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.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Have a Dog Kicking Halloween

Screamin' Jay Hawkins (born Jalacy Hawkins, Cleveland, Ohio, 1929) may have become something of a musical footnote but he's a colorful one. Best known for his rabid love ballad "I Put A Spell On You", Hawkins recorded other memorable numbers such as "Alligator Wine", "There's Something Wrong With You", "Little Demon", and "Yellow Coat", and choreographed a stage show during which he, among other things, emerged from a coffin and carried around a skull he dubbed Henry.

It is around this time of year that one generally hears Hawkins' music and perhaps learns in passing of the vast number of children he allegedly fathered, maybe fifty, maybe more. This might not seem like the eulogy Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who died in 2000, would have desired but bizarre lives lived lead to strange post-mortems.

The constant use of high-profile recording artists to perform mini-songs to promote sporting events is a bit difficult to understand. Most recently, Kid Rock can be glimpsed during the Major League Baseball Playoffs broadcast belting out a single line repeatedly when the station goes to commercial break. How does this help the ratings? Or, for that matter, hurt them? Do baseball enthusiasts who despise Kid Rock give up the sport altogether? Do Kid Rock fans who hitherto loathed baseball now embrace the game? So maybe it gets the artist some free publicity, but otherwise, who benefits? Is it worth Kid Rock's asking price?

Now that the Election is almost over, it will be a while before we get to hear candidates say things like, "While my opponent was punching 90 year old ladies in the face and stealing ice cream from little kids, I was brokering a peace deal between rival street gangs and composing a symphony."

Here's a charge worth leveling at one's opponent: dog-kicking. It could be done overtly or subtly; examples of each can be seen below.

In 2004, Mike Lobotomy deliberately and maliciously kicked a dog. This is the dog, Buster. (photograph of dog looking very sympathetic appears onscreen) Buster died the following year. Did the kicking incident traumatize Buster and send him to an early grave? This veterinarian says yes. (Source and date of quote by veterinarian appears onscreen, although actual quote is not visible)

Vote for Lefty Knucklehead and say no to dog-kicking!

Veterinarian's actual quote in response to question on whether kicking incident contributed to Buster's premature death: "Hard to say, really."

I'm Joe Vintinwhenmen and I approve this message. My dog-kicking opponent, Dame Janet Floop, voted to murder all people between the ages of 52 and 57 and a half in their beds. I did NOT support this measure (candidate was not in office at the time). I'll bring integrity and dog kindness back to whatever office it is I'm running for. Thank you.

Paid for by AADK (Americans Against Dog Kicking)

Actually, the subtle example isn't all that subtle, it's just less blatant than the first one.

Get out and vote. Or don't. But remember, if you don't vote you'll be shot. That'll teach them!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Kill It, Kid

Nobody knows why crime rates spike or recede. Law enforcement and politicians love to take credit when crime decreases and display equal passion for dodging blame when it rises. Contributory factors to crime do not necessarily cause crime, which is why trying to determine the root of criminal behavior remains a thorny and convoluted proposition.

Poverty is considered one of the leading factors associated with crime and it's certainly true that poor people are statistically more likely to resort to criminal behavior than their rich counterparts. But to cite poverty as a direct causal link to crime is, at best, dubious. Approaching matters from a more philosophical angle, it seems most likely that a person of average moral standing--neither exceptionally ethical nor utterly amoral--possesses a certain number of options he or she is willing to pursue before turning to crime. The better off financially a person is, the more options said person exhausts before crime enters the picture. But not everyone exhibits average morality, which explains why some poverty-stricken individuals never engage in illicit activity while some wealthy folks embrace larceny and violence with zeal.

The 2009 homicide total for selected cities can be seen below. As is so often the case with crime, one can detect patterns but there are no sure things. Approximate city populations--which, it should be noted, are always changing--are listed parenthetically followed by the source of the statistics. As remarkable as New York City's about face in murder over the past two decades has been, San Jose's stunningly low figure of 27 homicides in a city of over one million might be even more astounding, though it is worth noting that San Jose is more or less an affluent bedroom community in the San Francisco Bay Area, a region where other cities do indeed have high crime. Tulsa and Kansas City's relatively high numbers may also be somewhat of a surprise, while Atlanta's figures, though hardly a patch on the similar-sized Denver, represent an improvement compared to recent years and are far better than the unfortunate Baltimore.

Gary, Indiana's violent crime woes are well-known to most Midwesterners, and probably to many in general, but even that rusty enclave has witnessed a recent decline in murder. Gary's diminishing population might be seen as a contributing factor to reduced mayhem; however, it is often shrinking cities that suffer the most, as those who remain typically have with the fewest resources.

Race is another definite factor when it comes to violent crime. African-Americans kill African-Americans. A lot. Members of all races are quite capable of killing within or outside their ethnicity--Latinos kill Caucasians, Caucasians kill African-Americans, African-Americans kill Asians, and so on--but the most statistically persuasive murder trend is the oft-lamented but difficult-to-resolve black on black.

What's the problem? Fatherlessness enters the discussion a great deal, but again this is more of a contributory than causal factor. And it prompts two points that those who appear desperate to marry off African-American women come hell or high water seem eager to overlook. First, how do we know that the main problem with fatherlessness isn't simply the exacerbation of poverty? In other words, sure a good father could provide guidance and discipline, set a positive example, and serve as a strong male role model. But millions of children lacking this presence fail to turn into miscreants. Secondly, how bad is too bad? Is it better to have a lousy father or no father at all? If the father in question is violent, a career criminal, a drug user, is it preferable that he be absent? What about indifferent fathers? Cold, distant fathers? Drunk fathers? There is probably a threshold, an invisible line indicating that, generally speaking, a passive-aggressive father is superior to no father but an abusive father is worse. But since not all children react the same way to things like abuse or passive-aggressiveness, it's impossible to make a definite determination.

So what's the answer? Anyone who claims to have a single, indisputable one should probably be viewed warily.

Atlanta--80 (540,000)

Baltimore--238 (640,000)

Columbus--83 (755,000)

Denver--38 (600,000)

Fresno--42 (500,000)

Gary, IN--49 (100,000)

Houston--281 (2.2 million)

Indianapolis--101 (800,000)

Kansas City--110 (480,000)

Los Angeles--302 (3.8 million)

Milwaukee--72 (605,000)

New York City--461 (8.3 million)

Philadelphia--302 (1.5 million)

San Jose--27 (1 million)

Tulsa--70 (390,000)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Direction

There's no turning back. Individuals now use ambiguous, abstract nouns as nicknames. Sure, they called Hakeem Olajuwon "the Dream", but that rhymed and, in context, "the Dream" sounded like something undeniably upbeat, the good kind of dream.

But "the Situation"? That's what the guy wants to be called? Does he spend time with his friends "the Scenario" and "the Boondoggle"? I am not convinced this represents a winning development in the evolution of nicknames. In fact, I'm leaning the other direction. I might start asking people to call me "the Direction", which makes little sense and could be interpreted as positive or negative. I'd fit right in.

Still no response to the incantatory-like lyrics from the middle of "Der Kommissar", but then nobody reads this blog. And here's my whiny complaint: it's not that much worse than a lot of other nonsensical blogs. Do I need to promote it more gooderly? Do I need to write about different topics? And do I care whether or not it's a great blog? Sometimes I do, other times I'm indifferent. Being known as a "great blogger" is roughly tantamount to being a "great fantasy football owner". In other words, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but if you go around bragging about it, you're setting yourself up for ridicule.

On the flip side of things, you have to start somewhere. PerezHilton has achieved high levels of notoriety for his work. Is that what I aspire to? Nah, I don't really consider it my place to out closet homosexuals, although I have it on good authority that PerezHilton himself is gay.

Ultimately, it comes down to whether I want to do this as a spare-time hobby or as a means to get my writing recognized, and I have always straddled that commitment, never quite embracing either option.

Botswana President Ian Khama, heretofore a supporter of economic sanctions against Zimbabwe, now regards sanctions as a hindrance to progress. Such measures represent a blind corner, a hidden thorn bush, a hole that may contain a snake, or any other metaphor one cares to use. Usually, sanctions are issued for the right reasons but the results are rarely an unambiguous success or failure. President Khama claims progress in Zimbabwe is being made under the country's new unity government, in which ancient and entrenched President Robert Mugabe shares power with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Although I don't question the possibility that conditions in Zimbabwe are improving, I believe a great and rapid leap forward will not be witnessed until Mugabe resigns or dies.

Does that count as real news? I needed a break from talking about my writing career, or lack thereof. Time to go in a new direction.