On the Lookout for Good Sci-Fi (What the Future Holds)

The wife and I love sci-fi.  It’s a blessing that we share a taste for the genre.  On our own, I can watch my dark crime sagas and she can watch her romantic comedies and Bronte-esque period films.  Then we can come together to watch people imperiled in Space.

But, it’s not easy.  We’re always hunting for a new sci-fi treat.  We mine Netflix and Amazon in the hopes that we will discover some amazing movie we had somehow missed before.  (One can only watch Alien just so many times.)

the nostromo crew tired of their own antics

The Nostromo crew says “Find another film to love, dude.”

It’s tough out there.  So I started looking ahead, to see what the genre holds in store for the next 32 months.

Given today’s technology, my humble hopes are for films with CGI that’s not ruinous to a good story (Cowboys and Aliens?), for characters with some depth, and stories that risk the dark side even if it may mean perhaps losing a small share of the demographic pie (Robocop), helmed by filmmakers not afraid to challenge the genre and take it new places (1979’s Alien almost didn’t get made because “nothing” happens for the first 45 minutes.  Can you imagine a world without Alien? I digress.)

In general, the rest of the year holds the possibility of a couple of gems.  2014 looks especially good.  I plumbed around on sites like MovieWeb and IMDb, really excited to find some of these.  You’ll see lots of dudes wearing heavy, biotech-looking armor, and gorgeous women with universal powers.

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COMING SOON

Elysium (Aug 9)

I’ve been anticipating Elysium since those tantalizing photos were “leaked” from the set of the film almost two years ago.  Enshrouded in mystery, the film’s promise has wafted like that scent of pie a cartoon character drifts on – in this case it’s that Neill Blomkamp, director of District 9, is at the helm.  But then *sigh* I saw a picture of Matt Damon flashing his abs.  I think Joseph Campbell would be shocked at just how many “hero” films we have today.  If Mister Damon is going to be munching one-liners and flashing his arms throughout this thing…I just dunno.

District 9…I keep telling myself…Neill Blomkamp…

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Gravity (Oct 4)

I’ve probably dreamt of falling off of planets and drifting into Space enough times to alarm any therapist.  The bleakness of that prospect is potentially tempered by the film setting’s proximity to Earth – our beautiful planet is the backdrop for the scene that constitutes one of the trailers.  Maybe this is a good thing for the film’s impact, maybe not.  (Probably, it was considered visually unappealing to have characters tumble around in a total void for 90 minutes.)  Either way, I can’t wait to find out.

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Singularity (Oct 31)

The description – a story of love that can’t be constrained by the bounds of time or place – sounds like a chick flick, but one of the time periods this story is set in is 2020.

2020?  That’s the future!  And I’m sold.

Ender’s Game (Nov 1)

I have my doubts about Ender’s Game.  But Director Gavin Hood crafted Rendition, and that was a Class A film all the way.  And Harrison Ford is in it.  So…you know.

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NEXT YEAR

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Tom Cruise in another sci-fi flick? Oblivion was satisfying, so, okay.  Doug Liman at the wheel?  Interesting trajectory for a director who started with Swingers, Go, and then into actioners like the Jason Bourne movies, and deeper into science fiction.  The premise is great, too – it’s Starship Troopers meets Groundhog Day; Cruise plays a guy in a wicked cool spacesuit fighting aliens who gets caught in a time loop.  Seriously.

But who cares about Cruise.  Speaking of loops, Emily Blunt, who was perfect in Looper, is going to steal the show here, too.

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Interstellar (2014)

“An exploration of physicist Kip Thorne’s theories of gravity fields, wormholes and several hypotheses that Albert Einstein was never able to prove.”

Yes, please.

Plus: Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain.  (To make the Einstein go down smooth.)

Transcendence (2014)

“Two leading computer scientists work toward their goal of Technological Singularity, as a radical anti-technology organization fights to prevent them from creating a world where computers can transcend the abilities of the human brain.”

Damn.  Obviously, “Singularity” was already taken as a title.  As a fan of Ray Kurzweil, I’ve been fascinated with the impending singularity for a while now.  This sounds like a flick that’s as close to a divine augury of that fateful day as any we’re going to get.

Jupiter Ascending (2014)

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I hope the Wachowskis can get it together after the Cloud Atlas debacle, because, man, those two are breathing life into some of our best collective dreams.  Things that we didn’t even know we were dreaming, yo – that’s how good they are.  Jupiter Ascending is about a world where humans are low on the totem pole out there in all that Space, and there is a Queen of the Universe.

Yep.  I’ve had that dream.

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Robocop (2014)

All that Queen of the Universe stuff aside, this one is the motherlode.  Did I fail to mention that there will be a Godzilla remake, a Dune reboot and a Transformers-fucking-4 in 2014 as well?  That’s because who cares when Darren Aronofsky is remaking Robocop.

Thank you. 

BEYOND

In short, 2015 didn’t look as robust.  An overdose of sequels (Terminator 5, Avatar 3, Predator something-or-other, Prometheus 2 [ok, I’m looking forward to that one a little bit]) and a strange Aladdin 3477 don’t bode well for a banner year.  Oh there’s Colossus, with our sci-fi poster boy Will Smith doing battle with a supercomputer trying to take over the world (Smith is also attached to I, Robot 2 – the title alone sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud).  The saving grace for 2015 could be Wool, a post-apocalypse tale with human beings living underground.  Steve Zaillian is producing, with J Blakeson directing (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) and with a script written by … the one and only Ridley Scott.  It will be a shame if anything ever happens to that man.  Maybe he’ll extend his life like Ray Kurzweil is trying to do.

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Where Do We Go from Here? The Mark Covino Article

Covino_BAMYears after his own mother tried to kill him, Mark Covino went on to make an award winning film about “Death.”

That is, Death: the 1970s punk trio from Detroit who found surprising success years after they disbanded, not Death: the inevitable result of the temporal condition called Life.

The documentary has been a festival sensation this past year and was picked up for distribution by Drafthouse Films during the Los Angles Film Fest.

I was a programmer at the 2013 Lake Placid Film Forum and worked to get A Band Called Death into the line-up.  Mark worked hard to do that, too – the distributors were afraid the film would be over-screened before its release two weeks later.  But Mark was able to convince them, since Lake Placid is a special place to him.

He’d been there before.

I met Mark along the edge of Mirror Lake.  He had first been to the region as a student attending the Film Forum eleven years before.  Now he was 33 years old, with a shrubbery of dark hair tucked under a baseball cap that read Rosie’s Vermont Beef Jerky.  He wore a black t-shirt over a white long-sleeve shirt and said to me as I shook his hand, “I look like a bum.”

Maybe he did a little bit.  But that’s how filmmakers sometimes look.  He also looked like the survivor of a year-long festival tour that was ending in Lake Placid – a place Mark’s filmmaking journey had, in many ways, begun.

It was the closing of a circle.  This final festival screening in the Adirondacks signaled the end of one path, and the doorway to another.  And there was this intriguing back story about Mark’s personal “Escape from Long Island,” and his long road to Death.

So, after the Film Forum was over I decided to ask him some questions.  What follows is an uncensored interview, filled with expletives and experience.  There have been hundreds of articles written about the film.  This is not one of them.  This is about Mark, and where we all go from here.

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How did you end up at the Lake Placid Film Forum in 2002?

I was a film student at Burlington College back in 2002; and that year our school hosted a class trip to the Lake Placid Film Forum.  I believe it was the first time our school sent students to a film festival.  Barry Snyder was our school advisor at the time and headed up the trip. 

What is one of your best memories of attending the 2002 Lake Placid Film Forum?

Oh man, there are so many.  It really was my first full-on experience with being at a legit Film Festival.  It was filled with tons of movies, celebrities and alcohol…and alcohol….  Think I might have puked on the flowers in front of the Palace Theater on the first night I was there….  Sorry Palace, no disrespect, just drunk.  But yeah, the celebrities were all over the place.  I remember meeting Tony Shalhoub, Cliff Robertson, John Cameron Mitchell, Paul Schrader, Kyra Sedgwick, Ray Harryhausen, David S. Goyer and Guillermo del Toro, to name a few.  But my fondest memory would probably have to be hanging out with my idol Lloyd Kaufman and the Troma team.  We tore the town up…literally!  I think we broke a few laws that weren’t even in place yet.    

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What did it feel like to be back in Lake Placid all these years later with a feature length documentary?

It felt surreal, yet very sentimental at the same time.  I remember being that bright-eyed/snot-nosed film student back in 2002, meeting all those amazing filmmakers, watching their films with them, hanging out with them and in some instances getting into trouble with them.  All I wanted from that point on was to be in their shoes, and to be on the other side presenting a film that I created and to be able to talk about the process of making that film.  Here I am today having accomplished that goal, and it’s a great feeling.

You worked hard to help me program the film and make sure A Band Called Death (ABCD) got into Lake Placid.  What drove you to lobby on our behalf for the film’s exhibition here?

me with mark and dave pressYeah, my distributor really wasn’t into playing Placid because it was so close to the theatrical release, but I let them know how important this was for me.  It goes back to my personal connection with the Forum.  As I mentioned above, it was my first film festival experience.  Back in 2007 I participated in the Sleepless in Lake Placid competition, so I’ve had nothing but fond memories of LPFF.  When I was asked to not only show my film and do a Q&A, but to be a judge for this year’s Sleepless in Lake Placid, I immediately said yes.  Not because I wanted to be a judge, but because it was a chance for me to interact with young, aspiring filmmakers and share my own experiences and knowledge with them, to teach them what I’ve learned making ABCD.  You see, every kid I meet reminds me of me when I was there age.  Only now that I’m on the other end, I know 100% that the person they’re talking to is being honest and cares about them.  I used to be in their shoes and I know how jaded people in this business can get, so to be able to be real with them and share my passion of filmmaking is a very rewarding thing.

covino with the popcorn gun

What was your first film gig? / How did you start to become a filmmaker?

I’ve known since the age of 9 that my calling was to make movies, so it wasn’t too hard for me to set a career path at a young age.  My first film gig was right out of high school.  My dad had answered an ad in a local Vermont newspaper looking for high school students to be crew members on an independent feature film.  It was a crash course in what it’s like to work on a film set with a bigger crew than I was used to.  It was on the set of that film that one of the other kids had mentioned Burlington College to me.  They told me you didn’t need good grades to get in and that within the first semester you were allowed to use all of their film equipment.  I was sold!  From that point on I just started making my own movies. 

What advice do you have for aspiring filmmakers?  Is it “all who you know?”  To what do you attribute your success with ABCD?

Well, my first bit of advice is:  DON’T DO IT!!!  Run, because this business will suck the life (and money) out of you.  But…if you hate yourself as much as I do, you might have a shot at success.

Is it who you know…?  I guess so?  Jeff (my co-director) and I started making ABCD out of pocket, and after about a year and a half in we were at the end of our ropes.  We even had a conversation about putting the project on hold.  That same day, a friend of mine who’s a Twitter whore found some off-handed tweets that producer Scott Mosier (“Clerks,” “Good Will Hunting”) had made, referring to a promo that we had cut and put online.  I told my friend to write Scott directly and give him my e-mail address so we could talk some more.  That night he essentially became our producer; and from then on, he brought in his producing partners Matthew Perniciaro & Kevin Mann. 

But, even for a while after that we still didn’t have any money.  Hollywood got hit by the economy just as bad as everyone else, and putting cash into a documentary is a huge risk.  Then one day, Matt was on the set of Entourage and showed his friend, Jerry Ferrara (who plays “Turtle”), a trailer that I had cut.  By the end of that trailer Jerry was like, “Say no more!” and cut a huge check to help us finish the film.  It was at that point that we hired Rich Fox to edit for us.  He had worked with Scott in the past. We also hired Jeff’s friend Sam Retzer and his partner, Tim Boland, to score the film.  Hell, we were even able to have ABCD mixed at Skywalker Ranch because some of Scott’s friends worked there.  There are many stories like this about the making of our film, so I think it really was about “who you know,” and I definitely attribute that to its success.  

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Ira Deutchman (who hosted a State-of-the-Industry presentation at the Film Forum) said to me that there is a glut of material out there and a dearth of good stuff.  Is that why ABCD has “made it?”  Is it simply a cut above?  Or is there something else, too, some X factor?

Hollywood has basically given up on trying to make good, original, thought-provoking movies.  Everything is about beating out box office records, which means a good story is incidental.  Listen, I enjoy mindless popcorn movies just as much as the next guy, but there used to be more of a balance between the fluff and the art.  It’s no better on the independent side. Everyone’s a filmmaker now.  The cameras and equipment today are so cheap and easy to use that we’re getting the biggest flood of independent films anyone’s ever seen.  You’d think this was great news, but no one’s taking the time to discipline themselves and learn the craft properly.  Story suffers the most because of this and results in what I like to call, “hipster films.”  Basically, hipster films are movies that leave you empty, have no story and no resolve.  They are just simply there.  You might as well be watching a video of a dog taking a shit, unless that’s your thing (and if it is, I’m sorry).  But hey, all movies are subjective.  One man’s dog shit could be another man’s iPad, so what the fuck do I know…?

Rotten_Tomatoes_94Has ABCD made it?  Is it a cut above?  I don’t know if I can really answer that.  Why does any film succeed?  Who decides if it’s a success?  Is it the amount of money it takes in?  Its cult following?  Its reviews, maybe?  I was told the other day that we were at 94% on “Rotten Tomatoes.”  Apparently that’s a big deal, but I wouldn’t know because I’ve never been into critics’ reviews or ratings systems.  All I know is this- ABCD was made by a bunch of really passionate filmmakers whose only goal was to make a great film.  I think we succeeded in that, and that alone makes our film a success to me.

Your reaction (if you remember) to Ira Deutchman’s presentation – you talked about how they “never taught us this shit in film school,” you learned it through the process of making your film, and that it was great stuff for the students in the audience.  I thought that was awesome and too true.  Can you elaborate on this just a little?

Well, if I remember correctly, Ira was talking a lot about modern film distribution.  Speaking from my own experience as a film student alumni, not once was I taught the business-end of filmmaking- raising money, selling your film, marketing your film, etc.  If you intend to produce or direct films, I think it’s one of the most important things to learn before going out into the real world.  Theory classes were pointless for me; all I did was argue with my instructors, and that dominated the bulk of my classes.

Production classes were informative as I learned how to use the equipment, but they were few and far between, and there was nothing on the business-end of things.  Maybe it was just my school, maybe it’s most film schools, I don’t know.  What I do know is that most of my teachers had absolutely no experience with producing or selling a feature film, which in turn limited our knowledge of how the business works. 

It really wasn’t until ABCD came along 3 years after my graduation that I started getting a crash course in all of this stuff firsthand.  For the past year now I’ve been learning how the distribution side of things is handled.  However, Ira was able to condense everything I learned from this year into a 2 hour presentation, which blew my mind.  I wish that man had taught at my school when I went!!!           

Speaking of school…You’re from Long Island.  How did you end up at Burlington College?

Oh boy, are we really going there???  Nah, it’s cool, I love telling this story.  I ran away from home at the age of 17 after my mom flipped out and attempted to kill me.  I tried soooooo fucking hard to stay on Long Island, going so far as to sleep on my friend’s bedroom floor to finish off that semester of high school.  But my friend’s parents must have talked with my dad or something, because out of nowhere he was on my case about moving up to Vermont with him to finish my senior year at Harwood Union High.  Needless to say, I reluctantly moved up to the sticks.  That’s how I ended up in Vermont.  As for the story about Burlington, see question # 4. 

What about your wife of thirteen years?  Can I mention her and how you met?  If so would you share with me a little bit about that?

Certainly!  We met in a Turkish bath house in Mexico City….  Oh wait, not that one.  Yes, my wife of 13 years, of course!  We met in a television production class in Brookhaven, Long Island.  It was part of a vocational program offered by B.O.C.E.S. that would take high school kids from surrounding school districts and give them a jump start on their desired career paths.  Basically, whatever they wanted to be once they were in college.  We were from competing high schools that happened to be in the same town of Centereach, so geographically we should have hated each other!  However, we shared a love of horror films and B-Movie cinema, particularly the whole “Renaissance Pictures” team that consisted of Sam Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Rob Tapert.  So, essentially, we were both film nerds.     

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ABCD’s world premiere was at the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) last June, where it was picked up by Drafthouse.  It’s been a year-long voyage for you.  What were the highs and lows of your festival run?  Which one was the best?  Which one sucked your soul away?

It was a trip, man.  That festival really treats its filmmakers right.  For starters, Jeff and I were flown out to Skywalker Ranch in Marin County for three days to hang out with all the other feature filmmakers who had films in the fest.  Words can’t describe how beautiful it is there.  All the food was grown and raised on the ranch and cooked by the best chefs in the country.  One of our guest speakers was William Friedkin (“The Exorcist,” “The French Connection”), and he basically just chilled with us, shared stories of his experiences and gave advice about the business.  It was the first time in my life that I felt like I had finally made it as a filmmaker.  That I had overcome whatever hurdles there were to be considered a colleague amongst so many other greats. 

After Skywalker, we were all flown down to Los Angeles, put up in a ritzy hotel and given the full red carpet treatment at the Woody Allen premiere of “To Rome with Love.”  From then on it was like a party every day.  ABCD had two sold out screenings, so they added a third one.  The first screening was filled with celebrities.  It was crazy. 

Another highlight was that, while we were at LAFF, Jeff and I finally got to meet all of our producers and our editor for the first time.  Before that we had just communicated through e-mails and telephone conversations to piece the film together.  So that was a special moment for me, as well.  It was also when Evan Husney (creative director at Drafthouse Films) came across our film and fell in love with it.  He immediately brought it to the attention of James Shapiro (Drafthouse Films COO), and soon after an offer was made. 

Anyway, we didn’t have another film festival until October I think, then out of nowhere they started flooding in.  Jeff and I- and sometimes the band- make it to screenings for Q&A’s and concerts.  We’ve been to Texas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, Calgary and Amsterdam, to name a few locations.  The Lake Placid Film Forum was our last fest.  So yeah, been traveling nonstop for an entire year.  I won’t name names about which festivals were better than others, but there were some that definitely sucked my soul dry.  

But shitty festivals aside, we had a great run, filled with sold-out screenings, standing ovations and audience awards.  I still can’t believe we won the audience award at SXSW for our category.  That’s one of those things that this pessimist never saw coming.  I’m proud of our film, and I’m very happy and honored that all of these festivals (good and bad) believed enough in our film to take it in.

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Do you hate question marks by now?

YES!!!  …But I do like “? & the Mysterians.”

Can you list a couple of your favorite films?

It’s very hard for me to list my favorite films.  I have so many, and at any given time some films become less or more my favorite depending on the mood I’m in.  But I know that’s not the answer you want, so here’s what’s on my mind right now as my Top 10:  “Cheap Thrills,” “Glory,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (‘74), “Dawn of the Dead” (‘78), “Ghostbusters,” “Alice in Wonderland” (‘51), “Ed Wood,” “Deliverance,” “Straw Dogs” (‘71) and “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.” 

How about a couple of your favorite bands?

Ha, same situation as above, but if you insist!  Death, Metallica, AC/DC, Talking Heads, ABBA, Nine Inch Nails, The Who, Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd.   

An early working title of your film was “Where Do We Go from Here.”  So, where do we go?  Are we a gluttonous, materialist, capitalist culture with a reckoning coming, or are Things Gonna Be Just Fine?

Yes, the end is nigh, the human race sucks and we all deserve what’s coming.  Put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye….  Sorry, I’m a pessimist.

What’s next for you?  Think you’ll ever get a boob job?

I just finished a successful Kickstarter run for my new film, “The Crest.”  It’s a short documentary about two Irish American cousins who live on opposite coasts in the U.S.  They recently learned about each other’s existence via a family invitation to come retrace their family’s heritage in the Blasket Islands, right off the west coast of Ireland.  They’re also both surfers, and ironically, one of them shapes surfboards while the other paints them. 

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Considering their ancestors are from the islands where the surf is a crucial part of living and crossing the water, their plan was to take some boards there, paint a couple of them right next to the house of the islands’ king (also a relative), and go surfing.  We just finished filming all of that, and essentially it’s another film about family. Check out our website, and please donate if you can: www.crestmovie.com

Also, I’ve thought about getting a boob job in the past, I’m just not that big a fan of silicone.

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The Wise Heart of Government

Part One: Thou Darest Not Question Park Avenue

It’s gotten to the point where questioning your government, or the economic system in which you live, is filled with this same kind of paranoid guilt as, let’s say, questioning religion.  Just say the word “unpatriotic” and you feel this sort of greasy, hangdog guilt slither over you, like you’re a bad person.  In the same way, saying that you don’t believe that a white man in sandals with cool 70s rocker hair created the universe carries with it its own heavy weight.  Even if you are spiritual, even if you believe in God, questioning Jesus makes you wince, like a nun is watching over your shoulder, about to wrap you on the knuckles.

I think the reason we may feel these things is due to an emotional connection to someone we love who believes strongly in, say, the free market enterprise, or in Jesus.  The last thing we want to do is hurt that person.  The other reason is because of the fear built into the belief system of each.  Consider, if you dare: to not believe in Jesus as the Main Dude Behind Everything has some serious consequences; you could spend eternity in the Valley of Hinnom.  Equally disturbing is the kind of hell-on-earth existence which can answer unpatriotic actions.  Unpatriotic easily translates into “enemy,” or “terrorist,” and we’ve seen and heard about the subhuman terrors of places like Gitmo where human beings are, in effect, “removed from God’s sight.”  One the other hand, we now live in a world where the government can look up our arse with a flashlight to spy on us anywhere, anytime – a true Big Brother.  Archangels, er, I mean, Drones could come to our homes and zap us to bits.  Either way, it’s a dystopian nightmare if you’re on the wrong side.

Why has it gotten so drastic?  Why do we pervert the original intentions and messages of men who set in motion well-tempered philosophies?  In the beginning of our government, the founders seemed to understand that there were the ingredients present for possible abuse of power.  Jefferson warned that the Tree of Liberty would need to be refreshed by “the blood of patriots and tyrants.”  It seems his idea of the patriot was one who kept government in check and held the leaders accountable.  In his book “740 Park,” Author Michael Gross cites several conservatives, who, in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, seemed to have balanced views, expressing that while individual liberty was paramount, man had a responsibility to the rest of his society.  In the time of Jesus (if you subscribe to the idea that a historical version of the man walked the Earth), he questioned the established order, indicting the corrupt government, and urging people to discover God and spirituality in ways that eventually got him into big trouble.  Today, to question the Government is synonymous with questioning God Himself, since the Judeo-Christian religion has been co-opted by many so-called leaders of the country.

While it’s easy to idealize the past, the facts don’t lie.  Our country once featured a much more robust, vast middle class that was thought to be the key to its sustainability.  In the last few decades, that middle class has gotten squeezed and has shrunk dramatically.  The rich and superrich have taken more and more of the total pie of wealth and resources.  The top 400 now have as much wealth as half the country – 150 million people.

Let me just say that again – the Forbes 400 have as much money as 150 million people.

It’s astonishing.  Moreover, political lobbyists write their own bills to push through congress and make laws which serve their interests above the common good.  This is something which has been shown in case after case – with Jack Abramoff fresh in mind.  Yet many conservatives will invoke the terms “free market enterprise” and talk about a level playing field for everyone equal opportunity for each citizen born in the country to pursue success.

Pointing this out can brand you a conspiracy theorist, or a liberal, a socialist, or even a communist.  But this is propaganda.  Like Paul Ryan invoking Ayn Rand in his speeches, or the Koch brothers talking about libertarianism against the decline of our society due to big government, the propaganda is designed to throw off the focus in an often unctuously self-flattering way, extolling the virtues of capitalism while conveniently ignoring the vices of increasingly stratified society.  (Consider the black and white thinking of the lofty term “Makers” and the pejorative “Takers.”)

And part of throwing off the focus is to call you unpatriotic, an unbeliever, or worse if you question the establishment of the day.

The focus, the truth, is always the same.  It is the same as it was two thousand years ago: You have to follow the dollar to find it.

Liberty, personal freedom, civil rights, the ability to chart one’s own course without undue interference, these things are all good.  I believe in the values conceived of in our country.  But, greed is not good.  And one of the reasons greed is not good is because we need to maintain a popular democracy in order to sustain moral and fiscal order, and we can’t do this with libertarians buying laws for their own agendas; we can’t stay civilized when all the economic gains of the country go to the very top, and that is what’s happening.

Without a shred of “conspiracy theorist” feeling in my body, I know that we live now in a corporate-run government.   The ideologies cited by the perpetrators of this corporate controlled society to reinforce their M.O.s are ideas that were once in motion, but not any longer.  There is no longer equal opportunity.  There is no longer a “free” market system.  The wealth has been set and the players hold their cards.  Generation after generation, rich families stay rich and poor stay poor.  It’s just logical.  I’m not saying someone initially set out to rig the game this way (though the establishment of the Federal Reserve Act ought to raise anyone’s eyebrows), but given time and entropy, this is the logical course.  And the way to maintain the illusion that the Haves are simply using the God-given system of economics available in the same way to everyone else is to tap into those unpatriotic paranoid feelings, those deep-seeded religious influences, and to use them against people.

It is not wrong to question the system in which we live.  It is not wrong to look to the roots of religion, and find the value there in the early teachings, before the message was co-opted and perverted by people seeking insular power and wealth.

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It would be better to have a mohawk

I saw this kid the other day.  He used to have a raging green mohawk.  Now he was working in a convenience store with a goofy uniform on.  I felt sorry for him and wondered to myself why we think there is something valuable for our young people to learn by trading their time for a few meager dollars.

Not just their time, but crucial years during an exciting, ephemeral stage of life filled with energy and vitality.  We sap it quick by teaching them how to enslave themselves, telling ourselves that they are learning about hard work and how the world operates.

It would be better if we let them come up with some sort of enterprise where they made money in another way.

Better still if they spent their time exploring what it is they did best, and learning to innovate and problem solve.

Some will argue that this is what the wage job does.  And they will say that it also shows them that they have to afford to live while they pursue other dreams.  And this all comes back to capitalism and socialism (and the idealism of a world that functions somewhere in between).

The rough idea of capitalism is that it motivates people to achieve their highest self by the pursuit of financial gain.  There are two fundamental flaws in logic here – the money market system is a part of every human inequity and a force of violence in the world.   The other is that the great innovators and thinkers of our time were never motivated by big bucks.  It has always been the people who came after them and capitalized on what they came up with.

Innovation and advancement of the human race are their own rewards.  Why not build a society which props up an individual so that he or she may pursue the best of themselves instead of struggling to survive, only to get inevitably broken by the system and become an ordinary wage slave like most everyone else?

Ardent capitalists will say that money is the motivator.  Without it, people have no impetus to excel.  Or, they will point to competition as bringing the “best” out in people and talk about a “level playing field” or a free market enterprise that is the grand denominator, separating the strong from the weak.   The problem with this is that the market is not a level grade.  People born into the dominant ethnic group possess a massive advantage over everyone else.  And if they start out with wealth this only increases their privilege.

This is only some of the inequity.  The market place is one of the tumult reflected in the culture.  Either it is blacks or women or gays or some group of people who don’t have the same chance, who aren’t born to the same preferred set of circumstances.  (Like, being born almost anywhere besides in the United States.)

Much of capitalism, as I see it, is a denial of the problems of the day.  You can’t be a capitalist and recognize climate change because it implies your involvement.  Or, at least, asks you to rethink your future, either with the environment in mind or contending with the concerns of a planet reevaluating its attitude of limitless growth.

We are all driven, whether we consciously admit it or not, by the repression of our mortal knowledge.  In other words, we chase immortality and run from the reality of our limited time on earth.  That this fact breeds war, violence, religion, politics, and even the lofty desire for peace on earth is a topic for another time.  Here I mention it because chief among our quests for immortality is once of acquisition.  Acquisition of wealth, power, and material goods.  We may know better, but unconsciously we feel we can stave of the inevitable by surrounding ourselves with a bulwark of stuff.

This is the opposite of what the world needs.  By accepting the inevitable, innovation and sustainability come to the forefront.  What can we create that will last for those who come after us?  We may not be able to come up with a panacea for climate change; we don’t need to.  No one is expecting the Ultimate Answer to Everything – instead, we can create the conditions in which the best thinking and best work are nurtured by the culture.

The prevailing model that this is done through competition and the lure of money is unfortunate.  It is an agenda for those with money and power who want to keep it.  In the meantime, that each human being is a potential resource of true wealth and innovation gets lost.  That human is working in a sweat shop overseas or in a convenience store with a squashed Mohawk.  If he or she was born in a developed country which uses the rest of the world’s resources to prop itself up, then he or she has a good shot at being well heeled.  Otherwise, that human is likely to succumb to the vast lower middle belly of the world that the strident capitalists consider to mooch off of the hard working elite.  It’s a rigged game.

In these conditions, people become a race of mindless workers and consumers, not resources.  We end up powerless to truly do much for ourselves, instead of empowered to be the best.  If you live in the middle of suburbia, for instance, it’s nearly impossible to think outside the box, live off the grid, grow your own food, to learn self-reliance.  You are caught in the giant web of capital consumption, buying your nutrient-deprived food at giant mega stores, commuting to work each day to punch in and whittle away the best of your years.  If you are poor and rural, you may be able to cultivate some better degree of self-reliance, but the giant misappropriation of resources leaves you spread too thin to make much of a difference and set the example for a better way of living.

You may be lucky enough to have maneuvered through the system and to wind up doing something you are good at and enjoy.  If so, count yourself one of the lucky few.  But don’t consider yourself proof that the system works.  You are the exception which proves the rule; the system does not work.

We are a growing global society of the haves and have-nots.  The haves justify their position by citing the effectiveness of the money-market system.   The have-nots could be contributing to the health of the entire world in major ways, but are too busy being sucked into the machine that feeds the U.S. and a few other “developed” nations that gobble up the principal resources of the planet – including people.

I wish that kid in the convenience store would yank off his goofy uniform and get the hell out of there.  I wouldn’t expect him to go out and solve the energy crisis.  Just painting his mohawk green again would be something.  It would inspire me, and maybe others.

Because it is inspiration – not money – that makes the human race great.

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