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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm just curious...

to know what you guys are curious about.

BTW, sorry for the day of non-posts. Again, it's been one of those weeks.

OK, back to my curiosity. I was catching up with a friend earlier and we were talking about an old Web site I used to browse on a weekly basis and how that site inspired some of the news feature articles I decided to research and write.

It's called the Y Forum, AKA The National Forum on People's Differences. It was cool because its purpose was to give people a forum to ask why...about whatever.

The first time I heard of the Y Forum I was a reporter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the Herald's Leonard Pitts was in town to give a speech at a women's advocacy group's awards banquet. He described the site during his speech and how its operators wanted people to be able to talk about whatever. And they weren't kidding. You could post questions anonymously, as long as you included other specifics about yourself like age, education leve, race, location, etc. I was stunned at first at the nervy questions folks asked, like why certain people have certain body odors, or why certain people talked differently. But what I liked was that the readers answered the questions, not social science "experts." Some of the questions were mean-spirited and probably fake. But for the most part it was stuff people really wanted to know about other folks' differences but were afraid to ask.

Think about all those times when you were a kid or a college student or something and you met a gay person for the first time. Or the black kid who was your roommate in the dorms and you were dying to ask about how he kept that 'fro in place. Maybe the first time you saw a paraplegic with a colostomy bag. It could've been that person with vitiligo (that skin disease Michael Jackson claimed made him turn white). Might've been the little person in the cubicle next to yours at your first job. Admit it, if you could have done it without fear of scorn or being too un-PC you would have asked that person why. It's gross, I know. But I was curious a while back as to whether people really vacated their bowels when they died. I've seen that referenced in books - particularly those weird murder mysteries that involve a lot of grisly killings.

So, again, I am curious. I wouldn't purport to offer the services of the Y Forum, but I'd like to have a social experiment. I would like to know what folks are curious about.

Feel free to answer a question by way of the comments. All I ask is that you keep in mind this blog is PG-13. After all, it is tied to my day job. And I have bills to pay. So that means no blatant sex questions, Matt or 123Valerie ;>)

Just to be safe though, in case we have pranksters, I'm turning comment moderation back on just for this particular post.

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  • Okay, this is serious. I'm rarely serious, but I mean it. I'll even use PC terms to prove how serious I am.

    Can developmentally delayed people drive? Is there a cut-off? How delayed can you be and still be able to drive?

    How do the testers know if the testee (keeping clean, but still, I just said teste) is developmentally delayed? Do you have to have a note from your doctor?

    I am entirely serious. This question has bugged me for months.

    By Anonymous mist1, at 1:39 AM  

  • Let me get this straight, James. In the Whole Wide World of Wonder, the thing you wanted to know was whether a dead bear shits in the woods?

    Fortunately, in the age of the Internet, we no longer need a Y forum. We just need the critical thinking skills to know fact from fiction.

    But to take you up on your poll on people's differences, I want to know why rich people do so little to help reduce the income gap.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 6:47 AM  

  • Yeah, exactly how f*cking stupid do you have to be to lose your right to drive a motor vehicle in this country? Good question.

    I know you can be legally blind in one upper Western state (and soon, perhaps, Texas) and still be able to hunt....

    I always thought it was constructive to ask stupid questions, James. Your commentary reminds me of a comic who appeared recently in DC who claimed to be a black guy raised by white people (raised by wolves) who knew nothing, absolutely nothing, about Afro hair care....

    "You look great!" his beaming parents told him, with his lopsided Afro....

    By Blogger Matt, at 11:03 AM  

  • One of life's little nagging questions is why do seemly very experienced people do the most un-thought out dumb things? Take those 3 hikers/climbers lost on Mt Hood-they are supposed to have quite a bit of experience, yet they went up on a mountain known for it's unpredictablity, during winter. Helloooo, doesn't the little common sense light come on and say"hmmmm-this is NOT a good idea". It's kinda like in horror movies where the person opens that door or goes down to the basement to check out "the noise".... I wondered about this alot...

    By Anonymous dogncatmom, at 11:38 AM  

  • Sorry, James. I just read your instructions regarding the PG-13 status.

    And I have a serious question, which I would pose, Mist1-like, in politically-correct language.

    Why do African American men always look behind them and make a point of making eye contact with me on the street or in the hallways? Why do (lower-class) black and Latino men stare at me as I pass by on the street?

    Even the lowest class white men rarely stare and just seem to want to go about their business. And Asians? I don't think I've ever made eye contact with any one of them, though they account for some 62% of the world population. Yet, it seems as if men of certain cultures feel the need to at least attempt to stare down other men.

    I know they're not all gay.

    (This is a serious anthropological question that I'm hoping you might shed some light on.) Thank you.

    By Blogger Matt, at 12:59 PM  

  • Excellent comments contained in this blog. Much better than most.

    I noticed some talk about lower income groups. I wonder why there are not more leaders who advocate lifting up the lower income citizens.

    It is better to teach a man to fish, than to give him a fish.

    By Anonymous tony scornavacca jr., at 2:17 PM  

  • mist, i have to give it to you, it's an interesting question. hopefully someone else has an answer. i'm clueless, and if i didn't have something else to do right now i swear i'd call dmv and ask.

    sarc, i'm not interested in bear poop. i have been/was curious about what they say about dead people - that at the moment of death your bowels vacate. i didn't say it was a rocket science question. and it wasn't/isn't pressing. i've just heard that said and am curious.

    as for the need for Y Forum you make a good point about critical thinking. but that's exactly why a Y Forum is useful, because there are way too many knuckleheads who don't know how to think critically. those people? i'd rather they go to a Web site and ask their question than walk up to a stranger on the street and ask it and risk getting knocked out.

    and that rich people question is loaded. too open-ended for me. other folks are welcome to answer, but your question to me only has three logical answers: assuming, for the sake of the question, rich people should do more to help close the income gap they can either be more charitable or pay higher incomes or more taxes. how would the "more" be decided? i wouldn't trust congress to decide. but i woulnd't necessarily trust the lowest income folks to decide either. they may turn more into waaaaaaaaaaaay more out of bitterness or something.

    matt, the 'fro requires a can of Afro-Sheen or some similar starchy spray and a good hair pick, preferrably a pick with a fist on the handle. those look cooler.

    as for the stare, i don't know what to tell you. i can guarantee you i wouldn't stare if i walked past you unless i thought i recognized you or unless you were staring at me first. if the latter, i'd stare back just to let you know i ain't scared of you. ha ha ha ha ha ha! as for the other guys, maybe they think you're cute, who knows?

    dogncatmom, i hear ya. i feel for those guys being lost and possibly even dead by now. but if you're that sharp and experienced in the craft of mountain climbing, why go up there under the circumstances you described. doesn't seem very bright.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 2:30 PM  

  • these are all dead serious questions that i have always been curious about.

    I would like to know why some people think its okay to verbally put down others? what is it in the mind that triggers some people to blurt out insults to people and find it funny knowing it hurts that person?

    what causes someone to turn into a bully? either a child or even an adult? i saw a simpsons episode where lisa was being attacked by a bully every day and she found that it was her scent that triggered being a target. i wonder if that is more realistic then we are civilized humans are willing to face.

    I also want to know if the term HOLY ROLLER is a bad term or a good term refering to the southern baptist church goers who go nuts in church. i have always felt kinda weird about the title.

    i want to know how is it that we were able to domesticate dogs and cats but not lions or rhinos. why are some animals able to be domesticated and some are beyond that point?

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 3:11 PM  

  • Alright, this is a serious question and I know you are qualified to answer:

    I'm constantly hearing hard-core liberals griping about the "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" and hard-core conservatives griping about the "Main Stream Media."

    Do you think that our primary media outlets tilt one way or the other? Do you think there is a general mix of opinion among those working in the industry?

    I understand that we all have our opinions, and I'm not asking whether overwhelming numbers of individuals within the industry lean one way or the other. I'm just wondering if you believe that most journalistic professionals are successful at producing an objective product despite their personal world views.

    (For the record, I always thought that accusing news outlets of being liberal or conservative was a little absurd. Seems like most entities are more interested in making money than pursuing an idealistic agenda, but what do I know? I'm curious what someone in the industry thinks.)

    By Blogger QofD, at 3:55 PM  

  • Damn. I need to know. Don't you like work for a newspaper or something? Wouldn't the DMV just love for you to do a feature on this?

    By Anonymous mist1, at 4:14 PM  

  • Hmmm. You guys have to help me try to answer some of these. I was curious about your questions. I'm dependent on you to help answer each other's queries though.

    But until you guys start answering some of these, here's my take on the latest:

    Tony, I wish I knew. I like the teaching to fish idea. And maybe if a guy genuinely wants to learn to fish, until he nails it, perhaps we can hook him up with a morsel to tide him over. If he's full of it though and has no intention of learning to fish? Well, let him eat cake. Or as Herald Columnist Fred Grimm might say, let him eat Nicky Hilton cupcakes. It's a joke. You have to read this column to get it.

    Yas, I think the put downs are fueled by insecurity. I think the same about the bullying, but I think it's totally believable that some kind of pheremones could trigger bully reactions. They trigger sexual interest. Why not feelings of distaste?

    As for "Holy Roller," it is meant as an insult - sort of a scornful down-the-nose look at people who are really enthusiastic about their religious beliefs. I don't think it's particular to Southern Baptists, but having grown up a PK in the Bible Belt, that term does seem to be a little more commonly used in reference to Protestants, particularly those in the South.

    Queen, I could talk all day about this one. Here's what I think: It's good business for talk radio hosts on both sides of the political aisle and for cable news pundits on both sides of the political aisle to claim that the main stream media as a whole leans left or right. In reality though I don't believe most reporters take sides in the way they report politically charged stories. No one is a robot. So I do believe reporters' personal beliefs can influence how they feel about a particular story. But I think those who are professional and honest keep their personal feelings out of the story. Stories about things like war? I don't know. It is very easy to tell a story about one aspect of war - good or bad - and get accused of supporting "the other side." I know reporters who have gone to Iraq to cover the war and who would swear on their mother's lives that they went with no agenda and reported what they saw and still got lambasted for allegedly taking a side. And before anyone lashes out at me, there are people at every major media outlet whose job it is to give opinion. They are columnists and editorial writers. They are allowed and expected to give their opinions. They are a different story altogether. But regular reporters? I don't see the conspiracy. That's just me.

    And mist, somehow I don't think I'd be able to convince my editors that that would be something worth reporting. I could try. But I'm thinking I won't.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 4:40 PM  

  • For what it's worth, here are my answers to those questions for which I have an opinion:

    Can the developmentally delayed drive? Putting the alliteration aside for a moment, my answer is, You bet, they can!

    How delayed can you be and still be able to drive? My answer? If they can pass the eye test, the written test, and the on-road test, they can drive. If they fail, they cannot drive. I don't mean to be patronistic with this answer - but the facts are, if you pass, you can drive - I don't think they make exceptions to those who seem like they should not drive, but I could be mistaken.

    On Mt Hood Hiking Hooligans, at first I'd be tempted to answer, "Because it is there." Seriously, hiking challenging feats like Mt Hood is considered an extreme sport. If they wanted it to be easy, they'd hike to the nearest Walmart to buy a cheap sleeping bag made in China.

    I cannot respond why men of certain cultures make eye contact with men of other cultures. That has not been my observation. And I make an effort to observe human behavior.

    On verbally abusing and bullying others, it has been my observation that some people do it as long as they can justify it by claiming it could be worse. At least they're not beating or killing their victims. Not certain I can see how that makes it acceptable, but then I am no psychologist.

    On domesticating lions, I believe it's not that we cannot, but that we have not tried. It's my opinion that any animal can be domesticated - over time. First we need a reason.

    On the tilting of the media, I think most writers find it difficult to write a completely objective piece. Wanna have some fun? Write an opinion stating a position you are totally against. Are you a pro-lifer? write a paper called, "Why abortion should be allowed for high school girls." Don't like guns? Write one called, "Why I'm buying my pastor a gun for Christmas." Do the research. Be convincing. If nothing else, it will help you think more critically over how biased or unbiased the media are.

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 5:40 PM  

  • Half the state of Florida would be facing suspension.

    Mist1, what exactly happened to you to provoke that question?

    By Blogger Matt, at 7:03 PM  

  • i agree w/ the sarcastic guy about the inability of news writers to write objectively.

    News is a social construct created by humans with individual and completely unique perspectives. There's NO way around that.

    By Blogger Matt, at 7:04 PM  

  • Good answers, Sarc. I forgot to address the wild animal taming. But I'd guess it could be done. Grizzly Adams tamed a bear. Well, he pretended to tame a bear on TV. But some trainer taught that bear to act and be calm so it didn't kill Grizzly Adams. So why not rhinos and lions, etc?

    As for media objectivity, Sarc, one of my colleagues argued recently that 100% objectivity isn't possible 'cause it's just not human nature. I don't know what I think about that, other than to stick by my guns that the principled, honest reporters in the crowd make the honest, hard effort and therefore come as close as is humanly possible to being 100% objective.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 7:07 PM  

  • Excellent topic. I have a question.

    Why do midgets prefer to be called dwarfs? Is either term significantly better than the other one?

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 8:03 PM  

  • why is that the only questions now popping into my head are:
    who put the bop in the bopshebopshebop?
    why do birds sing so gay? do lovers really await the break of day? and do only fools fall in love?

    oh geez..I should really be drinking tonight!

    By Blogger Claudia, at 1:39 AM  

  • Wait, wait, I know some of these.

    The Holy Rollers are actually not Southern Baptist. The term refers to charismatic Christian groups that feel it is an act of faith to be seized by the Holy Spirit and do strange things like roll on the floor or speak in tongues. My sister and I used to sneak out to the fairgrounds on summer evenings to watch their performances in the big tent meetings. My parents, hard shell Southern Baptist, did not approve. It is definitely a derogatory term.

    The mountain climbers are risk takers and they like to live on the edge. If the possibility of dying were not part of pitting yourself against the peak, they wouldn’t have any interest.

    I worked with MR kids in high school getting them prepared for driving test. They make excellent drivers because they are sticklers on the rules and I’ve never known any of them to drink and drive, unlike some members of my family and others who will remain nameless.

    The bullies I have known, particularly my first husband, got that way by being spoiled and made to believe that anything they did was socially acceptable. His sweet long suffering parents saw him slap me across the face so hard I fell to the ground. Instead of seeing if I was okay they went to him to find out what I did to upset him. I’m no psychologist either, by the way.

    I believe midgets and dwarfs both prefer to be called little people.

    Finally, I don't think you can completly tame a bear, or any other animal that grows up wild, anymore than you can get people to be objective about reporting the news. It's not in their nature.

    By Blogger spellbound, at 2:14 AM  

  • they dont like to be called dwarfs. they like to be called little people. well most do. some don't care what you call them.

    and there is a different between a midget and a dwarf.

    A Dwarf is an abnormally small person, often having limbs and features atypically proportioned or formed.

    A midget is an extremely small person who is otherwise normally proportioned.

    they are both considered medical conditions.

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 9:16 AM  

  • To Matt c/o J.B.: Nothing, I'm just a really, really bad driver.

    By Anonymous mist1, at 1:48 PM  

  • Something I've always wondered. Have you ever seen a really handsome guy whose wife is ugly as dirt? Or a knock-dead gorgeous woman with a really gross ugly husband? I've always wanted to go up to couples like that and say "WHAT did you ever see in HIM/HER?" - Either that, or there must be something terribly warped behind that beautiful face that would warrant being married to someone so totally opposite of them in physical appearance.

    I've also wondered why I so frequently see somebody's shoe laying on the side of the road - never a pair of shoes, just one... are these people being abducted by aliens? Is the "one shoe left behind" a sign that "they" have been here???

    By Blogger Ms.Green, at 10:08 PM  

  • "charismatic Christian groups that feel it is an act of faith to be seized by the Holy Spirit and do strange things like roll on the floor or speak in tongues.

    It's ironic that they should think that. Every instance in Scripture where people do strange things like roll around on the floor and have their eyes roll back in their heads were instances of demon possession. And speaking in tongues wasn't nonsensical gibberish - it was actually another language they were speaking - one they didn't have knowledge of before. There isn't a single solitary documentation of real "speaking in tongues"(i.e.: speaking another human unlearned language) in modern times.

    By Blogger Ms.Green, at 12:17 PM  

  • mist1....go ask jon zech..he works for the motor vehicle department...access him through my blog.

    Now. As to curiousity. I want to know what happens after death. Icy nothingness for ever and for ever? Or angels telling you that you are now screwed for having been a skeptic in life.

    By Blogger Stewart Sternberg, at 12:42 PM  

  • Re: the wild vs. domestic animal question, where do you draw the line? Elsa of "Born Free" was a domesticated lion. Sigfried & Roy have a whole passel of big cats who are not really wild cats. Reindeer, buffalo, and elephants and even feral cats exist as both free animals and tame ones. It seems to me that it's largely a matter of upbringing, But only for birds and mammals. Other phyla (is that the right word) have minds too primitive to adapt.

    What I'd be interested in seeing would be some ultra-patient researcher to go out into a prairie dog city, dig a hole for himself, and simply live with them for a few years. See how much of their language he could pick up, and see if he could get them to barter — trade pretty rocks for tasty food, for example. Could do some diamond or gold mining that way.

    By Blogger Owen, at 5:19 AM  

  • Ms. Green, I'm curious about that shoe thing too, and the ugly spouse thing. I swear the only thing that has kept me asking about the ugly spouse thing is the fact that I'm no super model. So I bite my tongue.

    I think the single shoe thing must be the result of drunken shoe tossing, or something.

    As for the speaking in tongues thing, I once met a missionary to Africa who at one point in his life believed in speaking in tongues. He told a story about doing it during a church service over there and how it disturbed some of the natives. Later, when he asked them what was bothering them they said they understood the "language" he'd spoken and that he'd uttered several curses. He had no clue. The guy was so disturbed it altered his belief system. No more speaking in tongues for him.

    Stewart, if you find that answer, let me know. I'd rob and steal so I'd have big bucks to pay for that one.

    And Owen, that would make a great Animal Planet reality show.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:44 PM  

  • Reports of the death of Y? The National Forum On People's Differences are exaggerated. The site has been going strong and recently launched its new platform at Yes, that's right, DareToAks. Who wants to be politically correct all the time? Phillip Milano, founder, Y?

    By Blogger Phillip, at 6:02 PM  

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