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Gary Beydler, 16mm film, Hand Held Day (1970)Trader, NY Stock ExchangeForeclosureRustbelt, DetroitTornado, Grand Island, NebraskaMitt Romney and Rick Perry, Presidential aspirantsNina Mannering, killed at 29 in meth’ed out Ohio townMap, Jasper JohnsAttica State Prison, New YorkOccupy, SeattleOccupy, OaklandTodd Morten, Scott’s Bluff, Ne.Hank Williams
George Kuchar, 1942-2011Paramount Cinema, Oakland, Ca.

Rupturing through the slick apathy of corporatized America, where last the semblance of public utterance was underwritten by the Koch brothers in the form of the Tea Party, this autumn found another voice.  Unlike the AstroTurf patriots of the tri-corner hat costumed shills of wealth, whose origins were transparent in their corporate logo mass-produced placards, the Occupy Wall Street movement – triggered by the example of the Arab Spring, fueled with Twitter and Facebook and ironically their corporate heft, as well as seeded by the Canadian anti-corporate magazine Adbusters – is instead truly a grass-roots phenomenon, as signaled in their simple hand-made singular signs.  Willfully lacking “leaders,” the Occupy movement has baffled our “authorities,” be they of the government or pundits representing the ruling class, all of whom take hierarchical order as a natural state of affairs and cannot comprehend its absence.   At its outset, occupying Zuccotti Park in New York City, OWS was seen as a brief quirk, a small cluster of mostly college kids camping in downtown Manhattan.  Palin’s “lame-stream” press did its best to ignore them, in a manner tipping its corporate hand:  when the Tea Party entered the scene the coverage was instant and massive.  But of course, hidden behind the screen, it was their party, supporting corporate interests.   OWS was certainly not theirs, and in the classic Pravda style of the good old USSR, if they didn’t report it, it wouldn’t exist.   And so the major media of America issued its black-out fatwa, very much as the Mubarak regime had done, and officially Occupy Wall Street vanished from view.  But, just as in Egypt, the internet provided the mechanism for an end-run around the the views of officialdom, and rather than withering in a matter of days, variants of OWS began to pop up around the country.  Flummoxed, authorities applied their usual remedies:  police were used to cordon and attack, rules were suddenly applied or invented.  And yet with each maneuver of suppression the movement gained support and within a short period, despite repeated attempts at official suppression and ridicule from the punditry, Occupy Wall Street managed to gain from 47 to 70% favorable polling (depending on which), and the national conversation drastically shifted from discussing how to slash Social Security or Medicare, into  discussing how it was that 1% of the population sucked up most the wealth, had bought the government and the press, and had pretty much ruined things for the 99% below them.  All in six weeks.  Without a “leader.”  Without a talking-point agenda.  Without going on one of the TV network talk shows, or Sunday morning political platforms.  Without all the requisites of corporate dictated politics.

Whether in its current form Occupy manages to survive, or develops into a potent political force, it can reasonably be said that it has already been a massive success in articulating the rage underlying our political and economic system.   Without presenting a platform or a list of requested demands, it has made clear that our economic system is utterly out of balance and does not serve the larger public, and it has pointed the finger at the Masters of the Universe who occupy the suites of Wall Street and K Street, and dictate to our corrupted politicians – from Barack Obama to Mitch O’Connell and on out to the far-right extremes of those presently running for the Republican nomination.   In changing the national conversation from the bullet points of neo-liberalist economics and neo-con foreign policy, it has made a major contribution already towards correcting the insanity which has engulfed our national politics.

Governor Scott Walker, Wisconsin

George Kuchar sees the futureScott Olsen, Iraq war vet attacked by Oakland policeFrom Nathaniel Dorsky’s “The Visitation”

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17 Comments

  1. We are the 5%, of the world, who destroy, ravage and consume 25% of everything the planet and cheap labor can produce. Funny how the lil rich kids can become petulant and demand more from the 1% they believe to be their overlords. We are the problem, globally. Were we, 350 million of us minus 1% to step back and settle for the tremendous wealth and luxury that we enjoy (relative to the 95% of the planet who look on in disgust) the world could take a breath and recover. No?
    Thanks for the stimulus. Really. William. (Photos are inspiring)

    • I have cited the 5%/25% stats many times to point out the disparities in America’s imperial take. But I think it is a cheap shot to suggest the OWS is “lil rich kids” who are petulantly demanding a bigger slice of the pie. I think what is going on is far more complex than that, and much of it points towards an awareness of America’s disproportionate slice of global wealth, and that we should do something to pare our portion down. One step for doing so is to divide the domestic wealth more equitably, and that requires the “1%” take less. A lot less. If politics were rational, and economics too, it would be readily possible to pare down America’s global share to it’s fair 5% and have everyone live reasonably. Neither politics nor economics are rational however. So we must settle for the fumbling which does exist. OWS among them. OWS is scarcely 2 months old. It is already having to face the usual hard-knocks things which political movements confront – take-over attempts by existing “organized” movements seeking power, the magnetic attraction for “bad actors” who are trying to hitch a ride. But so far it is surviving and has certainly kicked the national conversation to a far more useful and meaningful frame than the corporately invented Tea Party did. For which I can only say a large thank you, and keep it up.

  2. Good quip in NYT on housing, Jon.

    My late father in law couldn’t understand why tornados in America shatter so many “houses.” – “They’re made of plywood with veneer” – his daughter explained. “Can’t be!” – the stubborn old man refused to believe. He, a retired construction manager, never built a wall thinner than 9 inches of solid iron-laced concrete or 12 inches of brick (you’ve seen old houses in Europe, Jon). “Oh, yes, – I assured, – these walls are layers of paper, sand and plywood with empty spaces inbetween. The brick veneer you can smash with a hummer.” – “Hm! Why would you buy that, then?” – he wondered. Great question. We didn’t. Still rent a house, obviously made of plywood, that is obviously falling apart.

    It is no small irony that in grossly overbuilt America the whole country effectively needs rebuilding…

    • Yes, since back in 2003 when while shooting HOMECOMING and wandering around inside one of these new houses, and noting structural “beams” made of very crude glued together chip board (trusses made of this crap, really large chips adhering by some amber colored material) in the ocean-side setting of Newport Or., and thinking these would deteriorate in a matter of 10 years in the hard ocean-side climate, along with the rest of the fly-by-night construction methods clearly centered around minimum material/labor for maximum profit thinking, I have been struck how the “housing bubble” never confronted the fact that the houses themselves are as clap-trap as the financial instruments. Birds of a feather: in both sides the idea was to make a fast buck and both used the same things to do so. Lure the customer with a teaser rate; lure the customer with a cartoon whatever facade of some alleged class -Georgian, Edwardian, whatever – a tacked on portico with fiberglass columns or something. Sell them a hollowed-out piece of shit with a gloss of class or “legality” to it, and take the money and run. Barnum had us figured some time ago. Likewise I recall driving into Denver which is surrounded with sprawling developments like these, circa 2005 or so, and seeing billboards advertising these houses for 1.5 million etc. and thinking both “who the hell has that kind of money” and then and “who the hell would buy one of these popcorn houses for that.” With half that if you knew anything you could build a very nicely constructed house of real class. Or even 1/8th of that. But you need to know something, which our universities have been well-honed to assure is not the case. The developers must have laughed all the way to the bank. And now the world is crying….

  3. re your comment in the NYT on Friedman’s column – the Madison quote has been floating around for a while – but the attribution is thoroughly discredited. Before you encourage others to “read their history, ” you might want to check your sources…

    • Thank you for sending me to look. A quick net-check while raising doubts, does not, however, “thoroughly discredit” the quote. Rather it cites a 1900 speech in which it is referenced, saying the quote came from the NY Post, circa Madison’s time. The original is not available. By this measure we can assure that the Bible and most of classic western literature of the Greeks, Romans et all is all “thoroughly discredited.” Other quotes, from Madison’s own writings and letters, would appear to support the content of the quote.

      What is discreditable is that you write but use an obvious pseudonym, and your hiding suggests an ideological ax to grind. So I suppose you’d find this one suspect too:

      “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” — Abraham Lincoln

      There are numerous other figures of equal “patriotic” stature who have said the same things.

  4. Jon – First off, allow me to tell you that this stuff you send into the incalculable blogosphere is so appreciated, I hope you have some idea of its effect. I’m a 29 year old filmmaker, feeling liking I’m only just beginning, and you and your films are a dear inspiration. Unbelievably so. No one like you exists in modern American “independent” filmmaking – and you inspired me to buy my first video camera, several years ago. I write with no other purpose except to say PLEASE CONTINUE TO WRITE. And if you come to America to make your film on the state of things, I would be more than happy to lend you my Canon XF100, on which I hope to create many documents living up to your standards. I have a feeling you would scoff at idols, but you are an idol for an entire generation of younger folks who want to shoot on video in some way that pushes the form. Can we not arrange some kind of retrospective in Chicago (where I live)? Is there anything I can do to make this happen? A lecture? Anything?

    I’m so disgusted with the entity that calls itself our government. I think nearly everyone my age either shares these feelings or naively feels they can change things. This election should put a stop to that.

    Regardless, it’s a criminal offense that you are no longer making films in the country of your birth. You have my apartment, my camera, my car, if you choose to come back and work in Chicago.

    Joel

    • Hi. Well you’re right about idols and all. I guess I am allergic to the idea – I’m just another person, who perhaps does a few things very well, and has had experiences that I learned from. And I try to pass along what I can. I’m glad to know when it seems to help or be useful. So thanks for passing that on.
      Re Chicago: I will be in USA to do a talk at UTenn in Knoxville, and I am trying to line up other gigs. So far in Chicago Facets and the Film Coop have shown interest, though nothing yet set. I am also trying Film Center but so far no reply. I’d be nice to do a handful of screenings since there’s a lot of films I’ve done that haven’t show in Chicago (or the USA). I’d love to show my Iraq war trilogy, as a group (HOMECOMING, OVER HERE and PARABLE). Though I sent them to fests etc, in the period 2004-2010, they got turned down in USA (except San Jose showed Parable). I think I can figure out why. So if you and your friends can help round up some screenings, much appreciated. As a little middle-class-falling-behind story (though until I became a professor here I hardly qualified for middle-class economically, and now I quit teaching I am back to scramble to stay afloat) I note that for the most part the pay for screenings, Q&A, etc. is more or less the same as it was 20 years ago. I noticed that the price of most things went way up since (like $4 coffee!). So slip sliding behind…. with everyone else (except those 1% people).
      And then, I do hope to make a film in the US this summer, something tuned to the time, whatever it will be come 6 months or so from now – I anticipate some quantum bumps downward in the economy. Jim Benning has agreed to play a role in it, and today I just wrote him to ask if he’d also do some shots for it. Don’t yet know where, or much about what. The end of America (thinking of shooting in Neah bay, Washington state – the most western part of mainland USA, a sad reservation town where the American dream seems to have come figuratively and literally to a dead end. Maybe shoot there. However it’ll only happen if I can raise enough $ to cover it, a little for the actors, etc. I am not inclined to go into my marginal rest-of-my-life savings I earned and stashed here (the exchange rate on won just nibbled 15% of it in the last 2 months, but maybe later it will swing the other way or get a lot worse, who knows). I will be doing a Kickstarter campaign to try to raise about 25 thousand which should be enough to pay the actors a bit, put us up where ever, and get it done. So if there’s some way you can help there, I never hesitate to ask.
      Again, thanks for kind words. And when things sort out on days in Chicago, I let you know (I have a place to stay, very old girlfriend – from 1967-8 – who has house etc. there and she and husband are happy to put me up.
      Best jon
      PS: and yes, as this and other blogs show, I follow American politics maybe too closely for my own sanity….

        • Joel
        • Posted November 15, 2011 at 3:00 am
        • Permalink

        Hi Jon – I saw Homecoming at the Siskel Film Center soon after first moving here (2005/2006) and would love to have an opportunity to see the other films in the trilogy – so I hope something works out on that front. The Siskel’s Conversation at the Edge series might be a good fit; it’s run by the Film, Video, New Media department at SAIC. I can’t find a direct contact on the site (http://blogs.saic.edu/cate/contact-us/), but they have an email address: cate@saic.edu. I went to SAIC for a year of grad school and while I haven’t kept in touch with my professors there, I’ll send an email to my old adviser and see if maybe I can get a better contact. Besides that, I wonder if Doc Films would be willing to host something: http://docfilms.uchicago.edu/dev/. Also, recently, the Northwest Chicago Film Society was founded a group of projectionists (the same who ran an archival film series at the __insert bank name__ Cinema in the Portage Park neighborhood – more recently LaSalle Bank Cinema until they were bought by Bank of America who agreed to pay for the series for a year or so, until they realized there’s no money in it). They hold archival screenings at the Portage Theater once a week along with occasional screenings at a space in Wicker Park (Cinema Borealis). Not sure how much they’d be willing to stray into the present tense, but it might be worth a shot. They work with The Nighingale Theater, which may be a little more in the vein of your work: http://nightingaletheatre.org/contact.html. I know they hold screenings of more experimental stuff. Besides that, I wonder if the Block Museum at Northwestern would be interested: http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/block-cinema/index.html. Anyways, just some suggestions based on what’s currently going on in the Chicago film scene. I’ll send emails to anyone I think could help.

        As for Kickstarter, a friend of mine managed to raise about $13,000 (double his goal) for a first-time documentary, so with your name, reputation, history, etc, I definitely think $25,000 is doable. Posting links on mubi.com and other sites frequented by cinephiles who know and admire your work would help drum up some real interest (and money), I would think. Also, maybe if you make some kind of intro video for the campaign site, something detailing what/where you aim to film and how, etc. – seems to help from what I’ve seen.

        But definitely let me know when you launch the campaign and I’ll contribute as much as I can. And if/when you make your way to Chicago.

        And I’ll let you know if anything turns up on my end.

        Great hearing from you,
        Joel

      • Thanks for the info Joel. So far I have bites from Film Coop, and nibbles from Film Center and Facets. It’ll come down to finances. Film Center offers $350 but it must be “exclusive” – to say no other Chicago gigs. So if I can get a few at $200 @ I go that way. Film Center said Iraq trilogy was no go as Iraq war is toxic BO-wise. So we can’t talk about reality. Welcome to the movie biz!
        Meantime I will check out the others you have listed and see what I can come up with – it’d be nice to have 2 or 3 things, but we must see if my tattered rep (age will do it, unless you last to Oliveira’s age and then it becomes a plus. Only have to hang in another 30+ years….).
        I’ll hope to put together a good Kickstarter package, though I can’t do so until I get clear word on my coming year – Tokyo or USA. I’ll post on cinemaelectronica my schedule as it starts to form up. And as I have your email I’ll let you know directly and look to meet you when there. Thanks again. jon

  5. I should add, beyond disgust, that everything here and now is a joke. a vomitorium. a disgusting mess. and I’m sure it’s not hard to spot abroad how grotesque this all is. The end of an empire.

  6. Gosh, if you want to see what the end looks like, come to Detroit.

    • Hi I was in Detroit, I forget how long ago, if it was 10 years or 5. I did a screening or was it two for a filmmakers group there. I’d love to get there and do some more and see Detroit further on its way to post-industrial globalization ruin. I’d love to come by this spring, so if you know of any film group or museum or university that could host me, I’m interested. Whether then or later, I will definitely be there to shoot some for my American essay film, #3 of sequence, when I get around to shooting it. Whether this coming year or the one after it (depends if land Tokyo stay). I must say when I was there and got taken on a little tour of once-residential areas now looking like a war-zone, as well as the largely abandoned center of the city, well… Thanks to American capitalist practices the city has been gutted. Do let me know if you have any contacts or suggestions as to people who could screen something, do a workshop. I think it is pretty sure I’ll be in Ann Arbor so it’s quite close.

    • i try and make it a point to do a rough drive by film each year i’m back there, detroit area.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRtwdc7MpVQ

      • Well it was bad when I was there 10 years ago; now it’s a hell of a lot worse. Globalized America – CEO’s take home billions and cites get laid waste. The pressure cooker is cooking. Thanks for posting that Eli. See you maybe in spring in LA?

  7. I’ll try to contact some people. Maybe my cousin could be of assistance. He is a regional artist and knows a few people. But, I can’t say anything will be for certain. This region is so culturally wasted. Yet, there are positive things happening in and around the core of the city. There are alot of revitalization efforts underway. I believe that the city’s core will comeback, but the city itself won’t be anything like it was years ago.

  8. Well said, Mr. Jost.

    Your comments about the reluctance of the mainstream media to cover OWS are correct. It is interesting that OWS, the 2011 Wisconsin demonstrations and the Wisconsin efforts to recall Scott Walker have been relatively ignored, while the Arab Spring events have been covered in depth.

    And here’s to the hope that OWS will continue to occupy from Spring through Fall 2012. The camping bans can be overcome by protesting in shifts, without camping.


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