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Weird Studies

Phil Ford and J. F. Martel

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Professor Phil Ford and writer J. F. Martel host a series of conversations on art and philosophy, dwelling on ideas that are hard to think and art that opens up rifts in what we are pleased to call "reality."
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The ongoing crackdown on protests at many American universities prompts a discussion on the politics, ethics, and metaphysics of free expression. Support us on Patreon. Buy the Weird Studies soundtrack, volumes 1 and 2, on Pierre-Yves Martel's Bandcamp page. Listen to Meredith Michael and Gabriel Lubell's podcast, Cosmophonia. Visit the Weird Studi…
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There are artists who express the vision of a place, person, or thing so vividly and originally that it sets the bar for all future imaginings. With his four Mad Max films, this is what George Miller did with the image of the Wasteland. No one has been able to capture the stark, raw energy and chaotic beauty of a post-apocalyptic desert quite like …
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Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988) was a British painter, poet, and occultist, long identified as a pioneer of the Surrealist movement in the UK. While her work is increasingly recognized for its mystical themes and innovative use of automatic techniques, deeply influenced by her esoteric studies, it also inspired extensive research on its broader cultur…
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In culture and the arts, labeling something you don't like (or don't understand) "pretentious" is the easy way out. It's a conversation killer, implying that any dialogue is pointless, and those who disagree are merely duped by what you've cleverly discerned as a charade. It's akin to cynically revealing that a magic show is all smoke and mirrors—a…
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"Let the red dawn surmise / What we shall do, / When the blue starlight dies / And all is through." This short poem, an epigraph to "The Yellow Sign," arguably the most memorable tale in Robert W. Chambers' 1895 collection The King in Yellow, encapsulates in four brief lines the affect that drives cosmic horror: the fearful sense of imminent annihi…
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What is expressionism? A school? A movement? A philosophy? At the end of this episode, Phil and JF agree that it is, above all, a sensibility, one that surfaces periodically in history, punctuating it with occasional bursts of frenetic colour and eruptions of light and shadow. Whenever it appears, expressionism challenges our tendency to divide the…
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"The Devil's finest ruse," Baudelaire wrote, "is to persuade you that he doesn't exist." In this episode, JF and Phil peer through a buzzing haze of lies, illusions, and mirages, in hopes of catching a glimpse, however brief, of the figure standing at its center. With a focus on the fifteenth major arcanum of the tarot, they try to make sense of th…
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In this second of two episodes on "scenes," Phil and JF set their sights on Greenwich Village in the wake of the Second World War. Focusing on two works on the era – Anatole Broyard's Kafka Was the Rage and John Cassavetes' Shadows – the conversation further develops the mystique of urban scenes and explores the weirdness of cities. The city, long …
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Listener discretion advised: This episode delves into the disturbing details of the Whitechapel murders of 1888, and may not be suitable for all audiences. Serialized from 1989 to 1996, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's graphic novel From Hell was first released in a single volume in 1999, just as the world was groaning into the present century. This…
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Every off-week, listeners who have chosen to support Weird Studies by joining our Patreon at the Listener's Tier get to enjoy a bonus episode. These episodes are different from the flagship show. Less formal and entirely improvised, they offer Phil and JF a different way of exploring the weird in art, philosophy and culture. To tide our listenershi…
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As a horror movie, John Carpenter's The Thing seems to have it all: amazing practical effects, body horror, psychological drama, Kurt Russell ... Indeed, there is only one element this movie lacks, and that is anything at all corresponding to the titular villain. There is no thing in The Thing! What we have instead is a process, a pattern, a way fo…
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Every once in a while, JF and Phil like to do a “song swap.” Each picks a song, and the ensuing conversation locates linkages and correspondences where none was previously thought to exist. In this episode, they are joined by the music scholar Meredith Michael – Weird Studies assistant, and co-host of Cosmophonia, a podcast about music and outer sp…
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In this episode of Weird Studies, we delve into the mysterious depths of Plato's Timaeus, one of the foundational texts of our civilization. In his characteristic brilliance, Plato blends cosmology and metaphysics, anatomy and politics to tell a creation story that rivals the most fantastical mythologies, yet he does it while remaining grounded in …
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"Death to Videodrome! Long live the New Flesh!" It was perhaps inevitable that the modern Weird, driven as it is to swallow all things, would sooner or later veer into the realm of political sloganeering without losing any of its unknowable essence. David Cronenberg's 1983 film Videodrome is more than a masterwork of body horror: it is a study in t…
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There are works of weird fiction that dispense their strangeness so subtly that many readers never pick up on it, books that allow themselves to be pass for mundane, the better to haunt us after we put them down. Donna Tartt's debut novel The Secret History, published in 1992, is such a work. On the surface, it is a brilliant, yet completely natura…
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One of the most surprising aspects of paranormal experience is how often it takes on a storylike form, unfolding exactly as you would expect it to in, say, a Hollywood horror film. Viewers of Karl Pfeiffer's film The Unbinding will get a sense of this in the early sequences of Greg and Dana Newkirk's latest occult adventure. The haunting comes on s…
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William Hope Hodgson's The Night Land is without a doubt one of the weirdest entries in the annals of weird fiction. Set in the earth's distant future, after the sun has gone out and the planet has been cleaved in two by an unspecified disaster, a telepathic scientist dons his armour and weapons to brave the monster-haunted yet strangely monotonous…
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