lynch’s uncanny irony, 8A rusty metal wallpaper, habits – comfort and personal prisons

I have been there and passed a peak of fandom with my Ingmar Bergman phase and my David Lynch phase. Though I still like them both. I saw Kyle MacLachlan recently and thought of Twin Peaks – best pie orderer in cinematic history. Lynch’s The Elephant Man – frequently over looked in trying to sum up his body of work – is one of the best depictions in movie history of the plight of modern man’s quest for empathy. As open and accessible as Lynch is – he’s on Twitter and frequently does short films and interviews – his art is still something of an enigma – The Ironic Uncanny, Uncanny Ironies and David Lynch

“Or both? Of course both. This is what Lynch is about in his movies: both innocence and damnation; both sinned-against and sinning… And we hate this possibility in movies; we hate this ‘both’ shit.”

-David Foster Wallace, ‘David Lynch Keeps his Head’ (1997, p211)

…Not surprisingly, Lynch has become a lot of things to a lot of critics, particularly those with strong theoretical dispositions. Schaffner is right to note that “Lynch’s films have been appropriated as paradigmatic case studies by a large number of critics” due to their “programmatic vacillation between irony and pathos… parabolic ambiguities and… narrative indeterminacy” (2009, p271). Lynch’s work, then, profits from a wealth of critical interpretations, though his sustained ambiguity often serves as Rorschach test to one’s own critical proclivities. Todd McGowan (2007) and Slavoj Zizek (1997) address this ambiguity from a sustained Lacanian position, the strength of which lies in narratological analysis. Specifically Freudian tropes in Lynch’s works, such as the primal scene (Ishii-Gonzales, 2004), virgin-whore dichotomies (Schaffner, 2009) and the dream-work (Bulkeley, 2003, Thomas, 2006) benefit from close readings.

In another life – where I was talented and even the very idea of being a film director was possible – I think about how one would use film and its possibility – sound, light, moment, dialogue, acting to create meaning. There is so much going on – the three-dimensional chess of art ( theater as well) it becomes a kind of puzzle game. The people like Lynch that can do it well ( Fire Walk With Me being the one possible exception) are at least as fascinating as say gifted physicists and writers.

8A rusty metal wallpaper

Habitual behavior is not merely hard to break, it is the comfort food  of the mind. When all the world seems to be tumbling down, the habits of everyday life, even the bad ones, become a safe refuge…or a prison, Breaking the Habits that Enslave Us

Duhigg breaks down the sequence of ritualized behavior (which he calls the habit loop) into three component parts: the cue, the routine, and the reward. The cue is the trigger that sets the sequence in motion. Perhaps it’s a certain time of day when you tell yourself it’s time for your daily chocolate-chip cookie (that was Duhigg’s particular jones). Perhaps it’s email from your boss that makes you want to dash out for another smoke. Perhaps it’s the chiming bells and flashing lights of a crowded casino, designed to make a room full of incremental losers look like winners who are hitting jackpots all the time. The routine is the behavior itself, which can be positive (like a daily running habit) or harmful (like gambling away the family savings). And the third part is the reward — the goal of the behavioral loop, which your brain’s pleasure centers gauge to determine if a sequence of behavior is worth repeating and storing in a lockbox of habit.

A pint of butterfat and sugar with a Ben and Jerry’s label, a spurt of oxytocin when you see that @jayrosen_nyu or @ebertchicago has retweeted you, that tingling in your legs after a strenuous workout, the numbing rush of a fix, the first puffs of an American Spirit… it’s all the same to the basal ganglia, four lumps of gray matter in the forebrain that encode highly rewarding behavior for easy repetition.

I’m not sure I agree with the reviewer or Mr.  Duhigg that our objections, reservations or even sometimes disgust with our worse habits suddenly becomes this whisper that we come to ignore. On the contrary, it is what keeps many alcoholics from suffering alcohol poisoning every other day. Or those addicted to power from overtly rushing their agenda. Any way, there are some good points about bad habits and how seductive they can be.

Four Seasons ~ Vivaldi

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music a savior or just creates the illusion of a passionate life, dido and aeneas (Storm), when wage slavery becomes the new normal

Does pop music supply modern minds with a short cut to creating metaphors. Is the music of the top 40 a emotional plagiarism that makes us feel we’re leading rich emotional lives when we’re not. Instead of thinking their own narrative are people letting pop music do the heavy lifting. Can Music Save Your Life?

Music makes life melodious—assuming that the music has a melody. But life is often jarring. Pop music suggests, by its easy, pleasurable repetitions, that life makes sense. We can pretend, for the duration of a song, that there is harmony in our lives. The music of Beethoven or of Coltrane is also patterned, but the patterns are harder to find. You have to listen closely—you have to have an educated ear. You feel that you’re almost collaborating with the composer when you seek out the subtle echoes and indirect recapitulations. Life makes some sense to Beethoven and Coltrane, but it is a difficult, remote way that is not available to all and that can wink out in an instant.

Which cam first the music or the beat. The beat inside our heads. While few of us can write music, humans are among the very few animals that can perceive beats and understand them as a form of communication – even without lyrics. I’ve heard a musician say that all of their compositions seem to exist out there in the universe and they just wait for the notes to be written in their head. The original source is arguable, but the notes did come from his head. We do rely on composers as interpreters, but not any more so than writers. It is a the general experience of readers to find someone with what seems like such deep insights into their thoughts and feelings. Musicians seem to tap into the same kind of universal language – which millions can relate to. In most cases neither musicians or writers are putting thoughts into our heads as much as clearing away some of the fog – writing he thoughts or playing them in away that crystallizes the mental word jumble in our minds.

Usually, though, music gives harmony to feeling and suggests a sense to life. I wonder: Do we sometimes go to music to hide from our fears that the world makes no sense at all? Do we seek in music’s harmonies a way to stabilize an inner life that is incoherent and strange? Do we use music as a way to soothe ourselves into a kind of torpor, to quell in ourselves what we cannot understand?

Music does sometimes kick a door open inside the mind, but it also sometimes insulates the house, secures it from all wayward feelings and thoughts. And when a song does seem to kick a door open, we frequently listen to it over and over again until it loses its power and all of its passion is spent.

If something as ephemeral and nebulous as love can be a drug, and the capacity for it a virtue, why not music. Which would we rather have people seeking some solace through music – or would war or twisted dogma or cocaine be better. There is very little about human activity that he devoid of neurotic obsession and escape. To point out that Jose is using painting as a way to get over Marilyn is not a particularly keen or original observation. Does painting give his life meaning. Does music or writing or wood working or quilt making or photography or bridge building, give someone something constructive to hold on to – that is probably what matters. few of us are equipped or want to spend life contemplating our navel existing only on the bare minimum of calories and water. We feel the need, sometimes the obsession to fill it with something, there are worse choices than music – which has proven to help with depression and anxiety. Though there something about trying, however clumsily, to put pen to paper and look long and hard at one’s feelings – painful, depressing, disorienting or complicated – and try to sort them out. Making that journey can keep the marbles from rattling around the cage. Suddenly the mind unwinds enough to see the end of the tunnel, to get some sleep or to concentrate on doing the things that need to get done. Background music can impair mental task performance, cites new study

Although music can have a very positive effect on our general mental health, music can, in the circumstances described, also have negative effects on cognitive performance. Perham remarks, “Most people listen to music at the same time as, rather than prior to performing a task. To reduce the negative effects of background music when recalling information in order one should either perform the task in quiet or only listen to music prior to performing the task.”

Landscape with Dido and Aeneas (Storm) by Thomas Jones 1769. Jones is said to have thought this was his best painting. The ray of light is very reminiscent of Rembrandt (1606-1669). Tere is a similar lighting effect in Rembrandt’s The Nightwatch and in Abduction of Europa. As in those paintings the light had almost as much to do with the meaning of the painting as the subjects themselves.

Like hamsters on a treadmill, The Exploitation of U.S. Worker Productivity

In capitalism, owners of the “means of production” (things like land, factories, technologies, and natural resources, or the money to buy these things) employ labor to do the work of actually producing things.  If the system is working correctly, the value of the labor that goes into making something is worth less than the value of the thing.  This way the capitalist can sell the thing, pay the worker, and skim some profit off the top.

But how much profit?  In a less exploitative system, the worker is paid close to what his work is worth (after accounting for the expenses of maintaining the means of production). In a more exploitative system, the capitalist takes a larger chunk of the enhanced value for himself and gives less to the worker.

What kind of system do we have in the U.S.?  Let’s take a look at some data.

Over at Reports from the Economic Front, Martin Hart-Landsberg posted this graph. It shows that  workers have become increasingly productive since 1948 (i.e., they have created more and more surplus value).  Employers largely shared the increase in profitability with their workers… until the mid-1970s.  Since then, wages have remained stagnant even as worker productivity has continued to rise.  ”In other words,” Hart-Landsberg writes, “the owners of the means of production have basically stopped sharing gains in output with their workers.”

You wonder why the middle class is shrinking?  This is one reason.

Worker productivity is up but compensation is down
Median income shrinking but corporate profits are as high as ever

I first heard or read the term wage slave about ten years or so ago. I don’t know who originated the term. While I thought it was funny in a dark comic way, it seemed true then and with the Great Recession has come to resonant more than ever. I am still a little amazed that blue collar working class Americans continue to not only support this corruption of capitalism, but have such searing hatred for a fairer, more genuinely American model.