Friday, February 20, 2015

Reflections On Reflections: Show Within a Show, Private Firestorm of Madness, and No! The Log Is Not For Sale.

written for Twin Peaks Freaks fan community

Oral histories are fun reads. I recently enjoyed Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks by Brad Dukes. It has interviews with folks that had something to do with the show: cast, crew, writers, producers -- the author interviewed a whole lotta folks involved in the Twin Peaks. Featuring first-hand accounts from series co-creator Mark Frost and cast members including Kyle MacLachlan, Joan Chen, Sherilyn Fenn, Piper Laurie, Michael Ontkean, Ray Wise, Billy Zane and more.

I'm wondering with how awesome this book is, knowing that the author pretty much published it himself, if some publisher will scoop it up to reprint it. I saw that he was pretty much really only selling it on Amazon, and I wanted to make sure we had it at Quimby's, so I tracked the author down on Facebook and convinced him to consign it with us. He was very receptive and sweet about consigning it, and I was thrilled to provide a brick and mortar venue for him to sell it in Chicago. Also, I love sharing a good book with folks that I know would appreciate it, especially if it's independently published.

Stuff That Sticks With Me From this Book & Thoughts:
-Mark Frost, co-creator of the show, said that when they could, they'd add little asides in the show. It might have been references to old movies or other peoples work, even right down to the casting. For example, Peggy Lipton who played Norma Jennings on the show, was on Mod Squad, and they had her run into a co-star from Mod Squad in the diner that her Twin Peaks character worked in. Frost said, "Nobody was using this word then, I don't think I'd ever heard it, but this is a meta-level of conception, that in the show became a 'show within a show.' It became organic to our process. We knew we were making fictional narrative entertainment and we were also paying homage to things that tread similar thematic ground in the past." (p. 193) Oooooooo mashy-uppy goodness. I love this. This method of working in real life meta-ness adds to the mystique of the show, giving extra meat to conspiracy theories about Twin Peaks. Yes yes yes.

-Catherine Coulson who played Margaret "Log Lady" Lanterman said that some Japanese company wanted to buy the log because Twin Peaks was really popular in Japan. She told them, "No, the log is not for sale." She lamented that her daughter had just graduated from college, and she thought they really could have used the money but she could never bring herself to sell it. (p. 149)

-Phoebe Augustine who played Ronette Pulaski said that when she was filming the scene in the pilot where she was found walking down the railroad tracks in a torn up nighty, that she was really cold and that she had to walk across the railroad ties without looking down. There was a guy on the crew who looked really scary even though he wasn't doing anything. She told David Lynch that this guy was frightening her, and Lynch said "Don't tell anyone, but he's the bad guy." It turned out it was Frank Silva who played BOB, the scariest part of the show. (p. 176)

-Grace Zabriskie who played Mrs. Palmer (Laura Palmer's mom) said about Sheryl Lee, who played Laura Palmer: "She gave everything she had, she gave more, she gave more than she could afford to give, and she spent years coming back. I can't separate 'what her performance says to me,' from what I know it both gave to her and took from her. The performance itself tells this story. No one walks away unscathed from work like that." (p. 205)

-Sort of along the lines as the above quote from Ms. Zabriskie, Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer) said, "Playing Laura was a painful place to live for a long time. It's hard, in acting school they teach you how to develop a character but they don't teach you how to let a character go." (p. 205) It reminded me of this amazing poem Ms. Lee wrote about it, a sort of letter to Laura. I was inspired to revisit the poem on-line, and upon rereading it, one of the stanzas really jumps out at me:

I offered my whole self
In honor of your life
And in exchange
Was tricked quite well
When you rewrote my rights

Soooooo haunting. The notion of being so emotionally and permanently affected by something you had a creative hand in, as well as being typecast because of it, it's the logical and poetic extension of being haunted by something.

-Wendy Robie who played Nadine Hurley on the show said of her character: "Nadine looms large in my career. I was just a small part of the series, but if you put it all together over that amount of time it was a huge role that I was allowed to create. She loomed large, just to be playing a character for that long, but I do know that especially for the first season it had to carry underneath it - that pain of Nadine. I had to carry that to do her justice. I've never played a character that hurt as much as she does. She lived in her own private firestorm of madness." (p. 250) I love the term "private firestorm of madness." I MUST USE THIS IN ALL CONVERSATIONS EVER.

-Another quote from Wendy Robie (Nadine Hurley), also talked about Owl Cave and said, "There are areas where the membrane is very thin and those are portals where you can see captive spirits down in there." (p. 254) Oooooooooo I love this. This idea of a membrane between our known reality and the mystical realm, it being thinner in one place more than another is very intriguing. Add "thin membranes" to the list of things that intrigue me that also explain paranormal occurrences, including but not limited to: portals, vortexes, black holes, singularities, hellmouths and ancient burial grounds.

-Co-creator Mark Frost said that the reason Josie Packard's fate ended up the way it did was because him and David Lynch decided to make her be imprisoned in another realm in a way that it shouldn't be physical as much as metaphysical, mythological without being melodramatic. (p. 256) It must be difficult to get metaphysical and mythological without being melodramatic, but somehow they managed it.

-Sherilyn Fenn who played Audrey Horne on the show didn't actually do the trick with the cherry stem in a knot with her mouth. That didn't stop Letterman from asking her three times in one year to demonstrate it.

-Leslie Linka Glatter (director episodes 5, 10, 13, 23): "What I loved about the reality of Twin Peaks is that it examined human behavior in microscopic detail so you saw the humor of it, the absurdity and also the truth." (p.25) So true, so true. I feel like in so many of my daily interactions with people all of those things come forward -- how my favorite art can sometimes shine an illuminating light on the humor and absurdity of human behavior.

Oooooo! Perhaps once the new Twin Peaks airs in 2016 there will be cause for another volume of a Twin Peaks oral history! I hope Brad Dukes does another one!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

104 Of My Favorite Twin Peaks Theme Covers With My Own Commentary On Each One

There's so much love for Angelo Badalamenti's classic, and for Julee Cruise vocal version entitled "Falling." And there are so many versions out there. There are tutorials on how to play it on every instrument ever. And so many different style interpretations. A bluegrass cover! A death metal cover! Several punk covers! People singing it in different languages! People performing it on stages! In their messy rooms! There's at least three dance remixes, two chill-wave versions, and one "Urban Jungle" mix! There are midi files! People playing it on flutes! Lutes! Cellos! Pianos! Varieties of guitars! Varieties of guitars to test out their new amps! At least three people busking with accordions! A number of video game-influenced versions with their respective video-game influenced videos! Some versions are mashup-y, others sound like they should be demo settings on casio keyboards. My favorites tend to be ones where they really do something new with it, really taking it to a whole new level, or interpreting it in some way that I hadn't thought could be done. There is a variety of stuff along the spectrum of professional to  amateur, especially in terms of video production. Sometimes the more amateur it is, the more it amuses me -- like someone will have an otherwise messy room but have the framed picture of Laura Palmer displayed nonchalantly. Or maybe a band is really going to town but there are like four people in the audience. But they're gonna SELL IT, if you know what I'm saying. Sometimes the comments section alone is what sends me into chuckles. All of these bring me immense amounts of joy. -Liz

I curated this for the fan group Twin Peaks Freaks, which you should totally check out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Answers! Or Maybe No Answers!

I enjoyed Giving Up the Ghost: A Story About Friendship, 80s Rock, a Lost Scrap of Paper, and What It Means to Be Haunted by Eric Nuzum. I don't think I purchased this book; it may have fallen into my life either via a sample copy sent to the bookstore where I work from the publisher, or maybe it came into my life via the proverbial back-of-a-truck-book-distributor method. By that I mean, if you receive your book damaged from the distributor, you call them up and tell them. They either issue a call tag (pre-paid postage via UPS or FedEx where they pick it up an give you a sticker to slap on it to send it back free of charge to the distributor) or they say you can "donate or destroy" the book. This translates to "Take it home and read it"; I figure they're donating it to my home library. Book distributors often only want damaged books back if they're above a certain dollar value, so often they tell you just to keep it. I joke that the best way to get me to read a book short of sending me a free copy is sending me a damaged copy that the distributor doesn't want back. Sometimes I end up reading stuff that I wouldn't normally have bought but ended up in my life because of the donate or destroy method. I should get a Henry Rollins-style back tattoo that says "Donate or Destroy." However, the past few years I've been pickier about what to take from the donate or destroy pile because I've amassed more than I can really ever reasonably get to.

Anyway, Giving Up the Ghost is about this guy's preoccupation with this dead friend in his life that he had a crush on when she was alive, a friend who helped him through this paranoia about some ghost in his house that was haunting him. At some point he goes on sort of a semi-spiritual voyage bordering on the edge of ghost hunting, and goes to all these haunted places to sort of, figure it out.

I love this quote from page 53!

It wasn't until I read this that I realized that I think, in the back of my mind, I might have always thought all this too, or maybe I wanted to believe all of these things. Or at the very least, I wondered all this were true. When my mom died, I think I might have gotten ever so slightly paranoid that somehow she was suddenly able to see everything I was doing, even at embarrassing personal moments. You know how when someone dies people are always like, "They're watching over you"? That might initially be comforting but the more I thought about it, the more bothersome it became, for reasons of privacy invasion. Who wants to be watched when they're wiping their ass? Who wants to be watched by their mother while strangers hold their hair back in the American legion hall toilet as they vomit from too many vodka and diet sodas on new year's eve (thank you, whoever you angelic strangers were, I will always love you, my dear cherubs)?

Also, if our souls do live on after we die, does it necessarily mean all the secrets are illuminated? I have no idea but there is that part of me that I think has always assumed this is true but another part of me that theorizes that just because we're dead, it doesn't mean everything becomes illuminated. Maybe the truth of the universe is in a different department that is nowhere near souls accounts receivable department. It reminds me of some novel I read, though I can't remember what book it was, but it was some novel where some dead person's soul enters the afterlife and is saddened to learn that they don't get all the answers they seek. Some angel says something to the soul to the effect of "Oh you humans, you're so stuck in that primordial Christian theology with such a sense of entitlement about getting answers when you die. Just because you're dead it doesn't mean you learn anything." I wish I could remember what scene in what novel that was. I want to say it was a Kevin Brockmeier book maybe? Anyway, it always stuck out in my mind as being one interesting take on considering the sort of enlightening answers we might get or not get after the curtains close on our mortal coil.

Do the dead have some way of effecting our life besides just spooking us? Are they spooking us? Is that them?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Creating a Life-Affirming Love of Life With Art That Reminds Us How Shitty the World Is

One of the best pieces in Greil Marcus' The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs (Yale University Press) was Transmission: 2007/1979/2010, about the song Transmission by Joy Division.

I loved this quote because even though it's in reference to some other quote, what I really like about it is the italics part, in reference to what Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis must have felt:

He said that life was terrible. I wanted to get up and tell people life was terrible, too.

It gets to the essence of what a lot of music I like is about, which is basically, telling the world how shitty life is, sometimes in some big social or political way, but also on a personal level, like maybe having a broken heart, a mental illness, physical pain or whatever it is that's causing you grief.

And isn't that pretty much a lot of art? We make art because we're inspired by someone else's art, and we're thinking in our head I'm inspired by your art telling the world how shitty the world is! Now I'm going to create art continuing to remind the world how shitty it is! Maybe I will inspire somebody else to remind everyone how shitty the world is! and so on. Sure, I do realize that some folks can't make it past the shittiness and they don't stick around (exhibit a: the lead singer of Joy Division), but maybe for those moments where they're experiencing the art they love they find a release. For many others, I wonder if maybe we communicate a life-affirming love of life with our art that reminds us how shitty the world is. And I am totally fine with that.