Friday, November 30, 2007

The Other Stuff I do...

I awake at 3:30 am and the first thing I do after standing up is hit this keyboard. It has been a grueling three weeks since I got back here from Pittsburgh. Bread and butter work has dominated my existence. I have done some work for the School of the Art Institute of Chicago(SAIC), again with Korean Language and subtitling with Tony Jones, President of the School. Not as difficult as it sounds. It was an enhancement of a piece I did with 3to1 Studios, back in May. There were three additions produced, 2 were shot the week I returned, then some post work and now it is in Korea for the Winter recruitment drive there at 3:35 am Chicago time today. Yes I was up making sure the DVD had a signature from the Hotel delivery this morning.

At the same time I have been doing work for EbonyJet.com on their great new website. I edited and enhanced a great interview with President Bill Clinton about his African projects. It went up yesterday. The interview was conducted in Dar Es Salaam, my favorite East African city.

I lived in Dar for about 6 months back in the mid-70s. This was during my African adventures. I was not looking for my roots, I was looking for meaning, I already knew who I was and the rich historical and cultural legacy I was born of. I got out of the 60s alive, sane and made it to Africa. Not bad, I guess.

The Clinton interview brought up memories of working out on the beach with some of the guys from Nantambu Bomani's Goju Karate group. The names escape me but I do remember one guy, "Pookie." I see their faces but that name, Pookie, how could I forget. They were younger than I was then, just kids. Barely older than my youngest son now. They were members of Umkhonto We Sizwe, MK, "Spear of the Nation." They were part of the military arm of the African National Congress. I always wonder if they all made it.

That was in 1975, during the years of Julius Nyerere. Mwalimu, as he was affectionately known, made Tanzania host and benefactor to many of the Liberation Movement back then. Dar Es Salaam on any day would see the leadership of these movements walking it's street. Some mornings I would see Mwalimu calmly walking along the beach when I would go running if I stayed in town to hear Africa 70. People gave him his space and the Moranguzi(Tanzanian secret service) was seldom in sight at those times.

Part of this MK group was headed for training in other countries. Some stayed to return to South Africa to engage in the guerilla war. These guys had been banned and were on the run for their activities at the ages of 14-18. They were child soldiers by choice, with conscious political commitment. Some of these kids would walk to Tanzania from South Africa back in those days. There was no other way.

Every report on battles and attacks at by the apartheid forces an ANC camps and outposts in Botswana or elsewhere caused me worry about these particular guys.

In the interview, Clinton talks about the image of America in the interview and how that image remains pretty much intact in parts of Africa.

As I spent moments between everything else I am doing, cleaning the audio up for the Clinton interview, I suddenly stumbled over the other film I was researching before I worked on The World of Nat King Cole and then skirted the edge of the Dante Black hole and got sucked in.

It is a film I will revisit, It was called "From a Distance" and then was changed to reflect the Pink Floyd song, "Us and Them: The American Image Abroad." I was out of the country when 911 happened and I started the film 5 days after with interviews with people I knew in London and Paris. I was interested in how the image of America had evolved since the Spanish American War, what some call the rise of American Imperialism. No one wanted to know when I got back to the US in November 2001. So, by January 2002, I was back in East Africa teaching a class of broadcast journalists about digital cinema processes in Zanzibar for the Zanzibar International Film Festival. I then came back to Chicago and caught the vapors of the Dotcom bust. Dante was no where on my radar. Not a speck of interest. Amazing how one's life can suddenly be dominated by a project.

Nat King Cole lead me back to a childhood experience and like Cole, Dante is Chicago history. I like Chicago history. The history of a city is a tale of it's interactions and development, the meeting of peoples, cultures and ideologies. I know this city better than any city and I know cities. I investigate them, I walk them, leap in and swim in them.

It is a long way from MK to Dante, but still, Dante discoveries continue to make themselves known to me.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Faced with proof corrections have been made...

Not that it really matters, but corrections were made and the time errors have been removed.
I thank them for succumbing to the urge to let the truth be known.

Back to Dante Today....The problems of bending History to ones will.



Ok, first things first. A letter from the Green Dragon Society to William Aguiar has been presented claiming to have originated in the 1960s. But this is clearly a confusing statement to make. It is evident that the postage stamp on the letter is 1972 and the first class stamp is an 8 cent value.

First class Postage was not 8 cents until 1972. In 1966 postage was 5 cents, and in 1968 it was 6 cents. This is easily verified.

A key problem of research is resisting the urge to bend the results to your will, to make if fullfill your own needs. The truth is compelling enough without perpetuating falsehoods along the way. The truth will always surface, one way or another.

Just to be clear, I will now make it known, I have more information about Fall River than I expected to get. I have the information I need to give Fall River the treatment it needs without use of the BDFS archive. There is enough press information and people who have come forward who are giving me the information I need about this brief period in Dante's career and his associations there, especially his first meeting with Luigi DiFonzo. My sources are confidential and will remain so until the film is completed.

Fall River was never being left out of the film. I was not going to succumb to blackmail for the use of their materials, plain and simple.

The film gets better everyday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Having a Nice day...a day without Dante(?)

Some things you cannot make up. Life has a tendency to be more compelling than fiction at times. Add the fact that many people like to hitch themselves to rising, falling and dead stars, that real life is a province best left than dealt with, that most people will endure anything to achieve their 15 minutes of fame promised by Andy Warhol.

Some of our lives are so empty, we need a character like Count Dante to make ourselves feel alive. Me? When I hang out with my granddaughter Isis and DJ Spooky in the cafe at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago is what makes me really feel alive. This is not a judgment. This is what I am thinking.

Paul has a great exhibition going on in Chicago. From November 14 through January 17, the fluXspace exhibition in the Betty Rymer Gallery will be the site of his "Link City Chicago", a collage installation projection in four sections: City of the Past, City of the Future, Third World City, and Industrialized City. Link City Chicago examines the idea of the urban landscape as a legible text, and looks at the global city from the viewpoint of how form and function are evolving in the radically accelerated information economy. Link City Chicago is a collaboration between SAIC and the Chicago History Museum.

THAT is some hip shiznit! I missed his concert at the Chicago History Museum, where he mixed the digital archive. Isis and I were at the Children's Museum later than we figured and came back to the office so she could watch Felix The Cat on joostTV. We had fun! Paul's next big project is in Antartica. Talk about exciting!

Count Dante for me is nostalgia, he was a a human being with special flaws in his character, not unlike most human beings. His were a but extra special I must admit. This too shall pass. It takes a better imagination than mine to make all this stuff up. I like to think I know where I am going with this....when I think I don't, I separate myself from it get a mental reboot and go back and hit it again.

I still seem to have to talk about the project even when I am escaping from it, people always want to know what I am doing, or they ask me about the Fair Use case. Who knows what will happen. It is all unpredictable far as I can tell.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

In Pittsburgh: International Black Belt Hall of Fame

I have arrived in Pittsburgh for the 20th Annual International Black Belt Hall of fame at the invitation of Dr. Lawrence Day.

This East Coast organized event is an invitation only black tie affair with over 700 people attending the ceremony from all over the US, from Ireland, England, Iceland and Australia. Last night there were seminars and workshops for everyone attending.

The crowd is primarily martial artists of sizes shapes and ethnicities and a few family members and friends observing. Members of the audience are participating in Kendo workshops and learning Fan forms from a young woman who is a Black Dragon from West Virginia and Dim Mak from the Black Dragons. Dr John Ward, of Dublin, Ireland, did a fascinating Kenpo seminar with over a hundred people participating in a what was really too small a space. Other workshops include Glima from Iceland, Chi-Gung, Arnis, and Tae-Pyung.

The flight from Chicago to Pittsburgh was the easiest flight, 52 minutes up and down with no delays. I stopped and checked email, made phone calls had a little coffee and headed to the hotel shuttle. As I approached there I saw a bunch of people with luggage and canes. As they pass me, I spy this really cool hat that said Black Dragon Fighting Society. The guy in the hat called me by name, it was on. He was a student of Dr Lawrence Day's. Dr Day had arrived with students of his from Florida, Tennessee and Texas. There is a lot of them and, I am happy to say, they are all really great people.

I suddenly find myself among non-hostile people related to the project who are not my lawyers. It felt like a sea-change of atmosphere occured. Black Dragons I could have a laugh with.


I met Dr Day outside. and he was just as cantnkerous and hilarious as he is on the phone. One of the first things he said after our greetings and introductions was he was hungry, then started talking about Bob Evan's Restaurant and biscuits and gravy with fried potatoes. Pretty soon the crew went from 7 people to about 14. Other Black Dragon associated people were arriving.

When we all got to the hotel, Mike Felkoff was waiting on us. Among all of these martial artists his diminutive size is quite apparent and he was holding court and talking smack, per usual.

The Black Dragon group has a strong presence here. This is the first time Day and Felkoff have seen each other since Thursday night, April 23, 1970, the day of the Dojo War. Day was outside when the fight took place, he observed the death of Konsevic when the door burst open and people poured out and the police were on the way.

Felkoff's hotel room became the informal meeting place for Black Dragon Fighting Society. Felkoff was holding informal seminars on the internal skills. Masters Ricky Taylor and Guy Whimper, Kenpo practioners from the Warriors for Christ Fighting Dragon Academy in Knightsbridge, NC were impressed at what they were seeing from Felkoff and have now become members of the International Black Dragons.
The Banquet and Awards ceremony are this evening and it is late now so I better finish this up and get going. Time is passing quickly.

This working alone stuff is coming to an end as of 2008. I definitely need a cameraperson working with me. I am not being as effective as I could be with someone wlse helping me. Film id collaborative art form and I desperately need that at this point.

Little did I know that all of this back and forth on the internet has given me a bit of notoriety. People seemed to know who I am in this martial arts context. People are talking directly to me by name when I have the camera, on. I was a bit disarmed by that. I will solve that problem by January, 2008.

I am having a great time and I got my own official Black Dragon Fighting Society Hat and T-Shirt. It is good to be able to realx and have a good time for serious.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

New discoveries...

Writer Dan Kelly recently send me some of his research from last year's Chicago Reader article. In this research was Chicago Yellow Pages copies from 1968-1972. You see above, two listings, one for the Green Dragon Society, 1968 and the other for Count Dante's Imperial Academy of Fighting Arts. I need to find out who this "Prof. Lee" is on the Green Dragon advert.

Once again, we see the Green Dragon image and I am taken back to that email from the Green Dragon informant telling me the "Dojo/Dragon War" really came about as a result of the dispute over Dante copying their logo. As I keep saying, there are no good guys in this tale. Included in this incredible tale are matters of misadventure and bad judgement in many cases.

One of the other items in the Yellow pages entries was listing under "Beauty Salons" for the House of Dante, right there between the "House of Costa" and the "House of Relaxation."

This guy was busy, 3 dojos and a hair salon. It says something about his acumen as a businessman. His father, John H. Keehan, was a founder and owner of Ashland State Bank, which opened in 1954. So money was not that big an issue for him, it would seem. The image of Dante at left is typical of the publicity photos issued by hairdressers.

I used to work in the publishing department of a hair design company and still have a few friends who are in that business. It would be great to find some people who worked with Dante in the hairdressing business. That would be kind of interesting to include in the film.

The beat goes on...Still at it, and it is still bound to get a whole lot more interesting.