to summarize in full, particularly because the concept of Creole culture was so intensely divided between the "more White" and the "more Black," but suffice it to say that the perceived Whiteness of certain Creole musicians (by other Creole persons) could be but was not necessarily a matter of cultural destruction in and of itself (Creole identities, by definition, tend to have a heavier synthesis of European constructs than more general Black identities; but their manner of expression has emergent qualities that offer it distinctiveness from the European tradition). There has always been a lot of diversity in the genre, it's just that the nature of that diversity has changed dramatically over the years.

    The real issue came with jazz's commercialization and the subsequent assumptions by audiences that it was fair game for White musicians. You might be surprised to learn that the "King of Jazz" of the 1920s was Paul Whiteman, who was decidedly not Black. I personally find this characterization appalling, if nothing else because I consider many of his contemporaries far more musically interesting; for many critics it was primarily the overwhelming Whiteness of his band and not the music "itself" (not that it can really be extricated), or a mix of those factors. The symphonic jazz of the 1920s was not really an academic endeavor to synthesize disparate genres to the benefit of each one ("for art!"), but to appropriate and distort Black cultural expression in a way that paid very little homage to its foundations. Certainly there were also Black musicians who contributed to orchestral jazz fusion, like Duke Ellington, who is very highly regarded, but that brings us back to the earlier question of what should be considered "real jazz." Pretty much by definition, music performed by a Black person is "Black expression," though many critics have still called Black musicians sellouts if they adopted styles popular with White audiences for the purposes of acquiring fame and wealth (rather than it being "for the culture"). It becomes very muddy very quickly. Miles Davis is probably the musician who comes most immediately to mind here for his adoption of cool jazz specifically in opposition to bebop, which I will describe later. And then you have performers like the incredibly talented Bix Beiderbecke, who was White and worked under Paul Whiteman but who as far as I recall was not criticized in quite the same way, probably on account of his skill; and the similarly excellent Benny Goodman, who was White but also Jewish, an identity for which he faced a great deal of stigmatization. I think it's hard to argue that the swing era in which Goodman resided didn't strive to meet at least some European tastes, but there was definitely a huge divide between "acceptable" swing and the really "hot" stuff (toward which I think he leaned much more closely), regardless of the racial identities of the performers.

    The most striking instance of jazz's racial divide is the bebop era in the 1940s. At that time it was very common for musicians to have spontaneous and legendary jam sessions in the coolest clubs of the coolest neighborhoods, and many Black musicians felt a growing resentment toward White players who "played jazz" but lacked the energy, creativity, or raw talent to truly innovate by themselves without copying Black musicians. This was attributed to their differences in identity; i.e. the motivation or inspiration to produce the best jazz was a bit harder to come by for White people who did not face the sort of quotidian discrimination and systemic oppression as the Black community, and who subsequently held worldviews not aligned with what was "hip." The entire premise of bebop was to create a form of jazz so fast, so technical, so difficult, so unpredictable, and so powerful that it could not be copied; it had to "come from the soul"—or it simply could not be produced with a level of quality comparable to the good stuff. Remembering again the improvisational nature of jazz, musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and others were adamant that the form was the new thing precisely because it found a way to re-center Black avenues of self-expression in a genre that had largely become populated by White influences. Musicians would hop into late-night jam sessions and find themselves in a race to keep up; after a while, inferior players would realize in the middle of a set that they had been completely eclipsed, unable to play off the unbelievably fast and technically precise melodies and rhythms of their counterparts, and would embarrassedly walk off stage, to be replaced by someone with more virtuosic ability. Only the absolute best of the best could really "bop," and those musicians tended to be Black (there were certainly exceptions, like Buddy DeFranco, but the roster had a pretty clear divide). Because the form was (naturally) always evolving, this attitude was a way for musicians to signal their membership in the "in-group" of jazz.

    I would argue that jazz maintained a significant presence in the popular consciousness even as performers like Thelonious Monk hinted at the avant-garde with their revolutionary dissonances and rhythmic aberrations. Rather, my personal impression is that the genre fell out of the mainstream as popular music and rock and roll became more culturally dominant. I don't think this was the fault of jazz itself, just that it struggled to compete with newer instruments and sounds that emerged alongside the counterculture of the 1960s (there were various attempts at fusion, but I don't think they were as popular as pure rock ever was). In my estimation, jazz began to lose some of its racial implications as it became even more personal than bop, because then it became less about collective cultural self-expression in the face of blatant discrimination and more about musical innovation for its own sake, often regardless of what the audience thinks. Some jazz groups actively insult or otherwise show disrespect to the audience for even the mildest of offenses (this is part of the draw). More generally, many classifications start to break down once you get to a certain theoretical level. This is perhaps no better exemplified than in the free jazz of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, which, if I'm going to be honest, requires a very particular mindset to genuinely appreciate. I can find myself entering that space sometimes, but it's not for everyone. Structurally, I would equate academic jazz from this point onward somewhat more closely with contemporary classical music than any sort of jazz that predates it, insofar as it is almost exclusively appreciated by a very particular audience. It doesn't surprise me that some musicians, such as Wynton Marsalis, are very critical of the avant-garde, calling it inaccessible. In most semi-recent discourse on jazz, I see less racial commentary and more "how can we make jazz hip again?" I'm admittedly a bit out of the loop with the very recent jazz scene; the last time I went to any sort of performance was perhaps in early 2020 and a concert at a larger venue in Philadelphia a year prior, and ongoing circumstances have made it challenging for me to get back into the "swing" of things (as it were). Perhaps this is a "hot" take (…as it were), but I would question whether jazz can ever really be at the progressive forefront of the musical scene again without more heavily reintegrating both implicit and explicit social (read: racial) commentary into its messages. It's not like jazz musicians have forgotten the genre's roots, but the onus of fighting (and being criticized by) the establishment seems to have shifted in large part from jazz to rap over the past few decades.

    I can no longer cite specific passages from memory, but most of my knowledge here originates from the compendium Reading Jazz (ed. Robert Gottlieb, 1999), which is something like 1000 pages long and records perspectives of musicians and critics on jazz from the genre's very inception. I haven't read the whole thing, but I would recommend it to anyone looking to become a little more familiar with the history of jazz music.

    12 votes