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Alter Egos - I Am Done Watching This

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dead Beat Does Bliss With David Lynch

While Peter Greenaways's away, David Lynch comes to play.

Sorry Dead Beaters, I couldn't stop him.

Well okay. I did put my hand up and say, 'halt.' But maybe I was too meek.

"Dead Beat," he says, "don't get so stressed out. Greenaway's my pal. He likes my work - no story - you know how it goes."

"I'm just edgy these days, D.L. You know how that goes."

"T.M. D.B."


"Me and Donovan both."

"Isn't he dead?"

"Just mellow."

"So what's the deal?"

"We've been traipsing around Ireland promoting consciousness-based education and world peace. We aim to bring transcendental meditation to millions of pupils."


"Why not? You've got peace on your mind."

"Oh yeah, that. They haven't gone away you know."

"Tsk, tsk."

"So T.M. for kids?"

"Yeah. There is a treasury inside each one of us human beings... it's pure bliss, pure consciousness. It's a simple, easy, effortless technique. A 10-year-old child could do it. Dive within, transcend and ... experience this pure bliss, pure creativity, infinite intelligence, love, energy, power ... the engine that runs the universe."

"Er, we don't really do 'bliss' here very often I'm afraid".

"You should do bliss D.B., you should do bliss. It will change your life, man."

"Are you promoting a book or something?"

"Eh, seen any good films recently?"

"You are. You're promoting a book."

"Greenaway's working on a good project."

"You're promoting a book. What's it called Lynch?"

"Greenaway's project?"

"The book, what's it called?"

"Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity."

"Donovan fell for that? Mellow Yellow."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Indivisibility Between Text and Image

Knock knock.

Who's there?

Greenaway who?

You're an imbicile Dead Beat.

Tell me something I don't know.

So begins Beat and Pete.

"Like I was saying: you have got to go very slowly. John Cage, composer, painter, and all-round thinker and cultural catalyst, said that if you introduce twenty percent of novelty into any artwork, watch out-you are going to lose eighty percent of your audience at once. He said you would lose them for fifteen years. Cage was interested in fifteen-year cycles. But he was hopelessly optimistic. The general appreciation, for example, of Western painting has got stuck around Impressionism, and that was 130 years ago, not fifteen years ago."

"So what to do?"

"Japanese hieroglyphs may be a good model for reinventing the desperately-in-need-of-being-reinvented cinema. The history of Japanese painting, the history of Japanese calligraphy, and the history of Japanese literature are the same-all grow and have grown together; what you see as an image you read as a text. What you read as a text, you perceive as an image. This was certainly my major aim and model in the film The Pillow Book. Get the Titanic sailing correctly before you worry about the deck chairs. Indivisibility between text and image. Eisenstein saw the possibilities back in the 1920s. His theories of montage assimilated the dual image-text role of the Oriental ideogram. No middlemen. Image and text come together hand in hand. Cinema does not seem to have wanted to learn from such an encouragement. We have encouraged ourselves to need perhaps too many middlemen, too many translators. Most of them lazy. My fictitious Japanese lover's less-than-great calligrapher is Ewan McGregor's Jerome, a translator. St. Jerome was the first major translator of text for the modern world-though his business was to convince us about Christianity. What is it that cinema is trying to convince us of? Christianity and the cinema both desire happy endings. Heaven and a golden sunset. Perhaps, sadly, in the end, cinema is only a translator's art, and you know what they say about translators: traitors all."

The Narrative Is the Glue

Greenaway swings by. "A few more things to say about text."
"I like text."
"I know you do. That's why you are a writer and I am a film maker. We all know that literature is superior to cinema as a form of storytelling. It empowers the imagination like no other. If you want to be a storyteller, be an author, be a novelist, be a writer, don't be a film director."
"We all do know that, don't we?"
" Cinema is not the greatest medium for telling stories. It is too specific, leaves so little room for the imagination to take wing other than in the strict directions indicated by the director. Read "he entered the room" and imagine a thousand scenarios. See "he entered the room" in cinema-as-we-know-it, and you are going to be limited to one scenario only. The cinema is about other things than storytelling."
"I think I'm getting the point now."
"What you remember from a good film-and let's only talk about good films-is not the story, but a particular and hopefully unique experience that is about atmosphere, ambience, performance, style, an emotional attitude, gestures, singular events, a particular audio-visual experience that does not rely on the story. Besides, nine times out of ten, you will not remember the story. And if you do, and you tell it, and you are talking in words, then you are back to literature, and the cinematic experience is not communicated that way. "
"You're right. You're right."
"For the moment we have not found anything better, and because we are lazy, the narrative is the glue we use to hold the whole apparatus of cinema together. There is much to say that D.W. Griffith, proud manufacturer of Intolerance, took us all in the wrong direction. He enslaved cinema to the nineteenth-century novel. And it is going to take a hell of a lot of convincing to go back, right the wrong, and then go forward again. But I have hopes. I do really believe that we are now developing the new tools to make that happen. Tools, as Picasso said of painting, that will allow you to make images of what you think, not merely of what you see, and certainly not of what you read."

So Greenaway makes his departure - exit stage left. And Dead Beat is left with his words. So too are you.

The distinction between cinema and writing. He has a lot to teach us, listen well.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dead Beat is fuming at the mouth. So Dr Watson has upset many people with his "racist" views. I am sorry. I am sorry. Let me bring my old pal Dickie into the arguement:

"If Dr Watson is wrong he will be wrong scientifically, not ethically, and it is a scientific argument, not an ethical one, that will demonstrate his error. What is ethically wrong is the hounding, by what can only be described as an illiberal and intolerant 'thought police', of one of the most distinguished scientists of our time, out of the Science Museum, and maybe even out of the laboratory that [he] has devoted much of his life to building up a world-class reputation."

Yes Prof. Old Dr W. has been known for the odd gaffe, the unwelcomed comment, but let us look at this in a scientific way. Let the head rule the heart for once.

"The overwhelming desire of society today is to assume that equal powers of reason are a universal heritage of humanity," Watson tells us. "It may well be. But simply wanting this to be the case is not enough. This is not science. To question this," he added, "is not to give in to racism."

"Science is not here to make us feel good. It is to answer questions in the service of knowledge and greater understanding."

I know, I know, Dead Beat you're missing the point. Watson is a loose cannon, he is not scientifically supported...

The earth is round, the earth is flat.

Maybe he is off the wall, but let us leave the vitriol behind, let us return to the realm of science. Let Dr. Watson offer his evidence, let the rest of us offer ours.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't Forget Your Shovel If You Want To Go To Work

Christy Moore was crooning away to Dead Beat the other night, and Dead Beat swooned:

"Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work.

Oh don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work.

Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work

Or you'll end up where you came from like the rest of us

Diggin', diggin', diggin'...

And don't forget your shoes and socks and shirt and tie and all.

Don't forget your shoes and socks and shirt and tie and all.

Mr murphy's afraid you'll make a claim if you take a fall.

("how's it goin'" "not too bad")

And we want to go to heaven but we're always diggin' holes.

We want to go to heaven but we're always diggin' holes.

Yeah we want to go to heaven but we're always diggin' holes.

Well there's one thing you can say...we know where we are goin'...

("any chance of a start?" "no" "okay")

And if you want to do it...don't you do it against the wall.

If you want to do it...don't you do it against the wall.

Never seen a toilet on a building site at all.

There's a shed up in the corner where they won't see you at all.

("mind your sandwiches")

Enoch powell will give us a job, diggin' our way to annascaul.

Enoch Powell will give us a job, diggin' our way to annascaul.

Enoch Powell will give us a job, diggin' our way to annascaul.

And when we're finished diggin' there they'll close the hole and all.

Now there's six thousand five hundred and fifty-nine paddies

Over there in london all trying to dig their way back to annascaul

And very few of them boys is going to get back at all...

I think that's terrible.

Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work.

Don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work.

Oh, don't forget your shovel if you want to go to work.

Or you'll end up where you came from like the rest of us

Diggin', diggin', diggin."

The Last of the Rat Pack - Joey Bishop Remembered

Dead Beat remembers well his days hanging out in Vegas with the Rat Pack. Drinking and chasing broads with Lawford, Sinatra, Martin and Sammy D. Jr.

Dead Beat was therefore saddened to hear of the passing of the last of the Rat Pack members, comedian Joey Bishop.

"All I know is that if it's in good taste, if it's funny and stems from honesty, that's the best I can do. My rule is: To thine own self be true."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Not The Prize But The Offering

Okay, you know the D.B.'s thoughts on prizes, but he is nevertheless delighted for Anne Enright on her Man Booker win for The Gathering. A long time admirer of her work, D.B. salutes not the prize but the offering.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet

It doesn't have to be a Sunday morning to listen to this.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Best Place For Text Is Back On The Body - Dead Beat and Peter Greenaway Talk About Sex

"......I'd like to believe with Godard, once you've written the text and you've found the money and you've got your stranglehold over the producer, you throw the text away.
Unfortunately, circumstances as they are at this present time don't allow us to do that, and I proselytize for an autonomous cinema, which is essentially image-based, not text-based. So my search all the time, and not just for this film, but other films as well, is to find alternative systems for organizing the material."

"Okay, let's calm ourselves down, hush, hush, Peter. Let's talk about sex."

"Lacanne in his famous French essay from 1953 talks about how the body makes the text. And I would facetiously answer in this film if the body makes the text then the best place for that text is back on the body. I'm not serious in that, it's metaphorical. But what he does argue is how the mind is influencing the arm and the arm is influencing the hand and the hand the pen and paper. So the body makes the text, very, very physically. Now, in the 20th century, although you have written text here, ultimately your product will be typed up on keyboards, so we've broken that magic connection by this mechanical reproduction between the notion of physically making a mark that signifies. "

"I taught we were going to talk about sex."

"We are talking about sex."

"So what did you think of Deep Throat?"

Dead Beat and Peter Greenaway's Love-In

"Peter, Peter, Peter!"

"What's the matter, Dead Beat? Something I said?"

"It's always something you said."

"What did I say?"

"The death of cinema."

"Well you know that is correct. Cinema's death date was in 1983, when the remote control was introduced to the living room. Every medium has to be redeveloped, otherwise we would still be looking at cave paintings."

"Okay, then, the Scorcese thing."

"Scorsese is old-fashioned and is making the same films that D.W. Griffith was making early last century."

"Yeah, that thing."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Oh come on. He only just got his Oscar."

"Don't get me started."

"Peter, you are always started."

"Cinema is predicated on the 19th-century novel. We're still illustrating Jane Austen novels -- there are 41 films of Jane Austen novels in the world -- what a waste of time."

"See what I mean. Not even Jane Austen is sacred."

" 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Harry Potter' were not films, but illustrated books."

"Oh no, not Tolkien, J.K. Rowlings."

"Thirty-five years of silent cinema is gone, no one looks at it anymore. This will happen to the rest of cinema. If you shoot a dinosaur in the brain on Monday, its tail is still waggling on Friday. Cinema is brain-dead."

"Dinosaurs, you're now shooting dinosaurs in the head! I mean Jurassic Park. Surley you liked Jurassic Park?"

"Why do people spent thousands of millions of pounds trying to create artifical dinosaurs for 'Jurassic Park', that seems to be a total waste of time to me. These sort of things are just heading conventional text story lines with conventional attitude, it has nothing to do with changing the media, it just means to create robotic equivalents, which exist in the frame anyway, I don't see any point, you know, a real 'Jurassic Park' can be much more exciting than any robotic invention anybody invents inside a frame."

"No, no, Peter, no, no..."

"I suppose, my general sense of anxiety and disquiet about the cinema we've got after 100 years -- a cinema which is predicated on text. So whether your name is Spielberg or Scorsese or Godard, there's always a necessity to start with text and finish with image."

"NOT Godard. No, not Godard."

"I don't think that's particularly where we should organize an autonomous art form. That's why I think that, in a way, we haven't seen the cinema yet, all we've seen is 100 years of illustrated text."

"TEXT. What's wrong with text?"

"A supreme example is The English Patient. Why would anybody spend so much time and energy and money to make a product like that which is just perfectly well in a book? That makes it highly questionable in regards to, "do we really feel confident that cinema is an autonomous medium that can create its own product?" Why do we have to keep running off to the bookshelf all the time? But that's an extreme example. Whether your name is Godard or Woody Allen, there's still a way we have to start the text...."

"AAAHHH, Allen............................................................."

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Domesticated Human

Ed Russell's back. I have the kettle boiling.

"Pull up a chair, Ed, green tea brewskies on the way."

"Something I forgot to say: Most of the literature on domestication implies that humans have sat in the driver's seat while other species rode in the back of the truck. The first word in the title of anthropologist Yi Fu-Tuan's analysis of pets, Dominance and Affection, reflects this view. For Perkins, who described the Green Revolution as one stage in a long evolutionary process, this unidirectional view is inadequate. "Wheat and people coevolved in ways that left neither much ability to prosper without the other," he argues. This bi-directional view opens the possibility that organisms domesticated humans as well as vice versa. Biologist Raymond P. Coppinger and English professor Charles Kay Smith have argued that since the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago, much of the most important evolution has taken place within the arena of human activity. Teaming up with humans was a good strategy for organisms faced with a rapidly changing environment."

"Domesticated humans. I like this alot Ed."

"Dead Beat, don't you think the time has come for us to understand such histories in a coherent way. Scholars in a variety of disciplines and fields have built the foundation for such an inquiry, with biology and history leading the way along parallel, but too rarely intersecting, paths. Evolutionary history offers a way to link these endeavors. To biology, history offers understanding of the social forces that create selective pressures. To history, biology offers understanding of the ways organisms respond to such pressures. Together, as evolutionary history, they offer understanding of the ever-changing dance between humans and nature. The resulting synthesis just might lead us to new understanding of historical episodes as disparate as state building, capital accumulation, geopolitics, industrialization, and domestication. If we are to understand how genetic engineering shapes human experience today and in the future, it behooves us to examine ways in which anthropogenic evolution has shaped us in the past."

To put it another way, dear readers, if we are to write about the human experience as we all claim to do, it behooves us to examine ways in which anthropogenic evolution has shaped us in the past.

Bearing the Mark of Anthropogenic Selection

Edmund Russell, associate professor of technology, culture, and communication and history at the University of Virginia, drops in for tea.

"It's got to be green," he tells me.

"None greener."

"Anyway," he goes on in between sips, "I like what you have been saying about evolutionary historians. You see Dead Beat humans have been shaping the evolution of so many other species, for so long, in so many ways, and for so many reasons that this process often has hidden in plain sight. In one morning, even before making it out the door, we might wake in bed sheets made of cotton, dress in clothes made of wool, put on shoes made of leather, eat a breakfast made of wheat, butter, oranges, and eggs, read a newspaper made of wood pulp and soy ink, pat a dog, and admire flowers on the table. Every one of these materials and creatures bears the mark of anthropogenic selection, from cotton bred for large bolls to flowers selected for their showy display. Every one of them has a history. Every one of these histories has resulted from social and biological forces. And every one of these histories tells us about ourselves as well as other species."

"Thanks for that, Ed. Insightful. The stuff my readers need to know."

"Glad to be of help. By the way, nice tea."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Writer As Paleoanthropologist

It comes as no surprise to Dead Beat, amateur paleoanthropologist that he is, that Neanderthal skeletal remains have been found further east than previously known - in Southern Siberia and Uzbekistan.

Neanderthals as you know are our closest relatives - remains date back 400,000 years and they are believed to have died out about 30,000 years ago as modern humans spread around the world - yes, it's an old story.

Still and all, these nomadic traits are ever increasingly more important to the writer wishing to understand the human condition. Russell Banks got it right in Continental Drift and that was back in the mid-Eighties. Who can ever forget Bob Dubois?

Anyway, the thing that Dead Beat is urging here is that all of us who would lean towards the writing line of business should understand that we are evolutionary historians. There are no two ways about this, and no way around it.

Paleonthology. Physical Anthropology. That's the real business we are in.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

On The Road - John Updike

"Okay, okay. I won't let them forget about your poetry. Really..."

On The Road

Those dutiful dogtrots down airport corridors
while gnawing at a Dunkin' Donuts cruller,
those hotel rooms where the TV remote
waits by the bed like a suicide pistol,
those hours in the air amid white shirts
whose wearers sleep-read through thick staid thrillers,
those breakfast buffets in prairie Marriotts—
such venues of transit grow dearer than home.

The tricycle in the hall, the wife's hasty kiss,
the dripping faucet and uncut lawn—this is life?
No, vita thrives via the road, in the laptop
whose silky screen shimmers like a dark queen's mirror,
in the polished shoe that signifies killer intent,
and in the solitary mission, a bumpy glide
down through the cloud cover to a single runway
at whose end a man just like you guards the Grail.

John Updike