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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Rappers: Remember Who Got You Here

Let me tell you about the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Founded by Dr. Martin Luther King in 1957, it bravely fought for equal rights, and helped achieve integration of schools, workplaces, and accomodations. These developments in turn, set the tone for being black, proud, and if the temperament is appropriate, self-assertive.

It was my privilege as a journalist to know Dr. Joseph Lowery, a key SCLC figure in the 1970s and 1980s.

Now, the SCLC is hurting. It owes $46,000 in back taxes, as well as unspecified additional amounts to other creditors.

Remember what I said earlier... that the SCLC helped achieve integration of accomodations.

Somewhere tonight there is a star rapper and his 25-member posse. They are staying at a fancy hotel in a downtown district where, not all that many years ago, the hotel was for whites only. And, if that star rapper and members of his posse count back just a few generations, they would find sharecroppers and slaves.

This week, the posse will probably spend as much money on the road as in the SCLC's annual budget. In just a few days, they are likely to spend in excess of what the SCLC owes the taxman.

And don't even get me started on the value of the gold chains the rapper and his posse are wearing.

I'm not saying give back your gold chains, or stay in cheap digs. But if even one of these self-absorbed rappers stepped up to the plate for the SCLC, I would respect the genre more.
Do Celebrities Really Vote?

As a former entertainment journalist, I went on the road with my first celebrity some 30 years ago. It was the band War, a great group known for such hits as "Cisco Kid," "Slippin' Into Darkness" and "All Day Music."

Since then, I've interviewed hundreds of famous people, including many more entertainers.

Forgive me for being skeptical, but when I see entertainers encourage their fans to vote, I have to wonder if they vote themselves. My skepticism is driven by the insularity that most famous musicians and actors have.

Just a hunch or a gut call, but somehow I have trouble visualizing P Diddy or the guy from OutKast filling out a ballot - even an absentee one. They run with their huge posses, but do they involve themselves in tasks that do not relate directly to themselves? I applaud their efforts to get out the vote, but when it comes to celebrities doing the work of ordinary folks such as you or I, put me down as skeptical.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ya Think?

This new research paper from the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences says that when we sense fearful facial expressions on the part of others, we too become afraid and want to flee.

I don't have a Ph.D., but isn't the report's central assertion rather obvious?
As Ye Vote, So Shall Ye Reap

I have to watch my back here, so I will keep my references generic.

I know a woman who almost always votes Republican, yet galavants around various waterside resorts with one of her lovers or, umm, friends. And, she occasionally can be found on some singles Web sites looking for even more guys to provide her with entertainment for the moment.

Yesterday I heard "Maneater" by Hall & Oates. The lyrics fit this woman pretty durn accurately, even down to the Jaguar that I believe one of her rich friends owns.

Back to politics. I assume that due to actuarial realities, the man she voted for will appoint the judge that will eventually cast the margin that will overturn Roe v. Wade.

Although it is not likely that abortion rights will be overturned in the state where she now lives, it would be fitting if she were to find herself in a post-Roe "dilemma."

I really don't wish that on her, but if it happens, at least she knows guys that will fix the problem. Millions of other American women do not.
You Gotta Have Heart

Today I've learned that famed railroad videographer David Goodheart died of a massive heart attack at age 57. I was an admirer of his, and am saddened by this news.

But the irony is inescapable. Just goes to show that surnames don't necessarily describe the person.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Thirteen Motorized Wheelchairs Or One JDAM?

We're bombing Fallujah right the fuck now.

According to the Navy League Web site, a JDAM bomb costs a minimum of $23,000 each.

The other day, I saw a woman strain with all her strength to push her manual wheelchair across the street, in traffic.

According to 1-800-Wheelchairs, a motorized wheelchair costs about $1700.

So, factoring in shipping costs, you can buy 13 motorized wheelchairs for the cost of one bomb dropped in a city where no one attacked us, and is in a nation that had no WMD.

13 motorized wheelchairs, for enduring quality of life, vs. one bomb, dropped in an instant, cratered to the sidewalk.

13 motorized wheelchairs for one bomb.

You want to talk to me about "morals?"


COASTOPIA: A DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

This is making the rounds of the Web and the Blogosphere. Although this is not of my own writing, I figured I would post it here as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, you needn't fret anymore. We have decided that we can't live in the United States anymore, because so many of you in the "heartland" are so full of shit. We were all going to move to various other countries, but then we thought - why should WE move?

We are tired of rednecks in Oklahoma picking the leader who will determine if it is safe for us to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. We are sick of homophobic knuckle-draggers in Wyoming contributing to the national debate on our gay marriages. So we have done the only thing we could.

We seceded.

May I present to you: AMERICAN COASTOPIA. That's right, American Coastopia. The states of Washington, Oregon and California are joining us on one coast, and we will provide all of New England.

In the middle of the country, we have taken Iowa and Illinois, mostly because we need the fine produce of Iowa's soil, and the museums in Chicago are fabulous.

Oh yes, we're taking Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina too. I'm not going to live in a country without the Tar Heels. (And Duke? You're being moved to Greensboro, just like Wake Forest was. Sorry! Assholes.)

The other dot is New Orleans, which you don't deserve. American Coastopia needs a place to gamble, and the locals want nothing to do with you. Sure, you can visit, but it isn't part of your country anymore.

I can sense your worry. Who will get all the banks? You can fucking have most of them, because we're taking downtown and midtown Manhattan back, turning the whole thing into a giant artist colony replete with movie studios and progressive think tanks. Wall Street and other financial institutions will be relocated to Charlotte, which we believe will suit your needs better. Frankly, the good folks in Manhattan are sick of being a terrorist target for your benefit.

A word about our politics. Abortions will be safe and legal in American Coastopia, and homosexual men and women will be free to marry at their discretion. We will have our own currency, and trade with any countries we want. Everyone will have health care. Everyone will have an identity card. Homelessness and unemployment will be virtually unknown. We believe in a meritocracy and a huge chasm between church and state. 100% of our cars will be hybrid by 2006.

Yes, we're taking all the people that ever created everything beautiful. Yes, we're taking all the funny people too. All the sculptors, architects, surgeons, philosophers, violinists and fishermen.
You should have treated them better when you had them.

We hold our noses as we fly over you. We are sickened by the way you treat people that are different from you. The rest of the world despises America, and we don't want to be lumped in with you anymore.

Please, all of you who went to bed last night sick with worry, come to us. In American Coastopia, the light is always on, the hazelnut lattés are always hot, and we have a trundle bed for each and every one of you.
Red State-r?

Well, then, if you voted for Bush because of "moral issues," well, then, your "morals" are not the same as mine.

You preach the virtues of family life. I was raised in a loving home, and my parents were married for 41 years. But there are conditions that make this impossible for others to endure. It's not the hairdresser and the ballet dancer, nor the phone installer and her beautician girlfriend that shack up. It's the outsourcing of jobs - maybe even your job - by the same employer who donated to, and voted for, the same person you did.

Maybe you first became aware of morals four years ago, when you refused to vote for a candidate who worked with a man who stained a dress of a woman who was not his wife. But what about staining the tundra? Which was a bigger sin?

And to think you bought into the Swift Boat Liars. Let me tell you something. Jim Rassmann, a lifelong Republican and like me, an Oregon resident, was there. You weren't. This is an honorable man, who, unlike the talk show hosts you revere, doesn't do Oxycontin or participate in phone sex with an underling.

So go back to whatever comforts you, but the next time I fly over your county, look for an arched index finger about 33,000 feet up.