I’ve almost forgotten the X-Files enough to go through it again. I’ve been meaning to check out Fargo. But for now, I’m watching college lectures on youtube, which translate pretty well into online TV shows. They are divided into episodes. Each episode is self contained but part of a broader arc. When you see a good one, you want to watch all the rest. Plus, it’s even better than free HBO at a hotel, because, until now, you had to be a major apple polisher in high school, crush the SATs and fork over a quarter million dollars or so to gain access to lectures like these. Now, you can watch them for free while the stupid idiots who go to Stanford foot the bill. So here are some of the best ones.
Witchcraft and Magic – Keith Wrightson, Yale.
The kid in my likes the connection to horror movies (Wrightson recommends The Witchfinder General, with Vincent Price) and heavy metal (Witchfinder General is also a pretty good band). The adult in me likes the cautionary tale of social engineering. The trials and burnings of witches only became a problem after churches (both Catholic and Protestant) forbade long standing practices of magic. Now deprived of counter-magic, which could ward off malicious spells, people turned to the legal system for protection. Casting malicious spells became a crime, handled by the legal system rather than the church. But things still got pretty ugly.
This is also a good rabbit hole video. The rest of the course is excellent but I also found a bunch of cool witch stuff in related links. Dr Sayed Ammar Nakshawani has a lecture on black magic and witchcraft in the Muslim world, which has a remarkably similarity. There’s an audiobook on the subject by Manly P. Hall, an independent scholar on mysticism who rose to great prominence in the 1920s and 30s. He wrote a book called “The Secret Destiny Of America” that is said to have influenced Ronald Reagan. Then there’s all the insane stuff.
Schizophrenia – Robert Sapolsky, Stanford
We are only at the fringes of understanding the relationships between human behavior, psychology and neurology, yet Sapolsky conveys what we do know and the questions that we are tackling in jargon free, easily understood language. It can be kind of dizzying to think of shifting juices in your sweetbreads changing who you are. Schizophrenia, in particular, makes me squirm a bit. As Sapolsky explained the mechanisms and logic of the disease, I feared that my brain would soak them up and begin to practice them. I was engrossed by his story of encountering the disease in tribal Africa. I was engaged by his moral inquiries into free will and culpability. There was a time when an epileptic who harmed someone during a seizure was guilty of assault. That seems crazy to us now, but some still contend that schizophrenics (who are, on average, less dangerous than the general population) are responsible for what they do when in the grips of their disease. How far do we push this? Where is the line between your disease or your biology and the “real” you?
Evolution, Emotion and Reason – Peter Salovey, Yale
This is a guest lecture in professor Paul Bloom’s intro to psych class. All of Bloom’s lectures are solid, but Salovey (now Yale’s president) is introduced as one of Yale’s most popular lecturers and lives up to the billing. It’s a somewhat light talk, about how our biology and psychology interact and play off one another. Particularly interesting are Salovey’s descriptions of how our conscious mind perceives changes in our biology and can misinterpret them. For example, you accidentally drink caffeinated coffee on a date and interpret your physical stimulation as a sign of romantic connection. I love anything about how we are all bungling monkeys.
The Dark Women Of Shakespeare – Camille Paglia
If this is the first Paglia lecture you see, you’ll be surprised to learn that she is at her most reserved here. Shakespeare has enough substance to minimize the trolling and pot shotting that make her sensationally entertaining on talk shows. But the motor mouthed erudition and humor remains, as does the pro-sex celebration of difference that sets her apart from dreary “everything’s a social construct” foolishness. For Paglia, the gender wars are a natural part of life, and women have a lot of power, all of which is evident in Shakespeare. Her own sexual ambiguity and incredible empathy allow her access a 16th century, male playwright’s views on women. She knows more about how men think about women than most men do, and has more freedom to talk about it. Her greatest quality is that she loves all culture and uses her intellect to take it in and illuminate it, rather than subjugate, dissect and dictate to it. She also provides some hot NFL takes during the Q & A.