"Their Paper Cranes Ablaze": Behind the Video
By Jon F. Allen May, 8 2012
                                                                          Isn’t it funny how a cell in the body
                                                                          can act with a mind of its own?
                                                                          When one becomes a million in all
                                                                          the metaphors melt amid the caterwaul
                                                                          as god returns the insult:
                                                                          a lover grieved is a burden relieved
                                                                          and all the time that I bought
                                                                          was bought with the wrong currency
                                                                          - David E. Williams from “Do I Love You as Much as I Did When You Weren’t Sick?�

 After grabbing a cup of coffee at the Rocket Cat Café, I would sometimes stroll over to the now sadly defunct Germ Books and Gallery to chew the fat with earthly proprietor David E. Williams; a dear friend (and other intellects that happened to be browsing the store at the time). Germ was like no other book store I’d been to as its specialties consisted of subjects like Nazi flying saucers (Haunebu), Satanism, ancient aliens, Libertarian (and even Libertine) philosophy, conspiracy theories abounding, Nikola Tesla, free energy, industrial and noise music, black metal, neo-folk and concepts like The Hollow Earth Theory. Germ was also a venue for bands one might not find hosted elsewhere in the city (a healthy amount were on or distributed by the mighty neo-folk/industrial TESCO label). Among my fondest memories of the notorious conspiracy store were performances by the likes of Changes, Thomas Nöla, Jerome Deppe, DV NIKT, Norsewind, Sexual Assault Rifle, Urge Within, David Talento and Pharmakon. I even performed there with experimental noise group MFM, and post-neo-something The Phantom Rose Assembly. Dave has an unequivocal passion for music as evidenced by his veteran musician status. He’s been performing live and releasing albums since the 1980s. Over a year ago, it was quite a treasure to witness a performance of his then band lineup of long time collaborator and guitarist Jerome Deppe, violinist Miss Adrina Marie, bassist Tristan Deppe, and Drummer Ruston Grosse. 

Art exhibited in the Jennifer Bates memorial gallery ranged in works by High Priest of The Church of Satan Peter Gilmore, Pennsylvania Deitsch and Germanic Heathen Hexologist painters, mythological iconographic painter Lynette Shelley, fiend for the distorted face Jonathan Canady, postcard writer and failed artist Adolph Hitler, serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, and humanitarian photographer Bonnie MacAllister—not to mention a Boyd Rice abstract painting that was continually on display. Germ has also been host to former Process Church member and author Timothy Wylie, Feral House publisher and essayist Adam Parfrey, author and Aleister Crowley historian Richard Kaczynski, dark occult expert and internet radio host Mark Passio, the Raelian cloning and UFO cult, The Mutual UFO Network, and enigmatic homeless poet Scott Norman. 

While some of mine and Dave’s topics for shooting-the-shit discussion usually consisted of music, The Manson Family, the nuisances of political correctness, and how damn good those Rocket Cat brownies are, the conversation sometimes took a fascinating turn to the mysterious Jennifer Bates. Germ was her baby and legacy. Everything aforementioned happened not only because of Dave’s enthusiasm for art and music, but because Jennifer started it all with a vision. Mr. Williams stated in the catalogue for her memorial solo painting exhibit: 
“Jennifer opened our store in 2004 as a place to ‘sell books that she wanted to sell.’ Thus, Black Magic, Conspiracy, Science Fiction and Cultural Pessimism filled shelves with labels like ‘War and Why We Need It’, ‘Theories Science Doesn't Like’ and ‘Why Thomas Edison Sucks’. She later expanded on the concept of her ‘business model’. Germ was actually her latest means of artistic expression, and, finally, Germ was the repository of a ‘stolen future’, the one lost when striving for the stars somehow morphed into settling for the gutter.

                                                                                                                                                    Germ Founder, Jennifer Bates (1961-2007-?) at Ground                                                                                                                                                           Zero, New York City, November 2001. Photo courtesy of                                                                                                                                                         David E. Williams.

But before Germ and her anonymous yet well-received forays into experimental electronic music, Jennifer Bates was first and foremost a painter who had even spent a year at the Rhode Island School of Design (which she abandoned for climes more conducive to inspiration via amphetamine). 

As one might expect, the Occult, particularly Kabbalah, hangs heavily over her well-rendered pieces, which initially recall Surrealism and Pop in their juxtaposition of the sacred and the profane, the sterile and the organic—you know, all those things that aesthetically please when juxtaposed.�

Jennifer succumbed to leukemia in 2007; her extremely anguished David kept the Germ show going on. Sadly, I never had a chance to meet her, but have had the honor of listening to Dave describe what a great and fascinating person she was. Likewise, I shared with him the story of my Father’s horrific death due to Leukemia in January 2008. His leukemia was a rapid, violent onset precipitated by a prescription drug he was given without proper preliminary testing. He was diagnosed and dead in the space of a week. Felt like a train wreck. Among his many hobbies, my Dad enjoyed origami. 

Since we bonded on these tragedies, I also have a great appreciation for Dave’s intensive personal album Every Missing Duck is a Duck Missed. Writing and recording the album was a way of coping with her death. His well known, mordant gallows humor was restrained in songs like “Save a Chair for Jennifer�, “Here Comes the Cold Narrator�, “Summer Wasn’t Made for You and Me�, and “The Unconscious is Cold.� There was still a certain amount of gallows humor as comic relief and catharsis from the crushing, somber thread throughout the album. I’m thinking of “Kill Yourself in Cape May� (perhaps the dark, funhouse mirror reflection of Al Albert’s New Jersey anthem “On the Way to Cape May�), and “Hymn to the Genius of Idi Amin�, a track that would certainly induce sardonic chuckling in Wednesday and Pugsley Addams (as it still does with many of Dave’s friends and fans). Other songs like “Petals Open, Quickly Close, Cops Say�, and “Relentless and Unrelenting� are meditations on suicide. Reminiscently of something one might see visualized in a Mike Diana or Hideshi Hino comic book panel some lines in “Pearls Open…� read: 

                                                                                  The pistol I put in my mouth
                                                                                  you blacked out but you saw
                                                                                  how the blood and brain it spelled your name
                                                                                  as it splattered against the wall

Amidst Dave’s neo-folk, Goth, and even pop passages he gives his deep, melodic, melancholy voice a respite for the strangely titled neo-classical, synth instrumental “Their Paper Cranes Ablaze�. 

When he initially toyed with the idea of my working on a video for him, I wasn’t quite sure what he had in mind. Maybe he was taking time to ruminate over which song to choose. I didn’t know. After Germ closed for good, with a nod to Douglas Adams in the form of a sign on the door that read: “So long and thanks for all the fish,� he finally revealed “Their Paper Cranes Ablaze� to be the piece in question. Recently, I asked him via email about his original intentions for the project and he responded, “Here is the nutshell. The cranes had to go. It didn't ‘feel right’ to just throw them in the garbage, so burning seemed the natural solution. At some point I think I literally said, ‘hey, we should get Jon Allen to film this because the burning cranes would probably work in a video with the piece of music 'Their Paper Cranes Ablaze'. Of course, it ended up being ritualistic, but never intellectually or consciously so. It just happened. No plan. That's kind of how I work.� He was referring to origami cranes sent to Jennifer during her illness. However, there was an intended meaning in the song title. 1,000 Paper Cranes is the true story of the Japanese girl Sadako Sasaki who suffered Leukemia due to the atomic bomb explosion on Hiroshima. While dying, she set the goal for herself of making a thousand paper cranes because of an ancient myth that anyone who did so would be granted a wish from the gods. Sadako’s project has become quite a legend. The story varies as to whether she completed them all or not, and It is said that she was buried with the cranes. 

In general, birds have a powerful wealth of symbolism carried over from ancient times. One of the more supernatural notions is the bird as psychopomp: a carrier, guide or harbinger of the dead. While the psychopomp as sparrow was popularized in Stephen King’s novel The Dark Half, the Cranes in “Their Paper Cranes Ablaze� do not offer terrible portents. There are many types of psychopomps such as the commonly known guardian angel, sometimes depicted as a humanoid with wings for flight and/or simply a being of light and consciousness. Several varieties of birds such as sparrows, ravens, and owls have fallen into the psychopomp category. Could the cranes also symbolize the same meaning? Perhaps some could relate to that interpretation. 

It is of interest to note that Dave used the ashes of the burned cranes to place the Algiz rune on his forehead. It is a kind of nod to both his diabolical fascination with Catholicism (listen to his songs “Sandra Lindsey� and “Altar Boy�, and you’ll understand what I mean) and a love for Germanic culture he shared with Jennifer. According to Eldred Thorsson, author of Futhark: A Handbook of Rune Magic, the Algiz or Elhaz is one of the most important and complicated of the runes. While it translates to elk, it is also means life, protection, and defense. Further, Thorsson states: “Elhaz is the power of human life and ‘spirit’ striving toward the world of the AEsir. It is the rune of the connection between gods and humanity, the force that draws the consciousness of man toward the realm of the gods.� The Catholic context of ashes placed on the forehead on the first day of Lent is a sign of mourning, penance, contrition, and remembrance that we are of dust and will return to dust even as our spirit enters a new life.

As she battled cancer, friends and fans began sending Jennifer the origami paper cranes which came with letters and artwork. Dave had kept them all in a plastic tub. Like the futility expressed in many of his songs, the goal of a thousand had never been completed, and what you see in the video are the cranes being burnt to cinders in a charcoal grill. As I stared at the stark black and metallic grey of the grill, the charcoal, the spastic flames, and the charred cranes, I kept thinking of Jennifer’s haunting acrylic painting YOURSPACESHIP, GOINGHOME. Certainly an odd title for the uninitiated, when one considers that the painting depicts a concentration camp oven. In the memorial catalogue of her posthumous solo artist exhibit, each of her paintings is joined by side text, with the possible intention of affixing the text to the wall next to the painting in a gallery show. YOURSPACESHIP, GOINGHOME reads: “If the Jews, as the Nazis claimed, were an alien race, the ovens were the vehicles by which they returned whence they came.� While shooting the video, I couldn’t help relating the anthropomorphic shapes of the Cranes to incinerated human body parts. Concerning her painting, there was a far more relevant, and misery laden event: Jennifer’s immersion into the crematorium flames. Upon hearing that, I entertained the notion that (as I’m Sure he did), similar to how she described her painting, Jennifer’s spirit took off to an alternate dimension or the star system known as Aldebaran. Is she now a being of light in telepathic commune with the Annunaki, that ancient, bat winged extraterrestrial race of scientists who may have engineered the human race? I am a skeptic concerning the existence of a god or gods, but I will never rule out strange phenomena or the migration of energies after death. Outer Space and existence are, after all, stranger than we can ever imagine. Thus, I can only hope Jennifer is in a better place. 

As for Dave, he’s found new love and hope in his relationship with girlfriend Jane. Insofar as the burning of cranes, I ponder the relevance of such rituals for psychological release for the widower/sufferer, yet Jennifer will always live on for Dave. Like George Burns did with his departed Gracie, Dave still has conversations with Jennifer. I’m pretty sure she approved my working on “Their Paper Cranes Ablaze�. With that having been said, we created a video that offers layers of meaning we didn’t necessarily plan for. It was there all along but needed the creative process of chance and discovery.

My hope is that, however the cranes are perceived (as psychopomps, symbols of luck and healing, etc.), “Their Paper Cranes Ablaze� will have universal meaning and aesthetic beauty for all viewers who’ve been coping with some type of grief or another. Finally, I bid a fond ado. May you find peace and comfort in thoughts that make you feel at peace and comforted. 

​More info on David E. Williams, Jennifer Bates, and Germ Books and Gallery 
can be found at these fine sites:
Bates Art https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bates-Art/193047447412105
David E. Williams ​http://www.davidewilliams.com/
Germ http://www.germbooks.com/
Germ on facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Germ-Books-and-Gallery/102519956464198
Every Missing Duck is a Duck Missed ​Disques de Lapin http://www.eskimofilms.com/everymissingduck.html

Y O U R S P A C E S H I P ,
2001 Acrylic 20" x 20"
Photo courtesy of David E. Williams
Left to right: Scott Norman and 
David E. Williams after a Phantom Rose Assembly
rehearsal. Part of Boyd Rice painting in upper
right hand corner.Photo by Jon Allen, 2010.
"Their Paper Cranes Ablaze"
on youtube
Video still from "Their Paper Cranes Ablaze"