Garage Philosophy

The Central Meridian (aka The Garage) by Michael C. McMillen, 1981.

In his entertaining survey, High Weirdness : Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies Erik Davis uses the phrase “garage philosopher” to describe the self-made DIY thoughtstylists of the 70s counterculture. Considering the epistemological mess we’re in right now, it would be to our benefit to re-embrace garage philosophy, to democratize and make practical the observations of the greats of the discipline. Unfortunately, my public school education, almost all the way through grad school, never exposed me to even a cursory survey of philosophy.

This might be by design. In the years of cold war paranoia I grew up in, I suspect the powers that be didn’t want people thinking too deeply about the status quo. Or maybe it’s just that our overly literal culture dismisses the liberal arts as lacking utility.

Despite my garage philosopher’s sub-undergrad understanding of $50 concepts like epistemology and ontology, for today’s blog post I want to take on a concept I’m triggered by and take it to the philosophical garage for some quick tinkering and repair.

The problem in question is in an article I wasted my time reading in Scientific American floating the perennial “are we living in a simulation” argument. First let me crankily note that when you have a plumbing problem you call a plumber. When you have a philosophy problem you call a philosopher. Please, please, please, my dear journalists, take the ever annoying Neil deGrasse Tyson out of your phone’s contacts. At the very least, only call him when you want to know things like the size of the rings of Saturn. He shouldn’t be allowed near anything that involves meaning or ambiguity.

Speaking of plumbers, let’s get back to the are-we-living-in-a-simulation problem. I suspect most plumbers don’t have this epistemological conundrum since they spend their hours in confrontation with a world that doesn’t generally bend in our interests so easily. Let me also guess that emergency room nurses, welders and gardeners also don’t have the are-we-living-in-a-simulation problem. No, the question bedevils people who spend way too many hours in front of computers and (un)smart phones. I’m looking at you Elon Musk. Put down the phone and let’s head to the philosophy garage.

How to be a garage philosopher

  • Work your way though Anthony Kenny’s A New History of Western Philosophy. I recommend this over the more popular survey by Bertrand Russell. Russell has a bias against the Medieval philosophers and that’s a shame IMHO.
  • Form a reading group. It’s more fun to read this stuff with other people and you can do it over Zoom. I formed one to work through a particularly notorious philosophical tome. A mix of genders in your reading group is good. Too many dudes talkin’ philosophy can get insufferable. I should know. Definitely serve drinks.

How to Deal With the Dreaded Pantry Moth

Pantry moths must be loving 2020, especially the early days of the pandemic, when panicked hoards (ourselves included) ran to Costco to stockpile toilet paper, flour and Tostitos.

While I’ve probably blogged about pantry moths more times than just about anything else, we just had another outbreak and I thought I’d use this post writing exercise as an excuse to re-read UC Davis’ Integrated Pest Management pantry moths fact sheet.

According to geniuses at UC Davis, management is simple and pesticide-free. All your food needs to go into jars with tight fitting lids. No shoving rubber-banded packages of couscous in the back of the shelf. If you have space in your freezer you can put dry goods in there and kill any larvae. Avoid adding new food to old food, if possible.

If you’ve got an outbreak UC Davis suggests pulling everything out and inspecting what you’ve got for the telltale signs of infestation: larvae or webbing. Get our you vacuum and suck out the larvae that hide in cracks in your cabinets. These bugs can survive for months without food. Wash cabinets with soap and water. Freeze stuff you’re in doubt about. To repeat, put everything, including pet food, in jars with tight fitting lids.

Pheromone traps can help spot an infestation as well as reduce the population, but they are not a substitute for cleaning and putting things in jars.

Incidentally, what we call “pantry moths” encompass a variety of different insects with colorful names such as the Drugstore Beetle, and the Confused Flour Beetle. All these bug-a-boos just love post-agricultural human habits of storin’ up food. Like cats, roaches and mice they’re with us until we devolve away from our agricultural ways, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.” I’ll add, of course, that even if we find a way to keep eating and stop sweating I’d like to keep the cats around.

Urban Beekeeping 101 with Paul Hekimian, Director of HoneyLove

The Hollywood Orchard, along with HoneyLove is putting on an online webinar this week:

Urban Beekeeping 101 with Paul Hekimian, Director of HoneyLove
Online Workshop/Webinar
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
6:30 PM – 8:00 PM (pacific)

Are you interested in raising honey bees and reaping the benefits of having local honey? Does having your own beehive sound intriguing? If yes, then this class is for you. Urban Beekeeping 101 will cover everything you need to know on how to get started!

We will cover local bee ordinances, what urban beekeeping is or is not, where to place a hive, what equipment is needed, choosing a type of beehive, where to get bees, how to harvest honey and how to find a mentor. Join this webinar and learn from Paul Hekimian, 2nd generation beekeeper and director of HoneyLove.org, as he walks you through how to become an urban beekeeper.

Head here to register.

Binge on Opera for Free

Das Reingold

Early in the pandemic, Kelly had to leave town for an extended period to look after a relative. This left me alone in the house under lockdown with plenty of chores do during the day, such as install a floor and ceiling in her office shed, but not much to do at night. The first thing I did was to fill those evening hours with an intemperate binge viewing of Tiger King that left me confused and depressed. Then friend of the blog Lee tipped me off to the Metropolitan Opera’s free nightly streams. I thought that instead of binge watching Netflix shows I’d watch opera, even operas I’m not thrilled with, if just to see what pre-20th century folks binge viewed.

The way the Met’s free streams work is that they release a new one to watch at 3pm each day. You have 23 hours to watch before it goes away and a new one appears. Each opera streams from 7:30 p.m. EDT until 6:30 p.m. the following day. The streams are available through the Met Opera on Demand apps for Apple, Amazon, and Roku devices and Samsung Smart TV. To access them, without being a paid subscriber, you click “Browse and Preview” in the apps for connected TV, and “Explore the App” on tablets and mobile devices.

Speaking of binge viewing, this week the Met is streaming all (count ’em!) seventeen hours of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle along with Tristan und Isolda, Parsifal and few other Wagner’s hits. Does the story of a magical ring that holds terrible powers and needs to be returned to nature sound like a familiar plot?

Parsifal

Wagner’s Parsifal streams on Sunday the 11th in a striking production the Met did in 2013. Towards the end of the first act is my favorite part, the ringing of the eerie bells of the grail castle, a sound effect for which Wagner constructed a special instrument. And the music that accompanies the appearance of the grail is some of the most beautiful ever written.

If Wagner isn’t to your taste there’s plenty more opera to watch in the Met’s future streaming schedule. Let me just note that this week you may want to catch Götterdämmerung as it’s, shall we say, timely.