Texas Proud

I’m a Texan. By all accounts (or just the more reliable ones) I’m a “proud Texan”.  I was born here, I was raised here, and if my lack of motivation and drive persists, I’ll die here.  I’m good with that.  As a Texan I was indoctrinated at an early age to love Texas – the good and the bad.  A bit like I love my momma, apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet.  Ok, I don’t actually care one way or the other about Chevrolet – I’m indifferent – that’s the word! They’re fine and all, I’m sure.  I mean no offense to anyone driving one.  Oh, and while we’re at it if we could turn apple pie to some sort of cobbler and maybe replace baseball with tennis, that would be swell.  Now the love of my Momma still stands, except let’s call her “Mom” or “Mother”, that would be more fitting.  Whew.  Got all of that out of the way.  I love Mom, peach cobber, tennis (if I have to pick one) and car companies ending in “a”. And Texas! Don’t forget Texas.

As a Texan, I get to defend Texas to my out-of-state friends more times than I’d care to.  Yes, in education we rank among the lowest, but many of us are fairly state-aware, despite what you were taught in whatever place you came from. And hey, we rank low in a lot of areas! TEXAS PROUD! We’re # (shoot, I don’t have that many hands)!

I feel like I’ve beaten this dead horse before, but let’s face it, I’m too lazy to link back to some post where I defended Texas.  It’s out there.  I’m sure my ire was up.  I probably typed a few sentences using heavy, angry keystrokes. No, I won’t link those two adjectives with a contraction, and I’m aware that I’ve now ended a few sentences with prepositions, but that’s how I’m rolling today. I’ll make 32 other egregious grammar errors before I get through this post.  Blame the Texas education system and a poor attitude.

Here’s the thing – Texas is my family.  I can pick on it, but God forbid someone outside of it start – thems fightin’ words.  Until last week…

Normally, I don’t like to get into my politics on my blog.  I ust like to throw random anecdotes at you until you cry for mercy. Those cries herald an extended blogging sabbatical while I wait for the next thing to inspire me.  Normally, I shrug off what comes across the national news about my state.  It’s rarely good. It’s never an “atta boy, Texas” with no trace of sarcasm. Normally, I don’t cringe.  Did I mention, “until last week”?

Let’s talk about Operation Jade Helm 15. You know that thing where Obama was planning to come to Texas to institute martial law.  I think we were going to be rounded up into Wal-Marts and then who knows what would happen next.  That story.  The one where Governor Abbott sent the Texas National Guard to keep an eye on the US military.  State officials from both sides of our state government sent the Governor notes basically saying, “what the…?” This played out in the media for a bit.  Towards the end of last week we were notified by Gov. Abbott that he’d been briefed by the Pentagon and he now felt assured we Texans were not in peril.  Whew! I’m not a huge fan of Wal-Mart.  Bullet dodged!

I was gobsmacked..

I can handle being called out for my drawl.  I can even handle my out-of-state friends being stunned that some Texans have had book learnin’ and can keep our drool from spilling down the front of our shirts.  But this… this… I’m at a complete loss of words.

So, where I normally would avoid politics and in turn avoid posting other people’s thoughts on politics, I felt I had to be called away from couch sabbatical and post something – sometimes – other people’s words – people who are better at expressing themselves about this lunacy than I.

Strong Language Warning:

From the Stonekettle Station Blog:”Jade Helm: The Insanity that Ate Texas”

“Paranoia is a mental Illness, not a super power.”

And Jon Stewart, who is always brilliant:  You can start at 4:45 if you just want to cut to the Jade Helm chase.

I’m such a proud Texan….

I Am American

I am  American.

When you shake the branches of my family tree, you find ancestors that fought in the American Revolution, ancestors who fought in the Civil War, ancestors who fought in both World War I and II.  In fact, you’ll find we arrived on the Mayflower on one side and settled in Jamestown on the other.  My family helped lay the foundations on which our country is built.

I am American.

I am also white. In high school we moved to a new area of town, a richer area, a whiter area.  When that happened, I requested to be transferred to a school where I was a minority.  A school where my childhood friends attended. I was granted that request because of my race, because the school district wanted more racial balancing in its schools. Many of my classmates were first and second generation Americans.  Many spoke English as a second language. (Many could actually speak a second language.)  I only mention this so you get a glimpse at my background and mindset.

In 1883, an American poet of Jewish heritage and Portuguese descent, Emma Lazarus, wrote a poem:

“The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

In 1903 it was placed on a plaque in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Emma Lazarus was American.

In 1814, nearly a century before, Francis Scott Key a second generation American of British descent wrote the most patriotic of songs, our national anthem.

Francis Scott Key was American.

You probably have guessed where I’m going with this, but before I get there, let’s look at some statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau:

I am among the 7.2% that are classified as “American”, which means 92.8% of the entire population in the United States as of 2000, came from other areas around the world.  One could conclude then that being American goes well beyond being “American”.

Let’s talk about the idea of the “melting pot”:   “…a metaphor for a heterogeneous society becoming more homogeneous, the different elements “melting together” into a harmonious whole with a common culture.”  The term was in use by the 1780’s to describe the coming (or melting) together of our very diverse cultures.

At one time we celebrated this ideal of blended cultural harmony.  We used it as a way to define what it meant to be American.

… and that brings us to Katherine Lee Bates.  The woman who wrote the poem “America the Beautiful” set to the hymn “Materna” by Samuel Ward.  The woman who said the song was inspired after a trip to Pike’s Peak where upon arriving near the top she said, “I was very tired. But when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.”  A song about the beauty of her country, our country.

Our song, if we can truly claim it as our song as Americans, is a song for all Americans from all cultural backgrounds.  It is a patriotic song.  Despite what some believe, it is not our National Anthem.

So, let’s talk about the Coke ad and let’s talk about it from my perspective as a daughter of the Mayflower, a daughter of Jamestown, a daughter of the American Revolution, and as a person hard-pressed to find any ancestor who came to the United States after 1700. A time before we could call ourselves the United States.  The 7.2%.

What I see is beautiful.  What I see is America with all of its wonderful diversity celebrated by singing about the beauty of America.

What I feel is abject disgust at some of the reaction this video has received. What I see is racist, intolerant and ignorant.  Let’s address one of the major issues – that America’s song wasn’t sung in English as “it should be”.  Fun fact – English is not the official language of the United States.  In fact, there is no official language of the United States.  States have the right to choose and in some states, in our very own hallowed country, they recognize other languages. Languages such as French and Spanish.  And while people are not required to speak English to live in this country, non-native speakers do actually understand, without being harassed, that being able to speak the language is often helpful to do things like get around, complete forms, go to the grocery store, etc.  Much like it would be helpful if you spoke Latvian if you moved to Latvia. (Although as Americans, we would never do that.  We tend to believe the rest of the world should also speak English and will belligerently plow ahead speaking English in foreign countries.  It’s one of those traits that foreigners find so adorable about us when we travel.)

Many things have been translated into English.  Let’s talk about one of the more popular ones, the Bible.

The Bible was written in Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek which, as you’re aware, includes Psalms.  Psalms can be translated as “instrumental music” or “words accompanying the music”. Please note that English is not among the languages mentioned there.  I mention Psalms specifically because we’re talking about music.  If I were to quote Psalm 84, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord! A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. For the Lord is a sun and shield” to any of my Jewish friends, I doubt that they would throw an epic conniption fit that I’d just spoken it in English.  They wouldn’t want to burn down the Bible for my offense, as a relative’s friend said she’d like to do to a Coca-Cola bottling company, because that is absolutely absurd – as absurd as what she said. Now while arguably this a different type of “song”, it is a song nonetheless.  One that was translated into many languages and spoken in many tongues.

The Bible was translated to make it accessible to the masses and while I’m sure there were many clergymen who didn’t approve and who likely argued about the meaning being lost in translation they ultimately relented.  The earth continued to spin. The Message was still heard. It did not become abhorrent when the first English speaker spoke it out loud.

Many would argue that the Bible is more sacred than a poem set to music from the 1800’s.

Any number of books and songs have been translated into English in the name of accessibility and I’d like to think the heads of the native speakers of whatever country that work came from didn’t spin off or explode when the first English speaker dared to utter their “sacred” words.  I know mine didn’t explode when I listened to a song/poem about the beauty of America as written by a woman, who incidentally was a lesbian, and sung by Americans in different languages.

Katherine Lee Bates was also an American.

America is supposed to be accessible.  Accessible to the huddled masses.  Accessible to those fleeing tyranny and oppression.  So, when I hear “America the Beautiful” sung in Spanish, Chinese, Hindi and Arabic, I hear the beautiful voices of my friends – I hear Americans.  I don’t ignorantly insist that it’s beauty as a song is some how diminished, because I heard the words in Hebrew.

My ancestors lived, fought, bled and died for this country before it was a country.  They fought for safe shores, for a refuge from oppression.  They even fought for the right of its people to be ignorant, judgmental and exclusive – the right to turn our back on the ideals that shaped our country, the right to deny people from around the world who have enriched this very country – the people who built our railroads, worked our fields, harvested our fruits, sewed our clothes, made our food, cleaned our houses, drove us around our cities and who for some inexplicable reason we despise because they had the audacity to sing “our” song in their native tongue.

And who is the “us” that makes the song “ours”? The 7.2%? or is that “us” also a group of immigrants and refugees who wrongfully feel more entitled because they can say they’re 2nd or 3rd or 5th generation Americans – not lowly newcomers with their foreign languages, their foreign beliefs and their foreign customs.

America wouldn’t be America if it prized closed-mindedness and uniformity.  It is our diversity of belief, our diversity of culture that makes us strong.

I am American.

I am disgusted.

That’s A Wrap: The Austin 48 Hour Film Project

Our Team Name for the 48 Hr Film Project and our Mascot

We made it through the 48 Hour Film Fest weekend.  We made a movie!  And we got it turned in with 14 minutes to spare.  We watched other teams run, only to be turned away after failing to meet the 48 Hour deadline by mere seconds – some ran with their computers in their hands as their movie project finished rendering.

I knew there would be a story from the weekend.  I told a co-worker last week, “I look forward to telling you the story, because you know there’ll be one.”  She laughed and nodded. I guess I thought the story would be different.  I mean, how can you possibly write, cast, shoot and edit a film in 48 hours without something going terribly wrong especially when you have a cast and crew that totaled 19 people?  Different people, different temperaments crowded into a small space for a long time – how could there not be a story? There wasn’t.  When the card reader broke (the little reader that allows you to take a camera card and plug it into the computer), I thought “there’s the story”.  When the associate producer, replacing the card reader, was pulled over by a police officer I thought, “ok, maybe that’s the story.”  When the older well coifed white haired woman with her neatly put together summer outfit sauntered onto our porch as we were shooting our last scenes, I didn’t think that was the story.

So of course, that was the story.

When she walked up my sidewalk the Director of Photography (DP) asked, “is that one of your neighbors?” I looked at her; she wasn’t someone I’d ever seen, but we’re those quiet people that stick to themselves and spend too much time indoors.  I may have met four of our neighbors in the time we’ve lived here and other than the two right next to me, I couldn’t pick the rest of them out at the grocery store if asked.  “Maybe?”

Official Clap Board and One Goofy “We’re Making a MOVIE!” Grin

This is where I get a bit fuzzy on the exchange, so know the dialog is what I heard, not necessarily what was said verbatim.

She came up and asked what we were doing.  Our DP answered, “We’re making a movie.”  She wasn’t very satisfied, then she mentioned cars had been in the cul-de-sac all day and that was a problem.  “We’d be glad to move them.”  I made a mental note for future films that I should check.  Sure, I’d asked people to park on a different street, since cul-de-sacs can be tricky with their lack of curb room, but some cars were sticking out in the street and people were parked between me and the adjacent house. “My son has cerebral palsy and he cannot drive in here easily if there are all these cars!” Again, the DP offered to tell anyone who was in the way to move – that we didn’t realize until then that it was a problem, but we’d be happy to correct it.”  She didn’t seem to want that, she wanted to scream at people.  That’s when it all blew up.

“What are you doing?!?! I do not understand WHAT you are doing!”

“We’re making a film.”

“That doesn’t make sense.  What are you talking about?”

“This is for the 48 Hour Film Festival, so we’re finishing up filming today so we can enter.”

“That doesn’t make sense. I ASKED YOU WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!! What kind of movie. Why do you have children?” (or something to that effect)

“You are welcome to look it up online.”

“You are not answering me!”

Our writer stepped in:

“We were given the genre “Fantasy” and our movie is a narrative film based on that genre where magical children are looking for new homes.”

“This is illegal!”

“No ma’am, it’s not.”

“You shouldn’t be doing things with those children.”

“We have their parents here and they have signed releases allowing them to be in the film.”

“Why do you have children?”

“Again, they’re part of the film. One of their parents is right here.” Steve our sound guy waved.

“You had your garage door open with people popping up and down from boxes. We do not want that kind of thing here!! It’s illegal.  I will call the police!!!!!” She was referring to a film shoot we did back in May where we used the space in my garage to shoot one of our writer’s short films – a film about two talking dogs in their bejeweled purses discussing what it was like to be an aging pampered pooch.  There was a gigantic green screen behind them that will eventually be transformed into a hotel lobby.

“You may call the police, but we have permission from the owner to film on their property.”

“If the owner knew what you were doing with their property they would not…”

I raised my hand, “I am the owner of this property.”  I had been sitting on the bench on our porch trying to stay out of the way of the camera while we filmed.  She really hadn’t noticed me until then, since she was completely content to yell at the DP and the writer.

“What you are doing here is illegal.”

“No, it’s actually not.”

“Yes, it is. You cannot do this with the children.”

“We have permission from their parents to film them.”

“The neighborhood does not approve of what you are doing here.”

This went on for awhile until she implied that my husband and I were doing something illicit and creepy in the house.  I was FUMING.

“And you have all of these cars.”

“…which as we told you we would be happy to move.  We didn’t realize it was a problem.”

“Well it IS! You are blocking…!!!!”

“Again, as we have said, we will have those cars moved.”

The whole time, our actors were coming out of the house to move their cars out of the way – heads down as they hurriedly moved passed the craziness. Also, in truth no one was parked near her house.  Now the people across from us were, because they were having a “we better get all of that toilet paper out of the tree” party.  So, between the two of us, we had created a bit of an unexpected bottle neck.

She stomped off telling us we’d better not do that kind of thing in her neighborhood again that the neighbors did not approve of us or our activities.  In my head, this meant all of the neighbors.  She then self-righteously marched to the good neighbor’s house with my neighbor nemesis trailing not far behind her. As the self-appointed spokesperson of them to let them know she had defeated the lascivious child porn purveyors, because that’s basically what it all came down to.  She knew we were clearly doing something disgusting with children and she was not having it.

One clothed actor, one very naked puppet. SCANDALOUS! What is he doing with that puppet?!?!?! What kind of film is this?!?!?!?!

I was shocked.  In fact, my feelings were generally hurt.  There she was on the driveway with my good neighbors, Bill and Becky, listening to her tale of their disgusting neighbors.  We had to move!  That was the only solution.  This whole circle thought we were filthy.  I had to tell Jay.  I had to finish a movie.  Where were we going to move?  While trying to wrap, I was going through all the steps we’d need to go through to sell the house.  I like my house, but I’d like the next house and maybe we’d get better neighbors.  I couldn’t believe Bill and Becky were turning against me right before my eyes.  She attacked my character!

Some background on why this bothered me on many levels; this cul-de-sac troll had managed to find that button – she found my nerve center – she hit my definition of self.  I used to tease my mother that she was a priss.  In fact, I’d sometimes take her middle name and transform it, calling her Priss-tina.  Well, the truth is, I inherited those same genes.  I’m prissy. I’m a prude. I’m so uptight I squeak. I’m good at my job in QA, because I believe in rules and following rules. (This does not always apply to speed limits or trying to convince YOU to do something bad.)  I like rules for me.  They provide a framework.  Once I know the rules, I stick to them.  Rules define the “is-ness” of things.  For the record, so you know what kind of prude I am, I’ve never seen a porn, which makes my friends laugh.  I have never used illegal drugs. I’m ok if you have, but that’s not me. I have never been sick from too much alcohol.  I am Priss-tina’s daughter – Priss-tina’s uptight legacy.  And here was this hateful vile creature telling me that basically the whole neighborhood thought I lived an abhorrent lifestyle and Bill and Becky were listening.  She said I’d broken rules.

We had to keep filming.  Our DP got us back on track, because we didn’t have time to dwell and properly vent.  We only had a few short takes and daylight was burning, but truthfully the whole time I could hear her laughing with Bill and Becky with the evil neighbor standing right there in Bill and Becky’s driveway.  I was dying inside and I didn’t get a chance to grieve.  The film continued and then mid shot I hear, “Neighbor! Neighbor!” It was Bill calling me over, “my wife was really worried you thought we agreed with that woman and asked me to come over and apologize.  I am so sorry.  She’s a crazy person.”  I told him what she’d accused us of and explained “we’re in the 48 Hour film project.  We are just filming the kids; their parents are here.”  He waived me off, “I know, she’s just crazy. How did she even know you had kids in there? She’s just sitting around watching you.  Crazy.”  I added, “I really don’t think we’re bad people.  Sure we’re quiet, but we’re not bad people.”  He nodded and he said, “if you need to use our driveway for the cars, you just say the word.”  I love Bill and Becky.

We finally finished filming.

It was so hard to listen to her craziness, because all of us held back.  You could see how enraged the DP was, and how irritated the sound guy and the writer were.  Everyone wanted to unload full guns, but here was this ballsy lady yelling at two adult men and two women – this human Chihuahua off her meds.  One of the actresses summed it all up so beautifully as she came back from moving her car, “I hate it that she won.”  And won she had.

The wife of the sound guy added a bit of levity, “I bet she’s with one of the other teams and she’s trying to throw us off.”  That made the rounds and had us all laughing a bit.

Then Topping, our writer, said later when we were inside reliving it all, “Beth, I’m mad for you, because if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking about how this is something you’ve always wanted to do and how finally you have these friends who are helping you achieve that dream, and you’re thinking about completely quitting and definitely never filming in your house. The one where we have the most space.”  Yes.  I had planned to tell Jay I wasn’t going to film again, because apparently it made me dirty and I’m not a dirty person.  (Did I mention she attacked how I define myself?)

Jonathan and Nancy as “The Hagels” – fully clothed!

I lost sleep that night, despite my husband reassuring me that she was a crazy person and you couldn’t reason with her AND that me being angry had no affect on her.  She didn’t know I was angry, but me being angry did affect me.

We were down to our last 12 hours and were helping editing.  I’d be lying if I said I had let it all go, but I’d find myself paused, staring at the footage, reliving the event, and thinking of all the things I could have said – to a woman who would never think she was wrong.  (You know great things like to her comment of “this is illegal”.  “Yeah? Well YOUR FACE is illegal!” My four year old retorts.)  Then I declared in my brain, “my Daddy and my friend Anna will beat you up!”  So not true, but it’s what you say when you harrumph and realize playing this all out in your brain is silly and that’s the best silly line you can end with.

As for the film – we did finish it.  We had to cut a couple of scenes and leave an intro bit out to get it all turned in on time, BUT when we do post it for viewing, everyone will see the full movie.  For the record, despite having kids in the movie, it’s all rated G.  I know, I know, hard to believe you could have kids in a movie and it still be rated G, but we broke the stereotype.  Turns out we’re all more Disney than “Deep Throat”.

The Magical CLOTHED Children from L to R: Lyssa, Tryph, Kaitlynn, Kelsey, Nathan and Eryn between takes

I also want to say that I’m proud of the entire team of cast and crew.  They all worked incredibly hard and were all awesome.  My one job was to pick the right team and I did a solid job.  Everyone got along, everyone stayed focused and we made a movie in 48 hours.  I’m so proud of all of you and I’m so lucky to know each and every one of you.  We made something good, especially considering the time constraints, and we did it despite the suburban troll.

Great job all!