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July 26, 2007

what i learned on my summer vacation

oh heavens, it's already almost the end of the month and HadashiWorld has been languishing. partly this is due to drowning in insane work hours, and of course there's always my much-lamented lack of regular-blog-posting skills.
i've just returned from Columbia, Missouri (a college town smack dab in the middle of the state) where i was instructing the craft – no wait, that’s the Mystic Art -- of audio mixing at a summer film institute to a group of what is commonly known as "young people," most of them girls. these kids show up for two weeks of hands-on learning what goes into the process of filmmaking in a learn-as-you-go sort of thing. each department is headed by a professional who is asked to donate their time & expertise. i got sucked in through a longtime friend and colleague of mine who was instrumental in smoothing my entry into The Industry, and was actually pretty excited to have a chance to "give back," as i saw it. so i took a week off of my current show and headed off. however, i was fairly unprepared for what i'd actually encounter.
it turned out that every day, i would get three new, eager students to train. i'd have about a half-hour to crash-course them through the basics of location mixing and boom operation. unlike other departments, i actually had to depend on my newbies, as it's physically impossible to boom and mix at the same time. i vaguely worried that i was being set up for disaster. instead, i was completely blown away.
the kids were like sponges, soaking up everything i taught and demonstrated, whether it be actual technique, practical theory, or my own experiences. by the fourth day of the program, i had a team of kids i could rely on to set up the equipment, get everyone in place, and run the department if needed. and they all did so with passion, enthusiasm, and smiles.
i guess i shouldn't have been so surprised; after all, these were mostly eighteen and nineteen-year-olds, and that age usually has a boundless excitement for new skills. plus, a lot of them were on a “girl power” high, and weren’t concerned with impressing anyone or proving anything. but it did make me realise just how jaded i could be, and now that i'm back at my regular day job, the contrast is even more pronounced.
i don't expect people to be cooperative off the bat. i don't expect people to make decisions that take other people's feelings into account. i don't expect people to be complaint-free. i don't even expect people to treat me as a professional right away; i'm a girl in a male-dominated profession and i look young. i've always thought i have a relatively good outlook on all of this -- i walk on to a set prepared to "kill them with kindness," operating on the get-respect-if-you-give-respect principle. i deeply believe in the idea of a team being more successful than a lone wolf, and try to contribute to that. however, working with these teens for 7 days made me feel very frighteningly close to being a grown-up -- and by that, i mean a person who's lost the capacity for wonder and for fun.
i'm back on a set now with insane hours and some seriously incompetent producers, but i've learned an important lesson from my week away: Don't Take The Bait. originally, this was said to me by my immediate supervisor on this show after i was accused of making the whole production fall behind because i was late to work. seeing that a) it was a ridiculous thing to say, and b) i had arrived (on time) before the accuser and had been seen by dozens who would say so, there was no reason for me to get wound up about it or even respond. but now i see how this applies all the time.
how many times do we Take The Bait? maybe our alarm clock doesn't go off and we’re late. a driver cuts us off in traffic. our coffee is too hot or too cold. it's a bad hair day. the kids are rowdy. the spouse didn't do something you asked him or her to do several times. you forgot to charge your cell phone and now it's dead. the movie you wanted to see is sold out. you're out of laundry detergent AND clean underwear. whatever it is, there's some trigger that’s relatively small, but if we take the bait, our entire day can be ruined. we plunge into a mood of self-pity or anger or entitlement or irritation and never bounce back. we go to bed feeling like the day was a waste, or worse, like failures at the fine art of life. and those are hours we will never get back.
those kids showed me, very tangibly, that part of me i’ve always loved the most: the girl who saw difficulties as adventures, who wanted to tackle any new challenge, who would laugh – and make others laugh – no matter how dismal the situation. i know she’s still very much part of me, but i have to be careful to not let grown-up bait-taking shellac her with layers of hard cynical toughness. it definitely helps that i have a fabulous husband who’s never gotten the memo about being a grown-up, and a family and friends who also aren’t good at being boring adults.
well, my lunch hour is over and the walkie is going off in my ear that i need to get back to work, and i’m sure there will be plenty more bait tossed at me over the course of the day. so I need to go back to catering and stock up on some fresh mango, pick up another bottle of water, and head back into the fray.
hopefully, i'll survive this with my dignity and sense of humour intact.

Posted by hadashi at 2:34 PM | Comments (2)

July 2, 2007

in search of what I meant to be my home

in honour of Independence Day, i give you two poems.

the first is written by the African-American Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes. it's patriotic, to be sure -- but not in the way one might expect. he recognises that the notion that "opportunity is real, and life is free / equality is in the air we breathe" is an absolutely revolutionary, staggeringly awesome concept -- that dream, lived out, may bring with it great freedom, but also great responsibility. i'm still searching for "what I meant to be my home" -- for many reasons my relationship with this country of my citizenship has always been uneasy and undefined -- but the America of this poem gives me a profound map for that journey.

the second is familiar -- many people actually would prefer it as the national anthem -- Katharine Lee Bates' "America The Beautiful." however, due to the many times you've sung "fruited plain" and felt really hungry, you may have never noticed the impassioned prayer contained within it. if only the leaders of our country, regardless of political affiliation, would "confirm [their] souls in self-control." if only "selfish gain [would] no longer stain the banner of the free" both here in the USA and in other countries....

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home-
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay-
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
The land that never has been yet-
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath-
America will be!
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain-
All, all the stretch of these great green states-
And make America again!


America The Beautiful
by Katharine Lee Bates

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

America! America!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

may God shed His grace on us all on this Independence Day.

p.s. yay for fireworks!

Posted by hadashi at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)