Stranger Things: Blowback and the Deep State

"We’re sort of pulling from everything." 
 Stranger Things co-creator Matt Duffer
....................................
I'm into my Stranger Things rewatch now. And with the story already told and digested in my mind I find myself, more than anything else, focusing on the patchwork of influences it borrows from. 

It's amazing how deftly they weave the various lifts and "tributes" into the whole, but at the same time it can also be distracting for someone who was consuming all that material in its first blush. I still think it's great TV, but it's not a revelation.

As far as esoteric symbolism in a conventional sense, I'm not seeing anything I find particularly convincing or compelling. One of the reasons I don't do too much of that kind of analysis anymore is that it got a bit stale, a bit rote, particularly as writers began consciously working really silly, really obvious symbols in (rather clumsily, I might add) simply to get a rise out of people on the Internet. 

I'm much more interested in when the symbols arise from the collective unconscious and manifest that way, which you hardly ever see anymore. I originally came into this game via Jung's Man and His Symbols, and where Jung's theories resonated with me is the public sphere. It's in the media where transpersonal psychology really clicks, in the stories we tell each other. 

But that gets harder to do now that the cat's out of the bag with the symbol racket. And it feels like a lot of the symbol-spotting has cycled out of the zeitgeist anyway.

And with a show like Stranger Things, which recycles so heavily, you often find yourself dealing with a second-hand set of signals, which can all get a little garbled. It can also start to get a bit flat. So I look, but don't strain myself.

The Montauk links are undeniable- the series was originally titled Montauk and was set there- but it's hard to say what of the actual Montauk mythos (what you can decipher of it- Moon's books are very tough sledding, to say the least) actually appears in the story- meaning what is specific to it- with the notable exception of the space-time rift (and the year of which, notably).

What we really have instead are themes taken from other sci-fi movies and shows, with a light smattering of leftover conspiranoid bits dashed over for seasoning. What we're seeing here is actually a particularly expensive and sophisticated kind of fan-fiction.



The Clash play San Bernardino in 1983
with the mighty Pete Howard on drums

I do continue to be stunned by the personal syncs, some of which are co-incidental and others less so. The centrality of the Clash thing is blowing my mind, since I was "that Clash guy" for, oh, 20 years or so. I even published a book about my obsession, which I cleverly packaged as a book about the band itself.

November 1983 (when Stranger Things takes place) is highly significant to my Clash obsession (and to Clash fandom), since that was the month the ill-fated "Clash II" lineup recorded their initial demos.* 

This may sound like fanboy gushing to you but it would be Clash concerts that got me thinking seriously about the survival of shamanism in the technocratic age. Even before I really understood what it all meant.


Joe Strummer was a psychic and psychologic trainwreck on the Clash II tour, which means he put on some of the most cathartic, transcendent performances I've ever witnessed. And It would be those songs-- dating from November 1983-- that set me prowling the streets of Greenwich Village for several years, searching for recordings of them. 

Little did I realize this was a mere lure, in-spiring me to soak up Manhattan's ancient city magic, the centuries of pain, sex, death and birth that etched themselves into very brick of every brownstone. 

Indeed, my quest haunted my dreams, eventually morphing into the "secret city" subset of secret sun dreams, the inner vision of placid suburban plots hidden away in the farthest outskirts of the island, all illumined by that eerie midnight sun.


I was doing a lot of dreamwork in November of 1983 (I was taking a psych class in HS at the time), leading to the bizarre nightmare of the faceless cop I mentioned in the previous post. 

I was also taking driving lessons, and my teacher used to like to cruise down to Moon Island in Quincy Bay, just a matter of feet away from the island that Werner Von Braun and his Peenemünde crew landed under the aegis of Operation Paperclip.

Our Gordon calls the Boston metro area the nerve center of MK Ultra, a link that's probably obvious to Fringe watchers. Or to fringe-watchers.

Speaking of 1983, quarries were a major story in the Boston metro area that year when some kids got themselves killed jumping the Quincy quarry behind Mr. Tux off Route 3. They eventually drained it to keep young daredevils from jumping the 60 or so feet into the fetid water. And then filled it with dirt from the "Big Dig."

Oddly enough, I was discussing all this with a friend just days before Stranger Things went live on Netflix. As I said, I was a bit stunned to see it and The Clash pop up in the show.

I was also talking comics with the late Seth Bishop in the lunchroom on occasion in 1983, three years before he was murdered by his sister Amy. If you're looking for a real-life 'Eleven', meaning a real-life prodigy who's a strong candidate for a kid that MK Ultra maniacs got their hooks into, re-read those posts on Amy Bishop. 

Amy's behavior the night of Seth's murder would seem outlandish in a Quentin Tarantino movie and the cover-up is pure X-Files. Or pure Stranger Things, if you prefer.


Articles are being written citing all of the influences parading around in Stranger Things, though still no mention of Wavelength. 

I suppose very few people have seen this film (shot in 1981 but released in 1983) but there you have your underground government lab, your powerful telekinetic/telepathic kids (bald, no less) and your two male and female leads breaking into said underground lair.

The MK Ultra references are less obvious in Wavelength but nonetheless evident and apparent. Mike Gray was a producer for ABC News before making the movie and it was ABC News that spilled the beans on Sidney Gottlieb's house of horrors back in 1979 (back when network news heads weren't quite so subservient to the government). I don't think it's simple coincidence that Gray has ringers for Gottlieb and Ewan Cameron appear as scientists in his film. 

There's also the strange space-time conjunction that had Cherie Currie in the lead female role in Wavelength and Dakota Fanning- who'd play a very Eleven-like character in Steven Spielberg's Taken- playing Cherie Currie in the biopic of The Runaways

Fanning would also star in the highly Secret Sun-resonant War of the Worlds, which sparked off a syncstorm of epic proportions after Katy Perry's Ishtar act at the Super Bowl.

Linking all of this to MK Ultra came from this blog. But it later occurred to me that another plot point in Stranger Things may also have come from The Secret Sun as well.



PLAGIARIUM

Back in 2012 I wrote about the movie Hanna and the fact that, for some bizarre, zany, off-the-wall reason, it played like a scaled-down (yet beat-for-beat) version of a treatment I had written based on a story I written with a friend (and published on the Web) several years ago. 

In other words, it played like someone took a script for a proposed $100 million picture and revised it so it could be made as a $10 million independent feature. With the concomitant dashes of arthouse seasoning.

I've listed 25 points in which unique and identifying features of the Snow treatment show up in Hanna. Read it and judge for yourself.

We were really cooking on our version of the script, oh, right about early September of 2001. And did I mention my writing partner lived across the street from the World Trade Center?

Yeah. Welcome to my life.

Later, I reworked the story as a graphic novel and put the treatment online, probably at the request of the editor I was pitching to. I didn't think anything of it, I had at least a couple copyrights on the story. Until I saw Hanna

Then I thought a lot about it.

For some reason I can't recall I didn't talk to my own lawyer but someone else, who told me (correctly) that suing a studio for infringement requires a lot of time and a boatload of money (at least $10K for discovery alone). Which is why you don't hear many stories about successful infringement suits, even though Hollywood is ripe to bursting with plagiarism.

The lawyer I've dealt with has closer ties with the studios and would probably have been able to get something done but I didn't talk to him until it was too late. But he told me the same thing- that studios will spend at least two million dollars to defend a $200K claim. Their primary concern is precedent, and losing money beating back a claim is worth it if it discourages a hundred more writers from taking them to court.

I should note that the alleged writer of Hanna has allegedly written some other scripts yet hasn't gotten anything put out since 2011. The only thing he's been allegedly attached to is a video game adaption. An unoriginal project, in other words. Allegedly.

He also allegedly put out a short in 2011 called Plagium. Is that Latin for plagiarism? I'm not sure. I'll have to look it up.

THE GREAT ESCAPE

But the script in question had another central plot point you might find more familiar to the subject at hand: super-powered girl escapes from secret underground mind control facility (after breaking the necks of two orderlies) while her ruthless government handlers send out hit squads to track her down:
Deprived of the drugs, Snow regains her composure slowly. She evaluates her situation. She pulls at her slackened wrist restraints, all the while glancing at the control
room door. A technician enters the room and checks her vitals and condition.
 
The tech then fondles her thigh; his hand slowly rising as Snow feigns sleep. Without warning, Snow frees her hands and breaks the tech’s neck with one quick twist. She marvels at her own speed and ferocity. She then frees her ankles, pulls out the IV and inches up to the control room. Through the door she sees the other tech turns his attention to a TV. Snow storms in and snaps his neck before the tech can react.

And then there's the part where the superpowered young girl is taken in by a group of nerds? (older nerds in my treatment, but still). 

Yeah, I got it right here. It's a central plot point in Snow too. 
She comes to a wooded area and spots a huge Winnebago. The Winnebago is a wreck, but it has a sophisticated electronic doorlock. Snow picks it quickly and enters. The RV’s a mess. There are several computers inside and the walls are plastered with posters of super-heroes, porn stars and other pop culture icons. 
That's a pretty specific plot point, don't you think? Not really a trope

This wasn't telepathy on anyone's part- I put the treatment online in 2012. Oh, and you know the bit about the water tank (in which she is standing, not lying, and encumbered with all kinds of technogear)? 

Yeah.
Suddenly, the scene changes: we are focused on the same girl, the same pleading eyes, but in a much different setting. The girl's name is SNOW. The camera pulls back to reveal Snow wrapped in restraints and immersed in a large tank of water. 
Our water-tank dwelling supergirl even phased into imaginary alternate realities, like we see Eleven do in her remote viewing sessions.
Again we are in Snow’s dream world. She is in the middle of a beautiful field. It is calm and peaceful, as is she. 
Gordon was asking me where I thought Stranger Thing's "Brenner" came from, that he seemed to be based on a specific individual, that Matthew Modine's portrayal was too mannered and eccentric-- too specific-- to not be modeled on some actual person. That might be, but let me just drop in a suggestion as to where they might have gotten the name.
When Ubela find out that Snow has received the highest overall bids she burns with a jealous rage. Meanwhile, two representatives of a racist militia known as the Revival
wait for Ubela in her office. They are MILLER and BRENNAN.



Now again, this can all be chalked up to how TV shows are written today. You don't have a single writer, banging away at a typewriter until the magic is made. You have a room-full of writers and producers throwing a bunch of ideas into a pot (well, onto a board) and building stories around them. 

So there really shouldn't be any arguments over which film is or isn't referenced in this series, or any other for that matter. Given the way this stuff is written everyone is probably right.



THE DEEP STATE

Now there's a sync some may have overlooked, since it isn't exactly obvious, or perhaps even relevant to a lot of people. And that's the fact that Stranger Things premiered on Netflix the same day as the aborted coup in Turkey. 

A lot of people thought this might have been itself a dramatic production of sorts, staged by the Erdogan government (false flag actions are always a possibility when dealing with the deep state in Turkey) but it's starting to look like more and more it was in fact a plot by outside elements. 

There was coup talk in the air last year, in fact. The Turks are growing increasingly explicit in blaming the West --and specifically the US-- for the coup, and there's talk that Erdogan was personally tipped off by Vladimir Putin.

If it were staged, one might expect Erdogan to play the forgiving patriarch but he's lashing out like a man who actually sees mortal enemies everywhere he looks. And golly, have you happened to notice how there seems to be a major terrorist event in Europe every day now? What a coincidence.

So, what does any of this have to do with Stranger Things, aside from the weird timing of events?

Well, Stranger Things is essentially a parable of blowback. Underneath all of the fanboyisms, it's essentially about power-lusting government madmen unleashing forces they couldn't control and creating havoc and disaster on unsuspecting ordinary folk. 

And the West's dalliance with terrorists and strongmen like Erdogan (who very much looks like he was next on the Obama/Clinton "regime change" list, just in time for the US elections) is playing out like a horrible, real-life parallel to that.

I should also note that the town in Stranger Things is based on Silent Hill, the fictional titular Pennsylvania town of the video game/manga/movie franchise. The Turkish Imam behind the Gulenite movement, on whom the coup is increasingly blamed, is living in exile in Pennsylvania

Odd sync, there.

This Imam is largely believed to be in bed with the CIA and has donated millions to US political causes and candidates, including over a million dollars to the Clinton Global Initiative racket. And now Pennsylvania is looking like it might be the key to a potential Trump victory this November.


Odder still, most of the action in the first episode of Stranger Things takes place on November 7, 1983, the cover date of the Time Magazine article on the terrorist bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. 

This was significant because it marked the first time modern planners put American boots on the ground in the Middle East. The Marines were there in an effort to keep the peace after Israel's disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982, but their presence was obviously not appreciated by some of the locals.

July 15 is also an important day in the calendar of grievance not our own. It was the day the last Emir of Granada was crowned, before the Muslims were expelled from Spain under the Reconquista. What connection this may have to the events in Turkey on that day is still unclear. But Turkey seems central to this calendar.

Just to add the cherry on the Synchromystic Stranger Things cake, Clash leader Joe Strummer was born in Ankara, Turkey. His father was a bonafide spy, in Her Majesty's Secret Service. Clash co-leader Mick Jones (lead singer on "Should I Stay or Should I Go?") is also the son of British secret servant. 

The third of the core trio- "bass player" Paul Simonon- had a father who was a member of the Communist Party and came and went at odd intervals during Paul's youth. 

Do the math.

DEEPER STILL

If you want to get really esoteric with your historical connections, make note that November 6 (the night the action actually begins in the series) was the day Flavius Claudius Iulianus Augustus was crowned Caesar in the Roman capital of Byzantium, known today as Istanbul. 

That was the Roman name of the Emperor Julian, better known as "Julian the Apostate", the man who tried to restore the old pagan religion and undo the efforts to Christianize the Empire made by the Flavian Dynasty.

Julian was crowned by his cousin Constantius the Second, who adhered to the Christian heresy known as Arianism

Why is any of this significant? 

Well, the efforts to undo Julian's reforms would lead to the authoritarian Theodosian decrees, which would establish a precedent that would eventually create a lot of resentment and hostility against the coupling of state and Church power, resentment that would ultimately lead to the rise of Islam in the east.º 

Blowback, to coin a phrase. 

How different history may have been had Julian- who foolishly couldn't resist the lure of battle- had not been assassinated. The list of suspects reads something out of a JFK message board.

And Arianism is believed by many scholars to be a major influence in the development of Islam, so much so that early observers of the new faith thought it was in fact a revival of Arianism.

ALL IN

A Facebook group member asked me if I believed that Stranger Things was onto something here, that the black magicians of MK Ultra were in fact trying to contact NHEs, or non-human entities. 

And the answer is yes, I've always believed that and I've always believed that the mind control aspect of the program was a cover, a way to justify the funding allocations to Congress. These were not stupid people. It would only take a couple sessions to realize LSD was um, problematic as a mind control drug.

I don't think this is conjecture on my part- look no further than the career of Andrija Puharich and Uri Geller and their "Space Kids".

When you read of the horrific experiments performed by Ewan Cameron you see an incredibly inefficient means of mind control, at least anything past the retail level. No, I believe that Cameron was desperately trying to rewire human consciousness itself, and was concentrating on the most mutable subjects at hand (for the most part), children. They were after something a lot more dangerous than simple mind control.

The comic repeatedly mentioned in the first episode of
Stranger Things has a cult mind control subplot

Mind-control techniques have been known and widely practiced for a very, very long time. Cults are experts at them. The media and propaganda ministers are constantly manipulating the public mind, using methods time-tested and true. 

No, I think MK Ultra had far more esoteric- and sinister- goals in mind. 

Bruce Rux wrote in Architects of the Underworld that MK Ultra actually began when so-called "alien abductee" reports began to circulate in intelligence circles, particularly reports coming in from Europe, reports that the public today forget were classified for the better part of two decades.

You don't need to believe in the phenomenon to understand that there was one, and that mind-control was a constant feature in reports on it and that there was concern in high places about it. And Ultra and its precursors were all closely linked to Operation Paperclip, which may be why Russell Targ called Gottlieb "America's Joseph Mengele."

Was it all the work of leftover Nazis messing around in postwar Europe? Very possible. But that doesn't mean they were acting on their own. Elements within the SS were known to knock on some very strange doors. Who knows who answered? 

I'd say the true nature of the program was revealed when the masks came off in this country and Ultra gave way to Project Often, in which the weaponization of the occult came out in the open. 
According to author Gordon Thomas' 2007 book, Secrets and Lies, the CIA's Operation Often was also initiated by the chief of the CIA's Technical Services Branch, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, to "explore the world of black magic" and "harness the forces of darkness and challenge the concept that the inner reaches of the mind are beyond reach". 
As part of Operation Often, Dr. Gottlieb and other CIA employees visited with and recruited fortune-tellers, palm-readers, clairvoyants, astrologers, mediums, psychics, specialists in demonology, witches and wizards, Satanists, other occult practitioners, and more. 
What I believe you were seeing with Often was simply an acknowledgement of what the game was really about, and with changes in the culture at large there was no longer any need to hide behind a euphemistic cover.

And we can tie back another of the central themes of Stranger Things, remote viewers unleashing forces that were both unknowable and uncontrollable, to another longtime Secret Sun fixation. 

I'm referring to that weird account of blowback when an attempt to contact NHEs resulted in the deaths of three psychics. This account first surfaced in the conspiracy underground in 1991, but I believe it was in fact part of Wavelength's real-life inspiration.

Does this have anything to do with what's going on today? Well, in an age of mass-media ritualism, what do you think?

All hell seems to be breaking loose these days. There are wars taking place among powerful players we can only get fleeting glimpses of, but we are going to suffer the blowback of nonetheless. 

Turkey is just one example where these clandestine struggles break out into the open. I believe the incessant terrorism Europe is dealing with is another. This Wikileaks imbroglio shows that the Globalists have powerful enemies who are just starting to bare their fangs.

So the timing of Stranger Things and the coup is all too appropriate.

I also can't help but be reminded of how the kind of American small towns we see in Stranger Things are currently under siege from drugs, economic warfare and other machinations of the Deep State. 

Maybe that should be addressed in the next series.




† I actually lean more towards Freud when it comes to individual analysis.
* All of which would be butchered beyond recognition on the risible pseudo-Clash album Cut the Crap.
º Particularly in reaction to the Emperor Justinian, whose reign also saw a devastating plague.

Secret Sun-o-Vision: Stranger Things


2016 has been a messed-up year.

I probably don't need to remind anyone of that but it bears repeating anyway. 

How's it been for you? Every time I think 2016 is doing smacking me around it gets another lick in. But I can't really complain, given the endless ticker-tape of terrible news coming in from all around the world, so much so that it threatens to become routine. 

All hell has not quite broken out everywhere yet, not the way it has in Syria or the Ukraine, say, but it could only be a matter of time. I don't need to read the litany here; you're all smart people and know what's going on out there.

The Olympics, that beloved mash-up of mostly obscure and unloved sports and high initiate ritual, isn't looking like it will offer much relief this year, as Brazil is rocked by political scandal and bad omen.  

America's one-time great escape from reality, the summer blockbuster, is slipping from its grasp as studios focus their money and energy on the foreign market. This is why nearly every movie title these days has either a numeral or a colon in it. 

At some point Hollywood is going to run out of material to recycle and its competitors are going to catch up with its technology. Until then, it's nothing but remakes and sequels as far as the eye can see.

With more and more people shunning the multiplex, television is filling the (yawning, gaping) void. Many of the top writers in the business have migrated into TV, which offers more room to breathe than the hyper-controlled world of moviemaking in the 21st Century. 

And here's where we get to the flip-side of 2016.

Earlier this year I wrote about how a lot of the themes I'd been exploring here seemed to be coming to fruition and Netflix's new series Stranger Things is practically a tulpa in this context. 

It's basically a checklist of Secret Sun standbys, from remote viewing to alternate realities to human experimentation to old-school geekdom to the friggin' Clash*. 

It also ties into another theme this year, this theme of planetary retrograde. I've taken advantage of all these backsliding planets to recover a lot of things from my past and in that regard Stranger Things feels like a kind of punctuation to that process.

I binged the entire thing and have already begun my re-watch but I wanted to riff on my immediate impressions. Suffice it to say, it's been a sync motherlode, personally-speaking.

The story starts off with a Twin Peaks-type mystery; a young boy named Will Byers goes missing after riding his bike home from a friend's house one night. He comes from a broken home with a single mother who isn't entirely stable and has a low-paying job as a cashier. 

He's obsessed with Lord of the Rings and comic books and Star Wars and the rest of it, loves to draw and likes The Clash. He and his friends get bullied a lot by the "mouth-breathers" at school, who all think he's gay.

Yeah, you could say I related to young Will. Except I loved baseball when I was his age. 

And didn't play Dungeons & Dragons, mostly because it wasn't really big when I was his age and by the time it was I didn't have anyone to play it with. The comic store I worked in didn't even sell any D&D stuff at the time, just to give you some context.

If you've watched the show and have read this blog over the years, you've probably picked up on some of the other connections, like the peculiar nature of the Byers' living room. That seemed awfully familiar. A little too familiar.†

So was the general theme of bad shit happening to kids, something else I was all too familiar growing up with. Actually, just this past week I was talking about bad shit happening at a local quarry when I was young and sure enough that very theme pops up in Stranger Things.

Anyhow, as Will goes missing a strange young girl appears, who's apparently escaped from a secret government lab. Will's friends take her in and soon discover she's no ordinary kid. And so the game is afoot.

Stranger Things has been called a pastiche, and to be sure it wears its influences on its sleeve. There's a lot of licks lifted from E.T., The Goonies, Firestarter, Akira, Altered States and a whole host of other 80s classics. There's a healthy dose of X-Files and Outer Limits in evidence.



But there's a lot taken from lesser-known films such as Beyond the Black Rainbow (if you haven't seen it, do so) and especially Wavelength, a decidedly-obscure movie Secret Sun readers are probably familiar with

A lot of the themes the series explores are well familiar to readers of this blog, so much so that it very much feels like its producers have spent some time here (I first made the connections between Wavelength and MK Ultra). The Clash references almost feel like winks in that regard. 

Given that this series was originally supposed to take place in Montauk, I'm wondering if the producers googled my Eternal Sunshine posts and got linked to the Wavelength piece.

The faux-Tangerine Dream music in Stranger Things certainly doesn't disabuse me of that particularly suspicion. 

Well, either way.

Speaking of MK Ultra, its star is Timothy Leary's goddaughter Winona Ryder, whose father was a Leary protege. 

Winona is now 44, which scares the shit out of me. Winona's had a hard go of it  the past several years, having fallen from grace several years ago after being arrested for shoplifting. Which means she's perfect for the role here and adds a spiritual connection to the source material that helps complete the circuit. 

In more ways than one, actually. 

It was refreshing to have something to watch, finally. My problem with most TV (or movies) these days is that I just can't get into the subject matter

I'm hard to entertain. I admit it. I've just consumed too much pop culture over the years. This series was pre-sell for me, there's no doubt about it. But I wouldn't have stuck with it if it weren't so well-done. I'm not really into things with kids but this was not a kids' show, it was an adult show that had kids in it. Big difference.

You'll notice I'm not going into the storylines or plot points in any great detail here. And that's because I want you to watch it. Once it's sunk in we can dive into the nitty-gritty and see if we can't parse some of the finer points.

Long story short: it's great. Go watch it.






* Not just The Clash but also a weird 1983-specific Clash sync. In one scene, we hear "She Has Funny Cars" by The Jefferson Airplane. One of the pivotal events of my youth- and certainly of 1983- was my purchase of the Casbah Club bootleg of The Clash at Brixton Academy. That album starts off with a lift of the drum riff from "Funny Cars." 

That's some pretty specific synchery going on there, especially since I bought the album at the same flea market I got a lot of old comics, including the John Byrne issue of The Comics Journal, artist of the issue of the X-Men that is repeatedly mentioned in the first episode of Stranger Things.

† Around the same time this story takes place (November 1983) I had my cop nightmare, which played uncomfortably like the abduction scene in the Intruders TV movie. It went like this: I was sitting with my mother and stepfather in the living room (aka the owl room) and we were worried about my sister, who was late getting home. 

Suddenly we saw flashing lights in the front window (pink and purple, significantly) and I went to get the door. There was a cop on the front porch but I couldn't see his face. As I opened the front door he took out his gun and shot me in the stomach. Or chest. I had a strange feeling of accomplishment after having that dream. Which raises all kinds of weird issues not unrelated to this series.

Expanding Your Vision


I was driving around with my daughter the other day and listening to the top 40 radio station with her. And each and every song I heard was like a flashback, usually to the late 80s or early 90s. 

As each song played I pointed out where the piano changes came from (say, from every 80s House music song ever) or where the drum beats came from (say, early 90s hip-hop) or where the chord progression was stolen from, not to mention how much of the vocals were in fact completely digitally processed (Auto-Tune makes me seasick, still).

It's not supposed to be like this. I'm supposed to be out of touch and today's pop music is supposed to be alien and unfamiliar to me, but it was all too familiar. I'd heard it all before, every bit of it.

Is this why sales of recorded music are at an all-time low? 

I read that Beyonce's new album sold a million copies, all told. Like it was a big deal. Not 5 years ago that would have been a crushing disappointment. An embarrassment. Not anymore.

This is where people chime in about streaming but streaming ain't paying the bills. Musicians and songwriters are up in arms over the pittance they receive from streaming and if they can't cover basic costs they'll find something else to do. Even ostensibly-successful ones. Some of us said so all along but were dismissed as alarmists. And here we are.

And I would argue that streaming is a vote of no-confidence in the music. You love it, you want to own it.

Similarly, the movie charts are filled with sequels and remakes and just plain old ripoffs and they wonder why ticket sales are dropping. The sequel to Finding Nemo is a hit, but the sequel to Independence Day is a disaster. And everything else hovers somewhere between, but closer to the latter than the former.

Print book sales were up last year but e-book sales were way down, leading the market to an overall loss. Another major chain went Chapter 11 (Hastings) and Barnes and Noble reported a major loss for 2016. You may have noticed that merchandising takes up more and more floor space at their stores and now they're talking about putting restaurants and bars in some locations. Not a sign of rude health for the book market.

Cable TV providers are all experiencing subscriber losses as people cut the cords and drop TV service. You can see the reason for this- digital cable is a blizzard of redundant stations, locked stations, and crap stations, all of which make the few good ones nearly impossible to find.

Even allowing for market correction in response to saturation, these are not the symptoms of a healthy culture. Social fragmentation is making it nearly impossible to mass-market anything anymore, which becomes a major problem when you're investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a feature film.

But there's also an economic issue at work here.

Main Street America still hasn't recovered from the Great Recession, in fact it's still raging in many parts of the country. Heroin has become an epidemic all across America, cutting across ethnic and class divisions. College graduates face a shrinking marketplace and ballooning debt. But you surely knew all this already, didn't you?

It's hard to think of an instance in today's economy where the scales aren't tipped, the dice aren't loaded, the game isn't rigged. 

But something else is missing: vision. It's disturbing to think that the three biggest pop culture phenomena I could think of these past few years were The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. They might all be fine television but I doubt they're inspiring too many people to break out of the rut we seem to be stuck in.

Where's the vision?

Some might then object that there's no resisting the technocrats and their social engineering agendas but I wonder. I wonder how much of that is just the Big Psych-Out, in which the war is lost before the battle is ever joined. It makes me wonder about how people seem to play a part that's been written for them, and fall into the Hegelian Dialect by default.

BABYLON'S BURNING

It's at points like this I seriously start to wonder about our species and our place in this environment. We seem to have all the tools to carve out comfortable little niches for ourselves but this ability isn't quite adaptive as it seems. 

Societies seem to reach a peak of technological and cultural advancement before imploding. That's basically what history is. Don't ask me why but there's something inherently anti-adaptive about higher intelligence and advanced civilization. It's a raging contradiction, but the record speaks for itself.

It's a process I became keenly aware of while reading about the Sumerians and the Babylonians. The Sumerians rose, declined, and gave way to the Akkadians, who simply repeated the process themselves. 

Then came the Babylonians.

Babylon was once the greatest city on Earth- the Greek historian Herodotus was dumbstruck by its size, scope and technological prowess. A little over a century later it was a backwater, its population moved en masse to another city after constant internecine warfare among Alexander's generals.

You see this in microcosm in families, when you'll have a figure make a great fortune that is frittered away by idiot grandchildren, most often on drugs and fast living, before the line eventually dies out. An addiction to the lifestyle of the idle rich has toppled dynasties since we crawled out of the caves. 

And today people are looking at the Birth-School-Work-Death cycle of modern Capitalism and thinking there's got to be another way. There may be, but it's going to require two things: vision and really hard work. I think the Technocratic agenda is going to show itself to be another in a long line of false utopias, in fact I think it's falling apart already. But it's not going down without taking a lot of victims with it.

THE VISION THING

It boils down to this: I can't control what they do, but if I'm lucky I can control what I do. This is why I'm grateful Mitch Horowitz is talking up positive thinking so hard, and putting it back in an magical, spirit-based context. The fact is that we're bombarded with negative thinking all day long (as opposed to critical thinking, and people often confuse the two), in fact it's an integral part of that technocratic agenda I mentioned before. Making you feel defeated is an important part of an opponent's strategy.

I don't think vision starts with the group, I think it starts with the individual. In fact I think the reason why so much of pop culture is failing is because it's groupcentric and lacks the power of an individual voice. It all feels committee-driven, focus group-driven, devoid of vision. Devoid of magic.

It's going to continue to fail unless it gets off this road, and that applies to the groupthink that we see so much of today as well. We're already past the fatigue point with that.

If you need a good dose of vision, I'd like to recommend Gordon White's book The Chaos Protocols, which is full of practical and practicable ways to expand your vision and improve your personal circumstances.

I think we're in an interesting situation, one that reminds me of a period in the 20th Century when young people had dropped the ball and left it up to older weirdos to keep the home fires burning. When you had old bohemians (and Theosophists and Rosicrucians, even) keeping it real until the tides came back in. 

An interesting model to consider as you work on your own vision of vision.