Archive | April 18, 2020

Southern Comfort

Recommended quasi-lockdown viewing: an excellent pair of docudrama miniseries about early Antarctic exploration – The Last Place on Earth (about the competing Scott and Amundsen expeditions) and Shackleton (about, duh, the Shackleton expedition – though Shackleton also features briefly in the former series). They’re not just exciting dramas but also useful case studies in virtue ethics.

When The Last Place on Earth first appeared it was vigorously attacked by the right-wing press in the u.k. for casting aspersions on the great British national hero, Robert Scott, by suggesting that the failure of his expedition owed more to his defects of character than to bad luck. But from the reading I’ve done I conclude that the miniseries is pretty much accurate.

It was my mother who got me interested in the history of Antarctic exploration. Her interest dated from coming across, in her youth, the remains of Amundsen’s boat (at that time preserved, kind of, in a neglected corner of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park as a monument; it’s since been relocated to Norway). Although this was not the boat he used for his Antarctic expedition, the plaque named him as the first to reach the South Pole, leading her to wonder why she’d never heard of him and had only heard of Scott. She subsequently became a great admirer of both Amundsen and Shackleton, though not so much Scott.

The Last Place on Earth is out of print on DVD, and so is available at only astronomical prices in that format, but subscribers to Amazon Prime can stream it for free.

I couldn’t find Shackleton streaming anywhere (places advertising it turn out to have conflated it with a documentary recreating Shackleton’s voyage), but the DVD is only ten bucks.

Who Said This?

“Language is a code dependent upon the life rhythms of the species which originated the language. Unless you learn these rhythms, the code remains mostly unintelligible.”

Guess the author. (Or see the link to the answer in the comments.) Although it’s a somewhat Wittgensteinian sentiment, I have no particular reason to think the author had read Wittgenstein, though I wouldn’t necessarily rule it out. While the author certainly is known for having a philosophical turn of mind, he or she did not publish in the area of philosophy and is best known for something else. (The lion is not a clue to the author, btw – just a reference to Wittgenstein’s “If a lion could speak, we would not understand it” and “a mouth smiles only in a human face.”)

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