Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Cube and I

I am sitting crosslegged on the sofa, ignoring the cat batting at me, attempting to wrest the Twinkie from my hand. She sprints to the living room’s windowed wall, fantasy-stalking the birds flitting about the feeder, newly filled by my mother.

Their hungry chirps an invitation to come outside and play before this winter afternoon’s blue light fades to black.

Though the huge nor’easter was two weeks past, there are still deep piles of snow out back, making odd, lumpen shapes out of our backyard’s buried furnishings: picnic table transformed into igloo palace.

But the pull of something else bears a stronger seduction: an ugly square box with golden antennae perched atop. Curved glass holding shifting ghosts of black and white.

It’s 4:30 PM. Sunday afternoon. I am watching TV.

And after today, February 23rd, 1969, my brain will never be the same again.

I am, as is common, alone; my parents busy, elsewhere…  Mom in the laundry room perhaps, Dad in the darkroom.

I turn on the TV set. Channel 4, NBC. OK, why not?

Something comes on. Something I have never seen before, and, for many years afterwards, am not sure I had actually seen then, not just hallucinated:

“The Cube.”  

I see this...

There is a man alone in a small white room.

Perfectly square.

A cube.

Each wall, floor, ceiling made up of a 4x4 grid of white squares, in turn.
The man is searching, questioning: What is going on? Why is he here?

People begin to enter the cube, interact with the man.

But no one gives him answers.

They only draw him into their own dramas.

The mystery deepens.

Existential angst engulfs.

People talk:

“None of us are real, he’s not real, we’re all projected.”

“Well, as I interpret what you’re doing here, this is all a very complex discussion of Reality versus Illusion. The perfect subject for the television medium!”

Reality shreds, hangs on by a thread, disappears completely, appears to return, and then? Poof, in a whiff of strawberry jam, it is gone…

What remains?

The Cube.

So yes, at age eight and a half, I had my already precocious mind completely blown by a bit of TV.

Produced for NBC Experiment in Television, directed & co-written by Jim Henson (yes, that one).

This will be hard for those born into the cable-TV-10,000-channels-that-must-be-filled-at-all-times years, but this aired exactly twice.

Once, the day I saw it, February 23, 1969, and once again in 1970.

Then it disappeared.

When I would describe it to friends, with a few rare exceptions, they would look at me as if I had three heads, shake their own heads and declare that nothing that strange had ever appeared on television; I must have made it up, so fantastic did it sound.

But oh, it was real. Very real.

If you have never seen it (and I am guessing this describes 99.9% of you) you must.


"The Cube" a tele-film by Jim Henson (& Jerry Juhl), 1969

Now imagine yourself a hyper-sensitive, highly intelligent not-yet-nine year old girl with an over-active imagination and a developing penchant for getting stuck in the revolving doors of her own mind, watching THAT alone on a long ago February afternoon...

Anybody have any questions as to when the seeds were planted for me to become a student of avant-garde filmmaking at an experimental college at 17? A hippie, lesbian, college-drop-out, bean-sprout farmer living in a primitive geodesic dome on a ridgetop in Northern California at age 20?

And then, at 33, a married, Manhattanite, globe-trotting corporate video producer with a closet full of suits?

I thought not.

This post was inspired by a prompt at The Red Dress Club. This week's RemembeRED assignment was to write a post about a TV show from your past. 
Please click on the button above, go to the link-up and read the other wonderful posts you'll find there.

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