Artists of our generations

I think every generation has a handful of artists they are lucky to have.

These are people who are writers, poets, musicians, painters, photographers – often they do more than one of these things, and well. Sometimes they are people we don't even know live next door to us, other times they are among the most vocal of their generation.

Federico Garcia Lorca was one of them. So was Kurt Vonnegut. I think Ralph Steadman qualifies as well. So does Salvador Dali.

I've been lucky to have known or known of James O'Brien for seven years now. His was the first art that made sense to me after September 11, 2001, and now when I need my head cleared, it's his art I tend to use as a helping hand.

I think time will show that he is one of the great artists of our generation, though he may be one of those people who doesn't get famous, in a sense, perhaps for another long time.

The world lost Garcia Lorca too soon; he was an unfortunate victim of his art and personality, in a place that wasn't ready for him. But those who paid attention got to be young and grow old with Vonnegut and Dali, and they're doing the same for Steadman. I believe we're going to get to do that with O'Brien.

He's blogging now, I'm happy to say.

Let him change your life a little.

So, I’m supposed to procreate like mad, or…?

By the year 2042, whites are projected to be an ethnic plurality in the U.S., rather than an ethnic majority, a new Census Bureau report predicts.

This is eight years sooner than previously predicted.

And this is news...why?

First off, the way this is being framed is that "whites will no longer be the majority," because 54% of people in the U.S. will self-identify as Hispanic, black, Asian, Native American, Pacific islander or other. Non-Hispanic whites will still be the largest ethnic group, they'll just come in at under 50% of the population.

I guess this is supposed to make me worried about increased diversity or something.

And worse, scream the reports, by the 2020 presidential election, more than half of the electorate will be non-white.

Heaven help us.

The Times article offers a little perspective, but it's all historic in nature. In 1492, when Columbus "discovered" this place where there were already a bunch of people living, 96% of the inhabitants were non-white. By 1900, that number was something more like 10%.

The non-white population jumped in the 1920s and 1930s. Want to know why? Jews and people of eastern European descent weren't considered white by the Census Bureau.

I guess that must have changed when we took over the media and the government, huh?

I don't really think I have to sit here and argue about how we shouldn't fear ethnic and religious minorities, strangers, foreigners, third-party candidates and other un-American people like vegetarians, lactose-intolerant people, those who are allergic to gluten, and (God help us!) people who drive compact cars (wow, I think I managed to cover everyone who either currently reads this blog, has read this blog, or is likely to read this blog in the future). So I won't.

The most disturbing thing about this being widely reported as important news is that we're currently in the middle of The Great Immigration Debate. We already have this fear that people are sneaking into this country to steal jobs from God-fearing white Americans (who are lining up to pick apples and wash dishes, I know), and that if we let our guard down for one second, someone will blow something up and the terrorists will win.

(We'll skip the fact that it was a couple of God-fearing white Americans who blew up the Federal Building in Oklahoma, because if we don't, the terrorists will win.)

Here's what I think will happen as the population starts to take on a more even ethnic distribution. I think that whites will finally start to notice that the people in power – at all levels of government, in the business world, among their associates at health clubs and country clubs – no longer look like the people they see when they go shopping, to the movies, to baseball games, and everywhere else.

Will we do anything with that realization? I'm not optimistic. But I am hopeful.

Media Theory 101: Fear-mongering Monday

If you watch a lot of TV, you think crime in general is higher than it is, and violent crime in particular is many times higher than it actually is; you think your family secretly hates you, your friends are out to get you, and your co-workers talk behind your back; you think the air, the water, the plants, the city streets are all dangerous.

In fact, you're pretty sure that the only think you can safely do is continue to sit in front of the TV.

This, essentially, is George Gerbner's mean world hypothesis. It's based in a fair amount of fact, actually. Gerbner and his study team went out with a survey, asked people their level of use of various media (what they watch, read, or listen to, and for how long each day) and then basically quizzed them on statistics like crime and water toxicity and the like.

And, lo and behold, the less you go out into the world, the scarier a place you think it is. It's a vicious cycle, really, because it's hard to spend more time in your house while consuming less media. The windows only need so much washing, the woodwork only so much dusting.

This is a list of things I did on Monday that definitely could have killed me, but clearly did not.

Got out of bed, cooked breakfast, drove to work, drank water, drank coffee, sat in front of a computer screen, talked on a cell phone, drove home from work, ate lunch at a restaurant, walked nearly two miles into downtown, rode an elevator, drank iced tea, met strangers at a meeting, walked nearly two miles on the way back home, climbed stairs, breathed air indoors, breathed air outdoors, ate dinner, ate microwaved popcorn, read from a collection of hardcover fiction.

The world is definitely not so scary a place. Make sure you get outside before the frostbite settles in (just kidding. About the frostbite, I mean).

The Great Pretender

It's a little dreary out, but I took the walk downtown this morning. On the way, I was joined for a couple of blocks by a gentleman, perhaps in his mid-to-late-60s, clearly either drunk or high, who had been caught in the early-morning storm (you could tell because he was soaking wet).

He was singing one line from the Steve Miller Band's "The Joker" over and over, and he asked me if I had heard the song "The Great Pretender," which of course I had.

"That's what I am, the great pretender," he said.

He asked me to pick a number between one and ten in my head, and just be honest with him. I chose six.

"Is it an odd number?"

"No," I said, knowing I left him with five to pick from.

"Eight," he said, authoritatively.

"Not that one; you've got four left."

"Four?" he tried.

"Sorry. I'll give you three more guesses."

"Six," he finally got. "Let's try again."

This time I picked three.

"Is it an odd number?"

"Yes," I told him.

"I'm getting strong vibes on two numbers."

"Oh? Which two?" I asked.

"Three and five."

"Well," I said, "It is one of those. But which one?"

"Five," he said, very sure of himself.

"No, I went with three this time."

"Well," he said, "whatever you do today, make sure you have a fantastic day."

"That's my only goal today, sir," I told him. "You do the same."