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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Safety names

We've all heard crazy names.

Don't front as if you have no idea what I'm talking about. The U.S. Census Bureau even puts out lists of crazy names - people naming their kids after hard liquor, luxury cars, canned vegetables.

And with every out-there name, most of us have gotten a good chuckle or shared an incredulous look with someone else.

So I was on the phone earlier with a buddy who reminded me of a friendly debate we had recently while watching one of those celeb living shows on VH-1. This particular show was about celebrity baby names. And, yes, we laughed scornfully at the Apples and the Fifi Trixibelles and the Tiger Lily Heavenly Hiranis and the Daisy Boos.

Here's the thing though - in the end at least we were laughing at the celeb baby names. But we both agreed that often when we hear some of the other crazy names I referenced at the top we don't just laugh. We also shake our heads in pity...for the children.

Now, the premise of my argument is that I believe middle-of-the-road people, Average Joe and Jane America can be subconsciously suspicious of and condescending to people with "different" names the same way some of us are subconsciously suspicious of people of different races sometimes.

You don't think so? Remember the early '90s sitcom Martin, starring comedian Martin Lawrence? One of the many characters Lawrence played was his wild across-the-hall neighbor Sheneneh (pronounced Chez Ne Ne). Sheneneh was what pop culture "experts" (and comedians) called ghetto fabulous. And as the joke grew and Martin's fan base grew, an association developed between Sheneneh's name, her tacky ways...and her appearance. People began referring to their goofy neighbor or their loud, mannerless friend as Sheneneh. I called my own sister Sheneneh as a joke and to get under her skin, though, for the record, she was/is attractive and classy.

Relax though. Don't get all squeamish and squirmy, because the name game is not about race these days. It's about money.

If you're born to money and/or a prominent family your folks can name you "Dog Crap Murphy." And as long as the $$$ haven't dried up by the time you reach coolness-necessary age you will be fine. People will be nice to you. If you're a guy girls will dig you and other guys will want to be you. If you're a girl, guys will dig you and other girls will hate you anyway, 'cause that's just what they do. You could run for president or become a Hollywood star yourself. Eventually fans, normal people, will start naming their pets and their children after you. People will proudly hold up their babies: Dog Crap Smith, Dog Crap Lewinsky, Dog Crap Jenkins, Dog Crap Rivera, Dog Crap Chang.

On the other hand, if you're born poor and entering this life with a lump of coal rather than a lucky horse shoe in your diaper, and your folks give you a dumb name? You are screwed...unless your parents are artistic types who are expected to buck convention, or unless you grow up and learn you have an amazing: athletic talent, acting talent, singing talent, or to a lesser degree in terms of popularity, literary or theatrical writing talent.

So if you have a baby on the way and you're unsure of a name for him/her ask yourself these questions: Am I rich? Am I in line to inherit a lot of money by the time my child turns 10 or 12-years-old? Am I a certified hippie? Am I an artist - not just in my own mind, but a person whose art work is recognized? Am I famous for being an actor, singer, superb athlete, or for having posed naked in a gentleman's (or ladies') magazine?

If you can't say yes to one or more of those questions, do yourself a favor. Give your kid a safety name, a name so plain and so common that your kid's peers will be forced to make fun of him for something else, like weight or clumsiness.

Right about now, I'm thinking "James" sounds pretty darn good if any of you soon-to-be parents are still stumped.


Punk fans out there?

If you're a fan of the punk culture and the music then bear with me. I'll do a regular post later this afternoon but for now I have to finish writing my profile of Susie Horgan, a photographer, who as a college student 26-years-ago met and befriended a young Henry Rollins and a young Ian MacKaye in D.C. and started taking pictures of them as they were forming their philosophy to shape much of what has become the punk movement. Horgan recently published the photos in a book called Punk Love. My profile, which will run next week in Monday's paper, will include interviews with Rollins and MacKaye.

So hang tight. I need to make some progress on this article. I'll have some more insights (or drivel, depending on who you ask) in a couple of hours.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Bogus Cliché

I don't think I'm a TV junkie. I do have regular shows I watch - Law & Order reruns, Family Guy, Futurama reruns, South Park (do you see the cartoon pattern?), a couple of reality-based home design & rehabbing shows, random news shows, and random reality TV (my current favorite is VH-1's The White Rapper Show). But I don't think I overdo it. All my stuff is normally limited to a couple of hours of evening watching.

While playing nurse's aide to my wife, who is recovering from surgery though, I've had a chance to watch things I wouldn't normally see...'cause I'd be at work.

On Friday morning I got a glimpse at "Surprise, I'm a Ho!" or something similarly titled on Jerry Springer, and updates on outrageous guests on Maury Povich.

I ain't gonna lie. It was all fascinating and funny. But what really grabbed me was a Maury update involving a woman who had learned on an earlier episode that her boyfriend had cheated with her best friend.

When Maury's camera's panned to the woman for the update, it revealed her locked in an embrace with her best friend, the same best friend who'd slept with her man.

The slighted woman then told Maury the friendship had survived because she could always find a new man, but she could never find a new best friend.

And for a moment I nodded approval. My first thought was "At least she got mad at the right person."

But I thought about it a little more and had an epiphany. That cliché is baloney. It's all wrong. Or at least it's not necessarily right.

"Grooming" a new best friend can't be anymore difficult than grooming a new significant other. In theory you love both (in obvious different ways), you trust both, you care about both, etc. I've lost both before - not 'cause of cheating, or anything like it. But either way, both losses sucked.

So why is the best friend less responsible for the cheating episode than the significant other? I'd argue that the best friend may be more responsible 'cause she's been around longer than the man. He was a relative newcomer.

I know, it's stupid talk show TV. But how many of you haven't heard someone use that cliché - or used it yourselves - about keeping your cheating best friend over your cheating boyfriend or cheating girlfriend 'cause Best Friends are Forever? It's a crock. If your BFF hooks up with your significant other he or she is a snake, a weasel, a dirt ball, and you should probably ditch 'em both.

A truer catch phrase would be: "I don't need this crap! I can find a new best friend and a new significant other."

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Who are the bigger jerks?

Most of last week I was out of the culture news loop for reasons I've laid out in the past couple of posts. But I did manage to keep reading pieces of newspaper and to catch snippets of news online, and I saw a ton of stories questioning whether American Idol judges were too mean. Even Rosie - as if she doesn't have enough irons in the fight-with-other-celebs-fire - got in on the act, calling Randy, Simon, and Paula mean folk.

I love the news. I love the business. I love that we "cover" all aspects of life, serious and silly. But I hate overkill.

I've said it before. Humiliations on American Idol are caused by the talentless hacks who insist on performing anyway and by their friends and families for not having the nerve and decency to tell them they're talentless hacks. So we can't be mad at the judges for tellin' 'em straight...or for creating a little comic relief in their judgments following bad auditioner after bad auditioner.

Anyway, I just finished watching Best Week Ever on VH-1, and there was an interesting segment: they showed clips of two this year's more peculiar Idol rejects (the guy Simon suggested looked like a lemur and the rotund guy who Simon thought had borrowed Randy's pants). These new BFFs made the rounds of morning talk shows and a couple of late night shows. And in every case, the show hosts smiled condescendingly and struggled to maintain their composure while these two young guys seriously said they were planning acting careers in Hollywood and on Broadway. These guys were being made fun of.

Randy, Simon, and Paula? They were up front with it.

The "serious" news and talk hosts who interviewed these guys? They tried to pretend they were taking the Idol rejects seriously.

Who do you think was mean here?

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm back, baby!

Sorry, that was just me channeling Frank Costanza.

Mrs B. is home resting now. She's in pain, but is otherwise healthy and has good (doctor-issued) drugs. Meanwhile, I'm learning to be a nurse. Ladies, I have taken your suggestions under advisement and will be picking up the ice cream when I make my first grocery run.

Anyway, glad to be back and to offer a new post.

My brain is still a little scrambled, so I'll just share a few random thoughts.
  • Humility is a lost emotion. A graying sex offender moved into the neighborhood recently, and cops - as is their civic and legal duty - have been alerting residents. The guy may no longer be a threat. But his neighbors should still know about his history. One officer with whom I've built a friendly acquaintanceship says that when he stopped by the guy's house to "welcome" him to the neighborhood, the offender copped attitude. He blustered defiantly and told the officer that anyone who crossed him or messed with him would get dealt with. It seems as though it never occurred to this man to say to the cop "I did what I did. And I served my time, but I completely understand my neighbors' concerns. I brought it on myself. That was in the past. And I hope they'll let me be. But if they make an issue of my being here, I'll let you guys (the police) handle it." I know it's wishful thinking. He'll never do that. It's a sign of the times. Being humble is hard enough when you're just Average Joe, but when you've been proven wrong it shouldn't be quite as hard to lose the attitude.
  • In keeping with my New Year's resolutions I thanked a caller to the newspaper who didn't like something in an article I wrote a few months ago. His complaint wasn't about the facts of my article. He just didn't like it. And his comments bordered on being annoyingly personal. When I first got into this business after college I had a really tough time biting my tongue when people made their complaints personal - like when a reader would call and insult my mother, or something, or when another reader assumed by my name that I was white and would call me about a homicide story I'd written and go on a rant about how "we" should let all those black people just kill each other off. I actually got scolded by my very first editor for responding to a couple of callers with a few barbs of my own. I was young and stupid. And I wanted every reader to like me and to enjoy every article I wrote. In recent years, it's rolled off my back a little easier. Today I thanked the guy for taking the time to read my story, even if he didn't like everything he read. He was so taken aback he said he was gonna keep reading the paper regularly. Reverse psychology. It works.
  • I have a buddy from back home who recently entered his 12th year of trying to become a star music producer. It hasn't worked. He gripes about not making it big time yet. I feel his pain. He's put in a lot of hours. Maybe it's in the cards. Maybe not. But how long should he sacrifice quality of life to pursue his "creative" dream? Unless he gets a hint soon that he's on the verge of a big break, I'm thinking that 9-to-5 is gonna start looking more and more attractive. The ability to upgrade from basic cable and get the Meat Lover's instead of the single topping should not be underrated.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Catchin' Up

Sorry, folks. But I'm tired as bat crap tonight. I didn't sleep at all last evening. I don't mean I slept poorly. I mean I didn't sleep, period.

Mrs. B had another go under the knife. And I'm just getting home from the hospital, where I'd been since about 7 this morning.

I'm happy to report that the work she had done wasn't for anything life-threatening, she's doing very well, she should be able to come home in another two or three days, and as far as we can tell she shouldn't need anymore surgeries.

But I didn't write that for sympathy. I just wanted you guys to know I'm not getting lazy with this blog. I'm just tired today.

So I'm taking my dog for a walk in just a moment, and then I'm going to sleep.

BTW, I appreciate all the positive thoughts but if you really want to help me out, comment - if you haven't already - on the previous post. And I'll resume business as usual tomorrow (Tuesday).

That's all for me. I'm outta here like last year.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

An unscientific experiment

I'm doing a little research for a writing project and I need your feedback. I need lots of feedback, so tell your friends, family, blog buddies, etc., to weigh in on this one too.

I have five questions: How do you define "conservative" and "liberal?" What is one (I mean it, just one) short example you believe supports your definitions? Which do you consider yourself to be, or do you consider yourself to be an independent? What is your age range (18 - 24, 25 - 34, 35 - 44, 45 - 64, 65 - and up)? And what region of the U.S. do you reside in?

Just post your answers in the comments section. Try to keep answers short. Again, consider it unscientific research. I'll explain more when the answers come in.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

What's a guy to do: the update, the conclusion

So some of you asked that I give an update when I learned the conclusion to the melodrama that involved a "couple" I knew from back in the day.

In case you don't want to click the link above and read the original post, here's the abbreviated version: 40-year-old man is in love with 37-year-old woman. They function as a couple for five or six years. She gets antsy and wants more of a commitment...but doesn't tell him that. He is content as things are 'cause, he says, he assumes she's happy. She breaks down at a mutual friend's wedding and confides in another mutual friend that she wants more. The second mutual friend didn't get the hint and pass that tip on to The Man. So a few months later The Woman sort of breaks up with him and begins seeing a new guy. The Man finds out and is convinced he blew it, because he just didn't know she wanted anything more formal than what they had.

Most of you commented that they didn't belong together because clearly they had communications issues. But some of you - in answer to my question - said that The Man should not give up. That he should go to The Woman, plead ignorance, explain he didn't know, urge her to consider their long, loving history, drop the new guy and come back for a second chance.

And so that's how I advised him: put it on your sleeve; tell her you screwed up; tell her (if you really mean it) that you want to be with her the rest of y'all's miserable lives; remind her that you two have a long history, and hope that she gives that more consideration than how much fun she's having with her new, younger, man. One more thing: I told him to be prepared to be turned down and to move on with his life quickly, if that happened. My disclaimer is he was going to do all of this anyway. I just advised him to choose his words carefully and to watch his demeanor and tone of voice when delivering the message. Don't wanna come off as loony.

Anyway the update is she rejected his last-ditch effort.

No dice, she said. She wanted to head a new direction.

About a week after she shot him down, The Man learned the cold, hard truth: The Woman had been secretly dating the new guy for several months prior to the big breakup. So it was no skin off her back anyway. Apparently the formality of her break-up with The Man was done so she could let him down easy and not hurt his feelings, she said.

I don't buy it. I think she was hedging her bets. Either way, there is a valuable lesson here: never assume your significant other knows what you're thinking.

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Quit grabbing my muffin sack!

To anyone who read that title and drew a sexual connotation: shame on you!

I'm really talking about a sack of muffins...bakery. I have a pet peeve about how my muffins get handled at my favorite local semi-hippie grocery store.

Generally, I'm not a fan of hippies 'cause of that whole dirt-lovin' job-fearin' thing, but you gotta give it to them. They know how to put together some healthy food. BTW, I'm kidding about the hippie hate. I know some wonderful hippies who work in the summer and bathe at least once a week.

So I compromise, and occasionally, shuffling and kicking my feet like a child being dragged into church or the doctor's office, I'll join my wife on a trip to the hippie food store.

After work Wednesday we went to that store, grabbed a few items, made fun of the handful of people we saw wearing tight shiny too-short things (with really high heels) as if they were at a night club, and then we got in the checkout line.

The cashier was nice and friendly, average friendly, not like the one who told us her life story and wished us luck cooking our food. But when he got to my bag of muffins he picked up the bag and squeezed it as though that would tell him what was inside and how much he should charge.

This is the third time that has happened to me at this particular store. The last time, a ham-fisted cashier strangled my muffins, and she inadvertently rubbed the icing off of my favorite muffin by squeezing too hard trying to figure out the "mystery in the paper bag." I was crushed...and so was my muffin.

My wife saved the day this time. She managed to halt the muffin assault by telling the cashier "there are two muffins" inside the bag.

He said "Oh," stopped squeezing and rang them up.

Why didn't I think of that? Better yet, why didn't store management think of that?

Ask what's in the frickin' bakery bags. It's a better policy. I'll tell you what's inside. Just step away from the muffins. No one and no pastry need to get hurt.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Second place is just fine

I used to have a really stupid t-shirt when I was in high school. Actually, I had several with the same logo: "No Fear."

My buddies and I loitering at or near the 17th Street Surf Shop on the Virginia Beach ocean front thought we were the coolest cats on earth 'cause of our flowered shorts, Vans, goofy "No Fear" gear, and beach cruiser bicycles (and later pick-up trucks with surf racks that rarely bore surf boards).

Anyway, one of my then-favorite "No Fear" t-shirts had a quote on the back - "Second Place is the First Loser!"

The suggestion, of course, was that anything less than first was a failure. And while I was a stupid kid who wore and said all sorts of relatively harmless stuff, I'm sorry now that I bought into that hype.

What made me think of that shirt today was the return, this evening, of American Idol, and - bear with me - that, in turn, made me think of a series of 20/20 specials John Stossel did in recent years about this movement to eliminate winners and losers from American culture. He reported on little leagues in which every kid was given a shot as pitcher or quarterback so every kid (and parent) would feel good, or leagues where score was no longer kept, so none of the kids would feel bad. So what we've been producing are children who grow up to think that they're always gonna be OK. They can't lose 'cause there's no such thing as losing to them. If there's a prominent position to be had, they assume it's theirs for the taking.

I really think these kids in recent years have been growing up to become American Idol contestants.

On the one hand American Idol has proven that t-shirt slogan wrong, as reported by my colleague Howard Cohen in the Miami Herald today. Over the years the second place finishers of that contest have done quite well, often outshining the winners. On the other hand though, the show is the adult version of these twisted no-score, no-loser little leagues.

I won't front. I love watching American Idol. But more than watching the talented folks in the end, I enjoy watching the criminally untalented folks in the beginning. It's cruel, delightful fun, to
watch someone howl like cat and then stare incredulously at the disappointed judges.

But there is something wrong when such a huge number of people have been groomed to think that they can do anything.

We can't do everything, folks. I swear I nearly sought counseling in high school 'cause of how long it took me to get strong enough to slam dunk a basketball. It was as if me being 6'3" made dunking my right! I sang in an A Capella barbershop quartet in high school and college. We had fun. But I was smart enough not to try to go solo.

Some of us aren't good at much. Some of us have one solitary skill like a needle in a haystack. Others of us are loaded with the works: talent, skill, looks, luck, etc. Trust me, while I'm endowed with enough to do well in life if I work hard, I am definitely not the latter. And that's OK. I won't split the atom. I won't ever dunk again on my rickety knees. I won't live in the White House. I won't win American Idol. But I will keep doing what I'm actually good at, and since we're talking clichés, that, my friends, is what we mean by "slow but steady wins the race."

As funny as it is, it is also a shame that over the next few days we will watch people spinning their wheels at singing, when they could have already moved on to something they might be good at...if only friends and family had told them years ago "You're just not that good at this. But you're awesome at that! So why not give that a shot?"

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The right time

It is now officially Jan. 16th, so I can say R.I.P. Martin Luther King Jr.

I hate formal holidays. I realize this one - Jan. 15th - was set to recognize his birthday. But this is like the Christmas observations by those folks who say they're all about the "real" reason for the season but after Dec. 25th you don't hear them talking about that reason again for another 364 days or so.

If the man's legacy means anything, we can celebrate it on any day we want. Today's my day. I appreciate the work he did in coaxing us all to at least try to get along. I'm not saying don't hate your neighbor this year. But if you do decide to hate him, make it because he's a numbnut, not 'cause of what he looks like.

That's all for me, folks. If anyone cares to join me I'll be celebrating Black History Month in June.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

I might be a whiner

I think I enjoy complaining.

Not trying to be funny, and not offering false self-deprecation. I'm not proud of it. But I really think a part of me likes to gripe. Maybe it's therapeutic. I don't know.

Here's the deal: Since moving to Florida 14 months ago one of my constant gripes living on the southern tip of this state has been the lack of civility, the bad driving, and the all-purpose jerks. I don't want to saddle everyone with those labels. I've met plenty of nice people. But if I'm to be honest then I have to say I've come across many more mean people than I have nice ones. When my wife and I are out and about we marvel sometimes at the blatant demonstrations of inconsiderate behavior.

So rewind to the weekend. After a day of errands we made one last stop at the grocery. We grabbed a few items, jumped on line and waited. When we reached the front we were immediately hit by a burst of energy from the cashier. She made bubbly seem boring. She was all smiles, all teeth, teasing us about our youth - compared to her apparent age - reminiscing about how she was graduating college and getting married when we were born. As we got our receipt, grabbed our bags and started walking away, she even called out to us that she hoped we enjoyed our dinner and whatever other meals we planned on preparing.

We weren't 20 feet away before we looked at each other shocked and amused and commented almost simultaneously that the cashier had been "too friendly" to the point of weirdness.

And just a few seconds later we both sheepishly looked at one another and pointed out that we're always griping about really bad behavior. And the one time we bump into someone who is extremely nice, we complain about that too.

It made me wonder if folks are as big a jerks as I had believed or if I just enjoy complaining. I think it might be a little of both.

Tsk tsk on us. I'd make an excuse like we'd had a long day, or we were so used to the mean people that we complained as a reflex. But that wouldn't be very nice of me, now would it?

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Good causes

Actually, just one good cause. Some of you may remember that several months ago I posted about the charitable work of the Dating Dummy. Well, the project referenced in that post has finally come to fruition. You can check it out here at It's good stuff. Check it out and consider helping a talented kid get to college.

If you need more description of the Graffiti Pad project, here's a press release about on PR Web.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Pimp slapped - the large hand of responsibility

Today was a good day. I had a lot of reporting to do. I've been chasing down folks all week for articles I'm trying to wrap up.

But today I also had a non-journalism task. Today I took the first step in keeping with my call to arms last month and filed a civil claim against a contractor who did work on my house, caused damage during the process, and then declined to fix it appropriately.

Now, old James - James from a few years ago - might have weighed the pros and cons, reasoned to himself "Hmmm, they did the work. So they caused a few nicks and dings along the way. Let's let it go. Let bygones be bygones."

In other words I would have downplayed the contractor's irresponsibility, paid him what he demanded, while at the same time eating the cost of the damage he caused, and quietly and humbly withdrawn to my space.

Not anymore. I'm looking to smack him with the Pimp Hand of the Law and take a chunk out of his behind, 'cause if he's not going to willingly be responsible I'm gonna force him to own up to his mistakes and least those where my house is concerned.

Remember, folks, we'll never compel the numbnuts of the world to straighten up and fly right and pull their weight and not do harm to the rest of us if we don't make 'em.

I've taken step one. I can't wait for step two. That contractor better hope we don't take this before Judge Mathis or Judge Judy.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Another sign of graying

I just got a new cell phone and all I've done is make calls with it and set up the email system.

Trust me. That is significant. My wife believes it's a sign that I'm finally maturing in the tech/toy arena.

There was a time not so long ago after purchasing a new cell phone that I would have immediately gone online and found stupid ringers to download - some stupid tune (on my last phone, the first thing I did was download Eye of the Tiger - I know, I'm a dork), or the voices of Homer Simpson or Stewie Griffin.

There was the Isley Brothers' "Between the Sheets (or the Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa, depends on who's listening), and Ludacris' "Roll Out." Some song by Aerosmith - can't remember which. I even had Timmy from South Park saying "Timmy!"

But I have grown up. When my new toy got charged up the other day, I learned how to use it...and that's all. Now when it rings, it's the stupid Cingular corporate tone. But you know what? I'm too old to care.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

False advertising

What's up, people?

I hope Monday is treating you well. Mine hasn't started too badly, all things considered.

But I was just taking a little lunch break at my desk and going over some "to do" notes for the afternoon, when I came across a receipt from a little shopping excursion a couple of days ago. It jumped out at me 'cause the store I bought from was next door to a lingerie shop that had some interesting contraptions in the window.

There were the bustiers and the lacy, thongy stuff, and the whips and chains, etc.

What grabbed me the most though was the butt padding. They were moon pie-shaped cushions made to enhance the appearance of the female behind.

Now, for the record, I try to limit my observation of female behinds that are not my wife's behind to the coincidental-came-across-my-line-of-vision-through-no-fault-of-my-own glance.

However, being a man with a pulse, I appreciate shape. Still, I can't help but find butt padding disturbing.

We - and I mean all of us, male and female - have encountered padded bras. Some of you may have used them. And that's OK. Different parts come in different sizes. And that's OK. And sometimes top-side padding is to make a clothing item fit better, rather than deceive a male suitor. And that's OK.

Butt padding, though? That just strikes me as being close to cheating, and I can't explain why. I guess it goes along with guys who stuff socks into their trousers. I don't know any dudes like that, and the main reason is even we (guys) know that what is going on below the belt is what it is, and you take it or leave it.

Granted, I'll never know the trauma of lacking natural butt-shape, because I don't care how mine appears to other folks. But while a padded bra wouldn't have bothered me back in the day when these things mattered more to me, a padded behind would have annoyed me to no end.

Who knows? Maybe I'm just nuts.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

what's a guy to do?

Sorry about the lack of posting folks. Seriously, I still have not recovered from my late nights last weekend. I don't know what to say. It wasn't a booze-soaked weekend, not even close. I think it's just me getting old. My sleep hasn't been right since then. Also, this week I've been grinding away at a couple of articles, in which a couple of necessary details are evading me. I'm gonna have hire Columbo or something to help me find the last couple of pieces to the puzzle.

Anywho, I have a scenario for you. It's real, but I'm gonna keep it as vague and general as necessary in order to protect the "innocent."

So here's the deal: Grown man is in love with grown woman. He has been in love with her for about five years. When you saw the two of them together it was like Mutt and Jeff, Laurel and Hardy, Amos 'n Andy, Method Man and Redman, Yoko and John Lennon. They were soul mates. It was painfully obvious to almost everyone who came in contact with this couple. But they never spiritually consummated the relationship. I don't know what they did physically. I assume, because of their PDA, that they did what grown folks do. But on a spiritual level, a mental level, they never made anything official. As a result, they weren't really ever a couple in her mind. She is twice divorced. She is a little shy. But she was head over heels for this man and the way he embraced her and her family. The truth is both of them just rolled with it and assumed that one day they'd end up living together as a happy reconstructed family.

But then an interesting thing happened. A few months ago at the wedding of a mutual friend of theirs, she sat in the audience watching him - he was a groomsman, I believe - and she had some sort of epiphany. She wanted things to be official. She wanted the wedding, etc. She'd wanted something official for a long time but had never done anything about it. And so when his best buddy leaned over to her and asked what was wrong she explained all of that...on the assumption that the best buddy would get the hint and pass it on to the good man. He did not get the hint or pass it on.

A month later, her relationship with the good man was the same - good and simple and unchanging. So she figured he had gotten the hint from the buddy but just didn't care. And that, my friends, broke her heart. So she began to distance herself from him. Eventually - within a few weeks - she began dating an old acquaintance. Now, she appears to be in love with the acquaintance. He wants marriage and the works.

The good man is left in a tail spin, wondering where he went wrong.

I don't think it was just him. I think they both should have been blunt and direct and told the other "Let's make this official." And if marriage scared them, they could have at least formally declared their love for one another, so there were no doubts.

But one guy to another, though this may make me sound like a chauvinist, I told him she was looking for security. She had a track record of two other guys who were mean and abusive. She wanted to know that the good man she'd finally found wasn't gonna just up and disappear one day. She wanted their bond to stick.

Anyway, the good man is so distraught that he's ready to buy her a ring, propose that they elope, argue that he should get a second chance after their long history and more consideration than a guy she's just been "officially" dating for a couple of months. I don't know if that's a good idea. He's tested the waters, and she seems reluctant to let go of the new guy, regardless of history.

Is this enough of a soap opera for you?

I feel for both parties. They both feel bad. But he stands to feel the worst if this doesn't swing back his way. Ladies, taking this scenario into consideration, does he have a snowball's chance in hell? Or is it too late - permanently too late? Guys, should he try, or give up, kick himself a couple of times and move on?

Help me help him. I'm curious for your thoughts.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Quick hits

This year is starting off slowly, and I guess that's a good thing. It means I have fewer complaints three days in.

A buddy and colleague griped today for the nth time in umpteen days that something - I think it was a vending machine soft drink today - tasted like cat pee, which made me wonder how he knew.

We all say stuff like that. I've complained that some dish tasted like a$$. I've heard other people say other things taste like: crap, vomit, garbage, and dirt.

I can see the vomit, 'cause in theory as its on its way out you're tasting it again, like it or not. And I can see the dirt - in the form of sand, if you were the skinny kid who got it kicked in his face by the buff guy on the beach, or in the form of mud pies, if you had older siblings who had dreams of being pastry chefs as children.

The other stuff? As Homer Simpson would say, you need Jebus if you've tasted any of it.

My neighborhood has fewer rif-raf. Last year, weeks after Jan. 1 some folks were still shooting off so many fireworks it sounded like a firing range. Freaked my dog out something fierce. This year I wasn't home on NYE, but I hear the random fireworks stopped shortly after midnight. Since then I've heard only the occasional pop. Besides if it ain't Dec. 31st or July 4th and you're setting off fireworks - and you're grown - you're a loser.

I am a firm believer in the notion that the truth is stranger than fiction. "Just say no" may not have worked. But if you wanna keep your kids off of drugs just show them the letter from a "reader" I saw posted on a wall in the wire room (mail, supplies, fax machine, etc.) at the newspaper Tuesday afternoon. The writer apologized for a previous correspondence to the Herald in which he'd apparently claimed to have recorded (I think video) proof of alien existence. He said he was high on LSD at the time...lots of it, as I recall. He said a lot more. But I was laughing too hard to read the rest clearly.

Anywho, I'm going to sleep. It's 1:46 a.m. right now. This'll be the earliest I've gone to bed in a while - another NY resolution, to limit the number of late nights to three per week.

If you're an insomniac and you're bored here are links to my last two stories. The first is a profile of a cop. The second is my weekly Q&A column. This week's column subject is a Miami-area woman who was recently knighted in Rome: The Cop , The Dame.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

First Soul Train Line of the Year

Greetings, my '07 friends. Welcome to the new year.

I hope you guys had as fun a night as I did. I knew it was gonna start well when I found a parking space barely five minutes after exiting the highway in South Beach. Anyone remotely familiar with South Florida can tell you that finding a convenient on-street parking space in SoBe at night is like finding Britney Spears' drawers: nearly impossible.

Nothing spectacular happened for me. We attended another celebutant-filled party - two of 'em, actually, had a beverage - literally just one for me, and just enjoyed the tunes. Miami-based DJ Irie spun some crazy records in one spot, and drummer Travis Barker beat the skins like Ike beat Tina, to accompany DJ AM at another party.

But beyond the music, here's what I observed throughout the night, and the conclusions I drew from it all:

First, I saw a lot of posers. There were lots of groups of young dudes riding around in Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, and it is a pretty safe bet they had not inherited old money or won the lottery and were not wealthy jocks or musicians. Trust me people, it's really expensive even just to rent one of those things. One of my guys last night confessed he had looked into it: $2K - $5K for a day in most cases.

Second, I saw a lot of people who are famous for the sake of being famous, people who were born to famous parents or rich parents, or who married into famous money.

Third, I saw a lot of people fighting. Up close, I saw three fights start on the street because in two cases someone's shoes got scuffed and in one case someone bumped into another person accidentally and jostled the bumpee a little too hard.

In the past all three of these things would have annoyed me. The latter would have made me downright angry.

I'm past that though, I think. I've come to the conclusion that it's not for me to say what one spoiled rich kid deserves or does not deserve. That's not to say I won't or can't give my opinions on the subject. I will continue to do that. It's too much fun not too. But who am I to say this one's too spoiled or that one's too bratty, etc?

I've got my own fish to fry. And sitting on a high horse to condemn these folks is not gonna help me reach my goals any faster, unless I figure out a way to turn criticizing them into a cash-generating cottage industry.

Seriously, I have seen the light. K-Fed walked past me last night and I didn't feel compelled to crack one joke.

I am now looking at these folks as commodities. As with overpriced sporting-event tickets (more than $400 for a family of four to attend a major league baseball game, get good seats, get food and drinks and pay for parking), and overpriced concert tickets, the market takes what the market can bear. When people get tired of paying for those things, the prices will fall to more reasonable levels. It's a natural process.

And when the general public gets tired of celebutants being the self-indulgent, self-centered knuckleheads that many of them are, the public will stop showing up to night club openings where some rich kid got a million dollars for a two hour appearance. And when "the people" stop showing up, the club owners will stop paying the big appearance fees. Same goes for the TV hosts who invite them on to talk about their manufactured fame, the tabloids that pay big bucks for photos of 'em, the music execs who give them record deals, and the publishing houses that ghostwrite books for them.

So until then, rock on celebutants. I may not like you, but I don't have to. Do your thing and I'll do mine.

Same principle goes for the fighters. The "market" takes what the market can bear. When the general public gets tired of seeing kids assault and/or kill each other over a crooked look or a scuffed shoe, we will put the offenders in check so hard they'll be afraid to offend. When these kids get sick of assaulting and/or killing each other, over being assaulted and seeing friends die over silly stuff they'll stop.

Until then, I won't stop preaching my doctrine of Grow-the-hell-up. But I'm not gonna lose sleep over numbnuts anymore, if I can help it.

The posers? I don't know what to say about them. They may be a lost cause, until pretending causes them to go broke and they hit rock bottom.

So that's all folks. Those are my first logical thoughts of '07. Now, though it is noon as I finish this, I'm out of here like Don Cornelius. Going to take a nap. I just got home a few hours ago and sleep has mostly dodged me.

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