Monday, July 28, 2008

Manifest Destiny

So when I was a kid in elementary school, we did a unit on American Indians. I think it was 4th grade because that's the class where we had an unlimited supply of clay to make an Indian village. JJ Cisneros and I worked a long time on "Boob Mountain". That was also the schoolyear that Mike Barlow got caught with a Penthouse magazine in his desk and I'd play "Mercy" with Laura Carroll every recess. But that's not the point of this memory.

As 4th graders we learned about Indians in general- what they grew, their culture, their housing and where they lived, their belief systems and oh yeah, the fact that we as a nation took their land. Great eh? Well fast forward to today and we now know that they have lots of casinos and are still treated pretty poorly in America. George Carlin had a routine where he spoke of how it all went down "Hey can you guys scoot over a little? Hey can you guys scoot over a little more? Hey can we have a little more room? Until we shoved them off to Alcatraz.

So my first grade daughter checked out a book from the library about our 50 United States- published by Time for Kids. Each page tells a brief history of each state, what they're famous for, perhaps a famous person from that state, etc. Here's the lowdown:

Delaware- First settled in 1631 by the Dutch, was inhabited by Nanticoke and Lenape Indians who burnt their settlement to the ground... Great start.

Pennsylvania- also inhabited by Nanticoke and Lenape. Swedes established a settlement, Dutch took it over, British took it over, etc.

New Jersey- Lenape. Dutch, and Swedes settled until Dutch booted them and then the British came in.

Georgia- Creek and Cherokee living happily. Forced out in 1838 to Oklahoma area

Connecticut- Algonquian, no mention of how they left

Massachusetts- Algonquian there for over 10000 years before English showed up

Maryland- Nanticoke and Piscatawy- land "granted" by King Charles I in 1632

South Carolina-Sioux and Iroquois. Land granted by Charles II

New Hampshire- Algonquian

Virginia- Powhatan & Cherokee

New York- Iroquis and Algonquian. Manhattan was purchased from the Indians- that's cool.

North Carolina- Cherokee and Tuscarora- cite of infamous "lost colony", my guess is pissed off Indians

Rhode Island- Narragansett & Wampanoag. Last of the 13 colonies and essentially the whole East Coast was now "American"

So at this point (around 1790), we've essentially booted Indians west- away from the coast, to "less desirable areas". Look at a US Map and that's not entirely terrible is it?

Now I could go state by state through all 50... and I will (except for the ones with no mention of kicking Indians out), but let me just emphasize that I've been reading this book with my daughter- one state a night all summer. So by this point, I've seen the pattern and whether she has or not is not important- this is a kids book and the first paragraph of each state basically talks about how we booted the natives.

Vermont- Iroquois and Algonquian- prior to becoming a state there were land disputes between New York and New Hampshire with fights over land- that was owned by the Indians...

Kentucky- birthplace of my father- Shawnee and Iroquois- resisted newcomers. And after all, British Law forbade settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains, so at least the Brits were looking out for Indian rights... Either way, Kentucky became America in 1792. Also, please note that the Iroquois got booted. But I thought they were from places like Vermont and New York. Either there were a lot of Iroquois or these are the same ones that already got booted from VT and NY (or more likely- their children)

Tennessee- Cherokee and Chickasaw. And here's a very Cliff Notes version of the French/Indian War. War was fought between France and Brittan. Indians tried to help the French and since they lost, British got Indian territory. Also, did you know that the Indians fought alongside Revolutionaries against the British? Glad we repaid them for their help. Where was I?

Ohio- Iroquois- land lost to British as noted under Tennessee. What a surprise for the Iroquois

Louisiana- Tunica and Caddo. French claimed it, then after the French/Indian war had to give it to Spain- sure, Spain can have it, it's only Louisiana- Spain secretly gave it back to France- sort of like giving your buddy some money in Monopoly right? But then France sold it to America for $15MM- the Lousiana Purchase. So with this purchase we've essentially doubled the American "owned" land. Now we need to tell the tenants that their lease has been broken and they need to skedaddle.

Indiana- Miamia and Potawatomi. Europeans wanted beaver hats, so by golly we needed Indiana. Indians "resisted" white settlement but "American victories at Fallen Timbers and Tippecanoe pushed Indians off the land" Well at least we named the state after them. I'm sure they had adequate weapons to fight against us.

Mississippi- forget about black racism there or in Alabama. The Choctaw and Chickasaws and others had to go. Once becoming a state in 1817, the US government felt it necessary to force the rest of the Indians out to Oklahoma fully 13 years later. After all, not only is this area is ours, but you can't even be here you stupid Indians!

Illinois- Cahokia and Chippewa lived there. I'm sure the University of Illinois logo is representative of one of them

Alabama- Cherokee, Creek, Chocktaw and Chickasaw. Rosa Parks stood up for blacks, but by then the Indians were long gone. But at least they had Indian Territory.

Maine- Talk about a backfill state. Algonquins lived up there too. Sounds like a large tribe if you ask me. But oh well, we needed that land. After all, we had to pay people to live there by giving them free land.

Missouri- Osage, Missouri, Fox- another state named after the folks that got sent away. What if we named other things after those who were mistreated there. How about "Japanese-American Town" instead of San Francisco.

Arkansas- Bluff Dwellers- yes that's what they were called, although I wonder if that's what they called themselves. We forced the Indians out in 1830 so that white farmers could move in.

Halfway home and I'm only a little tired. No need to take a break, I'll see if I can power through this bad boy

Michigan- Potawatomi and Ojobwa in the Upper Peninsula- no mention of who was in the more populous southern part. "Michigan" is a from a Chippewa word so perhaps it was them.

Florida- I don't even have to look- of course the Seminoles were there- ask Bobby Bowden and Charlie something who ended up playing with the Knicks. It says that we bought their land- sounds good. But it also says that those who didn't sell were forced to move to Indian Territory- nice. "Give me your lunch money... or I'll kick your ass and take your lunch money"

Texas- Don't get me started on Texas. I actually watched a movie called Banditas and actually learned a bit about its history. Wow. What a bunch of dicks. Forget the Indian thing (Caddo). So Mexico owned Texas and gave the US permission to have a certain number of white settlers move there. But Stephen Austin let 300 American families move to live in Texas and then more and more. But Mexico was unable to really enforce this so the settlers kept coming. Now Texas (as a Mexican state) was unhappy with Mexico and claimed independence. Santa Anna went to fight the rebels and assert Mexican control over their state and killed a bunch in the famous "Alamo". Heck, we wanted independence from British rule so we fought them- and won. The confederates wanted independence from the US and they lost. The Texans wanted independence from Mexico and they lost- and we're talking Mexicans who lived in Texas- not the whites who just decided to move in. Then Sam Houston led American forces to destroy the Mexican army and Texas was now independent- until the US made it a state.

Iowa- now talk about a white state. Home of Herbert Hoover. Oh yeah, the Illinois, Miami, Sioux an Omaha lived there first (they actually took it over from the Mound People of prehistoric times). We actually were nice enough to set aside a stip of land for Sauk and Fox Indians along the Mississippi river. Now that's a very nice gesture isn't it? Now all we had to do was convince them to move there. Well that didn't go well, so a war broke out and by 1851, all of Iowa was owned by the US.

Wisconsin- Winnebago! Cool, that opens the discussion to vehicles named after Indians- Pontiac, ummmm. Indian motorcycles... that's all I feel like thinking about.

California- Cahuilla- I'm from California and have never heard of them. But regardless, this is sort like Texas. California was owned by Mexico from when they gained independence from Spain. After the Mexican American war, California became ours.

Around this time- 1851 the concept of Indian Reservations was established whereby I guess the government was actually feeling a tad guilty about the situation and figured that by giving Indians their own designated lands, all would be forgiven. I won't go into how that has gone.

Minnesota- Ojobwa and Sioux- out. 1862 Homestead Act- Free land for anyone who hasn't fought against the US. Sorry indians.

Oregon- Tillamook

Kansas- Pawnee and Kansa (now Kaw)- Kansas was part of "Indian Territory" starting in 1830. Well, by 1854, we decided that we wanted that land too. So time to move.

West Virginia- More backfilling- or actually splitting of an existing state- see Virginia

Nevada- Paiute, Shoshone, Washoe. Who cares about such a wasteland-until silver is discovered.

Nebraska- Missouri, Omaha, Pawnee, Dakota. Nebraska was the "Great American Desert", so settlers simply passed through. White settlement was in fact forbidden and it was Indian Territory. In 1854 we decided we wanted it for ourselves.

Colorado- Arapaho and Cheyenne- similar to California.

North Dakota- Mandan, Hidatsa, Lakota Sioux- Nobody wanted to live there because it was remote and Indians scared whites away. But when the railway was built, settlement picked up, their natural food (Bison) had been depleted and they eventually surrendered.

South Dakota- Cheyenne and Arikara and later the displaced Lakota Sioux. We actually had an agreement that the indians would stay west of the Missouri River and whites on the east. Sounds good enough, until the whites decided to violate the agreement and found gold. We then killed a bunch of Sioux at Wounded Knee and it was all ours.

Like I said, I'm only going to mention states where Indians lived so I should be close to being done. I've done 40 so far and I'm burning out. Sorry.

Montana- Wide variety of nations lived there since it's so big. Battle of Little Bighorn where Custer was killed by Sioux and Cheyenne. I think that pissed us off so we had to take the land.

Washington- Cayuse, Nez Perce and Yakima- sounds like a peaceful resolution for the most part.

Idaho- Nez Perce and Bannock- Gold spurred settlements which established conflict with violent rebellions with forced reservation occupation. So far, I haven't seen much good news for Indians and we're running out of space.

Wyoming- Arapaho, Cheyenne and others- passthrough state until gold discovered. No mention of conflict.

Utah- Ute, Paiute, Shoshone- again, no mention of conflict

Oklahoma- ahh the Sooners. Original home of Oklahoma Indians or Mud Builders. Since 1820, the US forced the five "civilized tribes" to move there. Wow, I seem to recall more than 5 tribes mentioned so far (east of Oklahoma), so what happened to the "uncivilized tribes"? Anyway, the Cherokee Trail of Tears refers to the thousands of miles walk that we made the civilized tribes go to get to what would become home of the Dust Bowl- sounds attractive- I wonder why they weren't enthusiastic to get there. Anyway, the ones who survived the walk ended up living there free from white settlement... until 1889. Talk about a land rush and the term "Sooner". Move! this land is ours now.

New Mexico- Anasazi- Mexican American war- see California

Arizona- Anasazi- same as California- but looking back at 4th grade, my tribe was the Hopi which along with the Navajo was based in Arizona. Wonder why there's no mention there. Sort of a peaceful resolution.

Well, that's it. all 48 contiguous states. Believe it or not, Alaska and Hawaii have their own native people, but we didn't really force them to move in order for us to settle there. I'm sick of this topic now and need a drink so I'll end it here. Hope you enjoyed your brief history of Native American Indians rant.

Sad isn't it?

Correction on Hawaii. Apparently we weren't too fond of the queen of Hawaii, so we booted her.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Dry Spell on Criminal Athletes

Wow, it looks like my blog is having a positive impact... There has been what seems to be a lull in high profile athletes in trouble with the law. I am making a difference! Well, I could of course branch off to sports related criminals- like Tim Donaghy's classmates going to jail. Or I could branch off to celebrities in general like my buddy DMX who is an easy target since he's been so busy with the law lately. Or maybe I can talk about the "good" stuff in entertainment. My buddy Paul was paired with D-Lister K-Fed this past Monday for a fundraising golf tournament. But he was a no-show since he just got custody of his kids and was actually noble enough to put them ahead of social events... good for him. So instead, my buddy got paired with E-Lister Josh Henderson of Desperate Housewives semi-fame, who apparently had to borrow some ladies clubs and kept rambling about how busy he is. Note to celebrities who brag to strangers about how busy you are- You're not that busy.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Free Advertising

Why do we as a society accept the fact that certain companies try (and succeed) to advertise for free?

Next time you're out driving, count how many cars have dealer license plate frames or better yet, the decals of the dealership right on the trunk. Do you get commission whenever someone buys a car because they saw the dealerships name on your car? "Wow, check out that hot redhead in the Denali. I'm going to Bill Jones GMC right now to buy me one of them"

And just as bad, what about the clothing manufacturers? You buy a Brooks Brothers shirt and it's got the little sheep on it. That's totally cool. But I'm talking about the shirts that says "NIKE" really big across the back
Shouldn't Nike be paying us to wear these items (maybe not this guy)? Or at least giving it to us for free?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Memories of Youth

This article is a reprint that I mass-emailed to my friends about a year ago. Got some good response so figured I could publish for "the world" to read.

So my good friend Brian sent out an email about how he just saw a Pink Floyd cover band, and now I'm inspired to share a recent musical experience.

As you may know, The Police announced that they'd be reuniting this summer (2007 )after a 22 year hiatus that was based on bad blood or whatever bands typically break up for. Since I was 15 at that time, I never got a chance to see one of my favorite bands live. Oh yeah, as a youngster I saw Depeche Mode, New Order, the Thompson Twins and numerous other bands that in retrospect seem very gay- (not that there's anything wrong with that)

But The Police was one band that I just flat out missed in my youth and assumed I'd never see. Sure, I saw the Stones when they reunited in 1988 and the Eagles in around 1994- after all, those bands only reunited for one tour... so I HAD to see them before they disappeared forever... Add the Air Supply show at the OC fair and Flock of Seagulls at some small club in Long Beach (dang, more gayish bands!) and that's been the extent of my retro band concerts that I've seen- after they were in their prime.

My wife Nadine and I went to see Smashing Pumpkins about 8 years ago and even back then we felt like the oldest people there. Lot's of aggressive piercings, black clothes and makeup, glitter, trenchcoats, etc. Even though that's a band I've always liked, we just felt old- and that was 8 years ago!- and the last concert band I've seen besides my brother's. Then this opportunity arose to see The Police and I had to go and drag Nadine along, even though she was more of a Garth Brooks/Bon Jovi fan growing up.

So I scrambled to get presale tickets and secured some prime seats right next to the stage in Phoenix where the Suns play. Was it cheap? uh no. In fact Nadine considers this my birthday present for the next few years. So this past Monday, we made a real date out of it, got a sitter for the kids and went out for sushi before the show. Downed some Asahi Super Dry and changed the seat setting in the car so that Nadine could pilot the rest of the evening.

Then we got to the show, and talk about culture shock- if that's the best description to use. In a nutshell, it felt just like we walked into a high school reunion- and it was probably a harbinger of the 20 year reunion coming up for me in 2008. Most people there were between 35 and 45 and those that were younger were between 10 and 15- there with their parents. We got there early and the opening band sucked, so we decided to people watch a bit while we downed $7 Michelobs- perhaps they should have sold Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers for the occasion. While most of the people there appeared to be "normal" parents just like us- out for the rare evening, there were a few people who looked like they intentionally went retro in a subtle sort of way. Lots of girls with that 80's style hair and ripped jeans that they have kept in the closet since seeing Poison in 1989. Dudes with too-tight jeans. The smell of clove cigarettes lingering in the bathrooms (do they still make those) and the whiff of pot halfway through the band's first song. It was surreal- it was like the whole 18000 people were teleported back to 1982 but they brought their maturity level of today (no fights or drunks or flashers). Oh yeah, and lots of dudes with receding and thinning hairlines (of which I include myself)

So eventually the band comes on and everyone in the arena was standing for the entire 2 hours. They played all their hits. In all objectivity, the music was just OK. Nothing crazy, not great, not tight, not spectacular. Sting didn't even attempt the high notes and that made some songs just very plain. When they'd end a song and Sting would jump, he'd clear perhaps 12 inches. There were a few "medleys" which felt very "fairish" and some of their popular songs just sounded boring. Stewart Copeland was awesome and acted very reminiscent of how he did in their heyday. No Sting songs, no new songs, just greatest hits- and lots of their really early stuff before they became mainstream- so that was pretty cool. One comparison to the olden days- instead of lighters, everyone had their cameraphone busted out- taking pictures of the stage- it looked like a Cingular commercial.

During the set, part of me was disappointed, but that was short lived. I was able to put it in perspective when I realized that they have been apart for 22 years and they're all like 50 years old now. I wasn't seeing a cover band, or listening to a CD. I was seeing them live- and now I can go to my grave saying that I've seen them live. Oh yeah, and during the second encore, we looked at each other and said "let's go" so we could beat the crowd. Very "unGeorge".

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Well, for the most part, I've known most of you for like 15 to 20+ years now, so I figured some of you might enjoy a bit of nostalgia- whether you were a fan of Van Halen, the Doors, Quiet Riot or Simply Red, we all remember what it was like when those bands were great- and we were young(er). We're by no means old now, but we're not exactly as cool as we might think. Our daughter loves it when I listen to the classic rock station in the car. She's a big fan of "Another One Bites the Dust". I'm now going to try and find a copy of "Short People" for her so she can get a little more culture from pops. She's still at the age where mom and dad are cool- gotta enjoy that while we can. Anyone who knows me, knows I'm a nostalgic person- maybe more so than others- I still can't get over the extinction of the Montreal Expos and I know that an ex-girlfriend has my vintage first issue Swatch- two things I still can't get over.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

An Apology for Honesty?

So here comes some of my political slant. Turns out that Jesse Jackson doesn't like the blackness of Barak Obama. In a recent story in the LA Times, it was noted that the Don Quioxte of black presidential candidates said "Barack, he's talking down to black people," and later "I want to cut his nuts off,".

Not a very strong endorsement for our probable next President of the United States, from arguably the figurehead of black advancement over the past 30 years. Now of course Jackson apologized and of course Obama accepted the apology, but was there really any other alternative for the two? So forget about the political rationale for the aftermath, let's focus on why Jackson said what he did.

Now I'm not a political guru by any means, so I have no idea what the history might be between the two, and oh yeah, his presidential aspirations were as mentioned above- sort of a joke. But I have tremendous respect for what Jackson stands for in principle and I believe that he truly speaks for the black American. And by the way, what in the world is an African American? And for that matter, the NAACP? Perhaps we should call Jackson a "colored person" since that organization still exists. I guess NAACP rolls off the tongue a lot better than the NAAAA, or NAABP. I say "black person" and I don't feel one bit racist. Now the Chinamen and Polaks, that's a different issue.

Oh yeah, I honestly look at reverend Jackson as one who really wants the advancement of black people- not your Colin Powell, Terrel Owens, Milton Bradley, Condoleezza Rice sorts of black people, but the black people who truly are in bad situations and are discriminated against and really do get off to a bad start or are the victims of the system. I'm sorry, but I still see flat out anti-black racism/discrimination regularly enough to agree that it's still an issue. I've seen it in the work environment, with people I work with, with family members, and to be completely honest with you, I've been guilty of it myself. Now what does that mean specifically? It can mean using ethnic slurs, imitating how people talk, prejudging, or simply making comments that just aren't the Christian way to talk about people. So the fact that he said that Obama talks down to black people actually rings true. I don't care whether Obama really will make a good president on various levels, but he is obviously sucking up to the black vote by talking down to "them".

Is that such a bad thing when you're trying to get elected to office? Is it lying? Overpromissing? Pandering? Don't get me started on that subject tonight- it's a reality of politics. But by Jackson's logic, McCain talks "down" to old people and veterans. Is Obama going to retire to Compton? Is McCain going to retire to Leisure World?

Barak Obama is apparently not the sort of black person that Jessie Jackson envisions as a champion for the black man's cause and I'm sure that has something to do with why he failed in the past. There was no way he'd get elected back then regardless of his style and Barak Obama would never have had a shot either, but he was just "too black" for America. Obama is black. He is intelligent. He is dynamic. He is articulate. If he gets elected, the black American will hopefully see an improvement in American attitudes, and who knows, perhaps some of his "crazy" planks will stick and truly improve the quality of life of "Jesse Jackson blacks" and others who are neglected in our great nation. It's a step in the right direction for improved social unity in our county, and Obama's "blackness" is a heck of a lot better than Bush/Clinton/Bush/Reagan/Carter/Ford, etc...