Archive for August, 2015

Diary of a 21st Century Philosopher

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

The Unemployed Philosophers Guild’s Ivory Tower is situated far away from the world of academia, but every once in a while we like to check in with our fellow philosophers who have chosen to spend a life in the philosophical trenches.

Today’s blog post is by a special guest to the PhLog, a University student in the UK who is wrestling with life as a 21st century philosopher. We’ll be checking in with her from time to time as she negotiates being a thinking person in a non-thinking world.

So welcome special guest Jodie Russell with the first in a new series: Diary of a 21st Century Philosopher.

Diary of a 21st Century Philosopher: Problems With My Private Life

A lecturer of mine once told a short story about a philosopher on a blind date that went something like this:

Date: “Oh, you’re a philosopher! So, tell me, what am I thinking?”

Philosopher: “Clearly not a lot.”

Philosophers are not wizards or psychics (unfortunately) so the dating game can be hard for us, especially when you spend most of your time with people that are very, very dead. Living people don’t seem to find it seductive when you can quote Descartes’ ‘I think therefore I am’ in Latin (which I have tried on a couple of boys and they remained unimpressed). Therefore, most of us are left to our books for companionship.

As a result, I have developed an academic crush on David Hume and his gorgeous, velvety turban, defending my feelings with “He has a sexy mind.” Surely I can’t be alone in finding highly intelligent men, who just happen to be dead, attractive? There is a ‘star-crossed love’ scenario in these cases which is enticing, especially for my economist friend who is hoping to work within the capitalist machine itself but is starry-eyed for Karl Marx.

There are huge benefits to dating someone who’s dead. For one, you can read them on the bus, in the shower, on the toilet (if you so wish), wearing your pyjamas, a wedding dress or even just a pair of socks. You can also read as many dead philosophers as you’d like; there’s no monogamy when it comes to involvement with dead philosophers and, besides, nobody’s alive to accuse you of being unfaithful. And with so many philosophy books available for free on the internet, I can get my hands on as many dead philosophers as I’d like.

The down side is that thousands of others before you have pawed them before, and continue to do so. The thought of David whispering those immortal words “reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions” to any other philosopher is enough to make my blood boil. There are times when I feel like he isn’t listening to me. Our relationship is one-sided. I’m starting to have doubts for any future. Because we’ve been close for so long, it seems we have this special connection. But now I’m starting to this is just out of habit.

Even the deceased can break your heart. My only solution to finding love is to write a good book and hope that, in the future, several hundred geeky philosophers will fall in love with me.

Jodie Russell is a Philosophy student at the University of Exeter and may or may not be the illegitimate descendant of Bertrand Russell. Her passion for the subject blossomed early in school when she fell “head-over-heels” for David Hume.

Summer Romance: Signature Drink #3

Monday, August 17th, 2015

This summer, the UPG PhLog celebrates the Romantic Era with four signature drinks (loosely) inspired by the Romantic.

Our Formulation Salon:
Mistress of Ceremonies – Miriam Leuchter
Celebrated Cognac Cognoscente – Therese McNally
Proponent of Unsettled Weather – Heather Quist
UPG Blog Bon Vivants – Jay and Meg

This week’s drink, devised by opera aficionado Therese McNally, is inspired by Verdi’s great opera La Traviata. People tend to think the Romantic Era lasted far longer than it actually did, and La Traviata wouldn’t have been possible without the Romantic influence. Therefore, we decided to include this drink even though Verdi technically wrote La Traviata well after the Romantic Era ended.

This decadent beverage evokes the high-class culture of fin de siècle Paris, and involves champagne to boot!

We present our third Romantic Era-inspired cocktail:

Death in Paris


1 part quinine liqueur
3 parts Armagnac


For the quinine liqueur, we found a French wine-based aperitif, called Bonal Gentiane Quina. This was an interesting sweet/herbal drink and would be a lovely thing to drink by itself. Though we were tempted to scrap the whole mixing process, we summoned our commitment to romantic originality and soldiered on! (Confession: One of us went back for a glass of quinine liqueur at the end of the evening.)

Pour the quinine liqueur and the Armagnac in a cocktail shaker over ice and shake.

Pour into a champagne glass.


Top with champagne.


Note: we substituted a sparkling wine from the same region as the Armagnac for the champagne. You can follow your preference on this.

Garnish with a raspberry.


The acidic quality of champagne softens the richness of the Armagnac and blends well with the herbal/sweet quinine aperitif to make a satisfying, well-rounded beverage.

And the verdict?

“It’s freakin’ Traviata.” – Therese

Summer Romance: The Sorrows of Young Werther

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

The Romantic Era celebrated youth culture in a new way. It was an age of poetry, love songs, and sad tormented tales of woe. The kind of thing that stokes passionate emotions among young people.

It arguably started with the French Revolution. The French Revolution was a young person’s revolution, and its spirit spread across the continent. And, as in revolution, sometimes unleashing passionate emotions can be dangerous.

At the dawn of the Romantic Era, 24-year-old Johann Wolfgang von Goethe rose to fame virtually overnight with his novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. This tale of unrequited love, which drives the young protagonist to suicide, struck a chord among the youth of Europe and the book became a best seller, before there were such things as best sellers. Napoleon Bonaparte only brought three books with him on his conquest of Egypt, and The Sorrows of Young Werther was one of them.

Werthermania was everywhere. Young men across Europe started dressing in blue jackets and yellow pants to emulate Goethe’s young hero. People wrote sequels and proto forms of fan fiction to keep the story going. People manufactured and sold Werther figurines, prints of scenes from the book, and even “Eau de Werther” cologne.

Vor neutralem Hintergrund links eine Dame in einem Kleid und mit Hut, von rechts herantretend mit überkreuzten Füßen und die rechte Hand zum Gruß erhoben ein Herr, den abgenommenen Zylinder in der Linken. Bezeichnet: Unter der Darstellung mittig "Deutsche Tracht der Werther-Zeit", daneben handschriftlich "Ende 18. Jhdt." Erschienen in: Münchener Bilderbogen Nr. 401. Zur Geschichte der Costüme. Zehnter Bogen. Letztes Drittel des 18. Jahrhunderts.

“German costume of the Werther-Era,” featuring the latest fashions inspired by Goethe’s novel.
Published in Münchener Bilderbogen Nr. 401. Zur Geschichte der Costüme. Late 18th century.


Tea set featuring scenes from “The Sorrow of Young Werther” via the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The darkest ramification of the book’s success however, went far beyond normal Romantic Era fame. The Sorrows of Young Werther prompted some of the earliest known examples of copycat suicides. At least one person killed herself with the book in her pocket, but some (albeit somewhat unreliable) sources tally the number of suicides as high as 2,000. Young love-torn youths across Europe, prompted by Werther’s example, came to the conclusion that it was meaningless to continue on and ended their lives.

A semi-autobiographical account of his own experience with unrequited love (minus the suicide), Goethe’s book would haunt the author for the rest of his life. Even late in life when he was celebrated as one of the world’s greatest cultural figures, Goethe couldn’t shake his association with this work of juvenilia. He regretted airing his own love affair in the novel, and he claimed to be haunted by the vengeful ghost of young Werther.

Summer Romance: Signature Drink #2

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

We are celebrating the Romantic Era on the PhLog this summer by concocting four signature drinks (loosely) inspired by the Romantic.

The Formulation Salon consisted of mistress of ceremonies Miriam Leuchter, celebrated cognac cognoscente Therese McNally, proponent of unsettled weather Heather Quist, and UPG’s own blog bon vivants, Jay and Meg.

The first drink we posted about was inspired by a German artistic movement, and this next drink was inspired by an individual piece of art — specifically, a song from Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise.

Winterreise is a musical tale of heartbreak and suffering that exhibits all of the Romantic hallmarks: intense emotion, reflections on nature, illustrative use of music, and a harkening back to an earlier, simpler time which was more comfortable with wretchedness.

When you’re stranded in a wasteland of wretchedness, reach for your canteen and quench your thirst — and your sorrows — with our latest signature drink:

Gefrorne Tränen (“Frozen Tears”)


20 oz frozen aloe vera drink
½ cucumber (deseeded)
6 oz gin
juice of half a lime
dash celery bitters
margarita salt
wasabi peas


This is an odd drink, perhaps our most peculiar since the classic Anglo-Saxon the Beach. Miriam wanted something as salty as the hot tears of the Winterreise protagonist, but also wanted something refreshing. The aloe drink certainly gives it a nice viscous base. Just make sure to allow the proper amount of time to freeze it. If it’s not fully frozen the drink will be as watery as melted snow.


Put the frozen aloe into a blender.


Add the cucumber. Important: make sure it has been seeded. You can also pre-puree your cucumber. It just depends on how chunky you want your beverage (we recommend pre-pureeing it). Then add the juice from ½ lime, followed by 6 oz. gin.



Run the blender until frothy. Don’t overblend or the aloe will melt.


Rim a glass with margarita salt and pour from the blender.


Add a dash of celery bitters and garnish with three wasabi peas.


Note: Wasabi could be an interesting ingredient to include in the drink itself. Feel free to experiment.

This drink was surprisingly refreshing and had a nice mild taste augmented by the salt and wasabi peas.


“Wasabi sounds like sob” – Therese

“I want to put it on a burn.” – Miriam