Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Lost Art of People-Watching

I was listening to a talk-show yesterday and the topic of conversation was people-watching. Many were calling in saying that because of the popularity of the Smartphone, the art of people-watching is dead. People are too busy walking around with their eyes down, thumbs punching out text messages and emails that no one really looks at anyone else these days. Being an experienced people-watcher myself, as well as an amateur social scientist of sorts, I take exception to that premise.

People-watching involves unobtrusively studying people - mostly strangers -and making up stories about who they are, where they are coming from, where they are going, what they are thinking, and yes, sometimes even making fun of them (not so they can hear of course).

I was taught the fine art of people-watching as a preteen by my step-mother. She’d take me, my teenage step-sister and infant half-sister to the White Front store - similar to today’s Wal-Mart except there was a huge food-court to the left as you enter the front door - and we’d sit, literally, for hours nursing chocolate cokes making up stories about the more interesting people we’d see. To qualify as “interesting” the person would have to stand out from the rest of the crowd in some way. Maybe it was the color or style of their clothing; were they stylish or completely clueless about fashion? Maybe it was an interesting hairstyle that drew our attention, their mannerisms or an unusual facial feature. Were they appropriately dressed for the weather that day? We’d make up stories about what they did for a living or invent some deep dark secret they were hiding. We’d even try and spot “Doppelgängers,” people who look like people we knew or well-known people like movie stars.

Today, the best places to people-watch are cafes & coffee shops, libraries, bookstores, the beach, sitting on a park bench or waiting for the bus. Wherever you do it, the most important thing is not to look conspicuous. Make it appear that you're already occupied. Look busy by pretending to read something, work on your laptop, or text on your Smartphone (doh!), just don’t just sit and stare. If outside, wear sunglassses so it’s hard to tell where you’re looking.

Like the line in the Simon & Garfunkel song “America” that goes like this
“Laughing on the bus,
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said "Be careful his bowtie is really a camera."

Real people watching is harder than it looks and definitely more fun to do with a friend, but there’s a fine line between perverted staring and the simple observation of pedestrians. You have to let go of your stalker tendencies and observe simply for personal enjoyment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

I was recently sent this online article about the Governor of Florida, Rick Scott, wanting to require welfare recipients to be drug tested before receiving public assistance benefits.

At first read, it sounded OK until I realized that, unfortunately, most of the people getting public assistance are single women with children. Not to mention it's already a given in most welfare programs that if a recipient is suspected of using drugs — because of current behavior or past history of abuse — he or she will be referred for treatment or screening. The whole issue began to smack of unreasonable search and seizure to me; just because you’re seeking public benefits doesn’t mean you don’t have the same kind of protection from unreasonable searches as anybody else. If we give our government the right to strip 4th amendment rights from anyone who benefits from public assistance programs, we may ALL live to regret it. Besides, there are plenty of ways to beat a drug test and people that use know that. Focusing on poor people is easy, they rarely fight back.

The obvious question the Florida Governor needs to be asking himself is if all the people in his State have access to enriching schools, resources for higher education and/or training, justice, healthcare, and employment. Seems to me that ensuring these things would be a much better use of the proposed drug testing money.

The phrase "I don't have to pay for their habit" or "Not with my tax dollars" is simply never true. Whether through the government agencies providing financial assistance or the tax dollars paying for the justice system that handles the crime related to drug use, or the cost of cleaning up parks and cities drowning with homeless or unemployed people with addictions, you ARE paying for them and it is just a technicality of the allocation of your money.

Do you want to support the welfare program or pay for the social toll of these violators when they take their problems into the streets? Either way you pay. That is the cost of living in a society.

It also got me to thinking about the wealthiest among us and how we "little people" pay for rich people's drug problems. Sure we do! They run large corporations and while sniffing the magic white powder make big mistakes that cost lives and money. It's just a larger scale abuse.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

That's Vaginal!

"Join the movement to place one incredible word in its rightful place of superiority over all other words."

They say this new advertising campaign by Summer's Eve (yes, the douche people) is going to go viral.

I'm not so sure. I mean I understand the rational behind the campaign: to sell more douche you have to tap into the younger audience and before you can sell them douche you have to get them thinking about and talking about the part of the body involved. As a feminist I like the idea of reclaiming the word "vagina," but I don't like the fact that Summer's Eve pretends to be empowering women when actually their sole purpose is to sell douche.

I do think they've captured "catitude" perfectly though.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Shared Sacrifice

I am posting this for anyone interested: a letter from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) to President Obama. I signed it and promised to pass it on. Shared Sacrifice