When one considers how things have gone since 1930 or thereabouts, it is not easy to believe in the survival of civilisation. I do not argue from this that the only thing to do is to abjure practical politics, retire to some remote place and concentrate either on individual salvation or on building up some self-supporting communities against the day when the atom bombs have done their work. I think one must continue the political struggle, just as a doctor must try to save the life of a patient who is probably going to die. But I do suggest that we shall get nowhere unless we start by recognizing that political behaviour is largely non-rational, that the world is suffering from some kind of mental disease which must be diagnosed before it can be cured. The significant point is that nearly all the calamities that happen to us are quite unnecessary. It is commonly assumed that what human beings want is to be comfortable, as our ancestors had not. Nature may occasionally hit back with an earthquake or a cyclone, but by and large she is beaten. And yet exactly at the moment when there is, or could be, plenty of everything for everybody, nearly our whole energies have to be taken up in trying to grab territories, markets and raw materials from one another. Exactly at the moment when wealth might be so generally diffused that no government need fear serious opposition, political liberty is declared to be impossible and half the world is ruled by secret police forces. Exactly at the moment when superstition crumbles and a rational attitude towards the universe becomes feasible, the right to think one’s own thoughts is denied as never before. The fact is that human beings only started fighting one another in earnest when there was no longer anything to fight about.

It is not easy to find a direct economic explanation of the behaviour of the people who now rule the world. The desire for pure power seems to be much more dominant than the desire for wealth. This has been often pointed out, but curiously enough the desire for power seems to be taken for granted as a natural instinct, equally prevalent in all ages, like the desire for food. Actually it is no more natural, in the sense of being biologically necessary, than drunkenness or gambling. And if it has reached new levels of lunacy in our own age, as I think it has, then the question becomes: what is the special quality in modern life that makes a major human motive out of the impulse to bully others? If we could answer that question — seldom asked, never followed up — there might occasionally be a bit of good news on the front page of your morning paper.

-George Orwell

We know that halfway through The Force Awakens, Luke Skywalker won’t suddenly develop cancer—we won’t be forced to watch him manage whatever sorts of treatments they had for that a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Episode VII won’t become a film about a man having to abandon his hero’s quest and face his mortality from a hospital bed.

We know Episode VII will not document the plight of nerf herders.

We know it will not be about Chewbacca coming to terms with his sexuality.

Books on Display

These are the stock books they’re using to fill shelves at The Container Store in Columbus, OH.

Some notable inclusions:

The Soul’s Code, by James Hillman. (A Jungian psychologist—I actually have this book.)
The Age of Turbulence, by Alan Greenspan.
America by Heart, by Sarah Palin.
Dispatches From the Edge, by Anderson Cooper.
Tenth of December, by George Saunders.
Travels in the Scriptorium, by Paul Auster.
Fetish Lives, by Gail Jones.
Someone to Watch Over Me, by Richard Bausch.

I’m late to the game on this, but I finally saw Whiplash. And although it held my interest, and I did enjoy the music, I found the film irredeemably problematic. It would be easy enough to criticize the story. Although the characters are apparently very skilled as musicians, as people they can only play the same two notes (“driven” and “asshole”). The romantic subplot is not so much understated as unstated. But it’s perhaps more interesting (and more important) to consider everything the film got wrong about music, or more specifically jazz, or even more specifically, studying jazz at a major music school, which is something I can speak to. Here’s a list of five problems:

1 Most disturbing is this idea of jazz as a highly institutionalized form, with white people like Terrence Fletcher as the gate keepers. In Whiplash, jazz is like French cuisine—it’s prepared in oak-paneled rooms with track lighting, performed wearing tuxedos in grand halls where panels of judges make or break your career. The pinnacle of jazz is not found in some shitty club, but rather at Lincoln Center. Certainly, some of this sort of thing exists, but the film completely ignores the history of jazz as being an African American art form that was created on the streets of New Orleans and New York City. Jazz exists because people like Miles Davis dropped out of Juilliard to hang out in Harlem. The film is suggesting that a type of aristocracy has now completely taken over this form, and will decide who succeeds and who fails (and if they decide you’ll fail, you have no other recourse, you’re finished). Whiplash stresses this point quite strongly—that achieving “greatness” means being acknowledged by the elite power structure. If the film indeed means to suggest such a world exists (if not in real life, at least on screen), it would be a tragedy worth exploring, but these circumstances are never for a moment questioned.

TWIN PEAKS IS COMING BACK.

I recently re-watched the series, which I had not seen since it originally aired (but not every episode because back then when you missed an episode, you were SOL). I then watched Fire Walk With Me, which I also had not seen since its release. Quick reactions, in no particular order:

It would have been obvious to make Cooper a hard-nosed G-man, maybe someone recovering from an alcohol problem, or some such trope. But Lynch did something you’re not supposed to do with your characters—he made Cooper a nice, swell guy, barely flawed, if at all. He’s sincere, kind, a true humanist who sees the essential goodness in all people. He displays feminine qualities of nurturing and holism. It’s this contrast of a sleek and stylish, but kindhearted FBI man wandering through the haunting wilderness that makes Twin Peaks so compelling. He’s navigating a hostile landscape, he’s plagued with visions, and in that sense he’s not unlike David Carradine’s character from Kung Fu. (Now that show needs a reboot.) There are a few episodes when Cooper loses his suit, and the show loses its power. Cooper in flannel is not interesting.