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The Evolutionary Perspective
Category Archives: Hedonism
Posted: April 2, 2017 at 7:48 am
George Michael was too young to die and too old to be caning it.
Fifty-three is not old for a self-made millionaire looking forward to enjoying the final third of his life. But it is positively ancient when you have spent the last few years in and out of expensive clinics and getting busted. There is a time and place for party drugs and sex in public places. It is not a man's middle years.
After the booze-soaked, chemically crazed tumult of youth and young manhood, your thirties, forties and beyond are a time for yoga and fruit smoothies and stretching exercises - not rehab and bad drugs and increasingly desperate attempts to stay clean.
When he did four weeks' jail time for driving under the influence of drugs, George Michael was already 47 years old. I have known a few wild men in my time. But I never knew anyone who caned it all the way to the male menopause.
Oh, George! When I first met him, he was 21 years old and Wham! were in their pomp - stuffing shuttlecocks down their tennis shorts, mobs of teenage girls chasing George and Andrew Ridgeley down every street and a chauffeured limo waiting until the night's fun was over. But the fun was, like the 21-year-old George himself, as clean cut as could be.
Young George was shrewd, mature and totally unlike the debauched degenerates that I had been knocking around with for the previous ten years. The night we met, George and I went to Rudland & Stubbs in Smithfield and drank our bodyweight in sauvignon blanc. And I thought that was about as wild as it would ever get with this likeable young man. I was dead wrong.
Even nine years after that first meeting, at his 30th birthday party on his father's stud farm - the horses running free in the rolling fields, torch lights lining the long sweeping driveway - there was no indication that George Michael was going to go down in flames as the last of the great hedonists. Even on the night he turned 30, all that was still ahead of him. He looked too much the master of his destiny to ever veer wildly off the rails. He surely managed his career far too well to destroy it with gluttony for good times. But five years later we were sitting by the fire in his big open-plan house in Oak Hill Park, Hampstead - Hippy the Labrador chewing the white pile carpet between us - when George casually slipped into the conversation that he was smoking around 25 spliffs a day.
In those years he was still reeling from a double bereavement. Anselmo Feleppa, the Brazilian lover who finally convinced George that he was gay and not hovering somewhere on the bisexual spectrum, had died of an Aids-related brain haemorrhage in 1993. His mother Lesley, the only member of his family I ever met in the many hours I spent in his Oak Hill Park home, had died in 1997 at the age of 60. But life is full of loss. It doesn't make most of us want to ruin ourselves.
And suddenly, it seemed like the drugs were not for recreation but relief, respite and oblivion. And he was already far too old to be living that way.
This is not to suggest that fleeting fun is for the young. There will always be a time and place for transient bliss in a man's life, whatever his age. Witness Sir Rod Stewart, 72, flamboyantly making the draw for the fifth round of the Scottish Cup after possibly imbibing a drink or two. And consider the late Leonard Cohen, who always said that if he lived to be 80, he was going to start smoking again.
"It is the right age to recommence," Cohen solemnly told the New York Times. And that's exactly what Cohen did - it is no coincidence that on the cover of Cohen's last album, You Want It Darker, released just before his death at the age of 82, he has ostentatiously got a fag on the go. Leonard Cohen, the smoker, and Rod Stewart, the drinker, glow with joy. But then they obey the first rule of hedonism - enjoy it.
How much true undiluted pleasure, I wonder, did George Michael feel from his wild years? Rumours abound about what chemicals he was on. What is irrefutable is that they ruined him. I spent a lot of time around George in his twenties and thirties. We met each other's families. When I went out with my girlfriend Yuriko on the night before we got married, the only person who came with us to the little Japanese restaurant in Islington was George Michael. In the end I was really just the favourite journalist of a big star. But I considered him my friend. But by the time he was in his forties and fifties, we had stopped talking to each other. And I had stopped recognising him. It wasn't just the weight he piled on. He looked miserable.
Why do most of us bail out of hedonism? Because we worry about the consequences. You have to be either 18 or 80 to smoke cigarettes and not worry about lung cancer. Anywhere in between and you know it is a real possibility. After youth's first flush, other things take priority over having a good time. A serious job, a permanent woman and fatherhood. You don't stay up all night when you have to play with your child at dawn.
For most of us, life imposes its own restrictions. The hard-core hedonists are often the ones who take most readily to the Perrier and pilates of later life. Because they have watched their friends die. Because they have done unknown damage to themselves. And they know it. So they move from the dark to the light, from the madness to something approaching peace. George Michael, almost uniquely, travelled in exactly the opposite direction. Whatever George was on, he did too much of, much too late. Whatever your poison, you should start young and - when the hangovers take days to shake off, rather than hours - learn to pace yourself. You don't do what George did. Because that will give you a morning after that lasts for eternity.
On the wall of the Snappy Snaps on Hampstead's high street, five minutes' walk from George's old home in Oak Hill Park, there was some graffiti next to the dent where he crashed his car at 3.30 on a Sunday morning. "Wham" the graffiti quipped, and everyone enjoyed the joke. But it was probably a lot less fun to be the drug-addled middle-aged man who had passed out behind the wheel of his car when he was trying to find his way home.
I never saw anyone get hedonism so badly wrong as George. All the drugs, all the sex in public places, all the reckless driving - and he was not having fun. He was dying.
It is different for the authentically young, for the generation born in the 21st century. A major NHS survey of 6,500 schoolchildren reveals that the number of young people smoking, drinking and taking drugs has dramatically fallen over the last ten years.
The authentically young have watched their grandparents die of lung cancer because they smoked cigarettes. They can see that a drink or two is fun but that drunks are unequivocally pathetic. They know their parents took drugs - mum starting everything with an E in Ibiza, dad chopping out the white lines during the Britpop wars - so drugs seem old hat. They have watched their elders take hedonism to the end of the line. And they want very little to do with it.
For the second half of the last century, young folk drank up, lit up and cranked up the volume. But the clean teens of the 21st century make that old-school hedonism look out of time, as redundant as record stores. And nothing ever seems quite so old fashioned as the formerly fashionable.
Drugs are still out there. But even the use of cannabis, the most commonly used drug, is way down these days. And we are talking about the very young - which means we are talking about the shape of the future. The young of today have learned from the mistakes of all those arthritic old groovers who cavorted in The Roxy and The Haienda. And as the father of one of them, it seems to me that there has been a real cultural shift. It was once the cool kids who got off their faces. Now it is the uneducated idiots who get routinely rat faced. Unfettered hedonism is a dial-up pastime in a digital world.
The experts say the nature of childhood has changed. This coming generation set the pace for all of us, with our personal trainers and obsession with appearance. These clean teens are more vain than all those generations who passed the bong in leaky bedsit rooms. In those heady days of 20th-century hedonism, nobody fretted about how they looked in a photograph. Nobody joyously rutting in the mud of Woodstock worried about something so superficial as their appearance. Now it often feels as if nothing matters more.
Funny enough, George Michael was fanatically self-conscious about the way he looked. When we met in that house at the end of a private road in Hampstead, he would always put the kettle on and get out the biscuits. The only exception would be if he had a photo shoot coming up. Then he would not even touch a chocolate digestive. George was in control. He was disciplined. And in those years of early solo success, when he was up there commercially with even Michael Jackson, he was happy. Somewhere along the line, he lost his way. He lost the ability to know when it was time to say yes to a chocolate digestive - or your drug of choice - and when it was time to say no. Although we drifted apart, I remember him as a beautiful man with a huge heart and a generous spirit who could handle success but could not handle hedonism.
You can't make the pleasure of the moment last a lifetime. How will you celebrate your 80th birthday? Chop out a couple of lines? A threesome with friends? A fireside spliff? Or light up a cigarette knowing that life has waited too long to kill you with lung cancer? Leonard Cohen's cigarette at 80 was only fun because he had stopped smoking decades earlier.
We give up on the unapologetic hedonism of our extreme youth - the meaningless sex with a succession of strangers, the nicotine habit, the booze and powders - when we learn that life cannot be lived as if tomorrow never comes.
Because unless you fall off your perch, it always does.
George Michael was a legend
George Michael on beating drugs, depression and his outing in LA
George Michael's songs were powered by love
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Posted: March 31, 2017 at 6:54 am
I'm always wildly envious of younger people, but there's one thing I have over them: I went to Studio 54. The legendary 1970s disco arose like a mirage in an old theater on 54th Street. The country was in shambles due to the mass disillusionment over Vietnam and Watergate, and New York's "Fun City" tag had become ironic, because the city was dangerous and decrepit, but here came 54, where you could check your mind at the door and indulge in three floors of fabulous denial.
Getting in was a nightmare, of course. Frisky co-owner Steve Rubell wanted a mixed salad of a crowd, consisting of famous people, media, and everyday Joes who happened to look good or know someone. He once told a couple attempting entry that the man could come in, but the lady didn't quite look good enough. The guy pondered this Sophie's Choice quandary for a second, then shockingly said "Later" to wifey and went right in, choosing a night of frolicsome fun alone.
Fortunately, Rubell knew I was press, so if he was outside, he'd pull me in from the crowd, which resembled something out of the French Revolution. But if Rubell was busy in the club, snooty doorman Marc Benecke was solely in charge. Marc would eye me as if I were a decaying rodent and haughtily refuse to even acknowledge me. I'd stand there in a quilted kimono, being publicly humiliated for hours, and then I'd have to crawl over to the second best disco, Xenon, which was a fate worse than death. It was filled with rejects!
But let's stick to the times I got into 54. The main floor was the dazzling dance floor, where lit-up columns descended and rose up again, and as everyone line-danced to "Lady Bump," a quarter moon with a gigantic spoon attached came down to cheers. This place openly celebrated cocaine use! In their less agoraphobic days, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Cher, Dolly Parton, and Andy Warhol all mixed in with the crowd. They were right up in your grill! Purely by chance, I found myself dancing with Margaux Hemingway and talking to Liza Minnelli's best friendChita Rivera's daughter--who almost introduced me to Liza.
If you REALLY wanted to meet Liza, downstairs was the unofficial VIP room where the coke spoons weren't fake and attached to any cardboard moon. And the third floorthe balcony---was where you sat and got a blow job from a complete stranger. For all you knew, it might be Cher or Andy Warhol!
Three floors of sheer hedonism, all carried out before anyone knewor caredabout rehab, AIDS, or financial problems.
On the New Year's Eve that brought in 1979, Grace Jones was the featured performer and the invite promised a continental breakfast after the show. Grace shimmered and delivered, backed by an assortment of writhing male dancers. It's amusing that she feels Lady Gaga has ripped her off, since Grace was "liberally borrowing" from Dietrich, Piaf, and Bowie, but her lack of logic has always been incredibly glamorous, so who cares? The continental breakfast turned out to be a solitary cart, where they tried to create one crepe at a time for a starving crowd of over a thousand. Again, wildly illogical, but kind of desperately chic.
The IRS ultimately busted the club when they found shitloads of cash hidden in the walls. The owners went to jail and the new ones tried to recreate the magic, but by that point, disco was becoming deader than The Brady Bunch Hour. Today, the space is a theater again, and I always go there with a razor blade, hoping there'll still be some money in the walls.
Splash image via screenshot
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Burgers, Not Boobs: Carl’s Jr. Brilliantly Flips the Script by Tearing Down Its Own Smutty Ads – Adweek
Posted: March 29, 2017 at 11:04 am
Folksy and charming, Carl Hardee Sr. is a no-nonsense kind of guy who doesnt care much for provocative ads featuring bikini-clad women. He aims to put the focus on food, not boobs, with a new marketing strategy.
Thats quite a departure for the Carls Jr and Hardees burger chains, where millennial playboy Carl Hardee Jr. has been running the place like a baller, using exposed skin and double entendres to grab consumers attention. Looks like the partysover, dude.
This is the fictional scenario, with a cheeky nod to real life, for a new campaign launching todayand kicking off a major brand overhaul for the fast-food restaurants. It also introduces the first-ever spokesman for the CKE-owned Carls Jr and Hardees sister chainsthe logically named Carl Hardee Sr. (an amalgam of actual founders Carl Karcher and Wilbur Hardee).
Played by actor-musician Charles Esten from the soapy series Nashville, the weathered and bearded character takes control of the company from his wayward son in the opening moments of the new spot. Flanked by movers who quickly get to work tearing down the displays of branded hedonism, Senior quickly gets the attention of his out-of-control progeny and his long-suffering employees.
Its unclear where Papa Hardee has been all this timethose risqu commercials go back at least 15 yearsbut its obvious that stuff just got real. (The mechanical bull in the corner office can stay, though).
Ad agency 72andSunny has created the Hardee character with the goal of changing the conversation around the burger chains (known as Hardees in the South and Carls Jr. in most other markets), which broke ground with industry firsts like made-from-scratch biscuits and grass-fed beef. (There is a meta element, of course, in seeing72andSunny tear down its old advertising with the new.)
Theyre also rolling out a new tagline: Pioneers of the great American burger.
Theyve never really gotten credit for their quality, and we want that message to land with consumers, said Jason Norcross, executive creative director and partner at 72andSunny. We want to reclaim their bona fides.
It was time to evolve. Some of the product attributes got lost because people were too busy ogling girls.
-Jason Norcross, 72andSunny
But theres no point in denying the controversial and much-maligned approach of the past, he said. Instead, the new campaign embraces previous ad stars like Charlotte McKinney, Genevieve Morton, Emily Sears and Elena Belle in a winking way (theyll appear only ascardboard cutouts and artwork).
It was time to evolve, Norcross said of the previous made-you-look tactics. Some of the product attributes got lost because people were too busy ogling girls.
The target audience is the sameyoung, hungry guysbut Norcross said the brand wants to be considered as a lower-priced alternative to competitors like Shake Shack, The Habit and others in the currently hot better-burger category. The campaigns ongoing emphasis will be on ingredients and sourcing, two hot topics in the broader food world.
Carl Hardee Sr. will show up in TV spots, on digital and social media and in GIFs from emerging artists. Theres a planned YouTube takeover where he physically pushes aside the former ads, which some critics have likened to soft-core porn, and replaces them with straight-up food porn.
The character will likely be integrated into programming or branded bits on networks like Comedy Central via media partnerships. (His girl-crazy son, played by comedian Drew Tarver, may have a recurring role as well).
The chain has new packaging, too.
72andSunny execs also revamped the chains logo, uniforms, menus and packaging streamlining the look and stripping out the bright red cartoonish touchesfor what Norcross called a big brand reboot that we hope becomes a brand transformation.
On the get-it-done scale, Carl Hardee Sr. is obviously an overachiever. As seen in the new 3-minute mini-movie, it doesnt take him long to effect some radical change at his old stomping ground, lining the walls with hero shots of burgers instead of eye candyand revoking his sons parking privileges.
He also gives viewers a history lesson about the brand, founded in 1956, showing in flashback how the chain popularized charbroiled meat and the drive-thru window. (Carl Jr. shows up in the time-shifted snippets when hes cute and young, pre-obnoxious bro phase).
Esten, who also has a comedy and improv background, plays Hardee Sr. with a mix of disciplinarian dad and straight-shooting Southern gentleman. (And he drives a vintage Corvette, so hes old-school badass).
Hardee Sr. will be the face of the brand for the rest of the year (at least), touting, among other things, new burgers with unique flavor combinations. 72andSunny execs also pulled in trap-music artist Oiki to reveal the brands new tagline in short films and announce all-natural chicken and other product launches. Watch the first, called Pioneer, below.
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Posted: at 11:04 am
It is clear that hedonism is a potent ingredient of grassroots activism. Women wearing pink hats against Donald Trump in Washington DC. Photograph: Jose Luis Magana/AP
Heard about blackout culture ? Its sweeping across Americas universities and its lethal. Students down cocktails of alcohol with the singular aim of passing out. Nearly 2,000 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die from alcohol-related injuries each year, and there are increasing calls for college authorities to stamp out binge drinking.
No wonder hedonism has a bad name. For many people, its nothing more than a byword for immoral and irresponsible self-indulgence, evoking the heroin overdoses and drunken rampages made infamous by films such as Trainspotting.
This disdain for hedonistic pleasures is reflected in a growing puritanical streak in the modern happiness industry, which would have us all staying calm doing mindfulness courses and sticking strictly to clean-eating wholemeal diets. You wont find sex, drugs and rocknroll in the index of many self-help books: western culture is becoming addicted to moderation and self-control.
I am not, of course, suggesting we embrace blackout culture. Rather, we need to recognise that we are neurologically wired to seek pleasure and that it is central to most peoples sense of wellbeing. The desire for pleasure is part of human nature, points out the neuroscientist Morten Kringelbach adding that perhaps we have to accept that the human brain makes us disproportionately interested in pleasure.
We should welcome hedonistic pleasure-seeking into our lives because of our brain chemistry and because, for centuries, it has been an incredibly enriching ingredient of human culture.
When Franciscan missionaries first arrived in Mexico, they witnessed Aztec rituals that began with the eating of a black mushroom, probably Psilocybe cubensis, a hallucinogen. Hedonism has also fuelled some of literatures greatest works, from Samuel Taylor Coleridges opium-dream poem Kubla Khan to Robert Louis Stevensons 60,000-word novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which he allegedly wrote during a six-day cocaine binge in 1885.
But perhaps the greatest hidden virtue of hedonism has been its role in catalysing social change. The roaring 20s saw an explosion of carpe diem pleasure-seeking in response to the horrors of the first world war. Here was a new generation, wrote F Scott Fitzgerald in This Side of Paradise, grown up to find all Gods dead, all wars fought, and all faiths in man shaken. The result was an outbreak of vitality and experimentation that challenged social conventions, from open lesbian relationships to the spread of jazz that helped to bridge black-white divides.
Then came the drug-fuelled counter-culture of the 1960s, where any hippy worth their salt was turning on, tuning in and dropping out on a psychedelic bus tour, and spending the summers living it up in a free-love commune. Yet personal and social liberation went hand in hand: it was these same tie-dyed hedonistic explorers who turned their backs on Vietnam and joined anti-war sit-ins at Berkeley where they lit up joints instead.
Half a century on, I believe we are in danger of losing touch with our hedonistic selves. The time has come to rediscover this vital part of who we are, for both personal and political reasons.
On the personal level, a healthy dose of hedonistic experience is an antidote to our age of mediated proxy living, where we are caught in a state of continuous partial attention checking our phones, on average, 80times a day and spending more than nine hours each day staring at screens. We are becoming more interested in being spectators of life on our iGadgets than actually living it for ourselves, increasingly trapped in a matrix of vicarious experience. Hedonism is a route to reconnecting with direct experience, returning us to touching, tasting and feeling the world.
At the same time, hedonism has barely tapped potential to revitalise politics. Think back to the carnival tradition of the Middle Ages, which was about raucous boozing and dancing in wooden clogs, but also an expression of anti-authoritarian defiance: peasants would dress as priests and lords in mockery of their masters while, from the 16th century, slave revolts were common during carnival time in the Americas.
Such defiance is urgently needed today. Representative democracy is crumbling before our eyes, with a wave of far-right anti-system politicians stepping in where traditional parties have been failing to deal with issues such as widening inequality, migration and terrorism. The consequences have ranged from the authoritarian xenophobia of Donald Trump to a blinkered charge for hardline Brexit.
We need to reignite that carnival spirit with a new wave of collective hedonism. It is our greatest hope for creating a seize-the-day mass politics for the 21st century that can deliver progressive democratic renewal.
Todays grassroots movements can look for inspiration in medieval festivities and in more recent instances of political hedonism, such as the carnivalesque protests in eastern and central Europe in 1989, when the Orange Alternative movement in Poland held anti-government demonstrations led by people wearing fancy dress, while in Prague the Society for a Merrier Present held a silent march called A Fruitless Action wearing helmets made from watermelons and holding up blank banners. Such protests grew into the mass movements that brought down whole regimes. As the historian Padraic Kenney writes, what started as just a carnival became a revolution.
From the pink bloc protesters in fairy costumes who taunted police with feather dusters in the global justice movements Carnivals Against Capital in the noughties, to the pink hats of the anti-Trump Womens March this year, it is clear that hedonism is a potent ingredient of grassroots activism. Too many marches today end up deadening passion with strings of well-meaning but tedious speeches from inaudible speakers. We need to revitalise protest movements with a hedonistic carnival spirit that keeps us engaged and hopeful by making us feel fully alive.
Its time to forge a new political hedonism and dance to the tune not only of carpe diem but its plural, carpamus diem. Lets seize the day together.
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Posted: at 11:04 am
Pastor Joey Durham, Sturgis Baptist Church 12:02 a.m. CT March 29, 2017
Todays devotion is Perilous Times? Lovers of Pleasures MORE Than Lovers of God! My text is 2 Timothy 3:1-4, where we see, This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebeakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (KJV) In our text, the first things said about people in general in the last days is that they would be lovers of their own selves. When a people have an inordinate love for self, it is manifested in a lack of love for God, which is perilous. In these last days, people are giving themselves more and more to loving pleasures which is hedonism. Rather than putting the Lord Jesus first, they are devoted primarily to pleasures that gratify their selfish desires.
Please notice with me the context of this scripture. People are loving pleasures MORE than they love God. In the context, people have not totally kicked God out of their lives, but they have relegated God to the back-seat in their life. This is a peril causing action of immense proportions! In other words, they love the lake and fishing more than God. They love ball games more than God. They love working their job more than God. They love catching up with family or friends more than God. Yet, when trouble and tragedy strikes their life, they want to run to God and act like Hes the most important thing in their life, depending upon Him like Hes their closest, most relied upon companion. In Matthew 15:8, the Lord declares the true condition regarding this perilous characteristic. This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. (KJV) The Lord knows what you love most. He knows if you love HIM most, or if youre just using Him only when you need Him. Such a relationship will certainly lead to perilous situations in your life!
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Posted: at 11:04 am
Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 3 p.m.
Argyris Papadimitropoulos Suntan begins in such grim, static, deadpan fashion that you might be forgiven for assuming youve traveled back in time to an international film festival circa 2002. All sharp angles and stony faces and oblique interactions, the movie opens with glum, portly middle-aged doctor Kostis (Makis Papadimitriou) arriving to the tiny island of Antiparos to be the local physician. Its a desolate place: empty streets, dim buildings, sour people. Watching these early scenes, I found myself settling in for a wry, dry wallow in minimalist miserabilism.
And then summer starts. Its first announced with the arrival of Anna (Elli Tringou), a beautiful young woman who has suffered a nasty leg wound from a moped accident. As Kostis tries to treat it, her chums long-haired, scantily clad and quite possibly high wreak havoc in his clinic. Shy but also eager to act cool, the doctor tolerates them, even playing along a bit. He should be annoyed, but that grin suggests something else.
Before we know it, the gray, strained milieu has transformed into one of heaving bodies and hedonism. The camera loosens up, moving more and pressing closer to faces and limbs. A hat over his balding head and sunscreen smothered over his pale face, dumpy Kostis hesitates as he walks onto the islands crowded nude beach, with its half-thongs and waving dongs. But Anna welcomes him and even seems to like him though we cant tell at first if she sees him as a friend or a pet. He reminds her to cover up the wound on her leg; thats about the only thing she bothers to.
Structurally, theres little thats new in Suntan. The tale of a middle-aged man delusionally pursuing youth and beauty reaches back to Thomas Mann and beyond. But Papadimitropoulos has a feel for the physicality of this world, for contrasting postures and gestures. Anna and her friends are whirligigs of abandon and pleasure, jumping and dancing and somersaulting their way through seas and beaches and clubs. Kostis, tight and tense, struggles to keep up he cant seem to do anything right, try as he might. But he persists, because theres something magical about these kids and their otherworldly freedom. When Kostis hangs out with fellow townspeople his age, the partying is more depressing, more transactional they prowl bars and dance floors in search of one-night stands, dreaming of the loads of pussy that summer drops on their otherwise sad little shore.
This cant end well, and the movie traverses some truly scary places. Your heart may go out to Kostis initially, but thats part of Papadimitropoulos long game. Its reminiscent, oddly enough, of how Martin Scorsese and Paul Schrader set up the viewer to identify with Travis Bickles alienation early on in Taxi Driver before revealing the full extent of his madness. In similar fashion, Suntan pulls you into this strange mans world before slyly and slowly turning the tables. You wont like the darkness you find there.
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Posted: March 27, 2017 at 4:41 am
The notion of hedonism conjures up images of alcohol-fuelled pool parties rather than bookish old blokes holding theoretical discussions. But this much-maligned philosophy has its roots in ancient Greece and has been defended famously by Enlightenment thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.
By making pleasure an end in itself, hedonism was sure to have its ethical opponents. However, traditional objections to the philosophy are ill-founded, argues Trinity College Dublin lecturer Ben Bramble.
At the outset, he says, it is important to understand that hedonism is a theory of well-being not a charter for selfishness. Simply put, hedonism says that your well-being is fully determined by your pleasures and pains; any two people identical in their pleasures and pains would be identical in their levels of well-being.
The major competitor to hedonism, he explains, is desire-fulfilment theory. Desire-fulfilment theory says that what is good for you is fundamentally, not good feelings but, having the sort of life you want.
To see the difference between these theories, ask yourself: Is pleasure good for you because you want it? Or do you want it because you are in some sense responding to the fact that it is good for you? I think it is the latter. Pleasure is good for us, not because we want it, but just because of how it feels. A pleasurable life would be good for us whether we wanted it or not.
Hedonism does not have many public advocates these days. What prompted you to mount a defence of it?
Ben Bramble: I am defending hedonism mainly just because I think it is true.
Like other philosophers, I am interested in getting at truth for its own sake. But I also think that arriving at the right theory of well-being is extremely useful for certain practical matters. How can we know how to live well if we do not know what is good for us all in the first place?
JS Mill famously said it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. Do you agree?
A popular criticism of hedonism is that it seems to entail that the life of a pig could be higher in well-being than the life of a normal human, providing that the pig has many intense pleasures of, say, slopping around in the mud, lying in the sun, eating its fill, etc.
Mill argued that hedonism does not entail this. In particular, he argued that there are pleasures that human beings can feel that add more to well-being than any amount of the only pleasures pigs can feel.
What are these higher pleasures? They include pleasures of love, learning, aesthetic appreciation, and so on. I agree with Mill.
Now, you might wonder, how can a hedonist consistently hold this view? Mustnt she say that the best life is simply the one with the most pleasure? The answer, I believe and here I depart from Mill has to do with diversity. Diversity of pleasure matters in and of itself. And there is much greater diversity available, I believe, in the higher pleasures than in mere bodily ones. Bodily pleasures, most of the time, are just more of the same.
The point here, it is important to emphasise, is not that bodily pleasures necessarily get boring or stop being pleasurable - though they often do. It is that purely repeated pleasures - pleasures that bring nothing new to our lives in terms of their quality - are, in and of themselves, a waste of time. This is not to say that bodily pleasures are unimportant.
Even purely repeated bodily pleasures can help us carry on in life, and so can act as a kind of oil for our joints. The point is rather that with only such pleasures, we would be missing out on the richest and most varied pleasures available - and, I would add, some of the most pleasurable.
Acceptance of a refined form of hedonism may be reasonable but is it the best way of approaching ethical matters?
Hedonism, as Ive said, is just a theory of well-being. By itself, then, it has nothing to say about how we should live. Importantly, it does not say we should live so as to maximise our own self-interest-that (false) theory is called egoism.
I think we should combine hedonism with utilitarianism, the theory on which we should live so as to maximise the well-being of all sentient creatures, including non-human animals. Combining these views, we get the appealing conclusion that we should live so as to help all creatures feel good and avoid feeling bad.
Why is this appealing? Every other theory of how we should live is committed to saying that there are at least some occasions when we should choose something that doesnt maximally improve the feelings of sentient beings ie occasions when we should forgo making some particular individual feel better in favour of doing something that makes nobody feel better. That strikes me as highly counterintuitive.
Does your theory of hedonism have broader implications for how we should treat animals?
As I mentioned earlier, I think hedonists should distinguish between mere bodily pleasures and higher pleasures of love, learning, aesthetic appreciation, etc. Bodily pleasures have their place, but higher pleasures have special value.
For this reason, pigs and most other non-human animals, who cannot experience these higher pleasures to the same degree humans can, are cut off from living especially fortunate lives. This is a great shame for pigs, etc.
That said, there are many pleasures,and pains, that non-human animals can feel. This means that they can have lives that can go better or worse for them. So, it is absolutely vital that we take their interests into account.
I think that the way we treat animals today most clearly, in the meat industry is so bad that it is hard to fathom. Meat tastes good, yes. But this benefit to us is infinitesimal when compared to the incredible suffering we inflict on animals to get it. Future generations, I suspect, will look back at us with profound dismay.
ASK A SAGE:
Question: Why is so much public debate unmannerly?
Mary Wollstonecraft replies: Virtue can only flourish amongst equals.
Posted: at 4:41 am
Evrybodys talking bout Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism
This-ism, that-ism, ism, ism, ism Give Peace a Chance by John Lennon
Brothers George and Charles plus their buddy Noah (Merriam-Webster to you), define the word ism thusly:
While all -isms arent bad, I try to work on the ones in my life that are.
Racism:Ive shared anecdotes about being the target of racism in the past, but never talked about my own. Back in the 1980s I had a friend who worked at Luckys supermarket and I went there on Thanksgiving Day. I saw she was crying so I asked what was wrong. She said a customer had called her a stupid b-word and he was still there in the deli. She pointed him out and I went outside fuming and smoked a cigarette (yes, I smoked then gross). The guy came outside and I flicked my cigarette at him and started yelling and cussing him out (yes, I cussed then, sigh). Now, the guy was a punk, but his Asian race had nothing to do with that, but thats where I shamefully went in insulting him. He hurried to his car and when far enough away, he returned racist taunts. But I, sad to say, started it.
Oakland Raiderism:Also known as Commitment to Excellence-ism, Silver and Blackism, Pride and Poise-ism, whatever you call it, its all good.
Hedonism:When I was younger, I was enamored of The Doors Jim Morrison who was a disciple of Dionysian hedonism. Thankfully, I, unlike Morrison and others, survived that phase and now prefer to experience life with my senses unaltered. In the available light, if you will. Instead of just seeking to entertain myself, caring for others or humanitarianism is what makes me happy. Im always amazed by people who figured that out the easy way.
Able Bodyism:I was on the school newspaper staff at Armijo High School and there was a guy there named Kenton Pfister who was physically disabled and used a motorized wheelchair. The first time I heard him talk in his loud and slurred voice that I could not understand, Im now ashamed to admit that I immediately assumed he not only had a physical disability, but a mental one as well. I was dead wrong. I got to know Kenton and we became friends. There was nothing wrong with his mind. He would dictate his stories and they would be typed up and printed in the newspaper. Once I got to know him, I had no problem understanding his speech and he was bright, sharp and had a crisp sense of humor. That experience taught me a lot about judging people and I continue to work on it.
Antidisestablishmentarianism:When I was in elementary school (yes, I was once a lil braniac) I thought I was cool because I could spell this word. I could never work it into a conversation, though.
Sexism:I wrote a column in January 2016 about women in nontraditional occupations. Denise Marie Torkelsen Lazzara shared about working at Mare Island as a machinist, as a mechanic on a nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers and driving an 18-wheeler, among other jobs. She said she faced sexism numerous times in her working career. I had to confess my own sexism. Denise and I attended Armijo High at the same time (shes a year younger than me) and I didnt know her, but knew who she was. In my memory, I put her in a box as just a frail, blonde (Green) Valley girl. I told her my own blind spot in this area was especially galling since I had my own sort of role-reversal years ago when I was a stay-at-home dad who home-schooled my daughter.
Google-ism: Did you know adamitism means nakedness for religious reasons? Me either. Thanks, Google.
Petism:I like dogs better than cats. Dogs miss you horribly when you leave for five minutes, but cats arent even mentally in the same dimension with you until its Fancy Feasttime. I refuse to work on this ism.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at [emailprotected].
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Posted: at 4:41 am
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Elite Dance & Theatre has transformed The Picture of Dorian Gray into a combination of movement and drama opening on Friday, March 31, at the North Fourth Theatre.
Dan Belden is Lord Henry Wotton and Alex Harde is Dorian in The Portrait of Dorian Gray. (SOURCE: Two Brunos Photography)
In 1890, Oscar Wilde incorporated themes of decadence, duplicity and beauty into his sole novel.
The story begins with a man painting a picture of the nobleman Gray. When Gray sees the portrait, he breaks down, distraught that his beauty will surely fade while the painting remains youthful. He inadvertently makes a Faustian bargain ensuring that the image decays and ages while he remains young. As Grays portrait allows him to escape the physical ravages of his hedonism, he destroys the lives of those closest to him.
The production opens with the artist Basil at his easel as dancers surrounding him mimic his paint strokes, director Cheri Costales said.
Its an amazing story; Oscar Wilde is just brilliant, Costales said. When I had my kids read literature, I always told them to wait until the last chapter. Dorian Gray has one of those endings.
Lord Henry Wotton goads Gray with his hedonistic philosophy: that beauty and sensual fulfilment are the only things worth pursuing in life. In living out this ideology, Gray courts the naive actress Sibyl Vane, who commits suicide after he rejects her.
As Gray descends into an opium den, the dancers will perform Oblivion, a surreal trip through the depths of his debauchery, Costales said. On returning home, he notices the portrait bears a subtle sneer of cruelty. Its decay is foretold as he continues his descent into self-indulgence.
Eventually, Gray tries to destroy the painting in a moment of repentance, killing the vestiges of his own conscience.
The cast consists of 30 dancers in costumes resembling Steampunk with a twist, Costales said.
Weve got the top hats and the gloves and the boots, she added. Weve probably got about 100 hats.
The Picture of Dorian Gray has inspired countless TV and movie adaptations. The 1945 film starred George Sanders, Donna Reed and Angela Lansbury. In 2003, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen featured a Dorian Gray character, as did the 2014-2016 Showtime series Penny Dreadful.
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Posted: at 4:41 am
Samantha Bee turned her attention to small-town journalism on Full Frontal this week, heading to New Jersey to help out an ailing newspaper with a new, more hedonistic subscription plan.
On Wednesdays show, Bee focused on the importance of local news outlets, noting in a stand-up introducing the segment that important recent news stories like the Flint water crisis or Bridgegate began as local news stories. So, to that end, Bee focused in on New Brunswick Today, the New Jersey towns lone local newspaper.
Bee spoke with editor-in-chief Charlie Kratovil, who told the Full Frontal host that just 100 people subscribed to the newspaper. Subscriptions, Kratovil added, are just $5 per month.
That low subscriber number was surprising to Bee, given that Kratovils paper had previously exposing corruption at the New Brunswick Water Utility that covered up water contamination in the town. As Kratovil explained to Bee, the town was rocked last year by a scandal in which one man pled guilty to public corruption.
Without old-timey reporting like Charlies, people in New Brunswick would have no idea that their water was poisoned, Bee said in the segment.
So, to drum up subscriptions, the Full Frontal host spoke with Gabe Zichermann, a gamification expert who recommended the paper pursue hedonism and pleasure to drum up subscriptions because people will always choose the most pleasurable option between a set of given choices.
The answer for New Brunswick Today: Lottery tickets. Specifically, lottery tickets potentially worth $500 that also get buyers a yearlong subscription to the paper.
As Bee notes on the show, that approach increased the papers subscriptions by 400 percent a number that Bee said this week is still growing.
Maybe with a little luck, a sprinkle of civic engagement, and a healthy dose of hedonism, Bee said, local journalism will survive.
New Brunswick Today thanked Bee on social media for her work Thursday, and asked that readers continue to support their coverage.
Published: March 24, 2017 12:56 PM EDT | Updated: March 26, 2017 7:01 AM EDT
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