The view from the white corner

The best thing I ever saw Catherine Orland do was manage to not deck Joel Ackerson when he asked her if we still needed women's music festivals. You know, because women are equal and all that.

Simiarly, white privilege is so dead. Umm, yeah. Sure it is, if you say so. Mitch posted this, and you need to watch it. And I'll definitely be following This Week in Blackness now.

Also, if you want to give Tim Wise a hug, you can find him here.

The price (in dollars) of neighborliness

If you follow me on Twitter, or have me as a friend on Facebook (sorry, reserved only for people I actually know in some capacity), you know I've spent the bulk of the past two days frustrated (primarily in the run-up to the launch of high school football season, but check this out, we've got someone actually doing a live play-by-play).

After planning to have a four-hour break this afternoon before coming in to sit watch for a few hours, we ran into a last-minute bug, and four hours turned into two.

When I got to the house, I heard a shout from across the street. "Hey, sir? Can you help me?"

I looked over and saw the elder across the street sitting on the stairs that lead up to his house (see that photo above). It turns out he had fallen on his way up, and had been sitting there for a half hour.

After some work, I finally got him to his door, and he shooed me away, trying to give me $10 for my trouble. I managed to run away from him while he still held the bill.

I went inside, changed, re-packed my backpack (new book, etc.), and as I went to leave, I decided to go check on him, and lo and behold, he hadn't made it into his house.

I took his keys from him, opened the door, and helped him up the three wooden steps into his living room and onto his couch. I found his light switch, as I was absolutely not leaving him sitting in the dark until his son came home in three hours.

This time, he didn't let me escape without handing me a $20 bill, but I managed to toss it back into his living room as I backed out the door; I'm sure his son will find the bill on his way into the house.

I realized, if he had been paying me by the hour for the "work" I did as a neighbor, he would have dropped something on the order of $200/hr. That's crazy talk.

So, you tell me, is a not-really-physical, not-at-all time consuming act that any decent human being would have performed, neighbor or no, worth $200 an hour?

Blog Day

Dear Blog Day,

I didn't forget you, I promise. I'm just a little late. So, here goes. Five blogs you should be reading.

» Rag & Bone Shop: My former co-editor at the college paper, Wayne Barr (that's the co-editor, not the paper) is now a parent and the author of a collection of essays. He doesn't blog often, but he does Twitter and Facebook in the same voice (just shorter), and much more frequently.

» Photographers Journal: We see newspaper photographers' work every day. Very rarely, though, is the work we see anything we'd call artistic. Sure, occasionally there's a nice sunset, or a shadow, or someone is posed in a way you'd never think of posing them. But such is life as a newspaper photographer: in trade for doing photography for a living, you take pictures of officials at microphones and kids playing little league. But the Photogs Journal is a place for some of The Post-Standard's photographers to show off a bit, and to take pictures they enjoy taking. And they get to write a little bit about why they took them (beyond, "it was pretty").

»Onondaga (County) Citizens League: Readers of my blog know I write a fair bit about Interstate 81, and its raised overpasses. The OCL is undertaking a study looking at the pros and cons, and some of what they're doing is in-depth analyses of other places that have done radical(ish) things with their highways. I've learned a lot on both sides of the issue, and I'll continue to learn from them, I hope.

»aSweetPeace: I mentioned this a little while ago, but I'm working with the author of aSweetPeace on a project related to (his or her) blog (the bio is semi-anonymous, and I'd like to retain that as best I can). The blog is all about recipes, including photos of the finished product. I don't bake well, but I love food (clearly) and I do other stuff in the way of cooking fairly well (if I do say so myself), and I've enjoyed reading this thus far.

» James O'Brien: In case I didn't drive the point home earlier in August when I wrote about James, he's brilliant, his writing's seductive, and he's an inspirational human. Someone you should be reading (and listening to).


Warning: The audio on this video is NOT work-friendly

I have a distinct memory of Mrs., Giles, my elementary school speech therapist, asking my parents to not help me with my lessons.

My parents, you see, grew up outside of Boston, where while Rs are an issue, so are vowels. For example, the O in dog and doll makes sort of an aaahhhh sound in actual English, while it makes an aaawwww sound in the Boston area.

That might have actually been my first parents-vs.-teacher episode as well, but that's not what I've gotten out of it.

One of my — hmm, I don't know if it qualifies as a guilty pleasure so much as a curiosity — is understanding where in the mouth to make sounds. In English, T is made with the tongue very much against the back of both sets of teeth most of the time, while in Spanish, the T is made above the top teeth, though not as far up as an English D. The Spanish D on the other hand, is made somewhat in between the teeth, like an English TH.

Given enough time listening to someone and looking at their mouth, I can imitate if not their full accent, at least the way they say some words.

One of my other curiosities is words that accidentally sound the same. Listen to Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha for a while in the video above.

The line is "Some of those who run forces / are the same who burn crosses" (a reference to racist police officers). I'm not sure if it's intentional or not (I'm guessing not), but sometimes during the song, de la Rocha will match the Os, which makes "forces" sound like "farces."

Interestingly, force and farce have been with us a really long time. Both derive from Latin, and both worked their way through Middle French and Middle English to remain with us.

Is this too much of a nerd moment for 5:30 a.m.? Maybe, I dunno. How about you? Do you have any super-geeky habits I should know about?

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."