The Destroyer of Dreams

The arctic

So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people, all those lives
Where are they now?
With loves and hates and passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
I want to cry

Cemetry Gates – The Smiths

I was reading the Hampton Sides book In the Kingdom of Ice this morning.  I came upon the following paragraph (They are talking about exploring the Arctic at a time when it had not been fully explored yet):

In 1869, in fact, a French expedition, to be commanded by a scientist named Gustave Lambert, had planned to try for the pole via the Bering Strait, but that expedition had been called off because of the Franco-Prussian War.  Two years later, during the siege of Paris, Lambert was killed in battle, and the expedition was never undertaken.  

At this time preparing for an expedition like that was an absolutely tremendous undertaking.  Lambert must have been dreaming of this expedition for some time.  

We must stand up for peace and against war whenever possible.  It is not only the destroyer of men and nature, but the destroyer of dreams.  

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.