Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Lotus & The Water Lily...

("Water Lilies", by Claude Monet, c. 1906)
(White Lotus Flower, hand painted on silk;
Artist:  Lin Wei)
The Lotus.  Beautiful, yet slightly alien in appearance (due to the pollen producing seed pod in the flowers' center that resembles a shower head). An aquatic plant whose many petaled blooms rise above the surface of murky ponds, it's wide leaves also rising above the water.  A robust and aggressive plant, it has an ever so slightly similar appearance to another water growing plant.  A wide leaved plant that also has many petaled blooms.  The Water Lily.

While looking up some photographs of Lotus flowers on Google Images, I noticed the pictures of Water Lilies mixed in.  People mistakenly think that Lotus flowers are also Water Lilies, but the two flowers aren't related.  They are not even distant cousins.  Knowing that they are quite different wasn't enough.  As often happens with me, I was moved to look at the specifics surrounding the comparison of the two.

As you can see by the above illustration, their anatomy is quite different. However, they both do have two attributes that are pretty much universal among most flowers:  Petals, and stamens.  They both grow in fresh water, are both perennials (meaning they can live more than two years; thrive in the Spring and Summer, and then in the Autumn/Winter months they lose their leaves and blooms, to regrow and bloom in the next season), and they both like the murky and muddy waters of ponds, growing their roots securely into the muddy bottom.

(Water Lilies)
I will start with the unique qualities of the Water Lily, as I have a lot more to write about the Lotus.  If you ask most people what a Water Lilly looks like, they will probably say 'a white flower that grows on top of the water, and has big flat leaves that frogs like to rest on upon occasion'.  They would be right, except that Water Lilies are commonly pink or white.  The blooms sit on, or very close to, the surface of the water.  The leaves that frogs like to sit on are appropriately called 'pads' because of their wide, flat appearance, and the way they lie flat on the water's surface.
(2-month old baby on giant lily pad)

Water Lilies can be found in the eastern regions of North America, Canada, and are native to the Amazon.  South America boasts what is described as a "giant" variety of Water Lily (called Victoria), that has leaves so huge and sturdy that a person is said to be able to sit on them (or a two-month old baby).  These huge Lilies also only bloom at night, the blooms having a thorny underside.

The Lotus and the Water Lily both grow seed pods.   The Water Lily pods grow once the blooms are spent.  A capsule shaped growth housing the 'fruit' or seeds develops.  With the Lily, pollination is not required for it to grow, so they can quickly over-take a pond.

(Left:  Water Lily seed pod, Photo:  Michael R. Martin;
Right:  Lotus seed pod;  Middle:  Dried Lotus seed pods)
The Lotus seed pods grow on separate stalks from the flowers.  The flowers' pollen pollinates the seed pods.  Like the Lily, Lotus plants are very aggressive. When adding either plant to your own pond, it is advisable to keep the plants in submerged pots so they don't go too crazy.

Many parts of the Lotus and Lily plants are edible.  The flowers, young leaves, and rhizomes (an underground stem that grows horizontally, and sends out shoots and roots) are all edible.

(Lotus flower and seed pods)
Lotus seeds are edible, can be eaten raw, or dried and popped like popcorn. (If the dried seed pods look familiar, they are a very common component of dried flower arrangements.)  All of the Lotus' parts are used in various Asian cuisines, and the roots are used in the making of traditional herbal medicines. The flower stamens are dried for the making of tea.  (It is recommended to not eat Lotus plants raw, as there is a danger of parasite transmission.)

(Dried and "popped" Lotus
Where the Water Lily stays low to the water, the Lotus does the opposite.  It's disc-shaped leaves grow above the water, and can grow as large as 35" in diameter.  It's blooms are larger than the Lily, and also grow upwards, reaching a distance above the water surface of anywhere from 3 to five meters.  They are indigenous to southern Asia, and Australia.

The rounded seeds of the Lotus are considered to be the oldest viable seeds in the world.  Seeds found in China were tested through the process of carbon dating.  Their age was said to be as old as 1,288 years, give or take 200 years. The seeds were successfully germinated in March of 1994, and are still growing.

The unrelated flowers are not so different after all. With so many similarities, it's interesting that these two flowering water plants are not from the same family.  It is obviously their similarities that add to peoples confusion.  Having satisfied my questions about the relationship, or lack thereof, between the Lotus and the Water Lily, I'm going to move on to the symbolic side of the Lotus flower, one of my favorite blooms.

The Lotus holds great significance in both Buddhism and Hinduism, and it was highly regarded by the ancient Egyptians.


The ancient Egyptians looked on the Lotus as a symbol of creation/birth, and the Sun.  The Sun disappeared at night, and the Lotus was said to close and sink into the water until the next day when it would rise and reopen.  (I wasn't able to find much information to corroborate the act of closing and sinking under the water.  Lotus flowers slowly emerge and bloom over a three-day period. Then they open in the morning, and close in the evening.)  The Lotus also was associated with death, the "Book of the Dead" holding spells that were supposed to transform people into a Lotus, allowing them to be reborn/resurrected.

White and blue were the most common colors, and pink Lotus flowers were introduced during the late period of the civilization.  The blue Lotus was most commonly portrayed in hieroglyphics.  It was an integral part of the symbol for the unification of the two Egyptian Kingdoms.   The Lotus represented upper Egypt, and the Papyrus represented lower Egypt.  The two flowers being inter-woven, came to be the symbol for the bringing together of the two kingdoms.


The Lotus symbolizes many things to the Hindu.  Some of it's strongest associations are with beauty, and purity.  It also represents fertility, prosperity, spiritualism, and eternity.  The white Lotus is most commonly represented, with many Gods and Goddesses being linked to it.  A couple of examples follow:

The Goddess Lakshmi appears atop a fully open Lotus (either standing or sitting). Consort to the God Vishnu, she is the Goddess of material and spiritual prosperity, wealth, fortune, and beauty. Her usual depiction shows her bestowing the coins of prosperity, flanked by elephants signifying royal power.  The Lotus symbolizes the fertile growth of all organic life, as the world is continually reborn on the Lotus which grows from Vishnu's navel.

The God of creation, Brahma, is usually depicted emerging from the Lotus that crawls from Vishnu's navel.  Brahma is the father of Manu, from which all humans are descended.  Brahma is said to be self-born in the Lotus.

(Brahma emerging from the navel of Vishnu on the Lotus, Lakshmi at Vishnu's feet)
The Lotus can emerge clean and pure from muddy waters. It represents wisdom and spiritual enlightenment.  The charity in a person who wants nothing in return.  The unopened bud of a Lotus represents a folded soul, that can unfold and open itself to the divine truth.


The lotus means many things to Buddhists, who share a few of the same basic beliefs with the Hindus.  The symbology is quite similar.  First, there are the six colors of Lotus that represent different things to Buddhists:

  • White:     Purity, the spirit, and the mind.  It symbolizes Bodhi (being awakened), and represents mental purity, and spiritual perfection.  Considered to be the womb of the world.
  • Red:        Represents love, and compassion.  Related to the heart.
  • Blue:       Represents common sense; the uses of logic and wisdom to create enlightenment.  The victory of the spirit over intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom.  
  • Pink:       Represents the history and legends of Buddha.  The true Lotus of Buddha.  The Supreme Lotus.
  • Purple:    Spirituality, and mysticism.  Associated with the esoteric.  8 Petals:  representative of one of the principal teachings of Buddha, the noble 8-fold path.  Following the path is a self awakening.  One of the noble truths.
  • Gold:      Represents the achievement of all enlightenment, especially in Buddha
The Lotus is associated with faithfulness, purity, and spiritual awakening.  It also represents fortune, and is a symbol of rebirth.  When morning dawns, and the Lotus breaks the water's surface, it a suggestion of desire.  Desire that will lead to spiritual enlightenment.  It lives/grows in muddy water, and rises to bloom above the murk to gain enlightenment.

(Statue of Buddha meditating on a Lotus)
It also symbolizes purification.  The spirit is born into the murk.  For the faithful followers who work to rise above the murkiness, there is a purifying of the spirit.

The stages of the Lotus flowers growth represent different stages of the path to enlightenment.  The closed flower, or bud represents the time before the Buddhist follower found enlightenment.  The fully opened bloom represents full enlightenment, and self-awareness.

People are born into a world where there is suffering, and it is a vital part of the human experience.  It strengthens us, and we learn from it.  It teaches us to resist evil. When evil is banished from our mind, we can break free of the murk and mire to become one with Buddha.  It shows us who we are.  We learn to choose the right path, and not the easier one.

The Lotus represents rebirth.  It represents a reincarnation.  The soul leaves this world in its' present form to be reborn in another.

(Symbol and color for the 7th Chakra)
The Lotus is associated with the 7th, or Crown Chakra.  Called the "Thousand Petal Lotus" by many, the Crown Chakra is our connection to the divine, to the light from above.  By meditating on the Kundalini it rises through the 7 energy centers or Chakras along the path of the spine, creating an awakening and spiritual experience at each center.  When it reaches the Crown Chakra, the most profound of mystical experiences can be achieved.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

This Just In: UFO The Movie...

(poster design for the upcoming remake release)
Now, I don't know how this bit of news eluded me, BUT there is a remake of the television series UFO that has been in the works for several years now. When looking up articles about the production, I found them dated as far back as 2009.  I am both thrilled and scared.  UFO is one of my favorite series, and has been since it first aired.  Those that either know me, or have read certain entries on my blog, know that on some things I am a bit of a purist.  Movies and TV series sit quite high on my purity list.  Some series could do with a bit of re-vamping, but "UFO"...okay, I do think that the original is brilliant. Stylistically, brilliant.  Yes, the computers and such are out of date by today's standards, but I think for the time they were ahead of the mark.  The fact that during the opening credits it says "THE FUTURE...1980"...brilliant!

(The original series intro credits)

Produced in 1970, it was the first live action television series from Gerry Anderson the 'puppet master'.  He was the mastermind behind "Stingray", "Captain Scarlet and The Mysterons", and the puppet acted series he is probably most known for the "Thunderbirds".

Over the years, I have met more people acquainted with Anderson's second live action space series, "Space 1999" (which is apparently in development for a remake), than with "UFO".  With this new feature I hope for two things:  a) that it doesn't suck, and b) that it causes people unfamiliar with the original to make the sagacious move to go back and give it a look.

In the role of director is Matthew Gratzner.  Other than a short film and a commercial, Gratzner has a laundry list of effects supervisor credits.  There hasn't been a whole lot written about the production, but what little I have seen in the way of statements by Gratzner leads me to believe that he is taking the fans of the original to heart.  It appears that care is being taken in getting the details correct.  How refreshing...I am tired of 'reboots' being terrible.  Like Jonathan Frakes' live action feature of the "Thunderbirds".  It was horrible. (Frakes' admission that he had never seen an episode of the 'T-Birds' might have had something to do with it...)  To all the producers out there wanting to remake things, do me a HUGE favor.  Look for stuff that was terrible to begin with and make it better.  There have been plenty of shows with a great premise, but bad execution.  Pick on those...onto casting.

There isn't a lot out there about casting choices.  I have only been able to find info about two actors that have supposedly signed on:

(Left:  Michael Billington; Right:  Joshua Jackson)

(Left:  Wanda Ventham; Right:  Ali Larter)
I know there are a lot of Joshua Jackson fans out there, whether it's from "Dawson's Creek" or "Fringe".  My jury is still out.  For me Michael Billington IS Paul Foster...but then I am a fan of the original.  I don't know if "Pacey" is going to cut it for me.  Billington had the face and the bod.  (A bit of trivia:  Billington was screen tested to play James Bond more than any other actor.  If Roger Moore hadn't been available for "For Your Eyes Only", Billington was the first choice.)  It was the 1970's when men had chest hair, and Michael showed us his in the Foster driven episode "Ordeal".  I found the episode on YouTube, but it's broken into four parts.  I have posted them at the end of this blog post. There is a great party scene at the beginning.  If you just want to check out his bod, go about 4 minutes in on part 2...
(Michael Billington from "The Ordeal")

As for Larter in the role of Colonel Lake, that character was just kind of "there".  She showed up later in the run, and just seemed to be a bit of set dressing.  The character of Lake has one episode that comes to mind where she is a featured player along with Commander Ed Straker.  The episode is called "Timelash", and is told through a series of flashbacks...good episode.   

That's it.  Those are the only cast members I've found.  Who knows, maybe they have been replaced for whatever reason.  By the lack of over all production information on the official site for the movie, it appears they are keeping a lot of the details under wraps. My curiosity is definitely peaked.

As for the original series, I can't recommend it enough.  Hardcore science fiction fans will have seen it (if you haven't, shame on you), but for those that haven't it is well worth the watch.  The writing is a bit dated and has its chuckle worthy moments, but the over all plot lines for the time are great.

(Foster going under the
green liquid)
SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organization) has been created to defend the earth from aliens and their spacecrafts.  The aliens are humanoids in orange space suits who "breath" green liquid.  (In the "Ordeal" episode posted below, it deals with Colonel Foster being abducted and put in one of the alien space suits.) SHADO Control is in an earth base below ground with a movie studio above it as a front.  Commander Ed Straker is in the drivers seat of the organization. In addition to the earth base, there is a base on the moon operated by purple wigged, silver lame mini-skirt wearing women.  The oceans are patrolled by a submarine called Skydiver, which has a plane called Sky 1 docked on its nose.  In certain cases, Skydiver launches Sky 1 out of the water to fly the sometimes not-so friendly skies.  The operators of Skydiver wear beige mesh shirts.  The mens' shirts clearly have nothing underneath, but I don't think censors would have allowed the women to go without an undershirt.  I'm sure there were plenty of male viewers who studied that subject quite closely though.  Other vehicles include the Earth Mobile Units, the Moonbase Interceptors, and the Moonbase communication satelite known as S.I.D. (Space Intruder Detector).

(Clockwise from the top:  Moonbase, Interceptor, S.I.D., Skydiver,
Sky 1, Mobile Unit)

Who will be playing Straker in the new film?  Who will play Lieutenant Ellis? Why is Gilligan on Moonbase?  (Hah...came across the picture and posted it because of space.  Wait!  It's been done.  "Far-Out Spacenuts". Boy, that was a bad Syd & Marty Kroft Show.  But I digress...)  

The official site says that the projected release date is for sometime in 2013. For the first time in a long while I am actually looking forward to a remake.  I think it stems from the fact that the director of the film has mentioned they are taking the original to heart when getting into the details.  I'm sure they will revamp the designs, which is fine as long as I can see the nod to the original designs.  The 1970 series is so special, I don't want them to water it down to much.

While I was surfing around reading up on my new discovery, I learned that Michael Billington passed away in 2005. I was sad to learn that. Rest in peace, Michael.
Now for your viewing pleasure: "Ordeal", Episode 19

Monday, May 28, 2012

Half Moon Light...

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
  • 1.
  • a.  Covered or obscured, as with clouds or mist.
  • b.  Clouded over.
  • 2.  Gloomy; melancholy.
  • 3.  Sewn with long, overlying stitches in order to prevent raveling, as the raw edges of fabric.

  • 1.  A covering, as of mist or clouds.
  • 2.  An arch or support for a passage over another passage in a mine.
  • 3.  A cast made in fishing that falls beyond the point intended.
  • 4.  An overcast stitch or seam.

v.  o-ver-cast, o-ver-cast-ing, o-ver-casts
  • 1.  To make cloudy or gloomy.
  • 2.  To cast beyond (the intended point) with a fishing rod.
  • 3.  To sew with long overlying stitches.

  • To become cloudy or gloomy.

More than one of the above definitions for the differing word usages could be implemented for the sky that currently hangs overhead.  Built from several layers of dingy cloud, the thinnest gauze like layer spreading lightly across the face of the half moon, the mood of the overcast night is one of quiet and calm. The zen-like state that often precedes the arrival of inclement weather.  Rain, and the peace it brings.  For me, it's delay is welcome.  Otherwise, I might have missed the glow of tonight's moon.

Because of the cloud cover, it was a bit more difficult to focus in.  The fuzzy edges of the 50% that is visible to the naked eye, gives it a dream-like quality.  I also like the way it illuminates the surrounding layers of cloud, showing the different shades of color.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
"The Moon's an errant theif,
And her pale fire she snatches from the Sun."

~ William Shakespeare
(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
"Don't tell me the sky is the limit,
there are footprints on the moon!"

~ Dorothy Parker
(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
"I like to think that the moon is there even if
I'm not looking at it."

~ Albert Einstein

"Beryl" Is A Bust...Day Two...

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
Well, it pains me to say that Beryl is a bust.  As a storm enthusiast, I was looking forward to getting pounded with a raucous storm of heavy rain.  The initial predictions were for serious thunderstorms and winds.  Flooding was also in there.  "Tropical Storm Beryl" was coming!  Albeit slowly, but she was headed this way.  Bring it on, Gaia!  I'm ready.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown
One of the few spots around the edge of the island where I can take a picture of the open marshes and water.  The rest of the prime locations are within the boundaries of privately owned yards.)
"Tropical Storm Beryl" was nothing but hype.  I is unpredictable.  Weather people can give us their forecasts, but in the end it's really up to the elements.  It's up to nature.  I grew to take weather forecasts with a grain of salt years ago.  With all of the reporting on TV about the approach of Beryl, it appeared that things were on course for giving us a good thrashing.  Hard driving rain.  Bright gashes of lightning cracking across the sky.  Thunder booming so loud that it would sound like Fort Pulaski was back in business.  I have experienced those things before, but Beryl was promising to be all of those things on steroids.  Bubbling with anticipation, I was.  But my bubble was soon to go flat.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
We eventually got some rain.  It rained rather hard for about an hour.  Might have been less than that.  I got tired of waiting and ended up crashing for the night around midnight.  Glenn stayed up awhile longer, and reported that it hadn't really rained.  *sigh*  When I got up this morning and looked out the window, it was a tad grey.  Other than that, it was rather dry.  It's now roughly 6:00 PM/EST and we haven't seen today's rain yet.  Yes, we are supposed to get some rain tonight into tomorrow.  The flood warning that started yesterday is still in effect.  It appears that we have been having a lengthy break between storms, if you can call lasts nights lawn watering a storm.  Well, before I pass complete judgement on "Tropical Storm" (and I use the term loosely) Beryl, I'll wait to see what she gives us tonight.  At this point, if she drops a relatively heavy rain...I guess I'll just have to take what I get.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
I walked down to my favorite spot to photograph the marsh.  The sky was blue with large white puffs of cloud, but the slight grey tinge of an approaching rain was noticeable.  The wind is stronger out there than usual, a sign that the rain hasn't left the area yet.  It will be back soon.  Looking out at the Bull River, I could make out the choppy surface, low rolling white capped waves chaotically creasing it's surface.  Beryl may be a disappointment, but she's still out there. Her show isn't over yet.

On to 'Act Two'...

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Tropical Storm Beryl...Day One...

(The radar on the TV at approx. 1:46 PM/EST.  We are in a relatively open pocket as the storm spins in, but by late this afternoon things should be a lot darker and moodier.)
We are going to be having a boisterous visitor over the next few days here on the Georgia Coast.  On many levels I am looking forward to their arrival. Tropical Storm Beryl is...well, she isn't exactly "barreling" towards us as I type this.  The reports say we can start feeling her presence this afternoon (Sunday), but her main arrival is scheduled to begin late tonight.  Here in the U.S., Monday is a Federal Holiday.  Memorial Day is a day to honor all of those fallen men and women who fought in the various wars America has been a part of over these many years.  People celebrate in their own personal ways (visit the graves of loved ones, have/attend ceremonies to celebrate the sacrifice of so many, etc.), but a staple of Memorial Day festivities is the barbecue. I think it's rather obvious that this year's barbecues are going to need to be today, or shelved.  Beryl is going to be a wet one.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown
Dock remains...the tide was pretty low at the time.  Slightly meaner clouds are starting to roll in.)
(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown
The area below the trees at the marsh
line was like standing in a wind
I took my first walk to the marshes edge at noon.  For those that have been readers of my blog for awhile, I think it has been established that I am a bit of a storm geek. I love rain, and I love watching the movements of Gaia's mood swings.  The air definitely smells of rain.  The sun, interestingly enough, is beaming down.  I suppose Sol is making as sustained an appearance as it can before Beryl enshrouds us.  Wind has been whipping the coast for hours now, a little calling card of what's to come.  As I walked to the initial spot on most if not all of my walks (the docks remains) the wind was rather strong.  It wasn't Buster Keaton time yet, but it was whipping strongly enough to make my hair come free of the clip I had it twisted up in.  To the right, white clouds and sunlight.  To the left, dark clouds were starting to absorb the white, Beryl's approach starting to show in pockets of various stages of grey.

(A rather fuzzy shot of the road to Tybee.)
Traffic to and from Tybee Island was definitely present, but not very heavy yet.  I expect the number of cars to increase once the rain starts.  Residents need to decide whether or not they want to stay on Tybee or not.  The road that crosses the Bull River is the only means of getting on and off of the island.  In heavy storms, or during the occasional uncommonly high tide, there are sections of that road that get flooded.  The weather reports have issued a Severe Flood Warning that starts at 6:00 PM this evening, and lasts until Tuesday. We haven't had any flooding that has actually reached the condo, so I am seriously doubting that it will be different this time (knocking wood). I can't even imagine what sort of ride the Tybee residents are in for, but if they intend on 'battening down the hatches' for the duration they might want to have a couple of days provisions in stock, and plenty of batteries.

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown
The wind off the marsh.  You can't tell so much from this picture, but it was very strong.)
The subject of batteries brings me to the main source of inconvenience that we will most likely be dealing with at some point.  The loss of power.  I have only been through one black out since moving to Savannah, and it lasted for...hmm, I want to say six hours or so.  Can't remember the exact amount of time, but it wasn't long enough to be an extreme inconvenience.  However, it was dark.  Dark as pitch.  After walking around the immediate area here (which was quite creepy as I could literally see nothing except what was in the few feet of flashlight light), it became rather boring.  No TV.  No computer.  Just lots of darkness, and lots of silence.  I have no idea what the wind will be like once the rain sets in, but there will be a considerable amount of lightning.  The lightning shouldn't be a factor through the bulk of the nasty stuff, but until I'm sure that threat is past I will be keeping the computer powered down.  

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
I am planning to update my rain posts over the next couple of days.  I know many are dreading what Beryl might do to us here, but I am rather excited about the storm.  As I said...rain geek.  If power stays on and we are beyond the lightning phase of the storms, I definitely will be making some more posts.  If things prove nasty and the power goes out, there will be some delays.  

Until next time...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Beauty, A Beast, and A Ring of Fire...

(Photo:  Lisa Erin Brown)
This past Sunday was a lovely and mellow one.  Throughout the preceding week, I was more than excited about the "ring of fire" that was going to appear in Sunday night's sky.  Unfortunately, I would not be seeing it 'in person', and would have to settle for the two live streamed feeds I located on the world wide web. A bummer, but it was better than nothing.

After rising on Sunday morning and having my usual cinnamon raisin bagel with a spread of low fat cream cheese, I fired up the PS3 console to watch a DVD I had received on Saturday.  I had seen this particular movie a few times in the past, but periodically I like to watch it again.  The movie is Jean Cocteau's production of "la Belle et la Bete", or for those that require a translation, "Beauty and The Beast".  No, it doesn't fit completely into my current silent film kick as it isn't a silent film, but it is an artistic masterpiece that has the requisite elements of fantasy and escapism which are key in pulling my over extended brain away from my day to day stresses.  Over the last few weeks I have visited a number of places.  The drama filled lives of two women as portrayed by Louise Brooks; the Dystopian future of Metropolis; the dark and sinister world of Jekyll and Hyde; the battle between good and evil as expressed in the life of Faust; and Sunday I was to step into the dark fairy tale world of Beauty and the Beast.  Every foray into that artistic and magical realm is as captivating as the last.

"La Belle et la Bete" begins with a preamble being scrawled across a blackboard.  Below, the original French is followed by an English translation:
(Jean Marais)
Filmed in 1946, by one of the most notable avant-garde artists, Jean Cocteau, "la Belle et la Bete" has a creative sophistication that makes it stand out as an early example of special effects make-up, and an example of over all art direction that puts some of today's films to shame.  French actor and close friend of Cocteau, Jean Marais, had triple duties in the film.  (He appeared in most of Cocteau's films.) Marais plays 'Avenant', suitor to Belle and best friend to her brother, 'The Beast', and 'The Prince'.

I can only imagine what early "prosthetics" were made of.  (I have seen various interviews with actors who have worn some of the make-up pieces of today, and some have complained about how uncomfortable and damaging the adhesives, etc., can be to the skin.  I can only imagine how rough it would have been in the early years of film make-ups.)  The Beasts make-up is effective and impressive.  Actually, all of the characters within Cocteau's world are impressive, down to the figure heads on the fireplace, and the female statue in Belle's bedroom.  During her initial walk through the magically alive castle, Belle (played by Josette Day) looks appropriately...well...freaked out.  I don't blame her.  It's an alien world, both beautiful and frightening.

(Belle and the Beast)
There are some changes to the original story line.  In this version Belle has one brother ('Ludovic') instead of three, and her brothers closest friend, 'Avenant' (played by Marais), is trying his best to woo her.  In the original (as I has been so long since I read the original version), Belle's father does find his way to the Beasts castle when he gets lost in the woods, and he does pluck a rose for Belle and the Beast says he must pay for the rose with his life.  After some pleading, the Beast relents and says his horse 'Magnificent' will take him home.  The Beast also says that one of his daughters must take his place.  After he arrives home and tells the story of the castle and the Beast, Belle volunteers and returns to the castle.

(Josette Day)
Over time Belle's feelings for the Beast go from revulsion and fear, to fondness.  Upon learning that her father has fallen ill, the Beast allows Belle to return home to see him, but only for a week.  The Beast gives her two magical items:  a glove that when worn will transport the wearer to wherever they wish to go, and a key that unlocks "Diana's Pavilion" which holds the Beasts true wealth.

Seeing how well Belle is doing, her rich garb makes her sisters envious, and her brother and Avenant covetous. Belle divulges everything she has experienced, including the purpose of the key.  Avenant and the brother form a plan to go to the Beasts castle to steal his riches from the Pavilion.  Stealing the horse 'Magnificent', the two men go to the castle and locate "Diana's Pavilion". Fearing a booby-trap on the door, they climb to the structures roof and break through the glass ceiling.  Avenant drops into the room where the statue of Diana that guards the treasure shoots him with an arrow.  At that moment the curse switches, and Avenant's body takes on the form of the Beast while the Beast becomes the image of Avenant.  Now that the Beast is once again a man, he takes Belle to his faraway kingdom, where she will rule with him.  The two fly off into the sky.  That is the bulk of the story line tweaks.

I can't recommend this film enough.  It has so many elements that appeal to me on a number of creative levels.  As for the story, at it's heart it is the classic fairy tale.  Drama, romance, mystery, fantasy.  It is in the original French with English subtitles.  Don't let that discourage you from seeing it.  I watch a lot of subtitled films, and some have a tendency to flash on the screen too quickly which detracts from enjoying the film.  That's not the case here.  The subtitles do not take anything away from enjoying the film.  I am not a big fan of dubbed movies, as so much of the mood and emotion injected by the actual cast is lost.  With the French dialogue intact, nothing is lost.

"La Belle et la Bete" served as some nice filler for my day as I waited for eclipse time to roll around.  I found what appeared to be the only two live feeds available.  The first one that covered the initial eclipse from Mount Fujiyama in Japan was a bust.  The pictures above will illustrate why it was a failure. Clouds as far as the eye could see.  A proverbial carrot was dangled a few times as a hole with a few shafts of sunlight would appear here and there, but clouds would come along and fill it in.  I felt bad for the crew that traipsed up the mountain to set up the solar equipment meant to capture the big event.  I kept checking back to it for the first thirty minutes or so.  Once it was completely obvious that we weren't going to see anything from Fujiyama, I focused on the other site that was centered on the Western United States. They had a few cameras set up in the three main states that would be in the eclipse's path.  That coverage began at 8:00 PM.  This is an example of what I saw:

Not as impressive an experience as I would have liked.  Was I glad to see the eclipse happening?  Yes.  Seeing it in person would have been my preference, but it was what it was.  Not entirely "magical", but seen nonetheless.  There are a number of really beautiful shots taken along the Moon's path that night. Some of my favorites follow, all of them credited to the Associated Press/AP.

(Top Left:  Taken Sunday, May 20, 2012 @ Papago Park, Phoenix, Arizona;
Top Right:  Photo by Shuji Kajiyama, Taken Monday, May 21, 2012, @ Waterfront Park, Yokohama near Tokyo;
Bottom Left:  Taken Monday, May 21, 2012, A sunrise, coastal township Gumaca, Quezon Province, south of Manila, Philipines;
Bottom Right:  Taken Sunday, May 20, 2012, Roswell, New Mexico)
There is another Eclipse coming up that will happen on June 4th, 2012.  There won't really be anything to see from North America.  Everything I have read says that it will be visible from the Pacific Ocean, including New Zealand, Hawaii, eastern and central Australia, and parts of eastern Asia.  This one is a "penumbral eclipse" which means the Moon passes through a portion of Earth's penumbra (shadow).

Hopefully the next eclipse of note will be visible from my neck of the woods.