Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cornel West Is Right About Obama

Michael Dyson's article in New Republic, "The Ghost of Cornel West" amounts to a highly discursive way of saying "fuck you" to the guy, but it gives interesting insight into how the community of black social justice leaders was shaken up -- for better and for worse -- by Obama's presidency. 

Apparently, West has a personal beef, having been denied tickets to Obama's inauguration despite making sixty-five public appearances in support of his 2008 campaign. I can't blame him for being pissed. However, the alleged ego-bruising takes no credibility away from his lucid conclusion that Barack was a “neoliberal opportunist” all along. 

While Obama being the first black president is a crucial topic for sociological examination (Dyson is apparently writing a book on it), simply being one color or another (or gender) does nothing to change the status quo of millions of Americans working for less than a living wage, a blatantly racist criminal justice system, and acts of oligarchical tyranny like Obama's beloved Trans Pacific Partnership. Hats off to Cornel West for publicly challenging it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

On Psychedelics and Yogic Practice

As a fourteen-year-old living in Los Angeles, I'd exhausted the margin of joy my psychological disposition had to offer. Six years of growing up under the Bush administration with two more to go, a stressful family life (my divorced parents could never reach a consensus on how best to raise me and my twin brother Sam, leaving us feeling a bit like ping-pong balls shooting back and forth between houses and sets of rules), and a school environment seemingly designed to suppress my natural inclinations to learn, had me in knots of frustration that could only find expression in the ironic and transgressive. When I wasn't off seeing punk bands with names like "Cheap Sex" and "The Adicts (they intentionally misspelled it)," I was watching early John Waters films or playing violent video games like "Grand Theft Auto." It was all fun on the surface, but beneath it was a bleak, anxious feeling. Even the budding empathy that had prompted me to become a vegetarian and identify closely with radical anti-war politics felt like futile sentiment against the backdrop of doomed world.

When Sam and I, together, started smoking pot around the end of eighth grade, we'd inadvertently gifted ourselves some desperately needed breathing room. I'd already stopped doing my school-work by then, partly from the general boredom and burnout, but largely due to a deeply felt need to pay closer attention to the spaces between my prescribed schedule. Marijuana both validated and magnified those spaces, and throughout the next six months, Sam and I were introduced to drugs that did so even more: mdma, psilocybin, and LSD. It was my first LSD trip in particular that validated my imagination to the extent that dropping out of high school the next day seemed like a no-brainer. I still maintain that this decision—which, off the cuff, might be a parent's worst nightmare—was crucial to my psychological development, and in ways well beyond the initial catharsis.

Leaving school meant moving in with my dad full-time. Sam, seeing no fair scenario in which he had to go to school and I didn't, quickly joined me. With our dad gone a lot, we became weekend ravers with very little structure in between. Sure, we checked in with a home-studies program twice a week for about an hour (we later got our "equivalency certificates"), but for the most part, life was an unconstrained creative canvas that reflected our mental dynamics back for us to absorb with profoundly new sensitivity.

For me, it was two-fold. On the one hand, I'd engineered an environment that perfectly suited a deep exploration of the subtler realms of mind. Between the psychedelics and ecstasy I would do almost every weekend—in addition to my penchant to be stoned whenever possible—I was in a near-constant visionary space, immersed in elaborate cartoon scenarios superimposed upon the mundane landscape of my San Fernando Valley neighborhood, and prismatic, abstract intelligence when I closed my eyes. What became apparent before long, however, was that this whole trip was bound within the orbit of certain bad habits I'd developed.

Cocaine and prescription-grade opiate use ran concurrent to my psychedelic experimentation. In contrast, they were consciousness reducing drugs—ones that a child-hood rife with binge levels of sugar, TV, and over-stimulating digital media had primed my synaptic pathways for. When I began turning to these substances to numb my more difficult emotions, I knew there was a fork in the road. I could either stare the unsavory, un-pleasurable aspects of life directly in the face, or destroy myself running from them.

By some miracle, I chose to quit all non-psychedelic drugs (though I consider marijuana a psychedelic, I stopped using it too). I was guided to pick up a book on Zen Buddhism I noticed through the corner of my eye at a local book store, and I started to silently meditate for a brief period each day. I also began reading books by Terence McKenna and Daniel Pinchbeck that articulated the astral sensibility already obvious in my day to day experience.

It was about six months into this detoxification of sorts that the idea of yoga as a means of self-mastery became intriguing. I'd gravitated towards the "2012 meme," which was an episode of apocalyptic excitement that buzzed within the psychedelic community for a while. The focus ranged from new-age glitter to downright paranoia, but in the more lucid moments, touched on some crucial insights that emphasized how our industrial-age tendencies towards greed and insecure self-interest are at a wall, and now threaten our survival as a species if not for a more empathetic and ethereal transformation of values, and a practical reform of our social systems. I took to calling what I saw as the end-all of this process "the fifth dimension," and I rambled and wrote about it obsessively.  The basic asanas I'd begun doing out of a book on hatha yoga seemed to be preparing my body and mind for it. I was also dropping acid twice a week for good measure.

Perhaps that can explain the nonchalant way in which I strolled into my first kundalini yoga class in July of 2008. As sure as I may have been that I was already on the right track, I perked up unexpectedly when the teacher, Guru Singh, sat down and announced that our species was "entering the fifth dimension." For the rest of his lecture and the subsequent yoga set and meditation, I was convinced he was reading my mind. Much like with psychedelics, I'd discovered an answer that I only subconsciously knew I was looking for.

I came back to Guru Singh's classes as often as I could, as well as attending classes taught by other established teachers. The practice of kundalini yoga made me feel more awake and engaged—mentally, emotionally, physically, and beyond—than my most informative psychedelic trips led to believe was even possible. I bought a manual on developing a personal daily practice, which allowed me to earnestly explore the vast archive of yoga sets and meditations taught by the late Yogi Bhajan, who I learned was behind this system of teachings. The more that I looked into, the more I marveled at the synchronicity. Yogi Bhajan was said to have come to America in the late sixties out of a deep sense of obligation to assist the many psychedelic experimenters in cultivating and grounding their spiritual awareness to collectively serve what he felt was a coming era of conscious civilization.

Since I shared this aim so concertedly, it took a while for me to object to anything in the teachings, short of wearing a turban. As an orthodox Sikh—as bearded and turban-clad as could be­—Yogi Bhajan also flatly recommended a strict abstinence from drugs of all kinds for his students. At first, this was no problem for me. Given the powerful yoga sets, chants, and meditations I was practicing, I'd spontaneously halted my intake of substances in general (even caffeine!). I was also enjoying the wave of relief that came from not having to worry about draconian legal penalties, simply for altering my state of mind. After a few years, though, when my daily practice (about an hour of kundalini yoga, followed by an hour of chanting in the ancient language of Gurumukhi) had become a deeply established habit, I found myself routinely googling things like "yoga and psychedelics," looking for an external authority—some hip yogi, perhaps—to validate my revived interest.

This time around, I felt that should I choose to use psychedelics, I owed it to myself to be as disciplined as possible. While of course, I couldn't buy the over-simplified, seemingly puritanical opposition to them that Yogi Bhajan and the majority of Indian and Buddhist teachers voiced, my mind had slowed down enough to see that I got a bit carried away with my earlier use, probably biting off more than I could chew. It left some psychic scabs, so to speak, in the form of an inflated notion of myself and my place in the cosmic scheme. I feared compromising the clarity and balance that I felt I'd gained since. Plus, I was alarmed to have seen some friends over the years have schizophrenic episodes through downright reckless intake. All in all, I questioned whether my inclination to do them again was out of a genuine desire to grow, or simply an impulse to retreat from the purifying potential of embracing the mundane non-intoxicated realms, where all the obstacles of my impatience, my sense of entitlement, my stored bodily tension, etc, would emerge front and center.

In spite of these reservations, I ended up smoking pot again, here and there. I also undertook a few DMT and mushroom trips. My conviction, that I've stuck by, was to always do yoga and meditate sober, beforehand. This is a crucial tenet of what I see as "moderation" in its truest sense. In occasionally using psychedelic substances this way, I'm able to better set my intention and process their impact, both during and after the intoxication. As long as my meditation practice is strong, independently of them, they seem to inform and support it—with anything from a mist of cognitive amiability, to a "deep-issue massage," depending on the substance and doseand often, they point to their own superfluousness. While some might view that as a sign to "hang up the phone," as Alan Watts famously said, I trust that if I couldn't benefit from them, my desire to do them would be gone; and I do draw a distinction between desire and impulse, though a bit of Dionysian revelry can be healthy once in a while, too.

I think that the tendency certain spiritual practitioners have to shame psychedelics as "bad" and unnatural, stems from a kind of institutionalized self-preservation mechanism on the part of most yogic traditions, but for the more ancient, shamanic ones. I do understand how such thinking can help an ashram run smoothly: daily chores would certainly be disrupted by the monks erupting in involuntary laugh-fits, or ripping their clothes off to dance in ecstatic revelation. I can also see why some argue that the same applies to conventional life in Western society (I've certainly seen of few therapists that have. None of them had a clue about what they were talking about). If that's true, though, I think it's fantastic. We live in a time when we desperately need the type of radical creativity and insight that psychedelics provide. While I'm not so daft as to think that there aren't exceptions, it's very difficult for me to imagine receiving the initial reality check I was gifted through my first LSD experience without the LSD. Perhaps I would have eventually found my way to a yogic practice that would have, alone, served the same purpose, but I don't want to second-guess it.

In our contemporary society, where yogic practices are the stuff of booming industry, and psychedelic usage is at its highest on record since the 60's, it makes a lot of sense to wisely combine the two, freed from trappings of the ancient traditions they derived from, to assist us in the unique new challenges we face. While psychedelics offer us an initiation ceremony for the secular age, yoga and meditation are tools to carry us through, as conscious spiritual beings with physical and psychological flexibility.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

American Horror What, Now?

How much longer will American Horror Story hypnotize the ADD generation? Tonight, it debuted its fourth season. Given the show's anthology format, I dropped as many pre-conceptions as I could from past installments and watched the pilot.

Again, a crucial ingredient was missing: STORY.

Yes, Jessica Lange is depressed and abusive, Kathy Bates is all butch'd up, the Siamese twins are two people (~woahhhh~), and Evan Peters' character makes an oblivious nod to Kenneth Anger's "Scorpio Rising."


Any possible reason seemed so peripheral I had to squint. Mark my words, we've already seen the full character trajectory of that "scary" clown (get some personality, sister! Doesn't Ryan Murphy do "Glee?").

"American Horror Story: Freak Show" falls right in line with the signature "wooooh, look at this" desperation of previous seasons, sucking all soul from the 60's and 70's motifs it rips off. Even if nihilism is your thing, there are probably better freak shows to be seen on Bravo and "E."

Anyone craving creepy, surreal circus vibes that won't insult their intelligence owes it to themselves to see or re-watch Alejandro Jodorowsky's "Santa Sangre." You'll get all that's missing in "Freak Show," and more.   

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Zero Theorem: Review

Steve Jobs famously criticized rivals in his field for close-mindedness due to lack of LSD use. I must do the same for anyone unimpressed by Terry Gilliam's sci-fi vision, whether in Brazil, 12 Monkeys, or newly, The Zero Theorem.  Here, Gilliam's signature frenzy of visual gags, outrageous set design, and buffoonish bureaucrats shows up in fine Technicolor form. The contemporary appeal of The Zero Theorem, however, is the updated dystopia it offers: A world where the office cubicle has merged with the video-game chair, party etiquette is face-down in a tablet or smart-phone, and sex, estranged from the flesh.

This should sound familiar enough. So familiar, in fact, that protagonist, Qohen (Christoph Waltz) -- as in zen "koan" -- autistically references himself as "we." Symbolically monastic with his shaved head and wardrobe of blacks and grays, he embodies our modern predicament of overworked, technology-induced psychosis as he slaves away crunching arbitrary numbers of questionable benefit to "Management (Matt Damon with frosty white hair)."

Anxious to a point of crippling introversion, Qohen's request for at-home work lands him "The Zero Theorem:" a gargantuan meta-equation, which, if solved, would confirm an essential meaninglessness to life. Just the task for his cosmically frazzled nerves. Before he can check out completely, however, meaning comes knocking at his door in the form of Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry), a prostitute his supervisor hopes will bring him down to earth. Both she and Bob (Lucas Hedges), Management's precocious fifteen-year-old son, interning as a number cruncher for the Summer, chide Qohen's armor and beckon him out of his comfort-zone.

The Media Theorist Douglas Rushkoff illustrates in his book "Present Shock," that the elaborate anticipations of 20th century imagination, coined by futurist Alvin Toffler as "future-shock," have arrived, but superficially so. It's a phenomenon that can be seen as a facsimile of the present, personified by the status update and the tweet, that obscures real experience of the "now." It is such an irony with which Qohen strives to solve and quantify the very moment he's devoted his life to ignoring, all the while yearning for a phone call that he may or may not be imagining.

In this vein, The Zero Theorem is less prescient than poignant, and a character portrait much more than a conspiratorial mind-bender like 12 Monkeys. Gilliam has said in interviews that he considers it a tragic tale about a man unable to connect. Given this admission, he could have better served the story by stripping down unnecessary layers of headiness and locating its heart, which was in the relationship between the characters, and fundamentally, Qohen's to himself. This would have more than compensated the 107 minute screen duration, not to mention, spared the audience some redundant filler shots of surveillance cameras and scurrying rats.

Despite flaws in its narrative, the parabolic themes in The Zero Theorem culminate satisfyingly, and more than justify the grandiose visual spectacle. It's a Gilliam bonus track I can't sincerely recommend to everyone, but for those not pre-disposed to at least find it amusing -- again, perhaps some LSD is in order?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Thoughts on "Neighbors," Masculinity, and the May 23rd Mass Shooting

I saw the movie Neighbors a few weeks ago during our recent heatwave in Southern California. It was nice to retreat into an air-conditioned theater for a few hours, and I have to admit, since I came in expecting nothing beyond the Animal House platitudes and dick-jokes of your typical "College-sploitation" film, I enjoyed it and then some.

In it, recent parents (Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne) have all but resigned to the banalities of domestic life, but sense reprieve in the arrival of a fraternity (headed by Zac Efron and Dave Franco) next door. As fate and formula will have it, however, the party noise soon becomes unbearable for the couple, and a petty, comedic feud ensues. Throughout the film's 90 minutes, the viewer is subjected to just about every unenlightened notion of sex, drugs, and masculine pride our culture has to offer, yet, the context is as insulated in fantasy and implausibility as a car-chase in one of the latter Fast and Furious installments.

In fact, a huge part of what made Neighbors work for me was the fact that director Nicholas Stoller shot it like an action film. Relying on over-the-top stunts for many of its big laughs, it is Hollywood absurdity down to the character profiles and ideas that inhabit it. So why can't Washington Post critic Anne Hornaday, who recently cited the film as a precipitating factor to May 23's mass shooting at UC Santa Barbara, get that?

Of course, these type of knee jerk reactions are to be expected following senseless tragedies, and are arguably disingenuous, given the headline-thirsty nature of the press. While it is certainly relevant to discuss pop-culture's hand in the pressure males face to "get laid" as a right of passage and measure of self-worth  -- and the Darwinian contest it can feel like for many -- nothing short of a severe, underlying mental illness can drive someone to murder 6 innocent people. 

Elliot Rodger, with his bmw and bizarre youtube videos, was severely mentally ill. A few of my more trivial observations about this include:

-Why is seemingly every psychotic manifesto but the Unabomber's so infantile and poorly written?

-Goddamn, if this Rodger kid isn't a dead-ringer for a splice of Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman and Jay Baruchel's character in She's Out of My League, both physically and psychologically.

-Speaking of Patrick Bateman, Hornaday catches the similarity in her article, yet is clueless to the irony, as American Pyscho is, itself, a ruthless satire of the pomp machismo she decries.

Hornaday is absolutely right, however, in her article's closing statement. We're indeed "only as strong as the stories we tell ourselves." Fundamental to this is the ability to distinguish fantasy from reality. I can go on, but Quentin Tarantino really says it best. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On the "Molly" Craze.

I find myself thinking back to a conversation years ago where a guy I'd met who had been raving since the late 80's explained to me that "the popularity of the rave-scene moves in cycles": its biggest peaks were for a few years in the late 90's to early 2000's, and then, in 2008, when we were talking.  I doubt that even he could have anticipated the mainstream popularity still to come. Even though I caught the tag-end of the Los Angeles underground rave-scene actually being a "scene" back in 2006-7, I try my hardest not to condescend the kids into EDM (electronic dance music) parties now like I'm a "veteran," atop them in some sort of hierarchy. In fact, save the occasional wave of nostalgia, I'm entirely fine focusing on other things in life that have nothing to do with raving. With the scene so removed from my daily concerns, I haven't really cared to comment on the whole "molly" craze of the past few years, until now.

Back in my day (yes, "back in my day"), ecstasy was a sort of mystery pill. Sure, people hoped they contained the "pure mdma" or "pure mdma plus some exotic hallucinogen and/or opium" that their shady dealer "FluffyCuddles" promised them, but unfortunately, all but the few expert addicts able to sense a drug with a mere touch of their tongue-tip, were unaware of the meth that their pill/s most-likely contained until they were already chewing through their candy bracelets with mutant fervor. The cynical fact was, FluffyCuddles would gladly sell anthrax as ecstasy if he could get away with it. 

 Anyone remotely in "the know" during my days of raving was long clued into the fact that methy pills were standard fare. When one summoned the self-respect to refuse the ingestion of such an atrocious substance, but still felt like flooding their serotonin receptors like Hurricane Katrina, they would go for molly. Being that molly is simply white powder, there was of course, just as much chance for it to be "bunk," but since it was always a rare and valued commodity at the party, doing so could damage a drug dealer's reputation severely, so it typically came as advertised.

Enter present day: EDM music and massive events like the Electric Daisy Carnival are bigger than ever, Madonna names her album "mdna" and in a pathetic last-ditch attempt to remain relevant, asks her live crowds to cheer if "they've seen Molly," and Miley Cyrus and every rapper in the world abuse the term as their personal marketing slang. Presto, "Molly" is the new "it-drug." Now, applying what we've learned thus far, logic tells us that "it + drug = cut with meth," and according to Frank Owens' article for November's Playboy, recent lab tests of capsules acquired at a Miami night club (a type of establishment that, by nature, reflects only the most mainstream of trends) show that this is exactly the case.

As far as what it means for the future of mdma, I can't claim to be sure. First of all, it's not the end of the world for drug users. Pure mdma can still be found if one knows the right people, and to be frank, while a few mdma experiences can be cathartic and beneficial, someone who relegates their experiences of joy to time spent intoxicated has a whole new world of clarity to look forward to, should they tire of power-juicing their brain for its happy-chemicals. On a wider level, the sudden popularity of Molly in culture could go one of a few ways. With its current level of lip-service, it is prompting the typical "hide your kids" news stories, and "crackdown" attempts from square republicans who still think pot makes people gay. A darker age is always possible. 

However, the attention also shines light on the research being performed across the globe by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), which includes studies where veteran soldiers with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are administered doses of pure mdma to assist in their therapy, with promising results being shown. This is the type of focus that was put on mdma back when it was obscure in the 80's, and the approach initially taken with lsd prior to the hippie movement. It's great to see it resurfacing, and with an impressive amount of government approval. I hope it continues, and I have a good feeling it will. Trends and advertising campaigns change by the day, but science, ideally, is rooted in a reality that stands the test of time.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Movie Review: Only God Forgives

Instead of an aesthetic deepening and enhancing a story, hypnotic mood is the tale being told in Nicolas Winding Refn's "Only God Forgives;" So much so that the details of stoic drug dealer Julian (Ryan Gosling), his murdered brother Billy (Tom Burke), their toxic, vengeful mother (Kristin Scott Thomas), and a militant Bangkok sheriff (Vithaya Pansringarm) out to deliver justice by way of samurai-sword, are pushed to the periphery. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Its execution is highly ambitious, and at several stylistic high-points, gripping as hell.  

Writing, directing, and producing, Refn teams up with veteran Stanley Kubrick cinematographer Larry Smith (Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Eyes Wide Shut) to seemingly evoke elements of David Lynch's "Lost Highway," Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," and Jodorowky's "Santa Sangre," which are melted down and mixed with an intoxicating original soundtrack from returning Refn collaborator Cliff Martinez, presenting a vision of the Bangkok underworld that is at once superficially breathtaking and emotionally void. Yet, the icy pain of the characters echo poetically into each frame. Julian in particular, wanders lost in a bardo of his own confusion; meaning well, but unable to connect due to deep scars of his mother's influence.

 Technical showmanship aside, the flaw of Only God Forgives lies in its confusing, anticlimactic ending, where Refn abandons the veneer of narrative coherence that holds the film together in its first two acts, opting solely to empower his own subjective symbolism. As Gosling himself stated in an interview, this "alienates" the audience, to no avail.  Still, I am left feeling optimistic about what we might see from Refn in the near future.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Movie Review: Irreversible

Irreversible (2002) is the second feature of French director Gaspar Noe, and the feature debut of cinematographer Benoit Debie. Shot in second-person point-of-view, and revealed through reverse-chronology, it takes its viewer deeply into the very air of a tragic night in Paris where two men, lover (Vincent Cassel) and ex-lover (Albert Dupontel), seek revenge on a pimp who brutally raped and murdered their beloved Alex (Monica Bellucci) in a subway tunnel.

The film is as disturbing as one of its subject matter ought to be, which is precisely what makes it so impactful. Debie's camera spirals and shakes throughout, eliciting palpable qualities of chaos, grief, and adrenaline. However, arguably the most frantic moment (and I say "arguably" because parts of the revenge sequence make "Scarface" look like "High School Musical") is the rape itself, the film's one still-shot.

While absolutely not for the squeamish, Irreversible evokes just the right harmonies of tone and perspective to make a truly righteous statement. In an age when violence against women is trivialized -- mocked, even -- in pop-culture and politics, someone needed to portray the calamity of rape and murder accurately: the horrors of torture and violation, the vast ramifications blasted into the scheme of cause and effect to perpetuate its sting in unknowable ways, and the tragedy inherent in robbed potential. Gaspar Noe had the balls -- and talent -- to do it.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Movie Review: Spring Breakers

For those unfamiliar with Harmony Korine's film-making, sitting through Spring Breakers must feel like being tricked into smoking crack. Luckily, having seen his 1997 film, Gummo, I came in with an idea of what to expect. No, the opening montage of beer-soaked tits and ass bopping and bouncing on the beach to the unrefined womps of Skrillex couldn't fool me. Shit was about to get really uncomfortable.

Best friends since kindergarten, college girls Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Cotty (Rachel Korine), and Faith (Selena Gomez) pout in cabin fever. With only a few hundred dollars between them, their plans to live out their mtv Spring Break fantasies seem dismal. However, a quick diner robbery sets their trip in motion, catalyzing a runaway train of debauchery that has them bouncing between chaotic St. Petersburg motels, lands them in jail, and eventually in the hands of Alien (James Franco), a local drug and arms dealer with an aspiring rap career. 

Faith, the meek anchor of intelligence and lone semblance of a conscience in the group, wisely takes off, while the other three girls lavishly test the limits of this newly discovered underworld. The subsequent inevitability of disaster introduces Archie (Gucci Mane, a rapper with an ice-cream cone tattooed on his face), Alien's former best friend turned rival gangster. From here onward, the train-wreck commences in unfortunate fashion.
I find myself asking how a movie can possibly offer so much of too much while lacking so much. The script, with its repetitious dialogue and flimsy third act, was a glorified outline, with characters just as hollow (save Franco). I question if my impulse to review it is authentically cathartic. A part of me feels it is necessary for my emotional well-being, while another voice insists there is no point in elaborating on such a masturbatory event.  

If Korine does one thing well, it is masquerading freak-show caricatures of American dementia in the faces of his viewers, and his signature harshness is particularly fitting and arguably necessary for the elements of Florida portrayed in Spring Breakers. It is a damning indictment in and of itself and works as art of some sort, but not as a feature film. As ring leader of such a depraved circus, Korine offers no solutions but, like Gomez's character along with a good third of the people in my theater, to gather oneself and leave. 

 Clearly, this is a film that relies on irony and shock-value, but the vacancy of its message is too cruel to call "satire." Any cinematic redemption comes at the hands of master cinematographer, Benoit Debie (Enter the Void), and an ingenious performance by Franco. Sadly, not even Alien's hilarious "look at all my shit!" routine, as he flaunted his guns, drugs, and money for the girls, could bring it together; Nor could his piano rendition of Britney Spears' "Everytime," the stylistic peak of the film.

 Korine's garbage nixes the wit and charm that made trash-cinema such as early John Waters films lovable, opting instead for an anger that is fundamentally lazy. What had potential as a fresh and scathing caricature of the hedonism and nihilism rampant today in pop-culture fell far short of its satirical aims and was left wading in the shallow current of those very waters.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Modern Science and Technology in Light of the Alchemical Impulse

  The technological advancement of the past decades and the direction of material science, most notably the atom-smashing experiments at Cern, strongly suggest that the Western mind is obsessed with manifesting a magical object. Will our technology soon become alchemical, and with clanging machinery, produce this golden "god-particle?" I don't want to deny the possibility. However, I am reminded of something said by the cynical anti-guru, U.G. Krishnamurti: "Say you attain this "enlightenment," what will you do with it!?" Statistics show that new technological innovation is first used for military purposes, and secondly, for pornography, so it would seem that if modern scientists did manifest what Terrence McKenna referred to as the "transcendental object at the end of history," archetypal rapture of hipster-futurism as it were, they would have NO IDEA what to do with it. 

  Brion Gysin, who first discovered the "cut-up" writing technique, said that "writing is 50 years behind painting." I feel it is reasonable to elaborate by saying that modern scientific research, with its materialistic, financial, and political biases, is hundreds, if not thousands of years behind painting. And speaking of painting, I am moved by those paintings which animate inner intelligence and inspire an ever deeper self-knowledge. While technology can prove supplemental to our lives, providing convenience and entertainment in astounding ways, I feel that this same artistic resonance of experiencing one's soul through a painting, film, literary work, or musical piece, is the height of esotericism to which technology and science can aspire.

  What will hopefully be realized in the long-run from endeavors like the atom-smashing at Cern, is that our scientific experiments are fundamentally giving us insights into the nature of the human mind conducting and observing them, more so than any "objective reality" outside of us. In the years to come, we may begin to see an increase in technology created intentionally for the sake of art, and conventional realms of scientific study becoming like Quantam Physics, where the findings themselves resemble mystical paradox more than proclamations of "ultimate and final truth."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Movie Review: Inland Empire

Strung together purely by emotional cues, cryptic symbolism, and themes of infidelity, murder, and mind-control, David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” is a fractaline labyrinth of story and storytelling, time and timelessness, watcher and watched, horror, delirium, and the impulse to resolve.

In this hyper-surreal reality, we learn that actress Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is up for a new role. In fact, her foreboding new neighbor from down the road "definitely hears that she has it." Sure enough, she lands the female lead opposite Hollywood "bad-boy" Devin Berk (Justin Theroux) in director Kingsley Stewart’s (Jeremy Irons) new film “On High in Blue Tomorrows.”

This movie within a movie, based on an old Polish Gypsy folk-tale, focuses on an extra-marital affair. As we soon discover, it is the second attempt at the film’s production. The original, a German undertaking titled “Siebenundvierzig (Forty-Seven),” abruptly ended when the two leads were murdered. Rumor has it the script is cursed.

Disturbed but determined, Nikki and Devon assume their roles, but when the story begins to spill over into their own lives, a psychic roller-coaster ride ensues, complete with otherworldly colors, sounds, and moods, eerie rabbit headed humanoids, prostitutes dancing “The Locomotion,” Polish circus performers, an inter-dimensional phantom named Crimp, central traumas involving the death of a son and murder by screwdriver, a cameo by William H. Macy, a red lamp, a portal through a cigarette burn in a piece of silk, and an ever-looming camera.

As for what it all means, theories are abundant. Whether it ultimately depicts a troubled, fragmented psyche, a nightmarish case of quantum entanglement, or is, as Lynch himself insists, merely abstract art, he has out-Lynched himself and it deserves your attention!


Thursday, September 27, 2012


  Every new phone or pod or pad these days has it's own douchey "unveiling" where a beaming CEO raises it to the sky like Simba from the Lion King. I guess that's the top of the pyramid for techno-geeks, being that guy. I'll spare you a rant about how I wish all that time, energy, technological innovation, and designated social significance was applied to making civilization actually work -- Although that absence of emphasis never stopped people like Buckminster Fuller and Nikola Tesla from exercising their own initiative, so who needs it really? I guess what I'm saying is that I hope the military industrial complex doesn't snag up ALL the smart Asian kids before they start to get sensitive to the needs of a planetary awakening.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The (Immensely) Hypothetical Anarchist Argument for Mitt Romney

  Thankfully, I'm typing, so these words never have to actually leave my mouth. I almost hope Mitt Romney gets elected. Now PLEASE don't get me wrong, I'm not voting for him (or anyone). I only dare touch this taboo in an effort to splash some cold water on the faces of any supposed "liberals" out there who claim to actually "support" Obama this November.

  To regard politicians as "liars" and "whores" is ancient sentiment, but has unfortunately run shallow these past decades in America.  A mere figure of speech for the still staggering number of politically uninformed citizens, and cynical mantra for those who resign themselves to the presidential voting process, "lesser of evils" is the sash and crown for which Barack Obama and Mitt Romney infest our newspapers and screens in perpetual plea.  Call it youthful naivete, but I'm no fan of evil in any quantity, and for the first time since perhaps the late 60's, a significant percentage of this country's population vehemently agrees.

  The internet has become a miraculous medium to make truly trans-establishment ideas available to the masses, and has allowed for the popularity of films such as the "Loose Change" and "Zeitgeist" series, public figures like Ron Paul and Alex Jones, and of course, WikiLeaks and the Occupy Movement. In fact, through this abundance of information, a historically unprecedented number of people now understand (to borrow a phrase I heard on the radio recently) how the republican and democratic parties are two facets of the same entity, playing "good cop, bad cop"  a cabal of financial oligarchs seeking to eliminate individual nation-states in favor of advancing their skewed Babylonian fantasy of fascist world government through both subversive neo-liberal (ie corporatist – fascist) economic policies and brutal military might.

  While it is childish to assume that this elitist cabal, or "Illuminati," as some would call them for added effect, "rules the world" entirely, they surely rule the American political process. Through elitist think tanks such as the Bilderberg Group, they are careful to vet every major presidential candidate for a sufficient degree of sociopathy and/or dirt to comply with their agenda in full, and Obama is no exception. 

For those of you scratching your heads, allow me to illustrate some defining points of Barack Obama's first term.  Since taking office in 2009, he has extended the war in Afghanistan, allowed US participation in the NATO strike against Libya without congressional approval (a war crime),  and ordered hundreds of deadly drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Quite a hefty war record for a Nobel Peace Prize Winner (and how many other Peace Prize winners have secret "kill lists," besides perhaps Kissinger?).

 His war on the civil liberties of American citizens is just as aggressive. Obama not only approved a four year extension of the Patriot Act in 2011, but signed it's demented cousin, The 2012 National Defense Authorization act  a bill which allows Americans to be detained indefinitely, with no probable cause other than being a "suspected terrorist (a title shared in this country by infants and wheel-chair bound ninety-year olds alike)" – into law. 
In economic policy, he's arguably the biggest puppet for Wall Street and the multi-nationals we've ever had as president. Not only did he vote for the initial TARP bailout as a senator in 2008, receive more donations from Wall Street in his 2008 campaign than any presidential candidate in history, extend the Bush tax cuts, and appoint former Monsanto lobbyist Michael Taylor to head the FDA, but he appointed Timothy Geithner and several other Wall Street insiders to key positions in his cabinet. Think about that the next time he walks out to give a speech to the tune of that one super-emotional Coldplay song (see his DNC speech).

 The healthiest way to approach the spectacle of this election is to regard it as trivial, and deny it the front seat in our world-views and daily considerations that the media insists it deserves. Hypothetically speaking, however, in this facade of "choice," perhaps we're better off with the guy who's blatantly awful? Obama has been everything a third Bush term would have been, but lacks the idiot cartoonish persona which made Bush so easy to detest. Obama policies in a Dubbya mask could have easily inspired 10 times the Occupy Movement of 2011 to have emerged as early as 2009. The truth is, it might take something as horrifying as a Mitt Romney presidency (a cartoon idiot if there ever was one) to, at the very least, revive a tangible anti-war movement in this country. If there is any inevitability to a contemporary American revolution – and there very well could be – what's the point in stagnating?