Archive for the ‘friends’ Category

Florida: Hell’s waiting room?

November 17, 2013

I nearly studied Screenwriting in Miami – having lived in Durban, KwaZulu for four years and remained homesick for it all my life, I romanticized the sticky air, the warm sea, the art deco buildings. I imagined myself drinking large cocktails and doing Cuban dances while a deeply-tanned man licked sea salt off my neck as the sun set, and holidaying Hollywood stars (mostly Michael C Hall) roller-skated past on the promenade.

Doesn't it look just like Durbs, only sorta glam?

Doesn’t it look just like Durbs, only sorta glam?

I’ve always wondered how life would have turned out if I had gone there instead of to nearly-LA. And recently I found out when I visited a friend who’s there, attempting to pay back his crazy-ass student loans with a job he landed.

As the plane touched down… GU-GUNK… the muggy half-light seemed full of promise. Or was it foreboding? Didn’t look like much, but my friend picked me up and I comforted myself that Miami Beach would be totally different.

The Motel was a slightly decayed art deco building only a block from the beach. Of course the booking site never mentioned that they were doing street work right outside it… or that the mattress was so old that you wound up rolling into the middle during the night – I guess the elasticity does get eroded by years of semen stains. But maybe they could replace it every eight years? Every 20 years? And with it, the almost plastic comforter.

What I realised quite soon was that mattress, smattress. What kind of moron comes to Miami to sleep? Miami is all about the party. The hotel offers a drink special of $20 for all you can drink, as long as you only drink Bud lite. That’s $20 per hour. Unfortunately I couldn’t take advantage of this dodgy bargain as I am going through a dry patch. A swim in the sea was the highlight of my day. But it doesn’t touch Durban’s South Beach for beauty or brains, or waves. Limp about summarizes it.

I went swimming. It was okay, lonely but okay. For some reason everybody there prefers to look at the sea and pose near it.

A lot of seagulls, and they aren't camera shy.

A lot of seagulls, and they aren’t camera shy.

Seeking food, we went exploring. Pizza. Pizza Pizza. Some chicken.

For some reason, things in Miami are often called "Duck" something. Like this Miami Beach fried chicken place. It should have been called Salmonella Something. Notes piece of chicken on shoulder.

For some reason, things in Miami are often called “Duck” something. Like this Miami Beach fried chicken place. It should have been called Salmonella Something. Notes piece of chicken on shoulder.

And Cuban Food. Which for some reason costs three times as much in Miami, Florida, as it does in Orange, CA. Running from the main drag, we ate outside at David Cafe (bill, for so-so entrees and a soda, hit $45 once the compulsory tip was added). While we ate, a drug dealer and his bashed up helper did business from the garden patch, for some reason bothering to pretend they were looking for their keys and continually finding them and losing them again. A homeless man who seemed to be their buddy sang for us for a while, and said it would take a dollar to make him go away.  Whatever. I was enjoying the entertainment – you can’t be fussy in Miami.

I tried my best to enjoy it. Usually I can amuse myself anywhere. We went to an art museum. It was nice. Small. But nice. Nice enough.

A really bad maze. Only a drunk person would get lost there. But I guess it is Miami. Mazes are meant to be thoughtful but this one was just... I don't know. A bad wave.

A really bad maze. Only a drunk person would get lost there. But I guess it is Miami. Mazes are meant to be thoughtful but this one was just… I don’t know. A bad wave.

My favourite artwork sums up Miami - consumer culture dressed up as something more.

My favourite artwork sums up Miami – consumer culture dressed up as something more.

I realised that Miami reminded me not of Durban, but of Sambave, a tiny seaside hell hole in Madagascar my ex and I got stuck in once when a political crisis caused the government to close all the airports for a few days. Overcast. Lots of prostitutes. A faint air of desperation.

Maybe Miami wasn’t for me? Next stop, the Recovery Capital of America, Delray Beach, where there’s an AA/NA/CA meeting every hour in about ten locations simultaneously, and everybody is either using drugs, trying to stop, or making money out of health care benefits.

Surprise surprise, Delray Beach was even more depressing than Miami, and unwalkable to boot – there really aren’t any motels in Delray so I was stuck on a highway near Boca.

Florida is full of little land-ghekkos. They run around with their tails up. I get it. I would too. They're my favourite thing in Florida.

Florida is full of little land-ghekkos. They run around with their tails up. I get it. I would too. They’re my favourite thing in Florida.

This is the promise, I guess.

This is the promise, I guess.

I walked to the beach from my hotel on the highway. On the way I crossed a river and saw people fishing and some birds.

florida-birds

jeanbarker_bocabeach

Boca Beach… looks okay. Once you’re in the water it’s awesome.

Here is why they rarely swim. I call them cowards - the water was warm and the currents were nothing. Pussies. No offense to vaginas, which rock. Colloquial intentions only.

Here is why they rarely swim. There are meant to be bluebottles and jellyfish and sea lice – terrifying in theory.  I call them cowards – the water was warm and the currents were nothing. Yes a few bluebottles but that’s called nature, idiots. Pussies. No offense to vaginas, which rock. Colloquial intentions only.

Boca Beach, where most people seem to BYOB their beer of choice, Coors. I saw a dad finish of a few before taking his daughter swimming.

Boca Beach, where most people seem to BYOB their beer of choice, Coors. I saw a dad finish of a few before taking his daughter swimming.

I couldn’t help thinking how much more interesting the least interesting suburb in Joburg, or Belville, Cape Town was than this place. Then I discovered that everybody there knows someone from South Africa. And they’re very concerned about our crime rate.

Look where the orange is from.
 Look where the orange is from.

Turns out Florida is a prime destination for White South Africans who left after Apartheid ended. It’s also where Americans go for cheap labor (yes, you guessed it, mostly black or at least whatever they don’t consider to be their people) and where you’re allowed to shoot someone for knocking on your door while being black.

A lot of wealthy, seniors retire to Florida – it’s a prime place to die. I ask, why bother? Just skip the line and go directly to hell.

florida-birds-leave

3.30pm. It’s not raining but the birds know it’s time to leave.

It’s a weird thing to say, but being in Florida reminded me of how I felt as a kid in South Africa when it was still apartheid. Except without the youthful endorphins. I will never be back if I can help it.

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Kasra Shokravi’s pictures of beautiful Tehran

March 4, 2013

People here in the USA just see Iran as this Bogeyman. Remember, when you argue that Israel is right to want to initiate war, that this is what you are bombing. A place with real people in it. With beautiful people in it. It’s not right to say “it’s worth it” as if the value of 10 people killed could be weighed against the value of a theoretical 200 saved.  I have never been so recently sickened as I was when someone I thought of as a friend argued that the USA, in the greater scheme of things, saved lives by nuking Japan. Highly unlikely that this is true.

gcleff

A G-Cleff – a musical symbol I sometimes still draw kinda squonk. Music, somewhat universal if you allow for the misunderstanding of quarter tones, has always driven cultural revolutions. Alienate the kids who drew this by killing their famalies, and it’ll drive them against you too.

neighborhoodkids

Kasra says this writing says: “Kamiar” and “Maziar”. They’re names. Probably a couple of neighborhood kids.

Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 11.18.24 PM

I want to go there. Don’t mind covering my head. Just don’t want to have to duck and cover.

I’m not a fan of any kind of fundamentalism, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or Atheist or anythingist. I don’t believe in stoning a Woman to death because the Bible, Q’oran or Bahagava’d G’ita says to do it. I would never kill people. NEVER. This is because, unlike most people, I’m not some kind of selective psychopath who believes war is necessary, and that killing is noble because of some theoretical life saved.

I’m no fan of Iran’s policies towards women, or even the rest of the world. I don’t think Iranian people will change their minds about your political opinions because you bomb them though.

That’s not how it works.

I complain too much

September 7, 2012

Having been a journalist / columnist most of my working life, complaining has been necessary and also profitable. The problem is that it can become a habit. And it can become completely laughable to those around you. Here’s an example:

Taken by someone shooting a film at a church. The church has a real problem with cheerios. A big, yellow problem. OMG.

So I thought I’d list a few of the simple things I’m grateful for today:

  • The friends who invited me out for midnight drinks to celebrate my birthday.
  • The bouncer who insisted on carding me in case I wasn’t old enough to drink.
  • The film I wrote/directed in Busan, S. Korea, which is turning out awesomely.
  • The sound designers Kennedy and Michael, and Justin the colorist, who’ve helped turn post around on two other films.
  • My boyfriend, who took me out to Norms for a milkshake
  • All the friends in SA whose happy birthdays started my day when I got home this morning
  • The new fruit I tried two days ago and my first Cali earthquake two weeks back
  • Learning what “blue moon” means.
  • Seeing Klown yesterday. Funniest movie I’ve seen in years (despite being sexist, dodgy on asian issues… etc.)
  • Being healthy, full of shit and more loved than hated on the whole.
  • Discovering the many wonders of North America – an amazing place.

Of course, sometimes, complaining is the right thing to do. I believe that, and nobody will ever shut me up. Some things matter and need to be said, no matter how unpopular it makes me.

You’re sick of hearing about it? Imagine how sick we are of saying it. Yes I’m talking to you, Mitt. Ugh.

My latest News24 column is a weird one. It’s about what I’d vote for, if I could. Please forgive the lack of formatting. That stuff is kinda beyond my control once I submit it.

… even chicken feet and stewed silk moths and stuff…

July 18, 2012

Remember how I said I would try to eat EVERYTHING in Busan, South Korea? Well, this led me down a rather scary path the other day. (This post is kinda  a continuation).

I was lucky to be being guided by Professor Lee of Dongseo University’s film school. He was obsessive about making sure we ate a lot of different things. But sometimes it’s the small things – like how different a shop you see all over LA is when you see it in Korean form.

This is what you can buy at the counter in a 711 in Busan. As everywhere, the name 711 has no relevance to when it’s open. Some are 24 hours. Most are 9am -5am. The things that look like Melrose Cheese snacks are revolting. They’re noodle paste flavored with fish, with lumps of cheese embedded in them. Like the little dried fish snacks, definitely an acquired taste.

Insane amounts of food, but the hotness kinda leaves you feeling energetic rather than sleepy. I didn’t see a fat person until the day we went to a place that’s like their McDonalds – Lotteria Burgers.

A Japanese style restaurant, with some Korean adaptations. First, you cook your veg in the soy-salt water as soon as it boils, then add the meat, which you parcel inthe lettuce and bean pods provided. Then you have soup. And then you make a rice porridge (savoury) in the pan with what’s left. A huuuge meal. Delicious.

Baby Abalone: Did not eat, I confess. I sort of wanted to even though it’s wrong, but Professor Lee said “In Korea we do not eat seafood on raining day.” And that meant we were not permitted. I’m guessing this is a superstition dating back from when food was less fresh on rainy days, as it’s hard to catch fish in rainy weather. I don’t eat fresh fish sushi for a couple of days after rain, myself. But this fish was LIVE, so it’s illogical.

World’s greatest – and probably least ecologically sound – fish market.

There’s water constantly running through. Everything in there is alive and you can have live octypus. Which freaks me out because a) they have these strange old man faces and b) you can die if a sucker attaches to your throat, which can happen even after it’s chopped up if you’re unlucky.

Korea’s seafood industry is an issue for me. It’s destructive to the livelihoods of countries like South Africa who don’t have the military might to defend their shorelines (the government bought some corvettes but can’t afford them or their maintenance, so they’re rotting in a harbour, mainly in use as navy party boats). The Korean ships rape our fisheries, and land fishers and small fishers suffer as a result due to government conservationist efforts to allow dwindling stocks to breed by protecting them with modern environmental laws. Yes, it’s a mess.

A trend I noticed – clearly a few years old – of showing the head but including a teeny weeny little body. Do you trust a chef with a big head and no body? I do, after eating there.

Chicken and beer! It’s a thing in Busan. You get various plates of fried chicken and draft beer that tastes a bit like Castle draft. For $10 I ate and drank more than I should have. The guy in the foreground looks grumpy because the Korean students were busy playing an elaborate prank on us by making us think they were having an argument among themselves. Or they were, and the whole “prank” think was a cover up… And it was awesome.

Chicken feet. Cool texture – like savoury chewing gum. I have had them before, in Transkei, stewed with tomato and onion. “Walkie Talkies” / “Chicken Dust” (Heads and feet) are a South African classic. These Korean were so chili hot that I had to spit though. So much chili that I was glad we were with two film producers, as they were able to get the restaurant to give us shot-glasses of milk.

“important for health. a healthy diet is important for children as well as adults.” Relevant to hamburger joints – how?

In*joy Lotteria. Not too sure I want to eat a hamburger named for random chance. Mind you, McDonalds is worse.

See the bowl of brown things? That’s bugs. Silk worm moths. After they hatch and lay, they’re harvested for food, which is cool with me. I just didn’t enjoy the crunching sensation as my teeth bit into the scales on their backs. They tasted like the smell of burning tyre rubber. So, not good. But hey – I proved I’d eat anything right?

Whale meat restaurant: When I said I’d eat everything in Busan, I didn’t bank on this. Whales amaze me. They’re so big, so peaceful, so strange. I want them to live. They are also endangered, and I love the underdog – always have. So no, I didn’t even think about it.

One of my fellow students loves this $1.30c soju, because “he gets a different girl every night”. But then he also added: “I think it’s just the same girl with different hair”. Soju – and this is a cheap mainstream brand – is Korea’s vodka, but ranges from 20% – 40% proof depending if it’s distilled or not. Priced from $1 a bottle to $79 a bottle too.

And that’s it. I ate. I drank (a little) and my student colleagues and I I made a movie about death and life and stuff. I sang “Englishman in New York” at a Karaoke place (in Korea, you and your friends get your own room.) I loved it.

Lost and found in life

May 18, 2012

You know how you always wonder, when you see a single shoe lying in the street, “how did that happen?” Well I can explain at least one of them. I cycled home from a friend’s birthday party last night, and arrived to discover that one shoe out of my favorite pair, which I took off because cycling in heels can be tricky, had bounced out of my bike basket at some point in the journey.

I could have cycled the two miles back to look for it. But it was 1am and I wasn’t in the mood. Instead, I just tried to figure out if there was anything useful I could so with the surviving shoe. Frame it? Hang it? Wait until I lose a leg and wear it then? Take a photo of it and put up posters offering a reward for the safe return of the other?

Now, that’s an idea.

I really loved that shoe.

And lost things got me thinking of my first American friend, Sherrie, Sherri, Sharon… Harvey. Where ARE you, girl? I know I’m easy to find, so you must not want to. I just hope you haven’t joined a crazy religious cult or gone to prison for life. But if you have, get hold of me anyhow – if they let you use the the internet, we must still have plenty to talk about.

UPDATE: LOST and FOUND. My friend Rochan walked past my shoe with another friend Shana and recognised it. Thankfully she picked it up and put it in her car. Hopefully I’ll have as much luck with people as I did with shoes.

Random hearts by my friend the sex columnist

February 23, 2012

I am up late, waiting for a giant, paper mache-on-wire pig to dry, so that I can move my car back into my garage and avoid a fine in the morning. I sorta got tired of explaining to my neighbors that this was just stuff for a movie, and I wasn’t actually a satanist. But enough about my life…

While clearing my camera’s memory cards in preparation for taking photos on the set I’m production designing, I came across this photo.

When we went on the location scout, a couple of ice hockey teams were practicing. I immediately flashed back to underage movie sneak ins to see Youngblood at the old 3 Arts Theatre in Cape Town. Instant rush of (pre?) teenage lust, a memory with a sting that weakens my knees to this day.

So anyhow, the random heart made me think of my friend, whose real name is of course not @DorothyBlack. Because duh… she’s a sex columnist. It’s gonna fuck with your relationship in all the wrong ways if you put your real name out there. She has a whole section (no, not a sexion, but I thought of it first) on her blog for random hearts. These are hearts that people have drawn or placed in random places.

Oh, the yearning. Oh, the pathos. No, really. It makes me want to cry sometimes. I want to write a story for every picture.

So I thought of her, and how I love her, and all we’ve shared (oh… shut up). And I missed my friends back home in South Africa.

And that’s that. Except for this random photo of a gumball machine.

It often strikes me how persistently 1950s America is, from the bunker mentality, to the charming romance of the almost soviet diner layout. The only difference is, in America, you eat sitting down, and where I was in Czech Republic (when it was still Czechoslovakia) you stood and tried to filter the grains out of the coffee using your teeth. Prague is awesome.

If you want to see some cool South African art, check out the Wall of Erections, and of Vaginas. As an ex of mine used to say: ‘Anyone who says “you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all” has only ever seen one.’ True for any organism, or we’d never carry on living, would we?

A random penis. Not as likely to make you misty eyed.

South Africa is beautiful. It hurts. It’s nuts. It makes no sense. I’m in love.

June 8, 2011

Okay so, I’m at a light. A traffic light. A friend is pouring her heart out at a traffic light – in south Africa we call them robots but whatever. And two bakkies pull up. In South Africa we call them bakkies. You call them trucks.And this white ou jumps out of his car in the traffic while my friend is still talking, and the light goes green.

A parking lot with awesome graffitti. Soon-to-be yuppie flats for rich people of all races.

And so my brain goes into four wheel drive to watch this weird miracle in which he gets a rugby ball out of the back of the bakkie. And everybody’s hooting but he doesn’t care, because here in Africa, we have balls “this big”. As big as the situation requires. So he’s parking his car in the traffic. and there’s someone in the next lane who’s stopped too. He has the same car. That might be the only reason. Or he might just be curious. Or it might be the same reason I jay-walk and love it, cause that’s how we roll in South Africa. Shortest route. Most dangerous? What’s the diffs, bro.

The architct of those "tampon towers" killed himself. I nearly rented there. They do mostly suck, specially when the Cape South Easter blows. They literaly sway in the wind and it's strange.

So the one wit ou parks his car in the traffic and this other wit ou with the same car does the same while 300 people of various racial orientations (cause we’re fokken African, so fuck your “nationalities” shit) sit on their hooters or jump the red light to compensate for the delay caused.

Cause that’s our right. Right?

And the wit ou – fat and nothing whatsoever – jumps out of the car and gives the Big Issue vendor guy a rugby ball with stuff written all over it.

A cop car drives past, ignoring it all.

My friend is still talking and I’m still hearing her. We pull off and I look back and I see the Big Issue vendor spinning the ball int the air, the female fellow-vendor asking him questions.

And then the Bakkie Wit Ou explains it to the other bakkie wit ou. And then the Big Issue Guy walks down the pavement as we pull off, tossing the ball in the air while talking to the Mama long after the car moved on. The ball had stuff written on it. I saw signatures spinning.

South Africans are not polite. They are not appropriate. We don’t have time for that shit. What we have to do is too important. But on the streets i’ve experienced such kindness. Like this begger, who came up to me. Unlike American beggers, he was my begger. His life was shit to start with. Anyone who made it to government rehab had better options than him to start with and I was on my way into a liquor store.

“You okay, madam?”
I resisted the urge to tell him to not call me madam. Such suburban vanity.
I wasn’t okay.
“Bad night. I see.”
Okay he’s half the reason for my sadness right there.
So I gave him some money.

My friend pointed out he was just gonna spend it on booze. But I just spent 20 times that on better booze. And I’ve more than once bought a random stranger a tequila in a bar on the basis of a lesser understanding.

In the end, being in a home is the best – the only – thing you want. I guess I’ve realised I have to go home to America, since that is home for a few years, and fight harder for my soul, which will always be here in South Africa. Not always in the big, glorious places, but in the small, glorious places, like the home where they’ve gone to bed, acknowledging that I’m still in another world, and left me online in it.

I love this piece of art, because I know who did it. I think still art is either a challenge, or a ... another kind of challenge. If it's good. I know all the art I've made so far has been comforting. Fitting in. I've done that too much. I respect his art on my friend's wall - her kid's - more than most I've seen. But this belongs to the person I know and is also greater than him. I'm scared of what will happen when I stop fitting in. And excited.

Sleepless blogpost of photos I didn’t take in public toilets

March 30, 2011

I have no idea what these pictures are of. That didn’t stop me offering my opinion.

I wasn’t there. I don’t know exactly where my fellow student and cinematographer Alex Griffin was when he took these photos. Maybe you can tell him? (Here’s all the detail he supplied: “The first bunch are actually in a bathroom. Very odd. Had a sign asking not to take anything down.”)

Somewhere in California, I suppose.

1000 pictures are worth no wait... would you mind doing the math?

Decor designed to defeat pee-&-flee instincts that ensure survival of the male toilet environment.

How is this different to 90% of art? Oh right. This is the stuff most of us never look at. It it doesn't move, explode or take its clothes off? Forget it. Not interested.

Sarah Palin will be attending, dressed as a young, attractive Maggie Thatcher.

My Little Pissed Off Horny Pony of Hades

Tye die mutherf*&*er 'n the mutherf*k*&' hoodie. I blame the angry church of the latter-day hippies for this one.

Thanks, Alex. If anyone else wants to send me photos of signs to blog about, feel free. I’m keen. You may not be!

Nude ladies, “Friends”, pool, karaoke and hamburgers at Barney’s Beanery, West Hollywood

March 24, 2011

Do I have to blog about it every time I go to Los Angeles? Well, probably, until it stops seeming like a place of magic and dreams; everything I expected of it and more.

Traffic. Rain. 35 Miles in three hours. Thank God for CD changers and conversation.

Been going to LA a lot at the moment because the Writer’s Guild is holding a weekly interview / screening / discussion series with famous TV writers – last week was an amazing session with Steve Levitan of Modern Family. Today I got roped in to checking out Friends‘ Marta Kauffman and David Crane. And I didn’t expect it to be half as amazing as it was. I loved it so much that I now… briefly wanted to watch the whole 10 episodes of the series for (believe this or not) the first time. I doubt I’ll actually go through with it though, don’t worry.

The original pitch and treatment. Check it out - it seems Friends was originally titled "Bleeker Street" (like in the sad Simon & Garfunkel song) and later the slightly cheerier "Insomnia Cafe".

Anyhow, we wound up at Barney’s Beanery afterwards. It is awesome – and proof that America will turn anything – ANYTHING, NO MATTER HOW ALTERNATIVE – into a commercial undertaking. The place is basically a collection of all the USA’s rock ‘n roll glorification, thrown together in a faux dive bar atmosphere, with a technology coulis.

Great burgers, better mash, and a beer list that made me very happy. A 10pm happy hour too. And all the healthy options and mild food choices that keep All-Americans and Hollywood types content.

Of course, you want it to seem “real”, right?

This picture of a sexy lady pasted on the booth wall, the slightly worn leather seats, and the Wednesday night karaoke all contribute to the pleasant illusion that you might be somewhere in the real world.

South Africa: The leader of Advertising’s Free World

February 11, 2011

I was watching the Superbowl at someone’s house and eating pizza and drinking beer. The Superbowl is a game in which they play American Football. American Football is a game I don’t understand very well yet. In it, men in spandex play a form of Rugby. And then they stop, and the adverts come on again.

Many brands launch their advertising campaigns at the Superbowl. It’s a big deal. Unfortunately, the adverts aren’t really good. American advertising is not very good. It’s kinda old fashioned. And all the expensive explosions in it can’t hide the lack of real entertainment value.

There are various reasons for this.
1. America allows competitive advertising: While the South African advertising industry had to come up with something as brilliant as “beats the benz” to get away with it – and still was forced to stop airing the advert – Americans advertisers can simply play the point the finger game. Which is almost as boring to watch as it is to play.
2. Americans are scared of offending each other: Not sure why. Maybe cause they’ve all seen what happens to entire countries that offend Americans. But in any case, tip toes are the way to go. So poop jokes. Cute old people. Puppies. Yawn.
3. English rules America: There is simply no equivalent of “Met Eish”. Multiculturalism is not encouraged. It is, in theory, but without encouraging multiple languages, multiple cultures will get lost. Some things can only be said in certain languages, and keeping those languages enriches culture and keeps people on their toes.

4. Litigation kills creativity: If every advert for adult daipers needs to have a long disclaimer about nappy rash, when are we ever going to get to the funny stuff? I ask you.
5. The USA has a thriving film , comedy, and adult film industry: Desperation drives many of South Africa’s creatives into advertising, rather than film, theatre or porn, where they belong.  Here, people have options.

So to save you time, here are the highlights of America’s best superbowl adverts of the year 2011.

And Xtina’s performance with funny comments. Got to say, it was better than the version I heard at the Ducks’ game I attended.

Oh, and News24.com just published my latest column. It’s all about how to piss Americans off without firing a single shot. If you get that reference, congratulations on reading the news occasionally.