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Cornfed rubes

WGN America
Liza Winter (Olivia Williams) is baffled by the lack of locally-grown corn in "Manhattan."
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In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade / And he carries the reminders, of every glove that laid him down or cut him / ‘til he cried out, in his anger and his shame / I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains” – “The Boxer” by Simon & Garfunkel

 “Miscalculation could lead to war.” – statement made today on MSNBC in light of Trump’s alarming “fire and fury” comment.

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three new and recent TV shows making the rounds at my house – Twin Peaks: The Return (2017); Better Call Saul (2015-now); and Manhattan (2014-15) – have something in common: The Land of Enchantment, better known as the state of New Mexico. But so much more. And a lot that is hidden.

And, oddly, there are some eerie overlaps in themes and “fallout,” as it were. So there are more common connections – links that are still becoming “clear” to me. A lot of it seems to go back to the July 16, 1945 “Trinity test” at White Sands, New Mexico – the singular event that led kicked-off the toxic “Atomic Age,” and with it, the processed convenience of an early death.

TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN

So, starting off with Twin Peaks: The Return, I am diving into waters I’ve only begun to explore. For instance, someone mentioned the color “purple,” as in the “purple sea” where Cooper finds himself. Could the colors red (as in the “red door” at Dougie and Janey-E Jones’ house) and blue (as in the “Blue Rose” cases) be combining to create “purple”?

But that is not where I’m taking us, just yet …

Much has been written (including here at Red Dirt Report) about the symbolism and themes playing out in this magical TV series created by David Lynch and Mark Frost. And my continuing synchronicities and links to the series, particularly in light of both historical and current events in our reality, make me think far more is actually going on than a simple TV series.

As the writers at Twin Peaks – Unwrapping the Plastic blog noted this week: “Even though it may not seem so, the links between the third season of Twin Peaks and Alchemy are growing all the time.” This was noted in the post "Squaring the circle."

I tend to agree.

There is a lot I could discuss here, but I am going to address the boxing scene in Part 13, where Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie), mother of Laura Palmer, is watching her TV – zombie-like – as a mid-20th century boxing match (in black and white, of course) plays over and over as she sits on her couch, drinking Bloody Marys (until the vodka runs out) and smoking cigarettes. The fighting continues – cue electric crackling – and resumes. This isn’t good guy Bushnell “Battling Bud” Mullins? Dougie Jones’ good-natured boss at Lucky 7 Insurance in Las Vegas, is it? The former boxer who punches above his weight?

This boxing scene is gripping in that I had just had been in a restaurant where boxing was being aired. In fact, the sport of boxing has been coming up rather consistently for me for months.

But I was in a “whiskey bar” (think “Alabama Song (Whisky Bar)” by The Doors) and it had a very masculine vibe. In fact at one point I found myself shelling out a little extra cash so I could try a replica of British explorer Ernest Shackleton’s long-lost Scotch whisky, left behind in Antarctica following his ill-fated “Nimrod” expedition in 1907-09. It was a little smoky and very smooth. Historically good.

As the mind-blowing Twin Peaks blog Non-Exist-Ent noted, in their “The Death of Ray Monroe: An Arm-Wrestling Odyssey into Toxic Masculinity” …

The blogger sagely notes: “Fortunately for us, lucky number thirteen is a master course in the follies of toxic masculinity, and thus a terrific resource for learning from our mistakes. The centerpiece of Part Thirteen is an arm-wrestling odyssey that culminates in the death of Ray Monroe at the hands of Mr. C. in a scene that will join Part Eight's journey into atomic fire as one of the greatest both in Twin Peaks-The Return and in television history. But the entire episode is shot through with men doing badly, or at least, very, very sadly. One can hardly blame a woman with ring-side seats to this eternally recurring cycle of self- and other-destruction for seeking a little something to take the edge off as she watches these chowderheads bashing away, incessantly and forever, with no relief in sight.”

Whoa!

And in this week of one-upmanship, with threats of “fire and fury” (“C’mon baby, light my fire!” to quote the masculine god-man who lies-a-mouldering-in-a-Paris-grave - Jim Morrison) – we see Twin Peaks literally syncing up with the atomic-flavored pissing contest taking place on our earthly plane as I write these lines. It’s utterly unbelievable.

Furthermore, through a series of Part 13 still images and amusing comments from the blogger, we see Ray Monroe (George Griffith) lose his soul to the Black Lodge as Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan) beats a gang leader boss man in an absurd arm-wrestling contest straight out of Over the Top.

And at one point, the only non-toxic-masculine character – a nebbish accountant in horn-rimmed glasses (Christopher Durbin Noll) – asks Mr. C (after he forces Ray to war the “Owl Ring” before shooting and killing him) – if he needs any money. Mr. C. refuses that offer. The accountant, there at "The Farm" in "Western Montana" (near "Hungry Horse," perhaps? Leo Johnson's old stomping grounds) may be a nice guy. But he's cooking the books. And in our next show, we learn that it is the son (is Richard Horne the son of Mr. C - aka "DoppleCoop"?) who is stealing from the till and taking advantage of a situation where he is put in a position of trust. He figures out that it is "evil" and not "good" that gets you where you want to go.

Which takes me to the next show … Better Call Saul.

BETTER CALL SAUL

There are wolves and sheep in this world, kid. Figure out which one you’re going to be.

These are the words of wisdom bestowed upon young Jimmy McGill at his father’s corner store in Cicero, Illinois, sometime in 1973 and festooned with all sorts of Chicago Bears and Chicago Cubs pennants and paraphernalia.

We get that time period by noting some magazines curious Jimmy is looking at (Mad Magazine, Time, etc.) and actually, umm, reading (Playboy) in the back of the store and songs playing on the radio, including The Stampeders’ “Sweet City Woman” and “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest – both hits in ’73.

The words regarding “wolves and sheep” and their place in the world were spoken by a cool grifter (called “The Wolf” in the credits and played by Stephen Snedden) looking for $5 from his nebbish father, who is also wearing horn-rimmed glasses and is easily fooled by professional con men.

And yet, Jimmy, even at this young age, is wise to the con and tries to warn his father that he is being conned. His gullible father (Raphael Sbarge) refuses to believe that the man doesn’t really need money.

When the con man first arrives in the store, Jimmy hides behind a row of canned vegetables. But what is most curious is that it is cans of corn that are closest to Jimmy. They are easily identified as corn. Another scene shows young Jimmy standing by a container of popcorn. Was that deliberate? Considering Vince Gilligan's (The X-Files) involvement in Better Call Saul, and the show primarily set in New Mexico (a state of UFO woe and mystery) - well, that's a possiblity. Perhaps the corn feeds our dark side?

(AMC)

I thought of this last night, sitting in a restaurant with friends, and a swell, all-American guy I know was excitedly downing a hole bowl of creamed corn. Garmonbozia. It sickened me, in light of what I now know. Just read my recent post, "Green corn / Black corn" for more on that.

The dumb men of Twin Peaks are raised on a diet of corn-linked products, be it high-fructose corn syrup or liquor containing corn (the "heroes" drink wine or coffee). Seems the same in Better Call Saul where Jimmy/Saul (Bob Odenkirk) drinks a lot of coffee, but other beverages as well.

And then there is the oil. The Woodsmen like the oil. The convenience powers the sorrow.

Again, Non-Exist-Ent blows my mind with “The Pain and Sorrow of Convenience: Oil and Corn as Avatars of Atomic-Age Suffering in Twin Peaks.” Cans of processed food. Motor oil (as in Lion Oil of El Dorado, Arkansas). This is explored in the mind-shattering Part 8 episode involving the aforementioned Trinity test (which we are getting to) and how the detonation of an atomic bomb near the Jornada del Muerto - the "Journey of the Dead Man" trail. How apropos. As a side note, the band Linkin Park featured a song called "Jorando del Muerto." In fact, the album it appears on, 2010's A Thousand Suns, was inspired by the Manhattan Project, with the band saying "Oppenheimer's comments about the nuclear bomb influenced the apocalyptic themes of the album. The band wrote about these comments in the album's liner notes:

Oppenheimer's words resonate today not only for their historical significance, but for their emotional gravity. So, too, A Thousand Suns grapples with the personal cycle of pride, destruction, and regret. In life, like in dreams, this sequence is not always linear. And, sometimes, true remorse penetrates the devastating cycle. The hope, of course, springs from the notion that the possibility of change is born in our most harrowing moments."

Linkin Park lead singer, Chester Bennington, committed suicide on July 20, 2017.

MANHATTAN

“Miscalculation could lead to war.” I heard that line spoken today on MSNBC as the discussion addressed North Korea's nuclear threat against Guam and our bellicose response to that threat. Scary times we are in.

Manhattan, a fantastic (and sadly overlooked) period drama (with that mix of fact and fiction) which was on WGN America in 2014 and 2015, addresses the ultra-secretive atomic-bomb-creating Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which was taking place during the stresses of World War II.

The first episode of Manhattan, “You Always Hurt the Ones You Love,” begins right before the Fourth of July holiday in 1943 at the secret, desert city, filled with scientists, their families and plenty of members of the U.S. military. The goal? To build an atomic bomb, under the supervision of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

It starts out with (fictional) scientist Frank Winter (John Benjamin Hickey) having a “revelation” about the bomb design (a compressed core of plutonium) while playing golf in the desert “766 days before Hiroshima.”

Meanwhile, Winter’s wife, Liza, a botanist, is concerned that flowers in a garden next to their simple, wooden home, are mutating, a concern dismissed by Frank.

And then there are the ears of corn that are in limited supply (being shipped in from El Paso, Texas) and are not being grown locally, which strikes her as odd.

Speaking to a serviceman selling the food, Liza said: “Indians have been planting maize out here for 5,000 years.”

Army policy,” replies the soldier. “Ground is no good.”

No good? Contaminated? Poisoned? Like at the Hanford site in Washington state on former Native American land (noted on Page 119 of Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks). Is that 1-1-9?

(Showtime)

Liza is becoming more and more suspicious. The implication that the radioactive material being used by the scientists has found its way into the soil at Los Alamos and is contaminating everything – but the intense secrecy seems to lead to mistakes and bigger dangers.

And yet Frank is haunted by this most powerful weapon he is involved in creating, having nightmares of a nuclear detonation enveloping his wife and daughter, while – in very Lynchian fashion – The Ink Spots song “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire” plays on the phonograph record player.

Anxiety is high. That much is clear. Scientists are vomiting ("Garmonbozia"?) things are so out of sorts and askew and, well, just wrong! The future of humanity hangs in the balance, all with the thought that the Nazis might get the atomic bomb first. 

Meanwhile, Frank and Liza's daughter wants out of the Los Alamos “prison camp,” complaining that “Everything is a secret. It’s Kafkaesque!” 

Dr. Amp knows! (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

And that is very true. There is a Kafkaesque quality to not only these aforementioned TV shows, but about our own world. This so-called "reality." Thoughts?

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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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