Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Echo Chamber; Echo Chamber Cocktail; Morning Joe; Lol Coxhill


Echo chambers seem to exist everywhere these days.

Multiple echo chambers don't cancel each other out.


They amplify each other.

There are natural and electronic echo chambers.


There are individual and group echo chambers (sort of like Jacuzzis).

New ones are created every day, but you can also buy them "used".

Clearly, the Tower of Babel was an echo chamber.

Recently here, I mentioned a song called "Walk on Water", which contains the lyric:

"Some people really need attention,
just see what they want to see.
Never more than their reflection
in someone else's fantasy."  

That describes multiple individual echo chambers, I think.

Most corporate meetings are group echo chambers.  This is why they are generally not productive.

Sometimes people speak of clear drinks, like martinis, as being clarifying.  Under certain circumstances, I suspect that's slightly sometimes true.  But mostly they're just individual echo chambers taken internally.

I found someone else's drink recipe in the blogosphere, heard it reverberate, copied it below and gave it a new name, The Echo Chamber.  Is that an example of "irony", which like "echo chamber" is a perfectly fine and valuable term that has become an overused and increasingly cliched expression richocheting around the echo chamber(s)?

Echo Chamber Cocktail

2 1/2 oz. London dry gin
1/2 oz. Sweet Vermouth
1/2 oz. Dry Vermouth
2 dashes orange bitters
1 bar teaspoon each: Absinthe, simple syrup and a smokey Scotch whisky

Stir all in a well-iced tumbler, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with lemon twist.

Example:  Morning Joe

The best example of an echo chamber on television today is the morning “news” show called Morning Joe, a surreal program that supposedly features a cast of four regular participants (Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist and Mike Barnicle), augmented in the usual talk show manner by a group of rotating guests commenting on the affairs of the day.  However, the show essentially presents the same exact guests every morning (many are regular NBC and MSNBC news staffers), who are regularly introduced and announced as guests even though almost all of them are on constant and perpetual view.  These individuals are all thanked profusely for participating in an activity that obviously constitutes part of their daily job responsibilities. Each of the show’s participants echoes all of the thoughts and the attitudes of all of the others and essentially agrees with everything all of the other participants are saying.  

Oddly, two of the "regulars", longtime Boston journalist Mike Barnicle and former Harvard University professor, Doris Kearns Goodwin, have each several times in the past been involved in high publicity accusations of plagiarism. 

(Query: What is the relationship between plagiarism and the echo chamber?  Does the predominating echo of today predispose us to appropriate the intellectual work of others?) 

The Morning Joe show is very, very strange and kind of pathetic and it goes on for three hours every morning.  Could budget problems account for the peculiarity of their format which, despite the daily announcement of an apparently new day and date, is exactly like the day before?  (And don't get me started about Mika Brzezinski's weird, hectoring affect and incessant mugging.) 

When I try to find the show amusing, rather than annoying or alarming (the show, like the Morning Rundown show that follows it, is basically a “White House fan show”, a new programming format in our supposedly free society and a terrible and unwarranted variation on the valuable tradition of investigative, skeptical and/or muckraking journalism, which supposedly attempts to elucidate the facts so that history can be discerned and written), I think of a funny anecdote Ray Davies of The Kinks sometimes tells about his first band, Hamilton King & the Blues Messengers, which was a large trad jazz/r&b unit with West Indian influence that played on the London scene ca. 1962-3.  Ray said that sometimes the audiences were so small that when a featured player took a solo, band members who weren’t essential to the arrangement would go out into the audience to applaud.  That’s a little bit like the Morning Joe mise-en-scene, but the hot r&b music and undoubtedly cool cats playing in the band puts it streets beyond MJ's dreary scene.

The Hamilton King Band also featured at various times Mick Fleetwood and Peter Bardens, who like Ray, became successful musicians, and during Ray’s stint with the group, the great experimental English saxophone and clarinet player, Lol Coxhill.  Ray said that Coxhill was the first person he ever met who had all his clothing custom-made (something Ray and his brother Dave went on to do when they became successful) and that it was Coxhill who gave Davies the advice to leave Hamilton King and that scene, saying it was old hat and that he should instead write and play  “simple music for young people”.  Good advice, certainly. 


Ray Davies


Lol Coxhill

Lol, of course, went on to become part of Kevin Ayers & The Whole World, work with David Bedford and Mike Oldfield, busk on his own, and have many, many musical adventures.  There is no one who plays like he does.

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