Monthly Archives: March 2007

National Pastimes: A Racial Conversation About Nothing

Conversation about race today is about nothing. It belongs on Seinfeld.

The sitcom has an interesting history regarding race. Even at the height of its popularity, its ethnocentricity and racism was widely overlooked. Minorities who appeared on the show were hypersensitive rants impossible not to offend. The writers were smart enough to recognize this, and played to it in a brilliant episode where George, in order to prove that he isn’t racist, tries to make friends with every black person he sees.

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Therapy Cliff Notes

Ever wonder about the difference between cognitive therapy and psychoanalysis? Neuropsychology and Psychiatry? Or is it a toss up between life coach and philosophical counselor for you?

I was talking to Theo about therapy on our way back to the city from writers group the other night. I was saying how hard it is to find the right therapist when you’re depressed, how your power of assessment is lower when you’re vulnerable, how it’s close to impossible to know if someone is a quack when you’re desperate.

My father used to say that only 1% of any professional is competent and that there is no real way to determine the competency of therapists. Sure, reputations develop. Trustworthy people give referrals. You can look up criminal records. But how do you really know if you are seeing someone good? Or should I say, good for you?

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Filed under Education, Health, Therapy Thursdays

They Don't Call Them "Pampered" for Nothing

I live on an island that is being invaded by a strange and powerful force: rich toddlers. Don’t get me wrong, I like toddlers and everything. But do they have to be growing at such a fast rate? And do they all have to be richer than me?

A few days ago, the New York Times ran the following article noting a major change in Manhattan demographics: click here for the article

Shockingly, in a city that once spat families with kids over its bridges and through its tunnels, the number of families with kids under the age of five in Manhattan has increased by 32 percent since 2000. And these aren’t just any toddlers. White families are having babies at a higher rate than any other group (according to the article, this is the first time since the 1960s that there are more white toddlers in Manhattan than black or Hispanic children of the same age). The median household income for a white non-Hispanic toddler is now $284,000. These are literally the richest and most powerful kids in America.

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All the World: Then Jesus was like…

PRIEST: So the Pharisees brought this adultress before Jesus, and they were like, “Adultery is punishable by stoning. Are you gonna break that law?” And Jesus was like, “Yo, whoever is without sin can be the one to cast the first stone.” Then Jesus was totally alone with this woman and he was all, “Who are your accusers?” And she was like, “No man, Lord.” So Jesus was like, “I won’t accuse you either. Go, get outta here, and try not to sin.”

Most of my experiences with the Catholic Church have been in Sardinia– where my cousins still celebrate saints’ days because the solemn parading of the saint and his/her relics is usually accompanied by a carnival with giant blocks of torrone and fun houses pumping techno music. So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised last Sunday when I visited a very liberal Catholic Church (yes, it seems that those actually do exist in America) where amid full regalia of cloaks and candles, the priest spoke like he was reporting on a tailgate party the night before.

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Filed under All The World, Music, Pop Culture, Religion

Beauty in a Wicked World: The Daffodil Project

Daffodil ProjectIt’s late March, which means that flowers are starting to sprout in Fort Greene Park, like the one to the left. But this isn’t just any daffodil.

Five and a half years ago, shortly after September 11, 2001, Netherlands resident Hans van Waardenburg wanted to do something for the grieving citizens of New York City. So he donated half a million daffodil bulbs to NYC, as a gift from the City of Rotterdam.

Several parks groups coordinated 10,000 volunteers who planted 250,000 bulbs on October 20th, the first day of planting. This work is known as the Daffodil Project. It gave stunned New Yorkers something concrete to do. That next spring, the flowers burst into bloom and surprised us as we read news articles about the six-month commemoration ceremonies. They were yellow, the color of remembrance. It was perfect.

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He's the DJ I'm the Ranter: Breakfast with Barack

The Russell Office Building’s Room 325 is where Anita Hill testified, where hearings into the sinking of the titanic were held, and where John F. Kennedy announced his campaign for presidency. The room looks the part: along the back wall hang red curtains that bend between white pillars, a backdrop so theatrical it makes the room look like a set dressed for a filming of the hearings on the sinking of the titanic more than the actual room where they happened. The pillars are way too big for the space, and the ceiling is easily as tall as the room is wide. Room 325 is, above all, stately.

Room 325 is also where the Senators from Illinois host their “constituent coffee” every Thursday at 8:30am. On a bitingly cold morning February morning, the room was less crowded than I expected. The face of one of the senators, after all, had greeted my walk through Union Station, gently smiling out from the covers of a dozen books stacked in a display in the B. Dalton window. It was cold, and it was early, but it was also Barack Obama. He was set to announce his presidency for candidate the following Saturday, and I was nervous, running in the cold at 8:25, that I wouldn’t get in to the thing. Instead, of the maybe 150 seats, 60 or 65 were taken. Most of the donuts and coffee, on a table to the side, went uneaten.

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Kidz Today: Our Failing Colleges

Recently, there has been much discussion on the need to increase educational attainment to insure American preeminence in a competitive global marketplace. However, little attention has been paid to whether or not students who enter college actually graduate with the skills they need to be competitive in the workplace.

The National Assessment of Adult Literacy indicates that between 1993 and 2003, average prose literacy (the ability of students to read basic texts, such as newspapers and magazines) has declined for all students, including those with at least some college education or a bachelors degree. Only 66 percent of full-time four-year college students graduate within six years, which is approximately the same amount of time it now takes the average student to complete a bachelor’s degree. These statistics are unacceptable. Without oversight or accountability, the continued ability of American postsecondary institutions to produce a competent 21st century workforce will remain in question.

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Filed under Education