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Werner Herzog and Cormac McCarthy
April 8, 2011 7:55 PM   Subscribe

On NPR Science Friday (1-hour audio), Werner Herzog and Cormac McCarthy discuss science, art and the abyss of humanity.
posted by stbalbach (34 comments total) 81 users marked this as a favorite

 
..with also Lawrence M. Krauss who I think is responsible for bringing the three together.
posted by stbalbach at 7:56 PM on April 8, 2011


Lemme check my Xanax supply 1st.
posted by Scoo at 8:22 PM on April 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


This was made for me.
posted by JimBennett at 9:04 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is delightful, thank you stalbach
posted by nj_subgenius at 9:20 PM on April 8, 2011


stalbach=stbalbach
!
posted by nj_subgenius at 9:21 PM on April 8, 2011


It's a good thing I'm not wearing pants, or you would have owed me a new pair.

You're still on the hook for the chair seat, though.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:25 PM on April 8, 2011


I was in the car coming home for lunch and started listening to this program, not knowing who the guests were or what it was about. I started getting into it, being all interested and excited, hearing the scientist and Ira Flatow talk about some cool stuff, then all of a sudden Warner freakin' Herzog chimes in out of the blue about something with his instantly-recognizable accent. I yelled out "holy shit! It's Warner Herzog!" and I'm sure the people in traffic around me wondered what was going on.
posted by zsazsa at 9:38 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Herzog: "By dint of declaration it comes into existence."
This, I believe. I don't know how, but yes, I believe this. Thanks for the post!
posted by kneecapped at 9:42 PM on April 8, 2011


THANK YOU. I only got to hear part of this today, because I had to get ready for work. But I yelled "holy shit! It's Werner Herzog!" too.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:43 PM on April 8, 2011


That was a really neat discussion, especially Werner reading one of Cormac's books towards the end.
posted by carter at 9:49 PM on April 8, 2011


Is this going to be crazy? I can't decide whether or not this is going to be crazy. This is going to be crazy, isn't it?
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:50 PM on April 8, 2011


Oops. Werner Herzog.
posted by zsazsa at 9:53 PM on April 8, 2011


[Imagines Herzog's version of Blood Meridian, scrapes brains off carpet]
posted by gottabefunky at 10:46 PM on April 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I scoffed a bit at the "it must be seen in 3D" comment, but other than that it was great.
posted by curious nu at 10:51 PM on April 8, 2011


Apparently, the 3D works well.
posted by carter at 11:11 PM on April 8, 2011


Warner freakin' Herzog

Werner Bros. Looney Tunes: Herzog voice-over of Warner Brothers classic cartoons. What, not been done yet?

posted by progosk at 12:00 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


[Quote]:
Q: How many Cormac McCarthies does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Two or perhaps three, approaching now, from beyond the tree in the long low light of morning. From some black place: a reckoning neither required nor bidden, a reckoning no judge could have ordered, but a reckoning nonetheless. One of the men carries a single glove, ready to grip the hot, bright bulb and twist it dead. The other two follow, smoking, and whisper about what is to come: the treacherous scramble in wet woolen darkness, the fight to fill that space with light. One of them, the youngest, cradles the thin bowl of glass in his hands like a baby foal born too soon―partly out of gentleness, partly as if to shield it from the mare’s desperate inquiring eyes.

The men walk to the bulb. The Remover’s shadow blackens as he approaches it. A quick unnatural lunge.

Then all is dark.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:01 AM on April 9, 2011 [36 favorites]


It's funnier if you read it in Owen Wilson's voice.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 AM on April 9, 2011


Count me in among those who were driving and were gobsmacked by the lineup. Herzog made me cry with laughter with this line:

Herzog: "...the next star out there is only 4 and a half light years away but with the fastest speed we could ever reach so far it would take 110 thousand years, just to go there. Hundreds and hundreds of generations, they wouldn't even know where they were going, there would be incest, and madness, and murder, and whatever en route. So it's not pleasant to move."

The guy is comedy gold.
posted by benzenedream at 12:51 AM on April 9, 2011 [18 favorites]


Add, Werner Herzog directing a reboot of Harlan Ellison's "The Starlost" to the list of things I'd try to get made as a Hollywood movie executive that would quickly get me fired.
posted by Grimgrin at 1:43 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why does realism necessarily equal negativity for many people? It reminds me of what so many people expect to happen during disasters - chaos, murder, the law of the jungle, all that bullshit. The reality is quite different - Rebecca Solnit's "A Paradise Made in Hell" is an excellent and readable debunking based on good history and actual sociological research on disasters and human responses to them.
posted by jhandey at 2:18 AM on April 9, 2011


What's Cormac McCathy have to to do with science?
posted by cjorgensen at 8:47 AM on April 9, 2011


Does not disappoint - thanks for posting.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 10:46 AM on April 9, 2011


By far the best Werner Herzog quote, from Burden of Dreams:

[On the jungle] Kinski always says it's full of erotic elements. I don't see it so much erotic. I see it more full of obscenity. It's just - Nature here is vile and base. I wouldn't see anything erotical here. I would see fornication and asphyxiation and choking and fighting for survival and... growing and... just rotting away. Of course, there's a lot of misery. But it is the same misery that is all around us. The trees here are in misery, and the birds are in misery. I don't think they - they sing. They just screech in pain. It's an unfinished country. It's still prehistorical. The only thing that is lacking is - is the dinosaurs here. It's like a curse weighing on an entire landscape. And whoever... goes too deep into this has his share of this curse. So we are cursed with what we are doing here. It's a land that God, if he exists has - has created in anger. It's the only land where - where creation is unfinished yet. Taking a close look at - at what's around us there - there is some sort of a harmony. It is the harmony of... overwhelming and collective murder. And we in comparison to the articulate vileness and baseness and obscenity of all this jungle - Uh, we in comparison to that enormous articulation - we only sound and look like badly pronounced and half-finished sentences out of a stupid suburban... novel... a cheap novel. We have to become humble in front of this overwhelming misery and overwhelming fornication... overwhelming growth and overwhelming lack of order. Even the - the stars up here in the - in the sky look like a mess. There is no harmony in the universe. We have to get acquainted to this idea that there is no real harmony as we have conceived it. But when I say this, I say this all full of admiration for the jungle. It is not that I hate it, I love it. I love it very much. But I love it against my better judgment.
posted by elder18 at 12:07 PM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why does realism necessarily equal negativity for many people?

Perhaps in part b/c we are biologically hardwired to ignore and deny the fact of our own mortality, and we are historically conditioned to downplay the brutality of our species.

What was interesting for me listening to the conversation linked in the FPP was thinking about how much McCarthy and Herzog share a similar artistic sensibility, and that that sensibility is essentially that of the existential drama and metaphysical violence of both the human psyche and human behavior. Now some may argue both men are a little too Grand Guignol in this regard, and it's true that for both of them human life is shadowed by some very disturbing realities--such as our aggression, creulty, and forgetfulness. But it is just this tendency to look in the shadows that makes the moments of levity and lightness that do occasionally surface in their works all the more important. Above all else, one senses McCarthy and Herzog are strenuously against any philosophical outlook that lets us off too easy--and that strain of pessimism (realism?) about the human condition is something they would seem to share.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 2:54 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


However erudite the discussion here, Emperor, I think the facts of both biology and history argue the complete opposite.

If you judge it by any objective measure - group behaviour, giving aid to fellows, treatment of others, showing empathy, whatever - I'd say our species is the clearly the most caring and least brutal on earth.

Furthermore, rates of murder and violence are far higher in hunter-gatherer tribes than in modern societies and our society is demonstrably more caring and compassionate than it was even in the recent past, never mind Victorian times or the middle ages. The reason that horror stories make the news is because of their comparative rarity.

There's a feeling, not least on Metafilter, that pessimism equates with intelligence, when the opposite is the reality. America is the most successful country on earth because it's the most optimistic, not vice versa. A 'can't do' spirit isn't going to get you anywhere.
posted by joannemullen at 4:57 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Wild Blue Yonder was so idiotic that I can't imagine Herzog speaking intelligently about science at any level more complicated than a that of a vinegar & baking soda volcano.
posted by richyoung at 5:04 PM on April 9, 2011


I'd say our species is the clearly the most caring and least brutal on earth.

There probably is no objective measure for this, but I could not disagree more.

First, on the scale of other biota, there is our unprecedented genocide of other species: no other living creature has subjected so many other species to what we have subjected tens of thousands of species to. Then there is the matter of our own predilection for wars, torture, and genocide: in the last hundred plus years alone we have laid waste to one another on an absolutely stunning scale, slaughtering our fellow humans in a myriad of ways (bombs, atom bombs, gas chambers, Rwanda-style mass executions, etc.) While I'm not seeking to deny the good deeds we do to one another, the record we have as a species is one in which there is an overwhelming amount of bloodshed and aggression. It's unparalleled in the animal kingdom in that regard.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 5:07 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


First, on the scale of other biota, there is our unprecedented genocide of other species: no other living creature has subjected so many other species to what we have subjected tens of thousands of species to.

"Coyotes may bite off the tails and feed on the hindquarters of live calves. They may feed on calves and on the genitals and hindquarters of cows giving birth. Black bears and coyotes occasionally feed on the udders of lactating females without killing them. At times, raccoons also feed on young or defenseless livestock without killing them, Similarly, vultures, magpies, ravens and gulls may attack and feed on young or defenseless livestock, peck out their eyes and kill them. Newborn young, females giving birth and other helpless animals are especially vulnerable." (source)

Animals are not capable of making ethical decisions. They are capable of what we might consider horrendous cruelty to others. Is a human who loves their cat responsible for the decimation of songbirds in the local area, and does this mean that humans are cruel or kind? These are meaningless questions without asking "destructive relative to what?" I would concede that humans are very shortsighted and not prone to thinking out consequences, but I seriously doubt that bears would do much better if they had opposable thumbs.
posted by benzenedream at 7:18 PM on April 9, 2011


I seriously doubt that bears would do much better if they had opposable thumbs.

Indeed. If anything, they'd probably become much more cunning and effective in their quest to steal humans' pic-a-nic baskets.
posted by .kobayashi. at 7:35 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"destructive relative to what?"

Destructive relative to being able to clearly imagine the outcome, while still proceeding to overfish the oceans, cut down the world's rainforests, and pollute the hell out of the atmosphere. I don't doubt that humans are capable of making ethical decisions, but they too often stop at the economic decision and ignore the rest.
posted by sneebler at 9:21 PM on April 9, 2011


A 'can't do' spirit isn't going to get you anywhere.

Are we still talking about Werner Herzog? Because he certainly seems to get a lot of stuff done.
posted by robself at 12:15 PM on April 10, 2011


Because he certainly seems to get a lot of stuff done.

Including moving a 320-ton steamship over a mountain in the Amazon and eating his shoe.
posted by electroboy at 8:22 AM on April 11, 2011


@ joannemullen
"America is the most successful country on earth because it's the most optimistic, not vice versa."

Say what? From where I'm sitting, America seems like just another Empire in its terminal stages. Not the most successful country on Earth. Not even the most successful empire in history.
posted by chanology at 9:54 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


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