Archive for QARY

The Prophet

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2012 by javedbabar

The Prophet was a well-structured text. Sophie had read it many times. There were twenty-six poetry essays on topics concerning the tribulations of human existence. It was early inspirational fiction that had lasted in a way that recent over-hyped junk just wouldn’t.

The topics could run sequentially, she thought, starting with love and ending with death. Or somehow concurrently, infused with the essence of the work, which could be described as enhanced awareness.

“It starts and ends with the sea,” said Danny, QARY’s chief technician. He had started as a regular crew member when the old quarry was converted into a multimedia venue, and had proved himself over the past two seasons. He was now Sophie’s right hand man.

“Yes, it does,” she said, “Would that work as a theme?”

“I think it would. At the beginning, Almustafa is waiting for his ship to come after twelve years in Orphalese. Then he stands before a sea of people and runs through the journey of life. Later he bids them farewell and sets sail for home, with a promise of return, like a tide.”

“I need to watch you,” said Sophie. “I think you are after my job.”

Danny smiled and reddened. He didn’t know how to deal with Sophie since she had spurned his advances. They had a comfortable working relationship, but an uncomfortable personal one.

They decided to retain the book’s structure, but split the essays into sections. The quarry’s chambers would each show one third of the work: nine, nine, and eight chapters respectively. Each chapter was self-contained and didn’t need to be seen in sequence. There was a benefit in seeing some sections together, such as love, marriage and children, and these would be kept in their original order.

The finished show was good, though not their best production. There weren’t enough of Kahlil Gibran’s’ mystical drawings to illustrate the performance, and the new ones they created lacked his magic. Digital media will take you so far but cannot replace nuanced genius.

They did the best they could. Sophie loved hearing the Prophet’s profound words. Her favourite parts were those about love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, and joy and sorrow.

“When love beckons you, follow him; Though his ways are hard and steep.”

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness; And let the winds of heaven dance between you.”

“Your children are not your children; They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”

“All you have shall some day be given; Therefore give now, that the season of giving may be yours and not your inheritors’.”

“Your blood and my blood is naught but the sap that feeds the tree of heaven.”

“Work is love made visible.”

“Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.”

The words were beautiful, spiritual, meaningful, but something wasn’t right with the show. Sophie wondered what it was. The performance felt empty and a little contrived.

The QARY computer had been given the role of HAL in the 2001: A Space Odyssey show. The computer had enjoyed this role and not relinquished control. All images, words, sounds and actions were now part of a programme continuing forever. The crew and audience were part of the programme too.

Big machines had once hollowed the quarry and violated Mother Earth. Now one of their number, gazing into the past, attempted to make amends. QARY had transcended physical karma and manifested virtual karma. This empty space was now filled forever.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 23, 2012 by javedbabar

QARY’s production of The Time Machine was voted a top ten show by Arcadia’s critics. They said it rang true, and the time travel sequences had exceeded even Sophie’s expectations. Danny and the technical team had done an amazing job.

It was incredible to think that just eighteen months ago this had been an abandoned quarry. Now there was a world famous multimedia show here. No visitor to Arcadia’s west coast would miss it.

Danny had wanted to produce 2001: A Space Odyssey rather than The Time Machine, but when outvoted, he had accepted gracefully, and given 100% to the new show. Maybe he was right in a sense, thought Sophie; not that 2001 was better than The Time Machine, but in saying that it would make a good show in its own right. They needed something spectacular to kick off the third season. They could look at it now. She mentioned this to the crew.

“Really! You want to do Two Thousand and One! That’s fantastic!” said Danny. “I can’t wait to get working on the light tunnel sequence. That will be awesome!”

One of the new girls said, “Sorry, I am not familiar with Two Thousand and One. What is it?”

“It is a confusing story,” said Sophie. “There are bits I don’t understand myself. Danny, could you please explain it in a user-friendly way?”

“Sure, the film was a collaboration between the director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke. They played around with the idea for years before settling on the final version. It consists of four parts, each driven by a black monolith that appears mysteriously.”

“What do you mean by monolith?” asked the new girl. “A big stone like at Stonehenge?”

“Kind of, but in the film it’s more like a flat panel. The first part is about the dawn of man. A monolith inspires an ape to use a bone as a tool and then as a weapon, which sets him apart from other animals. The second part is about Tycho-Magnetic Anomaly One, TMA-1, a monolith found buried on the moon. The third part is a voyage to Jupiter, following a radio signal sent by TMA-1, in a ship controlled by a powerful computer named HAL, who takes over the ship, kills most of the crew, but is eventually switched off. The fourth part is the best part, where the only surviving astronaut, Bowman, is pulled into a tunnel of coloured light. He sees himself as a dying man, and then as a child in a ball of light, gazing at the world.”

The new girl looked dazed. “You want us to cover all of that in a one hour show?”

It sounds crazy, thought Sophie, but manageable. They’d produced epic myths like Gilgamesh and Beowulf, and cosmic texts like Bhagavad Gita and Tao Te Ching. 2001 was no more difficult than those.

Danny had some ideas. “We can save cash by painting some old doors black; they will make great monoliths. I can rent a special lens to make blinking eye footage, which will save on film rights. The QARY computer can double as HAL; it’s just a matter of programming some audio files.”

The team produced a show true to the film. It had minimal dialogue and explanations. The imagery was ambiguous and open-ended. It was cryptic and enigmatic.

Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. The light tunnel sequence was amazing. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. The audience was destabilized and then disorientated. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. Things got weirder and weirder. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. It felt like they were actually moving. Blink. Flash. Blink. Flash. People began to sway and fall. Many were sick and shrieking.

Danny tried in vain to control the QARY computer. Sophie pulled rank and threw the mains switch. Everything went dark, and then a dark shape appeared from the darkness. She hoped this was one of Danny’s special effects.

The Time Machine

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2012 by javedbabar

“The Time Machine has an underground theme,” said a member of the production crew, “and we could have some fun with special effects. It would be like Doctor Who in 4D! It gets my vote for next month’s show.”

“What about 2001: A Space Odyssey?” said Danny. “We could really make something of that last bit, with the crazy colours and blinking eye.”

Sophie was proud of the QARY project’s success. Converting the old quarry into a venue for multimedia shows had been her baby. She was looking for a show to complete the second season; the short list comprised The Time Machine, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fahrenheit 451, and 1984.

The latter two had been discounted. Fahrenheit 451 because its flames would be too disturbing underground, and 1984 because its world of tiny apartments, two-way screens, media brainwash and endless wars, already existed. People may as well stay at home.

Sophie said, “Okay, who wants Time Machine?” Some hands rose. “Two Thousand and One?” A few less. “The Time Machine wins. So as we discussed, there are three main journeys. The first is the table top model disappearing in front of the inventor’s dinner guests. It’s a minor plot point but we could beef it up. The second journey is the one to 802,701 A.D., where he meets the Eloi and Morlocks. That’s the main part of the story. The third journey is the one thirty million years into the future, where he sees a dying earth and menacing red crablike creatures, and black blobs with tentacles.”

Danny said, “Will we have use of the third chamber for the show?”

“Good question. The renovation of the third chamber is almost complete, but we have unresolved health and safety issues, in particular black mould. Hey, maybe we could use that to bring the black blobs to life.” The production crew chuckled.

Danny had been difficult initially, but was now her most helpful crew member. Even though his favourite idea hadn’t been chosen, he was right back to 100% commitment on the idea that had. He said, “We could use the two main chambers to create Eloi and Morlock worlds. That would give them scale and depth. The inventor’s home is only there for framing than story. We could create it in the entrance area, or even by narration alone.”

Sophie thought, yes, that would work. The thrust of the story is the ultimate result of modern industrial relations. Bosses and workers became distinct classes of people with little in common, something Wells was very worried about.

The best way to show this would be to create two different worlds. Sophie directed the crew to focus on this separation in a modern context. She told them to create opulent and restless worlds.

The Eloi world was very bright. There were small communities of happy elfin people in large futuristic buildings. They performed no work, just spent their lives at ease, laughing and playing, whilst consuming a healthy, fruitarian diet.

The Morlock world was dense and dark. The noise of grinding machinery was everywhere as evidence of their constant industry. Stocky, brutish people moved around in a threatening manner, awaiting their chance to catch and eat you.

On opening night Sophie noticed something disturbing. Unlike previous shows, people were not moving between the chambers. Professional people reclined in the Eloi area, while unskilled workers and their families walked around the Morlock world. It seemed the process of social degeneration was underway.

Ragnarok

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2012 by javedbabar

Danny said, “I am sorry I was being difficult before. You know what you are doing here. You are doing a good job.”

“Thanks for saying that,” said Sophie, “but what was your issue, exactly? I was never really sure.” She had an inkling, but wanted to hear it from him.

“Well, I had the same idea four years ago. I mean, converting the old quarry into a multimedia venue. When I visited Egypt I saw the Pyramids of Giza’s sound and light show, and thought something like that could work here too. I told the village CEO but she wouldn’t listen, and then hey presto – someone has the bright idea to turn the old quarry into a multimedia venue. I thought you had stolen my idea, and taken all the credit, and was really mad. I hoped you would fail, and you almost did when it flooded, but now I accept that you developed this idea independently. I submit.”

He bowed and then continued dropping, as if to the floor. Was he really going to prostrate himself? Normally Sophie would have let him continue – why not? – but after his confession, she felt he had fallen enough. It was time to raise him.

She said, “Look, I have made many mistakes too. Each show is a new show, and I’m learning continuously, but the process is becoming familiar, and I have a talented and reliable team. Thanks for all your help to date, Danny.”

He was itching to ask something, she could tell. He said, “What about the current show? Are you happy with how it’s turned out?”

Ragnarok had been a strange choice, granted. A cataclysmic story compiled from the Poetic Edda and Prose Edda of Iceland. Her father had been a captain in the merchant navy, and told her Norse myths as bedtime stories whenever she stayed with him. He had left her mother when Sophie was five, for “another woman in another port,” her mother told her years later.

“Yes I am happy,” said Sophie. “But I hope things don’t turn out like that in reality, or if they do, then not in our lifetimes.”

The show was sold out. People came to QARY whatever the story. It was on the itinerary of every visitor to the west coast of Arcadia, as something not to be missed.

Ragnarok’s series of future events, and great battles foretold, were made for multimedia. The occurrence of natural disasters, destruction and submersion of the world, and its resurfacing and repopulation by two human survivors, gave her technicians a chance to show off.

They put a live rooster in each room, whose every movement was tracked, triggering sounds and visuals. The Crimson Rooster in the forest caused Yggdrasil, the world tree, to shudder and groan. The Golden Rooster in Valhalla made the Eagle shriek. The Soot-Red Rooster in Hel made the Midgard Serpent writhe. The Hound growled before the Cave. The Giant strode from the east. The Ship broke free and set sail westwards. Odin was swallowed by the wolf Fenrir.

Ragna means “ruling powers”.

Rock means both “the end” and “renewal”.

Ragnarok is thus an ending and a beginning.

Danny said, “What if it really happened, and we were the only two humans left?”

Ah! So that’s it, thought Sophie. He likes me; he’s coming on to me. She said, “Well then you would be a very lucky guy, as that is the only way I would ever consider dating you.”

Ulysses

Posted in Conceptual Art, Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2012 by javedbabar

“We have a dramatic issue here,” said Sophie. “How do we chronicle the passage of Leopold Bloom during an ordinary day in Dublin, and establish the parallels with Odysseus’s journey across the Mediterranean to Greece?”

She had seen a production of Ulysses in the New City, where Bloom wore a baby goldfish costume and swam alongside Odysseus’ ship. At first she had giggled continuously, but then become grumpy. It was great to be creative but not ridiculous.

When she had later questioned the director, he said, “Did you know that Joyce first encountered Odysseus in a children’s book called The Adventures of Ulysses?” Sophie knew that Ulysses was the Roman name for Odysseus, in the same way that they called Poseidon, Neptune, and Aphrodite, Venus. “He later wrote an essay at school called My Favourite Hero. That is why I wanted to portray him as a youngster.”

“And why a goldfish?”

“The publication of Ulysses attracted great controversy and scrutiny. Joyce was tried for obscenity, and there were protracted textual wars. It was as if his characters were contained in a goldfish bowl, being watched constantly. That was also the manner in which Joyce dissected the city of Dublin. You see the…” His eyes jerked towards Molly, emerging sans make up from backstage. “Oh darling! You were so fabulous! Mwah! Mwah!”

Sophie agreed that Molly had been fabulous, in the way that only a naked rainbow dolphin could be.

The production team at QARY, the old quarry now used to stage multimedia shows, said nothing at first. Maybe they were unfamiliar with the text. But after a while Danny said, “Couldn’t we do the whole thing as a stream-of-consciousness piece? I know it is heavily structured, but maybe we can find some anchor points to demarcate flow.”

Sophie stared at Danny. He was usually the troublemaker in the team, the jester and trickster, but here he was producing constructive ideas. She said, “It sounds like you know the work well.”

He blushed and said, “Well, not really. I studied it at high school. It was a choice of that or Dante’s Divine Comedy. Joyce seemed the easier option.”

The production team suggested other ideas.

“Dress Bloom as Odysseuss. As he walks through Dublin he is transformed into a Centurion, Britannia, a Knight of the Round Table, and a Celtic warrior.”

“Set the whole thing on a ship with the characters as crew members.”

“Make it a huge feast with each chapter as a different course.”

The best suggestion was to use each of the three chambers for different parallel characters – Bloom-Odysseus, Molly-Penelope, and Stephen-Telemachus.

When the production opened, Sophie saw that this structure worked well. The audience wandered between the chambers continuously, integrating the three persons of this holy family, the archetypal father, mother and son.

In other shows the audience had mainly stayed put, lined up along walls and gathered in corners. This had annoyed The Authority as they couldn’t keep an eye on them there. The more people that moved between rooms, the better CCTV could track them.

Odysseus was watched by the gods of Olympus. The citizens of Lucerne had The Authority’s Security Officers.

Bhagavad Gita

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2012 by javedbabar

“Why can’t we do proper stories?” said Danny. He was still unhappy about Tao Te Ching being forced upon him last month.

Maybe his mind is totally rational, thought Sophie, and this stuff is too wacky for him. But there was more to it than that.

He said, “It’s another piece of religious propaganda. Myths I am okay with, as nobody treats them seriously. People think of them as meaningful stories, but don’t insist they are the word of God. I don’t believe in supernatural agencies, full stop.”

He is becoming more troublesome, thought Sophie. I could fire him but he’s such a great technician. I would be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

“Going back to your original point, Danny, this is a proper story. The Bhagavad Gita is part of one of the greatest stories ever told, the Mahabharata, which is ten times longer than the Iliad and the Odyssey combined. The Gita is its essence.”

There were regular battles between Danny and Sophie. She liked working with people who brought positive energy to tasks. Danny’s endless negativity was tiresome and it affected other crew members. To pull off multimedia spectaculars at QARY, the converted old quarry, she needed a tight team. There was no room for cowards and traitors.

Sophie wasn’t against conflict. It was a way of sizing up opposing views, integrating, and hopefully transcending them, to a higher form of thought. Could she do that with Danny? He would need convincing. It was her leadership test.

She said, “Gandhi called the Gita his spiritual dictionary. Within it he sought the answer to every difficult question, and its teachings inspired the Indian independence movement. Do you practice yoga? You don’t? Okay, what about other people? Ah, most of you do. The Gita contains the essence of yoga; it details Karma, the yoga of action, Bhakti, the yoga of love, and Jnana, the yoga of knowledge, and promotes a positive philosophy of life.”

Danny was grinning, so Sophie asked, “What’s up?”

“I thought you would try to overwhelm us with stuff like this, so I did my own research. The whole story is about a war. The prince, Arjuna, is caught up in a huge battle; his brothers are on one side, and his cousins, uncles, teachers and friends are on the other. He doesn’t want to fight at all, he wants to make peace, and if he can’t do that, he would rather die than kill others.

“But his charioteer, Krishna, tells him to fight. He says it is his duty to fight. He has to do the best he can, regardless of outcome. And the Gita speaks highly of the caste system, and about women as lowly. Why do you want us to promote these ideas?”

Sophie was furious. Danny was trying to derail her project. She said, “I am sure you know it is symbolic. Sure, a war analogy is problematic. It can be misinterpreted, but it can also be used to show the ethical and moral struggles of life.” She decided to cut short her sermon and practice Karma Yoga instead.

They ran through the production’s practical aspects and then discussed the climax, where Krishna reveals that he is the ultimate cause of all material and spiritual existence, and his cosmic form, Visvarupa, is unleashed, a theophany facing every direction.

Sophie said, “So we will need one thousand projectors to emit the radiance of a thousand suns, and one thousand mirrors to contain all beings in material existence. Danny you are in charge of procuring those.”

“But I won’t be able to get so many so quickly.”

Sophie gave him a hard look and said, “Well just do the best you can. That’s the message of the Gita.”

Tao Te Ching

Posted in Global Travel, Mystical Experience, World Myths with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 18, 2012 by javedbabar

“This is ridiculous,” said Danny. “Can you please make up your mind which comes first, Tao Ching or Te Ching?”

“Well, that is what we are discussing,” said Sophie. “It could be either.”

“Isn’t the name of the work Tao Te Ching? It has eighty-one chapters in a particular order, so why don’t we stick with that?”

The rest of the production crew looked at each other in general agreement, but also at Danny, annoyed. He didn’t know how to endear himself to people. Sophie was much better at that.

She said, “Because there is a school of thought that the first thirty seven chapters, Tao Ching, and the next forty four chapters, Te Ching, were reversed in the original text. The original may work better for dramatic purposes. I want to hear everyone’s thoughts on this before scheduling the show.”

Tao Te Ching had been an unpopular choice from the beginning. It lacked the narrative structure of previous productions such as Osiris, Beowulf or Gilgamesh. It was a mystical work full of contradictions.

Sophie envisioned the show as an experiential rather than narrative production, and had in truth, forced it upon them. The QARY project was her baby. It was she who had initiated the conversion of the old quarry into a venue for multimedia productions. She would call the shots.

Danny persisted in being difficult. He said, “Look, it’s easy to do. I know how to do it. We are trying to create the essential, unfathomable process of the universe. Something dreamy and mysterious, strange and illuminating. It’s the feeling you get when you’re stoned. All we have to do is re-create that.”

The production crew sniggered and ribbed each other. Sophie wanted to smile but kept a straight face. “Thank you for that, Danny. Why don’t you bring a joint for everyone to the next meeting? One, two, three…ten, eleven, twelve. That’s twelve joints, okay?”

Danny said, “Okay,” weakly, and Sophie forgot all about it.

At the next meeting, Danny looked pleased with himself. He opened a golden silk pouch embroidered with a dragon, and produced twelve joints. Everyone cheered.

Sophie had given up smoking four years ago but still indulged in herbs. Once everyone had a joint in hand, she said, “First I will recap, and then let’s brainstorm.”

She reminded them that Tao Te Ching is filled with short deliberate statements and intentional contradictions. Memorable phrases are delivered, and readers forced to create their own reconciliations of the supposed contradictions.

Poets, painters, warriors and gardeners had used it as a source of inspiration for millennia. It had political advice for kings, and practical wisdom for regular people. It had a long textual history and a limitless variety of interpretations. What could the production team glean from the work? They examined a few phrases together.

“The Tao that can be told, is not the Eternal Tao.”

“Darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding.”

“If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial.”

“The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” said Danny. “I am not doing this production.”

Sophie smiled and said, “You have a choice to make Danny. There is doing by doing, which is effective work; there is doing by not doing, which means avoiding mistakes; there is not doing by doing, which means correcting errors. There is also not doing by not doing, which is unemployment. Which do you prefer?”