AESTHETICS FOR BIRDS

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone


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BLACK PANTHER AND CROSSPLAY: WHY COSPLAY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK

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In a post for the Oxford University Press Blog titled “Cosplay is Meaningless”, G.R.F. Ferrari, a professor of Classics at Berkeley, argues that cosplay is just about perfecting the art of dress-up. He writes:

Cosplayers … are not out to intimate something about themselves, or, for that matter, about anything else.

As an occasional cosplayer myself, I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more with what Ferrari says. Cosplay is much more aesthetically, socially, and personally important than he gives it credit for. Continue reading


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PUNK ROCK PHILOSOPHY 3: AMATEURISM AND THE MYTH OF SID VICIOUS

In this, my third post on the aesthetics of punk rock, I will continue my examination of Jesse Prinz’s idea (as detailed in “The Aesthetics of Punk Rock”) that punk rock (in its various forms) is characterized by three qualities:

  • Irreverence
  • Nihilism
  • Amateurism

The topic of this post and the next is amateurism. (See here for the introductory post, and here for the post on nihilism. As already noted in previous posts, I don’t have much to say about irreverence.) Continue reading


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PUNK ROCK PHILOSOPHY #2: NIHILISM OR ACTIVISM?

I began this series of posts here, setting up the issues and summarizing Jesse Prinz’s main points in his groundbreaking “The Aesthetics of Punk Rock”. Readers of that post will recall that Prinz identifies three characteristics of punk rock that he thinks are central to the genre:

  1. Irreverence
  2. Nihilism
  3. Amateurism

Readers of that post will also recall that I have nothing at this point to say about irreverence (of course, there likely is much to say about the exact sort of irreverence that is at work in punk rock, but I’m not going to do that today). Thus, we’ll move on to the second topic in the list: nihilism. Continue reading


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FIVE USEFUL FACTS ABOUT THE FORCE AND RELATED MATTERS (OR, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU SEE THE LAST JEDI)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens today. I suspect many if not most of you will go see it. Hence, I constructed this little guide to some important aspects of the Star Wars saga. Obviously, given both the prevalence of words like “Force” and “Jedi” in the title of this film and the (narrative-wise) previous one, and what we know of the story so far, it seems safe to assume that the nature of the Force, and clashes between different aspects or interpretations of the Force, will be front-and-center in the new film. Hence, I’ve concentrated on some Force-errific trivia tidbits that might be useful in navigating that aspect of the story:

  • Arguably, R2-D2 is the protagonist of the overall Star Wars story. In an interview conducted while filming Return of the Jedi, George Lucas stated that the Star Wars saga was being narrated by R2-D2 to the Keeper of the Journal of the Whills. The Whills are Force-sensitive beings who were revered by holy men known as Shamans of the Whills. For more detail on R2-D2’s role in the saga as a whole, see here.
  • The Whills (or, more specifically, their acolytes) are important too. It was a Shaman of the Whills who taught Qui-Gon Jinn the secret to returning from the dead as a “Force ghost”, and Qui-Gon then passed this knowledge on to Yoda and the surviving Jedi. Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe (from Rogue One) were Guardians of the Whills – a group of warrior-monks also connected to the Order of the Whills.
  • Jedi and Sith (and Whills) are not the only powerful Force-users in the Star Wars universe. For example, both the Nightsisters of Dathomir (who played an important role in the Clone Wars) and the Force Priestesses at the Wellspring of Life (who also apparently taught Yoda the secret to returning as a Force ghost) are powerful Force users.
  • Kyber crystals are deeply intertwined with much of the conflict in the Star Wars saga. Kyber crystals are critical components of lightsabers, but they are also used in the super-weapons constructed by the Sith and other dark-side Force users (e.g. Death Stars 1 and 2, and Starkiller Base). Kyber crystals are naturally attuned to the light side of the force. Hence a dark side user must bend a kyber crystal to his or her will, causing it to “bleed” (this explains the red color of Sith lightsaber blades).
  • In addition to the force being divided into the Dark Side and the Light Side (although it is not clear that even this division is exhaustive), the Force (both Light and Dark) is divided into four distinct aspects: The Living Force, the Unifying Force, the Cosmic Force, and the Physical Force. These four aspects are tied to different abilities (e.g., a connection to all living things, the ability to see the future, the ability to come back as a Force ghost, and the ability to move physical objects, respectively). Different Force users typically focus on different aspects of the Force, or even argue that one of these aspects is, in fact, the right way to understand the Force.

Enjoy the film, and may the Force be with you!


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A GUIDE TO THE CINEMA OF JACQUES RIVETTE

The following is cross-posted here and at Matt Strohl’s blog, Strohltopia.

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still from Céline and Julie Go Boating

There is wide chasm between the importance of Jacques Rivette’s work and the amount of attention it receives in the USA. My aim here is to promote Rivette awareness and provide information and guidance for those who are looking to get into his stuff but unsure of how to proceed.

Intro
1. Why Care About Rivette?
2. Chronological Survey
The Sixties
The Seventies
The Eighties
The Nineties
The Aughts
Miscellaneous
3. The Viewing Guide
Where to Start
Recommended Viewing Itineraries, organized by degree of hardcore-ness
Appendix: PAL speedup and what to do about it
Continue reading


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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. Continue reading


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PUNK ROCK PHILOSOPHY: INTRODUCTION

The following is the first post in a series on punk rock. Click here for entry #2.

In a 2014 article in Philosophy Compass titled “The Aesthetics of Punk Rock” Jesse Prinz (who guest-blogged for AFB here!) presents an aesthetic analysis of punk rock aimed at both fostering a deeper understanding of the genre and at teasing out larger lessons for the philosophy of music (and the philosophy of art more generally).

His analysis comes in two stages. First, he provides a framework for understanding punk rock music (and the punk subculture within which it is produced and consumed) in terms of three central themes:

  1. Irreverance.
  2. Nihilism.
  3. Amateurism.

Prinz then uses this three-part story to draw two larger conclusions:

  • Punk rock involves an explicit rejection of traditional aesthetic norms, illustrating the plasticity of taste (and as a result serious consideration of the genre recommends a rejection of global norms of “goodness” or “good taste”).
  • Punk rock provides a fertile testing ground for the idea that art and identity are (often) irreversibly intertwined, and thus a full understanding of (at least some) musical genres is impossible without an accompanying story about social identity formation (including fashion, politics, and lifestyle) within the subculture.

Over the next few months, I will be posting a series of essays further exploring and complicating Prinz’s discussion of each of these ideas (in posts titled Punk Rock Philosophy), with the possible exception of “irreverence” (about which Prinz’s discussion seems straightforward to me, and pretty much exactly right). In this initial post I want to set up some of the requisite background, and outline the approach (and one or two controversial assumptions) I will be making in the posts to follow. Continue reading