The Philosophy of Games: C. Thi Nguyen on the Philosophy vs. Improv Podcast

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Thi Nguyen (pronounced “TEE NWEEN”) teaches at the University of Utah, and his first book, 2020’s Games: Agency as Art, makes a case for games being treated as a serious object of study for philosophy. Thi sees game analysis as not just a sub-division in the philosophy of art (aesthetics), but in the philosophy of action. How do games relate to other human activities with constraints, like customs, language, and more specifically performative acts within language (like saying “I do” during a marriage ceremony, where you’re not just describing that you do something, but actually taking action)?

On this recording (episode 24 of the podcast), Thi joins philosophy podcaster Mark Linsenmayer of The Partially Examined Life and improvisational comedy coach Bill Arnett of the Chicago Improv Studio to talk about games and improv, and to engage in a couple of improv scenes that explore the connection between the two.

This is the third philosophy guest for the Philosophy vs. Improv podcast, which alternates between guests from the improv world, guests from the philosophy world, and no guest at all. The overall format involves a lesson from each host, which they teach to each other (and the guest) simultaneously. This often results in unexpected synchronicity given the connections between two disciplines that stress the analysis of language, living deliberately, and quick thinking.

For another philosophically rich episode, see episode #20 in which St. Lawrence University’s Jennifer L. Hansen appeared to discuss the many aspects of the concept of “The Other” in philosophy.

Philosophy vs. Improv is a podcast hosted by Mark Linsenmayer, who also hosts The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast, Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast, and Nakedly Examined Music

The “West Side Story” Story — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #114

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Did it make sense for Steven Spielberg to remake one of our nation’s most beloved musicals (with music by Bernstein and Sondheim!), attempting to fix the parts that did not age well politically? Is the new version a modern classic or a doomed Frankenstein?

Your host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by Broadway scholar, theater critic, and actor Ron Fassler; Remakes, Reboots, and Revivals co-host Nicole Pometti; and Broadway actor and long-time PEL friend BIll Youmans.

Ron regales us with facts about the original 1957 musical and the 1961 acclaimed film version. We consider the choices for the new film in filming, choreography, casting, and how the script was completely rewritten by playwright Tony Kushner with lots of consultation with the Puerto Rican community to ensure that the representational mistakes of the older versions were corrected. Also, why is this not doing so well at the box office, and what does this mean?

We also touch on other recent movie musicals including In the Heights and Cats, and think about in general how genres and tropes popular in the past are faring today.

Some of the articles we considered in preparing for this episode included:

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

 

The Matrix Regurgitated — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #113

In light of the release of The Matrix Resurrections, we talk through the franchise as a whole. What made the first one remarkable, and does that a bar that any sequel can reach? We talk through the choices that fed into the new film, why people don’t seem to care about their matrix families, the endless fight scenes, and more. Who will choose the blue pill?

This very special holiday episode of Pretty Much Pop reunites the full season one panel: Mark Linsenmayer, Brian Hirt and Erica Spyres, and features the podcasting debut of Mark’s son Abe Linsenmayer.

Some articles we considered included:

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Asleep at the Wheel Frontman Ray Benson Discusses Half a Hundred Years of Songwriting: Stream the Nakedly Examined Music Interview Online

This week’s Nakedly Examined Music podcast features the Grammy-winning Texas swing band, Asleep at the Wheel, which Ray founded in 1969. They’ve released 26 albums of original tunes and classic covers while touring constantly, with Ray being the only consistent member through their various line-ups.

Your host Mark Linsenmayer talks with Ray about the title track from Half a Hundred Years (2021), “Pedernales Stroll” from Keepin’ Me Up Nights (1990), and “Am I High” from The Wheel (1977). Intro: “The Letter (That Johnny Walker Read)” from Texas Gold (1975). Closer: “The Road Will Hold Me Tonight” feat. Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson, recorded in the early 80s but only released now on the new album. Learn more at asleepatthewheel.com.

Watch the video for “Half a Hundred Years.” Watch “Am I High?” live on 80s TV. Here’s the band live recently at the Paste Studio and playing their 25th Anniversary show on Austin City Limits in 1996. Their most famous tune is “Hot Rod Lincoln.” Here they are with Willie Nelson. Here’s a very old TV performance of “Take Me Back to Tulsa.” Hear all of “The Letter (That Johnny Walker Read).

Image by Mike Shore.

Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast hosted by Mark Linsenmayer, who also hosts The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast, Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast, and Philosophy vs. Improv. He releases music under the name Mark Lint.

Class Critiques in Squid Game, Succession, etc. — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #112

Popular shows have commented on wealth inequality by showing how dire the situation is for the poor and/or how disconnected and clueless the rich are. How effective is this type of social commentary?

Your host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by philosopher and NY Times writer Lawrence Ware, novelist and writing professor Sarahlyn Bruck, and educator with a rhetoric doctorate Michelle Parrinello-Cason to discuss the appeal of both reality show (“fishbowl”) horror and satire. Is it OK if we don’t like any of the characters in Succession? Does Squid Game actually deserve its 94% on Rotten Tomatoes? Are we even capable as American viewers of appreciating what it’s trying to do?

We also touch on White Lotus, The Hunt, Schitt’s Creek, torture porn, social commentary in songs, and more. Lurking in the background here are foundational works for this trend: Parasite, Get Out, Battle Royale, and The Hunger Games.

A few articles we may have drawn on for the discussion:

Hear more from our guests on past episodes: Law on various PEL discussions on race and religion, Sarahlyn on PMP on soap operas, Michelle on PMP on board games. Follow them @law_writes, @sarahlynbruck and @DaylaLearning.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

The Dune Franchise Tries Again — Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #110

The world now has another Dune film, and this time Warner Bros. is serious about a franchise, with at least one sequel planned and a prequel TV series in the works. With thousands of years worth of world building, the books by Frank Herbert and the world now being fleshed out by his son Brian Herbert with Kevin J. Anderson offer more source material than Star Wars for potential filmmakers to play with, but is this world anywhere near as fun?

Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer and Brian Hirt are joined by Brian Casey (brother of The Partially Examined Life’s Dylan Casey) and Three if By Space senior editor Erin Conrad to talk about whether this series is really adaptable to the screen at all, and we consider past attempts by David Lynch and Alejandro Jodorowsky (rather slighting the tedious TV version). Is the new version more successful? More feminist? Less colonialist?

Is the lore just too packed into the books to convey adequately? When Frank Herbert jumps forward 3000 years, is that a path that moviegoers will want to follow, even if familiar characters can still be present as talkative ancestral memories in new characters’ heads or come back as clones?

For points of comparison, we touch on not only Star Wars, but Outlander, Picard, The Orville, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Walking Dead, The Dark Tower, and more.

Some articles that fed into our discussion include:

Follow Erin @ErinConrad2.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Breaking Down the Beatles’ Get Back Documentary: Stream Episode #111 of the Pretty Much Pop Podcast

Your host Mark Linsenmayer is joined by musician David Brookings, Gig Gab podcast host Dave Hamilton, and OpenCulture writer Colin Marshall to discuss Peter Jackson’s documentary Get Back and the enduring popularity of The Beatles.

This was recorded on 12/8, the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. We consider the arc of their career, the various post-mortem releases that keep our interest, why Beatles solo work remains a cult interest, and much more.

Follow @davidbrookings. Hear him sing every Beatles song. Hear him talking about his own tunes with Mark on Nakedly Examined Music.

Follow @DaveHamilton. Hear him on PMP talking about Live Music.

Follow @colinmarshall. Hear him on PMP talking about Scorsese films.

This episode includes bonus discussion you can access by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop or by choosing a paid subscription through Apple Podcasts. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

Watch Hilarious Spoofs of Classic Film Genres: Film Noir, Spaghetti Westerns, Scandinavian Crime Dramas, Time Travel Films & More

Comedian Alasdair Beckett-King has a keen ear for entertainment tropes and subscribes to the belief that “putting too much effort into things makes them funnier.”

The result is a series of one-minute videos in which he spoofs the conventions of a particular genre or long running series, with perfect visuals, meta dialogue, and faithfully rendered performance styles.

Beckett-King put his London Film School training to use with this project during lockdown, spending “absolutely ages putting together something very tiny.”


Witness his take on every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generationin which the captain of the ship, a Patrick Stewart doppelgänger and “vegetarian space socialist who is always right” negotiates with a “representative of a kind of iffy alien race not necessarily based on a specific human ethnicity.” As Beckett-King told Eric Johnson, host of Follow Friday podcast:

That one was very, very hard work because I had to do a CGI bald cap for myself because I have long, long flowing hair. I had to try and do an impression of Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise… it’s not that good. There’s so much work that went into it.

Before I posted it, I was convinced I’d wasted my time. Then luckily it did quite well and people really liked it. People kept saying, “When are you doing Captain Picard again?” I’m like, “I’m not! because it took ages to do the bald head, and you’ve seen it now.” I think what’s nice about it though, is you get to try something, commit to it and then see if it’s funny afterwards. It’s quite like doing live standup.

(Beckett-King’s partner Rachel Anne Smith gets credits for the non-CGI costumes.)

Some other favorites:

Every Single Scandinavian Crime Drama: The killer could be anyone in Helgasund. That’s over seven people.

Every Single Spooky Podcast: The frozen soil was littered with what appeared to be discarded Casper mattresses and Bombas socks.

Every Single Spaghetti Western: Yeah, well your lips don’t synch…

Every Haunted House Movie: It’s the perfect place for me to quit drinking, finish my novel, and really come to terms with that deer we hit on the way over.

Every Episode of Popular Time Travel Show: Help us, Doctor. The intransigent Implacablons are poised to destroy us.

How Every Film Noir Ends: Talk your way out of a snub nosed pistol held at waist height.

Should you find yourself at loose ends, waiting for the next Beckett-King “every single…” episode to drop, try  biding your time with his Art House Movie Spoilers and North East of England spin on Jaws.

Buy a Coffee for Alasdair Beckett-King here.

Related Content:

Hardware Wars: The Mother of All Star Wars Fan Films (and the Most Profitable Short Film Ever Made)

Download a Complete, Cover-to-Cover Parody of The New Yorker: 80 Pages of Fine Satire

The Time When National Lampoon Parodied Mad Magazine: A Satire of Satire (1971)

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primaologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.