"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

protest for living wages at Miami University

-- for immediate release --

dear friends and community members,

there will be a Students for Staff (SFS) action tomorrow, beginning at 10:30 am in front of King Library, and moving toward the hub and then to Shriver.

SFS is a group of undergraduates, graduate students, and alums who care deeply about the state of our community, and who are speaking out against the Miami administration's policies of economic injustice, policies that sanction acts of violence against fellow members of our community.*

as Myles Horton writes in his autobiography THE LONG HAUL, "the violence of poverty destroys families, twists minds, hurts in many ways beyond the pain of hunger."

it is this violence, this reprehensible disregard for human life, that we are speaking out against tomorrow. if you care about a living wage, you should join us!

because let's not forget who keeps the school up and running...
http://www.orgs.muohio.edu/spj/sfs.htm (needs to be updated)

* 32 out of ~1600 full-time staff are making sub-poverty wages.
112 of them are eligible for food stamps.
is this acceptable?

Monday, February 26, 2007


"Thanks, Hollywood, you've uncovered a new way to simultaneously congratulate yourself while offending the basis of your success." -Brian Hu


everybody's talking 'bout the Oscars! all my friends have been asking for my film fan opinion on the results, and tho i don't feel inclined to go into depth on my disappointment in the Academy (who, let's face it, base decisions less on merit than industry politics), i will say that i was most thoroughly upset by THE DEPARTED's win for best screenplay adaptation.

i will concede that THE DEPARTED (TD) deserved its win for editing and directing. i thot Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese's wins were a testament to what longtime partnerships and friendships can do for a film. (they were longtime NYU film school friends, and they've been working together for most of their careers (and with such wonderful results! TD really needed a female perspective, and how wonderful that the film was in some large part the vision of a woman!)

i'll even admit that i was intensely hoping Marky Mark Wahlberg would win for his role as Dignam, a short-tempered fiery wise-crack cop.

TD was really not a bad film. in fact it was great. i remember loving it. but what irks me is that in his Oscar acceptance speech, Bill Monahan remembers to thank everyone, but fails to acknowledge the original story writers, Wai Keung Lai and Siu Fai Mak, the ones whose work he basically co-opted and claimed as his own, whose writing saved him unquantifiable amounts of time and creative labor.

furthermore, when Monahan went up to take the Oscar, the announcer said that "THE DEPARTED is based on a Japanese film." err, wrong. it is based ("based" being a significant understatement) on the Hong Kong original, INFERNAL AFFAIRS. and in the fall, when i first learnt this, promised a more thorough comparison than the one currently here.

so, as promised, and in light of recent events, i present my comparison of THE DEPARTED and INFERNAL AFFAIRS...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"this is some nasty"

while cleaning virtual closets, i discovered some old remnants of posts i thot i'd saved for myself too long. being of the generous spirit this foggy february day, i thot i'd share some of them. so here is one of those posts now...


[from 11/12/06]

hello family,

as i mentioned in a previous post, i went to columbus last weekend to see the fiery furnaces. what i failed to mention (or rather, what i was saving for a separate post so you could enjoy it in all its awesome --awesome in its original meaning, that is, "awful"-- goodness), was that i also saw the guinea worms, a local columbus band.

oh friends. what an experience this was!

first, bear in mind that my friends and i had driven 2-3 hours to get there early enough for good seats/standing room. then, add the 2 hours of waiting we endured, just so this band could play.

and when the playing began, it made me want to shoot myself in the face, bleed all over them, and die on their instruments so the music would cease.

IT. WAS. HORRIBBLE. (yes, that's horribble with 2 b's)

the first two songs were the same song, but with different lyrics. if not for the deliberate (and awkward) pause, i would not have been able to surmise that they were separate songs.

and the lyrics, when i could make them out from their growled and stumbled delivery, were laughable at best. more pathetic, was the thought that the 3 dudes in the band had most probably labored over many too-weak beers to churn them out.

a tasting:
for a song called "There's really nothing better than a box of records" the lyrics were - you guessed it! - "There's really nothing better than a box of records! There's really nothing better than a box of records! (repeated, for 5 minutes)"

tho, i think later on they expounded on that initial thot, and came up with this:
"I guess I'll make you my girlfriend / something to stick my needle in"

hmm... maybe the boys should have stopped there...

but they most certainly did not. they continued. and came up with this gem:
"Sorry girls! Sorry girls!
I'm not a creep!
I'm not a freak!... yet!
Sorry girls!..."

well, at least they apologized...?

oh, and my personal favorite use of sight rhyme from that night came from a song called "I wanna get into your Ya-Ya":
"I really like your fur...
1 2 3 444444444!!!!"

yeah. charming.

guinea up!

Monday, February 12, 2007

music for activists

ok, so i'm going to take a break from my usual fare and pose a query of a very urgent type:


i stress again that this is a very urgent matter and i would like to hear back from you post-haste.

alternatively, what kind of music sustains ur anger tantrums? what kind of music elicits u to dance/ stomp around?

this is of ultimate importance. all i got right now is Marvin Gaye [mp3-"Inner City Blues"]...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

chance imagery

i read part of George Brecht's "Chance Imagery" [.pdf] today. i found the part about "randomness" particularly interesting. allow me to indulge:

"chance images are characterized by a lack of conscious design. [...] in general, the reason for the importance of randomness for purposes of scientific inference will be the same as the reason for its importance in the arts, that is, the elimination of bias." [Brecht, p.17, emphasis added]

this got me thinking about the relationship of randomness and sense, and how meaning is derived mostly from the proximity of certain images and sounds, the creation of contexts.

this is why experimental film can sometimes frustrate me, b/c it seeks to explode these meaning webs, drawing attn to the mind's assumptions by playing with them, with arbitrary constructs.

if art as i understand and conceive of it is unique in that it presents the artist's meaning, that there is a message hidden within for the viewer/audience, then the frustration i have with chance-imagery IS the very fact that it removes bias.

bias is what i go to art for. if i wanted to go to something cold and free from personal perspective, i'd go to science.

but anyway, the thot i had that would change my understanding of chance-imagery would be something along the lines of the jots pictured on my hand:
if i were to film an ordinary day in the ordinary life of an ordinary person, nothing spectacular, nothing worth judging, just something simple that ppl would watch and think, 'oh, how ordinary...' that is, if i could capture on film something that would not elicit strong bias or intimations of bias, just an omniscient passive observer lens recording an average daily occurence, then i could invert its meaning (or lack of meaning) with a parallel chance-imagery version of the same day.

that is, it would be two complementary film records of an ordinary day:
1. the linear (real) version, which would be conventional, and free of bias. &
2. the nonlinear/ subconscious (surreal), which would use chance-imagery. in this film, i would record footage of all the random things i find along the day while filming/ things my subject might come across randomly on an average day: magazine ads strewn on the street, a lost scarf strewn on the grass in the lawn outside, the used condom found in the parking lot, the sign blinking "cookie ugh" instead of "cookie dough" and etc. these chance images would provide meaning, rather than erase them, and would instead construct a narrative that perhaps wasn't even there to begin with.

what kinds of thots come to one's mind as one finds trash and treasures on city streets while walking about in an ordinary day?

that would be the subject and crux of such a film exploration.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

call it a snow day!

it snowed all day today! from 11-5, the air was dense with light fluffy snow, and my eyes and -brows were caked in ice!

but the snow was so majestic, so smooth and glistening white, and so ceaseless and unrelenting, constant and even to the point of being rhythmic.

when you're on the cusp of childhood like i, you probably still fondly remember the thrill of watching the snow fall in anticipation of a snow day, remember your parents coming into your room in the morning to tell you to stay in bed because school has been cancelled, then staying at home with your sibling(s) and going sledding, helping dad scrape the ice off the driveway, and mom coming home to make you hot soup and make sure you're under the covers so as not to catch cold.

then you'll understand the feelings of incredible joy and overwhelming warmth, despite the harsh conditions, that accompanied the sight of 7 inches of snow!

i never thot i'd see childhood snows like this again, but i am so glad i did.

now if only i could enjoy another snow day...

Monday, February 05, 2007

looks like i've made it

the google searches for ["stephanie lee" write] yield this blog as the very first hit.

now that's a hit.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

a page from my service journal

Shock and Awe.

OK, so perhaps my title is a bit dramatic. But that's what first came to mind as an accurate description of my first day on-site for the EITC service.

The day began like a typical school day. That is, very early. While everyone in my dorm was still sleeping their Friday nights off, I was up at 7:30, getting ready to make the long trek in the numbing cold to Lane Library for my service, which began at 9. In actuality, my preparation for today's service began on Friday night, when my friend and I were "studying" for our positions as screeners. We role-played and quizzed each other on procedure, foregoing the parties and movie nights everyone else seemed to be enjoying.

As I expected, the first day bore some revelations: First, that there are NO places to eat a hearty breakfast on campus before 9 am. I settled for a blueberry muffin in Shriver, which, though delicious, proved to be too little, and by the time 11:30 came I was hungry. (Note to self: get up a little earlier next time and find enough time to eat a full breakfast uptown. 4 hours is a long time to be hungry.) Next, Lane Library is just about the farthest place to have to walk from Peabody Hall (even though it is one of the closest places on the fringe of Uptown). I say this because Kroger is far enough that you wouldn't consider it walkable. If you were to tell someone you were walking to Kroger, they'd probably say you're crazy and offer you a ride. But Lane is close enough to seem within reasonable walking distance, so no one ever considers it a formidable feat to walk there. In fact, people will often tell you it's close and convenient. But they would be wrong. And in the bitter cold (it was 11 degrees this morning, not including windchill), the walk, no matter how long or short, was insufferable. As I power-walked uphill to Lane on my Saturday morning, I was cursing the cold and wondering how I could best get out of doing this again.

When I finally arrived, I threw down my heavy backpack and checked in with the Site Coordinator, Debra Stanley, and saw that there was already someone waiting. To my complete shock, it was Mary*. She works with another woman, Dorothy, to maintain Peabody during the week. They work all by themselves and never complain, despite the deplorable messes in the bathrooms and halls after long nights of careless neglect. Dorothy and Mary are two of the most wonderful people you will ever meet, and I've spent many an afternoon chatting with them, munching on the many desserts they delight in making for the residents of Peabody. When I see them, they make an effort to say hello and tell me, over and over again, how wonderful they think the work I do for Students for Staff is, and how much they appreciate the little gnome I set outside my door just for them (Mary loves to joke about "the little guy" protecting the hallways). I will update them on my activities and hand them an SFS newsletter, ask them how they're feeling, if their work is going well. Though they are very deliberate in saying they love working for Miami, there's an air of sadness and forlorn weariness. This is the stock answer I get from workers, who, when reminded of their work situation, This is the response I've been getting from workers all over campus. They will say the benefits are great, the atmosphere is nice, the people are always so friendly. They never mention their wages, nor do I ask them.

Nor do I need to. My work in SFS has never assumed that wages are the only problem. "It is not," as one administrator told me, "a wage issue." Rather, I take issue with what Miami's wages symbolize, what they mean to the worker and to the university in terms of intrinsic value. What matters to me is the level of respect and appreciation those wages represent. It irks me that though Mary works 40 hours a week for Miami, she is still only scraping by. When Dorothy's shoulder was injured on the job last year, she had to take time off work for surgery and subsequent physical therapy and recuperation. Those weeks of not working put her back quite a bit, so she had to work over time. Another woman working in my building suffered a car crash and multiple health problems due to her diabetes, and is now working the night shift at Krogers to pay the accumulating medical bills.

If "it is not a wage issue," as some administrators say, then the implication is that it is a problem with the individual workers. I find this accusation even more deplorable, since it seems clear to me that not all workers have a choice in the financial decisions they make. Furthermore, I do not believe it is my, nor an administrator's, place to say what is "appropriate" use of an individual's wage. However, I do believe that financial literacy is an important step in addressing poverty in our communities. If the administration does not see it as a wage problem, it is of great importance to me that I become involved with part of the solution, as they see it.

However, judging from my first day at EITC service, I feel even more justified in refusing to believe the administration's insistence that poverty is not an issue in the Miami community. As I saw from Saturday's service, poverty is much more of a reality than most would think to imagine. I helped clients who weren't older than my younger brother, who's turning 18 in April. In fact, most of our clients on Saturday were teenagers, who were already beginning their dives into the labor industry. Life can seem incomprehensibly unfair, when I'm helping kids younger than myself to get their federal income tax returns. I am glad to help them, of course, but I wish there were more I could do. I wish I could urge them into school. I wish that school could be an option for them as it is for me. I wish that we could be kids together, rather than be two strangers on opposite sides of a table, opposite sides of an experience, on opposite sides of society, with myself helping, and them asking for help. I wish that rather than doing work for them, that I could work with them to make things better.

I am reading Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, in which he talks about effective radical praxis as a combination of deliberate action accompanied by reflection. I hope that maybe this is a start.