David Lynch on Meditation

4 Oct


And now for something completely different: a book review of Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch.

I don’t think I was ready for the combination that was David Lynch + transcendental meditation until very recently, and so that is why I think that Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity only came into my life nine years after its 2006 publication. This is the first book that I can ever remember turning back to page one and starting again immediately after finishing it. It was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. I hope that even one of you finds it to be the same as a result of reading this review.

CloXhKAAn important reason this book is so near and dear to me is that David Lynch is also so near and dear to me. His voice is so distinct- I was thinking FBI Agent Gordon Cole from Twin Peaks- that it was easy to imagine him reading it . And although his voice is NOT transcendentally-meditative, it lulled me into a peaceful calm. Let’s just call it premature enlightenment.

Part of the appeal of this book is obviously learning a little bit about how David Lynch ticks. Some of its allure comes from the behind-the-scenes looks at a few of his enrapturing films. Yet another draw is Lynch’s description of transcendental meditation. I’m not quite there yet, but I am very, very interested.

At parts of the book, I found myself sitting in awe of his lessons, as if at the foot of a master teacher; at other moments, his sense of humor and his almost-childlike, brutal honesty broke the spell and snapped me out of the seriousness of it all. Those deep laughs of realization thrust me into the happiness of actual zen acceptance of the present moment, that true Buddha smile.

bloglogoAnd despite all of this praise, the true clincher for me was learning that yet another intersection of my life’s love and passion came into play: the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace. This is an initiative that Lynch started when he realized how intense the stress and pressure is on kids these days. The Foundation teaches meditation techniques and with excellent results. According to Lynch (about students who have benefited from the Foundation, “Stress just doesn’t catch them; it’s like water off a duck’s back.” As an teacher and tutor, this hit so close to home. It still makes me tear up just ever-so-slightly. If I could ever get employed by this foundation I feel like I could really find my true life’s purpose. Well, probably.

I would like to share a selection from my favorite chapter, “Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit.”

“When I started meditating, I was filled with anxieties and fears. I felt a sense of depression and anger.

I often took out this anger on my first wife. After I had been meditating for about two weeks, she came to me and said, ‘What’s going on?’ I was quiet for a moment. But finally I said, ‘What do you mean?’ And she said, ‘This anger, where did it go?’ And I hadn’t even realized that it had lifted.

I call that depression and anger the Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit of Negativity. It’s suffocating, and that rubber stinks.”

Its chapters are short little snippets about his life experiences, and the book takes no time to zoom through from cover to cover.

Thank you to my friend, Lindsey, who told me about this little gem.

Cult of Personality- The Source Family (2012)

13 Sep

SourceFamily_2000x2841_1shtWhat started as a lucrative, hip vegetarian restaurant in late-1960’s LA, led to a religious way of life for over one hundred followers in the 70’s. The Source Family documentary tells the tale of Ya Ho Wha, or Father Yod, and his transformation from a straight-laced and allegedly violent businessman to a polygamous cult leader. A unique perspective emerges as past followers are interviewed in present-day, with many seeing no harm in the crazy life they used to lead under this cult leader. What started out with seemingly reasonable life habits- healthy and organic eating, commitment to above all else do no harm, communal living and positive thinking- devolves into power-hunger, community backlash, withdrawal from society, and as Father Yod’s ex-wife, Robin, so aptly put it, “a dirty old man on a lust trip.”

And despite the obvious manipulation at play within the Source Family, it is incredible to see how former members still speak so highly of the cult and its missions- many retaining their cult-given names (Sunflower, Isis, Electricity, all with the last name Aquarian) even more than 40 years after the Family’s dissipation.

Oh the fashion!

Oh the fashion!

The incredibly raw, archival footage maintained by photographer, official Source Family member, and appointed documentarian, Isis Aquarian, gives a first-hand look into the ceremonies, rituals, daily life, and philosophies of this group. It is quite surprising that documentation was even allowed, considering how it doesn’t always cast the group or its leader in a positive light. There is also some unique insight into why exactly someone would fall for cult mentality, as well as the societal pushes and pulls in the climate of the 1960’s and 70’s family. Most notably, during a time in which fatherly love and warmth was not the customary order of the day (think Mad Men), followers with daddy issues flocked to Father Yod’s side for love and guidance.

Plus, they formed a pretty interesting psychedelic rock band, that for some reason was allowed to play California high schools during their heyday. Nowadays, their records are a coveted find for serious collectors.

Check out this far out trailer for the doc, man:

High Maintenance

8 Sep

Ben Sinclair High MaintAlright y’all, time to breathe in the good shit and breathe out the bullshit. This week’s TV Tuesday feature is my favorite new show: High Maintenance. Available for free streaming on Vimeo, you are going to want to bookmark this badboy ASAP and get watching. Available in a variety of snippets from 5 to 15-minutes long, it becomes easy to binge watch the entire series in one sitting. As you may have already surmised, I did.

When it comes to catching a new show or movie, I have a “two-strike” system: If I read about it or it is recommended to me twice, I pretty much drop whatever I am doing to watch it. In this case, I read about High Maintenance in a Bust Magazine interview with Ben Sinclair, the show’s creator. He works on this show with his wife, Katja Blichfeld, which is my secret dream: being part of a husband and wife writing/directing duo. About a month or two later, a friend told me that I had to check it out (thanks Meghan Bender!). Within 24-hours, in the middle of a ladies lazy mimosa Sunday, I put it on. And we watched the whole thing.

My new BFFs, Sinclair and Blichfeld photo by Sam Comen (samcomen.com)

My new BFFs, Sinclair and Blichfeld
photo by Sam Comen (samcomen.com)

Let me cut to the chase already! In this show Sinclair plays a weed delivery guy who maintains the high in NYC. Each episode revolves around a different delivery. Each episode has a name, like a first name, which in some way reflects the characters he delivers to in that episode. You don’t have to watch them in order, but I would recommend you start with the episode “Stevie” and work your way from there. (This episode is aptly named for Stevie Nicks, not because he delivers to her, but you’ll find out why soon enough). You will love the colorful cast of pot smokers that Sinclair delivers to throughout the series. Dare I say it acts as a community service in that it normalizes marijuana consumption by showing the gamut of people who partake? As it is on Vimeo, this show is shot in beautiful high definition, and certainly doesn’t take on the amateurish qualities of other web series.

I cannot wait for the next installment of this fantastic show. Until then, I’ll certainly be re-watching the episodes I have already seen (a la Broad City, Kimmy Schmidt and Portlandia).

Difficult People- Perhaps a Reference to YOU?

25 Aug

Difficult People Banner

Difficult People is a new Hulu exclusive, and as such, I didn’t expect anything racy or controversial. That is until someone posted this humorless article (or one like it) about one of the show’s jokes.

Billy and Julie (Image Source: Entertainment Weekly)

Billy and Julie (Image Source: Entertainment Weekly)

In the show, Julie Klausner and Billy Eichner star as themselves: crass, snarky, gossipy actor/comedians living in NYC. So if you expect people of the aforementioned qualities to make wholesome, non-offensive jokes…well, I can’t help you there. So here’s the deal with the joke, as you no doubt already heard about: Julie’s character is at times despicable, but THAT is what makes her also lovable, don’t you see?! She says ridiculous things with no filter, but not in that asshat Donald Trump way that everyone is talking about these days. At one point, Julie’s character posts on Twitter: “I can’t wait for Blue Ivy to be old enough for R. Kelly to piss on her,” which is followed by such a major backlash that she has to go back and delete the tweet out of existence. As they are wont to do, Julie and Billy encounter many “garbage people” along their daily journey, and one such person, a real piece of work, continues to berate Julie for posting such an offensive tweet.

When I heard the joke, sure, my jaw dropped, and a little gasp came right afterward…followed by a pretty sizeable guffaw.  Because that is what this sort of humor is supposed to do! “Oh NO she didn’t!” you are supposed to profess. And I am pretty sure that in the backlash that Julie’s character received in the show, we were supposed to also see that yeah, she was crossing the line a little bit. I think what is happening here is that the joke has a few too many layers for some fly-by-night viewer to quite fully grasp. The person spreading this article on FB, by the way, most certainly did not watch the show herself, further removing the context of the joke within the show and tearing it to shreds while simultaneously declaring “I hate Julie Klausner anyway.” (Sounds like you should avoid the show anyway then, amirite?).

Amy Schumer has also been slammed for being racist, insensitive, slutty, the list goes on.... (Image  source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/)

Amy Schumer has also been slammed for being racist, insensitive, slutty, the list goes on…. (Image source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/)

I am seeing a death of comedy, and it makes me sad. Luckily, my often-offensive humor is mostly hidden, and reserved for those whom I know can take a joke. I am a feminist, I have advocated for people of color, immigrants, victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and other marginalized populations since I became aware of the world around me. I’m fucking 21st-century-civil-rights-aware, motherfuckers, and the fact that I can see through the punchline of this joke is a testament to just how easily-offended we are becoming. And I am scared for the future of comedy. How can we be humorous if we are no longer allowed to push the envelope a little? It’s snowballing out of control at this point, with commentary such as, “This is disgusting, there’s no way a tasteless joke like that would be made about baby Apple or Suri Cruise.” (from this “Bossip” article). Ri-diculous, you guys… If you wanna defend your Bey squad so hard, I will happily write off your illuminati-scum friendship. (Another tongue-in-cheek joke that you probably didn’t get).

I must get off my rage soap box now, but it’s worth mentioning that people are attacking Amy Poehler, the show’s

producer, for the joke, and not so much Julie Klausner even. I guess she’s just not a big enough target for these people.

I am loving Difficult People, and I will continue to be a staunch supporter. I am hoping that this most recent press that the show has received will be more of a blessing than a curse.

Wet Hot Double Feature- First Day of Camp and Hurricane of Fun (2015)

11 Aug

How excited were you when the makers of Wet Hot American Summer announced that they would be releasing a season-long prequel, adapted for television and available streaming in its entirety this summer? Were you this excited?

Image from consequenceofsound.net

Image from consequenceofsound.net

first-day-of-camp.0I was jumping for joy. When you have watched Wet Hot American Summer as many times as I have, after nearly fifteen years you really don’t expect a sequel on the horizon. And then it hits you, just like an ice cream headache in the middle of July. And yes, ice cream is quite delicious, but sadly, you can have too much of a good thing. So, my friends, if you have not yet watched the whole season as I have, I urge you to savor it. Savor it as you would a delicious sorbet. Because when it’s gone it’s gone, and this time I don’t think we can expect another installment fifteen years down the line.

I paradoxically feel proud and ashamed that I consumed the entire season of Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp in one sitting on the Sunday after its release. Netflix has its evil way of sinking its claws right through you and into your lazy couch on your day off, taking the grunt work out of even pressing play for the next episode. I just let it play through, delighting in the familiar faces, fifteen years later, as they danced across the screen. I was ecstatic to see new, but similarly joy-producing cameos such as H Jon Benjamin, Jon Hamm, Jason Schwartzman, and Michaela Watkins as well. But now I just feel empty inside. I had too much of a good thing, and it just left me craving more.

282689-hurricane-of-fun-the-making-of-wet-hot-0-230-0-345-cropHow elated I was, then, this evening when we discovered Hurricane of Fun: The Making of Wet Hot (2015) on Netflix this evening! This casual, behind-the-scenes look at the filming of the original movie was almost as delightful as the four hours I dedicated to the series last week. While I wish I could say that the show came as close to the movie as I would have hoped, this candid documentary of the original movie hit the nostalgia spot a little bit better. Everyone looks so fresh and young and little, and their sense of humor that carries off screen is so warm and relatable.  What I wouldn’t give to have been able to join the cast at their own Camp Firewood retreat as they filmed the movie back in 2000. I nearly shed a tear when Amy Poehler dances around one of their camp cabins during filming, lip synching to Le Tigre’s Deceptacon. Why can’t we just be friends in real life already??

A New Era for Smart Women in Comedy- Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck

24 Jul

Trainwreck_posterI don’t know about you, but I am quite enjoying this renaissance of women in comedy. Realistically, I guess it has been in the works for over a decade, with the rise to fame of Kristen Wiig,  Amy Poehler, and of course, Tina Fey. But the SNL greats don’t take it quite to the level that Amy Schumer does when it comes to revolutionarily feminist content in comedy that is somehow accessible to men and women alike. Take the intelligence of Fey, add a dash of Sarah Silverman’s raunchiness, and finish it off with Amy’s own specialty which is the no-shame-sex-talk, and you can see why Amy is the spokeswoman of my generation.

While Trainwreck is not a must-see-on-the-big-screen-because-it’s-so-visually-stunning feature, I knew I had to go see it at the theater. If Amy Schumer were the leader of a cult, I would let her talk me into joining it and proceed to give her all of my money and worldly possessions. The second-best thing I can do is pay to see her movie when it is in the theater, and hope to add to the week 1 statistics. (Unfortunately, another thing that was added to the movie’s week 1 statistics was the unfortunate shooting in Louisiana theater during its screening).

The week before, I binge-watched all unseen episodes of Inside Amy Schumer (her hilarious sketch comedy show that airs on Comedy Central). I proceeded to laugh myself to tears, and even repeat view some of the best sketches with other people (see “Football Town Nights” below, especially Amy and her ever-growing wine glass).

So now on to Trainwreck… While I didn’t laugh until I cried like I do with her show, Amy still had me loling quite a bit.

Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures AP

Schumer and Jamea Photo by Mary Cybulski/Universal Pictures AP

From the awkward way she interacts with her nerdy nephew, to the way she condescends sports culture, Amy Schumer gets me in a way no other screenwriter/comedienne can. And the perspective on the normalization of casual sex from the female perspective is something that is severely lacking in most mainstream movies. And who can hate a movie with Bill Hader and Lebron James? I know this Ohio native can’t. And while I hate to fit a criticism into this review, it was a little too “rom-com” and not enough “raunch-com” for me. But I’ll take that with a grain of salt, considering she had to appeal to a wider audience (and I clearly prefer pushing the boundaries beyond mainstream comfort levels). Nevertheless, Schumer’s true gold still lies in her show, which, if you haven’t seen it yet, or even just the most recent season, do yourself a favor and check it out on Hulu ASAP. Just like I did with Broad City and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, I am going to be seeking people out who have not seen it yet, just so I can have an excuse to watch it again.

Trainwreck is an absolute A in my book. Please, everyone, go see it. Give Amy your money. Show her that we want more. And Amy, if you’re reading this, I love you. *mouthed silently with eyes closed*

Them Females is Strong as Hell- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015)

30 Mar
Yaaaasss queen!

Yaaaasss queens!

When I first watched Broad City, it made me realize that up until that show, there was this big gap in television programming that I didn’t even notice before. I am still struggling for the words to explain what that gap actually is, but Broad City helped to fill it. Once I realized that television could be that wonderful, I also realized that it would probably be a long time before another show would even come close to the female-powered comedic majesty of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.

unbreakable-kimmy-schmidt-600And then, lo an behold, came the Netflix series out of left field, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which I will admit to have finished in a few days’ time, and have already started a second round. This show is catching onto the trend of naive Indiana girls trying to make it in the Big Apple (a lá Don’t Trust the B—- in Apt 23– which doesn’t hold a candle to Kimmy, but is still enjoyable). But Unbreakable has the added plot twist of Kimmy joining the real world after being locked away for 15 years in the underground bunker of a religious cult. Hard to picture, at first, quite how this can be spun into comedic gold, but trust me, it has been.

I have noticed many people have jumped aboard the Kimmy Schmidt train, albeit with reservations at first. I have read a lot of apprehension in people’s evaluations of the show, statements along the lines of, “I’m not entirely sure if I love this show, but I am binge-watching it just the same.” (Psst.. I think that means you might love it.) I think there is a part of every one of us that finds it easier to be wary of a show with a strong female cast and an underlying feminist message (more on that later). But watch a couple of episodes and believe me, you will be hooked. You might not even be annoyed by the opening title sequence, something that usually gets old real fast.

kimmy titus mrs voorhees

Titus Andromedon (Kimmy’s roommate), Jacqueline Voorhees (Kimmy’s boss), and Miss Kimmy Schmidt herself! (Along with robot Yuko)

You will like this show…

  • …if you liked 30 Rock. This is not just because Jane Krakowski (30 Rock‘s Jenna Maroney) is one of the leading ladies of the show, or because all of the background music is identical to the jazzy ensembles played in 30 Rock, but more likely because Tina Fey is executive producer. And we all know that Tina Fey can do no wrong. (Same goes for Amy Poehler, obviously, who also produced Broad City. Are we seeing a pattern here?)
  • …if you liked The Office, as Ellie Kemper (Kimmy), also played Erin on that show. (In a Bust magazine interview with Kemper, we learn that “she parlayed what was originally a four-episode arc into a recurring character”).
  • …if you liked Strangers with Candy or Arrested Development, due to the show’s “invisible humor,” as this article in Esquire magazine so aptly put it. The meticulous attention to detail for subtle comedic gems is what has me immediately returning to re-watch the series.

Case in point: this show is intelligent, y’all. And it’s perhaps a clandestinely feminist as well, which is wonderful for those people who couldn’t handle a more direct feminist approach. Tina Fey’s comic wit with a feminist twist shines in subtle moments, such as Matt Lauer’s line in a scene in which the Indiana mole women (aka bunker cult prisoners) visit The Today Show: “I’m always amazed at what women will do because they’re afraid of being rude.” This was in direct response to one mole woman’s explanation that “one night, [Cult leader Wayne Gary Wayne] invited me out to his car to see some baby rabbits and I didn’t want to be rude…so… here we are.”

Troll the respawn, Jeremy. (That means goodbye).

Peeno Noir- an ode to black penis:

The Idiots Are Taking Over… The Revisionaries (2012)

1 Mar

If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention. Even if you are paying attention and you are pissed off, you may find yourself helpless to stop this bullet in progress.

Revisioonaries_poster_smallwave.inddI didn’t really know how Boards of Education worked until I saw Revisionaries (2012), the documentary about the Texas Board of Education and their attempts to undermine public education and textbook content in order to conform to theological and specifically Christian biblical beliefs. This doc mainly follows Don McLeroy, Creationist/Dentist who serves as chairman on the Texas State Board of Education. As you will see in the trailer, he wants to change practically everything in the world of science and social studies in public education, from ensuring that Barack Obama is always referred to including his middle name, Hussein, to removing the term “hip hop” and replacing it with “country” when referring to popular music.

Why should we care about what Texas does with their educational system, at least we who do not live in that reputably conservative state? Because Texas is the home of a great deal of our big textbook companies, the ones who write standards and curriculum for schools all over the country. What this little board decides for Texas often goes for the rest of us. Now, I don’t teach the subjects under attack in this doc, but as a Spanish teacher I can be easily affected by this conservative mindset. These are the same people who tout “Speak American!” and confuse Latin with Spanish, as many people showed in their ignorant displays of protest regarding a Vermont state motto here. I am clearly biased here, but I think foreign languages should be offered right along with math and science from the beginning, especially considering that studies show we learn language best in our formative years.

Although this movie makes my blood boil, I have to give it an A based on its importance of bringing to light an issue that affects us all.

Trailer for the film:

But He Was Such a Nice Guy… Jack Black Evokes My Sympathy for a Killer in Bernie (2011)

24 Feb

Such a nice guy… Jack Black as Bernie Tiede

Last month I heard a story on NPR about convicted murderer Bernie Tiede, who continued to be loved by his entire community in Carthage, (East- very important!) Texas, even after he admitted to murdering an elderly widow and keeping her in a deep freezer in the garage for nine months. In the NPR story, they spent some time talking about Richard Linklater’s 2011 dark comedy/mockumentary about the man, aptly titled Bernie. It’s the Best in Show of murder movies.

(AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

The real Bernie Tiede (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

Jack Black is absolutely amazing in this movie. He plays Tiede in such an endearing way, you can’t help but side with the many townspeople who also saw past Bernie’s horrific actions. As they put it, Marjorie Nugent, Tiede’s victim, was a total bitch. Shirley MacLaine, who portrays Nugent in the movie does a good job of letting us feel that she kind of had it coming. Whether that is true in real life is only truly known by Tiede himself, but I’m inclined to believe it. In addition to Black’s killer (ha!) performance, the vignettes of the townspeople, exhibited through mock interviews, are also just priceless.

Last year, Tiede’s attorney began to present new evidence in the case that alleges that Tiede was sexually abused as a child, and the emotional abuse he suffered at the hands of Nugent prior to her death drove him to a “dissociative episode,” which led him to kill her. I don’t want to ruin the surprise that is what became of Bernie Tiede and where he is today, so be sure to Google him only after you have seen this delightful movie.

I give it an A.

Here is one of my favorite scenes from the movie, about the differences between the regions of Texas.

And here is a great scene of Jack Black playing Bernie

“He Lives in a Horde of His Own Personal Peculiarities” Burt’s Buzz (2013)

22 Feb
Burt Shavitz, namesake of Burt's Bees

Burt Shavitz, namesake of Burt’s Bees

I’ve been using Burt’s Bees products for as long as I can remember, but until I saw the documentary Burt’s Buzz, I had no idea that Burt was a real person. This documentary takes an intimate look into Burt Shavitz’s life as the poster “boy” of Burt’s Bees products. He travels all over the world, passing out samples and meeting superfans (yep, he has those). He is just as rustic as the photo to the left suggests.

Some Burt's Bees superfans in Taiwan

Some Burt’s Bees superfans in Taiwan

April Ludgate is similarly not amused

April Ludgate is similarly not amused

Trevor Folsom is known as “The Majordomo,” aka Burt’s handler, who makes sure he gets his packing in order and to his appointments on time, but mostly he helps Burt with things around his house and in his life on a daily basis. He is the darling of the documentary, in my opinion; he made me laugh until I cried. Folsom’s deadpan sarcasm and obvious annoyance with the one man pony show that is Burt would put April Ludgate (Dwyer) to shame. In the first shot in which he faces the camera, interview style, he states, “Burt’s a very interesting guy that I spend every day with. And sometimes I wanna throttle him,” and later he delivers my favorite lines, “He lives in a horde of his own personal peculiarities…He does not have the range of conception that allows him to see what he has become…He’s like Colonel Sanders, and he simply does not understand that.”

I will always love documentaries about peculiar people. They are uplifting alternatives to the depressing docs I watch about climate change, religious extremists, and hegemonic US international policy-making. Burt’s Buzz is one of the best I have seen in some time, although there is a bit of a sad twist to his story as well.

My favorite scene from the doc at the end of the following video: https://thescene.com/watch/presents/burt-s-buzz-meet-burt-and-his-majordomo-trevor


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