89 episodes

Professor Phil Ford and writer/filmmaker 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."

Weird Studies Phil Ford and J. F. Martel

    • Arts
    • 4.9 • 157 Ratings

Professor Phil Ford and writer/filmmaker 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."

    Mona Lisa Smile: On the Empress, the Third Card in the Tarot

    Mona Lisa Smile: On the Empress, the Third Card in the Tarot

    This second instalment in our series on the major trumps of the traditional tarot deck features the Empress. As Aleister Crowley writes in The Book of Thoth, this card is probably the most difficult to decipher, since it is inherently "omniform," changing shapes continuously. In a sense, the Empress is variation itself. Her card becomes the occasion for a conversation about the less knowable side of reality, the one that tradition associates with the Yin, nature, potential, and -- controversially -- the feminine. This in turn leads to a discussion of white versus black magic, and how the two may not always be as diametrically opposed as we might believe.


    P.D. Ouspensky, The Symbolism of the Tarot
    Anonymous, Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism
    Weird Studies episode 82 on the I Ching
    Patrick Harper, The Secret Tradition of the Soul
    Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth
    Simon Magus, religious figure
    Henri Gamache, The Mystery of the Long Lost 8th, 9th, and 10th Books of Moses
    Solomon grimoires
    Lionel Snell/Ramsay Dukes, English magician
    Weird Studies episode 3 on Arthur Machen's "The White People"
    Joséphin Péladan, French magician
    Susanna Clarke Piranesi
    Shawshank Redemption, film
    Franz Liszt, musician
    Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces

    • 1 hr 19 min
    On David Lynch's 'Lost Highway'

    On David Lynch's 'Lost Highway'

    David Lynch's Lost Highway was released in 1997, five years after Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me elicited a fusillade of boos and hisses at Cannes. The Twin Peaks prequel's poor reception allegedly sent its American auteur spiralling into something of an existential crisis, and Lost Highway has often been interpreted as a response to -- or result of -- that crisis. Certainly, the film is among Lynch's darkest, boldest, and most enigmatic. But of course, we do the film an injustice by reducing it to the psychological state of its director. Indeed, one of the contentions of this episode is that all artistic interpretation constitutes a kind of injustice. But as you will hear, that doesn't stop Phil and JF from interpreting the hell out of the film. Just or unjust, fair or unfair, interpretation may well be necessary in aesthetic matters. It may be the means by which we grow through the experience of art, the way by which art makes us something new, strange, and other. Perhaps the trick is to remember that no mode of interpretation is, to borrow Freud's phrase, the one and only via regia, but that every one is just another highway at night...


    David Lynch (dir.), Lost Highway

    Alfred Hitchcock (dir.), Vertigo
    Arnold Schoenberg, Three Keyboard Pieces, op. 11
    James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake
    Weird Studies, Episode 81 on The Course of the Heart
    Jacques Lacan, French psychoanalyst
    Slavoj Žižek, Slovenian philosopher
    Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire
    Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
    David Foster Wallace, "David Lynch Keeps his Head" in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never do Again
    Leonard Bernstein, West Side Story
    Patreon audio extra on Penderecki's "Threnody"
    Trent Reznor, American musician
    David Bowie, "Deranged"
    Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, "Oblique Strategies"
    Tim Powers, Last Call
    Manuel DeLanda, Mexican-American philosopher

    • 1 hr 18 min
    On The I Ching

    On The I Ching

    The Book of Changes, or I Ching, is more than an ancient text. It's a metaphysical guide, a fun game, and -- to your hosts at least -- a lifelong, steadfast friend. The I Ching has come up more than once on the show, and now is the time for JF and Phil to face it head on, discussing the role it has played in their lives while delving into some of its mysteries.


    I Ching, Wilhelm-Baynes translation
    I Ching, Stephen Karcher translation
    Game of Thrones, HBO series
    George R. R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire
    George R. R. Martin, “Sandkings” in: Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories
    H. P. Lovecraft, American writer
    Graham Harman, Weird Realism: Lovecraft and Philosophy
    Aleister Crowley, “777”
    Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Cannibal Metaphysics
    Joel Biroco, Calling Crane in the Shade (website)
    Philip K. Dick, American novelist
    Lionel Snell, a.k.a. Ramsey Dukes, British occultist
    Richard Rutt, _Zhouyi: A New Translation with Commentary _
    Mervyn Peake, Gormenghast
    Redmond and Hon, Teaching the I Ching
    Weird Studies, episode 72, On the castrati
    Weird Studies, episode 77, On the fool tarot card
    Anonymous, Meditations on the Tarot
    The Usual Suspects (movie)
    Colin Wilson, The Occult

    • 1 hr 29 min
    Gnostic Lit: On M. John Harrison's 'The Course of the Heart'

    Gnostic Lit: On M. John Harrison's 'The Course of the Heart'

    The British writer M. John Harrison is responsible for some of the most significant incursions of the Weird into the literary imagination of the last several decades. His 1992 novel The Course of the Heart is a masterful exercise in erasing whatever boundary you care to mention, from the one between reality and mind to the one between love and horror. Recounting the lives of three friends as they play out the fateful aftermath of a magical operation that went horribly wrong, Harrison's novel gives Phil and JF the chance to talk contemporary literature, metaphysics, Gnosticism, zones (see episodes 13 & 14), myth, transcendence, history, and arachnology. Together, they weave a fragile web of ideas centered on that imperceptible something that forever trembles at the edge of our perception, beckoning us to step into its world, and out of ours.


    M. John Harrison, The Course of the Heart
    M. John Harrison, "The Great God Pan"
    Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan
    Philip K. Dick, Ubik
    Philip K. Dick, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
    Weird Studies, Episode 14 on Stalker
    Jonathan Carrol, American novelist
    Robert Aickman, British writer
    Magic Realism, literary genre
    Phil Ford, “An Essay on Fortuna, parts 1 and 2,” Weird Studies Patreon
    John Crowley, Ægypt
    Jorge Borges," The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim"
    Strange Horizons, Interview with M. John Harrison
    M. John Harrison on worldbuilding
    Thomas Ligotti, American horror writer
    Weird Studies subreddit
    Albert Camus, French philosopher
    David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
    Spiders’ nervous systems
    Valentinus, gnostic theologian
    Simon Magus, religious figure
    Wiccan goddess and god
    Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles
    Weird Studies, Episode 37 with Stuart Davis

    • 1 hr 17 min
    The Pit and the Pyramid, or, How to Beat the Philosopher's Blues

    The Pit and the Pyramid, or, How to Beat the Philosopher's Blues

    Your hosts' exploration of mysticism and vision in pop music continues with two powerful pieces of popular music: Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" from the 2001 album Amnesiac, and Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf's "Ballad of the Sad Young Men," from the 1959 Broadway musical The Nervous Set. Synchronicity rears its head as the dialogue reveals how these two gems, selected by JF and Phil with no expectation that they might form a set, begin to glow when placed side by side, amplifying and focussing each other's eldritch light. This episode touches on Neoplatonic myths of spiritual ascent, African-American spirituals, Plato's realm of Forms, Gnosticism, dream visitations by the dearly departed, the travails of the Beat generation, the objectivity of hope, the implosion of America, and that particularly modern condition of the soul which Phil calls the "Philosopher's Blues."


    Radiohead, "Pyramid Song"
    Fran Landesman and Tommy Wolf, "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men"

    Edgar Allan Poe, "The Pit and the Pendulum"
    Charles Mingus, Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
    Plato, Phaedrus
    Plato, Republic
    Plato's Unwritten Doctrines
    The Secret History of Western Esotericism Podcast, episode 69: "Plutarch's Myths of Cosmic Ascent"
    William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience
    Pierre Hadot, French philosopher
    Algis Uzdavynis, Philosophy as a Rite of Rebirth: From Ancient Egypt to Neoplatonism
    Charles Taylor, Canadian philosopher
    Phil Ford, "The Philosopher’s Blues" (Weird Studies Patreon exclusive)
    Peter Sloterdijk, German philosopher
    Ferdinand de Saussure, French linguist
    JF Martel, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice
    JF Martel, "Stay With Mystery: Hiroshima Mon Amour, Melancholia, and the Truth of Extinction" in Canadian Notes & Queries, issue 106: Winter 2020, edited by Sharon English and Patricia Robertson
    Ray Brassier, Nihil Unbound: Enlightenment and Extinction
    Jay Landesman and Theodore J. Flicker, The Nervous Set, musical
    Phil Ford, Dig: Sound and Music in Hip Culture
    Jay Landesman, American publisher and writer
    Marshall McLuhan, "The Psychopathology of 'Time & Life'"
    Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man
    William Butler Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium"
    Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men
    Mike Duncan (Twitter)
    Jeff Chang, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation
    Karl Marx, Capital: Volume I

    • 1 hr 17 min
    Love, Death, and the Dream Life

    Love, Death, and the Dream Life

    In this episode of Weird Studies, an improvised analysis of two pop songs -- Nina Simone's version of James Shelton's "Lilac Wine" and Ghostface Killah's visionary "Underwater" -- becomes the occasion for a deep dive to the weird wellspring of artistic creation. In trying to understand these songs and why they love them so much, your hosts touch on themes such as necromancy, decadence, liebestod, visionary experience, the Muslim image of paradise, the necessity of rifts, Norman Mailer's concept of "dream life," and the magical operation that is sampling.

    Header image: Boris Kasimov, Wikimedia Commons


    James Shelton, "Lilac Wine"
    Nina Simone, "Lilac Wine" from the album WIld is the Wind (1966)
    Ghostface Killah, "Underwater, from the album Fishscale (2006)
    MF Doom, "Orange Blossoms," from the album Special Herbs, Volume 4, 5 & 6
    Richard Strauss, [Salome](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salome(opera))_
    Weird Studies, episode 25: David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch
    C. G. Jung's practice of active imagination
    JF Martel, Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice
    Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
    Paul Horn, Visions
    Alexander Mackendrick (dir.), The Sweet Smell of Success
    Les Baxter, American composer
    Les Baxter, "Papagayo"
    Debussy, [Nocturnes](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nocturnes(Debussy))_
    Rebecca Leydon, music scholar
    Weird Studies episodes 73 and 74, on C. G. Jung's aesthetic vision
    Alexander Courage, Theme from Star Trek ("Where No Man Has Gone Before")
    Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
    Norman Mailer, “Superman Comes to the Supermarket"
    James Joyce, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake

    • 1 hr 4 min

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5
157 Ratings

157 Ratings

the aaarm ,

*the donut not the hole.

this podcast has been a tremendous resource and pleasure during the collapse of civilization. i particularly love the insightful film analysis and reoccurring references to Lynch’s work (which is like totally tapped in man, like more than just art you know?). its amazing to hear so many thoughts and sentiments echoed. these are valuable discussions. thank you.

*Longtime Print Subscriber* ,

Philosophical Discussions on a Variety of Topics

Thoughtful, wide-ranging discussions about art (including the moving image), philosophy as well as psychology. Some of the best show notes I’ve seen. Would love to see more episodes about David Lynch, Tarkovsky, Kubrick. Also interested to hear your thoughts about works by Hitchcock, Buñuel, Michelangelo Antonioni and sci-fi like Alien, Blade Runner, Akira.

stohliosis ,

The john keel episode was awesome!

I don’t know if you guys take the time to read these, but I’ve been really enjoying your show. Just listened to the John Keel episode and loved it! I think Phil said Mothman prophecies was the only keel book he had read. Y’all should check out the eighth tower by him. He goes into vast detail on his ideas of the super spectrum and it will either ease your opinion of him being monistic or reinforce it, but it’s a great read either way!

Keep it up fellas!

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