Friday, September 30, 2005

David Lynch at Yale

Last month I found out that David Lynch would be giving a lecture at Yale, as part of a promotional tour for the David Lynch Foundation, an organization he's in charge of that's designed to promote meditation as a part of education in schools. Lynch is one of my favorite filmmakers, and is the creator of my favorite TV series, Twin Peaks, so this was an essential event for me. According to the promotional material, the lecture was going to be on "Consciousness, Creativity and the Brain," so I wasn't expecting something exclusively about his films, but still, I was rather disappointed by what went down.

The event opened with a roughly twenty minute Q&A period with Lynch, where people could ask questions about his films. I got on line to ask a question, but never made it to the front. Anyway, there was some interesting territory covered here. Someone asked about whether Lynch would work with Kyle McLachlan again, and he said he wanted to, but there just hadn't been a project where Kyle would fit. And looking at the three films he's made since Fire Walk With Me, I'd agree. Personally, Kyle was so good at playing Cooper, I have trouble seeing him as any other character. So, Lynch would either have to place him in someone very close to that role, or someone so far removed from it that he's barely recognizable.

Lynch also talked a bit about the process by which he created the music for his films, describing scenes to Angelo Badalamenti as Angelo worked out music to accompany it, which is pretty cool. Angelo's stuff for Twin Peaks is phenomenal, but I don't notice it that much in Lynch's other work, he's got some great cues in the second half of Mulholland Dr., but I don't see his music as so completely essential to most of Lynch's films as some other scores are. Lynch also made the good point that you can't just use your favorite songs in the movie, which is why he had to wait ten years to find a way to fit This Mortal Coil's 'Song to the Siren,' into one of his films.

He also talked about his move to digital filmmaking. He's using the Sony PD150, a camera I love. I used the PD170 to shoot 'Ricky Frost,' so I'm actually using a better camera than Lynch. I'm using film in my production class this semester, and coming from digital, it's extremely annoying and restrictive, something Lynch echoed, discussing the freedom that digital gives him. I love being able to hold the PD170 in my hand and just shoot a scene anyway I like, instead of having to have someone else doing focus, and struggling to run the camera as I shoot. So, I'm in total agreement here, digital is much better as a filmmaker, though the question still lingers of whether the footage looks as good as film.

He also talked some about his intuitive creative process, relying on instinct to construct films. However, the vast majority of the event was focused on the meditation stuff. Now, I'm well aware of the beneficial effects of meditation, but the way it was presented here was both off putting and boring. Lynch was used as an attraction to get you in the door, so that you'd have to listen to Dr. Jon Hegeland, a physicist who appeared in the awful film 'What the Bleep Do You Know?' This was a film that touched on many of the same issues he discussed tonight, fit into a story that starts out as an educational video level narrative, then descends into an absoultely bizarre blend of lowbrow humor and scenes that are supposed to comment on the stuff they're discussing, but just turn out being bad.

Anyway, this guy was an awful speaker, going on forever in a boring way, and the subsequent demonstration of the power of meditation on the brain using an EEG was so fraught by technical difficulties, it was rendered essentially meaningless. But, I've got a greater problem with the whole foundation. They're all about spreading the power of meditation, so during a two hour presentation they don't actually show you any of the techniques, they just try to get you to sign up for their programs. That leads me to believe that the event isn't so much about promoting meditation as promoting what their organization is selling.

I think it would have been much more effective to give us a how to guide to TM, step by step, simple, and encourage people to pursue it on their own. This would have been much better than just going on about its power and how easy it is, without telling us actually how to do it. That's all I wanted to know, and they didn't give it to me, but I don't really want to go to a class or something to find out, so now I'm not going to pursue it.

So, I sat through this presentation because Lynch was going to be doing more Q&A after. Now, I suspect a couple of the people in this segment of the Q&A were plants, just because they asked very specific questions that allowed David to go on about meditating for a while, and they used all the terminology he had used, in a way that indicates they had pre-existing knowledge of what David's speaking about, and the specific terms he uses.

Anyway, the event was marred by the fact that people asked the worst questions I've ever heard, absoultely apalling. First off, everyone prefaced their question with a couple of minutes about themselves, absoultely pointless speaking about how they're big fans, and respect him and stuff. If you're at the event he probably knows that, and we don't need to hear. There's three minutes of intro and then ten seconds to ask the question, just ask your question and get off the mic, nobody cares about you.

And then there's people who took a step further, one girl did that speech just so she could give David a copy of one of her films, and another guy was there just to tell David about his psychiatric condition (seriously), and another to ask David if he'd seen a film about another meditation technique.

If you have a chance to ask David Lynch anything, don't ask him these stupid questions. The man who created Twin Peaks does not need to hear about your schizophrenia when he could be talking about his creative process and clarifying things about the films. This guy has such a font of knowledge that only one man in the world has, so let's hear from him. It's like if Jesus came back and did a Q&A, and people spent all the time saying how they're big fans, you've only got Jesus for an hour, there's more important things to discuss than the fact that you're a fan.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to ask Lynch a question, and he left the venue so quickly after the event I couldn't talk to him at all. I think it's a nice thing to do to stick around for a few minutes after and talk with your fans. It means a lot to them and doesn't take you long. I know with the most recent Joss event, I was annoyed by the questions, but I left with a good feeling because I got to talk to him after.

So, I'm glad I went to the event, but I'm a bit annoyed that Lynch was just used to get people in the door to listen to this presentation on TM, and I feel like they're approaching that in the wrong way. Meditation isn't something that should be bought or sold, as they seem to be doing, I'd love it if they went on a tour teaching people to meditate, instead they're trying to get people into their organization and no actual meditation happened. And the awful questions made me think more negatively of humanity as a whole. My god, those questions, there were three decent ones out of roughly fifteen asked.


Anonymous said...
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Scott said...

What a well-written accounting of a DL event~ thanks for the buzz! As for the format of presentation for meditation techniques being boring, I heartily agree. It is, however, not surprising in an academic setting. Your entry doesn't suggest that Lynch was having very much fun. The only lively part seemed to be your description of how much he likes digital. I guess this was a free event? If so, I would be even less surprised about the lack of didactic content on TM (Transcendental Meditation I presume?). I have been annoyed for years that yoga and meditation classes aren't more affordable for people who could really use them: The poor and working class. I mean, one class a week for $14-18 per class is hard to justify and you get about a six-week course-length around here in Georgia. That is based on my student budget, which is pretty small. On a brighter note, I attended the annual national Rainbow gathering in W.Va. this summer. This was everything good about "hippie" that I ever hoped for. Free yoga classes all day every day for about two or three weeks, out in the middle of a natural area, no cars, no infrastructure, nothing but a lot of sharing. These classes in the woods were filled with pauses where the different masters would expound on the technique verbally, talk about its political 'fit' in different parts of the world, and bring humor and levity to what can sometimes come off as dry and rote when you take it through a yoga center (not always of course, some centers are better than others). I just wanted to say that I think there are good reasons for finding a more positive access to these techniques than a University auditorium. Peace. DL is the man.

Patrick said...

Definitely, they approached the whole thing from a very scientific perspective, trying to use scientific data to show the benefits of meditation whereas when you actually do it, you'll feel better, you don't need scientific data to show you that.

The presentation was very similar to the stuff discussed in the film 'What the Bleep Do You Know,' which labored so hard to use scientific data to prove its points, it obscured the very things it was supposed to be discussing. And any time Flubber is used to try to expose the nature of the universe, you know something's gone awry.

Anonymous said...

The reason they didn't show you how to do the meditation technique is because they charge $3000 a person to learn transcendental meditation. I saw the same lecture in Seattle and was also surprised by the amount of stupid questions!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The reason they don't tell you how to meditate is because you have to attend a session in which you are analysed and given a mantra that is correct for you, that repetition of incorrect mantras - as wierd as it seems - has actually been proven harmful, and that without expert guidance by a professional, meditation can be bad for you on many levels.

Spreading inadequate introductory information on the subject and persuading you to go try it on your own would be a bad idea. I practiced a different type of meditation for about a year. I learned the technique from discussions with friends who are practicing buddhists and from books. In the end, I realised that I was practicing the technique incorrectly and it was becoming harmful. I had retarded myself and isolated myself from my emotions. The practice of thoughtlessness and stillness of mind came to dominate my life and I became naieve, idiotic, and emotionaly out of touch with myself. I was misusing a meditative technique like one might misuse alcholohol or drugs. This is because I was never properly instructed by a teacher.

My Dad, an otherwise sceptical and hard-nosed, rational human being, tried TM when going through some anger management issues. Its effects were stunning. He agrees with me that you really have to learn it from a teacher, one-on-one to make sure you are doing it correctly. It's not something you could learn in a couple of hours at a seminar.