Subscriber Services Weather

Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Friday, March 30, 2007

A challenge for the weekend

Getting ready for work the other morning I saw Will Bowen, a minister from Kansas City, being interviewed on some cable news channel. I forget which one.

Anyway, he was holding up his wrist to show a purple rubber bracelet, sort of like those Lance Armstrong down-with-cancer bracelets.

The story was that last summer, after hearing a bunch of his congregants complaining about the church music selection and how some folks dressed at church and catching himself griping about the dismal performance of the Kansas City Royals, Bowen challenged his church to go three weeks without complaining...about anything.

Bowen got a bunch of these purple bracelets made and had "A Complaint Free World" engraved into 'em.

The challenge was that each time they slipped up and let out a gripe, congregants who chose to wear the bracelet had to switch to their other wrist and start counting from scratch.

Bowen says it took him about three months before he went 21 uninterrupted days. And so far more than 2.3 million of the bracelets have been ordered.

I like the spirit of the challenge. Even if I don't necessarily subscribe to Bowen's brand of religion, this challenge means well. We gripe too much. I gripe too much. Griping occupies 50% of my blog postings, I think.

I don't believe I'm wrong about the things I'm griping. But is it really doing any good to whine about so much so often?

I don't know. The Today Show, which did a story on Bowen, also interviewed a shrink who said it was sort of healthy to complain. It's cathartic, she said.

Still, I'm going to keep the pressure on city officials about nuisance neighbors, etc. But if it's not that sort of thing I think I'll try to cut back on my gripes this weekend. I'm gonna try to go two days. If that works, maybe longer. If you're curious about the challenge here's a link to it.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Physical semantics or legitimate complaint?

Have you guys heard about the alimony case under review in Clearwater, Florida?

Seriously, a guy there petitioned the court to end his alimony payments to his ex-wife, because she had a sex change operation and is now a man. The court shot him down yesterday.

The plaintiff's argument was that he agreed to pay support to his ex wife, not the man she became.

I have mixed feelings. His ex-wife did not drop dead or anything. The person's still alive, just with a different set of tackle, and so that person should keep getting the ex-husband's check every month.

Buuuuuuut, I can't front. Call me closed-minded, but I sort of understand why the ex-husband is annoyed. He's paying spousal support to another man now. And, while he may not have any issues with anyone else's lifestyle as a general rule, he personally doesn't get down like that. So it bugs him.

On the other hand this could be about nothing more than the ex-husband wanting to get out of having to pay anymore. And he might have tried it even if his ex had remained a woman. Somehow I doubt it though, 'cause their original divorce agreement was pretty clear cut: he'd pay her until she died or remarried.

What do you think?

Oh, if you want to read a complete account of this story, here it is.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I have found the solution to world peace...or piece

As in piece of my black & white cookie. Seinfeld was right. As I sit on my porch trying to craft the great American blog post I realize through this cookie, this down-with-the swirl cookie, this ebony and ivory cookie, that we have an example of different cultures of icing peacefully co-existing - chocolate and vanilla icing cooperating to hold together the cookie of life.

Or maybe My Adidas are a better symbol of peace. Just look at how those stripes lay so gently on the body of these gravel-travelin' pimp-stompers.

Selah. Meditate on this. In the mean time, I have to go. There is a glazed donut topped with chocolate icing in my kitchen that could help me find a solution to death and war.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Three of the most useful words of the past two decades

After two ragged days, in which I got things wrong, pissed people off, and got pissed off by other people I'm finding myself pining for a better day.

I miss the good old days when an innocent mistake could be solved with a simple, "Oops, my bad!"

Seriously, I remember when you could scuff someone's shoe. And even though that person would get angry, if you could muster a quick, sincere "oops, my bad" it defused the situation.

I remember when someone could cut you off in traffic. And even though you wanted to tear 'em a new one, if they made the universal gesture of peace and humility - the smiling half shrug/half wave - you felt a (sometimes grudging) flood of calm. You still frowned, but you let it slide and lost your bluster.

I remember when you could: forget to hold the door open for someone behind you, over dry and shrink your girfriend's favorite blouse, accidentally tape over your boyfriend's favorite boxing match, bump someone with your grocery cart, make a well-intended but false accusation, or spill coffee on a co-worker, and you could just say "oops, my bad!" And all you had to do was really mean it. And that was enough. It may not have fixed your mistake, but it soothed the person you wounded.

How many times might some international incident, the result of some cultural or political misunderstanding, have been solved if one or both parties had practiced the spirit of "oops, my bad?"

Righteous indignation, sudden defensiveness? They're diseases. They thrive in an atmosphere where those three words are never uttered.

Sorry, this post is longer than I intended...oops, my bad!

Labels: ,

Monday, March 26, 2007

I'm not checking myself into rehab or anything, but...

I think I might be a little bit of a chauvinist. Not a women-should-be-barefoot-and-pregnant-and-baking-cookies-and-making-lemonade chauvinist.

I really don't like lemonade that much.

I kid, I kid. Seriously though, it occurred to me earlier today when a bad driver cut me off in traffic on the way to work.

I was driving. Another car whipped in front of me with about two inches to spare. I saluted that car, and then I muttered to myself that "she" was a terrible driver.

A few minutes later, as per the ebb and flow of traffic I ended up side by side with the same car. Turns out the driver was a man.

Bad driving is a pride sport here in South Florida, and when I'm on the receiving end of some numbnut driver my snap reaction is usually to say something smart about "her" behind the wheel.

Mrs. B opined the other day that I'm usually wrong. The other driver, the bad driver, usually turns out to be a man, she said.

After today, I agree that she's right. I'm usually wrong about my driver assumptions.

I don't know why I instinctively assume - again, usually incorrectly - that most of the bad drivers I encounter are women.

Maybe I heard men in my life dog women drivers when I was a boy? Nah. My dad is the silent stoic type when he's behind the wheel. Always has been, even when he has to slam on breaks or swerve to avoid a bad driver.

Maybe it's the brand of entertainment I subscribe to? I doubt it. The books I read range from mystery novels - many featuring female protagonists - to pop philosophy, like the Tipping Point. And the most blatantly biased TV I watch is South Park. And even that show's biases usually come with some sort of moral behind the story line.

I don't know why I do it. There's plenty of other stuff I blame on men, after I've jumped to a conclusion.

Luckily Mrs. B doesn't hold this one against me. Then again I do believe she once was given a warning for coming close to speeding. I've never gotten more than a parking ticket.


PS. You guys hurt my feelings. No one went to the last post and read my most recent articles. We reporters are sensitive people, you know.

Labels: , ,

Don't say I never gave you anything

I'm gonna be swamped this morning, so here's some reading material for you:

Labels: , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dog poop and other shining examples of "Only in Miami"

If you've read this blog for any amount of time, you know one of my biggest pet peeves is dog owners who let their beasts crap wherever and won't pick it up. If it's in your own yard, let it pile up. I don't care, unless the wind shifts and I can smell it in my yard.

But if it's in my yard, or on that little strip of grass on the swale that the city requires me to maintain as if it was mine, then it's a different story.

Still, in spite of my peeves I've been making a concerted effort lately to be less of a curmudgeon and more of a neighborly kind of guy. I don't wanna become that crotchety old guy who calls the Environmental Protection Agency every time someone farts outside.

There is a thin line between vigilance and being uptight. I don't want to cross it.

Nevertheless, after reading my paper this morning and watching Reliable Sources w/Howard Kurtz, I stood to stretch and walked out to my front porch...just in time to see one of the dog poop bandits letting his rat terrier bend a fresh biscuit on my swale. And not to be too graphic, but considering the size of the dog this was a really large biscuit - practically a whole loaf.

So yes, I was pissed off. Like Homer Simpson I was fighting to control the bulging vein in my neck.

And I had to quickly decide on one of three options:
  1. Go outside and drop kick the rat terrier and the rat holding his leash all the way back to their house.
  2. Go outside and ask/suggest/tell the rat holding the leash to pick up his terrier's loaf - according to city ordinance.
  3. Ignore what I saw, turn around and go back in the house and continue soaking up the pleasant atmosphere my morning had started in.

I can tell you right now that option one wouldn't work, 'cause I'm too pretty to go to jail. And I give to the Humane Society and adopt animals from there. Last thing I need is them camped outside my house with picket signs, 'cause I punted a dog and his owner 30 yards.

Option three was also bad, 'cause I wouldn't feel right if I ignored what I saw. It would make me a hypocrite to ignore it. Sorry, but this was no small violation as far as I'm concerned. That is one of the least responsible things a pet owner can do - other than abuse their animals, in my opinion. And it damn sure ain't very neighborly.

So I went outside. Here's where the "Only in Miami" thing comes in (BTW, I live outside the city of Miami, but for the sake of conversation I refer to everything in Southeast Florida as "Miami" or "the Miami area"):

I open my front door, step out, and approach:

Me: Um, 'scuse me, but I notice your dog is going on my swale here. I have spare bags if you need one. It'd be no problem.

Rat: Oh, um, you do have a spare? Um, yeah, sure.

Me: No problem.

Intermission: The look on his face was a mixture of "I'm busted" and "I'm annoyed that I'm busted." So I turn to walk back inside and get him a bag and then...

Rat: Wait a minute. Why should I pick it up? I think your dog has gone in front of my house.

Me: Nice try. This is a hateful chore, picking up dog crap. But I'm religious about it 'cause it pisses me off when I see it laying around. So if you saw my dog go in front of your house, you also saw me stoop seconds later to pick it up.

Rat: Oh really?

Me: Yeah, really.

Rat: Well, I still don't have to pick it up. No police saw me do it. And if they didn't see me, nothing can happen to me.

Me: Wrong again. You can still get a ticket.

Rat: Nah-anh. It's just a misdemeanor.

Me: Um yeah, that's why I said you could still get a ticket. I didn't suggest jail.

Rat: How many people do you see in this neighborhood carrying bags?

Me: Not enough. But if I'm guessing correctly by the tone of your voice that you think you're better than "those" people, why not do the right thing and pick up your dog crap?

Rat: Well, I still don't have to. Besides, you didn't really ask me nicely.

Me: My reaction to your trying to sneak off notwithstanding, the issue here is your dog crapped outside your yard and in front of mine. The city says you have to pick it up, or else. What are you gonna do?

Rat: It's just a misdemeanor. You can call my lawyer if you want.

Me: Don't need to, unless your lawyer is also gonna let his dog crap in front of my house and not pick it up.

Rat: If you'd only asked nicer this wouldn't be an issue.

Me: We're talking in circles. Let's agree I'm not nice. That doesn't change the fact that your dog went, you got busted, you're embarassed that you got caught. And now, instead of showing some character and cleaning up after your dog you're making this about how I offended your delicate sensibilities.

Rat: You wrote me that letter last year.

Me: You mean the letter I wrote you (instead of calling Animal Control), after your Jack Russell slipped under your gate, bit my dog on the leg during our walk and then squeaked back under your gate? Let me guess that letter wasn't nice either?

Rat: Well, no. It wasn't nice to send me a letter.

Me: As opposed to calling Animal Control and the cops and, again, you getting ticketed? I think it was the most neighborly thing I could have done. I wasn't gonna come through the gate and knock on your door. It was enough to keep my dog on his leash and stop him from swallowing yours whole. I can't say how I would have reacted if he'd bitten me instead.

Rat: Well, I'm leaving. You're not nice.

Conclusion: I can't complete the rest of the transcript 'cause we both traded a few words of French, the variety that only comes in three and four letter words. If you're at all curious, he didn't pick up after his dog. Rat kept walking 'cause I'd hurt his feelings. He was wrong about the cops having to see him in the act though. And while I don't want to be that guy, that curmudgeon, as a matter of principle, I'm gonna make sure Rat gets a ticket.

So what is the lesson to be learned here? None, necessarily. Rat may remain for the rest of his life that French word I called him. Because I startled him today, and he'll never know when I'm hanging out on my porch (not often), I'll bet he won't let his dog go in front of my house again, even if he is carrying a bag. But the important thing is he got called out. Before this process is over he'll get a ticket. And he'll be taught - whether he learns anything from it or not - that there are consequences for purposely being bad toward other folks. You may get your justice by way of the law. You may get it by way of karma. But you'll get it.

That's all for me, folks. I'm off to take my dog on a long walk...with plenty of bags in my back pocket.

Peace and hair grease!

Labels: , ,

Friday, March 23, 2007

Is it time? Can we do Ask James Anything Friday?

I don't know what it is. Maybe my vitamins -hope those were vitamins - are more potent today, or something. But I'm up for some challenging questions. You know the rules of this day: there are none, except try not to be profane if you can help it. This is mostly a PG-13 blog. And don't ask me anything rude/mean about my wife or my mother. That would make me angry. And you wouldn't like me when I'm angry. Wish I had some music right now to play that Incredible Hulk theme song.

Anyway, ask away - anything about anything, including me, the news, my opinions, your opinions, my opinions of your opinions, why the sky is blue and the stupid water in my koi pond is too green.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

How do you decide?

From time to time on this blog we've discussed profiling - most often where it concerns law enforcement and how they do their jobs.

Truth is, by human nature alone, it is impossible not to profile other people. We all do it.

There are times it is done by ignorant people. And those times are when profiling becomes a matter of bad discrimination - "bad," because there is such a thing as appropriate discrimination (like when choosing to date the guy with a job, as opposed to the jobless loser who lives with his parents, or someone comes to your upscale restaurant in flip-flops and you deny them a table, for example).

I've been stopped by cops before for: driving while black, driving too nice a car, driving in the wrong neighborhood. Probably don't need to tell you this, but that was all bad discrimination.

Now, had there been a recent crime committed in the area by a guy fitting my description who was driving a vehicle that looked like mine, then those cops would have been dumb not to stop me. But they were dumb, because they stopped me for one reason only - not behavior, not bad driving, not a matching suspect description, but just because I was black.

So used in conjunction with good sense - and in the case of crime-fighting, with the law - some profiling is just fine.

However, I fear that those of us who worry too much about hurting folks' feelings have made "profiling" interchangeable with "exercising caution."

The two are not synonymous, which finally, finally brings me to my point: I've been reading, watching, and listening to reports over the past week or so that the six Muslim Imams who were removed from a flight in Minneapolis last fall after passengers and crew reported they were behaving suspiciously have filed suit against the airline for a variety of prejudices.

Several blogs have reported that the Imams also named some of the passengers who pointed them out in the suit, but I haven't found proof of that.

Regardless, in this post 9/11 era, I just don't see where the passengers or the crew went wrong.

If press reports have been accurate, passengers and crew have said the Imams requested seat-belt extenders, though none of them were apparently overweight. They said at least a few of the Imams left their assigned seats and repositioned themselves in other vacant seats - not to sit together as a group - in other sections of the plane. And several passengers said they overheard the Imams making anti-U.S. government comments.

It's a shame 9/11 has made folks paranoid. And these guys may have been perfectly innocent - returning home to Arizona, and just being themselves. But I gotta tell you, had I been on that plane and seen and heard the same alleged things I would have told the crew too.

In fact, I would have been pounding on the captain's door, yelling "Open this door, stop this plane, and remove these men!" Of course, that probably would have gotten me arrested too, but you get my point.

I love everybody. If I don't like you, your appearance won't have anything to do with it, unless you're sloppy and unkempt without the excuses of poverty and homelessness. And the fact that I feel the need to give that disclaimer should tell you how deep the paranoia goes. No one wants to fall back anymore on "Sorry for the inconvenience, but better safe than sorry." We can't just come out and say "You - your behavior and appearance worries me. Sorry." And that's too bad.

At my last newspaper, I was sent after 9/11 along with a photographer to NYC to track down a former Milwaukee firefighter, whom we had learned was the only survivor of his battalion.

I remember the tension on the flight there. People were nervous. Conversation was nervous. Even laughter was nervous. Passengers were giving each other those furtive looks. And, yes, there were a few passengers, who, based on their garb, were Muslim.

We felt sheepish and laughed about this later, but after the photographer and I observed one older Muslim woman walk past us several times before the flight took off - apparently going to the bathroom and back - we agreed that if she started strolling again as the plane made it's descent into the NY area he would hit her high and I would hit her low.

Yes, it was stupid. But I ain't afraid to admit that we were nervous as hell. And I'd just as soon tackle an old woman than hold back for fear of offending someone.

I want to meet Jesus one day, but I wasn't trying to meet him under those circumstances 'cause I was too embarrassed to risk being wrong.

The flight went smoothly. Our trip, though sad, was great.

But where do we draw the line? And how did we get to this point where "caution" has become synonymous with "discrimination," and "prejudice?"

The Imams say in their suit that ignorance and lack of understanding of Islam prompted what they say was an uncalled for act of discrimination against them.

But I don't think it's that complicated. I guarantee you no one on that plane was thinking anything about the religion of Islam when they reached out to the crew.

You know what they were thinking? We're scared.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Whose hood is nice?

I'm curious about your general definitions of civility and whether you think your area has much of it.

Erica AP had this interesting post on her blog about her frustrations with a lack of civility where she lives in California.

I think it's a little like behavioral extremes. Everyone thinks there area has it the best or the worst. It always cracks me up when I'm in a group and someone mentions a crime in their neighborhood and another person pipes up that they have it much worse. Or someone says their 'hood is really clean. And another person blurts out that theirs is cleaner. We don't really know that ours is better or worse, but it's our elaborate way of saying "me too!"

But Erica raised a good point - that the primary issue was the behavior, and the secondary issue was where it took place. She too was curious about whether Cali was just less civil than other places.

So if everyone thinks that their area is padded with knuckleheads, then maybe we really do have a nationwide problem of people just not being nice anymore.

How civil (or uncivil) is your area? Do you have an anecdote to demonstrate your answer?

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 19, 2007

Supreme Court Prediction

I have a guess on the outcome of the case from Alaska, in which the (now former) high school student sued his school district after he was suspended for standing across from the school during the "parade" for the Olympic torch, holding up a sign that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus"

The high court is hearing arguments right now over the former student's free speech argument.

I say he loses. Even if, as he argues, his silly sign was a free speech experiment, the district will win on the argument that his sign promoted drug use...even if it was drug use for Jesus.

Labels: , ,

OK, whose idea was this?

So, a friend of mine who works at my old newspaper wrote this article about a newly proposed man pill.

What sort of pill, you ask? That sort of pill. The kind that can prevent little versions of yourself from popping up nine months after a hook-up.

They haven't tested it on humans yet. So somewhere out there is a bunch of inexplicably moody, lab rats.

Scientists in the UK came up with this as-needed pill. And no, they were not rocket scientists. They couldn't have been. Otherwise they would have known that no man is gonna take that sort of pill.

There are exceptions to every rule. The same guy who walked around the mall in the 1980s wearing a sweatshirt with his girlfriend's name airbrushed across the front, while she walked next to him in matching skin-tight jeans and a matching sweatshirt with his name on it, will take this pill. The guy who does not object when his wife gives him a Scotty dog sweater to wear during the family Christmas gathering will take this pill. The who takes his wife's last name and tells their 4-year-old son to call him Bob instead of dad will take this pill.

But generally speaking, even the most sensitive guy is not going to take this pill.

It's not malicious. But guys don't remember to take pills. And you can't even get guys to take pills that are known to be good for them - unless the guy is over 50 and the pill has something to do with keeping his heart beating or his prostate from swelling to grapefruit size.

Why do you think health food/supplement stores like GNC started marketing liquid multi-vitamins? Because guys will drink anything, but they won't take a pill.

Plus the man pill will be easy to lie about. If you think a guy will take it 'cause it will be quick and easy think again. Ladies, that guy who used to always tell you he couldn't find a condom? Now, all he has to say is "No worries! I took the pill....What? You don't believe me - go check my medicine cabinet. There's a whole bottle of 'em in there." You'll have to take his word for it.

Everyone doesn't need to be on a pill. The female pill has been tested and proven to work. If both men and women start popping pills to prevent pregnancy something bad is gonna happen.

How does Newton's Third Law go? For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Two pills? I hope they work, or else we're gonna have a bunch of babies born like X-Men, already wearing full body armor when they leave the womb.

UPDATE: I've been told the side effects of the female pill are many more than moodiness. That sort of kills the humor in this, but it is even more of a reason for guys not to volunteer themselves to be tortured the same way. A better solution? Be careful about the extent of your hanky panky before you and yours are ready to have kids.

Labels: , ,

The Pursuit of Happiness

Or as Stan Freburg used to say in his July 4th, holiday special, "the purfuit of happiness."

Sorry, you have to be over 50 or a geek like me to get that one.

Anyway, I'm back from Carolina. And as I sat on the parking lot better known as I-95 South this morning on the way to work I had an epiphany about happiness: mine is contingent on me being comfortable in my surroundings - nothing more, nothing less.

You may think that's a given, just like those cliches we all tend to attach to happiness like family, pets, etc.

But happiness never has been an easy concept for me to grasp. I've always done like a shady politician who attaches $100 million for playground construction onto a bill intended to finance body armor for troops. I've added things like more money and unreachable goals like perfection to my happiness parameters.

And not to sound sappy, but while breathing that cool crisp air and strolling around with my dog, and my wife, and my mother (she drove down from VA to visit with us in NC for a couple of days), it hit me that I felt stress free. Seriously, my stomach was not bound in those knots that often come with suppressing my road rage in Miami. I didn't have that headache that comes from drinking excess coffee in an attempt to keep myself wired. I wasn't worried about anything...which is not the same as not having anything to worry about. But I was just happy with the folks around me and the space around me. And that was all I needed.

OK, enough of this flower-sniffing hippie nonsense. I have an article to finish. I'll chat w/you guys this evening.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

From the RV park on the Burnettiquette World Tour

What's goin' on, folks? Kidding, I'm not really at an RV park. Not that there's anything wrong with 'em.

Sorry, I don't have any pearls of wisdom to share tonight. I'm still recovering from car lag, suffered during my temporary escape from Miami a couple of days ago.

I'm just chillaxin' right now in beautiful central North Carolina, along with Burnettiquette Wife and Burnettiquette Dog and Burnettiquette Mom.

Here's an inexplicably fuzzy image of Burnettiquette Dog and me during a stroll this afternoon.

A few quick hits:

  • Deep-fried Couey, comin' right up - Justice will apparently be served in the Jessica Lunsford murder case.
  • I smell a conspiracy - Why can't Sanjaya Malakar, the kid with the flowing locks and trickling voice, be voted off of American Idol? If it was a contest to star in a Paul Mitchell commercial, he'd win hands down. But a singing contest? Tsk, tsk.
  • I saw the funniest thing driving up here the other day - a sign, when I pulled over for fuel, pointing to Astronaut High School, in Titusville, Fla. I don't know why it cracked me up, but I immediately thought of a training ground for diaper wearers and that terrible Disney flick Sky High. How do I know it's terrible? 'Cause I watched it on cable during a night of intense boredom a few months ago.
  • Haven't seen any wannabe Slim Shadies here in NC so far. I know they're around. But thank you Jebus, I haven't bumped into 'em.
  • A preview - coming up next week, an interview w/ actor-comedian-director Nick Cannon in my regular Monday Q&A column, and a profile in Tuesday's paper of a very unique cardiologist. I'll provide links.
  • Officer Friendly is a real person - Remember in elementary school, the local police department would send a patrol officer by your classroom once a year to talk about his job? I remember - back before guns in school were used by angry children to shoot cool kids, bullies, and teachers - that Ofcr. Friendly would fire a blank round from his service weapon at the ceiling. Seriously. Did they do that in anyone else's school? Anyway, one of my constant gripes is that people don't complain about in-your-face bad behavior in their neighborhoods for two reasons: they're too timid or intimidated by the perpetrators, or they don't believe calling the police will do any good. So before I left town for NC I heard and observed a disturbance (bordering on fist fight) in the street, so I called 911. In theory, the operator asked me all the right questions, but I felt like she was rude and dismissive. Ultimately, no police officer ever showed up to try to calm the situation. My instinct told me to suck it up and deal with it 'cause my call to 911 probably wasn't that important anyway. Fortunately, however, righteous indignation got the better of me. And I fired off an email to a command-level officer at my local PD, 'cause something didn't feel right about the fact that no cop ever showed up. To my pleasant surprise he took my complaint seriously, and actually forwarded it to the commander of the PD's communications division, who opened an investigation. He found the tape of my 911 call, and what do you know? Not only was my complaint legit - not that I ever had any doubts - but it turns out the 911 operator never actually sent my complaint to dispatchers. She basically listened to me...or not, hung up the phone and moved on, without actually filing a report on the incident I observed. So no officer was ever given word to check on the fight. Tsk tsk. That operator's lucky no one was hurt...that we know of. The domino effect has been the operator is being investigated, the people involved in the fight are being scrutinized by police. So if they fart too loudly it's gonna draw attention. And their landlord is being put in check for harboring rowdy tenants. So while I hate whiners who whine for the sake of hearing themselves, I strongly encourage you to speak up if you see stupidity or criminal behavior or some combination of both. And if the people who should care don't appear to, put them in check too. Again, as long as we let people slide for bad behavior or shirk their good-behavior responsibilities, the numbnuts win.

OK, I'm done. I'm gonna suck some fresh mountainish air and get some sleep. I'll post again tomorrow and, I swear, start catching up on my visits to your blogs.

Peace and hair grease till tomorrow.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Real Slim Shady

Few things annoy me enough to get me demonstrably upset.

One of those rare, rare things is seeing and hearing a non-black person utter the N-word in a casual manner, as a friendly greeting, for example.

Don't get me wrong. I think the use of the word under any circumstances is wrong.

I am an admitted hypocrite. I've said before I've used the word with buddies, who are also black, when we were certain we weren't within earshot of other people. I've recited it when singing/rhyming along to a favored rap tune. I've laughed my butt off at the Chappelle Show.

Over the past couple of years though, my buddies and I consciously decided to not use it. It has slipped out when we were all alone from time to time, or when we were "accompanying" a CD while driving along. But mostly we've been successful in not using it.

Our logic? If we had to look over our shoulders before using that word with each other, we probably shouldn't have been saying it. Also, even though we knew that we used the word as a term of endearment, like "buddy" or "pal," we're also smart enough to know that some people use the word in a mean-spirited and hateful way. And to many casual observers there's no distinction between the two. So rather than give mean people an excuse to use it as a slur, we figured we'd stop altogether.

So you might understand my chagrin the other night when I hear a commotion - just a lot of loud chatter on the sidewalk in front of my house, and I get up to check it out. As I get to my front door I hear young male voices calling out to each other "Yo, nigger, come here!" "Hey, nigger, grab my keys!" "Nigger, did you hear that (song)?" And so on, and so forth.

My immediate reaction is "What the hell?" just the way you might picture Chris Rock saying it. I am incredulous. I can't see who's talking, but I'm annoyed 'cause I'm thinking first, no one wants or needs to hear that yelled out for the whole block to hear, Second, for all the progress that has been made in this country, let's face it, the casual utterance of that word has given young black men a collective black eye. I say collective, 'cause even those young black men who don't use the word, feel the brunt of the public's disapproving tongue clucks.

Anyway, I step out of my door to try to get a peek at these eloquent speakers, and who do I see? Well, if they were making Children of the Corn: The Teenage Years these three guys could be cast members. White, blond, and blue-eyed.

I realize a moment later that these guys are visiting a neighbor. And until they go inside I get the benefit of the rest of their conversation. It was nothing deep. But every other word was "nigger!"

I swear, I live in bizarro world. Later that night, two of these guys get into a shoving match - did I mention the neighbor they were visiting is an idiot? - in front of their host's house and they're yelling at each other "Nigger, you want to fight?" "What? What?" "Nigger, I will mess you up?"

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Is 8 Mile II being filmed in Miami, and I wasn't tipped off? Or maybe Eminem's making a new video and these guys are just rehearsing for their audition. Or perhaps they're getting ready for a go at VH-1's The White Rapper Show, assuming that show has a second season.

The funny thing is these kids aren't menacing. They're stupid. If I had to hazard a guess, they still live with their parents in a 'burb that's even more lavish than mine - and mine's not lavish at all. When I came back outside at the second commotion, they saw me and quickly changed their tones...and their language. I think if I'd stomped my foot and said boo they would have turned and run the other way. If they got bashful about talking that way when they saw me, they ain't thugs. Real thugs wouldn't have cared and might have asked me what I was looking at. These kids are typical frauds who have listened to so much gangsta rap they have started to believe that they are menaces to society. They really think that they are peers of the rappers they listen to. They think that they are gangstas.

And that couldn't be more hilarious...or annoying to me.

I don't know if this makes sense to you, but while I hate that word, I grudgingly understand why some black folks have used it with each other casually over the years: it was caste as the lowest of low slurs back in the day. The folks against whom it was used had to just grin and bear it...or when the boss man wasn't around they could give each other comic relief and take the boss's word and jokingly and casually use it among themselves. I say that time has past. Stop it, altogether.

But these kids, what's their excuse for using it?

Labels: , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Spring Break, the good ole days

I'm sufficiently recovered from hanging out with infants in bathing suits yesterday at the Victoria's Secret PINK party that I can do another post now.

Coincidentally, most of the people who dropped good coin to attend that party were spring breakers. But you probably guessed that by the whole infants thing.

A few observations:
  • I am getting old. Any time 21-year-olds look like high school students to you, you are old or on your way.
  • College kids are more honest these days. I'll explain. When I was in college waaaaay back in the mid '90s we were frauds. When my guys and I got at least a few miles away from our campus on a Friday night - far enough away that we felt comfortable no classmates would be around to recognize us, we would lie, lie, lie. We'd tell girls we were older than we were. We'd tell them we were anything but students. I recall using "underwear model" as my faux occupation a number of times. We'd buy one reaaaaaaaaaaaaalllly strong semi-expensive drink - one apiece, that is - and sip it all night so as to save money. But we'd play up the cost of our drinks while trying to be nonchalant to the ladies. So I found it interesting and in a goofy way impressive when party host Nick Cannon asked the crowd at one point "Who here has more than $20 in their pocket?" and less than half the partiers raised their hands. It cracked me up. But the honesty was refreshing. Back in the day, my guys and I would've raised both hands in an effort to appease our insecurities and impress the ladies.
  • Guys if you are at a spring break party, and you spot a waaaaaaaaaaay too pretty girl and ask for her phone number and she doesn't have a job but hands you a business card, turn and run the other way. She is a stripper. Same goes for you ladies. If some dude who is ripped like Adonis and curiously avoids the subject of what school he attends and doesn't have a job but hands you a card, he too is a stripper. Or he is one of those dudes who lives in his parents' basement, reading comic books, dreaming up Web site schemes, and printing up homemade business cards so that he can "honestly" introduce himself to people as an entrepreneur. I nearly fell laughter, when I sat down to take a break about 10 feet away from a young guy who was trying to talk to two girls. They listened skeptically. The thing is he was a dork. I'm not hatin'. I was just as much of a dork back in the day. But these girls were out of his league. I don't think they were even students, because honestly, they were pretty much out of the league of every guy in attendance - at least the college guys ;-) Anyway, he got around to asking what hotel they were staying in and if he could get their phone number. One of them reached in her purse and handed him a business card. I couldn't read it over his shoulder or anything, but the look on his face suggested my guess might have been right. He shook his head, pocketed the card and got up and walked away.
  • This totally has nothing to do with spring break, but when I was leaving the party yesterday and heading back to the paper I cut down an alley to get to my car and stumbled - figuratively - over a dude sitting against the back wall of a restaurant cleaning his crack pipe. I didn't just fall off the back of the yam wagon. Back in Milwaukee, covering crime I hiked through many a dark corner where those little pipes were being cleaned out with a little wire brush or a piece of steel wool. Anyway, this was the first chubby crackhead I'd ever seen. Seriously, I've never seen a large crack smoker. All the ones I've ever seen were pretty frail and gaunt. First time for everything, I guess.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Quick Hits - Law & Order Edition

Sorry - no narrative today. At least not right now. I'm trying to make progress on an article, update my in-the-coming weeks story schedule for my editor, and gather my notes so I can head over to South Beach for a couple of interviews at the Victoria's Secret Pink show/party. That's right guys. Read it and weep. That'll teach some of ya to make fun of reporters!

Anywho, here are my thoughts on what's in the news:
  • John Couey Must Die: In case you don't follow the news, that is not the name of a sequel to that horrible comedy John Tucker Must Die. Couey is the guy who kidnapped, raped, and murdered 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford. He buried her alive. He is on trial here in Miami, 'cause an impartial jury couldn't be seated in his county. And he is facing the death penalty if convicted. He confessed, but prosecutors couldn't use it at trial, because he confessed after asking police for a lawyer and not getting one. I know some of you don't like the death penalty 'cause you don't believe humans have the right to take each other's lives. I hate to disappoint you. And I hope I don't lose you as readers, but I disagree. I have two feelings on the death penalty - I approve of the concept, but I disapprove of how it is applied in this country. Therefore I don't like it, if that makes any sense. If there was a way we could be 100% certain that everyone put on death row did the crime and did it in cold blood, I'd say fire away. But look at Illinois in recent years and all the people exhonerated from DR. The thought that these men could have been executed, and they were actually innocent? Terrifying to me. However, this Couey case is one of those slam dunks. And even if you oppose the very concept of capital punishment, deep, deep, deep, down inside something must be nagging you about this case. If there was ever a candidate for the Kentucky Fried Chair this guy is it. And to you media critics, I'm not reporting on this case, and I'm not on the jury. So I can give my opinion. One more thing about this. Apparently Couey has become mentally ill since he did this. I'm being facetious. His attorneys have argued that he has been mentally retarded for some time. In this country we don't execute mentally retarded people. Or at least we're not supposed to. Why the hell is it though that people's issues like that don't seem to come out until they're in deep, deep trouble? Would anyone have ever said this guy's life was hamstrung by retardation if he hadn't been charged with a heinous crime? As a defense strategy I can't blame him. If I was facing KFC, I wouldn't just be scribbling in a coloring book during trial, I'd be making faces at the jury, and flinging my crap at the judge. If my life didn't get spared, I'd at least get an Oscar for best performance of a sudden mental illness. For once though, I'd like a killer or rapist or otherwise violent assailant to just admit from the beginning, "I'm not crazy. I'm not retarded. I'm just plain old evil."
  • Puff, puff, pass: You hear about the teens in Texas, who taught their toddler nephew to smoke weed? Lock those little bastards up - the teens, not the toddler, of course. That's horrible. Last thing we need is another drifty kid, growing up with the munchies and no ambition.
  • Astronut update: Ladies and gents, if ever there was a reason to make sure you and the person you "admire" are on the same page, this is it. Emails released by prosecutors in Orlando, Fla., reveal that while the male astronaut at the center of this mess considered their relationship exclusive but never considered the suspect a "girlfriend," the diaper- and wig-wearing, mace-toting suspect had a different idea of their relationship. She went nanners. Ladies make sure that if you "say he's just a friend" that he knows that too, 'cause you don't want the guy who you call to share your "real" guy problems with thinking he's your man. And guys, same goes for you. If you say she's just a friend, you'd better make sure she's aware of that, 'cause your rabbits can boil just like anyone else's.

OK, I have work to do.

Peace and hair grease till this evening.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, March 05, 2007

All things to all people

So here's a question for you: Do you alter your behavior (speech, 'tude, mannerisms) depending on who you're around?

When I first thought about that question about an hour ago my immediate answer was I'll bet we all do it. But the more I thought about it, I wasn't so sure. I can only speak for myself, and I know I do it.

What made me think of it in the first place were the speeches made in Selma, Ala., over the weekend by Barack Obama and H-Rod.

I'm a student of language. I love the written and spoken word, and I'm just geek enough to study delivery. And I what I noticed with the two of them is that while in Selma they both developed Southern drawls. They both spoke with the sing-songy cadence of a Southern preacher, and they both used southern (or ethnic, depending on who you ask) colloquialisms.

Now, don't get me wrong. Without getting into their politics, I'm not mad at either of them. I'm sure a GOP candidate in a similar position would have made a few adjustments in how he delivered his speech vs. how he might do it to a crowd in Salt Lake City or something.

But I was amused. I was even more amused this afternoon when I was driving to my office, bouncing between radio talk shows, and I came across one where the host scoffed at Obama and Clinton for altering their speech so that they could try to sound southern and black, and thus curry more favor with black voters. The host didn't use those words, but that's what he implied.

Again, I sort of disagree with him. I do think both candidates tailored their deliveries to their audiences. But I don't think it was a race thing. I believe, regardless of party affiliation, any savvy candidate is going to adjust in the same way. It's one of those things that gives politicians labels like "phony." But it is a reality: they all do it, at least the ones who win or come close to winning.

Either way the talk host's argument struck home 'cause I realize I've done the same plenty of times.

I've said before I was raised in a Cosby-esque household - not wealthy, just extremely straight laced and "by the book." And as I grew up I found myself surrounded by more people who were nothing like me than by people with whom I could compare notes. It was no one's fault. It was just where I lived. So I learned to get along. When I got old enough - like in high school - I found myself gravitating to areas of my city where I knew I'd find more kids who looked like me. And I found another culture and another take on life. I'll stop here. I could ramble on about this for pages on end.

At any rate, I have caught myself when visiting the old barbershop in the 'hood during visits back home adjusting my speech to fit the room. I've let my grammar slip. I've used colloquialisms. I even shake hands differently to reflect my hipper side. When interviewing some executive in their 30th floor office suite, sipping tea from fine China and admiring their expensive art on the wall, I slip into another vibe in which I talk on his terms as eloquently as anyone he knows from the country club. When I'm back home and I drive out to the deep, deep countryside to do some swamp canoeing, I've added a little twang to my voice, when making small talk with the guy who manages the boat dock. Not on purpose. It's subconscious. But I realize later that I've done it. And I can only explain by saying I guess I want folks to feel comfortable.

That may sound condescending. But I know I'm not the only non-politician who has done this.

Or am I?


Sunday, March 04, 2007


I don't think he would have endorsed the festival at the church down the street from my house where church "workers" have raised money all weekend by selling boat loads of booze to festival goers and then send them on their way staggering down my street to their cars, fighting, swearing up a storm, tossing their litter on lawns, and driving off just a weeeeeee bit more than buzzed.

I should've known something was up with these folks when they blasted "Highway to Hell" over the sound system to kick off last year's festival.

Labels: , ,

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.


Give 'em some credit

At least they tried.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stay out of the champagne room

I’ve been on the street a lot lately – not homeless, just hunting down news.

And when I ride I listen to the radio. It’s usually talk radio. But I broke my routine and messed up a few days ago by tuning into a FM pop/urban music station. And unfortunately a bad song is now stuck in my head.

“I see you windin’ and grindin’ up on that pole…I know you see me lookin’ at you; you already know, I wanna love you…”

In my defense, I didn’t really listen to the lyrics to “I Wanna Love You,” by crooner Akon until just a few days ago. Before that I was just mesmerized like a tourist watching a snake charmer by Akon’s whiny voice. For all I knew he could've been singing about sexy firefighters, what with the pole and all.

But I digress.

I realized after being stuck in traffic and actually paying attention to this song's lyrics that this guy is singing to a stripper about how he wants to love her and fall in love with her and wine and dine her, and even marry her, etc.

So I could only slap my forehead, with an accompanying Homer-esque "D'oh!" when I got a text message from a buddy telling me that he’d met a really cool girl…again…in a gentlemen’s club…again.

This is an intelligent man. He’s decent-looking, law-abiding, a small business owner, dresses reasonably well, and is not bad at conversation. But he still believes that because a “dancer” smiled at him and remembered his name and asked if he had a hard day at work and told him that she too loves Star Trek and thinks Kirk was a better captain of the Enterprise than Picard and gave him her phone number…to the screening/answering service she uses, she actually likes him. She does not!

Chris Rock said in his song tribute to the G.E.D class of 1999 that "No matter what a stripper tells you there is no sex in the Champagne Room," just champagne. There is an analogy. Rock's point was there is no love in the strip club, just illusions.

Unlike Rock, I don’t even think there should be champagne in the champagne room, ‘cause apparently when it flows freely guys like my buddy fall in love.

You have to understand (from what I’ve heard) that once you cross the threshold, once you darken the doorway to the gentleman's club, you are a marked man and will forever be viewed by the employees as a customer only.

And guys, you can’t blame ‘em. How can you expect any woman whom you tried to impress with a few dollar bills to take you seriously?

I’m sure “dancers” need love too. But let them get it from their therapists, or their moms whom they know as auntie, or their dads, or their boyfriends back at the trailer who are old enough to be their dads.

Yeah, this is funny. And my guy is nuts. Or maybe his wig is on too tight or something. He couldn't be getting punked harder if Ashton Kutcher had set this whole thing up.

Seriously, I have no idea how women track down the "right" kind of guy. But if you single dudes want a stable woman who won’t stab you with an ice pick or kick you in the front end of your shorts, or toss your dog out the window, go find her in church, or at the grocery, or the Humane Society, or the book store, or the free jazz concert in the neighborhood park. Or get your older sister to set you up with one of her friends. Or borrow your 1-year-old nephew and take him to the mall and dote on him. You will stink of willing fatherhood. And I've heard women love that.

That’s my word. Just remember, there is no sex in the champagne room. Nor is there potential for real love.

Labels: , ,