Category Archives: American trends

Stop Washing Your Hair, Ladies


Sorry, don’t know why comments were turned off. WordPress has changed its posting form and I haven’t quite got the hang of the new system.


And by “washing,” I do mean, using shampoo.

I’m one of those people who isn’t just having a bad hair day, I’m having a bad hair life. I got the family’s bad hair gene: while my sister was blessed with gorgeous, naturally curly hair, I got the limp, straight, thin hair from my mother’s side of the family. Aging has only made this situation worse.

And then I stopped washing my hair. And everything changed.

It started back in the early 2000s. I was a fan of the show “What Not To Wear,” one of the early makeover reality shows on TLC. One time Nick Arrojo, the guy who did the show’s hair makeovers, told a client that he didn’t wash his hair with shampoo. Ever. I thought it was the strangest thing I’d ever heard. I told my hair stylist and she said, “well, actually, I only wash my hair once every six months.” I couldn’t believe it. She had gorgeous, thick, shiny auburn hair. It looked as clean as anyone’s. She explained how shampoo causes the scalp to produce more oils and actually makes the hair weak. It can even make your hair fall out.

I was pretty shocked, seeing as how every time one goes to the hair salon they not only wash your hair but hawk a bunch of verrry pricey shampoos, conditioners and other hair products at you.

A few months later I switched hair salons and my new stylist told me he, too, did not wash his hair. I mean, what a tremendous irony, right? Hair salons try to sell you a bunch of crap their own stylists don’t even use.

Anyway, I stopped washing my hair every day several years ago. I rinse it out with water every day, but I only use shampoo once every week or two. And now I’m ready to stop doing that. Shampoo is a racket, when you use it all the time you then have to use conditioners and all sorts of other crap to make up for what your body naturally does when you stopp applying formaldehyde, sodium laureth sulfate, and other toxins to your hair and scalp in the first place.

I’m not sure the solution is a new product from the creator of the Bumble & Bumble empire. You can use baking soda and peppermint oil and make your own “purely perfect” solution. I’m pretty sure most peoples’ budgets will appreciate the switch, too. We could actually be looking at the demise of a major sector of the cosemtics industry. Good riddance.


Filed under American trends

Destined For YouTube

Just got a dispatch from the Bands of America grand championships currently under way in Indianapolis. Apparently it featured one Minnesota high school performing a JFK assassination show. Complete with “grassy knoll prop” and the color guard spinning their rifles as Kennedy is shot. If that sounds tacky, consider this: my source says two years ago, he saw a 9/11 marching band show at the same event.

So, this is how high school marching bands are trying to stay edgy these days? No wonder a blowhard football coach kicked one off the field.

So in other news, I got my new laptop yesterday. Still figuring out the bells and whistles. For example, in the middle of typing this I accidentally logged out of my computer system. I have no idea how the hell I did that. And WordPress has unleashed a fresh hell in my life. I can’t scroll down to check off categories anymore, I have no idea why. So now everything is going to be labeled “Housekeeping,” which is the default, because I can’t scroll down to the rest of the categories.

Sigh. Just shoot me now.


Filed under American trends

American Dream Is Officially Dead

Today’s New York Times has a front page story confirming what we DFH’s have been saying for years, which is that the American dream is over, and if you’re “born a poor black kid” in America today (or poor white kid or poor Latino kid) … chances are pretty good that you’re going to stay poor when you become an adult:

But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a Republican candidate for president, warned this fall that movement “up into the middle income is actually greater, the mobility in Europe, than it is in America.” National Review, a conservative thought leader, wrote that “most Western European and English-speaking nations have higher rates of mobility.” Even Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who argues that overall mobility remains high, recently wrote that “mobility from the very bottom up” is “where the United States lags behind.”

Liberal commentators have long emphasized class, but the attention on the right is largely new.

I have written about this a lot but it’s always good to get validation from The Paper Of Record. Just one thing, though: why is the news for the New York Times that Republicans are talking about this issue? Not, you know, that this thing has happened in America to begin with? That the American myth of a classless society and mobility up the ladder is dead? I mean, really, talk about burying the lead? Hello?

And another thing: You have to be pretty brain-dead (or drunk on conservative Kool-Aid) to think folks like Rick Santorum, Paul Ryan and the National Review give a shit about American mobility — because correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t we just have Newt Gingrich telling us that poor kids in the projects only do illegal jobs like selling drugs, and Herman Cain telling us that if you’re poor it’s your own fault, and every Republican from Tennessee’s own Ron Ramsey to Eric Cantor telling us that unemployed people are just getting fat and lazy off their unemployment checks? That the social safety net is “a lifestyle”?

So now that some Republicans are pretending to notice inequality and lack of opportunity in America, why do we think their answers will be anything other than the usual “tax cuts, deregulation and shred the social safety net” which led us here to begin with?

Le Sigh. But I digress. Back to the issue at hand, which is that people in evul-Socialist-librul-Commie countries with free education and socialized medicine actually have more social mobility than the supposed land of opportunity, the good ol’ USA:

At least five large studies in recent years have found the United States to be less mobile than comparable nations. A project led by Markus Jantti, an economist at a Swedish university, found that 42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults. That shows a level of persistent disadvantage much higher than in Denmark (25 percent) and Britain (30 percent) — a country famous for its class constraints.

Meanwhile, just 8 percent of American men at the bottom rose to the top fifth. That compares with 12 percent of the British and 14 percent of the Danes.

Despite frequent references to the United States as a classless society, about 62 percent of Americans (male and female) raised in the top fifth of incomes stay in the top two-fifths, according to research by the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Similarly, 65 percent born in the bottom fifth stay in the bottom two-fifths.

By emphasizing the influence of family background, the studies not only challenge American identity but speak to the debate about inequality. While liberals often complain that the United States has unusually large income gaps, many conservatives have argued that the system is fair because mobility is especially high, too: everyone can climb the ladder. Now the evidence suggests that America is not only less equal, but also less mobile.

John Bridgeland, a former aide to President George W. Bush who helped start Opportunity Nation, an effort to seek policy solutions, said he was “shocked” by the international comparisons. “Republicans will not feel compelled to talk about income inequality,” Mr. Bridgeland said. “But they will feel a need to talk about a lack of mobility — a lack of access to the American Dream.”

Yes well surely the answer is to abolish the estate tax, make sure every student graduating from college is saddled with crushing debt, and maintain the costliest, least efficient healthcare delivery system in the Western world. That’s the ticket!

C’mon, New York Times. We’ve all seen this movie before. It’s an election year, which means this is the year Republicans pretend to care about the little guy and trot out their same tired ideas which have failed from the get-go. Meanwhile, Democrats will let another opportunity to seize the national conversation slide by because they’re too scared of looking liberal. Pfft.


Filed under American trends, economy, Media, New York Times

Procedural Voyeurism

I’m a huge fan of Walter Kirn, who wrote “Up In The Air” and “Mission To America,” to name just two of his novels. I wanted to call attention to his piece in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine about what he dubs “procedural voyeurism”. I hope everyone gives it a read.

“Procedural voyeurism” is Kirn’s term for our modern culture’s obsession with procedure over outcomes, the backstory over the story, the “art of the deal [rather] than the art,” as the headline reads. I think this is a very important observation about our culture and speaks to a shift in how we Americans view our world that is vastly different from 20 or 30 years ago.

Kirn cites such examples as the LeBron James uproar, the fact that weekend box office receipts are reported on the nightly news and discussed by consumers, and the Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno war. On the political front, I think it’s pretty much unprecedented that our national debate centers on procedural issues like the filibuster, and the fact that we’ve been discussing the 2012 presidential election since the 2008 election wrapped. Be it entertainment, politics or anything else, we’re all insiders now. Everyone has the “inside scoop,” a window into the boardroom.

I agree with Kirn that we’ve reached this state of affairs because the internet and cable news have left a gaping void in the information flow. That is the mechanism of procedural voyeurism; as for the why’s, he writes:

Procedural voyeurism grants us an illusion of control over realities that we secretly fear we have no power over — sometimes correctly, as with the BP oil spill, whose coverage has been rich in process and until recently short on meaningful developments. The Romanian religious philosopher Mircea Eliade wrote about mesmerizing narratives that he called origin myths. He said they helped people feel a sense of authority over an otherwise chaotic world. Today our origin myths are more mundane, but we still see the deal as a primordial act. We might do well to call these decadent versions “LeBron Announcements” or “Conan-Leno Matches”: rituals of symbolic participation in games-within-games that are way above our heads and occur within heavily guarded inner circles that we can peek into but never truly penetrate.

I think that’s very, very astute. The internet has opened up an entire world of information to the masses: everyone can be an expert when anything you want to know is just a mouse-click (or tap on the iPhone or Blackberry) away. What hasn’t changed is that our institutions are still an insider’s game. This is true from Wall Street to Washington D.C. to Hollywood, and everything in between.

Even as we get more educated about how our world works, we are ever more excluded from influencing that world. The internet has been a great democratizer but we’re still in the early stages of the process, and the established institutions aren’t giving up the keys to the kingdom any time soon. Just as the internet enables us plebes to raise money for the causes and candidates of our choosing, no longer relying on established organizations like political parties, along comes the Supreme Court to say let’s give corporations unlimited spending power.

Here’s another example: Today I voted. I pushed the squares on the touch screen, reviewed my selections, and hit “vote,” wherein everything went into a void. I have no way of knowing whether my vote will be counted, or counted accurately. As far as I know it’s all been so much Kabuki Theater to keep the illusion of Democracy intact. Who knows.

But I’m not rioting in the streets about it … yet. Because I have a flood of information at my fingertips which has basically opened the doors of the smoke-filled room. I have symbolically penetrated the halls of power, even as I’m ever further excluded from it.

I dunno, I’m kind of thinking out loud here. I do think Kirn is onto something. I wonder if we’ll ever reach a point where we’re satiated with the procedural conversation and demand more actual influence over our world?


Filed under American trends, media, pop culture

>Prison Nation

>A source I used in Tuesday’s item about Corrections Corp. shill Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV mentioned this country’s “incarceration boom” — a phrase that took me aback. I wanted to explore this issue further. Well, wouldn’t you know, today Pew Research has a study on this very topic.

It’s disturbing, to say the least:

1 in 100 Americans Are Behind Bars, Study Says

Published: February 28, 2008

For the first time in the nation’s history, more than one in 100 American adults is behind bars, according to a new report.

Nationwide, the prison population grew by 25,000 last year, bringing it to almost 1.6 million. Another 723,000 people are in local jails. The number of American adults is about 230 million, meaning that one in every 99.1 adults is behind bars.

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 is behind bars, but that one in 100 black women is.

Wow. That’s just astonishing. Think about it: of 100 adults you personally know, at least one of those people will have served time in the criminal justice system.

I thought about it and realized: yes, I know one of those people! I have a good friend whose punishment for their second DUI offense included serving time in jail.

What is going on here? A nation with incarceration rates this high needs to do some serious soul-seaching.

Are we breaking more laws than before? Do we really have this many “bad” people? Or are we locking people up for violations that really don’t warrant incarceration? Is this the inevitable result of decades of “tough on crime” talk from politicians and the media?

The article goes on:

The Pew report recommended diverting nonviolent offenders away from prison and using punishments short of reincarceration for minor or technical violations of probation or parole. It also urged states to consider earlier release of some prisoners.

I know that law-and-order types get in a tizzy over the idea of early release for some prisoners, but something isn’t working here.

Who is benefiting–besides CCA, of course –from pulling so many people out of the mainstream of society and locking them up? So many of these “get tough on crime” laws haven’t served as a deterrent or made us safer. Instead, they’ve made a bunch of people feel macho and tough by doing what’s easy, not what works.

There’s something seriously wrong with a country that would rather throw people in jail and forget about them, instead of fixing the social problems that cause people to break the law to begin with.

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Filed under American trends, CCA, incarceration