Last night I abused myself with 5 episodes of Blacklist, a paen to the CIA, FBI and other pro-military, pro-capitalist propaganda that pings a list of hot button pseudo-feminist values in a graphic novel format. I suffered this un-climactic jerk-off to understand what disgusts me about scoring for crappy tv shows. It’s not because I’m no longer in touch with culture or my hand isn’t steady. I’m reading Bukowski!
It took 3 three episodes to get what’s going on in the show. I kept waiting for the story and I fell asleep during parts of the 4th and gave up entirely during the 5th episode. There is nothing going on. There’s only tension and interest created by visual and audio spectacle and an underlying theme justifying capital punishment, warfare and violent competition, with women playing power roles.
Stylewise, the show’s an animated comic book with video images of live actors rather than cartoon drawings. Music makes an A/V comic book without a compelling story possible.
Sans music, this show has no continuity, doesn’t hold interest, there’s no story. Stories can be propaganda, values are always implicit if not explicit but media without a compelling story is overtly propaganda.
Comic books are as important and valuable as any other way to tell a story. A comic book story can be great, entertaining, enlightening, exciting, enriching, delightful. A TV show or movie following a comic book format, for instance, Tarantino’s films can be cool. But using music as a special effect to laver feelings, like lard, on a slab of bad writing is abusive and should be punished but for commitment to freedom of expression. Even so…
Without a commercial sponsor, what is being sold in this particular kind of media is the militaristic, capitalist values it glorifies. Who pays for it? Who benefits from perpetuating these values? Take a look at the backers. The Blacklist criminalizes anti-establishment villains while it glorifies establishment authority, capitalism and warfare and it seems weirdly asexual and counter-romantic. However, using the title, Blacklist, has a specific anti-progressive effect: it defuses associations with another Blacklist, that of former U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy and his buddy, Richard Nixon, a real blacklist that purged the motion picture industry of most of its greatest and best writers, film makers and composers.
When I say I never watch TV, I really mean, really, I haven’t watched TV since 1960. I only go to movie theaters when friends ask me, which isn’t often since I don’t encourage it. I’ve seen many films. In my 3rd and 4th years of high school, I stayed home and watched independent TV broadcasters in LA, who at that time, having no other programming, ran nothing but old films 24/7; every film made since 1915. I fell in love with cinema and went to college and got a degree in it and made films for many years. I’ve seen many films many times and I also watched a lot of early TV; Edward R. Murrow, Skelton, Ceasar, Benny, Gleason, Groucho, Sullivan, Reiner; live.
It sickens me to see the potential of the broadcast media ignored. I understand that telling the truth would get in the way of business as usual because art requires authenticity. But I miss the art. Watching this Blacklist crap last night, I felt a kinship with Carson McCullers, W.C. Fields, Samuel Clemens and Henry Bukowski, all of whom drank themselves to death. I wanted to drink a pint of whiskey. It’s not just that the media is propaganda and stupidly written and poorly performed and directed and edited but that there are sufficient numbers of viewers that don’t know better than to take in this crap, and from this I infer there’s all these uneducated people populating the world now, who don’t know the difference, who literally wouldn’t know Debussy from Darwin beyond the name.
It’s not easy for people who were not adolescent in the 40s or 50s to understand the relationship between culture and story-telling media even though they may appreciate the wit of filmmakers of the early 20th century. They appreciate Casablanca and The World of Apu and Citizen Kane but they miss the connection with culture these works enjoyed because the connection between media and culture has changed. The propaganda of law enforcement melodramas is a world apart from the media world of these films. The satire of John Stewart about things we can now only laugh about and “reality TV” that are just freak shows doesn’t connect with a community in action about the ideals of the culture. As Lenny Bruce put it during his obscenity trial, “if something is mostly art with maybe a little shit in it, that’s alright but, when it’s the other way around, then it’s shit.”
We don’t laugh about what’s at stake but some good could come from laughing about the absurdity of the $149 billion US Navy budget. It’s ridiculous. Imagine all those hugely expensive steel ships, submarines and jet planes pouring greenhouse gasses into the air and creating nuclear fission waste like there’s no tomorrow and what’s funniest is that they are literally creating no-tomorrow. The irony is that we don’t need those ships and airplanes and nuclear weapons, they’re a useless liability in light of current technology, like the aging copper wire telephone infrastructure. The good thing about the U.S. Navy is that it does have this absurd cost that is dragging the quality life down for most Americans and we can’t avoid seeing how really stupid it is. So it let’s us see real clear that the reason we can’t get rid of the US Navy isn’t because it’s iconic but simply because the political mouths all this money feeds from the billions Congress allots them from the federal treasury allows this organization to promote it’s survival on shows like Blacklist, thus perpetuating the U.S.Navy and it’s not really anyone’s intention that this wastefulness helps to kill our chances of survival. And the funny thing is that we are this organization and we are self-destructing. Praise the lord and pass the Scotch. I’ll take mine with some yoga.
Concurrently this summer, I began to practice orgasmic meditation, read Bukowski’s Post Office and studied Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia about what happens in the brain when playing or listening to music and how brains work to evoke experience ranging from subcortical automatic responses to cognition and optical and audio experience. More about Bukowski later.
Re the brain, fMRI shows that different areas of the brain are active when playing or listening to music that are not active in processing language or visual perceptions or imagining (though there’s interaction) or other kinds of audio processing. Bukowski said he didn’t write sober and didn’t write without listening to classical music, which he did on the radio in LA, which probably means KPFK. Today, it would be KUSC since KPFK went to the dogs. The nexus is that music (in common with orgasm) evokes and expresses in the subcortical brain and automatically stimulates the motor cortex. Automatic motor responses in both cases (foot tapping, moaning) can be inhibited by cognitive suppression by higher cortical processes and this inhibition can be (and is) trained by conditioning in early childhood or later and an opposite effect is possible that focuses and trains motor responses, for instance, by practicing an instrument in correlation to a score, drumming with a group, etc. Although, it seems strange that our researchers haven’t correlated the two, the processes of inhibition and expression of sexuality are very similar with similar effect.
At the link, below, I’ve attached the last 4 pages of Musicophilia in which Sacks describes how music excites a sense of self in Alzheimers patients and indirectly, explains why Bukowski listened to classical music on a radio, in order to write.
Something in the rhythm of sexual intercourse unites the sensibility of Beethoven and the honesty of Bukowski’s poetry and on the other side of this combining certain kinds of rhythms with sensual images (or not) evokes orgasmic reverie.
This neurological nexus also explains Bukowski’s view of the Hollywood motion picture business. “I never realized that there were so many movie magazines or magazines interested in the movies. It was a sickness. This great interest in a medium that relentlessly and consistently failed, time after time after time, to produce anything at all. People became so used to seeing shit on film that they no longer realized is WAS shit.” (From ‘Hollywood’, on his experience writing “Barfly”).
(Sex and music. Music and sex. It’s so obvious. Barbarella, I love you and I always have. Why has fate kept us apart?)
“…on writing “Hollywood”(1989)] I found out that Hollywood is more crooked, dumber, crueler, stupider than all the books I read about it. They didn’t go deeply enough into how it lacks art and soul and heart, how it’s really a piece of crap. There are too many hands directing, there are too many fingers in the pot, they’re all kind of ignorant about what they are doing, they are greedy and they are vicious. So you don’t get much of a movie. [from Bukowski: Born into This (2003)].
Bukowski and Sacks are both recently R.I.P., 1994 and last August, respectively, and this leaves us with a question I feel the two of them, together, could have answered. I imagine it would be like having Bach and Darwin discussing tantra. Perhaps, if Sacks had written as much about his sexual experience as Bukowski. It’s up to the imagination now. History is like that. I rarely have the right questions when someone is around to answer them or I’m too busy chasing pussy. I don’t know.
You’re playing happy grab-ass in the atomic shower,
singng in the nuclear rain,
while the planet heats up like a pressure cooker.
If western woman is going to save the world,
like Dalai Lama says,
it’s going to be one hell of a lap dance.
You do your ecstatic little dance
to computer-generated beats,
resets your motor cortices like cyborg implants;
distracts you so you don’t notice
guided missile frigates sailing in and out of the Bay
in and out through a swarm of jet turbine helicopters
and gray boats bristling with radar and machine guns,
while laser cannons look down
from what used to be the heavens
(or hills above Tijuana)
that could light this place up like Elron Hubbard’s birthday party
at Burning Man.
Never mind me, I’m crazy.
Nuclear submarines are just fine.
like Dalai Lama says,
it’s going to be one hell of a lap dance.
Californians do it to avoid bad karma
Unless they’re Mexican and choose to avoid notice
Lines do not apply to people in New York City
As they do in West New York, New Jersey
North Koreans must, to avoid the death penalty
Germans must because Americans don’t
Chinese people do out of respect for ancestors
Filipinos do to get ahead
Norcal people do, when they see lines
Parents should, to set a good example
Italians might if they have a car
Angelinos do in hope their Lexus won’t be scratched
Except low income Mexican Angelinos, whose cars are scratched
Vietnamese people do, with reluctance
Buddhists must because it’s not mindful not to
Brazilians aren’t clear on what’s involved
Teens don’t when doing so wouldn’t appear cool
Nonogenarians would when they can see the lines
Jews do, depending on circumstances
Unless they are lawyers and it’s not Yom Kippur
Obese people would when they can
Drunks get DUIs trying to, so don’t if they’re smart
Stoner musicians do when they’re not high
Rock musicians shouldn’t, on principle
Homeless people are wise not to sleep on any lines
Engineers are all about lines, assiduously
Computer geeks often misjudge the spatial data
Sex addicts sometimes do, sometimes don’t
Novelists as a rule don’t follow rules
Composers and welders make a point of following lines
Developers are distracted by paint
Architects will to make sure lines are correctly drawn
My neighbors don’t, for the attention
You can count on Asberger’s people
But Downs and Williams people shouldn’t try
Pilots and courtesans should be tested for it weekly
Teachers aren’t expected to but may if they wish
Veterinarians and farmers are of little consequence
City planners should be buried within lines
Klansmen and Soroptimists will try to avoid paint or ink
African Americans prefer driving at night
Dentists can with gas and a little assistance
Lines are of little value to sailors, Puerto Ricans and miners
Bankers rely on their ability to stay within lines
Bird fanciers and topless dancers are hopeless
Cops don’t need to since they are privileged
Except Mexican cops, who needn’t appear unbribable
Danes do religiously, unless it’s funny not to
Lawyers do only because they don’t have to
Doctors would if they had time
Except German doctors, who follow rules in Germanic fashion
Fashion designers do on their way to the store to buy detergent
Fashion models would have if they’d thought about it
The Pope would but it isn’t his job
Donald Trump does if he thought about it
The U.S. Navy’s view is that it is the lines
Hillary has more important things to do
Obama makes it a daily photo opportunity
John Stewart wants to know what Groucho would do
Hank Bukowski never saw the line he didn’t fuck or vomit on
Some day, somewhere in the universe
Where all the lines converge
John Lennon dances with Gypsy Rose Lee
And Lenny Bruce fucks the vagina that jumped over the moon.