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Monthly Archives: September 2008

OUR GREAT LEADER

W

Once again GW Bush emerges from his stupor to address the multitudes with his wisdom.  His wrinkled brow hints at the seriousness of the matters he addresses, and his lack of once-proud swagger suggests he may just have realized something, a veritable miracle verging on “learning.”  Perhaps the hard way.  Of course it has been much harder for his fellow Americans.  However, evidently as ever, the world stood up and paid attention to the oracle’s utterances, and the DOW duly jumped 480 points or so, more than halving the previous days losses.  The brokerage houses make $$ on each trade, so somebody is making out (like a bandit).   W will return to his lair to speak another day.  Blessed are the citizens, riding like cowboys on the bucking bronco of the Mystical Market Economy, where the hidden hand trickles ever downward….

“The unfinished pyramid means that the United States will always grow, improve, and build. In addition, the ‘All-Seeing Eye’ located above the pyramid suggests the importance of divine guidance in favor of the American cause.”

From the web-site of the US Treasury.


The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Our Great Leader

Yep, it done come and went, and the ornery Congressional critters done said “nope” to the Pope, and now we’re in a heap of shit.  The market dropped nearly 800, gol’dern.  Meantime the critics been kickin’ me around saying I ain’t worth a heap of shit no more.  Gol’dern.

Indeed Our Great Leader has been getting knocked around of late whenever he comes out of hiding to play President.  And his surrogate Mr McCain can’t seem to get his how-to-play-hero shtick down yet.  Blunder bussing left and right, he’s even got his on side thoroughly confused as to who/what he is.  We await Ms Palin’s revelations in a few more nights.

So the drama of America’s implosion runs in synch with the Republican’s evident desire to force the issue.  If indeed the economy unravels in the next week or so, or at least before Nov 4, it would appear they’d pick up the lion’s share of credit for it.  Which they deserve, just as Wall Street, certainly doesn’t deserve a bail-out remotely like that which Mr Paulson, evidently a complete fool when it comes to politics, however slick a fiscal con artist he apparently is, proposed.  So we await “the markets” judgment on the latest back-room maneuvers, to go up, or down, or what.  My guess is a temporary bounce, and then the further revelation that yet another biggie or two are living on phantom money and funny numbers.  My reading about the derivatives matter suggests that in fact there is a quadrillion bucks tied up in this shell game of slicing and dicing debt as if it would invert it into an asset.  A quadrillion is a number you can’t fathom, and apparently neither did the big-wigs downtown or in DC.  That’s in debt.  Being pawned off on you.  Thanks guys.

OUR GREAT LEADER

If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down,” President Bush declared Thursday as he watched the $700 billion bailout package fall apart before his eyes, according to one person in the room.

In the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr. literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

Gangsters in Suits

And so a day which commenced with such optimism, as Our Great Leader met with the leaders of Congress, including the two candidates to take his office, trying to jam through a let’s-have-a-fascist-state “deal” to salvage Wall Street, came to tatters apparently, thanks to none other than stalwart Republicans, who, for a big change, are having none of this big government “socialist” stuff.  Mainly in this election season all ears are to the rumbles of the voters, who have it seems made clear that bailing out the red-tie gangster seen above (former Goldman Sachs CEO wallowing in a mere 718 million in pay-offs from them, of course but a tiny bit of the $65 BILLION which Wall Street has issued to its own in “bonuses” in the past 3 years [talk about a heist!]) is not exactly on their wish-list.  How this will play out we wait to see in the coming days and weeks: will the Republicans, to whom most if not all the responsibility for this scenario belongs, find themselves totally snookered if the economy completely crashes between now and Nov 4, blamed for not making a deal, for making the mess, for who knows what?   Or will somehow the blame-game shift to the Democrats who in my view seem all too eager to embrace this Wall Street bail-out, masked though it might be with a few caveats about golden parachutes and CEO pay levels, and letting The People share ownership of these ravaged companies whose balance sheets are evidently in the negative world (such a deal guys !)

Anyway at the very least we can say it does make for scintillating reading as this wobbly repeat of history plays out not as tragedy (that’s coming later) but as farce.

Meantime back at the ranch:

Government Seizes WaMu and Sells Some Assets

Now admittedly against the backdrop of the days events this might slip by, a minor blip.  But it isn’t, it’s just another sign that “the system” is hollow.  WaMu, otherwise known as Washington Mutual, is the biggest Savings & Loan in the country (remember the Keating Five, one of whom is running for President now & that S&L collapse) with (allegedly) 307 billion in assets, though apparently whatever those are they are so um intangible, that Uncle Sam seized it, and promptly sold it to JPMorgan.  Hmmm.  The government seizes an outfit alleged worth almost half the humongous deal its trying to foist on the taxpayer, and sells the alleged assets to JPMorgan, one of the ever diminishing major banks left on its feet.

Washington Mutual is by far the biggest bank failure in history, eclipsing the 1984 failure of Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust in Chicago, an event that presaged the savings and loan crisis. IndyMac, which was seized by regulators in July, was a tenth the size of WaMu.

Actually this is worse than it sounds, but for detail see this.

And meanwhile, back at the ranch:

China banks told to halt lending to US banks

Uh oh.

George, there’s some brush that needs cleaning, and Air Force One is waiting.  Better go now before the impeachment hearings start…..

And then this item:

During testimony before the House Budget Committee, Peter R. Orszag — Congress’s top bookkeeper — said the bailout could expose the way companies are stowing toxic assets on their books, leading to greater problems.

“Ironically, the intervention could even trigger additional failures of large institutions, because some institutions may be carrying troubled assets on their books at inflated values,” Orszag said in his testimony. “Establishing clearer prices might reveal those institutions to be insolvent.”

What a great logic, though I guess one to expect from a Congressional office – gee guys, we don’t want to look too hard because, well, then people might see that there’s no there there, like Gertrude said about Oakland.  And if the people (whom you serve) knew the god awful truth, it’d make things a lot worse because things are a lot worse.  So let’s keep it under wraps.

Or how America ended, not with a bang, but a whimper…

This one, showing at MoMA (how long I don’t know) in NYC, sounds pretty interesting.  Wish I was there to give it a try.  Carlos Reygadas Silent Light.  I haven’t seen either of his previous two films, Japon and Battle in Heaven. He’s from Mexico.  If anyone here gets to see, drop a report.

Yep, it came and went and we’re still here, chewing our fingernails as the Bushit flies in Congress, with Paulson (read his record and say “I trust him.”) and Bernanke testifying before a buzzing swarm of up-for-election politicians blowing hard populist stuff about “ain’t gonna bail out Wall Street if… blah blah… Mainstreet.. blah blah” whether Republican or Democrat as the smell of the blowing wind is like a feedlot coming out of the canyons of lower Manhattan.   Right or Left, they’re all “mad as hell” and will foam at the mouth a few days to provide cover for some less astounding hand-out to the rich.

In 2007, Wall Street’s five biggest firms — Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley — paid a record $39 billion in bonuses to themselves.

That’s $10 billion more than the $29 billion loan taxpayers are making to J.P. Morgan to save Bear Stearns.

Those 2007 bonuses were paid even though the shareholders in those firms last year collectively lost about $74 billion in stock declines — their worst year since 2002.

Not to mention the billions on billions handed out in no-bid “wartime” contracts to, well, mostly the same “good fellows.”

Meantime Mrs Palin is getting her cram course in foreign policy from the master war criminal himself, a 3 hour private session with Henry Bloodyhands Kissinger.  Did she go down on him?  If she follows the actions of the stockmarket (up down up down….) I am sure the old boy will approve.

Speaking of the Mystical Market Economy Dow(sing) rod, as predicted following its erectile direction on Friday’s news of a 700 billion bail-out for the richest, it went limp again when this instant gratification was subjected to delays from both Right and Left, and in the interim news of sleazy kinds leaked out about Mr Paulson, the wizard primary author of this proposal, who like all con-men said “gotta do it now, one-time-only offer, gone tomorrow, sign now, read the fine print later, time’s runnin’ out” as he shuffles the shells faster and faster and his patter gets more desperate to sign up the mark.  Mr Paulson got a mere 18 million dollar pay out (kick-back) from Goldman Sachs just recently.  And which entity would be one of the biggest benefactors of Paulson’s deal?  Why Goldman Sachs, natch.

These people make the Mafia look like two-bit hoodlums squabbling over a ho.  Perhaps the one pictured above…

Yep, keep tunin’ in tomorrow for the latest in the big time soap of the century.

“The biggest help we can give the American people is to stabilize our financial system right now and to prevent the system from clogging up, because if it does clog up, this is going to have an adverse effect on people’s abilities to get jobs, on their budgets, on their retirement savings, on lending for small businesses,” Paulson said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

The head of the Treasury made the rounds on the morning talk shows to sell the Bush administration’s plan to the American public, but he stated on “Fox News Sunday”: “I hate the fact that we have to do it.”

[To get a handle on what is really going on, go to http://www.michael-hudson.com/ It's a long piece, but informative, from a financial expert but not, evidently, a bought one.]

Paulson: ‘We need this to be clean and quick’

Words which would apply to any bank robbery or swindle, the cleaner and quicker, the better.  And this, to be sure is a major league heist, the biggest swindle in a country of big swindles.  Reading between the not-so-vague lines of the proposal of the Bush administration, as others have swiftly noted, is basically a governmental-no-Congressional-or-Judicial-oversight commandeering of most the US economy.  Welcome to the USSofA, where Commissar Paulson and Comrade Bush, or is it der Fuhrer and his minions, decide what sells to whom for how much under what terms.   The terms, as proposed, do not include taking the captains of capitalism’s golden parachutes, bonuses, perks, tax-exemptions, etc. away from them.  Ohhh that would hurt so bad.  Nope, it means dipping deep into JQ’s pocket for the next umpteen years and pickpocketing in broad daylight, of course, all for your own good.  Nanny Guv (remember that former Bogey-girl?) knows best, so following the shriveling coinage of the land, “In God We Trust” cuz trusting the Bush clan to do anything but fuck you badly is an error which all but a hard-core 30% of the hyper-rich and the hyper-dumb have already learned.

However, since we deal with cinema here, we all know the plot-line of almost any bank robbery scenario is the well-laid plan that invariably follows the Robert Burns axiom: if it’s possible to fuckitup, it’ll get fugged up.  So on Friday, to delirious reviews (+370 from the critics at the DOW), the show opened with its first scene.  The weekend BO was mixed, with some non MSM critics carping about certain aspects, raising some caveats about certain plot line potentials, and some far-out left (and right) critics pointing out that this amounted to little more than fascism. Oh well, in a free country people get to think whatever weird thoughts they want (as long as they keep their fkn mouths shut down at the “free speech zone.”)  Said one Senator of considerable rightist tendency, “As of now the free market in America is dead.”

As if there’d ever been such a thing, but now the wraps are off and everyone is informed that the function of America is to keep Wall Street paved with gold, and tough shit if you can’t cover the mortgage (see in that word is a sneaky little French one which means “death”), or the rent, go fkn eat cake.   Not that you weren’t long ago informed of this:

The business of America is business. Calvin Coolidge

(or go see the quotes from Tocqueville to be found at the end of my item at http://www.jonjost.wordpress.com)

Out in the market is a book titled Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism which would seem to cover this current little bit of the massive shell-game which is Bushism.

Whatever, if Monday brings a boost or a crash in the “market” it really probably doesn’t matter much since if there is no crash, it is simply staving off the inevitable.  They can print money as fast as they can, but it won’t paper over the real problem, only temporarily hide it while the worst perpetrators run off with as much as they can, and tamp down public anger.  More Prozac!  More Ludes !  More American Idol !  More baseball (play-offs & Series coming up) ! More football !

Oh yeah, and there’s going to be an election I recall.  Obama apparently talks daily to Paulson.  Not a good sign.

Just a note to say posted new item on http://www.jonjost.wordpress.com.  In case you are interested while you watch the US economy (finally – I’d been saying it’d do so for some time now) crumple up inside its contradictions and fraudulence.  Seems the fiscal situation is finally coming to some kind of end game.

Emblematically, a few images:

Our Great Leader surveys his kingdom, and the swift young men of London make a killing (along with Damien Hirst).

Meantime I’d be interested in any first-hand accounts of how what’s happening in the US economy is hitting anyone here – mortgages, credit-card debt, loss of job, etc.

Last night Marcella and I attended the closing night of the EX-is festival, an “experimental/avant garde” affair in its 5th year here.  I was on jury 3 years ago, and know the folks who run it.  Saw two programs of the competition films this year, and several of Abigail Child’s who was on jury this year (along with Jay Rosenblatt, Jeanne Liotta – all of them American – and a Korean filmmaker-critic, Park Chan-Kyong).  The closing night was an anarchic little affair of mikes not working, a casualness of handling things that was comic, and perhaps indicative of the overall “avant garde” attitude that things need not be taken very seriously or carefully.  So the prizes were announced and the plentiful handful of filmmakers who’d flown in from around the world sat expectant and hopeful and came up empty handed.  One could see the anxiety and then disappointment written on their faces and their body gestures.  Later Abigail said they all fled the jury people, not wanting to talk with them.  From what I saw of some of their work, and the prize winners (which received $1K, $2K, $3K and $5K – not insubstantial money), I can understand their sense of aggrievement.  Several Korean filmmakers did win more modest prizes, and were present to get the goodies.

The winners ranged from a Korean film, The Breath, I’d passed on giving anything in Jeon Ju, a celluloid film of shots of bamboo – shots of no particular quality except shakiness, in/out of focus for no discernable reason, and “editing” that didn’t seem to exist: one shot after the next of bamboo for 10 minutes that seemed longer. Silent.  After the screening a tepid round of clapping occurred and one could feel the other filmmakers thinking “what the fuck?!”  Can’t say I’d blame them.

Fix, Ysuto Yura.   This one had to do with a voice-over and images of the man’s hand, a few scars on it.  The imagery was vaguely clinical but pedestrian, the VO doing all the explaining that the cinema did not.  Some slick zappy graphics.   Again, a tepid bit of applause.

Looking for Him, Jung Yoon-suk.  A guy in wheel-chair waiting for lift down into Seoul Metro.  Other shots, surveillance images in the metro, a fuzzy image of a guy harrassing a woman, and then stealthily sneaking up behind her and pushing her onto the tracks.  Clouds and sky and Ed Ruscha looking graphic letters superimposed.  This film was rather a mess, again relying on voice over to carry whatever meaning it had, vaguely perhaps ironic and maybe the “him” in heavily Christian Korea was meant to be “Him” but it wasn’t very clear.   Again, rather a messy film, and again a tepid bit of handclapping at its end.

Eden, Kim Hye-won.   A cut-out animation, graphically dense and elegant, with a simple story trajectory of “man the disruptor of Eden, man the killer.”  Very nicely done work, very effective little narrative.  Nothing particularly “experimental” or AG about it, just a very well done animation work.  Got solid applause as it deserved.

Folk Songs, LeAnn Erickson.  A cleanly done academic exercise of a kind I have seen 100 times: voice over explains everything, partially home-movie, partially shot by filmmaker, explaining how Bulgarian grandma came over and subsequent family stuff on immigration to the fabled America.  This was well done, better than most, but for me it is cookie-cutter academic filmmaking, which it seems most nearly all American experimental-oriented filmmakers feel compelled to do.  The usual crippling factor is the voice-over that reduces it all to a kind of slide-show presentation, and deletes the “cinema”.  It got second prize and tepid noises.

Ah Liberty, Ben Rivers.  Filmmaker from UK, and I’ve heard of him but never seen.  This film is 19 minutes of hand-processed anamorphic extreme wide-screen 16mm b&w footage, apparently from some kind of Scottish commune – banged up trucks, kids, animals, a raucous soundtrack of noises.  The imagery was basically shot well, in a dark moody mode, ever so slightly Tarkovskian in tone, though the content was more Gummo with the kids in masks goofing for camera.  Full of chemical spottings, light flareouts and other cliches of the DIY processing alleged-AG filmmaking aesthetic.   Frankly I think if it hadn’t been for the extreme Cinemascope-looking wide-screen you’d just get bored, but seeing this kind of stuff with the oomph of a Hwd-scale big screen seemed (falsely) to transform it into hoch kunst.  At least it did for the unanimous jury decision.   It begot a faint round of wrap-up applause and all went off to the post-ceremony free beer and food at a cafe nearby, where the present filmmakers clustered together to commiserate with each other, and studiously avoided contact with the damned jurors.

Marcella and I had a chat with Abigail and Jay, who were perhaps non-plussed by my summary of the part of the festival I saw, which was consistent with most other so-called experimental festivals: that the so-called AG in fact wallows in nostalgia, whether in content or form (using old footage, regurgitating once-AG tropes like leader countdown numbers, punched numbers in filmstock, flareouts, and otherwise fetishizing on celluloidisms like scratches, dirt, etc.) or else goes for equally cliched “modernist” things like screeching electronic tracks, zappy flicker things and wham-bam shock editing, or, of course that old old standby, sex. Of the films I saw none really seemed to try to do anything new, rather they ran over well-grooved turf for the umpteenth time, usually not as well as Bruce Conner or others did 50-80 years ago.  Nothing avant at all.   I told them I didn’t think one can teach “avant garde” filmmaking, but when one did it was to make a bunch of rubber-stamp copy-cats who make derriere garde imitations.   I think both Abigail and Jay make their living teaching this, so of course they said I was rather harsh in my estimations.  I compounded it by saying film and filmmaking wasn’t really very important anyway.  Which it isn’t.  However they didn’t kill me…

All jurying is kind of unfair, though in this case, with Jay and Abigail doing similar kinds of work (montage using old footage is a major part, if not all), I felt it tilted the judging a bit to that way of working, a kind of didactic voice-over reliant manner of working, and for the most part not so interested in visual or, for my money, “cinematic” qualities.  Sez me.

Pics fr

om their films, respectively Abigail and Jay:

Here in Seoul the EX-is festival is on, and Marcella and I have attended some screenings.  Seen 2 competition selections which, frankly, were better over all than those when I was a judge 2 years ago.  Some interesting work, though once again I am appalled by how the self-described avant garde filmmaker seems to know for the most part only one trajectory: take an idea, a technique and shove it along faster and faster into a crescendo, come and stop.  Bad filmmaking as it is bad sex.  Been treated to far more than a handful of such films so far, usually taking some technical thing and pushing it along faster and faster and faster.  Predictable as can be.

But there have been some good things.  And was able to see now two programs of Abigail Child films, who is here on jury and showing I think all her work.  First program we saw last night, and it had one very interesting and good film in it.  The program was titled “Suburban Trilogy”, the first being a 1950’s oriented look at culture and how women are, well, used.  It was done, as most her work, in a zappy snappy editing style that owes a fair bit to the recently deceased Bruce Conner.  Machine gun bursts of single frames, archival footage flipped, looped, and otherwise womanhandled to make a point.  Abigail’s use of this style is more calculated and intelligent than usual, so the machine gun bursts will repeat images, acting as musical motifs, shifting, but anchoring themselves back so you recall seeing an image previously – not so scattershot as is often the case.  She makes a collage of archival (or in some cases her own shooting) material visually, and similarly she uses sound in a fragmented manner, with abrupt bursts, fake synch, music written by acquaintances for the work, and she is quite good at this – better than most those others I have seen.  In the 2nd of the trilogy, the pace shifts, and some wonderful archival material in B&W shows a family, with two adolescent girls, from the 30’s to 40’s in some Germanic setting, and finally shifting to NYC.  With this Child has made a fiction of a Nazi era family, inserting voices, texts, and in a very wonderful way making a convincing and emotional story of this well-shot material (clearly from well-off family).  She weaves history personal and large together in a manner that evokes well the time, and provokes some deeper thoughts about what it was like to experience this time.  The “fiction” is somehow clear, despite the documentary appearance, and it works to the benefit of the work.  In this one Abigail’s pace is far less frenetic than in her other work, which also works for the better.  The 3rd in the trilogy is about a New Jersey beach town, Deal, settled by Jewish folks from NYC, a second home place, and Abigail examins the shifting politics, social realities of the place in an engaging manner that over stays its welcome by a bit, and is a bit messy and unfocussed, if also fascinating.  She says its unfinished and agreed with the critique it is messy and needs more spine, even if it is never boring – it just wanders a bit needlessly.

Few days later saw another selection of Abigail’s work, under the banner “Alternate Fictions” in which archival footage of varying kinds is sliced, diced, flipped, juxtaposed to alternate sounds, and otherwise tossed in a mixmaster (though not thoughtlessly, it is all done consciously) making for an assault by collage.  One at a time they are fine; shown as a group they grate, being too similar in their aggressive tempos and formal/technical methods.  Taken together they grind you down, and one blends into the next with little sense for why #1 stops and a title is interjected and #2 begins.  They are a bit different, but not enough so to warrant the break.  Seen back to back the devices used get too obvious, the pace too consistent, and the tone too monotone.  She needs films by her friends Hutton, Dorsky as spacers, to shift the pace radically so her work seems a sharp rejoinder.

In a big very good cinema in the center of a city of 10 million the audiences have sprinkled the space, perhaps 30 people or so.  EX-is does put up posters in universities, advertises a bit, but I guess the audience for such work is .000000000001 percent of the public.  Or they are somehow making a mistake in their approach.

I did see another program of competition films and again, there were more interesting things than my time around as a judge.  However so far no knock-out, mostly regurgitations of old avant garde tropes.  One film started out real interesting and not a copy-cat thing, but then devolved into a stupid mess.  Alas.

That’s the official figure.  Like more or less everything else “official” it’s false, phony, fake.  Jiggled.  Double it and maybe – maybe – it’s more or less accurate.   So yesterday the Republican wrapped their convention, McCain gave his “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along” talk, after his self-described lipsticked pit-bull had made clear just why.   McCain is running against DC, where he’s been for too long to remember.  Ah well.  So we enter our slightly shortened presidential campaign period, 8 weeks of blather, while operative of the RNC jiggle the voting machines, laws, etc. and do their best to bend the machinery enough to win with their “mavericks” McCain and Palin.  Well, who knows anymore just how the fix can be fixed.

So we enter the ridiculous once-every-four-years US election cycle countdown.  2 more months.  Blather blather blather.   I haven’t seen any recent polls to suggest Palin bounced things up or down, nor anything else.  Just a lot of hyperventilating, distraction from McCain, the issues (but McCain operative says the election isn’t about issues…), etc.   Par for the course….

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