Sunday, March 30, 2014


So, after my Hunting post, someone online called me out as being racist, which was bizarre, and also a major bummer in my first few, emotionally excessive, weeks in NY. I'm not sure if it was the observation about the high volume of Hasidic Jews in Crown Heights (which is just a fact - & a fascinating one at that!), that I called East Flatbush awful (for which I apologise - see explanation below), the ridiculous map at the head of the post which was posted (if you read the whole blog) to make fun of its gross over-simplification, or my own gross over-simplification about the safety / desirability of neighbourhoods in Brooklyn (basically, the further it is from Manhattan, the more likely it is to be dangerous) - see apology below.

I think the person may have misread the tone of my blog, and misunderstood my intentions, but they were right to call me out. I don't believe any of my comments were racist (it's kind of racist to read race into my comments about neighbourhoods, but let's not go there), but I do believe I was insensitive, and for that I thank my offendee for calling me out. I found it disproportionately embarrassing (I was still pretty weepy at the time and was having some culture shock issues as it was), but I did learn from it.

I made sweeping statements about certain neighbourhoods which were intended to be an exaggerated, comical depiction of the ups and downs of NY apartment hunting. I do see how those sweeping statements would be offensive to people who actually live in those areas, know people who live in those areas or make a living in those areas. I also see how my statements may reinforce annoying stereotypes that inhabitants of those areas likely spend their lives having to disprove. For that I genuinely do apologise. It annoys me when people make unintentionally condescending presumptions about South Africa (or Africa in general), but I do try to remember that I have many blind spots of my own (case in point), laugh at their ignorance and enlighten them with more accurate information. (Other times I confess I make up ridiculous stories which they will hopefully repeat to the next South African they meet...).

So I apologise for my insensitivity. I won't update my blog, because I said what I said, even if I said it badly, and I learnt from the experience. Which is what I'm here to do. I appreciate being called out on it.

Also, I love Brooklyn (all of it) and everyone who lives there. It feels far more like home than Manhattan (which is fun in a different way). I admire those who come from edgy neighborhoods (and let's be honest, some are more edgy than others), and would love to know all their stories, because I'm sure I have no idea what their lives are like. To be frank, I probably grew up quite sheltered and spoilt, but there's nothing I can do about that except try not to be ignorant about how others grew up. I'm probably also a white hipster gentrifier, but there's not much I can do to help that either, except try to be a considerate, rather than a presumptious, version of that. I do want to live in a neighbourhood where I feel my wife could walk home safely from the subway at 2AM, even though I come from a country with notorious violent crime rates (the difference is; in South Africa, we know how to be street smart. Here; we're still learning).

Anyway, as long as I'm learning, I'm grateful. If any of this came off insenstivie, let me know. I'm still learning & I want to know. Thanks for the lesson, New York!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


One of the things I love about filmmaking is how it forces a wildly diverse cacophony of people to pool together their talents (from the creative to the technical to the administrative and the financial) and create an alchemy that will produce the final film.

At NYFA, the diversity is heightened, as students come from all over the world to follow the tradition of the American Dream. We're all like Leonardo DiCaprio in that cheesy moment from Titanic (I know, I should be more specific) where he goes all bananas after seeing the Statue of Liberty (which I can see from my classes). Let's hope we don't end up like Leonardo DiCaprio in Wolf of Wall Street (which I can see from the other side of my class).

My class of 18 aspiring filmmakers hails from across the globe:
  • 2 X Dominican Republic
  • 2 X South Africa (I'm not the only 1!)
  • 1 X Brazil
  • 1 X China
  • 1 X India (like Slumdog Millionaire, but just the millionaire part) 
  • 1 X Italy
  • 1 X Japan
  • 1 X Kazakhstan (not at all like Borat!)
  • 1 X Korea
  • 1 X Mexico
  • 1 X Newfoundland, Canada (it's a tiny island that only belongs to Canada because they killed Europeans for it - I presume)
  • 1 X Russia
  • 1 X Sweden
  • 1 X Taiwan  
There are only 2 born & bred US locals in my class that I know of
  • 1 X Queens, New York
  • 1 X New Jersey (which is practically another country)
& 3 that we're born elsewhere but raised in the US:

1 X Dominican Republic --> Bronx
1 X Dominican Republic --> Brooklyn
1 X Mexico --> California 
This makes things very exciting, and also makes small talk very easy - "So, where are you from?" is an easy & logical introduction to any conversation, followed by questions about the weather there, the film industry there & then some good-natured complaining about how cold New Yorkers are, how expensive everything is here, how you can't really drink the tap water and how hard it is to find decent accommodation. That's how New York brings the world together - by making us all suffer as one.

There is also a wide array of film taste. When asked to name on our favourite films / directors, the answers ranged from Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese (me, proudly), Quentin Tarantino (2 girls & 1 guy), Christopher Nolan, Woody Allen & Guy Ritchie to Pearl Harbour, Fast and Furious (1 through 7), and the Harry Potter franchise.

For real, though, it's a great bunch of people, all as illogically addicted to film as I am, regardless of whether they came of age in Stockholm or Siciliy, Moscow or Mumbai. A global community of passionate individuals who will, as part of my film crews, either make my short films awesome or screw them up completely. Fun times. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


More detailed updates are (most likely) coming soon, but for all those who have been reaching out in concern after our last blog update; we are doing fine, thank you!

We're still hunting but we're positive and crying considerably less (which is not at all, actually).

Sometimes, we do feel like this:

And, sometimes, we feel like this:

(although in New York, there are so many people truly dealing with homelessness, it would be very disrespectful to place ourselves in the same category. We are akin to travelling gypsies at best).

But mostly, we're in New York, we're on an adventure, we're together & we feel like this:

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Week One in New York:

Day 1: Arrive. Jet lagged. Taxi (expensive). Brooklyn Sheraton. View (Statue of Liberty). Overwhelmed. Jet lagged. Asleep by 9h30.

Day 2: Caroline weekend visit! Brooklyn Bridge! Chinatown / chinese maid outfits! Street performers! Brooklyn Bridge (again)... Snow! Brooklyn Bridge park! Snow! Mmakgantsi! Mmakgantsi's baby! Amazing pizza (Brooklyn Heights)! Piano bar in Greenwich Village (wrong bar but still great)! Extremely crowded, ridiculously rude waitress! Jet lag kicks in... Manage to stay awake til midnight!

Day 3: Central Park, snow, attempted snow angels, attempted sledding, amateur figure skaters, successful snow woman, Belgian waffles, Strawberry fields, John Lennon's apartment. Caroline leaves... jet lag sets in...

Day 4: HOLY CRAP WE NEED A PLACE TO STAY (NY honeymoon is over)!!! Take up permanent residence on Naked Apartments, Hotpads, Zillow and Craig's List. See East Flatbush. Cold response to lack of US Credit Rating. Need US Guarantor. Who? Who? Mareesa cries. Find out NYFA won't allow me to work at all, even though my Visa allows it. Friedl cries (a little, mostly inside). Everjoy Gutu calls, Mareesa feels 76% better. See Crown Heights. Realtor called Mendy shows us two terrible apartments. Drown sorrows at McDonalds. Watch homeless guy take steel pipes out of his jacket outside. Confused. Wait 30 minutes in freezing cold for realtor called Juanita. At least she shows us a decent apartment, but Mareesa is not convinced.

Day 5: More realtors, more subway, more running. Late for every appointment. It gets pretty repetitive from here on out. Apartments in our price range are hit and miss. If they're big enough, they're old and rundown. If they're clean & remodelled, they're tiny. If they're both, they're at the end of a subway line.

Day 6: More apartments... more realtors... my introvert "small talk" quotient is waaaay maxed out... I potentially get a bit grumpy and mopey. See apartment that is perfect in every way - but just too expensive. Consider blowing our savings on it anyway, but realise that may be unwise. Ignore all further calls and head to Prospect Park instead. Magical walk in the snow. So. Much. Snow. Successful snow angels. Soft powdery snow. Snow frolicking. Snowball throwing. Dead cold hands. Walk right through all the way back to the top of Washington Ave to get into Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (for FREE - cause everything is still frozen) Wander through Conservatory, visit snowed-over Japanese Garden, as featured in Woody Allen's Manhattan (or was it? I can't remember now. Perhaps it was the Cherry Orchard. Perhaps it was neither). Feel guilty for shirking house-hunting duties. Go home. Read about gentrification in Crown Heights. Try to research crime rates in Brooklyn cause, you know, you hear a lot, but how safe / dangerous is it really? (UPDATE: compared to where I'm from, really quite safe) - this and this were actually useful, this not so much, this is kind of racist. Bay Ridge appears to be the safest place in the world. Bed Stuy not so much. (UPDATE: Bed Stuy is great & right around the corner from where I live. Brooklyn is very safe & generally much friendlier than Manhattan. Be patient with us white people. We're silly and easily frightened).

Day 7: SO over apartment hunting. See some terrible places catch a manic lift with a realtor who drives like a crazy person, from Queens to Downtown Brooklyn. At least three accidents barely averted. Do appreciate the lift, though, and the guided tour of Brooklyn. Dinner with the Gutus in Times Square. Nicest people on the planet. Go home with more home-cooked meals than we could possibly eat.

Day 8: See, like, six properties in Bay Ridge. But feel more confused than ever. Great area, but really far out. Also, don't see any really good places. Work until 3AM to finish up some of the Summit work I've been putting off since England. Hotel's Wi Fi hits a wobbly and causes the slowest, most fatally drawn out working experience of my life. Nevertheless, get two newsletters out in time and manage to email chat with my former colleagues as they start their Fridays at the office in South Africa.

Day 9: Mareesa's birthday! Skype with family!!! Then see more properties. End up seeing only one. Almost sign up for it before realising the massive Agent's Fee and 4 month security deposit is not a good deal. Also we don't really like the place (not enough to sign up for 12 months). Rethink everything. Question everything. Doubt everything. Renting in New York is like taking out a mortgage. Go to the Little Cupcake Bakeshop and have birthday Lucky Charm Cake and tea. Realise we can probably live with the Gutus in New Jersey if all else fails and decide not to rush into anything. Take a walk past the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that connects Brooklyn to Staten Island. Get Mareesa's nails did (ok and mine too) at best-rated Viatnamese nail parlour in Williamsburg - thanks, Caroline! Get all dressed up and take the subway out to Brooklyn Heights for an incredible dinner of cheese platters, raw meet platters, beef stew, butternut pastas, spanish wine and dessert containing yoghurt, ice cream, cheddar and Thyme at Colonie - thanks Dean and Andrea (and thanks Elsa for the recommendation). Put our cares behind us. Combination of sleep deprivation and wine brings Friedl's detached emotions unexpectedly to the fore and tears are momentarily strewn in public. Sleep like babies (minus the waking up and crying and the dirty nappies).

Day 10: Oversleep. See two more properties in Bay Ridge. Epically convoluted travel arrangements. Options options. More confused than ever. Consider sharing until we find our feet. About 15 realtors left hanging - will probably have to notify them at some point that we are not interested in their properties, or risk persuasive calls, text and emails until the end of days...

Also Day 10: Pack up our lives into 9 pieces of luggage, again. Check out of Brooklyn Sheraton. Enjoy last breakfast of fruit, bran, creamy scrambled eggs and dripping, crispy bacon (and Bagels). Enjoy last free Starbucks coffee.

Later on Day 10: Collect bags, find taxi big enough to take all our bags, and move into a dude named Rob's spare bedroom in trendy Greenpoint, for four nights (via Air Bnb). Consider venturing out to watch American Hustle. Stay in and watch Miranda July's The Future instead. Tired and mentally drained enough to find it amusing. Then blog til Midnight.

I promise future blogs will be more engaging. This week was pretty overwhelming, what with the jet lag and apartment hunting and far-and-wide subway riding, and late-night working, and missing everybody and everything. It is insanely exciting to be in New York, though, and to be preparing for my course work at New York Film Academy.

Tomorrow, we just enjoy being in New York. (Update: mostly just managed to go to Hillsong NYC, cry like babies and wander aimlessly around Manhattan - I believe Mareesa spent some birthday money in the process. Then tried to watch the Oscars online, gave up and went to bed early).

Saturday, March 1, 2014


So there is a town west of London called Slough. It's fairly close to Maidenhead, where we've been staying, and we pass it every time we take the train to London.

I am dedicating a blog post to it because the pronunciation of Slough has opened a proverbial can of worms in my head that I would like to exorcise. 

On arriving, I politely presumed Slough was pronounced "Slew", since it seemed a reasonable way to pronounce a place where people actually lived (as a secondary option, I also suggested "Slow"). I was informed, however, the the correct pronunciation is "slauw" (rhymes with "thou" or "plough" or "how now brown cow"), which sounds quite a bit less like a place where people should live. Nevertheless, there it is. If you want to abide by the queen's English, and apparently we all do, you should call it "slauw".

This just reminded me how painfully arbitrary the Queen's English can be, with all it's firm, precise and entirely illogical rules. Like the way "though", "through", "thought", "tough" and "trough" all find different ways to pronounce the identical "ough" element (th-oh, thr-ooh, th-ô-t, t-uff and t-rôff, respectively). No sense at all.

That made me wonder why Slough diverges from all these varied pronunciations and pursues, instead, yet another alternative. I logically decided to research all words ending in "ough" (for purposes of brevity and sanity I focused only on words ending in "ough", to the exclusion of words containing "ough") to determine which pronunciation is, in fact, the most common.

As it turns out, there are 24 independent, and 3 derivative, words ending in "ough" (IF YOU KNOW OF ANY MORE, LET ME KNOW URGENTLY), and they are:

although - despite the fact that - rhymes with "aglow" 
borough - a village, town or part of a large city that has it's own government - rhymes with "furrow"
bough - a main branch of a tree - rhymes with "cow"
breakthrough - a sudden increase in knowledge, understanding etc - rhymes with "achoo"
chough - either a black and white Australian bird of the mud-nester family, or a black bird of the crow family - rhymes with" bluff"
clough - a steep valley or ravine - rhymes with "low"
cough - to force air through your throat with a short, loud noise, often because you are sick - rhymes with "scoff"
dough - a thick malleable mixture of flour and liquid, used for baking into bread or pastry - rhymes with "crow"
enough - as much as required - rhymes with "cream puff"
furlough - a leave of absence - rhymes with "wallow"
hiccough - fancy way of saying hiccup - pronounced like "hiccup"
interborough - between boroughs - still rhymes with "furrow"
lough - Irish for loch, which is like a little lake - rhymes with "block"
plough - large farming implement with blades, used to turn over soil and cut furrows for planting seeds - rhymes with "now"
rough - having an uneven or irregular surface, OR a violent, boisterous person - rhymes with "bluff"
slough 1 - a place of deep mud or mire; a swamp, OR a situation characterised by lack of progress or activity, OR a state of moral degradation or spiritual dejection - rhymes with "blue"
slough 2 - the cast-off skin of a dead snake, OR something that may be shed or cast off - rhymes with "bluff"
sough - a moaning, whistling or rush sound as made by the wind in the trees or the sea - rhymes with "cow"
sourdough - leaven for making bread, consisting of fermenting dough - rhymes with "airflow"
thorough - complete with regard to every detail - rhymes with "burrow"
though - despite the fact that - rhymes with "blow"
through - moving in one side and out of the other side - rhymes with "chew"
tough - strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough handling - rhymes with "fluff"
trough - a long, narrow open container for animals to eat or drink out of - rhymes with "scoff"
unrough - um, not rough - rhymes with "nun bluff"
wherethrough - through which, whereby - rhymes with "ado"
yarborough - (usually in a game of bridge) a hand with no ace and no card above nine - rhymes with "Gainsborough"

So we have 10 "ough"s pronounced "oh", 7 pronounced "uff", 4 pronounced "ooh", 3 "ow", 2 "ôff" and 1 "ock".

The statistics clearly favour the pronunciation as "sl-oh" or "sluff", while the main dictionary definition of Slough (hardly anything you'd want to name a town after), suggests my initial presumption of "sl-ooh" (or "slew"). You have to dig pretty deep (to bough, plough and sough) to find a justification for "sl-auw". But there it is.

Which all leads to the conclusion that this is a very unfortunately named town, subject to the ridicule - and ridiculousness - of the Queen's English.