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Live from DC… it’s EQUALITY!

26 Jun

copyright pithypants 2015

I was home on my couch, nestled in for the night, when I heard a rumor that the White House was rainbow-colored. So I had no choice but to change out of my pajamas (and into my only marginally more appropriate workout clothes) and walk the eight blocks down to the White House to witness history.

I may have shown up alone with only my iPhone for company (and documentation), but the crowd was INCLUSIVE. People were welcoming, joyful and celebratory, handing off cameras so strangers could help each other get better angles than traditional selfies would afford.

I saw women jumping, men hugging, and more than a few people squealing. I took my share of photos (and helped others with theirs), then stood quietly under a tree, taking it all in. There may have been a few tears as I marveled that for once we got it right.

In a week that has contained much pain, it was a balm to see LOVE come out on top.

 

See This Film: From This Day Forward

23 Jun
Title Art - created by Trisha Shattuck

Artwork by Trisha Shattuck – pending permission for use

Last week was the AFI DOCS Film Festival in DC. If you couldn’t gather it from the name, it’s a documentary film festival.

Friday night, Alan and I made a beeline for the theatre on E Street so we could screen, “From This Day Forward,” which is described on its website this way:

From This Day Forward is a moving portrayal of an American family coping with one of the most intimate of transformations. When director Sharon Shattuck’s father came out as transgender and changed her name to Trisha, Sharon was in the awkward throes of middle school. Her father’s transition to female was difficult for her straight-identified mother, Marcia, to accept, but her parents stayed together. As the Shattucks reunite to plan Sharon’s wedding, she seeks a deeper understanding of how her parents’ marriage survived the radical changes that threatened to tear them apart.

In the wake of Caitlin née Bruce making headlines, it’s a timely topic, but that’s not what drew us to the screening.

It was on my radar because – some years earlier – my sister  told me that one of the students she had become friends with through her job at the University of Michigan was using kickstarter.com to raise funds to make a documentary about her family, focusing on her father’s transgender journey in northern Michigan.

I’m something of a kickstarter and gofundme junkie because I believe there’s not enough art, beauty or understanding in the world, so if I spot an opportunity to help reverse that, I do what I can.

Admittedly, most of my gambles have not paid off – aside from Calligraphuck, which seems to be thriving yet somehow lost my donor gift of profane greeting cards so I still haven’t actually handled the product. (Probably for the best or half my Christmas list might disappear in one year!)

So imagine my joy when I learned that a film I had contributed to actually made it to the big screen! There was no way I was going to miss it – and since Alan is pretty much the best partner ever, he accompanied me without even knowing what we were going to see.

Turns out? Incredible movie. Not only did Sharon Shattuck (the director) do a fantastic job with the images and videography, she also crafted a clever backdrop for the story by using her father’s artwork and her own wedding to unravel the threads of her parents’ marriage and their family dynamic.

Early in the movie she quotes her dad, Trisha, as saying, “Sharon, whenever you get married, I hope you’ll let me wear a dress when I walk you down the aisle…” The rest of the movie then builds to her wedding day, with the suspense of the reveal (will her dad wear a dress?!) flowing like an undercurrent, subtly tugging us forward as we learn about her parents’ marriage.

I won’t ruin the reveal. I will just say this: the film is loaded with gorgeous imagery – both in the form of Michigan landscapes and Trisha’s artwork; even so, the most beautiful part of the film is actually the message – that a marriage unfolds in many unexpected ways, and love actually can conquer all.

Needless to say, I wasn’t the only person wiping at my cheeks when the credits rolled. And I’m probably not the only person now trying to get one of Trisha’s paintings in my house.

Check out the trailer here, and see if it’s coming to your city soon – you’ll be glad you did:

“And justice for all?”

25 Nov

Image Source: https://ionetheurbandaily.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/mike-brown-street.jpg?w=660

Last night I went to bed shortly after learning of the Grand Jury’s decision to not indict the officer who killed Michael Brown. I was sad and outraged.

I’m not saying that the officer should necessarily be convicted (I’d need to see all the evidence to decide), but I can’t understand how – in a case where an unarmed teenager was shot six times – there isn’t enough evidence to at least charge the shooter and move forward to trial. At least, that’s my understanding of what a Grand Jury is supposed to determine.

As I turned off my light for the night, I thought about Michael Brown’s family – and my friends who weren’t born with white skin.

About 45 minutes later, I was awakened by what sounded like screams coming from my alley. I bolted out of bed, grabbing my cell phone, thinking someone was being attacked and I’d need to call 911. Once I got my bearings, however, I realized I was hearing shouting, not screaming, and there were many voices, not one.

I pulled my shades and looked out to see waves of red and blue light, indicating police were already on the scene. Waking up a bit more, I realized that I was hearing a crowd of people protesting the Ferguson verdict. Because my windows don’t face the street, I could only see the police lights and hear the chanting.

My mind raced – was it a peaceful protest or was it teetering on the edge of a riot? I stood at my window, listening, and finally deducing that the voices and lights were moving – presumably marching down 16th Street to the White House.

I sagged back into bed, contemplating my reaction. I’d instinctively grabbed my phone to call the police and had found some reassurance when I realized they were already involved with whatever was happening.

 

One the whole, police do far more good than bad. And they’ve voluntarily signed up to put themselves in the line of danger to protect and serve their communities. I appreciate their service. But I wonder how different my view would be if I hadn’t been born with pale skin… if I were pulled over because my car looked “too nice” for me to own, if I had to worry that by wearing a hoodie I’d look “suspicious.”

If that were the case, I can’t say my first reaction in a potentially threatening situation would be to call the police. And that’s the conversation I think we need to be having.

Rather simply looking for justice in the conviction of his shooter, wouldn’t Michael Brown’s life be better commemorated by opening a real dialogue about white privilege and racial profiling, so we can begin challenging the thinking that prompts officers to read threats where they don’t exist – and that can prevent minorities from seeing police as their allies?

So let’s keep this conversation going. But let’s also remember that conversations aren’t people. Michael Brown was a “gentle giant,” a student and a son.

While he might not have gotten justice, I hope his legacy brings justice for others.

 

I have a BETTER bucket challenge for you.

19 Aug
Don't laugh - he's raising awareness.

Don’t laugh – he’s raising awareness.

I think it’s great how the Ice Bucket challenge has raised awareness of ALS. I’m glad people started clarifying that really, the thing to do is BOTH share a video of yourself getting iced AND donate to the cause.

That said, I’m kind of sick of seeing the videos in my newsfeed. With the exception of one college friend (go, Hoyt!) who attempted to re-enact his best dance moves to “Ice, Ice Baby” before getting drenched, there’s nothing really amusing about watching people (in the heat of August) suffer from a mild dousing.

I’d like to up the ante in TWO WAYS.

First, there’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart (or my belly button, if we’re speaking in literal terms) that almost no one talks about: Crohn’s Disease. Perhaps that’s because the sufferers very often shit themselves. (Though actually, I don’t know – taking a flyer on that since it seems like most of my friends over 40 like to share similar stories without even the benefit of an official diagnosis.)

Second, I think there’s a better challenge to be had. Rather than dumping ice water over your head – which looks mildly refreshing in this August heat – I propose that to raise awareness for Crohn’s, you film yourself pouring some edible and biodegradable brown mixture (pudding? chocolate sauce?) down your shorts. Because unlike the non-existent connection between ice and ALS, there is a very real connection between food and Crohn’s – and messy pants.

Finally, because we need a hashtag to help this thing go viral, I’d like to abbreviate the challenge. Instead of calling it the way-too-lengthy, “Spreading Crohn’s Awareness Together Challenge,” we’ll just go with the much more tweetable SCAT Challenge. Or #scatchallenge if you will.

So who’s on board? Send me your videos or post and tag @pithy_pants so I can see your handiwork.

I’d do it myself – but I don’t have a yard… Seriously.

(Oh – and here’s where you can read about or donate to the cause.) 

Baby, it’s cold outside.

10 Jan

Screen Shot 2014-01-10 at 7.25.16 AM

Perhaps you’ve noticed: it’s been COLD lately. I know, you may have missed it. I can see how – if you live in Florida, don’t have a Facebook account or avoid television – this newsflash may have completely passed you by.

Let me bring you up to speed. Apparently there’s a “polar vortex” hovering somewhere over the Great Lakes. As a result, the Midwest is getting buried with snow and temperatures have been stalled below zero. Even in DC, where anything below freezing is cause for angst (we ARE southern, after all), we’ve been in the single digits. When combined with some wicked winds, the windchill here has been as low as -15.

From the human reaction to these temperatures, you might believe that hell was, in fact, freezing over. My Facebook newsfeed has featured no fewer than a dozen photographs of cars’ instrument panels, prominently displaying temperatures. It’s like a pissing contest, but with low temps.

My friends who are parents seem to be split on the matter of snow days. Some (mainly those who are teachers) are rejoicing along with their children that school is canceled. Others seem to be running on fumes as their two-week holiday break gets extended – and extended – and they face their third week cooped up inside with hyper, stir-crazy children.

I think my sister is in the latter camp. She’s started sharing (and trademarking) somewhat mundane activities on Facebook that she’s creating to keep her kids occupied. And she’s referring to herself in the third person – never a good sign. For example:

On day 18 of extended break I took the kids to the basement for Alicia’s 20 Minutes of Fitness™. It ended up lasting 30 minutes and I lost (winner got an oreo).

UPDATE: It was a Double Stuff… and there was a chance earlier to win another one in Alicia’s World Series of Poker™.

I suppose I should be glad she’s creating activities for them to do inside. The other day she told me that after shoveling for twenty minutes, her oldest son returned inside and began complaining about his hands hurting. She looked at them and found that his fingertips were swollen like little balloons.  At the time I laughed, imagining him with sausage-like balloon-animal fingers.

But then just yesterday one of my high school classmates (who also still lives in Michigan) posted these photos of HIS fingers after shoveling for an extended period of time.

HOLY? WHAT?

Yep, that’s frostbite all right. Call me naïve, but somehow I thought the only people to actually get frostbite were arctic explorers, plane crash survivors stranded in the Himalayas, and anyone who lost consciousness and was later discovered in a snowbank. Shoveling snow in Michigan with gloves on???

So if you haven’t shoveled a foot of snow, almost lost a finger to frostbite, or been cooped up with children for three weeks without respite, I think you should consider this year off to a great start.

As for the rest of America? It might be worth investing in some very thermal outerwear. Or bumping up your insurance plans.