Dreaming the Wrong Dream

Contains a small spoiler for the latest episode of Mad Men.

It’s been raining the last few days in Austin.  My writing production has been slow.  Ideas can only be dispersed if you are busy collecting them.  Prepare to be inspired as David Milch says.  Last night I had one of those rare nights where you watch TV all night and everything is inspiring.  I watched The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Werner Herzog’s batshit insane My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, and the latest episode of Mad Men.  I have been slowly picking my way through the book version of Under the Skin and James Joyce’s Dubliners.  Musically I have surprised even myself by becoming obsessed with Kanye West, especially his new album Yeezus.

Although I’m not far along enough in Dubliners to comment upon it, many of these works deal with the idea that the modern world creates the wrong kind of dreams in one way or another.  We are searching for a connection all while being told by the dominant society to crave material things that bring us no lasting happiness.  The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology dealt directly with these themes.  Mad Men and the work of Kanye West both explicitly deal, in different ways, with the world of the material, but also both show its shortcomings.  The Herzog movie dealt with a character who searches constantly for something to cling to only to finally be driven to complete insanity.

If you are a fan of Mad Men than this review of this week’s episode over at Salon is really good:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/26/mad_men_finale_recap_the_moon_belongs_to_everyone/

I’ll leave you with lyrics from Mad Men’s Bert Cooper’s strangely delivered farewell song.  On one hand they can be seen as too sentimental.  However, in the overreaching story of the show they seemed powerful to me:

“The moon belongs to everyone.
The best things in life are free.
The stars belong to everyone.
They gleam there for you and me.
The flowers in spring, the robins that sing.
The sunbeams that shine, they’re yours they’re mine.
And love can come to everyone. The best things in life are free.”

Neither Day Nor Night

I work best at strange hours.  I like to be up late at night and early in the morning.  If I could I would sleep a couple hours at night and a couple hours in the afternoon.  I like the hours of the day when there is often a quiet stillness.  Yet at the same time these hours abound with possibility.  They are pregnant with moments waiting to be born.

One of my favorite shows ever is the show Twin Peaks.  This show has endless virtues to talk about.  However, one thing that it got really right was the sense of time and day.  Often in the show, the moments right before dawn were filled with a sense of mystery.  Something was happening.

David Lynch, one of the creators of Twin Peaks, is a master at creating those feelings that we all feel but can’t explain.  He can capture that eerie sense in dreams when it is neither day nor night, the way our brains relate unrelated things in a way that somehow makes sense, the mystery always hidden just behind reality.  He understands that emotions are abstract and can paint pictures of pure emotion.  He uses surrealism, but there is always some kind of unexplainable logic at work.

If you are not afraid of mystery, surrealism, and interpretation, then go down the rabbit hole with him.  He will show you something you have always known, but could never quite place.  He will show you a world full of imagination, and possibly a little sliver of your soul reflected back at you.  His movies are full of both strange horror and extreme beauty.  They are not an easy ride.  But they are worth it if you care to make the journey.

Trouble In Mind

One of my favorite films is the film Trouble In Mind.  It is directed by Alan Rudolf.  I also love the version of the title song that is sung by Marianne Faithfull.  It is one of those rare pieces of music I can leave on repeat.  They both fill me with dreams and that certain kind of sadness that is comforting at the same time.  You are down but there is a strange beauty in the world.
Tonight I am playing Seattle and just for a minute I can kid myself and escape into the dreamworld that movie creates.  Reality slips away into the shadows, if only for a moment. 
Alan Rudolf is dialing in supernatural frequencies in that film.  Like the best of cinema it’s characters and setting reflect our own inner selves and yet somehow give us a new look at the larger world.  It is a heightened and stylized reality, but somehow feels more true in spite of this.  I am always glad to stumble upon such a thing. 

Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always

Let It Rain

I am up in Seattle now.  It has been raining off and on.  No big surprise.  I love it.  I never thought I could miss rain, but I do.  Down in Austin we have been in a drought for awhile.  Rainy days, where you can hide away in your house, are rare.
There are certain books, movies, and films that just feel better when it rains.  The Cure’s Disintegration would be one such piece.  With books I think of something like Haruki Murakami’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. 
I like to occasionally slide away into that land of dreams.  Where you are awake, but touched by the realm of the mystical.  The rain allows that.  Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain…

Quote

Killing the Dreamers

The truth is never simple and yet it is. The truth is we did kill him. By silence we consented… because we couldn’t go on. But by Ares, what did we have to look forward to but to be discarded in the end like Cleitus? After all this time, to give away our wealth to Asian sycophants we despised? Mixing the races? Harmony? Oh, he talked of these things. I never believed in his dream. None of us did. That’s the truth of his life. The dreamers exhaust us. They must die before they kill us with their blasted dreams.

A quote by Ptolemy in the movie Alexander.  Directed by Oliver Stone.  This is one of my favorite movies of all time.  It got a bad rap when it was first released.  I think it was too complex and too dense in story to be digested in one sitting.  Every time I watch it some new detail emerges.  It is a highly intelligent film.  It also features many entertaining and great scene-chewing performances, in the best sense of the term.  My favorite version is the longest version, The Final Cut.

Fire From the Mountaintop and Platinum Tanks

Some years ago the rapper Master P had a video in which he and his crew were astride a platinum tank.  I thought at that point the human race had reached the furthest limits in a culture of worshipping wealth and consumerism.  Once you have a platinum tank, how much further as a species can you go in that direction?  It seems we sailed on past that point.  We went over the waterfall and somehow just kept on going downstream.

There is nothing wrong with making money.  I am in two rock n roll bands.  Bands, if you are trying to run them so that you can survive, are businesses.   If you have a product in any field that you believe in, and try to sell it at a fair price and run your business with some integrity, you are doing society a good service.  You are creating jobs and providing people with services and goods that they desire.

What I’m talking about is the kind of hero worship of the wealthy that we see in this country.  As if those people, just by the fact that they are rich, are deserving of some kind of acclaim.  Reality TV is filled with people that certain people fawn over just because they have money and act outrageously.  Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Donald Trump’s The Apprentice are two such vile places one can spend time.  Those are easy targets.

We also seem to have hero worship for financial advisors like Suze Orman and Jim Cramer.  These are people that sell us the empty dream of becoming rich without standing for anything.

I’ve seen several studies that show how wealth relates to happiness.  The numbers vary slightly, but one such study claims that after $75,000 a year money ceases to affect your day to day happiness.  You need to have enough money to pay your bills, have freedom from fear of want, and have a little extra money for fun.  After that, money doesn’t necessarily make you any happier.

When people become wealthy, if they are not getting an inheritance, it is because of a combination of hard work and luck.  The hard work shouldn’t be discounted, but neither should the luck.  Luck is not something to worship.  If you were born in the USA, instead of Somalia, you probably have a better chance of getting rich.  That’s just one example.

Instead we should look up to those that have brought new ideas into the world, that have tried to make the world a better place, or that have made others happier.  A great teacher, that has brought the light of knowledge to many students, is more deserving of our applause than some kind of rich mutant like Donald Trump.

Hopefully, some day there will be a new age of heroes.  I’m looking for an age where we look up to people that have brought fire down from the mountaintop to us; a fire of peace, tolerance, and knowledge.  I’m not counting on it, but I’m dreaming.

Roads Still Yet to be Traveled

I’ve really become interested in electronic music lately.  Some bands that I’ve been listening to lately have been Kraftwerk, Daft Punk, OMD, and Book of Love.  I also love the Knife, though their music fits less moods than the others, as they are more abrasive and confrontational.  I also love the music on Johnny Jewel’s label, especially the band The Chromatics.  I’ve always loved synth pop.  I grew up on bands like New Order.

I’m interested in the idea of people getting emotion out of technology.  Also some of the best pop songs are in this genre.  Bernard Sumner from New Order can write endless melodies that never leave your head.

Although I grew up with bands like New Order, Electronic, and Depeche Mode, some of my current interest has been driven by the films of Nicolas Winding Refn.  He uses this music to great effect in films like Drive, Bronson, and Only God Forgives.  He understands that although this music is very synthetic on one hand, it is also capable of great emotion.

If country and folk music, which I also love, evoke pastoral settings, electronic music reminds me of the city at nighttime.  That’s not to say that electronic music can’t also be pastoral.  Brian Eno’s 70’s album Another Green World is an album that brings nature to mind more often than not.  Kraftwerk’s Autobahn album also has moments like this.  Although I love songs that have a message and am a fan of great lyrics, sometimes music is wonderful when it just creates space for dreams.

Haruki Murakami’s book After Dark creates a surreal dream like version of the city at night.  When I read things like this I often picture certain pieces by Kraftwerk and the Chromatics as being the perfect soundtrack to these worlds.

I grew up as a fan of the pop song.  More recently I’ve begun to be as interested in music that is non verbal.  Music that is non verbal has to create emotion and thought through pure sound.  This can be music that is instrumental or music that has the vocals obscured through production techniques.  Non verbal to me can even be bands that sing in foreign languages, where I can’t understand what they are saying, and the voice becomes just another emotional texture.  Often in electronic music, especially as you see with bands like Daft Punk and Kraftwerk, only a few simple phrases will be repeated throughout a song.  Even though you understand what they are saying it is open to interpretation when combined with the music.  The words become almost just another sound that feeds into the music and vice versa.

Although I write in the pop song format, and it’s still my favorite format, there is something to be said about music that is non verbal.  The human imagination is a powerful thing.  In the place of words we will often find that our dreams take over and place meaning into things that may or may not be intended by the artist.

I’ve mentioned before how David Lynch liked using grainy digital video for the movie Inland Empire, because he wanted the human imagination to fill in the space that the imperfect images left.  I think a lot of electronic music, the kind that is non verbal or almost non verbal, does this same thing.  It allows for interpretation and dreaming on the part of the listener.

Well there are many forms of instrumental music, many of which I love, the sounds created by electronic instruments create a different headspace.  Again it is often, but not always, more urban and futuristic.  Some bands like OMD, who write pop songs and instrumental pieces, create a retro futurism.  It’s like the sonic version of a film noir that takes place in the past and the future at the same time.  One of my favorite albums right now is their album Dazzle Ships.  It is an album full of mystery, ideas, and dreams.

Too often I think people let cultural or tribal things get in the way of exploring new worlds.  People are more open now to new musical experiences than ever before.  Sometimes though, there still exists a certain tribal instinct that gets in the way of people enjoying different forms, based solely on what they might find “cool” or acceptable in their group.   The human imagination can go anywhere and should be given as much room to roam as possible.  Don’t listen to anything but your own gut.  There are many roads still yet to be traveled.

Late Night Prayers

I haven’t been falling asleep so easily these days.  My schedule is a little out of wack.  When I am awake late at night I like to stare at the moon and pray for things.  Tonight I am praying for there to be an unbeatable gay NASCAR driver.  If he were black too, it would be even better.  Best yet would be if he had the hammer and sickle on his car.  It would be a lot of fun.  It sure would make things interesting don’t you think?  I sure do…

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David Lynch on Human Behavior

“Well, its all in the world of human behavior, which is a wide range as we all know. There’s so many possibilities in this beautiful thing of humans behaving in this world. And that has a long way to go being explored.”
“Human beings are like detectives. They love a mystery. They love going where the mystery pulls them. What we don’t like is a mystery that’s solved completely. It’s a letdown. It always seems less than what we imagined when the mystery was present. The last scene in `Blow Up’ is so perfect because you leave the theater still dreaming. Or the end of `Chinatown,’ where the guy says `Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.’ It explains so much but it only gives you a dream of a bigger mystery. Like life. For me, I want to solve certain things but leave some room to dream.” – David Lynch

Director David Lynch speaking on human behavior.