Apr. 23rd, 2017

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To reactivate oneself as a journal-based presence, or not? That is the question. Let's go with yes.

I signed up back in 2009 when DW first appeared. I posted a few things but made no friends and ended up deleting that stuff a few years later -- it's been so long I can't remember what it was. I'll keep my "interests" though.

Fitting for this journal renaissance, and contributing to an eerie sense of deja vu as I type this, is the fact I started rewatching Twin Peaks today. Back when I was introdued to it, I was living a full Livejournal life, and conducted my fannish behavior as such, so the last time I wrote anything about TP must have been in a journal almost exactly like this. Anyway, the new season approaches, and I figured as this is the only mainly free weekend I have before it, I should refresh my memory. I still consider it my "favorite tv show" after all. And you know what -- I think it remains as such. I mainlined the first season and the first ep of the second today (AND I took the time to go to an involved screening of The Room in the middle of it! Howzzat for pop culture immersion. I bought and threw around red roses in addition to the spoons).

Man, I love this show, like Special Agent Dale Cooper loves his cup of good coffee. I was crazy about TP a decade ago, when I first found David Lynch -- my involvement with him is a longer story -- and while I personally have lost some of the youthful obsessiveness, I was sucked back in again, quickly. There's still something so unique about it, even after all these years of Golden Age Television. If anything, so much of the art direction and the reliance on nigh-cinematic storytelling is so striking that it only serves to underline the fact that much of today's TV visionaries must have had this all carved into their bones as youngsters. And, of course, TP still easily beats many of the modern giants, in my book anyway.

Partly, yes, I mean the visuals -- frame a shot like Lesli Linka Glatter, will ya. Breaking Bad did come close (yes, I'm crazy about BCS, too). Partly, it's the... stuff. The plot, the themes, the sprawling character development, the "black hole moments."

Twin Peaks is cool as fuck, sure, but underneath the now-nostalgic, hipster-friendly surface there is a fucking horrifying story about structural sexual abuse. It's peak Lynch. It's uncomfortable, because it straddles the line between fetishization and true, soul-level horror. It does make me uncomfortable, but in the right way, I think -- it should make you feel anguished, because it's about what adult men do to young women, and everyone is culpable. Like Bobby Briggs screams at the funeral, "You killed her! We all did!" It's not neat or easy, and thus finding out "who" did it doesn't really solve anything. (It'll lose you your audience, though.)

So the strenght of the show is based on the amalgamation of these things -- the gorgeousness and the thoughtfulness -- but there's also that Lynchian quality. That atmosphere or tone that's so hard to capture in words, because it's cinematic and dreamlike, not to do with writing or even words, but something that occurs when certain things align. Critic Robbie Collin said of Mulholland Drive that it's "as if a black hole has opened up in the middle of the movie." He was speaking of the specific scene where Naomi Watts auditions for the movie-in-the-movie, but that black hole moment is a true Lynch thing found everywhere in his works; in TP, it's a scene like the one where Dr. Jacoby coaxes out of Bobby a tearful confession about Laura. Here you have these characters, one the hothead bad boy you might have found fun at best so far, the other a seemingly skeevy comic relief type, and suddenly -- stripped of their previous context in scenes with more characters, there's a moment of contact that feels painfully, embarrassingly real and also somehow existentially gruelling. You don't even want to look at this boy crying, it's too much.

There'd be so much to say about this show, and a lot has been written by better analysts over the years, with much more to come over the next months, I'm sure, but let's end here, for now. To declare the end with a cliche, or not? Let's go with yes: the owls are not what they seem.
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I'm walking
Through streets that are dead
I'm walking
With you in my head ...

- Bob Dylan, "Love Sick"

After six more episodes of Twin Peaks today, I felt like it was time for a walk. I reached the point in the show that feels like the end of the first arc; the episode where we find out who, physically, killed Laura Palmer. (I cried. Just a little. Laura...) It was definitely time for some fresh air.

Nowadays I usually go for a run with a friend, but when I'm alone I favor podcasts. I don't listen to just any of my regular subscriptions, though. For a while I listened to Elis James and John Robins' Radio X show, but after I found out that Theme Time Radio Hour is available as a podcast, I switched to it.

I listened to all the 101 episodes (counting the lost episode, "Kiss"), back in 2013 when I first discovered Your Host, Bob Dylan. Now I will pick an episode every now and then, depending on what theme strikes a chord with my emotional state -- a little too much on the nose, I picked "Walking" today.

TTRH is, of course, a radio show aired on satellite radio station Sirius, from 2006 to 2009. It was hosted by none other than recent Nobel laureate Bobby D., and it was, basically, my introduction to him. Like a lot of things in my life, I discovered him all backwards and upside down.

There's a specific person I should thank for being led to him: author Jonathan Lethem. I could write a more detailed account of my history with Lethem himself, but it basically boils down to the fact that I was reading his collection of (mostly) nonfiction writings called The Ecstasy of Influence (highly recommended, of course). The book includes a couple of the interviews he wrote for Rolling Stone, one of them being with Mr Dylan. It's a great piece, found online -- do google it, it's the one from 2006; RS used to interview him every couple years.

So, my first real contact with Bob Dylan's voice was actually a written representation. I had of course heard some of his stuff before but none of it ever stuck. I was given Bringing It All Back Home by someone who told me it was great, but I didn't even remember what it sounded like. The Lethem piece was charming and funny, though, and piqued my interest. It mentioned Theme Time Radio Hour, which at the time of publication had just begun. The thought of a musical giant hosting a show like that tickled me, and I decided to find out if it was available online. Of course it was (and more -- let's get into all that later, maybe). I downloaded a random episode, "Dogs", and put it on as I went to bed.

Right away, that warm, raspy voice charmed me. The musical selection was somewhat expected -- blues, country, old rock'n'roll -- but also idiosyncratic and largely new to me. And this guy was funny, telling terrible Dad Jokes, which I can't help but love. I was into it. I needed more. Quickly, I learned that BD had a new album out, Tempest... and the rest is history. (Yeah, let's definitely get into it later.)

TTRH is a thing of wonders. It's modeled after radio shows of old, and there's a sense of fictionality to it; it's supposedly recorded live in "The Abernathy Building" (not a real place), and features fake callers asking Bob for advice on this and that. Some of the regularly featured listeners' emails were real, internet detectives have deduced, but some, from the likes of George Clooney and Johnny Depp, clearly not.

Produced and dreamed up largely by Eddie Gorodetsky, a music obsessive and mostly a TV producer -- the brains behind Dharma & Greg, for instance -- it's understood that much of the playlists were programmed by him. Assistants and researchers, duly credited each episode, probably wrote most of the intros and the informative tidbits spoken by Dylan. Still, his voice is truly what makes it. The first few episodes were a little awkward, but you can clearly hear he relaxed as the show went on. By season 2, he really got the smooth-talking disc jockey persona down. There are a few moments when he cracks up, or makes a classic Bob Dylan Joke (it was a thing); scripted or not, there's dedication, personality, and humor to his performance -- it's just a pleasure to listen to.

Plus, obviously, the music is great, and I found the show really informative the first time 'round. It introduced me to artists I'd never even heard of before, as well as gave me an understanding of the complex, meandering history of American popular music. And producers' choices or not, the show opens up ways of looking at Dylan's own music, too -- he's a mixer, a remixer, a collage artist after all.

It's not officially available anymore, but the show can be found online in various incarnations. Some kind soul has indeed put it up as a podcast; I really appreciate it, because while I've got the mp3s somewhere, it's much easier to stream it. I had a nice walk today, the setting sun coloring the low-hanging clouds dark pink and blue, Fats Domino and Lou Reed in my ears. Thanks, Bob.

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