Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stolen Content - Beer me, beer me not

Slate Magazine
fighting words

A Man's Home Is His Constitutional Castle

Henry Louis Gates Jr. should have taken his stand on the Bill of Rights, not on his epidermis or that of the arresting officer.

By Christopher Hitchens

There are the things you can try when confronted by a cop, and there are the things that you can't—or had better not. Last Memorial Day, I was going in a taxi down to Washington, D.C.'s Vietnam Memorial when a police car cut across the traffic and slammed everything to a halt. Opening the window and asking what the problem was and how long it might last, I was screeched at by a stringy-haired, rat-faced blond beast, who acted as if she had been waiting all year for the chance to hurt someone. (She was wearing a uniform that I had helped pay for.) I often have a hard time keeping my trap shut, but I saw at once that this damaged creature was aching for trouble and that it would cost me days rather than hours if I supplied her with any back chat. (I think it was the mad way she yelled, "Because I can!" and "Because I say so!") She was so avid with hatred that I didn't even try to get close enough to ask or see her name or number. The whole thing, especially my own ignoble passivity, gnaws at me still when I reflect upon it. But it didn't, if you understand me, reinforce any humiliating folk memory. Indeed, I had more or less forgotten it until recently.

More recently, I was walking at night in the wooded California suburb where I spend the summer, trying to think about an essay I was writing. Suddenly, a police cruiser was growling quietly next to me and shining a light. "What are you doing?" I don't know quite what it was—I'd been bored and delayed that week at airport security—but I abruptly decided that I was in no mood, so I responded, "Who wants to know?" and continued walking. "Where do you live?" said the voice. "None of your business," said I. "What's under your jacket?" "What's your probable cause for asking?" I was now almost intoxicated by my mere possession of constitutional rights. There was a pause, and then the cop asked almost pleadingly how he was to know if I was an intruder or burglar, or not. "You can't know that," I said. "It's for me to know and for you to find out. I hope you can come up with probable cause." The car gurgled alongside me for a bit and then pulled away. No doubt the driver then ran some sort of check, but he didn't come back.

In the first instance, I found again what everyone knows, which is that there are a lot of warped misfits and inadequates who are somehow allowed to join the police force. In the second instance, I found that a good cop even at dead of night can and will use his judgment, even if the "suspect" is being a slight pain in the ass. But seriously, do you think I could have pulled the second act, or would even have tried it, or been given the chance to try it, if I had been black? The "Skip" Gates question is determined just as much by what can't and what doesn't happen as it is by what regularly does. (Colbert I. King of the Washington Post once wrote a very telling column about how his parents instilled in him the need for punctuality. The underlining of their everyday lesson was that if you were late, you might have to run, and a young black man racing through the streets could well be detained before he reached his lawful destination.)

I can easily see how a black neighbor could have called the police when seeing professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. trying to push open the front door of his own house. And I can equally easily visualize a thuggish or oversensitive black cop answering the call. And I can also see how long it might take the misunderstanding to dawn on both parties. But Gates has a limp that partly accounts for his childhood nickname and is slight and modest in demeanor. Moreover, whatever he said to the cop was in the privacy of his own home. It is monstrous in the extreme that he should in that home be handcuffed, and then taken downtown, after it had been plainly established that he was indeed the householder. The president should certainly have kept his mouth closed about the whole business—he is a senior law officer with a duty of impartiality, not the micro-manager of our domestic disputes—but once he had said that the police conduct was "stupid," he ought to have stuck to it, quite regardless of the rainbow of shades that was so pathetically and opportunistically deployed by the Cambridge Police Department. It is the U.S. Constitution, and not some competitive agglomeration of communities or constituencies, that makes a citizen the sovereign of his own home and privacy. There is absolutely no legal requirement to be polite in the defense of this right. And such rights cannot be negotiated away over beer.

Race or color are second-order considerations in this, if they are considerations at all. I was once mugged by a white man on the Lower East Side of New York, and then, having given my evidence, was laboriously shown a whole photo album of black "perps" at the local station house. The absurdity of the exercise lay not just in the inability of a half-trained and uncultured force to believe what I was telling them, but in the certainty that their stupidity was helping the guilty party to make a getaway. Professor Gates should have taken his stand on the Bill of Rights and not on his epidermis or that of the arresting officer, and, if he didn't have the presence of mind to do so, that needn't inhibit the rest of us.

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair and the Roger S. Mertz media fellow at the Hoover Institution in Stanford, Calif.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The next giveaway

Yes, it is time once again to give something away on this page.  I reach into my bag of goodies and out pops.........a free month of Pogo.  Not too shabby if I do say so myself.  But what merits the free prize?  Simply, you come up with my next blog idea.  If I use it then you win, simple as that.  Good luck!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stroke of misfortune

Well, it is on the morrow, which I guess is a good thing. Actually it is a good thing, because some of what I thought I had to ponder I did not have to, which took a huge burden off of my shoulders. Still an explanation is in order, and for that we grab Peabody, Sherman and that whole getup known as The Wayback Machine, circa 1996.

I say 1996, though I was probably listening even earlier than that, but it was 1996 that I really started paying attention to my radio listening habits, having just landed my first radio gig as an intern at Prime Sports Radio 1360 here in Pittsburgh. This has nothing to do with that gig, except in a roundabout way, that being I would drive to my job and during the ride I used to listen to Doug Hoerth. Those who pay attention to the blog know that I got to actually work as Doug's producer for a while when he came to work at our station, but it was during his time when we didn't work together that I also became a fan of his producer, Laurence Gaines. The job of a producer is one that, if you do it well, only those with an understanding of the business will give you credit for it, and if you do it poorly, everyone in the audience will recognize (though many of them will still blame the host). In that regard, it can be a thankless task.

That being said, when I would listen to Doug and Laurence, while I admired Doug (and continue to do so), it was Laurence who set the bar for what it is I was to end up doing with my radio career. In many ways I would end up following in his footsteps, as he had produced Lynn's show for a time, as well as Doug's show, and I would end up working with both of them, and when the station I worked for changed format and kicked Lynn and eventually myself, to the curb, it was Laurence who worked to get Lynn and myself back on the air at 860 AM, where he was working on the Bev Smith Show, which is syndicated in a handful of markets around the United States but broadcast from here in Pittsburgh.

While my time there was short lived, we were on the air for only two months before the station was sold, Laurence remained there, as the network programming, including Bev's show, was unaffected by the sale of the local stations.

So imagine my surprise when I come home from running errands on Monday, including some grocery shopping, only to have a call from Jerry Vokes with AURN (American Urban Radio Network) about a job opportunity with the Bev Smith Show. Naturally I was intrigued, after all, outside of a handful of people knowing what I do, it is not like I am a household name in this market by any stretch of the imagination. There are no illusions of grandeur on my part, but even weirder, while I did work there, I was an employee of Lynn's and not of any of the stations, so it wasn't like my name was on any of the books, so I was curious how and why my name came up about a job opportunity, especially since I haven't sent out any resumes since Lynn and I left the air a couple of months ago. My first thought was to go to Laurence's Facebook page, send him a message and see if I couldn't get a little inside dirt about this opportunity. The thing was, when I got there, I saw a bunch of get well wishes, but no replies, which created more questions than answers. The next step was to call Lynn, as she and Laurence have remaioned in contact over the years, just as she and I have even while we aren't on the air together. It was during this conversation that I found out the reason for the well wishes, Laurence had a stroke and wasn't in the best of shape. Truth be told, while he had movement in his limbs, he had lost the ability to talk and was just communicating with people by writing things down.

This created a dilemna for me, while I love doing radio, I was afraid that the reason for the call was to replace Laurence, and that isn't the way I wanted to go about getting a job. I tried calling Jerry back at AURN but didn't get a return call, so I spent the past day or so just mulling over what the phone call was about and whether, if it was to do Laurence's job, I really wanted a job under those circumstances. I finally decided that, if that was the reason for the call, I would hold down the fort, but it would be Laurence's job at the first notion that he was ready to come back to work.

Turns out my fears were unjustified, thankfully. The call was because Bev and her other producer, Brooks, were going to be doing a remote broadcast coming up and they needed someone to run the facilities back here in Pittsburgh, a job that I am definitely qualified for, as I was stuck here in Pittsburgh back when I worked with Jerry Bowyer and we broadcast from the White House. In that regard, I was actually flattered they thought of me, but in turns out they have covered the position but offered to keep me in mind for future broadcasting needs. I don't think I have ever felt better about not getting a radio job.

Okay, enough with my story, at least that one, I have plenty more to tell. First, I need to get something out of the way, that being the change meter. Another $1.41 gets added and the new total is $102.70. The money has slowed down a bit, mostly because I am on register just one day a week now, with the 4 other days seeing me be resident stock guy, with some managerial duties thrown in as well. Actually, on the one day I am on register now, that being Sunday, I am in charge of the entire store, which I don't particularly care for, but I guess that responsibility has to fall on someone's shoulders. The rest of the time I am just doing stocvking and some of our ordering has fallen to me, it started with just the candy, but technically I have ordered for the entire store on a few occasions.

One of the side bonuses of work recently is that I have been Tastycaked the last few weeks. Every Friday our Tastycake rep comes in and restocks their section. As part of the restocking they remove all of the out of date product. Given they ae there every week, even the out of date stuff isn't really all that out of date, usually just a day or two, but they just give us the stuff that is out of date, and for the last three weks I have been dealt in on the goodies. As a result, I have plenty of Tastycake goodness in my fridge, so much that I probably will never eat it all. Heck I have three boxes of donuts and I have only managed to crack one of them so far.

I did pick an Asshat for this past week and the winner is, well, me. I tried to go all DIAFF (DIAF squared) Friday night. The goings on went something like this. Friday at work went okay, but I got caught up in doing a project that kept me there an extra hour, which I guess is good for my paycheck. Still, a certain need for beer was called for after handling three delivery orders, stocking the coolers, doing a cigarette inventory, and placing a grocery order for Monday for the entire store. The thing was my bar runs a special on domestic bottles, but in ends at 6pm, here it was almost 5pm and I was just getting home from work. That meant of course that I had to drink quickly if I wanted to stop by 6pm, but really, who said anything about stopping? I got to the bar and Billy, who is one of the regulars on the poker machines, was there, so I took up the seat next to him and started playing and drinking. It wasn't too long before he asked to borrow money, and with Billy I know he is going to pay it back in relative short order, usually within a week, plus he adds to whatever he borrows, so i don't mind lending him money if I have it. I think through the course of the night I loaned him around $100, though I was busy drinking and drinking and well, drinking. First it was beer, then I switched up to a combination of coconut rum, mango rum and pineapple juice. I was so lit up that when a cute female approached me at the poker machine, I paid her little mind. She was a cutie too, short dark hair, a lip piercing and a nice body and I suppose if I hadn't sworn off women it might have been one of those moments where things might have happened, at least a phone number, but I am so content in being single anymore that my lack of a desire to converse with her chased her away after about 5 minutes. Meanwhile I continued to drink and play the machine. Amazingly I was there from 5pm till about 11:30pm and managed to only put $30 in the machine while taking out $60, which helped pay for all of the alcohol I consumed. Of course the Asshat part was yet to come.

I staggered home and realized that I hadn't eaten for most of the day. Food was definitely called for, and at first I thought about ordering in but I figured I had spent more than enough money for one day, and I still had a little leftover chili so the plan was to boil some elbow macaroni and then pour the remaining chili overtop. So I got that started, then I went to the bathroom and threw some water on my face in hopes of sobering up. My bathroom sink drains really slowly, so when I use it I tend to run the water really slowly, so as not to create a huge mess. Anyway, I spalshed some water on my face then turned on the TV as a distraction and set about waiting for my pasta to cook.

Fade to black. That is right, I passed out. I don't know if it was an alcohol related blackout or just an exhaustion related one given I had been up since 6am, but I went out like a light. I woke up the next morning to the sound of rain, which I thought was nice, because my apartment was really warm and I thought maybe the rain would cool things off a bit. That was when I stumbled to the kitchen and realized the stove had been on overnight. My saving grace was that I put everything on over very low heat and I put a lid on it to keep the steam in, otherwise chances are i would have caught the place on fire, DIAF #1. Well, I guess I dodged a bullet there, though the stove being on overnight probably contributed to my apartmenmt being so warm. Thankfully it was raining, so there was still a chance that my place would cool off, but depending on how hard it was raining, I may or may not be able to run any errands. I sneak a peek out the window and lo and behold, it's not raining at all. Where is that rain noise cominmg from then? You guessed it,. I forgot to shut the water off in my bathroom from the night before and was in the process of flooding that room as well. Again, the fact that I didn't run the water all that hard was probably my saving grace, but still, DIAF #2, and you can substitute fire for flood.

So yes, my drunken stupidity qualifies me as Asshat, and no, you can't take it away from me, no matter how hard you try. It's mine, all mine.

Anyway, enough story telling for one night, I want to sneak in some more of my book which looks like it will be a long read, but is definitely worth the effort. Till next time, nite everyone.

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