Baldi

For many philosophy is an irrelevancy. It is out of date and is to be found in old books, visited only by ancient academics or party bores. This is a misconception. Philosophy, in the words of the great eighties song is to be found ‘all around.’
An example of this is in modern entertainment, from contemporary novels to TV dramas. And more often than expected in radio and spoken word. One great illustration of this is the great radio drama ‘Baldi’.

Paolo Baldi is a Fransiscan priest on sabbatical, lecturing in semiotics at Dublin University. Apart from the obvious presence of semiotics as a philosophy, throughout the series runs the ongoing tension between faith in Christianity and the ‘real world’. Semiotics is, put simply, the study of signs. Some philosophers dismiss it as pretend philosophy but there have been some marvelous semioticians, like Umberto Eco. Baldi uses his semiotic skills to solve crimes. It is a fascinating series, and one which offers insight to semiotics and its value in the world.

Click here to read a thesis applying semiotics to values in education.

 

There Will Be Blood

Whilst most academics treat the world of celluloid with a touch of cynicism I think many movies have aspects of philosophy which translate far more easily than through heavy tomes and anachronistic prose. The movie ‘There will be blood’ is a fine example.

The main protagonist, played by Daniel Day Lewis is called Daniel Plainview. The character embodies the philosophic expression ‘will to power.’ He is a determined man, and a builder of things. Although not anti religious he sees religion as a tool where faith can help those whose circumstances produce a life of drudgery. Faith promises a happier life in the future, but for Plainview (by name and nature) it is a way to remove obstacles. He is Nietzsche’s ‘noble creature’ and shares the belief that once Christianity becomes an end in itself, as portrayed in the movie through the actions of the duplicitous Eli Sunday, then it is nihilistic to the core, ‘beyond good and evil.’
Daniel Plainview is not a bad man, but does make bad choices. Eli Sunday is a representation of what Nietzsche calls ‘slave morality’. He has emerged from an oppressed group and resents the more powerful Plainview, who he sees as an immoral sinner. There is inevitable conflict, and whilst Plainview seeks redemption, he does not find it in any meaningful way with the church.
The audience must decide for themselves whether Plainview and his non belief leads to his debatable immorality or whether his is driven to it by the inflexible church of Eli Sunday.
Much food for thought

Step at a Time

Amongst the projects I’ve undertaken at the moment one is the sanding of a wooden staircase. It is painstaking work and very repetitive in its nature. It is an opportunity to think though. It makes me think about time and our perception of it. There is a popular philosophic movement called ‘presentism’ in which it is argued that only the present is real. The only tense which matters is the present one. This is not great news for my ‘sand one stair at a time’ staircase, which exists in a kind of limbo. It is niether a sanded staircase or an unsanded one. A bit like Shrodinger’s cat it is in two states at the same time. If the past has no reality there can be no truths about it.

Direct recall is reduced to mere perception, as is knowledge curated collectively, i.e history.

I cant bring myself to accept this point of view. The notions of ‘earlier’ and ‘later’ presuppose consciousness, which I very much believe in. The act of ‘doing’ presuppose both faith in a future and a past. To genuinely ‘live in the moment’ would neutralise all things, including the ability to think and for that process to produce conclusions.

 

Fiction Time

 

Time travel, or the idea of it, has fascinated both author and reader, for a long time.
HG Wells, the first time-travel author, has to be mentioned. But his story focused on action and adventure. It did not address the metaphysics of time travel and the inevitability of the contradictions and paradoxes it will involve.
The 2004 film ‘Primer’ went to another level and sacrificed adventure for explanation and action for philosophy. It takes several viewings to get to grips with it.

For more mainstream viewing Netflix have two great offerings. ‘Continuum’ is an innovative drama and a clever one, addressing not only the science of time travel but also a future dominated by the corporation. It is a satisfying drama and a thoughtful one, with several surprises up its sleeve.
‘Travelers’ is a second drama available on Netflix. It raises several issues, has sympathetic characters as well as a unique approach to the idea of time travel.

There are far to many films to go into but two memorable ones for me are ‘The Final Countdown’ and ‘The Philidelphia Experiment’. Both excellent.

But above all of these is the novel ‘Time And Again’ by Clifford.D.Simack is an unusual and satisfying exploration of tme travel.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/876499.Time_and_Again

True Detectives

There have been many detectives in the fictional world, from the maverick and classic Philip Marlowe, to the traditional Sherlock Holmes to the more professionally acceptable Inspector Lewis. For whatever reason fiction is littered with mostly broken and psychologically disturbed crime solvers, who by determination or just accidentally, always ‘get their man.’ For today’s blog here’s a brief resume of some of the best I’ve come across in my lifetime.

Sherlock Holmes
This man has to head the list. For a start there hadn’t really been a fictional detective before him. Conan Doyle’s fictional character was hugely popular for his anti establishment ways and his ability to find the hugest clues in the smallest of places. His cases were always full of intrigue, always clever and always only solvable to one man, whoever played him. A marvellous creation in literature, but fine in radio and film as well.

Martin Beck

Few will have heard of Martin Beck, firstly because he’s from a small town in Sweden and secondly because the novels, by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, were written in Swedish in the 60s and only translated into English after 2000. Have a look here: https://www.goodreads.com/search?q=martin+beck .
They are police procedural novels and were made into films for their native Sweden.
In 2012/13 the BBC adapted them into a series of radio dramas. That is where I came across them and loved them. Martin Beck solves his crimes through dogged hard work and common sense. And sometimes luck.
You can find them on Audible. There is a collection of them, which is much of a better buy than getting them individually.

Columbo

Columbo is a fine detective. He appeared on American television (NBC) in 1971. Played by the enigmatic Peter Falk he was incredibly popular and famed for his use of Socratic questioning as he went about solving his crimes.

Dr. Cal Lightman
Not a well known character, but he deserves to be. Played by Tim Roth, Lightman was the protagonist in the TV drama ‘Lie to Me’. The series unexplainably only ran for three seasons, but makes for fascinating television in its exploration of micro expressions and applied psychology.

Shardlake
C.J.Sansom’s creation is an unlikely addition to my list but a well deserving one. Introduced in the novel ‘Dissolution’ the 16th century lawyer has a series of books devoted to innvolvement in a series of mysteries. The BBC have done radio dramatisations but I preferred the novels. Highly recommended.

 

I’ve only named five here but there are many, many more. 🙂

Leave


Leave.
Leave now.
She empties the drawers
And takes the key.
It seems too real.
Like words from an encyclopedia
Which must hold truth.
Sign me out
Completely before I
Seek her and reconciliation.
She’s gone now
And although I tried desperately
To hold onto her
Deep inside I know
It was a necessity.
Words can’t describe.
They are nothing.
I hope it will pass.

The Detached Writer

As a writer becomes successful (quite often a mixture of talent, opportunity and luck) and extolled there is a possibility he will detach himself from himself, obtaining an additional identity as the ‘author’ for the public, not as themselves. In many careers there is such a duality. The adoption of a ‘phone voice’ is an example of such dualism: the private and the public. But for the writer there is the potential for a further split when the writing takes on a life of its own. Is this to be sought? Is this the desire of the writer? Or does the separate identity of the writing paradoxically drown the writer in a sea of anonymity?