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Bridges to Babylon

Warner Bros. / Gramercy Pictures
Like father, like son. Gotta light?
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OKLAHOMA CITY – I have started seeing a pattern develop in my recent Dust Devil Dreams in that there is an underlying sense of alienation, not dissimilar from the work of writer Franz Kafka.

In fact, in a 2009 article in The Nation, written by Alexander Provan, and addressing Louis Begley’s-then recent book-length biographical essay on Kafka, he notes that “the principal subject of Kafka’s novels is not the mess of bureaucracy as such but rather alienation in the era of office jobs, assembly lines and advanced nation-states.

It was funny reading that, in light of a New York Times review of David Graeber’s recently-released book Bullshit Jobs.

Asks reviewer Alana Semuels in the review: “Why do so many people have to squeeze doing the things they love — like writing novels or woodworking — into their free time, while spending grim hours under the fluorescent lights of an office doing pointless tasks?

"I have to apologize again for the flourescent lights ... I think it's a bad transformer." (From Twin Peaks on ABC)

I am reminded of that underrated, 1990 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan film Joe Versus The Volcano, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, where former firefighter Joe Banks works in a dead-end job in some outer borough of New York. The office is literally sucking the life out of Joe, with its buzzing, David Lynch-esque fluorescent lightbulbs – which leads to Joe discovering he has a terminal “brain cloud,” which he thinks is linked to his time spent in that “circle of hell” where some sort of rectal “glop” is produced.

As Leah Schnelbach wrote in a 2016 article title “The Unlikely Philosophy of Joe Versus the Volcano,” the movie was viewed as “so quirky, so weird, and so darkly philosophical that people who turned up expecting a typical romantic comedy were left confused and dismayed.”

However, I wasn’t dismayed at all. I was stunned. Amazed! I ate it up. I took my girlfriend Sarah to see it that spooky spring of '90. I didn’t get the sense she was really into it. But this was the same year Twin Peaks premiered and I already had a weird sense of humor and an appreciation for the smart, quirky and bizarre.

And what is interesting is that Lynch himself (whose semi-autobiography Room to Dream I am currently reading) could have written and directed it, considering the overt “lightning” imagery (Electricity! Wow, Bob, Wow!) and the setting early in the film in a factory, which Lynch loves, in some unnamed city on the East Coast, like in Eraserhead.

Schnelbach, in her piece, says the film “is actually an examination of morality, death, and more particularly the preparation for death that most people in the West do their best to avoid. The film celebrates and then subverts movie clichés to create a pointed commentary on what people value, and what they choose to ignore. Plus it’s also really funny!

Ride the lightning ... walkway of despair in Joe Versus the Volcano. (Warner Bros.)

And it is a criticism of American capitalism. I think this nearly 30-year old film still has a lot to say in 2018, if not more, this in a splintered, atomized, Western culture where we know even less about each other on a human level, it would seem. And yet there is something pulsing under the surface ... something seeking a better way. Even enlightenment amidst of Kafkaesque existence. Or, should we consult Existentialism 101?

That does concern me at the core. We have everything, it would seem, but what do we really have? We have more suicide. More despair.

And one of my favorite scenes in the film is when the eccentric billionaire Samuel Graynamore, played by a wild-eyed Lloyd Bridges, father, of course, of Jeff Bridges, who plays the synctastic character “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski. Graynamore's offer of "living it up" in exchange for Joe to jump into a volcano on an South Pacific island where "Bubaru" (?) a rare mineral is needed to make his "superconductors." (Graynamore needs this substance for his capitalistic ends). Joe figures he is dying of "brain cloud" and figures, "why not?"

But he meets Meg Ryan's character (Ryan is now with rocker John Mellencamp, who was profiled by Jane Pauley on a CBS Sunday Morning show I caught) and he realizes he has something to live for!

And so, searching for some Joe Versus the Volcano clips on YouTube, I specifically sought out the scene where Bridges’ character comes to Joe’s depressing apartment (complete with lightning strike on his crumbling apartment wall), and while it was poor quality, it is still a delight a watch, especially when Bridges opens a can of peanuts and dumps them out on a table – and then asks Joe for some whiskey. Bridges ate up this scene with his eyes all bugged out like a crazy man. His son, Jeff, inherited that quality, as evidenced in the seemingly LSD-influenced dream sequence in The Big Lebowski.

And then it hit me – like lightning! The YouTuber who posted the video goes by the handle “Anthony Quinn”!!!!

What the blazes??!?! Seriously???!?!?!

And there it was. This “Anthony Quinn” posted this clip (which has been viewed 11,944 times since September 30, 2012). It's simply too wild!!

AIN’T MY CUP OF MEAT (THE HOUR'S GETTING LATE)

So …. this “Anthony Quinn” revelation completely syncs with my whole reason for writing this sync post in the first place.

I will admit to having trouble getting to sleep last night. I did my usual round of American cities in each state, from Washington to Maine, this time naming three random cities in each of the 50 states, along with my usual TM mantra.

I did, ultimately, drift off to sleep. And I once again found myself in a Kafkaesque situation, in a shabby building surrounded by rising floodwaters. Again, the water dreams are coming back like a veritable tsunami of late.

While this is happening, and I am having trouble connecting with fellow human beings, my sense of alienation and disconnect is in the red zone. But … I get an idea. I decide I am going to record a cover version of Bob Dylan’s 1967 song “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” also known as simply “The Mighty Quinn,” and was called as such by Manfred Mann on their big hit in early 1968.

In my dream version, the arrangement is different and I play sitar. Curiously, the Indo-British rock band Cornershop covered "The Mighty Quinn," but did not use sitar, as they sometimes do, as they did on their cover of The Beatles' "Norwegian Wood."

My 1980's reprint of Manfred Mann's single of "The Mighty Quinn." (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

Yes, there is simply something about that song that has attracted me for years. That flute part that opens up was performed by Klaus Voorman, who played bass for Manfred Mann at that time and was well-known for his association with The Beatles since their Hamburg days, even being the guy who designed their 1966 album cover for Revolver (arguably the best rock record of all time), for which Voorman won a Grammy.

Around the time Revolver was released in that strange summer of ’66, Bob Dylan had his strange motorcycle accident, an event that coincided with the alleged death of Beatle Paul McCartney – if you believe such things – Dylan kept a low profile as he recovered and wrote a bunch of song, including “Quinn the Eskimo” and a song the Jimi Hendrix Experience would turn into an apocalyptic hit – “All Along the Watchtower.” Both were major hits in 1968 and both were open to interpretation. "There are many here among us, who feel life is but a joke ..."

So, what inspired the former song, “The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)?” The most common explanation is that the actor Anthony Quinn, in his role in the 1960 film The Savage Innocents, of an Arctic “Eskimo” named Inuk who kills a priest and is pursued by a Canadian Mountie, played by Peter O’Toole, all against the sociological drama of the Inuit way of life being altered by the wider world - a changing world. A better world? That remains to be seen.

It is said Dylan wrote the song in honor of Quinn’s performance. But let’s look deeper, shall we?:

Everybody's building ships and boats Some are building monuments, others are jotting down notes Everybody's in despair, every girl and boy But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here Everybody's gonna jump for joy …

It’s written at a time when Dylan is reading the papers and seeing what is happening in the streets of America. When drugs are becoming increasingly prevalent and a war rages in Southeast Asia. People are desperate. The best times seem to be behind us. But then “Quinn the Eskimo” shows up to save the day, like a Pied Piper of sorts. Perhaps that’s why Manfred Mann incorporates a flute?

We all want the basic necessities of life. Love. Steady job or at least something that we enjoy doing. Sort of Dylan's own "Pleasant Valley Sunday," in a twisted sorta way.

And Dylan seems to be setting his sights on the working man in the song, noting that he likes to “go just like the rest” and likes his “sugar sweet.” But being in the rat race isn’t his scene. There’s got to be a better way, right?

The lines about “come all without, come all within” seem to make me wonder if Dylan was grooving on the Sgt. Pepper’s track from George Harrison, “Within You Without You.” Quinn, whoever he is, will make things right. He will lead the way. Like the later song, “Bring on the Dancing Horses” by Echo & The Bunnymen, Ian McCulloch asks, in the final verse, to “bring on the new messiah.” Is this Quinn an “Arctic Messiah”? Particularly in this current era where climate change is more prevalent and we are failing Mother Earth - and each other.

But then we get stories like this, where a fisherman in the Canadian Arctic saves an Arctic fox, trapped on a drifting iceberg, dying of starvation. They captured it and brought it back to health. A little faith in humanity is restored!

And before moving on from "Quinn," the same band, Manfred Mann, albeit a new incarnation of the group, this time moving on to 1970's prog-rock, would re-examine "Mighty Quinn" as Manfred Mann's Earth Band. On their 1978 live album Watch, they played it incorporating a bit of their 1974 song "As Above So Below," a nod to the magickal and occult notion of "as above so below" being the answer to all question in regards to the "mysteries." Interestingly, it comes from their Nightingales and Bombers album, using the 1942 BBC recording of nightingales, but also happened to capture the roar of "RAF bombers on their way to attack Mannheim, Germany. In that raid 197 planes were dispatched and 12 were lost."

As above, so below?

As"The Mighty Quinn" goes: "Come all without, come all within ..." Kinda makes some sense, eh?

I KNOW YOU RIDER

I know I’m a bit all over the place in this post, but bear with me.

The first online story to come in my feed this morning had to do with The Big Bang Theory actress Kaley Cuoco, who plays ditzy blonde Penny, who is married to Leonard. Both are friends of Sheldon Cooper, played by Jim Parsons, whom I wrote about in my previous Dust Devil Dreams post “I saw so much, I broke my mind,” with its references not only to The Big Bang Theory and Strange Angel (about occult rocketeer Jack Parsons and a CBS product like The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon), but also The Big Lebowski, a film that is layered like an onion. New revelations about the meaning of that film come up all the time now.

It's all in the eyes of Jack Parsons - and "The Dude." A rocket. And a rug. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

Oh, and while I have not seen this particular episode of The Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon, “An Eagle Feather, a String Bean, and an Eskimo,” which aired Jan. 4, 2018, where the younger version of Sheldon Cooper (Iain Armitage), set in East Texas and also in Dallas (along both the 94th meridian and, later, the 33rd degree of latitude) dismisses the childlike and grammatically-incorrect nature of the lyrics to “The Mighty Quinn.” Oh, did I mention that East Texas-born Sheldon is a train enthusiast? Kind of like my research subject and railroad promoter Arthur Stilwell? You see where this is going?

Sheldon and sister Missy in Young Sheldon. (CBS)

So, now we have “All Along the Watchtower,” the Dylan song Jimi Hendrix made famous and was featured on Dylan’s John Wesley Harding album.

Hendrix, upon hearing “All Along the Watchtower,” with its apocalyptic imagery and allusions to the Biblical Book of Isaiah, including these eye-opening lines: "Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise ye princes, and prepare the shield./For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth./And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed./...And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground."

"Who is that?" asks Jack Parsons' wife upon seeing a portrait of Aleister Crowley in Strange Angel. (CBS All Access)

Recall that it was in the early months of 1946 - when Donald J. Trump was about to be born - that Aleister Crowley acolyte Jack Parsons, the aforementioned occult rocket scientist, begins his sex magick Babalon Working ritual, alongside Dianetics author and Church of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. (Note our piece referencing Repo Man and Hubbard's book in "Lattice of coincidence".) This is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Parsons co-founded, working at Caltech, which gets weekly attention via The Big Bang Theory and Sheldon Cooper, played by actor Jim Parsons who does the voiceover on Young Sheldon. Jack Parsons would die in a "big bang" in his home laboratory in 1952, amidst the "orange groves."

Splitting an orange. Not unlike splitting an atom? From Strange Angel. (CBS All Access)

Was Parsons "blinded by the light," to quote a Bruce Springsteen song made popular by the prog-rock incarnation of Manfred Mann? 

Anyway, Hendrix, upon hearing "All Along the Watchtower," said he knew he had a potential hit on his hands. Hendrix recorded it and released it as a single in the US on September 21, 1968.

In this story, about "The Long, Enduring History of 'All Along the Watchtower,'" writer Corey Irwin states that Dylan's song was "evocative" and "surreal," incorporating the Biblical imagery he would fully embrace a decade later.

Dylan would say as recently as 2015 that it was Hendrix who made the song so amazing and memorable: "He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and brought them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere, turned them all into classics," Dylan said.

And while Dylan's version was released on November 22, 1968 (the same date The Beatles released the 'White Album' and exactly five years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy), it did not chart the way the acid-rock version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience would that turbulent autumn.

EIGHT (OR INFINITY)

So, both Bridges – Lloyd the father and Jeff the son – appear in Joe Versus the Volcano and The Big Lebowski, respectively. The first was released on March 9, 1990 and the second on March 6, 1998 – nearly eight years exactly!

Well, today was interesting in that I got one of those “reminders” from Facebook about what I posted about three years ago – July 2, 2015 (here on World UFO Day, by the way …). It was my recognition of Red Dirt Report being 8 years old! The silver, mylar balloon, in the shape of the number 8 looked identical to a weird UFO sighting in California right before that where the UFO looked like a silver 8 balloon, and probably was that, although in the video it did look strange.

And note the red balloons ... (Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report)

Oh, and in that picture? I was wearing my Bob Dylan hat I picked up at his concert a few months earlier. And here we are talking about Dylan’s music, in relation to my dreams (and the use of “The Man in Me” in the opening credits to The Big Lebowski).

So, Kaley Cuoco gets married to a "professional equestrian" named Karl Cook. Both have the initials KC, and wedding gifts incorporated a KC-squared image (there was even a hashtag - #KCSQUARED), which is scientific and plays into the whole Big Bang Theory plot. And while Penny seems dumb, she connects with Sheldon, in a way that bugs her husband Leonard. 

Cuoco, it seems, married well. Cook is not worth a whole heckuva lot, but Cook's father is. Cook's father, Scott Cook, is a tech mogul worth $2 billion. And Cuoco, we should note, has a net worth of $51 million. She was previously married to pro tennis player Ryan Sweeting. 

Oh, and in a number of photos of Karl Cook, we noticed he is riding a white horse. As Franck Boulegue, a French film critic and writer about Twin Peaks esoterica, noted in the past day: "In The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (1953), René Guénon notices several similarities between the Christ of the Apocalypse and Kalki, Vishnu's 10th avatar in Hinduism - especially the use of a white horse."

The "white horse" symbolism is all over Twin Peaks. (Lynch/Frost Productions)

Or a "pale horse," which we are to behold. In 1956, in Twin Peaks: The Return, a sinister, soot-covered "woodsman" repeats an incantation in August 1956 at a New Mexico radio station KPJK, referring to a horse and "the white of the eyes, and the dark within." The radio station was not far from the Trinity Site, also on 33 degrees line of longitude, like Dallas, Texas, where Young Sheldon Cooper is in the episode where he dismisses "The Mighty Quinn."

But back to #KCSQUARED ... 

KC is also short for Kansas City. That is the American city I plan to head to later this summer as part of my ongoing research into Arthur Stilwell and the 94th meridian.

In any event, when I see "professional equestrian," I see "horseman." And just add "apocalypse" to that term and things get biblical, dig? 

I bet Dylan would appreciate the significance, even if Young Sheldon Cooper thinks Dylan's lyrics to "The Mighty Quinn" are just hippie-dippy nonsense.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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