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Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

Dionysian Mystery and Laughing Gas Teeth

In Dreams, History, Image, Inner Space, Mystery, Pharmacopeia, Science on December 8, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Candy and Cronus take their toll.  I had my wisdom teeth extracted on the 4th.  I was given local anesthesia for my face as well as nitrous oxide and a general anesthesia to dip me into a semi-conscious state for the procedure.  The day before the operation I traveled to Philadelphia to visit the tter Museum.  This vast and eclectic collection of medical curiosities is managed by the prestigious College of Physicians and is truly a spectacular exhibition.   Glass cabinets line velvet walls providing temporary shelters for partial skeletal fragments, waxen fetal reproductions, medical journals and anatomy textbooks bound with human skin, and photographic documentation depicting an endless amount of bizarre cases that would keep Victorian scholars  baffled and intrigued for years.  That night I had a terrible nightmare wherein I was shrunk down to the size of a rodent and dissected in a dark amphitheater to a hostile (and possibly, sinister) public.  And reclining on that dentist’s chair at 7:45 in the morning, I could not help but think of all the butchering that had happened in the name of science and all those rusty, archaic instruments now resting in glass cabinets… waiting to be picked up, and used again.  As the gas kicked in, I briefly hallucinated the surgeon pulling out what could only have been some sort of bone-crushing device meant for extracting brain matter.  Those Bastards, I thought, they are going to butcher me here on this slab and sell the profitable parts to the Black Market… possibly even back to the Museum. I braced myself for a frontal lobotomy, but nothing came and eventually I lost interest as the drugs set in.  I was “awake” for the entire operation.  I heard the crunching, slicing, and whizzing of the drill used break up the teeth, sending tiny splinters across the room.  I distinctly recall the dentist informing me that they would “have to remove an infected molar, as well.”  I used my free arm to give him a big “O.K.” symbol with my hand and managed to mumble something to the degree of, “That’s totally fine with me, dude.”

Re-enactment of the first operation under anesthesia (ether). The actual operation took place on October 16, 1846; this re-enactment took place shortly afterwards.

After the operation I asked for my teeth back.  They told me that I could not have them because they were now a BIO-HAZARD.  “At least let me say goodbye to them… to my babies.”  They consented and brought me to the recovery lounge.  The nurse came in with an extended arm and opened her hand, palm up.  There they were, exposed to the open air:  five half-rotted teeth laying in a pool of blood on her cold, rubber glove.   And observing the teeth for the first time without possession and function, I appreciated them for what they truly were:  five overturned tombstones from a graveyard.  “Now that the gums are unplugged, the souls are bound to escape,” I told the nurse, but she seemed nonplussed.  It was probably too late, anyway.  The ghosts and demons once held at bay by those ivory monuments were now free to roam the far reaches of Earth and pursue their dark, inhuman desires.  “You fools,” I shouted as I was discretely escorted from the premises.  They were all doomed, but I didn’t care.  They had unleashed their own destruction, and there was no escape.  So be it.  Good luck and Godspeed, my babies… Godspeed.

I went home and turned on the television.  Twin Peaks was on the Chiller Network. It was the episode where David Duchovny plays FBI Agent Denise/Dennis Bryson.  It is unclear from the series whether Bryson would self-identify as a cross-dresser, a transvestite or transgender.  Bryson began wearing women’s clothing during a DEA undercover operation and found that it relaxed him. Bryson identifies as “Denise,” wears women’s clothing and presents female behavior during working hours and otherwise. When required for a sting operation, Bryson dons a man’s suit and goes by “Dennis.”  This was interesting for two reasons:

First, there is an obvious connection to Dionysus.  In Greek mythology, Dionysus is described as being womanly or “man-womanish”.  He is the god of duality and was raised by Hermes.  He has two separate origin stories that accent his “twice-born” character.  In one he is the offspring of Zeus and the mortal woman Semele.   The mortal demands Zeus to reveal himself in all his glory as proof of his godhood. He comes to her wreathed in bolts of lightning; mortals, however, can not look upon an undisguised god without dying, and she perished in the ensuing blaze. Zeus rescued the fetal Dionysus by sewing him into his testicles.  In the other origin story, Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the queen of the Greek underworld.  A  jealous Hera attempted to kill the child by sending Titans to rip Dionysus to pieces after luring the baby with toys. (See Dionysus and his Mirror)  Zeus drove the Titans away with his thunderbolts, but only after the Titans ate everything but the heart, which was saved, variously, by Athena, Rhea, or Demeter.  Zeus used the heart to recreate him in the womb of Semele, hence he was again “the twice-born.”  As a champion of androgyny, the allusion is obvious.

Two Denises

Secondly, “Denise” Duchovny in drag looks surprisingly like my mother, whose name is also “Denise.”  To further the coincidence, my mother was named after her older brother Dennis who died soon after childbirth.  Their visual similarity is superficial, of course, being two people with Czech/Slavic descent and similar hairstyles.  I was pondering the implications of these events and enjoying the “Percs” of the operation when it occurred to me that losing teeth was a powerful symbol of death and rebirth.  Also, the dream in which I was “transformed” and “dissected” was about a dramatic psychological change.   Manifestations of Dionysus are manifold in this reality and it is necessary to acknowledge and understand the intentions of this divine entity if one is to maintain psychological health.  Therefore, it is imperative that one give respect by honoring the god in the traditional way:  Bacchanalia.

Dionysus is a god who transcends boundaries,  subverting preexisting borders between life and death, man and woman, wilderness and society. The earliest rites took place in the wilderness – in the forests and woods, the marshes, and particularly high in the mountains, where the lower oxygen content was suitable for trance induction. Later the ‘priest’ would simply cast their staff into the ground, at any suitable location, and hang a mask and an animal skin from it, the circle drawn around this center becoming the sacred precinct for however long the staff remained.  Underground chambers were also often used for initiations, which may have originally taken place in natural caves, particularly those by the shoreline. Liminal boundary zones being especially sacred to Dionysos.  The Orphic texts of the late period record a boukolos, or ‘cowherd’, as an offerer of sacrifice, sayer of prayers, and hymn singer, who seems to have been the nearest thing they ever had to a priest. Other inscriptions record an archiboukolos, or ‘chief cowherd’ presiding over these boukoloi, and in some records there is also mention of boukoloi hieroi, ‘holy cowherders’ as well as hymnodidaskaloi,’hymn teachers’.  The cowherds were necessary because the “sacred wine” used in the ceremonies contained hallucinogenic mushrooms that grew on the feces of local cattle.

In intoxication, physical or spiritual, the initiate recovers an intensity of feeling which prudence had destroyed; he finds the world full of delight and beauty, and his imagination is suddenly liberated from the prison of everyday preoccupations. The Bacchic ritual produced what was called ‘enthusiasm’, which means etymologically having the god enter the worshipper, who believed that he became one with the god.

::Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy::

Traditional offerings to Dionysus include but are not limited to the following: musk, civet, frankincense, storax, ivy, grapes, pine, fig, wine, honey, apples, Indian Hemp, orchis root, thistle, all wild and domestic trees, black diamonds.

I call upon loud-roaring and revelling Dionysus,

primeval, double-natured, thrice-born, Bacchic lord,

wild, ineffable, secretive, two-horned and two-shaped.

Ivy-covered, bull-faced, warlike, howling, pure,

You take raw flesh, you have feasts, wrapt in foliage, decked with grape clusters.

Resourceful Eubouleus, immortal god sired by Zeus

When he mated with Persephone in unspeakable union.

Hearken to my voice, O blessed one,

and with your fair-girdled nymphs breathe on me in a spirit of perfect agape.

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Surrealism / Collage

In Art, Dreams, Image, Surrealism on December 1, 2009 at 2:36 pm

Lou Beach, World Of Men C

Lou Beach, Preggers

The Futurists and the Dadaists employed collage to protest entrenched values, while the artists of the Russian avant-garde used photomontage, an outgrowth of collage, to demonstrate their support for a progressive world order. For the Surrealists, collage served as a surrogate for the subconscious. Pop artists recognized it as a means of directly incorporating elements of popular culture into their work. Robert Rauschenberg expanded collage in his own way by creating Combines, assemblages of paintings and found objects that were intended, he said, to act in the gap between art and life.

Emphasizing concept and process over end product, collage has brought the incongruous into meaningful congress with the ordinary. With its capacity for change, speed, immediacy, and ephemerality, collage is ideally suited to the demands of this and the prior century. It is a medium of materiality, a record of our civilization, a document of the timely and the transitory. It is no wonder that today’s artists continue to use collage as a way of giving expression to the unorthodox, both in art and life.

::DIANE WALDMAN::

Max Ernst, image from “Une Semaine de Bonté”

Each of these… projects recurrent themes of sexuality, anti-clericalism and violence, by dislocating the visual significance of the source material to suggest what has been repressed.

Jindřich Štyrský, Marriage

Alexis Mackenzie, Just This Once

Alexis Mackenzie, Jade Moon

PREVIEW:   Digital Collage as a Popular New Aesthetic?  What are the roots/implications of this resurgence in occult imagery?  Stay tuned for a follow-up post.

Laura Brothers, Earth Chant

Santi Vernetti, whatiseesometimes

Dreams That Money Can Buy / Digesting Automatons

In Art, Cinema, Dreams, Industry, Surrealism, Technology on December 1, 2009 at 1:13 pm

Dreams That Money Can Buy is a 1947 American experimental feature color film written, produced, and directed by surrealist artist and dada film-theorist Hans Richter.  Collaborators included Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Alexander Calder, Darius Milhaud and Fernand Léger.

Oh Venus was born out of sea foam

Oh Venus was born out of brine

But a goddess today if she is Grade A

Is assembled upon the assembly line

Her chromium nerves and her platinum brain

Were chastely encased in cellophane

She was equipped with a prefabricated heart

Mannequins and robots seem intimately connected, but what exactly is their relation?  Would you say that the former is the ancestor of the latter?  Are they synonymous twins born from the same human desire, or do they satisfy different longings?  A robot may not be anthropomorphic, but a mannequin must seem human.  Mannequins are always artificial, but are robots artificial only when they feign organic nature?

The Canard Digérateur, or Digesting Duck, was an automaton in the form of a duck, created by Jacques de Vaucanson in 1739. The mechanical duck appeared to have the ability to eat kernels of grain, and to metabolize and defecate them. While the duck did not actually have the ability to do this – the food was collected in one inner container, and the pre-stored feces was ‘produced’ from a second, so that no actual digestion took place – Vaucanson hoped that a truly digesting automaton could one day be designed.

Voltaire wrote that “without […] the duck of Vaucanson, you have nothing to remind you of the glory of France.” (“Sans…le canard de Vaucanson vous n’auriez rien qui fit ressouvenir de la gloire de la France.”)

Dream #2

In Animals, Dreams, History, Inner Space, Magic, Mystery on November 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Do you ever have dreams where you find secret doors? Hidden rooms? I often have such dreams.  On many occasions, I am at my house, or my elementary school, or another familiar place when I come across a previously concealed opening.   I crawl inside and navigate among a network of fleshy tunnels, sliding between walls, climbing up cold metal vents, and going down dark shafts to places strange and unknown.  Several times, these paths lead me to obscure worlds…  alien locations super-imposed on familiar locales.  I’d like to think that these dreams are metaphors for exploring your own “personal” psychic space.  There is a scene in the movie Dreamcatcher (based off the Stephen King novel) where the protagonist explores a metaphoric warehouse of his own memories while an alien creature inhabits his body.  While I do not advocate watching such a terrible, terrible film, the image is clearly useful and pertinent to the conversation.

One such dream lingers on my mind.  In this dream my parents purchased my favorite Haunted House in Ocean City, Maryland and wanted to run it as a family business.  To those unfamiliar with the Haunted House at the end of the Boardwalk, let my explain that, basically, it is a seated two-person ride where frightening automated tricks are triggered as the cart travels down a winding track through a serious of horrifying scenes.  The labyrinthine layout of the ride confuses the passengers’ understanding of space and time while the psychedelic optical effects of the black-lights loosen their subconscious minds, successfully allowing the ghosts of the ride unmitigated access to the personal fears of the travelers, or at least, that’s how I’ve always felt.

In the dream, I returned home to Maryland to help them renovate their new business.  I was walking through the ride and I noticed a door that I have never seen.

It was down the crooked psychedelic hallway with its chipping black-light paint…

Past the terrifying old mill with its rusty saw blades…

Past the torture chamber with its racist primitive and its tied up maiden with giant animatronic heaving bosoms…

And directly after the horrific decomposing Victorian skeleton knitting a neon tea-cozy by moonlight.

There against a blank wall was a small, mysterious door shrouded by darkness.  I got on all fours and crawled through what seemed an endless maze of cobwebs-and-sand-encrusted tunnels.  Finally, after a long while, I reached a drafty, open chamber made of stone and marble.  The silvery moon must have been bright that magical night, because before me I saw illuminated some sort of ancient subterranean burial tomb.  It was then that I realized, “Holy shit.  This Haunted House is really just the top of a buried Egyptian pyramid!  Sweet.”  It was like the tip of an iceberg peering out of the water, only it was buried deep and forgotten in that cigarette-butt and broken beer bottle infested coastline that hugs the waters of the Atlantic.  I knew right then and there that I had found a great psychic doorway to the Underworld.  The ghosts that ran the haunted house were the lingering spirits of powerful beings.  At last, there would be proof that a proto-human species inherited these colossal geometric structures from their divine celestial fore-bearers (at least, these were my thought at the time).  And the best part… it was all mine to explore.  I don’t think I have ever been happier in a dream.  Then I woke up.  The dream was over.

Last night, I went looking for the actual blueprints of the fun-house (which I found) and luckily, I was charmed enough to come across The Bill Tracy Project, “a comprehensive look into the personal and professional life of the greatest designer and builder of dark attractions the amusement park industry has ever seen: Bill Tracy.”  He designed and built the Haunted House in Ocean City along with many others across the good ol’ U.S. of A.  He also designed many of the early Thanksgiving Day Parade Floats (how timely) and some display cases for Macy’s.  The list of his achievements is daunting (46 Dark Rides, 15 Walk-Thrus, 8 Water Rides, 6 Ride Displays, 1 Park Front, 1 Concept Ride, 1 Park Design/Layout, plus 2 Unknown Projects), and his carefully researched biography… fascinating.  This excerpt in particular seemed portentous:

Tracy’s creativity flourished and he became nationally known for his ceramics after being featured in the November 11, 1940 issue of Life, where a photo of Tracy’s ceramic creation, “Jonah in the Whale,” was published in an article covering the Syracuse Ceramic Show at The Museum of Fine Arts in Syracuse, New York, where his piece was on display. His unique sculpture featured a whale with a portion of its side removed to reveal a person trapped inside. 

For a full-page synchronicity, see Dream #1.

How did the young Bill Tracy gain access to the dreams of a of an individual 69 years in the future?  Why were the dead and hidden secrets of Ocean City’s occult origins revealed to humanity?  Will Nathan actually destroy the foundation of his favorite childhood thrill-ride to satisfy the ephemeral desires of a dream?  And just how much will the tickets cost to this new and wonderful attraction?  The answers to all these questions (and cooking tips for the holiday season!) in the next penumbra report.

Dream #1

In Animals, Dreams, Magic, Psychology on November 12, 2009 at 11:45 pm

I have been having a series of vivid dreams.  I have tried to keep a dream journal in the past, but to no avail.  Jungian Psychology places a strong emphasis on dream analysis.  Hopefully, this process will prove therapeutic and, of course, entertaining.  Public feedback is also an important part of the process so please feel free to chime in with your thoughts.  So, let’s lay the corpse on the table and start dissecting…

Last night I had a dream about a Whale-man.  I often have dreams concerning whales.  I distinctly remember one such dream several years ago wherein I was a whale floating through outer space.   Groovy, right?  Well, this dream was pretty “far out” too, but it carried with it a more sinister tone.  I dreamt of an immense palace with a large, open ballroom.  There were ornate balconies lining the walls in a saccharin Rococo style reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast.   I was sitting alone on the marble and I was a child.

All of the sudden, the oak doors creaked open and the Whale-man entered the great room, his wet footsteps echoing all around me.  He was dressed as a Count, but had the head of a sperm whale.  I found this picture online, the tone and expression is all wrong but the general idea is correct.  I remember his head being enormous, like the actual head of a whale, though his torso may only have been 7 feet tall.  I think his skin was orange, too.  It was definitely a bright color.  He had a mouth like the picture, but I don’t remember him using it to speak.  I believe he was telepathic.  He was wise beyond his whale-years, I could tell you that.  He was monstrous and it frightened me, but I felt drawn to him and his presence was familiar.  He came up to me and touched me with his hand on the small of my back, as if we were about to dance.  But instead of dancing, we floated up into the air, levitated, if you will.  I knew right then that he was MAGIC.  I felt terribly insecure but he calmed me with a kiss, which I found erotic.  I became embarrassed and paranoid that the Servant would find us.  Servant may not be the right word.  There was a man on the balcony looking for me (his job was to look after me), and he seemed to be like a nurse-maid or pseudo-parental figure… like Zazu from the Lion King ( are you counting the number of Disney references?).

The Whale-man took me straight out of the palace and across the dark ocean.  At this point he morphed into a Seaplane.  We flew close to the skin of the sea and I watched as other whales were following us.  They popped in and out of the sea like wooden puppets.  It was night.  I was worried, but the Whale-man seem to say, “Don’t worry.  I am taking you away.  We are running away together.  Trust me.”

After a long journey we made it to his Castle.  He seemed to say: “Have a look around, my boy;” and so I did.  It was really neat, his Castle that is.  Very dark, lit by candelabra, Gothic.  “Nice place, you got here, Whale-man,” I said.  But he had transformed again.  This time he was dressed back as the Count and was a VERY old  man with a thick mustache.

But I couldn’t focus on this new manifestation; I was too transfixed on the knife he held behind his back with pale, thin hands.  I could see it as he crept toward me because I was viewing things in the third person.  He lunged forward and cut me, I don’t remember where, but it was deep.  For some reason he couldn’t kill me, because I knew who he was now: he was Dracula.  He seemed disappointed.  So he swooped me up into his arms and returned me to the Palace.

I found my father in the Hall of Elders and told him I was raped by Dracula/Whale-Man.  He said the same thing happened to him when he was my age and to his father before him.  I thought it strange that Ole’ Drake had been lurking around my family lineage initiating every male child into some sort of divine molestation for all eternity.  And with that thought, I woke up.