movies

The Dalai Lama, Reefer Madness, kaiju, and more!

Prop newspaper with a story headline, "New Living Buddha Reported Discovered."

What does his Holiness the Dalai Lama have to do with moral panics over “marihuana,” a backwoodsman becoming an unlikely political hero, noir skulduggery in wartime San Francisco, Ronald Reagan, a resurrected Egyptian mummy, and a giant reptile terrorizing Japan? Quite a lot, as it turns out.

Several years ago, someone told me about a reference to the Dalai Lama that had appeared in fake (prop) newspapers in two old Hollywood movies: “Reefer Madness” and “Mr Smith Goes to Washington.” (Unfortunately it’s so long ago I’ve forgotten who it was that told me about this, and even a search of my emails has failed to turn up any clue.)

The newspaper story has the title, “New ‘Living Buddha’ Reported Discovered.” This seems to be a reference to the discovery of the Dalai Lama’s “tulku” — his new incarnation — in Tibet in 1936.

I have to say I was a little skeptical when this was brought to my attention. I’d assumed that the prop newspapers used in old movies were entirely fake. My understanding was that to avoid incurring licensing fees, any prop newspaper used in a film would contain stories that were entirely invented. That turns out not to have been the case in the early days of cinema, because at least some of the stories were genuine — including the one about the Dalai Lama.

You can see this headline — just, if you screw up your eyes very hard and look sideways at just the right phase of the moon —  in the image above, which is from “Reefer Madness.” The main story is “Harper Verdict Expected Tonight.” This is a reference to the plot of the movie. Underneath that is the rather improbable, “Dick Tracy, G-Man, In Sensational Raid.” And tucked under that, you can just about make out, in the blur of a low-resolution image taken from a TV scan of an already low-resolution celluloid film, “New ‘Living Buddha’ Reported Discovered.”

You can see the headline much more clearly in the image below, which is from “Mr Smith Goes to Washington,” starring an improbably young Jimmy Stewart. Here I don’t even have to circle the headline. In fact you can almost make out the subheading.

A newspaper prop from Mr Smith Goes to Washington, showing the headline, "New Living Buddha Reported Discovered."

This is from the pivotal moment in the film when Governor Hubert “Happy” Hopper tosses a coin to decide whether to replace a deceased senator with either a political stooge or a naive local hero. The tossed coin ends up beside this newspaper, helping him to make his decision.

“New ‘Living Buddha’ Reported Discovered” and “36 Mexican Rebels Killed by Soldiers” are the filler stories.

I later discovered that His Holiness shows up in a number of other films as well.

These include “This Gun For Hire,” where our “New ‘Living Buddha’ Reported Discovered” appears below the main story, “Chemist and Woman Murdered.”

Prop newspaper from This Gun For Hire, with the story, "New Living Buddha Reported Discovered."

Also (and thanks to the blog, “And you call yourself a scientist!?” for this) it’s in “Gigantis, The Fire Monster.”

Newspaper prop from Gigantis, The Fire Monster.

And also on “Girls On Probation” (1938), which stars Ronald Reagan, and “The Mummy’s Tomb” (1942).

The Dalai Lama gets around!

I can’t say for sure who originated these newspapers, but it’s likely to have been The Earl Hays Press, which has been supplying props to Hollywood for more than a hundred years.

But is this “Living Buddha” story really about the Dalai Lama? And is it based on a story that actually appeared in real newspapers.

The answers are “yes” and “yes.”

On Wednesday, 27 May 1936, an Associated Press story with the title “New ‘Living Buddha’ Reported Discovered” was published on page 25 of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The same story was also published in other outlets under different headlines, such as “New ‘Living Buddha’ Discovered After Two- Year Search in Tibet,” in The Atlanta Journal, on the same date.

Here for the sake of completeness is the entire article, in case you were curious about what was behind the blur:

NEW ‘LIVING BUDDHA’ REPORTED DISCOVERED
Two-Year Quest Ends After Tibetan Priests Study Surface of Sacred Lake.

By the Associated Press.
SHANGHAI, May 27. Dispatches from the forbidden kingdom of Tibet reported today a new Dalai Lama, or “Living Buddha,” was discovered in the Han Jen district, northeast of Lhasa, after a search of more than two years.

The new Buddha was believed, the Tibetan advices [sic] said, to be a reincarnation of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, who died Dec. 17, 1933.

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and temporal ruler of Tibet. Tibetans believe their “living god” is immortal and that when he dies, his attributes are handed down to a child born about the time of his death.

Tibetan monks and professional “diviners” have been searching for the reincarnated Dalai Lama ever since the death of the previous ruler. Reports received earlier from Lhasa said the omens were favorable for an early finding of the new “Living Buddha.”

The Tibetan new year began in February under auspicious circumstances, reports said. Spiritual authorities sent a deputation of high priests, sages, monks and philosophers to the sacred Chugkhorgyae Lake, east of Lhasa, near which the first Dalai Lama was born, to contemplate images reflected on the surface.

The lake gazers were reported successful in their quest for indications which might lead to discovery of a new Pontiff. Visions of a house wearing the mysterious words “a ka ma” appeared, thought to bear some relation to the name of the parents of the future Dalai Lama.

The populace was instructed then to join in the search for the house and the child.

The present spiritual leader of Tibet, the Panchen Lama, has been living in exile in China for the last 12 years.

He would be unable to go back. to assume his duties as tutor to his reported new “reincarnated brother” because no invitation has been extended to him.

Since the death of the late Dalai Lama under mysterious circumstances at Lhasa, affairs of state have been in the hands of the temporal regent, Jechen Hutukehtu.

Some of the other stories, such as “36 Mexican Rebels Killed by Soldiers” and “Fire Destroys State Arsenal,” were also taken from real newspapers.

Anyway, there we have it: The Dalai Lama made appearances in a number of films, from the classic “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” to the risible — “Gigantis” and Reefer Madness.” No doubt he was in many more as well. If you notice any others, please let me know!

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Watch SIT, a short documentary

SIT – Short Documentary Film from Yoko Okumura on Vimeo.

Chris Ruiz, one of the producers of SIT, a short documentary by Yoko Okumura, suggested that I might want to share this video. Yoko Okumura is the daughter of Shohaku Okumura, a Zen abbot and Eihei Dogen translator. Confounding stereotypes of Zen strictness, Shohaku is a really easy-going guy. Her brother, Masaki, lacks direction, and although he’d like to go to college to learn to cook, he’s perpetually “not ready” to take any concrete steps, seeming to have retreated into a world of video games and finding interaction with the world to be scary.

As Ruiz said to me, the documentary helps “dispel myths about the traditionalism, closed-mindedness, and rigidness attributed to Asian families.”

It’s a very short documentary, and slow moving. It’s rather interesting and surprising, though.

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Guardian angel meditation (Day 11)

100 Days of Lovingkindness

You know when you’re sitting on a subway and there’s someone sitting directly opposite? It’s kind of awkward — all that trying not to make eye contact, and those embarrassing moments when we get caught looking at them…

There’s something of this sometimes in the metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness) meditation practice. It’s not so bad with the friend, since you’re used to making eye contact with them, but even there is can feel a bit odd to be mentally “sitting opposite” them for ten minutes or so. It’s just not very natural, is it? It’s rather stilted.

For quite a while now, I’ve been doing the lovingkindness practice in a different way. For one thing I’ve been imagining the other person not as being statically opposite me, but as going about their daily business. I might visualize my friend working on his computer, or practicing the piano, or doing some gardening. The “neutral person” I might see working at their counter in the post office…

It’s not that I have one ongoing movie, by the way. It’s more a series of fragmented images. That seems to be enough.

So that’s step one.

Step two is that I see myself as an invisible presence. I’m that person’s guardian angel, wishing them well.

I sometimes will imagine that I’m laying a hand on them in a loving touch, and sending my love into their body as I say “May you be well; may you be happy; may you be at peace.” Sometimes I’ll imagine that there’s light streaming from my body to theirs as I repeat the phrases. Sometimes I’ll just see the person “doing their thing” and repeat the phrases.

Usually I’ll smile.

I think I got the idea from the Wim Wenders film, Wings of Desire (Himmel Ãœber Berlin) where invisible angels patrol the city of Berlin, touching people and feeling their pain, although in the movie this is rather depressing and you don’t get the impression that they actually alleviate much suffering.

But I like the idea. We all are familiar with the idea of guardian angels, but we usually think in terms of having one. I think it’s even lovelier to think in terms of being one.

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Temporary reprieve for the threatened ‘Buddhas of Mes Aynak’

We’ve had some great news from Brent Huffman, who ran a Kickstarter campaign, raising funds to finish a documentary on the Buddhas of Mes Aynak. Mes Aynak is an ancient Buddhist city in Afghanistan, which was scheduled to be destroyed about now in order to construct a copper mine that’s being built by the Chinese.

Here’s what Brent had to say:

Due to the success of our international campaign that reached out to the US including the Smithsonian and State Department, Thailand and other Asian countries, South American, Canada, Europe, etc., the Ministry of Mines in Afghanistan is FINALLY recognizing the importance of the ancient Buddhist site and is paying attention.

Archaeologists, who have been doing INCREDIBLE work at Mes Aynak, now have 6-9 more months to continue rescue excavation. During this time they can save movable relics and artifacts.

The bad news is that Mes Aynak will STILL BE DESTROYED in 2014. So we still have our work cut out for us. The documentary should be complete in late March/April, so it should have maximum impact to help save the site when it airs.

Here is an updated list of news stories about the film:

I will be making a donation of 10% of the Kickstarter money to Afghan archeologists sometime during this month as soon as I receive the funds. This money will be used to buy necessary equipment like cameras and computers.

Also, check out the new poster design by Wendy Tay.

To keep in the loop on current developments in this project, please like our Facebook page here.

Thanks again for all the continued support! Let’s save Mes Aynak in 2013!!!

Best,

-Brent Huffman

Wildmind is proud to be a contributor to the film’s Kickstarter project, and will be on the credits. More importantly, though, there’s a precious opportunity to document the artefacts of Mes Aynak, and possibly to put further pressure on the Afghan and Chinese governments in order to preserve the entire site.

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Meditation creates a little breathing space for San Francisco students

Richard Schiffman, OpEdNews: There are two jobs that have become a lot more difficult in recent years. One is being a teacher, which was never easy at the best of times. But in an age of virtually unlimited opportunities for distraction and rapidly shrinking attention spans getting kids to focus on their schoolwork can be (with apologies to dentists) like pulling teeth.

I know: As a former school aide working with young children, it was often all that I could manage just to break up fights and keep the decibel level below that at an international airport. Any “education” that actually took place …

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‘Samsara’ filmmakers seek meditative flow

Pam Grady, SFGate: Twenty years after they made “Baraka,” filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson are back with “Samsara,” with Fricke directing, Magidson producing and both men credited with concept, treatment and editing.

Shot in gorgeous 70mm over five years in 25 countries on five continents, like “Baraka” and 1983’s classic “Koyaanisqatsi,” where Fricke started his career as co-writer, co-editor and director of photography, “Samsara” is dazzling visual poetry that blends the sacred with the profane, the industrial with the natural. Fricke and Magidson recently sat down for a phone chat about their latest cinematic wonder.

Q: How do you find out about some …

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Meditating on our global interconnectedness: A conversation with Samsara filmmakers Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson

Alexandra Marie Daniels, The WIP: When I set aside my dance career, my fascination for movement in time and space had not ended though my interests had shifted from the proscenium stage to film.

At the time, I asked my friend James, a film producer, to please make me a list of must see films.

The next morning I received an email with a list of five movies. The film Baraka was at the top of the list with a note that said “Watch this film on the big screen.”

It has been twenty years since filmmakers Mark Magidson and Ron Fricke created …

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Meditative stream of images in ‘Samsara’ raises questions

“Samsara,” a dazzlingly beautiful documentary directed by Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson, consists of a non-narrative stream of images shot in 25 countries. It is best enjoyed as a kind of meditation, writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald in this review. The film is playing at Seattle’s Cinerama.

Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson’s stream-of-images documentary “Samsara” floats by, its pictures piling up like turned pages in a magazine. Shot in 70mm and playing on Cinerama’s massive screen, it’s often dazzlingly beautiful — a shot of clouds erupting like cotton over a volcano; a massive church whose windows are a candy-colored kaleidoscope of stained …

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Aston Kutcher channels Steve Jobs at UCLA

The Daily Mail carries photographs of actor Aston Kutcher playing the part of Steve Jobs in a biographical film that’s being make of the late Apple chief.

Jobs is said to have been inspired by meditation and by the minimalist Zen esthetic, although his legendary bad temper suggests that his meditation practice only went so far.

He was so dedicated to Buddhism he went to India in search of enlightenment – and was married by a Zen master.

And new scenes of Ashton Kutcher sitting cross-legged at a meditation class show it is another of the threads of his live that will be touched upon in the forthcoming Steve Jobs biopic.

The Two and a Half Men star looked every inch the idealistic young hippie in his orange and cream striped shirt, torn jeans, Beatles-esque hair and beard at the UCLA university campus today.

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