ROSA PARKS turns 100

February 4th, 2013

“The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”
—Rosa Parks

A fantastic, thorough interview on Democracy Now about the iconic Rosa Parks, with author Jeanne Theoharis. It’s a wealth of detailed, cared-for, passionate, necessary and brilliant historical information.

Among many things, what really amazed me was to hear that Rosa Parks’ hero was Malcolm X—even over Martin Luther King, whom she knew very well, from 1955. Indeed, Rosa’s refusal to give up her bus seat on Dec 1, 1955, in a way, kicked off MLK’s career and fame.

Rosa Parks has often been portrayed as a mild-mannered seamstress. The truth is she was brilliantly radical and a committed activist. For me, her affection for Malcolm X brilliantly shifts and illustrates the intensity of Rosa Parks’ political position and rebellious nature.

I directed a documentary on Muhammad Ali called Facing Ali, and I really tried to get it into the film how Muhammad Ali, in holding to his affiliation with the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhammad, turned against Malcolm X (wrongly and in a way cruelly). And Malcolm X had, in so many ways, been Ali’s mentor, stayed with him, encouraged him immensely before his first fight with Sonny Liston. Later, Ali would admit that “…turning my back on Malcolm…” was one of the great regrets of his life.

Fascinating, painful, miraculous, hopeful life.

PS In June 1956, the NAACP is attacked by many southern states, “red-baited” and outlawed in Alabama.

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This Is No Time For Whistleblowers

February 1st, 2013

Not that one can ever know all the details, but here’s an interesting story from Democracy Now about for CIA man John Kiriakou, who is being sentenced to 30 months for releasing the name of a CIA covert operative.

Here’s a newsclip about it:

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The Crash of 1929, and Goldman Sachs

November 24th, 2012

Because I’m strange, I’ve been reading John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Age of Insecurity, from 1976. Galbraith turns a great phrase. But here’s what shocked me the most. Of course the dirty work of Goldman Sachs in the last decade is well-known yet lauded in terms of Big Washington Government promotion positions (and back again). But what was Goldman Sachs’ involvement in the original 1929 stock market crash and subsequent Depression?

It takes one much smarter and adept than I to comprehend all this stuff, but I thought you might find the following interesting (pg 208-209). Remember, this is written in 1976, not 2009 by Matt Taibbi. From a section entitled Everybody Ought to Be Rich:

“Most exciting of all were the holding companies and the investment trusts [in the very late 1920s]. Both were companies formed to invest in other companies. And the companies in which they invested, invested in yet other companies that, in turn, invested in yet others. The layers could be five or ten deep. Along the way bonds and preferred stock were sold. The resulting interest payments and preferred dividends took some of the earnings of the ultimate operating company; the remaining earnings came cascading back to the common stock still held by the promoters. Or this happened as long as the dividends of the ultimate companies were good and rising. When these fell, the bond interest and preferred stock soaked up all the revenues and more. Nothing was left to go upstream; the stock in the investment trusts and holding companies then went, often in a week, from wonderful to worthless. It was an eventuality that almost no one had foreseen.

Sound painfully familiar? Read the next line:

The metaphor for all these promotions was Goldman Sachs.

Yes, Goldman Sachs. I, too, couldn’t believe it when I read that.

There had been nothing like it since the South Sea Bubble; there would be nothing like it again until I.O.S. (Investors Overseas Service) and Bernie Cornfeld.”

Galbraith died before the crash/collapse of 2008—which was one hell of a ‘nothing like it again’ moment. Maybe the king of those moments, thus far.

“The golden age of Goldman Sachs was the nearly eleven months beginning December 4, 1928. On that day the Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation was formed. This was an investment trust with the function only of investing in other companies; $100 million of stock was issued, of which 90 percent was sold to the public. This was put in other stock selected in accordance with the superior insights of Goldman Sachs. In February, the Trading Corporation was merged with the Financial and Industrial Securities Corporation, another investment trust. Assets were now $235 million. In July the combined enterprises launched the Shenandoah Corporation. Preferred and common stocks to a total of $102.3 million were authorized, again for investment in other stock. The public share was oversubscribed sevenfold so yet more was issued. In August Shenandoah in turn launched the Blue Ridge Corporation—for $142 million. A few days later, back at the Trading Corporation [that being Goldman Sachs] $71.4 million more in securities was issued to buy another investment trust as well as a West Coast bank.

“Shenandoah, which had been issued at $17.50 and had risen to $36.00 eventually went down to fifty cents. This was quite a loss. The Trading Corporation did worse. In February 1929, aided by some purchase of itself, it had reached $222.50. Two years later it could be had for a dollar or two. “He took my fortune,” said one saddened commentator of his broker, “and ran it into a shoestring.” A principle in this vast expropriation—a director of both Shenandoah and Blue Ridge—was John Foster Dulles.[!] A more introspective man might have wondered. Dulles emerged with his faith in the capitalist system unshaken. We shall encounter him again.”

DARK THURSDAY

For Goldman Sachs, as for stocks in general, the day of reckoning was Thursday, October 24, 1929. [the crash].

This is where Galbraith goes wrong. Goldman Sachs and the rest are actually remarkably capable of avoiding any sort of day of reckoning. Indeed, they appear to gain and massively profit by these days of reckoning. One must tip a hat: this takes stunning skill, power and ruthlessness.

The following is hardly news. Nonetheless, a short and unverified list of Goldman Sachs Alumni in government, for all their good works. This from that bastion of conspiratorial thought, Time magazine, in 2009:

Among the biggest beneficiaries of the AIG pass-through, at $12.9 billion, was Goldman Sachs, the investment-banking house that has been the single largest supplier of financial talent to the government. Critics have been quick to note — and not favorably — the almost uncanny influence of former Goldman executives. Initial phases of the rescue were orchestrated by ex–Goldman chairman Hank Paulson, who was recruited as Treasury Secretary in part by former White House chief of staff and Goldman senior exec Josh Bolten. Goldman’s current boss, Lloyd Blankfein, was invited to participate in meetings with the Fed. AIG’s Liddy is a former Goldman director and an ex-CEO of Allstate. Another alum, Mark Patterson, once a Goldman lobbyist, serves as chief of staff at the Treasury, while Neel Kashkari, who runs TARP, was a Goldman vice president.

And, of course, Obama was well-supported by Goldman Sachs in his 2008 campaign. They were his largest or second largest contributor. History, indeed, is cyclical.

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THREE STRIKE RULE – SANITY and COMPASSION strike out

October 25th, 2012

Just read this on Democracy Now, about the bizarre and perverse 3-strike rule. Whether some people should get life for their third crime is a different question. To any sane person, or any decent law person, It depends on the crime.

That a country with such allegedly high aspirations for freedom can implement a rule where a person gets life for a third strike sock-stealing raid, or stealing change from a car, or any such non-violent crime, and the public isn’t in an uproar, makes me wonder if the Law isn’t simultaneously a test by the Government and Law authorities to see how far a public can be pushed by unjust laws and do nothing (take note you New World Orderites). I am reminded of those ghastly and infamous yet revealing Stanley Milgram/Obedience to Authority experiments from the early 1960s.

From Democracy Now:

MICHAEL ROMANO: So, Proposition 36 [the three strikes reform bill] is one of those rare laws that’s actually been sort of tried in a laboratory. Steve Cooley, who is the district attorney for the largest prosecution office in the country, has voluntarily implemented Proposition 36 over the past 10 years. And crime in Los Angeles County is down more than it is throughout the state. So, the idea that this is some sort of soft-on-crime measure, I think, is belied by, you know, the experience in Los Angeles.

And I do want to say that Judge Cordell [who left the bench in part in protest of the law] is being too modest here. Really, when she stepped down from the bench, she took it on herself to really be the clarion call about what’s going on with three-strikers. And, you know, they are not high-profile crimes. They’re petty thieves and pickpockets and drug users.

AMY GOODMAN: Dale Gaines—can you tell us his story?

MICHAEL ROMANO: Sure. So, Dale Gaines is one of my clients, and he was sentenced to life for possession of stolen property. He’s mentally retarded and severely mentally ill. He was homeless and drug-addicted for decades, prior to being sentenced to life in prison. And he has never hurt anybody in his life. He was found mentally incompetent to stand trial, but still his public defender waived that issue, went to trial, put on absolutely no evidence in his defense. And that’s what I was sort of alluding to, in that these are—they’re small cases. They’re not being handled by experienced attorneys. It’s the most overworked public defenders and prosecutors. And then they’re sentenced to life.

AMY GOODMAN: Shane Taylor?

MICHAEL ROMANO: Shane Taylor is a—the judge in Shane Taylor’s case who sentenced him to life called me and said, “I made a horrible mistake. Can you do something to represent this guy who I sentenced to life for 0.1 grams of methamphetamine?” It’s a speck—

AMY GOODMAN: Possession?

MICHAEL ROMANO: For simple possession. It’s a speck. It’s like a tiny fingernail. He’s never hurt anybody before in his life, either. The prosecutor in his case, the judge in his case all think he’s serving too much time, yet courts have refused—refused to do anything about his situation.

Insane. If this is karma, have mercy. May our children be born in good fortune and beautiful communities.

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LANCE ARMSTRONG and the culture of BULLYING

October 25th, 2012

Personally, I think the past situation in cycling – doping etc – is largely irrelevant in the scope of the world. Against the rules, yes, but individuals choosing to put stupid things in their own bodies? Not exactly a terrorist act or a drone that kills innocent citizens.

Lance Armstrong was a hero in this hero-worshipping world because he won seven Tours. Not because he came third or eighth, or fifty-second had he rode clean. It appears he could only have won them by doping. The races were literally un-winnable by a non-doper. Just check the modern times by clean cyclists. In my opinion, the attacks on him have been stunning, hypocritical, scathing, relentless, self-righteous and embarrassing, even if he is ring leader and a bully etc. The cycling institutions — UCI etc — want to say Armstrong no longer exists and so on. Like they didn’t know doping was pervasive? They soaked up the glory of this cycling fever, brought on by Armstrong and remarkable performances. And we may well be surprised how much our current heroes and the teams we insanely worship or have worshipped are juiced up.

So I ask this, in light of all the talk about bullying:

If Lance Armstrong kills himself, will bullying be blamed?

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LUKE, USE THE FORCE

March 6th, 2012

It is a goal in life to stay positive, to say yes, to Amor Fati (love your fate, for your fate is your life). Face the whole show like a hero, an everyday hero on the heroic journey. Don’t whither. Be strong. Regroup and continue.

That said, it bothers me that the edge of science and technology seems to be so often driven, powered and paid for by some of the most base and deplorable human instincts: in this case terrifying, anonymous killing in war.

Believe me, “build it and he will come” is true. In this case it means “Build [war machines] and [war] will come.”

The breakthrough? The fastest land speed robot ever is being developed, according to this BBC report. Traveling 18 miles and hour as a headless cheetah, this is nearly five miles an hour faster than the previous record holder, a 13.1 mph clod-hopper. It’s function? Killing.

And yes, some of these technological ideas will definitely be used to improve prosthetics (which has largely evolved out of war injuries, anyway). And I’m sure there will be other uses.

But here’s a couple of ugh-inducing pro statements on it from the BBC article:

Darpa [the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agencys] said that the project was part of efforts to develop robots designed to “more effectively assist war fighters across a greater range of missions”.

And:

Noel Sharkey, professor of artificial intelligence and robotics at the University of Sheffield said the latest achievement was very impressive.

“With faster than human speed, this is a step in the development of a high speed killer that could negotiate a battlefield quickly to hunt and kill,” he said.

“The biggest concern about this is that no artificial intelligence system can distinguish between civilians and enemy combatants, and so if this was operating on its own it would fall foul of the laws of war.”

Try that at home and send out a press release and see what happens: My name is Darryl, and I’ve almost developed “…a high speed killer that could negotiate a battlefield quickly to hunt and kill…[but can't seem to] distinguish between civilians and enemy combatants.” We would find that hideous—hopefully. And of course, some arms-wanting country would pay you tens of millions. The most frightening of sci-fi films are coming true. Although one can’t help but wonder if the films are put out first, to ease the entry of the real thing.

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BRUCE LEE IS COMING TO A THEATRE/TV SET NEAR YOU!

March 6th, 2012

Bruce Lee is still in the theatres, across Canada (opens Thursday for one showing, then again on the 17th, in what are called “special events”, in Australia and a few more added dates in the States. But for those at home, it also premieres on Spike TV this Wednesday, March 7th, in its full length and with only limited commercial interruptions.

Here’s the Trailer from Spike. Be water, my friend, have faith in yourself.

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Ah, this Magical World

March 4th, 2012

Just saw this, and it made me happy.

You have meaning. Your very own energy level!

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DR. JAMES McCORMACK: TAKING PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS INTELLIGENTLY

February 22nd, 2012

My brother is a professor at U.B.C. and a great mentor for anybody who needs to take pharmaceuticals for countless conditions. Here is a really efficient two-part (eight minute each) explanation, full of great advice, on the Fanny Kiefer show:

Part 1:

Part 2:

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I AM BRUCE LEE: Shannon Lee

February 4th, 2012

Bruce’s beautiful daughter Shannon Lee talks about the upcoming film I Am Bruce Lee, from Network Entertainment, which I had the privilege to direct. It was a great grind to put together, and it was so much fun interviewing all these Bruce Lee family folk, friends, fans and followers, laying out their Bruce Lee.

.

Be like water,

Petex

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FACING ALI

January 30th, 2012

A complimentary review of Facing Ali by Omer M. Mozaffar on Roger Ebert’s Chicago Sun-Times page, which he calls Our far-flung correspondents.

This is a unique documentary…

What I did expect from the film was a huge amount of respect for Ali by these (formerly) gifted athletes. What I did expect, but did not receive, was anger against Ali. What I did not expect was that almost all these fighters – having faced harder punches outside the ring – seem to have made peace with themselves and with their circumstances. What I did not expect was the huge amount of love directed to Ali. The repeated sentiment, even from a teary-eyed, sympathetic Joe Frazier, was modest gratitude. These men were grateful for his role in their lives, as fighters, as African American men in the Civil Rights era. They were grateful for the sense of value and courtesy he gave them. This movie would be the best, most endearing eulogy a person could ask for…

…we get the sense that the men who faced him were themselves real people, speaking of a dear friend, that they hold not in high esteem, not in reverence, but in a loving awe.

And then a further conversation about Islam and so-called Islamophobia that is open, indeed, to conversation and god knows what else—as it will be for years to come. I’m not a religious person, and a friend of mine who isn’t, either, said to me recently, “In some ways I envy religious certainty.” Upon further discussion, she didn’t really mean it. I, like her, am actually repelled by the idea of such certainty. Imagine—and this includes science, too—being certain in this world, which has to be, still, all observations and facts included, something like 99.9999% mystery. Heck, we don’t even know what dark energy or matter is, let alone how it works, etc., and yet listening to physicist Lawrence Krauss, I think he said this ‘substance’ is the majority of the weight in every proton, and thus the majority of the weight of ourselves. It is also virtually ‘empty’, so-called. We are here but for a moment, ever-changing. I’ve got to figure out how to love more, and let the rest of the crap flow right on through that empty space.

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I AM BRUCE LEE

January 30th, 2012

After a long and fascinating haul, the Network Entertainment produced I Am Bruce Lee film, that I directed, is finished, and possibly coming to a theatre near you. You can check locations here, for about 170 theatres across the US. I believe it might be doing the same in Canada in March.

I deeply enjoyed researching Bruce Lee’s life, and directing the film. And as always, it was fantastic meeting such interesting and passionate people on the interview process, and great always to work with such talent on the production side of things.

In a very cool article in the Wall Street Journal today called Why Bruce Lee Has More Kick Now Than Ever, Jeff Yang wrote, quoting me:

“From my point of view, the 20th century gave us just two [sports] icons who rose above time, space and race: There was Muhammad Ali, and there was Bruce Lee,” says documentary filmmaker Pete McCormack, explaining the rationale behind his two most recent projects, the feature documentary “Facing Ali,” shortlisted for the Academy Award in 2010, and its new followup “I Am Bruce Lee,” which hits 160 theaters across the country for special screenings on February 9 and 11.

It’s an assertion that instantly prompts thoughts of obvious alternatives (was that a muffled cough from Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.?) — but the truth is, it can’t be dismissed as hyperbole either.

Ali and Lee were rare and similar figures: Exceptionally charismatic individuals who thrived in the spotlight, and who earned their permanent place in history by both embodying and overcoming the contradictions of their era. They were unifiers and provocateurs, paramount warriors who preached peace, racial role models whose impact reached far beyond their own communities.

Let me just say, and I do speak very quickly, I was referring very specifically (at least in my head) to sports icons, not any icons. In the category of sport, I think the comment is arguably accurate, with many other possible nominees. My point was, I wouldn’t want to do just a sports documentary (thought that can be great). I was moved by what had unfolded beyond their respective sports, and was inspired to try and capture some of that wonder and greatness on celluloid. Okay, we shot digital, but you get my point.

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Why Orwell Matters

December 17th, 2011

To quote the title of Christopher Hitchens’ book on Orwell (Why Orwell Matters), the day after Christopher’s death, seems appropriate. And I do so simply because I just read what I think is a so-called Op-Ed piece in the Globe and Mail entitled Be very afraid: Stephen Harper is inventing a new Canada.

The irony and audacity of course, despite being described generally as a Left Wing publication—whatever that is—is that the Globe and Mail endorsed Harper for Prime Minister, in print, this year, April of 2011.

It’s such a racket, this mainstream media trip.

From today’s article against Harper:

The new Canada is a place where militarism is given pride of place over peacemaking. Watching Defence Minister Peter MacKay taking bows at the Grey Cup game for Canada’s part in the Libyan campaign, Globe columnist Lawrence Martin observed:

The blending of sport and the military, with the government as the marching band, is part of the new nationalism the Conservatives are trying to instill. It is another example of how the state, under Stephen Harper’s governance, is becoming all-intrusive. … State controls are now at a highpoint in our modern history. There is every indication they will extend further.

There it is: ‘the state…is becoming all-intrusive…’ Indeed, and meanwhile (and generalizing), the Left attacks the Government, while demanding more Government (bigger Government) to reign in the Government.

And from the Globe and Mail endorsement:

Only Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party have shown the leadership, the bullheadedness (let’s call it what it is) and the discipline this country needs. He has built the Conservatives into arguably the only truly national party, and during his five years in office has demonstrated strength of character, resolve and a desire to reform. Canadians take Mr. Harper’s successful stewardship of the economy for granted, which is high praise. He has not been the scary character portrayed by the opposition; with some exceptions, his government has been moderate and pragmatic.

So between our two so-called ideologic wings, is the plane these politicians (and media moguls) actually fly on, together, one pushing for a bigger state, the other a more intrusive state. The similarities are undeniable, utterly interchangeable, and have never worked out without the other.

And of course a newspaper can offer varying positions on whatever. But why not just give us the facts? And any newspaper’s outright endorsement of a leader seems to me a little troublesome. Is it? Well, this is planet earth.

It was Karl Marx who desired a complete State, nothing but the State, running everything, and then suggested such a State would somehow “…whither away.” The anarchist Bakunin chided him for such idiocy. If you like a bigger state, so be it—but the State, by definition, will not of its own accord, ever, whither away. Has it not shown its MO to be always to expand? And one would be utterly void of facts to think Republican politicians on the Big Stage down south actually prefer (and fight to create) a smaller state, as a rule. They clearly don’t. The wars alone, continued by President Obama (a Democrat, of course), show that it goes both ways.

George Orwell matters because he spoke so much truth, so brilliantly, and so many of his insights remain pertinent today.

Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper.
—George Orwell

“…the word anarchy freaks people. Yet anarchy—rule by no one—has always struck me as the same as democracy carried to its logical and reasonable conclusions. Of course those who rule—bosses and politicians, capital and the state—cannot imagine that people could rule themselves, for to admit that people can live without authority and rulers pulls out the whole underpinnings of their ideology. Once you admit that people can—and do, today, in many spheres of their lives—run things easier, better and more fairly than the corporation and the government can, there’s no justification for the boss and the premier.
Mark Leier

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DEBT OR ALIVE: An Informative Take on the Bamboozling Debt Crisis

August 3rd, 2011

Who knows what’s going on when a bunch of politicians get together for their own interests and lie and fight over massive debt, defaulting on said debt, and all the rest et cetera?

Here’s an interesting take on the situation from Democracy Now.

A few snippets:

This is theater. This is political theater in which the two parties are posturing for the election coming next year, using this occasion—to put it in perspective, the number of times the government has raised the debt ceiling since 1940? Ninety, almost twice a year. This is a normal, automatic procedure. Every president, Republican and Democrat, has asked for it. When they ask, typically, the representatives of the other party say, “Well, you’re not managing the government real well,” and then they vote for it. And that has happened over and over again. So what you’re seeing is a decision, politically, to make it theatric, out of what otherwise would have been a normal procedure…

If you look at what happened to the American budget over the last 20 or 30 years, the culprit is obvious. We have dropped corporate taxes. We have dropped taxes on the rich.

Let me give you a couple of examples to drive it home. If you go back to the 1940s, here’s what you discover, that the federal government got 50 percent more money year after year from corporations than it did from individuals. For every dollar that individuals paid in income tax, corporations paid $1.50. If you compare that to today, here are the numbers. For every dollar that individuals pay to the federal government, corporations pay 25 cents. That is a dramatic change that has no parallel in the rest of our tax code.

Another example. In the ’50s and ’60s, the top bracket, the income tax rate that the richest people had to pay, for example the ’50s and ’60s, it was 91 percent. Every dollar over $100,000 that a rich person earned, he or she had to give 91 cents to Washington and kept nine. And the rationale for that was, we had come out of a Great Depression, we had come out of a great war, we had to rebuild our society, we were in a crisis, and the rich had the capacity to pay, and they ought to pay. Republicans voted for that. Democrats voted for that. What do we have today? Ninety-one percent? No. The top rate for rich people today, 35 percent. Again, nobody else in this society—not the middle, not the poor—have had anything like this consequence.

Keep on truckin’.

Pete

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Arash and Kamiar Alaei: BRAVE IRANIAN DOCTORS

June 4th, 2011

When I did interviews last summer at the HIV/AIDS conference in Vienna, I heard a few times about the remarkably brave Iranian Drs. Arash and Kamiar Alaei. In 2008, the two were arrested and jailed (hardly shocking, but shocking nonetheless) for their relentless, passionate and courageous work with HIV/AIDS patients in that country (they were accused of espionage, trying to overthrow the government and so on—the same pathologically demented and hateful accusation that was pinned on the three American hikers).

Evidently, Iran also has one of the highest per capita heroin use in the world. Unchecked, the sharing of needles has been a disaster for slowing down HIV rates (same in Russia).

Here’s a website worth looking at. May those two doctors be somehow still healthy, and soon released, and allowed to do what is right and humane.

And here’s the petition on the site.

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REDEFINING APATHY: I Knew Most People Are Actually Wonderful and Passionate!

April 14th, 2011

This is a short (7 minutes) and cool and quickly provocative talk from Ted and a fella called Dave Maslin:

Lots of love, and love more, and may you see both the barriers and openings before you,

Pete xo

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ART AND FILM: A Cool and Provocative Interview with Francis Ford Coppola

April 6th, 2011

Interesting interview here with famed director Francis Ford Coppola. An excerpt:

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given to your children, inside and outside of the industry?

Always make your work be personal.

And, you never have to lie. If you lie, you will only trip yourself up. You will always get caught in a lie. It is very important for an artist not to lie, and most important is not to lie to yourself. There are some questions that are inappropriate to ask, and rather than lie, I will not answer them because it’s not a question I accept. So many times we are asked things in our work or in life that you want to lie, and all you have to do is say, “No, that is an improper question.”

So when you get into a habit of not lying when you are writing, directing, or making a film, that will carry your personal conviction into your work. And, in a society where you say you are very free but you’re not entirely free, you have to try. There is something we know that’s connected with beauty and truth. There is something ancient. We know that art is about beauty, and therefore it has to be about truth.

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NAOMI KLEIN: A FRONTAL ASSAULT ON FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY

March 9th, 2011

I’m actually on a posting hiatus—work is busy, as is life in general. But I had to post this. If you’re wondering what’s at stake in Wisconsin and elsewhere, even beyond the attempted smashing of collective bargaining (and, of course, this smashing is deeply related to the overall current attack on long-fought-for freedoms), check this out. A recent bill has been passed already in Michigan in the House. From Democracy Now!, of course:

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I just found out about this last night, and like I said, there’s so much going on that these extraordinary measures are just getting lost in the shuffle. But in Michigan, there is a bill that’s already passed the House. It’s on the verge of passing the Senate. And I’ll just read you some excerpts from it. It says that in the case of an economic crisis, that the governor has the authority to authorize the emergency manager—this is somebody who would be appointed—to reject, modify or terminate the terms of an existing contract or collective bargaining agreement, authorize the emergency manager for a municipal government—OK, so we’re not—we’re talking about towns, municipalities across the state—to disincorporate. So, an appointed official with the ability to dissolve an elected body, when they want to.

AMY GOODMAN: A municipal government.

NAOMI KLEIN: A municipal government. And it says specifically, “or dissolve the municipal government.” So we’ve seen this happening with school boards, saying, “OK, this is a failing school board. We’re taking over. We’re dissolving it. We’re canceling the contracts.” You know, what this reminds me of is New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, when the teachers were fired en masse and then it became a laboratory for charter schools. You know, people in New Orleans—and you know this, Amy—warned us. They said, “What’s happening to us is going to happen to you.” And I included in the book a quote saying, “Every city has their Lower Ninth Ward.” And what we’re seeing with the pretext of the flood is going to be used with the pretext of an economic crisis. And this is precisely what’s happening. So it starts with the school boards, and then it’s whole towns, whole cities, that could be subject to just being dissolved because there’s an economic crisis breaking collective bargaining agreements. It also specifies that—this bill specifies that an emergency manager can be an individual or a firm. Or a firm. So, the person who would be put in charge of this so-called failing town or municipality could actually be a corporation.

AMY GOODMAN: Whose government they dissolve, a company takes over.

NAOMI KLEIN: A company takes over. So, they have created, if this passes, the possibility for privatization of a whole town by fiat. And this is actually a trend in the contracting out of public services, where you do now have whole towns, like Sandy Springs in Georgia, run by private companies. It’s very lucrative. Why not? You start with just the water contract or the electricity contract, but eventually, why not privatize the whole town? So—

AMY GOODMAN: And what happens then? Where does democracy fit into that picture?

NAOMI KLEIN: Well, this is an assault on democracy. It’s a frontal assault on democracy. It’s a kind of a corporate coup d’état at the municipal level.

And I’ll post this again: A Chinese man, Han Dongfang, living under tyranny in 1989, lets us know how utterly essential and vital collective bargaining is to workers’ rights and dignities. We should hear the irony of his fight for collective bargaining in conjunction with the current U.S. attempt to smash collective bargaining—collective bargaining, in a sense, being the right to be equal before one’s employer.

Stay strong, expand community, love more,

Pete

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The Contradiction that is Ayn Rand—or is Ayn Rand a fundamental idiot?

March 1st, 2011

Okay, of course Ayn Rand isn’t an idiot. She might even be a genius. But I can’t read Ayn Rand anymore than I can read Karl Marx—both of whom know everything, which right there is a contradiction.

And granted, I’m a little behind the times here, talking about a person whose most famous works came out in the ’40s and ’50s, although folks still bow at her altar today—as do Marxists for Marx, that cantankerous, boil-butted fundamentalist. The thing is, they’re both so verbally autocratic—and then others translate this emotion with a hammer in hand. Anyway, I read the following quote the other day, from Ayn Rand, who is the author of the massive-sellers The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. She is also the ‘founder’ of Objectivism. She writes:

Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.

Who outside of, well, possibly God (who never precisely returns my emails), lunatic dictators and fundamentalists of all sorts, religious or non-religious, could really believe this?

In other words, I must contradict Ayn Rand. I think I’ll write her a letter that I think she’ll read. Even though she’s dead. Those two ideas may be a contradiction.

That hat contradicts both logic and fashion, so does smoking and freedom. ‘I am free to smoke, and then smoking chains me by addiction, gives me cancer, and I am anything but free.’ A contradiction.

Definition: Contradictory: of words or propositions so related that both cannot be true and both cannot be false; “‘perfect’ and ‘imperfect’ are contradictory terms.”

The letter:

Dear Ayn,

We live on a perpetually spinning yet life-producing round rock, and we don’t fall off, though we fall down, and it’s going nobody-knows-where, warmed by the sun, cooled by water falling from clouds, yet we claim to be in control of our own lives; we feel and/or long to be ‘free,’ yet are utterly dependent on everything—nature, air and others; we are imbued with a relentless yearn for life, yet must die, all the while living in a curious balancing act of choices and non-choices, controls and freedoms. And by our very physical design, we misperceive what we believe is certain.

So Ayn, to say contradictions do not exist, is naughty. And silly. And some would say idiotic. Calling you naughty may be a contradiction to what you really are. Although that hat is rather naughty. And I’ll give you this: you are thought-provoking—but you’re actually a fundamentalist. Minus the fun. Although the ‘fun’ in fundamentalism might also be a contradiction. Or maybe I don’t know what a contradiction is. Which would mean my so-called logic has contradicted itself. Damn.

Love,

Paradox

Ditto with this:

“People create their own questions because they are afraid to look straight. All you have to do is look straight and see the road, and when you see it, don’t sit looking at it—walk.”

As long as the ‘straight’ is the same direction as Ayn Rand. Otherwise, according to the above, one doesn’t understand. Anything. Unless you’re saying two people can go in opposite directions and both be right. But that would be a contradiction, and generally leads to war, or worse, ill-feeling. I went over all this with Atlas, and he shrugged.

My life—a very fortunate and wonderful life—my existence, is all bound together and pulled apart by contradiction. Which may be a contradiction.

Feel free to contradict me.

Yours in love and contradiction,

Pete

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OOPS, SORRY, I ACCIDENTALLY SHOT MY STUDENT

February 27th, 2011

Of all possible solutions to a problem, certain American State lawmakers have come up with another fantastic solution to the most rare of problems—the crazed gunman. My friend Jesse sent me this from the New York Times:

In Arizona, known for its gun-friendly ways, state lawmakers are pushing three bills this year focused on arming professors and others over the age of 21 on Arizona campuses. Sponsors talk of how professors and students are now sitting ducks for the next deranged gunman to charge through the classroom door. Some gun rights advocates go so far as to say that grade school teachers ought to be armed as well, although even this state is not ready for that proposition.

By the way, in case no one noticed, the crazed gunman is also armed.

What’s outrageous is that these elected officials, legislators and lobbyists have no issue—but likely great self-interest, money and power-wise—bringing these anti-creative, asinine solutions to a world already constantly creaking with unrest and turmoil (although life day-to-day is pretty darn amazing, don’t you think?)

And some publications don’t even write with ridicule about the arming of teachers as a first-line plan against others carrying guns. Think, by contrast, how the French were ridiculed for protesting against their retirement age being pushed to the nearly-dead age of 62.

Surely having your child’s fourth-grade teach toting a piece could label a society pathologically unsteady. Unless of course this is, say, Northern Uganda where children, for years, were readily and horrifically abducted by a crazed rebel group (built up with the abducted children) called The Lord’s Resistance Army. There the government simply put thousands of families in camps, with limited protection and limited or no provisions, where their abduction was made easier.

But here in the West, if this trend continues, we writers, being crazed pen-men, will also be shot for suggesting things that threaten said Power (or we’ll be simply too intimidated to write anything). Them thar words are violent! Shoot him!

And for the record, will all these gun-toting philosophy professors and fully-armed kindergarten teachers know anything about having a gun, how to use it, how to be safe with it, how to, say, not accidentally shoot their students?

We could have mandatory Gun 101 classes for first year university students, or Armed Combat 11: How to Reload Quickly or How To Get The Mark You Don’t Really Deserve instead of Home Ec, which doesn’t matter, because we can just live off drive-thru, fast-food anyway.

And what about home-schooling? Should parents arm themselves, too? Swimming lessons? Sunday School with classes like Who Would Jesus Shoot? (sorry, Jason!) or How To Be Armed for Allah. Actually both those probably are taught, one here I found in ten seconds on-line (and taking a break) and of course at the Saudi-funded, rabid Wahhabi schools. The Saudis, of course, being good friends with the US Government, and certainly the House of Bush.

You know, we could at least try pushing for an ethos of discernment and kindness, at least among people in our own countries, and then evolve, yes, even beyond that. Have you read comments on-line, in general, lately? People really think they hate each other, and really think they know the answer. Both ideas are profoundly untrue, in my opinion—we just don’t realize it. But as most know, whenever one deeply tries to love another, the other becomes and remains quite wonderfully mysterious—heck, they become three-dimensional, maybe four. Not simply a cardboard cutout enemy via our perceived picture of who they are because of some apparent ideological stance, or less. Think about it.

Arm yourself with love, all the time, no matter how idiotic the people are running more of the show. When the time comes to really fight, all that love will offer intelligent insight. If not, at least you didn’t lead a paranoid life full of hate and ignorance.

Love more!

Pete

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