(Mis)Adventures and Modest Proposals from SXSW

This story starts with The Little Prince. At the Louisiana Art & Science Museum in Baton Rouge there was a screening of The Little Prince, a computer-animated adaptation of the beloved children’s book. The book is a favorite of mine, so I was curious about the film, but I also had other things on my mind. Specifically, I was trying to put together a trip to SXSW, and it didn’t look like it was happening.

The Little Prince – nWave Pictures, 2010


To those who don’t know, SXSW is the abbreviation of South by Southwest, a big shindig in Austin Texas that blends aspects of interactive, film, and music festivals into one massive, hipster-friendly amalgamation. Because of the festival’s hybrid nature, many companies and creative types go to meet like-minded people, gain insights, and share the work they’ve done on recent projects.

The day was Sunday, March 11. The festival had already started, and I didn’t have any viable travel plans in place. Maybe next year, I thought.

Disappointed that SXSW seemed unlikely, my inclination was to stay in the house, but I had a strong sense that I should go see The Little Prince. I don’t know why I had that sense, but I tried to ignore it. It doesn’t always go so well when I listen to my sense about things. Without going into specifics, listening has recently led to heartache, betrayal, and financial difficulties.

To console myself, I was playing Civilization V on my laptop. Playing that game has killed a few hours, but it has never led to heartache, betrayal, or financial difficulties, so it is the safe choice, my bridge over troubled water so to speak.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V: Gods and Kings – Firaxis Games, 2012


I can spend hours playing that game. Managing a successful in-game civilization involves some thought, which is enough to keep me from thinking about the things that trouble me, and like filmmaking, Civilization is ultimately a game of logistics. (It’s not just UPS employees who heart logistics, folks!) Plus, all the decisions in the game set the stage for success or failure at the end, and it’s all about the end game, isn’t it?

That is true enough about life in general, but it also relates to the story at hand. I promise if you make it to the end, there will be a payoff, but it may not be the payoff that you want.

As to the game, my civilization was doing fairly well. I had taken out my aggressive neighbors who had been taunting me a few turns ago. “You think you’re so tough, King of Egypt? Well I just took your horse and iron resources. What do you think about that?” It was now time to annihilate the opposition before their armies grew back like the pestilent snake-heads of the Hydra, but then that sense I’ve been trying to avoid came back. “Nick, you really should go see The Little Prince,” it said. OK, OK. Just one more turn.

It ended up being a few more turns, maybe like 5-10, but you know, close enough. Honestly, I figured the sense would stop bothering me if I stayed focused on the game. How important could it really be to see an animated version of a story that I had already read? But again the sense came. “Nick you NEED to go. It is important. Hurry.”  OK, fine. Let me save the game.

I almost left right away, but I had to finish the turn. Those wily Egyptians had it coming after all.  Again, close enough, or so I thought.

Sid Meier’s Civilization V – Firaxis Games, 2010


As I was driving, I sensed that I should hurry, that I was behind schedule. I drove as fast as I could without being reckless. Soon I found a parking spot. I was within 5 minutes of when the show was supposed to start. That should do it, I thought. “No. Run.” Really? For a computer-animated short at the Planetarium?! “Yes.”

Fine. I ran to the entrance, and I got there just in time to see the security guard locking up the place. I knocked a few times, but she ignored me. Seriously?! I ran and I still didn’t get in? What was the point of that?

My sense returned. “You didn’t listen right way, did you?” Not exactly. “Next time don’t take so long to listen.”

Shaw Center, Baton Rouge


Since I was downtown, I figured I’d make the most of it. I ended up going to the LSU Museum of Art in the Shaw Center. To those who haven’t been to Baton Rouge, the Shaw Center is the building prominently featured, although digitally enhanced, in the upcoming film The Host, written and produced by Stephanie Meyer of Twilight fame.

The Host – Open Road Films, 2013


After the museum visit I walked around looking for a place to eat. They were doing a crawfish boil at Lucy’s, so I had some crawfish and some drinks, and I figured that would be the end of it.

At this point it was late Sunday evening, and I still had not made any SXSW plans.

A few days before the screening of The Little Prince, I had gotten my car washed in the hope that I would find someone to go with me to SXSW. I mentioned as much to my Facebook friends, but I got no takers.

Crawfish boil at Lucy’s


It was last minute, I know, but then I didn’t have enough days off from work until about the time when I started asking for a companion.

Normally I like to plan in advance, and this year I was not planning on going to SXSW. I had submitted Up to Date, the short comedy I directed, to the festival, but it did not get accepted. Admittedly it was a long shot, but not getting in was still disappointing, and I was not keen on going to a festival that would remind me of the rejection.

And yet, I kept seeing SXSW pop up. Some of my friends were going. I would randomly stumble upon stories about the festival. People near me would discuss it. And then I got an email from Paste Magazine.

I subscribe to a digital variety of Paste, so an email from them was not unexpected, but this particular email was about the SXSW lineup that they were hosted. The email informed me that someone important whom I had been trying to contact for a long time would be there and so would a band with whom I am friends. For someone like me, that doesn’t happen all that often. In fact, it was the first time.

Speaking of which, my first visit to Austin had been a few months ago, when I spoke at the Canon National Sales Meeting. It was the best response that I have ever gotten for a speech. In the days that followed the speech, people kept coming up to me to share how much they appreciated what I had to say. They would even interrupt my conversations to tell me as much. That’s never happened to me before. It was surreal.


Memories from the Canon meeting combined with the recurring SXSW references, and the email from Paste further fueled the possibility. Two problems stood in the way: I didn’t have enough days off, and I didn’t have enough money.

Back when I submitted my short to SXSW, I had requested a few days off, but I didn’t get enough consecutive days to make the trip practical. Had I gotten accepted into the festival, I would have petitioned for more days, but I did not see the need to do that for a festival that had rejected my short.

Now I had less than a week to ask for days off that had initially been denied for scheduling reasons. Somehow my supervisor made the schedule work out in my favor. A special thanks to Ray and to Canon for that.

Even with the time off, I still had to figure out how to pay for the trip. Ever since I directed a short comedy and had to replace the engine in my car, I’ve been in a precarious financial position. I got some help from family and financial institutions, but I wasn’t in a place where I could easily afford to attend a film festival with the costs of travel, lodging, and registration factored in.

After evaluating my situation more carefully, I figured that if I found one other person to go with me, then the cost might be more manageable, so I asked everyone I knew in the area. It is not easy for me to ask others for things, but I had a sense that I should ask, so I did. I went so far as to pack my suitcase in advance, so that I could be ready in a moment’s notice if someone confirmed interest.

I got a few maybes, but no one committed, at least not within the time frame I needed. I was so close. Too bad.  One more almost to follow a long string of almosts. I went to bed with a heavy heart. And yet the trip still lingered in my mind. It cannot be, I thought. “It can,” a small voice said.

I did the best I could and nothing happened. Besides, I cannot afford it. “You can,” the voice said. Then I got an idea.

I’ve never made a decision like this before and probably never will again. That’s why I’ll mention it. I thought, the only way I will even consider this foolish idea of going is if I wake up at exactly 3:20 AM. I never get up at that time, so I figured I was safe.

Why 3:20? It just popped into my head, but I’ve been seeing that number, along with its reflection, the number 23, quite a bit lately. I talk more about the significance of number 23 and 32 in the James Dean post, but the numbers also have a personal significance. On June 12th of this year, I turn 32. November 11th is another significant date, one whose significance I will explain later, but for now take the date of my birth and add it to another big day in my life, and you get 12 + 11 = 23.

Guess what time I woke up on Monday morning? It was not 3:19. It was not 3:21. It was exactly 3:20 AM. I did not set an alarm.

What are the odds that with just a few hours of sleep—I want to say less than four—I would wake up right at that time? Sixty seconds is a small window to hit when you’re exhausted and discouraged. Waking up right at 3:20 got my attention.

It looks like I’m going to Austin!

Street in Austin


Having experienced the consequences that come with delayed action, I got up and promptly explored motel options. I found a motel room for less than $70 a night, and it was only about a 30-minute drive from Austin. Not bad. I made reservations, sent directions to my phone, packed the car, and I was off!

Fun Fact: Only after I had arrived in Texas did I hear from Brittni, a friend from the band England in 1819. She wanted to come along, but by then it was too late. I had seen England in 1819 play in Baton Rouge before I left, and I asked the band if they knew anyone who wanted to carpool out to SXSW. Liam, one of the guys in the band, told me that he did know of one girl and that he would put her in touch with me. I waited a day or two but didn’t hear anything. Maybe next time Brittni.

While driving to Austin, I had that familiar sense that I should hurry. Great. If I get there just as the security guard locks the door, I will not be happy. It’s one thing when the destination is just a few minutes away. It’s another thing entirely when a six-and-a-half hour drive is involved. On top of that, the CHECK ENGINE light on my car was blinking throughout the trip, so I figured that there was at least a small chance that my car would break down at an inopportune moment.

Bike rack in Austin


That CHECK ENGINE light has been a constant for a while. I’ve had a few shops look at the car, and they’ve mostly indicated that the car itself is fine but that the electrical system which identifies errors is broken.  I’ve explained to the mechanics that the car sometimes makes strange rattling noises, but they’ve assured me that this is as it should be.

One repair shop did suggest that there MIGHT be a problem and that they MIGHT be able to fix it, but that it would cost around $1000 for them to take the car apart. The uncertainty in that offer was not persuasive to say the least.

Anyway, I had grown accustomed to the constant presence of the CHECK ENGINE light, but in the past few weeks it has started to blink on and off. Either the car is undecided about the veracity of the phantom problem or the problem is getting worse. Whatever the case may be, the blinking CHECK ENGINE light was not the fun-loving companion that I had hoped to have for the trip. Somehow though, I made it to my motel and then to Austin without breaking down.

I would get to hear the interview at the Paste Sennheiser Lounge after all. Before the interview started, I even had enough time to meet the two gals pictured before. It had been close, but it felt like I was on time for whatever it was that I was supposed to see and hear.

She was nice enough to give me her extra set of FireFox glasses. 


This was the first gal I met at the Paste Sennheiser Lounge. Her name is Anna. 


The interview I had waited for was about to start. I took my position in the spectator area, and Anna joined me. It was a confined space, which gave the interview an intimate feel.  I was close enough to get this photo:

The folks at Paste Sennheiser show their good taste by shooting all of their interviews with Canon equipment!


Yes, that is Carlton Cuse, one of the showrunners from Lost. He was in town to promote his new show. We had never met in person, but I had contacted him a few times on Twitter.

Now, people say all kinds of things on Twitter, so we should probably investigate to see what kinds of heinous things I said to Carlton, just to give context.

According to my records, this is the first time I made contact:

That was right after the season finale aired. I was one of the first, if not the very first, to provide feedback about the ending. OK, that doesn’t seem too malicious, but take a look at this, my second contact. I was particularly vicious with this one:

Hmm. OK, that doesn’t seem as bad as I remembered, but when I wrote it, I was saying it with a snarling monster voice, so pretty scary stuff. I guess we need more proof though, so let’s look at some additional examples from 2011:

See. That one. Did I write that because I was trying to pave a career for myself in the entertainment industry and was willing to work even as a production assistant for someone I admired? Seems plausible, but we’re talking about the guy behind Lost. Doesn’t it seem more likely that I was trying to get close to Carlton so that I could finally get answers to all my questions about the polar bears? Doesn’t it?

One last tweet from 2011:

These last two tweets don’t list the year because I backed them up back in March 2012, and then I deleted many of the tweets involving Carlton. Without getting into all the details, I deleted the positive things I said because I no longer believed them to be true, but I archived my comments; Lost was still a big part of my life and so were my efforts to communicate with the show’s creators.

Now that I have some distance from that time period, I can acknowledge that both Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof got an obscene amount of flack about the ending of the series. I liked the ending. I found it inspiring, one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen, comprable to the Giants Super Bowl win against the New England Patriots back in 2008.

It made me feel like anything was possible, but even if I did not like the ending, I would not have targeted the show creators with hateful rhetoric. If someone didn’t like the ending or didn’t get  all of his questions answered, then isn’t there still something to said about appreciating the journey that came before? I didn’t get the people who would support a show for so long only to turn on it based on one or two episodes.

Carlton and Damon were treated unjustly for months, even years, after the finale by a number of vocal Lost detractors, so I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. The show did shine a bright beacon of light into a bleak media landscape, and the forces of darkness do not take kindly to that. The Empire always strikes back, and in the context of Lost it would seem that the strike came from a minion of hipsters and deadbeats with nothing better to do.

I would never have reached out to Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof in the way that I did if I thought Lost was just another show for them. Back then, listening to the official podcast of Lost and reading some of their comments about the show made me believe that they meant it. To convince me of that it takes either a group of enormously skilled con men or a significant, higher-than-usual display of sincerity.

With that context, let’s return to SXSW. The Paste folks didn’t do a Q&A with the audience but if they had, I would have asked Carlton something silly, like whether Carlton could elaborate on the significance of the Justin Bieber hat in the Lost mythology, a significance that has been suggested repeatedly by Damon Lindelof on Twitter.

After the interview concluded, I was just hoping to say a quick hello and to have Carlton sign my Lost Encyclopedia that I had brought along.

He didn’t even acknowledge me. I was standing next to one of his handlers, waiting politely for him to finish his conversation, but after he finished chatting with others nearby, Carlton walked past me and exited. I was just a few feet away.

Chessboard at NBC’s Revolution tent


“My feelings were hurt,” to quote Craig Mazin’s comments from the February 19th episode of Scriptnotes, the podcast about screenwriting that he does with John August. In that episode Craig talks about how awful it feels to work on something that is meaningful to you, that comes from the heart, only to have it scorned. It was one of the podcasts that I heard while driving in to Austin. I sensed that it was somehow important to hear it, but only a few days after the Carlton interview did I make the connection.

Carlton wasn’t dismissing work I had done; It felt like he was dismissing me. That’s not exactly the same thing that Craig experienced when critics savagely denounced his script Identity Theft, but I could relate to the feelings he expressed.

During Carlton’s interview and his post-interview interactions with people, I read his body language as indicating recognition but avoidance. I am not a body-language expert, but I do study the subject. I am trying to sustain a career in the entertainment industry after all, and there is a higher concentration of phonies and con men in the entertainment business than perhaps any other business on earth, so it is critical for me to read as much information as possible from others when opportunity allows.

I was so distressed by what I interpreted from Carlton’s actions that I grabbed my beer bottle and put it in my bag, thinking it was my camera. What beer was left got spilled into my bag. I’ve done some stupid things when alcohol was involved, but I’ve never done that.

Lest you think it was the alcohol talking, I can tell you that I had between 3-4 drinks over the course of two hours. While that is not a negligible amount of alcohol, it takes a bit more than that to get me to the point where I might mistake a bottle for a camera.

To be fair though, it is possible that I misinterpreted Carlton’s body language or that he did not recognize me. My Twitter photo does give some sense of who I am, but it was taken professionally, and everyone knows that a social media avatar doesn’t always give the most accurate representation of the person behind the account.

That’s why I’ve included this unedited photo I took of myself on the ride back from Austin. (The return trip was when I decided that I would write this post.)


That is obviously nothing like my Twitter profile! For example, in this picture I am wearing a different outfit and I am in a car, a stationary one. If strangers had just seen my Twitter profile, they might falsely conclude that I am someone who only enjoys standing against walls while wearing sweater vests. Au contraire, my friends! This photo is proof that I sometimes also enjoy sitting in cars while wearing full-length sweaters.

But, when I attended the interview I also had a five o’clock shadow and SUNGLASSES.  That is a very different matter. I will prove as much by showing you a photo of me with the sunglasses in question:


Had I not told you that I was in this picture, would you have known it was me? Very difficult to say for certain, isn’t it?

Superman was a genius for capitalizing on the cognitive dissonance that glasses can create. The rest of us would be wise to learn from his prescient insights pertaining to the emerging field of facial recognition.

I wasn’t wearing the glasses as a disguise though. I was wearing them because a gal I met at the Paste Sennheier Lounge gave them to me. In retrospect, I should have taken them off during the interview, but I was a little nervous about the prospect of meeting someone I had admired and someone who had been an important part of my life for years. It felt more comfortable to keep them on, but at the time I did not think about how the glasses might make me harder to recognize.

The sunglasses do introduce some margin of uncertainty about what really happened, so I will give Carlton a chance to make amends. Details to follow. Eventually.

The Carlton incident left me depressed for the rest of the day. I am a little different than a typical fan, but I didn’t think a hello was too much to ask. I tried to forget about that as Anna took me to some local hangouts around town, but eventually I realized that I had a beer bottle instead of a camera in my bag. I became sick with the realization that the day would probably be a miserable memory not just because of Carlton but because I would end up losing my beloved Canon G12.

That camera has gone everywhere with me, and I didn’t want to lose it just because I went out to hear some Hollywood guy talk about his new show. Surprisingly the camera was still where I left it at the Paste Sennheiser Lounge. No one had stolen it. What a relief.

Not that the day got much better. I checked the score of the Knicks game on my phone shortly thereafter. The Knicks got pulverized by the Golden State Warriors, 92-63.  That’s not a competitive NBA game, folks. That’s a problem from an advanced subtraction class in elementary school.

That’s also the least amount of points that the Knicks have scored all season, and that embarrassment had to come from a California team, didn’t it? The Golden State Warriors have a mascot of a bridge for crying out loud. It doesn’t get any tougher than a bridge, now does it?

That makes me think the classic Simon and Garfunkel song is ripe for a team-cheer update: “Like a bridge over troubled water, we will shoot layups!” To any fans of the Golden State Warriors, you are welcome to take that little ditty and claim it as your own. It is my gift to you.

The loss to the Golden State Warriors would be the Knicks’ 23rd loss of the season.

Chicken and unicorn waffle from Samsung Lounge


That day was not a success, but I was already committed to another two nights, so I figured I’d regroup at the motel and plan out the next day. Maybe there was someone else I was supposed to meet.

I knew that Jason Calacanis was at SXSW and that he had done a This Week in Startups panel there. I didn’t get to Austin in time for that, but I was still hoping to meet him in person. Jason is someone I admire for his unabashed entrepreneur ethos and his occasional inclination to tell the truth in gutsy ways.

We’ve shared interesting email discussions throughout the years, mostly my responses to his missives, although he has replied on occasion, but we have never met in person. Some of the things I have written to Jason have been negative, so I’m not sure that he would be interested in meeting, but then he does solicit feedback, and I wrote the negative things from a desire to see him do more of what he does best and as filtered through my own insecurities. That being said, I believe most of the things I’ve said to him have been positive, but you can check with Jason for his interpretation.

While I was planning out the day for March 12, I took a look at his Twitter feed and noticed that he was still referencing SXSW. Then I saw this:

Note the number 32 in that one there.

Yeah, Jason is a fellow Knicks fan, and a former New Yorker, and I suspect that he’s still a New Yorker at heart. Interpreting the number 32 as a good omen, I decided I would reach out to him with the Twitter handle for my production company:

Why would I use the @nsavidesPRO account and not @nsavides one for that? Why indeed?

I had created the @nsavidesPRO account a few months ago so that I could talk more about technical matters and industry-related topics without boring my less technically inclined friends, but then something happened that caused me to stop tweeting from my personal account.

Keep reading and you’ll find an explanation, but for now let us just say that @nsavidesPRO is a viable way to stay in touch with people at industry events like SXSW and that people like Jason seem to respond more quickly to tweets than to emails.

I did not hear back from Jason, but after re-reading his timeline I believe that he had already left Austin by the time I contacted him. He was also not feeling well during that time, and he is a high-profile figure who gets lots of Twitter mentions each day. It was disappointing not to hear back from him but not on par with what happened with Carlton Cuse, who was just a few feet away from me in a room with about 30 people or less.

It would have been odd for Jason to respond to me and explain why he couldn’t meet me without having to do the same for all of the other more important people who also could not get time with him. It would have been a trivial thing for Carlton to acknowledge me and give me a minute or two of his time before leaving.

Jason is a community-minded entrepreneur, but he is focused on turning a profit and being competitive. I don’t mean that as a slight. Profits make it possible for businesses to grow and to take care of their employees. In contrast, Carlton became a household name with a show in which the business types tend to be villains and which reiterates the “live together, die alone” theme from one season to another.

Based on the prior paragraph, you might conclude that Carlton has treated me in a much more considerate manner throughout the years. That is not the case. Jason has responded to my comments and questions on numerous occasions, and I’ve found his tone to be respectful even when he disagrees. Carlton has not even offered me a thank you or a hello, although he has had ample opportunities to do so.

Austin at Night 


Be that as it may, something about Lost, about the way Carlton carried himself, about a sense I had, made me once believe that Carlton might be a good man. In retrospect I can’t explain why I thought that. Maybe it was just due to the reality distortion field that comes with a big show like Lost. Maybe it was more about the shadows of the things that might be rather than the shadows of things that are. Hard to say.

In any case, I can’t imagine that I would draw similar conclusions about Carlton based entirely on his new show, Bates Motel, and I say that after watching the pilot. Shows about serial killers are not my favorite things to watch, but Bates Motel does seem to be a thoughtful, contemporary take on the origins of the Norman Bates character in Psycho. Only one episode has been released, so it is too soon to tell, but my guess is that a line from the pilot will be a recurring theme for the show, “no one is ever going to help us.” In other words, I’m anticipating the show to be an anti Lost and an anti Friday Night Lights concoction.

I set up the anti Lost part already, but let me take a moment to explain the anti Friday Night Lights aspect. On its surface, Friday Night Lights is a TV show about a competitive high-school football team, but the show seems more interested in how the citizens of a small town share the triumphs and tragedies of life with each other and in so doing grow stronger as a community. One of the writers and producers from that show is Kerry Ehrin, the other show runner alongside Carlton Cuse in Bates Motel. Just like in Friday Night Lights, Bates Motel is set in a small town, but I don’t expect the townspeople of Bates Motel to have many sympathetic qualities.

These days, it is not unusual for creative types to jump from one project to another one that seemingly undermines the one before. J.K. Rowling enthralled audiences around the world with the wonder, magic, humor, and love that she infused in her Harry Potter series, but then she followed that up with The Casual Vacancy, her “adult” book that offers up a loveless, humorless, meandering story filled with sex and death. I’m sure someone in the world is preparing to bestow some prestigious awards on The Casual Vacancy for that very reason, but I lost some respect for J. K. Rowling because of it.

That’s not to say that there is no place in the landscape for a cautionary tale. It is conceivable that a show like Bates Motel could do some good if it draws attention to crooked things and warns people to avoid them. Hitchcock himself was a moralist, but then based on the pilot, Bates Motel aspires to be more explicit than Hitchcock’s films, and that is disappointing. Does the show have enough substance to justify its attempts to out-sexualize Hitchcock, or is it just another ratings-obsessed serial-killer show willing to do whatever it takes to compete in an over-saturated market?

I might not watch another episode of Bates Motel to find out. It will depend on what kind of a response I get to this post.

There are one or two more details about the SXSW trip that are worth sharing. Remember the band that I mentioned in the Paste email? They are the Last Bison. I knew them from when they performed at an art show in VA where we premiered the Alone in Space music video I directed. They were playing at the Paste Sennheiser Lounge on Tuesday, a day after Carlton was interviewed there. (Technically they played at midnight, so it was Wednesday morning, but you know what I mean.)

Most of the interviews and music events at the Lounge were free and open to the public, but the Last Bison show required a festival pass. While I was excited to hear my friends play, I was not about to pay a few hundred dollars for a SXSW festival pass, not when money was tight and my schedule allowed for just one more day in Texas. I tried a few different approaches to get a wrist band, but those all got shot down. Fortunately one of the guys from Paste got me a VIP pass. It helped that I approached him when he was talking to Last Bison.

Last Bison prepares to play a song at the Paste Sennheiser stage.


I mentioned the show from the nsavidesPRO account because I knew it would be a good show but also because I was hoping that someone would see it and attend. You see, there was someone else I was hoping to meet, but I could not be direct in this case. Not with her.

I cannot explain this part without going back to Nov 11, 2011. That was my first day as an extra on the film Pitch Perfect. The only reason I subjected myself to the monotonous hours of extra work was for the chance to meet Brittany Snow. I had spent years of my life trying to get her to be a part of a script I wrote, and back then I was infatuated with her, or least the facade that I saw from a distance.

Given the amount of time I spent trying to get her to be a part of my project and given that she is the celebrity responsible for the Love is Louder campaign, it did not seem unreasonable to think that she would be willing to spend a few minutes to say hello. Friendliness is, of course, a radical assumption when dealing with Hollywood celebrities, whether they are responsible for charitable outreaches or not.


Inside the Austin Convention Center


On my first day as an extra, I spent the day in observation. I thought I might have a shot at meeting Brittany at lunch, but they kept the celebrities in a separate area. The reasoning for that, I’m sure, is to ensure that their elegant dining experience is not sullied by seeing the unwashed masses.

On my second day as an extra, I figured I would be more bold, so I sent Brittany Snow, Anna Kendrick, and Rebel Wilson a message on Twitter requesting a group photo with them. The girls had plenty of downtime, and they could have accommodated my request in five minutes or less, but they ignored me. Not the end of the world, but it still stung at the time.

Now that I think about it, there is a certain pattern emerging in this story. How about that.

After watching Brittany conduct herself in public over the next few months, my infatuation began to fade. Upon closer examination, I generally found her movies to be schlocky at best and depraved at worst. (Update: after further reflection, I don’t believe that last line is entirely fair or precise. Instead of deleting my comment after having published it, which would be the easy way out, I will attempt a clarification. I haven’t seen every film or show that Brittany has made, but I do appreciate some of the things she has done like American Dreams and Hairspray. It is just that her films like Would You Rather, On the Doll, and Black Water Transit seem so awful and so contrary to the message of love that her outreach espouses that those films negatively impact my overall perception of her work. Also, I try very hard to distinguish between the way I feel about a person and the quality of work that he or she produces, but that is easier said than done.)

There are exceptions to every generalization, of course, and she is a talented actress, but there is nothing particularly loving about her body of films taken as a whole.

Nor have I seen her do anything to suggest that she has more than a surface-level understanding of love.  That is not such an unusual thing for celebrities who have grown accustomed to the unadulterated adulation from the world at large, but that kind of thing is not all that interesting to me, and I do have higher expectations from people who make a name for themselves with idealistic sloganeering.

It took me a while to realize that the thing I found most attractive about Brittany was that she reminded me of a girl I used to know. That was such a liberating thing to discover. That girl is gone. Brittany is not that girl. She never will be.

Street in Austin 


Needless to say, Brittany was not the one I was hoping to see at SXSW. I was so preoccupied with Brittany that it took me a while to notice that right nearby was a girl who meshed better with my sensibilities. She was pretty and intelligent and made movies I admired. She didn’t pretend to be perfect when she wasn’t performing but seemed to live with a refreshing honesty.

I didn’t want to entertain that possibility, not after the whole ordeal with Brittany, but as fate would have it, I directed a short comedy that featured Wes Largarde, one of the actors from Pitch Perfect.

I didn’t put out a special Pitch Perfect casting call. At the time, Wes was taking Lauren Michele’s acting class, a class that I was also taking. Some of us in the class had been talking about the possibility of putting together a short for a while, and those discussions were happening prior to his involvement with Pitch Perfect, if I remember correctly.

That said, Wes did give our production a legitimate connection to Pitch Perfect, and that made it harder for me to get the other girl out of my mind. Knowing that helped me to do the bravest thing I have ever done: I made the video below and sent it to Anna Kendrick on Twitter.


When I didn’t hear back from Anna, I locked the @nsavides account, and I made the video unlisted. Excluding the Twitter reference, I had only shared it with my sister and one other friend until now. For a while, I was opposed to sharing it after I didn’t hear back from Anna. Getting ignored in a public way hurts, but I don’t regret making the video.

When I was making it, I was so excited, so inspired, by the possibility that I could use my fledgling video abilities to make something that might lead to a relationship. It wasn’t just a promotional thing. To quote Craig Mazin again, “If it were cynical and lazy, believe me I would not have shed a single tear.” I meant it.

When I was still debating whether I wanted to make the video, I saw Anna Kendrick’s film End of Watch, and that was the deciding factor. After seeing that film, I had a dream in which we were happy together, and it was a beautiful dream, one that seemed so tangible. It was an insane dream, but if there was even a small chance that it could come true, then I figured it was worth a shot.

Whether or not things work with Anna, I am not ashamed of trying to do something meaningful in an open-hearted way. In the aftermath when I felt the heartache that comes from failure, from being ignored, I forgot about the feelings I had when I made the video, but I like those feelings. I want to live more of my life in that open-hearted way, and the video is a reminder of what that looks like for me.

As Pink might say, “Where there is a flame, someone’s bound to get burned, but just because it burns, doesn’t mean you’re gonna die. You gotta get up and try, and try, and try.” I’m not the world’s biggest Pink fan, but that song kept haunting me prior to the festival and all the way through my return home, so I felt compelled to include it here. Forgive me for that, Paste Magazine!

Spirit Family Reunion is a Paste-approved band. They were my favorite new band discovery. (Better?)


In case you haven’t guessed by now, and how could you not, Anna Kendrick was the girl I was hoping to see at SXSW. She was actually there, somewhere. I discovered as much shortly after I got the email from Paste. Again, it wasn’t the sort of thing I was looking for, but while I was reading up on the films at SXSW, I stumbled upon photos of her in relation to her film Drinking Buddies, which was premiering at SXSW.

I figured if she was interested, she would have said something about the video, but what if it was too risky for her to acknowledge me directly? What if she wanted a chance to see me in person? Then there was a chance, a slim chance, that she could have found my @nsavidesPRO account. In that case, there was also a chance, a slim chance, that she would have known where I was when we were in close proximity.

Restaurant interior in Austin 


It sounds like wishful thinking, I know, but I figured there must be some reason why I felt compelled to come to SXSW. What if she did come? I was so nervous about the possibility that I went to a nearby IHOP before the show in a futile attempt to relax. I ate a crepe, chatted about sports with one of the waiters there, closed my tab, and walked back to the Paste Sennheiser Lounge.

Last Bison did put on a great show, but I was somewhat preoccupied.  


Did she come? I don’t know. I thought, for a moment, that I spotted a familiar face or two in the crowd, but I wasn’t going to just approach right away, not after what happened with Carlton.

Psychologists have discovered that people have only a limited amount of willpower that they can use throughout the day, and it feels like courage is sort of like that: if you use it up and fail, then it takes some time before you can use it again, at least that’s how it is with me.

I figured I’d wait until the crowd tapered down to go and say hello, if the seemingly familiar faces were still there. They weren’t, but then it was a long shot, wasn’t it?

My last day at SXSW was not very productive. I mostly stayed in my motel and played Civilization. Very little chance of heartache there, and it saves money. More precisely, it keeps me from spending money, which is basically the same thing.

I was thinking I would go see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse to end the trip. I had heard good things about Oz, and James Franco is captivating enough that I’ve written about him a few times, so it seemed like a fitting choice. Plus, I had recently seen an episode of Friday Night Lights where a couple went there for a date (I’m almost finished watching the show, but I still have about half a season to go), and I wanted to experience the iconic theater chain for myself. I even had a sense that I should go, but I was not thrilled about that sense.

Jason Isbell plays at the Paste Sennheiser stage. 


OK, fine. I’ll go, but only because I want to go and only after I finish a few more turns in Civilization. “Stop playing and go.” No I want to finish. I listened before, and it seemed pointless.

I did finish those turns, and then I headed to the theater. I got there a few minutes after they stopped selling tickets. That again.

On the drive back to Louisiana, I had plenty of time to reflect. What was the point of the trip? Why was it so essential to spend more money on one more seemingly fruitless endeavor?

I listened, at least as long I could before succumbing to despair, and what did that accomplish? I don’t know.

As I was driving on I-10 and pondering these questions, I came to a sign that said Exit 23, LA108, Industries. “You should take that exit.”

No. No. No. Not doing it.


That is dumb. No way. Then I saw the fuel gauge. It was on the empty mark. The GAS icon was now glaring back at me alongside the trusty CHECK ENGINE companion. The pull of this particular number 23 was logical enough. (I saved the receipt as proof, but I won’t bore you with a photo of it.)

The trip wasn’t all bad. I did meet some interesting people, got to watch the trendsetters in action, and heard some great music, but I could do all those things back in Louisiana at a cheaper cost.

That’s when I realized that I had to write this. That’s why I had to go to SXSW.

Eventually I did get to see Oz. As it happens, the film revolves around whether James Franco’s character is a good man or merely a great one. Interesting.

The Little Prince – nWave Pictures, 2010


Earlier today, before I put the finishing touches on this post, I finally had the chance to go see the CG version of The Little Prince that I mentioned at the beginning. While the film showcases some polished character animation, and the planet of the shepherd Giant has some fun stylistic flourishes, the short lacks the depth of the book.

Still, by going to see the film, I learned that the Zeiss Model IV Star Projector on display at the Museum was used as a backdrop  in Rebel Without a Cause. Would not have guessed that.

Coincidentally enough, the first reference to The Little Prince on this blog happens in the James Dean post, and without James Dean’s involvement, Rebel Without a Cause would have been a black-and-white B picture probably forgotten by now. It all relates somehow.

More importantly though, after my visit to the Museum concluded, I stumbled upon a ceremony that honored the deceased and wounded veterans in the area.

Louisiana Memorial Plaza Korean War Memorial – Baton Rouge


What a sobering reminder that others have faced far worse. They didn’t have all the answers either, but they fought for the things they believed in, and sometimes that is all that is needed.

I wish this story had a better ending, but if it is just my story, then it probably won’t get much better. I warned you about the payoff, didn’t I?

At least I can aim to address the uncertainty about what really happened with Carlton, since the story hinges on that point; I will give him a chance to respond, and I’ll make him an offer that will clear up any ambiguities.

Here is my offer for Carlton Cuse: If you comment on this blog post, either to set the record straight or to discuss anything that I mentioned in this post and tweet a link to it, then I will watch every episode of Bates Motel season 1 and write about it. I will make the same offer if you simply tweet a link of this post to @annakendrick47.

There is no guarantee that I will like Bates Motel, but I might, and I will give it a fair chance to win me over. Alternatively, if you don’t respond, I will never watch another show that you produce or write, much as I might benefit from watching. Unfortunately, those are the only options I see for closure at this point.

It is quite possible that Carlton does not care what I think, but then his show is competing against a few other serial-killer shows. For example, The Following is another serial-killer show that also airs on Monday, albeit it on a different channel. How likely is it that two serial-killer shows on the same night will both succeed? Not very likely, I think.

Recently I did award The Following’s showrunner Kevin Williamson a Douchie, an award  given by The nsavides Blog to men and women in the entertainment industry who go above and beyond in establishing themselves as world-class Hollywood Phonies, but just to show that I’m a fair and open-minded guy, I will make the same offer available to Kevin Williamson, with one caveat:

Kevin, if you respond before Carlton Cuse, then I will agree not to watch or discuss any other TV shows that pertain to serial killers, at least for this current season. You get the better deal because I did not go out of my way to hear you talk about your show, and besides winning the Douchie is a dubious honor!

Carlton, I understand that it was your birthday recently, but then Kevin also had a birthday recently, so what better way to spread some birthday cheer? It seems like a reasonable enough offer, given the circumstances.

I am open to the possibility that I might have been wrong about The Following. Who knows, it could be a poignant, heart-warming classic in the spirit of Old Yeller and National Velvet! Well it’s probably not Old Yeller, but I’ll give The Following a fair shot if Kevin does respond first.

Sure, I disagree with Kevin about the significance of the Second Amendment, but he does have a healthy admiration for Taylor Swift, so maybe he’s not such a bad guy. Speaking of which, this is the first time I mentioned Taylor Swift by her Twitter handle:

This is when Kevin Williamson mentioned @taylorswift13 most recently:

Prior to that, he mentioned her on Feb. 10th. So, I mention her, and then he mentions her a few hours later, although he hadn’t mentioned her for about a month prior to that point.  What are the odds?!

By the way, anyone want to guess how old Taylor Swift is?

Does this mean that Kevin Williamson starts his day by catching up on all the tweets he missed from @nsavidesPRO? That would be flattering, Kevin! If that’s the case, thank you very much. I understand that my tweets pair well with coffee and donuts, and I’m glad to provide that service!

Maybe it is just an indication that Kevin and I are on the same wavelength or something. Hold a sec. Wait. Wait. No, I still kinda like the Second Amendment. Oh well. Your guess is as good as mine.

I’ll probably hold off on mentioning this to Kevin for a while, but Kevin, just in case you DO start your day by catching up on the tweets you missed from @nsavidesPRO, the offer stands.

Let me end with my favorite photo that I shot today:


The flags were there to commemorate the sacrifices of the veterans who served, and their colors add some hope to an otherwise dreary landscape. Sometimes that is enough. In the words of Simon and Garfunkle:

When darkness comes 
And pain is all around 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will lay me down 
Like a bridge over troubled water 
I will lay me down

It’s something to aspire toward, at least, while waiting for the answers that will clarify it all.


It takes me a little longer to write the kinds of posts I prefer to write, and sometimes my schedule gets complicated, so I can’t promise to have new posts available on a consistent schedule. That’s why I encourage you to sign up by email. You can do that by clicking here.

If you’re following along by  email, you’ll know right away when I have a new post waiting for you.  It is very easy to unsubscribe, and you won’t receive anything unrelated to my blog.

Lastly, if you appreciate my writing, why not write a comment or share the post with a friend? It would encourage me to keep sharing some of my heart with you.


As always, thanks for reading and God bless.



Oedipus Rex: the Defiler/Hero, A Story for Our Times

Writing honestly usually comes at a cost. I do not know what it will cost this time, but I sense that it will cost me something. For now I will ignore that sense.

I am writing this because it feels like I should, because some things need to be said, because in spite of it all I still believe that there is a good in this world greater than myself.

Apprehensive about what lies ahead, I recall the bravery of King Leonidas and press onward.

As a refresher, King Leonidas is the hero in the film 300 as well as the Frank Miller graphic novel upon which it was based. In spite of the heightened Mortal Kombat style in which finishing moves send the defeated ones into ravines of doom, the story is fairly consistent with recorded history.

300 – Frank Miller, 1998


In the Battle of Thermopylae, King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans, along with a few thousand Greek allies, really were vastly outnumbered by the invading Persian army. The Persian King Xerxes really did demand proskynesis, a form of god-like worship, from those he conquered, and there really was a Greek traitor who showed the Persians a path through the mountainside, which allowed the Persians to flank and decimate the remaining Greek forces.

Refusing to retreat, King Leonidas and his men fought to the death. The Greeks lost the Battle of Thermopylae but only after inflicting substantial damages to Xerxes’s forces. The story of King Leonidas’s heroic last stand spread throughout the land, offering inspiration to the beleaguered Greeks.

Shortly thereafter, the Greeks defeated the Persians at Salamis, a decisive naval battle. Had the Persians prevailed at Salamis, many historians believe that the Greeks would have become a conquered people, instead of a thriving civilization that would develop the democracy, philosophy, and dramatic traditions upon which Western Civilization was built.

There are two reasons why the story of Leonidas is a good introduction to the story of Oedipus. First of all, Greek drama in general and the Oedipus plays in particular developed in the years of peace that followed the Persian defeat, and men like Leonidas made that defeat possible.

Leonidas Monument at Thermopylae – 1955


Secondly, according to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, King Leonidas was given a choice by the Delphic Oracle: either Sparta would fall or the king would lose his life. The king chose to die, a choice influenced by the Oracle. At least so it would seem, but one can never be too sure when dealing with oracles.

As we will soon see, the Delphic Oracle also plays a significant role in the story of Oedipus Rex. If you haven’t studied ancient Greek history, then the idea of the Oracle might seem a little strange. It sounds like something out of The Matrix. Actually, that’s exactly right. It is something out of The Matrix.

In The Matrix the Oracle calls Neo’s attention to the inscription above her kitchen door. It says “know thyself” in Latin.  That is the very inscription at the Delphic Temple of Apollo, where the Oracle resided.  (Why couldn’t it be written in Greek, Wachowskis? Why?!) Yeah, it would have been more accurate for me to say that The Matrix is like something out of Greek mythology, like say the story of Oedipus, for example. More on that later.

The Matrix – Warner Bros. 1999


While the Oracle of Delphi plays a part in many Greek myths, Delphi was an actual place in Greece, considered by the ancient Greeks to be the navel of the universe, and leaders like Leonidas, and later Alexander the Great, would travel there in search of divine revelation from the gods, specifically Apollo.  Think of a visit to Oracle of Delphi as a mix between a pilgrimage to a sacred site and a search for answers via an Oprah interview.

The myth of Oedipus predates the Greek poet Homer, and there are even passing references to the story in Homer’s Odyssey, but we know the story best from the plays of Sophocles.

Most people have at least heard of Sophocles’s play Oedipus Rex, but Sophocles also wrote Antigone, which tells the story of what happens to the children of Oedipus, and Oedipus at Colonus, which tells the story of what happens to Oedipus before he dies.

Actually, Oedipus Rex is the name of the play in Latin. In Greek it was known as Oedipus Tyrannus, but as Professor Donald Kagan of Yale University explains, the word “tyrant” did not have the same distinctly negative connotation to the Greeks that it does to us. That’s why we’ll stick with the more familiar Latin title, which translates as Oedipus the King.


Oedipus and the Sphinx


The plays were not exactly intended to serve as a trilogy in the way that Aeschylus’s Oresteia was. Sophocles wrote Antigone first, which happens last in the story chronology. He wrote Oedipus Rex a few years later. More than twenty years passed before Sophocles would write Oedipus at Colonus, and he died shortly after he finished writing it.

In spite of the distance in years, the plays do have a certain continuity, and the character arch of Oedipus does not end until Oedipus at Colonus, so to exclude that play from the discussion, as is so often done, is to get an incomplete sense of what the playwright intended. That would be like building complex philosophical arguments about the Harry Potter series by only discussing The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Who knows, perhaps some academic in the distant future will do that very thing, writing extensively about the Dementor complex, in which those affected imagine themselves to be attacked by soul-stealing spirits but are actually experiencing a sublimated wish to destroy the penis.

Until that joyous day, those so inclined can content themselves to read volume after volume about the Oedipus complex, but I wouldn’t recommend it.

To see the play as interpreted through Freud, check out Pier Paolo Passolini’s film Oedipus Rex (1967). The dreamlike qualities of that film make it worth watching, but it does have a heightened sexual awareness that goes beyond ancient Greek sensibilities. For the more classical retelling, watch Tyrone Guthrie’s 1957 version. Everyone in that production wears a mask, which is how historians believe Oedipus Rex was originally performed.

Still from Tyrone Guthrie’s filmed adaption of Oedipus Rex, 1957


Our society’s obsession with the Oedipus complex says more about our society’s distorted worship of sexuality than it does about the intentions of Sophocles. In ancient Greece, a son who had sex with his mother was a profane, unspeakable thing. In a Tarantino film, that profane thing becomes a greeting, an adjective, a gesture of respect.

You know Tarantino’s profanity of choice, I’m sure, so I’m not going to say it here. That’s not because I’m afraid of a word or because I don’t ever swear. I do swear on occasion, but I also aim for a certain level of civility when possible.

There are two more background details we should flesh out before diving into the meat of the story. In mythology, the god Apollo was associated with many things like medicine, music, poetry, and prophecy, but in the Oedipus plays of Sophocles, Apollo is associated first and foremost with light. To give but one example, here’s how the Chorus describes Apollo at the beginning of Oedipus Rex: “Phoibos Apollo, stretch the sun’s bowstring, that golden cord, until it sing for us, flashing arrows in heaven.”  This is critical to remember, because Sophocles communicates Oedipus’s feelings toward the gods in terms of light and dark imagery.

Lastly, Oedipus is the king of Thebes and a descendant of Cadmus, and ancient Greek audiences were well aware that Thebes was a city with an unsettling origin story and that the lineage of Cadmus was cursed.

Cadmus Sowing the Dragon’s Teeth – Maxfield Parrish, 1908


According to mythology, the story of Thebes begins when Cadmus’s men encounter a giant cave-dwelling snake. Since the snake is the son of Ares, god of war, it is not terribly surprising that the snake kills all of Cadmus’s men. In retaliation, Cadmus kills the snake and plants its teeth into the ground, from which grow ferocious warriors who fight each other to the death until only five warriors remain. With these five, Cadmus founds Thebes. Angry about the death of his son, Ares curses Cadmus and his descendants.

For a modern day equivalent, imagine a city founded from the blood of Lord Voldemort’s snake, Nagini. That’s not exactly an auspicious start, and that origin would linger in the back of our minds, no matter how charming and benevolent its contemporary leaders might seem. So it was with Thebes, but that’s enough background information for now.

Laocoön and His Sons – 25 BC.

(Professor Jennifer Tobin argues that this sculpture embodies the Hellenistic Period’s movement away from idealization and toward a more honest examination of what it means to be human. Sophocles paved the way for that aesthetic with his plays.)


Unless I mention otherwise, the passages I quote will come from Robert Fitzegerald’s translations of the plays. While there are newer, jazzier translations, the Robert Fitzgerald translations are still considered the classic ones, and a classic choice is the preferred choice here on the nsavides blog.

When Oedipus first appears in Oedipus Rex, he introduces himself to the supplicants seeking his aid by describing himself as, “I, Oedipus, who bear the famous name.” Put into the parlance of our times, it would sound something like this: “You’ve read the tabloids. You’ve seen the posters. Now experience the magic in person! Behold the celebrity who graces you with his presence.”

Here’s how the Priest responds to Oedipus’s entrance, “You are not one of the immortal gods, we know; yet we have come to you to make our prayer as to the man surest in mortal ways and wisest in the ways of God.” That sounds a little bit like deification, but that is just so strange and very different from how we treat celebrities today, right? Already the story seems implausible right off the bat, but let’s stick with it just to see where it goes.

It turns out the people of Thebes are dying from a plague, and they want Oedipus to do something about it. Being the consummate politician, Oedipus reassures his people by saying, “so, with the help of God, we shall be saved— or else indeed we are lost.”

Look at that. Oedipus sounds so pious when he is speaking in public. How nice. But is he really a pious guy? Well, let’s look at his later conversation with Tiresias, the blind seer and prophet of Apollo.

Tiresias is at first hesitant to answer Oedipus’s questions, but Oedipus persists. Pressed until his resistance collapses, Tiresias tells Oedipus, “you yourself are the pollution of this country.” That’s not exactly what Oedipus wants to hear. He responds by accusing Tiresias of “mystic mummery” and calls his revelations “damned abracadabra.”

Tiresias appears to Ulysses during the sacrificing – Henry Fusell, 1780-1785


Then Oedipus brings up the Sphinx that troubled Thebes before Oedipus came to town and asks why Tiresias did nothing to remove that threat from the city: “Your birds—what good were they? or the gods for the matter of that? But I came by, Oedipus, the simple man, who knows nothing—I thought it out for myself, no birds helped me!”

The birds that Oedipus references were used as a kind of divination back then. It’s not unlike looking to the stars for signs, as did the wise men who visited Christ, or as some of us do now when we check our horoscopes. Mock that tendency if you wish, but throughout history mankind has sought to understand the will of God through all kinds of discernible patterns.

Regardless of our contemporary thoughts on the matter, the ancient Greeks took the art of interpreting omens seriously, and Oedipus has just mocked that tradition while suggesting that the respected prophet Tiresias is nothing more than a kooky Professor Trelawney type.

Hmm. All of a sudden, Oedipus doesn’t sound so pious. Later the Chorus reinforces our growing perception that Oedipus’s lack of piety might be an issue: “Though fools will honor impious men, in their cities no tragic poet sings.” 

Mask of Dionysus – 2nd century BC


Not everyone agrees that Oedipus has a fatal flaw. Harold Bloom introduces a book on critical interpretations about Oedipus by saying, “Whether there is a ‘tragic flaw,’ a hamartia, in King Oedipus is uncertain, though I doubt it, as he is hardly a figure who shoots wide of the mark.” Oh, Bloomie! First you challenge my esteem for Harry Potter, and now this! Can we not agree on anything?!

I need a moment to compose myself. OK. That will do. So, Oedipus…

As the story progresses we learn that a drunk once told young Oedipus that he was not truly the son of Corinth’s king and queen. Whether driven by a desire to reaffirm his nobility or to know the truth, Oedipus visits the Oracle of Delphi and inquires about his lineage. Instead of answering his question directly, the Oracle tells him that he will kill his father and marry his own mother.

Determined to escape this fate, Oedipus refuses to return to Corinth. At a crossroad he meets King Laius of Thebes and his kingly procession. Oedipus is alone, but he insists that he has the right of way. When King Laius and his men refuse to yield, Oedipus gets angry and kills the king and all but one in the king’s procession.

As it turns out, Laius, king of Thebes, was Oedipus’s actual father. The king of Corinth had merely adopted Oedipus at a young age. By killing Laius, Oedipus turns Jocasta, Laius’s wife and Oedipus’s mother, into a widow, paving the way for the Oracle’s prophecy to be fulfilled.

When Oedipus comes into Thebes and solves the riddle of the Sphinx, one that no one else could solve, the Sphinx kills herself in dismay. So dramatic, that Sphinx.

(Fun fact for those of you not named Harold Bloom: in Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter is also presented with a riddle from the Sphinx. Does this mean that the Sphinx actually faked her death back in the days of ancient Greece so as to avoid a prolonged, potentially career-damaging association with Oedipus? The historical record is not clear on this point.)

Anyway, the people of Thebes see the Sphinx’s (supposed) demise as a favorable sign. They offer Oedipus the kingdom and Jocasta as rewards, both of which he accepts.

Oedipus and the Sphinx – François Xavier Fabre, ca. 1806-1808


By trying to defy the Oracle’s prophecy, Oedipus made it come true. From this we get the two central questions in the Oedipus story. The most commonly discussed one is the fate and free will question: Did Oedipus ever really have a choice, or  was his unfortunate situation predestined?

The second question is whether the hand of God is a benevolent or malevolent influence in the lives of men and women. Sophocles wrestles with both questions all the way through to the conclusion of Oedipus at Colonus.

To evaluate the Oedipus’s plight, let’s take a closer look at what happened at the crossroads.

Oedipus was by himself when he saw the king’s procession, but he still believed that he had the right of way. Suppose you were in your car and saw the President’s motorcade approach. Even if you were someone very important like a CEO, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assume that the President has the right of way, due to the authority of his office?

Oedipus didn’t think so. He was just a prince at the time, travelling through a foreign land with scarcely any proof of his nobility, but he still refused to yield the right of way to King Laius. Not only did he refuse to yield, but he killed almost everyone in the royal procession over what was essentially a non-issue, a blotch to his ego. Again this is very much unlike how celebrities act in today’s world, and so, dear reader, let us make a monumental effort to trudge onward by suspending all disbelief.

Perhaps Oedipus’s reaction was partly due to the curse from the god or war. But then again, if Oedipus had never visited the Oracle wouldn’t he have been better off? I’m not so sure.

Remember, inscribed on the entrance to the Oracle is the phrase, “know thyself.” Above all else, the Oracle is there to help her visitors attain self knowledge. For more insights into this conundrum, let’s consult the Oracle.

We don’t have the budget for an actual visit, so let’s just quote the Oracle from The Matrix Reloaded. She tells Neo, “you didn’t come here to make the choice. You’ve already made it. You’re here to try to understand why you made it. I thought you’d have figured that out by now.” OK, well that clears that up.

The Oracle from The Matrix – Warner Bros. 1999


Notably, the one thing that Oedipus did not do when he heard the Oracle’s ominous prophecy was to ask with humility how it could be avoided. Instead, he decided to defy the prophesy on his own. If you learn nothing else from this post, remember this part: Should you ever meet a verified oracle, say on Twitter or something, do not try to defy the oracle’s prophecy. The literature at large suggests that it does not go well for those who do.

Doubt my words if you must, but if you wake up and discover that you’ve become a Tarantino, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Speaking of Tarantino, I hear that he goes around punching people when they say things that displease him.

On the podcast “Crossing the 180,” the photographer Miller Mobley tells a story of how Tarantino asked to see his DGA (Director’s Guild of America) card when Mobley tried to give Tarantino some posing suggestions for the photo shoot that Mobley was running.

More than likely, a photographer would not have a DGA card, since most photographers do not also make a living by directing motion pictures. That was Tarantino’s way of saying that Tarantino does not take direction from photographers. Oh man, does it get more awesome than that?! But hey, the guy’s got a film nominated for a best picture, so bow down and worship. Or something.

Let’s get back to Oedipus though. He does have some issues, but he also is not lacking in admirable qualities. When his people lament of their sufferings, Oedipus appears to share their sorrows. He vows to find the source of the plague and tells his people, “I know that you are deathly sick; and yet, sick as you are, not one is as sick as I.” 

When he speaks that line, he is speaking as a statesman who hurts to see his people hurt, but that line takes on a whole new meaning by the end of the play when we learn that Oedipus’s profane marriage to his mother is the source of the plague. Oh those Greeks, and their double meanings! Sophocles is a master of double entendre, and he uses that technique throughout his plays.

Antigone – Frederic Leighton, 1882


In the play Antigone, Sophocles has Creon anticipate his later demise in a similar manner. Creon tells his subjects, “and as for the man who sets private friendship above the public welfare—I have no use for him, either.” At the beginning, Creon says that line as a warning to those who might defy the state. By the end of the play, that line condemns him as he mourns for his dead son.

Indeed there are several parallels between Oedipus and Creon. Both men start their respective plays as confident leaders, receive unwanted messages from Tiresias, act with impiety, and lose family members by the end of the play as a result of their actions. Oedipus though, shows a determined inclination to discover the truth, regardless of what it might cost, whereas Creon is simply concerned with how to effectively manage the kingdom. Compared with Creon, Oedipus seems the more admirable, but he suffers a far worse fate, at least in Oedipus Rex, which might explain why Sophocles felt compelled to revisit the story of Oedipus before dying.

Throughout Oedipus Rex, several characters try to persuade Oedipus to abandon his search for truth, but he persists even when he begins to suspect that he might actually be the pollution that plagues his city, as Tiresias had claimed. Oedipus could have continued to live in comfort while his people suffered, but that would have been the easy way out. Instead Oedipus continues his search until he discovers that his city is dying because “I am that evil man.” Most people never get anywhere close to that realization, although it is usually no less true.

It wouldn’t be fair of me to write this post without acknowledging my own shortcomings. There are many. Instead of going through a laundry list, let me share a quick story: When I was younger I would approach a group effort with the mentality that I was so smart and that everyone else would soon realize how smart I was and let me make all the important decisions.

At the time, I couldn’t figure out why those endeavors would dissipate into chaos and apathy, but I was poisoning the group’s potential with my outlook. I still consider myself an intelligent person, but now instead of focusing on myself, I aim to bring out the best in everyone involved and to encourage a healthy collaborative spirit. My group efforts have become more fruitful with that change in perspective.

I’m still not a perfect person, but at least now I am open to the possibility that I might be part of the problem. Fortunately, I’m not the only one willing to consider that possibility.


When I heard that Stephen King had written an essay about guns after the Sandy Hook massacre, I was a little nervous. I respect Stephen King as a writer, and a number of his books have been meaningful to me.  If not for the overindulgence of profanity and graphic sex in his writing, I would not hesitate to include Stephen King in a list of the 20th century’s greatest writers, but I was worried that his gun essay would be just another liberal diatribe, full of hot air and hypocrisy.

To my surprise, Stephen King begins his essay by acknowledging that a book he wrote under a pen name when younger might have been an “accelerant” in recent school shootings. Disturbed to learn that troubled kids had mimicked scenarios in that book, King asked the publisher to take it off the market.

A celebrity who acts like a human being: How unexpected, how refreshing. My political leanings are a little right of center and Stephen King is a little left of center, and I consider his verbal assaults on Glenn Beck to be childish, malicious, and unfair, but if Stephen King has the courage to look in the mirror before pointing fingers, then I will listen to what he has to say.

(As to Stephen King’s animosity toward Glenn Beck, it is worth mentioning that both men have more in common than they might care to admit. Both were, by their own admission, self-destructive alcoholics who are now committed to remaining sober. Both are also prolific writers who use their creative abilities to campaign for a better society based on how they interpret the world at large. Interesting isn’t it, how people can be the most vicious to others who are all too similar in all the wrong ways.)

That being said, guess who does not share Stephen King’s self-examining inclination? That’s right. Quentin Tarantino.  

Many of you have probably seen this video interview where Tarantino refuses to answer a question about whether there is a correlation between consuming onscreen violence and acting out in violent ways, but there is something peculiar about the video that is worth further exploration: http://bcove.me/sfugj0ba

Tarantino responds to Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s question by saying “I’m not your slave, and you’re not my master.” Now, I noticed something when I watched that, but I didn’t want to jump to any premature conclusions, so I did some tests, and my suspicions were confirmed. Thank you, Photoshop.

Relative to Tarantino, at least, the interviewer is in fact a person of darker color. Since it is Black History Month, I’ve got to ask, is it Weinstein Company policy to handle difficult questions by suggesting that the people of color who ask those questions are slave masters, or is that just another Tarantino thing?

As to Tarantino’s nervousness in answering the question, perhaps he has good reason. After all, the Columbine shooters were big fans of the Tarantino penned film Natural Born Killers. They watched movie repeatedly before going on their 4/20 massacre and called the shooting day NBK day in their journals, named after the film’s acronym.

Maybe that’s not recent enough though, so how about this CNN discussion:



Here the discussion focuses around Chris Dorner, the guy who went on a rampage just a few weeks ago, shooting at innocent police officers and their families. One of the commentators, Professor Marc Lamont Hill, says, “It’s almost like watching Django Unchained in real life. It’s kind of exciting.” Yes, it is so exciting when the crazies kill innocent people, isn’t it? It’s just like watching a movie! But why did Hill specifically mention Django Unchained and not say The Nutty Professor, Bridge on the River Kwai, or Medea’s Family Reunion?

Well I don’t know. Might it have something to do with the ending of Django Unchained where Jamie Foxx blows away everyone with a certain panache while the soundtrack suggests that the killer is doing God’s work? Maybe Hill was actually thinking about the film’s message, which seems to be something like, there is injustice in the world, and the best way to deal with it is to go on a bloody shooting spree and kill everyone.

I’ll give credit where credit is due, though. Tarantino is a consummate stylist. His films have exceptional visual flair and crisp dialogue, but I find the substance of his films to be unfulfilling at best and pestilent at worst.

Even so, Tarantino doesn’t say one thing and then act in a completely contradictory manner. Tarantino may be many things, but a Hollywood phony he is not. The same cannot be said about guys like Kevin Williamson. In my recent James Dean post, I pointed out how ironic it was that Kevin Williamson, creator of the Scream franchise, would say this on Twitter, in response to the Sandy Hook shooting: “We need gun control. Stop defending your right to bear arms. You’re stupid,” but then I mentioned that I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt because I liked his show Dawson’s Creek. I wrote that before reading this article:


There’s a lot of jargony phrases and industry terms in there, so let me see if I can translate Williamson’s comments for the layperson. I’m not an expert translator, but I think this is about right:  “Wait, you think I’m going to give up a lucrative gig just because there was another shooting? That’s a joke, right? Turn down the violence? Are you insane? Yes, my show is about a serial killer who inspires an army of serial-killer followers with his actions—HELLO, the show is called FOLLOWER for a reason!—but I don’t see how this relates in any way to the current shooting epidemic, and besides I’ve got mouths to feed, bro. Lots of mouths. I don’t even know how many mouths there are, because there are so many of them, but of course my prayers go out to all the victims.”


Kevin Williamson’s house, which he listed at $3.95 million in 2012 according to realtor.com


And so, without further ado, I would like to award Kevin Williamson the Douchie, the first award ever offered on the nsavides blog. The Douchie is given to men and women in the entertainment industry who go above and beyond in establishing themselves as world-class Hollywood Phonies. Congratulations to Kevin Williamson for being the first recipient of this distinguished dishonor!

At the time of this writing, it remains unclear if Kevin Williamson will be available to accept this award, but he will be notified.

Kevin Williamson tells us that we are stupid for believing in the Second Amendment. Tolstoy tells us that “Everyone thinks of changing the world. No one thinks of changing himself.” I don’t know about you, but I’d rather listen to Tolstoy.  It’s easy to blame others for the problems at large, but much harder to consider, as Oedipus did, that we might be the very pollution that plagues our cities.

When Oedipus discovers the truth, he takes Jocasta’s golden broach and stabs his eyes.  Then he orders himself exiled. He has finally come to a point of a self knowledge and takes action to purge his city of the pestilence he has brought upon it, but by blinding himself, Oedipus is also acting in defiance of Apollo, god of light. Shortly before he blinds himself, Oedipus says “O Light may I look on you for the last time!” Note that “light” is capitalized in the text.

When the Chorus asks Oedipus, “What god was it drove you to rake black night across your eyes?” Oedipus responds by saying “Apollo. Apollo. Dear children, the god was Apollo. He brought my sick, sick fate upon me.” Ironically Oedipus’s act of defiance makes him more like Apollo’s prophet, the blind seer blind Tiresias.

Oedipus – Ernest Hillemacher, 1843


It’s as if Oedipus is saying, “the only reason I am here is because I sought you out, Apollo. I consulted your Oracle. I tried to do right by my people, and you still brought me here. I would have been better off if I had never paid you any regard.” But without self knowledge, would he have been better off? That’s the real question, isn’t it?

Earlier, Oedipus thought of himself as the lucky one who survived, who solved the riddle of the Sphinx when no one else could. Before learning the truth, Oedipus declares, “but I am a child of Luck; I can not be dishonored. Luck is my mother; the passing months, my brothers, have seen me rich and poor. If this is so, how could I wish that I were someone else?” But by the end of the play, Oedipus has come to realize that he might not have been as lucky as he first thought.

“Ah, what net has God been weaving for me?” he wonders. Were all those seemingly fortuitous moments there just to ruin Oedipus, to turn him into a monster similar to how circumstances mold Walter White in Breaking Bad?  That is more or less what Oedipus concludes by the end of the play as he wonders, “Ah, if I was created so, born to this fate, who could deny the savagery of God?” These are not easy questions to answer, so Sophocles deserves credit for having the courage to ask them.

Breaking Bad Season 5 promo – AMC, 2012


Sophocles ends Oedipus Rex on a note of ambiguity, when the Choragos, the leader of choir, delivers the closing speech: “Let every man in mankind’s frailty consider his last day; and let none presume on his good fortune until he find life, at his death, a memory without pain.”

That ending, while poetic, does not seem to me a satisfactory conclusion to the questions raised in the play. My guess is that Sophocles felt the same way, and my argument for that is Oedipus at Colonus.

Wait a minute. There appears to be a breaking (fictional) development that might impact our discussion. Kevin Williamson has just tweeted about the Constitution once again. He writes “Time to act is now. Stop defending your freedom of religion. Scientology is for everyone, assholes.” The reason behind this new outburst remains unclear, but we will have more details for you as the story unfolds.

Not sure what that’s about, but I’m sorry about the interruption, folks. Anyway, there is a certain symmetry to Oedipus at Colonus that beautifully counterbalances, we might even say undoes, Oedipus Rex. Oedipus Rex tells the story of a powerful, arrogant, go-it-alone man whose actions bring a plague upon his city and cause him to be exiled from cursed Thebes.  With Oedipus at Colonus, we see a humbled blind man, dependent on his daughter, who comes to Colonus (the birthplace of Sophocles) so as to bestow a blessing upon Athens, the cultural center of Greek civilization.

It’s the Tale of Two Cities, ladies and gentlemen, and I don’t mean just Thebes and Athens. The Charles Dickens’s novel is an appropriate companion piece. Without going too deep down the rabbit hole, consider how Tale of Two Cities begins and how it ends.

A Tale of Two Cities – Classic Comics, 1942


Speaking of rabbit holes, the Matrix trilogy does share more than just oracles with the plays that compose the Oedipus Cycle: The main character chooses to discover the truth of his wretched state and in so doing becomes exiled from his home, suffers much, becomes blind, and dies a hero. The entire Oedipus Cycle deals with the fate/free will dilemma as does the Matrix trilogy, and the play Antigone anticipates the fight-the-power! ethos in the Matrix films. Niobe, one of the important characters in the later Matrix films, was also a noted character in Greek mythology who happened to be married to an early founder of Thebes.

How about that?

You know, I used to defend The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions as being meaningful additions to the story, but a certain friend callously dismissed my insights by suggesting that the only reason I would do so was because I must be one of those guys who wears sunglasses indoors and has a Matrix screensaver running on all my computers. Well, for your information I do NOT have a Matrix screensaver on my computers, but I do enjoy this animated gif:


Whoa. Eight hours have pasted since I wrote that last paragraph, but it’s just so beautiful! OK, well maybe it wasn’t exactly 8 hours, but if I’m ever bored, I’ll know where to go. (Thanks for the encouragement, “friend.”)

In preparation for this post, I went back and revisited the Matrix films thinking that they might relate. The films weren’t as enjoyable this time around, I have to admit. The first Matrix begins with a bunch of police officers getting killed. Toward the end of the film, security officers getting blown apart, with the aid of assault weapons, and Neo’s black trench-coat getup is too reminiscent of all the recent school shooters for the sequence to feel as fun as it first did.

The Matrix Reloaded also begins with security guards getting shot, so the recurring violence against authority seems like a deliberate choice, consistent with Neo’s closing speech in The Matrix: “I’m going to show them a world without you, a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries, a world where anything is possible.” 

You know, I’m glad that there are some rules in place, not because I am trying to oppress others but because some rules allow for a civilization to grow and prosper. Thou shalt not kill, particularly innocent children and police officers who protect the public, seems like a reasonable rule, for starters, and while the Wachowskis might rage against the machine, that machine, with its rules and boundaries, still allows them and their collaborators to recoup the enormous investments of time and money that went into developing their groundbreaking series.

Then there is the occasionally heavy-handed political commentary. When Agent Smith meets with Cypher, who is there to betray Morpheus, Mr. Smith calls him Mr. Reagan and asks if they have a deal. Cypher responds, “I don’t want to remember nothing. Nothing! You understand? And I want to be rich. Someone important. Like an actor.”

Hmm. Cypher’s name in the matrix is Mr. Reagan, and he wants to be an actor. That could be anyone really! Maybe it’s a veiled reference to a powerful shogun in feudal Japan who was involved in Kabuki theater, maybe a Shakespearean actor in Elizabethan England who played  a part in King Lear. We just don’t know! Yeah …


(Reducing the former actor and President, Ronald Reagan, to a selfish sellout is a cheap shot, even if you don’t like his politics. Consider this excerpt of a letter that Reagan wrote to his son, a letter which can be found in its entirety at BrainPickings.org and in the book Reagan: A Life in Letters:

“Some men feel their masculinity can only be proven if they play out in their own life all the locker-room stories, smugly confident that what a wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her. The truth is, somehow, way down inside, without her ever finding lipstick on the collar or catching a man in the flimsy excuse of where he was till three A.M., a wife does know, and with that knowing, some of the magic of this relationship disappears. There are more men griping about marriage who kicked the whole thing away themselves than there can ever be wives deserving of blame. There is an old law of physics that you can only get out of a thing as much as you put in it. The man who puts into the marriage only half of what he owns will get that out. Sure, there will be moments when you will see someone or think back to an earlier time and you will be challenged to see if you can still make the grade, but let me tell you how really great is the challenge of proving your masculinity and charm with one woman for the rest of your life. Any man can find a twerp here and there who will go along with cheating, and it doesn’t take all that much manhood. It does take quite a man to remain attractive and to be loved by a woman who has heard him snore, seen him unshaven, tended him while he was sick and washed his dirty underwear. Do that and keep her still feeling a warm glow and you will know some very beautiful music. If you truly love a girl, you shouldn’t ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a secretary or a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home, nor should you want any other woman to be able to meet your wife and know she was smiling behind her eyes as she looked at her, the woman you love, remembering this was the woman you rejected even momentarily for her favors.” Does that sound like the advice of a sellout to you?)

Also, in The Matrix Reloaded when the Architect discusses humanity’s mistakes, George W. Bush’s face appears next to images of Hitler and other brutal dictators. Ah yes. Hitler tried to eradicate the Jewish people from the face of the earth. Stalin and Chairman Mao killed millions of their own people, but that George W. was quite a devil. While facing an unprecedented terrorist attack, he increased government surveillance and led a war against an Iraqi dictator who would routinely torture and kill his own people, and President Bush didn’t even respond to the unexpected devastation of Hurricane Katrina all that fast. Let us burn his effigy!

Much of The Matrix is thoughtful and inventive, but unfortunately the political discourse sometimes has all the sophistication of a myspace blogger who cites John Stewart and Michael Moore as influential historians. Contrary to what some might think, it is possible for liberal-leaning Hollywood to produce a film with an evenhanded political outlook. Steven Spielberg’s film Lincoln is an excellent example of that.

I didn’t write all of that as someone who hates the Matrix series. It used to be one of my favorite film trilogies, and there are still many things about it that I admire, including the animated gifs that the film has spawned, which as we’ve already discussed, can offer countless hours of enjoyment. But, since I’ve been discussing the negative influence of some films, it seems only fair to critique even the films that I like.

The Matrix Reloaded poster – Warner Bros. 2003


I’m not saying that the Matrix trilogy has no redeeming value, just that it has some less-than-ideal parts. The goal is not to get challenging art banned but to get artists to be more mindful about how their work might affect society.

School shootings and other atrocities aren’t going to fade away until we stop turning a blind eye to problems just because those problems might originate with dazzling films or charming celebrities.

Speaking of turning a blind eye, no reporter I have read thus far has asked Brittany Snow, the celebrity behind the Love is Louder movement, how her films embody, even remotely, the ethic that she has turned into a small merchandising phenomenon. Take for example her latest offering to cinema audiences, the torture-porn flick Would You Rather, a film she executive produced and stars in.

Is there a hidden heart in the film’s poster, because I just don’t see it.

Would You Rather poster – Periscope Entertainment, 2012


I’ve struggled to write honestly and from the heart about the things that trouble me without being heavy handed, but getting the tone right for the topic at hand might go beyond my abilities. Be that as it may, I knew that I had to say something, whether or not I could articulate my thoughts in any polished way.

As to Would You Rather here are some choice quotes about it: “an instant contender for feel-bad movie of the year” and “This movie is so F’ed up!” I do not plan to see the film, so I cannot be entirely certain, but I doubt that it has much to say about the overwhelming power of love. Come to think of it, other Brittany Snow films like 96 Minutes, The Vicious Kind, Black Water Transit, Finding Amanda, On the Doll, and John Tucker Must Die don’t seem all that preoccupied with love either.

It’s true: Not every film will embody an artist’s deepest held convictions, but at this point Brittany Snow has achieved enough success to be selective about her projects, and yet her films still tend to have a conspicuous absence of love.

How many disturbed young people will see films like Would You Rather and be inspired to do twisted things? I have no idea, but I don’t see how that film will have a positive impact on the world.

Talking about the power of love is admirable enough, but only when actions speak louder, and at this point the most loving thing that a celebrity like Brittany Snow can do for the world is to stop making movies like Would You Rather. If Stephen King can change his ways, then so can other celebrities. In theory.

I don’t want to be the guy who speaks out about a group trying to do something positive, but how effective can a group about love be when its leader is making a profit by dumping films like Would You Rather into theaters? The things we do or don’t do to make a living will have a far greater impact on the world than the token hours we contribute to our charities of choice. I wish I could support the Love is Louder movement. I really do. Maybe someday it’ll be different, but right now all I see is a front that distracts attention away from bigger issues.

With open eyes and a heavy heart, I’ll return the discussion back to our blind, soon to be hero. In Oedipus at Colonus when Oedipus is asked about past crimes, Oedipus asserts his innocence. This is somewhat surprising considering that Oedipus declared himself to be that evil man in Oedipus Rex, so let’s look at two different translations for clarification. The Robert Fitzgerald translation that we’ve been using thus far says, “And yet, how was I evil in myself? I had been wronged; I retaliated; even had I known what I was doing, was that evil?”

The newer translation from Robert Bagg and James Scully says, “Yet, tell me: how is my nature evil—if all I did was to return a blow? How could I have been guilty, even if I’d known where my actions would take me while I was living them?” In the Fitzgerald version, Oedipus doesn’t clarify how he was wronged, but in the newer translation Oedipus claims that he was struck first. In both versions of Oedipus Rex though, Oedipus explains that he retaliates in anger after being driven off the road, not after being hit.

It does make a difference if Oedipus killed the king’s men in self defense or in anger at having to yield the right of way. Did Oedipus change his story or did Sophocles? Or, is the Fitzgerald translation more accurate? Whatever the case may be, Oedipus does assert his innocence throughout the play, which makes the play more challenging to process.

When Oepidus declares, “No I did not sin!” in Oedipus at Colonus, he brings to mind Sophocles’s earlier play Antigone, where Antigone defends herself by saying “I have done no wrong, I have not sinned before God.” Antigone says this to justify her attempts at giving her brother a proper burial, considered a sacred obligation to the dead, in spite of Creon’s decree.  Of all the main characters in the Oedipus Cycle, Antigone seems to be the one least worthy of reproach, so it is significant that Sophocles chooses to make Oedipus’s self defense reminiscent of Antigone’s.

Antigone in front of the dead Polynices – Nikiforos Lytras – 1865


My interpretation is that Oedipus was born into a cursed city, tainted by the god of war, and he was innocent in so far as he did what anyone else in his position would have done. That brings to mind Christ’s prayer on the cross: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Put differently, how could Oedipus have done otherwise before seeing the truth about himself?

Still, by emphasizing the innocence of Oedipus in his last play, Sophocles does seem to be tilting the fate/free-will balance toward fate, but then Oedipus hasn’t exactly mellowed in his old age. He curses his sons with the vituperative spirit of a fiery young man, although that seems appropriate considering how the play ends.

At the end, Oedipus is led to a sacred grove and dies, bestowing a blessing on Athens and achieving a union with the gods that causes an onlooker to describe his death as “a cause for wonder” (Bagg and Scully translation). After this happens the Chorus concludes the play by saying “Now let the weeping cease; Let no one mourn again. These things are in the hands of God.”

At last Sophocles answers the questions raised in the earlier plays. The hand of God was not a savage force that Oedipus feared but a benign one that made Oedipus’s harmonious relationship with the divine possible. That gives context to the curses that Oedipus inflicts upon his sons.

Oedipus’s sons had tried to keep him in Thebes, and they did not tell him about the prophesy that his body would bring a blessing to the city in which it was buried. In so doing they were trying to obstruct the divine will. Now that Sophocles has revealed the hand of God as a force for good, then it seems just for those who stand in its defiance to be cursed.

Oedipus at Colonus – Jean-Antoine-Théodore Giroust, 1788


With the ending of Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles becomes the most mystical of the Greek tragedians. Euripides mentions the gods in passing, but as a framework to explore the conflicts between rival human factions. Aeschylus does examine the tension between God and man, but he is far more wary of the divine influence than is Sophocles.

In both the Oresteia trilogy and Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus suggests that heaven’s influence is primal, even malevolent, and must be resisted.  In other words, don’t expect an Aeschylus play to end by celebrating the hand of God at work.

Yep. The faith/reason dilemma was just as heavily contested back then as it is now. Don’t just take my word on it though.

Aeschylus wrote a trilogy for Prometheus, but the last two plays were lost to history. Feeling compelling to address this deficiency, the English poet Percy Shelley wrote Prometheus Unbound, which was also the name of Aeschylus’s missing play that once concluded the Promethean trilogy.

Shelley also wrote his version of Prometheus Unbound in response to, or at least influenced by, his wife’s novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, which was published in 1818, two years before Prometheus Unbound. In Frankenstein, the benevolence of the monster’s creator is called to question. Percy Shelley takes that creator ambivalence a little further. In the introduction to Prometheus Unbound, Shelley sings the praises of Prometheus while favorably comparing that title character to Satan.  No one will ever accuse Shelley of being subtle in his allegiances!

Aeschylus is not as militant in his views, but as is obvious to Shelley, Aeschylus does not side with the gods.

Seeing that Sophocles does side with the gods, it seems appropriate that Oedipus’s most tender moment comes right before his ascent into heaven. He tells his two daughters, “I know it was hard, my children.—And yet one word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love. Never shall you have more from any man than you have had from me. And now you must spend the rest of life without me.” The man whose profane marriage defiled his city ends his life by sharing his purest, most sincere, expression of love with his children. How’s that for poetic symmetry?

The Slave Ship – J. M. W. Turner, 1840


That moment is not unlike the burst of color at the end of Matrix Revolutions when harmony has been restored. As it happens, the Matrix trilogy, unlike the film 300, also concludes by embracing faith.

With Oedipus at Colonus, Sophocles has turned a tragedy into a fairy tale, and I mean a fairy tale in the classical sense and not in the revisionist variety as embodied by Shrek. In Shrek the monsters come to accept their monstrosities as part of their identities, and so the fair maiden chooses to revert to her monster form in the end. That is an anti fairy tale. It doesn’t necessarily make for bad drama, but I’d rather live out the classic variety.

I too am capable of monstrous things, but I don’t want to end my time on earth as a monster. I too haved polluted the vitality of my community, but I want to leave the world a little better; I want to leave being better: I want the classic fairytale ending.

Venus and Mars – Sandro Botticelli, 1483


If that involves sharing my life with a girl who can help me get there, then all the better, but things don’t always work out that way. So, to quote a Bruce Springsteen song, “I’m countin’ on a miracle.” It’s in God’s hands now.

Let’s end with a classic quote from the anti-Tarantino, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As it happens, the quote can be used as a makeshift summary for both Oedipus Cycle and the Matrix trilogy. As it also happens, there is even a character in Django Unchained  named Dr. King. So, why not? “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty we are free at last!” Someday.



✦If you’d like to explore more of the mythology behind Greek drama or just mythology in general, I recommend this book, one of the best books on mythology that I have read (an affiliate link):Mythology: Myths, Legends, & Fantasies.


✦To learn more about Ancient Greece, check out this free 24-part series on iTunes U from Yale University: Ancient Greek History by Donald Kagan.


✦ To those following along from the last post, the 23 enigma seems to originate in or be popularized by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! novels. Fun fact: one of the main characters in that trilogy is Saul Goodman, a character who also appears in Breaking Bad as a not so good lawyer.


✦ Who wants to guess how many people the Architect claims are necessary to rebuild Zion? 

The Matrix Reloaded – Warner Bros. 2003.


What does it mean? I have no idea.


✦ Lastly, there is this:


It takes me a little longer to write the kinds of posts I prefer to write, and sometimes my schedule gets complicated, so I can’t promise to have new posts available on a consistent schedule. That’s why I encourage you to sign up by email. You can do that by clicking here.

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