Category Archives: 6. Diary

What I Learned From “The Andy Griffith Show”

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Andy_Griffith_Don_KnottsI grew up watching afternoon repeats of “The Andy Griffith Show,” and though I took them for granted at the time, I now realize just how much I’ve learned from those shows, just how profound and dear the show is to me, how it helped form my values, and how I so desperately wish there were more shows like it on TV today. “The Andy Griffith Show” was essentially one of television’s great morality plays. Of course there were shows about Angels or whatever, and great shows like M*A*S*H, but the lessons in “The Andy Griffith Show” were not “out front,” so to speak, the lessons were simply a part of the lives of the characters. The lessons were woven into the show at every moment. They were in the food Andy ate, and they were in the ever fresh air of Mayberry. They weren’t preached, they simply were.

Andy Griffith used to point out that the show wasn’t about “dumb hillbillies.” As a TV critic from Cleveland once said to me, it was about how far one would go to help a friend. This philosophy extends past the mere one-on-one aspect of friendship, Mayberry, as a town, pulls together time and again to help their friends, or as we would say today, “members of the community.” I was inspired to write this today after watching Andy and Barney in action. For a start, as a comedy team, the two of them had amazing chemistry as both friends and actors. The timing between them is exquisite, funny, and as natural as can be, and this is exemplified most strongly in the slow moments when nothing is happening. Though “Seinfeld” claimed to be the first show about nothing, I would suggest that the seeds of that approach to a TV show started with “The Andy Griffith Show.” Those moments when Andy and Barney are sitting on the porch or around the office lazily talking about nothing are some of my favorite moments ever to air on TV. They were tight. And more often than not the very “nothing” the show seemed to be about would slowly and seductively turn into a very special something. Among the many things I learned from the Andy Griffith show is that a slow and easy conversation on a porch can be far more enduring and entertaining than the histrionics and cynical smart-assiness modern TV shows use as a crutch–crutches we now wrongfully consider “sophisticated.” It seems we have traded in romantic innocence for mean-spirited cynicism. I prefer the slow and deceptively simple tales spun in Mayberry over any recent TV shows.

Andy was close to Barney, and could spend time doing “nothing” with him–the sort of friendship I envy and wish I had. I think of the classic “Man In a Hurry” episode where an “important” businessman arrives in Mayberry, urgently in need of a car repair so he can do his “important” business. As he grows more and more irate at the leisurely pace of life in Mayberry we slowly learn the value of Zen and the Tao, and we slowly learn that the citizens of Mayberry don’t need more to do, this guy needs to learn to do nothing. Yeah… how I would love to have a friend who I could wile away hours with on a front porch, talking for an hour about whether or not we should play a game of Checkers. The pace of life in Mayberry is enviable, it seems anymore that every person I spend time with has important business and can only shoehorn in an hour or so here or there around their important business. I envy the pace of Mayberry, and I envy the simple trust Andy and Barney have in each other, the trust they have in the value of sitting quietly together on a porch talking about whether or not to go into town for a soda… until Barney falls asleep. Once upon a time I saw times like that all around me, in the hills of Pennsylvania when my grandfather and great grandfather and uncles would just sit on the porch and breathe the crisp clean air while we kids played in the sun and our moms, aunts, grandmas and great grandmas chatted away in the kitchen or dining room.

I learned a lot about real friendship from watching Andy and Barney, and not just in how well they did nothing together. Even in the face of everyone in town being annoyed with Barney’s antics, even as much as Barney could be laughable and pompous, Andy loved him, Andy defended him, was infinitely patient with him… because Andy had taken the time to understand Barney. Barney, who could be a rather annoying human, who could get so full of himself as to blow it time and again, who could get hot tempered and mean, who was the worst kind of swaggering know-it-all, and who frequently alienated himself from the people of Mayberry… there was one person who always liked him, who always stood beside him and stood up for him: Andy. Through the course of my life I have often been able to talk with and befriend people that others picked on or despised; outcasts, people with difficult personalities, people that were worth getting to know. I have often been chided for the company I keep, and I realize all these years later that I learned how to like and enjoy the company of people who are “unlikeable” by the standards of most people through watching Andy Taylor, and not just with Barney, Andy extended such generosity to a number of people in the show. Really, this is core Hinduism, being able to see past a person’s awkward external traits and love them for who they are within, or in the Hindu sense, seeing past all that awkwardness and loving the Godhead in them. Perhaps it seems absurd, but there is a mystical quality to Andy’s presence. He is a man with a depth of compassion and simple down-home wisdom, rather like a back porch Dalai Lama. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that we can’t all be like Andy, and if some of us are a little more like Barney, that’s OK, there’s always an Andy or a Tom Hart out there who can see you’re worth the trouble. At SAW (where I work), Tom and I often joke that we’re like the Kermit and Fozzy of SAW… I laugh to think that sometimes it’s rather more like he’s Andy and I’m a hippie-chick version of Barney. It’s tough to live down, that.

I learned that sometimes progressive values can be presented subversively. Very often Andy was not a group-thinker, very often he stood outside the populist opinions and considered things on his own–and not just about his friendship with a challenging personality like Barney. Very often it was Andy who realized that just because a person was different didn’t mean they were to be shunned or under suspicion. Andy tried to get to know and understand misfits, the people that put off or frightened others in Mayberry. Andy realized that good-hearted people often rested under the skin of a misfit, or a person that was grossly misunderstood. Andy took the time to understand people who were different, and I wish that was a value more fans of his show took to heart. Andy stood alone, Andy had the courage to defy the popular opinions of those around him. Andy said no to power, said no to absurd rules, Andy used his judgment rather than taking the easy way out and relying on regulations or mandates from bureaucracy, and more than once this got him into trouble. Seriously, look closer, Andy was an iconoclast, an easy going subversive, and he knew that often the right thing to do was to disregard what was expected, regulated or popular.

Justine's Papa McClain (photo restored by Justine Mara Andersen)

Justine’s Papa McClain (photo restored by Justine Mara Andersen)

My grandfather, “Papa” McClain, reminded me of Andy in many ways. Papa was easy going as could be, kind hearted, calm and gentle, and he could fix ANYTHING! I learned a lot from my Papa, and not just about physical stuff, but he planted the seeds of my more progressive and subversive values when he patiently explained to me that cowboy and Indian movies had it wrong. I learned from my Papa McClain that not all cowboys were heroes, and that the Indians had a valid right to fight for their land and their ways. This was a revelation to my young mind, it woke me up and created in me a person that doesn’t believe everything she reads, and certainly does not believe in commonly held misconceptions. When watching Andy Taylor, I see my grandfather, who has passed. Unfortunately, when watching Bareny Fife, as I said earlier, I am reminded a little too often of my over-sensitive and emotional self… it’s humbling and comically embarrassing. Fortunately, Like Barney, I too have a friend (back in Ohio) who loves and understands me with the same good humor as Andy loved Barney.

I learned through “The Andy Griffith Show” that heroes and leading men could be fallible, could make mistakes and admit it when they were wrong. My old man never once admitted to being wrong, and I think to this day he is convinced he never did anything wrong. Everything was someone else’s fault. Thankfully I had the example set by my grandfather and Andy Taylor to follow. Andy was often mistaken in the show, even about his son, and often had to apologize or rethink his stances and beliefs. Andy was not rigid. I learned as a writer and creator that your lead characters and heroes were all the more charming for the moments they discovered they were wrong. Andy Taylor was frequently humbled. This, of course, created a lovely state of affairs in the show, as it created a reality in which we weren’t always certain how things were going to come out. After all, if Andy could be wrong and admit it… all through any given show we weren’t 100% certain that Andy was in the right or that things were going to turn out in line with his stances or actions. I learned that I, as a person, could be wrong, could make mistakes and still be admirable, in fact, more admirable if I handled it with the same grace as Andy.

I learned something even more important than all that through “The Andy Griffith Show,” and that is that “simple Southerners,” “Hillbillies,” and people who say “ain’t” are not to be dismissed as ignorant backwards people. In college I recall more than one professor or fellow “intellectual” student dismissing someone because they said “was” when it was proper to say “were,” or “seen” instead of “saw,” or they said “ain’t,” and so forth. The thing is, thanks to Andy Taylor, I realized that my grandfather and all my hillbilly relatives just might be smarter than art profs with Masters degrees. I’ll tell you this, if the shit hit the fan I’d rather be with my grandpa than a University professor… I imagine the prof would starve… my grandpa knew how to shoot and skin a squirrel, how to raise corn and potatoes, how to survive on nothing.

1x08-Opie-s-Charity-the-andy-griffith-show-17880405-640-480“When a man carries a gun all the time, the respect he thinks he’s getting might really be fear. So I don’t carry a gun because I don’t want the people of Mayberry to fear a gun. I’d rather they respect me.”

Andy Taylor (From “The Andy Griffith Show”)

I learned through “The Andy Griffith Show” something my other favorite childhood TV shows tried to undo. I learned that violence is a thing to be avoided, after all, Andy Taylor never carried a gun! Oh, he used them as the Sheriff if need be, but he never wore one around town, on duty, or merely as a matter of course. While most every other show I saw as a kid featured fights and gunfights, “The Andy Griffith Show” was different. Andy was respected for who he was and for how he carried himself. Only true cowards demand respect or feel that they should be respected because they carry a gun. Guns are for fools, craven people who are afraid of all sorts of things they have made up, don’t understand, or have been brainwashed to fear by a media that preys on the weak-minded, hostile, and ignorant. Andy Taylor didn’t need such a crutch, he was a real man. Real men don’t believe they need open carry laws. Real men don’t create and live in worlds of fear. Recently, in dating, I met a number of men who couldn’t help but go on about their guns… I recognized them as cowards and moved along… looking for a guy more like Andy, looking for a guy who didn’t mistake a gun as a show of strength.

Sadly there weren’t many women to relate to for me in Mayberry. Loveable as Aunt Bea was, she just wasn’t me, and the girlfriend Andy had the longest, Helen Krump, was brittle and often unpleasantly quick to spit fire and fury. I preferred Ellie, the druggist, who unfortunately disappeared all too quickly. I do have to say that I find it surprising and refreshing that the women of Mayberry were always varied, and many held down jobs. Even Helen wanted to keep working and teaching. When “The Andy Griffith Show” did a show about Andy and Barney’s high school reunion, Andy met an old sweetheart, and we learn that the reason they drifted apart was that this woman didn’t want to settle down as a wife in Mayberry, she had dreams of her own and was determined to set off and live them. Sure, there are stay at home moms and other “stereotypes”, but there were just as many women in the universe of “The Andy Griffith Show” that were working and “liberated”… just like in real life. What some on the left sometimes forget is that some women want to stay at home and raise kids… and that there is not a damn thing wrong with that! The beauty of “The Andy Griffith Show” is that it did show a variety of women with a variety of needs, wants, and dreams.

Of course I could go show by show and talk about the lessons of particular shows, but I was more interested in talking about the ethos of the show in general terms, about the underlying philosophy and recurring themes. Oddly, one of the most important metaphoric lessons I learned from “The Andy Griffith Show” was clearly explained by Chuck Jones (Looney Tunes director) when he talked about how he related to Bugs and Daffy. Jones said that he liked to believe himself to be Bugs Bunny, but when he looked in the mirror all he saw was Daffy Duck, and that realization plays out in “The Andy Griffith Show.” Sure, I’d like to be more like Bugs or Andy… but I’m probably a lot more like Daffy or Barney. but here’s what I really learned, the real heart of the matter… it doesn’t matter, it’s OK, so long as we see our inner Barney and aspire to release our inner Andy… everything’s gonna be fine.

I recognize now that the very lessons I learned in “The Andy Griffith Show” were sometimes even closer to me than Mayberry, they were all around me. There was, of course, my grandfather, but there was also my great grandmother, whose deathbed advice to me was “be nice to people, try not to hurt anyone, and mind your own business.” And boy has that served me well, and those words flow through every scene and every episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.” So if you weren’t lucky enough to have a Papa McClain to learn from, nor a Granny Glover to tell you to mind your own business… don’t worry about it, those same lessons are being served up everyday somewhere on your TV through “The Andy Griffith Show.” And the world is still a better place for it.

Facebook & Me

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I deactivated my Facebook account for a while… this was in essence to “break the habit.” My week off of Facebook was a very successful experiment… Facebook… you can have it! I know, I know, for many Facebook is a playground of fun… for me it was a source of ever-flowing anxiety, and here’s why:

1) I hate parties. I hate standing around at a party, all alone, and having to make awkward small talk with numerous people that I probably have precious little in common with. I don’t need a thousand acquaintances, I need a few good friends, or as I once heard, when it comes to friendship, “I’d rather have four quarters than a hundred pennies.” By the way, there’s still room in my purse for a few more quarters.

2) The incessant politics. OK, it’s cool that many of my friends are political, but I am not–like… not at all. I frankly resent our culture’s political obsessiveness. If we’re looking for answers and solutions through politics… we are looking in the wrong place… whatever we need… it’s not under that rock. I preferred it when we watched the six-o’clock news and forgot about it. I just don’t need to be constantly reminded how the world is coming to an end. I don’t need to know anymore than I do about holes in the ozone or plastic in the ocean, and I especially don’t need to read one more opinion on how we’d all be safer if everyone carried a gun. I only need to know so much about Gaza and Ebola, and I already know that Republicans are EVIL (you know, like that black lump of pure evil in ‘Time Bandits’). The point is, I need some sleep and some peace of mind, and confronting this stuff in an all-day-long never-ending stream of misery via Facebook was not helping me sleep or feel calmer. My political beliefs are very personal, very conflicted, very unpopular, and I have no interest in joining a group-think with those on the left or those on the right. Besides all that, I have other interests, so when it comes to politics… you guys can have it, that’s totally cool… but count me out–and I mean WAY OUT, baby!.

3) I don’t like cats.

4) I have uncommon opinions, very uncommon and very unpopular opinions. When I post an opinion it is not a call to be challenged or scolded, it is an attempt to find that one like-minded person I might get on well with. Usually when someone disagrees with one of my opinions they simply regurgitate the popular opinion I was contesting… see… now, how is that fun? Facebook does not make me feel at all “connected,” it instead leaves me feeling all the more alienated. Yeah… I don’t need that.

5) I really really really dislike pictures of cats. But babies are cool!

6) I don’t need challenged or one-upped every time I post an opinion, especially about the Beatles. Dig!?!

7) Facebook is one more giant popularity contest, and I had plenty of that in high school, thank you very much. By the way… I didn’t do so good in that pubescent popularity contest, either.

8) Facebook is a huge time-suck! I get sucked into it… like quicksand. “Quick… I’m on Facebook… someone shove a branch in my face so I can pull myself out!”

9) I never really cared much for computers anyhow. I crave real friendship with real human interaction… intimacy, babe! My best friend lives in Ohio and the only way we can connect is via Skype… I guess I don’t need anymore virtual friends or Max Headrooms in my life.

10) I weigh things in my life, and if I find I am experiencing a greater percentage of anxiety or frustration than joy or peace in an activity… I bail out. I found the percentage of anxiety and frustration far outweighed the joy and peace when I spent time on Facebook.

In other words, Facebook is really a huge monolithic example of everything I avoid in social interaction, so I won’t be participating anymore. However I will keep my account open because I realize that a few people are following my blogs via Facebook, and I want to leave that avenue of access available to them. Also, people need Facebook to message me sometimes, and I need to leave that avenue of access open as well.

Please, by all means, Facebook on… but now y’all know why I’m no longer participating. All that said, if someone really needs to show me a picture of their cat… my email account is still functioning just fine.

So, I guess this is goodbye Facebook! See y’all out there in the real world…

Oh… and if anyone wants to get together to watch Bollywood, Disney, drive-in or Godzilla films, talk about how groovy Paul McCartney, Harry Nilsson, Nat King Cole or Serge Gainsbourg are, have coffee, Thai or Indian food, go for a walk, shop, spend a day at an art festival, or do just about anything that doesn’t involve computers and drinking… I’m your girl, and I’m dressed and ready to go!

“Turn on, tune in, and drop out.”

Patreon: Any Patrons Out There?

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I have been looking into the web-site Patreon.com, and wondering, as an artist and woman with a very unusual lifestyle (you know… being a hardcore barefooter AND artist) if this might not be a good way to go. Being an artist is a tough row to hoe financially… and being so stubbornly barefoot makes making a living a challenge (one I strive to rise to… and have had a lot of success at, but some help from my many barefoot fans to keep me happily unshod would be groovy). The point is, I am wondering if this is the kind of life Patreon might not be able to assist.

Patreon is a site artists and fans go to to find support and to offer support. As I understand it, the patrons promise contributions as small or large as they see fit so the artist can pursue their projects and lives without distraction or stress.

I think if I could raise my rent and utilities every month, it would free me up to make more art, and to make the glorious blog entries I have always wanted to write. I have wanted to keep a diary of my daily life as a barefooter, but have not, as that would require a lot of dedication and work. I have also been wanting to write lengthy art and illustration tutorials and lessons, but all the researching of images and scanning that would take is currently beyond my means. And of course, I have pages of unfinished and unpublished work I would love to finish and share.

The very first thing I would like to do is finish my glorious piece on my conversion to Hindusim, see the process on that piece so far here:

Page 1: http://barefootjustine.com/2012/06/02/god-is-speaking-to-you-page-1-in-process/

Page 2: http://barefootjustine.com/2012/06/02/god-is-speaking-to-you-page-2-in-progress/

Page 3: http://barefootjustine.com/2012/06/03/god-is-speaking-to-you-page-3-in-progress/

Page 4: http://barefootjustine.com/2012/06/05/god-is-speaking-to-you-page-4-in-progress/

I think if I could get this Patreon thing to work, I could create one helluva blog, live a stressless barefoot life, and make tons of spectacular art… and share every line and moment of it totally FREE!

Does anyone out there think this is a good idea? Would any of you want to support my barefoot life and my art?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas… so please, comment away…

World’s Greatest Dad

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bf2a13e9afce944a2cc5db41c080d188 Beware! Here lie many a spoiler!

Twice now I have tried to write this entry. Twice now I eventually decided to scrap those drafts, but hearing today that Robin Williams died, I felt compelled to watch Bobcat Goldthwait’s “World’s Greatest Dad” again. It’s funny, but the reason I scrapped both those attempts were because the first time I saw this movie I thought it was one movie, and I wrote my entry from that perspective. I watched the movie a second time, and realized that it might be a very different movie than what I saw the first time. I was left confused. Now, this third time that I watched “World’s Greatest Dad,” I realize that it was both, the movie I saw the first time, and the movie I saw the second time. Funny thing is, I was surprised how much I loved the movie both times. Oh, and the third time… well, let’s get to that.

Robin Williams was brilliant, funny, a multi-faceted actor, worthy of tremendous respect… but I never followed his career, as would have a dedicated fan. There are lots of people to be fans of, and we can’t be fans of everyone, no matter how brilliant they are. We’ve only got so much room in our hearts for true fandom. But I was moved by his passing. I, like Robin Williams, am a creative professional, and one who has struggled not only with depression, but with suicidal thoughts; thoughts that stopped once I started living an authentic life. Add to this the irony that I have also witnessed a hanging first-hand, so this hit me in a very personal way. I keenly felt the dread of his death, the despair he must have felt is one I know, and yet I am left stunned because there is really only one reason I never shoved a gun in my mouth (I mean, besides never having owned one–and hanging myself well, that just wasn’t for me), and that is that I have always had this odd curiosity… I mean, I want to know what’s around the bend. I always stuck around because I didn’t want to miss whatever was next. I guess I had hope that things could be better. What I don’t understand is this: for Robin Williams things were better. He was successful, influential, wealthy, a creative man who was lauded for his creativity. He didn’t have the same curiosity that I have had to keep him going. Don’t get me wrong, I know the “success and money can’t buy you happiness” bit… but I’m not sure I buy it, I mean, let me just say this: poverty and failure are the currency that can buy an awful lot of misery.

The first time I saw “World’s Greatest Dad” I saw it alone. I found it funny in a dark way, but what I really saw was a profound and moving film hiding under layers of dark yet strangely realistic and believable problems. The second time I saw “World’s Greatest Dad” was with a friend, and we laughed our asses off. I began to feel silly about the first entry I wrote about the film’s profoundly moving messages and its surprising depth, so I scrapped it and wrote a second. Upon hearing Williams died, I watched it again, and I still don’t know what to say, but since I feel compelled a third time to say something, I set myself to writing, albeit loose and stream of consciousness writing. The real catch in writing an entry on the profoundly emotional aspects of this movie is the danger of hearing Goldthwait deflate any depth or profundity with sardonic (and dishonest) dismissal, but I guess I’m gonna take that risk.

For a start, I just want to say that I truly love this movie, I relate to the film, its characters, and their dilemmas, and all of that took me by surprise. Sight unseen, I figured I might enjoy the movie, even though I was going into it knowing nothing about it, but the movie took me by surprise at every turn. That was what I most enjoyed about the movie was that I genuinely had no idea where it was going to go, and more than once I was shocked by the turns of the events in the film. That said, it’s a hard film to watch, and one has to trust it to get through it. For some reason, I trusted this movie. The part of this film that is most difficult to get past is that Kyle, son of Lance (played by Williams) is a genuinely horrid little trollish asshole, and watching him is not funny, it’s stressful, and every bit as annoying as having an asshole teenager of your own. This film makes an excellent case for birth control. The first time I watched this movie I saw it with a friend who was not up to it, he did not trust it, and he not only could not bear to watch Kyle, he also found the father (Lance) hard to bear as he felt that Lance himself was a beaten down loser… yet I sensed there might be more going on under the surface than what we see.

Let’s talk about William’s character Lance. From the start we get the point that this man is a dreamer of some ambition, but he has either been beaten down by life, or he simply never really had what it took to get the break he needed. Lance is one of those sad dreamers who seems to be dreaming of things that are just beyond his reach, of things that he isn’t quite ready to achieve, and that in and of itself is utterly tragic. I found his struggles and desires noble, even if the man himself was utterly ineffectual.

Lance’s son, Kyle, on the other hand is a total prick, unredeemable. He’s a twisted and angry pervert, a total twat, a shitty little fuck. Think I’m being too hard on him? Then you haven’t seen the movie. The character has seemingly been created to be simply unsympathetic at every turn. His poor little friend Andrew confuses us as we simply cannot work out why he is friends with this asshole Kyle. The other characters are painted with equally enigmatic, repelling, yet realistic brushstrokes. For example, Lance’s girlfriend in the movie is a hilariously self-centered woman, and played with such charm that she rings utterly true in every scene.

We realize early on that this film is about Lance’s need to connect, to be loved and accepted, to gain friends and attention through his writing, and likable as he is, he lacks the charm to succeed in our weird little world. As a frustrated dreamer myself, I found his struggles to be panful to watch. Lance looks for acceptance in all the wrong places. He looks to be accepted in the world of publishing, he looks to be accepted by his horrid self-centered girlfriend, he hopes to be accepted by his students and fellow faculty, and where he most intimately seeks acceptance is with his wretched son, who shoots him down at every turn. This is heartbreaking to watch, and every time he tries to talk to or connect with his son we are left asking “why is he even bothering?” He is bothering because he craves connection. To further drive this point home, we see that Lance is not accepted among his peers, oh they are polite to him, but it is known with every scene that he is at arm’s length. Even at work, as a teacher, he is an unpopular teacher teaching an unpopular subject. As one who struggles for social acceptance, I took this movie as a personal metaphor, and his pains and frustrations seemed all too real to me.

As you can see from reading this, this is not an easy movie to watch. The humor, though hilarious if you’re up to it, is dark and caught in that strange and unsettling middle ground between grossly vulgar and sublimely subtle. Sure, at times it’s crass and vulgar (through Kyle), but that is an essential aspect of the character, and even of the very worthwhile message, but what makes it hard to watch is how utterly defeated Lance is at every turn, and though he has been shrunken and demoralized by life… he plugs along ever hopeful, and God bless him for it, too.

At about the time we become worn down by poor Lance’s plight, at about the time begin to realize we can’t tolerate his son Kyle for one more second,at about the time we swing our thumbs over the “stop” button on our remotes… everything changes, and to Goldthwait’s infinite credit, not a moment too soon. The pacing is ingenious. The way Goldthwait tests your patience yet keeps you hoping and interested, and then hits you with the shock is pure genius.

Lance comes home to find his son Kyle asphyxiated. The irony of this is now unbearable. We saw earlier the film that Kyle enjoyed auto-erotic asphyxiation, yet it is still an absolute shock when Lance walks in to find his son dead. And what is even more shocking is the horror and heartbreak of the moment. We see the agony through William’s performance, and as much as we all hated Kyle, as much as we were all meant to hate Kyle, the scene is utterly tragic in the way it is played out, and to my heart, probably all the more tragic for the complicated and conflicted nature of the tragedy. The father, who tried and tried, who deep down knew his kid was a total asshole… loved him unconditionally. The Father, the “World’s Greatest Dad,” hides all signs of Kyle’s masturbatory death, pulls up his sons pants, moves the body into the closet where he makes it look like a sucicide via hanging. Knowing now that this was how William’s died, the scene becomes all the more surreal and heartbreaking… and, I might add, all the more moving knowing that in his real life, his own loved ones had to suffer the same trauma.

At this point his self-centered girlfriend turns his back on him, having only been in this for the good times, she cannot bear the real human feelings of another. Set apart, friendless, no son, no girlfriend, Lance turns to his neighbor, who we only saw briefly a few scenes earlier, but we sensed right away that this was a lonely woman, a spinster. He brings her pot brownies, and invites himself in to talk, and we realize the poor woman is a hoarder, but a kind and lonely soul. They make a date to get together and watch zombie movies, as both of them love them and so desperately need a friend.

Though his initial cover-up of his son’s death is done out of pure love, what happens next begins to become clouded. He wants to see his son redeemed, at least in death. The movie’s turning point, oddly enough, is not the death of his son, the turning point hinged upon the suicide note Lance had written for his son a few scenes back. Ultimately, this suicide note is published in the school paper, and Kyle begins to become an icon among the very people (his classmates) who hated him most–and for good reason, I hasten to add. Of course, from this point the movie and the character’s motives become complicated and even conflicted. Lance begins doing things that we can’t help but question, including writing a bogus posthumous journal when it is suggested that it might be well-receieved. At that point we begin to realize that Lance is still writing this out of love for his son, but we begin to see that he may have other motives. Lance, through the death of his son, suddenly has a reason to write, he has a built-in audience, and at last a way to express himself… a way to feel wanted. We also wonder if perhaps Lance is no longer writing this out of love for his son, but perhaps to recreate him as the son he wished he had. It would be easy for a cynic to dismiss what Lance does, or for a romantic to only see the noble aspects, but to me it is far more interesting to see the duality and conflict in action.

Lance’s life changes dramatically with the publication of this journal, and he suddenly has the girl, an audience, popularity, and a platform from which to express himself. He now has everything he ever wanted. But there is one person who remains on the outside of all this, Andrew, the awkward kid who was Kyle’s only friend. He is the voice of Lance’s conscience, and the voice of his heart, as it turns out.

As the movie unravels, as Lance unravels, he begins to crack. He even stands up his neighbor, the hoarder, in favor of his selfish girlfriend (who is now all about Lance now that he is getting attention).

We are left wondering where this is going to go. At this point the one thing I knew I could rely on was that Bobcat Goldthwait was capable of going anywhere and ending this film in any number of ways. There is real tension in the climactic scene, when Lance is called upon to give a speech as the school library is being renamed after his son. Goldtwhait’s brilliance shines most clearly in the moment when Lance takes the podium, I was on the edge of my seat… having no idea what Lance was going to do.

He tells the truth, and becomes even more reviled than ever before. Right there, before the assembled school, he tells them his son was a douchebag, and that he had written the letter and journal. His sudden popularity is left in ruins with this confession.

What an ending that was, but to Goldthwait’s infinite credit, the film does not stop there, the following two scenes cemented the film for me. Williams walks through the crowd, slapped, given the finger, scowled at and despised, but he steps out into the hall alone, suddenly joyous, unburdened, and he strips off his clothes as he runs down the hall towards the swimming pool, naked, he climbs the diving board and comes to a conclusion that brought me to tears:

“I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not, the worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.”

And those, my friends, are words to live by, and suddenly this film becomes affirming, joyous, and perhaps even romantic. In my own life I have done the same thing as Lance time and again, I have sought acceptance and friendship in the wrong people and in the wrong places. The fact that this movie dealt with that very human dilemma moved me to tears, deep and gratifying tears. Rarely have I come across any movie that has taught me so valuable a lesson, a movie that has comforted me, and I believe, has changed me for the better. Thank you so much, Bobcat Goldthwait.

And here is what I am going to do for you, dear readers, I am not going to tell you what the final scene is, but I will tell you this, it is so very real, and so very heartwarming, so very honest and beautiful, that I just can’t bear to give it away.

This is a film that needs to be seen by every loner, every frustrated dreamer, and indeed by every social misfit, and by every soul whose problems are not those mundane and tired troubles that concern the characters in most modern movies. Be patient, and trust “World’s Greatest Dad,” it’s totally worth it, and like Lance who loved his son unconditionally, I loved this film in the same way. Thank you Bobcat, thank you so much. And I am terribly sorry for the loss of your dear friend, Robin Williams.

Being a Working Artist… Not Easy…

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So we got this work inquiry, it’s gonna pay $2,500! Our proposal was accepted, and I was sooooo excited! I mean, I could really use $2,500. There were details as to the nature of the project, lots of technicalities are underway (like stuff in writing, sending art samples and resumes, etc.), then I reread the initial inquiry, this is all for a project that is 3 or 4 years down the road.

Yeah, I said 3 or 4 years down the road!

When I realized this I sent the email below to Tom Hart who had scored the job for me/us:

“That’s as disappointing as not getting the job… not that I won’t need the work 3 or 4 years from now, too…

Hope I can get by until then.

Thanks for landing this, in three of four years I’ll buy you lunch!”

Micanopy Florida

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My view of Micanopy

My view of Micanopy

My view of Micanopy (side)

My view of Micanopy (side)

I decided that since I had a lot of repetitive computer work to do today that I would take the 20 minute drive to Micanopy Florida (where “The Yearling,” “Doc Hollywood,” and “Cross Creek” were filmed) to sit on the great wrap around porch of one of its ice cream parlors, sip a chocolate malt, and do my work.

These pics were taken from my viewpoint… kinda shows not only why I moved to Florida, but why I came here to work. It’s like Mayberry here in Micanopy and Gainesville… but with hippies and punks mixed in. Micanopy is the oldest inland town in Florida, is full of antique shops and lovely old buildings with gardened lawns. Very charming. Oh… and the chocolate malt was made with real malt and not that lousy syrup!

I have to say, if I can spend the rest of my life sitting on scenic porches barefoot and sipping at chocolate malts while I work… then I’m doing better than most.

I am grateful!

If you are wondering, I am working on an animated info-graphic for the University of Florida’s library. The job was bid on by Tom Hart (our founder at SAW–“Sequential Artists Workshop,” where I teach), and the project has essentially been handed over to me to write, direct, illustrate and animate, so I think I’ll include one of the background images just so you all can see what it is I’m working on.

Well… it’s time to set this HUGE malt aside before I drink it all and get fat. Back to work!

Barefoot Justine's Easter Island Bots for UF.

Barefoot Justine’s Easter Island Bots, a background drawing for SAW’s UF project.

Film Vs. Video

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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.