Wednesday, September 26, 2018

This Blog Is Shifting Gears

This blog is going to change from regular once-a-week posting to occasional, irregular posting when I have something to say. If you want to stay connected, you can sign up to subscribe to the blog by email using the feature on the right hand side, or you could just check in occasionally when you feel like it.

The main reason is that I seem to lack the mental energy for regular blogging right now. Maybe it will come back at some point. Thanks for being awesome readers : )

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

No Post Because Chairing

I don't know whether to say I lacked the time, or whether it's not enough mental energy (an understudied concept, IMHO), or maybe it's an issue of Life Force, or perhaps it's related to the (difficult to replicate!) concept of ego depletion. But I wasn't able to write this week. See you all again next Tuesday!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

My Favorite Beatle: Past And Present

When I discovered the Beatles I was eleven years old. I know because I found out about the Beatles by going to see the Bee Gees movie Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and some older person must have taken pity on me and kindly explained that in fact, those songs weren't really the Bee Gees, they were, in fact, this other band.

I got really into the Beatles between ages eleven and thirteen, and even though I don't listen to the Beatles any more, I'm happy for this phase of life, which I feel was an appropriate introduction to the world of English Language Pop Music.

Given my age, it was inevitable that I would form deep opinions about My Favorite Beatle, and also that My Favorite would basicall correlate with the one I thought was Cute and Attractive and Someone I Would Like to Date.

For me, that Beatle was Paul McCartney.

I know that people like me are supposed to like other Beatles best. Intellectuals and politically savvy people are supposed to like John. Non-conformists and introverts are supposed to like George. I'm not sure who has Ringo as their favorite and maybe I'm not alone: this quora question says "Who is your favorite Beatle if it is Ringo explain why" and none of the answers are "Ringo." But Paul is considered the sillier choice, the obvious choice, the lightweight.

Over the years since, I have occasionally thought about the Beatles about my interest in Paul as my favorite Beatle. For a while I was very dismissive of my former self. I wanted to like Wings, but I couldn't even get interested. OK, maybe "Live and Let Live," but you know what I mean. Meanwhile, John was making art with Yoko Ono and being Mister Interesting. While I have always agreed with the sentiment that when it comes to Silly Love Songs,  sure, "what's wrong with that?" I also felt like "Really, is that all you got?"

Then for a long time I didn't think about the Beatles, as I got obsessed with The Cure (not embarrassed to admit this), T. Rex (still think they are the best), The Velvet Underground (talk about obsession) and Pavement (not trying to be pretentious, just like their music).

Then around the time that Linda McCartney died (in 1998), I remember thinking: maybe I wasn't crazy to have Paul as my favorite Beatle, at least if I was thinking in terms of romance. I mean, this guy got married to an interesting woman, Linda Eastman, who was an artist and activist, and stayed married to her for 29 years until she died of cancer. OK, things didn't work out with Heather Mills, but then immediately after divorcing her he married Nancy Shevell. Paul seems to enjoy family life and spending time with his wives and kids. I thought to myself: "Paul could have actually been a good person to be in a romance with. He seems like kind of a romantic guy."

Lately, though, I've soured on the idea of Paul as a favorite Beatle. Paul is boring, and the older I get, the more I feel like boring is not OK. This sentiment was reinforced when Paul appeared on the WTF podcast, which I listen to obsessively. Usually, Marc's interviews get people to talk about some things that are painful, or conflictual, or that they just feel weird about. Paul's interview, by contrast, was like a PR plug that went on for an hour. Crushingly dull.

With respect to the other Beatles though, I'm not sure. John's particular brand of humorless activism feels kind of smug to me, and George is still a cipher. Ringo, perhaps? Songs like Octopus's Garden are weird, amusing, and lighthearted -- and isn't weird, amusing, and lighthearted in short supply these days? On the other hand, as one of the manifestations of the weirdness of modern life, I just learned that Ringo is a Brexiteer.

Maybe the moral of the story is that the more you know about pop idols, the less they can be pop idols -- something that seems obvious once you think about it a bit, but something the emotions of fandom never wanted me to admit.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

I Was In Hannover Germany

I didn't have time to write a proper blog post this week, and one reason is that I was giving a paper at the joint conference of the ENPOSS (European Network for Philosophy of Social Science) and the Philosophy of Social Science Roundtable. The conference was good: I was reminded how in areas like philosophy of social science (or philosophy of science more generally), there's something to talk about beyond philosophy. I mean, in ethics, it's often just you and your arguments and I sometimes feel like convincing people is partly force of personality. But with philosophy of science, there's ... science!

One of the things that struck me about Hannover was that there was a fair amount of graffiti. I had trouble interpreting or classifying or understanding the graffiti in Hannover, which seemed to cross a lot of genres in ways that were opaque to an outsider. I tried to talk to a Parisian about it, and he said "Oh, there's a lot of graffiti all over Europe, isn't it like that in North America?" and I said "No, not exactly, there are areas with a lot of graffiti and then areas with none." Then I asked him if he thought the graffiti in a place like Hannover was more created by disenfranchised or poor people expressing their discontent or whether the form was somehow broadened so that more people participated. He said he didn't know.

I don't know either. Some graffiti seemed to me like what I'd think of as conventional tagging. Some seemed more explicitly political, like anarchist signs. Then a lot was just -- impossible for me to classify, with words or style that I couldn't understand.

Here are two pictures of graffiti in Hannover -- both of these pictures were taken right near the University building where the conference was held. In the first, you see a range of styles. In the second, you see words -- "iron," "reset," "Mandy." WTF?

 I really don't know, so if you have interpretations, I'd be interested to hear them.

One other interesting visual thing I encountered in Germany was at the airport, where I saw this sign that said "Keep off this plain!" Sure, the word "plain" could just be a bad translation. But a bad translation for what? What is this?

I guess it's good there are still some mysteries in the universe. See you all next week!