Sunday, September 18, 2011

Racism, Controversial Videos, Jewish Stuff, and Fangs

1. Loved these lines from The Distant Hours.

Well, first I should explain their context.

Edie has found a book she loved from her childhood. She starts rereading it and is transported to the fictional world.

Here are the lines:

At the sound of the bell, the world of Bealehurst withered, the clouds receded quickly in all directions, the moat, the castle vanished, the step on which I stood turned to dust so that I was falling, with nothing but black text floating in the white space around me, dropping through the hole in the middle of the page to land with a bump back in Barnes.

It's all symbolic. This isn't anything like the Neverending Story.

I love it though, because I think there IS a sort of magic to reading.

I love getting very involved with a book. I love that feeling of being transported to a whole other place.

The only negative is that books end. Then I feel a bit alone—abandoned.

It was hard for me to leave Katniss and Peeta last week, especially Peeta. I really liked that guy.

2. Learned that north Queensland had a small earthquake. Fortunately there was no damage or injures.

I like those types of natural disaster things.  It's exciting enough to give locals something to talk about for the next few days, but not exciting enough to kill anyone.    

3. Read more of The Distant Hours.  I'm really loving it.

4. Went to sleep and had lots of dreams.  One brief one was about Australia. We're driving a car on the highway; well, Tim is driving, actually.  There're many other cars and we're all going fast.   I'm a little nervous. I check around to make sure we're on the correct side of the road.  I don't check the road sides.  I check the lane.  All the other cars in our lane are leaning more to the left.  We're more to the right.

When I woke up, I thought of the dream and realized we weren't driving on the left side of the road.  We were driving on the right. In the dream, it was more about being left instead of right within the lane.

I guess the lanes were pretty wide.

5. Wondered if the dream had political symbolism.  The road might represent right-wing politics and left-wing politics.  Then within each of those, there's a wide variation.

6. Read more of The Distant Hours.

I think I'm sort of in love with the book.

It's one of those novels in which I can relate to certain things in an almost therapeutic way. Reading it is kind of cathartic for me.  

7. Started to watch an embedded video on Fruitcake's blog. It's of Dame Edna on The View.  She proudly confesses to being a bully.

She's a funny woman...sort of.

And thanks to that clip, I now know about Vajazzling.

8. Read more of Fruitcake's post.  It's mostly about Dame Edna and her type of humor.

I like what Fruitcake says here.  When Dame Edna insults short people, or Roman Catholics, or gay people, I’m not quick to take offense or feel insulted - I’m delighted. The truth she is selling is not that any of these groups ought to be second class people, but that members of these groups are sometimes treated as second class people.

There's such a fine line between funny humor and offensive humor. It's sometimes hard to divide the two, and different people divide them in different ways.

9. Thought more about Fruitcake's blog post because she mentioned Harry Connick jr. and The View ladies speaking out against Australian comedians painting their faces black to imitate Michael Jackson's family.

I have various questions about the whole thing.

A) Why is it so offensive to so many Americans?  Why is that not acceptable; but it's acceptable for a man to dress up as a woman?   If we're offended by white people portraying black people in a comedy skit, shouldn't we also be offended that Barry Humphries dresses up as a woman for his comedy?  

B) Is this painting-your-face-black type of comedy common in Australia.I know of one other instance besides the one that made Harry Connick Junior angry.  Have there been others?

C) Do white Australians paint their faces black to imitate Aboriginal-Australians? Would this be accepted by most of the Aboriginal-Australian community?  

D) What would happen if roles were reversed? What if Missy Higgins came on an American variety show and saw American comedians with painted black faces imitating Aboriginal Australians in a silly way. Would Missy Higgins laugh?  Would she keep her opinions to herself? Would she speak out against it?

10.  Watched the embedded clip of The View women's response to Harry Connick Jr, on Fruitcake's blog.  

It includes a clip from the music-comedy routine and Harry Connick Jr's response.

Whether I agree with his assessment or not, I greatly admire Harry Connick Jr for speaking up the way that he did.   He said he understood it was supposed to be comedy, but from where he's coming from (as an American) it wasn't funny.  If he had known the show was going to have that segment, he wouldn't have agreed to come on.  He was stern and honest, but not nasty.

The reaction of The View ladies is less tolerable to me.   It went along with one of Australian's and American's favorite game to play with each other. You're More Racist Than We Are!   The ladies bring up the treatment of Aboriginal Australians and talk about how Australia has never had Aboriginal stars like The Jackson Five.  I guess the idea there is we're less racist because a few black people in our country have become huge mega-stars.  

Then commenters on Fruitcake's blog joined in on the game by providing examples of American racism.  We speak out against immigrants yet hire illegals to do our work.  In World War II, black serviceman were treated better in Australia than they were in America.  Ding ding ding—points for Australia!

We should put together a game show.  Australians against Americans. You try to prove we're racist and we'll try to prove you're more racist.

Or we could call a truce and agree that Australia and America have a history of bigotry and discrimination.  And in both Australia and America, it's not that easy being green—or any other color that's not white.

11. Started to read blog entry by Eurasian Sensation.

His response to the whole blackface controversy is different from the ones I usually hear from Australians.

He points out that many Australians excuse the skit by saying Australians don't have the same negative history with the whole blackface thing. His blog post includes a letter written by an Aboriginal woman. She says,  

In the 121 years between Henry Melville’s first Australian minstrel and Chauvel’s Jedda there have been countless white actors who have played Aboriginal characters by smearing Blackface across their skin and misrepresenting our languages, songs, dances and traditions.

There is a history of Blackface in Australia. It is a hurtful and degrading history that denied our right to self representation and helped to create the racial stereotypes that plague our nation today. 

It does make me wonder.  If blackface is frowned upon in America, why is it acceptable in Australia?  What makes our two countries so different?  Is this Aboriginal woman's opinion an anomaly? Were most black Australians totally okay with the skit?

And why are Americans so uptight?  Are we too politically correct?  Do we not have a sense of humor? Are we too sensitive?

Do Australians have a thicker skin?

Eurasian Sensation doesn't think so.  He says, I have heard, time and time again in response to this issue, that Aussies are an easygoing people with a good sense of humour, and we are not as sensitive as those Americans, who just need to grow a thicker skin. But this is shown just how sensitive we are to any criticism, and how insensitive we can be to anyone who is different to us.

12. Re-watched a video I think is hilarious. It's made by an American poking fun of some Australian icons. The Title is "The Australians are Fooling Us All".

Well, unfortunately I can't embed it; but here's the link.  

I saw the video when I first became obsessed with Australia.   It left me feeling disillusioned.   The video itself didn't bother me.  What shocked me were the responses from some Australians.  I had read all this great stuff about Australia and Australians.  They're a funny bunch. They have a great sense of humor.  They'll make fun of you.  You can make fun of them.  They're not easily offended.   We'll all laugh together.

Then I saw the responses to the video. Many Australians were VERY offended.   It's mocking Australians, but in such a silly way.  I can't really understand why it would offend people.  Maybe it's one of those things in which you have to be the target of the joke to understand why it's offensive?

I don't know.

The Aussie commenters are offended on so many levels.  The American is making generalizations.  He does the Australian accent wrong.  He can't pronounce Vegemite correctly. He didn't do his research before making his judgements.

They fail to understand that it's all a joke. Or maybe they understand that it's a joke, but feel it's morally wrong to joke about Australia.  

There's so many comments declaring extreme offense. I'll just cut and paste two of them. 

JellyBeanJade2558 says, okay first YOU CANT SAY VEGEMITE ( VEG-E-MITE) btw we dont say vegemite or even talk about it in public let alone in our national anthem
second DONT EVEN THINK ABOUT DISCRIMINATING OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM why are u saying that stuff when u dont even know it
thirdly boomerangs are part of our aborigine history dont think that u can talk shit about my country ( we dont kill kangaroos , we use them to kick people like u in the face ) BTW ITS SPELT ROOS,

These Crystal Keys says, why dont you come to Australia and say that? you narrowmined dipshit. say it in front of all the indigenous people you've insulted, and the rest of the Australians who's culture you've offended. in some places, you'd be shot for your disrespect
but you know what? im glad you'll never come to my beautiful country and see the wonderful beaches and amazing outback and enjoy friendly Australian hospitality. it would be wasted on you, stay away from Australia, and dont talk shit about my country.

Fortunately, there are a few people who get the joke.  Otherwise, back in 2008 I would have probably lost all faith in Australians.   

JohnJay469 says, You have penetrated our dark plan and have therefore been reported to ASIO (Australian Satire International Or something). However due to recent budget cuts they can't afford black helicopters. Please consider yourself under arrest and questioned rigorously about Australian secret plans, submitting the answers on Form 32B-441-16C-978-22L to the nearest ASIO office.
Nice one mate, I liked the video.   

I like JohnJay. 

13. Wanted to say that I don't fault people for not getting the joke and being offended.  Like I said before, we all have our own ideas of what is funny and what is not funny.   But there's a difference between doing what Harry Connick Jr did—speaking out against something in a polite, civilized way; and speaking out with anger, hatred, and nastiness. 

And anytime I hear an Australian say that Americans don't have a sense of humor, I can remember the responses to the video and know it goes both ways.

14. Wanted to clarify that the comments I just cut and paste are recent and I didn't see them back in 2008 (because I don't have a time machine).  But back in 2007 there were comments similar to the ones above.  

15. Started to watch CommunityChannel's response to The Australians are Fooling Us All.

I can't believe what that bitch said about America.   We're not like that!   Does she not know ANYTHING??????????   She better not ever come on my front porch.

I'm joking.  It's very funny. I especially like how she poignantly defends Vegemite.   

16. Liked this response to the extremely controversial video.

It's adorable.

I laughed at what he said regarding Americans and butter. I'm sure it doesn't apply to all Americans, but it does apply to me.

17. Watched very fun Jewish video about Rosh Hashanah.  It makes reference to Australia-invented Fruit Ninja.

It's so cute.   It almost makes me want to get all back into the Jewish thing.  

Maybe something is trying to tell me something.  I just saw the video and it warmed my Jewish heart.  But that's not all.  Last night I dreamed about going to a Jewish playgroup and liking it. Then this morning I checked my Yahoo Groups (which I rarely remember to do).  There was a message in a group for Jewish homeschoolers in Dallas/Fort Worth.  I then realized that I was the administrator of the group, and the creator.  I didn't remember creating it, but I had the power to moderate the message and the description of the group sounded like something I'd write.

I accepted the message.  Then I panicked and deleted the whole group.  I feel kind of bad now...especially after seeing the Rosh Hashanah video and getting that Jewish pride feeling.  But oh well.  Hardly anyone was trying to post to the group.  There was one message within a 2-3 month time period.  

18. Figured I would still be involved with the Fort Worth Jewish Community if the rabbi hadn't said homeschooling was one step away from child abuse. There were lots of things that annoyed me before that incident; but I think the rabbi's comment was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Still, though. If one single comment could turn me off of my passions, I wouldn't have any of them left.

19. Read article that says it's very warm in Sydney.—about 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). That wouldn't be surprising for summer or late Spring, but it's not too common for Sydney in the beginning of Spring.

The article says they usually get a day of 30+ weather every other year.

This is fun though.  As our weather in Fort Worth gets cooler, Australia shall be getting warmer and warmer.

I hope both of our countries have nice (not too extreme) weather.

Actually, I hope that for everyone on Earth—and other planets, if applicable.

I'm trying to be inclusive here.

20. Went to Tallygarunga.

Today I'm going to read the continuation of a story called I Really Like Your Name.

It's with Riley Lightfoot and Riley S. Aberdeen.

It's been a long time since I read it; but I can't remember where I left off.

I might have to search through my blog to jog my memory.

21. Found my old blog post about the story thread. It's from July 25.

So looking at the dates....I think the last post I read was #5.

There's been six posts added since then.

I was thinking of rereading the first five to help me remember what was happening.  Then I realized I could just read what I wrote in my blog.

Hopefully I'll understand myself.

22. Finished reading what I wrote in July about Riley and Riley

The basic premise is both Rileys are in the candy shop. Riley L. comes over and chats with Riley A.

23. Started reading posts #6-11.

25. Embarrassed because I just noticed in my old blog post that I referred to Riley Lightfoot as Riley S. instead of Riley L.

Why did I do that?

I'll fix it now.

26. Bewildered by something in Riley Lightfoot's(not Sightfoot's) post.

It says, As he talked, Riley couldn’t help but notice that she kept quiet. Oh god, the quiet people were so boring. They were usually wallflowers who had no idea how to have fun. And there was something sinister about those who were silent. It bothered him that he didn’t know what they were thinking. Of course, people deserved privacy, but the curiosity was unbearable at times. Plus, it was extremely hard to keep a conversation going with a person who refused to talk.

First of all, as someone who used to be very shy, I'm a bit offended.   Shame on you, Riley!

That being said, though, now that I'm not shy, I get frustrated with overly quiet people. I can reluctantly understand Riley's viewpoint.  Shame on you, Dina!

The thing is, though, if Riley L. is talking, why would Riley A. be talking?  Wouldn't she then be rudely interrupting?

Or was it the type of talking in which the other person is supposed to respond with something like


Are you serious?

Uh huh.


It's annoying if you're trying to tell someone a story and they just stare at you like they're catatonic.   If that's what Riley A. was doing, I wouldn't blame the other Riley for being annoyed.

Still.  He didn't have to trash all quiet people.

27. Continued to read the story.  Riley A. proves to Riley L. that she's not too quiet by babbling bit.

28. Saw that Riley A. accidentally offended Riley L. by thinking he was thirteen instead of fifteen

I can relate to that.

When I was sixteen I was at some Cystic Fibrosis event.   A woman told me she thought I was twelve, and she was naive enough to believe this would be a compliment to me.   I guess she forgot that while older people want to look younger, kids and teens usually want to look older.

Now that I'm almost thirty-nine, I'd be very happy to have someone say I look four years younger than that.

Back when I was sixteen, it was very insulting—even though I understood it wasn't said with malice.

29. Saw that my Australian of the day is Sir John Keith Angas.

He's the grandson of the first Angas guy I wrote about, and the nephews of the other two Angas guys I wrote about.  

30. Saw that Sir John Keith Angas was born in Adelaide in 1900.   By then the Angas family had been in Australia for about sixty years.    His Uncle John Howard had arrived in South Australia in the early 1840's.

31. Learned that Sir John Keith Angas went to Africa and killed a lion that had mauled someone.

What if cows decided they should seek revenge on humans each time a cow was slaughtered?

We'd probably be in big trouble.

32. Saw that Sir John did work in the military.

I  think most people I encounter on the Australian Dictionary of Biography have military work in their biography.

33.  Learned that, like his uncles, Sir John was good at painting.  I wonder if his father was as well.

Are painting skills genetic?  How about art in general?

My guess is least partly so.

34. Saw that there's an Angas Road in Adelaide.   I'm betting it's named after the Angas family.  

35. Learned from this website that there's a town in South Australia called Angaston. It's named after the Angas family.

Here it is on Google Maps. It's about 25 minutes east of the Barossa Valley.  

36. Looked at another Australian YouTube person.

This guy's name is Rob Clifford.  He plays the ukulele.   That's good.   I love the ukulele.  It might be my favorite instrument.

37. Decided Rob reminds me a little bit of Jack on Lost

38. Listened to Rob play Bohemian Rhapsody.

It's so peaceful.   It makes me feel like I'm in Hawaii.

I wish we were in Hawaii.

If I can't go to Australia soon, I hope we can all meet in Hawaii.  Then we can do my game show idea—who's the least/most racist?

39. Watched Rob play the Super Mario Bros. Theme.

That is very cool.   

40. Decided if I had the Ground Hog Day phenomena happen to me, these are the skills I'd want to perfect.

A) play the ukulele
B) Learn how to speak many languages including Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and some Australian Aboriginal Languages.
C) Be able to identify all plants—be one of those people who can safely find things to eat in the wilderness.
D) Know tons more about Australia

41. Decided I can at least put a dent in my plant wishes by looking at more of Arthur Chapman's Flickr photos.  

42. Thought this Ruby Saltbush looked like it was beckoning someone to come closer. 

43. Learned from the Victorian government that the berries from the Rudy Saltbush are edible. 

44. Thought these Tasmanian Blue Gum flowers looked a bit eerie.   I think it's the coloring.   There are these little things that are greyish-white.   They remind me of the coloring that would be used in a horror movie.

45.  Thought these Pear-fruited Mallee were cute. 

46. Thought the shedding bark on this eucalyptus looked like a frog or lizard...or maybe a Tawny Frogmouth.

47. Consulted Lord Wiki about the Beach Cherry.  

He says the plant is prevalent in Queensland's Cedar Bay National Park; and in the 1970's it was popular with hippies in the area.

48. Found Cedar Bay National Park on Google Maps.  

It's way up north.

It's about five hours north of Cairns and Cairns itself if pretty far north.

49. Thought this Wombat Berry looked incredibly odd.  

This website says the fruit is edible, but isn't worth the trouble because it has little flesh.  However the roots of the plant can also be eaten.

50. Thought this Strangler Fig would look good in a Harry Potter movie. 

51. Wondered more about my earlier question.  Why is it okay to dress up as the opposite gender for a joke, but it's not okay to dress up as a different ethnic group as a joke?

52. Remembered that for one Halloween I dressed up as an Asian.

I didn't do it to be funny or to be racist.   I did it because I liked Asian culture and I had Asian clothes available.

I wouldn't be surprised though if Asian people found it racist.

It's hard to know.  Other Asian people might take it as a compliment....if they understood the context.

53. Decided it's nearly impossible to tell a joke, make a movie, write a blog post, etc. without offending at least one person.

If we all edit what we say, the world's going to be very sterile and boring.  We'll have to lie all the time.  We won't be able to be ourselves.

Yet I think if we're going to be controversial, we have to be open to disagreement.  We have to learn to be civil with those who disagree with us.  If someone disagrees with what we've said, we don't need to swear at them and tell them they're no longer welcome here.

We don't have to accuse people of having no sense of humor if they don't get our joke.

From what I've seen from the Harry Connick Jr. incident, the host of Hey Hey It's Saturday reacted in a very kind way to Harry Connick Jr's complaint. I admire him for that.  

At the same time, the offended parties have responsibilities of civility as well.  If they're offended, they can speak up in a polite way and explain why they're offended. They don't need to be hateful.  They don't need to attack.

 I admire Harry Connick, jr for speaking up against what he found offensive.  It makes me think of the dinner party where someone says a racist joke. Many people laugh and a few people don't because the joke makes them uncomfortable. How many uncomfortable people would be brave enough to speak up?

I'm not saying the person speaking up is the necessarily the right one.  Jokes are subjective.  What's funny to some is offensive to others.  

The controversial Michael Jackson skit doesn't amuse me much. But my opinion is just one of many, and not really worth more than other people's.

Some people might find the skit hilarious. There might even be some black people who like it.

We all have different opinions.

It would be nice if we could share them peacefully.

As Godric said....

Retract Your Fangs.