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The Blog of ALEX COX


7/7 - THE MOVIE

BLOG 2005.1.6

I wasn't planning to return to this topic so soon. Instead this blog was going to be a homily to the wonderful Gutenberg project, who have put Webster's THE WHITE DEVIL online...

But the 7/7 blog has attracted some interesting traffic - from The Antagonist, whose blog contains a fascinating and troubling analysis of the London atrocities, and from Rachel, a Tube bomb survivor, who disagrees with The Antagonist but wants to see a public enquiry.

Cynics like The Antagonist (and to a large extent myself) believe that a public enquiry will be a whitewash. You can already see the Steve Bell cartoons with penguins, lock-em-up cops, and lickspittle noble lords, and read the whiffle-waffle editorial in The Guardian. Nevertheless I think that even a whitewash is very important. Some truth will out, and the fact that Blair and his pudgy hard man, Clarke, don't want a public enquiry is proof enough that there should be one.

One of the most mysterious aspects of the 9/11 horrors was the failure of the world's most powerful Air Force and most massive military machine to respond in time. Most research suggests that the USAF and National Guard were distracted on the morning of 2001/9/11 by a series of US Government war games, with names like Vigilant Warrior and Vigilant Guardian. Some of these war games involved an imaginary bomber attack from the former Soviet Union, for which many jets were re-located or scrambled. Others involved civilian aircraft being flown into public buildings: hence the planned evacuation of the National Reconnaissance Office (which operates all the US's spy satellites) on the morning of 9/11.

(The above info comes not from some weirdo website or LaRouche source, but from the Associated Press on 2002/8/21).

The American war games explain the immortal words of one of the flight controllers - "Is this real, or exercise?"

We know, thanks to some persistent websites and bloggers, and a lone BBC interview, that a terror-simulation exercise - its size and scope unknown - was under weigh on the morning of 7/7. Since it seems that the 9/11 terrorists had advance knowledge of Vigilant Guardian and Vigilant Warrior, took advantage of these exercises to sucessfully attack the Pentagon and WTC, shouldn't we be asking if the alleged suicide bombers had any connection to the Visor exercise on 7/7?

We know, again from the mainstream press, that British intelligence was in contact with two of the alleged bombers prior to the atrocities. Apparently the "mastermind" behind the 7/7 bombings was also known to M16.

An official enquiry, even one run by my noble Lords Hutton and Butler, will have to investigate these links. Perhaps it will turn out all four alleged bombers were in contact with the secret service. We should know this, if they were.

An official enquiry, even as it does its whitewashing, will have to reveal more details of the Visor terror excercise. It will have to explain, at very least, 1) who commissioned the exercise, 2) what it entailed, 3) what Tube trains and stations were involved, and 4) who participated and how they were recruited.

Whether or not the dead accused are guilty, an official enquiry must still investigate 1) whether the bombers were participants in the Visor exercise, 2) whether, though not employed by Visor, they obtained prior knowledge of it, and 3) if so, how they obtained that knowledge.

An official enquiry, if it were on the level, would ruthlessly investigate the extraordinary coincidence of the Visor exercise and the terror attacks, and also the peculiar timing of the bombing atrocities. Why, with the horrors of Madrid/Atocha clearly in their minds, did the bombers choose to strike after the General Election, rather than before?

I have no idea whether any of these questions will be asked by the feature film SUICIDE BOMBER, due to be made about the 7/7 atrocities.

The director, Masesh Bhatt, is apparently a veteran of Bollywood; his son Rahul will star in the lead role. One fears the worst when one reads that the film is based "partly on a Time magazine article about the psychology of a suicide bomber in Iraq" but the budget is sufficiently lean - less than a million pounds - that we may be spared the jingoistic slop we could expect from Working Title/Universal.

Who cares? some may ask. Why bother with this stuff when we could be blogging about our favourite movie, or our next trip to Sundance? Because this stuff is much more important. The right wing (which includes New Labour and the US Democrats, in case you've just woken from a long, long sleep) is hell-bent on depriving us of what civil liberties we have. In the US, the Bill of Rights and Habeas Corpus no longer exist. Blair, Clarke, and their clones in the Tory and Lib Dem parties all seek the ape the New American Totalitarian Way. Bearded pundits such as Timothy Garton Ash (who the fuck is this guy? Why do we have to read his pompous drivel in The Guardian?) say it's now necessary to sacrifice freedom for security.

Some of us (I think this includes me, Rachel, The Antagonist, and most of the readers of this) are very fond of the few freedoms we have, and would actually like more of them.

Whitewash or not, we demand a 7/7 enquiry!

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7/7 - OUR 9/11?

Last week I reviewed three books about the 9/11 atrocities. Two of them suggested that the US Government let these events happen - or organised them - so as to have a pretext to seize the oil assets of the Middle East. One of them, by Webster Tarpley, claimed that terrorist conspiracies are invariably infiltrated by governments, and that terrorist acts or usually the work of government provocateurs seeking a clamp-down. He provides numerous examples of this.

Whenever I go on a peace march, or a march of almost any kind, there are always people handing out flyers. On the Peace March in London on 24 Sept, I was acquired a number of flyers - supposedly from dissenting Muslim or leftist groups - which claimed the 7/7 bombings in London were a secret government act.

So I'd like to briefly apply the same scepticism to the 7/7 events as American writers have done regarding 9/11.

One of the flyers, printed on pink paper - "7-7 - Case for the Defence" (www.julyseventh.co.uk) claims that a 'terror drill' was taking place for bomb attacks at the same times and locations as explosions. This was definitely the case on 9/11 and it would be interesting to know if the claim is (even partially) true in the case of London. Advance knowledge of a training exercise would be presumably be useful to terrorists. But, as Mr Blair and Mr Clarke reminded us last week, there is no need for an official enquiry.

Another flyer, on white paper, "7/7 - There Were No Suicide Bombers" (www.prisonplanet.com/archives/london/index.htm) makes the same claim, but also supports it, with the following quote:

At half past nine this morning we were actually running an
exercise for a company of over a thousand people in London
based on simultaneous bombs going off precisely at the
railway stations where it happened this morning.

This is attributed to Peter Power, Managing Director of Visor Consultants and longtime associate of Sir Ian Blair, on BBC Radio 5, 2005/7/7. (There is much more about Power, Visor Consultants, and the 7/7 exercises on both websites. Apparently, the 7/7 "terror drill" tale is true.)

Both flyers, pink and white, refer to mainstream news reports of bomb explosions underneath the trains. Bruce Lait, a passenger on the Aldgate East train, and several passengers on the Edgeware Road train apparently reported this to the Cambridge Evening News and to the Guardian Online (both cite the website www.officialconfusion.com with the instruction 'click on Honigsbaum Audio.')

Both leaflets also claim that CCTV photos of the four suicide bombers outside Luton station were faked. The white leaflet also claims that one Haroon Aswat, the alleged 'mastermind of the failed 21/7 bombings' is an MI6 agent (citing Fox News Channel, 2005/7/29)

The pink leaflet has not much more info than the white one, though there are certainly some other bits of conspiracy stuff left dangling, such as:

7 ) WHY the power surge story, WHY was it changed,
WHY were Kings X workers told to come in early and
not talk to the press, and WHY to the authorities
still withhold the 3 Kings Cross tube departure times?

8 ) Many anomalies also surround the 30 bus which
exploded outside the BMA (Lancet article connection?)
Only bus diverted that morning, it had a poster with
'Absolute Terror - Bold and Brilliant' on its side, etc.

On page two of the pink leaflet we are directed to the CIA and the global scope of things ("The two SAS reconnaissance men arrested in Basra almost certainly had bombs in their car"), and - whoa! - we're advised, for further study (sic) to read Webster Tarpley's book 9/11 - SYNTHETIC TERRORISM and another book also recommended by Tarpley and LaRouche's "research agency."

Is one of these two leaflets put out by the Lyndon LaRouche org? It may be so. Perhaps many strange orgs latch onto disasters with parapolitcal overtones, and publish conspiracy books, and hand out leaflets.

LaRouche's dodgy politics might discredit the pink leaflet. But does the pink leaflet therefore discredit the white one?

Not necessarily. In the United States, there are three theories about the 9/11 atrocities: ACCIDENT, LIHOP, and MIHOP is what I think they are called. ACCIDENT is the official theory, the one promoted by the White House, the major media, and the Kean Commision: Bin Laden did it, we were unaware and unprepared. LIHOP is Let It Happen On Purpose: bad people within the US Government reduced America's security deliberately, so that Bin Laden's wicked but useful provocation could go ahead. Bin Laden doesn't feature much in MIHOP - Make It Happen On Purpose - where he is reduced to a minor patsy, like Lee Harvey Oswald' s landlady. MIHOP theorists believe elements within the UK gov/mil/biz complex did it all.

ACCIDENT is the theory which the British state and media have applied to 7/7. We've heard little about the simultaneous 'terror exercises.' Links between the alleged suicide bombers and Al Qaeda have assumed; links between them and the security services have not been seriously pursued. Yet there were such contacts. All this is updated, via the two websites, and their links.

A particularly interesting link is to the blog of The Antagonist, who has clearly devoted a lot of thought and analysis to 7/7. He cites early reports - including an announcement by MetroNet, and a subsequent press release - that a catastrophic power surge had caused the three Tube explosions. This leads to speculation that the 'Al Qaeda' story is but a cover-up by MetroNet and the Blair government to avoid a massive corporate manslaughter rap.

Surely, from a terrorist's viewpoint, the timing of the London atrocities was all wrong. If you were really suicide bombers, with serious, attainable goals - a British withdrawal from Iraq, say - why would you wait till after the General Election? Instead, the alleged bombers struck after the Election and after the Olympic Committee's decision - losing another opportunity to damage British prestige.

Indeed, the alleged bombers waited till the Election and the Olympic decision were in the bag, and, as Private Eye pointed out, timed their atrocities to coincide with BBC2's The New Al Qaeda, and Channel 4's The Cult of the Suicide Bomber. Both The Eye and The Guardian treated the 7/7 attacks as proof that The Power of Nightmares was wrong, in some way.

I have no idea what went on on 7/7, but based even on a couple of flyers and these websites, I wouldn't pick ACCIDENT as the most likely explanation. Clarke's decision to do so, and his rejection of a public enquiry into 7/7, seem deeply suspicious.

In the end, the 7/7 horrors served to validate the corporate flacks and gangsters gathering for the G8 meeting in Edinburgh. The media strove to make these crooks look 'statesmanlike,' and ended its brief focus on the massive 'Make Poverty History' campaign. In the same way, 9/11 validated the struggling, unelected G.W. Bush presidency, and ended all media focus on the massive Third World Conference on Slavery, which had taken place in South Africa, and demanded the First World pay reparations, the week before.

If anyone doubts the existence of political conspiracies, let them consider the following conspiracies to pervert the course of justice, ongoing in England, Ireland, and the USA:

1) the choice and use of 'Lord' Butler and previous noble 'Lords' - by the politicians under investigation - to investigate serious political crimes, including war crimes,
2) the choice of judges in the Shannon Airport Ploughshares anti-war case (two judges, supposedly selected by the Irish judicial system for their impartiality, have been forced to remove themselves - the second one for undeclared personal & political links to G.W. Bush),
3) the US judicial system's choice of one Reggie Walton - another G.W. Bush crony - to decide the Valerie Plame and Sibol Edmonds cases. Walton has twice been 'randomly' assigned to judge Edmonds' whistleblower cases.

All the above may happen randomly. Yet, strangely, they all benefit the same handful of powerfully-connected individuals. If the choice of judge wasn't random, it was criminal. And, if more than one individual was involved in the decision to commit the crime, then it was - by the definition of the word - a conspiracy.

Merry Xmas!

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THREE BOOKS ABOUT 9/11

BLOG 2005.12.26

Diego Sandoval (no relation to Miguel) tells me I've been too negative in these recent blogs. Diego is a person of great refinement and discernment, so I'm going to believe him, and rather than bore you with more rants about film policy, I'll share an improving book review, instead --

Three reviews, actually. They're all books about the 9/11 atrocities, one suggesting, the other two stating, that these events were a deliberate provocation organised - or permitted to happen - by the US government. This wouldn't be the first time the United States "attacked itself." Faked provocations were common in US dealings with Native Americans, in the seizure of Mexican territory, in the Maine, Pueblo, and Gulf of Tonkin incidents, and prior to the invasions of Grenada and Panama. All three books refer to the Northwoods plan (proposed by the Pentagon to JFK) to hijack airliners, kill Americans on US soil, and blame it on Castro, way back in 1963.

The first book is the least crazy-seeming, and you can find its timeline on the Internet. The second and third books are a bit weirder, but also interesting.

Next week I'll look at the 7/7 events in London from the same perspective.

(Many thanks to all those who've bought DVDs, by the way -- proving the old adage that people like real goods better than imaginary ones!)

The Terror Timeline
Paul Thompson & the Center for Cooperative Research
Regan Books (Harper Collins) 2004

One of the most complete demolitions of the Warren Commission Report was the work of a researcher who laboriously created a timeline based on the information therein. This was, in the mid-sixties, a major task involving one person, years of work and many shoeboxes full of card files.

After 9/11, such a timeline could be created more quickly by groups of volunteers collaborating via the Internet, and drawing information from it. THE TERROR TIMELINE is the result. Constantly updated on the Web, the timeline is available in book form (590 pp) from a major publisher, Harper Collins. It's the most useful of the three books, especially to a general reader or someone whose only previous info about the 9/11 events comes from the straight media or the Kean Commission Report.

Both the Warren and Kean Commissions worked in a similar way: ignoring certain witnesses, asking the wrong questions of others, relying on statements from the FBI and CIA as if these agencies were paradigms of truth-telling, creating fake timelines, building the legends of dead patsies, blaming absolutely no one in an official capacity, expressing concern about the intel agencies' failure to communicate. The Kean Commission is actually worse: with an obvious political agenda (more power to the incommunicative intel agencies! death to the Bill of Rights!) and even more contempt for its audience (the paperback copies of the Kean Report were published without an index).

THE TERROR TIMELINE is quite subdued in the way it tears the official story apart, simply by listing newspaper and other media information snippets, in chronological order. Clearly not all the information is true, since much of it is contradictory. Thompson and the cooperative researchers are to be praised for this. The Kean and Warren Reports created their fictional narratives by misrepresenting the evidence, cherry-picking useful facts and ignoring all others. THE TERROR TIMELINE attempts to list all relevant information regarding the preparations for 9/11, the identities of the terrorists, the events of the day, and the twistings and turnings of the Kissinger, err, Kean Commission.

It's a valuable book.

Crossing The Rubicon
Michael C Ruppert
New Society (Canada) 2004

Michael Ruppert's book is valuable, too, and also large (674pp). Ruppert is a former LAPD narcotics investigator, who was - he says - forced out of the police for trying to expose CIA drug trafficking. Now we are in Gary Webb / DARK ALLIANCE territory - but Ruppert says this happened in 1978, almost a decade before the CIA pushed crack on US cities, to fund the contras. Ruppert tells us that Wall Street is buoyed up by drug money, which is a fascinating accusation - it would be nice to see some evidence to back it up, among those 674 pages.

His main thesis is that it's all about Peak Oil. 9/11 was an event fabricated by the US government and the oil companies, to permit a US takeover of Middle East oil reserves, and the resumption of opium production in Afghanistan. This is a reasonable theory: it's the "Kick their ass, and take their gas" explanation for American foreign policy, which most of the world already believes. There is only so much oil left, and the Americans and the Chinese are destined to fight over it.

Ruppert's number one villain is Cheney, who he claims, with some evidence, changed the US's previously-effective shoot-down policy prior to 9/11. Ruppert's believes that Cheney - with a cabal of allies within the Secret Service (shades of Dealy Plaza!) - took advantage the Vigilant Guardian/Vigilant Warrior NORAD exercises on 9/11, either to facilitate Bin Laden's wicked plan, or to orchestrate the entire thing.

At the same time, Ruppert - perhaps because he only had time to write a long book, rather than a short one - over-eggs his pudding with a number of additional conspiracy recipes. There are no UFOs or lizard-men, but Ruppert details a long blind-alley investigation into a man called Vreeland. Clearly Ruppert thinks that Vreeland is the Richard Case Nagell of 9/11 (Nagell was the JFK assassination conspirator who fired a gun in an El Paso bank, so that he'd be in jail on 11/22. There's a very big book about him, too, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, by Dick Russell), but ultimately Vreeland ambles through 100-odd pages without adding much to the story. Also occupying many pages of Ruppert's book is his re-telling of the 'Promis' software story, and which he weaves into every aspect of 9/11. 'Promis' - if you recall - was top-secret software which 'did everything' and ran on every O/S - back in the 80s. Supposedly. Major corporations and national governments all run 'Promis' software today, even though it's twenty years old, and famously compromised and untrustworthy. Apparently. And 'Promis' software was intalled on Dick Cheney's laptop when he took it to Radio Shack, and, and, and...

But Ruppert's main thesis - that Peak Oil is upon us, and the explanation for these otherwise insane events - is plausible, and he thoughtfully includes the entire Northwoods Memorandum as an appendix. I just wish he didn't go off the rails, as he does when he devotes a 3-page homily to the weird Scott Barnes, nightmare poster-child of conspiracy theorists, or when he accuses Marc Cooper, of The Nation and the LA Weekly, of being a CIA agent.

Maybe Cooper is a spook. Maybe Wall Street is kept afloat by laundering drug money. But just asserting these things without evidence is flakey.

9/11 Synthetic Terror - Made in USA
Webster Griffin Tarpley
Progressive Press (Joshua Tree, CA) 2005

SYNTHETIC TERROR is by one Webster Griffin Tarpley (why do so many conspiracists have three names like this? Catherine Austin Fitts wrote the introduction to Ruppert's book. It used to be that the fall-guys (James Earl Ray, Lee Harvey Oswald) had three names. Now their debunkers do as well). It seems to be self-published, or published by a small press, in Joshua Tree, California.

Tarpley has written books about the Bush family, and has little time for them. What's interesting is that he has no time for the Democrats, either. He views them as just another political branch of the oligarchy, and is particularly scathing about Richard Clarke (Clinton/Bush counter-terrorism czar, and author of AGAINST ALL ENEMIES). Tarpley goes further than Ruppert, and says that Bin Laden is no more than another patsy - a CIA-invented villain like Mohammed Atta or Oswald. In his version of events, the events of 9/11 were run entirely by the "real government" - a neocon cabal which operates on behalf of the US - and British! - oligarchy.

There is some interesting stuff here. Tarpley writes at length about the hijackers' ineptitude as pilots, and insists that all four planes were being piloted via remote control. He also insists, as do various other authors, that the Pentagon was hit by a cruise missile, not a 757 (the photographic evidence, as far as I can see, supports this).

His sections on the collapse of WTC 1 and 2 - which he insists was a controlled demolition - and the mysterious self-destruction of WTC 7 are worth reading. In particular, Tarpley points out that Controlled Demolition, Inc - the company put in charge of destroying the evidence at Ground Zero - was also given the job of levelling the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. In both cases, given the seriousness of the crime, the hasty destruction of the crime scene was deeply troubling, even to non-conspiracists.

Towards the end of the book, nuttiness appears. Tarpley thinks that energy-beam-weapons may have been directed at the three WTC buildings to hasten their collapse. Maybe. He thinks that the British, and Tony Blair, have more to do with 9/11 than meets the eye, and at one point cites a story titled, THE SAS - PRINCE PHILLIP'S MANAGER OF TERRORISM.

Phil the Greek? How the hell did he get involved in this? The story was published by EIR, which Tarpey says is a news agency, for which he also worked. He mentions a project he did for EIR, exposing the terrorist Gladio Network, which he says was set up by NATO. (The Gladio stuff is also interesting, especially as Tarpey connects it with the Pentagon's Northwoods domestic terror project). But what is EIR?

Step forward Lyndon Larouche, and his Executive Intelligence Review - EIR. Larouche appears briefly in the text, as I recall, but strangely doesn't make it into Tarpley's index...

Does the Larouche connection - and hence the nutty focus on the English Royals - discredit Tarpley? It doesn't do him any favours. On the other hand, Howard Hunt lost a lawsuit against Larouche, whose newspaper had alleged Hunt was in Dealy Plaza on 11/22. The jury believed Larouche's lawyer, Mark Lane (author of RUSH TO JUDGEMENT, certainly no right-wing extremist), and concluded that Hunt was lying.

In the end, Tarpley's thesis is a development of Fletcher Prouty's "Secret Team" accusation: that, within the US government, a secret network of wicked moles serves the interests of the oligarchy, and protects the murderers of President Kennedy. As a theory, it's impossible to prove or disprove - but why is it necessary? Prouty's "Secret Team" involoved the likes of Oliver North, John Negroponte, John Poindexter, and George H.W. Bush. Expanded by Tarpley, the traitorous cabal now also includes Dick Cheney (Tarpley thinks George W. Bush is too stupid, cowardly, and brain-damaged to have been an active part of it.) But if your "Secret Team" includes a president and a vice-president, what kind of secret is this? Isn't it easier just to say that the US government always serves the oligarchy's interests, and leave it at that?

(in all of the above, for oligarchy, please read 'oiligarchy.')

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BLOG 2005.11.29

FILM IS, UH, CULTURAL, AND A REALLY IMPORTANT, UH, REGIONAL THINGY...

One way of avoiding 'free trade' rules and the prescriptions of the World Bank, the IMF, and the World Trade Organisation is to reject them entirely. This is what Fidel Castro and the Cubans have done, of necessity, since all those organisations are controlled by the United States, and the US wants them dead.

What Hugo Chavez does in Venezuela is a lite version of the Cuban option: Venezuela can't ignore the WB or the IMF, because they're too powerful and it's already in the net. But Chavez can, and does, say no to WTO prescriptions, and to the US plans for a Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Confronted by Hollywood, and its London branch, the Film Council, independent filmmakers tend to take the Cuban route. There isn't really an alternative. Since we can't access their money, and since their stories and their politics are horrible, we do our own work independently, look for new ways to get it seen.

There's another way of avoiding the WTO/Hollywood dominance model. It's called the "Cultural Exception... or Exemption" and it's something permitted by the WTO and international trade agreements. If your indigenous local culture - basket-weaving, say, or gurning contests, is in danger of being swamped by a global (read, American) tidal wave of TV, advertising and generic trash, you can get government money for it!

Normally this is called (in global bullshit-talk) "State Aid" - which is, to all the globalist economists and bureaucrats, something almost as evil as Fidel Castro, or Hugo Chavez. State Aid is all right when it's massive, of course: when the US government gives billions to Boeing or Raytheon or Halliburton, or when the EU pays Airbus to build aeroplanes. But it's very bad when it's given to small producers, such as basket-weavers, or filmmakers.

The French government has for many years acted in the belief that the "Cultural Exemption" permits it to ignore "State Aid" rules and to support its local film industry, something the Americans hate.

Buoyed by the French example, the Canadians and the Mexicans have tried to invoke the "Cultural Exemption" so as to put more money into their own, almost-destroyed, state industries. UNESCO - the United Nations Cultural Org - has expressed support for an international "Cultural Exemption," which annoys the US cultural oligopoly a good deal.

Tomorrow night, at Canada House in London, the Canadian Ambassador is throwing a 'do' in support of the UNESCO proposals. And who has been invited, by the Independent Film Parliament, to speak on behalf of the endangered British film industry? Step forward John Woodward, head of the London Film Council.

If any event were ever co-opted prior to its occurrence, this would be it. Woodward works for a man called Stuart Till, the head of UIP - a huge American distribution conglomerate owned by Universal and Paramount. Their job, under New Labour, has been to distribute Lottery money to American features, facilitate American production in Britain and select Caribbean islands, and put an end to the very independent cultural product which UNESCO is belatedly trying to preserve. Woodward will make a very nice speech, put the thing in his pocket, and walk off to his next speaking engagement, sponsored by Coca Cola.

So I won't be going to the Canada House shindig, exciting though it sounds.

By inviting Woodward and the Film Council to the event, the Independent Film Parliament have shown that they are neither independent nor a parliament. Where was the open discussion of this controversial move? I doubt that PACT, where frank speech about the Film Council is no longer feared, would proposed Woodward, or Till, to champion our cultural survival.

When I attended the Film Parliament at Cambridge a couple of years ago, I thought it odd that one of its sponsors was the Film Council. Vertigo, which advertises itself as an alternative film voice, is similarly funded. It's quite difficult to be 'alternative' when you receive money from The Man.

Listen, guys. You have a big surprise coming: The Man ain't gonna preserve your cultural industries. At a certain point, he'll stop giving you money, too. And then, who will preserve you?

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FROM ALEX TO COX.COM

25.11.19

DO NOT CIRCULATE

Has anyone seen the sales figures for September and October?
They are dispiriting!
For more than sixty days, we've had approximately twenty .pdf screenplays available for sale on the site, and full-service credit card and Paypal availability, and what have our total sales been?
0. Zip. Nothing. No units moved.
What is the matter with you guys? What are you doing?
Don't tell me nobody wants to buy my gear. Cox-o is still very much in the game, oh yes! The four BFI DVDs came out on Halloween and are going great guns, retail-wise. In the same quarter, Anchor Bay in the US shipped 2,000 units of THREE BUSINESSMEN. That's right, 2,000 units - with, so far, only one return! So there is no excuse for us not having sold anything at all, via the website.
I hear defeatist talk that the units are priced too high. The Nez says no unit should cost more than five dollars - this is the ideal price point, according to his pmarket researches.
But this is defeatist talk. $7.99 is less than five pounds, English, and a great deal less than the $25K or $50K the studios originally paid for these things. Somebody, somewhere, must be prepared to fork out a fiver for one ...no?
Tuxton, in Marketing, observes that nobody cares about superannuated filmmakers' ancient works, and and that these scripts were mostly never made. He adds that David Lynch gave up his blog, on his private members-only site, a couple of years ago: presumably because he wasn't making enough money to make it worth his while.
Shame on you, Tuxton! To suggest a brother director might be motivated by money is a calumny.
Tuxton also notes that when we used to give scripts away we'd average 5-25 downloads a day, which means that anyone who wanted them may already have 'em. And, he cruelly adds, why would anyone pay for something that used to be free?
Wrong again, Tuxton! History shows that people will willingly pay for things that used to be free, such as education, food, and medical care. Why should .pdfs be any different?
Better, more pro-active notes come from Dan, in Logistics. Dan says we should 'go large' - selling physical items as well as virtual ones, and adding music downloads (Pray for Rain) to the shopping pages.
He also says it would be a good idea to give some stuff away, like we used to, so alexcox.com won't look like it's run by a gang of cheap chiselers who are only in it for the money.
Well done, Dan-o!
So site users can 1) buy a copy of EDGE CITY, my first film, on DVD (Visa and MasterCard cheerfully accepted) 2) download a free .pdf of my first book - written in 1978! - about Spaghetti Westerns,"10,000 WAYS TO DIE"
The Spaghetti Western book is released via a Creative Commons license, which means you can use chunks of it for non-commercial purposes, translate it into your native tongue, or print out a copy and bind it in fine buckram Gnomitex.
Good work, Dan - cox.com/sales employee of the month!
Tuxton, you're fired.

The Chief

(Note to whoever types this up - please reformat and cut out the part about us being cheap two-bit chiselers before you distribute this memo to the employees. And make sure we get Tuxton's building pass, and keys)

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MY BLOOD IS BAD! BUT THE THEATRE IS GOOD.

2005.11.9

To Almeria, in Southern Spain, to record Spaghetti Western introductions for a season of nine, screening on ITV4. We shoot in one of the three surviving Western towns - the only one still functioning as a real film location. In spite of the failure of BLUEBERRY, the French have already made another Ratatouille Western there, also based on a comic strip, the (for me) extremely un-funny LUCKY LUKE. Still, they're keeping Estudios Decorados, a.k.a. Fort Bravo, afloat - so must be enouraged.

The TV season includes some fine Spaghettis (DJANGO, DJANGO KILL, QUIEN SABE?) plus two I hadn't seen before - VENGEANCE (a.k.a. JOKO, INVOKE GOD AND DIE!) and THE BIG DUEL. The latter was directed by Giancarlo Santi, Leone's henchman, and is pretty interesting. Santi was supposed to direct DUCK YOU SUCKER! but was fired by the principal actors, Rod Steiger and James Coburn, who thought Leone had tricked them, by giving the impression he was going to direct the film himself.

After the shoot, I stay in the desert for a couple of weeks. One evening, at the refurbished Teatro Municipal in Tabernas, I see an extraordinary touring production of DON QUIXOTE - a travelling show, with only four actors, known as the Teatro de la Resistencia.

It's a fantastic production. Really funny, adventurous, and intelligent. The cast have huge, impressive stage props, deep reservoirs of energy, and keep dragging the audience on stage to play prisoners or shepherds. (Fortunately, Tod and I are sitting at the back). About 50 people, mostly kids, have shown up for the performance. Most people in town weren't aware that it was even on.

The Teatro Municipal is the old town cinema, the biggest building in the village, after the church. But nobody goes to the pictures any more, and the theatre is clearly a mystery to most of my friends here.

On my last night in town, I attempt to give blood - but am rejected! Anyone resident in the UK between 1980 and 1996 is forbidden to give blood in Europe - due to the Mad Cow virus. I tell Jose Luis, the doctor, that I'm a vegetarian, but it doesn't matter. Instead they give me a purse saying 'Donante de Sangre - Almeria' and I buy a lottery ticket.

This makes me very sad. I'm an outsider pretty much whereever I go, and I'd hoped that giving blood, like going to the theatre and drinking 10,000 gallons of red wine, might help me go native. But, thanks to Thatcher and Selwyn Gummer, I remain a marginal.

Not that matters governmental are perfect in Spain, either. The last favour the bastard Franco did Spain, apart from dying, was the installation of a monarchy. Last week we were subjected to the usual mad media hubbub because a royal brat was born. And on Friday, the Spanish supreme court declared that the head of Batasuna, the Catalan independence party, must go to prison for a year for calling the fucking King "the chief of torturers."

Apart from the fact that this is clearly true (if Juan Carlos is the head of state, then he is the torturers' nominal jefe) how, in the modern European Union, can one be put in prison just for saying things?

I talked about this to the Moroccan guy who sells me my phone cards. We both agreed that Spain is a great place. "But the laws aren't," he added. "Don't they put you in jail in England if you say something about the queen?"

"Not yet," I told him.

"You wait," he said. "They will, before long."

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IN WHICH THE AUTHOR SEES A GOOD FILM...

2005 October 19

To Los Angeles, where I have a job interview. Can't say what it is, of course, or it'll jinx it... But I can reveal that it's accessible by public transport, and that they put me in a fanstastically grandiose hotel for the weekend.

Hotels like this terrify my because they're so fucking expensive. Even though my generous hosts paid for my bed and breakfast, every time you approach a door, some guy in a top hat opens it for you and you have to tip him ten bucks - whether you want to go through the door or not!

On Saturday night, Sando takes me and his suffering familia to a restaurant owned by Jennifer Lopez. He's very apologetic about this, claims he doesn't want to go, is sure it'll be no good. But as soon as we're through the door (only a $5 tip here), everyone is falling on their face before him: for Sando is the most significant latino actor and celebrity in sight! At least until Edward James Olmos arrives.

The food is good, but the mariachis don't know any songs by Los Tigres del Norte. They should go to Mexico more.

Back on the plane to England I watch on my trusty laptop the DVD of a film called 33X AROUND THE SUN. The director is John Hardwick, it was made last year. It's the story of a nameless man wandering through the night-time streets of a nameless city. Supposedly it's been compared to Rivette, but ERASERHEAD seems closer territory. Doesn't matter. The thing is, it's very, very good.

It shares a similar night-time weirdness with Lynch's film, but it's a little bit more humane, even upbeat at times. The ending is far more disturbing, since instead of leaving you in weirdo-land, Hardwick actually reveals something, about the protagonist and his environment. It's not a happy end, by any means, but it's a clever and thought-provoking one.

The film looks great, with fine lighting and camerawork and some decent Richard-Linletter-laptop special effects. It was made fairly cheaply. What's great about the project, in the light of last week's depressing "short film" saga, is that 33X AROUND THE SUN was meant originally to be a short. By the time they'd shot 35 minutes worth of narrative, Hardwick and his colleagues decided that, rather than cut the picture back to 10 or 15 minutes, they would press on, and make a feature.

How they should be heaped in praise for their bold and ambitious goal! And how the Film Council must hate them, for failing to stay in their little short film box. Fortunately the Film Council had no say in it - since the short was funded by Film London and the Arts Council, who weren't opposed to grant recipients making feature films.

One of the saddest things about the Film Council's "Digital Shorts" programme, now in its third or fourth depressing year, is the number of filmmakers whose ambitions have been suppressed. There was that wonderful Birmingham short, CHRONIC, great at 25 minutes, perfect material for a feature, whose director was forced to cut it down to ten minutes, to satisfy the non-filmmakers of the Film Council and his regional screen agency. And there were other cases where bright and ambitious filmmakers - people who could have taken their peanuts budgets and made 90 minute features - were forbidden to do so.

Completely stupid. Utterly dispiriting. But the way to go, if your goal is to destroy the aspirations of independent filmmakers, and to shut down regional feature film.

Check out John Hardwick's excellent 33X ROUND THE SUN - an ambitious and successful endeavour. It's a little bit variable (I could have done with less of the "film crew" but when you're working on a very low budget it's always tempting to shoot your own equipment, especially those nice long dolly tracks), but there's a great, understated dance scene and several other choreographic tricks which - along with the ending - made me prefer it to ERASERHEAD.

Hardwick, a native scouser, shot his film in London. There, luckily for him and his investors, making feature films is still allowed!

FAISAL'S TALE

2005 October 12

The regional screen agencies were set up a few years ago by the London Film Council: their apparent goal was to centralise the industry by ending feature production in the regions. They appeared at a time when regional features were having a renaissance: two or three locally-produced features were in production, in Liverpool, alone.

New Labour's plans for the film industry are the same as their plans for the NHS and for the public education system: sell the whole lot off to the Americans, by stealth.

It's a bit hard, but not impossible, to shut down a regional art renaissance. But it can be done: close the effective regional feature agencies, such as MIDA and FTC/NW. Deny funding to regional feature companies - henceforth, only give slate development money or production funding to companies with offices in London. Push those companies into deals with American partners. Meanwhile, set up regional new film offices staffed by people with no feature film experience, then set the clock back twenty years by telling them they're only allowed to fund ten-minute shorts.

The main problem with this cunning wheeze is that by deliberately hiring only the mediocre, and the inexperienced, you tend to get people with poor "people skills." In my local film region, even the ten-minute shorts project went completely awry, with no budgetary discipline, and accusations of accute racial and religious insensitivity.

One of the recipients of this insulting and demeaning treatment was my friend Faisal - is a very good writer and director who has taught film production at the Havana Film School, and production and editing in Leeds. Faisal came through the process unscarred: I think the screen agency sent him a letter of apology and paid him the standard 'undisclosed sum' so he'd keep quiet about the way they treated for him.

What he was not prepared for, as he headed for the twentieth anniversary party of the Cornerhouse Cinema, in Manchester, was an encounter with a 'regional film head' who appeared to be both tired and emotional.

Herewith, for the record, is Faisal's tale:

"Well, I just got back from the Cornerhouse 20th Anniversary Party and though dry, it did end in a bit of high drama. I thought I'd better put it in writing in case some distorted version of the story floats out as it was very embarrassing for all concerned.

"Briefly, at around 0120, I went over to Saltz who was chatting to a very drunk X___ Y_____ (fill in the name of the head of our regional screen agency, or yours). Though I joked about it, I didn't make any attempt to chat to X___ as she was obviously very uncomfortable around me and I didn't want to provoke or make her uncomfortable. At around this time she was quite drunk and Saltz was joking with her. When I arrived, Saltz joked I was obviously the devil and X___ immediately came out with some drunken rant about me destroying her company, its reputation as well as other things that I can't remember at present. I decided not to respond.

"I went downstairs with Saltz and whilst chatting to him on the bottom step,
there was a ruckus and the crowd cleared to reveal X___ who had fallen on the
floor with a colleague who looked like she'd hurt her back. I helped them up and I took a half empty beer bottle away from X___'s colleague before helping them up. When I asked if they were OK, X___ started shouting I was not to be trusted, not to accept any help and when I tried to return the beer, she snatched it away and demanded that I leave. I just said I would respect her wishes and went out with Saltz. One of her colleagues, who was quite sober, witnessed this entire incident along with several other eyewitnesses including Mr. Saltz.

"I didn't lose my temper or anything, just felt some sympathy for her but was just unprepared for how much she really didn't like me or what effect I apparently had on her agency (which incidentally is still recruiting, something quite amazing from a reportedly "destroyed" company)."

COX COMMENTS:

If this was a teenage party it might be believable. But these are adults, at the most important independent cinema in the North. How long will this troubled person retain their post? Don't they have a line manager at the North West Development Agency who takes an interest in their treatment of the client group, or their behaviour at public events?

Are they happy with this state of affairs? Perhaps they are, since the person in question is certainly carrying out New Labour's strategy of driving away business, and shutting down local feature film.

If anyone else has had similar experiences with their regional (or national) "gatekeepers" they are more than welcome to share them with this site. It will be fun for me to print them, and to send links to their line managers, if they can be found.

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END OF THE REPO ROAD

2005 October 7

To Liverpool, to see Philip Franks' production of THE TEMPEST, at The Playhouse.

It is a great show. I'm not a big fan of the Bard, usually. Of course, I like the murder ones - HAMLET, and THRONE OF BLOOD - but Shakespeare's politics are a bit too authoritarian: his colleagues Webster and Middleton, and his great predecessor, Marlowe, are more to my taste. But Philip has redeemed the old bastard, and crafted a marvellous production - with a spectacular set (the ruins of Brighton Pier, by Gideon Davey), a great cast, and a lively adaptation which never lets the energy flag.

The show runs till 22 October, and is well worth going to see - another marvellous Jacobean by the Playhouse, after their excellent DR FAUSTUS.

I stayed at the home of my friend Catherine Marcangelli, and raced through one of the books from Adrian Henri's science fiction shelf: THE WORLD IN WINTER, by John Christopher, which I'd seen in bookshops in the early sixties (when I was a sci-fi boy-fanatic), but never read. It's an apocalypse story in the Ballard vein, about a new ice age and a Nigerian expedition, via hovercraft, to the frozen wastes of London. Surprisingly good!

What happened to this genre of hard-sci-fi and social commentary? In the fifties and sixties there were scores of books like this (Pohl and Kornbuth's SPACE MERCHANTS was another, Harry Harrison's BILL THE GALACTIC HERO and MAKE ROOM MAKE ROOM other excellent examples)? Is there still good, radical sf around?

Back to Oxford, where Tod is recovering from her hip resurfacing. She has rented DVDs of MY FAIR LADY and GIGI.

Both films have the same composers, librettists, and designers, so one might expect them to be the same. What distinguishes them is the direction: MY FAIR LADY was directed by George Cukor, a proper director who did a very decent job. GIGI was directed by Vicente Minelli, who cannot even edit, much less compose images, stage action, or direct his cast.

Green screen and CGI have enabled the studios to begin to do away with directors, who are increasingly seen as switchable or replaceable elements. So it was interesting to watch two potentially-identical Hollywood musicals, and see what a difference the choice of director actually made.

If you think the recent wave of paedophile-chic films (LEON, CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, most recently INNOCENCE) is something new, take a look at the opening sequence of GIGI. Remember that song "Thank Heaven For Little Girls"? Remember Maurice Chevalier? Uuuuuugghhh...

Did Minelli know what he was doing when he directed the scene? I have no idea.

The tale of the REPO MAN DVD elements seems to have been resolved, via a nice phone chat with Jeff and Michelle in Universal's Legal Affairs (DVD Division). We are allowed to keep "We Shall Overcome" and the image of Zapata, out of focus, as part of Harry Dean Stanton's home environment. Interestingly, they will also let us keep the scene, in Peter McCarthy's doc, where Harry Dean reads aloud from an oration made at Marlon Brando's funeral. I don't know who wrote it, and there was no way we could have cleared the copyright in time, but they were prepared to treat it as documentary-style journalism.

I must still pixilate certain identifiable images, to render them invisible: including Marilyn Monroe (a frequent visitor to Harry Dean's house), and Thelonius Monk (hanging out at Sam Cohen's); and remove an in-focus image of Harry's Zapata portrait because we don't have clearance from the artist.

So, if you drew a picture of Zazpata and gave it to Harry Dean, please get in touch with me c/o this site. I would love to include a close-up of it in this DVD documentary, but I have to get your permission before the final on-line (14 Oct). Otherwise I must cut it out!

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2 October 2005

To the peace march in London. Counted 200,000 people at least. I read the RESPECT party magazine, which contains a warning article about climate change, and the GREEN PARTY magazine, which addresses all of George Galloway's party's issues. How much longer before these two right-on anti-capitalist, anti-globalist entities join forces? Why split the vote, especially when it's weighted agaisnt small political parties? And think of the money M15 will save, only having to infiltrate one organisation, instead of the Greens, Respect, and the SWP, as they must today!

A week later, completion of the REPO MAN DVD elements is at last in sight. We've got an hour of the stuff, and the legal notes came late and proved mysterious... The studio is now insisting we remove an image of Zapata from Peter McCarthy's interview with Harry Dean Stanton, and the lyrics of the old slave song, "We shall overcome" from the "Missing Scenes" element.

Up to now, Universal's DVD division have been quite reasonable, but I don't get these mysterious instructions at all. I even understand the eleventh-hour order that we can't be credited as directors: the studios are afraid of giving anyone a technical credit as there are, currently, no deals in place with any of the guilds for DVD or future elements.

The studios want to employ creatives, but pretend they didn't work on the thing. I understand. But I have a location release for the Harry Dean Stanton shoot, indemnifying my company against all manner of lawsuits should one of the authors of the many books on his many shelves take umbridge.

They're already covered, and - especially when we've dealt with so many more serious copyright issues - it seems like they're thrashing about.

Part of the problem is the studo's loss of the Universal music collection - which has forced us to strip music from the feature out of the DVD elements - and part of it seems to be the loss of paperwork for the original film, made 22 years ago. They have been dilligent in finding deleted and shortened scenes, however, and the finished product, once we have cleared Zapata's face, should be delightful.

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TO MONUMENT VALLEY... AND BEYOND

21 August - 10 Sept 2005

I'm invited to attend a screening of REPO MAN in Los Angeles. This is a picture I directed a long time ago, and I'm not really keen to make the journey. But...

The people organising the screening are a Texas outfit called the Rolling Roadshow. They're touring the United States with a large inflatable screen, projecting films in the locations where they were shot. When I investigate their website, I see that, a few days prior to REPO MAN, they're screening a new 35mm print of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST in a place called Monument Valley.

You've seen Monument Valley, many times. It's that amazing landscape of dramatic buttes and mesas which stars in John Ford's great Westerns, and in every American car commercial. To watch Sergio Leone's uber-Spaghetti Western in Navajo country is a grown-up little boy's dream. So I offer the Rolling Roadshow a deal: I'll go to the LA screening if they'll invite me to Monument Valley, as well.

"We were hoping you'd say that," comes the reply.

2005/8/21 Fly into Flagstaff a day early (tomorrow the airport is closed for repairs) - airfield cut out of forest - manicured with golf courses & homes.

North of Flagstaff "Indian Country" - darkness for 80 miles.

In Tuba City the Quality Inn restaurant has already closed - unlike Arizona, the Navajo Nation recognises daylight savings time, and it's 2230.

2005/8/22 North of Monument Valley I find the remains of the famous arch, which Leone's designer built in 1968 in order to hang Charles Bronson's brother against a dramatic background. The arch - made of wood, with stone facings - has long since collapsed, but you can still see the substantial stumps, and, on the desert floor, two long cement dolly tracks.

When I was last here, 15 years ago, Henry Fonda's signature was visible: where Hank had dipped his finger in the wet cement and penned "H. Fonda 1968." No more! The end of one of the cement tracks is mising - either the desert has reclaimed it, or an autograph hunter came by with a jackhammer.

I spend a couple of hours out by the arch. There is a magnificent panorama all around. And yet it is a creepy place - utterly exposed to the elements, with strangely distant, disconcerting views.

Wondering what I'm doing here, I drive back and enter the Valley. As soon as I see the Big View from the Visitor Centre overlook, I know. The guide on duty tells me about the Wildcat Trail: at last it's possible to walk on your own in the Valley - a 3.2 mile trail from the old campground, around the West Mitten. It sounds a bit weeny, but it's actually a good two-hour hike, with a tough climb at the end. Walking around the Mitten is idyllic: the buttes protect the valley, and give the walker a sense of protection and well-being. The rocks are huge, awesome, but immediate. Unlike out on the llano, the distances aren't frighteningly great.

At Gouldings Trading Post all the guests are European (French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portugese) and Japanese. It's as if we're all brought up to believe that MV is America's Most Important Place, whereas the Americans themselves (other than the Dineh) aren't told about it. Gouldings has hourly screenings of something you would never expect or want to see - a tape slide! Pictures of Monument Valley and clouds, accompanied by New Age music and poetic voiceover. It was directed in 1991 by someone called Bronwyn: no Navajo names in the credits, needless to say.

2005.8.23 And the film! On a giant inflatable screen with the big buttes in the distance and the full moon rising. 40-odd people in attendance. There are great moments in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. But what a long, slow, and self-regarding film. How many minutes does Claudia Cardinale spend looking at her face in the mirror? How much time to the men spend staring at each other's faces, or each other's cocks? It is a long version and a good print. Would THE SEARCHERS have been a better choice? The Rolling Roadshow hopes to show that one here next April. But it's another self-regarding and obsessive piece, though an hour shorter. Are all Westerns thus? Are all films thus? If I've grown out of Westerns, and films, without ever being able to make one as good as this, what do I do next?

2005.8.24 After breakfast, I talk to two little Italian boys who saw the film from the balcony of their hotel room. They don't know who Leone was, and are only vaguely aware of Claudia Cardinale - "a very old lady." But they seem to have enjoyed the picture, at least compared to what was on TV.

In the afternoon I take a hike up onto Hunts Mesa, with a Navajo guide called Charles. Tourists aren't allowed to walk alone in the Valley, other than on that West Mitten trail. It's probably a good idea. Our hike takes us up some pretty steep rocks, using tiny footholds carved by the Anassazi, some time prior to 1400. Charles is in pretty good shape, and the four hour hike is about the limit of my ability.

If you're in the Valley I urge you to hire a guide and take one of these hikes. Charles' boss is a Navajo guy called Leroy. If you don't do it your only interaction with the Navajo may be a "thank you" to the waitress or the guy in the convenience store. The Navajo are very kool, very approachable, and not mysteriously have something of the same vibe that scousers do. They know who they are, and that the odds are stacked against them off the reservation. Charles says the urban Japanese are natural riders. "When they fall off a horse, they roll instinctively - not like you Europeans, who land in a heap."

2005.8.25 I drive north into Utah again, and camp in the Valley of the Gods.

2006.8.26 Back to Flagstaff, via the Red Desert and the Painted Desert. This gives me a chance to listen to some right-wing radio hosts (who vehemently and desperately cling to the fiction that there is some degree of difference between their Republican masters and the hated Democrats. There may be a few Americans left who believe this, principally in the media and MoveOn.org, but there are not many - and none in Navajoland).

Country music used to be a great bellweather of the American state: the true voice of white people, who never really got the hang of rock'n'roll. But it is horrible, far-right bullshit now: why listen to Hank Williams when Clear Channel can provide you with a modern country anthem like "Arlington" - a song from the point of view of a dead Iraqi veteran, buried in the National Military Cemetery a thousand gravestones from his granpa.

See if you can find "Arlington" on Limewire. Someone has put a lot of money and effort into this audio equivalent of John Wayne's "The Green Berets" or Rupert Murdoch's "Over There." "I'm one of the chosen ones," the dead patriot baby killer sings, "I'm buried in Arlington."

There are no anti-war songs on the radio, but if you tune to the Mexican stations you can hear some dynamite subversive ones. The Tigres del Norte have a fantastic CD out, entitled PACTO DE SANGRE. It's preoccupied with the ongoing massacre of poor women in Juarez, and has some good narco-corridos and whining boy laments; but the standout tune is "Jose Perez Leon" - the story of a young farmer who tries to make it across the border in a boxcar to find work. After 7 hours locked inside the wagon, the oxygen gives out, and "el buen Jose" - along with 29 other "indocumentados ilegales" - dies.

It is a fantastically emotional song, very simply told, beautifully sung, and I can't hear without crying. It could make an extraordinary, almost dialogue-free film.

Listen to Navajo radio to hear yet another world: the third, if Mexico is the second. The music is mostly country, but of an older and higher order. There are no pro-war songs. There are annoucements, in the language of the Navajo, or Dine, and endless advertisments. Interestingly, all dates, numbers, and rubbish stuff (bank loans for cars, interest rates, fast food menus) are in English. Charles told me that the Dine have words for numbers, naturally, but that they're used differently, and change in the context of the thing they're describing - as Japanese prime numbers do.

I was last in Flagstaff 15 years ago. Then it was a sleepy burg, but now it's a hopping, multi-racial town with free films screening in the plaza and micro-brewed beer (I have been beer-less for several days, having forgotten that Prohibition is the rule on the Res). Pleasantly pissed, I board the Amtrak night train for LA's Union Station. If I had money, I would buy a place here.

In Los Angeles, I attend the Rolling Roadshow REPO MAN screening on the banks of the LA River. All seems to go very well: about 500 attendees, good energy, and the largest gathering of REPO personnel since the film wrapped: a dozen actors, including Jennifer, Olivia, Dick, Sy, Tracey, Del, Eddie Velez, and Zander. A friend of Olivia's pretends that he was the transvestite at the REPO party, and joins the actor throng (the person who played the part was actually Logan Carter, who died in the late '80s. But I admire this new guy's brass and don't bust him). Next day I shoot a new DVD element for THREE BUSINESSMEN with the aid of Lorenzo O'Brien, Bob Wisdom, and the entire Sandoval clan. (Part of it was also filmed by the good Anthony, of the Rolling Roadshow, in Monument Valley.) A few days later Todd Darling and I online the REPO MAN DVD elements for Universal.

There are three 25-minute elements - one directed by me, the other two by Peter and Jonathan, the former REPO MAN producers. Universal no longer have the MCA music library (it still belongs to the hated French privatised-water outfit, Vivendi). As a result, for the new DVD elements we must relicense all the original songs. This can be expensive, and can take a while, but neither of my esteemed directors gives me an accurate list - or any list - of the copyright materials they've included.

Jonathan's piece contains bits of copyright music, including Black Flag's "TV Party," sung by Emilio Estevez. Peter's includes a clip from the David Letterman TV show.

Both their pieces are excellent. JW's - entitled rePOSESSED - is a glossy and complex exposition of the genesis and production of the film. PM's is called HARRY ZEN STANTON, and it gives a very accurate feeling of what it's like to spend time in the company of that august thespian. Harry Dean is very rude about yours truly: for me this was the high point of the piece.

My own contribution to the DVD elements is called THE MISSING SCENES, and is pretty much that: plus wrap-around from Michael Nesmith, Sam Cohen, and J. Frank Parnell, the (imaginary) inventor of the Neutron Bomb.

To give you an idea of just how mad this music licensing business is, when we made REPO MAN in 1963, Zander Schloss's character, Kevin, sang the "Seven Up" song for a few seconds. This was to show how mindless this proto-punker was, how commercial music jingles had entered his ears and exited his mouth without his brain ever being engaged. You could certainly call it satire, but since it was written as dialogue in the script, Errors and Omissions Insurance required that we get a synch license from the song's publisher. Back then, I imagine this cost us 500 bucks, at the most - otherwise we'd have dropped it.

Now, attempting to re-acquire the synch license, we're told it's going to cost us TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Of course, from the publisher's viewpoint, this is quite reasonable. REPO MAN is a well-known film, and it's Universal who want the rights: why do them any favours?

It really does come down to copyright law, and thus it's hard to feel much sympathy for the studio - or for the music publishers. They have made things as complicated and difficult as this, by lobbying for the longest copyright periods, and the most draconian copyright law, possible. As a result, there are no 'derivative' art forms. The DVD elements of REPO MAN are certainly derived from the original REPO MAN, their authors are the original film's creators, but - according to our narrow, corporate-friendly copyright legislation - they must be considered new works. Thus former rights-holders must pursue their rights anew, and film clips must be scoured of the original music because we can't afford it!

Not all music rights are hugely inflated, though: the cost of some rights hasn't gone up at all, in 22 years. Take Talking Heads' BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE. In 1983 this was the unofficial anthem of the production, and we asked their record company how much it would cost to license the song for REPO MAN. We were told $50,000. So we didn't include it.

In 2005 we asked again how much it would cost to license BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE for the MISSSING SCENES element of REPO MAN. We were told $50,000. So we didn't include it.

2005.9.2 Take the Santa Monica #7 bus to Nebraska and Centenela to pick up Universal's six VHS viewing copies. Walk to Bundy and Pico and take the #10 bus downtown. Catch the Red Line to the Valley, exit at the studio's own personal metro stop, and deliver the tapes to the ever helpful and friendly Marian Mansi and Stephanie Turnbo, of the DVD Division. The trip from Santa Monica to the Valley, via downtown, has taken 45 minutes! Something that would be impossible at midday, in a car. And - indluding the 25c transfer - the journey cost a buck!

In the afternoon I have meetings about an academic job. Then to Miguel's, to pick up my bags, computer, etc. It's too late to take two buses to my next appointment - to pay the loyal staff, in Venice - so I call a taxi. Riding down Lincoln Blvd I realise I haven't had any lunch. I'm ten minutes early now, so I ask the driver, a Nigerian guy, to let me off outside Pancho's tacos.

In Pancho's, as I bite into my chile relleno burrito, I realise I've left my passport in the cab.

Without my passport, I can't go home. Without picture ID I can't even get on a plane, or buy a train ticket. So many deadlines met, so many things achieved on time, so many projects put to bed, almost, without any real hitch. And now this huge fuck-up. Pondering what an idiot I am, I finish my burrito, drain my horchata, and head out. There is a payphone there. I have the yellow cab card in my pocket. There is no hope. But it's a toll-free call.

I ring the taxi company, and tell them my sad and stupid tale. I give them Cecilia's number, and walk down Lincoln - making better time on foot than the rush-hour traffic - to give her back some books I've borrowed, and to settle up with Todd.

Todd sympathises instantly. "What a fuck-up. You'll never see that again, dude. Passports go for $10,000 on the black market. In America, if you lose three of 'em, they won't give you another one." Fortunately, this will be the first one I have lost. We discuss the length of the line at the British Consulate, speculate whether they can issue passports, or if you have to go to Washington DC, and stand in line at the Embassy. The phone rings. It's my taxi driver, asking for directions to Cecilia's place.

He brings me back my passport. How I love LA.

RESPECT to the guy from Radio Sabotaje who stuck up for pot smokers in the latest dialogue with the Zapatistas. As a new article in NarcoNews points out It's morally ambiguous of the pipe-smoking Marcos to condemn good leftist potheads, just as it's questionable whether American and Mexican leftists should insist the Zapatistas join the Coca-Cola boycott, when Coke in many parts of Mexico is cheaper than drinking water.

And RESPECT too, to Zander. I called him last night, and found him in New York where the Circle Jerks are playing at CBGBs. He's staying off the stuff, which I imagine is pretty difficult in a place as boring and drug-saturated as Manhattan - though Z says drugs are less in evidence now - as the poorer areas are depopulated and resettled, he thinks. "What I see before me now is just a mass of teenagers getting completely drunk."


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WAR STORY

Monday 14 Aug 2005

I'm offered a part in a Mexican film - an atheistic piece about a young girl looking for God - and the part is actually a good one! No henchmen, no putting women in life-threatening situations while pretending to be a Texas narco-satanist. Instead it's a British army officer, at a dinner table (the guy doesn't reappear so I suspect it's a dream sequence), uttering all manner of British bons mots, en español.

Unfortunately I can't do it. The shoot is in mid October and I'm tied up with inescapable duties from late Sept to mid Nov. But it was very nice to be offered a good part in what looks like it might be another intelligent, provocative Mexican film. (And it makes up for my missing the premiere of ROSARIO TIJERAS in Medellin last week. Did anybody see it? Any good?)

Meanwhile, Sam Meech, in Liverpool, emails me about the firebombing of the Iraqi-owned newsagents on the night Tony Blair went to war. The Liverpool press and the national press kept quiet about it (one assumes similar racist attacks occurred in other cities: many thanks to The Observer and the BBC for not upsetting us by reporting them) so it's good to receve such eloquent confirmation, and such a fine picture.

"I lived on Bedford St South for 3 years until recently. I remember that night very clearly. My girlfriend at the time lived round the corner from the shop, and rang me at 5 in the morning asking if she and her flatmate could come round as the whole block had been evacuated. I lived at the Parliament Street end, so I met them by the Deutsch Kirche, and saw all the fire engines and the smoke and people in pyjamas. We went home, made a cup of tea and turned on the tv. War was starting and we watched the bombs fall on BBC. All so surreal that day.

"I heard the same stories about the blaze, that it was fire bombed, and with the owner being from Iraq then the motive was racial. I later spoke to one of the former tenants of the flats above the shop. She told me that for ages the owner had resisted attempts to buy the property and that scare tactics had become increasingly aggressive, even break-ins without any burglary. She seemed to think it was a property / money motivated. Im not sure either way, though ive believed both at different times. I think it could even be both – aggressive property tactics disguised as an anonymous racist attack.

"The real point is that the owner didn’t give up and rebuilt his store, and now its better than before. What a fucking guy! And he’s totally dead nice to everyone who goes in there.

"I went and drew a picture of the shop (which I attach here) when it was burnt out and rebuilding was beginning, so its great to see the difference now."


Picture by SAM MEECH

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THE REPO CODE

2 Aug 2005

Back to Los Angeles, where I hook up with the REPO MAN producers, Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy. Twenty two years ago the boot was on the other foot, but now, at last, I am the producer and they are the directors. Ha! To think that when we all started out in this game, as young UCLA pups, we wanted to be directors. Didn't we realise that for every director, there were two or three or ten producers, all of whom were paid the same money as the director, or a lot more?

Of course, in those days we weren't in it for the money. There was esteem attached to the job of film director: the same esteem as attached to an action painter, perhaps, or to a self-promoting reporter of the 'gonzo' school. Film directors - especially 'independent' ones like Hellman and Peckinpah and the New Germans - seemed to be autonomous, radical, and cool.

Since then, much has changed. Directors are even more outnumbered by producers and associate producers and executives. In TV and special effects / cartoon features they have been virtually eliminated, except as last hired/first fired contract players. In the independent film world, producers - always insecure and jealous of directors' creativity - develop projects with writers and hire directors at the llth hour, demolishing the Auteur Theory more thoroughly than any academic ever could.

And yet, film schools are big-money business for many colleges and universities, and the number of graduates of the august and learned discipline of Cinema Studies continues to bloat. But what are they all going to be? Promo and TV directors if they're lucky. Producers if they're smart.

Todd Darling, who shot our REPO MAN interviews, is directing a show called LAGUNA BEACH: THE REAL ORANGE COUNTY ("MTV has unlimited access to the tight-knit power clique of eight rich, beautiful teens who live there. Their lives intertwine in ways you won't believe..."). He wonders if he should get an agent. I reckoned not - he's already got a job, so why give away ten percent to somebody who didn't get him it? As soon as he doesn't have a job, the agents will stop courting him. So fuck 'em.

On Wednesday we go up the hill to interview Sam Cohen, who is 85 and still in splendid form. Clearly radiation is good for you. He talks about his peace medal and the Neutron Bomb, and we watch some of the REPO MAN outtakes. Sam reckons that the scene where Otto re-visits his parents (they are covered in cobwebs; on TV, the Rev. Larry declares a jihad against the unbelievers) should be included on the DVD.

Peter's interview with Harry Dean Stanton appears to have gone hitchlessly: Harry took out his guitar and sang several copyright songs for which the synch rights must be licensed should Peter choose to use the footage. So if Bruce 'Utah' Philips is reading this, we'd like to license 45 seconds of 'Rock, Salt and Nails.' And the same goes for you, Jimmy Buffett, and 'Margaritaville.'

Jonathan's REPO doc involves a trip to the LA river, where we hook up with various actors from the film. Did you ever wonder who drives one of those plastic-covered 'Element' cars? Step forward Sy Richardson! Sy tells me he retired from SAG six months ago - the union allows you to retire and continue to work - since when he's had seven acting gigs.

Del Zamora reports that he's made a total of 70 features and 69 TV shows, and he's still going down to Sawtelle Av. on odd mornings to do casual labour and make make money for the film he's directing. Because he speaks English, the bosses assume he's a good Mexican, and make him foreman. As he observes, this makes him a bit more money and enables him to look out for the other workers, who, being poor Salvadorans or Mexicans, are apt to get ripped off by the gringos.

Del has written a memoir entitled MY RISE TO OBSCURITY. Exterminating Angel Books has made a substantial offer to acquire the publication and feature rights.

In town I witness the aftermath of a motorcycle-small car crash. The biker is already in the ambulance. The accident has thrown the traffic lights out of phase, and we wait for a long time between the accident and a big gas station, whose workers stand in front of the pumps, staring at the fire engine, the car, the downed bike, and the ambulance.

A thousand cars pour by, and a camouflage-green pickup truck pulls through the intersection, dragging a broken-down camouflaged Army jeep.

Another thousand cars roll by, in all directions. This is what we're fighting for, by God! The right to ride around in metal boxes that crash, collide, and break down! Kick their ass and take their gas!

Regarding the horrible news story from Liverpool, about the Black lad murdered by white racists: both reports I've read, in the Guardian and the Observer, lead with the news that the murder victim was a Christian. In the Observer story, the cops stress this fact. What does it mean? What does it matter? What are the cops and the media saying: that his religion was a factor in his death? Or that, as a Christian, he was a "good" Black, not one of the ones that we're entitled to kill?

By going to war against The Other, Blair and Bush have legitimised violence against people of colour: on the night the latest Iraq War began, an Iraqi-owned newsagent on Myrtle St, in Liverpool, was fire-bombed, and burned to the ground. This wasn't reported, nationally, or in the Liverpool Daily Post or Echo. Now a young man has been killed by racists, in an atmosphere of war-fuelled racial and religious violence, whipped up the government and their media flacks. And the press treat it as a case of mistaken identity!

 

 

 

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