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.

 

 

Learning How to Learn, a Review

by Chris

I am a lifelong learner. Well, more accurately, I am a lifelong start-to-learn-then-slack-off-but-maybe-go-back-to-it-in-a-few-months-…er. I’m only human, after all.

As many of you probably know, leaving the comfortable womb of the classroom environment (yes, you are welcome for that mental image) presents a horrifying lack of ongoing accountability to instructors that made even the laziest of us get the coursework done.

So, how did I begin to counteract the horrors of my own inability to commit to a basic education routine? Luckily, Coursera hosts a UC San Deigo online course I took a while back called Learning How to Learn.

The course teaches you how your brain works in different modes of thought, how to optimize your mental performance and also gives you techniques like the pomodoro technique, which can help you digest larder workloads. Think of the course as an orientation to adult learning, though I wish I had taken this as early as high school.

While going through it once gave me a foundation on which to build my education habits, I am making an effort to review this course on a regular basis, just to make sure I have the key concepts internalized.

There are many materials out there to help you improve your productivity, and I will be looking at many of these in the future; however, I found that this course was particularly useful at instilling in me the fundamentals of learning in a clear and straightforward way.

Keep in mind that this course can’t carry you to the finish line. At the end of the day,  it’s up to you to build these techniques and insights into your routine.

Weekly Podcast Plunder #2

by Chris

In our second podcast to be recommended on Grog Boat, Stuff You Should Know hosts Chuck Bryant and Josh Clark bring us to New England in the 19th century, where locals nailed down what ills were afflicting their households: fucking vampires!

It’s a wonderful romp through the superstitious landscape of our past. After all, it’s not like folks in our modern culture fall for nonsense.

Right? Guys, right?

The casual banter between the hosts and the overall laid back atmosphere of the podcast highlights the humanity that first endeared me to podcasts and YouTube hangouts. That being said, the hosts do keep the episode to under an hour and stay on point, for the most part.

Click this link to visit the episode’s page on stuffyoushouldknow.com.

Further Reading

Anne Rice’s “Interview With a Vampire” or any other modern vampire tale will do. The hosts actually touch on the cultural influence of the vampire scares, and it’s interesting to see how our works of fiction have added to the mythology of vampires.

See? I even refrained from making a hacky “sparkling vampires” joke.

Why are you still reading? Go! Listen to this week’s podcast pick.