Thursday, December 08, 2016

      CBU Students Set To Hack the Future on December 10th

      For the past two months, students at Christian Brothers University have been working in small groups on the Technology and Human Values Project, which requires them to "devise a merely-possible technological solution to a real-world social, political, or moral problem." Yesterday, five different classes chose the top two projects in their section to represent them this Saturday, when each group will present their projects for the public in the #CBUTechValues competition finals.

      For the first half of the semester, students spent a great deal of time and effort reading, learning, analyzing, reflecting upon, and discussing moral theories. That was just the groundwork, the preparation necessary for seriously and critically thinking about the primary subject of our course, “contemporary moral issues.” In the second half of this semester, we focused our attention on our lives qua moral agents who are shaped, influenced, and oftentimes determined or restricted by our interactions with various technologies, as well as the merits and demerits of our (social and political) interactions with each other via various technologies. The Technology and Human Values final project is students' opportunity to put all of that knowledge and reflection to good use.

      The philosophical and theoretical work students have done this term, the discoveries they’ve made about the way they value and evaluate their world, its problems, its virtues and vices, is not merely "navel-gazing" work. Philosophy equips us with the skills for honestly and critically evaluating our world, permits us to conceive of a different and better world, and provides us with the tools for figuring out how to make it so. Technology, in different but equally important ways, does the same. As I tell my students when I assign the project:

      Not every idea needs a tool, but every tool needs an idea.

      The Technology and Human Values Project is students' opportunity to think, critique, imagine, evaluate, collaborate, and innovate in all the ways that their generation is uniquely capable of doing and which they are (unfortunately) so infrequently given the chance to do. They have the ideas and the skills to make the world better than it is. Now, they have invented the techne, the tools, to make that "better world" possible.

      I encourage you to join us this Saturday, December 10, from 12-2pm in Spain Auditorium (Buckman Hall) on the campus of Christian Brothers University for the #CBUTechValues competition finals. (Let us know you're coming on the Facebook event page here.) This event is free and open to the public. Winners will be determined by audience vote.

      The finalists' technologies will be addressing a number of contemporary moral, political, and social problems, including (but not limited to): illiteracy, campus safety, depression and anxiety, homelessness, educational inequalities, childhood and adolescent obesity, social "disconnection," and the many and varied challenges arising from language barriers. Come see CBU students hack the future this Saturday!

      Tuesday, November 08, 2016

      The Root of Fear is Madness: On Black Mirror's "Playtest"

      [NOTE: This is the second in a series of reviews of Black Mirror Season 3. These posts DO include spoilers. Stop reading now if you don't want to know!]

      The second episode of Season 3 ("Playtest") is what I imagine many people who have heard about Black Mirror but never actually watched the series would expect the show to be like. "Playtest" is a straightforward horror film and, for that reason, I wanted to turn it off about halfway through.  I hate, hate, HATE horror films. I do not find the experience of being afraid exciting or thrilling or enjoyable in any way whatsoever. In fact, I don't think that anyone enjoys being really afraid. (So, if you say you enjoy haunted houses or roller coasters or bungee jumping, that is evidence enough for me that those things do not truly frighten you.) Real fear paralyzes, incapacitates, terrorizes. It cannot be reasoned with. It is immune to grit or determination or willpower. And it is intensely, radically idiosyncratic.

      "Playtest" is, in part, about that idiosyncratic element of what frightens us, something we might call the fundamental own-ness of our fears. The story revolves around a new virtual reality game being beta tested by the eponymously-named company Saito Geimu (a Japanese transliteration for "sight game"). The game immerses you in a too-real experience that is designed to frighten, during which it "learns" the nooks and crannies of your subconscious mind, and then employs the deepest, darkest things it finds there to (literally) dial you up. For the playtester Cooper (Wyatt Russell)-- who isn't really a "gamer," just a dude looking for a side-hustle and some easy cash-- the virtual experience starts out with giant spiders, things-that-go-bump-in-the-night, and apparitions uncannily resembling his childhood bully, but it ends with a terrifying descent down the Escher-esque stairs of madness.

      Saturday, November 05, 2016

      #ImWithSusan: Finding Friends in the Black Mirror "Nosedive"

      [NOTE: This is the first in a series of reviews of Black Mirror Season 3. These posts DO include spoilers. Stop reading now if you don't want to know!]

      All of the episodes of Charlie Booker's brilliant sci-fi series Black Mirror take place in a near-distant future, but in the first installment of the newly-released third season ("Nosedive") that future is far more "near" than it is "distant." And it is the uncanny nearness of the "Nosedive" world that makes it both almost-unbearably uncomfortable to watch and deeply, at times painfully, disturbing. And/yet/but, if watched with one's head tilted askance at exactly the right angle, I think, "Nosedive" is perhaps the most potentially hopeful Black Mirror episode so far.

      Booker's imagined world in "Nosedive" is somewhat unusual by Black Mirror standards for its lack of "futuristic" technologies. In the "Nosedive"world, realtors can holographically "insert" you into a home you're considering buying to help persuade you the home is a good fit. People have eye-implants that allow them to see important information about others' digital selves projected onto their meatspace selves. The automobiles in"Nosedive" are eco-friendly, battery-powered iCars that you plug in with a USB cable. But, all in all, that's about it as far as the imagined "futuristic" technology goes.

      Saturday, October 29, 2016

      Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and the APA's "Code of Conduct"

      by Edward Kazarian and Leigh M. Johnson
      A little over two years ago, more than 600 philosophers petitioned the American Philosophical Association to “produce a code of conduct and a statement of professional ethics for the academic discipline of Philosophy.” The immediate motivation for the petition was several high-profile cases of sexual misconduct by philosophers, which together amplified what many viewed—rightly, in our estimation—as a widespread and endemic culture of hostility, predation, exploitation, and intimidation within the profession.  Shortly thereafter, in March 2014, we co-authored a piece entitled “Please Do NOT Revise Your Tone,” articulating our concerns about the problematic effects of tone-policing, generally, and about the drafting and institution of a “Code of Conduct” by the APA, specifically.  In that piece, we argued that there was good reason to worry that such a Code would:

      1) impose a disproportionate burden of changing their behavior to "fit in" on those who are members of out- (that is, underrepresented or minority) groups within the profession; 2) likely be applied disproportionately against those expressing dissenting views or criticizing colleagues for lapses in judgment or perception; and 3) tend to reinforce or provide opportunities to reiterate the structures of privilege and exclusion already operating within the profession. 

      The Executive Board of the APA subsequently decided in favor of producing the document and, earlier this week, published the final version of the discipline’s official “Code of Conduct” here.

      Reading that document over, our original worries remain unassuaged and unabated. We are especially concerned now that this quasi-official document—which elaborates a set of norms, but does not include any mechanisms for enforcement, adjudication, or sanction—will inevitably be used at the local (department-, college-, or university) level in unofficial, ad-hoc ways to undermine or sabotage already vulnerable members of the profession. Worse, we worry that this document will provide pretext for attempts to pressure APA members by complaining to their employers that they have in some instance or another behaved ‘unprofessionally.’ We recognize that any law or regulative code as such allows for the possibility of perverse application, but we maintain that the current iteration of this Code of Conduct is particularly susceptible to manipulation for a number of reasons.

      Saturday, October 08, 2016

      Sick Of This Sh*t: On Professional Philosophy's Boiling Frogs

      There's an old anecdote about boiling frogs that is often employed by philosophers to explain the sorites paradox. If you drop a frog into a pot of boiling water, the story goes, it will immediately sense the heat and the danger, jump out of the pot, and be spared its life.  But if you put a frog into a pot of cold water and only incrementally increase the heat, the frog will not realize it is boiling until it's already too late.

      I was reminded of the boiling frog syndrome last night as I watched the 24-hour news cycle shills practically induce their own brain aneurysms attempting to feign shock at Donald Trump's most recently revealed buffoonery. Of course, there is nothing in the least bit surprising about "new" news of Trump's crass misogyny, pathological narcissism, or boundless sense of entitlement. But here they were on my television-- CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the whole lot-- collectively gasping, double-taking, and fanning-themselves like Southern debutantes, exclaiming who could ever believe such a thing?! as if Trump had just donned a post-Labor-Day seersucker suit.  And here we are with them, we American frogs, looking around at our cushy, comfy democratic melting pot and saying, yeah, how DID it got so hot in here all of the sudden?

      It didn't get so hot in here all of the sudden.  We've been blissfully basking in increasingly warmer water for a long, long time.

      Mirroring the very worst of American politics, my discipline of professional philosophy also experienced a cranking up of the climate-heat this past week, If you have international friends, you are doubtlessly already aware how hard it is to explain the complete sh*t show that the 2016 Presidential election season has become here in the United States. Now, imagine if the phenomenon you were trying to describe included not distant and powerful plutocrats like Trump and Clinton, but your actual friends and colleagues.  And imagine if, instead of being a metaphorical sh*t show, it involved actual feces.

      Yes, you read that right.  Actual feces.

      Wednesday, July 13, 2016

      Open Call for Conversation: #ThinkMore Podcast With Dr. J

      After many, many months of research, tech upgrades, trial-and-error experiments, and almost crippling self-doubt, I am finally ready to announce that I will be launching my new podcast #ThinkMore in the coming weeks.

      I first want to give a shout-out to Myisha Cherry and her very excellent The Unmute Podcast for inspiring me to get my ish together and finally set things up to podcast on my own. If you haven't tuned in to The Unmute Podcast yet, stop reading and do so now.  There are a few good philosophy podcasts on the web-- check out Philosophy Now, History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps, Philosophy Bites, The Big Ideas, and (my favorite) The Partially Examined Life--but none of them have the panache of Myisha Cherry's podcast, which not only focuses its attention on underrepresented philosophers, but also has the superadded virtue of relaying conversations that are real and really interesting to listen to (mostly thanks to the hostess!).

      I've got several recordings in the can--yes, I know that's film lingo but I don't yet know the audio analogue-- for my new podcast but I don't want to make it live until I get a few more. So, what follows is an OPEN CALL for interviewees.


      Dr. J (@LeighMJohnson) is the hostess of the new #ThinkMore podcast. She is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Christian Brothers University and has been the sole author of the ReadMoreWriteMoreThinkMoreBeMore blog since 2006. Her teaching and research interests focus on social and political philosophy, critical race theory, feminism and gender studies, humanism and human rights, democracy,  technology, and film.  
      Dr. J is an OMG really interesting person with whom to have a conversation!  No punches are pulled, no straw men are not set ablaze, no nuances are left unpacked, no presumptions are not rigorously investigated, and no bullsh*t is not called out. Are you up for a conversation like that?  
      Fair warning: all #ThinkMore conversations will be recorded, edited, then posted on the Internet. And the Internet never forgets.
      If you've got something interesting to say about philosophy, politics, music, or pop culture and you want to be heard on #ThinkMore, send your pitch (300 words or less) to and put "#ThinkMore pitch" in the subject line. I promise to get back to you within 48 hours. I will be incredibly flexible with scheduling interview times, but interviewees should know in advance that they will need reliable Internet access, a decent microphone (see here), a generous dispositional attitude, and probably a thick skin.
      So that's the official call.  I hope regular readers of this blog will share it widely (and also please follow #ThinkMore on Twitter!). Come hell or high water, I'm launching this podcast no later than next week,so go ahead and buckle up.

      Friday, July 01, 2016

      Well Actually, This Is How Erasure and Appropriation Happens

      Women's voices, ideas, engagements, and critiques are constantly being erased and/or appropriated-- in academia, on the internet, at workplaces of every ilk-- sometimes through slick and malicious moves, but much more often as a consequence of careless inattention.

      Also, water is wet.

      I was just recently "disappeared" in an essay by my friend Joshua Miller ("Friendly Fire and Fiery Friendship"; also reproduced on Daily Nous here).  Because this is not the first time I've experienced such, and because I want to think that something might be done about the "careless inattention" that so frequently causes it, I will, in the following, walk you through the anatomy of this case.  But first, three important caveats:

      Thursday, June 23, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 23: Your Favorite Song This Time Last Year

      It's funny how quickly pop songs start to sound "old." In order to figure out what I was listening to this time last summer, I'll admit that I had to consult iTunes and a couple of music blogs to see what the top tracks were for June 2015.  In almost every case, my first thought was whaaaa? that seems like AGES ago!, but nah, in every case I was wrong, because it was just one measly trip around the sun ago.

      My pick for today is a song that I was 100% obsessed with around this time last year.  In retrospect, I don't think I'd put it in my top 50 Songs of All Time, but it could possibly squeeze its way into the top 200. Ask me again next year and I'll likely have changed my mind.

      Before you get all judg-y about my selection, keep in my mind that I was not alone in my Rihanna-love last year.  This track was hotttttttt.

      Here's my pick for Day 23, Rihanna's "B*tch Better Have My Money":

      Pay me what you owe me.  Don't act like you forgot.

      Wednesday, June 22, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 22: A Song You Wish You Had Written

      Ok, at this point-- I'm writing this on June 37-- I'm already six days behind on the 30 Day Song Challenge.  I was just about to give up and call it quits, but then I remembered that I've been doing this for a long time and, even if this year's iteration ends up being the last hurrah, I ought to see it through.  So, I've got a little less than 3 days to catch up and finish.

      Hide and watch me do it.

      My pick for today is Willie Nelson's "Always on My Mind," first released on his 1982 album of the same title.  It goes without saying, I hope, that Nelson is among the greatest of American singer-songwriters, but God also gifted that man with a very unique kind of warbly voice that somehow manages to caress and expose every bit of human vulnerability in its most rarefied form.  This little ballad of love and regret is one of his best.  Here it is:

      Little things I should have said and done.  I just never took the time.

      I could throw all of Willie Nelson's song lyrics into a bag, randomly pick out one line, and almost certainly find in my hand a First Principle for Living and Loving.  He's that good.  But "Always On My Mind" is my pick today because I wish I had the courage to be as honest, as vulnerable, as self-critical and as gracious as Willie is in this song.

      This, to my mind, is the song that says all the things that everyone, at some point in their lives, need to hear... but which hardly anyone takes the time to say to those who need to hear it.

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 22: A Song You Want Played at Your Wedding

      I won't ever get married-- partly because I object to the state institution of marriage, but also because I'm old and ornery and too attached to my own independence now-- so today's prompt is a bit of a strange one to answer. For the record, I love weddings, I love couples who pledge their lives and fidelity to one another, I love cake and flowers and Vitamixes and the chicken dance...I love love.

      I just don't love the fundamentally exclusive, overdetermined and state-sanctioned cultural institution of marriage-- which bestows civic and economic rewards, for thoroughly undemocratic reasons entirely unrelated to merit, right or desert, which does so at the expense and to the detriment of more than half our democratic citizenry, which has no governing interest other than the managerial consolidation of private property and the compulsory regularization/normalization of sexual behaviors, familial structures and gender expressions-- and which has now been marginally modified by the highest court in the land to be a slightly-less-exclusive exclusionary institution.


      Anyway, in a compossible world where marriage wasn't the horribly unjust institution that it is in this world, if I were forced to choose a song I would like played at my wedding, it would be this one, sung by Otis Redding, "The Glory of Love":

      Give a little. Take a little. Let your little heart cry a little. That's the story of, that's the glory of love.

      Y'all know what I'm talking about.

      Tuesday, June 21, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 21: A Song That Is Best Heard Live

      Most of the kinds of music I like-- blues, gospel, country, rock n' roll-- are better heard live.  I don't know if this is true of all genres of music.  I've heard my jazz-loving and classical-loving friends speak of some of their favorite albums as if the recording were absolutely perfect, as if no "live" reproduction could ever do justice to the infinitely and perfectly repeatable production.

      I love to hear live music and I try to get out and do so at every opportunity.  That's easy to do in a city like Memphis, where there is live music every night of the week, much of it "free." (I put "free" in scare-quotes because NO ONE should EVER think that musicians in this town work for free. If they're getting paid at all by the clubs, it's a pittance, so do not ignore the call of their tip buckets!)  There's something about the energy of listening to loud, live music in a small space with other people that feeds my soul.

      Monday, June 20, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 20: A Song You Listen To When You're Angry

      NOTE: I've gotten behind in my posts for the 30 Day Song Challenge, so the next few days are going to be short and sweet, so I can get caught back up.

      If I choose to listen to music when I'm angry, more often than not I'm looking for some kind of cathartic release, rather than searching for a way to amp myself up further. Anger is something that ought to be discharged as soon and as nonviolently as possible.

      My pick for today is a fairly peppy song, so it might seem like a counterintuitive selection, but the lyrics are where it's at, really.  You held me down, but I got up. Get ready 'cause I've had enough. I see it all, I see it now.
      'Cause I am the champion and you're gonna hear me roar.

      Here it is,Katy Perry's "Roar":

      Sunday, June 19, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 19: A Song That Bar Bands Should Stop Playing

      For the most part, bar band songs become "bar band songs" in the first place because they're the sort that people can hear over and over again without tiring of them. So I don't really have a beef with most bar band songs.  I wish that Beale Street bands didn't play "Sweet Home Alabama" so frequently, for what I hope are obvious reasons, and there are a few Elvis songs I could stand to hear less often, but other than those I really don't mind hearing the same stuff over and over.

      Since I must choose one, though, I'm going with Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," which is not one of my favorite songs to begin with, which is played too often and which has that unfortunate la-la-tee-dah-ing at the end that I find super-annoying.  Here it is:

      For the record, I really like Van Morrison quite a bit.  "Brown Eyed Girl" is just a little too chipper-cheesy for my tastes, and it's gotten more insufferable over the years. I'd be fine if bar bands just stopped playing it altogether, but since that is unlikely, I suppose it serves as a good excuse to go to the bathroom during a show.

      Click here to return to the "anchor page" for #30DaySongChallenge2016 with the full list of this year's picks

      Saturday, June 18, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 18: A Song That Every Bar Band Should Know

      I'd give roughly 10 to 1 odds that you don't know who that guy is in the picture to the left.

      That's Rupert Holmes (born David Goldstein), British composer, singer-songwriter, musician, playwright, and novelist. He won two Tony Awards for his musical Drood and has released no fewer than 16 albums over the course of his lifetime (the most recent in 2005).

      For our purposes today, however, Rupert Holmes is notable for penning the super-cheesy but deliciously addictive song that I think every bar band should know. When you're picking among "bar-band cover songs," the very best are always going to be super-cheesy and deliciously addictive in my book, and Holmes' is one of the best.

      And, if you like making love at midnight in the dunes of the cape, you're going to loooooove this.

      Friday, June 17, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 17: A Song You Hear Often On The Radio

      A little more than a year ago, Memphis got a second classic hip-hop radio station when Cumulus switched the format of WKIM from talk radio to "100% Throwback." For the first week or so that WKIM ("The Vibe") was on air, I listened to it nonstop and, since then, it remains one of the pre-set stations programmed into my car radio.  I listen to NPR every morning and evening at home for the news, but I rarely ever listen to the radio anywhere else other than my car, so to pick a song that I "hear often on the radio" means (for me, anyway) that I'm basically picking from the regular WKIM rotation.

      Lucky for me, there's a wealth of awesomeness to choose from there.

      I'm at the age now where I can be non-ironically nostalgic about "throwback" stuff.  And since the birth of what we now call "classic" hip-hop pretty much coincides with my own entry into the world, stations like WKIM are right up my alley.

      Thursday, June 16, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 16: A Song You Used To Love But Now Hate

      The vault of go-to stories that, in one way or another, capture something of what we understand to be the American experience is both deep and diverse.  There are the Horatio Alger-esque "bootstraps" stories. There are "The New Colossus" stories of immigrants, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. There are the "underdog" stories of athletes and artists, scrappy young Davids who come from behind and, against all odds, with hustle and heart alone, defeat Goliaths. There are a thousand different stories of justice won, justice delayed, and justice denied, each as representative of these United States as the other.

      And then there are the one-hit wonders.  A truly American story.

      We joke about one-hit wonders, but I imagine it must be an incredibly deflating, demoralizing, and disheartening experience for those poor artists who manage to feel the contours of their dream realized, only to have it slip every so quickly from their grasp.  Pop music and pop music audiences are fickle creatures.  They love you one day, hate you the next, and there is often neither rhyme nor reason to be found in their affections.

      Wednesday, June 15, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 15: The Theme Song To Your Life

      It seems like bad juju to pick the theme song to your life before you've finished living it, but oh well.

      [*throws salt over shoulder*]

      I miss the days when television gave us real theme songs, by which I mean songs with words, not the sonic mood-setters typical of so many popular programs now. (Listen: Breaking Bad, Game of ThronesMad Men)  Maybe everyone thinks this, but I think a very good case can me made for my childhood years being the Golden Age for great TV theme songs. Whatever happened to them, anyway? Remember The Greatest American Hero? The JeffersonsThe Facts of LifeCheersDiff'rent StrokesGimme A BreakThe Brady Bunch?  Theme songs have been around since the beginning of television, of course, but they were really perfected in 70's and 80's television. Then, it seems like people just gave up on them sometime in the late 90's.  Weird.

      Tuesday, June 14, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 14: A Song No One Would Expect You To Love

      As I've grown older, I've become far less confident in my ability to correctly predict what other people think. That seems counterintuitive to me, since one would expect that more years of experience-- more interpersonal "data points"-- would make it easier to recognize patterns and improve one's predictive capabilities.  Not so in my experience.  Rather, people just seem more unpredictable, more idiosyncratic, more mysterious.

      Today's is a difficult prompt, because it requires me to step outside of myself and try to think about what others think about what I think about music. Others know that I think a lot about music, so what I really have to consider is what others think about my tastes, my prejudices and biases, even my own image of myself as a music-lover. Meta-meta post here, for sure.

      Of course, no one who has read my music posts over the years would expect me to love a Celtic song, or death-metal song, or an experimental jazz song, all of which fall within genres of music that I don't like and don't listen to.  I won't be upsetting those expectations today.  And even though there are specific artists/bands within my preferred genres about whom I have made my dislike clear-- Taylor Swift, The Doors, etc-- it would be a stretch to say that no one would expect me to love at least one of their songs.

      Monday, June 13, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 13: A Song That Is A Guilty Pleasure

      Oh man, seriously, I love ABBA soooooo much. I once said that if I were ever to get a tattoo, I would have "Super Trouper" tattooed on my shoulder. For the record, no tats here. My skin remains as clean as the driven snow. I kind of wish I did feel guilty about my ridiculously unrestrained ABBA fandom, but I don't. ABBA was not only one of the most iconic bands of the disco era, but also one of the best.

      [Insert very awkward break here.]

      I began writing this post a couple of days ago and, when I came back to finish it, the world had changed.

      Wikipedia describes "disco" as a musical genre that "had its roots in clubs that catered to African-American, gay, psychedelic and other communities" in NYC and Philly in the late 60's and early 70's. I think a lot of people make fun of disco, or count disco as a "guilty" pleasure, in part because of its association with queer people and queer places.  But disco remains, and persists, as one of the most joyous, most exuberant, most life- and love-affirming musical genres ever.  I'm reminded of this on what is a tragically sad day today.  Early yesterday morning, more than a hundred people were wounded or killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the worst mass shooting in United States history. No doubt they were dancing together, living together,loving together, laughing together, and listening to disco together at some point that night, before their joy was transformed into a nightmare for all of us.  The pulse of LGBTQ nightlife has always been 120 beats per minute.

      Sunday, June 12, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 12: A Song From A Band You Hate

      I don't actually "hate" a lot of bands, mostly because I don't really listen to bands that I don't like long enough to log the emotional time it takes to generate real hatred. For today's 30 Day Song Challenge selection, I was going to pick a song by Creed... but then I figured everyone with any kind of musical taste at all hates Creed, so what's the point? So instead I'm picking a band that I've actually put some effort into disliking: The Doors.

      Why it is exactly that I dislike The Doors so much, and Jim Morrison in particular, is kind of a mystery even to me. In general, I'm a fan of a lot of music that is very much like theirs. I like classic rock-n-roll and, when I'm listening with my most unbiased and sympathetic ears, I can hear in The Doors' sound a lot of what I like in some of my favorite bands. There's a little bit of The Who sound, a little bit of The Velvet Underground, a little bit of Cream, and I like all of those bands. So what is it that just turns me off to The Doors?

      Saturday, June 11, 2016

      30 Day Song Challenge, Day 11: A Song From Your Favorite Band

      My favorite band, The Rolling Stones, has probably appeared more often than any other band or artist in my 30 Day Song Challenge picks over the last several years. Their music sits right in the center of my sweet spot.  It's great "pop,"of course,  but it's messy, sloppy, lazy even. All rock n' roll is formulaic, but the Stones execute that formula like they're always a little high or a little hungover (which they were). There's something about their sound that is always a tad under-practiced and un-polished, with a close-is-good-enough attitude that falls just behind the beat. And I can hear distinctly in the Stones' music all of the ingredients that combined to make the mish-mash genre that we call rock n' roll today: country, blues, jazz, gospel, folk.

      Nothing in the world grooves like Keith Richards' guitar lick on "Beast of Burden." That song is not my pick today, but it is the epitome of the Stones' sound and the Stones' feelJagger asks: Am I hard enough? Am I rough enough? Am I rich enough? In love enough? Of course, the answer is "yes, yes, yes, yes" for the Stones, just as it is for most rock n' rollers. The difference, I think, is that everything about the Stones' music suggests that they need to ask. What I love about the Stones, unlike The Beatles, is that they always sound like the wrong side of the tracks: the speakeasy, the dive bar, the juke joint, the jailhouse. They still, and always, got to scrape that sh*t right off their shoes. That's what rock n' roll is, in my book. If it ain't got something messy to scrape off, then... well, it's just too pretty.