Leo finally gets his damn Oscar, and the Donald Trump takedown we’ve all been waiting for

Oh what a Sunday it was.

I couldn’t help but go to sleep last night with a giant grin on my face for two reasons, the second of which I’ll get to in a little bit.

The world can exhale. Leonardo Dicaprio has his Oscar. It’s amazing how much everybody was rooting for him, and it’s a testament to how many awesome movies he’s helped make in his career.

Coincidentally, earlier in the afternoon I was flipping through the channels and stumbled across Titanic. Naturally, it’s one of those movies that you linger on for a few seconds before changing. You check out exactly what part it’s up to, mentally calculate how long until you see Kate Winslet’s boobs, and then decide from there.

In this case, it had just started. My finger hovered over the channel button ready to push, and next thing I knew, it was three hours later and Rose was telling Jack she’ll never let go. Although, 19 years later, I still think both of them could have fit on that goddamn board.

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And then when Leo won his Oscar several hours later, I couldn’t help but feel like I just watched his career come full circle before my eyes. Sure, there was about 11 Martin Scorsese movies in between, but you get the point.

To top it off, he delivered a poignant and resounding acceptance speech on the urgency of climate change and protecting our planet from political ignorance and corporate greed. He’s like a real life super hero.

It was a satisfying ending to what had been a pretty awesome Oscars telecast, in my mind, and one that took place amid a swirl of controversy regarding the lack of diversity in the Academy’s nominating process.

For once, the Oscars had a storyline. Usually it’s just awards and the occasional jokes, but this time … there was drama. And the Oscars was lucky that Chris Rock was there to address the elephant in the room in the best possible way.

In what I think will be a defining night in the comedian’s career, Chris Rock lent just the right tone to what is indeed a serious issue — but as Rock put it, not too serious in the grand scheme of things.

In his words, Hollywood is racist, although, not “burning-cross racist,” but rather, Chris Rock Oscars.jpg“sorority racist.”

The Oscars has regularly nominated white people, but, 50-plus years ago, Rock noted, black people were worried about more pressing problems, like lynching and rape, than who won best cinematography. He also went on to bash Jada Pinkett Smith, the black actress who first made a big stink about the show’s lack of diversity.

It’s about time that Hollywood studios start embracing the diversity that truly exists in the world. And that message was made loud and clear last night on the world’s biggest platform.

Aside from that, Weinblog history was made when Spotlight took best picture. For the first time ever, a movie that I picked as my #1 film of the year ended up taking the industry’s top prize. And it was very anti-climactic. In fact, I was starting to take pride in my inability to accurately pinpoint the year’s greatest film. It was starting to become “my thing.”

But no more. Oh well. I guess the spotlight has been turned off on that reality.

Don’t boo me on that one. It’s nearly impossible to make wholesome Spotlight joke considering the movie is about a sexual abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. I stand by it.

And one more thing I stand by? John Oliver. The man has been absolutely killing it — killing it — since his show, Last Week Tonight, began two years ago, and on Sunday night he took it to a new level by insulting one Donald J. Trump.

I’ve lectured you all enough for one day. So I’ll save my commentary on this epic takedown for tomorrow, and leave you with the video footage. If you haven’t seen it yet, do so now. It’s 21+ minutes long, but once you’ve finished, you’ll have wished it was longer.

Enjoy, and prepare to enter the words “Donald Drumpf” into your vocabulary.


Weingrad rates the movies of 2015

Ladies and gents, it’s that time of the year again. The Academy Awards are on Sunday, and don’t worry if you haven’t seen everything because I’ve got you covered.

I’ve done this every year since I started this blog — in 2009, ’10, ’11, ’12, ’13 and ’14, and for the seventh time, I will force my film commentary on you all, ranking my favorite movies of the year from 1 to 12. As always, no movie description will contain spoilers.

I must add one single disclaimer to this year’s rankings. I have not seen Star Wars.

*ducks in preparation for something to be thrown at me, then realizes I’m typing at my computer. I relax and sit back up and somehow a tomato comes through the screen and hits me in the face*

I know that’s a pretty big omission. It was one of the most well-received movies of the year. So here’s what I’ll do: once I see it, I will add it to this list where it fits. If it’s worthy of being in the top 12, I’ll slip it in where applicable, and it’ll become a top 13.

One more note before I begin — in the years I’ve done this, my #1 choice has never won Best Picture at the Oscars. Rather, the Best Picture winners have been ranked on my lists, respectively, at 4, 3, 2, 5, 8 and 2.

Will that change this year? We’ll find out Sunday. Let’s get into it.


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12. Sicario

A film about a joint U.S. task force charged with containing a deadly Cartel that smuggles drugs across the Mexican-American border, and seen through the perspective of a young, ambitious FBI agent (Emily Blunt), is probably the most suspenseful movie of the year. It’s artistically violent and unabashedly cynical about our government’s handling of the war on drug trafficking. The drama builds at a fluid pace from the beginning, and ends with a flourish. A reliable performance from Josh Brolin and a masterful one by Benicio Del Toro rounds out this well executed film. Probably the biggest sleeper film of the year.



11. Steve Jobs

A worthy biopic about one of the most interesting men of our generation. You know what you’re getting in a film written by Aaron Sorkin: strong-headed characters with giant egos; tenaciously sharp and biting dialogue; and feelings of sentiment at just the right moments. Which is what made him the perfect scribe for a Steve Jobs biopic. That being said, the success of this film lies just as much on the brilliant performance by Michael Fassbender (probably the biggest challenger to Leo for Best Actor on Sunday), and a heart-racing score that matches the intensity of the dialogue. The whole movie takes place in just three elongated scenes, each taking place before the launch of a significant product, embedded with the occasional flashback. And somehow, it all works.


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10. Ex Machina

The year’s best sci-fi really captures the serious mood that conveys the risk of developing artificial intelligence. Ex Machina is an entertaining and thought-provoking cautionary tale that takes place in the not-too-distant-future, involving a young, up-and-coming software developer (Domhnall Gleeson) winning a contest to meet his company’s CEO, (Oscar Isaac) who’s also one of the world’s most brilliant scientific minds. He gets a firsthand experience of exactly what his boss is working on, and becomes involved in the experiment in ways that he never would have expected. A captivating, eccentric performance by Isaac, and an impressive showing by Alicia Vikander as a cyborg helps carry this gripping film.


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9. The Hateful Eight

I’m not going to lie; I went into this movie so weary of Quentin Tarantino clichés that I was expecting to hate it. And about two hours in, I felt like my belief was validated. And then, suddenly, the entire movie changed course and became a whole lot more interesting and dynamic. I ended up enjoying it immensely. The performances from a large cast (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh to name a few) were fine, but it was really the changeup in the film’s final act that won me over, which featured a surprise cameo. Otherwise, Tarantino’s trademark qualities of quirky personalities, unforgiving violence and austere, anachronistic settings are aplenty.


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8. The Danish Girl

This film is an example of how two extraordinary performances can really escalate a film to the next level. On the surface, this movie about a transgender painter Einar Wegener in 1920s Denmark seems like pure Oscar bait. But Eddie Redmayne is so hauntingly convincing of his character’s inner struggle that it’s emotionally gut-wrenching for the viewer. Wegener is the first person to ever have gender reassignment surgery, and is the real pioneer for the transgender community (and not some Kardashian family member). Alicia Vikander (get used to that name) excels in playing his wife, a fellow painter named Gerda Wegener, invoking a woman of tremendous inner strength while guiding her husband throughout his ordeal. If she doesn’t win Best Supporting Oscar on Sunday, something is seriously wrong.


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7. Inside Out

If there is not one beloved animated film in any given year, it means America has failed. Thankfully, we had Inside Out. It’s a brilliantly simple idea: a story that revolves around personifying human emotion. All feelings — happiness, sadness, anger, etc. — are alive within each person, and arevoiced wonderfully by Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith and Bill Hader, among others. But their existence is rattled when the young Riley, the girl that they dwell within, is uprooted and distraught by her family’s relocation from Minnesota to San Francisco. It puts our internal characters to the ultimate test to restore her sense of childlike wonder, and sets off a fun and sentimental adventure that will warm your heart and awaken the child inside of you.


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6. Straight Outta Compton

Sometimes a story is too good to not be told. Straight Outta Compton depicts the true tale of the emergence of N.W.A, five young black rappers who hailed from the crime-ridden, decrepit streets of Compton, where police brutality and overt discrimination run rampant. The protagonists, most notably Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy E (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell, respectively) were among the first to gain nationwide popularity (and notoriety) for rapping about social injustice and race, as well as the highs and lows that came with their unexpected fame. The movie will present a sense of nostalgia for all those who recall late ‘80s and early ‘90s hip-hop, and is surprisingly sentimental. It should appeal to anybody who enjoys a good story, whether you like rap or not.



5. Brooklyn

For all the guys reading this, here’s a word of advice: take your girlfriends to see this movie. Brooklyn is an endearing romance about a young Irish girl (Saiorse Ronan) who emigrates to Brooklyn in the 1950s in search of greater opportunity and independence. What she finds, rather, is an Italian man (Emory Cohen) with a thick New York accent who sweeps her off her feet. Everything seems to be going perfectly until tragedy calls her back to Ireland, and her life suddenly becomes completely upended, leaving her with a choice of which of her two lives she wishes to continue. Ronan and Cohen shine as our leading love interests, sharing a fantastic chemistry that will leave you gushing in spite of yourself.


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4. Room

No movie may have been more emotionally taxing this year than Room, which largely takes place in a small, dilapidated room inhabited by a young mother (Brie Larson) and her very young son (Jacob Tremblay). Why they’re there is a mystery, but eventually comes to light in a shocking manner. Larson, the likely (and deserving) Oscar winner for Best Lead Actor, is simply fantastic as she portrays a young woman who must protect her son even when her life is in the most impossible of circumstances. It’s not an easy watch, but Room is as engrossing of a film as it gets.


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3. The Big Short

The appeal behind the Big Short, a dramedy revolving around the few bankers who actually foresaw — and capitalized on — the mortgage crisis that eventually led to the Great Recession, is very counter-intuitive. People will want to see it because of its big cast (Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt), but then will be slightly turned off when you see they’re playing money-grubbing, big-headed sleazy bankers who basically laughed at the prospect of hundreds of thousands of families losing their savings. Additionally, all the jokes are embedded with so much esoteric financial terminology that they likely will go over most people’s heads. However, one does not need to pick up on every piece of technical information to appreciate the movie. And, in truth, it’s actually a very solid primer on the laissez-faire mentality and reckless behavior that crippled the financial industry and essentially caused the crisis that affected us all. It’s a very smart and intellectually stimulating film, even if some people may feel like the characters are speaking a different language at times. But give it a try and don’t feel too intimidated.

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2. The Revenant

“It’s too long, but well done.” “Leo doesn’t even say anything most of the movie!” “Who the <bleep> is Hugh Glass and why should I care?” Those are the most common critiques I’ve heard of the Revenant. But all I know is that his film is a major cinematic achievement. Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, fresh off his directing Oscar from Birdman last year (and who may very well repeat this year), uses his signature long-takes and wide angle shots to capture the amazing landscape that reimagines the early 1800s American frontier. It especially pays off during an epic battle scene early on, which was a massive achievement in organization among dozens of actors, which puts the viewer dead center in the middle of the action, all in one take. The story is simple: High Glass ( Leonardo Dicaprio) gets attacked by a bear, is left for dead by his fellow trapper (Tom Hardy) and embarks on an epic journey, while half-dead, to exact revenge. It’s true that Leo doesn’t say much, but the toll that this film must have taken on him, in the freezing cold wilderness day in and day out, is unimaginable. He will get the Oscar for Best Lead Actor and he deserves it. Maybe you won’t care too much for the story, but the amazing visuals of The Revenant are undeniable.


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1. Spotlight

As a former journalist, this movie hit all of the bases for me. Not only is it a deeply interesting and intricate story, but one that details the plight of a group of investigative journalists as they slowly uncovered the sexual abuse scandal endemic within the Catholic Church in the late ’90s and early 2000s. This movie is just a solid effort all around, from its dialogue to its direction. But the real joy is watching all of the fine actors (namely Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton) interact with one another. Ruffalo and McAdams were rewarded with Oscar nods, and I’m glad to see McAdams rewarded, as she has seriously honed her acting skills over the years (while not aging a day). As a complete package, Spotlight excels in too many aspects not to be #1. Will the Academy Awards feel the same way? We shall see.

On the outside looking in:

It Follows: Those who have been craving a legitimately scary, indie horror film need look no further then It Follows. The premise itself — a demonic, haunting presence transferred from person to person via sex — sounds almost like a joke, but when put to film, with an eerie score and sufficient actors, it’s borderline genius. This is a film that will scare the living shit out of you and will probably give you nightmares from thinking about it so much afterwards. It was so close to cracking my top 12, mainly because of how much it exceeded expectations.

Creed: Probably one of the mainstream favorites of the year, Creed does fall into your typical boxing clichés, but does so with a sense of familiarity as it brings us back to the Rocky franchise. Sylvester Stallone is wonderful, Michael B. Jordan is pretty good, and the story itself is substantive enough to make for a fulfilling watch.

Trumbo: Label this as another movie that educates as well as entertains. Extreme anti-Soviet sentiment fed by McCarthyism during the Cold War essentially led to a witch hunt of alleged Communists in America, and the movie industry was not exempt. Renowned screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, brilliantly depicted by Bryan Cranston, was blacklisted for about a decade, yet still managed to exert his influence into Hollywood in a big way.

The Martian: It doesn’t quite match up to the book, but The Martin still definitely entertains. Led by a charismatic performance by Matt Damon, the tale of an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars is loaded with scientific vernacular but dumbed down enough to remain accessible to viewers. Just a fun movie all around. Though I’d still recommend reading the book first.

Dope: A very timely and unexpectedly poignant film about a black teenager growing up in an urban neighborhood where his peers feel a sense of detachment and inequality from the rest of the world. But yet, Dope doesn’t preach — rather, it’s main character, Dom (an excellent Rakim Mayers) breaks that mold; he dons an early ’90s Fresh Prince-like haircut, plays in an indie rock band and has his sights set on getting into Harvard University. Wildly entertaining and extremely satisfying, Dope is one of the best surprises of 2015.

Other solid features from 2015 you should see:

Beasts of No Nation: One of the more prominent movies to be released exclusively on Netflix, Beasts of No Nation is about an adolescent child who is recruited to join a rebel army in an unnamed African nation. The savagery and barbarism contained within will likely offer an eye-opening experience for many privileged Americans. Indeed, the average moviegoer will be shocked and awed, and will return to their life afterwards. But in many parts of Africa, it’s horrible to know that the events in Beasts of No Nation are a sad reality. Exceptional performances abound by Idris Elba (Oscar snub) and the young Abraham Attah.

The End of the Tour: Depicting an extended interview between Infinite Jest author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) and Rolling Stone writer David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), The End of the Tour is dialogue heavy, philosophical, funny and will appeal to book lovers and writers everywhere. Very strong chemistry between Segel and Eisenberg makes it work.

Carol: It’s a well-told story beautifully imagined in 1950s New York, but most people will want to watch it to see Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett make out. And they do (plus more). The superb acting was expected; but Carol will mostly appeal more to people who enjoy a good drama/romance.

Mad Max: Fury Road: This movie is an adrenaline-rush from start to finish, highlighted by outstanding visuals and cinematography. It’s a post-apocalyptic road movie that’s loud and boisterous, at times disturbing, but certainly unique. A badass performance by Charlize Theron steals the show.

Bridge of Spies: It’s a Steven Spielberg movie, so you know to expect a likable protagonist and a fulfilling story. And Bridge of Spies delivers. Tom Hanks is reliable in his portrayal of an attorney who somehow gets thrust into the role of hostage negotiator between the U.S. and Soviet-controlled eastern Germany. The film is also boosted by a strong performance by Mark Rylance as a Soviet spy, the front-runner for Best Supporting Actor.

Concussion: If anything, it’s nice to finally see the harmful long-term effects that football has on the human brain brought to the mainstream, after the NFL for so many years denied any such correlation. A committed performance by Will Smith as the doctor who made this discovery draws us in, but in the end the film may be a little too bleak and a little too real to fully enjoy.

Anomalisa: Easily one of the more unique films of the year, Anomalisa uses puppets and stop-motion to tell the story of a lonely, depressed customer service representative (voiced nicely by David Thewlis) who travels to Cincinnati to speak at a convention. The attention to detail in the animation is astounding, but the movie is just so darn depressing to really appeal to the mainstream.

Joy: Jennifer Lawrence’s strong leading performance can’t prop up Joy, a part fictional retelling, part biopic of Joy Mangano, which has a dazed, lethargic mood throughout. Bradley Cooper, who appears midway through, just seems like he was bored throughout the film. It’s a nice rags-to-riches story of a woman fighting through adversity to become a successful entrepreneur, but overall falls short of achieving any real substance.

Infinitely Polar Bear: Mark Ruffalo gives a charged, energetic performance of a bipolar father who, while separated from his wife (Zoe Saldaa), remains on good terms with her and their two biracial children. But it’s particularly refreshing to see a movie about mental illness that strikes a positive cord. One of the better indie films of the year.

Everest: A film about the 1996 Mount Everest disaster that left 12 climbers dead, Everest does a convincing job conveying the unimaginable struggles trying to scale the world’s highest summit. It’s a nice watch but probably won’t resonate much further afterwards. If anything, it may motivate you to read Jon Krakauer’s excellent book, “Into thin Air,” which describes the excursion from his own perspective.

Trainwreck: The year’s “it” raunchy comedy, and the breakthrough of Amy Schumer. The narrative is unoriginal, and it loses its charming effect by movie’s end, but there are definitely some genuinely hilarious jokes throughout. Also, it’s Lebron James’s film debut. If that means anything.

Cinderella: It says something that the filmmakers of Cinderella did not give in to our contemporary fixation of rewriting (and ruining) old classics, but rather, stuck to the pure, original story using dazzling CGI to reimagine the original fairy tale’s setting. But the real takeaway is Lily James, who is stunningly gorgeous and heavily compelling as Cinderella, and a real star in the making. Just watch any interview on YouTube that she’s ever given and you will fall in love.

And there you go folks. I’m spent. Enjoy the Academy Awards!

Facebook rolled out its expanded ‘like’ options and now there’s no point to Facebook anymore

For years, people have been calling for a “dislike” button on Facebook to counter the popular “like” option.

And there really was never a need for that. Everyone knows that it only would have been used basically as a cyber-bullying tool to discourage and discredit their own friends. And there’s just too much negativity in the world already for that.

But Facebook brass did eventually come around, acknowledging the fact there is a need for people to be able to express greater emotion besides a simple like.

When people post sad news about their pets or grandparents dying, or post an article about a suicide bombing in the Middle East, then we should be able to express our sympathy or our anger.

And now we can.

Facebook reactions

Beginning today (at least it was for me) people can now respond to statuses using emojis or icons that convey six basic emotions — like, love, laughter, amazement, sadness and anger.

Facebook deserves to be congratulated. Humans are complex, multifaceted beings, and limiting us to one single emotion to express ourselves was always too restraining.

And now that it’s fixed, the entire system is broken. Allow me to elaborate.

Facebook was once a useful tool. A way to connect with your friends. To ensure that people you’ve lost touch with never truly fade. To stalk the hot girl you met the night before.

But now that everybody is on it, it’s basically become a popularity contest. Who can make the most endearing Facebook posts that generate the most likes. Achieving 20, 30, 40 likes was a badge of honor. Fifty or more was the equivalent to dating the prom queen.

And 100 or more? Pshh, that was like reaching pure Zen. It’s the Mount Everest of social media. I did it once — don’t ask me how, but it was a special day. It’s right up there with the time I … uh, actually screw it. It was the best moment of my life.

But now the sanctity of Facebook liking just went out the window. With these range of emotional responses, people are going to be very liberal in utilizing them. Indeed, Facebook now appears to be bunching all of them together. As in, it will say “47 people” responded to your post, but it’s spread between the likes, the laughs and the wows.

It means nothing anymore. The system has forever changed. And In the future, we’ll all be telling our grandkids about how we had to earn our Facebook likes.

The lesson? Be careful what you wish for folks.

Because when you get it, you may not “like” it very much.

…allow me to respond to that joke on your behalf.

Facebook angry

U.S. Congress, literally the worst people on Earth

Emotions were running high a week ago when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly. We’re in the middle of a crazy election. Partisanship was fashionable, and it’s understandable that U.S. Senators would be quick to react before really thinking things through.

But now that we’ve had about 10 days to let it all sink in, and to allow emotions to cool, we could expected our elected officials to start acting rationally, right?

Oh, how silly of me. I forgot. This is America.

Mitch McConnell and other prominent Senate Republicans held firm on their promise today to not even meet with any nomination President Obama makes to the Supreme Court, putting in motion a singular level of obstructionism that our country has never seen before.

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Any precedent that GOP lawmakers tried to use to justify their behavior has failed dismally, as John Oliver eloquently pointed out on the recent Last Week Tonight.

At this point, they’re just making it up as they go along.

The U.S. Constitution dictates that the sitting president fills any Supreme Court vacancies, with Senate approval. It’s well within the Senate’s right to decline a nomination. It happens often. But to overtly declare before the fact that you will not even consider any nominee put forth by the president is an egregious abdication of one’s civic responsibilities.

In what other position in America is it acceptable to refuse to do your job? And not just refuse to do it — but to tell everybody beforehand that you’re not going to do it?

A job, no less, that people pick you for out of confidence that you will perform it to the best of your abilities?

The Senate has never taken longer than 125 days to vote on a president’s Supreme Court nomination. Once Obama makes his choice, it will be more than 300 days until he leaves office.

If this isn’t evidence that our government’s two-part system is broken, I don’t know what is.

It is worth noting that at least two Senate Republicans, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois, have broken ranks from their party in saying that they would vote on a nominee. It’s a stance that will make them unpopular within the establishment, but says plenty about their character and courage. Unfortunately, there are 52 others that probably do not feel the same way.

We elect Congressmen and women to make decisions. To represent their constituency. We don’t send them to Washington on our behalf to not do their job. How pathetic must we look in the eyes of other countries when our most powerful elected officials renounce their responsibilities?

I can’t speak for any one else, but obviously, this pisses me off. And if I lived in a state in which its Senator decided not to do their own job, then I sure as hell would not vote for them again.

If a Democrat wins the presidency and Republicans maintain the Senate, would they hold off on confirming a nominee for four more years? Eight years, even?

Honestly, nothing would surprise me anymore.

I will defend to the death a woman’s right to wear yoga pants

Anybody who reads this blog is well aware at this point that the majority of my posts are not geared towards women.

It’s nothing deliberate, but rather, a byproduct of that fact that I mainly write about things that appeal to my own personal interests. There are plenty of posts about women, and a large number where I try to understand the inner psyche of the female mind from a man’s perspective (to astonishingly little success).

But it’s time to change that. Because right now, I am going to stand up for women in a big way.

I am going to take a stance and defend something that should be — and should always be — every women’s inalienable right: their freedom to wear yoga pants.

Yoga pants

Believe it or not, this actually became a brief point of contention in one state that people probably couldn’t identify on a map even if they were handed a map of only that state — Montana.

A bill introduced by state Representative David Moore, a Republican, sought to expand Montana’s indecent exposure law, essentially outlawing any clothing that inappropriately accentuated men’s or women’s “private parts.”

Though yoga pants are not mentioned anywhere in the bill, he was quoted after a hearing as saying, “Yoga pants should be illegal, anyway.”

Now to be fair to Montana, the House quickly killed the bill. And for his part, Moore, amid the media backlash, claimed he was joking when he made the yoga pants comment.

But let this be a lesson to lawmakers everywhere. Don’t you dare to even think about the mere possibility of banning yoga pants.

Besides the notion that it’s so brazenly sexist to deny women a very specific and popular form of comfortable leg-wear, while not singling out any similar restrictions for men’s clothing, the angst against yoga pants just makes zero sense.

Guys wear sleeveless shirts to show off their arm strength. Women, more prone to focusing on sculpting their lower body, wear yoga pants as a well-earned testament of their finely-toned physique. Just as men have the right to show off their body, women do too.

While I have done yoga before, I’ve never worn yoga pants. Nor do I plan to anytime soon. But it’s easy to see that they look extremely comfortable. And let’s face it — since their widespread emergence among women in public, I’m sure the number of times men have accidentally walked into street signs or streetlights while walking on the sidewalk has increased significantly, since they’re too damn distracted to see where they’re going.

The point is — never forget Montana. If any ruthless lawmaker from Washington State to Maine, from California to Florida, or even in Alaska or Hawaii, wants to introduce any legislation that would even come close to banning yoga pants, I will hop on the first flight to wherever that state’s capital building is to picket on women’s behalf.

Now yogis, please join me in doing the mic drop pose.


America, please: stop listening to Donald Trump and Kanye West

Alright everybody, if you’re reading this on a Friday, then congratulations! You made it through the week! High five!

Nobody? No? Ok.

*slowly lowers hand and scratches the side of his head to save face.*

And if you’re reading this on late Thursday night, then you disgust me.

So right now I would like to issue a little bit of a loving plea to the entire world. Think of it as a friendly love letter from your favorite neighborhood blogger.

Can we place stop listening and dissecting the words of crazy people? There are a lot of really smart, thought-provoking individuals in the world who deserve our attention. And yet, we choose to focus and highlight those that are borderline deranged.

Kanye TrumpAnd I’m talking about two people who have gained massive followers throughout their careers. Donald Trump and Kanye West. Also known as, your 2016 Republican ticket.

On Thursday, Donald Trump took on the Pope. As in, the actual head of the Catholic Church, which has more than 1.25 billion followers worldwide. Our closest human representation to God himself! Or herself — (just kidding, LOL)

OK, so maybe it was Pope Francis who made the first move. At the end of his six-day visit to Mexico to preach social justice and tolerance for immigrants, the Pope replied to a question from a reporter about the Republican presidential forerunner’s plan to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexican border by saying Trump is “not Christian.”

Trump fired back by calling Pope Francis’s remarks “disgraceful.”

The bottom line is that Trump can’t even see eye-to-eye with the Pope, and yet, we expect him to be an honorable diplomat for our country. The sad thing is his followers won’t care. Trump’s campaign is a runaway train at this point, and he’s taking America along for a ride that is well beyond anyone’s control.

And Kanye. Oh, Kanye. What do we do with you?

You embark on an absolutely delirious Twitter tirade calling yourself this generation’s Pope FrancisDisney World, declare yourself $53 million in debt, beg Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Larry Page for a billion dollars, and create a chart of your future ideas, one of which being “emoticon auto-correct.” (Let’s all be real — that last idea is pretty solid.)

And yet, in the same week, you release “The Life of Pablo,” which, undoubtedly, will probably set a new standard among all rap and hip-hop releases moving forward.

I just don’t know anymore. You’ve got Trump going at it with the Pope, and Kanye going on an Amanda Bynes-like breakdown on social media.

People are addicted to crazy talk. That’s all there is to it. You throw around some nonsensical banter and suddenly you’re at the top of politics and music, respectively.

And who knows, one day it may be both. Kanye did promise us a 2020 presidential run, after all.

Oh well. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’m going to hit up Donald and Yeezus this weekend and we’ll all go see Deadpool.

Kanye, you’re paying.

Privacy — that thing everybody knows they should care about … but still doesn’t.

If it wasn’t for the whistle-blowing NSA contractor Edward Snowden, we would likely never know the extent in which governments invade privacy in order to protect national security.

And there’s really no doubting that government agencies like the FBI are trying to catch the bad guys. But with practically no oversight and regulations against them, it’s only natural that unlimited power will eventually be abused.

But since Snowden’s revelations regarding the U.S. government’s surveillance of its own citizens in 2013, privacy has at least entered national consciousness. This is the digital age, where technology is advancing at an exceptional pace, and the means in which governments can track us are becoming more and more intrusive.

At the same time, terrorism is still a significant threat, and if advanced technology can be used to thwart potential attacks on our country, why not use it?

iPhone hack.jpgThe fundamental question has become this: how much of our privacy are we willing to sacrifice in order to allow our government free rein to track suspicious behavior? Is there a limit?

If you ask Apple CEO Tim Cook, the answer is yes.

The company on Tuesday rejected a federal court order to essentially create a universal backdoor method that could unlock every iPhone and divulge all of the information inside of. The FBI wants it so they could unlock the phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Why Apple is so adamant about refusing this order is because they purposely created their latest operating systems with encryption that couldn’t be unlocked. No such method exists to universally unlock every iPhone, a policy Apple instituted to protect consumer privacy.

The creation of a universal “skeleton key,” Apple insists, would not only give its wielder the potential to unlock any phone at will, but also presents the risk of it falling into the hands of international hackers.

Which is exactly the reason why Apple never created one.

The FBI claims that it would only be used on a one-time basis — a notion that Apple says is impossible to guarantee; once the knowledge of how to unlock every phone exists, it can never be erased, they say.

It’s truly a complicated issue, one in which you can understand both sides of the Tim Cookargument, and may ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court. Which, in turn, would make it a truly landmark case that could set the standard for privacy moving forward.

Snowden, meanwhile, made his stance perfectly clear, calling this the most “important
tech case in a decade.” As did Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who also expressed his support for Apple (although somewhat belatedly).

Unfortunately, I still don’t think this is enough to pique the average person’s interest — at least not for more than a few days. And the reason is simple: people understand the importance of privacy, and would never want their own personal information to be made accessible, but yet, they refuse to believe that they are seriously at risk.

Who in the world would want my information, is what most people ask.

And they’re not wrong. No one probably does. But the moment we surrender the desire to protect our privacy is the moment it ceases to exist. And by extension of that, we also surrender a bit of our freedom.

… says the guy who has detailed his life and thoughts in a blog almost every day for more than six years.

I’ll shut up now.


Grammys 2016: The Force of Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar Awakens

For a show that exists to honor the best in music for the past year, the 58th Annual Grammy Awards did not seem all too interested in giving out, well, awards.

Of the 81 awards disseminated by the academy on Monday, only eight happened live on television. The rest of the three and a half hour broadcast was filled with performances.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Acceptance speeches are widely considered the most boring part of an awards show.

Taylor Swift Grammy winBut there are just so many artists and bands who  won Grammys, who, for all intents and purposes, may as well have not existed on Monday because their category didn’t make the live show.

Consequently, anyone who doesn’t stay up to date with music but only tunes into the Grammys officially thinks the only musicians that exist right now are Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, Meghan Trainor and the Weeknd.

But I digress.

Anyway, like any awards show, there was the good and the bad last night.

The talk of the town are the first two people I mentioned above. Taylor Swift, who became the first women to win Album of the Year twice, and used her speech to not only empower young woman, but to apparently throw some serious shade at Kanye West. 

Taylor, I’m on your side. But when you publicly shame Kanye, it does not go quietly. The man may be a musical genius, but mentally, he’s not all there. Keep Selena Gomez and the rest of your female posse close by. You may need it.

The other highlight was Kendrick Lamar, whose 2015 release “To Pimp a Butterfly” swept all the rap categories but fell short on Album of the Year to Swift’s “1989.” But what people will remember most was his spellbinding, socially conscious performance, which will probably upset the same white people who didn’t like Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime performance last week — which, might I add, Saturday Night Live hilariously chimed in on this weekend.

Kendrick Lamar Grammys2.jpg

What people also will likely remember was Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie, which frenetically rushed through 10 of his songs in a matter of minutes. While ambitious, the whole thing seemed too chaotic and over the top, which, apparently was the same sentiment expressed by David Bowie’s son.

And what gives with Justin Bieber’s performance? It was his first time getting to perform nationally in the Post Everybody Hates Bieber era (which, correct me if I’m wrong, is somewhere between the Jurassic and Pleistocene era on the epochal timeline), and they took his song that is grounded in electronic, computer-made sound and instead performed it with actual instruments? It changed the entire complexion of the song.Lady Gaga Bowie2

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the mess that was the Hollywood Vampires. That was just scary.

But let me say this. The Grammys seem to be obsessed with medleys, unusual artists pairings, and experimental performances. It’s the Grammys, so they want everything to be unique.

And that’s what made the performance by the Eagles, joined by Jackson Browne, singing “Take it Easy” as a tribute to the late Glenn Frey so special. They simply sang a classic song, from start to finish, telling people to take it easy in an era when people are no longer physically capable of taking it easy.

It was the most honest, sincere and heartfelt moment of the night, in my mind.

On that note, I can’t think of any better way to pay tribute to their tribute by spending the rest of the evening taking it easy by pulling my own Eagle.

That did not come out right at all.

When the death of a Supreme Court justice upends an already crazy presidential race

One day, a movie is going to be made about the 2016 presidential race.

What has already been a raucous, combative election campaign that’s entertained and horrified all at once was dealt its biggest plot twist yet on Saturday — the death of a Supreme Court justice, leaving a gaping vacancy in our nation’s foremost judiciary.

Antonin Scalia, who served three decades on the court, was known for his steadfast conservatism and propensity to treat every decision by the letter of the law. His tendency to invoke the literal meaning of the Constitution in every single case made him a heroic legal figure to conservatives and, conversely, an obstruction of progress in the minds of liberals.

Whichever it was, there was no doubting his influence on American policy for an entire generation.

Scalia.jpgHis absence leaves four liberal and four conservative justices apiece, meaning whoever fills Scalia’s gap could essentially tip the scales of judicial balance as the tiebreaker in all major decisions moving forward. Among those decisions coming up soon include cases on abortion, immigration, affirmative action and the Affordable Care Act.

It’s the president’s responsibility to replace Supreme Court justices, as chartered by the Constitution. Democratic presidents choose liberal judges, and Republicans choose conservatives. It’s the way it’s always been. President Obama has already chosen two justices since he took office.

And the U.S. Senate majority has said it will do everything in its power to make sure he does not choose a third.

Scalia’s death turned into a political issue almost immediately. Republican presidential candidates and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said it’s inappropriate for a lame duck president to choose a Supreme Court justice, and that they would use whatever tactics necessary to delay an Obama appointment.

Now this is where an egregious display of hypocrisy comes in.

Republicans are citing the so-called, unwritten “Thurmond Rule” — named after former U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, whose greatest legacy was his devotion to protect segregation by unsuccessfully thwarting the passage of the Civil Rights Act — which says a president should not choose a Supreme Court justice during the final months of his term.

Disregarding the fact that there is still nearly a full year left in Obama’s term, it’s worth McConnell.jpgnoting that historically, the Senate has never taken more than 125 days to vote on a justice after their nomination. As of this writing, there are 340 days left until the next president takes office.

Obama has already said he will fulfill his duty by appointing a nominee in the coming weeks. Other Democratic Senators have lambasted the Republicans’ threats to stall the process as an abdication of their oath of office, while noting the hypocrisy in that, as fervent defenders of the Constitution, they are ignoring that very document if they pursue this strategy.

Republicans say it’s been 80 years since a lame duck president has filled an open Supreme Court seat. What they’re conveniently forgetting is that Justice Anthony Kennedy, an appointment by President Ronald Reagan in late 1987, was confirmed unanimously by the Senate in February of 1988, an election year.

Last point: Mitch McConnell, in 2008, said during a Senate session that the Democratically-controlled Senate should disregard the Thurmond Rule and consider any lower court nomination under then lame duck President George W. Bush. Now that the tables have turned, he’s not singing quite the same tune.

Those are the facts. Make of it what you will.

All I can say is, coming to a theater near you in 10 years from now — “2017: The Race to the White House” directed by Ben Affleck.

I’m just eager to see what white actor Hollywood chooses to play Obama.

When a blogger’s dreams come true — an eighth Harry Potter book

There are people who hold out hope for a new Batman reboot. Or an audience that craves a reinvented Star Wars trilogy. Some just want Hobbit movies to never end. We all have our favorite fictional universes.

Me? I’ve long prayed for a new installment of a series that basically defined my childhood. One that involved witchcraft and wizardry. House elves and goblins. Flying on broomsticks in mid-air chasing balls.

There’s no real way to describe Quidditch without sounding homoerotic, is there?

Well, anyway, it appears my prayers were answered. Stop the presses, everybody, because there’s an eighth Harry Potter book coming out!

Actually, wait. Do not stop the presses. Do the exact opposite. Rub some extra elbow grease on those babies.

OK, so it’s not exactly the eighth book in the series, per say, but it is indeed the eighth book, chronologically, written by J.K. Rowling, involving the Harry Potter universe.

Harry Potter books.jpg

And by golly, that is good enough for me. The book, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, will actually be a “script book” of the play of the same name that is set to open on July 30 in the UK. The book will be released by Scholastic one day later on July 31 — which, every nerd like me knows, is Harry Potter’s birthday.

When I heard this news yesterday, I seriously did some type of hybrid dance combining an Irish jig and break-dancing, and topped it off with the dab. Basically, I looked like a guest on Maury who just learned he is not the father.

It may not be a traditional book — indeed I’m wondering if the script will be converted at all to a conventional literary narrative — but it gives me more story. More magic. And more importantly, gives me an excuse to reread the entire Harry Potter book series.

Which, might I add, is like 4,000 pages combined. So that will pretty much occupy my entire summer. I think I might just put a sign on my bedroom door in May that reads “Do Not Disturb — Reading Harry Potter” and never leave.

For anyone who was too young to appreciate Harry Potter when it was in its craze back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, let me just tell you that nothing like it has ever followed. For adolescents and teenagers at the time, it made reading cool again. It broadened our imaginations. It provided a fun magical getaway before and after school. And introduced us to a whole host of characters who have since never left.

And for those who have yet to read them — then consider this your opportunity. I don’t care how old you are. It’s not too late. The story is so creative and enthralling that it transcends age.

Besides, you’re never too old for an adventure.