Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Music

With trips to the west coast, east coast and south (all in the past week), I've spent A LOT of time in my car this December. Okay, granted, my trip to the west coast was in an airplane, but still, I've logged a lot of miles (which roughly translates to: I've had a lot of time to listen to the radio).

Pretty much the only music available on the radio right now is Katy Perry and Christmas songs. Because I find listening to all 99 verses of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" more enjoyable than listening to one verse of any Katy Perry song, I found myself listening to a lot of holiday tunes.

And I thought to myself, "Self, why not compile a list of all of your favorites?" Perfect idea! So, without further adieu, here they are:

1. Any track from the New Kids on the Block "Merry Merry Christmas" album for obvious reasons.
2. "Last Christmas" by Wham! It's catchy and fun, and I dare you not to sing along when it comes on the radio.
3. "O Holy Night" by any artist. I love this song so much that I don't care who sings it...well, except for Katy Perry.
4. "Happy Christmas" by John Lennon (Melissa Etheridge and Sarah McLachlan do nice versions as well). "War is over, if you want it." A pretty simple concept, but so very true.
5. "Carol of the Bells" by any artist (although I have a soft-spot for piano renditions). Despite these lyrics being nearly impossible to understand/remember (20 bucks to anyone who can sing them all without looking them up), I still enjoy the challenge of being able to sing along.
6. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan. No Christmas song ever made me want to harmonize and pick up an acoustic guitar as much as this one!
7. "All Alone on Christmas" by Darlene Love. I don't care where this song comes on, I belt it out like it's my job. Yes, I've been kicked out of some Targets before.
8. "Please Come Home for Christmas" by Jon Bon Jovi. I'm not such a huge fan of the song, but the video is all sorts of hot, so it makes the list for that reason alone.
9. "Christmas in Hollis" by Run D.M.C. Not only does this song take me back to my youth and make me want to dance, but its lyrics also contain a message ("never steal from Santa, 'cause that ain't right").
10. "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" by Alvin & the Chipmunks. Another 20 bucks to anyone who can listen to this without raising their voice an octave and singing along. This song also has a bonus: it's super annoying when played loudly (and on repeat), so it makes a great 'gift' for anyone on your naughty list.

This text conversation just happened

I was awakened to a text from an unknown, Ohio number at 7:38 am this morning. The following conversation then ensued:

Random 513 area code number that I don't recognize: You're a dork. Lol. Hope you're doing well. Have a good holiday!

Me: I'm a dork who got a new phone, so unfortunately I don't have your number programmed in. At the risk of sounding rude, who is this?

Random 513 area code number that I don't recognize: Ha. Aw, it's your sexy friend from Cincinnati. :) Remember the hot drunken sex? Lol.

Me: Um...I don't think I've ever been to Cincinnati.

Random 513 area code number that I don't recognize: Ha. Nope. I was there. We had buckets of beer. Come on! You forgot? Lol. Now that's rude. Ha!

Me: I'm really drawing a blank. I'm sorry.

Random 513 area code number that I don't recognize: Forget it then.

Me: Uh, okay.

Random 513 area code number that I don't recognize: Man whore.

Me: I am or you are?

Random 513 area code number that I don't recognize: You are. Since you can't remember! Ha!

Me: But I'm not even a man! Are you sure you have the right person?

Random 513 area code number that I don't recognize: Hm. Maybe not. Lol. Nevermind! Sorry.

Me: Not a problem. Happy holidays to you!

Just a little bit of advice, folks: if you're going to wish someone happy holidays, perhaps you should give them the ultimate holiday gift of sleeping in and forgo texting them before 8:00 am. Also, you might want to be a little more diligent when it comes to writing down the numbers of folks you're shared beer and sexy time with. One other tip: stop with the LOL usage already. Number one, it's annoying. Number two, I have a hard time believing someone would actually be laughing out loud as their hook-up partner fails to remember who they are.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Beards, Jacuzzis and Christmas decorations

Last week, I had a Midwestern extravaganza in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. And by 'extravaganza,' I mean, I slept a lot and ate at some rest areas. I kid, I kid. It was actually a lot more fun than that.

I went with Steve Sabo, who was headlining at the clubs we worked. Not only is Steve the headliner, but he's also my friend...and my opponent on an upcoming main card, pay-per-view special (see picture below).

We started off in Wisconsin where we worked at Fanny Hill in Eau Claire. Fanny Hill is a dinner theatre/restaurant/bed and breakfast, and it is definitely one of the coolest places I've stayed. The staff was absolutely wonderful, and the food was delicious, too. The place was decorated for the holidays, and they even played New Kids on the Block's version of "White Christmas" over the loud speaker.

But that's not even the best part! The absolute best was the fact that we both got whirlpools and fireplaces in our hotel rooms. If I'm ever famous, both of those items will definitely be in my rider (along with my dressing room needing to be stocked with both dark chocolate peanut chews and Joey McIntyre).

The show was fun, and we stayed after for a bit to talk to some audience members. I then retired to my hotel room and took a very relaxing soak in the jacuzzi. After I exited the tub, I decided that I might want to take a bath in there in the morning as well. So I made the brilliant decision to keep the water in there, as not to waste it. Do you think the fact that the water would be cold 12 hours later dawned on me? If your answer was, "no," you would be correct.

So, the next morning, after waking up, and sadly draining the tub, we drove to Rochester, Minnesota. We didn't have a show at night, so instead, we occupied our time by eating sushi and giving me a beard with Steve's spray-on hair. I mean, really, what else is there to do at a Motel 6? After taking several pictures, I decided that I don't think a beard really becomes me, and I'm still finding spray-on fibers in my ears since Steve got a little overzealous with the fake hair.

On Friday, we headed down to Cedar Falls, Iowa to perform for two nights at Jokers Comedy Club. Our first stop was KCRR FM in Waterloo, Iowa. We were on the air with the DJ, Corey, for about half an hour to promote the show, and it was so much fun! Corey was really nice, and I got to talk about Michigan (read: make fun of my hometown) and he even asked me some questions about my days working for PETA (read: wanted details about me getting naked on the street corner for a living).

The shows were a blast, too! And after Saturday's show, I got to experience the largest burrito I've ever had in my life when Steve's friends took us to Pablo's Mexican Grill.

So without further adieu, I give you the pictures:

The fantabulous amenities in my Eau Claire hotel room.

Some other pictures from the hotel:

Stealing a drink from a stuffed animal? Truly heartless.

Right before the bear pinched my butt.

The signs backstage.

Steve on stage.

Steve "Sabotage" Sabo vs. Kate "Fluffy" Brindle (AKA what promises to be the MMA pay-per-view event of the century!)

A giant 'Caffeinated Voice of Reason' about to pounce on the Christmas village.

The name of my room.

The morning view from the deck outside of my room.

The outside of Fanny Hill.

Not sure if you can see him, but Santa was driving that car. I had no idea he had a license, which might be why he ended up on the grass.

Motel 6 has room service, which I think is a bit premature. Perhaps they should have added carpet, hair dryers and blankets without blood stains to their list of amenities first.

This is what happens when you stay at a Motel 6 in middle-of-no-where, Minnesota, and your friend just happens to have some extra spray-on hair.

The artist and his spray-on hair masterpiece.

My impression of Jesus.

Vegan Japanese pan-seared noodles in Rochester, Minnesota. Yummers!

Where I stayed in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Not only are the rooms adorable, but they have a massage chair (that officially became my best friend for the weekend).

My hotel room. This picture doesn't do it justice, but it was really nice (and relaxing, too)!

My bathroom (complete with old-fashioned tub).

Cutest hotel check-in gift ever!

My late-night burrito at Pablo's in Cedar Falls, Iowa weighed in at a whopping two pounds!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


While I hope everyone is having a nice Thanksgiving and spending time with their families (or chosen families), I also think it's important to consider the realities of this holiday. We go around laughing and saying, "gobble, gobble." We discuss cooking techniques to get the perfect texture. We take pictures of the finished "product" (not that I am above this). But, I think we forget about how the turkeys actually got to our plates. We don't see the suffering. Instead, we sit around, listing what we are thankful for, often forgetting that they lived a life of torture. They spent their entire lives suffering so our taste buds could feel good for five minutes.

I think we must remember them today. And we must remember that our choices have ramifications.

The following account is quite graphic, but I believe it must be shared:

Broiler turkeys are usually slaughtered between 12 to 27 weeks, depending on their size. They spend the last few weeks of their lives in dim artificial lighting (sometimes pitch black to prepare them in case there is a power cut). They become distressed and there is no doubt that they are in pain. The more they grow, the worse the conditions become. They can very rarely support their own weight. The turkeys will compete for food and water as there are so many birds, it is usually hard to reach. The ones who are too crippled to move die, either of starvation, dehydration, being trampled or pecked to death.

A pole barn is similar to a broiler shed, although one side is netted allowing natural light and ventilation in. Pole barn turkeys have slightly more space to themselves. However, the natural lighting and cramped conditions causes aggression between the birds and sometimes cannibalism resulting in the turkeys having their sensitive beaks cut which causes trauma and stress. Pole barn turkeys are exposed to all weather conditions, be it blistering cold or intense heat; they can't get away.

When the birds are ready for slaughter, they are thrown into crates and loaded onto trucks; skin grazing and broken blood vessels are a common occurrence in this part of the process. The lorries are then driven through all weathers, sometimes considerable distances in the blistering cold or sweltering heat.

Once there, the turkeys are placed upside down and clipped into shackles on a conveyor belt. The law states that they can remain upside for up to 6 minutes. The turkeys can weigh between 12 and 60lbs, and hanging upside down must cause considerable amount of pain, especially to the birds who have dislocated or even broken bones.

The turkeys heads are dragged through water with an electrical charge running through it, this supposedly stuns them, that is, if the turkey doesn't move her/his head like s/he does in so many cases. It has also been reported that in several cases, the turkeys wings will drag in the water first. Smaller slaughterhouses use a handheld stunner. These stunners are smaller so are unlikely to cause a cardiac arrest, meaning the turkeys may be fully conscious when they have their throats cut. The conveyor belt continues its journey taking the birds toward the automatic neck cutting machine. The turkeys who are still conscious will once again move their heads as a natural reaction for something coming toward it.

Next they are taken to the scalding tank where they are plunged into water so hot it loosens the feathers ready for plucking. 35,000 turkeys enter the scalding tank alive and fully conscious every year. The turkeys are then plucked, unrequired bits hacked off, packaged and distributed to your local supermarket.

Pretty gruesome, eh? I know it’s easy to forget about what really goes into the food on your plate, but I think it’s especially important to remember today. I hope we can all be thankful for compassion and practice it ourselves by having a cruelty-free holiday.

If you would like to see more, I urge you to watch this video:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thoughts on the NKOTBSB AMAs performance (holy crap, that's a lot o' letters!)

This past Sunday may have been one of the happiest moments of 1990’s boy band fans’ lives. At least it was for me, Kate Brindle. If you missed it, NKOTB teamed up with Backstreet Boys for a medley performance of all of their greatest hits on the American Music Awards. The performance was also presumably to hype their upcoming joint tour in 2011. The guys closed the show, and their show (complete with pyrotechnics) left the crowd (well, at least those who were 12 years ago circa 1990) screaming!

Seeing as I adore anything New Kids related, I, of course, loved their act. However, I do have some thoughts about the performance (which I will now list in numerical fashion):

1. I was surprised that Nick Carter looked so good. It’s amazing what sobriety and breaking up with Paris Hilton will do for your looks.

2. AJ McLean, on the other hand, not so much. Someone needs to clue him in that eye-liner does not make you look younger; it makes you look like an over-the-hill emo kid with a receding hairline.

3. Could Jon Knight have had any less camera time? I know he doesn’t really sing much, but my God, he is still in the group.

4. Kevin Richardson needs to come back to the Backstreet Boys! Who gives a rat’s patoot that he couldn’t sing? Have you seen those eyebrows? He is denying fans another chance to stare at them, and that‘s just not fair. Plus, Jon, his NKOTB counterpart, will presumably be lonely and need someone to talk to while on tour…or at the very least somebody to take Xanax with.

5. A+ to Joey McIntyre for having the evening’s coolest boots. Now if he could just figure out how to dance in them without running into Jordan’s microphone stand.

6. Note to the camera operators: next time, lay-off on the audience cutaways. I didn’t need to see a bunch of random people with no rhythm head-bopping out of sync with the music. I want to see my boys!

7. Jordan Knight was and always will be sheer perfection.

8. Donnie Wahlberg should have been given more time to rap. The American Music Awards clearly did a disservice to the American public by not demanding that Donnie at least say, “positivity is not about being soft, it’s about being smart” (or, seeing as he has a Boston accent, “smaht”).

9. I am so much more forgiving of off-key voices if they come from singers with nice smiles and great highlights.

10. With NKOTB and BSB hitting the road together next year, 2011 is clearly going to be the best year of my life!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thoughts on Election Day, voting and activism

So tomorrow is Election Day in the United States, and I have some thoughts (as indicated by the title of this post). And, seeing as this is my blog, I figured I would post them here.

First, I, for one, am happy that this day has come so I don’t have to listen to all of the smear advertisements that now plague the television. I’m all for spreading your message if you’re a political candidate (provided the information you disseminate is true and your ads haven’t been paid for by corporate interests), but the amount of propaganda out there is disheartening. Some of the commercials I’ve seen are so nasty that I swear they might as well just say, “The other candidate forces old men to kill puppies" or "My opponent hates his mother." I think the public loses when ads use rhetoric like that because instead of saying what the person running will do, they just focus on what her/his opponent has allegedly done wrong. This does not make for informed voters who actually know where candidates stand.

That being said, I hope people take the time to research the candidates (and issues they stand for) and vote tomorrow. Lord knows I’ve gotten enough postings on my facebook wall to remind me to vote. And as annoying as these posts can be, it’s important to remember that elections have consequences. The people we elect and ballot measures we pass will directly affect our lives for months and years in the future.

It’s also important to note that many candidates and ballot measures that have the most impact on people’s lives often get the least amount of attention. For instance, in Michigan, our Supreme Court is elected, yet, I have not seen many advertisements or information about the judges who are running. While these justices are supposed to be impartial, they run on party platforms and often bring their political biases and values with them when rendering decisions. Currently, the conservative judges on Michigan’s Supreme Court have a 4-3 majority. These people are the same justices who used their power to strip basic healthcare coverage from same-sex partners (and children) of public employees (including workers at public schools and government offices). Tomorrow, Michigan residents have the opportunity to change this; we have the chance to vote for Supreme Court justices who believe in fairness and equality for all. While I agree that it’s important to vote in ‘bigger’ elections (like for the office of the president), we should pay attention to who and what we’re voting for in ‘smaller’ elections as well.

Ballot measures are another example of policies that can have huge consequences. Colorado currently has an initiative on the ballot that would grant constitutional personhood to fetuses (which would clearly have legal ramifications on women’s reproductive freedom). And several other states (including one I used to live in, Arizona) have ballot measures that oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (the bill that would essentially establish a better, easier, more efficient system for employees to join unions and have employers recognize them). These ballot initiatives directly affect people’s everyday lives, and it’s so important to thoroughly research each measure and make informed decisions when we vote on them.

Also, I think we must recognize that voting is not enough. If we want to bring about true social change, we cannot let our action stop at the ballot box. We must hold our politicians accountable. This means we should be regularly calling, emailing and visiting them. It’s so easy to phone our local representatives, schedule appointments with them and discuss the issues that are important to us.

Additionally, we must be advocates and activists in systems beyond the government. I think the reason people are so frustrated with government is because it can never solve all of our problems (no matter how near-perfect it is). We must create justice and peace in our own communities. If we don’t like something, we have the power to change it. So let’s use the time we spent reminding folks to vote on facebook to write letters to the editors of our local newspapers or call the CEOs of companies whose policies we don’t agree with.

Lastly, when we do vote, it’s imperative that we don’t just vote for our own self-interests, but, instead, for the interests of all. Let’s vote and advocate for the common good, and let’s commit to working for change on November 2nd…and for years to come.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My trip to Guatemala - Day 24

October 5, 2010

After spending nearly a month in Guatemala, I flew back to the United States today. I could write about my flight home, how after all of my painstaking cramming and packing, I was told my carry-on was too big, and I would need to check it after all (and pay the $35 checked-bag fee). Or I could talk about not being allowed to take water into the gate area and being thirsty during the entire flight home.

But, those are trivial details. Instead, I'd like to write about what I learned during my trip.

When I first booked my flight, I told my friends and family (and even some drunk strangers after shows) that I was going to Guatemala alone. Most of them immediately asked me why.

"Why not?" was usually my reply.

I then told them how I wanted to practice Spanish, and how I wanted to see another country. I might have even provided more reasons, but really, the answer always boiled down to my original one of why not.

We hear the phrase "life is for living," and I suppose it means different things to different folks. To me, it means taking advantage of every opportunity there is to expand your knowledge and worldview, and to grow as a person (provided these opportunities don't oppress or harm others, of course). Henry David Thoreau once described it as "sucking out all the marrow of life."

Traveling has always been that for me; it's been my way to suck the marrow from life's bones. Travel gives me an excitement like few things do, and it always teaches me something. Even my trips to middle-of-no-where North Dakota have given me some insight (specifically, that the Wal-Mart parking lot is one happening spot, and Taco Bell is about the only place open after 11 pm).

I admit that after I booked the ticket to Guatemala City, I was a bit frightened. The thought of going, by myself, to a place where a language other than my own is spoken was somewhat scary. But, I decided a long time ago that I would never let fear dictate my actions. So I diligently began researching, planning and preparing for my adventure.

I had no expectations when I arrived in Guatemala. And I was pleasantly surprised by how much Spanish I learned in three weeks, and how welcoming nearly everyone I came across was. I was also greatly inspired by all of the incredible work my classmates and new friends were doing (and continue to do).

I've found that when I usually "click" with people, it's on one of two levels: either they're activists or they're stand-up comedians. Okay, make that three as I usually connect with fellow Blockheads (people who love the New Kids on the Block as much as I do). I think the reason for these quick connections is because we immediately have something in common.

But, in Guatemala, I clicked with people on another level: our common sense of adventure. I met people who are students of the world, who travel the globe and explore their passions while making new friends and learning new languages. I've never wanted my life to follow the "beaten path," and it was incredible to meet a whole slew of other folks who are blazing their own trails.

I did so much reflecting while I was there, and I learned a lot about myself. Most of these revelations are somewhat personal and self-indulgent, so I'll omit them from this post. But, I will say that this trip renewed my faith in my own ability to be self-reliant. It also made me realize that I can do nearly anything by myself. In my former relationship (the one I was in for six years), we did an extensive amount of traveling together. And when we broke up, I found the thought of traveling alone scary and sad. But, this trip changed that. I don't need to wait for anyone to be able to go the places I want to go, and to see the parts of the world that I'd like to view.

As I boarded my plane back home, I definitely had mixed feelings about leaving. Part of me wanted to stay in Guatemala for months and live a casual life of sunning and learning. But, seeing as I wasn't able to work for the month I was in Antigua, my wallet had other plans for me. So I vowed to stay in touch with my teacher and new friends. And I sincerely plan to do that.

I also made a promise that I would go on another similar adventure very soon. And I sincerely plan to do that as well.

I'll close with a picture of one of the most famous sites in Antigua. Until next time...

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 23

October 4, 2010

Today was my last full day in Guatemala. Since I didn't have class, I had a lazy morning. I woke up, ate breakfast and took my last moments on the roof. I sat in the sun for a while, letting the rays warm my face.

After a while, my housemate, Nery, joined me and challenged me to a game of Speed. No, he didn't invite me to do drugs with him; Speed is a card game. Even though he beat me mercilessly, it was quite fun. If you haven't played before, it's rather easy to learn, and you can read the rules on Wikipedia.

In the afternoon, I completed the daunting task of stuffing a month's worth of clothes into a carry-on suitcase. I don't advise doing that, my friends, and frankly, listing the first 500 numbers of pi would have been easier and more fun. But, to quote Larry the Cable Guy, I got-r-done, and now, I just need to pack my shampoo and other bathroom items.

At night, I headed to Monoloco, where my friends here hosted a little going away party for me. It's amazing how quickly I've gotten to know my roommates and other people here. It feels like I've known them for much longer than a month. I was really touched that everyone came out to drink beer (read: get crunk) on my behalf.

Here's us, a few beers in, spelling out "cool" with our hands and mouths (which, in reality, is probably anything but).

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 22

October 3, 2010

Since I have to leave Antigua in two days, I wanted to devote today to going to see Cerro de la Cruz, which is a giant cross on the outskirts of town that promises the best views of the city. Nery, one of my roommates, offered to escort me as he's seen the cross several times and knows a shortcut there.

Unfortunately, it wasn't terribly sunny, but we still had a nice time. Once we made it up there, we mostly people-watched the took pictures of the landscape around us.

When we returned, Linda and I decided to go to the Rainbow Cafe for some food and happy hour drinks. We arrived at around 3:30 pm. Since happy hour didn't start until 4 pm, and we were starving, we decided to order some food and wait to order beverages until after 4. Bad move. Do you know how thirsty hummus and guacamole can make you? Parched is the correct answer. But, since my wallet often times overrules my mouth/stomach, we decided to wait it out.

After Rainbow Cafe, we headed to the movie theatre to see Prince of Persia (before you judge me, please note that it was the only film playing as there is only one screen in all of Antigua). It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Post-Prince of Persia (how's that for alliteration?), we went to Nokiate for some sushi. Holy mother, was it ever good! I haven't eaten sushi since August, and my mouth was definitely craving some cucumber avocado rolls. Mmm.

A lovely day indeed.

Some views from Antigua on the way to the cross:

On our climb up to Cerro de la Cruz:

A view of Antigua from Cerro de la Cruz:

The cross itself:

And some views on the way down:

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.