Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ghosts of Halloweens past ...


Before I begin, let me just say: I LOVE that Halloween is on a Sunday this year. LOVE. IT. Christine O'Donnell might deny her witchiness, but if you ask me, she planned it.

HALLOWEEN! The celebration of All Hallow's Eve, Samhain, All Souls Day, El Dia de los Muertos (which, while technically Nov.1st, still celebrates the dead, so it counts). Do you remember waiting months, weeks, and days for Halloween? Do you remember planning out your costume in intricate detail? That familiar scent of fall mixed high fructose corn syrup? The anticipation of going to school looking like something other than a nerdy kid, and maybe (depending on the year), getting to wear *gasp!* MAKEUP?! Do you remember the thrill of watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" on public access TV??????? (Okay, maybe that last one was just me...)

I DO. I loved the anticipation of Halloween, though not necessarily Halloween itself. I loved planning my costumes every year, racking my brain for better, more creative ideas than anyone else. I loved trick or treating, I loved the candy. What I didn't love was all the scariness attached to it. I *HATED* being scared, and this is coming from a child who was scared all the time, whether it was Halloween or no. I still get scared easily. I don't do scary movies, I don't do fright fests, and I CERTAINLY do not do Haunted Houses. It was a bit of a battle for me, year after year - in order to celebrate my awesome creativity, I had to brave all the haunted-house-nightmare-on-elm-street-friday-the-13th-Jason-in-a-hockey-mask-Freddy-Kreuger's-blood-drenched-metal-fingers-ghosts-in-the-graveyard-things-that-go-bump-in-the-night-and-kill-me-with-a-chainsaw bullshit. Sometimes I failed, sometimes I succeeded. But no matter the fear factor, I was always there - ironic and esoteric costume in tow.

You have to understand - when you're raised by theatre professionals, the costume possibilities are endless. It was never enough for me to be a typical Halloween anything. I was never once a witch, or a ghost, or a mummy (I did go as Dracula one year, but I was the best Dracula you've ever seen!). I never went as the cartoon-character-of-the-year, never dressed up as any kind of doll or princess. And with my costume shop kingdom, I won costume contest after costume contest - it was every child's DREAM! Except most other children weren't envious of me, so much as they were relieved that there was someone (much) weirder than them. But I *liked* being weird. In fact, I kind of excelled at it.

Case-in-point: The 1st Grade Dragonfly Faery (age 6)

I wasn't just a Dragonfly, and I wasn't just a Faery. I was a dragonflyfaery. Costume source: Gem Theatre costume shop, thanks to my dad. I believe the wings and head were from a recent production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

That was pretty much as girly as I got. I don't think I was ever caught in pink tights again. But look at the production values on that mask! What kid wouldn't want something that geeky cool??

Costumes became more complicated as I grew older, however. At some point, I lost my costume shop privileges; not because of anything I'd done, but I didn't have access to it anymore. That's when my right brain kicked in, and came up with some truly out-there ideas. Like what? Davy Crockett. In 1992. I don't know if you remember how popular Davy Crockett was in 1992, but I think he was somewhere between Howdy Doody and a French Revolutionary. I was *SO* insanely proud of this idea. I had gone on a roadtrip that summer with my mom, step-dad, and step-sisters. It was a wholly awful trip - lots of arguing, usually about something that I did (I hated being the youngest), though I can't remember. The arguing was so bad, my mom took me and we went off on our own. For my money, that was the best part of the trip - we saw Old Faithful, and the sulfer springs - and with the money I had been saving, I bought myself a coon-skin cap and a musk-ox horn - the noise-making variety, not for gunpowder.

In late August, long after we had returned home, I told my mom I wanted to be Davy Crockett for Halloween. She found the costume print, we picked out the fabric, and she even bought me a pair of moccasins to wear. It had the fringe on the arms, the front of the jacket - I had my cap guns and air-chamber rifle I had been given the Christmas before - it. was. AWESOME. I won 2nd place at the Whittier Halloween Festival, and received a whole bucket load of candy, and a ribbon. The candy was offered up to the rest of the family (and was promptly consumed). But the ribbon stayed on my bookshelf for YEARS - a testament to my originality and affirmation in my creativity. So while I was constantly doing something wrong in the eyes of my step-family, I had a token reminder that I was actually much better than what they were telling me.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of me as Davy Crockett, though my mom might. But that's still my favorite Halloween costume to date.

By the time I reached high school, my need for originality got worse. A LOT worse. My sophomore year, I stapled trash to an old shirt and pair of jeans, smeared my face with dirt, and went as Pollution.

My senior year, I went as an Academic:

[By the by, this photo was taken at my friend Anna's house at 6:30 a.m., before 0 period Marching Band. So if I look half-awake, it's because I am.]

As an adult, Halloween doesn't have the same significance to me. I enjoy it, it's fun. I don't dress up anymore - I think being an actor has taken all of the air out of that particular balloon. I do love passing out candy, though, and seeing the kids in their costumes now. Unfortunately, adulthood also comes with a price - I'm starting a temp job on Halloween that begins at 6:00 p.m. and lasts until 3:00 a.m. So no candy deposits for me this year. The things we do for a buck, eh? Ah well.

I could go on and on about the weirdness/genius of my past Halloween costumes, but rather than waxing poetical in long detail, I'll list them instead.

Top 9 Halloween Costumes I've worn/created:

1. Davy Crockett (age 10)*
2. The Artful Dodger (age 5)* - Yes, from Oliver!
3. Errol Flynn/Captain Blood (age 8)
4. Pollywog/Frog (age 2)
5. Pollution (age 15)

6. Lesbian Army of one (age 20)*
7. Calamity Jane (age 9)
8. Werewolf of London (age 7)*
9. Robbin Hood (age 11)

* Denotes costume contest winners

(Wow. I'm totally braggy about my costumes! I apologize for the blatant douchiness)

Single WORST Costume I've ever been forced to wear:

CLOWN (age 4)

The story: I hate clowns. I've ALWAYS hated clowns. One Halloween, my dad has to go out of town for business, so he asks my best friend's mom if I can go trick-or-treating with them? Of course! My dad wonders what costume he should appropriate for me, and Pam, my best friend's mom says, don't worry about it, I have an extra costume, then the girls will match! Perfect, says my dad. So I show up to my best friend's house, very excited about wearing a matchy-matchy costume with her. She takes me into her room to show me, and whambamthankyouma'am, I see the clown wig and the crazy costume, and I BURST into tears. Somewhere, there's a photo of Crystal and I standing in Pam's kitchen - Crystal is smiling shyly, not sure what to do, because I can't stop crying.

If you could see the photo below close up, you'd see tear-tracks in my clown makeup. This is after the fiasco, where I'm emotionally binge-eating chocolate, in an attempt to patch the giant hole of terror that was brutally ripped in my psyche.

Trick-or-treating with pillow cases! OLD. SCHOOL.

Some more Halloween Favorites:

Candy: Rolos or Milky Way Midnights (worst: anything that's not chocolate, and whoppers)
Movie: "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown"
Song: "I Put a Spell on You" Bette Midler, a la Hocus Pocus
Event: The Rocky Horror Halloween party I threw in my hall when I was an RA in College, complete with toilet paper, toast, rice, and every Rocky Horror accoutrement known to human kind.

So what about you? Favorites? Worsts? Fears? I hope your Halloween is whatever you want it to be - whether it's celebrating your own brilliance, or cuddling up on the couch with your favorite bag of candy, and watching something scary like the 700 Club on the boob tube. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

THE list.


You know what I'm talking about. THE. LIST. That mental sheet of celebrity names you keep in the back of your head - the names of people which you would gladly sleep with, despite that awesome relationship with your partner. THE LIST!

One night during my sophomore year of college, I was having an IM session with my friend Jon, who lives in San Francisco. I don't remember most of the details, except that somehow we started claiming female celebrities. I'm sure the conversation began with us bemoaning our lack of girlfriends. He claimed one, and then I claimed one, and after we each had our top 10, and I figured the conversation would change onto something more ... meaningful? we kept going. This turned into a three hour conversation, and each of us with a list of over 100 celebrities that we had "claimed," like gold stakes in the Yukon. Were we serious? Of course not. Was it my proudest moment? Hell no. Was it fun in a crazy, competitive, once-in-a-lifetime kind of way? YOU. BET.

At the time, I was severely depressed - I had just been left (repeatedly) by my first love, who moved from Oregon to Wyoming in an attempt to find Jesus ... again. (remember my "that's a story for another time" comment on my last post? She's who I meant) And while Oregon is apparently a very gay state, Salem is not a very gay town. And my university (at the time) was not a very gay university. So I spent the next 3 years being very celibate and very lonely. Ergo, the cultivation of my list served as sustenance through some very, very dry years.

And I thought I was being all creative ... I thought I was the only one to have list, chiefly because (at the time) I was the only one I knew who needed a list! But it was a lie! Once I left college, I realized that *everyone* has a list, whether they're in relationships or not. Not only that, their partners have their own set of lists, and it's just generally understood that if either person were to have that one in a billion opportunity of having a romantic night with any person on their list, the walls of fidelity would dissipate for that one night. Especially if the same person is on BOTH lists ... talk about a night to remember.

Am I serious about this? Yes, in the sense that lists exists. No, to the extent that anyone would actually fulfill the purpose of the list or even be in the situation where fidelity would need to be broken. It's a game. It's a fun, fun, FUN game. Yet one that can add a certain something for certain people. For example, me. As the passionate, independent, and loyal person that I am, having a list fuels my imagination - but when my partner has a list, I suddenly have something to compete for, in a non-realistic, non-threatening way. And the only thing Aries love more than independence, is competition - but not forced competition. I get more creative, more flirty, more saucy if I know I have something to compete with, though again, not something real. It adds spice and character and invention. Not to mention the fact that The List can help level the playing field. We're all human, we have foibles and weaknesses - how better to express that in a non-actual way, than with a list. The worst is finding out that while your list is active and fun, your partners' is non-existent. You want to talk about kill-joy. The subtext then becomes "I don't look at anyone else but you," (which is almost always a lie, to some degree or other) and boy does one feel like an ass if one's on the other side of this scenario. And I have been.

So with all that in mind, I admit that I totally have a list. It rotates between 5-10 people, for various reasons. Oh ... what's that? You want to know who's on my list?? Oh. You don't.

Well ... I'm going to tell you anyway. (It's really the inspiration for this post, you know...)

Today's list 
(because it totally changes)

1. Sara Ramirez

2. Tilda Swinton
I think this is the biggest surprise for most people, when I say Tilda (she's been on my list for a LONG time), but I find androgyny, TRUE androgyny, incredibly sexy. She is completely transmutable, incredibly interesting, and wonderfully intelligent. I LOVE HER. 

3. Mariska Hargitay

4. Brandi Carlile

5. Martha Burns
So Martha Burns is a Canadian actress, who's the female lead in Slings and Arrows, who's also married to Paul Gross (someone who occasionally circulates my list), who's just kind of phenomenal, except that no one below the 48th parallel really knows it. Try doing a google image search for Martha Burns. I dare you.

6. Kim Dickens
I honestly can't tell you why ... perhaps because she's been on two of my favorite shows (Deadwood and Treme), perhaps because she frequently has fairly weird haircuts and sometimes looks like a lesbian - I don't know. But she's wicked talented, and highly underrated, and there's just something!

There are others, but again, they rotate in on different days. I shared mine ...who's on yours? 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Our Scarlet Letter isn't "A"...


Apparently, October is my "I'm going to talk about gay issues" month. It could be because elections are coming up in two short weeks (Halloween's got nothin' on this fright fest) so DADT and DOMA are at the forefront of the Democrats' failure card; it could also be because I'm looping Grey's Anatomy episodes in the cave of unemployment that is my room, while simultaneously (and frantically) searching for job opportunities ... or, simply because I miss my gorgeous girlfriend A LOT. Either way ... I'm super gay this month.

[You're probably wishing for more entries about the puppies at this point.]

My parents are good liberals. They are not hypocritical, they're open minded, and they watch Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, and Keith Olbermann - every. single. day. And because I'm unemployed, and home in the early evenings, I watch them (or rather, listen to them) too. I like listening to these programs, not just because they're highly entertaining, but strangely, they're highly informative. Keith Olbermann is occasionally supercilious, but I forgive him when he gets to his staple segment, "Worst Person in the World!" (it's usually Bill O'Reilly or Rush Limbaugh)

Last night on Rachel Maddow, Meghan McCain was a guest. She's a frequent guest. Oddly, I like Meghan McCain quite a bit. She's what I'm hoping the future of the Republican Party will be. She's smart, she she's an independent thinker, and can be reasonably conservative and still support social issues and civil rights. Pretty awesome. Anyway, here's a clip from last night's show. About 2/3's of the way through the video, Rachel shows an interview with Colorado congressional candidate Ken Buck on Meet the Press.

He's asked by the interviewer if he believes being gay is a choice. Buck says yes. And then compares homosexuality to alcoholism.

The concept that being gay is a "choice" boggles my mind. I realize that I have a very subjective view of this issue, but on a logical, reason-based planet (if one exists?) - I don't understand the notion that anyone would voluntarily choose to be a part of a minority that is poorly treated, marginalized, continually denied basic human rights, and risk physical bodily harm and death in some cases, just because of their "lifestyle choice." That seems fairly ridiculous. And as someone who tried to pray the gay away in secret for the better part of a year, I can safely tell you, Mr. Buck, that it is NOT a choice.

Unsurprisingly, the candidates like Ken Buck (see: Carl Paladino, Sharron Angle) who hate the gays, would also deny the right to choose abortion to women who are the victims of rape and incest, should they be elected. I'm the first liberal to say that Harry Reid (the Nevada incumbent Sharron Angle is running against/Senate majority leader) is one of the least effective Democrats on the Hill. But you know, when it comes down to politicians who do more harm than good, I'd take Harry Reid over Sharron Angle any day of the week. The worst part is that Sharron Angle is a woman ... who believes that women don't have the right to terminate a pregnancy that was created through domestic terrorism! Talk about "abomination."

Abortion sidetrack aside, the notion of homosexuality and choice (and the persecution therein) is becoming an international epidemic. There's a horrifying article on, that sites a Ugandan newspaper that printed photos of the "Top 100 homosexuals" in the Ugandan city, lists their addresses, and with a headline over the photos that reads, "Hang them!" Within the body of the article, there are quotes from a Ugandan minister, calling for an investigation as to "why homosexuality is increasing in the country." 20 of the "homosexuals" printed in that article have been attacked. In South Africa, the ONLY African nation to allow gay marriage, gangs make a point to find out and "correctively" rape lesbians.

Is it a matter of "increasing homosexuality?" Or is it simply that homosexuals are becoming braver? The bottom line, is that it doesn't matter - and it shouldn't matter. These are specific, targeted attacks on a minority of humans because of who they are. Does this sound familiar throughout the annals of history at all?

Thankfully, there's an upside. It seems as one side gets more and more fanatical, the other side gets more and more tolerant. I found this on a friend's facebook page. Strangely, it's an article by the dating website, It's a data-based collection of statistics, polled from over 3.2 million OKcupid members. It's kind of hilarious, and hugely interesting.

Gay sex vs. Straight sex

A couple of things I'd like to say, as a real-life lesbian:
2) I don't do drugs ... nor do I know any other lesbians who do drugs on a regular basis, unless drugs = alcohol
3) From my knowledge of North America, which is fairly extensive, that map is pretty accurate, except that I think Utah should be slightly more orange than it is. Mormons are pretty gay - intensely closeted - but gay nonetheless.

The last two things I'd like say have to do with the oh-so-mysterious "gay agenda," that Republicans like to scare and excite their constituents with. Now, it will go against my Satan-worshiping coven blood-oath, but I'm going to fill you on what the American "gay agenda" actually is (because I can't speak for the Bulgarian, Chinese, Albanian, Finnish, or Mozambiquan gay agendas). Are you ready? It's going to blow your mind!

The American Gay Agenda is focused on obtaining equality through legislation so that all citizens may be equal under the law; specifically in the sectors of marriage, partnership rights, and domestic living. Other than that, we just want to be left alone.

Consider your minds blown. Notice how nowhere in that "agenda" is there a clause that reads something like this:

Also, we aim to improve our recruitment numbers by planting homosexual teachers in your schools for the sole purpose of indoctrinating your children into a life of homosexuality. The more children we convert, the more prizes we win!

The scary part is that nearly 50% of Americans believe the statement above to be true. THEY BELIEVE IT! There's a myth attached with the acceptance of Gay Marriage as a law, claiming that homosexuality is going to be taught in the schools. Now, being the lesbian liberal who values logic and reason when it comes to my law-making, I don't know exactly what the other side means when they say "homosexuality is going to be taught in schools." I've been trying to figure it out for a few years now, but to no avail. Will it be taught in sex education classes (if any are left) as a clinical option, along side heterosexuality? I'd hope so. Will it be mentioned over and over by your kids' physics teacher as a way to make "new friends" and see the world? Probably not. And if so, I'd totally be in favor of firing that teacher for teaching something other than physics. Also, I'd like to say that as a teacher, I do not make a habit of teaching anything outside of my field. Most of the teachers I know are the same way.

I have not, in my 11 years of being an "out" lesbian recruited, coerced, seduced, or manipulated a "heterosexual" person into homosexuality unwillingly (that's a story for another time).

Oh ... and that chart about how 50% of women are bi-curious? I've found in my "research" that that's usually true. Heck ... even Katy Perry kissed a girl. And apparently, she liked it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Obsessions, big and small ... but mostly big.


I do not have an addictive personality. I do not have compulsive need for things (or substances) - cravings, occasionally - but addictions, no.

What I do have ... are obsessions. I have (largely) illogical, emotional connections to a bizarre array of things. Relationships (mostly fictional), art, books, desserts ... those are the big ones. And when I have a lot of time on my hands, like ... now, I find new things to fill my obsessional void. My current obsession? Grey's Anatomy.

I stopped watching Grey's Anatomy at the beginning of Season 5, when Dr. Erica Hahn (the faboo Brooke Smith), was kicked off the show for not being pretty enough, or nice enough, or something. Dr. Erica Hahn was at the beginning of a relationship with the gorgeous Dr. Calliope Torres (mmmmmmm Sara Ramirez!), the first non-heterosexual relationship for series regulars on the show. And at the time, I thought it was a conspiracy by ABC (and the Disney Corp.) to end lesbian relationships on TV!! Surely, they were behind the lesbian relationship mass extinction. Damn you, Disney! You may have taken part of my soul when I worked for you, but you'll never take away my TV girlfriends!!!

Or, you know, not. Because had I just hung in for 5-6 more episodes beyond the Dr. Erica Hahn debacle, I would have been introduced to Dr. Arizona Robbins, pediatric surgeon extraordinaire, who's not only cute and fabulous with children (she wears heelys!), but is also a lesbian. And the folks at ABC must be satisfied that she's cuter and more personable than Erica Hahn (I'm sorry Brooke Smith ... *I* love you!). So long soap opera story line short, a non-heterosexual representation of Seattle doctors remains. And is one of the few (possibly, only?) lesbian relationships on network TV.

And I've been obsessed with it. I've watched all of seasons 5 & 6 ... twice. In about two weeks. And thanks to, I'm all caught up on the beginning of season 7 now, too.

Lara and I had a conversation about this earlier in the year. Some people like Lara, have short fixations, little bursts of excitement that fizzle out as quickly as they pop up. I, on the other hand, tend to get fixated on one thing at a time ... and when I do, it's not a fleeting occurrence - I fixate for life. Examples:

- At 6 years old, my grandfather taped the CBC version of Anne of Green Gables on Beta tapes. I fell in love! I watched those tapes over and over and over ... until I wore them out, about 3 years later. Then my grandfather got fancy and high-tech, bought a cutting-edge VHS player, and Anne of Green Gables on VHS, and then I wore those out, too.

- My grandmother and I used to get chocolate croissants every Sunday after church. Sometimes I could get two. This was a tradition for almost 10 years. I could eat chocolate croissants every day, and be incredibly happy.

- I've had to buy multiple copies of these books because I wore down the binding, and they fell apart:
The Hotel New Hampshire, Sense & Sensibility, Misty of Chincoteague, and Reservation Blues.

- In a word: Xena.

- Fantasy Sports - I spend hours, and hours out of my week obsessing about my Fantasy Sports teams.

These are only a few examples. Sometimes it's a long, slow progression that eventually leads to the assimilation of whatever-it-is into my life, like Grey's Anatomy. Sometimes, it happens all at once - like my discovery of the wonders of hockey. But either way ... sometimes it's the little/big things that get me through the day.

What gets you through the day?

Monday, October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day


So today is Columbus Day. I've personally always thought this to be one of the crappiest "holidays" on the American Calendar - precisely for the reason that I never once got the day off from school. Why write the names of Holidays in italics on the calendar, if you're not going to give us the day off!? It seems like a fountainhead day to celebrate a fairly lame fountainhead explorer. Did you know that kids on the East Coast get Columbus Day off from school? I was ticked, until I realized that celebrating the memory of a man who began the systematic raping and pillaging of native peoples in the Western continents was just not my cup.

But today is not just Columbus Day. It's also National Coming Out Day. And instead of talking about celebrating the "discovery of the Americas" (pffffft ... so histrionically wrong on soooo many levels), I thought I'd tell you a bit about my experience with the coming out process. Because truthful identities are something worth celebrating. 

I came out when I was 17, almost 18. It was the last week of Winter break in my senior year of high school. I had known for at least two years, but in the community where I lived, the high school I went to, and my own sense of stature among my peers, coming out wasn't an option. This was the mid-late 90's. And while the GLBT community was being exposed in a very positive, new, and revolutionary way, the gay-straight alliances that are now the "norm" at high schools, were completely radical, and virtually unheard of at the time. I might not have come out on my own at all, except that my best friend, upon reading a poem I had compiled of single-line Tori Amos lyrics (yeah ... you can totally laugh), flat out asked me. 

"So what's this about?"
"This poem ... what's this about? Is it about one person?"
"Kind of, yeah."
"And is this person ..."
"Is this person what?"
"Well ... is it a boy or a girl?"
[silence] "I don't know. I think I'm trying to figure that out."
"Okay ... well, if you had to choose between one or the other, which would it be?"
"Choose between one or the other what?"
"Gender. Which do you like better?"
"I'm just asking."
"I think I like girls. I think I really like girls."
"I knew it!"
"I've known."
"WHAT?! How did you? I mean, I didn't ... WHAT?!"
"I've known since junior year, I think."
"Well why didn't you tell me??"
"I just didn't know how to broach the subject."
"Would have saved me a lot of agony, you know ... that you're okay with it."
"Of course I am! I love you. And I want you to be happy. This doesn't change who you are ... it's just another level."
"Thank you."
"Have you told anyone else?"
"No - I've never said it out loud. I should probably do it now - Megan, I think I'm a lesbian."
"YAY! I'm so happy for you! And I'm the first one to know! YAY!"

[That's a mostly dramatized retelling - I don't remember all the details of the conversation, but that's the essential idea.]

This conversation then carried long into the night. My biggest fear was that other students at school, like Megan, had figured it out. I was paranoid about being "obvious." My fear took hold - what would they do to me if they knew? What about the awards and scholarships I was up for? What about my teachers - would they grade me differently? Would my parents still love me? Would I have any friends at all? 

Anyone struggling with self-identity battles with these questions and more ... and the more questions asked, the more fear is produced. Now, thankfully, Megan is probably 50 times more perceptive than most normal humans, let alone teenagers. I lived the last semester of high school in a kind of paranoid bliss - I was simultaneously horrified of someone finding out - or worse - figuring it out before I had a chance to control it. But I was so completely thrilled that someone else knew ... someone knew! Not just someone - my best friend, who knew me better than anyone. Who sat with me at lunch time, who commiserated with me about the vileness of high school, and the hate we had for our hometown. My intelligent, articulate, valedictorian best friend who didn't even blink that I was different, and who didn't love me any less. In fact, she was excited and proud of the fact that she was the first one to know. 

Part of the coming out process includes damage control. Lots and lots of damage control. The impetus of controlling who knows what: when you'll tell them, how you'll tell them, how MUCH you'll tell them, and attempting to calculate the fall-out as the news spreads is so daunting - it's enough to make you want to stay good and hidden in that closet for, oh, 80 years or so. It's maddening! Especially because once you say it - once you lay it all out there, that's it. You can't get it back, you can't retract it. It's such a brave, terrifying, and completely lonely process - it can't be fully experienced unless you're right in the middle of it. Unless you're living it. 

My coming out experience was (by-in-large) so completely awesome, so supportive, so wonderful - and with each new person I told, it became that much easier for the next time, and the next time. I'm one of the really lucky ones. 

I have friends who've come out to me, and with many I was the first person they told. And with almost all of them, the set up was written or said to me in a way that had me deathly afraid they were dying of cancer. "I have something I need to tell you, and it's really, really difficult. I can't even say the words - but I have to ..." So dour, so depressed, so frightened - and the phrase, "I understand if you don't want to talk with me anymore," or some variation, is ALWAYS the conclusive statement - (I think I said it a few times myself) because that's what their expectation is. They're expecting the worst-case scenario - that everyone they know will leave them, will stop loving them, will disown them. It doesn't matter how real this scenario could be - it's every non-straight person's worst fear. It certainly was for me - and I had exceptionally wonderful people in my life. 

And if someone you know does that to you ... if they have such a hard time getting the words out that you're afraid they've got some terribly terminal disease - you are absolutely allowed to yell at them! Just so long as you hug them, or smile, or exclaim your immense relief. Tell them that you love them, no matter what, and that all you could ever hope for, is for them to be happy with who they are. That is the singularly best gift you can give: joyful acceptance. 

So today I celebrate all those teens, all those early 20-somethings, 30-somethings, 40-somethings, 50-somethings, 60-somethings, and beyond - it's not too late to love who you are; who you've always been. And while you might feel alone - you're not. And days like today (without Columbus' help) exist to remind us of that. 

And some bonus videos ...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Music Thursday...


I thought I should make up for the obnoxiously nerdy blog post I threw up in the wee hours of the morning. While I'm clearly not ashamed of my uber nerdiness, I know it isn't everyone's cup of tea. But you know what is? MUSIC.

Now, I know it isn't the end of 2010 yet - but I thought I'd post my top five favorite bands of this last year, mainly because I've done a poor job of sharing music with you recently. And music, like a good wine, needs to be shared to be enjoyed. The joys of this life, after all, are not for the covetous.

Gas Light Anthem - The down-and-out, bad-things-happen-to good-people working man that The Boss first shared with the world, is kept alive and well in Gas Light Anthem's breakthrough record, The '59 Sound. Throw in some classic '50's guitar riffs (some lovely Buddy Holly homages), and you have yourself a really interesting, gritty, soul-bearing band; a refreshing relief from the emo-laden "rock 'n roll" that haunts the aisles of what used to be "alternative" rock. These guys are the real deal.

Sample of brilliance:
"Everthing has a price/everyone has a price/nothing is free, not even me."

Oh. And they played with Bruce Springsteen. Yeah. I just died a lot.

The Avett Brothers - I know I wrote a whole post about these guys on Monday, but they deserve repeating. Perhaps you, like me, have heard magazines, critics, and even musicians proclaim cynically that "Rock n' Roll is DEAD!" No, it's fucking not. And so long as bands like the Avett Brothers exist, it won't ever die. What Rock n' Roll needs to get away from is the over-produced, badly written simplicity of "the music industry." Music requires musicians who have musicianship. Not suits with glasses who sell bullshit to the masses. But thankfully, the Avett Brothers have the market CORNERED on musicianship. Long live North Carolina!

Sample Brilliance:
"Keep your clothes on/I've got all that I can take/teach me how to use/the love that people say you make"

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - I've written about these guys too. I think they're one of my favorite bands of this year solely because of their originality. They're encapsulating an entirely new culture in their music, one that is suddenly getting a lot more attention - the neo-hippie, burning man attending, peace-loving, love-loving slightly hipster kids of my generation, who are trying their hardest to shake off the materialistic, "stuff"-mongering 80's childhood they were raised with - the kids who are creating sustainability, not just in farming, but in every aspect of their lives. A free-spirit, a need to change the world, and an optimism that will never die. The Zeros are the sound for this generation. And thank goodness.

The sound on this video isn't great ... but the spirit captures what I'm talking about ...

The National - I don't know if I've talked about this band before, but I love them. Love, love, LOVE them. I can't even really articulate in words the awesomeness of this band ... so I'm just going to give you the video, so you can listen for yourselves.

Sample of brilliance:
"We're half awake in our fake empire..."

Arcade Fire - The upside of bands who take time between albums, like the Arcade Fire, is that their albums tend to be the most thought-out, well-executed, and musically diverse in the market. And this is certainly true of the Montreal band. Their third major album since 2004, Suburbs, tells of the homogenized plasticity of the middle class, their fall from "American Dream" glory, and relationships left in the ruined aftermath. Highly intelligent, thought-provoking lyrics, paired with organ riffs, optimistic guitars, and a killer rhythm section - Arcade Fire is keeping it real. Not bad for a bunch of Canadians, eh?

Sample of brilliance:
"I feel like I've been livin' in/a city with no children in it/a garden left for ruin/by a millionaire inside of a private prison"

There you go, kids. Download at your own discretion. Or be totally hipster and go buy them in vinyl.

Please don't read this. Unless you want to...


I'm warning you now: this blog is about fantasy hockey, drafting, and all completely nerdy subjects related therein. Most of you will have absolutely NO interest in what I'm going to say - and that's alright. But don't roll your eyes and leave me nasty comments about how uninteresting my life is. Believe me, I already know. On the other hand, you might get a good laugh at my expense - and at the very least, feel better about yourself. 

Polar Bears - champions of creating schadenfreude moments since global warming. 

Great. Now I'm depressed. 


I've been playing fantasy sports since 2007. It was my first real office job - and like so many young professionals with excellent multi-tasking skill, and unmonitored internet access, I thought, "Meh - it'll be fun." I started with fantasy baseball. I'll tell you right now - I haven't done better than 4th place in fantasy baseball. I have other fantasy fanatic friends who say that baseball is the hardest fantasy sport to play - I'm not sure why, exactly. But there you go. I played fantasy college football - which is lame - and then ... I started playing hockey. And hockey continues to be my love, my obsession, and my heartbreak, year in and year out. 

(By the way, I'm watching Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staples on the Colbert Report. Awesome. Jeff just said, "I don't argue with her about anything," and Mavis just said, "The devil ain't got no music." I think my heart just stopped with happiness!)

For the two non-fantasy players still reading this blog, you might not believe it, but people get paid to blog about fantasy sports and share their strategies. Unfortunately, I'm NOT getting paid, but I'm going to tell you my strategy anyway. No, no, don't thank me. 

The truth is that strategy is ever-changing. At first, I didn't have a strategy - I just let yahoo draft everything for me. I didn't trade, I didn't add/drop very often, I didn't get rid of players that weren't producing. Even with my non-planning, I ended up in 6th place out of 12 teams. Not terrible. Last year, I focused my efforts on defensemen and goalies. In many leagues, Goalie stats count for at least 4 out of 10 categories, if not 5. The madness behind seeking top defensemen, was the theory that forwards were going to score points no matter what ... but if I had *awesome* defensemen, they'd boost my forwards, and give me an edge. With this strategy, I came in 1st in one league, and 2nd in the other two, which, believe me - is nothing to sneeze at. 

Here's the problem with the goalie/defensemen strategy. While I was superior in the goalie stats (I love you, Martin Brodeur!), my defensemen didn't boost my offensive numbers nearly as much as I had projected them to. Here's why: most good defensemen will have 40-50 points in a season. Now, if you sacrifice your early draft picks on defensemen, thereby sacrificing your offense for forwards who are only reaching 50-60 points (or less), you're using two players to reach what one top 6 forward could potentially reach on his own. The argument against this logic, is that if you draft the best defenseman (Mike Green - who had 70 points last season, all on his own) in the NHL, you're drafting a defenseman who might as well be a forward, and that's better than any forward ranked below 20 - and let's face it - you only get one or two drafting slots in the top 20. 

Here's my counter-argument: The number of forwards who will score more than 70 points is MUCH greater   than the number of defensemen who will score more than 70. The end. So this year, I went all out for high-producing forwards in the first 4 rounds. And I have to say, I'm quite happy with my teams. It also doesn't hurt that I drafted 1st in two out of three leagues. Which means I ended up with one of the two best players in the NHL, Alexander Ovechkin. (GOD! I hope he doesn't get hurt!!) Which leads me to ...

Draft Placement. You can plan, you can strategize, you can spend countless hours planning out different scenarios ... but there's a HUGE factor to fantasy sports that you *can't* plan - and that's the luck of the draw. Here's what you need to know about draft positions - if you're in the first 3 or the last 3 slots, you're in good shape. The reason for this is due to the fact that 99% of fantasy drafts involve a system called "snake drafts." Which means that the draft starts at the top with 1, 2, 3, and so on and so forth, until the last position in the draft - for the purposes of today, let's say 10. The second round then starts at the bottom, and works its way back up to the top, and then back down again; like this:

round one: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 round two: 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 round three: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, etc.

So - positions 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10 are the best - for the simple fact that the closeness of draft picks usually garner the best results. 4, 5, 6, 7 are the hardest - by FAR - namely because you're usually settling for lesser players in each round, while the players you want are getting scooped up by at the tops and bottom of the draft. But this, my fantasy fanatics, is where your strategy can boost you to the top, regardless of position. In one league, I drafted 6th out of 12, but rendered a fairly decent team. Here's who I drafted:

Round 1: Henrik Sedin C (112 points last season!)
Round 2: Alexander Semin RW (84 points)
Round 3: Bobby Ryan C, LW (64 pts)
Round 4: Tuuka Rask G 
Round 5: Nicklas Lidstrom D (49 pts)
Round 6: Christian Ehrhoff D (44 pts)
Round 7: Alex Burrows LW (67 pts)
Round 8: Mason Raymond LW (53 pts)
Round 9: Lubomir Visnovsky D (45 pts)
Round 10: Chris Mason G
Round 11: Kurtis Foster D (42 pts)
Round 12: Mikael Samuelsson RW (53 pts)
Round 13: Jussi Jokinen LW (65 pts)
Round 14: Andy Sutton D (13 pts)*
Round 15: Joni Pitkanen D (46 pts)
Round 16: Saku Koivu C (52 pts)
Round 17: Brian Gionta RW (46 pts)
Round 18: Nikolai Khabibulin G
Round 19: Tyler Seguin C (ROOKIE!)
Round 20: RJ Umberger C (55 pts) 

It might not look as great to you, but it leaves me very hopeful. I drafted a lot of players who are on the upswing - meaning that not only are they good, fundamental players - they're going to improve. Alex Semin, Bobby Ryan, Christian Ehrhoff, Alex Burrows, Mason Raymond, Jussi Jokinen - I think they're all going to have a great year. Then I have some consistent players, who, while I know aren't going to do much (if any) better, won't do much worse - work horses whose style of play is rock solid and dependable. These are mostly veterans - Henrik Sedin, Nik Lidstrom, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mikael Samuelsson. But that brings us to: 

WILD CARDS! Fantasy sports is just like gambling - you have to take some kind of a risk in order to get ahead. Risks in fantasy sports include everything from drafting rookies right out of training camp, to projecting which goalies might pull themselves up from the basement of the unknown. Examples on my roster - Chris Mason - who was picked up by the Atlanta Thrashers after a luke-warm season with the St. Louis Blues. The guy isn't a bad goalie - in fact, St. Louis would have won more games if they had scored more goals. But even in a relatively poor year, he won 30 games, and has a save percentage of .913% - which while not breathtaking, isn't something to ignore. (A "good" goalie has a save percentage of .917+) On the other spectrum, I drafted Nikolai Khabibulin, who was injured for all but the first three weeks of last season. Not only has he been out, he was just arrested in Arizona for a DUI this August, and released on bail. Khabibulin has had some sparks of brilliance, but hasn't managed to hold any kind of consistency. I actually dropped him the night of the draft to pick up Jean-Sebastien Giguere, veteran goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Giggy (as he's referred to) helped the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007, and ALMOST won the cup for them (single-handedly) in 2003. After the cup, Giggy had a string of personal problems (like his father's death), which, understandably, effected his play between the pipes. He was out-shined and up-staged by Jonas Hiller. Giggy had been with the Ducks for so long, the management was loathed to get rid of him - but finally, loyalty gave way to salary cap space, and off to Toronto he went toward the end of last season. Giggy's arrival in Toronto sparked some life into the nearly-dead Leafs, and I'm *hoping* that in the off-season Giggy got his groove back. We'll see, because after all ...

GOALIES ARE NOT ALWAYS RELIABLE. It's sad, but true. Goalies, like baseball pitchers, have ups, downs, crazy stretches of brilliance, and maddeningly disappointing bouts of suckiness. Any position upon which so much is depended - well - it's to be expected, I guess. Even Roy Halladay, who pitched a no-hitter today, (only the 2nd playoff game no-hitter in MLB history!) had some really crappy games this season. Just ask Liz. But goalies can't be ignored - again, their stats make up half of the fantasy scoring categories. So, here's what you do. Divide up your favorite goalies into three tiers - Top tier, work-horses, and gambles. Examples of top tier goalies are goalies who are not only consistent, talented goalies, but are on teams that will help them win games - examples include: Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lunqvist, Ryan Miller. Work-horses are goalies who are talented and usually consistent, but are perhaps on teams with more of a struggle, examples: Jimmy Howard, Jonas Hiller, Pekka Rinne, Miika Kiprusoff - in other words, goalies that will get at least 30-35 wins, whether their teams are helping or not. Then ... the gambles - usually untested, new to the team, battling for a no. 1 spot - these are goalies in which there is potential, but not enough evidence to prove it. Goalies like this include Dan Ellis, who was just traded to Tampa Bay, Antti Niemi, who was traded to San Jose, Chris Mason, traded to Atlanta, Tuuka Rask in Boston, Steve Mason in Columbus, JS Giguere in Toronto, and Brian Elliott in Ottawa. 

There's also a 4th category of goalie - one that I don't like to draft. I'll call them puppets - namely because they aren't *really* good goalies, but they're on teams whose offense is SO good, they're going to win games, whether they try to stop the puck or not (which is why people like to draft them). These goalies include Seymon Varlamov, goalie of the offensive powerhouse Washington Capitols, Marc-Andre Fleury, goalie for the superstar Pittsburgh Penguins, and Marty Turco of the Stanley Cup defending Chicago Blackhawks. Whoever they decide to play in-goal in Philadelphia will also fall into this category. 

FORWARD POSITIONS. When drafting forward positions, you need to know that not all forwards are created equally. This varies from year to year, but this year, it happened like this: LW are rare and valuable, RW are tricky, and Centers are good 'n plenty. So part of my offensive strategy was to draft a LW first - which I succeeded in, except in the case of Henrik Sedin. The fall-out wasn't as bad as I thought, but my LW's aren't as flashy as I'd like; especially since Alex Burrows is out for another month with an injury. Ah well. 

DEFENSE = STEADY AS SHE GOES! So here's the deal with defense, when you're not drafting them in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd rounds. Consistent is good! Look at their stats for the past 3 years. Have they stayed within a 5 point spread year after year? Are they slowly getting better? How many shots on goal are they taking? Are they moving the puck with assists? How are they on the power-play? Good, steady defensemen = Nick Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Lubomir Visnovsky, Chris Pronger, Zdeno Chara. Also, up-and-coming defensemen are always worth a gamble. Tyler Myers was a huge payoff last year. Cam Fowler could prove to be a wonderboy this year. If you're going to gamble big in one position, Defense can be a good place to do it. 

SLEEPERS. There are two kinds of sleepers. The first are players who are quiet with their points, and most people don't look twice at. Jussi Jokinen had a 30 goal/35 assist year last year for Carolina. Rene Borque had 30 goals and 27 assists. What makes these players so awesome is that they're usually just starting to hit their stride, which means that they're only going to get better, which means that it could be the difference between in winning, and coming in 2nd or 3rd. The other kind are young players, usually rookies. Sometimes they have a lot of hype surrounding them like Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin, or Cam Fowler. Sometimes they're less visible, but are fulfilling a specific job on the team - Nazeem Kadri of the Leafs is like this. Jordan Eberle could fall into either category. Dan Sexton of the Ducks, who was pulled up from the minor leagues last year, had an impressive 7 goals and 10 assists in the 10-15 games he played. The difficult task of discerning these young'uns, is whether or not they'll stay up in the NHL, or if they'll be sent back down for development. Big money, big money, big money!

DO's and DON'Ts
1. DON'T draft more than 4 players from the same team
2. DO draft players from teams you think will make play-offs
3. DON'T draft more than three players from your favorite team - trust me on this. 
4. DO draft two players from your favorite team.
5. DON'T fall in love with any of your drafted players - it'll only lead to heartache.
6. DO track your stats in the league - it'll show you where your weak spots are.
7. DON'T rob Peter to pay Paul - ie, if you're low in assists, but high in saves, don't leverage one to gain the other. It doesn't usually work. 
8. DO propose trades - it's the surest way to improve your team. 
9. DON'T feel pressured into accepting trades that won't help you.
10. DO engage in smack talk - it's fun. 

FINALLY - STRUCTURING YOUR DRAFT. So here's the deal. You need to pad your pre-draft rankings. You can't just throw people up and hope they'll stick. Also - pad according to position. Decide on the projected positions for the first 6 rounds - tweak it until you like it. Mine went a little something like this: 

Round 1 - LW
Round 2 - RW
Round 3 - C
Round 4 - G
Round 5 - D
Round 6 - G

This, my friends, is called a frame; setting up each position for maximum success. However, each frame needs to be tailor fitted to each league - in fact, the frame is dependent upon how many teams are on the league. The frame above was for a 10 player league. A 12 player league might look a little something like this: 

Round 1 - LW
Round 2 - G
Round 3 - RW
Round 4 - D
Round 5 - G
Round 6 - C

If you have 16 players on a team, and 10 teams in a league, that's 160 players. If you have 16 players on a team, and 12 teams in a league, that's 192 players. The difference of 32 players might not seem big, but believe me, it IS. You have to account for the fact that you'll be scraping the bottom of the barrel by round 12. 

Where I went wrong in the list toward the beginning of the blog, was that I didn't realize that particular league was drafting for 20 players on each team. Which meant that my goalie positioning was way off, hence my crazy goalie spread. In my other two leagues I drafted Martin Brodeur, Henrik Lunqvist, and Antti Niemi - and Miika Kiprusoff, Jonas Hiller, and Chris Mason. Much better, no? 

Good drafting takes time. You have to go through and pull up players who are stuck further down the list. The goal is to position them in such a way to where you'll draft them before anyone else. Alex Semin was listed at 31 on the list. He's gone in the top 20 for every draft I've done. It takes research, intuition, and trial-by-fire precision to set a good draft - but when you do - it pays off in spades!

Of course, sheer dumb luck trumps just about everything I wrote about. And thereby hangs a tale ...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My weekend in pictures! (with captions...)


In an effort to forget about my unemployment blues, I thought I'd create a multi-media post about my weekend. Let's see how this works ...

First, click play on the video. You don't need to watch it, just click it.

Okay ... now scroll ...

Opening band: Grace and the Nocturnals - actually pretty kick ass...

Ooooooooo!!! LIGHTS!!! Quick, where's my pacifier and necklace??

On their last song, all members of the Nocturnals were wailing on the drums.
Why? I don't know, but it was kind of rad.

Eat your heart out, "real" L Word...

Hi. I need a haircut.

I. LOVE. HER. (and her band...)

So much love ... I even forgive the skinny jeans ...

a Johnny Cash pose, for some Johnny Cash covers ... mmmmmm ...

What? You can't see Brandi Carlile? NEITHER COULD WE. 
These two did a LOT of standing. I did a lot of fuming....

Rock n' Roll cello #1 of the night...

Okay ... so she tells us that she and the band are going to unplug, and sing this song acoustically ... in the Nokia Theater; a 20,000 seat venue. And you know what? It was a beautiful, fun, and awesome moment. Especially since the audience was miraculously douche-bag free ... (minus the go-go dancers in front of us...)

Seriously, this place is HUGE.

and seriously ... she belted that song out like a champ. Diaphragm and all!! (hush)
Lara's got a crush on her drummer (far left) ... can you blame her?

Wailing on a guitar ... and every lesbian's heart ...

See that red bandanna in her back pocket?? Any woman who can honor Johnny Cash 
AND Bruce Springsteen in an hour is aces in my book!

...and now... THE AVETT BROTHERS! I have dubbed them Alt-Appalachian.

...and Rock n' Roll cello #2!

This is about how far from the stage we were ... 

They were working pretty frakkin' hard ... note the loss of jackets and the loosening of ties. 
I imagine, that had we been closer, we would have been unintentionally rained on....

I kind of love their bass player... nerdy chic!

Yeah ... they play multiple instruments ...

I kind of want to learn how to play the banjo...

Did I mention they play multiple instruments??

am I the only one who thinks they look like they could be the long-lost brothers of Wyatt Earp?

The Costa Mesa Dog Park

"Oh boy! Throw the ball, mom! Throw the ball!"

"Hey you guys, BRING BACK THE BALL!"

"Oh mom, I sure do love the dog park!"

"I love it so much, I wanted to take some of it home with me..."


More mud...

"Does it help if I give you the cute eyes??"

"How about the happy face????"

"He's such a doof."

...Yeah, he totally plopped down in a big old mud puddle, and became the object of giddy schadenfreude from the other puppy moms (*&#^$%@). Which resulted in my running home, washing him as fast as I could, and then going to go see Godspell at the university. 

The mud wasn't so bad, in comparison.


My purse/bag/thing!

The dogs have had this stuffed animal for over a month, and the only thing they've been able to rip is his tail. Not bad, eh? 

And in case you're hankering for some more music...

"Always remember there was nothing worth sharing, like the love that let us share our name..." 

This is the song she sang unplugged, which they also show in the video. 
Seriously rad.

They did this cover at the concert ... it was pretty far out.
Grace Slick would have been happy, I think.