Take the First

Perhaps it’s just because I’ve been living in China for so long that I’m intrigued by the ideas of a safe protest for freedom of expression and the press, a petition I can’t get in trouble for signing, and a public gathering to voice an opinion.

Or maybe it’s because I’m still a New Yorker that when my friend Ame sent me news that the Mayor’s Office is considering requiring permits and $1mm liability insurance for all filming in New York City–vaguely enough written to include amateur movies, webcasts, photos, wedding scenes– I had to spread the word.

The issue is best explained here:  http://gothamist.com/2007/06/29/city_proposes_l.php

The legislation itself is here: http://www.nyc.gov/html/film/downloads/pdf/moftb_permit_regs.pdf

And the petition, which is now getting a signature every 5 seconds, is here:

Speaking of Constitutional Amendments, I have a Chinese colleague who speaks amazing English, but is still learning idiomatic expressions.   He asked me a question last week to which I had responded jokingly, “I take the Fifth.”  He looked quizzically at me, took out his pen, and asked me to explain the phrase.  So unintentially I end up explaining the Bill of Rights and the right against self-incrimination… and as I’m going down this path, I start thinking:  can I get in trouble for this conversation?

The next day, that colleague, my boss and I are having a conversation, in which my colleague to my horror uses this newly learned phrase.  My (Chinese) boss turns to me and asks, “what does ‘take the Fifth’ mean?”

Gulp.  Do I once again raise the sensitive topic of the US Bill of Rights?  Or can I wiggle out of this conversation without teaching phrases that, if said in the wrong place at the wrong time, might have unintended connotations?

“It means,” I reply, “If I answer your question, I could get myself into trouble. So I can’t answer your question.”


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