Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

March 15, 2019
by C. Thi Nguyen
2 Comments

A Rawlsian Theory of Food Culture

John Rawls said, famously, that the way to judge a society was to look at the condition of its worst-off.⁠1 It doesn’t matter how rich or well-educated the people at the top are. The best society is the one that best treats the people at the bottom. Let me suggest a corollary: the Rawlsian Theory of Food Culture. The Rawlsian Theory of Food Culture says that, if you want to judge the quality of a food culture, don’t look at its finest restaurants and best food. Look to its low-end. Look to its street carts, its gas-station snacks. Look to what you can get in the airport at 2 AM. Any community can spit up a few nice places to eat, if they throw enough money at it. What shows real love for food, and real caring, is when people make good food when they could get away with making … Continue reading

February 27, 2018
by C. Thi Nguyen
5 Comments

What’s Missing from Cookbook Reviews

Read enough cookbook reviews, and you’ll start to notice a curious gap. Cookbook reviews mostly focus on how the recipes turn out — how tasty the dishes are, or how authentic they are. Sometimes they’ll also talk about the quality of writing, or how much you learn about some region’s culinary history  or food science or the author’s childhood or whatever. But usually they leave out what it feels like to actually cook the goddamn things.

November 2, 2017
by C. Thi Nguyen
6 Comments

Algorithmic Satire

We are witnessing the birth of a new comedic form: satire by algorithm. You want to make fun of some category of thing, and show how empty and mechanical and simplistic all the examples of that thing are. So you make a bot that randomly generates new examples of that thing. And the entire point is that it’s a bot. And often, it’s utterly crucial that it’s a dumb and obvious bot. This is why isolated exposure to the only one or two bot-Tweets or bot-memes doesn’t get you the full package. The real sharp end of the joke hits when you start to catch on to the rules, when the raw and obviously algorithmic nature of the bot reveals the utter banal predictability of its target.

June 29, 2017
by C. Thi Nguyen
1 Comment

Personal Aesthetic Categories, Therapist Edition

One of the things I collect is people’s odd little invented aesthetic categories. They’re usually personal, often work-related, and usually arise from a human soul being endlessly confronted with the same set of relationships and experiences, in the work-grind, and trying to cope. I, for example, have a very private list of the most tragicomically overreaching introductory sentences from student papers. (“Since the time of the dinosaurs, man has yearned to define the Quest for Truth.” Etc.) Here’s a particularly satisfying one I just collected, from a therapist friend who asked to remain anonymous. (Photo credit: Peter Barker) “Top ten facial tissue handling patterns by patients engaging in psychotherapy: 1. The relieved post-sobbing messy scrunch ball. 2. The careful triangle; unused. 3. The careful triangle, folded before crying; used for gentle dabbing at gentle tears. 4. The careful triangle, folded after crying to hide the snot. 5. Messy, self-conscious, post-sobbing squares. 6. The anxious … Continue reading