Two-Minute Cosmic Worship Break

My mother serendipitously re-sent me a video that I had been searching for amongst my 4,000 saved e-mails.  I am in need of this video on a regular basis, and once you see it, you’ll know why.  I think I may have posted it before, but like looking up to see the horizon, it must be done often to stay sane.  Enjoy, re-blog, share…repeat.  (Not like shampoo instructions, which are entirely bogus.  Who lathers twice in one shower?)

I can’t seem to get the screen posted right here, so click this link until I figure it out.

Well, okay, it seems that WordPress requires a space upgrade to get the screen to show.  Please click the link, though.  I promise your two minutes will be rewarded!


Playing Chess with Death

Last night, I watched Ingmar Bergman’s film “The Seventh Seal”.   There’s nothing like hitting a gray mood smack on the head with a black & white film about Death!  Yargh!  Into the breach, mates….

First of all, the photography.  Beach scenes, faces, clouds and silhouettes, clean, stark, intense.  They just put me in a mood to ponder dark and light without looking away.  Bring it!

Characters.  One of the questions Steve always asks after we watch a film together is “which character do you think is most like you?”  The characters in this film are icons of human stereotypes, in a way, but rather like the roles in a medieval morality play.  The knight is questing, always.  He wants to know and understand; his intellect is never satisfied.  Steve has a lot of that in him.   Jof, the juggler, is a childlike observer.  He is easy-going and happy, and he has visions.  He sees with his heart and doesn’t understand why others don’t see what he does, but he doesn’t preach about his visions, he writes songs about them.  I think Steve has some of that in him, too.  I identify with Jof myself.  The squire is shrewd, ironic, confident and direct.  He seems very grounded in his ego.  There are some other players, more simply drawn: the actor, the cuckold smith and his loose wife, Jof’s young wife and their baby, a silent girl who attaches to the squire, a witch and of course…Death.

How each of these folks engage with Death is fertile ground for the imagination.  If you’re questing, trying to find answers, strategically engaging Death in a game of chess, what is the lesson you are likely to learn?  That Death doesn’t have any answers, but he’s going to win the game.  And how would you take that?  It makes me think of my younger days, when I was in the throes of religious fervor, convinced that I was learning the big answers to the most important questions.  I wrote terribly pretentious poetry and harbored judgments about everything.  I thought I was going to “figure it all out” eventually.  That was after Death’s first visit to me, and before his second.  I had a few close calls in between that made me think I might be on the right track.  His re-appearance convinced me that I wasn’t really onto anything.  So, the questions remain.  I like how the knight gets increasingly comfortable with inviting Death to sit down and join him.  He learns a few things, he postpones the inevitable, he diverts Death’s attention away from his friends for a while, and he even shows Death that he can be happy while they play.  I am learning from his example.

The scariest part of the film is the depiction of fear itself.  The wailing and flailing and pleading for mercy is utterly desperate and triggers all kinds of panicky feelings in me as I watch.  I do NOT want to slide into that.  That’s the worst evil in the film.   Those people are being tortured and destroyed from the inside out.  It gives me the shivers!   This is a great example for me, too.  I don’t have to engage with Death in this manner.  I have other options.

The storm scene reminded me of a camping trip we took one spring.  After a balmy evening, a thunderstorm rolled in from across the hills to the west.  The sun had set and it grew quite dark, but just over the ridge, the lightning blazed up like bombs in a great war.  It was like watching a WWII movie, all black and white explosions in the distance.  And we were the only campers in the park, in a little nylon tent.   I was kind of scared.  I thought about doing the “safe and prudent” thing, striking camp and driving away.  Steve asked me, “Why?”  Well, because something bad could happen!  Bad like what?  We could get wet.  We could get hit by a falling tree or lightning.  We could, but it’s not highly likely.  We could just watch it and see what we learn.  And we can always get in the car, too, if we want.

So we stayed.  We did get wet.  We eventually went to the car.  We went home the next day.  But we saw the most amazing light show and felt the wind and heard the rain fall on every surface with a different sound.   And we experienced it together, present, honest, alive.   Take that, Fear!  Check!

Film Noir et Blanc

Saturday night we went to see a movie:  “Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horrors”.  This silent movie from Germany was accompanied by a live band from St. Louis called The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra, which features Wurlitzer electric piano, theramin, vibraphone, electric guitar, two violins, viola, trombone, trumpet and one percussionist.  The theater itself is an old relic.  Typically, the front rows of seats are replaced with old couches and sofas and end tables.  For the crowd on Friday, though, there were rows of seats and cafe tables on the side.  It was a pretty funky set-up, with lots of young people in attendance, and a few old fogeys like myself and Steve.  The theramin player was fascinating to watch.  She also played a violin part.  Her intonation was better on theramin, unfortunately.  It was good creepy, goofy fun, though.  German expressionism is interesting.  How would you stylize fear or death or love?  Silent horror film stars don’t scream.  Their eyes widen; they grimace; they gesture, but they don’t scream.  Make-up and background heighten contrasts.  Here’s the iconic image from the film.

Steve likes the childlike exploration of a basic emotion – fear.  It’s not deep and philosophical, really, nor is it very clever or contrived.  I tend to find the old horror films funny.  I mean, here comes Count Orlok walking through town with his coffin under his arm.  Seriously?  I won’t even go to a modern horror movie, though.  I get too tense.  It’s not good for me.

On Friday night, I finally watched “Citizen Kane”, which we borrowed from the library.  I’d never seen it, although the ending had been spoiled for me many times over the years.  I got hooked by Orson Welles’ genius.  The way he pieces together the story, the radio-inspired musical effects, the dialogue and writing, the visuals and directing, and his acting are just brilliant.  Did you know you can buy a T-shirt with his picture on it that says, “I made Citizen Kane when I was 25.  What the fuck have you done?”  His creativity is evident, and was technically ground-breaking at the time.  I mused about the psychology of the story for hours afterwards.  Agnes Moorehead’s portrayal of his mother was just eerie.   Issues of control and freedom and power squeak out in each scene.  So, I’m in total agreement with everyone who says it’s possibly the best American film ever made.

One more thing: what do you do with leftover movie popcorn?  Feed the squirrels.  I put it out on the old wicker chair.  It’s already gone.  Now it’s snowing.  Food is going to be harder to find.  I might need to see another movie.