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James and the Giant Podcast

Listen to James and occasionally his smarter friends talk about different points of interest; also listen to whatever else James forces you to.
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James and the Giant Podcast
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Oct 20, 2017

Well, Nietzsche's birthday just passed so I guess it's time to cover some German nihilism! This episode I go over Nietzsche's essay "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.' 

 

Be sure to subscribe, rate, review, and like me on Facebook (and like me in general). All music produced by Jared Gregory.

 

http://nietzsche.holtof.com/Nietzsche_various/on_truth_and_lies.htm

 

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Sep 25, 2017

I had the privilege to speak with artist and historian Dara Vance about her art, education, history and the environment. Her intersections between art, history, gender, and the environment met with my knowledge on environmental philosophy. 

 

You can find Dara on twitter and purchase original artwork by messaging her on twitter: Twitter.com/divafancypants or straight to her paypal at PayPal.me/sissyeatsgrits

Support the show by subscribing or donating on Patreon.com/JamesGiantPod

Music by Jared Gregory: https://soundcloud.com/jaredgregory

 

Be sure the rate and review the podcast. 

Aug 28, 2017

A few words on Foucault, French poststructuralist philosopher. 

Hurricane Relief: https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053

Sources: http://www.unisa.edu.au/Global/EASS/HRI/foucault_-_the_subject_and_power.pdf

Book: Foucault "Power" edited by James Faubion

Aug 25, 2017
I wrote a little about my cultural confession here, but I’ll expand to properly earn my white belt.
 
I grew up here in Texas. I’ve lived three brief years as a wee child in Maryland that I barely remember. My parents were military brats, both Air Force, and never lived anywhere as children for more than two years. This affected them differently. My father is sociable, with a strong work ethic. My mother has no work ethic and really embodies all of the rebellion I picked up growing up. She also has no true friends and it is easy to mistake her crass behavior, blunt speech, and contrarian nature to be hostile instead of loving. 
 
I grew up with rules that stunted my emotional growth. No dating until 16, at which point I was so socially awkward around women it didn’t make a difference. We never talked about money in the house and never talked about politics. The last part is important because most people inherit their parents’ politics but I wasn’t able to do that by virtue of ignorance. I now realize it’s because my parents are on opposite ends of the spectrum and don’t want to argue about it. My fiancé and I are the same way now, though we’ve been able to talk civilly about political issues lately. Thanks Trump for putting it all in perspective.
 
Religiously, we were very relaxed on going to church. My mom is spiritual, but not in any coherent ideology. She’s some mix of The Secret, Christianity, Scientology, and some other stuff. She picks up what she likes. My dad is probably still Irish-Catholic as his family. Like with politics, we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about religion in the house. In college, while studying philosophy, I renounced my faith and joined the new atheist club, though even then I felt put off by the attitudes towards religion they felt. I still own The God Delusion. I hated it. My fiancé, a devout Christian, won’t let me sell it in good conscience. I find that both hilarious and endearing.
 
I just recently joined a whole new cult, one I didn’t know existed and am happy to have found. It is the cult of Christian Leftists. I found them through twitter and have been digging deeper. They are socialists, communists, anarchists, all pushing back against the traditional religious right of this country. My fiancé helped me renew my faith, which is still a variation of hers. I say that I am a practicing Christian” in the way that you would practice an instrument. I still haven’t gotten the hang of it. I miss a bunch of notes and it’s sometimes clumsy and off beat. Our interpretations of the Bible are vastly different but neither is more true than the other. Finding the theological basis that aligns with my politics was refreshing. I’m not sure what the rules are, but I’m sure it has to do with demonstrating and standing in solidarity with other members of the group and their issues (LGBT, other minorities, for example). I have bad praxis, always have, so this is something I either have to work on or reject. I’m very good at the theological and philosophical musings, though.
 
This cult clashes with the cult of my work and social environment though. I don’t know any other Leftists in my work or social environment. Many celebrated Trump’s victory at work, though they have been strangely quiet since. The rule, very much unspoken between my fiancé and I, is that I don’t talk about religion or politics with the family. It would do me no good to ostracize myself. Her family, unlike mine, is highly judgmental. 
 
I’m also, by virtue of marrying into a Mexican family, inundated with a whole new culture. Her family is enormous, and is still a culture clash for me. Some important differences in her family’s culture from mine:
 
  1. Family focus. Her family is very family-oriented and mine is not. I don’t have to see my family on holidays, or get them gifts. For her, we visit everybody on every holiday, and everyone gets gifts. This has gotten expensive, but is important to her. It’s also important to her, and to her family, to see each other often. My mom typically answers the phone with yeah? what?” and will abruptly end the conversation in the middle of your story, that she doesn’t want to hear, and say yeah ok bye” then hang up. 
  2. Music. I was raised on good 80s jams. She, despite not speaking much Spanish, listens to cumbia, Tejano, and salsa at parties. Everybody shows up and everybody brings food. And authentic Mexican food is really special.
Jul 31, 2017

It's been a while! What have I been up to? Mixed Mental Arts, Foucault, Postmodernism, Cats and Kids! Listen as I talk over the sound of two cats messing about and catch up with you guys.

Jun 7, 2017
For the last two elections I've observed a pattern of discourse. This last election was more striking because of all of the reasons every other political op-ed has described. I tried my best to evaluate the onslaught of information about both political parties and parse fact from fiction, importance from mundane, mountains from molehills. This requires an annoying amount of frustrating rigor because there is no longer a source that provides full political perspective. So you have to read Fox, CNN, Vox, Politico, Dan Rather's News and Guts (which has been excellent), The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and just how invested in political information do you have to be? More on this later. My coworkers were less involved. They channeled into their preferred narrative news sources, absorbed everything, which by design omitted criticism of their own worldview or candidates, and -- well that's the thing. They didn't take in all of that information and make a decision, there was no deciding because they didn't entertain choices. Only one coworker voted in the primary. Yet in the coming months the discourse in the mornings before the store opened became louder, more aggressive, and they gave impassioned speeches about the importance of Clinton losing the presidency and the disaster that would follow her victory. There was a jar, filled with cyanide (which has a practical, nonlethal use in my profession), labeled "In Case of Clinton Victory."
 
 I live and work in Houston, Texas. An oil city. I work for a small, family owned business populated by mostly Republicans. Some of them were hurt by the ACA because their solution to not being able to afford insurance was to simply avoid medical costs, or save money that would be spent on medical insurance in case something arose. So having to now pay that tax felt like stealing to them. They complained about the rises costs of health care and health insurance premiums, but weren't really phased by the objection that those costs had been on the rise before the ACA and they weren't going to ever pay $50 a month for health insurance again. They still believed the economy was plummeting. This is in part because when oil prices drop, the rest of the country may rejoice, but cities like Houston where oil is economically important hurt. Our sales fell drastically the year before and resulted in layoffs and shorter hours. But my coworkers being Republican isn't the trouble. It's the pattern of their political involvement.
 
 On the day after the election, there was celebration. I asked a few people who they'd voted for. Straight ticket, all of them. But when I rephrased the question of who, specifically, the ticket included and who it was they voted for, they couldn't answer. You couldn't even call this ideological because there's no certainty all Republicans on the ticket in Texas were representative of their worldview. They didn't know their names, or what they stood for. This was the overwhelming majority of my peers. Low information voters make their decisions based on single issues (Israel, Healthcare, Abortion, Taxes) or on party, a kind of ideological rigidity unmoved by other motivations because they never even penetrate their attention. I find this aspect of voting to be the second most troubling in our semi-functional democracy. It bothers me so much because of the complicity in casting your vote; by casting your vote for a representative, you enforce the idea that whatever that party member stands for and acts on is representative of you.
 
 The number one trouble I've recognized is what happens after the election. There's a week, maybe two, of post election talk and rousing of losing parties, and then it's quiet. With the battle over, the pawns return to their respective spaces in the political realm -- one of indifference and isolation. Since the election this year, since the celebration that was the Trump victory, the last utterance of anything political I've heard was a confused whisper. "We're friends with Russia now?"
 
 The big headlines still make some noise, but they are without context. I had a disagreement on the proposed tax plan recently sent forward and when we finally just agreed to disagree on what taxes are for, I asked what he thought of the current FBI investigation taking place. "What investigation?" He replied.
 
    What investigation.
 
 I wish I knew how much of our voting population is like this, both low information and low investment. They become politically activated for, what, maybe a year? Then dissociate from it all until the next time they are called upon. Can we blame them? The amount of energy I've invested in simply staying up to date makes me feel as though I'm an investigative journalist looking for the best understanding of what is going on. In an age of incredible information and disinformation, truths and half truths, how can we possibly expect to digest all that is necessary to make a reasoned and informed decision without fully enveloping ourselves in the political spectrum? We do this with no other kind of work.
 
 These two problems, of irresponsible culpability and intervening indifference, make elections more difficult to predict -- which may not necessarily be a bad thing. A predictable election only shows what methods need to be exploited to ensure victory. But I fear it also reduces accountability, which is a fundamental principle in democracy. We either need to become, collectively, more responsible in not voting blindly, or more informed in our decisions.
May 19, 2017

This week I sat down with my friend Matt Dubone who studies history, political science, and works as a geologist at a carbon dating lab. We were in a Mexican Cantina so there's lots of background noise and we had already had two giant beers when I started recording so forgive the lack of structure. We talk about dinosaurs, geopolitics, history and philosophy.

May 14, 2017

What is pure forgiveness? What conditions serve for forgiveness to be obtainable? Can we forgive the unforgivable?

This week I discuss a short essay by dead French philosopher Jacques Derrida titled "On Forgiveness" and expand on what I think about philosophy in general and this particular text on the nature of forgiveness.

May 4, 2017

James got engaged this weekend. Hear the story here.

May 2, 2017

It was Saturday. It had taken months of work and yet everything still felt like it was being rushed down the last minute. It was, of course, but I didn’t expect it to take so long. Despite the time constraints, I was confident everything would be ready in time, and I hadn’t felt nervous until I held it in my hand.

“That’s all?” I asked.

“That’s it,” my boss said.

It wasn’t until it was finally mine that my body experienced a metamorphosis. I had become a sack of trembling chihuahua organs encaged in what felt like hollow bird bones vibrating at a low frequency like a subsiding bang from a tuning fork. I left there with two boxes, one stuffed in the side of my car door, the other placed inside the glove box. I kept touching the napkins covering the box surrounded by garbage in the cubby of the door to make sure quantum physics hadn’t pulled a fast one on me and the molecules of the box and its contents hadn’t manifested somewhere else. I kept expecting something awful to happen. Something always did. I have this miraculous super power to ruin a perfectly good thing. A timely example was two years ago. We were at a nice steakhouse for our one year anniversary. Something had happened in the news recently, the details not very important, and we were talking about buying a firearm.

“Oh,” I said in a tone that I thought was sarcastic, “you know they won’t let me have one of those...”

“James, are you ever going to tell me what you did?” She replied, in a concerned tone.

She said that, because six or eight months ago I made a joke that I thought was very funny at the time. Whenever the topic of politics came up in conversation with people I wasn’t yet comfortable enough with to rant wildly at, I would tell people I don’t vote because I’m a convicted felon. That usually got people off the topic of politics, and it was fun to me to say. When she pressed me about it the first and only time I made this joke that actually became a really stupid LIE, I told her I didn’t want to talk about it but that it wasn’t anything violent or sexual. She held that in the back of her head every day until this day, our one year anniversary, at a fancy steakhouse with rose petals displayed across a candlelit dinner. So I had to tell her that, no, I wasn’t a convicted felon and it was just a funny thing I would say.

She didn’t find it funny. Turns out when you make something up, convince them of it, and allow them to continue to believe it, it is no longer a funny joke or even a stupid joke, just a lie. And you look like a twat at dinner too.

Superpower be damned, I made it home just fine. We had dinner with my family, went home late and despite her protests to come to bed, I told her I needed to stay up to work. I sat down at my computer, and stared at it. Well, that wasn’t working, so I took my notepad out and opened it to the pages where I’d written exactly what it was I was going to tell her. Two pages. I read over it again and again, then simply caught myself staring at it--not even reading it anymore just peering into the pages like I had somehow opened up the back of my skull and walked out leaving the shell of myself sitting there with a dumb look on its face. Coming back after a few moments, I read it again with calm and precision and thoughtfulness, then closed the book and placed it on the mantel by the stairs.

I was restless. I hadn’t fallen asleep the night before until 3 in the morning. We woke up at 7, and I rolled over, wrapped my arm around her still half asleep body, and told her I loved her. We got up, lazily, and milled around getting ready. She was anxious, or thought she was. I  was anxious. I’d spent weeks planning the day, rolling it over in my head everything that’d be said everything that’d be done. It all had to go the way it went in my head. I didn’t have a plan B. I guess I should have...

She was feeling impatient. You see, our anniversary was three days earlier and even though we said we’d exchange gifts on Sunday she’d given me mine two days before because she couldn’t wait any longer. She gave me tickets to see Neil Gaiman speak and a very special edition of my favorite book of his, American Gods, complete with artwork and a beautiful cover. Truly a piece of art worthy of the literature inside. All morning she pouted and protested, “can I have my gift now?” “No, baby,” I said, “we have to go get it after brunch.” “It’s not even wrapped?! You have to pick it up? You knew our anniversary was coming you should have ordered it sooner.” I had told her that the reason we had to exchange gifts so late was because I was careless and ordered her gift too late and it wouldn’t be ready in time. I apologized and promised her she would forgive me even though it wasn’t the thing she really wanted--an engagement, or a puppy.

I agonized over what shirt to wear. I’d bought a brand new shirt just for this day and then I put it on and, well, I never really feel right in my own clothes or in my own skin. I always have that feeling looking in the mirror like I’m staring at a creature wearing a human body and still figuring out how to make it look more human. But she told me I looked nice and I trust her.

“It’s not like it matters that much what you’re wearing,” she says.

“I just want today to be perfect,” I admitted, immediately worrying I’d given too much away.

She agonized over her reflection too, which seemed silly to me given how stunning she looked. Maybe people just don’t like the way they look. Makes me wonder why we have so many things showing us our reflection if we’re just going to hate it anyway. Still, having spent much too much time getting ready we set off downtown to have a very expensive brunch.

We arrived at Brennans of Houston a little early, which didn’t matter, and were congratulated on our three year anniversary, first by the hostess, then by another who sat us at a reserved table for two with large lounge chairs that made us feel like children, and again by our waiter, and finally by a group of musicians who played a soulful melody for us. As if I wasn’t uncomfortable enough, something about being in a place surrounded by an air of wealth makes me uneasy like I snuck in and it’s just that nobody noticed. I never know how to comport myself. My phone buzzed and I reached for it and answered a text from a friend. I looked up to her glaring at me and slunk it back into my pocket. It buzzed more, but whatever it was it’d have to wait. I enjoyed a bowl of turtle soup, eggs benedict with crab topping, and for desert a slice of pecan pie so rich I could only allow myself a few bites. She had a duck gumbo my tastebuds will be chasing for an eternity, the same entree but without the crab, and a banana’s foster flamed up tableside for your viewing pleasure. We could have shared the entree and the desert but our mouths were hungrier than our stomachs and besides, I hate bananas.

But she couldn’t help but feel more tortured by the moment. It’s not often, you see, that I know something she doesn’t know and get the opportunity to loom it over her. I wasn’t trying to enjoy her squirming but it, admittedly, was fun. She kept wanting to know what we were doing, where the hell we were going, and what it was she was getting. She was convinced it couldn’t be what she dreamed of which disappointed her despite her knowing how unfair holding those expectations was. Not only that, but all my best efforts to make everything seem like a regular day were failing. Could you believe that I was being TOO nice? TOO loving?

“Why are you being so weird today?” She asked, interrupting my stare. I kept getting caught just staring at her with a stupid smile on my face. My mouth could say whatever I wanted it to, but my face betrayed me every time. She could go deaf and know what I was thinking just by reading the bold face print on my face. “I’m not being weird,” I contested. “Yes you are. You keep looking at me all smiley, telling me you love me and you’re being really weird. Tell me what’s going on.” “I’ll tell you more once we get in the car, okay?”

I pay for brunch, thank the waiter, and we get back into the car. We get back on to the highway and start heading, unbeknownst to her, to our destination. “Honey,” I say, “I know that these last few days have been tortuous for you...But I’m going to torture you just a little bit more...Open the glove box.”

She pops open the glove box and, without even asking what was going on, or remarking what a wonderful gift wrapping someone else surely had done on the box, she begins tearing it open. Inside is a large, baby blue scarf, now filled with wrinkles from being crammed inside an all too small box. “This is...nice” she says, processing what it is. “In a minute, I’ll need you to blindfold yourself.” “Are you kidding me?” she says. “Nope.” “What happens if I don’t put this on?” I told her if she doesn’t put the blindfold on, we get to go home. With a hmph, she agreed. Now, this was my fault, but I did have her put the blindfold on about twenty minutes earlier than she really needed to. So she spent a lot of time, in the dark, on a boring highway that gave no pretense to our destination, growing ever more impatient.

Finally, we arrive. I carefully move her out of the car and begin guiding her along a path. People stare at us curiously as we walk by while she wonders where the hell we are and who are all these people she hears and is that a baby crying? Where are we that there’s a crying baby? Just a little further, I tell her, trying to keep her cooperation and also ease her rising anxiety. “Stop right here. I wrote something for you. I want to read it, okay?” She nods.

I open the pages to the ones I’d stared at for weeks now. The ones I stared into and through the night before. I’d said it all fifty times and yet, in this moment, it began as if I’d never read words aloud before.

There was a boy, a boy made of glass. Brightly colored panes like stained glass filled him with a brilliant light that reflected all the love and light from the world back out into it.

One day, the boy made of glass became sick, and his vibrant light felt dull. his colors, as became more ill, got darker and the panes looked smudged and neglected. Even though light still shined on his glass exterior, it didn’t reflect the way it used to. Instead of entering and bouncing through the internal prism, it cast shadows and deflected. Cracks formed, first on the ends of his hands and his feet, and grew a little more each day, in the direction of his heart. Eventually, the boy would shatter.

From underneath the baby blue blindfold, a roll of tears painted soft lines in her face. My voice was choking as I tried to speak for the first time ever. I wiped the tear away and continued.


There is a flower, brown and red, that can fill you whole, or so its said. This boy saw the flower often, but never picked it. Flowers, he knew, were dangerous. The bright panes of colored glass now looked like dark polished stone. Cracks teased up against one another, heading with the shape and destructive power of lightning for his heart.


And so, out of faith, he plucked the flower and brought it close. “You may think you have this dark, impenetrable shell,” the flower said, “but I see right through you.”

The flower at his chest warmed him, and the cracks in his body filled with a golden glow. He was bursting with light, all the light he’d absorbed and all that the flower gave--which was more than any other. The boy shined brightly once again.

“You can take the blindfold off” I said, bending at one knee and reaching out to her. She looked around, finding herself in a pathway in the center of a botanical garden. The sun, thankfully, was shining brightly and the whole world, or at least the world that I knew in that moment, beamed with sunlight. She looked down at me and I said to her, “You have filled me with light, and made me a believer. In love, and in myself. I want to spend the rest of my life shining brightly next to you. Will you marry me?”

She made a noise that was a combination of laughter and a sob. “Gotcha,” I thought. I’m not romantic often, though I should be because it’s always paid off with her. So I like to really lay it on thick when I am. She took the ring, and I took her hand. We kissed, and in the background a small group that had followed us cheered. We were overwhelmed. Still are.

 

It was the happiest day of my life.

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