TIMES, TIME, AND HALF A TIME. A HISTORY OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM.

Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.



Showing posts with label David Lynch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Lynch. Show all posts

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Hallowe'en Countdown 2018: The Skeleton Key


Olga Neuwirth, Lost Highway opera stills (2003), based on the 1997 film by David Lynch.

In this year's Hallowe'en countdown, I have been describing a malaise that unnerves us. There is a collective sense that things have gone wrong and somewhere, there is an answer why. Somewhere, there is a skeleton key. If you had it, you could unlock all the problems, find their solutions, and blink yourself awake into a better world.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Nuclear Culture 18: The Lynch Atomic


All still from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). All images here are © Showtime. Reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: Vulture.

On 18 May 2017, I asked whether David Lynch and Mark Frost could bring Twin Peaks into the Internet Era. The answer is: yes. The show is already generating memes. So far, the series has proved a culmination of all of Lynch's work and surreal noir style, a synthesis of his ideas from Eraserhead (1977), through Dune (1984), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Lost Highway (1997), The Straight Story (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001), to Inland Empire (2006). Even bits of The Elephant Man (1980) arrive in dated, other-worldly dream parlours.

Image Source: Entertainment Weekly.

I could gush about all the actors' stellar performances, especially catatonic/evil Kyle MacLachlan and 'we-are-the-99-per-cent!' Naomi Watts. But if I had to sum up the execution of the whole artistic vision in one word, it would be, 'fearlessness.' There is not one iota of artistic compromise and no apology, as Lynch, Frost and the cast push everything over the edge and keep going.

Atom bomb clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

As for the most recent episode, leave it to the legendary director to create the best hour to air in the history of television. One Youtuber called it the "Best 1950s Retro Horror Film Ever." The reviewers are united in praise, because this episode explained the origins of evil; it revealed how the monster in the original series (BOB) was created, as well as his victim, Laura. From one Youtube commenter:
"This was essentially the birth of BOB and the other evil spirits that entered America (due to the atomic age). All done in a 2001 A Space Odyssey-esque style. Laura was created by the Giant as a counter to BOB I guess. The young couple might be Leland and Sarah? All in all, this might be the most surreal episode ever in the history of television. I can't believe Lynch got away with it. This was pure, unadulterated art man."

Image Source: W Magazine.

Image Source: The Australian.

Image Source: Vanity Fair.

Image Source: Nerdist.

Woodsmen clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Woodsman at the radio station clip from Twin Peaks: The Return, Episode 8 (25 June 2017). Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Vulture's reviewer concurred that Lynch encapsulated the post-atom bomb reality:
"'Part 8' allows the series to present an elaborate, visually and sonically dazzling origin story, not so much for the demon BOB (represented by stylized images of the face of Frank Silva, the late actor who played him in the original series) but for the postwar United States of America. That’s not all it’s doing — I would not be surprised if entire books were written about this one hour."

Image Source: Vanity Fair.

The turning point which set the 'before' and 'after' of the Atomic Age was the United States' test of the Trinity bomb on 16 July 1945 at 5:29:45 a.m. In this episode, the repercussion arrives on 5 August 1956; a monster hatches from an egg in the desert, and crawls forth to unleash a nightmare, starting with rambling, charred woodsmen. One of these spectral figures breaks into a radio station and interrupts the broadcast with a sickening spell which puts everyone to sleep:
This is the water, this is the well, drink full and descend; the horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.

- Man Wanting A Light
There are several artistic influences here. The episode reminded me of many American horror-genre depictions of nuclear weapons and warfare, including the video games, It Came from the Desert and Fallout. There was a lot of Kubrick in this, too. The Nine Inch Nails provided the nuclear soundtrack. But only David Lynch could perfectly capture it all, in a one-hour dream that tells you everything that is wrong with our world.

Image Source: W Magazine.


See all my posts on Nuclear topics.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Twin Peaks Returns


Twin Peaks was full of occult imagery, signifying a battle between the forces of Jupiter (positive) and Saturn (malefic). My comment on the symbols in this scene is here. Image Source: The Dissolve.

David Lynch's and Mark Frost's acclaimed series Twin Peaks, which changed television in two seasons in 1990 and 1991, returns on 21 May 2017. The original series, and the 1992 prequel film, was a mystery about a murdered American homecoming queen, Laura Palmer. It unraveled in the second season into soap opera surrealism after Lynch stepped away from the project. But the first season was a landmark moment in popular entertainment and is widely considered one of the best television series ever made. It inspired many other ground-breaking series. My comments below the jump contain spoilers, so if you haven't yet seen the original series and want to, read no further until you have done so.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

WikiLeaks: Vault 7 Tests the CIA


Image Source: The Intercept.

This morning at 9 a.m. Eastern, WikiLeaks released the biggest intelligence information dump in history (here). The dump of 8,761 documents, dating from 2013 to 2016, and entitled 'Vault 7' reveals how the US Central Intelligence Agency spies on citizens through almost all consumer technology. The CIA hacks, and can control, modern cars and trucks, iPhones, iPads, and Android phones.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Countdown to Hallowe'en 2016: Disasters, Miracles and the Mandela Effect


The wildest so-called 'whistle-blower' of 2016 is the 4chan boards 'CERN scientist,' who insisted the Mandela effect was real on 21 August 2016. (Click to enlarge.) Image Source.

In 2015, astrologer Liz Greene summarized the spirit of our times (her extended comment on the subject is here): 
"The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once wrote that nothing is certain except change. In the last two decades we have been forced to acknowledge this ancient truth, for many of our time-honoured and reliable religious, economic and social structures and definitions of reality have undergone major upheavals. Because human beings instinctively fear change, we imagine global disasters as we move into the future, or global redemption through the miracles of technology or some extraordinary new spiritual or political revolution. We are filled with both anxiety and hope. Is this really a time of great opportunity, spiritually and materially? Or does it seem so merely because we believe it to be so?"
In the spirit of understanding the power of perception over rationality and belief, I sometimes cover strange material on this blog. I discuss this material with reservations, and save the weirdest stories for the Hallowe'en countdown.

This summer, a deranged rumour on the Internet combined disasters with miracles. It is called the 'Mandela effect,' a meme which asserts that "large groups of people have alternate memories about past events." The effect is likely a jarring dyslexia of shared memory in the era of kinetic information. The Mandela effect is the creepiest meme I have ever encountered (even creepier than this one). It made me think of the line from David Lynch's 1997 neo-noir horror film, Lost Highway: "I like to remember things my own way. ... How I remember them. Not necessarily the way they happened."

The Mandela effect resembles Lynch's plot structures, especially in Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006), where characters and incidents repeat, transform, and overlap in new contexts. In Lynch's most recent work, the characters share a basic story. This is the 'highway' of everyday experience, the type of historical story we all know, expect and recognize. It follows a linear chronology. Radical variations in this kind of story are almost always rationally comprehensible. They may involve one character missing a critical piece of information; or big differences in opinion or perspective between characters; or a character's tragic flaw forcing him to act in a way he should not. A larger fate, god, or mystery can play a role in these stories, but the linear highway of the narrative remains predominant, even if the characters take an off-ramp.

From the Lost Highway soundtrack. I'm Deranged. LP: Outside (25 September 1995) © David Bowie/Brian Eno/RCA. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

But in the Lynchian universe, that main highway chronology is overlaid with other narratives which follow the separate stories of symbols (or archetypes), of the individual subconscious (possibly the soul), and of a larger, collective unconscious (perhaps the group soul). Those other, eerie narratives are non-linear and have different shapes. In Lost Highway, the plot relating to death symbols was constructed like a Möbius strip. Some of those unconventional narratives may have no shape at all and may be quantum, popping in and out of the linear narrative of conventional sanity, and co-existing in many times and realities. This allows Lynch's characters to disappear and reappear, sometimes with new identities, for no apparent linear reason. It is easy to dismiss these films as crazy, but Lynch's aim seems rather to tell the complete story of reality. The characters' behaviour and the events in these films would only make sense if you could map all the different narratives at play, and understand how they were interacting.

The Mandela effect also reminds me of Dark City (1998); the time travel and tangent universe of Donnie Darko (2001); and the Matrix films (1999-2003). In these movies, anomalies are explained as the products of manipulation by higher, outside actors. This is all fine, if you are a film critic or a post-Postmodern novelist. The only problem is, believers think the Mandela effect is real.

Clip from Lost Highway (1997) © October Films. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Clip from Dark City (1998) © New Line Cinema. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Clip from The Matrix (1999) © Warner/Roadshow Entertainment. Reproduced under Fair Use. Video Source: Youtube.

Inland Empire (2006) official trailer. Video Source: Youtube.

As to the source of the Mandela effect, one woman found discussions on the effect as far back as 2005. But the effect was defined by a Wiccan paranormal researcher and blogger named Fiona Broome, during a conversation at the 2010 comic book convention DragonCon in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. The conversation involved a collective belief that Nelson Mandela had died in prison on 23 July 1991, and then reappeared alive and well, and became President of South Africa and died in 2013. This led to Broome's conviction that people were dividing between those who remembered alternate histories - and those who did not.

Interview with the Vampire (1994) contains one example of the supposed Mandela effect. The film is © Warner, reproduced under Fair Use. Image Source: Goodreads

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Dunes of Mars


Image Source: NASA via The Planetary Society.

NASA's Curiosity rover is now crossing the Bagnold Dunes on the northwestern edge of Mount Sharp (Aeolis Mons), an 18,000 foot high mountain (a bit smaller than Mount Kilimanjaro, about the same size as Mount McKinley). Wiki on Curiosity's current status:
As of November 30, 2015, Curiosity has been on the planet Mars for 1179 sols (1211 days) since landing on August 6, 2012.
The mountain sits at the centre of the planet's Gale Crater and is named for geomorphologist Robert P. Sharp (1911-2004), an expert on the geological surfaces of Earth and Mars. Mount Sharp "is the 15000th named feature" in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, a list of all topographical features named in the solar system with the approval of the International Astronomical Union. Yes, the mountain's dune belt made me think of this opening film sequence.


NASA/JPL: "The dark band in the lower portion of this Martian scene is part of the 'Bagnold Dunes' dune field lining the northwestern edge of Mount Sharp, inside Gale Crater. The view combines multiple images taken with the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover on Sept. 25, 2015, during the 1,115th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars. ... The view is toward south-southeast. Curiosity will visit examples of the Bagnold Dunes on the rover's route to higher layers of Mount Sharp. The informal name for the dune field is a tribute to British military engineer Ralph Bagnold (1896-1990), a pioneer in the study of how winds move sand particles of dunes on Earth." Images Source: NASA/JPL.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Crowdfund the Creative Life


Image Source: The Oatmeal (29 October 2015).

In 2014, Pierre-Michel Menger published a fantastic book, The Economics of Creativity: Art and Achievement under Uncertainty, which describes the strange social psychology that governs how we assign value to creative products. Artists and other creative thinkers have never been more desperately needed to understand the changes of the new Millennium; but they face industrialized work conditions, corporate business models, and commercialized distribution systems. Over-competition and over-supply create professional hierarchies in which obedience trumps innovation. Worst of all, creative disciplines - from the amateur arts to academia - depend on an idealized belief in genius achievement, which is supposed to ignore money to maintain purity of intention.

Menger argued that the problem of evaluating and supporting creativity should not be framed in terms of employment and work conditions. Rather, the focus should shift to understanding the nature of human invention and how to sustain it. We must rethink how creative people live and work and how they are compensated, because true creativity already depends on what Menger called "self-realization," a non-chaotic engagement with uncertainty. Move to the edges of any society, and you will find people analyzing and radically rethinking how our world works, and how we fit in the world. Thus, imaginative work is, by definition, not a fully programmable activity. It is unpredictable, both in terms of how long it takes and in terms of results. Yet that uncertainty must be managed, or creative people cannot survive, and their cutting-edge visions will be lost.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Hallowe'en Countdown 2015: The Watcher


As of October 2015, 657 Boulevard, Westfield NJ, was on the market for USD $1.25 million. Image Source: Christian Hansen/Gothamist.

Every horror fan knows that when you buy property, you should beware the amazing real estate deal. In June 2015, a lawsuit in Union County, New Jersey, USA suggested that a house there sold with a hidden legacy. The court papers read like a cross between The Amityville Horror (1977) and When A Stranger Calls (1979). In June 2014, the Woods family sold their six-bedroom house at 657 Boulevard, Westfield, to the Broaddus family for $1.3 million, which was a steal because Union County is a prosperous place with nice schools and good jobs: it is 119th in per capita income among 3,113 counties in the United States. Perched on the Atlantic seafront, sheltered by the Watchung Mountains, the motto of this leafy enclave is "We're connected to you!"

Yes, we are: in June 2014, three days after the new home owners at 657 Boulevard moved in, they started to receive hostile anonymous letters, threatening their children and claiming that for generations, the house and its inhabitants have been stalked by the letter writer, a malevolent voyeur described in court documents as 'The Watcher.' The Daily Mail:
“Police have not yet released the letters but the profilers say they would be able to tell a lot from the handwriting, sentence structure, use of grammar and tone. In the messages, which date back to last year, the stalker said that his family had been 'watching' the house for generations. He also claimed he would be able to see the family through their windows. And he accused them of updating the house. ‘You have changed it and made it so fancy,' he wrote. 'It cries for the past and what used to be in the time when I roamed its halls, when I ran from room to room imagining the life with the rich occupants there… Stop changing it and let it alone.’ One letter read: 'Why are you here? I will find out. 'My grandfather watched the house in the 1920s and my father watched in the 1960s. It is now my time. Do you need to fill the house with the young blood I requested?' He seems to be referring to the Broaddus family's three children. In the first letter, dated June 5 [2014], he wrote: 'Once I know their names I will call to them and draw them to me. 'I asked the [prior owners] to bring me young blood. And now I watch and wait for the day when they [sic] young blood will be mine again.'

'Have they found what is in the walls yet? In time they will. I am pleased to know your names and the names now of the young blood you have brought to me. 'Will the young bloods play in the basement. Who has the rooms facing the street? I'll know as soon as you move in. It will help me to know who is in which bedroom then I can plan better.' All the windows and door in [the house] allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house. 'I am in charge of [the house].'
The buyers sued the house's previous owners for not disclosing information on the Watcher before the sale. Courthouse News reported that the plaintiffs invoked the 'decency of civilized society':
All told, the letters are "the epitome of extreme and outrageous conduct so severe in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society," the complaint states.
The Watcher's letters state that he had communicated with the sellers, but to win the case, the buyers have to prove that the sellers already knew about the Watcher when they sold the house. New Jersey does not have a law forcing sellers to disclose negative information about real estate. Nolo: Law for All advises that hauntings and other psychological stigmas are encouraged by sellers of New Jersey real estate, but disclosures remain voluntary; it is up to the house buyer to ask if the property is stigmatized:
What to Disclose If the House Is Haunted or Otherwise Stigmatized

There are some "intangible" problems with a property that buyers cannot discover through an inspection. A property may, for example, be "stigmatized" if it is affected by psychological or other factors that have nothing to do with its physical condition but affect whether it would be desirable to live in. Examples of such stigma include a house that is allegedly haunted or where a violent death took place. In New Jersey, you do not have to disclose these things BUT, if the buyer asks you about them, you must answer honestly.

Filling Out a Disclosure Form

In light of the various disclosure obligations described above, most Realtors in New Jersey will require that the seller fill out a SELLER'S PROPERTY CONDITION DISCLOSURE STATEMENT to share with prospective buyers. You may attract more buyers if you are willing to let them know straight up what condition the property is in before they make an offer. If you do not provide a disclosure form, you may well scare off a buyer who thinks there must be issues with the property that you'd rather not disclose. This form provides facts about the history of repairs to the property and almost every physical aspect of the property, from the basement sump pump to the rooftop. Sellers usually deliver it to prospective buyers when they express an interest in making an offer on the property. The form is not required of a New Jersey seller. In fact, some sellers refuse to fill it out, for fear that they may make an innocent omission or representation. If you do fill it out, make sure you answer it completely and honestly. Failure to do so could set you up for a potential suit for misrepresentation or failure to disclose.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Riding the Wheel of Fortune


Waterwheel at Daio Wasabi farm in Azumino, Nagano, Japan. The farm appeared in Akira Kurosawa's film, Dreams (1990; see film clip, below, and my previous posts on that film, here, here, and here). Image Source: Youtube.

Is time a circle? Sometimes, it looks as though the wheel turns and returns. The wheel of fortune represents two opposing things: a divination of the future, or luck at the roulette table. That means the wheel, which is also a symbol of human technology, mixes a message about the passage of time because it combines order with chaos. The wheel supposedly reveals the points where Fate meets Fortune. Looking at a problem linearly, we might believe the past is gone, done and fixed, indicating the path of future destiny. But if time is a circle, we can revisit the past, gamble again and change its story.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

True Detective: Time is a Flat Circle


Poster for True Detective season 1 (2014) is set in Louisiana. Image Source: HG Girl on Fire. The show's poster spawned a spoof meme, see: here, here, here.

America loves a morality tale, the deeper and darker, the better. Just as the '70s had Serpico, Mean Streets and Chinatown, the '80s had Blade Runner, Blue Velvet and Angel Heart, the '90s had L.A. Confidential and The Usual Suspects, and the '00s had No Country for Old Men and The Dark Knight as the definitive neo-noirs of those decades, the 2010s have Winter's Bone and the HBO television series True Detective. True Detective debuted in the USA and Canada on 12 January 2014 and debuted in the UK on Sky Atlantic on 22 February 2014. The second season begins in North America on 21 June 2015. Season 2 is set around the Los Angeles transportation system and involves a murder at the heart of a giant conspiracy.

The writing and vision for this series is incredible. True Detective makes the parallel UK drama, Broadchurch, pale in comparison. Broadchurch is strong in its own right and has somewhat similar initial premise: two quarreling detectives seek a murderer. But Broadchurch does not take the same risks.

True Detective season 2 (2015) is set around the Los Angeles transportation system, the venal conduit into the dark heart of the City of Angels. Season 2 stars Rachel McAdams, Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell. Image Source: Mashable.

True Detective does exactly what a noir should do. The tension mounts, and as the characters' flaws deepen, the plot gets more feverish. The Toronto Sun remarks that True Detective, "makes every other police procedural drama seem faint and quaint by comparison. How are we supposed to watch 'regular' TV if HBO keeps dropping these sorts of live grenades in our laps?"

True Detective is not just a genre-hopping cop drama trying to shock its viewers, as with another Millennial series, The Fall. Like Twin Peaks, season 1 of this Lynchian show started off as police noir and ended up as a horror story. There are references in True Detective to H. P. Lovecraft's works and Blair Witch, which similarly involve rational investigations dragging the investigators' subconscious into a confrontation with an immense, malevolent, supernatural being or force.

There is a monster here, behind the police explorations of gritty streets and haunted bayous. The monster inhabits the dreams of this mundane world, but unfortunately for the characters, the monster has legs. It has a history. The Gen X writer of True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto, gives his horror deep roots. He presents this TV series as one story in a long line of stories about a much, much larger legend. True Detective is a metafictional continuation of the multi-authored Carcosa mythos, which started with an Ambrose Bierce short story, "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" also known as "Can Such Things Be?" (1891; read it here) and The King in Yellow (1895) by Robert W. Chambers. You can read The King in Yellow online here. For more on The King In Yellow and the Carcosa story: go here, here, herehere and here. You can see this series' connection with Chambers's stories drawn here and here. The metafiction continuity inspired so much chatter that some critics claimed that Pizzolatto had plagiarized, rather than continued, other authors' works.

In other words, True Detective is supposed to be part of, and continue, a fictional mythology about something terrible that once happened in an ancient lost city. In Bierce's work, that city, Carcosa, is described by someone who once lived there:
Along the shore the cloud waves break, The twin suns sink behind the lake, The shadows lengthen In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise, And strange moons circle through the skies, But stranger still is Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing, Where flap the tatters of the King, Must die unheard in Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead, Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed Shall dry and die in Lost Carcosa.

—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Forever: Maybe Not the Word You Want?


Johnny Depp's original 'Winona Forever' tattoo. Image Source: johnnydepp.org.

In the past couple of days, the word forever kept coming up. Finally, it all converged in a 'plate of shrimp' moment. The first mention came up in this analysis at The White Review of Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. The article, Famous Tombs: Love in the 90s, described Depp's and Ryder's relationship as the American youth romance of the decade. Author Masha Tupitsyn then probed a more interesting question. She almost cracked what, exactly, happened to the Depp-Ryder romance, not in terms of what it meant privately to the two actors, because we can't know that, but what it represented to the rest of us.

Image Source: Buzzfeed.

Tupitsyn hints that it never went anywhere, but Johnny and Winona did. She believes that Depp sublimated it in alcohol and drugs, replacing love for a woman with addictions so distracting that it became impossible to get back to the original source. Meanwhile, Ryder moved forward, but part of her is still trapped in that past time. It wasn't just her love for Depp. She embodied a decade for Generation Jones and Gen X rebels, symbolized by the curious fact that she is naturally a blonde, but for decades has dyed her hair Gothic black:
Like John Cusack, another black haired/pale skinned 80s/90s idol, as well as a youth actor whose great, and perhaps only gift, was to enact a different kind of youth (a counter-youth and counter-masculinity) in his youth, Winona Ryder was never timeless, she was of the time. Most especially that brief time in her life, her teenage years and early twenties. Perhaps this is why Jake Gyllenhaal’s light hair was dyed jet-black for the retroactive DONNIE DARKO, and Christian Slater’s jet-black for HEATHERS. Something about dark hair showing up in the late 80s and early 90s as a form of retribution for an aesthetically fascistic and representationally narrow decade. These are people who were not kissed by the sun, who were not California Dreamin’, or, as the German writer Heinrich Laube puts it, ‘These pale youths are uncanny, concocting God knows what mischief.’ If, as the teenage radio pirate DJ, ‘Hard Harry’ puts it in PUMP UP THE VOLUME (1990), the 80s were a totally ‘exhausted decade, where there’s nothing to look forward to and no one to look up to’, Winona Ryder rose up from the bleached-blonde ashes of the 1980s.
Depp and Ryder started in gothic and horror genres. Their early work, like that of contemporaries Keanu Reeves, Parker Posey and River Phoenix, appeared in dark indie films or popular movies with unsettling vibes. Depp made his feature film debut in Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), in which he played a nice but useless boyfriend. These roles reflected a time, when, for a brief period, surreal depictions of the collective unconscious entered the American mainstream in almost unedited forms. It was remarkable. David Lynch, an American director surreal enough to be respected by Europeans, became popular, as his Twin Peaks exposed the underside of the American Dream.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Twin Peaks Déjà Vu and the World Economy


Image Source: Daily Mail.

In November 2014, Brooke Shields released a memoir, in which she reminisced about a few dates she shared with George Michael in the 1980s. The iconic photo of them brought back a decade, filled with glitz, glamour, and the high price of both. It is a world away from today's tricky global economies and crumbling infrastructure, where everything is deadly serious. Nevertheless, it feels like something of the 80s is returning and that time is coming full circle. Sadly, Whitney Houston's daughter has reminded me of the 1980s; so does Dakota Johnson, daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, in her breakout role in cinemas in Fifty Shades of Grey. There were many more nuances to that time, more profound than the ones selected here below the jump. But what is shown here was a major American theme: high living with beautiful people and smooth operators in the sunshine.

Dakota Johnson. Image Source: The Wrap.

One of the videos below the jump is from 1982: Eminence Front from The Who's studio album It's Hard:
In the song, Townshend sings about the delusions and drug use of the wealthy and hedonistic. The lyrics describe a party in which people hide from their problems behind a facade. Townshend has introduced the song in live performances with: "This song is about what happens when you take too much white powder; it's called 'Eminence Front.'"
The 80s promised wealth and all its sins to the masses of the United States (and to her allies who were invited to the party). Today, wealth is exclusive again in America. Capital as Power speaks of the 2010s' New Gilded Age for the Plutonomy. The United States sports a handful of home-grown billionaires. But riches are no longer promised democratically and freely to the general population of the country. That is what the exuberance, styles and expectations of the 1980s were about. The door to a big, prosperous middle class was wide open. An entire nation would become wealthy. No child left behind. Everyone would be wealthy. In 2015, Americans know better; they are abandoning the glossy, marbled shopping malls, the proletarian palaces of 80s' spending. Conspicuous consumption and money's excesses have moved on: in the late 90s, they finally arrived in London; then they flew to Dubai; to Hong Kong and Singapore; then Mumbai; by 2012, they roared through SeoulGangnam Style, and now, money is flooding the Asia-Pacific region, in cities like Jakarta. Don't believe the beautiful illusions, people. The crash always follows.

Some don't learn. Some surf the wave, moving from place to place, following the money, and never learning the full lesson. If you want to do that, pack your bags for sub-Saharan Africa, and get there before the 2030s. Or you can follow where the Internet of Things will take you, although according to CompTIA tech analyst Seth Robinson, "There's no map" for that.

Image Source: Hypable.

Some do learn. Sobered Americans, like the JapaneseGreeks and other peoples who blew all their money, are ahead of the curve, not behind it. They rose to the height of prosperity based on industry and trade. They shared the unambiguous virtues of engineers and builders of society. It's like that line in Citizen Kane: "It's not hard to make a lot of money, if all you want to do is make a lot of money." The real psychological and moral challenges come from squandered riches. As money trickles back to America and other once-ultra-prosperous nations, the cautionary tales which explored those challenges in the 1980s and 1990s return. This is because the challenges posed by spent money are fully digested in culture, not in the economy, politics or society. That is why Twin Peaks, David Lynch's perilous 1990-1991 journey into the American soul, is set to return in 2016:
In May 2013, cast member Ray Wise stated what Lynch had said to him regarding a possible reboot: "Well, Ray, you know, the town is still there. And I suppose it's possible that we could revisit it. Of course, you're already dead ... but we could maybe work around that."
Image Source: Before the Bombs Fall.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Cultural Footprint of Jodorowsky's Dune


Image Source: Amazing Stories.

For every generation, there is a window of opportunity to create what Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky's son Brontis called, "a dreamed life." This is the Beautiful Alternative, the path not followed, the epitome of achievement not attained due to failure, impediments, lack of resources or similar circumstances. In cinema, Jodorowsky's 1970s' adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune (1965) is considered by director Richard Stanley as "the greatest movie never made." A 2013 documentary on the subject argues that, at a critical time in the 1970s, this film marked the dividing line between what really matters artistically and real world limitations. And the fact that this particular film was not made because of monetary problems, and the unwillingness of the studios to bring such a radical vision to popular audiences, changed Hollywood and the entertainment industry forever.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Dark Seed's Other Dimension


The librarian from Dark Seed (1992). Image Source: Red and White Kop.

One of the most famous early horror video games, Dark Seed, was released by Cyberdreams in 1992. It is noted for its haunting artwork by the late Swiss artist, H. R. Giger, and its ground-breaking high resolution graphics. Unusually for its format, the game heightened stress by forcing the player to complete tasks within a limited time. Otherwise, the player had to start again. This is because an alien-like 'dark seed' has been implanted in the protagonist, who must solve several interrelated real world and other dimensional puzzles before the embryo is born and kills him and all of humankind. The protagonist can only last three days in his newly-purchased, otherworldly house!

Giger's contribution lays out an ever-worsening excursion into an unforgivingly crazy and monochromatic subconscious. It's so frankly and unflinchingly portrayed that at times you can't help but laugh at how dreadful it all is. The plot opens as a man moves into a dilapidated mansion, where his nightmares and daily routine begin to converge:
Mike Dawson is a successful advertising executive and writer who has recently purchased an old mansion on Ventura Drive (named after Ventura Boulevard) in the small town of Woodland Hills. On his first night at the house, Mike has a nightmare about being imprisoned by a machine that shoots an alien embryo into his brain. He wakes up with a severe headache and, after taking some aspirins and a shower, explores the mansion. He finds clues about the previous owner's death, which reveal the existence of a parallel universe called the Dark World ruled by sinister aliens called the Ancients.
Because today's games are so advanced, it is easy to overlook this early horror gem. Watch the extended gameplay below the jump. Have the patience to follow it through, and it delivers an abiding, nasty creepiness, frayed nerves, and a nagging, subliminal uncertainty about reality. Wiki: "In 2006 Gametrailers.com named [Dark Seed] the seventh scariest game of all time, ranking it above Clock Tower, System Shock 2, and Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem."

Game conception drew from H. P. Lovecraft and from Giger's designs for the 1979 film, Alien. Watch for the reference to 'Joe Tuttle,' the gardener, who appears as well in the The Changeling (1980; see it here or here) and The Others (2001). A sequel, Dark Seed II (1995; gameplay here), was influenced by David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990-1991), and also featured horror lurching between two worlds. H. R. Giger did not participate directly in making the sequel. For that reason, the first game remains the unsettling classic.

Still from Dark Seed (1992). Image Source: Red and White Kop.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Counting Down to Hallowe'en: Illuminati Eyes


.Gif Source: Z. Scott / We Invent You.

The New World Order plot of the Illuminati is one of the most popular conspiracy theories on the Internet. Did gossip on the Web foster this myth, mixing it with Freemasonry, black magic and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion? One can scoff at the paranoid pyramid seekers, but they have a point: popular culture, institutions, corporations and political groups have incorporated so-called Illuminati messages for decades, and even centuries. That said, anti-Illuminati conspiracy theorists are often anti-Semitic and counter-factual, suggesting the Illuminati story in fact conveys those attitudes.

After the First World War, occult divination through ouija boards gained popularity as the bereaved sought to talk to their lost loved ones. At the same time, magical secularism which had enjoyed a vogue before the war lingered and combined with Satanic and Wiccan ideas. The outcome in a place like Hollywood, which already had (and has) a loose grip on reality, was grim. Perhaps certain cults gained a fatal foothold there. Odd evidence occasionally broke through the tinsel: ghosts of the 1920s; surrealism of the 1920s through the 1940s; the 1947 Black Dahlia murder, which may have involved a sacrificial black magic ritual; and many unsolved deaths from the 1930s to the present. Orson Welles, David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick are three of the most famous directors who explored this dark history.

Anne Hathaway flashed Mano Cornuto or El Diablo hand signs before she claimed her award at the 2013 Golden Globes for Les Misérables (2012). Image Source: AFP/Getty via Daily Mail.

These symbols have dominated entertainment, politics and advertising since the Second World War. Did politicians, business leaders, Hollywood and music industry moguls strike fateful bargains, applying occult practices and esoteric beliefs to the business of taming the newly-prosperous public? Did rising individuals, as director Roman Polanski may have suggested, join insider cults and labour under the illusion that their successes were and are due to arcane rituals, rather than their own talents and abilities?

Or perhaps occult and Masonic symbols offered an exciting visual lexicon for marketers in the post-World-War-II consumer culture. Just because a photographer, handler or stylist tells a celebrity to cover his or her eye, or make a cryptic hand gesture, it doesn't mean the individual is a cultist. This might simply be a marketing ploy, part of the art of public persona creation; the celebrity becomes a larger than life figure, the superficially-powerful pawn who sells entertainment media and consumer goods.

Image Source: Above Top Secret.

Are these Illuminati cults real or imagined? This blog is very skeptical of conspiracies, but this is the Hallowe'en countdown, so let us see. The Masonic all-seeing eye of God (or Lucifer?), also known as the Eye of Horus or the Eye of Providence, is a primary symbol purportedly associated with this world-dominating secret society. Below the jump, today's countdown to Hallowe'en presents a sobering overview of the prevalence of the Illuminati eye in the entertainment industry.

Chatter on the David Icke message board (for more on Icke's wild suspicions of world conspiracies, go here and here) debates the significance of a celebrity's illuminated left versus right eyes; the commenter additionally believes that there is a difference between those who encircle their eyes with their fingers or another gesture (the controllers) and those who cover their eyes (the controlled):
Handlers are those celebrities who willingly push the Agenda of the Illuminati. They can be identified by the "all-seeing eye" symbol. As handlers are often consistent with which eye they choose to "illuminate," I believe that a distinction can be made by observing which eye is favored. Though I have not been able to determine which is which, I believe that one eye indicates those who sympathize with the cause, and the other indicates those who agreed to push forth the agenda after being bribed (Please note that these individuals push the Agenda to reap its spoils, rather than doing so out of fear.) ... The Handled are those individuals who have been forced to push the Agenda. The individuals may have been opposed to the Illuminati from the start, or are former supporters who have finally had enough. Either way, these individuals are forced to cover one eye to represent that they are being oppressed; that they are the submissive. ... MK Ultra victims are viciously tortured, and when they attempt to escape within their minds, an alter-ego is put into place. Please note that many of those who have their right eye covered have referred to themselves as having alter-egos. ... Some photos may be written off as just someone winking or rubbing stuff out of their eye. However, it cannot be denied that the Illuminated eye symbol is everywhere in the celebrity community! Those who use these symbols are usually very consistent with which eye is covered, and which remains illuminated.
In addition, the left-right distinction may refer - so the conspiracy theorists say - to dominant character or talent through an indication of brain function.

Image Source: David Icke chatboard.

None of those speculations is confirmed here, but the Illuminati theory is clearly a mish-mash of pop psychology, anti-government sentiment, anti-Semitism, suspicion of the mass media, the spread of the occult and the impact of confirmed cults (you can see a daily rundown of real life cult headlines here). The theory of the Illuminati is more of a metanarrative which ensnares conspiracy theorists (online gnostic seekers constantly proclaim they have found the so-called 'real truth' above the evident truth) in their own fears of enslavement. Thus, conspiracy theorists ironically actually participate in, and constitute, the very community of believers that they project on public circles. Does that mean that public figures don't join higher cults? Not necessarily. More likely, the fears and symbols telescope the higher one goes in any area of endeavour: illumination is universally in Millennial fashion. It is a sign that the revived pre-Christian and Christian heresy of gnosticism is rampant today.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Away for Easter


Image Source: Z. Scott / We Invent You.

I will be away from the blog until May 7 due to other work demands.

Image Source: Z. Scott / We Invent You.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Simulactive Office Space


.Gif Source: Z. Scott via We Invent You.

Some online reports this week discuss the work of .gif artist, Zach Scott, who has created an artistic online conference call simulation. Scott sampled 15 voices with 75 lines of corporate office meeting dialogue which he randomized. If you visit this site, you will experience a Webinar as surreal Millennial art. Scott cites director David Lynch as a big influence, especially with regard to the use of ambient sound to contribute to an jarring atmosphere, and also in relation to a collage of normal details which, together, add up to something unsettling. From The Creators Project interview with Scott:
Lynch--he's my very favorite director and a huge influence. The intent of the ambient soundtrack was to create an unsettling atmosphere. I included quiet supermarket sounds at the beginning and end of the loop because I want people to subliminally feel the influence of money and transactions.
In many conference calls, time really is money, and every distraction and interruption begins to add up monetarily. The participants' inefficiencies are tangibly costing someone money, and it becomes stressful.
I had a few alternate backing tracks that dramatically changed the whole experience. One of them was a loop of a few cheesy hold music smooth jazz clips. I didn't use it because I thought it made the website too funny. I wanted to make people feel a little uncomfortable, and smooth jazz is just too funny. The backing track is really important in setting the tone--if the backing track was the sound of chatter and work and keyboards then the resulting vibe would be more industrious. But I wanted people to think about the absurdity of the conference call and feel a little despair.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Other People With Your Name


Still from The Double Life of Véronique (1991). Image Source: Wonders in the Dark.

I have a friend who wants to streamline his online image for professional reasons. He wants to deal with the Facebook photos which other people obligingly took, posted, and tagged with his name without asking. He wants make sure that nothing weird comes up when you google him, either correctly (some detail he would rather not remain permanently public) or incorrectly (some detail that is falsely associated with him).

Depending on how common your name is, you will be familiar with the experience: you google yourself, and up come the other people with your name. If you have a common name, then you have the comfort of the crowd; but then you have the problem of having any Web presence at all (assuming you want one).

But since my friend has an unusual name, for a long time googling him only brought up results about him. As the Web's reach deepened, another person appeared online with his name.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Millennial Mysteries: Bizarre Twists, the Lost, the Missing

Plaque at the gate entrance to Disneyland. Image Source: Wiki.

Many people, at some point in their lives, enter a realm bounded by mystery. This is a famous theme in noir and horror movies. David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986) explored what would happen if two 'normal,' 'everyday,' 'rational' people veered off into mystery.