Killing Consumerism: The iPad Just Isn’t Useful

I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that feels this way. But before I even saw Apple’s new invention, the iPad, the first thought that came to my mind was, “This isn’t going to be any different from an iPod Touch or iPhone.”

Not only do I appear to be right, and the authorities agree with me, but I may have given the iPad and its creators a little too much credit. While the iPad’s functionality and usefulness seems to parallel that of the iPhone, it does, however, lack a camera, phone capabilities and isn’t nearly as portable. So in my estimation, why on God’s green earth would anybody want this contraption?

Don’t get me wrong, if you have the money, and spending $499 or $829 on this device is nothing but a drop in the bucket for you, and then by all means, have it your way. But for anybody who has to consider their monetary needs when contemplating the purchase of the iPad, I suggest you take a very hard look at what you’re getting yourself into.

Listen, I don’t claim to be a “gadget” expert. I love gadgets and all, and I will buy anything that is of use to me. However, I am not an early adopter of electronics, as I like to see how functional and useful many of the new products are that come into the market. And when it comes to the iPad, it appears to be low on my chart of functionality.

First of all, why wouldn’t I just buy a new laptop instead of this thing? For $829, I can get a very nice, customizable, laptop, and I can have the ability of everything the iPad can do, in addition to a keyboard that I can actually type with. Not to mention, I won’t have to pay an additional $30 per month for wireless service that I already have on my iPhone, or have free access to in most places I want to use my laptop. Also, given that the iPad is 9 inches wide, it’s not as if this is something you use in any old situation. You can’t be in a meeting and pull out your iPad, and you surely can’t make frequent use of in your cubicle, at a restaurant or while waiting in line. In fact, you’re probably not going to use it in any situation where you don’t want to carry something, making it far less portable than an iPhone, with a usability frequency far similar to, if not the same as, a laptop.

Seeing as how the iPad is bigger than the iPhone or the iPod, then the old adage of “bigger is better” should come into play here. But does it? Other than viewing videos and web pages in larger sizes, the iPad does not offer much more. The applications won’t be that different. Your email won’t be any more functional. And yet the monthly service fee, will be the same Not to mention, Apple is marketing this device to media outlets as a way to charge for content, so early buyers better be aware of the fact that accessing content might cost you a pretty penny on the iPad.

So with little more portability than a more functional laptop, and with the same functionality as a more portable iPod, the iPad comes across as a redundant, elaborative scheme to make money on a tweener object that Apple is selling as the next wave of the future. Don’t be fooled people. Please don’t be fooled. I know hardcore Apple lovers are going to buy this thing without hesitation, but in order for this come a success, the populace as a whole has to accept it. And if we as a people do that, we have officially become drones of Apple, willing and wanting to buy anything they throw at us, no matter how unnecessary it is. We already have this problem with politicians; please don’t let Steve Jobs sell the dream to you as well.

State of the Union: 3 Things Obama Should Say, but Won’t

I don’t mean to sound anti-Obama, because I’m not (at least I don’t think I am), however, this idea that the State of the Union means anything in this day and age is fraudulent beyond belief.

Barack Obama is not going to say anything new tonight. He is not going to light a fire under anybody’s butt, enact any great piece of legislation or introduce us to some piece of news or insight that anybody who follows politics hasn’t heard before. Maybe for a few casual followers of politics, Obama will say something interesting, new and original, and yes, some people will have unfathomable overreactions to the words that come out of his mouth.

For me, and hopefully for you, we know that the State of the Union is nothing more than a speech, and it usually isn’t a very good one. Anyone trying to tune into his speech tonight in order to hear the same type of rhetoric they heard during the campaign trail will be astonishingly disappointed. Obama’s voice will not be soaring tonight, this just isn’t the setting for it. And even if it were, Obama’s temperament has been cooled off so much since November 2008 that I just don’t think he has it in him at this point and time.

I wish Obama was going to say something of note tonight, and he has every opportunity to do so. However, being the lemur of a Democrat that he is, he won’t say what needs to be said and he surely won’t back it up if he says it.

But I can dream, can’t I?

Here are 3 things Obama should say, but won’t:

1. Kill the Filibuster! – The biggest problem in Congress right now is that nothing is moving. Despite the Democrats having a 59-person majority, they can’t pass crap. They should be able to, but they aren’t that powerful of a political party, so they need to change the rules. Quite frankly, the rules needed to be changed a long time ago. The idea that when the country votes in a 60-person Democratic majority to the Senate and Senates still can’t get it done defies the very reasoning behind the founding of this country. A majority is supposed to win out. The idea that 60 people of out 100 are needed to pass legislation is foolish. Obama needs to make a declaration to end filibusters and make it so that laws get passed when there is a simple majority, not this convoluted super majority that is holding back this entire nation.

2. Give Individuals Money to Create Jobs! – Call me crazy, but I really think this is the best way to create jobs. Instead of giving this huge companies and banks money, why not give the money to enterprising individuals? I’m not talking about giving it to “Joe” off the street, but why not go steal a financial executive, or real estate executive, or a manufacturing executive, and have them churn out business plans for businesses that can thrive in this new economy? Do you know that $2 billion is enough to run a company of 10,000 people for 2 years? That means a meager $200 billion (meager in comparison to the TARP money that was giving to banks) could produce 1,000,000 jobs sustainable for at least two years? Why not take this approach? If Obama called for a program that really “created” jobs instead of just giving big companies bailout money, I really think we could redirect the American economy and recover at the same time.

3. Capture Osama Bin Laden! – This really isn’t all that imperative at this moment, but I think it’s worthy of mentioning: Is Bin Laden still alive? Why? I don’t pay too much attention to all of those CSI shows, but it seems to me that they solve every case thrown at them. Maybe we need the writers of those shows on the Osama Bin Laden beat? Where is he that an entire national defense can’t find him? It’s actually quite embarrassing if you ask me. We can find Ray Carruth in a truck, and we found Private Ryan, but getting Osama Bin Laden is so hard? I just can’t believe it. There is way too much technology out there for us to still be looking for Bin Laden. Maybe Steve Jobs can make a “Where’s Bin Laden” app for the iPhone and help the military out.

Stuytown Turnover is No Sign of Affordable Housing in NYC

For many New Yorkers, the recent news of Tishman Speyer and BlackRock turning over Stuyvesant Town to its creditors isn’t all that important. After all, it is not as if any one in Manhattan that doesn’t live in Stuytown will be affected by this, and neither will many of Stuytown’s residents either.

However, this does give many New Yorkers a reason to reflect on the state of real estate in this city, and how the “average New Yorker” is slowly being priced out of Manhattan. At a time when people are losing jobs, Wall Street is on unstable ground and discretionary income is the equivalent of a 4-letter word, real estate—even renting—still remains a point of emphasis in this city.

I was in Austin, my hometown, not too long ago, and while in the car with one of my friends, my mouth practically hit the floor. Just driving down one major road in Austin I saw several signs boasting, “One free month of rent,” “Two free months of rent,” and of course, “Three free months of rent.”

But that wasn’t even the half of it!

Some of these places actually listed there prices on their advertisements, and should such prices be attributed to just about any apartment in Manhattan, there’s not a New Yorker alive who would not be willing to pay 3 additional months of rent in order to attain such a mythical apartment listing.

Needless to say, there are a lot of people in Austin who spend more money on gas than they do on rent, and you can check out the prices on Craigslist if you don’t believe me. They also don’t have to deal with the hazards of brokers’ fees, high application fees and the absurd lack of vacancy that encumbers every apartment search in this city—at least the searches of those who don’t have rich guarantors or aren’t receiving a fat bonus check from Goldman Sachs.

Of course, New Yorkers understand why they pay the prices they do for apartments in this city, and it goes right back to the wise, old adage of real estate: “Location. Location. Location.” We pay more because we like being able to catch a Broadway Show, go to Madison Square Garden, eat at the world’s finest restaurants and attend the numerous events and parties that are exclusive to the Big Apple, all at a moments notice, and sometimes, within walking distance.

But why?

Why is entertainment, fun, dining and accessibility factored into our rent?

Because of greed!

And that brings me back to Stuytown. A property which was bought some odd years ago for $5.4 billion by Tishman and BlackRock. Their bid was $900 million more than the group the board of Stuytown had offered, representing the biggest real estate deal in the history of the United States. That bid was inspired by greed though, a greed that was prevalent in the city at the time, as real estate had become fashionable around the country, but had become financially motivated here in Manhattan. The new owners of Stuytown were willing to pay an absurd amount of money for the property, because they were going to increase rents like nobody’s business, and let those who fight them be damned. They were willing to eliminate the long beacon of apartment-pricing sanity below 96th Street, and they were going to get rich off of it.

Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t get through all of the rent-stabilization laws they thought they could surpass, and now, in a slightly ironic fashion, Tishman and BlackRock can’t make the payments on their property.

Still, that doesn’t mean that Stuytown is going to return to its original stature as an affordable place to live in Manhattan. Quite frankly, what Stuytown once promoted as affordable, never really was that to man of New York’s residence.

The fact remains that Manhattan is a city for the rich, wealthy and affluent. It no longer caters to the hard-working, hungry and modest. Unless of course, you’re working in Manhattan, then they spit you out back to the outerborough or 8-roomate domicile from which you came. The only “affordable” housing left in Manhattan is in Harlem, which is why the New York Times recently did a report on the numerous numbers of Caucasians moving above 125th Street.

However, sooner or later, Harlem won’t be affordable either. Columbia University is already in plans to displace residents with its new construction project, and rents are increasingly rising with new developments being constructed north of 96th Street. It’s only a matter of time before New York actually becomes a “City of Gold.” Then that tough, hard-working, brash, New York mantra attributed to the city since its inception will only be representative of those who live outside of Manhattan’s boundaries. And if we were even the least bit smart and vengeful, we would stop coming to the city to work and leave the millionaires to do their own pooper-scooping until the price of buying a studio apartment is somewhere south of the average senior citizen’s 401k.

On Notice: Five Black Blogs to Read

There is no doubt that there are not enough black people blogging on the internet. A lot of it has to do with the socioeconomic status of African-Americans and the lack of a regular internet source, but some of it has to do with a culture that just isn’t as inclined to use the web.

Still, for the relatively few black interested in blogs and interacting on the web on the daily basis, they do have their options. And even though their options may only amount to the television equivalent of having just one channel focusing on them (ehemm, BET), that still equates to hundreds of blogs, with some of the best being the five I have listed here.

Blog It Out Bitch (BIOB)
With charisma of a southern belle and the wit of a Generation X, BIOB brings you Nina, a mother, wife and burgeoning professional. Nina isn’t your typical black person, as she makes some of her living writing a blog and conducting surveys, is apparently in an interracial marriage, and has no problem putting her family issues out there on the World Wide Web. Her daily stories about her encounters with racial issues, her children, school and her writing are told so well and in such an appealing fashion that you think you’re reading a novel, not just some ordinary blog.

FreshXpress
FreshXpress is the only blog that’s bringing you syndicated black opinion, analysis and more opinion day by day, hour after hour. Seriously, these guys should be running BET. They bring in tons of black writers from all over the blogosphere to contribute unique, substantial commentaries and rants of all kinds. They certainly take a very liberal stance, and their opinions of “The man” are anything but favorable, but once you get past all of that, you never really know where they are going to go on anything. From bashing the crap out of the latest rendition of The Real World to diving into black love and politics, FreshXpress leaves nothing to the imagination and rarely fails to expand mine.

Man and Wife
I don’t know if you ever catch this couple on MTV (Lord knows I’ve never seen them), but legend has it that they have some kind of show on the network. Still, real followers of Man and Wife will love this extraordinary black couple’s presence on the web more than anything. What does their site entail? Mainly just the two of them, legendary rapper Fan Man Scoop and his wife Shanda, talking about current events and giving their best advice to other couples watching. It really is a beautiful thing to see; two black people in love, sharing their love with the world and giving advice on the world from a very comfortable place in life. So if you’re ever looking for an introspective take on black love, let this blog be the place you turn to.

PostBourgie
Want news from a black perspective? This is your place. While CNN throws Black in America at you twice every 3 decades, PostBourgie is bringing you black Americans 24/7. With great, educated, profound perspective on issues having to deal with black culture, advancement and life, PostBourgie is one of the best political blogs on the web for black people. They just recently launched a new podcast as well, and I have to tell you, it’s one of the silliest, deepest takes on politics I have heard in a while. Check it out. You will love it!

Very Smart Brothas
Talk about opinionated without opining. Very Smart Brothas (VSB) skips the niceties and dives right into the meat of every societal subject they broach. And while everything they put out there is pure opinion, they’re openly selling it as fact. They have no problem telling you what lies your spouse is feeding you, why a black man is going to leave his woman for a white girl or why R. Kelly has had a profound effect on your life. So yes, they are a little dogmatic and intolerant, but they do it out of love. Even when they’re giving you the top 10 reasons why women can’t get a man, they are always open to posting the opposing view of a woman, whether it is someone they know or someone who commented on the blog. So as much as they feed you’re their opinions, the reason people keep coming back to VSB is because they manage to operate as a community, not as a series of lectures. I suggest you join the conversation if you’re interested in being a part of one of the most entertaining black conversations happening on the web.

Five New York City Blogs Worth Knowing

For some, blogging is just another new fad that isn’t worth their time of day. But for others, blogs are a critical part of daily life, especially in a major metropolis such as New York City, where it’s easy to get lost in the daily grind and not recognize what’s going on right in front of your nose.

Thus, there are plenty of blogs for New Yorkers to follow on the daily, hourly, and minute by minute basis. Sure, everyone knows about Gawker’s suite of blogs, of which much of it is focused on New York news. However, there are other lesser-known blogs with a pure New York focus and a niche New York audience that deserve their time in the spotlight.

Here are five blogs that neither I nor a plethora of New Yorkers can bear to live without for a long period of time.

FREEwilliamsburg.com:
FREEwilliamsburg provides eccentric, eclectic content for the burgeoning area of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. With restaurant, bar and music guides, FREEwilliamsburg.com not only let’s its readers know where to go, but it tells them when to be there.

You can also catch the occasional profile of individuals at the site, such as with this excerpt below:

Meet Megan Paska and Katrina Mauro both Mother Hens to four curious egg-laying chickens in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. They decided to raise chickens for the first time in their tiny urban backyard as a way to live more sustainably. What they discovered is that raising chickens is easier than raising a dog…and just as rewarding. – FREEwilliamsburg.com

SeriousEats: New York
While SeriousEats: NY is the offshoot of the SeriousEats series of blogs, it’s clear that their New York channel is their best channel. With frequent profiles of smaller, lesser-known establishments, SeriousEats has established itself as one of the area-leaders in terms of searching for New York culinary talent. From covering “Meatball Slapdowns,” to covering one of the oldest pizza joints in town, SeriousEats leaves no stone uncovered when it comes to reporting on New York’s best eateries.

Even though the majority of my time and energy is spent seeking out obscure dumpling stalls, taquerias, and pupuserias in obscure corners of our fair city, every now and then I feel the need to reconnect with the red sauce Italian food of my youth. Friday night’s Meatball Slapdown at The Meat Hook provided such an opportunity to do so while watching five of Brooklyn’s top restaurants compete all to raise money for a good cause, Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop farm from the fine folks at Roberta’s in Bushwick. – SeriousEats: New York

The Local
Not all blogs have to be organically created, which is why the NYTimes.com’s “The Local” blog is one of the best in the business. It started off primarily as an outlet for The Times local reporters, but since its inception last year, it has actually become more of an outlet for the local residents. The Local covers different parts of Brooklyn, posting articles from residents around the area. From local artists to political races, The Local is on top of all things Forte Greene, Clinton Hill and beyond, and with its new leadership from j-school students of CUNY; it could become an even bigger part of the community.

Here’s a sample post:

In response to yesterday’s post about Yvrose Pierre, the principal of the Brooklyn School for Career Development who still hasn’t been able to reach her family in Haiti, several commenters mentioned local and national relief efforts for earthquake victims. The Team Tish blog has a list of ways to help the Haitian community and lots of local efforts are already underway, including Brooklyn Tech’s donation drive. – The Local

Overheard in New York
It doesn’t get too deep at Overheard in New York but that doesn’t take away from its entertainment value. The site actually is a collection of user-generated posts detailing the sounds and quotes of the randomness that is New York. So you get a ton of posts covering sex, lies and politics, and all of it is unfiltered. Obviously, you can’t prove the authenticity of any of it, but it’s all so off the wall that is hard to deny its factuality.

Here’s a sample post:

Office chick #1: So you liked the movie Waiting, right?
Office chick #2: Yep.
Office chick #1: Remember “the goat”?
Office chick #2: Yeah, junk stuffed between his legs and displayed from behind!
Office chick #1: Yeah, my husband just came up with a new one called “the heart”!
Office chick #2: What’s that?
Office chick #1: He grabs his sack, pulls it up over his dick, and spreads the skin out at the top, so it kinda looks like a heart.
Office chick #2: Yeah?
Office chick #1: Then he tenses up his dick a few times so that it looks like the heart is beating.
Office chick #2: Cool.
Overheard in New York

Mona’s Apple
This young lady’s blog may not be on the map for many, but it is one of my favorites. Being the food lover that I am, I really wanted to get a local, personal source for restaurant and food options. To my delight, I came across Mona’s Apple, which is self described as “A hungry girl’s slice of life and food in New York City.” Mona does a great job of taking pictures, giving details of the restaurant’s décor and describing her reaction to all of the great food she samples on the behalf of her devoted readers. If you ever come to New York, don’t use Zagat or the New York Times for restaurant suggestions, just check out Mona’s Apple for all of your food-loving needs.

Here’s a sample post:

I get so many requests from friends, friends of friends and the occasional stranger on where to eat, party, brunch, etc. that I’ve decided to start documenting them here. The new column will be called, you guessed it, “Dear Mona.” If you have a question on where to take your vegetarian boyfriend (not sure how you can date a vegetarian, but hey, to each his/her own) or your beef-eating mom, or where to throw down for a bachelorette weekend or a post-pink slip party, e-mail me: monasapple-at-gmail-dot-com. I will try and come up with something for everyone. – Mona’s Apple

Bonus: UzoNYC.com
And of course, I can’t forget my very own blog, UzoNYC, which profiles me, the city and all things New York for an ever-growing following. Being a black in New York City isn’t necessarily the struggle it was even 2 decades ago, but it certainly provides a different prospective from the blogs I just mentioned and the majority of blogs in New York City. So in giving my thoughts on local politics, food critiques, and neighborhood parties, UzoNYC is still mindful of dilemmas, issues and unique advantages of being black in New York City.

Here’s a sample post:

An article in the New York Times (which you can tell is about the only newspaper I read) caught my eye today. The article detailed the shifting population in Harlem, where blacks are making up a smaller percentage of the population, while whites and other races begin to move into Upper Manhattan’s most historic enclave. – UzoNYC.com

Left Leaning Lemurs, It’s Time to Move On

God bless the Democratic Party’s heart. They mean well.

Unfortunately, try as they might, they just aren’t good enough. That doesn’t mean that their ideas are unfounded, their morals are uncouth, or that their view of the world is tainted. It just means that when it comes to achieving their dreams—well, it’s not going to happen.

Moving on is something we all learn as little children, or at least I thought that was the case. For some reason, democrats don’t seem to understand the idea of moving on. I’m not talking about giving up; giving up is for losers. But sometimes you do have to recognize the situation that you are in and hope to satisfy your urges in another fashion.

Take marriage for example. While no one wants to get divorced, sometimes “moving on” is the best move for both parties involved.

No one would tell anyone to keep gambling away their tuition money until they finally got “good” at poker.

Better yet, would you advise a boxer getting the snot kicked out of him to keep going back into the middle of the ring to get the remaining snot knocked out of him?

Well, that’s what the democrats are doing right now.

They keep taking on the Republicans, and every time we think they’ve made some headway, they get the snot knocked out of them. And that’s what happened when they lost their 60th seat in the Senate to the Republicans in Massachusetts’ special Senatorial election 2 days ago.

I’m sure you didn’t miss it, but in case you did, the Democrats lost the special election for Ted Kennedy’s seat to the Republican Party by a decisive margin. I could mention the two parties involved in the race, but realistically, neither of them is worth mentioning. While this newly elected Republican Senator is sure to kill health care reform, he has no real political capital of any kind. As for the losing Democrat, her campaign was so bad I’d raise her poll numbers 2-points just by mentioning her name on my little blog.

With the Republicans now claiming 41 seats in the Senate, they can filibuster healthcare reform to its death with very little ease. And for all of you, who think that the Democrats will just have to pass a less “liberal” bill, think again. The Republicans aren’t letting this thing pass anytime soon, and certainly not before they try to retake the Congressional body in November’s 2010 election season. Oh, I can already see the theme of October now: “Democrats can’t even pass healthcare with a filibuster proof Senate!”

And they would be right. The Democrats can’t even pass a bill with one of the most dominant positions in congress since early last century. President George W. Bush was passing bills left and right without nearly the majority that the Democrats have now, and yet the Democrats can’t even pass legitimate financial reform with the entire union on their side.

If you’re a Democrat, you really have to be ashamed of the people running your party. They can’t get a public option when both the party and the majority of America wants (or at least wanted) that option. The Democrats actually had to argue amongst themselves just to get healthcare reform into reconciliation.

You don’t ever see the Republicans defeating their own bills! Call it stupid, partisan, nation-killing, blind ignorance if you want to, but the Republicans vote for their own stuff and that’s good politics. When the Republicans want something passed and they have the numbers to do it, they get it done. Hell, often times they get it done even when they don’t have the numbers. God bless their souls, but they sure do know how to march lock and step and govern the way they want to when they’re in power.

But not the Democrats. They argue, fuss and fight and damage their own agenda, demonstrating little more than a lemur’s ability to govern.

And now with 59 seats in the Senate, the Democrats are going to swear to us that the fight for health care is still profound, robust and as strong as it ever was. But behind closed doors, they know the truth. They know that unless they concede their very souls to the Republicans, healthcare is as stagnant today as it was in 1978.

So it’s time for the Democrats to move on, and I don’t mean that just in terms of the healthcare fight, but in terms of their party as a whole. Don’t worry about healthcare. Healthcare will be addressed next year. The Republicans aren’t stupid enough to let it die. It’s too good of a political move for them to be the one’s that “fix” American’s healthcare system.

However, the Democrats need not fight that battle this year. They need to move on to the economy, which is sure to kill their campaigns later this year. But let’s be honest, they won’t get that fixed either.

Like I said, I learned how to “move on” when I was very little. I learned it from one of the all-time great movies, “Rudy.” Rudy was a great guy. He had heart, soul, smarts, fight and passion. He was a heck of a football player in high school, and he was even good enough to be on the same field as the players at Notre Dame. But at the end of the day, he couldn’t play with those guys when the lights were on, the clock was ticking, and the bodies were flying. Rudy was just a little too slow, a little too short, and a little too weak. Yeah, they gave Rudy his one shining moment at the end of the movie, but it was little more than a token accomplishment, because at the end of the day, all of those players on Notre Dame’s varsity team were better than him.

I guess we can look back at 2008 as a “Rudy” moment as well. It was nice that the Democrats won back the Presidency, took a dominant position in Congress, and even got a black man in the Oval office. But at the end of the day, that was just one moment for the Democrats. Their liberal agenda has not been achieved, executed or even looked at it. Wall Street is back to the status quo. Race is at the status quo. Healthcare is at the status quo. And the War on Terror in the Middle East is going stronger than ever.

Democrats can be defiant if they want to and continue to the stay the course, and Lord knows many of them will. But the proof is in the pudding, and try as they might, Democrats just can’t play with the big boys.

Cash for Grades May Not Be So Bad

One of my favorite writers at the New York Times broached a very interesting subject in yesterday’s paper (not that I actually read the newspaper it was printed on, but instead enjoyed scrolling through her piece on my laptop). Susan Dominus, columnist extraordinaire, doesn’t seem to think very highly of the New York City programs giving kids money for good grades.

For those of you who don’t know, giving kids money for good grades is a part of an experimental program here in New York being conducted by some very smart people from schools tattered in ivy. Of course, I’m being facetious here. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if you give kids money for grades, kids will get better grades. The only difference between you and me running this experimental program and these “highly educated” professors running it is that they get paid a whole lot more for doing it.

But Ms. Dominus doesn’t think that this program is good for the future of our society—at least our financial future anyway. She believes that giving kids money for grades gives money added value. Ms. Dominus does not like the idea of reinforcing the value of money in the minds of kids, because in her opinion, it leads to “another generation overlooked with people, educated and not, whose ambition is limited to the goal of cash, and at all costs.”

Naturally, I beg to differ.

The problem with Ms. Dominus’s theory is that she fails to take a look back at her own childhood.

Now, I was born in 1984 so my scope of Ms. Dominus’s reign as a child/pre-adolescent isn’t all that concrete. Nevertheless, as far as I know, there weren’t any wide-ranging experiments in New York City offering kids cash for grades in the 70’s and 60’s (sorry, Ms. Dominus, if going back to the 60’s was an insult—I’m just trying to make a point here). And yet still, by the unfortunate fate of God, Ala, Jesus Christ and Ronald Regan, we ended up with three economic disasters since the inception of the 80’s, with each disaster pretty much originating at the hand’s of greed.

So how can anyone come to the conclusion, no matter how personal it may be, that giving kids money in 2010 could possibly create the next generation to initiate a financial sector-driven recession as Ms. Dominus suggests by saying, “Giving a kid a costly gadget or cash to get good grades? Somehow, suddenly, that all sounds very pre-crash”…?

Frankly, wouldn’t it make more sense to assume that giving kids cash for grades could have the opposite effect, especially since kids from the 70’s and 60’s were devoid of such a system? Individuals from those earlier decades might actually be more prone to a mindset of cash “at all costs.” Afterall, many of them entered the financial world knowing that they could either commission, network or my favorite, “build and sell” their way to a nice payday in which they have done very little, if anything, of substance.

In the 80’s, Wall Street bankers were living off the commissions of Middle America until the late 80’s crash. In the late 90’s, early 2000’s, internet start-ups were cashing in on hype faster than high school basketball players turning pro. And just recently, Wall Street was at it again, passing around packages of money, taking a penny here and a nickel there until, suddenly, the package unraveled before their very eyes. And what was the perception of money that led to these economic disasters?

Money was a game to these people. An entire generation—excuse me—two or three entire generations were done-in by those who thrived and lived off the notion that money could be had with empty promises, risky lending practices and without elongated effort or proprietary substance of any kind. The people born in the 60’s and 70’s who decided to go to Wall Street, and eventually Silicon Valley, didn’t see money as something to be earned, to be worked for, or as a consequence of creating something of value. Perhaps teaching them at a young age that money is to be earned by doing something of substance, value and merit, such as grades (which are some of the most important things in a young person’s life) could have taught these bankers and Internet boomers a thing or two about the value of money.

Also, Ms. Dominus failed to address one of the most important things these experimental “cash for grades” programs are dealing with: race.

It’s not as if these professors are trying to get Upper East Siders to improve their grades with money that probably is equal to no more than chump change in comparison to the allowances UES kids’ mommies and daddies give them at the end of the week. These programs are designed primarily for blacks in bad socioeconomic situations who don’t see grades as a way out of the projects. For them, cash is king and grades have no value. However, by linking the two entities, tying cash to grades, the results demonstrate that kids are increasing their performances in school, a result much better than the alternative.

Now, I would love to live in a perfect world where we don’t have to give any kids money for grades and everybody turns out fine. After all, the only thing I got for grades was a pass on a butt-whipping—which I was very thankful for. Unfortunately, we live in a society (which was, oddly enough, created by generations past) where money has been given so much value that little things like grades, to someone who comes from near-poverty, have no value at all. So while Ms. Dominus argues that “cash for grades” creates a motivation for money that is detrimental to our society, I believe these programs create a much needed motivation for grades that far outweighs the happenstance value such programs give to the old mighty dollar—an already high-ranking emblem in society that is so direly inflated in the minds of our youths that it really can’t gain but so much more esteem anyway.

Around the Blogosphere (AtB): January 15, 2010

I usually save “Around the Blogosphere” for early in the week, but I thought I would give it a shot now and share with you what people are talking about before the start of a 3-day weekend. Everyone knows that everybody gets a little crazy before a 3-day weekend. You generally fall into one of two occasions on a Friday like this. Either you have so much planned for the weekend that you just can’t wait to get started, or you have no plans but are desperately hoping to find some entertaining way to spend your time over the next 3 days.

Anyway, here’s what some of my favorite bloggers have been talking about this week:

Gawker.com:
Well, in case you’ve been living a hole somewhere, you probably have heard about the little tiff going on at NBC. Gawker.com has been great all week in posting all of the pot-shots that the latenight host have taken at NBC’s expense. I’ve been particularly impressed by what Craig Ferguson has said all week, but to his credit, he decided to go a different route last night. However, the others were still at it, especially Conan O’Brien, who’s really starting to come across as quite angry about the whole situation. http://tv.gawker.com/5448615/the-late-night-war-reaches-its-boiling-point-all-the-clips-you-missed

VerySmartBrothas.com:
Blogger Panama Jackson went through a list of his most tightly-held confessions. Personally, I think he’s safe it that’s as bad as it gets for him. While I apparently have done a lot worse, I’m not sure I’m confessing to too much at this point and time. However, I will openly admit to something he did: I watch way too many shows intended for majority-female audience. Granted, most of the female shows I’ve watched, I haven’t watched them on a regular basis. Every now and then I’ve checked out America’s Next Top Model for some new talent, or I had to take a sneak peak at Buppies on BET.com. Sadly though, I am a regular fan of Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Please don’t take my man-card. http://www.verysmartbrothas.com/vsb-confession-fridays-volume-1/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=vsb-confession-fridays-volume-1

Lifehacker.com:
First of all, for those of you who don’t follow Lifehacker, get on it. To my point though, I came across something there that once again symbolized my luck. They posted an entry unveiling the fact that McDonald’s is now allowing Wi-fi use in 11,500 of its 14,000 U.S. stores for free. That would have come in real handy when I was working at ESPN and Bristol, and spent hours upon hours killing time in the all-night McDonalds in Southington, CT. I was putting down $10-$15 a night on that mess, when it could have been free. Sorry to bore you with this detail, but this really hit me. http://lifehacker.com/5446502/mcdonalds-nationwide-free-wi+fi-starts-today?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+lifehacker/full+(Lifehacker)&utm_content=Google+Reader

ThePancakeShop.com:
My New Yorkers, or more specifically, my Brooklynites, somebody try this and get back to me. This site claims to deliver pancakes to your door, which seems like the ultimate gig for monetary successes. Just think about it. If you live in New York, don’t keep food in your fridge, and wake up on the weekends recovering from a night of drinking in search of fried carbs douced in sugar syrup, what better invention than pancakes to your door. I’m sure there are a number of places that do this, but they aren’t advertising it. This service may be a little sketchy, because it apparently has no shop, no address and no history, but that’s all semantics, right? So check this place out for me, and if you’re still alive 7 days later, holla at me, Brooklyn! http://thepancakeshop.weebly.com/index.html

MediaMatters.org:
Rush Limbaugh is using Haiti as a means to spew his political agenda. He’s quite stupid—enough said:

Revelations: I have the "Worries"

I’m Scared of Everything!

Not really.

I’m technically not scared of everything, so much as I am worried about everything.

I don’t like to fly.

I don’t like working in tall buildings.

Spending a vacation in a chalet is borderline out of the question for me (really bad experience!).

And I don’t even let my cab drivers talk on the phone when I’m in the cab anymore—per New York City law!

But the reason I shy away from saying I’m scared of those things, is because I do all of them anyway. I fly when I have to and sometimes when I don’t have to. I work in tall buildings. Heck, I sleep in tall buildings. I’m planning to vacation in a chalet in Italy in the not too distant future. And when it’s 3 o’clock in the morning and I’m tired, I cut my cab driver some slack if he’ll where an earpiece.

Still, I worry about all of those things. I won’t let you see that I’m worried. I won’t let you know that I’m worried. But trust me, I’m worried. If we’re in a tall building, on a plane, or in some other semi-plausibly dangerous situation and I’m keeping to myself, minding my own business and really not trying to communicate with anyone near me, it’s because I’m worrying about the worse possible outcome.

That’s just who I am. I think about those things. Some people, on the other hand are the exact opposite.

I remember one time in college, I was talking to one of my football teammates, and we were just talking about random stuff, most likely because he was high or drunk, or both. At one point in the conversation, he said, “When you’re in the subway, do you ever think about what would happen if you pushed someone standing on the edge onto the tracks?”

Before you get all crazy, he was probably high, so he was being existential and what not, and that’s something he would never do. But clearly, it’s something he thinks about, because that’s the type of person he is, he’s always wondering what would happen if HE pushed the limits.

I, on the other hand, in response to his question, both said and realized that my line of thought is the exact opposite. When I’m standing on the edge of the subway platform, I think about somebody randomly coming up and pushing me onto the tracks. Why? Because I’m always worried about crap like that.

I’m worried about planes cracking in half in mid-flight. I’m worried about the breaks on the bus going out when I’m crossing the street. I’m worried about leaving the iron on, going to work, re-entering my building, only for a fire to break out upon my return.

Once again, I don’t ever let any of those things freak me out, or even effect what I do in life—they’re just thoughts of concern. However, because I am always worrying about crap like that, I have exit strategy for just about everything.

I know if a terrorist is on the plane, I’m going for his knees before anything else.

If somebody pushes me onto the subway tracks, I’m pulling them down with me, rolling over to the platform side, leaving their body between myself and the train.

And if I get held at gunpoint, I’ve practiced that gun trick from Rush Hour 1 like a thousand times.

I could probably teach a class in physical exit strategies. Of course, on the final day of class, I’d just have to be real with everyone and tell them that in the game of life, you can never really be prepared for the worst, because the worst never happens in your moment of preparedness.

The people of Haiti found that out in a very devastating way a couple of days ago, and unfortunately for them, no exit strategy could have said the many that have passed away. Here’s to the people from Haiti. As someone who worries about silly things far too often, I’ll try to do whatever I can to relieve at least one person of there worries, even if it’s just for a small moment in time.

Self-Help: It’s Time for a Book Club!

I can’t read.

Okay, that’s not exactly true. To put it in better terms: I don’t read!

Many of you are like me, but you won’t admit it. The idea of going out and buying Barack Obama’s latest book, or going gaga over Stephen King’s next Best Seller just doesn’t appeal to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I do read, just not the typical stuff people are referring to when they ask you, “What have you been reading?” I’m a news junkie, so I read everything that comes across the wire. And when I say everything, I mean everything. I have access to all sorts of news wires, so that stuff is delivered to my phone, computer, and sometimes personally. I read 3 sections of the New York Times religiously. I follow about 100 blogs on Google Reader of which I graze through 1 or 2 times a day. And being “The Sports Watcher” that I am, ESPN.com, SI.com and ESPN the Magazine are like my second religions (with “Man v. Food” being my first).

I do manage to read a “book” every now and then. Whenever something that can help my life crosses my path I get interested. So I’m a big fan of the “7 Daily Habits…” book/series, as well as the “48 Laws of Power” book/series. Occasionally, if an interesting autobiography is well-received, I’ll get interested, such as Stokley Carmichael’s book, which I read half-a-decade ago. But generally speaking, once you get past news and self-help, I’m “Seacrest out,” and I don’t find it necessary to apologize for that.

I know what many of you are saying: “You have no culture!” “You’re missing out on some great literature.” Or my favorite, “Books can stimulate your mind.” Listen, if books were the only thing stimulating my mind, I’d rather be dead. Besides, I’ve read the classics, and I wasn’t terribly impressed. All of those works I read— throughout my “advanced” English classes in middle and high school and during my stint at my liberal arts college—were very good books, but they didn’t get me excited.

Yes, some of them posed thought-provoking questions for society, but they didn’t answer them. The best part about all of those classical readings in college was not the experience of reading the books, but the discussions we had in class the next day. But you didn’t need the books to have those discussions, you just needed the questions those books proposed. Enter: blogs, political pundits, The Maury Povich Show and Cornel West.

In all seriousness though, I just can’t wrap my head around reading something as subjective and untimely as a classic book or a piece of fiction. Maybe that line of thought is a product of this “everything now” society that we live in, but I’d just rather read breaking news, breaking down a scientific study or finding out why Kim Kardashian isn’t allowed to eat cookies on TMZ.com

However, I do want to have those conversations that those classic books created during my academic career. I was way too sleepy, too stressed, or too into the hot German co-ed in my Contemporary Civilizations class for one too many of our sessions, so I need more of that conversation in my life now to make up for some of the stuff I didn’t fully participate in.

So, it’s time to start a book club!

I’ve wanted to do this for quite some time now, but I’ve been afraid to ask, just because everyone in my life is always talking about how little time they have in the first place. Needless to say, these are the same people I watch football games with for 12 hours straight or spend 8 hours roaming New York with, but of course, they have no time.

So, I’m asking now, and yes, I’m even asking the general public to join me. I’m not exactly sure that I will have all of you over at my house, but a virtual book club, in addition to the physical one I hope to start, certainly would be well worth my time.

So, please join my book club! If you know me, email me! If you don’t, sign up for my UzoNYC.com newsletter and let you know about the virtual book club I’m hoping to have as an extension of the one I’m doing here. This won’t be any old book club either! I’ll try to make it fun. I’ve already thought of a few things I’ll do my best to incorporate:

Authors of the books at our conversations
Contemporary pieces
Free food (for the physical book club that is)
Contributor of the month
Tournament style voting procedure for book selection
and…video conferencing with people outside of both my New York and blogging circles!

So I hope those of you who read this blog will lend out your virtual hand and help a brotha become more of a traditional reader. And for those of you who call yourselves friends, do holla at me, or your academia street-cred shall be challenged!