Monday, March 31, 2008

Hypnogogic myoclonic twitch...

The release of consciousness is a complex and fascinating process. Over the centuries, many an artist has malingered in this sleep-wake borderland state, smuggling fantastic creative booty from one side of the fence to the other. As we drift from wakefulness to sleep we enter the hypnogogic state, which is basically the twilight zone. It is here that we experience the "hypnogogic myoclonic twitch" or the "hypnic jerk" for short - that dual feeling of falling and electrical shock that jolts the waking daylights out of us. The experience of falling is really a hallucination triggered by muscles going slack and one part of the brain thinking that the body is, in fact, falling and sending a rush of tension throughout the body to brace for the impending fall. As this is happening, another part of the brain gets the "we're falling!" signal and incorporates this information into the narrative of a fast unfolding microdream.

It has been suggested by some hairy non-doctors, that as we enter the hypnogogic state we face two doors - sleep and death. Most of us will opt for sleep of course, but plenty of velvet-wrapped hey-man rock'n'roll folklore will have you believe that any number of bright lights at the close of the 1960's (such as Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin) were curious enough to try the other door. Which brings us to another occurrence in the realms of the hypnogogic state - "Exploding Head Syndrome." It's recent acknowledgment (1988) could suggest a colorful scenario: See maybe like Jimi, Jim, and Janis are trapped in a hallway of doors, yeah man, a cosmic limbo, and each time they burst in on one of these doors, they're like entering another mind and exposing another individual's hypnogocic state to their explosive collective cacophony. Whoa!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Bringing up maybes...

Sarah and I have been doing experiments lately. The world offers so many ripe opportunities to be tested.

Case 1: The competing corner coffee klatches...
At the intersection of Selma and Cahuenga in Hollywood you will find two very different coffee shops - Karma Coffeehouse on the Southeast corner and Caffe Etc. on the Northeast corner. Neither is particularly inviting, but because we shun the popular and oddly-flavored Groundworks down the street, we thought we'd give them a try. Sarah reports that Karma is a very dark, and not particularly scrubbed environment with a vaguely syphalitic hippie vibe. At noon on a Saturday the spacious room was being filled by a single man "in aviator glasses, age of 50 or so, coming down off of something." A double espresso is $2.50. While she was in Karma, I went into Caffe Etc., which on the surface may be the more appealing of the two. It has a clean, glassy, gleaming metallic Euro ambiance, and some rather smart looking coffee machines. Unfortunately, the server had a very unfriendly "why should I care" attitude, bad fake nails, shade of Long Island pink, and a double espresso was a whopping $3.00. Bottom line: The Karma coffee is better - it has a smooth rich flavor with a vague texture and taste of unsweetened chocolate powder. The Caffe Etc. wasn't bad, initially, but once it lost it's heat, it tasted like a cat's rear end.
Conclusion: Karma good. Great espresso is hard to find.
(Follow up: Day 2, a second visit, same server: Karma coffee not-so-good)

Case 2: Meta bedtime stories...
Our friend Jason gave me a great book on the science of sleep. I've recently written an article on the subject of animal sleep and the curiosity mounts. Last night as Sarah was literally falling asleep, I read aloud to her the entire chapter on exactly what happens to the brain as a human slides from consciousness into the first few minutes of sleep. In a query this morning, she reports hearing or more accurately remembering none of it and that she slept "very well."
Conclusion: Sleep is mysterious

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lightning bolts from biblical skies...

I'm sorely missing the impassioned way over-the-top voices of great preachers in our society. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I'm not sure of your greatness, but have a seat at my table. A for effort! There's something about mad fire and brimstone talk that makes me sit up straight and allow my brain to catch on fire. Unfortunately, I think many people who make a living through their oratorical gifts today are selling used cars in Alabama, or fondling choir boys behind the alter. I'm not an overtly religious man, but with a good set of pipes, a penchant for dime-store philosophizing, and an ability to rant (not to mention a non-interest in used cars or choir boys), I believe I have it in me to make a fine preacher. Actually, when I visited my high-school career counselor, a perfunctory personality test suggested I was suited to be a clergyman or a forest ranger. What the hell? From there I gladly plunged into the River of Death! It's been a long swim upstream my friends...

("Falls of Despair" preaching diagram, 1895, by the great Pentecostal holy-roller, Martin Wells Knapp)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Droning: between waking and dreaming...

We all know about waking and dreaming, the two superstar states of consciousness, but I am becoming aware of a third. It occurs when we sleep but don't dream. Here in slumberland, outside the surreal realms of true REM dreaming, there is a dull, thought-like, repetitive, non-visual cognition that occurs - basic stuff like to do lists or nagging emotional or social obligations. These messages can take the form of a voice, a song snippet, a single concept, or a feeling, and they can perpetuate like a skipping record or a lingering cloud of sensation. Do you know what I'm talking about? It is most often spotted as a kind of "echo" noticed upon waking from a non-REM state of sleep. It is the stuff that buzzes and exhausts us while we sleep.

Because I love naming things, I'm going to call it "droning." Droning is like the stuff that accumulates at the surface of a soup when it boils away on the stove. It is the fatty monoculture of the unconscious, a byproduct and distillate of the current content of the mind. But droning messages should always be examined before they are skimmed and discarded. In them lies the most accurate polaroid of your current state of being.

(sleeping gorilla photo by Tim Newsome)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Cobras are cheapskates...

Bet you didn't know that cobras are the stingiest creatures in the entire animal kingdom. Shameless poison hoarders they are. Even when manhandled to the point of total embarrassment, by a baby, this frugal snake refuses to let go of a single drop of its venom. Saving it for a rainy day you chintzy serpent? Let me tell you something: when a baby disrespects you this badly and a camera is rolling - trust me, it's a rainy day you cheap sidewinder. We're on to you... You don't scare us anymore with your flat head, waxy eyes, and your vaguely effeminate hissing. Until we see you pony up some deadly snake juice, until you cough up the cobra spit, maybe you just want to borrow my Celine Dion CDs and do some babysitting on the weekends? Don't believe the hype. Snakes are cheap and girly. You heard it here first.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

My ice shelf tippeth over...

Is it just me or is it getting wetter around here?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Paranoid Park...

The killer team of Gus van Sant and Christopher Doyle (on camera) has made a fantastic film called Paranoid Park. On the surface we see skateboards and surly teens in rainy Portland OR, but don't let that dissuade you. This is no Larry Clark drug-addled clusterfuck. What you get is a perfectly-rendered recreation of adolescent fear and guilt. The birth of a morality. It gave me a jolting flashback to that panicked sense one has in youth of learning on the job and making it up as you go. The lead actor's fixed face and monotonous voice are the thinnest of veils laid over a Vesuvius of inner activity. Doyle's camera work is so fluid and rich, it reminds us of exactly how dreamy those years were, how much color and beauty and danger there is in the world without are having the distance, the awareness of mortality, to appreciate them. It's a small movie with a big universe inside. Oh, and, don't watch any of the You Tube trailers or read any reviews. Best not to know anything going in.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Underwater food fight...

If, at the end of the day, we're all just scared naked beasts who manufacture meaning and masks to soothe our deep sense of insignificance in the universe, well then why do we insist on identifying ourselves so narrowly? so vehemently? Race, gender, class... Shouldn't differences fascinate rather than repel? Shouldn't this whole thing be funner?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who put the "east" in Easter?

Akordink to zee WikiP: The modern English term Easter developed from the Old English word Eastre, which itself developed prior to AD 899. The name refers to the Eostur-monath, a month of the Germanic calendar which may have been named for the goddess Eastre in Germanic paganism.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Introducing PINATALAB!

Sarah has a shiny new business in the surprisingly under-explored field of deluxe piñata making. She's been perfecting her craft over the last couple of years and she's ready to take her custom-built paper-maché works to you the people.

These are really, truly beautiful objects - a great part of the process is priming a crowd of friends into a frisky enough state to take a whiffle bat to these magnificent creations. (I think of them as excellent examples of temporary art.) Having partaken in all of the piñata prototypes, I can say that something wonderfully primal occurs when the bat comes out - maximum festivity. Here's actor John C. Reilly and others getting into the swing of things at a recent Pinatalab field test.

What's inside? Whatever you want. Typically, the adult versions feature tiny bottles of booze, exotic Russian chocolates, strange toys, and lots of shimmering bling. Kids? No problem. For Christmas Sarah made a pull-string Santa that required no beating, no violence, no booze. The room was full of screaming tots jolted into paroxysms of piñata-induced joy. Crazy great!

Visit PINATALAB now!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Basic training...

Are masochists more evolutionarily suited to weather the pain and stresses life on Earth?

(Photo by Bernadette Deddens)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Leadership and creativity...

Consider these approaches: a boldly enthusiastic "OK, Let's try it!" vs. a more refined and confident "It shall be done like this." Both have advantages, but the latter goes further towards honing and achieving a personal vision.

(Illustration by Richard Colman)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Shadow play...

"It is a very difficult and important question, what you call the technique of dealing with the shadow. There is, as a matter of fact, no technique at all... It is rather a dealing comparable to diplomacy or statesmanship.

There is, for instance, no particular technique that would help us to reconcile two political parties opposing each other... If one can speak of a technique at all, it consists solely in an attitude. First of all, one has to accept and to take seriously into account the existence of the shadow. Secondly, it is necessary to be informed about its qualities and intentions. Thirdly, long and difficult negotiations will be unavoidable...

Nobody can know what the final outcome of such negotiations will be. One only knows that through careful collaboration the problem itself becomes changed. Very often certain apparently impossible intentions of the shadow are mere threats due to unwillingness on the part of the ego to enter upon a serious consideration of the shadow. Such threats diminish usually when one meets them seriously."

- From a letter written by Carl Jung (thanks Kim!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Where do I stop, where do I begin?

1) The possibility that our conscious self (body and mind) is just a polished shell curled around a deeper lifeforce, quite different and separate from our own familiar Earthbound persona. Going further, the possibility that these individual lifeforces are immensely willful and cosmically engaged - they spend their days roosted in our host soul, vying for a more fixed and luminous position in the universe. Sometimes it's a battle, sometimes its a celebration. Our being feels the reverberations of this larger engagement in subtle and not so subtle ways.

2) Animal totems, or manifestations of an individual soul in the form of an animal. This fascinating concept was used extensively in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, recently cinematized in The Golden Compass. These totems are referred to as "daemons" in the books and film. Pullman's notion was influenced by the above painting.

3) Hylozoism is the philosophical conjecture that all or some material things possess life, or that all life is inseparable from matter. The English term was introduced by Ralph Cudworth in 1678.

("Lady with an Ermine" by Leonardo da Vinci, 1489)

Monday, March 17, 2008


Growing up, there was a saying around the Gazpachot household... could have been a sassy embroidered pillow, if those darling things had existed around our home. It went like this:

"We make complicated what is simple, and the powers of darkness rejoice!"

I would say that the "powers of darkeness" alluded to here are really the processes of our clever consciousness. Each sparkling strand of neural twine tries to squeeze as much information out of a perception as possible. In other words, our collective neural net hates to scan the present and come up with a half-full load. Wanting to reach its complexity quota, consciousness can decide to "complicate" a moment by forcing us to do double takes and second guessing what is plainly before us. In short, consciousness holds the power to invoke doubt.

Like me, I think you sometimes get briefly overwhelmed by the perceived complexity of issues. Regarding this, may we all learn a thing or two from our current president, who seems to have no trouble smoothing every sharp corner and smoldering powderkeg into a goofy game of Tee Ball. I'm not kidding - it's his greatest asset.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Blogging as...

...the splat that hits the screen when your brain sneezes.

Reading back, I can’t help but wince at the unfitness of some of these rants to be read. In my defense, would YOU really want to go back and rearrange all that gray goo splat once it’s been purged from your system?

Is it me or does this whole blogging endeavor feel very 90's?

Friday, March 14, 2008


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Idiot media feedback loops...

The news is astonishing. It's astonishing because they're astonished at the traction that certain non-stories seem to garner in the media, yes that media, the one that they produce. Are you following this? A certain newscaster starts his show flabbergasted at the Geraldine Ferraro controversy. "Isn't this a done deal?" he asks a panel who proceed to talk about it for ten minutes heatedly. I'm so upset at this whole fiasco. The candidates aren't really helping. They allow these tidepools of insignificance to tear us away from the mainstream, which if discussed, would tear us into a billion wet amoebas left to our own unplugged sogginess. Wouldn't it?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Odd sympathies and cosmic convergences...

"Synchronization is one of the most pervasive drives in the universe," states Cornell mathematician Steven Strogatz in the latest issue of the great Cabinet Magazine. The article describes a number of fascinating instances of natural synchronization including the pendulums of clocks, the blinking of fireflies, the chirping of crickets (which can be used to tell the temperature), the "menstrual drift" of women living together, and the "fall-in" patterns of human applause. Great stuff!

Another example of synchronistic "wow" in Joshua Foer's piece recounts a 1997 incident in which 700+ Japanese schoolchildren suffered violent epileptic seizures after viewing a particular episode of the TV cartoon Pokimon, featuring a five second sequence of intense rhythmic flashing. (If Pokiman can do that, beware Christopher Walken!)

We've all passed through periods of life characterized by a great number of coincidences and unlikely connections that sink deep into our core. Typically, I find it difficult to call attention to these times, almost for fear of interrupting the flow of cosmic juju. These periods come and go unpredictably like Spring showers and I relish their strangeness. So, for example, when I pick up this issue of Cabinet (#28 "Bones") and I am hit over the head by a succession of articles that speak directly to a collection of my most obscure and specific interests, to a submerged network of neural nodules on which I hang my hat, I merely accept and enjoy the passing "weather system" of psychic convergences.

But now that I've gone and broadcast it to you lot, I fully expect this rare bubble of meaningful coincidence and connection to burst. I expect to return to the land of non-coincidence within minutes of posting this. All in the name of science my dears. There will be others as various phases fall in sync.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Water is dope!

Yes, traces of pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics, sex hormones, anti-convulsion drugs, psychiatric drugs, painkillers, epileptic medications, and chemicals to treat high cholesterol, have been found in drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, according to a stunning investigation conducted by the Associated Press. Read it here (until they take it down).

OK, so the drinking water is contaminated with drugs. It's not quite "Wild in the Streets" where the kids spike the drinking water with LSD, still, didn't my doctor predict this sort of thing recently? Do you smell a conspiracy?

Let's be fair: The water we drink may have also been inside the guts of a dinosaur. The water we drink and bathe in and wash our dishes in once may have had duck poop or goose poop or human poop in it too. The water we drink goes through dirty pipes, rusty pipes, lead pipes, and cisterns with dead cats. What are you going to do about it?

This post brought to you by cool refreshing Fiji Water.

Monday, March 10, 2008

2001 is 40...

Saw a 70mm print of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood last night. It holds up beautifully at 40, even if it retains that cool Kubrickian air of smug knowingness. For a film about evolution and the next chapter of human consciousness, it feels very tight-lipped and sleight-of-hand-y. Still, what an accomplishment.

I am sure (by hunch, not proof) that Paul Thomas Anderson is a huge Kubrick fan and devoted student of 2001 (as is his composer, Johnny Greenwood). I would go so far as to say that the monkey's bone weapon in the Dawn of Man sequence is also the bowling pin that Daniel Plainview uses to club Paul Sunday in the final sequence of There Will be Blood (before it becomes a spaceship of course). America, in the eyes of Anderson's film, is a force of devolution: A country fueled by burning black liquid that could very well be the stuff of melted black monoliths, eh?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

What is situational irony?

When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan, all of his shots initially missed the President; however a bullet ricocheted off the bullet-proof windows of the Presidential limousine and struck Reagan in the chest. Thus, the windows made to protect the President from gunfire were partially responsible for his being shot.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


By the morning breath of Denis Hastert I implore Obama to use these words (or ones like them) in the current campaign climate:

We refuse to to win this race out of frantic desperation, or strategic posturing.
We will win because we have successfully communicated to the people that we are the way forward, and we are the way out of this current set of political problems; the very fear-based set of problems that my opponents from both sides of the aisle seem content to perpetuate.

Then he should go on to show us exactly what the way forward is and how he intends to get there. Simple.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Christ eyes, bus stops, and dolphins can't dream...

1) If you want to play Jesus in a movie you mustn't blink. Ever. Don't believe me? Pick your cinematic Christ - Robert Powell, H.B. Warner, Max von Sydow, Willem Dafoe, Jim Caviezel, etc... How do they do it?

2) "The Washington Fairfax Transit Center is one of LA's main transit hubs. Less a center and more an oversized traffic island, there has not been any notable attempt to improve the station in years, and it is not a comfortable bus station. The main elements of the Transit Center are the omnipresent, indestructible waiting benches and the ubiquitous bus shelters made by JCDecaux, one of the largest providers of street furniture. Interstate 10 functions as an oversized sunshade." via MAK

3) The distinction between animals that can dream (exhibit REM cycles) and those that cannot.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Breathing right...

It's always struck me as funny, the emphasis on health in Los Angeles as compared to the toxicity of the air. People are generally in denial about this, and it makes one suspect that the health regimens are meant to make us "look good naked" as Kevin Spacey famously put it in American Beauty. I think of all the thousands of yoga classes that teach deep kundalini breathing as a means of getting oxygen to the brain. That's sort of like eating rat poison to get calcium to the bones. You've got to be near the water to get clean air here. People say you'll sacrifice culture West of La Cienega. What about creating your own culture and breathing clean, he posits after ten gagging years in toxic Hollywood.

(image by Shepard Fairey)

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Zuleika forgot to laugh...

Zuleika, the daughter of Taimus, King of Mauretania, beheld in a dream a figure of such extraordinary beauty that she became immediately enamored of the glorious vision, and sank into a deep melancholy, fruitlessly longing for the unknown object.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Lunar oasis triangulation fix...

"I felt like I was an alien as I travelled through space. But when I got on the moon I didn't feel that at all. I felt at home there even though the earth was a long ways away. We could see it directly above, about the size of a marble. I felt like I was at the end of a thin cord that, that could be cut at any time. It was precarious, but yet I felt comfortable. I felt something other than just what we can visually sense. A spiritual presence was there. Perhaps it was because so many people on the earth were focusing their attention. They were maybe sending signals to us somehow. Dave Scott and I were the only two there. We felt an unseen love. We were not alone. Man was able to look back and see himself from a different perspective."

- James B. Irwin, Apollo 15, 8th man to walk on the moon

Monday, March 03, 2008

Bas Jan Ader...

Bas Jan Ader was a Dutch conceptual artist, performance artist, photographer and filmmaker. He lived in Los Angeles for the last 10 years of his life. Ader's work was in many instances presented as photographs and film of his performances.

Ader was lost at sea in 1975 between Cape Cod, Massachusetts and Ireland while attempting a single-handed west-east crossing of the Atlantic in a 13ft pocket cruiser, a modified Guppy 13 named "Ocean Wave". The passage was part of an art performance titled "In Search of the Miraculous". Radio contact broke off three weeks into the voyage, and Ader was presumed lost at sea. The boat was found after 10 months, floating partially submerged 150 miles West-Southwest of the coast of Ireland. His body was never found. The boat, after being recovered by the Spanish fishing vessel that found it, was taken to Coruña. The boat was later stolen.

via Wikipedia

(more on Bas Jan Ader here, and current TELIC show here)

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A room with a stew...

Here's Johnnie Billington with his students at his school The Delta Blues Education Program located in the back of his auto repair shop in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Really, if you haven't got a place like this to make music and evolve your muse, you're missing out on one of the great experiences of a lifetime.

(photo from Annie Leibovitz's excellent "American Music" book and traveling show)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

I know you are but what am I?

Daniel Plainview had a competition in him, but more importantly he had the ability to "drink your milkshake" without letting you know how or even that he'd done it. Sure he was despicable, but at least he trumped you mightily with clever, clear ruthlessness. From my perspective, too many "competitions" these days are just petty pissing matches in which one party lamely tries to match another's actions just to show that they can keep up. This creates nothing. It is the opposite of boldness. It just gums up the works with fruitless parroting and desperate ego-needs. Nothing is achieved or won or moved forward or sacrificed when all you can do is borrow equity from your colleagues.

(Paranormal clown painting info here, if you must)