Anything but Black

May 2, 2010

Over the past ten years I’ve met and gotten to know many new, and different, people; people of literally all races. I’ve gotten to appreciate a vast array of different cultures and the thing that amazes me most of all is how similar we all are. I’ve met Africans (I use this term to describe the people I’ve met from various countries on the continent), Indians, Pakistanis Asians, Europeans, basically I’ve become familiar with a whole bunch of people and cultures.

One interesting thing I’ve noted though, is the trend among people who are non-caucasian, to describe themselves “in living color”. It seems like nationalism has given way to the juggernaut that is globalization, and no longer do people identify themselves (at least in circles of high discourse) in terms of the region of the world where they originate, but rather there has been a resurgence of the “color code”.

Years ago, we heard talk of Black, White, Red, and even Yellow people. That seemed to abate (for all of five minutes) some years ago. Back then the planet was not as interconnected as it is now, so people were not so much concerned with color as they were with nationalities. They were much more concerned with important stuff like imports and exports and how to put their countries on the map as the best manufacturers of this, that, or the other.

Of course, with globalization, we no longer have the “protection” previously afforded by seas, national borders and just sheer distance. We have now been literally thrown together, and the newest “sexy” word to hit the airwaves is……….(drumroll)……..diversity. It seems like all of a sudden, everywhere you go, there is talk of cultural tolerance and diversity. It’s as if this whole diversity concept is somehow some fantastic new discovery (kinda like how Columbus “discovered that whole slew of countries for Spain). Being “thrown together” with people of varying backgrounds and histories is nothing new to me. I come from a place where you could probably find at least one person from every country on this planet we so love. when I was growing up though, we referred to the “melting pot” that we called home, as cosmopolitan. I guess “diverse” is somehow more politically correct.

So now that we no longer have the geographical protection, we once enjoyed, we have to find different tools to express our “differentness”. By far the most popular tool we employ is that of skin color (sort of). This, of course brings with it a “boatload” of history. By and large, skin color, has primarily been used as a weapon against Africans and people of African descent. We all have at least some idea of the history of slavery and the role that this whole concept of skin color has played in the history of the world.

Because of it’s early use as part of the artillery against Black people, we now find that people who are non-white, are making a conscious effort not to be in any way, form, or fashion, “mistaken” as Black people. Several years ago, I was introduced to my first “Brown” person. I was a little taken aback, because this person, (who happened to be darker than most Black people I know) was quite casually referring to himself as ……….Brown. Turns out that the old adage, “Black ain’t nothin but a color”, isn’t completely right after all; there are so many psychological issues tied up in that five letter word, you wish it was just a color.

So is Brown the new “not-Black”? Are people who are obviously not White, trying to make it as obvious that they are not Black? Are they trying to distance themselves as far as possible from what they see as some kind of stigma associated with being considered Black? Or is it that they simply want to carve their own niche, free to make their own way in this technicolor world, without any of the baggage that could potentially be associated with being seen as Black?……Hmmm.

It could be that the Brown people just want to make their own mark…..could be. It could be that Brown does not necessarily mean not-Black……could be. That would make a lot more sense to me, though, if the “color wars” didn’t extend into the Black community. I have so many “mochas”, “caramels”, and “chocolates”, on my instant messenger list that it looks like a Starbucks menu.

Oh well, at least there’s still the other 49 states

April 28, 2010

It must be rough for the people and lawmakers of Arizona (not that lawmakers are not people, well at least not ALL lawmakers are not people….lets just move along). They have this huge problem on their hands (and apparently everywhere else in the state); a huge influx of illegal immigrants from “across the border”. To ‘solve” this problem, they came up with Senate Bill 1070 (SB 1070), which was signed into law by the Governor on April 23, 2010.

The first problem (in a loooooong list of problems), is that no matter how you spin it, it is very difficult NOT to interpret this law as racist. Now, I am not saying that it is a racist law. What I AM saying is that it could be interpreted as such. The general sense you get from all the comments (some of which there is no mistaking the racist sentiments), is that this law is aimed squarely at people from neighboring Mexico. This is what makes it tricky. How do you institute a law that everyone KNOWS its primary target is one particular group, yet put forward the argument that it is not meant to be discriminatory. Well, it might not be MEANT to be, but………. Since proving intent is not the easiest thing on the planet to do I guess they’ll be ok. It takes nothing short of mind reading to say with any level of confidence that you know what someone intended. In most cases, you can only go by what they say, and assume that they mean what they say. So if the lawmakers say it’s not meant to be discriminatory, then it must not be.

Another problem they have (and this one is especially interesting) is enforcement. There is something in the law called “Lawful Contact”. Basically if during lawful contact, a police offer suspects that your immigration status may be in question, he/she can make you “stand and deliver”……your papers verifying your status. Now lawful contact (as far as I see it anyway) could be you walking down the street and asking a police officer for directions (a logical thing to do if you’re not sure of something). The fact that you’re lost, could in itself be used as the basis for suspicion; “Excuse me officer, I am looking for the Grand Canyon, could you tell me where it is?….You don’t know where the Grand Canyon is? SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS!!!! Yeah……this could get very messy, very quickly.

I’m not sure how much thought was put into this because to both the untrained and even the trained eye, an illegal immigrant looks no different from a “legal” immigrant, or, for that matter, a U.S. citizen. So lets assume for one second that I am right (in complete opposition to the apparently overwhelming evidence to the contrary), and immigrants, non-immigrants, citizens and whatever other classification there is, all look alike (or at least similar). Does this then mean that every single person in Arizona (or at least every single person who looks a certain way), needs to be walking around with their “papers”. The way this thing is playing out, things are about to get “muy caliente” in the Sunshine State.

But wait, it gets better, after you have lawfully contacted the police (or the police has lawfully contacted you, I’m not too sure how it goes), and the police has a “reasonable suspicion” that the person so contacted is unlawfully present in the United States (don’t you just love lawyer talk), then a “reasonable attempt” will be made, if it is “practicable”, to determine the person’s immigration status. Now get this, they will be verifying the person’s status with the federal government. Hmmmmmm, now I know people who have literally waited decades for the federal government to “verify their status” by issuing them a green card after the applicants have jumped through all the required hoops. That being said, I really would like to meet the guy who put the words reasonable, practical, and immigration in the same paragraph as federal government.

I am not trying to simplify Arizona’s problem; they have about a half million people (almost 10% of the state’s population) living in the state illegally. Illegal or not, these people utilize services and facilities that they are not contributing to. This is a valid argument and should never be underestimated; something should be done. What Arizona is trying to do, however, is not the something that should be done. The reality is that the majority of these people have probably been in the state for several years now. They have families, children who are U.S. citizens. Are they really suggesting that potentially hundreds of thousands of families simply be dissolved, or are they also advocating the deportation of U.S. citizens, or perhaps we’ll soon be hearing of plans to rescind the citizenship of children of illegals. This could be a very slippery slope.

While it might “solve” Arizona’s illegal immigrant problem, SB 1070 is bound to have other, perhaps more serious implications. Mexico is Arizona’s neighbor and, therefore, the primary “contributor” to the state’s illegal immigrant population. Thing is though, Mexico also consumes about one-third of Arizona’s exports. I’m not sure how Arizona politics works, but I doubt that the state will find it “practicable” to get by with two-thirds of their export money. Not only that, but even other American states are up in arms against Arizona and are threatening to cut, or at least severely decrease economic ties with them. There are also a string of legal challenges waiting to be launched when the law come into effect. Let the good times roll.

All in all, it will be an interesting few months, at the end of which this law will not be enacted. In fact it may be as early as next week, when we hear that Arizona is beginning to shift its stance. John McCain and all his cohorts were probably right. We might just see a repeal yet, just not a repeal of health reform. Sure, they’ll try to save face, but the reality is that Arizona is now a hostile environment for anybody who “looks” illegal whether they actually are or not, and despite claims that race will not be the primary driver in this whole “reasonable suspicion” thing, I’m pretty sure the only “white Russians” the Arizona police will be dealing with, will be in the bars. The ‘three amigos”, however, may find themselves behind bars. Hmmm, I wonder if they have room for the remaining 497,997…….

In the mean time, although I don’t “fit the profile”, I will be steering clear of Arizona. I don’t need to see the Grand Canyon badly enough to be asked for papers by someone who has no clue what they are really asking for. I’ve seen what “reasonable suspicion” looks like (I watch tv) and, for me, it’s just not “practicable”.

The collectors

April 25, 2010

Years ago when the Pokemon madness hit planet earth, there was a minor uproar about the values that were being taught through the plot in the children’s show. Some people were very concerned that the show, cards and other paraphernalia were advocating materialism in young children (as if children needed any more encouragement). I’m thinking that collecting as many Pokemon cards as you can, was much safer, and had a lot less psychological impact than the type of collecting that goes on today. I’m talking about the global culture of …..people collecting.

Within the last decade, people collecting has become one of the fastest growing phenomena on the planet. We are hard pressed to find people who do not have collections of their own. In fact, we have reached a stage where, if you do not have your own collection, you are seen as out of touch, out of the loop, old fashioned, and any other description that could communicate your absolute lack of relevance. “You don’t have one!!!!!”….people ask with a look of complete incredulity, as as if to suggest that just because you don’t engage in the popular practice, you are somehow not suited to exist in civilized society. Seriously, they act like you’re missing a leg or something.

Unlike other types of collecting, where one collects rare or even limited edition items, people collecting, however, is like the retail industry. It’s a volume business. If you have less than a hundred people in your collection, you would be well advised to not talk too much about it. The “real” aficionados will laugh you to scorn. One hundred is the point at which you can begin to position yourself on the peripherals of conversations, where you will have the “privilege” of hearing “real” collectors, where you can learn how to go about developing an honest to goodness people collection. You’re not in the five or seven hundred brackets, but with a little work you’ll get there. Collections boasting thousands are not unheard of, but if you struggled to hit your first “century” you should probably set more moderate goals. Not to say it’s impossible, but you should always leave room to excel……….under promise, over deliver, works wonders for your self esteem.

Coin collectors, for example would spend hours learning about their rare pieces. They can tell you the history of each coin they own, where it was first minted, how many were minted, how old it is, how many are in existence still. People collectors, on the other hand, don’t have time for that sentimental claptrap, many of them have no clue of who the majority of people in their collections are. After all, people collections are purely for display purposes, and only two criteria count; how many and who they are, with who they are coming in a distant second (unless you specialize in a collection of “who’s who”, but that’s “a whole nother story”). Some people have people in their collections because they think it somehow adds to their own status. They don’t know these people from Adam as the saying goes. But it sure makes their collections bigger……….size DOES matter after all.

A particularly unique trait about people collecting though, is the willingness on the part of the collected to be just that; part of a collection. Nowhere else, but in the realm of the people collectors do people derive such pleasure from being a number. While busily growing their own massive collections, they are just as enthusiastic about being collected themselves. Apparently it has to do with wanting to be validated, and the best measure (to their minds) of one’s worth is how badly people want you to be a part of their collection. It has become so that we no longer want to build actual relationships with people, rather, we derive satisfaction from simply being associated with them. In most cases, we are even satisfied with being thought to be associated with some people; no real interaction necessary, being on the same planet is more than enough. They make fantastic conversation pieces; “wow, you know HER!!!!!!!…..Yeah, we’re like this, I was at a concert one time and my neighbor told me that a friend told her that she was at a house on the other street. Ummm….ok.

You must admit though that, to many, people collecting is a win win situation. You get the benefits of association (whatever those are) without the hassle of having to put any actual work into maintaining a relationship. Relationships can be pretty draining sometimes, with those “issues ridden” people expecting you to be there for them all the time, wanting to call you, talk to you, find out how you’re doing…….yeah it could be a real hassle. Better to have these superficial type deals where you can simply not concern yourself with the goings on in the lives of the people in your collection. Its like this huge open relationship where each party only takes whatever benefits them and leaves what doesn’t on the table. Makes life kinda messy for those people interested in “real” relationships if only the stressful stuff is left.

For the uninitiated, people collecting can be a huge let down, if they’re looking for sincere connections with others. They get into it thinking that they have an opportunity to build, or in some cases rebuild, relationships with old friends. They get all excited when some long lost friend agrees to be a part of their collection, even better when that long lost friend invites them to be part of theirs. The excitement is pretty short lived though, when they find that friend to be pretty uncommunicative. Talking to them is like talking to a “wall”.

I used to watch Star Trek when I was younger and I was always fascinated by “the Borg”, this alien race whose goal was pure assimilation. They were not interested in your individuality, your personal goals and ambitions were not their concern, they just wanted you to be a part of “the collective”, they took whatever you brought with you and assimilated it until it could no longer be identified as yours. You still, for the most part, looked like you, but that was about it. Your every action and word, was geared toward expanding the collective. They just wanted to get bigger. (I know this is a simplification, just in case some random “Trekkie” reads this and tries to taser me or something).

But hey, who am I to judge? People collecting works for a whole heap of people. They get profound fulfillment from not knowing too much about their “friends”. Forget getting to know people and other such rubbish, those massive collections sure come in handy when you decide to start a farm in Farmville, or a restaurant in Cafe World, or if you decide to wreak havoc on the Big Apple in Mafia Wars.

As for me, I’m starting to extricate myself from the Borg. My collection has gotten way out of hand. I am getting way too old for cyber pillow fights and “fertilizing other people’s plants” (something just doesn’t sound quite right there). This new collecting culture CAN work for me but it needs some tweaking. It starts with reducing my expectations (along with my friends list). I’m not looking for 500 “BFFs”, but would it kill you to say “oy” every now and then? It takes a lot less time than posting “something” on my wall.


April 20, 2010

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Breaking News!!! There’s a new iPhone coming out in June or July. According to Shania Twain, “That don’t impress me much”. Tell us something we don’t know.

By now, anybody who’s interested,  and even some who are not,  has heard about the apparent misplacing of a 2010 iPhone in a bar in Northern California.  Looks like some Apple employee who was entrusted with this  (cue fancy sci-fi music) highly classified piece of cutting edge technology, went to some bar and left it there. Yes folks, he “left” it there. All the articles we read about this incident use that word……left.  Personally, I’m leaning more to using the word “planted” instead of left, but that’s just me; I used to be an auditor, so I’m programmed to employ a certain level of “professional skepticism” in all situations (or as a friend of mine back home would say ‘ I doh truss dem boy an dem nah”). That is, of course, if you buy the whole idea that the  “found” hardware is genuine in the first place.

I personally think it is genuine, and this whole drama surrounding the thing seems very scripted. First of all, this is probably the first time anyone has been able to get their hands on an actual prototype before Apple wanted them to……(hmmmm……..unless Apple wanted them to). Now I would expect that the company would impress upon its employees the importance of safeguarding  any new technologies or products that have not yet been released, In light of that, the idea that some 27 year old software engineer, left this very important piece of equipment on some random bar stool is a little too hard to swallow.

Then get this, the guy who finds the phone, takes it home with him planning to locate the owner next day (such a kind soul). He wakes up next morning to find that it was apparently dead (the plot thickens).  At this point he finds the phone looks kinda weird, so he decides to poke around and opens it (who does that?). Well apparently, this random guy who found the phone was savvy enough to open  the phone (I guess he stopped planning on returning it at this point), and to his utter amazement and wonder, he suddenly realized what he had stumbled upon.

I imagine the conversation in his head went something like this …”Oh ho…what have we here, this must be the brand new 2010 iPhone that was left on the bar stool right next to me. I must immediately call Apple to see what they have to say about this”. Apparently Apple wasn’t too interested in saying ANYTHING about it. To cut a long story short it seems like the good samaritan felt that the best way to cut his losses (what losses?) was to sell the device to Gizmodo for 5 grand.

Gizmodo apparently did not believe it was real (they must have a lot of spending money), until (cue dramatic  music) they get a letter from Apple asking for their phone back….. please…..hmmm. For a company that does not usually say a lot, they sure said a lot.

My take on this is that Apple wanted to create a little additional buzz over the latest iteration of their best selling product.  After all, everybody pretty much has their launch cycle committed to memory by now (around June or July isn’t really that hard to remember) so there really was no need to come out and say it……..unless of course the intent here is to distract people from the early warning signs that maybe the latest revolution in mobile computing, the big game changer,  the iPad, may not be doing as well as initially expected (oops….did I say that?). What better way to replace the short lived hype over the iPad than with more hype over the iPhone.

Hey, I’m just saying. It just seems to me that this is a little too convenient. But who knows, maybe all of this is real, maybe the 27 year old software engineer really just had one drink too many, and left his not-yet-released iPhone on a bar stool next to a guy who would really want to give it back to him, but changes his mind and opens it up, gets all suspicious,  and calls Apple, then gets upset because they were not taking him seriously, so he sells the phone to Gizmodo, who, even though they thought it was fake, paid $5000 for it ,  opens it up and proclaims it as the real deal, then Apple sends a letter asking for it back  (breathe)………please.  Come on…it could happen.

Play that funky music

April 19, 2010

One of  the things  few people know about me, is that I like music. I like it a lot. I listen to pretty much anything. There are, some types I do not listen to, but generally speaking, my musical taste can be reliably described as eclectic.  My wife no longer gives me funny looks when she hears some bangra, or Chinese pop music, emanating from my computer.  The presets on my car stereo range from country to hip-hop.  There are very few times when the radio is not on in my car, and this is where I encounter one of my biggest peeves.

Like I said, I like MUSIC, not commercials, not radio personalities, not strange people who call those radio personalities and divulge stuff they really should keep secret…..very secret, just music. Unfortunatley, however, it often takes me a good ten minutes from when I get into my car and drive off to when I hear the first song played.  It’s a little bit ridiculous.

There is one station I listen to that claims commercial free music for an hour and change. The first time I heard this, I thought I had struck gold. I was like “yeah, this will definitely take me home”.  I reacted like this because I’m naive. I took them at their word. After all, this is radio, this is being broadcast to thousands of people. They would not  be so brazen (or like my mother-in-law would say “brass face”) to lie to all those people. It’s not like they’re politicians or something.  Imagine my surprise when after about two songs, I hear the DJ saying “thanks to the kind folks at …… for allowing us to bring you commercial free music ” Are you serious?  So just because it wasn’t an entire 30 seconds or it did not specify a product, you think that’s not an ad? An ad does not need 30 seconds to make its point and everybody knows those guys only sell coffee so you didn’t even need to mention the product.  Turns out all the boasting  about commercial free was just “crapuccino”.

In addition, to playing as little music as possible, it turns out that apparently “DJ school” today is all about  the personalities and only the personalities.  You don’t even need a distinctive voice anymore, as long as you can speak, you’re in. You listen to the radio these days, and I swear some stations have two DJs…one male, one female. They all sound alike, they all play the exact same songs, they all have the exact same lack of knowledge of music and performers. One thing they have going for them though, is that they all have the uncanny ability to locate some of the most inane and inconsequential information  the internet has to offer. This is where they really shine. Some of them even have assistants to do this for them, because, of course, they need to keep focused on pressing the button to play all the commercials. So basically, you can get free radio, but you “pay” for it by having to listen to tons of commercials and juvenile chatter, or you can not get commercials and “pay” a subscription for satellite radio ( you can’t escape the juvenile chatter though). It’s like we’re caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

When they’re not not playing music,  they’re trying to get all profound and have really insightful discussions about the day’s popular topics like, relationship issues, “how many of you slept with the stripper at your best friend’s bachelor party ?” Really tasteful stuff like that.  Then listeners use them as private investigators.  They get the DJ people to call the guy and get him to admit that he didn’t “really” sleep with the stripper (besides she kissed him, he didn’t kiss her….technically). All this is taking place while wifey (unbeknownst to Casanova) is listening in. Then she makes her presence known.We don’t get too much from here on in because there is a lot of “bleeping” taking place. It gets even better when DJ guy gets in the mix (and I am not referring to music because there isn’t too much of that taking place)  and getting all upset and everything.

All I want is to be able to turn on my radio and hear some music. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Apparently though, it’s a whole lot more than the radio stations are willing to offer.  Sigh………I guess I’ll have to be patient. I’m sure I’ll get some music……after the break.

I’m right dammit!!!!!

April 16, 2010

Being right is like a steroid. There is nothing like it to motivate a body. Being right energizes you, it gives you a sense of power like no other.It makes you bold. It increases your sense of civic responsibility.It makes you want to go out and spread the “gospel of rightness”. You especially feel like you need to teach that person who is not as fortunate as you, a lesson. You need him to see the error of his ways and become a better person. Being right is such a big deal sometimes, it’s like a weapon of mass destruction. And just like a WMD, in the wrong hands it could lead to “all kinda ting” (according to my daughter who recently realized that her parents do not speak like she does).

I saw “rightness” in action when I dropped my daughter off this morning. The school tries to manage the flow of traffic during pick-up and drop-off times, so that they could minimize any potential “problems”, and, more importantly, ensure the safety of their charges. To this end, they have placed a large, rather conspicuous sign at one end of the pick-up and drop-off area…”PLESAE DO NOT LEAVE VEHICLES UNATTENDED”. Well this morning a parent… left… her… vehicle… unattended. She was obviously wrong to do this. She exhibited a complete lack of concern for other parents and for the safety of the students. It was a completely selfish gesture. That was pretty clear for all to see. It was especially clear to the parent who pulled up directly behind her. Without so much as a “by your leave” she was like “IS THAT YOUR CAR? YOU NEED TO MOVE!!! I NEED TO GET TO WORK!!!” …….then she stamped her foot, I’m serious, she stamped her foot (are you like six lady?). All this was done while her kids were still in the car seeing “mommy” act like an infant. But, of course, she was right. She had what people like to call, the moral high ground, and, to her mind, the moral high ground could never be lost. There was nothing that she could do that would diminish her “rightness”.

Another time, another parking lot (I told you parking lots were interesting places). Guy Number One pulls into a strip mall with his girlfriend. He stops behind two parked cars, effectively preventing them from moving if they wanted to, so that his girlfriend could go inside and purchase something. Never mind there were other parking spaces nearby where he could easily slip into and so not hinder the flow of traffic in the already congested parking lot. Of course, that would be way too easy, and easy is for punks. Better to take the more challenging route and make a complete nuisance of yourself. Raise your banner of selfishness for the world to see. Of course by now you see where this is heading. Up drives “Mr. Right”. Mr. Right looks like Walter Matthau (Grumpy Old Men) and obviously has the personality of a hammer. Mr. Right is very principled, and while he could simply drive around Guy Number One and go on about his business, he feels that it is his duty to take a stand for those of us who follow the rules and show some small amount of consideration for others. From his position of “rightness”, he take the course of action he feels is best………he leans on his horn…….and starts to cuss……and cuss, and cuss, and cuss. He was very poetic about, there were words used that I am sure had never been heard before. But, of course, he was right. He also had what people like to call, the moral high ground, and, to HIS mind, the moral high ground could never be lost. There was nothing that he could do that would diminish his “rightness”.

The thing about this moral high ground business though, is that, contrary to popular opinion, it is very easy to lose. When you get to the moral high ground, it’s not like you get lifetime membership. You have to be even more careful when you get there that you don’t let being right go to your head. Don’t trample on others (or at least try to) just because you think you’re right. Being right does not give you unfettered permission to “act the fool”. In fact, if you let yourself get carried away, you’re no longer acting, and if the target of your “rightness indignation” gets all “ignant”, you just might find yourself in traction……..but hey, at least you’ll be right, and that counts for SOMETHING……..right?

Mars, Venus and everywhere in between

April 14, 2010

I AM NOT SEXIST!!!!! I just wanted to get that out there before I jump into this piece. I don’t anticipate that it will do any good, but I just wanted to have documented proof that I declared that fact. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way… goes nothing.

I am putting out a call, to anyone who can assist be in enhancing my understanding of women. I want to be able to have an anxiety free interaction with women where I understand what they’re saying, what they’re not saying (ESPECIALLY what they’re not saying), and,oh yeah, understand what they’re saying (did I already say that?)

I guess my point will best me made if I gave a couple of examples.

I want to understand what some women are saying, especially at those times when they’re saying something that they think you desperately HAVE to know. The problem here is that, for some women, the “interestingness” of the information has an inverse relationship to the volume with which they share that information. Take for example, this lady I worked with at one time. One day, I stop by her cube and we were having a very nice conversation about our families, plans for the weekend and other such small talk (what can I say, I’m a friendly guy). Things were going along “swimmingly” as they say, when I began to realize that I wasn’t hearing her very well anymore. The woman started whispering, actually not really whispering, but that is the softest voice I know how to describe, and she was way below that. In addition to which, I noticed she began shaking her head in this jerky fashion and giving me these “you know what I mean” kinda looks. She was even laughing at times. I was on the verge of calling 911 when I realized that she was NOT having some sort of breakdown, but rather she was actually talking to me. I tried to follow along. When that didn’t work out, I defaulted to some well timed hmmms, aaahhhhs, and looks of complete incredulity. This approach worked to at least make her think I had a clue as to what on God’s green earth she was talking about. I was “saved” by a couple of other women who walked up and joined the “conversation”. It was a sight to behold, a silent, head-shaking, giggling affair which I could never be a part of. It was a pity though, from the looks of things I think I missed out on some funny stuff. Oh well…..

The next thing women do is that they speak in these codes that only they can decipher. My wife for example, is pretty adept at this (as a side note, if I am not heard from after publishing this, well it’s been a nice ride). Anyway, some years after we were married, we make plans to do this thing. We were both looking forward to the thing, we talked about the thing…we were just plain excited. As it turned out, something came up and we could no longer do what we planned. It wasn’t anybody’s fault, it was just one of those things that happen. Of course I had to break the news to her. She promptly expressed her displeasure, indicating that she did not appreciate this new development, actually what she said was “I doh like dem kinda ting nah”……..hmmmmm. Now I like to think that I’m a reasonable sort, and I think that , being a reasonable sort, I reasonably interpreted that response to mean “I strongly suggest that you fix this”.I love my wife very much, so I was determined to make sure that the thing we were both looking forward to was not dead in the water. I was able to “fix the thing”. I came home all excited that the thing was back on. After all, weren’t we both very anxious about the thing? Weren’t we both disappointed when we found out the thing could not take place? Did she not express her OBVIOUS displeasure that the thing was no longer on? Well that’s what I thought too. After I broke my fantastic news, I got a decidedly cool reception. A few minutes later she came outside to the living room where I was and said…………….”I doh like dem kinda ting”……..aaaarrrrrggghhhh.

So you see my predicament….damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Its a desperate situation. I need help. I have a theory though. I think women are born with a small embedded program which allows them to devise new, devious ways to confuse men. This is evident from very young. My 4 year old daughter, for example, is a huge fan of Dora the Explorer. She picks up a few Spanish words, which she uses on us. One of her favorite things to do is try to block us from getting by and insisting we must say the magic word (abre – open) to get by. So my wife goes up, says “abre” and gets by. I come along, say “abre” and I get a resounding “No, that is not the magic word daddy”. Now you tell me that this is not some sort of conspiracy.

As soon as I’m done here I’m going to browse the iTunes store. If there is a device that an help me, it has to be my iPhone. I refuse to give up…….there has to be an app for that.

Bad bad Badu

April 8, 2010

By now I suppose everybody on the planet has seen or heard about, what am I saying? ….has definitely seen the latest Erykah Badu video for her song Window Seat. For those of you trying to keep up the charade, let me help you out here. Basically, she takes a stroll through downtown Houston, her stroll mirroring the path JFK took on that fateful day. Every few steps, she “puts on” a piece of her birthday suit. The video ends with her in “full regalia” simulating being shot and blue blood issues from the wound forming the word “groupthink”. Deep fuh so…..

As expected in any situation with similar circumstances there has been a lot of fuss made over the video’s apparent lack of taste. Ms. Badu claims gross misinterpretration, some people say it was just plain gross. Ms. Badu says artistic expression, the Houston police say disorderly conduct…..$500.00. Since I can’t help being a little cynical sometimes, I must say she didn’t get a bad deal. $500 definitely could not buy all the prime time coverage (well there actually was no coverage in the true sense of the word, but you get my meaning) she’s had over the week or so. Whether that was the reason or not, this video and the publicity it garnered, certainly added to Ms. Badu’s bottom line (I mean that in a financial sense….really).

As tempting as it is though for me to jump on one bandwagon or the other, I am not going to. I can see both sides of the argument. I agree with the sentiment that the video represents the artistic expression of a music icon. Many people seem to hold this view. In fact, I was listening to one of those morning call in shows, and the number of people who called and were throwing around words like, art, artistic expression and message was staggering. Equally staggering, though, was the number of people who, when asked what the video was about, could only respond with words like…, artistic expression and message. I really can’t blame them though; it is often very hard to decipher artistic expression with any real level of conviction. Even Erykah herself can’t seem to explain what the whole thing was about.

For the cynics among us, and I do not count myself in that group, many people seem to think it was a thinly disguised (very thinly disguised) publicity stunt, simply geared toward selling more albums. I could see this perspective too. In fact, the album made it to #4 on Billboard 200, with 110,000 copies sold in the first week. It is very possible and even likely that the video helped with that. But when you consider the fact that her last album did even better in the first week (#2 and 124,000 copies) without the nudity,maybe she should have kept her clothes on. I’m just saying.

The video has even spawned discussions about the exploitation of women, with one radio DJ taking the interesting position that if the Badu video was not exploitation, then neither should videos of artists like Lil Wayne and Ludacris be considered exploitation of women. Hmmmm…you’re on your own there dude. As talented as those guys are (and nobody can dispute this), they do leave us wanting more in the whole respect for women category (my humble opinion). Mr. DJ…….methinks you should just play your music and let not your mind be troubled by things of this sort.

All in all, I do not see this impacting Erykah Badu in a negative way. By that same token it does not seem to have increased her popularity any (not that she needs it). I actually like the song. The video I will most likely never see again, because I do not have much use for music videos in general. It is sometimes fun to see how an artist interprets his/her music through videos, but if I never see another music video again, it’s no big deal. I do appreciate Erykah Badu’s creativity, but I also think a more responsible approach was called for. Creative genius does not somehow give you the right to impose that “creativity” on others. Of course the furor (if indeed there is one)will blow over, as the next “thing” takes hold of our attention. Erykah Badu in the meantime…….well I’m sure she will just turn the other cheek.

Of polls and poles

April 4, 2010

As a general rule, the United Sates has four seasons……as a general rule. Living near Washington DC, however, I have to conclude that there are really only two seasons; election season and pre-election season (many people believe that there is also a post election season, but that is a myth and there is no reliable evidence that such a phenomenon exists). That being said, it is also a widely accepted fact that the latter is longer than the former and can last several years depending on where in the overall cycle you are. No matter the season though, there is a “fruit” that seems to thrive in any condition; the poll.

I’m not too sure when the first election poll took place, but polling in general has been around since the rock of ages was a pebble, (ever since the first cavemen were fielding ideas about how best to get that woolly mammoth). In recent times though, polling has taken up a greater significance in the nation’s politics.

Nothing is done unless politicians consult the polls, while at the same time declaring that they don’t care about polls. “We were put here to do a job, not listen to polls”. Yeah right!!! Some of them act as if their job IS listening to polls. You only get to make that statement though, depending on if the thing you’re trying to do is popular or not, determined, of course, by looking at the polls.

The thing about polls though is that I can’t figure out why people put so much stock in them. People who, in many cases, hold completely different positions on an issue, hold those positions based on what “our polls tell us”.

There seems to be a slight shift in DC at the moment though. The party in power is hard pressed to find a poll to support their position so they are forced to do things the old-fashioned way, go straight to the people you represent and try to convince them that they have their best interest at heart. The party not in power, however, can still find polls in abundance. There is a shift here also, in that the polls they are finding are telling them to just sit back, do absolutely nothing, and get paid…talk about a dream job.

Come to think about, these are probably the same polls another political party in another country used to look at some years ago. In that case though, the polls didn’t tell them to sit back, they said walk out, do absolutely nothing, and get paid. (You En See dey mad?). To be fair though, (because I am nothing if not fair)the weather in DC is only just getting nice enough for walking so maybe we’ll see a slight change in the response to polls.

I suppose it’s not unreasonable to rely on polls though. After all, the people who design them have gone to great lengths to make sure that we, (the polled) believe that it makes sense to talk to 6 people and determine from that, what 500 people think. It has been accepted for some time now that “representative sampling” is the way to go and obviously nobody is willing to stand up and say differently, maybe the polls have not been swinging in that direction as yet.

Speaking of polls and swinging…..the party not in power seems to be taking a different approach to the whole polling thing. Just recently we started hearing news about how they’ve been spending the money that “the polled” have been sending to them. Apparently, they’ve been using (I need to change the tense here, since we do not know that this is an ongoing thing) so, let’s do this again. Apparently they’ve used some of the money for “meals” at a “risque” establishment in West Hollywood. Well if these are the “poles” they’ve been consulting, the whole “just sit back” thing is beginning to make sense now. Hmmm…….I wonder what Drill baby drill really means.

The real parking wars

March 31, 2010

So I recently discovered the show Parking Wars on A&E. It’s all about the Philadelphia Parking Authority, and their interaction with the pubic everyday, from booting cars to impounding vehicles, to simply writing parking tickets. It’s fun to watch and some of the interactions are absolutely hilarious. But I want to divert your attention to the real unscripted parking wars that take place in parking lots and parking garages everyday.

Like the time I drove into a department store parking lot. It was pretty early in the morning, so there were tons of spaces available. I spy a space and I’m about to drive into it, when I detect eyes boring into me. I looked up and there was this lady seated in a car looking daggers at me. That spot was hers and if I took it, there would obviously be consequences. So, not being too interested in consequences, I waved her into the spot, and found myself another spot……right….next….to….her.

Parking lots can be a study in human behaviour as they highlight some of life’s little ironies. Like how some people would troll the parking lot, driving around and around, because they want to get a spot right next to the business place they’re going into. If I were some of these people, I’d stop doing business there though, because if you don’t have enough energy to walk a few feet to get to the GYM……nuff said.

Then there are the stalkers, these are the ones who follow people around asking them where they’re parked and if they’re leaving (like I’m going to tell you that). Depending on where you are, this could be just a little bit creepy. There are some places where stuff like that could end up in a gunfight.

If you’re into wanton violence, a parking lot could be just the place where you could get your fill, and you don’t even need pay per view. Just look out for the dude with the GINORMOUS suv, trying to fit into a not so ginormous space between two parked cars…….and he hits one…….or both. If he’s a really good driver, he could probably make it out before the second rock hits his windscreen, then again if he was a really good driver he wouldn’t be trying to fit himself into that space in the first place.

Then there are the parking lot security people, in their fancy parking lot security people cars. Why some of them need cars in the first place is beyond me. The parking lot is like “yay” big and they either take up valuable parking spaces or get in the way of the traffic……get a bike or something.

Yeah, parking lots are where the real action is, from the VIPs who think they can park wherever they come to a stop (I’m waiting for my wife, she’s inside….dude there are dozens of people inside, go park somewhere where you’re not aggravating people)to the people with shopping carts who harbor an innate hatred for drivers (until they get into their own cars, then they harbor an innate hatred for people with shopping carts).

The parking wars on tv is pretty entertaining, but if you want some real 3D action, head for the nearest mall, pick a spot some distance from the entrance (there are always lots of spaces there), sit back, and enjoy. If you want a more “interactive” experience….well you know what to do.

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