Before i Forget : Simon Jones's blog

March 2007


GeneralFriday, March 30th, 2007, (6:10 pm)

Last week I made a post that lead to an interesting discussion about the use of the n-word. So when I saw this report last night on The Daily Show it seemed fitting to share it.

While the report itself is clearly humorous, the premiss behind it is very serious. New York Councilman Leroy Comrie wants to see the word ‘nigger’ banned. He insists that its use in any context is unacceptable.

“It’s my hope this resolution will spark a dialogue in all communities and begin to move our society, especially in our entertainment culture, toward a place where the n-word is simply unacceptable to be used in any context.” Said Comrie back in February when he introduced a bill in New York to have the word banned.

Indeed Comrie, and his associates who introduced the resolution, deemed the word so offensive that nowhere in the bill itself is the n-word actually spelled out.

The city council accepted the bill and the ban took effect on the 1st of March (2007). However, it has no real bite as anyone using the n-word won’t be fined or brought to account in any way as there is no legal way of enforcing the ban which is essentially just symbolic.

In my recent post, titled ‘Cooking up a beat‘, I linked to a YouTube video of some white guys doing a brass band version of ‘In da club’ by ’50 Cent.’ This lead Matt Whaley to comment, “The concept is fun though I don’t know why the guy thinks he can use the n-word.”

Matt later went on to explain his position further. “I’m suggesting that only black people (and some Hispanics too it seems) can GET AWAY WITH using that word. I understand that it’s a double-standard, as do an increasing number of people. However, the reality is that it has long been socially inacceptable for white people to use that word and we should know better, and support those who are pushing for it to be no longer socially acceptable in the black community as well.”

As I see it, there are two interesting issues here. The first and most obvious one to me is that banning any word is simply a waste of time. Free speech is an essential part of a free nation, therefore the banning of any word, no matter how offensive it might be, is a concerning step in the wrong direction for freedom. The New York City ban is toothless because any serious attempt to have a word banned with punishable consequences for its use would almost certainly be unsuccessful, not to mention an enormous waste of time and resources.

Make no mistake though, I have no real wish to use the n-word and seeing it fall away into the dusty corners of language would be just fine with me. However, Matt also touched on the fact that many people feel that the n-word is somehow acceptable when used by a black person. I have always found this understanding to be absolutely without merit. It seems utterly absurd to me to suggest that someone can’t use specific words based on nothing more than the color of their skin. In fact, this almost seems like an ironic kind of racism itself.

Of course, thanks to hip-hop and rap, use of the n-word is now commonplace, especially amongst the black community where some argue its use is entirely acceptable.

“The n-word used to be derogatory, to represent a negative image of black people, but now it’s become just a word, like “hey” and “yo.” It doesn’t mean much. I personally don’t mind it; it really doesn’t bother me. The context that African-Americans were living in back in the time when the word was an issue, is not the context we’re living in now. So, I don’t mind it being used lightly.” Said one 17 year old, Grace Petit, in a recent Wiretap magazine article.

In that same article 17 year old Kamal Stuart says “There’s people that say, ‘We changed the definition of the word, we changed the spelling.’ I don’t necessarily agree with that. Then, you have the others who frankly don’t really care. That’s due to ignorance, not knowing about the history of the word. I don’t use the word. I believe in being an example.”

Banning the n-word would serve little purpose. Language moves on, words change as do their meanings. The term ‘nigger’ is still offensive to most people, however with rappers and hip-hop artists constantly pushing the word into a new social context it’s unlikely that the n-word will disappear anytime soon. What is certain though, is that any legal moves to ban this word, or indeed any word, would not achieve its goal and could conceivable backfire leading to an increase in its use by those who wish to thumb the noise of the powers the be.

Council bids to bad “n word”
Wiretap magazine article
NPR News – Ban the N word
abolishtheNword.com
The history of the N-word
Cooking up a beat
The Daily Show
[Video] Teacher Paul Dawson says Nigga (with an A)
[Video] Japanese n-word humor?
[Video] The N Word by Kamal Supreme

MoviesWednesday, March 28th, 2007, (11:13 pm)

Some people love books, but I’m more of a movie person myself. Movies that leave you feeling thoughtful are right up my street. Action and adventure movies, chick flicks, and comedy have their place too of course. But my favorite movies all follow a formula that my old friend Karen used to say made them what she called a ‘Simon film.’

That formula would be made up of at least one of the following: A narration, a death, and a piano driven score probably by composer Thomas Newman. Karen once pointed out that in all my favorite movies someone died and as I tried to prove her wrong, it soon became apparent that this is indeed true, someone always dies in a ‘Simon film.’

There are exceptions to this rule though. Nobody dies in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind‘, ‘High Fidelity‘ or ‘On Golden Pond‘ (Yes, I do like that film from 1981!). I was also about to write that despite the title nobody died in ‘Crash‘ either, but then I remembered one of the final scenes, the one with the young cop.

Endings are extremely important. Odd as this might sounds, I sometimes watch the last few minutes of my favorite movies end. So with that in mind I though I would share this strange pastime with you and share three of my favorite movie endings.
 

AMERICAN BEAUTY
Love it or loathe it, the ending of this film is really superb. Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey, is a depressed suburban father in a mid-life crisis. He’s just been shot and killed. His narration then concludes the movie;

“I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die. First of all, that one second isn’t a second at all, it stretches on forever, like an ocean of time… For me, it was lying on my back at Boy Scout camp, watching falling stars… And yellow leaves, from the maple trees, that lined my street… Or my grandmother’s hands, and the way her skin seemed like paper… And the first time I saw my cousin Tony’s brand new Firebird… And Janie… And Janie… And… Carolyn.

I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”


 

BLOW
Johnny Depp plays George Jung in this true story about the man who established the American cocaine market in the 1970’s. I took a bunch of people to see this movie and afterward one became quite annoyed at the fact that the movie leads you to feel somewhat sympathetic toward the drug baron whose actions have probably accounted for countless deaths in the drug world. But no in the end the final scene is truly arresting as Depp (playing Jung) looks back on his life of crime from prison;

“So in the end, was it worth it? Jesus Christ. How irreparably changed my life has become. It’s always the last days of summer and I’ve been left out in the cold with no door to get back in. I’ll grant you I’ve had more than my share of poignant moments. Life passes most people by when they’re busy making grand plans for it.

Throughout my lifetime I’ve left pieces of my heart here and there. And now, there’s almost barely enough to stay alive. But I force a smile, knowing that my ambition far exceeded my talent. There are no more white horses or pretty ladies at my door.”

 

THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
Quite simply the best most moving and inspirational end to any movie I have ever seen. I doubt any movie will ever top this one in my book, I’ve seen it more times than I can remember yet it still draws me and moves me every time I see it. Again, the movie is concluded by a narration from the main character ‘Red’, played by Morgan Freeman;

“I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”


 

Now that I see those three endings together the similarity is actually quite strinking. It leaves me wondering what these movie choices might actually say about me.

If you haven’t seen any of those movies then I guess maybe I just ruined the end for you, but honestly I don’t feel like it would take away from the actual movie itself. They’re all worth seeing, in fact if you haven’t seen The Shawshank Redemption then that simply a must! Trust me, you’ll thank me for that recommendation!

GeneralMonday, March 26th, 2007, (8:49 pm)

Someone health conscious thief stole my Boston Red Sox baseball cap from the gym!

I’m so annoyed. It was a really nice cap too. A classic blue Red Sox cap with a red and white strip on the bill, quite unique in these parts, and now someone else is wearing it! I’m absolutely serious when I say if I see anyone with it on at my gym I will simply take it off their heads and tell them to call the cops if they feel that I am the thief!

It was a really nice hat too. Dammit!

GeneralSunday, March 25th, 2007, (2:39 pm)

One of the things I really wish I could get in the UK is Naked juice. Those fruit smoothie drinks are just the best, and my favorite of all is the green superfood – Yum!

Sadly you simply can’t buy Naked juice, or for that matter any green superfood juice, here in the UK and the companies have no plans to export it to these shores either. In response to an email to both Naked and Odwalla asking them if they export their drinks to the UK of if they had any plans to, Odwalla sent back the shorted email I have ever had, “No, sorry.” Naked emailed me back explaining that the juice probably wouldn’t last that long and even if it did flying the juice such a long distance would go against their environmental philosophy.

Of course, when I am in America I try to drink something other than Naked or Odwalla as both those brands are owned by Coke and Pepsi respectively. In Oregon I found a good alternative that was not only as tasty but also organic too. Columbia Gorge drinks are pretty much exactly the same as those offered by Naked and Odwalla, but they have that added ‘I’m not giving my money to a mega-corp’ feel good factor.

I’m not sure why there is no similar drink offering to the green superfood here in the UK. Maybe studies have been done into Brits and green sludge like drinks? We do have Innocent drinks, but they don’t do a green superfood, and even if they did it would most likely be shockingly expensive like the rest of their drinks.

Australians also can’t get Naked, but instead they can get Nudie. Nudie Juice drinks offer pretty much what you would expect, and the companies website even includes a nudie pictures section!

I suppose I could try making my own green superfood drink. But I’m not sure. Didn’t Odwalla drinks kill some people a few years back? I think I’ll just have to stick to making fruit smoothies until I’m back on American soil where I’ll once again be able to buy green superfood, or as one person once called it “that nasty green sludge.”

Naked Juice
Nudie Juice
Columbia Gorge organic juice
Odwalla
Innocent drinks

Environment and MoviesThursday, March 22nd, 2007, (10:30 am)

Perhaps I shouldn’t even joke about my theory that if more scientists had significant interactions with women there might actually be less sciencey stuff being done in the world. I shouldn’t say such a politically incorrect thing of course, so allow me to retract that now and instead present to you the video below which is a recent Channel 4 documentary by Martin Durkin about how global warming is a huge swindle, a conspiracy if you will!

TiVo picked up the documentary the other night and I watched it yesterday evening over a cup of tea and some stolen chocolate that’s been stashed in my fridge for a few weeks now. Titled ‘The Great Global Warming Swindle‘ I was somewhat tempted to simply delete it without giving it so much of a chance to get passed the opening credits, not because I’m closed minded on the subject of global warming, but because TiVo currently has about seven thousand hours of CSI recorded for me and if I’m going to get through that then I really have no time for anything else.

However, after the opening sequence I decided that the documentary was interesting and engaging enough for me to stick with it. Personally the whole global warming debate is simply a lot of hot air, if you pardon the pun. It seems logical to me that burning oil and coal is a rather foolish thing to continue to do when we have the technology and know how to harness the earths clean and renewable resources. Exploration and development of such energy is surely not only good for our environment, but also for our global political stability. After all, it’s hard to envisage a war for oil if oil was in no way as central to our every day lives as it is right now.

It was, however, an interesting documentary. A televisual rebuttal to Al Gore’s ‘Inconvenient Truth.’ Featuring a lot of fuzzy haired science types whom I have never heard of (and frankly, why would I have heard of them) telling us all that this theory was wrong and that hypothesis was flawed. They sounded very convincing to me, but regardless of whether their view was right or not, the result was never going to mean that I rush out and buy an SUV, leave every light on in my apartment, and crank the central heating up to full power around the clock. As I said before, the issue of global warming is interesting, but not nearly as pressing as the issue of what I term ‘responsible living.’

Perhaps unsurprisingly the documentary caused somewhat of a stir. Flying in the face of the popular opinion it seeks to discredit, the director, Martin Durkin, surely expected to come under serious fire.

A few days after the documentary was shown The Independent newspaper in Britain called Durkin’s film “flawed with major errors which seriously undermine the program’s credibility.”

Dr Armand Leroi, from Imperial College, and Simon Singh, the respected scientific author, are two eminent British scientists who questioned the accuracy of Durkin’s documentary. Durkin’s response didn’t rely heavily on science when he called one of the “a big fat cock” and told them both to “go and f**k yourself!”

After being criticized regarding the origins of a graph of global temperatures in recent years that was crucial to his argument recent film Durkin is quoted as saying “The original Nasa data was very wiggly-lined and we wanted the simplest line we could find”.

Had I have known how controversial and unbalanced Durkin’s work is reputed to be, I might not have sat through the one and a quarter hour documentary. In the past Durkin’s films have received similar complaints about being biased and misrepresentative of the facts and opinions of the participants. One such documentary, again shown on Channel 4, argued that silicone breast implants were in fact beneficial to a woman’s health.

Notwithstanding the evidence that suggests I simply wasted one and a quarter hours of my life, I would still say that it’s a documentary worth watching if only to hear what those who still argue that we should carry on as we always have might to say. Either way it makes little difference to my opinion that we should all think carefully about how our lives impact not only the environment, but perhaps more importantly the lives of those around the world whom are not as fortunate as us. For me responsible living is more about the moral and ethical implications of the individual decisions we make. It would seem to me that this kind of thinking automatically encompasses much of what is often called ‘environmentalism.’

For example, knowing that Coca-Cola have caused formerly lush farmland to dry up and become arid due to their use of essential groundwater at Indian Coke plants, should lead us to make a choice as to whether we want to support this kind of behavior or not. Like any such ethos, such thinking could be taken to the extreme and drive you mad. But in essence my idea of responsible living is nothing more complicated than the biblical principle of ‘loving thy neighbor’ and no one ever called that a foolish notion did they?

[Video] The Great Global Warming Swindle
Clips from the documentary
Channel 4’s website about the documentary
A comedic response
The real global warming swindle
C4’s debate on global warming boils over

Found on the webWednesday, March 21st, 2007, (10:13 am)

“The electro funk-daddy superstar break.” Brilliant stuff!

I can’t tell you much about this video other than it won it’s creator, ‘Beardyman‘, £1500 ($2913.3) in the ‘Fame Game’ online video contest.

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