Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hold It, My Strumpet

Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as understood. ~ George Orwell, 1984

We'll start with my walk, which reliably delivers a defense for what is good in the world.

A pretty woman walking leisurely down Marshall Street in a tight blue dress and 4" blue heels on a sunny afternoon. Seeing a bug-eyed man admiring her, I comment that she looks so good, how could he possibly not look, to which he responds, "I know, right?" never taking his eyes off her.

At the John Marshall House, a crew of Hands On Richmond volunteers are painting the white picket fence outside the 19th century house, only occasionally dropping globules of paint on the brick wall, sort of a t-shirt clad group of Tom Sawyers.

On 11th Street, I hear the sounds of symphonic instruments before I see the musicians playing on the gracious patio of the Wickham House. A woman pushing a man in a wheelchair stops and puts the brakes on, saying to her husband, "Why don't we listen for a bit?"

It's such a lovely Fall day that I sweep leaves and pull weeds to make myself feel better about sleeping through Jackson Ward's clean-up day this morning.

For a refresher on the darker side, I need only turn to my daily culture.

First there's the documentary,"The Lovers and the Despot," the Bijou's offering this weekend and while I arrived a few minutes late for the afternoon screening, I didn't miss any of the film.

Good thing, too, because the story was so far-fetched, you had to keep reminding yourself that this was all based on real life to buy into it.

Still, it was jaw dropping to learn about North Korean leader and film fanatic Kim Jong-Il ordering a big name South Korean actress and her director ex-husband kidnapped in 1978 and brought to North Korea to (what else?) make films.

Seems he found North Korean films boring and burdened with too much crying, so he wanted some fresh creative blood in his country, the better to outdo South Korea's movie industry and put the North on the international film map.

All Kim Jong-Il wanted in return was complete obedience. No big deal, right?

Wait, what?

Wrong as the spoiled ruler's actions were, he gave director Shin not only complete artistic control but state-of-the-art filmmaking equipment and facilities and, realistically, what filmmaker wouldn't be seduced into not betraying a tyrant for all that?

That the kidnapping resulted in him being reunited with his ex-wife Choi was just gravy on top. Some people are just meant to be lovers.

What impressed me about the documentary was the amount of footage beyond talking heads - some of it taken during Choi's time in the company of the North Korean leader, some from films the couple made there and in South Korea over the years and some that was just audio recorded on a portable tape recorder by Choi when they met with the dictator.

What surprised me most was not that people questioned Shin's honesty - the issue of whether he'd defected or been kidnapped was only kind of resolved, although what artist chooses to go to a Communist country?  - but that I had never even heard of this couple or how they showed up at the U.S. embassy in Vienna in 1986 seeking asylum.

Granted, we didn't have all the media sources then that we do now, but I feel like defections were always well publicized. I leave the Bijou eager to discuss the movie with anyone who'll have me.

Carrying forward with that theme - abdication of self to the collective good - I met Mac at Firehouse to see their production of "UBU 84" from the very last row, a place I've never had the chance to sit at Firehouse before.

Mashing up Orwell's "1984" with an absurdist comedy called "King Ubu," resulted in simultaneous exposure to two scenarios proving that there will always be more than one face to evil and it may not always be a recognizable one.

Because there's definitely something inherently evil about the paring down of language, the limiting of self-expression and the erasing of history to better explain the present.

Foster Solomon owned the stage as Pere Ubu, clad in quilt-patterned leggings with striped socks. He also got topical running after Kimberly Jones Clark as Ma Ubu, chasing and calling to her, "I got a big sausage for you. I'm gonna grab your pussy!"

Betrayal again reared its ugly head with Charlie Raintree as Winston, a man who dares to explores human connection, and ultimately love, in a room he thinks is outside of Big Brother's purview (except nothing is ever outside of Big Brother's purview), yet ultimately betrays her.

Pay attention, kids, this is eerily relevant to today's chaotic political scene.

As for the paring down of language, I can conceive of no good reason why we'd ever want to eliminate words. As a long time word nerd, one of my pet peeves is when people say, "I could care less" when what they actually mean is "I couldn't care less."

For those who can't remember the difference, "UBU 84" reminded us that what we mean is, "I couldn't care any less."

And when most of the citizenry couldn't care any less, we're probably already well on our way to the dark side.

Which is exactly why I need a life-affirming, bird-chirping,  picket-painting walk every single day.

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