Archive | July, 2011

Other People Suck

29 Jul

We have lost any sense of human decency. The internet is giving us more and quicker methods of demonstrating our superiority, entitlement, and apathy. And I am sick of it. When did we lose the plot?

I have avoided writing this for a long time. I didn’t write it when some people unfollowed me for voting ANC. I didn’t write it when that disgusting itsnotrapeif hashtag unveiled some of twitters worst horrors. I didn’t write it when people were gloating over Osama Bin Laden’s death. I didn’t write it when everyone assumed the Norweigan terrorist was Muslim. I didn’t write it when the onslaught of shitty Amy Winehouse jokes began. I didn’t write it when the brief lived ill-conceived Tuks FM Naziing campaign blazed across my screen.

I am writing it now because I believe that my silence indicates some kind of condonement. And I believe, I hope, that there are others out there who feel the way I do. The last time I spoke out against society’s crass slither into self-appreciative superior judgement and soulless exposure was when South African papers published pictures of the naked corpse of my friend Brett Goldin. I believed that was a step too far. That his mother having to board the plane and see those papers folded up on every seat was a crass slap in the face. That those pictures were not needed. Served no purpose. I did something, because I could not do nothing.

This is what we seem to have forgotten, in the faceless feckless nameless void of the internet: these are real people. Each and every single one of these people you like to pass your superior snide judgement upon, be they faceless victims of a tragedy, celebrities, politicians, have real lives. Real people who love them. In the midst of the general remembrance for artist Lucian Freud was a tweet from Emma Freud saying her uncle had died. Her simple, truthful response stayed with me. That same day I read a comment that we are most likely to find out about our loved one’s deaths from Twitter than we are from a phonecall. Please, people, let that not be a tasteless joke, retweeted with a LOL.

And I believe the perpetrators of this mass shitflinging are, by and large, the WASPs. The white middle classes. Discussing with a friend something so simple as offering someone on crutches a seat on a train, we determined that those most likely to do so would be the old men, the punks, the flaming queens, the women in hijab, the men in skullcaps, the working class bloke with the tattoo – yes, all those stereotypes you like to judge. Like to other. Like to belittle, and consider ourselves superior  to. We make fun of those who don’t speak like us, or have an education, we “know better” and “do our bit”, safe in the knowledge we can return to our safe warm clean homes, eat our nice microwaved Woolworths meals and watch a reality show while paging through a magazine full of airbrushed celebrities.

We want those better off than us to fail, because it proves that no, you can’t have it all. That they aren’t all that, after all. And we want those worse off than us to fail, although we daren’t admit it, because it proves that, well, at least we’ve achieved something.

I believe it all stems from fear. And fear stems from ignorance. You, white middle class people, are ignorant. We’ve conned ourselves into believing that, because this is the “information age”, we are all informed and knowledgeable. Who needs experts when we have Google? We saw one picture on Twitter, so we know all about it. We shared a link on Facebook, we totally supported that cause. And, online, we surround ourselves with people who think the way we do. Of course we do, and that’s natural, we’re hardly going to hang about with people we can’t stand. But it encourages us to believe that “everybody thinks that”. The ease of a “like”, “share”, “retweet”, the desire to be part of a “meme”, to be breaking the news. We’re all guilty of it. We live in little bubbles, little safety nets, and we throw around jokes and insults because, well, because what we really want to say is THANK FUCK THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN TO ME, AND PLEASE GOD, WHO I DON’T REALLY KNOW IF I BELIEVE IN, KEEP ME SAFE FROM REALITY. And oh so quickly that fear becomes hate. Jealousy, spite, vengefulness.

And please, I’m not calling for a boring pc world in which we are only ever nice to each other. I’m all for arguments, deserved insults, incisive humour, downright silliness, bring it on. I’m calling for a basic grasp of human decency. And you know. You know when you cross the line. My own personal code is always: could I justify this to my kids one day? Would I want them to do it? If they Google me one day, will they be ashamed?

I am guilty of avoiding conflict. I am guilty of avoiding calling people out on comments or behaviour I consider wrong. Partly because I try to respect the opinions and choices of other people. But mostly, I fear, because it’s too much trouble and takes too long to argue our case. But now I’m done avoiding. I will become that pain in the ass, the one who calls people out on instances of blatant racism, sexism, hell, any kind of ism, any kind of blind hatred, any kind of crass humour at someone else’s expense. I shall be making use of my unfollow and defriend functions. I shall be challenging you.

I shall do something, because I can no longer do nothing.

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#happysongs

19 Jul

This morning, in an attempt to chase the blues away, I went in search of #happysongs, and boy did Twitter provide! Here, in no order whatsoever, are some songs to put a smile on your face – with huge thanks to my tweeps, especially @tobiased, @gennacide, and @eeshthedish. Oh, and if you’re so inclined, I made a YouTube playlist with a lot of these. Feel free to recommend more in the comments.

 

Iko Iko - Belle Stars
Eye of the Tiger - Survivor
Holding out for a Hero - Jennifer Saunders
Yes sir, I can boogie - Baccara
Walk like an Egyptian - The Bangles
Daydream Believer - Shonen Knife
99 Red Balloons - Nena (in German)
Bad Romance - Lady Gaga
I wanna dance with somebody - Whitney Houston
Wake me up (before you Go Go) - Wham!
Benny and the Jets - Elton John
Dry the Rain - The Beta Band
The Lovecats -The Cure
She's Got That Vibe - Public Announcement
Loveshack - B52s
Good morning starshine - Orignal Cast Recording
Never Gonna give You Up - Rick Astley
Walking on Sunshine vs Halo - Glee
Nothing on You - BOB feat Bruno Mars
Billionaire - Travis McCoy
Nellie the Elephant - Toy Dolls
Birdhouse in Your Soul - There Might be Giants
Days like this - Shaun Escoffrey
Don't Marry Her - The Beautiful South
Dr Feel good - Travis McCoy
Harder, Faster, Stronger - Daft Punk
Tightrope - Janelle Monae
Stone Cold Sober - Paloma Faith
Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie and the Banshee's
It's not just for gays anymore - NPH
Fame! - Orignal Cast Recording
Tenderoni - Chromeo
Girl they won't believe it - Joss Stone
I want Candy - Bow Wow Wow
Gloria - Laura Branigan
Proud Mary - Glee
Pop Culture - Madeon
Judas - Drew Tabor
Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
Lights - Ellie Goulding
Bathtime in Clerkenwell - The Real Tuesday Weld
Vertigogo - Combustible Edison
Bright Side of Life - Monty Python
Big in Japan - Ane Brun
The Mambo Craze - De Phazz
Daydream in Blue - I Monster
People Should Smile More - Newton Faulkner
mmm Bop - Hanson
Have it all - Jeremy Kay
Spirit in the Sky - Kumars at 42 and Gareth Gates
5 Years Time - Noah and the Whale
Happy days are here again (get happy) - Glee
Tu Vuo Fa l'Americano - Talented Mr Ripley
Pata Pata - Miriam Makeba



							

The Kennedy Centre’s New Vision/New Voices Programme

14 Jul

Applications are now being accepted for participation in New Visions/New Voices 2012, a biennial developmental workshop for new plays and musicals for young audiences at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

There are several ways to participate:

  • At least five US plays and one international play in English will be workshopped.  Applications for consideration must come from a theater that plans to produce the work in development, and must include both a playwright and a director who would be available to work on the unproduced play from May 14-20, 2012 in Washington, DC.
  • International playwrights can apply for the Playwright Observership Program.
  • Anyone can attend the showcase at the Kennedy Center – May 18-20, 2012 – which will include seven rehearsed readings of the selected new works, post-show discussions, playwright slams, lunch-around discussions, and more.

Further information and application forms are at http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/nvnv.html  If you have questions, please email kctya@kennedy-center.org

 

My new favourite grammar book

13 Jul

Yes, I just said that. Because I am that nerdy. But “The Elements of F*cking Style” is not merely a book, I believe it to be a way of life.

Mark my words, I am going to be carrying this book around with me wherever I go. And before the faint  of heart and purists out there get all silly about how unnecessary the swearing, references to sex, and general excessiveness of the book is: that’s the fucking point of it. As the authors point out in their “Introduction, or How I Learned to Stop Writing Like a Three-Year-Old and Love Grammar”, the book works because it is attention grabbing, and therefore memorable.

From the correct use of semicolons to advice about paragraph structure, EFS (as my twitter followers and I like to call it) will give you the answers in ways that will be permanently seared into your brain. And if you think you don’t need it, remember that “Even the clinically insane make sense to themselves”.

This book brings grammar to the masses, and boy do the masses need it. So what are you waiting for? Just remember “Don’t use this knowledge for evil.”

Now Karening

5 Jul

Language affects the way we think. We often are oblivious to this. But whether it’s the marketing speak of the New! Fresh! Free! or the insidious implications of the imagery journalists invoke to manipulate your emotions, the finely tuned pathos of political speeches, or the utterances of the small, simple, almost impossible words like “I love you” or “sorry”, words affect us every day.

Deeper than that, though, the language we speak – the one we speak inside our heads, our mother tongue – affects the way we think. The way we are. When we’re born, we have the capacity to learn any language. As complicated as my tongue and brain might find Cantonese now, it would have absorbed it spongily as a child. We learn how language works in the first three years of our lives. From there on in, it’s mostly vocabulary.

A beautiful example of this is a construct of Xhosa, which is echoed in a lot of colloquial British, of defining things as belonging to people, or families. Nkuli wam. Our Jason. It’s a warm, friendly, embracing way of thinking.

But most fascinating, most mind-bending, is a Native American dialect which contains no nouns. Everything that we would think of as a noun, they only have verb forms for. So the tree is not “a tree” it is “treeing”. It is constantly in the process of being. I am not Karen, I am Karening. The freedom that this allows people in their thinking is quite staggering. Nothing is finite. Nothing is static. Everything is happening, all the time. With that as your starting point, anything is possible.

Without the formal constraints of nouns, we lose the formal constraints of thinking. If something is ongoing, moving, happening, it is constantly possible to change it, alter it, because we know that it will be something different now. And now. And now. This is the psychology of verbs, a mind-set in which everything is interacting, everything is happening, mellifluously, now.

So that’s my challenge. To constantly consider myself a work in progress.