April 22, 2022

Rhythmic complexity in "Ordinary Day" by Vanessa Carlton, for feeling swept off your feet and then landing back to Earth

Let's return to a recurring theme here -- that you should ignore the musical takes and tastes of people who can't dance. Music & dance are as inseparable as smell & taste. We ignore food critics who are nose-blind to all smells, and we ignore art critics who are color-blind. So too do we ignore music critics who have two left feet.

A previous post looked into the use of 5-beat measures in Balkan pop music (really, a 2-beat unit followed by a 3-beat unit), tying this unusual time signature to its use in the dances that accompany it.

Several comments beginning here on "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen looked at the use of empty beats, an out-of-phase shift between lyrical and musical rhythm, and a call-and-response use of empty beats in the chorus, all of which evoke her stubborn plodding hesitancy to approach her crush, and needing an external shove to push her right into his space, if she couldn't muster the will all on her own.

I will never discuss unusual rhythms or time signatures in the context of prog rock, out-there forms of jazz, or anything cerebral like that, where it's mainly being done for its own sake, just to sound novel and cool -- rather than to support a dance that requires such a rhythm, or to evoke the bodily motions of the characters in the lyrics. That disembodies music from dance, and music that is unmotivated corporeally is a no-go.

The next song in the series will be "Ordinary Day" by Vanessa Carlton (2002).

This analysis will be pretty in-depth formally, and you might wonder why? It's just a pop song. Well, this one is a contender for being a pop masterpiece, not just radio filler. And almost no aesthetic criticism does formal analysis these days, to clearly uncover what is going on with a work of art. You can cry about it being like ruining a magic act by explaining, in mechanistic detail, how it was done. But we need to understand how the components of a work, and their interactions, make it what it is at the holistic gestalt "like it or hate it" level.

Otherwise, we can just stick with writing one-line reviews with a thumbs up or down, to recommend it or not to potential audiences. But that's a whole different function of a reviewer / critic, and not one that leads to any deeper understanding or appreciation of the work.

* * *

Although at first you assume a slow-tempo piano ballad by an introspective singer-songwriter is not going to have much going on rhythmically, this song will stick in your mind until you figure out why. And it's mainly the rhythm that's catching your attention, whether you're aware or not. I just happened to hear Fauna from Hololive sing this in karaoke, and it wouldn't get out of the back of my mind. So I gave the official release a few listens, and the unusual rhythms stood out. We will investigate the rhythm at increasingly higher levels of structure, or groupings of rhythmic units.

The time signature is 12/8, rare in pop music (or high music, for that matter). In this compound meter, there are 4 main units, each of which consists of 3 smaller units -- a heavy one followed by two weak ones. The initial heavy unit carries extra weight. The duration of each of these 12 tiny units is an 8th-note long. To help saying it aloud:

1-and-a 2-and-a 3-and-a 4-and-a ...

Those two weak notes trailing after the heavy note give this rhythm a feeling of weightlessness, gliding around, and floating. Heavy beats coincide with the delivery motion for the body, such as a foot landing on the ground, the leg reaching max extension during a kick, an arm reaching max extension when punching the air, and so on. Weak beats are for the winding-up motions that set up the delivery motion -- taking a foot off the ground, winding up a kick, winding up a punch, and so on.

With two weak notes, instead of only one, until the body becomes grounded again on the next heavy note, the legs stay in the air longer until landing. So the body feels more suspended in air, and there's more tension that builds up due to the feeling of floating further away until becoming grounded again. This reflects the mood of the singer, who feels somewhat carried off of her feet just from pining for her crush from afar, perhaps beginning to daydream about him, her attention drifting away from reality as much as her body is from the ground.

At the next level up in the rhythmic structure is the grouping of those 4 heavy notes -- but in fact, for most of the song, the 4th and final heavy note is silent (written as [X] below). Listen to the piano and the bass, which emphasize heavy notes 1, 2, 3, -- and then nothing on 4. They do come back in for the two weak notes after the silent 4th heavy note, though:

1 2 3 [X] and-a ...

The silent 4th beat corresponds to leaving the foot on the ground that was supposed to have been raised and landed on that beat. Since it has missed its intended beat and remains planted (written as [X] below), it lands on the next one in sequence, namely the 1st and heaviest beat of the following measure. Supposing you were doing a simple walk or march, and began with the L foot, then the steps would be:

L R L [X], R L R [X], L R L [X], R L R [X]

This empty beat at the end of each measure is therefore a bodily hesitation, leaving your foot grounded, as though unsure whether to continue pacing forward toward your destination or not. This mirrors the singer's emotional hesitation, about whether she should fully commit to approaching her crush, or keep her pining and daydreaming distance.

That foot is only frozen temporarily, though: it does land, albeit after a full beat of hesitation, but continuing her trajectory forward nonetheless. This shows that her emotional state is only wavering, hesitant, and anxious -- not that she's going to wimp out and close herself off altogether.

Each of these empty beats is like a little cliffhanger at the end of the measure -- oh no, what happened to her pacing? Will she carry herself forward, or is she going to just stay put, maybe even retreat? Great way of building tension at this level of the structure.

This also shows that the time signature is 12/8 rather than 6/8, which would be 2 main units of 3 notes, rather than 4 main units of 3 notes. There can be no cliffhangers with two units -- there has to at least be a beginning, then a middle, then a possible end. Cliffhangers and building tension assume there has been some change or direction before the empty spot -- and there can be no change, direction, or dynamics located within a single point. The cliffhanger empty beat after 3 present beats implies that those 4 are a cohesive whole and cannot be subdivided at that level.

See also someone else's old post showing that it is 12/8 rather than 6/8, looking at the chord progressions in the bass line. There are transitions after 4 beats, not after 2. Like me, that guy is not mainly into singer-songwriter piano ballads, but after he heard his daughter playing her CD, this song stuck in his mind and he had to figure it out -- turns out it was the rhythm that was so puzzlingly fascinating to his ear. His was the only post I found when googling to see if anyone else had noticed this song's unusual rhythm (and some database sites incorrectly categorize it as 3/4).

Now, what about those two weak notes that come back in after the empty 4th beat? That corresponds to the body movements needed to pick your frozen foot off the ground in order to make the next available heavy beat. Usually these weak notes don't need to be sounded, if they can assume you're walking at a normal uninterrupted pace. That's why they only play the heavy notes 1, 2, 3, not the "and-a" weak notes after them. Your mind and body can fill in the gaps between the heavy notes with those trailing weak notes.

But when your foot is frozen in hesitancy on the ground, you need to give it a little prodding and cajoling, just to pick it up off the ground. That's why those two weak notes get an overt sound -- what had gone assumed before, cannot be assumed now that your foot is frozen, and you need to say the quiet part loud to wake up that sluggish foot.

This bodily sensation mirrors the singer's emotional state, where she has to consciously will herself into going forward with her plan to talk to him, after a temporary hesitancy. And yet, this on-again / off-again pattern repeats every measure, showing that her emotional resolve is not strong enough to just slap herself once and go gung-ho -- she repeatedly feels too anxious, and repeatedly needs to will herself to commit to the plan. A one-time shot of courage would be reflected in a single burst of sound, or maybe a solo or bridge (a passage that only happens once).

At the next level up in the structure, these measures are arranged into passages, like a verse or chorus. Each verse is split into two halves, with 4 measures each, for 8 total. During the first 4 measures of a verse, the usual cliffhanger measure is used. But for the second 4 measures, this is only used for measures 6 and 8, while 5 and 7 now have their final beat filled in. This requires several listens to pick up on, but you must be noticing it unconsciously at first, you just can't pinpoint it precisely.

This progression over the course of a verse shows that she is gradually hesitating less and less as she approaches her crush. Maybe she simply finds more resolve from within, but given how crucial distance and proximity are in this song, it feels more like she's gaining confidence from him -- he's the strong guide she looks up to, and the closer she steps toward him, the more that his confidence rubs off on her.

During the chorus, there are 4 measures, and the cliffhanger rhythm is used for 1, 2, and 4, while the 3rd one has the final beat filled in. Similar effect as in the second half of the verse -- as he begins addressing her, and making her an offer to accompany him, her hesitancy is still there but is waning. She hasn't yet flown off with him, she's only being made an offer -- but that is enough to reduce her anxiety.

Then there is the brisk instrumental passage after the 2nd chorus, in which every measure has all beats filled in -- no more hesitancy, at all. And yet, no lyrics either -- this corresponds to her feeling whisked right off the ground by her crush, gliding around with no inhibitions, physical or emotional. Because they're soaring through the air now, the heavy notes are not matched with feet landing on the ground, but some other delivery motion -- imagine they're doing a darting movement, like a breaststroke swim through the air, and the heavy notes indicate each major sweeping-back motion of the arms and full extension of the legs kicking back. But still, no heavy note being missed, no hesitation, whether physical or emotional.

The bridge is another passage where every measure has all 4 beats filled in. This is just picking up on the instrumental passage's theme, only now there are lyrics because he's making a different degree of an offer -- not to leave the ground, they've already done that, but to soar off to some specific star or other, to fly through the clouds, or some other decision that she could not have pondered while still back down on the ground. Something she can only commit to now that she's already chosen to leave the ground. She still feels no hesitation, physical or emotional, during this stage.

Then the 3rd verse seems to bring her crashing back down to the mundane realm -- that same ol' cliffhanger hesitation rhythm from the earlier two verses. And the next chorus is pretty similar to the others, only there's a repeat of the final line, so there are 5 measures. Only the 3rd and 4th measures have the final beat filled in. Now we're seemingly back to where we began, mirroring her doubts about whether the soaring climax of the instrumental and bridge sections was only just her imagination. And yet, he's back at her door, so it must have been real.

There is another brief instrumental passage, where once again all measures have the final beat filled in -- no hesitation. This is a concrete musical token of the reality of the previous climax. Without saying it in lyrics, this shows that it was real after all. She's not having another daydream, she's being taken through the air again, to reassure her that it was real. It's not as long and intense as the climax, because it's not a second climax -- just a brief reassurance. A less intense token that proves that the more intense climax was real.

Finally, just as she had to come down from the climax into the 3rd verse, she comes down from the reprise of the instrumental, now that she has been convinced that the climax was real. She doesn't need to experience this reassurance forever -- a brief demonstration will do. And now that she's back down on the ground again, the cliffhanger measures return -- and therefore, so has her tendency to hesitate, notwithstanding the rollercoaster of confidence she has been taken on.

That's more evidence that she got her major boost of confidence from him taking her on a ride. Now that she's on the ground by herself again, the most she can do is plod forward (better than staying frozen), rather than go full-steam-ahead as she could only have done with him guiding her along, radiating his nonchalant confidence onto little ol' (partially) anxious her.

* * *

I'll bet you never thought there was such a dazzling rhythmic rabbit-hole to go down in the realm of pop music -- just a song, just an ordinary song. But complex enough to inspire two unconnected writers to go in-depth about its rhythmic structure, after only a happenstance playing by a younger girl fan (usually written off as having pedestrian tastes). And yet you don't have to be able to explain analytically what its je ne sais quoi is, to appreciate it -- its YouTube video is one of those where all the comments are glowing, "most underrated song ever," and so on. One of the most memorable and enjoyable, for sure.


  1. Vanessa Carlton went to the New York City Ballet's high school -- she brings a dancer's corporeal intuition to the rhythm-creating process of songwriting.

    Also explains why she's got such a cute butt -- dancers are butt people, not boob people.

    Just a butt, just an ordinary butt... God, I'm going to be filling that line in with whatever buzzwords I hear for the next month. It's too catchy! And not in a simplistic bubble-gummy way.

    Early '80s birth, during a manic phase of the 15-year excitement cycle, total Manic Pixie Dream Girl material. Although that only came to fruition during the restless phase of the cycle, the late 2000s -- "Nolita Fairytale". Love that one, too, have heard it off an on in stores still.

    She's got some of the good music from the vulnerable phase of the early 2000s, though, when most of it was just so mopey and self-victimizing. Her, Michelle Branch, and Avril Lavigne -- all born in the first half of the '80s. Future MPDGs, struggling to keep people lifted up even during the refractory state of the early 2000s.

    All super-cute butt girls, too. Mmmm, butt. I mention it only because that's the physical profile of the MPDG, as I detailed back in 2020. Some also have boobs, but they all have an hourglass waist-hip ratio, and are primarily butt girls. Earthy, relatable.

  2. Finally picked up Prism by Katy Perry on CD, at the thrift store for 99 cents. I got One of the Boys and Teenage Dream in 2020, but this one was always a little more at the used media stores, so I held off. But how can you argue with a dollar? Probably won't bother with Witness, though -- never really liked that one (late 2010s downer / aggro music).

    As I detailed back then, you have to get it on physical media for it to last. Streaming sites will go out of existence, censor "problematic" material (anything from before 5 minutes ago), allow the streaming rights to lapse / not pay exorbitant fees to rights-holders, etc. Only these physical discs are going to endure all of those chaotic changes in the virtual realm.

    And the sound quality is SOOO much better, richer, and thicker on CDs than on compressed digital downloads, let alone streaming quality. You have to pay a premium to get uncompressed digital downloads -- not with physical media. It only comes in uncompressed, top-quality form.

    Nice glossy booklets and back covers, too. Katy Perry's so hot, it's basically a mini pin-up calendar. Great cottagecore aesthetic, too.

    Only thing missing from this one is the MySpace web address on the back cover. But in fairness, Teenage Dream was one of the very last hold-outs for that tradition -- as late as 2010, when the great defection to Facebook was already heavily under way -- so I can't complain.

    While the alt-girl cashier was checking me out, I mentioned that this album is nearly 10 years old. Crazy.

    i know, i was in *middle school* when it came out... :)

    And I was in my early 30s. But she doesn't care, random hot guys are random hot guys (especially if they still look like they're in their late 20s, hehe). Last time she did a little dance on the way over to ask me if there's anything she can show me, when I was looking at the showcase area. One of the last alt-girls working at thrift stores -- I've noticed a dramatic mass quit from that demo in that sector.

    Part of the greater trend toward online-only existence, and deserting IRL spaces. I think the only It Girl types left in IRL are working at the grocery stores, more so the upscale ones. They stopped working as baristas several years ago. In a few years, there won't be any left at all -- they'll all be permanent shut-ins, interacting only through online platforms. Sad.

  3. Can't mention Katy Perry and Manic Pixie Dream Girls without a regular reminder that, before she became popular, she played a MPDG in the song and music video for "Simple" from 2005, right as the restless phase of the 15-year excitement cycle was getting started. Naturally she was born during a manic phase (first half of the '80s), as they all are.


    So quirked-up, adorkable, nurturing, engaging, and encouraging -- is that Katy Perry or Zooey Deschanel? Sigh...

  4. Here's a recent message from Katy Perry on Jonathan Haidt's article.


  5. Some comments on that Haidt article, as I read it. Techno-optimism vs. techno-pessimism is the same thing analytically, only differing in how they feel about the primacy of technology in determining history.

    While every once in awhile major tech changes can re-shape society, usually this is a cope / just-so-story, and something about the internal societal dynamics were already changing for the better / the worse, such as the over-production of the elite stratum of the societal pyramid.

    I reject techno-determinism, whether it's optimist or pessimist. Sadly, the start of this article is another entry in the techno-determinist genre of "the internet did it", only differing on what era of the internet, and which family of platforms, is responsible.

  6. No "civilization" has ever relied on "shared blood [and] gods" to hold it together. You could say a society relied on this, but civilization implies a large-scale expanding state, AKA an empire. Romans shared no blood with Gaul, Hispania, Syria, Egypt, etc. They shared no gods -- religious pluralism / "polytheism".

    They did share enemies, as Haidt includes in that list -- the only one that matters. People in the Italian peninsula shared the enemy of Gauls and Carthaginians, and the Romans unified the peninsula on that basis, before expanding throughout the Med and W. Europe.

    So we don't need to posit anything special about modern democracies. Like the Roman Empire, British / French / American imperial peoples share increasingly less blood with one another, due to conquest / immigration -- i.e., imperial integration.

    And we also allow them to follow their own peripheral gods, as long as they worship the central imperial god too, as Roman subjects could worship their own gods, as long as they worshiped the Roman Emperor-as-god too.

    It's the disappearance of shared enemies that is causing our empire to shrink. It was defined by conflict against the Indians, as the frontier was not closed until ~1900. Then somewhat against other empires in our westward expansion, like the Japanese Empire. But we wiped them out in WWII.

    Not even the Cold War conflict with Russia was enough to keep us expanding. We lost every single war after WWII, beginning with the war against North Korea. And we lost the Philippines and Cuba within 15 years of WWII, so the Russian conflict could not even prevent the contraction of the American empire.

    Russia is to our east, and way on the other side of the world. American imperiogenesis, and ethnogenesis, has always been defined by a westward expanding frontier. That reached its military peak when we defeated the Japanese empire in WWII, and we began contracting almost immediately after, when a huge group of Pacific islands that we had won in 1898 declared independence and we did nothing to keep ahold of them. Who cares about Russia?

    Only an expanding China could have filled that gap, but it's too late at this point. We have been contracting for ~70 years, and California wiped out its military capacity in favor of info-tech masturbation.

    Plus, China doesn't care about us anyways, and is expanding in every direction *but* eastward. They can fuck with our supply chains that we off-shored to them, but that's not territorial expansion. Their Belt & Road deal is going north, south, and west, focused on the Old World -- not the New World.

    Anybody selling China as the next big threat to America, whether in a bad way (military threat) or in a good way (at least it'll re-cohere America), is totally clueless.

  7. Sidebar: none of this is to object to Haidt's praise of Web 2.0 and the pre-historic '90s internet, nor his attack on the social media era. Web 2.0 was without the slightest doubt the Golden Age of Online.

    But social media is not the culprit behind imperial contraction and internal fragmentation. I don't even think it's making a bad situation worse. There are positive feedbacks loops in dynamic systems, so during their collapsing stage, any bad situation is going to tend worse.

    Fragmenting people will find any pretext, and any method, to express their hatred of their so-called fellow countrymen. Sports team riots in the Byzantine empire, or street / bar fights in fin-de-siecle European empires.

    Same with internet porn not causing sexual degeneracy. Bordellos, brothels, streetwalkers, and red light districts were huge in fin-de-siecle Euro empires.

    Ditto hard drug use, and a permanent underclass of addicts and homeless.

    Very little of that was due to new technological changes. Prostitution is as old as civilization itself, so are mind-altering substances, and sports teams.

  8. That's why Medieval England wasn't riven by all the degenerate, anti-social crap that was rearing its ugly head only in modern times. It wasn't an expanding state until after the Norman Invasion and the Hundred Years War, when the conflict against expanding France forced England to cohere so strongly it would become an expanding state of its own.

    So Medieval England would go through neither the good parts on an upswing -- nor the bad parts during a downswing. All that Pre-Raphaelite, Tolkien, etc. stuff is fundamentally wishing that British imperial expansion had never begun.

    It's not a wish to live in a society without a printing press per se, but about living in one where people were not fragmenting and institutions collapsing, as a bloated empire could no longer sustain its massive / expanding scale.

    I'm sure there were counterparts of the Pre-Raphaelites and Tolkienists during a late / end stage of much earlier empires, lamenting how they needed to RETVRN to the ways of pre-imperial society, when life may not have been as exciting and dynamic as under the empire, but still safe, cozy, and wholesome.

    Social changes, not tech changes, are what really disturb people. Tech changes are at worst annoying, not disturbing and alienating.

  9. When I become dictator, I will force every account to become a blog / commenter on a blog. But the RETVRN of the blogosphere will not counteract, hold steady, or even slow down our imperial collapse, whether its territorial or social aspects.

    But it would be worth doing for its own sake. Social media sucks compared to chat rooms, blogs, and message boards / forums.

  10. The Edelman trust barometer is about empires vs. not empires, and all the empires are in declining stages of life. It has nothing to do with autocracy vs. democracy. I wrote a series of 3 posts on this topic last year, focusing on Scandinavia as the outlier in Europe, but the point generalizes:


    Either the formal academics are late adopters of blogosphere-generated content, or they just don't accept the proof at all, because they can't talk about long-term dynamics involving empires, but only short / medium-term dynamics that will obscure the matter of imperial status.

    The only recent empire near the top of the Edelman list is Saudi Arabia (expanding since the late 1700s, spurred into cohesion by the pincer-like expansion of the Ottomans in the Arabian peninsula). I wonder if they surveyed the large foreign slave population, or only royal family / foreign NGO professionals. But even if their result is real, they're the only recent empire with high trust.

    All others have either never been empires (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, etc.), or have not been ones for awhile (India, China). The Netherlands is high, and like the Scandis they were never an expanding empire (having a strong military for 100 years is not the same thing as expanding).

    And no, China being a nominal empire in the very early 1900s doesn't mean it was an expanding state. That was just the final death-blow. They did not expand after the collapse of the Qing dynasty, losing Mongolia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Unlike the Russians, who did not lose their major conquests in Central Asia until the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union. What would China's trust index have been during the decline of the Qings, and the civil wars of their aftermath?

    Coping with the qualifier "competent" autocracies is just that -- a cope, to wave away where the competence comes from. The form of government is irrelevant.

    The ones that the bottom of trust are all recent empires in their declining stage, or countries that are military occupied by a declining empire (Japan & South Korea). Only exception is South Africa, although that is also about a recent foreign colonization, so it's not much of an exception.

    Latin America is in the middle, all former colonies of the Spanish empire, but that empire began disintegrating in the early 1800s. So they're in-between -- some baggage from the collapse of the Spanish empire within those colonies, but also relief from losing their imperial status in the intervening 200 years, without becoming expanders in their own right afterward.

    In Western Europe, there were no widespread populist revolts about fake news spreaders, parasitic elites, and seemingly suicidal leaders, before Europe entered the Age of Empires (whether Roman, or the Early Moderns). These problems only plague empires, and in 800 AD, only France was an empire in W. Europe (plus the foreign Moors in Iberia).

  11. Of course add the NATO members to those occupied by a declining empire. Like Japan they were recent empires, but bit the dust during WWI / WWII -- only to be absorbed into the American empire.

    If we had left them alone, they would be further along in the post-collapse stage of imperial life. But being our vassals, they're subject to the same benefits (during the early Postwar period) and the same plagues (neoliberalism, and now disintegration in the 2020s) as their American imperial occupiers.

    Spain is the saddest case -- their empire began disintegrating in the early 1800s, they largely stayed out of WWI and WWII, being a spent empire. They did not join NATO right away, and there was bitter opposition for decades, only joining in the early 1980s, during the neoliberal transition.

    Yep, Franco kept Spain out of NATO, the neolibs brought Spain into it. Franco did accept the US navy occupation at Rota, but not full integration in the NATO framework, esp. having to go to war if any others were attacked.

    They should have gone much further toward a stable post-imperial equilibrium, having lost their own imperial status for over 150 years. But being roped into the American empire during the '80s is going to trigger all the classic imperial collapse symptoms there all over again, though presumably not as badly as when their own empire collapsed.

  12. Australia & Canada are in the middle because they were never empires, unlike Western Europe. So they're absorbing the imperial symptoms from their current American overlords, but that's not on top of their own post-imperial collapse, since they were never empires.

    Major factor for why Aimee Terese and Leila Mechoui have no idea how bad things are in America right now, and why they're never recovering until well after a hard imperial collapse. They may be insightful on all sorts of other matters, but their Aussie / Canadian status prevents them from having a palpable, tangible sense of how much worse things are getting here by the year.

    You can't quantify it, not easily anyway, so they can't look at a table or chart of stats and make up their mind one way or another. You have to be living here, for decades, to sense it -- but you can feel it in everyday life.

  13. I envy their naivete about "no collapse" in the way the Pre-Raphaelites envied their pre-imperial ancestors. But this isn't about a RETVRN to a previous time that was not plagued by empire -- they're living people. It's about a different place, that has no such history (at most, being recent vassals of America).

    They have no idea what a magical fairytale land they inhabit, compared to an imperial nation like America (or the recent ones like Britain, France, Germany, Russia, etc.).

    I don't envy their countries being a lot less exciting and creative, but those good aspects of empire are already dead here anyway. There's not going to be anything exciting and dynamic and fun to miss out on in America going forward, so it wouldn't matter if Australia and Canada will also have nothing exciting going on either.

    But they're not going to be tearing each other apart as much as we will be here.

    Again, the true inhabitants of fairytale land in Western Europe and its off-shoots are the Scandis, who as far as we can tell still live in a Moomintroll Edenic paradise. They have zero imperial history of their own, they are not the off-shoot of an earlier empire, and they're the least integrated into the major empire of their neighbors (America, and/or Russia).

  14. If only war broke out with the Russians in 1945.


  15. War could not have broken out against Russia, though. That's the point. American involvement in WWII had zero to do with the Euro theater -- we stayed out when Hitler was merely taking over the national government, through the invasion of Poland, etc.

    What brought us in? The Japanese empire bombing a military outpost on our far-western frontier, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941. We might not have gotten involved at all if it weren't for that attack -- and the Japanese did not have to do that to us. They could have simply stuck to their East Asian theater, but they miscalculated.

    Since our expansion has always been westward, we used the Pearl Harbor attack to spur our expansion even further west, toward the Asian mainland.

    We managed to take over some of the islands in the Pacific, including the Philippines and Japan, by force. But once we hit the Asian mainland, it has never worked out for us, beginning in North Korea, then Southeast Asia. Nor later in Afghanistan.

    Since Japanese expansion put itself on a collision course with American expansion, we went to war against them.

    But Russian expansion was not on a collision course with our own -- only possibility would be the far northeast of Siberia, or if they tried to take back Alaska by force. But Russia never cared that much about that area, nor did we, after we bought the New World land in Alaska. We were not coming for Siberia.

    At most, Russia was willing to fight the Japanese empire over northeast Asia, but both of those empires are Old World.

    It took the crossing of half the Pacific Ocean by Japan, to attack Hawaii, in order for America to join WWII.

    We were scarcely involved in WWI either -- because nobody involved in that war attacked our westward expansion. It was entirely confined to the Old World, and the part of the Old World to our east, at that.

  16. The speculation about America vs. Russia in Europe is clueless ahistorical substitution of "America" for various Western Euro empires, on the clueless idea that since we are an off-shoot of one of them (Britain) and had major immigration from others (France and Germany), well, we were going to pursue the territorial expansionist interests of where we came from way back when, rather than where we are right now.

    Totally clueless. We're Americans, we don't give a shit what happens in Europe, it's to our east, and we came from there before we underwent imperiogenesis and ethnogenesis in the New World -- against New World entities like the Indians, not against any Euro-based empire. By the time we were fighting the Mexican War, they were already independent from Spain.

    We're no longer just a Euro imperial colony.

    We did scoop up Western Europe as imperial vassals after WWII -- because we paid almost none of the price of WWI and WWII on the battlefield, so why not take them for free after they had all destroyed each other as empires?

    If anyone thought we incorporated Western Europe into our empire because we had true territorial expansionist interest in Europe, specifically eastward against Russia, then why did we never actually go to war against Russia, in Europe, to beat them back from Eastern Europe?

    We only scooped up Eastern Europe into NATO once the Russians underwent imperial collapse in the 1990s. We committed zero military resources to their acquisition. It was not a conquest. But again, why not take them if they are temporarily free of charge?

    We are not committing many boots on the ground over Ukraine, and we aren't even waging much of a proxy war against Russia -- more than they would like, but there's zero percent chance that Ukraine will win. Zero.

    We are just a thorn in Russia's side, not an existential threat. Our incorporation of Western, and then Eastern, Europe into NATO made it look like we were going to fight Russia on Russian territory. But that ignores how we acquired those nations as vassals -- never through force, only picking up the pieces after their empires collapsed.

    We did try to forcibly acquire one regional power in Europe -- Serbia, during the '90s. Completely failed. We did acquire other Balkan nations during the collapse of Yugoslavia, but only because they are bitter jealous haters against Serbia, so they gleefully joined the American empire instead.

    But when it came to actually using force to acquire a Balkan nation, we never even came close. Decades later, and Serbia is even more hostile to America, and even more supportive of Russia, whereas Yugoslavia had not been a satellite or member of the USSR in earlier times. We drove Serbia into Russia's orbit, just as our pathetic attempt to take Iraq has only driven it into the orbit of Iran, our regional rival. Or Afghanistan into the orbit of China.

    We are so past our military peak, it's not even funny. Fire all of the Pentagon, intel agencies, and defense contractors. They only subtract value from the economy, and only give us L's on the national scoreboard when we treat them like our nation's team in a global sports contest.

  17. Are you Mormon, btw? Super-trendy first name says you're from out West, while surname says you're super-WASP-y. And you're clearly on the right rather than left. Not many people like that out West, other than Mormons.

    Even if it's a pseudonym, you could be using one that fits the place where you come from.

    At any rate, all this talk about American ethnogenesis, the westward expansion, and our distinguishing ourselves from Euro empires, makes me want to write up some thoughts I've been having about why we Americans are so into the Saharo-Arabian cultural sphere, as opposed to the Indo-European lands that we actually come from.

    But then I'm going to have to talk about the Freemasons, and I'm going to sound like a schizoposter. How can you talk about the roots of Mormonism and not, though? They were literal members of Freemasonry, and their Temple initiation rituals were borrowed whole-cloth from the Masons' initiation rituals.

    If you are in fact Mormon, you may want to skip reading those posts, since you guys really don't want us to know about the Temple as a different institution from a Christian church, the initiation rites that would spook most Christians to learn about, and yes I will be linking to that one guy's viral YouTube videos where an ex-Mormon did a hidden camera filming of these rituals, just to prove it to the rest of the world.

    Mormons reacted as though it was sacrilege, worse than Piss Christ on steroids. As though unclean people had been brought right into the Holy of Holies.

    But if you're not Mormon, then nothing to worry about.

    1. I'm actually the descendant of British Loyalists in Ontario.

  18. Finishing up the Haidt article, the Scandinavian countries prove that social media isn't going to destabilize society, tear apart the social fabric, cause people to stop believing in a shared national story and history, cause people to not believe in a single shared truth, etc.

    Not only do the Scandis have the internet, and social media -- they use the exact same platforms as the countries that are destabilizing / disintegrating right now.

    Techno-determinists try to cope about the internet in China by saying their websites and social media platforms are different from ours, regulated in a different way, etc., so that the internet and social media's effect is platform-dependent.

    No it isn't -- Scandinavia is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, etc. Exactly the same ones that we use in Trump-voting America and Brexit-voting Britain.

    Coping about how Scandinavia is homogeneous and small-scale is just a cope -- America was ethnically diverse and gigantic in scale during the proverbial and literal 1950s. But we were not coming apart at the seams, we had a single shared history and present-day story, monoculture, faith in leaders / elites / institutions, stable contributors to the national whole, and so on and so forth. We incorporated African slaves and Ellis Islanders who had nothing to do with America's founding, both economically / politically, as well as culturally.

    So were the Brits during the 1700s and most of the 1800s, when they had become a multinational empire. Or the French, as they united all sorts of diverse peoples from the Mediterranean, Pyrenees, continental Celts, Paris, the Alps, and the rest of it.

    In fact, imperial people have even *stronger* trust, faith, cohesion, etc. than does a small-scale homogeneous non-empire. But only during their imperial rise -- once the imperial collapse begins, they plummet into a mind-bending hangover for those traits, the likes of which can never be appreciated by non-imperial peoples.

  19. Haidt's "Wild West" view of Twitter ignores its takeover by the CIA, and the heavy and heavily partisan intervention of Twitter's own mods, during the social breakdown period of 2012 or so to present.

    During the true Wild West era of online -- the 2000s -- there could have been a zealous minority determining the outcomes within their forum, or corner of the blogosphere. Both right and left. There were no high-scale mods, let alone active intervention by the CIA, CDC, or other federal bureaucracy.

    During the hellscape of the social media era, it's true that a mob may target someone and cause them real-life harm, but that's only with the express permission of the intel agencies and Silicon Valley oligarchs, who are left-wing (they're informational sectors, not material sectors, who are right-wing).

    The last time a right-wing faction could terrorize Twitter or Facebook or YouTube was 2016, back when the intel agencies and SV oligarchs thought it was just an over-glorified flame war with no real-world consequences. Once Trump won the people's vote and got inaugurated, though, all bets were off. It's been one great big long rolling ban wave against right-wingers ever since, rarely / never left-wingers.

    It's like saying that "mob psychology" is responsible for the burning-down of multiple major and minor American cities during the summer of 2020. No, it was the employment of mobs by the DNC and its various NGOs and front groups, such as BLM and Antifa, backed up by the intel agencies identifying right-wing targets.

    No right-wing mob burned down, looted, or otherwise terrorized a single town in 2020.

    Mob dynamics somehow only flow from one side of the partisan spectrum. Blaming the internet, social media, or populism, for mob behavior is clueless nonsense.

  20. Haidt, the CIA, and right-wing media all share the same false view of what determines what. In their view, the right-wing troll / meme army was uniquely crucial to Trump's victory in 2016 -- including the king of all Twitter shitposters, Trump himself. Backed up by other right-wing info-warriors like Alex Jones, the Tea Party activists (who hated Trump and wanted Cruz), Fox News (who were anti-Trump, but nevermind), etc.

    In reality, Trump won because of de-industrialization, repeated large-scale military failures, and soaring immigration. Not to mention that, owing to de-industrialization, nobody recovered from the 2008 Depression unless they had a direct or indirect line of credit to the central bank via the Quantitative Easing program, which printed trillions of dollars to hand out to rich failures to play around and gamble with.

    The bottom 80% of society never saw a red cent of those trillions, and the top 20% who received all of them puffed their egos up about how epic and awesomely deserving they were to get them. Further insulating the elites from reality.

    They didn't just say, "Yeah, we're all failures, we blew up the economy in a way that can never be restored, and everything we do is fake and/or unprofitable -- but at least we're getting that bag from the Central Bank, so who cares?"

    Academics, intel agencies, and media-ites of both parties are tech-determinists, namely informational tech / media determinists. Their view of why Trump won, and Brexit won, in 2016 were dead wrong.

    But in 2020 they got put to an empirical test -- after 2016, the CIA and SV oligarchs unplugged the entire right-wing from the internet, at least the big social media platforms. They let loose their left-wing mobs on IRL cities during 2020.

    If control over the narrative / internet tech mattered, then Trump would have lost with voters in 2020. But he won the vote, by an even larger margin than in 2016, adding Nevada, and making heavy in-roads with the working class and Hispanics (despite his build-the-wall rhetoric).

    That's why those dozen or so battleground states all shut down the processing of ballots on election night, a first in American history, and only reported their fake results in the weeks and months later. If Trump had lost with voters, that would have been apparent on election night, and not a single state would have suspended the electoral process -- which does not end with the casting of ballots, but their uninterrupted and speedy processing and honest reporting.

  21. The whole "revenge of the nerds" narrative of the 2010s was total horseshit. This view credited left-wing nerds for Obama's win, rather than the military failures in Iraq & Afghanistan, the 2008 crash, and the commodities bubble, which made housing unaffordable and drove gas prices through the roof during the summer of 2008.

    This view also credited Trump's rise to right-wing nerds on tech platforms / media outlets, rather than those same exact causes that led to Obama, but which Obama's two terms did little or nothing to improve. OK, same problems still exist, and one party failed to solve them, so let's give the other party a try.

    And only one candidate on that other side was even talking about the real problems, while the other GOP candidates were sticking their heads in the sand and telling Americans they weren't screwed over during both the W. Bush and Obama years, regarding military failure, de-industrialization, and immigration.

    Real material issues determine political outcomes, at high-stakes levels, not informational warfare.

    Even the stolen election of 2020 disproves the "revenge of the nerds" view. They needed physical bodies in IRL spaces to stop the vote-counting machines, to harvest fake votes, transport them to ballot-processing buildings, and so on and so forth. That did not take place online, in the academy, or in the media -- but IRL, brick-and-mortar. And by people who didn't have advanced degrees or brainiac IQs, but who were organized and willing to suspend the electoral process.

    All online audiences are pre-selected to be believers in this info-determinist nonsense -- that's why they're consuming all this information, because it's going to change or shape things. So I won't get a big audience with this correct view of political outcome determination, but that doesn't make it any less correct.

  22. Haidt again missing the imperial basis of systemic knowledge production. What changed in Europe from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern period was the large-scale levels of cohesion, caused by feeling pressed against by other expanding empires.

    Mainly France, the sole Medieval indigenous empire of Western Europe, pressing outward in various directions, causing the British and German empires to come into being. But also France being an empire already and still, through various dynastic waves.

    Back before Europe was pressed against by the Roman empire, there was no systemic knowledge production -- despite this process taking place in the Near and Middle East at the same time. What was different? Empires got started earlier in the Cradle of Civilization, so there were thriving empires over there way back then, correlated with high cohesion at a large scale, stemming from imperial expansion against their people.

    That's why "Our ancestors were inventing the alphabet while your ancestors were still living in mud huts". But after awhile, the Fertile Crescent stopped producing empires, since it was poorly defended, and other regional powers took over -- Persia and Anatolia, not to mention the Turko-Mongol invaders later.

    It's not about wealth needed to fund unprofitable endeavors like the arts and sciences. Any group of dumbasses can win the lottery, or inherit wealth, and not fund any such thing. Look at how much wealth we've dumped into higher ed and entertainment over the past 10 years, and it's produced nothing other than the replication crisis in academia and sequels / remakes / reboots in Hollywood.

    It's about the cohesion undergirding imperial expansion, that makes something like the House of Wisdom in Baghdad possible -- until the empire collapses, attendant with plummeting cohesion.

    Our systemic knowledge production or artistic creation will never stop its downward spiral or even slow down. We had our rise, our peak, and now it's our downfall.

    If we get pressed against for long enough by an expanding empire, some Western Euro / American nations may re-cohere and kick off a Renaissance in 400 or 4000 years from now. But without that, we will never contribute anything further to human achievement -- we had a pretty good run, though, so it's nothing to wallow over.

    But the examples of other people who used to be imperial, and have not been for a long time, suggests that we will always carry a chip on our shoulder about our never-to-be-recovered imperial status. Like the Lebanese who invented the alphabet and colonized the Mediterranean. Or the Iraqis who sponsored the House of Wisdom nearly 1000 years ago, or whose Babylonian ancestors pioneered astronomy, etc.

    "Our ancestors invented the computer and created Star Wars (the original trilogy), back when your ancestors were still herding horses around Central Asia..."

  23. More clueless lying both-sides-ing about how right-wingers are divorced from reality by hallucinating the stopping of ballot-counting on election night in a dozen battleground states, which experts tell us happens every election.

    Sorry Boomer, it's not the '70s or '80s, there's no such thing as an array of right-wing think tanks, and the few that exist were and remain bitterly anti-Trump and anti-populist. Most of right-wing media was bitterly opposed to Trump during the 2016 primary, and clamped down on the reporting of the Great Ballot Count Stoppage of November 2020.

    In the current year, 99% of NGOs and think tanks and front groups are Democrat. So are all informational institutions, especially those that control the media and online platforms.

    At least Haidt didn't succumb to all out-of-touch Boomerisms, like dragging the churches or religion into his discussion. A more terminal case of Boomer-brain would have mentioned Christian fundamentalist churches, as meeting places for word-of-mouth communication, and as media influencers.

    Nobody goes to church anymore, including hardcore right-wingers and Trump voters. The vestige of the religious right was opposed to Trump, and favored Cruz anyway.

    So props to not trying to revive the Jesus Camp documentary as an explanation for what's causing American imperial collapse.

    1. Michael Lind has described the significance of non-profits to contemporary "progressive" politics.


  24. The both-sides-ing on COVID is really bonkers. His thesis is info-tech-determinism. The argument is wrong for Trump / Brexit in 2016, but at least there was a plausible basis -- there actually were right-wing shitposters running wild on Twitter back then.

    But right-wingers against the COVID hysteria, whether on an intellectual level or the political decisions to shut down society, never existed on social media. They were immediately censored or banned, and even sharing a news item from a legacy media outlet that cast even slight doubt on the intellectual or political / economic reality of COVID, triggered a "Get the facts" flag from Twitter, created specially for this topic.

    Again, reality trumps informational warfare. We saw with our own eyes, after a "waiting and seeing" period of a few months, that this disease was not wiping out the population like the Black Plague, or even the Spanish Flu. So why respond so hysterically to it? Why lock down, why mask, etc?

    Everyone masked throughout summer / fall 2020 -- we saw that with our own eyes, did not need experts in media to report data on masking prevalence, it was 100% obviously. And then a big wave of COVID hit in that winter -- also detectable to people without the media, such as relatives getting it and/or dying -- proving that masks and lockdowns did nothing. So why keep up with them?

    Ditto for the vaccines -- if they stopped COVID, then COVID would have been stopped. But it wasn't. The other side even conceded that point eventually -- "OK, they don't stop the spread, but they will ameliorate symptoms [temporarily] [until you get your regular daily booster shot] [etc.]"

    But we didn't need the media to tell us that, it was clear from real life.

  25. OMG, this dude is claiming that when Skynet becomes sentient and wants to off mankind, it's going to do so by cyber-bullying us into committing suicide, rather than sending out physical robots to IRL spaces we inhabit and wound us with actual weapons.

    When I saw the section titled "It's Going to Get Much Worse," I thought there might be some common views. But no, it was just about how the greater AI sophistication is going to make imperial collapse even worse, as bot-nets become more effective super-spreaders of disinformation.

    Tech-determinists can't even give us a cool exciting vision of tech-caused dystopia anymore.

    But again, as with the COVID section, this example discredits his thesis about polarization and tech platforms, since only one party's propaganda is allowed by the intel agencies and SV oligarchs to spread online.

    If Russia ever becomes a factor in facilitating the spread of counter-American-regime ideas, it will be by offering us a social media platform where normies can post normally about COVID, ballot count stoppages, and the like. We won't need bots or AI.

    The fixation on AI -- whether pro or con -- is so clueless. AI can't beat us, only we can beat ourselves. But if your goal is to shift blame away from people, or certain sectors of people, or certain specific individuals, then blaming AI is where you are inevitably led as a tech-determinist. The ultimate digital scapegoat.

  26. Now to the proposed reforms, because you can't be a wannabe managerial consultant for the most senior level of management -- imperial elites -- without pitching them your big ideas for the solution, after spelling out all their problems.

    First a list of letters to Santa Claus about the political process per se, not about social media.

    Then on social media per se, it's weakening what anonymity still exists online, in order to help the intel agencies figure out whose neighborhood to send their BLM / Antifa mobs to, or which bank to call up and request they freeze your money.

    And to slow the spread of viral content, require the 3rd account in a chain of transmission to manually copy & paste the content into a new post, rather than allow the "share" button to be used ad infinitum.

    Would that really stop Trump from retweeting something that the fake news censors would shit their pants over? Obviously not.

    And that's not where online censorship happens anyway -- this reform assumes that the platform in question has allowed all three accounts in the transmission chain to actually have and operate accounts on their platform. The reality is they'll simply ban you if you do something they don't like.

    So, if Facebook and Twitter instituted this reform to slow the speed of sharing content, would they allow back onto their platforms everyone they kicked off -- including Trump himself? Obviously not, these reforms have nothing to do with preserving the quality of information, but policing which political factions can and cannot spread their info.

    The only acceptable policies -- including from the "liberal patriot" tribe that Haidt likes to hype up -- are to allow anyone to join any platform, and say whatever they want. That's it: freedom of online association, and freedom of speech. Anything else will be highly politicized and partisanized.

    Age limit, OK. We already have that in voting. Nothing already illegal, OK. But criminalizing speech as hate speech or whatever is just censorship.

    Those are the only reforms that could restore even a shred of faith in these info institutions -- but the proposed ones will make it even worse, so of course that's what they would do. Unless Elon Musk buys Twitter and lets Trump back on, or something like that.

    Hard to believe Haidt didn't mention that -- it's major news as he's writing the article. And Musk is an SV oligarch himself, not a lowly media flunky, and not a right-winger. Him allowing Trump and the victims of woketard ban waves back onto the platform would restore way more trust in it, than if somehow Steve Bannon raised enough money to take over Twitter.com.

    I have no personal interest here, I've never had an account on Twitter, and never will.

    Again, this article is not about restoring faith in institutions, preserving American democracy, etc., but about how to advance the Democrats' partisan interests in the most effective & efficient way possible.

  27. End on a strong agree with the anti-helicopter parent stuff, but that has nothing to do with politics, institutions, and collapse.

    It's just anti-human to deform your kids' development by not letting them interact with others IRL, and then turning them loose for the first time when they're college-aged. Helicopter parenting should be opposed on those interpersonal, psychological grounds -- it doesn't need to be tied in to a mass-scale, political project, where it is irrelevant anyway.

    But as collapse accelerates, we're going to lose sight of the interpersonal phenomena like helicopter parenting and its detrimental effects on kids. You could have just said that, on its own terms, back in the 2000s, like the original Free Range Kids book (2009).

    All my extensive posting on the cocooning-and-crime cycles, related to helicopter parenting, during 2009 and the early 2010s, had nothing to do with politics, and I explicitly said so every time someone tried to politicize it.

    But now, the cottage industry is about imperial collapse -- how can your pet topic inform the only question worth asking these days, i.e. how to stop our collapse or at least make the landing soft?

    What the hell does a free-range kids parent know about that? Just let them preach their gospel without tying it to a grand political project, where it won't have any effect anyway.

    Teen girls getting depression and anxiety from early use of social media doesn't have anything to do with politics or imperial collapse either. Demanding that this topic be tied into the grander topic of imperial collapse, just means we're going to ignore the non-political topic de facto.

    It will be treated as yet another letter to Santa Claus about reversing the irreversible political trajectory, instead of something that actually could see major changes implemented, because they do not bear on the high-stakes world of imperial politics.

    And again, to counteract the lazy both-sides-ing, only one side of the party spectrum is making teen girls feel bad about their bodies via social media -- the Democrats, who are the social media cartel's political vehicle, who 99% of the thicc-shaming skinny art hoes belong to, and whose non-binary / tranny faction is telling girls they shouldn't follow their natural desire to look girly, and shaming tomboys into injecting testosterone / cutting off their boobs, etc.

    Republicans are not to blame for teen girl body dysmorphia, Democrats are.

    It's not the '80s or even the 2000s anymore. Cliques of conservative-coded blonde girls bullying everyone else in school is just utter horseshit today.

    Who pressures barely-legal girls into joining OnlyFans, where their dysmorphia is going to skyrocket when they see how they're "only" in the top 20% rather than 0.001%? Democrats.

  28. TL;DR -- it's not the '90s anymore, Boomer. The end-of-history, both-sides-ing, tech-determinist narrative was destroyed by the very 2010s and 2020s phenomena that Haidt is detailing.

    Informational warfare is irrelevant in the larger political trajectory (although we should have free speech for its own sake, as consumers of info, and without reference to how our info and thoughts may / may not be reflected in political outcomes -- which they do not, anyways).

    Only / primarily the Democrat side is to blame for the corrosion of the 2010s and '20s. No right-wingers burned down a city, nor removed the other side from the sectors they control (e.g.,the military, where Democrat demographics like women, gays, and racial minorities have been recruited and promoted, and internal opponents of those policies have been squashed).

    And no empire lasts forever, in any of its aspects. Knowledge production, artistic creation, large-scale economies, multinational polities -- all going right down the tubes, and there's nothing you or anyone else can do about it. We had a good run, let's try to remember that and not ruin all the cool stuff we did manage to make back when we had high asabiya and an expanding empire.

  29. Heard this gem in the thrift store yesterday, possibly for the first time ever in public. Maybe Fauna's karaoke tipped off some algorithm that the retail radio stations should start playing it, hehe.

    Another aspect of the rhythm I didn't mention was the hi-hats accenting the off-beats, which there are two of in this ONE-two-three meter. Makes it more dance-y, guiding those winding-up motions.

    As I detailed in 2020, after the '90s techno craze, club dance music got turned off from using percussion to set the rhythm, since the UNH-tss drum beat of techno was so overdone, they wanted a clean break.

    So during the 2000s, club dance music used the synth as a rhythmic instrument instead of drums (electroclash, then electropop).

    That left the disco-y hi-hat on the off-beat for the non-danceclub genres, mainly the dance-rock craze of that decade.

    But the hi-hat on the offbeat also was preserved by the singer-songwriter and adult contempo genres, since they too were not related to techno / danceclubs, so they weren't part of the backlash against disco beats.

    Early in the decade, "Ordinary Day" has hi-hats on the offbeats. "According To You" has them later in the song, and although it's rock, it's more adult contempo-friendly rock, not Franz Ferdinand rock that you could hear in a club. "Hey Soul Sister" also has them later in the song, and it doesn't get more soft-pop and adult-contempo than that.

    Why save them for later in the song? They're not supposed to be too body-moving, but if you save it for the end, you feel roused out of your seat. "Hey, this isn't a typical stay-seated singer-songwriter ballad -- they want us to stand up and cut a little rug. Ok then!"

    Really starting to appreciate 2000s music in a way I did not at the time.


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