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Danny Schecter’s Unpublished Analysis of My Laptop Saga

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In honor of Danny Schecter’s birthday and beautiful memorial service held today at Judson Church, I’m printing for the first time my story about ‘the laptop’ and Danny’s foreward, and final analysis at the foot. When he offered to print the story, I was thrilled, but then got cold feet because I wasn’t clear on legal ramifications. Even now, I’ve left blank spaces for the ‘redacted’ material, just in case. But this shows how Danny supported my efforts. The bold italicized type is all Danny.

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I almost didn’t make my film Plunder about the crimes of Wall Street
because I knew how hard it would be to get top executives to sit for interviews,
or find documents detailing the scams that led to the collapse of our
economy.

It took the government’s Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission millions of
dollars and hundreds of hours of interviews to produce a detailed report on
the issues which has been faulted for being incomplete and largely ignored.

So investigating a crisis that goes so deep is certainly beyond the reach
of most individuals with limited resources and even less access to major
media outlets.

At the same time, sometimes you can find information you didn’t even know
was there or try to. Sometimes, sensitive information can fall into your lap
—and even your laptop when you least expect it.

That’s what happed to Nancy Koan, a sensitive and brilliant
filmmaker/artist friend of mine who admits, “What I know about finance you could tattoo
on my forehead.”

But it was Nancy who quite unexpectedly was given a computer that formerly
belonged to Goldman Sach’s most flamboyant and controversial trader whose
sleazy scamming triggered a hard-hitting Senate investigation, his own
suspension and a cash settlement of a whopping $550 million dollars—with no
admission of guilt of course.

In an article she wrote and could not get published, (of course!) she
explains that after losing her own computer, “a good pal friend called and
offered me a laptop he had found in the basement of his building. I
gratefully took it, bought it a new battery and hungrily loaded it up with
storylines, lyrics, photos –“

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“The laptop worked fairly well, though every time I logged on, a funny
name popped up on the screen. But I was only interested in my own name and
cheerily ignored it. That the machine heated up like a toaster was a problem,
and occasionally I worried what it might do to my future eggs.

“Then last May as I was trawling through the Saturday Guardian, I spotted
a name in a column that looked strangely familiar. The short article had to
do with a character in the financial world, a galaxy as far removed from
my planet as Vonnegut’s Tralfamadore; but the name rang a bell.

“I thought I recalled seeing it somewhere, but for the life of me couldn’t
t remember where.

“The article mentioned a flashy banker, known as FAB, who was being touted
as the inventor of a smarmy financial scheme at Goldman Sachs. After a
hostile media reaction, GS was distancing itself from the young turk and had
sent him to London to cool his jets.

“For me, the financial world is such a labyrinth of secret corridors and
tunnels where only a few have the flashlight, I was in the dark. I didn’t
know beans about Goldman Sach’s or their business…GS called their deal “
ABACUS.”

“My friend Mike always says that irony is the only truth. How could an
artist like myself living in an east village tenement, develop a totally
unexpected if distant connection with one of the shakers of this financial
drama.

“In the film The Adjustment Bureau, all of the details of the characters’
lives are preordained by The Chairman. And they all happen for a reason,
to push the character along in his/her path. Was there a Chairwoman who was
setting me up in this Fabulous situation?

“Through circumstances as banal as they are bizarre, I innocently became
linked to the media’s poster boy/archetype of the Wall Street slickster, the
fabulous Fabrice Tourre,

“This strange quirk of timing and coincidence was not easily ignored. Like
the bedbugs now crawling all over New York, Goldman Sachs’ tentacles
crawled out of my very own laptop and into my lap.

“If there is a financial spectrum with Fabrice Tourre and the Goldman
Sachs crew at one end, I would be at the far other. I have no shares in their
company, no investment with them or anyone tied to their crowd.

“As I said, the discovery that my laptop is related to one of the kingpins
of the money world had put me into a quasi state of l shock. Also, was the
realization that this Gallic wizard was now in newsworthy trouble.
And if he were in trouble, could I be since we had become—unknown to him—
technically tethered.

“My first response was fear. I wondered if by virtue of my possession of
his “artifact,” I had become an unwitting accomplice. I placed a call to a
man I respect and admire. He publishes a liberal magazine, teaches
journalism and understands my lack of financial knowledge. I knew he’d suggest the
right thing to do.

“While waiting to hear back from him, I spoke to X, the friend who had
given me the laptop. He suggested I get in touch with a British newsgroup.
They would love a story like mine and besides, if I had to give up the
computer to authorities, they might pay me enough for some information so that I
could buy a new one. Maybe even get a printer!

“So I called a friend who I knew people in British media. He
suggested a journalist who was beside herself with excitement over my little
discovery and asked to inspect my computer immediately.

“While waiting to hear from lawyers as to the legality of my ownership, I
made an appointment to meet with the British Lady Z. Lady smoked like a
chimney and regaled me with the potential monetary rewards that her newspaper
would bestow on me for offering up the goods. She said that if the
information were useful; I could have a huge story.

“Fab had just moved to London and apparently there were very few photos of
him available. I was of so many minds at this juncture: was there
anything really to show buried in my laptop?

“And was it fair/ethical to show it at all? Was I doing something wrong by
not giving it to the SEC immediately? Would the Brits keep my personal
info anonymous? And how much second-hand smoke would it take to kill me?

“All of these worries, Lady X attempted to assuage, by insisting that we
were all in this together…fighting the greed of Wall Street. She even put me
on the phone with her editors who assured me that their solicitors would
take care of any legal issues if they were to arise.

“I do read tabloids, but never really gave much thought as to how the
reporters found their stories. The combination of my own doubts and Lady Z’s
aggressive style made me very nervous indeed…it felt improper and
exploitative.

“When I began to run scared from her, she looked me in the eye and asked, “
What is the most important thing in life luv?” I blurted back ‘a
relationship?’

“She laughed and insisted that it was money, knowing that I was in dire
need of it.

“As I gazed dumbfounded, ———I came to and insisted our time was up. She was
miffed. The promised fee was not forthcoming – she insisted she wouldn’t pay
me anything until she got more time.

“I felt a sense of betrayal. She tried to assure me that the paper was on
the right side of the argument; that this Wall Street Greed had to be
stopped. Perhaps she was telling the truth.

In the meantime, my mentor in all things media found out that I owned
everything that was on the hard drive and that the intellectual property was
legally mine.

Still I didn’t feel comfortable with the Brits and when I realized that
their version of the story might be similar to the piece they did on Mariah
Carey’s curves I wanted to do the right thing, but what was it?

My mentor suggested I could do one of three things: one, sell the computer
to the Brits outright; two, do nothing and not lose my computer and go
back to normal life; or three, give the laptop back to Fabrice.

Well, I didn’t know Fab except from reading…… he might
even turn out to be a really delightful guy. Then how could I vilify him?

True, he was being scapegoated by his own institution on Wall Street; but
he was still a player, and hardly innocent to counts of greed… didn’t his
arrogance contribute to the present financial mess this country finds
itself in?

“Then again, was he just doing his job? He was not acting alone. If he had
been, Goldman would not have coughed up so much money to cover up his sins.

“I backed off from the Brits when I quickly realized that I didn’t have
the stomach for Murdoch-style media. But after rejecting them, I didn’t know who to
turn to with this potentially explosive leak (well before wikileaks.)

“In the old days I might have called political activist Abbie Hoffman. (I
had made a film on him; he had street smarts.)

“Abbie is, sigh, long gone—so now who could I trust? One guilt-ridden
friend, working in the financial arena, wanted me to offer the machine to
Bernie Sanders; another, said to call Jon Stewart. Even my gestalt therapist stepped up
to the plate, suggesting that this ‘case’ might change the banking
regulations for all time.

“So much pressure — so many suggestions.

“In Burn after Reading, a Coen Brothers, film, (sadly, no relations) the
protagonists wrestle with a found CIA artifact that only brings them
trouble. In the characters’ case, they are only interested in the financial reward
of the disc. But even they had to make the right moves… which of course
they didn’t. It’s a comedy after all.

“My life is not yet a movie even if I am trying to make one, so I tried to
be circumspect. Like Julian Assange, I talked to so many people … if
anything ever happened to me, my friends would know why.

“Paranoia? You betcha.

“Suddenly I spotted helicopters flying over my roof and began to hear
unusual clicking noises on my telephone. I even took my battery out of my cell
phone when I talked to friends, forgetting that they couldn’t hear me with
it out. I wasn’t much of a spy.

“Once I recovered from the shock of ownership, I tentatively I began to
scan the computer, searching for anything that hollered ABACUS or Paulson,
the other villain from this story. I needed no code to open up old emails…
they came up automatically on outlook hard drive… something I had never
opened in four years as I don’t use it.

“But hard as it is to believe, I didn’t look. I’m a coward.. Even if there might be some clues…to do what with it? Could I save Fab from perdition.

I did spot that the year 2007 was totally missing from the dates listed in the computer history. It jumped from 2006 to 2008. That meant a year was possibly deleted for a
reason.

“How to crack this case? I remembered reading that researchers at Stanford
University had been using x-rays to decipher the writings of the ancient
mathematician Archimedes. A 10th century manuscript of the classicist’s work
had been obliterated by a Christian monk who wrote over the text with
prayers. And now scientists were going to reclaim one of the most important
works from the great mind with X-rays.

Could someone do this with Fab’s stuff?

“Once I realized that old documents are never truly erased, I was still
skeptical about giving up the laptop. Not that I have so much to protect, but
I really didn’t want the Men In Black reading all my rejection emails from
grant providers.

“In the meantime, my own unemployment is soon due to run out, and Fab for
his part is probably having a hell of a good time. Love to join him.

“I decided to give it one more try and handed over the information to
everyone’s favorite big league newspaper. Will its innards produce something
still be revealed that could help the ‘little people’ make sense of the new
financialized world that is growing around them?

“This Big media outlet was intrigued but I found like many outsiders who
try to collaborate with media cognoscenti, they weren’t in a
rush especially since they would have to do some work to advance the story.
At the same time, they wanted to push my personal story out of the picture. Facts
they adore, a strange context like the one I offered doesn’t fit their
script.

The gap that is separating the rich from the once considered middle-class
is growing as wide as the break in the Arctic ice.… how to survive in this
new world is the question on the minds of not only the traditional poor of
the world but of people like you, me, and the penguins.

“We do need to know, really, how TRILLIONS of dollars have been stolen and
VANISHED. Does the answer lie somewhere in the depths of my little laptop?”

Nancy never found out after months and moths of worrying through a bad
B-movie, while trying to outwit the IT wizards at Goldman Sachs who have since
moved on.

She had the guts and gumption to blow a whistle but she never got the
chance.

Her story is still fun to hear about. The point? There are, we can be
sure, tons of information about this financial crisis still buried, still
invisible to the to most of us who can expect to find out even less about what
really happened as the government avoids the kind of court battles that
could make public hidden documents by forcing them into discovery.

All praises are still due to Michigan’s Senator Sandy Levin who hauled GS
and Fab’s ass up to Capitol Hill where they were righteously ventilated at
in one televised afternoon.

Afterwards, GS “settled” the matter and went back to playing with its own
abacus.

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Written by nancykoan

June 28, 2015 at 5:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Theater for every taste, Yiddish /Wongo-ish..It’s all Fun

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Talk about diversity. New York is certainly the land of plenty. Just this week alone, I spent time in an Irish/Yiddish world and the next day was transported by intergalactic forces to the Planet Wongo. All this for a subway token.

The Bespoke Overcoat

The Bespoke Overcoat

Wolf Mankowitz, British/Jewish polyglot is being represented by New Yiddish Rep at the Cell Theatre on West 23rd Street. In two one-act plays “2 by Wolf,” we get a sampling from the prolific pen of Mankowitz. “The Irish Hebrew Lesson” perhaps the only tri-lingual play of its kind written in English, Irish and Yiddish, is followed by “The Bespoke Overcoat,” performed in a Yiddish. (Supertitles are used in the latter play.) The director is Romanian Moshe Yassur, who has had a long career as actor/director here and in Israel.
The Irish Hebrew Lesson pits a religious Jew with a penchant for languages next to a young Irish rebel, hoping to rid Ireland of the British as St. did with the snakes. The rebel is too young to realize the fragility of life and so the older man takes the opportunity to protect the boy and himself by teaching him a little Hebrew and a little philosophy. That the rebel shares the same anti-Semitic joke that the interrogating English soldiers do is just another reminder of the how the pecking order of prejudice works.
The second play is about labor, money and the need to stay warm; as well as the need for dignity, even after death. A tailor negotiates with a poor man to make him a new, warm coat, but (at least as I understood), he only truly offers after he has heard the man died. That it takes a ghost to readdress charity makes sense…you don’t know what you’ve lost till it’s gone. The ghost suffers like all poor but in the end (or in the afterlife) takes his retribution from the greedy employer while the tailor relies on his schnapps to make sense of his own life.
Both plays are beautifully acted by Menachem Fox, Stuart Cullen, Lev Herskovitz, Ilan Kwittken, Shane Baker and Fergal O’Hanlon. Mr. Baker was also the translator.

http://www.NewYiddishRep.org. Show runs till July 2.

WONGO TIME

wildwomen

From Yiddishkeit to Wongolite…composer Dave Ogrin has taken his wonderful Wild Women of Planet Wongo which originally was presented in a classic theatrical setting and moved it to the outer galaxy of Bushwick for a cosmic immersive experience in space. With the feel of a 60’s B movie, two astronauts, delivering CheesyMoon Crater Chips to hungry space stations, find themselves after three long years on a planet in habited only by women. Though hesitant at first, the captain finally joins his crewmate in tasting the delicacies of the Wongo Flesh, in his case, the Queen. But sex isn’t the only thing the Wongettes have in mind…they are also starved –and have very different plans for their male guests.
It’s great fun to interact with the Amazonian Wongo girls and drink Wongotini’s made fresh at the Brooklyn Fireproof bar. The book by Steve Mackes, lyrics by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes, and Dave Ogrin is witty, sexy and very feel good. (The Wongotinis help with that, too). The cast of young singer dancers is joyful and lovingly directed by David Rigano. Musical director is Rachel Dean with choreography by Juson Williams.
The show runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday until July 4, with a Wongo dance party after the late show on weekends. If you can’t get to Joshua Tree this summer to make contact with the aliens, I’d happily settle for Bushwick and Wongo World.

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http://www.planetwongo.com

Written by nancykoan

June 16, 2015 at 3:32 am

Posted in music, Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

New York Music — Pink Floyd to Strayhorn…It’s All Good

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New York Spring may be resembling London Fog but the great New York music scene keeps the air warm and even a little hot.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to see Brit Floyd, the top Pink Floyd cover band from the UK in their Space & Time World Tour. I’ve always liked the band, and perhaps I’m just feeling it deeper now, but this concert was bloody amazing. From the moment Damian Darlington hits the first chord to the resounding finale with simple stringed instruments, Brit Floyd gives a powerhouse show doing great songs from The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, The Wall and The Division Bell. All the musicians were terrific, with bassist and vocalist Ian Catrell sounding like both Roger Waters and David Gilmour.

Angela Cervantes knocked it out of the park with her solo. The band was so tight, all of the vocalists so strong and the music…well what can you say about the music of Pink Floyd? Extra huge kudos to the brilliant media director Bryan Kolupski, born on Salvador Dali’s birthday! His marching hammer men was so 1984.

This concert was faithful to a Pink Floyd show… a mélange of great sound and light technology. I wish I were on tour with the band to hear them over and over.

On a completely different planet, Monday night at Metropolitan Café brought the virtuoso team of happily married couple singer and pianist Eric Comstock and vocalist Barbara Fasano in their new show, Shoulder Season. These two songbirds have been trilling together for ten years, and lucky for us they do. Eric is all boy next door while Barbara sizzles with sultry and they play beautifully off each other.

Their songlist was an interesting one….well- chosen numbers from Jimmy Van Heusen to Billy Strayhorn to Yip Harburg. With bassist Sean Smith whose played with Rosemary Clooney and Peggy Lee, the trio delivered an evening of melodies that told different types of summer stories like Mancini’s Two for The Road and Jerry Herman’s Ribbons Down My Back.

I loved all the repartee and innuendoes…and then when they do Paul Simon’s April Comes She Will, a wave of gentle nostalgia for summers past wafted through the crowd.

This is a show by two MAC winning artists who give their hearts to music and to their audience. They will be performing June 1 to 4 and June 8 and 9 at 7 P.M.

http://www.metropolitanroom.com

http://www.britfloyd.com

Written by nancykoan

June 4, 2015 at 3:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized