Weekly Podcast Plunder #5

by Chris

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.

Further Reading

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.

 

Lazy Bones– Song of the Week

by Chris

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.

April tracks

Introduction by In Love With a Ghost

Lazy Bones by Jeremy Messersmith

 

Weekly Podcast Plunder #4

by Chris

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.

Further Reading

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.

Introduction — Monday Song of the Week

Hey Vladi,

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.

April tracks

Introduction” by In Love With a Ghost

Weekly Podcast Plunder #3

by Chris

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.

Further Reading

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.

🌸All Hail The Iron Penis, or Kanamara Matsuri Festival🌸

Isn’t it awfully nice to have a penis?
Isn’t it frightfully good to have a dong?
It’s swell to have a stiffy.
It’s divine to own a dick,
From the tiniest little tadger,
To the world’s biggest prick.

Well, Japan definitely seems to think so. Vagina demons, penis black smiths, and lollypops. Ladies, gents, and other such creatures, today we look at the penis festival that is Kanamara Matsuri (Festival of The Steel Phallus).

 

This tradition started in 1969. It is an annual festival held near Kawasaki, Japan. Though it is on April first, make no mistake, this is no joke. Some serious penis tomfoolery goes down every year on this auspicious day.

The legend goes that a demon fell in love with a woman and lodged himself inside her vagina (as one does). She was a strong woman, a confident woman, and not the type to let a little pesky vagina demon get in the way of her happiness. So she found a man, married him, and come the nuptial night, the demon bit off the man’s penis (as one does). However, she was not deterred. She found herself another man, and went on to marry him as well. Come the nuptial night, however, the demon bit off the man’s bits again (as one does). Having had enough, the woman sought the help of the two blacksmith gods enshrined in Kanayama shrine, Kanayamahiko and Kanayamahime.

“Bites off me man’s bits, he does, filthy little demon dude,” she said.

“Most uncool, and heinous,” said Kanayamahiko.

“Most heinous, and uncool,” added Kanayamahime.

Together they fashioned an iron dildo of supreme godliness and craftsmanship. They gifted her the dildo, which she used to smash the demon’s teeth (as one does). The demon fled her vagina, and she was free to marry again without the worry of a demon biting off her man’s fun bits. And all lived happily ever after, except of course the demon (for he had no teeth), and the first two husbands (for they had no penises).

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Vulgar nonsense!” Well, honestly, with the exception of a few comedic liberties, that is actually more or less the story. “LIAR!” you say; well, feel free to Google it yourself.

In the absence of vagina demons, these days the festival celebrates fertility, safe childbirth, and a protection from STI’s. It is a very light-hearted festival, nowhere near as serious as some of the other more popular Shinto celebrations. People wear penis hats, suck on penis lollies, and take turns petting giant stone and iron penises for good luck. It is always heavily attended, and a lot of fun. You can get all kinds of fun merchandise, such as penis towels, penis t-shirts, penis key chains, penis candles, or penis stickers, to round off your day.

 

For those of you with children, don’t be discouraged. This is not at all considered a lewd or adult celebration. There are children present, and it is considered very normal.

I absolutely recommend this experience as it is very fun and silly, but also a rare look at the bawdy aspects of Japanese culture and mythology that we don’t often get to see.

Floors o the Forest– Friday Song of the Week

by Chris

Vladi,

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.