Thursday, March 24, 2011


One of the constant theme in my rants is political correctness. As always I'll stress that I am sensitive to race, color, creed, religion, gender and whatever else people get offended by. I also think the world is a better place with some semblance of political correctness as it has made a lot of ignorant terms and expression stand out as just that, ignorant. However, as with most things, people have taken it to the extreme and everyone is forced to walk on eggshells before saying anything that could be even in some infinitesimally tiny way be misconstrued as politically incorrect. Anything traipsing within a country mile of being slightly un-PC sets off a series of tsk-tsks, head shaking and lectures on sensitivity. Me, I'm not buying it. We spend so much time worrying about how we feel others feel about certain terms, words, and yes, stereotypes that we tend to make it a bigger issue then it should have ever become. In many case a we make it a bigger issue then those who are "affected" by it even realize (or care about). There is an old expression "call a spade a spade" which basically stated means it is what it is, don't over complicate it. The funny thing is that if you use this expression, someone could actually accuse you of being un-PC as even tho the spade in question is a shovel, it also has a past as a derogatory term (see Blazing Saddles if you don't get the reference). Whatever. Below I'm going to mention a couple of terms which are generally considered politically incorrect and the situation in which they were used and the reaction it elicited just to prove how silly some of this is

Oriental- Now considered an inaccurate, dated and yes, politically incorrect term for Asians as a group. The fact that there are thousands of Asian restaurants, owned by Asians, using some form of Orient or Oriental in their name doesn't seem to matter. I think it's dated in that no one really refers to the continent of Asia as "The Orient" (as opposed to the Occident...) anymore even tho it was so for decades. I think it's more the fact the term Oriental was used as a mass tag for anyone from that part of the world regardless of their actual home country. Think, "check out that Oriental fella over there". 2 recent, real world, Rich O experiences with this term.
  1. A recent conversation between someone close to me and a person she was doing business with got to a point where the other person, a white male in his early 30's, mentioned an earlier customer who was an "older, Oriental woman". Well, she went into a diatribe about how Oriental isn't appropriate, he's too young to be plead ignorance on using outdated terms like that and generally (and in a good-natured way) browbeat him for a good minute. The result was he lost composure and seemed distracted for the rest of the meeting. My opinion? Unnecessary browbeating.The more questionable content was him specifying that the customer was elderly and Asian, not using the term Oriental
  2. I was at work on a quiet day and was musing aloud with a co-worker about a restaurant I saw called Oriental Chinese Restaurant. I was carrying on like I often do about how silly I thought the name was and comparing it to opening a place called European French Restaurant or the like. Well, quicker then the speed of light another co-worker ran up to me said "there are Chinese customers in the store!!! I can hear you from here. That's so inappropriate". I said, well, no, it isn't. I said not one thing that was inappropriate or insulting (though maybe not terribly funny either). I was pointing out the absurdity of the name of an eatery, not the customers, the Chinese people, or really anyone at all and I told my co-worker to get a grip and...well, I won't print the rest
African American- Probably one of the best examples of a politically correct term. It is the now accepted term for those formerly identified as black. I don't have a ton of black friends but those I do have still refer to themselves as black, not African American. Look, anything is better then "colored" but still, it seems overcompensating. The funny part is people as so afraid to say "black" anymore they are describing any "person of color" regardless of birthplace or ancestral home as African American. Couple of quick examples;
  1. I was serving jury duty recently and most of the people involved in this case of larceny on both sides were natives of Cameroon and only a couple of them were naturalized American citizens. So basically 2 were indeed African Americans and the rest were Africans (get out your world map). When we were deliberating one guys was trying to point out the lawyer for the defense was implying prejudice in one part of the case because everyone on the defenses side were "African Americans". After 4 days with these strangers I was feeling like being a prick so I pointed out that only 2 were African Americans. He said no, all of them are and I said, Um, no, most are Africans, not African Americans. He said, well, you know what I mean and I said, no, what do you mean. He said well, they'll all...and I said "black"? He said, well you can't really say that anymore and I said, actually, yes you can if it it more accurate then incorrectly identifying them as Americans, which they weren't
  2. Mike Grier who played hockey at B.U. (and who's dad once worked for the Pat's) recently passed a milestone in playing 1,000 games in the NHL which is remarkable. I was at the bar and in discussing I said it's a remarkable feat that is being lessened by the constant mentioning of "1st African American". A guy sitting next to me said "what about Grant Fuhr" and I answered "no on both counts" he said "huh"? I answered "he didn't play 1,000 games and he's Canadian" to which he answered "Oh, I thought he played over 1,000 games and there are tons of Canadian African Americans"...
  3. A friend of a friend, who is indeed black, and I were joking about this very subject and he said he hates being referred to as an African American. He said I'm American, born and raised and the furthest back I can trace my family to is Haiti which last I checked was NOT in Africa
Midget- Admittedly this is one of those words that just sounds ugly. But it was a long accepted term defining a person of short stature but otherwise standard proportions. Now, I don't have a problem with people taking offense to the term but is it any worse then the PC "little person"? In my opinion, no,
  1. Only real life example wasn't really real life but from a reality tv show. The show about a traveling troupe of midget wrestlers and their lives on the road. The leader of this merry gang calls himself and his cohorts midgets to the chagrin of dwarf activists. On the first show he got in the ring at a show at a crowded bar, stood in the center of the ring and asked the crowd "what am I"? No one said a word so he asked again "what kind of person am I"? Finally, one woman yelled out "a little person" to which he responded "f*#k you, I'm a midget. There's nothing little about me". Amen brother, amen
So, my point? Relax people. I know it's different but if someone calls me white and not Caucasian I'm ok (and based on skin tone I actually am whiter then white). If someone refers to me as a Mick in regard to my Irish heritage it's all good. If someone else takes offense to someone calling me that, that's a different story. Mind your own business until you know how those you are defending feel about the word you are defending them from. We all know the inappropriate, ignorant, insulting terms that have been more or less eradicated from every day lexicon (thank god) but let's not go overboard n the other direction stumbling and bumbling over words we think may insult someone. I'm sure if you tried hard enough you could find someone offended by almost any word so just speak as you speak or spend the rest of your life self-censoring everything you say

In the interest of those of you members of the PCA, I'm recommending the following words and terms be eliminated from the English language (sorry, no explanations, figure it out yourself)
  • Colored pencils, colored socks
  • Indian Summer, Cleveland Indians, Indianapolis, and the state of Indiana
  • Blackboard, black eye, Black Death, black mark
  • The midget division in hockey (as well as bantams...can't insult those roosters)
  • Oriental Avenue in Monopoly and the Orient Heights T-Station
  • Broad side, Notre Dame, Chick Fila,
  • Eskimo Pie
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Doo Wop music, Guinea pig, Father Guido Sarducci, and the Dagobar System from Star Wars
  • Paddy cakes and paddy wagon (ok, that is an actual derogatory term which is now commonplace)
I think you get my drift. Goodnight and have a pleasant tomorrow

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Like it Hot

Throughout the history, and in this great country specifically, there have always been unofficial labels for a period of time known as eras. There is typically an event or an occurrence which is most often associated with kicking off an era be it reality or just popular opinion. Some significant eras in United States history and the events that are popularly associated with kicking them off would be The Great Depression kicking off with the Crash of 1929 (Black Tuesday), The Space Age kicked off by the launch of Sputnik, or The Summer of Love kicked off by the Monterey Pop Music Festival (really the Human-Be-In earlier that spring but no one remembers that). I've been trying to come up with a suitable name for the age we're currently in. I know the event that kicked it off but we'll get to that

So, to start a new era you need an event to kick it off. Well, here are some examples of potential era defining events:

  • 2005 Administrative law judge Roy Pearson sues a dry cleaner for $67,000,000 for losing his pair of pants (popularly known as the Great American Pants Suit)
  • 2005 Kurt Prohaska files suit against a homeowner who's house he was attempting to rob as he fell through the skylight and was later shot by the owner
  • Caesar Barber seeks a class action suit against the Big 4 fast food chains for his being overweight
  • 2000 Cleanthi Peters sued Universal Studios for $15,000. She claimed to have suffered extreme fear, mental anguish, and emotional distress due to visiting Universal Studios’ Halloween Horror Nights haunted house, which she said was too scary
  • 2006 Allen Heckard sued Michael Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for $832 million. He claimed to suffer defamation, permanent injury, and emotional pain and suffering because people often mistook him for the basketball star
Are we seeing a theme here? When did we lose our collective minds? What was the jumping off point of this litigious madness? When was it decided that we are not ever wrong, stupid, or at fault and there is always someone else to blame? I contend it was the 1994 McDonald's coffee case. For those that don't remember this landmark case in foolishness here is a quick and dirty summary. In 1992, 79 year old Stella Liebeck received 3rd degree burns on her legs, buttocks, and groin from coffee spilled while holding the cup between her knees in the passenger seat while trying to add cream and sugar. The contention was the coffee was "too hot". Long story short she was eventually awarded a 6-figure settlement somewhere between $160,000-$600,000 depending on what you read. As a result you can no longer get a cup of anything containing a hot beverage with less then 10,000 warnings about the fact that, hey, the liquid contained herein is f'n hot!

Now, I'm not heartless and I do feel bad she was hurt. Having said that, anyone who can blame anyone but themselves or anything but stupidity and ignorance for holding a cup of hot coffee between their knees is the one who should be sued for sub-human intelligence. I mean, hot liquids burn, they always have. Drinking and smoking are bad for you, people, not guns, kill people, please don't feed the animals means please don't feed the damned animals. I'm sorry, fully grown adults of even marginal intelligence should, no, MUST, know these things. There is no excuse and it's really nobodies fault but your own

This diatribe really hits 2 major issues. The first is the legal end. There are unfortunately tons and tons of loopholes in local, national, and international laws. These loopholes are exploited all the time and then effectively closed once precedence has taken place. I don't blame the lawmakers or lawyers as with the former it is impossible to cover ever possible contingency and in the latter it is their job to find these things and in many legit, on the up and up cases the world has become a better place because of the outcome. There has to be a person willing to pursue litigation in cases for personal gain above and beyond logic (ok, they can be eked along by an interested party) in order for this to take place. And more often then not the lawsuits are brought against entities they know they can get money out of. If it had been Mary's Donut shop coffee that Stella had burnt herself with, would she have attempted to sue for damages? Maybe, maybe not but the odds are against it. The biggest issue is a lot of these cases of what could be considered "frivolous litigation" cause a logjam of legit cases of negligence wrongful injury that can takes years to be heard and costs us millions of dollars

The second issue is people's growing inability to take responsibility for their own actions. You spilled your coffee and burned yourself. I'm so sorry you got hurt but how can that be anyone's fault but your own? You drank, you drove, you crashed and hurt yourself or someone else. It's YOUR fault. Not the beer company, not the car company, not the company that made the traffic light that your ran. Your weight, blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure are off the charts unhealthy because you showed no restraint, not because some fast food joint tempted you with commercials claiming they are healthy. No, ultimately we're each responsible for our own actions be they beneficial or detrimental and trying to pin blame on someone else because they have more money then you is wrong on every level (ok, the Pants case was hardly suing a wealthy person but the man was in financial dire straits at the time).

Obviously this is all personal opinion based on things I've heard and "researched" on the internet (and if it's on the internet you know it's true) and, to paraphrase The Town, "everything I know about law I learned from watching Law & Order". Anyone with even a working knowledge of law can rip my story to shreds and that's why it's "opinion". Look, thank god there are laws that protect us against those that are often in a better position of power then we are. My point is it's a crazy world we're now living in where logic seems to no longer exist, up is down and black is white. Come on people, let's get our collective heads out of our collective asses and stand up and take responsibly for our own actions. Nope, easier to find someone else to blame for our shortcomings and maybe make a few bucks while we're at it. Thank you Stella, and Welcome to Generation Litigation!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A St Paddy's Day re-post

From 2009 but the sentiment remains the same. Enjoy

Ah, March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day. The day in which we celebrate everything Irish and everyone is Irish for a day. Me? I’m not buying it. Being Irish for a day is like being Christian only on Easter and Christmas or in love only on Valentines Day. My ancestry is Irish on both sides and I’ve made it a point to study my ancestry, been to Ireland 3 times and hell, my personality alone exudes the atypical Irish stereotype. I’m Irish 24/7/365 and don’t need a special holiday to celebrate this

Let’s face some certain facts:

1) St Patrick’s Day is more of an Irish American holiday then an Irish holiday although it has become bigger in Ireland and made traveling to Ireland for this date more a destination trip then ever before

2) The traits of being Irish that are celebrated on St Paddy’s Day are most of the negative stereotypes propagated by the media and popular fiction and not history. It celebrates the Irish as a bunch of drunks (true in many cases but not in all), that Ireland must be chock full of leprechauns, and that the Irish exclusively wear green from head to toe. It doesn’t celebrate the fact the Irish are hard working, industrious folk that were critical in the growth of THIS country

3) It is the one holiday that straddles the line between Hallmark holiday (the sheer amount of crap you can buy to celebrate) and Amateur Night (New Year’s Eve and night before Thanksgiving being the other 2) in that it becomes more and more popular because the stores shove it down our throats and at the same time all these poseurs and wannabes are out drinking and generally getting in the way of us real drinkers

4) People want to hear “Irish” music, which of course they mean traditional or Irish folk music. As far as they are concerned Irish bands ceased progressing with the Clancy Brothers and the Irish Rovers. I suppose that all Irish high school kids walk around playing the Unicorn Song on their Ipods and that most of us never heard of U2, the Corrs or the Pogues?

Finally, some dos and don’ts:

Don’t order corned beef and cabbage (aka boiled dinner) if you want authentic Irish, as corned beef is not a preparation indigenous to Ireland (the cost of salt was way too high)

Do order bangers and mash if you want authentic

Don’t order green beer. ‘nuff said

Do order Guinness or Smithwicks or another real product of Ireland

Don’t order a black and tan as it has a very derogatory meaning to the Irish (and hell, don’t spoil Guinness with anything else)

Do have a shot of Jameson’s, just about the tastiest stuff on earth

Don’t speak with a phony Irish brogue

Do have fun without making a total moron of yourself and, if you are indeed Irish, your heritage

Do visit one of your areas many Irish pubs

Don’t forget they are typically open 360 plus other days a year and not just St. Paddy’s Day

Have fun, drink, laugh, and raise a toast to those whom gone before you. Rejoice in being Irish if only for a day but don’t make a mockery of a proud, hard working people who helped build THIS great country as well as their own