Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

It's A Compliment

Mosque near Ground Zero? I'm for it. It should help to exemplify tolerance and religious freedom. That doesn't mean it will, but the potential exists. Opposition to the mosque? I understand it, but the tone of dissent should not descend into namecalling and generalizing, as has unfortunately been the case.

Anchor babies? It's not a nice term, for one thing, but it's also a compliment. You're saying certain people take great risks to ensure their children are born in the United States of America rather than somewhere else? And you're offended by this? I, on the other hand, am honored. And in any event, why should the children of illegal immigrants suffer consequences for the decisions of their parents? This is not to say the concept of birthright citizenship produces no undesirable results, but I believe the revocation of citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants would inflict far more damage.

Many of the concerns about integration, immigration, and assimilation actually serve as a major compliment not only to the United States but to the entire western world. Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States are where a great many people from other parts of the globe want to be. There are, of course, some Westerners who would rather be elsewhere and that's fine too. We may refer to developing nations as "Third World" but that doesn't make every country with a low GDP a filthy, disease-infested dump with a revolution every year.

Indeed, despite their reputations, which range from mediocre to, in some cases, completely neutral due to lack of information, "poor" nations aren't all bad. Yes, South Africa and Mexico have their share of squalor and social upheaval, but they are big countries with plenty of livable space. Botswana, Costa Rica, Ghana, and Chile all possess reasonable measures of stability, not to mention beauty.

But back to the point. Why aren't some of us more flattered by the idea that people from poor countries want to come hang with us in the developed world? Is there a perception that they are coming to take away what we have? Or that they "don't fit in"? What is it that creates anti-outsider sentiment? The instinct for self-preservation? Fear of the unknown? While clearly the West cannot simply throw the gates open and extend a hand to every one of the hundreds of millions worldwide who lack adequate food and water or are stuck in repressive political regimes, it makes little sense to lock ourselves down when we profess to be "open" and "free" societies.

The long-term goal is to make everywhere in the world livable but the feasibility of this objective may prove very daunting. I am no follower of Thomas Malthus so I don't feel threatened by overpopulation per se. Overpopulation may present problems in certain parts of the world, most notably small, crowded, and poor Asian countries like Bangladesh, but if you check the population density of Niger, Chad, and Mali or even non-Saharan countries like Liberia and Zambia, it's easy to see that their poverty is not brought on by overcrowded conditions. But even if overpopulation is not a major concern, distribution is. Is it realistic for three to four billion adults to have iPads and drive hybrids to drop their 2.4 kids off at school on their way to jobs at the software engineering complex or the space science center? Clearly, it is not. Progress will be, and always has been, incremental.

In the meantime, let's not give up on immigration. It has been both necessary and desirable in the past and there's no reason to suspect otherwise about the future.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not That Sensitive, Really

This post is intended mostly for non-Doctor Laura Schlessinger. The primary gist of the message is this: Black people aren't that sensitive. On average, they are probably no more or less sensitive than members of any other race.

It is true that some individuals who happen to be Black Americans are overly sensitive; this is also the case with many White Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans and other Americans. It's even true of non-Americans, like, say, Canadians, or Italians, or Greeks, or Laotians, or Kenyans, or Russians, or Chileans. Some people are too sensitive, which is, in any case, a subjective description, while others are not.

The reasons you toss around terms like "black think" and dismiss others as hypersensitive may be many and varied. We can't look inside your mind but based on what you say, it's pretty safe to infer that you are upset by the apparent double standard that permits black people in some circumstances to utter the dreaded "N" word while white people are universally castigated for using the same word. Let's keep this as simple as possible.

While many African-Americans employ the words "nigger" and "nigga", there is not universal agreement of the appropriateness of these terms within the Black community. Regardless of whether ninety percent of Blacks, fifty percent of Blacks, or ten percent of Blacks think it's okay for Chris Rock to say the word, they are almost universally agreed that you stepped way out of line by taunting your African-American caller with the same word.

You are almost certainly guilty of willful ignorance, as are many people who rail about double standards when, in fact, double standards surround us, consume us every day. Speaking very generally and depending on the situation, women can say things men can't say. Your friends can say things your casual acquaintances can't say. Your mother can say things your friends can't say. An objective observer with no agenda can say things your mother can't say. Doctors, real doctors, can say things almost nobody else can say, especially something like "you're fat." Why, then, is it such an outrage to you that there is less resistance to Jay Z saying "nigger" than you saying it? Jay Z doesn't try to do your job. He doesn't host a radio program dedicated to browbeating legions of sycophants, many of whom parrot your inane catchphrase the instant they get on the air. So why are you trying to do his job?

Maybe you're quitting your radio show to become a rapper. If so, perhaps you would allow for some suggestions on lyrical content. Please see below:

"My program and books kept gettin' bigga and bigga

Then I hit the airwaves saying 'nigga, nigga, nigga'

What's the matter, fool? This is my show!

Don't you ever turn the dial to HBO?

They're always spewing out racial epithets

Cursing and swearing just like they got Tourette's

Well, now it's my turn, I'm going off like a rocket

Anything to get more Benjys in my pocket!"

Pardon the digression; back to the original point. The reason it seems to you that Black people are so sensitive might be because it's always the most sensitive people, of any race, who get offended and complain. It may also be because it's hard for you to accept racism still exists so your knee-jerk reaction is to deny this and accuse others of hypersensitivity.

As to whether the individual caller who contacted you is overly sensitive, we'll never really know because you accused her of it too quickly and launched into a slur-ridded tirade. Based on what little we did learn from the transcripts, it's seems like her complaints were reasonable enough. She mentioned that her husband's white friends often asked her what "Black people" thought about a particular topic. That might not be such a terrible thing if it only happened once, but can you not see it getting tiresome, the idea that you appear to be the sole representative of a particular race and therefore becoming a kind of token? She also indicated her husband's white friends used the term "nigger" a lot. This is a pretty nasty thing to say in the presence of your friend's African-American wife and only the most unusual circumstances would make it acceptable.

Non-Doctor Schlessinger, you did the wrong thing this time, as you have admitted, but not for the right reasons. Now you say you're quitting radio to reclaim your First Amendment rights, as though they were somehow trampled because your words made people angry. You introduced the non-sequitur of President Obama and implied that Black people voted for him based solely on race. How do you know why people of any race do what they do? Why can't you grow up?

If Black people were overly sensitive en masse, why wouldn't they object to an NBA basketball coach with the name Vinny Del Negro? They don't object because that's his name and he can't help it. Remind us again who it was that objected to Barack Obama's middle name being Hussein. It wasn't Black people, was it?

Do Black people object to the racial jokes of programs like "Family Guy" and "South Park"? Some might, but only as individuals. A "South Park" episode on the controversy over the "N" word actually received praise from an organization called "Abolish the N Word". That's because Black people, and most people in general, got the joke. Remind us again who kicked up a massive fuss over various "South Park" episodes. It wasn't Black people, was it? Even Kanye West was amused, if somewhat wounded, by his depiction in an installment and that guy is pretty sensitive.

Non-Doctor Schelessinger, do you understand the historical circumstances that might lead Black people to be vigilant about racism? It's the same dynamic that makes Jewish people wary of oppression. It's the reason Protestants and Catholics don't always see eye to eye. There are examples of it all over the world: the past, sometimes even the very distant past, is persuasive. That doesn't mean every accusation of racism, or sexism, or hatred, or oppression is accurate but we understand what generates these feelings. It is easy enough for someone to suggest that we bury the past, let it rest, don't let it dominate us; it's not a terrible idea, but it's an unrealistic one.

No doubt you have been asked this before, but one is tempted to inquire how you got to be a non-Doctor when your mind seems to lack agility. How did you get through non-medical school without being able to think on your feet? Perhaps you don't lack intellect so much as your area of expertise is narrow. If that's the case, no wonder you host a radio show commenting about a wide variety of topics to millions of people.

This concludes the analysis of the recent furor over your boundless duncity. As a supplement, the list below displays other non-Doctors who are least as qualified--if not more so--as you to host a program about relationships, family, and social problems.

1. Dr. Pepper
2. Dr. Robert Hartley from "The Bob Newhart Show"
3. Anyone who has ever portrayed a Doctor on "Scrubs"
4. Dr. J (Julius Erving)
5. Dr. Funkenstein
6. Dr. Dunkenstein (Darrell Griffith)
7. Dr. Dunk (Darnell Hillman)
8. Dr. John (Mac Rebennack)
9. Dr. Dre
10. Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier
11. Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier
12. Dr. "Bones" McCoy
13. Dr. Richard Kimble

Sources: Wikipedia, The Root

Monday, August 09, 2010

Epitaph 14

I have never seen a full episode of "The Sopranos" or "Jersey Shore" and am therefore clueless when I encounter real Italian-Americans, having no idea how to engage them. This is my failing and I apologize.

I have never watched "Real Housewives of Atlanta", "Desperate Housewives", "Army Wives", or "Wife Swap" and therefore have no idea how to interact with married women. This is a clear abdication of my responsibilities and I apologize.

In my entire lifetime, I have seen about one complete episode each of Rikki Lake, Sally Jesse Raphael, Maury Povich, and perhaps four episodes of Oprah Winfrey, calling into question my ability to communicate through speech.

This is how bad it is for me.

On the other hand, I have seen almost all the classic Tom and Jerry and Warner Brothers cartoon shorts many times over, so I am well-versed in falling off cliffs, hitting others over the head with frying pans, and stepping on a rake so the handle flies up to smash me in the face. And while I may lack advanced linguistic skills, I can say "sufferin' succotash" with a pronounced lisp.

And I know pure genius when I hear it. Anyone who conceives the phrase "sufferin' succotash" deserves as many accolades as those who developed automobiles and antibiotics, those who discovered planets and microscopic particles. Because we need simple joy as much as we need advanced science and medicine; if we're going to live longer, there ought to be more to laugh about.

Mel Blanc's tombstone really does say "That's All Folks." Regrettably, DeForest Kelley's does not read "He's dead, Jim" but I sure wish it did! And evidently, W. C. Fields' epitaph offers no snide commentary about the city of Philadelphia. Again, this is too bad. Speaking of inscriptions, what do you suppose appears on the tombstone of Edgar Lee Masters? You would think if anybody had a clever or profound epitaph, it would be him. Perhaps the best epitaphs are concise and honest. I'd like to see one that said something very straightforward:

Harold Alan Truncate

born 1923 died 2006


Friday, August 06, 2010

A Stitch In Prop 9

According to The Root, Dr. Cornel West is upset with President Obama because Obama confronted and "demeaned" him, treating him like a "Cub Scout." Look, Dr. West, you're the one who accepted roles in the Matrix sequels; nobody made you do it. Sooner or later, you knew you were going to have to pay for that decision. All right, so "Reloaded" wasn't awful, but "Revolutions" didn't make any sense at all and the Prez probably wanted to say something to you about it for a long time, but never had the opportunity. Granted, you out-acted Keanu Reeves, but who couldn't?

Speaking of the Commander-in-Chief, happy 49th birthday! Feeling old yet? The job grinds people up. We don't necessarily condone expensive and largely unproductive military operations, or NOT having sexual relations with "that woman", or trading arms for hostages, or breaking into the opponents' headquarters and obstructing justice, or expensive and largely unproductive military operations, but, to a certain degree, we understand. It's a tough gig.

Isn't it great that the US President who got stigmatized as a clumsy oaf wound up living to be 93, a longer lifespan than any other individual to hold the office? President Ford, I hope you're up there "tripping" in Heaven!

I tried to be a pet psychic, but it didn't work out. I could communicate with the animals just fine, but they all told me telepathically that they didn't believe in psychics and to get lost. Stupid animals!

Now that Proposition 8 has been overturned, maybe California can get on with Proposition 9: no more guys from the cast of "Predator" running for governor. I'm looking at you, Carl Weathers! Nothing personal, it's just that the idea came too late to keep Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jesse Ventura and Sonny Landham off the ballot. Obviously, Ventura and Landham ran in other states and Landham's bid was unsuccessful, but maybe if California passes such a measure, the rest of the country will follow suit. Incidentally, if you have ever thought Schwarzenegger and Ventura might be a little touched in the head, get a load of Landham. He's crazier than both of them combined. He's even crazier than the character he played in "48 Hours".

The older you get, the less often your parents begin nostalgic anecdotes with the phrase "when I was your age" because, well, you remember when they were your age.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Career Choices

Since, as indicated by a recent post, I find myself a bit fed up with political commentary, I'm exploring new options on what to write about. Maybe nothing will come of this and I'll be back to the same old third-rate satire and unhelpful suggestions within a month, but perhaps I will hit on a new and groundbreaking idea or settle into a staid, boring format that's apolitical, but uninteresting. Keep reading and prepare to be underwhelmed.

One tired, easy-way-out technique I could adopt is listmaking. Lots of bloggers do this. They expansificate (made up word) on their favorite films, favorite books, favorite television shows, favorite songs, but rarely their favorite lists. I don't know very many people who would be even remotely interested in lists of my favorites, but the number probably isn't much different from the quantity of readers I have already.

I could become an online bully or an Internet malcontent. This is easy. First, do a lot of swearing. Also, indulge in menacing rhetoric so people know you're serious. Work in sentiments like "I'm not going to take this "$%& anymore" or "Do you know what'll happen if you mess with me?" Tough talk is even easier on the World Wide Web than it is in person or over the telephone. You can become the punk you've always wanted to be, sticking it to the Man or the Republicans or the Democrats or the terrorists or the immigrants or the foreigners or Big Business or any other group you want to stand up to by bravely posting anonymous messages from inside your house. But of course, this kind of thing is usually at least tangentially political, so maybe it isn't such a good idea.

Another option is the tedious diary. I could dullifalate (made up word) about shopping trips, weekends at the movie theatre, running errands, telephone conversations, and pass along information about my friends and family that even my friends and family don't care about. One of my friends, who is 6'1" with brown eyes and was born in 1970, suggested this to me.

There's always sports. I could feign expertise about athletics and try to get coaches fired. Nothing makes me feel better about myself like costing someone else his or her livelihood.

Clearly, possibilities abound here. Perhaps I could delve into more esoteric material, like a blog about Clifford Hayes and the Dixieland Jug Blowers or a series of articles on Neptune's moon, Triton.

Or maybe I could try all of them at once. Here are my favorite television theme songs:

1. The Jeffersons
2. Barney Miller
3. QI

What? You don't like my list? Well, @!%&, you *#!&!))#$@!)*("\", see if I care! I've had just about enough of &^$!?*# like you and don't have to take that! I decided just today as I was purchasing a soda at the filling station that the Pacers ought to try to unload some of their overpriced players and make "Try and Treat Her Right" by Clifford Hayes their new warm up song. Triton is the coldest known object in the Solar System.

So there.