Zero Squared #52: Political Self-Censorship

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Glenn Loury is a reformed neo-conservative “man of the left” with some serious reservations. He is a professor at Brown University, a one time contender for Undersecretary of Education, the author of the book The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, the host of the Glenn Show, as well as a regular contributor to the New Republic. This week we discuss his 1994 paper “Self-Censorship in Public Discourse.”

In his paper Loury points out that:

When speakers are choosing words intended to stimulate a particular response, strategic listeners cannot simply accept the literal content of an expression as its meaning-in-effect. To take the speaker literally is to behave naively, and thus to risk being deceived. Sophisticated listeners must look behind what is spoken or written, in an effort to discern all that is implied by the act of speaking or writing in a given way.
At the same time, being aware that his speech act is subject to such interpretation, and wanting to create a desired impression, a skillful speaker will structure his message mindful of the inferences which listeners are inclined to make.

Before I plunge into this episode I do want to mention the passing of the pop icon David Bowie, certainly not to inform anyone about it, nor to merely mark my own shock and horror to realize that such a mythical man can be brought down and extinguished, but also to point out that some of the best analysis on Bowie’s legacy are available at Chris O’Leary’s blog “Pushing Ahead of the Dame.” O’Leary is a Zero Books author and is, according to the cultural critic Mark Dery, the uncontested dean of Bowie studies.

In this episode you’ll hear excerpts from Steve Martin comedy routine as well as clips from the film In the Loop, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite, and a stretched version of the Vitamin String Quartet’s cover of Life on Mars?

Zero Squared #51: Drone and Apocalypse

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Joanna Demers is associate professor of musicology at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, where she specializes in post-1945 popular and art music. Her book with Zero Books Drone and Apocalypse was published on December 11th in 2015. The back of the jacket copy for the first book describes it this way:

Drone and Apocalypse is an exhibit catalog for a retrospective of twenty-first-century art. Its narrator, Cynthia Wey, is a failed artist convinced that apocalypse is imminent. She writes critical essays delineating apocalyptic tendencies in drone music and contemporary art.

In this episode you’ll hear excerpts from an interview with Brian Eno, as well as bits of music from La Monte Young, Fatboy Slim, Schoenberg, and Bach. The David Walton Blues Trio’s song “Adorno: Jazz-Perennial Fashion” and Mark Hosler (of Negativland fame) can also be heard.

Zero Squared: A New Year’s Special

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This special January 2nd, 2016 episode of Zero Squared explores why Critical Theorists deploy the word “problematic” and what they are REALLY saying when they talk about your fave.

Clips in this episode/collage include KMO from the C-Realm, John Berger, The Wireless Philosopher on the Problem of Perception, Michel Foucault Beyond Good and Evil (1993), music from the Truman Show, Laci Green, Tori the Queer, Evan Edinger, Noam Chomsky, Robin Williams, and clips the film A Day in the Afterlive of Philip K Dick.

Here’s an excerpt from the collage:

What’s problematic in today’s Critical Theory? That is, what is it that motivates the critical theorist to call something “problematic?”
According to the Philosophy dictionary online (that’s www.philosophy-dictionary dot org) something is a “problematic judgement” when it involves “the consciousness of the mere possibility” or, when it does not contain the consciousness of actuality or necessity.

To clarify, something is a problematic judgement, when it is subjective. In Hegel’s Science of Logic he labels the problematic as “assertoric.” This just means that it is an assertion given by a particular subject. Hegel’s logic is quite complicated, but the claim here is that when one asserts something, like “twerking is bad” one is asserting more than a particular fact about one’s own subjective experience. One is also making a claim about a universal notion.
To make this clearer still, something is problematic or problematized when it can seen to be self-generated and thereby self-interested rather than objective or necessary.
Again, the problem in the term “problematic” is the subjectivity of experience. A claim is problematic when its relationship to a universal notion or an objective fact has not been determined.
We might wonder then why it is that so many people use the term “problematic” a bit differently.

Zero Squared #50: Enjoyment (It’s a Trap!)

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Alfie Bown is editor of Everyday Analysis, a blog and book series with Zer0 Books. He’s an assistant professor in Hong Kong and he writes on critical theory and comedy. His first stand-alone book with Zero Books Enjoying It: Candy Crush and Capitalism was published on December 11th this year, and the back of the jacket copy for the first book describes it this way.

Using a range of ‘case studies’ from Critical Theory to Candy Crush, ‘Gangnam Style’ to Game of Thrones and Football Manager to Hieronymus Bosch, this book argues that we need to rethink our enjoyment.

Simultaneous with this appearance on Zero Squared, Alfie Bown is also a guest on the always enlightening C-Realm podcast where he holds up well under KMO’s scrutiny.

In this episode you’ll hear excerpts from a conversation with Harold Bloom, a reading of Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming.” You’ll hear clips of the music of Super Mario Brothers, an 8bit version of Philip Glass’s Koyaanisqatsi, and Schoenberg. You’ll also find a bit of a lecture on Adorno’s “Culture Industry” from the youtube star Kevin McNeilly, Cyriak’s meow mix, and What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? from the Ukulele Teacher.