Pretty Much Pop #141: Christmas Songs

The PMP A-Team (Mark, Lawrence, Sarahlyn, and Al) talk about the canon of Christmas songs, from centuries-old carols to current attempts by pop stars to get added to this cycle of cash-flow. Happy holidays, everybody! We also do a bit of year-end reflection, getting into various things we've watched with some recommendations and ambivalent takes. This is the first time  Continue Reading …

PEL Nightcap 2022 Wrap-Up

Recorded Dec. 11, 2022 by Mark, Wes, and Dylan before our first Moore discussion, so not an intentional holiday release, but we already had supporter audio for our Dobbs discussion, so you get this now. We start out with one more listener appreciation recording that I somehow overlooked before (from Dennis) and use this to reflect on whether our discussions are actually  Continue Reading …

Philosophy vs. Improv #44: Stand-Up vs. Improv w/ Matty Goldberg

As our first stand-up comedian (albeit one on sabbatical) guest, Matty has inspired us to largely ignore the philosophy on this one and instead look at these two different ways of producing comedy. Do the motivations of improv folks and comics differ? Which group is more annoying? Mark philosophizes at partiallyexaminedlife.com. Bill improvises (and teaches) at  Continue Reading …

Ep. 307: G.E. Moore Defends Common Sense (Part One)

Subscribe to get parts 1 and 2 of this now, ad-free. On "A Defense of Common Sense" (1925), featuring Mark, Wes, Seth, and Dylan. Various philosophers will tell you that the only thing you experience is your own ideas, and hence the world outside of your mind is something wholly unknowable, or if it is knowable, it must be because those supposedly physical objects are  Continue Reading …

Ep. 307: G.E. Moore Defends Common Sense (Part Two for Supporters)

Continuing from part one on "A Defense of Common Sense" (1925), now down to Mark, Wes, and Dylan. We get into the nitty gritty of Moore's argument: Against idealism, Moore argues that physical facts are in now way dependent on mental facts; for instance, the existence and position of the moon don't depend on anyone's beliefs about the moon. Reality is mind  Continue Reading …

Ep. 307: G.E. Moore Defends Common Sense (Part One for Supporters)

On "A Defense of Common Sense" (1925), featuring Mark, Wes, Seth, and Dylan. Various philosophers will tell you that the only thing you experience is your own ideas, and hence the world outside of your mind is something wholly unknowable, or if it is knowable, it must be because those supposedly physical objects are actually somehow ideas as well. Moore defends our  Continue Reading …

NEM#187: Eszter Balint Interprets Her Past

Eszter is an actor/musician, gaining initial fame starring in Jim Jarmusch's first major film Stranger Than Paradise (1984). She has released four albums of often autobiographical songs since 1998. We discuss "The First Day" (and end by listening to "Freaks") from I Hate Memory (2022) feat. Stew and Syd Straw; this album has been made into a stage show. We then turn to "Exit  Continue Reading …

(sub)Text: Pagan Poetics in “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens was an ungainly insurance executive, but his poetry is serene and secularly reverential. In particular, his poem “Sunday Morning” seems to suggest that the rhythm of the natural world—if we give it enough rapt attention—is as good as any chant or prayer. But can a return to nature worship solve the problem of nihilism, once monotheism has been eclipsed by  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #140: First Nations Culture w/ John Beaubien

Western pop culture has increasingly explored stories of Indigenous Americans (and Canadians), through a spate of TV shows and films like Reservation Dogs, Rutherford Falls, Yellowstone, Prey, and others. As a further installment in a series that began with Mark's Partially Examined Life episode on American Indian philosophy and the previous Pretty Much Pop episode interviewing  Continue Reading …

Ep. 306: Dworkin and the Dobbs Decision (Part Three for Supporters)

Concluding on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2021) Supreme Court decision. We talk more about the rationale for the decision and in particular the dissent by Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. How do the arguments made play into philosophers' fears about the tyranny of the majority in democracies? Is democracy the best and only way to protect our rights, or can  Continue Reading …

Philosophy vs. Improv #43: Return Policy Violations

It's back to just Mark and Bill today. We talk about the lost art of prank phone calls and act out some "customer service nightmares" with an eye to the foundations of law and creativity that defies artistic rules. The scenes are longer and riskier than normal. Long-overdue apologies to Dirwin Zook. The image is by apparently a pretty disturbed child and somehow came up when  Continue Reading …

NEM#186: Simon Ratcliffe (Basement Jaxx, Village of the Sun): From House Music to Jazz Fusion

Simon has produced programmed dance music since the early '90s, and has won Grammys and topped charts with his partner Felix Buxton as Basement Jaxx through their seven albums and several EPs. We discuss his most recent project, Village of the Sun (the song of that name from First Light), which he recorded with jazz drummer Moses Boyd and his partner, the saxophonist Binker  Continue Reading …

Ep. 306: Dworkin and the Dobbs Decision (Part Two for Supporters)

Continuing from part one on Ronald Dworkin's "Unenumerated Rights: Whether and How Roe Should be Overruled" (1992) and the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2021) decision featuring guest Robin Linsenmayer. Dworkin thinks that the distinction between enumerated and unenumerated rights really doesn't make sense. All legal language is vague and requires  Continue Reading …

Ep. 306: Dworkin and the Dobbs Decision (Part One for Supporters)

Does the U.S. Constitution guarantee the right to an abortion? Mark, Wes, Dylan, and Seth are joined by lawyer/sister Robin Linsenmayer to discuss Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (2021) and Ronald Dworkin's "Unenumerated Rights: Whether and How Roe Should be Overruled" (1992). We previously considered Dworkin's take on what judges do when law is ambiguous.  Continue Reading …

Pretty Much Pop #139: The Sandman Cometh

We cover the first chunk of Neil Gaiman's 1989 comic and its new Netflix adaptation. Mark is joined by acting coach Anthony LeBlanc, Sarahlyn Bruck, and Al Baker. What are the narrative challenges of depicting a god? What is the show's metaphysics the role of storytelling in it? Were the updates and story choices for the TV show helpful, or was the comic truly "unfilmable,"  Continue Reading …

Ep. 305: Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” (Part Three for Supporters)

To conclude our discussion of Blood Meridian, we talk about the roles of maturation and regression in the novel. Plus, more on Judge Holden's philosophy and how our view of this should be affected by the fact that Holden is a hypocritical child molester, the (small) role of women in the novel, the character of the idiot, "white man's burden," and more. Do you think we  Continue Reading …

NEM#185: Bruce Thomas’ Bass Lines Before, After, and During the Attractions

Bruce is best known as Elvis Costello's bassist for his first on about a dozen albums as The Attractions, but he's been in bands since 1970 and has done numerous session gigs, most notably for Al Stewart's early albums, plus The Pretenders, John Wesley Harding, Billy Bragg, and many more. We discuss his work on "Blood Makes Noise" by Susanne Vega from 99.9 Degrees (1992),  Continue Reading …