Life as an Extreme Sport

a philosopher takes on figure skating

A Drexel philosopher talks about philosophy, figure skating, and why it’s declining in viewers and popularity. Mostly posting this for Lisa, but others might find it interesting – and it’s always nice to have another example of “nyah nyah philosophy doesn’t have to be boring.” This paragraph alone makes the entire thing worth reading:

Sequin abuse is so widespread in ice dancing that, as incongruous as sequins on African tribal outfits are, even Navarro and Bommentre fell victim to it. Judges, it seems, are thought to respond well to sequins and many skaters thus feel that the additions make them more noticeable. If you ask me though, two human beings alone together, out in the middle of a vast sheet of ice, are pretty damn conspicuous no matter what they are wearing. It’s as if ice dancing judges are all suffering from some sort of degenerative eye disease that makes them unable to detect the presence of objects unless they glitter.

And finally, this must be the piece by Daisuke Takahashi she’s talking about, and to say it is phenomenally mindblowing is really an understatement. I haven’t seen anything this amazingly fluid in ice skating in a long, long time.

a day of moderate success

I actually feel moderately successful this evening. I finished working on two abstracts for ASBH, one of which was basically a rabbit pulled out of a collective hat at the last minute (but sounds very awesome, if I do say so myself); perhaps the best part is knowing that the hat-abstract (as it were) will be written regardless of its acceptance, just because my co-conspirator and I have been wanting to collaborate together for a while, and this is a perfect topic for us to tackle together. I’ve never written a paper with someone else before, so it’ll be a learning experience – and learning experiences with friends are always the best things.

I’ve got another collaboration going on this week; a fellow graduate student and I are co-presenting a paper this weekend at a school graduate conference, on the value of undergraduates having their own undergrad conferences. I’ll be drawing heavily on my experiences at NUBC, MGRS and SCCUR, but think I can easily talk for a long time on it, and especially the benefits behind it, from organizing to networking and learning how to talk to an audience.

I’m doing commentary on a historical epistemological paper, in large part because I don’t actually run away screaming when people say names like Dewey, Pierce, James, or Montague (and as a friend put, I also know they’re not Donald’s nephews). Glibness aside, I’m looking forward to it – I’m hoping that my response to the paper can double as my paper for the epistemology course I’m taking, and I need to crash my prof’s office hours to see if this would be alright with him.

I actually had some things to say in normative ethics today about Kant – in fact, I feel sort of dirty, since I ended up defending Kant, which is really never a position I expected to be in. Ever. And I’m pretty sure there’s an altar of Mill somewhere, where I need to do penance. But it’s pretty hard to argue with the idea that Kant didn’t say it was more virtuous to follow a duty you didn’t want to, only that duty is at least the base level of motivation. It was actually a really fascinating discussion that ended up being more about how Kant views feelings (passively), and how we have a more active engagement with the idea of feelings, and the very idea that to have the feeling of friendship is to automatically import a set of expected duties that are intrinsically tied to the feelings associated with the friendship. More than anything, it made me want to pick up the book that’s trying to reconcile Spinoza and Kant, especially with regard to the affects (feelings). I’m not a Kantian, and can’t ever imagine becoming one, but I can see a really interesting application here of the tied together notion of feeling/duty, and may be able to expand that out into how duty and responsibility are tied to one another.

I’ve joined a conversation with someone who does contemporary media critique on a couple of shows I really love, and had the distinct and unexpected pleasure of having that person actually compliment me on my ideas, and wonder exactly where I’ve been hiding with them and why I haven’t been involved in the conversation prior to now – the sort of thing that not only strokes my ego (which I need now and again), but makes me feel like I’m not crazy, and do actually have a knack for some of this.

I also found out that a friend’s going to be up here in April, along with several of her students, for a conference, and they’ll be staying with me. I’m looking forward to this, both because I know and enjoy one of her students quite a bit, and I’m pleased to see my friend again, but also because it gives me a firm deadline for cleaning up my apartment/getting rid of things/etc.

Things aren’t perfect – my insurance is still being a pain, my new apartment managers are being major pills, there are several other headaches (or depending, situations that make me just want to crawl in bed and cry and/or drink – H~ suggested we skip the beer and go straight to vodka shots, and I think she’s got a very solid plan there) – but for the first time in a while, things aren’t an overwhelming shade of apathetic gray. I’ve some ideas for why this might be, but I think I’m going to sit and think on those for slightly longer before I take the time to write. (Speaking of writing, I’ve been slowly getting back on the blogging horse, which a combination of power outages and allergic reactions on hands knocked me out of, and in the process have actually written up a couple of things I’m rather pleased with over at the Women’s Bioethics Blog.)

All of which is to say, again, today is the first day the world has had a bit of colour; I don’t know if you remember the movie What Dreams May Come, but a lot of the last few months has felt very much like the dim grey pictured in the movie, and today? Today I’m seeing just hints of how the colour might be able to bleed back through my life – and it’s a hopeful thing.