Archive for ‘FREUD’

January 31, 2011

Appendix A

by Sara Gran
Screenshot of Steve McQueen from the trailer f...

Image via Wikipedia

Funny little addendum to yesterday’s post: yesterday afternoon my boyfriend and I went to the last matinee of the Film Noir Festival in SF. After the movies, we stopped and got a bite to eat, which we didn’t finish, so we wrapped the leftovers up to take home. We go to the car, get in the car, start driving, turn a corner, and something comes flying off the car. Me: “What was that?” Boyfriend: “I don’t know.” Me: “Did you leave our food on top of the car?” Boyfriend: “No. Oh, wait…”

So boyfriend makes a u-turn, swings back around to the corner, and then, without fully stopping the car, opens the driver door, reaches out, and snatches the bag of leftovers (which were not in such edible shape, but I don’t like to litter). Which of course is another of those strange recurring movie images, although one that’s less common lately–the hero-driver swoops in and picks up his package without stopping the car. I’d never had that happen in real life before!

You’ll be happy to know, though, that the flan was saved.

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January 29, 2011

recurring images we may not need

by Sara Gran
Explosion

Image by kevindooley via Flickr

I was talking with some friends the other day about these recurring images I’ve noticed in movies over the past few years, and what they might mean. The strongest recurring image is the vomiting scene. I would say over 90% of movies made within the last, say, four years have at least one scene of a person vomiting, loudly. The sound seems to be a part of the phenomena. When did vomiting become so appealing? I used to work in this building where people would always fight about the garbage–who’s dumpster was who’s, what night which garbage went were, what went to the various garbage outlets. And my brilliant co-worker (Hi Carolyn! Are you out there?) said well, elimination is a very deep issue. So maybe that’s part of the vomiting issue. I also wonder if it has to do with “not swallowing” something. But what are we not swallowing? What is it that we just can’t stomach?

Another image, one that’s waning in movies but still going strong on tv, is this: someone sets a match, timer, or other gimmick to blow something up. Person walks away from incendiary device. Huge explosion follows. Our hero walks away, explosion in the background, without breaking stride or looking back. This one is a bit more obvious, and I think it’s even been poked fun at in a few parodies. But I still think it’s a fascinating image. Why the complete lack of response to the explosion? Why a refusal to even glance back? And these scenes are nearly always physical impossibilities–the hero is usually way too close to the explosion not to get burned, but he never does.

The last one is one I’ve seen in a lot trailers lately–I noticed it in trailers for the new harry potter movie, for example. This is a design element where, behind the titles or credits, there’s a kind of big roiling black smoky somethingness–a weather system or fire or smoke incident that involves big round black cloud-like things rolling around. It’s a very dark image. It’s a bit reminiscent of the giant clouds of dust created when the towers fell down, but in shades of black.

I wonder if these images have something to with the fact that we’ve been at war for like ten years? What do you think? I don’t have any strong opinions here, but I’m curious to hear what others think.

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January 20, 2011

Yes, Bob Hope is violently insane

by Sara Gran

One recurring theme of this blog seems likely to be people who have an unwholesome relationship with Bob Hope.  As we’ve touched on before, there’s Brice Taylor, who in her book ‘Thanks for the Memories!” maintains that she was a mind-controlled slave of Bob Hope (and others!) for years, thanks to the CIA and their Mk-Ultra program (or so I think–the book is expensive, and therefore I’ve never read it). David Icke, too, I think, is on the Bob Hope bandwagon. And there’s also the infamous Sally Fox letters, which thanks to an Abbot Gran Medicine Show tipster (yes, we have tipsters!), I now have in possession (you can read them here). Sally Fox was a lucid New Orleans woman who was certain that Bob Hope was implanting unpleasant thoughts in her head. She wrote the FBI, the CIA, and her representative, Lindy Boggs, about this. Surprisingly, only Ms. Boggs agreed to investigate Ms. Fox’s case, but she came up empty handed. From Fox’s first letter to the press:

I am involved in a phenomenal situation which I believe merits investigation.

The whole thing started about seven years ago when I began to “see” Bob Hope (the comedian) when I would close my eyes and concentrate. Through study, I learned that the reason I could “see” Bob Hope was because he is violently insane and uses abnormal thinking processes which introject and project others’ egos.

When this problem began, besides worrying about my mental health, I also felt that my civil rights were being violated by an other person’s insanity, so I began to write letters to the FBI. At first, the FBI thought I was crazy, but a year or so later, the FBI told me that they had been getting 800 to 900 complaints a day from people all around the country saying the same thing I was: Bob Hope is crazy and interferes with their normal thinking. The FBI told me they were investigating.

The really strange twist here is that in Harper’s (they ran them in that little front-of-the-book section of of odds & ends), these letters are followed by a reply to Sally Fox, from an anonymous woman who believes that she, as well, is being mentally violated by Bob Hope:

I was recently visiting a local college and I was describing to a friend the rather odd things (all involving Bob Hope) which seem to be happening to me. Amazingly, someone nearby overheard our conversation and recommended that I contact you.

I understand that you too have experienced these thought disturbances…Yes, Bob Hope is violently insane.

How Harper’s would have gotten these last letters–the response–is a question I don’t have an answer for. A mystery indeed.

It’s easy to make fun of these people, and hey, go ahead. What fascinates me about this, though, is the same thing that fascinates me about the (at least!) three people who have written books claiming their father was the Black Dahlia killer. That is, how public figures fill holes in our psyches that we can’t fill through ordinary means. My father wasn’t just a shithead, he was the Black Dahlia Killer! I wasn’t just screwed by the CIA (heck, tons of people believe that–and some of them are undeniably right), I was screwed by Bob Hope working for the CIA! But I don’t understand exactly what role Bob Hope fills in people’s psyche’s. He fills no holes in mine, I’m sorry to say.

This also ties into one of my other obsessions; otherwise-sane people who think they’re the victim of mind-control programs. This Washington Post article is one of the better pieces of writing ever done on the topic (and check out the fascinating follow-up discussion). The other day I think I mentioned Gloria Naylor’s book 1996, which is also a must-read for anyone interested in the topic. It’s easy to call some poor soul who posts on the internet a nutjob, but Naylor is an accomplished, highly successful, entirely lucid writer. We don’t know much about Sally Fox, but we know she was, repeatedly, able to type a letter, get a stamp, get to the post office, etc. And her letters are pretty lucid. The issue isn’t “mental illness,” not in the sense of someone of someone who can’t function or be trusted to take care of themselves (again, see: Gloria Naylor). So what is the issue?

Bob Hope gets plaque on Hill.

Image via Wikipedia

But Megan, I think you have a contrary opinion on this vital topic…

January 18, 2011

Shadows

by Sara Gran

I have become obsessed with Robert Bly‘s A Little Book on The Human Shadow. Bly describes the Shadow as those parts of ourselves, dissaproved and unloved by our parents, peers, society and self, that we’ve stuck into a great big bag and tried to forget about. So you might put, say, your anger, or your kindness into the bag–two qualities that many interepert as “weaknesses.” You think they’re gone, but they’re not gone. They’re in this big bag of crap you’re dragging around with you everywhere! And when the things in your bag, which are after all living things, start to poke and prod at you, you’re likely to project that experience outward, and think it’s that guy over there who’s poking you. Bly suggests that because a lot of us have put qualities we associate with the “other” gender in that bag, our projections might likewise land on that “other” gender. So a man might “project his witch” onto the women in his life, or a woman might project what Bly calls her “giant.” So you think this other person is out to get you,

because you know SOMETHING’S poking you all the time, but it’s not the other person at all–it’s your own witch, trying to tell you hey, buddy, you’re been ignoring me since you were five but I’m still here, and I never stopped growing! We have things to do together and you’re ruining it!

One way to find your shadow is to find the things that irrationally piss you off in other people. The key is the emotional charge, and the degree to which you’re willing to admit complexity. That person who is so awful maybe isn’t. Maybe that’s your Shadow.

“A human being who has. . .absorbed the shadow gives the sense of being condensed,” Bly writes. He says that people who have absorbed their shadow have a thick, viscous quality. People who are fighting the shadow might therefore be scattered, fragmented, brittle.

Earlier he says, “If we have given away thirty parts of our self, we will then eventually feel ourselves diminished in thirty different ways.”

January 15, 2011

screen memories

by Megan Abbott

A week or two ago, I wrote a post about muses and referred to a particular photograph, long lost, that had inspired me:

It was a photo I clipped from a magazine. I think it was from the early 1960s, black and white, and depicted a woman at a party, seen only from behind, the back of her head, shoulders, wasp waist. The black dress she wore had, if I recall, a dramatic “V” in back and you felt you were behind her, walking into a lively scene that she somehow owned. You felt her hectic power.

Last night, during a purgative and highly unpleasant process of getting rid of old files and ephemera accumulated during the last 15 years or so, I found the photo. Here it is:


This was an alarming discovery. Yes, it is a black and white photo of a woman, from behind. But aside from those facts, I had completely misremembered it. It’s not a party, there’s no plunging V, she doesn’t seem to “own the scene.” And I didn’t remember the man at all. And when I look at it now, it seems like a rather sad domestic moment, a hectoring woman and a put-upon fellow, maybe?

I have long been fascinated by the way memory distorts, rewrites—is in fact a kind of art in and of itself. But I’ve never seen it in myself in such plain terms. When I found the picture, I almost didn’t believe it could be the same one that propelled my first novel. And I wonder now at the power of one’s memory to make what one wants or needs from one’s experiences. (That, of course, is the kind of rabbit hole one might do best to avoid when digging through one’s past!)

But gosh, I’d even remembered her, with feverish intensity, as a brunette.

January 10, 2011

kerosene!

by Megan Abbott

Saturday night, I went to an event at the New York Public Library in honor of the centennial of Gypsy Rose Lee’s birthday. A woman did pop out of a cake at the end, but you knew that already.

Along the way, we saw some great old burlesque and vaudeville footage, including a gem of snippet of a very, very young Gypsy (circa 1931), looking softer and more lovely than the streamlined, ironic version of her latter heyday.

There has been a mini-Gypsy renaissance in recent years, both within the burlesque revival and in books. Last year there was Rachel Shteir’s captivating and whip-smart Gypsy: The Art of the Tease.  And now there is Karen Abbott’s new American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare–The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee, which I’m eager to read, especially after hearing Abbott share at the Centennial event some tantalizing tidbits from her interviews with June Havoc, Gypsy’s sister and child star (“Dainty June”), who has always fascinated me (her memoirs were childhood favorite of mine, for the marathon dancing sections alone).

But a special and unexpected treat Saturday night was some footage introduced by Abbott that featured one Hadji Ali, a popular vaudevillian known as, well, the Great Regurgitator (or, alternately,  The Egyptian Enigma, The Human Aquarium and The 9th Wonder of the Scientific World — what was the tenth, I ask you?).

This is a long clip but, for the intensely curious and not easily dismayed among you, it’s well worth a look. (And yes, that’s Oliver Hardy, dubbed in Spanish!)

January 4, 2011

bird on a wire

by Megan Abbott

On Christmas Eve, I saw Black Swan, which I thought was pretty extraordinary, and I’m still working it all through in my head. Stylistically, it’s sort of an unholy union of unholies: Roman Polanski, Dario Argento and the brightest work of Brian De Palma (Sisters, Carrie)–which may sound like a  nightmare to some, but for me is kind of the Big Dream.

I’ve heard some dismiss the movie as “over the top,” which is a criticism I’ve never really understood. If I didn’t seek out heightened realities in movies, I wouldn’t be going to many (and I love movies). Moreover, I think “over the top” or histrionic or all those criticisms are frequently code for something else–and might have to do with a certain discomfort in movies about women, about women’s bodies (in ways that aren’t situating them solely for ornamental display), about what used to be called “female hysteria” (or just “hysteria,” since the word itself derives from “womb”).

(It’s interesting to set it alongside director Darren Aronofsky’s last film, The Wrestler, in this regard–an explicitly kitchen-sink-realistic rendering of the male body facing self-imposed abuses for the sake of a different kind of performance.)

It’s an expressionistic movie, which is one of my favorite kinds. Before I saw it, my friend Reed told me that he thought many of the film’s naysayers were making the mistake of judging it as a film about dance or as some realistic depiction of the ballet life and finding it lacking. But the movie has no interest in realism, or objective realities. The world of the movie is the world of someone’s head, not someone’s life.

There’s so much to swim in in the movie:  split selves … driving, mutilating perfectionism … an arrested sexuality. But Black Swan is also, and perhaps mostly, a movie about an artist, and I think it might be kinda revelatory about that. In A.O. Scott’s piece in the Times, he refers to it–by way of praise–as an “overheated, wildly melodramatic rendering of an artist’s struggle.” How do I create this (e.g., this performance, this painting, this book)? I can only do so by becoming it. It’s a process of brutal self-annhilation and transformation. It requires, depending on how you look at it, utter self-erasure (“I’m no longer me, I am IT.”) or complete self-absorption (no movie in recently memory has so stunningly depicted the egotism of the artist–there is no world in the movie but in the dancer’s head. It’s the only thing that matters.).

And so it’s also about aesthetic risk. Natalie Portman’s emotionally fractured dancer pushes her body beyond physical limits to make it correlate with the beautiful chaos in her head. She feels herself as the “black swan” and wills herself to become it, to manifest it. The flesh resists but finally submits. And it is, as Scott writes, a kind of “liberation in self-destruction.” And the movie takes those same aesthetic risks, walking a tightrope between art and kitsch, between psychological complexity and camp. But if it didn’t risk the fall, it would lose all its incantational magic.

This is, admittedly, dark stuff. It makes us squirm under our skin. And makes us maybe even want to make fun of it, that nervous giggle we get when we see something very internal, secret, private laid bare out there. But Black Swan also warns us sneakily of the dangers of that, of repression, restriction, compulsion. You hold them down, they come back bigger, badder. The movie asks us to, even at great risk, release ourselves.

January 2, 2011

The Dark Woods

by Sara Gran

I love this bit from the Bill Moyers/Joseph Campbell talks. Anyone who hasn’t seen the POWER OF MYTH interviews–I think you can watch them gratis on Netflix, or at least rent them–needs to watch this today, or your life will continue to make no sense and confound you at every turn.

MOYERS: But aren’t many visionaries and even leaders and heroes close to the edge of neuroticism?

CAMPBELL: Yes, they are.

MOYERS: How do you explain that?

CAMPBELL: They’ve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so you’ve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you can’t. You don’t have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience – that is the hero’s deed.

(picture by me of Armstrong woods.)
December 27, 2010

Down the Checkered Rabbit Hole

by Sara Gran

Oh, the rabbit hole of the Pseudo-Occult Media Blog. This blog is a bit of a hub for a belief that used to be on the fringes but , via the magic of the internet, seems to be gaining fans: that many of our pop stars–Brittany, Miley, Lindsey, et al–are mind controlled sex slaves owned by the Illuminati (who are also running our government, other governments, and the whole world). Which, interestingly, we can trace back to a true story:

Step 1: This all started with a horrifying kernel of truth: via Project Bluebird, Mk-Ultra, and other now-famous programs, our army and CIA did indeed work it’s best to create mind-controlled soldiers from the end of World War II through the seventies. Given the billions of dollars poured into black ops every year in this country, I’m fairly confident they’re still trying. (Have they succeeded? Well, since we have mixed evidence either way, you’ll have to decide for yourself, but that’s a digression).

Step 2: In the 1970s, a former model named Candy Jones wrote an autobiography called The Control Of Candy Jones, claiming that she, a civilian who had occasionally delivered packages for the CIA,  was also a victim of Mk Ultra. (This still seems entirely possibly to me, by the way, but I’m digressing again.) After Candy Jones, mind control victims started coming out of the woodwork. See The Encyclopedia of Mind Control by Jim Keith from the excellent Adventures Unlimited Press for more.

Step 3: Skip ahead a few years to the early eighties, and the recovered-memory hullabaloo. A lot of people were remembering and going public with  true stories of childhood abuse; a lot of people were also coming up with Satanic ritual abuse stories on a scale that couldn’t possibly be true, fueled by unscrupulous shrinks, media hype and, quite likely, real, less dramatic, abuse. Less well-known is that this linked into the recovered-CIA-slave-memory stream, and soon we had lots of people, mostly women, remembering childhoods as CIA programmed sex slaves. This is where I start to lose faith, not because I put this past our government–I put nothing past the government–but because it seems like a whole lot of work to go through when, for better or worse, there’s plenty of decent-looking people out there who will have sex for free or for cash or a clean DUI record. Creating mind-controlled slaves sounds like a lot of work!

Step 4: And then we get to the strangely hypnotic Pseudo-Occult Media. According to current theory, there are certain “triggers” the sex slaves (and other victims!) of the Illuminati are trained to respond to: images of butterflies, cages, fairies, black/white checkerboard, dolls, keys, and most of all eyes, everywhere eyes looking, staring, probing. And why this blog is fascinating to me is because the author is absolutely right–these and other “Illuminati” symbols are everywhere in pop culture, especially in reference to the Mileys and Brittanys of the world, and I never noticed it before he pointed it out. Spend an hour or so on Pseudo-Occult and you, like I, will be haunted by the recurring images of girls with butterflies, girls in cages, girls wrapped in bird feathers, and most of the recurring, ominous checkerboards.

There’s no question the author is on to something here. I happen to think what he’s on to is a previously unrecognized strain of psychological breakdown in our culture. Something about these images of hope, the repeated symbolic capture of these girls–it’s spooky stuff. The sadness of the child star is also evoked here: these young women are, in a very sad sense, “slaves.” Was Brittany ever given a choice in being Brittany? Would Lindsey, maybe, rather study the classics if she didn’t have an army of people counting on her for paychecks? Lord knows I liked to party when I was their age, but I didn’t have an empire to support.

Like many conspiracy theories, I think something very real is being looked at here. Myself, though, I would draw a somewhat different conclusion. And as for you–well, look at the evidence read the books, and decide for yourself. Remember, you’re still allowed to believe whatever you want, and you don’t have to justify it to me or anyone else.

October 30, 2010

V. C. ANDREWS AND THE SECRET LIFE OF GIRLS

by Megan Abbott

Gran-Abbott collaborative history, part 1

THE BELIEVER – SEPT 2009 ISSUE

DARK FAMILY: V. C. ANDREWS AND THE SECRET LIFE OF GIRLS

SARA GRAN AND MEGAN ABBOTT

DISCUSSED: Familial Debauchery, Lowered Sensibilities, The Dark Side of the ’70s, Freudian Romance, Adolescent Rage, Middle-Class Suburban Drama, Recurrent Incest, The Mordant Reality of Hansel and Gretel, Nostalgia, Repressed Childhood Desires, Fears That Do Not Vanish, Soulless Retribution, Maternal Unrest, Dying Alone