February 10, 2010

John Mayer, ghetto pass? This is why certain celebs shouldn't be allowed to eat fresh food.

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.

Posted by James B. at 10:31 PM 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
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American Idol contestant kicked off show thanks to dad: forgive/forget?

So the missus and I had this friendly debate last night while watching the start of AI's Hollywood week.

Apparently Michael "Big Mike" Lynch, one of the people who made it through to advanced rounds on last night's taped episode, made it all the way to the top 24, but was abruptly kicked off the show weeks ago after Lynch's father told hometown newspaper The St. Petersburg Times how far Big Mike had made it.

Now, Big Mike and his wife recently welcomed their first child into the world. Big Mike, like a lot of AI contestants, was putting lots of his eggs into the contest's basket. But he was pretty level-headed in his attitude and didn't come across like the kind of guy who'd have nothing to fall back on if he failed at AI.

Still, AI producers had the contestants who made it that far, as well as their family members, sign non-disclosure agreements about what was happening with the show.

In spite of that, Papa Lynch told the local paper and got Big Mike booted.

Question: If you're Big Mike are you ticked off at dad?

If not, you are a saint - a real saint, not a Who Dat? Saint - and you may as well stop reading here.

If so though, just how far does your anger go?

I know it's just a "stupid" contest, but top-24 is pretty far along. Big Mike was probably just starting to catch a whiff of what success smells like when his dad pulled the rug out from under him.

So I'm thinking I might be too angry to speak to my pops for a while after that one.


Let me know.

PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.

Posted by James B. at 12:50 PM in Current Affairs, Family, Humor, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Manners, Music, Pop Culture, Reality TV
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February 05, 2010

Friday Column: World peace, kid style

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.

Posted by James B. at 10:59 AM 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
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January 26, 2010

Teenager bullied to death

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.

Posted by James B. at 06:23 PM 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
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Teen Pregnancy Up

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.

Posted by James B. at 10:17 AM 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
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January 23, 2010

Why Telethons Bug Me...

Of course, telethons are for a good cause. For example, The Hope for Haiti Now telethon Friday night was pleasant and tugged at the heartstrings, and so on. And I'm a huge fan of George Clooney's acting and human rights advocacy, for the most part. So I'm not knocking him. He gave $1 million of his own loot to Haiti. Model Gisele Bundchen gave $1.5 million, Leonardo DiCaprio gave a million, and so did AngelinaBradleyJoliePitt and Sandra Bullock. Kudos to them for doing the right thing. I'll bet there are some rich folk who wouldn't even give a coke or a smile.

But Hope for Haiti Now, like most others for mass charitable causes, involved rich celebrities - for the most part - soliciting donations.

In defense of the celebrities, you could argue that they give waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than everyone else, and that when disaster strikes, often they're on the scene helping as quickly as government agencies and large NGOs.

But my response to that is so what. You have more, you should give more. You know, to whom much is given, much is required, etc. What stands out to me is a selfish celebrity, or a celebrity who gives an inordinate amount of his time or wealth to good causes. Otherwise, the rest are just doing what they should be doing.

There are lots of good-hearted, giving Average Janes and Joes out there who would no doubt rush off to disasters to help in person too...if they didn't have mortgages to struggle over and kids' braces to pay for, and car notes to make, on $20 an hour.

I think Average Joe and Jane give enough. In addition to being the collective backbone of the economy (the Middle Class!), they support Hollywood by going to see increasingly crappy movies for way too much money and buying increasingly crappy music.

So in my perfect dreams, this is how a celebrity-driven telethon should be introduced by its celebrity host: "Good evening ladies and gents; we know that many of you are struggling and that many of you give as a matter of routine to religious organizations and community groups. Tonight we just want to say 'Thank you,' for giving what you can. And tonight, those of us who have been blessed with wealth from entertainmenting you and yours, will take care of the giving part, 'cause we know that when the sun comes up tomorrow we'll still be rich. So tonight, you let us take care of the giving. Grab a beer, lean back, crank up the volume and let us entertain you for a good cause."

It'll never happen, but I can dream. Don't get me wrong. I know that even if a celebrity took that tone during a telethon, Average Jane and Joe would give anyway, 'cause it's always a culture's middle class that digs the deepest.


Posted by James B. at 02:45 PM in Current Affairs, Ethics and Morals, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Money, Politics, Public Relations
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January 20, 2010

The sheep is onto something...

I can't remember where I originally saw this picture, but it cracked me up. All I can say is look up to Trevor.


Posted by James B. at 10:36 PM in Humor, Internet, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Politics
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January 19, 2010

So a goat walks into a strip club...

A goat in California broke into a strip club and tore the joint up. You'd think this would be good for lots of laughs, but it's so obvious I can't come up with anything. I was thinking about the goat's hours being cut, or the goat having too large a C-section scar, or maybe the goat having too many needle tracks on its fore-legs. But none of those quite cut it. So I give up.

Anyway, here's the full story. You're on your own to find an additional punchline.

PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.

Posted by James B. at 10:19 PM in Current Affairs, Humor, James Burnett is a know-it-all, pets, Pop Culture, Stranger than fiction
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January 18, 2010

MLK & Politics

Contrary to what pro pundits would have you believe, if Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was alive today he wouldn't be a Republican or a Democrat.

Both sides, via some political séance that the rest of us aren't privy to, have cited his speeches and social stances as evidence that he'd be one of them today.

He wouldn't. King was to-the-point with all of his goals and didn't waste time obfuscating, making stuff up about his opponents, or beating around the bush for fear of offending people. His message? Simple: voting & civil rights, safety, fairly administered criminal justice system, judgment of character, not looks. Nothing more, nothing less.

He would be an Independent today. Not a tea party independent or a tea cup independent, but a real independent. And all he would have to offer the extremists in both of the two major fading parties (and the extremists who pretend to be independents) is a giant backhand to smack 'em all with.


PS. Follow me, please, at twitter.com/jamesburnett.

Posted by James B. at 02:56 PM in Current Affairs, Education, Ethics and Morals, Fraud, History, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Numbnuts and Morons, Politics
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January 14, 2010

Teddy Pendergrass, RIP

Back in the day, when I was a blindingly handsome college student, I had a bad case of Captain Save a... for about nine months, and I made a habit of dating ragamuffins who weren't really that into me and weren't that kind to me. They just used me for my beauty...and probably my money.

Seriously, I got made a punk of so many times in that period, that should've been my nickname.

But over a double shot of Patrón Añejo and a Teddy Pendergrass album one night, I got my groove back and didn't have to wait to exhale. And all you angry ladies out there should take note: It never crossed my mind to pour lighter fluid on my ex's clothes and burn them in her car. That's right ladies, violence is not the answer! Besides, trust me. Exhaling deeply and often is healthy.

Anywho, a few weeks later I had a "relapse" and decided to beg an ex-girlfriend to give me a chance, rather than telling her to go play in traffic, and then moving on with my life.

Thankfully, Teddy helped me with the "lyrics" of my corny plea. In retrospect though, I'm glad it didn't work. First of all, I wouldn't have met the current - first, last, only, etc. - Mrs. B. Plus, if my ex and I had gotten back together, right now I'd probably be gray all over, or I'd be about 450 pounds, weezy and miserable, with artificial knees and an artificial hip, and vying for a spot on The Biggest Loser. At least that's what I heard happened to the guy she ditched me for. Ha!

Anyway, back to my somber moment. Shortly after my ex thankfully declined to resume our relationship, I heard Teddy singing I Don't Love You Anymore. And when that ex called me a few months later saying she'd changed her mind, I remembered that song and had the mental clarity to tell her where to find the nearest busy intersection, and what time the lights turned green.

Go ahead, laugh. I did, a year after the fact, when I wondered how I could have ever been so corny. Then again, that was also the period of time I thought my occasional use of an S-Curl kit actually made my hair look better. So clearly I wasn't in my right mind.

I'm rambling, but here's to Teddy, and here's a studio recording of I Don't Love You Anymore.


Posted by James B. at 10:51 AM in Current Affairs, History, Humor, James Burnett is a know-it-all, Music, Pop Culture, Relationships, Romance
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