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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Saturday Roundup

OK, I can admit that I contributed to the stupid media frenzy about that skank-arsed jailbird out in Cali we've all been obsessing over.

But all jokes aside, the Miami Herald crime reporter's blog offers a jaw-dropping - or what should be jaw dropping - example of broadcast media - 'cause like it or not cable news networks do tend to be more in-your-face over "prominent" people news - having seriously messed up priorities. Click on the link. But in case you don't feel like it, here's the abbreviated version: A young, recent college grad, aiming to start a career in law enforcement or as an attorney, by all accounts a nice person with socially-redeeming qualities, has been missing in Miami since Memorial Day weekend. Authorities fear foul play. One cable news network invited two Herald reporters on to talk about the case and spread the word in case anyone was a witness to whatever happened to her. In both cases, the network canceled the interview at the last second 'cause they wanted to dedicate virtually every second of their air time to news about that celebutant jailbird. Anyway, click the link. It's a more thorough explanation.

And speaking of abuse of the law, that numbnut attorney/admin judge in Washington D.C. has decided to no longer sue his former dry cleaner for $65 million for losing his pants and apparently scarring him for life...He has reduced the amount of his suit to $54 million, saying now his suit is focused on fraud by the dry cleaner for posting signs guaranteeing satisfaction to customers.

In less serious news, here is my article from today's paper.

Pop quiz: are we hypocrites or not? That's too vague. How's this - are you a fan of The Sopranos? I am. I'm a huge fan. OK, now this - do you find gangsta rap, which thrives on rhyming about street grime and street crime as folklore, to be distasteful? I do. It disgusts me that anyone would sing/rap about robberies, cons, drug deals gone bad, strippers, murders, prostitution, and so on, and call it just entertainment and defend it as musical poetry chronicling what really happens in depressed communities. And yet, in this final season of the show I have really been into from its first year, I have witnessed at least five murders and not been fazed by them. I have watched strippers (on the show) do their thing and not been fazed by it. I have watched violent assaults and thefts take place and have not been fazed by them. I have watched drug use and not blinked an eye. Why? Because I found each episode of the show entertaining. So if the same negative elements are "described" through lyrics/dialogue and verbal/visual imagery in each forum - premium cable television and commercial music production - why is one more acceptable as entertainment and the other slammed as an irresponsible use of the air waves? In theory aren't they both "outrageous?" I admit it. I am a hypocrite.

Finally, if you're bored or need a laugh you can watch me on TV. I was a panelist Friday night on Issues, a current events round table show WPBT Channel 2, the PBS affiliate station, here in the Miami area. It re-runs Sunday at 12:30 in the afternoon, but why wait? Click the link above and then click the link on the upper righthand side of the page that says "Watch last week's program." It's a 30 minute show. The round table is the second segment - starts about 14 minutes and 50 seconds in. Enjoy. Or if you don't, don't tell me. I'm very sensitive about my shiny nose and funny voice.

OK, that's all for me, at least for this afternoon. I have a pond to clean and a lawn to maintain.

Peace and hair grease.

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  • Once again, a great article for todays paper James. An easy to use phone is a must for people f they want it for safety purposes too. My mum cannot use SMS, but she has a cell phone for emergency breakdown purposes, and a one button activation would cure all her worrries, and mine too.

    By Blogger Cazzie!!!, at 12:29 AM  

  • Cazzie, I got a big response from senior readers about these phones. Must be a market for 'em. Wish I knew how to make cell phones. I'd be rich!

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 12:49 AM  

  • I'm so glad it wasn't you in the pink cowboy hat and sequins.

    I should say this anonymously so you won't think I'm butt kissing... however, you were very good.

    (I had to sit thru alot of schmuck to get to ya tho)

    By Blogger Pamela, at 2:59 AM  

  • Regarding the cable network's covering Hilton instead of the young woman missing, I just watched "Fifteen Minutes" last night with DeNiro, and boy does this story resonate. Not saying it was the best film, but it did show how media (and audience) priorities can get so, so screwed up.

    Disturbing, disgusting, how many "dis" words can I come up with to describe how I feel about this?

    I'll just leave it at *disgruntled sigh*

    By Blogger sognatrice, at 5:18 AM  

  • Face it, celebrity sells. "Real news" was also pre-empted to show police "chasing" a white bronco at speeds sometimes exceeding 45 MPH because a certain personality was inside. At least that guy reportedly committed a really bad crime.

    The judge's dropped pants (from his suit) aside, I think the Chungs should try to find a lawyer to counter sue this rich judge for something - ANYTHING - reduced business, pain/suffering, what have you - after he loses this ridiculous suit. I'd hope never to face this "judge" in court for a violation.

    If it makes you feel any better, James, some find the Sopranos just as revolting as gangsta rap.

    Regarding your news clip, I thought you appeared very suave and debonair, (but you gotta lose that pink hat.)

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 5:49 PM  

  • Much as I despise the very idea of Paris Hilton and all she represents, our decidedly unwell society is as much to blame for creating her celebrity as she is.

    If the general public had intact values and was not so easily titillated by those with no talent or decency and far more money than they will ever need in their lives, maybe we could focus on more important issues like a missing person.

    One of these days, America will sink giggling into the sea.

    I watched about half of the first Sopranos episode in which Gandolfini's character strolled down the street and casually committed a murder. I was so turned off that despite the show's rave reviews all these years, I have never been back.

    So sue me. Yo.

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, at 6:35 PM  

  • When one wants to know why journalism, and especially broadcast journalism, is so poor right now, one only has to look at the corporate mergers. And to think Rupert Murdock may soon get the Wall Street Journal. I have a subscription to that newspaper, but I've sworn to cancel the moment the deal is done between him and the Bancrofts. Murdock said earlier that he felt the problem with the journal was that the articles were too long and that it wasn't political enough. Maybe he'll let O'Reilly or Hannity run the editorial department.

    Seriously though journalism is driven by the profit motive. That and the safety factor. The news has to entertain and not embarass the megacorporations that have other interests.

    This is where I look around with trepidation as the conservatives prepare their response and whine about a liberal media which is about as liberal as General Electric.

    By Blogger Stewart Sternberg, at 9:07 PM  

  • So he went from 65 million to 54 million? Almost restores my faith in humankind.

    By Blogger Dan, at 10:00 AM  

  • ya done good, sugar ;)

    By Blogger savannah, at 10:02 AM  

  • I don't have HBO, so I've missed the Sopranos craze. I feel deprived.

    By Blogger SWF41, at 10:22 AM  

  • I've never seen the Sopranos. I'm so deprived!

    If you're tired of Paris you aren't going to be happy cause it's about to get worse. She says she's found God. So now the media will REALLY be all over her and treat her with great deference as they do most celebrities or athletes that publicly announce their newly found faith.

    We're all hypocrites in our own way. The difference is that YOU are willing to admit it.

    Not only are you a famous writer but now you're going to be a famous TV Pundit!

    By Blogger Jay, at 11:58 AM  

  • That DC lawyer story makes me spit nails. I should find his address, gather some dog poo and paper bags and a lighter and visit his porch.

    By Blogger Lee, at 1:24 PM  

  • I also wonder why we abhor gangsta rap, but adore mafia movies. Maybe in our minds, the mob is less realistic, so we've compartmentalized it as strictly entertainment.

    That judge should have to do time for abusing the system. And de-benched. He should have to wear a sign that says, "I'm a heartless prick" while being forced to sweep the sidewalks outside every dry cleaners in the city.

    By Blogger katrice, at 1:42 PM  

  • The medias priorities are so sad! I haven't seen one episode of The Sopranos, everyone thinks I am from another planet! Never striked my fancy!

    By Blogger Jenny!, at 1:56 PM  

  • JB,

    I agree that you are a hypocrite when you are a fan of the outlaw when he is in book, motion picture or television format, but not when his exploits are in a poetic verse set to music. Maybe it is because you feel a little more personally connected to most hip-hop artists who spit rhymes about grime, and know most of it is untrue for 98% of good law abiding folk. Maybe it's because you feel as if their performances contain too much hyperbole masquerading as truth or reality. But my biggest fear is that your shun them (hardcore hip-hoppers, ganksta rappers, thugalists) because you are embarrased by what you see is a negative image for African Americans being reflected upon you and our society in general, which you feel, in turn, justifies continued racist and bigoted thinking towards African Americans. Therein lies the heart of your dilemma: Is gangsta rap the chicken or the egg? Is it a reflection of society ills or does it serve as the origin? And, most importantly, does such an image monolithically represent the whole of African Americans or other Africans in the diaspora, such that words like cool, hep, diss, or biatch aren't offensive when directed towards the only Black man at a dinner party of Pat Boone whites? I say it does not. It cannot, because ,like snowflakes, no two people are alike and that includes Blacks, regardless of what ignorant whyte people think.

    As you recognize and I've noted before, America was gangster long before a lot of young Black men started shouting about it at the top of their lungs. What I will say is--think about this: before the NWA song, "*uck Tha Police", did Black people really have freedom of speech in America? Personally I think that song was the linchpin for full Black expressionism in America. Until that song, Blacks could not say whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted, and whenever they wanted in public and get paid to say it by whyte people. That song marks the first time that the world was able to hear what Black people actually thought from Black people in their own language (African American Vernacular English or AAVE--NOT EBONICS!). Although the record's producer and distributor was a white Jewish guy who saw an angle to make money, it still represents validation of a viewpoint in the marketplace of ideas. This message of empowerment and rebellion from unjust authority sells itself whenever other market forces don't conspire to dilute it or destroy it. (To illustrate, in 1988, NWA's "Straight Out of Compton" and Public Enemy's "Fear of a Black Planet" both sold well over 1 million copies with no radio airplay, advertising, or marketing of the product. Imagine if Spiderman 3 opened in the movies without all that money behind it buying airtime, print space, internet popups and hamburger giveaways--could it make the same money as a percentage of cost?)

    Which brings me to the news about Stepha Henry. Her "story" should also sell itself in our culture, but she is a victim of both her abductor and of our racist society. As a former crime reporter, I know you are well aware of the shoddy treatment that deaths in the American communities populated by dark people get in the press. They are usually relegated to 7B, maybe 2B or cover of the Local sections, but never the A section (especially not front page) unless it involves a drug addled rich white person, a fall from grace by a Black person with some political influence in a real position to help poorer, disproportionately Black, Americans or a genuine saint (again, in regards to for whyte people--most Black saints still get the local section full half page along with the other obits).

    However, I cannot influence the lack of even and unbiased community reporting in the same way as a reporter who works at the paper (hint, hint). I know you've probably moved on to other news coverage to avoid the pigeonhole of crime writing (besides, in Dade you probably don't speak enough Spanish or Creole to be an effective crime reporter--you may, but it would take a lot for a Virginia guy who cut his teeth in the Midwest to pick up enough to get into nuances in just 5-7 years). I know you want to develop as a complete writer (writing a book, going on panel shows, et al). But until guys like you in the newsroom decide that the priority of the paper is not as a free advertising outlet for other entertainment sources, local girls like Stepha Henry will remaim missing and anonymous.

    It's a shame really--one snobby skeezer is the black hole of the journalism world. All you guys need to lay off the junk.

    And JB, all allegations of hypocrisy aside, keep pluggin' man, because I still believe you're doing the right thing. You probably just don't agree that throwing a garbage can through the window will lead to a better outcome.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 2:44 PM  

  • BTW--as for the judge--I don't know about you, but I haven't been able to find a good dry cleaner in years. (Where is George Jefferson when you need him?). The $54m lawsuit is more about empty promises and frustration with shoddy service than a pair of pants (he changed the complaint to sue them for false advertising and getting a payment for all the customers who relied on the sign making promises in the window to their detriment).

    Used to be one time in this world, your word meant something, you lived and died by it, and people were right to get pissed when you didn't keep it. (cue the snippet from Scarface with Tony and Sosa) If it takes a $65 or $54 million lawsuit by a jackass to remind people of that, so be it.

    Don't buy in to the media's relentless abuse of those in the legal profession. When people didn't have lawsuits, a lot more people got shot and stabbed in the street over stuff like broken promises at a laundry.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 2:59 PM  

  • Thanks for a great counterpoint to use against the old fogies in my age group that dislike everything about hip-hop. Now understand, I'm not an old wannabe, but I do find much of rap music entetaining - Common, dead prez, Talib Kwali and many more who I probably can't name.

    I enjoy the wit in many of Jay-Z's rhymes - I ignore the obvious misogeny. I give him a pass most of the time. "Girls - Girls - Girls" was hilarious IMHO.

    It's great to find an honest person facing their own hypocracy - you've forced me to face my own.

    Thanks for the celebrity visit to my page!

    By Blogger jali, at 4:19 PM  

  • James, I appreciate your honesty of course, but violence has always been depicted in literature even before TV. (Even in the great religious tracts, ie The Bible, Bhagavad Gita ...) I guess the issue is in how it's consumed or how it shapes our lives. I don't believe that THe Sopranos encourages anyone to belong to a mafia and start killing people.

    I very much enjoyed seeing you on the show!

    By Blogger latinbombshell, at 6:12 PM  

  • Oh, PS ... that is just awful that the news coverage neglected so many additional stories. I do hope they find that girl.

    By Blogger latinbombshell, at 6:13 PM  

  • Boy, you really put a lot of stuff out there in this one post to read and to give excellent food for thought.
    The news thing - although I don't give a rip if Paris Hilton got 23 days or 45 days in jail, I did appreciate knowing a sheriff now has the authority to override a judicial sentence and release someone from jail for "medical reasons." AHEM! That part -to me -was the only part of the Paris Hilton story deserving of being reported but not re-reported ad nauseum as it was! Frankly, I don't care who you are with respect to race or wealth, you do the crime, damn it, do the time, pure and simple.
    But to push Paris over the disappearance of the young woman is just plain disgraceful.
    The judge - gag me with a pitchfork there! That man should be disbarred, disrobed (of the judicial ones anyway) and given a sentence of his own, which I won't go into total detail other than to say it involves taking fine copper wire to certain body parts and you get the drift there.
    Because I was knocked out of the cyberspace loop from Friday evening until this evening thanks to mother nature's electrical displays here, I'm way behind on my blog reading - got three days worth to catch up on and if, by the time I get through reading tonight and can still stay awake, I will "watch" your segment. Hopefully, I'll be able to watch it before it becomes an obsolete url or whatever that's called.
    And, I liked your cellphone piece too!
    All in all -you did an excellent job with a whole bunch of stuff and got lots more people thinking a bit!

    By Blogger Jeni, at 10:15 PM  

  • You should see how bad the Paris coverage is out here. I swear to you that at the doctor's today an elderly couple behind me saw her on the news coverage that was on in the waiting room and said 'there's that skinny girl again. Who is she?'

    PRICELESS! And cute at the same time.

    By Blogger Michael C, at 11:13 PM  

  • She scared me when she started to say "I am in my real life..." I thought for sure she was going to say " A Man!"

    Good job, good job. Nice to see you speaking out in addition to writing. I really like your voice. It's niiiiiiiiice.

    As for the Sopranos, I never liked the show. Perhaps it is the Italian in me. I also don't like how "Rescue Me" portrays Firefighters. I'm not into gangtsa rap either though I do like rap.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 2:23 AM  

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