Friday, November 9, 2018
Vampires and Philosophers: 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King and Stephen King and Philosophy, edited by Jacob M. Held
I've been on a Stephen King kick lately, but 'Salem's Lot was never near the top of my list until recently. Vampires aren't my favorite horror trope (they're overdone, not that original, and kinda boring most of the time). But I changed my mind about 'Salem's Lot a few months ago when I read The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (see my review!). To avoid spoiling two books at once, I won't say more about that connection except that it made 'Salem's Lot sound a lot more interesting to me.
So is 'Salem's Lot any good? It is!
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Today is Election Day here in the United States! Here's a round up of a few things I've read and a few things I've written about voting.
- "You're Disillusioned. That's Fine. Vote, Anyway." Some really great advice from Roxane Gay.
- "What if the Polls Are Wrong Again? 4 Scenarios for What Might Happen in the Elections." Some interesting analysis from NPR. Not a bad way to practice Stoic preparedness for some of the possible outcomes.
- "A Guide to Voting for UTC Students." A guide for students at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga that might also be inspiring or useful for students elsewhere.
- "Voting is Like Going to the Dentist." My recent attempt at a metaphor for voting: "Voting is like going to the dentist. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to look forward to it. But every so often you should probably do it."
- "Uses of Philosophy, Part 3: Intellectual Empathy -- Understanding Without Agreeing." My defense of one of the benefits of philosophy and how it might apply to our current political culture.
- "Dreaming, Principles, and Cooperation: Science Fiction, Philosophy, and Politics (Part One)." It's a bit melancholy going back to stuff I wrote before the 2016 election (see the above Weird Al meme for context), but this one gets at a bit of how I approach politics overall.
- "American Voters and the Fate of Us All: Eight Reasons to Vote with Objections and Replies." Another melancholy throwback to 2016, but I still stand behind the reasons and responses to common objections that I gave here (especially the bit about cool stickers).
And now my fellow Americans, I ask you to stop reading this, and please, for the love of whatever you hold dear: vote!
Bonus tweet from Weird Al!
EDIT (10 Nov. 18): I'll have a post on my thoughts on the results of the election later, but I just realized this is the 300th post on this blog! Congrats to me!
Monday, October 29, 2018
When it comes to the heyday of slashers in the 1980's, I always preferred the corny jokes of Freddy Krueger and the one-liners of Hellraiser's Pinhead to the sullen silence of Michael Myers and his compatriot Jason Voorhees. It's not that I didn't like the original Halloween when I saw it on video in the 80's, but I admit that most of what I've always loved about the original was John Carpenter's synth-tastic soundtrack. Apparently I wanted to hear something.
But I did hear good things about this 2018 incarnation of Halloween, especially the performance of Jaime Lee Curtis. John Carpenter is back, too; he updates his classic soundtrack with Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies, but leaves the directing to David Gordon Green this time.
So, how is it? Maybe not the greatest horror movie ever, but a lot deeper than you'd think. It turns out that a movie about a silent killer may have something to say.
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
I've been on a bit of a Stephen King kick lately. I'm five books into The Dark Tower series. I even taught Pet Sematary in a class on philosophy and horror. I've read at least 16 of his books (according to my count on Goodreads), and I've added most of the rest to my to read list. And here are a few coincidences: I found a stand-alone copy of The Mist at the used book store a couple months ago, I saw The Shawshank Redemption on TV a month ago, and I saw a copy of Different Seasons at the public library a week later. Due to these coincidences (or was it ka?), I thought I'd check out some of King's novellas.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
Several weeks ago I came up with the following hypothesis.
Hypothesis: College students aren't actually relativists in a normative philosophical sense as many philosophy teachers love to complain about, but rather students look at philosophical questions through a sort of descriptive "pop social science" lens. That is, they don't understand the distinction between the question "What is the truth?" and the question "What do people say is the truth?" Very little in our broader culture or education system prepares them to answer the Socratic question, "What should I personally think is the truth?" beyond unargued personal preference.
Corollary 1: Go easy on your students, philosophy teachers. We are asking them to do something our entire culture (and maybe even human nature) either militates against or deems literally unthinkable.
Corollary 2: This maybe also explains a lot about why philosophy and the humanities more generally are so misunderstood, disrespected, and ignored by the larger culture.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Voting is like going to the dentist. You don’t have to like it. You don’t have to look forward to it. But every so often you should probably do it.
Some people hate going to the dentist. You have awkward conversations with people’s hands in your mouth. You get moralizing lectures about how you should floss more. The sound of that drill will haunt your dreams. But a responsible adult should, if possible, go to the dentist for the sake of their dental health despite all this.
Likewise, some people don’t want to vote. You have to navigate government bureaucracy to register. You have to find your polling place and wait in line. In some states you need to obtain the right photo ID. And all this hassle for, well, what, exactly? A single vote probably won’t make a difference. And maybe you don’t like any of your choices.
But what if we thought of voting like going to the dentist, as something that isn’t exciting or pleasant or obviously immediately beneficial, but that responsible citizens should do for the health of their society?
Saturday, October 6, 2018
This is my second time reading Pet Sematary, and I found it even deeper and creepier than the first time. (See my first review here).
This time I read Pet Sematary for my course on horror and philosophy, a book I chose to cover because I remember it being a great example of how horror can help us face the fact of death. I found a great article in a book called Stephen King and Philosophy called "Sometimes Dead is Better: King, Daedelus, Dragon-Tyrants, and Deathism" by Katherine Allen. Allen discusses Pet Sematary (along with The Tommyknockers) in the framework of transhumanism and bioconservatism.