Editor’s note from The New Inquiry Magazine, No. 9: Concept Album
“You cheated, you lied; you cheated, you lied,” sings Leonard Cohen, almost inaudibly, over the long fade of “Memories,” a characteristically ambivalent track from his shambolic 1973 album Death of a Ladies Man. These lines, lifted from a canonical doo-wop hit, are ostensibly directed at a high school flame, two-and-a-half decades after the fact, for failing to be true. The wounds over the furtive, frustrating efforts to achieve some sort of sublime contact at a high school dance remain fresh for the man in his 40s singing the song. But he might just as well be singing about old songs themselves, the ones that promised more than he ended up getting. His jaded disappointment can’t fully conceal how stunned he continues to be that the yearning so palpable in love songs never quite translated into a lasting unity, that listening to those songs yields only a fleeting connection that’s already dissolving into a dubious memory before the record ends.
This mix of shock and disappointment inheres throughout Death of a Ladies Man in the ironic — some might say disastrous — pairing of Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound production with Cohen’s dissolute tales of adult sexual desperation. The failure that haunts every song on the album is also the failure of the four-chord progressions which once promised him utopia from every jukebox in Montreal. Bitterness has become inseparable from nostalgia.
This issue of New Inquiry, like Cohen’s Death of a Ladies Man, is about music and failure, about utopias posited and dissipated. But its point is not to argue that music makes nothing happen or that it is everywhere and always mystification and temporary escapism. We’re big enough fans of pop music to know that sometimes the promise of happiness is not always betrayed, that its potential for constructive negation is more abundant than Adorno imagined it could be — even as taste is turned into capital and social media makes selfconsciousness about pleasure a full-time job.
- Editors, The New Inquiry 
Support TNI. Subscribe for $2 here. 

Editor’s note from The New Inquiry Magazine, No. 9: Concept Album

“You cheated, you lied; you cheated, you lied,” sings Leonard Cohen, almost inaudibly, over the long fade of “Memories,” a characteristically ambivalent track from his shambolic 1973 album Death of a Ladies Man. These lines, lifted from a canonical doo-wop hit, are ostensibly directed at a high school flame, two-and-a-half decades after the fact, for failing to be true. The wounds over the furtive, frustrating efforts to achieve some sort of sublime contact at a high school dance remain fresh for the man in his 40s singing the song. But he might just as well be singing about old songs themselves, the ones that promised more than he ended up getting. His jaded disappointment can’t fully conceal how stunned he continues to be that the yearning so palpable in love songs never quite translated into a lasting unity, that listening to those songs yields only a fleeting connection that’s already dissolving into a dubious memory before the record ends.

This mix of shock and disappointment inheres throughout Death of a Ladies Man in the ironic — some might say disastrous — pairing of Phil Spector’s wall-of-sound production with Cohen’s dissolute tales of adult sexual desperation. The failure that haunts every song on the album is also the failure of the four-chord progressions which once promised him utopia from every jukebox in Montreal. Bitterness has become inseparable from nostalgia.

This issue of New Inquiry, like Cohen’s Death of a Ladies Man, is about music and failure, about utopias posited and dissipated. But its point is not to argue that music makes nothing happen or that it is everywhere and always mystification and temporary escapism. We’re big enough fans of pop music to know that sometimes the promise of happiness is not always betrayed, that its potential for constructive negation is more abundant than Adorno imagined it could be — even as taste is turned into capital and social media makes selfconsciousness about pleasure a full-time job.

- Editors, The New Inquiry 

Support TNI. Subscribe for $2 here. 

Volume 8: Other Animals

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Yesterday TNI released the eighth volume of our monthly e-magazine, this one on the topic of “Other Animals.” It contains some of our favorite writers thinking on the world of non-human creatures, from puppy psychiatry to animal actors to parasite politics. We run this publication not by the graces of wealthy philanthropists or generous grant committees, but by dint of $2/month subscriptions from our readers. It’s less than the price of a coffee or a NYC subway swipe, and still the most we ask of you. The money goes to support everything we do, keeps the site advertisement-free, and allows us to publish all our content under a Creative Commons license. So take five minutes and two bucks and subscribe today. If you already subscribe, spend five minutes bugging a friend or loved one to join you.

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For those who want to play by the rules, who speak wistfully of college and a career, the path out of poverty — let alone toward the stable, satisfying, and fairly remunerated work they crave and deserve — is blocked by prejudice, debt, insecurity, and, for many men of color, incarceration.

Astra Taylor, “The Prison-Educational Complex”


This essay appears in Volume 6 of The New Inquiry Magazine. Support TNI. Subscribe for $2. 

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It starts with the simple questions: Can I afford not to own a cell phone? Would I still be employable if I didn’t own one? Would I still know what is happening and get invited to parties? The next year, it’s owning a smart phone. Or being on Facebook. Or getting an iPad for the children. None of this is about being aspirational. It’s about keeping up, an imperative sharpened by the economic crisis. So we cut expenses, but not when it comes to technology. Perhaps we eat out less, or travel less. But the cell phone — which by now has become a smartphone — stays. And the thing about smartphones is that in order to be fully functional they need to know where they are — that is to say, where we are. This knowledge defines them. It is what makes them smart.

Giovanni Tiso, “Under Our Skins”

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SUBJECT: UAV Naming & Branding Protocols

FROM: [Author] & [Co-Author], MARKETING DEPARTMENT

1. [REDACTED], chief of R&D, reports that [COMPANY]‘s development of new unmanned Aerial Vehicles has proceeded according to initial timeline.

2. Head of JSOC materiel acquisitions has expressed interest in two UAV prototypes for deployment in successor to Project Avocado. Recommend push on all.

Jacob Silverman, “By Any Other Name”

This piece appears in The New Inquiry Magazine, No. 6: Game of Drones. Subscribe today for $2 and get Issue No. 7: Cops.