When Entertainment Conquers Reality

Today is day two on tour.  (And no I am not going to keep a daily tour diary. As soon as I promised to do that it would end in failure!)   We drove through Moab, Utah, for the second time in a month.  It looks like a Road Runner cartoon come to life.  I was actually thinking about how comparing it to cartoon was the only way to make the geography make sense to a lot of people.  Art is its own kind of communication.

When you drive out of New York, into New Jersey, you see all of these factories and plants.  Kevin Russell says it looks like the work of H.R. Giger and my Dad compares it to scenes from the Mad Max movies.  Either way you get the idea.

I mentioned yesterday that I was reading Erik Larson’s In the Garden of Beasts, about Nazi Germany.  Someone from that time period mentions that some of the events in Germany then seemed a lot like the things that people saw in American cinema.  (I totally could not find the page that was from to make the example more illuminating.  Hey if you were in a van for 10 hours today, you wouldn’t give a fuck either!)

I know that I have often told people that a certain event was just like so and so movie or TV show.  I’m sure that you have done the same as something surreal or exciting happens.

Stories have always been a way for people to communicate ideas to one another.  At the same time, I think it is interesting to think about that line where fiction and reality blur.  At what point is a story a means of communicating a reality and at what point does the story start to take over for reality, as people use a story as the basis for what they do in reality?

A really great book that deals with these kinds of ideas and more is Neal Gabler’s Life: The Movie.  The subtitle is How Entertainment Conquered Reality.  I think Gabler is one of our best critics.  He understands how popular culture is influenced by history, but also how history is influenced by popular culture.  (Gabler’s biography of Disney and his book about Jews in early Hollywood, An Empire of Their Own, are also must reads if you are interested in how history and pop culture intersect and influence each other.

We live in a culture where the news is often spin or distraction and reality TV is anything but. We often support politicians not for the intelligence of their ideas, but because of their capability to tell us coherent stories over multiple platforms.  (Often stories that greatly contrast the reality of their ideas.)  We often feel deeply about celebrities that we not only have no real connection to, but often who create nothing of value in our lives.  It’s one thing to feel strongly about someone that has given voice to a truth that we have felt but not been able to express, but it is another thing entirely to feel for someone just because they are a familiar face.

However, fiction can often get to the truth in a way that sheer facts cannot.  I have long felt that the movie There Will Be Blood demonstrates the relationship between big business and religion in a vivid way that is as powerful as any piece of journalism.  David Lynch is somehow, through moments in his films, able to communicate the strange uncanny feeling of dreams in a way that straightforward language would never be able to.

We need, now more than ever, people that can think critically, that can at least attempt to separate fact from fiction.  We need people that can tell how “reality” is often fiction.  We need people that can tell how fiction can actually have a lot to say about our reality.


True Detective Season Two Has David Lynch Influence


True Detective Season Two Has David Lynch Influence

As a huge fan of David Lynch and a growing fan of Nic Pizzolatto, writer of True Detective, I found the above article over at Slate an interesting read.  A sample:

Mulholland Drive

Some have already remarked on the fact that a street sign with the words “Mulholland Dr.” on it is prominently featured early on—indeed, there’s a big, fat close-up of it—in the first episode. Not only that, but the car passing by the sign in question is carrying the dead body of Ben Caspere, the city controller whose death sets off this season’s featured investigation, and the episode repeatedly cuts to its journey. In Mulholland Drive, the crash of the car in question set off the plot of thatmovie, and the film repeatedly cuts back to its journey. Also, we don’t know that the figure of Caspere is dead at first—he’s got sunglasses on and is sitting straight in the backseat, next to a not-entirely-un-Lynchian black crow mask, which of course will return in episode two.

David Lynch's Music Supervisor Giving Away New Solo Album

David Lynch’s Music Supervisor Giving Away New Solo Album

Dean Hurley, who has worked as a music supervisor for David Lynch, is giving away a new solo album.  The link above is to the article and if you click on the free download will give you a zip for the record which you can download to your iTunes.  The vocals are all old soul samples, while somehow the music is inspire by Hans Zimmer’s score for, wait a minute, Days of Thunder!  It sounds like a strange concept for sure, but I am willing to give it a try as I love his work with Lynch and also with singer Chrysta Bell.

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer Review and Overview

The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer Review and Overview

Above is a link to an article at The Nerdist that reviews and recaps the book The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer.   This is a book that all Twin Peaks fans should read, especially as we await the new season in 2016.  (Yes I have read it.)  22 year old Jennifer Lynch, daughter of show creator and director David Lynch, wrote the book.  It provides a view into the life of Laura Palmer leading up to the events in the Twin Peaks movie Fire Walk With Me which itself was a prequel to the series.  (I can’t remember if any events from the movie are specifically hinted at in the book.  It has been several years since I read it.)  Those that are particularly fascinated with the darker side of Twin Peaks will find much to dive into here. 

Twin Peaks and Tapping Into the Subconscious


uncanny – strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.

I have been revisiting Twin Peaks lately in preparation for the return of the series next year.  It still amazes me, 24 years, on how well it holds up.  I also can’t believe it was on mainstream network television.  There are scenes of pure surrealism that often disturb due to their uncanny nature.  As I’ve grown older there are very few times when I find myself the least troubled by things that try to shock or scare.  However, there is some subconscious level that David Lynch taps into, especially in scenes in the red room, where I find myself still getting chills late at night.  This is, despite the fact, that I have seen this show many times and have read and watched countless interviews about it.

Because the show was on network television there is nothing explicitly sexual or violent about the series, although explicit sex and violence are always lurking in this show just off camera.  Lynch, without being able to show any nudity or extreme violence, is able to tap into some kind of primal dream state that unnerves in ways that so many other TV shows have never been able to.    Lynch has a strange ability to put images and sound design together in a way that is the closest to the unsettling nature of dreams as I have ever seen.  While surrealism can sometimes just appear to be random things thrown together, with Lynch there is always some perfect connection between the things he uses, even if it can’t be described in any intellectual way.  While most dreams on TV are nothing like real dreams, but are simply pieces used to move the story along in a different fashion, Lynch gets that dreams reflect life without adhering to the same logic or structure.

Lynch is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation.  He talks about how he uses this for inspiration in the book Catching the Big Fish.  While having next tried it myself, I can neither confirm or deny its merits.  However, he does seem to be able to tap into the subconscious in ways that no other filmmaker can quite match.  I’m looking forward to what Lynch does with this show once it returns, especially now that it will be on Showtime, which does not have the restrictions of network TV.

Johnny Depp: Actors that Start Bands Make Him "Sick"

Johny Depp: Actors that Start Bands Make Him “Sick”

The above link is to an article where Johnny Depp discusses his distaste for actors who use their fame to start bands.  Depp plays music with others on the side, but would never form his own project because most people would only want to see it due to fame.

I was trying to think of people that were famous in one career, that moved over into music later in life, and there isn’t many that I can think of that actually made valid music.  David Lynch has gone from being a director to creating valid music at times, even releasing solo records.  However, Lynch has always been sort of a Renaissance man.  He was involved in the music and sound design of many of his films.  He wrote the lyrics for the Julee Cruise albums that him and Angelo Badalamenti did with her.  I think someone like Lynch is the exception and not the rule though.

One of the things that is really troubling in Austin is that you see a lot of the young rich starting bands and taking up club slots on the weekends.  The tech industry is really big in Austin.  You will have these guys that are rich by the time they are in their 30’s start up these massively funded bands, taking slots away from working musicians.  If they were any good one could possibly ignore it.  Although I’m sure one of those kinds of bands is actually decent, most of them are terrible.  Sure, they are usually professional, as they can afford to buy good equipment, pay for promotion, take professional photographs, buy good looking stage outfits, etc.  However, the music itself is usually the worst kind of cliched nonsense.  It may seem like I am jealous, and I do feel it is an insult to people that have spent years honing their craft, but really I just wish my ears wouldn’t be polluted by so much nonsense.  The 1% will not only own 50% of the wealth by 2016, but are also pumping out more than their fair share of sonic gibberish.  There are some that will refuse to believe me, and will think that this is some kind of personal vindictiveness, but I would so rather hear rich guys making amazing music than poor people making total shite.  However, this is rarely the case.  Most of these “weekend warrior” bands are making, to quote Keith Richards when talking of Mick Jagger’s solo album, “dogshit in the doorway”.

Night Time, My Time

Sky Ferreira’s 2013 album Night Time, My Time is one of the few pop records I have returned to consistently since it came out. Major props for referencing David Lynch’s Fire Walk With Me

About a year and a half I was in Kyoto, Japan.  I was walking back to the hotel solo and I started to take a shortcut through a mall.  Ferreira has a song called Omanko in which she sings about a Japanese Christmas.  I will never forget coming up an elevator and seeing a giant Japanese Christmas display while that song played.  It was one of those times when the music you happen to be listening to and your surroundings find complete synchronicity.  The snow and costumes were the same as ours.  However, most of the characters in those costumes looked like they were from The Legend of Zelda.  I often wonder if other countries are as befuddled with our Holiday characters, as I was with theirs?  Who knows such things…

Kyle MacLachlan Confirmed As Dale Cooper For Twin Peaks New Season


Kyle MacLachlan Confirmed In New Season of Twin Peakes

I just saw this today, although the news appeared yesterday.  I don’t really get that excited by many TV announcements, but Twin Peaks coming back on, and all that entails, is pretty damn exciting.  Fire Walk With Me is one of my all time favorite movies, and the TV show is obviously a classic.  Plan to hear more about the series return here in the future.

Batshit Insane Vol. 2: Yeezus


Kanye West – Yeezus – Kanye West’s album sounds front to back unlike any other record ever made.  Oh there are recognizable pieces all across the record, but it is the combination that is unique.  Electronic noises, Marilyn Manson drums, strings, melodic choirs, and atonal noise all rear their head at different moments.  It’s mood evokes everything from David Lynch inspired dread to raunchy comedy.  It is a hip-hop record only in the vocal delivery, a few of the beats displayed, and its cut and paste genre bending aesthetic.  I get a physical high every time I listen to this album from both it’s sonic insanity and intensity, and his seeming willingness to sacrifice himself to the judgmental and often hypocritical gods of common decency.  West begins the record:

Yeezy season approaching
Fuck whatever y’all been hearing
Fuck what, fuck whatever y’all been wearing
A monster about to come alive again

From that start through the rest of the record West seems like a man unhinged.  It is as if all of the press scrutiny he has faced has been internalized and is being spit back out with maximum venom.  But the record is not a humorless affair.  After spouting one particularly vulgar line, you can hear West start to crack himself up at the end of his delivery.  This is not a dumb record either, as it is masterfully constructed to take an art form to a new level.  The record is also emotionally complex as West plays with the public perception of him as an extremely arrogant yet successful African American, who has overstepped his bounds.  There is pain in certain parts of the record, but there is no mea culpa.  There are times when he is purposely playing into the monstrous version of himself that the media has created around him, but he slips out of any easy categorizations, always one step ahead of those that want to define him as a one dimensional caricature.  It is a dark and visceral listen by someone willingly putting his head on the chopping block and having fun while doing it.  A masterpiece.

For the first week of 2015 I am writing pieces about records that I can only describe as “batshit insane”.  These are brilliant albums that are so dark they cross the threshold into a knowing comedy.  If you want to understand exactly what I mean in more detail read the first paragraph from the start of this series:

I love records that one can only describe as sounding “batshit insane”.  Where the artist seems as if they are out-crazying the din and the whirlwind of the Great Void.  Albums that trump death, even if the artists are alive and the albums don’t even have death as a central theme because, even if it is subconsciously, they know it is out there and they seem not to give a shit.  I am reminded of the character at the end of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle who dies, “lying on my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know Who.”  I also think of George Carlin, putting on a show making the batshit insanity of this world hilarious, and then ending his set by standing on one leg with his arms outstretched, daring to be smited.  These are albums where artistic fear is not only not present, it almost seems as if the artists are daring you not to like them.  Albums like this make me laugh out loud and warm my heart to its very foundation.  I could be having the worst day possible and when I put one of these records on I think, “Thank God they are out there.”  I wanted to write about several of these records to start 2015 out on the right foot.  My goal is to post at least one record a day for the next week.  I’m just having fun, like a child skipping through a field.

Twin Peaks Novel Next Year

“Twin Peaks” novel will reveal what happened during the show’s 25-year hiatus http://www.salon.com/2014/10/17/twin_peaks_novel_will_reveal_what_happened_during_the_shows_25_year_hiatus/ via @Salon

I am about to hit the highway towards Lubbock.   Posting will be slow today.  In the mean time there is more great news for Twin Peaks fans:  Co-creator Mark Frost will be publishing a novel next year that explains what has happened in the 25 years between the last season and this new one.   I will definitely be reading this when it comes out.  If you are a fan I recommend The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer