Archive for September, 2010

Of course, as cool as the Robotech anime was for me back in the day, what has that got to do with the here and now (such as it is)?  Fear not intrepid reader, for I shall reveal more.

I mentioned that I had kept my die cast metal SDF-1 in part one.  I took it with me to college as a protective talisman.  During times of stress, it helped me to imagine I was the commander of the space defense fortress, fighting off the invading problems of my life.

The toy-as-talisman, or security blanket, encapsulated several reassuring images for me.  While being a military vessel it also contained the citizens of Macross Island, who had rebuilt their destroyed city within the ship.  They grew crops, manufactured goods, and engaged in trade with one another as the ship pursued its course back to earth.

There’s an element of Lost In Space inherent in the image, as well as a Noah’s Ark archetype at work.  The whole of humanity contained within a protective vehicle that manifests all their needs as it transports them to a new state of consciousness.

In the series, most of the population of earth gets destroyed during the final Zentraedi attack.  It’s the unlucky refugees who are isolated from their old life on earth who primarily survive to continue humanity in the new intergalactic world.  Bad as that recycled air and water must have been, it beats being atomized by reflex cannon bombardment from orbit!

Not exactly a wholesome or reassuring reality when you think about it.  The archetype still captures our imagination, however.  Battlestar Galactica used it’s titular spaceship as the flagship that rallies the survival of humanity in the fleet.  Starblazers used the Argo as the means by which the crew accomplishes their goal of restoring earth.  The Discovery in 2001: A Space Odyssey brings humanity in touch with the alien intelligence of the monolith at Jupiter.

The ship as the transport vehicle through the unknown or the unconscious (represented by the sea or space), carrying with it the experiment of humanity from one state of awareness to the other.  The whole package by default carries with it all that is needed.  As they say, wherever a human being goes they carry themselves with them!

You might say that these ships are all small imitations or intimations of the biggest ship of all, the earth.  These ship-tales echo our own world experience by bringing the grand affair into a more comprehensible field of form.

So while I’ve been making use of these popular tales, from Star Trek to Robotech, I’m getting the feeling that it’s time for me to consider what my own, personal, individualized form of the ship-tale is.

If this were an ocean based exploration I’d choose a submarine, something closer to Voyage To The Bottom Of the Sea or 20,000 Leagues Beneath The Sea.  One could make it an earth adventure, and then get something akin to At The Earth’s Core or The Last Dinosaur.  Outer space could mean the vast strangeness of Space: 1999 or long struggle and searching of Lost In Space.

Countless environments, phenomenon and consciousnesses waiting to be experienced and meditated upon.  All worthy and interesting explorations to me.

Trouble is, what will I pick?  Perhaps I will build something from the ground up, exploring what components the experience consists of through discovery.

Stay tuned!

Nowadays Anime and Mecha (giant robots piloted by humans) are no big deal.  While I was still in high school though, many a moon ago, any appearance on television was a huge event. Of course, the concept of television was not the endangered species it is today either.

You had to get up early to catch this kind of stuff, like many shows that were barely allowed to show in the backwaters far from prime time slots.  But Robotech blew my mind with its character complexity and ongoing story.  Like Speed Racer, Marine Boy, and Starblazers before it I would be exposed to new ways of thinking and civilization would move forward in microscopic ways.

The premise is this: An alien vessel crash-lands on earth, filled with advanced technology and a brand new fuel source—protoculture.  The event causes the earth to unite under a world government and rebuild the alien ship into the flagship of a military organization called the Robotech Defense Force (or RDF for short).  It is believed that the aliens will come looking for the ship and earth wants to be ready to repel them.

Turns out that’s a correct assumption.  On the day of the maiden voyage of the flagship (known as the SDF-1 or “space defense fortress”), the aliens (giant humanoids called the Zentraedi) appear with the intention of capturing the flagship and returning to their home planet.

In the first series, known as “Macross” (named after the island the SDF-1 crashed and was rebuilt upon), we follow the adventures of both the humans and the Zentraedi involved in the struggle over possession of the SDF-1.  During the initial attack to recapture the ship, the humans discover not all of the modified-for-human-technology works at they believe.  Despite their superior forces, the Zentraedi find the behavior of the humans confusing and are constrained by orders not to destroy the SDF-1.

The Macross series really begins in earnest when the humans use the SDF-1 to execute a “space fold”, but botch the process.  They end up transporting themselves and most of Macross Island to outer space, at the far end of the solar system.  They are forced to rescue the 50,000 or so inhabitants of the island along with as much supplies and material as they can, then try to return to earth.  The Zentraedi attempt to stop them as the SDF-1 makes its way back home.

All a decent enough back-story for what happens, and in many cases that would drive the action of most television shows. What struck me as most powerful though was the idea that you could have a vast array of different iconic characters that included the “bad guys”.

Who it turns out aren’t as bad as first thought. The Zentraedi are controlled by the Robotech Masters who have stolen the fuel source of protoculture from another alien race—the Invid.  Protoculture, the source of immense power that fuels all the giant robot machines in battle, is a life form that belongs to the Invid.

The second series would examine the Robotech Masters and the third the Invid—and their effect on humanity.  In the second series the main protagonist is a woman.  That was another cool thing; how different kinds of women could have important parts in the drama.

The Zentraedi find the human culture awesome and exciting and many eventually elect to “micronize” themselves to human size and assimilate into humanity. The show evolves from a struggle for survival to a question of integration among different cultures.  This is handling the big stuff folks.

It isn’t perfect. There’s bias creep in the stories, not all of which holds up today.  But back then it was like advanced technology.  Cool characters dying? Questions of gender identity? Complexity in villains?

It was hard, getting up to watch this show.  Remembering to program my folks’ Beta VCR to record it wasn’t easy either.  Sometimes there’s only so much willpower available to a teenager, even when the stakes are something you really care about. This wasn’t the first or last show I had to fight to watch.

But sometimes that’s what young people have to do, fight for the things that matter for them.  Their very education is at stake. I would argue the future of civilization itself is at stake.  For where else will you learn the important lessons of culture if not through the hard-to-reach treasures of artistic pronouncement?

I still have my die cast metal SDF-1, bought on discount from Kaybee toys for ten bucks. My symbol of the adaptability of human transformation and the ability of new forms of thought to disrupt even the most ingrained forms of coercion and repression.

Nothing belongs to us; it is all borrowed on the backs of someone else.  Yet in a sense we are stealing from each other because we need to separate ourselves from truth, believe we are special above all others.  This is the dilemma of our civilization, the ability to recognize our limits and accept our indebtedness to others’ lives, yet still celebrate the individual who dares to speak with an honest need.

The stories are there now—alive—as we speak. What secret wonders are being revealed to youthful and eager eyes beyond our imagining?

Maria WebsterI’ve known Maria since the day she wandered into my dorm room and hung out, chatting sagely about what I could look forward to as a newbie student.  She’s still that insightful, hard-working, outspoken and charming woman from those days.  Only now she’s more powerful.

She’s had an album for a while. If you’re really lucky you have a copy of one of her bootleg cassettes from back in the day before the internets made music a telepathic experience.  Now she’s got a new song available, and I hear tell there’s more in the hopper to come.

So what is she about and what do you, her listener, do?  Maria sings about relationships using her voice and an acoustic guitar.  She explores intimate and personal experiences, confessing and declaring more to you the listener than she might be willing to admit to herself or those she knows.  You are the privileged stranger, witness to the satisfaction and frustration of her proud, vital, vulnerable self.

Speaking of dragons, there’s another dragon worth mentioning.  The ruby dragon of alchemy, represented by the number nine.  Nine is the highest individual number and therefore representative of the highest degree to which a human being alone may attain.

The symbol of the nine, or 9, is a hovering circle (the zero) with a dangling tail (the one).  The divine zero is about to descend to join the one (the human being) and begin a new level of consciousness.

This can be imagined as the descent of the Holy Ghost or the bringing down of the Holy Grail to the consciousness of a human being, who will now experience a wider awareness.  So too, will the divine, the most high finding fulfillment in the lowly human being the plan that unfolds from infinite mystery.

This is the moment of transformation, of great danger, and unpredictability.  Often we can only use veil-names to hide the contents, lest they become institutionalized by earthly concerns or disappear back into the heights and depths of the unimaginable unknown.

Number nine.  Number Nine.  Number Nine.  The Beatles played with this formula, encompassing the vastness and complete bedlam of existence in a mantra of return.  The number always brings us back to the beginning even as we reach the end.

Nine is fine, nine is naughty.

So what is going on with all this, say you?  Think of it as a wandering in the midst of a great dried out cistern-like structure stretching out to all horizons. Blue skies and arid heat bearing down from a bright sun, while sharing snacks with a gigantasaurus of a sphinx, feet and paws roasting on the baked clay.

One tends to see things out here, hazes of steamy far-off imagery wafting unsteady in the oppressive daylight.  Strange lights reflecting and bending off currents of particles in the superheated air.  I swear, out in this desert of the mind I hear weird noises: dull roars of wind as though there were a tunnel far in the distance, occasionally the crackling titter of granules just beyond sight.

Is there anyone there?

Hard to tell, the brightness makes it hard to see through the visual trickery of an outdoors so spacious one mind isn’t enough to conceive it.  I perceive an increase in the glitter of the lights; they sparkle such that they leap in and out of the air as I move.  The noises might be that of my own body, magnified by the silence of nothingness.

Dang this heat is oppressive.

Summer empties us as surely as winter fills us.  I’m of the mind that there’s a jumping about, a joy to the burning up of emptiness.  The time it takes to wait for an inside spirit to come to our attention.  Most people I imagine grow despondent waiting for their souls to be filled.  Imagine one’s surprise when one is faced with cold rain in the hot desert?  Talk about bizarre, but living it is believing.

I pick up the psychic communicator.  Looks like my friend Alexi scored the job, defeated the robotozoids of torment, sent Crush-em No-thousand to the scrap heap with a fake lightsaber.  He’s at the threshold of his kingdom; it helps to have a horse to power the cart after all!

Also on the Good News sandwich line, Chopper Angel Le Wolf extracting an upgrade from her pesticide commanders for more gold and mead; Going to be able to survive to the next cookie round-up.  Busy training her daughters to fight in the living dead girl olympics on rationed Scooby snacks and a world where princesses get sold out for free.

Bonus round for Vampy Kimbers, expressing the lost dark side as best she can given that living in the sunlight takes it out of her.  Writing, exercising, raising youngsters, working, keeping husband recharged for the day-to-day work spin-cycle and still finding time to re-grow and re-learn psychic limbs held still by decades of invasive programming.

Getting kind of cool now, probably could have packed my rain gear, but who expects the Spanish Inquisition?  Even though that’s all we get.  Hardly expecting to see vaporous mists and gray clouds where a moment ago I was baking to the crisp?  Hey, you know, in this psychic terrain things turn on a dime, crumbs!

As Roseanne Roseannadanna said, “It’s always something.”

I approve.  Rain, shine, it’s a state of mind.  No trees, except I know this is the Valley of Trees.  Yeah, in a desert, which is raining.  Talk about a mystery oasis.