Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


美学: A Journey Into VAPORWAVE


I had a hard time defining what an aesthetic was on it’s own, so I looked to the internet and other people I knew for help. Webster dictionary defined aesthetic as “concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty.”, but I wanted to look at what people found beautiful and what forms of art were considered beautiful. I turned to Google image search, to no doubt show me the aesthetic artistic works of great artists like Bernini and Picasso. I expected Velazquez’s “Las Meninas”, but instead was shown a sculpture of “Venus of Milo”, shown with a random floating pole and some extremely serene but saturated waves. I came across the same feeling of wonder and amazement that those who have only achieved true enlightenment can feel, along with the overwhelming sense of confusion. If this was the highest form of aesthetic art that google could show me, I was afraid and confused. The vibrant, neon photos with palm trees and Japanese kanji that I can’t translate drew me in, and I set about pursuing this higher aesthetic in my search for beauty.

The Most Aesthetic Photo Ever

Turns out, it’s vaporwave. The video below was one of the first things that showed up when I searched for similar images. You don’t have to listen to all of it, but I’d recommend playing it quietly in the background for a while.

But what’s so special about Diana Ross’ 80’s hit “It’s Your Move” slowed down 70%? リサフランク420 / 現代のコンピュー by MACINTOSH PLUS seems boring and uninspired at first glance, and I suddenly felt like I knew exactly what Plato meant when he called art “a cheap imitation of reality”. I decided to start my descent into vaporwave culture.

Vaporwave apparently began as a subgenre of plunderphonics, a type of music made by taking existing audio and sound samples and altering them to fit into a new “song”. For those of you who ever had a keyboard as a kid – remember when you’d set the sound setting to the random drum beats and whistles and you’d press all the keys at once? That’s exactly what plunderphonics sounds like. Vaporwave is mostly characterised by slow, drawn out synth sounds paired with samples from the 80s and 90s – mostly things from commercials or iconic things like the AOL Dial-Up screech. I put on a couple playlists while reading articles on vaporwave, and it eventually grew on me. The music at first seemed bland and a cheap way to remix a song, but I realized that that’s almost the point.

Vaporwave invokes the feel of synth-pop and consumerist culture of the 80s, and what us in the modern age expect the 80’s to be. Traditional 80’s aesthetics and sounds are turned around completely, with each music artist putting their own personal philosophy of vaporwave into the tracks that they make. The synth-pop sound has been smudged and drawn out, paired with a slow reverb and choppy beats, like if elevator music had a cool cousin. The music videos of the 80s focusing on capitalism and the decadence of consumerist life are turned on their heads in vaporwave renditions as an ironic critique of modern culture and overspending. The globalization and modern manufactured dollar-store nostalgia seems to be one of the things that makes vaporwave what it is – a counterculture to the obsession over 80’s and 90’s kids and a mockery of consumerism. Vaporwave turns the visuals and sound of capitalism – the dings and beeps of dial-up devices, the flashy neon lights used in advertising, and the tacky songs used in commercials into samples to give a hypnotic and and nostalgic tone. There’s no set limits of what the genre can cover, which is part of the magic – boxing it in, making vaporwave a cookie-cutter sound package would ruin the commentary and identity behind it. Vaporwave is the beautiful aesthetic music smoothie of synth-pop, techno, smooth jazz, and J-Pop. The genre of vaporwave plays upon everything that was promised by consumerism – like that $9 Fiji water was going to solve everything that was going wrong in the world.

Vaporwave reminded me of modern art and the arguments against it – that anyone can create “modern art” – that it’s tasteless and art has now just been reduced to a blank white painting selling for $1000 cowering under the shadow of The Greats™. I never found what was beautiful to other people, but I found the beauty and art in something I didn’t expect. Beauty doesn’t have to be in the pained expression of a painting, or the ways that a marble sculpture can seem almost too real. Vaporwave isn’t obviously considered traditional art, but the beauty is that out of the mess that of consumerism, a counterculture was born out of 80’s samples and upbeat chill synth music. Like a shooting star in our capitalist sky, vaporwave rose to internet fame in the form of memes, and died out just as quickly.



A How-To Guide On Getting A Virtual Girlfriend

I had absolutely no plan going in to this -my original topic was on the self and how it related to virtual reality – and there wasn’t anything even related to virtual reality in Vancouver. I was originally going to do the exact opposite of anything virtual on my day off, and spend a day without any technology whatsoever. The only questions I had going in to it were to find my personal definitions between Being and being. I wanted to find a way to put both ways of being into worlds, as well as to have a good base to look back on whenever I wrote the day off post. I managed to stumble across a Playstation VR booth by accident last weekend and patiently waited in line behind a dude who was passionately talking to his girlfriend about Pokemon. I eventually was able to put the headset and goggles on, but it made me feel like I was wearing the worlds weirdest hat. It was unbalanced and heavy and made me feel a little self conscious, because I had absolutely no idea how weird I looked with weird futuristic robot skii goggles on. I was also handed a pair of the hand tracking Move controllers, but my hands didn’t show up on the screen like they could in other games, which totally sucked.

me bout to slide in to the virtual dms

The demo gave you a ton of games to play from, but I chose Wayward Sky, an adorable and colorful puzzle / point and click game (that was probably meant for kids) set in some sort of mechanical fortress. I felt weird sitting down and playing it, like I was on the worlds worst roller coaster. I had the overwhelming feeling that I should stand up and move, and I felt like I was five seconds away from tipping over on my chair and falling on the floor in front of a small crowd. I don’t really know whether I was Being or being in this virtual world, but I know I was basically being a complete idiot.

During the virtual reality demo, I kept in the back of my mind if I was Being or being. Unless virtual reality becomes way more immersive in the future, it’d be hard to mentally separate yourself from your body and to fully immerse yourself in any world. I was aware that I was in virtual simulation, but I still knew I had a physical body and wasn’t Being in the virtual world either – just in this horrible purgatory between the two where I was fully aware of both and exactly what was happening. If you’re physically in one world but mentally in another, you’re still the same person – your mind and body are still the same, and your soul (if you believe we have one) would be connected to your thought process and your mind would pass to the virtual world. You’d still be able to Be in the virtual world, but you’d not be the same person.



Descartes: A Pretty Chill Dude

If you uploaded your consciousness to a virtual reality server, are you still the same person? Are you still able to Be (or just the regular be) in a world that doesn’t physically exist?

There’s a lot to dissect here, probably. Hypothetically let’s say we’re in 2050 and a fully functional virtual reality is actually a thing. If you have the chance to upload your consciousness to a server to temporarily go into a virtual world, are your mind and body still connected? If you only upload your mind and awareness to some sort of virtual reality are you are you losing a key part of yourself?

The answer to most of those is just “probably”. Your mind and body would still be connected as your mind and thoughts are contained in your body as something like a vessel, but your body in the virtual world you’d be uploaded to along with your mind wouldn’t exist. Personally, the self is fully completed with the mind, soul, and body, with the body being an extension of the mind and soul and the actions they perform. You’d be losing a part of yourself if you’re mentally in a virtual world where your body can’t go, but your soul and mind would still be there. The self is responsible for your own thoughts and actions, and some philosophers have argued that it’s separate from the mind and the body. Artistotle went extreme and said that the self was the core essence of a living being, and an act of the body.

Philosophers like Descartes argued that the mind and the body are separate, and that the brain and the mind are still not the same thing, and identified the mind with consciousness and self-awareness. Since Descartes is literally dead, we can’t really ask him what he thinks about virtual reality. However he did go on that introspective journey where he wanted to find out what could be certain. He ended up doubting that he could have a real body, as it could be an illusion or a trick, which is kinda like virtual reality!

The discussion we had on Friday brought up a couple of other questions and a massive existential headache, but I got input on the difference between being and Being. Before the discussion, I thought that being was a prerequisite for Being, and that you couldn’t be fully immersed and actively living in something without first just physically existing there. Most people came up with the same interesting conclusion – that you couldn’t be in a virtual world, but you could Be. Since you can’t have a real, physical body (obviously having a body on our beautiful earth is 100% objective and up for debate) in a virtual world, you can’t really be and just exist. You’d be way more engaged and actually living your life out in the same virtual world though, so you’d be Being. 






Another Post About Lesbians

Oh my god, it’s another logic post about being gay.

The idea from this originally came from one ex-friend telling me that being a “butch lesbian” was racist, but their argument held up about as well as you think it would. Instead I decided to write on a topic that’s filled with misconceptions – that butch lesbians have the male gaze. If you don’t know what the term male gaze means – it’s not the creepy dude who sits in the corner of subway staring you down for an hour.  The male gaze is the sociocultural phenomenon in media and literature, wherein the world is presented through a typically heterosexual, masculine point of view: presenting women primarily as the objects of male pleasure. If you’re not familiar with inter-community identity terms, here’s a rundown on butch and femme terms.

Butch and Femme are terms used to describe identities and cultural markers in the lesbian community. The terms aren’t to be confused with gender identity – they’re a form of gender expression. Butchness is associated with a masculine role in the lesbian relationship, while Femme is associated with the traditionally feminine role. There’s a surprising amount of politics and discussion around the two, as Second Wave Feminists, as well as some third wave feminists, view butch/femme as replicating heterosexual power dynamics.


Butch identity is equivalent to being male

This argument isn’t truthful – your gender is your gender identity, as stated above, and the butch identity is more a form of gender expression and a cultural marker. You could argue that since butch lesbians attempt to emulate masculinity, that they’re close enough to just copying the male gender role and basically “acting like men”. However, masculinity is a social construct, but is made up of both socially defined and biologically created factors. This means that masculinity was originally derived from what it means to be male and encouraged males to mimic the male gender role of aggressiveness and power over women. Butch is not male, Femme is not female. Butchness isn’t based around power over women like the male gender role is. Butch identity is mostly defined by the butch aesthetic than any particular personality traits.

TLDR; Gender expression, or the way others perceive your gender expression, is not your gender identity.


Men have the male gaze

To understand this premise we have to understand the male gaze. The male gaze is the sociocultural phenomenon in media and literature, wherein the world is presented through a typically heterosexual, masculine point of view: presenting women primarily as the objects of male pleasure.  It is not something you can accuse real life men of having or doing to women in their day to day life . Sexual attraction to women is not equivalent to the male gaze, and is not necessarily objectifying or misogynistic.


Butch lesbians have the male gaze

There’s not really a logical reason as to why butch lesbians would have anything similar to the male gaze – saying otherwise is similar to point one and implying that butch lesbians are men. The theoretical “female gaze” is non-existent in our media and literature – half of the examples you could use are ironic and used for humor.

The conclusion here makes this a valid argument, but it doesn’t make it a truthful one. The conclusion logically follows the premises, and the argument has the right form that makes it valid. However, the first premise isn’t true, and neither is the conclusion.




More like the AllerGAY of the Cave

It’s 2016 – everyone knows Plato is so fake deep, he’s practically an edgy fourteen year old girl with a myspace. What Plato is trying to get across in The Allergory of the Cave is that we’re all poor, shacked prisoners to our own senses and basically – we’re all as dumb as shit. One of the prisoners eventually frees himself, and he’s brave enough to explore the actual world and realize that we’re all mistaken and we should never see the world as it appears. Plato, with his entire head up his ass, makes this dude a metaphor for your average philosopher.

We’ve all been in a cave before. I once went to a cave in Cuba and stuck my hand in the gross cave water – it was so worth it. That’s a physical cave though, and we’re supposed to write about a time where we’ve had the same realization as the freed prisoners in the cave. But instead of finding the real world outside, I found solace in Red Robin, and its bottomless seasoned fries.

I was blind before, wandering around in a bleak, bottomless fries-less world. Like any other fool I had previously thought the world had shown me all its wonders already, and my life was stripped of value, meaning, or fun. Like some of you are right now, I was a prisoner in the cold, hard shackles of limited fries. I would have stayed that way forever, stuck in limited fry purgatory, if one of my friends hadn’t suggested that we go for food at 10pm. Most places, shying away from the demographic of “very sad and hungry teenager girls” had already closed – but Red Robin kept its ruby red gates open. The server welcomed us with open arms and the overwhelming scent of burger grease. I had never felt true love and compassion until that moment.

We sat down and ordered – my friend ordered a burger and we got chicken wings to share. A booklet lay in front of us, slyly advertising “bottomless” fries. Since I’m a millennial, and I believe in my heart that I can accomplish anything, we make a pact to see if these fries are really, truly bottomless. We tell our server of our plans and he laughs, underestimating the power of hungry teenage girls. Five minutes later, he drops a burger and a massive, fresh plate of fries on the table. Five plates and one hour later, we were enlightened. The days of limited fries were behind us, and a shiny, slightly greasy future lay ahead of us.





Local Lesbian Attempts to Find Meaning of Life

My quest to answer life’s deepest philosophical questions starts exactly where it should – Starbucks. Some interactions I have with people there are heartwarming and sweet – but some people are demons. The lack of human decency and compassion is sometimes appalling, like one regular who comes and throws a two dollar coin at me, like some sort of mutual coffee pact is being made between us. The duality of man really shows itself in a Starbucks at 8pm.

I’ve not had many past experiences with philosophy, so starting the class was a surreal experience. Creativity and discussion based learning are two things you don’t see often in your regular classes. One of the first topics we had in class was what our personal idea of philosophy was. Personally, philosophy is the attempt to answer the “why’s” of the world, and to positively change your mindset through enlightenment. To me, philosophy is more like an activity than a study. Philosophy is more like an ongoing search for wisdom and clarity that never really ends and only opens up more questions. To search for wisdom is to seek out experiences and an environment that can cultivate thought and personal growth. The wisdom you’ll obtain throughout your life shows itself in the form of good judgement and the confidence in your own actions. Wisdom is the application of your experiences in your life and the acceptance and understanding into the experience and wisdom other people have.

But there’s no use having all the wisdom in the world if you can’t share it with others! Communication and dissent are two extremely important things that factor into any good philosophical discussion. One of our first discussions in the class was about criticism and differing opinions in philosophy, and the value of dissent. In my opinion, dissent is useful in most discussions, but to a point. On one hand, a different viewpoint can pressure the speaker into thinking outside the box and to improve their own arguments, but it can also derail the conversation completely. Disagreeing for the sake of it (especially in social justice topics) can be incredibly harmful and create an environment where minorities can feel highly unsafe. Is someones personal safety and peace of mind in an previously safe environment worth sacrificing for the sake of being the “devils advocate?”

me when you spout your weird homophobic opinions

me when you say your weird homophobic opinions

Communication on its own is the base of any good discussion, and talking your ideas through with others gives you new ways to voice your opinions. If the person agrees with you, they can expand on original points being made and open up an entirely new discussion. I’m working on trying to improve my own critical thinking skills, and to improve my own personal insight and gain come clarity into my own goals and opinions. I’m looking forward to the personal improvement that will (hopefully) happen in the next couple of months, and hopefully I’ll understand myself and the world around me a little more.