Ideas

IDEAS schedule for December 2021

Highlights: Renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky reflects on 40 years of chronicling how humans are changing the planet; Is the secret to 21st century success, failure?; a jocular journey through the philosophy of Christmas; and what cats can teach us about living the good life.
Philosophers have dissected the concept of nothing for thousands of years. But in the early 20th century, a disagreement over the idea of nothing erupted into a debate about the nature of philosophy itself — prompting the question: is philosophy closer to art, or science? (Shutterstock / Jared Romanowicz)

* Please note this schedule is subject to change.


Wednesday, December 1

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: HEIDEGGER VS. CARNAP
In 1929, a disagreement over the meaning of "nothing" exposed deep divisions in Western philosophy, and erupted into a debate over the nature of philosophy itself — and a question that remains unresolved to this day: is philosophy more art, or science? One side of the debate: Martin Heidegger, the poet-philosopher, whose lecture about nothing excited students and divided colleagues. On the other, Rudolf Carnap, the empiricist, who thought all this talk of the meaning of nothing, amounted to nothing at all.


Thursday, December 2

CUNDILL HISTORY PRIZE  
The Cundill History Prize and its award of $75,000USD recognizes history writing that "embodies historical scholarship, originality, literary quality and broad appeal." This episode of IDEAS will feature Nahlah Ayed's conversation with the winner, together with selected readings by the author.


Friday, December 3

GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, PT 1: GUANTANAMO AND THE AFTERLIVES OF TORTURE 
Guantanamo has largely receded from public view and media attention, so it's easy to forget the prison is still open, still a symbol of America's state-sanctioned practice of torture: 780 men have passed through it; 39 are still there and; of them, 12 have been charged with war crimes. Some detainees were there for a short stint, while others spent nearly half their lives. Despite their release, they remain unfree, some living in countries far from home, and under constant surveillance. All of them are haunted by years of torture and deprivation. America has yet to reckon with its open turn to torture, and the prospect of a future where torture is once again acceptable. It's left the victims of Guantanamo coping, and hoping for justice that may never come.
 



Monday, December 6

MEDIEVAL ENGLISH RAPE CULTURE
PhD student Mariah Cooper dusted off 800-year-old court documents from medieval England to find that convictions for sexual assault from that period are on par with convictions for sexual assault today. Victims lost credibility in the eyes of the court when interrogated on what they were wearing. And the defence would argue that "no" could actually mean "yes." By comparing representations of rape in medieval love stories with actual trial documents from the time, Cooper's thesis demonstrates remarkably consistent representations of survivors of sexual assault dating from the Middle Ages right to the 21st century.


Tuesday, December 7

ED BURTYNSKY 
Renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky bears witness to the mark humans are leaving on the planet. During his 40-year career, Burtynsky has photographed everything from large-scale mining operations in Sudbury to plastic landfills in Nairobi. But he says it all started in St. Catharines, Ontario, when he starting photographing the Welland Canal and a local GM plant — and their impact on the area. Burtynsky recently delivered a virtual talk for the Ontario Heritage Trust and spoke with IDEAS host Nahlah Ayed about what he's seen, where he's been, and what comes next.


Wednesday, December 8

ABC BOYER LECTURES, PART ONE
The CBC has its Massey Lectures. The BBC has its Reith Lectures. And ABC Australia has its Boyer Lectures. Beginning in 1959, the Boyers are designed to spark debate about critical ideas. This year, the speaker is acclaimed Australian actor and theatre director, John Bell. His series is entitled Shakespeare: Soul of the Age, and illustrates how the Bard's life and works have profound relevance to issues we're facing today: political self-interest, gender inequality and the growing need for good governance.


Thursday, December 9

ABC BOYER LECTURES, PART TWO
The CBC has its Massey Lectures. The BBC has its Reith Lectures. And ABC Australia has its Boyer Lectures. Beginning in 1959, the Boyers are designed to spark debate about critical ideas. This year, the speaker is acclaimed Australian actor and theatre director, John Bell. His series is entitled Shakespeare: Soul of the Age, and illustrates how the Bard's life and works have profound relevance to issues we're facing today: political self-interest, gender inequality and the growing need for good governance.


Friday, December 10

GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR, PT 2: MASS SURVEILLANCE AND THE CREATION OF THE MUSLIM SUSPECT
The War on Terror was also a war for information. The push to ensure security and to lock down the homeland created a lasting thirst for all the information. The days after 9/11 saw the creation of an American "Muslim database" — mass surveillance of Muslim communities in New York, L.A., and Chicago, of routine interrogation of Muslim travellers and the surveillance of mosques. These measures change people and the communities they live in. We know this because the post-9/11 surveillance state has historical antecedents. And the verdict is in: mass surveillance fundamentally alters, and even degrades, the way the surveilled see their relationship to the state that watches them.
 



Monday, December 13

UNSOUND: THE LEGACY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL 
The great project of Alexander Graham Bell's life was not, perhaps surprisingly, the telephone. His life's true passion, and the project he focused on his entire life and funded with his earnings from the telephone, was the education of deaf people. He was part of a movement called Oralism and believed all deaf people should learn to lipread and speak rather than use sign language. But not all deaf people can learn to speak. Or believe they should. And the harm of Oralism still reverberates today. IDEAS contributor Veronica Simmonds brings us her documentary, Unsound: The legacy of Alexander Graham Bell. *This episode originally aired on May 10, 2021.


Tuesday, December 14

GOOD NEWS FOR NIHILISTS
Philosophers Tracy Llanera and James Tartaglia offer their cheerful defence of nihilism, the easy-to-carry, portable, multi-purpose, and aerodynamic attitude to life, the universe, and pretty much everything. To achieve it, they take up the classic objections to nihilism in turn, and attempt to make each of them disappear into... nothingness! *This episode originally aired on May 25, 2021.


Wednesday, December 15

AN ODE TO FAILURE
Failure. It's the worst. Nobody wants to fail or be branded a failure. It stinks of ruin, regret, and other people's contempt. It imputes some sort of profound moral flaw. No mere mistake, or series of errors, failure is king in the realm of the wrong. It's an "F" grade in the school of life. Or is it? In the last decade or so, efforts to repurpose failure have pushed it to the surface of popular culture. Today you can find motivational speakers, and tech entrepreneurs like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and Oprah Winfrey all hawking failure as the secret to 21st century success. Was Samuel Beckett right: fail again, fail better?


Thursday, December 16

UCLA: POSSIBLE WORLDS — KIM STANLEY ROBINSON
The summer of 2021 saw nearly 600 people die in British Columbia during a heat wave. In the following autumn, rainfall from an atmospheric river battered the province and caused catastrophic flooding. Both real-world disasters are eerily reminiscent of events in Kim Stanley Robinson's science fiction novel, The Ministry for the Future. The novel begins with a mass casualty event caused by a heatwave in the 2020s, and imagines the next thirty years in humanity's fight against climate change. It's centred on the "Ministry for the Future" — a UN body created at COP to represent the interests of future generations. Robinson, who attended COP26 as a delegate, speaks with Nahlah Ayed about the relationship between works of the imagination and real-world change, writing a "future history" and how sweeping political and environmental change happens. We also hear excerpts from his talk Optopia: From Fiction to Action on Climate Change, from UCLA's Possible Worlds lecture series.  


Friday, December 17

GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM, PART 3: THE AFTERLIVES OF 9/11
Since the explicit withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan, the broader media and political discourse is that the so-called War on Terror is over. But the war lives on through drone warfare and mass surveillance. It also lives on in the echoes of 9/11 in which the Muslim citizen is perceived as a constant source of threat. In this era of increasing anti-Muslim violence, how are Muslims imagining and creating a better world for themselves and others? Is it possible to shift the narrative and take back what was lost in the war?
 



Monday, December 20 

PASSAGGIO
Passaggio is a term from classical singing, used to describe the transition area between vocal registers. It's also the title of a documentary by radio producer, Pamela Post — about the transition of her transgender son, Asher, a serious performer of vocal music. The documentary captures the pain and joy of this intimate passaggio, as Asher confronts the pain of medical procedures, and the prospect of losing both his musical career and his partner. A story of love, family, and ultimately triumph.


Tuesday, December 21

MISSED CONNECTIONS  
Forging connection is a concern lying just below the surface of this turbulent pandemic era. We struggle with what it means to relate to one another, how to communicate, and understand what's truly important in life. On this episode, winners of the Governor General's Literary Awards read from their writing, new and old, and reflect on that theme of connections — especially on the complicated, and not-so-obvious ways that we make them.


Wednesday, December 22

CHRISTMAS PHILOSOPHY 101 
Heat the cocoa, stoke the fire, and settle in for some good ol' fashioned philosophy! Christmas is a minefield of deep philosophical quandaries — is it ethical to lie to children? Who does a gift really benefit: the giver, or receiver? How do we really know Santa exists, or doesn't? Christmastime is full of moments that reveal deep questions, so join IDEAS on a jocular journey through the philosophy of Christmas.*This episode originally aired on December 23, 2020. 


Thursday, December 23 

ORDINARY MAGIC: THE MUSICAL GENIUS OF JERRY GRANELLI  
A profile of the late jazz drummer and composer Jerry Granelli, who was recorded by producer Mary Lynk on the eve of his turning 80. Jerry sadly passed away earlier this year. Over his career, he accompanied many of the greats: Mose Allison, Sly Stone and The Grateful Dead. He opened for Lenny Bruce and taught alongside Allen Ginsberg. And most famously, he was the member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio that recorded the iconic album: A Charlie Brown Christmas. *This episode originally aired on December 21, 2021.


Friday, December 24

IDEAS is preempted 
 



Monday, December 27

FIRESIDE & ICICLES
Facing a colder-than-usual winter (in social terms if not temperature), IDEAS producer Tom Howell seeks not to escape misery so much as exploit it, with the goal of achieving a certain delicious mix of loneliness, nostalgia, yearning, and elevated moaning known to Welsh poets as hiraeth. He digs through a pile of poetic works from ancient to new in search of the perfect works to evoke hiraeth in their own way. He enlists the help of poets as well as IDEAS's online community. *This episode originally aired on December 17, 2020.


Tuesday, December 28

CARLO ROVELLI
In Italian physicist Carlo Rovelli's world, time does not exist. Nor, he argues, does it in our own world. We human beings, he suggests, may be the universe's only real time machine. And the emotions entangled with the idea of past and present make it difficult to imagine life without linear time. Yet Rovelli has spent years writing and lecturing about time, and a whole host of complex scientific conundrums — all in an effort to share the beauty he sees in uncertainty. *This episode originally aired on April 22, 2021.


Wednesday, December 29

NO FEELING IS FINAL: RILKE
In his letters and poetry, Austrian writer Rainer Maria Rilke urged readers to "love the questions" instead of searching for answers, and to "sing out" with pain solitude causes them. He viewed life's most difficult experiences — such as grief or terror — as spaces of transformation. In this documentary, IDEAS explores what Rilke's writing has to say to us today about uncertainty, solitude, love, sex and grief. *This episode originally aired on May 13, 2021.


Thursday, December  30

FELINE PHILOSOPHY
Socrates famously declared that an unexamined life was not worth living. But what if he was wrong? Philosophy has long provided the tools by which we might navigate our ages-long anxieties about love, death and the meaning of life. Cats, on the other hand, do not burden themselves with the same questions; and in turn, they have no need of philosophy. So what's to be learned from this "unexamined" way of being? Should we aspire to such a state? These are some of the questions that English philosopher John Gray attempts to answer in his book Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life. *This episode originally aired on May 6, 2021.


Friday, December 31

NEW YEAR'S LEVEE
To celebrate the New Year, Nahlah Ayed welcomes IDEAS producers into the virtual studio to share their passion for upcoming projects. You'll hear an eclectic range of topics — from the power of touch, to the meaning of home, to an exploration of the pesky problems bias presents. 
 

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