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Monthly Archives: September 2009

In today’s New York Times was a little article on Chinese independent filmmakers, springing of the screening of one at the New York Film Festival, Ghost Town by Zhao Dayong.   In it was a little quote which struck a chord in me, and wrote still another Letter to the Editor Sure Not to Be Published:

Sirs:
As a long-time (45+ years) American “independent”  filmmaker, this quote from an article in the NY Times, rang a dissonant bell:

““I feel very frustrated,” Mr. Zhao said. “I’m a Chinese filmmaker, and of course my audience should be the Chinese people, especially since my films are about ordinary working Chinese people.” He added, “That would be more valuable than winning an international film festival.”

As an American – and hardly the only one – I could easily say the same thing, though the politics are different, the effect is the same. In our country the Glorious Market Economy mantra is the shibboleth which dictates what is to be seen or not, as effectively as the Chinese Communist  Party does there.  The end result is the same.  I’ve won my bit of international festival la dee da, but the films remain mostly unseen.  A long list of my peers could say the same.

Sincerely
Jon Jost

The long list could include quite a number of accessible “realists” like Lance Hammer, Eagle Pennell, on back to John Cassavetes or even before.  It could include more experimental real Americans like James Benning.  It could include me.  We don’t need a heavy-handed Chinese Communist Party censorship board to quash us, we have the wonderful make-the-maximum-buck-whatever-the-cost free-wheeling American capitalist system to do the job.  You aren’t interested in making the most money, then go f..k yourself.  This applies to artisans making the things, to distributors to exhibitors, who, if they aren’t aiming for the lowest-common-denominator maxi-dollar deal, are in for an early demise.  Ask Dan Ladely out in Nebraska at the Ross Cinema, under the gun of budget cuts, or ask the myriad small distributors who’ve bitten the dust in the last decade.  Or the theaters that closed.

By way of a minimal compensation for this grave distortion in our communal values, the MacArthur Foundation offers up 25 half-million buck grants each year, to a variety of people, including artists and scientists and writers and others most of whom you probably never heard of before.  Hopefully the big bucks don’t warp them, and they keep on truckin’ doing whatever they were doing.  Given the choices I’d guess that’d be the case.

And then another brief item in the New York Times, conflicting with another a few days ago which gave a number about 100 less, is this

Names of the Dead

Published: September 28, 2009

The Department of Defense has identified 840 American service members who have died as a part of the Afghan war and related operations. It confirmed the death of the following American on Monday:

GRAHAM, Kevin J., 27, Specialist, Army; Benton, Ky.; Second Infantry Division.

24military.span.600

27military.span.600 (2)Our guys in Afghanistan winning hearts and minds

Long way from Kansas or Kentucky…  Pressured by his generals, armchair strategists, blow-hard “patriots” and snookered circumstances, Obama is weighing the scales on this one – to stay, to leave, to stay and leave or…

Meanwhile our little orb keeps telling us a few things, probably things we’d rather not be hearing:

antarctic and greenland meltingIce loss in Antarctic600-sydney-span1Sydney Opera House this Spring (now)balad base iraqRoughing it at Balad Base, Iraqdisneyland dioramaOriginal Mock-up model for Disneyland

And to put it all in a little perspective

raptor rex

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On the other hand, somethings never change, though since the experiment about internet search mechanisms was done, CE gets a lot more hits, and increasingly of this kind – more porn poetry from the search engines:

sucking on your own boobs
great french boobs
big boobs
porn postings
bigtites
pics of the big boobed blue bird
big boobs hd pics
cut off penis
erected
helicopter +boobs
mean wife with big boobs
big boobs no hips
big boobs
beautiful boobs
korean big boobs
limp penis
map of boobs
big bobs arabian women
big boobs amateur
cuts off penis
big boobs
teachers with big boobs
erigierter penis
penis in shoe
penis symbol
big boobs
big boob women
philippines girls boobs photo
big boobs ugly
boobs & cars
guys suking boobs
child erected penis
penis erigiert
arab boobs
big heavy boobs
boobs food
cock boot
yoko ono boobs
big boob star
skinny people big boobs
big boops
big mother fucking boobs
banks boobs
3d penis model
chicago big boobs
pretty penis shapes

[Before diving directly into the tea leave readings, a little notice: there's a new post on Clara's blog, and I invite you to read it: www.paginasparaclarinha.wordpress.com.]

And then while you can, if in New York go to see Leighton Pierce’s installation, Agency of Time (Outside In) at La Viola Bank Gallery, 179 East Broadway, NY NY 10002. (F Train to E Bwy). Up until Oct 18. It is a wonderful piece which I reported on here when it was up at the Sheldon Museum in Lincoln Nebraska

AGENCY OF TIME PICAgency of Time, (Pt 1); Leighton Pierce

And now to the inscrutable tea leaves.

TEA LEAVES CUP The other week, as a little experiment in internet structure – I guess I could read a book about it but I’m more inclined to do a hands-on process instead – I posted some lurid words and images, to see if there would be a flood of hits for such things. As I recall, a few weeks after I noted that the avalanche never came (better watch my language). But here it is now a month or more since posting these items and I note an incremental bit of net poetry along this line:

picture of murdered samuel boob penis erigiert big boobs erected penis guy porn bigboobs boobs falling out what to wear with big boobs erected cock free picture of boobs and girls middls porn big bobs and seat girl big boobs for paul red head big boobs sex big boobs penis 3d explicit porn 8 inch penis 3-d model of penis madison scott boobs big juicy boobs big strong boobs

At the same time, the number of hits to Cinemaelectronica took a major leap, though it would seem a sizable number come from interest in either Iran/Tehran, as this consistently gets a high number of hits, often the highest, or maybe interest in various spellings of Molotov Cocktail, of which a how-to diagram was shown on the Tehran Report page.

ahmadinijad after election

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How to read this is a bit of a question: my guess, certainly an uneducated one in terms of ways-of-the-net, is that there remains a constant interest in what is going on in Iran, however much mainstream US press has lost interest in it. (It perked up again last week when there was a visible demonstration.) Coupled with the interest in cocktails of the non-drinkable alcoholic kind, I’d guess there is some kind of tangible resistance brewing. Perhaps in Tehran, perhaps elsewhere in the world. And also I vaguely suspect that this site, bothering to report at all on matters in Iran, perhaps owing to its title, has slipped by whatever censorship mechanisms might be blocking more obvious sources of information – so perhaps Cinemaelectronica is accidentally a conduit of some useful information for some who can’t get it more directly.

Speaking of which, it certainly seems that in Iran the government is having a much harder time wrestling the opposition into submission that apparently was expected. It seems the hard-line side is somewhat diminished in numbers, and is hence harder on its line. From what I’ve read a sizable number of important members of the clerical element – very important in Iran – have sided with either moderation or the opposition. So the heavy-hand of the authorities, or more exactly, the “authoritarians,” has gotten heavier in customary fashion: if they are hesitant to lock up a big name clergyman or politician they lock up their children or other family members. A sure sign of weakness masquerading as power.

If the very scarce tea leaves I’ve been able to find on this are in the least indicative of anything, I imagine the Ahmadinejad government is likely to collapse in perhaps 6 months. Whether owing to a violent upheaval or to slow termite work, I wouldn’t know, though I would bet on the latter first. It seems in terms of Iranian culture and politics the government has lost all credibility, the prior sanctity of the Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i has been slurried with his crude entry into street politics of the worst kind and the aura is off. It’s now down to vested interests in the military and clergy trying to hold on to what they have – which is evidently a lot of economic control and wealth. Sound familiar?

On that note I must stop and go attend to the real work at hand: editing on Swimming in Nebraska and Piccoli Miracoli as well as trying to think about and organize new film here in Seoul, for which I’ve now 3 actors, plus a few other on-camera people, and a few places to shoot in. We start on Friday with first scene.

TEA LEAVES BRANCH

The other night we went to the closing ceremony for the EX-is festival this year.    From the packed-house audience of the opening night the numbers had dwindled rather drastically, with a scattering of souls – many of them festival staff and help – distributed in clumps about the large auditorium.   The comments were duly said, subdued a bit by this diminuition in bodies present, and on we were to prizes given.  The first were lesser, mostly local ones, boxes of DV tapes for this or that.  None of the filmmakers were present to receive their prize.  Then the jury was introduced, and Pip Chodorov got the duty to read the winners and bestow the large blown-up checks to the similarly absent winners: 1 million won, 3 million won and the biggie, 5 million.  That latter is roughly US$4500 these days, though the won is making a comeback from its fall to almost 1600 = a buck.  Now it is 1200, crawling back to its several years ago parity.

In his introductory remarks Pip said it had been a pleasure to work with his fellow jury members and that they’d not argued, and had all agreed on the winning films.  And he said the festival had been well organized and that all of the films had been good, there hadn’t been a bad one in the hours of screenings. With that cheerful note it was on with the show.

And then they projected the 3 winners, which perhaps explained why the crowd had been winnowed down so drastically.

Showing in reverse order as usual, so theoretically the best was shown first instead of being withheld to the last, began a film by Patrick Bokanowski of France, by title of Battements Solaires.  At first glance it dazzles,  a strange shape eluding understanding, glistening with light, the camera jiggling a fair bit, and then a brilliant golden light flickering and in a bit revealing itself to be water, and a double image.  On the soundtrack a somewhat ponderous minimalist music drones.  This goes on.  And on.  Shapes change, the water is more evident, the music swells and subsides, a horseman rides on a beach of flowing water, and the sense of potential mysteriousness evaporates into irritation at the barren truth that despite the razzle and despite the dazzle, and the clever visual trick of a horse seeming to ride on the golden surf, this all goes nowhere.  But it does go on.   And on.    The music swells up and down; the horse trick returns a few times; the sand and light glitter golden.  18 minutes that seemed much longer.    And so f… king what.    My sentiments were evidently shared by the little audience which gave a very tepid minimalist round of handnoise at the ending.

BATTEMENTS SOLAIRES

BATTEMENTS SOLAIRES2

Walking towards the fire. In a ceaseless stream of light, people, landscapes and objects lead us to mysterious regions. French filmmaker Patrick Bokanowski’s work is hard to classify – and all the richer for it. Together with his wife Michèle, whose musique concrète compositions form the basis of the sound design, Bokanowski offers a prolonged, dense and visually visceral experience of the kind that is rare in cinema today. Difficult to define and locate, its strangeness is quite unique.

Burbled the Rotterdam catalog on this film, which is basically some beach footage at sunset, superimposed here and there, wobbly hand-held and aimless in its mysteriousness.

On to the next one, a far slicker affair coming out of Les Fresnoy, a northern France art factory school, lavishly equipped and in the past at least, manned with “name” teachers.   Title of this was Coagulate, by Mihai Grecu.  Here, rather than sloppy handwaving of the camera, was a cold precision of would-be surreal images: the body of a man underwater, his head absent above the bottom-surface reflections; some things skittering on the surface of the water; a tracking shot along a bland wall, some reverse motion slo-mo water splash.

coagulate1

coagulate.jpg_1696314613

coagulate

Technically a “product” of the well-endowed Le Fresnoy, this film in its 5+ minutes strained for some meaning, but one read the strain more than the meaning.  It tried hard to be weird/surreal, but to no evident effect.  Again, the winnowed audience at EX-is gave a mandatory flapping of limp hands, suggesting my jaded view wasn’t the only doubting Thomas in the crowd.

And on we went to the next, last, and very unmercifully longest winner of the night, From Dust to Dust: Chronicles of Women in Naegok-ri, Kyungsang Province, by Hyejong Cho.  This item went on 49 minutes, with home-footage and fake home footage (computer flare-outs happening like clockwork, all exactly the same), along with new color video, all mindlessly haphazard, to support a recorded voice-over of old women telling of their lives.  No pictures on the net, not that the pictures were much.  In fact the imagery, while having an occasional history/sociology interest, were mostly bland shots of rural fields, trees, and old b&w home-footage, all basically used in utterly uncinematic manner to illustrate the recorded talk of the women.  This was not a film, it was a slapdash collection of material left unformed and stillborn by the maker.    During this one a number of people rightly left, doubtless numbed by the far less than bedazzling quality of the “winning” films.  Again a now virtually inaudible patter of hands concluded the screening and those left dragged themselves to the nearby club for some free beer and nibblies.

Afterward Amber complained to a new friend that sitting beside me had been annoying since I heaved sighs of displeasure (Marcella should have told her sitting beside me during a movie is to be avoided if you don’t like tangible signs of displeased viewer, or for that matter very pleased viewer; cuts both ways.)  Amber said she liked the first two films.  I, as you can see above, thought they sucked, and my audience antennae tell me I was with the majority.

With Chodorov’s comment that “no bad films” were shown, we see perhaps one of the problems of the so-called avant-garde, experimental realm which is that those who act as guides – like Jonas Mekas – don’t have a clue and so pass along for the gullible the idea that crap is gold.  Some believe.

This week, at Yonsei, a couple of my students, present and past, who’d been at EX-is for the week, tentatively asked me about the films I’d seen and were greatly relieved to find out I thought most of it sucked like they did.  In some of the courses they have here they get taught the avant-garde academic canon, which is littered with work like this – hence their fear I might be on the other side of the fence.

There are, of course, exceptions – among them Daniel Cockburn mentioned in earlier post.  There is, here and there, intelligence and wit and talent lurking in the dense shit-pile of AG-film.

And here, since I doubt our heroic USA Mainstream Press will bother to do so, is an item by the recently-released from prison fabled Iraqi shoe-thrower.  He was sentenced to 3 years of prison for this alleged offense, and was let go after 9 months (though not without beatings, etc. along the way).  His crime, as you may remember, was to throw a shoe at the war-criminal GW Bush, former US President, who is also, if there were remotely justice in the world, a candidate for numerous other charges, from crimes-against-humanity on down to lesser things like perjury, lying to the US public, etc.

16shoe.inline1.650

Why I Threw the Shoe

I am no hero. I just acted as an Iraqi who witnessed the pain and bloodshed of too many innocents

By Muntazer al-Zaidi

September 19, 2009 “The Guardian” — I am free. But my country is still a prisoner of war. There has been a lot of talk about the action and about the person who took it, and about the hero and the heroic act, and the symbol and the symbolic act. But, simply, I answer: what compelled me to act is the injustice that befell my people, and how the occupation wanted to humiliate my homeland by putting it under its boot.

Over recent years, more than a million martyrs have fallen by the bullets of the occupation and Iraq is now filled with more than five million orphans, a million widows and hundreds of thousands of maimed. Many millions are homeless inside and outside the country.

We used to be a nation in which the Arab would share with the Turkman and the Kurd and the Assyrian and the Sabean and the Yazid his daily bread. And the Shia would pray with the Sunni in one line. And the Muslim would celebrate with the Christian the birthday of Christ. This despite the fact that we shared hunger under sanctions for more than a decade.

Our patience and our solidarity did not make us forget the oppression. But the invasion divided brother from brother, neighbour from neighbour. It turned our homes into funeral tents.

I am not a hero. But I have a point of view. I have a stance. It humiliated me to see my country humiliated; and to see my Baghdad burned, my people killed. Thousands of tragic pictures remained in my head, pushing me towards the path of confrontation. The scandal of Abu Ghraib. The massacre of Falluja, Najaf, Haditha, Sadr City, Basra, Diyala, Mosul, Tal Afar, and every inch of our wounded land. I travelled through my burning land and saw with my own eyes the pain of the victims, and heard with my own ears the screams of the orphans and the bereaved. And a feeling of shame haunted me like an ugly name because I was powerless.

As soon as I finished my professional duties in reporting the daily tragedies, while I washed away the remains of the debris of the ruined Iraqi houses, or the blood that stained my clothes, I would clench my teeth and make a pledge to our victims, a pledge of vengeance.

The opportunity came, and I took it.

I took it out of loyalty to every drop of innocent blood that has been shed through the occupation or because of it, every scream of a bereaved mother, every moan of an orphan, the sorrow of a rape victim, the teardrop of an orphan.

I say to those who reproach me: do you know how many broken homes that shoe which I threw had entered? How many times it had trodden over the blood of innocent victims? Maybe that shoe was the appropriate response when all values were violated.

When I threw the shoe in the face of the criminal, George Bush, I wanted to express my rejection of his lies, his occupation of my country, my rejection of his killing my people. My rejection of his plundering the wealth of my country, and destroying its infrastructure. And casting out its sons into a diaspora.

If I have wronged journalism without intention, because of the professional embarrassment I caused the establishment, I apologise. All that I meant to do was express with a living conscience the feelings of a citizen who sees his homeland desecrated every day. The professionalism mourned by some under the auspices of the occupation should not have a voice louder than the voice of patriotism. And if patriotism needs to speak out, then professionalism should be allied with it.

I didn’t do this so my name would enter history or for material gains. All I wanted was to defend my country.

© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited

Last night I went out to an EX-is screening, with my friend Amber, who plays lead in Marcella’s film Landing in the Morning Calm.  Wending our way down-town, we inquired just where was the Samillo Changgo theater, since our map was less than clear.   From another EX-is venue a young staff girl guided us (stopping to leap and then cover her mouth, laughing in Korean fashion, as a brown rat, no very big, strangely nosed around on a street corner, seemingly unafraid of people and cars – was rather a cute rat) up a rampway, and finally some stairs, to a small little theater, with some outdoor terraces, where we got tickets, bumped into some friends, and saw Daniel Cockburn, who’d invited us to his screening.  We went nearby and had a BBQ dinner of pork first (about $20 for two plus beer), and then returned for screening.

daniel cockburn

In a lovely small theater, seating 60, marred by a rather wrinkled screen, we sat in what seemed a packed house, and as I noted to Amber, the avant-garde sex ratio seemed tilted heavily to the female side – seemed like 3 girls to 1 guy in the audience.   After a little pitter-patter intro the first film came up, a fuzzy going in-out of focus diagram, which at first had my heart and psyche drop as I thought, “Oh god, more amateur night AG crap…”   However the voice-over was witty, intelligent and engaging, and I gave it some space.  Can’t say I liked it – the fuzzy image of line drawings in 8mm was off-putting, but the talk was droll and smart.   The next piece turned the corner and revealed Daniel Cockburn (pronounced,  we presume for long-ago learned reasons, “Coburn”), of Toronto, a sly, visually adept, and witty natural performer.  The following selection of short works covered a range of visual dazzle and convoluted verbal and intellectual play that had me entranced, and reminded me slightly of another “about the process” filmmaker whom I like a lot, Morgan Fisher.   Real fun.  I’ve asked Daniel to swap DVDs and when he’s returned to Berlin, where he’s living this year (grant I suppose) he said he’ll do so.  I’ll do a proper write-up then.  Meantime if he’s screening near you, go see.  It’s good.

Beydler Pasadena Freeway Stills

Pasadena Freeway Stills, Gary Beydler

FISHER STANDARD GUAGE

FISHER PRODUCTION STILLS

FISHER INSTRUCTIONSMorgan Fisher films: Standard Gauge, Production Stills, Projection Instructions

Morgan lectures at Harvard

The other night I went to the opening of the Ex-is festival here in Seoul – a good experimental/avant-garde one that seems to have grown (up) in the past years.  I was on their jury 3 years ago I think it was, and have gone the last few festivals for some of the screenings.   For the opening they certainly snazzed up their lead-in trailer, a pretty slick intro to the various films they’ll show, all digitized now.  They did their in-person intros, and then following a lovely item – quite different than in the past when the live aspect was anarchic noise music, or jazz, but this year they opted for a woman doing traditional Korean dance with music that I found, as I do a lot of traditional Korean music, lovely and itself rather jazz-like, just with very different instruments.   Then they showed two films, one by Jonas Mekas, doyen of the aging  New York avant garde, one from 1995 titled Happy Birthday John.  Like the other films of his I’ve seen this was a slapdash, rhythmless assemblage, of, well, star-fucking circa 1970 or so.  To say it was a sloppy slightly artyfied bit of home-movie-making of Jonas’ friends of the time:  Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Yoko Ono, John Lennon and assorted other attached lesser luminaries of the New York back-then scene.   Bursts of single framing or undercranking, the odd in-camera superimposition, a lackadaisical wandering hand-held camera flitting about and alighting upon these figures of the fabled ’60′s.   Or on a girl’s butt.  Or…   On and on.  But, like home-movies, unless you are “in the family” these things have little interest as aesthetically and thematically they are usually terminally boring.   If it were not for his famous friends, no one would look at Jonas’ haphazard movie-making for 3 minutes.  And no one should call it “art”.  Ah, but fame lurks, and seeing those mythical figures of the past, smoking a joint, being silly or worse, camping up for the camera, all provides a lurid little interest.  At least for a few minutes.  But on and on it goes until it becomes unintentionally aggravating.  Who cares, Jonas?

jonas_mekasJonas Mekas

At least this one was short, if not mercifully so (at 20 minutes it was way too much) – some of his opus of similar stuff runs into the Bela Tarr time zone, which I am sure no one could really sit through.   EX-is is doing a retrospective of Jonas’ ouvre, and presented an introductory work, by Pip Chodorov, apparently done for French TV.  The style was similar, if slightly more disciplined, and had required TV talking head shots.  Pip is at the festival, 8mm camera in hand, doing similar such diary stuff.   I’ve had a few acrid exchanges in the receding past with Pip and others on his Frameworks list-serve where film (celluloid) is fetishized and sacralized, and certain alleged filmmakers are deified – like Jonas’ favored now-deceased Stan Brakhage (who shows a similar lack of understanding for timing, rhythm, scale – all the elements which make music or any art form function – were one to transpose such work to music it would be unlistenable).   In this adulatory paean to Mekas, Jonas is caught blurting that he was just filming his friends, and that they later on became “famous” wasn’t his fault.  However in 1970 I think the Beatles et al were all well beyond having become “famous.”   One senses the hint of guilt in his knowing that his work is basically star-gazing, with little else to recommend it, sort of a tabloid fanzine for the supposed hip set.  “Oh, look, there’s Allen, there’s Geldzhaler, there’s Yoko, there’s …”  as the camera wobbles and flits around sucking it up.   It was, basically, a party, and looking at the fatuous famous of that long ago era, it is quickly evident why we shortly followed the trajectory of Nixon/Reagan/Bush/Bush & Cheney and all the ugly social, cultural and economic realities they embody: they were getting down to nasty business while the Mekas’ friends gang were essentially goofing off.

In the news along the same line is word that Annie Liebowitz, famed photographer of the famous, extracted a deal from Art Capitol Group to have some more time to pay off a 24 million buck loan, lest they yank her 3 or is it 4 homes, and sell off her photographs and all rights thereto.   The late Susan Sontag’s companion apparently has tastes equal to those of her overly famous subjects and clients.   I vaguely suspect that Jonas and Annie know each other….  Welcome to Vanity Fair.

annie liebowitzAnnie Liebowitz

In the tech department, there’s other advances, leaving Red perhaps in the dust, so fast does our electronic frontier move.   I went with friend Alec the other day to the vast electronics mart at Youngsan, looking for a small HDV or HD camera for him.  He’d researched the matter, and come up with indications that Korea’s Samsung had the most interesting cameras to see.  So we checked them out, and came across this:

samsung cameraLots larger than life-size

A full HD camera, about this size of a fat bratwurst.  Records to SD/SDHC memory cards.  The imaging chip is 1/2 inch CMOS, same size as on my fancy Sony XDcam.   No mike inputs, and lux rate is 15, so not good in low-light.  $500.  But basically this will give you equal to very clean 35mm in image, and the large chip nudges the optical situation to the so-called “movie look.”  For they-don’t-want-you-shooting it looks like a nice deal – hardly looks like a camera.

Along same line are the Canon has a still camera out which can shoot 5 minutes of HD video, and already there are companies providing accessories to movie-ize these cameras, with handles, rack focusing devices, etc.

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Canon EOS 5D, $2500

Not to be outdone, the Panasonic company has a similar still camera, capable of HD video also:

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Panasonic Lumix, circa $800

And a quick search on the web shows many other camera makers are following suit, at far lower prices.  So prepare yourself for a tsunami of hi-res film look shit made with rigs like this (of course you could also make something wonderful):

captain_stubling_lgSee here

Of course none of these cameras come ready-equipped with brain, talent or other requisites for making good films, or whatever one will make of these tools.   The following, purportedly by octogenarian Chris Marker (itself a pseudonym) working under the monicker Kosinki, provides a proof that perhaps all this razzle-dazzle technical whoop-de-doo actually can lead those with brain and talent astray.

I’ve seen a few other recent Marker items which I find similarly dubious.  Equipment problems, or perhaps the other equipment – the gray stuff between the ears showing a little wear and tear.

Yesterday I sat down and finally edited some material shot in the USA last autumn, a droll and clinical bit of “realism” in an Amtrak station in New Jersey and then on train.  Present cut runs 35 minutes, which seems a bit long for a film in which little happens but it seems very interesting; we overhear the “she was terminated” conversation of a businessman.  She was and in the following months so were many millions more.

080929-D-7203C-005

Recently the US Secretary of the Defense, Bush hold-over Mr. Robert Gates, and long time CIA officer, lamented publicly that some photographs of an American soldier dying in Afghanistan had been printed.  He claimed it was an invasion of the family’s privacy and would heighten their grief.

“I cannot imagine the pain and suffering Lance Corporal Bernard’s death has caused his family,” the secretary wrote. “Why your organization would purposefully defy the family’s wishes knowing full well that it will lead to more anguish is beyond me. Your lack of compassion and common sense in choosing to put this image of their maimed and stricken child on the front page of multiple American newspapers is appalling. The issue here is not law, policy or constitutional right – but judgment and common decency.”

Clearly, as is usual for these things, he wished that the unpleasant and awful truth which is war would be kept well away from the public eye.   Like the Bush policy of not showing flag-draped coffins returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Sec. Gates would like a world in which the military is only seen in parades, crisply dressed, or in spectacular sports events fly-overs, and covered with the usual rhetorical clothing which politicians drape upon soldiers:  the nation’s best, heroes, patriots.   Never would they utter, as did Henry Kissinger, the more gruesome reality:

“Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

Which is why the world-round soldiers are generally recruited from the very young – younger the better – and from lower (class) and rural elements, usually lacking in many educational possibilities or encouragements.  While they would never say it out loud, as Henry K did, they like them young, reckless, and stupid.   These words are in public utterance shifted to “brave, heroic, patriotic.”

Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.
Bertrand Russell

“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”
G. K. Chesterton

You’ll never have a quiet world till you knock the patriotism out of the human race.
George Bernard Shaw , “Misalliance”

When a whole nation is roaring Patriotism at the top of its voice, I am fain to explore the cleanness of its hands and purity of its heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson , Journals, 1824

Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell’s Life of Johnson

The heights of popularity and patriotism are still the beaten road to power and tyranny; flattery to treachery; standing armies to arbitrary government; and the glory of God to the temporal interest of the clergy.
David Hume

Patriotism … is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.
Emma Goldman

The notion that a radical is one who hates his country is naïve and usually idiotic. He is, more likely, one who likes his country more than the rest of us, and is thus more disturbed than the rest of us when he sees it debauched. He is not a bad citizen turning to crime; he is a good citizen driven to despair.
H. L. Mencken

Those of us who shout the loudest about Americanism in making character assassinations are all too frequently those who, by our own words and acts, ignore some of the basic principles of Americanism: The right to criticize. The right to hold unpopular beliefs. The right to protest. The right of independent thought.
Margaret Chase Smith

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.
Sinclair Lewis

Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.
William O. Douglas

Secretary Gates is about to ask President Obama for further troops for deployment in Afghanistan, where, following the privatized pattern of Iraq, there are more (much better paid) “contractors” of varying sorts than there are military servicemen.   General Stanley McChrystal, previously cited for having participated in the fraudulent Pat Tillman propaganda effort, is the current commander in Afghanistan.

McChrystal’s Zarqawi unit, Task Force 6-26, became notorious for its interrogation methods, particularly at Camp Nama, where it was accused of abusing detainees. After the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal became public in April 2004, 34 members of the task force were disciplined; five Army Rangers were ultimately convicted of prisoner abuse at Camp Nama.[3][8][9]

McChrystal was also criticized for his role in the aftermath of the 2004 death by friendly fire of Ranger and former professional football player Pat Tillman. The day after approving a posthumous Silver Star citation for Tillman that included the phrase “in the line of devastating enemy fire,” McChrystal sent an urgent memo warning senior government officials not to quote the citation in public speeches because it “might cause public embarrassment” if Tillman had in fact been killed by friendly fire, as McChrystal suspected. McChrystal was one of eight officers recommended for discipline by a subsequent Pentagon investigation but the Army declined to take action against him.[3][10][11] Wikipedia

The general has asserted that with some alterations in strategy, along the line of “winning minds and hearts” the “war in Afghanistan could possibly be successfully prosecuted.”  Whatever.  We’ve heard this refrain before, from Viet Nam to Iraq.  Just give us some more troops, time, political support and we’ll bring the bacon home.

iraq flag draped coffinsYou do see the light at the end of the tunnel, sir?

At the moment, the evidence suggests that Obama will indeed follow orders, and order up another contingent of soldiers for this adventure in Afghanistan.   He is clearly, along with everyone else in our government, in the yoke of the military-industrial establishment, of which it was reported in the last days that our armaments industry, while the world economy is in a slump, took in $38 billion in business,or 68.4% of total global arms sales.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.  

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Speech, 1961

Unfortunately for the past decades this advice was ignored, and slowly American society has been militarized, with the corporations which make these armaments, in collusion with allied corporations in the areas of oil, energy, and communications having in effect bought the government and its members.   The socio-political fluid in which they all work is imbued with the assumptions of a military-industrial-corporate oligarchy, in which any dissent results in expulsion from the community.  You buy into this Weltanschauung or you can pick up your marbles and go home.  Only the big boys are allowed to play.

james madison

James Madison, Political Observations, 1795:

Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few…. No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.

brady-federal-dead-battle-gettysburgUS Civil War

german deade ww1WW I

russian-army-repels-hitlers-forces-1WW II

korea-039Korean War Dead

mylaiMy Lai, Viet Nam

iraq-war2Iraq

afghan war picAfghanistan

US_military_bases_in_the_world_2007 invertedUS Military globally

gates_alt_0406

Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard killed on mission in Afghanistan

It’s been time enough to take stock of the leaves, and as it turns out porn does not rule the Bushian Tubes.  Or perhaps it does, somewhere else, but not here.  My feeble effort to evoke a flood of dirty inquiries failed, and the only indication is a tired old one, “guy porn.”   Otherwise it’s more or less the usual, which makes me wonder just what it means.  Tehran Report consistently tops the listing.  Then comes London #’s 1 & 2.  And then various painters and artists and architects – Guston, Cornell, Rogers.   And no sudden lurch into lascivious hits.   So I now know, perhaps, a little more about how the nets work, as GW would say. It’s dirty work, but somebody’s got to do it.

nationalslide4

So as Tehran is a topic of active concern, some glancing thoughts that way.  Clearly, to the American press, Iran has retreated to the Op-Ed pages, as the visual stimulus of riots on the streets no longer offers the juicy materials for coverage.  Show-trials were passingly mentioned, but being dull affairs, they got their little political mentions from the OpEd guys, but little more.  Iran is left to sort itself out, minus the glare of US TV and pundit-heads.   Which, of course, is not to say there’s nothing going on.  Just that what’s going on doesn’t sell advertising anymore.  Blood and riots and killings, yes; more subtle maneuvers, no.  But, reading the tea leaves we’re given the chance to see it seems there’s a conflict there, one which reveals itself in the statements and machinations of the Ayatollahs of Qum, and the comments of major politicians.  It’s like the old Soviet days of Kremlinology.  Clearly some cat was let out of the bag, and no amount of official obfuscation can hide the truth.  Beneath the surface clearly a lot is going on, though I’d be the last to fathom it. It’s happening discreetly, behind a veil of cultural differences we can’t really pretend to understand.  It just know there’s a consistent interest in molotov cocktails.

Just as I suppose it is hard for those outside America to fathom the reckless auto-destructive actions of the domestic US Right, which is trying its damnedest to make a leap to out-and-out All American Fascism, the old Red White and Blue wrapped around a Bible, and trampling all over the “just a piece of paper” Constitution.  The discord is shrill and the contrast from the Bush-times cordoned “free speech” areas to the present gun-toting shriekers is at the least grimly amusing.  How this is perceived by far away foreign eyes must be something.  About as clear as a sandstorm in Kenya:

kenya sandstorm

Back in the USA summer is over, and the political fires resume.  Obama goes on TV to sell some kind of health care reform, though the waters on this are now so muddied as to have left the field wide open for the Right’s dire simplicities.   Terminating Grandma !  Death panels !  Socialism !   And while it would be useful to have a real discussion on the actualities of so-called health-insurance-for-profit, this pretty much has gone by the wayside.  Just like talking about having a huge population in a desert area lacking in water where certain things are as predictable as sunrise:

01fire3-600

29868504

31fires4-600

One wonders when The Great SoCal Exodus will begin?   The fire department now says they think this fire was started by an arsonist, which seems reasonable.  But then when the official rate of unemployment nationally reaches 9.7% (though this figure is a fantasy), and California’s rate is far higher “officially” and at the same time banks bailed out to the tune of trillions of public money are back in gear, pumping out obscene bonuses to their top honchos, is it any wonder there might be some angry alienation ready to set fire to the national tinderbox?

bernanke gives the fingerBernanke gives the bird?

A bit of unhappy news:  a friend of mine since 1967, Jim Dennett, died on August 28th,  from lung cancer.  He was 75, and had had a good life, working as a production manager and such in Chicago and Hollywood.  He put me up a handful of times when I needed a place to crash, and way early he and Mike Gray let me use their editing bench in Chicago.   And on September 3, Alexis Tioseco and his girlfriend, Nika Bohinc, both film critics – he from the Philippines and Canada, and she from Slovenia, were murdered in their home near Manila.  Apparently an inside-job robbery as motivation.  I’d met Alexis and corresponded with him – a nice guy, smart, and energetic.  He was 28; she was 29.   The story is even sadder than this: Nika was scheduled to return to Slovenia the next day….


If anyone is interested, I have posted detailed steps as how to compile your own Open Source video editor, In this case both Blender and Cinelerra.

Please check these links. If you need any help please write to me. They work marvelous as I have cut a few short and long films on them.

The instructions are for Linux Fedora10 but can easily be utilized for other distributions such as Ubuntu and ArchLinux etc.

Compiling production ready Blender 3D and Cinelerra nonlinear video editor in Fedora
Compiling Cinelerra
Compiling Blender 2.5 (alpha builds)

-Rajiv

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