Monday, February 20, 2017

Legion and the Trauma of Metaphysics


It's just about ten years ago that I finished my manuscript for Our Gods Wear Spandex and the perspective that I spelled out in it has become, if not the dominant pop cultural paradigm, then certainly a predominant current within it. 


Superhero movies make billions and keep studios solvent. Superhero TV shows are reliable moneymakers. Conventions attract millions of fans every year. Superhero cosplay is now a major cultural phenomenon. But it wasn't always this way. The entire superhero archetype was gasping for air at the dawn of the new millennium, and a lot of qualified observers were predicting its imminent demise. Funny how times change.


For a while there those same observers were getting a whiff of Batmania Redux. Comics and superhero people are pessimists by default, having seen one too many bubbles burst, one too many promises broken. They were the traumatized stepchildren of pop culture.


But the train just kept on rolling and shows no signs of going off the rails. As I wrote in Spandex, superheroes are essentially palliatives for anxiety, and the superhero renaissance will last as long as widespread anxiety does. 


And if there's anything everyone seems to have in abundance these days, it's definitely anxiety.


Even so, the archetype is mutating. There are a number of TV series, either live or streaming, and some seem to be evolving towards a kind of modern urban noir. Of course, this is simply a return to first principles, since the first modern superheroes weren't in the comics but in the pulp magazines. DC's adaptions still fly the spandex flag (aside from Gotham and Lucifer, of course) but attempt to place their stories in a world at least vaguely familiar in the context of series television.


Then there's Legion.


This has been a radical departure for Marvel Television, which specializes in radical departures. MvTV has been cultivating the less-prominent characters of the comic's vast catalog of characters and making hits out of heroes who aren't perfect, aren't godlike, and seem to suffer like you and I.


Daredevil is blind, Jessica Jones suffers from PTSD, Luke Cage is a former convict. None of them are particularly cheerful, probably because things don't usually work out all that well for them, superpowers or not. 


This is all working off a postmodernist refinement of Stan Lee's "heroes with problems" dictum that helped Marvel crush its competition in the late Sixties and early Seventies. Needless to say, it presents an interesting contrast to the more conventional heroics of the tentpole franchises.


Then we have Legion, a new series based on a character no one outside of comics will have heard of and one that probably never topped anyone's TV adaption wishlist. 


And boy, he's got problems.


Legion's near-perfect pilot is based on a New Mutants (being the first X-Men spinoff, started back in the early 80s) character whose mutant power is multiple personality, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, as it's now called in the DSM-5. Interesting to note that that the series' release follows shortly on the heels of M.Night Shyamalan's controversial DID thriller, Split.


But Legion seems to dispense with the DID aspect of the character in the pilot and presents a character who seems to have gone on a shopping spree at the psychic supermarket. Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Legion seems able to tune into a dizzying spectrum of potential realities and that's his problem: he can't seem to control it. 


He's also a powerful telepath and given to violent explosions of telekinesis when it all gets to be a bit too much for him. This is an old trope, dating back to 70s classics like Carrie and The Fury, but it's rendered beautifully here nonetheless.





If you haven't yet watch the Legion pilot (it's available for free on Amazon Video). Its sixty-eight minutes play more like a feature film, serving up some eye-catching, Kubrick-influenced, widescreen cinematography. 


As with The OA, its sensibility is more pomo than pulp, almost like what a superhero movie would play like as directed by Wes Anderson (the vintage Who and Stones tracks certainly help in that regard). More conventional fans might have a hard time with it.


But at the same time there's a heapin' helping of style on loan from Zack Snyder's criminally-underrated Watchmen movie, particularly in the opening montage. The use of Jane's Addiction's "Up the Beach" in a pivotal scene feels very Watchmen, as does the glossy camera work (and again, use of montage).


Watchmen was targeted- unfairly, in my view- for breaking two unspoken laws of comic adaptions. On one hand Snyder was pilloried by the purists for hammering Alan Moore's sprawling epic into a coherent, self-contained document. And on the other he was slagged off by fans terrified the superhero movie bubble would pop for commercial underperformance (thanks mainly to its hard-R rating).  


But I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that Legion writer/director Noah Hawley probably gave Watchmen a viewing or three. And here I'd like to give Hawley due props, not only for the bullet-proof dialog, but also for the meticulous handling of the pilot's many tonal shifts and mood swings. It only feels a little discordant at the very end, when all of a sudden you're wondering if the characters wandered into another show entirely.


But more importantly Legion seems to fit in with a mini-movement of series mining the narrative possibilities of psi in a way that cheesier and more simplistic treatments a few years earlier failed to do. There are vague yet not-insubstantial echoes of Stranger Things and The OA swimming just below the surface.


It's interesting to note then that Legion premiered just as stories about CIA remote viewing programs have been hitting the mainstream news.


But its conscious tributes to the Sixties- through the musical drops and the visual style- also call to mind the unresolved traumas of MKULTRA, particularly its exploitation of mental patients and other captive subjects. You can practically feel the shade of Ewan Cameron wandering the halls. The name of the hospital-- "Clockwork"-- is an obvious nod to Kubrick's own MKULTRA parable. 


Interesting then that a recent story has it that Congress killed the STARGATE remote viewing program out of concern it could become a new MKULTRA.


And who's to say it wasn't?


Legion doesn't shy away from these implications, as the main character is clearly the victim of a dense, covert and ruthless government conspiracy. The MKULTRA stand-ins are the unambiguous villains of the piece and there's even a mustache-twirling Gottlieb/Cameron analog. There's no question that powerful people are still looking for psychics like main character David (Legion), not to research them but to weaponize them.


The Sixties ambiance of the pilot and the connections to the X-Men Universe can't help but call up memories of hippies latching on to the mutant archetype in order to concretize the vague ambitions of conscious evolution they believed the Aquarian Age represented.


Of course, it didn't quite work out that way.


David's incarceration feels like a metaphor for an increasingly hemmed-in world, where the individual is given less and less room to explore, to self-actualize. There's an entire generation who've grown up unaccustomed to concepts of true autonomy, having been raised in daycare centers and acclimatized to social media. 


It's no accident then that David's powers- which set him far above the herd- feel like a curse, and exercising them is pure torture.


As powerful an ambition as on-call psychic powers are we don't usually think much about the downsides, of the pain such heightened sensitivity would necessarily inflict in an over-saturated, stressed-out, anxiety-drenched world. We don't think about how difficult it might be to switch these perceptions off and how they might expose one to a never-ending deluge of information and emotion. 


That's the power of the Legion pilot, how it rather ruthlessly plays out the implications of broad-spectrum psi and the terrible damage it might inflict on minds that haven't evolved to handle such incredible potential. 


We also don't think about how intolerable it might be if government-controlled psychics were monitoring every passing thought. After all, every technology and human ability is eventually weaponized, isn't it? And if our inner dialogues weren't even safe then I believe we'd all turn into vegetables.


I think we can be grateful that psi doesn't work like it does on TV then. I think we have a lot more potential than we're aware of and I think you can develop your innate sensitivities to a much higher lever than we're presently capable of on the whole, but we should be grateful that Nature seems to have put these potentials in a kind of neural lockbox. For now, at least.


The Surrealist poet Andre Breton thought that schizophrenia was a kind of frontier of genius, and that schizophrenics simply became incapable of processing the barrage of information that geniuses were able to. It's probably no accident that schizophrenia often strikes the highly-intelligent. 


Does it also strike the highly psi-capable? 


How many people- children, especially- are being drugged into stupors simply because they're operating on levels that they can't navigate, processing information coming from channels that the rest of society fails to recognize? We don't even bother with therapy anymore, with finding out just what they might be perceiving. All the major psi operations have been defunded or hounded out of existence.


Is it simply because it's been decided whatever information they might be receiving can't be melted down into a bullet?







SYNC LOG: I  met Legion co-creator Bill Sienkiewicz just as the issue of New Mutants premiering the character hit the stands. He taught for a semester at the Kubert School. He later offered me a job as art assistant but I was unable to relocate to Connecticut (he eventually hired comics artist Amanda Conner). But I later got him to illustrate a New Mutants toy package I designed, working off my layout.  He blew everyone away with the final art. Incredible, one of a kind talent.

34 comments:

  1. Interesting, I wasn't aware of Legion. However, my son asked me to take him to Split this weekend and we went and saw that. I couldn't help but think of your blog during the movie, with all it's deep delving into consciousness and trauma and potentialities of human consciousness.

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    1. There are still Secret Sun-adjacent things being made, which gives me hope, Gus.

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  2. Your point on the psi-capable reminds me of a real life story I heard. An Indian psychologist had a client that happened to be a freemason. The client was a bit obsessive about freemasonry and the magical connections of it, and the psychologist (not that strange for a common person not interested in those subjects) started to think he had bizarre delusions, and diagnosed him as schizophrenic. The misunderstanding was resolved, but then the freemason sued the psychologist, and the judge's verdict was that he psychologist would only be allowed to practice on other people of his same ethnic background (Indians), since he had failed to understand the freemason.

    In short, mistakes with people interested in magic or even with psi abilities being classified as clinically insane most definitely happen, and tend to end up unhappily.

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    1. That's an unfortunate story, for everyone. And one that's only bound to repeat itself in the brave new world order to come, unfortunately. And the other issue here is how the media is constantly pushing psi in TV and movies and constantly repressing any serious talk of it outside, at least huge swathes of the media. Which in itself seems like a kind of mind control.

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  3. I'll have to check this show out; sounds right up my alley, especially with the Kubrick references.
    Of course legion brings to mind Jesus' exorcism of the Gerasenian demoniac. Here Jesus constructed a drama to picture a reaction too complicated to trust to just words. He casts the psychic distress of this man into the swine, which represent human flesh at the cellular level. Recall that they were terrified of being cast into the abyss, and begged rather to be cast into the swine. This shows that these negative psychic accumulations can and must be expended only via the animal flesh in which man is clothed, whereby legion drives it to panic and self-destruction. The question is, as our repressions are reversed and represented to our consciousness, will they be recognized by a wider understanding or will they gather into a host of nameless, unrecognized fears, a mass which can no longer be dealt with one-by-one since they have lost their identity? With these trauma program victims, unfortunately it would seem they truly need a Jesus-type figure to cleanse them or help guide them through their own self-cleanse.

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    1. Thank you for bringing that up, Kent. I've been doing a lot of research into Near Eastern religious practices and specifically the practice of exorcism and the study of demonology in ancient Mesopotamia. Another reason why I believe Jesus was indeed a real person and not a myth is the evidence of Mesopotamian exorcism practice in the New Testament and the emphasis on fighting demons (the Babylonians were extremely worried about demons), as well as the heightened use of fire in metaphor and theophany. The Legion episode in the Mark feels like it is based on a real episode and entirely consonant with ancient traditions.

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    2. Thanks, Chris. I agree with you on the historicity of Jesus and actually wrote a post on my blog about it here:
      https://shiningstranger.wordpress.com/2013/03/05/the-gospels-as-history/
      Ancient Mesopotamian exorcism practices are certainly fascinating. Magic and spirits filled the air then, as they do today, although unrecognized for the most part.

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  4. I was really struck by the direction of "Legion" as well. Typically TV is all about the writing, but both of Legion's first two episodes featured some of the best work behind the camera that I've seen in a while. It really did a superb job of putting the viewer in the schizophrenic world inhabited by the main character. I worry though about the longevity of the show --its unconventional approach is definitely going to seriously challenge audiences.

    Ah, and the music --Whoever is picking the songs has some serious taste. Anyone who picks something off of "Their Satanic Majesties..." for a Stones track deserves some props. And the use of Jane's Additions was fantastic.

    It is curious how the interest in psi has undergone such a vigorous reawakening over the past year or so. Between "Stranger Things" and the like and recent CIA revelations, the public is getting its clearest glimpse yet into this murky netherworld. And the continued association with CIA/Pentagon behavior modification projects is even more ominous, considering the current geopolitical realities. We heading down on a strange path, that is for sure.

    BTW, "Taboo" is quite good as well --possibly the best period piece on TV since "Deadwood." But in "Taboo", the main character appears to be a sorcerer
    engaged in intrigues against the emerging United States, the British Empire, and the Honorable East India Company.

    FX appears to be going down its own strange path as well.


    -Recluse

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation, Recluse. I'll be sure to check Taboo out and hopefully do a post on it. It sounds interesting and your opinion is highly honored around these parts. And yes, the music was great and the 60s cuts sounded pristine. Better than I've ever heard them.

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    2. Chris-

      Thank you very much! I hope you enjoy the show --its not the most mystical one out there, but I find its cynicism and un-romantic take on complex history to be most refreshing. Like "Deadwood," it presents a world view that dispenses with the old Hollywood hero worship.

      -Recluse

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  5. Sydney/Syd Barrett was a big clunky piece of reference, I have to be that guy, heh.

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    1. Yeah, but unfortunately that's what happens when you get older. That stuff starts to grate when once it all felt new. It's how our parents felt when they saw those kinds of shout-outs in TV shows we liked.

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  6. Legion co-creator Bill Sienkiewicz also illustrated "Shadowplay: the Secret Team", and excellent graphic novel written by Alan Moore and included in the trade paperback "Brought to Light" https://archive.org/details/BroughtToLightShadowplayTheSecretTeam

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    1. Yeah, Bill is a true art god. And a hell of a great guy.

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  7. "All the major psi operations have been defunded or hounded out of existence." Or, more probably, spun off into corporate cutouts to keep the work off the books.

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    1. Yeah, that's the other potentiality there.

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  8. For we are many, indeed. I believe in 2017 we find ourselves in a very bizarre place. In an increasingly hemmed-in world as you point out, Chris. Marginalized, monitored and mediated at every single turn. An atomised post-postmodern culture. But at the same time I believe the Veil is Lifting, the Apocalypse is occurring as we speak. This puts us in a weird transitional state, I believe. And the pop culture that has really caught fire recently seems to reflect this. Something about this reminds me of the metaphysical liminality of London and England in the late 1960s, through the 1970s and into the mid-80s. A weird nexus of folklore, occult, spirituality and cutting-edge science, as well as conspiracy themes entering more prominently into public imagination and discourse. Beyond the Black Rainbow, A Cure For Wellness, Stranger Things, The OA and Legion all tap into or play on this paranoid, multiform sub-rosa quality that seemed to heavily influence the postwar generation. It's difficult to explain clearly, but there's so much nuance and 'stuff' here. We're just scratching the surface of how history, the occult, science and the paranormal intermingle in numerous ways. The Past and the Future are both getting closer and closer. I think we have some way to go yet before we begin to fully grasp what that might mean, before we begin to fully explore such notions artistically. What is coming has been done before. I think we're going to see an increasingly Jacques Vallee or Keelian bent to our pop culture as we move forward now, but harder-edged, because nothing less than that will really conjure or move with or resonate with the energies present at this time. And be prepared for The Secret Sun to be homaged or alluded to or sadly just plain ripped off by screenwriters and pop-cultural artists, such is its hidden centrality in all this weirdness. Just my take, anyway. Excellent stuff as always, Chris!

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    1. // I think we're going to see an increasingly Jacques Vallee or Keelian bent to our pop culture as we move forward now, but harder-edged//

      No doubt that has already begun to happen. Part of that, directly or indirectly, is connected to the influence of Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Cf. Keel's early inspiration (for Magonia, among other writings), Walter Evans-Wentz. And I'm afraid you're right about "just plain ripped off". I lurked here for years, like a man savoring a secret stash. What about the ambitious lurker-writer-sharks, I'm wondering. There's got to be a bunch of them. I mean, lurking over words, paper and keyboards is what writers do. Add ambition, stealth and dollop of selfishness, and one has a potentially successful media writer/producer. Most of us here are Zeitgeist hunters, professionally (which means, undercompensated for our best work) -- but there should also be random poachers, as well as wealthy expeditioneers looking for trophies or valuable black-market ivories in bulk.

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    2. Thanks, Raj. And well said- I'm glad you brought up Black Rainbow, which definitely seems to be an influence here. Great catch, I hadn't thought of that. But you know, I just had the strangest thought pop into my head- what if all this police state pressure and electronic surveillance is part of a process to keep humanity under some kind of control because "they" are afraid of some kind of psychogenic revolution arising out of the collective unconscious? It sounds absolutely ridiculous, I'll admit. But then again, there's Childhood's End and Clarke was one connected dude. And there seems to be a lot of this stuff bubbling to the surface these days.

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    3. You know, I just read a section of Jay Steven's excellent "Storming Heaven" where he noted that several of the early acid gurus such as Huxley and Owsley believed that LSD was a gift from the heaviness to enable humanity to deal with splitting of the atom (both were discovered around the same time). When on examines the scene in San Francisco and the surrounding area in the mid-1960s, one is struck by how many individuals believed that they were at the forefront of a new civilization and even a new "group mind." People were obsessed with the coming "next thing." And as a reader noted above, the concept of the "mutant" (from "Morning of the Magicians") was starting to enter into the counterculture as well.

      And then the scene started to get ugly around 1966. It was confronted on the one hand with attempts to commercialize it and on other to suppress it. MKOFTEN was also initiated around this time while heroin and speed started to flood the market.

      The counterculture was effectively destroyed after these developments and replaced with the increasingly defanged New Age movement and the Jesus freaks who would soon transform into the neo-Christian right.

      As such, I don't find your concept of "psychogenic revolution" outlandish at all. If anything, we appear to have been well on our way towards one around '65, but then a collective decision was made to try and put the genie back in the bottle. By 1980 a new Christian fundamentalist had taken hold that would dominate that nation's spirituality until at least the mid-00s. From there a bid has been made to replace it with the nu atheism.

      Clearly, it hasn't been especially effective and the old weirdness is once again rising to surface. Curiously (or not), the police/surveillance state appears to have advanced in proportion to the recession of the old faiths. To paraphrase "Star Wars," it seems that the tighter the grip, the more individuals slip through the fingers of whoever is behind this madness.


      -Recluse

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    4. It's interesting to chart how the themes shifted in the mid 60s, with the rise of Satanism and slasher movies and biker culture and the rest of it. In a strange kind of way it reminds me of Videodrome, which come to think of it really isn't that strange. It seems like there's been a push and pull over the years when it comes to MK programs and their repercussions but now it feels like the glove's been taken off the iron fist. And that process began a long time before this past election.

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  9. Glad you were able to check this out. Not sure what I was thinking when it came to comparing it to Beyond the Black Rainbow, might have been thinking of something else when I wrote that...but also have been out of my mind on cold/flu meds for better part of two weeks now--caught the literal bug from hell. Anyways, funny comment regarding comparison to a Wes Anderson film, for some reason seeing Dan Stevens in a tracksuit reminded me of Ben Stiller in The Royal Tenenbaums...Not sure how I missed the The Watchmen influence though, thanks for pointing that out, seems so obvious now.

    Just wanted to add that regarding mental illness & psi--I met a woman years ago who worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, she used to tell me a lot of eerie stories about schizophrenic patients displaying sporadic bouts of telepathy. She'd be on her rounds, & suddenly whatever she was thinking about, one of the patients would comment on, in detail. She said it was a fairly commonplace experience for people working there but that no one ever really talked about it, or wanted to. I don't know how one ignores something like that! I also wonder how widespread said experiences are in such settings.

    BTW: Have you seen the 2nd ep? Without being spoilery, there is a scene where Melanie Bird & Ptonomy Wallace are exploring David's memories, & they're sitting at a table holding these metal rods which very strongly reminded me of a Scientology audit.

    Finally, with regards to the comment:
    "The Sixties ambiance of the pilot and the connections to the X-Men Universe can't help but call up memories of hippies latching on to the mutant archetype in order to concretize the vague ambitions of conscious evolution they believed the Aquarian Age represented." What are your thoughts regarding the possible impact of "Morning of the Magicians" on the development of the X-Men? Because the last chapter in that book is called "“Some Reflections On the Mutants”. & it reads like a treatment for an X-Men film or TV show, never mind the comic. Is this something Kirby would have probably read? Did it influence later writers of the franchise? Just curious.



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    1. David, curiously I've also heard very similar stories from nurses regarding mental illness and PSI. My context is a little different though. I came to this info through exploring the history, myth and legend surrounding London's old Victorian hospitals - I'm a Victorian history/literature nerd. There was an entire sub-culture connected to folk myths and the paranormal among the nursing communities of Victorian London. Similar communities exist today in different forms, not just nurses and carers, especially among the outcasts and homeless and illegals that dwell on modern society's fringes and edgelands. The link between psyche and PSI is very familiar to them, just as it was to their Victorian counterparts. Cheers.

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    2. Well guys, I don't want to be Debbie Downer but that may well be exactly why MKULTRA did so much LSD research in mental hospitals. And on children in mental hospitals. Gottlieb and crew weren't just after Manchurian Candidates, they had much more grandiose ambitions. And one of those was kicking at the doors of reality itself. MKOFTEN approached that from the dark side.

      The Scientology reference is very interesting because of the obvious parallels to The 4400, which informs a lot of these pomo superhero narratives and was riddled with Scientology references and symbols, for whatever reason.

      I think it's highly probable both Lee and Kirby read Morning of the Magicians. It was a huge hit in certain circles and it was their job to keep abreast of trends like that. Kirby was a voracious student of the outre but even Lee's work shows a lot of evidence of interesting reading

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  10. Hip Hip hooray. It's just about ten years since I started reading your work. Today I am wondering out loud, just how many creative narratives in popular media we've seen already, or will see soon enough, that have -- secretly or not -- derived inspiration thereby. And I'm thinking zero degrees of separation, at the level of research. If just about any of us put our minds to it, and used the right connections, we could have built a writer's career on Chris' back. I lurked here for years, writing about other subjects and in non-fiction genres for a living. What about all the creative lurkers? Perhaps your Google analytics stats could yield some interesting data regarding the reading habits (i.e., inc. referring url) of your lurkers, versus those of your regular readers who posted comments over time. I.e., just how many passionate, longtime (if former) lurkers...good research project to hand off to a grad student, or artificially intelligent organism, or to a grad student that is also an artificially intelligent organism...

    In any case, you deserve an honorary doctorate as much as anyone I know. And for this and recent posts, a medal shaped like a pen that also shoots a James-Bond-grade net made of fine gold chains, large enough to snatch a hardcover book away from someone. On the little plaque at the base, it would read your name and the title, "Zeitgeist Hunter". He he.

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    1. Well, I do get a lot of traffic from the Los Angeles area and I've heard there are certain people in the movie industry who are fans. I've covered a lot of the same issues other people have but I suppose I've connected dots in ways they haven't, which might just be an artifact of my obtuse neurology. Gordon says I look at everything sideways, whatever that means. I'll take it as a compliment. But I greatly appreciate the kind words, Vagchandra, and I greatly appreciate your support.

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  11. Well written as usual!

    Lately, I have been reading quite a bit about 'predictive programming' in the media (the most prolific example being the numerous World Trade Centre destruction suggestions throughout 90's television). Taking into account the apparent numerical planning on the part of the 'elite', it does seem that everything is preordained to occur a certain way based on their efforts.

    But I have to say, as much as I CAN comprehend 'their' ability to control the world with monetary laws and abusive/unnatural living conditions, I honestly can't seem to wrap my head around how 'their' behaviour could be so well organised, or for that matter, what they could have experienced to have them believe their cultic devotion to assholery would condition them for spiritual superiority. Or am I missing something? If we can all agree that SOME people SOMEwhere are making efforts to deceive the masses for personal gain, it's strange that I have yet to see anybody explain (in a non-outlandish way) what the 'elite' think they will ultimately get out of it, other than a perpetual place at 'the top'. I mean, I'm left to feel like some highly drugged out freaks happen to be rich and the laymen are just too busy making ends meet for centuries to bother fixing the messed up powers that are governing them. But that can't be true if these people are so clever and manipulative...right? I guess this is why so many people do end up settling for the evil reptiles playing 'puppeteer' idea.
    Anyhow, it's equally fascinating and annoying to see these highly suggestive and creative shows coming out in the bowl fulls over the last several years. At this point it seems like the ONLY shows are meta/subliminally suggestive preternatural eye candies.

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    1. It's interesting to see what slips through and what it portends. The elites are by no means monolithic or unified, in fact history shows that they spend a good deal of their time fighting with each other. Many a new world order has crashed to the ground because of palace intrigues. In the meantime we have our stories and that's something we need to exercise sovereignty over. When all else fails you can tell stories with paper and pen. I thin the stories that get co-opted eventually collapse because they don't speak to people on their own level, they don't tell the truth. But there is so much programming out there, which makes my job difficult.

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    2. I agree entirely! If the world's sensibilities are slick with story telling, we should put a little of our own insight out there ourselves. And, yeah, the elites couldn't be monolithic, but it's still so, well, disturbing that I know things AREN'T going smoothly on the ground in a lot of places (including america) yet somehow I'VE never personally seen any obvious dissent in the streets where I live. And seeing this dissent and how it's covered up is really the only way in which to get a feel for how UNorganised the elites often are. Ironically, I think that seeing the use of brute force is the best way to believe in the vulnerabilities of a regime.

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    3. What 'we' tend to see or label as 'they' used to be explained by angels and demons. In other words, some kind of higher/lower power must be used to explain the inscrutable collusion of the haves to maintain their dominance over the have-nots. And somewhere in between those two groups emerge an invisible elite, those who "have" something of an alliance with the invisibles, who then become allied either to the 'haves', the 'have nots', or maintain something like a renegade existence that belongs to both or neither. Once in a while one of those slips off into the woods or mountains and comes back 'enlightened'. Or so one hopes. The rest, if they are mentally healthy enough to be able to make a living, become psychics, shrinks, spies or some other breed of (un-)savory character.

      But funny how close the rebel/warrior/spy is allied, when you dig into the popular cultural manifestations, to the 'yogi'. Note further that while 'yogi' means something sorta good -- or sorta heavy, as in Bikram -- nowadays in America, in India the mere suggestion of a "yogi" passing through town causes families to put their children under lock and key, and not to accept any food or drink from kindly strangers. Someone I know who spent years in India living as a wandering sadhu was nearly stoned to death by a mob who mistook him for the "yogi" that had recently committed crimes in the area.

      This sort of anecdote supports my ideological commitment to being a Marxist, or rather, a Marxian Grouchist, who belongs to no club that would consider him seriously as a member. My grouchy rebellion is flaring up even as I savor _Legion_, because frankly, it might as well be a recruiting device for folks like us. I'm not liking my level of suggestibility regarding these things...belief in oneself is dangerous, as much as as it is necessary..

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  12. Chris - I've never before read such an empathetic and knowledgeable treatise on the brutal side-effects of (often unearned) psychic abilities. I'm inclined to believe that some measure of that quality derives from your personal history.

    Your writing here moved me in a rare and genuine way. These experiences are so far outside of what's okay to acknowledge in our culture that the memories and consequences of them tend to be hidden in a private realm. It gets lonesome there sometimes. Thank you so much for posting this. (also for yours and others comments)

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    1. Thank you very much, X. You're definitely among friends here.

      One thing I know all too well about is pain, so I can empathize with anyone dealing with it. And when the mind doesn't quite work the way it's supposed to, and when it starts tuning in on signals that we're not supposed to acknowledge that can only create dissonance at the very least, which itself leads to pain.

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  13. I don't watch TV. So thanks for giving me the Cliff's Notes to a lot of this stuff.

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  14. Note not to be confused with a movie of the same name on amazon.the pilot for the show legion is on Hulu.

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