Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day or “How My Predominately White County Has More In Common With a Ghetto”

Greetings everyone. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. day. I know some people see it as a sort of “light” holiday, but I think that to celebrate the life, achievements, and ideas of MLK is actually very important. Dr. King showed us that no matter how marginalized you are, with hard work, dedication, and a clear vision you can be a positive force for change in the world. One thing I do dislike about the holiday is how we treat it as a holiday just for the work he did against segregation.

Let me be clear, the Civil Rights movement was one of the most important moments of the 20th century and Dr. King’s contributions are some of the greatest. However, towards the end of his life Dr. King seemed to have stumbled onto perhaps the one most elusive truth in regards to social equality in this country, that the problem goes beyond race, gender, or religion. One of the unfortunate side effects of freedom is that everyone gets freedom, not just the people you agree with. That being said, I regret to inform the world that racism won’t be eliminated in our lifetimes. I would like to believe humans have it in them to completely eliminate racism, but I think the more realistic future is that there will always be at least a small amount of racism in our world. It’s a sad truth. While I hate racism, the idea of a thought police isn’t really the sort of road I want to go down.

So what is the answer? Let’s take a moment to look at where I’m from: Southeastern Ohio. Specifically I am from Guernsey County and currently live in the greater Marietta area, which will also include a small section of West Virginia for the sake of this discussion.

According to a study by Brown University my current home, the Marietta/Parkersburg area, is the second least diverst urban center in the country. Literally 96% of all people in our area reported being caucasian during the census. Only about 1% of the population is from African decent. As far as politics, culture, and diversity go, it would be near impossible for my community to have anything in common with the typical predominantly African American community.

That is until you start comparing the economics and statistics of my home Guernsey County. Like the Marietta area, it also has a 96% caucasian population, but blows away Washington County with a huge 1.5% population of black citizens. The point being that Guernsey County is super white. However, if you look at our statistics you would never be able to tell it.

For example: Nationally the median Household Income for a white household is about $54,000 annually. For a black household, that number is an unfortunate $35,341. How does my home of Guernsey County stack up? The county, which is 96% caucasian, has a median household income of $37,573. While slightly better than the national average for black households, it’s clear that income wise that Guernsey has more in common with our counterparts from African decent.

The numbers are worse when we start to narrow the scope. If we just evaluate the personal incomes across these lines, the picture becomes very clear. The median per capita income for a white citizen is about $30,026. Full disclosure, I could not find that specific number so I took the average of per capita for men and women. For African-Americans, we again see a terrible trend as their per capita income is recorded as being $18,406. Guernsey County’s per capita income? $19,187. Less than $1,000 difference between the national average for African Americans and Guernsey County which is comprised of 96% white citizens.

Crime and drug abuse is also a huge problem within Guernsey County, again reflecting the problems of African-American communities. When compared to Geauga County, a county with Ohio’s second highest per capita income at $32,735, Guernsey County’s crime statistics are shocking. Despite having less than half the population of Geauga County, Guernsey was comparable in nearly almost metric. According to Ohio’s Office of Criminal Justice Services, Guernsey County had more instances of violent crime, rape, robbery, burglary, vehicle thefts, and acts of arson. In the few categories where Guernsey County didn’t exceed Geauga County, they were competitive.

What’s perhaps most telling is Guernsey’s instances of burglary, with a total of 170 reports compared to Geauga’s 74 cases. Let that sink in for a moment. Geauga has a population of 83,672
compared to Guernsey’s 39,377, yet still has less than half as many instances of burglary. Does this sound similar to any other instances of crime in a community?

So what’s my point? While racism is awful and we need to actively combat it, racism isn’t what is directly causing a large portion of problems for minorities. Growing up in Guernsey County, I feel I have more in common with someone from a ghetto than a suburb. While I’ve never had to worry about being unjustifiably murdered by a police officer, I have suffered at the hands of what is essentially class warfare. Policies that are meant to target minorities (criminal drug pocession, minimum sentencing requirements, outrageous bail prices, etc) also directly affect poor white communities. Guernsey county illustrates the point that even in areas that essentially have no minority population, the upper class still finds a lower class to exploit and punish for being poor. Just like low income minority communities, Guernsey County is suffering from elevated instances of crime, drug addiction, and accidental overdoses. All this despite the active racism that minority communities suffer from.

Which sort of unifies my message for this post. Poor white people are basically the “minorities” of predominantly white communities and face a lot of the same problems that blacks, latinos, and others face. Racial division only serves to empower the upper class even more. We need to unite as a people and work together to remove the systemic class discrimination within this country. While it won’t directly end racism, it would take away our culture’s greatest tool for institutionalizing discriminatory ideologies.

If we can expand the American middle-class and include minorities into that expansion, we would not only be bettering the lives of the underclass, but empowering them to become leaders in their own communities. If we mobilize the common person to get involved in politics and to take back their voice, we can ensure that this sort of economic trap is no longer used. Our friends and families wouldn’t be as strongly driven towards drugs and crime.

Economics is a tool to keep a large portion of our country in a position of subservience. It’s time for us to unite across race, religious, and political lines to ensure the future of our communities.

Attention: Change of content focus

Hey anyone that might still stumble to this site from time to time. Haven’t been posting a lot, despite yet another promise to do so. We all know it wasn’t going to happen… but something has happened in the meantime. I’ve had a bit of a civic awakening. This website is going to start getting super political.

I have always been proud of America. I think with the exception of a rebellious few, there are few people that can escape childhood without getting sucked up into patriotism of some sort. It might have been an especially memorable Olympics, the enjoyment of the 4th of July, or even repeating a pledge to The United States every morning in our classrooms. Despite clear attempts of indoctrinating the youth, I think we can all agree that the United States can be pretty great sometimes. We’ve helped end wars, helped to end plagues, and boost economies around the world. We’ve also started wars, helped start a few plagues, and crumbled some economies around the world.

The point being this: America is dangerous. As a country we’re kind of like a loaded gun. When used properly, it can help provide food and security. When mishandled, we become a threat to ourselves and others. Many people are saying we’re approaching that point. I say we’ve actually past beyond that point decades ago, but are only now seeing the true ramifications of the problem.

I hope over the next few months as we pick our next president that I can bring you reflection and information without getting wrapped up into partisan politics. While I may be registered as a Democrat, I would legitimately consider voting for someone such a Rand Paul. I feel that privacy and liberty are important and need protected, and Rand Paul is one of the only candidates from either party to even pretend to care about them.

However, I would not call myself a Rand Paul supporter. At most I’m Rand-curious. My true support lies behind Senator Bernie Sanders. I want to disclose that day one. I don’t plan on changing my support, but I’ll let you know if it happens. I feel that full transparency and honesty are needed to have a valid political dialog, and while this isn’t an open forum, I hope that this does contribute to the overall discussion happening and can help you in the discussions you will be having with your family and friends over the next few months.

So what can you expect from me? I’m not going to promise daily content or anything, but I’m going to try to chime in with some insight from time to time. Maybe share some of my experiences as I help campaign for Senator Sanders and document my efforts to organize in Rural Southeastern Ohio. I’ve been watching a lot of news coverage and documentaries, so perhaps I will suggest a few noteworthy ones when I come across them.

But that’s all for now. Just a bit of fair warning that there’s going to be some nerdy civic speak, statistics, and political rumblings coming from me for the foreseeable future.

Carry on till then.

Danger! Danger! Music Time!

I’ve likely posted this one before, but it’s a great song and a great video. Thanks to that Forza 6 commercial for reminding me about it.

Pro-Wrestling: Due For a Renaissance.

School has been a mixed bag and I have been sick for about a week, and as a result I’m up well past midnight due to a midday nap. The good news is that it gives me some time to write. So here we go…

I’m sure you already read the title, so you know what I’m going to be talking about. Whenever a non-wrestling fan finds out I’m an adult wrestling fan, I get one of two questions: “You know it’s fake right?” or “Why would you watch that?” These are actually two of the three points I wanted to hit on tonight. Because I really don’t think people appreciate the art and history that goes into pro-wrestling. So let’s just dive in and talk about that thing non-wrestling fans is the elephant in the room:

Wrestling is fake

I can 100% tell you that any adult wrestling fan with sound mind understands that the matches and events in pro-wrestling are scripted. Frankly, I usually get insulted because that question implies that I have some sort of deficiency that prevents me from realizing very obvious things. We know it’s “fake.” We love that it’s “fake.” Comedian Ron Funches really has a great bit about this. So we’ve cleared the air. We’re all on common ground and understand that wrestling is mostly scripted and the physicality is very real.

Frank's Kayfabe HatBefore we get too deep I need to explain a term and concept that is the very core of wrestling: Kayfabe. Kayfabe is a term from within professional wrestling that basically means the illusion and story that wrestling projects. For example, Mark Calaway is just some MMA enthusiast with a really nice house in Texas and a hot wife. However, when Mark puts on some black clothes and steps through the doors of a WWE event he becomes the Undertaker from Death Valley. Real life Mark. Kayfabe Undertaker. Kayfabe is a noun and an adjective. So you have to protect Kayfabe, from things that aren’t Kayfabe. Also, Kayfabe is fun to say. I think you have the idea now.

The interesting thing to keep in mind is that when kayfabe was still intact, meaning people still thought it was real, the performers would go to extraordinary length to protect it. Good guys and bad guys could never be seen together in public. The faces (good guys) and heels (bad guys) would go as far as staying in separate hotels. In the rare instances that wrestlers knowingly put kayfabe in danger and were caught, they were often severely punished. Losing opportunities, money, and sometimes their jobs. On top of that, many of these guys took extreme pride in their craft. Pro-wrestling is perhaps one of the most insane and amazing forms of performance art ever created. For decades people would pretend to be someone completely different in public just for the sake of entertaining people and making a buck. People thought wrestling was real, and wrestling took every effort to keep it that way.

The Curtain CallWhich brings us to an interesting realization: professional wrestling acted as a legitimate sporting competition for decades. There were literally generations of people that lived thinking wrestling was real. There were rumblings about matches being rigged or that wrestlers weren’t actually trying to hurt each other, but it was basically accepted that it was real. By the end of 1996 it wasn’t. An incident happened called “The Curtain Call.” Two of the WWF’s top talent were leaving the company, and were joined in the middle of the ring by some of their friends for a bit of an organized farewell. The real problem with this is the fact that it had faces and heels publicly mixing. Not only that, but characters that were supposed to hate each other were hugging and high-fiving in the ring! An audience member caught it on tape, pictures were taken, and wrestling was never able to lie about its nature again.

Not lets take a moment and make this concept a bit more relative. What if tomorrow we found out that MMA or the NHL pre-determined the outcome of their matches? Pro-wrestling was actually regulated like boxing in many states and had to register with local sporting commissions. Not only has wrestling survived this revelation, but it’s actually been its most successful after kayfabe was broken.

rusevlanamagicNow here’s where it get’s even more interesting. Though the illusion of Kayfabe has been broken, it still exists. Pro-wrestling now lives in this crazy meta world where art imitates life and life imitates art. CM Punk hated being called by his real name by strangers while he was wrestling. In public CM Punk, and many other wrestlers, are their characters or at the very least still kind of hesitant to break character too badly. Their twitter feeds become this bizarre mix of their real lives and thoughts… and some nonsense from a staff writer to help further a story. Characters will break up on a show and actually buy a house together in real life (congratulation Lana and Rusev! I’m sure you’ll never see this, but you’re my favorite wrestling couple!)

Now whenever a wrestler gets injured in the ring, the internet instantly explodes in speculation. Did Dolph Ziggler really hurt his throat so badly he can’t wrestle or even talk? Oh wait… no reports say he’s actually just off filming a movie. To most adult wrestling fans, the meta speculation about real life, kayfabe, and where they meet is where most the appeal lies. One of the most curious effects of this is the emotional bond wrestlers forge with the fans. We know that 95% of everything they say or do in front of us is a lie, which makes those honest moments so much more powerful. That’s why I cried when Bayley won the Women’s Title at the latest NXT Takeover event. Here were these four amazing women who I only know as characters standing in the ring and actually being themselves for a brief couple minutes. It’s like that seeing your dad cry. Moments of sincere emotion in wrestling are perhaps some of the most amazing moments you will ever get out of any entertainment.

So we’ve dealt with the fact that wrestling is fake, or real, or really fake, or fakey real. Moving on.

Why would you watch that?

For all the reasons I just mentioned and more. Max Landis hit on some of those reasons in his amazing video “Wrestling isn’t Wrestling,” and even being “short” it’s 24 minutes long, but I highly recommend it just because it’s enjoyable as well as enlightening about the appeal of wrestling. Basically what his video boils down to is wrestling is an ever evolving long form of storytelling. 80-90% of all wrestling is pretty garbage, but that last 10-20% is amazing.

4 horsewomenLet’s look at Bayley vs Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover that made me cry manly wrestling tears. It was basically a story two years in the making. Both women arrived around the same time as jobbers (people who’s sole existence is to lose to make other people look better) in NXT. Both have been a vital part of Women’s wrestling rising to prominence in the WWE… however… Sasha has been the bad guy and Bayley has always stayed the good guy. Bayley has always been the underdog and one step behind Banks. Even in real life, Banks is getting called up to the WWE while Bayley remains at NXT for equally important (but not quite as glamorous) job of maintaining the integrity of the NXT championship. So there’s this feeling of Bayley just not being as good as Sasha both in kayfabe and in real life. The fans love Bayley. She has a great personality, but she never won the big match. So after two years of paying her dues and playing second fiddle to Sasha Banks, Bayley beats Banks and takes her championship.

The wrestling was amazing, and I don’t me “they were amazing for girls.” The emotion, the storytelling, the physical language they used, I would dare anyone to watch it and tell me it wasn’t a piece of art. That match is why I watch wrestling. Because of this, it’s not surprising that more and more of my geekier friends are coming back to wrestling.

Which brings me to the point of all this:

Professional wrestling is due for a renaissance.

The popularity of modern wrestling has been a bit of a social tidal system. You can count on every 15-20 years that wrestling will come back into style again. It happened with Hulkamania, it happened with the Monday Night Wars between WCW and WWF in the ’90s, and I feel we’re due for another swell any year now. The writing is on the wall. The celebrity element is returning. Stephen Amell made headlines when he wrestled in ring at the recent WWE Summerslam, which MC’d by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart. ESPN and Rolling Stone are covering the WWE. Even Japanese promotions like NJPW are having increased success and the independent wrestling scene in the US is at its best in years. WWE is actually finding success with two separate brands now the NXT is taking off. All the indicators is that we’re just waiting for our figure head wrestler like Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan to really flip the switch.

The WWE has positioned itself perfectly to develop that wrestler as well. Right now the WWE roster is already lousy with talent. They have so many good wrestlers that they’re struggling to get them all TV time. On top of that, they have a wealth of talent just waiting for their chance down in NXT. They have signed top Japanese talent like Finn Balor and Hideo Itami. They’ve signed indie wrestling darlings like Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens. They’ve even recruited yet another Olympian in the incredibly promising Chad Gable. If anything, the WWE might have too much talent and it will be hard for them to find a long term replacement for the aging John Cena. The point being, they have a ton of talent and it’s only a matter of time before they find the guy or gal that captures America’s hearts and minds. Then we’re going to have middle school kids getting detention for whatever the newest thing is that isn’t a DX crotch chop.

I really think that geeks especially are going to re-find their love of wrestling. If there’s one thing that geeks have really latched onto lately it’s long form storytelling. Shows like Doctor Who, Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, and so many other long running shows that are at least moderately serialized are hits among the geeky TV watching community. Like I mentioned previously, wrestling is the ultimate long form story. Rivalries, triumphs, failures, injuries, and betrayals can all have lasting effects on the story. Stories can take weeks, months, years, or even decades to come to fruition and often those magical moments are sweeter the longer they take. Also, wrestling is basically cancellation-proof. So you’ll never have to worry about your new favorite show getting cancelled on a cliffhanger.

I mean, just watch this highlight collection from some of NXT’s recent special live events. You’ll notice pro-wrestling probably doesn’t look as fake as you remember, especially in moment in number one.

So now that I answered the two most common questions from non-wrestling fans, I have question for them. How can you watch that clip show above and not want to keep watching it!? Sure sometimes it’s goofy and most the time it’s actually only mediocre, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t worth it for the art, the physicality, the pageantry, and the special moments.

Napster, Driveless Cars, and Staying Ahead of the Curve

NapsterI just got done watching a very interesting documentary on Netflix called “Downloaded.” It’s a very interesting documentary about the development, the rise, and the fall of the now infamous peer-to-peer file discovery and sharing platform Napster. Regardless of your personal feelings on the topic of the ethical and legal issues surrounding Napster, you can’t argue that it has permanently changed the music industry. It opened the way for iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and a host of music services that are now ingrained into the daily lives of even the most modest of tech users. It also opened the door for most sophisticated and larger peer-to-peer platforms like BitTorrent. To keep it short, even after “legal” victories against Napster by the RIAA, the music industry was forever changed and many will argue that the music industry missed the bus on capitalizing on this new technonology because they were too busy trying to kill it.

I won’t put all the blame on the music industry though, because frankly how could they have known? They weren’t tech people. They didn’t understand the technology. Decades of stagnation had seen the music industry completely remove itself from the research and development of new recording technologies. They were completely unprepared, when compounded by an unwillingness to change, led to the faltering music industry we have today. An industry where many bands can circumvent the industry at large and make livings directly connecting to their fans.

I’m getting off course here. What happened with Napster and the music industry is done, but we’re never done with the growing pains of innovation. That’s why it’s important for us to learn from these sort of events and apply them to current (movies and television) and upcoming (driverless cars) disruptive innovations. Which brings me to the topic that this post is actually focused on: the emergence of driverless cars.

My friend Ed posted his concerns regarding automated vehicles on Facebook a couple weeks and it triggered an interesting conversation. One of the points that people are legitimately concerned about is how automated vehicles will affect employment in driving fields such as public transportation, private transportation, and commercial shipping.

If history is any indication, there will be quite a few people in the next few decades that will lose their job as a truck driver. At this point it is completely unavoidable because you can’t un-invent the technology and it’s only a matter of time before people run out of excuses to keep it stifled. A certain amount of jobs will be created to support these automated vehicles, but unfortunately it’s not likely that it will replace all the jobs lost.

However… theoretically once this technology is in place the cost of almost everything in America should drop. Around 70% of all commercial goods in the United States are transported via trucks. That means that eventually 70% of all items shipped in the US should decrease as their production and shipping cost decreases.

Let’s use a car factory as an example. What many people fail to realize is a factory for cars is actually less a factory, and more simply a fancy place where things are put together. Individual parts are rarely produced onsite. Companies have found that for various reasons it’s cheaper to make pieces at a highly specialized mass production factory and then ship them to the main plant to be used in assembly. Off the dealership floor something as simple as your brakes and rotors could be comprised of pieces that were manufactured in multiple states or even countries.

Doing the math, that means that the cost of shipping raw material to manufacturing plants will be reduced. The cost of shipping the parts to the assembly plant will be reduced. The price of shipping the finished car to storage or dealerships will be reduced.

Why is the shipping cheaper in theory? Well, people driving trucks cross country is expensive. You have to pay their wage and benefits, you have to pay insurance, and then you have any other costs from legal liability, etc. Yes, there will be initial costs to develop, purchase, and roll out the new technology, but as you can see eventually the cost will pay for itself and savings will occur.

Here’s where we can really get into a lot of trouble. This offset in price should help aid those that are negatively affected by the shift to automated shipping. So while these unfortunate men and women drivers will eventually find it hard to get a job in the field, the cost of living should decrease for them. But what happens if corporations instead decide to eat up the savings as profit and not pass them along as savings to the public?

This is when we start to further develop the possibility of a permanent underclass. Whenever innovation streamlines or eases production at the cost of employment, there should also be a benefit to the common folk. Assembly lines help produce a cheaper car, factory food production makes bread cheap and easy for all families to purchase, etc.

future truck cabin 876The other important thing to keep in mind is that this is a growing and developing technology. All truckers won’t find themselves unemployed within five or even ten years. This will be a slow roll out and people should have years to prepare for the inevitable change. Another thought is we’re also assuming that these trucks will be fully automated, and I find that very hard to believe. I think it’s much more likely that we’ll see truck drivers become more like train conductors, overseeing the general operation and only taking control when precision or judgement is needed.

That’s all for now. Just had some thoughts and decided to share them.

Recommendations for July 29th, 2015

Haven’t updated in a few days, thought I would check in. Nothing “important” to say today, so I thought I would take a few minutes to recommend some things in case you’re finding yourself a little bored these last few weeks of Summer. Going to cover some video games, TV Shows, movies, etc.

Let’s start with a fun little video game that can be picked up for $20 (or free this month if you’re a PSN+ Member):

Rocket League!

This highly competitive, fast paced game that combines soccer and cars is more fun than my description makes it sound. Right off the bat the game is frantic and fast, and as your skills increase the game only gets more insane. Eventually the skill level gets to the point that your cars are often used like rockets to deflect and strike the ball with “aerial” moves like this:

I’m not that good (click to see me play), but that doesn’t make the game any less fun. Due to the competitive and online nature, this game can be a little bit of a time suck if you’re determined to get decent. You’ve been warned.

Netflix Picks

Bojack Horseman Season 2 is out. If you stopped watching the show after the first couple episodes of Season 1 I don’t blame you, but I’ll be damned if you’re not missing out on one of the most heartfelt and tender comedies about nihilism, death, and rejection. Also, the voice acting cast. Season 2 is arguably better than Season 1 even after it picked up and I think will speak to a lot of people out there. A lot of sad, broken people. “Every day it gets easier.”

You might have also heard about a documentary about Chinese food that has been getting a lot of buzz on social media. I put “In Search of General Tso” on with zero shame as I ate the last Chinese meal during my little “let’s eat like an idiot because I’m on vacation” event. I was expecting a lighthearted documentary about Chinese food, and I wasn’t disappointed, however… the movie is much more than that. I was pleasantly surprised to learn about Chinese history, Chinese immigration into America. Just so many fascinating and sometimes sad things. It’s also an amazingly uplifting story as you see how Chinese people have rose against adversity across multiple continents.

I’m sure I’ll remember some other things I meant to suggest soon, and I’ll likely keep posting this stuff in the future. If you have recommendations for me, hit me up on twitter.

Music Time: Don’t we all?

Music Time: I can read your mind