Saturday, April 06, 2019

links for the weekend, yet ANOTHER Facebook data breach, scams in the self-publishing industry, and some pieces that touch on domestic workers and the people they serve

I've blogged in the past about how in the last fifteen years Seattle was apparently too worried about the wrong Mark.  There was a lamentation about the cultural influence of Mark Driscoll over the years and although that cultural influence has seemed, post-Mars Hill, to have been marginal enough Seattle area journalists have thought of it as small, the influence of Zuckerberg's empire has turned out to be, well, obviously as global and national as it has been.  That becomes more apparent when more news of data breaches and questions about the ethics of data use and data mining keep coming up.

over at The Guardian ... Alison Flood has a piece on plagiarism, book stuffing and clickfarms as the rotten element in the self-publishing industry.

Nora Roberts is one of the world’s most popular authors. She’s written more than 200 novels, tackled topics from romance to murder and sold more than 500m books around the world. And now she’s really, really angry.

Roberts is one of dozens of authors who discovered last month that their work had been allegedly plagiarised by a Brazilian romance novelist called Cristiane Serruya. “Leisurely, he began to loosen her hair, working his fingers through it until it pooled over her shoulders. ‘I’ve wanted to do that since the first time I saw you. It’s hair to get lost in,’” runs Roberts’ novel Untamed. Serruya’s Forevermore has it that: “Leisurely, he began to loosen her hair, working his fingers through it until it pooled over her shoulders and cascaded down over her back. ‘I’ve wanted to do that since the first time I saw you.’”

Serruya’s alleged plagiarism was first exposed by US author Courtney Milan, who found passages from her book The Duchess War in Serruya’s novel Royal Love. After Milan went public – and after dozens of other examples of plagiarism were  highlighted by authors and readers – Serruya pulled her books from sale, blaming the overlaps on a ghostwriter she said she’d hired from freelance marketplace Fiverr.

A former law professor, Milan was a dreadful choice to lift from – as was Roberts, who has never been sanguine about plagiarism, taking her fellow novelist and former friend Janet Dailey to court in 1997. But Serruya is just one example of the dark side of the stack-em-high, sell-em-cheap, flood-the-market culture which has come to dominate self-publishing – particularly in the lucrative romance genre and on Kindle Unlimited, an Amazon service which gives readers access to more than 1m books for £7.99 a month, many of which are self-published and unvetted for plagiarism.

I’m getting one hell of an education on the sick, greedy, opportunistic culture that games Amazon’s absurdly weak system. And everything I learn enrages me,” Roberts wrote on her blog last month. She pointed to what the industry calls “black hat teams”: anonymous authors who hire ghostwriters for a pittance, to churn out cheap novels en masse which are published under a pseudonym to “smother out competition” – and, in some cases, copying lines or entire scenes to get the job done. A regular author could never keep up.

For romance readers, Kindle Unlimited (KU) has been a godsend. These readers can race through at least a book a day, gulping down stories about unexpected pregnancies, arrogant millionaires and bad boys in need of taming. KU means they can read to their hearts’ content, while the writers can make a lot of money. Authors who self-publish through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select programme have their books automatically enrolled in KU. Every time a reader opens a KU book, the author is paid from a communal pot of money – one which less scrupulous writers have looked to game from the start.


In its advice to Kindle authors, Amazon says that “you are responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your book manipulate the Kindle publishing service”, and that any manipulation “may” result in “termination of your account and loss of royalties”. But as Gaughran points out, the scammers just keep making money. He doesn’t feel Amazon is doing enough.

“When the scamming first started your annoyance is with the scammers, but when it’s still going five years later your annoyance starts to transfer to the people who are supposed to be policing the streets,” he says. “When they moved to this model in 2014 we were worried about scammers, and Amazon said don’t worry, we have robust systems in place to prevent fraud, and it was all bullshit.”

“Part of the reason must be that it hurts authors much more than Amazon. They might see it as only affecting 0.2% of books or whatever, but the top scammers are making over $100,000 a month – money that comes from the author fund, not Amazon’s end. These people gaming the system will roll a huge chunk of that back into advertising too, which either brings readers to the website, or goes directly back into Amazon’s pocket via Amazon Ads.”
There's quite a bit more in the article but that's a sampler. 

The Atlantic featured an interview with an author who has written about domestic workers in the U.S.  This interview reminded me of some writing Hanna Rosin did years ago but first ... : 

As more and more women have entered the workforce, they have naturally spent less time at home. Still, homes demand work, from cooking and cleaning to taking care of children. A majority of American children have two parents working outside the home, and nearly half of all married couples both work. In the U.S. and many other countries, there is no clear answer to who will take care of the housework.

That “second shift” of housework falls disproportionately on women. In the U.S. for example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of women report doing housework like cleaning or laundry each day, compared with just 19 percent of men. American women also spend twice as much time caring for children as men do.

To mitigate this second shift for working parents, some families with financial means hire domestic workers, more than 80 percent of whom are women. Around the world, women who can afford it are freed to pursue their career by other women who care for their children, cook their food, and clean their home.

As Hanna Rosin put it years ago, the patriarchy is not necessarily the same thing to rich women who can afford to hire other women to do their housework as it is to those who are doing the housework.

“Let’s call it what it is: THE PATRIARCHY.” This was a comment from a young woman at an event I was moderating on Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2012 Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” Though Slaughter and I have many points of agreement, we tend to draw a different crowd, or mood. Women come to hear her when they feel like they’ve hit a wall, and need to commiserate. They want to vent about their frustrations, not hear how they’ve prevailed.  

“Can you say that word? PATRIARCHY?” This woman was not gunning for a laugh; she was dead serious, and pretty angry. She looked to be 30 or so, and from the way she spoke seemed well-educated—the type of woman I portray in the book as benefiting from the new era of female dominance, when women are better prepared for the current economy and have more independence to choose their life path. 

As the woman spoke, I started to think of my own Slaughter moment, when, after the birth of my first child, I decided to work four days a week, a capitulation that sank me into a terrible depression. (If only Sheryl Sandberg had been around then to tell me to “Lean in!”) I tried to figure out who, in the series of events that led up to that decision, had played the role of the patriarch. My husband? He couldn’t care less how many days I work. My employer? Relatively benevolent and supportive— willing to let me work four days or five, willing to let me leave early. I suppose the patriarchy was lurking somewhere in my subconscious, tricking me into believing that it was more my duty to stay home with our new baby than my husband’s. But I didn’t see it as a “duty.” I wanted to stay home with her, and I also wanted to work like a fiend. It was complicated and confusing, a combination of my personal choices, the realities of a deadline-driven newsroom, and the lack of a broader infrastructure to support working parents—certainly too complicated to pin on a single enemy. 

I said some version of this out loud from the stage, partly because I was looking for sympathy, and partly because I wanted to convey that the “patriarchy” was not a fixed monolith we could never get around but something shifting and changing and open to analysis. But that confessional approach only brought more ire. “Lucky for you that you have the luxury to agonize about your choices,” the young woman said. “What about the woman who picks up your trash after you leave at 5?” 

This is when I knew I was dealing with some irrational attachment to the concept of unfair. For my book I’d interviewed plenty of women who might find themselves picking up the trash, likely as a second job after a full day of school or another job, or both, because their husbands—or, more likely, the fathers of their children—were out of work. My young interrogator might be annoyed to learn that many of those women who pick up the trash yearn to bring back at least some aspects of the patriarchy. They generally appreciate their new economic independence and feel pride at holding their families together, at working and studying and doing things on their own, but sometimes they long to have a man around who would pay the bills and take care of them and make a life for them in which they could work less. And they want the men in their lives to be happy. It’s elite feminists like my questioner and me who cling to the dreaded patriarchy just as he is walking out of our lives. [emphasis added]

A few months after my book came out, sociologist Stephanie Coontz published an editorial in the New York Times that was headlined “The Myth of Male Decline,” which summarized many of the responses to my book in order to support her argument that the end of men was nowhere in sight. Many of the points made by Coontz and other members of what Liza Mundy, author of The Richer Sex, calls the academic “Fempire” are true, in a selective sort of way that elides other truths. I notice they often choose the statistics that make women look the most beleaguered. 

For example, one figure that both Mundy and I cite in our books, and that has provoked much angry dissent, is how many wives earn more money than their husbands. We all agree that the proportion of female breadwinners leapt from only 4 percent in 1970 to nearly 30 percent in 2010. Coontz, however, discounts this gain by arguing that when we look at all married couples, not just dual-earner couples, the numbers look much weaker because some wives don’t work at all. This is a fair point. But if we are going to add on extra data samples, then I offer another, more relevant one: the growing number of single mothers. The United States is undergoing an explosion not of full-time stay-at-home mothers but of single mothers who are often, for better or worse, the main breadwinners for their families by default. We recently passed the threshold, for example, at which more than half of all births to mothers under 30 were to single mothers. I’m not sure this counts as feminist progress, but it does count as a profound shift in the traditional power dynamics of the American family. 

Coontz also makes the broader point that women, even college-educated women, continue to flock to less prestigious jobs. She points out that woman are even more concentrated now than they were before in the professions of legal secretary or “managers of medicine and health occupations.” We can call the pattern of women’s jobs by its old, disparaging name, “gender segregation,” and insist on seeing it as a choice that is imposed on them. But we can also see it through a new paradigm—as Coontz in her own work has so successfully encouraged us to do vis-à-vis marriage—that acknowledges women as agents making intelligent decisions about what jobs are available in this economy. Maybe women are choosing health occupations because the health care field is booming, not because they are blindly walking—or being led—into a female ghetto. 

What surprised me most about Coontz’s piece was not its content but the collective sigh of relief it seemed to generate. “Marry me, Stephanie Coontz,” tweeted the immensely talented and successful journalist Irin Carmon. “Stephanie Coontz is a national treasure and I wish her work were required reading for everyone in the world,” blogged Jill Filipovic, a lawyer and writer on Feministe, who went on to explain how all this “women are dominating … stuff” is not quite true. The women who seemed to be reveling in Coontz’s insistence that reports of the end of men (and the rise of women) have been greatly exaggerated were by and large young and ambitious, and as far as I could tell hadn’t been held back all that much in their careers by “the patriarchy.” Many of them are in positions of influence, widely published and widely read; if they sniff out misogyny, I have no doubt they will gleefully skewer the responsible sexist in one of many available online outlets, and get results.  These are exactly the types of woman I portray in the book as benefiting from the new age of female dominance. Why should they feel reassured to be told that men are still on top, that the old order had not been shaken?  

The 2012 elections inspired a similar reactionary response in some quarters. A record number of women were elected to Congress, and women were critical to Obama’s re-election, particularly single women.* And yet soon after the election, the New York Times published as its lead op-ed a study by two academics showing that women would not truly reach parity or be in a position to pass women-friendly policies until they controlled half of all congressional seats. This seems true enough, if a little obvious. But it entirely missed the revolutionary shift the moment marked. There was a group marginalized in the election: white men. They voted en masse for Mitt Romney, and lost. 

This bean counting and monitoring—an outdated compulsion to keep your guard up, because sexism lurks everywhere—has found new life online, where feminist websites (including our own) and the Twitter police are always on the lookout for the next slight. 

Sometimes the critical eye is useful, such as this week when outrage over sexist and racists tweets got Business Insider exec Pax Dickinson pushed out. (Though this is not a sign of THE PATRIARCHY—this is relatively easy victory.) Sometimes it’s just petty, like when Jennifer Weiner recently complained about a critic calling her “strident.”  As a form of blogging or tweeting, pointing fingers is endlessly satisfying. But as a form of political expression, it’s pretty hollow and out of tune with reality.

and a later piece ...

So that women affluent enough to make their livings as writers, Rosin has pointed out, may find it useful to write about the patriarchy because they have the privilege of doing so--it doesn't mean there are no imbalances so much as that, as Rosin put it, when it's your job to see those imbalances it can blind you to the privileges that come with being able to publish about them.  The domestic workers who help the sorts of writers who can write for, say, Slate, aren't outliers.  There are some pieces out there on the net about how a good deal of the arts scenes rely on financially uncompensated volunteers.  A blunter way to put this is to say there's enough exploited labor in the arts and educational scenes in the West that they ... may not be entirely ideally suited to complain about these dynamics in other contexts and industries.  

Back to Atlantic

In a new book, Women’s Work: A Reckoning With Work and Home, the journalist Megan Stack examines this dynamic from the inside, telling the story of her own employment of domestic workers, who took care of her children and home while she wrote a novel.

Anna Waters: Millions of households around the world employ domestic workers to help with child care, cleaning, and cooking. Having a nanny to help with your young children has become fairly normal among financially privileged families, particularly ones with working mothers. What was it about this dynamic that made you think twice, and want to examine it in this book?

Megan Stack: I moved pretty thoughtlessly into having a woman come into my home and work full-time. But very quickly, I started to experience things that surprised me. The emotional components of trust, love, and jealousy, the attempt to turn a household into a job site, and the way that intersects with power imbalances of money and race … I hadn’t anticipated it. The more I adjusted to being a mother, the more uncomfortable I was, because I was looking at my nanny and thinking, She’s a mother, too. Who’s taking care of her baby?

It opened up uncomfortable questions that I hadn’t addressed when deciding to hire her, and that I didn’t feel like the culture broadly had addressed, either. There’s been this global swell of domestic labor as an unregulated and poorly understood job sector, so these relationships exist on a global scale, but are basically unfolding in private. I wanted to make them public.

Waters: The book is a really personal reckoning with how you have benefited from other women’s labor, but as you say, this is much bigger than individual private households. How much of the responsibility for this dynamic do you place on individuals, and how much on larger economic or systemic factors?

Stack: It’s hard, because as women, it’s important for us to say that the work we do is important. That’s how the world moves forward. And realistically, when I looked at my options to keep working and become a mother, there wasn’t any other option. My husband was going to keep his staff job with the salary and health insurance, and I was going to do writing projects that didn’t have those things. Like many women, I was surprised and overwhelmed by how much work came with the baby, and I didn’t see any way to keep working without hiring outside help.

For many women, on both sides, this is the best option. For many migrant women, this is one of the few jobs where they can earn a decent salary and pay for education for their children. So I don’t think I can blame individuals for participating in the domestic-worker economy, because it’s really the best option for so many people. But we all deserve better options.

Waters: What do you think some of those better options might look like?

Stack: I haven’t come up with a great answer. If I had, I would’ve written that book. Extending employment protections to domestic workers is a noble and serious first step. But honestly, that’s like fixing the leaks on a ship that we maybe shouldn’t even be on.

Domestic labor is a model for the advancement and equality of upper-class women, but it depends upon a permanent underclass of impoverished women. I’m not interested in a program for some women to advance on the backs of others.

Waters: This memoir is about being a woman harnessing women’s labor, but it’s also about being a white person harnessing the labor of nonwhite people. What role does race play in the question of offloading domestic work?

Stack: Race is a huge aspect of this. I think 100 percent of the reason domestic work is so poorly regulated is because it affects this trifecta of demographics that political decision makers don’t care about: women, poor people, and people of color. There’s this subconscious social consensus that things happening to people in those demographics just aren’t as important.

I did want to focus this book on the gender aspect, because this dynamic is more universally about women than it is about race. There are Chinese families employing Chinese domestic workers and Indian families employing Indian domestic workers. In those stories, race isn’t as clear-cut an issue as gender or class.


Waters: You also write that this lack of acknowledgment goes both ways. In the book, one of your cooks in India said that her family and friends have no idea she’s hired help, and she conceals that.

Stack: That was the thing that surprised me the most from when I interviewed my own domestic workers about their experiences. These women come down to Delhi from rural villages, and don’t tell their families about their work. They pretend they work in call centers. There’s a real stigma and sense of shame around doing domestic work. Our nanny in Beijing would get up at her house every morning, dress up in a secretarial outfit for her commute, get to our house, and change into cutoffs and a T-shirt. When she left, she’d put her secretarial outfit back on just to cross the city by bus.

I started looking at the Facebook pages of a lot of domestic workers, and noticed that a lot of them went to great effort to disguise their work on Facebook. If the family was going to a resort for the day to go swimming, the nanny would find a moment to get someone to take a picture of her posing and she’d post that on Facebook. It was very much framed as, I’m paying for this for myself; this is part of my lifestyle. There’s so much fronting and ambivalence with domestic work on both sides, I think because everyone feels a little uncomfortable about participating in it, whether you’re an employer or employee.

Waters: What kinds of conversations did you and your husband have as you were writing this book? Like your domestic workers, he was a major character in the memoir, and I’m curious how he felt about the book and his role in it.

Stack: When I set out to write the book, I didn’t anticipate the role he would come to play in it. But I wanted to be very authentic about the totality of the experience. When I finished the first draft, I gave it to him to read, and I was very nervous. I wasn’t going to sabotage my marriage for this book, and if he wasn’t comfortable with it, I’d drop it.

But my husband is a really amazing person. After he read it, he said that parts of it made him cringe, but it was all true. Not many people would be strong enough to sign off on this from their spouse.
and that's the links for the weekend post for this particular weekend.

Conor Friedersdorf on John Oliver's weak case for "call out culture", reminds me that public expressions of indignation are the stock in trade of pundits in the age of mass and social media

This is a bit on the older side by now but it has stuck with me a little bit.  The case that call out culture is less about accomplishing anything and more about a type of publicly performed righteousness isn't hard to make.  The case, as follows, is pretty straightforward.


One could argue that Oliver was holding Leno “accountable” for jokes he told in the 1990s that now seem cruel and unfunny. But Oliver could’ve criticized the old jokes while still treating Leno as he treats himself: as an imperfect but not malign comic who told jokes that are regrettable in hindsight.
Surely Leno ranks low on any list of evil forces in American society. He doesn’t warrant a “Go fuck yourself,” delivered here for the supposed hypocrisy of making uncivil jokes on a subject and then, a quarter century later, in a polarized moment, yearning for more civility.
And whether one feels love, disdain, or indifference toward The Tonight Showunder Leno, it was arguably more civil on average than Last Week Tonight.
Indeed, Oliver regularly goes the “Go fuck yourself” route, and it isn’t because profane shaming does “a lot of good” for society—it’s because it’s popular. The conflict-hungry internet ate up the segment; it circulated with a telling headline that is often attached to viral Oliver clips: “John Oliver Destroys Jay Leno’s ‘Civility’ Plea With Clips of His Disgusting Monica Lewinsky Jokes.” Last Week Tonight depends on a formula that includes a villain, a punching bag, someone to “destroy,” so that audience members can feel that they’re part of a morally and cognitively superior in-group, perennially exasperated by malign idiots in the out-group. (The formula’s genius: Virtue-signal charmingly with mistake theory, then go viral with conflict theory.)

The show excels when a subject warrants anomalous opprobrium. But the show sometimes tries to shoehorn dubious material into the template of righteous, indignant, maximalist contempt.
Giving Leno the indignant treatment is no unforgivable sin. Comedians have thick skin, and maybe they’re owed some of what they dish out. But Last Week Tonight does an awful lot of segments that begin as a nuanced look at a complex matter, only to devolve into finger-pointing. The show indulges the fantasy that what ails us would be fixed … if only we could take that malign, hypocritical idiot and “destroy” him.

The same self-serving fantasy causes millions to dramatically overestimate the amount of good that public shaming can do.
Having said that, the thing about the call out culture is that it might be far better to think of it not as the domain of liberals or leftists or of conservatives, either.  It's more in the nature of how mass media and social media interact. 

There's a particular phrase,  "the show sometimes tries to shoehorn dubious material into a template of righteous, indignant maximalist contempt." which reminds me of how this methodology within screen-mediated talking head commentary is done across the entire spectrum in mass media.
It can be known as the "how dare you!?" rant, and for one of the more over-the-top variants of the trope it would be impossible to find a better example of it than from the old Mark Driscoll playbook a decade ago.

Of course that was, like, a decade ago.  This year it was more about hosting a church governance conference and we'll try to get that in time but, ah, well, April is the cruelest month and there are other things to tackle that are more compelling for a mere blogger.  Still, the "call out culture" reflection got me thinking of how prominent it is across the ideological spectrum.  Conservatives should not imagine that it is not also their bread and butter just because liberals or progressives have refined the art more through media engagement.

Caitlin Flanagan's Tom Wolfe-lite take on the admissions scandal: feels like there's a tension between her art-as-religion defense of MJ's work and her "they had it coming" take on limousine liberals

Rod Dreher linked to this earlier in the week and I was thinking about commenting on it but ... I didn't find it quite as funny as he did.  Flanagan's defense of the art of Michael Jackson had made it clear she took the stance of art-as-religion and that, however much a monster Jackson may have turned out to be, his art is worthy.  

I've seen this kind of defense of the art of monsters made even more explicitly.  The thing is, I disagree.  It's not that I can't see that Charles Dickens was a brilliant novelist in spite of how shamefully he treated his wife.  I can even see how artists who are keenly insightful about social injustices can be unjust at a personal level.  

The problem I have, and it may be because I am willing to simply admit an admiration for some Puritan authors, is that I don't think we can altogether give up the Tolstoy-derived idea that artists should in some way actually be basically decent people before we take them to be artists.  That, I think, is a fairly normative expectation of artists-as-priests in the era of modernism that is often tacitly taken up as often as it is explicitly denied. Weiwei can shift from "I'm an artist not a priest" to making a more or less priestly homily about the value of human rights and do so from a position which takes as given that artists are somehow the priests and prophets who speak truth to power, as I've written earlier.  I do think that writers and artists and musicians can and should speak to what they regard as the misuses of formal and informal power!  There are possibly millions of words here at this blog demonstrating that.  

It's not that people are going to be perfect, it's that the invocation that nobody's perfect is the distillation of a lot of fans of artists and, more so, their fans, who make the shift from the concession of imperfection to a declaration that the artist and fan have a moral license to ignore X, Y or Z because A through W is so necessary to "society" we should just look the other way.  The defense is not necessarily of the artist and the quality of his or her work or even his or her or their character, it's a defense of "me", and a defense of consumption of art as a kind of sanctifying sacrament.  I can agree in the abstractest of abstract that participating in the creation of art "could" make you a better person but I don't see that it has, does, or will.  If what people do when artists turn out to be monsters is hand wave the failure rate for artists being merely basically decent people as distinct from saints when the subject of monstrous comes up then they're not ideally situated to sound off on the systemic and cultural corruptions through which the elite lord it over the masses by way of leveraging rare privileges in ways that people don't "officially" know about until a college admissions scandal erupts.

I did not come from a religious family, but we had a god, and the god was art, specifically literature. Taking a job teaching “Ozymandias” to a new generation was, for me, the equivalent of taking religious orders.

And so when a job opened in the college-counseling office, I should not have taken it. My god was art, not the SAT. In my excitement at this apparent promotion, I did not pause to consider that my beliefs about the new work at hand made me, at best, a heretic. I honestly believed—still believe—that hundreds of very good colleges in the country have reasonable admissions requirements; that if you’ve put in your best effort, a B is a good grade; and that expecting adolescents to do five hours of homework on top of meeting time-consuming athletic demands is, in all but exceptional cases, child abuse. Most of all, I believed that if you had money for college and a good high-school education under your belt, you were on third base headed for home plate with the ball soaring high over the bleachers.  

I did not know—even after four years at the institution—that the school’s impressive matriculation list was not the simple by-product of excellent teaching, but was in fact the end result of parental campaigns undertaken with the same level of whimsy with which the Japanese Navy bombed Pearl Harbor.
As someone who's loved the non-fiction work of Tom Wolfe I might want to point out that one of the more pedestrian aspects of the New Journalism has been the authorial voice mediating the entire newspeg.  If you'll entertain a weekend joke, the sign of a pervasive narcissism in American culture should not merely be inferred from selfies and "influencers" and complaints about such.  The capacity for American narcissism doesn't even have to be extrapolated from American writers who even live in America. It may be part of the contemporary American spirit to insist upon writing about a news story in a way where, if you can get away with it in the publishing venue, you simply, reflexively, and flamboyantly integrate your very being by way of authorial voice into the discussion of the topic.  

Flanagan does that here in her piece on admissions.  She has a right to, of course, by way of having worked in admissions, but that's simultaneously what robs her of doing more than a second-rate Tom Wolfe homage.  If you've never read Tom Wolfe what made him brilliant as a journalist was that however personal and personable (or grating) his literary voice, he did not put himself into the writing as an explicit character.  Or you could go with Joan Didion, who did put herself into the work as a character but as a kind of bemused or benumbed observer, even when she was writing about her own psych evaluation results.  

If this seems like a pedantic point for an amateur, a blogger no less, to write about, it's a point that I feel is worth mentioning.  We live in an era in which journalists or ... at least writers who write at places like The Atlantic or Slate or elsewhere, make themselves inseparable from what it is they're writing about.  Flanagan has done us the favor of explaining what god she venerates. That's fair ... but she'll go on to make a point that I"ll comment on later.  Let's get back to her story about herself as a sample perspective for the college admissions scandal. 


The new job meant that I had signed myself up to be locked in a small office, appointment after appointment, with hugely powerful parents and their mortified children as I delivered news so grimly received that I began to think of myself less as an administrator than as an oncologist. Along the way they said such crass things, such rude things, such greedy things, and such borderline-racist things that I began to hate them. They, in turn, began to hate me. A college counselor at an elite prep school is supposed to be a combination of cheerleader, concierge, and talent agent, radically on the side of each case and applying steady pressure on the dream college to make it happen. At the very least, the counselor is not supposed to be an adversary.

I just about got an ulcer sitting in that office listening to rich people complaining bitterly about an “unfair” or a “rigged” system. Sometimes they would say things so outlandish that I would just stare at them, trying to beam into their mind the question, Can you hear yourself? That so many of them were (literal) limousine liberals lent the meetings an element of radical chic. They were down for the revolution, but there was no way their kid was going to settle for Lehigh.

Some of the parents—especially, in those days, the fathers—were such powerful professionals, and I (as you recall) was so poor, obscure, plain, and little, that it was as if they were cracking open a cream puff with a panzer. This was before crying in the office was a thing, so I had to just sit there and take it. Then the admissions letters arrived from the colleges. If the kid got in, it’s because he was a genius; if he didn’t, it was because I screwed up. When a venture capitalist and his ageless wife storm into your boss’s office to get you fired because you failed to get their daughter (conscientious, but no atom splitter) into the prestigious school they wanted, you can really start to question whether it’s worth the 36K.

Sometimes, in anger and frustration, the parents would blame me for the poor return on investment they were getting on their years of tuition payments. At that point, I was living in a rent-controlled apartment and paying $198 a month on a  Civic with manual windows. I was in no position to evaluate their financial strategies. Worst of all, the helpless kid would be sitting right there, shrinking into the couch cushions as his parents all but said that his entire secondary education had been a giant waste of money. The parents would simmer down a bit, and the four of us would stew in misery. Nobody wanted to hear me read “Ozymandias.”

I will now add as a very truthful disclaimer that the horrible parents constituted at most 25 percent of the total, that the rest weren’t just unobjectionable, but many—perhaps most—were lovely people who were so wise about parenting that when I had children of my own, I often remembered things they had told me. But that 25 percent was a lesson that a lifetime of reading novels hadn’t yet taught me. In the classroom I was Jane Eyre, strong and tranquil in the truth of my gifts; in the college-counseling office, I was the nameless heroine of Rebecca, running up and down the servant stairs at the Hôtel d’Azur as Mrs. Van Hopper barked at me.


Much of the discussion of this scandal has centered on the corruption in the college-admissions process. But think about the kinds of jobs that the indicted parents held. Four of them worked in private equity, a fifth in the field of “investments,” others in real-estate development and the most senior management of huge corporations. Together, they have handled billions of dollars’ worth of assets within heavily regulated fields—yet look how easily and how eagerly they allegedly embrace a crooked scheme, as quoted in the court documents.


When I was a prep-school college counselor 25 years ago, I thought that whatever madness was whirring through the minds of the parents was a blip of group insanity that would soon abate. It has only gotten more and more extreme. Anyone can understand a parent’s disappointment if he had thought for 17 years that his child would go to Yale one day, only to learn that it’s not in the cards. But what accounted for the intensity of emotion these parents expressed, their sense of a profound loss, of rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs? They were experiencing the same response to a changing America that ultimately brought Donald Trump to office: white displacement and a revised social contract. The collapse of manufacturing jobs has been to poor whites what the elite college-admissions crunch has been to wealthy ones: a smaller and smaller slice of pie for people who were used to having the fattest piece of all. [emphasis added]

In the recent past—the past in which this generation of parents grew up—a white student from a professional-class or wealthy family who attended either a private high school or a public one in a prosperous school district was all but assured admission at a “good” college. It wasn’t necessarily going to be Harvard or Yale, but it certainly might be Bowdoin or Northwestern. That was the way the system worked. But today, there’s a squeeze on those kids. The very strong but not spectacular white student from a good high school is now trying to gain access to an ever-shrinking pool of available spots at the top places. He’s not the inherently attractive prospect he once was.

These parents—many of them avowed Trump haters—are furious that what once belonged to them has been taken away, and they are driven mad with the need to reclaim it for their children. The changed admissions landscape at the elite colleges is the aspect of American life that doesn’t feel right to them; it’s the lost thing, the arcadia that disappeared so slowly they didn’t even realize it was happening until it was gone. They can’t believe it—they truly can’t believe it—when they realize that even the colleges they had assumed would be their child’s back-up, emergency plan probably won’t accept them. They pay thousands and thousands of dollars for untimed testing and private counselors; they scour lists of board members at colleges, looking for any possible connections; they pay for enhancing summer programs that only underscore their children’s privilege. And—as poor whites did in the years leading up to 2016—they complain about it endlessly. At every parent coffee, silent auction, dinner party, Clippers game, book club, and wine tasting, someone is bitching about admissions. And some of these parents, it turns out, haven’t just been bitching; some of them decided to go MAGA.

If Flanagan has the numbers to demonstrate that formerly limousine liberals have gone MAGA the stats are not provided, to my recollection, in the article.  That's an interesting rhetorical flourish but that's another way in which this article comes off as Tom Wolfe lite.  Wolfe, more famously, wrote in Bonfire of the Vanities, something along the lines of "You think the future doesn't know how to cross a bridge?"  

To lump working class whites in with the private college scene seems like a sloppy move.  It's possible to go from a humdrum economic background to private schools and get an education.  I know a few who have.  But I have trouble with the conflation of the collapse of manufacturing jobs with shifts in elite college admissions.  That doesn't seem to really apply.  I have enough friends who never graduated from high school and either went to GED or just never finished high school to know that their inability to get manufacturing jobs was not necessarily the same thing as not going to Holyoake.  It's not that the pie has shrunk, exactly, it's where the slices go.  From one perspective the shift to a more diversified elite in culture-making terms could be a real change.  I've read enough arts coverage and interviews to see how intersectionality can come up for artists who aren't white and reflect upon the newness of people of color and women having larger roles in what some call the "culture industry".  Norman Lebrecht has written about how there are more women conductors.  Some of that, I'm sure, is a positive development.  What it has to do with high school dropouts not getting construction jobs, though, is a bit beyond me, and it's not clear to me why Flanagan thinks that point needs to be made.  It's another way in which her work, florid and at times amusing as it is, is still second-rate Tom Wolfe.  

Perhaps Flanagan is writing around a double standard, the double standard in which those she describes as limousine liberals grasp at and claw toward the privileges they feel they and their children deserve while lamenting the rise of Trump or, by some alchemy of resentments, catalyze.  Those kinds of double standards may be unavoidable.  People who otherwise stand for faithfulness and marriage can nevertheless throw their hat into the ring with someone married four times because they like the policies he says he'll put into place, not unlike how decades ago people who were in favor of someone who said "it's the economy, stupid" were willing to sign on to his list of policies even if, at a personal level, he seemed to have a lot of personal foibles.  

It's not that I particularly liked Clinton or like Trump, I dislike them both, but what both men bring out in their supporters is the extent to which they will overlook X, Y and Z because they are excited about A through W.  Where the double standards seem to emerge is in the outrage that some other group of people makes that political trade-off.  As John Halle was writing, that the supporters of Clinton looked the other way about his alleged misconduct meant that when a GOP candidate was alleged to have done the same things Clintonites could not just act as though nobody joked about dragging a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park.  By the same token, the idea that we now have a first lady who is classy unlike the previous one is dubious at best.  

A writer of Flanagan's standing could decide that working class sorts are getting less of a piece of the pie but she didn't convince me that the piece of the pie for working class people is the same as the piece of the pie for people like her who want to teach "Ozymandias" to college students.  Why would that all be part of one piece of the metaphorical pie?  It's never clear. 

But I'm willing to say that there is a tension between her art-as-religion defense of someone like Michael Jackson and her glee at the shame of limousine liberals.  I don't see that these two things are separable, though I'm not trying to say she's separating them, either.  If Michael Jackson was a monster but his art is still worth celebrating how fully separable is that from the observation that privileged limousine liberals have been able to game the culture industry so as to ensure their children get into the celestial empire of culture-makers?  Wasn't Michael Jackson himself thrust into the pantheon of artists-as-demigods by way of family?  Had the Jackson 5 not become popular would we have heard of Janet?  I'm suggesting that the difference between a Tom Wolfe and a Caitlin Flanagan might 

Evan Williams on the badness of the myth of the composer-genius ... I get a sense people are objecting to Romanticism and German idealism but need to remember it is not the sum of Western music history

Despite the fact that I'm a classical guitarist there's an awful lot about 19th century music I dislike.  It's long-winded, it's bloated, it's often a bit boring, it's hugely portentious and pretentious.  I admire a lot of Beethoven's music but I regard the cult of veneration of Beethoven as ghastly.  I think he was truly brilliant in composing his final piano sonata in a way where he shifted all of the intensity of his developmental processes into the transitions rather than the development of his opening sonata movement. But his choral music is, by and large, lame.  As a choral director I knew in college used to put it, he had no use for choral music from the Classic era, most of which he regarded as just plain bad.  He was more into the English Renaissance (and why not!? Tallis and Byrd were remarkable!), but he granted that Haydn and Mozart, of the Classic era composers, wrote some really good masses and that this was because they actually grew up singing in choirs and participating in choral music.  But I digress ...

I saw this recently and followed it back to its longer-scale form.  It's been abundantly clear that there are folks who are bridling at the legacy of 19th century musical canons and what's called "canonism".  I saw that Andrew Durkin was blogging a clarifying point about what he was writing against in his book Decomposition, the cult of the genius as applicable to rock stars and classical music.  Well, the book still failed to accomplish that feat but, having said that, I've been an anti-Romantic most of my life.  Not all anti-Romantics are cut from the same cloth, a non-theist jazz composer/church musician in Portland might not be on the same wavelength as a guitarist with a fondness for some Puritans but I saw we both love the work of Stevie Wonder and ... I get a general sense we're in agreement that there needs to be a full frontal assault on the legacy of German idealism and Romanticism. 

It's just that what I keep finding in American polemics against the 19th century art-music canons is that there's a tendency to collapse the entire thousand year history of Western musical art into the rubric of the 19th century German idealist projects and colonialist legacies.  This, I believe ,threatens merely to replicate the problems of those master narratives by producing photo negatives without dismantling the "picture".  If people endorse an Afrological and Eurological set of paradigms in a way that forgets that microtonal inflections of basically pentatonic or heptatonic sets existed in Native American music as well as African music then the cast of contemporary debate may be too literally and figuratively black and white to keep in mind the literal world of music we can appreciate.

So as someone who has pretty much my whole life had issues with the Romantic movement and its particular cult of genius, I find that it's frustrating to read fusilades against cults of genius as though the concept didn't change over the course of millenia.  To put it another way, I find that individuals who write against the cult of individual genius can somehow never quite bring themselves to endorse the genius of group collaboration.  Maybe there's Ellington and Strayhorn or maybe there's Lennon and McCartney but the idea of the Beatles as a corporate product (in all possible sense of that phrase) is still, somehow, anathema.  Why?  You would think that endorsing corporately created pop art could be as far from the cult of the individual genius as possible. 

But no, of course, the cult is perpetuated in those Beatles fans who think that John or Paul was the "real" genius of the band or that there is a collectively singular genius imputed to the Fab Four.  Another way to put this is to say that there are plenty of artists with liberal or left sympathies who can't quite reconcile themselves to admitting that a good deal of popular art is corporately made and that in the sense that its committee-produced work and funded by capital.  This is, as Louis Menand put it, a tension between the old left embodied in Woolf or Dwight Macdonald and the new left that wanted to inveigh against capitalism while clutching Beatles memorabilia.  Charles Mudede can inveigh against capitalism but still write about how Beyonce is Beyonce. 

If we grant that genius can be collaborative and social a lot of the tensions regarding genius could go away.  I tried to make this point in interaction with Andrew Durkin.  I think Durkin's claim to not believe in greatness is foolish.  People who reject in abstract the idea that there even "is" greatness when applied to the good rarely ever concede that greatness cannot be used to describe evil, say, someone like Nixon or Trump or Kissinger or Stalin.  If there can be great evil is there no possibility for great good simply because a lot of horrifying evils have been done in the name of putatively great goods?  If that's the case then why would people become educators?  Something has to be good and beautiful and true enough to share or people would not become teachers at all.  On the whole I get a sense that people who are against one canon and say they are against canons, ultimately, are not against canons at all, they're advocating for adding something to the syllabus the institution they work for probably doesn't want them adding.  This may be a point at which amateurs have it better off than professionals.

So within the confines of academics and arts journalism, there are chalenges issued about the problems with the very idea of "genius".
By turning the concert hall into a museum for the Classical canon, the myth of the composer-genius keeps concert music dead, white, and male. It is no secret the canon is almost wholly comprised of the work of European males. The occasional woman is sometimes included: Hildegard von Bingen, Francesca Caccini, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler, and Amy Beach. Composers of color are mostly ignored. It is pretty clear that not all of the prerequisites for being a “genius” are skilled-based. White males are afforded the honor much easier than anyone else. Black composers such as Duke Ellington or Thelonious Monk are sometimes afforded the label of genius, however their work was mostly in Jazz. The effect of this exclusion of women and people of color from the pantheon of genius is obvious. Their work is not performed, heard, and valued at the same level of white men. After all, if we have the work of geniuses, why bother with anyone else?

That very argument was famously made in the pages of British magazine, The Spectator in the article, “There’s a good reason why there are no great female composers” by Damian Thompson. Mr. Thompson wrote this article not in 1715, 1815, or even 1915, but 2015. In it, he opposes calls to diversify the music education in Britain based on gender. His reasoning? He does not like the work of female composers compared to those of men. He says:
As I write this, I’m listening to a recording that couples the piano concertos of Mr and Mrs Schumann. In track three, I marvel yet again at Robert’s genius. The leaping melody of the finale turns into a fugue and then a waltz, enticed by the piano into modulations that never lose their power to surprise and delight.
Then comes track four, the first movement of Clara’s concerto, and within ten seconds we know it’s a dud. The first phrase is a platitude: nothing good can come of it and nothing does. Throughout, the virtuoso passagework is straight out of the catalogue. In her defence [sic], it’s an early piece; her mature Piano Trio is more accomplished, though its lyrical passages could have been cut and pasted from one of her husband’s works.
Mr. Thompson goes on to deride the work of Fanny Mendelssohn, Ethyl Smyth, and Amy Beach. While he admits that many of the barriers preventing women from pursuing composition are gone, the only living female composer he mentions is Judith Weir, current Master of the Queen’s Music. His only reasoning for disliking her work, is that her opera, Miss Fortune, received poor reviews. He does contend that, “There may be some [great female composers] in the future, though I’m not sure whether ‘greatness’ is achievable amid the messy eclecticism of 21st-century music.”


But this is the problem with putting so much stock in the concept of genius. One listener’s genius is another listener’s derivative hack. And while most would scoff at Thompson’s outlandish beliefs, the repertoire lists of many of the ensembles, presenting organizations, recording labels, and music classrooms of the country would seem to demonstrate some silent agreement with the premise. These repertoire lists are filled with the music of Robert, Felix, and Gustav, but Clara, Fanny, and Alma are ignored. So too are great composers such as Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-George, Samuel Cooleridge-Taylor, William Grant Still, Florence Beatrice Price, Margaret Bonds, George Walker, and so many others (except perhaps for a token performance in the month of February).

More and more I get a sense that arts writers and artists are trying to formulate arguments against the legacy of Romanticism and German idealism but they don't have enough history and philosophy at hand to dismantle the German idealist project in a way that isn't cast back on to the entire thousand year history of Western art.  That the idea of genius began to shift from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries needs to be noted, but it needs to be noted in a way that can look back and see that the geniuses venerated by Romantics a la Beethoven and Mozart were not necessarily the ones venerated in that day.  It's too easy for a Romantic sort to talk of how Mozart was not appreciated properly in his time compared to some hack like Diabelli or Clementi.  Well, hey, I actually like a few Diabelli piano sonatas more than I like Mozart's and I don't think it's wrong to say that I think Mozart hacked out some stuff that I don't really care for.  I adore the music of Haydn more than that of Beethoven or Mozart and ... actually ... Diabelli's Op. 29 F major guitar sonata is a pretty good sonata.  Yes, he, too, hacked out a lot of sloppy material but he had something wonderful in that F major sonata if there's a guitarist up to its formidable technical and interpretive demands. 

Which gets me back to thinking about how, as a guitarist, a lot of these polemics against the Romantic genius and the cultural legacy of German idealism slides past me in some ways.  Guitarists have been so peripheral to the college-requirement music canons that we have the luxury of not caring in the same way about what for singers and pianists and string players is the increasingly stifling legacy of the long 19th century. 

So, pertinent to the quoted work above, I love the piano sonatas of George Walker.  I hope his work gets more exposure.  When asked who he recommended young composers study he said Stravinsky and Hindemith.  He said he had his issues with them but that new composers would learn craft and appropriate compositional disciplines studying their works.  By contrast, he didn't think there was any point in the work of Carter (Elliot), whose whole life Walker regarded as having been spent on making music not worth listening to. 

I'm all on board with a frontal assault on the Romantic art-as-religion cult and canonism and all of that ... but the trouble is that it seems that for a stratum of Anglo-American artists and academics they don't seem to have read widely enough or deeply enough or what have you to recognize that if that's what they want to do they had best be more focused on what they're really arguing against. Treating the entire history of Western arts as emblematic of colonialism and imperialism and slavery is too sloppy.  When all the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest turn out to have practiced slavery we might want to remember that slavery is not "just" the legacy of Western European colonial/imperial powers.  Americans can be tempted to think of all modes of slavery as explicable in terms of the slavery the Confederacy defended the right to have.  American Indian slavery doesn't often come up, for understandable reasons, but the temptation to create new binaries to battle the evils of the old established approach is not going to do any of us any favors. 

If there's a way to keep Beethoven's late piano sonatas and string quartets around and to appreciate what's brilliant about them while off-loading the Romantic era tripe about the artist-genius I'm all for that.  The trouble is that academics and artists themselves are ... quite possibly the last people on earth in Western society who are going to pull that feat off.  If you're making your living doing it then it might be challenging to critique that system in a way that can take hold.  Humans are cult makers and canon formers.  Certain writers like Scruton and Borstlap say the religious impulse comes first and the religion gets invented later.  A consequence of such an observation is the possibility that canon-formation is what humans do.  Maybe guys like Scruton and Borstlap want the canon to be preserved and I'm not against that.  Maybe writers like Williams want George Walker's piano sonatas added to the canon or to have the idea of a canon questioned.  I'm in favor of the former and consider the latter stupid.  People who don't want canons don't want to be educators because you have to teach something and teach from something.  This is the point at which an Adorno might point out that reactionaries and conservatives can be more honest that the ostensibly liberal or progressive wing in questions of what is being taught and why. 

Fredrik Deboer on "perhaps we are not meant to feel that kind of good" about the self-care idiom

He's been writing stuff and then taking it down but I saw this in the last week or so, a musing on the possibility that what is called "self care" seems more or less sociopathic to him.  I didn't get the sense there was anything at all feminist about self-care so I'm not able to speak as to how he got that impression ... .

perhaps we are not meant to feel that kind of good

On my computer somewhere I have a folder named “sociopath instructions.” It’s from my days on social media. When an inspirational meme would pop up on my Instagram feed, which happened several times a day, I would frequently clip and save it. The “inspiration,” an expression of self-care culture, would inevitably involve telling you that you are the single greatest work of creation, that you are invincible, limitlessly enviable, eternally strong. I called them sociopath instructions because it seemed that the purpose of these memes were to teach people that they were literally the only person alive. It was not unheard of for them to literally say “you are the universe.” I could not draw inspiration from them myself; I’m afraid that I am not the universe. 

I am in no position to critique contemporary feminist mores. But I can’t help but feel that many women are made even more stressed and unsatisfied by self-care culture. “Love yourself” becomes just another impossible demand that women can’t satisfy, another bar they can’t reach. And so self-love becomes something to resent, just another source of guilt. And guilt you feel on behalf of yourself rather than on behalf of others seems particularly draining. It’s perverse. I remember frequently thinking, what if not everybody wants to be the most badass bitch on the block all the time? Who ever said that we were meant to proceed through life feeling good about ourselves all the time?

I know it sounds weird but I’ve always felt that my self-esteem is, in a deep sense, none of my business. That it’s not mine to command or alter. It is not my job to feel a certain way about the way I feel; my job is only to feel it. Of course I pursue happiness like any other person. But I do not see the pursuit of happiness as some ancillary task in a larger project of self-actualization. I do not want to feel good for the sake of satisfying the cultural dictate that I feel good. I do not want to capitulate to the demand that I love myself.

I don’t know. Perhaps you feel like this too. I do know that I’m not interested in self-care. It sounds exhausting.

Posted on March 26, 2019 by Freddie in Uncategorized 

It's possible the rhetoric of self care is more prominent in some quarters ... but I recall commenter chris e mentioned here that Jordan Peterson's spiel can be thought of as self care programs for the sorts of social conservatives or libertarian males who would not on pain of death concede that self care is what that program is generally, at a practical level about.

I doubt that it's ultimately feminist, though, and if anything I venture that when we see superhero films in which saving the multiverse is just all part of the day's stresses and the learning curve of greatness but the emotionally poignant moments with family or friends are the great Maslow need met the idea of self care doesn't have to be feminist at all, it's more just the American way ... or "an" American way.  

ever heard of spectralist music? Well, here's an introduction by way of an author who has noted that spectralism never seemed to take off

Something is killing spectral composers. Gérard Grisey, the pioneer of the genre, died of a stroke at age 52, immediately following the completion of his funereal work “Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil.” Claude Vivier, the Quebecois Jonathan van Ness of new music, was murdered at 34 by a man he picked up in a gay bar, after writing “Glaubst Du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele,” a piece that seemed to predict the circumstances of the crime. The Italian Fausto Romitelli, whose work is tinged with distorted electric guitar and LSD, succumbed to cancer at 41. The Romanian Ana-Maria Avram passed away at 55, the Spaniard Francisco Guerrero Marín at 49. (Bob Gilmore, the musicologist who wrote groundbreaking biographies of Vivier and Harry Partch, died in 2015 at 54.) Besides a premature death, there is something else that ties each of these composers together—not necessarily their adherence to “spectralism,” which involves material drawn from the harmonic series, but the combination of intellectual rigor and passionate hedonism in their work.

I like some music by Ligeti, Xenakis, Kurtag and some of the other proto-spectralists but I never got around to listening to the spectralists proper, if you will.

I'm reading a dissertation by Martin Vishnick on the morphologies of extended techniques in classical guitar compositions and it's ... well, I'm not hugely into the spectralist or new complexity scenes even if I'm finding the dissertation itself fascinating reading.  I can't produce those multiphonics that are said to be accessible at the sixth fret.  I just get a septimal minor seventh harmonic, more or less, slightly behind the sixth fret.

It's a bit weird how authors feel some obligation to take shots at Kyle Gann.  I saw Andrew Durkin do that in Decomposition on whether or not Gann's work on Nancarrow really got to the "real" music.  Now I have written about my various disagreements with Durkin's book elsewhere at this blog.  Trying to claim that Western musical notation is so slippery and uncertain we can never have an "authentic" score is just a stupid argument.  It's a stupid argument at multiple levels because anyone who's read even a few books from early music specialists can tell you that the score was thought of in relationship to the performed music in a way similar to how a recipe for chocolate chip cookies is not the same as eating chocolate chip cookies.  The cults of art that evolved in the wake of German idealism and Romanticism are probably to blame for the sacred score approach and early music specialists have been working to attack that cult's supremacy for a generation or two.

But to simply treat what Gann has written as if it is somehow a new "authorized" narrative that has to be criticized seems a bit weird.  I don't have to agree with everything Gann writes to appreciate that he's spent his whole life writing about music where if he weren't writing about it I might not know it ever existed.  I have his work to thank for why I know who Ben Johnston is now!  Johnston's string quartets are fantastic.  I might not share his love for Sorabji but, hey, at least now I know who Sorabji is and I admire the Reicha 36 fugues quite a bit.  From Gann's mention of them I went out and got the entire cycle of woodwind quintets.  Which might be another way to say that for those of us who are into eighteenth century music in all its varied weirdness and epoch-crossing changes it gets tiresome to read contemporary writers who seem to write as though there's the fusty old Romantic era and high modernism as though there weren't centuries of other things going on and, I'm a classical guitarist so I actually do like some of the Romantic era music.  I admire Chopin and Mendelssohn, for instance.  i can even appreciate ... some ... Lizst now in middle age I couldn't stand when I was younger.  Still can't get into Berlioz though but he wrote more concisely on the guitar than most so I can respect that (and I know why he could).

Spectralism has its value for study but ... I get a sense listening to it that while there's interesting sounding work in the idiom it is in some kind of mid-point between a kind of Hollywood soundtrack ambience for genre films and some kind of post Varese technocratic exploration of sound-as-sound that I only like in small doses.