Weekly Rochester Events #457: Nostradamus Starts Predicting
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Last Friday I got to see some movies at the Dryden at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) First was a film by Ken Loach and the second (Carry On Ken) was a pleasant documentary about him. Which Side Are You On? documents the British miners' strike of 1984-1985. It gave a sympathetic eye to the plight of the miners — particularly highlighting police abuse. The movie itself was a pretty vanilla documentary, but the history that it's bracketed within is what makes it fascinating. Coal mines began closing one after another as Great Britain migrated to nuclear power. The miners' union went on strike to little avail — scabs were adequate to shut the mines down. The media apparently marched in step with the government by declaring how good it was that the move be made to nuclear, and how the police were noble and the miners savage. London television had commissioned the project but held off on showing it to the public until after the strike had been defeated.
It's interesting how my thinking has changed on this kind of topic. Five years ago I would have declared that the miners should have seen the writing on the wall and found other work — adapt or perish. Now I see it differently. I see them as having made a handshake-agreement with their employers: in exchange for reliably doing dangerous work for modest pay, they expect a certain amount of job security. Great Britain did not need to migrate to nuclear power overnight, and may have been planning its introduction for decades prior. If they had cared for their workers, they would have helped them retrain and find new work rather than rely on the workers to figure it out for themselves.
I mean, almost everybody thinks of just "having a job". They go and work and get paid and they'll do the same thing tomorrow — alternatively, some people stay fairly nimble and take on work as they find it, knowing they'll have to do something else later. But for most people, there are a couple factors that play into how people behave, particularly the amount of skill necessary and the transferability of those skills.
For people working jobs requiring little skill, or for those who have highly transferable skills, they are relatively nimble and can simply find work elsewhere for about the same pay rate. Thus, jobs like picking fruit, moving boxes, or mowing lawns are low-skill jobs and people who do those kinds of work can switch to any of the other jobs relatively easily. Jobs like automobile mechanic and appliance installer are jobs that require a lot of skills, but many things learned in one profession is applicable in another. But mining is a job that has a lot of specific skills that don't transfer well to many other professions, leaving a miner to retrain or to work for a much lower pay rate.
I keep thinking, "so what's so different between miners and computer programmers"? In both cases, there's low transferability of a lot of skills — I mean, if there weren't a need for people to program computers, what could programmers do? I think there's a belief that the problem-solving skills would be useful, but a programmer's skill also relies heavily on their ability to fully understand their tools. Another argument is that computer programming isn't going anywhere. But yikes: that's exactly what people think before they get blind-sided by something new that completely obsoletes their line of work. I wonder what it'll be ...
Anyway, back in the modern world, I am uneasy about Mayor Robert J. Duffy's response to increased violence. In the press release from October 5, he calls for the usual increase in police activity and such. The last paragraph reads, "The Mayor has instructed the RPD to aggressively police and patrol neighborhoods throughout the city. 'I have told the police to respect the laws and the Constitution of the United States and New York State. However, if you are stopped and questioned by the police, please comply with the officers and understand that they are trying to save lives and stop this insane violence,' concluded Mayor Duffy."
The "please comply with the officers" is the part that ruffles my feathers: I say know your rights. Flex Your Rights is a good place to start. What I took away from that is three things: (1) if you are asked by the police if they can search your belongings (your car in particular), say simply, "I do not consent to searches of my private property", (2) if you are asked any question about your behavior by police, ask in response, "am I being charged with a crime or am I free to go?", and (3) if you are ordered by police to do anything, comply. The basic rule is don't be a dick, but know that the people in the uniforms are people too. I think of it as a favor to them that they are not burdened with too much power. It may seem counterintuitive, but think of it this way: the more power you give somebody, the bigger the mess is when they inevitably make a mistake.
But second — and the part that is bugging me so much more — is that there is no plan to address the root causes of the increase in crime. Rochester consists of more than the southern neighborhoods, East and Alexander, High Falls, the Crime Crescent, and Charlotte. The part that is conveniently ignored all the time is the "huge middle part of the city blighted by poverty and crime". For crying out loud, try something other than treating it like a gigantic jail! If not that, then at least support people who are trying something. I mean really support them. Get a city task force in there to find out what they need and give it. We definitely do not need another group of consultants coming in to tell us that crushing poverty, lack of employment opportunities, and lack of educational resources are at the root causes. Those are the root causes. Increasing force against crime alone does nothing but maintain a stalemate. If you don't believe me, observe the last 40 years of poverty, studies, and inaction.
But anyway, back to our program ... on Saturday I got back to my usual morning routine and got a bunch of apples at the market and stopped at O'Bagelo's (165 State St.) for lunch. Ali and I got together that night to try and check out ReHouse, Inc. (1473 E. Main St.) but it was closed just as we got there ... thus, the only option was to go to The Corn Hill Creamery (290 Exchange Blvd.) for ice cream. Afterward we went to her old friend's parents' 30th wedding anniversary party. We hit the town after that, stopping at Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) and finishing the night off at Vertex (169 N. Chestnut St.) Sunday morning we had the best thing to get on a Sunday: Indian buffet ... this time at India House Restaurant (998 South Clinton Ave.) near Ali's new place.
Monday I got together with Ali for her dad's birthday. We went to The Crystal Barn Restaurant (2851 Clover St., Pittsford) because he liked going there. Well, it is definitely expensive. Very expensive. I had the "Mixed Grill of Game" which included antelope, quail, and a wild boar chop. I thought the antelope was like lamb or beef, but the quail and boar were very unimpressive. Overall, I consider the place to be amazingly overpriced. Ali and I spent about the same at Tapas One Seventy Seven (177 Saint Paul St.) and had a much more enjoyable meal.
On Tuesday Ali and I got back to the Dryden to see Staircase. It was a sweet movie about a bickering gay couple and very warm and natural. I was surprised that it was so frank in its portrayal of the relationship given it was made in 1969 ... well, then again, it was the 1960's and "risque" wouldn't mean the same thing for 50 years.
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About the title ... Nostradamus published is first almanac 457 years ago in 1550.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including nearby towns Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Gates, Chili, Greece, and Charlotte, and occasionally other places in Monroe County and the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, lectures, discussions, debates, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
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