Friday, April 01, 2011
David Koch exists in two different worlds. One is Fitzwalkerstan, where he is reviled as the rich puppet master advancing a crude right wing agenda by financing such proxies as Scott Walker and the Tea Party. Then there's the world of New York City, where he lives and has until recently been widely respected as a civilized patron of the arts and culture and also a generous donor to cancer research. The two worlds intersected briefly at the Thursday night screening of "Bill Cunningham New York" at the Wisconsin Film Festival.
The documentary focuses on photographer Bill Cunningham, 80-plus and still going strong, whose street fashion photos have appeared in the New York Times for more than 30 years. He also photographs charity galas for the Times. At one of these charity events, it might have been at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I'm not sure, Cunningham -- who seems to get on well with people from all walks of life -- is introduced to David Koch and starts to take photographs of him with other charity patrons. Then there's a cut to the pages of the Times, where there's a whole layout of Cunningham's photos of Koch meeting and greeting fellow members of New York high society.
As it dawned on the audience what they were looking at, a chorus of hisses and boos erupted -- aimed not at Cunningham, whom the audience loved, but at Koch. It was a strange moment. A couple years ago, when the film was shot, few people outside New York had ever heard of David Koch, and those who had were mostly unaware of his politics. When the film was made, this brief passage was just another example of Cunningham's working life amidst the New York glitterati. Now events -- not in the city where it was shot, but in the city where it was being screened -- have given it a political significance that scarcely existed before.
Who knows? Maybe one of these days David Koch be facing boos in New York as well.
In introducing "Bill Cunningham New York" last night, Wisconsin Film Festival Director Meg Hamel ays you didn't have to be into fashion to enjoy the documentary about the New York Times photojournalist and photographer of street fashion. Hamel says she enjoys it as a documentary about the 80-plus-year-old Cunningham's obsession with his art. She also notes how obsession seems to be a theme of a number of documentaries at the Festival. I loved the movie, will post more about it when I get a moment.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Not what democracy looks like, but rather what it looks like when Walker's people just make stuff up
Milwaukee Journal Sentine wondered what sort of documentation they had for their testimony in the first place. They filed an open records request for documents supporting the damage estimate. There was just one, a handwritten page by state architect Dan Stephans. This is it.
On March 3, a state Department of Administration official said in Dane County Circuit Court that costs for a full cleanup and restoration at the Capitol could reach $7.5 million. The statement was made as unions and Gov. Scott Walker's administration were battling in court over state officials' decision to restrict access to the statehouse for thousands of demonstrators opposed to the Republican governor's union bargaining bill.Why is this not surprising? Probably because, in the weeks since then, Fitzwalkerstan officials have compiled such a track record of making end runs around the law and just plain making stuff up -- like saying something is a law when it clearly is not. Nothing they do or say can surprise us anymore.
Department of Administration spokeswoman Carla Vigue said Wednesday that the single page written by state architect Dan Stephans and dated March 3 -- the same day as the court statement -- was the basis for the testimony. Stephans did not respond to a phone message left Wednesday.
"The only real document we had to give was the handwritten one," Vigue said.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
There's always something happening at the Capitol these days, even when there aren't a lot of people on the street. Individuals acts of protest against the Fitzwalkerstan junta continue and are limited only by the imagination of the protesters. As the solitary biker rode endlessly around the Capitol while beating his drum, the sounds and echoes in the almost deserted Capitol grounds were haunting and hypnotic.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
On the Madison and Dane County ballots next week will be similar referenda that call for repealing the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. (Madison voters will be able to add emphasis to their votes by voting twice, once for each.)
The Madison wording:
“Shall the City of Madison adopt the following resolution: Resolved, the City of Madison, Wisconsin, calls for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the United States Constitution to establish that: 1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and 2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.” Yes NoThe Dane County wording:
“Should the United States Constitution be amended to establish that regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting freedom of speech, by stating that only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights?” Yes NoThe local referenda are part of a national effort, Move to Amend, that seeks to overturn the legal doctrine that corporations are "persons" -- one that the Supreme Court pushed to the limit in Citizens United, when they ruled that the free speech "rights" of these "persons" can't be regulated.
As you ponder your vote, you may want to check out the video, which argues that if corporations really were people, they would be diagnosed as psychopaths.
Poignant reminder of last fall's gubernatorial campaign, "Obama fatigue," and what happens when we don't get out and vote. We won't make that mistake again, starting with April 5th. A vote for Kloppenburg is a vote to take back our state.
Scott Walker is not planning to go after the doggies, of course -- but it's interesting that so many people think he would. The confusion comes from the budget bill, which allows the UW-Madison to buy stray dogs for research from animal shelters for $1.00 each. But as the Journal-Sentinel's PolitiFact Wisconsin pointed out, this was a purely technical matter in which a whole laundry list of powers the UW System already has was amended to include UW-Madison as a separate entity -- part of the reorganization that would split the Madison campus off on its own. That's why this showed up in the budget bill.
In reality, Wisconsin has had this law on the books for some 40 years. However, neither the UW nor the Medical College of Wisconsin use strays for research, and none of the animal shelters in the state sell them, either. And that's not going to change.
Curious, though, that so many people sincerely thought this was just one more Scott Walker atrocity waiting to happen. Maybe the cruelty and mean-spiritedness of his approach to people makes it easy to assume his approach to animals would be the same. And then there's his fondness for selling off public assets in no-bid sales for a few bucks.
NOTE: PolitiFact also reports that the Wisconsin Dog Rescue organization is using the furor to organize opposition to the decades-old dog-selling statute, which it would like to repeal. Sounds like a good idea.
Monday, March 28, 2011
They breed hatred and division and take everything that isn't nailed down. They need to be stopped.
The word "plutocracy" seems to be making a real comeback, because it's so central to understanding current events. Here's some information to chew on, plus a timely image by Dürer: Understanding Plutocracy (war, ecocide, neo-feudalism, alienation, etc.) and Waking from It. It's by Eric Schechter, a lefty math professor at Vanderbilt who ran for Congress on a shoestring and -- surprise -- did not get elected. But he hasn't given up. Neither should we.
Screenshot from the trailer for "Bill Cunningham New York," which is one of our selections for the Wisconsin Film Festival later this week. We're seeing it at the Wisconsin Union Theater at 5:30 on March 31. The other showing at the smaller Bartell Theater for Friday night sold out early, but as of today there are still tickets available for the Thursday showing. Besides, "rush tickets" are often available for most screenings at the door if you're willing to stand in line for awhile. This one's worth waiting for.
If you're interested in photography this is a must-see. Also if you're interested in fashion. Bill Cunningham posts a weekly collection of dozens of casual photos of street fashion in the New York Times (it also appears as a weekly slide show online). By simply going his own way (by bike) and doing his own thing -- which includes still shooting film, rather than digital -- 80-year-old Bill Cunningham has helped redefine the way the world looks at street fashion, and has amassed a remarkable body of work in the process.