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The Girl with the Daffodil Tattoo

A Welsh girl let loose in a wild world

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Arts

American Sniper: 0/5 The Worse Film I’ve Ever Seen

I had reservations about watching American Sniper. I worried that I wouldn’t enjoy it because of American propaganda, but I got lucky; this film has a lot more wrong with it than skewed ideology.

No Female Soldiers/ Soldiers of Colour

Women make up 14.5% of the active-duty force (according to CNN), while African American soldiers make up around a quarter. So with almost half of soldiers on active duty being made up of women and African Americans, you would think any modern war film worth its salt would try to accurately represent that, wouldn’t you? Well, you would be wrong.

Mental Illness/Masculinity

Men are at four times more risk of suicide than women. Some psychologists argue that this is because of hegemonic masculinity, which demands a “tough guy” front from men, who are conditioned from an early age to not talk about their feelings, leading to them not being able to ask for help later in life.

I found it completely irresponsible, that this film portrayed Chris Kyle (who seems to be suffering from classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress), as some sort of “strong silent type”, who’s miraculously cured by a 20 second scene with a psychiatrist who tells him simply to “help others” in order to recover. I don’t know whether this is Clint Eastwood’s old school portrayal of masculinity, or whether the problem comes from the autobiography that the film is based on.

Portrayal of Iraqis

Opens with “call to prayer”, which is normally played in Mosques.

Iraqis are referred to as “savages” by American soldiers.

Characters proclaim: “We’re not fighting for this dirt”

Brutal, unnecessary violence from “bad guys” (such as the scene where the enemy leader uses a drill on a child and then shoots both the child and the father), whereas American soldiers are depicted as just “doing their jobs”/”protecting themselves”.

The film depicts roughly 1 American soldier dying to 6-10 Iraqis. In actual fact, during the whole war, 4,500 American soldiers have been killed,  and 450,000 Iraqis, meaning  that a more realistic ratio might be 1 American soldier dying for every 100 Iraqi deaths.

Badly Made

-Comedy baby doll, completely obviously fake.

-Sound, in general. Car noise random and too loud.

-Wooden characters.

-Doesn’t hold together.

-Passage of time only shown by size of children (not by any changes in adult actors)

-Only one female character.

-Only one black actor.

What am I going to be when I grow up?

After college, I worked for 3 years as an English teacher in Spain, with limited success. I love working with kids, but exams, paperwork, parents, school politics… I realised it isn’t for me long term. So what’s next?

Whenever anyone asks me that, I say simply “I want to be part of the solution, and not a part of the problem”.  But what does that actually mean? I’m not interested in makes of clothes and electronics, or other status symbols. Here’s a random list of words that would make for a satisfying job for me:

education, the environment, theatre, production, storytelling, edutainment, food journalism, writing, university teaching

I think I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that I will probably never make a large amount of money. I don’t see the point in spending 60% of my time doing something I don’t like and I don’t believe in, that isn’t benefiting the world in some way. This issue has come to the forefront of my mind after meeting many people who are dreading going back to work after their few weeks of fun in the sun.

A good friend of mine once advised me: “Do what you love, and the money will come”. Fingers crossed that if I keep doing what I love, some form of paid work that is satisfying will come along, and that I will always have enough money for the essentials.

The Death of my Camera

So, after much stopping and starting, my camera (now at the ripe old age of 11 months) has finally given up.

About 3 months ago, maybe after a torturous ride in a suitcase, the lens stopped from automatically coming out when I turned it on. “Turn off and on again”, it bleated, so I did, and it was resurrected.

Gradually, it became more and more difficult to get it to work reliably, and after about 10 days here, it gave up altogether, probably due to the humidity.

Then Carmen came. Carmen is the cinematographer from the film crew, and she knows a thing or two about cameras, and she told me to smack it, hard, giving me these instructions

1. make sure it’s turned off

2. hit it in the horizontal plane, to align the inner mechanism

3. hit it evenly, along the bottom part.

Low and behold, after 5 or six consecutively harder and harder smacks, it started working again! Hooray, I thought.

Until it gave up again on my trip to Tegucigalpa, never to open it’s eye again.

As it’s the holiday season, it will take a camera technician a while to fix it, and from now on I will be on the move so much that it’s unlikely I’ll be anywhere long enough for someone to fix it and give it back to me. So, what to do?

A. Take a chance, and try to pay for it to be fixed, even though the chances are someone will try to rip you off, being a $gringa tonta$ and all that.

B. Use camera on smart phone. It’s not great but it’s an OK sub

C. See if I can buy a new one for $100 (electronics here aren’t cheap, but there might be something in the sales?)

D. Buy a sketch pad and pencils to draw shizzle along the way, like flora, fauna, and hills. A $100 digital camera doesn’t do scenic shots too well, and any shots with people I meet on my travels can be taken on their iphone and tagged on facebook. Benefits: Living in the present, man. Drawback: not a very experienced scenic sketcher.

But like it or not, if I’m serious about keeping a blog, I need a decent camera to capture images on, as everyone looks at the pictures online, and few read the text.

So,  I’ll need to make a decision soon. I think
I can justify buying a new camera as photos are so important for journalism, but maybe I should wait a while and get a really nice one, with all the bits and pieces. A few years ago, I never would have dreamed of doing that, but I think I know enough about cameras now to know that I will be patient, read the manual, and go “shooting” with friends, and maybe even join a photography club. Yeah that’s right, I’m becoming “one of those” people!

 

Fragile Frisbees and Broken Promises

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When I accepted the role of Production Manager on this project, I was under the assumption that I would be working as the music teacher’s minion, assisting him with props, staging, lighting, audio etc. From now on, I will assume nothing.

One of the first things I did when I arrived here was to go to Francisco (the music teacher) and ask him for his script. Here’s a diary of events as they unfolded:

Friday 1st

I meet Francisco for the first time.

Monday 4th

I mention to Francisco that doing a play that he has written doesn’t comply with the objectives for the show (to showcase the work from the girls and students from the school), and that I don’t think it’s a good idea. Francisco tells me that if we don’t do his play, he will get very angry and not work on the event.He tells me the script is in his notebook that he will bring it the following day. He also says that he will come to the home after school, but he doesn’t show. 

Tuesday 5th

Francisco gives me his notebook with half of the script, telling me he will give me the rest the next day as he has forgotten it. 

He announces that we should go and see the girls at the school and see their dance. I say “Have you asked them and told them you are coming?”. He said yes. So down we went.

The girls were sitting in the TV room, chilling after school. He marches over to them and barks orders at them. They tell him no, they can’t, because not all of them are there. He asks them 4 or 5 times, so they get up, looking grumpy and irritated.

They do the dance in the too small room, doing each step lacklustrely in the warm air of the TV room, bumping in to each other, looking awkward. When they finish, Francisco immediately starts to criticise them for “lack of happiness” (as the song is all about hope and joy). We precede to the concrete games area where the stage is, and the same thing happens. The girls hate him, because he tries to order them about as if they were his pupils. They are not, and they don’t respect him. 

Later, I type up what he has given me. It’s clear that he has written this in less than an hour. It’s mainly prose, without stage directions. There are a lot of mistakes in the grammar and accents. I type what he has given me and send it to Diana. 

Wednesday 6th

I get up at 6:00 am to go to school (which starts at 7 am) to be told by Francisco that “his brother had the other notebook and has now lost it”. I tell him that I’ll be speaking to the founder of the organisation at 9 am to let her know that we have no script, and he says that he has a free period from 9:45 until 10:30. 

I speak to Diana about my misgivings. She concurs that “my dog ate my homework” excuses are not what we need at this time. Francisco comes in halfway through our conversation and sits down in a chair, tapping his fingers impatiently as if irritated to be kept waiting.

At the end of the conversation we go to the table to talk. He gives me more lies, and more excuses, telling me that the reason things aren’t going well is because he wasn’t given clear objectives from either Diana, Brad (the film director) or Spencer (the anthology editor). He says that he had spent a lot of time writing something but that then they said that it wasn’t what they wanted. I asked to see that thing. Then he knew that I was calling his bluff. After 20 minutes of going around in circles, I said to him:

“I’m going to be direct now. You lied to me when you said you had a script. All this about your brother had it and now it is lost? I wasn’t born yesterday. You have wasted a lot of my time. I have come here to help you and I can’t do that if you lie to me. If you had told me on the first day that you were very confused about the objectives and so you hadn’t produced a script, then I would have understood. But you lied.”

He went on to say that the script was all in his head. There wasn’t lines because it would be mimed to music, and I told him:

“I haven’t read so many plays in Spanish, but even that needs to be scripted, with stage directions etc. I want a script now. It’s no good in your head. I can’t help you if it’s in your head.”

We ended up having an exchange where I ended up repeating and repeating “Get it out of your head” and poking the notebook for emphasis. So he sat there writing for twenty minutes, and then got up to leave, saying “I’m coming back”. I asked him what time, and he said “Today” as he stormed off. 

He promised me the script that day, and he also promised that he would come to the home at night to see the theatre workshops I was doing with the girls.

Later, I took all of the small girls out to the play area with the frisbees, as something fun to do, experimenting with taking them out and seeing how they worked together. But the frisbees cracked against the concrete floor, exposing razor sharp edges. I cut my hand catching one. It was a small disaster at the end of a disastrous day.

Thursday 7th

The next day, I was taking pictures of some wall displays in the school, when Francisco walked past and pointedly ignored me. “Good.”, I thought, “He can’t waste any more of my time if he’s ignoring me”.

Then, I was in the sewing room, hanging with the girls and fiddling about on my computer with the show plans, when someone tells me that Mayra (the founder’s assistant) wants me to go and see her. 

I head up to her office, wondering what was up, when I’m not lead to her office but to her meeting room. There sat Mayra, two women I didn’t know, and Francisco himself, with a typed and printed version of his script that he had done all by himself. He didn’t say hello to me, and I sat down across from him, turning my head so that he wasn’t in my line of vision.

Mayra asked me to explain where we were with the Espectáculo. And then, something really weird happened. I just got into the zone with Spanish and literally spoke the best Spanish of my life EVER. I explained that Spencer had sent me a list of items, things that the girls had performed throughout the year, and that I was working on collecting them. 

What have I learned from this experience?

1. Not everyone can write scripts.

2. Some people accept jobs, tooting their own horns and saying what skills they would like to have instead of what skills they actually have, and then are too proud to own up to get out of it.

3. Never play frisbee on concrete.

 

 

A Classical Treat

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One thing I love about Milwaukee is that for a relatively small city, it has a diverse range of events going on. If you didn’t go to Wisconsin Conservatory of Music last Thursday night to see Peter Thomas and Matthew Bergey perform the third and final installment of the Beethoven Cello Sonata project (pictured above in the venue’s sumptuous performance hall), then you really did miss out. Entering the beautifully decorated hall and listening to the live performance was like stepping into a cozy room after being out in the cold and not even knowing you were freezing before. I found it incredible that such a lovely experience only cost $10. God Bless America!

If you would like to keep up with events at this venue, like them on Facebook here, or join their mailing list here.

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