Posts tagged “magic”

space shuttles, magic, wonder

Today, for all its myriad frustrations, saw a lifelong dream fulfilled.

I saw a real space shuttle, in flight, albeit atop an enormous, gargantuan flying machine.

We had a research group meeting in the morning. All of us who work with Dr. Smith gathered, discussed our progress and plans, and caught up with him on happenings from around the world (enlightening and humbling).

At the beginning, perhaps ten minutes in, Amanda noticed - through a window near the top of our building - that dozens of folks were standing on the roof of an adjacent building, keenly and obviously looking at something. “It must be the shuttle,” she remarked.

The shuttle?

Then Amod saw it - he spotted it! - and the whole room, ages 22-65, ran to the windows, eyes wide open.

The jet escorting the shuttle looked like a sparrow next to an albatross. The huge, lumbering plane floated through the sky. Perched atop it was Endeavor, glistening during her final trip. At one point, the plane passed directly in front of sun, casting a massive shadow on the ground.

Silence, interspersed with the restrained oohs and aahs of wonder.

Wonder amongst a group of people trained to control their outbursts. Wonder amongst a bunch of scientists, realizing a shared dream.

The last flight of Endeavor, and we saw it.

Bill Murray, Ladakh, Magic

I love Bill Murray. I love Ladakh.

Should get that stuff out of the way early and bluntly. Aaron Cohen put together a long list of Bill Murray interviews. Pretty cool stuff. One of the oldest interviews was with Timothy Crouse of Rolling Stone in 1984. In it, Bill Murray discusses his time in Ladakh filming The Razor’s Edge. This blew my mind. Excerpts follow.

You realize just how big the mountains are: you’re not flying over them; you’re flying between them. Coming in to land, the plane goes between two mountains and there is about forty feet of clearance on either side, When the wind comes up, the planes don’t go there, because you can lose forty feet in half a second. You’ve never really lived until you’ve landed a plane in that shoebox there.

At the airport, we were met by a fleet of black jeeps driven by Tibetan[s] who drive like cow¬≠boys. A big chain of black jeeps set out and headed toward the monasteries, where we were going to shoot. In sixty miles of the Himalayas, I saw about all the spectacular things I ever saw in the Rockies. It was like a hall of fame of mountain majesty. There were Stupas everywhere - these big reliquaries - and monks walking on the road. Then we came over a rise and saw the first real mountain. It wasn’t Everest or anything, it was just one of the boys, and it was much bigger than the biggest mountain I’d ever seen.

We also needed an older man to play the high lama. They were reading actors for it in London, and I said “Look, we’re going to find the guy over there; don’t worry about it”. We’re not going to hire Ben Kingsley to play this part; we’re going to find a real guy to do this.” Well, we found the guy - he was the uncle of the owner of the Yaktail Hotel, the same guy who did the paintings - but he didn’t speak a word of English. So we then needed a Ladahki who spoke English, to teach him his lines, but we couldn’t find anyone. But the hotel owner had given me the address of this monk who worked up at some school centre and spoke English.

He turned out to be younger than me, and his name was Chiptan Chostock, but we called him Tip. Tip spoke English, Hindhi, Ladhaki, Tibetan, Kashmiri - you name it. He would huddle together with the old guy and repeat the line “You are closer than you think,” over and over. They did it for hours at a time. Once Tip arrived, we had no more problems with the monks. It was like “Hey, he’s one of our guys”. It was like having an Indian scout. All of a sudden, we had somebody who spoke all of the languages, and the unspoken too.

Anyway, he became my partner. He was just so interested in everything. He loved riding in the jeep and looking through the camera. And we put him in the movie. Here’s this incredibly spiritual guy who walks 200 miles back and forth between this monastery and the school where he teaches. And these A.D.’s are saying, ”Can we get Tippy-Tip in here, please.” “Does he need any makeup?” “No, he’s very dark already, he’ll be fine.”

The last night I was there, he said, “I want you to come over to my place.” I thought, okay, I’ll see where he lives, meet his family; I’ll probably have to sign a lot of autographs, have my picture taken with the sisters. So we drive to Tip’s father’s, which is on the outskirts of Leh, a big house with a garden. We go inside, and I’m thinking that we maybe should have asked the driver in. Tip said, “I did ask him in, but he wouldn’t come in because he’s a Shiite, and Shiites won’t take anything from Buddhists.”

By this time, Tip’s father had appeared, and he said, “but we Buddhists take everything from them” At which point I realized that Tip’s father spoke English. Now Tip had gone to a school where he learned with a lot of English people - he learned English from me as well - but there was no explanation for his father’s English, because he’d lived in this place for his whole life, and anyone who spoke English had only come but recently, and he didn’t have any truck with anybody. He just sort of knew it, intuitively. Which was real spooky cause you got it real clear that this guy spoke the language and wasn’t trying. We sat down and started making buttered tea, and Tip’s mother came with various desserts made out of butter. So, after about a gallon and a half of buttered tea, all twelve courses of buttered desserts, they said, “Would you like to stay for dinner?” I thought that was pretty good considering that these people all weighed about 105 pounds apiece. I said I really had to go back.

So they showed me the house, they took me to the kitchen. It was a dark room, and there were all these Asian faces, and the walls were full of these copper pots covered with carbon, and there was a hole in the ceiling where the smoke went out, and it looked right up to the stars.

The stars were very bright, they lit up this room and everybody’s faces and all the pots on the wall. And all of a sudden, all the children - there were twelve - sort of materialized out of the walls, The father looked like Fu Manchu - he was the only man I saw over there who was over six feet tall - and I was attacking him and tickling him, and hitting myself on the head with pots, and showing him my stomach, and stuff like that. We were all laughing and all the sound was going right up through the skylight.

There was a perfect exchange of something between the stars and what was happening in the room. I don’t think I’ve ever felt comfortable like that. I felt like if I stayed there longer, something magical would happen, like they’d break down and say, Okay, Bill, you passed the test; you’re one of us. I really wanted to stay there. They were so free, so open. They made you feel that you could act like a fool and not feel bad about it, and they made you feel like there was more to it than that, and if you watched yourself you’d know even more.

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