Tag Archives: make’s you think

Expected Behavior

The very first time I saw Lean on Me, this scene stuck out to me because it was a very powerful message.

It wasn’t a stand out scene but it set the tone for the entire movie. You may have only processed it subconsciously but you instantly got it when you heard it. It is so powerful yet and so simple to understand yet most don’t recognize the impact of it.

Mr. Clark was simply describing how people are who we define them as and thus we can’t be surprised if/when they live up to those expectations. But what happens when people expect themselves to be treated like animals? That’s exactly what happened at East Side High; the "good kids" were so used to watching "bad kids" get treated as if there were failures that they began to become failures themselves and then the teachers treated all of the students the same.

In everyday life, we expect people to fail (admit it to yourself, it’s ok normal), we expect people to give up on others. Due to this we start to expect ourselves to fail and we start to expect people to give up on us when we are in the same situation but we want to be helped. Why does this happen? Because we expect people to treat us like we treat others or how we see them treat others. In psychology this is unofficially called Herd Mentality.

A good example of this is when we see cars disabled on the side of the road with the driver standing outside of it in need of help.  There are very few people if any that would stop to provide aid yet if we were in that situation we would hope that someone would stop but expect no one to do it. You want to be saved, you need to be saved but so many just pass you by.  The situation thus encourages you to not help someone when you see them in the same situation. Had someone stopped, chances are you would be more encouraged to help next time you saw someone in need. ABC created a whole show around it called What Would You Do?.  I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about it.

So what happens when there is a life on the line:

Before I use this unfortunate event as an example I must say that I in no way condemn anyone involved for their actions, abilities or lack there of. It was a tragedy to hear about and I’m sure it was far worse for them to experience first hand. I mention this story only to draw parallels on the forthcoming points.

What would you do in this situation where someone is drowning but you can’t swim? A co-worker and I discussed this when this story happened and he believes that you should go jump in and try to save the kids. I, actually not being able to swim, say that you should do what ever possible to help but jumping in could hurt rather than help. It is a tough question to answer to yourself: Do you do whatever you can or give up to let them struggle or do you fight for them and possibly go down with them?

For the people that are close to me that I care about, I often do everything I can to help when they need it. Often going above and beyond what others think I should. I believe you should support people as much as you would want them to support you, if not more than they would you. Think about the last time you were in a time of need or didn’t realize you were in need and someone was there for you.  Now image if that person wasn’t there or the last time someone wasn’t. Did you expect someone to help? Now I’m not talking about major life events. It could’ve been as simple as dropping something in a crowed room, having your hands full while approaching a door or moving your residence.  You get the idea.

When people come through for you, it feels good. When you don’t expect people to help and they do, it feels amazing! When you help people it feels amazing for yourself also. Try to notice when people want or need your help because they will want to return the favor to you one day or even to a stranger.

A few weeks ago I was walking into a market and there was a woman outside with a teenaged girl.  She had her ID and EBT card in her hand while asking for help to get food for her kids. As I walked up I saw many people walk by them and not saying a word. When I approached I told her I didn’t have cash but if she needed I could pay for whatever she needed.  She agreed and walked out with something to eat for the night. I don’t know if she was telling the truth but I couldn’t take that chance when I have the capability to help.

They say you should pay it forward but I think you should just pay it without expecting something in return or that it would benefit you in the future.

As Simple as Socks and Sandals


There’s this great scene (I think it’s the greatest scene in the movie which we will get to in a second) above from The Devil Wears Prada where Miranda (Meryl Streep) explains to Andrea (Anne Hathaway) why she is wearing a blue sweater. Actually it’s Cerulean if you were paying attention to what she said. Lapis is also a shade of blue. I know that because I am into photography, art and web design by the way.

Back to the point, Miranda’s explanation is to educate Andrea on why it is she is subconsciously choosing her clothes.  I think of this every time I see someone walking around in black socks or socks and sandals.  It also comes to mind with the baggy pants phenomenon in the 90’s and 00’s and tight jeans fad of late.

Before I get into this let me first say that I am not a fashion historian but I do pay attention to people’s behavior and fashion. First socks and sandals. It’s a very prevalent practice throughout history and throughout the world regardless of how we Americans think of it. For the record, I personally don’t like it and haven’t partaken in it.

So how did it become popular? Same place everything becomes popular, high school of course, particularly jocks. Jocks or athletes typically would dress in their uniforms prior to participating in their sport and often wear their uniforms afterwards. Sports such as baseball, soccer and football often require a specific type of sock to match the uniform.  Since taking sneakers on and off requires untying or unlacing, sandals became the easiest for of footwear that could function for quick removal and protect the feet while in full uniform.

Thanks to the competitive and conformist culture of high school, the jocks are typically at the top of the food chain and idolized by the masses and so adopt their fashion choices. This of course spreads to the younger siblings and then encouraged behavior by these same jocks and influencee’ when they become parents. It then becomes popularized by pop culture and other adults catch on then then a fad is born.

Now I haven’t forgotten about those we refer to as bohemian or hippies. They too dress like this but unfortunately their fashion style wasn’t strong enough to influence the masses.

Skinny jeans are a much simpler explanation. They are just a direct opposition to the baggy jeans phenomenon. Typically it’s called counterculture or rebellion. Tight pants lead to tight shirts and thus a new fashion tread was born.

As always, you don’t have to agree with me. If you think I’m wrong, write your own blog or complain in the comments. Either way is fine with me but one thing is for certain, you can’t say I’m completely wrong if you think about it now can you?

Names and Labels


The clip above says it all, we as humans are obsessed with naming things. We have the same passions about labels too. So much so that throughout our lives we assign many names and labels to people and things without realizing it. Sometimes in life, we don’t even remember when they first happened but I do.  I remember them all..

Before even knowing, I was assigned the labels child, son, brother and nephew. This happened after my parents became aware of my conception. Due to my family makeup these labels became automatically assigned to me. At the time, I of course had no concept of their meaning or existence. They were just assigned.

Soon after, my parents decided on a name, Jim. I was to be named after my own father. It was a first name which had been passed down from my grandfather. It was the name of which I would come to know, as all children do, referred to myself.

I also learned the labels mother and father for my parents as well as their own names. Both a gift and a burden due to my father and I sharing a first name. If it wasn’t for my mother calling my father Jimmy or the neighbors calling him Big Jim and me Little Jim it may have been a confusing childhood responding to calls meant for someone else.

At a later point in life, I became aware of the fact that my name was not unique to myself. Others could also have this name and thus I had to become reliant on the voices which used my name to become accustomed to responding to those trying to communicate with me.

As time went on, the nickname Jim Jim was coined but I’m not exactly sure by whom. Yet again I had to become accustomed to being referred to by a different name. One of my aunts still uses this name today.

Humans, we are told, are social creatures and thus seek others for interactions. As I write this I wonder if this is a natural instinct or a learned behavior. Why? Because at some point I gained the label friend. I’m pretty sure it was because my parents sought to have me interact with other children my age either at a playground or some organized gathering. More than likely their parents had done the same. So if we are taught to do this at an early age does that take away from the instinct or is it just the way of fulfilling it? That’s way too heavy of a topic for right now so we will move on.

By the time I had become school-age, I had only known myself officially as Jim. I can recall sitting on my mother’s lap while being signed up for kindergarten to become a student. When the registrar asked the name of the student, my mother prompted me to answer the question. Confidently I responded “Jim“, I do know my own name after all. My mother responded “No, tell them you’re real name.” Real name? What have you been calling me all these years? At that point she realized and admitted that she rarely if ever called me by my formal name. “His name is James” she responded for me. This was a big lesson to learn. I had two names! Who has two names? Does everyone? As it turns out, no they don’t. Only a few of us lucky ones get that privilege.

When people become close to you and know you for a while they tend to make up nicknames for you based on some attribute or action you’ve taken, I was no exception to this. For some reason, I started carrying around a red wiffle ball bat. This was followed by using it as a weapon in fights I would get into. Strangely enough if I didn’t have it on me I would tell my opponent to wait while I would go get it. People began to call me Bam Bam after the Flintstone character. Fighting with a plastic bat isn’t exactly practical and thus I outgrew it and the moniker Slim Jim briefly took over.

Before I could become a teenager I was bestowed two new titles, brother and uncle. I didn’t know exactly what it meant to be either but I knew what it was to have one. Later on in life I would discover the importance of these roles but for the time being I continued on being a kid.

High school was a new adventure. Lots of people with the same name and no real way to distinguish them outside your general circle of friends. If you don’t already have a nickname then the common practice is to use your last name. A friend started calling me by a shortened version of my last name because he had a brother with the same first name and thus I became Nick. It was a little strange at first but it stuck.

Those 4 years lead to many other first time labels. For the first time I became a boyfriend, a common occurrence for people of that age. It was short lived but so are many things during high school. I also became a driver, another right of passage attained.

Soon after I started my first job and became an employee. My first job was short lived but I learned my lesson and bounced back quickly. My third job while still in high school lead me to a place where I would grow the most.  I attended the title of cook, manager and caterer. I also gained the nickname crucial because I liked a very unpopular rap group name Crucial Conflict. A co worker thus shortened it to crushy which stuck among some of the staff even to this day.

It’s not often in life that you get multiple nicknames or labels at once but one summer I did just that.  I became Jimifer before it was cool to be Brangelina and Transformer after an innocent teenage run from the police.

Growing up means the names and labels stop until you get one of the most important and expected labels, High School Graduate which was expectantly followed by College Student. From there the choice is either one of two options, I took the unfortunate options and became a College Dropout in favor of a technical school. I finished there and once again became a Graduate.

Becoming an adult slowed down the process of attaining names. I became a runner and an athlete for the last few years of my life.The process slowed until I met someone that would change my life. She named me Kozlik, a pet name she came up with for me. She made me a stepfather, the closest I had ever become to the real thing. Her daughter called me Jimmy John Jones, a special bond that will last forever. It was a very special relationship that I will cherish forever.

Adulthood afforded me a few more titles. I was a Groomsmen in a few of my friends weddings and the Best Man in my brothers wedding. I enjoyed watching others fulfill their desires. So much so that I wanted them for myself.

Still left for me are my most sought after titles; father, dad, husband, homeowner. Someday I will fulfill them. Someday soon possibly, or maybe someday in the future. Too bad that someday is not today.

My life with names and titles isn’t over. I will continue to attain them throughout my life and I will remember the first time each is assigned just like I have all this time.

Serious Radio

It’s around 7:20 AM and just like any other morning I hope into my car, turn the key and the radio comes on.  As always while getting situated, the sounds coming out of the speakers don’t register as intelligible at first. A few seconds pass and I recognize what is going on; a phone prank. Not being a fan of this "ageless" gag, I tune to another station for relief. A few minutes later and it starts again but with different voices. On to station number 3 and they are giving a recap of a phone prank I thankfully missed earlier.  WTF?

After enough of the Hip Hip and Top 40 stations I move to the R&B stations hoping for relief.  Hopefully the more mature DJ’s can bring a more serious tone to my day but alas not.  The buffoonery is more intense so that it lacks the taste and is only mildly amusing. Is this the humor of the older generation or is it a left over of different times when we were to be mocked rather than treated as equals?  Whatever it is, it is not something that I can tolerate for too long.  And did I mention that some of them also do phone pranks?

What happened to radio?  When did it become so devoid of originality? As one of my friends put it, the radio is like a tape stuck on replay (or a playlist on replay for those of you that don’t get the reference).  Ever since the radio companies were bought by parent companies (ClearChannel, Radio-One,…) they have become franchises serving the same menu across the country. 

Gone is the local flavor that made us tune in.  No more does the local artist get his first break to be heard.  Playlists are distributed to all stations and re-run throughout the day to push the latest release.  Payola may not be a published practice but it is clear that it is being masked in some way.  How else can you hear the same songs every hour during peak listening times (rush hour and 8 to 10).

With the advent of digital music devices, radio is now in trouble. Once HDRadio is put into play, I believe that radio will vanish completely. Radio must evolve or rather revert back to it’s roots to survive.   Bing back the local influence that once ruled the airways.  Let the listening audience dictate the playlists and play a broader variety of songs.  There has been too much music created to only play the same 34 minutes of music throughout the day. This one is for you Radio Raheem!

The Perfect Formula


A couple years ago, I had a few conversations with my friends about how to assemble the best album, crew or label.  Thinking about it now, the ideas seem pretty odd but the principles we came up with were reproduced by many and a small few were largely successfully using them. Maybe we were before our time in our thinking but it seems we were dead on for some.  Maybe we should’ve be talent scouts.


For many years there was a format to Hip Hop albums; an intro, a song for the club or radio, a song for the streets, a song to show your softer side, a skit and a R&B collaboration or a song with your crew. 

Many albums attempted this format as to emulate others and it proved a success for many.  It became a way to appeal to a broad audience and it worked.

Crew or Label

Take two male solo rappers, one female rapper, an R&B group then add a duo or group and what do you get? Something that ends in -Family, -Crew or some other creative name. Diversity would surely be the way to ensure success for a record label.  Collaborations on albums would be easy and every year there would be a group album.  And let’s not forget that my crew doesn’t like yours so there will be our typical beef.

So is it successful? Not in the long term.  All too often there is some problem among label mates and someone is kicked out within a year.  This proves beneficial for the remaining members but spoils the formula.

Outside of Hip Hip

I took this examination a little further and looked outside of Hip Hop to see how other genres of music fare on this topic.  Not surprisingly, it doesn’t exist.  I couldn’t even tell what labels the artist belonged to because no other artists (Prince excluded) even mentioned their labels in their songs. There were no crews or allegiance to anyone unless they were a group or solo artist and nothing else. And depending on the age of the artist, there were no typical arrangements to their albums.

I can’t say I’ve ever heard of people looking for friends in this way or any other employers with these requirements. In our everyday lives we don’t form these types of relationships.

This is just one of those unique things that helps make Hip Hop one of the most influential art forms in the world.  Though there is no exact formula to its success, there will always be imitators even within trying to reproduce the success of others.  There attempts continue to fuel us with great music for years to come.

What are we doing?

I turn on the radio and I hear rappers singing about who they know, what they have and what they’re going to do someone for whatever reason.  And then I turn on the TV or pick up the newspaper and I see the result of it.  Yesterday in Chester, PA, a 2 year old boy loses his life to gun violence.

A few days before, a man is shot under unknown pretences.  Months before in the same city, a woman is shot by a stray bullet while sleeping in her bed. 

This is just a few examples in one city.  I’m sure you have many others in the city you live in or near.  The temperature is going up and with it so does the violence in the streets.  We have to get a grip on ourselves and each other.  The value of life is diminishing in the eyes of our youth. 

We say our music is the message of the streets, a way for the oppressed to speak about atrocities they’ve seen so that the world can know of their struggles but we don’t learn from its messages.  We’ve turned our music from outcries and celebration to bragging and boasting of how much we (or rather the artists) own. 

At one point in history, the artist grew tired of the problems and banned together to try to send a positive message to the youth:


Theses days, the artist ban together to help line their pockets:

Look at the lead photo a little longer.  Burn it’s image in your mind.  Imagine that it’s someone in your family.  Imagine it’s someone you know.  Now imagine that it’s you.  If we keep up what we’re doing, one of those phrases will be true!

Worse than the N word ? Urban

I actually got a surprise while researching this topic.  Typically, I look for an image using Google Image Search and it took a couple pages before I reached an image of a black person.  This is contradictory to how the word is typically used.  Only when using the keywords Urban Youth did I get my expected results. 

So what’s the big deal here? Often times Urban is used as a code word for black, though it is often combined with other words (radio, youth, clothing, music, television, etc) for this meaning.  It’s used so often, that it isn’t given a second thought but its audience.

Many businesses and organizations have capitalized on this misconception.  Many include urban in their names to further identify their alliance with race such as  Urban Outfitters whose clothes don’t seem to fit into this definition and National Urban League, a civil rights organization.  Just as Urban Outfitters points out, not all terms or businesses are code words.  Urban Legends and UrbanDictionary stem from uses in language that doesn’t exactly predate stereotypes but doesn’t get its meaning from blacks living in the city. Often in Mom and Pop stores it hangs above the music and in the news it describes the people but why?  No history exists of the words association with blacks as of yet but it is in heavy use with no misunderstanding of what it means.

Of course I have my own theories on the subject?  My first guess is White Flight where whites, moved from urban areas to suburban areas.  This changed the ratios of whites to blacks in urban areas therefore creating the stereotype of large amounts of blacks live in urban areas.  But wait a second, blacks live in the suburbs too.  More so in the south than in the northern states. 

I don’t need to quote statistics to prove that blacks live in other areas than in cities, just look around.  If someone is working in a store, chances are they live in the area.  Especially when it comes to teens.  Teens don’t travel as far as adults do to get employment.  They go as far a the bus, train or parent will take them within a reasonable distance.

So what harm can this do?  There is a huge movement of racists and stereotypical behavior starting to surface.  The media will have you believe that it started because of the Tea Party Movement or since Obama started running for president.  I believe it started with the popularity of the internet and the new sense of anonymity that it give people.  The is one of the founding properties of the KKK and the internet has further this.

Get at me dog

First off let’s get some things straight, I don’t condone nor to I condemn dog fighting.  I’ve never witnessed or been a part of it.  I believe there are far worse atrocities going on in the world that need attention than this.

Second, dog fighting is not a product of Hip Hop, black culture or even the United States.  It has a long standing in history along with fighting other types of animals.

Third, Michael Vick, didn’t increase dog fighting incidents.  He only brought to the surface what society chose to ignore.  Even since Vick was linked to this activity he has been blamed for every case that has come about. As if he was the originator of dog fighting.

I’m not going to defend him or his accusers.  What I want to know is when do you really pay your debt to society? When do you finally get to move on from your crime after serving time?

If you want to drag animal cruelty through the mud, take a look at horse racing.  It’s everywhere so much so that there are laws specific to it and



The Mob Mentality

Some mobs are good; Mobb Deep, Goodie Mob. Some mobs are bad; Capone, Giancana. And some mobs are just plain our wrong; lynch, flash.

Most of the examples above are debatable (with the exception of lynch) except the flash mob.  Here in Philly, teens have started to massively gather in an area for no other reason other than being told to do so by Facebook, text message and word of mouth.  The media, in it’s effort of sensationalism, has labeled them flash mob which happens to be the most recent buzz word for large gatherings of people.

No one, including the participants themselves know how or why this started or even why they are doing it.  Regardless of this, some members of these crowds have caused problems in their meeting spaces by fights, looting and causing damage.  Of course this doesn’t sit nicely with the inhabitants of the areas which they are rightfully justified for feeling as such.

Throwing away the thought that these gatherings have only happened about 2 or 3 times as of this writing I wonder why can’t our youth gather for a cause rather than random mass loitering.  I as well as many others, would have applauded them had this been a protest on the Healthcare Bill to say "Yes, we want this for our future!" or even to demand an education bill of the same magnitude.  Come on youth, give us something to say that you are ready to step up and take the lead where the previous generation let you down.

Of course I can’t put the blame solely on the youth.  There are many factors here.  First there is the organizers whom ever they may be.  Was this done for the sole purpose of causing trouble or was the meaning lost somehow?  Secondly, the media, merchants and law enforcement may have over reacted at bit.  Why’s that?  Well, if you look at the videos below you will see that there’s little to no media coverage of outrage against the events below. True these events were clearly planned and thought out, there’s just something about jumping at the chance to label a large gathering of young black people as a problem that bothers me.  But of course we can’t let them off for the trouble some people did cause.

So what should we take from this? 

  1. If your going to gather in a large group, know what it is for and if you don’t know, don’t show.  No need to be a sheep following the herd. 
  2. If you are going to be part of a flash mob, make sure you are doing something cool like the people below.  Some of them are stupid but they don’t have the police commissioner and mayor threatening to change curfew laws.
  3. If you are going to organize a flash mob, see #2.



Battle of the S's ? Sharpton vs. Smiley

Depending how you look at it, first Tavis Smiley went on the Tom Joryner Morning Show and said:


to which Rev. Al Sharpton called into the show to respond:


and then the two spoke together:

And yet again it continues…

Things like this is the perfect introduction to a future article coming soon.  Stay tuned and ponder what they really are arguing about and how they are representing "us".

Worse than the N word? Ghetto

Growing up up the ghetto I always knew what it felt like to be ostracized.  Times were different than they are now back in the 80's. It wasn't the overtly racist  era of the 50's and 60's but this was definitely before  being black was popular.

Black celebrities weren't as plentiful on TV unless they were athletes.  The Cosby Show was the only "black" show on but stars could be seen in shows like the A-team or Love Boat. And Hip Hop was just starting to blossom.

I remember the first time I realized the negative impact of the word ghetto was on a trip to the beach in Ocean City, MD.  While checking into the hotel with my friends, the woman behind the counter ran down the list of rules.  One of the rules was "No Ghettoblasters". At the time I was confused from never hearing the term before. She explained to me that they were big radios that people in the cities carry around.  We didn't have one so there was no need to worry.  I gave her a funny look and went about my vacation undisturbed.

It wasn't until a few years later when a comedian performed a joke on Comic View did the word take off in mainstream use. I remember hearing people use the term describe the ways we did things to get by in a negative light. Using a hanger for an antenna, drinking Kool Aid, driving an old car or just something different than the accuser became, ghetto.

I wondered why this happening. The I noticed that people thought it was funny but it was a case of people laughing at you not with you.  Those making the joke were too ignorant to the fact that they were making fun of their own culture and themselves. 

As always, the term was picked up by those who understood the use of the term and began to use it with a different meaning.  Once again a word became code for blacks or in this case, the things that black people do.  It is a form of hidden racism and unrealized self hate which does nothing to further our development in the world.

In our hurries attempts to look and act cool, sometimes we create things which appear to enhance but only injure. There's that old lie we tell to children that "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" to help combat teasing but we should be teaching them that some words have hidden meanings and lasting affects. We are made of flesh and bone not rubber, words penetrate deeply.






The Analog Divide

Let’s face it, radio as we know it is on its last legs.  Portable media is giving people what they want; access to the music they want, when they want it.

Satellite radio was the last ditch effort to save a dying format.  When HD Radio is finally enforced as the standard for broadcasting, I honestly think radio as we know it will be silent forever.

Unlike TV, there won’t be converters to add to existing radios.  They will become relics of a former generation dead before their time much like the portable TV’s and the VCR.

Technology is progressing so fast that people don’t realize the convinces they are losing.  No longer can you create portable, reusable recordings and easily use them elsewhere. 

Cassette tapes allowed us to record audio from radio, LP, microphone, CD or other cassettes and easily play them elsewhere.  I say easy because you can literally pop out a tape from one device and play it in another. You could even loan your recording to someone for them to playback. Can you do that with your MP3 player?

VCR’s allowed us to record a video and use it the same way cassette did for audio. Can you DVR, iPod, iPhone or other media device do that?

In the digital world there are many different formats for audio and video. MP3, OGG, MPC, AIFF, AU, MIDI, WAV, WMA, ACC RA, MPEG, AVI, MKV, MOV, QT, WMV, FLAC, FLV, MP4, ASF, SWV and countless others.  And if you think that list is long, just wait a few more months because there will be others.  Some devices support a mix of them but not all.

In the analog world there was CD (though this really is digital), VHS cassette and audio cassette.  Each had its own player and could play and media of its type that was inserted into it with no need to check the specs or compatibility.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. It’s my chosen profession. I just see what’s going on around me more for the have nots and how they are affected.  Suddenly the days of $40 for a low-end TV and $200 for a high-end have been replaced with $200 for a low-end TV; $10-$20 for a portable  to play your existing music vs. $100 (plus the cost of a computer or laptop not to mention internet access) to play new media formats; and we can’t discuss the cost of DVR’s because you can’t buy them, only rent them.

I see the have nots suffer just to have modern convinces while the cost of living goes up. When changes like these come around it is good to educate yourself on the costs long term.  We probably won’t have another change like these soon but when we do, you’ve been enlightened.

Innovator or Swagger Jacker

 Facebook is now built on HipHop, but not the way you may think.  HipHop is a customized version of the PHP programming language of which it is built on.  Facebook hired a team of engineers to optimize the language to deliver better performance for itself and a better experience for its users.  A win-win in both case; Facebook can deliver its webpage more efficiently and support more users and their users can continue to use the site hopefully without issues.

As a programmer myself, I can appreciate the need for greater performance and scalability (ability to grow) of an application.  Nothing turns people away faster than a slow web site (knock on wood) and the feat itself isn’t something to be taken lightly or even something that is common place.

Of course the Hip Hop side of me recognizes what just happened with Facebook’s HipHop.  This is a blatant attempt to capitalize on a name and cause brand confusion to help boost exposure. While we appreciate the honor and are flattered by your choice of names, we don’t need your confusion added to our culture.  Especially in these times of coping others work and using it as your own.


The Pressure to Give

Natural disaster are, well, disasters.  Recently there have been many; Hurricane Katrina in 2007, Indonesian Earthquake in 2009 and Tsunami in 2004 and now the Haitian Earthquakes of 2010.

As technology progresses, we now have easier methods of donating as well as finding out who has donated.  Everyone wants to know if you donated to the relief efforts (see a list here) and recently a list of celebrity donations has been tabulated. The reported contributions are below.

Alyssa Milano

$ 50,000
Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie $ 1,000,000

George Clooney

$ 1,000,000

Gisele Bundchen

$ 1,500,000

Lance Armstrong

$ 250,000


$ 250,000

Oprah Winfery

$ 1,000,000

Sandra Bullock

$ 1,000,000

Tiger Woods

$ 3,000,000

Looking at the contributors and contributions side by side, everyone asks the same question, should (insert name) have given more?  I wonder should we even ask this question.  Granted they make way more than most of us will so they should be able to give more right?  That answer depends on how you look at it.  We don’t know how much have have set aside for donations to other charities or even how much they have donated without reporting.  Why do we even need to know how much someone gave?  Is it just to validate our own insecurities about how much we can give? 

Many people, celebrities included, give and don’t seek press exposure.  They do it because they want to help others and strange as that might sound.  And others don’t give and it is totally ok with them.  It’s their money and they do with it what they can.  That’s the freedom we are allotted in this country.

Something that is often overlooked at times like these are businesses.  Oil Companies, manufacturers, restaurants, banks, casinos, etc all record record profits yet we never pressure their support.  We often ask for those within our own places of business to give but that’s not the same as a donation from our jobs themselves.  As I’ve heard it from some bookkeepers, "businesses don’t want to give large sums to charities for fear of later backlash from employees because of using the economy as a reason for lower raises and pay."  I can only hope that isn’t true but of course businesses won’t admit that themselves.

Before we get into the battle of how to spend someone else’s money, we should remember that we are donating to help others, not to validate our principals.  It’s ok not to give just as much as it is to give what you can.




Earthquake in Haiti

As I’m sure many of you all heard, there was a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in Haiti.  Tune into your favorite news (real news not gossip) sources for coverage and details. 

I just want to point out for those that want to help to investigate the charity or relief organizations carefully and thoroughly. Not only are there a lot of scams out there, it is important to know where your money is going.  Many people were surprised after Hurricane Katrina when they gave money expecting it to go directly to the victims only to find out the funds were spent in other ways.

The first thought is usually Red Cross but there are many more.  Red Cross does not give money directly to victims.  They use funds to help people get back on their feet.  They are an aid organization which is a good thing considering the response given by FEMA.  Many other organizations work this way but it is important to know what your money is going to.

Please donate food, blood, money or your time to them to help people of tragedies.

There are many other organizations that give aid.  MSNBC has a list of them here.  Visit their sites and choose the one that best fits your ideals on aid.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Haiti and their friends and family.

Worse than the N word? Baby daddy/Baby momma

Baby mom(s) and baby dad(dy) are relatively new.  I can't put an exact origin on them but that doesn't matter.  What matters is their usage.

In short, the terms are disassociation's from a parental roll and relationship to the other parent. What does that mean? It illustrates that the relation to the other parent is not a direct connection but only through the child. It lessens the other parents worth and attempts to weaken the responsibility of involvement of the two parties that created the child.

This type of thinking and behavior has two fallout's: First, it has become far too easy and trendy to have children and not be involved with their lives. Second, more and more single mothers are left to fend for their children, some times from multiple fathers, either on their own or through the help of friends and family.

The divorce rate is pretty high but the rate of unmarried single mothers is even higher. I'm not advocating that marriage is for everyone but I do believe that both parents should be actively involved in the development of their children.

Actively involved doesn't mean seeing them every few days or sending money.  It's both parents making the decisions that will impact the child's life; sports & activities, schooling & child care and religion & culture as well as discipline and play.  No parent should dominates in these choices alone nor should they have to.

We need to evaluate slang a little closer before we adopt it.

Worse than the N word? African American

For the next installment of this series, I present to you a curve ball.  You may be wondering why this word is on the list.  Of course this article is here to explain it but first let's educate ourselves a little:

Af·ri·can?Amer·i·can Pronunciation: ?a-fri-k?-n?-?mer-?-k?n, -?me-r?- also ?ä- Function: noun Date: 1855 : an American of African and especially of black African descent ? African?American adjective

eth·nic·i·ty Pronunciation: eth-?ni-s?-t? Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural eth·nic·i·ties Date: 1950 1 : ethnic quality or affiliation <aspects of ethnicity> 2 : a particular ethnic affiliation or group <students of diverse ethnicities>

race Function: noun Etymology: Middle French, generation, from Old Italian razza Date: 1580 1 : a breeding stock of animals 2 a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock b : a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics 3 a : an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also : a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group b : breed c : a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits?

col·or Pronunciation: ?k?-l?r Function: noun Usage: often attributive Etymology: Middle English colour, from Anglo-French, from Latin color; akin to Latin celare to conceal ? more at hell Date: 13th century? 3 : complexion tint: a : the tint characteristic of good health b : blush 4 a : vividness or variety of effects of language b : local color ?12 : skin pigmentation especially other than white characteristic of race <a person of color>?

na·tion·al·i·ty Pronunciation: ?na-sh?-?na-l?-t?, ?nash-?na- Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural na·tion·al·i·ties Date: 1691 1 : national character 2 : nationalism 1 3 a : national status; specifically : a legal relationship involving allegiance on the part of an individual and usually protection on the part of the state b : membership in a particular nation
4 : political independence or existence as a separate nation 5 a : a people having a common origin, tradition, and language and capable of forming or actually constituting a nation-state b : an ethnic group constituting one element of a larger unit (as a nation)

So what's so wrong with this word? First and foremost, we are Americans.  If we want to shake the social stigma that we don't belong here we need to stop referring to ourselves using a hyphenated adjective. This adds a qualitative form on our citizenship which says to others that either we're not from here or we don't want to be here.  The term Hyphenated American was once used as slur much like the N-word for people whose roots were from other countries.  Times have changed and this is no longer the case but it is important to know the history and meanings of the words we use.

Second, let's play an game that you probably played as a child.  One of these things is not like the other; Japanese-American, Italian-American, Canadian-American, African-American, Irish-American, German-American.  Give up?  These people (sans Africans) are from countries and Africa is a continent. Africa itself has many nationalities within it.  People from the continent of Africa don't refer to themselves as Africans, they use the country they are from, much like we do.  Using the term only denotes that you don't know where you are from.

This leads use to the third reason, We'll use some logistics on the definition.  Anyone from Africa who immigrates to this country is an African-American. This of course mean people with white skin.  This might confuse and anger some people but by definition, it is what it is.

Fourth there's the obvious fact that not every dark-skinned person is from Africa. There are people from the Caribbean with the same skin color who are just as proud of where they are from and don't appreciate the African suffix attached to their nationality. In examining this phenomenon around the world, we are the only country which uses such prefixes to denote ethnicity and nationality.  There aren't any African-English or Vietnamese-French. People are comfortable with who there are and where they are from.

Which is what is missing from many people here.  Too few of us, myself included, know exactly where our ancestors are from.  For as long as we have been free, not too many of us have traced our roots back to where our families are from.  Information is in abundance today and so are scams.  Do your research before committing to such a service if that it how you wish to find your heritage. Be sure to do some research on your own prior to handling over any money.  This will afford you some important family time getting to know those who share your genes.

Common Sense, Manners and Home Training

You’ve heard it several times in your life about someone’s kids;  "They have no home-training." Do something stupid and someone may say; "You have no common sense!" Say or do something rude and very quickly; "You have no manners!"  All are usually followed by "Didn’t your parents teach you?" Hopefully they did or will if they haven’t.

After dwelling on it for a bit I started to wonder who created these rules and when? Who decided that I should hold the door for someone behind me to be courteous rather than shut the door quickly for fear that they may be out to get me? That I should help an old lady across the street rather than continue to my destination and face being late thus inconveniencing another person?  Well it seems that society does as a whole.

Though society makes the overall judgment on how we behave, parents individually determine what to teach their children.  If you think "Please" and "Thank you" are a waste of breath because people are typically ungrateful, fine don’t teach these rules to your kids. "What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine" so I don’t need to tell my kids that they need to ask before taking something from someone else. There is no difference between inside voices and outside voices because I can’t hear when people whisper.

Some of these rules exist to keep you in compliance with the law while others are opinions on how others want you to behave around them. Whether you agree or not can save you from glaring looks, whispers and unwanted comments.  I can also go as far as save your job, relationship or get you out of trouble with the law with a lesser or no penalty at all.

So what makes sense so common? Why does everyone know that green means go and red means stop or that you’ll get burned if you touch a hot stove?  One word, experience. No matter how many times you tell a child that a stove is hot, they don’t believe you until they actually touch it and feel the heat.  Sure they’ll point to it and say the word hot but it doesn’t really hit home unless they have experienced hot versus cold. 

We assume that everyone knows the difference between hot & cold and shouldn’t be surprised that the stove is hot to the touch.  Too many times we make assumptions about how people should conduct themselves.  Even worse, we impose our own judgments on others and then shun them when they don’t live up to our unknown expected standards.

Until we are born with an instruction manual or all parents are give the same copy of the Guide to Life there will be no common sense. Home training will always exist but it will always be different ways to going about it and will results will not always yield the same behavior in children. Manners will always differ per family structure thus conflicts are inevitable. Until we all agree on what is acceptable without compromise, home training, manors and common sense will be a paradox.

Words people use that are worse than the N word

Preface: While working on this series, Jay-Z appeared on Oprah and they had a short discussion about this topic. This brings about a great time to introduce this topic since it is in the always in a topic of interest for many.  Incase you missed it, here is the interview.  If not, scroll ahead or click here.

First, let's get it out of the way; nigger, niggers, nigga and niggas.  There, now we can move on.

For a long time, I've been able to step outside myself and see things for what they really are.  It's sort of like in cartoons where someone has a near-death experience and then they see themselves laying on the ground while talking to a ghost or the grim reaper.  Being able to put aside my own judgments and opinions is a skill that I have honed over the years.  Knowing when and where to use it has always been a challenge due to people not really knowing what to expect as your opinion.  Often times this type of thinking doesn't go along with popular opinion and getting others to see that is though but thankfully I have also been blessed with the great ability to use analogies very accurately to express my views.

Language is a huge part of Hip Hop, a little more so than it is in normal life.  How can it be more?  Because unlike normal language, the language of Hip Hop is in a constant state of evolution.  Slang changes so often that a meaning today may not be the same meaning tomorrow (Down Low?ahem). The language of Hip Hop has also been picked up and adopted by other cultures but it is often not used with the same respect as it was intended.

Before I get into the details, let me give you a little background on what this is about…  In early 2008, I decided to learn a new language.  Always itching for a challenge, I chose Russian.  Mainly because it was the only language of which many people around me spoke as their first language and partly because it was something different. In case you are wondering Japanese was my other choice because of my love of anime and manga.  To do this I decided to engulf myself in its culture as well, something they try to do in school when teaching language classes but I think they do a poor job of it.  Or maybe I wasn't paying attention, I'm not sure on that one. 

While trying to learn the language I wanted to know how people learn a new language and in doing so I found something interesting.  There was an article on use of profanity.  I don't know if it's typical for people to want to learn profanity in another language but they sure do joke about it often.  Having no interest in learning profanity, I read the article to see how other cultures view its use.  All my life I've used it but I try now minimize its use. The article mentioned that profanity was most often used by the poorer people of society and that the upper class felt it was beneath them to speak such words.  I certainly can relate to that though my tastes haven't grown with my bank account.

I decided to look into how other cultures view profanity and offensive words and saw the same result; used by the lower class and shunned by the upper.  This got me thinking about our society. There are those in the upper class that make their money of being foul mouthed; Howard Stern, most rappers and many comedians of both genders. Now I'm wondering what happened to us? 

Why is America and Hip Hop the exception?  Figuring it out for America is too big a question for me to tackle but I can handle Hip Hop. This one is simple; because it's popular to do. Chances are that your parents use it, and so do your friends.  You hear it sung in songs and delivered in poetry.  Laughed at on TV and ridiculed in politics.  Some use it for shock value, some use it for expression and still others can't tolerate the sound of it.

For blacks there has always been one word that went from a racial slur utter by others to a term of endearment spoken proudly by kin. And all with the change of 2 letters.  It's used is so often that even as a racial slur it doesn't carry the same impact as it once did. So much so that it is now accepted use among some races that used to use it in malice.

But this isn't about that word. Countless others have debated it many times over and will for generations to come. This is about the words that are used everyday which are secretly damaging but people don't realize it.  Their use is typically due to a lack of understanding the repercussions of their meanings much like the N word.

Since there are many words to explore this will be many articles explaining each word in detail. In this series I will shine a light on these words and explore deeply their meaning and the problems with their use.  Do you use these word?  Come back soon and find out if you are furthering social damage with your words.