Sunday, November 2, 2014

What racism is not

One of the things white people as a culture have in common (except for a few openly proud bigots) is the fear of being explicitly called or otherwise associated as being a racist.  This is in fact what gives the Race Card its trump status.  As a white man I realize I can't speak about racism from any sort of personal experience, but conceptually the subject needs to be discussed.  I've seen too many people unnecessarily tiptoe around race discussions out of irrational fear.  So as a public service, I'll get the conversation started.

Before moving on we need to define racism.  Here is my own definition in two parts:

  1. The belief that one race is superior to another.
  2. The belief that any particular individual is any more or less capable because of their race.
Knowing this, here are three examples people typically confuse as being racist which should not qualify.
  1. Mentioning someone's race to describe them.  If you're trying to find out if someone knows a person you're talking about, it's okay to describe them as black, white, asian, or hispanic. I've seen white friends try to avoid bringing up this obviously helpful attribute to the point of it being comical.  As another example, in a recent Yahoo article, author Calvin Hennick makes another common mistake, assuming that a person who mentions a person's race to describe an encounter that scared them is racist.  The woman described a angry traffic encounter with someone she described as "a big black guy".  In this case, the description probably wasn't the most relevant, but unless she described him as a big angry guy and then followed that up with "whisper-cup hands" and softly but intentionally accentuated "...And he was black!" it was probably just the psychology of trust and appearance and not a specific indictment of race.

  2. Connecting a person's race to cuisine.  People of similar cultures often prefer similar fashions, music, and foods oddly enough.  Most of us also know that not everyone of a similar culture will like all of the same things, so this may bring questions.  So if a white person asks a black person if they like chicken, ribs, or watermelon it may just be an honest question (or jab between trusting friends), but even if a person incorrectly makes assumptions about what someone else may prefer to eat or drink based on race, stereotyping is a far cry from racism.

  3. Loosely correlated subjects or coincidences.  Newsweek was recently blasted for this cover about the risks of smuggled bush meat spreading ebola.  However, because of the hypersensitivity around past racist literature drawing parallels to people of African decent and chimpanzees, the mere mention of a disease from Africa and a chimp cover made people go ape shit (that was a joke not racism).  Even if the editors of Newsweek are racist, there's no proof in that pudding.  Another example I have is based on personal experience.  In the above mentioned Yahoo article, the author states he doesn't have to worry about being followed in a store even though his son will.  While I have no doubt this happens, not every instance of being followed in a store has to do with racism.  For example, I would often go to department stores after work with a tie and my ID badge on. This would make people mistake me for a store employee and ask me where the product was located.  Then I'd have to explain I didn't actually work there.  One time I happened to be browsing similar merchandise as an African American woman.  I didn't really think anything about it until she looked at me angrily and said "why are you following me?".
Racism definitely exists and still happens more than I'll ever experience.  I'm grateful for that.  But as Sigmund Freud is incorrectly attributed to have said "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."

Friday, October 31, 2014

Scent of a Man

I recently killed some time at the fragrance counter of Macy's and Sephora setting up my Christmas List for scents I don't currently own.  I split my results into winners and losers and ranked them from favorite to least in both categories. Originally, Prada White and Chris Dior were tied, so I had the woman behind the counter break the tie for me. However, she looked at the writing on my test strips before sniffing so there could have been some bias there, especially if the house is named Prada, so take it for what it's worth.

Winners Losers
Aqua di Parma (any)CK One
Gucci GuiltyKenneth Cole Mankind
Lacoste Live Hugo Boss
Gucci Guilty Black Versace por Homme
CK Dark Obsession CK Eternity
Prada White Prada Black
Christian Dior Homme Versace Erros
Paco Rabanne MillionPrada Amber por Homme Intense
CK Obsession

Monday, March 5, 2012

Scent of a Celebrity

Stephanie and I had a date night on Saturday. After dinner at Chili's we went to the Prime Outlets Mall. Our last stop was Perfumania where they were having a sale on celebrity scents. There were hundreds of different scents being carried, and so to pass the time I decided to sample them and have a smell-off among some of the various colognes (not all of them celebrity sponsored).  Here are my favorites from least to most:

12.  Brut
11.  YSL (Yves Saint Laurent)
10. JPG (Jean Paul Gaultier)
9. Givenchy Blue
8. Joop
7. Armani Sport
6. Blue Bulgari
5. Hugo Boss Pure
4. Ferarri Black
3. Paris Hilton Just Me
2. Michael Jordan Flight
1. Drakkar Noir

Which colognes or perfumes are you into?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meet what you Eat - Don't eat Meat

My friend Randy asked me to watch the documentary Forks over Knives and offer my thoughts. The movie advocated for a plant based diet citing evidence that as we migrate toward processed foods and animal based foods, health has declined and obesity and obesity related illnesses have skyrocketed.

I'm not sure what his motivations for asking me about this were, but I was a 19 and 1/2 year vegetarian who recently incorporated meat back into my diet. At a high level, Forks over Knives was a wake-up call to me. Not necessarily to go back to vegetarianism but to pay attention to what I eat and how my body feels as a result.

Overall, I feel the movie overhyped nutrition and and underhyped calorie restriction. I do believe that a plant based diet is healthier than a meat and junk food centric diet and science supports this as well. However, there are dangers in vegetarian lifestyles especially vegan. It is difficult to get all of the amino acids your body needs from a strict plant based diet. It can be done, but only with more work than most people are willing to put into their diet. I think restricting calories is the better approach. If you base what you eat on a calorie limit, you are less restricted on what you can eat, you just need to ration how much. This way you are free to listen to your cravings, which is your brain's interpretation of what your body is screaming for (your body wants salt and your brain gives you a picture of pickles or potato chips). You are also more likely to balance your desire for sugar and fat with your need to feel satisfied by opting for lower calorie foods with more protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber. Unfortunately, portion control is also work, mainly logging everything you eat, but with the freedom of full choice rather than full exclusion of entire food categories, I believe the long term success goes up (e.g. Atkins was the meat lover's veganism and look what happened to that fad).

Forks over Knives cited scientific studies with fun graphics and charts. It also personalized the message by spotlighting individual success stories. Finally, it juxtaposed irony like the former farmer turned scientist advocating against dairy and livestock consumption or fire fighters from Texas moving off of meat for their meals at the fire house. I think the movie tried to oversell the lifestyle by overpromising an end to cancer and heart disease and understating the role of genetic markers, exercise and primary and secondary environmental factors in health and wellness.

Despite these drawbacks and my own personal skepticism this movie was motivational in making me rethink the attitudes and behaviors I exhibit with respect to the number one factor under my control - what I eat. I need to challenge my lazy notion that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. It's time for me to meet what I eat.

Randy, now I have a Netflix recommendation for you - Fat Sick & Nearly Dead.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Family Funeral

Tomorrow I will be getting up at 4:00 am to drive to my Grandfather's funeral. I was lucky in that I had both of my grandfathers into my mid thirties. One I am close to and one I was not. This is the grandfather I was not close to. Hopefully my mom, grandmother and others close to him will get the closure they need from this. I am going for them.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not Being Crazy. It's Not a Small Thing.

Yesterday I told Stephanie that some chick at the store was hitting on me. However, she was totally messed up in the head. When Steph asked how I knew, I said because she was hitting on me! I do not have a track record of attracting socially functioning women. But that's probably my own fault for projecting a false image of stability in all the wrong places. Kind of like taking a keg to an AA meeting. Well, that and the fact that I am really not flirt worthy. But I prefer not to dwell on that.

Paradoxically, my wife is not crazy. But come to think of it, she never really hit on me either. She just sort of stuck around, and put up with my sexual innuendos. So I hugged her and thanked her for not being crazy. After all, that was one of the reasons I married her. Well, that and the whole love thing.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Another Christmas Season - Heavier and Lighter

Today we go to the in-laws for Christmas Eve Day, followed by late night mass, spend the night and get up and go to my parents. This is our first holiday with Caleb, so it's going to be challenging caring for him while on the run, but at least we agreed with our family to keep everything very low budget this year, which lightens the burden of carrying gifts. It's going to be a busy two days!