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Peak Nostalgia: David Lynch’s Irresistible (and Corrupted) Visions of the American Past

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It might be surprising to realize that David Lynch has only ever made one period piece: The Elephant Man (1980), set in the Victorian era. The rest of the director’s films, save for his 1984 sci-fi disaster Dune, take place in what presumably is the here and now. Or, more accurately, they take place in a Lynchian version of the here and now — one where time is nonlinear and past and future constantly intrude on the present. And, of course, one where the 1950s never quite ended.

That era has always been a defining one for Lynch’s films. It’s the rare influence he openly acknowledges. “The Fifties are still here,” he tells Chris Rodley in the interview book Lynch on Lynch. “They never went away….It was a fantastic decade in a lot of ways….It was a really hopeful time, and things were going up instead of going down. You got the feeling you could do anything. The future was bright. Little did we know we were laying the groundwork then for a disastrous future.”

A particular kind of longing for this period hangs over Lynch’s work, as well as that work’s reception. Nobody who lived through the Twin Peaks craze of 1990 will forget that show’s mesmerizing, fetishistic pull, which affected the way people dressed and talked, even what they ate and drank. (Remember Twin Peaks parties?) For all its weirdness, the series resonated in part because of our fascination with that earlier “fantastic decade.” By melding this nostalgic aura with his more new-age influences (often expressed via Angelo Badalamenti’s score), Lynch seemed at times to have created an idealized world, one in which many of us wished we could live. And along the way, he turned himself into something of an icon. There are millions of people out there who’ve never seen a David Lynch movie but will immediately know what the word “Lynchian” means.

But what about, you know, the rape and murder, the incest and kidnapping and arson? Beneath the quaint Fifties-isms of Twin Peaks lie some of the most grisly acts ever seen on network television. But the wistful indulgences of the original show don’t work despite the horrors — they work because of them. The terror and the nostalgia are locked in a mutually dependent, parasitic embrace: The madness of Twin Peaks is fed by the repression and aw-shucks atmosphere of its setting. In exchange, that atmosphere serves as an escape from the show’s darker edges. Don’t worry about the terrifying things happening at night in the woods, Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost seem to say. You’re only a commercial break away from Sherilyn Fenn and her saddle shoes sunnily strutting into the Double R Diner.

Nostalgia is back in the air nowadays, but with a renewed, world-consuming toxicity. In an essay for the Guardian written in February, the Pakistani author Mohsin Hamid ties together various currents across the planet. In entertainment, he explores the obsession with shows like Mad Men and Game of Thrones; in technology, he discusses the digital flashbacks and imaginary idealized pasts of Facebook memories and Instagram filters. And in politics, well, there’s Brexit, the U.S. election, nationalist movements across the world, and — yes — groups like ISIS, all of which depend upon a harking-back to glorious, imaginary pasts as a salve for the fragmentation and anxiety of the present.

Is it nostalgia — born of fear and uncertainty and a desire for simpler times — that pulled audiences to Twin Peaks, then and now, and that makes Lynch a source of continual fascination, even for people who haven’t seen his work? Maybe, but recall that he has been a constant presence in our culture for decades; he was a recognizable figure well before the phenomenon of Twin Peaks, his sensibility connecting with both the ironic, art-nerd ethos of the 1980s independent music and film scene and the sun-dappled “Morning in America” messaging of the Reagan era. But it’s weird: Lynch probably has more flops than hits on his résumé, and his hits are generally modest. Over the past several decades, his vitality as a public figure — dare I use that ghastly word brand? — seems to be only marginally connected to the critical or financial success of his releases.

To put it another way: America needs David Lynch. Throughout his work, Lynch blends the textures of nostalgia with the transgressions of horror, and in so doing helps us transcend both. The contrasts of Twin Peaks are also there in Blue Velvet (1986), with its white-picket-fence, gee-whiz small-town milieu punctured by the presence of unspeakable evil. The menace gathers and becomes even more overwhelming in the later films: Mulholland Drive (2001) goes quickly from an opening of aggressive, jitterbugging quaintness to a nightmare of fractured identity and pervasive gloom. The much-maligned Lost Highway (1997), which J. Hoberman deemed a “bad boy rockabilly debacle,” starts dark and gets darker; its borrowings from the past are already steeped in betrayal and decay by the time the movie starts. And if Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive had a secret love child, and that child had a nightmare, it might look a bit like Inland Empire (2006).

Lynch helps us understand the people and the forces that hold sway over us. The director is not a particularly political person (though he occasionally jumps in in the oddest ways, as when he got involved in the presidential campaign of his Transcendental Meditation colleague and Natural Law Party candidate John Hagelin), but sometimes I wonder if our Age of Demagogues isn’t a geopolitical variation on one of his movies. In many Lynch films lurks a central figure of absolute evil: Think of Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth in Blue Velvet, Robert Blake’s hideously grinning Mystery Man in Lost Highway, the dark spirit BOB in Twin Peaks, or the terrifying hobo behind the dumpster in Mulholland Drive. (“There’s a man…in back of this place. He’s the one who’s doing it.”)

But these figures are not external demons. Twin Peaks constantly calls into question whether BOB is real. Could he just be a conduit for people to spiritually absolve themselves of their own murderous acts? “You invited me,” Lost Highway’s Mystery Man says. “It is not my custom to go where I am not wanted.” He is, in effect, the lead character’s jealousy and rage made manifest.

The evil, in other words, comes from within. It comes from us. Maybe that’s why Lynch’s works, for all their backward-looking dreaminess, never end with us wanting to keep on living in these environments. They end with us exhausted, anguished, screaming to get out. They end with us awakened from both the nightmare and the dream.

Lynch recognizes these dark impulses within himself: Take Wild at Heart (1990), with its relentless carnival of horrors, a film that functions not unlike a totemic spirit within his own oeuvre — a cruel vessel into which he’s poured all his rage and violence. Wild at Heart, the devil on Lynch’s shoulder, even has its opposite, angelic number: The Straight Story (1999), a picture of almost limitless sweetness and light, and the only other road movie he’s made.

Lynch hasn’t exactly been quiet in the ten years since he released Inland Empire, but he hasn’t made any new films. As Twin Peaks returns, we should consider why the show now seems so relevant, even vital — why we’re all so excited for it, decades after the original’s harrowing, deeply disturbing final shot. There is, no doubt, nostalgia at work in the Peaks revival — nostalgia this time not just for the show’s setting but, at least for many of us, for that time in our lives when we presumably worshipped Twin Peaks (and before it pissed us all off). But this time, there’s also something deeper, and more hopeful, about the show’s return and our eagerness for it. Because David Lynch’s work is more than just a cinematic pathway into the past. It is also a way out.

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High Alert For Schools, Colleges Over Possible 3rd Wave

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While Odisha is witnessing a rise in COVID cases at different residential schools and institutions, the emergence of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.529 has triggered scare among students below 18 years old.

The new COVID variant is dubbed as ‘a variant of concern’ by WHO. As stated by health experts, Omicron is more lethal than the Delta variant and the new mutated variant may even infect individuals who have received double dose vaccines.  

Amid the rising fear over Omicron, the Odisha government has decided to intensify its preparations to tackle the situation and prevent the threats of a possible third wave. The government has decided to monitor international travellers.

The State Health Department issued a set of guidelines stating testing, quarantine and genome sequencing mandatory for those coming from outside, particularly from foreign countries. 

Odisha Chief Secretary Suresh Chandra Mohapatra has directed district Collectors, Chief District Medical Officers (CDMO) and Superintendents of Police to remain alert for a possible third wave of the pandemic in the State. He further directed to take immediate actions if any person shows COVID symptoms.

The Chief Secretary has also emphasised on door-to-door vaccination drive and directed to ensure that everyone adheres to the COVID guidelines released by the government. He also ordered to take the violators to task and take stern action against them.

Such directives have been issued following the surge in cases in schools and institutions which have been opened recently.  

State Health Minister Naba Kishore Das said, “We are keeping track of the new variant and monitoring international passengers from South Africa and other places. They will be tested and quarantined. They will also undergo treatment if they develop any symptom. All concerned officials have been directed to remain on high alert.”

Health Services Director Bijay Mohapatra earlier today said that the guidelines issued by the State government are as per the instructions of the Centre. 

“Community surveillance and awareness measures need to be ramped up as they will play a crucial role in tracking down contacts of positive cases. Several measures are still continuing across the State as per protocol to check the spread of the Covid-19,” Mohapatra added.

3rd Wave Scare Looms Over Schools, Institutions

While the scare of a possible third wave is looming over schools across the State, the number of positivity has witnessed a spike recently; especially in the residential institutions and hostels. Recently, COVID positive cases were reported from Burla VIMSAR, Saint Mary Girls High School in Sundergarh and Chamakpur government residential girls school in Karanjia among students as well as the working staff.

The positive cases ‘within campus’ have increased to 150. 

Following the detections of the cases, the campuses have been designated as mini-containment zones and parents have been barred from visiting the hostels.

While parents have expressed concerns over the rising cases in hostels and residential schools/colleges, Mass Education Minister Sameer Ranjan Dash said, “Positive cases have been reported in hostels of a few institutions and immediately those were shut down and were declared as containment zones. The district administrations are keeping vigil eyes on the events and will take action as and when needed. “

Health Expert Dr. Sarat Behera said that COVID cases are on the rise after the lockdown restrictions were lifted. “The State is witnessing a spike in daily cases of positivity. Omicron is more lethal than other variants and people must strictly follow COVID appropriate behaviour,” he said.

It is expected that children below 18 years old are at high risk during the possible third wave of the pandemic as they still remain unvaccinated. Under such circumstances, COVID positivity is increasing in schools and colleges. Health experts have expressed concerns that a minor lapse could cost large.

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Investors continue to watch omicron Covid variant

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SINGAPORE — Shares in Japan looked set for a lower open on Monday as investors in Asia monitor developments surrounding the recently discovered omicron Covid variant.

The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 28,365, against the Nikkei 225’s last close at 28,751.62.

Shares in Australia slipped in morning trade as the S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.89%.

Stock picks and investing trends from CNBC Pro:

Oil prices surge more than 2%

Oil prices were higher in the morning of Asia trading hours.

International benchmark Brent crude futures were up 2.9% to $74.83 per barrel. U.S. crude futures gained 3.54% to $70.56 per barrel. On Friday, oil saw its worst day of 2021 amid renewed Covid fears.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.251 after a recent drop from above 96.4.The Japanese yen, widely seen as a safe-haven currency, traded at 113.74 per dollar after strengthening sharply late last week from above 114.8 against the greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.714, having dropped last week from above $0.725.

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Trump challenges media and Democrats to debate his electoral fraud lie | Donald Trump

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Donald Trump has challenged leading editors and politicians to debate him in public over his lie that Joe Biden beat him in 2020 through electoral fraud.

In a typically rambling statement on Sunday, the former president complained about “the heads of the various papers [and] far left politicians” and said: “If anyone would like a public debate on the facts, not the fiction, please let me know. It will be a ratings bonanza for television!”

Despite Trump’s insistence that “the 2020 election was rigged and stolen” – and his well-known fixation on TV ratings – it was not.

Even William Barr, an attorney general widely seen as willing to run interference for Trump, publicly stated there was no evidence of widespread electoral fraud.

Biden beat Trump by more than 7m in the popular vote and by 306-232 in the electoral college, a result Trump called a landslide when he beat Hillary Clinton by it in 2016. Clinton also beat him in the popular vote.

Trump’s proposal of a public debate – which seemed unlikely to bear fruit – extended to what he called “members of the highly partisan unselect committee of Democrats who refuse to delve into what caused the 6 January protest”.

The attack on the US Capitol, Trump said, was caused by “the fake election results”.

In a way, he was right. It was his lies about the election which led to the deaths of five people around the attack on Congress by a mob seeking to stop certification of Biden’s win, some chanting that Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, should be hanged.

At a rally near the White House shortly before the riot, Trump told supporters to “fight like hell” in his cause. He was impeached for inciting an insurrection but acquitted when only seven GOP senators found him guilty, not enough to convict.

On Sunday, Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee and a member of the 6 January panel, told CNN: “We tried to hold the former president accountable through impeachment. That’s the remedy that we have in Congress. We are now trying to expose the full facts of the former president’s misconduct as well as those around him.”

To adapt the Tennessee Republican Howard Baker’s famous question about Richard Nixon and Watergate, the House committee is focusing on what Trump knew about plans for protest and possible violence on 6 January – and when he knew it.

'Will you shut up, man?': Biden and Trump clash in first US presidential debate – video
‘Will you shut up, man?’: Biden and Trump clash in first US presidential debate – video

Numerous Trump aides and allies have been served with subpoenas. Most, like the former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who has pleaded not guilty to contempt of Congress in the first such case since 1983, have refused to cooperate.

Schiff said a decision on a possible contempt charge for Mark Meadows, Trump’s last White House chief of staff, would likely be made in the coming week.

It seems unlikely any senior figure in the US media or among Democrats in Congress or state governments will take up Trump’s challenge to debate him in public.

Observers including the former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who helped Trump prepare for his debates against Biden, agree that a near-berserk performance in the first such contest did significant damage to Trump’s chances of re-election.

At one point on a chaotic evening in Cleveland in September, Biden was so exasperated as to plead: “Would you shut up, man? This is so unpresidential.”

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