Daily WTF: Gym Equipment Isn’t Made for Women

Typical equipment at my gym.  Those pads go right over the fatty part of your breasts, and, no, they do not compress.

Typical equipment at my gym. Those pads go right over the fatty part of your breasts, and, no, they do not compress.

This month I returned to the gym after almost nine months off. I’d been doing body weight exercises and stretches at home as well as walking and running, but I wanted to get back to lifting. I wanted to do flys, which make my deltoids look amazing, and leg presses, which I can easily do up to 200 pounds. I wanted to feel strong and tough and like no one could fuck with me.

Unfortunately, I forgot how uncomfortable and ill-made gym equipment is. Much of it seems to be made for people that are 6’ tall or, at least, for no one shorter than 5’6”. Many of the machines have bulky pads that you’re supposed to rest your elbows on or lean on. Instead, these pads jam into my nipples, squish my boobs, and force me to overextend my sides. They are uncomfortable and unwieldy, which is probably why I almost never see women on them.

Instead, you’re much more likely to see women doing cardio or occasionally free weights. There are always several women walking along the track or rocking out to Zumba or going onto their second hour on the treadmill. My gym has a women-only room, which is where I usually see women doing free weights – despite the fact that the area is a third the size of the regular weight area with maybe a fourth of the machines and equipment.

While lifting is still seen as somewhat taboo among women (Oh, my God, what if it bulks me up like a man??? That is impossible, ladies. You don’t have enough testosterone. This is true for biological and transgender ladies.), it’s still the best way to get fit and, yes, lose weight. Lifting burns calories and builds muscles, which burn calories even when you’re not lifting as well as boost your metabolism. They stabilize and support you, making it easier to do cardio or any regular activity – housework, taking care of kids, walking for long periods of time, sports, dancing, throwing around heavy boxes, whatever – and can be a serious ego booster. Have you ever squatted with a 50 lb bar on your back? You feel like goddamn She-Ra.

I’ve brought up this issue with the management but considering the same 10 treadmills have been out-of-service since I was last at the gym, I highly doubt they’re going to do anything about it. Even if they actually wanted to, I’m not sure what they could do. A quick Internet search doesn’t show any equipment brand specifically made for women other than whatever’s being hawked by Jillian Michaels and the Thighmaster. This is such a shame because refusing to adapt gym equipment for women’s physiological needs is keeping half the population from being able to work out, which means that we’re also not being as healthy as we could be. Until then, I guess we just get to deal with our feet not being able to touch the ground, squeezing our boobs behind handles, and jamming machine parts into our thighs – which, by the way, really hurts.

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Daily WTF: Increasingly Formulaic, Homogenous, and Boring Superhero Movies/Shows

Property of Warner Brothers, DC Comics, and Empire Magazine

Property of Warner Brothers, DC Comics, and Empire Magazine

I must confess something: prior to the Marvel movies (specifically, Thor), I didn’t care about superhero comics. In the nineties and early two thousands, there didn’t seem to be anything particularly interesting about them. Their stories lacked gravitas and weight, and they seemed recycled. The boy saves the girl/city/planet/sidekick/himself and occasionally a girl pops up, shows off some T & A, and retreats to the shadows. I’ve since learned that that is a highly simplistic and not entirely correct summary of about 60 years of comic history, but that’s how I saw superhero comics at the time and given that both DC and Marvel were struggling financially, I’m not sure everyone would disagree.

Then came the superhero movies: X-Men, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, Thor, Watchmen, Wanted, and probably a dozen more that I never bothered to see. Some, like X-Men, were giant hits and help spark the current oversaturation of superhero movies, though it wasn’t until Iron Man that I became a convert. I loved the humor, the personality, the ideals behind Tony Stark’s Iron Man, the scope, the relationships, and the over-the-top-but-not-too-over-the-top fight scenes and graphics. No, Iron Man wasn’t “great art,” but it did fundamentally change how we saw superheroes and opened up the genre to millions of people.

Unfortunately, the superhero movie hasn’t really done much since then. Avengers was a wonderful movie that focused on the characters’ interpersonal relationship and catered to the audience, Captain America: Winter Soldier was a great exploration of Steve and Nat’s characters, and Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t take itself too seriously, though I would argue it still wasn’t really on point. Agent Carter has featured some interesting role reversals and exploration of the character, and people are excited about the new Supergirl show. And, of course, there’s still excitement about all the other Marvel movies, the new Batman vs. Superman, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Daredevil, etc., etc., but I’m over it.

Why? Because it’s all starting to run together. The vast majority of the protagonists are men. The vast majority of all the characters are white and (assumably or expressly) straight. All the plots are gritty and dark. All the story arcs are huge, world-enders. All the characters are oh-so-serious. No one is disabled. No one faces discrimination. No one enjoys their life. They’re driven by a sense of duty, but it seems incredibly forced. There’s little joy or vitality. Honestly, it’s getting depressing.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that these movies and shows have nothing to offer. Jason Momoa as Aquaman promises to be interesting, and the battle between Batman and Superman will likely be suitably grandiose. Ant-Man offered a sweet father-daughter dynamic. Captain America: Civil War looks interesting though I doubt it will be little more than a re-hash of the Avengers movies. There’s also talk of Black Panther and Captain Marvel movies, which could be fun.

However, for the time being, I’m done with superhero movies. Until the casting is diverse (and not just racially but socio-economically and personality-wise), until the movies can be at least somewhat light-hearted and fun, and until the plots can stop leveling up like a Dragonball Z character, I’m done. Wake me when America Chavaez or Ms. Marvel get a movie.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, by Sydney Padua

I absolutely want to read this. It looks amazing!

Vulpes Libris

9780141981512I should like very much to thank the Facebook friend whose series of updates as she chortled her way through this book tempted me to buy it. Without that prompt I should never have considered it, so far was it from my usual fare. A graphic novel (though since reading Persepolis I’m a lot more open to that) in riotous comic-strip form, about Science and Maths (eeek!), and, the clincher, genre: Steampunk. Despite all that (as far as I am concerned), The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is a brilliant book. It’s erudite, makes difficult concepts easy, bursts with energy and invention, and is absolutely hilarious.

Sydney Padua’s background is in film, as an animator and story artist, and, in her own words ‘generally employed in making giant monsters attack people for the movies’. This is her first foray into the comic strip form, and it is a triumph…

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Adventures in Reading July 20 — July 26, 2015

Property of Granta

Property of Granta

What did I read (and finish) this week? Look below to find out.

Granta 130: India: Another Way of Seeing (2015). This issue of the literary magazine Granta focuses on India with almost every essay, story, or poem being written by a native Indian. The issue is pretty spotty though the worst that can be said is that some of the pieces are boring. However, I really enjoyed others like Vinod Kunar Shukla’s poems, the Annawadi photos, “Othello Sucks,” the art and photos by Gauri Gill and Rajesh Vangad, “Shunaka,” “Pyre,” and “A Double-Income Family.” I look forward to picking up the next issue.

Delayed Replays by Liz Prince (2007). This short little booklet contains some quick comics about love, life, and college. It’s better edited than Will You Still Love Me If I Wet the Bed? but there’s not much to it either.

Iceland by Kathleen W. Deady (2004). This short children’s book about Iceland contains some interesting facts and pretty pictures but nothing too substantive. Might be good for an early reader, but it doesn’t offer much for adults.

Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and illustrated by Kerascoet (2009/2014). This English translation of the French story and comic is about a collective of little people that emerge from the body of a dead girl and have to learn to live with each other and in the wild. It’s gorgeously done and very disturbing, but I really loved it. Click here to see my in-depth review.

Property of Yusei Matsui and Shonen Jump

Property of Yusei Matsui and Shonen Jump

Ongoing manga series:

Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (Assassination Classroom) by Yusei Matsui (2012 – ongoing), ch. 144 – 149. This arc features the class engaging in an epic game of Capture the Flag to figure out if they’re going to save or kill Koro-sensei. It really showcases how each person has grown in the year they’ve been together and features some pretty nifty psychological and physical warfare.

Shokugeki no Soma (Food Wars!/Soma’s Cooking Battles) by Yuto Tsukuda (2012 – ongoing), ch. 123 – 129. This arc showcases Soma and Tadokoro at the Harvest Moon Festival trying to compete with the 8th Seat. It’s not the most action-packed arc, but it’s fun seeing how the two cope with their poor ranking and try to leverage their way back up. I’m looking forward to the conclusion.

Daily WTF: Religious Groups Suing for the Right to Discriminate and Abuse Children

Photo taken from: https://healingpowersofhappiness.wordpress.com/tag/religious-tolerance/

Photo taken from:
https://healingpowersofhappiness. wordpress.com/tag/religious-tolerance/

Today in my newspaper I saw an article titled, “Religious Group Threatens Lawsuit Over Kentucky Policy Banning Anti-Gay Comments at Juvenile Jails.” I was intrigued, so I clicked on it. Apparently, the Liberty Counsel, which is a nonprofit from Virginia working to “preserve religious liberty and help create and maintain a society in which everyone will have the opportunity to discover the truth that will give true freedom” (i.e., their particular brand of Christianity), wants to sue the state of Kentucky for asking a volunteer minister to stop coming to the Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center. Kentucky’s reasoning? The minister wouldn’t comply with the state’s anti-discrimination policy requiring “fair and equal treatment without bias” for “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and intersex juveniles.”

Or, to put it bluntly, he wouldn’t stop telling queer kids they were going to hell.

There are approximately 31,000 verses in the Bible, Old and New Testament included, and only about six or seven of them reference homosexuality in any way. If people want to believe those verses condemn homosexuality wholesale, fine, let them, but must they reduce the entirety of the Christian religion to condemning homosexuals? Must every sermon be about how the gays are going to hell? Must those six or seven verses be the basis of their entire religion? What of, “Love does no harm to a neighbor? Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”? What of, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone”? Why not simply read the Bible together and, once you come to the passages about homosexuality, read them too and talk about them? Why do you have to explicitly tell kids they’re going to hell? That they’re wrong? That they’re abnormal? That they need to change who they are and what they think is right for themselves?

I had a high school friend hop on my Facebook tonight and try to tell me that this was a religious freedom matter because, “as specified by the first amendment, this pastor has the right to share his religious view, regardless of if you believe them or not.” Here is the text of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

No where there does it say that you are allowed to share your religious views any way you want, no where does it say you’re allowed to wield your religion as a cudgel against others, and no where does it say that Congress has to respect your religion. You can practice it. Congress cannot prohibit you from practicing it. And Warren Regional Juvenile Detention Center asking Minister David Wells to please stop telling everyone they’re horrible and going to hell for their gender or to please leave is not a prohibition of practice; it is a reminder to be a decent human being. It is a reminder that Christianity is so much more than condemning homosexuals. It is a reminder that you can read and discuss the passages of the Bible that condemn homosexuality but not judge and harass those you’re trying to bring into the fold. It’s a reminder to be kind and to allow everyone, not just the people you think are “normal,” to access what could be redemptive and healing in Christianity. Or, as another, less inflammatory Facebook friend wrote, “The Bible’s hope lies in Jesus’ promise to love everyone, not to tell kids they are going to hell for being gay.” People need to remember that and to remember that if they truly believe in the power of the Christian faith, they should be trying to get people to believe in it and be healed by it and not use it to get people to kill themselves – which is exactly what happens when you use the Bible to discriminate.

Daily WTF: The Taylor Swift-Nicki Minaj Beef

The Beef

On Tuesday, July 21, Nicki Minaj received a VMA nomination for Best Hip-Hop Video for “Anaconda,” and while she was excited about the nomination, she still felt snubbed for “Feeling Myself” and the fact that “Anaconda” didn’t get nominated for best choreography as well. She also took the time to point out that videos by “other” girls (read: white) about skinny girls would get the nomination/win hands down and that black women often don’t receive the recognition for their achievements that they deserve. Which is when Taylor Swift took the time to feel personally offended and throw out her two cents with the Tweet, “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot…”

And then the Internet lost its freaking mind.

I learned about the “feud” within two hours from a friend on Facebook whose status read that she was off the T-Swift bandwagon and was seriously disappointed in her. When I asked what happened, she sent me to this link.

I admit, I didn’t initially see what the big deal was – not because I thought Taylor was in the right but because 1) it seemed like a misunderstanding and 2) it was consistent with Taylor’s brand and personality. Nicki had thrown around a bit of passive-aggressiveness, which as one of the US’ top white female singers Taylor could easily (if inaccurately) assume was a jab against her. However, Taylor getting in someone else’s lane and aggressively trying to protect her brand is pretty par for the course. She’s constantly talking about her rights as an artist and would never allow her music to be listened to for free. She tightly monitors who is filming her and what gets out. She spends numerous songs and interviews talking about how people try to misrepresent her but she’s not going to let them. So was it really surprising to anyone that she would take Nicki’s Tweets and make them all about her? Or have people just not been paying attention?

And while I thought it was a bit dumb for people to react as insanely as they did, this was a good teaching moment to learn about white fragility, which is “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” Taylor Swift, a white woman, presumed that Nicki Minaj, a black woman, was criticizing her and downplaying her work. She ignored the wider problem that Nicki was actually criticizing, which is black women and other women of color not getting the recognition they deserve, and instead made it about her. Even when Nicki responded with, “Huh? U must not be reading my tweets. Didn’t say a word about u. I love u just as much. But u should speak on this,” Taylor only managed, “If I win, please come up with me!! You’re invited to any stage I’m ever on” – as though standing on stage because a white person allowed you up there could in any way honor Nicki’s accomplishments and talent.

Eventually, the two made up, with Taylor publically apologizing and Nicki very graciously accepting, but the damage had been done. Nicki’s original point about black women rarely being rewarded for their work and contributions had been washed out in a wave of vitriol against her and Taylor, including some bad press where she was painted as a crazy, uppity black woman against Taylor’s perfect, pure beauty. Fortunately, most of public opinion went Nicki’s way, which points that society is getting tired of black women getting stepped on and misrepresented, but that’s no guarantee that this won’t happen again. But at least Nicki stood up for herself and her principles and made it a little easier for other black men and women to do the same. Hopefully, it’ll translate to greater artistic equality in the future, and, with any luck, Taylor will realize that she’s not always in the right.

Beautiful Darkness: The Horrifyingly Beautiful Fairy Tale

Beautiful_Darkness_Cover

Spoiler and Trigger Warning: discussions of a child’s death, violence, and generally telling you exactly what is going to happen in this book

The purview of fairy tales is to teach us lessons through a deep, abiding sense of horror. We know that the wicked never prosper because Cinderella’s stepmother had to dance in a pair of red-hot shoes and her stepsisters had their feet mutilated. We know that the greatest beauty is grotesque as shown by Snow White’s blood red lips, snow-white skin, coal black hair, and the fact that she is lusted after when she is yet a child. We know that children’s innocence and naiveté have an end date because the Big Bad Wolf (and other Big Bad Wolves) are constantly waiting to attack and defile the Little Red Riding Hoods of the world. And these are things that we know and know unquestioningly throughout our lives because of the fairy tales we read as children.

Beautiful Darkness is just one such fairy tale.

Beautiful Darkness is a graphic novel adapted from the story by Marie Pommepuy and Fabien Vehlmann and illustrated by Kerascoët. The fairy tale starts like most do: life is peaceful and idyllic for Aurora, her prince Hector, and her good, loyal friend Plim. Then, out of no where and against all fairy tale logic, something horrifying happens. The walls and ceiling drip and coalesce in great, red globs, forcing the trio to run, split up, and burrow through the ceiling into the rainy night. All around Aurora, other people are burrowing up from their home into the rain, grasping hands, cowering under leaves, crying, and abandoning ship. And that is when we learn that their home is actually the body of a dead little girl.

BD_dead_girl

It does not get much better after this.

Dozens of little people pour from the dead girl’s body, but by the end of the book there is only one left: Aurora. However, the journey to her solitude is long and fraught with catastrophes. Forest creatures come during the night and carry off several of the little people. Many die from poisonous berries, mushrooms, and plants. Some are eaten by their friends. Some are simply killed by their friends. And as time goes on, their personalities harden, crystallizing into black-and-white perspectives. Aurora is endlessly helpful and cheerful and that makes her the victim of the others’ selfishness. Zelie the helpless princess becomes ruthless and commanding, foregoing any humanity to achieve her happily ever after. Jane the outsider runs further and further away from the others, doing whatever she can to survive and even thrive. Plim the loyal friend hitches her wagon to Zelie and becomes bossy and cruel, taking advantage of others to further her own position. And the poor little blonde one burrows deeper and deeper into the body of the dead girl, refusing to venture outside or adapt to her new situation.

The reader spends much of the book trying to figure out what’s going on. Who is the dead girl? What happened to her? Who are these little people? How did they get there? What is the point of their story? Why are they all so endlessly selfish and shortsighted? And who is this bearded man in the woods that all the little people – except for the pragmatic Jane – seem so attracted to?

While much of the story does seem disjointed, it gains greater clarity when you understand that the little people are faucets of the dead’s girl’s personality. In the opening sequence, we literally seem them coming out of her, pouring out of her eye, nose, mouth, and clothing. If they weren’t anthropomorphized faucets of her personality, then how did they get there? Where did they come from? How did they build lives with dresses, shoes, and dances inside her body? We are never told, and none of the little people seem to have lives before the moment of the great collapse. Most are childlike and helpless and utterly unable to cope with the outside world. Those that do succeed because they grow hard but most fall to the wayside.

Thus, this particular fairy tale doesn’t have a moral; rather, it contains a life lesson: when we die, our bodies will return to nature, leaving only the smallest, most essential spark of ourselves. Beautiful Darkness tells the story of how this happens. First, our consciousness exits our body, trying to find purchase in the world. Then nature comes for us, decomposing our body and scattering our spirit. The strongest pieces of our spirit seek out remnants of our past; in this case, the bearded man in the forest. They latch onto him, foregoing their own safety for some security. And then we fade away.

Bearded_man

So who is the bearded man? While we are never explicitly told, we do receive some clues. He is a loner who lives in the forest and who knows where the dead girl’s body is but never tells anyone. He drinks, has a gun, and is capable of capturing, killing, and skinning wild animals. He has a broken toy doll in his home, despite the fact that there is nothing else in there suitable for a child. Jane both hates and fears him, but Aurora and Zelie, who are attracted to princes, seek him out and want to be with him.

The most logical explanation is that he had something to do with the girl’s death, especially if we’re going by fairy tale tropes and the one image we have of the girl when she was still alive. Our Sleeping Beauty goes to the woods to nap, possibly after having had a bad day at school, ditching it, or avoiding home. She wakes in the late afternoon and begins to stumble back and is stopped by something that makes her scream. Her scream echoes through her body, terrifying the blonde little person that refuses to leave her dead body. Who else could she have encountered but the bearded man? Did he lure her to his home? Did he assault her? Did he kill her and ditch her body in the woods, knowing that she was lost and no one would ever find her? But was he kind for a moment? Did he offer her honey, which is why Aurora thinks his hair smells like it? Did he smile at her and reassure her that everything would be okay, which is why both Zelie and Aurora call him their prince? Did he strangle her, which is why the dead girl’s body is so blue and why Jane hates the bearded man? And is that why all the living little people seek him out – because he is their last connection to life and the being who brought them to life?

If all of that is true, we’re back on familiar ground. We have a little girl who disobeys her parents and wanders into a dangerous area. She encounters a dangerous man, who momentarily tricks her. Then he violently and abruptly changes her life forever and all the other members of the fairy tale – the little people – must now try to find their own happy ending, forging their spirits through violence and disaster. That is something we can understand, even if it is brutal.

BD_horror

What makes Beautiful Darkness even more haunting is its beautiful and playful art style. Kerascoët utilizes simple watercolor drawings (long the medium of children’s books) and a bright, natural palette to create scenes of horror – a bird forcibly feeding a little person, a little person puffing up with a rash, a fly wing-covered princess burying someone alive, forest creatures attacking and carrying off people, and little Aurora plucking out a mouse’s eyes. The scenes would be disturbing in and of themselves, but their wide-eyed and childlike beauty help heighten their horror.

If you have made it through the end of the book, you will remember it for years. Whenever someone asks you what your favorite fairy tale is, you will remember it, even if it isn’t. When someone asks if you’ve read any good books lately, you’ll pause over it. When someone tries to say that graphic novels can only be about superheroes, you’ll immediately demure. You may not like Beautiful Darkness, and you may never want to read it again, but you will remember it, which means that this fairy tale has done its job.

An Open Letter to Those Who Helped Me This Week

20150726_191747This past week has been one of the most stressful and hurtful weeks I’ve experienced since I was still living with my family in high school. There have been a lot of accusations, name-calling, inflammatory words, and just plain hurtful language. I have spent hours in a haze of hurt, anger, and worry, and often wondered how to get out of it. All of this was incredibly distracting and stressful.

But there were some people who were willing to help. They emailed or messaged me personally, letting me know they were sorry for my family’s actions and that they supported me. They talked with me late into the night, reaffirming my self-confidence and self-worth. They offered their homes and their attention as refuges so that I could try to distress and distance myself. They weighed in on my options and decisions, helping me make the right choices not only for myself but also for others. They made me laugh either through jokes, plans, or in one incredible case, an entirely new laptop. They were invaluable.

I write my feelings as an open letter because I have never been good at expressing them directly. Over the past decade, I’ve gotten better at it, moving through all the intermediary stages of passive-aggressiveness, mailed and hand-delivered notes, texts, and emails; however, I still struggle with this. I hope this letter reaches you and that I have shown just how much you mean to me and how helpful and necessary your support was. If not, I apologize, but please know that if you helped me at all this week, even in ways you don’t consider important, I appreciated it.

I am often surprised by how supportive others can be. My family is overall not very supportive, and I have had a series of unsupportive and judgmental friends in the past. While these people might have been good for sleepovers and band camp, they were always conspicuously absent in times of extreme stress and need. I have had entire swaths of friends abandon me after blaming our group’s problems on me and goading their mothers into talking with mine. I have had friends get so angry after I’ve spurned their advances that they’ve sent viruses to my computer and destroyed it and everything on it. I’ve had friends refuse to contact me anymore because their mothers didn’t approve of my parents or of my outspokenness. I’ve had friends tell me not to call or text after a certain time and to never bring up the topic I needed their help with because it was stressful for them. I have, in short, had many bad friends.

That is why I am often hesitant to come to you in times of need or unburden my feelings to you. I don’t wish to be disappointed or hurt. It has happened too often in the past, and I would like to decrease the change of it happening again in the future.

However, I also don’t want to put my problems on you or have you think less of me. I know that you’re busy, and I know that you have problems of your own. You don’t need more. I would like for you to think of me as a confident, competent individual that you can come to whenever you want to or need to. I worry that you won’t be able to if you see me struggling from time to time. I worry that you will think I am irresponsible, melodramatic, or selfish.

So thank you again for being there for me and for not making me feel like I was irresponsible, incompetent, melodramatic, or selfish, and thank you for not holding my family’s bad behavior against me. I try to shield my friends from them, but I am not always successful, especially when I need to talk about them in order to let out my feelings.

If I have made you feel uncomfortable in any way, I apologize; that was not my intention. If I have rambled too long over something we’ve already discussed ad nauseam, I also apologize. You are wonderful for putting up with it and not holding it against me.

I hope that things like this won’t happen again – at least, not in the near future. I also hope that you won’t hesitate to unburden yourself to me in the future. I will do my best to pay attention to you, your life, and your emotions, but know that even if I fail to notice on my own, I still want you to tell me. And I will be there will commiseration and some kind of food. I love giving people food.

So thank you again. Thank you for giving me the strength and perspective to power through this difficult week, and thank you for reminding me that I am loved and esteemed and worthy of being loved and esteemed. It is always so nice to be reminded of that.

With all my love and gratitude,
Me

Adventures in Links — July 24, 2015

A few fun links to start your weekend off right (or, in this case, end it right.). 🙂

So there’s this thing can Bee and PuppyCat. Have you heard of it before? It stars Bee, a socially awkward girl who can’t hold a job or interact with her cute neighbor but is gifted with a puppycat from another dimension, who gets her to fight monsters and earn a little extra cash. It is weird as hell and adorable, and it makes me so, so happy. Click above to see the pilot or click here to go to the YouTube links. You’ll be happy you did!

Want something fun and creative to waste a bit of time on? Why not try this Mermaid Maker? It has thousands of different combinations of tail types, body types, eye types, hair types and colors, and accessories. It’s totally fun.

I’m sure you all enjoyed how strong Claire Dearing was in Jurassic World because of her high heels. I mean, didn’t you just feel empowered? And don’t you think all the characters in the Jurassic Park franchise – even the dinosaurs – should be just as empowered? Well, have no fear, the Jurassic Park: High Heels Edition will give you what you’ve been dreaming of.

Are you confused about who to vote for in the 2016 Presidential Election? Do none of the candidates align with your values or seem to do enough for felines? Well, fortunately, Kentucky resident Limberbutt McCubbins and actual cat has thrown his stuffed mouse in the ring. Now that’s a candidate we can all get behind.

Did you know that there’s a penis museum and an elf school in Iceland? And that you can attend both? Because there totally are and you totally can.

Daily WTF: Racist, Confederate Flag-Waving Assholes

Facebook_racismTW: racism and hate crimes, specifically against black people

Recently, I came across this Facebook exchange. It features a man, Rocky Glass, who’s pissed because someone burned down the Confederate flag attached to his pickup truck, damaging the truck in the process. He posted the news/picture on his Facebook page, and his friends quickly got on the bandwagon, threatening to get their guns and watch out for the perpetrators. They also began spewing hate and racism, saying things like, “Boy they sure are making it easy to hate an entire race. Even though the thought wasn’t there before,” “It all trickles down from the head pieces of shit, Obama and Sharpton,” “Fly one of these next time [picture of Nazi flag],” and “We bouta lynch someone.” And if you look up their names (all except the original poster’s, oddly enough), you can confirm that these are all real people. This was neither a joke nor a Photoshop.

While I don’t agree with vandalizing people’s property or burning someone else’s property because you don’t agree with it ideologically (which is a really painful concession to make in this case), that does not excuse racism, hate crimes, or threatening/perpetrating murder. I can’t believe I have to say that. The proper response to vandalism is not blaming an entire race and then reviving the racist rhetoric of decades past. We should also remember that it’s not just African-Americans that think the Confederate flag is racist and should be treated as a symbol for hate crimes. Just yesterday, I was discussing with some friends how hateful and ignorant the people that fly those flags from their vehicles must be – and all four of us involved in the conversation were white. In fact, I would probably argue that it’s more likely that a white person committed the vandalism. We don’t have to live with the fear of being harmed because of our race and often don’t think about the consequences of our actions, especially when those consequences can be race-related.

Exchanges like these demonstrate that the Confederate flag goes hand-in-hand with anti-black racism. I can understand getting upset because someone damaged your vehicle – trucks are expensive and cosmetic repairs are doubly so. I can understand getting upset because you think someone is shitting on your heritage (not that you should be proud of racism and the Confederacy but if you are, fine, whatever). I can even understand threatening to sit out with a gun to shoot anyone else that tries to vandalize your property. We’ve all heard someone threaten that because neighbor kids knocked down a mailbox or an angry ex scratched your car or a rival football team burnt their symbol into your field; that doesn’t mean it should be acceptable, but we can argue that it’s just a figure of speech. Fine. But why does the incident have to be about race? Especially if you are claiming that the Confederate flag has nothing to do with race? Shouldn’t you be blaming uppity liberals or progressive trying to take away your guns or Obama and Hilary Clinton or welfare queens or whatever group of people you feel are marginalizing and controlling you? Clearly, since you immediately jumped to race, you feel that the Confederate flag is about race. You understand that it is a stand against black people. That it is an affront against black people. And you simply don’t care.

This sort of behavior and hate speech needs to be tracked and categorized. I hope that the residents of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania start doing so, especially since residents have noticed a surge in Confederate flags, hate speech, and street harassment against black people. I do not hope for an injury or murder of a black person, but I do hope that the dissemination of these people’s hateful and racist words will find their way into the community and to the authorities and they will, at the very least, receive warnings. I hope that community centers, churches, and schools will take these incidents seriously and begin opening up a community dialogue about race relations and tension, the Confederate flag, and the proper response to vandalism. I hope that someone will stand on the side of black people and take their concerns seriously because right now we’re not and that’s why more and more of them are being hurt, injured, and killed. We, American society and white society, need to start believing black society and taking their concerns seriously. It’s about damn time.