Justin E. H. Smith to Judge 4th Annual 3QD Philosophy Prize

UPDATE 9/24/12: The winners have been announced here.

UPDATE 9/17/12: The finalists have been announced here.

UPDATE 9/15/12: The semifinalists have been announced here.

UPDATE 9/6/12: Voting round is now open. Click here to see full list of nominees and vote.

Dear Readers, Writers, Bloggers,

JustinWe are very honored and pleased to announce that Justin E. H. Smith has agreed to be the final judge for our 4th annual prize for the best blog and online writing in the category of philosophy. (Details of the previous three philosophy prizes can be seen by clicking on the names of their respective judges here: Daniel Dennett, Akeel Bilgrami, and Patricia Churchland).

Justin E. H. Smith is professor of philosophy at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Beginning in 2013 he will be Professeur des Universités at the Université de Paris 7-Denis Diderot. Completing a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 2000, his primary research focus over the past 15 years has been the history of metaphysics, philosophy of science, and natural philosophy in early modern Europe, with a particular interest in the philosophy of Leibniz. This interest culminated in 2011 with a lengthy study of Leibniz's theory of the generation, structure, and motion of living beings, entitled Divine Machines: Leibniz and the Sciences of Life. He has recently completed a book on the origins of so-called 'racial science' in the 18th century out of early modern philosophical debates about species taxonomy and the problem of natural kinds. This book, Nature, Human Nature, and Human Difference: Early Modern Philosophy and the Invention of Race, will appear from Princeton University Press, in 2013. He has also recently completed a translation and critical edition, with François Duchesneau, of Georg Ernst Stahl's Negotium otiosum, seu Skiamachia (1720), to appear from Yale University Press next year. He also has longstanding metaphilosophical and methodological interests in the relationship of philosophy to its history. This interest has recently culminated in an edited volume, with Eric Schliesser and Mogens Laerke, on this topic, to appear next year from Oxford University Press. Another major research project, under contract with Princeton University Press, is a book entitled A Global History of Philosophy, to 1700, which, thankfully, he has another five years to complete. In this connection, he has a developing research interest in classical Indian philosophy, particularly the philosophy of language in the Pāṇinian tradition, as well as the theory of the composition of bodies in Vaiśeṣika atomism. Running through this recent turn to comparative and so-called 'non-Western' philosophy is a serious interest in the nature of the philosophical project, including its anthropology and sociology, and its historical relationship to other, partially overlapping domains of human activity, particularly religious ritual and applied science. He also writes for the New York Times Stone series. More about his work can be found here: www.jehsmith.com/philosophy.

As usual, this is the way it will work: the nominating period is now open, and will end at 11:59 pm EST on September 3, 2012. There will then be a round of voting by our readers which will narrow down the entries to the top twenty semi-finalists. After this, we will take these top twenty voted-for nominees, and the four main editors of 3 Quarks Daily (Abbas Raza, Robin Varghese, Morgan Meis, and Azra Raza) will select six finalists from these, plus they may also add up to three wildcard entries of their own choosing. The three winners will be chosen from these by Justin Smith.

The first place award, called the “Top Quark,” will include a cash prize of one thousand dollars; the second place prize, the “Strange Quark,” will include a cash prize of three hundred dollars; and the third place winner will get the honor of winning the “Charm Quark,” along with a two hundred dollar prize.

(Welcome to those coming here for the first time. Learn more about who we are and what we do here, and do check out the full site here. Bookmark us and come back regularly, or sign up for the RSS feed.)


PrizePhilosophyAnnounce2012The winners of this prize will be announced on September 24, 2012. Here's the schedule:

August 27, 2012:

  • The nominations are opened. Please nominate your favorite blog entry by placing the URL for the blog post (the permalink) in the comments section of this post. You may also add a brief comment describing the entry and saying why you think it should win. (Do NOT nominate a whole blog, just one individual blog post.)
  • Blog posts longer than 4,000 words are strongly discouraged, but we might make an exception if there is something truly extraordinary.
  • Each person can only nominate one blog post.
  • Entries must be in English.
  • The editors of 3QD reserve the right to reject entries that we feel are not appropriate.
  • The blog entry may not be more than a year old. In other words, it must have been written after August 26, 2011.
  • You may also nominate your own entry from your own or a group blog (and we encourage you to).
  • Guest columnists at 3 Quarks Daily are also eligible to be nominated, and may also nominate themselves if they wish.
  • Nominations are limited to the first 200 entries.
  • Prize money must be claimed within a month of the announcement of winners.

September 3, 2012

  • The nominating process will end at 11:59 PM (NYC time) of this date.
  • The public voting will be opened soon afterwards.

September 14, 2012

  • Public voting ends at 11:59 PM (NYC time).

September 24, 2012

  • The winners are announced.

One Final and Important Request

If you have a blog or website, please help us spread the word about our prizes by linking to this post. Otherwise, post a link on your Facebook profile, Tweet it, or just email your friends and tell them about it! I really look forward to reading some very good material, and think this should be a lot of fun for all of us.

Best of luck and thanks for your attention!



Conventional Wisdom

by Akim Reinhardt

As the Republican Party begins its national convention today in Florida, I offer this brief history of political conventions and examine their relevance to modern American politics.

George Washington's cherry treeThe generation of political leaders who initiated and executed the American Revolution and founded a new nation, believed in the concept of republican virtue. That is, they felt it the obligation of every citizen to give of themselves to the welfare of their new, shared political endeavor. That their definition of citizenship was quite narrow is very imoprtant, but another matter altogether.

The founders believed that in order for the republic to survive and be healthy, citizens must sublimate their selfish interests for the sake of the general welfare. In line with this, they imagined that the nation’s politicians would be citizen servants: men, who for a temporary period of time, sacrificed the profits and joys of their personal pursuits so that they might shoulder the responsibility of governing the nation, the states, and localities, offering their wisdom and insight for everyone’s benefit.

There was nothing of political parties in this vision. Neither the Articles of Confederation nor the U.S. Constitution made any mention of them. They are, in the strict sense of the term, extra-constitutional political organizations, and they are most decidedly not what the new nation’s architects had in mind when they fashioned this republic. Indeed, they did not even use the term “party” for the most part, instead referring to the political alliances that soon formed as “factions.” George Washington especially despised the new factionalism, even in its nascent form, and he refused to ally with any group. To this day, he is the only president listed on the roll of chief executives as Independent.

Perhaps it was näive of Washington and other purists to scoff at the emerging political gangs. Perhaps the constitution’s framers should have better anticipated this development and done something to temper it, to keep it from warping their beloved system of checks and balances. Regardless, the move towards modern parties was underway as the nation’s politicians began to lineup behind the philosophies and reputations of top leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and John Adams.

Read more »

Monday Poem

The Architecture of Memory

Every room has its story—

the back of the house is darkest
but light floods the porch
where we sit after a long day
rising now and then from its steps,
momentarily leaving our drinks
to wander back through old doors
and rummage among the stuff we’ve stacked
against walls and under beds
reaching for the odd object
we’d just nudged with a recollection
as we sauntered through conversation,
as if a salvaged thought was a lamp
which, being disturbed,
clicks on automatically,
becomes a sun in a dimming universe
or lightning strike in a new storm,
either way a big brilliant thing
massive as the posts & beams
of a venerable house
—the bellied bones of time
upholding the spirit
of the place

by Jim Culleny

Reading a Riot

by Gautam Pemmaraju

Over two weeks ago, on August 11, a sizeable gathering of over 15,000 gathered at Azad Maidan, a public ground in Mumbai, to protest violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar/Burma and those of the northeastern Indian state of Assam. It was in early to mid July that violence broke out between sections of the multifaith indigenous Bodo people and migrant Bengali Muslims in Kokrajhar, Chirang & Dubhri districts of Assam displacing over 400,000 people, and earlier, 87 people were reportedly killed in ethnic clashes between Rohingya and Buddhists in Rakhine. The crowds were responding to a call by Raza Academy, a 25 year old Mumbai based organization, that has been actively mobilizing Muslims in the city protesting slights against their religious sentiments – from anti-George Bush public protests, announcing a cash prize of 100000 rupees for hurling a slipper at Salman Rushdie at the Jaipur Literary Festival early this year, seeking the revoking of a visa to the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen, to protesting the presence in Mumbai of the Canada based Pakistani cleric Tahirul Qadri, accused of apostasy and of thanking Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, for providing state security for his public gathering in Ahmedabad. (See Faisal Devji’s interesting piece on the Rushdie/Jaipur Lit Fest episode here).

Mob-violence-mumbai11A group of no more than 2000 people were expected to gather, but unanticipated crowds filled up Azad Maidan, and reportedly, a group of rioters, armed with sticks, rods and swords, which had infiltrated the congregation, went amuck at around 3.15 PM, setting fire to TV OB Vans, police vans, public transport buses, besides attacking policeman and media persons. The violent mob, gathered at the gate of Azad Maidan, had begun to raise angry slogans against the media for not adequately reporting the ‘atrocities’, displaying images of ‘atrocities’ against Muslims. These images, which had been circulating across social media, were in no small measure, immensely provocative. In the violence that ensued, two Muslim youth were killed in firing, and 54 people were injured, mostly police. There have been allegations that some policewomen were sexually assaulted.

Read more »

Tina Brown, Christopher Hitchens, Niall Ferguson, Rupert Murdoch — What’s With Our American Blindness To These Imported British Assholes?

by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash

Tina brownThe musical British invasion of the 60s and 70s brought us the Beatles, the Stones, Herman's Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, the Searchers and other great bands, who made us realize anew that American music was the greatest popular music ever, as these imports sold back to us and reminded us of our best blues and Tin Pan Alley traditions.

The journalistic British invasion of the 80s and 90s brought us Tina Brown, Christopher Hitchens, Niall Ferguson and Rupert Murdoch — assholes all, who have lowered the intellectual tone of American journalism and brought us cheap sensationalism and provocation for the sake of provocation and nothing else.

One reason we Americans are so easily blinded by these assholes is simply their accents: Americans have always thought that the British accent denotes great intelligence. I mean, Shakespeare in a British accent sounds more elegant than played in American accents, doesn't it — despite the fact that the accent of Shakespeare's own time was probably closer to American than Brit.

The other reason is that, because of a British liberal arts education, which is superior to its US counterpart, these folks can display remarkable erudition. Unlike most American journalists, they've actually read a lot — enough to impress us Americans anyway.

The third reason is their intellectual smugness. We take this as a sign of their intellectual superiority, but it's nothing but an infuriatingly annoying British smug shallow high-table confidence that the Oxbridge snobs have used to condescend to us and intimidate us for ages.

The British have undoubtedly gained by the good riddance of these assholes to the US, but their gain is our loss. Let's see how deep this loss goes, by taking these assholes in turn.

Read more »

Mitt’s “proud to be an American” tax rate

by Sarah Firisen

Uncle_sam_taxesThere once was a company Bain
That Mitt Romney runs from in vain
To prove no active role
Is clearly his goal
But to believe that is really a strain

While bailing the Olympic games out
The evidence shows he had clout
Bain's full owner it seems
But no part of their schemes
A technicality he says with a pout

We should just take good ole Mitt's word
That the lines really never got blurred
And those offshore accounts
That scored huge tax discounts?
Un-American. That's just absurd!

Nothing's more patriotic you know
Than to legally watch your wealth grow
To avoid as much tax
As you can to the max
And in Swiss banks more cash to stow

No one's prouder of country than he
It's just not where his money should be
That's the American way
There's no need to pay
When he can get away living tax-free

He says there's nothing more we can learn
By looking at past tax returns
It must be apparent
He's been quite transparent
Trust him, there's no need for concern

So does everyone have this all straight?
It's really not up for debate
The record on Bain
Is just not germane
To a perfectly legal tax rate!

Beyond Catholic: The Fight for Women

by Joy Icayan

CondomSomewhere we got stuck in history. Condoms cause various diseases, pregnancies, the potential loss of your job, and an eternal life in hell, at least according to the leaders of my country. The Reproductive Health Bill has divided the Philippine population, made up of 80% Catholics into opposing sides, and muddled the conversation with statistics and sob stories, a crying politician, rallies, online appeals to the Creator so on, so forth.

It’s like being in a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.

The huge outcry, coming no less, from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines stems from some provisions of the RH Bill: first that the government would be mandated to provide contraceptives and related materials to its constituents, second that the RH Bill proposes age appropriate sex education for the youth. The purpose of the bill is basic enough: to reduce the significant number of maternal deaths in the country, to provide women a choice to plan their families, to educate people so they can become responsible about their choices.

To provide a context, more than half of the population is living in poverty. Most cannot afford contraceptives; pregnant women often do not get decent prenatal or postnatal care. Unsafe abortions are rampant—and daily news tabloids often feature pictures of fetuses in trash cans. When they get especially brutal, sometimes they feature pictures of wire hangers and women with punctured insides—sob stories of a failed abortion.

To provide a more personal context, we grew up fearing an unwanted pregnancy most of all. It was because you had no options—it meant your future was over. You couldn’t buy condoms because you weren’t supposed to know about sex. What we learned about sex, we learned from the crumpled magazines the boys managed to get from wherever and passed around. If you did get pregnant too early, it meant you were unchaste, dirty. Your saving grace was to get married soon. If you were the boy who got someone pregnant, it was your responsibility to ‘man up’ or marry the woman, regardless of your state of maturity. (There is also no divorce in the country.)

Read more »

A Portrait of the Economy

Brian Hayes in American Scientist:

20127311151309197-2012-09BrevHayesFAHistories of economics tend to start with Adam Smith and his Wealth of Nations, but Sylvia Nasar leads off with Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol. It’s an unusual choice, but an effective and appropriate introduction to the story she wants to tell in Grand Pursuit: The Story of Economic Genius. Dickens shows us the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge—his conversion from pinchpenny to beneficent bon vivant. Nasar aims to redeem economics from its intellectual roots as a science of scarcity and avarice and present it as a tool for improving the human condition.

Nasar is the author of A Beautiful Mind, a biography of the brilliant but troubled mathematician John Nash. Biography, rather than economics, is the true genre of this new book as well. Economic theories and principles are sketched when necessary, but economists’ lives are rendered in full color and lavish detail.

The book’s longest chapter is given to Beatrice Webb and, by extension, her husband Sidney Webb, the founders of the London School of Economics. We follow the wealthy young Beatrice from Gloucester to London for her coming out; we learn about her long and futile infatuation with Joseph Chamberlain (father of Neville) and her sparring matches with philosopher and evolutionist Herbert Spencer at the family dinner table; there’s a bit of upstairs–downstairs drama when Beatrice becomes close with a servant, Martha Jackson, whom she later learns is actually a poor relation.

More here.

Bad Writing Award Winners Announced

Gabe Habash in Publishers Weekly:

ScreenHunter_53 Aug. 27 08.58Here are some other winners from this year’s awards. Click here for the full list of awfulness.

She slinked through my door wearing a dress that looked like it had been painted on … not with good paint, like Behr or Sherwin-Williams, but with that watered-down stuff that bubbles up right away if you don’t prime the surface before you slap it on, and – just like that cheap paint – the dress needed two more coats to cover her. — Sue Fondrie, Appleton, WI

They still talk about that fateful afternoon in Abilene, when Dancing Dan DuPre moonwalked through the doors of Fat Suzy’s saloon, made a passable reverse-turn, pirouetted twice followed by a double box-step, somersaulted onto the bar, drew his twin silver-plated Colt-45s and put twelve bullets through the eyes of the McLuskey sextuplets, on account of them varmints burning down his ranch and lynching his prize steer. — Ted Downes, Cardiff, U.K.

William, his senses roused by a warm fetid breeze, hoped it was an early spring’s equinoxal thaw causing rivers to swell like the blood-engorged gumlines of gingivitis, loosening winter’s plaque, exposing decay, and allowing the seasonal pot-pouris of Mother Nature’s morning breath to permeate the surrounding ether, but then he awoke to the unrelenting waves of his wife’s halitosis. — Guy Foisy, Orleans, Ontario

More here.

Climate change and the Syrian uprising

Shahrzad Mohtadi in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

Mideast_Syria_0463dTwo days short of Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak's resignation, Al Jazeera published anarticle, headlined “A Kingdom of Silence,” that contended an uprising was unlikely in Syria. The article cited the country's “popular president, dreaded security forces, and religious diversity” as reasons that the regime of Bashar al-Assad would not be challenged, despite the chaos and leadership changes already wrought by the so-called Arab Spring. Less than one month later, security forces arrested a group of schoolchildren in the Syrian city of Dara'a, the country's southern agricultural hub, for scrawling anti-government slogans on city walls. Subsequent protests illustrated the chasm between the regime's public image — encapsulated in the slogan “Unity, Freedom and Socialism” — and a reality of widespread public disillusion with Assad and his economic policies.

Among the many historical, political, and economic factors contributing to the Syrian uprising, one has been devastating to Syria, yet remains largely unnoticed by the outside world. That factor is the complex and subtle, yet powerful role that climate change has played in affecting the stability and longevity of the state.

More here.

Indo-European Family of Languages Has Roots in Anatolia, Biologists Say

ScreenHunter_52 Aug. 26 17.24

Nicholas Wade in the New York Times:

Biologists using tools developed for drawing evolutionary family trees say that they have solved a longstanding problem in archaeology: the origin of the Indo-European family of languages.

The family includes English and most other European languages, as well as Persian, Hindi and many others. Despite the importance of the languages, specialists have long disagreed about their origin.

Linguists believe that the first speakers of the mother tongue, known as proto-Indo-European, were chariot-driving pastoralists who burst out of their homeland on the steppes above the Black Sea about 4,000 years ago and conquered Europe and Asia. A rival theory holds that, to the contrary, the first Indo-European speakers were peaceable farmers in Anatolia, now Turkey, about 9,000 years ago, who disseminated their language by the hoe, not the sword.

The new entrant to the debate is an evolutionary biologist, Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He and colleagues have taken the existing vocabulary and geographical range of 103 Indo-European languages and computationally walked them back in time and place to their statistically most likely origin.

More here.

Sunday Poem

Don't Tell Anyone

We had been married for six or seven years
when my wife, standing in the kitchen one afternoon, told me
that she screams underwater when she swims—

that, in fact, she has been screaming for years
into the blue chlorinated water of the community pool
where she does laps every other day.

Buttering her toast, not as if she had been
concealing anything,
not as if  I should consider myself

personally the cause of  her screaming,
nor as if we should perform an act of therapy
right that minute on the kitchen table,

—casually, she told me,
and I could see her turn her square face up
to take a gulp of oxygen,

then down again into the cold wet mask of  the unconscious.
For all I know, maybe everyone is screaming
as they go through life, silently,

politely keeping the big secret
that it is not all fun
to be ripped by the crooked beak

of something called psychology,
to be dipped down
again and again into time;

that the truest, most intimate
pleasure you can sometimes find
is the wet kiss

of  your own pain.
There goes Kath, at one PM, to swim her twenty-two laps
back and forth in the community pool;

—what discipline she has!
Twenty-two laps like twenty-two pages,
that will never be read by anyone.

by Tony Hoagland
from Poetry, Vol. 200, No. 4,
July/August, 2012

Christopher Hitchens: an impossible act to follow

Carol Blue in The Telegraph:

Carol-Blue-and-Christopher-Onstage, my husband was an impossible act to follow.

If you ever saw him at the podium, you may not share Richard Dawkins’s assessment that “he was the greatest orator of our time”, but you will know what I mean – or at least you won’t think, “She would say that, she’s his wife.”

Offstage, my husband was an impossible act to follow.

At home at one of the raucous, joyous, impromptu eight-hour dinners we often found ourselves hosting, where the table was so crammed with ambassadors, hacks, political dissidents, college students and children that elbows were colliding and it was hard to find the space to put down a glass of wine, my husband would rise to give a toast that could go on for a stirring, spellbinding, hysterically funny 20 minutes of poetry and limerick reciting, a call to arms for a cause, and jokes. “How good it is to be us,” he would say in his perfect voice.

My husband is an impossible act to follow.

And yet, now I must follow him. I have been forced to have the last word.

It was the sort of early summer evening in New York when all you can think of is living. It was June 8 2010, to be exact, the first day of his American book tour. I ran as fast as I could down East 93rd Street, suffused with joy and excitement at the sight of him in his white suit. He was dazzling. He was also dying, though we didn’t know it yet. And we wouldn’t know it for certain until the day of his death. Earlier that day he had taken a detour from his book launch to a hospital because he thought he was having a heart attack. By the time I saw him standing at the stage entrance of the 92nd Street Y that evening, he and I – and we alone – knew he might have cancer. We embraced in a shadow that only we saw and chose to defy. We were euphoric. He lifted me up and we laughed. We went into the theatre, where he conquered yet another audience. We managed to get through a jubilant dinner in his honour and set out on a stroll back to our hotel through the perfect Manhattan night, walking more than 50 blocks. Everything was as it should be, except that it wasn’t. We were living in two worlds. The old one, which never seemed more beautiful, had not yet vanished; and the new one, about which we knew little except to fear it, had not yet arrived. The new world lasted 19 months. During this time of what he called “living dyingly”, he insisted ferociously on living, and his constitution, physical and philosophical, did all it could to stay alive.

More here.

Meet Rumer

From The Daily Mail:

Early childhood memories are often fleeting and fragmented, but one of Sarah Joyce’s
first recollections offers an illuminating insight into the woman she would become. The 31-year-old singer-songwriter who performs as Rumer – hailed by Burt Bacharach, Carly Simon and Elton John as a major new talent – was born into a British family living near Islamabad in Pakistan, where her father was the chief engineer on the Tarbela Dam project. The youngest of seven children, she remembers standing in a room in the family home trying to be heard over the noise of her siblings. ‘I remember feeling physically very small and looking up at all these tall people and wondering how I could get their attention. So I decided to do impressions of Judy Garland and they would all fall about laughing, and I thought, “Great, I can get attention if I sing.” My singing was attention-seeking initially and then I realised – by accident – that I was quite good at it.’ It has taken Sarah – whose debut album Seasons of my Soul has received rapturous reviews – a long time to turn that childhood promise into adult reality. She’s been a receptionist, a cleaner and worked in a coffee shop (making ‘a good half a million cappuccinos’) while waiting ten long years for her break. But it isn’t just the depth and timbre of her voice (there have been comparisons with Karen Carpenter) that has made the record industry take notice. It is also her songs, inspired by a life story that is as compelling and moving as her music.

Her early childhood, happily entrenched in the expat community of Islamabad, was to be short-lived. When she was four, the family returned to Britain and shortly afterwards her parents’ marriage broke up. It wasn’t until she was 11 that she discovered the reason for the split, when her mother, by then remarried, informed her – ‘as if she were throwing a hand grenade into my life’ – that her father was not Jim Joyce, the man who had raised her, but the family’s Pakistani cook. ‘Before then there had been no doubts about my parentage. I was just obviously darker than the rest of my family. My siblings were blonde, and I was this dark-haired, dark-eyed girl, and I used to cry about it. I used to say, “I want to have blonde hair and blue eyes”, and one of my older sisters would say, “When I was a little girl I used to want brown hair and brown eyes” – but I knew that was rubbish,’ she says.

More here.

Disco Inferno

Tonight at 7 p.m., Darcy James Argue's steampunk big band jazz orchestra Secret Society and the 17 piece disco band Escort (both bands are friends of 3QD, we say proudly) will play a joint show at the Ecstatic Summer — River To River Festival over at the World Financial Center Plaza. The show starts at 7:00 p.m. and is free.

Darcy has some interesting thoughts on disco (including some thoughts on Donald Byrd's 70s disco pieces), over at the Secret Society blog:

Was disco the last musical genre that absolutely everyone had to get in on? It wasn't just the likes of Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones and Wings-era Paul McCartney and the Greatful Dead and Kiss… a surprising number of major jazz artists also made disco-inflected records. There's Ron Carter's 1976 Pastels, which opens with the glossy string-sweetened “Woolaphant.” Also in '76, Dizzy Gillespie put out a record called Dizzy's Partyhere's the title track. Sonny Rollins even put out a tune called, of all things, “Disco Monk” — it's from 1979's aptly titled Dont Ask. (Remember, Thelonious was still around at this point and consequently had no grave to spin in.) Almost all of the big bands had their disco moments, too — Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Thad & Mel — but nobody embraced disco with as much gusto as Maynard Ferguson. I still vividly remember the time when my teenage self first heard his disco version of the theme to Battlestar Galactica — I think my jaw still hurts from where it hit the floor.

The above tracks (and more) were all referenced in a recent Twitter discussion of jazz-disco crossovers — I'm grateful to Jacob Garchik, Dave Sumner, Mark Stryker, and everyone else who chimed in with their suggestions.

The discussion was instigated somewhat by the fact that Secret Society is going to be appearing this Saturday, August 25 at the Ecstatic Summer Festival, where we'll be joined onstage by the 17-piece neo-disco band, Escort. In addition to separate sets, we'll be bringing both bands together for a few tunes, including an original of mine called “Penumbra” (think late 70's Quincy Jones meets Guillermo Klein's rhythmic filter) and my arrangements of two influential disco-era tracks recorded by Donald Byrd, “Stepping Into Tomorrow” and “Change (Makes You Want To Hustle)” — both of which will feature special guest soloist Tim Hagans.

This isn't a vein of music that we in Secret Society get to tap explicity very much, but that doesn't mean we don't love it or aren't deeply influenced by it. So let's take a minute to get a few things straight:

DISCO IS AWESOME. Notwithstanding the ill-advised crossover attempts listed above, the decades-long knee-jerk “Disco Sucks” backlash is lazy and tired and needs to stop. Yes, there is bad disco. There is bad everything. But disco was the natural outgrowth of 70's funk and Philly soul, and there's no shortage of deeply grooving disco tracks that easily stand up today. For the skeptical, I recommend and endorse this Sound Opinions podcast on disco's early years.