Wednesday, August 17, 2022

One more post on Asterism

I praised Asterism in an earlier post, but I wanted to share a reaction video from someone who actually knows what they're talking about. I watched another video where he reacts to Asterism performing a Stevie Ray Vaughn song and it actually brought him to tears. Below is his reaction to their live performance of "Dawn" which I have in an earlier post. Lately, I've been listening to their studio version of this song, which is beyond amazing. I don't think I said enough about this song, so I'm going to say it now.

Regarding the band, I am in awe of how perfect everything they compose is. Their music often doesn't go in the direction I anticipate, but wherever they take it then seems like the only way for it to possibly have gone. It's like each song is conceived as a whole, not something that was built up step by step. There's a line in Amadeus when Salieri is praising Mozart's music that summarizes my impression of Asterism: "And music, finished as no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall."

Regarding this particular song, the last three minutes, after the best bass solo in music history, evokes in me the celebration when God steps in and redeems all suffering, conquers all evil, and everything negative is turned into joy. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev. 21:4). I'm a music person, primarily classical, but I can't remember the last time a piece of music had this effect on me. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

Positive and Negative Rights

In ethics, a negative right refers to the right to keep something you have. Locke's statement, that we have the rights to life, liberty, and property are negative rights: You have the right to keep your life, to not have it taken away by others or the government; you have the right to keep your liberty, to not have it taken away by others or the government; and you have the right to keep your property, to not have it taken away by others or the government. There are limits to this though. If you commit a crime your right to liberty may be temporarily or even permanently taken away by putting you in jail. Or you might just be fined, which is taking away your property. And in some places, if your crime is egregious enough, you can even have your right to life taken away from you by execution (I'm not addressing whether the death penalty is morally acceptable here).

A positive right, on the other hand, is the right to have something given to you, something that is not legally yours should become legally yours. So a positive right to property would be the right to have property provided for you. In conceptualizing a just society, which is the task of political philosophy, we have to figure out how to balance positive and negative rights so as to maximize justice and minimize injustice.

It seems to me that there are three issues regarding this which, together, make it impossible for any society to be just, except that it justifies by cynicism towards politics in general.

1. Positive rights are logically dependent on negative rights. You can have negative rights without positive rights, but you can't have positive rights without negative rights. Having the positive right to property but not the negative right to property would mean you get to have property given to you but not to keep it once it you get it. Having the right to be given X without having the right to keep X is the same as not having the right to X at all.

2. There is no such thing as a positive right that does not take away someone else's negative right. In order to have the positive right to X it means you have the right to have someone else's X taken from them and given to you, which means in turn that they don't have the negative right to X. Since the first point says you can't have positive rights without negative rights, this all but makes positive rights incoherent. Now I think this is the case, but I haven't really examined it to be confident in it. For the sake of argument, I'm just treating it here as if it were true.

Pretty clear so far, yes? Yay negative rights, boo positive rights, right? Can I hear an amen? But I said I had three issues and I've only mentioned the first two. So what is this third point? I hear you cry.

3. It is impossible for a society to be just without some positive rights. More emphatically, A civilization with only negative rights would be less just than one with certain positive rights. Some people are physically incapable of providing for themselves and in order for them to have minimal negative rights need some things provided for them. Do they have the right to these things? Some may disagree, but I say, emphatically, YES. To say they have the negative right to life but not the positive right to be given at least the bare minimum to retain their life is, I think, simply wrong.

The problem with this (at least in addition to those already mentioned) is that as soon as this is acknowledged, everyone wants in on it. People will say they have the positive right of having food -- which is necessary to retain their life -- provided to them, even though a) they have the ability to do what is necessary to get food, and b) this would mean taking food away from someone else who probably obtained it through their own efforts. That would be deeply immoral. So you'd have the draw the line somewhere, but there's no good place to draw the line, and at any rate, there's no way we could ensure that people who genuinely need positive rights to survive would get what they need, and that people could not defraud the system. The former is more important than the latter, but regardless, it's an impossibility. We would have to balance positive rights with negative rights to maximize justice and minimize injustice, which is what everyone is already trying to do and failing miserably. Hence, my cynicism.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Abortion and negative rights

A negative right is the right to keep something you already have, the right to not have something taken from you. In contrast, a positive right is the right to have something provided to you. The classic statement is Locke's: you have the right to life, liberty, and property. These are negative rights: you have the right to keep whatever property you have: other people, including the government, do not have the right to take your property from you. A positive right to property would be the right to have property given to you.

Part of the reason abortion is such an insoluble problem is that they involve two conflicting negative rights. If the fetus is a human being, then it has the negative right to life. But the woman has the negative right to liberty, expressed here in terms of bodily autonomy. So the question is which of these two negative rights take priority, and the answer is neither. You don't get to take away someone's negative rights. Of course, it is not clear to a lot of people that the fetus is a human being with human value and thus human rights, including the right to life (see here), but just ignore that for the sake of the present issue.

So if we grant the claims of both sides, the fetus has the negative right to life and the woman has the negative right to liberty, and neither gets to overrule the other. And the resolution to this is . . . meh.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Quote of the Day

I picture the Agnostic as a modest man, politely refusing to kneel before any Gods or Icons in which he does not place his complete confidence; while the Atheist, although operating from the same principles, brings a hammer to the event.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Sorry

OK, I'm currently writing up a fairly extensive philosophy post, and I'm sorry I've been focusing so much on Japanese heavy metal lately. But while you're waiting for the philosophy, let me say some more about Japanese heavy metal.

My first tier of bands that I absolutely love consists of just two: Lovebites and Asterism. I discovered Lovebites last August, about a week and a half before their bass player (and founder) left the band. However, they have publicly announced their search for a new bassist of any nationality, age, or gender. Having said that, from what I gather, the fan favorite so far is a Japanese woman. Anyway, here's a couple more of their songs. The first one, "Raise Some Hell," is odd to me, because for some reason I usually don't hear the verses sync up with the music in most performances. (The part where she sings, "Who is that? Who’s that chick? Shredding on guitar; Who is that? Who’s that chick? Heavy noise on bass ;Who is that? Who’s that chick? Pounding on the drums; Who am I? I’ve got a voice, it’s gonna knock you out"). But in the performance of it below, it syncs up for me without any problem. 


I absolutely love Midori, the blonde guitarist. The frame at 3:51 should be a poster. If I went to one of their concerts I'd hold up a sign saying, "Midori will you marry me? Shred for yes." I'd have to OK it with the wife first, though. Anyway, here's another video:


Now for Asterism. Everyone seems completely in awe of their performance abilities, and I am too, but I'm more overwhelmed by their original compositions. In all seriousness, I'd put them up against most classical music in terms of overall musicality, and 95% of what I listen to is classical. At the end of the following song, I just feel ennobled, something which almost no music ever does to me.


This next one really displays their originality and talent. If you love classical music, just listen with open ears and mind.


I was going to go over my second and third tiers too, but this post is long enough already. Just enjoy.

Friday, February 25, 2022

And yet more Japanese metal

There's a lot of crap happening in the world right now, so here's a little distraction. I found another band called Asterism. They do instrumental songs, so no singing. And they are insanely good. In addition, they are young. The guitarist and bassist are both 19 years old. This song was released when they were 13 or 14, and it's as good as Joe Satriani on his best day.


That's a six-string bass by the way, and I think he has a seven-string one too. And here's another song they just recorded a few months ago. This is absolutely brilliant.


I mean, holy crap. I can't think of anything to compare that to, it's its own genre. I'm just in awe. They're musical geniuses.

And to conclude, here's a glorious Lovebites song from last year's EP.


Update (5 March): When I posted this I had wanted to include another Asterism song that has an official video, but it wasn't embeddable. You can watch it here, and I highly recommend it. The bassist has that 7-string bass, and now I'm thinking the video above might be the same 7-string instead of a 6-string. But I just found a live version of the same song they did when -- get this -- the guitarist was 12, the bassist was 13, and the drummer 15. (The drummer and bassist are brothers).


And because the focus is going to be on the bassist and guitarist, I wanted to show a cover they did of Rush's YYZ to showcase the drummer. If you can do Neil Peart, you're at the top of your game.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Quote of the Day

 For all these reasons I conclude that the historian, of whatever persuasion, has no option but to affirm both the empty tomb and the 'meetings' with Jesus as 'historical events' in all the senses we sketched in chapter 1: they took place as real events; they were significant events; they are, in the normal sense required by historians, provable events; historians can should write about them. We cannot account for early Christianity without them. The tomb-and-meetings scenario is warranted, indeed, by that double similarity and double dissimilarity (to Judaism on the one hand and the early church on the other) for which I argued earlier as a methodological control in the study of Jesus. Stories like these, with the kind of explanation the early Christians offered, make the sense they make within first-century Judaism (similarity), but nobody within first-century Judaism was expecting anything like this (dissimilarity). Stories like these do indeed explain the rise of early Christianity (similarity), but they cannot be explained as the back-projection of early Christian faith, theology and exegesis (dissimilarity).

This conclusion rules out several of the alternative accounts that have been offered from time to time, mostly variations on the theme of mistakes made in the early morning (the women went to the wrong tomb, they mistook someone else for Jesus, and so on). These are in any case trivial when we remember the state of mind of Jesus' followers after his crucifixion and the fact that they were not expecting anything remotely like this to occur. Reports based on misunderstandings would quickly have been sorted out. The hoary old theory that Jesus did not really die on the cross, but revived in the cool of the tomb, has likewise nothing to recommend it, and it is noticeable that even those historians who are passionately committed to denying the resurrection do not attempt to go by this route. Roman soldiers, after all, were rather good at killing people, and when given a rebel leader to practise on they would have had several motives for making sure the job was done properly. A further, more recent suggestion can also be ruled out: that, after his crucifixion, Jesus' body was not buried, but left instead for dogs and vultures to finish off. Had that happened, no matter how many 'visions' they had had, the disciples would not have concluded that he had been raised from the dead. we are left with the secure historical conclusion: the tomb was empty, and various 'meetings' took place not only between Jesus and his followers (including at least one initial sceptic) but also, in at least one case (that of Paul; possibly, too, that of James), between Jesus and people who had not been among his followers. I regard this conclusion as coming in the same sort of category, of historical probability so high as to be virtually certain, as the death of Augustus in AD 14 or the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

This is so cool

The James Webb telescope is on its way. I feel dumb because I didn't realize it was going to the L2 Earth-Sun Lagrange point which makes a lot of sense. I wish we had more stuff at Lagrange points. You know, like space stations.

Monday, December 13, 2021

The future of metal is Japanese women

I promised not to update my post on Lovebites, so I'll have to make a new one. The following song is my new favorite song of theirs. It has a long keyboard intro, then a prerecorded guitar intro, then it's just glorious. Actually, the guitar intro is pretty glorious too. But what's especially noteworthy in the song proper is the bass. That's Miho playing who left the band in August. Her move at 6:15 is one of the greatest things I've ever seen.



Having said that, I found a new bass player for them. I'll send them a bill for my commission. Seriously, watch her right hand as she plays. It looks like it's a glitch or like it's going at double speed.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Quote of the Day

Fortunately for the security of American real estate titles, the business of securing cessions of Indian titles has been, on the whole, conscientiously pursued by the Federal Government, as long as there has been a Federal Government. The notion that America was stolen from the Indians is one of the myths by which we Americans are prone to hide our real virtues and make our idealism look as hard-boiled as possible. We are probably the one great nation in the world that has consistently sought to deal with an aboriginal population on fair and equitable terms. We have not always succeeded in this effort but our deviations have not been typical.


Jim's comments: I'm not posting this because I agree with it but because it's a point I would like to examine in more detail. The author was a very leftwing lawyer who was the primary architect of the Indian Reorganization Act (under President Franklin Roosevelt) that gave Native Americans much more independence and autonomy. So for him to have this view of how white people have historically treated Native Americans is interesting as it goes counter to what we are usually told and taught.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Nice


 

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

This bites

I've always found it frustrating when a rock band's guitarist learns to punch a few chords on a piano, and then suddenly they're a guitarist/keyboardist. You're not a keyboardist, you just know how to play Chopsticks. Or Jump. Here's an example.


Yes I'm being sarcastic. That was incredible. The band is Lovebites and I'm absolutely astounded at their overall musicality. They have two of the best guitarists I've ever heard, and I love how they both have solos in each song. That wasn't even their best one: this is. (If you want to skip the intro, go to 1:25)


So, two of the best guitarists I've ever heard, and the freaking drummer is insane. I don't know how many beats per minute she's putting out but holy crap. Their instruments just seem like extensions of their bodies, I can't recall seeing metal musicians that gave me that impression so strongly. I'm worried that I'm being too impressed by them because they are women, since metal just sounds hyper-masculine to me and it's not something I expect from that direction. But the upside is that Lovebites is correcting any such latent sexism.

This song is a close second.


So . . . did I mention the singer? My first listen I thought she was excellent, but not my particular cup of tea. Then I played it for my wife (who hates metal) and she said she sounds a lot like Ann Wilson from Heart. I don't know why that changed my perception of it, but now I love her.

Here's another song that they just released a few months ago:


I'm not into symphonic metal that much, but I am amazed again at their musicality. Here's another:


Yeah. Every single one of these musicians could front their own band and be the premiere performer, but instead they banded together (ha!) for the sole purpose of overwhelming me.

Now you'll notice I didn't mention the bassist. I'm not confident I can judge bass playing. But she is the founder and leader of Lovebites, and she writes a lot of their songs, though not all by a long shot. So she is the cornerstone; the band is her vision. And she just quit. I discovered the band three weeks ago and one week ago they announced she was leaving. The rest of the band says they're not breaking up but they'll take a hiatus. I stopped keeping track of new bands and popular songs a few decades ago, so this is the first time I've become emotionally attached to one for a while. I'm not saying it's my fault the bass player left, but . . . well . . . it's kind of a coincidence, don't you think? Groucho Marx said he wouldn't want to belong to a country club that would have someone like him for a member. Maybe the bassist didn't want to be in a band that would have someone like me as a fan.

Anyway, here's another Japanese all-girl metal band:


Update (Sep. 21): OK, sorry, this is their best song.


Ho. Ly. Crap. That first guitar solo is insane, and the second one is just haunting.

Update (Oct. 5): Sorry, darn it, sorry, this is their best song:


I'm starting think their best song will just be whichever one I listened to last.

Update (Nov. 16): Wow, here's yet another all-girl Japanese metal band.


Update (Nov. 21): OK, I'll stop updating after this. The last band above is Nemophila, and here's another song of theirs that just came out:


And here's another band:


And now back to Lovebites. I was telling my brother-in-law earlier tonight that I haven't been this excited about a band since high school. I think what gets me is the two guitarists. The solos and duets just absolutely overawe me, even in the songs I otherwise think are just OK. This is the video of one of the first songs they released. It stops in the middle to advertise their first album and their first Japanese tour, which is kind of weird. But it's still amazing, so stick with it.


Finally, here's a song they just released that will be on their upcoming Best Of album.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

A dream is a wish your heart makes

 I dreamt last night that they were making a sequel to Buckaroo Banzai. I didn't see what the whole title was, but it wasn't "against the World Crime League." It was going to star Rowan Atkinson. It was a good dream.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

YES!

Sunday, July 4, 2021

The Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism

My next book is being published in several days. My title was Naturalized Skepticism but the publisher (Bloomsbury Academic) rejected that in favor of The Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism: Context, Exposition, Repercussions. That's a link to the Amazon page where you can read the the preface, chapter 1, and most of chapter 2. Here's a link to the publisher. You can also read some of it on GoogleBooks. And as I mentioned last December, my first book is available in paperback now, so it's much cheaper.