April 19, 2006

"The hookah is 3,500 years old, it's part of culture, it's part of religion, and everyone loves it."

Here's a NYT article on the college tobacco hookah-smoking trend. And here's the part about UW:
Near the University of Wisconsin's Madison campus, hookah smokers were disappointed last summer when a smoking ban stopped the Casbah Bar and Lounge from offering hookahs indoors. Sales plummeted from about 300 hookahs a month to about 30, for outdoor customers.

"We've been experimenting with a nontobacco product, for $12, a mixture of hibiscus, eucalyptus and molasses," said Sabi Atteyih, the owner. "Hookah cafes are an important cultural experience, a place where Muslims and Jews and Catholics and people of color can sit side by side, and share."
I like the idea of smoothing over cultural differences. It's probably a good idea to develop that theme when dealing with the City Council and the health-oriented anti-smoking forces. Diversity trumps health in this town, right? Anyway, it has a shot.

68 comments:

AJ Lynch said...

Trendy fad. Like tattoos and body pircings. But hookah bars and their marks won't last as long.

I first heard of them 2-3 years ago from my nephew who lives in DC and thought it ironic that the same people who revile smokers would be snookered into the hookah habit. Who'd of thunk it?

Goesh said...

Who in the heck would want to pay 12$ for some scented fodder and molasses? Why not sprinkle some perfume on grass clippings and sell it for say 6$? I don't smoke but did many years ago. I don't miss it. I tried a hookah one time and was not overly impressed but to each his own.

bill said...

I believe Nick Naylor, the tobacco spokesman from Christopher Buckley's "Thank You For Smoking," would embrace the diversity argument.

Here's part of a defense he makes to a hostile audience (in the book, not the movie):
"...Anti-tobacco hysteria is not exactly new. You remember, of course, Murad the Fourth, the Turkish sultan." Of course no one had the faintest notion who on earth Murad the Fourth was, but people like a little intellectual flattery. "Murad, remember, got it into his head that people shouldn't smoke, so he outlawed it, and he would go out at might dressed up like a regular Turk and wander the streets of Istanbul pretending to have a nicotine fit and begging people to sell him some tobacco. And if someone took pity on him and gave him something to smoke--whammo!-Murad would behead him on the spot. And leave the body right there in the street to rot. WARNING: SELLING TOBACCO TO MURAD IV CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH." Nick moved quickly to the kill: "Myself, I'd like to think that we as a nation have progressed beyond the days of summary executions for the crime of pursuing our own definition of happiness." Thus, having compared the modern American anti-smoking movement to the depredations of a bloodthirsty seventeenth-century Ottoman, Nick could depart, satisfied that he had temporarily beaten back the horde a few inches. Not a lot of ground, but in this war, it was practically a major victory.

MadisonMan said...

I love the quote "...Muslims and Jews and Catholics and people of color...". Cause we all know Muslims and Jews and Catholics can't be people of color, too (eyeroll).

Timothy said...

I hate the phrase "people of color". It's really just passive voice for "colored people", and it makes my skin crawl.

SippicanCottage said...
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CatoRenasci said...

Nothing quite like a hookah! Had one back in the late '60s and early '70s in which we'd sometimes smoke Egyptian, Turkish or Balkan tobaccos using the better English pipe mixtures. They were quite a fad then, too, I remember them prominently featured in head shops along Haight in San Francisco. They usually came with 2 or 3 different bowls: a largish one for tobacco, a smaller one for pot, and a third, still smaller, with a screen intended for hashish. I think they went out of fashion when it became clear that there was enough residue from the illegal substances to get one busted no matter how relatively careful one was cleaing them

bearbee said...

"I'm not addicted or anything."

Heh

"I hate the phrase "people of color".

Double ditto....

brian said...

"I hate the phrase "people of color".

Of the above commentors that "hate" this phrase, are any of you non-caucasian? In particular, are any of you African-American? I am caucasian, so I cannot speak for any minority group, but try asking a black man if he'd prefer being called a "colored person" or a "person of color" (if only given those two choices). I'd bet most would prefer the second. I think the prior phrase conjures immediate reference to the racism and oppression of the black population throughout American history, while the latter tends to focus more attention upon the fact that minorities are people.

I can almost feel the "PC-liberal" label that I'm sure I'll now receive in this thread, but I guess I'd prefer not using labels that are viewed as derogatory by the subject.

SippicanCottage said...
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SippicanCottage said...
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PatCA said...

They're sprouting up everywhere, and cities (like mine) are allowing them. All you have to do is recite the "diversity" mantra, and you're in!

Brian,
I think why 'people of pallor' hate the 'people of color' phrase is it's usually invoked for when politicos are pandering.

brian said...

Dear "Distinguished visionary of the Delectable Bosh of the Sublime Legion of the Flamboyant Conspicuants,"

Your clever response has also changed my mind. :) We should absolutely call people whatever we think they should be called, regardless of what they think. I think all "towel heads" would agree. Heck, let's bring back common usage of the N-word. Forget people's feelings - emotions are signs of weakness. Enough of this PC crap.

And patca, I do agree. In all seriousness, I similarly have that same gag effect when politicians pander with such contrived speech.

Jennifer said...

Brian - Why are the only options colored people or people of color?

I personally hated the title "student of color" in college for many reasons. Not the least of which being that while I may not be white, the only "color" I had was a sun tan. The phrase didn't even make sense.

Sippican, I'll call you ADVOTDBOTSLOTFC. But that's just because I like you. Everybody else can stuff it. I'll use whatever terms I deem appropriate thankyouverymuch. You have the right to judge what I say, but not to dictate it!

Jennifer said...

I am caucasian, so I cannot speak for any minority group

And BTW, while I'm on the topic. This is a ridiculous statement too. As if anybody speaks for an ethnic group as a whole! You clearly do not speak for all caucasians, either!

But, I'll backtrack. If anybody can get every member of any minority group to agree on what they would always like to be called, I'll go along with it.

Jennifer said...
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brian said...
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brian said...

It looks like I've ignited something here, it feels as if the sharks are circling. But discussion is good. And it's also interesting to see how a thread changes topic in such an organic matter.

jennifer - I only limited my comment to those two phrases to compare those two options and illustrate why I feel "people of color" is the better option. If you see tim's comment, those were the two phrases on the table, and several people were disparaging "people of color" in particular. I wanted to weigh in on the other side.

And you are correct, nobody can claim to speak for an entire group. An individual can only put forward their ideas as a member of the group. However, you'll never reach a 100% consensus in a large group regarding anything. Therefore, I will generally choose to accept what the majority of that group holds. Here, I think that "people of color" has been expressed to be preferred over "colored people." So I accept that as proper. If anyone can direct me to a legitimate resource that counters that position, I may reconsider.

Additionally, as I am not a member of the group we are discussing, I wanted to disclose that fact for you to weigh my opinion accordingly.

I hope this doesn't devolve into a flame war. :)

bearbee said...

'Caucasian' confuses me. Hispanics are Caucasian but they are called 'persons of color'. My antecedents are from the Middle-East so I am a 'person of color'. I know quite dusky-skinned Italians. Italians are Caucasians. Are they also 'persons of color'? In the US we have a healthy mixture of hereditary backgrounds. My niece is Italian, Irish, Assyrian, Swiss, Native American. Can you tell me where she measures on the "person of color' or 'person of pallor' spectrum?

And Wiki Just For The Heck Of It

Marcus Aurelius said...

I lived for sometime in the Middle East. They had hookah parlors all over, in the carwashes, in the pool halls, and card parlors. Wherever the guys may sit unbusyed by the act of driving or coffee drinking.

One would walk the off main streets at night and the smell of it was in the air.

A taxi driver once offered me some of the stuff the word is "sheesha" and I took it as hashish and reacted very strongly against the offer. I wonder if the taxi driver was up all night worried I might call the police on him.

Smilin' Jack said...

Today's students are smoking tobacco in hookahs?! My God, what has happened to the Madison I knew....

Re people of color: I get sorta reddish beige if I spend enough time in the sun. Can I get some extra rights or something?

Icepick said...

"Hookah cafes are an important cultural experience, a place where Muslims and Jews and Catholics and people of color can sit side by side, and share."

But if you're a white protestant or white agnostic/athiest, then fuck off and die!

Well, I guess even those in favor of diversity have to draw a line somewhere....

Icepick said...

If anyone can direct me to a legitimate resource that counters that position, I may reconsider.

Well, there's the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People weighing in on the other side, Brian.

More seriously, the whole "people of color" thing is just PC BS. What the phrase really means to say is "Not one of those WASP assholes. And not one of those other freakin' Europeans either."

Really, it's just a phrase to exclude some people of European descent. (People of European descent who came here via Latin America are excepted, of course.) So instead of saying "people of color" or the old, maligned "colored people", just say non-white and be done with it.

MadisonMan said...

I will add that the descriptor 'people of color' is largely unneeded in the article in question. I think that's true in general as well -- when a news article refers to someone as a person of color (rather than, you know, a person), I always wonder why the extra descriptor is there. It usually adds nothing to the article except a sense (to me) that the writer is somehow trying to show off his or her awareness. Bosh. How many times is the race of an individual actually germane to the kernel of a news story?

Jennifer said...

Sorry, back on topic. Ok, I googled hookah and Eugene, Oregon (home of my alma mater) and it seems nothing has changed in good ol' Eugene, current trends notwithstanding.

And, Ann, surely you are right. Nothing could trump health like diversity. Maybe they could go a step further and declare a smoking ban akin to prejudice against Middle Eastern culture?

bearbee: I would love to see some sort of checklist for deciding who gets to be "of color"! Spaniards are also caucasian, no? And Arabs, too, I believe. Persians, I don't know.

Icepick is right, though. It's just a term to exclude those oppressive European types.

brian - I didn't mean to jump on you. This is one of my pet peeves, though. I can't stand all the qualifiers and categorizing and gibberish that really just amount to "hey, you're different and don't you forget it"!

LarryK said...

I am a man of color (beige in the winter, rich bronze in summer) with eyes of blue and semi-balding hair of blond. What's the big deal with the people of color thing? Doesn't everybody talk this way?

PatCA said...

"Re people of color: I get sorta reddish beige if I spend enough time in the sun. Can I get some extra rights or something?"

Move to California! We are now the actual minority, as opposed to the theoretical minority, in much of the state, and talk is there could be some free government cheese in the offing.

AJ Lynch said...

This is the funnest blog around cause most everyone here is the bestest and smart too.

bill said...

I propose, in the spirit of simplifying diversity, the following two groups:

1. The Man
2. The Oppressed

For our new enlightened regime, these designations will be assigned randomly, though The Man will conly comprise 8% of the population. If you are The Man, you can neither own, drive, nor listen to anything fashionable, and people will make jokes at your expense. While you won't have any fun, you will have power and money and get to boss around those who are having fun. The Oppressed automatically make 20% less than they do now, but are issued iPods and get to be wear cool clothes. Workshops in street puppetry and the proper way to make a veggie burrito are mandatory.

Every five years you may petition to change groups.

LarryK said...

Bill,

Good proposal, but what if you want to be the Man but still listen to an IPod and have fun (at least occassionally)? You're gonna have to pry my IPod from my cold, dead ears.

bearbee said...

"For our new enlightened regime, these designations will be assigned randomly,..."

So, will the petition process be akin to a lottery? Could, for example Bill Gates or the POTUS be designated The Oppressed with a 20% drop in income? Are iPods revoked if one is redesignated as The Man?

bill said...

You're gonna have to pry my IPod from my cold, dead ears. That is the way of all revolutions.

So, will the petition process be akin to a lottery? Yes. Though more like the system in "Logan's Run" where they claim some will live and there are rumors that somewhere is an old person, but not really true. What this means is that The Oppressed won't actually get to become The Man, but lip service will be paid.

Could, for example Bill Gates or the POTUS be designated The Oppressed with a 20% drop in income? Of course...The Man wouldn't lie to you.

Are iPods revoked if one is redesignated as The Man?Yes, and you'll receive the entire Celine Dion collection remastered for 8-track.

SippicanCottage said...
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Ehud Blade said...

Go ask Alice.

The "people of color" reference is what happens when Madisonians mix hookah with LSD, meth, and rogaine – makes everyone's hair grow, fast, in colors.

A shameless Madison-insult. Just to keep Mad-pride in balance after the euphoria of getting NYT hookah-press.

J said...

"Hookah cafes are an important cultural experience, a place where Muslims and Jews and Catholics and people of color can sit side by side, and share"

Actually, they could do that anywhere couldn't they?

"But despite perceptions, hookah smoking is not healthy"

Please, please tell me there aren't college students stupid enough to be unaware that inhaling smoke is bad for them.

"This is the funnest blog around cause most everyone here is the bestest and smart too."

Henceforth, when discussing persons who submitted comments, they will be referred to as "people of smartness".

Who do I bribe to become the man?

brian said...

Sippican: I give up. You win. I shouldn't have tried to enter into sincere debate. Your Dennis Miller-inspired barbs are far too clever for a person of my intelligence to battle. :)

SippicanCottage said...
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Ann Althouse said...

It seems to me that the owner of the Casbah Bar was just using the current expression and trying to display a welcoming attitude toward customers, trying to create a positive atmosphere about his place. Why be so hard on him? He's a local businessman trying to do well, and it seems to me that he has a nice attitude. I wish him well!

Coco said...

"Diversity trumps health in this town, right?"

The 2000 census data shows that Madison, Wisconsin is 87.36 white, and about 4% black, 3.5% asian and pacific islander, 3.4% hispanics, with a sprinkling of others.

Is that diverse? Or perhaps you meant that the goal of diversity (becuase its otherwise not very diverse) trumps health. Perhaps this is true.


ALso, you cannot bribe the Man - you can only be coopted by Him.

Coco said...

Also Ann, I agree, its just a quote from the business owner and in these highly politicized times especially on college campuses, there probably aren't very many places where Jews and Muslim students interact (or at least hang out at the same place) than Middle Eastern restaurants and hookah bars.

IAlso...whatever the snarky confusion discussed in the comments above about "literal" gibberish, in places that are overwhelmingly white, "people of color" know who "people of color" are.

MadisonMan said...

I won't argue with the census data, but it's unfair to ascribe to the Isthmus, where many of the minority population lives, the demographics of the entire city. Certainly a Hookah Bar in, say, The Highlands would have a much more difficult time attracting a diverse clientele than one on State Street. That doesn't mean a diverse clientele can't exist on State Street, however.

Pogo said...

Babbit was also just a businessman, spouting the advised opinion of the masses. History has been less kind to him, though.

Funny how Madisonians who worship two gods simultaneously react when they find those higher beings in disagreement.

The diversity deity prefers a hookah so that the lion may lay down with the lamb and there shall be peace. The health holiness reminds us that Smoking is Evil and so are its users. Throw in the goddess Gender, and watch the fun increase.

The Greeks had nothing on us.

Icepick said...

Sippican, I'm voting for whatever will get the most laughs. Making fun of the tobacco bong spitswappers is for the good in that case. And like some others have mentioned, I just have to wonder about college students who use a bong to smoke tobacco. That's just wrong.

Coco wrote, "[I]n places that are overwhelmingly white, 'people of color' know who 'people of color' are."

This would seem to imply that in areas that AREN'T overwhelmingly white, "people of color" might be confused about who "people of color" are. Do you mean this in an existential angst sort of way, or that without a sufficiently white backdrop they literally can't tell who has color and who's Canadian?

Bill, okay, so there's The Man and The Oppressed. Surely The Man doesn't want to do his own dirty work in the opprssion department. This implies Henchmen! I want to be a Henchman. Will that also be determined by lottery? Or will I have to drop into The Oppressed pool and work my way up by betraying all the other The Oppressed?

Jennifer said...

Ann, I don't blame the business owner! He's in a college town, with college students as his clientele. Of course he uses campus-speak!

whatever the snarky confusion discussed in the comments above about "literal" gibberish, in places that are overwhelmingly white, "people of color" know who "people of color" are.

See, I guess that's my problem. Having come from a place that was not "overwhelmingly white", I apparently needed the University to inform me of my "color" status. I'm still unaware of what my "color" is, but I am apparently "of color". Thank heavens the University didn't leave me in the dark!

Make sense? Not really...

LarryK said...

The "Highlands Hookah Hut" - what a great business opportunity. I think I might quit my day job.

brylin said...

While in Cambridge, England a year ago with my son we were amazed at the prevalence of hookah/internet cafes in an area where there was a distinct Middle East influence.

So this university trend has now reached Madison!

Kev said...

"People of pallor"--LOL. The first thing that comes into my mind when I hear "people of color" is "What, as opposed to the rest of us albinos over here?" (No offense intended to any actual albinos on the thread, of course.)

As for people in a group deciding what they want to be called--this reminds me of a conversation I heard in college, where two fraternity brothers of mine, a white guy from Alaska named Brian and a black guy from Chicago named Tony, were talking. Brian evidently hadn't seen too many black people in Alaska, so he was in an inquisitive mood about the whole title thing (this was circa 1991, BTW):

BRIAN: So what do you prefer to be called, black or African-American?
TONY: Well, to be honest, I really prefer to be called Tony.

If only the whole world thought like Tony...

Joseph White said...

The thing I dislike about the phrase "people of color" is that it makes it sound as though their "color" is their defining characteristic. Witness, for example, the subtle difference in meaning between "angry man" and "man of anger." To be an "angry man" is to possess a transient emotion, to be a "man of anger" is to be defined by one's anger.

Kirk Parker said...

But Brian, why do we need a "racial"/ethnic/appearance group label for folks in the first place?

As far as what to call someone, what's wrong with their name if we know it, or "sir/ma'am' if we don't?

(Or maybe I could just say, what Kev said about his frat bro!)

And Joe Z, I don't think the nuance you have noticed is accidental.

SippicanCottage said...
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knoxgirl said...

All this talk about the hookah and diversity, why don't they all just admit it's THE NICOTINE!

reader_iam said...

Well, if they bring back the hookah's, maybe I'll take up the habit.

At least then I can smoke inside once in a blue moon, which I actually wouldn't want to do anyway unless with like-minded people.

Which would be the advantage of a hookah bar.

andthenblammo! said...

Man, after that last burst of genius, I know who the Man is. SippicanCottage is the Man! You go, guy!

andthenblammo! said...

Now if I could just find that "Machine Head" 8-track; I know it's around here somewhere......

Johnny Nucleo said...

If you're a white liberal, try this experiment sometime. In the presence of a working-class black person, refer to black people as people of color.

Don't know any working-class black people? What are you, a racist?

What does working-class mean?

What color do cool people wear?

Who invented the very concept of cool?

What am I getting at?

I have no idea.

bill said...

Icepick, there are no henchmen. Only The Oppressed who have been coopted (good catch by Coco) into thinking they are henchman. As always, The Oppressed will oppress themselves by finding some tiny difference in some other Oppressed person and blaming them for the reason they are not The Man. The Man doesn't care -- oppressed is oppressed.

But The Man will encourage distrust and fear among The Oppressed because it gives The Man a hearty chuckle to do so. And because it keeps the The Oppressed busy and distracted instead of wondering what The Man is up to.

Icepick said...

Well, we know The Man is up to writing some excellent parody lyrics, amongst other things no doubt. But now that I understand there are no henchmen, I know how to rig the lottery. Uh, I mean which numbers to choose. Yeah, that's the ticket.....

SippicanCottage said...
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LarryK said...

If Sippican's homage to the hookah doesn't make the next Podcast then there is no God. I think Sippican himself should do the vocal honors - I'm sure he could get it to Ann electronically and a little splicing and dicing could put it together with the regular Podcast (I'm obviously not a tech guy). "Smoke in the Hookah" could even be the official theme song for the Althouse website. I don't know whether any other sites have theme music, but it's definitely an idea whose time has come.

SippicanCottage said...
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LarryK said...

Sippican

A Madison hookah tribute album is in the works!

All this hookah talk reminds me - I smoked a bowl at the Casbah with several friends on New Years Eve 2004. I thought it was over-priced and not entirely satisfying. Maybe I would have gone back if I knew I was the last of a dying, multi-culti breed.

P.S. Haven't thought of "Pulling Muscles from the Shell" in years.

LarryK said...

Arrggh...mussles, of course.

reader_iam said...

I admit it: I'm still a big Squeeze fan.

My son spontaneously sings verses from "Pulling Mussels from a Shell" every now and again. (A born singer, that one: picks up any and all kinds of lyrics within a listen or two, so we do watch it).

Maybe I should teach him your version, Sip ... except I'm not sure about the "stink like hell" part. It might not sound so hot coming out of an almost 6-year-old's mouth, and you know it would, at the most inopportune moment.

somross said...

Mussels.

josil said...

"people of color" is a political expression, currently intended to encompass as many bush antagonistas as possible; it is not an ethnic or racial expression...except among the naive.

Kev said...

Sippican: Bravo! The Squeeze early-greatest-hits package "Singles--45's and Under" was a regular player in my car once upon a time, and the music still holds up pretty well.

I always wondered if the "pulling mussels" thing was intended to be a play on words; maybe larryk wasn't so off with his spelling after all.

SippicanCottage said...
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