She’s going into a drawer handle

In a nice little bit of good timing, I watched an episode of Twin Peaks last night that features an (in)famous scene, that was then referenced in this review of a recent Twin Peaks retrospective in the U.S. published today.

(Slight spoiler)

Another bizarre moment in the show occurred as a result of a discussion between Frost and Lynch regarding Josie Packard’s future. Lynch said, “I don’t think she’s going to go back to Hong Kong. She’s going into a drawer handle.” Yep. And, that’s exactly what happened. It is probably the weirdest moment in “Twin Peaks” history — Josie’s screaming head lodged in Douglas fir.

It Is Happening Again: Twin Peaks Season Two (Part 1)

In my previous post about Twin Peaks, I remarked that the passage of time sometimes has the effect of reflecting the past through the flattering lens of nostalgia, but that Twin Peaks has remained a genuine curio of delights. In a similar manner, the passage of time also allows certain opinions to become widely accepted without much questioning. For instance, it is often said that whilst season one of Twin Peaks was a wildly original and entertaining series, the second season with the departure of David Lynch from day to day production and the revelation of Laura Palmer’s killer, was a pale imitation of the first. This is only true in part – indeed, it really applies to the _second half_ of season two. In retrospect, you can draw a clear line halfway through season two as a result.

Spoilers ahoy

Continue reading “It Is Happening Again: Twin Peaks Season Two (Part 1)”

A Buddhist Viewpoint on Abortion

Seung Sahn was a Korean Zen Master and somewhat controversial figure who founded a large and influential Western Zen institution. His book “Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake” is a collection of stories, talks and dialogues with students on a range of topics.

In one chapter, a student asks him for his position on abortion. Sahn’s reply begins:

“Buddhism’s first moral precept is a very strong one: do not take any life. And at the same time Zen Buddhism also guides us to the absolute insight that any action is fundamentally not good, not bad. So for many people, this can seem confusing. But actually it is very simple.

The most important thing to consider when doing any action is, why do you do something? Only for you, or for all beings? Why do you eat every day – only for your body, for your tongue’s pleasure? If your direction is not clear, even doing ‘good’ actions every day is not always clear. Correct direction means your actions are already beyond good and bad, and not based on the false notion of ‘I.’ So what kind of direction do you have? Why would you abort this baby? Determining that clearly in your mind is most important.”

Sahn reiterates that what is most important, rather than arguing over ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ is that your direction is clear – or other words, your intentions.

He then illustrates his point by way of analogy. The first Buddhist precept is to not take life. Another precept is to not lie. He then tells the story of a man in the mountains collecting firewood. A rabbit runs by and runs off to the left. Moments later a hunter with a gun passes by and ask “Which way did the rabbit go?”

If the man ‘makes correct speech’ and doesn’t lie, the hunter will find the rabbit and kill it. “If the man strictly keeps the precept of not lying-simply for the sake of keeping precepts, to be a ‘good’ Buddhist who does no wrong-the rabbit will suffer”

He continues:

“But if your direction for keeping the precepts is truly to liberate all beings from suffering, then you will maybe tell a lie: ‘Oh, the rabbit went that way,’ pointing away from the direction where the rabbit really ran.”

The precepts include not killing and not lying. The question is, at that moment, break the precepts or keep them?

The student when asked this replied that they would prefer that the rabbit does not get caught and be killed. Sahn then makes an even stronger analogy – if someone came to kill lots of people, a policeman would be right to kill that person if it stopped them killing (or killing more.)

Sahn’s point is that a Buddhist viewpoint on such issues is never dictated by edicts or scripture. The Buddha’s teaching implore us to examine the here and now and determine our intentions – for what end are we doing this action?

“So, whether or not babies should be born is not the point. Instead, what is human beings’ correct direction? It is very important to find that. Some two thousand give hundred years ago, the Buddha taught, ‘Don’t kill any life.’ That is the Buddha’s teaching. But the behind-meaning means having Great Love, Great Compassion, and the Great Boddhisattva Way. It is extremely important that this not be considered as simply a question of whether or not to have a baby, or whether abortion is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’

Rather, we must deeply consider what is human beings’ correct direction and correct way, right now. At this time? How does this action help other beings? Find that, and moment to moment to moment, just do it. If you find that, any action, situation or condition doesn’t matter. You must do it. That is Great Love. That is Great Compassion.”

This is precisely the way of thinking that needs to be supported by legislation in Ireland. That women can at the moment, make the right decision, for that time, for that woman. You must do it. That is Great Love. That is Great Compassion.

The title of this blog post is A Buddhist Viewpoint on Abortion, and as such, does not purport to represent a standardised, canonical or general view.

“I reject absolutely: revenge, aggression and retaliation.”

One of my all time favourite scenes from Twin Peaks

Albert Rosenfield: You listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchet-man in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I’ll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely: revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method… is love. I love you Sheriff Truman.

Dale Cooper: Albert’s path is a strange and difficult one.

Twin Peaks Season One

Twin Peaks is my favourite TV show of all time. Whilst I have been thrilled and riveted by the standards over the years (The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad), Twin Peaks has always been the reigning champion. Since I first saw it at age 11/12 or so (where it terrified me beyond belief – specifically BOB) it has occupied a special place in my heart. Since picking up the excellent Definitive Gold Box Set about 6 years ago, I’ve only watched it in its entirety once since then so the other night I decided a re-viewing was long over due, and before long series one was done.

A TV show is odd in that it does not get watched as much as, say, a favourite film. So it sits in the memory banks for a long time. This can sometimes lead to a mythologizing; you think somethings are better than they really are. Nostalgia has a way of doing that. However, to no surprise, I found Twin Peaks to be better than ever – like a fine wine it has aged well. It really is a remarkable show – it probably shouldn’t work – it’s a smorgasbord of very different styles and ideas. One thread is a truly dark and scare horror story of murder, possession, incest, rape and demonic forces. Another is pure soap opera – jealousy, adultery, revenge,plots – all soundtracked by swelling emotional piano cues. Then we have the apple-pie Americana, the smoky jazz, the teenage love. It has a plot which was clearly made up as they went along, with everything shot through with David Lynch’s surreal vision. It has a texture that no other TV show has ever come close to replicating.

One thing I noticed more this time around is the strength of the acting (and in contrast, the weakness of some of the acting). Case in point is the soap-opera stuff. A lot of it is fairly hokey, and its seemingly scripted as such (This tongue-in-cheek self awareness is also referenced by the soap-opera within-a-soap opera “Invitation to Love” which openly mocks the world it exists in, and at one point begins to directly mirror events in ‘the real world’). The soap element, however, sinks-or-swims depending on who is delivering it. The torrid love affair between Big Ed and Norma works well because the actors deliver it pitch perfect – a nice blend of honesty and schmaltz. Contrast to the horribly awkward and cringe inducing scenes between James and Donna. Sadly James Hurley takes his prize as easily the worst thing about the entire show, his clunky dialogue driven into the ground by acting more wooden then the ubiquitous Douglas Fir trees that fascinate Dale Cooper. (Although, I did note that in the opening episode of season two, James’ seems almost human – I wonder if this has anything to with being under the direction of Lynch for this episode?) And speaking of Special Agent Dale Cooper, it still makes me burst out laughing when Kyle McLachlan is in full goofy over exuberant mode. (Also, I forgot just how touching he is when Cooper gently lets down Audrey Horne in his room). Finally, a word for the wonderful occasional appearance of Miguel Ferrer as Special Agent Albert Rosenfield whose caustic putdowns of the rural lifestyle he encounters in Twin Peaks are some of the series’ funniest moments.

This time around I’m revelling more in the stuff that interested me the least last time. Of course Killer Bob, the Black Lodge, and all that are the dark diamonds at the core, but this time I’m revelling in the other layers that make up the show.

On to series two (which will definitely warrant another blog post).

Just Be Sound

The restaurateur approaches the party of five in the booth, who are excitedly taking pictures of their food and posting it to Instagram.

“Guys, house rule is ‘Just Be Sound'”.

The table laugh knowingly.

“No really guys. Just Be Sound. Literally. Turn yourself into oscillating waves of pressure composed of frequencies within the range of hearing.”

Another, quieter, burst of giggles.

“Be Sound. Just. Be. Sound.”

The people in the booth stop laughing and look at each other. Slowly, they all start to vibrate. A first it is a metronomic swinging motion, their bodies swaying back and forth. Eventually the oscillations become quicker and quicker until it looks like they are barely moving at all, aside from a faint glow around their edges. The cutlery on the table begins to move, propelled by the vibrations of the table. Gradually the rest of the patrons in the restaurant can hear a low drone, a gutteral sound, dark and sinister. This sound continues to grow as the bodies of the five people in the booth begin to fade into a vague miasmic cloud of form. Suddenly, as the sound reaches its climax, the five pulsing ghostly bodies explode outwards in a rippling sphere that moves out in all directions across the restaurant, smashing glasses and over turning tables and chairs. As the wave of sound hits people they immediately collapse to the ground and evacuate their bowels.

Suddenly there is silence, aside from the groans of restaurant goers writhing on the floor in their own excrement.

“Cool” the restaurateur says as he nods.

You Are Listening To

This is my new favourite thing. Came across this the other day on Twitter or Tumblr. You Are Listening To Los Angeles mixes live police radio with ambient music, the result is a fascinating experience, sometimes sinister, sometimes something else completely. Good interview with the creator here.

I love ideas like this – such a simple concept, done so well, using various APIs to create something really unique.

Check it out, You Are Listening To

Step Zero is the Awareness

I’ve quoted Merlin Mann’s podcast Back 2 Work here before, about the intersection between so-called ‘life hacking’ and mindfulness.

In a recent episode he kind of touched on this idea again. In talking about list-making to help you get stuff done, he notes that when undertaking any kind of ‘life changing’ series of steps, that the first step is to notice the problems that need fixing. Or as he put it “Step Zero is the Awareness”.

I’ve thought about this before. You can’t change something in your life if you are not aware it is a problem. So even to notice it is a good step. I think this can help when we get down about things which we want to fix – at least you are aware you need to fix it.

If you find yourself being short with people and snapping at the them and you rebuke yourself – at least you are aware you are doing it. What would be much worse would be to go through life without noticing you were doing this. Then you’d just be another rude ignoramus.

Obviously though the next step is to begin to work on how you can prevent yourself from doing this things or to start doing the things you should be doing.

There can be a trap with congratulating yourself too much on being ‘aware’ – you can falsely believe you are doing something by simply repeating to yourself that you need to do something. Similarly you can beat yourself up too bad, and constantly punish yourself for these faults you see.

But still, I think it bares repeating that Step Zero is the Awareness. At this time of year lots of people make New Year’s Resolutions, and I’ve seen a bit of a backlash against it, some fair, some not so fair. But if it takes the somewhat arbitrary changing of the year to make people self-reflect and become aware of their lifestyles and what can be improved – well, that’s Step Zero in my mind.

Or as G.I. Joe used to say – “Knowing is half the battle”.