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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Maybe We Shouldn't Eat: Revolutions In Subsisting

We’re all familiar with the concept of something needing fuel to keep it going. Just as a power station requires gas or coal to power its turbines and generate energy, so we need fuel – in the form of food – to power our continued existence.
The foods we eat provide us with a range of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, water, fat, carbohydrates, fibre, and protein. These nutrients are put to different uses — as building materials to construct the tissues and organs from which our bodies are made; as the components of the molecular machinery that keeps our cells running as they should. All of these uses are unified by a common theme: a requirement for energy to make them happen. And this is where one particular type of nutrient comes into its own. Step forward the carbohydrates.
- See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2012/01/sciwhys-why-do-we-eat-food/#sthash.tOKEi8j2.dpuf
We’re all familiar with the concept of something needing fuel to keep it going. Just as a power station requires gas or coal to power its turbines and generate energy, so we need fuel – in the form of food – to power our continued existence.
The foods we eat provide us with a range of nutrients: vitamins, minerals, water, fat, carbohydrates, fibre, and protein. These nutrients are put to different uses — as building materials to construct the tissues and organs from which our bodies are made; as the components of the molecular machinery that keeps our cells running as they should. All of these uses are unified by a common theme: a requirement for energy to make them happen. And this is where one particular type of nutrient comes into its own. Step forward the carbohydrates.
- See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2012/01/sciwhys-why-do-we-eat-food/#sthash.tOKEi8j2.dpuf
We’re all familiar with the concept of something needing fuel to keep it going. Just as a power station requires gas or coal to power its turbines and generate energy, so we need fuel – in the form of food – to power our continued existence. - See more at: http://blog.oup.com/2012/01/sciwhys-why-do-we-eat-food/#sthash.tOKEi8j2.dpuf




Why do we have to eat food?

I can hear you know. You are probably saying something like this: "What an idiot! The old man has finally slipped off his rocker. This is the last post of his I'm reading." I think I'm posing the question for a purpose that is not so obvious.

Give me just a minute to explain a few things about this entry.

First of all, I know you understand food is the fuel that keeps us going. Without food to power our existence, we would die. Nutrients provided by food act as the building materials for our tissues and organs. Our bodies depend upon these nutrients. Vitamins, minerals, water, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, protein -- all are components of the machinery that keeps our cells running.

But since the dawn of mankind, acquiring, preparing, and eating food have been some of the most perplexing problems humans have faced. For many individuals around the world, food and all that leads to its consummation is as so problematic that the struggle to eat requires the majority of their resources.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing counties.

Even in the United States, the "Land of Milk and Honey," 49.0 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children. Hunger is not caused by a scarcity of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty. (A. Coleman-Jensen, M. Nord, M. & A. Singh. Household Food Security in the United States in 2012. 2013) 

Let me narrow my focus to the United States and turn this essay away from hunger. What about the people who eat plenty of food every day yet think nothing about what and how they eat? Will we continue to maintain traditional methods of eating in a future focused on health and proper nutrition?




Acquiring Food and Eating

Human beings are still, and always have been, a species that spends considerable energy acquiring foodstuffs. Getting food on the table requires a hunt, no matter whether you are a self-subsiting hunter/gatherer and gardener, a supermarket shopper, or someone who consistently dines away from home.

Maybe more of us should consider acquiring our own food from natural sources. In reality, few have the ability to do this. Even if we could subsist primarily by hunting and gardening, the expense and huge time commitment would be daunting. Large sums of money are required for purchasing transportation, guns, ammunition, seeds, fertilizers, tools, and other essentials. And, since people must work to get a paycheck, few have the time to be self-subsistent.

After all, to do so means committing to long hours of work in planning and laboring while hunting, cultivating, and preparing the food. And, self-subsistent eaters are dependent upon nature for assistance to produce a successful yield of crops and game. In fact, we must consider many of us simply do not have the natural resources and the "know how" to survive.

But, those of us who continue to buy our food from the market pay much more money for our processed food than those self-subsiding individuals who labor long hours getting the raw materials to the table.

Although shopping for food is much more convenient than hunting and gardening, it requires considerable funds. In fact, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows U.S. citizens spend spend 14% of their income on food (8.3% at home and 5.8% at restaurants). And, that is a bargain compared to the majority of the rest of the world. For example, the Japanese spend 21.8% of their income on food.

Also, going to the market does take quite a chunk of time from our schedule. It requires making grocery lists, acquiring transportation to and from the store, comparing brands and prices, and carefully selecting nutritious foods.

Most of us consider going to the market to be a big chore. The average time an American spends in the market while grocery shopping, not including time spent getting to and from the store, is 41 minutes. (American Time Use Survey, 2008)  Women account for nearly two-thirds of all American grocery shoppers: on a typical day 17 percent of all women go grocery shopping, compared with only 10 percent of men.

Then, of course, we all love to chow down on our food, no matter the means of acquisition, What about time and energy spent preparing meals? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, on average, an American spends 53 minutes in food preparation and associate cleanup each day.

How much time during the day do we spend consuming our expensive food? According to the ATUS statistics, Americans age 15 and older spend 67 minutes on an average day in "primary" eating and drinking beverages and, in addition another 16 minutes and 42 minutes drinking beverages (except for plain water) as secondary activities. 



What the Future May Hold

I think the question "Why do we eat food?" begs an answer. Why? Hunting, gardening, and shopping for food in their many complications from source to table is old-fashioned and largely detrimental. The United States enjoys one of the most plentiful food supplies in the world. But with abundance comes overeating and, ultimately, weight gain and related health problems.

As the rate of obesity in American adults has increased in recent decades from 13% in 1962 to 35.7% in 2010 (and to 17% of American children), obesity is a major health issue. In addition, what and how we eat cause other complications as we waste our precious time and money.

 ("National Obesity Trends." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2010)
 
In an age when people are uber health conscious, "eating food," as we typically define the process, may be unnecessary. Many other things have changed and gotten more efficient, but we still haven’t figured out how to get healthy food to everyone. Maybe it's time for a food revolution. And, maybe that revolution is already in the making.

What if eating was as simple as putting gas in a car? Here are some futuristic food trends. Read about these innovations, and I think you may acquire a new perspective on spending time and money for food. Many thanks to Liz Neporent of ABC News for some good content in this information. Click on her informative article. The interactive website address is below.

(Liz Neporent. "5 Futuristic Food Trends." ABC News. November 21, 2013)



1. 3D Printing

Several companies are already experimenting with printing foods like chocolate and pasta by mixing together a series of dry ingredients to use as a sort of edible ink. Yes, "edible ink." At this time, most 3D food printers can only print out basic foods that require only one or two ingredients. A few can print with up to six ingredients at a time. But, as they get more sophisticated, experts predict they'll be able to print out complete customized meals on demand.

In the future, 3D-printed edibles will give every consumer the ability to print exactly what they crave. They also will revolutionize space travel opening up new frontiers of exploration. Long distance space travel requires 15-plus years of shelf life, but this new technology could extend that shelf life to 30 years.

Anjan Contractor’s company, Systems and Materials Research Corporation, recently acquired a six month, $125,000 grant from NASA to create a prototype a universal food synthesizer.

But, Contractor sees a more everyday use for 3D technology

"Contractor sees a day when every kitchen has a 3D printer, and the earth’s 12 billion people feed themselves customized, nutritionally-appropriate meals synthesized one layer at a time, from cartridges of powder and oils they buy at the corner grocery store.

"Contractor’s vision would mean the end of food waste, because the powder his system will use is shelf-stable for up to 30 years, so that each cartridge, whether it contains sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein or some other basic building block, would be fully exhausted before being returned to the store."

(Christopher Mims. The Audacious Plan to End Hunger with 3D Printed Food." 
Quartz qz.com. May 21, 2013)

Food synthesizers would also create new ways of producing the basic calories on which we all rely. For example, could we get all our protein from insects? After all, a powder is a powder, and the inputs could be anything that contain the right organic molecules.

Taste? Contractor says the "good stuff" is currently expensive, yet so is buying groceries today. And, the price will likely come down as technology finds new answers to novel questions.

And, yes, there is 3D pizza. Pizza is actually an ideal candidate for 3D printing because it can be printed in distinct layers, so it only requires the print head to extrude one substance at a time. From dough to sauce to toppings, 3D pizza can be printed to specifications. Viva la powder!




2. In-Vitro Meat

PETA should endorse this technology with open arms. Dutch scientists have already grown hamburger from the muscle tissue of a cow. Although not particularly tasty to some who have sampled the fare, if perfected, in-vitro could end the suffering of farm animals and help fight world hunger. In addition to flavor, cost and time are also major stumbling blocks -- the test tube burger took two years and $325,000 to create.

In-vitro meat requires less food input (instead of growing a whole animal with bones and brains,  only enough calories and  nutrients to grow the muscle are required. In-vitro also would save real estate and water while producing less solid waste and no methane gas.

In-vitro production would be much cleaner. Imagine the eradication of mad-cow, swine and bird flu, and e-coli contamination.

How would strict vegetarians and vegans classify the meat? Who knows?

3. Multi-tasking Plants

French fries and ketchup from one plant? We have plants that produce combination vegetables already. One vegetable, a potato and a tomato in one, is known as a TomTato. British seed catalog Thompson & Morgan settled on the name. It will only be sold in the U.K. for now as an annual.

The multi-tasking plant is not genetically engineered in the modern sense of the word. Instead it's a hybrid made by grafting the two plants together. Normally this is a difficult horticultural feat to accomplish, but it's possible in this case because the tomato and potato are closely related and share enough genetic traits to happily cohabitate on the same stem.

A similar plant in New Zealand produces the Potato Tom. It looks like a standard tomato plant, sprouting more than 500 cherry tomatoes. But pulling it out of the soil reveals a full-grown patch of white potatoes hanging from the roots. 

4. Molecular Gastronomy

Imagine eating apple caviar made by submerging apple juice that's been mixed with the chemical sodium alginate into a bath of calcium to form a sphere. The juice transforms into tiny balls with thin, barely detectable membranes that burst in the mouth like fish eggs.

Molecular gastronomy refers to using culinary and science skills together to produce food. It is a modern style of cooking that is practiced by both scientists and food professionals in many professional kitchens and labs, and it takes advantage of many technical innovations from the scientific disciplines. A little physics and chemistry are used to transform the tastes and textures of food.

Molecular gastronomy experiments have resulted in new innovative dishes like hot gelatins, airs, faux caviar, spherical ravioli, crab ice cream and olive oil spiral. Heston Blumenthal from The Fat Duck restaurant discovered the ability of fat to hold flavor and created a dish that had three flavors -basil, olive and onion - with each taste being perceived in sequence. 

Cooking with chemicals? It doesn't sound healthy? The truth is that the "chemicals" used in molecular gastronomy are all of biological origin. Even though they have been purified and some of them processed, the raw material origin is usually marine, plant, animal or microbial. These additives have been approved by EU standards and are used in very, very small amounts.

The science lab equipment used in the process just helps modern gastronomy cooks do simple things like maintaining the constrant temperature of the cooking water (water bath), quickly cooling food at extremely low temperatures  (liquid nitrogen), or extracting flavor from food (evaporator).

Just read this for a general idea about possibilities:

"Cocktails in ice spheres. Caviar made of olive oil. Disappearing transparent raviolis. Sound cool? Well these are all examples of Molecular Gastronomy. Molecular Gastronomy blends physics and chemistry to transform the tastes and textures of food. The result? New and innovative dining experiences.

"The term Molecular Gastronomy is commonly used to describe a style of cuisine in which chefs explore culinary possibilities by borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the food industry.  Formally, the term molecular gastronomy refers to the scientific discipline that studies the physical and chemical processes that occur while cooking. Molecular gastronomy seeks to investigate and explain the chemical reasons behind the transformation of ingredients, as well as the social, artistic and technical components of culinary and gastronomic phenomena."

 ("What Is Molecular Gastronomy?" molecularrecipes.com. 2013)



5. Soylent

Most people hate to take time to cook. How about subsisting on an inexpensive, 33-ingredient, grayish-colored liquid supplement? It is a meal replacement called Soylent designed to provide all the essential nutrients. And it can be customized for the individual -- individual preferences, individual allergies and individual disease management.

Rob Rhinehart, the chief operating officer of the company Solylent that makes the product, says it's possible to subsist on Soylent exclusively but most of the testers who tried it, drank it for breakfast and lunch, then had a regular meal for dinner. He claims the product is much more than a convenience: it's an answer to world hunger problems.

Rhinehart researched exactly what the body needs to survive, down to the biochemical level. His mixture is composed of lots of vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, zinc, vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K.

“It started as a personal need for myself,” says Rhinehart, a 24-year-old software engineer based in San Francisco. “My diet before was pretty poor. I ate mainly convenient cheap foods because I wasn’t really that into food.”

Rhinehart has secured $1.5 million in seed funding and millions of pre-orders for the drink he developed. Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, described by Forbes as some of the most powerful people in tech, all want to get in on the product.

Solylent is  currently classified as a supplement rather than food, and it is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Even though some claim it's not too "yummy," the company has 1.5 million pre-orders, and the product ships in January, 2014.

Soylent may sound like the elixir for good health, but some dieticians have serious concerns about the lack of evidence to support it. Other people express concerns about taking the pleasureable  experience out of eating, which may be counterintuitive because savoring a meal helps release hormones that regulate satiety and suppression of appetite.

But, other similar nutrient-dense products that don't spoil have already staples for treating severe malnutrition in developing countries. One of these products, Plumpy'Nut, was developed by the French company Nutriset that partners with nonprofits to get the product to children who need it. It is said to have a 90% success rate in rehabilitating starving and malnourished children.

Plumpy’Nut is now one of the most commonly used treatments for kids under age 5 suffering from severe malnutrition in parts of Africa.The product is a high-calorie mixture of peanuts, sugar, milk powder, whey, vitamins and minerals, soy oil and palm oil. The milk powder is a formula called F100 that was developed over 17 years as nutritional rehabilitation for malnutrition. Plumpy’Nut doesn’t need to be refrigerated or mixed with water, which makes it easy to transport and safely consume.

(Alexandra Sifferlin, "Soylent: Is the ‘Food of the Future’ Really a Nutrition Solution?"  
Time Magazine. June 10, 2013)





Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Johnny Brewer: Humble Hero of Circumstance




Let's imagine you live in Dallas, Texas, at 512 North Lancaster, Apartment 102, and you have managed Hardy's Shoe Store located at 213 West Jefferson Street since August of 1962. It's Friday, close to end of the workweek, and you were not scheduled to work, but you have to cover for the assistant manager whose newborn infant was ill.

You had just taken delivery of a brand new car -- a 1964-model Ford Galaxie XL500. Before the assistant manager telephoned to call off work, you had planned on spending the day cruising in your shiny machine. But, you do what is necessary -- you get ready to do your job, and you leave for work. You had not option.

Fate works in strange ways. You are going somewhere you didn't plan to be that day. Still, you couldn't have guessed what lay in store for you. In fact, nowhere in your wildest imagination could you have foreseen what monumental actions were about to occur.

You arrive at work, park your new car in front of Hardy's, and begin to feed your first nickels into the parking meter. You just can't wait to finish your job and start driving.

The workday begins. While working, you decide to turn on a  transistor radio, possibly to keep abreast of the broadcast of President John F. Kennedy's arrival at Love Field and the procession in downtown Dallas. You also hope the radio will help make your day go a little faster, yet you're not paying it much attention as you perform your normal routine.

For many others in the city, it's a day of fond anticipation, an opportunity to get a glimpse of President JFK and First Lady Jackie, but for you, it's just another shift of greeting customers, fetching boxes, and fitting shoes until....

 Texas Theater -- Interior


A True Story

These events actually happened to Johnny Calvin Brewer. Little did he know he was about to become one of the biggest heroes who ever lived. On that date, November 22, 1963, Johnny was about to play his gallant role in one of the most memorable events in American history.

Morning passed, and Johnny continued to work the afternoon with the companionship of the little radio.  

The following is the string of events that occurred in Dallas that coincidentally made Johnny Calvin Brewer forever famous.


 Ford Galaxie XL500 (Similar to Johnny Brewer's Car)


Johnny's Friday Afternoon

According to Johnny Brewer and others nearby his shoe store, this is what happened that fateful afternoon.

Sometime around 1:00 P.M., the radio abruptly broke some unbelievable news. At once, Brewer began to give his undivided attention to the broadcast.  

"We were just listening to a transistor radio there in the store, just listening to a regular radio program, and they (reporters) broke in with the bulletin that the President had been shot," said Brewer. "And from then, that is all there was. We listened to all of the events."

Brewer explained, "They kept reconstructing what had happened and what they had heard, and they talked about it in general. There wasn't too much to talk about. They didn't have all the facts, and just repeated them mostly. And they said a patrolman had been shot in Oak Cliff."

Brewer said, "All of a sudden a report came in that shots have been fired, and then you start paying attention. And just within a few moments, another report that an officer had been shot in Oak Cliff."

Hardy's Shoe Store was located in the Oak Cliff District.

(Tyler Sieswerda. "Oswald -- the Austin Connection." www.kvue.com. July 18, 2013)

At 1:35 P.M., as he was standing behind the counter by the hose bar still listening to all the chaos on the radio, Brewer looked through the glass front doors of the store and noticed that a young man had, in his words, "ducked into the foyer of the store." Johnny recognized that the man matched the description of the person who had reportedly just shot Oak Cliff police officer J.D. Tippet.

Brewer estimated the man was about 5'9" and weighted 150 pounds. He also said the light-complexioned man had brown hair and was wearing a brown sports shirt with the "tail out."

(History recounted the radio's description did not accurately match Brewer's: the broadcast actually called for "a man, 5'8" with black hair, wearing a white shirt with a white jacket" (which the suspect had discarded before being spotted by Brewer. Again, circumstance and fate often conspire to produce unbelievable results.)

At the time, he didn't think as much about the matching characteristics as he did about the man's unusual behavior -- the man was standing with his back to the street as sirens wailed in the distance. And, to Johnny, he did not appear to be inspecting the merchandise in the window display.

Even more about the man in the foyer rang untrue to Johnny Brewer. Brewer said, "Mostly it was his action, as to, trying to avoid what everybody else was trying to see. He looked in briefly. I looked at him. And as soon as the police cars went by, he looked over his shoulder, then turned and walked out back out onto the sidewalk on Jefferson toward the Texas Theater."

Brewer stated, "He just looked funny to me. Well, in the first place, I had seen him some place before. I think he had been in my store before. And when you wait on somebody, you recognize them, and he just seemed funny. His hair was sort of messed up and looked like he had been running, and he looked scared."

These next few moments (Literally, all it took for the events to transpire.) changed Johnny Brewer's life. He remembered, "I walked out the front and watched him, and he quickly went into the theater (a distance of about 50-60 feet). I just saw him walk in and I said (to myself) something is not right here."

Next, Brewer walked up to the theater and approached the box office. He said, "I asked Mrs. Julia Postal (the attendant) if she had sold a ticket to a man who was wearing a brown shirt, and she said she couldn't remember a man of that description going in. She was listening to the radio herself. And I said that a man walked in there, and I was going to go inside and ask the usher if he had seen him."

In later testimony, Mrs. Postal said her daughter had called her at the office before the theater opened and informed her about seeing a television report that President Kennedy had been shot. At that point, Postal turned on her own little transistor to KLIF Radio for updates.

Mrs. Postal also stated she and John A. Callahan, the owner of the Texas Theater, were talking about the tremendous noise of sirens at the time. Postal recalled, "Then, we made the remark, 'Something is about to bust,' or 'pop,' or something to that effect, so, it was just about --some sirens were going west, and my employer (Callihan) got in his car. He was parked in front, to go up to see where they were going. 'He, perhaps ... ,' I said, 'he (perhaps) passed the suspect.'"

Postal testified that she had seen a man with "a panicked face duck into the vestibule of theater." She never saw him actually enter the theater; instead, she claimed the man was "headed for the theater."

Postal said, "Well, I didn't actually (see him enter) -- because I stepped out of the box office and went to the front and was facing west ... because I thought .the police were stopping up quite a ways. Well, just as I turned around then Johnny Brewer was standing there and he asked me if the fellow that ducked in bought a ticket, and I said, 'No; by golly, he didn't,' and (I) turned around expecting to see him."

In her testimony, Postal reported, "I said, 'Go in and see if you can see him. It isn't too much people in there. So, he came and says, 'Well, he didn't see him.' And I says, 'Well, he has to be there.' So, I told him to go back and check -- we have exit doors, behind -- one behind the stage and one straight through, and I asked him to check them, check the lounges because I knew he was in there (the theater). Well, he just had to be."

After speaking with Mrs. Postal, Johnny walked into the Texas Theater and approached Butch Burroughs, the man behind the concession counter who also took tickets. Brewer said, " I asked him if he had seen a man in a brown shirt of that description, matching that description, and he said he had been working behind the counter and hadn't seen anybody." Burroughs later testified he had been very busy "stocking candy."

So, then, Brewer asked Burroughs if he would show him where the exits were in order to check them for anything suspicious. Both men walked down to the front of the theater to the stage. First, they checked the front exit, and discovered it hadn't been opened.

After that, they went to the back exist and saw it was locked. (According to Brewer, a person could open it from the inside by raising a bar that allowed a rod to fit a hole at the bottom of the exit. But, when it closed, the rod didn't fall back in. A person would have to raise the rod again to close it from the inside. Butch Burroughs said that it was impossible to close it from the outside.)

Next, Brewer and Burroughs checked the balcony but didn't see anything suspicious. At the time, only 15 to 20 people were in the theater. (Postal later testified to "believing 24 people were there.")

After checking the theater, the men went back to Mrs. Postal and told her they hadn't seen the suspect. She immediately called the police at 1:40 P.M. to tell them about the suspicious man. She had not heard the description of the suspect who had shot Officer Tippet, but she described the man she thought had just entered the theater. Postal said she decided it would be best to let the film continue to run until the police arrived.

As Postal made her call, Johnny and Butch decided to post guard. Johnny said, "Butch went to the front exit, and I went down by the stage to the back exit and stood there until the police came."

What was Johnny Brewer thinking at the time? He said, "I wondered what in the hell am I doing ... you know. Seriously, am I carrying this too far, you know, or what? Did I really see that?"

Soon things began to happen. Johnny reported the frantic activity that followed. He said, "I heard a noise outside, and I opened the door, and the alley, I guess it was filled with police cars and policemen were on the fire exits and stacked around the alley, and they grabbed me, a couple of them and held and searched me and asked me what I was doing there, and I told them that there was a guy in the theater that I was suspicious of. And one asked me if he was still there. And I said, 'Yes, I just  seen him.'"

When the authorities arrived, Johnny and Butch stopped the projector and turned on the house lights. According to Brewer, "The policeman asked me if I would point him (the suspect) out. And I and two or three other officers walked out on the stage and I pulled back the theater curtain just enough to point him out. And there were officers coming in from the front of the show, I guess, coming toward that way, and officers going from the back."

Burroughs later testified the suspect had been sitting by a pregnant lady who had gotten up to go to the restroom. "I looked out from the curtains and saw the man (suspect). He was in the center section about six or seven rows from the back." 

The suspect, evidently fearing he had been spotted, stood up and walked to the aisle on his right. Then, he turned around and walked back and sat down. According to Brewer, the man reseated himself in a manner that then made Brewer and the officers "unable to see him."

That's when many of the police converged with Johnny Brewer a few steps behind.

Brewer saw a policeman (later known to be Patrolman McDonald) approach the suspect. Johnny said, "When the officer got to the aisle the suspect was seated in, he walked in, tapped him on the shoulder and told him to get up."

In his testimony, McDonald reported: "I was going to search every person as I came to them before I got to him, so I wouldn't make a mistake or overlook anybody or anything else that might be connected. I was looking at him over my right shoulder, glancing at him, seeing what he was doing, making sure he was still in one place. I gave these guys (the other patrons) a pat search. I had them sit back down and I walked toward the suspect."

McDonald explained, "I was trying to show an act of diversion so as the suspect may think I wasn't even considering him. And as soon as I got to him -- I was just inches from him -- I said, 'Get on your feet.' He stood up, and he said, 'Well, it's all over now.'

"When the suspect got up, he threw a right cross and hit officer McDonald over the eye and knocked him back against one of the seats," Brewer said, "I mean this all is happening so fast."

Brewer told about the shocking event that happened next. He told, "McDonald was back up. He (the suspect) just knocked the officer down for a second and he was back up. And I jumped off the stage and was walking toward that (the commotion), and I saw this gun come up and --in the suspect's hand, a gun up in the air. The suspect had reached under his shirt, his shirttail was out, and pulled out this revolver and I thought this is fixing to get interesting."

Brewer continued: "And somebody hollered 'He's got a gun!' And there were a couple of officers fighting him and trying to take the gun away from him." Officer McDonald eventually grabbed the gun as the assailant pulled the trigger. The hammer hit the fleshy part of the officer's hand between his thumb and forefinger preventing the bullet from firing.

McDonald later said, "I stuck the gun into his stomach for just an instant. ... I thought about shooting him. The thought came through my mind, 'This guy's trying to kill me. I'll try to kill him.' Then I said to myself, 'Well, we don't need to shoot him because I've got him now. He's under control.'"

Brewer simply said, "He (the suspect) was fighting, still fighting, and I heard some of the police holler, I don't know who it was, 'Kill the President, will you?' And I saw fists flying and they were hitting him."

In a short time, the police subdued the suspect, put handcuffs on his wrists, and pushed him out of the theater. Brewer said, "As they were taking him out, he stopped and turned around and hollered, 'I am not resisting arrest!' about twice."

Mrs. Postal also testified about the capture. She reported, "And they (the police) raced in, and the next thing I knew, they were carrying (unclear) -- well, that is when I first heard Officer Tippit had been shot because some officer came in the box office and used the phone, said, 'I think we have got our man on both accounts.' (Postal asked): 'What two accounts?' And he (the officer) said, "Well, Officer Tippit's.' This shocked me because Officer Tippit used to work part time for us years ago. I didn't know him personally."

Brewer told about the aftermath of the arrest: "Well, then, the police officers and plainclothesmen, whoever they were, got everybody that was in the theater and set them aside, and another officer was taking their names and addresses of all the people that were in the theater."

In her testimony Postal also added that an angry crowd had gathered outside the theater. They wanted to attack the suspect. She said, "The people shouted, 'Kill the so-and-so!' and tried to get to him ... and the officers were trying to hold on to him... I didn't know who he was at that time."

By now, I understand you, the reader, know the identity of this "man" -- the "suspect," the "assailant" of the police. He was Lee Harvey Oswald. You probably knew it at the beginning of the story. But, I bet few of you knew the truth about Johnny Brewer. He had just become the main cog in the capture of the assassin of President Kennedy. With his actions of a very few fleeting minutes, Johnny had entered the annals of history, and the entire nation breathed a welcome sigh of relief.

Thanks to Johnny Brewer and the Warren Commission Report for much of the information.

Click here for much more information on the Official Website of Johnny Calvin Brewer: 




What If?

Do you believe in serendipity?

Whether you do or not, you have to believe that if Johnny Brewer hadn't been so observant, so conscientious, and so brave, Lee Harvey Oswald might have escaped Dallas. If Brewer hadn't acted so quickly, Oswald might never have been identified and captured. Some say Oswald planned to flee to Mexico to seek asylum, and, finally, to Cuba, where he most likely would have lived as a celebrated Communist hero.

Johnny Calvin Brewer is a name you will never read in an American history text. Teachers won't tell students how Brewer, a shoe salesman, became the man most responsible for capturing Lee Harvey Oswald, the most chronicled, most infamous assassin of all time. What a shame Oswald will be long remembered for his vile deed while Brewer will be less than a trivial footnote at best.

Our society and our nation changed when John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 2013. An era of violence, internal revolution, and distrust began as people realized Camelot and the New Frontier had fallen victim to a sniper's bullets. Rumors of conspiracy ruled the post JFK presidential years. Great promise had ended so quickly.

Yet, we should not remember the assassination solely by the 5.6 seconds triggered by Lee Harvey Oswald. We should also recognize the glorious minutes


Postcript

On November 22, 2011, Dallas Police Chief David Brown presented Johnny Calvin Brewer with the department's Citizen's Certificate of Merit and praised his selfless act and "exemplary conduct" 48 years ago during a ceremony at the Texas Theatre - the same place where Oswald was captured about 80 minutes after President Kennedy was killed.

"I'm just so overwhelmed," said 70 year-old Brewer after receiving the award and watching a video of his 22-year-old self recounting the events of that day. Beaming family members, including two grandchildren, and friends who called him a humble man, were on hand for the ceremony.

Since then, Brewer said he served in the Navy and then moved to Austin, where he still lives, having retired from a career in sales.

"Mr. Brewer made a difference in the history of the United States," Deputy Police Chief Randy Blankenbaker said. "You not only helped us capture the man who shot the president of the United States but you also helped us capture a man who killed one of our police officers."

Officer Tippit's widow expressed her gratitude to Brewer, as did retired Dallas police officer Ray Hawkins."I think it's a little late, but I'm glad he's finally getting recognition. He's deserving," said Hawkins, who said he handcuffed Oswald that day.

Brown speculated that the tribute did not occur sooner because Dallas has been trying to move away from the tragedy it's been associated with for so long that "many of the details of the actions by citizens like Mr. Brewer have been left behind."
But Brown, who became chief last year, said as the department began trying to revisit its legacy and history, Brewer's story just "jumped out."


("Johnny Calvin Brewer, Man Who Helped Catch JFK Assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, Honored by Dallas Police." Associated Press and New York Daily News. November 22, 2011) 

Humble hero Johnny Brewer gets the last word. In 2013 he said, "I think of it (November 22, 1963) every day just walking through my living room, I've got so much memorabilia from it. It was a part of my life for sure, but it didn't define it."


Johnny Calvin Brewer Honored in Dallas, 2011
 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Essential Personality Traits For Job Seekers Who Experience




Many people moan, "I don't have experience, so how am I supposed to find meaningful employment?" What counts as "experience" in the job world may surprise those looking for their first job. In honesty, people begin developing meaningful experiences in adolescence, long before their first job interview. They develop and refine their employable personalities through time-tested traits marking maturity and wisdom.

Each time a young person gains privilege afforded by successful experience, the "frail sapling" develops one more characteristic of the "sturdy tree." Intangible personal qualities become tangible when they are are proven time after time in real experience. A maturing individual substantiates important employment traits working at home, school, and in the neighborhood. Any youth who takes steps toward serving others or who demonstrates actions of positive independence is also taking giant strides towards job readiness.

True, education, specific job skills, and experience in the field are powerful tools people use to snag great jobs. However, these things usually come with age. Most of us must begin our employment history without these key components.

One must remember a youth seeking initial, basic employment is expected to be more than an nondescript mold of flesh that holds no attraction for potential employers. A young adult should learn how to communicate important personality traits he or she is expected to have developed. Some shy, inexperienced job seekers possess these attributes in abundance, but never learn to "advertise" themselves attractively in resumes and interviews.

I don't own a company nor do I conduct job interviews, yet I do know specific personality traits that help land employment for inexperienced job seekers. Several steps assure that prospective employers may be impressed by these virtues.

(1)  Job seekers should choose and tailor honest, pertinent, concise descriptions of their character traits. They should be aware that many managers reside in an older generation that does judge on spelling, grammar, and correctness.

(2)  Most importantly, they must prove each personality trait by offering numerous examples of fruitful past actions in which they have demonstrated each trait. To do this, they can draw upon temporary jobs, paid tasks, group activities, extracurricular school participation, charitable work, and even manual chores.

(3) Finally, they must commit to communicating all of this information in writing and in verbal exchange. A good resume can gain an interview. Naturally, for some, the reality of putting forth these skills during an interview is frightening. They must remember managers understand that jitters are inevitable; it's the imperfect though genuine attempt that scores most.

Functionality is key here because merely declaring traits without adequate proof is simply "hot air." In essence, the job seeker is "selling" his "work personality" to gain employment. How else can a potential employer judge the risk he takes on a person without vast knowledge, specific job skills, and adequate experience?

By all means, the young job seeker must not show an overbearing, demanding personality. But, too often prospective employees rush through their opportunity to communicate their desire for the job. Instead, they assume something unspoken or unwritten will magically attract the manager and insure them an edge over competition. This won't happen. Job seekers must commit to displaying their specially targeted "ad campaign in a manner that is both attractive and convincingly reliable.

Natural eye contact, correct body language, appropriate dress, and genuine desire for employment help. It is up to the job seeker to prove his great worth to the company. This requires forethought and a little research into what the company is specifically seeking. All employers seek benefits; none want to waste time on those who merely occupy a position. A job seeker may have the opportunity to visit the perspective job site before being considered for employment. There, he may casually inquire about important considerations of the specific employer. Of course, then he must deliver the functional proof that he possesses the qualities to accomplish these things.




Some Personality Traits That Help People Gain Employment

1. High Energy

The ability to consistently produce and stand the grind of work is very important. A sluggish, indifferent employee doesn't project a successful future for the company. On the other hand, someone with high energy focused on production strengthens the firm. This person is an asset to others at work and a dynamo who models maximum effort. High energy and enthusiasm go hand in hand. Both qualities require initiative and dependable action.

"Good luck is the willing handmaid of an upright and energetic character, and conscientious observance of duty."  -James Russell Lowell

2. Self-confidence 

An egotist can be a malignancy at the work site. They appear phony, and these self-centered individuals perform miserably in essential group situations. Yet, a "whiner" or "doubter" becomes a downer to most everyone. "I can't" generates little or no understanding from administrators who have already faced and overcome daunting odds themselves. The proper balance for an employee is achieved with self-confidence. Even if an employee fails a task, that worker must confidently correct the predicament and, with increased determination, tackle the challenge again.


“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."  -E.E. Cummings 

3. Problem-solving Ability

Naturally, the ability to solve problems increases with experience. Still, most inexperienced people who can think on "a higher level" with brains that works well while they are "on their feet" typically advance on the promotion ladder. Others respect their ability to use logic and foresight. These leaders, though not necessarily brainiacs, are resourceful and practical. They demonstrate natural knacks for "getting jobs done."

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”   -Albert Einstein


4. Persistence 

Persistence refers to the ability to remain on course despite unavoidable obstacles. Society has historically respected those with perseverance despite unfavorable odds. This requires that the individual not be obstinate (inflexible, rash, and pig-headed), but rather be purposely patient and willing to accept small gains on the path to success.

“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”  -James A. Michener


5. Intellectual Curiosity

The opposite of one who is intellectually curious is a person who rusts, stagnating instead of changing. The intellectual constipation of such a dolt results in laziness and false confidence. Competent workers understand lifelong learning is a vital commitment to increased production. Some jobs may require more training and schooling than others; however, all jobs require constant acquisition of new knowledge and the ability to adjust. A worker who is curious demonstrates willingness to learn and a special passion for his work.

 “Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”  -The Walt Disney Company


6. Integrity

This is a trait many today claim is seldom seen, yet this rare quality is extremely prized by all. Integrity is a quality that demands firm adherence to a code of morality. The word integrity stems from the Latin adjective integer meaning "whole or complete." It has to do with consistency and honesty, but the word implies more. Since practicing total integrity is a personal choice, it is an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honor moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles. Those with integrity do "the right thing" even when the boss is away. No one has to check their work or worry about them loafing or acting with hypocrisy.


“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”  -Oprah Winfrey



7. Amiability

A worker must "get along" with co-workers. That means the employee must be good-natured, friendly, and agreeable in disposition. Amiability seems to emanate naturally from those who sport a natural smile and a heartfelt good word. An amiable person brightens the toughest work days, and is usually happy even the first thing in the morning. These cordial folk have a personality free of meddlesome bother. Some claim to dream of cherries denotes a person will gain popularity by amiability and unselfishness. Perhaps this interpretation stems from the fact amiable people view life as the proverbial "bowl of cherries."


"Amiability lessons the misgivings of being human and the problems of being fallible."  -Byron Pulsifer

8. Punctuality

One relatively simple trait to possess is punctuality or promptness in arriving at an appointed time. There are those who amazingly cannot keep engagements or deadlines with regularity. These workers show up late, so they lack dependability. And, of course, some people develop a habit of calling off work for any reason. This shows a lack of consideration for the company and for other employees since someone else is usually expected to take up the slack created by the "slacker." Good workers are on time in their proper places.

"Promptness is the soul of business."  -Lord Chesterfield

9. Flexibility

Rigidity in the workplace might best be defined by Congressmen who insist on partisanship. Such incompliant individuals clog the system and slow the capacity of a business. As Jimmy Breslin said, "They have as much give as a tree trunk." In the case of Congress, they can even shut down the federal government with their predisposition to be unmoved in their vaulted, political beliefs. Flexible workers do not compromise principles, but they do compromise old, outdated methods and remain open to commit fully to better solutions. They are the "grease" that keeps the work machine moving.

"Thus, flexibility, as displayed by water, is a sign of life. Rigidity, its opposite, is an indicator of death."  -Anthony Lawlor

10. Sensibility

My generation wonders what has happened to common sensibility. I guess every generation judges the thought processes of younger people to be lacking, but a minimum amount of simple practicality and rationality should guide good decision making at any age. In a job, employees are expected to remain alert and aware with their practical perceptions and guiding emotions. They say Einstein lacked a certain degree of common sense. Of course, with his uniquely intelligent brain maybe his head lacked room for such elementary knowledge. Besides, I am pretty sure Einstein did most of his work alone.

“People always call it luck when you’ve acted more sensibly than they have."  -Anne Tyler

11. Communication Skills

No work can be accomplished without communication. Silence met with silence produces a void free of understanding. A good employee learns to use superior communication skills as a powerful tools to achieve prosperity and happiness. Gaining competence with these skills and eventually achieving the command of language permits membership into much sought after employment confederacies and associations. Those who refuse to improve their communication skills limit their own speaking and writing prowess. To ignore the impact of language creates a deficiency easily noticed by others.For example, to remain a medical doctor with a poor bedside manner detracts from the personal, friendly image demanded by the public.

“Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid.” -Fyodor Dostoyevsky


12. Technological Competency

Smack dab in the middle of the computer age, prospective employees are at a distinct disadvantage if they have no technological skills. Lost in an electronic age, the computer illiterate ignore the very  advancements provided by science that guarantee "a leg up." It is impossible to calculate the impact of technology and the changes it has generated in the past twenty years. One can be so "anti-geek" that he dismisses reality and waits for old ways to regenerate. Yet, that person will be waiting and waiting and waiting on an opportunity to secure a decent job. Computer savvy and at least minimally educated in future technological trends equates to having two modern advantages over job competitors.

"First we thought the PC was a calculator. Then we found out how to turn numbers into letters with ASCII — and we thought it was a typewriter. Then we discovered graphics, and we thought it was a television. With the World Wide Web, we've realized it's a brochure.”  -Douglas Adams



Sunday, November 24, 2013

Little Richard: Undisputed King of Rock




Little Richard single-handedly initiated the soulful, energetic climax of rock and roll music. He alone stands as the seminal master of the beat. Before Richard's fleeting, urgent voice and breakneck, pounding piano, rock music lacked the authentic and primal sexual drive that came to define its primary motive. In two minutes, a Little Richard recording delivers the testosterone-charged incentive that drives listeners to Blueberry Hill to get busy in the backseat.

"If she's got a figure made to squeeze
(She can't help it, the girl can't help it)
Won't you kindly be aware, the girl can't help it
(The girl can't help it)


"If she mesmerizes, every mother's son
(She can't help it, the girl can't help it)
If she's smiling, beefsteak become well done
(She can't help it, the girl can't help it)"



"The Girl Can't Help It" by Little Richard




Other early rock and roll legends like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Sam Cooke sung about sex and used sensuality to enhance their performances, but Little Richard channeled the real thing. He did not filter the message. Instead, he unabashedly expressed raw, impassioned dispatches that left little to innuendo or to the imagination.

Teens in the '50s soon discovered that mundane Pat Boone covers of Little Richard songs were nothing but substandard musical copies reformed and recorded for the virgin ears of a white pop audience. But, most of these young people knew the truth: the Boone covers were meant to encourage holding hands while Little Richard Specialty records induced rocking and rocking "hard." Teens loved Richard. One must wonder the size of the multitude that reached home plate as he supplied the cheerleading on the station of their car radios.

"Well, long tall Sally, she's built for speed
She got everything that Uncle John needs

"Oh baby, yes, baby
Ooh baby, havin' me some fun tonight, yeah

"Well, I saw Uncle John with bald head Sally
He saw Aunt Mary comin' and he ducked back in the alley

"Yeah, baby, woo baby
Havin' me some fun tonight, yeah"

"Long Tall Sally" by Little Richard 




Dare I call the flamboyant performer by his given name of Richard Penniman? No, this would be a misnomer. You see, Richard Penniman has to be Little Richard -- all clowning aside. Why? Because Little Richard is "pretty" (He even calls himself so.), talented, and dominant. His dynamic music and charismatic showmanship are unmatched. At best, Richard Penniman may be an alter ego of this man who calls himself "the real king of rock and roll." Little Richard is the honest projection of the personality of a man who has had a pivotal impact on rock. He wrote; he sang and played; and he invented a "killer" style.

"Ike and Tina Turner got an earthquake sound
But I'm the man from Macon and I'm gonna put 'em down
Elvis Presley have you heard the news?
I'm gonna walk all over your blue suede shoes"

"The King of Rock and Roll" by Little Richard

During a period of racial tension in the United States, Little Richard attracted mixed-race audiences at a time when public places were divided into "white" and "colored" domains. He opened the door that brought the races together with the ultimate tool of integration -- soulful, sensual music. Prior to Little Richard, audiences were all black or all white although during Richard's early days, they were still segregated (blacks on the balcony and whites on the main floor).

Little Richard has been called the Quasar of Rock. Performers in the '60s continued to imitate Little Richard's style and sound. Their passable covers of Richard's tunes managed to draw new fans to the beat. Bands from the Beatles to Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels did their best to pay homage to his music.

"From the early early mornin' till the early early night
You can see Miss Molly rockin' at the house of blue lights.
 

"Good Golly Miss Molly, sure like to ball.
Good Golly, Miss Molly, sure like to ball
When you're rockin' and a rollin' can't hear your momma call"


"Good Golly Miss Molly" by Little Richard



With his mascara-coated eyelashes, his high pompadour hair, and his tremendous exotic appeal, Little Richard also largely triggered rock's androgynous overtures. In many ways he personified rock's gleeful sexuality and spirit of rebellion. Richard has remained loud and proud. As he announced from a stage shortly after his 66th birthday, "I'm still beautiful. I'm not conceited; I'm convinced!"

"I asked my baby for kiss
She shook her head like this
I asked my little girl for kiss
She shook her head around like this
She said, 'Ooh, yeah'

 
"Bama lama, bama loo

 

"Now, I dig that style
It's drivin' me wild with
Bama lama, bama loo"


"Bama Lama Bama Loo" by Little Richard

The seemingly ageless Little Richard continues to tour with undiminished spirit and passion for his music. He has weathered rumors of "selling out" to a Gospel conversion and the negativity associated with accusations of sexual diversity. In 2000 he may have described his past most accurately when he told the Los Angeles Times, "I was what you called back in that day -- a freak. I was flamboyant in every direction. I'm glad I'm able to look back on it and say, 'Thank you, Lord,' and go on."

Little Richard was among the first 10 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. In 1993 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He performed at Bill Clinton's presidential inaugural in 1992. He has also received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award.




A Little Richard recording is pure rock and roll. It is not meant to be analyzed and dissected for special themes and meanings. It is meant to be turned on and turned up. From the first frenzied notes to the abrupt finish, the message is clear. Drenched in sweet sweat and driving soul, it's the same message that beats in the hearts and throbs through the genitals of lusting teens today, only it doesn't rap and run for five minutes like the tedious strains of the new millennium.

If Mick Jagger couldn't "get no satisfaction" in 1965, you can bet Little Richard played no hand in his anguish. King Richard speaks of love... physical, hot copulation. For well over 60 years, he has preached the simple, satisfying message of "just do it."

"Baby baby baby baby baby,
Don't you know my love for you,
Honey honey honey honey honey,
Get up off of that money,
 

"Love love love love love,
Ooh! my soul.
 

"Gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie,
Gimmie all the love you got,
Gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie gimmie,
You got the best of lovin' now,
 

"Love love love love love,
Ooh! my soul."


"Oh My Soul" by Little Richard


Rebels Without a Cause: Students, and Confederate Flags



 Jacob Green

In Goodyear, Arizona, Jacob Green, an 11th grader at Millennium High School, got into a fight at school. As a result. he and the other boy were suspended for five days. Green claims the fight occurred because the other student accosted him about a Confederate flag Green has displayed on his truck for the past six months.

(Nicole Garcia. "Student Banned From Flying Confederate Flag at Millennium High School." myfoxphoenix.com. November 21, 2013)

"I've done nothing wrong. I've flown a flag on my truck.. somebody fought me because of it. I didn't fight him. I was walking around like a normal person. He confronted me, he hit me first.. I was defending myself," explained Green.

The school sees the flag as more potential trouble creating an environment that is disruptive. In an email to parents following the incident, school officials explained that Jason was prohibited from bringing the flag on campus.

"Open display -- bringing it in -- it has been proven to be patently offensive to certain groups and the courts recognize that," said Agua Fria Unified School District Superintendent
The school district says it can limit students' rights while they're here on campus, especially when it comes to safety of the students and past court cases about this same subject -- the Confederate flag on school campuses, backs that up.

Yet, Jacob Green remains defiant. He claims: "I'm not gonna take the flag off my truck for somebody telling me to do it. I believe in independence. That's something I want to do independently."

Green also said he has researched the history of the Confederate flag and doesn't find it offensive.

"Well, the flag means basically more independence, less government. It didn't mean racism, it didn't mean slavery, it didn't mean any of that. It basically meant what they were fighting for was their right to be independent and not have the government control them... Basically, they (the school district) are taking away my First Amendment right of freedom of speech," he said.

Jacob's parents are upset with the school district and also believe he has a right to fly the Confederate flag at school. They also believe Jacob was attacked by the other student and are calling it a hate crime and are considering filing a police report.

Symbols like the Confederate flag and the Nazi swastika are potent reminders of injustice and evil. High school students like Jacob Green must be mindful of the negative connotations inherent in these emblems. Much more than generally inoffensive designs, the symbols possess a damnable history, and the display of these symbols rankle the emotions of many even today, decades past their distinct political popularity.

 Jacob Green's Display


Who Is At Fault?

1. Jacob Green

For Green to fight the angry student, he must have just cause. I just don't see that qualification met here. He could have walked away and informed administrators about the purported harassment. As the peaceful, non-racist student he claims to be, Green should have chosen a better action than using his fists. A mutual agreement to fight required the suspension of both students.

Also, I am skeptical that a junior in an Arizona high school is oblivious to the negative associations of a Confederate flag. If Green did his research, as he said he did, he must have discovered a vast history of problems associated with promoting the flag and all it symbolizes. The fact that Green claims the flag "didn't mean racism or slavery" shows that he is either a poor scholar with slanted, insufficient support or a con artist. If he is a liar and he knew his flag could disrupt the school, then he is doubly at fault -- at fault for (1) his brazen display, and (2) his boldface deceit.

Jacob Green may not be a racist. He claims not to be. Yet, he still brazenly upholds his right to display a questionable symbol in a public school, a symbol that could ignite terrible violence in his own community. By all indications, Jacob is a resourceful, decent student.

In my view, his fault in this matter resides in ignorance. He is not dumb, but he is ignorant of the impact of his stubborn will. Jacob is not alone in his misunderstanding by any means. I am sure many of his classmates remain unaware and uninformed about the scope of what appears to him to be "his rights." With time, humility may take hold and serve Jacob well.

2. The Parents of Jacob Green

I don't know Jacob's parents; however, I believe they knew he was displaying the Confederate flag on school grounds. To allow him to do so is bad enough, but to continue to support the juvenile's decision to fly the flag at school is asking for trouble -- even more trouble than has been generated in a student fight.

Unfortunately, Jacob's actions coupled with his parents lack of concern cost both Jacob and his legal guardians. His parent's convenient cry of "Our boy is victim of a hate crime!" is shameful because they failed to stop his potentially offensive behavior. He could have caused countless hate crimes at Millennium High with his thoughtless actions. The parental excuses = the cliche "the pot calls the kettle black."

In this case, I do not believe that Jacob Green decided to fly the Confederate flag on his pickup truck because he thought this action would represent some positive connotation. At the least, his parents should have talked with him about why he chose to display a symbol so closely associated with racism, and they should have informed him about other people's adverse associations with this grim symbol. It is paramount to have a student like Jacob understand that in an effort to guard equality, public schools have become uber-sensitive to racism.

Instead, in the aftermath of Jacob's actions, his parents now choose to grab the First Amendment and abuse its intentions in an act of revenge. True, the First Amendment does protect personal independence, yet that right does not extend to infringing upon the rights of others -- in particular, interfering with the sensitivity that must be afforded to all students in a public institution.

3. The Student Who Opposed Jacob Green

First of all, the display of a Confederate flag is not just reason for a fight on a high school campus. The unnamed student who allegedly attacked Green deserved to be suspended. This young man is definitely guilty of creating "a disruptive environment." This is the reason he was justly suspended. Although he may not like the flag or Jacob Green, the perpetrator of the physical confrontation is wrong for deciding to confront Green and eventually fight him.

Tolerance is one of the most important virtues American high school must enforce. Students must demonstrate the capacity for respecting the beliefs or practices of others. Even though I feel Jacob Green was at fault for bringing his flag onto campus, I also fault his attacker for the attacker's lack of tolerance and reasonable restraint.

Although it is evident that he was outraged, this young man had many options for voicing his disapproval of seeing a Confederate flag prominently displayed at his school. Almost any serious conversation with an adult at school probably would have resulted in action against Green and negated a physical reaction. A fight normally escalates negativity. This student made a wrong, aggressive decision to fight Jacob.

4. The Personnel of Millennium High

After viewing a photo of Green's display of the Confederate flag, I believe teachers and administrators at Millennium High must have known about the presentation of the symbol. If it is true that Green had displayed the flag on his truck for six months before the altercation and during this time school officials remained indifferent to the symbol, something is wrong with school security and sensible monitoring of school grounds. No educational institution can safely operate while wearing "blinders." Were school personnel aware and insensitive? It certainly opens speculation about a more serious racist attitude residing at Millennium High.

And, educational politics can be deceiving -- especially "after the fact." The school claims zero tolerance for "bringing in" any object of potential disruption, yet they evidently ignored the openly displayed symbol on school grounds for six months. The student parking lot can be a breeding ground for trouble -- fights, drug deals, vehicular accidents, weapons transfers, other contraband. I hate to hear poor excuses for the lack of necessary protection when needed apologies should be resonating in the air.

I firmly believe a vigilant staff and an alert administration would have certainly noticed a controversial Confederate flag flying at full mast in one of their parking areas. Who can say Millennium personnel adequately fulfilled their duty to students and their parents? I cannot. I understand that school employees cannot prevent all acts of violence; however, I think they could have done so in this case. The flag flew far too long: disruption was impending. Thank God the consequences were not worse.

5. The Student Body of Millennium High

Confrontations and brewing fights in a high school normally become evident long before they occur. The student body becomes abuzz with information and rumor about potential problems. Many times news about simple disputes run their course through the student body, and classmates serve to help solve dilemmas before they escalate into regretful actions. No doubt the students of Millennium High knew about Green and his flag, and they also knew about those who took offense to the symbol like the boy who confronted Green. Their student body is a very influential social circle.

So, to a lesser extent, I believe the student body failed: they did so by failing to report the escalation to administration or by failing to resolve it with conversation -- conversation within their various social groups and conversation with their parents. Proactive communicative response would have likely prevailed to stop trouble before intensified into national headlines.
 

When Will We Ever Learn?

The state flag of Mississippi was adopted April 23, 1894. According to Civil War historian and native Southerner Shelby Foote, the flag traditionally represented the South's resistance to Northern political dominance; it became racially charged during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, when fighting against desegregation suddenly became the focal point of that resistance.




In 2000, the Supreme Court of Mississippi ruled that state legislation in 1906 had repealed the adoption of the state flag in 1894, so what was considered to be the official state flag was only so through custom and usage.

Governor Ronnie Musgrove appointed an independent commission which developed a new proposed design, and on April 17, 2001, a non-binding state referendum to change the flag was put before Mississippi voters. The proposal would have replaced the Confederate battle flag with a blue canton with 20 stars. This is the proposed flag:



The new flag was soundly defeated in a vote of 64% (488,630 votes) to 36% (267,812) and the old flag was retained.

My aching head! Arizona and Mississippi and controversy and history. Are symbols free and open for interpretation? Of course. Do these symbols speak of different connotative meanings? Undoubtedly. Yet, do symbols also hold powers within themselves to unleash definite emotions? I think so. I believe people should respect the fact that negativity is portrayed in some of our most common designs. Yet, I still wonder if all Americans are sensitive enough to care. Maybe the Greens would find Mississippi more to their liking.

Consider these other symbols and your response to them on a banner in a public arena.













Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Cartridge In Your Gun




"Between 1955 and 1975, the Vietnam War killed over 58,000 American soldiers – less than the number of civilians killed with guns in the U.S. in an average two-year period."

(U.S. Department of Defense, Statistical Information Analysis Division, Personnel & Military Casualty Statistics, U.S. Military Casualties in Southeast Asia: Vietnam Conflict – Casualty Summary As of May 16, 2008)

"In the first seven years of the U.S.-Iraq War, over 4,400 American soldiers were killed. Almost as many civilians are killed with guns in the U.S., however, every seven weeks."

(U.S. Department of Defense, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) 
U.S. Casualty Status, Fatalities as of: March 12, 2012)

The cartridge at rest -- just a metallic shell containing a little gunpowder propellant and chemical primer behind a bullet of lead. Unfired, the cartridge is relatively harmless. Some may even consider its design attractive.

But, who purchases cartridges with the intent to initiate a collection of unfired ammunition? The companies that manufacture bullets sell them to those who intend to fire them in their small arms -- people who target shoot, who hunt game, and, unfortunately, who intend to unload their cartridges into the bodies of mortals. 

When loaded into a gun and fired at a human being, the cartridge becomes a messenger of destruction and death. When a person pulls the trigger mechanism of the firearm, he initiates an instantaneous process of delivery. Once the trigger releases, the firing pin strikes the primer and ignites it, sending a jet of burning gas from the primer to the powder causing the propellant to burn, pressurize, and expand the case to seal it against the chamber wall as it releases gases that push on the base of the bullet and thrust it in the path of least resistance down the bore of a barrel at blazing speeds of over 700 miles per hour.

Damn the cartridges used by individuals who pulled their triggers to end the lives of innocents. No means can even estimate the tremendous physical damage and grief caused by these deadly projectiles. A human + a motive + a maladjusted mind + a firearm = a likely lethal circumstance. Despite gun legislation, gun safety courses, and proactive gun advice, countless bullets continue to rip inculpable flesh.

66.9% of all homicides in the United States are perpetrated using a firearm, and two-thirds of all gun-related deaths in the United States are suicides. In 2010 alone, there were 31,076 deaths from firearms. This is the equivalent of more than 85 deaths each day and more than three deaths each hour. Firearms were the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths nationwide in 2010, following poisoning and motor vehicle accidents. And, firearms injuries remain a leading cause of death in the U.S., particularly among youth.

(National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

A "Who's Who" of peacemakers died by the bullet: Mohandas Gandhi, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, and John Lennon. Even U.S. presidents afforded the greatest shields of protection fell to rains of lead. Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy died from gunshot wounds.




A World Without Cartridges

We can argue that bullets are necessary conveyances for war, self-protection, and militias. Yet, this argument will not reduce the number of tragedies caused by people who regularly abuse firearms. People who shout, "Preserve Second Amendment rights!" claim to be sensitive to the senseless violence caused by armed criminals, youngsters, and other unstable minds; however, in promoting a culture condoning big, bigger, and biggest cartridges, they play a significant hand in proliferating the manufacture of ammunition and, thus, the inevitable misuse of firearms.

For Christ's sake, I have nothing against the freedom of ownership for target practice, hunting, and self-protection -- all of which can be afforded by guns. Today though, the gun has transcended the rights of ownership and practical purpose. To many people today, it is a symbol of power in its deadly force. Wielding a gun replaces using other less lethal assets -- clubs, knives, pepper spray, stun guns, fists, martial arts, security cameras, strong locks, or, in the case of retreat, strong legs and loud outcries.

Laws allowing "conceal and carry" expand the right to tote a gun into nearly all public places. Open carry laws are even less restrictive than those governing concealment. 

I wonder what a world without the invention of guns and cartridges would be. Or, I wonder what a world that outlawed them would be. Let's face it, the firearm itself is antiquated in terms of design. I'm sure lasers and other more modern inventions could unleash far better destruction. Would so many humans consider "the next step" past the gun a necessary purchase that exemplifies their "right to bear arms"?

The tears that have been shed over deadly trajectories of lead would overfill an ocean. You see, killing another with a firearm is instantaneous; the trigger pull commences an irretrievable process that results in the release of a missile speeding toward its target. It can be a quick, accurate hit. The distance from the target supported by the use of a gun serves as a certain detachment from the consequences of the firing -- in the worst case scenario, this is death.

Weren't we much more aware of the personal nature of killing when it had to be accomplished with means other than a firearm? Using a knife, a club, or the bare hands to end another person's life makes the destruction "up close and personal." Dealing death by the gun is more convenient, so, somehow, less psychologically heinous in terms of its delivery.

Personally, I do not like guns. I do not like them because of the horrible statistics left in the wake of gun violence. Debating the "why's" and "how's" and "if's" is counterproductive to my dream of abolishing such an easy means to ending lives. I guess I live with this thought as a perfect-world fantasy.

But this is the real world. So, if you are my polar opposite and you have a great passion for firearms, you are not my enemy. I want you to know I don't want to take your rights of ownership away. I am not concerned about guns per se. I am also not concerned about unfired rounds of cartridges. I am only concerned about the state of mind behind the human hand pulling the trigger and the target of the round the person caused to be expelled from the cartridge. A hit from a firearm held by one who doesn't respect the gun, the bullets, and the target is a senseless act. No such aim can be true.