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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, March 02, 2007

It's Friday, so ask me something

It's Ask James Anything Friday.

Ask away. Seriously, anything about anything - including me, my missus, my job, your job, my industry, your industry, your jerky boyfriend, your suspect girlfriend, the weather, politics, love & war, etc.

If I don't have an answer I'll find one and reply.

The "polls" are now open.



  • I need good news today. James, what is the nicest thing someone has done for you recently?

    By Blogger fiwa, at 12:39 PM  

  • how are you, james? things going well? all settled down and back to normal after the relatives visit? no serious question today...just in my Mom mode *sigh*

    By Blogger savannah, at 12:44 PM  

  • What does it mean if you had a dream last night where the janitor at work who only speaks Spanish asked you to marry him. Haha... I started laughing when I saw him today. And I won't except "you want to get married" because I don't!

    By Blogger Erica AP, at 12:58 PM  

  • Should I switch my byline to Maria over at Miami Beach 411? I have been contemplating this. I don't always write as "Manola" over there.

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 1:50 PM  

  • Is there anyway to get The Colbert Show or The Daily Show to notice me so they can rescue moi from the 9-5?

    By Blogger Evil Spock, at 2:02 PM  

  • Fiwa, I just had an editor buy me lunch. That should be uplifting for you, considering some reporters fear editors like the townsfolk feared Dracula. And it was a pleasant, light-hearted lunch too.

    Hey Savannah, everything's good. Things are back to normal. Mrs. B is feeling healthy and regaining her strength. In-laws are back in Wisconsin. As they say, it's all good!

    Damn! Erica, you took away my obvious answer. Well, nevermind. I'm a journalist. I've got sources ;-) So I asked someone who fancies herself to be an expert, and she said dreaming of a marriage proposal from someone you have so little in common with suggests you are looking for a mystery. You're not necessarily looking to marry the janitor. But subconsciously you desire a mate who is full of mysterious unknowns, a dark stranger.

    Hmmm, MB, interesting question. It's like the rappers who grow up and pull their pants up and start acting. They're never sure what to call themselves where. Like LL Cool J is a rap name. However, when he wanted people to take him more seriously as an actor he was advised to go by his given name, James Todd Smith. But you're already grown-up. And you have a big following as Manola. I'd say change your byline to Maria, unless you're writing a specific post as Manola.

    Evil Spock, start your own comic news Web site or start making a series of videos for You Tube distribution, featuring your take on the news. Get a 100K or a million hits on those vids and I'll bet you could get some notice from Colbert or Stewart.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:09 PM  

  • JB,

    Most of the stories of yours I've read focus on personal interests and local communities (Please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong. My motto is often in error, never in doubt). Your stories about the shootings in North Miami, for example, seem focused on the heartbreak of loss for the family more than the lack of police responsiveness and community involvement (which, of course, was part of their heartbreak). I think it adds good balance to the paper because we need to humanize and Americanize the violence that occurs too frequently in poor neighborhoods.

    However, is that by choice or assignment? In other words, do you have the opportunity (or the desire) to work on some of the longer political expose stories and are they grooming you to be one of their masthead writers or do they kind of pick out a story and hand it to you?

    And I'm not trying to be funny here--I think McClatchy has at least given lip service to notions of justice and may actually seek to influence local issues in favor of the needy with its last few lengthy stories on homelessness, poverty, and the MDHA scandal. I'm just wondering if that apparent commitment to fairness extends to the newsroom and reporter assignments.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 3:41 PM  

  • i've gotta question about my jerky boyfriend. this last round of fights kinda really broke something inside me. I've been trying to save the relationship but don't know whether its worth saving anymore. he says he still loves me and wants to make this work but i just feel lost.

    how long should i wait for the luster to come back? what if it doesnt? i'm scared.


    By Blogger Yasamin, at 4:24 PM  

  • So how many "wack people" have asked "Why do black people..." since Urban Etiquette's very first post last March 6th,, and has one of your first commenters, Rick, EVER gotten off the Palmetto??

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 4:30 PM  

  • What industry is the missus in, and how did you meet?

    By Anonymous og, at 5:03 PM  

  • Manicures or pedicures? Or both?

    By Anonymous Kim, at 8:21 PM  

  • What is the most embarrassing thing that's happened to you?

    By Blogger Melissa, at 8:55 PM  

  • What's the best movie you've seen this year?

    By Blogger GrizzBabe, at 9:38 PM  

  • BD, I'd say 90% of tthe stories I write are stories I've found and chosen to write. The rest are assigned to me by my editor. It's a little bit of a struggle for me, 'cause sometimes I do miss the depth of some of the enterprise and analytical stories I wrote when I covered crime, cops, and courts. On the other hand I love that I get to explore real people as a feature writer, a pop culture writer. It was a switch I requested actually, so I can't complain about my own choice. Now that I've been in Miami long enough to have an informed take on the mishmash of culture, my plan now is to start weaving some of that depth and analysis back into the topics I choose to write about - a plan I've gotten the blessing of my editors on. So keep an eye out.

    Yas, based on experience and intense observation of friends in similar dilemmas I say wait only as long as you're certain both of you are trying to put in 110% effort to make it work. And the day you recognize that the effort has turned from a labor of love to just tedious labor is the day you throw in the towel. If you don't mind me asking, give an example of something you two can't see eye to eye on.

    Sarc, I have to confess I expected to hear questions starting with those four words often. But to my pleasant surprise, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've actually gotten it. And I think my friend Rick is still waiting to exit the Palmetto.

    Og, the missus is a teacher. She has taught kindergarten most of her career, but since we've been in Florida she's been teaching 2nd and 3rd graders I think. And we met in a bar. Sounds bad, right? I suppose there is that negative stereotype. Here's the story though. It was five years ago. My guys and I had been invited to a house party - a mystery party, one of those Sherlock Holmes deals where you have a cocktail and look for clues around the house along the way. The host meant well. And the concept was fun. But the party was not. We had thought we might meet women at the party. But as I recall it was a sausage fest, a helmet party to the third power. So we bailed after a while and decided to stop into a club near my loft for cocktails and maybe a game of pool before we all parted ways for the night. When we got to the club I spotted her at the end of the bar. What stood out about her - aside from her being attractive - was that she looked normal, a label you couldn't apply to any of the other women in that place. They all looked like extras from Night at the Roxburry. She looked normal. She was dressed "normal." And she seemed a little uncomfortable with all the abnormality around her. We chatted a minute, and I learned she was there to show moral support for a girlfriend of hers who was starting work (that evening, I believe) as a bartender in the place. We exchanged numbers. She intended to give me a fake number, I learned later. We played phone tag a few times, and even arranged to meet once in public at a festival in her neighborhood. And then we didn't talk for like six weeks. I was at the MLB All Star game and my phone rang, and it was her out of the blue. She'd found my number and wanted to call and apologize for not having returned one of my calls early on. I dismissed it, 'cause truthfully I'd been too busy in that six week period to sweat a date - any date - anyway. We got together a few days later for a first date. And we've been together ever since. Phew! And that was the abbreviated version.

    Kim, manicures semi-regularly and pedicures occasionally.

    Melissa that's a tough one. But I'd say the most embarassing was once in college when I was talking about someone and was overheard by that person. I'll try to keep it short: I was blessed in college to have a good job - aircraft machinist - that paid my school bills and left me extra loot to live a little better than your average student. "Naturally," I got cocky and thought I was the bee's knees, as my grandma would say. I had the nice clothes, nice car, tumor-causing, testicle zapping lunchbox-sized cell phone, etc. And what blew my head up even bigger was when I started covering entertainment events for my campus newspaper and started meeting big name musicians and record label types. Anyway, one of the record label folks I met was a student at nearby Hampton University. She had an impressive job with Sony, even while still in college. And she arranged a lot of listening parties and album debut events for some pretty big names at the time, including Maxwell and Groove Theory. She was gorgeous. And I used to tell my buddies in that exaggerated guy way just how good looking she was. One day I was driving back to campus and in my big-headed way I called my guy to make plans for the weekend. And, of course, I bragged that maybe I'd try to hook up with Sony girl. My other line beeped on my cell phone and I switched over. It was her inviting me to grab a friend and come to a party with George Clinton later that evening. I said absolutely, asked her to hold and switched back over to my guy. I was ecstatic like a kid in a candy store, and I began stupidly, and graphically describing her to him again and telling him stuff like "wait till you see her later..." And then I heard a throat clear. Turns out I didn't switch back over to my guy properly. I'd put all three of us on three-way, and she'd heard every word I said. I wanted to slide under my car seat I was so embarassed. Later that night at the party my guy laughed the whole night. I could barely look her in the eye. But she eased my embarassment by saying at least I was saying "nice" things about her appearance. How much worse would it have been if I'd told me guy "she looks like a mule" and she'd heard that?

    Grizz, the best I've seen this year was a movie that's a year or two old. Watched it on DVD: The Constant Gardener. I'm going to see Zodiac on Saturday though. I'll report on that afterward.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:58 PM  

  • One more! Did you actually get to meet George Clinton? If yes, what was that like??

    By Blogger fiwa, at 10:07 PM  

  • Kim asked my question!

    She must be wondering about your feet and hands, too.

    If you have had a pedicure what would you suggest to encourage my hubby to get one?

    By Blogger Pamela, at 10:59 PM  

  • Fiwa, I did meet George Clinton. Actually, I've met him a couple of times in the course of work. It was really cool. He was a very chill, down-to-earth friendly guy. And funny, very funny.

    Pamela, definitely recommend it to your husband. Even though I generally hate people touching my feet, and I squirm like a 2-year-old, thus annoying the crap out of the pedicurists, I love it in the end. I have no shame admitting it either. Truth is I have big, flat feet, and I'm not a tiny guy. I walk a lot, so I punish my feet. A good pedicure feels terrific every so often. Plus in this warm South Florida climate, I wear sandals a lot - year round. And there's nothing worse than grimy, "chipped up" feet in sandals. Looks horrible.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:05 PM  

  • It is SO much fun reading your responses.

    By Anonymous Kim, at 11:47 PM  

  • Do you enjoy writing for a newspaper? Have you ever met Dave Barry (reading him is the one that made me want to try and write funny blogs)? What is it REALLY like living in Miami?

    Yikes, that was 3 questions...sorry

    By Blogger Michael C, at 11:58 PM  

  • Kim, thanks! The tough part is reining myself in. Or else, I'd ramble on forever with each of my answers.

    Michael C, I love writing for a newspaper. It's a cliche, I know, but I mean it when I say it's getting paid to do my hobby. I love the challenge of meeting deadlines and trying to find a steady flow of interesting people to write about. That last part is not too hard though, 'cause Miami's an insane town - the PC description would be "ecclectic." So interesting people just fall into your lap around here. Yes, I've met Dave Barry. He formally retired shortly after I moved here, so even though he still writes his column for the Herald occasionally and still does his Miami Herald blog everyday he doesn't come into the newsroom too often. I first met him a few weeks after I moved to Miami, when he was hosting his annual "Herald Hunt" scavenger hunt in Coral Gables, FL. He was my humor writing inspiration too. My dad and I used to get the Sunday Washington Post when I was in high school. And we always read Dave's column together and always cracked up over it. As for Miami, I'm not sure I can say what it's like in this answer. There are so many factors. Let's just say that the glamorous parts are every bit as they appear on TV - the style, the hot people, the hot cars, etc. And the crappy parts - the ones out-of-towners don't often see on TV - are very real too. Leave South Beach and a few other nice communities in this area and you can find some really stark poverty. In fact, if you took away those very few communities Miami-Dade might be the poorest county in the country. It would have to rank near the top. On the fun side, it is true that you can go hang out in a bar or club on South Beach and find yourself dancing next to an actor or actress or talentless celebutant heiress. There's nothing so relaxing as waking up on a Saturday morning in December or January and strolling to the beach in shorts and lounging in the sun all day or going for a swim, knowing all the while that your friends up north are cursing you. Traffic sucks all day every day. But the cultural diversity here is very cool. It does sometimes feel like a foreign country. And I mean that in a nice way, like when you're on vacation and fascinated and want to explore "local" culture. I'll stop there. But I could ramble on.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:14 AM  

  • What's the meaning of life?

    By Blogger Mitch McDad, at 12:57 AM  

  • Oh, c'mon Mitch. That one's unfair. I won't get the answer to that till after I'm dead.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:26 AM  

  • mitch: the meaning of life- when you're alive, anyway- is "do the next thing"

    By Anonymous og, at 6:41 AM  

  • For those interested, I post thoughts about the "Meaning of Life" here:

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 6:57 AM  

  • I've read your profile and noticed you have a finished novel. Are you shopping for publishers or planning on self-publishing?

    What do you see as being the pros or cons of each? I'm curious, because I'm well on my way to finishing a novel myself and I'm curious as to what someone who has "been there, done that" thinks of the process. Also, I want to read your book.

    By Blogger Queen of Dysfunction, at 10:22 AM  

  • Why do birds

    suddenly appear


    you are near?

    By Blogger Lee, at 11:01 AM  

  • What's the most shocking thing you've ever done and why is it shocking to you in particular?

    By Blogger Turnbaby, at 11:32 AM  

  • Og, I like your definition of life. I'll go with that.

    Sarc, good post. The box of chocolates sounds good too. And I like that proverb at the end. I'm all about getting paid great sums for stuff we're good at.

    Queen, I stopped shopping my novel for now, but not 'cause I want to self publish. I just have a non-fiction project that a literary agent I'm working with says is a hotter sell right now. From my research, I guess the biggest benefits of self-publishing is you pretty much keep all your profits. On the down side you don't have the support system a publishing house would offer, including that house's connections. If you're leary of the time it can take to woo a solid agent and a big mainstream publisher I'd recommend a compromise and go for a smaller house that will dedicate more of its time to you, still allow you to keep more of your profits, and in some cases will even deal with you directly, sans agent. And as soon as I can get my novel in print I'll make sure you get a copy.

    Lee, I'm the new Dr. Doolittle. That's why. Well, that, and they see me when I come outside to fill up the bird feeder in my front yard.

    Turnbaby, the most shocking thing I feel I've ever done is stand up to a bully who was much larger than me and very menacing. I'm 6'3" and change and 200 lbs. So that he was "much" larger than me speaks to his height/size. And what was shocking about it was that I loathe confrontation. And up to that point I'd always demonstrated that I'd just as soon walk away from a fight, even at risk of macho cred, rather than engage. I'd fought in controlled settings for my Shotokan matches. But that was it. Anyway, something snapped in me. And I confronted this guy who was terrorizing a group of friends while we were out. I won't do the macho thing and try to describe a fight blow-by-blow, 'cause the truth is it didn't even come to that. I didn't have to throw even one punch. He tried to hit me. I checked him. He deserved it. Club security and a police officer gave me attaboys. And I felt good for not being so timid for once and using controlled anger to help control a bad guy.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 3:24 PM  

  • I don't have a question this time. But I wanted to say reading these IS fun! I especially liked Og's question and your answer re the missus.

    By Anonymous Freddie, at 3:42 PM  

  • Wife.Imp and I are in a funk. We have no desire to plan/cook/touch food for meals and do not have the finances to eat out everyday.

    Is there anything out there that will put the 'magic' back into meal preparation?

    (Junk food and additives out definite NOTS)

    By Blogger dennis, at 4:59 PM  

  • Freddie, glad you like the Q&A. It's fun. And it's my excuse to take a day or two off from thinking of a regular post topic.

    Dennis,why don't you guys do simple at home fun foods? As I recall you're not in a climate that would allow you to barbecue outdoors right now. But you can make "barbecue" foods in-doors on the stove top. The kids would like it too. So do a week of natural hot-dogs, turkey burgers, low-fat home fries (frozen aisle at Whole Foods), slaws, and tater salads. It'll be like summer time for the kids and it's easy, quick stuff to prepare. It's a cheap compromise till you get your energy back.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 7:50 PM  

  • Here's a question. How is it your television critic was able to actually find something amusing about Fox News Network's pathetic attempt to do a right wing version of the Jon Stewart show???? No, not fair asking you...I should send him an email directly.

    By Blogger Stewart Sternberg, at 11:07 PM  

  • Yeah Stewart, you should send that one to Glenn. I'm staying out if it. He's a funny guy - one of the most talented critics I've worked with. So I'll be curious to hear about the exchange between the two of you;-)

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:25 AM  

  • Ok, I got one for ya. Go here...

    click on the bottom to start it, and tell me what you think about it.

    By Blogger Fathairybastard, at 3:15 AM  

  • it aint a matter of us (i used aint hehehe) not seein eye to eye. i think we get along great. i think with the last bullsh*t he pulled and some of the things he's said... he's kinda killed the love i felt for him. now i just sit around and wait for him to say something painful.

    i told him ... we need to get counseling. he told me okay we will. i set it up. i told him... i'll be with you if we try. we have to get help or i'm done. he siad he understood. i lost my job and insurance. i told him its on him now. rule still applies. we need help. its been 2 weeks and he hasnt even called his insurance company to see if its covered or to set up an appt.

    i'm pissed and tired. see the issue? I've asked a few good friends and they are like if he's not willing to try, then jam. but now i'm stuck. no job, nowhere to go.

    dude... i'm sooo gonna take up drinkin.

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 10:13 PM  

  • FatHairy, I have to confess I didn't watch the whole video. I will, but I've had a bit of a time crunch today. Anyway, I've read about Dollard and seen him on RedEye (which, BTW, may have to change its name or be blacked out in the Chicago-area market 'cause the Chicago Tribune's free youth tabloid was called Red Eye first). Gotta support the troops, and I have a fascination with specialists like snipers. But I haven't formed an opinion on Dollard yet.

    Yas, I have heard (and I admit, seen) this before. It sounds like a lame excuse, but guys - healthy, relatively young guys, anyway - don't take health insurance as seriously as women. Let's face it. My non-medical opinion is that women just have more everyday health issues that require doctors than guys have. So we blow docs off. I'm not giving your boyfriend an out, 'cause I don't know what he did/said recently. However, from past experience, if you're at the point where the love is gone and you're just waiting for the next hurt, I'd advise you to do four things: ask yourself if what you used to have with him is worth hanging on for a little while yet. Regardless of the answer, start looking with extreme urgency for a new job with benefits, just in case. And give him an ultimatum and a deadline that he won't think is just a bluff - an ultimatum that if he doesn't start being nicer to you again and taking this health insurance thing seriously then you're gone. Finally, if you give that ultimatum be prepared to follow through. And even if it means temporarily humbling yourself move out, put your things in mini-storage, and move in with a friend till you can re-start alone...And don't drink too much along the way ;-)

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 11:11 PM  

  • muchas gracias amigo :) very good advice.

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 10:56 AM  

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