JUNE 30, 2010 TIRED OF THIS LABEL
Weary of being looked down upon, janitors changed the name of their profession to custodians. Eventually people caught on. Then the custodians had to reinvent themselves again as maintenance engineers.
As I observed in an article about a Methodist conference six years ago, Groups of outsiders always feel that any label placed on them is somehow insulting, so they're always asking for a new label.
The example I gave: descendants of slaves in America. First they were African, as in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Then it was decided that colored people would be a more polite term, as in the National Association for the Advancement of same (the NAACP). Later, folks felt that Negroes would be less demeaning, as long as it was pronounced correctly. Then the Negroes decided they wanted to be called blacks. In the 1960s and 70s we were encouraged to use Afro-Americans instead, then African-Americans, then minorities. Finally the Methodist conference declared minorities pejorative and replaced it with racial/ethnic persons.
Now, from another field, we have another example of this "euphemism treadmill." Mentally retarded is being changed to intellectually disabled.
After today, as reported in this news story, the Allegheny County Office of Mental Retardation / Developmental Disabilities will be known as the Allegheny County Office of Intellectual Disability.
Developmental neuropsychiatrist James C. Harris says that back in the 1960s and 70s, the accepted diagnoses were idiot, imbecile and moron. Then a new term, considered to be more sensitive, appeared in medical and psychiatric journals: mentally retarded.
However, after 40 years of this terminology, People with disabilities and their families are simply tired of the old words. They were demeaning. (Thats according to Nancy Murray, president of the ARC of Greater Pittsburgh. Her organization used to be the Association for Retarded Citizens until about five years ago, when it switched to using only the initials ARC.) When the phrase retarded citizen is shortened, and people refer to others as retards, its no better than calling them morons.
JUNE 26, 2010 ON HUMAN NATURE
At the conclusion of a conference in San Francisco, a charter was signed 65 years ago today by the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
How has that worked out so far? We have indeed avoided another World War, but we have not prevented all armed conflicts. That may never be possible. It has always been human nature to resort to violence when there seems to be no other option.
Its also human nature to consume the earths resources. We want energy, so we burn whatever we can get our hands on: wood, coal, oil, gas, biomass.
As we try to restrain wars through international agreements, we can try to restrain the burning of carbon through green initiatives. But we can't change human nature. While we Americans reluctantly take small steps to achieve better gas mileage, in the developing world the use of private automobiles is escalating at double-digit rates (Walter Hook, executive director, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy).
The mood of Western civilization is Abrahamic. The explorers and colonists were guided by a biblical prayer: May we take possession of this land that God has provided and let it drip milk and honey into our mouths, forever. Now, more than six billion people fill the world. ...The living world is dying; the natural economy is crumbling beneath our busy feet. We have been too self-absorbed to foresee the long-term consequences of our actions (Edward O. Wilson in The Future of Life).
Just as we can never prevent war completely, we can never do without combustion completely. We have little realistic hope of reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Therefore, as far as global warming is concerned, were going to have to turn our efforts away from preventing the inevitable and toward living with it.
JUNE 24, 2010 MOCKUMENTS
Hank Stuever objected this week to the conventions of modern faux reality sitcoms. Heres a distilled version of his column:
Mr. Steuver is indeed thinking about it too much. We viewers realize these arent actual documentaries, but weve learned to accept the mockumentary style as an excellent method of alternating among various characters points of view to tell an amusing story.
Other storytelling conventions that we accept without thinking:
In traditional three-camera sitcoms, the family spends most of its time in a huge living/dining room. The part of the floor near the door is one step higher than the rest of the room, and there are only three walls and no ceiling. How is that realistic?
In dramas, when a couple have a conversation, were looking over the womans shoulder at the mans face; then in a blink of an eye weve changed positions, and were looking over the mans shoulder at the womans face. How could we move that quickly in real life?
JUNE 22, 2010 IT'S NEWS TO ME
JUNE 19, 2010 NOT QUITE SO FAST
The front of the package for the Simply Asia Roasted Peanut Noodle Bowl proclaims Just heat and serve. Ready in 2 minutes! But thats only the heating time. The actual procedure takes at least twice that long, and Im ready to eat now.
On the back of the package are the Microwave directions. Recipe Time: 2 Minutes. To paraphrase the five steps:
JUNE 13, 2010 "45" OLDIES
Last night, for the first time in decades, I talked with Ed Olson. Once president of our high school class, he's now a County Commissioner in Mansfield, Ohio.
Ed recalled for the group the suggestion that our school superintendent, the late Richard Fetter, made at the time of our Commencement in 1965. Mr. Fetter pointed out that the 49th annual Richwood High School Alumni Banquet was coming up in a couple of weeks, and it might be good for us to attend as newly-minted alumni. This was especially appropriate because we would be the last class to graduate from RHS before it was consolidated into the new North Union High School.
Maybe that's why many of the grads from our age group still attend events like the one last night, the 94th annual Richwood-North Union High School Alumni Banquet.
However, very few graduates from the 1980s or 1990s or 2000s showed up for the banquet. Almost everyone in attendance was old enough to have grandchildren.
JUNE 8, 2010 PLAYLIST NOSTALGIA
It's been 40 years since my last stint as a radio disc jockey. I had a two-hour shift, once a week. This summer replacement gig lasted only a couple of months.
MAY 29, 2010 ALL DANGERS NOW AVERTED
Whilst going through my files a couple of months ago, I ran across the missing second half of the lyrics I wrote in high school and posted last year at this time: the story of Bill Doodle, a soldier who enlisted unwisely.
Click here for the article. In Part Two of my expanded tale, our hero conquers war. He accomplishes this by gallantly running away from the Army and back home to his sweetheart. I knew there was more to the story!
MAY 27, 2010 MAROONS 28, BLUES 24 (FINAL)
You probably missed the historic telecast last night. I missed it too: the world's first sporting event to be broadcast in 3D live over the air. Channel Nine, not cable, telecast the opening game of something called...
The Harvey Norman State of Origin Rugby League Football Tournament.
I know what you're thinking. You're worried about the future of football at Harvey Norman State. Will the Norms decide to abandon the Origin Rugby League and join the Big Ten?
But no, it turns out that Harvey Norman is Australia's biggest chain of retail stores, rugby league football is a sport, and State of Origin is an intriguing all-star format. Athletes represent the state in which they played their first senior football. (Fans presumably root for the state in which they pay their taxes.)
Apparently rugby is played in only two Aussie states. If your career originated in New South Wales, you're forever sentenced to be a member of the Blue team. If you got your start in Queensland, you're a Maroon.
My friend felt violated. He had been the victim of a hoax. Admitted, he and his kids had learned some real history, such as the story of the Buffalo Soldiers. But, he asked, shouldnt it be illegal (or something) to deliberately disseminate outright disinformation like Boilerplate?
MAY 18, 2010 WHAT'S IN IT FOR US?
Today, voters in Pennsylvanias 12th Congressional District are choosing a replacement to serve out the unexpired term of the late John Murtha, the colossus whose pork-barrel legerdemain kept the 12th District's economy churning (according to Dennis B. Roddy of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).
Whom should the District send to Congress now? Someone who will do good things for the voters of the District? Or someone who will do good things for America?
I have some thoughts on this question. See my new article On Representative Democracy.
MAY 16, 2010 ANOTHER ASHLEE SIMPSON MOMENT
For reasons which will soon become clear, while watching the recording I made of last night's Saturday Night Live I paid attention to my TV set's closed captioning (CC) when the musical guest (TP) came out for his second performance. Here's what I thought I heard . . . and here's what I saw.
At this point, the captioning operator realized that he'd mistakenly cued up the prerecorded introduction & audience reaction & lyrics to the Heartbreakers' first song. He quickly recalled the correct words and caught us up, and I learned what Mr. Petty was actually singing.
MAY 9, 2010 NIXON'S SLEEPLESS NIGHT
MAY 6, 2010 WELCOME TO THE CONTROL ROOM
Has it been that long? Yes, it has. Exactly 40 years ago today, I recorded the sounds of the control room at a television studio. And now, by clicking on the title of the program, you can hear what happened on that day when my graduate-school class taped a special called "I Wear a Happy Face."
MAY 3, 2010 THE WEIRD MICROPHONE
On this very evening in the momentous year 1968, I worked a disk jockey shift at my college radio station. Everybody else headed to the field house to set up a live broadcast of our mock political convention, taking with them almost all the station's microphones. I had to speak into the only one that remained, an ancient and scary electric toothbrush, as I described in this article.
How ancient was my mic? Well, in that same year out in California, Mark Evanier went dumpster diving and rescued a film containing scenes of Groucho Marx talking into a very similar electric toothbrush 19 years before.
MAY 1, 2010 CIRCLE OF SEASONS
First Saturday in May! What a glorious, glorious day! As a high school student, I rhymed that couplet in honor of what always seemed to be the first really nice warm day of the year.
Having finally gotten rid of Aprils cloudy, rainy weather, we could look forward to about six weeks of pleasant conditions before the arrival of summers oppressive heat and humidity. If I remember correctly, the first Saturday in May was celebrated by a morning bus trip to Otterbein College for the state scholarship tests, followed by the televised Kentucky Derby in the afternoon and our own Richwood Relays in the evening.
Consider the year as a circle of twelve months. It turns out that theres more than one way to divide it into four seasons. Ive made the diagram below and colored winter blue, spring green, summer red, and autumn gold.
However, some cultures deem these cross-quarter days not the midpoints but the beginnings of seasons. As indicated by the colors inside the circle, their seasons start six weeks earlier than ours.
For example, on Groundhog Day, which we consider the middle of winter, spring is actually right around the corner according to the Celtic calendar. Nevertheless, if the weather on February 2 is dominated by a cold high-pressure system, the groundhog will see his shadow and switch to our standard calendar, thereby postponing the start of spring for six weeks until the Ostara equinox arrives.
Today, May Day, marks the end of the Celtic spring and the beginning of the sunny Celtic summer. The middle of summer will arrive about six weeks from now on June 21 truly Midsummer, as dreamt by Shakespeare.