Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Anti-Christmas, Everyone (Or Is That Merry Crassmas?)


Fittingly, this entry will hit the virtual presses as soon as the holiday has almost wound down -- wouldn't be an anti-Christmas if it ran on time, right?  Well, our West Coast and Australian/New Zealand readers still have few hours of celebration left, I imagine...like its namesake holiday, one suspects that an anti-Christmas is in the eye of the beholder, which suits The Squawker and myself perfectly.

Today's lead image from Crass's infamous Merry Crassmas EP (1981) sums up our long-running ambivalence about the whole Yule business. As releases go, it's surely among the strangest ever put on vinyl. Each side featured a medley of Crass favorites, played instrumentally on a rinky-dink-sounding organ, after which Santa himself re-entered the proceedings to wish us some holiday cheer -- but not the sort that turkey lovers might have expected!

If you figured out all the relevant song titles, you could win a) bath salts, b) one Exploited single or c) two Exploited singles from the band (if memory serves me correctly). Amazingly, the whole business proved enticing enough to earn a #2 UK indie chart placing at the time.

On one hand, you're constantly reminded to feel cheery and merry, even if those sentiments aren't reflected in your take-home pay, work schedule or personal situation.  If you're among the 7.7 million Americans forced by circumstances to work part-time -- according the latest figures released on December 6, by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) -- you might not be blamed for feeling a bit less merry than your brethren.

The airwaves get equally cloying, as the FM arteries clog with the same perennial 45 rpm showcases spun into the ground for the umpteenth time -- "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," anyone? -- and the boob tube offers the same lack of respite. The Squawker and myself opted for the Sundance Channel's Mel Brooks marathon. As I write this entry, I'm watching "The Producers," and feeling thankful for the option.

Honestly, who wants to eyeball "A Christmas Story," "A Christmas Carol" (in all its infinite guises) or "It's A Wonderful Life" for the millionth-bloody-umpteenth holiday cycle? As good as all those films are, they've run so often that you feel like you're counting sheep...thus, robbing the stories of their emotional impact.

And that's before we get the adverts -- if I have to see those bland yuppie drones blathering one more time about how the Trojan Vibrating Twister has inspired them to bonk like rabbits when they're home from work ("We...kick off our shoes...and go straight to bed...y'know. Same thing."), I think I'm going to reach for my hatchet...or my sick bag...or my gas mask...or some combination of the above.


Even the mundane side of the Yuletide tradition is no less perplexing and confusing. Last night, I had to rush around -- like all the other faces in the crowd -- to grab some last-minute items for the hearth (specifically, our turkey dinner). At 7:40 p.m.-ish (or so), I dashed through the entrance of the last store in town still greedy enough to stay open on Christmas Eve. It was the third one I'd visited.

As the greeter helpfully reminded me, "We're closing in 15 minutes," I slipped and fell on my left knee. I scraped myself off the floor, grabbed a cart and joined the same undignified scramble as my fellow shoppers, amid announcements that broke my concentration every five minutes to tell us exactly when the store was shutting down ("At this time, shoppers, I need you to make your way to the registers...they're going down at eight o'clock...and if you're late...you won't be able to complete your shopping").


Against all odds, I managed to find myself in a never-ending line by 7:55 p.m. -- no mean feat, since the physical layout of most American groceries puts them on a par with walking across the U.S.S. Saratoga, or an equally imposing aircraft carrier -- and took a moment to glance around, trying to read the glances around me, wondering if they felt reminded of family members that they didn't want to see, the office parties they were trying to forget, the accumulated mountain of debt they'd be staring down in the new year.

I wondered if the BLS still considered these folks unemployed, or bumped them down into the categories of discouraged worker (762,000), or marginally attached to the labor force (2.1 million -- who don't figure in the jobless count, because they hadn't looked for work in the four week run-up to the latest survey). Perhaps you're among the roughly 1.3 million Americans losing extended jobless benefits this month, because the political classes want you to party like it's 1893...the only problem is, it's 2013, although I often have a hard time convincing myself of that fact.

Oh, wait a minute -- you don't fancy yourself a vegetarian? Well, if you're among the 2.8 million who'll be booted out of the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) next year, you'll get a chance to emulate the meatless anarchistic lifestyle a bit sooner than you think. Or maybe you're among the 140,000 estimated low-income families losing rental assistance vouchers -- a move that Congress's accounting masterminds anticipate will save $2 billion (the same ones, presumably, who low-balled the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts, right?) .

Are you a low-income senior? Don't worry, you haven't been left out of the budget meat cleaver that's whistling everybody's way. Meals on Wheels program cuts will mean roughly four to 18 million less meals for shiftless scroungers like yourself next year, of what seems likely to signal a new round of federal bloodletting. Given all those challenges that many of us face next year, it's tempting to see why "Bah, humbug!" might be a more sane and rational political response than the perennial Pollyanas might have you believe.

In that spirit, visit the link to Merry Crassmas below, find a can of Foster's lager (or two), and crank it up accordingly...oh, and while we're at it...have an anti-Christmas, and an anti-New Year. Or a merry Crassmas, perhaps. Really, it's on us... --The Reckoner

Merry Crassmas EP On Soundclound:
https://soundcloud.com/southern/merry-crassmas

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Employment Report For November 2013:
http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf

The Week
How To Stick It The Poor: A Congressional Strategy

http://theweek.com/article/index/253820/how-to-stick-it-to-the-poor-a-congressional-strategy

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Culture In A Can: Picking Up Cans For A Living (Guest Post: Don Hargraves)



1) Can Collectors Have It In Their Jeans
I started off as a can collector in junior high, picking up stray cans wherever I could find them. While there are moments when can collecting was lucrative, the place where I lived at the time had few cans lying around – enough to whet a can collector's appetite but not enough to make it worthwhile. When my father talked about the shame he felt himself about picking up cans I stopped picking them up.

It took a few years of struggling in College to think again about picking up cans, during which time I was constantly living just this side of poverty. I became a regular at the plasma donation center, and often worked two or three part-time jobs at a time to keep going to school.


That changed on February 19, 1987. I walked around late at night and noticed there was a lot of cans lying on the ground. This time around, I found a few paper bags and picked up the cans and bottles lying around, making a few bucks in the process.

Suddenly I was aware of a way of earning money that gave me instant cash, didn't involved getting my arms poked, and worked out my body. I was hooked.




2) 1987-90: Living Off The Skim Of The Land
I did nights on a regular basis from early 1987 until well into the summer of 1990, started picking up during the day in October 1988, did football games whenever I could, and started picking up on the end of the school year in 1989.



During the school days I worked (Monday to Thursday), I had a set route which I would always work, which took me between Bessey, Kedzie, and Erickson halls, and the Mackey Business Building. It wasn't a particularly rich route, but I did well enough on it to cut down on the hours I worked, and I was able to defend it from other can collectors. On Weekend Nights I worked an hour or two over a route that wound through the downtown bar area and nearby parking lots. Sometimes I would work a little later, but often I had wage work during the weekends (a concession to “work-study”), so I often stopped around midnight.

Admittedly, most areas of the nation wouldn't give a can collector enough money to live on unless he did so 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So what was it about where I lived that allowed me to live off the proceeds?

First, we're talking about the State of Michigan. While “Seinfeld”'s idea of going to to Michigan to return bottles and cans was a bit off – New York has a five-cent deposit, the extra five cents is not worth the aggravation – Michigan's 10-cent deposit is a major incentive for someone willing to make a living in this way.

Then there was the comparisons between can collecting and wages at the time. When I collected as a daily part of my routine, the average was around $3.50 per hour, occasionally going up to $4 per hour for time-limited, on-campus work. Assuming the $4 per hour wage and 25 percent total taxation rate, this would translate to $12 take home pay (after taxes) for four hours of wage-work, $15 for five hours.

When I collected during the day, I averaged $12 to $15 per day for those hours of collecting, giving me an average of 1.5 hours of saved time. Multiply the 1.5 hours freed up per day (on average) by four days a week, and 10 weeks a term, and you gain 60 hours during the term, 180 hours over the school year. One hundred eighty hours that could be spent reading, listening to music (I bought many records that the previous owners had dumped in their rush to embrace CDs during this time), writing, napping, or just walking around.

Looking at this fact another way: When attending school the last few years, I spent 12 hours attending school, 16 hours working and 12 hours picking up cans. Each hour of picking up cans replaced at least 1.5 hours of wage-work. Without cans I would have needed an additional 18 to 24 hours working, more likely, the large number.

Can collecting was the thing that kept me from working fulltime while attending school.

Not to say that picking up cans was always the answer. There were times that, economically, I found it wasn't worth my time to collect.

There was a while when I collected cans during evening classes at school, but soon had to stop because of a group that didn't show up during the day: Janitors.


One building had a janitor who was very territorial. Every time she found me in her building she threatened to call the police on me. 

After getting caught a couple times by her, I started looking out and around for her, when a “fellow student” started recognizing me out in the hallway (clueing in the janitor as to my whereabouts), I learned to wait at the outer doors and run in when a class ended. The janitor then started waiting for the classes to end herself; I gave up on the building and its cans.

Giving up that building was bad enough, as it dropped my take from $10 to $7 for two hours. But another janitor started picking up cans at another building. It took a couple weeks to realize that another janitor was picking up cans; but the moment I found out I stopped – anything under $5 for two hours was not worth it.

Weekend nights in downtown East Lansing started out lucratively, but collections during this time went into a decline. There were various reasons for this – new parking lots and ramps were built, a crackdown on drinking by cops who wanted to score points with the “permanent residents,” and a couple of newer collectors who used bikes in their efforts made things tough. I still collected weekend nights, but I kept a close eye on the economics – if it started getting to the point where it wasn't worth collecting, I stopped for awhile.
  

3) Blue Moons Can Cause Bulging Wallets
The point of can collecting is, of course, to make money by picking up lots of cans...that you can't do if you're skipping the big hauls.

Two of the biggest hauls in college are Football Games, and Last Day of School.

A) Football Saturdays:
Catching The Spirit One Dime At A Time
I actually figured out there was money picking up cans during football games in the fall of 1986, but I only did one game – and got $15 overall. It was a decent total, but hardly worth knocking one's self out over.

My take would grow over time as I changed strategy in response to experiments and the changing landscape of the university. At first, I would work my way through a section of tailgates south of the stadium, to a south side entrance, and wait for about 15 minutes as the fans entered the stadium, for an average of $20 to $30 per game. 

Later on I would spend less time at the tailgate and more time waiting at my chosen entrance to pick up the cans; my take varied between $30 and $50.

Eventually, I developed a route that ignored tailgates, and spent more time by a south side gate by the football stadium, with the take varying between $30 and $60. About this time I started picking up cans after the game; this added an extra $20 on the top.

Then I began walking between the south side pair of gates. While this was a response to an increase in competition, I found my take had now increased to between $0 and $70 (pre-game). Finally, I found myself parking my car in such a way that I picked up cans as I walked to when I was parked; while it added a few buck, the main effect was to make returning the cans easier.

Of course, there were patterns to earnings. The first games are always the most lucrative, with the fans looking forward to the season. As the season ages, the team suffers its losses and the weather grows colder, the take drops.

B) End Of The Year:
Good-bye Brats, Hello Alexanders
At the end of the year the students who live in the dorms (and in apartment complexes, where they only rent during the school year) pack up everything they own and move out. When they do, they leave lots of things behind; newspapers, magazines, old notes, pillows, fans, blankets, CDs and CD storage crates, microwave ovens, lamps, textbooks, money (mainly collections of pennies, though I once found enough silver to pay for the day's worth of snacks and soda pop), Playboys, pornographic videos, all sorts of food and drinks, video game systems, even the occasional obsolete (and probably nonworking) computer. And bottles and cans – lots of bottles and cans.

A good can collector willing to hustle and gamble a bit can easily make $100 and still have daylight to enjoy. When I work the whole day I average $120-$130 on last days, although I have earned as much as $165 and as little as $80. I did pretty much the same things in both these years (and pretty much the same in others), but the year I did $165 everything went right, whereas with the $80 year, I seemed to catch everything at the wrong time.

Of course, if you want to collect cans on the last day of school, you'll have to keep working the whole day and be prepared to find almost anything. I always start with a good breakfast, and put a lot of one dollar bills and change in my pockets. I also wear a backpack that day, as you never know when you are about to run into a case of juices and a pack of cookies – not to mention sellable used textbooks.

One risk which I regularly take with my year-end can collecting is hiding the cans in nearby bushes for picking up later. One year I lost $40-50 because I hid the bags and someone followed me – this despite the caution I took not to be followed. The next year I found a bag of cans someone had left; while it didn't cover the earlier loss, the $15 within it was appreciated.
  
4) Scaling Back To Semi-Retirement
In 1990, I said “goodbye” to the day-to-day- can collecting. However, I never did stop picking up, just did it during games and at the end of the year. On occasion, I even went back to doing it day-to-day, with varying results.

A) The Daily Route, Two Slight Returns
In 1990, back in town and waiting for a part-time job to go fulltime, I found myself again doing the three hours per day, four days per week routine I had had a couple years ago. Amazingly, I found myself earning between $25 and $40 a day picking up cans. More amazingly, this kept up for four weeks and stopped only when the job I had finally became fulltime. Why this high level of earnings happened I have no idea, the only thing I can guess is that some of the regulars had stopped collecting at that time.

In 1990, forced by changes in my work schedule, I tried the old route again for a couple of days. I soon learned that things had become much less lucrative in the meantime – changes in class scheduling, the increase in juice and water containers at the expense of pop cans, and tighter competition had made getting every can harder, and the route that gave me $15 with little effort became a very rough $10, if that much. Two days was more than enough to persuade me to quit.

B) Year-End And Football Games:
Keeping My Left Foot In The Tins
I kept up the end-of-year collections after graduation. The can collecting stayed in the $10-$15 per hour range, with textbooks adding anywhere between $8 and $60 for the books.

For a few years after graduation I worked on Saturdays, and thus was unable to pick up during football games. When circumstances changed at work, I was able to resume can collecting during game days, and with changes to my collecting and parking patterns (including the closing of Munn Field to alcohol), I actually found myself going at a $90 per game day clip before called to care away for a friend.

C) Aluminum Thoughts
Do I miss the can collecting days? Sure I do. As a friend and fellow can collector told me, you had no limits on your hours, no boss, and the earnings were immediate. Can collecting was also a good workout. When Michigan State won a basketball championship in early 1990, and I ran from the MSU Union, to the “Sparty” statute, to the Breslin Center, before realizing I was not winded. I don't think I would be able to do so now, and to be honest, I wasn't able to do so before then.


Would I now suggest picking up cans on a daily basis? I would not, and for reasons I had seen during my years of can collecting.

First, the scene changed. Even when I first did collecting, I noticed there were more people entering can collecting than leaving it. I watched as my nighttime downtown route became overcrowded with bikers and oldsters with nothing better to do, and that pattern continued into the 1990s in the daytime and on Saturdays.

Second, students' tastes shifted. During the '80s, soda pop was the student's favored drink. There were self-serve all-you-care-to-drink soda pop fountains in the dorm cafeterias, can dispensers placed all over campus, and once the students moved out of the dorms, the convenience dens and liquor stores fed their habits with 32- and 44-ounce tubs of soda, and two-liter pop bottles.

This hasn't changed, but students' tastes have. They drink more juice, more punch and sports drinks, more bottled water, and less soda pop. While it may be healthier for the people drinking the water/juice/punch, it reduces can collector earnings; as only soda pop, beer and wine coolers count as returnables in most states that have deposits on them.

Then there is the hot-and-cold nature of can collecting. There are times when you can't pick up enough and times when there is nothing around and nothing to be expected. You either enter into this as a supplementary source of income, or you live frugally enough to hold onto money during the slow, slow periods.

And finally, there's the question of how can collecting affects the collectors. One of the things that drove me to retire from the daily can collecting grind back in 1990 was taking a good look at some of the steadier can collectors working the campus and noticed that there was something wrong with almost every one of them; whether it was their beliefs, their habits (one used children to pick up cans), or a past suppressed but never talked about. This turned into a fear for me: Will I become as disturbed as some of these people?

And that's why, even though I did very well collecting cans in early autumn 1991, I gladly took the five-day-a-week cab driving job.


Editor's Note: Don Hargraves is a Northwest Indiana-based writer and performance artist whose motto is "Drive because I must, write whenever I can."

Don was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, during the '70s and early '80s -- just in time to see the city start its long, slow decline. He graduated from Michigan State University in the 1990s with a B.A. in humanities, then spent some time after that working and getting a real education.


His first book, Suicide Alley, appeared this summer and is available on www.amazon.com.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Just Who Is The Five O'Clock Hero? (Not The Political & Professional Classes: They Still HAVE Jobs)


"Hello, darlin', I'm home again
                        Covered in shit and aches and pains

Too knackered to think, so give me time to come round
                                                                   Just gimme the living room beat to the TV sound"

("Just Who Is The Five O'Clock Hero?")

In our previous post ("Going Underground: Five Signs That We're Marching Backwards In Time"), we cited five essential statistics that document the continual unraveling of America's social fabric.

Now comes another sign that America's unwillingness to put a stake through its never-ending voodoo economic experiment isn't paying off -- in this case, via the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' unemployment summary for September, which showed the economy adding a mere 148,000 jobs.

And what did we learn about the "official" unemployment rate? At 7.2 percent, it's largely unchanged.

Number of long-term unemployed (27 weeks or more)? At 4.1 million, largely unchanged. Labor force participation rate? At 63.2 percent, largely unchanged.

Number of people forced to work part-time, for purely economic reasons? At 7.9 million, largely unchanged


If this sounds like your definition of success...you need to have your head examined. For the rest of the story, go here: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm




"My hard earned dough goes in bills and the larder
                            And that Prince Philip tells us we gotta work harder
It seems a constant struggle just to exist
Scrimping and saving and crossing of lists"


When I saw the bureau's release, I immediately thought of this slow-burning lament to the common man, if you like, written by Paul Weller in tribute to the "real heroes" of Britain -- "the ordinary geezer or girl...who works 9 till 5 keeping the country going by working in [a] food shop or clothes factory..." (Mike Nicholls: About The Young Idea: The Story Of The Jam 1972-1982, p. 102).

Mind you, the common man has proven all too easy to lionize in contemporary pop culture -- as numerous second- and third-division street punk bands have shown -- but the lyrics quoted throughout this post ring all too true today. In just two minutes and 15 seconds, Weller lays bare the dilemma that all too many of us are now experiencing, of "scrimping and saving, and crossing off lists."

Originally imported from Holland, the song reached #8 on the UK charts in the summer of 1982, and became a standby of the band's subsequent "Trans-Global Unity Express" tour. It's heartening to hear that Weller has recently begun performing the song again on his own, albeit at a slower-burning pace than the original tempo.

The mood and lyrics remind me of an equally timely observation from University of Michigan economist Sheldon Danziger: 
"Many Americans continue to think that a rising tide lifts all boats. But the bad news is that given the way economic growth trickles down now, the number of poor and disadvantaged will remain high unless we do more to help those in need." 

Perhaps he was thinking about the number of Americans living in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's own dismal figures for September: at 46.5 million, largely unchanged.





"From this window I've seen the whole world pass
                  From dawn to dusk I've heard the last laugh laughed
I've seen enough tears to wash away this street
I've heard wedding bells chime and a funeral march"

Now that the U.S. government shutdown finally ran its course -- after 16 slash 'n' burning days -- what's even more striking is the utter lack of ideas on display.

Republicans remain firmly wedded to their supply-side gospel, which is repeated as devoutly as the rosary; most of their Democratic peers cling to an equally moth-eaten mantra of "rising-tides-lift-all-boats"...even though the yacht, figuratively speaking, has long pulled out of the harbor (and left everyone else to drown in the resulting wake).


Before the shutdown flared up, 34 percent of participants in a CBS/New York Times poll identified jobs and the economy as "the most important problem facing the country today". By contrast, just 8 percent mentioned health care, and 6 percent, the deficit -- the two issues that defined President Obama's latest steel-cage encounter with his equally clueless antagonists. Can we say disconnect, anyone?





"When as one life finishes another one starts
             Alright then, love, so I'll be off now
                         It's back to the lunch box and worker-management rows
There's gotta be more to this old life then this
Scrimping and saving and crossing of lists"

As the above poll suggests, the people below have already figured out what the decision-makers above seem unwilling to grasp. Yes, the deficit is a major problem, but if you haven't worked in awhile, or can't get past part-time or temp status, you're unlikely to break out the confetti, if Congress cooks up a "grand bargain" that's proven elusive (at best) and wishful thinking (at worst).

An entire generation is being lost, written off and consigned to the margins of oblivion, while the political class diddles and fiddles, dithers and slithers, fritters and twitters, stumbles and fumbles, all too accustomed to the contours of tailored "power" suits, lifetime benefits and never-ending perks and privileges. Recall how they kept their own paychecks going during the shutdown, while the statisticians responsible for tracking the social train wrecks that they let loose were sitting idle at home. The irony needs no elaboration.

And so it goes, on and on and on and on and on, without a hint of change in the air...but if we don't take it upon ourselves to put pressure on those who need it most, we all know how this particular movie will end. --
The Reckoner

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How Many Americans Can Afford Another $2-300 Bill (Or MORE) A Month?



Americans are strapped. Pushed to the wall via endless bills.

How many Americans can afford another $2-300 dollar bill a month? That's for the poor and younger folks--funny how they are focusing on the costs for a 21 year old in the news articles, think a $1,000 a month for the middle class and above and older. I don't know any middle class families with their mortgages, car payments, and groceries who can take a $1,000 hit on top of everything else.

Cost of Obamacare: its SUPER EXPENSIVE!

This is a big fat pork bill for insurance companies. This isn't like NHS but where the middle men get a giant cut. Also you are left with huge medical bills too, you have to pay thousands of dollars in deductibles before it even kicks in.

I was on bad medical insurance at a job once, I had a $1,000 dollar a month deductible, it may as well had been zero because I never had an extra thousand dollars to spend on medical tests or anything else since that it is all I made in take home a month back in the 1990s. I'm on Medicare being disabled, though I wonder if Obamacare will destroy that too. Liberals simply ignored the numbers while they cheered for Obama. --The Squawker

P.S.: Here's an analysis from Dollars And Sense magazine that really lays out all the relevant issues: http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2014/0114friedman.html

Global Free Trade is a Myth!


Sometimes I think today's leaders of companies and mega-corporations have to be among the most stupid people in the world. Whose going to afford their products when everyone is broke? It isn't the guy making 20 cents an hour in Bangladesh! --The Squawker

Fix Syria--Can't Even Fix Detroit


Maybe if America spent less money trying to go to war with endless other countries and advance globalism, and  Americans took care of their own country for once instead of messing around with endless other ones, there wouldn't be a government shut-down. Did anyone notice that just weeks after we supposedly had money to go to war with Syria, they did the government shut down thing?---The Squawker

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Going Underground: Five Signs That We're Marching Backwards In Time


Some people might say my life is in a rut, 
But I'm quite happy with what I got 
People might say that I should strive for more, 
But I'm so happy I can't see the point. 


Somethings happening here today 
A show of strength with your boy's brigade and, 
I'm so happy and you're so kind 
You want more money - of course I don't mind
 
To buy nuclear textbooks for atomic crimes
--The Jam ("Going Underground")


As the old saying goes, the only certainty of history is that it always repeats itself. What goes around, comes around. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior...and so on. If I had a nickel for every time I'd heard all these cliches, I'd be living in a mansion somewhere in the south of France.

Even so, there's no going around the fact that we're living in some of the most regressive times since the 1980s...a feeling that's hammered home by five negative social trends that keep the commentators' tongues wagging. Without further ado, shall we roll the credits, then?

1. This Just In (America Has Officially Joined The Hamburglar Nation): Doubt persists about whether we've finally spent our way out of our economic doldrums, though some of the usual established voices have apparently decided that's so ("Slow U.S. Economic Recovery Is Gaining Momentum": Wall Street Journal, 6/24/13).

However, the number of part-time jobs (read: 35 hours or less) has grown by 2.8 million since the Great Recession officially kicked off in December 2007, according to The New York Times. By contrast, the number of full-time jobs has fallen by 5.8 million.

Also, if you add two significant subgroups -- those who want full-time work, but have to settle for part-time, and those workers who have up looking -- the official unemployment rate effectively doubles, from 7.7 to 14.3 percent.  Get the rest of this cheery memo here:

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/08/the-rise-of-part-time-work/

2. Permanent Fiesta For The 1 Percent Department.: Most analysts agree that those pesky little 1 percenters have enjoyed quite a party since the 1980s, when everybody seemed to strut around with oversized portable phones, and sweaters stuffed with big shoulder pads, waiting for their share of the wealth to trickle down their direction...today, the crickets keep on chirping, and they're still waiting.

How one-sided the party became isn't always apparent, though, until you read the Economic Policy Institute's May 2012 report, "CEO Pay And The Top 1 Percent," which states that U.S. workers' compensation grew by just 5.7 percent between 1978 and 2011. By contrast, CEO compensation swelled by more than 725 percent during the same period.

When stock options are included, the overall CEO-to-worker compensation ratio grew from 18.3-1 in 1965, to 411.3-1 in 2000, and presently sits at 209.4-1 in 2011 (a reflection, presumably, of the backlash that greeted such fripperies, once the economy flew south). Read the remainder of the bad news for yourself here:

http://www.epi.org/publication/ib331-ceo-pay-top-1-percent/


I'm going underground, (going underground) 
Well the brass bands play and feet start to pound 
Going underground, (going underground) 
Well let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow 


3. At Least Keith Partridge Had Something To Fall Back On: The One-Paycheck Household has faded into a relic of "The Partridge Family" era...when the widowed bandleader (Shirley Jones)  could sleep soundly, knowing that she and her velvet-clad pop combo could cover all their monthly bills, plus Keith's college education tab, and have a few shekels left over for the occasional meal out.

Nowadays, however, Shirley and company would have to whore themselves out on the fast food or retail McJob Circuit, because their concert guarantees wouldn't keep up with the runaway cost of living.  This phenomenon is well-documented in The Two-Income Trap (Why Middle-Class Mothers & Fathers Are Going Broke).

As the authors note, married couples with children are twice as likely to file bankruptcy as their childless counterparts, and about 75 percent more likely to fall in foreclosure: "The problem is that so many fixed costs are rising -- health care, child care, finding a good home -- that two-income families today actually have less discretionary money left over than those single-earner families did." Keith Partridge, eat yer heart out!  For the rest of the story, go to this link:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2004/11/two-income-trap

4. Your Wallet (In The College Industrial Complex's Crosshairs): As even our mainstream media friends have finally acknowledged, educational debt has reached astronomical levels in this country, to the tune of $1 trillion, with roughly $180 billion in some kind of default or others. We've actually reached the point of generational debt, which promises to keep future lenders out of the cold, and off the street corner.

"Wait a minute," you say, "didn't President Obama and his minions sign some type of law regulating interest rates on student loans?"  Well -- as USA Today makes clear -- even with the changes, the feds stand to pocket $175 billion in profit from students over the next decade. As Ogden Nash once remarked: "Professional men, they have no cares/Whatever happens, they get theirs":

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/25/student-loan-rates-will-feed-fed-profits/2696241/

5. Read My Lips, Bud, The Needle Hasn't Moved A Millimeter Around Here: As of 2009, an estimated 50.0 million nonelderly Americans lacked health insurance. According to the Employee Benefit Institute, the figure represents about 18.9 percent of the populace. Except for dips in 2004 and 2007, the number and percentage of the uninsured ranks has continued to climb, making the Clinton-to-Bush-era transitional low point (15.6 percent, in 2000) seem awfully quaint, indeed. You can find additional interesting information about this topic here:

http://www.ebri.org/publications/benfaq/index.cfm?fa=hlthfaq10


What you see is what you get 
You've made your bed, you better lie in it 
You choose your leaders and place your trust 
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust 
You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns 
And the public wants what the public gets 
But I don't get what this society wants 
I'm going underground, (going underground) 


Released in March 1980, "Going Underground" marked the first of three instant chart-toppers for the Jam, and still stands up as one of the most potent blasts of social commentary that Paul Weller ever unleashed.  What kind of society, no matter how prosperous, allows the scenario of "kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns" to occur, again and again?  In short, this song is all about prosperity versus priorities, with the average person falling considerably short of the finish line -- then, and now.

For yours truly, "Going Underground" became one of the handiest songs to blow off some steam, and a marker of hope that -- some day, somehow, somewhere -- the majority (whoever they were) would finally wake up, and shake the cobwebs off their brains...once the hangover of failing to get rich quick set in.  That never happened, of course.

As even many conventional Democrats are loath to admit, the Clinton era set dizzying new standards for go-go finance that would have made Reagan-era fixtures like junk bond king Michael Milken -- or his silver screen counterpart, Gordon Gekko -- wet their knickers with joy. Realpolitik, in it all its grimy, joyless variations, was the order of the day.

Whenever anyone dared to ask, "Isn't all this go-go business gospel getting slightly out of hand?", they'd hear the Status Quo Police respond: "Shut up! As long as we can print more money, it shouldn't be a problem." Other times, you might hear something like this: "Shut up! For most folks, debt's a way of life now. As long as they can buy their latest toys on credit, it shouldn't be a problem."

One common denominator ties all these statistics together: they represent snapshots of the choices that American society -- at its leanest, meanest, most mindlessly Darwinistic, and socially regressive -- forces citizens to make on a constant basis, whether it's food versus medicine, or child care versus earning a living wage...and so on, and so on, and so on.

This is a situation that makes no bones about community, with no other ethic laid out on the table beyond survival of the fittest. How the average person navigates this dog-eat-dog maze, of course, is strictly up to them...but, as these figures suggest, they're continuing to lose the battle...and don't even think about attempting to win the war.  --The Reckoner

Sunday, August 18, 2013

In Search Of The Underdog: Lionel Rogosin's Cinematic Legacy Revisited (Interview With Michael Rogosin, Pt. 2: 5.22.13)



Lionel Rogosin seems in rip-roaring form, judging by this college lecture photo, taken around 1974 -- which usually serves as a standard reference for all those endless montages of Nixon's resignation, streakers bounding across high school graduation stages, and never-ending lines at gas stations nationwide...that grace just about every one of those period pieces that your friendly neighborhood dream factory is continually spitting out.

Though Lionel Rogosin couldn't have known at the time, Nixon's swansong year would also mark his tenth -- and final -- completed film, Arab-Israeli Dialogue (whose still photo is below)..which he shotout of necessity, in the basement of his Impact Films studio.  Rogosin's final full-length feature, Woodcutters Of The Deep South, had appeared in 1973; this time around, his last effort would clock in at 39 minutes, and hint of an extended story that would wait nearly 40 more years to be told.


As we detailed in our previous installment, Lionel Rogosin would never complete another film during his lifetime, which ended in 2000.

At long last, however, his cinematic legacy is beginning to make itself felt, through the efforts of his son, Michael Rogosin, whom my kindred cohort, Chairman Ralph, interviewed for his website (www.chairmanralph.com), and appears by his permission. (Thanks to Michael for providing the photos.) This installment begins with a discussion of the '60s' freewheeling social vision, and how it influenced the Lionel Rogosin's vision.  --The Reckoner


"HE WASN'T ACCEPTING THE STATUS QUO":
MICHAEL ROGOSIN INTERVIEW, PT. II

CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): Well, this is one reason why people go back to the '60s so much, because there was this idea..."our institutions are not serving us well, and they can do better, and we can do better."

MICHAEL ROGOSIN (MR)
: Exactly. As you say, my father was one of that generation.  Did he do this to get rich?  Obviously not, 'cause he just made a lot of problems for himself (laughs) – but he did what he believed in. Can you change the world?  Maybe, maybe not, but he was trying to do those things through cinema...and it's really a fascinating subject.

CR
: Sure – because your father could quite easily have hooked up with any of the trends happening at the time, and made life much easier for himself – but he chose not to do that.

MR
: That brings us back to Arab-Israeli...there's just so much of his mind at work, showing these things that people didn't want to see, but were so important.  Forty-four years afterward, and it's as relevant today to discuss it, as it was [then].  It's kind of mind-blowing, and an inspiration to get these things out there.  It's an obligation.

CR
: My feeling is, you can't really back off...because it's going to make it [working conditions] a little better for the next guy. It's not just about you.

MR
: Exactly.  The only film's that more about me – and it's really about me and my father – is the personal one. But the work is too important to let go.  If I don't do it, who's gonna do it?  That's one of the things [explored] in my personal film: what is his role, of legacy? 

I'm happy, and I'm really thrilled that people contributed in a selfless way [to the Arab-Israeli Kickstarter campaign], so we could get this film done, you know – because we financed it all ourselves, and it comes to a point where you can't [anymore].  That really makes the whole thing worthwhile – I really, really feel [good] about that.  So I'm looking forward to it.

I'm hoping that by September, we'll have a documentary on Arab-Israeli, [along] with the film – which we can show – and, eventually, this new interview, which we're not sure how to handle yet.




CR
: The one thread they [Lionel Rogosin's films] have in common is – all involve the underdog, in some way, shape or form.

MR: That actually brings me back to Good Times. One of the messages of that film, which I find remarkable -- I don't know if people pick up on it -- comes back to what you're saying: "We all have a kind of a responsibility, to do something."

Having those people making those comments at the cocktail party [in the film] – it's like, “OK, can we just stand by, and do nothing, or can we do something?” You're doing [things] with your website, your journalism, and all that.  Everyone can do something, you know?


CR
: Yes, absolutely.  So what's the strategy for your father's writings? You said that your father's not necessarily a great writer – but, nevertheless, he left us a lot of written documentation [of his work].

MR
: For the writing – with [help from] a young researcher, we pulled out things from different periods to make a collection.  But it's a matter of finding somebody to be a collaborator, find the right people.  I also realize something else: in cinema, you can't tell all the stories, unfortunately.  That's why there needs to be a research center somewhere.  It's really a matter of partners, and my energy.  If someone says, “Oh, we'd love to do a collection of writing,” that would be great, you know.

CR
: The thing about your father is – he was a man in his time, and yet, very much not of his time, perhaps even 30 years ahead of his time.  True?

MR
: That's exactly right.  He was obsessed with social justice, and all those things – all that comes through in the films.

CR
: Certainly, one other obvious legacy of his work is the idea that, “You don't take shortcuts.  You don't do the easy thing.”

MR
: Oh, yeah, yeah, that's true, too – if you put it into phrases like that.  I guess there would be a certain amount of lessons you'd have to take from each film, but that's definitely it.  And that you don't accept everything, you fight for what you believe in.

When he went to South Africa, to make a film against apartheid, it was not for his own benefit: “This situation is an awful thing in the world.  We have to fight it.  We can't accept that.  We've just been through World War II, when awful things were happening, and we're not going to let it happen again.”


Beyond what each film is actually saying, he wasn't accepting the status quo, he was fighting for what he thought world justice should be...in every film,  whether it was popular, or unpopular...and they were all basically unpopular.  When he made Come Back, Africa, he thought he'd have some success – he thought that people would be interested in the poor black people, oppressed in South Africa, and he was naïve. They didn't give a damn.

CR
: Yeah, I imagine that had to a sobering moment for your father....

MR
: Exactly, but he did it, anyway, you know?  He had to do it.  And I found that [to be] the message in Good Times – that we are all responsible for doing something in this world.  I think there are a lot of messages in there...things about the way you make cinema, the way you film faces, for instance...they're like portraits.

And the way that you get so real. That's something I noticed in the films – as you say, in Black Roots [for example].  They're so real, but yet, it's cinema.  It's not fake. It's not imposed, and by studying those methods, filmmakers can get some more depth in their films, you know?

CR
: Very much so. If you look at a lot of the things [that] folks are doing today, there's a lot of time being wasted on gimmicks.

MR: Yeah, there's a lot of that – why do people make films?  They want to have a nice career – but that wasn't his motivation at all.  It's like, something is gonna come out of this, to do better – he was completely obsessed with that, with social justice.  He had to show those Bowery men. He had to show the people in South Africa.  He had to show the dangers of nuclear war.

He had to show, in Black Roots, what it was like to be black in America, in the '70s...he had to show, in Black Fantasy, a mixed couple – which nobody wanted to see...Woodcutters, this obscure thing in the woods...he had to show it. He's not doing it for any other reason, except a deep obsession with something that has to be done.  He's not sitting around, saying, “OK, I wanna make a film, but what subject could I do?”  And that's a big difference.


If you really wanna do something really important, it's gonna have to come out of some deep motivation, you know?  It can't be artificial.  It doesn't work – or it does work, if you want to make some entertainment, I guess.  But it's a different ball game.

CR
: That's why I connected with them, and once you get all this stuff done, that's why people will connect with it, as well.

MR
: OK, I hope so – it's encouraging, what you've told me.  It's really encouraging, and I'm really happy that you enjoyed the films, and Black Roots, as well...'cause we know about the early films.  But I need a motivation to continue, finish this, and get people to see the later films – that's kind of my obsession now.  Thanks so much for following us, and giving your thoughts, and all.

CR
: Well, thanks for giving so much of your time today to do this.

MR
: Let's keep in touch, definitely.

MORE INFORMATION:
Black Roots Overview (Turner Classic Movies):

http://www.tcm.com/this-month/article.html?id=568367%7C570286

Ms. Magazine:
The Verbal Karate Of Florynce R. Kennedy, Esq.
:
http://www.msmagazine.com/summer2011/verbalkarate.asp

Museum Of Modern Art Press Release:
"What's Happening" Series (Including Black Roots)
:
http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/4506/releases/MOMA_1970_July-December_0025_86.pdf?2010


Museum Of Modern Art Press Release:
Lionel Rogosin Retrospective (6/18-25/90):
http://www.moma.org/docs/press_archives/6805/releases/MOMA_1990_0056_59.pdf?2010

Thursday, August 8, 2013

In Search Of The Underdog: Lionel Rogosin's Cinematic Legacy Revisited (Interview With Michael Rogosin, Pt. 1: 5.22.13)


Here at Ramen Noodle Nation, we pride ourselves  as cultural curators of the obscure, the overlooked, and the unheard. -- be it art, film, literature, music.  In that respect, Lionel Rogosin (1924-2000) fits the bill perfectly, as my good friend, Chairman Ralph, most emphatically stresed during a series of email exchanges on the subject. 

Long before it became fashionable to pursue your own visions -- typically, with your own money -- Rogosin was doing exactly that, only 50-odd years ago. He cut a formidable cinematic figure through the 1950s and 1960s, beginning with his breakthrough, On The Bowery (1955), and kicking into high gear with his searing anti-apartheid critique, Come Back, Africa (1958); and Good Times, Wonderful Times (1965), which intercuts mindless chatter at a posh London cocktail party with war atrocity footage from around the globe.

Rogosin maintained his artistic momentum with Black Roots (1970), Black Fantasy (1972), and Woodcutters Of The Deep South (1973), which respectively examine African-American culture, interracial love, and tree cutters fighting to avoid corporate exploitation. Needless to say, these aren't the sorts of subjects that pry open corporate checkbooks aplenty. Rogosin struggled throughout his career to gain the kind of exposure and funding that later cinema-verite exponents like Michael Moore would leverage into, well...honest-to-goodness careers.

As a result, Rogosin never completed another film after his last feature, Arab-Israeli Dialogue (1974), and spent the remainder of his life attempting to complete various unrealized projects. At long last, however, there is the glimmer of a revival on the horizon...which his son, Michael Rogosin, is working to spearhead. With that in mind, we present Part I of this exclusive interview (which appears by the consent -- and permission -- of www.chairmanralph.com.)  --The Reckoner


"I'M ON A MISSION TO GET THOSE FILMS SEEN":
MICHAEL ROGOSIN INTERVIEW, PT. I
CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): First of all – congratulations for reaching your (Kickstarter) goal (for Arab-Israeli Dialogue).

MICHAEL ROGOSIN (MR): Oh, thank you, yeah – I was quite happy about it.  I was rather worried in the middle [of the campaign], there – it was actually quite difficult to even get a minimum amount of money to do this documentary. But I did a lot of personal emailing, had personal meetings with some peace groups, and that led to some more (funding opportunities), and we managed.

After this is done, there'll be one more film which I didn't make a film about – and I wasn't planning to, because I thought it was the weakest of my father's films: Woodcutters Of The Deep South.  It's a film that I had actually some involvement in, as a kid, when we went to Alabama, or Georgia – the story of my father's later films is that he had no support whatsoever, so the budgets were actually nonexistent, I would say. 

But, by hook or by crook, he made the documentary – of course, his means of filming were [on] reduced 16 millimeter. I'd seen a bad VHS copy  – so I kind of forgot about it, saying, “OK, if I don't do one [a documentary] on one of the films, that's OK.  I'll kind of let that go.”

Then I got a call – actually, a few emails and calls – from a researcher at Alabama University, asking to see a copy of Woodcutters.  At first, I said, “No, it's a very bad copy.”  I finally managed to review it again, and my perspective has changed.  I saw the film in a completely new light, actually {laughs).  And, I realized, this film's subject was very interesting.

I sent him the copy, and he also told me that it was about a very unique situation – a cooperative of black and white woodcutters working together in the South, in the '70s.  It captured this particular historical period.  Of course, it was a subject nobody else would have really wanted to do, or approached, at that time...but he was so adamant about those kind of things.

CR
: Yeah – of course, you'll be going through all that footage, and whatever notes your father made...because it sounds like he left a lot of documentation, a lot of writing behind.

MR
: Yes – for all these films, I've had to go into the archives now.  I've started in 2000, can you believe that?  I've been making the films since about 2004 or '05 – actually, it's like a goldmine, fascinating.  My daily life is listening to my father on [film].   I also digitalized an enormous amount of documents, photos, and audio [material], so I have all this information to work with. I've been living with him since 2005, in this obsessive way, so when I do get to the end of this, it's going to be kind of a shock, I guess...

CR
: But, at least, we'll have closed the circle, so to speak.

MR: Exactly.  And you start realizing, “Oh, my God, what have I got myself into?”  I had a very difficult period from 2002 to 2004, trying to get things restored. We did get one book published – which was quite a big thing – in South Africa, but besides that...we didn't get that much [done].  If I'm lucky, I'll be finished in a year and a half.  I'm always called to promote it [the work], so I don't mind talking about it – but, at that point, I hope that I won't be doing this all day long.





CR
: When I stumbled across your father's work on TCM, I had a “road to Damascus” moment: “How come I missed this?  If I don't know it, then it's got to be obscure.”

MR
: Yeah – well, I guess, because it's so hard to see.  When was the last time something was actually out there?  My father was not only a filmmaker, he was also a distributor.  His films were shown on the university circuit, but that's a long time ago – and never on American television. 

The only way you could have seen them would be some obscure VHS [copy], and you would have had a hard time finding copies, so this is a breakthrough.  We're starting to make some progress. TCM – it was fantastic that they did that [the retrospective airing], because no other American station would show those [films]. In 50 years, they didn't get shown on television, if you could believe that.

CR
: Of course, that cuts to another issue in media, doesn't it – who decides what can be shown, or what people get access to [see]?

MR
: Exactly.  My father wrote a lot about that...he would constantly talk about that.  There's other filmmakers of his generation – that considered themselves, not “blacklisted” – [but] “greylisted”. In other words, they were kind of put off the circuits, you know?  He would call it “Madison Avenue fascism,” 'cause they don't kill you – they make it so they can't see your work.  I guess On The Bowery, and the [other] films that he made, were considered threatening to the powers that be, or something...

CR
: Well, the one that he seemed to get the most flack for was Good Times, Wonderful Times...

MR
: Yeah, true, true.  People don't accept that film – it's the one where you have really divergent opinions.  A lot of young people actually think it's really modern, and interesting, and some people say, “Oh, it's cliché” – but other people are extremely affected by it, you know? 

CR
: Well, when I watched the TCM stuff – that film, and Black Roots, were the ones that affected me most. 

MR
: That's very interesting, but – the problem is, he didn't have any distribution.  Nobody knows those later films, like Black Roots.  They're so real, I feel the same way – and that's why I'm on a mission to get those films seen.  Your saying that is really rewarding, because I feel the same way as you do. Those films should be seen.

CR
: Yeah, absolutely, because they were unlike anything that people were doing at the time, honestly.

MR
: Basically – when I say, “zero budget,” I mean, zero budget.  Just enough to scrape through.  The sad thing is, he had a potential of doing a lot of other fantastic films – he had scripts, projects that never got done. That's the tragedy of American filmmakers who couldn't get any money, or zero support from public television.

CR
: People get all misty-eyed, and say, “Wow, the '60s and the '70s, that was the golden age for films, and documentaries.” And I thought, “Well, if it was such as golden age, how come nobody got behind this guy?” 

MR
: I'm not sure, exactly, what they were referring to.  If you were part of the clique of the [W]NET, they would get funding.  If not, there was no funding, I guarantee you. Over and over, in my father's writings, and his autobiography, he talks about it, and in his lectures. There was no support for independents.  There was no money for people like him.  They were struggling.  They were distributing on the college circuit, but there was nothing for them. That's all I can say..

In fact, my father was behind a court case against public television in the '70s, which is something that nobody knows – which had 200 filmmakers attacking 'NET for not supporting people. In other words, 'NET would give money to people working for their station, but not the independents, people of my father's generation – all these people had tremendous struggles to get their films done.  I can't see that [retrospective nostalgia] at all.

CR
: Of course, in the '80s, that stuff only got worse, with all the mergers and consolidations that swept the Reagan era, which I'm sure you're familiar with.

MR
: You mean, the beginning of cable television?  He didn't benefit from cable television, for whatever reason.  He went to England, just after that time – they had a certain period, also, where they were doing amazing things. And that didn't last more than 10 years, either, so...

CR
: He didn't get the benefit of that, either?

MR: 
No, he went there, hoping: “I'm going to go to England, and I'll to get support” – and when he arrived, it was ending (laughs).  I have to say that the later years for a lot of those artists, with no support, was quite sad, in a way – very frustrating.

CR: As you say, if nobody sees you – they don't even necessarily know that you're doing anything.  And, of course, little by little, the history starts to get rewritten, where even the people involved don't recognize it anymore.





CR: Absolutely.  Circling back to where we started, with Arab-Israeli – now that you've actually met your [campaign] goal, what's next? 


MR: Well, we have a copy that's not too bad, so we're not dependent on a restoration for it.  We did make a trip to Israel, for several reasons – among them, to follow up on Arab-Israeli – a few years ago.  I felt it was such an important subject, we had to get this done.  But we had some adventures that happened while we were making the [Arab-Israeli]  documentary.

We found that the film actually inspired a concrete effort between Palestinians and Israelis to work together, which is a journal – a monthly, in East Jerusalem – so we filmed there.  I filmed them watching the film, and reacting – it's elements like that, that are a little different.  It's taking my father's work, and building on it.


And then, we found something absolutely remarkable recently.  I found some Betacam tapes with no labels, or whatever – I managed to see a little bit of it, a few years ago. It took a long time to get it digitalized, just before we started this project – but I saw the interview, and it's absolutely mindblowing. 

It's between my father, and the Israeli [subject], 17 years after the original [film] – talking about the original film, and also, the Palestinian [subject] who died.  It's going to create a lot of havoc, or dispute, but he says strong, important things that I don't hear anywhere else.  So I felt desperate to get that edited, and out – it's a piece of my father's work that has never been seen at all.  That's tremendously exciting. We don't quite have the funds to do that...but we're not too far.


CR: Yeah, I imagine.  As you said, you never imagined you'd be getting yourself in for all this work, did you?


MR
: It's very funny, because I never wanted to be a filmmaker. I said, “Oh, my God, that's something I do not want to do, sitting around in hotel rooms, trying to raise money” – because that's all I saw my farther doing.  I certainly didn't ever expect to make a film on that [his father's work]. So, who knows, at this point?


CR: So what was your original career aspiration, then, and how did that change, in the direction that you are [going] now?


MR: Well, I'm always in the artistic field.  I'm a painter, and I also had a musical phase.  I also restore houses, and I do all these other things to earn money.  So I'm quite good at restoring houses.  You don't realize your childhood, you know – where you're coming from, in some ways.  We had a lot of film culture, because we were always in my father's theater – so I don't know how I'll feel, as you say, when the end of the adventure comes.

The goal is to restore all the films, have a documentary on each one, and have them seen everywhere.  I have a feeling that Arab-Israeli will pull up the later films, so we can get them seen. Once you start something like this, you have no idea where you're going.  Either you do it, or you don't, so I have to go through with it. 


It's unfortunate that TCM didn't show my documentary on it [Black Roots], which actually is the first time I edited myself – but that will be on the Milestone version.  We have Jim Collier, who's in the film, who is still alive – I have some really fantastic interviews that we've done.  They were like that, because they were in such confidence with my father.  He really had a way of reaching something very real in cinema, so I definitely agree with that.


CR: Yeah.  It's remarkable – this [film] had the effect of, somebody started filming – and the people involved didn't realize it, but once they did, it didn't really matter.

MR:
Well, again, I can explain a fair amount about the aesthetics.  This is the kind of thing that you want to transmit to young filmmakers, actually.  He had actual methods of how to get people to say what you're hearing in front of the camera.  But the most important thing is that he loved all these people, and knew them very well. For instance, [with] On The Bowery, he was [spending] six months with the men.

In South Africa, it was the same kind of thing – months and months and months of going – and, in Black Roots, the same.  For example, Flo Kennedy, one of the people in the film – a black woman who graduated to become a lawyer – my father knew her for years, so he didn't just throw them all in a room, and start filming.  He was deeply involved with them. 






CR: What is the broader strategy to get wider recognition of your father's work?  I imagine that TCM showcase probably helped out quite a bit, didn't it?

MR: I think that helped – I'm hoping that Milestone will do another [release]; they've really done a fantastic job. Well, there's definitely a volume two in the works – with Come Back Africa, a documentary on that, and Black Roots, a documentary on that. 

So that's already going to be two Blu-Rays and DVDs of four films, four documentaries – that's significant, but not enough, because, as you say, the later films are important.  Once all the documentaries and films are done, I have to solve the restoration problem.  It'll be difficult, or we'll have to manage, somehow.

Once that's all done, it would be great if Milestone would do a boxed set of everything.  That would be the ideal goal – and this would go around in film festivals.  In Europe, my father's well-enough known [there]; once we have that body of work, we still have a lot of possibilities.  And then, I have to find a home for the archives. I also have my feature film, which either nobody will see, or somebody – I have no idea.  But that's my big obsession right now, to  finish that. 

CR: All of a sudden, we have these various tasks to do, and all these projects to get done.

MR: You get dragged into these things (laughs)...I would like to get back to my other things, at some point.  The great frustration is all the films he could have made,...but you could say that about a lot of things, for a lot of people. At least, you do something, and if you get something important done, that's all pretty good, I guess.

CR: What's even more interesting is that, throughout all this [difficulty], your father never stopped trying to realize his vision...

MR: That's true....and, since he was a distributor, you get all these problems of distribution.  The reason that he was a distributor was not only for his own films, but it was [also] to help all the independents.

And, of course, he had his distribution company, called Impact Films, which was really important in the college circuit, and really, the major thing that he did. Even [Martin Scorsese] told me – I said, “How important is the Bleecker Street Cinema, in terms of the film industry?”  He said, “As important as the films that were being made.” 

That's where these young filmmakers would go to get a film education. The Bleecker Street Cinema is an incredible story.  I think it's probably gonna be  [only] five minutes in my personal film, but that's something that someone should look into..

TO BE CONTINUED...

FURTHER INFORMATION
Come Back, Africa:
http://comebackafrica.com/

Documentary.org:
American Neorealism: Lionel Rogosin's Docs Reconsidered
http://www.documentary.org/magazine/american-neorealism-lionel-rogosin’s-docs-reconsidered

The AV Club:
On The Bowery: On The Bowery: The Films Of Lionel Rogosin, Volume 1
http://www.avclub.com/articles/on-the-bowery-the-films-of-lionel-rogosin-volume-1,71199/

The Official Lionel Rogosin Website:
http://www.lionelrogosin.org/