Monday, November 19, 2007


Micha vaguely tried to capture my position on religion, but to no avail, for I have kept that position so vague as to be unstateable. And if you can't state it, you can't criticize it, which is why I spell my name "Scottdrkt."

Ha, kidding. No, to the contrary, my position on religion is actually quite explicable, and I will explick it shortly. Said position is carefully designed to irritate as many people as humanly possible, and nearly everyone finds something in it to complain about. You will too!

First, there is no God. I have no knockdown argument for that bold assertion, rather simply a lack of personal evidence. I don't feel God in my life--some people do, but I don't, and I trust my own observations more than other peoples'. It's possible some day such evidence will present itself, but nothing I've seen to this point suggests such an event is on the horizon.

Now, that should offend a large number of you. Time to go after the remainder.

Second, it's not clear there is no God. Hell, it's not even clearly probable. All of the simple arguments against God are weak. The whole "there is no evidence for God claim" doesn't work, because there is arguendo lots of evidence for God--personal revelation, intuition. The real argument is over what counts as evidence, and no rule to define evidence, such as "only empirical third-party observeable data counts as evidence" suffices. That would rule out much of what we non-solipsists take to be true, such as axiomatic statements and various aspects of consciousness, without even getting into Hume's induction problem.

Now that's enough for me to doubt any kind of clear divide between what is science and what isn't, or what we have justification to believe and what we don't. I think that divide is there, but it's not enough to simply say, science relies on logical positivism and theology doesn't, ergo, trust in science. Or something of the like. And this whole queasiness, and knowing the majority of the world disagrees with my position on the existence of God, is enough to make me humble holding it.

I think the best I can do is point out that many religions differ quite a bit, but that's only reason to distrust any particular incarnation of God, not the general core religions share.

Now, if I've done my job, that last few paragraph pushed the amount of people annoyed with my position up to 99%. This next part has nothing to do with religion, but I include it just to alienate that last one percent: morality exists objectively, and we can detect it intuitively.

Also, Dane Cook isn't funny.

Things I Should Get Paid For

A staggering amount of people want to know what I've been listening to. Despite some embarassing entries--e.g. the soundtrack to Dan in Real Life (God, I loved that movie. Marry moi, Juliette!), the symphonic suite from the SNES game Actraiser--the majority of my listening over the past few months consists of the kind of fine art one would expect of someone who pretends elite sophistication, as I do.

Those in the know know that I've developed a precise science to listening to music, governed by certain principles of natural law I intuited. First off, you've got to listen to a particular album 20 times. No exceptions: 20 times. 20 is the perfect number to absorb a new piece of music. This derives from Brahms and Wagner's longstanding debate:

Dearest Richard,

20 times is the perfect number, for 20 is 2 multipled by ten, which makes it even. Evenness of course brings to mind the precise symmetry of the classical age.

Mozartistically Yours,

Dearerest Johannes,

21 times is the perfect number, because it's one more than 20, representing the progress we've made since the classical era, which we're no longer in (you haven't noticed this).

As ever,
Richard "Rhymes with Bard" Wagner

P.S. Fuck your 20, fuck the Jews, and fuck you.

It loses nothing in the translation!

So 20 is the number, with these exceptions. Obviously if you've already heard the performance, there's no reason to listen to it 20 times again. If you've heard the piece, but not this particular performance, then you're already familiar enough that only half the listening (half is 50% of 100%) is required, just enough to glean the nuances of the new performance, that being, ten times.

And now, what I listened to these past months. Well the big project was John O'Conor's box set of the Beethoven piano sonatas, which I'd gotten for Christmas years ago but had yet to really delve into. These took 3 months, give or take, to get all the way through, and provided the soundtrack for my Bar studying (I passed it: Mozart effect my ass).

The cycle is a triumph of the classical music genre, from the famous Waldstein to the untitled gems no one knows about, like No.3 in C, or No.6 in F, or everything but the first movement of No.13 (in E-flat). There is a subpar set of sonatinas that some publisher smuggled in as actual sonatas under the Op.49, but even those are charming. As we near the end of the catalog, the works get grander and more robust, like the Ops.109 and 111, and the gargantuan Hammerklavier.

After that, I turned my attention to the Gardiner cycle of the Symphonies. Gardiner is famous for his historically-inspired performances, and he doesn't disappoint, keeping the tempi snappy and constant, without the romantic excess of Furtwangler, et al.

This was really my first time listening to Nos.2 and 4, the lesser known symphonies, which rock, and gave me a chance to revisit Eroica and No.9, which are certainly the most complex and need relistening. The first movement of the Fifth is so thoroughly ingrained in me now it takes constant exertion not to skip the track, but the 4th movement it still fresh and makes up for it. No.8's my current favorite, though this will change as I bore of it (I'm a man, you see).

I spent a couple weeks on a CD of Copland I had, Appalachian Spring and Billy the Kid, plus a couple of Hispanic-inspired pieces. Copland's underrated.

Then it was the Tchaikovsky Symphony Cycle, Haitink conducting. Tchaikovsky is my unrivalled boy. Listening to him led me to vent to my friend Louis about how great he was, with Louis agreeing at times. With Tchaikovsky, you have complete assurances of at least one singable tune in every movement. But a tune ain't everything, contra Webber, so Tchaikovsky fleshes it with skilled orchestration and a logical dramatic narrative. Sonata form is high tragedy in Tchaikovsky's hands: the secondary subject of the classics was meant to add contrast to the principle theme. For Tchaikovsky, it's more--a character or a catharsis. Developments aren't just play--they're rising action, climax, and defeat.

Sometimes he gets lost in what he's trying to say, like in Manfred, but the ride is always enjoyable. Four's the best, Five and Six tie for second, 1-3 are all a step below the latter three, but each pleasant and all capped with a vivid finale. Manfred's an acquired taste. The tone poems are fine ("The Storm"), fun ("Capriccio Italien," "1812 Overture") or both ("Francesca.")

Just finished off a Klemperer recording of Bach's B minor Mass, which is a piece I find myself loving more and more, and am now listening to some harp music written by, among others, my former composition professor.

Works Cited

[Pythagoras] founded a religion, of which the main tenets were the transmigration of souls and the sinfulness of eating beans. His religion was embodied in a religious order, which, here and there, acquired control of the State and established a rule of the saints. But the unregenerate hankered after beans, and sooner or later rebelled.

Some of the rules of the Pythagorean order were:

1. To abstain from beans.
2. Not to pick up what has fallen.
3. Not to touch a white cock.
4. Not to break bread.
5. Not to step over a crossbar.
6. Not to stir the fire with iron.
7. Not to eat from a whole loaf.
8. Not to pluck a garland.
9. Not to sit on a quart measure.
10. Not to eat the heart.
11. Not to walk on highways.
12. Not to let swallows share one's roof.
13. When the pot is taken off the fire, not to leave the mark of it in the ashes, but to stir them together.
14. Do not look in a mirror beside a light.
15. When you rise from the bedclothes, roll them together and smooth out the impress of the body.

Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy