Saturday, April 02, 2011

Scrappers at Western Carolina

Greetings from the vicinity of Bat Cave, NC, outside of Charlotte, on the road from Asheville, NC to Charleston, SC.

As we kick off the Carolinas branch of the Southern Circuit, Ben Kolak and I are appropriately listening to the jagged, pseudo-satanic blues of James Blood Ulmer, a native of St. Matthews, SC.

We were on the road for almost a week before the Circuit, sharing our film Scrappers with audiences in Youngstown, OH and Pittsburgh, two similar but very different Rust Belt cities dealing with scrappers and scrapping in the post-working-class world, and teaching a guest class at Kenyon College. But those stories are for another day.

Thanks to the work of Lori Davis, we had an excellently attended first screening at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. The conversation that stuck out most was with a group of criminology students, who came to Scrappers as part of their studies on community policing. Here, why not listen to them:

Scrappers on Southern Circuit #1 from scrap movie on Vimeo.

We passed a day and night in Asheville, picking up post-consumer gems/junk for $1.10/lb at Asheville Goodwill Outlet -- including toys to be hacked into instruments by Alex Inglizian, one of the stars of our short Congress Conducts El at Cal's -- and checking out Severe and Profound with Denise Drury, curator at the WCU Fine Arts Museum.

Things got interesting when we started a conversation with a mysterious man in a Florida State sweatshirt. Our new friend was a mining equipment salesman and mechanic for a multinational firm headquartered in Finland, working on a high-grade quartz site 50 miles into the mountains outside Asheville. This product goes into circuits for the lightweight "smart" electronics on which we all now depend. He had worked in 78 countries, and is on his way tomorrow to Sierra Leone, taking a private helicopter to a mine with a golf course, bowling alley, and private security force, in one of the poorest countries in the world. The conversation, a fitting start to the Scrappers Southern Circuit, circled around how it was possible that one component of an iPhone could contain North Carolina quartz, South African palladium, Mexican reconstituted fiberglass, and on an on… all carted around the world numerous times by armies of informal prospectors, producers, recyclers… He told a muddled story about publishing his memoirs (it involved a bag stuffed with Indian rupees and a rickshaw hitting a cow in Bombay), finished his beer, and left.