Occasionally I get to read a response to our editor about the "Phoenix" column, a response happy or agreeable (rare) or an irate ideological objection to the information I present (more typical).
Often in public speaking, I either get laughter — when I'm lucky — or the same semi-ponderous, quasi-fearful stare that I imagine readers of "Phoenix" often have.
The column is most often about freedom, and that is scary: There's always a cost to freedom, and a much bigger cost when leaving our freedom to others. This is why many of the columns focus on rules and actions by our government/big business alliance, which has grown over the centuries and which has on many occasions become a burden, if not an evil.
Anyone who reads a number of books every week is apt to become ponderous. On the other hand, the hyperlink, Web-bite, TV news, radio extravaganza posing as information is disjointed, to say the least. Pieces of incomplete information can be used to paint incomplete and misleading versions of reality. Ironically, at the same time that most Americans prefer not to read or ponder, letting the information machine think for them, excellent books concerning our lives appear. Not only information, but also carefully compiled thought, is right in front of our noses — if we walk into a bookstore.
So, question number one from a member of an audience: "But who has time to read?"
Well, personally I keep a book on the back of the toilets in the house, plus two more by the bathtub. Try a real hot bath at night. Put one pound of Epsom salts in the water for muscle relaxation. Read until you've had all the sweating you can take.
Keep books in your car, then take them with you to any situation in which you have to sit and wait. Keep a book by the TV. Alternate days between TV viewing when you wander into the family room and picking up the book instead. When you feel like writing or speaking about your reading topics, you are on your way — to ponderousness.
A question from an editor: "What about the boycott of Taste of Cincinnati?" I suppose this refers to continuing protests over police shootings. Wrong event. Next time, protest police balls. Or protest city council, although I can't tell what they have to do with anything, much less police policies.
For 22 years, I've lived in the city without understanding the council, because I can't grasp just what it does. Is this just me? Is it unclear because our city is run in a very convoluted way?
Protest the city and the police until we get real, complete information on shooting tragedies. How many white criminals have pointed guns at officers, and what were the results? How many have run through darkened streets avoiding arrest, and what were the outcomes? How many white men are forced into fleeing because they feel like they must flee to avoid unfair treatment?
Define forms of unfair treatment, then lets look at very detailed results of surveys across all populations.
Publish each individual officer's record across every parameter possible, along with an independent analysis of what the report means, complete with statistical confidence intervals and p values. Let's look at conviction rates for similar crimes across the same parameters. Someone up there who wants to ponder for a living, please compile all of this in a concise and easily read way. Please publish it daily for a month in a people's newspaper. I'd like a comparison to national averages, too.
Boycott any newspaper whose writers can't provide comprehensive, well-analyzed and exposed information on important issues. Boycott any newspaper that puts football or baseball game results on the front page, especially if abuse of the public in any form is buried or not printed at all.
On second thought, unless things change, let's all boycott the Taste of Cincinnati next year, because it is the taste of Cincinnati. The food is often not up to the restaurants' own standards and is overpriced for the size of the sample. The event attracts those who gobble food out of insatiable reflex rather than well-exercised and discriminating taste. This is a promotion for businesses, yet there are hidden dynamics that I don't like.
The same stands tend to appear year after year. Where are the newer ethnic restaurants? The design of the Taste is poor, with very little forum for folks, even neighbors, to get to know each other.
Let's put a new taste down at the river. Keep the live bands, and add cooking classes and events for children. Let's combine the Taste with the recently defunct World Jam, combining multi-cultural food with ethnic dance and drumming workshops. Let's get Daniel Schorr to speak, or Julian Bond, or Eli Wiesel, or Ted Kennedy, Ralph Nader and Bill Clinton — Bill exclusively for a comment on the food.
Better yet, let's have all the local leaders, even though mostly Republican, and all others prominent in public eye, plus the overly ponderous and well read, hold multiple small group discussion sessions on the lawn by the barbecues where we can reheat Taste of Cincinnati food after it's gone cold.
Let's have a prize for the best stand. Let's make sure everyone gets at least one free sample.
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