The world mourns a gorilla

When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that we only ask Americans for one day to think about the hundreds of thousands of Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice.

We devote just one day a year to remember all those who lost their lives in combat over the last 240 years so that we could enjoy the freedoms and liberties that we have today.

So, when Memorial Day came and went yesterday, I was at least heartened to see the national conversation consumed by … a gorilla?

By now you’ve all heard this story. After a 4-year-old boy somehow meandered his way into a gorilla enclosure at a zoo in Cincinnati, zookeepers shot and killed Harambe, a 420-pound silverback gorilla, a critically endangered species who just one day earlier had celebrated his 17th birthday.

Gorilla.png

Video of the gorilla dragging the child as if its a rag doll made its way to the Internet, and it’s sparked a firestorm of emotion from people everywhere, including Facebook pages and online petitions demanding justice for the gorilla.

Witnesses at the scene, meanwhile, have said that the situation was handled as well as it could be, given the impossible circumstances.

In the video, it looks almost as if the gorilla was protecting the boy. At the very least, he certainly doesn’t appear to be treating him as a threat. That is, until all of the screaming and commotion above him from spectators inevitably disoriented the gorilla and caused him to pick up the toddler and violently carry him around his habitat.

No matter how much you want to deny it, the sheer strength and power of that gorilla could have easily killed that boy.

It’s just a terrible thing that happened because now an innocent gorilla is dead. And we’ve seen the amazing universal reaction that could manifest when animals are wronged.

It’s really one of those things where it’s hard to place blame. The child apparently slipped through barriers that hadn’t been breached in the exhibit’s 38-year-existence, and the zoo officials acted to save the kid’s life.

It just sucks. I think we could all be sad for the gorilla, without bearing hatred or angst to any particular entity. People will want to blame the parents, and maybe they are at fault, but don’t act like it’s easy to keep an eye on your child for every waking moment. It was an accident. And a tragic one, at that.

Plus, Cincinnati police are investigating the matter. So let’s await their findings before we start the hash tag #JusticeForHarambe.

For once, let’s try not to whip out the pitchforks and look for someone to punish. Let’s just remember the life of a gorilla who died in a freak circumstance, sadly, for simply being who he is.

And to make up for it, let’s take the rest of this week (at least) to also honor our nation’s fallen veterans. We owe that and you know it.

Harambe means “Pull together” in Swahili.

We could all honor this gorilla by Harambe-ing more often.

The politicizing of bathrooms nonsense needs to stop

When I said about three months ago that the time is now for people to start caring about transgender rights, I did not anticipate the quickness and the explosiveness in which this would become a national political issue.

There’s so many problems in this country that needs to be fixed — racial and gender inequality, aging infrastructure, national security, healthcare, college tuition, the Kardashian family, etc.

And we’re focusing on freaking bathrooms.

I thought we had hit a low when North Carolina sued the federal government a couple of weeks ago. Turns out, we weren’t even close.

On Thursday, officials from 11 states (all but one represented by Republican governors — shame on you, West Virginia) are challenging what they’re calling the Obama administration’s overreach in forcing states to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

Transgender-Bathrooms.jpg

It’s amazing that this is even a problem, let alone a national issue.

I mean, first of all, this is not something that can be enforced. Bathrooms do not have bouncers. Since the invention of plumbing, anybody has been able to go into any bathroom. So, in essence, this whole thing is moot.Hence the politicization.

Secondly, it’s absolutely worth noting that there has never in history been in instance of a transgendered person being arrested for sexual misconduct in a bathroom. And yet, there are three known occurrences of Republican lawmakers being arrested for just that.

But this shouldn’t even be out about whose side you’re on. Because it never should have gotten this far.

Can we all agree that there are two bathrooms: a men’s and a women’s. You pick which one you use based on your gender identity, go in, do your business and leave. Don’t start conversations with the people in there. Don’t even make eye contact. In and out.

Sexual assault is still universally illegal, regardless of who is in what bathroom. So to think that giving transgenders a choice will suddenly increase the frequency of sexual abuse is nonsensical. If a person is a predator, then they’re unfortunately going to  go through with it no matter what laws are in place.

I really hope this is the last time I have to talk about this. If nothing else, it may be simply because I’m too tired to continue. That’s pretty much been the case with Donald Trump. I just can’t deal with it anymore.

Ultimately, you just have to believe in progress. Because right now, in light of this lawsuit, this is not progress.

I’m going to sign off now, folks. May your Memorial Day weekend be joyous, and bathroom incident-free.

Most of all, please take a second to remember why Memorial Day exists. Even if it means rocking an American flag tank top on Monday with your fake Aviators and skinny blue cargo shorts.

The other 362 days you choose do that (I’ll give you Veterans Day and Independence Day), I’ll probably look at you with deep loathing.

But on Monday, by all means, rock those red, white and blue tank tops.

And god bless the U.S of A.

Remember when people used to actually root for world peace?

Let’s say you have a lot of friends.

Most of them like you. The majority of them truly respect you. The others just don’t want to get on your bad side.

But then there’s three people who don’t like you. Really don’t like you. So much that they may even want to cause you harm, if they had their way. You’ve had really bad skirmishes with them in the past, and the bad blood still lingers. But instead of acting out, you just decide to pretty much ignore the other’s existence.

It prevents any belligerence in the short term, but is it really the ideal solution? Do you really want to live each day knowing that one of these people might come after you?

In a perfect world, wouldn’t you rather make amends, let bygones be bygones, acknowledge that mistakes were made and go on living peacefully? You don’t have to love each other. You just have to tolerate one another and acknowledge the other’s existence. Give a curt nod when you pass each other on the street, rather then turning in the opposite direction.

Peace and camaraderie is always the better option, right? If a solution presents itself that avoids conflict — take it.

Well if you agree with me, then you also happen to agree with the recent actions of our president.

Yup, folks, this just got political. I tricked you!

In the past calendar year, President Obama has made the attempt to reconcile and burn bridges with three nations, each of which have a very checkered recent history (to say the least) with the United States — Iran, Cuba and Vietnam.

Obama Vietnam.jpg

One chants “Death to America” every morning. The other once allowed nuclear missiles on their soil to point directly at us. The last engaged with us in a war that killed 58,000 Americans.

Yeah, that’s bad blood.

I know what some of you may be thinking. If a country has American blood on its hands, then why ever make amends? We’re the most powerful country in the world — screw ’em!

But is that really a solution? Just maintain the status quo and expect no repercussions? Is it healthy to have an entire nation remain an enemy for decades and decades? If you truly believe that, then maybe you believe the U.S. and Soviet Union never should have ended the Cold War.

If there is an open door towards peace, how do you not at least peak inside? Obama has taken a careful step through that door recently by negotiating a nuclear deal with Iran, announcing a thaw with Cuba, and just this week, took further initatives to settle the lingering rifts between the U.S. and Vietnam.

No one’s saying to welcome these nations back with an open arms. Instead, it’s merely one cautious step towards long-term reconciliation.

There used to be a day when “world peace” was an unanimous goal.

Now the calls are to build walls. To alienate foreigners. To condemn entire groups of people because of the actions of a small minority.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m still game for world peace. And I’m proud to be represented by a leader who at least gave it a shot.

Ke$ha’s redemption

A major reason I watch the Billboard Music Awards is because it’s the perfect indicator of how out of touch I am with contemporary pop music.

Each year, the detachment grows. Eight years ago I could have probably guessed every song that was on the Billboard Hot 100 at any given time without looking.

In the years that followed, I tried my best to stay in the loop just because I enjoyed keeping up to date with pop culture.

Now I don’t even care anymore. Pop music has evolved in a way I never saw coming, and it’s totally left me behind.

Until yesterday, I thought Fetty Wap was an item on the Taco Bell menu. Turns out, however, he’s a rapper. I’d mock him more, but I also learned that he has glaucoma and it cost him one of his eyes. So you’re cool, Fetty. Or is it Mr. Wap? Either way, I’ll leave you be.

Kesha Billboard.jpg

And while the festivities at last night’s awards show got off the worst foot possible with a hideous Britney Spears lip-synced medley, the show was actually sprinkled with a few poignant and enjoyable performances.

Lukas Graham impressed me with his live rendition of 7 years. I’ve never actively listened to that song, but I’ve somehow heard it at least 20 times. And yet, he sounded really good live.

But the show clearly belonged to Celine Dion, who was honored with the Icon Award, and delivered a powerful performance of Queen’s The Show Must Go On, an appropriate choice considering that her husband, Rene Angelil, died just four months ago.

Celine doesn’t get enough love for having one of the best voices in the world. And yeah, I’ll admit it, I keep My Heart Will Go On on my iPod at all times, because you just never know when you’re going to want to listen to it. You just never know. So I play it safe.

Celine Dion Billboard.jpg

Arguably the biggest surprise of the night was when Ke$ha — the mastermind behind Tik Tok and We R Who We R, who has been caught up in a whirlwind lawsuit of alleged abuse from her producer, a case that’s gotten so much media attention that it actually earned my sympathy — performed a solemn, stripped down version of Bob Dylan’s It AIn’t Me Babe.

And let’s be real — the performance wasn’t anything extraordinary. But it was an organic, honest and raw performance from a girl singing from her heart. And that’s all you can ask for in music. She ditched the Auto-Tune, and showed the world she has a capable singing voice.

Last time I apologized out of sympathy. This time, I apologize out of sincerity. So much so that I will hereby drop the money sign from your name, Kesha. That’s how much you’ve won me over. Nicely done.

And finally, the show was wrapped by a tribute to Prince in a way that tributes should be donesimple and genuine.

There was no Lady Gaga busting out nine different David Bowie songs in five minutes. Rather, it was Madonna singing Nothing Compares 2 U, and then joined by Stevie Wonder for a duet of Purple Rain, two of the late musician’s most recognizable songs. Another job well done.

So despite having to tolerate Ludacris, who has the personality of an unsharpened No. 2 pencil, as host of the show, I actually .. enjoyed … watching the Billboard Music Awards this year. At least some of it.

Mainly because Fetty Wap really caught my eye this year.

Had to.

Weinblog goes to the desert

Allow me to welcome you all back to the latest edition of the WeinTravel Blog.

In a span of seven days, I took four flights and entered every time zone in the mainland U.S. except Mountain Time.

Screw you, mountain time zone. If I wanted to visit a place that corrupts my lungs with thin air and reduced oxygen, I’d sooner go to Pandora from the movie Avatar. That place looked awesome. And me and the Na’vi would be bros.

Upon my return from Chicago, I had less than 48 hours until I boarded yet another plane, this time to Phoenix, Arizona. Except unlike my trip to the Windy City, this getaway was work related.

Phoenix

It was my first ever business trip, and what I quickly learned is how cool it is to tell people that you are away on business. It makes you seem extremely dignified and important, and immediately draws intrigue into what your line of work is.

And the fact that I have a very cool job — working for a charity that builds homes for veterans — just made it that much better. My work trip, in short, involved me and another colleague visiting Chase Field in Phoenix, the home of the Diamondbacks, to represent our charity for an on-field surprise announcement to a veteran that he would be receiving a mortgage-free home.

I wasted little time posting a picture to Facebook of myself on the field, complete with a Fielddescription of what I was doing. It drew likes out the wazoo.

I did get some much needed rest and relaxation this weekend, and am ready for one more final workweek until Memorial Day Weekend. You know, the holiday where everyone forgets what it’s actually for, and instead posts pictures on Facebook of their barbecue, celebrating the “official start of summer.”

Is there any more annoying words than people arbitrarily declaring something as the “official start of summer?” Heck, I’m watching the Billboard Music Awards right now, and Ludacris, who for some reason is hosting despite having the personality of a dung beetle, just declared the awards show as the “official start of summer.”

Sorry Luda, and all those who will inevitably say the same thing next weekend while wearing a tank top and sipping a Corona, but the summer begins on June 20. THERE IS NO ROOM FOR INTERPRETATION, DAMMIT. YOU CANNOT REWRITE THE SEASONS LUDACRIS.

Woah, got a little too excited there.

Anyway, in case you were wondering, Phoenix is a neat little city. I was there for less than two days and didn’t get much time to sight see, but I sensed a very trendy and hipster vibe there. It’s not big at all — any neighborhood in Manhattan will have more people traveling the streets at 4:30 a.m. than at primetime in Phoenix, but it’s all part of its charm.

Cactus

That cactus is more than 10 feet tall. You’ll have to take my word for it.

I was, however, a little disappointed by the weather, which sounds crazy when you consider that it was in the 80s. But I was sort of hoping for that 100-degree desert heat you hear about, especially considering the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing on the east coast. And of course, on the day I left, it was 94 degrees without a cloud in the sky. Can’t win ’em all.

But I did see a cactus. A big one, too. It was at least 10 feet tall and looked exactly like a cactus should look like.

Didn’t see any tumbleweed though. So that was a fail.

So now I am back and rejuvenated. The next step is to check in on the news and find out all that I missed.

Before I left, the big story was whether prominent Republicans in Congress would reject Donald Trump as their party’s presidential nominee, or coalesce around him.

I’m assuming they did the right thing and renounced him, right? Right? Guys?

Yeah I’m not going to read the news tonight.

Weinblog does the Windy City

Sometimes cities have weird and exaggerated nicknames. Philadelphia as the City of Brotherly Love? Yeah OK.

New York is The City that Never Sleeps? That’s some hyperbole if I ever heard it.

And I know that Los Angeles in Spanish translates to the City of Angels. But I’ve been to Los Angeles twice. Haven’t spotted a single angel. Even a Nicolas Cage sighting would suffice. But no.

Chicago, on the other hand, has absolutely earned its nickname. It’s so windy there that I almost bottled up some of it and brought it back as a souvenir.

I love visiting new cities and discovering the culture, the people and the vibe. Experiencing its identity. It’s interesting because since I live so close to New York, people tend to use it as the point of comparison to other cities.

“It’s like a mini New York.”

“It’s like New York, except…”

“The people there are so much nicer than New York.”

Well that last sentence pretty much applies anywhere. Except maybe Detroit.

But anyway, calling Chicago a “mini New York” does not do the city justice, because it’s freaking huge. There’s so much to see and do there that it deserves its own stature.

Being there for only three days, I made sure to do the things every tourist needs to do. Go to a Cubs game. Eat deep dish pizza. Stand on top of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower). And, of course, take a picture in front of the Bean (properly called the Cloud Gate).

Going to Wrigley was especially a huge thrill for me, being a huge baseball fan who has now watched a game in more than a dozen stadiums across the U.S. It’s the second oldest baseball stadium behind Fenway Park, which I have also been to.

The Willis Tower, by the way, is the second tallest building in the nation, topped only by the newly built One World Trade Center. The tower’s Skydeck allows you to stand on a transparent glass panel that juts out of the building and lets you look straight down. It’s not recommended for those with a fear of heights.

And the deep dish pizza shouldn’t legally be defined as pizza. It was delicious, don’t get me wrong, but it was basically just a volcano of cheese and sauce.

Chicago is a very clean, accessible city with its fair share of diversity, giant buildings and very limited places to park. If you’ve never been, I’d recommend going immediately.

Next, my travels take me from the appropriately-named Windy City to Phoenix, which people apparently call the Valley of the Sun.

Something tells me that nickname will also hold true.

I declare Ellie Kemper as our society’s current “it girl”

A side note before I begin: I will be traveling into two different time zones over the next seven days, for both work and pleasure, and may not find any time at all to blog. So if you don’t hear from for a little while, I assure you I’ll be back soon enough.

OK, now that that’s out of the way…

Every now and then I like to take a step back from the news and simply use a post to gush over an attractive female celebrity.

So let me avoid doing that and talk about Donald Trump instead.

JUST KIDDING. Hot chicks it is!

I blogged a little over a month ago about how there is no consensus “hottest woman in the world right now.” At the same time, I also could have said that there is no “it girl” currently existing in popular culture.

Ellie KemperWhat’s the “it girl?” you ask? Well, even if you didn’t ask — which you probably didn’t — I’ll tell you!

The “it girl” is someone who has burst on the scene and totally endeared themselves to audiences everywhere. Typically, the status is short-lived. In today’s age, we all move on to the next thing very quickly.

Previous “it girls” include Zooey Deschanel, Jennifer Lawrence, Anna Kendrick, Kristen Wiig, Carly Rae Jepsen, Emma Stone and Mindy Kaling. They typically tend to have bubbly personalities. It’s a prerequisite for the prestigious status.

Usually they are somebody who has just met recent success, either through a television show or movie, and because of their newness, the only thing we know about them is how much we like them. Basically, we can’t get enough of them. Until that is, the novelty wears off a few months later. (Although, I’ll never tire of Anna Kendrick.)

So who is the “it girl” right now, on March 12?

I present to you none other than the Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt herself, Ellie Kemper.

Her Netflix show, created by Tina Fey — which I’ve never watched — is getting absolutely rave reviews, and lately, she’s been making the rounds on late night talk shows.

I know Ellie from playing Erin Hannon in the later seasons of The Office, and from her Ellie Kemper2.jpgsupporting role in the movie Bridesmaids.

I liked her from the beginning because of her character’s personalities in these two roles. Quiet but quirky. And just plain cute.

And cute in an accessible way. As in, the girl you become coworkers with, and start finding ways to chat with her for several minutes a day, hopefully leading to some type of romance.

What truly won me over though, was when she recently appeared on the Daily Show. I was struck by how much her real life personality strayed from the characters she’s portrayed. The bubbliness, quirkiness and upbeat attitude was all there — thankfully — but she wasn’t even remotely shy. She was very outgoing and assertive. There was a compelling sense of confidence that she conveyed. I was impressed.

So I just wanted to take the time to praise Ellie Kemper. I’ve got nothing negative to say. She’s killing it right now with her new show, she’s currently pregnant with her first child, and she’s funny as hell. Keep up the good work.

Because in six months, a younger, funnier and equally as pretty version of you will come along and steal the spotlight away from you.

And I will probably devote a blog post to fawning over her.