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Monthly Archives: December 2008

Gaza

Happy New Year from this intractable center of our little sphere, where three dismal religions all with deep roots in the same place and mental space slug it out, and if my decades old thoughts come true, will indeed bring on the self-willed Armegeddon that these “beliefs” seem to demand.

Love thy neighbor.

The above is a production still from Edward Swick’s would be corrective to Jewish victimhood in the Holocaust.  In this case his heroes, based on a real-world story, fight back.  The characters are supposed to be those few who eluded Nazi roundups and fled to the woods with the clothes on their backs.  Note the clothes on their backs.  Note the gently glowing light which suffuses their faces.  Not the carefully coiffed hair.  Note that Hollywood has not a clue what life or death or anything real is about or how to show it.  One would think that with millions of dollars at one’s disposal it would not be too much to have clothes that have the stains and wear and tear of life on them, especially a rough life.  But alas, Hollywood knows nothing of such things, only of costume departments, hair dressers, set decorators, cinematographers and directors, most of whom live in a world of unwarranted wealth, and know little about the rigors of the actual life of those less fortunate than themselves.

Here is what it “really” looked like.

Of course Mr Swick and his associates are self-pleased with the hardships of their shoot in the actual autumnal and early winter woods of Lithuania, their do-good intentions of showing that some resisted, etc. etc.

Dwarfed by pines so immense and thick the sunlight rarely penetrated, we worked from dawn until dark in the damp, mossy hollows, never growing accustomed to a perpetual half-light so dim even at midday that we needed super-fast lenses to gain enough exposure to shoot. Most mornings a low-hanging fog would rise from nearby bogs, enveloping us and chilling to the bone. Arriving on the set before first light, hundreds of spectral figures, dress extras clothed in tatters, with blankets wrapped around their heads, would huddle together for warmth.

Oh yes, filmmaking is really tough, a heroic enterprise, and “when you wish upon a star (of David), matters not just who you are….” Disneycaust, whether here in Defiance or in Schindler’s List.

Not to be outdone by stories of non-wimpish Jews, Hollywood* also in the same season sees fit to produce a film about wimpish Germans, Good, where, once again, any semblance of reality eludes the great technical skills of Lalaland.

This rickety film collapses completely in its revelatory scene at a concentration camp, where Halder finally faces the reality he has denied. As he wanders dazedly around the premises casting furtive glances, the prisoners and guards, played by healthy-looking actors, are clumsily arranged in stiff tableaus as though they were about to perform in a pageant. It is the single most unconvincing death-camp scene I have encountered in a film.

So writes critic Stephen Holden who seems to hint that he has never seen a convincing death-camp scene (fictional), which is surely correct.

*Actually it is perhaps unfair to pin this one on Hollywood proper as the film is a production of ThinkFilm, a production company which is ostensibly independent, in some imagined sense, from the biggies of Tinseltown – afterall it has its offices in Manhattan.  With a biz monicker like that they apparently might have given some further thought on this one.

For a thoughtful contemplation on the little sphere seen here, see this comment by Oliver Morton from this day’s New York Times.  It’s worth your time to read and think about.

Meantime here is another note, also from the NY Times, demonstrating how much fame can do for you, and though I completely agree with the sentiment I wonder if you or I had submitted it to them for publication, just what would have happened: straight to the cylindrical evict device I would bet.

Yoko Ono

Well, for those into such things (I am decidedly not) Merry Christmas and in a week Happy Gregorian Calendar New Year!

A little filmmaker note here at the end: while the film made with my students is off to Rotterdam (Love in the Shadows - new name for it), the other day I got a reject for my and Marcella’s two films – seemingly owing to a little screw-up on their part in which DVDs sent well in time were sent back to USA for a local to review, and then belatedly my contact saw them a bit too late to shoe-horn into the schedule.  Or so he implied.  I wrote and said in sending them all I felt I’d been competing against myself, though I’d already decided if it was only one film that could go, and he liked the Love one, but also one of the others, I’d ask that the student one went first.  I’ve been there many times, and it’d be good for them.

So my contact, whom I consider a friend, sent me this:

Dear Jon,
You were always competing against yourself. Most filmmakers make 1 film in 3 years and you can make 3 in 1 year.
And festivals are like supermarkets; they want different brands on every shelf.
Sorry about this. I understand, but I am happy with Love in the Shade, it is nice and
special.
Thinking about going to Africa…
I saw Sangwoo and Sihyun for lunch today, and they’re both plotting to go and happy and excited about it.  I am for them, and jaded as usual for me.

Yesterday there was a meeting by the ruling (Conservative) party, preparing to put onto the floor a US-Korea bi-lateral free trade deal.  Those meeting, fearful of interruption from the opposition, locked themselves in a room, barricaded the interior with furniture, while outside the room this mayhem occurred.  It apparently succeeded in delaying having the measure from being taken to the floor for consideration.   The opposition’s main objection was that the measure would harm Korean farmers.  Back in the USA it appears the same item is in for heavy sailing owing to opposition that feels the deal would harm US carmakers.   If only our home-grown Democrats, when they were in the opposition under Bush-league rule, had shown a sliver of such commitment when they were locked out on issues like … well there are too many to list.  Spying, illegal invasions and wars, torture….

Meanwhile back in Athens, they’re still at it….

I never Liked his snake oil stuff mentality, but I take an exception to his recent interview and agree with almost everything.

‘The Mumbai attacks were directed at the US too’

There is plenty of anger out there for his comments on CNN’s Larry King Live. Dr Chopra stressed the importance of looking at Islamic terrorism in a wider context, and suggested that the Mumbai terror attacks [Images] have to be seen in the context of American support for Saudi Arabia and that petro-dollars go from Saudi Arabia to Islamic radicals in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One of the first attacks on Dr Chopra came on the television program The View where the ultra-conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck called him ‘Glitter Glasses Whatshisface,’ and then, dismissed his comments, muttering ‘Go light a bowl of incense.’

Dr Chopra spoke to rediff India Abroad’s Arthur J Pais at length about his recent views, commenting not only on the conservative American critics, but also a group of Hindus who have taken strong objection to his comments about the killings in Gujarat several years ago.

Do you watch The View?

I don’t. And I did not see the attack on me. When people mentioned it, I did not give it importance. I dismissed Hasselbeck’s views.

Why was that?

I had read that she had been traveling with (Republican vice-presidential candidate) Sarah Palin [Images] during the presidential campaign and that they were friends. I had also heard that she had political ambitions.

What happened then?

I started getting calls and mail from many people across the world. They were upset over her comments. And I also heard that ABC, which broadcasts the show, had asked her to apologise. So in the middle of the programme, she suddenly apologised to the viewers.

What did you make of it?

Well, she did not apologise to me. But that is not important. I believe the harm comments like hers do is that they take away the importance of the issues connected to the Mumbai attacks and in general the consequences of American foreign policy and the American involvements abroad.

What is that upsets you most about the American media?

A part of the media has become a circus. It makes things dramatic and melodramatic to attract ratings and readers. What I said on Larry King was taken out of the context by this section of the media.

In what way?

What I was trying to say was that the terrorist attacks on Mumbai are more complicated than we think. The attacks were directed not only against India but also at many other targets, including America, Britain and Israel. The fact that these guys had planned and executed the attacks before the Indian elections, the fact that the attackers were also looking for foreigners with American and British passports, the fact that they were attacking a Jewish establishment, and that the fact that they came from Pakistan… all these things are very important.

They were telling the Americans, ‘We are looking for you guys.’ They were also making a statement to Israel. And they were making a statement to India. They were also making a statement to their own government in Pakistan against making friendly gestures towards India. In that sense, the Mumbai attacks became an international event.

And the attacks and mayhem got unprecedented coverage in the Western media, especially on CNN.

Of course. You notice that the Western media gave the latest attacks much more coverage than the many recent terrorist attacks in India. This year alone there have been attacks against many cities, including Bangalore, New Delhi [Images] and Jaipur [Images]. The latest attacks got wide attention because there were Westerners among the dead, though their number is very small compared to the overall number of victims.

The attacks were also targeted at Western businesses that were doing business with India, telling the guests at the Taj and Oberoi hotels — and then businesspeople at large — that they are not safe in India.

So what I was trying to tell on CNN is that America is involved, intentionally or unintentionally, in these incidents.

So the talk of you attacking America…

I was not attacking America. I was trying to place the things in a context. I was getting everyone to reflect on the state of the affairs in the world, and urging people to look at the root cause of terrorism.

You have also talked about the rage against America in the Islamic world and how that could have had a role in the Mumbai attacks.

True, there is a tremendous resentment for a number of reasons. America supported the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. But once the Soviet Union came down, America abandoned Afghanistan. The war against Iraq which has killed over 600,000 Iraqis has led to tremendous resentment against America. Also, the treatment of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. The Muslim world is indeed enraged and humiliated.

Muslims know that once upon a time Saddam Hussein [Images] was funded by the Americans, and the atrocities he committed then were overlooked by America. But whatever I said on CNN was taken out of context and made sensational, particularly the headline in The Wall Street Journal, which said, Chopra Blames America.

What was the immediate reaction to these attacks?

Many people were angry; they were jokes against me on many radio stations, not only here, but also in England [Images]. They were also mimicking what Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote in The Wall Street Journal (‘How the ebullient Dr Chopra had come to be chosen as an authority on terror remains something of a mystery’). I got plenty of hate mail.

What were some of the comments in them?

Some said I should go back to India. Some talked about the money I had made in America, implying that I had no right to criticise America.

What would you tell some of these critics?

I am an American citizen and I have as much a right — even a duty — to discuss what I see are the shortcomings in my country. I have my own radio programme, and I have been commenting on politics for a long time. I have had in recent days as my guest former defence secretary William Cohen. I have had Peter Bergen, the best-selling writer and expert on terrorism.

What upset you a lot about the comments by right-wing television host Sean Hannity?

I was on his show along with Bill Cohen. Both of us said similar things about terrorism. But he went after me. I sent him a letter in response to his comments following my show, and his misrepresentation of what I said on his show regarding the Mumbai terrorist attacks. I did not receive any response from him. So last week I read it aloud on my Sirius-XM radio programme.

What was he complaining about?

He said I was blaming America for the attacks in Mumbai and he also said, ‘Wait a minute. You’ve done so well in America. Why are you blaming us? We protect 100 per cent of the world’s population. We’re 4 percent of it.’

What did you write to him?

I told him I was really disappointed in him. I also said that Cohen had made the same point I did about America’s policy toward the jihadists: Cohen quoted from an internal memo by Donald Rumsfeld that asked, ‘Are we creating more terrorists than killing them?’ I also said: ‘I was hoping to come back on your show and have a reflective, intelligent dialogue, but perhaps the attack mode is the only way you know to make a living. The best excuse for your dishonest accusations against me is that you don’t believe what you’re saying. The far right has deflated, so you are there to pump it up with hot air. If you stop blowing, you’ll be out of a job. I empathise.’

Weren’t you asked to appear on the very conservative Bill O’Reilly show?

(Chuckles). I said I would do so if he does not raise his voice, and does not interrupt. I also said I also won’t interrupt him. (chuckles some more) I did not hear from him.

You have also talked about Pakistan making serious gestures toward India in combating terrorism.

This topic has come up for discussion on my radio shows. But people have pointed out, particularly the terrorism expert Peter Bergen, that Pakistan will not hand over the suspects, particularly the leaders of the recent attacks, to India. There will be an outrage and a new war on the government there. Already, Pakistan is a failing State and its survival would be at risk.

The name of fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim [Images] is also coming up quite a bit in discussions about the recent attacks on Mumbai…

Experts on Pakistan tell me that it will be difficult to extradite him to India. When he was in India and running his mafia group, he was reportedly beholden to many politicians. Similar situation could be there in Pakistan.

What else do you think the American media hasn’t noticed about the recent attacks?

India has had at least five major terrorist attacks within a year or so. If one such attack had taken place on American soil, there would have been a war. Even if there was no specified enemy, the urge to go to war against any enemy would have been strong. This happened under the previous government. India has shown so far remarkable restraint.

The American media hasn’t paid enough attention how resilient the Indian people are. I am sure in two weeks Mumbai will be its former self and bustling. The vast majority of Indian people are very robust, very resilient and very creative. But there is a distinction should be made between the Indian people and the government.

In what way?

The governments are often corrupt. Some politicians often do anything to get into power. I also feel that in the Mumbai attacks there is a perfect opportunity for politicians with ties to Hindu fundamentalists to take advantage of the situation.

Your comments on Gujarat, while you were talking about various forms of terrorism, has angered many Hindu groups.

What happened in Gujarat was a genocide and there cannot be two ways of looking at it. But I also recognise the sentiment of some people who said that this is not the time — when people are grieving over the recent attacks in Mumbai — to discuss what happened in Gujarat a few years ago.

I am sorry for hurting those sentiments. But my views on fundamentalism will not change. Whether it is Hindu fundamentalism, or Islamic or Christian fundamentalism, I call it an idiotic but divisive force.

Fundamentalism in some cases causes untold problems including wars and terrorist attacks. I have seen all kinds of fundamentalism. My own family and that of my wife have lost members in Partition.

But going back to the recent trouble and destruction in Mumbai, I am surprised and disappointed that there has not been any proper outrage from the Islamic world, except for the sympathy extended by Pakistan. I ask myself, why is that the moderate Islamic community across the world is not coming out against these attacks? Where is the outrage? Where is their condemnation of terrorism?

President G W Bush is bid farewell by his good friends in Iraq

Ducking a flying shoe, in Arabic terms about the worst insult one might have flung at you, George Bush visits the place of his greatest act, to celebrate the muddy non-ending of 5+ years of illegal invasion, occupation and decimation of Iraq.  Way to go, Bushie.

Meantime a little cinema news, today got word that LOVE IN THE SHADE, a three part ominbus film made with my students a term ago, has been invited to the Rotterdam festival.  It’s composed of 3 thirty-minute short films based on the topic of love.  One part was done by LEE Sangwoo, who also plays a lead role in all the films.  His is titled Karma, and is about a man who falls in love with a marriage store mannikin.  The second part, Silence, was done by MOON Sihyun, and hers is about a man whose wife has died, and he keeps her going as it were until she starts to rot, and he chops her up to put her in the fridge, to keep having her.  Last part,  Mr Right, done by myself with students playing all the roles, is about the gotta-get-married pressure which seems endemic (and damaging) to young people here.

I’m very happy for the students that it was invited, and I think one of them will be able to go thanks to Korean government grant for such things.  Still awaiting word on whether PARABLE or the newly retitled THE RANTING EYE, get invited.  If so, we’ll be going too.

The Demon in 15 Dresses (Prose Poem)

- Rajiv Mudgal

In troubled times such as ours, I have often asked (myself) this question, that is as to from whence comes this violence, this hate, this beast in 15 dresses and every-time I have asked this question, a demon would quietly slip inside the beat of my heart and whisper softly in his familiar and facsimile sardonic voice: “Piety” “Love” “Truth”. But how am I a mortal to believe in a voice so strange, so sweet and so vulgar! No… I am not buying into him, nevertheless it keeps whispering “To anchor, to hold on, In piety everything can be radicalised, but behold and beware of the Demon in 15 dresses, for she is the piety that parades as democracy.”

But I know or atleast, I have glimpsed him in my other worldly deliriums… -yes I know, and I am sure as to what and who this demon in fifteen dresses is and it certainly is not democracy, for can democracy ever be radicalised. “Sure” the demon kept tormenting me, “Sure; if it knows itself, if it knows with full certainty as to who she is” and then it whispered again and this time in a slow and deliberate echo that kept filling the hollow contours of my heart. “Sure…If it knows itself as ‘the’ saving power, it will then my friend know its other: -that is its immediate enemies, its friends and foes, and then out of its own immaculate piety will be born a demon whose will and power remains to this day unheard and unseen in the three worlds. Beware, behold, Aladdin could control his jinns, but modern man knows of no sure way to keep his in check, nor does he know his way out of this labyrinth that he himself has created; and has fashioned it in the name of human values and ultimate good.”

Its been time, and time never ends for me, nor does this thought which returns to haunt my dreams but nowadays it even visits my ever diminishing wakeful hours and I wonder whether I a mortal ever could in this mute and voiceless hour hold on to my own without falling into the subtle traps that entice us, evoke us, call us to their task as-If we are its children. Can I especially in the face of such colossal tragedy that has befallen me endure in the shining and the showing (of truth and divinity) or will I see him, glimpse him, he that rides on the mark that separates ‘us‘ from ‘them‘.
In an hour such as this, In times such as these, where am I to go looking for my answers, and In what am I to put my sacred trust.
Today…can I even frame such questions – realistically. And to see again and feel again am I to become that bald man in dhoti with rounded eyeglasses! -and why is his call of Satyagraha so frightful, so terrible, especially in the face of the impending storms that entrust us to their perceptual violence.

Having abandoned him (the bald man in dhoti with rounded eyeglasses) what other ways, what other paths are open for me and where will they lead us -ultimately?
Where is the way, what are the paths; and is there a ‘piety’ beyond what holds “us” from “them” and beyond it a shining region outside of the futures opened-up by liberal and capital driven democratic frameworks, complete with their immaculate ordeal of right[s] and justice!
Or maybe the Demon is right after all and there might be some truth in his vulgar and vague hauntings; -that there were and are (ultimately) only two paths, one of resignation and the other of a counter strike (so harsh and persistent) and whose reign ends only with the total and complete destruction of our enemy.

Today,
My options have vanished, my alternative have dissolved and there only lingers the cunning of my voice. and still; about my speech, my tongue, my touch, who knows him that saturates them more then me. I who is but a mere mortal.
and still…!
“The Demon in 15 Dresses”, who is he afterall?

Nightime in Athens, Greece

Greece, the supposed origin of “western civilization” has lately been leading the way again, with riots and a general strike, allegedly instigated by a police killing of a 15 year old.  One suspects the real causes lie far deeper, and the malaise which prompted this eruption has more to do with high unemployment, a rightish government busy attempting to implement the usual cocktail of Friedman economics, IMF and World Bank advice, and hence the customary disturbances brought by the so-called free market.

Perhaps in a bit the frantic efforts of the banking systems of the Eurozone, the USA, et al, will faulter sufficiently to produce a similar reaction elsewhere on the globe.

U donwannano, doU? CBGB goes down.

3. Geez, why don’t we stop kidding ourselves and raise the hammer and sickle? What a maroon.
Submitted by: JR

This was the response of one irate reader to an LA Times columnist (the car columnist) proposing that General Motors be nationalized, and managerial control be taken to direct it to making something other than mental SUV’s. There was another knee-jerk response along the same line – our hotrodder guys tend to the Right. One would like to think the above scrivener’s “maroon” was ironic, however it is doubtless not, but rather indicative of the thought-level of the man. Dumbness has been well inculcated into our grand republic, and code words act like neuron triggers in many: liberal, left, socialist, commie. Any time the concept of social responsibility confronts the matter of the virtue of a “free market economy” these red flags immediately appear. So what if under the rubric of a “free market” the managers run their mega-corporations into the ground, then tossing them 10 billion bucks or more of public tax money (actually most of this of late is not tax money; it is artificial printed paper of zero value) is the solution, but somehow that is not “socialism.” Just as in no-bid contracts issued to Halliburton to steal a billion here and a trillion there is not socialism, just good-old “free marketeering.” Just ask Dick Cheney. Or discount rates for farmer’s on publicly supported water systems like the California Acquaduct feeding Central Valley’s rich farmers. Or the myriad other manners in which public funding is the trough of ardent supporters of “free markets” – especially, for example the war-profiteers of the military-industrial complex.

“Maroons” uber alles.

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