This week’s song selection sees me continuing my flirtation with Math Rock. This time around, I have a pick from an album that mixes the unorthodox genre with a dystopian concept.
Delta Sleep’s recent album, Ghost City, tells the story of a woman living in what the band describes as a “techno-noir” dystopian future dominated by tech firms.
In selecting a single song, I had to face a difficult choice. As there is a narrative through line, selecting my favorite song would not have made sense without the larger context of the rest of the album. To that end, I chose the opening track, Sultans of Ping.
The track can give you a taste of the ride you’ll be in for. If you find the lyrics and the concept edifying, the rest of the album will take you for a ride with an excellent conclusion. Just be sure to expect diversity in the album; some songs will be calm pensive, while other may shake you to the bone.
The lyrics of the album as a whole are straightforward in a way that reminds me of Orwell’s 1984, which makes sense for its dystopian concept. While I prefer the imagery of a Leonard Cohen’s style, Delta Sleep’s lyrics pair well with their music and deliver the narrative in a satisfying way.
If you follow political discourse, there’s a good chance you have heard the word fascism thrown around, often with enthusiastic zeal. While fascism today seems to be synonymous with authoritarianism, digging into the actual political philosophy and its modern day incarnations may turn out to be a matter of urgency in the digital age. Enter, this week’s podcast recommendation:
Historian Yuval Noah Harar examines the intersection of fascism and technology in a recently published episode of Ted Talks Daily. In it, he makes an important distinction between nationalism and fascism, and points out how technology and the consolidation of data can make a significant difference in how the fascism of the future can succeed where the fascism of the past failed.
After a short break, I am back and looking to take care of some long overdue business. Celeste, as many of you know, is a successful indie game noted for its exceptional soundtrack.
While Celeste remains of my “to play” list (and I will be using my Nintendo Switch to remedy this situation soon), I did get a chance to peruse the Bandcamp and compile a list of my top three songs from the game’s original soundtrack.
I’m going to have to admit that the title of this track instantly connected with me, which probably skewed the results in this track’s favor. That being said, the track is not without its merits. Anxiety comes and goes like a single wave, with a disorienting and oppressive rhythm that elevates in volume then falls off in a way that reminds me a little too much of my own experiences. It’s a perfect little burst of uneasiness packaged in just under two minutes of song.
If the above track did a good job encapsulating the dizzying high of a wave of anxiety, the piano-driven Exhale reminded me of the gentle calm and euphoria that sets in after it ends. While the two tracks aren’t neighbors on the soundtrack list, both stand out to me as different moments in the same experience.
#1 First Steps
Instantly catchy and reminiscent of the whimsical old school themes of my childhood, this track was an immediate download onto my phone. If you need any one song to draw you in, I’d recommend First Steps. If you can stretch your listening sessions out to two songs, I suggest pairing it with the preceding track, aptly titled Introduction, which climbs from a sober tune to a burst of energy that flows well into this song.
I want to do a dive into Celeste as a whole once I’ve had some time to give it the attention it deserves, but for now, I hope this list serves as a useful set of recommendations, and as a warm welcome back aboard Grog Boat.
It’s good to be back.
Just when you think we’re done with the English language, I’m slapping you across the face with an episode of Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl Podcast.
Clocking in at a mere 12 minutes and 14 seconds, this podcast is a useful refresher on the difference between the words “lay” and “lie”, as well as a few other language facts you may find interesting.
If you found that podcast beneficial, I’d recommend perusing the rest of the Quick and Dirty Tips website, which is full of tips to help you become a better communicator. The website also hosts “quick and dirty tips” ranging from health and relationships to finance and pets.
Mignon Fogarty has published a healthy selection of books under the Grammar Girl name. It’s definitely worth a look to see if there is a book that speaks to your deepest language fears.
Consciousness is one of the deepest, and sometimes unnerving, mysteries to haunt our species. We anchor our sense of identity to it, and yet we don’t have a complete understanding of its nature. In a recent episode of the podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind, hosts Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explored what it means for a machine to display what could be interpreted as a preference for survival, if it is even possible for machines to gain true consciousness, and the ethical questions that would follow.
The episode, entitled “Machine Consciousness and P-Zombies“, began with a hypothetical question that tests your instincts on this question. I won’t spoil this scenario for you, but it should spark an interesting debate in your mind. The conversation eventually brings up the philosophical concept of pseudo-conscious humans known as “P-Zombies”, which call into question the nature of our own consciousness.
This conversation forces us to confront how little we truly know of ourselves. This particular subject matter is timely, as we are a species that does not fully grasp its own consciousness, but one that may inadvertently create it in something else.
If you want to go deeper into the rabbit hole, you can check out Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith. This book examines how consciousness may have evolved twice on earth by exploring how various cephalopods interact and behave. Both philosophical and evolutionary concepts are explored in an accessible manner in this book, so you needn’t worry about hitting a conceptual brick wall while you read.
Good afternoon, my fellow lazy folk.
This week, I wanted to include a track that put a smile on my face, despite a growing inbox. Lazy Bones is the opening track to indie artist Jeremy Messersmith’s album The Reluctant Graveyard.
Most of the album has a pretty easygoing sound, which juxtaposes deliciously with the sometimes downright macabre imagery in the lyrics.
My goal for next week is to recommend a song that doesn’t turn into a recommendation for the whole album, but hey, I’m only human, and I’ve been really lucky in what I’ve stumbled across lately.
Introduction by In Love With a Ghost
Lazy Bones by Jeremy Messersmith
This week we’re circling back to the Stuff You Should Know podcast. How could I not when hosts Josh and Tuck dedicated an episode to our use of language?
When Words Take on New Meanings covers how the meanings of words change over time. They discuss the differences between the descriptive and prescriptive approaches to the definitions of words.
While I generally fall on the descriptive side of the fence, that definitions are not immutable, I worry about how gradients of meaning can be stripped away from our language if we are too careless. This worry was encapsulated by their inclusion of the word decimated in the podcast.
While decimated is now known to be synonymous with wiped out, it actually used to mean that something was reduced by 10%. Now, I’m not saying that any use of decimated should require figures to prove that exactly 10% of any given thing had been lost, but moving back to the original meaning gives the word a sense of scale, as opposed to having just another term for annihilated, destroyed, eradicated, etc.
In short, enjoy English for the ever-changing playground that it is, but please consider tempering that free spirit with an appreciation of the diversity within our dictionaries.
With that digression aside, the episode is a great opportunity for you to consider where you stand on the issue of definitions, so check it out.
Notable cognitive scientist Steven Pinker released a book called The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. Pinker’s work is a useful examination of how we use language in the 21ist century and the traps into which writers can stumble when trying to communicate ideas.
Today I want to present the introduction to a lovely little electronic album called “Healing” by French artist In Love with a Ghost. The track is only 36 seconds long, but I included it in hopes that you would let the whole album play on at your leisure.
The songs on this album are brief, whimsical and pleasant on the ears, so I hope you enjoy, and I hope your April bears the aforementioned qualities.
“Introduction” by In Love With a Ghost
This week’s stand-out podcast comes courtesy of National Public Radio’s “Planet Money”. In this episode, entitled “Worst. Tariffs. Ever.” hosts Kenny Malone and Sally Helm discuss the ramifications of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act on the American economy.
As a citizen of voting age, I find myself obliged to learn as much as I can about the economy, which is a herculean task when grafted onto the day-to-day obligations of my life. Given that the economy ties our loves together, however, it is important to be able to put the latest economic news in proper context. This is exactly what this podcast does, having been published amidst news of tarries and trade deals. While the case study used here is American, there are universal elements of toxic politics and shortsightedness that serve as an important cautionary tale to us all.
So, if you’re ready to remember how woefully unprepared you are to vote responsibly, click this link to visit the podcast’s page.
A few years ago, I picked up a book called “Economix: How our Economy Works (and Doesn’t Work) in Words and Pictures” while visiting Montreal (because I KNOW how to let loose on vacation!) In this book, the history of world economies (with a heavy focus on the American story) is explained in comic form. As economic theory can be a contentious issue (as the book, itself, even covered,) you may not find yourself agreeing 100% with the analysis, but I found that author Michael Goodwin does a great job of giving you a crisp and accessible overview of how the economies have morphed over the ages.
If you find learning about all of this daunting, you’re not alone. I’m still terrified of my own ignorance. It’s like my own Jason Voorhees, except instead of a machete, he’s chasing me with my high school report card.
Here’s a second tune to help close out the week. I’m continuing my folk kick, so get ready for something earthy.
This tune comes from Glasgow folk singer Lori Watson, and is beautiful rendition of a traditional Scottish folk tune. The track is somber, and complements Watson’s enchanting Scottish voice.
Hope you enjoy, and here is the March list.
“Let Me Out” by Gorillaz
“Pelagic” by Covet
“Eliza Lee” by The Longest Johns
“Floors o the Forest” by Lori Watson
Looking forward to April.