Today my site had 166 views from Switzerland, which was more than double the number of views from here in the USA. Switzerland… why Switzerland? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing whatsoever against the Swiss, but this is odd… is it not?
I’m down with this, so…
Hello to all my Swiss friends!
The latest project I have been working on (as one part of a really great team of artists, writers and such) made Yahoo News. The part of this that is relevant to me is Bryan talking about the Odysseus graphic novel adaptation that I have contributed to through Tom Hart and SAW. It has been designed as a therapy tool for veterans with PTSD. The work is amazing and will be available fairly soon, but for now, check this out…
Soon I hope to publish a few pages from that project on my site, so stay tuned for lots more! In the meantime, for a preview of a couple unfinished pages, check out these:
I typed in “Hardcore barefooter” just to see what would come up in a Google search… I found this old forgotten picture of my feet (it was the very first pic in the search) on someone else’s Tumblr feed with this accompanying quote: “Now this is HARDCORE BAREFOOTER FEET! When you wear this much jewelry on your feet, there is no need for shoes. Man I’m slackinnn”
And here’s the pic. For those of you foot freaks out there who were wondering who those feet belonged to… wonder no more, they belong solely (get it “Solely”) to me… Barefoot Justine!
By the way, in the ensuing years… I have lost every single one of those toe rings… and I really miss a couple of ’em!
OK, it’s all coming back to me now… I was traveling then, sans shoes, and working events, long days, my feet used to get positively grubby. Dig that rainbow Band-Aid! I had Band-Aids on both big toes. It was HOT, August, and the blacktop had actually blistered the bottoms of my toes. No regrets, just bandage ’em up and keep ’em movin’!
I knew I had the evening all to myself. This is not really a good thing. I tend to be fine so long as I’m out, about and productively occupied, so long as the sun is still shining. The problem is, as soon as it gets dark and I’m left alone for the evening (which happens about every evening), the demons rise up and whisper my deepest fears into my ears until my head is filled with dreadful words dripping with worry. One of the ways to banish the demons is to become engrossed in a movie, in a movie that is truly more of an experience. Simply put, a movie that can take me away from all this… this fearful “self.” I wanted to see a particular kind of movie, you know what I mean, certainly you’ve looked for the movie that would be just right for your mood, a movie that you’ve never seen, a movie that creates precisely the right atmosphere and contains just the right amount of fantasy and drama for your needs… you know, a movie that doesn’t exist. I have wasted a lot of my time seeking “that movie.” Of course, the tone and texture of that movie changes with my moods, but I never seem to be able to find a crystallized version of that specific but incorporeal movie that only exists in my head. This night I wanted to see something as colorful as a Disney cartoon, as fantastical as a fairy tale, romantic, maybe exotic, oh… and wouldn’t music as tuneful as the songs of Harry Nilsson be nice, too? And of course, this movie had to be full of women I can relate to. I can’t really relate to “the modern woman” as she exists in America, especially as she exists in American pop culture, so this is an especially immoveable challenge. Needless to say, once I got to the video store I realized the absurdity of my quest and just started looking for something that might keep my restless mind occupied. I picked up everything from Pixar, to the fifties movie “Lilith,” to a collection of Gerald McBoing Boing cartoons. In the end I wound up in the Bollywood section at Video Rodeo, and I settled on “Saawariya.” I figured at best I could simply endure it, which would at least be a distraction.
Being a Western Hindu, one might assume I am a huge Bollywood fan, or a huge fan of all things India. Not exactly, I mean I am fascinated by the romantic promises of India, but unsure as to whether I could weather the realities of India. And so far as Bollywood goes, I have seen plenty of great Indian cinema, though rarely do the films I like fit into the Bollywood category, a notable exception being the classic “Sholay,” which is rather like a Bollywood “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” This one, “Saawariya,” turned out to be a shining example of the sort of magic only possible in a Bollywood picture… anymore. No doubt my unconditional and instant love of this movie was greatly assisted by the fact that the lead actor looks a helluva lot like a young Indian Paul McCartney from the White Album, or perhaps straight off the cover of McCartney II.
I mean… that would be enough, right? Enough to elevate this to a fave. Just imagine, a romantic movie with a young Indian McCartney. Swoon! I’d like to say that that wasn’t why I liked the movie, and actually it isn’t, but the similarities are strong. For one, the lead actor is not afraid to be silly, ditto McCartney. For another the music is melodious in the film, as it is with McCartney’s. And there is not a shred of cynicism in this film, nor is there any of that in McCartney’s music. I know this comparison may seem absurd or obsessive, but it isn’t, McCartney embodies those things I value most, as does this film, as did this film right from the establishing shot!
I surrendered myself to the film from the opening scene, and I decided to trust it and let it take me where ever it wanted to.
The story is based on the Dostoevsky story “White Nights,” and I don’t know much about the original story, but the film plays the story out like a wondrous fairy tale, and that, right there, McCartney stuff aside, is why I fell in love with this film at first sight. “Saawariya” is a fairy tale of the highest order. The imagery, the colors, the lighting, all create a world bathed in the sort of beauty I could sink into, never to be seen again. The visuals are opulent, as only films made by Indians can be (See Mira Nair’s sensual delight, “Kama Sutra”), any visit to a Hindu Temple would prove that the Indians know something about rich sensual beauty. The Indians, like no other, know how to celebrate beauty. Beautiful stories, beautiful costumes, beautiful boys, and stunning women. How could any people born under such beautiful Gods be anything but admirers of beauty? Perhaps I generalize, but in my experience, Indians know something about beauty that the rest of us seem to have forgotten.
“Saawariya” was a treat to my weary eyes, especially in the grim mire of modern American films which seem to be getting more and more obsessed with the dark side of reality, with being “realistic,” films which more and more seem hellbent on being colorless and drab. I loathed Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” for that very reason, every damn moment in the film was olive drab, brown, or a cold and depressing blue. So it goes with the cynicism of our age, our art, and our culture. Fortunately India hasn’t turned its head too far West for too long. The Indian’s have not forgotten what fairy tales look like, not like Tim Burton has, as evidenced by his perverting Willy Wonka into his own twisted world of cornball (ahem) “dark” gothic fetishism. “Saawariya” is bathed in blues and greens, the backgrounds, I must confess, are close to monochromatic in some scenes, but even those blues and greens are not the blues and greens of depression and death, not like Jackson or Burton uses, no, these are the blues and greens of springs and valleys, of moonlit nights and magic! And these blues and greens always make way for warmer colors, and these blues and greens celebrate rather than mourn. There is so much to mourn in life, I don’t need to spend any of my time steeping in the mournful drab of Jackson or Burton’s visions. I would much rather dance in the light of “Saawariya.”
That, for me, is what truly set “Saawariya” apart, there is not a hint, trace, or even whiff of cynicism in the air. The film is unrelentingly romantic, emotionally tragic at times, but only so much as all the great fairy tales often contain a mix of romance and tragedy. Some might see “Saawariya” as mere fluff, I do not. The skill, inspiration, craftsmanship and artistry displayed in this film, the total commitment to beauty, were enough to leave me swooning for more.
I admire anyone today who dares to strive to create beauty in this culture, a culture that has forgotten how to approach or even admire beauty. We have confused beauty with our fragile attempts to make believe that ugliness is beauty, that the mundane is beauty. No, beauty is an elevated state, it is to be worked for, yearned for, earned for, and above all, treated with the deepest of spiritual respect. God how I dread modern photography, full of sober shots of banal American slobs in their filthy or spartan and visionless cages. We have forgotten the value of romantic ideals, of beauty for beauties’ sake. This film’s sole purpose seems to be to breath life into us through it’s sheer beauty. The backgrounds look like the very best of vintage Disney, but brought to life. “Saawariya” is shameless and unapologetically beautiful.
One of my other pet passions is bare feet, especially other barefoot women. There are a few barefoot scenes in the movie, but there is not one barefoot character, nor extended scene of any character barefoot outside of their dance scenes or homes, and though I mourned that personally, it was hardly going to put me off the movie, but it certainly would have enhanced the movie for me, though this is hardly a criticism, and is much more of a personal confession.
The other thing is that I love Indian Pop! The stuff is always such an experimental mix of cultural influences all filtered through the purely Indian sense of melody and rhythm. The melodies in the film’s songs are bright, fresh, and moving. The melodies, though at times filled with influence from Latin ballads and pop culture, are truly things of beauty. This is music, great melodic film and pop music without the banal crud and clamor that has polluted the cheap chincy world of market-driven drivel and computer-ravaged aggression that is American pop. The dance numbers are visionary, rather than being an odd or even incongruous interruption in the narrative (as with many Bollywood movies), this music is integrated beautifully, and wholly essential! This really is a musical in the most glorious sense. A beautiful romantic musical!
The characters are in and of themselves not merely archetypal, but charming and nuanced. They can surprise you.
Lilipop, the old woman who runs the inn where our hero stays, is quite a delightful character. The lead actor charmed even me, and most boys leave me rather cold, but this one drips with good nature and a certain unearthly, if not simple, wisdom. He does not swagger with testosterone-fuelled ego, no he plays, like a child, like Peter Pan, though far wiser, far more insightful and touching. Gulabji, the prostitute is also a charming character, vivid, full of life and confidence. Gulabji left me wondering what the boy saw in Sakina, who was by comparison rather sad and even gratingly devout. The one thing that I found most enchanting about the movie was that every single character seemed possessed of some sort of easy magic. There is a subversive nature to the film’s characters. At first glance it appears the boy is charming every woman he encounters, but we soon realize that he is wholly at the mercy of each and every one of them. These are powerful women. These are ultra-feminine women. These are women I can relate to. These women have style!
There are moments of wisdom throughout the movie. The boy hero, Raj, is not merely adorable and charming, like any lost boy, he is possessed of some wisdom, and certainly plenty of magic. He has come not only to fall in love, but to teach, to open up the people who surround him. He is there to speak of God, when he says that God never takes everything from us without giving us someone to take care of us. How true I know this to be. I had to be reduced to nothing, to absolute hopelessness myself, before landing in the arms of those who helped take care of me. Of all the things I have lost, I regret nothing. Everything I have lost was taken from me so that I might see beyond my attachments and move closer and closer to where it is I need to be. I never needed to remain in the company of the things I have lost.
of course, none of this writing was really about the movie, it was about my reaction to the movie, about how delighted I was to see it. I haven’t researched the movie, frankly, I don’t want to know. I don’t want or need to know if it was a hit or a flop. I don’t want or need to know what critics and cynics think. I don’t feel any need to allow that silly gob of pudding in my skull to shout down my heart. What is the point, I often wonder, of checking in with critics or writers, to meet what end? I have learned to trust my heart over my brain. My heart is telling me that this film made me feel warm and completely joyful, what business is it of my brain, of some critic, of some controversy to jump in and shit in my happy place? It is enough that the heart knows it has been filled with joy, I do not need or crave any approval from that self-righteous patriarch… the brain.
What this blog entry was about was, quite simply, that on this one day I went out looking for that movie, that specific movie I had created in my head, that ONE movie that would take me exactly where I wanted to go, that one movie that would wholly fulfill my needs. That movie was “Saawariya!”
It’s nice, isn’t it, to know that once in a while a movie can really hit the spot? And it’s nice to know, isn’t it, that consciousness has a way of connecting artists with those who most need to see their work? Consciousness, our Godheads have spanned that distance between Flordia and India, and the artists that made this movie and I, we have shared in this beauty together.
What this really is, I suppose, is a rant on why I hate email. That sounds pretty promising, like I really have something to say, some point to make, but the sad truth is that’s not really what this is. It’s not a rant about why I hate email, it’s more of a confession or monologue about a rather sad state of affairs, which is that I simply can’t handle email.
Oh, I’ve overcome the technical bits, I mean, I’m not an idiot, I know how email works. The problem is that somehow in emails my batshit crazy really comes to the fore. Oh how it shines! I think at it’s core email is something I turn to when I need to communicate with someone I cannot get through to, have a chat with, or call on the phone. See, the phone and personal time with people is the only way to talk about things when I’m feeling emotional about something. Phone calls and face to face conversations are organic, each side knows that the other person may be working through or towards something and it will all come out over the course of the conversation, emails are authoritative. They’re like scripture. You can’t think out loud in an email, not like you can in conversation. The problem is that often the things I really need to talk about are to people I can’t seem to get into a room with. In other words I say things that in the context of a conversation would simply be part of the process, but saying those same things in an email is not a process, it’s an announcement, even a pronouncement. Emails are not conversations. The question is, how do I have a conversation with someone when I am really needing to have that conversation with them if they are unavailable to me? Some people will read and answer an email long before they will answer a call or be available for an appointment.
Add to this the oft made point that the other person cannot read the intonation or see the expression on my face when I email them. Furthermore, there is no way to work through a problem in an email, not like there is in a conversation. The emails create all new problems rather than solving the ones at hand.
Yeah, that sounds terribly rational, even well thought-out and articulated, but the rub is that I sometimes cannot believe just how batshit crazy my emails seem even to me within seconds of hitting that little piece of plastic death… the “send” button. The worse part is, once I realize I have sent a batshit crazy email, I try and follow it with a second or third email… emails that only seem to make all of them in context seem just that much more batshit crazy. I have christened these emails: “Diarrheamails.” In my defense I will say that in a good old conversation none of the things I said in an email would come across as batshit. They may come across as odd, or perhaps misunderstood, but normally in a conversation we can laugh and work our way through it. Usually in a conversation these sorts of things are simply a little amusing, perhaps slightly annoying, but all part of the joy of a real live back and forth. Quite frankly the batshit crazy things I say in emails are the very same things people find fun and eccentric in face to face conversations with me (well… I’d like to think that’s true, anyway). It’s one of the factors in having a little extra personality. Im kinda like Indian food, a little too spicy, not everyone likes it or can take it… but I LOVE it! Well, I love Indian food, not so sure about all this extra personality.
Oh yeah, oh boy do I have email regrets. Dear God, I have such email regrets that they lead to outright panic attacks, sometimes ones that last for days. I mean, I understand all of what I have said above, but I just can’t help myself, and in the end I have to confess that I simply am not capable of handling emailing. I really need to stop it altogether, like I stopped using ebay, like I stopped chatting in every single Yahoo group or chat forum, and just like I recently quite Facebooking. To hell with this, this form of communicating is not for me. Besides, I don’t want to type to people, I want to talk to them. I want to eat with them. I want a line of conversation to flow through the many forests and valleys it needs to follow. Emails don’t flow, they stop ideas and conversations like a dam.
Dear old Tom Hart has endured a few of these email exchanges. Trust me, dear Tom, however annoying those emails may have been… they kept me up at night! Poor Tom, not the only victim, I sent some regrettable emails to my friend Joe in Akron. That was like a Flintstones bit, or a Simpsons bit where I wrote in a fit of anger then panicked when I realized I couldn’t take that stuff back. Fortunately, I had sent them to an old email Joe no longer uses! I guess you do win some, now and again.
The latest email disaster was a conversation I have been having with my doctor. Doctor Matthew Odom, a really fine doctor, half of my panic is over not wanting to lose him due to my finances or my crescendo of emails. I am so thankful to have him. Let’s set the stage. I have lost my healthcare, I have NO insurance. Add to this that I am on some meds that need monitored, and add to that that I have had cancer. Needless to say I am quite worried about my health and my finances, and how the two are so tightly related.
In this unresolved “conversation” (though it’s more of an email version of a one woman show) with my doctor there were so many things loading down on me that I knew each of the four emails I sent must have seemed progressively crazier by degrees. But, I’m worried, I’m scared, and I need help and answers. I’m confused and need a little guidance about how to navigate healthcare without insurance or money. It’s a mess. I don’t think that my emails were all that batshit all things considered. No, don’t get me wrong, there were no rants, no tantrums, no anger, just a lot of fear and worry. For one he wants me to have a second set of bloodtests done. Why? Shit, why? I’ve had cancer, I am facing some pretty severe side-effect possibilities from my meds… why do I need a second set of bloodtests? This can’t be good, can it? See… that’s the sort of crap going on in my emails. Add to this that I need a very important letter written by him, and I haven’t heard if he is willing to do this. Add to this that I was not sure if I could stay with him under the financial strain of having to pay for the visits out of pocket… and I was saying that I may have to seek a clinic, but I’d love for him to keep me on file so I could come back as soon as I had insurance or money. It was a lot of heavy stuff, some pretty good-sized worries. All of it stated sanely, no hostility, but a ton of worry… OK, maybe even panic.
But, dammit Justine, when will you learn NOT to even try and deal with this stuff in an email? Ah… I ask, but how else do I deal with this stuff if he’s a doctor therefor unavailable without an appointment, and expensive (at my current income level) to talk to?
So now, after this barrage of emails, and no response from him, I wonder what the hell is wrong, what the hell is he thinking? Dear God… what have I done? I emailed, that’s what I fuckin’ done!
Note to self: STOP emailing people!
I despise Obama and Obamacare, and NOT for the right-wing reasons, the fictional paranoid nonsense, not for the threat of (GASP) “Socialism,” but for very real reasons. Obamacare is a failure.
I had universal healthcare in South Korea, and it was a blessing. It was efficient and effective. It was none of the things Obamacare is, and it was none of the things the right would like to convince us of. Universal healthcare is the ONLY option. Anything else is bullshit. Please, keep in mind that I know this from having had to battle cancer in three different countries under three different healthcare systems. I am here to tell you, every single word that comes from the right about this is nothing but lies and propaganda. Don’t you dare argue it with me, I lived through it. None of the things I can tell you about universal healthcare comes second hand from Bill O’Reilly or whoever, it comes from having had cancer in a country with universal healthcare. When I got cancer, I was so glad I had it treated in South Korea rather than here. How foul is that? Think about that, I was pleased to go through cancer treatment in Korea rather than here in the States. Add to this, I was terrified of coming home with a pre-existing condition! Terrified to come home! How wrong is that?
While the idea of Obamacare was to provide care for everyone, the system was designed poorly, or simply designed to fail. Oh, we can conveniently blame the Republicans for this mess, but Obama’s failure as a leader and man of conviction are every bit as much to blame. Many of us (myself definitely) have been left utterly out in the cold by the weaknesses in the plan. Again, we can blame Rick Scott in Florida, we can blame someone else in Florida, but the root of the problem goes straight to Obama and the worthless Democrats. They backed down, took out the universal healthcare plan we so desperately needed out, leaving in place a sickly half-ass piece of legislation that left plenty of room for the tea-bagger assholes and Republicans to piss all over it and us.
Simply put, I am too poor for Obamacare. Yep, too poor. Being poor, I guess means I am not worth covering, and seemingly I am not worthy of keeping alive or healthy.
Several months ago I at the very least had the Alachua County “Choices” program. I at least had my basic doctor visits, lab work and prescriptions covered. Now I have nothing. I am poor, but I have to pay whatever cost my doctor wants to charge for office visits. My prescriptions have practically tripled in price!
This has wreaked havoc with my budget, with any effort to get ahead and set money aside. This has wreaked havoc on my nervous system. I now have to decide whether or not to go to the doctor. I have had to decide which of my prescriptions to take or not to take based upon what I can afford. I have had to pass on sorely needed care. I have had to make potentially dangerous decisions because I have lost the healthcare plan I liked and had, and am not eligible for Obamacare.
I feel angry, frustrated and confused. I don’t know what to do. I can’t make decisions. I feel helpless and baffled. My every back and forth with my doctor lately has been strained by this situation. I want to keep my doctor, but I cannot afford him. I am scared to death, and who makes sense or good decisions when scared to death? Who communicates well when scared to death?
That’s the real rub, here, I don’t know what to do. I can’t function. I don’t know where to turn for care, for help with my prescriptions. I have had to give up on a healthier method of getting the drugs I need in favor of the cheaper options. I have had to put my life at risk due to the failure of Obama and the Democrats, due to their cowardice and inability to lead, and due to the vicious and vindictive Republicans who (with smiles on their faces) exploit the weaknesses Obama and the Democrats left in their half-ass plan.
And all the politics aside, I just don’t fucking care about any of them, about either side. I simply want to live and be healthy. I simply want to go to the doctor when I need to and not when I can afford it. I want to take the drugs I need without having to weigh how important they really are. I want to move along to safer drugs than the ones I am on, but I cannot. I take the pills I can because they cost me about $60 a month, the alternative to those pills costs $155 per month! I cannot afford to make the safer healthier decision. I must continue to live knowing that I am at 24% chance risk of bloodclot, stroke and cancer, as well as at high risk of liver and kidney failure simply because I cannot afford $155 per month for the safer delivery methods of my much needed prescriptions. This situation is far more dire than people realize.
My life is in jeopardy.
Thank you on both sides, thank you very much.
Now what? I sure as hell don’t know. I mean, I really don’t know what to do or where to turn.
ADDENDUM: Today I went to my doctor for my first uninsured visit. He has known about my loss of coverage and the fact that Obamacare is worthless and leaves many of us out in the cold. The first thing my doctor did upon walking into the room was assure me that his office would continue to provide care for me, that he would work with me, and that I never need to forego care over financial concerns. Today, as I am working, my copay was $40, but he said not to worry about it when I am not making any money (which is often the case with freelancers). While this is lovely and I am quite blessed to be in the hands of such a good doctor and good man, this is an obscenity nonetheless. It seems terribly unjust that my doctor should have to suffer for the failings of Obamacare just as much as it is terribly unjust that I should suffer for the failings of Obamacare. The burden has, simply put, as usual, been placed on the wrong shoulders. It is inspiring, I must add, to know that there are people and doctors out there who will work together to help those whom Obamacare wholly and utterly fails. This, however, is not the way things should be, not at all, not at ll.