“Follow your bliss… but drink a glass of water when you’re done.”
“Follow your bliss… but drink a glass of water when you’re done.”
“Follow your bliss… but drink a glass of water when you’re done.”
“I say in speeches that a plausible mission of artists is to make people appreciate being alive at least a little bit. I am then asked if I know of any artists who pulled that off. I reply, ‘The Beatles did’.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake, 1997
I was watching the BBC Dracula with The Beard tonight, and realized something very important: I simply can’t forgive video. I love film. It seems to me that it is a virtual impossibility to create tone on video… anything shot on video has only one tone: shot on video.
And the problem, I realized is this:
Film has the capacity to bring us the universe in all its vastness, and video shows us a landscape as seen through a box.
I’ve had many heroes, still do, and I really can’t tolerate listening to some blowhard tell me how it’s a bad thing to have heroes. It ain’t. Perhaps I’m lucky, perhaps I’ve chosen my heroes more wisely than they, for rarely have my heroes let me down. Brigitte Bardot, sure, she’s a hero. Claudia Jennings and her character Desirae from “‘Gator Bait,” definitely heroes… as well as Beverly Sebastian who wrote the film. But my real hero, the one that makes me smile at every turn, the one who hasn’t let me down since 1968 (way before my time, by the way)… Dr. Zira. Yep, Zira from “Planet Of the Apes.”
Kim Hunter as the ever admirable Zira, and Roddy McDowall as the ever lovable Cornelius, play their parts with such sincerity that one cannot help but love them. Both actors were so committed to the roles that I never question their characters… I do not see the make-up, I see Cornelius and Zira. Throughout the entire series it was really Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall who brought their characters to life through their expert mastering of the make-up. The depth of expression both of them achieved is less admirable than miraculous. It was they who breathed believability into the Ape films. It was they I connected with.
Of course when I was little I loved and admired Cornelius and Zira as a couple, still do, and while I adore Roddy McDowall’s Cornelius and Caesar equally (and while I know he’s only make-believe, I would, given the chance, gladly have a half dozen of his little monkey babies–is it sick that I find Cornelius that adorable?)… though I am still looking for a man like Cornelius, it’s Kim Hunter’s Zira that I see as She Who Has Risen To the Fore in my heart.
Zira spoke her mind, through 3 Planet Of the Apes films, she not only spoke her mind, but cut through bullshit… even if it was her own. Sure, she was a make-believe monkey (oh… sorry, that’s offensive, I meant “make believe Ape”), but she rings truer to my ears and consciousness than most modern heroines. She is Zira, the chimpanzee to me, far more real than most human characters in even the most “serious” of films. I find characters more identifiable if they are metaphorical, if they are in a fantasy film, than if they are struggling through the distracting banality of our times. Metaphor becomes universal, and reality… well… it’s just that, isn’t it? “Reality.” Zira, on the other hand, was a divinely crafted and inspired magnification of reality. Zira was a manifestation of our noblest traits, a metaphor for how to ethically battle not only our own inner limitations and dilemmas, but how to honestly confront a world gone wrong.
I’ve been rewatching all of the classic Planet Of the Apes films, which I first saw when I was a child, and have recognized something new in them, new in my relationship to them. For one, I don’t find them corny, I think they are rather more like fairy tales, parables, metaphors for not only our society but metaphorical in the ways the characters relate and demonstrate clearly defined character traits. In order to really get these movies the audience has to accept them as metaphors, fairy tales or fables. I, of course, take metaphor, fairy tale and fable very seriously.
Upon this most recent viewing I realized the beautiful dynamic between Cornelius and Zira. I realized things I had missed as a kid, because I now understand the world as an adult (well… sometimes, anyhow). I recently recognized the very real adult problems these characters are faced with, and the realistic and adult way they handle their dilemmas. Cornelius is a beautiful loving and principled pragmatist. While he agrees with his outspoken, and dare I say “stubborn” wife, he wants to pursue his work, make his points, and let the chips fall where they may. Cornelius understands the politics of his situation. Zira, on the other hand, doesn’t have much patience for pragmatism or the way ignorance wields power. She is more fiery and emotional, and willing to take a stand and take risks… and to accept the consequences. She has strong principles and stands for them, and throughout the course of the series of movies, this frequently gets her into trouble. Zira tells the truth in a world that functions through carefully crafted lies and illusion. What is more, she even cuts through her own bullshit and sees herself for who she is, and her actions for what they are. Zira learns, she discovers things about herself, essentially, she evolves. In what is perhaps the most touching of the Apes films (“Escape From the Planet Of the Apes”), Cornelius becomes frequently enraged at the savage way they are being treated by humans, but in the middle of one of his most righteous fits it is Zira who takes pause to point out that they had once done the the very things that are being done to them to humans back in their time; on their world. That, more than anything, is what endears me most to Zira, she is not a hypocrite… then again, neither is Cornelius, who sighs, sits down, and acknowledges that what she says is true. The ending of that film has always pained me, but even as a child, it was so well done that I accepted it.
Am I making too much of this? Well, that’s up to you, but I do know this, if I had a little girl, I would most definitely want her to see these films. I would want her to admire Zira, just as I always have. I would want her young consciousness influenced by Zira’s example. If you can think of a better role model than Zira for a young girl, I’d like to know who she is.
Well… I dug around on my antique computer (a computer so old even the Amish would find it beneath them) and I found one last photo of me barefoot in the snow. I’m posting it alongside the other one from the same shoot.
I remember the day well. This was a park in Ohio that I used to hike barefoot in the winter, it took about 90 minutes to make the whole trail. The day these pics were taken it was uncommonly cold and the snow was brittle and hard… my feet had to break through a layer of hard sharp ice with every step. I remember that it was painful and sorta sucked… but I still had a lot of fun!
That day I had hoped to hike the whole trail, but the conditions were just too rough. I climbed a tree just to get up out of the snow for a few minutes.
I learned a lot of things about hiking barefoot in the snow, and one was that I would stop to gently warm my feet after the first 10 or 15 minutes, the blood would all flow to my toes after that, and they would stay pink and warm for a long time. Of course all along the way I would frequently stop and warm them. Another thing I learned was to bring an extra pair of gloves so that if the first pair got wet there would be a nice cozy second pair for my hands. Dry warm hands were essential for the long hikes. One of the most surprising things I learned was how important mind over matter was. On more than one occasion I would head out for a barefoot winter hike and turn around and go home if I wasn’t feeling good about it or couldn’t focus. I knew that if I started a hike while I was distracted or not feeling confident, that there would be a greater chance of it going badly. Mainly what I learned was that it’s totally possible to safely go barefoot all winter, and that our bodies and minds are far more powerful than we think.
This is not something anyone should try for too long without a lot of research, practice and focus. I have NO desire to return to Ohio and those dreadful winters… but at times I really miss sinking my bare feet into sugary soft-serve snow! What I don’t miss is that in Ohio winter starts in October and lasts until almost May… simply put… fuck that!
Sorry, no story to go with this, I just wanted everyone to know that a fire ant bit me in the belly button. (For more, see photo-story.)
Said fire ant is now dead. So much for ahimsa…
(While well-wishes and sympathy cards are welcome, please, no gifts or flowers.)
I was contacted The Night Before, quite Out Of the Blue, by a guy from Birmingham (Marcus) about the Beatle Video Nights we had held at the CMC here in Gainesville. He too had thrown a Beatle event (as a fundraiser for a really great cause), see video below:
Though the story surrounding the event was quite tragic, the upshot was that the community was able to Come Together in a spirit of love through the music of the Beatles. After all… All You Need Is Love. Simply put, the Beatles generate LOVE like no other band or artist. Many artists may be great, many bands may be great, but few truly breathe the rarified air the Beatles breathed. It is difficult for me to talk about music with people–and I, by the way, have a huge and diverse collection of music–as I don’t think most people understand that there are rock bands, there are musicians… and then there are the Beatles–those who transcended. Whenever the subject turns to bands and music I sort of want to say to people, “Oh… you’re talking about rock stars… I’m talking about Paul McCartney.” It’s not the same thing. The point is, art heals, and many people have turned to the Beatles for healing. In this case, this community turned to the Beatles for healing. See the video, you’ll get it, it’s beautiful. And I think you’ll get why it had to be the Beatles, and no one else, that this community turned to for healing. The Beatles are like God… you know… if you want it, here it is, Come and Get It.
Anyhow, the event organizer realized something very important, and that is that it is all well and good to organize a one-time benefit, but the problem is that usually the person or situation the event had been thrown for suffers long after the good vibes and cash generated for them runs out. His thinking… throw a second event. Continuity, baby!
The first event was simply called “Hey Jude,” and he is embarking on throwing a 2nd “Hey Jude” event for the same cause. This time he wanted to add a Beatles video component to the event. I, of course, have tons of rare and unreleased Beatles videos, concerts, promos… you name it. And, of course, I have shown many of these videos at the Civic Media Center here in Gainesville. Marcus (the organizer) started doing some research on Beatles videos and Beatles video parties and came across our event at the CMC. He contacted me and asked for advice on how to make this work. The initial problem is getting access to this stuff. Of course nowadays this stuff’s all on YouTube (which I kinda think sucks), but streaming YouTube videos is no way to run an event on a professional level. Nothing takes the sheen of specialness off an event like the presence of something as ubiquitous as YouTube. The problem is that otherwise, most of the stuff in my collection takes some work to find, and I have collected this stuff up for decades. I sent him as much advice and guidance a I could on how to run such and evening, and his reaction was, “Oh wow ! Justine. You are AMAZING ! First of, Thank you for taking the time to reply. You have an incredible insight and I would love to discuss how we can make this happen….I’m referring to your making the trip up.”
So… how do we make this happen? I have little Money and I wouldn’t want to Drive My Car, as I wouldn’t trust it with a trip to Birmingham Alabama. I’m sure We Can Work It Out, but I didn’t really want them paying my expenses as I felt that all the proceeds should go to the cause, so I offered to simply send him copies of some of my best bootlegs. I just wanted to help, to be a part of all those good vibes, and perhaps collect a little Instant Karma. But… but… I’ve always had a case of Wanderlust, and I ne’er been to Birmingham, so I’d rather be where it’s at than mail my stuff where I ain’t.
He called me tonight, and I liked him immediately, and I had NO IDEA just how together he was, and what a fabulous job he was doing making things happen… and I mean all sorts of unexpected things. Maybe I’m Amazed, It looks like this next “Hey Jude” event is going to be fabulous, and well worth traveling to. They will be holding rooftop concerts both nights of the event, one night recreating the Beatle’s own rooftop concert from “Let It Be,” and the next night they will be recreating “The Concert For Bangla Desh.” Additionally, he told me that they may have enough funding from a sponsor to pay my expenses without eating into the money that would go to the cause.
So, here’s the thing, looks like I may be going on an all expenses paid trip to Birmingham to do a VJ job sharing my fabulous collection of Beatle (and solo) videos! It’s All Too Much!
Of course there are no guarantees in all these possibilities, but, My Sweet Lord, this Marcus is one together dude… and this sounds like an absolute blast, so I am sure as heck hoping this happens.
I not only want to be a part of this cause, I not only want to be surrounded by Beatles music and fans, but I would be thrilled to share my video collection.
With a Little Luck, this will all happen, I (and the people of Birmingham) will have a great time, and the event will raise plenty of money for this great cause.
Keep your fingers crossed.
Now… if only I had someone to make the trip with…
There we are, (my new Gainesville gal pal) Molly Rose and me! Molly’s the lovely bundle of much needed joy for SAW founders Tom Hart and Leela Corman. After being told that I was no longer welcome around my own nephews, it’s beautiful to have Molly in my lap. Molly is a blessing for so many of us in town. As for me, it’s been a long time since I’ve felt such pure contentment as I enjoy when I get to play with my little bud!
Tom had brought her by a couple weeks back after I had invited them over for a fresh homemade Punjabi fest. In the below photos you can see Molly playing with my Ganesh pendant–which seems to enchant her endlessly. Whatever path she chooses… I believe Ganesh will bless her every step.
And below… she is focused on my bangles… God help us, I fear the girl is going to grow up and share my obsession with junk jewelry!
I got these photos from Tom after stopping by their home and getting a little Molly-time in! I looked at these pics before going to sleep last night, and I drifted off smiling.
SAW, it’s a family affair! Gooble gobble… gooble gobble… come be one of us!
I reappeared on the SAW site… check it out here:
Though it’s my not so humble opinion that we oughta change Tom’s wording from “opinionated” to “divinely inspired with life-changing and immutable insights.” Well… perhaps that would be coming on a little too strong.