[Work: Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson, 1972]
It May Make You Feel:

Analyzing Lyrics in Jethro Tull’s Concept Album Thick as a Brick—Unserious Joke or Serious Art?

 

Introduction:

Photo of Jethro Tull by Cornet Benoit - Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson - ironic, sincere, lyrics, analysis

Photo by Cornet Benoit

I know what you’re thinking: “What is an article about a progressive rock album doing in this book blog series?” Well, as you could probably tell from how it has featured poetry and plays in the past, this is not a book blog series; it’s a literary analysis and review series. And in any situation where poetry, which most would feel very comfortable labeling as literature, is a candidate for study—songwriting is eligible as well. Now, on to the topic at hand.

Fans of musicians like Bob Dylan, The Velvet Underground, and Arlo Guthrie are no doubt familiar with songs stretching above the ten-minute mark. And fans of bands like The Who, Rush, and Pink Floyd are familiar with entire albums built around one narrative or theme. But fans of Jethro Tull’s fifth album, Thick as a Brick, are automatically familiar with both.

This strange album from 1972 contains just one album-length song, also called “Thick as a Brick,” which was cut into two parts that filled both sides of the record on which it was originally distributed. But even when ignoring the song’s gargantuan duration, Thick as a Brick is an odd album; it was produced with the intention of poking fun at the pretentiousness of the long, thematic, narrative format of music (often called concept albums), and especially of progressive rock, which it also is.

This makes the album a prime example of parody which is seemingly undercut by the album’s success, with many missing the mockery and the album masquerading as a sincere expression for most listeners for decades. Much like how there are people like Nabra Nelson that see the novel Brave New World as a utopia rather than a dystopia, an artist’s intention might be distant from how people ultimately interpret or accept their art. Thick as a Brick even hit the number one spot on the American, Canadian, and Australian charts shortly after its release. But after all, is the song really just one big joke, or are people right to be taking it so seriously?

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[Work: Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson, 1972]
It May Make You Feel:

Analyzing Lyrics in Jethro Tull’s Concept Album Thick as a Brick—Unserious Joke or Serious Art?

was last modified: March 28th, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

{Guest Post} [Film: Who Killed Captain Alex?, Nabwana I.G.G., 2010]

Film-as-Theatre and the Cult Film Phenomenon:

A Study of Amateur-Film-Turned-Viral-Video Who Killed Captain Alex?

 

Who Killed Captain Alex? movie poster - Nabwana IGG - Uganda, theatre, action movie, cult film

Introduction:

I recently watched the film Who Killed Captain Alex?, a viral success on YouTube which claims to be “Uganda’s first action-packed movie.” It is a hilarious watch for most audiences due to its extremely low budget and the resulting creative special effects, not to mention the “video joker” VJ Emmie (the voice of a Ugandan, English-language commentary track which comments over the only existing version of the movie for the entire hour).

I have seen plenty of hilariously low-budget films, but what struck me about this one is one of the pre-show slides, which says, “He [producer/writer/director/cinematographer/editor Nabwana I.G.G.] never imagined anyone outside his own village would see this film.”

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{Guest Post} [Film: Who Killed Captain Alex?, Nabwana I.G.G., 2010]

Film-as-Theatre and the Cult Film Phenomenon:

A Study of Amateur-Film-Turned-Viral-Video Who Killed Captain Alex?

was last modified: March 8th, 2018 by Nabra Nelson

[Work: King Lear, William Shakespeare, 1606]
Music be the Food of Madness:

Repetition, Rhythm, and Passion in Act II Scene iv of Shakespeare’s King Lear

 

William Shakespeare Sketch by M.R.P. - King Lear Act II Scene iv - Act 2 Scene 4 - repetition, meter, speech, analysis

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

The mental disintegration of Lear in Shakespeare’s King Lear is marked, in much of Lear’s dialogue from the play’s latter three acts, by madness interspersed with moments of lucidity. Yet, just before that madness becomes dominant, one can see a pivotal moment in the dramatic action at once figuring and presaging Lear’s breakdown by examining the final scene of the play’s second act.

More particularly, this pivot can be witnessed by paying close attention to the portion of Act II Scene iv which features Lear’s last speech prior to his passionate invocation of the storm on the heath. This speech, delivered in response to the final stripping of his attendant knights by Goneril and Regan, showcases a Lear concerned with dignity, identity, and sanity.

Rather than madness interspersed with lucidity, this speech comes across instead as lucidity tinged with madness. A motion can be traced from logic toward passion and from sanity toward madness via attention to the speech’s employment of poetic techniques.

While grief encroaches on the logical concerns and addresses of the speech’s content, the precise metrical and musical constructions of Shakespeare (much like the constructions of Robert Browning that I have previously covered in this series) reflect the motion of the content—both in the moments when Lear is in total control of his faculties, as well as when he feels his mental control slipping.

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[Work: King Lear, William Shakespeare, 1606]
Music be the Food of Madness:

Repetition, Rhythm, and Passion in Act II Scene iv of Shakespeare’s King Lear

was last modified: February 19th, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Biology, Ethics, Logic, Fallacy]
It’s 1483 and People Still Think This Way?

What’s Wrong with the Current-year-based Shaming of Ideas and Practices, and How to Salvage It

 

Introduction:

Detail of Woodcut by P. Wohlgemuth, Adapted by André Koehne - current-year argument - Anti-vaxxers and vaccines - logic and argumentation

Detail of Woodcut by P. Wohlgemuth,
adapted by André Koehne

Imagine that someone in a disagreement with someone else opines that, “It is insane that you still think that way, in this day and age.” Now imagine that an individual on a television program exclaims, “How is this still happening?! It’s [current year]!” These two sentiments might strike you in one of a few ways. Perhaps one of them seems more plausible than the other, or you feel that one or both could be appropriate in some cases, but not others. Conversely, it may strike you that neither of these is a meaningful notion.

I intend to argue in this article, however, that both statements could be logical and that both statements could be fallacious, depending on the context. These are both forms of the ‘current-year argument.’ And, indeed, my reason for writing this article is that—while I am sympathetic to those who recognize the philosophical error being committed by most who use such arguments—I notice that folks often go too far in shooting down the concept of current-year-based-shaming of ideas and practices, when there are contexts that would make such exhortations logically sound.

First, I will give a precise account, with attention to the philosophical fundamentals of logic and argumentation, as to why these current-year statements are often (perhaps the majority of the time) meaningless and fallacious. Second, I will switch gears and describe cases wherein the statements could be legitimate, appropriate, and logically consistent.

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[Topics: Biology, Ethics, Logic, Fallacy]
It’s 1483 and People Still Think This Way?

What’s Wrong with the Current-year-based Shaming of Ideas and Practices, and How to Salvage It

was last modified: February 16th, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

[Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Consciousness, Philosophical Zombies, Phenomenology, Pragmatism]
Respect the Machines:

A Pragmatist Argument for the Extension of Human Rights to P-zombies and Artificial Intelligences

 

Artificial Intelligence Sketch by Alejandro Zorrilal Cruz - consciousness, rights, A.I., philosophical zombies - David Chalmers, John Searle, Alan Turing, G.E. Moore

Sketch by Alejandro Zorrilal Cruz

Introduction:

In this article, I will argue that pragmatists and phenomenologists must grant to zombies (philosophical zombies) and A.I. (weak or strong artificial general intelligences) all of the rights, dignities, and protections that they currently grant to other human beings (and in some cases, other animals).

I would like to confront two potential misapprehensions immediately. The first is that this article will devolve into quibbling among various materialist, idealist, and dualist models of consciousness. This article is not about whether an artificial intelligence or somesuch can possess consciousness. Rather, this article proceeds from the fact that the hypothetical entities of sufficiently complex A.I. and philosophical zombies (both explained below) are definitively and pragmatically indistinguishable (in intellectual behavior, from the outside) from the other humans to whom we extend rights and respect.[1]

The second potential misapprehension is that I intend this article as a flippant argumentum ad absurdum against some versions of egalitarian ethics or physicalism; far from it, this article is a sincere expression of a state of affairs (at least concerning A.I.) that I see as practically inevitable.

Frankly, although I have not exhaustively sought whether this is the case, I would be enormously surprised to learn that this argument is original; plenty of ethical philosophers have argued for the legal personhood of future A.I., so it is no very great stretch to imagine that one or more of them have done so from this pragmatist and phenomenological perspective.

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[Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Consciousness, Philosophical Zombies, Phenomenology, Pragmatism]
Respect the Machines:

A Pragmatist Argument for the Extension of Human Rights to P-zombies and Artificial Intelligences

was last modified: June 16th, 2017 by Daniel Podgorski