In September alone, 284,000 jobs vanished, the Labor Department now says, revising its initial estimate of 159,000.
So reports the NY Times, buried at the back end of an article announcing that in October some 240,000 jobs were lost. You don’t image that slippage of 130,000 in the September figure had anything to do with politics, do you? And maybe the October figure will be adjust next month with a similar proportion, leaping to 400,000 or something. Ah heck, it’s just numbers, like the Constitution is just a goddam piece of paper.
So the euphoria of Obama’s election settles down, he hits the road running two months before inauguration day, unfortunately surrounded with a mess of people who in fact had an awful lot to do with the mess we’re in. Goldman Sachs was the biggest single fiscal supporter of Mr. Obama. Mr Paulson used to be CEO thereof, and the smell emitting from this collusion is mighty bad in my humble viewpoint. But as the old adage says, politics makes for funny bedfellows. I’ll be tolerant for a while, and I concede the problems at hand don’t permit a great leap into the unknown. But we do know Paulson and his ilk and up to their eyeballs in the shit that hit the fan recently. That they should fathom the solution leaves lots of room for doubt.
Meantime one of the great corporate American empires is begging Uncle Sam for a handout (again). Yep, fabled General Motors says its about to go under if the citizenry doesn’t prop it up. Just can’t sell them damn SUV’s no more, and that’s all they’ve been making, raking in the dough.
“For years I thought that what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.”
So said Charles Wilson, who was more famously misquoted as having said “What’s good for General Motors is good for America.”
How the mighty have fallen. Which fabled American enterprise is next in “going socialist” and asking to be bought out by the government?
Anyway see you at the foodstamp office or the unemployment line.
And then here’s a little film world item. In the past few weeks I’ve been having a happy little exchange with remnants of Newsreel. For those not knowing, Newsreel was a 1967/68-birthed kind of socialist (oh my god!) collective which made, distributed and exhibited political/social films. It was meant as an alternative to the mainstream media, and blah blah blah. You get the drift. In reality it sprang up rather spontaneously in a handful of places in the USA, as different clusters of filmmakers had much the same idea – to make films that addressed the Viet Nam war, racism, sexismn, and other topical ills of the moment. To my awareness various people in Berkeley, Boulder, Ann Arbor, Chicago, and New York emerged, doing somewhat the same thing. It manifested itself in Film Coops, like the one in New York, in Chicago, and Canyon Cinema in San Francisco – these were mainly for arty filmmakers to have a distribution system. But as the political climate heated up political people, and/or political filmmakers thought to focus more directly on matters social/political and hence was born Newsreel. On hearing of each other, these groups contacted, and under the name Newsreel, I think deriving from NYC group, everyone banded together (supposedly) and Newsreel, the national lefty organization was born. I had helped start the Chicago version, with two friends, Kurt Heyl and Peter Kuttner (see following for more), a bit spinning out from setting up the Chicago Filmmaker’s Coop, for the artsy folks. We went to NY and met the people there, as it were signed up, and voila we were part of Newsreel. I participated from November-December 1967 in the Chicago version, and then until August 68 after we’d joined up. The below tells a bit of the story.
Anyway Newsreel this year, still chugging along in San Francisco after a few name changes over the years, is celebrating its 40th birthday. So Peter Kuttner wrote me about how the Chicago contingent had been, uh, deleted from the history, and at the same time I got – since somewhere along the line I got on their mailing list – a notice about their party. In turn, I wrote a note to their list, and subsequently got some replies.
Here’s what I wrote:
On your list, but incognito I guess. :
> definitely bring April 27
> we’ll figure something out
> thanks for updates
> now on
> dave torrance <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> jon jost <email@example.com>
> but who are these folks?
> do you know?
> At 12:57 AM 10/31/2008, you wrote:
> >In a message dated 10/27/08 6:11:00 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
> >>——– and these are unfamiliar to me
> >email@example.com – jon jost (chicago then, seoul, korea now)
> >firstname.lastname@example.org – dave torrance (chicago then, carbondale IL now)
> >i’m looking forward to seeing you and the rest. i’d be really happy
> >if you can find the 15min needed to screen April 27 the only chicago
> >newsreel film finished while nr existed. It’s about a “police riot”
> >in 1968 chicago before “the whole world [was] watching” in august
> >4 months later
A little discarded history: in 1967, in my case about 9 months after I’d been released from a 27 month residence in Federal custody for refusal to serve in the US military, I and Peter Kuttner and Kurt Heyl formed in Chicago a politically oriented filmmaking coop. That was sometime around Oct-Nov 1967. In December we went to NYC and met up with Newsreel and “joined up” and became Chicago Newsreel. In the next months we showed Newsreel films, plus some of ours – Peter, Kurt and myself all had films of political content which we screened where possible, though as it turned out they didn’t much fit the Newsreel style. I worked out of the Mobe office, at the time living with SDSer Marilyn Katz (who remains a good friend and where I stayed on a recent quick US tour, having a nice breakfast at her home with Peter and another prison-met friend of mine in the brief slice of time available), and living Uptown with the police parked out front as we were “organizing” and hence, Red Squad bait.
In April there was a post-MLK assassination demonstration at the Federal Plaza which turned into a police-riot. I wasn’t there, but Peter was, and there were some others who shot stills and some film. We were asked, I forget by whom but know it was some comfortable suburban “communist” to make this into a film, which I organised, edited, did some voice over for (all, typically to my experience, unpaid for by the champions of the working classes…) using the material Peter and others had made. As a “Newsreel” film it was perhaps a bit too sophisticated, not abiding by the lower east side anti-Hwd aesthetic that seemed the ideologically OK way to work coming out of the NY section.
In summer of 68 the New York contingent of Newsreel barged in, to make their Convention film. I use “barged in” because it accurately describes the arrogant pushy manner in which they behaved, certainly regarding we Chicagoans as “second city” (or worse). Kurt and I were the first busts of the convention, a few weeks before it even started. He and I had gone down to the Stockyards to shoot the little White House portico they were building onto the convention building. On returning to his little VW, 6 police cars swooped down on us, and arrested us.
We looked like raving hippies, long hair, beards, shabby summer shorts and t-shirts, with a Bolex and tripod. We were interrogated by the precinct guys, the Red Squad, the FBI and the Secret Service (interest diminishing as we went up the totem pole of power and they understood we weren’t the would-be assassins of Mayor Daley’s finest’s imaginations). I got released after 8 hours, and Kurt got out later that night sprung by his wife. He’d been held over owing to some automotive infraction. We reported this to the Mobe, which might have clued them, and all of us, into the impending events, but it was glided over. I do recall talking with Tom Hayden, who noting my 2+ years in prison, said he didn’t think he could (or would) be able to do such. It didn’t set well with me later on when a horde of Mobe folks went down the streets chanting “Free Tom Hayden” when he was busted and spent the night in the joint. Quivering Tom.
Meantime the NY contingent basically walked over we Chicagoans, busy making their film, using and abusing. This too didn’t set well, though it meshed with their performance before, and alas, ever since. I believe some of the footage our group shot was incorporated into one or several NY Newsreel films, though to my recollection with no notice. You know, all the “collective” stuff.
During the Convention I recall being in Grant Park, surrounded by National Guardsmen and police, while the masses of people who had materialized after the police had gone berserk were led with chants by the slumming big names who showed up to grab the spotlight: Norman Mailer, Alan Ginsberg, Jean Genet and others. Those masses hadn’t shown up owing to the labors of the Mobe which had failed dismally to get the 100,000 they were looking for (about 10K showed up thanks to the Mobe’s efforts), but were first mostly local kids looking for some action, later joined by others from around the nation, all thanks to the over-reactions of Mayor Daley’s guys in blue. Politically the Mobe had been a failure and was only rescued by the worst failure of the city managers.
At the end of the Convention Marilyn and I were riding out to some farmers place, west of the city, invited for a picnic to take a break after the mayhem of the week. I was sitting beside Rennie Davis, who was wearing his head bandage, a little blood on it. He looked at Marilyn and I, and lifting it off, said “I guess I don’t need this anymore.” My sense of comradery shrank to nothing: the “leaders” were just like the folks on the other side – manipulative people who would fake for advantage, who couldn’t do time. The subsequent stories of Rennie and Tom (and Rubin) tells all too much of what it was really like.
And history makes clear that the entire “Movement” was a failure – America, conned by Nixon, lurched to the right, and basically kept on going there. The Vietnam war dragged out with another 25,000 US dead, and a million or two Vietnamese (and Cambodians and Laotians) left dead as well. The 60’s overall proved little more than a short-term fashion, the folks wearing bell-bottoms shifting easily from Yippie to Yuppie, like Rubin, ready to follow the Dylan line ironically another way “don’t need a weatherman….” and the wind was blowing from the Right, and money became fashionable, and here decades later $4 cups of fancy-ass coffee is the norm.
Of myself, after the convention Marilyn and I went to California, where she (censored censored) and I hung around the edges of political actions around Berkeley, the smell of tear gas and helicopters overhead echoing the Chicago events. I checked in with Newsreel people there and checked out thanks to the doctrinaire leftism I found. Marilyn returned to Chicago and full-time political work; I – like many others – went rural. Oregon and Montana for 6 years. During which time I made Speaking Directly, which tried to survey the wreckage of America in a large ambitious film, made over a year, 16mm color, for $3000, while living in a no electricity, no running water, no heat shack, naturally with no money, 30 miles from Canada near Kalispell. Much to my amazement it went to festivals, and was bought and broadcast by the UK’s Channel Four a decade later. They also funded its follow up, a 2 hour essay on America, PLAIN TALK & COMMON SENSE (1985) and showed it. It has a line in it, which was true then, and remains true, something like: “This is a film made by an American for Americans, which will never be shown in America.” And it hasn’t been.
I kept in vague touch with Newsreel and the people around it for years, watching it mutate, change its name with the convoluted internal politics which had made me quickly leave it. The same narrow doctrinaire behavior of most people involved in politics pushed out those of artistic inclination, those unwilling to swallow the latest turn on the day’s political correctness. Thanks in part to this, Newsreel was a complete failure in real-world terms, though periodically it is romantically celebrated, as I suppose your current event will do. I was at such a celebration at the Yamagata festival a handful of years back (because one of my films was showing there), where a few old Newsreelers were feted, and no one mentioned the word “failed” but rather waxed dreamily about the revolutionary good old days.
Unlike many of my friends, I do not look back on the 60’s or Chicago 68 with any nostalgia. It was, bluntly, a failure. We (all of us) were young and more or less stupid regarding the larger world. Idealistic maybe, but ignorant and easily taken by romantic notions. I recall my first introduction to Newsreel New York, going into an office where Robert Kramer played with his gun, and the girls were bossed around in the worst of sexist manners, but seemed themselves attracted by the macho Che posturing. Robert left Newsreel too, or maybe he was kicked out, though his ICE – a preposterous piece of fantasy in which Robert played heroic revolutionary of NYU – is periodically trotted out as a sterling example of the fervor of the times. Again, its infantile politics, (which Robert – whom I bumped into occasionally on the festival circuit before he died – continued to pursue to the end, always politically wrong, blinded with his phony Marxist BS, probably to counter his real world situation of being the son of a well-off doctor who never spent a day of real discomfort) were never mentioned, nor in the case of his other equally wrong-footed films. The last time I saw Robert he was still playing his role, the rich-kid revolutionary. But he was 60 and should have learned better.
Anyway time flies. Most of us are soon headed to the grave. In a few more days we’ll see if the long drift to the right in the USA takes a turn, bottom of the pendulum, and the long overdue corrective commences. Rather late in the game, but unlike most of my left friends, who have for some time acted like whipped dogs, while acknowledging the grimness of the moment, I was optimistic that the shift would come, in terms most American and we can ride the gentle tide of history’s wavelength up a bit. Along the way it’s best to learn from one’s mistakes and look the judgment of one’s own history straight in the eyes. Newsreel, along with the overall left, whatever name you care to affix to it, has largely been a failure. We need only look around us to see it.
Last little note: Kurt Heyl lives in Brooklyn NY and Cerillos NM, painting, playing free improvised music; Peter Kuttner lives just outside Chicago, works as a camera assistant in Hwd type films, and is a union organizer in said business. Jon Jost obtained his first real job last year at 64 and went from college drop-out expellee (1962) to “Professor” in one rather long fell swoop. Now living in Korea with my wife, Marcella (Italian). I keep busy making films as an extremely bad habit, making them for a world in which, for some time, there has been absolutely no “market” for what I do, and frankly I don’t give a damn. I think a bit after the political pendulum lumbers leftward, we’ll see a cultural shift as well, as the public pukes up the “entertainments” of the corporate world, and a little cell here and there looks for other things. But, please, let’s not do anything like a re-run of the 60’s.
If interested in further information on yours truly, see the website and blog, (and also http://www.cinemaelectronica.wordpress.com).
The first response I got was this, from Roz Payne, who seems to be acting as coordinator/secretary for whatever remains of the original Newsreel group.
jon jost wrote " I recall my first introduction to Newsreel New
York, going into an office where Robert Kramer played with his gun,
and the girls were bossed around in the worst of sexist manners, but
seemed themselves attracted by the macho Che posturing.
EXCUSE ME, The Che image is in you head. Robert was always
Robert . He was attractive as were most of the men and the women
in Newsreel , but none of them were Che.
I was one of the "office girls" I opened up the office every
morning and I was Not BOSSED AROUND BY ROBERT, none of us in the
office were ever bossed by Robert. INFACT, IF THERE WAS ANY
BOSSING IN THAT OFFICE IT WAS ME BOSSING PEOPLE AROUND at times to
clean films, take films to the PO, writing or NOT writing checks for
them to spend .
I do not remember you . Robert never played with a gun in our
office . that I ever saw. Many of us had K55 cat knives ( girls and
boys ) and we liked to sharpen them during meetings while we were
sitting and discussing issues, many of us would also crochet so at
the end of the meeting we would have a hat or scarf. . Do you
know the difference between props and real guns? After 40 years ,
your memory must not be clear. It sounds like you are jealous of
Robert and a "male chauvinist to think we were "bossed by him" I
could call Robert other names , but not a boss.
I was in Chicago 68 during and before the Democratic
convention. You do not remember me from that period or from
Chicago NR office. I was there . By the stories and names you
drop your eyes were only on the men Robert, Rennie, Tom, all friends
and big shots. You drop names like my pear tree dropped pears this
year. I also went to the farm that you talked about after the
convention ended and had a wonderful time with the farmer and his
family who opened their home to us , fed us and brought us
blankets. We slept in the hay loft of the barn. We stayed a few
days and it was wonderful. One day, we went to the county fair
with them where Jonathan Chernoble NR ( now an Israeli settler ,
saving Israel from the palestinians) gave out copies of The Rat
newspaper and almost got busted. The reason I remember all this is
because I was always shooting stills of everything we did and have
photos of everything. Rennie took off his bandage because his head
had stopped bleeding , no need for a bandage anymore, very
natural. . Newsreel was a collective of
different people. it is clear by what you wrote and your web
site that you do not work collectively .
Newsreel produced so many films because we worked together . shared
equipment, film,production $, our homes and at times our
lives. It was a joy for me to be in Newsreel. It was and continues
to be a family to me. Sometimes it was hard , but
altogether it was one of the best times of my life. I can not
think of any other place I would want to spend the sixties Many of
the members are still my closest friends, we are aunts and uncles to
each others children . I am so very happy to see old Newsreel
members when we meet. We have shared a time together for a number
of years and produced films that are now used in schools,
universities, libraries . Most important political organizers today
are still using the films to learn, to organize, to teach history ,
and to show "how it was" The films Newsreel produced are valuable
and help to tell the history of the Sixties and Seventies. NR
films are shown in schools, theaters, homes all over the
world. Our diverse films have helped to preserve part of the the
history of that period. And, diversity is one of the keys. so many
diverse NR folks made a diverse collection of films.
Because we were a collective we could make all sorts of films by
following our hearts and minds. We have womens films, workers
films, student films, ecology films , hippie films Vietnam War,
struggles in latin american countries and at home. Our films were
made for us and other groups to use to help and make our lives
better Black Panthers, Young Lords, & La Raza .
Today, Newsreel films are part of the history of America. The
history of diversity , our collectivity, we were part of The Movement
and the movement was part of us.
Newsreel was not for all , you, Jon Jost fell thru the cracks and
landed in the mud with your bad memories of us. I am sorry
Today , Newsreel films are part of the history of the USA and the
world. Newsreel helped to make the world better with our stories
Robert might say to me bullshit. , but that is ok, because I could
say bullshit back to him .
" All power to the people and all power to Newsreel "
roz payne <http://www.newsreel.us>www.newsreel.us
Following this I got a response from Allan Siegel, whom I believe
was one of the original NY group:
Subject: Re: newsreel & emails
Date: Sun, 2 Nov 2008 00:47:14 +0100
Gee Jon, these are some very profound words…
I do not look back on the 60’s or Chicago 68 with any nostalgia. It was, bluntly, a failure.”
Jon Jost (edited for clarity)
FAILURE seems to be the operative word here… AND while some people mellow with age, even acquiring a bit of wisdom, others turn sour and cranky… which seems to be the case with your little diatribe. Your vignettes actually provide some sense of that history but your self-righteousness and myopia belong in the rubbish bin.
To which I responded:
The “rubbish bin” conclusion rings of, uh, well, something like Stalinism American left style. I believe Alan was of the NYC contingent and I guess was offended by my version (about which I have had some other responses concurring) of the history. Some things, I guess, never change.
Roz then wrote another item, to which I responded as follows:
To which we note in this case my banishment to “the mud” which I am not sure is better or worse than Allan’s eviction “to the rubbish bin.” Having for some years lived on a little no nothing place in Montana, with a big garden, I don’t really regard mud as a bad thing, rather a useful one. Ditto rubbish bins, having in times in life been a “dumpster diver” and – and even still today – one who takes useful things from the garbage.
< Rennie took off his bandage because his head had stopped bleeding , no need for a bandage anymore, very natural. >
My recollection of things, clearly, is rather different. I do know that I sat beside Mr Davis when he pulled off his theatrical head bandage, like a cap. It was a propaganda prop. Roz was not in the car. Marilyn Katz and I were. Yes, Roz, I know the difference between props and the real thing. Be it guns or bandages. My memory of Robert and the gun fondling, and seeming sexism, was prompted by a reminder, during a breakfast a few weeks ago with Peter Kuttner, by Marilyn Katz, who was there in the Newsreel office back in early 1868 with me.
< ” All power to the people and all power to Newsreel “>
This kind of shallow and empty left rhetoric, which was certainly the Newsreel style once the artists had left, is one of the reasons I departed. That anyone holds onto it 40 years later suggests an ossification of life, or perhaps (kind of the same thing) a desperate nostalgia. The intolerance of these letters from Roz and Allan both provide ample indication of why I left Newsreel early on.
Out here in the rubbish bin, wallowing in the mud, in the last few years we’ve completed 3 new feature films (1 regarding a returned Iraq vet; 1 a parable about the Bush years; and the third a portrait of Stephen Lack, actor and painter.) Also managed a few half hour shorts, video installation, and have several others features on the editing line. I guess mud and rubbish are productive environments.
To which Allan responded:
||ALLAN SIEGEL (email@example.com)
||Wed 11/05/08 3:19 AM
||Jon Jost (firstname.lastname@example.org)
as I said before your self-righteous rhetoric is boring
but now I see you know as little about art as you do politics
(if you voted it must have been for McCain as he thought the 60’s were a failure also)
To which I responded:
The following was received from Allan Siegel. Yet another example of why I departed Newsreel those 4 decades ago. Snide, puerile and, well, politically wrong in the simple-minded manner one found in Newsreel’s politics back then. I thought the 60’s were a failure; McCain did; ergo I must have voted for him. Pure and simple stupidity, Allan. But rather reflective of much of what passed for political analysis in Newsreel.
<but now I see you know as little about art as you do politics>
I’m sure you’re expert in both fields and can make these judgments without a trace of doubt.
Here’s the note from one apparently rather unhappy Allan, whose ad hominum comments speak only too much for his state of mind and spirit:
as I said before your self-righteous rhetoric is boring
but now I see you know as little about art as you do politics (if you voted it must have been for McCain as he thought the 60’s were a failure also)
And Roz, then wrote:
||Roz Payne (email@example.com)
||Wed 11/05/08 10:05 AM
||Jon Jost (firstname.lastname@example.org)
On Nov 4, 2008, at 8:07 PM, Jon Jost wrote:
no, mud is good, and so is compost,
as gardners we both know this roz