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The black spot

Images via Walt Disney Productions and Showtime
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OKLAHOMA CITY – In Robert Louis Stevenson’s wonderful adventure novel Treasure Island, we first learn that Captain Billy Bones is being sought out by villainous seamen who knew the notorious Captain Flint and the alleged existence of a treasure map – a map that Bones was hiding.

But these cutthroats know Bones has it and he is visited by a pirate named “Blind Pew” and is given a bit of cloth or paper featuring a “black spot.” This so frightens Bones that screams, has a stroke and dies. It was seeing that “black spot” that alarmed Bones so, knowing that he was marked for death.

And so I thought about that part of Stevenson’s classic story as I watched Part VI of Twin Peaks: The Return this weekend (please read Kevin Tudor's review). We see a “black spot” of sorts on an envelope that is kept in a safe in a building in Las Vegas, Nevada, the same city where the good Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) has reappeared – confused and in the guise of amiable dunce Dougie Jones.

The “nervous man” in the Vegas high rise is on his laptop when a “red square” appears on the screen and disappears. This is an order, presumably by a very wealthy and frightening man alluded to earlier in this engrossing reboot of the old Twin Peaks.

The man goes to a safe, and, using protection, takes out an envelope with a “black spot.” It seems as though David Lynch and Mark Frost are using an old literary device – like the Ace of Spades (which has been coming up a lot lately, eerily enough), or the strange playing card “Bad Cooper” shows to a doomed woman who was found to be plotting to kill him.

The "Ace of Spades" card in Twin Peaks: The Return. (Showtime)

In the 1950 film Treasure Island, the flip side of “the black spot” warning reads, menacingly, “until dark.” The darkness in Twin Peaks is offset by the blue skies and sunlight of the desert confines of arid Nevada. In the old show we were accustomed to a claustrophobic, sylvan environment of fog-shrouded mountains and cabins deep in the wood.

But much time has passed, and the darkness has invaded the sunlight, it would seem. Recall that Treasure Island begins in windswept, damp, coastal England and concludes on a sunny, tropical island. 

And I am beginning to see some parallels between Twin Peaks and Treasure Island. A fellow fan suggested the blind woman in the "mauve"-colored space in the Black Lodge was like "Blind Pew" in Treasure Island. But Pew was a more menacing figure. And in Twin Peaks, when these powerful people mark you for death, it's essentially over, especially with a homicidal, bourbon-swilling, dice-playing assassin waiting to stab his next victim to death. 

One thing that caught my attention in this particular episode that seems sync-worthy to me is that over the weekend, my copy of The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, My Life, My Tapes arrived in the mail. Like The Secret History of Twin Peaks, it is a great companion to the series because you learn more about Cooper's early life and the path - difficult and strange it may seem - that Dale took, leading up to joining the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

But what was interesting was that after getting the used book out of the package, I noticed that the receipt had been stuck -synctastically! - between pages 62-63, as I noted in a Facebook post on a Twin Peaks fan page. I wrote: "The person mailing it had inserted the receipt between pages 62-63, which for Dale's tape diary was on June 18, 1973.It was on that date that young Coop writes about his "hole-digging" friend, Jim, an older, African American man who kept "boxes of paper" that he called his "remembrances" and that Coop was the first person to ever see it. Young Dale then leaves and soon learns that Jim's apartment and all of his belongings - and his body - burned up, completely. Nothing left. Whilst Dale is watching the firemen clean up, he hears crying, which turns out to be laughter, coming from a nearby alley. As he notes in his June 18th entry: "When I reached the alley it was empty. I called out, searched up and down to no avail. All that was there was a freshly sharpened pencil where the laughter had come from. A message, I suspect." Note how Dougie/Coop uses a PENCIL to send Bushnell "Battling Bud" Mullins (pictured above) the MESSAGE."

Mullins, who works at Lucky 7 Insurance in Las Vegas, is initially perplexed by Dougie's child-like scribbles and "snakes and ladders" imagery. But it dawns on Mullins that Dougie has had some strange breakthrough and the message is clear - all done in pencil, I should note.

And as a personal side note, we have some obelisks worth noting - the Washington Monument (and Mount Rushmore, of course), and it's identical, South American cousin, the "Obelisco de Buenos Aires," which can be seen during an aerial shot of the city as we then are taken to a dank location there where a paranormal "device" suddenly shrinks after receiving an unwelcome message - and presumably related to what Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) uncovered while in Buenos Aires, following the "discovery" at Judy's in Seattle. Hey Jude ... eh ... Judy, Judy, Judy, wow, wow ... 

The pencil caught my attention, though. When I lived in Washington, D.C. as a child, every time we drove past the Washington Monument I called it "The Pencil." This "pencil" in Twin Peaks, strikes me as a clue, not unlike the atomic bomb explosion poster in Deputy Director Gordon Cole's (David Lynch) office (an image that can be also seen in Eraserhead). I mention this in my interview with Douglas Bolles on 42 Minutes, by the way, over at The Sync Book.

Bombs away - in Cole's office. (Showtime)

I asked myself, when I first saw it - stunned -who would have such a shocking and destructive poster in their office. Well, I found out within days - a right-wing, Hollywood screenwriter named John Milius. While reading the book I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski: LIfe, The Big Lebowski, and What Have You, where the gun-happy, Vietnam War veteran character of Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) in The Big Lebowski is based on Milius. The author writes of Milius this way: "For many years a large photograph of an atom bomb exploding over the Bikini Islands (occupied the wall behind his desk." Milius is a notorious militarist and right-winger, but further than that - a "Zen anarchist, the book notes.

Milius, it turns out, won an academy award for writing Apocalypse Now, which is based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. There is a scene in the film I referenced on Facebook, where Col. Kurtz has scribbled in his madness: "Drop the bomb, exterminate them all."


And with the themes I'm seeing coming together in Twin Peaks: The Return, one can't help but wonder if a Kurtz-like character is hoping to do just that. Perhaps a crazed billionaire seeking to access malevolent forces, as some believe happened when we first tested the atomic bomb at Trinity site in New Mexico in 1945, and ever after? Milius said he didn't understand why Americans were so "socially irresponsible." So much so that they invented the atomic bomb only to use it sparingly. It didn't make sense but led to more problems. A collective "black spot" on all of us.

Just a gut feeling, friends.

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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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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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