steev's blog

Blood-Drenched Dope

Lots of stupid fear-mongering about "border violence" lately, even from Obama now.

I think it's important to keep in mind and include in any discussion of this that this whole topic is just another example of the fear-based society we live in. Chertoff started spinning this "border violence spillover" idea back in December and it's pure hype just to get people to be afraid and give in to the idea of even more militarization of the borderlands and more loss of civil liberties. The violence is worse in Mexico, yes, but the spillover is mostly a myth. The last thing the cartels have ever wanted to do was involve gringos in their gun battles. Here's an example of the fear-mongering: recently the statistic came out that Phoenix is the #1 city for kidnappings, but the counterstatistic is that most of those kidnappings are loads of migrants being smuggled by one smuggling cartel and getting "stolen" by another cartel. It's not mom and pop citizen getting yanked into a van at the mall parking lot or whatever.

The other thing to realize is that drug trafficking isn't going down or being restricted, counter to what the migra says. The increased violence in Mexico is because the Calderon administration's "Mano Duro" has upset the delicate balance of power between cartels. But there's still plenty of drugs flowing north, and there always will be till we deal with the demand that us gringos have for the stuff. The problem is not only the demand for the drugs themselves but the flow of money from the drug trade and the drug war that flows to U.S. banks, prisons, private prison companies, rehab centers, therapists, guns, fancy cars and yachts and stuff that the narcos buy for themselves, hospitals, etc etc etc. Sorry to sound negative but the drug war CAN'T be won, ever, or all those industries will crash and burn, not to mention Mexico's economy, since the drug trade is the 2nd largest industry after their oil. All that will ever happen is posturing and faking.

But the real question is: why do gringos like their drugs so much? Why do their lives seem to suck so bad that they have to medicate themselves so much? Is there some other way to make gringos' lives happier, so they don't need the blood-drenched dope?

Fundraising So I Can Finish My Documentary

This week I began an experiment in online, DIY, grassroots fundraising. I need to raise funds for completion of a documentary I've been working on for the last 15 months or so called "Death and Taxes: Refusing to Pay for War." If you follow this blog you have seen me writing about the film before. It's been a long process, and a subject I've cared about for many years.

wtr animation production stills - 3Basically, this doc has been one of the major parts of my life for awhile, and it's one of the most ambitious, if not the most ambitious, film projects I've ever tried. As such, some mistakes were made, and some of them were in planning and budgeting. One difficulty is that I am now, for close to the last 2 years, trying to make a living from making films and doing other freelance motion picture work. It's a hard existence, I've discovered, especially in a place like Tucson where the industry is pretty stunted. So this is the first big project I've done where I needed to make it pay, personally, as in, I had to make a living - not a killing, just a modest living.

To make a long story short, I miscalculated, some mishaps happened, and the film took much longer than I thought, we ran out of money last November, and I'm broke. I have a few other videography gigs that are bringing in a little, but this kind of thing keeps me busy, and I have to do them to survive. So I can't continue work on the WTR film, in any timely way, unless it's funded.

For my last full-length film, On The Edge, well, it was my first film, and I made even more mistakes, and I was willing to make them because I had passion and compassion for the subject, and I'd never done a big project like that before. I spent all my savings, I interrupted my life to go live cheaply in rural Iowa while I edited, and after a total of 18 months it was done. But I can't do that with every film. That's not sustainable.

So, this is a long-winded way of saying, I need some financial help, bad. You can help. I know about the economy and I know everyone is hurting. But any little bit counts. Maybe you still have a steady job. I don't. I have this film.

And not only that, it's a film about something really important. I'm not asking people to fund my silly zombie slasher flick. This project is about getting the word out about a unique and inspiring way to work for peace and change the world. Maybe that's worth a few bucks?

There's information about multiple ways you can donate here:

Thanx so much for your support.

What's Been Going On Lately...

Day before yesterday:

  • 10:00 looking at documentation about Jack Trip - #
  • 10:16 Just watched the intro section of the new film about copyright and mashups and stuff, "RIP": #
  • 11:42 wondering what the pollen count is today. maybe pretty low, or maybe the herbal stuff i've been taking actual works...? #
  • 14:19 creating an online fundraising infrastructure for my war tax film. #
  • 15:05 polishing up my grassroots DIY fundraising page for my documentary. #
  • 17:39 doing a tech rehearsal for Sonic Bridge, a telematic performance that will happen next week.. #
  • 20:44 looking for a good free ID3 editor for the Mac. ridiculous how hard it is to find one. #


  • 08:21 reading about "internet 2"... reminded of the jokes we used to tell about "Internet Plus"... #
  • 08:32 thinking i must remember this for next xmas: #
  • 10:54 switching gears, from fundraising, to editing... #
  • 15:30 getting creeped out by the idea of "pokens".... ( ) #
  • 15:56 wondering why "iTunes DJ" has replaced "party shuffle" #
  • 17:12 thinking about how the border patrol wants to defoliate the banks of the entire Rio Grande River... makes me sick.. #

Kutiman's Amazing and Brilliant Palimpsestual Recycled Culture

I decided to take a few minutes break from subtitling an interview with a Mexican environmental law professor to read some blogs and I am so blown away by this, this guy who goes by the name Kutiman has made a bunch of wonderful songs and music videos out of unrelated youtube clips, mostly random people practicing their instruments. His work has been re-posted here:
It's absolutely brilliant. and fun! It makes me smile.
Like my friend José said on his blog "The video sequencing is clever and lighthearted, the music tastefully composed and the overall conceit exudes love for humanity.... Much of music is a conversation across space and time, a retracing of other people

New Video Content On News On The Line

This week I posted a third segment in the video series I started in January about the borderlands and the hopes and dreams of people living in communities affected by border militarization.

This latest installment is an interview with Mono Mono, an artist who makes electronic pop music that frequently addresses issues of the border and cross-culturalism. I first met him at the No Borders Camp in 2007 and then at a show he did here in Tucson. I visited him at his home in San Diego when I was out there in January, 2 days before the inauguration of Barrack Obama.

To Arivaca Film Expo

Today I'm heading down to Arivaca, a little town near the border, about an hour southwest of Tucson, to show "Wild Versus Wall" at the Arivaca Independent Film Exposition. I think this is the third year that I've had something in this yearly 1-day festival, but I've never actually been present for it, so I figured it's about time I show up. It looks like there are quite a few interesting films, both documentary, and narrative, shorts and features, so it should be fun. The only thing is that just like with the Sedona fest last week, it feels like I'm taking time out that I don't have, but at least in this case it's only an afternoon.

To Sum Up

Sedona, az - the ugliest beautiful town ever - 05

More photos from my time in Sedona.

Now I'm back and trying to catch up on lots and lots of things I have on my plate. I brought along some work but I never had time to get to it. Sigh.

Another Day in the Red Rocks

I'm starting the 2nd to last day of the Sedona Intl Film Festival and I for once got plenty of sleep last night since I made a successful effort to skip the nightly party.

In a few minutes I have to head off to a 9:30 film but I want to quickly mention something I realized yesterday: there is one thing that sort of in a way magically makes up for all the things I've been cynically and grumpily griping about for the last few days regarding the fest and film fests in general. The thing is THE FILMS THEMSELVES, or at least the cream of the crop of them, the few that really stand out and you see and you think, wow, that is one of the best films I've seen in a long time, or maybe ever, and I may have never seen it ever, because so many films in festivals never get distribution, never even get to DVD, or if they do they perhaps don't get the proper promotion and you never hear about them.

So I glad I'm here, namely for 2 films in particular that I have seen and really stand out: The Speed of Life by Ed Radtke and Selfless by the Pander Brothers - both of these film totally blew me away and made me happy to be here. And I should add that the Pander Brothers are from Portland (and are good friends of my Tucson pal Carl Hanni), and have been an absolute pleasure to meet and talk with at the various festival parties, and their film has lots of beautiful art direction and locations from Portland - but it's a sort of dark, soulless version of Portland, a critical vision of the yuppified, gentrified, "creative class" zones of Portland. And there's lots of great music and score by Portland music folks including Auditory Sculpture.

Neither of these film have distribution yet, but I pray that they will because you all need to see them!

Sedona Confidential

Every night is literally a party here at the SIFF. Other than getting to bed later than is probably healthy, that and all the other fun and free stuff is mostly what it's all about, for me. From the start I never thought the festival would lead to anything particularly useful to me or my career - like "a big break" or something. My goal has been just to see some possibly good indie films and have fun and enjoy the food and hotel and stuff.

But it's funny how many people go through the hollywood-style motions of schmoozing and offering help and networking, like anyone you meet might have a phone number that will lead to your or your film's ship coming in.

Last night I met a local Sedona couple who, acccording to them, were making a new reality TV series called "The Truth" that will start airing on Fox this June. The guy, who is one of the hosts of the show and whose gregariousness borders on obnoxiousness, commented quietly to me at one point, "let's stop talking about work. Why is everyone working? There's no studios or distributors here that I've seen. Everyone's just jerking each other off." And it's true, as far as I could tell - there are no big companies represented here, waiting to offer deals or even hand out business cards with instructions to "call, let's talk." It's just a bunch of filmmakers gabbing to each other, and a few rich local businessmen and retirees who donated to the fest for a chance to pretend like their little festival is something important. For a chance to pretend that cool culture happens in their little slice of boring paradise. And it does, for one week, and only because they pay for it.

But it's not important. It's a 2nd- or 3rd-rate fest. Nothing will come from this festival for any of these filmmakers, other than another fest to put on a list of fests their film was in, whatever proto-friendships they make, and whatever lessons they may learn from the workshops, the panels, and watching each other's films.

For instance, today is the all-day documentary workshop, which is one of the main things I've been looking forward to. But I have no illusions that the fest will be any sort of boost for my film. It's a semi-fun little game to play, with full consciousness that that is really all it is.

But Seriously, Folks

Waking up early (I couldn't sleep even though I was up till 1-something AM) and taking a bath and seeing the sun rising over the famous red rocks, I do have to say a few more earnest words about being here at the SIFF. Not that I was totally joking about any of what I wrote last night.

But I want to say that I am happy to be here at the first film festival that I have been honored to be at as the maker of an official selection (I've been at others but as featured musician or panelist or just observer), and it's fun and it's great to see all these cool films for free, and go to the workshops and stuff. But there are still many annoying and ludicrous things about the festival and about film fests in general. The most annoying thing about this one so far, other than the logistics hassles of getting to and from my hotel, is that everyone I meet I have to say what my film is and tell them that it's a documentary, because in the "festival biz" or at least at this one, there are really only 2 categories: doc and drama - both modified by the adjectives "feature" or "short". But my film is NOT a doc. It's an advocacy film that I was paid, contracted, to produce by the Sierra Club.

So I feel a bit like a fraud every time I tell people, "oh it's a short doc about the border wall." I guess I should be more real and honest but then I have to spend all this time explaining it.

The other thing is that because of that not-in-category status, I don't even feel like the film should even be in the festival, at least listed as a doc, and I think the only reason it is in the festival anyway is because the guy hired by the Sierra Club to promote the film has a friend that works for the Fest. And this is what pisses me off about festivals in general - it's really about who you know, and who you are, and not about your film.

Anyway, off to breakfast and then our first screening, and then a day of seeing other films. Hopefully i'll get a nap in at some point.

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