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How to interpret The Red Turtle

What does The Red Turtle mean? How are we supposed to interpret a movie with no dialogue and no explanations? Not easily.

The Oscar-nominated animation has not yet prompted an onslaught of online opinion. It offers a green and blue canvas for people to paint their own portraits and impose their own perceptions onto this rectangular dream. Meditative and mysterious, the film also feels allegorical. It’s an extended bedtime story for adults.

Others articles discuss the director (Michaël Dudok de Wit of the Netherlands) and the art of the animation (Studio Ghibli of Japan), but I want to explore the symbolism of the film. Let’s start with the title, which is what drew me to see it.

Why Red?

A sea turtle with a red shell is exceptional, improbable, and startling. The color red could be interpreted to indicate danger, blood, passion, and other strong emotions. But turtles are toothless. Sea turtles do not threaten humans, although this red turtle does disrupt the protagonist’s plans to escape the deserted island. A silent siren, she controls his destiny. She is a stop sign.

The Turtle of the Red Shell

Sea turtles are exceptionally ancient, amphibious survivors in the tree of life, yet they are highly threatened by human activity. They represent our connection to the past and our alienation in the present. They know things that we can’t, and they are pacific. In contrast, humans are young and violent. We’re jealous and discontent.

The nameless main character is a non-turtle, an every-man, representing a lost soul and a frustrated loner. His conscious desire is to escape, like the delicate, hatchling sea turtles that scatter into the sea, but he is a failure. He has no home, no shell. The turtle, in its shell, is always home.

Conception and Rebirth

The film’s narrative unfolds as a creation myth, with Eve eventually arising from the red turtle’s shell and giving birth to a son, creating a trinity. This expansion represents the man’s unconscious desire to create. He believed that his true life existed outside of the island, in another place and time, but his spirit conjured up new life from within. The red turtle is his tormentor, and his deliverer.

The son is a hybrid who is free to join the turtles. He achieves what the father could not, and he chooses the feminine path of his mother. Both father and son experience the same rebirthing process after falling into the cave, yet the son struggles much less. He is becoming more harmonious, more integrated with nature than the father. He is returning to the amphibious womb of the ocean.

But a Dream

The Red Turtle could be enjoyed as an extended dream sequence, like the Technicolor portion of the Wizard of Oz. There are dreams within the dream, as when the man flies over a pier or when he hears a string quartet. But he awakens to the confines of his tropical island.

turtle FKNMS

The island nurtures him with food, water, and eventually a mate. At times it turns violent and dangerous, and eventually he falls asleep on the sand, forever. He achieves peace and belonging. Just as the turtle will return to the sea, he will return to the sand.

Feeling Unsettled

This interpretation is one of many possibilities, such a this one from Paste, calling it “more impressionistic than thematic.” You could look at the silence as ambivalence; the island could be the protagonist; the turtle could be a hallucination.

My mother is a turtle.

I may find another meaning in the future, but today I see it this way: the turtle is a higher being, a more advanced consciousness, and we are struggling to connect with it, just as many people are struggling in today’s world to reconnect with Nature. We are lost. Despite our wired world, we are disconnected.

So many people today envision the world in screens. They fear peering away from their phones and their computers, lest they miss something important. They need a reminder that stories have magic and power to heal, whereas a screen is only a tool. Screens can convey stories, but only the interpreter can infuse them with meaning.

The Red Turtle, while only a film, is also a chance to meditate on a moving yet perplexing story. It’s an invitation to dream of something beyond the rectangle.

Review of Dave Barry’s new book “Best.State.Ever.”

29093310The best thing about humorist Dave Barry’s new book is the title. With a mocking and adolescent tone, the title has literal and interpretive meanings that allow us to giggle about Florida truly as the best of states, the worst of states, and a quixotic state of mind. The book neither proves nor disproves a literal achievement of “best state” (a game showing waiting to happen) but it does entertain in typical, good-natured Dave Barry fashion.

As a fellow Floridian, I enjoyed following Dave’s drives around the state to storied tourist attractions and aging oddities, but much of it was old news. The most revealing chapter covered a retirement community in central Florida (shocking, I know) where people dance until they die (Best.Twist.Ever.). Although sarcastic and knowingly hyperbolic, Dave laughs while still managing to empathize with his subject of old people in a fish bowl. They are too easy to catch and throw back, yet there’s some charm and whimsy to this fish tank, where Dave would never want to live—but now he understands why so many do.

img_2954Other chapters have him driving to Key West to get drunk (shocking) and to Weeki Wachee Springs to see real mermaids (bucket list material). These chapters are like shooting fish in a barrel—they’re just too easy, and they’ve become clichés. Old-school, unfiltered Florida is obviously “the best.” Where’s today’s Florida of competitive commercialization? He visits the trendiest of night clubs in South Beach and gives it too much credit. Boring. I wanted him to rip it like he did in his Miami Herald column on Santa’s Enchanted Forest, a pathetic Miami attraction and multi-layered oxymoron, which deserves an annual reading.

The book “Best.State.Ever.” is fun and fluffy. I certainly agree that Florida deserves the crown for info-tainment, and I challenge any other state to even try to snatch the title. Such mind games are a breezy, harmless distraction from the actual state of our states.

It’s also refreshing to have PG-rated humor in an X-rated world. Our states hold great potential for humor, but our nation is really pushing the boundaries. Considering the state of U.S. politics, the book Dave should be writing right now is “Best.Nation.Ever.” We are killing it.  quote-a-printer-consists-of-three-main-parts-the-case-the-jammed-paper-tray-and-the-blinking-dave-barry-121-5-0562


Small houses with style

Stylish Fifth Avenue is not just for New York. This street number also connects the homes within a few blocks of my house, and I have come to appreciate them during morning walks with Pepe, my doggie. My house dates to 1948, and most homes here appear to date to the 1950s — well before central A/C and I-95 allowed for sprawl and McMansions. These homes are modest in size and real estate value, but each is unique and intriguing. With a little imagination, each house becomes the setting for a novel of great mystery.

Through the looking glass of the camera lens, here are some glimpses of the neighborhood around Northeast Fifth Avenue in North Miami, from 126th to 130th Streets. (New signs a few blocks away have named the area “Historic Griffing Park Estates,” but I’m not sure if these streets are included. They should be.)

Pepe has seen enough.

Pepe has seen enough.

Find your Local Farmer, SoFlo

Thanks to the “gringo from Hialeah” Mike Moskos for this comprehensive list of farmers markets and local food suppliers in South Florida: SouthFloridaFarmersMarketsFlyers

Double Yolk

Twin yolk from my chicken's egg.

I’ve asked the question before and I’ll ask it again: how many farmers do you know? Exactly–now go find one! Turn yourself into a rabid locavore.

For SoFlo residents who wish to dig deeper into the sugar sand, try these resources too:

When Chickens Get Attacked

chicken voodoo

Headless chickens mean bad news.

Speaking of chickens, the other day a few headless ones appeared on a street near my house. Now, this is Miami, so chickens tossed in front of your house means that you have been cursed. Was it the Cuban Santeria or the Haitian Voodoo? The chickens didn’t live to tell.

In our backyard, 1 of the 4 chickens has recently endured almost as traumatic an event. I call her Baby Momma, because she’s the first of the two hens we’re raising that has laid eggs. At first, Baby Momma refused to lay her eggs in the coop’s incubation condos. So, she dug her own nest near a secluded corner of the house, deposited about 8 eggs, 1 per day, and finally decided it was time to brood.

The day I discovered her setting was thrilling, but I was concerned about her being exposed at night. But one night couldn’t hurt, right?

Baby Momma

Baby Momma, Interrupted

Wrong. Something wicked came in the night and bashed her eggs and scared Baby Momma. She survived intact and only with a minor cut on one leg. My best guess at the intruder is a possum, but I’m not sure. Whatever it was, it left four of the eggs cracked but not eaten. Maybe the possums are practicing portion control.

Now Baby Momma is locked in the coop with a few leftover fertilized eggs, but she is too agitated to set. Poor Baby Momma: I’m sorry we tried to count those eggs before they hatched.

Are greener holidays boring?

Send me some ideas for eco-friendly celebrations.

Oh Santa!

Santa arrives "in style" at my local Thanksgiving Day parade.

Seems nuts, but the holidays are almost here. Currently I’m researching the topic of how to “green” the big three: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. So far my best idea has been to avoid buying anything made in China. Good luck with that.

But in truth, I’m not sure how families should have more fun with less stuff. We’re Americans; we live for stuff. Does the guy with too many Christmas lights on his house elicit frowns, or smiles?

Maybe the best advice to tackle both the problem of excessive consumerism and of wasteful holiday debris is to go local. For example:

Halloween: give out locally-made trinkets or natural toys that you collect, such as shells, instead of or in addition to candy.

Thanksgiving: find a farm where you can purchase a humanely-rasied turkey.

Christmas: decorate a living tree in a pot.

As for giving gifts, send the ultimate green. I accept cash. Almost as good: your ideas on this blog.

Much Ado about Chickens

“Four fowl stand before me, but only three can continue towards becoming America’s Next Top Chicken. The chicken’s name I do not call must immediately pack her nest and fly the coop.”

I think that’s how the raccoon tricked the chickens into leaving the tree. Those chicks grow up so fast, that is, if you can keep them away from those murderous varmits. I’m loving my chickens, although last year was very traumatic for them and for me. Read all about it “Our Foul Friends.”

Birds have not been my thing, but I have been converted. Chickens are more intelligent, attractive, and fascinating than their popular portrayal. You should get one. As my article says, the world would be a better place if every household had a chicken.