Personal interpretation

In a post at Cover Me, Riley Haas describes Depeche Mode’s 1990 song Personal Jesus as having “sex appeal with a sinister undercurrent of dominance and submission.” Michelle Kash, whose cover is featured in the post, “said she aimed to turn it from a song about a man dominating every aspect of a woman’s life to a song about sexual freedom.”

There’s breathy sex appeal in the original, sure, but I had always thought of that as just Depeche Mode being Depeche Mode. They could write a song about standing in line at the Orange Julius, and it would have sex appeal and an undercurrent of D&S.

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An uncanny visage

One of the regulars at a local game night takes lots of candid photos and posts them to the group’s Facebook page. I idly click through them when he uploads a new batch, looking to see what other people were playing. When I saw one recent photo, I looked at the group of players and didn’t recognize one of them. Who’s that, I thought, before realizing it was me.1

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Philbio grad conference

For many years now, the graduate students in my department have hosted an annual graduate conference. This year’s topic is philosophy of biology.

I’ve gotten a lot out of attending over the years. There’s a specified topic, so all the papers are at least peripherally related. There’s only one track, so every speaker gets the attention of all the attendees.

If you are a grad student working in philbio, consider submitting an abstract. If you know a grad student working in philbio, consider nudging them to submit.

Here’s the official call:

The University at Albany Philosophical Association will hold its 13th Annual Graduate Conference on April 4th, 2020. Our topic is Philosophy of Biology, and our Keynote Speaker is Justin Garson (Hunter College, CUNY). The deadline is January 5th.1 We would greatly appreciate it if you would circulate the following call for papers amongst the graduate students in your Department.

https://philevents.org/event/show/77738

Sounds of the season, day 7

This week of posting my favorite holiday songs concludes with one that’s only tenuously a holiday song.

“Greensleeves” has an alternate set of lyrics which are about baby Jesus, making it a Christmas song. But the original lyrics are just more fun to sing, so let’s sing those instead. It has a million verses, but everyone can sing the chorus.

a woodpecker playing a holiday tune

Sounds of the season, day 6

“Good King Wenceslas” (YouTube) is a song I learned in elementary school. The narrative is actually pretty weird. A king’s magical powers are downplayed in favor of extolling charity and sharing.

What sells it for me is the extra verse, which I saw years later in an episode of Phineas&Ferb (Wiki). Buford Von Stomm, in order to establish that he knows the whole story, gives us this:

The words were by an English guy.
The music, Scandinavian.
Wenceslas was five-foot-six.
He kept his face unshaven.
Though just a duke throughout his life,
He always ruled so justly
His kingly title was conferred
Upon him posthumously.

Sounds of the season, day 4

“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (Wikipedia/YouTube) is a pretty song. No schmaltzy holiday tune, it reflects terrible darkness. You wouldn’t know it from most renditions, though, because they skip the dire middle verses. The version by Echosmith that I link to has the full lyrics in the comments, but they replace the dark bits in the performance with a jaunty instrumental transition.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

a pig playing a fife

Sounds of the season, day 3

“Fuck you if you don’t like Christmas” (YouTube) is a bit Not Safe For Work, but all the NSFWness is in the title. It makes you wonder whether you like that Panama is an isthmus, which is something I never even thought about having an opinion on before.

“We need different stuff in the economy now, things are changing. … You can’t just think of yourself. Just this one time, because it’s Christmas.”

Above all that, it hangs together. And it’s catchy.

a woodpecker playing a holiday tune

Sounds of the season, day 2

“The Boar’s Head” (Wikipedia/YouTube) can be made very subtle and pretty, as in the arrangement I’ve linked to, but at bottom it’s a silly song. Written half in Latin doggerel, it begs to be belted out with gusto: “Let us servire cantico!

My wife’s family had printed packets of sheet music, so singing carols always meant picking from the ones in the book. When she moved to Albany, we went on-line to look for sheet music. Sending links back and forth, we sang from our open laptops. This led to us discovering lots of great holiday songs, but The Boar’s Head is perhaps my favorite.

Blair Thornburgh isn’t far from the mark in calling it “Almost the absolute best carol ever written.”

a boar carrying a tray of food

Sounds of the season, day 1

Last year I started to write a post about my favorite holiday songs. I didn’t get past listing the titles of seven of them. Inspired by the book week thing, I’ve decided to make it seven posts this year.

I first heard “Fairytale of New York” (Wikipedia/YouTube) as a teenager, because my brother was a huge Pogues fan.It has some lovely musical juxtapositions while still being something you can sing-along to. I understand that it’s a huge thing in the UK, so much so that not hearing it is a challenge on the scale of Whammageddon.1

a woodpecker playing a tune