Sunday, July 26, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

I have an African-American friend named Sharon. Sharon would die if she ever saw this but she is traffic stopping beautiful. (Or maybe I would die if she saw this. By her hands.) Anyway, Sharon used to model a little bit and she still carries herself with that you-would-never-get-to-see-me-naked-in 2-lifetimes-hauteur that some women have. So you get the picture.

Sharon has told me that she cannot shop in some of the more high end clothing stores without sales personnel following her every step. They aren't necessarily trying to sell her stuff either. They are making sure that she doesn't steal anything. She says they don't treat the white customers that way. And it infuriates her. As well it should. The only reason they dog a well-dressed, attractive woman with a purse full of money is because of the color of her skin.

Now THAT'S racial profiling.

Contrary to the hyperthyroid accusations of Harvard professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates, it isn't racial profiling when the police answer a burglary call as the Cambridge cops did the other night when a neighbor made a report that 2 men with backpacks seemed to be attempting to break in Professor Gates' house. It was actually Skip Gates himself trying to unstick his jammed front door. And what should have been a trifling matter soon escalated into national news and Presidential politics.

By any reasonable standard, Gates' behavior was unnecessary. According to the police report, Gates was completely uncooperative. He refused to step outside when the officer asked him to. Indeed, the police report says that he told the officer, some poor bastard named Crowley, that he would "talk with your mama outside." Gates also attempted to call the police chief to complain abut the racist police officer that had been sent to his home. And unlike what you read on the Internet, the police report states that Officer Crowley identified himself twice.

Finally, the report states that Gates followed the officer out to the porch telling him that the police officer "had not heard the last of him." By then a group of people and other police units. Gates continued to run his mouth. Officer Crowley warned him to calm down. He did not. So he was arrested for disorderly conduct.

On Wednesday night at the close of President Obama's press conference about his health care legislation, someone asked him about the incident involving Professor Gates. After a disquisition about the problem of racial profiling, Mr. Obama proclaimed that the "police acted stupidly" in the Gates matter. Obviously, the President had not read the police report before he made that particular pronouncement, a particularly egregious error by a man not known for straying far from the script.

The Little Rock police have had the occasion to call upon me at my home on a couple of occasions for reasons that are not germane to the present discussion and need not be recounted in this space. In any event, each time I have been asked to step out to the porch. There is a very good reason for this. That is because being a cop is a dangerous line of work. And their first instinct is to protect themselves. They may not have thought that there were 5 guys with automatic weapons hiding in my kitchen. But they didn't KNOW that. Better to exert control over the subject of the interview than to run the risk of getting jumped.

I know this and I was not offended by the instruction to "step outside, please." I complied with the instruction, answered their questions to the best of my abilities and "yes sirred" and "no sirred" them. When they were through with their business we shook hands and they departed.

Which is how the Gates incident should have gone down. There was absolutely no need for Gates to behave in such an unseemly fashion. By going ballistic over nothing he casted a pall upon the distinguished body of his work in African American studies. His reference to the officer's mother was boorish and needlessly provocative. Indeed, Crowley showed admirable restraint in an unexpectedly tense situation that was being escalated by a belligerent man with a chip on his shoulder. If Gates were a younger man and/or not a professor at Harvard (he did produce that ID eventually) he might have gotten braced inside the house and told to STFU. Cops do that to excessively mouthy people you know.

Skip Gates' equating the investigation of a report of a break-in to a residence in Harvard Yard to "racial profiling" is as ludicrous as O.J. Simpson's attempts to attain class consciousness with victims of gun drops in Compton years ago. And President Obama? He is backpedalling as fast as he can. He has gone so far as to invite both Gates and Officer Crowley over for a beer.

Sounds like a good idea. Because folks HAVE been acting stupidly. And it doesn't much sound like the ones wearing badges either.

For a look at the police report of the incident hit the link: .

Judge for yourself. And as far as I know, Gates hasn't denied any of the stuff in the police report.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

Lucille Marie Hamilton died a week or so ago. She was only 20. Her obituary in the local paper set out the usual information common to these notices: her place of employment, her relatives, the church she attended. The name of her father was omitted, which strongly suggests an estrangement.

What the obituary also did not disclose was that Lucie-that's what her Facebook friends called her- was a transgendered man living as a woman here in Little Rock. The obituary did not reveal that she died after attending a "voodoo cleansing ritual" in Gloucester Township, New Jersey. Which might explain the estranged father. Or it may not.

As if this story were not unusual enough as it is, the initial comment from the police was to the effect that her death was not considered suspicious. Let's see, transvestite Arkansan dies in a suburb of Philadelphia after a voodoo ritual. Ok, maybe that's not in and of itself to render the circumstances of her death "suspicious" in the official parlance of the cops. But it is damned unusual to say the least. For any of a number of reasons.

The stories that I have read from the media up there yield a few more bits of information than what was unearthed by the paper here. Her mother told a TV station up there that Lucie was interested in different religions and that she saved up 1500 bucks for the trip. The story is that about 6 other people took part in the ritual at the home of a voodoo priest.

And you think your neighbors are strange.

Evidently, Lucie went to sleep afterwards and never woke up. Her body was shipped to the crime lab for toxicology tests. One story said that this tragedy shows that there needs to be tighter regulation of voodoo priests. No kidding. Which leads me to wonder just how a big a problem this sort of thing is in New Jersey. You don't hear calls for the tighter regulation of Presbyterian ministers. But then again, you don't hear of many folks dropping dead after going to a Presbyterian service. I didn't the last time I visited the Calvinists.

I don't know much about transgendered folks. I knew in passing a psychiatrist who examined guys who wanted to change their sex through surgical means. I guess the thought was that they didn't want to do the surgery on anybody that was way depressed or floridly psychotic. About all she told me was that transgendereds were "extremely complicated."

I can believe that.

I don't know what Lucie's sexual orientation was. A person's sex life might not be as simple as you think. We in the straight world ought to know that. Right, Mrs. Sanford? Anyway. and for example, the comedian Eddie Izzard performs in drag all of the time, although he seems to be butching it up a little more on his website nowadays. Izzard's a genius. And he likes girls. Go figure.

But I would have to think that being a transgendered person would be a complicated and sad way to run a life. I know that 20 is too young to die. And I can't think of a less dignified and ridiculous way to spend your last night on this planet. Something caused that kid to go looking for something more.

And she never came back.

You can find her obituary on the link. Play the video if you want to see her transformation from little boy to a young woman. It is interesting to say the least.

A reliable source close to the situation sent me a message this morning saying that the authorities in New Jersey are now investigating the case as a homicide. I'm not surprised. 20 year olds don't die from natural causes. In any event, you don't hear many stories like this coming out of anywhere, much less Little Rock.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

This Was After Just The 5th Pitch In The Game

Years ago, I helped my brother John coach Little League. We were having a bad night one night and I was sent out to coach first base to "reverse the polarity" as John put it. While I loved the kids I didn't take managing a game with little boys seriously.

Anyway, I sent a kid down to second just because he thought it would be fun. When the inning was over the 'manager" said, " I don't recall putting on the steal sign." To which I replied " I don't recall looking over there and seeing Earl Weaver."

This is Earl Weaver in his glory. And they don't let the umps talk back like that although the ump says something reeeeeaaaallly funny when Weaver tells him he will be in the Hall of Fame someday.

Language Alert!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Sunday Feeling

A buddy of mine works for a local radio station. They play a little music but mostly they take calls from listeners about whatever is the topic of the day. As he put it to me "we talk about what people want to talk about." The talk is not totally confined to the airwaves. As you might imagine the conversations tend to wander over to his Facebook page.

After the Micheal Jackson Memorial Show(I hesitate to call it a "service")- And technically speaking it wasn't even a memorial service since the earthly remains of the One Gloved One were present and resplendent with floral arrangements of sufficient extravagance to cause a mob boss to blush.-folks were invited to discuss their thoughts about the show. The consensus was that the children were heart rending, which they were. One lady liked Jermaine's song. Another person thought Brooke Shield's comments were moving and so on.

Being the helpful sort that I am, I allowed that this was certainly quite a sendoff for a child molesting deadbeat. For my two cents worth I was admonished not to deal in rumor and was reminding that only God can judge. True enough, I suppose. Except that Jackson admitted that he liked to sleep with children during an interview on 60 Minutes. And he supposedly paid one family 20 million bucks to make a civil case go away.

I just don't get the collective amnesia that produces what one commentator described as "ersatz grief" on a large scale such as what we witnessed last week. Stephen Colbert might describe it as "griefiness." Whatever you want to call it, I simply do not understand such an outpouring of attention, if not genuine affection for a truly strange ranger who gave creepiness a bad name.

Still, I confess to watching at least part of the show on the Internet for no other reason than it was "just completely fucked up" as my friend Don put it. And I'm glad that I did because it produced some moments of hilarity, such as:

Barry Gordy testifying to his love and affection for the departed entertainer. That's a good one. They had pretty much been in litigation since the Jackson 5 days.

Jackson as Christ Figure: " He taught us all how to love."

Al Sharpton assuring the children that their father wasn't strange. Noooooo. It is a normal thing for an African American man to want to alter his physical appearance in order to resemble a white woman.

The family wearing sunglasses indoors. Perhaps it's a California thing. I've seen Jack Nicholson in shades at Lakers games. I'll give them that.

The fact that they proceeded with this spectacle despite ever figuring out who was going to pay for the police security such an event would require. A civic event such as the visit from the Pope or a State Funeral is one thing and the taxpayers properly pick up the tab for these events. Despite the ludicrous comments from the family and Al Sharpton concerning Jackson's alleged contributions to mankind, this was not a State Funeral. When my Dad died we paid the police department to provide an escort as is the common practice. The Estate ought to have the common decency to pick up at least a portion of the tab for this unmitigated cluster. It says here that they won't.

Enough of all of this. We have not heard the last of MJ. His tangled affairs will keep lawyers employed for years. Depending on how hot the toxscreens come back, doctors may lose licenses, folks may wind up indicted. No. We have not heard the last of all this.

And to my Facebook friends who castigated me the other day, I close with the following rhetorical question:

Would you leave your kids alone with a guy that even remotely resembled Michael Jackson?

Try not to be judgmental.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vox Populi: The Dreamer

NV were out to dinner the other night. One of her girlfriends came to your table. NV introduced Victoria to me. After the usual small talk, Victoria went back to her table.

NV: I almost couldn't recall her name.

Me: Oh, I know. I'm terrible at remembering names.

NV: No, I'm good at names it's just that Victoria wasn't her name originally.

Me: I'm not following you.

NV: Yeah. Her birth name was Janelle. She had it changed legally to Victoria.

Me: Why did she change her name?

NV: She was told to in a dream.

Me: She changed her name from Janelle to Victoria because she was told to in a dream?

NV: Yeah. That's pretty much it.

Me: You're kidding.

NV: Noooooo.....

Me: But......that's insane.

NV: Yes!

I suppose that's more interesting than a need to defraud your creditors or something. But still.

That's crazy.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

My Sunday Patriotic Video

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday and also because I am too lazy to write anything for today I offer instead a video of Great American Randy Newman doing "Political Science."

Enjoy. I'm off to watch Andy Roddick, another Great American, get clobbered most likely at Wimbledon.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The More You Hear, The Weirder It Gets

If there was any tiny portion of my brain that didn't not think that Michael Jackson was a whack job, that portion blew up when the news came out that psychic Uri Geller was once one of MJ's confidantes.

Geller, who according to the James Randi Educational Foundation, claims he acquired his psychic powers from a UFO from the Planet Hoova, is famous for allegedly bending spoons with his psychic powers. Randi, who refers to himself as The Amazing Randi, is a professional magician and escape artist. He is also a recipient of the McArthur Foundation prize and has devoted his life to debunking psychics and faith healers. In fact, the JREF has offered $1,000,000 to anyone who can prove that supernatural phenomena are "real." So far, they haven't paid any money to anybody.

When Randi turned his gaze to Geller, Geller didn't like it. Rather than bend Randi in half with his psychic powers, Geller sued for libel. He eventually withdrew his suit. Having to stand up to discovery will cause that result from time to time. To read more about MJ's confidante click here. It will take you to an encyclopedia on the JREF website. Click on G to get to the piece on Geller.

It is one thing to enjoy a magic act like Penn and Teller. Like everyone else, I sit in amazement and wonder "how the hell did they do that?" Only the childlike and week-minded actually believe that magic is real.

Which, unfortunately, describes MJ to a "T." Besides, everybody knows Hoova is not a planet. It's a town outside of Birmingham.