“The Rest is Indeed Horseshit,” Pt. 5

We proudly released Issue 11: Dual Power last month. But there would be no “Horseshit” to share with you if we hadn’t given away a few pieces online.

An excerpt from Nikil Saval’s “Wall of Sound,” which describes how the iPod has made listening to music less about collective politics and more about solitary consolation, appeared on Slate, generating almost a hundred moderately aggrieved comments. Some people didn’t have iPods. Others “had one for a while but then I lost it.” Still others politely suggested that “the author needs to get out more. Communal music is more important than ever worldwide and all of those college students and cubicle dwellers are heading out and listening to music TOGETHER on a Saturday night.” On his blog, Ardent Audience, RISD professor Daniel Cavicchi insisted that listening has always been solitary. “The 19th-century music lovers I’ve studied, for example, frequently reported feeling alone in their passion for music. While they listened at concerts in the midst of friends and family, they insisted that their listening was individual; their friends did not hear the same sounds and were not moved in the same way.”

Some people didn’t have iPods. Others “had one for a while but then I lost it.”

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Soon after, an excerpt from Emily Witt’s investigation into the cult of Cambridge poet J. H. Prynne appeared at the Poetry Foundation. Witt, an American, puzzles over her Cambridge classmates, “this artsy yet somehow posh group of British people, so young and well educated but dressed like grandmothers from Palm Beach, even the men, with satin windbreakers and creative knitwear”—and in the comments section, the wearers of the knitwear struck back. “Witt gives Americans in Britain a bad name,” wrote one ill-tempered British person. “Ladies and gentleman, I was that ‘large, mild, and pink-cheeked British undergraduate,” was the more mild reply from a young poet who appears in the piece, who went on to quote the entire poem that Witt made fun of “a) to prove that i didn’t do a shout out to George Clooney in my poem and b) to let the record show that my poem had a swear in it too.”

The poem (by Richard Osmond) is as follows:

NespressoTM

Julia, on the white goods, my
Decaffeinato Intenso
desires you in aluminium.
Pick a gem from the thirty-six cup
tasting box, and place your choice
into the capsule support. Sip
and be mine. All possibility and roast-
blends in these boutique ten-packs.
Wash out your sludgy homegrounds,
for my love is vacuum-
tight and proprietary,
and just as the palm civet
shits the weasel-coffee, so these foil
bullets
come hard and steam hot from my guts
and your machine
will take nothing else
but me
in any colour you like.

Finally, we posted Nicholas Dames’s “Why Bother?”—a review of Louis Menand, Martha Nussbaum, and Terry Castle, and attempt to determine what a strong defense of the humanities would look like—and the venerable ALDaily brought our readership to astronomical levels. Many of these people wanted to know, Why was Dames so worried? Others thought he was worrying over the wrong question. At the US Intellectual History Blog, Ben Alpers argued that critics of the humanities, who have always existed, are not the current problem. “Instead, the continuing changes to the structure of academic employment, which are caused less by public hostility to the humanities and more by larger changes in the economy, threaten us most. And no case for why it’s worth bothering with the humanities is going to be a sufficient response to these challenges.” Sufficient? No. Necessary? Yes.