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Monday, July 26, 2021

Prometheus Rising exercise and discussion group, Week 42

Donald Duck 

By Eric Wagner
Special guest blogger

Notes on Chapter 4:

In 2021 I watched a few Three Stooges short films and Abbott and Costello’s Buck Privates (1941). I had recently watched Full Metal Jacket (1987) for the first time in over twenty years, and I found it interesting to see the similarities between Buck Privates and Full Metal Jacket. They both deal with an overweight private going through basic training. Of course Buck Privates functions primarily as a comedy. Watching both films one can see the radical changes in society and cinema from 1941 to 1987. The world of Buck Privates has no sense of the Holocaust or the atomic bomb or of anything going on in Europe at the time. In Full Metal Jacket the drill sergeant seems at all times aware of the possibility of death awaiting his Marines in Vietnam. I also just rewatched the film Conspiracy (2001), a chilling film which deals with the January 20, 1942, Wannsee Conference, a meeting held by Reinhard Heydrich where he coordinated the bureaucracy of the Holocaust. Conspiracy deals with the horror of men outlining mass murder in relative calm that reminds me far too much of many work meetings I have attended over the years. 

I spent over three hours last Sunday watching animal shows on TV. I went to work Monday and observed “the primate pack hierarchy.” One of the TV shows on monkeys opened with the theme from The Monkees which I coincidentally quoted to open my last blog post. The last TV show I watched dealt with relocating a lab chimp to a refuge in Louisiana. Before going to work on Monday I saw this on Facebook: “You’re now cursed with the job the main character has in the last movie/TV show you watched. What’s your new profession?” 

I answered, “Lab chimp.” At work I found myself wondering in a Phildickian mood, “Perhaps I am a lab chimp. My last 23 years teaching high school might have been part of an experiment that has gotten cancelled due to new legislation, and my keepers have decided to relocate me to a teacher refuge in Louisiana. That would explain a lot.” On the show the keepers put bananas in the trees in the refuge and poured apple sauce into artificial termite mounds. Coincidentally I had brought two bananas and some apple sauce in my lunch that day, as I did most days. I wonder what my keepers think of this blog? Does it make them smile and think, “He’s adapting nicely.”  

I have meditated a half hour a day for the past 21 days. I hope to meditate for the next ten days. The two days after that I have a teacher training scheduled where I well may run into “someone who always manages to upset you or make you defensive.” Lucky me. I have never established a steady meditation practice, but I have done one month blocks a number of times when working through Prometheus Rising. I never had as much trouble keeping a month-long streak doing as I have this year. I guess my life has become more distracted.  

Notes on Chapter 5 

1. Looking at the Leary Interpersonal Grid on page 55 of Prometheus Rising, Scarlett O’Hara seems most often to fall in the IMPATIENT WITH OTHERS, SELF-SEEKING, SARCASTIC box on the far left of the diagram. Over the course of the novel (and the film) she shows a lot of different aspects of her personality. Turner Classic Movies created a nice introduction where Black scholar Jacqueline Stewart puts the film in historical perspective. Bill Maher complained that we don’t need introductions like these because “We know the history,” but I liked the introduction, and if I teach this film again, I would like to show this introduction to the class. When I taught his novel to a tenth-grade English class, a student called Scarlett “a twentieth century woman stuck in the nineteenth century.” I like that analysis. 

2. King Kong seems SELF-RELIANT AND ASSERTIVE, SELF-CONFIDENT, INDEPENDENT, especially before he encounters Fay Wray32. Kong seems to function as solitary peak predator during the early part of the film. 

3. Odysseus seems to function mostly in the HOSTILE STRENGTH quadrant. My friend Dr. Craig Hargis suggests that Odysseus as the complete human functions in all areas of the grid, but to me he rarely seems SPINELESS or a CLINGING VINE. 

4. Dr. Hargis made the same observation about Hamlet, seeing him acting in all areas of the grid. It seems to me Hamlet spends a lot of time SKEPTICAL, OFTEN GLOOMY, RESENTS BEING BOSSED. Having watched and read this play repeatedly over the past half century, I do not claim to know what Shakespeare really had in mind. Harold Bloom called Hamlet the “Poem Unlimited”. 

5. Like Scarlett O’Hara, Bugs Bunny frequently falls in the IMPATIENT WITH OTHERS, SELF-SEEKING, SARCASTIC box, but he acts in a trickster, ludic fashion. He can certainly COMPLAIN IF NECESSARY, and he sometimes acts FRIENDLY and CONSIDERATE. 

6. I read Portnoy’s Complaint (1969) by Phillip Roth back in the late 1980’s when working through Prometheus Rising. I found it interesting to reread the novel in 2021. It certainly demonstrates the quantum leap in allowable depictions of sexuality since the publication of Ulysses in 1922. Also, in the decades since I had first read Portnoy’s Complaint I read a number of other narratives about growing up as a Jewish male in the United States which had made me think of Portnoy’s Complaint such as I, Wabenzi by Rafi Zabor, The Miranda Complex by Barry Smolin, and various writings by Louis Zukofsky. Portnoy seems to spend a lot of time in the BITTER, RESENTFUL, COMPLAINING box.  

7. In Ishtar Rising Bob Wilson calls Leopold Bloom “a completely oral personality.” Bloom seems FRIENDLY, CONSIDERATE, and HELPFUL. He certainly has a different personality than his model Odysseus. Where Portnoy certainly considers himself Jewish, Bloom usually does not except when confronted by the anti-Semitic Citizen. However, the other characters in the novel overwhelmingly perceive Bloom as a Jew. 

8. Nixon seems a challenge; he often falls in the SHREWD AND CALCULATING, ONLY THINKS OF HIMSELF, SELFISH box, but I suspect that he usually perceived himself as acting in the national interest. Preparing to write on this chapter I rewatched Frost/Nixon which gives an interesting McLuhanesque picture of the role of television in the creation of the national image of Richard Nixon. 

9. Thomas Jefferson: a great writer, a slave owner, and a rapist. I remember talking with Bob Wilson about Thomas Jefferson the last time I saw Bob in 2000 at a Richard Bandler Neuro-linguistic Programming workshop in Anaheim. We talked about how people in the future might judge us for actions which many accept today. I think of how some Americans consider abortion murder and some Americans consider eating meat murder. Jefferson’s public image has declined in the decades since Bob and I had that conversation. Bob used to watch the musical 1776 every year on the Fourth of July. I just finished rewatching it on July 4, 2021. That film certainly whitewashes the troublesome aspects of Jefferson’s life. On the Interpersonal Grid Jefferson seems to often fall into the MAKES A GOOD IMPRESSION, OFTEN ADMIRED, RESPECTED BY OTHERS box. 

10. Karen Armstrong suggests that St. Paul didn’t actually write some of the letters attributed to him in the New Testament. She sees him as a much more revolutionary figure than many of his critics do. She sees what some see as Paul’s misogyny as the contribution of later writers, and she sees Paul’s attitudes as closer to those of the historical Jesus. He might fall in the “LOVES EVERYONE” and “TRIES TO COMFORT EVERYONE” boxes. I know this differs from the Nietzschean perception of Paul. 

11. Donald Duck seems a great example of hostile weakness. Interestingly, in the Disney cartoons Mickey Mouse seems an example of friendly strength and Goofy of friendly weakness. Pete seems an example of hostile strength, and Minnie has a touch of hostile strength with her cutting sense of humor. Donald’s behavior often falls in the BITTER, RESENTFUL, COMPLAINING box.  

12. Iago seems to fall in the CRUEL AND UNKIND box. Orson Welles saw impotence as the heart of Iago’s problem. Hate seems to fuel a lot of Iago’s behavior. Leslie Fiedler wrote a terrific book called The Stranger in Shakespeare. It focuses on the outsiders in Shakespeare’s plays: the Woman Joan of Arc in 1 Henry VI, the Moor Othello in Othello, the Jew Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, and the Native Caliban in The Tempest. Fiedler saw Iago as motivated by homosexual jealousy. 

13. Jane Eyre seems one of the most centered characters Wilson asks the reader to analyze. She seems SELF-RESPECTING, HELPFUL, CONSIDERATE, FRIENDLY, COOPERATIVE, and APPRECIATIVE. She CAN BE OBEDIENT, CAN COMPLAIN IF NECESSARY, CAN BE FRANK AND HONEST, and CAN BE STRICT IF NECESSARY. She seems ABLE TO CRITICIZE SELF, ABLE TO DOUBT OTHERS, and ABLE TO TAKE CARE OF SELF. She often has behaviors in all of the boxes in the inner circle of the Interpersonal Grid except for WELL THOUGHT OF, but that changes by the end of the novel. I love film historian David Thomson, and he loved the 2011 film version of Jane Eyre and wrote disparagingly of the 1943 version starring Orson Welles. I loved the 2011 film as well, but when I reread the novel I kept hearing Rochester speaking in Orson Welles’ voice. 

14. Joseph Stalin seems to fall into the DICTATORIAL box. Stalin’s alcoholic father beat him as a child. I find the mix of fictional and historical characters on this list interesting. Of course, fictional accounts have shaped my perceptions of many of the historical figures, especially Joan of Arc and Thomas Jefferson. 

15. Films have really shaped my perceptions of Joan of Arc, especially Rivette’s two-part film Joan the Maiden (1994) and Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). As a visionary, her behavior doesn’t fit in the Interpersonal Grid as easily as does that of most others on this list. She CAN BE OBEDIENT, she seems ABLE TO GIVE ORDERS, and sometimes her behavior falls in the MANAGES OTHERS, DOMINATING, BOSSY box. 

16. Dr. Tim seems like a somewhat centered person who could move into all four quadrants when necessary. He seems ABLE TO DOUBT OTHERS and ABLE TO CRITICIZE SELF. He often seemed SELF-RELIANT AND ASSERTIVE, SELF-CONFIDENT, INDEPENDENT. 


18. Dr Wilson, like Dr. Tim, seems a rather centered person. He seems HELPFUL, CONSIDERATE, and FRIENDLY, but he could COMPLAIN IF NECESSARY. He rarely seemed OBEDIENT. 

19. Mao once again seems DICTATORIAL. As with Stalin, Mao’s father beat him as a child.  

20. Carl Jung seems rather centered. His autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections gives an interesting view of his world. 

21. The Wikipedia page on the Secret Chiefs talks about the Sufi “cosmic spiritual hierarchy”. As with Joan of Arc, these sorts of visionary personalities don’t behave in the same way as ordinary people, and their behavior doesn’t fall as simply into the Interpersonal Grid.  

22. Hannibal Lector terrifies me. Bob Wilson said he would have liked to have dinner with Dr. Lector. I would want to stay very far away from him. Lector tends to kill most people who perceive his murderous nature. He doesn’t choose to kill Clarice Starling, however, since he finds a world with Starling alive a more interesting world. Perhaps he would have found a world with Bob Wilson alive a more interesting world as well. Lector’s behavior often falls in the CRUEL AND UNKIND box. 

23. I seem somewhat centered, but all too often I fall in the SKEPTICAL, OFTEN GLOOMY, RESENTS BEING BOSSED box. 


Eric Wagner said...

Tom, I loved your piece in New Trajectories.

Oz, I loved your piece too.

Eric Wagner said...

By the way, thinking of Tom’s article, Bob Wilson also dug Nero Wolfe.

Rarebit Fiend said...

There's too much here to respond to Eric without constantly rechecking the article. However, I want to say THANK YOU for doing this- your post was a great read.

I have rewatched "Conspiracy" at least twice since one of my professors screened it in class. It is such a morbid and disturbing film, yet I can't help but appreciate the horror. Kenneth Branagh is wonderful, except as Poirot.

Harold Bloom gushes over Iago in his "Shakespeare: The Invention of Humanity." You don't seem as impressed. I never really cared for "Othello" and mostly remember Maggie Smith as Desdemona. Funnily enough, Laurence Olivier in blackface hasn't stuck in my memory.

One of the worst choices in my entire life was watching the Mel Gibson (mea culpa) "Hamlet" while I was already depressed. Somehow that play always makes me horribly sad. I taught it in an AP class while I was observing and it affected me a lot more than I anticipated. I can't remember the context for the life of me but I'll always remember my father, in a heated conversation, telling me "I always thought Shakespeare was a fucking nut."

I really need to read the newish translations of the Pauline Epistles which evidently reveal his writings were much closer than the Gnostic texts than the misrepresented translations of history.

Spookah said...

Thank you for this great post, Eric!
Once again, what a pleasure to be going through PR with such a RAW scholar like you.
And thanks a lot for bringing Syd Barrett to Ingolstadt.
The lunatic is in my head...

I have been having a hard time doing some of the exercizes "on time" to follow the reading rhythm, but I keep at them nonetheless. The way I see it, rather than doing it once and see what happens, I try to integrate them in my life on a more durable time scale.

For instance, I try to think of human behavior whenever I see animals in real life or on screen, and vice versa.

I have repeteadly failed at doing meditation twice a day, but I do it at least once and will keep on doing so, well, perhaps forever. I also starting to read Undoing Yourself. As a writer, I find Hyatt's style to be much less clear than RAW's, but I like his use of pictures. There are even some that both PR and UY have in common ("whadd'ya mean I'm a primate?")

Being a pit puzzled at Bugs Bunny last week, I rewatched some classic cartoons, which I guess fits into "the kind of comedy that small children like". I tried to think of the function of this type of humor and did not forget to laugh at it myself.
It seems to me that the silly jokes Bugs plays on his opponents (who often are people trying to kill him, so in a way he is only defending himself), and his generally all-over-the-place behaviour are what makes him a funny character. Bugs Bunny does not play by the usual rules and conventions of society. On the contrary he seems to know very well what those are, and takes pleasure in transgressing them. Kind of like an anarchic Zen master, so I can now see better why he'd be adopted by Discordians.

I have not picked up any martial art (at least as of yet, and I won't pretend that doing judo for a year when I was 7 really counts for the exercizes), but I am still watching the Kung Fu TV show.
There is a constant confrontation between two culturally very different reality tunnels: white people in the 19th century American West, and the Chinese-grown David Carradine character that goes by the way of the Tao. He is usually baffled by their ways but plays by their rules as much as necessary in order to keep things undisturbed. Still, the flow of Life tends to bring him to a point where he has to kick some asses anyway.
But he seems to me to be way above the robotic conditionning of most Westerners he encounters. He does not acts as a trickster like Bugs Bunny, but in a way I can see sort of a connection between them. I think they would get along.

I tend to forget about the "if it came to hand-to-hand combat, could I beat him/her?" exercize, but when I do have it in mind I can't refrain from laughing. I have a job in services, and we have been seeing a fair amount of tourists these days, including lots of retired ones. Still, I am not very tall and pretty skinny myself.

I think I have had the "unless ye become as a little child..." quote coming to my mind at least once a day for some time now. Not sure how much I have been acting on it, though.

A few weeks ago, I was noting here that I had not found a single coin since I had stopped looking for them a few months before. The following day, I "accidentally stumbled upon" two of them. Funny how these things work.

Finally, I try to keep in mind the Crowley quote that RAW brings to us in the next chapter 6: "do not lust after results".

Oz Fritz said...

Great post! Who knows, perhaps we all could classify as "lab chimps?" The mice in The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy seem to think so.

The Stooges Three came up in my Pynchon reading shortly after seeing this blog yesterday. I liked them as a kid, haven't watched them in awhile. I am behind with the exercizes, plan to catch up on my August break. Abbot and Costello Meets Frankenstein tops my list of their movies. I've seen it at least a half dozen times but not for probably 10 years. We did recently watch their stand-up of Who's On First though I don't think that serves well for this exercize. In the past I've seen a fair amount of Laurel & Hardy, W.C. Fields, and some Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, also a great deal of Marx Brothers.

I plan to use E.J. Gold's Zen Basics course for the morning and evening meditation exercizes. Each tape takes about 15 minutes and involves a very basic instructions for placing attention on a set of 3 rocks. I have worked with this extensively in the past. Meditation appears cumulative and gets you high. People have asked me if I miss floating in the tank when I travel and I say not at all, I can bring the experience with me. That comment led Les Claypool to write a song. The ability to access a calm sense of detachment that comes from meditation seems invaluable for dealing with stressful situations or people who push your buttons. Though it does seem that challenges increase with the ability to handle them like the monsters in a video game that get harder to defeat as the player advances levels.

Loved the re-creation of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd at Woodstock Europa, Eric. Also enjoyed finding out about L. Neil Smith, Tom. New Trajectories 2 offers quite a bit of excellent material; I still have more to go.

Eric Wagner said...

Thank you for the kind words. I hope all goes well.