Snake Eyes

091808_snake_eyes_dice_1_300It’s been a while since I last made a post here – with much water under many bridges, from a jaunt across America, from Butte to New York, a month in Europe, and back.  Incised within was a nasty Barcelona robbery, meeting back up with Marcella, and much more.   And, rather as anticipated, also came up word, just in (when I started writing this, around March 10), that once again, on the fourth dice-roll (second time got into the finalists), I came up a loser in the grand matter of grants and fellowships and all that stuff:

March 12, 2015

Dear Mr. Jost,

Thank you for applying for a Radcliffe fellowship for 2015 – 2016. I do not need to tell you that we receive many applications. This year alone we received over 1,350, the vast majority of which are very impressive.

The selection process is, as you know, highly competitive. Decisions are made by a Final Selection Committee made up of scholars, scientists and members of the arts community from across the nation. This committee is given the daunting task of narrowing down many, many hundreds of competitive applicants to create a cohesive and diverse class of just 50 fellows. The decisions, as you can imagine, are very difficult.

As a matter of policy, we do not provide applicants with written or verbal feedback on their applications. Committee proceedings are confidential, as are the identities of the reviewers.

We regret to inform you that we will not be extending an offer of a fellowship for the academic year 2015 – 2016. We wish you well in finding alternative support for your project.

Sincerely yours,

Associate Dean

Not for lack of trying, or having what I would suppose are first rate “recommenders.”    In this instance I suppose I could imagine, among other things, that I am “too old,” or that 4th time around I am old-hat, or that I lack that proper academic credentials, and myriad other things, that all add up to “no.”   My more cynical side imagines that in truth a soul like mine isn’t really wanted around in the heart of the ruling-elite’s primary training school, from which a disproportionate number of our judges, politicians, corporate CEO’s and Wall Streeter’s hail, an insider’s club, a school which like Ecole Normal in France punches one’s ticket for a lifetime of the system’s “success.”  Our current president hails from Harvard, as does the master of Facebook, and numerous other luminaries of our ever-more economically polarized society.


The darker view I harbor derives from what is turning into decades of seemingly being cut out of various things which seem usual for my peers.  Though, with a very few exceptions, those people are all attached (teaching usually) to some important institutions in the firmament of the American arts world.  Those places intrinsically place you in a web of connections and lend an aura of authority to one’s doings:  one doesn’t just teach at Cal Arts or NYU or Columbia; one is then set into a rich matrix which, it seems, pans out in gallery invitations, grants, and other such things.  Not being a part of that institutionalized world (and probably worse, saying things critical of it once in a while) I am deemed an outsider – a position in America which is romanticized but simultaneously punished.  Our social culture likes to tout these “American” virtues – independence, freedom of speech, self-reliance, etc. etc. – but in reality to exercise these qualities is invite opprobrium.  The reality of America is that it is, like most societies, profoundly conformist.  Go along to get along is the operating motto.  Failure to play along, to celebrate whatever is fashionable, and in current terminology, “PC,” is viewed as deviant and heretical.  In my narrow little world – the one of so-called “independent” cinema and related things – my caustic views of much of the output of this realm (shall I name names?) seems to have landed me on a kind of blacklist.  As, I am sure, have other behaviors which run against the grain of the present cultural values of the nation – money money money as the measure of all value.

DSC03988And so this recent notice really came as no surprise.  I surely understand that in the cultural heart of our country’s training school they really wouldn’t want someone like me.  But once again, I am left to ponder, especially after the last 6 months of travels in which in 12 public screenings or so, I had a total, cumulative, audience of 100 persons (more or less), whether carrying on with this project makes even the most minimal bit of sense.  Accepting I am an “outsider” and that for sure mine is a minority view, to say the least, I still have to wonder whether the work and time involved in attempting to make this project, is worth the candle.  I have my severe doubts.

While I have long questioned the meaning of my own work, in the terms which I think are valid – to say that this is not meant to be a navel-gazing exercise but, at least with certain ones of them, to have some socio/political import – the combo of this social lack of “support” across the board has left its cratered impact on my psyche.  Or, as I note among (some of) my friends of similar age, there is a questioning of “what did/does it all mean”?  The answer, by and large seems to be, “not much.”

Such a view makes it a bit difficult to gather the energy to take on what is a massive self-assigned (and paid for) project which, ha ha, virtually no one would see.

Pondering.  The options.


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