Philosophers deal in the world of abstractions, conundrums and polysylabics. Case in point, explain this quote: "...the idea that epistemic facts can be analyzed without remainder - even in principle - into non-epistemic facts ... is, I believe, a radical mistake - a mistake of a piece with the so-called 'naturalistic fallacy' in ethics." Written by Wilfrid Sellars in a paper presented as part of the University of London Special Lectures on Philosophy for 1955-56. Herein lies the challenge. If a philosopher figures out the grand Rubic’s cube of life, language is inadequate to explain it… or at least explain it in terms that an average beer swilling, crotch scratching, Hallmark card giving mortal can understand. We tend to skitter along the surface of life, allowing our brains to body surf on the waves of popular culture. Enter Dr. Aaron Allen Schiller, visiting assistant prof in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Professor Schiller teaches a brilliantly conceived upper-division “Philosophy and Popular Culture” course which underscores that nothing is beyond philosophical reflection. Family Guy, Lady Gaga, vampires, Harley-Davidson, baseball, food, Harry Potter, graffiti, digital games, social networking, Batman, Bob Marley, cartoons and more are artfully crafted into final papers that weave pop culture and philosophical constructs into interesting reading. The final student papers are posted on a blog created by Doc Schiller.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
With the year fast coming to a close, the jazz club becomes a choice location for a number of home-for-the-holidays gatherings and celebrations, including a jazz singer’s long-time-a-comin’ college graduation party. The crowd was hummin’ with Christmas spirit. Even my old nemesis, the Truman-Capote-look-alike from the 11/27-28/10 night showed up hoping for entry. A couple of weeks after that eventful night, he had shown up sober and I let him in. That night he had become incessantly intimidating to the club owner with his ceaseless prattle and was shown the door. Tonight, he was again filled with more THC than TLC. One might ask, if the doorman, being filled with the spirit of the holidays, would let bygones be bygones and warmly welcome the loathsome one? Would I? Hell no. I was explaining the benefits of him going elsewhere when things escalated a bit. He was wagging his finger in my face making a pointless point, when the drummer who was standing nearby during a band break jumped in and said, “You DO NOT shake your finger in the face of The Doorman.” How true I thought, as the “discussion” shifted to the two of them and my remembering that the drummer has a short fuse. Before I knew it, the drummer was grabbing his shirt collar and escorting him out. When the door shut behind the two of them I immediately went outside and grabbed the drummer saying, “DON’T – your hands are worth more holding sticks than broken from rearranging this sorry ass’ face.” It worked and we re-entered the club in time for the second set where we were all treated to an especially vigorous drum solo in the first song. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa!!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The movie that played out before me was wonderful. The actors and actresses played their parts and all with the mellow sounds of the jazz trio’s soundtrack. As the doorman, I have an enviable front row seat. The jazz club represents the very best of the American ideal as far as diversity. Case in point: a table of four—two young white men with their girlfriends (or wives?), one Hispanic, the other Asian that were served drinks mixed by a gay man and served by a black man. There were seated next to a table with a black man and a white woman who in turn, were next to a table of four women, three blacks and one white. It was all so wonderfully natural and uncontentious. It was—at the risk of melodrama—a mini-fulfillment of MLK’s dream. While controlling a smile of delight at this scene on my stoic doorman face, a fairy-tale princess entered the club. She had long, wavy ginger-color hair and gray eyes that were both alluringly soft and boundary-line clear (it was almost as though her eyes said, “Yeah, I know I’m from a children’s fairy tale, but don’t ef with me, ‘cause I’m friends with the bean-stalk giant…understand?”). I fell in love with her as she left a trail of stardust and butterflies in her wake. The night ended with a deal I made with a young man who promises to come the next night with his girlfriend. I am to make a show of welcoming him as a VIP regular. Tomorrow I become an actor, as I collude with him to create a scene that will either impress or entertain his girlfriend.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Incredibly clever… the Sno Wovel is a back-saving device for scooping, lifting, and throwing snow. It has a unicycle-looking large wheel that moves the shovel forward and functions as a fulcrum for lifting. Everything in the design is said to be proportioned to maximize the lever action and to capture the greatest amount of snow in one pass. It appears to be a brilliant idea that the U.S. manufacturer claims will handle all kinds of snow. Hooray for innovation!
Monday, December 6, 2010
It was a night with little to note. Most people came, paid the cover, and enjoyed. Four guys with attitude filled the doorway. I asked for the cover and the main prick asked why? I said, with my own ‘tude: “Live music—musicians don’t work for free, do YOU?” They left. The band sounded great. They nailed the Horace Silver hard bop tune “Filthy McNasty.” One definite sparkler that light up the generally uneventful night was the return of a couple who I had coaxed in several weeks earlier. That first night they hesitated until I said, “Come in, the cover is on me.” Tonight, they returned, paid, and settled in like regulars. I told the bartender to treat them like the VIPs they are. It felt good to see them again enjoying the music and the club.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Chill in the air with moon-luminous snow clouds that were threatening to, as Les McCann and Eddie Harris would say, “hang up our God-damn” city with the forecasted six-inches of snow. The club, pleasantly full with pleasant people, was treated to the band’s version of “Compared to What.” The singer growled out…
Love the lie and lie the love
Hangin' on, with a push and shove
Possession is the motivation
That is hangin' up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut
Tryin' to make it real - compared to what?
….while the trumpet and two saxes wove their magic through the crowd. It was early but the adrenalin was pumping as the key player spazzed his way through the song like a man possessed. It was electric. Throughout the night it was nice to collect covers from folks that didn’t debate or deny the imperative. There were three women throughout the night who I noticed—a brown haired woman, a blonde, and an Asian. What made each remarkable were smiles that illuminated. They were normal—like you or me—but when each smiled there was an aura of allure that each sent out like a tuning fork’s sound vibration. At first, I couldn’t figure out why they were so attractive until it hit me that their beautiful smiles were infectious – much like the band’s version of the Les McCann and Eddie Harris song.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Just finishing Dracula, the 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. The copy I’m reading is a free book on my Kindle and my reading it was inspired by a Biography channel profile of Stoker I watched around Halloween. At the time he wrote it, Stoker was a business manager for the Lyceum Theater where he was enamored with actor Henry Irving, who was contemporaneously famous and popular, and whom Stoker envisioned as playing Dracula in a theater version of the book. As it turned out, Irving didn’t think much of the story and apparently felt it wouldn’t be worthwhile to stage. The book was researched and written over an approximate seven years, while Stoker was busy staging Lyceum productions and catering to the needs of Irving, his idol. The book is written in an epistolary form—as a series of letters, diary entries, and a couple of ships' logs. The language is thick with planning deliberations for eliminating Dracula, Victorian proprietary concerns (shall I, or shall I not), and concerns about “protecting the delicate nature of Mina”—a main character in the plot who turns out to be smarter and tougher than they think. The book is a bit of a trudge to read, but is worthwhile. It is a classic.