Site Meter

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Movin' On...

In 2 weeks we will be packing our truck and heading east. For me, back home to Michigan and for Rob away from his home of Chicago. No matter that I grew up in Lansing and we are moving to Grand Rapids, if you're from Michigan the whole state is home. Especially when your family is speckled all over the mitten. Anyway, here are my lists of what I will miss and not miss about Chicago. Consider them a work in progress because that will not be complete until after we move.

What I will miss about Chicago:
Our friends- I won't name you all, you know who you are.
The Janes- my sisters in fringe, thank you for taking me in!
the El- I love traveling by train
going to shows- even though we don't do it often,it's nice to be able to when we want
Lincoln Square
The Chicago Reader- although it's not as good as it used to be
Shelly's Freeze- nothing like soft serve 4 blocks from home
alley recycling(official and unofficial)- oh blue bin and junk trucks, I will miss you
HarvesTime- no explanation needed
the good food in general- trite but true

What I will NOT miss about Chicago:
The expense- how did they forget to tax the air here? I'm sure it's coming soon..
The crappy drivers- they all suck. All of 'em.
The over stimulation of big city living - noise, lights, noise, lights, noise, lights
people going to fast to be kind
ants- I know they are everywhere but they are in my kitchen HERE. Hate 'em.
crazy neighbors- hopefully our new neighbors will not be weird
the corruption- it doesn't pay to follow politics here, they have their own rules
getting the stink eye if I put ketchup on my hot dog
CPD- see corruption above
the bus- not a fan of the bus
how it takes at least 30 minutes to get anywhere in a 5 mile radius
crappy bikers
- as opposed to the good ones
the segregation

Saturday, June 6, 2009

You don't really know me, either.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a huge fan of the editorial stylings of Leonard Pitts Jr of The Miami Herald. He says what I think so much better than I do I usually just refer to his column to get my point across.
His latest OpEd is in regards to racial stereotypes in reference to the Bonnie Sweeten story- you know, the mom who claimed she and her daughter had been kidnapped by black men but really she went to Walt Disney World? ("Bonnie Sweeten you've just been assaulted whatever will you do now?" "I'm going to Disney World!")When I first heard her story reported there was no mention that she had identified her 'assailants' as black but deep in my mind I thought "I'll bet she said they were black". I also doubted her story from the minute I heard it. I'm a cynic like that, or perhaps just a realist. I thought of all the white women who have pulled similar, or more heinous, stunts and blamed the ubiquitous "black man". Susan Smith came to mind as well as Ashley Todd the McCain campaign worker who carved up her own face last fall and blamed a 'black man'.
So it was no surprise to find references to these incidents, and others, in Pitts' latest OpEd You Don't Really Know Me where he decries the use of racial stereotypes by white people to cover their own crimes. A very valid opinion and i agree with him wholeheartedly.
Yes, I actually have a but....
But, I want to take the conversation he started and go deeper. Everyone keeps talking bout this 'authentic conversation about race' we are NOT having in this country and I want to have it. Leonard Pitts has opened the door and I want to walk in, sit down with my cup of tea and talk about this.
So Leonard, let's talk....
First of all, I'm a huge fan and thanks for your work.
Now, I don't want what I am about to tell you to seem like I am making excuses for the Bonnie Sweetens or the Susan Smiths of the world. They are obviously disturbed people that have issues far beyond racist leanings. In fact, I prefer to see their racist actions as part and parcel of their mental illness. I mean, I'm sure you know that most mentally stable white women don't walk around thinking black men are gonna carjack or kidnap them.
Here's where I'm coming from- I'm a white woman who was lucky enough to have the life experience to grow up in a racially integrated environment. Ok, I was the white kid who lived in 'the black neighborhood' in my town, Lansing Michigan and things were pretty racially blended in school. Yes, I can honestly say with no irony, some of my best friends were black. All of my neighbors were and many of my teachers were. So, there is my brief history.
Here's where I'm going with this- when I grew up and left Lansing I slowly came to realize that the rest of the world was not as racially integrated as I felt Lansing was. I was suddenly made quite aware of my 'whiteness' and the reaction it caused in some blacks I encountered. A few examples-
When I busted shoplifters at the Musicland I worked at in Pontiac I heard, without fail, "It's because I'm black!" when the perpetrator was black. I didn't understand that at first and I would think 'race didn't factor into why I busted you, but rather, the ripped open cassingle dangling from your pocket'. The I realized the thief didn't care who I was, just that I was white, and if he could play on my (nonexistent) 'white guilt' I might let him go. Freedom through intimidation and playing the race card. Yeah, it never worked.
When I visited a white girl friend who had moved to Hyde Park in Chicago to attend grad school we went out for drinks like all college girls do. Walking home at 3 a.m. we were pretty drunk and laughing and having a good time. We were suddenly approached by a black boy of about 16 who ran up to us and screamed "Boogity Boo!" in our faces, obviously waiting for us to run screaming in fear. You should have seen the look on his face when we just burst into laughter. It was obvious he thought his blackness was enough to scare a couple of white girls who had a few drinks in them and were walking through a predominately black neighborhood at 3 a.m.
But he didn't know who he was dealing with. He couldn't see beyond our whiteness like we could see that beyond his blackness, he was just a kid and not scary at all.

Mr. Pitts, with these two stories, and there are many more where these come from, I am trying to impress on you that while, yes, there are white people who perpetuate the negative stereotypes of blacks there are also black people who encourage these negative stereotypes by playing on the perceived fear whites have of blacks. It's a vicious cycle played out by certain members of both races. Now, I know you have addressed this issue to some degree- your writings on Kwame Kilpatrick come to mind.
So when you say
Because I'm your scapegoat, your boogeyman. Cadillac drivin', pimp-walkin', white woman-lustin', me.

I say, I've been YOUR scape goat too. I've been your boogeyman too. Uptight, racially ignorant, black-man fearing, white-girl me.

And when you say
Remember when you denied me a job, then called me a thief? Remember when you blew up my school then called me ignorant? Remember when you killed my father, then complained I was filled with rage?

I say, remember when you were caught stealing and then called me a racist when I pulled the evidence out of your pocket? Remember when I hired you and then when you completely broke all the rules of the job and eventually got fired, you called me a racist? Remember when I decided I wasn't afraid to walk through your neighborhood and you went out of your way to scare me away?

And when you say
There's no point in digging deeper, no purpose served in wondering why, when she wanted to put a face to a crime, she chose mine.

I say, yes, let's dig deeper and figure out exactly why when she wanted to put a face on her crime she chose yours.
Perhaps Bonnie Sweeten has had experiences like mine- being called a racist for the mere fact of being white, being the target of a 'Let's scare the white girl" game, having her white guilt, if she has any, manipulated during the commission of a crime. Perhaps these experiences were compounded by racially homogeneous existence.
Add all of this to her compromised mental health- let's face it, who fakes a kidnapping and goes to Disney World?- and it's not hard to see why she would pick your face.
Of course I know nothing of Bonnie Sweeten, how she was raised or her personal experiences. But my point is this- if we want to discover the roots of what causes negative racial stereotyping we all need to take a hard and critical look at how members of our own race contribute to the perpetuation of those stereotypes and start there. I can't ever explain to that black boy in Hyde Park how his actions may have reinforced a negative racial stereotype in someone who didn't know better. And I have the feeling your deep anger about the actions of the Sweetens and the Smiths of the world would be completely lost on them.
But the boy and Hyde Park would probably listen to you.
And maybe I could have an impact on Sweeten by explaining how her actions make white women like me look bad.
So maybe, in order to have that 'real' dialogue on race we all say we want, and need, in this country we need to focus as much on how we contribute to the problem- either by perpetrating wrongs or ignoring the when we see them- as we do on those who do wrong against us.
Maybe that will finally get us over that hump, maybe it won't. It can't hurt.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

In case it's unclear, this is a racist comment... straight from a Congressional candidate.

In this piece Ohio Congressional candidate Mark Krikorian had this to say about the pronunciation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor's name:

Most e-mailers were with me on the post on the pronunciation of Judge Sotomayor's name (and a couple griped about the whole Latina/Latino thing — English dropped gender in nouns, what, 1,000 years ago?). But a couple said we should just pronounce it the way the bearer of the name prefers, including one who pronounces her name "freed" even though it's spelled "fried," like fried rice. (I think Cathy Seipp of blessed memory did the reverse — "sipe" instead of "seep.") Deferring to people's own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English (which is why the president stopped doing it after the first time at his press conference), unlike my correspondent's simple preference for a monophthong over a diphthong, and insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn't be giving in to.

and he went on to conclude:

This may seem like carping, but it's not. Part of our success in assimilation has been to leave whole areas of culture up to the individual, so that newcomers have whatever cuisine or religion or so on they want, limiting the demand for conformity to a smaller field than most other places would. But one of the areas where conformity is appropriate is how your new countrymen say your name, since that's not something the rest of us can just ignore, unlike what church you go to or what you eat for lunch. And there are basically two options — the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there's a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.

Seriously? So really he is saying "Go ahead and be 'ethnic' just don't force me to acknowledge or respect it."

Subtext: "Real Americans -aka white people- shouldn't have to lower themselves to learn any slightly difficult 'ethnic' pronunciations. Not when we are kind enough to allow 'them' into 'our' country."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

1959 or 2009- Were we a 'better' nation then?

While reading Leonard Pitts' latest column on hate in America I came across an interesting response by one of the readers. The reader commented that things were much better in the 1950's when "the 10 Commandments were on the school walls" and that there was no need for policemen to patrol schools and that crime was much worse today.
A friend recently posed this same thought to me during a debate we were having on liberal vs. conservative values. He was sure that rates of abortion, STD's and viloent crime were much lower in the 'family values' era of the 1950's tah during modern times.
Oh really? Let's see...

Abortion rates will be hard to track due to abortions being illegal until 1970's.
But I found this study from last year:
The U.S. abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1976, with about 20 percent of pregnancies being terminated by abortion, the nonprofit Alan Guttmacher Institute reported on Thursday.
Its survey of all known abortion providers found the abortion rate fell 9 percent between 2000 and 2005, probably due to a combination of better access to contraception and less access to abortion providers, the group said.

Teen pregnancy:

The teenage birth rate in the United States is the highest in the developed world, and the teenage abortion rate is also high.[3] The U.S. teenage pregnancy rate was at a high in the 1950s and has decreased since then, although there has been an increase in births out of wedlock.[13] The teenage pregnancy rate decreased significantly in the 1990
Even though we can't track abortions as easily I think it is safe to say that if teen pregnancy has decreased than abortion has followed a similar trend- you can't abort it you are not pregnant.
Also- teen pregnancy is now at a 15 year high thanks to 'abstinence only' sex education.


The suicide rate has decreased from the 1950-1980 rate of 13.2 to the present rate of about 11.
The suicide rate for ages 5-24 (youth suicide) increased dramatically from 1950 to the early to mid 1990s but then began to decrease thereafter.
The suicide rate for ages 45-85+ decreased significantly from 1950 to present.
Divorce rates have gone up but remember- until the late 1960's and into the 1970's it was illegal to use birth control in many states and it was still legal to rape your wife. Once women were seen as human beings rather than property owned by their husband I'm sure it was easier to leave abusive husbands behind. Oh, and in many cases women could not get credit or loans or were otherwise not taken seriously in the financial world if they were single. Once woman did not have to rely on men to survive I'm sure the divorce rate climbed. As it should. You shouldn't have to marry someone to survive so I see that as a good thing.

According to this table Cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported by state health departments and rates per 100,000 population: United States, 1941–2007 from the CDC in 1941 syphilis was at 362 cases per 100,000 and in 2007 it was at 13 per 100,00. Gonorrhea was at 146/100,000 in 1941 and in 2007 it was at 118/100,000. There is no record of Chlamydia until 1984 but it did increase from 6.5/100,000 to over 300/100,000. But that could be due to better screening in recent years rather than an actual increase in the disease because chlamydia is known as the 'silent' disease and can go undetected with no symptoms.
So there has been a decrease in STD's.

Violent Crime/Gang violence:
From the US DOJ:

Since 1994 violent crime rates have declined, reaching the lowest level ever in 2005.

Teen rape:

So yeah, the next time someone waxes nostalgic about 'the good old days' direct them here and they can see just how good those days weren't. Except for music. I'll take music from the '50's and 60's any day over the crap on the radio today.
I mean really, no one does stuff like this anymore:
The Sonics:

The Kinks

The Beach Boys:

Archie Bell and the Drells:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Food, or lack thereof, causes nightmares...

Tuesday night I dreamt that I helped some friends clean up a grisly murder. Why I was friends with people who kill- I dunno. Anyway, there was blood everywhere so I brought the bleach but I was scared about being caught so the dream was quite scary.
That was after I stuffed myself on enchiladas and paczkis and beer so I blamed the weird food combo for addling my brain.
Well last night- after day one of the cleanse- I had an arguably more disturbing dream. I dreamt I was at my stepmom's house (which is scary, trust me) and everywhere I looked the only thing to eat were cookies, cakes and pies. Oh and bread and butter. So, I turned on the TV to distract myself from hunger. The only thing on TV was a movie about Justin Timberlake and Brittney Spears-like characters, except they were totally C-List. A cross between a VH1 behind the Scenes and a Lifetime movie with REALLY bad music.
Finally I started sneaking pieces of bread and buttering them and eating them. And it wasn't even good bread- it was store bought, pre-sliced and bagged stuff.
I woke up feeling like I had actually eaten the bread and felt soooo guilty.
Now, why is that dream worse that cleaning up a brutal murder? Because it could really happen. I know I will never be friends with people who want me to supply get away cars and bleach for their crimes but the bread is always taunting me and I could snap at any time. The bread is real. And it is looking at me. Seriously...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

And the cleanse starts.......NOW!

Yesterday was Fat Tueday and I lived it up- enchiladas, beer and not one but TWO Paczkis. Today, however, is when I start my cleanse and I will right all the wrongs of the past 3 months. I hope.
This cleanse will be a bit more relaxed than my last one. Before it was no wheat, no refined sugar, no caffeine, no booze, no red meat and no dairy.
This time, I am focusing less on elimination more on 'brain healthy'foods and habits.
I still intend to eliminate refined sugars altogether. I will NOT eliminate wheat but I will eliminated baked goods with wheat flour. In fact, I'll eliminate baked goods altogether. So that means things like tabbouleh are ok.
Alcohol is out-for now. I may reintroduce red wine in a few weeks after my tolerance is lowered and one glass will do. Dairy is out for now and but will be reintroduced in moderation in a few weeks. I will allow myself dairy when I can get to the point where I don't see a 3lb block of cheese and seriously consider just eating it straight from the wrapper.
I don't eat much red meat so I'm good there and I will keep caffeine in the form of black and green tea. Caffeine is on the 'improved brain function' approved list!
I have my Metagenics UltraMeal again and I will start the BrainSustain in about a week.
I know, you're thinking "Kate! That sounds like a breeze! Especially compared to your last cleanse!"
Well here's the catch- one of the things I will be doing is a 'calorie restricted' diet.
According to the article Six Ways to Boost Brainpower
It’s not just what you eat that affects the brain. It’s also how much. Research has shown that laboratory animals fed calorie-restricted diets—anywhere from 25 to 50 percent less than normal—live longer than other animals do. And it turns out they also have improved brain function, performing better on tests of memory and coordination. Rodents on calorie-restricted diets are also better able to resist the damage that accompanies Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

Seriously, my current caloric intake is atrocious. A 1700 calorie diet would probably be a 50% reduction in my case- hello, did you not see the part where I ate TWO paczkis yesterday- so I am aiming for that. I also have to cut saturated fats out- unless they come in the form of nuts or fish which have enough 'good' fats to negate the 'bad' ones. Walnuts are apparently best for Omega fats which improve brain function. Blueberries and spinach are also on the menu.
Other brain boosters-
--I need aerobic exercise- so daily GoGo is back on the schedule.
--I need to listen to music- this should be easy. I have really lapsed in my music listening as I listen to WBEZ/NPR all day now, so I need to work it back into the daily schedule.
--I need to play video games. Seriously, it's on the list. I suck at video games and never play them. I may need Rob's help with this one.
--I need to meditate. Another hard one. I have a rough time sitting still for any length of time unless I am asleep. Maybe I will be so weakened from my calorie restricted diet it won't be so hard.

we'll see....

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The quest to grow my brain mad scientist style.

Last May I did a cleanse- no wheat, no refine sugar, no dairy, no caffeine, no alcohol and no red meat. I did about 3-4 weeks of this and also used the Metagenics medical food supplements UltraMeal and UltraClear to help. After about 3 or 4 days of feeling totally awful I started feeling totally awesome- I had more energy than ever, slept great and was much calmer and happier. Oh, and I was also exercising almost everyday as I was rehearsing for my first show with The Janes. The purpose of this cleanse was to feel better and break some bad habits- daily doses coffee, sugar and booze.It worked- for several months in fact- but now I need to go back to dietary boot camp and try again. The long cold winter months of comfort food and red wine have taken their toll and now I am feeling sluggish and slow every day.
So now, in preparation for starting graduate school, I am going to focus this cleanse on improving my brain function through nutrition, exercise and other habits. It just so happens that Scientific American posted an article entitled Six Ways to Boost Brain Power this month- as if they knew what I was up to.
Using the information in this article- among others- along with UltraMeal and Dr Perlmutter's Brain Sustain I intend to make the next month all about clearing the winter fuzz from my head and wake up from this long winter nap. And I'll start right after Paczki season...