Daughter of Godcast 019

Calm Before, Conditions for Happiness, Terrorist Training Films

A podcast about movie making and the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Calm Before, contriving conditions for happiness.

Hello, Hi, Howdy! You and you and you and you and you and ME! Takes a village to make a movie. Daughter of Godcast is on the cusp of our 19th episode, 19 weeks of telling the stories of the Daughter of God and not so tangentially me, your hardly humble host. Episode 019, The Calm Before.

The strategy for bringing Daughter of God to the known universe is trust. I’ve talked about the evolving purpose of this podcast, from building an audience to discovering why I movie. This is such a cool question, and such a powerful reason to get in front of a camera and microphone each week, not to mention writing these episodes, to explore why I am here and perhaps why we’re all here.

I feel in some sense I am podcasting for all of us. This experience of weekly remembering and reflection is one that I would highly recommend, but pragmatically speaking, if everyone had their own podcast, who would have time to listen?

 

A podcast about movie making and the scifi featurette, Daughter of God, with Director Shri Fugi Spilt, (Dan Kelly). Calm Before, contriving conditions for happiness. Dan prepares to podcast form the hammock in the studio.

I get to yammer on, I’m vanity publishing. This is both an amazing opportunity and a gift. All this technology and history has conspired to help me OUT myself on a weekly basis, to be worth listening to, which means pushing the envelope of my experience, mentally and emotionally. That’s the part I recommend, specifically. To practice being fully alive.

Seems pretty clear that we get to choose whether we feel more or less alive. Happiness is just a feeling in the body, yet some folks define arbitrary external conditions that must be met before they’ll allow themselves to experience happiness. They seek to meet those conditions via TV, Facebook, pets, friendships, books, whether or not they get out into the forest or even the yard, food… and the conditions have to just so or else.

Controlling Conditions

By the summer of 2007, I and my cohorts in Brooklyn were pretty adept with contriving optimal conditions. We had several swinging parties in the United Gardens. Our jam group, WAY was getting together regularly, we even had an impromptu naked jam out on the patio on a warm evening in September. We made a pilgrimage to gorgeous Fire Island for salty beach time. I got back to Michigan twice for fresh water swimming, to throw a party with my extended friend family and a reunion of my bio family. My eyebrows had mostly grown back at this point and I was starting to turn heads of the females of my species, at last. I even found a steady lover in the Fall.

Daughter of God

So the pursuit of happiness via manipulation of external reality was going gangbusters. Meanwhile, back at the Daughter of God, I scheduled ADR with Steve for August and September, added the new post apocalyptic shots into the rough cut and screened the project for select friends and family.

My brother Mike and his wife Sarah had watched DOG at the Michigan family reunion in August. They had a similar reaction to Ndong regarding the post apocalyptic shots and Mike was also turned off by Christina.

From: Michael Kelly <mkellyaz@
Subject: Re: comments on DOG
Date: August 13, 2007 at 2:34:42 PM EDT
To: Dan Kelly <anything@

Ok so I think the flow is pretty good.  This is my synopsis of what I remember.

Intro scenes

I had to stretch to get to the post apocalyptic setting because the images indicating societies fall were too subtle and looked to me to be images of just old stuff.   The boat that the characters live on seems to be in good shape.  The radio voice overs have to do all the work to set the scene and maybe this needs to be elevated.

I like the scenes where you {Uncle Joe} interacts with the girl {Christina} - those are fine and the plot is set pretty well there. The mirror scenes and slowmo or smear cuts (Whatever!) look really good and are effective.

The scenes with the guy {Gerry} and the {Christina} girl  have I think left me with the impression that you spent too much time ( or each cut was too long) on the girl.  She is such a poser actor  compared to him that the disparity is distracting.  She becomes uninteresting when you keep the camera on her for more than a few seconds.  The sex scene aftermath scene spends way way too much time on her cutesy manners which are annoying unless taken in very very small doses.  This scene set should be very short cuts in my opinion.  The more you let the viewer see that interaction the more trite and uninteresting it seems.   Leave more to the viewers imagination not less.

I think I don't get the end parts that I saw.  It was intriguing with the two guys,  but as soon as I saw the hand written note in the info binder I lost the sense of immersion.  It looked out of place.  
Looks really really professional.  Al in all.   If I remember more I'll jot it down.

Mike

My brother’s critique of Carmen’s acting is really a critique of my editorial. I LIKED Carmen’s performance, I had directed Carmen to give me precisely what my brother was critiquing. Later on, an editor colleague Faisal was even stronger with his feedback.  He hated Christina and advised that I cut her out of the story. Tough to do when she’s the main character. 🙂

Clearly this intense critique of Christina pointed to an opportunity. Neither my brother nor Faisal could see where I was trying to go with Christina. I knew my choices in both casting Carmen and directing her were spot on, even brilliant, inspired. I just had to figure out WHY they were brilliant. Another journey.

In August Steve Zilliax and I met in Sudbury for ADR, and I got to meet Carly his sweet GF before we drove her to the airport. Steve’s awesome parents, George and Meg hosted us, they had set up a big tent for me in the back yard. Steve and I jury-rigged the ADR suite in the basement’s decrepit bathroom. I borrowed a ton of blankets for the walls and set up dual screens, one for Steve in the shower/booth and one for me outside. After a trip to the local electronics shop for a few extra cables, we went to work. Steve rerecorded all his dialogue, figuring that since we went to all this trouble, why not?

The Zilliax house was on a lake, and Steve and I got some great swims in too. Swimming is the best. I left Sudbury and crossed the border at Sault Sainte Marie back into Michigan for a third Beulah visit. While I was there I checked in with Willy, Marijke and their three kids, Lauren, Maile and Ezra, who were like, growing up. Will and Marijke I mean.

Back in Brooklyn, our neighbor and my collaborator Philippa Kaye had bought an apartment in Greenpoint, and was preparing to move from Prospect Heights. I flagged Laura Peterson and her husband Jon Pope and urged them to take over her apartment. I now had Laura and Jon living right next door! We had been talking about expanding our documentation and doing a dance for film, perhaps with her next big project, Electrolux, featuring the music of Led Zeppelin.

Philippa and I spent a great summer developing her project, Humorphous, featuring dancers replicating the energy of animals. A fusion of science and art, my involvement was to create a compelling showcase and promotional video for the project. This was intended as a touring show for zoos and aquariums. We documented the project at the Prospect Park Zoo with the avid encouragement of the Zoo’s Curator of Education, Karen Tingley.

Guests

Relations with my parents had been improving, to the point where I let them visit me in October. Pretty funny to see my parents in bunk beds. I was having a lot of fun with visitors and those bunk beds, my niece Maura and her bf had visited earlier in the year, I think the Allegro family invaded with their 5 kids, I’d had multiple visits from Bob and Cynthia and Bill Josyln from the Wonderland days.

Conditions Reprise

Some hubris is built into successfully controlling external conditions. There’s a confirmation bias of conditions supporting happiness, rather than the other way around, and we tend to focus on making situations ever more optimal. Back then make was a pretty powerful word for me, now I recognize that we don’t so much make as we decide. Like whether we decide to live or die.

Bodies supposedly wear out, run down, fall apart. Telomere’s and all that. How much of aging is a decision? 1%, 100%? Who wants to be less vibrant, less robust? Who would choose mental and physical decline, and death? So many people assume that there is no choice, and thrive or not by default.

We show up on Earth full of life, but vulnerable and in need of constant protection. After some growing up we reach a point where we’re autonomous and feel our power and vitality surging.

Received wisdom states this is supposed to level off and start declining. You’re gonna start feeling and looking less vibrant and fresh, feeling a little creaky and next thing you know you’re in a nursing home and then a coffin. Or maybe shivering under a bridge and then stiff in the county morgue.

According to my observations of the dominant culture, having a youthful body and attitude is permissible for about 35 years, then if you want to continue being accepted into the pack, you’ve got to start dying. Your mind must close, your body must become more fragile and slack. Fear and worry become more acceptable and encouraged. You assign the future to your kids, if you’ve got them. You’ve got to get sick.

Now I’m 53, and maybe your 20. You’re listening and like, this is scary shit, I’m glad I don’t have to think about this for another 20 years. I’ve got 20 years of kick ass life ahead, and I’m going to rock the universe.

Well, right on. What I’m trying to say here is that 20 years is nothing. Maybe you’ve got 100, 500 years but because your ALREADY buying into the decline and death scenario, and freaked out about looking ahead, you’re cheating yourself.

If you’re 60-70, maybe you’re like, dude. Just wait until you’ve got to have an artificial hip or taking chemo for cancer, blaa blaa blaa. There’s lots of reasons to turn this podcast off, and just keep doing what everyone else is doing. Go ahead and die, I’m not stopping you.

[Come with me if you want to live.]

What if aging (senescence) was just a decision to be less alive? The obverse would be deciding to be more alive, every day. How does one decide to be more alive?

I have borrowed and developed many strategies, I am more than willing to share, but what works for me may not work for you. For me the central tenet is just deciding, choosing to be more alive in every way i can think of.

For instance.

Cultivate curiosity, especially about the human experience in all it’s wonderful variety.

Be gentle with yourself, flip that critical voice into an over the top personal cheerleader who’s certain you are always the cats pajamas

Stop thought entirely for 20-30 minutes and just be.

Eat things you’ve grown yourself.

Feel appreciation as often as you can, for even the most trivial things, especially for the most trivial things.

You probably thought I was going to play the yoga, tai chi or the vegan card, right? That stuff is fine, but just feeling wonderful is a spiritual practice.

There’s no telling what the human body is capable of. Sure, there’s always a meteor ready to intersect earth’s orbit, or a street car waiting to run you over, but don’t go jumping in front of the street car until your good and ready. Then do it with a smile.

So surprise, turns out podcasting is another decision to enliven. I think because I am talking about choosing, about how I’ve come to choose more life and fundamentally, how I realized there was a choice to begin with. That everything is a choice.

In 2007, I had external conditions humming along, while trying to extricate my self identity from the mainstream narrative. Back then I was defining myself by chafing against what I didn’t want, standing in contrast to alien paradigms.

Some Almonds Are Easier To Skin than Others would launch under a new production company, Terrorist Training Films. I registered $204 worth of domain names on June 1st. terroristtraining .net, .org, .us, .biz .tv, .info and .mobi but didn’t deploy a web site. Not quite yet. I kept these domain names at the ready, powerful culture jamming resources. Until Almonds was polished and heading to festivals.

Almonds Trailer

Terrorist Training Films was a lifting of the kilt to the military industrial complex and the Bush/Chaney forever wars. I was a lone commando behind the lines of American Empire and ready to throw sabots into the gears of consumption first chance I got. My peace action in 2003 was documented in secret FBI files, available to Canadian border guards but not to me. I interpreted this as an attack, an attempt to impede my movement, to intimidate and frighten. My only course of action was to assume the worst, that the minions of the fedgov had or were about to label me a terrorist. By pre-emptively embracing their language, I’d be better positioned to turn it upside down and sideways.

Here’s an excerpt from the Almonds synopsis on the film festival consolidator, WithoutaBox, presenting my first pass at a premise for Terrorist Training films. I talked about my 2003 arrest and subsequent revelation at the Canadian border seeing my FBI record and then…

Production on the island would not be limited to DOG though. It was time to process the implications of Kelly’s FBI file. If the USA’s government was starting to target protesters, he ought to have a plan. The distorted FBI record might presage more dire threats.

These days, folks who vigorously advocate social justice, environmental sustainability and spiritual activation are likely as not to be labeled terrorists. Kelly embraces this doublespeak. Like most Americans, Kelly can’t help but consume. It’s dangerous to deny addiction – awareness is the first step to recovery. If rapacious consumption threatens our Earth then consumers are the ultimate terrorists.

To train the terrorists is to save the world.

In hindsight, I can see how I was boxing myself in. Terrorist Training Films might have been a zany cognitive jujitsu move, but against myself, mostly. I was talking in a broken tongue, playing a rigged game, snarled in someone else’s paradigms.  My imperfect understanding of the game and who “they” were was based on radical references like People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn and War is a Racket by Colonel Smedley Butler, not to mention trippy reality inspired fiction like the Illuminatus Trilogy.

I was preparing to overthrow occluded oppressors with art, not realizing that the oppression was always and only, within. I had climbed into a matrix of my own making and was railing against self imposed limits and obstacles. [Monsters from the ID] Not to say that oppressors are always a fiction, just that their status as fact or fiction relies on the quality of attention (energy) we assign them.

Each of the DOG characters could be said to be an analog for me. I was a little bit of Christina, going with the flow, letting the universe be her designated driver. She had survived many traumas this way, releasing control, trusting that everything would work out. I was also Uncle Joe, the seemingly all knowing, snarky angel, showing up to drop some revelation on the hoi poloi. Finally I was Gerry, crushed and crisped, but not nearly neutralized. Perhaps even with a little phoenix action up his sleeve.

These characters were a way of working out my own story, a way to process the horror show supporting American exceptionalism, American empire, American ignorance. Still the activist from way back in episode 001.

Nowadays having fun is how I present, because going on and on about what sucks is the very trap itself. What’s needed is to free ourselves from patterns of self loathing and start experiencing the world we wish to live in. This is just a story anyhow, about what was happening in 2007, where my head was.

The title of this episode, Calm Before is fairly transparent. Calm before what? In the Year of the Pig, 2007, I had several great dance collaborations under my belt, I had recalibrated my expectations of completion for Daughter of God and was genuinely enjoying the evolution of the movie. I was getting laid more often, and our little artist gang was gathering together regularly and having a blast. We were all pretty happy. The year of the Rat would be a different story, the beginning of the end. 2007 was the last golden year of United Gardens for me. A great run while it lasted.

You’ve just expanded your consciousness with another 19 minutes of the the Daughter of Godcast, episode 019 and whether your 19 or 90, I and all my imaginary friends are so glad you could be here with us. Thanks so much and we’ll see you again in a week. Bring a friend or three along next time, perhaps a non American and if English is your second language, we trust you haven’t been too confused by our non standard use of grammar and made up vocabulary words.

I was practing Tai Chi on a sun shiny day around the United Garden’s patio, when Trevor showed up from somewhere way tipsy. He shyly challenged me to battle him, and when I agreed, he got this zany shit eating grin and assumed a sort of crouchy, pro wrestling, sumo grapple posture. I just started laughing and laughing. I was so overcome that I was utterly unable to defend myself, and he easily took me out. I bow to the drunken master, whose crazy hilarious energy check mated all my training. I’ll always remember Trevor sparkling with alcohol fueled hilarity, totally in his power.

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