The War on Nerds Continues: Game of Thrones Season 7 Release Date & Logan

Every war is made up of battles. The thing about battles is that you win some and you lose some. This rule applies to the War on Nerds. In the past few weeks, we’ve won a battle and we’ve lost a battle.

George RR Martin missed his deadline to publish The Winds of Winter early this year. HBO is rubbing salt into that wound by setting the premiere date for Season 7 of Game of Thrones for July 16th instead of the usual April premiere. The season will also be shorter, featuring only seven episodes instead of the eight we’ve grown accustomed to. Just to be clear, we’re waiting three months longer for a season with fewer episodes.

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George RR Martin: sick and brilliant man

I’m all for making sure that we get quality television, but COME ON! If I put George RR Martin in charge of writing my grocery list I’d freakin’ starve to death! I honestly think making us wait is part of his sick genius. It goes hand in hand with killing off our favorite characters. That brilliant, dastardly man!

Okay now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the battle we won and that friends, is Logan. If you haven’t seen it yet, stop reading now and come on back after you do.

When I first heard it would partly be based off of the Old Man Logan series I was skeptical. Then I saw the trailer which included X-23 (now known in the comics as All New Wolverine) one of my all-time favorite X-Men. That raised the stakes for me. If they didn’t get this film right, I was going to go into full Berserker rage the likes of which have not been seen or felt since X3: The Last Stand. I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed.

It was damned entertaining. The production design and the settings had a very Western feel to them and it had a level of grit that we haven’t seen in any previous X-Men movies. It had F bombs and they even finally got Berserker rage right!

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If you’re a comic book villain, this may just be the last thing you ever see

They made me nervous with X-23. I didn’t see her foot claws come out until halfway through the movie and let me tell you I breathed a sigh of relief. Her foot claws are a part of what makes her so uniquely badass, so leaving them out would’ve taken me right out of the film on principle alone. Dammit, the character has foot claws in the comics, so she should have them in the movie! It’s not rocket science! It also makes her as effective if not more effective than Wolverine in my opinion. Wolverine’s fighting style is very straight-forward: offensive strikes (and/or slashes) with little to no emphasis on defense. X-23 on the other hand can use more refined attacks and her defensive game is stronger than his by virtue of her foot claws.

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X-23, aka Laura, aka All New Wolverine, aka my homegirl

Now, about her origin story. They got it mostly right. She was created by Weapon X in a lab, but they didn’t talk about why she was a female clone or whose DNA they used with Wolverine’s to create her. For the record, it was because the Y chromosome from Wolverine’s DNA sample was damaged and therefore unable to supply them with a viable male clone of Wolverine. The female scientist who was working on the project was forced to donate her DNA in the form of an X chromosome and also carry and give birth to her. In any case, I say “Meh, close enough.” I’ll take it. I wasn’t really into the creation of a new male clone of Wolverine. It wasn’t really true to the comics and it felt like a cheap, contrived plot device. However that is my only complaint. Otherwise, Logan is a solid film.

I think we have some pretty good things on the horizon, fellow nerds. Even though it will be later and shorter, there is the new season of Game of Thrones and I’m sure The Winds of Winter will be published…eventually. We also finally have a Wolverine movie that actually gets it mostly right. It also opens the door for X-23 to get her own movie and to an entire new series of New X-Men movies featuring the next generation of young mutants. We’ve got some good stuff coming, so fight the good fight, follow nerds!

Transphobia: I don’t get it

There seems to be a lot of controversy around transgender people and their use of public bathrooms. There are some (read: bigots) who seem to think that if transgender people are allowed to use the bathroom assigned to the gender they feel comfortable in rather than the one they were assigned at birth, perverts the world over will get the idea that if they throw on a wig and some make up, they’ll be free to hang out in ladies rooms and molest women of all ages. This logic makes no sense to me because the very same people who think this way put a pervert who wears a wig and make up and openly brags about sexually assaulting women in the White House.

Let me go ahead and break this down for you piece by piece and using small words so that your tiny pea-sized brains will understand: TRANSGENDER PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE TOO! That means like all people they go potty. It also means that they should have the same basic rights you and I do.

But what about our daughters? Don’t they have the right to potty in relative safety? What if some pervert pretends to be transgender and tries to molest them?

Fact: More Republican lawmakers have been arrested for sexual misconduct in public restrooms than transgender people. It’s true. Google it. I’ll wait. But more importantly, if you’re so concerned for your daughters’ safety why exactly are you not escorting them into the public restroom?

She’s a teenager. What if she’s out with her friends?

Seriously? Have you ever seen a teenage girl out with her friends go into a bathroom alone? That’s what I thought.

But what if she’s on a date with her boyfriend?

Then the boyfriend is the one you should be worried about because I promise you he’s the one who’s trying the hardest to get at your daughter’s bits below the belt. But if you’re really that concerned about her using a public restroom by herself, teach her how to defend herself. Hint: the answer is almost always kick the groin.

Well I still think there ought to be a law requiring people to use the bathroom assigned to the gender they were born with.

Of course you do, but let me ask you this: How exactly would we go about enforcing such a law? I don’t know about you, but if someone walked up to me in a public restroom and asked me to show my genitals, I’d punch that person in the throat. You complain about how high taxes are now. Imagine how high they’ll be when we have to allocate public funds to enforce a ridiculous law on who uses which bathroom.

Why don’t we talk about the real issue here, that being your obvious transphobia, hmm? I get it. People fear that which they do not understand. You’ve always felt comfortable in your gender and don’t understand how anyone possibly couldn’t feel the same way. Okay think about why people dye their hair. Let’s say you were born with blonde hair, but as you age, you start to feel like your hair color just doesn’t fit you. You try everything. You try styling it differently, different cuts, etc and you still just don’t feel comfortable in your own skin as a blonde and you think you’d rather have brown hair, so you dye it. No big deal right? Sure some people may hate on you, but you’re happy and that’s what matters. At its very core, this gender issue is basically the same. Admittedly comparing changing gender to dying one’s hair is perhaps oversimplifying it and doesn’t entirely do it justice. After all, it’s not very likely that your parents will disown you for dying your hair. However for the purposes of explaining something big and complicated to people whose minds are small and closed, oversimplification can be a useful tool.

But what if my kid turns out to be one of those freaks?

Come on. Really? Transgender people are people just like you and me. They’re not freaks. We talked about this. A chance meeting with a transgender person in a public restroom is not going to turn your non-trans child trans. It doesn’t work that way. Frankly the fact that you think it does makes you a very special kind of stupid. If your child is going to be trans, it’s going to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it at this point because you see, your child has already been born and oh my God I can’t believe I have to say this in 2017.

When you were expecting your child before you knew what his/her gender was going to be, you didn’t care right? When people asked you said you just wanted a healthy, happy baby. So um…what exactly has changed? Why would you feel any differently now? Do you not love your child? Seriously what the hell is wrong with you? If you disown your transgender child, there’s a very special place in hell for you. I’m also going to need you to take that Jesus fish off the back of your car because anyone with your lack of compassion and tolerance has no right to call themselves a Christian.

Fine but they should have to use a separate bathroom from the rest of us.

Oh sure and while we’re at it, maybe we should make them use separate water fountains, make them sit in the back of city busses, and go to “separate but equal” schools. See, that’s how legal precedent works. First it’s a separate bathroom and then down the slippery slope we go until we bring back segregation. But here’s another fun fact about legal precedent: When the Supreme Court rules something unconstitutional, it’s pretty much game over for that law. Newsflash! In case you missed it, Brown v. Board of Education ruled state-sponsored segregation illegal in 1954.

I have a novel idea for you! JUST PEE OR POO AND MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS! If the person in the restroom looks like a female from the waist up, assume she’s female. If the person looks like a male from the waist up, assume he’s a male. What goes on in the stall is between you and your deity of choice, so why should it be any different for them? What’s below your waist is none of their business so why is what’s below their waists any of yours? Seriously how old are we? Grow up! Just do your business and mind your own.

How to Talk to Women

*Blogger puts down soap box and steps up on it*

Here it comes another one of my classic rants, folks! Consider yourselves warned!

<Begin rant>

I can’t believe I have to say this to grown men in 2017, but here it goes: There’s a right way and a wrong way to talk to women. It’s true! You really can speak to women in a way that doesn’t frustrate, annoy, offend, or otherwise aggravate them.

 

The first step is understanding that YOU ARE THE PROBLEM! We’re not over-sensitive. We’re not triggered snowflakes. You’re just an asshole. Don’t feed me a load of crap about how women are by nature irrational and prone to emotional reactions. That simply isn’t true and for God’s sake it’s 2017. Don’t bother bringing up our menstrual cycles either. We have years of experience dealing with our own hormones or as I call it riding the dragon. Call me Khaleesi. We’re not frail, emotional, reactionary creatures. Political correctness isn’t out of control. Stop making excuses.

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Keep talking. I dare you.

Now that we have that out of the way, the next step is very simple. It’s called SHOWING WOMEN SOME FREAKIN’ RESPECT! That means not taking a condescending tone, not interrupting us, and not mansplaining when we ask you a question. Mansplaining is defined by the fine folks at Merriam-Webster as “when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.” You don’t need to patronize us or translate your college level words into Trump speak for women to understand you.

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Don’t act like this guy

Speak to us the same way that you would speak to someone you respect and admire. If you wouldn’t call someone you respect and admire honey, sweetie, puddin’, etc., then don’t do that to women. The only time it’s acceptable to use a term of endearment when speaking to a woman is if she is your significant other, child, or younger female relative (e.g. your niece). If she’s none of the above, don’t do it. It’s not nice or cute. It’s annoying and it makes you sound like a condescending jackass.

 

Now let’s talk about joking with women. Some men seem to think one of two things: Either women can’t take a joke because we’re “too sensitive” or “too easily offended,” or they think that their jokes are funny when in reality they’re just offensive as all fuck.

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Act like this guy

When making a joke, you have to think carefully about your topic. A joke about your girlfriend’s flatulence could be funny. A joke about gang-raping the only female comic at a comedy show? Not funny. Got it? Good. Violence against women is not funny. Violence against anyone who is not an obviously fictional cartoon character is not funny.

Now let’s talk about content. If the joke about your girlfriend’s flatulence ends with you recording an album of songs made from the various sounds her flatulence makes and releasing it next month, that’s funny. After all, who doesn’t like a good fart joke? The only way a joke about violence against women could ever be funny is if it ends with us getting to watch you get your ass beat by the woman you tried to assault or if it ends with you getting arrested, going to prison, and getting the same treatment from your cell mate and his buddies that you tried to give to that female comic earlier. That’s called poetic justice and sometimes it’s funny as hell.

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This guy knows all about poetic justice

Now let’s talk about a little thing I like to call discernment. As an adult, you should already understand the importance of thinking before you speak and having a filter. However if you don’t that’s okay. I’ll break it down for you.

The Child Filter:

If you’re about to say something to a woman, stop and imagine how you would feel if another man said the same thing to your daughter. If you’d knock him out, don’t say it. If you’re about to say something to a woman, stop and imagine what you would do if your son said the same thing to a girl. If you’d punish him, don’t say it.

Think of the example you’re setting for your children and act like they’re watching because trust me, they are.

The Husband Filter:

If you’re about to say something to a woman, stop and imagine how you would feel if another man said the same thing to your wife. If you’d knock him out, don’t say it. If you’re about to say something to a woman, stop and ask yourself, “Would my wife cuss me out and make me sleep on the couch if I said this to her?” If she’d cuss you out, don’t say it.

You want your wife to brag about you to her friends, right? Good! Act like it.

The Boyfriend Filter:

If you’re about to say something to a woman, stop and imagine how you would feel if another man said the same thing to your girlfriend. If you’d knock him out, don’t say it. If you’re about to say something to a woman, stop and ask yourself, “Would my girlfriend be pissed if I said this to her?” If she’d be pissed, don’t say it.

If you want your girlfriend to stick around, show her that you respect her and all women. Respect for women is hot.

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Bubba says be respectful

If all else fails, think of any woman in your life that you love, respect, and admire and if you wouldn’t want another man to speak to them the way you’re thinking of speaking to the woman in front of you, change your damn tune! Treat others the way you want to be treated. You want to be treated with respect don’t you? Yes? Good! SO DO WOMEN!!! I’m so glad we had this talk.

*Blogger hops down off of soapbox*

</End rant>

Why I’m Refusing to Shut Up

I’m going to post this entry now before the current fascist dictatorship…I mean Presidential administration in the US repeals the First Amendment. From the moment Lord Commander Marmalade entered the presidential race I have wholeheartedly opposed him. Every single thing about him offends me from his racism, xenophobia, bigotry, ableism, and misogyny right down to his God-awful comb-over, orange skin, and tiny hands. I am absolutely baffled at how such a disrespectful, sorry excuse for a human being even made it to the Republican National Convention, let alone got elected to the highest office in the United States. On November 9th I woke up and asked, “How the f*ck could we let this happen?” Then I remembered the sheeple who supported him. Well I hope you’re pleased with yourselves because you got what you wanted. An orange reality TV star is the president and you have a Repugnant…I mean Republican majority in Congress.

Oh and by the way, for all of you moderate Republicans who are watching your party get hijacked by the Tea Party and alt-right, I don’t feel the least bit sorry for you. This is your circus and they are your monkeys. You could’ve stopped them and taken your party back. You could’ve said to hell with the legal quagmire that would result and run a contested convention. You had a chance to stand up, but you chose to go along with the insanity and now you have a misogynist in the White House. Your wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers must be so proud.

You can say “sour grapes” all you want. You can call me a snowflake and tell me to stop whining and just accept the fact that Hillary lost and he’s our president now and I should respect that and respect him. That’s fine. Freedom of speech is great! However I’m going to respectfully disagree. Sour grapes, my ass.

This isn’t about who won or lost. It’s about standing up for what we believe is right and that is as American as apple pie and baseball. Say what you want about the women who marched on January 21st. No matter what Il Douché tells you, more people mobilized in support of the Women’s March than the Inauguration. Criticize the airport protests all you want, but the public outcry got the attention of a Federal judge. Gosh! I gotta tell you I feel so safe now that those terrifying five year olds are being put in cuffs and dealt with! I can now walk the streets at night safely knowing that I won’t be attacked by a crayon-wielding terrorist! Oh wait, I should explain that last statement in case anyone from Cheeto face’s base is reading assuming that any of them are even literate. That statement about a crayon-wielding terrorist is what’s called sarcasm. I don’t feel any safer and I damn sure don’t walk the streets at night because I’m a woman and we can’t do that. (see previous entry)

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I can’t un-see this

We’re resisting because we refuse to normalize hate. We’re resisting because we see what’s really happening and refuse to have the wool pulled over our eyes and surprise! It’s working. The phone lines of Republican Senators have been blowing up with untold thousands of calls. The repeal of the ACA has caused Republican Representatives to have to duck out of back doors to avoid their angry constituents who want to know why they’re trying to take away their health insurance.

Even scientists are standing against the “alternative facts” and the gag order that was placed on them. Organizations like the National Park Service and NASA now have alternate Twitter accounts where they can speak freely. Even the Pope is resisting. Pope Francis is departing from the traditional Papal role of silent observer of all things political and openly criticizing the administration’s treatment of immigrants, refugees, and Muslims and calling for all Catholics to do the same.

We’ve seen this before and we don’t want to see it again. This administration is taking pages right out of Hitler’s playbook, but Hitler was much more dangerous because unlike this dream team of geniuses (<=sarcasm) he was smart. Hitler promised a better world, a German world. Trump promised to Make America Great Again. Hitler rose to power by criticizing the government. Trump criticized the government and promised to “drain the swamp.” Hitler reached out to frustrated Germans. Trump reached out to frustrated Americans. Hitler criticized the press and told people where to get their news. Trump won’t even entertain questions from CNN reporters and has told people to get their news from Fox or Breitbart since other outlets report “fake news.” Hitler maligned Jews in Germany and used them as scapegoats. Replace Jews with Muslims or immigrants or women or LGBTQ or any other group he’s attacked and you have Trump.

Those of us who learned history don’t wish to be doomed to repeat it. In 1939 we turned away Jewish refugees at our shore. Over 250 of them were then murdered in concentration camps. The Diary of Anne Frank is a popular reading choice in American schools. The strict immigration laws leading up to World War II caused us to deny entry to her family. Anne Frank could be an 88 year old woman living in Boston. Instead we allowed her to be murdered in Bergen Belsen concentration camp in 1945 at the age of 16. Still think this is about an election?

We’re not fighting over politics. We’re fighting for our rights. We’re fighting for our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and families. We’re fighting for the future, ours and yours.  I will not shut up. I will not be complicit. I will not obey. I will resist because I love my country and it’s the right thing to do.

Being a Godparent

Last week my nephew, affectionately called my neff (as in Hey yo, Neff!) because it annoys my sister, was baptized into the Catholic Church and in addition to the privilege of being his aunt I have the honor of being his godmother and his sister’s aunt and godmother. This may be a surprise to some people, especially those who have seen my act. Yes there are things about the Church that I don’t agree with like a woman’s right to choose, its treatment of the LGBTQ community, its mishandling of the clergy molestation scandal, and let’s not forget its silent consent of the slave trade, its platform of non-involvement in the Holocaust, and the Spanish Inquisition. And yes, I poke fun at the Church in my act.

On the flip side of this coin, I think there are a lot of things that the Church gets right. I agree with Jesus’ message of love and tolerance. I believe that the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are a good framework for anybody to lead an upright life. I believe that principles like honesty, fair dealing, and respect for others regardless of their race, nationality, social status, etc. are important. I believe in having a personal relationship with God. I also believe that going to church every week and giving your tithes doesn’t make you a good person. Your character does.

See, that’s what I plan to teach my niece and nephew. You can sit in that pew every week… well religiously and still not be a good person. There are people who go to Church every Sunday but tell the homeless person they see on the street to get a job, kick the stray cats that cross their paths, and then go home and beat their kids, their spouse, and their dog. Then again there are people who don’t go to Church who buy a cup of coffee and give it to the homeless person they see on the street, leave food and clean water out for the stray cat population, play with their kids no matter how tired they are, treat their spouse like gold, and spoil their rescue dog. The difference is character, not how much time you spend sitting in a pew.

My godchildren are going to learn as they grow up that I belong to a charitable organization, that I donate my time to an animal rescue, that I would never ignore a crying child, and that I would never stand idly by and watch someone be abused or bullied. They’re going to learn that I will raise my voice and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves because someone has to do the right thing. I am someone. I can sit and teach them with words, but as they say in Game of Thrones, words are wind. Kids don’t really learn from your words. They learn from your actions. That’s why when my niece was three one of her favorite toys was an old washcloth that she would use to play clean up. My sister cleans a lot and often. My niece was imitating my sister’s actions through her play. Incidentally when she got her play kitchen, she used it only for washing the play dishes until she was four. Then she cooked a little and made hot beverages before playing wash the dishes. What can I say? She’s my sister’s child.

A godparent’s responsibility is to assist a child’s parents in their religious upbringing. I understand that and all jokes about the Church aside, I take it very seriously. The most important thing I can teach them is to be kind and the best way to teach them is by showing kindness. However I also think it’s important that they learn that God has a sense of humor and if all else fails you can do a deathbed retraction. It worked for Chaucer. If they grow into kind, caring individuals I’ll call that a win and anyone who messes with them better pray really hard that I don’t find out. I’m not just their godmother. I’m also their crazy aunt that you may have been warned about.

New Years Resolutions

’Tis the season of resolutions and people asking you what your resolution is. Most people make a resolution to lose weight. This causes me to have to wait a damn hour for a freakin’ treadmill at the gym where I’ve been a member for two years. I joined in September 2014 because it was starting to get cold and hell no I’m not running outside in the winter in New Jersey. I may be crazy, but I’m not that crazy.

Over the past couple years I’ve noticed that the die-hard resolution makers no longer show up come February. Funny how that works isn’t it? There could be any number of reasons for this phenomenon but maybe it has something to do with making a single resolution for the year. When you make a resolution, you’re setting a goal. Goal setting is something that takes place every hour of every day. We find ourselves saying I’m going to finish this task by X o’clock today. I’m going to finish task A by the end of the week. Most of the time we set goals without really knowing we’re doing it.

So instead of saying your New Years resolution is to lose weight, why not get specific and take it in steps? Maybe in January I’m going to see my doctor and talk to him/her about how to get to a healthy weight and use that information to set a goal weight to get down to by the end of the year. In February I’ll make a change to my diet and join a gym. In March I’m going to stick to my diet and raise my physical activity from working out 0 times per week to twice a week and well you get the idea.

When you take your goal and break it into individual steps it prevents you from becoming intimidated by it and giving up. Also point of fact, if you’re sick of making the same resolution year after year and constantly starting over, I have a helpful hint for you: STOP GIVING UP! While we’re at it, stop making excuses and coming up with ways of talking yourself out of completing your goals. Stop thinking about what you want to do and start doing it.

You can apply these principles to any goal. Want to get a new job? Beat the pavement and get your resumes out every day or get a certification to increase your skill set and qualifications. Want to learn how to play a musical instrument? Get lessons and practice every day. When people tell us we could do anything we set our minds to, they’re not just blowing smoke up our rear ends. They’re just leaving out the part where they explain that actually doing what we set our minds to is going to take hard work and sacrifice.

It’s not all grit and discipline, though. It’s important to stay focused and stay productive to reach a goal but it’s equally important to stop every now and then, take a look at how far we’ve come, and pat ourselves on the back. Progress is progress and the more you acknowledge it the less likely you are to get discouraged.

Whatever your resolution is this year, more power to you. I hope you stick to it and reach your goals. Now about that treadmill…

Krautmas in Peril!

Story time! I warn you this one is not for the faint of heart or stomach, but I’m posting it here anyway because I figure a little bathroom humor never hurt anyone. If you’re good with poo jokes please enjoy having a laugh at my expense.

My sister decided that Christmas Day is only for immediate family (i.e. husband and kids) and not extended family (i.e. aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.). There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s different from what we grew up with, but it’s not wrong. It’s just different. It has however left a gaping hole in my holiday schedule and those of my mom and my aunt in the form of Christmas Day. So, we decided to start our own tradition which we refer to as Krautmas.

My mom and aunt come over and are served a German dinner of sauerbraten, sauerkraut, schpeitzle, noodles because my mom isn’t a fan of schpeitzle, a nice glass of Riesling, and apple strudel for dessert. With the exception of the apple strudel, all the recipes are ones I learned at the feet of my German grandmother in her kitchen which is incidentally the same place I learned what “scheisse” means. In case you’re wondering the apple strudel recipe I use is courtesy of the fine folks at Google.

Krautmas begins on the 20th with placing the meat for the sauerbraten in a brine made of vinegar and other ingredients which remain a highly classified secret of House Barton. It also involves cleaning my entire apartment from top to bottom to pass my mother’s white glove inspection which for some odd reason includes opening closets and drawers. Apparently in my mother’s mind this is a totally normal thing to do in someone else’s home. My sister and I have made a game out of leaving items in certain places to mess with her. She’s not nearly as amused as we are.

This year, events conspired that put Krautmas in grave peril. Twas the Monday before Krautmas and all through the house I spent 36 hours on the porcelain telephone talking to Ralph. In other words, I contracted what I can only describe as the most hellacious of stomach viruses. You know it’s bad when you’re sitting on the porcelain throne with a bucket in your lap. I was unable to make the brine and place the meat to soak it for the customary 5 days of Krautmas both for fear of infecting my loved ones with a sickness I wouldn’t wish on the cockroaches that infest my worst enemy’s place of dwelling and also because I couldn’t lift my head without feeling nauseous and no, children the secret ingredient of the House Barton sauerbraten is not vomit. Sorry to disappoint.

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The Knight Bus

Nevertheless, my polite requests for someone to shoot me were denied, and the following evening things began to look up and I found myself able to stand and even speak coherently. It was wonderful! I used these abilities to talk my significant other through making the brine and placing the meat into it since he dodged the viral bullet, the bastard. Krautmas was still on! However it would face its biggest challenges the following night which proved that the virus was not done with me. Oh no! Not yet! I still had to endure hours of going to the bathroom every twenty minutes to expel liquid fire. You know it’s bad when you reach a point where you go and there’s nothing except poo dust. It was like my backdoor coughed and sputtered its last breath.

Naturally I was a bit concerned so I called the doctor in the morning. When I told them my symptoms they said that what I had was the Sydney norovirus. It’s called that because it originated in Sydney, Australia which is further proof that everything that can kill you comes from Australia. I was told not to come into the office since there’s really nothing they could do, let it run its course, drink fluids, don’t be alarmed if I don’t bounce back right away, and call back if it gets any worse. They also told me to eat bland foods. I hung up with my gurgling guts feeling like lead. Bland food? That would eliminate like ½ of my Krautmas menu! Noooooo!!!

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The Burrow, aka the Weasley house because Dickens Villages are for normal people.

However undaunted and because I was desperate for relief I drank unknown amounts of water and Gatorade and rested at home instead of getting up to my normal evening activities like the radio show and martial arts training and woke the next day to the sudden realization that my guts were not gurgling, I had no pain, and I had slept an entire night without once getting up to expel something truly awful. I didn’t celebrate yet. I kept my composure until around mid-morning. I took a constitutional and *gasp* IT WAS SOLID!!!! I wanted to dance, but feared that my sanity would be questioned or someone would be convinced that I was having a seizure and call 911. However, I couldn’t contain my joy entirely so I texted my mother in all caps “I HAD A SOLID BOWEL MOVEMENT!” I don’t know what was funnier, the fact that I actually sent a text to my mother describing a bowel movement or her response which was “Praise the Lord!”

And so it came to pass that the virus from hell returned whence it came from and there was much eating of German food and rejoicing. It was a Krautmas miracle!

Harry Potter and Christianity

Being a fan of Harry Potter I’ve heard it said by a number of fellow Christians that they feel the series is inappropriate due to its ties to witchcraft and/or wizardry. Now your faith is your faith and your opinion is your opinion, however I feel that anyone who feels that Harry Potter isn’t appropriate for Christian readers has completely missed the entire message of the story.

The Harry Potter series can be studied as an epic and that means that we’re presented with a larger than life hero who faces nearly insurmountable odds to defeat a larger than life villain.  Love and the absence thereof is a continuous theme throughout the series. You have an arrogant villain who has never known love and you have a humble hero who was so loved by his parents that they gave their lives to protect him and his friends who risked everything for him time and time again.

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Our villian, Voldemort is a wizard with both extraordinary power and extraordinary ambition. He is also extraordinarily arrogant which in the end becomes his undoing. Voldemort wasn’t born evil. No one is. He also wasn’t born Voldemort. Tom Marvolo Riddle was born to Merope Gaunt, a witch and direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin one of the four founders of Hogwarts and a muggle aristocrat by the name of Tom Riddle. His father left his mother while she was still pregnant with him and his mother died shortly after giving birth to him. He never knew the love of either of his parents. Being rejected by his father and losing his mother at such a young age is ultimately what turned Tom Marvolo Riddle into the evil Lord Voldemort. The old English epic poem Beowulf has a similar villain in Grendel. Grendel is a hideous monster because of his choice to separate himself from God’s love. We see a similar transformation as Tom Riddle changes from an attractive young man who looks like his father to an ugly, snakelike man as he destroys his soul by murdering innocent people so that he can become immortal.

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Our hero, Harry Potter, is also an orphan thanks to Voldemort who murdered Harry’s parents when he was only a year old. Harry was born to James Potter and Lily Evans. Lily sacrificed her life to save Harry and by doing so sealed a powerful magic in his blood that caused Voldemort’s killing curse to rebound off of Harry and hit him. Lily Potter’s final act was one of love and it saved our hero’s life when he was only a baby. This will be the first of many times that our hero is saved by someone’s love for him.

Voldemort didn’t have friends during his time at Hogwarts. He had followers and hangers on, but didn’t have anyone he could really consider a true friend that loved him. Harry on the other hand, had Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger and have couldn’t asked for two truer friends than them. He even had the love of Ron’s sister Ginny. They all risked their lives and made sacrifices for him. Everything they did for Harry was done for love. Everything that Voldemort’s followers did for him was out of fear of what he would do if they didn’t do what he asked.

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About to turn tail and run in 5…4…3…2…

The final battle of Hogwarts could be considered a show of love conquering evil. Harry Potter fought an army and then freely gave his own life to save those he loved then destroyed Voldemort once and for all with the help of his friends and all those who loved him. Voldemort may have had an army but not one of his followers stayed loyal to him in the end. Just look at the Malfoys who turned tail and ran as soon as they could.

Just because a story involves magic doesn’t mean that it’s not appropriate for Christian readers, especially when the entire message of the story is that love is the most powerful magic, more powerful than any spell including or Unforgivable Curse

. The Bible teaches us time and again that love is more powerful than any evil in the world and that God is love. When you look at it that way, it’s hard to consider Harry Potter anything other than a good story with a positive message.

Comedy Show Etiquette

One of the things I love about my country is the value we place on freedom of speech. It makes being a stand-up comedian not just easy but possible. In recent years, however there has been a movement toward a kinder, gentler, more politically correct culture and this is by no means a bad thing. However at times it seems as if our love of free speech and our desire to not offend people are at odds with each other. One need only to attend a comedy show to witness this first hand.

Margaret Cho bravely tried new material about the subject of rape at the Stress Factory in New Brunswick and most of the crowd either walked out, demanded a refund, or loudly booed and heckled her. The same happened to Amy Schumer when she made jokes about Donald Trump in the south before the recent presidential election. As if that wasn’t enough, people continued the heckling by taking to Twitter after both shows and bashing both comedians. I’ve had people walk out of a show after making jokes about church and I’ve been approached after a show for making fun of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. To ease the conflict between our love of free speech and the move we’ve made toward political correctness I’ve come up with a few guidelines for people who’d like to attend a comedy show.

  1. Bring your sense of humor with you.

Some don’t understand that the nature of humor is critical. What are you doing when you make a joke? You’re poking fun at something and when you poke fun at something in a way you’re criticizing it. The intent behind a joke isn’t malicious. The intent is to give you, the audience what you came for, a laugh. Try to remember to assume best intent.

2. Don’t take it personally.

We don’t expect you to like every single joke we make, but if we make one that you find offensive or one that makes you uncomfortable, please don’t take it as a personal attack because it isn’t. It’s only a joke and we only want to make you laugh, but at the same time if you don’t laugh we don’t get offended. We know going in that not every single joke we make is going to get a laugh and we’re okay with that. Honestly there’s no reason to get upset. It’s all in good fun.

3. If you can’t hang, leave.

If you want to leave the show, that’s fine and you’re well within your rights to do so, but please don’t disrupt the show or be rude to the other audience members who are only there to enjoy themselves. Just discretely exit and leave everyone else including the comic in peace.

4. No matter how it may look to you, understand that it’s not easy.

Stand up comedy is one of the hardest performance arts to do. It may look like all we do is walk on stage, pick up the mic, and spout whatever’s on our minds, but there’s a lot more to it than that. We’re told to perform a certain number of minutes. This isn’t a polite suggestion. Going over your time is the quickest way to never be invited to perform in that room ever again. It’s disruptive to the show and it’s disrespectful to the other comics who are going up after you. Make no mistake, the clock is ticking and the pressure is on. For every minute I perform I conservatively estimate that an hour’s worth of work has gone into it. There’s the time it took to write the joke, then the time it took to memorize and rehearse it, then any re-writing I’ve done, and then the time that goes into perfecting the delivery. It doesn’t look like work, but it is. I don’t come to your job and disrespect it, so please don’t disrespect mine.

5. Don’t insult us

If you don’t like our jokes, you don’t and that’s fine. If you want to leave, you’re certainly free to do that but you don’t get to insult my character just because I said something you disagree with. However if you really must insult me please understand that when I tell you to have a nice night, what I really mean is go f*ck yourself.

How Saving Them Saves Me

If you follow this blog you will become aware of two things: that I am a female stand-up comic and that I’m a lover of animals. I decided within the past year to put my love of animals into action and begin volunteering with a rescue and I have not regretted it.

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Proud alum Porkchop

Now here’s something not so obvious about me: I’ve struggled my entire life with low self-esteem. It’s kind of what happens when you grow up the scrawny nerd and you’re raised to be a perfectionist. It can’t be helped when you get your share of bullying and constantly hear about how nothing you do is ever good enough. I consider myself fortunate because I know there are so many people out there that have it worse, but this is my story so I’m telling it.

Being a perfectionist works to my advantage in a lot of ways, but sometimes it can be more of a hindrance than a help. In my own mind, I’m too short, I’m hard to look at, and my personality kind of sucks. I always have to make a joke, I accidentally interrupt people because I have a thought and get too excited to keep it in, and everybody tells me my voice carries which, and don’t lie to me, is a nice way of saying I’m obnoxiously loud. Really, it’s okay. I’ve come to accept this. Besides if you have the perfect life, stand-up comedy is not for you so if nothing else, it makes me funny. There’s my silver lining.

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Eligible bachelor Jake

However, I have good news for anybody who thinks badly of themselves like I used to and in fact still do sometimes. None of that shit matters. No, I’m serious. It really doesn’t matter. You know what does? Your character. Do you do your best every day to be a kind person? Are you kind to everybody and not just people who are like you? Then you’re a person of good character. None of that stuff you don’t like about yourself is important. I’m telling you this because I had to figure it out the hard way and I want to make it easier for others. If I help even one person then I’ll be happy.

Two groups tend to sense kindness in people: children and animals.I seem to be very popular among my friends’ children. Even kids who don’t really know me tend to smile at me. Now that may be because they sense that I’m an aunt who spoils the crap out of her niece and nephew, but you never know so the true test for me was when I started volunteering and working with rescue animals.

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Eligible bachelor Tazzy

After new volunteer orientation, I mingled with my fellow volunteers and the cats before visiting with more of my fellow volunteers and the dogs. When I rounded the corner, this female hound/pit mix made eye contact with me and surprised her handler by bee-lining for me. She was a shy dog and she’d never actually approached anyone like that before. So of course, I found myself unable to resist my urge to pet her and I saw a past in her eyes. We may never know the full extent of it, but it was clear that her life in rescue was the start of a new and better chapter. Shy dogs are often overlooked at adoption events, so I gave her as much attention as I could. A young woman came up and took to her right away. That woman adopted her within a few weeks. I felt like I witnessed and was even a part of the moment when that dog learned to trust again. Needless to say I was hooked and haven’t looked back. I didn’t choose the rescue life. The rescue life chose me.

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I regret nothing

 

Now what does this have to do with self-esteem? Well that’s simple. That dog didn’t care that I’m short. She didn’t even care what I looked like. She didn’t care about my jokes or any of my weird social quirks. She saw something in me. She knew just by sight and scent that I cared about her and wanted to help her. She’s not the only one, either. A notoriously picky male Chihuahua-Jack Russel mix approached me and jumped into my arms when I knelt down to pet him. My lap has also been jumped into. I’ve been leaned upon by dogs of all sizes. Leaning is a dog’s way of saying “I trust you. I feel safe with you.” I’ve had cats paw at me for attention which of course I gave to them. Look, all I’m saying is there must be something good about me. All these kids and animals can’t be wrong. So all that stuff I didn’t and well still kind of don’t like about me is eclipsed by their love.

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Proud alum Rocky

St. Theresa of Calcutta once said “Do small things with great love.” Giving my time and attention to rescue animals probably seems like a pretty small thing, but it makes a difference. Showing people their personalities helps them get adopted into loving forever homes and makes room for us to save another. Nothing builds self-esteem quite like knowing that you’re making a positive impact on someone’s life and that’s how saving them saves me. I only hope now that reading this helps someone else.