Weird Studies Podcast

Weird Studies

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Best Episodes of Weird Studies

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Episode 46: Thomas Ligotti's Angel
In his short story "Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel," contemporary horror author Thomas Ligotti contrasts the chaotic monstrosity of dreams with the cold, indifferent, and no less monstrous purity of angels. It is the story of a boy whose vivid dream life is sapping his vital force, and who resorts to esoteric measures to rectify the situation. In this episode, Phil and JF discuss the beauty and horror of dreams, the metaphysical signifiance of angels and demons, and the potential dangers of seeking the peace of absolute "purity" in the wondrous flux of lived experience. REFERENCES Thomas Ligotti, "Mrs. Rinaldi's Angel" (read by Jon Padgett) Roger Scruton, The Face of God Thomas Ligotti, Songs of a Dead Dreamer Thomas Ligotti, "The Last Feast of Harlequin" in Grimscribe: His Lives and Works Robert Aickman, English author H. P. Lovecraft, American author H. R. Giger, Swiss artist Jean Giraud a.k.a. Moebius, French comic book artist Donald Barthelme, American author Pierre Soulages, French artist Bruno Schulz, Polish author Thomas Bernhard, Austrian author Edgar Allan Poe, American author J. F. Martel, "The Beautiful Madness: Primacy of Wonder in the Works of Thomas Ligotti" (Forthcoming in James Curcio (ed.), Masks: Bowie and the Artists of Artifice from Intellect Books) Algernon Blackwood, "The Wendigo" Thomas Ligotti, "The Dark Beauty of Unheard of Horrors" in The Thomas Ligotti Reader: Essays and Explorations Dogen Zenji, Zen master Manichaeism Spencer Brown, The Laws of Form Ramsey Dukes, Words Made Flesh: Information In Formation Deleuze, Essays Critical and Clinical Thomas Ligotti, "Purity," in Teatro Grottesco James Joyce, Ulysses Advaita Vedanta Joshua Ramey, The Hermetic Deleuze: Philosophy and Spiritual Ordeal Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld P. J. O’Rourke, political satirist
Episode 50: Demogorgon: On 'Stranger Things'
The Duffer Brothers' hit series Stranger Things is many things: an exemplary piece of entertainment in the summer blockbuster mold, a fresh take on the "kids on bikes" subgenre of science fiction, a loving pastiche of 1980s Hollywood cinema. And as Phil and JF attempt to show in this episode, Stranger Things is also a deep investigation into the metaphysical assumptions of our times, and a bold statement on the ontology of the analog real. This, at least, was the thesis of JF's three-part essay "Reality is Analog: Philosophizing with Stranger Things," which appeared on Metapsychosis after the first season dropped in 2016. Here, Phil and JF revisit that essay in order to expand on its arguments and discuss how it hoilds up in light of the series continued unfolding. The conversation touches on Apple's famous 1984 ad for the first Macintosh, the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the otherworldliness of airports, the ensorcelments of consumerism, and much more. REFERENCES Stranger Things "Reality is Analog: Philosophizing with Stranger Things" available at Metapsychosis or in ebook format Samuel Delaney, Dhalgren 1984 Apple commercial for Macintosh Wild Wild Country, Netflix documentary series Tom Frank, “Why Johnny Can’t Dissent” Phil Ford, Dig: Sound and Music in Hip Culture Arcade Fire, “We Used to Wait” William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody William James, A Pluralistic Universe Marc Augé, Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity Weird Studies, episode 2: Garmonbozia Homer, Odyssey Matt Cardin, Dark Awakenings The Wachowskis, The Matrix Jonathan Haight and Greg Lukianoff, The Coddling of the American Mind
Episode 30: On Stanley Kubrick's 'Eyes Wide Shut'
No dream is ever just a dream. Or so Tom Cruises tells Nicole Kidman at the end of Eyes Wide Shut. In this episode, Phil and JF expound some of the key themes of Kubrick's film, a masterpiece of cinematic chamber music that demonstrates, with painstaking attention to detail, Zen Master Dōgen's utterance that when one side of the world is illuminated, the other side is dark. Treading a winding path between wakefulness and dream, love and sex, life and art, your paranoid hosts make boldly for that secret spot where the rainbow ends, and the masks come off. REFERENCES Arthur Schnitzler, Dream Story (Traumnovelle) -- Source of the EWS screenplay, sadly overlooked in the episode but well worth a read. Frederic Raphael, Eyes Wide Open: A Memoir of Stanley Kubrick Bathysphere  Frank L. Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz David Icke's "reptilian" theory of the British Royal Family  Thomas A. Nelson, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist's Maze Screenshot of newspaper article from Eyes Wide Shut Rodney Ascher, Room 237 James Hillman, Pan and the Nightmare  Gustave Moreau, L'Apparition Mario Praz, The Romantic Agony William S. Burroughs, “On Coincidence,” in The Adding Machine J.F. Martel, "The Kubrick Gaze"
Episode 12: The Dark Eye: On the Films of Rodney Ascher
American filmmaker Rodney Ascher is a master of the weird documentary. Whether he be exploring wild interpretations of a classic horror film in Room 237, bracketing the phenomenon of sleep paralysis in The Nightmare, studying the uncanny power of the moving image in "Primal Screen," or considering the sinister power of a kitschy logo in "The S from Hell," Ascher confronts his viewers with realities that resist final explanations and facile reduction. In this episode, Phil and JF follow Ascher's films into the living labyrinth of a strange universe that isn't just unknown, but radically unknowable. REFERENCES American filmmaker Rodney Ascher, director of "The S from Hell", Room 237, The Nightmare, and "Primal Screen" James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld The Duffer Brothers (directors), Stranger Things (web TV series) Alan Landsburg (creator), In Search Of... with Leonard Nimoy (American TV series) Errol Morris (director), The Thin Blue Line Ann and Jeff Vandermeer (editors), The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories British speculative writer Michael Moorcock Lord Dunsany, The Gods of Pegana Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles Stanley Kubrick (writer-director), The Shining Richard Attenborough (director), Magic Sandor Stern (writer-director), Pin Freud, "The Uncanny" Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle David Lynch (writer-director), Lost Highway French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan Duncan Barford, Occult Experiments in the Home: Personal Explorations of Magick and the Paranormal JF Martel, "Ramble on the Real" Phil Ford, "Birth of the Weird" American astronomer Carl Sagan Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity René Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy
Episode 13: The Obscure: On the Philosophy of Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was one of the great pre-Socratic thinkers. Called the Obscure and the Weeping Philosopher, he left behind a collection of fragments so mysterious and pregnant with meaning that they continue to puzzle scholars to this day. In this episode, Phil and JF use a random number generator to select a number of fragments and speculate about their content. By the end, they will also have disclosed the bizarre contents of JF's tenth-grade "hippie bag," outed Oscar Wilde as a Zen Buddhist, and taken a walking tour of a city that exists only in Phil's dreams. REFERENCES Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy? Northrop Frye, The Great Code Northrop Frye, Words with Power I Ching: The Book of Changes Oxford World Classics, The First Philosophers: The Presocratics and Sophists Wikisource page for Heraclitus James Hillman, The Dream and the Underworld Dogen Zenji, Genjokoan Mark Johnson, The Meaning of the Body Gilles Deleuze on Spinoza Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Grey Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols Neil Gaiman, Seasons of Mist (the fourth arc of the Sandman series) Deleuze on Dreams
Episode 17: Does 'Consciousness' Exist? - Part One
In this first part of their discussion of William James' classic essay in radical empiricism, "Does 'Consciousness' Exist?", Phil and JF talk about the various ways we use the slippery C-word in contemporary culture. The episode touches on the political charge of the concept of consciousness, the unholy marriage of materialism and idealism ("Kant is the ultimate hipster"), the role of consciousness in the workings of the weird -- basically, anything but the essay in question. That will come in part two. Header image by Miguel Bolacha, Wikimedia Commons REFERENCES William James, "Does 'Consciousness' Exist?" Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained Daniel Pinchbeck, author and founder of Reality Sandwich Phil Ford, Dig: Sound and Music in Hip Culture Scott Saul, Freedom Is, Freedom Ain't: Jazz and the Making of the Sixties Quentin Meillassoux, After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency Matt Cardin - author and editor, creator of The Teeming Brain
Episode 16: On Dogen Zenji's 'Genjokoan'
JF and Phil tackle Genjokoan, a profound and puzzling work of philosophy by Dogen Zenji. In it, the 13th-century Zen master ponders the question, "If everything is already enlightened, why practice Zen?" As a lapsed Zen practitioner ("a shit buddhist") with many hours of meditation under his belt, Phil draws on personal experience to dig into Dogen's strange and startling answers, while JF speaks from his perspective as a "decadent hedonist." "When one side is illumined," says Dogen, "the other is dark." For proof of this utterance, you could do worse than listen to this episode of Weird Studies. REFERENCES Dogen Zenji, Genjokoan Shohaku Okumura and the Sanshin Zen Community in Bloomington, Indiana Peter Sloterdijk, You Must Change Your Life Weird Studies, Episode 8: "On Graham Harman's 'The Third Table'" Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement Image Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, In Praise of Shadows Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling Joris-Karl Huysmans, À Rebours (Against Nature) Chogyam Trungpa, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
Episode 15: On Tarkovsky's 'Stalker' - Part Two
In this second of a two-part conversation on Andrei Tarkovsky's 1979 film Stalker, Phil and JF explore the film's prophetic dimension, relating it to Samuel R. Delany's classic science-fiction novel Dhalgren, the cultural revolution of the 1960s, the affordances of despair, the spookiness of color, the transformation of noise into music, and the Chernobyl disaster. They even come up with a title for a novel Robert Ludlum never wrote but should have written: The Criterion Rendition! REFERENCES Andrei Tarkovsky (dir.), Stalker Samuel R. Delany, Dhalgren (foreword by William Gibson) H.P. Lovecraft, "The Colour Out of Space" John Searle, Seeing Things as They Are: A Theory of Perception Steve Reich, Come Out Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 1 Martin Heidegger, "The Question Concerning Technology" Stanley Kubrick, The Shining The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Episode 18: Does 'Consciousness' Exist? - Part Two
JF and Phil finally get down to brass tacks with William James's essay "Does Consciousness Exist?" At the heart of this essay is the concept of what James calls "pure experience," the basic stuff of everything, only it isn't a stuff, but an irreducible multiplicity of everything that exists -- thoughts as well as things. We're used to thinking that thoughts and things belong to fundamentally different orders of being, but what if thoughts are things, too? For one thing, psychical phenomena (a great interest of James's) suddenly become a good deal more plausible. And the imaginal realm, where art and magic make their home, becomes a sovereign domain. REFERENCES William James, "Does 'Consciousness' Exist?" Steven Shaviro, The Universe of Things Jean-Paul Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego William James, Essays in Psychical Research Weird Studies D&D episode Proust, À la Recherche du Temps Perdu The Venera 13 probe's photos of the surface of Venus Wallace Stevens, "A Postcard from the Volcano"
Episode 53: Astral Jet Lag: On William Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition'
William Gibson's Pattern Recognition was published in 2003, in the wake of 9/11. You would think that a novel about the early Internet's effects on the collective psyche would feel dated today. But Gibson's insight into the deeper implications of digital culture and soul-rending consumerism are such that we are still catching up with Cayce Pollard, the novel's protagonist, as she journeys into the hypermodern underworld, searching for the secrets of art, time, and death. In this episode, JF and Phil read Pattern Recognition as an exploration of the attention economy, an ascent of the all-seeing pyramid, a subtle rewilding of postmodern culture, and a handbook for the magicians of the future. REFERENCES William Gibson, Pattern Recognition Malcolm Gladwell, "The Coolhunt" Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Future Shock Weird Studies Episode 30 -- On Stanley _Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut_ Weird Studies Episode 50 -- Demogorgon: On _Stranger Things_ Austin Osman Spare, The Focus of Life: The Mutterings of AOS Douglas Rushkoff, Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for a Digital Age
Episode 2: Garmonbozia
Phil and JF use a word from the Twin Peaks mythos, "garmonbozia," to try to understand what it was that the detonation of atomic bomb brought into the world. We use the fictional world of Twin Peaks as a map to the (so-called) real world and take Philip K. Dick, Krzysztof Penderecki, Norman Mailer, William S. Burroughs, Theodor Adorno, and H.P. Lovecraft as our landmarks. Warning: some spoilers of Twin Peaks season 3. Works Cited or Discussed: Phil Ford, "The Cold War Never Ended", Dial M for Musicology (1) (2) (3) (4) Twin Peaks: The Return — Official Site Philip K. Dick, “The Empire Never Ended,” treated in R. Crumb’s “The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick” and the “Tractate” from Dick’s Exegesis: Norman Mailer, “The White Negro” Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion Arthur Machen, The White People Robert Oppenheimer, “I am become death” C.G. Jung, Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch Howard Phillips Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu William B. Yeats, "The Second Coming" Krzysztof Penderecki, Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima The Book of Ecclesiastes Jon H. Else, The Day After Trinity (documentary) Francisco Goya, "The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters" Stanley Kubrick, Doctor Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment Jean Beaudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle William James, A Pluralistic Universe Norman Mailer, Advertisements for Myself
Episode 62: It's Like 'The Shining', But With Nuns: On 'Black Narcissus'
The 1947 British film Black Narcissus is many things: an allegory of the end of empire, a chilling ghost story with nary a spook in sight, a psychological romance, and a meditation on the nature of the divine. Its weirdness is as undeniable as it is difficult to locate. On the surface, the story is straightforward: five nuns are tasked with opening a convent in the former seraglio of a dead potentate in the Himalayas. But on a deeper level, there is a lot more going on, as Phil and JF discover in this conversation touching on the presence of the past, the monstrosity of God, the mystery of the singular, and the eroticism of prayer, among other strangenesses. REFERENCES Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburged (dirs.), Black Narcissus Rumer Godden, author of the original novel Stanley Kubrick, The Shining Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition Tim Ingold, British anthropologist -- lecture: "One World Anthropology" Jonathan Demme (dir.), The Silence of the Lambs Pierre Bourdieu, French sociologist Bruno Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods Don Barhelme, American short story writer Paul Ricoeur, French philosopher Weird Studies episode 16: On Dogen Zenji's Genjokoan The King and the Beggar Maid Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers “Painting with Light,” featurette on the Criterion Collection DVD of Black Narcissus
Episode 59: Green Mountains Are Always Walking
"Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around a lake." This line from Wallace Stevens' "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" captures something of the mysteries of walking. It points to the undeniable yet baffling relationship between walking and thinking, between putting one foot in front of the other and uncovering the secret of the soul and world. In this episode, JF and Phil exchange ideas about the weirdness of this thing most humans did on most days for most of world history. The conversation ranges over a vast territory, with zen monks, novelists, Jesuits and more joining your hosts on what turns out to be a journey to wondrous places. Header image by Beatrice, Wikimedia Commons REFERENCES Dogen, The Mountains and Waters Sutra Weird Studies listener Stephanie Quick on the Conspirinormal podcast Weird Studies episode 51, Blind Seers: On Flannery O'Connor's 'Wise Blood' Lionel Snell, SSOTBME Henry David Thoreau, "Walking" Arthur Machen, "The White People" Herman Melville, Moby Dick Vladimir Horowitz, Russian panist Gregory Bateson, cybernetic theorist The myth of the Giant Antaeus Wallce Stevens, "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" Deleuze, Difference and Repetition Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life John Cowper Powys, English novelist Will Self, English writer Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle Arcade Fire, “We Used to Wait” Paul Thomas Anderson (director), Punch Drunk Love Viktor Shklovsky, Russian formalist Patreon blog post on Phil’s dream David Lynch (director), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Episode 57: Box of God(s): On 'Raiders of the Lost Ark'
Raiders of the Lost Ark is more than a Hollywood movie made in the summer blockbuster mold. As Phil says in his intro to this popping Weird Studies episode, the film is "a Trojan horse of the Weird, easy to let in but once inside, apt to take over." This conversation sees him and JF discuss a movie we dismiss at our own risk, a cinematic masterpiece replete with enigmas that reach back to the foundations of Western civilization. What does the Ark of the Covenant signify? What does it contain? What happens if you open that box of god(s)? And whose god is this, anyway? These are questions that have puzzled theologians and mystics for centuries, and Steven Spielberg's great work asks them anew for an age gone nuclear. Image by arsheffield REFERENCES Steven Spielberg, Raiders of the Lost Ark Steven Soderbergh’s version of Raiders with sound and color removed Weird Studies Patreon extra, “Weird Genius” Weird Studies episode 28, “Weird Music Part 2” Camille Saint-Saëns, Danse Macabre M. Night Shyamalan, Signs Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon Neil Jordan (dir.), The End of the Affair Weird Studies episode 29, “On Lovecraft” Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism Howard Carter, British archaeologist Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel” Claude Levi Strauss, French anthropologist Clement Greenberg's concept of medium specificity D. W. Griffith, Birth of a Nation David Mamet, On Directing Film Dumbo (1941 film) H. P. Lovecraft, “The Strange High House in the Mist” Jan Fries, Helrunar: A Manual of Rune Magick Neil Gaiman, American Gods GIF of the soldier moving funny at the end of Raiders Weird Studies episode 2, “Garmonbozia” Aaron Leitch, occultist Austin Osman Spare, The Book of Pleasure Gene Wolfe, [Soldier of the Mist](
Episode 60: Space is the Place: On Sun Ra, Gnosticism, and the Tarot
Somebody once said, "No prophet is welcome in his own country." Whether this was true in the case of jazz musician and composer Sun Ra depends on whom you ask. With most, the dictum probably bears out. But there are those who can make out certain patterns in Ra's life and work, patterns that place him among the true mystics and prophets. Of course, these people already believe in mysticism and prophecy, but Sun Ra's total devotion to his myth does not leave much wiggle room on this front. He is asking us to choose: believe or disbelieve. And if you go with disbelief, you'll need to explain the sustained coherence and lucidity of his message, and the transformative power of his music. In this episode, Phil and JF take a look at Sun Ra's unforgettable film Space is the Place, interpreting it as a document in the history of esotericism, using gnostic thought and the tarotology as instruments to bring some of his secrets to light. REFERENCES Sun Ra, Space is the Place Sun Ra: Brother from Another Planet_ Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus and [Kafka]( (for the concept of minority) Antoine Faivre, French historian of esotericism Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences Eliphas Lévi, French occultist Edward O. Bland (director) The Cry of Jazz Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return, or, Cosmos and History Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal Stanley Kubrick, Dr Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice Jackson Lears, Something for Nothing: Luck in America
Episode 45: Jeffrey J. Kripal on 'Flipping' Out of Materialism
"May the present 'you' not survive this little book," Jeffrey Kripal writes in the prologue to The Flip. "May you be flipped in dramatic or quiet ways." Indeed, Kripal's latest is a kind of manifesto, a call to embrace the metaphysical expanses that reveal themselves to many who dare dip a toe outside the materialist lifeboat we've been rowing away in for a couple of centuries now. In this conversation, Phil and JF talk to the eminent scholar of religion about the life-changing epiphanies that have convinced many a hardboiled materialist that bouncing billiard balls is probably not the best metaphor for what is actually going on in the universe. In essence, this is a conversation about stories, about the fictions we tell ourselves to make sense -- or nonsense -- of our world. REFERENCES Jeffrey J. Kripal, The Flip: Epiphanies of Mind and the Future of Knowledge Henri Bergson, The Two Sources of Morality and Religion Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its Discontents Weird Studies, Episode 37: Entities, with Stuart DavisSpecial Guest: Jeffrey J. Kripal.
Episode 43: On Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson's stories and novels rank among the greatest weird works produced in America during the 20th century. However, unlike authors such as Philip K. Dick and H.P. Lovecraft, Jackson didn't cut her teeth in the pulps but among the slick pages of such illustrious publications as The New Yorker. On the other hand, whether because her most famous novel uses the traditional ghost story form or because she was a woman, Jackson only rarely appears in the litanies of weird literature, where she most definitely belongs. In this episode, Phil and JF discuss two of Jackson's short works, "The Lottery" and "The Summer People." The conversation touches on such cheerful topics as human sacrifice, the use of tradition to license evil, and the alienness that can infect even the most familiar things ... when the stars are right. Header image by Hussein Twabi, Wikimedia Commons REFERENCES The Weird Studies Patreon Shirley Jackson Zoë Heller, “The Haunted Mind of Shirley Jackson,” review of Ruth Franklin, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life American writer Mitch Horowitz Rhonda Byrne, The Secret Stuart Wilde, The Trick to Money is Having Some Seymour Ginsburg, Gurdjieff Unveiled Randall Collins, Violence: A Microsociological Theory James Hillman, A Terrible Love of War Homer, The Iliad Phil & JF at Octopus Books in Ottawa, 2015 Marcus Aurelius, Meditations “Whatever happens to you has been waiting to happen since the beginning of time. The twining strands of fate wove both of them together: your own existence and the things that happen to you.” David Lynch, Blue Velvet
Episode 26: Living in a Glass Age, with Michael Garfield
Stone, bronze, iron... glass? In his recent thought and writing, transdisciplinary artist and thinker Michael Garfield defines modernity as an age of glass, arguing that the entire ethos of our era inheres in the transformative enchantments of this amorphous solid. No one would deny that glass plays a central role in our lives, although glass does have a knack for disappearing into the background, at least until the beakers or screens crack and shatter. Glass is weird, and like a lot of weird things, it can serve as a lens (so to speak!) for observing our world from strange new angles. In this episode, Michael joins Phil and JF to talk through the origins, the significance, and the fate of the Glass Age. Michael Garfield is a musician, live painter, and futurist. He is the host of the brilliant Future Fossils Podcast. REFERENCES Michael Garfield's website + Patreon + Medium + Bandcamp Michael Garfield, "The Future is Indistinguishable from Magic" (This is the essay we discuss that was unpublished at the time of the recording) Michael Garfield, "The Future Acts Like You" Michael Garfield, "The Evolution of Surveillance Part 3: Living in the Belly of the Beast" Artist David Titterington's Patreon page Richard Doyle, On Beyond Living: Rhetorical Transformations of the Life Sciences Corning, "The Glass Age" (corporate video) Jean-Paul Sartre, Baudelaire John David Ebert, "On Hypermodernity" John C. Wright, The Golden Age J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects Christopher Knight and Alan Butler, Who Built the Moon? Pink Floyd, The Dark Side of the Moon Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy Marshall McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage Spinoza, Ethics Charles Taylor, The Malaise of Modernity Martine Rothblatt, Virtually Human: The Promise and the Peril of Digital Immortality John Crowley, Little, Big Jose Arguelles, Dreamspell Calendar William Irwin Thompson, Lindisfarne Tapes Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past Karl Schroeder, “Degrees of Freedom,” in Heiroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future Michael Garfield, “Being Every Drone” Henri Bergson, Creative EvolutionSpecial Guest: Michael Garfield.
Episode 20: The Trash Stratum - Part 1
Is the Holy Grail a crushed beer can in the gutter? JF and Phil consider the implications of Philip K. Dick's line, "the symbols of the divine initially show up at the trash stratum." Gnosticism, Aleister Crowley's Thoth tarot, Thomas Ligotti's "The Order of Illusion," Jack Smith's glorification of moldy glamour, saints' relics that look like beef jerky -- all this and more in the first of a two-part conversation. REFERENCES Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth Phil Ford, "What Good News Do You Bring?" Philip K. Dick, The Exegesis Philip K. Dick, VALIS Stanislav Lem, Microworlds Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels Thomas Ligotti, Noctuary Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy Frank Darabont (dir.), The Shawshank Redemption Weird Studies podcast, On Tarkovsky's 'Stalker' Part 1 and Part 2 Richard Wagner, Parsifal
Episode 3: Ecstasy, Sin, and "The White People"
JF and Phil delve deep into Arthur Machen's fin-de-siècle masterpiece, "The White People," for insight into the nature of ecstasy, the psychology of fairies, the meaning of sin, and the challenge of living without a moral horizon. WORKS CITED OR DISCUSSED Arthur Machen, "The White People" - full text or Weird Stories audiobook read by Phil Ford Arthur Machen, Hieroglyphics: A Note Upon Ecstasy H. P. Lovecraft, "Supernatural Horror in Literature" J.F. Martel, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell Jack Sullivan (ed)., The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural John Keel, The Mothman Prophecies: A True Story Patrick Harpur, Daimonic Reality Jacques Vallee, Passport to Magonia: From Folklore to Flying Saucers Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians Michael Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison J.K. Huysmans, Against Nature (À rebours)
Episode 1: Introduction to Weird Studies
Phil and J.F. share stories of sleep paralysis and talk about Charles Fort's sympathy for the damned, Jeff Kripal's phenomenological approach to Fortean weirdness, Dave Hickey's notion of beauty as democracy, and Timothy Morton's hyperobjects.
Episode 61: Evil and Ecstasy: On 'The Silence of the Lambs'
The Welsh writer Arthur Machen defined good and evil as "ecstasies." Each one is a "withdrawal from the common life." On this view, any artistic investigation into the nature of good and evil can't remain safely ensconced our modern, common-life construal of thinigs. It must become fantastic and incorporate aspects of "nature" that feel "supernatural" from a modern standpoint. Jonathan Demme's screen adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs is a powerful example. The film oscillates undecidably between a straightforward crime story and a work of supernatural horror. In this episode, JF and Phil cast Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling as figures in a myth that pits the individual against the institution, the singular against the type, and the forces of light against the forces of darkness. REFERENCES Jonathan Demme (dir.), The Silence of the Lambs Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs (original novel) Carl Jung on the doctrine of Privatio Boni Johann Sebastian Bach, The Goldberg Variations William Gibson, Pattern Recognition Rolling Stones, "Sympathy for the Devil" Howard Shore, Canadian composer Arthur Machen, The White People Weird Studies, episode 3: Ecstasy, Sin, and "The White People" Machen, The White People Machen, Hieroglyphics: A Note Upon Ecstasy in Literature
Episode 52: On Beauty
The idea that beauty might denote an actual quality of the world, something outside the human frame, is one of the great taboos of modern intellectual thought. Beauty, we are almost universally told, is a cultural contrivance rooted in politics and history, an illusion that exists only in human heads, for human reasons. On this view, a world without us would be a world without beauty. But in this episode Phil and JF explore two texts, by James Hillman and Peter Schjeldahl, that dare to challenge the modern orthodoxy. For Hillman and Schjeldahl, to experience the beautiful is precisely the break out of human bondage and touch the Outside. Beauty may even be one of the few truly objective experiences anyone could hope for. Peter Schjeldahl, “Notes on Beauty,“ in Uncontrollable Beauty: Toward a New Aesthetics James Hillman, “The Practice of Beauty,” in Uncontrollable Beauty: Toward a New Aesthetics C.G. Jung's retreat, Bollingen Tower Ugly public art in Palo Alto Dave Hickey, Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy Deleuze and Guattari, “Of the Refrain,” from A Thousand Plateaus Roger Scruton, Beauty Weird Studies, Episode 36 -- On Hyperstition Weird Studies, Episode 33 -- The Fine Art of Changing the Subject: On Duchamp's "Fountain" Lionel Snell, My Years of Magical Thinking George Santayana, The Sense of Beauty Ingri D'Aulaires, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths Messiaen, Quartet for the End of Time Christian Wiman, He Held Radical Light God, Book of Job
Episode 58: What Do Critics Do?
What is the role of the critic in the world of art? For some, including lots of critics, the figure exudes an aura of authority: her task is to tell us what this or that work of art means, why it matters, and what we are supposed to think and feel in its presence. Cast in in this mold, the critic is an arbiter, not just of taste, but also of sense and meaning. The American art critic Dave Hickey categorically rejects this interpretation, which he says gives off a mild stench of fascism. For Hickey, the critic plays a weak role, and it's this weakness that makes it essential. In his essay "Air Guitar," published in 1997, Hickey argues that criticism can never really penetrate the mystery of any artwork. Criticism is rather a way to capture the "enigmatic whoosh" of art as one instance of the more pervasive "whoosh" of ordinary experience. So, no act of criticism can ever exhaust an artwork. The critic interprets a singular experience of art into words so that others might be encouraged to have their own, equally singular experiences. In this episode, Phil and JF discuss what criticism has to do with art, life, politics, and ordinary experience. Header image: Caravaggio, The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599-1600) REFERENCES Dave Hickey, Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy Plato, Republic Oscar Wilde, "The Decay of Lying" Phil Ford, Dig: Sound and Music in Hip Culture Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature Deleuze and Félix Guattari, What is Philosophy? Dave Hickey, "Buying the World" Clinton e-mails exhibition at the Venice Biennale Oscar Wilde, The Portrait of Dorian Gray
Episode 10: Philip K. Dick: Adrift in the Multiverse
In 1977, Philip K. Dick read an essay in France entitled, "If You Find this World Bad, You Should See Some of the Others." In it, he laid out one of the dominant tropes of his fictional oeuvre, the idea of parallel universes. It became clear in the course of the lecture that Dick didn't intend this to be a talk about science fiction, but about real life - indeed, about his life. In this episode, Phil and JF seriously consider the speculations which, depending on whom you ask, make PKD either a genius or a madman. This distinction may not matter in the end. As Dick himself wrote in his 8,000-page Exegesis: "The madman speaks the moral of the piece." REFERENCES Philip K. Dick, excerpts from “If You Find This World Bad You Should See Some Of The Others” R. Crumb, The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick Emmanuel Carrère, I Am Alive and You Are Dead: A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick “20 Examples of the Mandela Effect That’ll Make You Believe You’re In A Parallel Universe” Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle Weird Studies, "Episode 9: On Aleister Crowley and the Idea of Magick" Weird Studies, "Episode 4: Exploring the Weird with Erik Davis" William Shakespeare, The Tempest Sun Ra, Space is the Place Zebrapedia (crowdsourced online transcribing/editing of the Exegesis) Ramsey Dukes (Lionel Snell), Words Made Flesh Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained Bernado Kastrup, Why Materialism is Baloney Gordon White, Star.Ships: A Prehistory of the Spirits Nick Bostrom, “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”
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Podcast Details
Jan 31st, 2018
Latest Episode
Jan 22nd, 2020
Release Period
No. of Episodes
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour

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