Apr 24

They Might Be Giants is SO GOOD LIVE

I want to blog about the They Might Be Giants concert I went to last night, but I honestly can’t think of anything to say other than “OMG it was So Cool you guys have no idea” which is not particularly useful communication for people who didn’t go to, and aren’t going to, a They Might Be Giants show.

Seriously, though, they nailed, like, everything. They were funny, they did a great mix of songs from throughout their career, they did a really funny cover, their lighting was amazing — like, I don’t really want to dwell too much on the lighting because obviously it’s not the most interesting thing about the show, but usually when I see the use of lights in concerts, it’s kind of annoying. Like, they’re trying to do something interesting with the lights, but they’re only trying hard enough to make the fact that they’re trying distracting, making the experience worse instead of better. But TMBG genuinely used the lights in their show to astounding effect, in a way that added a lot to the experience of watching them perform each song.

And they did two sets. They opened for themselves. Which was funny. And they played several of my favorite songs that I really didn’t expect — “Dead,” “Fingertips,” “Cyclops Rock,” “Man, It’s So Loud In Here” and “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” were a few of the songs that were genuinely surprising and exciting to hear. And the way they arranged them made it surprising and exciting to hear the songs I did expect — “Erase,” “Number Three,” “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” and “Birdhouse in your Soul,” for example.

Maybe I did have a little more to say “OMG it was So Cool” &etc.

Anyway, here’s some They Might Be Giants songs:

Can’t Keep Johnny Down:

Erase:

Birdhouse In Your Soul:

Good To Be Alive:

Man, It’s So Loud In Here:

Apr 23

New Google thing: Project Fi

I think Google’s working on deconstructing one of the major tragic consequences of the capitalist path that information technology took in growing and spreading. It’s called Project Fi, and I’ve only seen one short video with any details but it looks like it’s about making all the cell networks work together, for everyone — rapidly turning a handful of pretty good networks that service most of the country varyingly well to a single amazing network that services the entire country exceptionally well.

My Google Fan impulse is saying this is incredible news — and I am still holding out hope that Google will continue to be generally pretty good and genuinely interested in the well-being of humanity rather than just their shareholders. But I’ll be waiting for more details before I get enthusiastically supportive.

Apr 22

On millenials, a comic

I drew a comic yesterday, and wanted to show it off here as well as on Tumblr:

http://txwatson.tumblr.com/post/117050152513/i-did-some-art

Apr 21

Philosophy Bites: Meira Levinson on the Aims of Education

This episode of Philosophy Bites is about the philosophical goals of education — the guest, Meira Levinson, has taught in public schools in Atlanta and Boston, often working with children of color living in poverty.

Near the end of the podcast, she raises a problem with the educational narrative taught to these children about escaping poverty:

Insofar as my aim was to help each of my students achieve power over their lives, I also had to help the achieve power as a collective. … We could not establish a goal of having each individual child escape his or her circumstances — that that was a profoundly limiting goal, because it meant … that the child was taught that in order to succeed, he or she had to leave his or her community behind. And so that experience transformed my thinking from just thinking about the individual to how I could help young people learn to work together to transform the communities in which they lived.

I answered a question a while ago about what Solarpunk education would be like — my answer was basically the long-form version of “I don’t know.”  But this seems like a vivid example: Solarpunk education is about teaching kids about community, support, and building resistance to systematic adversity; it rejects the narrative that the oppressed should seek to relieve their suffering by pursuing unlikely accomplishments with the intent to leave their community behind them.

I can only talk so much on this topic, being a white person who grew up in a suburb, before I’m pretty hugely out of my depth, but I wanted to bring this podcast, and this idea, into the conversation.

(Philosophy Bites is a podcast featuring 15-20 minute interviews with contemporary philosophers dipping into very specific questions. I think it’s really accessible, if you’re looking to check out a philosophy podcast.)

Apr 20

Solarpunk fashion; fantasy; function

(Originally published on my Solarpunk Tumblr)

Tumblr user kdhume just recently posted a finished Solarpunk umbrella, which is very cool looking, and made me think about one of the things that’s very present in Steampunk, that I expect will be present in Solarpunk, and the ideological subtleties that might come up: pseudo-functional accessories.

In Steampunk, it’s totally normal and common to add a genre-fashionable flair to an otherwise normal object by sticking some gears on it or using brass with a patina instead of steel. It goes farther than that, but as it does it only makes my point more and more: arm bands with computer arrays that, hypothetically, run on steam and gearboxes, but, actually, don’t run at all.

Because the major narrative feature is there, at least in concept: It runs on steam.

And that’s totally plausible — like, nobody has much of a problem with agreeing that, on level, steampunks are allowed to pretend pretty much anything can and does run on steam.

In Solarpunk, it’s not hard to see the parallel. Stuff runs on renewable energy. The basic narrative assumption is that things are carbon neutral or negative, that they rely on ethically sourced materials and alternative energy supplies, that they are the end product of a design process that seriously considered “Is the energy and material cost of this object worth the value added to the lives of its users and community and world?”

In real life, that stuff won’t be. In real life, the test tube bio-luminescent algae lamps that shine bright and consume excess carbon in the air are actually just going to be plastic tubes stuffed with LEDs running on a watch battery tucked into your hat. Or something.

It’s super common to look at people trying to envision and build a better future and pick it apart — to look at it and say “There are a dozen awful things wrong with this. Do you know how environmentally damaging battery production is? Solar panels are causing a lot of roof damage. Most of that charity’s money is spent on overhead, anyway.” And sometimes those criticisms are legitimate, and sometimes they aren’t, and in either case often they’re coming from somebody scrambling for a reason not to think hard about the way they’re doing things already.

And I just kind of wanted to get ahead of the cynical backlash and accusations of hypocrisy and say that it’s fine for Solarpunk stuff to not work.

Steampunk shows off often non-functional tech depicting a romanticized past. Solarpunk is going to show off often non-functional tech depicting an aspirational future. I’d like my test tube algae lamps better if they really were bio-engineered to be carbon negative, but I like them well enough while they’re plastic tubes stuffed with LEDs that give me a great excuse to talk about environmental science. (Disclosure: I haven’t actually made either version of this costume element.)

As far as costume props go, our cool stuff doesn’t have to work, it just has to demonstrate a belief in, and desire for, the world in which it does.

Apr 17

Hello, Dolly!

I saw the first night of the Pentucket Players’ performance of “Hello, Dolly!” tonight. It’s running for two more nights this weekend, and it’s really incredibly good.

I had heard of Hello, Dolly! before, but I was pretty much going in blind — I had no clue what the show was actually about, except that it took place in New York and that the main character’s name was Dolly.

It reminded me a lot of The Importance of Being Earnest, and of Jeeves and Wooster. It’s funny, and tightly plotted, and really well performed. If you have time this weekend and can make it to North Andover, I recomend it.

Apr 16

Thoreau inspired art

My Philosophy of Happiness class went on a field trip today.1 We visited deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, in Lincoln, Mass., where there is currently an exhibit of art inspired by the work of Henry David Thoreau.

The art inside, which made up the exhibit, was mostly pretty boring. For the stuff that wasn’t boring, what I liked about it were the ways that it implied direct contradictions to Thoreau’s points.

But outside was great. The weather today was wonderful, and — I don’t know if you know this, but — Sculpture Parks are SO COOL. There was a giant head and an upside-down lamp post and an otter with a human face and a tree that looked like Groot.

I recommend deCordova.  I have no clue what it costs, since I went with a school group, but if it’s cheap and you live nearby it’s totally worth checking out.

  1. Honors courses at my school are required to have a field trip. The professor took a very long time to figure out what kind of place we could visit to get across the idea of happiness — and I have to say, I’m not even a little bit a Thoreau fan so I expected that to be a bad call, but I had a delightful day. So, I guess, well done.

Apr 15

Boost.

Have you watched the new Dial-a-song? It’s cool.

Also there’s a new Solarpunk Tumblr that I joined, The Solarpunk Network. I haven’t had time to really do anything there yet but it’s cool and you should follow it.

Apr 14

New bag

Today was a really eventful day, in a whole lot of ways — some good, some bad, and almost all of which not stuff I want to write about for the internet, at least not right away.

So instead, I’m writing about my new backpack, which arrived today and which I am currently stocking with the essential contents of my previous backpack.

I really liked my old backpack, actually. It was cute — it was a color orange that matched my laptop — and at first, it fit all my stuff really comfortably. But my daily carrying stacks outgrew it, and by the end it was carrying more weight than it could handle. I had already had the new backpack ordered, but this morning one of the straps broke. It was very much on its last legs and the new bag came just in time. (Or, slightly too late. It would have been nice to unpack the old one before it broke so I wouldn’t have to repair it to use it for smaller loads every now and again.)

The new one’s much more pragmatic. Lots of plasticky fabric and zippers. It should work out pretty well.

Apr 13

I got into Hampshire

*Annoying singsong voice* I got into Hampshire! I got into Hampshire!

No but seriously. I’m so excited. I texted, I think, 10 people when I got the news. Then I decided to wait until I had actually physically seen the letter to tell my professors, because I had just heard I got it from my mom. (I asked her to open my mail from Hampshire and txt me what it said, because I didn’t want to have to endure the chunk of time in my life between “You have a letter from Hampshire” and getting home to open it.)

I now have physically seen it — I also got a $15,000 per year scholarship, and a bunch of grants (Hampshire’s one of those cool schools that thinks poor kids deserve educations, too) so I’m pretty sure I have no reason to worry that I won’t actually be able to go.

I’m so excited!

Older posts «