PrinceMumia song + Venezuela - 1 week left, a few bumps, but now we're back in progress...

I finished a song while on this trip, now I've put it online -- a mix of Prince "Kiss" and Mumia Abu Jamal's "Letters from Death Row", also featuring Asatta Shakur.

Well, we had delays, misunderstandings, assumptions, planning problems, food poisoning, confusion, and I broke a chair.  But now Clif and I are back on track, hoping to grab one more week of footage before I take off.  And then it'll be Clif going solo for a few months thru various areas which I won't mention but will likely be pretty dang cool.

This is the last pic of 'the road trio' of Clif, Franco, and Ari here in Merida before those Clif & Franco took off back to Caracas.

This is a pic from a sculpture in front of the ULA, the Universidad las Andes.  Pretty impressive school.

This is the outside of Humberto's "Colibri Taller de Artes", a school of woodworking arts where they make toys, puppets (marionettes & more), puzzles, bizarre machines, spinning singing tops, and more.  The place was amazing!!

USA -- truths hurt, and torture isn´t over yet

General stuff:
Just found this story about 25 murdered and 100 dead from US military detentions. Well, I think many Americans (especially Jewish Americans) already see this as the signs of another genocide, but are people REALLY so surprised to hear the facts coming out?

Remember those nasty photos that were leaked about Abu Ghraib?? Well, those were supposed to be ´spin´ pics that make things look not so bad!!! New reports (this from Amnesty International) include torture of children, genital electric shocks, and rape and violence towards family members in front of the families.

Here´s an account of a Sheikh who was tortured once by Saddam and once by US Soldiers. The story includes his wife and child being beaten while he was submitting to capture to US troops. Then he was beaten in front of his family. It´s truly and deeply frightening.

The overall arc of G.Bush Jr´s style runs quite similarly to Hitler. The only areas lacking are multiple front wars, although while the USA has a ´hot´ war with Iraq, we do also have ongoing ´secret´ wars in S.Amer and C.America. Plus the secret missions going on against Venezuela, and the ongoing drug war in Venezuela.

I think the body count is how most people identify Hitler´s horrible regime. Even as Bush hits over 1 million dead due to his policies, people defend him by saying "Americans did not kill those people". So I agree, Bush has not set up death camps that have a body count in the millions. However, he has set up torture camps, and has set up a system that is now in place to deport people to those camps without having any legal protections.

People say Bush will soon no longer be President. I certainly hope so. However, I hope we all realize there are now laws in place that will allow him to stay in office and suspend US Govt in the event of a major US emergency. There are also laws allowing him to have a private military force inside the USA (Blackwater) equipped with the most hightech weapons and immune from US Courts.

There are also many people who believe Bush´s regime had something to do with 9/11. What would stop Bush, or a secret US military group, from doing another major counter-USA action, in order to keep Bush in office indefinitely?

We need more truths to come out. Scott McLellan is not the truth!! He soft pedals on all the hot issues. Don´t trust him for a second. But when other people start to spill, like the insiders involved in 9/11, or senior Bush staffers ... then the US compromised corporate media will be actively shutting them down.

Bottom line -- behind everything is a unity between corporate power, old wealth, military, and executives in govt. Speaking truth to these monstrous entities is not an easy task.

But we have to do it. People of the USA, North Americans, we have to demand that this war end, that torture stop, and that the criminals behind these atrocities be forced to pay the price.

Having that truth spread out around the world, well, very few do that. Thanks Amy Goodman & Democracy Now! Thanks Dennis Kucinich for trying to get that impeachment through!

Thanks again Dennis Kucinich!

There are a number of things I´d like to comment on, while I´m still abroad in Merida, Venezuela.

First -- Thank you Dennis Kucinich!
His second effort to bring up impeachment and the 35 articles he brings up against the Bush regime are BOTH incredible acts of bravery. From what I hear from here, the news media is not covering the story, although I have heard about it from here numerous times in the media. Any American who believes Bush must be impeached (to protect US Democracy) please please please contact the news media of your choice and demand that they cover this story!

Second -- there is a video game being made by Electronic Arts called ´Mercenaries 2: World in Flames´. Here is a link to the video promo. So you might wonder what is wrong with making a fun ´Rambo´-like game of murder and mayhem? Well, apparently the CIA has recruited Colombian mercenaries and sent them into Venezuela right now. People here tell me the media reports a number of Colombian Mercenaries have invaded and begun killing people. 80 mercenaries were captured earlier this year, and apparently their orders are assassination and destabilization. Their ´cover story´ was they were capturing a leader of FARC, a revolutionary communist group.
Well, maybe it´s just me, but I find this kind of material ´as a game´ to be quite disturbing.
Imagine if another country sent a team of mercenaries into the US to do dirty work? What would the USA do as a response? Probably attack whatever country they want, whether or not that country was linked with the mercenaries ... (as in 9/11)

Solo in Merida, Venezuela 6/16

Last night was Clif's movie's first screening before his Venezuelan buddies. The audience was small, and they only asked a few questions, but it seemed they enjoyed it. Clif was nervous, but you couldn't tell.

Clif and Franco just took off back for Caracas today, leaving me at Betty's amazing Marionette Theater for 1 week. Clif asked if I'd stay here so I can film 1-2 things while he's gone.

It's unfortunate b/c they have both been pretty easy to get along with, and we've had an exceptionally good time together -- even though spending every minute of every day together can cramp one's style, I suppose. I was feeling like I needed a break.

I've never traveled with someone before, so that was a 'letting go' of control, for me. Clif and I have very different styles -- I'm more laid back, kinda lazy, take it slow, and am not in a hurry generally. He seems very focussed on attaining objectives and often misses amazing surroundings en route, and sometimes can be difficult because his stress level rises very high.

Anyway, I'm learning a lot -- both in what to do and what not to do. Delegation is such an important thing in filmmaking as is followup. Communicating objectives and making sure people are empowered to achieve them. I can see how important it is to delegate in small amounts first, see how people handle it, and then increase and increase ... until that person is indispensible, or I know their limits.

At this point, I've handled both cameras a bit (and trained Clif on them) so Clif thinks I can do the cameras (and I can). But getting to a small pueblo on the crazy bus system on my own, finding a rendesvouz there and staying there for the night on a hammock & mosquito net is a bit over-delegating, for me. I have a number of reservations on the whole endeavor, so I said much of them before Clif left.

The adventure continues -- but now I have a bit of my own space. YEAH

6/13 - arrived in Carora

We just stopped driving after 2 days. I have a bunch of photos I want to upload, but haven´t had a reliable internet connection AND my pics at the same time ... or Clif is in a manic hurry.

But here´s a sample of Franco driving on the freeway. Yes, they are selling stuff on the freeway!

Seems like we race all around, and then wait. It´s the combo of US style and Venezuela style. People don´t rush much here. It´s amazing to watch people get in a line here... they just hang out, waiting patiently. It´s not like NY or anything!!

Much more stuff to write, but we´re racing off to do some filming today -- or at least, that´s the plan. Exciting!

This place blows me away. When I get home, I´m going to sweep my floor 20x!! But then I´ll lay down on my bed and relax in a whole different way...

People here call N.Americans ´gringos´ and say we´re from Gringolandia! It´s interesting. They do seem to have a fairly accurate view of what´s up in the USA, but they are very curious about Obama. So are we... Who knows what will happen with that guy? Anyone???

But there´s a different style of talking here, and there are many ´radical revolutionary´ types. One of the strangest parts of this trip was talking w/a bunch of people and finding myself on the ´right´, at least in the sense of how I see change and pacing.
Some people want to make radical changes NOW and perhaps haven´t fully thought out the consequences.
There are a lot of folks here that want an alternative to Capitalism, so far I´ve heard it called ´economy of solidarity´ or similar, but I am not sure what that looks like ... and I´m not sure Venezuelans do either. But socialism is fine by me, and I´m all for protecting the people at the lowest rungs of society from hunger, illness, and abusive landlords.

One of Clif´s goals with his film is to test his theory that sustainable agricultures (in particular ´agro-ecology´) can co-exist with capitalism, an unsustaible economic system. I think that capitalism isn´t horrible (am I really saying this???) if it is modified, to cap large incomes and to require protection of people and environments.
But even then I´m not sure if it´s sustainable.

Another humorous note -- everywhere we go, there is litter. Clif and I discussed it. We have a culture where we protect the environment and don´t litter ... but when you really think about it, the USA dumps its trash in other countries! So I personally feel uncomfortable discussing it too much... Funny the weak footing of the environmental ´green movement´in the USA. But then again, it´s a start, right?

Caracas - Day 4

What a day!

Last night Clif and I slept in a 1 bedroom studio in Naiguata with Franco and his wife Marielena + dog Rosa and cat Gragga. Things worked out quite well except for the snoring and mosquitoes...

Today we packed up and moved to Franco's rental apartment in Caracas. After changing money thru a hotel (with "the midget"), we went for Venezuelan Hamburguesas ... burgers on Arepa bread with ham, egg, cheese, fried potato strips, ketchup, mayo, mustard, and optional salsas of aguacaca and picante. Wow... Can you say YUMMY?

So we just finished our burgers and then we met randomly met Ricardo, a friend of Clif's from his last trip. Ricardo is a big fan of Clif's poetry book, and has been teaching prison inmates a poem of Clif's called Tu Celda, 'The Cell'. He invited us to join him in meeting Francisco Massiani, one of Venezuela's most famous writers and poets! We fretted about not having the video camera (it was at the apt recharging).

We met, and Clif read him a few poems from his book, which Francisco seemed to enjoy. Turns out the meeting was a contract signing between Francisco and his editor for his new book. Clif and Francisco were talking, and Francisco asked if Clif would translate one of his books of poetry. Clif said he was interested.

Francisco started telling us a number of stories, most of which I could understand pieces (but not the punchline), and after awhile Ricardo said he wanted to make a written record of them. These were all 'oral tales' from the past, and Ricardo is a writer and was very interested in chronicling the stories. I suggested that perhaps Clif and I could videotape Francisco telling his stories, and everyone was in agreement. So this project could become a short film, or perhaps something longer, and possibly added with Ricardo's book!

Meanwhile, Clif asked Francisco if we could interview him for his feature, so that will happen too. Exciting! Looks like we'll be doing that next week.

Clif and I are talking about ways to film that interview. I'd really like to see it as Clif and Francisco having a conversation, and have Clif on camera. Clif says that I'd have to direct it b/c he doesn't see directing something like that AND having himself in it. I like it b/c they both are quite unique and strong presences.

Working with Clif for the past few days is quite an experience -- he's a very talented and driven person, but he's also quite humble. He has published multiple books and recently a feature film (which he filmed and edited!), but he is very 'down to earth' and a real person. One thing we're discovering working together is that my 'laid back' angle is often a good complement to his 'high strung' energy. At other times, his drive helps me keep going where otherwise I might drop.

Clif pointed out to me that I was 'boxing him in' by trying to define his values. Namely we've had a few discussions about Capitalism, and I'm surprised every time that I'm the one defending it!! But let me clarify by saying that I have never once said it's a great system; all I've said so far is that, with some checks and balances in it (like the 'Green triple bottom line' -- people, planet, then profit' -- and a more democratic manner of operation), Capitalism could be a healthy way to have sustainable agriculture.

However, even typing out my argument, I can see Clif's point -- as well as the other more 'revolutionary' viewpoint, similar to Venezuela's current govt viewpoint -- that Capitalism, with oppression, exploitaiton, and hierarchy, is unsustainable in itself.

I don't see how the 'free market' would discourage exploitation or environmentally unsustainable production ... without a strong 'check' by the govt. And it seems that this check has to be FORCED on business by the people. Maybe we can figure something out?

6/3 - 7/1 -- Venezuela trippin!

Good news -- We made it to Venezuela! So far, today (Thurs) is our first day on our way to Caracas. The flights all went more or less well, and Franco picked us up & all worked out great. We´ve stayed at his mother in law´s apt in Naiguatá (between Pedro de Molder and Juan Diaz) and it was quite nice.

Venezuela -- incredible. The poverty is abundant and everywhere and it´s like nothing we have in USA (except perhaps New Orleans after the floods). However, the people´s pro-and anti- Chavez feelings are very strong.

Chavez apparently wants an economy based on solidarity, a ´new form´of economics with a strong socialist leaning. In this incredibly poor country (!!!!), the people now have free health care, everyone can eat bc of govt supported supermarkets (merkal and another chain), the govt is helping people buy the land they live on, and the govt is funding hundreds of business cooperatives (cooperativas) startups. The nationalism and pride here is great, and hopefully in the long run it will help this country fill in the gaps of poverty. They are in the midst of the Bolivarian Revolution which has been called the Beautiful Revolution b-c there has been no bloodshed (it was a victory by elections).

Personally, I call it evolution rather than revolution ... the evolution of consciousness which realizes the value of human life, that fundamental rights of all life are paramount, worth far more than products, profit, and money.

It´s really impressive b-c the poverty is so extreme. I´m snapping up photos, and hope to have a lot of material for uploading soon. Internet is down in Naguitá right now, but we´re in a shop in La Paz paying $2.5 Bolivares (about $1) per hour. Clif has been surprised in part bc the dollar has dropped so much and food is more expensive, so food prices here are the same as the USA. The most common food here is the Arepa, which looks like a pita filled with a wide range of meat and vegetables. My first today was avocado, ham, and cheese. Yummm...

On the plane, a Venezuelan woman told me that average middle class income ´was hurt´ bc of Chavez and that the middle class is suffering here. She was anti-Chavista. She couldn´t really say how they suffered (except that in the USA you could make more in a week than they make here in a month), but she didn´t like Chavez personally either.

I haven´t seen any middle class yet, but we´re staying in pretty fancy digs by the side of the ocean. Hope to have more balanced views during the trip.

Also have had a few interesting discussions w/locals who see USA as an empirial power trying to exploit all S.America. While I have not disagreed w/this sentiment, I have argued that not all N.Americans want this exploitation, and that corporations are not within the average person´s sphere of control. I don´t know if people think i´m unusual, or if they think maybe there really are N.Americans in opposition to global domination.

The ocean here is to the North. Bizarre!

Berkeley South T-shirt #1

humanity 3.0 recycle
(*R)Evolution - imagine Humanity 3.0

Yes --> people, planet, then profit
No --> war, sexism, racism

The first Berkeley/South T-shirt cooperative production