Monday, September 29, 2008

Paper Trail


On My Night Stand
  • McSweeney's #24
  • The Mythic Image-Joseph Campbell
  • The Hero With A Thousand Faces-Joseph Campbell
  • Discovering The Mind-Walter Kaufmann
  • Answer To Job-Jung
  • The World Without Us-Alan Weisman
  • The Stars-H.A. Rey
  • D'Aularies' Book of Greek Myths
  • Metamorphoses-Ovid, trans Rolfe Humphries
  • Beyond­-Michael Benson
  • Gate of the Sun-Elais Khoury
  • Vacation-Deb Olin Unferth
  • Remainder­-Tom McCarthy
  • Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows-Rowling
  • Octavian Nothing-M.T. Anderson
  • Valis-Philip K. Dick
  • The Craft (film)
  • The Gunslinger Born (Graphic Novel)
Actively Reading
  • Octavian Nothing-M.T. Anderson
  • Robinson Crusoe-Daniel Defoe (audio)
  • Wizard and Glass-Stephen King (audio)
Listening To
  • Dark Side of the Moon-Pink Floyd
  • Kid A-Radiohead
  • Perfect From Now On-Built To Spill
  • Either/Or-Elliot Smith
  • Call The Doctor-Sleater-Kinney
  • Return to Cookie Mountain-TV On The Radio
  • Narrow Stairs-Death Cab For Cutie
  • Zizek!
  • Goodwill Hunting
  • Labyrinth
  • The Never Ending Story
  • Howl's Moving Castle
  • Mulan
  • Lost (Season One)
  • Lost (Season Two)
  • The Kite
  • A Gothic Tale (left theater)
  • Proving Up & Settling Down
  • Got Land
  • Lights
  • Humboldt County
  • TV On The Radio
  • Ra Ra Riot w/ Walter Meego
  • Mary Oliver


Friday, September 26, 2008

Booklist (so far)


The Shape Shifter (audio)            Tony Hillerman

Skeleton Man (audio)

The Blessing Way (audio)

Dance Hall of the Dead (audio)

The Corrections (audio)            Jonathan Franzen

Listening Woman (audio)            Tony Hillerman

People of Darkness (audio)                                               

Beowulf  (audio)                        Anon

No Country for Old Men (audio) Cormac McCarthy           

Moby Dick (audio)                        Herman Melville

The Inner Reaches of Outer Space Joseph Campbell

The Book of Jonah               Jonah (?)

Everything That Rises: A Book of Convergences                 

Lawrence Weschler

Revelation (audio)                 John

The Odyssey (audio)                Homer

"The Second Coming"            William Butler Yeats

Archetype of the Apocalypse   Edward Edinger

Catching the Big Fish  (audio)  David Lynch                                   

The Waste Land                           T. S. Eliot

The Book of Job (audio)             Job (?)

In All Her Names                      Ed. Campbell, Musés

The Hero With a Thousand Faces (audio)

-Joseph Campbell

Fight Club (audio)                 Chuck Palahniuk

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (audio)                                   

                                                                      Michael Chabon

Light Years: A Girlhood in Hawai'i Susanna Moore

Bowl of Cherries                            Milliard Kaufman           

Maps and Legends                    Michael Chabon

Walden (audio)          Henry David Thoreau           

The Dark Tower (audio)                   Stephen King                                   

  ----green  =  highly recommended

I certainly was having an apocalyptic moment last winter.  Did it arrive?  Is our economic meltdown the latest sign?

So, are we in The Belly of the Whale?  

Have you seen Apocalypto?  I don't think Mel is a very good human, but he is a pretty good story teller.  I really like how Jaguar Paw's father admonishes him against letting fear into his heart or home.  He triumphs when he decides to be not afraid.  Don't let fear into your forest!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Often times I become focused on an idea or event and end up totally engrossed in the subject for a period of time. It is in the middle of the obsession that I begin finding the connections. All last winter I was engrossed in Moby Dick. It became my lens, and still is. The reason for adopting Moby Dick as my guide to "The Dark Time"—my daughter calls the night the dark time, very poetic—is because it encapsulates the feeling that we are undergoing here at the beginning of the 21st century: meaningless isolation.

Our grand technologies have divided us from our community, from life, from true experience. My wife was recently in New York and had gone to some museums naturally. It blew her mind when she saw that people would not experience the paintings with their own eyes. They experienced the painting through their camera, or their phone. This is an image they could get at home on their home screen. Why bother?

Earlier this year Lawrence Weschler made a post at the Mcsweeney's website noting this mediated distance from life: (Read it! It's fascinating.)

I see this phenomenon when I go to rock shows. Young folks are too busy texting about the experience instead of experiencing the experience. It is an ominous sight too. Blue glowing faces in the dark with their eyes and head down and their thumbs moving furiously. They look like possessed zombies tapped into some addictive source.

Maybe we need another definition.

simulacrum |ˌsimyəˈlākrəm; -ˈlak-|

noun ( pl. -lacra |-ˈlākrə; -ˈlakrə|or -lacrums)

an image or representation of someone or something.

an unsatisfactory imitation or substitute.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from Latin, from simulare (see simulate ).

And with that, we arrive at the most important movie of the last twenty years, or that has been my wont to say for some time now. As corny as The Matrix was, its value as a vehicle for understanding the truth is impressive. I want to start slow. How about this?

It is not a coincidence that Neo's name also spells "one" for he is "the one", the chosen one, the hero. That is something the artists intended. They wanted that meaning embedded in their character to give it depth. Now what do you make of this? (Click it; It should get bigger.)

While Neo was being interrogated by Agent Smith, we can see the paper work in front of him from Neo's point of view. It is Neo's Captial City ID, and the expiration date is September 11 2001.

What do we call this? Coincidence? Convergence? Conspiracy? Nothing? Just silliness? Were the artists who created this film detecting something in the collective unconscious about what was coming, or was there a conspiracy and they were in on it? The film came out in 1999 if you recall.

What do any of those terms mean? Perhaps that could be helpful:

coincidence |kōˈinsədəns; -ˌdens|


1 a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection : it's no coincidence that this new burst of innovation has occurred in the free nations | they met by coincidence.

2 correspondence in nature or in time of occurrence : the coincidence of interest between the mining companies and certain politicians.

3 Physics the presence of ionizing particles or other objects in two or more detectors simultaneously, or of two or more signals simultaneously in a circuit.

ORIGIN early 17th cent.(in the sense [occupation of the same space] ): from medieval Latin coincidentia, from coincidere 'coincide, agree' (see coincide ). Sense 3 dates from the 1930s.

convergence |kənˈvərjəns| (also convergency |-jənsē|)


the process or state of converging : the convergence of lines in the distance.

Biology the tendency of unrelated animals and plants to evolve superficially similar characteristics under similar environmental conditions.

(also convergence zone) a location where airflows or ocean currents meet, characteristically marked by upwelling (of air) or downwelling (of water).

synchronicity |ˌsi ng krəˈnisitē|


1 the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection : such synchronicity is quite staggering.

2 another term for synchrony (sense 1).

ORIGIN 1950s: coined (in sense 1) by C. G. Jung.

collective unconscious


(in Jungian psychology) the part of the unconscious mind that is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual's unconscious.

I think The Matrix is so important because it lays bare a metaphor for life. We must wake up to reality! "There is no spoon."

(Bill Hicks)

In my introduction, I stated the importance of fiction, which I will relate to dream. One's dreams can be very instructive. Often they communicate a truth subconsciously in an encoded manner that one's conscious self is unwilling to face. Movies and fiction also create a space—a virtual space or matrix—to examine the truth of a situation or the state of one's life.

Here was an important step for me on my hero's journey. In the spring of 2005 I took a mediaeval literature course that was built around King Arthur as its primary focal point. The natural question is, how big a dork am I? Yes I do admit to being a dork, but this is important stuff; some of the most important fiction written. The important tool that I acquired was that I learned was how to read things. And by how, I mean the levels of meaning.

Here is a for instance. The film Pan's Labyrinth was captivating to so many people despite its graphic violence because. . . Because, it forced them to talk about its meaning. What was interesting was to hear arguments about what happened. Was all the fantasy just how the little girl dealt with her abusive stepfather? Her coping mechanism? Was the fantasy the reality? Was the little girl really a metaphor for the Spanish people under a fascist rule. How many stories were told? One?

There was no right answer. And this is a difficulty living in a literalist society. Both perspectives in the argument were correct because either all the readings are correct or none of them are correct. Pan's Labyrinth contains many levels of understanding but essentially tells one story in many different ways or guises. James Joyce called this the "monomyth". Joseph Campbell called it The Hero's Journey.

E pluribus unum—From many one. This is Isis. Do you know where she lives?

In the above still from The Matrix, she is blasting off out of Neo's head. She is part of a state seal on his ID. Officially, she is Statue of Freedom.

So, from the King Arthur lit class, I learned that all meanings/readings are valid and true. The reason why Arthurian romances and Lost are so engaging is because the adventures on the literal level are so viscerally fun while the meanings from the metaphoric/symbolic level reveal the depths and mysteries of life. Science might be able to break life down into its constituent components, but only in fiction can one hold the entire macrocosm in one's hands contained in a microcosm.

Here is another important part of developing a "literature mind"—thinking symbolically. Character A has a life and has a literal story, but, she is also a symbol for her country and her times. She is all people (from many, one). Thus, her literal story also tells the story of her "State". State is such and interesting word for in it is contained both the microcosm, and the macrocosm. It represents one's individual condition as well as their place of residence essentially being the same thing.

She, character A is the microcosm, and her country is the macrocosm, but she is both. She is one person and all persons. This then yielding truth to the oft heard maxim: "As above, so below." Here is a great pictorial example of microcosm encoded in the macrocosm:
-I read a really great article in Parabola that I want to share soon. It has to do with why I like The Matrix and Lost so much—life as a prison. To prepare, I think you need to watch Escape from New York.

A house in a fiction can be representative of someone's psychology with the floors describing the character's Id, Ego, and Super-ego. I've heard this assertion about the Bates home in Pschyo. How about Dorothy's companions? Were they literal persons or could they be symbols for the things she needed to develop to become independent? Mind (wisdom), heart (compassion), courage (strength)? And we learned that she could have always have found these truths where? It took a violent event though, the cyclone, to get through to her that the things she sought were always there inside herself.

Bad dreams sometimes horrify us into waking up to our situation. Sometimes we need that wake up call. We can't find our truth any other way. Horror and sci-fi fictions are very psychologically revealing genres also with their dream like qualities encoding some truth about the protagonist. Are Hitchcock's birds literal birds, or a symbol for the mother's maternal rage? Freudian stuff. There is a woman, Melanie Daniels, who is coming between Mitch and his mother. This is the threshold of adventure, and the mother represents one of the "threshold guardians" blocking the way to those initiates not yet ready for what is beyond their current state.

This begs the question about the hero's journey as a metaphor for coming of age, or growing up. Are all the great stories merely descriptions for the challenges and metamorphoses we all must face? Is the eating of the apple in the garden a story about children becoming adults? The garden is childhood, and god-the-father is literally "father". The father is actually the other threshold guardian.

Does the artist intentionally create all of these levels of meaning encoded in the their work? If it is my work, most definitely yes! Everything is intentional. All jokes aside, I would say that much seeps in from the artist's subconscious possibly in connection with the collective unconscious. This is why we have two asteroid movies at the same time. This is why we have two ant movies at the same time. This is why we have two volcano movies at the same time. Of course we do live in a dualistic world, but perhaps that is for another time.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

D.F.W.-The Twelve (XII)

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: A fellow of Infinite Jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!" --Shakespeare: Hamlet

The Hanged Man (XII) is the twelfth trump or Major Arcana card in most traditional Tarot decks. It is used in game playing as well as in divination. It may also be known as The Traitor, particularly in older decks. . .wikipedia

Serenely dangling upside-down, the Hanged Man has let go of worldly attachments. He has sacrificed a desire for control over his circumstances in order to gain an understanding of, and communion with, creative energies far greater than his individual self. In letting go, the hero gains a profound perspective accessible only to someone free from everyday conceptual, dualistic reality. . .wikipedia

David Foster Wallace (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008) was an American novelist, essayist, and short story writer as well as a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Wallace was best known for his 1996 novel Infinite Jest,[1][2] which Time included in its All-Time 100 Greatest Novels (1923-2006). --wikipedia
So it was last weekend that we learned that David Foster Wallace had hanged himself. I've been thinking on this for a week and have a thought and a response:

I want to meditate on the last name of the protagonist from Infinite Jest: "Incandenza". It makes me think of "cadence" or "cadenza", thus in-cadenza. And what exactly is a cadence or a cadenza? Let's turn to my Apple (Oxford American) Dictionary to unveil this:

cadence |ˈkādns|
1 a modulation or inflection of the voice : the measured cadences that he employed in the Senate.
such a modulation in reading aloud as implied by the structure and ordering of words and phrases in written text : the dry cadences of the essay.
a fall in pitch of the voice at the end of a phrase or sentence.
rhythm : the thumping cadence of the engines | try to vary your cadence during a run.
2 Music a sequence of notes or chords comprising the close of a musical phrase : the final cadences of the Prelude.
cadenced adjective
ORIGIN late Middle English (in the sense [rhythm or metrical beat] ): via Old French from Italian cadenza, based on Latin cadere 'to fall.'
cadenza |kəˈdenzə|

noun Music
a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a movement in a concerto or other work, typically near the end.
ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: from Italian (see cadence ).

So, we arrive at a virtuosic fall. Indeed! You'll recall that the father of the protagonist, James Orin Incandenza, killed himself by placing his head in a microwave. James, like D.F.W., was the creator of the Infinite Jest.

My response then to these suicides is a question: Does a highly activated, genius-intellect automatically yield one of two life outcomes? Tinfoil hat, or suicide? There is of course, a middle way: numbed to Oblivion by one's drug of choice.

Who has ever returned from the mountaintop whole? Life is definitely hard on our shamans. The idea of the artist in touch with something that undoes their ability to face the real--something that is deeper than what the populace at large is privy too--merits more thought. Life is hard on the populace at large too though. They are pretty fond of the "middle way" as well.

In the meantime, here is some encouragement from a former Prince.