December 2, 2005

"I for one do not dance to dance music; disco for me is a lofty metaphysical mode that induces contemplation."

Camille Paglia sniffs at Madonna's new "Confessions on a Dance Floor."

You decide if it's worth paying for a Salon subscription or watching a commercial to read the whole thing. If I'm watching a commercial and I think it's too long, it doesn't help my mood that the name of the product is Infiniti.

You know, I don't dance to dance music either. I've been at concerts where I'm just standing there like a statue and some stranger says to me "How can you not dance?" My answer: "I'm an intellectual!" Yeah, I'm in a metaphysical mode, man. You're intruding on my contemplation.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ron quotes Nietzsche, connecting dancing and intellectualism.


MD said...

Hmm, it wasn't worth it for me to go through the commercial or pay for I'm commenting blind! Aren't we blog-commenters bad? I never did care much for homework....

Anyway, if I like something it's not because I just happen to like that particular thing, it's because *I* am an intellectual and have important reasons for liking that particular thing, so I totally get what she's saying.

Actually, I don't. Is she being jokey, serious, or serious-jokey (like, how, people who make ironic jokes shouldn't be judged by the joke, but by the intention of said joke? It seems to me I read that theory where did I read that again?)

Icepick said...

"How can you not dance?" My answer: "I'm an intellectual!" Yeah, I'm in a metaphysical mode, man. You're intruding on my contemplation.

Which reminds me of the weirdest thing I've ever seen at a concert: At a show on Ozzy Osbourne's No More Tours Tour, a woman sitting in the row in front of us spent the whole concert reading a book on transendental meditation. She never looked up.

MD said...

Okay, I did sit through the commercial (with the sound turned down and making up my own narration). I got to the end of the first page of the article and gave up. And I like Camille Paglia. But, really. What's so wrong with 'just' making people dance? Isn't that how Madonna started this whole spectacular career of hers anyway, whatever the current pop-culturalist theories say?

Anonymous said...

I just linked to the Paglia piece from Drudge before coming to Althouse.

I instantly cut-and-pasted that exact quote and sent round to friends. It's a humdinger.

I'm sure she's absolutely serious - and absolutely sincere. I think you have to read it not as "everyone should listen to disco music with headphones and a glass of wine" but more as a geek-confession. She's not saying you _shouldn't_ dance to disco. It's more like you shouldn't _only_ dance to disco.

Paglia's charm (if you can connect with it) is that she has taken her entire sexual being and extruded it through her brain. She hasn't De-sexed herself like most intellectuals. It's just that her pubic bone is connected directly to her cranium.

reader_iam said...

It's just that her pubic bone is connected directly to her cranium.

Stranger: That may be the funniest darn quip, bar none, I've ever read on a blog.

I'm not worthy ...

APF said...

What's so wrong with 'just' making people dance? Isn't that how Madonna started this whole spectacular career of hers anyway, whatever the current pop-culturalist theories say?

It's funny because dance music is, at its core, devoted to removing the stick from people's buts and letting them just be free to express themselves physically. Dance music is supposed to help you get into the "zone" (or the "groove" as Madonna would say) where your intellectual processes aren't inhibiting your ability to "express yourself." Icepick's story is hilarious not just because of the juxtaposition, but also because the book reader would have gotten a better experiential education in TM by just putting the book down and rocking out (puts up the double devil horns)

P_J said...

Stranger: LOL.

Disco at its best is a neurological event, a shamanistic vehicle of space-time travel.

Whoa. That's like, so deep! I didn't know disco had become the subject of academic research. I just thought it was good dance music.

This sounds like a high-brow dismissal of middle-brows appreciating the fun of this music. "No, no. Madonna's new album isn't neurological enough. She hasn't regained her inner shaman."

Icepick reminds me of the scene in Animal House when the guys have taken their "dates" to an all black bar where Otis Day is playing. As the band rocks on and the regulars enjoy the music, Pinto asks a serious, progressive co-ed, "What are you studying?" To which she replies flatly, "Primitive cultures."

Sometimes a dance is just a dance.

PatCA said...

I hope Camille is not going all prim or psuedo-intellectual on us! Her zest for life and expansiveness made her opinions all the more enjoyable.
I do wonder what age group is buying Madonna's music nowadays.

Wombat Rampant said...

Yeah, I'm in a metaphysical mode, man. You're intruding on my contemplation.

I think that's kinda hot, myself.

Anonymous said...

[Blushing] Thanks Reader, and Pastor Jeff.

I wonder what people would think of Icepick's story if, instead of _reading a book_ on TM at an Ozzy show, the woman was sitting, eyes closed, in lotus postion _practicing_ TM.

I think that'd be kinda cool. And very much in line with what Paglia is talking about.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

Paglia says, "Disco is visceral -- a quality missing here"

Finn says, "Mmm,I did not know that."

Paglia says, "Disco at its best is a neurological event.

Finn says,"Oh shut up and just enjoy the music and stop contradicting yourself"

me said...

You are intellectual enough to know that intellectuals can't dance :)

Though I would think that if you went to a Michelle Shocked concert, even she may influence you to do otherwise.

Dave said...

Finn: That which is visceral is neurological.

How can something be viscerally experienced if neurological phenomena are not present? This would be like saying orgasms occur in the absence of neurological activity, etc.

Or commenting on blogs happen in the absense of neurological activity. All things which man experiences are neurological.

Where's the contradiction?

Joe T said...

Re: Salon's commercials. The best way I've found of dealing with them on the increasingly rarer occasions that I need to read Salon is to use a tabbed browser like Firefox or Safari. I play the commercial in one tab then go read something else in another tab. When you get back to the commercial, it's done and you're ready to proceed to your article.

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

Oh, and on Salon ads, don't watch them, click "next" when it appears--speeds up the process into two seconds (unless you are feeling ethical, then ignore that).

Paglia is making the same sort of complaint made about every artist who has had a long career and is not producing music that makes the critic feel like she is 21 again.

I was just downloading a bunch of songs for my niece's 16th birthday, as she is having an 80's theme, so Madonna's "Everybody" and "Get into the Groove" were among the cuts she wanted. But I think young people today, as suggested by the article, would put Beyonce and Mariah, especially Mariah, far above anything by Madonna, who is, a curiosity along the lines of, "This is what momma listened to in high school while wearing leg warmers."

Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Finn Alexander Kristiansen said...

Dave, everything is neurological cause we have heads on our shoulders piloting our bodies.

My feeling is that she is suggesting that music should be more intellectual, and contemplated more, but she is at the same time saying it should be obtained through intuition rather than from reasoning or observation.

That's just my reading of it.

Dave said...

Finn, I guess Paglia is just too smart for me because I don't really know what her complaint is. Pop music is popular because you don't have to think about it. Trying to interpret it like it's Kierkegaard is, it seems, overkill.

But then, that's what intellectuals do. That's their schtick. Some embrace it, others mock it, and others, like me, could care less. If you want to dance, dance. If you don't, don't. As long as you pay your taxes and don't kill anyone, I don't care what you do or don't do while listening to music....

Commander Carrots said...

Funny, I was reading that article on Salon today but stopped after reading that exact quote! I'm not much of a Camille Paglia fan, I guess...

For what it's worth, though, I'd like to point out that a Salon subscription buys you a lot more than articles such this Camille Paglia stuff.

I've subscribed for 3 years now - mainly to avoid the annoying popup ads, but also to support an independent media source that provides good solid journalism.

P_J said...

Finn: "This is what momma listened to in high school while wearing leg warmers."

LOL! Ah, the memories. If only I could forget my brief but ill-considered Indiana Jones boots and fedora phase.

Ron said...

Feh! Intellectual!

"One need only read German books: there is no longer the remotest recollection that thinking requires a technique, a teaching curriculum, a will to mastery—that thinking wants to be learned like dancing, as a kind of dancing ... Who among Germans still knows from experience the delicate shudder which light feet in spiritual matters send into every muscle!...
For one cannot subtract dancing in every form from a noble education—to be able to dance with one's feet, with concepts, with words: need I still add that one must be able to dance with the pen too"

Nietzsche -- Twilight of the Idols, "What the Germans lack" #7.

C'mon, Ann, Vogue!

Wade Garrett said...

Finally, another non-dancer!

A lot of people think I'm a stick-in-the-mud for never dancing! Its not because I'm white, or a klutz or anything like that; when I dance at weddings or whatever I don't care what other people think of my dancing; its just not a form of expression that generally appeals to me. I'm a big music fan and have my headphones or stereo on at least six or seven hours a day, but I just don't like to dance! I prefer to just tap my foot.

I'm glad to hear I've got some fellow-travelers out there.

Anonymous said...


A great quote, quoted well. And a fine riposte to the others here who can't tell the difference between stuffy intellectualism and the subtler mysticism of robust, visceral thinking.

XWL said...

After some thought and consideration I think I've managed to decode what really disturbs Camille Paglia about Madonna's current iteration.

The Bette Davis and Joan Crawford references give her away.

It's not the music, it's the appearance. I can here Paglia's subconscious revulsion poke through the text. I can here her think 'How can someone I've always thought of as a kid, someone much younger than myself, someone so healthy seeming, be aging so gracelessly?'.

I know I feel somewhat similar feelings seeing professional athletes younger than myself already broken down physically and retired from sport.

And as an aside, Paglia's list of significant disco music isn't very good.

MD said...

strangerintheseparts - you had me with the first comment and you lost me with this last one, I'm afraid. People can't tell stuffy intellectualism versus the subtler mysticism of robust,visceral thinking? I call foul :)

You shouldn't only dance to disco, is what Camille is really saying? Well, what I am saying is, you'd better start first with the dancing, cause if you don't have that you don't have anything. The thinking in the Paglia piece is flabby and I stand by that assertion!

Look, how clever is this: Madonna did the seventies thing already back in the early nineties. Does anyone remember? The wide pants and the disco ball and the big blond curly, pseudo-Afro wig?

Pop culture has been moving through the seventies like molasses. What does this mean, I ask you? How freakish and how fun. In 1992, it was 1972. And now, it's 1979 in certain parts of pop culture world, just about to turn into 1980 (with bits of 84 and 85 thrown in, for good measure). Look at the jeans, people, I tell you to look at the new skinny leg Calvin Klein jeans and then tell me I am not onto something..... how clever to re-do the seventies *again*, all within the span of 10 or so years. Take that, Ms. It-ain't-into-the-groove-so-it's-not-all-that!

Isn't this thread fun?

MD said...

Okay, I promise to stop after this, because commenting on this thread is clearly turning into one of those internet addiction things for me.

Paglia criticizes Madonna for cannibalizing her younger self. But, really, she is re-cannibalizing what she already cannibalized in the 90s! And anyway, complaining about only one or two good tracks on a Madonna album is wierd: it was ever thus!


Anonymous said...

MD -

Yeah - my last post was a dud. I should leave the aphorizing to Nietzshe.

My gist was that there is a HUGE difference between 'intellectualism' (eg most academic writing) and what Paglia (or Nietzshe, or even Ann A. at her best) is doing. Passionate thinking/criticism is alive and envigorating - it is in the same family as dancing.

Intelluctualism sucks the life out of anything it deigns to analyze.

Remember what Parliament/ Funkadelic taught us - Free you a$$ and your mind will follow. The 2 are connected (in a good way).

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Fellow-NON-Traveller is more like it!

Honestly, Ann, not dancing is fine, but not dancing in the middle of a group of dancers is just rude. It violates the energy shared between the dancers and the performers, and is just wrong.

Chalking up an inability to cut loose to "intellectualism" is just wack.

New York is well-known for having hipper-than-thou audiences who are too cool to dance, laugh, or participate in any way with the vulgar revelers that surround them. But I guess even midwestern college towns have their own share... they are speedbumps and buzzkills and should be ostracized as such.

Ann Althouse said...

Jeff: Why do you assume I was in the middle, as opposed to at the edge? And it's not always dancing. It's often that swaying or bopping thing people do when listening to music, as if the effect was automatic. I don't do that.

Ann Althouse said...

And keep in mind that I was often the MUCH older person who had given young folks a ride to concerts. Give me some credit for being the over 40 woman who drove a carful of young teenage boys from Madison to Milwaukee many times so they could see Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins and Sonic Youth and that sort of thing-- and I enjoyed it. From the edges.

amba said...

I thought one of the funniest quips I'd seen on a blog was Ann's about the Infiniti ad. I linked it as line of the day.

Ron said...

Ann: Green Day, Sonic Youth, (I could see you singing, "Cool Thing!") muy neat-o...but we commenters like to think you don't have lawprof rhythm, even on the sidelines! You've got the Electric Boogaloo of blogs workin' here, (go ahead...put that on top of the page) so don't go and hide in the corner, and age has nothing to do with it!

Ron said...

Man, Nietzsche, Sonic Youth, Electric Boogaloo...gimme a minute and I'll work in some vulgar aphorisms from Martial or La Rouchefoucauld or Ol' Dirty Bastard just to round out the thread!

Ahh...the non-squisms threads...and no PJM either! Bliss.

I must make hay...soon we'll be Alito-ed to death as the hearings open up! (not that I mind!)

Meade said...

saul is right about Michelle Shocked. You'll do more than sway and bop.

Knemon said...

"light feet in spiritual matters"

So to speak.


"Pop culture has been moving through the seventies like molasses."

What happens when the snake finally swallows its own head? I mean to say: once we're through with 70s revivals, and 80s revivals, and then, I guess, 90s grunge revival ...

What will be left to revive?

Ron said...

What will be left to revive?
Why --- the rivivals themselves!

Think that's not going to happen? People have nostalgia for Happy Days a '70's TV show that's nostalgic about the '50's!

We sit and spin...

Jonathan said...

If a commenter complained about your blog you might tell him to get his own blog. How is it different with music (and other) critics? If Paglia doesn't like Madonna's performances she can always find another entertainer to watch. Madonna is disappointing? Well, she's not your employee. If more people shared your tastes Madonna might accommodate you. Perhaps what most upsets Paglia is that more people don't share her tastes. I don't blame her but it's not Madonna's fault.

J. T. BLEU said...

Camille loves Madonna -- read it again.

Oh, man, if you just could’ve heard her yesterday. I, mean, sometimes, man, she walks by you and she doesn’t see you, other times…

Here's the essence, I think, of what Camille considers is missing from Madonna's last effort; (hint: Camille's title gives it away), DANCING AS FAST AS SHE CAN.

It has to do with what the poet John Keats called NEGATIVE CAPABILITY, and what he felt was characteristic in every great poet.

A “work nazi,” like Madonna, is not subject to the alternating moods of activity and indolence, being, in fact, the rhythm of the mind and life necessary for the exercise of NEGATIVE CAPABILITY.

Creation, writing, rejecting, and editing needs to be balanced with equal states of “wise passiveness” and “receptive indolence” to overcome a sense of feverishness in a work of art, and to imbue the work with an enduring life and soul, as it were, this is called NEGATIVE CAPABILITY.

somercet said...

xwl: "After some thought and consideration I think I've managed to decode what really disturbs Camille Paglia about Madonna's current iteration.... The Bette Davis and Joan Crawford references give her away."

Though I, like sex advice columnist Dan Savage, hate "dance music" (as opposed to dancing to music), I can say that Madonna has gone seriously downhill. What was fun, youthful energy has become frenetic activity (to keep age away?).

jonathon: "If a commenter complained about your blog you might tell him to get his own blog. How is it different with music (and other) critics?"

So... You read a review... of a review... of a music recording... so you leave a review... of the review... of the review... of the recording... so everyone knows you think reviewing is... stupid.

Did I get that right...?