Jon Jost is a veteran film and video-maker, having made his first work in 1963 in Cassina Amata, Paderno Dugnano (Milano), Italy. Since then he’s worked continuously, making some 40 feature length works, more than thirty short films, several installations, along with painting, writing, and playing-composing music (C&W). While his films have been screened regularly in major festivals and small ones too, they fail almost all criteria for the present day “market economy” value system, and are more or less not shown outside the festival circuit. In the last few years they seem also not to suit festivals, as the rejection list gets longer, though the films are among his best.

An inveterate traveler, Jon has lived since 1962 in Chicago, San Francisco, Ben Lomond, Los Angeles, Leucadia (CA); Cottage Grove (OR), Kalispell, Butte (MT), Berlin, London, Lisbon, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, New York City, Port Hadlock (WA), Portland, and Lincoln (NE), Seoul, S Korea, Ragusa (Sicily, Italy).   After quitting his job as “Distinguished Professor” at Yonsei University in July 2011, he has lived with his wife, Marcella, on the road in Europe and the USA.  Now in Belfast, N Ireland where we attempt to find the brakes.

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85 thoughts on “JON’S SHORT BIO

  1. Hi Jon,
    I just read your comment on the NYT regarding Errol Morris’ Vermeer article, wherein you raised a point about the “red hat” and “girl with flute” in the National Gallery.
    One of my former professors (Ben Binstock at Cooper Union) just published a book called “Vermeer’s Family Secrets: Genius, Discovery and the Unknown Apprentice”, which makes a pretty audacious yet convincing claim about these and several other “Vermeers”.
    Here’s link to the book’s web page:
    -Feliz Solomon

  2. Dear Mr. J. Jost,
    I stay in Karlsruhe, Germany. Last week opened at the ZKM, which is based here, a new exhibition with a work you did in 2000-02, titeld: Trinity, an Altar piece. Can you give me same information about it, It´s realy beautiful!
    Claudia Pohl

    1. Hi – I’m glad you liked it. The ZKM didn’t let me know they were putting it back up – I must write them. I hope it was installed somewhat better than the first time around when it was too small, too high up and other things. I’m not sure what I can tell you about it. I’d lived in Rome some time, and visited many churches (for the art – I am not in the usual sense “religious”), and clearly Trinity was influenced by my look at many altar pieces. It is willfully organized as one, both formally in the panels, in the cross layout of having two screens perpendicular to the 5 screens on the walls, and then temporally it is the “passion” sequence – Gethsemane, Golgotha, the Ascension and the Assumption, in that order, and the tonality of the work tuned to those ideas. Aside from the “word” an”big Bang sequences, all the visual material was generated from a single one minute and some seconds long shot, reworking it on computer with standard video processing. Nothing is repeated, every frame is different from all others. If you want more drop me a line at my website address Best jon

  3. Your comment yesterday in the NYT really goes to the core. Thank you for that and for taking the time to organize and share others’ and your impressions (visual and written) of current events and pertinent historical accounts. It is a very powerful presentation.

    Although I think you are overly pessimistic (these are all the demolitions and building blocks created by our transition from a second wave society–industrial–into the Third Wave–information–which will enshrine the values which you profess (and lament for their here-to-fore absence). Thanks to people like you, they will arrive sooner.

  4. Hi Jon: I am one of Roger’s daughters. I know he was a friend of yours and enjoyed being part of your films. Thought you might want to know he died a few days ago of Alzheimers. Thanks for putting him on film – we’ll always be able to enjoy him the way he was, thanks to you!
    Best Regards,

    1. Hi, Thanks for the notice. He had a good long life, was a great guy, so I am not sure condolences are right – more a little celebration. He always was wonderful for me – Angel City (’76) to Slow Moves (’82) to Rembrandt Laughing (’87) to All the Vermeers (’90) – in the films, but also in real life.
      Best and again thanks for letting me know.

  5. Just found your blog after looking for your DVDs online (let me know if there is somewhere I can pick up bits from your catalog).

    There are two scenes you shot that I can never seem to shake from my head – one is the cassette recorder playback/driving up Sunset scene, and the other is when the camera hangs for 3 or 4 minutes on the empty room after the characters have gone into the back room.

    Thanks for what was clearly a lot of hard work through the years!

  6. Hello from Ireland, Jon.
    Read a great article/essay of yours in Film Ireland Sept/Oct 2009. As a result, with a borrowed camera and student to operate it, I went out and filmed in a few days what I had been threatening to do for years (I’m your vintage, 63) -I made a documentary. I’m still shaping it up on a freeware editing suite, but it’s beginning to look and feel well. Now I’m getting greedy and would like to be a one-man, ‘guerilla documaker’. I wonder if you could recommend a budget video camera? I am interested in recording – on a no-budget basis – folk-farming methods and interviews with surviving practitioners, that sort of thing. I would mostly donate the work to museum archives, do the odd presentation, but it would be good as well if the recordings were of a sufficient quality to be broadcast. I know…but…
    The bug has really bit me: I have just, for the first time, done a screenplay for a feature length film. Of course its brilliant, will star Daniel Craig and gross more than Avatar…
    Best wishes to you and Clara

    Slán agus Beannacht

    Ever-deluded Jim, Hungry Hill, Beara, Co. Cork

    1. Hi
      Glad the article did something! Too bad you missed the workshop in Galway, which worked out pretty well. Anyway keep it up. As far as cameras go there are now a slew of HDV or real HD ones, with half-inch CMOS chips (fromm about $300 to $1000, though the cheaper ones are mostly automatic everything and therefor a bit limiting). The one you might want to look for would be one that has a microphone input – either proprietary, as some SONY’s are, which have a hot-foot to put a directional mike on it, or else one with a mini-plug input, which you could attach to a good cheap external mike like RODE video-mike I have. You can screw it on the bottom (if not using tripod) where camera would attach to t-pod, or rig some other way. Good luck on out BOing Avatar…

  7. Hey Jon, I saw your comment to a recent NYTimes article, and was delighted to see that you’re still alive. You may not remember me, but we hung out some when you were in the Bay Area back in the Sixties (or were they the Seventies?) Your blog is gorgeous! Good to know that you’re still working and still fighting. Korea? Well, whatever works, my brother. Warmest regards, Mike

    1. Are you still in San Francisco? Or moved along somewhere else? We’re in Korea making a very belated bit of savings to limp out the rainy days to come – though we’ll let them come in some less costly SE Asian or Latin American place when the time comes. Meantime keeping busy – I feel like the blogging is steadily supplanting film-video making in my list of interests. best jon

  8. Just read your post to a frank rich editorial in the NYT. I live with my wife in Shenzhen China and am teaching English in a private school here. I like to keep in touch with like thinking individuals.
    Currently my web site has a flaw in the contact Email address due to my move and not yet having the time to repair it. I hope to have the contact Email up and running again soon but I can be reached at the Email I left on your contact form.
    I think what is happening to our country is an abomination but I am not hopeful that things will improve any time soon. Hope I am wrong.

  9. Your comment in the NYTimes today (3/17) is brilliant.

    ….. a place of endless fruitless violent argument all over a figment of the imagination.

    I am sending Obama encouraging thoughts to keep the heat on Bibi


  10. Hi Jon,

    Sorry I think I have never seen one of your works. What drew my attention to you is your prolific comments in the NYT. After teaching for 14 years in Asia (4 years in Daegu and Andong) and 10 years in China Shanghai, Nanchang and Guangzhou)I am back in hometown Portland OR. Surviving here is tough in P-town and hanker to get back to
    Asia. You seem to be a master at using time well! I admire that. Keep up your good work and inspiring others. Cheers! Bruce Gilbert Luzader.

    1. Portland is one of my favorite US cities, though I doubt we’ll ever live there (or anywhere in US) again. A long trip yes; sit tight, alas, no. best

  11. I can’t help but cringe when “artists” decry market capitalism, because the system is not rewarding what their sure is their own “genius.” In fact, in all but the rarest cases, financially unsuccessful artists arrive at their destination on the merits. I have a photographer uncle like that; he can’t understand why his socio-political photography isn’t critically acclaimed. He runs around promoting the idea that his work is very important. Know what? It isn’t very important, and the market, the market of art collectors, photographic experts and enthusiasts, the general public, they all provide the feedback that he refuses to see. He’d like a system in which the government gives him money so that he can take his important photographs. Tell me, exactly; how a bunch of bureaucrats will arrive at generally excellent decisions re who is deserving and who is not in the world of artistic endeavors?

    FInally, although I’d never deny that markets are imperfect, they more or less provide for the best societies on this earth. If you’re so against market economies, why aren’t you living in a place that is run as you would see fit? Oh right, because it doesn’t exist. On this earth, non-market societies are poor, violent, and generally run by dictators or the army. Probably not big supporters of “the arts.”

    1. I don’t quite know how to reply to your little diatribe but I’ll give it a go.
      First your parallel, or presumed parallel, I guess between your uncle and myself, is a bit loose. I’ve had a Guggenheim, 3 or 4 NEA Grants, a DAAD, all considered hot-shit in the little artsy world. I’ve also had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, as well many other places, and am/was (the art world like others is very fickle) considered good, important, etc., and some still think that way.
      I suppose out of this had I wanted I could have “gone commercial” and made films palatable for “the market” – supposedly I had an in to do so with All the Vermeers in New York. But I am not so interested in that kind of filmmaking, and less so in the kinds of people who populate that part of the business. So I opted out, knowingly, willfully.
      I find your bit about markets rather simplistic and simple-minded, but one gets a lot of that in the American political sphere. America isn’t a “free market” by any means, it is instead one bent and twisted by large powers. By Wall Street, whose recent behaviors have shown it is a reckless place, fueled by greed, and is essentially a criminal activity engaged mostly in fraud. By the military-industrial complex which works in tandem with the mass media, especially the foxy angle of it, and gets immense subsidies from the govt. In fact that is about all it lives on (I have family in the military who fume against the socialism they claim to be protecting America from when they are the embodiment of socialism in America with kind of cradle to grave mommy care paid for the the tax-payers – they have several thousand golf courses, hospitals, recreation hotels, the works, all on the public tab..) And big pharma, proteced from say, buying drugs in Canada, or agri-biz wallowing in subsidies for things that are bad for the public (corn syrup, so-called bio fuels that cost more in fuel to make than they deliver), or getting cheap water to grow rice in say the central valley of California which is more or less a desert and a costly place to grow a wet-weather crop.

      I have little doubt that if the markets in America weren’t so bent by these forces and others, I could make a decent living doing exactly what I do now. But it is bent and I, and many like me, barely eke out enough to survive on, and usually do so not through what we do as artists, but by selling ourselves as teachers or things like that – one of my friends works as a film-doctor, applying his filmic wizardry editing other people’s messes. He’d rather not do that, but his art doesn’t pay the rent.

      “…why aren’t you living in a place that is run as you would see fit? Oh right, because it doesn’t exist. On this earth, non-market societies are poor, violent, and generally run by dictators or the army.”
      Actually that sounds kind of like a description of America if you look beneath the surface: most of America is poor and getting poorer, it is violent (both locally and exporting it in the form of wars abroad), and it is kind of run by the military-industrial complex which sucks up half the federal budget, consumes half the oil America uses, and is 5 times bigger than it needs to be but has successfully over 50 years and some brainwashed enough Americans and politicians that until it has totally wrecked America, as the USSR was by similar tendencies, it will probably rule the roost. So we’re kind of run by the army.

      There are some places that support the arts publicly, regarding it as a public benefit which often doesn’t meet market economy requirements. They are the same kinds of places that have universal health care. You know – Germany, France, Holland, Denmark etc. etc. Places known for some time to value cultural things.

      But I am aware there will be no convincing you. I suspect the only thing that could do so would be the utter collapse of the American market system, which maybe is not so far away.

      Oh, and I don’t live in the USA.

    2. Sub, my photographer uncle isn’t perfect either, but he’s got a nephew that cares enough about him to link to his website when talking about him on the internet.

      But yeah, keep putting art in quotation marks. You rock.

    1. I don’t know just which matter offended our anonymous self-named redneck, but I do find the hiding behind fictional names and email addresses to be, oh, cowardly and curiously “unAmerican” whereas I am pretty sure old billybob fancies himself more patriotic than thou.

  12. Dude, read your comment on nytimes. There is no incentive for people to become doctors and go through years and years of education and take out massive loans if they don’t get paid well enough. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that America is still a capitalist society. You don’t like it, get your healthcare needs attended to in Korea, comrade.

    1. If medical care were thought of as a public service, then going to an excellent medical school to be trained would not cost a modest fortune, requiring student loans, but would be part of a publicly covered education. There are many other countries, capitalist ones – like the UK, France, Germany etc. where this is the case. The medical care is very good in those places, and is considered a “right.” From your tone I imagine you think those places are “socialist” (or worse) which speaks mostly to your ignorance if my guess is correct.

      Here in Korea, a very capitalist place, the medical care is first rate and costs a pittance of what it would in the US. I would guess though you’d find some fault with it, though probably based on little real information but rather some ideologically tilted source.

      The incentive for people to become doctors should properly be that one cares about other people, has compassion, and has an interest and innate talent and capacity for the technical nature of medical practice. That would be a basic requirement to be a good doctor. Of course I have in my life had contact with doctors who became ones because it was for them an avenue to become rich. They weren’t very good doctors. (Ditto for some lawyers.)

      From your words I would vaguely suspect you’ve never traveled much out of the US and your views on the world are limited thereby. N Korea is a sad place, not communist, but more some kind of feudal remnant from 1000 years ago. S Korea is a vibrant capitalist country with Confucian thought as a baseline. You can buy a real good healthy meal here for about $5.

  13. Hello from The Netherlands.

    It was the well thought-out comments on NYT that drew my attention to Your site . I KNEW i heard the name somewhere. I suddenly realised some of your documentaries where shown on our own arts-inclined Public Broadcaster VPRO.

    I just wanted to say that ,for a foreigner, your comments are in general the most polite and comprehensible. Looking at the comments on NYT editorials and such, does not paint a very nice picture of Americans. I am not sure if all “billybob’s” (let’s throe all rude-necks on one heap for ease) are suffering some serious case of cognitive dissonance,or REALLY do not UNDERSTAND what is going on in America’s uber-capitalist society. If the understanding is not there, I am afraid you’ll have to point at the atrocious education Americans in general receive. Is that their fault? No, I do not believe so ,for true broad, higher-education is there ,yet only for the wealthy elite it seems.

    Isn’t it a sad state of affairs that America wrestled itself out of the greedy claws of European Aristocracy, to be enslaved by a new, plutocratic aristocracy of their own making?

    I often wonder ,reading Your comments. How do You see Europe, in it’s attempts to construct a “fair society” against the machinations of big corporations?

    I have to note though that The Netherlands, where I currently reside, had a close brush with American-style for-profit healthcare when lobbyists ,through lying and scare-tactics,succeeded in almost privatizing healthcare insurance. It faltered only partially, basically because the rules under which those insurers have to peddle their wares are more strict than they could imagine in their worst nightmares They tried again this year, using “the current global crisis” to justify idiotic price-hikes, but lost out, luckily.

    What is the most clear to me, is that overhere, the pure-capitalism strain of thought is losing out fast. Scams go belly-up one after another, thanks to a largely “liberal-leftish” fair-share look on life.

    Southern Europe is seriously lagging behind (as Your unpleasant experiences in Portugal illustrate quite succinctly)partially because The big 3 in the EU(Germany, France, Great Britain)completely ignored anything that happened below The Alps. Greece could only happen due to myopic policies from Strassbourgh, but that’s a whole other bag’o Apples.

    Europe is far too often viewed as “a country. A bit odd considering DC and Cali have more in common than The netherlands and france f.i. The Netherlands have more in common with Danmark and Norway than Germany, our closest neighbor.

    I am putting forth all this “Europe stuff” because I DO believe that even America is capable of adopting a Social-Democratic system ,based on “fair share” of gain&loss. As foreighners, we see more than those living in the system .Something that You illustrate quite well with Your comments ,with the added boinus that You ALSO are an American ,know hoe things work iside. Something I only hear via my American friends&aquaintances.

    On a closing note: Isn’t it strange, yet telling, that those Americans that have lived&worked in Europe, or other places with a fairly social-democrat sytem of governing,clearly see what the future of The USA shoukld look like, while the “never been out, inhabitants of America only cower back behind their guns&bibles screaming over their lungs “Communism .SOcialism! Look how poor&dirty Europe is!”

    (example: An elderly aunt from Grand rapids,Michigan visited us. Her comment:”I was astonished to see how vlean and well ordered Northern europe is.” She had -67 years old!- rented a car in Danmark, had driven from danmark to The South of France and back to us in The Netherlands, would You believe it, with a trunk full of toilet-paper…people had told her we didn’t have toilet paper overhere.O_0.)

    Well, enough of my Yapping.

    Looking forward to more of Your comments in thye NYT.


  14. Having lived a fair while and traveled extensively in Europe, I’d have to say that if I had to choose to live in Europe or US, I’d take the former any day. I lived in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Lisbon, London each for a year or more (5 in Rome), and whatever their problems, they pale next to America’s.
    I have in my life met all too many Americans who not having been there think to take toilet paper, question if water is drinkable, etc. Oh well, ignorance is bliss.
    Thanks for your kind comments.

  15. Jon,
    Your comment on the Tea Party being racist hurt my heart. As a Tea Party member, I can tell you it has nothing to do with people, only policy. We want smaller government. As the government sector grows, the private sector(the creator of industry and jobs) decreases. You know this. What is happening back here in The Satetes is that the rag you read and the networks you watch are acting as if this administration can do no wrong as we fall deeper into debt. I did not like Bush either, except for his Supreme Court picks, bc he too was a big spender. The US has the most innovative, most advanced, and finest healthcare system in wthe world. That is a fact. The Koreans come her all the time for their most precarious procedures. I know this bc they are my patients. Prez Obama spent more in his first six weeks than we spent as a nation since our founding, to his innauguration. That scared people into payting attention to fiscal sanity. Healthcare, the cramdown, was the last straw. Besides, you tell me, what do you know about the president’s political GPS? I suppose not much, considering the news venues you frequent. He was never vetted, was he? Oh well, maybe I’ll check out your art and films. I’m an artist as well. Perhaps that part of your core makes sense. Don’t be a world-hater, Jon. Things will improve for you.

    1. If the Tea Party really wants “smaller government” why doesn’t it call for shrinking the part that eats up 50% of the Federal budget, distorts the economy and our political process, and call for shrinking the military by, say, 3/4s or 4/5ths, which would make it proportionate to what other countries spend on the military? Or why were its members seemingly so silent when the Bush administration instituted various forms of spying on American citizens, in direct violation of the law? Or bluntly lied in order to initiate a totally misguided (and so far, utterly failed) war?
      Regarding America’s medical system, it is failing. It may, technologically, be the or among the most advanced, but that doesn’t make it the best. I suspect Switzerlands is as advanced. I’d rather live, say, in France if I need medical help. The failure in America is to distribute medical care equitably, for a fair price, to everyone, not just the 10% or less who can afford the most advanced parts, or those increasingly few who can afford insurance (I have had no medical insurance for 64 years because I simply could not afford it and don’t really believe in it). Medical care should not be a capitalist for-profit endeavor; it should be a social service, and doctors should become doctors via a socially paid education, because they care about people and have an aptitude for what medical processes requires, and not because they want to become rich.
      I don’t know where you get your numbers for the claim that Obama spent more in his first 6 weeks than the US spent in all its prior history, but I can assure you it is 100% incorrect. And probably whatever figures you are referring to likely are a Bush/Paulson bail-out expenditure done in autumn of 2008.
      I don’t know that one has a political GPS, but Obama to my tastes is far too centrist, as is the NY Times, and far too accommodating to big business, banking, and the military. I suspect his GPS is much to the right of my own essentially anarchist political views (which I acknowledge do not work in our real world, but philosophically believe we should all be responsible for our own choices and actions, and not delegate them to others, otherwise known as “representative government” which in my view is inherently and always a fraud, deluding the participants into thinking they are being represented when they are not, but it seems to let them off their own moral hook.

      Obama was “vetted” as much as any other Presidential candidate has been, and the comment you make has that whiff of racism? Do you mean, where was he born? In Hawaii. McCain was born in Panama. Which, unlike Hawaii, is not a State.

      I’m not a hater, though I do have my openly stated, under my own name, views on the world, and my place of birth.

  16. I’m not sure why either of us bother writing responses on The New York Times Web site, but I appreciate yours. Maybe it has to do with our equal number of years in this realm, but we seem to have reached the same conclusions about the world and the U.S. While I use “Nowhere Man” at NYT, my Web log is under my own name here:

    Again, thanks for speaking out.

    Bill Tracy
    Angels Camp, CA

  17. Jon: I have appreciated so much your astute comments on the NYTimes site. Having clicked on your link and perused your blog, I’m delighted to find this beautifully rich underbelly of the “Readers Recommendations” writer.

    I shall see if I can find your Vermeer film. Any suggestions?

  18. Jon, I came across your comment on Manohla Dargis’ article in the NY Times, Cinematic Change and the End of Film. I was stunned you thought it necessary to end your comment with, “I am a filmmaker since 1963…” Please know there are film aficionados out there who immediately connect your name with cinema.

    I was in Telluride when you premiered, All the Vermeer’s in New York. I still clearly remember you saying at a panel discussion that you shot Vermeer for less than the cost of the interior decorations for Reversal of Fortune. Art is not costly.

    Keep up the great work – now in South Korea of all places. All the best – John

  19. I regularly read your comments on the NYT website and – together with the posts of someone called PHIL IN THE MOUNTAINS OF JAPAN and a woman from Florida who also has a blog your comments are simply the most insightful and intelligent. I was thinking just the very same thought you articulated in your post when I read the NYT headline today about STRONGER MILITARY and was happy to find it since commenting was already closed.

    They should hire you instead of some of these clowns they have there.

  20. Your comment in The Times supposedly on ‘why’ Israel exists reflects both your hate and your ignorance, the two often going hand in hand.

    Israel exists because with the end of the Ottoman Empire after World War II, states were promised and carved out of the huge swath of land formerly ruled by Turkey. One such state was to be a Jewish homeland. Other such states were Lebannon, Iraq Kuwait, Syria, Jordan – all of which have the same provenance as Israel.

    That the promise of a Jewish state was not fulfilled when others were does not diminish its legitimacy but rather speaks to the duplicity those who did not live up to the promise exercised.

    That’s the history. The idea that the Jewish state was created solely as a recompense to the Jews of Europe for the Holocaust is equally inaccurate.

    Jews living in Arab lands for 1000s of years, before most of them were even states lived under a constant threat of repression and retribution.
    Sometimes the local Jews were allowed to live in peace, other times not.

    Israel was created to provide them a safe haven as much as it was for the Jews of Europe. Thus it was contrary to your assertion an extension of the pathologies of Christian Europe also for the pathologies of Muslim Arabs.

    It should also be noted the Mufti of Jerusalem, a Palestinian, spent WWII in Berlin, demanding of Hitler that he not only murder the Jews of Europe but also those in the Middle East. It is classic post-war policy that those who support the wrong side pay a real price for doing so. The Palestinians long before there was an Israel went with Hitler and paying a price is not some injustice to them, but exactly what Germany, Austria, Poland and a lot of other countries have suffered all throughout history. In 1948 the Arabs launched a war and lost. They have done so time and time again but somehow they believe they should not pay a price for doing so.

    In the 1949 Armistice to end the war the Arabs started, the dividing line, what is now the ’67 borders were not some fixed border, but simply where the troops on both sides happened to be that day. AT THE INSISTENCE OF THE ARABS, that line was NOT to be a final border between the Israelis and the Arabs which was to be negotiated so as to be secure, defensible ones.
    From that day on the Arabs refused to negotiate such borders and from 1949 until the ’67 war was occupied not by Israel but by Jordan (and Gaza, by Egypt) and no one complained about its occupation nor, more importantly, did the Arabs make any create a state for the Palestinians. What they did do was promise to destroy Israel and take all the land.

    At the end of the ’67 war Israel said to the Arabs let’s negotiate and the Arabs issued the famous three ‘No’s’ from their meeting in Khartum, Sudan.

    During the control by the Arabs, the holy sites of Jews were destroyed and the synagogues used as urinals and no Jews were allowed to visit. Under Israeli control all religious sites are protected and respected, open to all.

    Contrast this history to your views of the reality. Hate and ignorance is the difference. The Israelis I note have made mistakes and bad decisions but the reality is Jews have been a part of the Middle East for millenia and have as much a right as anyone to have a secure peaceful homeland that since its inception to this day Arabs deny them and people like yourself do their bidding.

    You have the right to do that but its not right to do it. Fairness as well as accuracy is a duty imposed on all of us, self-imposed by the best of us and you do not demand that standard of yourself. Shame.

    1. @StephenH.Schwartz,
      your skewed historical perspective of “middle east” realities sounds like a broken record of zionist hasbara. your zionist BigLie propaganda machine might have worked well before the internet age (remember what hitler did to the jews) now your readers sigh and say “oy weh oy veh the king is really naked”.
      here’s something for you to ponder.

      startled ya’akov whined “why the attitude?” to which esau answered
      and i already checked http://WWW.THETRUTHABOUTYA‘AKOV.COM

  21. Hi Jon. I hope your films are better than your understanding of history. In your response to Roger Cohen’s NYT Op-Ed on 6/11/10, you state that “until people are honest as to why Israel even exists, no solutions will be forthcoming.” Mr Jost, Israel exists because the UN voted to grant the Jews a home. In fact, the Jewish people have always resided in Israel, with various levels of population. Prior to the establishment of Israel, the land was a British Mandate. Study your history before you write such drivel.

  22. jon-i wonder if you can point me to source of ‘military consumes 50% of u.s. oil’.?.i relly enjoy your responses to all&sundry .you r well-informed,honestly earnest&refreshingly candid..thank you for the interlude in reality,i shall return soon..enjoy the bok-choy.tommy

    1. Hi – Prompted by your inquiry about where’d I get it, I did some research and not surprisingly I can’t quickly find a direct number – it would be natural for the military and the govt to hide this grisly stuff. Check this and this for a start. Frankly I wouldn’t believe any figures since the government does much to hide real DOD costs, and, for example, they’d take all the “privatized” warring stuff off the military books, as they do all the costs of making and maintaining nuclear weapons (that’s under Dept of Energy). I have, numerous times, in different settings, seen this half US oil consumption is military figure. Also it would be false in any event since properly if it were approximately so it wouldn’t, for example, include all the oil used to produce the military’s chunk of oil consumption: the shipping of the oil to them, producing it, etc. If we could get the real figures we’d probably have to conclude that the function of the US is to feed the military its massive diet of oil, and everything in our culture revolves around that….

  23. Jon, your very articulate comments in today’s NY Times regarding the U.S. military and its growing similarity to that of Rome, were exactly right. In the final two hundred years of what we know as the traditional era of the Roman Empire, the army became more and more involved in selecting and deposing emperors, significantly contributing to the growing sense of instability that eventually undermined the existence of the Empire. Therefore, it wasn’t all barbarians, but rather those at the heart of the Empire who were integral to its dissolution.


    Hi Jon. Just a quick note to express how much I’ve enjoyed your reader-commenting in the NYT. You write well and you always make a strong point (or several). It’s refreshing to get an articulate perspective on the world from someone –an expat, presumably– who seems relatively free from the group-think Weltanschauung that dominates the conscious thought of even our best domestic critics and social commentators (the NYT op-ed team comes to mind). I look forward to your upcoming comments. Keep up the good work.

    David Isenbergh
    Washington, DC

  25. Jon –one more question I’d like to bring up:

    I notice you are a frequent contributor to the NYTimes’s reader comments section. I wonder if you can corroborate –or not– the experience I have had as someone who writes fairly often –several times a week, on average– in that same venue? I find when I write anything controversial, politically incorrect, or harshly critical of our government’s policies or of the president himself, my statement invariably gets buried, sequentially speaking, in the dead center of all the comments, even when I make a point of sending in my comment within minutes of the column’s appearance on the NYT website. If there are 400 reader omments, mine will invariably end up near comment no. 200. Occasionally something I write that is strongly stated, but neither shrill not ungrammatical nor incoherent nor abusive, simply disappears altogether. My comments are usually brief –not more than a paragraph or two. In other words, I have the impression that some amongst the NYT staffers who filter these contributions are afraid to air –or air conspicuously– stuff that, while not abusive, might anger the higher ups of government, including the president (who, unlike his predecessor, may actually read the NYTimes’s op-eds and scan some of its readers’ comments). I suppose even the NYT knows which side its bread is buttered on. What do you think? Have you experienced something similar?

  26. I have found the comments editing a bit of a puzzle. I think each editorialist – Friedman, Brooks, Krugman, Herbert, Collins et al – have their own comments reader/editor. I often simply am not printed by Friedman, sometimes not by Brooks; Krugman I don’t recall being cut nor the others. So yes, there seems to be some kind of control mechanism and it seems politically (or personally) focused. I have the impression that Friedman is thin-skinned and deletes for personal reasons. Also it appears each has a different time that they do this – I live in Korea and the columns go on-line around 12:30-1:30 for me, and if I can I am there when they come on. Phil in Japan says he gets it on line and hour or two earlier though we are in same time zone. But a letter to the Times about their policy got an answer seeming to suggest they tend to these when someone shows up in the morning there – 7 hours later. Bottom-line I am not sure except that there seems to be some clear political/personal editing going on at the Gray Lady. No surprise there.

    1. Thanks, Jon. Sometimes I feel as if I’m dealing with a talk show host who can cut me off anytime he feels like it. People pay lip service to free speech, but in reality feel threatened by it, especially in the realm of ideas. I wouldn’t mind so much if people resisted challenges to, and criticism of, their ideas –it’s human nature, I suppose– if only they had some authentically interesting theories, instead of the same old inside-the-beltway pap.

  27. Your description of the actual events leading up to the BP disaster is the best I’ve read. Have you noted that BP is the same company that was the cause for the CIA overthrow of democracy in Iran and the installation of the Shah?

    As a fellow resident of Seoul, I was surprised to come across your very sensible comment in response to the NYTimes “36 Hours that Shook Washington” and followed it to your weblog and website.

    If you don’t already know him, you might like to meet Dr. Hong Kai, who is a passionate student of the arts, an MIT Ph.D. in philosophy, and currently teaching at HUFS.

    Having read more of your generally intelligent observations, I can’t help but wonder if you have ever written, not about the problems, but about the solution, if you believe there is one.

  28. Today I discovered your work and gifts.
    It is good to meet you. My sincere wishes and hopes for success in the continual realization of your craft and purpose at such a time as this.

  29. I read your comment on NYT editorial about its usual China-bashing (Message for China – Oct. 2nd).

    Amid that hundreds of readers´ comments on that editorial, it´s amazing to note the blatant difference on the content of opinion of an american citizen who lives in the US from another one who lives abroad.

  30. Dear Jon,

    thank you for today’s post on Bob Herbert’s page.

    I had no idea you spent 27 months in prison for being a conscientious objector. That is a remarkable thing. And most young today would not even know what that means.

    However, despite all the suffering of and by the returning warriors and understanding how they are just string puppets of the military-industrial-media-complex, still to chose to be a paid mercenary by joining the US army in order to avoid poverty or working in a shitty job is an individual act of in my mind cowardice and selfishness. And I have only so much sympathy I can offer to them.

  31. re: your comment on David Brooks; piece about friend flocks: For thirty years I’ve been recommending that young people make short,serendipitous,amateur visits to married couples, where they will encounter democracy and equality in the raw, Freudian Family Romance,the crucible and bedrock of Tinitarian (holy family)adulthood,and the end use reality of market economics. They’ll be welcomed for their youth(neoteny)and their promise to be entertaining the way Beowulf was at Herot, Sir Gawain, Hamlet, Oedipus, Lancelot, Candide, Jane Eyre, Hans Castorp, etc. A new kind of “friend”.

    1. Recently someone wrote to inquire if I censor comments. I don’t. I think Viktor’s comments speak adequately for themselves as a telling sign of something. Thanks for the evidence.

  32. Wow! That’s my impression reading things you write. I follow your comments in the NY Times. Thank you for being a “candle in the dark”. These are strange times and your comments and insights are precious.

    Many thanks from a Vietnam deserter who presently lives in Canada. Best things I’ve ever done! -avoid a ridiculous war and leave a sad country that thinks it is the best in the world.

  33. stay in korea, you tired old hack. “justice does not exist in america.” like you know anything about it, other than your ability to sit overseas and hurl pejorative liberal hack bombs across the ocean. in your little protected world, you have no intersection with crime, assault, murder, heinous evil. so you suppose that it doesn’t exist in the world, that it’s all made up. let there be some tragedy for you, lizard, some evil befalling you or your family. let’s see what your position on that particular unjustly detained criminal is. or maybe you’d like to tell me on what basis (in fact, not some statistical nonsense cooked up in a faux-academic setting) you deem all minority inmates to be innocent, or whatever crap it is exactly that you’re spouting.

    1. Amazing what kind of venom people who don’t even have a real name, like Mr. Sub above, feel like squirting out into the world in defense of their prejudicsm. One wonders why he bothers. So filled with hate he can’t sit still. So filled with insecurity about his life and our country.

      Can’t decide if he is a sad case or a stupid fuck. Probably both. But ignorance is bliss. Believe me, I know. My ancestors were Nazis in Germany. They defended their ignorance to their death bed.

      I suppose Mr. Sub knows a lot about the world. As if there was no crime in Korea, hahaha. No heinouous crime. And facts don’t matter to him. Criminals are all worthless shit unless they are white; than they are heros or militias or both. Or respectable hard working wall streeters.

      Why does this overpuffed testosteron junkie even read Bob Herbert, one wonders. I’m sure not to be enlightened. And who pays him to do so? Or is he soooo jobless, and has run dry of targets on his FAUX NEWS sites.

      Mr. Sub, you are pathetic. And 30 years ago the likes of you were down to 1% of the country. Now you are back up to maybe 20%. Scary indeed. Wished I could be in Korea.

    2. Justice, in the sense of equal fairness to all, does not exist in America. I have had a number of interchanges with the legal system in America, as well as having spent a few years in prison where I naturally met many others who had such for themselves, and I can assert from statistical evidence, personal observation, and personal experience, that justice simply does not exist in the USA. I don’t know what, if any experiences you have had Mr “Sub” but if you have, I don’t think you were very attentive. As in most countries, the legal system in America basically exists to oppress lower classes and protect the upper classes. That is not “justice” in any meaningful sense of the word.

  34. Hello Mr. Jost, I was reading the comments on the New York Times just now, beneath an article about whiz kids in Shanghai, and saw your name, which I recognized, and then had my mind blown when you said that you had been living in South Korea for three years. I interviewed you damn near twenty years ago for The Daily Californian, and lived in South Korea myself for twelve-odd years. I relocated to Northeast China this past March, but still visit Seoul frequently. If you’re ever bored, have a click on my name, and you can see some of the writing that I’ve done since then. And if you ever come to Shenyang, shoot me a line!

    1. If you come by Seoul, let me know and drop by. 20 years ago, Berkeley. I was showing something? How do you like China? While I seem on for another year here, and maybe another after that, 5 will be tops. Then shopping for another place to live. I must go Google Shenyang and see where it is. NE China. There’s more massive cities in China than I could begin to remember…. best jon

  35. Dear Mr. Jost,
    I just read your comment on David Brooks’s NYT column (Dec. 14) all about how the U.S. is going to teach the world the gospel of middle-class values. I write to thank you for it. I haven’t laughed that hard all week. One must laugh to keep from crying.
    I’m going to check out your films.
    Best wishes,
    Ellen Hershey
    Bay Area, California

    1. Thanks. Hope the Bay Area is as nice as when I lived there (a few places from City to PA to Berkeley). Glad to make you laugh. Actually Mr Brooks manages to make be cringe/laff every time he goes to print with one of his ridiculous blindered items. I have lived a bit among the very rich so I sort of understand but Brooks postures as some kind of intellectual. Which perhaps he is inside his little sandbox there. best jon

  36. I’ve enjoyed your comments in the NYT and checked out your site here for the first time today. I agree with 99% of your comments but can you be so hard on the NYT? Without it many would never know of your existence. Can’t you give it a little slack? On another note, yes, I wish I were a citizen in any European country, especially France, because my wife has come down with Alzheimer’s Dementia and I’m struggling to preserve what assets I have left. The future for me is bleak here in the great state of Maine.

    1. Well, the NY Times may, in mainstream media, be the best we have in America, but that is a sad commentary. It’s also rapidly becoming the only…. I am grateful (and surprised) they let us plebeians toss our thoughts out for national consumption, so there they perform a nice service. I have coughed up for on-line news too, since within their range they do a fairly good job. But they tilt way too far toward business (as usual), Wall Street, and our wonderful military-industrial-(media) complex. But they’re “mainstream” so what can we expect. Thank ….. for small favors.

      My father is 97, long lost to Alzheimers, kept alive at tax-payer cost (ex-military – the best socialism Americans can buy for them and Congress etc., but not the rest of us….). Given things, I guess I’m in line. I have told my wife to take me on a long walk or voyage when time comes, and let me get lost int he woods or take a swim. Sorry to hear and I know it is difficult. I some time ago chose, for numerous reasons, to no longer live in USA, though I do “love” it but just can’t abide where it has gone.

  37. Jon, your April 11 comment on Krugman’s opinion-piece on Obama is right-on! Obama is in fact a moderate Republican masquerading as a progressive Democrat. The Republicans know the truth, and foster the deception by constantly screaming that he is a Socialist. The guy has always been closer to the Republicans! Just consider how he ran the Harvard Law Review, picking as his assistants right-wing students, and ignoring the progressives. This is consistent behaviour!

  38. Just read your comment on Egan piece about Trump. So to the point! And that lead to your blog and other links. All very interesting and engaging.

  39. Your comment on Ross Douthat’s op/ed ‘A Case For Hell’ very concisely sum up what I [as an atheist, obviously] feel are truths about consciousness and moral behavior dictated from without. It’s so rare to hear this kind of sense articulated. Thank you!

  40. Hello Jon,

    I’ve been “voting” for your comments in the NYT for some time now, but just got around to investigating your blog. I had been wondering why you were writing from Korea–congratulations on the “real job”. I will also look into seeing some of your real work. I have a feeling I may have already done so, but not retained the connection. While I enjoy the contributions of Marie Burns and others who have a following at the Times, I like your comments because they go to the next level. The others limit their criticism to the status quo, whereas you take on the very foundations of the system that produces the problems.

    I want to commend you for responding patiently to the negative comments you get here. I would not have such patience. You make an elegant case against the abuses of capitalism, a topic that is difficult at best to discuss with the average American, let alone the average redneck.

    I’ll be dropping by more often after I’ve looked at some of your film work.

    1. I have to second Janet Camp’s point about Jon’s patience with those who come here to just throw insults at Jon or spew ridiculous propaganda.

      Jon, your patience with that is indeed great teaching.


  41. Dear Jon,

    I just read your reply to Roger Cohen’s article “Too Special for Words” and wanted to respectfully disagree with you. Associating NY and London with “terrible provincialism” could not be further from the truth. NY is the melting pot of the world. I have lived in NYC and London my entire life and have an American father and British mother, so my travels in and around these two great cities are extensive. Don’t let the wealth of a city’s minority fool you into thinking that that is how the remaining 99% of its population think. NY and London are many things but narrow minded is simply not one of them. I also don’t see it as a delusion that a city’s population thinks they are the center of the world when you can make a strong case that they are. I have read some of your other posts and you write well, but we just don’t agree here.

    1. Hi – I don’t mind disagreement. It may be I should have slightly qualified what I said and circumscribed it with “people involved in the arts/culture world” (though I am sure if I was similarly acquainted with people involved in, say, finances, or advertising or… I would think the same of them). But I’ll stick to my guns here, and say, yes – and I think maybe your note itself proves my point a bit, excuse me – I think those who come from these places (among which I would include many other cultural-capitol cities) tend to be blinded by them; the jokes about New Yorker’s not being able to see across the Hudson, or the New Yorker cover showing America as nothing until one arrives in LA/San Francisco) are all too truthi-ful to my experiences with them. I know well that both London and NY (and LA and SF and Paris and Berlin) are melting pots, have a wide diversity within them etc. But they are, in the sense I am getting at, provincial in so far as many/most people who live in them think they are smack in the middle of something bigger than somewhere else. And in a way they are – they are in the middle of huge urban complexes in which it is possible to live 5 lifetimes and only scratch the surface. And this complex reality tends to blind those within to thinking they are in the center of the universe, and if you take them to, say, Lincoln Nebraska, or worse, Valentine Nebraska (pop 2000) they’ll more or less feel “there’s nothing there.” But there is just as much there as in NY or London, just it is a different wavelength which you must tune to. Most people living in such urban setting can’t do it, so they are blind to what is there. And it is the nature of such huge urban worlds to inflict on their inhabitants this blindness, and that is what I am saying is “provincialism” and why I am saying it is the worst kind because it can’t recognize itself. Someone in Valentine may sing you the praises of the Sand Hills, the Niobrara River and Jack’s ranch, but he’s not going to tell you it is the center of any universe except his own. Whereas big cultural city people tend to think anything worth anything is happening in their burg. That is my complaint. I have more complaint in that – for example a film-video-and installation maker of my acquaintance, Leighton Pierce (look on this blog for more) lived and taught in Iowa City, Io., for 25 years. He’s really one of the best, most interesting, most talented people working now and because he lived in Iowa he’s scarcely accorded what should be his due, whereas some people based in LA or NY, vastly inferior as artists, are “big.” A few years back Leighton had a really big, fantastic installation of his in the basement of the Univ of Iowa museum, an installation I plotted to make sure I got to all the way from Korea, and it was well worth my trip. I begged people I knew in NYC to go (MoMA, Guggenheim people) and their provincial urban-centric view kept them from doing so. Nobody went. And then I saw an atrocious “big name” installation exhibitions at MoMA and I thought about that terminal provincialism of the big cities.
      Leighton recently got a new job as head of media and such at Pratt, so maybe now they’ll acknowledge he exists, and he’ll get a show, long over-due, at MoMA or somewhere. [He has had a few short films screened previously in the avant gardy section of the NY Film Festival.]

      But, you know I was born in Chicago, “The Second City” so I have a burr up my ass about NYC (and other such places.) I’ve lived in, for a year or more at least – Lisbon, Rome, Paris, Berlin, London, NYC, LA, San Francisco, beachtown SoCal, 12 miles up a dirt road near Kalispell/Whitefish Montana (4yrs), rural Oregon, Portland, Lincoln, small town on Olympic Peninsula, and that was on my own, not as a child. And a few other places shorter than a year. And they are all equal in my mind – none is the center of the universe, and none unworthy of spending a life in if you want.

  42. I get it! And I hope Max does as well. I grew up and spent my early adult life in Seattle. When I moved to Milwaukee in my 40’s, I despised it (and the entire Midwest) for years, exactly as you describe when talking about Nebraska. “Nothing here” I would lament. Slowly, I came to realize that what is “here” is what you bother to see, wherever it may be. I’ll always love the Northwest (I wonder if we’ve spent time in the same small town on the Olympic Peninsula?), but I now find much to value in my adopted home. I should add, that the discovery of Chicago, just 80 miles south has been a great help.

  43. From today’s NYTimes Kristoff commentary:

    “The military is NOT a model for any kind of society we should be trying to construct in America, however nice some of its structural components may be. At heart it is a killer.”

    And immediately came to mind Leonard Cohen singing, “I have seen the future; it is murder.”

    Newcomer here, with thanks for your energies, vigilance, perspective.

    – Dar I

  44. Just read your comments on NYT’s Freidman article on Israel adrift. Spot on! Right oh! Bravo! Truth at last! I’ve long felt the same. I would add that not only was it a Euro guilt thing, it was a hopeful final solution after Hitler’s failed. Get rid of them one way or another. Recently we’ve seen quite a few incidents of the deep antisemitism held by European elite, including the British. (We should keep in mind that H’s policy toward the Jews was not very controversial in Europe for a long, long time.)

    About self-fulfilling and eerie reenactments, Nazi Germany was built on perceived racial exclusivity and the Jews the world over were known to be walled into their ghettos. Today we have Israel, a state based on Jewish ethnic exclusivity (till now to be legally a Jew, you must be of a Jewish mother. Even Israeli citizens who claim to be Jewish cannot have their marriages legally recognized, as the very minority orthodox Jews get to determine the law of the land – Jewish rabbinical Shariah law.) building its own wall around itself and increasingly finding itself isolated in the world.

  45. You are a hack with absolutely no understanding of Islam or domestic affairs and how they intertwine. I’d keep making your videos and let the other hacks at the NYT’s take care of the propaganda.

  46. Dear Jon Jost,
    My name is Leopold Vincent Medley. I am a student at HSPVA in Houston, TX where you came to visit on 22 April 2015. I found your words extremely wise and encouraging. I was so moved by what you said that I decided to contact you and say thank you. However, I found that your previous website has gone offline so I decided to contact you through facebook. (And now on your blog to better my chances of reaching you.) I love all of your films that I have seen so far, including Parable, Sure Fire, Last Chants for a Slow Dance, the Bed you Sleep in, and Angel City. My favorite work of yours is Frame Up. I hold you in very, very high regard.
    I myself am a young filmmaker. I have directed six shorts and one feature. (I am currently finishing my second feature now.) I have a huge passion for filmmaking and few people encourage me more than you. Over the summer, along with starting a third feature, I am looking for an internship. Do you know any film production studios in Houston that are looking for some free help? If not, that’s okay, but I would love to volunteer and get some experience. Thank you so much for all of your contributions to experimental and independent cinema. After you die, you will be remembered for many decades to come.
    Thank you dearly for reading this and please respond.
    You can always contact me at or at 2819048683.

    With the highest sincerity and respect,
    Leopold Vincent Medley

  47. Hello Mr Jost,
    I’m living in Britain and am a very big fan of the work of yours I’ve been fortunate to see so far (Last Chants For a Slow Dance, Slow Moves) and have also been fascinated by your comments on the New York Times website over the years. I just wanted to thank you for some very enriching experiences and also to ask a question regarding Dvd availability of your work. I’ve heard (mainly on this blog) that you have copies of some of your films that are available to purchase from you, I was wondering how I could maybe get ahold of some of them?

  48. Hello Jon, I wanted to inquire about availability of your films on dvd. Your website seems to be down. I remember it had a lot of films on it and it mentioned they were available from you.

  49. My own somewhat extended web look up offers at the end of the morning already been reimbursed with satisfying awareness to discuss along with my own family and friends.

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