Sunday, September 25, 2016

Which Midlife Crisis is Right for Me?: Reflections on Turning 40


Today is my 40th birthday.

Last year I wrote about the importance of birthdays and noted that, statistically speaking, I was entering middle age. 

I’ve never been one to lament growing older.  This is for several reasons:  1. There’s nothing you can do about it, so, to paraphrase Buddhist and Stoic philosophers, whining about it is irrational and unhealthy.  2. Barring some horrifically painful and permanently debilitating illness, getting older is almost certainly better than the alternative.  3. Getting older isn’t all bad – those new experience points mean you can level up!

One great thing about getting older is that you start figuring some things out: things like relationships, career, family, who you are as a person, and how to get dental insurance (something I just figured out two years ago).  Figuring out everything would be boring, though.  You’ve got to keep some mystery in your life!  Luckily there are still plenty of enigmas in this universe, like the nature of consciousness, how there can be old news, and skinny people who go on diets.

I’ve been joking that my biggest decision upon turning 40 is that I need to start deciding what kind of midlife crisis to have.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sci-Fi Plato, Part Three: Necessity by Jo Walton



As a science fiction fan and philosophy professor who teaches Plato's Republic every year, Jo Walton's Thessaly series is right up my alley (see my reviews of The Just City and The Philosopher Kings here and here ...).  The Just City made my list of Philosophical SF Recommendations.  I was lucky enough to meet Walton at a book signing recently when I attended the 74th Worldcon.  I told her that as a philosopher I approve of a series that involves a time-travelling goddess setting up Plato's Republic with some help from Socrates ... and robots!  She was amused.

I continued to love the philosophical aspects of this third book in the series (especially with Crocus the robot!).  While I really liked the ending, I found a lot of the plot of this one to be a bit meandering and sometimes difficult to follow.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Eurocentrism as Political Correctness: A Response to Nicholas Tampio



Eurocentrism has been in the news lately.  In July US Congressperson Steve King made comments downplaying the cultural contributions of non-white, non-Western "subgroups." (Thus demonstrating that he's scarier than that other Stephen King.)

Last week there was a call from political science professor Nicholas Tampio to narrowly define philosophy as a discipline responding either directly to Plato's Republic or at least part of a self-consciously Socratic-Platonic tradition of inquiry (I recommend reading his essay, "Not All Things Wise and Good Are Philosophy," for yourself here).  Tampio was responding in large part to a piece from Jay Garfield and Bryan Van Norden called "If Philosophy Won't Diversify, Let's Call It What It Really Is."

I find much of Tampio's essay to be either plain wrong or downright odd.  Before I explain why, however, let me begin by trying to define some key terms (something philosophers around the world have been doing for thousands of years).

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Review of Reviews: They Live, Weaveworld, and Interstellar (Novelization)

It's time for another review of reviews!  (My last review of reviews was in July).  This time I have three items on the agenda: John Carpenter's film They Live, Clive Barker's novel Weaveworld, and the novelization of Interstellar by Greg Keyes.

Rowdy Roddy Piper all out of bubblegum in They Live

They Live

Owing mainly to my recent outbreak of 80's nostalgia (partially fueled by Stranger Things), I've been on a bit of a John Carpenter kick lately.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Star Trek as Regulative Ideal: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary

"Live long and prosper, Star Trek."

Fifty years ago today, the first regular episode of Star Trek aired and changed at least one world forever.  

Fans throughout the galaxy are celebrating.  Items from Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry are being released from the Roddenberry vault.  Of course there's 50th anniversary merchandise.  We're getting a new series next year.  iO9 is featuring Star Trek Week!  There are a lot of great articles there.  One of my favorite is Katherine Trendacosta’s “Star Trek is My Best Love.” 


What’s so Great about Star Trek, Anyway?


So a lot of people (including me) believe that Star Trek is worth celebrating.  But why?

Perhaps there are as many answers as there are Star Trek fans.

Some people love Star Trek as a show that emphasizes the science in science fiction (even if it sometimes uses meaningless techno-babble).  It has inspired people from all walks of life to go into STEM fields.  Star Trek is one of the few science fiction shows that actually features scientific exploration as one of its core themes.

Others enjoy the technological aspects of Star Trek.  From communicators to talking computers, some parts of the world of Star Trek have already become reality.  I recently acquired an iPad, and every time I use it I can’t stop thinking about the PADD from Star Trek: The Next Generation. 

These are perfectly good reasons to love Star Trek, but I don’t think either entirely explains the enduring love people have for this show.  The main reason people love Star Trek is a bit deeper.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Dragoncon Impressions

Dragoncon Cosplay Parade:
 Barf from Spaceballs, Cornelius and Zira from Planet of the Apes, and a Dune procession in the back

Just a few weeks after Worldcon in Kansas City (see my reports here and here), my friend Dominik invited me to join him last Saturday for a day trip from Chattanooga to Atlanta to attend Dragoncon.  How lucky can one nerd be?

While I only attended one day and didn't get the full Dragoncon experience, here are some of my impressions.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Non-Superhero Summer Movie Roundup: Warcraft, Independence Day, Ghostbusters, Star Trek, The Secret Life of Pets, Kubo and the Two Strings



This year's summer movies largely seemed to follow the pattern of this terrible year: they ranged from mildly mediocre to grotesquely terrible.  I'm not sure about why that is, although this article from The Guardian's Benjamin Lee takes a good stab at it.  The awfulness of 2016 summer movies is especially odd compared to 2015, which gave us the masterpiece of Mad Max: Fury Road.  I even liked Terminator Genisys.

I'm not a big superhero fan, which probably saved me from some disappointment this summer.  I did have the misfortune of seeing Suicide Squad, but the silver lining for me is that as much of an offense to cinema as Suicide Squad was, it may signal that we are finally nearing the end of the mind-numbing domination of superhero movies.  Another benefit of Suicide Squad is that it inspired this hilarious video from Jenny Nicholson: "Suicide Squad Sales Pitch."

So without further ado ... my non-superhero summer science fiction and fantasy movie round up!