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Your Pals Are Not What They Seem 1: Faith and Reason in Lost's Season 5 Finale

Posted by Charles Reece, May 24, 2009 10:32am | Post a Comment
When Twin Peaks veers into the conventions of illusionism, which pay homage to the rationalist's faith in a phallic force and properly directed will, the series loses its sense of the benign subconscious and the affirming power of femininity. In the later episodes, the seeker regresses into a stereotypical hero. Proper reason directing Cooper's will becomes the heroic focus of the action against the typical perverse will and reason of the villain. The traditional conquest of Earle -- not the desire to see -- becomes the desire of the series. -- Martha P. Nochimson, David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood, p. 93

The only thing Columbus discovered was that he was lost! -- Wyndom Earle

lost jacob nemesis season 5

Since Ron Moore and colleagues sank my Battlestar, the only show I've cared about is Lost. As the former demonstrated, TV is determined by its own law of entropy, where any show gets worse in direct proportion to the length of time it's on times the structural quality (plot, characters, diegesis, etc.) that the creators initially developed. Clearly, BSG went on for about 2 years longer than the initial fund of creativity allowed. Its keg was all but tapped by the beginning of the third season. Given its tenuous beginning, Moore probably thought his show wouldn't make it much past the mini-series, hoping that he'd at least have one of those cult-celebrated shows that could've been. On the other side of the coin, TV executives don't much care about quality, but about how long they can wring some advertising dollars out of the shows they're broadcasting. As such, they are creatures of chaos, encouraging the steady dissolution of the creative order; they are, in a word, demonic. It's the nature of the beast that creators have to get in bed with these incubi to give birth to a TV show. This Faustian dialectic requires as much blind faith from the creators as it does money being thrown about by investors. Little wonder, then, why so many SF-fantasy shows are predisposed to defending faith over reason. As articles of faith in the face of overwhelming odds, they came into being as the result of big, dumb chance.

x-files believe

A classic example is X-Files, which burned out after the third season and whose endings justified every ludicrous theory the conspiracist Agent Mulder came up with. After a few years of this, the skepticism of Agent Scully's ratiocinations came across as implausible, or just plain dumb. Faith in something that's demonstratively true isn't really faith; it's empirical knowledge. Contrary to some interpretations, X-Files didn't really analyze the role of faith, so much as side-step it by making the supernatural natural. You'd be one stupid hobbit to doubt magic in Middle-Earth. The hero in an absurdist universe can either fight it like Agent 6 did in The Prisoner, or just embrace it like Maxwell Smart in Get Smart. On the former journey -- Kafkaesque in its structure -- lies madness, cancellation and no end to the story, much like what waits for the rationalist in the real world; on the latter, you get a better chance at a few more seasons, but, like a business going public and expanding, the product begins to feel like a cheap imitation (just look at X-Files).

Contrariwise, David Lynch and Mark Frost built the possibility for endless expansion into Twin Peaks with the mystery of Laura Palmer's murder -- what Lynch has called "the golden goose." They intended to keep it ongoing indefinitely while exploring the epiphenomenal mysteries arising from the central investigation. ABC felt that endless mystery would tax the faith of viewers, and "asked" the creators to wrap up the Laura storyline in the second season. The end of that mystery wasn't all that killed the show's élan: both Frost and Lynch went away to work on other projects, turning the reins over to a bunch of cheap Lynch clones, resulting in a whole lot of James and Lucy. It was with the return of Frost that the show began to regain some sense of direction, but more along the lines of the classic good versus evil struggle to which Nochimson alludes in the above quote. Agent Cooper now had a Moriarty, Wyndom Earle, a damsel in distress, Annie, and there was a white lodge to go along with the black one -- tropes that a Jungian once called archetypes, but are now known as clichés. Nochimson is herself a Jungian feminist who sees Cooper as a hero-seeker, a protagonist who leaves himself open to questions, tapping into the universal unconscious, rather than one who is out to conquer the Other. Openness, you see, is the province of universal femininty -- think the woman's classic coital role ('classic' should here be read as another synonym for 'cliché', or 'stereotype'). Reason is phallic, controlling, penetrating, and thusly the province of masculinity.

twin peaks cooper unconscioustwin peaks season 2 cooper

Despite the reductionistic men-are-from-Mars-women-from-Venus rhetoric, Nochimson's book gets it right that Lynch isn't much of an us-versus-them sort of narrator. As becomes increasingly evident from Blue Velvet to Inland Empire, all of his protagonists possess a Hermann Hesse-duality that drives the narrative more than some external battle with another. However, Cooper is his purest hero, only shown to face his dark side when Lynch returned for season 2's finale. By listening to his dreams and going with his occult intuition, Cooper might be considered a man of faith, albeit one who doesn't put all his eggs in one basket. (These eggs aren't of the hysterical kind, though.) But he was until the final episode, and against Nochimson's reading, always in control. He asked the right questions and proffered the best hypotheses again and again. I'd say, given the preternatural realm of Twin Peaks, Cooper belongs philosophically with his cohort Agent Mulder to Noam Chomsky's brand of rationalism. ("Mulder" even pops up in Twin Peaks as an FBI investigator in drag, an agent of scientifico-rationalism mocking the identity politics inherent in Nochimson's account.)


Against the bottom-feeding positivism of behaviorism that was dominant back in the 50s, Chomsky countered that unobservable mental models (the a priori, or given) were necessary to understand linguistic behavior. Scientific discovery, like language learning, is guided by models, where one has an initial theory that undergoes modification as experience dictates (I speak loosely here, so see these entries on Universal Grammar and Modularity if you're curious). If the data is consistent with the theoretical model, no change is necessary; it is, for all intents and purposes, rational knowledge. Mulder and Cooper's seemingly outlandish theories might not work in our world, but they tended to be confirmed by (were consistent with their experiences in) their own diegeses. Their faith is more analogous to David Hume believing that one billiard ball will move when struck by another, i.e., it always had in the past (as far as he knew).

3rd Annual Amoeba Art Show & Factory Party

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 24, 2009 02:57pm | Post a Comment
If you could time travel, where would you go?

warhol's factory

Well, like most kids who grew up watching Quantum Leap, I've given it a lot of thought. I'd want to hit the vevet underground and nicohip and happening hotspots of the past 2,500 years or so. First, I'd cruise down to Athens circa fourth-century B.C.E. where I'd walk along the agora to hear some great oration and maybe catch an Aristophanes play or two. The next stop would definitely be the salons of Central Europe in the 19th century to watch Franz Liszt play his own compositions, and maybe swing by Gustav Klimt's studio just a few decades later. I'm sure I could get in a visit to Kafka's Prague and some early New York vaudeville shows before I had to get the time machine back to the shop for a tune-up. After that, I suppose I'd have the ol' time machine drop me by Andy Warhol's Factory in early 60's New York and leave me there.
nico and lou reed
Sure, we can watch I Shot Andy Warhol or Factory Girl, but to actually be there at the cultural ground zero…to watch it all unfold around Andy, The Velvet Underground, and Edie Sedgwick! Now that would be something! Sound good to you too? Well look no further… 

On March 6th, Amoeba Music is going to offer YOU the time travel opportunity of a life time… to travel in time to the world of Andy Warhol and his original 1960's New York City Factory!

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Marxist Tales 3: Falling Stars, or When Art Imitates Art

Posted by Charles Reece, January 5, 2009 11:00pm | Post a Comment

Madonna falling in Rio back in December got me to thinking, naturally enough, about Mulholland Dr.'s use of "Llorando," Rebekah Del Rio's Spanish cover of "Crying." There's a lot of gravitas to gravity -- with one slip, the reality of artifice can be exposed. At the club Silencio, when the character of Del Rio (played by Del Rio) falls, but her singing continues, David Lynch is playing around with Bertolt Brecht's epic theater and his notion of estrangement. By having the work remind the audience of the layer of representation intervening between them and the emotions they're experiencing, Brecht hoped to create a more politico-rationally engaged experience -- that is, one of empathy, not sympathy (the former being of intellectual understanding, not the latter's identification).

rebekah del rio mulholland dr.naomi watts laura harring mulholland dr.

However, Lynch turns estrangement on its ear by using lip-synching as the emotional crux of his film. If you'll remember, the scene occurs at the point where the fugue world of Betty is fracturing, and the reality of Diane is seeping in. Diane had killed her lover, Camilla, out of jealousy, replacing her in the dream with the amnesiac Rita. Of course Rita can't remember who she is, because she's a manifestation of Diane's oneiric state, a displacement of Camilla, with all the bad stuff repressed. As Rita, she's a ghost, pure desideratum, or Diane's objective (objectified) correlative of the real deal. (In fact, the same applies to Betty; she's Diane's idealized self.) Just as the illusion of the film's representational quality is most exposed (Lynch's "eye of the duck" scene), Betty and Rita begin sobbing -- and (provided the Silencio sequence works properly) the audience along with them.

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A Year in the Life of Amoeba Hollywood -- Year of Sanitation, the Potato, the Frog, the Planet Earth, Languages, Intercultural Dialogue & the Rat

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 30, 2008 01:33am | Post a Comment
Baby New Year Foundling 

2008 The Year in Review

silent running poster jason x poster lake house poster
movies set in 2008

Well, first of all, I’d like to point out what 2008 wasn’t. I mean, probably 2000 and 2001 are the most famous years of the oughts in speculative fiction. However, 2008 also piqued the imagination of Science-Fictionalists. Silent Running didn't resemble my 2008 much, although something kept knocking the ficus in my back yard over which did make me angry. I didn't hear about anything that fit in with the prophecies offered in Jason X. But perhaps no speculation about what 2008 would be like was the 2006 film, The Lake House. I mean, come on. They really thought that in just two years we'd have magic mailboxes that would allow us to send love letter to the past. People get real!

ajax and cassandra billy joel
Cassandra moaning about something                                                                  I don't know

REVISITING DIRECTOR DAVID LYNCH'S BODY OF WORK

Posted by Billyjam, November 25, 2008 05:07pm | Post a Comment
eraserhead
Ever since recently receiving word that film director David Lynch would be visiting Amoeba Music Hollywood today (6:30PM but get there a little early) for an in-store signing in celebration of the release of the recommended new nine disc DVD box set collection David Lynch The Lime Green Set, I decided to do a little digging in the crates and host my own personal David Lynch film fest: going back to re-watch many of the living legend's classic creations, most of which I hadn't seen in many years.

I watched several episodes of the early nineties show Twin Peaks (which was executive co-produced by Lynch along with Mark Frost), Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Wild At Heart  -- all of which combined, I know, really only scratch the surface of this fine film-maker's body of work. But still it was enough of a refresher course to give this Amoeblogger a proper dose of the heart and soul of the artist behind these brilliant works.

I guess in retrospect what is foremost so striking about the 1990/91 ABC TV series Twin Peaks, to which the 1992 David Lynch film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was a sequel of sorts, is the fact that it even made it onto network TV in the first place, and managed to last two seasons at that. It was not your typical mainstream TV fare by a long shot but like any of the best TV shows it was addictive viewing for those who got it. I guess that is the key to all of Lynch's work: you have to appreciate all of his nuances and to fully dispel everyday reality & allow yourself to submerge deep into Lynch's world -- typically a slightly surreal parallel universe that summons blue velvet by david lynchup the place of dark dreams we've all experienced at sometime --  to really get and to fully appreciate the magic David Lynch manifests on the screen. 

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