The following are the nominees for the 2014 Academy Awards (the ones I care about) announced by Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, on Thursday. For some strange reason, she was joined by "Hunger Games" actor Chris Hemsworth. Weird. I wonder who he had to screw to get that spot... Anyway, The Academy Awards will air live on ABC on March 2, starting at 7 p.m. ET. Share your picks in the comments.
CNN Coverage | Official Oscar Site
U.S. to Recognize Utah Gay Marriages Despite State Stance
The Obama administration on Friday said that it will recognize as lawful the marriages of 1,300 same-sex couples in Utah, even though the state government is refusing to do so.
Wading into the fast-moving legal battle over same-sex marriage rights in one of America’s most socially conservative states, the administration posted a video on the Justice Department’s website. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said that the federal government will grant federal marriage benefits to the same-sex couples who had rushed to obtain marriage licenses after a federal judge last month unexpectedly struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage.
“I am confirming today that, for purposes of federal law, these marriages will be recognized as lawful and considered eligible for all relevant federal benefits on the same terms as other same-sex marriages,” Mr. Holder said in the video. “These families should not be asked to endure uncertainty regarding their status as the litigation unfolds.”
Click the article title for full coverage by the New York Times.
My feeling is one of cautious optimism. I think it's great that the U.S. government is going to step in and recognize these marriages, but I'm afraid how this will be viewed by those who advocate state sovereignty. That aside, I think our country is heading in the right direction in terms of recognizing the rights of homosexuals in general. When is Pennsylvania going to join the party?
Last night, I was watching documentaries on Netflix with my boyfriend Corey. One of them was called "Park Avenue: Money, Power, and the American Dream," which features clips of Ayn Rand speaking about her vision of Laissez Faire Capitalism. This brought me into research mode, wanting to find out a little more about the Ayn Rand Institute. I have loved Ayn Rand and "Atlas Shrugged" for years, but I never knew that ARI was a political powerhouse. On my quest, I came across an article George Saunders had written for the New Yorker called "I Was Ayn Rand's Lover."
I had known about Ayn Rand's affair with Nathaniel Branden from reading her many biographies, in particular "The Passion of Ayn Rand." It creeped me out quite a bit back then, but now to see that she prowled on more than one innocent young man left me with a sour taste. If you know Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism, you wouldn't be too surprised that Nathaniel Branden was a target on her radar. To hear Saunders recount his having essentially been "raped" by her was a little off-putting to say the least, but his developing jealousy over Ayn having set her eyes on a young Paul Ryan disturbed me. It wasn't his feelings of jealousy that disturbed me, rather her voracious appetite for bedding young men in late puberty is what was particularly disturbing.
So, we now know of three men in their late teens who were successfully pursued by Ayn Rand. There are probably plenty more, but my interest stops there. Seeing Paul Ryan run wild with Ayn's version of Laissez Faire Capitalism as it pertains to our present day economy was like being punched in the gut by Ayn Rand herself. All of her theories sound good as just that -- a theory, but when put into practice as Paul Ryan has done as a congressman, they are truly frightening. I don't know what plagues me more: the affairs with young boys, or being disillusioned by Paul Ryan's crazy plans for American prosperity.
To understand what I'm talking about, you'll have to do a little research. Most of it can be done by watching the "Park Avenue" documentary, reading "Atlas Shrugged," "The Passion of Ayn Rand" (also a film), and then reading George Saunder's New Yorker piece (which is very well-written, I might add). It amounts to a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, I'll bet, because that's what I'm feeling right now. It can all be summed up in one word: UGH!
Watch the entire "Park Avenue" documentary:
Barbara Branden (Nathaniel Branden's wife) on The Passion of Ayn Rand:
Angelo Merendino Documents His Wife's Fight with Cancer
My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer
by Angelo Merendino
The first time I saw Jennifer I knew. I knew she was the one. I knew, just like my dad when he sang to his sisters in the winter of 1951 after meeting my mom for the first time, “I found her.”
A month later Jen got a job in Manhattan and left Cleveland. I would go to the city – to see my brother, but really wanting to see Jen. At every visit my heart would scream at my brain, “tell her!!” but I couldn’t work up the courage to tell Jen that I couldn’t live without her. My heart finally prevailed and, like a schoolboy, I told Jen “I have a crush on you.” To the relief of my pounding heart, Jen’s beautiful eyes lit up and she said “Me too!”
Six months later I packed up my belongings and flew to New York with an engagement ring burning a hole in my pocket. That night, at our favorite Italian restaurant, I got down on my knee and asked Jen to marry me. Less than a year later we were married in Central Park, surrounded by our family and friends. Later that night, we danced our first dance as husband and wife, serenaded by my dad and his accordion – ♫ “I’m in the mood for love…”♫
Five months later Jen was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember the exact moment…Jen’s voice and the numb feeling that enveloped me. That feeling has never left. I’ll also never forget how we looked into each other’s eyes and held each other’s hands. “We are together, we’ll be ok.”
With each challenge we grew closer. Words became less important. One night Jen had just been admitted to the hospital, her pain was out of control. She grabbed my arm, her eyes watering, “You have to look in my eyes, that’s the only way I can handle this pain.” We loved each other with every bit of our souls.
Jen taught me to love, to listen, to give and to believe in others and myself. I’ve never been as happy as I was during this time.
Throughout our battle we were fortunate to have a strong support group but we still struggled to get people to understand our day-to-day life and the difficulties we faced. Jen was in chronic pain from the side effects of nearly 4 years of treatment and medications. At 39 Jen began to use a walker and was exhausted from being constantly aware of every bump and bruise. Hospital stays of 10-plus days were not uncommon. Frequent doctor visits led to battles with insurance companies. Fear, anxiety and worries were constant.
Sadly, most people do not want to hear these realities and at certain points we felt our support fading away. Other cancer survivors share this loss. People assume that treatment makes you better, that things become OK, that life goes back to “normal.” However, there is no normal in cancer-land. Cancer survivors have to define a new sense of normal, often daily. And how can others understand what we had to live with everyday?
My photographs show this daily life. They humanize the face of cancer, on the face of my wife. They show the challenge, difficulty, fear, sadness and loneliness that we faced, that Jennifer faced, as she battled this disease. Most important of all, they show our Love. These photographs do not define us, but they are us.
Cancer is in the news daily, and maybe, through these photographs, the next time a cancer patient is asked how he or she is doing, along with listening, the answer will be met with more knowledge, empathy, deeper understanding, sincere caring and heartfelt concern.
“Love every morsel of the people in your life.” – Jennifer Merendino
Published on Mar 30, 2013
The thing Jen loved the most about my camera was when I would hold it at arm's length and make a photo of the two of us. This video is a collection of some of these photographs. Since Jen passed passed from breast cancer, in December of 2011, I have looked at these photographs a countless amount of times. I still struggle to believe that Jen is not here with me. A few years ago I was the drummer in a band called Jonka, a group started by husband and wife duo Jon and Annika. Of all the bands I played in this was Jen's favorite, she loved Jon's quirkiness and Annika's beautiful voice. Aside from the catchy 80's pop hooks and dance beats, Jonka's lyrics make me think. The song in this video, Ever After, could easily have been written for Jen and me and it has become my anthem over the last few months.
Shane and Tom had a love that I am envious of. Both come from small towns with closed minded townspeople, and both have a similar history of being closeted gay men before coming out and embracing their sexuality. When they found each other, they began a love story that ended in tragedy. Bridegroom - The Movie documents their adventures together, spreading love and a message of hope to all those who felt their sexuality was wrong. What happens in the end is truly unfair, but the way Shane handles the situation is inspiring. Everyone, not just gay people, should watch this movie.
From the Bridegroom movie website:
"BRIDEGROOM is a documentary directed by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason that tells the emotional journey of Shane and Tom, two young men in a loving and committed relationship — a relationship that was cut tragically short by a misstep off the side of a roof. The story of what happened after this accidental death– of how people without the legal protections of marriage can find themselves completely shut out and ostracized– is poignant, enraging and opens a window onto the issue of marriage equality like no speech or lecture ever will.
The woman on the left is a mother from Miami who was so desperate to feed her hungry family that she was trying to steal a lot of food.
The woman on the right is Miami-Dade County Police Officer Vicki Thomas. Officer Thomas was about to arrest Jessica Robles but changed her mind at the last minute.
Instead of arresting her, she bought Robles $100 worth of groceries:
“I made the decision to buy her some groceries because arresting her wasn't going to solve the problem with her children being hungry.”
And there’s no denying they were hungry. Robles’ 12 year old daughter started crying when she told local TV station WSVN about how dire their situation was:
“[It's] not fun to see my brother in the dirt hungry, asking for food, and we have to tell him, ‘There is nothing here.’"
Officer Thomas says she has no question that what she did was right:
“To see them go through the bags when we brought them in, it was like Christmas. That $100 to me was worth it.”
But Officer Thomas did have one request:
“The only thing I asked of her is, when she gets on her feet, that she help someone else out. And she said she would.”
And guess what? The story gets even better.
After word got out about what happened people donated another $700 for Jessica Robles to spend at the grocery store.
And then best of all a local business owner invited her in for an interview and ended up hiring her on the spot as a customer service rep.
She started crying when he told her:
“There's no words how grateful I am that you took your time and helped somebody out. Especially somebody like me.”
And to think it all started with one veteran police officer trusting her “instinct” instead of going “by the book”.
Courtesy of WSVN Miami
Alonzo Clemons was born with many gifts, but society only saw his shortcomings. Mr. Clemons was institutionalized and deemed "bad" or "evil" by people who didn't even know him. This video shows a gifted artist who admits he has to work much harder than most to live a simple life.
This video shows us that we must not herd all challenged individuals into an institution, thinking it's what's best for them. Alonzo is proof that anyone can live the American Dream if they are willing to work for it, and not everyone who needs help is "bad," "damaged," or "evil."
> See the artistic talent of Alonzo Clemons on his website. <
Listen, I understand the importance of the government shutdown and the roll-out of Obama Care, but that feeling of urgency is secondary to the most important things in my life. I have been blessed with the most amazing friends, family, therapist, and doctors a person could ever have. While I know it is imperative that we settle this impasse in government funding of the Affordable Care Act, I have a treatment team which includes my amazing therapist Nancy, who I can depend on to take good care of me despite the government being shuttered and all the problems surrounding enrollment in the Affordable Care Act.
My therapist would never let me go without care, neither would my doctors, friends, or family. I don't depend on the government to take care of me. I depend on my support system. I just feel so sorry for those Americans who have no one to depend on to take care of them should their health insurance or assistance be interrupted because of the government hullabaloo. I feel even sorrier for those people who have no one to advocate for them, ensuring they receive continued treatment--the best treatment for them--come hell or high water. It is so unfortunate that those people happen to be the most vulnerable: the homeless, the elderly, the mentally ill, the addicts, and the minorities.
Many would argue that they work long and hard to receive the health care that they have, but they are the ones who have it and never use it except for the routine check-up. My best advice for those in need of care, in any capacity, is to seek out community assistance and treatment. Most counties, and definitely those in Pennsylvania, have set aside funds to help members of their community in need of treatment and medical assistance. Community or county assistance is among the best resources in the country because they are invested in making sure that members of their immediate communities are well taken care of. Local constituents may also be of help, because they, just like the county, want to ensure that their communities aren't plagued by vagrants and crime. Safe, clean communities ensure these constituents will be re-elected time and time again.
Please, please e-mail me if you need help. I live in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and would be more than happy to help anyone local to me. Even if you aren't local, I'll help you as much as I can by doing research, making calls, or whatever else you may need. I want to help you just like I was helped when I was in need. I lay awake at night thinking of all the people in the world who die on the streets or alone in their homes because they have no one to care about them. I am here to tell you that I care. If you have a loved one that you'd like to help, but don't know where to begin, let me know. You have my word that I will do anything and everything I can to help. No matter who you are.
I love this letter, and can absolutely forgive the misspellings, grammar and punctuation mistakes because this grandfather is an inspiration to all men everywhere. It just gives me this good feeling that the country and its ideals are moving in the right direction. Here's my favorite part:
"The only intelligent thing I heard you saying in all this was that "you didn't raise your son to be gay." Of course you didn't. He was born this way and didn't choose it any more than he being left-handed. You, however, have made a choice of being hurtful, narrow-minded, and backward. So, while we are in the business of disowning our children, I think I'll take this moment to say goodbye to you. I now have a fabulous (as the gays put it) grandson to raise, and I don't have time for a heart-less B-word of a daughter."
How can you top that? He actually wrote that he has "a fabulous grandson to raise." My heart melted, and I laughed out loud at the same time. I can just imagine my dad saying something like that. If only he would. Grandson, if you're reading this, you are the luckiest guy on earth to have a grandfather as cool and supportive as he is. I'm jealous.
> New York Times Article "New Jersey Judge Rules State Must Allow Gay Marriage"
> Official Ruling/Decision Summary from the State of New Jersey (PDF file)
> The Garden State Equality Organization Website
I don't see myself getting married in the foreseeable future, but I do eventually want to get married. Hopefully that doesn't scare my boyfriend Corey off. Haha! Great news, though, from the courts in New Jersey. On Friday, September 27, 2013, a New Jersey judge ruled that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry. Refusal to do so would be a defiance of the United States Supreme Court's June ruling guaranteeing the rights of same-sex couples across the country. Finally, a state close enough to Pennsylvania is allowing me to marry whomever I choose. Don't you think it's about time Pennsylvania started allowing same-sex marriages too? I do. And while we're at it, let's legalize marijuana. It's bound to happen sooner or later. Let's just get it all over with. Pennsylvania needs to modernize. We're stuck in the dark ages. What do you think? Leave comments below, like and share on Facebook and Twitter, or send me an e-mail.
A struggling mother of twins asked her kids to write their Christmas lists early so she could scrimp and save enough money to buy them what they really wanted. She was shocked and touched by the letter her 8-year-old son Ryan wrote to Santa Claus.
He told Santa that he had wanted a few toys and electronics, but that he had changed his mind. His twin sister, Amber, had been the target of bullying for some time now. Attacks on her weight, appearance, and disabilities were too much for her to bear, and she told her mom that she wished she would die to escape the torment. As her twin, Ryan shared Amber's distress in a way that only twins can.
I've included the video here for you to watch, so I won't spoil it for you by commenting further. Just know that it is truly inspiring, touching, and worth spending 6 minutes on. Enjoy.
Toni Morrison's Work "The Bluest Eye" is Called Pornographic by Ohio Board of Education President Debe Terhar
"Toni Morrison’s debut novel The Bluest Eye is a widely acknowledged masterpiece. Its literary reputation, however, has done little to placate wannabe censors who have tried to discredit and even ban the book from schools, citing depictions of incest and child molestation as “pornographic” and “totally inappropriate” for students.
Click here to send a petition letter to Debe Terhar and Mark Smith of The Ohio Board of Education, and the ACLU. This is the best and easiest way to let your voice be heard. Don't let great works of literature be banned from the classroom. These works are invaluable, and students are being robbed of the exposure to these works. Fight against it by sending your message to the people who matter.
UPDATE 09/27/13: Toni Morrison won! "The Bluest Eye" will stay on the curriculum! Read more here.
"Imagine using the biggest speech of your life to talk about your deepest inner struggles. That's exactly what the soldier here does as he's given the Medal of Honor."
How courageous is Ty Carter? I struggle with PTSD myself, and I know it's not easy to talk about. My trauma is similar to Ty's in that they stem from watching a loved one die in an awful way. So, I can appreciate what courage it took to not only admit it, but to so eloquently describe his trauma so that others living with PTSD know they're not alone is heroic. He is a two time hero in my book. Thanks, Ty Carter.
What is PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Well, the National Library of Medicine defines it very simply as "a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you have gone through an extreme emotional trauma that involved the threat of injury or death." I can assure you it's much more complex than that. The disorder involves reliving the traumatic event in detail over and over, especially at night or when you're trying to relax. It is a vision that consumes you so wholly that you sometimes feel that it's really happening all over again, and all the while you're terrified that it will happen again in the future under different circumstances. It involves paralyzing fear while enduring vivid hallucinations of the event, sometimes rendering us either almost comatose or actively participating in the hallucination of the traumatic event to the horror of those around us. Suicidal thoughts and ideations are common, but we all live life just like anyone without PTSD, and we hide it well to the public.
If someone you love has PTSD, The National Center for PTSD has advice here. Gently asking the victim how they're feeling about the trauma and if they'd like to talk about it, on a regular basis, is so helpful. Therapy is best, though. The National Center for PTSD can be very helpful, but seeking regional resources might be the best route to take if you need to help a loved one with PTSD into treatment. Treatment saved my life.
A Touching Display of Support for LGBT Community by Italian Government Officials when told "Gay People are Inappropriate"
Italian Government Officials took to a creative protest when they were faced with the sentiment that "gay people are inappropriate." They began holding up signs, kissing and hugging members of the same sex, and kept this up for a few minutes. Take a look at the video here, and read the article in Upworthy here.
Pope Francis Says Church is Obsessed with Gays, Abortion, and Birth Control and Wants to Make it a "Home for All"
Pope Francis, the coolest Pope ever in my opinion, blasted the Catholic Church by saying it is "obsessed with gays, abortion, and birth control." More sensible words were never spoken. He went on to say he refused to discuss these issues, and wants to focus on making the church a '"home for all' and not a 'small chapel' focused on doctrine, orthodoxy and a limited agenda of moral teachings." Read the full New York Times article here.
This amazing new Chipotle Mexican Grill ad on YouTube depicts a scarecrow as a farmer who gets a glimpse into the world of corporate farming, genetically engineered foods, and inhumane treatment of farm animals for the purpose of maximizing profits in restaurant chains across the globe.
The short film is accompanied by a track of Fiona Apple singing "Pure Imagination", a cover of a song from the Willy Wonka movie soundtrack. Stunning. Visit their website for more information.
> Bakery owners speak out after being shut down.
> Daily Mail article covering the story with photos.
Two lesbians walk into a bakery... Let's try that again... In January, two lesbians entered a bakery called Sweet Cakes by Melissa, and placed an order for a wedding cake. Simple enough, but once the Christian owners realized that they'd be making a cake to celebrate the marriage of two women, they refused the order citing their strong Christian belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
Shortly thereafter, the lesbian couple reported the discrimination to Oregon's bureau of Labor and Industry. They're still reviewing the case and deciding whether a suit should be filed against the bakery. It seems cut and dry to me, so I assume a suit will be filed soon enough.
An interesting thing happened while the investigation was taking place. The people of Oregon began to protest the bakery, sending hate mail and death threats to its owners. The protests barred the bakery from obtaining lucrative accounts in the special events industry, which is any bakery's lifeline. If you're not making birthday, bar/bat mitzvah, and wedding cakes, you're not going to be able to pay the rent and overhead that comes standard with operating a bakery in a storefront.
Unfortunately for the owners of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, Oregon passed the Oregon Equality Act of 2007, which protects the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people in employment, housing and public accommodations. Had they known that, they would have known they could be sued for declining the two women's order for a wedding cake.
If you own and operate a business that serves the public, common sense tells you not to decline ANY order. It's bad for business. I think it's amazing how this town in Oregon banded together to put a bigoted bakery out of business. I think it's even more amazing that there are laws in place to protect us from things like this happening. When they do happen, there are consequences. Sweet Cakes by Melissa is feeling them. For the GLBT community, this revenge is so sweet!
Purchase or download the book.
> Read an excerpt and purchase or download the book from Amazon.
> Learn more about "The Immortal Life..." and author Rebecca Skloot.
> Read "The Sequel" article in the New York Times from March.
You know Henrietta Lacks. What do you mean you don't know her? Do you have polio? No? That's because of Henrietta Lacks. Do you have tuberculosis? No? Again, it's because of Henrietta Lacks. All of the advances made in genome mapping, cancer and AIDS research are all thanks to Henrietta.
Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital because something that felt like a "knot" in her womb was giving her trouble. She was wrongly given a clean bill of health several times before the doctors found a tumor right where she said it would be--where she felt the knot in her womb. Dr. George Gey (pronounded "GUY") took samples of the tumor, not only to form a diagnosis, but for his research as well. Henrietta was not informed of the research, nor did she give permission for such research to be done with anything that had come from her body. In the early part of the twentieth century, much less attention was paid to the rights of a patient and their rights regarding tissue taken from them. All Henrietta knew was that samples were being taken for diagnostic purposes. She had no idea what would come of the tumor sample.
Dr. George Gey discovered that Henrietta's cancer cells, labeled "HeLa" for obvious reasons, were virulent, both in regard to the way they grew in culture and how invasive they were in terms of patient prognosis. Henrietta was diagnosed with cervical cancer and immediately underwent radium treatment, a standard treatment for cancer, that turned her belly as black as coal. The radium didn't work. After a grueling battle, Henrietta Lacks passed away leaving behind too many children for her husband to reasonably care for on his own. Her story is tragic...but the cells...
"Now It's Happening"
I just finished watching "Ayn Rand & The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged", and am truly frightened, and truly angry. Have you read "Atlas Shrugged"? If not, you should. Every thinking man or woman should read the book. After you have, watch this documentary. There's not much to review here, it's just a handful of Ayn Rand proponents essentially outlining her philosophy, and the how the predictions of "Atlas Shrugged" have come true in the present day economy and society as a whole. If you know what's going on in the world, you'll know that it's alarmingly similar to the plot of "Atlas Shrugged", and that's the crux of the film.
Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism states: "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute." How could you disagree with that? Everywhere I hear that capitalism is failing, or capitalism has failed, but it's not the fault of capitalism that we're hovering on the edge of economic disaster. It's the fault of every politician who makes a new policy to augment or repair the damage done by the policy set in place before it. It's like a snowball rolling down a mountain, collecting size and speed as it rolls. Government better quit while it's ahead, because the next policy it creates may do us all in.
You can call me paranoid, but it's so odd that everything Ayn Rand wrote about in Atlas Shrugged is coming true today with astonishing similarity and speed. The first book of Ayn Rand's that I read was "Anthem" in my freshman year of high school. I'll never forget the impact that book had on me. The importance of the individual, the power of the word ego, and the proud use of the tiny word "I". Individualism is the code by which I've lived since then, and I have Ayn Rand to thank for it. Our government needs to take the same cue I did 16 years ago and loosen the hold it has on the productive individual. I pray they do, because I don't want to be around to see the mess politicians will make of America if they don't heed the warning in "Atlas Shrugged". A strike like that will be the end of a nation that was once the greatest in the world.
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My name is Nicholas Emeigh, but everyone calls me Nick, and I prefer it. I'm usually called Nicholas when I'm in trouble. I'm from the Philadelphia area, work in business, and fancy myself as a freelance graphic designer, writer, and artist. I have a passion for art in all its forms including music, but I restrict my singing to the shower and the car for the good of society. If you'd like to know more, just send me an e-mail. I really appreciate you stopping by.