Zora’s List

I first heard the story of Zora Colakovic this past weekend on an old episode of NPR’s This American Life. To make the story short, Zora was a child when she started to become obsessed with her dreams of becoming a superhero fighting with guns, swords, and super powers. Without actual super powers a teenage Zora started to keep a list of skills to acquire that would enable her to be a super hero. She became determined to be her vision of a hero by age 23.

At age 13, Zora’s list of skills included Martial Arts, Chemistry, Hang Gliding, Metaphysics, Helicopter Piloting, Airplane Piloting, Parachuting, Mountain Climbing, Wilderness Survival, Evasive Driving, Rafting, Scuba-diving, Mountain Emergency Medicine, Body Building, Archery, Demolitions, Throwing Stars, and Knife Throwing.

As she grew older Zora would update the list and, incredibly, she mastered almost all of the skills she set out to learn. Her pursuit of becoming a super hero led her to graduate high school at the age of 15, get her BA at 18, achieve a Master’s degree at 20, and complete the coursework for a PHD at 21. After being deemed to risky and dangerous for a job at the CIA, Zora flourished as a bounty hunter and private investigator putting her skills to work.

I was blown away by Zora’s story and her dedication to her childhood lists. Like her, I wanted to be a super hero as a child but never had the logic of how to practically apply those wishes. I’m really inspired by Zora’s lists and the path she took to live her dreams. I begun to contemplate what, at this point in my life, is on my list to learn in order for me to be the person I really want to be.

After googling Zora’s name I didn’t come up with much aside from various announcements that a movie based on her life starring Jennifer Aniston was once in production (and it seems doomed to be stuck in development Hell). I was heartened to come across to this lone post that seemed to genuinely discuss her story. That blog’s author, like me, was contemplating what their own version of Zora’s list would include.

So my question to everyone is: What’s on your version of Zora’s List? To hear the This American Life episode featuring Zora Colakovic you can download an mp3 from this link (27.1 MB). The story is in the second act around the 20 minute mark. I’m working on my list, what will yours include?




A moment of youth and rock stars

I had a conversation with Mariela recently about what has changed in our lives as we’ve gotten older. More specifically, how we see ourselves as we’ve gone from being in our early 20’s to our late 20’s now. I told her that biggest difference for me was in my taste in music. Now that I’ve had a little bit of time to reflect on it, the real difference I think is that I don’t have as many rock stars to worship as I once did.

As a teenager my idol was Eddie Vedder, I wanted to be him when I grew up and every word he sang was gospel to me. Before that, I was obsessed with comic book artist Jim Lee. It was always really easy for me to really latch onto someone or something and be very passionate about it when I was younger. As I’m now approaching the age of 29 my fanatic tendencies have subsided and turned into casual admirations of my heroes.

Despite this decline there is still one true rock star in my universe, Nikki S. Lee. I’ve been following her work since 1998 like a teenage girl follows the films of Zac Efron. Her Project series has had a profound influence on my identity as an artist and my work (especially on the performance videos I made at Calarts with Marie Hernandez). To me, she is a living super-hero.

Reading Parts
Reading Parts

When I signed up for a facebook page I did a search for Nikki S. Lee on the site and came across a legit profile for her. On a lark I sent her a friend request which went months without approval. Recently my friend request to her was approved and I felt ecstatic to see her name and image appear in my friends list. When her birthday popped up in my homepage notifications I left her a comment wishing her a happy birthday. To my shock and amazement she replied with a simple comment seen below.

Words can’t describe my excitement at this brief acknowledgement. I did an endzone dance followed by the Harlem Shake in celebration of her comment. I felt like busting out with a Wayne’s World “We’re not worthy” bow. Suffice to say, that childhood excitement returned to me for a day, one that I will not soon forget.

A little younger,