Monthly Archives: January 2009

Robert Christgau’s Grades

Robert Christgau explains the grades he gives albums:

An A+ record is an organically conceived masterpiece that repays prolonged listening with new excitement and insight. It is unlikely to be marred by more than one merely ordinary cut.

An A is a great record both of whose sides offer enduring pleasure and surprise. You should own it.

An A- is a very good record. If one of its sides doesn’t provide intense and consistent satisfaction, then both include several cuts that do.

A B+ is a good record, at least one of whose sides can be played with lasting interest and the other of which includes at least one enjoyable cut.

A B is an admirable effort that aficionados of the style or artist will probably find quite listenable.

A B- is a competent or mildly interesting record that will usually feature at least three worthwhile cuts.

A C+ is a not disreputable performance, most likely a failed experiment or a pleasant piece of hackwork.

A C is a record of clear professionalism or barely discernible inspiration, but not both.

A C- is a regrettably successful exploitation or a basically honest but quite incompetent stab at something more.

A D+ is an appalling piece of pimpwork or a thoroughly botched token of sincerity.

It is impossible to understand why anyone would buy a D record.

It is impossible to understand why anyone would release a D- record.

It is impossible to understand why anyone would cut an E+ record.

E records are frequently cited as proof that there is no God.

An E- record is an organically conceived masterpiece that repays repeated listening with a sense of horror in the face of the void. It is unlikely to be marred by one listenable cut.

Via Merlin Mann at 41 Folders, who argues that all critics should disclose their rating methods in order to gain back some public trust. For my part, I have a love/hate relationship with music criticism that leans increasingly to the hate side because of the horrible, meandering, showy, self-indulgent writing that most music critics are guilty of. The problem is getting worse, I think, because of the rise of blogs and the common confusion between the aim of a blog post and the aim of a music review. It suffices to say, I agree that critics could be more transparent about their methods — and in fact, they could be much more methodical in their reviewing.

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Positive Positions

Readers of Andrew Sullivan make the point I tried to make in my last post much more articulately. But then other readers of his come back to make confounding statements like this one:

You gotta live somewhere, and you gotta believe in something, because your beliefs are being expressed every day in how you live your life. Atheists should be forced to articulate their positive position (say, secular humanism) as price of admission to the conversation.

So before I can point out someone else’s factual and logical error, I have to confess to that person what gives my life meaning? That’s insane.

And then there’s this ridiculousness:

What the defenders of the Flying Spaghetti Monster thesis’ commensurability with actual theism fail to recognize is that belief in God generally doesn’t have anything so “concrete” as its substance. It’s not the particulars of God — the “invisible man in the sky” imagery and such — that matter. In some sense these particulars aren’t the content of theist belief at all; it’s the “consequences” of God — moral compunction, cultural taboo, social phenomena that amount to a de facto eschatology, etc. — that actually constitute theism. And when measured by adherence to behaviors consistent with this belief, atheism suddenly appears much rarer.
Summed in another way: the evidence for God that your last commentator finds lacking is the same kind of evidence which can’t be found to support the existence of morality.

Oh, awesome! The old “you can’t have morality without religion” argument, which denigrates morality as arbitrary while simultaneously offering no actual argument to support the factual claims of religions.

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Ross Douthat Tries to Rebut the Teapot Analogy

Ross Douthat offers a counter-argument to the Teapot Analogy and the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

The story of our civilization, in particular, is a story in which an extremely large circle of non-insane human beings have perceived themselves to be experiencing an interaction with a being who seems recognizable as the Judeo-Christian God (here I do feel comfortable using the term), rather than merely being taught about Him in Sunday School. I am unaware of anything similar holding true for orbiting pots or flying noodle beasts.

He’s missing the whole point behind the Teapot and the FSM. Of course it’s not as ridiculous to believe in God as it is to believe in the Teapot. For all the reasons that Douthat points out, our human nature and our society make an individual feel very comfortable about believing in God. The point of the Teapot is that it does seem like a very ridiculous belief to hold. As a behavior, it’s head and shoulders more ridiculous than believing in God. But as a factual claim, it has just as much merit as the Judeo-Christian God. The Teapot and the FSM pull the societal and psychological cover away from the belief in God, exposing how ridiculous any argument for it must be.

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Bush family may return to White House – Josh Gerstein –

H.W. is a sky-diver. An old, old sky-diver:

The elder Mr. Bush said he has no intent of giving up his parachuting hobby even as he reaches the midpoint of his ninth decade. Asked about his next skydive, he said, “85th birthday—June 12th. All set,” he said, with no audible protest from his wife.

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The Wangcaster

 The Wangcaster

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People Like Food

And, when you really think about it, there's a lot to like about food. It tastes good and it's good to eat. That's all I can think of for now, but those two things alone make me like food. Furthermore, I just thought of something else: Food is probably the healthiest and best thing to put in your mouth. You can ask a doctor about that.

Here’s a fact: Food has been around forever.

Thanks, the Onion. Thanks.

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Pitchfork’s Writing Continues to Be Lame

David Byrne has spent most of his career banging against the clear but impermeable window that separates him from normalcy

Pitchfork, you are terrible. OTOH, this No Age album is pretty sweet.

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