Monday, December 16, 2013

Ho, ho, holy sh*t: Here's your Xmas card!

From our house to yours, Happy Holidays to all! Even the people who think their dogs like wearing antlers and getting their picture taken with a weird man sporting a long, fake beard.

This is your Xmas card. Feel free to print it out and place it with the other (boring) ones you've gotten so far. Or place it in a frame if you choose. Nobody would blame you. It's pretty bad ass. Just like Gomez and Asha. Very thankful for these two pups. And for Jamie since she's willing to share in the dog madness with me. Go do something nice for somebody - two legged or four legged - and appreciate your good fortune this season.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Top 10 Comedy albums of 2013

It probably comes as no surprise that I've listened to a lot of stand up comedy this year. What I was surprised to discover was just how many great comedy albums came out this year alone. With the holidays coming up, you might be traveling long distances, and I can hardly think of a better way to make being on an airplane/in a car/aboard a train more fun than by listening to these fine, fine comedians saying hilarious, hilarious things. Enjoy.

Maria Bamford - Ask Me About My New God!
It's hard to write anything more than, "I love this woman." Truth be told, I have listened to this album about a billion times since it was released earlier this year and it never gets old. She's so smart and quick and weird all at the same time. Maria Bamford is my new god and you should ask me about her.

Tig Notaro - LIVE
I'm sure it comes as no surprise to find out that I adore Tig Notaro. From the very first time I saw her do her "No Moleste" bit, I was a die hard fan. So when I heard that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt like somebody punched me in the gut. Then I heard this very raw set she did just days after her diagnosis and right on the heels of her mother's death. It solidified my love and admiration. This is so funny and emotionally raw and should be heard by everybody.

Kurt Braunohler - How Do I Land?
A sure-fire sign of how much I love a comedy album is how many times a phrase or joke from the album pops into my head. And there are several from 'How Do I Land?' including: "If you could have a million dollars a month for the rest of your life, but you need to kill a boy, which boy?" and, "I have a specific memory of breast feeding and watching Phil Donahue and asking my mom to change the channel because I was bored." So good.

Nate Craig - Infinity
This is another album that I have zero idea how I came across it, but thankfully I did because Nate Craig's bit about gay marriage is one of my favorites on the subject and includes the lines "Are gay people resting their tired dicks on your children's shoulders?" and "If your kids see gay people being gay, and they want to be gay... you've got gay fuckin' kids." My only qualm about this album is it is recorded a bit more quietly than most. But totally worth cranking the volume for.

David Huntsberger - Explosion Land
I first heard of David Huntsberger from Professor Blastoff - the podcast he cohosts with Tig Notaro and Kyle Dunnigan. What I love so much about Explosion Land is it manages to be super smart (nerdily smart) without being preachy or exhausting. I could listen to his bit where he demolishes the dogmatic, anti-evolution "I didn't come from no damn monkey" line of reasoning with lighting-quick hilarity and logic on repeat.

Andrew Orvedahl - Hit the Dick Lights
I don't remember how I stumbled onto his album, but Hit the Dick Lights starts out with Orvedahl recounting the time he unwittingly read 50 Shades of Grey over the shoulder of a woman on an airplane ("... as I'm trying to figure out what (the book) is, I'm thinking, 'This is garbage.'") and just keeps giving from there.

Al Madrigal - Why Is the Rabbit Crying?
Why is the Rabbit Crying? deals with a lot of family/kid-related subject matter much like an updated Bill Cosby's 'Himself." And just like that classic comedy album, you don't even need to have kids to really appreciate his delivery and hilarious narratives about things like his son's cholo soccer coach and his daughter mistaking his butt crack for a vagina.

Paula Poundstone - I Heart Jokes: Paula Tells Them in Boston
I've loved Paula Poundstone forever and easily include her in my top three favorite comics of all time. While crowd work scares the hell out of me, she's a master at talking to the audience and making it fun for everybody as is evident in her conversation with a Bostonian "print broker." She's a national treasure as far as I'm concerned.

Dana Gould - I Know It's Wrong
I Know It's Wrong solidified to me just how great a writer Dana Gould is. Not that this wasn't evident to tons (and tons) of people, but I have a whole new appreciation for great writing now that I'm attempting to do this stuff. Plus, he closes his show by quoting Smiths lyrics. He's basically pandering to me, big time.

Kumail Nanjiani - Beta Male
I was totally sold on Kumail Nanjiani after hearing his bit about the new drug cocktail called "cheese." But that's far from the only fantastic moment on Beta Male. His description of the bleakness that is the video game Heavy Rain is enough to turn me into a gamer.

For more 2013 comedy recommendations, check out my "Best Stand Up Albums of 2013" Spotify playlist here.

For additional things to listen to as you endure the humiliation of holiday air travel, check out my recent post of podcast recommendations

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wanna get in shape this winter? Adopt a dog.

Lookin' sharp in his new winter coat.
And not just any dog. But a dog with an energy level high enough that skipping a walk or a play session will result in a thundering tornado of energy running through your house with no regard for what (or who) is in his path. Because nothing is a better "get your ass off the couch" motivator than knowing that your winter laziness could result in a dog head-shaped hole in your drywall.

Although that wasn't our reason for adopting a second dog, I am now keenly aware that Gomez is going to help me keep off that winter hibernation weight. Asha loves to play and go for walks, but she's also a total enabler. If she could talk, I bet we would have had this conversation several times last winter:

Asha: You could take me for a walk or we could play with toys. OR... tonight we could just snuggle and watch a movie film. It's cold outside!
Laura: It is cold outside. You've got a good point. And you like snuggling, so it's not like you're being deprived if we don't brave the winter weather.
Asha: I don't even care that you're getting fatter. It's fine!

Based on his energy level, I am guessing a conversation with Gomez would go more like this:

Gomez: You could take me for a walk or we could play with toys. OR... I could just repeatedly launch my 60 pound dog body across the room onto the couch over and over for the rest of the evening. Or if that won't work for you, I'll knock everything off your nightstand then occupy myself by vigorously chewing up those expensive wrist guards your doctor gave you for your carpal tunnel that you're still paying off. Or I could push the stove around the kitchen floor with my giant noggin for a bit. You might want to disconnect the gas line first, but that's your call. It's cold outside!
Laura: It is cold outside. Um, let me get your leash.
Gomez: Probably a good call.

I don't particularly like to exercise. It's not that I'm lazy, but if I'm going to put that kind of sweat equity into something, I want tangible results. Yes, I know you can make the case all day long that by going to the gym I would get tangible results - more energy, a more toned physique, etc. But if this line of reasoning worked with me I'd have a gym membership already. But I'd do just about anything for my dogs, so being forced to up my physical activity level for the sake of a sweet-but-hyper knucklehead is just the work out push I need.

Of course, Gomez hasn't even been in our house for a month yet, so I know he'll start to settle down a bit and get the hang of things. But even so, his energy level ain't no joke, and if he's going to live peacefully with us, there's no slacking allowed exercise-wise. I've already read the Whole Dog Journal article, "Training a Hyperactive Dog to Calm Down" twice and plan to use it as my go-to source with this guy. Anybody have any interesting suggestions for ways to exercise (physically AND mentally) their high energy dogs in the winter?

Oh, and for those of you who might be in the market for a good dog coat, I highly recommend a Richards Harness Coat. That's what Gomez is modeling in the picture above. I bought one for Asha last winter and was really pleased with it. These coats are easy to put on, have no "sleeves" which always create a hassle and they're a perfect length so leg lifting boys won't pee on 'em. As an added bonus, they're designed with a built in harness for easy walking. Just put on the coat, clip on the leash and go. They sell them at Community Pet Supplies in Royal Oak and will gladly fit your pup for a coat, so stop in and see them!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Introducing: Gomez!

"Hey, I'm Gomez. I'm a little rough around the edges, but I'm a nice guy."
The wait is finally over: Gomez is home!

Why did we choose Gomez? That's a tough one, but boils down to the fact Jamie turns out to have a soft spot for gruff n' tender boys with scars on their faces. Essentially Jamie likes dogs that, if they were people, would be banged up, banjo-touting former punk rockers who now sing about how much they've learned from all the shit they've been through. Guys who say things to their fans in between songs like, "Take care of each other. That's your fucking purpose, man. That's motherfuckin' punk rock!" I'm in no way implying that I wasn't beguiled by his block headed charms, but it was Jamie who honed in on his Petfinder listing immediately.

Talking to his foster mom Stacey for the first time, I was keenly aware that this was a pit bull competent person who was very much going to make sure that Gomez didn't just go to "any home," but the right home. She herself had pulled him from the Taylor shelter a year ago. He was severely underweight and had advance stage heart worm disease. She's invested an awful lot into rehabilitating this guy, and it's clear she and her kids really love him. And her kids are two of the kindest, most dog savvy youngsters I've ever met. Both of them are full-blown, knowledgeable pit bull advocates. If only more kids grew up with such a sense of purpose and compassion!
And then there were two.

When we decided we'd take the plunge into dual dog ownership, our biggest consideration was, of course, Asha. It was imperative that any new dog would have to pass her scrutiny. She's come a long way, but she's still very selective with other dogs. On top of that, it's highly unlikely she had any real early socialization, so her canine social skills are subsequently a bit clunky. From our socialization efforts, we've gleamed valuable information about what Asha would put in her profile should she ever find herself on Canine Cupid. It would go something like this:
"Hi i'm Asha and I like to have friends but not friends that are too excited all the time! That scares me and i want to be the one that is excited so you have to be calm and let me make my moves! can you handle my moves and not get freaked out by my enthusiasm? ok we are friends let's play super hard right away forever!"

Not surprisingly, Asha's insistence on skipping the canine small talk and going right to play time can be too overwhelming for some dogs.* This is particularly true for the types of dogs she usually finds herself making social advances toward - calm, sweet dogs. So we needed somebody relatively calm and sweet, but also resilient enough to forgive Asha her transgressions and put up with her missteps without developing a complex.

When Gomez and Asha met for the first time, it was outside a PetSmart at an adoption event. It was quickly clear that she approved of him, because she immediately started doing enthusiastic play bows and spinning in the occasional circle. These "circle spins" are her go-to "show off" move. After taking our time with the initial intro (no nose-to-nose until they were both over that initial "AHHH! WHO IS THAT DOG??! LET'S MEET!!" excitement), we let them sniff each other and watched how they reacted closer together. Asha was still being a little pushy, but Gomez didn't seem to mind at all. Eventually we went into the store, and the two of them just calmly interacted and stood/laid near each other without incident. It just felt right. 

The deal was totally sealed the next weekend when Gomez came to our house the first time. While Asha was being sweet but a little spastic, Gomez responded by licking the side of her face and her ear. These signs of acceptance, affection and appeasement seemed to say, "There, there, little mama. Let's me and you take care of each other. That's our fucking purpose, man."

And that is pretty motherfuckin' punk rock.

*To clarify Asha's boorish behavior: We are by no means letting her run roughshod over other pups like a bully. We are not the people who stand with their arms crossed at the dog park grinning as their dog runs full speed at the other dogs, knocking into them with all his might, gleeful at the havoc he's creating. In fact, we'd never dream of taking Asha to a dog park at this point. We've worked really hard to up her social skills and decided that adopting a second dog, particularly a very dog-friendly, tolerant one, would be a huge benefit to Asha's continued social growth. Her play and interactions with Gomez will be treated as learning opportunities and will have appropriate boundaries and supervision. Ok? Ok!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One Year Later: Asha's wonderful (but not mysterious) transformation from sweet-but-timid to sweet-and-confident pup

“Not that I didn’t love Asha pretty much as soon as we got her, but she’s even more lovable now for some reason.”

My girlfriend said this as we were discussing the past year with Asha. Yup. It’s been a year since we let this little pit bull mix into our lives. That sweet-but-timid (roughly) two year old pup is now a sweet-and-confident (roughly) three year old pup. But this transition from timid to confident didn’t just happen with the passing of time. We worked diligently to teach Asha what was expected of her and what she could expect from us, and as she became more comfortable with both of those things, she started to fulfill her pup potential at an alarming rate.

Teaching Asha what was expected of her essentially meant working with her on the basics and using those basics in her day-to-day life. Though some things were trickier than others, she was overall a breeze to train: Very food motivated and very eager to please. It was obvious from the start that Asha truly wanted to be a sweet, cuddly, obedient pup. “Bad behavior” was never a real issue with her. No accidents to speak of, very little in the way of inappropriate chewing, she didn’t pull much on the leash, didn't jump on visitors, has never tried to dart out the door… You know, all those things that most dog owners gripe about.

It was the other side of things – teaching her what she could expect from us that really made the difference. Can she depend on us? Yes. Do we provide structure for her? Yes. Can she/does she look to us for guidance if she’s unsure of something? Yes. Asha’s biggest challenge seemed to be of the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” variety. Like, “You guys seem really nice and give me food, but one of you might eventually hit me or toss me back on the streets, so I’m not gonna get 100% comfortable.” Though we will never know exactly what her life was like before we adopted her, it’s pretty safe to say that there was no structure, no dependability. And adding structure and dependability into her life were key to teaching her to trust us and building a bond with her. It's why she really is "even more lovable now for some reason." It's confidence, and it looks good on everybody - even dogs!

Happy Gotcha Day/Well, We'll Just Call This Your Birthday Too, lil' pup. You're awesome. 

Oh. What did we get Asha for her birthday, you ask? 
Why, a brother! Stay tuned: Things are about to get interesting!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

8 Podcasts That Will Make You Smarter/Crazier

I 'm taking a break from my obsessively listening to podcasts to update my blog... about my podcast obsession. 

If there's one thing I can say as an information junkie, the more I know, the crazier I feel. For that reason, I truly understand why so many people choose to "tune out" and remain willfully ignorant: it's just easier to sleep at night. But while you're insulating yourself from all the injustice, political madness, war, crime and devastation of the world, you're also missing out on the good stuff: opportunities to experience the disparate and amazing aspects of our shared humanity. 

We seem to have entered into a period of time in which the erosion of empathy and compassion has left many seemingly unable and unwilling to even try to understand the lives, actions and worth of people different from themselves. We fear the things we don't understand, yet we have little interest in lessening our fear by increasing our understanding. This trend scares the shit out of me.

So that's why I faithfully listen to the following eight podcasts. They're amazing sources of information, exceptionally entertaining and well-produced. Listen to them for yourself.

99% Invisible
When I tell people my favorite podcasts is about design and architecture, I can usually see their eyes glazing over before I even finish the word "architecture." But that's their loss because damn it if every single episode isn't fantastic. This podcast will make you start really noticing and appreciating things in your everyday life you normally take for granted. And since noticing and appreciating things in your everyday life you normally take for granted is probably the key to becoming a better person, this podcast might even change your life.

Life of the Law
A disturbingly large number of U.S. citizens seem content to glean most/all of their criminal justice knowledge from Law & Order reruns. Look: I know that Mariska Hargitay would never lie to you, but she simply doesn't have all the answers. Considering the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, you owe it to yourself to be more curious about our country's legal system.  Every episode of Life of the Law is insightful, fascinating and frequently infuriating.

Remember how every history class you ever had was taught by some guy who basically phoned it in the whole year because he was only a high school teacher so he could coach sports? How, instead of actually teaching you anything of substance or importance about the Great Depression, he'd pop in a VHS copy of The Grapes of Wrath and you'd try your best to stay awake as the two boys that sat next to you made Beavis and Butthead style quips like, "Heh, heh. Die Okies, die!" whilst carving swastikas into their desks? Well, Backstory exists to turn the old adage "history is boring" totally upside down. This podcast provides historical perspective to current events and effortlessly shows how an understanding of the past is vital to the understanding of the present.

On the Media
I've noticed that the more somebody I know relies on television/cable news to get their information, the less they seem to really know about any given topic. Why is that? Well, On the Media scrutinizes the way media handles given topics in a way that sheds as much light on the ins and outs or journalism as it does the topic at hand. Plus, I have a huge charisma crush on Brooke Gladstone. And yes, my girlfriend knows.

Decode DC
Andrea Seabrook was a congressional correspondant for NPR before leaving to start her own show/podcast. She knows her stuff and does not get marred down in the "Republicans said/Democrats said" bullshit style political "reporting" that passes for news far too often in the world of mainstream news. In other words, she cares about substance. This kind of reporting is too rare to ignore. Start listening.

Snap Judgement
Snap Judgement is the perfect dose of "seeing the world through somebody else's eyes." Each episode features amazing stories from various people from all walks of life. Host Glynn Washington frequently shares stories from his own life as well, and his unabashed enthusiasm is infectious. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always worth hearing. 

Best of the Left
Best of the Left is exactly what the title suggests: A curated collection of the best segments of various left-leaning media sources. If I were to listen to every single one of these original shows in its entirety that would be all I ever had time to do. Plus, I would be dizzy with rage and sadness. 

Radiolab describes itself as "a show about curiosity." Though vague, this is also totally accurate. Once I "discovered" Radiolab, I spent virtually any spare moment I had feverishly working my way through the archives. Each episode felt more incredible than the last. The production on this show is phenomenal, and you're doing yourself a great disservice if you don't dive in as soon as possible. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Julia Sugarbaker: The Original Riot Grrrl

"Sister, sister where did we go wrong? Tell me what the fuck we're doing here."

This is a clip from the very first episode of the first season of Designing Women. Watch the verbal ass whooping Julia Sugarbaker gives to this presumptuous jerk as he invites himself to join the "lovely ladies" for dinner and drinks. 

That was 1986. So why does it still seem so bold (and relevant) in 2013? Where's today's Julia Sugarbaker?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bye, bye DOMA.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Jass Bolger's (false) "struggle"

"I'm hiding the pain of my struggle behind this sincere smile."
According to MLive, "Michigan's House Speaker Jase Bolger says he's 'struggling' with the issue of adding gays to the state's Elliott-Larsen anti-discrimination law which protects citizens in housing, employment, and other areas on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status." This is what he had to say on the matter:

I want to respect gay individuals. I don’t want to send a message as a society that we are intolerant. I think that we need to respect people who are different from us, whether they’re different because they believe differently, whether they’re different because they have different skin color, or whether they’re different because they’re straight or gay."

Wow, Speaker Bolger. If you would have just stopped there. You'd go down in history as a man with the political courage and conviction to do the right thing for the people of Michigan. The man who managed to rise above your party's current obsession with partisan obstructionism. But, no:

"The other side of that equation is I also want to respect people’s religious beliefs. And that’s where the struggle really comes in. I want to respect gay people, I want to respect people who have deeply held religious beliefs. And so legally – as a lawmaker now – you go back and you look at Elliott-Larsen, and it gets very difficult to try to balance those two. And that encapsulates the struggle. The struggle is how do we respect individuals on both sides of this question. I want to respect the individual rights of someone who’s gay. And I also, in doing that, don’t want to force somebody to ignore or violate their religious beliefs.

Ah, yes. By updating one of the most comprehensive anti-discrimination laws in the country to protect gay people from things like getting fired or kicked out of their apartment for simply being a gay person, you're disrespecting religious freedom. This struggle you're facing! What a conundrum!

The truth is, extending civil protections to gay people does absolutely nothing to infringe on religious liberty. Would legally protecting LGBT people from discrimination make it harder for "deeply religious persons" to perhaps, hide their disdain for homos behind a Jesus shield? Yes it would. But that's a good thing, Jass. That's a good thing.

The number of church leaders, scholars and people of faith who accept the notion that loving gay people and loving Jesus are not mutually exclusive, is growing every single day. Not only that, most came to this conclusion after thoughtful study of Biblical text and deep discussion with their friends, neighbors and pastors. In other words, after struggling with the issue

Whereas the "no homo" right-wing Christian crowd is not only dwindling, but causing a substantial number of young people to leave the church and question their faith. Interestingly, this anti-gay interpretation of Christianity is rarely backed up by thoughtful scholarly interpretation of Biblical text. Instead, there's a lot of "feelings" and a willingness to ignore anything that would contradict these "feelings." Which one of these Biblical interpretations is healthier for society and the church itself? The inclusive one that preaches about an all-loving God or the exclusive one that kicks the Boy Scouts out of their church for daring to accept and affirm gay youth

I think it's pretty clear. And considering almost three in four Americans believe it’s inevitable that same-sex marriage will be legalized in the United States, your "struggle" with affording gay people basic legal protections seems disingenuous at best and a thwart of the will of the people at worst. You aren't "disrespecting" Christians by amending the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. But you are disrespecting yourself and the people of state of Michigan with your political cowardice and extremist pandering. So I guess we all lose. So it is written.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Thank you, Rob Delaney

Most people are familiar with Rob Delaney as “the Twitter comedian,” but as of today he’s one of my comedic heroes. Why is that? Because of his answer to this question posed to him on his Tumblr:

Hey Rob! What do you do if you're at an open mic and the set of someone (or multiple people) before you revolved around unfunny misogynistic bullshit? Do you call them out on it or do you just let it go? What would you recommend? Is there an etiquette for that? I mean, I know it happens a lot, but it's really irritating.

This excerpt from his response is damn near perfect:
... if I were in a setting where that did happen, I would take a breath before I went onstage and I would verbally lacerate the people who came before me and use the skill I’ve honed over the years to make them feel small and bad and to make the women and men who are good and kind to women in the audience feel big and good. And I would be funny doing it. I am of the belief that comedy can be muscular, aggressive, “alpha,” profane, filthy, and - at the exact same moment - as enjoyable to women as it is to men. I’d go so far to say that if something is funny to a group of men and it isn’t funny to a group of women, it isn’t funny. Or it at least isn’t funny enough to be the domain of the professional standup comedian, who better God damn well be funny, as it is our sworn duty to be so. And any idiot troglodyte who disagrees should watch the camera cut away from Pryor or Carlin to women in the audience losing their minds from laughing so hard. Women probably went insane watching those guys, never to collect their marbles again. How great is that?

How great is that? Pretty fucking great. I particularly love his astute observation that “... if something is funny to a group of men and it isn’t funny to a group of women, it isn’t funny. Or it at least isn’t funny enough to be the domain of the professional standup comedian...”


There are an awful lot of “comedians” who seem to conflate being an asshole with being funny. Being an asshole can be funny, but that doesn’t mean every time you say something assholish it’s inherently funny. Can jokes that are rude, sexually/racially charged, gross, shocking etc. be funny? Yes. Yes they can. However, they better be amazing, amazing jokes. The more controversial the material, the higher the bar for said material. If you’re hacking away at lazy, overdone tropes about women, minorities, gay people, etc. that’s lazy and shows a lack of creativity/originality on your part. And if a comedian is on stage doing lazy, uncreative material, the audience has a right to feel ripped off, annoyed and (yes) even offended. Because as Delaney says, it is a comedian's “sworn duty” to be funny.

So work your ass off at being funny and writing really good, original material. And if time and again your purposely offensive jokes aren’t going over well, don’t automatically blame it on the audience and then dismissively say something like, “Well Louis CK has jokes about _____.” Yes. He does. But you are not Louis CK. He’s a guy who absolutely worked his ass off at being funny and writing really good, original material; that’s some hard won, admirable success right there. You’re a guy who does local open mics and asks women in the audience who have no interest in interacting with you about their anal sex habits. These are not the same thing.

Oh, and having an opinion on this issue as a woman apparently means getting a deluge of hateful, misogynistic bullshit thrown at you from every direction. Sadly this does nothing to make these guys better comedians. It just shows how insanely rampant hateful, sexist bullshit is in the world of comedy. There’s a reason Rob Delaney is actually making a career for himself and you’re going up to do yet another 5 minute set of rape jokes at 11:45pm on a Tuesday to a disinterested audience of three. Hint: It’s not because of “politically correct fat cunt bitches who don’t understand comedy.” But sadly, you’re probably going to go to your grave believing that. To paraphrase Patton Oswalt: “You stupid douchenozzle. You truly don't fucking get it, do you? You poor motherfucker. You're gonna miss everything cool and die angry."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It is time to bring back the "nosy neighbor"

Like many people in the country, I’ve been more or less transfixed by the horrific kidnapping story in Cleveland. This is partially due to my very robust true crime obsession, but also because so much of the setting and many of the people remind me very much of my neighborhood in the Northwest corner of Hamtramck, Michigan. Unlike those who have watched this story unfold from the comfort of their suburban surroundings in a semi-detached way, I’ve watched it thinking, “This feels way too familiar.”

I’m not suggesting that one of my neighbors is currently holding women captive against their will. I sure hope that is not the case. "How could nobody have known something so horrible was happening?” has been a common refrain since the story broke on Monday. In neighborhoods like mine, made up of very disparate groups, people don’t often talk to each other and socialize. Some, like the large Bengali population in my city, are even further isolated from their neighbors by language and cultural barriers. Many people are renters who, judging from the condition of their properties, don’t feel rooted in the community and have really shitty people for landlords. Several of the houses on my street (and MANY more in the Detroit and Highland Park neighborhoods that border us) are unoccupied and/or in serious disrepair.

Additionally, many people generally don’t like or trust law enforcement. And it’s hard to heal damage and build bridges when our police and fire departments are constantly facing the threat (and often the reality of) budget cuts and layoffs. City services workers are doing the best they can with limited resources and staffing. As much as I would like the reality to be different, under these kinds of conditions, sometimes things fall through the cracks or go unnoticed in neighborhoods like this. Even horrific, nightmarish things.

It dawned on me while reading the reports on how often/if ever neighbors called the police about that horror house in Cleveland that many people don’t really understand how calling the police works. I am no expert, but here’s what I think is super important: When you call the police about something, that complaint is kept on file. You might feel like it’s a “waste of time” to call the police for the _nth time about something you’ve yet to see any real action on, but it gives the police yet another piece of evidence to help make their case should they get to the point where an arrest can be made. You’re providing yet another dot that can be connected. The police need the help of civilians to get these dots. They can’t do it on their own. If you want a more cynical spin on it, think of it this way: The police might not act unless you and others make a lot of noise. So keep calling on stuff if it doesn’t change/gets worse/happens again. I’ve had more than one police officer use the phrase “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” in conversations about when/if they should be contacted about something.

We as citizens are just as important in this picture as law enforcement. If there’s one glaring lesson to be learned from Cleveland, it’s that we need to look out for each other and our neighborhoods. Too often people shy away from “getting involved” and insulate themselves from those around them. This is hurting us and the quality of life in our neighborhoods. That’s why it is time to bring back the nosy neighbor.

I’m not suggesting you immediately start doing neighborhood patrols or baking cookies for the family that lives downstairs from you. Though those would be pretty awesome things to do. Instead, I ask you to consider the following questions:

  • Do you know the names of the people that live on either side of you and across the street? 
  • When something is off in your neighborhood, do you take the time to bring it to somebody’s attention/fix it? 
  • Are you aware of which houses on your street are rentals and what the current status is of the ones that are unoccupied? 
  • Have you ever heard or witnessed a domestic dispute and decided against calling the police because, “it’s not my business?”
That’s the kind of stuff I’m talking about when I say “nosy neighbor.” It’s not even being nosy - it used to be called, “being a good neighbor.” It’s easy to insulate and take a “mind your business” approach, but we need to fill in the gaps and take initiative if we want to see anything change. And change doesn’t happen when we take the easy route.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Creative equality: Some of my favorite marriage equality logo variations

Every gay person I've ever met has spent some portion of their life feeling alone, outnumbered, scared and unsupported. I started the coming out process in 1996 - the year Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law. I was incredibly fortunate overall with a loving and supportive family and amazing friends. But that doesn't mean that it's been an easy journey. It's been incredibly daunting, exhausting and heartbreaking. So as inconsequential as the changing of one's Facebook picture may seem, I want to let each and every one of you know that I appreciate the fact you give a shit. Like, so much. Thank you.

My Bloody Marriage Rights

Equality goggles 

Librarians for equality!
This is apparently from Dr. Who!

Yoda's on the right side of history

Are there gay cylons?

America's original gay sweethearts

America's original lesbian sweethearts

Dogs against discrimination!
Author Sugi Ganeshananthan's book Love Marriage, in different languages.
Don't be a grump about marriage equality!
There's nothing to say this isn't veggie bacon. Which is gay bacon.
Finally: A use for Peeps!
I like this more for the time involved than the finished product.

Thank you Mario! But your equal rights are in another castle!
Kitty Pride
Equality rides: 25 cents
Touch of gay.
Equality for ALL
Marriage is Divine!
Put a (gay) ring on it.

Let them eat (gay) cake.
Willie Motherfuckin' Nelson

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Video I like alert: Destroy This Place

If you're in need of a SCOTUS sanity break, check out the new video for "Graves" by Destroy This Place. I love these guys. My favorite part of the video is when Sean, after he finishes his breakfast, takes the time to rinse out his bowl and put it in the dishwasher. It can be done, people.

New record is out May 14 on Bellyache Records with a release show May 17 at PJ's Lager House. See you there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Not that Shocked: An Open letter to Michelle Shocked

Now with ironic title!

"When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization, and Jesus will come back." - Michelle Shocked to a flabbergasted crowd of protest song-lovin' San Francisco lesbians, 3-17-13

Dear Michelle:

Holy hatred, Ms. Shocked! That's quite the little anti-gay ranty-rant you gave at your recent San Francisco show. You are front and center in the news for possibly the first time since... I can't remember when you were last relevant, but at least the mid-90's. Your ability to obliterate your entire fan base in one evening is disturbingly impressive. You've got to be aware that, over the course of your whole career, your music has only appealed to one demographic: Rat-tailed lesbians with terrible taste in music (and hair styles). But apparently Jesus told you to go ahead and throw that all away in His name, huh? I hope, for your sake, he's got a career back-up plan for you. Because Holy Shit.

I'll just go ahead and say it: I have never liked your music. At all. But that doesn't mean I take any pleasure in watching you spiral out of control like a Baptist minister on a secret meth-fueled gay sex rampage. I think it's troublesome. I think you need help.  

Did you know that fervent religiosity is a red flag for a myriad of mental disorders? It's true! I highly suggest you pick up the book Devil in the Details: Scenes From an Obsessive Girlhood* by Jenny Traig. She talks about growing up dealing with scrupulosity, which is basically OCD with a religious bent. She also provides several examples of how some of the best-known religious leaders in history probably suffered from this as well. Which doesn't surprise me at all. I heard an NPR report on a church where the congregants spoke in tongues, and they did a little interview with a woman who interjected the word "Hey!" several times per sentence. Like how you would if you were hosting a party and wanted to quickly acknowledge new guests entering while you conversed with somebody. Her quote was basically like, "I believe that (hey!) the Lord is (hey!) speaking through me (hey!)..." My first thought was, "Hmm. That sounds an awful lot more like Tourette's Syndrome than it does a woman overcome by the power of His glory..." Since God supposedly works in "mysterious ways," I think he should employ some ways that are less like how crazy people act.

My point is, you owe it to yourself (and your fans) to go get a psych evaluation. Something is not right with you. I read a lot of advice columns in which people write in to complain about a sudden change in a loved one's behavior, and the first thing that's always recommended is to get that person checked out. Sometimes our brains need a tune up. Ain't no shame in that.

So, yeah. I'm pissed at your behavior and hateful words, but also worried about you. You've entered Victoria Jackson territory. She's so far gone I can't even be mad at her. Her rants are just depressing. Maybe that's your plan though! Maybe you and Ms. Jackson are already mapping out your double-headlining "Pathological and Pathetic: The Unchecked Mental Illness Tour." If so, I'll be sure to not buy tickets. Because this is America. And if you want to let yourself passively sink into shameful obscurity, it's your right. And it's my right to refuse to buy tickets to the crazy show. But it's not too late to help yourself. 

Thinking of you in this embarrassingly difficult time,


*I don't generally like to link to Amazon because I'd rather people support their local indie bookstore, but with your revenue stream coming to a screeching, gay-hating halt, I figure you'll need the lowest priced copy possible.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fillet Misty for me...

To the people freaking out about the horse meat "scandal:" Your arbitrary distinction between animals that are "ok to eat" and animals that are "gross/wrong to eat" is very perplexing to me. But then again, so is your decision to purchase and consume two dozen Swedish meatballs for $1.00 during a shopping break at a discount furniture store.

Ok. I personally think it's wrong to eat all animals, not just horses. But this horse meat fiasco shows how arbitrary humans are about the animals and ultimately, the food they consume. Considering how inundated we are with sensational news stories, it's usually best to try to quell the alarmist side of our brain. Otherwise we'd spend all of our time hiding in our make-shift bunkers, drinking distilled water from BPA-free bottles and wondering when Obama will order a drone strike on our property so he can steal our guns from our cold, dead hands. 
But in light of this horse meat story, I don't think it's an alarmist reaction to ask yourself, "Hmmm... what the fuck are we actually eating nowadays?"   

This is true for everybody, but especially true for meat eaters. Truth be told, the process of turning an animal into a meal is more horrifying and barbaric than anything in the Saw movie franchise. It is therefore not surprising that people would rather not think about what animals being "raised for meat" entails, or to really question the arbitrary distinction we make between companion animals and food animals. It's far too messy to question that arbitrary line. I can understand that. But there are consequences to our willful ignorance. 

The meat industry does not worry much about consumers holding them accountable because they know the people have basically settled on a "this ground chuck is delicious, just don't tell me how it's made" approach. I think it's crucial to be more cognizant of where all of our food comes from and to hold the food industry to higher standards. But this is especially true for meat since so much cruelty, suffering and pain goes into the making of it. Which makes right now a perfect opportunity for all of us to do some reevaluation of our food choices.

People want to know that the food they're eating is safe and contains what the label says it contains. But by and large, we just make assumptions and allow slick marketing and packaging to placate our food concerns. I know people who have taken months to research the perfect iPhone case. I know very few people who have taken even an hour to research the food they're eating. And I fully include myself in this latter category. (Though not the former. I don't care that much about technology accessories.)

I know that I can't convince you to stop eating meat, though that would be pretty awesome if you did. But I think you owe it to yourself, your family and the animals that end up on your plate to do even some cursory research into what you're putting into your body, where it comes from and what your grocery money is supporting. Read "The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food" by Michael Moss which just appeared in the New York Times MagazineI also suggest checking out the blog 100 Days of Real Food and taking the 10 Day real Food Pledge. I will be.

Or, you can get all reactionary and scream "nanny state!" and make the case that you can eat yourself to death if you want to and nobody's gonna tell you otherwise. And that's fine. You're on an MSG bender and it's making you cranky. We get it. But you're not "sticking it to the man" by allowing the food industry call all the shots about your diet. You're not "standing up to government tyranny." You're just needlessly ingesting garbage and compromising your own health for no reason. Why do that? Don't you deserve better?

This is all coming from somebody who, if left to her own devices, would subsist on Red Bull, Little Debbie and frozen pizza. So believe me, reevaluating and changing my food choices is going to be a personal challenge. But I'm in the fortunate position to have the resources to take on that challenge. And I'm not gonna let some little girl in a checkered dress send me to an early grave, even if her snacks are fucking delicious.  Because there are way greater joys in life than Swiss rolls and I'm gonna aim for 'em. So should you.

Less horse. More health. Let's do this. 

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