All posts by Philosofer

FMD 8/21/2020 – Building Slowly

Not too long ago I was listening to the song "Coconut" by Harry Nilsson. Though I'm well familiar with the song I was struck at how well constructed it was, with just layer upon layer being added up to this much bigger cacophonous sound than it start as. Just really subtle building. Lots of songs will do a stripped down verse, add something obvious on the next one, and build in a way that just isn't quite so smooth.

So I'm curious about other songs that you think of as building slowly, or subtly, up to a much larger sound.

Also drop lists.

FMD: July 3, 2020 – Hope and Pride and Maybe A Bit of Patriotism

Look, things are complicated in this country. We all know that. We're reckoning with a lot of horrible facts about both our present and our past. But, at bottom, I think we can acknowledge that some flawed, complicated people came together and set up a novel framework that genuinely enabled things to get better. And this weekend is a time to reflect on that. A chance to think about what we might do to make things better too - because, at bottom, we're all flawed, complicated people too.

Anyway, let's identify some songs of hope and pride, and maybe a bit of patriotism - real patriotism, not that "everything we do must be the best because it is us" stuff.

And to kick it off, here's Ray Charles singing America The Beautiful at the 2001 World Series.

FMD 6/12/2020 – Spotify vs. Pandora vs. ???

We've discussed this before, I'm sure, but what music services do you use? I was finding myself getting into a bit of a rut with Pandora - it seems to have stopped rotating in new songs unless and until I make a conscious addition to the playlist, and then it really gloms onto that artist. I'd never been much into Spotify - it just seemed silly to rotate through multiple services - but given the Pandora problem, I decided to give it more of a try. The weekly curated lists have been excellent - a handful of songs I know, but many more I don't, including some news stuff, deep cuts and covers, many of which I have genuinely enjoyed.

I'm trying not to like or dislike too many songs on the service though, for fear it will become another Pandora, and only cater to my identified likes, when, in fact, the thing I like most is variety and finding new songs.

What services do you use? How do you use them? Drop your lists. Nominate your summer songs. Especially that. Nominate your summer songs!

FMD 5/22/20: I Need To Get Ready For A Summer Mix

Don't worry, we're not soliciting yet for summer mix material. I suppose that'll happen at some point. Or not. Either way...

I'm just working on my personal Summer Mix, which is usually ready over labor day weekend. It might take a bit longer this year. I usually try to identify at least a single new song that I think is going to really explode - In the past I've hit pretty well with "Pumped Up Kicks", "Feel It Still", and "Can't Stop The Feeling" - and I've whiffed on a bunch of others.

This year? I got nuthin. The only truly new song that I think will make the mix as it currently stands is American Aquarium's "The Luckier You Get" (again, I think anyone digging Isbell would like this group, from what I've heard. "The Luckier You Get" isn't necessarily typical of their other songs, many of which are more contemplative.).

I definitely don't have a pop song that I'm ready to grab. I don't know if the virus stuff is making it harder to get into new things, or what... but I'm just completely lacking that new summer song. So, if anyone has any ideas... I'm open.

Also, don't tell Pepper, but I think Courtney Barnett's "Everybody Here Hates You" is likely to make the cut.

Alright, here's that American Aquarium song, just for fun:

The Nation Has An Appetite: Garlic Shrimp in Coconut Milk

A few weeks ago, when I was planning for a long-term quarantine, I decided that at some point I'd make a red curry. But when I opened my fridge this past week I discovered that I didn't have enough curry paste and I needed to come up with a different plan. Glancing around the internet I found a few recipes that seemed like I could try for, but none for which I really had all the ingredients. And I wasn't going out for more. So here's what I came up with:

INGREDIENTS
Lots of jumbo shrimp. The bigger the better.
Olive oil
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, grated
Salt
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
Basil (I used dried, since it was available)

Fry the garlic and ginger in hot oil, about 1 minute.
Slice the peppers and onion, add to the garlic, cook until soft - about 5 minutes.
Add the can of coconut milk* and tomatoes, salt, basil, 1/2 of lime juice, red pepper flakes, bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
*I've seen it suggested that coconut milk should not be stirred up before adding it to the pan, and should be melted down and slowly mixed in as it cooks. That's what I did here and it worked really well, so it seems like that is true?
Add the shrimp, keep over heat until just cooked through.
Add the rest of the lime juice, and more red pepper flakes to taste.

I served over rice noodles and with a slice of toast (good toasted bread is perfect with this for soaking up the milk).

This definitely seemed like it could use some fresh herbs - One of the inspiring recipes called for cilantro. Maybe something with a little more crunch sprinkled over the top too, though I'm not sure what. Also, if anyone has suggestions for cooking process that would help improve this, I'd be happy to take those. I definitely plan on making this again - the shrimp came out perfect, the left-overs heated really well (no leftover shrimp... that should probably go without saying, right?), it came together really fast and easy, etc. So any improvements are appreciated!

FMD 4/17/2020: Pick Me Up

This quarantine thing got you down? Self isolation giving you the blues? Have you thought "hey, now's the time to try growing facial hair?" only to realize it looks pretty awful?

Don't worry. Be Happy!

There's always music to pick you up!

List or share your best pick-me-up songs, random 10's, musical thoughts, complaints about your hideous new goatee, or whatever!

FMD 3/6/2020: Music For A Quarantine

Well I've got my daughter in the office for the second day in a row - yesterday daycare was closed because of illness and today she's with me because she had a high enough fever that she couldn't go to daycare (though it came down with meds pretty quickly).

And also there's some sort of health related issue in the news?

So: music for a quarantine. Or illness. I suppose that's generally a time when I don't play music. Should I? Would that help a person get better? Is this topic really any different than cabin fever music or desert island music? I dunno.

Thinking About The Good Place

After finishing The Good Place a few days ago, I’ve found that it hasn’t been far from my mind. Obviously the show has some appeal for me, what with all the philosophy talk and such. But I wanted to say a few words, specifically in response to something Nibs said earlier.

Heads up, spoilers may abound. You’ve been warned. Also, this is a bit rambling. Again, you’ve been warned.

Anyway, here’s what Nibs wrote:

I really liked the horror of infinite wish fulfillment as a kind numbing negative thing. I'm not sure that I'm totally sold on their solution to the issue, but it was vastly better than "everything perfect forever" as an ending.

This question – and the whole show really – touches (embraces, encircles, confronts directly) one of the great questions in life: what do we want the afterlife to be?

It’s no secret that I’m a person of faith. I believe in an afterlife. But even if you don’t, I think this question really captures something fascinating about human nature. If you had infinity time, what would heaven be? Can anything infinite even really be called heaven?

The Good Place captured this succinctly, with the happiness zombies in the Good Place, where people were completely numb. Infinite wish fulfillment is, frankly, crap, according to human nature. We crave challenge, growth, improvement, variety, etc. That’s just in our nature. And it is precisely why traditional notions of heaven are so… depressingly boring. Harps and clouds and sitting around with nothing to do. Blech. But even if heaven is infinite wish fulfillment… is that really better? According to The Good Place the answer is clearly “no.”

So what would we want the afterlife to be? It’s actually a topic I’ve spent a long time thinking about, particularly since my sister passed away. Now, I believe in a Heaven and a Hell, and that, in some form or another, what we do on Earth directs what our afterlife might be. But I also don’t super-subscribe to traditional notions of afterlife and that somehow sitting quietly in a church your whole life is what gets you to heaven.

In fact, that notion is part of what helps me think about the afterlife. See, I think life is meant to be lived, not hidden away from. If you want to be a good person, in the truly virtuous sense of the word, that probably means getting out in the world and living life to the fullest. Being a positive influence in people’s lives. Loving. Laughing. Crying. Suffering. There is beauty in struggle. There is something human in pain. If we could just infinitely waive away all unpleasantness, we’d basically be those happiness zombies of the Good Place.

So for me, the test of whether you would get into heaven at all turns less on traditional notions of “good” and more on notions of whether you’ve lived life the fullest in a virtuous way. Did you seize your opportunities to make the world better? Did you push yourself to grow? Did you suffer loss because you had things worth losing?

And I think to some extent, this approach helps address the “problem of infinity.” A person who lives fully is going to be less likely to be bored with the afterlife than a person who just seeks the pleasurable ends. Ultimately, I think the true answer to the problem of infinity is that time doesn’t exist in the afterlife – we’ll all experience it the way Janet does (or maybe as the dot over the ‘i’?) – but I think the notion of an afterlife that fulfills human nature is a heck of a lot more appealing than the traditional notions.

I also think that there is one final smart move that The Good Place made: in having characters walk through that final door, they left the ultimate afterlife as an unknown. Which, of course, it is. But they showed that essence of Eleanor drifting back to Earth and landing on that one guy, who was influenced to bring Michael his mail. That influence itself is a huge part of the afterlife: namely, the way we live on here on Earth, after our lives. We want to have a lasting impact on the people still here (note: the absence of children for all the characters makes perfect sense, but I’d love to see what they’d have done if any of the main 4 had had kids on Earth).

In this regard, too, I think that “living life to the fullest” approach is essential. How many people have impacted your life for the better by sitting quietly and avoiding their own temptations? Probably very few. But how many have impacted your life for the better by either seizing opportunities, living their lives fully, or helping you do the same? And, maybe somewhat depressingly, how many more times could our lives have been better if we’d seized those chances?

Anyway, I’m officially rambling now. But I wanted to get some thoughts down, because they’ve been burning a hole in my head. These are fun questions to think about. And for me the conclusion to be reached – and, the ultimate takeaway from The Good Place – is this:

Life – and the afterlife - is an opportunity to be seized, and Good is in the struggle.