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Hey, Dude: Jeff Dowd downloads on the Sparo-at-the Yarrow

Dirt! The Movie" for practical and personally rewarding solutions

How the Movies Made a President,” NY Times Arts & Leisure Sun Jan. 18.

In order for any of what is to follow to make sense—I would kindly suggest you do what I just did- please re-read Roger Ebert’s “Dude. Where’s My Breakfast?

Please watch my video explanation on David Poland’s Movie City News (the sound is low for the first minute until they put a microphone on me). If it works directly here is the link.

And Variety ace reporter (laid off with many others last week) Anne Thompson’s short piece: “Sundance Watch: John Anderson Pounds Jeff Dowd

In discussing his famous confrontation with a film critic at Sundance, Jeff (The Dude) Dowd sent me the following explanation, justification, context, autobiography, exhortation, news linkage and playlist. I reprint it for your convenience. RE

By Jeff Dowd, Guest Commentary

Okay. Let’s get down and dirty in the realm of ideas at the deep and of the pool and try to move past The Sparo-at-the-Yarrow and towards better films and a better future for us all. (Need I say: before it is too late?)

With a few choice quotes from "The Big Lebowski" to lighten things up and tie the room together.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way… --- Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” 1859

There are no sides to be taken between me and John Anderson. We both want mo’ better films and we have both done a lot to champion the films we believed were deserving of support. Although at this moment we differ on a few dirty little things. Some very important issues that affect us all have been raised, yet often obscured by rumor, supposition and welcomed humor as supplied by Roger Ebert and bloggers.

The Dude: “Hey careful man there’s a beverage here.”

Be prepared for some interesting ideas down below about how we in the film community can continue once again in our efforts to not just do “business as usual” and also move forward in a way that we can best use our experience, knowledge, passion, community and incredible support system to help make better films which in turn audiences will appreciate. Hopefully that in turn can contribute to enriching people’s lives in small and big ways. And just maybe at times give those like us who are fortunate to live in a democratic society the informed tools we need and even the cinematic beacon of light films that can help us create a better future for all.

"Imagine" by John Lennon

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEOkxRLzBf0

You may say I'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one I hope someday you'll join us And the world will live as one

The Big Lebowski: “Your revolution is over, Mr. Lebowski. Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a job, sir. The bums will always lose”.

The Dude: “Yeah... well that's just like, your opinion, man.”

To give this all a little historical context let’s flashback to the morning before-- President Barack Obama’s Inauguration:

Any of the journalists and critics who saw me speak at our Obama Inauguration Sundance viewing brunch on Tuesday morning January 20 will confirm that just after President Obama was sworn in I said: “We here in this room have a great deal of power to affect positive social change… I urged everyone to read Manohla Dargis and Tony Scott’s enlightening New York Times article ("How the Movies Made a President") to see how film and culture can hasten change by showing what is possible.

I said: “As much as I loved cautionary tales like "Dr. Strangelove," and was provoked by others, I believe the historic challenge for filmmakers today is to at least occasionally show what is possible in their films—especially in the future--whether that is in a shot, a scene, a character transforming oneself, or the entire film. Then people who see their films will hopefully say, “Wow. Look what’s possible! Why aren’t we doing that?”

Continuing with my quixotic call to action, I said: “Even though President Obama is a visionary man with immense power, more often than not he can only talk about change and what is possible. Filmmakers can show it! Let’s continue to come together to do what is our fortunate role on earth—to entertain, provoke, inform and inspire. We actually have a great deal of power to effect small yet important changes and hopefully big changes.” Step by step frame by frame. Many in the room including critics thanked me for bringing us together and my comments.

I have been characterized as a haranguing publicist (I’m not the publicist on "Dirt! The Movie"--Mickey Cottrell and his colleagues at Inclusive PR are) and as an overzealous producer’s rep trying to sell a movie. I have been working with filmmakers Bill Benenson and Gene Rosow and their team for a month and they have never once asked me how much I thought the movie would sell for or make, (which virtually every other filmmaker asks in the first few minutes), because "Dirt!" was made by a non-profit, Common Ground Media, with the sole intent of shedding light on the condition of our planet and providing hopeful and practical information about how we can save it and ourselves. Nor I am some insane radical living in the past. This is about the future!

I wasn’t simply “harassing” John or trying to stifle his criticism of the film. I was trying to invite John to participate in the realm of ideas with some bright minds and interesting characters from around the world that use history, science and personal example, as they are making the hopeful case in "Dirt! The Movie," that we can indeed practically change the world in so many fulfilling ways that can benefit us short term and hopefully for many generations to come. I sincerely believe, despite certain criticisms which the filmmakers and I happen to agree with, that "Dirt! The Movie" does this.

Where I was coming from is much more complex and what transpired can be much more enlightening if we open up our hearts and minds.

Because of the incomplete characterization of me by many (and my insecurity and my acknowledgement that some of it is true--as Huxley said: “The truth lies at both extremes at once.”) I feel compelled to let others come to my defense:

First for a little mythological Dude cred (the popular term for credibility):

I've known Jeff Dowd for several years now, co-teaching "Myth and Movie" workshops with him, and 'throwing rocks' with him at a San Francisco bowling alley. Whether it's rapping and riffing about movies, bowling, or trading baseball stories at a local saloon, I can't help thinking about "The Dude" as living large in the tradition of the Holy Fool. Since ancient times it's been believed that the artist, the jester, the saint, and the fool all share the sacred function of helping us see through the illusions of the world. In our day that's the role that the Marx Brothers, Holden Caulfield, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and Chris Rock fulfill in all their goofy glory. When Jeff says, as he famously does, that "The Dude abides," I think he means that he stands by his friends, his work, his movies, even if the world thinks he's a fool. It's a lonely world when you stand by what you believe, but it also stokes the fire within, and that's Jeff, an authentic holy fool walking through life with his soul on fire. — Phil Cousineau, author of over 20 books, including "The Hero's Journey," “Stoking The Creative Fires: 9 Ways to Rekindle Passion and Imagination,” and writer of over 15 documentary films, including “The Hero’s Journey The World of Joseph Campbell,” and currently the host of "Global Spirit," a 10-part series to premier on LINK TV on April 12, 2009. http://www.philcousineau.net/ please check him out!

BTW Joseph Campbell, (the author of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” and with Bill Moyers on the PBS series The Power of Myth,) asked Phil Cousineau to carry on where he left off. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Campbell

And on me being simply a crazed narrow-minded publicist, producer’s rep or marketing person:

In my work with Jeff at Sundance, I have found him to be extraordinarily sensitive to the relationship of content and story to the film making process. He has a much wider and fuller understanding of what makes a film work than just his proven expertise in marketing. --Waldo Salt, Two-time Academy Award winning screenwriter ("Midnight Cowboy," "Coming Home").

On the McCarthy Era: Though never held in contempt of Congress, like a number of his colleagues, Salt was clearly blacklisted for many years. Of that time, Salt said, "I wish we had done something to deserve being blacklisted. I wish we'd had that much influence on film or on politics at that time. I think the world might have been different. But we didn't. ---from PBS American Masters Series.

Where’s Waldo now when we need him? His craft and inspiration can still live inside of us all! Please Google him; and watch the American Masters Series and his films.

The case for more dramaturgical work on scripts and more qualitative research screenings on behalf of the filmmakers:

It is important to note that I didn’t come onto "Dirt! The Movie" until December 21st and effectively I didn’t start until January 2, 2009 after the holidays. The first thing I said to the filmmakers is that we needed to have a research screening ASAP for both creative and marketing purposes. Unfortunately with the rush to make Sundance, (the film was hand-carried from the lab and arrived the night before the premiere), the filmmakers were unable to do this. Furthermore they didn’t even have time to make many changes they wanted to either. We always planned to have a research screening to inform changes right after Sundance either in conjunction with a distributor or not.

So even though I would have greatly preferred that the qualitative research screenings come before Sundance—without doubt they were going to happenl right after Sundance and certainly before the release.

That absolutely includes criticism from a smart critic like John Anderson—the criticisms I did hear from him: “The film is redundant with lots of repetition,” the filmmakers and I strongly agree with and are easily fixable as was always planned. I was never taking objection to his right to criticism or is specific thoughts. See below.

I can give a long history of films that I have worked on and many more I am a student of, when qualitative research screenings have made a huge difference--sometimes between no theatrical release, a less than hoped for release or a huge success as was the case with "Kissing Jessica Stein." Without the two research screenings just 2-3 weeks before the premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival and what we learned creatively (mostly fixed by one day of shooting just 14 days before the LAFF premiere); and what we learned about why different kinds of people (market segments) liked it—there is probably no way Fox Searchlight Pictures would have had the confidence to pick it up for distribution with a seven figure deal that was co-negotiated with John Sloss. Ironically this is written about in John Anderson and Laura Kim’s must-read book “I Wake Up Screening,” which they interviewed me for.

Ended that one with a dangling preposition reminding me of the old joke:

A freshman from the backwoods of North Carolina is walking across the Harvard Yard and he stops a Harvard upperclassman and asks:

Backwoods freshman: “Excuse me, Sir. Can you please tell me where the library’s at?”

Harvard Upperclassman: “Son. We don’t end sentences at Harvard with dangling prepositions!”

Backwoods freshman: “Okay. Can you please tell me where the library’s at, asshole?”

As anyone who knows me (especially filmmakers) or has heard me speak, read articles or books and read interviews with me— knows that I am a passionate advocate of dramaturging scripts (in the spirit of the Sundance Institute) and having multiple post-production qualitative research screenings for the benefit of the filmmakers.

I have said time and time again: “Please don’t make your film festival premiere at Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, New Directors, SXSW, Tribeca, the Los Angeles Film Festival or any festival be your research screening in front of critics, journalists, distributors and audience members.”

I can’t tell you how many times at Sundance screenings last year and this year that we all heard filmmakers say at their premiere: “We are really excited because the film just came out of the lab and you are the first audience to see it.” This is almost always followed in the minutes, hours and days after the screening when the filmmakers digest the audience, distributor and critic’s reaction to their near-miss films with deep regret. This could have been averted by more dramaturgical script work and more qualitative research screenings in post production. To their credit Sundance and Toronto programmers including Geoff Gilmore, often give filmmakers feedback during post which helps, but is limited by the festival folks’ available time and is no substitute for what more thorough qualitative research screenings provide.

“The Tipping Point” and the absolutely-must-read “Blink” author Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book “Outliers” talk about the 10,000 hour principle from which some of the great artists, sports stars and scientists rose to the top because they had 10,000 hours of experience to develop their craft, etc. This includes the likes of Ben Franklin, The Beatles, Bill Gates, Paul Allen and recently:

NEW YORK (CNN) – “Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III was "the right guy at the right time at the right moment" to guide a jet safely onto the surface of the Hudson River, a neighbor and friend said.

Chesley Sullenberger is an Air Force veteran who has been with US Airways since 1980. Sullenberger has a cool, calm and collected style -- honed by decades of flight experience and research on safety issues, friend and neighbor John Walberg told the Contra Costa Times newspaper. All 155 passengers and crew aboard Flight 1549 survived. The 57-year-old former Air Force fighter pilot has been flying for more than 40 years, and has been with US Airways since 1980. His two-page resume is packed with achievements and highlights his broad aviation experience. The pilot speaks internationally on airline safety, and collaborates with the Center for Catastrophic Risk Management at the University of California-Berkeley, whose researchers look for ways to avoid air disasters.”

The captain had his 10,000 hours in and was fully prepared. Just like both teams in the Super Bowl.

Well guess what? Most Americans, (those folks who come to qualitative research screenings along with the filmmaker’s friends and I hope critics and journalists too soon), those folks all have the equivalent of PhD’s in advertising, TV and film because they have put in well beyond their 10,000 hours watching the tube, DVD’s cable, etc. Their true wisdom can help filmmakers both creatively and in marketing! Take note investors and cast and crew who commit your money and lives to a director’s passionate vision of a film—make it a deal breaker that if the directors and producers don’t properly dramaturge their scripts and have several qualitative research screenings, that you will not give your money and your precious time to their visions and careers. Do a friendly and supportive creative intervention because unless they have their 10,000 hoiurs of craft in, (which few on the festival circuit do), they are most likely “about to enter a world of pain” without essential feedback. Imagine what could have been possible.

BTW There now over 10,000 of these rushed into production and rushed into festivals films on the shelf. Most of them won’t ever see the light of day beyond a few festivals; even with the internet possibilities-- because they aren’t as good as they could or should have been. What a waste. And who takes the bigger hit than anyone—the director who is going to have a hard time emotionally and credibility-wise restoring his or her career. It’s a game ender. Actors can get a few times at the plate—with directors it’s usually one maybe two strikes and you are out.

“Dad. Do you think I could still come to work for you?”

Dad: “Sorry son I wished you had asked me a couple years ago but I’m closing down the shop in a couple weeks.”

Those are the brutal reality-check stakes—your choice! Empower yourselves through better and essential communication and dialogue further upstream! Please dramaturge the script more and get more qualitative feedback during post. It’s actually creatively stimulating and very rewarding. Don’t go into the defensive shell that ill-informed people tell you is essential to protecting your vision. Like dancers, actors and athletes shouldn’t you try out things to see if they work? Try listening and learning from the winners not the losers.

The great filmmakers from Frank Capra to Steven Soderbergh understand this full well. BTW Disney animation has been doing this for decades with trial and error which they can afford to do. There is even the tale of then Disney Prez Jeffrey Katzenberg (now a DreamWorks partner) standing at the door after the not so good first research screening test of one animated film and saying to his Disney team: “Not a word about this by anyone.” After more work that film turned out to be "Beauty And The Beast" which I enjoyed watching numerous times with my two daughters Keely and Annabelle and their mom Jane. Lest we forget when Jeffrey’s partner Steven Spielberg first research tested "Jaws." Bruce the Shark was laughed off the screen....

Until John Williams’ pulsating score was added:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nb8t3Lt8iJw

John Williams’ video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxjwQ9g62Mo

Many of our best writers and directors put in their 10,000 hours and honed their writing and directing craft. So arguably Alfred Hitchcock may not need dramaturgical script work and qualitative research screenings as much as a first time director with less then 1,000 hours if that developing his craft. And too often his script is good but not great. I am reminded of a story that Bummy once told me. Henry Bumstead a two-time Oscar winner as an art director and production designer who worked on several films with Billy Wilder, Clint Eastwood and Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitchcock was shooting a pivotal scene in "Notorious" with Ingrid Bergman. Half way through a crucial close up he said “Cut.” Flabbergasted she looked up at him and said: “Hitch did I do something wrong?” He replied: “Nothing dear. That’s where I am going to cut.” Now any normal director would continue to “cover” the scene so as to have more choices in the editing room. But, Hitchcock was a seasoned writer, producer, director and editor and he already had it all worked out. Kids don’t try this at home thinking you are already an auteur on your first or second film.

Keep in mind that Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Quentin Tarantino and Joel and Ethan Coen were all great writers first, who then became directors. During the old studio days in the 1940’s writers and director’s on studio lots were constantly hanging out and dramaturging each others scripts. In the Golden Age of television Sid Caesar gathered together the likes of Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, Woody Allen and Larry Gelbart in the legendary “writer’s room.” That’s like having Dr J, Michael Jordon, Kolbe Bryant and Magic John playing each other in two on two basketball five days a week when they were in college.

Guess what those writers all got their 10,000 hours in and perfected their craft. That tradition still exists in some of our best television. If the film world the writers are often typing away in the solitary confines of a Hollywood garret or a Malibu beach house. It’s tough and the great ones deserve the big bugs.

Considering the missing link with directors both new and old is often not having a great script.

Maude Lebowski: “The story is ludicrous.”

These filmmakers may need to spend more time dramaturging the script and having qualitative research screenings.

I even had a phone call with Sundance Festival Director Geoff Gilmore in November urging him to urge all filmmakers to do so. Geoff: “Yeah. You are always saying that. But we are seeing films in such a rough cut stage. How can we possibly deal with all that too?” Geoff carries a lot of weight on his shoulders as The Sundance Festival Director working his ass off with the entire Sundance team to help filmmakers.

But there is a solution—filmmakers need to start shooting their films and post production earlier so by the time they submit to Sundance they are in much better shape after a couple qualitative research screenings and they have even more time to fine tool the film rather the mad rush that exists now with films (including "Dirt! The Movie") barely getting the film from the lab to the Sundance premiere. It is a recipe for failure especially in today’s challenging marketplace.

I believe for the sake of the filmmakers and everyone else, The Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival should--with the passion they dramaturge scripts and support filmmakers in a myriad of ways—tell all filmmakers at the time of Festival submission and at the time of Festival acceptance (around Thanksgiving) that multiple qualitative research screenings (the crucial one with cut the filmmakers think works—not just the two and a half hour versions etc.) then followed by changes and another screening and maybe another, are not only highly suggested but maybe even required. Filmmakers can keep the results to themselves of course, but you would test a car to see if anything was going to go wrong before a big race (festival premiere/competition). Why not test a film? The filmmakers will quickly discover that it is in everyone’s best interest. And believe me even starting on Thanksgiving the research screenings can still make a huge difference.

Google "Better Luck Tomorrow"—another seven-figure deal co-negotiated with John Sloss. We didn’t change the film at all but we learned how to position the tragic ending with critics, filmmakers and audiences. We knew what would happen at Sundance and we were ready for it.

Just so you aren’t confused. Quantitative research screenings have at times been used by some studio execs to say a film will not have broad audience appeal leading to less confidence in the film and often dumping it. And on many occasions they misread the research and the movie went on to be a hit. Hence there is an adversity to all research screenings by many directors and producers. Qualitative research screenings (which may also have some quantitative info) are solely for the use of the filmmakers. Sure you learn things about rhythm, pace, character appeal etc. But the most important thing you learn is if the movie is emotionally satisfying regardless of genre.

When we sell movies, what we are selling is well-crafted stories, well told and well-directed, with complex characters with emotional depth. At the end of the day, films need to make a true emotional connection. We are selling emotions and inspiration! This is especially true when selling a film to a distributor. When you already have 14 films on your slate why adopt a fifteenth child if you don’t really love it? Only after that passion exists do distributors run the numbers --with the exception of teen horror and comedies which are purely a financial consideration.

This true emotional connection is even more important with critics, whose help you will need. And most of all filmmakers need strong word-of-mouth from audiences. If you hear your film is “interesting” that means that the person is being polite and covering their ass so if it gets great reviews or becomes a hit they can say: “I always thought it was interesting.” Then they borrow a few bon mots from the critics or their friends to prove their point. The kind of word-of-mouth required needs to be a lot stronger than that. Films for the most part need compelling reviews and word-of-mouth to succeed.

If you don’t know how to do all of the above, let people help you with your craft. It’s all there on DVD’s, websites, books, FIND, IFP and festival panels, consultants, other producers who will join your team and the dramaturgical process from script all the way through the qualitative research screenings—for you the filmmaker—not the so-called big bad studio—which is an unfair and specious argument by too many inexperienced filmmakers following their passion off the cliff to avoid all of the above and possibly losing the chance to have a fulfilling career. BTW getting your first film made in order to move forward in your career only works if your film is exceptional with no windows of vulnerability. If it shows many signs of weakness it is a career ender not a career builder. Why should people (actors, agents, financiers, crew members, producers and distributors) trust you the next time if your judgment was not up to par the first time?

A taste of one idea which I bounced off several top critics and journalists:

In fact we are having the first of two or three "Dirt!" qualitative research screenings this week and we are even opening them up to critics.

Just like President Obama is reaching across the Congressional aisle, I feel filmmakers should reach across the theatre aisle to critics and journalists who have so much experience, knowledge and passion to contribute to help dramaturge scripts and films in post production. They can still critique and report on the films later. And guess what: the films may be better and therefore the level of criticism may be even higher and more enlightening.

Academy Award Winning writer (also former head of the Academy and a director) Frank Pierson once wrote in the "Cool Hand Luke" script:

"What we've got here is...failure to communicate. — spoken by "The Captain", the imperious prison warden played by Strother Martin.

What we've got here is a failure to communicate. — spoken by "Luke", the reprobate inmate played by Paul Newman near the film's climax.

There is a problem not only in the film business (ironically a business all about communication) but also in way too many corporations in America except the likes of Google, Apple and Fed Ex where they do communicate.

Intelligent, knowledgeable, inventive and passionate people are dying of terminal boredom in the work place because for the most part their hearts and minds and ingenuity are not allowed to blossom. Examples are legion from IBM’s failure to launch a PC even though their own employees were urging them to do so. Need I mention the arrogant bureaucratic bullies from the formerly Big Three now the little three bailout beggars who on thousands of occasions stifled innovative ideas from their employees?

One emblematic film example is "Who Killed the Electric Car?" And worse yet, these wonderful folks are being laid off in our tailspin economy dominated by scared, often avaricious white men and close-minded white men wannabes like Sarah Palin and former HP CEO and McCain supporter Carly Fiorina. It is sad yet understandable that such talented women feel it necessary to emulate the worst qualities of men to succeed.

As Waldo Salt used to say: “It’s the chair they sit in, not the man.” And now some women.

Our greatest resource—our minds--are rotting on the dying vine of the out-dated and toxic Twentieth Century Casino Economy and multinational conglomerates often run by short-sighted bean counters who don’t even understand the business they are in.

The media coverage, blogs and talk back, of what happened with John Anderson and me may indeed be fun, entertaining, sharp and pointed but not all that enlightening. The critics, journalists, bloggers, filmmakers and every day people who are either supportive or critical of me or John Anderson were forced to concentrate mostly on character analysis and obvious points like one shouldn’t harass critics or punch film advocates. (Double duh). Kind of like playing Texas hold ‘em poker when you don’t know what the all important down cards are. That may give you that gambling rush and even make you money but in the world of ideas with our future on the line—we can do better folks now that the smoke of confusion has cleared. That’s a challenge to come to the deep end of the pool and use your amazing mind to imagine what is possible, because we are neck deep in big muddy and it’s going take coming together to get out of this mess our world is in.

The Big Lebowski: The god damn plane has crashed into the mountain!

And films can be part of the solution!

What’s the Big Picture?

Americans and humanity are at “The Cliff's Edge" writes my world-renowned economic historian father “Bigga Doug” Doug Dowd. (Former Chairman of Cornell University Econ Department, who also taught at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, Johns Hopkins and San Jose State) His book “At The Cliff's Edge" and other articles can be downloaded for free at www.dougdowd.org (not .com a mistake I made and thought the old man was getting really hip with a picture of a hammock between two palm trees on an island—someone seized that domain)

Nobel Prize Laureates and New York Times Op-Ed columnists Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman, Wordplay director Patrick Creadon’s next film I.O.U.S.A, my father Doug Dowd and thousands of others have seen and written about the debt crisis and the oncoming economic catastrophe for years and even decades.

Like the Academy Award film "An Inconvenient Truth," "Dirt! The Movie" is a cautionary tale. "Dirt! The Movie" is also full of hope and personally rewarding practical solutions that will prevent environmental catastrophe and even possibly wars and human catastrophes like in Darfur. When you see "Dirt!" You will see why. When I mentioned this to John he dismissed it. "Dirt! The Movie" is a wonderfully inspiring film; chock full of people showing how we and the Obama administration can use it our power and resources to re-build America. Some of that bank bailout of billions/trillions can be used in a constructive way to improve our future with green infrastructure and not just the internet (which provides valuable info and communication like Dirt!) or more highways—hey I hate potholes as much as anyone. Green infrastructure has and will continue to create jobs.

The Dude: Mind if I do a j?

It turns out that historic context of this discussion is missing. So let me share with you some assumptions that I (and most well-informed people) have made based on observation and nearly undisputable history of several kinds—historic, economic, scientific, agricultural, environmental, medical and cinematic.

We are at a time when an awful lot has to change and hopefully will change.

Clearly humanity and the planet are at “At The Cliff’s Edge.” You can bet your personal topic or your own life on that one.

Herbert Hoover Lives By FRANK RICH Published: January 31, 2009

HERE’S a bottom line to keep you up at night: The economy is falling faster than Washington can get moving. President Obama says his stimulus plan will save or create four million jobs in two years. In the last four months of 2008 alone, employment fell by 1.9 million. Do the math.

The abyss is widening. Of the 30 companies in the Dow Jones industrial index, 22 have announced job cuts since October. Unemployment is up in all 50 states, with layoffs at both high-tech companies (Microsoft) and low (Caterpillar). The December job loss in retailing is the worst since at least 1939. The new-home sales rate has fallen to its all-time low since record-keeping began in 1963.

What are Americans still buying? Big Macs, Campbell’s soup, Hershey’s chocolate and Spam — the four food groups of the apocalypse.

The crisis is at least as grave as the one that confronted us — and, for a time, united us — after 9/11”

The Stranger: Darkness warshed over the Dude - darker'n a black steer's tookus on a moonless prairie night. There was no bottom.

Unfortunately, critics, and journalists, (many including, as noted earlier, Anne were laid off last week and hundreds in the last year), filmmakers, film companies, actors, writers, crew, Americans and humanity are indeed “At The Cliff's Edge." Most everyone has been Madoffed to one degree or another. Security is at Red Level 5 and that’s without the terrorists.

As Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman wrote about former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who was one of the arrogant ones who let this happen, writes in the New York Times: “I once said of Alan Greenspan: "He’s like a man who suggests leaving the barn door ajar, and then-- after the horse is gone==delivers a lecture on the importance of keeping your animals properly locked up.”

As Nobel Laureate Thomas L. Friedman writes in the New York Times:

Elvis Has Left the Mountain By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

Published: January 31, 2009

DAVOS, Switzerland --In its own unpredictable way, the Davos World Economic Forum usually serves as a crude barometer of the latest mood or mania on the world stage. This year did not disappoint. What has struck me is the quiet urgency that infused so many panel discussions and private conversations here between investors, politicians and social activists. To put it crudely: everyone is looking for the guy — the guy who can tell you exactly what ails the world’s financial system, exactly how we get out of this mess and exactly what you should be doing to protect your savings."

But here’s what’s really scary: the guy isn’t here. He’s left the building. Elvis has left the mountain. Get used to it…A broker friend told me it reminded him of when he was a teenager and his doctor first diagnosed him as unable to digest wheat products. He said to the doctor, “Well, just give me a pill.” And the doctor told him: there is no pill. “You mean I’m just going to have to live with this?” he asked. That’s us. There is no pill — not for this mess…The fact that there is no single pill doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done…

But even then, the turnaround will be neither quick nor painless. Indeed, the whispers here were that what has been an exclusively economic crisis up to now may soon morph into a domino of political crises — as happened in Iceland, where the bankruptcy of the banks toppled the government on Monday…

(Davos humor: What is the capital of Iceland? Answer: $25.)

Like Harry Truman, Obama is definitely present at the creation of something. He is arriving on the scene “not after a war but after the same kind of shattering of institutions that a war does,” said Peter Schwartz, chairman of the Global Business Network. “His job is to restore confidence to these institutions that have been at the foundation of our economy…That may be President Obama’s most important bailout task: to educate the country that there is no easy escape here, except taking our medicine, getting our fundamentals right again and working our way out of this, brick by brick, by getting back to making money — what was that old Smith Barney ad? — “the old-fashioned way” — by earning it.

Risking the Future By BOB HERBERT Published: February 2, 2009

I wonder what it will take to get this country serious about repairing and rebuilding its crumbling and increasingly obsolete infrastructure.

The catastrophe in New Orleans didn’t do it. Yes, that was an infrastructure tragedy. As the historian Douglas Brinkley wrote in his remarkable book, “The Great Deluge”:

“What people didn’t yet fully comprehend was that the overall disaster, the sinking of New Orleans, was a man-made debacle, resulting from poorly designed levees and floodwalls.”

And the spectacular rush-hour collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, which killed 13 people, was not enough to get us serious.

Not even the terrible economic downturn that has gripped the country — a downturn that could be eased by a truly big-time surge of infrastructure investment — has been enough to get the leaders of the country to do the right thing. We’re rushing to bail out the banking industry for what? What kind of country will we have once the bankers are fat and happy again? The U.S. will still be a nation with a pathetic mid-20th-century infrastructure struggling to make it in a dynamic 21st-century world. It’s a blueprint for sustained national decline.

The reason to seize this particular moment to move with a laser like focus on the infrastructure is because of the desperate need to stop the advancing rot, and because rebuilding the infrastructure is a phenomenal source of employment… We’re suffering now from both a failure of will and of imagination.

I remember the financier Felix Rohatyn telling me, “A modern economy needs a modern platform, and that’s the infrastructure.”

History tells us the same thing.

What I realized when watching "Dirt! The Movie" is that dirt is “the ecstatic skin of the earth.” And if we don’t save the earth’s infrastructure everything’s affected. The clock is ticking. The good news is there are so many practical solutions and many off them will put people back to work. We’re not whistling in the wind on this one. With all the grassroots follow up that is planned in conjunction with the multi-level release of the film—we are going to be able to make a difference.

When the people lead The leaders will follow. --Gandhi

I believe that the historic imperative for filmmakers and all artists is to step up to the challenge and culturally empower people in a multitude of ways. Let’s show what is possible.

Now for My Proposal and how "Dirt! The Movie" relates to it:

We are in a new age of possibility and frankly I believe smart critics like John Anderson can now be empowered to help make films be better not just in their reviews but before a film is made by dramaturging the script (in the spirit of the Sundance Institute) and during post production with documentaries. The stakes are so high in the world- and films, TV, internet shows and even YouTube videos can show what is possible.

Once again be it stipulated that "Dirt! The Movie" needs editorial and storytelling work and this will be done in a matter of weeks with lots of input—hopefully including the critics.

When you see "Dirt!," you will see why I wanted John (the reporter not the critic) to go back and witness the overwhelmingly positive audience reaction and the great dialogue that followed. Unfortunately in the calm conversation we had walking between the Holiday Cinemas and the Yarrow Hotel, John said “audiences will never support this film” and dismissed 1,000 audience members’ positive reactions and the post screening dynamic conversations that had taken place at four screenings. His criticism is more than welcome.

His ill-informed assumptions on how audiences would react are frankly poor reporting and that is what I took issue with him about.

The Big Lebowski: What in God's holy name are you blathering about?

The Dude: I'll tell you what I'm blathering about... I've got information man! New shit has come to light!

John refused to go back into the theatre then because, as I was soon to learn, he had an important appointment. That’s totally understandable. Yet, a good reporter who knows a source like me (and knows as my friend Huey Lewis sings “some of my lies are true.”) would go back after the next screening to witness and report on what I was telling him about the overwhelmingly positive audience response and more importantly the enriching dialogue following the screenings. And he would do that before he filed a review making an incorrect assumption based on speculation about audience reaction. Variety and the trade papers usually put that in the lead of their reviews which differs from many other critics.

That’s all I was asking of John. Any arguments to the contrary about me not respecting his right to criticism obfuscate the truth and more importantly don’t help filmmakers or humanity. And that is certainly not in the spirit of Sundance. When I said that audience members were taking away a lot from the film and the discussions afterwards, John said: “They are sheep.”

Walter Sobchak: “OVER THE LINE!” Smokey: “Huh?” Walter Sobchak: “I'm sorry, Smokey. You were over the line, that's a foul.” Smokey: “Bullshit. Mark it 8, Dude.” Walter Sobchak: “Uh, excuse me. Mark it zero. Next frame.” Smokey: “Bullshit, Walter. Mark it 8, Dude.” Walter Sobchak: “Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”

I guess that flock of sheep would include:

The Mayor of Park City Dana Williams who said after a screening: “Having studied agronomy and having been a farmer I knew a lot of this 25 years ago. But "Dirt!" reminds us of some things we once knew and maybe forgot and adds new and timely information and more importantly shows us new possibilities.”

BTW do you folks know that all those Park City shuttle buses we ride around on were converted to bio diesel (at no additional cost) a couple of years ago by Dana? And that the new Police Station has a “green” roof with vegetation on top of it. After the screening Dana also told us how as a farmer he did crop rotation - another thing Dirt! helps us understand better.

John Densmore of the Doors who stood up after the first screening and said: “I have my own movie here. (holding up his ballot) But I just marked my ballot four stars because I think this is the most informative and inspirational movie I have seen here and it deserves to win Sundance.”

And several hundred Salt Lake City middle school and high school students, (a majority of them most likely LDS –Mormons) who were incredibly inspired by the film and the dialogue after screening a day later.

Possessing both a cosmic perspective that reaches into the vastness of time and space, and the kind of warm, earnest energy that inspires small revolutions inside human hearts, Dirt! The Movie offers an important and timely look at the vital relationship between those of us on Earth and something that is easy to take for granted—the soil upon which we tread… You may walk into the theatre on asphalt, carpet, and cement, but you will likely walk out with a rekindled connection to the living, dark, rich soil that lies beneath you and a mind set on cultivating a new future. --Shari Frilot, Senior Programmer Sundance Film Festival

If I were to turn it around and be Socratic about "Dirt! The Movie" I would ask everyone who had seen it to tell me 10 things that they learned from "Dirt!" And then tell me ten things that inspired you that you might be able to do cheaply and enjoy. And then give ten visual images you loved. And then name the 10 moments with characters that moved you. Everyone from 8 to 80, including John Anderson, would pass that test with flying colors if the film were looked at from a different perspective.

As I said, the filmmakers and I agree with John about some redundancies and repetition and had we talked a bit more John could have put that in the review. That redundant factor (which was clearly going to be trimmed before Sundance but they ran out of time) is far outweighed by all the new information and the crucially needed positive solutions in the film as well as how the film weaves together information that we may already know (and like me forgotten or stored deep in my hard drive) with new information and inspiration delivered by some pretty interesting folks.

The Dude: I do mind, the Dude minds. This will not stand, ya know, this aggression will not stand, man.

There are so many intriguing possibilities staring us in the eye.

"Dirt! The Movie" is a wonderfully inspiring film, chock full of people showing how we and the Obama administration and Americans can use our power and resources to re-build America and some of that bank bailout of billions/trillions can be used in a constructive way to improve our future with green infrastructure. This can put people to work and help save the planet from environmental and human catastrophe.

We look forward to screening "Dirt! The Movie" for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and their family. They may be critical of a few things in it, but Obama welcomes critical discussion. Obama actually mentioned “soil” in his Inauguration speech:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/20/us/politics/20text-obama.html

Excerpts:

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America. For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of our economy calls for action: bold and swift. And we will act not only to create new jobs but to lay a new foundation for growth.

We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together.

We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality...... and lower its costs.

We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

All this we can do. All this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long, no longer apply.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words; with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Being open minded people, I have a suspicion that the Obama’s will follow-up with such things shown in "Dirt! The Movie" as greening rooftops throughout America which will create jobs, make buildings warmer in the winter (using less fuel) and cooler in the summer (using less electricity), provide a little bit of healthy food for residents, relaxing gardening, provide more oxygen, help reduce global warming and provide a relaxing environment for kids, families and other building residents.

And for you golfers--maybe even putting greens.

That one example alone justifies the entire Dirt! movie and made it worth watching for 1,500 Sundance audience members even if they had to deal with a few “redundancies” that John Anderson so disliked which will be trimmed shortly.

The White House may even have a “green” roof before long. And knowing kids (I have two daughters Keely and Annabelle), Sasha and Malia will be gardening on the green White House roof or somewhere on the grounds with their grandmother.

The good news is that for every problem there are solutions that are already working. The first President Bush was right—there are 1,000 points of light out there. President Bush just left out a few zeroes- There are millions of points of light. There are so many examples of people living and practicing solutions to so many problems. We must help communicate this in any way possible that is true to our integrity and artistic and journalistic skills. We have the power to empower. To not use it…You fill in the blanks.

Films like "Dirt! The Movie" and last year’s Sundance Audience Award winning documentary "Fields of Fuel" (now re-named "Fuel" and changed dramatically to keep up with great scientific breakthroughs that have occurred) lay out the history then give a multitude of solutions that can be practically employed by individuals, communities, governments and businesses.

Unfortunately, when journalists and bloggers have tried to advance the conversation to discuss truly important principles and beliefs like critics’ rights, journalistic responsibility, filmmaker advocacy and improving film production and distribution, they have been at a disadvantage not having seen a public screening of "Dirt! The Movie" or witnessed or participated in the truly enlightening and inspiring conversations that followed.

And not a single person other than John and I was present for all three close encounters of the Sundance kind--the first brief “conversation” between the Holiday Cinemas and the Yarrow Hotel; my second unsuccessful attempt to re-engage John in a conversation in the Yarrow restaurant shortly after he had just sat down to a no doubt important meeting with the Participant Productions Diane Weyerman; and the third encounter which Roger Ebert chose to use his imagination and screenwriting skills to create classic lines for John:

Anderson: What part of "throw this riff-raff out of here" didn't he understand? Now he wants me to discuss "Dirt! the Movie" with Jackie the Joke Man at a distance of eight feet in a crowded dining room.

Important issues that Robert Redford and The Sundance Institute and later the Sundance Film Festival have been addressing for decades -- like how do we help filmmakers make better films; and how does the now massive indie support system help broaden the distribution of the deserving films in an environment that is paradoxically much tougher than ever while at the same time offering more distribution opportunities than ever. Having been around since day one and having been both a student and participant of what has transpired since then from soup to nuts, I hope some of my thoughts help us move on to a more helpful and hopeful place. Let’s get real and focus on what we all agree upon.

On the relationship between critics and the filmmaking process: I only wish that we could learn from the French auteurs in the spirit of Cahiers du Cinema and the French critics, who were also filmmakers like Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Bertrand Tavernier, who compared notes not just extensively in print but in conversation before shooting, during shooting and during post-production, as did American critic turned filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich.

Why can’t film-loving critics like John Anderson participate in critiquing narrative films at the script stage which is what the Sundance Institute is all about and documentaries in post production, before they reach the festivals and the public? Why is it mutually exclusive for a critic to dramaturge a script and then later review the film and the execution of the acting, directing, cinematography, etc.? We all know many critics read scripts online before they see a movie. Frankly if I saw a dozen films that were improved by this process that would be worth the tradeoff of feeling a critic was softer on the film. And you know damn well that the movie audiences (whom critics unfortunately have less influence over these days) would appreciate mo’ better films too. Harry Knowles and the folks at Ain’t It Cool News who characterize themselves as “film advocates” do this all the time as many successful filmmakers will tell you. http://www.aintitcool.com/

BTW in this digital age documentary films evolve as well, often more so than narrative films between festivals and release. Michael Moore added about 10- 12 minutes to "Fahrenheit 9/11" between the Cannes Film Festival premiere and the US release less than a month later because new information had come to light.

I was one of the producers of a great sports doc, The Last Game. http://www.thelastgame.com/ We weren’t ready for Sundance so the first festival we entered was SXSW. The film received great reviews:

"FOUR STARS" USA TODAY

"PERHAPS ONE OF THE BEST SPORTS DOCUMENTARIES EVER MADE." LOS ANGELES TIMES

"ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING MOVIES I'VE EVER WATCHED IN MY LIFE." PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

"THE BEST DOCUMENTARY I HAVE EVER SEEN." AINT-IT-COOL NEWS

At the first screening the movie was given a standing ovation. Then in the Q&A one audience member who loved the film made a great comment. It involved a three scene structural change. A few days later the filmmakers went back to Bucks County, PA and made the changes which involved shooting one of the coaches again for 30 seconds of interstitial to make the structural changes work. Two days later a Fed Ex arrived with all the changes. That’s the great advantage of digital filmmaking often underused by filmmakers.

Documentaries like "The Last Game," "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Fuel" and now "Dirt! The Movie" should be considered works-in-progress until their theatrical release. What they learn through qualitative research screenings, festival screenings, feedback from critics and changing history should all inform the creative and marketing aspects of the film up until theatrical/DVD/TV release.

The problems with Dirt! The Movie aren’t just the redundancies BTW. I won’t tell you what we think they are now prior to the research screening, but we are working on them and with the benefit of at least two more qualitative research screenings (hopefully with critics and journalists in attendance) the film will spring from the dirt and bloom like a sunflower. All the windows of vulnerability will be closed and the craft of storytelling and imagination from the filmmakers with the help of audience members at the research screenings will make it a memorable example of how the hell you can turn a subject like dirt into a memorable and inspiring film.

I believe the trade off between journalistic ethics and integrity and helping filmmakers make better movies is somewhere between a no-brainer and something at least worthy of discussion and experimentation. I also strongly believe based on cinematic history that we will reach a higher level of intellectual discourse than now exists. This is also an opportunity for critics and journalists to use all their knowledge to help take a film into the real world of empowerment. It will be fulfilling and is not mutually exclusive of criticizing the film later. We can do better folks. And we can have an exciting time doing better. The stakes are high. Let’s try something new and think outside the theatre box. Let’s try to be more open, transparent and have improved communication and work and create together. Let’s just do it!

The Pauline Kael/Warren Beatty ethical controversy that critics are very sensitive about was 30 years ago and has little bearing on today and what I am talking about—especially with documentaries.

http://www.marionboyars.co.uk/AUTHORS/Pauline%20Kael.html

It’s time to get smart, inventive and hopeful and move together into the future.

Lastly from me: Back to the Sparo-At the Yarrow. The Dude: “Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man.”

Malibu Police Chief: “Mr. Treehorn draws a lot of water in this town. You don't draw shit, Lebowski. Now we got a nice, quiet little beach community here, and I aim to keep it nice and quiet. So let me make something plain. I don't like you sucking around, bothering our citizens, Lebowski. I don't like your jerk-off name. I don't like your jerk-off face. I don't like your jerk-off behavior, and I don't like you, jerk-off. Do I make myself clear?”

The Dude: [after a pause] “I'm sorry, I wasn't listening.”

In all seriousness, I sincerely apologize to John Anderson and Diane Weyerman from the bottom of my heart for interrupting their important meeting. And I apologize to the great BBC producer Nick Frazier who I made a nasty swipe at by unfairly lumping him with the worst elements of old guard British imperialists and Tony Blair, because he wouldn’t listen to my side of the story while accusing me of harassing John as Nick was righteously defending John to the Park City Police Officer so John wouldn’t be hauled off to the slammer (ironically under the recently greened roof). It gets curiouser and curiouser.

The Stranger: “I guess that's the way the whole durned human comedy keeps perpetuatin' itself.”

And I also apologize to the other enlightened elements of British culture The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Clash and Radiohead. (Jimi Hendrix was an American ex-pat so no apology needed)

The Stranger: “Well, I lost my train of thought here. But...aw, hell. I've done introduced it enough.”

I’m going to let the old man my father “Bigga Doug” Dowd have the last word. I just received a revised excerpt that he just wrote post the Obama election from his book “At The Cliff’s Edge.”

I can still remember when my father and many white students and faculty from Cornell University went down south during the Civil Rights Movement and joined African Americans in the Fayette County Project in 1963. They were all risking their lives on a daily basis because they were registering African American voters in Fayette County, Tennessee. This was when John F. Kennedy was President, but close to no support was provided by the FBI or Attorney General Bobby Kennedy’s Justice Department. The FBI office in Memphis had a poster on its door which said: “Impeach Earle Warren.” Odd considering the liberal Warren was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Another Cornell student, Michael Schwerner, who we all knew quite well, was murdered the next year 50 miles away in Mississippi with two other Civil Rights workers. My father wrote his first book “Step by Step” about his experiences. Now you may understand why I am an optimist because I have seen how we came step by step from Fayette County all the way to President Obama. And it was folks like my father and his close friend Howard Zinn who wrote, lectured, organized and protested to help others have the information and inspiration to make it happen.

“At The Cliff’s Edge” was written a couple of years ago and pretty much lays out what has transpired over the last century in economic history and especially the last two decades. If you want to know a bit more about what’s happening and to some extent what’s going to happen you might check it out. Once again www.dougdowd.org

You see from fatherly osmosis alone even the Dude has gained a wee bit of knowledge and inspiration.

My father is 89 years-old and is now living in Bologna, Italy with his Italian wife, Anna where they both walk several miles a day. He teaches one day a week in Italian (not his native language) at the University of Modena where the late great Luciano Pavarotti was from.

The Three Tenors sing Nessun Dorma (“None shall sleep tonight”) from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDtcidMR_6

Which ends with :

"Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle! Tramontate, stelle! All'alba vincerò! Vincerò! Vincerò!"

("Vanish, o night! Set, stars! Set, stars! At daybreak I shall win! I shall win! I shall win!")

Doug Dowd writes in the revised excerpt:

What follows here are selections from the chapter 15 (with a few modifications for present purposes), chosen specifically in response to the election of Obama and what it means we must do about it...Doug Dowd

Is there reason to hope?

There is little reason to be optimistic but much reason to hope. As he was moving toward death in Mussolini’s prison, Gramcsi, the Italian left’s leader, admonished: “Pessimism of the intellect; optimism of the will.” When Barack Obama ran for the Senate in Illinois (as racist as most states), there was every reason to be pessimistic. But his own hope inspired many others (mostly young) to activate themselves, and he won. That done, he was able to activate many others to work for the really impossible: a black as president of the USA. There were certain elements of “good luck” which made that victory possible: The McCain/Palin opposition was about as weak as could be hoped; the economy exploded into a crisis which intensified the ongoing economic difficulties of a high percentage of voters; a never popular war had become always more costly and seemingly endless; and Bush/Cheney were caught up in a series of stumbles. Still, Obama would not have won either the Senate seat or the White House had it not been for an enormous number of people to knock on doors, distribute handouts, raise money, and so on: a process without a precedent in its ways and means and numbers: energized by hope.

There is a lesson there for all of us; indeed more than one. First is that hope energizes (and hopelessness paralyzes). Second, is that if there is to be a change in the structure of decision-making (that is, power), it will not be done from the top down; it must and can be brought about only from the bottom up. “Bottom” in this respect does not refer to the understandably demoralized at the very bottom; but it does refer to all of us who are angry, worried, reasonably well-informed, and who could find (or make) the time to become political.

The Stranger: “Parts of it anyway.”

And if all these written words don’t do it for you and are putting you to sleep:

Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, "Rockin’ In the Free World":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3pQZ5Y6pzU

Neil Young with Pearl Jam, "Rockin’ In the Free World":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTTsyk-pyd8

Thanks for all you do,

Jeffino Dowdino in Italia

Jeff

The Dude Abides!

Duder or Duderino “If you’re not into that whole brevity thing.”

As we throw off the fearful shackles of Bush World and rise up together wishing and a hoping and making it happen in Amerobama and on Mother Earth.

www.dirtthemovie.org

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