Monday, June 30, 2014

Time is a Flat Circle - True Detective as Psychodrama


Many will agree that HBO's True Detective season 1 has been one of the more thought provoking episodic narratives of 2014. HBO has defined itself for some time now on distributing quality original content, leading the way in that regard, though Netflix is now entering the picture as a serious contender in its own right.
Nevertheless, there is something particularly daring about using the tried and true, rather old school cops and bad guys format for a character-piece.

What do I mean by that? Well, the case they are investigating does little more than provide us a mirror for the two "bad men," our protagonists Rust and Marty. So if you're looking to unlock the Keys to Carcosa, you're going to be horribly frustrated with this series.
The Lange murder is just a Trojan Horse. The real story here is much richer and stranger: who are these men, and how did this murder change their lives? (DailyBeast)
This is where the show will either sing for you or never quite satisfy you. And this division will likely bring out the intrinsic viewing preferences of an audience. I'd like to talk about this division, between "What's it about" vs. "Who's it about", as well as point out a few of the interesting symbols and devices used in this show in particular.

No story is likely to be all one or the other, of course. There needs to be some balance of the two in most narrativesa continuum which is represented rather confusingly in the prose fiction world as being "literary fiction" on one end and "genre fiction" on the otherbut it should be amply clear which side True Detective is aiming for.

This conflict comes to a head when the spiral loops back on itself a third time, which is to say the final episode. (More on the spiral motif later.) In a character focused narrative, the plotseries of events that occurare a device to get into the character's heads. So to go any further into the "world" of the monster in the labyrinth would take the narrative off track. An ending that told us everything about the Dora Lange case, but nothing about Rust would fail the show on its own terms.

"This is a world where nothing is solved," Rust says, before he has found a glimmer of his own redemption. But even though they ostensibly solved the case, many questions relating to it are left open. Nothing is solved, and there are no true endings. Must a narrative deliver us a complete resolution? (Nervous Breakdown article, "Resolutions.")

In the Salon article "True Detective vs HP Lovecraft", the author sees a cosmology of light and dark, good and evil carved out of the story, in other words it's a morality play, but this doesn't jive with what Pizzolatto himself has said about theme and intent.
PIZZOLATTO:
I think what True Detective keeps telling you, over and over again, is that everything’s a story. Who you tell yourself you are, what you tell yourself what the world is, an investigation, a religion, a nihilistic point of view – these are all stories you tell yourself. You need to be careful what stories you tell yourself.
INTERVIEWER:
You said there was no conversion in the story. But was Cohle suggesting he now believes in some kind of afterlife when he told Hart about his near death experience?
PIZZOLATTO:
It’s not a belief – he’s talking about an experience. And he’s not talking about a reconciliation with loved ones after death: If you listen to what he says, he says, ‘I was gone. There was no me. Just love… and then I woke up.’ That line is significant to the whole series: “And then I woke up.” The only thing like a conversion that he has is when he says, “You’re looking at it wrong. To me, the light is winning.” And that doesn’t describe a conversion to me as much as it describes a broadening of perspective. The man who once said there is no light at the end of the tunnel is now saying there might be order to this. I don’t think it says anything more than: Pick your stories carefully.
Or within the story itself,
Once you attach an assumption to a piece of evidence, you start to bend the narrative to support it. (Marty Hart.)
This is one of the fundamental truths about mythology, and as we've discussed at length on Modern Mythology, myth is merely a publicly shared narrative. Little surprise that Pizzolatto was an English professor before trying his hand at script writing.

What's most poignant about the conclusion? Not the unveiling of 'the lawnmower man.' Hardly. The last thing anyone would expect for Rust is redemption. Which is really what the final episode is about. And it's funny because then you go back and realize it puts the apparent theme of the whole season on its head.

I promised that I'd return to the spiral. Throughout the show we see this device used. It's an element of repeated iconography. It exists in the format of the narrative through time (basing the story in 95, 2001, and 2012). It appears in Rust's hallucinations, birds flocking and dispersing in a whirling spiral. And it's alluded to in the various pieces of "Carcosa gobbleygook" that add that Lovecraftian element of high weirdness to some of the episodes. Clearly it is a motif important to this narrative.


The biggest challenge in the spiral motif is that it's always more rewarding the second time around. But it's really neat how the narrative structure is spiral and that image pops up again and again. The spiral is symbolically the unicursal labyrinth, an image that appears throughout world mythology and appears most explicitly in this story in the iconography of the victims as well as the placement of the villain as the monster in the center of the labyrinth, a Southern Gothic Minotaur. The orbit of the spiral leads you ever inward, toward that immanent encounter. Jung wasn't the only one to recognize the monster in this context is a part of the shadowed, divided self.

This "flat circle," the circle that recapitulates rather than repeats itself perfectly, also relates directly to Nietzsche's eternal recurrence. (If you don't think that was on his mind, notice the aside in the clip above, "what's that Nietzsche shut the fuck up!")
The greatest weight.What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequenceeven this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!"
Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus?... Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal? (Nietzsche's The Gay Science, more Eternal Reoccurence quotes.)
Of course this idea predates Nietzsche considerably, and points the way to Pizzolatto's messagethat the ontological fallacy referred to by Rust is based as much on experience as the narratives we tell ourselves. There are facts in life, to be sure, but just as importantly, we bring our story to it. "The locked room."
But there is a cosmological message behind this motif, as well as an ontological one. And here we can see the distinction between an eternal recurrence that is strictly cyclical, and one that is 'spiral shaped,' which is to say that it implies a sense of progression. The shape of the spiral implies a "return," that is attempted but never fully accomplished, like a planet falling ever to the sun but moving fast enough to miss it time and again. Supposing that end is never reached, and so long as we are beings in time, nothing is ever final (except the end of that being, which is a great non-event), the spiral is a kind of asymptote, an elaboration on the circular model, wherein the symmetry of the endless round and teleology are in a sense unified.
Again we can turn to The Sacred and the Profane, “...to Indian thought, this eternal return implied eternal return to existence by force of karma, the law of universal causality. Then, too, time was homologized to the cosmic illusion (Maya), and the eternal return to existence signified indefinite prolongation of suffering and slavery.”
These karmic ties don’t require an actual belief in karma within the Buddhist or Hindu framework of reincarnation. What it refers to is an element of our memory. Consider something that you own that has a great deal of “sentimental value.” Pick it up. Hold it in your hand. Think about the people you associate with it. Grab hold of those emotions, and travel back to the time that the object brings you to. That’s your karmic tie. You are bound to those things.

The same is true of the memories and emotions we hold onto of those we love, who are now gone, and of the life we lived which is also gone. Of course, outside a framework that espouses transcendence, these are neither positive nor negative in themselves, but they are attachments. From this, we can see that a mythic symbol serving some kind of ethical function would arise, when it comes to recapitulation and renewing. To renew, the soil must be tilled. Some attachments can be maintained but others must be severed. (Krampus and Holiday Myths.) 
This seems embedded within True Detective's narrative, as we see at the end with Rust's partial redemption. In this, the final episode fits perfectly within the whole, a masterstroke not marred by the essential irrelevancy of the crime they are investigating.

My only frustration with any of this is strictly personal, as I have been working on exactly the same model in the Fallen Cycle, (the final installment is planned to be entitled "Center of the Spiral,") and now everyone is going to think it's an homage to True Detective, at least in theme. But there are certainly worse things one could be likened to.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Upon the Wings of Huginn and Muninn

To celebrate the great summer solstice we at the Great Octarine Siblinghood of the Z.'. Z.'. bring to our latest audio viral release in the form of a sequence of aural pleasures to attune your ears to.

"Upon The Wings of Huginn and Muninn" combines the talents of several Z(enseider)Z memes both on the mic and behind the screen.

Warning: Psi-Hazard!

A necessary advisory please: the meme-bearers and maintainers of zenseiderz.org accept NO responsibility for ANY alleged symptoms of immediate psychic corruption listeners may report experiencing as a result of exposing themselves to our arsenal of sound concentrations.

By legal authority, we deny the validity of claims that our creations are 'dangerous' and furthermore, admit no such viable, or even tenuous, connection between supposed delta-wave disruptions; fabricated by some of Z(enseider)Z's more emotionally unstable end-users; and the unclassifiable sonic emanations of waveform distortion that comprise much of the media on our albums.

Our full statement of public trust can be found by visiting our warning page.

We thank you for your support.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Gate of 9

The Gate of 9 is an original piece of artwork commissioned by my partner and I from Barry Lent Devil's Design. It is an air-brushed piece of birch wood 21 inches in diameter. We were colloquial in designing this object of art along with the artist as he wanted to deliver to us exactly what we envisioned. It began as a facsimile of a 3-dimensional Yggdrasil, but the artist quickly evolved it into his own creation and we ended up with an entirely new occult symbol on our hands. We were ecstatic. From what I understand of the artist's process he uses trance states to achieve his desired results and "loses a piece of himself" in each of his selections of handiwork. My partner and I were overjoyed to have such a one of a kind composition all to ourselves.
At first we were naive as to what to do with it or how exactly to use it, but the unequivocal nature of our spontaneous insights the first few nights it hung on our wall made it readily apparent to us that this piece chose us for an especially important purpose. Doubt left our minds with the quickness and a fully conscious torrent of clarity overtook our greater sense of what Jung calls coniunctio. Now, let me be clear, before I physically held the Gate of 9, my partner possessed it and I possessed only a digital representation of it however the psychick link that we created from this tenuous connection alone was immeasurable. The Gate opened up an unimaginable strain of telepathy wherein my partner would get into some kind of trouble like breakdown on the side of the road and within seconds I would call her. Or whenever I was in pain she would know the exact details of my aching or malady.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wizard World

So, kind of a last minute thing -- but thanks to the very kind Kristilyn (and her table partner not being able to make it), it seems likely I'm going to be sharing a table at Wizard World next week (19th - 21st) in Philadelphia. I'll be making an early edition of Party At The World's End available just to convention goers as well as making the rounds and perhaps getting some interviews and reviews going for Modern Mythology.


I'm not going to be flying the full flag -- prints, banners, or anything like that. Just getting back into the swing of things. I'm looking to build up merch and material for late 2014 - and 2015 conventions.

See some of you there, perhaps. There's always the slim chance something will come up making it impossible but right now it's looking pretty good.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Monday, June 09, 2014

Game of Thrones : "Some Weird Ritual of Self Flagellation"

Now that Game of Thrones is officially HBO's most popular show, I think it's fair to look at the show not just in terms of its own narrative, but in terms of the "phenomenon" it may stand to represent. So perhaps we can say a judgement of the show is in fact a judgement of ourselves. To a small extent, that's fair enough.

So, what can we see in that? To start with, I think HBO got "gritty" right with True Detective; it's bleak and realistic in its way but then just when you think it's all darkness you see what the point was all along. Meaning demands some kind of contrast even if the moral center is totally subjective. If there's no light then it all becomes senseless barbarism. That is in fact one of the takeaway points of the final scene of season 1.

Game of Thrones does something else entirely. I went from being fine, even happy with not investing in the stereotypical fantasy meta-narrative, the good guys on a quest or whatever, to just feeling like the entire point of the show is to antagonize the audience and slap your hand whenever you follow such "conventional" thinking as "maybe we can get through tonight's episode without the one character I care about at this point not getting raped?"

I'll still probably watch it at some point because I do like eschewing ideological cliche and seeing how they are playing with that. If only the process didn't feel like some weird cultural ritual of self flagellation. Like is this culture really hung up on punishing any thought of human kindness and genuine contact or what? How many torture scenes can you watch, how many hopes and lives pointless crushed, before you go from "we get it, life sucks and never works out" to admitting you're actually just punishing yourself and using the show as the straight razor.
And if that kind of mirrored social commentary is intentional then it's genius but I'm not sure they don't just want to show titties rake in cash and give the world the middle finger and all the rest is just incidental

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Words of Traitors added to Powell's Books "Short List"


"This is a brutal, darkly funny, and, above all, honest collection of short stories crafted especially for lovers of physical books. Illustration styles and even typeface are carefully matched to enrich the unique narrative experience of each tale. Words of Traitors is a work of art unlike anything you've read before."
Recommended by Brian S., Powells.com
Check it out
Note: Words of Traitors is a limited full color short story collection which includes several stories that have been since integrated (along with 404 Documents) into a single edition of Party At The World's End to be released autumn 2014.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

Slenderman: Yet Another Modern Myth


As most of you likely know by now, two pre-teens attempted to kill a friend as a sacrificial offering to the mythical creature 'slenderman,' a clear product of internet lore. Unsurprisingly, people are immediately looking to place blame, in a sense themselves literalizing and mistaking how myths and narratives function psychologically in the first place,
Such stories have appeared often on CreepyPasta, a creative writing and microfiction site dedicated not only to horror and thriller-type stories, but also supernatural, mythological and science fiction genres as well. The goal originally was to create short, compelling, easily shareable pieces of fiction that often spread around the Web. Now the site has a vast following and serves as, among other things, a creative writing and "hivemind" outlet where stories like that of the Slenderman breed and spread. According to the criminal complaint in the recent Wisconsin stabbing case, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier were fans of CreepyPasta.

An administrator from CreepyPasta was quick to issue a statement when the site started getting attention through Geyser and Weier's alleged crime. In the lengthy piece, which HLN obtained Tuesday, the administrator admits they are not personal fans of the Slenderman lore, that the site encourages creativity, community and self-expression, that the site was not initially meant for young teenagers, and, most aggressively, that a site that encourages what could be seen as morbid expression is not at fault when two teenagers allegedly attempt to take another's life. 
"But if I may be so bold, I don’t believe that it’s the fault of Slenderman or horror writing in general that this happened," the admin writes. "I remember reading scary stories and watching slasher movies when I was a child and young teenager and while they certainly gave me nightmares, they did not instill within me a desire to murder my friends. For someone to make the jump from reading a creepy story that is -- at least on this website, once again, I can’t speak for all creepypasta websites -- being presented as 100% fiction into actually using it as a motive to plot and murder another human being -- something else has to be going on there."
Let's get some things clear. Slenderman is not materially real, any more than religious myths such as tales of Hanuman or Jesus Christ, and likely will never take on the cultural magnetism to live for such a time. But historic age does not change the ontology of a concept, it remains nevertheless concept, yet at the same time a kind of living apparition of our own minds, and to the extent that they influence our experience, yes, they are real. Which is so often too much for people to bear, they want something to either be "real" or "not," without taking any time to examine what they might mean in the first place.

When we try to find meaning, we look to narratives. It's impossible to say which will satisfy us emotionally -- so that we might invest in them -- and which won't. But before anyone looks to place blame on the internet or slenderman or pasta or whatever crusade might serve their own needs, they might consider asking some obvious questions. From an earlier article here on ModernMythology,
Narrative and myths plays the principal role in our lives, both from the inside out (sense- and identity-making), from the outside in (narratives place ourselves in relation to one another, conceptualizing the structure and nature of the outside world), and they are also self perpetuating (narratives as pedagogical or even mimetic device).
This cannot be emphasized enough. The entirety of our lives that don't arise through independent natural process are story. Even those can only be understood when they're brought into relation through narrative processes. We can agree or disagree about whether a given narrative is good or bad, accurate or not, but this is in a sense adding a layer, not cutting down to some underlying truth. This is why the metaphor I so frequently refer back to for the self is the palimpsest. We can never hope to somehow clear away or sidestep the "mythic process."
If we have any doubt about the centrality of narrative in our extended, communal, and personal lives, one need only turn on the news or witness how, without changing ones own behavior, another may change their story from how amazing and wonderful you are to how awful and villainous. What has changed in this case except their internal narrative? The levels and dimensions of this process are quite simply endless, and try as we might to extricate ourselves, it is our investment in a particular narrative over another that defines belief.
With these two individuals we get nowhere by learning they did it to satisfy a narrative -- that's all anyone does, and we don't oughtn't consider it normal behavior to try to kill someone for Slenderman or Mohammed or Jesus Christ.  (Again, not to draw cultural equivalency between these, but the difference is of quantity rather than kind.) So we are left as every with asking for the "why" behind the why, and without considerable direct analysis, that's not possible. The reason we make up the stories we do around such crimes is simply to serve our own narrative need: for simplicity and simple, direct meaning.

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]

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