Archive for November, 2011

Chancellor Goldstein, your students are being beaten downstairs

November 22, 2011

A friend of mine (it’s a long story, but she is) stood holding this sign, at CUNY (City University New York) while a meeting went on.

This is what she had to say: “Just attended the full three and half awful hours of the CUNY Board of Trustees hearing. It was extraordinary to see Chancellor Goldstein sit there and (aside from occasional whispered consultations with his staff, and one brief exit) do absolutely nothing, while the students of his university were being beaten in the same building. He made no comment or statement, let alone did he decry what was happening. I sat in the front row of the meeting holding this sign for about an hour and a half–and I clearly saw him take off his glasses to read it. He offered no response at all.

“I was also speaking to a fellow grad student, who was actually signed up to speak at the hearing–but she and others had been prevented from entering by the police. She only made it into the hearing because she happened to spot the PSC President, Barbara Bowen, who got her in.

One of the other women who eventually spoke had a bruised face from where she said she’d been hit by the police when she arrived.”

Video here if you’re interested.

Anyhow, the whole thing made me realise how timid I am in a way, being a student, with a visa I have to be careful I don’t lose. I’m scared if I say too much they’ll deny me, or send me home. And so I’ve been amused, and pleased, but what I’ve seen happening. But I’m not exactly taking to the streets, like I would in my own country, where they would have to kill me to deny me my right to be there.

If you can read this, you can read the bible

November 13, 2011

But why would you want to, when you could be reading oh… so many other better written, less violent, and more more entertaining books?

Thanks Alex Griffin for the photo. I actually tried to take a picture of this exact same car the other day, but I was driving at the time and nearly went into a lamp post in my eagerness to photograph it. At some point my survival instincts kicked in and reminded me it wasn’t worth dying for a blog post. Specially since I’m almost certainly headed straight for hell.

It’s fall in California. It’s surprisingly cold – at night, in any case. I guess it is a desert. There’s snow on the mountains an hour’s drive away. The red leaves are so pretty. The frantic sound of leaf blowers fills the air most mornings.

Life is simple. Terms and conditions apply.

November 9, 2011

“This is your LIFE. Do what you love and do it often. If you don’t like your job, quit. Etc. Etc. Etc. Life is Simple*.” Life is simple? Really? Maybe if you’re simple too, it is.

Clearly this person must love standing at train stations holding up signs. I really wish my ambitions were that easily achievable.


Of course, there’s a certain amount of truth in the words on this sign. I remember when I decided to come to film school, some people said I was “lucky”. These were people with homes, jobs, families and kids – or the potential to have those things. They decided to keep the things I was giving up to follow my dreams.

* I hope the use of the word “simple” is not offensive to anyone.

Issues, issues, issues… okay, let’s talk.

November 2, 2011

Is politically correct language universal? No, but that doesn’t excuse being hurtful. I can’t figure out if I’m just being stubborn or if I have a point when I say: Human rights and humor are both more important than your knee-jerk sensitivities.

I find Americans PC in the most bizarre of ways. They are huge on lip service (by which I don’t mean then men also give oral, although it was one of the first things I was offered by an American – over the phone, in a motel).

They seem obsessed with using the most PC of terms. Terms which they consider universally PC, even though they actually aren’t. Like African American. Which isn’t PC in South Africa obviously. Even African isn’t, because that excludes white Africans. And Africans who call themselves “coloured” or “indian.”

Words may not be just words, but statues are often just statues. This mini ms. liberty found down an alleyway when looking for a shady place for lunch with a New Yorker friend of mine.

Words are just words… or are they? I got into an arguement (and they’re all nasty, so let’s ditch the pretense) with a couple of people who are part of a campaign against the use of the word “retarded”. Ever. In any context. I feel it’s fine to call someone who has no diminished mental capacity / differences “retarded” when they are deliberately or lazily being stupid. I feel it’s okay to refer to the use of the word “natural” to refer to cage raised chicken as “retarded”. I feel it’s okay to say “that’s so gay” when referring to hazing rituals – or merchant ivory movies.

But while I was quite rudely dismissive of the people who jumped on my blog post about sewer videos and halloween columns with their two-minute noodles, microwave-ready slogan, “Spread the word to end the word, your use of the R word is offensive and disappointing”, the whole thing reminded me that I have my own sensitivities.

For instance, I wouldn’t be okay with anyone referring to cage-raised chicken as “so nigger”. Even if they said it had nothing to do with black people. And I can’t even bear to write down the word “kaffir” most of the time, even though I occasionally see certain limes labeled that way here.

So am I being retarded to over-react to the finger wagging of a few poster? After all, I live in America, where words are more important, apparently, than health care, geography, or the right to marry who you please in any state. Or… does that fact that I am genuinely trying to be funny – not writing an essay for school and referring to racist South Africans when I used the word “retarded” – give me any latitude here?

Willing to talk, and listen on this issue.

PS. Here’s my latest masterpiece. Har har…

American Dream from Jean Barker on Vimeo.