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The Morning After
 
by Amber Hemmerle 03.07.2014 39 days ago
Posted In: Commentary, Culture at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Trending Topics

Cincinnati's most buzzworthy tweets of the week

Each week our intern Amber will be exploring what Cincinnatians are interested in by scouring the local Twitter trends and reporting on what she’s found. From serious tweets to goofy hashtags, she’ll highlight what Cincy’s been buzzing about. So get to tweeting, folks.

#RAW
This is a wrestling reference hashtag. I’m sorry, but how was this trending and not Bates Motel? I am ashamed of you, Cincinnati. I know they are both scripted, but at least Bates has good acting and an awesome plot. FYI: Norma Bates did start trending though, thank god. In this week’s episode, Norman visits Ms. Watson’s grave way too much, Norma makes a scene at a city hall meeting and Bradley blasts some guy’s head off and ends up in Norman’s bedroom asking for his help. Poor Norman, surrounded by all these crazy bitches. All you WWE fans better get hip to Bates Motel.

Xavier
Muskie fans were blowing up their newsfeeds expressing their frustration after Monday night’s game when they lost to Seton Hall 71-62. Monday’s upset left many fans complaining about wasting their last Hopslam and chugging too much wine. On top of all the frustration, Matt Stainbrook went down with a knee injury and left the locker room on crutches. Better luck next year? Maybe.

#PLL
I actually watched some of this show, Pretty Little Liars, for once. Awkward used to be my Tuesday night show (don’t judge me), but since Jenna and the crew are AWOL until next season, I figured I’d give this show a shot since I was apparently the only female in Cincy not watching it. I am a few seasons behind, so I don’t really get all the drama and who I should love/hate yet, but not a bad show from what I’ve seen so far. The season finale is Tuesday, March 18 at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.

#19HSHysteria
If this just isn’t confirmation that Cincinnatians are obsessed with their alma maters, then I don’t know what else is. Fox 19 set up a March Madness style bracket of all the high schools in the area and launched a Twitter competition. I’m reppin’ the Newport Wildcats, who already lost in the first round to Simon Kenton. Voting for the North bracket is going on now until midnight tonight.

Ukraine
I saved this one for last for a reason. Ukraine was trending all week. I haven’t been keeping this blog for very long, but nothing has ever stayed trending for an entire week before, as long as I’ve been keeping track. I also saved it for last because honestly, I don’t know what to say about the crisis in Ukraine. I guess it’s good that people are taking to social media for such a serious matter, but most of the people tweeting about it seem more clueless than me. I do know that most Americans want our government to mind their own damn business and do something about those crazy fucking Russians.

Also trending: Oscars, World Cup, #LiesToldByFemales, WCW (can this one just die already,) Taco Bell, #Scandal and The Lakers.

 
 
by Amber Hemmerle 03.05.2014 42 days ago
Posted In: Commentary at 12:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Determination

A few weeks ago when I was heading to the CityBeat office I encountered a woman who changed my perspective on many things. It was one of those "Everything happens for a reason, even if you don't know the reason yet" moments. 

I parked in the Elm Street lot, paid the machine my $3.50 and walked towards Race Street as usual. It was cold outside and my hands were full with coffee, a notebook, my lunch and purse. 

I was running late — also as usual — when a woman approached me. Looking back now, I can’t even recall how she sounded or what she looked like. 

Our conversation went something like this:

"Would you help someone in need if you could?" she asked.

"Umm, depends...Why?"

"I'm selling my poems for $2 so I can have extra money to pay for my son's birthday."

"I don't even know if I have $2, hold on. I'm kind of in a hurry...Oh, wait…Here, I do have it."

I had three single dollar bills in my wallet and I handed her two of them. 

"Thank you, God bless you," she said. We made our transaction and parted ways. Her poems were typed, printed and covered by a clear paper protector. She continued up Elm toward Vine Street as I turned the corner.

As I waited for the elevator, I began reading her poems. That's spelled wrong, I thought. That needs an apostrophe. It’s "to," not "too." I picked out a laundry list of grammatical and technical errors and immediately dismissed her work. I looked at her poems, but I didn't actually read them. 

A few days later one of the ice and snowstorms hit the Tri-state area again. I wondered if anyone was out in this weather because I was certainly not leaving the comfort of my bed for any reason. 

I don’t know why, but I began thinking about the woman who approached me on the street earlier in the week. I wondered if she was out there, in that terrible weather, selling her poems. Had she needed the $2 that badly? Did she ever get to have her son’s birthday party?

All of these thoughts washed over me. I pictured her, the image I had created of her, sitting at the library typing up the poems she had written while her son was at school. 

I pictured her taking her last few dollars to buy the transparent paper protectors at the dollar store and preparing them for the next day when she would hit the streets to sell them.

A feeling of shame had overcome me. How could I dismiss what she had written because of a few errors that had no real effect on the message of her poems? 

This woman had already probably sold more of her writing than me, and that’s what I am paying thousands of dollars in tuition for: to sell my words. 

One of her poems is titled Determination, which is what she has and I was too blind to see that at the time we met. 

I might have some of the editing experience now, but when I first started writing those were skills I didn’t possess or even care about. 

I didn’t care if I needed a comma here or there, I didn’t care if I used the wrong form of “to” or ended a sentence with a preposition. I simply wanted to write. 

I lost the passion behind my own words because I’ve been so worried about being technically correct all the time. And trust me, I never even end up being technically correct all the time. 

That woman, whoever or wherever she is now, showed me that you don’t need a college degree to have determination. You don’t need to have the perfect sentence or know every grammar rule to express how you feel. 

We, as humans, judge people all the time whether we want to admit it or not. We judge people by appearances, by the way they talk, or the way they write in this case.

She signed her name at the end of the poems, a signature that I can’t make out very well, but I want to thank her for showing me what real determination is. 

Cincinnati prides itself on the local artists, musicians and writers that are bred here. We celebrate them and award them for their talent. I don’t know where this woman is now, but she, and the others just like her who might not be at the open mic nights or in galleries, deserve recognition as well. 

To her I say: That was the best $2 I ever spent.

 
 
by Amber Hemmerle 02.21.2014 53 days ago
Posted In: Commentary at 04:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Trending Topics

Cincinnati's most buzzworthy tweets of the week

Each week our intern Amber will be exploring what Cincinnatians are interested in by scouring the local Twitter trends and reporting on what she’s found. From serious tweets to goofy hashtags, she’ll highlight what Cincy’s been buzzing about. So get to tweeting, folks. 

#TheWalkingDead

Either you love it or you hate this zombie show — but if you hate it, just keep your stinking mouth shut. Seriously, though, now that football is over, it seems like Sundays are devoted to TWD in Cincinnati. New characters and old ones constantly dying off either give viewers something to look forward to or break their hearts each week. I think everyone can come to a consensus that Lizzie is a little, um, psycho. Plus, three new characters, from the comic, were introduced last week. What are you looking forward to in the next episode?

#NationalDrinkWineDay

Tuesday, Feb. 18 was National Drink Wine Day. According to NationalWineDay.org the purpose of the day is to spread the love and health benefits of wine, so I’ll drink to that. If you celebrate wine every day, like me, check out these local wine events:

WineStation Wednesdays: Free, every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. at The Wine Merchant.
Wine Tasting: Free, every Friday from 4-8 p.m. at DEPS Fine Wines.
Saturday Afternoon Tastings with David: $10 monthly through July 2014, Noon-5 p.m. at Water Tower Fine Wines.
Cincinnati International Wine Festival: $40, 5:30-6:30 p.m. March 8 at Duke Energy Convention Center.

Bode Miller

Trending, not necessarily because of his performance, but because of the emotional post-race interview he had with Christin Cooper. Miller’s brother, also a skier, passed away in 2012. Cooper pressed him with questions about his win and his brother, even after he shed tears. Where do you draw the line and become a person again instead of fishing for that next great quote? There were people arguing both sides; some say she was doing her job and others believe she went too far. As someone studying in this field, I think she was doing her job. See the interview here and decide for yourself. Miller, however, did not blame Cooper, tweeting:

Brit Awards

Lorde won International Female Artist, Bruno Mars won International Male Artist and David Bowie won British Solo Male Artist. There might not have been any Miley moments, but they did have some fabulous fashionistas in attendance from the States. Queen Bey made that green gown her bitch and Katy Perry glowed, literally, during her performance of Dark Horse. The one thing that the Brit Awards does have on us: Awesome English accents. Cheerio!

#MisheardLyrics

Jimmy Fallon started this brilliant hashtag. You’ve done it too: Thought a song said something, belted it out and got funny looks from all of your friends. Trends like this are just fun:

“Dirty deeds, Dunder Chief…”
“Got me feeling so fried like a cheese stick…”
“Excuse me while I kiss this guy...”
The entire Kidzbop version of “Thrift Shop”

#JoeyVotto

Votto was in the running to be the Face of MLB Competition, but was eliminated by Felix Hernandez of the Mariners by a margin of just .8 percent. Votto was the reigning champ from the 2013 in the Twitter competition, but fell short this year. Although Votto might have lost, Reds fans can rejoice in the fact that Opening Day is now less than two months away. Voting continues on Twitter if you are interested, click here for the bracket.

Other trending topics: MVP, True Detective, Tornado Watch, #GhettoJeopardy, UNC, #USAvsCanada and Winter Jam.

 
 
by Amber Hemmerle 02.14.2014 61 days ago
Posted In: Commentary at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Trending Topics

Cincinnati's most buzzworthy tweets of the week

Each week our intern Amber will be exploring what Cincinnatians are interested in by scouring the local Twitter trends and reporting on what she’s found. From serious tweets to goofy hashtags, she’ll highlight what Cincy’s been buzzing about. So get to tweeting, folks. 

#CollegeDropout

The ten-year anniversary of Kanye West’s College Dropout album was Monday, Feb. 10. Other than just making me feel old, this album does bring back memories. Many people tweeted that it was one of the best rap albums produced and, with songs like “Through the Wire,” “All Falls Down” and “Slow Jamz,” it very well could be. Even if you don’t like rap or Kanye West, the dude rapped “Through the Wire” with a broken jaw and his mouth wired shut. There’s just something you have to respect about that.

Shirley Temple

No, not the drink... She was a 1930s child star that worked her way up from acting and singing to a place in politics. Temple was a young star that never went on to be plagued with the many misfortunes of child performers today. Is it the media, the relentless spotlight, the ruthless critics or the constant negativity on social media that drive so many to overindulge in drugs and drinking today? Even in the tweets about Temple, some were saying she died of AIDS, that she was a racist and a communist. Really? She died at age 85 and so many of the stars we all grew up with probably won’t even live to be half that old.

Starbucks

Tons of people were thankful for their hot cocoa and caramel macchiato this week due to the below-freezing temps again. Throw in the whole “Dumb Starbucks” stunt and you have thisa trending topic in Cincy. I predict Graeter’s will be trending at some point this summer and there will be pictures of banana splits and chocolate milkshakes everywhere. Someone should make a “Dumb Graeters” and see how much money their old cup sells for. 

#RejectedCandyHearts

Ahh, ‘tis the season for another funny trend thanks to Valentine’s Day. What is it about Tuesday afternoons that makes it so difficult for people to work? Now, imagine these sayings on a little candy heart from your sweetie:

It’s not me, it’s you.
If only someone loved you.
You were almost my first choice.
Front: ILY, Back: I’m Leaving You.

#IfIWasWhite

This hashtag was supposedly started about Shaun White, the snowboarder. Of course, if you’re not following the Olympics this trend could be seriously misconstrued. Whoever started this had to have seen the blatant double meaning. If you want to start a trend on Twitter, by all means go for it, but use your damn brain. Regardless of what this hashtag means, it should say #IfIWereWhite. You’re welcome, grammar Nazis.

#TeenWolf

Apparently MTV has a show that is not about the young and pregnant or the young and drunk. Congratulations, Teen Wolf, apparently you are worthy of watching.

#ThriftIsBack
So, Big Lots will be the official discount seller of Hostess products. Each week an assortment of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho-Hos will be shipped to Big Lots everywhere and sold for cheap. Big Lots is based in Columbus, so it makes sense that this would be trending in Cincinnati. In light of this trend, many people were offering some of their best thrifty advice. Here were a few tips I found interesting:

Don’t use the heated dry cycle on your dishwasher; it saves money on your energy bill.
Make a grocery list and only buy what is on it. This helps to curb impulse buying at the store. This one is definitely harder than it sounds.
Go to the thrift store first. Many places have a rack with all brand new clothes sent from the store because they weren’t selling, were returned, have a crooked seam or something minor.
Bring your coffee from home. Figure out how much you spend a week on coffee compared to investing in a coffee pot and making your own. The savings are more than you’d expect.

Follow @Thriftinnati or go to www.cincinnatithrift.com for more info on thrifting and thrift stores in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

Also trending: Marcus Smart, Michael Sam, #Curling, #SoChi, #HoneyBooBoo, Valentine’s Day, #SingleLife and #ForeverAlone.

 
 
by Kelsey Kennedy 02.12.2014 62 days ago
Posted In: Commentary, Culture at 03:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)
 
 
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How to Become a Cincinnatian, for Non-Natives

They say you move to Cincinnati and put on a pair of goggles — the longer you stay, the harder it is to take them off. And why would you want to? I’ve lived here for five years and still manage to fall deeper in love with this city every day. For all you newcomers, here are some necessary guidelines for your initiation into the greatest city in the Midwest.

1. Pick a chili, not a side. The East side/West side rivalry is deeply rooted in competitive turf wars and stubborn rationalizations. When brought up in conversation, it’s usually best to remain indifferent and let your eyes glaze over until the fighting stops.

2. Become a regular at (at least) one bar in Over-the-Rhine. Find your favorite bartender at Neon’s and dance to the ‘8os music at Japp’s on a Saturday night. Discover new music at MOTR or wind down with some jazz at 1215 Wine Bar.

3. Understand that high schools — and the culture surrounding them — are really important here. “Are you from around here?” is almost always followed by, “So what high school did you go to?” Cincinnatians stick to their alma maters like glitter on glue, and everyone has a reputation.

4. See The Cincy Brass play at Mr. Pitiful’s before you die (or move). Request the song “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool. Gyrate on everyone.

5. Get to know Kentucky. Bounce around the Levee and Mainstrasse. End your night with a cheesy goetta omelet at the Anchor Grill. Trust me on this one.

6. Cincinnati has the second largest Oktoberfest in the world (The WORLD!) second only to Munich. Dress like a German, drink like a German, eat like a German.

7. Develop a severe case of road rage while driving on I-75. Perfect the ability to stare someone down after cutting you off.

8. Vote. Get involved with this city’s politics. Picket City Hall or write a letter to an editor. Cincinnati had a record-breaking low voter turnout in the 2013 mayoral election — make your voice heard.

9. Give back to your neighborhood. Volunteer at the Freestore Foodbank or tutor kids at Wordplay Cincy. Teach an art class or buy someone an umbrella on a rainy day. Start a collaborative effort to make this city the best it can be.

10. Master the Metro and make friends with the drivers. Sit up front and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Try not to fall when the metro slides down one of Cincinnati’s many 90-degree angles.

11. Appreciate Cincinnati sports. Tailgate at a Bengal’s game, cheer on the Cyclones and pledge your allegiance to Brandon Phillips’ smile.

12. EAT ALL THE GOETTA. And LaRosa’s. And Graeter’s. Now start training for the Flying Pig.

13. Find your favorite city park with your favorite view of the skyline against Kentucky. Feel safe tucked away in the hills. Ponder about the meaning of life.

14. Roll your windows down and go 10 miles over the speed limit on the Roebling Bridge. Listen to the whirring sound. Just do it.

15. Develop a deep love for all things Cincinnati and defend your city when people talk shit. Recognize that you are a part of something larger than yourself — that Cincinnati isn’t just the Queen City — it’s a community and a network and a lineage of diverse Midwesterners who all contribute to making this place a force to be reckoned with.

Oh, and read CityBeat.

 
 
by Brian Baker 02.05.2014 69 days ago
Posted In: Animals, Commentary at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Bosco Makes You Feel All Right

A tribute to a lost family member and all of the gifts he gave

A few weeks ago, I was headed downstairs with a basket of laundry and when I got to our kitchen doorway, I automatically raised my right leg to clear the baby gate. We haven't had any babies in the house since Clinton's first term, but we wound up using our long-neglected toddler barriers as a method to contain Bosco, our rambunctious Boston terrier.

Initially, we thought we'd use the gates for a few months while Bosco got acclimated to our spacious family room and kitchen, and to give our two cats — ancient 15-year-old Sushi and weeks-old and then just-acquired Pansy — a safe haven to escape from his brilliantly maniacal bursts of energy. Bosco would patrol the rooms like a perimeter guard, listening for the sound of one of the cats jumping over the gates, his signal to tear off in their general direction. This behavior inspired one of his many nicknames: Officer Bosco. 

His relentless pursuit of the cats and his propensity to carry off, and sometimes chew on, various shoes left on the floor resulted in the gates becoming a semi-permanent feature of the downstairs blueprint. As I began to step over the gate, it dawned on me that this leg lift was pure muscle memory. 

I didn't need to step over the gate because the gate wasn't there anymore. Bosco wasn't here anymore.

Bosco became a part of the family in 2004, a present for our daughter Isabelle's 10th birthday. My wife Melissa had been pressing me about the possibility of getting a dog to teach our ADHD-challenged daughter some responsibility, but I had been hesitant as I had just discovered a rather virulent allergy to certain hound breeds. Melissa's on-line research indicated that pugs, Yorkshire terriers, Welsh Corgis and Boston terriers were relatively non-allergenic so, with slight reservations on my part, she started the search for a dog.

After several missed opportunities and lack of follow-up response, Melissa found a Boston terrier breeder in Kentucky who had two males left from her last litter. She e-mailed Melissa photos of the pair, which she printed out and brought home for Isabelle to inspect. She gravitated toward one that was mismarked for a Boston; mostly white with brindle spots and black around the eyes that made me think of Jonny Quest's dog Bandit (not an actual mask but whatever). Isabelle noted that he looked like a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream (we all have different reference points), and so she chose him. At that point, Chip was probably the leading contender for the dog's name.

A check was mailed out and arrangements were made to meet at a rest stop halfway between our locations (several other prospective owners were meeting her at the same spot). Just before the big day, which by coincidence was Isabelle's actual birthday, Melissa and Isabelle sat down to compose a list of possible puppy names. Chip was high on the list, of course, as well as several others that seemed fairly promising, but when they presented me with the choices, I reacted to the very first thing Melissa had written down: Bosco.

For Melissa, it was simply a riff on the fact that he was a Boston, and maybe it was a touchstone left over from our childhood days (Bosco was a chocolate syrup back in the '50s and '60s, and remains available today). But for me, it was a blast from my teenage past.

When I was a junior high school student in southern Michigan, one of my favorite regional bands was Brownsville Station (ultimately famous for their No. 3 hit single "Smokin' in the Boys Room," covered in the mid-'80s to great effect by Motley Crue). Their debut album, 1970's No BS (it was actually self-titled but came to be known as No BS because of the graphic prominence of the phrase on the album's cartoon cover), featured a song that became a fixation for my best friend Kevin and me. It was a jumped-up little Rock number written by Brownsville's guitarist/vocalist Cub Koda and vocalist/guitarist Michael Lutz and titled "Do the Bosco."

At that point, albums were an expensive luxury and there was no single release for "Do the Bosco," so it was left to Kevin and me to monitor local Rock radio, armed with our ridiculously cheap cassette recorders and a .39¢ tape (which was actually video tape cut to cassette width), in an effort to capture our favorite song for posterity. We finally did, but between the indistinct signal, the tinny transistor speaker, the ambient room sound bleeding into the hand-held microphone and the hiss of the cheap tape, it sounded like someone was filling a blimp with a fire hose next to the radio.

But it didn't matter because it was the Bosco.

"That's it!" I shouted when I saw the name at the top of the dog-names list. "He'll have his own theme song! How could we not name him Bosco?" 

My wife and daughter laughed at my rather animated reaction to naming the dog, but I was convinced, running to the Bunker to find my CD copy of No BS and cranking it up on the portable player in the living room: “(Bosco) Because it's easy on your feet/(Bosco) While you're walkin' down the street/(Bosco) Yeah, with your radio on, the Bosco makes you feel alright."

We met with the breeder south of Erlanger and I tested any possible allergic reaction by rubbing the puppy on my face. With the assurance that I could see and breathe, we crated the newly christened Bosco in our pet carrier and headed for home. 

For the first few nights, we kept the carrier in our bedroom. Bosco would cry occasionally, and for two nights I camped on the floor next to his crate, leaving my hand in the open door so he could snuggle up next to it. During the day, I brought him down to the Bunker and let him sleep on my lap while I wrote. 

Because I was home with him all day, he probably bonded closer to me than with Melissa or Isabelle. And while Isabelle adored him and gave him copious amounts of attention and love, the actual mechanics of his care and feeding fell to Melissa and myself. We realized within a few short weeks that it's not feasible to teach responsibility to a child by way of a living thing. At least someone learned something.

Three weeks after bringing Bosco home, Melissa found a fairly new kitten abandoned by the roadside on her way to work. We were a week away from going on vacation so we arranged for our neighbors to take care of our elderly cat and the new arrival, which Isabelle named Pansy, after her late grandmother's favorite flower. 

We realized that we couldn't really leave Bosco home alone in our neighbors' care so we decided we would take him on vacation with us. We're not really travelers by any stretch of the imagination, and while a certain part of me would love to see various locations around the country, a bigger part of me knows that the stress of getting to a place we've never been and the planning required would undermine the restive benefits of the vacation. And so we rent the same cabin by the same lake in northern Michigan every year, and have a lovely and relaxing time doing something short of nothing.

The day before we left for vacation, Melissa was fired from her job (via an answering machine message left by her gutless employer). The relief of knowing she wouldn't be returning to that snake pit allowed her to have the most relaxing vacation of her adult life. And we all had a solid week paying very close attention to our new addition.

Bosco was an absolute champ on the 10-hour trip to the lake. We stopped and walked him constantly, he peed and drank, and then hopped back into his crate in the back seat. And once we got to the lake, Bosco loved everything about the experience; swimming in the shallow water, romping in the grass, chasing squirrels and napping in the sun. We kept a close eye on him because nature is fairly wild up there; a pair of mating bald eagles have an aerie on the other side of the lake, and naturalists have found pet collars in the nest so we were careful to make sure Bosco didn't wind up on the menu.

In subsequent years, Bosco could sense the excitement surrounding our imminent trip to Michigan and his excitement matched our own. We had taught him the word "adventure" meant a car ride for him and whenever the magic word was spoken, he immediately ran to the hook on the kitchen wall where we hung his retractable leash and waited to be collared and taken out. He was equally excited about "walkies," a word we pulled from Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers, but that was just a stroll down the walking path near our house. Bosco lived for adventure, which could mean a trip to Sharon Woods or Winton Woods or the vet's office or PetSmart, but he knew the time of year when that the biggest adventure of all would be taking place.

Bosco loved french fries and ice cream, neither of which were given to him in any great amount or with any substantial frequency. On his regular trips to the vet, his weight was always in the acceptable range for his age and relative size; we saw a Boston at Sharon Woods one afternoon that looked like he needed a roller skate under his belly to keep it from scraping the path. The Boss was always trim and healthy.

“The Boss” was one of a number of nicknames we had for him. Mister B, Pee Pee Raymond (from an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond), the Bosconator, Count Pupula, Bossy (he was marked like a cow; his first vet held him up and said, "He's my first Holstein"), Francis Ford Puppola, the aforementioned Officer Bosco. The obvious love and affection we invested in each new and often incomprehensible deviation of his actual name and beyond (Biddly Boy? Idder Bidder?) somehow let him know we were referring to him and his ears shot skyward in recognition to every stupid thing we called him.

For nine years, Bosco was our constant and brilliant companion, an animal with a better code of loyalty and love and a more defined sense of humor than a lot of human beings we encountered on a daily basis. Bosco claimed the couch in the family room as his combination bed and throne; he would drag pillows and blankets from end to end as his canine caprices guided him, fluffing and kneading and pulling until everything was in place and prepared for him to crawl under and within, emerging only for food or a good cat chase or, of course, any adventure.

Last year, Bosco's trim physique started taking on a more portly appearance, which we initially passed off as our boy entering into middle age. He had become slightly more sedentary, still interested in walking the path but actively deciding when the walk was over; he would simply turn around and head for home. Still, he seemed in good spirits and health overall.

Last winter, we noticed a patch of dry skin on his back that seemed to scab up and get flaky. When it started to spread, I took him into the vet, who informed us that he had the symptomatic appearance of a dog with Cushing's Syndrome, characterized by the dry patches, distended belly, voracious thirst and hair loss on his legs and elsewhere. The tests to confirm this diagnosis were wildly expensive and we decided against them for the time being as his health didn't seem to be compromised significantly and we were assured that dogs could conceivably live with the disease for many years without adverse effect.

Last summer, I was checking e-mail on my laptop in the Bunker when Isabelle ran down and said, "Something's wrong with Bosco, Mom wants you to come up right now." When I got to the kitchen, I found Melissa kneeling on the floor next to Bosco, who was in the midst of some sort of seizure, tongue lolled to one side, legs stiff. I took Melissa's place and started talking calmly to Bosco, petting him and trying to soothe him. In a couple of minutes, he came around and didn't seem any worse for the wear.

When he had a second episode a week later, I took him to a different vet for a second opinion, which turned out to be twofold: A) Bosco most likely did have Cushing's, and B) his seizures were not connected to it. The cost at the new vet for tests was considerably less so we went ahead and got the confirmation that he had Cushing's Syndrome and then set about planning for how we would try to work out the source of the seizures.

That's where it stood toward the end of last August when Bosco suffered what I came to believe was a massive stroke. When his seizure ceased, his personality was almost completely erased. He no longer responded to his name, he was disinterested in any kind of affection or attention, he was oblivious to the presence of the cats. All he did was walk around the family room and kitchen in a shuffling gait that seemed robotic and programmed. He only turned to the right, and if he got under a chair or pushed his nose into a corner of the room, he didn't seem to understand how to get out his predicament. He would just cry.

The most alarming loss in his training concerned the basement. As a pup, he seemed unaware that he could go down the stairs to the basement. I had always carried him down when I took him to the Bunker, and he somehow got it in his head that he couldn't go down any other way. We went ahead and let him believe it because it gave the cats a safe place where he wouldn't chase them. Even though he would run up and down the stairs to our bedrooms without a thought (when we would spring him from his baby gated rooms), he would not go down the basement stairs.

With that part of his training seemingly vanished after the second seizure, he was suddenly very curious about the basement. And because he was a little shaky on his feet, once he started down the steps, his momentum would be so great that he crashed into the wall at the bottom of the staircase. We were terrified that he was going to break his legs or his neck, so we closed the basement door, bringing the cats' litter boxes upstairs so they wouldn't need to go downstairs.

He kept us awake most of the night after his stroke with his thumping around and crying. Melissa went down and kept an eye on him, and I took over during the day after she left for work. That night, she was exhausted and so I camped out on the couch in the living room with the hope that I could get him to lay down with me and that maybe after a good night's rest, he might bounce back a little. There would be no bounce back.

I got maybe two hours of sleep that night, the brief amount of time that I got Bosco to lay down with me on the couch. The rest of the time he wanted nothing more than to walk in his shambling pattern around the two rooms. He constantly got tangled up under the kitchen chairs or stuck behind the couch or caught in the cross braces of the coffee table, all of which required me to extricate him.

All the time I was with him, I desperately tried to reach him. I asked him if he wanted to go for walkies. Nothing. I tried to get his medicine down him with food. He spit it out. Finally, I kept chanting the mantra, "Do you want to go on an adventure?" I swore to myself if I saw even a glimmer of recognition in his demeanor, I'd pack him up in the car and take him for a ride, somewhere, anywhere, just to reinforce his slight return. There was no recognition, just a dull and lifeless look when I spoke to him.

At one point, I sat on the floor and called to him. He walked over to me, which seemed like a hopeful development, and he pushed his head into my stomach, a move that used to signal he wanted to be petted. But I quickly realized he wasn't looking for affection, he was just trying to push his way through me, a giant fleshy obstruction that was keeping him from his appointed rounds.

Melissa came home for lunch the next day, and asked how Bosco was doing. I tried to recount the day's events as rationally as possible but the long night and the inevitability of all that I had witnessed came welling up. I said, "He's just not in there anymore," and broke down.

We packed up our beloved boy and drove him to vet for that last awful time. She gave him the sedative to calm him down and we spent a good half hour petting him and telling him everything would be fine, and as emotional as we all were, Isabelle provided perhaps the most poignant and heartbreaking observation of the day.

In second grade, Isabelle received her ADHD diagnosis, and the severity of her developmental challenges often separated her from her peer group. Kids at school and in the neighborhood would accept her for a while but ultimately decide she was too different or weird and give up on her. She did eventually make some good friends within her Individualized Education Program, but it was a long time coming and not before a considerable amount of loneliness and angst. 

As Isabelle stood scratching his ears and gently stroking his face, she looked at us and said, "Bosco was my first friend." 

In that beautiful, terrible moment, we knew that bringing this 15-pound bundle of energy and incalculable jaw strength into our lives nine years ago had been exactly the right thing to do, no matter how difficult the end game was proving to be. Because he was the Bosco. And the Bosco makes you feel all right. Did he ever.

 
 
by Maija Zummo 07.16.2013
Posted In: Life, Interviews, BABIES, Commentary, Culture at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)
 
 
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Turns Out Kids Aren't Racist Assholes

Children watch interracial Cheerios commercial; can't understand why people are still racist

The Fine Brothers are "filmmakers and new media pioneers" who have created a pretty successful web series called "Kids React," where they film kids reacting to stuff. 

The latest in their child-watching oeuvre is a video about the now infamous interracial Cheerios ad. Infamous because Cheerios literally had to disable the video's YouTube comments section because of the amount of incredibly hateful, racist commentary.

In the Kids React video, children are shown the controversial ad and asked a series of questions, including why they think it upset people. The kids, it turns out, are stumped; they didn't even register anything unusual about the parents or the family. (Because there isn't.)

The Fine Brothers preface the video by saying "This episode of Kids React will discuss the sensitive subject of racism and its impact on individuals, families and the world at large. The opinions of children about these issues can give incredibly valuable insight into where our society really is and where we are headed as a people."

If these kids' reactions are any indicator, we're on the right path. That being said, the Fine Brothers are from New York and they film in L.A., a reality that the children address in the video mentioning that people in other parts of the country might still be "behind the times."

Video:
  

 
 
by Brian Baker 06.14.2013
Posted In: LGBT, Life, Commentary, BABIES at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Happy Me Day

The basic, rewarding, maddening and beautiful simplicity in being — and having — a father

I¹ve been celebrating Father's Day for well over 50 years now. In its earliest incarnations, I'm sure gifts and cards were bought on my behalf, but eventually it was time to take the reins and handle the responsibility myself.

For a long stretch, my go-to present for my father was the lastest Bill Cosby record, partly because he truly enjoyed Cosby's work, but mostly because I wanted to hear it, too. Some might look at that as a selfish act, but I prefer to look at it this way; it was something that we were able to bond over, and at least it wasn't an ugly tie he¹d pretend to like and never wear.

My relationship with my father has always been complicated. I'm sure he loved me, although it was many years before he actually voiced the sentiment. The problem was that my mother, who likely would have been the perfect bridge between us, died when I was not quite 4 years old. My father's grief and depression were all-consuming and because he was afraid his emotional state would degrade my own, he left me with my grandparents (my recently deceased mother's parents, which, considering their own overwhelming grief, was an interesting paradigm of its own) and moved 30 miles north, removing himself from everything that would remind him of her.

Thus began our 12-year routine. He would arrive on Saturday afternoon, pick me up, take me back up to his apartment for the night, then we'd hang out until Sunday evening, when he would return me to my grandparents. It never really mattered what we did, I just enjoyed being in his company. He had a sense of humor that ranged from cuttingly dry to wildly inappropriate, largely dependent on the amount of scotch in his system, but he was always good for a laugh. Until he wasn't, of course, but that's another story.

The defining characteristic of our relationship was its short term nature. He was my actual, hands-on father less than two days a week; sometimes our weekend consisted of going to his friends' parties and me hanging out with his friends' kids all night, then watching TV for a good part of Sunday while he nursed the next in a series of monolithic hangovers. But there were lots of movies and restaurants and plays and a couple of girlfriends and a couple of stepmothers and extended families.

Sundays in summer were mostly spent on golf courses as he tried to teach me the game. Sundays in winter were for watching football, sometimes skiing or ice skating. Fun is where you find it and we found it everywhere. My grandparents were of sturdy Methodist stock and involved me in church as much as possible, while my father was a card-carrying hedonist.

When I was 5 or 6, after we'd been doing the weekend trip for some time, my grandmother was concerned that I wasn't attending church on Sundays and asked Dad if he could find a church and start taking me. My father took a long drag on his unfiltered Camel, exhaled slowly and said, "Molly, if he can't find Jesus in five days with you, he's not going to find him in two days with me." That unassailable logic ended the church discussion.

I was maybe 12 or 13 before my father really talked about my mother to me. To this day, he finds it generally impossible. I've asked if I could tape him telling stories about her so that I'll have some concrete memories to draw on, as I don't remember a single thing about her, but it is beyond his capacity to bring it all out. Occasionally, he'll get expansive and let things go, but at this point I only see him twice a year so the information comes in fits and starts.

As long distance relationships go, my father and I had a pretty good one. And as it turned out, it was something of a blueprint for my relationship with my own son. Just before his second birthday, my troubled marriage finally crumbled and my wife informed me one night when she got home from work that she was moving and I was not. She moved into her new apartment with our son, and I moved back in with my grandparents for three weeks before I made the decision to move to Cincinnati to look for work. The relative stupidity of moving from Michigan, the state with the highest unemployment rate, to Ohio, which had the second highest unemployment rate, was not lost on me, but I didn't want to be impossibly far from my son. I wanted to be a presence in his life.

I found work within a couple of months and went home for my son's second birthday in April. I hadn't seen him since January, but I talked to him constantly, at least as much as you can communicate with a toddler on the phone. He was asleep at my grandparents' house when I rolled into town, and I wound up going out with friends that night, coming home at maybe 3 a.m.

When Josh woke up the next morning, my grandmother went to get him while I waited in the living room. She brought him downstairs and sat across the room with him on her lap. He rubbed his eyes and clung to her, looking at me like I was a stranger. She kept saying, "That's your daddy, that's your daddy," and he kept hiding his face in her neck.

I've never been shot in the chest, but I'm fairly certain I know how it feels.

After the longest four minutes of my life, his face slowly lit with recognition, his eyes brightened, he shouted, "Daddy!" and then climbed off my grandmother's lap and launched himself at me. I can still feel that endless, exuberant hug to this day.

The distance between us was 10 times greater than the 30 miles that separated my me and my father, so my trips were once a month, rather than once a week, but they were regular, and we both came to depend on them. I was determined to remain a father figure, not the once a month sugar daddy who shows up for an anything-goes weekend, and that was clearly the right strategy, given our excellent relationship both then and now.

We had a few bumpy patches along the way, including a stretch when he was 8 where he got a bit bored with the weekend trips; although my feelings were slightly bruised, I cut back to every other month for a couple of months until he realized how much he missed our regular time together. We maintained the monthly schedule until he was a teenager, when he started having an actual life with parties and school events and things he needed to work around. By then, I had my own issues; a full time design job, part time writing gigs and my first shot at being an honest-to-God full-time father with the arrival of my daughter, Isabelle.

Josh was absolutely ecstatic about his new sister (he actually snapped at his mother when she correctly but thoughtlessly used the term "half-sister"), and although their time together was fleeting, he was a doting big brother.

In 1998, Josh left to attend Reed College in Portland, Ore.; given his tenuous relationship with his mother, my favorite joke at the time was that he had gotten as far from her as he could without swimming. We talked by phone quite a lot those first few weeks and kept up a regular email exchange as well. It was one of those messages that forced me to question the state of our own relationship.

It was about two months into his first semester. Josh had emailed me with a rather non-descript account of his days — classes, roommates, school environment — but as I scrolled to the bottom of his message, there was this brief sign-off: "Oh, and there's this guy in one of my classes that I¹m interested in, and I think I might be bi."

It wasn't a complete surprise; Josh had two girlfriends in high school, but both were damaged in fairly significant ways (OK, one was batshit crazy), and I had wondered if maybe he was having trouble with his relationship radar. Turns out he was picking from the wrong gender pool, so it made sense.

The timing of his announcement was odd, though; a good friend had just died unexpectedly at the horrifyingly young age of 36, my boss had informed me that I was in danger of losing my position and my wife had mentioned casually that she wasn't sure if she wanted to be married anymore.

Josh's coming out was the best news I'd had all week.

My problem was with the way he chose to tell me. Not in a phone call where we could talk about what he was going through, and not in an email with an appropriately portentious subject line like, "I have something serious to discuss with you." His rather life-altering news was tacked onto a laundry list of activities like a pork barrel project attached to an unrelated bill.

I was a bit skinned that he had resorted to this kind of subterfuge to enlighten me about his sexuality. And then there was the issue of tentatively identifying himself as "bi." I was sure he had used that terminology in an effort to cushion any potential shock with a switch hitter gambit, giving him a fallback position in case I reacted badly. It reminded me of the episode of Friends when Phoebe lost her singing gig at the coffeeshop and wound up playing to kids at a local library. She started off trying to sing children's songs but she ran out of material quickly and started making up songs about life in general, and in typical Phoebe fashion, the songs were brutally honest, relatively inappropriate and, of course, exactly what kids should probably hear.

The one song that I remembered from that episode had some relevance in this situation: "Sometimes men love women. Sometimes men love men, And then there are bisexuals. Though some just say they're kidding themselves."

I didn't respond to Josh's email, partly because I was slightly hurt and partly because I was busy. The weekend after his message, he called and we talked about fairly innocuous subjects for an inordinate amount of time. I waited for him to broach the subject, because I felt as though he should, but he never brought it up.

He finally noted with a sigh that it was getting late and I knew he was ready to wrap up the call without addressing his news, so I decided it was up to me. Being my father's son, I chose the inappropriately direct method (my particular genetic curse is that I rarely require alcohol to be inappropriately direct and lack a distinct filter to avoid it).

"Oh, by the way," I said casually, "I understand you're sucking cock."

There was an extremely long pause and finally Josh said, "So you did get the message."

I gave him a loving earful about our close relationship and the trust and love and responsibility that came with that bond, and gently upbraided him for the rather cloaked method he had chosen to come out to me.

He stammered in complete agreement, saying, "I was afraid of how you would take it."

"Joshua, there are plenty of things in the world to be afraid of and I am not one of them," I said. "I may not agree with the things you do, but I will always love the boy doing them. In this case, this is who you are. It's not a choice you've made, it's a discovery. It's bloody hard to find love in this world, and you've taken a first step toward finding it for yourself. That's fantastic. My only advice to you is the same, straight or gay; be careful. Sex these days can kill you. Wherever you poke it, wrap it up.

"I just had to bury a friend," I continued. "If you make me bury a son, I swear to God I'll dig you up and kill you again."

He laughed a most relieved laugh and that was that. He was out. He pursued a couple of different relationships with guys at Reed which didn't pan out. After two and a half years, he returned to Michigan to enroll in the forensic psychology program at Michigan State, where he met Sean. They've been together for over 10 years now. We love him like a son-in-law because, even though they can't make it official, that is what he is to us.

These memories and God knows how many more come around each Father's Day, a good many including my grandfather, who was as much, if not more, of a father than my own father. I'll get a wonderfully skewed card from my sons and dinner and a card and something sweet from my wife and daughter. I'll send a funny card and a golf-related book to my dad and call him on Sunday, just before I get a call myself.

Life may be complicated sometimes, and God knows the complexities of family relationships can be like putting together a jigsaw puzzle of the White Album cover, and yet there's a fairly basic — and rewarding and maddening and beautiful — simplicity in being a father and having a father.

 
 
by Jac Kern 01.31.2013
Posted In: TV/Celebrity, Humor, Fun, Music, Movies, Comedy, Commentary at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

The Screen Actors Guild Awards were Sunday and I didn’t watch that low-budge mess, but here are the winners if you care. America’s girl crush, Jennifer Lawrence, nabbed an SAGy (?) for her role in Silver Linings Playbook (I know I’m late on this, but that movie is just great. Go see it.) After a non-wardrobe malfunction, JLaw accepted by citing the first job that got her the ubiquitous SAG card: an MTV My Super Sweet 16 promo.

Via Dlisted:


Local drag queen Penny Tration (government name: Tony Cody) was selected to be on the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race via a Facebook fan vote. The season premiered Monday on Logo and, sadly, our girl was the first to sashay away. Now, call me biased (because I am), but Penny deserved at least another week. Having spent time in The SweatShoppe, Penny’s HQ and studio, I know she’s one of the hardest working queens in the biz. She makes her own clothing and wigs, does some outstanding makeup work and looked more like a real curvalicious lady than Serena ChaCha, the other queen up for elimination this week. When the two were instructed to lip sync for their lives, it was clear Ms. ChaCha was the winner (damn her splits!). Unfortunately, Penny did not know the lyrics to “Party in the USA,” so I think we can all just blame Miley for this tragedy. Penny, we still love ya! Keep doing yo thang.

Adrian Grenier (Vincent Chase to most but forever the Drive Me Crazy dude to me) tweeted big news for Entourage fans this week: the movie spinoff has been greenlit! Mind you, Entourage may follow in its sister Sex and the City’s footsteps by glossing over anything cool about the series and pooping out a 2-hour douchey bromance, but fans will certainly still flock to theaters to check it out.

Adapting TV shows for the big screen is nothing new — just look at Star Trek. In Entourage’s case, a successful show on HBO for eight seasons, a movie will provide one last chance for fans to see Vince and his buddies...and one last chance to squeeze any last profitability from the series. But what about adapting shows that weren’t necessarily successful on TV in the long term? Party Down was an excellent Starz comedy from 2009-2010. Adam Scott, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino and a bunch of other hilarious familiar faces from TV comedy portrayed a crew of kooky caterers, each episode following them to a different catered event. It got a lot of late-in-show life love from Netflix viewers (because who watches Starz?!) but was cancelled after two seasons. Ever since, there have been hopes and rumors of a film version from fans and cast members alike. While the crossover is still unconfirmed, here’s an awesome faux trailer, made from clips from the series, with a horror twist:

And because everyone loves Mrs. Doubtfire, check out a creepily realistic look at what the family film would look like if it had taken a dark turn.

If you’re like most theater kids or women between the ages of 10 and 110, then you can quote Mean Girls and Les Mis like a champ and you will love this.

Tonight is a night that myself and Lizbeans everywhere have been dreading for some time — the series finale of 30 Rock. You can read my full eulogy here, but I have to say while I’m happy the show is going out while it’s still good (Tina Fey and Alec Bladwin both snagged aforementioned SAG awards for their performances in the show), I’m really going to miss my weekly dose of Ms. Bossypants. From the beginning, 30 Rock has been a writer’s comedy and I will cherish every quote that has been ingrained in my brain over the past seven seasons (ex. "Live every week like it's Shark Week." - Tracy Jordan). On this momentous evening, I leave you with these life lessons from Liz Lemon.

My feelings are best described by this Claire Danes supercut:

 
 
by Jac Kern 10.10.2012
Posted In: Movies, Music, TV/Celebrity, The Worst, Commentary at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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I Just Can't Get Enough

Jac's roundup of pop culture news and Internet findings

Even the most plugged-in, pop culture-obsessed Facebook addicts miss out on Internet crazes every once in a while; thus, Koren performer Psy’s viral music video for “Gangnam Style” somehow escaped me. I’d seen the term mentioned on blogs and even watched a (ridiculously high quality) wedding video based on confusing sensation before I was able to find a reference the original video. (Isn’t it funny how that happens?) I found myself Googling “What the hell is Gangnam Style?!” not knowing if it was a dance craze or song or fashion trend. The song actually mocks the lifestyle of rich residents of the Seoul suburb, though most attention surrounds Psy, a middle aged man singing angrily whilst doing a PG version of “the pony.” I guess some of the humor is lost on me because I’m secretly bitter I didn’t discover it early on.

Gangnam’s latest incarnation? Mitt Romney Style!

Who’s down for a rousing game of “Steak House or Gay Bar?

Twitter poet and Kardashian-humper Kanye West stripped us all of our daily affirmation source by deleting all of his previous tweets last week. He has since returned to Twitter, but just to mourn the one-year since Steve Jobs’ death. Riveting stuff.

Vomiting onstage is the new black. Lately, high-profile performers across the globe have proverbially sniffed the milk carton, shrugged and took a sip anyway, all ending up tossing their cookies on stage. Now, if you’re like music editor Mike Breen, watching people experience a retaliating digestive system is disturbing and you'd rather not see that shit. Otherwise, here’s Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber barfing at their recent respective gigs. Thank goodness for HuffPo, who compiled a gallery of “Stars Who’ve Puked During Concerts.”

When Heidi Klum and Seal broke up, I was crushed (mostly because it meant no I’d really never be invited to one of their epic Halloween parties or themed vow renewals). When Amy Poehler and Will Arnett split, I was angry and confused. (Can’t they just laugh it off?!) Well, now I know there’s no such thing as love because after more than 30 years together, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman have separated. Maybe people grow apart after decades together. Perhaps DeVito’s role as Frank on Always Sunny began rubbing off on him. I don’t care — Matilda’s parents were supposed to stay together forever.


Thankfully, Amber Tamblyn and David Cross got hitched this week, giving us all a final shred of hope for humanity. Check out Questlove’s Instagram (the coolest way to peep wedding pics, ever) for photos of the Esty-fied Tommy Hilfiger ad starring Joan of Arcadia and Tobias Fünke.

 
 

 

 

 
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