The Imperial Palace

Fairly spontaneously, like most good trips start, Kirsten, Amy, and I went to Las Vegas. Since it was Kirsten’s first trip, we resolved to stay on the strip, and since we were traveling on a budget, we still needed to find a cheap hotel. Our search led us to the Imperial Palace; though it is located in the center of the strip, in all of my previous trips, I have never noticed this place even existing. Upon our arrival, I realized why that was. While most casinos are all about the glitz and the glamour, the exterior of the Imperial Palace looks like it’s been constructed out of cardboard. It’s a relic of Vegas of yore that will undoubtedly be bulldozed for something more lavish within the next decade.

I don’t mean to slight the Imperial Palace. If you’re interested in staying at a place with inauthentic Asian architecture and decor, an inefficient elevator system, a remote-less television from the 80s, a shower with unmanageable water temperature, and walls so thin you can hear your neighbors’ incidents of domestic abuse, then the Imperial Palace is the place for you. The attendant in the lobby promised us a “view of the Strip”; apparently, the side of a parking structure counts as a view of the Strip. Since I’m afraid of heights, I wasn’t too keen on the balcony that afforded me a closer view of the parking structure, especially after noticing a sticker on the door warning visitors to be careful because the door could lock behind them. Instantaneously, I could imagine being stranded on the ledge, left to contemplate whether to starve to death on the dirty slab of concrete or throw myself over the rail for sweet relief.

My description might imply that I did not enjoy my stay at the Imperial Palace, but to the contrary, I loved it since these elements added to the Vegas adventure. Plus, I won a lot of money from the place.

It didn’t start out so fortunate. Although I spent the car ride telling my trip-mates about how easy it was to finagle free drinks in Las Vegas, we came up dry for the first few hours. It was absurdly crowded in the casinos, so I was unable to get a spot at any table games, relegating us to the neglected outer-slot machines. In the first few hours, we only managed one drink; when our would-be trip-mate Michael Michael text messaged me shortly after one in the morning to ask whether we were “sinning it up,” I was too embarrassed by the night’s tameness to even respond.

Fortunately, however, Kirsten turned our luck around. Though Kirsten didn’t even know how to play poker, ey put a dollar in a video poker machine. Before I could show Kirsten how to correct the fact that ey was unwittingly playing high stakes, Kirsten miraculously got four aces, winning eir $100. If you didn’t believe in beginner’s luck, think again. That set the wheels in motion – afterwards, I got a spot at a table and began to win money and drink – neither activity being more important than the other.

The Imperial Palace didn’t like me as much as I liked it. Having a gut feeling, I sat alone at a blackjack table with a friendly, talkative dealer and won about 80% of my hands. Over time, the pit boss scowled at me and demanded the dealer be switched. Though this dealer was not friendly, I won every hand ey dealt me until the pit boss quickly switched the dealer yet again. Never mind that I was betting the $10 minimum the whole time, apparently my winning streak was a threat to the Palace. I walked away more than $200 up, and felt like some special gambling mastermind that the casino was looking out for.

The next day, I lost a bunch of that money playing craps, but then returned to re-coop my losses at the Imperial Palace’s Dealertainer section. There, the dealers are dressed like famous singers who occasionally take a break from dealing to lip-synch on stage. Spotting a vacancy, I took a seat at Christina Aguilera’s table. It wasn’t X-tina that attracted me, but rather an older woman; flirting with old people is my one of my favorite Vegas activities. She wasn’t quite elderly, I’d call her a MILF-plus, and as the hands came, we made pleasant conversation. Even more pleasantly, I was winning money again. At one point, I was so excited as I reached for my winnings that I knocked my drink over and splashed it onto my MILF-plus friend. That’s pretty much where I blew it, I think. Christina Aguilera wiped up my mess with a rag; since her picture was printed on the table we were playing on, I requested that she clean up her face extra well.

To the other side of me was a couple who had gotten engaged earlier in the day and they were winning ridiculous amounts of money. Their animation made the game even more exciting. Our table would belt along to songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “YMCA” and it was one of the most genuinely fun times I’ve had in recent history period, let alone in Vegas. At one point, after winning a big hand, the fiancĂ© made a joke about rape, to which “Christina” took offense. As an act of apology, he threw $25 at her as a tip to shut up, and she gladly accepted and dropped the subject. I always figured Xtina could be bought. Here I amassed a couple hundred dollars, until it was Christina’s turn to sing (She’s a genie in a bottle, dontchaknow) and Gloria Estefan relieved her and put a damper on my luck. I opted not to stick around, in part because the next rotation would put a legitimately frightening “Little Richard” as my dealer and I think that’d be scarier than being locked out on the balcony.

In summation, don’t let the Imperial Palace’s two star quality fool you. When one of those stars is Christina Aguilera and she’s literally handing you cash, it’s enough reason to overlook the inadequacies. Viva Las Vegas! Viva Imperialism!



"I love IMDB. On Facebook, you just click from one person to another random person, but with IMDB, you click from one famous person to another famous person." - Kirsten


An Ill-Timed Epiphany

Melanie, a student, interrupting my lecture: "O-M-G!! If you take out the L from my name, it spells Meanie!"


Happy Easter

Happy Easter! It's a special day; there's a sticker on my shirt that reads, Somebunny loves you! That somebunny is Jesus, by the by.

This morning, I went with Amber and Shea to brunch and got myself some Easter ham. Mmm, ham. Later, I played basketball, which is totally the Easter bunny's favorite sport. You know, because it's BASKETball. Get it? I just made it up. I'm witty like that, peeps.

My real Easter celebration started last night. A group of us ate pizza, drank, and watched NCAA Easter basketball (the joke's even funnier the second time, right? That's why I resurrected it!) until there were no more games to be watched, at which point we got to dyeing eggs. I love the natural transition between sports to crafts and love even more that I have friends who are down to dabble in both, as well.

Egg dyeing-for-your-sins was a hoot. We bought two dye kits, Jazzy Jewels and Glamour Eggs, so we had the tools to make some unconventionally posh eggs. With stickers, jewels, beads, foil, feathers, and even mesh fabric, how could we go wrong. We had sixteen dye tablets, which required as many mugs, meaning we had to do a whole dishwasher load just to clean up afterwards. There were so many color-filled cups, that while trying to find a suitable tint for my next egg, I erroneously dipped into my whiskey and cola beverage. I didn't even immediately recognize the accident; after pulling it out and noticing the color was faint and murky, I asked, "What color is this?!"

Already, Shea has eaten some of the eggs (which he deemed the uglier ones -- should I take it personally that my favorite one is missing?) and other people took theirs to give to loved ones, but I've taken some photos of the survivors to Babble about.

I did this one in honor of my recent trip to Vegas. It's supposed to be a show girl, but admittedly looks more like a gypsy fortuneteller. All eggs should wear feather boas.

Amy then had to show me up with a Vegas show girl of eir own. Fine, it's better. No one cares. Go home, twelve-year-old!

On this one, I rocked the gems to the extreme. Bling bling!

Kirsten put the mesh to work to make a bride, which accidentally turned into a clown bride. Everyone's getting married these days.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade, but when life hands Kirsten an egg with a hole in it, she turns it into a vagina. I'm afraid that the photo doesn't do justice to the nuanced mastery of the manicured pubic hair.

On the back of the dye kit, there are small circles you can pop out to let the eggs dry in the resulting holes in the box. Though this detail seems mundane and unimportant, there was one circle that contained an offensive message. It can't just be a coincidence that the Jazzy Jewels Easter egg kit had a removable circle that left the words "AZZ JEW." Obviously, I was appalled by the evident underhanded bigotry, so appalled that I decided to use it to create an anti-Semitic egg. I glued "AZZ JEW" on one side and wrote "You Killed Jesus" on the other with a crossed out Star of David. It was offensive, or would have been had it come out well instead of a muddy, illegible mess. I guess that I can't be disappointed by my anti-Semitic egg's utter failure... as Jenna pointed out, "God works in mysterious ways."

Meanwhile, Jenna, a card-carrying azz jew, retaliated with an anti-Easter egg, portraying the bunny as a devil. Well played.

Even better, however, was Jenna's pro-Semitic egg which on one side had Matzah and the other portrayed a household with blood smeared around the doorway to indicate that eir life should be spared. It just might be the best egg I've ever seen.

After dyeing, we tried to think of a film to watch. Some genius minds thought of having a zombie movie marathon since Jesus is the first undead, the OG zombie. Sure, it's kind of distasteful, but it couldn't taste any worse than BRAINS. Even the symbolically cannibalistic ritual of communion seems like a reference to Christ-Zombie. As it turns out, although it's topical, none of us are interested enough in zombie movies to follow through, so we rented The Exorcist instead. It was religiously-oriented, but overall a trite piece of crucifiction.

Easter? I'd rather West Her!


Waiting for the Answers

On our coffee table, an old issue of Glamour magazine sits; no one will own up to how it got there, so it persists in its lounging, frequently serving as a coaster and leafed through even less frequently. I stare at it often, though: In particular, I'm drawn to the cover featuring the headline "Your Top 10 Sex Questions Answered at Last!" Finally! I've been waiting for these answers forever. I actually have fourteen pressing sex questions, but I'm a reasonable person, so I'll settle for the top ten. These magazines fascinate me in the ways they try to repackage the same hackneyed sex articles. "Amazing Sex Secrets Revealed!" You mean there have been secrets about sex for all of these years (read: the beginning of humankind) and people have managed to stay mum until its big reveal in a magazine with Selma Hayek on the cover for sale next to TV Guide in the grocery check out aisle? Is there some hidden hole on our bodies that we don't realize we can penetrate?

Recently, Laura picked up the magazine and dared to do something that I never much considered doing: she opened the magazine to the "Sex Questions Answered" article. Even more mysteriously than how the magazine appeared in the house in the first place, the pages that contained the highly regarded Answers were torn out. GAH! Again, no one will cop to doing it. Who is depriving us of new sexual knowledge? Now more than ever I want to see this article. As I see it, if they've been torn out, those answers must be good; they must contain some mind-blowing secrets that will change the way people have sex forever. Well, certain people anyway. If you should have a sexual encounter with someone who whips out some hot, innovative sex moves, let me know, because I think we'll find our article-swindling culprit.



While I try not to talk too much crap behind people's back (my students don't count, BTW, since they remain anonymous), I found myself compromising my values when Betsy called me yesterday to ask whether I remember Rita*. Of course, I remember Rita -- Rita is the dumbest person I know. Actually, now that I teach high school, I realize that that's an exaggeration, but Rita is definitely the dumbest person I know with a college education.

The mere mention of Rita kicks me into an unstoppable rant. I feel compelled to convey to whoever will listen the extent to which this person is dumb. It's not necessary, and yet I can't help it. Before I deliver an abbreviated rant, it is important to note that I don't dislike Rita, which might make my criticism even less defendable. In truth, Rita is a nice person... or, well, not a mean person anyway, the social awkwardness kind of prevents me from discerning any kindness. My main beef with Rita is that ey is abundantly dumb, apparently an unforgivable crime in my book.

I first encountered Rita during my first week of college while walking to an event. In this stage of the game, I tried to be social with nearly everyone so I struck up a conversation with Rita. To my wonderment, Rita couldn't be more socially awkward. Ey wouldn't make eye contact and responded to even the simplest questions ("Where are you from?" "What do you do for fun?") with confused, uninformative answers. I never wanted to abandon a conversation so quickly, and worried that I would never make friends if everyone were like Rita.

Over time, I had a couple of classes in common with Rita. I didn't enjoy this since I was embarrassed to learn alongside including Intro to Video Production. Rita made some slap-you-in-the-face horrendous pieces, most notably one in which ey read a poem, then after reading each line, paused to pantomime the words. Afterwards, the class was asked to critique the video, but no one knew where to begin. Finally, a diplomatic student suggested that it might work better if Rita were to do the actions while reading the line rather than doing them separately so it isn't so disjointed. Initially, Rita responds in such a way where it's obvious ey doesn't get the comment, then decides that such a thing would be too difficult. Normally, I wouldn't reckon that speaking and gesturing at the same time would be a hard task, but I wouldn't put it past Rita.

About that time, Jocelyn decided to declare Rita eir nemesis since Rita had similar interests in acting and video production. Even though Jocelyn was just inventing a pretend rivalry, I adamantly objected, citing that it wasn't fair and that ey might as well select a "retarded squirrel" as eir nemesis instead.

Betsy brought up Rita, eir former suitemate, after spotting eir in Boston from across the street. Not being close to Rita, both in terms of proximity and relationship-wise, Betsy chalked it up to a coincidence and figured ey would never see Rita again. The fates had other plans, however. The next day, at Betsy's place of work, who did ey see but Rita, who was there to observe the work environment for a class.

Being friendly, Betsy approached Rita and it apparently took a lot of details before Rita remembered who Betsy was, even though they lived together for a year. Rita illicitly kept a forbidden cat in the dorm which Betsy was allergic to, so Betsy frequently complained for Rita not to let eir cat be in the common space. It took Betsy reminding eir that Rita essentially tried to kill eir with the cat before Rita acknowledged eir.

Rita couldn't be more disinterested. Usually Pitzer grads, even those that don't like each other, are excited to meet one another since we're a small group with a rare connection, but Rita was not interested in swapping stories, nay, wasn't capable of swapping stories. More importantly, Rita was still dumb.

But here's the kicker - Rita, this same person who overwhelms acquaintances with a sense of stupidity, is apparently in a management masters program at Harvard. Nevermind that someone without social skills could never be an effective manager - the very thought is mind boggling - but how does the dumbest person I know get accepted to Harvard?!

Higher education is such a joke. The news sends me into a tizzy and I start rambling even more about what an idiot Rita is. Admittedly, I'm fairly jealous, yet even more perplexed. How in the hell?

After I get off the phone, my friends who were nearby looked shocked at how much I had reamed Rita, who they are not familiar with. "You really don't like [eir], do you?" they asked. Again, it's not really dislike, but shock that someone can be that stupid. I imagine I come across no other way than hateful, right? That's not a rhetorical question, so feel free to answer. I'm still not sure whether to be more ashamed of myself or Harvard.


Hooked Up

It’s been several months since my last trip to the Hook-Up, the lesbian bar, so in honor of Madeleine’s visit, we decide to go for karaoke night.  Immediately, there is some disharmony between the regulars and our large party.  “Who are these people?” someone whines, agitated by our insurgence on the bar.  Just because we’re not forty with shaved heads and wearing “I Kiss Girls” shirts doesn’t mean we don’t belong.
In the bathroom, a blackboard hangs for patrons to scrawl messages.  For example, in the men’s room, I learn that “Paul has a big dick.”  Meanwhile, in the women’s room, Amy encounters the intimidating message, “Twelve year olds, go home!”  Amy comes out and worries that it’s a message directed at eir.  I contemplate trying to spin it in a more positive way, but couldn’t, instead adamantly agreeing that the message is about Amy.  If anyone looks twelve in that bar, it’s Amy.  Or me: the message is just as easily about me, I suppose, a similarly young looking stranger.  The hostility is peculiar to me since I’ve only been received well here in the past. 
Consequently, we isolate ourselves in a corner, having a good time singing, dancing, and drinking.  A socially awkward Korean man who recently moved to California takes an immediate shining to Madeleine.  It’s perplexing how an older, single man like himself accidentally stumbles upon (the place is literally in the middle of nowhere - there are rusty nails on the street and every other building in sight is dilapidated) and stays at a lesbian bar while clearly looking to hook up – despite the promising name, straight men aren’t going to have much luck. Each time Madeleine escapes his conversations, he comes looking for Madeleine again. Elsewhere, Jessica also is lucky at love: a woman twice her age dances against her continuously. Jessica thinks the woman smells great, so she welcomes the come on entirely.
It takes a while to get to our first turn to sing, but when it does, it’s magical.  Madeleine and I fulfill a longstanding pact to perform “Nobody” by Keith Sweat, a raunchy R&B duet, which I have a blast singing.  The crowd roars – well, our contingency does, anyway.

Shortly thereafter, Madeleine’s Korean suitor sings a Journey tune and requests that Madeleine dance for him.  Dancing for him apparently involves standing next to him as he wraps his arm around you for the entire duration of the song.  It’s awkward but a hysterical sight to behold.  

Next, someone takes to the front to sing "Zombie." I become so excited that without any hesitation I run straight for the front, in the process ramming my chest square into the point corner of the bar. It aches crazily and leaves a giant welt, but nothing deters me from doing the zombie dance to the karaoke performance.
In the meantime, Amy strikes up a pleasant conversation with a regular, who turns out to be the same person who wrote the ageist hate message in the bathroom.  This person confesses the crime and apologizes profusely as Amy asserts that ey is of legal age to be at the bar. A short time later, Amy and I return to the bathroom and wait in such a long line that when the time came, we decide to enter the single occupancy at once to speed up the process. As Amy pees, I look at the board; the dismissive missive has been replaced with new prose: "I swear, your honor, she said she was 21. Jail bait tastes the sweetest." It's nice to see the hostility is erased for a nicer, if not skeezier, sentiment. I feel more comfortable about being in the place until it's my turn to pee. Being the kind gent that I am, I lift the seat and start to relieve myself. No sooner have I started does the seat come crashing down, thunking me in the penis and causing me to scream. I try to put the seat back up, only to discover that the seat is hinged so that it won't stay in the upward position. I realize that it's a women's restroom in a lesbian bar no less, but that shit is dangerous. Briefly, I contemplate the irony of losing my penis in an accident at a lesbian locale and a fit of laughter ensues. Between the giggling and screaming, I would hazard that the patrons waiting behind us assume Amy and I are having heterosexual sex in the bathroom.

While getting some fresh air outside, Madeleine is approached by another stranger who asks whether ey likes Drew Carey. When Madeleine replies affirmatively, the stranger hands over a Drew Carey doll and tries to get Madeleine to buy it. Naturally, Madeleine declines the purchase; dejected, the stranger ultimately tells Madeleine to just keep it. This incident is officially the most random thing to ever happen. You tell me the last time you've stood on a deserted street outside a lesbian bar and been gifted a foot-tall likeness of a decade-old sitcom character by a stranger. I thought so. After that, the Korean guy can't even compete.

To wrap up the night, Phoebe, Madeleine, and Erica perform Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights." For as long as I've known these people, they've been obsessed with the song and the video, particularly the phenomenally absurd dance moves. In spite of the song's direct literary connection, I've never been a fan, but I am a fan of my friends matching Kate Bush's dance erratic move for erratic move. (My favorite step comes at the 3:15 mark)

They put on a display of odd dancing complete with shrill vocals, true to Kate Bush's performance, which seems to confuse the other patrons of the bar; I'm not sure people could identify the awesomeness of what they just witnessed without being familiar with the source material.

With that, we leave for the night with a song in our heart, newfound respect, intact penises, a Drew Carey doll, and a Korean man's phone number. Success!


The Margaritas Were Greener

Yesterday was St. Patrick's Day, which I suppose is a big deal since I'm Irish. Or something. Just as I strive not to tell ethnic jokes, I try not to be an ethnic joke either, which means I annually refuse to be a boozy mess on this holiday. As you learned yesterday, I failed on that account this year, but it was Margarita Monday which supersedes any political agenda I might hold. This would include voting -- thank goodness election days are on Tuesdays.

In celebration of the holiday, I bought green food dye to make our favorite light green drinks a few shades darker. To my surprise, Irish magic had already struck: the restaurant had already created dark green margaritas for the festivities. Michael Michael declined the extra green concoction, having our bartender whip em up the usual kind. While ey wasn't looking, however, Laura and I covertly added drops to his drink; the transformation confused Michael Michael since we just blamed it on the leprechaun fairy.

Even more confused was Jocelyn's friend, a first-timer. Michael Michael came up behind Ben, rubbed his head, and kissed em on the forehead. For whatever reason, after witnessing this incident, the newcomer mistook Michael Michael for a server and attempted to order drinks from em. I'm not sure why this person thought the wait staff was so affectionate that they kiss their customers; maybe ey thought they were celebrating the "kiss me, I'm Irish" tradition.

We aren't the only regulars at Margarita Mondays. Once a month, a Shakespeare reading group convenes in the private room to read a play. The group is comprised of entirely senior citizens except for one younger woman who wears funny hats. Our contingency often ridicules them since they seem to be humorless folks who questionably don't take advantage of the $2 drink special. Having received eir degree in theater, Ben once inquired whether he could join the group. The readers said yes, but that they don't allow yelling, a thinly veiled criticism of our boisterous behavior outdoors.

As usual, I'm sure we irritated the Shakespearean readers with our frequent laughter. Last night, we discussed what it's like to laugh and consequently shoot liquids through one's nose, recalling the time Jessica's nose bled after leaking margarita out of it. Looking to make a jab at our rival group, I quipped that this potential margarita danger explains why the Shakespeare readers never read any comedies. Stacy and I then engaged in a nerdy English major exchange.

"No A Midsummer Night's Dream?"
"No, those mix-ups are too hilarious!"
"And men dressed up as women! Shakespeare, that card!"
"Another incident of dramatic irony: the audience knows, but the characters do not. When will it stop?!"
"These anachronisms keep tickling my funny bone."

Everyone else just kind of stared at us, bored with our jokes. I'm sorry if our humor is too sophisticated for them; maybe we are snooty enough to join the group. I can't in good conscience do that, however, since they're so rude. During the evening, Allison and a Shakespearette both rounded a similar corner and nearly ran into one another. As Allison apologized, the Shakespeare reader just dismissed eir like it was all Allison's fault. It's called an accident, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or to use a reference they might better understand, like when Hamlet erroneously stabbed and killed Polonius from behind a curtain.

Fortunately, Allison kept eir sense of humor better, later sharing one of eir jokes: What's Irish and stays out all night? Patty O'Furniture. I like that one a lot since it's topical and while it still makes a coy reference to the stereotypical intoxicated Irish joke, it takes it in a different, goofy direction. That's the kind of Irish joke I want to be.


Word from Indonesia

Ohmguh! Andrew emailed Allison and I today and he is still in good humor, which is important to me. Apparently, nearly three months after the holiday, Andrew has finally received his Christmas CD. Evidently, it takes a long time for a package to reach Indonesia. His gratitude was remarkable and remarkably funny to boot. I present to you a section from the middle of his email which made me laugh a good deal.

After lunch with Panji, which was a fifteen minute adventure in laughing and rejecting his argument that I should eat fish curry with my spinach, I drove home and I thought of ways that I could convey to you how happy I was to get the package.  I wondered if it was possible that I was in fact happier to get it now than I would have been in January, when we all still expected it to arrive, and then I decided this was something that is entirely unquantifiable.  But it is qualifiable!  Look at this.
1. The joy of walking up to an escalator that you assume is broken, only to realize that it is the kind that starts up only as you approach it.
2. That feeling that I sometimes get when I look at a pair of shoes and realize how well they've faired after all this time, and I consider how much longer I'll get to wear them.  Lately, my Reeboks have really been impressing me.  They're just sneakers, but they're doing really well.

And this was all before I'd even popped the cd into the computer. It was so much fun to hear it.  I listened to it two and a half times today.  I really, really like it, and I really, really appreciate it.  You two are so good.  I'm so sorry that on the occasions when I've spoken with you one the phone, there is a delay and it makes conversation difficult.  I promise, upon my return, to never speak with you with a delay, unless you ask me a really difficult question.  Even then, I'll just put on a thinking face, and then you'll know what's up.

Tonight at Margarita Monday's, I discussed the email with Allison (and invariably everybody), particularly his first joy which describes a type of escalator that all of us had neither encountered nor even heard of. However, it does bring to mind my favoriteFamily Feud moment. Everyone found it amusing that I even had a favorite Family Feud moment. Haters.

Angel then asked when Andrew was coming home. I stated matter-of-factly, "June 19th, because June 20th is his sister's birthday." This response was accepted, until I second guessed it. "WAIT!" I screamed, finishing, "Andrew doesn't have a sister!" The thing was I didn't say it as though I had made a mistake, but instead in an accusatory manner. I worked myself into a tizzy as though Andrew had lied to me. Then a clearer, less intoxicated mindset prevailed and it occurred to me that I had misspoken, not been lied to -- it's his brother whose birthday is on the 20th. Since my sister's birthday is on June 19th, that's probably what I was thinking.

In summation, Andrew is funny, truthful, and listening to Christmas music in Indonesia. Come home soon.



Unlike most schools, Pitzer College is a liberal haven. The student body is largely progressive and enamored with its activist pursuits and atypical educational opportunities. That said, there is also a sizable portion of students who don't fit this mold, students who didn't get the memo and seem to act surprised when Pitzer turns out to be a different college experience than they were expecting.

Such was the case with a student who recently grew fed up with Pitzer's status quo. He wanted to form an organization for guys that celebrated stereotypical behavior. He wanted to drink beer, watch sports, and do other things with males that our society has brought up males to do. He named the group the Masculinist Coalition as a counter to the pre-existing Feminist Coalition. The email he sent out (as obtained from his post available on the internet) is here:

This club has precedence on campus: several years ago, a group called the Pitzer Men's Society formed. Given the group's intentional acronym, PMS, I imagine it's easy to discern what kind of membership the organization had. The majority of the student populace did not take the group seriously, but did not combat it in any way, finding it easier to simply ignore the beer-swigging sect.

Unlike PMS, however, the Masculinist Coalition has not simply been ignored. Many members of the community have spoken out against the idea, causing a great deal of drama on campus. It became a hotly debated issue on the student email network.

The primary beef with the group seems to be its name. While the word "feminist" means someone who supports the movement for equality between both sexes, a "masculinist" is an "advocate of male superiority and dominance." Though the group's originator claims to have made the term up, at least in his eyes, it does indicate a frightening political agenda, one that shouldn't be condoned.

Plus, the group promotes exclusion, an absolute no-no by Pitzer's policies. The comments of "(not in a gay way [not that there's anything wrong with that])" actually come across as slightly hostile and unwelcoming. The organization's first meeting was well attended, even if only to discuss the finer points of the club. It's well-documented, too, since the president opted to film the meeting and then post it to his website. The post initially included some insulting commentary on the club's adversaries, criticizing them and inviting people to laugh at their supposed stupidity. Thankfully, it now appears as though the offending comments have been removed.

Another main item of contention is the idea that the group is purely social and not political. Bullshit -- everything is political. It'd be impossible for a group to form and avoid making a political statement. While you can declare it fun and ignore its implications, the implications still exist. Pretending they don't would be ignorant. Forming a men's group and then setting up activities indicate maleness. It reenforces the idea that activities are gendered and perpetuates these stereotypes rather than breaking down barriers. Critics of the group have asked that people consider these implications, yet the group seems to continue asserting they are not political, just people who want to get together to drink beer and play basketball.

In college, I drank beer. I played basketball on roughly a weekly basis. Both of these activities I did with coed groups, however. It's fun to people because it's fun, not because of the genitalia they possess.

I hope the founder of the Masculine Coalition finds the social network he's looking for; surely, there are people on campus with similar interests with whom to interact. That said, he needs to be careful not to alienate the beer-drinking, basketball-playing students who also take their progressive politics seriously, which is the main reason I suspect this group is not thriving.

Much of the group's budget proposal went toward funding a Male Prison Rape Awareness Mixer, an event that was to simultaneously educate and serve alcohol to the masses. Frankly, upon hearing this news I could barely contain my laughter. Firstly, what kind of party is that? Is there anyone that is going to be excited on a Saturday night to go get wasted at a Male Prison Rape Awareness Mixer? Not anyone that wouldn't be making a mockery of it, at an rate. It sounds like a joke. Secondly, how is an event like that not political?

I came to know a lot about this affair since several of my friends have become more entangled in the debate than even they would hope, in addition to the story being covered on many major websites. Plus, it revolves around a social issue to which I give a lot of consideration. As a sophomore at Pitzer, frustrated by all the female empowerment without acknowledgment of men's issues, I also took a stance, inventing a group called Men Are Oppressed, or MAO -- the members would be known as Maoists. It never amounted to anything more than a joke that was referenced occasionally, but had there been a group that discussed the political/social implications of maleness, I would have joined.

As for the Masculinist Coalition, it was unanimously rejected at Pitzer's student senate, mainly because of its decidedly hostile start up and the club's unpopular name. The overwhelming response is that there should be a male group on campus, a space to discuss male issues. Men are generally shafted (pun not intended) on issues of reproductive rights and child custody. Men, probably even more than women, need to adhere to a certain set of behaviors or be rejected by their gender. Men cannot be openly emotional. Men must restrict their friendships with other males to ensure that no one mistakes them for a homosexual. I'm not saying men have it worse by any means, just that gender oppression is not just a one way street. We all are restricted by societal roles.

In truth, this debate could be squashed altogether if the group agreed to change its name. Apparently, there was talk of the organization electing to be called "Broalition" which would be perfectly inoffensive and humorous, as the group seems to want to be. Alas, the founder refuses to budge, explaining that he can't in good conscience back down from the name. I can't exactly follow his logic on this one, but that certainly is the most political act perpetuated by the group yet.

I suspect the founder is intentionally not attempting to stop the debate, however. Every move he makes seems precisely calculated. He appears to be setting himself up to be some sort of media darling. By filming his meetings, establishing a blog, submitting his story to major websites, he has successfully garnered attention and is poised to perhaps receive more. Supposed "reverse" discrimination is all the rage with the media. Since the more common incidents of discrimination are so frequent they've become accepted and expected, the real "news" is when a white male with privilege is unprivileged. With the right spin, something about how a liberal college won't allow a male group to exist on campus, this event is a Bill O'Reilly story waiting to happen.

From what I understand, there's been a lot of good dialogue occurring on Pitzer's campus surrounding these events, and I hope it continues. I also hope that if it continues to garner media attention that it highlights the ongoing gender inequity debates and is not distorted to some feminists-are-bitches-that-hate-men-and-claim-to-feel-oppressed-when-men-want-to-go-bowling that I fear is more likely.


A Pregnant Pause

Tonight, several of us went out to dinner to celebrate Phoebe's birthday. Someone selected the Buffalo Inn, a peculiar place, indeed. The first time I went to this establishment, I was told by a relative stranger that I looked like I like my sex freaky, which of course made me uncomfortable and gave me poor associations. On the second trip, I very much enjoyed the food, but was seated next to an honest to gosh cult holding a meeting. They were planning the terms of their group's exclusivity. As diverse as the Southern California population generally is, the cult is strikingly Caucasian, something that could also be said of the Buffalo Inn clientele as a whole. The leader was preaching that if there are new members of the group that "don't look like you," they still need to give them a chance, which we eavesdroppers interpreted as perhaps a discussion of inducting people of other races. When Michael Michael inquired with the server as to what was going on next to us, ey dismissed the people as weirdos -- "they're some kind of friendship group, they met on the internet or something."

This trip, the fun began as soon as arriving at the parking lot. Two people approached their truck, a countrified woman with big hair and an even bigger display of cleavage and a man whom she drunkenly held on to. It was quite a sight, made even better when she referred to the man she seemed to be flirting with as her brother. The next couple we spied in the parking lot was boring. As Phoebe put it, "we could have seen them in Connecticut." Just then, I spotted movement coming from behind a car in a distance, and suggested that maybe that person would be more exciting. Exciting it was: it was a scraggily man on crutches with a missing tooth and a lazy eye. As he passed by us and said hello, I could barely contain my wonderment. Afterwards, I wanted the record to reflect that I was excited for the possibilities of the mysterious figure before I even realized it was operating on three legs.

At first, we took a table outside near a live band playing your favorite rock/country fused hits; the lead singer looked like Kenny Rogers. Soon, however, my compatriots felt cold and asked to move in, later admitting they felt uncomfortable because we were being stared at by a table of uniformed members of the military seated adjacent to us. I was oblivious to them, instead staring at the restaurant's owner who had long white flowing hair, the same length as his similarly white flowing beard. It was beautifully absurd.

Inside, we took one of the few tables upstairs for a more private experience. Only then did we learn our server was morbidly obese, or in politer terms, eight months pregnant. This fact made some of my friends feel bad for forcing her to walk up the stairs just for us or for even ordering food that she would later have to fetch for us. In particular, Eric looked so pained by this process you'd think he was giving birth himself. Meanwhile, I guess I'm an asshole, because I really didn't have many qualms about the whole thing. I unapologetically ordered my food figuring she wanted my tip; it seemed more awkward to me to say "I want a beer, but I don't want to make you get it for me." Besides, she's fat, she could stand the exercise.

The restaurant has a large selection of beer. The pregnant waitress told us about her favorite choices, then recounted a time when she drank seventeen different kinds once and was super drunk. Hearing that come from a woman "of her condition," I felt more uncomfortable than I ever had in this place before, which is saying something. Granted, she's probably refering to a time before getting knocked up, but who knows. According to Madeleine, if a pregnant woman asks for a drink, you have to serve it to her, or else it could be considered gender discrimination. While this practice is disconcerting, it reminded me of a funny photo that was sent to me recently.

The photo of a pregnant woman smoking in itself isn't amusing, but the caption underneath it makes it funny in a how-ridiculous-can-people-get kind of way. The photo's subject is the kind of person that lowers my respect for humanity. I'm going to guess she frequents the Buffalo Inn.


A Wrong of Passage

Today I hit a new rite of passage: I discovered hair in a new place on my body. That's right, I've become a man -- specifically, an old man. Much to my disgust, I had a lengthy nose hair protruding from my nostril. I tried to show it who's boss by cramming it back inside my nose, only to realize that moments later it would free itself, dangling from my nostril once again.

I briefly contemplated going to the drug store and purchasing a nose hair trimmer, but I am not yet willing to concede this might become a regular issue rather than just a singular setback, so I just used scissors instead.

What's next, hair around my penis?


Car Drama

Madeleine's back in California and still as charming as ever.

Madeleine on having to go to court after being hit by a drunk driver: "They asked to have him not put away because he dresses as a clown at a children's hospital on the weekends and runs an Orange Julius. I'm sorry but no one wants to see his scary 60-year-old face in make up. It was his third DUI, I don't feel bad for him."

On her new used car: "I had a weird encounter with some high schoolers the other day. They pulled up next to me and made mustaches with their fingers and stuck their tongues out. I did it back to them and flipped them off. Why would they do that to me? When did I stop becoming their peer? Maybe it's because my car has a bumper sticker that says 'Pro-siesta and I vote.'"

On the reason for that bumper sticker: "I guess the last guy who owned it liked to take naps and vote. He had a bunch of stickers that I can't get off. Also, he had a tracheotomy and spoke through a hole in his throat, so the front windshield has a sticker that alerts police that if the driver is in an accident he cannot scream for help since he doesn't have vocal cords."


Playing the Race Card

A couple of weekends ago, I went to a wine tasting event with Alice, Michael Michael, and Shea. While I waited to be served, my attention drifted to the non-alcoholic merchandise available at the liquor store. There were a lot of kitschy kitchen supplies and wine paraphernalia, but my eye was drawn to one product in particular: Race Cards. "Race Cards?" I stopped to ponder. Was this a gimmicky, tangible item to pull out when someone asserted eir race or in essence "played the race card"? Why would a gag gift be snuggled amidst a display of corkscrews and coasters?

Taking a few more steps forward, I realized my mistake. It didn't say "Race Cards," it said "Place Cards." Having no shame, I confessed my misunderstanding to my friends, who laughed at my absurd explanation for why such a thing as "Race Cards" would be for sale. Everyone was quick to blame it on my poor eyesight, but I offer up photographic evidence that the "fancy" lettering definitely sets itself up for misinterpretation.

Genius strikes in odd ways. I feel this blunder is serendipitous: I suspect there'd be a niche market for my accidental product. Before you get any funny ideas, I assure you that I'm already in the process of patenting it. I'm going to be a hundredaire -- a hundredaire, I tell you!


Bad Fiction Contest

Me babbling at brunch: "I’ve always wanted to enter a bad fiction contest.  They have those – where you write something so intentionally horrible it’s good.  I’ve just never taken the time… Actually, I should do it with my class, have them write for the bad fiction contest too so that way I can do it at work.  Except that I would just call it “fiction contest,” and they would still be my muses."


New Favorite Rhyme

While flipping through a medical terminology book (an activity I wouldn't recommend unless you're down to see photos of people's flinch-inducing deformities, pox-marked skin, and junked up junk), I came across my new favorite rhyme: Babies with scabies

"Babies with scabies" or its alternate variation "Scabie Baby" will now be used in place of expletives in my vocabulary. I suggest you do the same.


Consumed by Cookies

Much to my annoyance, it is Girl Scout cookie season again. Yeah, I love their cookies, but addicts love meth, and that doesn't make scoring it a joyous occasion. Girl Scout cookies are a seasonal epidemic like the flu: everyone succumbs to it. With the flu, however, people actively attempt to ward it off but with Girl Scout cookies, people pay for the privilege of losing their willpower.

On the same day I received a free hug, the Girl Scouts were parading the streets hocking their cookies. I could resist these cookies even less than I could resist a free hug. Two boxes is sufficient, I told myself. But you want three, a conflicting voice urged. I sided with the three boxes argument before another voice chimed in for four.

Two days later, I stopped at the bank and the Girl Scouts were there, too. I had just taken out money, so how could I not buy a box? In spite of my intentions, when I actually asked for a box, I somehow managed to say "two," meaning that altogether I had five boxes of Girl Scout cookies. All of them were Tagalongs. I happen to like many varieties, but since I find myself dreaming about Tagalongs in the off-season, I find it difficult to justify buying any of the other kinds.

Two days after that, our nice neighbor Chloe dropped by to sell some cookies. I did not need any more cookies, but how could I say no to Chloe? Fortunately, she didn't have Tagalongs, so I bought a box of Thin Mints out of obligation. My total was now six boxes. They're multiplying!

Even if I were able to successfully resist the urge to buy them, I still couldn't escape. At work, a coworker offers me a cookie. At the bar, Rico offers us multiple cookies. At Margarita Monday, Laura brings cookies. At my friends' house, they leave cookies out for guests. It's overwhelming just being anywhere this time of year. And yet when I go home, it's even worse... At this point, our household has nearly twenty boxes of Girl Scout cookies. Convince me that that's not a problem. While I trust myself to at least ration my collection for months to come, my housemates are eating their shares in a more timely manner. There's at least two open boxes left out on the countertop at any given time. And they call to me. Even when I don't answer, my roommates are friendly enough to hand me one without me even asking.

We may consume the cookies, but more accurately the cookies consume us. I am not exaggerating when I say that during Girl Scout cookie season half my conversations are about the cookies, and half my meals are replaced with these cookies. I came to this realization while sitting on the couch with Katy and Michael Michael. For a couple of hours we had eaten a few varieties of cookies instead of dinner and though our conversation diverged many times, it kept coming back to the central topic of cookies. Once Girl Scout cookie season concludes, I vow to make my life a little more active/exciting/healthy again.

P.S. Boycott Samoas. On the back of the box (see the box on the left in the picture above) it features an inappropriate homoerotic photo of a firefighter spraying a group of smiling girl scouts with a hose. It's both a waste of water and over-sexualized. If anyone can get me a better picture of the box (because, come on, we know you have some) I will reward you with a cookie treat. A bonus cookie treat to anyone who also sends along a description of what the photo does to your loins.


Hardly an Assassination

After hearing many good things about the film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, I settled down to watch it with Katy, Alice, and Michael Michael on Sunday night. Most people tend to herald the film as a visual masterpiece with terrific cinematography and art direction, including my compatriots. While I can revel in visual candy for short periods of time like with certain music videos, I am not inclined to care for an entire movie. I suspect this mentality occurs for three reasons:
1) I grew up watching fuzzy television sets and never put much value in how the screen looks.
2) My vision is hardly 20/20, so, again, I don't prioritize how things look.
3) Since I get bored and prefer multitasking during movies, I don't devote the attention necessary to enjoy a film .

So while my friends oohed and ahhed at how beautiful it was, I was typing, only glancing up periodically. Admittedly, this action certainly sabotaged my full enjoyment of the movie, but that didn't change the fact that I found it thoroughly boring. You'd think a film about Jesse James would have a little bit more action. On top of that, the acting was just awkward, perhaps intentionally so, but jarringly all the same. I'm not too keen on Casey Affleck's acting; his career is clearly the result of nepotism, not unlike most of Hollywood, I suppose. My take is that he was told to play the character of Ford as sad, unconfident, and pathetic and that he missed the boat by taking that to mean to act robotic even though the movie's motif necessitates his character be somewhat relatable.

Also, I was distracted by the fact that Affleck's character seemed gay. Not distracted in the sense that I was upset and consequently disinterested, but in that I was then searching the internet to see if this was a fact or something I was reading into the performance. Apparently, I'm not the only person to see that, but it's not a popular opinion that Ford's fascination with James borders on sexual infatuation. Maybe I'm just hyperaware of queer subtext due to my years in Pitzer College's Media Studies department (for example: I'll stake my life on the fact that Superbad is about a repressed homosexual relationship),

Halfway through, all of my friends had stopped watching for various reasons even though they were far more into the film than me. Part of me was ready to quit, I was this close to skipping to the end so I could see the big assassination scene, but Amy came by and encouraged me to finish it. I sure wasn't going to pay to rent it again only to start from the beginning. Some parts were better than others: toward the end, the acting became laughable at points, like this one...

There's something about the delivery of the line "such extravagance" that's both horrible and comical. Furthermore, the script gets a bit sloppy with the infrequent narration. If a film relies on voice-overs, it should be a bit more consistent and not just to share information that they couldn't figure out how to work in otherwise. Then again, I suppose I appreciated any excuse to cut out additional scenes from an already two and a half hour movie. Just after I expressed to Amy what a waste of time the movie had been, a funny thing happened: I started to enjoy it.

Sure, it wasn't enjoyable until the last twenty minutes of the film, but damn those were a great twenty minutes. It only took the death of Jesse James to be complete for the film to get good. (Sorry, maybe I should have spoiler alerted that, but I figure given the title, the outcome is even less suspenseful than Titanic.) While the first two plus hours were a slow-moving western, the last twenty minutes introduced the thesis that coincidentally corresponds with my undergraduate thesis about notions of fame.

Part of what had bothered me about the film was the glamorization of Jesse James. James was an awful person who killed people, even children, for eir own gain. While earlier in his life, James had a radical political agenda so I could more easily overlook his violent tactics, in his later years it was purposeless slaying. I had contempt for glossing over the man's plain evilness and instead giving him a hero edit, but as it turned out, this approach was part of the film's point.

After James's death, he was glorified by the masses: his body was toured around the country to the delight of many. He would be immortalized, while his killer, Ford, would be reviled. In killing James, Ford anticipated becoming a hero for stopping an outlaw, yet found himself despised for destroying a legend. He wrote and performed in a stage play which reenacted James's death, and while people came for the notoriety, they still loathed him, branding him a coward. Ford never gained the acclaim he expected, ultimately being ambushed and killed in no worse a manner than he killed James, an act of which the public approved. Ford had become a truly pathetic figure, turning the story into one of the more gut-wrenchingly tragic tales I've ever seen.

The exploration of society's warped sense of celebrity is poignant and still applicable. I just wish this theme had been given more attention in the film's first two hours.


The Wrong Side of the Tracks

A frequent joke around my house is that we live on “the wrong side of the tracks.”  Though the town I reside in is affluent overall, there is a noticeable disparity of wealth south of the train tracks.  There are complaints by the town’s southern residents that the police and elected officials give preferential treatment to the north side of town, to which I feel there is a good deal of validity.  That said, however, I use the phrase in jest since our lifestyle is hardly hard-knock and dangerous like the term would suggest.
Perhaps I was wrong.  On Monday morning, the police arrived at our house (unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence) to warn us about a potentially dangerous individual on the loose.  Apparently, a robbery suspect knocked on our neighbor’s door, pushed the home owner to the ground, ran through the house breaking things, then escaped out the back where ey hopped over our wall and was in our yard for a while.
At the time, only Alice and Katy were home and they were oblivious to the incident.  Since the backdoor had been open so the dogs could let themselves out to urinate, there was a possibility the robber could have gotten in our house.  While Katy bravely searched the house, the officer inspected our trailer and garage with a drawn gun.  Alice compared the unexpected, surreal drama to an episode of 7th Heaven, which I find oddly appropriate. 
The police returned to our house two more times that day poking about, leading us to be concerned that perhaps there was legitimate concern that this wanted individual was lingering on our property.  They refused to provide details or answer questions on what exactly was going on.  Days later, the police are still circling our neighborhood and there’s even been a police helicopter flying overhead.
Consequently, our house’s terrorist alert color is currently on red.  Above everything, Amber is concerned that someone might steal the dogs.  Shea insists that would never happen because the dogs are “used.”  I prefer the term “well-loved.”
For two years now, we’ve never even locked the doors; in fact, I no longer even owned a house key.  In light of recent events, we’ve had to change this procedure and are actively securing our abode.  I sleep with a pitchfork for protection.  Okay, not really, but I am sure to leave my floor extra messy so that anyone who intrudes is likely to trip and fall on the debris.
Actually, I hope that a robber is secretly living in our house so that we can capture em and be interviewed on the local news.  Or we could barter with the police to turn em over for the dismissal of all of our unpaid parking tickets.  Also, if it turns out ey is living here, we’d probably let em get away with it, no questions asked, so long as the robber agrees to do occasional yard work and chip in on the water bill every once in a while.  There’s actually precedence for that in our house, even.
The more I think about it, the more I pity the people who live on “the right side of the tracks.”  They may be rich in money, but are they rich in adventure and excitement?  Not likely.   


Oasis vs. Beatles

A student asks, “Mr. [Kevin], who’s better, The Beatles or Oasis?”
“I like them both,” I respond, unable to resist laughing a bit at the funny inquiry.  “Who do you like better?”
“Definitely Oasis.”
“They’re just way better.  Plus, the Beatles only had a few good hits.”
I adamantly disagree with the last assertion, but hesitate on giving my final decision.  I grew up with both bands.  As a kid, I heard a lot of the Beatles from my parents; as a teenager, I bought the Oasis CD on a band trip in Canada and it was a remarkable influence in my life. 
At this student’s age, I would have said definitely said Oasis.  In this instance, however, I instead side with the Beatles, a choice that upsets my students.  In truth, I’m not sure why that was the decision that escaped my mouth.  But, I mean, they’re The Beatles, right?  They’re prolific, monumental, and multi-faceted.  Despite the Gallaghers’s claims to the contrary, it’s hard to say Oasis is bigger than the Beatles.
9th grade Kevin would be disappointed in my decision.  Drunk college Kevin, who screamed Oasis at the top of eir lungs in monthly Oasis sing-along sessions, would also be disappointed.  And now, twenty-four-year-old teacher Kevin is also disappointed.  Maybe I chose it to be a contrarian, but I think the more likely situation is that I’ve gotten old.  Old people choose the Beatles.  I might as well have followed up my opinion by taking out my false teeth.
Why do I so strongly desire to be youthful, yet consistently make adult decisions?  These sorts of debates are meant to be silly and perhaps incite a flippant argument or two, not beat you up days later.  What’s worse is that I can’t even say I made the wrong decision – if I could do that, this dilemma would be easy.  I want to say that I prefer Oasis, but moreover, I want to mean it. Have I grown up? Have I forsaken Oasis?

I've been wallowing in a "Champagne Supernova" ever since. I suppose there's nothing that brings me back to my teenage years better than working myself into a depression over a trivial subject.



"Two wrongs don't make a right, but three women can make a baby." - Amy


Free Hugs

On our way to get bagels, Alice and I spied a person on a street corner holding a sign that read "Free Hugs." I was immediately both curious and suspicious -- what a bizarre offer. We watched the person for a while and though several people passed, no one took eir up on the hugging, which made it a pretty sad scene. Sensing the sadness, and since free is my favorite price, I wasn't about to turn down the opportunity. As we walked in eir direction, without saying a word, I lifted up my arms as ey set down eir sign and we exchanged a nice big hug. We each said, "Thank you" then went our separate ways.

It felt great. The hugger looked to be so happy and I'm glad I could brighten eir day. On top of that, as Alice pointed out to me, I had a huge smile on my face afterwards, too. There was something powerful about embracing a stranger.

Nevertheless, I couldn't help question the motives. There was a chance that maybe this person just really needed a hug. Because we were in a college town, however, I dismissed it as a sociological experiment. It seemed most plausible that the person had a class assignment to see how many/what types of people would hug a stranger.

From the bagel shop, we watched the hugger from the window and saw that a few more people took advantage of the offer. Part of me was happy to see that other people were engaging in an intimate manner with the stranger. The other part of me wanted to run out in act of faux-jealousy and yell at people to get their hands off my woman because I can't seem to let a good experience just be without turning it into a joke.

As we strolled back to our car and passed the hugger again, we decided to ask for the person's reasons. The hugger gave a very hippy response about wanting to spread the love and how sometimes people need a hug, but are too afraid to ask, so ey was offering up the opportunity so that people would feel comfortable to approach eir. It was a good, valid explanation, yet I still walked away convinced that was eir rehearsed response because ey couldn't come out and undermine the experiment ey was undergoing. Before we left, I tried to find a cohort on a nearby bench taking field notes on the occurrences, but found no one. Hmmm.

When I recounted the incident later to Jocelyn, ey made a humorous suggestion that I should have stood on the opposite street corner holding a sign advertising "HUGS $1." I would despondently smoke a cigarette and send evil glares toward the free hugger, occasionally shouting "This is my business, get out of my fucking way!" or "You can't sell 'em 'cause your hugs are worth shit!"

At some point, Alice informed me that there is an international Free Hug movement, made popular by a music video that is one of the all time most watched clips on YouTube:

Up until then, I was unaware that such a phenomenon existed; the video is heartwarming. Initially, it took some excitement out of my hug experience since the idea wasn't original. Soon thereafter, however, I realized that it actually made it more special since it meant that this person was hugging out of eir own volition and kindness rather than just a scholarly pursuit.

It doesn't matter whether this idea is copied from someone else, isn't this something that more people should be doing? It felt terrific to share this moment with a stranger. It's an act of goodwill and unification, something humanity could use more of. As much as I instinctively tried to demean it and turn it into a farce, I can't deny its simplistic power. In spite of my frequent cynicism, it inspires me to go out and offer hugs to strangers as well.

I'm constantly in a battle with two sides of my personality: the lover and the misanthrope. I'm not sure how to reconcile simultaneously dreaming of humankind living and loving together in peace and also hating most people, but that's my reality. Maybe putting myself in a situation where I'm hugging more of the strangers I so readily dismiss would prove beneficial.


Trained Circus Bear

While some parties are just parties, other parties are genius. The latter was the case when my friends threw a Three-Ring Circus party in celebration of three birthdays: Margy, Erik, and Amy. It's the perfect party theme in that it's fun, bizarre, has the possibility for lots of cool costumes, and adds a certain level of nostalgia.

The party also has the clown factor. People are terrified of clowns to the point where they threatened not to come if anyone dressed up like one. For this reason, I encouraged clown costumes. I wanted people to be creeped out and perhaps even cry. Think of all the Halloween parties that are meant to be frightening but scare no one -- this party has the potential to actually arouse fear. Coulrophobia (fear of clowns), albeit fairly common, is a funny thing to exploit and witness up close.

I used to take costumes seriously, but as of late haven't been motivated to gussy myself up. For example, my most recent Halloween costumes have been a mask that I've had in my closet for years. The circus party had me excited, however. I wanted to be something cool and unique. I went through many ideas: clown, ring master, lion tamer, Siegfried and Roy, acrobat... or maybe a throwback to the circuses of yore: siamese twins, bearded lady, strong man, fat woman, etc. After racking my brain at length, I decided to go for a human cannonball. Later I found out that Amy was going on as that, so I didn't want to take the wind out of the birthday person's sail. It was ultimately a good call -- I couldn't compete with Amy's hot self-painted jacket.

Without a solid idea, I hit a couple of thrift stores for some inspiration. Spotting a giant teddy bear, it occurred to me that I had been thinking of this costume all wrong. Rather than being a person, I should be an animal. A pathetic animal, no less. I could be a circus bear, a sad animal that parades around for humans' amusement. I searched for a tutu to no avail, so instead I located a pink curtain. Lastly, I picked up some birthday party hats.

I brought home the items and realized I might be in over my head. I've never really made a costume before, so my plan to be a circus bear was certainly easier said than done. Turning a stuffed animal into a wearable outfit seemed possible, but not necessarily by my own hands. Heck, I decided, I've seen Project Runway, I can give this a shot. I took the teddy bear and literally slit its throat, pulling the stuffing out of its limp body. From there, I cut open its rear. There was a lot of guess and check work involved and I probably made some cuts I wouldn't/shouldn't have made had I been more experienced at my craft, but it fit over my body, so I was pretty proud. I cut the curtain until it looked somewhat tutu-like, strapped on a party hat, and added some roller skates.

It was great fun playing a bear. Sure, I seemed friendly, but as soon as something went wrong (like the music suddenly stopping mid-song), I lashed out and attempted to maul someone. And I thought the clowns would be the scariest. I bandied about a couple hibernation jokes, but my main shtick consisted of how my life sucked, forced to wear a tutu and a party hat and perform tirelessly for people. I'm good at playing pathetic.

In short, the circus party was amazing; I wish I could have stayed up later, but I'm not nearly as nocturnal as I used to be.