Feb 16, 2008

Tus Mensajes [Old School Divide]

from The Unapologetic Mexican


I thought I'd bring this to your attention. I live in Atlanta. A commercial started running about 10 days ago that shows a black guy (I'm black) talking about how millions of jobs are being lost to illegal immigrants. As he talks, only black faces are shown in the video. I don't know if this ad is being shown in other cities, but I've never seen it before. It has aired 3 times in the last 10 days, and the next time it does I'll make a point to get the name of the sponsor. I can't help to think that in this Republican dominated state, some Karl Rove types are trying to stir the pot and create dissension as we head further into the campaign season. I smell old school divide and conquer tactics. For what it's worth.

It's true. So easy for disease-minded power brokers to jam wedges in sore places. We must not let them. We must remember what we have in common, and we must nurture those things. And we must see where a true enemy lies. And be ready at all times to love. And to direct the fight to those who bring it.

Peace. (and Justice.)

Feb 12, 2008

Presidente de Mexico Felipe Calderón Visiting USA

I find a few things interesting about this report of Calderon's visit to the U.S. ---

"The encounter had a decidedly grass-roots tone, which, from the looks of his official agenda, seems to be exactly the tone that Mr. Calderón is trying to strike during his first official visit to the United States since he took office on Dec. 1, 2006."
Admittedly, I don't know much about mr. calderon. I haven't been following his presidency. I have heard however that there are reports of heightened military presence in such areas as Oaxaca and Chiapas. I guess a couple of links to articles would be good here....

Going back to the article:

Joel Magallán, executive director of Asociación Tepeyac de New York, an education and advocacy group, called the meeting “una entrada,” or an entryway, meaning it was not meaningful enough to produce any results, but could mark the start of a relationship.

“Yes, the meeting was important so he could see the faces of the people who have been working for the Mexicans in the United States,” Mr. Magallán said in Spanish after the encounter...

Something seems amiss here, a translation error or something, since obviously what's important are the Mexican faces working in the United States...

Mr. Calderón also talked about the inter-dependence that has characterized United States-Mexico relations, with Mexico providing much of the low-wage labor needed in the United States and the United States providing Mexicans who are here the opportunity to work and sending billions of dollars each year to support their families back home.

I would like to hear what mr. calderon had to say on this matter. This is an interesting thing to hear any presidential leader discussing--namely that the immigration issue is on both sides of the border. I know Obama acknowledges that immigration reform must occur on both sides of the border---here's his "official" stance on immigration. With Clinton all I get are memories of NAFTA...ugh...

Quoting Norberta Díaz of Asociación de Mujeres Poblanas, a Brooklyn-based organization that educates Mexican women about America’s health and educational systems:

“We’re not asking for amnesty — all we ask for is reform,” she added. “We hope he won’t do like President Fox did when Bush came to Mexico, when he had this big party with ranchera music and food. When he hosts a visit from the next president of the United States, we hope that Calderón talks about immigration and shows that he’s interested, that he cares about what happens to the Mexicans who are here.”

I didn't know that president fox threw a party with ranchera music and food when president bush came to visit!!! How come we weren't invited? That would have been hilarious to see!!! Can you imagine bush with his stupid little smirk trying to enjoy ranchera music??? Too funny too funny...

Matters of Great Concern Should Be Treated Lightly

It just got into my head to prepare a video for the Luiseño Artist Collective on what it is that we do. A mission statement of sorts, in the form of a 2 to 3 minute "documentary." The script in my mind should follow the basic layout of informational videos out there, ones that I get hired out to do work on as an editor. I tell people every time--gosh, these little videos are just like writing papers back in college! And people usually agree. What does that say about the world we live in? It haunts me, though i guess this cross-disciplinary "coincidence"--that a script for a short doc often follows the layout of a basic academic paper--also allows me to be an editor as well as writer.

In thinking of this video for the Luiseño Artist Collective, however, I am inclined---in the words of one savy producer of a Tylenol commercial I worked on years ago, when I was still an assistant at Version2!---to "break that category" immediately. I am compelled to start the whole doc, for instance, with footage of John the Philosopher.

For those of you who know me, some of you may know how dear this footage is to me, how much it had an influence on a portion of my life, toward the end of college, living in Chicago not long before moving to New York. My initial intention was to do a full-fledged documentary on the man I got to know as John the Philosopher. I told my father I wanted to contrast this man's knowledge as a philosopher in the world with the knowledge of "philosphers" at a University--though of course nowadays, no one has the gumption to use this title, the people I am referring to were academics at the University of Chicago.

I spent entire nights with John the Philosopher, who was homeless, who would wander and sleep in various places throughout Hyde Park. He introduced me to Spider and he knew a young cat, 19 and introduced to me out of ear-shot as a hustler, whom he was trying to mentor. Once, during the day, perhaps the day that Hong waited for me in another section of the park, an off-duty cop came through and talked. He talked about the culture of policemen, of undercover cops who were also drug dealers. I didn't know if i should believe a word he was saying. Once John asked me for something to write with--and he wrote, in beautiful handwriting, a card to his friend Spider. Spider, who was an alcoholic, who seemed to accept my presence, but nonetheless always seemed on edge, was drinking cheap malt beer with busted knuckles. He told me he didn't like to fight, but that he fought when he had to.

I was younger though, too young and immature, and couldn't make this movie. I simply could not organize the documentary I wanted to make about this man. As winter encroached on the Autumn weather, John told me he was leaving on a bus to San Diego, where his sister lived. Months later I saw him with a group of homeless men, one a middle aged white man with a bright blue Cubs jacket and a hat and glasses, as they walked past the monastery on Kimbark next to the Nickles Park. I was across the street and they didn't notice me. There was so much spirit in the way the walked, the whole group, as John the Philospher spoke to them. That would be the last I would see of him.

But I do have video and audio of John the Philosopher. Some people have seen this video. At a certain point I stopped showing it. I would venture to say that I have probably thought of this video every day of my life since I first came across the footage though. And I believe a part of me knew it would be around with me for years to come, at least in spirit. In the video, a homeless man who goes by John the Philosopher is in our apartment in Chicago, in the red room. Hong is there and so is Zimmry and of course Simon, who invited John inside, and some other people. Am i dreaming this footage, I wonder? did it really happen? Simon reads John the Philosopher a passage from Nietzsche's The Gay Science, a passage in the beginning about the footbridge, and John the Philosopher comments on it, a brilliant comment, that gives us rapture. Later in the dining room with the theater lights and the Virgin Guadalupe installation, John the Philosopher talks about wanting to paint a picture, about writing a book, or about both.

Part of me tells myself that I should maintain this beloved footage secret for now, keep it for the real doc, still being made, forever being created... but then again, i argue with myself--or, maybe i should say, the entity known as Antronix argues--that I shouldn't be afraid of using footage in multiple videos.

Reappropriating footage in multiple contexts is something I've wanted to put into practice...for a really long time...ever since i had the notion of making a film around my identity. The film would be a compilation of people that resemble me physically or psychologically; the original idea was to make a movie that weaved footage of Edward James Olmos in Zoot Suit, scenes from Laurence of Arabia, Benicio Del Toro in Usual Suspects, Jose Canseco, a general representation of Latino/Irish/Middle-Eastern hybrid identities.

The form I was beginning to explore--albeit only in my mind, as I watched films over the shoulders of people at the Film Studies Center in Chicago--was the creation of fluid video pieces, videos that used the same footage, but always changing; the ongoing work would be to constantly re-appropriate footage in different works, such as my beloved John the Philosopher video, so as to continually give footage new shades of context and new meanings.

Many years later I realize that using footage over and over, in different contexts, with different in and out points, serves to inform audiences of the manipulation that goes on behind editing. For instance, take this Colgate commercial I found on Youtube. Commercials, movies, whatever, are always edited, for better or for worse. The smiles and the toothpaste work into a cohesive whole to present a pleasant portrait, something charming, delightful, appealing, desirable. Sex is often subtly infused or entirely removed, on an instinctual level, by the editor. Perfect consistency must be kept in order to preserve the integrity of the desire to consume and/or purchase being created in a 30 second commercial.

But what about then presenting the takes of smiles after the point they should be cut, into the moment beyond the out-point, and into regular, plodding life? The moment for instance when the smile next to the toothpaste goes blank, grimaces, looks up at the director, transforms into a sincere gesture, or simply goes blank? This is interesting to me, and perhaps one day I will execute it here, if i have the footage handy, and if i have a moment as well as the patience, to go through with the whole process of showing what happens after an edit should be made, when life goes on.

But then again one knows what happens after we smile--we know that we eventually scowl, or that our eyes may turn profound or dumb, or that our cheeks may dimple, because life goes on, and we understand this, until death; there is no "ending" but death, we will be in the ground with dirt in our mouths, or mummified in a tomb if we are lucky, or floating over the sea as ashes, or piled neatly in a clump as a man in military uniform puts a light to our stinking bodies.

Not that I want to keep reminding you of the possible ways there are to die. More fun is to laugh at death, to understand how far away it is, and that all we do have is life--boring, plodding, life, and sometimes, art. Let's instead watch a scene from Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man. Life, death, the magic of cinema, it's all there:

Timothy Treadwell - Grizzly Man Pt. 4

And now let's watch an interview with one of Tim Treadwell's closest people on this earth:

Timothy Treadwell - Grizzly Man Pt. 6

The scene shows us a seemingly rehearsed ritual of sorts, where a coroner presents dead Timothy Treadwell's watch to his one-time girlfriend, Jewel. The coroner's emotion, appropriately respectful, also has a tone of awkward insincerity, and is followed by Jewel's emotional recalling of Tim Treadway and the girlfriend who died with him, Amy. Standard-fare documentary filmmaking--i.e., if it were actually the Discovery Channel who were making Grizzly Man, and not Werner Herzog, would have probably ended the scene with this bit of emotion, perhaps merged it with the final outburst and carried it into the next scene, a nice cohesive arc drawing superficial emotion from the audience. Or worse yet--in a gruseome MTV version--the filmmakers would cut after showing us the bling of Tim's watch!...

But the scene doesn't end where most would have ended it, since Herzog is here inviting us to laugh--not at Timothy Treadwell, mind you--but to laugh at death, and at the intention of a filmmaker to make a film about death. Of all the ways to die, why not by a grizzly bear who mauls you and eats you? The scene, instead of ending, brings us back to plodding, light-hearted laughter--"...so there it is." "There it is...I can't believe it..." Superficial smiles and consoling gestures. "Hopefully it'll continue to run a long time." "I think it will." Etc, etc. Another emotional outburst, back to regular life...

how bizarre to say all of this, to talk without end