Hey. Ireland actually sought its people’s opinion on gay marriage. What a concept.

A few days ago Ireland held a historic vote. It asked citizens to decide whether to amend the Constitution to legalize gay marriage.

It passed overwhelmingly.

What a concept. Instead of stubborn lawmakers making decisions based solely on earning the approval of their constituents, or a handful of Supreme Court justices interpreting a document that was written 230 years ago, Ireland actually asked the people what they wanted to do.

Legalizing same-sex marriage affects everybody. Gay or straight. And yet, no other nation is giving its citizens an opportunity to have a legitimate say. Ireland did, and for the first time in history, gay marriage was legalized in a country by popular vote.

I think it was Bob Dylan who once said, “the times they are a-changing.”

Ireland voteI attended a same-sex wedding months after it was legalized in New York in 2011. So the concept of it existing is already something that’s extremely real to me. It’s not just an issue that gets debated in government hearings or written about in articles. I actually saw two women get married before my eyes, and it was one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to.

There was a ton of alcohol. Everyone was happy. People danced. There was food. The only difference? The couple being married were of the same gender.

OH THE HUMANITY.

The overall public opinion on gay marriage has shifted so greatly that it’s not even a productive strategy for Republicans to openly advocate against it anymore. At least not if they have presidential aspirations. And that’s why you see legitimate presidential candidates like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul skirting around the issue whenever it’s raised.

This Ireland vote is only a further step of the inevitable: gay marriage will be universally legalized one day. It still will take along time. Don’t expect to see nations like Iran legalizing it just yet. But one day.

And Ireland was never an obvious choice to be the first nation to legalize it by vote. A few decades ago, the people who lived there were vehement followers of the Catholic Church, which naturally opposes gay marriage. And it was only 22 years ago when Ireland decriminalized homosexuality!

It’s an amazing thing. When an important issue arises, ask the people what they think.

There’s a lot of reasons to want to follow Ireland’s lead. Guinness beer. Leprechauns. Corned beef and cabbage. St. Patrick’s Day. More leprechauns. The Blarmey Stone. The movie “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Did I mention leprechauns?

And now, their innovative method towards legalizing gay marriage is another.

Top o’ the morning to ya!

Yes, I know that’s a greeting and not a farewell, but it’s the only Irish phrase I know so let’s just go with it.

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FIFA: where fraud happens

Most people only recognize FIFA from that video game they used to play growing up.

On the surface, FIFA — or the Federation Internationale de Football Association — should be wholly lovable. It’s the governing body of the world’s most favorite sport, and organizes one of the biggest international competitions in the World Cup.

Or, as Americans know it, the two weeks every four years when they actually care about soccer.

We all played the video game, though. And we were all always Brazil.

But anyway, when you really get down into the nitty gritty — and I don’t think I’ve ever used the words nitty gritty before, nor am I entirely sure what it means — FIFA is actually one of the most corrupt organizations there is. It has a decades-long history of accepting bribes, committing fraud and laundering money illegally.

FIFAIt doesn’t choose countries to host the World Cup based on merit, or logic, but on what they received from them under the table. Look no further than the 2022 World Cup, to be played in Qatar, where temperatures can reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit. It makes no sense.

And they leave countries in a much worse state than when they entered, forcing them to spend billions of dollars and build ridiculously sized stadiums that won’t be used ever again, while pocketing all of the money themselves.

Also, its president’s name is Sepp Blatter. Just sit on that for a little bit.

For a humorous, Sparknotes explanation of why FIFA sucks, just watch John Oliver’s 13-minute diatribe on the organization during an episode of Last Week Tonight from June 2014.

But FIFA finally got what was coming to them. And of course it was America to the rescue, because we pretty much have to do everything. The U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday announced the arrest of 14 officials in an indictment that contained 47 counts of wrongdoing. One committee member allegedly cast the deciding vote to give South Africa the 2004 World Cup after he accepted a $10 million dollar bribe from the country.

It’s just so ironic that the country that’s so notoriously indifferent to soccer was the one that stepped up to the table to take down its governing body.

USA! USA! USA!

I didn’t even do a USA chant anytime during Memorial Day weekend. But I did now. I am a horrible American.

When the next video game, FIFA ’16, hits stores, it needs to be revamped to accurately reflect the current state of the organization. Instead of playing soccer, you get to roleplay as a corrupt committee member, deciding which country’s money you wish to illegally take to give them the World Cup.

It would be like a white-collar, administrative version of GTA.

That would be a terrible idea, actually. Just stick to soccer.

And hopefully, moving forward, countries will actually get awarded the World Cup because of their favorable soccer environment, and not because of how much satisfaction they provide under the table.

That didn’t come out right.

Loving your dogs is now a criminal offense

How much do you love your dogs?

Enough to go to prison for them for 10 years? If you answered yes, then you have something in common with Johnny Depp.

You’re a dog martyr.

The actor who has played Jack Sparrow one too many times is under fire with Australian authorities after he violated their quarantine laws by illegally flying his two dogs into the country without declaring them.

Australians care so much about preventing contagious diseases from crossing their borders that Depp was actually warned that if he didn’t remove his dogs from the country, they would be put down. Depp obliged and flew his dogs out, but now it’s possible that charges may be pressed against him.

Johnny Depp dogsThis is a real story.

The Australian Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, was so insistent that the dogs leave, that he actually tweeted an update to his followers once they were gone. The tweet simply read, “dogs done.”

Without context, that tweet sounds like it’s coming from somebody lamenting their dogs running away. Or the tagline for a Gone Girl sequel featuring a canine kidnapping.

Clearly Australian officials do not give two shits about how they are perceived by outsiders, because going after somebody because he enjoys spending time with his dogs — and then threatening to put them down — is not how you endear yourself to others.

In fact, I think threatening to kill perfectly healthy dogs is probably one of the most evil things any government regime can do. Well, besides exterminating six million Jews, I guess.

But it’s Australia, so why would they care? I think it’s physically impossible to hold any animosity towards that country. Name one thing they’ve done to piss you off, ever. Just one thing. It’s the same nation that has koalas. Plus, they gave us Margot Robbie. And that gives them an eternal pass.

Michael Vick didn’t even serve three years in jail, and he orchestrated a brutal dog fighting ring that saw saw dogs get drowned and electrocuted.

I highly doubt charges will be pursued against Edward Scissorhands. But if they do, and he’s somehow convicted — despite the fact that he obliged by flying them out — then people better rally around his release like they did for Nelson Mandela.

And if you’re going to convict the actor for anything, how about throwing him in the slammer for the monstrosity of a movie that was Mortdecai?

Now that is a punishable offense.

The Weinblog goes south

If you had May 2015 in the Weinblog death pool, then … you did not win.

I did indeed head south for a couple of weeks, but not to Hell. Rather, I visited the bottom half of the United States, spending time in Nashville, Tenn. and Gulf Shores, Ala. Hell will come later.

Although, driving through the entire length of Alabama at times did feel like a punishment akin to a fiery afterlife. Sorry to all my Alabama readers (if you actually own computers), but it’s true.

It was amusing hearing people’s reactions ahead of my vacation. Upon telling them where I was going, most replied, “Nashville is a great city. You’ll love it. Never been to Alabama though.” It’s not exactly a go-to vacation spot.

Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville, seen from a footbridge over the Cumberland River.

But after spending approximately 10 days down there, I can tell you all one thing: you’ve never eaten as a true American unless you’ve spent time in the south. They eat barbecue with everything. And I mean everything.

For the first time, I had a pork omelette for breakfast. It tasted exactly how you imagine it would. Delicious. Ordering pork in the south is like ordering pizza in New York City. Or bagels in Long Island. Wherever you get it — it’s awesome. I also had my first Chick-Fil-A experience, and, despite the political views of its billionaire CEO, their food is heavenly.

Southern hospitality is also a real thing. Every old lady is basically your mom. And people passing by on the street actually take the time to acknowledge you as a human being. It’s a refreshing change from New York, where the normal greeting is something like: “Get the f&%$ out of my way.”

And everyone refers to each other as “y’all.” Which makes perfect sense, when you think about it. I tend to refer to groups of people as “you guys,” which is pretty stupid considering that term refers to males. Y’all, meanwhile, is androgynous. I would never give southerners the upper hand in their usage of vocabulary over their northern counterparts, but that is one thing they got right.

Nashville is clearly a blossoming city. There was development everywhere you look. It’s clean, industrialized and very modern. It’s downtown area is electric, and of course, you hear good music everywhere you go. On a New York City corner, you’re likely to be serenaded by a homeless peddler shouting unintelligibly. In Nashville, you get guitarists who sound like they should have their own recording contract.

The VIP section at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores.

The VIP section at Hangout Fest in Gulf Shores.

And Alabama isn’t really that bad. In fact, the place I visited — Gulf Shores — is actually a destination point for people who live nearby. It’s literally as far down as you can go in the state, on a strip along the beach, with tons of restaurants and bars. It was especially hopping while I was there, as it was the weekend of the Hangout Music Festival — an annual event on the beach which hosts some of the best musicians in the world.

This year’s lineup, featuring the Foo Fighters, Zac Brown Band, Beck, My Morning Jacket, and much more, was no exception. The best part was I recently purchased a high-tech Nikon camera with a 30x zoom lens, and was able to use it in the photo pit on a media pass throughout the weekend. I got a lot of great shots, which you can check out here. 

Life wasn’t too bad the past two weeks.

And now with the passage of Memorial Day, it’s the unofficial start to the summer. The three-month span where people still complain about stupid shit on social media, but only half-halfheartedly.

Cheers, y’all.

Don’t you dare deflate that football. DON’T YOU DARE.

How many times, as a child, did you have a sudden urge to go outside and toss around a football?

It’s the ultimate common denominator that connects young boys — going to the park with a friend, or stepping into the backyard with your dad, and playing catch.

But since your home is not a Modell’s Sporting Goods, you first have to remember where you left the only football you own — the one you got as a gift for that birthday party you had at the arcade when you were 7.

You search your closet and the basement before finally finding it in the same box in the garage where you keep your old shoes. Since it’s been long unused, it’s probably dust-ridden and deflated. But it’s your only option, so you wash it off, give it a quick pump and it’s good to go.

Thomas BradyWell, if you were an NFL player, that reckless behavior just earned you a suspension. You cheating, rotten scoundrel.

The league finally handed down its punishment to the New England Patriots for using under-deflated footballs during the playoffs last year, and it’s hefty: a $1 million fine, the loss of two draft picks, and a four-game ban for quarterback Tom Brady, who, a league-commissioned independent investigation ruled was implicit in the scandal.

There will be two prevailing thoughts on this. Number one is that this whole thing is pretty trivial. It’s under-inflated footballs we’re talking about here. It’s nothing that causes any one harm, and it’s not even conclusive just how much of an advantage it gives a player.

On the other hand, rules are rules. It’s still cheating. All throughout childhood, we’re taught as young athletes to respect the game. Only losers cheat because they can’t win fair and square.

The Patriots broke the rules. They cheated. And they deserve to be punished.

Whether you agree with the severity of the punishment is a separate issue altogether. Many will note the length of the suspension given to Brady compared to the one given to Ray Rice last year — two games — after he punched out his wife in an elevator.

But let’s go back to the kids. Because that’s really what life is all about, right? Grooming our nation’s youth.

As you enter adulthood, you will be tempted by many things that could lead you astray. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, straightening paper clips so they no longer serve their intended purpose, and throwing empty Gatorade bottles and sea gulls on the beach are among those things. I’m obviously not going to tell you what you can and cannot do. It’s your life. I just advise you to act cautiously and to make smart decisions.

But if you ever, ever, decide to use an improperly deflated football, whether it’s for use in a game, for having a catch with your pops, or even just to transfer from one box to another in your dirty ass garage, then know one thing.

You are scum.

Good day to you.

We’ve reached the point where we can no longer stop pretending kale is a thing

Health is something that people know is important, but don’t ever want to be lectured on.

As much as I appreciate vegetarians and vegans and their determination to live a healthy life, listening to them talk about their diet is as boring as watching a celebrity golf tournament.

All the average American wants is to ignorantly and blissfully eat their hamburger in peace. And until our doctor looks us in the eye and tells us to start eating healthy immediately or we’re going to die, then that is when we will turn to our vegetarian and vegan friends for dietary advice. But only then.

Given that mindset, most people probably are unaware that there is an entire plethora of food choices that are derived only from grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and nuts. Like seitan. Or tofu. And my personal favorite: quinoa. It’s fun to eat, say and spell. The rare triple threat.

KaleAnd there’s another food that most people have probably heard of before, but choose to shelve it in the same part of their brain that also hides the fact that they secretly like Meghan Trainor — kale.

No, I’m not referring to the black dude who co-starred in the late ’90s Nickelodeon show with Kenan Thompson. That would be Kel.

Kale is a vegetable. I can’t pretend I know much more than that, but I know its leaves can be used to form a kale salad, and that when baked, it takes on a composition similar to potato chips. Add seasoning, and you have a wonderful snack called kale chips. You can purchase them at your local Trader Joe’s.

But a warning — though they may taste good, kale chips smell like shit. Do not prepare them as a hors-d’oeuvre if you are hosting a female at your house who you are trying to have sex with later.

Unless she’s a vegan. Then you’re probably in for a great night.

But if you’re dating a vegan, then prepare to not enjoy many more meals for a while.

Anyway, kale has become increasingly popular over the years, especially as hipster culture continues to become more mainstream and people continue to seek healthier diets. But it was still uncommon enough that people could ignore it.

Well no more. Because once McDonald’s starts selling it, there’s no going back.

The fast food chain is putting kale in a $3.99 breakfast bowl in nine of its restaurants in Southern California.

Unless Justin Timberlake is spotted eating kale on a New York City sidewalk, there’s really no greater endorsement that kale is now a thing than once McDonald’s starts jumping on the bandwagon.

Vegans may be repulsed by the idea, but the truth is, there’s no greater popularity boost.

And when you order it at McDonald’s, get some orange soda with it. Why?

Because kale looooves orange soda.

TayTalk: The universal language of Taylor Swift

It’s gotten a little serious here the last few days. But when cultural circumstance calls for it, I must be the voice of reason.

Let’s lighten the mood. Whenever I need to do that, I have one go-to. It’s pretty easy. All I have to do is see what’s going on in the world of Taylor Swift.

And today … it’s big.

You know how you feel like Taylor Swift songs define your life? Like every word she sings perfectly explains your own unique situation?

No, you say? You have no idea what I’m talking about? And never once have you ever felt that a single Taylor Swift lyric applied to any aspect of your existence?

Taylor Swift Performs On ABC's Well, don’t walk away just yet. You might still enjoy this.

A new app, TayText, allows you to send text messages using only lyrics from Taylor Swift songs.

Of all the useless things that have been invented in the smartphone era — and there have been a lot — this is by far the best one.

No one needed this. It solves nothing. All it does it take up more precious space on your iPhone.

But from the deeper, innate depths of your being, we all needed this. We just didn’t know it.

Taylor Swift is an accomplished and acclaimed lyricist, who mostly opines on love lost and found. And because she covers both ends of the romantic spectrum, her lyrics, when broken down, either resemble mushy Hallmark cards we buy on Valentine’s Day — or the rage-filled drunk texts we send to an ex at 3 a.m.

In text message form, that’s really all you can ask for.

What’s more is it’s all ready to go. You don’t need to rationalize your own emotion into one garbled little paragraph, only to have Siri screw it all up by autocorrecting half of the words. With TayText, you randomly generate, and send.

In fact, there’s no reason to ever complete any original thought ever again. Why use Taylor Swift lyrics for just texting? How about we use it for cover letters, speeches, entire books and just normal every day conversation?

I mean, she has hundreds of songs out now. Between all of them, we can cover all possible situations and contexts using her lyrics.

TayText is just the beginning.

Soon, the entire world will be speaking one universal language. Racial barriers will be broken. Religious and ideological differences among Middle Eastern countries will cease to exist. Partisanship in politics will be a complete afterthought.

Taylor Swift’s god-given gift of articulation will singlehandedly bring peace and harmony to the world.

Or maybe it will just … be an app that a couple people will download.

Either or.