Sunday, January 20, 2019

With Fannie Lou Hamer at the 1964 Democratic convention
I never dreamed that the day would come when words would fail ... .

... yet that day has arrived, and the effects upon my psyche are unimaginable.

Since the memorable experience of the Paramount theater concert, I've met Gary Yost and his magical camera and brilliant artistry with results that are truly indescribable.  But I'll try, while knowing that I'm attempting the impossible.

In this photo taken about a week ago at a film shoot backstage at the Paramount theater and received only today, I'm sitting on a stool being filmed in Virtual Reality.  When completed, I will be describing , in a short piece, the story of the experience of singing with the symphony two weeks ago while watching myself surrounded by the orchestra and 3 choirs!  Gary Yost and Bryan Gibel, the producer/director of the documentary , "Sign my name to freedom," now in progress and to be released early next year, have combined talents to create this 8-minute mind-boggling VR piece that will accompany the documentary when shown at film festivals and elsewhere.  The footage of my performance with the Oakland symphony would be superimposed upon this new scene of Betty the Elder sitting on that stool re-living the unforgettable experience of December 12th in this historic landmarked space.

Watching oneself (and, yes, I've acquired an Oculus headset that allows for that) in this manner is about as close to living an out-of-body experience that one possibly can have, short of a hologram.

By pre-arrangement they'd brought together several theater staff to open the theater early in the day to meet with us, to grant access to the backstage area, and to provide the necessary lighting for the filming.   It was all accomplished in a single take and, with a "thumbs up" signal and within about 40-minutes, we were finished and on our way to our various homes.  Had those highly-talented professionals not become engaged in animated side chats about the cameras, exposures, possibilities of the new technology, with the fascinated theater folks, we might  well have accomplished it all in even less time.

The  dramatic results (downloaded from a computer in his Marin County studio and uploaded into a headset in my home in Richmond after step-by-step instructions by cellphone) I've now viewed and wept over the fact that I'm not only contained in that headset, but along with the likes of Ram Dass and Peter Coyote and, when completed, 98 others, and that I'm now able to watch myself as the world sees me, and listen to myself as the world hears me, and that my descendants will do so as long as there's a planet to stand on ... .

At a Salesforce Diversity Conference
on a VR "Serengeti Tour" with Smokey

in the year 2017
And, if you insist upon asking just how in the world I was included in that list, then we'll just have to part company.  That would mean that you'd be questioning Al Jazzera, Der Spiegel,  The Guardian, Glamour Magazine, The National Parks Conservancy Association, the National Parks Service, CBS, British Airways, United, the South Korean National Parks, the National Women's History Project,  the Sierra Club,  People for the Global Majority, etc., etc., etc, and were that to happen it would bring down the entire House of Cards!

I have no idea, but no longer question the workings of the God of Whomever Makes Such Decisions, and simply accept them with as much grace as can be mustered through the grins of disbelief at the sheer audacity of the young in this technological  and competitive world of lightning-quick advances and Lists of What- or Whom-ever for What-ever!

What I do know is that Gary Yost is collecting "Wisdom Leaders" of this century in VR to be archived for later viewing by succeeding generations.  Later, meaning that my great-great-great-grandchildren, centuries from now, will be able to sit in a room with me in this process that is shot with one of the 14(?) such cameras in-the-world that takes 360 degree images with its 10 camera coverage -- (see what I mean?).  Indescribable.

How thrilling it would be if I could sit for just a few minutes at the feet of my great-grandmother, Leontine, who was born in 1846 and enslaved throughout her childhood and adolescence -- but who lived to be 102, surviving until 1948.  I knew her, and was 27 years-old when we received word of her death.  What I would give to have been able to listen to her stories as I live out my time on the planet ...

That -- and this defies logic -- combined with the fact that this is all sponsored by the Long Now Foundation, who is creating the beyond one's wildest imaginings, the 10,000 year clock housed in a cave somewhere in Texas -- funded by Jeff Bezos.

See what I mean?