A Lie Agreed Upon

A Lie Agreed Upon – David Milch’s Deadwood

The other day I mentioned that I was watching the David Milch created Luck.  While reading more interviews with Milch I came upon this fascinating article.  There is a mini-documntary here that you can watch about Milch’s Deadwood, one of the greatest shows of all time.  You can also read the script for the documentary below if you don’t feel like watching it.  It’s truly fascinating not only for the information about the show, but the ideas inherent in the show and therefore the documentary as well dealing with our country.  The title above has to do with the idea that history is a, “lie agreed upon.”  I found the following passage really interesting and a good sample of the kind of ideas inherent in the show and article:

He said, “An agreement that creates a community is an agreement upon an illusion, an agreement upon an intoxicant.  Our founding document jumps off from, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ which to me means a frank agreement upon illusion – not that these are self-evident truths, but that we agree upon an illusion that these are fucking truths.”

Michael Mann and David Milch Interview

David Milch and Michael Mann Interview For Luck

Lately I’ve been diving back into the world of Michael Mann, culminating in his masterpiece Heat.  I want to comment on that film at some point, but I’m still collecting ideas, putting my thoughts together.  I have also been watching the show Luck, which was on HBO a couple years back.  It’s a show that centers around a racetrack and the personalities that surround are a part of that world.  Mann was a producer and director of the pilot.  The show was created by David Milch who is one of the most interesting minds and greatest writers in television.  Deadwood, a show he created, is one of the high-water marks of television for me.  It is as close to Shakespeare as we are likely to see in our time.  I think anyone that wants to understand our country should visit that show.  Anyway, while looking up information on Luck, I found this interview with both Milch and Mann.  It is short but fascinating.

The Process of True Detective Writer Nic Pizzolatto

Vanity Fair recently put out a long form article on True Detective writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto.   If you are interested in the show the article deals with his writing process and the background of how the show to be.  I found it interesting that unlike a lot of TV series there is no writers room, that he doesn’t seem to like writing by consensus, and that he wrote the entire first season by himself.  I was also happy to see that he is influenced by David Milch, whose series Deadwood, in my opinion, is the greatest TV series ever.

How Actors Memorize Their Lines


As I’ve been reading Behan plays, I started to think about the challenge that actors must have learning dialog, especially if they are playing a large part in something.  The way that my mind works I have trouble remember song lyrics, especially to cover songs, so I can’t imagine the work that must go into learning the dialog for an entire play.  I also was thinking of the TV show Deadwood, where they often would get pages of dialog the day of a shoot, due to creator David Milch writing dialog often up until the very last minute.  (Deadwood is one of my favorite shows ever.  The dialog is really complex.  At times it is like Shakespeare with swearing.  Actor Ian McShane, in particular, would have to give whole speeches, soliloquies sometimes, that he had only gotten the morning of the shoot.)  So I decided to google what actors do, in hopes of learning tricks to make learning song lyrics easier for myself.  Out of the articles I read, I found the one that follows the most interesting, not only because it interviewed stage actors in Chicago, but also by total coincidence it talked about Deadwood and how those actors dealt with Milch’s writing style.  Here is the article:

How Actors Memorize Their Lines

W., House of Cards, Deadwood, and Reflections On the Illusions of Power


The other night I watched Oliver Stone’s W. for the first time since it was in theaters, his film about George W. Bush.  There is that old saying that comedy is tragedy plus time.  The farther we drift from those years the more they seem like some kind of strange absurd comedy.  (And yes I am fully aware of the real tragedies that were part of those times.)  Like when you study the horrors of medieval times they almost appear like a Monty Python comedy.  I think people will look back on that point in our history with disbelief.  How did we knowingly choose to put a man like that in charge for two terms?  Why did we invade a country that posed no threat to us?  It was baffling then to many and even more so now.

If you lived through those years the movie might seem too light for what actually went on.  However, if you view it in a detached way, as someone looking back who didn’t live through them would, I think it emotionally reflects how those times will be viewed.

I’ve also, as stated, been watching House of Cards lately.  Given some of the problems with the third season, I still think it possesses interesting ideas.  Combined with watching W. is the idea that our leaders our just people, no different from us.  They may have better luck, family ties, or ambition, but at the end of the day they are humans.  It is only ritual and stage craft that gives them their power.  We are all part of a play.  The power they possess is only in direct accordance with how much power we believe that they have.  In the show Deadwood there is the idea that history is, “a lie agreed upon.”  There are rules and traditions that create the perception of order and therefore create order itself.  It is the belief in these fictitious sets of principles that holds it all together.

To close, I quote Twin Peaks:  “We live inside a dream.”

Peaky Blinders Review

Peaky Blinders Review

The above article is review of the Netflix show Peaky Blinders that I think is pretty much right on the money.  The article acknowledges that although there is really nothing new at the core of the show, the execution of everything, from the acting to the sets, succeed in making it worth watching.  There are some minor quibbles I have with the soundtrack at certain points, as stylized shots with modern songs playing glamorize the violence sometimes in ways that aren’t needed.  (It would be far better if the violence was always portrayed as horrific and brutal as it would fit the themes of the show better.  Most of the violence on this show is portrayed in a barbarous way, but occasionally it does dip into Guy Ritchie territory, which seems out of place.)  There are also moments of coincidence that can briefly take you out of the action as they expose the seems of the writing.  The article above compares the show to Deadwood, and I think that is a fair comparison thematically, although this show doesn’t even come close to matching the writing of Deadwood.  (Deadwood is the best show of modern times, with writing on par with the best of literature.)

However, these things aside, I do like Peaky Blinders.  It is an extremely entertaining show.  I do think the acting, the set design, the costumes, and the cinematography are top notch.  I do think, especially in the first season, that it has themes and ideas that takes it beyond mere entertainment.  The way that society perpetuates violence is interestingly addressed.  The violence that these working class men carry out is partially the result of the violence that they were forced carry out during the war.  The show seems to be saying that violence, once introduced to society, is a cancer that we are stuck with, long after the fighting of war is over.  The ruling class sends these men to do horrible things in the trenches, only to condemn them when they bring their new “skill set” home.

Anyway, I more than commenting on it myself I wanted to point you in the direction of the above article, because I do think the writer, despite a few minor quibbles, does a good job of conveying the merits of this show.  (I think Tom Hardy’s performance in Season 2 is one of hat season’s highlights.)  I myself will look forward to watching Season 3 whenever that comes out.

Addition:  I don’t exactly mean to criticize something by comparing it to Guy Ritchie.  Although there is no doubt that some of the things he has done are shite (Sherlock Holmes movies!), some of his early films are at least fun entertainment, that have their own style and energy.  I don’t mind things being just entertainment.  My point is that in this show, the more choreographed moments of violence do not fit the overall mood, and it takes me outside the world of the show, a world of which I find myself fully immersed in for the most part.  

the crunch

Too much
too little
or not enough

too fat
too thin
or nobody

laughter or
or immaculate


armies running through streets of blood
waving winebottles
bayoneting and fucking virgins

or an old guy in a cheap room
with a photograph of Marilyn Monroe

many old guys in cheap rooms without
any photographs at all

many old women rubbing rosaries
when they’d prefer to be rubbing cocks

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it in the slow movements of
the hands of a clock

there is a loneliness in this world so great
that you can see it blinking in neon signs
in Vegas, in Baltimore, in Munich

there are people so tired
so strafed
so mutilated by love or no
that buying a bargain can of tuna
in a supermarket
is their greatest moment
their greatest victory

we don’t need new governments
new revolutions
we don’t need new men
new women
we don’t need new ways
good Columbian
water pipes
rubbers with corkscrew stems
watches that give you the date

people are not good to each other
one on one.
Marx be damned
the sin is not the totality of certain systems.
Christianity be damned
the sin is not the killing of a God.

people are just not good to each other.

we are afraid
we think that hatred means strength
we think that New York City is the greatest
city in America.

what we need is less brilliance
what we need is less instruction

what we need are less poets
what we need are less Bukowskies
what we need are less Billy Grahams

what we need is more
a typist
more finches
more green-eyed whores who don’t eat your heart
like a vitamin pill

we don’t think about the terror of one person
aching in one place

unspoken to
watering a plant
being without a telephone that will never
because there isn’t one.

more haters than lovers

slices of doom like taffeta

people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other
people are not good to each other

and the beads swing and the clouds cloud
and the dogs piss upon the roses
and the killer beheads the child like taking a bite
out of an ice cream cone
and the ocean comes in and out
in and out
under the direction of a senseless moon

and people are not good to each other.

By Charles Bukowski.  I used to read a lot of Bukowski the last few years I lived in Pennsylvania.  I wanted to post something of his here, so I started reading some of his poems tonight.  Even though I read many, I kept coming back to this one, which was actually the first one that I read.  The language is so visceral.  It’s beautiful and vulgar at the same time.  If you have ever watched the show Deadwood I believe you will understand that even vulgarity, taken far enough, used in the right way, with the right combination of words and meter, can become something truly beautiful.  At least I do…

The Poetry of Insanity

Herzog is a miserable, hateful, malevolent, avaricious, money-hungry, nasty, sadistic, treacherous, cowardly creep…he should be thrown alive to the crocodiles! An anaconda should strangle him slowly! A poisonous spider should sting him and paralyze his lungs! The most venomous serpent should bite him and make his brain explode! No panther claws should rip open his throat–that would be much too good for him! Huge red ants should piss into his lying eyes and gobble up his balls and his guts! He should catch the plague! Syphilis! Yellow fever! Leprosy! It’s no use; the more I wish him the most gruesome deaths, the more he haunts me. – Klaus Kinski in Kinski Uncut.

Your god is a mushroom cloud.  The Church of the Nuclear Christ.  Mushroom Cloud Messiah.  The fallout mission.  That would put the real fear in you.  Yes, forget this Christ guy.  He died for you.  Now you die for me.  That would be real cool to see you praying to an ICBM missile.  Watching you on television, kneeling to a perfect, gleaming warhead.  Now that’s a real idea.  Guaranteed destruction.  Forget the second coming.  You give me the missiles and I’ll melt heaven.  I’ll blow your saints to Lawndale.  That would be great to see you grovel in front of a god that you could see, that you could touch.  Only an idiot would believe that some god in the sky is going to wreck the place.  Let me give you something that you could really believe in.  Don’t you want, don’t you really need something to believe in?  Something solid?  Something to calm your nerves?  Yes, look to me.  Let me supply you with your faith.  The Church of the Real Deal.  Have mercy?  Why?  You’re into destruction.  Forget needles and suicide.  I am offering you something better.  You love to be controlled.  You dig ownership and control inflicted upon you.  Now you can kneel and confess and pray and grovel to something that offers you ultimate carnage without judgment or concession.  Isn’t that what you want?  Yeah it is.   Henry Rollins from Get in the Van

Oscar was not into serious street-fighting, but he was hell on wheels in a bar brawl. Any combination of a 250 lb Mexican and LSD-25 is a potentially terminal menace for anything it can reach – but when the alleged Mexican is in fact a profoundly angry Chicano lawyer with no fear at all of anything that walks on less than three legs and a de facto suicidal conviction that he will die at the age of 33 – just like Jesus Christ – you have a serious piece of work on your hands. Especially if the bastard is already 33½ years old with a head full of Sandoz acid, a loaded .357 Magnum in his belt, a hatchet-wielding Chicano bodyguard on his elbow at all times, and a disconcerting habit of projectile vomiting geysers of pure blood off the front porch every 30 or 40 minutes, or whenever his malignant ulcer can’t handle any more raw tequila. – Hunter Thompson on Oscar Zeta Acosta in Rolling Stone Magazine (As a side note I wanted to find something on Oscar from Revolt of the Cockroach People, one of his autobiographies and a masterpiece of insanity, but I found nothing online that suited my needs.)

I love the poetry of insanity.  I love it when a writer writes as if they have no concern of how they are perceived by the general public in their lifetime or after their death.  There is some kind of noble truth to letting all of your perversions and impulses hang out.  But it is more than this.  Vulgarity and insanity, when pushed far enough, become a kind of poetry.  The show Deadwood understood this.  Although Deadwood used Victorian language at times, it also trafficked in in a kind of vulgar language that reached the heights of art.  Total commitment.  It is taking the crude language and taboos of the day and making something beautiful out of them.  It is the language of freedom, giving up the most important earthly possession of all, your ego, and the willingness to be liked, and casting it aside.  I want peace and justice and love to become a reality for mankind on a daily basis.  However, this kind of language serves a purpose in that no matter how counterintuitive that is.  It frees the mind to go beyond the norms of everyday groupthink.  The writing itself might not be more than a personalized truth, but it allows for a wider circle of exploration.  Out there in the deep dark woods of the night might be a glimmer of truth that sets you free.

It’s the Learning Fucking Nothing that Has Kept Me Young

The following is the entirety of Rolling Stone’s album review for Willie Nelson’s new album Band of Brothers:

A minute into Willie Nelson‘s new set of songs – largely self-penned for a change – it’s clear the man who wrote Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” 50-some years ago has lost neither verve nor cojones. Co-writing with producer Buddy Cannon, Nelson sticks to his wheelhouse: love, heartache, rambling and music-making itself. The vocals remain indelibly creaky against stony acoustic guitar, bright steel whines and dusty harmonica whinnies. “We’re a band of brothers and sisters and whatever/On a mission to break all the rules,” he sings on the title track – a pledge of solidarity from an 81-year-old outlaw that, even at this late date, rings 100 percent true.

Wtf?!!!  There are blurbs on the back of book jackets longer than that!  I picked this review at random, but there are plenty of reviews at Rolling Stone and other places that are this short.  This review tells us absolutely nothing about the record other than Willie co-wrote most of the songs.  A critic’s job is to inform the reader about a work of art.  A good critic can not only help us make informed choices about what art we want to support, but can also enlighten us so that we understand a work of art better.  Criticism is and still is a way in which I have found many of the books, films, and albums that I treasure.  Until he died I used to like to go to Roger Ebert’s website to see what he thought of the latest films.  I didn’t always agree with him, but I came away more informed than when I started reading.  Go to www.rollingstone.com and read some of the old reviews.  Sometimes it is laughable how wrong they got an album, but there is at least some kind of opinion.  They are at least grasping for the truth even if they fall far short of it.  This review is just plain lazy.  A little part of my brain died by reading it.  Unfortunately the Deadwood quote, “It’s the learning fucking nothing that has kept me young,” does not apply here.  We can only hope that the writer got paid by the word…

Scandals for the Hoopleheads

I just don’t understand the scandals the right wing is trying to use on Obama.  The Benghazi scandal and now the Bergdahl scandal just seem so obviously created to distract the hoopleheads.  (Hooplehead is a term in the show Deadwood to describe the ignorant easily influenced masses.  Honestly, and I say this as a former History and American Studies Major; watching Deadwood is one of the best ways to understand America that there is.)  Even just rereading over the Benghazi facts I had trouble understanding what the scandal was really over other than some people don’t like Obama.  If you have read as much about the CIA as I have it isn’t hard to imagine that our intelligence was confused for awhile.  Our intelligence community did not predict the fall of the Berlin Wall as one example.

Our last president started a war under false pretenses.  Where were these people then?  Why does Dick Cheney still get any face time in the media to push his bullshit ideas when he should be locked up as a war criminal?

If someone wants to get mad at Obama there are plenty of more deserving targets for their outrage.  Why don’t these people protest our drone programs or the fact that there aren’t any big league financial people sitting in jail after destroying our economy?  It is because these people don’t care about the truth, they just care about scoring points.  Let’s call this scandal for what it is; a death fart by a party that has no real solutions for America’s problems anymore.