If you're looking for some weird aesthetic exploration to fight off the COVID boredom blues, can I recommend: avant-garde perfume. No, really. First:

1. Not all perfume is cloying mall crap. There's world of indie, experimental weird-ass perfume.
2. It's cheap.

First: there is this whole world of weird, fascinating, unexpected perfume. Perfume that smells like burning leaves on an autumn afternoon. That smells like a dairy farm. That smells like a distant Tuscan town in winter. Like the coming snow. Abstract scents.
One of my favorite weird scents: Room 237, a scent that is based on the creepy room from The Shining. It is weird, unsettling, synthetic, fascinating.

Second: perfume is actually cheap as hell to explore. Bottles are expensive, but luckyscent.com offers $5 samplers of any perfume. A sampler bottle is actually 10-20 doses. I have bought zero whole bottles in my life. It's actually one of the cheapest aesthetic realms.
The weird wing of the perfume world thought: "Well, the rest of the art world doesn't have to be pleasant, so why do we? Can't we be punk, interesting, jolting?" Thus a scent like Asphalt Rainbow, which is: wet pavement, car exhaust, street food, aerosol

There's also really pleasant stuff, but interestingly pleasant. My absolute favorite is Winter 1972. I like their description: "A field of untouched new-fallen snow, hand-knit woolen mittens covered with frost, a hint of frozen forest & sleeping earth".

CB I Hate Perfume has lots of really emotional scents - scents of burning leaves on an autumn afternoon, the memory of a mother's kitchen, clean ocean breezes, the clear air before the snow:

A lot of dudes who are like, "Perfume is all flowery crap", you should know that there is a whole world of perfume in the space of manly crap like scotch, cigars, rye. Lots of interest in smoky, musky, dense, rich.
Other things to know: for the people who are into this thing, you just put a bit on your wrist. It's for you to smell. Perfumes are very skin-reactive - what works for one person doesn't work for another.
And "serious" perfumes take a while to activate. A lot of mall perfumes are designed to smell nice for a second, then they turn to chemical crap. A lot of this stuff takes 10 minutes to wake up, and then actually changes interestingly for hours
Some more favorites: Lampblack, an artistic impression of the smell of India ink.

Along similar themes: Coal, which is based around the smell of artist's charcoal drawings.

The Molecule series from Escentric Molecules, which are very clean/airy and abstract. Kind of like the perfume version of a Rothko painting:

I really like LuckyScent's sampler packs, but I think you can ignore the masculine/feminine/unisex distinction. They're all good.

Every time I teach aesthetics (except this year), I always ask my students if they think perfume can be real art. 90% say no. Then I bring in a few of these, let them try them, and they are almost all instantly convinced. I've had people cry from some of the nostalgic scents.

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More from @add_hawk

2 Feb
Really excited about this episode of Decoding the Gurus, which I was on. They've been studying the toxic gurus of online culture, in lovingly horrific detail. The hosts are a psychologist and an anthropologist. We jammed. True interdisciplinary mind-meld!
The opening is me brain-vomiting my stuff on echo chambers, fake clarity, moral porn. But I'm just a philosopher doing conceptual crap. @ArthurCDent and @C_Kavanagh are empiricists who have soaked themselves in online toxic guru culture. They start feeding me delicious detail...
... and we really get somewhere. Most interesting part for me: I've been using a pretty simplistic toy model, where I'm trying to figure out how a manipulative leader might design a belief system for seductive, tasty clarity. But they ask: could the leader be pushed from below?
Read 5 tweets
25 Dec 20
My spouse’s Christian family very excited to know I studied some medieval Christian philosophy. Less excited to find out that it involves intricate arguments about the whether ideal rationality involves the ability to choose randomly.
(If yer curious, it’s because there’s a massive puzzle for medieval philosophers about how a perfectly rational God could choose a time to create the universe in, because if there is no universe yet, all times are equally good and there is no best time.)
Also they do not seem particularly excited about the technical debates about the definition of “give”, required to figure out whether, if God gave us free will, if he also thereby gave us the ability to do evil.
Read 6 tweets
20 Nov 20
This is super interesting, and close to something I've been thinking about. If a certain kind of messaging is cheap to create but costly for your opposition to deal with, then you have a strategic reason to put out tons of it.

My version of this is filed as "mental spam".
I was thinking about mental spam in relation to the "sea-lioning" worry.

If rationalist bro can just raise any question in public, and demand that their opponent must answer it, then this creates a really cost-effective strategy for interference.
Raising a question is easy. Answer it is hard, especially to an unsympathetic audience. The view that "everybody has a right to raise questions, and you must answer all questions" creates an opportunity for brutally gaming the public discourse, and attacking cognitive resources.
Read 8 tweets
17 Nov 20
We just took our big national aesthetics conference virtual. We experimented with all kinds of weird "social sessions" to make Zoom less miserable. Surprise of all surprises - they worked? And people loved them? And they thought it made the community feel real?

A thread:
The surprise hit: the "3 minute nutty talk session". Late night session, Zoom room, people just showed up and improvised a wild 3 minute talk on... anything. Followed by 3 minutes of lightning Q&A. We had talks about the ethics of squirming on Zoom, on the art of movie trailers.
The shocking thing? It was AWESOME. People were in hysterics, going all out with sincere ideas and swinging for the fences. Some of the ideas were silly, some were big but inchoate ideas, some started off tossed off but gathered steam. People said it was the conference highlight.
Read 13 tweets
1 Jul 20
My book, GAMES: AGENCY IS ART is out! It's about:

How game designers sculpt agency.
How games let us record, transmit, and explore new forms of agency.
How real games make us more free.
How gamification undermines our freedom. Image
The core ideas:

1. Games aren't just stories, environments, or spaces for free play. Game designers sculpt agency itself. They tell us what our abilities will be in the game. They set our motivations in the game by setting the win conditions.

Agency is the artistic medium.
2. And when we play a game, we slip into this alternate agency. Often, we put our normal values out of mind. We become totally absorbed in winning. We become, for a moment, a different person, with different goals and abilities.
Read 11 tweets
27 Apr 20
A long thread about online synch classes:

I've been having a very different experience with my online class than others. I don't find online synch discussion as miserable, and my students reported digging it.


A thread:
Almost all the students said they loved the (optional) online discussion. I have a proposed theory, based on one data point. I think I conducted an accidental experiment. (Note: on a small discussion-heavy upper-div epistemology class full of majors.)
A lot of folks shared and agreed with the following article, about why Zoom discussion classes are so miserable and exhausting.

Read 20 tweets

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