Show cover of Quite Useless

Quite Useless

A podcast about art and its role in our lives. Artist and armchair aesthetic philosopher Greg Beam probes various topics in the arts, asking how art both reflects and shapes our perceptions of the world.


Need To Know
Not knowing can be painful... but knowledge may come at a hefty price.
41:24 9/22/23
Platonic Irony | The Republic, Part IV
What if everything you thought you knew about Plato's Republic... was wrong?
28:00 2/5/21
Another Name for Chaos | The Republic, Part III
An exploration of the art of philosophy, starring Plato, Simone de Beauvoir, Zhuang Zhou, Soren Kierkegaard, Diogenes of Sinope, Audre Lorde, and more! This is the third in a four-part series inspired by Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Scroll through the past episodes to find the first two parts, "Raising the Curtain, Lifting the Veil" and "Madmen." 
41:15 11/10/20
American Myths
Joseph Campbell was a proponent of the power of myth in framing human life. But in America in the 21st Century, what myths do we have to live by? Well... there's always Star Wars...
41:25 8/31/20
Madmen | The Republic, Part II
Antonin Artaud was a self-described 'madman' and persistent failure in the theatre... He was also one of the great artistic geniuses of the 20th Century.
38:28 11/26/19
Raising the Curtain, Lifting the Veil | The Republic, Part I
Bertolt Brecht was the force behind some of the most popular and influential theater of the 20th Century. But he didn't make plays to entertain. He made them to wake people up to the insanity around them. This episode delves into Brecht's background and work, his philosophy and his legacy... and leads to some surprising places. This is the first in a sequence inspired by the Allegory of the Cave, from Plato's Republic.
48:47 9/23/19
Angels & Demons
What lies at the intersection of art and commerce? Is it possible for these two categories of human endeavor to get along, or are they like cats and dogs, fated to engage in an endless struggle for dominance? (Okay, not really like cats and dogs, but you get the idea...) This episode features insights from Alan Watts, Tom Waits, Samuel Johnson, David Foster Wallace, and someone's psychic grandmother (seriously).
42:17 3/10/19
The Use of the Useless
For the first episode of season two, I examine what the experience of creating and contemplating art does for us at the deepest level. A dip into the philosophy of art with some help from Tao master Zhuangzi, Thomas Merton, Simon Armitage, Duke Ellington, and Haruki Marukami.
29:02 2/9/19
PREVIEW - The Use of the Useless
Season 2 of Quite Useless is on its way! Here's a sneak peek at the first episode, in which I take a few steps in the direction of a general theory of art (and arts education), with reference to Zhuangzi, Thomas Merton, Simon Armitage, Duke Ellington, and Haruki Murakami.
02:08 2/5/19
Screenwriter Charlie Kaufmann couldn't figure out how to tell the story he was trying to tell... until he figured out how to frame it. A story about adaptations (framed as a story about frames), with reference to Stephen Belber, Richard Linklater, Stephen King, Stanley Kubrick, and some wild fan theories (including my own).
32:20 12/18/17
The Rambo Effect | Heroes Part II
First Blood, the first installment in the iconic Rambo franchise, was released 35 years ago this fall. In this episode, I take a look at how the franchise has both reflected and influenced American culture--and question both the ethical and epistemic implications of the films' success. This is the second part of a double feature on action movies and American culture (and one piece of a half-season mini-arc concerning the ethics of adaptation). It's also the third episode in a row to mention Ronald Reagan!
40:58 11/15/17
What Dies Hardest | Heroes Part I
Eric Poulin, host of the political podcast The People's Soapbox, takes a look at the classic 1988 action movie Die Hard, asking what its development and continued popularity tell us American cultural--both then and now. Also, Eric and I discover something shady as we're preparing the episode to air... This is the first part of a double feature on action movies and American culture (and one piece of a half-season mini-arc concerning the ethics of adaptation).
33:04 11/15/17
What do Anton Chekhov, Dr. Seuss, and Bruce Springsteen have in common (aside from similar haircuts)? Their work has been misunderstood and misconstrued--whether they knew it or not. Episode two kicks off a four-episode mini-arc about the ethics and ironies of interpretation and adaptation. Fair warning: after hearing this episode, you might never view The Seagull, Antonin Scalia, or Green Eggs and Ham the same again.
35:52 10/25/17
Long Arcs
For our first episode, we zoom out to look at the long arcs of artistic expression. Bring to mind a painting. Then bring to mind a piece of instrumental music. Chances are, the painting depicts something in the world, while the musical piece doesn't. Why is that? And what might past developments in art and music tell us about where they're headed in the future?
42:44 10/4/17
Long Arcs Bonus Material
An extended cut of my interview with Melissa Warak. Professor Warak shares a lot of cool information and insight about the history of art and music, along with descriptions contemporary sound artists who are up to some wild projects. We also gesture at some topics I'll be taking up later in the season.
21:27 10/4/17
Episode Two Preview
When it comes to art, everything is a matter of interpretation--and misinterpretations come with the territory. But it's a question of taste and temperament how these misinterpretations are dealt with... This snippet gives a taste of what's to come in the first season of Quite Useless, a new podcast about art and its role in our lives.
06:06 8/2/17