Comedic Fragility

You might know Drew Carey from his 10+ years on The Price is Right. Or you might recognize his name from his big break, The Drew Carey Show, which aired from 1995 to 2004. For me, his name brings to mind the nostalgic improv comedy show Whose Line Is It Anyway?

With great comedians like Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles, Whose Line Is It Anyway? is an iconic American television show that aired in 1998 featuring Drew Carey as the host. The show experienced a reboot, which is still airing today, with Aisha Tyler as the host and starring the same comedic mainstays of Brady, Mochrie, and Stiles.

With fond memories of laughing through the night, I revisited some of the old episodes from the 90s recently, expecting hilarity and wistfulness. Instead, my most profound emotion was disgust. I usually can’t get through an episode without at least rolling my eyes and at worst, cursing at the screen. My main issue, to be honest, is Carey’s blatant homophobia (we’ll save the racism and misogyny in the show for another rant). During the 90s, it’s likely that few people found this problematic. Hopefully that’s not the case in this day and age as we see things with a lens of awareness that we didn’t have in the 90s.

I found it especially troubling considering Drew Carey’s previous relationship (and brief engagement) to celebrity sex therapist Amie Harwick (who tragically passed away in February 2020). You would think that he would be an open-minded or sexually liberated man. This is apparently not the case – at least when we look back at his former actions.

To be fair, the content I touch on is 20 years old, give or take (depending on the season). I’m not implying that Drew hasn’t – or couldn’t have – changed. He could be looking back at his behavior and self-reflecting and reaching the same conclusions I am right now. Or maybe he already has. Or, maybe he hasn’t. We won’t know unless he tells us.

And now you might be thinking – this was 20 years ago – why does it matter now? Trust me. It matters.

We can’t forget history. And yes, that’s exactly what this is. History doesn’t only exist in outdated textbooks and museums. The media that raised us is cultural history. In looking back we can learn valuable lessons and move forward. If we ignore it, we learn nothing.

So, yeah, this is a half-rant half-analysis about Drew Carey’s behavior on Whose Line Is It Anyway? and why it matters 20 years later. This is gonna be a long one, so you might want to take a seat and get comfortable.

If you’ve ever seen the show, you know that things can get out of hand quickly. If you haven’t, here’s the gist. The general format goes like this: Drew reads a card with a prompt. The comedians follow suit accordingly, improvising a comedic sketch. Sometimes these prompts are rather ridiculous like one that asks Colin to act as a dating contestant who is “having passionate secret affairs with Wayne and Ryan’s shoes but must decide between them.” See how things quickly rise to hilarity?

Working on an improv comedy show together, the comedians do their best to stimulate laughter – in the audience and their cohorts. For these guys, getting someone to break character is a huge comedic success. As a quick aside, the main comedians, Colin Mochrie, Wayne Brady, and Ryan Stiles, have been working together in this sort of format since the British version of this game aired… which they all starred in before it was reconstituted for a US audience. Their history together presumably solidified a comedic relationship and also provided ample knowledge on how to make each other laugh.

Sometimes, the best ways to startle each other involve kissing, butt-grabbing, or even licking (the face, people, the face). Which in one extreme case was followed by a comedic show of Ryan swallowing an entire can of Altoids that in turn created hilarity when it just about set his mouth afire (well, they are the curiously strong mints).

All the performers have planted a smooch on each other at one time or another (especially Wayne Brady and Colin Mochrie).  And all the men on the show seem comfortable enough in their masculinity to touch or kiss another man without “jeopardizing” their sexuality or having their “manhood” called into question. That is, everyone except Drew Carey.

Drew often jumps into the final skit of the episode or manages to get pulled into the performers’ antics before the episode is through whether he wants to be or not. He tries to be a team player, but the fact is that he’s just not as funny or witty as the featured comedians. I think a part of this is that he doesn’t feel comfortable on stage – and it shows. Add to that, he seems to be an insecure man whose toxic masculinity prevents him from unlocking his potential.

Whenever Drew finds himself the target of a kiss or a touch of affection from another performer on Whose Line, his reaction is painfully predictable. He withdraws, and quickly. He literally runs away, and sometimes he removes himself from the skit entirely.

If all else fails, and he’s forced to lock lips with another comedian, he slaps his palm across the other man’s mouth, creating a barrier of “safety” for his lips. Clearly, the social stigma surrounding men kissing infiltrated Drew’s brain.

Okay, so you might say, he just doesn’t like being touched… but this behavior isn’t repeated with female guests or the women they pull from the audience. Just his male colleagues.

Time and again he’s shown that that it’s not just his expected participation that has him rattled. He becomes visibly uncomfortable watching the other comedians get cozy. And he feels the right to voice his discomfort freely.

In one scene, the actors form a sort of dogpile, and in the style of the Whose Line handbook for humor, it gets a bit sexualized. Wayne Brady climbs on top of guest Greg Proops and Drew almost loses it.

Attempting to disguise his disgust with humor (unsuccessfully, I might add), Drew tells Wayne, “the way you straddled Greg there, you almost gave me a heart attack. You guys had – his legs were wrapped around you.” And Wayne explains to him in return “it’s for the scene, dude,” as if it were a reoccurring point of contention between these costars.

Why is Drew so appalled at sexualized male relationships? And you might think well, maybe he’s just a family man, he wants to keep his shows clean. Well, he had no trouble with sexualizing his eccentric female nemesis Mimi Bobeck on The Drew Carey Show. His issue isn’t sexuality – it’s homosexuality. And that’s where the problem is.

Why, for so long, has it been an acceptable opinion that there is something inherently wrong about homosexuality?

And why does this opinion, in media, seem to present specifically towards male homosexuality? Female actresses and comedians aren’t similarly ridiculed as their male counterparts for same-sex affection.  Even in everyday life, it’s deemed more acceptable for women to hug, kiss, or generally touch each other. It means they show affection, give support, or display friendship.

Why is it that men giving each other physical affection causes a stir, turns heads, is labeled (with negative connotations) gay? Don’t get me wrong. I know we live in an increasingly progressive society, but we still have a long way to go. Members of the LGBTQ+ society experience more freedom in America now than ever. But they are also still deeply oppressed. And that’s why we need to talk about it. That’s why we need to talk about Drew Carey on Whose Line and why his comments, actions, and behavior reinforce toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, and homophobia.

What’s so wrong about being gay? What’s so wrong about being straight and kissing another man for improv comedy or any other reason, for that matter? For Drew, he probably can’t name it. It’s probably a feeling of disgust and discomfort in the pit of his stomach (or the depth of his psyche) that tells him: being gay is wrong.

He clearly believes that it’s wrong for other men, and it’s wrong for him. At least in these historical episodes of Whose Line.

News flash. Being gay is okay. In fact, it’s awesome. Being straight is okay. It’s awesome too. Being straight and resisting heteronormativity is necessary. We can’t let ourselves fall into these boxes – these cages – that have been built for us by society.

Relying on social ideas about what makes us a proper man or woman is futile. It makes us insecure in our identities. It forces us to judge others unjustly. If you care too much about not seeming gay, you’ll end up looking like Drew Carey: an unfunny homophobe.

If you want to resist heteronormativity, go your own way. Do what makes you happy. Show love and affection to the people who are important in your life (so long as they consent), regardless of their gender.

Analyze what you feel and why you feel it. If someone makes you uncomfortable because of their sexual preferences, behavior, or looks, think about what that says about YOUR values.

That goes for you too, Drew. I wish that you had overcome your insecurities a long time ago. Whose Line would have been better without your comedic fragility and homophobic commentary.

Outdated Ideas

It’s been a while since I ranted, so I figure it’s due. Lucky you, right? As is often the case, anything to do with animal cruelty can send me off on a tangent. So, humor me as I climb up on my soap box to hopefully open a few eyes… or at least, start a conversation.

From centerpieces to carnival prizes, animals are increasingly exploited as a novelty or decoration. The direct physical abuse and killing of animals is an issue at the forefront of many people’s minds (as it should be) but there is an entire world of cruelty that is mostly ignored, or, if we’re being honest, doesn’t even register to most people as abuse.

I’ve seen fish – goldfish and bettas – languishing in brandy snifters or decorative bowls that are far too small to support them so that they can serve as a fancy centerpiece for weddings. What an excellent conversation starter! “Why is that fish swimming upside down, Mommy?” They are literally suffocating in their own filth and contaminated water in teeny tiny containers so that drunken guests can have a distraction. Contrary to what pet stores will tell you, bettas aren’t meant to live in small spaces.  And those lovely tea lights floating over the heads of the fish? Oh yeah, you find those in their natural habitat don’t ya know. And what happens to the fish after the wedding? I can’t imagine it’s anything good. But ohhhh, look how lovely the table is!

Fun fact: human attention spans are now shorter than goldfish.

Along with goldfish, lizards are commonly given away as prizes at carnivals. During the run of the carnival, they are left in plastic cages filled with a hundred or more lizards in god-awful heat and not much shade and then are handed out indiscriminately to whoever happens to have good aim. They suffer throughout the carnival season and then go home to god knows what with god knows who. Lizards are not usually “easy keepers” and need specific food, habitats, etc., at an expense … if you want the lizard to thrive, that is. The kids who win these sentient prizes often lose interest in their new pets, as kids are wont to do, and the animals are then left to suffer away in their bowls until they eventually die – slowly – from neglect. Or, they are abandoned in the backyard … I mean, they’re lizards after all, they should be fine!  And those left over after the carnival? Dumped in the trash. Oh, don’t roll your eyes at me as if to say, “Oh no, they would never do that!”  I’ve seen it. The whole process is horrendous and unacceptable.

Another thing that pisses me off is when people decide to rent animals for their wedding or other momentous occasion as photo props, because, you know… aesthetics. Sure, it’s “your day” but what the hell does that have to do with the white caribou posed alongside you in your wedding portraits? Nothing, that’s what.

Specialty businesses allow people to rent everything from monkeys to caribou to foxes (and everything else, and yes, I mean everything: lynxes, macaws, you name it) and forcing them into unfamiliar and frightening situations. Yes, I get it. You read a lot of Dr. Seuss as a kid, but that fox does not want to be in that boat, and Horton the elephant does see and hear who is mistreating it.

Don’t even get me started on “white dove” releases. However, if you have a minute, I suggest you read this article from The Dodo which is much better written than anything I could hope to do.

For the most part, these animals don’t live great lives as the companies that supply them see them only as an income driving tool – nothing more. They are only a means to an end and when they’ve fulfilled their purpose and no longer line their owner’s pockets with money, there is only more suffering awaiting them as they are then sent to auction, or worse.

Of the many possible horrors that await an animal auctioned or sold off after leading a life already so full of suffering, captive hunts (aka canned hunting) is only one example. If you’re unfamiliar with canned hunting, it is a trophy hunt where animals are kept within fenced enclosures where they stand no possible chance of escaping only to be hunted by humans. The animals found at these canned hunting ranches are typically accustomed to humans and are often purchased from private breeders or owners that hold a surplus of animals from zoos, circuses, or the lovely little “animal encounter” businesses we’ve been discussing. Frequently these animals have been raised and socialized around humans their whole lives and are therefore unafraid of humans… even having been taught and encouraged to expect food when they see someone.

My point is, there is a very important conversation to be had about the treatment of animals that goes far beyond their presence on our dinner plates. We need to think about the way we use animals for our own selfish needs, find the wrong in what we’re doing, and actively work to change it. The first step in the process is simply identifying the problem and, unfortunately, that seems to be the hardest part for so many.

“It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to an animal.” ~ Joaquin Phoenix

On Time But Off Kilter

I recently stumbled upon an article written about a man teaching his family to be punctual…written by the man in question. I suppose it was meant to be an uplifting anecdote, but it was just plain stupid. The story goes that this man once completed basic training and his drill sergeant was the toughest, hardest, meanest guy around, as drill sergeants are wont to be. If the 40-man platoon needed to be anywhere, the drill sergeant would demand that they arrive waaaaay ahead of time. If they were five minutes early that was considered LATE. Anyone who arrived only four minutes early was confronted with retribution and those merely on time with “agony.” I’m not sure what that means exactly, but I’m guessing 1,000 push-ups and a good serving of ridicule delivered with a fine spray of spit all over one’s face. Typical basic training stuff, really, and to be expected in the military when time can truly be crucial to life or death.

So, after leaving the army, this guy started a family and kept up his punctual habit. He even went so far as to instill in his kids, “If you’re five minutes early, you’re late,” and “When you’re late, dammit, you’re WRONG.” Okay, fair enough. To each their own. The fact that this was a mantra they volleyed back and forth daily like some sort of inside joke is a little unsettling. Again, to each their own. However, that this dad encouraged his kids to say this loudly (‘bellowed’ was his word) – so others could hear – as people were arriving to social events and the like, is a little obnoxious, if you ask me.  But, hey, what would the world be without a few assholes. Yeah, don’t answer that. It’s rhetorical as well as sarcastic.

Then, the fateful day arrived! The stars aligned and this guy saw his chance to shine, in all his timely glory, and show his children just what it meant to be a man.  After a school function, at which another family had arrived a few minutes late, the father of the offending family made a comment about how he was sorry they were late – that they were overwhelmed with, presumably, a schedule full of commitments. To which the ever-punctual man, after deliberately checking to see if his kids were listening, replied smugly, “I guess we never have that problem because we’re never busy.”

Personally, I think this was an inane come-back… but, in his own words, ever-punctual man meant it as an insult, to humiliate the “late dad” in front of everyone. And ever-punctual man wanted his kids to know that’s what he was doing, to see it, to hear it.

In response to his little dig, his sons looked at him with these massive Cheshire grins on their faces as if he was some kind of God of Time. “Oh whoa … what? Did you just say that?” They must have thought. “Wow. Our Dad is the coolest cause he knows how to insult other adults. Wow, totally cowabunga, man!”

This whole article is about how great this guy is, albeit self-aggrandizing, since he’s the one who wrote it, and I’m thinking… you know what, I’m just gonna say it, this guy is a total jerk. I’ve met people like this. They are usually assholes.

Let’s break this down.

Sure, punctuality is important. I’m not saying it isn’t. There are a gazillion situations where timeliness is imperative. But turning up half an hour early can, in certain situations, be considered rude. Let’s say someone is hosting a party, they ask you to turn up at 7:00pm, they expect you to turn up at 7:00pm, but actually hope everyone might be a little late, maybe even turning up at 7:15pm because they don’t get home from work until 6:00pm and all they want is to be able to change clothes and get the party things together before people start showing up. Turn up at 6:30pm and this person might be forced to entertain you at a time when really, they were counting on a few precious minutes to have a shower and get ready for company.

Let me just digress for a moment to say that this guy admitted his family is well known for their ultra-punctual habit and regularly get chided for being too early to everything, from school functions to kids’ birthday parties. If you’re routinely showing up early enough to get chided for it, to me that reeks of ill manners, and not exactly something to be proud of.

But here’s the kicker… the reasoning behind the “asshole” label for this guy… if you’re going to deliberately insult other people in a social situation for not living up to your idea of punctual perfection, it means that while you’re patting yourself on the back for counting the minutes, you have forgotten to account for compassion and  empathy.

To teach your children that it’s okay – commendable, even, to belittle and ridicule others to reinforce just how amazing YOU are, is an asshole thing to do, plain and simple. I would go so far as to argue that it’s in fact, a form of weakness. Weakness of character, weakness of intellect, weakness of the soul.

Really, does it matter if someone is only five minutes early to something? Four minutes early to something? Perhaps we need to start teaching our children that what really matters isn’t what’s on the clock or that data graph but what’s in the heart.

Smile at people. Try to be on time, but most importantly, endeavor to connect with others. Strive to be a caring person of good character. Show empathy and treat others with compassion and kindness.

Be here. Now. Because time is an illusion. It moves as you move, it dances as you dance.

And as the great Persian adage goes, “This too shall pass.”

On Respecting Our World’s Creatures

Look at that, two rants in a week.  Lucky you!

This rant comes a little late in the game, as this issue reared its ugly head earlier this summer. But I wanted to address it nonetheless. I read all about this when it first happened, and I’ve had it in the back of my mind ever since. It’s a prime example of why I hate people (as a general rule).

In Alabama (sorry to call ya’ll out, bless your hearts!), beachgoers descended on the shores and, without so much as a care in the world, not only destroyed a colony of protected birds by invading their nesting areas, they used the birds’ eggs to “decorate the beach,” ensuring their path of death and destruction was complete. Are you freakin’ kidding me?

These birds are not placed on this beach for entertainment.  They are going about their daily lives, just trying to survive, and in this case, you know, trying not to become all extinct and what-not.

Which brings me to another aspect of this rant that I want to address. I’d like to go on the record as saying that I have an amazing capacity to be outraged by any number of things at once.  Yes, I’m concerned for the African girls who need to be educated, yes, I’m also concerned for America’s vast population of homeless that include veterans who fought for this country, and yes, I am concerned about immigration reform and all the pictures I see where kids are allegedly being kept in cages.  Don’t try to tell me there are bigger problems in the world than colonies of endangered little birds; believe me, I am well-aware there are other issues. Sadly, we don’t have to pit one atrocity against another as there are more than enough to go around.

The difference is, the people who donate time, money and effort into charities that help people do not share the stigma that animal advocates do; if you defend the welfare of animals and fight for the humane treatment they deserve, you are a nut case (unless of course you’re talking about dogs and cats … then you’re right in line with other mainstream advocates).  How did we become this divided in our view of world priorities?

Why does it have to be your concerns versus my concerns?  In my mind, they are all our concerns. Not only that, we can care about more than one thing at a time.

Animals are a gift to us.  We need to take responsibility for their welfare as we are most often the cause of their demise.  In some cases, like this one, it is senseless stupidity.  In others, it is deliberate; safari hunts, eating endangered animals for the thrill of it, wiping them out so we can expand our own flawed human needs… these are ongoing issues that need to be addressed.  Sometimes, animals suffer because of our thoughtlessness and complete lack of awareness of the “bigger picture,” like the humble honey bee.

Will my own personal day-to-day world be impacted by the extinction of this tiny feathered critter?  No, not one bit.  But sadly, their world will be, and ours as whole will be.  Unlike Jurassic Park, these animals and many others like them will not be cloned back into existence. It seems a simple request:  can’t we respect all breathing beings and accept that they have a place on this planet, too?

The ego of humanity is simply astounding.  We mistakenly believe that we are the ultimate culmination of evolution; realistically, you know, we’re not.  A thousand years from now humans will be only another link in the chain.  No doubt, we will do something to cause a mass extinction event to ourselves.

I want to believe that we will wake up from our selfish ways and start to care for all living creatures.  Guess what?  Respect for life, whether human or animal, starts at home.  If our offspring is raised to have so little value for life, we need to look in the mirror and place blame where it belongs.  It’s really not that big of a stretch to think that people who can destroy a colony of protected birds (or any birds) without so much as blinking an eye, in general think so little of life that destroying fellow humans will, within a few generations, become a familiar way of life.

Doom and gloom for a Friday night perhaps, but that’s just the way I see it.  Come on, people; we need to do better.  We MUST do better.

When Zoos Go Too Far

It’s been a while since I ranted. At least I think so… admittedly, my brain can be a sieve sometimes. At any rate, I guess it’s about time for another one … and on one of my favorite topics too, one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  Namely, zoos.

When do zoos go too far?  What is the magical line between research, conservation, and exploitation?

There are two types of people; those who love to go to the zoo to see animals they will never otherwise see in real life, and those who despise seeing majestic animals behind bars.  In my experience, there really is no grey in this one; you either love it or hate it.

April the giraffe became a world-wide celebrity a while back.  The world watched daily, heck several times a day, as she waited to give birth to her calf.  Make no mistake, I count myself among that number. Her due date came and went, and still we watched.  Finally, her calf, a male named Tajiri, made his adorable wobbly legged entrance into the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, and people watched as April tirelessly cared for her newborn son.  Then, as suddenly as she broke into fame, April was largely forgotten…but not before bringing in a pretty hefty revenue stream to the for-profit theme park where she lived.

April is now pregnant again, and I am pretty sure the zoo will once again cash in on her experience.  But what of the now forgotten Tajiri?  Well, according to this, he is now one year old and he will be loaned out to other zoos for their giraffe breeding programs.

I am enraged at this entire venture.  For one thing, with all the funds April raised for the zoo, you would think she deserves an updated pen.  Instead, they took “her” money, applied it to other areas of the zoo (not necessarily habitats), and now need more money to upgrade the giraffe section.  Only once they have earned the money to do the updates for the giraffe pens, will April be reunited with her calf.  God only knows what they plan to do with her current calf when she is born.  Holy exploitation, Batman!

Most deliberate zoo breeding is strictly for money.  The surplus animals are sold to other zoos, roadside zoos (which are a whole different class from “regular zoos” and a rant best left for another time), fake safari parks, and reports have been made that some unfortunate animals are sold for “canned safari hunts.”

To me, this is all just another example of using animals without regard for them.  April’s pen is badly in need of an update, yet they bred her again?  Just like some rescue facilities that have too many dogs, cats, horses, or whatever they cater to, if a zoo cannot take care of the animals they have they should stop bringing in more animals, and for God’s sake, stop breeding them.

Admittedly, some parks and zoos do keep animals for conservation and research purposes … there are some very good to excellent facilities around the country. Others, however, keep animals in unnatural, inhumane conditions, and then are shocked when these animals are unpredictable, or worse, (*gasp!) act like animals.  It’s not rocket science, folks.  Elephants, whales, lions, heck even penguins were not made to be penned for someone’s amusement.  Personally, I think it has the potential to drive the animals insane. Regardless of your views on zoos, surely, we can all agree that when these animals are placed in zoos, they become our responsibility.

Part of that responsibility is to make sure that conditions for these animals are as good as they can possibly be, not to keep breeding more animals into a bad situation to make simply money for the organization.  It’s funny to me, the people who protest puppy mills, where dogs – both female and male – are kept in horrid conditions and continuously bred for money, are probably the first ones sipping a slushee in front of the giraffe pen at the Animal Adventure Park.

As for April’s newest pregnancy, consider this:  if we follow her latest experience, are we part of the problem?

 

 

Abandonment Issues

Okay, I know I’ve been quiet the past few days – the only excuse I have is, it’s been a bit chaotic on my side of the world. As excuses go, that one’s not too shabby. But have no fear, you’ll soon be regaled with the craziness that is my life. Lucky you! In the meantime, I thought I would leave you with a rant. I haven’t ranted in a while, so face it, we’re due.

I have to say that every now and then, something comes along that makes me wonder if humans are truly the most evolved species, as experts claim.    Take this incident, for example … dogs abandoned on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere, by their despicable owner.

This hurts my heart on so many levels.  Those dogs are terrified, and looking to their owner for direction.  You can see the confusion in their eyes when she leaves them.  How heartless do you have to be to take an innocent animal who depends on you and dump them on the side of the road?

The look on the woman’s face speaks volumes about her personally.  She doesn’t have an ounce of regret in her expression.  The only thing she regrets, I’m sure, is being caught by the Good Samaritan.

Was it a boyfriend, making her choose between the dogs and himself?  Sorry, sir, you would lose that gamble every time if it was me. Maybe she just got tired of caring for them or couldn’t afford to feed them any longer.  Was she too proud to take them to the shelter?  How did she think leaving them on the side of the road was any better?

I find it interesting that she took one of the dogs to the local shelter after she had dumped them.  I’d like to think she had a twinge of conscience, a moment of humanity, or a sense of guilt and went back to find them.

More likely, though, she probably was afraid that she would be caught and punished for her thoughtless, selfish behavior if she didn’t turn herself in voluntarily.  I am not sure anything close to a soul exists in someone who would do this. Quite frankly, I also blame the driver … not as much as the owner, mind, but still. How could they witness what was happening and say nothing, do nothing?

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, well, yeah, I am.

I can’t imagine living in a world where people leave babies in dumpsters, kill each other because one driver cut off another on the freeway, and abandon animals.  This is not the world I want to wake up to.  Every morning I turn on the news, open social media, or listen to a morning show on the radio hoping that the day before would be free of atrocity and heartbreak.

And every morning, I am thoroughly disappointed.

I find comfort in the fact that two out of four of these dogs have already found forever homes, and I know the other two will as well.  But I wonder if they ever miss the woman who abandoned them.  I wonder if they watch for her out of the window, tails wagging, hoping to see her car pull up in the driveway of the place they now consider home. Or maybe they realize all too well they’re better off now, without her.

Mostly, though, I wonder if the woman who dumped them like so much garbage at a dead-end, on a cloudy, grey day feels regret, and I wonder if she ever replays the moment when she closed the car door and saw them looking at her in fear, confusion, and expectation before she left them.

I hope she does, and I hope it haunts her dreams.

Because it sure as hell haunts mine.

Caution – Rant Ahead

Do any of you remember when I wrote about Marius, the giraffe in the Copenhagen Zoo that was killed when he was only 2 years old because he was deemed to be “surplus?” If not, I urge you to click on this link for a refresher. If you don’t have the time to read the full article, here’s the short and sweet version: The Copenhagen Zoo encouraged their giraffes to breed… lo and behold Marius was brought into the world. However, after zoo doctors found Marius’ genes to be too common (common, not inbred) for breeding, they shot him in the head, dissected him in front of a crowd (of mostly children) and fed his meat to lions. Who cares that nearby wildlife parks offered to take him off their hands? Who cares that there was a public outcry? Who cares that it seems hypocritical that a breeding program would decrease the population of a species it is trying to save? And what about the four lions who ended up feasting on Marius’ remains — which included two young cubs — this same zoo killed them not long after they offed Marius, because they had to make room for just one incoming alpha male?

Who cares about those trivial little questions? Well, let’s just move on to what’s going on at the Copenhagen Zoo NOW, shall we? Oh look, a brand new baby giraffe was just born there (in September 2016). Yes, you read that correctly. A mere two years after one giraffe was killed because he was a “surplus animal” the zoo breeds another of the exact same animal. You’d think this means that they have their surplus problem all figured out and this latest birth is guaranteed a long, healthy life. You would think that, but you’d be wrong. As a spokesman for the zoo states, there’s no guarantee that this new baby giraffe won’t end up with the same fate as Marius. They’re admitting that, yeah, they might kill this one off as well if things don’t work out the way they want them to.

But that may not happen. This giraffe might make it to the ripe old age or 3, 4, maybe even 5! It just won’t be at the Copenhagen Zoo. When the little guy hits 2 years old he might get shipped off to another zoo like a product ordered off Amazon. Although that’s not a guarantee.

Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe that there are some zoos that do a great job at saving endangered animals, but it’s a Catch-22 because most zoos, as they are now, are simply not great for the animals. They’re having success in breeding, but look at what the animals are being bred into. They’re pretty much led straight from the womb to a guillotine. You might say this cycle of systematic culling is simply a European practice I cannot abide, but it’s not. Zoos right here in the US regularly sell surplus animals or euthanize them. Which begs the important question, why? Why breed so-called surplus animals in the first place?

Okay, yes, strides for bettering the treatment of animals are being made. Take circuses for examples. Their animal acts, if not wholly banned, are much more tightly regulated now than in the past. However, Barnum & Bailey just sent their elephants to a “sanctuary” that also happens to run experiments on the animals in the name of science (cancer research). So, while they’re not chained to posts or crammed into claustrophobic train cars or forced to do stupid acts for a crowd, did they really win? Who knows the extent of the research they are subjected to. All I know is that the phrase “testing on animals” rarely means something good is going on. While perhaps the research facility may not be a house of horrors, I can’t imagine it’s as good as living on an actual sanctuary where they have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and be all elephant-y.

Barnum & Bailey got rid of their big cat act, too. Don’t applaud just yet. In an effort to make a final buck on these animals, they’ve been sold to other circuses and events who DO still perform animal acts. God knows what their living conditions will be. So, it’s really just trading one set of terrible owners for another. What gets me is that with all the millions of dollars Barnum & Bailey have made off these animals, they could at least have given them a proper retirement. It’d be a nice way to say, “thanks for making it through the years of abuse.”  But no. Instead, the circus, yet another greedy corporation, milked every last penny they could out of their elephants and tigers, their well-being be damned.

Say what you will about their diet and environments, but animals in captivity are just that, captive prisoners. When humans decide to interfere with wildlife to such a degree that the animals are entirely dependent, with their very existence depending on the whims of bureaucratic policy, whether it’s a circus or a zoo, then those humans have a solemn responsibility to those animals – their lives should not come down to being deliberately bred into “surplus” only to be cut short or being exploited for a lifetime only to be sold into yet another version of servitude.

At what point are they allowed to simply be a lion, a giraffe, an elephant? By the looks of it, in many cases, the answer is never. To me, that is just an unacceptable answer.

Money to Burn

So, apparently, a woman, who happened to be a model, was fat shamed by an Uber driver this past week who, from looking at his photo, was in no good position to fat shame anyone. Not to be content with his behavior, the woman took to Instagram to tell her story. Which is where I came across it.

In her post, this woman said that yes, she knew she was fat but her wallet was even fatter and she would no longer spend money on Uber. I don’t believe she was calling for an outright boycott, just that she herself, personally, would no longer spend money on their services due to the treatment she received. The story in and of itself was not all that new or interesting – things like this happen to women each and every day, to varying degrees.

What I did find interesting was a comment by another person that said while they guessed it was a shame what happened to the woman (because really, who doesn’t like a little body shaming with their car ride?), they couldn’t understand just why Uber should be held accountable for their driver’s actions. They went a step further and said if a cashier at Target had been rude to them, they might not go through that person’s line again, but they wouldn’t stop shopping at all Targets. Given their statement, however…and just for the sake of clarity here, it would appear they wouldn’t even stop shopping at the store in which the incident took place. They would simply choose a different cashier in the future.

Now maybe this commenter is a glutton for punishment or maybe they just have a low bar for how they’re treated. Personally, if I went to Target – or anywhere, for that matter – and was body shamed or insulted in some way, I wouldn’t be seeing more of that particular cashier either, because I wouldn’t continue giving money to a store that allowed such behavior. I don’t expect red carpet treatment, but on the flip side of that, I work too hard for my money to give it to someone who is rude, doesn’t appreciate my business, or makes me uncomfortable.

So. I have a better question for that commenter. Why shouldn’t an employer be held accountable for its employee? Especially those in the service arena who, on some level or another, depend on their quality of customer service to promote their business.

The woman from this Uber incident has every right to withhold her money from a business that, if not actively cultivating rudeness, at the least allows it to go on. Uber has control over their drivers’ actions and like any employer, should be accountable for what their employees do on the job. If they want this woman’s business, or anyone else’s business who happens to sympathize with her for the treatment she received, they should institute rules regarding the treatment of customers – and if they already have those rules in place, then they should enforce them. I mean, that’s just good business sense.

Choosing where we spend our money is one of the greatest strengths consumers have. Why on earth would someone want to give perfectly good money to a company that insults them?

Socially Unacceptable Social Media

If I look at one more picture of a dinner plate on my Facebook pages, my next status update will be from jail for assault.

Social media is simply out of control.  I wish it was as mundane as posting dinner pictures, but people are getting a little too comfortable sharing their most personal, intimate thoughts on their Facebook pages. These pictures of their innocent children on the first day of school, their vacation plans, or their real feelings about neighbors, religion or politics seem harmless on the surface, but consider this.

The average Facebook user has 338 friends. Okay, don’t ask me how I figured that out. It’s a terribly complex and difficult formula that I came up with all on my own. Out of those friends, only a handful are people these users actually know; family, coworkers, and real life friends account for an astonishingly small percentage of those 338 people.  That leaves an alarming number of people they really do not know on a personal level that subscribe to their page.  Friends of friends, people who pop up because of a shared interest or mutually “liked” page or TV show, and downright strangers make up the rest of the 338 people.

Many studies have been conducted regarding the various Facebook or Twitter users who feel it is necessary to inform everyone of every action they take throughout the day.  “Going to the bathroom, brb.”  “Taking out the trash.”  “Just woke up.”  “Going to the gym. Again.” And the selfies…good God, the selfies.  These are people who try to validate themselves through social media.  No one gives a damn about your carefully orchestrated duck face as you post that must-see picture of you holding your teacup poodle…all carefully filtered of course.

Yet, the people who make these posts really do think people care.  As if people are waiting with bated breath to see what they might post next. They randomly friend people who comment on someone else’s posts, and just as routinely unfriend people who don’t like that adorable selfie they took by the beach.  To be unfriended by someone is apparently devastating to the extreme, and they will take to their media of choice to cry about being unfriended.  In fact, in one astonishing case, being unfriended was a reason to commit murder. I mean, WTF?

Want to bet they duck faced for the mug shot?

This is all pretty frightening, but it hardly even scratches the surface of the social media lunacy.

People, mostly females for some reason, become so obsessed with actors that they post their reaction to every move the guy might make.  I’m not entirely sure what they hope to accomplish with this; perhaps it gives them a cachet and makes them feel important. Maybe they think this ultra-rich, ultra-handsome, ultra-everything will notice their post or tweet or whatever and simply appear from his island getaway to sweep her off her feet.

This was brought home to me a couple of days ago when I was watching an excerpt of a British talk show featuring host Graham Norton reading Facebook posts from women talking about their lust for actor Benedict Cumberbatch (Kahn in Star Trek: Into Darkness, Sherlock, Doctor Strange.) Poor Cumberbatch’s acting skills were really put to the test as he sat there and pretended that he was amused and not revolted or uncomfortable at all to hear someone say, “Just bury me in a Y-shaped coffin,” or “I can get pregnant just looking at him.” “I look at him and my ovaries explode.” Those were the “decent” ones. I could go on, but my mother reads this blog, and I try to save the ensuing lectures over my…ahem…colorful language…for rants I’m truly passionate about.

Oh, and just so you know, we have recently found out what makes women pregnant, and let me be the first to reassure frightened women everywhere that eyeing up Sherlock’s junk does not in fact contribute to pregnancy. Whew!  I know, right?  That was a close one. And by the way, get a grip. It’s one thing to have your private fantasies about an actor whom you like – there’s nothing new in that. We all do it. But to look at him solely as a sex object? Yeah, I suppose you could say it’s tit for tat as men have been looking at and objectifying women’s bodies since forever; long before the advent of social media. But still. Do two wrongs ever make a right? And to blast it out lewdly for all the world to hear see? That’s a little much if you ask me.

What’s the common phrase men write on message boards? “I’d do her,” referring to some actress whom they might not like in a role, but who looks so good that they’d “do” her anyway. I hate to burst that bubble, boys, but chances are the actress in question would never give any one of you the time of day. They’re on a whole other level from “normal” people. I’m also willing to bet my next Facebook picture of a baked potato that if 90% of the guys who say “I’d do her” on these message boards ever actually met the actress in question, they wouldn’t be able to muster up the nerve to say word-one to her…at least not coherently.

So, although I was somewhat revolted by this…psycho-gushing is the nicest term I can call it… it got me thinking about people who post things on social media of this nature. Do they expect the actors they’re talking about to read these posts? Do they secretly hope they will? Do they think the actor in question will actually want to meet them after reading this stuff? “Oh my goodness, did you read that!?  I just have to meet that revolting amazing person ASAP!”

These actors are real people, for goodness sake. They’re not just characters on a screen or a photo op in a magazine. They. Are. Real. People.  It is actually possible for them to read these Facebook and Twitter posts and what’s equally disturbing, so can their families.  These real people have wives, children, mothers, and fathers. People on the actor’s staff have to read this garbage, too; someone from Graham Norton’s staff obviously monitors the web very closely to find anything written about the actors he’s about to interview, for one.

Now as regular readers of my blog know, I’m a serious Marvel movie and TV fan. I like to think that if I ever met any of the actors who star in these creations (I’m looking at you Loki Tom Hiddleston), I’d act like a mature individual, say, “Hi, I enjoy your work,” and let them get on with their lives without 1.) thinking that they’d be so taken with me (one fan out of a thousand to greet them on any given day) that they’d even remember me 5 minutes later, or 2.) be that lewd, babbling stalker they do remember and recount as a “you’ve got to hear this one!” story on Graham Norton. That is if I’d be able to talk at all instead of just stare. But “Here, sign my boob!” I would never utter. At least not sober. It’s enough that I can enjoy their characters on the big screen, and know in real life they are totally different with lives of their own.

Long story short, Facebook posters and social media users everywhere, get a freakin’ grip.  Now, excuse me while I go post this incredible picture I just took of my lunch.

Complimentary Insults

Are you familiar with “blocking” on Facebook? It’s a special filter you can set up on your profile that can, as Facebook works it, “prevent them [certain people you choose] from seeing things you post on your profile, starting conversations with you or adding you as a friend.” Normally, blocking happens when someone gets super pissed off at someone else. It’s a pretty severe move.

I can count on two fingers just how many times I’ve been blocked on Facebook, which I do like to pat myself on the back for just a little. It means I’m “playing nice” for the most part, or at least not angering others enough that they starting trying to do social media’s version of Eternal Sunshine. Overall, it’s an indicator that you like me, you really, really like me…sorry, channeling a little Sally Field there a minute. At any rate, just so you know, I can play well with others (gasp! It’s a shock, I know.) and generally endeavor to do just that.

I found out that blocking isn’t necessarily a bad thing either, though. The first person who ever blocked me was a now ex-in-law who was really better off blocked anyway. That particular instance of childlike behavior (and not on my part) made for a very welcome respite in my life that I have enjoyed ever since.

But recently, I got blocked a second time and this one isn’t going down so smoothly. Oh, I won’t dwell on it for long and the so-called punishment is not likely to change my behavior. However, it did have me shaking my head.

The person who blocked me is someone I thought I knew well – as well as you can know someone you’re only friends with online (and yes, online friends are still friends). We were more than just casual acquaintances even if our conversations were limited to text and emails. In fact, I had supported her through numerous “life is crazier than fiction” issues over the past two years.  I was there for her through a neighborhood bullying problem that got so bad she had to move out of the home she had just moved into only a few months before. I gave her a shoulder to lean on when her pets died. More importantly I stayed true to her when she was blindsided with a completely unexpected divorce.

After being there for her through all that—personal turmoil, death, the disintegration of a marriage—this person blocked me on Facebook. Do you want to know why? The reason she blocked me was over…wait for it…rehoming fees for pets.

You heard me right. Rehoming fees. I’m not using slang that you’ve never heard of. I’m talking about rehoming fees as in “an amount asked for by a pet owner or rescuer when they are adopting or readopting a pet to a home.”

Before going any further, let me say that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, it’s what makes the world go round. But, is it too much to ask that opinions are formed after doing a decent amount of research and communicating with experts who have been in rescue or in the field doing investigations? I’m sorry but if you’re not going to put in the effort to understand why you have a certain stance, if you’re basing your opinion on nothing more than air, you put animals at risk and that frankly, is unacceptable. I’m sure you can see where this is going. Well, you would be wrong.

You might think that because I am a) pretty passionate about animal welfare and b) able to be a teensy bit hot-headed when I’m on a good rant, that I was rude or sarcastic when arguing my case to this former friend. Fair enough. But you’ll be happy to know that that wasn’t the case in this instance.

I coolly and calmly provided my friend with verified information, links, research, and encouraged the person to write her paper — which was her intent for this whole mess — on the truth, rather than simply stick to her baseless opinion out of stubbornness. I won’t even get into the fact that she started claiming industry experts were of the same opinion as her (not saying I’m always right, but…) which was purely and simply a falsehood.  I gave her a good out, but she didn’t take it. Instead, she labeled me an “activist” of the wood boring variety (because I came out of the woodwork just to argue – ha!)  and summarily blocked me, giving me no chance to respond to her ridiculous claims. Isn’t that always the way?

And you know what, I’m okay with that. Oh, I’m not an activist.  But I don’t necessarily consider it the horrendous and belittling insult she meant it as either.  What I am is an advocate.  Hell, I’m proud to be an advocate. Her attitude towards me doesn’t change the truth or skew any of the concrete facts. She can keep her faulty beliefs and maybe one day she’ll be unable to avoid the fact that she’s telling a lie. God help the animals who get hurt in the process though.

And seriously, in hindsight, maybe this whole “being nice” thing is just too damn overrated.

 

common sense