This North Carolina man thought he'd experienced the worst thing ever when he was struck by lightning in 2006...until last week when he was run over by a bear in his front yard.
I have no problem admitting that I have always believed in aliens.
Seriously, since I was a kid and even with the religious and spiritual indoctrinations I received, I've always found it difficult to believe that humans on earth are it for intelligent life in the universe.
I even once drew the ire of a visiting minister who was delivering a sermon at my dad's church when I was a kid, 'cause I after the service I asked him what he thought Jesus's name and appearance might be on Jupiter.
He got flustered. I thought it was a fair question.
It just seems like a waste of space if there aren't other planets out there with their own intelligent creatures, economies, vehicles, stupid politicians, religious charlatans leaders, lazy relatives, etc.
The important thing though is that I haven't the slightest bit of evidence to support any of this. And that leads me to my point:
Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, supposedly the smartest person on Earth, has a new Discovery Channel documentary coming out about space in which he warns that there are probably aliens out there and if we ever made contact with them the encounter would be more like Independence Day than E.T.
Hawking not only speculates that there are hater aliens out there who can't handle just how cool we are on Earth and that they might want to eat us, he also says we'd freak out if we saw how advanced alien technology is, and that aliens might look something like this - alien herbavores and alien predators, respectively (courtesty of Discovery Channel):
Now, I'm a big fan of what work of Hawking's that I understand. He's also been great on The Simpsons. But seriously, the smartest people on earth are now guessing at what man-eating aliens might look like?
Anyway, even if you believe Hawking's great imagination, he fails to explain one thing: what reason do we have to think that aliens are smarter than us or have better technology than us? Really, how does he not know that other planets are populated by billions of guys from Deliverance? Maybe on Planet X, the aliens are dumb as dirt and named Cletus D. CousinKisser. Maybe their vehicles are all wagons with square wheels.
I still believe in aliens, but till I see proof to the contrary, I'm assuming we're smarter than them.
P.S. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
Have you heard about this one?
Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax, a 32-year-old homeless man in New York, saw a woman being attacked and intervened to help her. Tale-Yax managed to stop the assault and rescue the woman, but the assailant turned his knife on Tale-Yax, who, fatally wounded, collapsed on a nearby sidewalk.
Over the next couple hours, at least 20 people walked by Tale-Yax, as he lay in a growing pool of blood - some throwing quick glances his way, others oblivious to him or ignoring him. One man took a cell phone picture of him lying on the ground. Another man eventually tried to roust him. Eventually 911 was called. By the time they arrived, Tale-Yax had bled to death.
My instinct is to get on the bandwagon and say all the people who walked by him are A-holes who should be ashamed of themselves.
My good sense though says that I might have done the same thing: walked fast about my business, and made a snap judgment about him as I walked by, or pretended not to see him in case he wanted money or might try to engage me in conversation.
What?!?! You know I'm not writing anything you haven't thought yourself.
I walk around homeless people like Frogger dodging cars, when I stroll through downtown Miami on an average day. Sometimes you have to, or a theoretical 10 minute walk can turn into a 30 minute walk because you're stopping every few seconds to make a donation or engage in conversations about the mysterious black helicopters, or the aliens who are trying to land spacecraft at Bayfront Park or take over our brains.
I wish someone had stopped sooner to help Tale-Yax, but given all the wackiness out there, just how mad can we Monday morning quarterbacks be at those folks in the security video?
Face it: they probably assumed he was passed out drunk. Who knows? Maybe that block is known for hosting a gauntlet of passed out drunks.
One thing realllllllllllllllllllllly bothers me about the inaction though: News reports from NYC say that Tale-Yax was in a pool of blood. How do you miss that? How do you ignore that? Granted, he was stabbed at 5:40 a.m. Maybe it was dark outside yet. Still....
Question of the day - Under the same circumstances, would you have stopped to check on Tale-Yax, or would you too have zoomed right by?
I like to think I'd have stopped, but that's because it feels better to tell myself we all care. I can't swear that I would have. In fact, there's at least a 50/50 chance that I might have walked on by.
At any rate, kudos to Tale-Yax for being a hero. May he rest in peace. And may his killer get caught and get what's coming to him.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
What's crackin', friends and frienemies?
Another Friday, another day, another 90 cents.
My column in today's Miami Herald is about the sad likelihood that a recent victim of hardcore bullying will be menaced again by knuckleheaded kids, and how the bullies are driven by pack mentalities.
Wherever you live, over the past few months you've probably heard or seen the story of Michael Brewer, a 15-year-old South Florida kid who was surrounded by five now-former friends in his neighborhood, ranging in age from 13 - 15 and set afire for reporting them to authorities for trying to steal his dad's bike and for allegedly owing one of 'em money for a video game purchase. Brewer suffered severe burns and was in the hospital for months recovering. He's out and started at a new school a couple days ago. The kids who torched him have been charged with crimes. But I spoke with experts who say a new pack of bullies will probably single him out 'cause they think he's vulnerable now. Hope the experts are wrong, but these are people whose expertise is built on preventing new Columbines from happening.
Anywho, you can read the whole column here. Check it out, come back here, tell me what you think.
Moving right along, here's an interesting story: A cop in Philadelphia bought a hair color kit, 'cause she thought crimson - the color labeled on the box - would be neato. She dyed her locks, showed up to work the next day, and was quickly confronted by a supervisor who told her to lose the purple hair 'cause it was a violation of the Philly Police Department's rule against officer's having "unnatural" hair color. The cop said her hair wasn't purple, but rather red. They bickered for a bit over the fine points of hair dye and the difference between crimson, red, and purple. In the end, the supervisor sent the officer home a couple of times and even had her photographed mugshot style for evidence. So she sued, arguing it was a hair color she'd worn for seven years prior as a cop and had never gotten a complaint from the bosses.
My first reaction is that this was a silly fight. I really don't care what color a cop's hair is. I honestly don't think I'd view that officer as more or less credible or authoritative based on his/her hair color. If it was lime green or something, I might find it distracting and annoying, but I'd still probably listen if a lime green-haired cop weilding a nightstick or mace...or gun, was headed in my direction.
My second reaction though is this wasn't a rule the supervisor pulled out of his wig. This was a written rule in the PDP and had been in place long before Ofcr. Purple decided to get creative. So what's her beef? It was a rule. The supervisor thought her crimson was a little too out there. At worst it was a difference of opinion over purple and crimson. No?
Anyway, Philly PD has a hair problem. A year or so ago, another cop showed up with braided/cornrowed hair, and he was put on desk duty till he agreed to cut it. Think you know what his beef was about? If you guess race, you guess wrong. Ofcr. Cornrow was a white cop!
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
April 23, 2010 in Current Affairs, Education, Environment, Ethics and Morals, Family, History, Humor, James Burnett is a know-it-all, My Articles and Columns, News, Numbnuts and Morons, Politics, Pop Culture, Race and Race Relations, Schools | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
I wish this was about some teacher pretending to be Patrick Swayze in his classroom, or something.
Instead, Nathan Grigsby, a Georgia high school teacher, was on trial this week on five charges that he contributed to the delinquency of a minor by not moving quickly enough to stop a striptease-like dance routine performed by several male students in his classroom.
No one - not Grigsby, not the male students, not the students watching - denied the sexual nature of the dance routine.
At issue was how much of the routine Grigsby saw and whether he moved quickly enough to stop the dance. Prosecutors argued Grigsby saw plenty - maybe the whole dance - and that he let it continue too long before stopping it, and even condoned it by laughing and applauding along with his students. He says he didn't condone anything, and that he didn't see much 'cause he was distracted. And when he did see the dance, he stopped it.
The jury sided with Grigsby on Wednesday.
Maybe the prosecutors should've gone after the parents for allowing their kids to learn and apparently get good at stripper dance moves.
Oh wait. That wouldn't happen 'cause parents can't monitor their teenagers every second of the day.
Why didn't the teacher get at least that same consideration?
Incidentally, prosecutors are still moving forward with charges of indecency against the boys in the dance crew.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
What's crackin' friends and frienemies?
Just finished watching 24, 1 a.m. - 2 a.m., and I remain confused about something: How did charatcer Dana Walsh get a job at a federal counter-terrorism unit, with a criminal background as an armed robber (at least, I think it was armed robber)? I know a guy who couldn't get a gig at McDonald's 'cause he had a terrible driving history with a gut-load of unpaid tickets. Not like he was gonna be driving through the grill area at McD's. Of all the spy stuff that sometimes comes across as incredulous (though enough of it is scary enough to make you ponder) on this show, her making it through the background check process is the least believable thing to me.
I was happy for Sandra Bullock that she won the Oscar for "best actress" Sunday night. I thought The Blind Side was touching. But I can't lie. I'm still slightly put off by yet another movie about a needy, poor black kid, saved in the nick of time when a white family swoops in. Why does this bother me? It's not the acts of kindness. I laud them. I laud those acts from the Touhy family, portrayed in the film, and from any other family that helps a kid in need. My problem is really me - my paranoia that certain tiny-minded folks will read into the Touhy's good deeds and see a perpetuation of the stereotype of needy, helpless black folks. Shoot, my folks over the years have taken in a dozen ragamuffins of all stripes, particularly struggling younger black folks. And no one's making any movies about the Burnetts. I recommended to my mom they call the movie "The Dark Side" if it ever got made. Thought I was being clever. But she pointed out I could end up getting sued by George Lucas for swiping one of his Star Wars themes.
And speaking of Oscars, I wonder if Elinor Burkett, who pulled a Kanye West, by bum rushing the stage during Roger Ross Williams' acceptance speech will draw several days worth of condemnations for the act. There were people on Twitter calling for West's man parts to be lopped off when he interrupted singer Taylor Swift at an MTV awards ceremony a few months ago. I'm thinking the buzz about Burkett is gonna fade quickly. The difference between her and Man-West is he had a public track record of speaking out of turn. Plus, Taylor Swift is a kid, and thus more sympathetic than Williams, a grown man who could have put Burkett in a headlock till he was done saying thank you.
I believe in Karma. So before reading further, set aside your opinions on homosexuality and affirmative action - as in whether you believe either is right or wrong or good or bad or whatever. Now, with a level mind, tell me if you disagree that Karma has bitten California State Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Sacramento), who so vehemently spoke out against gay rights legislation in his state, but was caught last week driving drunk on his way home with a male hookerish guy from a gay bar. In that incident, Ashburn, who on Monday came out as gay, was exposed as a hypocrite. Ashburn's admission that he is gay makes him just as bad as those Baby Boomer beneficiaries of affirmative action legislation, who later got on soapboxes and poked fun of and placed guilt trips on people younger than them who stood to benefit from the same legislation. Again, this isn't a con/pro judgment of AA, any more than it is of Ashburn's lifestyle. It's a judgment against phonies. We can talk lifestyle in another post ;-)
Walt Baker is the latest example of a sufferer of Hoof-in-Mouth disease, who didn't quite get the problem with his most recent display of symptoms. Baker, was CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association, till he was fired on Monday, following an uproar over an email he circulated several days ago that compared First Lady Michelle Obama's looks to those of Cheetah, Tarzan's chimpanzee companion. Baker's initial reaction wasn't "Sorry for my tasteless attempt at a joke." It was This email was sent to me. I simply forwarded it!, followed by I forwarded it from a personal email account, not from work!, followed by It didn't occur to me that there might be a racist interpretation of the email. I meant it as political commentary! (so what do her looks have to do with her/her husband's politics?), followed by I'm sorry some people were offended by my joke! (never mind the content of the joke), followed by Oops!, followed by Guess I'll be cleaning out my desk now!
I don't feel any sympathy for Baker, but the most honest, stand-up thing he could have done (or what he should have done if he had good PR people) would have been to issue an immediate statement saying "Look, I forwarded that email 'cause I thought it was funny. I know it was tasteless. And that's why I only sent it to a few people. The sentiment in the email was mean-spirited, and arguably racist, two attitudes I'd say I've never had, though I know my actions with this email say otherwise. So I'm sorry. I'm first sorry for getting caught, 'cause I admit if I hadn't gotten caught I'd have never felt sorry. But now that I am caught the uproar over this incident is giving me pause to examine my own heart and sense of humor. I'll be seeking counseling from my minister. And I'll be meeting with a diverse set of community leaders to discuss ways I might open my mind and better learn the common sense differences between humor and poor taste." No way that statement was gonna happen. Still...
Friends have been asking me what was the most disturbing thing I saw in Haiti a couple weeks ago. Answer? Classism. It's a given that all the death and destruction were horrible. Difficult stuff to describe and it bothered me to see it all day everyday, especially knowing that folks in Port-au-Prince would have to live in it for years to come. But what bothered me most was the blatant classism on display. Yeah we have it in the U.S. too. But here it's often tied in with race or skin color...though not always. It couldn't be blamed on skin color in Haiti, just status. My last day in the city, the driver who took me to the airport wasn't my regular guy. This driver was from Petionville, a nice (in some parts downright fancy) neighborhood in the hills above Port-au-Prince. As we drove through destroyed poor 'hoods on the way to the airport, we passed an old guy limping with a cane, dressed in rags, walking his dog through a pile of garbage, looking for scraps. My driver honked at them, gestured wildly for them to get out of the way, cursed at the pair, though there was plenty of room for us to get by without all the drama, and then turned to me with a dumb grin and said "Eh, I almost mixed them up, boss! They look to me like two dogs, instead of one." He thought he was funny. I won't be hiring that driver when I go back.
March 08, 2010 in Current Affairs, Environment, Film, Haterade, History, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Manners, News, Numbnuts and Morons, pets, Politics, Pop Culture, Public Relations, Race and Race Relations, Surprisingly sensible celebrities, Travel, Urban Living | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
John Mayer, whose music I like liked until this evening, bragged to Playboy Magazine (caution: NSFW language)in an interview published this week that black people love him. As "proof," he offered the example that he was asked recently how it felt to have a "ghetto pass" - an accolade he takes a self-deprecating position on by saying if he truly, truly had a "ghetto pass" he'd be able to call it a "n**ger pass." This is all covered about 2/3 of the way down the page if you follow that link to the interview.
In case you don't know, folks inclined to use the term "ghetto pass," AKA "hood pass," use it to describe the honorary "ghetto" status bestowed by the mysterious Ghetto Tribunal on folks whose appearance, background, and primary lifestyle are all the direct opposite of "ghetto." The term is also a reference to a "pass" for those opposite folks described in the previous paragraph to navigate the "ghetto" unharmed and be chummy along the way with all those full-time ghetto residents.
Naturally, I think it's dumb. But what I think is dumber is when folks like Mayer use "ghetto pass" to brag about how close they are to black people, as though "ghetto" and "black" are synonymous.
The Playboy interviewer alludes to the black people Mayer is close to: the likes of Jay-Z, Kanye West, Common, etc.
What's the most prominent thing all three of those guys has in common (no pun intended on the latter's name)? Not that they're black, or that they're rappers, but that they're all very wealthy. I've been a fan of all these guys' music (including Mayer's...till tonight), but I'm gonna guess that the last time any one of them spent significant time in a poor ghetto/'hood was for a food drive, or the filming of a music video.
So considering Mayer's Tarantino-esque willingness to toss around "n**ger" so loosely, his apparent assumption that ghettos and black communities are one and the same, his apparent ignorance of the fact that "ghetto" once defined neighborhoods that European Jews were forced to live in, and in modern terms defines a residential neighborhood populated by a predominant ethnic/racial/cultural group, it's clear he does not have a "ghetto pass," but rather an "out-of-touch rich guy pass."
When John Mayer starts hanging around in certain parts of South Los Angeles, rather than Hollywood, North St. Louis, MO, Centerville in Camden, NJ, or say Overtown, here in Miami, and he can hang out in those places without getting beaten like a piñata, then he claim to have a ghetto pass.
PS. Some people are going to read that interview and hone in on the fact that Mayer doesn't date black women. Don't care, don't care, don't care. To each his own in that regard. Like my uncle used to say, doesn't matter what color your partner is 'cause when the lights go out we're all black.
February 10, 2010 in Current Affairs, Education, Environment, History, Internet, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Manners, Numbnuts and Morons, Pop Culture, Race and Race Relations, Urban Living | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
What's crackin' friends? Hope your week has been blessed.
Check out my regular column in today's Miami Herald.
Here is the link.
And here is a synopsis: A group of Miami-area school kids have been "practicing" a plan for learning to get along with different types of people over the past few months. No high-end social science. No intense psychological manipulation. No government brain implants (had to throw that in for the conspiracy theorists). Instead, these kids simply hand-wrote lettters to one another. They became pen pals. The inadvertent result was that for four months they got to know each other without ever laying eyes on one another. So by the time they finally met this week, as part of Super Bowl festivities in South Florida, these kids - black, white, Latino, rich, poor, male, female, etc. - were comfortable with one another, and considered themselves to be friends. No where in the equation did the factor superficial qualities like looks. In other words they based their new relationships on attitudes, common interests, and words. Those three elements proved so strong that the kids believe they were bound to be friends regardless of all the nonsense that keeps certain adults from letting down their guards.
Follow the link to read the whole column.
PS. Follow me, please: twitter.com/jamesburnett.
February 05, 2010 in Current Affairs, Education, Environment, Friendship, James Burnett is a know-it-all, My Articles and Columns, News, Politics, Pop Culture, Public Relations, Relationships, Schools | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Tragic story: A 15-year-old Massachusetts girl whose family recently immigrated from Ireland, committed suicide almost two weeks ago. She was found dead in a bedroom of her South Hadley home.
Police say Phoebe Prince was likely pushed over the edge by "Cyberbullying," which is common enough these days that it has made its way into law enforcement lexicon. Police say Phoebe Prince was mercilessly taunted by classmates for the thick brogue on her accent and for being a foreigner, for dating a football player - something the cool girls apparently disapproved of, and simply for being new and different.
Now, some Massachusetts authorities want new anti-bullying laws passed to prevent this sort of thing in the future.
I'm always reluctant to cheer for new laws, 'cause frankly we've got plenty. And in terms of individual criminal behavior they don't get enforced consistently anyway. We should start there before adding to the pile.
I'm also usually reluctant to point a finger at parents for teenagers' bad behavior, 'cause unlike a lot child shrinks I'm not convinced teenagers are so naive these days. Mind you, I'm writing only from the perspective of a journalist who's spent nearly 15 years on the streets in a variety of neighborhoods, interviewing thousands of teenagers about issues that directly and indirectly involve their lifestyles, attitudes, and motivations. Far be it from me to contradict a doctor who says that teens don't have the maturity to form criminal intent, but my layman's observations make me skeptical of that notion.
Anyway, in spite of my reluctance, I kind of agree with the authorities in Mass. Not every kid has a thick skin. And you can't always blame that on a kid being a "wimp" or "too soft." It's not so black and white as to suggest that telling a kid to "toughen up" is the way to protect them from bullies.
Some bullies are relentless and don't just tease. They aim to torture, to inflict pain - emotional or physical - on their victims.
And as with most of my "exceptions" in the debate of parent v. child culpability, I want to blame the bullies' parents for their kids' behavior. Why not? In some municipalities like Boston, if kids play hooky too often and skip school without cause, even if their parents don't know, those parents can be called before a judge to account for the unauthorized absences.
I wouldn't mind seeing a law that compelled parents to "allocute" to what they may or may not have done in their children's lives to help their children become bullies.
Again, I'm not talking the stereotypical teasing lots of us dealt with in our school days. I caught grief in elementary school for having thick lips, and in high school for being too skinny (imagine that!) and for having an eraser head (tall, flat-top box haircut). I got over it. In some cases, I laugh myself in retrospect. Some of those scrawny girls from elementary school would pay big bucks for my lips these days!
No, the kind of stuff that Phoebe went through was on a different, much darker level.
If you haven't followed the link above and you question just how relentless bullies can be, consider this: Even after Phoebe died, bullies, run-of-the-mill A-holes, or a combination of both left mean-spirited taunting messages on a Facebook page set up to memorialize her.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
January 26, 2010 in Crime, Current Affairs, Education, Environment, Ethics and Morals, Family, Friendship, Haterade, Internet, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Manners, News, Politics, Pop Culture, Relationships, Schools | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
I really have nothing earthshattering to say about this one. I'm just curious as to why for the first time in more than 10 years teen pregnancy rates in the United States went up, rather than sliding or holding steady. The abortion rate also rose slightly.
The Guttmacher Institute, a New York-based non-profit that researches and promotes sexual and reproductive health (according to its Web site), says teen pregancy reflected a 4% rise in '06, along with a 1% increase in abortions. The study also says that black and Latino teens are getting pregnant at essentially the same rate now, but that both are getting pregnant still much more often than non-Hispanic white teens.
Guttmacher suggests in its study that a corresponding sharp increase in abstinence-only education over the past decade or so might be to blame for the increase in pregnancies and abortions, since it teaches teens that their only safe option is to just not have sex and doesn't educate them on how to protect themselves if (they're dumb enough to not listen, and) they have sex anyway.
The old school side of me says it's a good thing to tell kids not to have sex till they're grown and in committed relationships, because if they have sex as teenagers they risk pregnancy and babies that they can't afford and probably aren't emotionally mature enough to care for either.
If you wonder why I left out "disease," it's 'cause that's a possibility with anyone having sex outside an exclusive sexual relationship - teenager or adult.
The pragmatic side of me says for every two or three kids who take the advice to abstain till they're older, there are probably a few more who are just oblivious, who just aren't going to listen, who just couldn't care less. For these kids, like or not - and regardless of your religious or philosophical beliefs, there probably has to be a safety net of safe sex education, if for no other reasons than to help stem the tide of disease and unwanted pregnancy.
Again, in my perfect world we'd just tell kids to not have sex 'cause they may die or have babies, and that would be enough. That would fit nicely with my religious philosophies, but that would not be practical...in my opinion. Most licensed drivers are relatively safe, according to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. And most drive at reasonable speeds and wear seatbelts, etc. But some drivers will always be jackasses behind the wheel. Thus driver's ed, speed limits, traffic lights, stop signs, etc. - all rules or requirements that all drivers are subject to.
The alternative is to have all teenagers watch a marathon of MTV's documentary series Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant. If they don't listen to reason or subject themselves to traditional sex ed, then watching these shows should cure 'em of having sex as kids. If that doesn't work as a backup, I don't know what will.
Or we could go all Star Trek on the kids and give 'em brain implants at birth that will prevent pregnancy and dampen sexual desire, but dissolve when the kids turn 18. Hmmm, that might be illegal though.
If you have an educated guess or informed opinion that run contrary to what Guttmacher suggests, that don't involve aliens, black helicopters, brain implants, or immaculate conception, then do share.
PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.
January 26, 2010 in Current Affairs, Education, Environment, Ethics and Morals, Family, Health, Internet, James Burnett is a know-it-all, News, Politics, Pop Culture, Reality TV, Schools, Science, Sex | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)