Monthly Archives: December 2010

Videos

K’naan – Take a Minute

Music

Mike Tompkins is blowing up

This young Canadian dude is blowing up all over YouTube these days.  His gimmick is his acapella covers of famous pop songs.  Not that crazy in and of itself, but he does it very very well.  His videos have a combined total of over 12 million views.  That’s nothing to shake a stick at for anyone not named Bieber.

More importantly, our boy Shad has come to love this dude, and decided to jump in for a feature on Tompkin’s cover of Rihanna’s Only Girl.  Check it out below.

 

Featured Music

Tennille Captains Nas and MF Doom Remix Project

I don’t know a whole lot about this project, but apparently it’s been in the works for a while. Called 10illematic/10FDOOM, the ten-track mixtape uses five Nas beats and five MF Doom beats. It’s not clear why those two emcees were picked, but the result is surprisingly good. Tennille has a silky smooth voice, and her guest emcees mostly drop some nice verses. Plus you know the beats are tight.

If you’re looking for a soundtrack for a lazy Sunday afternoon, this is most definitely it. Highly recommended.

Download: Tennille – 10illematic | Tenille – 10FDOOM

Cool Featured

Google’s NGram Viewer is an Awesome Time Waster

Google recently launched a new tool called Books NGram Viewer, which charts the frequency that a word or phrase appears in a corpus of books (e.g., “British English”, “English Fiction”, “French”) over a selected time period. The tool has access to around 11.5% of all the books ever written, thanks to Google’s ongoing book-scanning project.

The tool is amazing, with probably enormous potential for future academic study. It’s already driving a new type of social science research, called cultoromics (“the application of high-throughput data collection and analysis to the study of human culture.”)

It’s also a great way to kill a few hours, if you’re looking for a time filler. Here’s one chart I randomly created a few minutes ago:

 

It charts the phrases “hip hop” (red) and “rap music” (blue) from 1950 to 2008.* As you may be able to see, “rap music” was the more common term during the ’90s, but declined after 2000 as “hip hop” took over.

What does this mean? Who knows. Maybe it speaks to the increasing legitimacy of hip hop among book writers (“rap music” has a more derogatory connotation, at least in my mind), or maybe it’s the result of some other trend. Either way, it’s intriguing, and one example of the potential of this new tool. Well played, Google, well played.

*I had to add “music” after “rap” because the latter is also a common verb.

Politics

Why All Communists Aren’t Nazis

The website Instapundit, in a recent post, equates communists to Nazis. “Communists are as bad as Nazis,” the post argues, “and their defenders and apologists are as bad as Nazis’ defenders, but far more common. When you meet them, show them no respect. They’re evil, stupid, and dishonest. They should not enjoy the consequences of their behavior.”

The post offers no definition of ‘Communist’. However, its implied definition spans a wide spectrum of philosophies, and includes Marxist academics, the Trotskyite Christopher Hitchens, and Joseph Stalin. The post says, in effect, that all of these people are ‘Communists,’ and therefore equally evil.

I see two flaws with this argument. The first is related to semantics, the second to the logical fallacy of accident.

Semantics

The various people identified above have very different philosophies. A Marxist, strictly speaking, is someone who ascribes to the original writings of Karl Marx.* Interestingly, Marx made very few predictions about what a communist society might look like or how it should be implemented. The bulk of his analysis focused on contemporary economics and the relationship of workers to their labour. Even today, Marx is thought to have made several helpful contributions to the study of capitalism. A Marxist academic, then, typically means a university professor who agrees with Marx’s views on how capitalism operates and how it shapes our society. These people are also called Marxians.

Hitchens and Stalin, on the other hand, are political creatures. Their Marxism is normative, meaning it deals with how society should be organized. Clearly, their concerns are qualitatively different than those of Marxian economists. In addition to that, there is a vast gap between Hitchens’ politics and Stalin’s: Trotsky’s opposition to Stalin is well documented.

Assigning all these people to a single category – Communist – is a serious flaw. It invalidates the Nazi comparison, since a Nazi is someone who holds very specific political and racial beliefs. To say that Stalinists are as morally bankrupt as Nazis is one thing; to say the same about a Marxian is another.

Accident

The Instapundit post says that in all Communist states, “[power] always ends up in the hands of the [elites]” (emphasis mine). In other words, every communist state that ever existed was as awful as Hitler’s Germany; pure evil, basically.** Here, the post commits the fallacy of accident, meaning it ignores obvious exceptions to its assumed rule.

Some Communist regimes – those of Stalin, Mao, etc. – were certainly evil. But others weren’t. The Sandinistas in Nicaragua, for example, lowered illiteracy from 50% to 12% and made important strides in health care, eliminating polio and reducing other diseases. Of course, they were terrible economic managers and are reported to have committed deplorable human rights abuses. But they were not genocidal. The difference between a Sandinista and a National Socialist is enormous.

To add further perspective, consider if this line of argument was deployed against Christianity. The number of Christian states that have committed horrible and inhumane acts is lengthy, yet I assume the Instapundit author would hesitate to equate Christianity to Nazism (Hitchens wouldn’t, though).

Anyways, the point is that it’s both fallacious and meaningless to say that all people who believe in some element of Marxist thought are inherently evil because so too are some Communist regimes.

*And of course Friedrich Engels, too.

** If you think I’m reaching, here’s another excerpt from the Instapundit post: “I’ll repeat: The difference between Communists and Nazis is mostly PR, and the PR is better because more journalists and academics were communists than Nazis.”

Album Reviews Music

Reflection Eternal album got slept on

Apparently we here at 4080 got a little too wrapped up in ourselves an missed a big album drop this past year. Reflection Eternal, the hip hop team made up of Taliban Kweli and Hi-Tek have been consistently making solid hip hop that dwarfs any of their solo stuff.

Pitchfork’s review of their latest album (http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/14292-revolutions-per-minute/) speaks pretty damn highly of it. The album, titled Revolutions per Minute, has garnered a solid following. Pitchfork also notes that while it is not a momentous revival, it is still a worthy record.
” But those are minor demerits, and the things people do listen for– conscious yet unpretentious lyricism delivered with acrobatic dexterity over on-point, no-gimmick beats– are all over this album. Kweli and Hi-Tek never had to rework their styles to stay on the cusp of mainstream-name status, so they’ve spent more time playing to their strengths than distracting themselves from them.”

I’m pretty down with it, and very much agree. While it doesn’t shift the musical landscape, it is very much an album I plan to throw on again.