Philosophy


4
Dec 18

Burn the Stage: Homework for the Fam

If you follow me on Twitter, you may know that I already watched the BTS film Burn the Stage on the day it opened.  But I read a review that said, as a non-fan, it felt like a film made for existing fans instead of being a good introduction for newcomers, so this post is for my mom and sister who are going to go see it with me later this week.  It will be my second viewing, but their first.  I figured I’d write a few quick FAQs and then include some videos to watch so they can skim quickly to get up to speed.

Ladies, this post is your homework before the movie so you will hopefully enjoy it more!

The Quick FAQ

Q: What does BTS mean?

BTS stands for their name in Korean – 방탄소년단 – in English, Bangtan Sonyeondan, which translates to “bulletproof boyscouts”.  You can watch the first minute or so of this video to get the pronunciation down.

Q: What does “bulletproof boyscouts” mean?

I don’t want to re-write the whole BTS Wikipedia page, but from what I’ve gathered, the idea when they formed was to create a group that would be a “shield” for young people from the “bullets” (criticisms) of the older generation.  They later said it also can mean “Beyond the Scene” in English, but most fans I know hate that anglicized name.

All things considered, they do a pretty good job of living up to the boyscouts image, at least publicly.

Q: Why are BTS fans called ARMY?

ARMY stands for Adorable Representative MC for Youth.  The band’s leader has said to think of it as the ARMY of young people behind them.  The most important thing to know is that the plural of ARMY is ARMYs (no apostrophe!), and it is (maybe?) the largest fandom in the world.  Certainly the largest active fandom on social media, and truly global in scope.

Q: What is Burn the Stage about?

Burn the Stage is a documentary film of behind the scenes footage from their 2017 Wings global tour, interspersed with some clips and footage from various TV programs and award shows they’ve been on.  2017 was arguably the year they truly scaled to a global level, and they broke a lot of records, so the film gives you a look at what it was really like to be in that intense spotlight.

Q: Who are the Members?

There’s 7 of them, and they have stage names in addition to their Korean names, and that can be a little confusing at first.  Also, don’t try to learn who they are by their hair color, because they change that every other day and twice on Sundays.

Why to Love BTS

The obvious answer is their music.  I’ve listed some of their hit songs below so you can skim through those, but the maybe less obvious reason is because of their ethos.  

As the members have matured, and their global influence has increased, they’ve taken on the role of being unofficial ambassadors for Korea, and official ambassadors for UNICEF’s campaign to #ENDVIOLENCE.  They make charitable donations, they speak out about issues that are absolutely taboo in Korea like mental health, depression, LGBTQ issues, and more.  They aren’t saints, and they’ve done dumb stuff in the past, but generally speaking, they are a bunch of young guys trying to learn how to live meaningful, good lives while making good music.  What’s not to love?

And maybe more importantly to me, to be a member of ARMY means embracing BTS -AND- their global fandom.  It’s the opposite of Trump’s horrible nationalism to engage in dialogue with fans from every continent and every language and every ethnicity about a shared love of “our boys”.  It’s still hard to describe how awesome it is to be a part of a TRULY diverse audience of thousands of people and feel 100% welcomed.

The Music

BTS is a boy band from Korea, so I guess you could classify them with the generic K-pop label, but I think they defy genre labels because musically they are all over the map.  They have a lot of hit songs that are 100% pure pop, but their more recent albums are full of non-pop sounding stuff.

You don’t have to listen to/watch all these videos, just skim through and listen to the ones that sound interesting.

I couldn’t figure out how else to do this other than to go chronologically through their biggest hits, but if you want to skip ahead, I have a section of my favorites, even if they aren’t as popular.

Also, most of their music is in Korean, with some English phrases, so I suggest that you turn on Closed Captions on YouTube and set to English for mostly reasonable translations. If it isn’t captioned in English, don’t bother with the auto-caption translation, it’s terrible.

Early Stuff

Their first few albums could be summed up as “school sucks” and “boy-loves-girl” type stuff, although to be fair, they were pretty young (15-22 yrs old I think). And the Korean school system is apparently WAY intense compared to American schools.  I guess it’s common for parents to send their kids to cram schools after regular school, so kids might be in school until 8 or 9PM or something crazy like that.  Here are a few representative songs.

NO is about the rigid educational system that makes kids like robots cramming information in their brains but having no joy and no dreams in their childhood.

War of Hormone makes me laugh, it could only be written by lusty teen-age boys. They’ve since apologized for not being more sensitive to women in some of their earlier songs. They’re in their mid- to late- 20s now, so they’ve grown up a lot since then, but I include it anyway as an example of an early work.

Dope came a couple years later, and talks about how they are busting their ass working in the studio and dance practice room while all their friends are out clubbing and having fun. This is the second BTS song I came across and Jimin’s dancing (the one with red hair in this video) is what made me Google them to find out who the heck they were. I love the choreography in this one.

 

The Songs that Started to Make Them Famous

They started to gain real traction in 2016-17. Blood, Sweat, & Tears is pure art, IMO.  It’s full of visual literary references about temptation, overindulgence, and evil.

Spring Day is one of my favorites and I think one of their most beloved songs the world over, it’s about missing someone you love dearly and waiting for that spring day when you’ll be together again. I’ve read that it was written after the South Korean Sewol Ferry tragedy in 2014, where over 300 people died when the ferry sank, many of them students.  It’s a sad story.  🙁

Save Me is the first BTS song I heard that hooked me.  I listened to it on repeat for like a week or something.

The Big Radio Hits

Their biggest hits are mostly EDM (electronic dance music, madre), these are songs you might even hear on American radio stations.

First up is Mic Drop, inspired by President Obama’s famous mic drop.  It’s a response to their “haters” who said they sucked and would never make it big.

Fire is straight up club music to jump up and down and dance to.  I like it for house cleaning music.

Next up is DNA, a pure pop dance song about that trippy crazy magical phase of being in love.  It’s from the Love Yourself: Her album, which is part of a three-part cycle of albums, sort of like a rock opera.  Love Yourself: Her is part 1, the falling in love/being in love part of the story.

Fake Love is next, it’s from the second album in the cycle, Love Yourself: Tear, which is the falling out of love/breaking up/realizing love isn’t like the fairytale part of the story.

And last is Idol, from the third album in the cycle, Love Yourself: Answer, which has the theme of knowing yourself/you must learn to love yourself before you can love anyone else.  The video is crazy, Mother probably won’t like it visually because it’s too meme-like, but musically it’s very interesting because it has a lot of traditional Korean elements and borrows some African rhythms too.

 

My Other Favorites

Baepsae is one of their more political songs (so of course I like it) criticizing the wealthy older generation who don’t appreciate how hard it is to make it as a young person these days. Baepsae translates to “crow tit” in English, a small bird. It’s a reference in Korean that’s sort of the opposite of being born with a silver spoon. So a baepsae might be someone born poor trying too hard to make it. Yeah, something like that.

So far I’ve only included official music videos, but I love this video of their dance practice, because the choreography is fun and they get a little silly at the end. 🙂

Lie is one of my favorite solos.  This is a fan-made video showing a split screen of Jimin dancing to his solo song, on the left is a performance from a concert, and on the right is filming the short film for the song’s official release.  The music, the singing, and the dancing are all just beautiful, and Jimin is my favorite.

It doesn’t have captions, but this is the translation of the chorus, for reference:

Caught in a lie
Find me when I was pure
I can’t be free from this lie
Give me back my smile
Caught in a lie
Pull me from this hell
I can’t be free from this pain
Save me, I am being punished

(Also at times the screen goes black, stay with it..)

I have a bunch more favorite songs, but I’ve run out of time to work on this post so I’m just gonna post it.  No worries if you don’t have time to watch/read the whole thing, but hopefully it helps a little so you can enjoy the documentary more!

Looking forward to our movie night, thanks for going with me!  xoxoxo


26
Apr 16

Super Name: Fleep

An Oldie but a Goodie – Jane McGonigal

I had occasion this evening to revisit Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk from 2010, and it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

Okay, so these are four superpowers that add up to one thing: Gamers are super-empowered hopeful individuals. These are people who believe that they are individually capable of changing the world. And the only problem is, they believe that they are capable of changing virtual worlds and not the real world.That’s the problem that I’m trying to solve.
– Jane McGonigal

 

I wrote about my experience playing the Superstruct game back then (and posted a fun video dispatch), and reading that post led me to dig up the profile I created on the Superstruct site, where I imagined my (avatar) self in 2019:

Super Name: Fleep

Profile Cohabitation
I and the gatos live in a small farm house on the outskirts of town. We don’t need much space, but have a large garden and work to contribute our share to the local food economy.

Profile Communities
I founded the Chilbo Community in 2006 and remain a life-long member, in addition to my local community in terra. I’m also a member of the Screaming 3D Bootstrappers Superstruct, the SLED Community, the Velks, and many other professional associations related to higher education and the grid.

Profile Skills
Human network resource management, education and community building in the metaverse, connectivism, and I grow a mean tomato.

Profile Profession
I am the founder of Chilbo and work most days either in the Chilbo Town Hall or elsewhere in the Metaverse. I have offices and projects scattered all over the grid and pop in to wherever I’m needed when I’m needed. I also serve on the Board of Trustees for GlobalGrid University, one of the original virtual-land-grant research universities created by the United Nations in 2012. GGU serves an international learning network of over 200 million learners through GGU Nodes of Excellence on the grid.

Profile Location
The Chilbo Community is a global village in the Metaverse, made up of artists, musicians, writers, teachers, students, creative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and those who are interested in contributing to the public good.

Profile Experience
As the Chilbo Community reached its second anniversary in 2008, and I spent more time traveling and learning in terra and on the grid, I began to better understand the rapid speed with which the Metaverse was developing. I was fortunate to stumble into an emergent network of highly motivated and brilliant nodes all over the globe and it quite literally transformed my life. In the ensuing decade, our network has grown tremendously, as has our capacity to collaborate and locate the resources we need as we need them. We continue to work to teach others these important skills even as we make our own contributions to projects and endeavors that inspire us.

Profiles Ideals
Increasing access to education, research, knowledge, and learning throughout the grid and finding ecologically sound and sustainable ways to live.

Super Name
Fleep

Super Id
6428

History

Member for
5 years 20 weeks


5
Feb 14

Thinking About Thinking: On Reason, Dogma, Technology Amplifying Our Choices, & the Power of Our Personal Narratives

No great insights from me, I’m afraid, just sharing some inputs, somewhat sparked by the Creation Debate last night.  All the bolded text is emphasis added by me.

Jonathan Haidt, on the known flaws in human reasoning:

Reason is indeed crucial for good public policy and a good society. But isn’t the most reasonable approach one that takes seriously the known flaws of human reasoning and tries to work around them? Individuals can’t be trusted to reason well when passions come into play, yet good reasoning can sometimes emerge from groups. This is why science works so well. Scientists suffer from the confirmation bias like everybody else, but the genius of science as an institution is that it incentivizes scientists to disconfirm each others’ ideas, and it creates a community within which a reasoned consensus eventually emerges.

I agree with Harris that the historical shift away from revealed religion as the basis of society and toward democracy, individual rights, reason, and science as foundations of moral and political authority has been overwhelmingly good for people in Western societies. I am not anti-reason. I am also not anti-religion. I am opposed to dogmatism. I am skeptical of each person’s individual powers of reasoning, and I’m even more skeptical of the reasoning of groups of activists, hyper-partisans, and other righteous reformers who would remake society according to their own reasoned (or revealed) vision.

I prefer to think about how cultural evolution has made our society more rational by indirect means. Social institutions (such as science, democracy, markets, and universities) evolve in ways that we often don’t understand, yet they can end up fostering better reasoning and better lives as an emergent property of a complex society.

Simon Critchley on The Dangers of Certainty: A Lesson From Auschwitz:

There is no God’s eye view, Dr. Bronowski insisted, and the people who claim that there is and that they possess it are not just wrong, they are morally pernicious. Errors are inextricably bound up with pursuit of human knowledge, which requires not just mathematical calculation but insight, interpretation and a personal act of judgment for which we are responsible. The emphasis on the moral responsibility of knowledge was essential for all of Dr. Bronowski’s work. The acquisition of knowledge entails a responsibility for the integrity of what we are as ethical creatures.

The play of tolerance opposes the principle of monstrous certainty that is endemic to fascism and, sadly, not just fascism but all the various faces of fundamentalism. When we think we have certainty, when we aspire to the knowledge of the gods, then Auschwitz can happen and can repeat itself.

Kevin Kelley about his embrace of “The Technium” from The Edge, and how technology is giving us new choices and amplifying the choices we make (which I’ve written about in an earlier post, too):

One way to think about this is if you imagine the very first tool made, say, a stone hammer. That stone hammer could be used to kill somebody, or it could be used to make a structure, but before that stone hammer became a tool, that possibility of making that choice did not exist. Technology is continually giving us ways to do harm and to do well; it’s amplifying both. It’s amplifying our power to do well and our power to do harm, but the fact that we also have a new choice each time is a new good. That, in itself, is an unalloyed good—the fact that we have another choice and that additional choice tips that balance in one direction towards a net good. So you have the power to do evil expanded. You have the power to do good expanded. You think that’s a wash. In fact, we now have a choice that we did not have before, and that tips it very, very slightly in the category of the sum of good.

Philippa Perry (“How to Stay Sane“) via Maria Popova at Brain Pickings, on the narratives we tell ourselves:

Our stories give shape to our inchoate, disparate, fleeting impressions of everyday life. They bring together the past and the future into the present to provide us with structures for working towards our goals.

[…]

Be careful which stories you expose yourself to.

[…]

The meanings you find, and the stories you hear, will have an impact on how optimistic you are: it’s how we evolved. … If you do not know how to draw positive meaning from what happens in life, the neural pathways you need to appreciate good news will never fire up.

[…]

You may find that you have been telling yourself that practicing optimism is a risk, as though, somehow, a positive attitude will invite disaster and so if you practice optimism it may increase your feelings of vulnerability. The trick is to increase your tolerance for vulnerable feelings, rather than avoid them altogether.

[…]

Optimism does not mean continual happiness, glazed eyes and a fixed grin. When I talk about the desirability of optimism I do not mean that we should delude ourselves about reality. But practicing optimism does mean focusing more on the positive fall-out of an event than on the negative.

[…]

We all like to think we keep an open mind and can change our opinions in the light of new evidence, but most of us seem to be geared to making up our minds very quickly. Then we process further evidence not with an open mind but with a filter, only acknowledging the evidence that backs up our original impression. It is too easy for us to fall into the rap of believing that being right is more important than being open to what might be.

If we practice detachment from our thoughts we learn to observe them as though we are taking a bird’s eye view of our own thinking. When we do this, we might find that our thinking belongs to an older, and different, story to the one we are now living.

[…]

We need to look at the repetitions in the stories we tell ourselves [and] at the process of the stories rather than merely their surface content. Then we can begin to experiment with changing the filter through which we look at the world, start to edit the story and thus regain flexibility where we have been getting stuck.

I would credit all the folks in my Twitter stream who shared these links if I hadn’t lost track with all the open tabs, but if you’re one of them, thanks for the food for thought.