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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, September 29, 2006

Why Political Party Affiliation Says Nothing About Character

Recently, Sen. George Allen (R - Virginia), who is running for re-election, has been battered in the press and in certain talk radio arenas for allegedly spouting the N-word casually and gleefully as a younger man. He has been accused of using the word in reference to fellow football players when he was a student at the University of Virginia in the 1970s. He has been accused of stuffing a deer head into the mailbox of a black family after a hunting trip. He has been accused by a University of Alabama professor who visited Allen's rural home and observed turtles in a pond at the home in the early '80s of exclaiming to the 'Bama prof that only the N-words eat turtle soup. Even Larry Sabato, a respected - by both major political parties - political analyst at the University of Virginia, confirmed that he'd heard Allen use the word.

I think it's all despicable on Allen's part, and it may surprise you to know that I am an admitted hypocrite when it comes to the use of the N-word.

Anyway, at the height of all the righteous indignation over Allen's verbal transgressions, his Democrat opponent James Webb, former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan, was asked if he ever used the N-word back in the day.

Webb's answer, according to published reports? "The question was, 'Have I ever in my life said that word? I don't think anyone my age or my experience - and I grew up in a very tough environment - I cannot stand here and say to you or anyone that I have not said that word. But I never cast aspersions on another human being because of their background."

So let me translate: I used the word, but I didn't aim it at anyone in particular.

Hmmm. Sounds a lot like "I smoked trees (marijuana for those of you over the age of 40) but didn't inhale."

Two men. Two political extremes. Same bad judgement.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Quick Hits from the week of Sept. 25th

  • Not 'cause I was looking for 'em, but by coincidence I have seen waaaaaaay too many dudes (one is too many for me) in skin tight jeans this week. I realize the punk scene is cool again, but it is Not attractive, fellas. If you are not a rock star - I mean a real rock 'n roll musician who gets lots of money for his performances and lots of women to boot - then you have no business wearing pants that fit like skin. Your legs and nethers deserve to breathe.
  • I went to an opening night performance of The Light in the Piazza at the new Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami. It was for work. And I was impressed. The facilities are beautiful. I thought the acoustics were great. And even though I was in the nosebleed seats I enjoyed the performance. The only downside from my vantage point was an occasionally crying baby somewhere up near me in the clouds. Maybe not quite that high, 'cause the acoustics were so good that kid could have been on stage and the sound would've carried. But my point is who brings a baby young enough to still cry on a whim to a musical or an opera? I can only guess it would be the same person who talks on a cell phone inside a movie theater or sits through a religious service with a crying, squirming baby on their lap instead of taking the kid into the hallway and letting him get the crying out of his system.
  • I have sympathy for broke people, having found myself in that position often. But I realize sympathy goes best with humility and honesty. I have a neighbor, a friendly acquaintance - she doesn't live close by, but she owns a rental property close by - who is struggling to keep herself together, because she can't collect rent on the duplex she owns. She can't collect rent, 'cause her tenants won't pay. They won't pay because they don't have enough money. On that information alone I feel bad for the tenants. They're young and clearly struggling. But there's a twist. They haven't paid rent for nearly six months, and while the landlord has offered creative payment plans for them to catch up they've taken that same period of time to stall and come up with creative excuses not to pay. Once when she asked for rent, they told her they'd pay when she got the lawn cut. She did, and they promptly said they shouldn't have to pay because of an issue with a window. Then it was a door. Then they wanted hurricane shutters. And so on and so forth. Did all these things improve the property? Sure, but should these folks have been using them as weapons to keep from having to pay? No. This wasn't the case of slumlord and tenants living in squalor. I saw the property before they moved in. It was nice. Not luxurious, but nice. If you owe, pay. Or at least admit you owe, lean on the kindness of your creditor and make arrangements. But when you try to stiff people under the guise of you being mistreated it becomes tacky. And it's hard to feel bad for ya.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I hate politics, but...

I've been listening to debate for several days on the speech Venezualan Pres. Hugo Chavez gave at the United Nations last week, and I've been trying to pretend I didn't care. But I have to weigh in: Hugo Chavez is a knucklehead.

There, I said it. And you know why I'm OK with saying it? 'Cause it's my opinion, and I'm saying it from a respectful distance. If I had said it while standing in his back yard, I'd expect him or his big brother to come outside and smack me in the mouth for my disrespect.

So, whether you like Pres. Bush or not, whether you voted for him or not, he is the Commander in Chief of the United States. And Hugo Chavez was out of line to come to the United States last week and call our president names. When I was a kid, my older sister and my female cousin who lived with my family used to practically torture me. The teasing was brutal. But when another kid tried to do the same to me, that duo would always check the other kid and say "Hands off. We may think he's a snot nosed brat, but he's our snot-nosed brat. You go home and beat up your own siblings."

And you eggheads out there don't leave me messages about the United Nations being international soil. You know what? The U.S. government pays most of the UN's bills, and that organization gets a nice building with a waterfront view virtually rent free. No matter how you define the UN, it's headquarters still rest within the United States. And those people who embraced Chavez and applauded his childish tongue-lashing? They're knuckleheads too.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Cowboy Code: Chapter Six (You break it, you bought it)

Bite your tongue!

is what I should have said to my guy the other day, when he temporarly lost his mind, called his very attentive, very caring ex and essentially told her he wanted to spend the rest of his life w/her and have babies, etc.

The "problem" is after making that call he began second-guessing himself and questioned whether or not he was quite ready to live in the world that he'd basically promised her.

Now, she may have her hopes up. And he is in a pickle. Give her the full-time, exclusive relationship she's always wanted, or tell her he made a mistake and isn't quite ready for that couples life?

Abide by the Cowboy Code, fellas: If you don't mean it or you aren't prepared to enact it immediately, then don't promise it. Don't even say it. Don't even think about it, 'cause the piper, AKA the woman you sold your soul to, will call on you to pay up.

Weekly Behavior Awards

Three nominations this week, folks.

For Best Behavior -

Og says: the impeccably groomed and extremely gay black man who helped us in Kroger in Dearbornistan last saturday night. He was polite and helpful and very professional, and it was the end of his shift and the store was closing; he had every reason to be grouchy and in a bad mood.

And Kirsten says: Well, I live in Egypt...What do you expect?? :OHere they say that Osama Bin Laden died recently by Thyfoid. That's GOOD behavior.!

For Biggest Bum -

Big Daddy says - Bum of the week to whichever neighbor of mine has had their cracked windshield and spare donut Hyundai sh*tbox backed in over the same 2 spaces @ my condo complex for over 2 weeks. I wish I could attach a picture here to show everyone how lazy this park job is. Notes on the windshield have not worked nor have offers to instruct the driver on the finer points of rear entry perpendicular parking (which in some ways resemble teaching a 5-yr old to color inside the lines). The condo association is as yet unformed (due to a failed condo conversion), so no one is available to pay for a tow to remove this poorly placed piece of puckey pluggin' up the parkin' lot. I would let the air out of the bum's tires, but then the fokker would never get moved.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Don't Forget Tonight...

Weekly Behavior Awards are back. Let's get some nominations.

If you're new to this game, give us your nomination for Best Behavior or Biggest Bum, based on extraordinarily good or extraordinarily bad behavior you've seen or heard about in the past week or so.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The thing about "Icles"

Over the past several months (most recently a week or so ago by email) I have gotten a number of requests from female readers that I write something about the bad manners that go along with men grabbing their goodie bags in public.

It's an old story. But on the off chance that there really are people who don't know what the below-the-belt touches are all about I'll explain. But I'm not promising it'll be pretty.

Now, I could ramble on and on about the ancient philosopher Testicles and how he started a ritual way back when that all men follow to this day. But really, it's not that complicated. Some men grab/touch their nether regions in public because they get an itch or because the contents of the package have shifted during travel and need to be put back in place. Sorry, blunt but true. Other men - particularly those who grab and hold for long periods of time - do it because they're idiots and saw some rapper in a music video do the same, so they think it's something hip and manly to do. Plus it's a way for them to know it's still there and hasn't run away or something. And still other guys do it 'cause they're dirty pervs and they just like touching themselves.

That being said, you must make allowances for men with innocent intentions. If you happen to catch a guy in the act and he's quick about it, cut him a break. It's likely he was plagued by the itch or the shifting contents. You must use the equivalent of the 5-second food rule. You know the one you used in college when you were broke and didn't have much to eat? Drop a piece of food on the floor of your apt. and if you pick it up in under five seconds it's still clean enough to eat. No science behind that rule, but many of us used it. Give the well-intentioned, non-perv guy the 5-second grab-adjust-rule.

And that's that. But this isn't over. When I started getting those complaints from women about self-grabby guys I started conducting my own unscientific experiment to see if guys were the only culprits and under what circumstances. And what I found was interesting. For ever three guys I saw absentmindedly touching the goods, I saw one woman doing the same thing with a breast.

Seriously, just to prove I wasn't crazy I even pointed it out to my wife several times: "Hey, why's that woman rubbing that? Doesn't she know people might see her!"

Now to be fair, the wife explained to me that there are times and circumstances under which bosoms don't feel well and some women may rub them to help alleviate soreness, pain, etc.

My response was "Ahhhh, I had no idea." That really is an innocent, harmless enough reason for touching one's self up there...even in public.

But ladies this brings me back to the guys. If you can't give us the benefit of the doubt, then I'm afraid we can't cut you any slack either.

So let this be a truce: Give us allowances that there are times and circumstances under which a man can discreetly and quickly handle his business, and we will grant you the same allowances and not assume that you have reduced your bosoms to chesticles and are touching them for mere sport and nothing else.

Either way, and whatever your gender and whatever set of "icles" you're grabbing, if the touch is not to stop pain or make a necessary adjustment then you are triflin' and are exercising poor Burnettiquette.

Remember, what's good for the goose...

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Good looks and bad

So my wife and I were having a friendly debate over what constitutes friendliness and what constitutes flirting.

At issue was the depth, context, and frequency with which you compliment a member of the opposite sex, whether co-worker, neighbor, friend, etc.

For example, I might tell the wife she looks beautiful in a particular outfit. But I'd be uncomfortable telling that same thing to a female co-worker or friend or neighbor.

Being a guy, my instinct says compliments are no big deal, just another collection of words strung together. But being a married guy, I'm a little more careful as to what I say, how I say it, and to whom, because I don't want a nice gesture misinterpreted. I know I'm not the only guy who thinks about this stuff in this way.

My buddy says I'm being uptight. I say I'm being smart.

What do you think?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Eric Cartman was Right...Again

If you've been reading this blog for more than a minute then you know my wife and I, in an effort to keep from becoming full-fledged heathens, have been hunting for a church to attend - basically since we moved to South Florida last fall.

The fact that we haven't found a church to attend permanently might suggest that we're either too picky or not exactly sure what we're looking for. Maybe it's a combination of both. Maybe neither.

You may recall from past blog postings that we visited a church, where the pastor gave a chat that I swear I heard in a hippie pot circle once in college (I wasn't in the circle - I hate hippies; I was just passing through). That was the same church where a dog was strollin' up and down a pew (church bench for you civilians). There were others, like the place where people attended the service in wife beaters and flip-flops and beach gear.

For the record, this isn't one of those deals where we're looking for the church where everything's pristine and the minister tells us everyone's perfect and makes everyone sing Kumbaya. On the contrary, we're just looking for a little practical guidance.

That being said, there are some old school traditions that just can't be replaced. And one of my favorite old school church traditions is singing the old-fashioned hymns, the ones our grandparents and great grandparents knew by heart. In my case, my pops was a preacher, so I heard these hymns at home and every weekend in church. What can I say? I love 'em.

It is ironic, 'cause there's no way I live up to the standards set in some of those old gospel hymns. Nevertheless I find them inspirational and soothing.

So knowing a little of my pet peeves, you may find some cruel humor in the fact that the church we visited yesterday was full of hippies. That should have been my first red flag. I've never seen so many hippies in one place in my entire life - except for maybe that pot circle I observed in college or my old neighborhood back in Milwaukee.

The second red flag was the music. They didn't sing any of the old hymns. It was pretty much all new stuff. In fact, during a 40 minute singing session before they even got to the sermon, virtually every song they sang had an 1980s soft rock vibe.

I'm not hatin'. If soft Christian rock is how you get down, knock yourself out. It just doesn't move me like the old stuff.

Anyway, I didn't know these tunes and couldn't relate. But the singing portion of the service was long and there was no end in sight. So - God forgive me if this sounds sacrilegious - I started daydreaming. And one of the first thoughts to enter my mind was that this reminded me of the Faith Plus 1 episode of South Park, in which evil (but often funny) Eric Cartman schemes to get rich and famous by founding a Christian rock band named Faith Plus 1. When his band members Token and Butters express skepticism, Eric explains to them that all they have to do is take '80s romance/rock tunes and replace "baby" with "Jesus" in the lyrics. And voila! You now have a Christian rock song.

I'm ashamed to admit that as I shifted to keep my feet from falling asleep I tried the Eric Cartman create-a-church-tune theory in reverse. I substituted "Jesus" with "baby" in virtually every song during yesterday's service. And you know what? It worked!

Consider these snippets: "I need you in my life (baby)..." "I feel you all around me (baby)..."

Seriously, by inserting "baby" into each song in multiple places I had just made an album's worth of '80s-esque romance/rock tunes.

I am not recommending this as a habit, especially if you are trying to stave off heathenry, as am I.

But give me some old gospel tunes. I don't know who's writing this new stuff. But I'll take Fanny Crosby any day.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tag, yer it - Book/Reading Survey

My friend FatHairyBastard has tagged me with this Blogosphere Q&A. And as he makes a habit of thought-provoking posts, I think I'll play along and answer. In the end, I'll tag a few of you.

  1. A book I've read more than once? Life on the Mississippi & Innocents Abroad, both by Mark Twain, Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott, To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, and the Bible (King James Version and really, the whole thing, Genesis to Revelation several times), by...well, you know.
  2. What book would I want on a desert Island? I have to agree with FatHairyBastard on this one. Gotta have a book that teaches you to be McGuyver. So while I'd want to be entertained, I'd probably pick How to Hold a Crocodile: Plus Hundreds of Other Practical Tips, Fascinating Facts and Wicked Wisdom, or The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.
  3. A book that made me laugh? Basket Case, by my colleague Carl Hiaasen.
  4. A book that made me cry? Again, I agree with FatHairyBastard. I don't think a book has ever made me cry. Movies, however, are a different story. I cried at Old Yeller, and though I'm ashamed to admit it I got teary-eyed ONCE toward the end of Notting Hill.
  5. A book I wish I'd written? The Dirty Girls Social Club - not because I have anything in common with the author (though she was once a newspaper reporter, and in the interest of full disclosure I once interviewed and wrote a profile about her), and not because I have a gaggle of Latina best friends, but because the literary marketplace was so ripe for the book, and its release was so well-timed that once published it was an instant commercial success. And that translates to two things that every good, honest writer can admit he wants: lots of readers (translate that to "fans") and $$$ recognition for his work.
  6. A book I wish had never been written? I could easily get myself in trouble with this one, so I'll stay away from political and religious themes and stick to the mind-numbing stuff. Because it was a waste of paper and took up space that a real author could have used I wish Hold my Gold: A White Girl's Guide to the Hip-hop World had never been written.
  7. A book I'm currently reading? The Black Echo (a Det. Harry Bosch mystery), by Michael Connelly, and Head Case: How I Almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain, by Dennis Cass.
  8. A book I've meant to read? Don't know. I've read the classics, etc. So these days I just read 'em as I hear about 'em and come across 'em.
  9. A book that changed my life? The Bible would be a clichéd (but true answer). So other than the obvious, I'd say Invisible Man, and The Tipping Point.

Interesting survey. It was fun, F. Thanks for sending it.

So I guess I'll tag Drew, Rakish Rune, Freddie, Tere, Rick, and Melissa.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Save the Flav

So I finally got a chance to catch up on my Flavor of Love this evening, 'cause VH-1 aired a marathon of every episode to date this season.

And I walked away from the marathon with three feelings. No, make that four:
  1. First, I felt a combination of guilt, sadness, horror, and curiosity, sort of the way you feel when you're driving past a bad car wreck or when you see a homeless person dancing and talking to himself on the side of the road.
  2. Second, I felt regret for spending so much time watching this show, time that I'll wish I had back when I'm on my deathbed one day.
  3. Third, I wondered if there are enough strippers, ex-strippers, and Internet "models" left out there to cast a third season of the show, 'cause no doubt whoever Flav picks this time around will do him just like Hoops, the winner of season one: "date" him for a few seconds and then dump him.
  4. Finally, I wondered what in the world possessed Flav to keep Somethin' in the house for several episodes after she bent a biscuit on his living room floor. Maybe it's just me, but once you defecate in my house and a toilet bowl is not involved in the process you've pretty much eliminated any possibility of future romance.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards

Greetings, folks. Busy weekend, followed by a busy day chasing news. So I'm just getting back into the blogging saddle.

Anywho, here are our current & recent nominees for Weekly Behavior Awards:

Best Behavior
From our good friend Ben L. husband of Tere, author of the very cool Coral Gables blog: "Hey James, I'm not sure of the rules for the weekly behavior awards, but.... this lady deserves an award."

Woman in Wheelchair Shoots Alleged Mugger
From Associated PressSeptember 08, 2006 10:17 PM EDT
NEW YORK - Margaret Johnson might have looked like an easy target. But when a mugger tried to grab a chain off her neck Friday, the 56-year-old woman in a wheelchair pulled out her licensed .357 pistol and shot him, police said.
Johnson said she was in Harlem on her way to a shooting range when the man, identified by police as 45-year-old Deron Johnson, came up from behind and went for the chain.
"There's not much to it," she said in a brief interview. "Somebody tried to mug me, and I shot him."
Deron Johnson was taken to Harlem Hospital with a single bullet wound in the elbow, police said. He faces a robbery charge, said Lt. John Grimpel, a police spokesman.
Margaret Johnson, who lives in Harlem, has a permit for the weapon and does not face charges, Grimpel said. She also was taken to the hospital with minor injuries and later released.

From reader Cathy Shelest, also for Best Behavior: That same day I went to Target. I was leaving the store and had several bags to take to the car. I had my daughter with me, this time in her car seat/carrier and was trying to lift her and the bags out of the cart. A woman with 4 kids, maybe ranging in age from 10 to 16, was coming out of the store. The kids saw me, rushed over and asked to help me. One of them carried two bags, another the other two bags and a third kid came with them to escort me to my car. On the way, they chatted cheerfully with me about the weather and after loading the bags into the back of my car, said with beaming smiles, "Have a great day!" before returning to their mother. I'm sure I looked pretty silly standing there with my mouth hanging open. I wish I knew who their mother was so I could get some parenting tips from her.

Kudos to Ben and Cathy for great nominations. One deserves a medal, and the other deserves major props for giving her kids good home training.

Biggest Bum
We got this nomination for Biggest Bum a couple of weeks ago from LLH/Laura: ...the "gentleman?" who sat in his Cadillac Escalade and the back entrance of our store today and played his radio loud enough to drown our conversation as well as the conversations of anyone within a five mile radius. He changed the station approximately every 30-45 seconds from rock to hip-hop to country to heavy metal. On behalf of all of us who were outside trying to finish our lunches or breaks with a few minutes of peace and quiet I say to him, Thanks a bunch you jackass. It is my guess that if you have a curly mullet "do" and a giant expensive gas-guzzling caddy man-van you have earned the right to subject everyone to your bad choices of music, especially if they can't say anything to you for fear of being complained about to your boss for showing poor customer service skills. After all, his wife WAS in the salon.

And this nomination for Biggest Bum comes from Cathy Shelest: A couple of months ago I went into a store with my one month old daughter strapped to my chest in one of those Baby Bjorn baby carriers. She loves to ride in the thing but it does make maneuvering a little tricky. I walked down an aisle in the store and found a woman and her teenage son blocking the shelf where the product I needed was stored. I waited behind them for a bit while they glanced at me and continued their conversation. I have to assume they knew I was trying to get to the shelf since I was looking pointedly at it. If you're wondering why I didn't just say "excuse me", it's because they were speaking a language I didn't recognize and I didn't know if they spoke English. Finally, they moved a few feet away and I was able to get my item. While taking it off the shelf, I accidentally dropped it to the floor. The saw me do this and resumed talking. They continued to ignore me as I made quite an effort to bend down and get it while trying not to dump my daughter on the floor while I was at it. I grew up in the South (not South Florida - it doesn't count) and when a lady drops something, especially a lady with a baby, you jump to pick it up for her. My four year old son does this regularly without being prompted, but he wasn't with me that day.

Thanks all for the nominations. I will do my best to get them posted regularly - on a weekly basis - again.

Peace and hair grease,

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Cowboy Code: Chapter Five

A friend of mine familiar with the code asked if it addressed the following question:
"What's the rule for dating siblings?"

You guys answer however you will. But I say don't date siblings at the same time. That's a Springer episode that's been rerun waaaaaaay too many times.

Second and more seriously, if you dated one woman but realized later you had more in common with her sister, I don't think there's any salvaging it, especially not if the two of them are close.

Think about it. You can't tell her "You're nice, but your sister's nicer." You can't say "You're attractive, but your sister's hot." You can't say "You don't get my jokes. But your sister laughs at everything I say."

You're pretty much up the creek without a paddle or a boat.

I say chalk it up to cruel fate and move on - don't linger. If you try for the other sister they will both destroy you. They'll come down on you with the wrath of God...unless, of course, the other sister's triflin', in which case she may hook up with you just to spite sister number one.

And ladies if you're dating a guy and you decide you're feeling his brother more than him, don't tell him. If you do he and his brother will scheme on you and they'll try to share the wealth.

The Cowboy Code has spoken. What say you?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Crikey Indeed

R.I.P. Crocodile Hunter.

On the serious tip I'm sorry he passed away. I thought the guy was funny, energetic, and if you could cut through the goofiness, even a great educator. Hey, I admit I liked to watch him on Animal Planet.

Plus, it's sad to see any apparently good father of young children die while he's still relatively young too.

But honestly, could we not see this one coming? He'd had his hand bitten by a croc. He'd been bitten in the face by a snake.

If not a stingray, then it would have been a gator. If not a gator, then a boa constrictor. If not a boa, then a king cobra. If not a cobra, then a great white shark. If not a great white, then a giant jellyfish. If not a giant jelly, then a croc. If not a croc, then a South Florida driver. And so on and so forth.

It was sad and all, but my pops used to always say from the pulpit that there's a fine line between faith and foolishness.

Tempt fate too often, and it's only a matter of time before you slide onto the wrong side of that line.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Weekly Behavior Awards - Storm Edition

OK, so we're back. Some of you sent me some good nominations several weeks ago. And I swear I'll compile 'em for the next round.

But for now here are a few votes from me:

Best Behavior in my book goes to my next door neighbor for installing another neighbor's hurricane shutters for her, in advance of that blank-shooting Ernesto.

Biggest Bum goes to the guy in the blue pickup truck in the fuel line in front of me. I was on the street in my car, in a long line of vehicles waiting to do the panic fill-up a day before Ernesto was set to arrive. So I get within a couple of car-lengths of the pump, and my particular line stops moving. And I couldn't figure out why. As I'm trying to figure it out, I notice a guy come strolling by me heading away from the gas station. I think nothing of it. Eventually I figured out that the holdup was the blue pickup truck parked at the pump. The driver was nowhere to be found. So in my line we all sat there angry for about 20 minutes, wondering where the driver went and asking the station-lot attendant to have that heap towed. Just when I thought the other drivers were gonna lose it and torch the truck - I admit, I'd have supplied the matches - the guy who strolled by on the sidewalk 20 odd minutes earlier comes walking back toward the station carrying a McDonald's bag. And, you guessed it, he walks up to the pickup and climbs in. As people yell at him, he waves them off dismissively and drives off. Karma exists. He'll get his.