Amused to Death: Roger Waters at the Brink of Sadness and Truth

I’ve sometimes wondered why Roger Water’s album Amused to Death isn’t heralded as a classic on par with his other Big Statement The Wall. It’s shorter, arguably better produced and a lot of the music is not only poignant, but very catchy.

The album was release in 1992 which was bad timing for anything Pink Floyd related. I don’t know if you remember 1992, but it was a year filled with Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and an explosion of raw music that harkened back to the DIY aesthetic of Punk. Amused to Death, is the work of an aging rock star obsessed with long songs, complicated, conceptual song cycles and meticulous production values. Everything that music in 1992 was rebelling against.

That the record never got the attention it deserved is a real tragedy. Because this is waters at his best. the social commentary from Animals is sharper, and more nihilistic. The psychological turmoil and disgust with the of military-educational-industrial machine found on the Wall is more finely honed.

And while Waters strips the tragedy of our civilization bare, he manages to do it with some amazing production and blazing musicianship.There aren’t a whole lot of genuinely forgotten masterpieces out there. But this is without a doubt, one of them.



What do Animals Want?

image is one of my favorite sites.

Every week there something I find there that, like the very best of anything, makes me think long and hard about the way I look at the world. Edge is the creation of John Bockman, a “cultural impressario” whatever that means. The site itself is a place where science, art and social theory collide to create what the it dubs the “third culture” which, “consists of those scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are.”

On Edge now is fantastic talk by Marian Stam Dawkins on the topic, What do Animals Want? I can’t embed the video for whatever reason, but here is a sample of the transcript:

The first thing I began to do is to ignore a lot of people who think that all you need is anthropomorphism, that the ethical basis of treating animals lies on just saying they’re a bit like us, and therefore we should treat them like us. Actually that argument is quite dangerous. It leads to a sort of way of thinking that says anything goes. Anybody can just make anything up and say that that’s what is the case.

What we really need is a much more scientific basis for animal welfare than just an anthropomorphic argument. I began to think, how can you define animal welfare in a way that’s scientific, that actually leads to proper evidence so the decisions we make are based on good evidence? I came up with a really very simple definition of animal welfare. Which is that the animals are healthy, and that they have what they want. I think most people would agree that health (not being injured, not being diseased) is absolutely fundamental to animal welfare, so that doesn’t really worry people, if you say that. Healthy animals, they’re good for humans, good for animals, a major part of animal welfare.

But also most people think that there’s something more to animal welfare than just not dying of a disease. That more is, in my view, what the animals, themselves, want. Do they want access to water; do they want access to cover? Do they want to be with each other? Obviously we can’t necessarily give them everything they want. But we can at least find out what it is. If somebody’s going to argue such-and-such improves animal welfare, I would say well, what’s the evidence that it either improves their health or it gives the animals what they want? If you can’t show that, then however much you think you might want it, it doesn’t seem to me that it actually improves animal welfare at all.