My 30th birthday with Paris Hilton

It was in the pool party night club on Saturday, April 8 at Harrah’s in Atlantic City, one day after my 30th birthday, when Paris Hilton and I locked eyes.

There was an instant connection. We slowly approached one another amid the booming dance music, held hands, and I swept her off her feet in one swooning, romantic gesture.

It was a scene right out of a movie.

Paris and I spent all night together, sharing secrets and life stories. We laughed together. We cried. It was love at first sight. Within 24 hours of meeting, we knew we were meant to be together forever.

And that, ladies and gentlemen … is absolutely not what happened.

But here is what did happen: it was indeed Saturday night, and it was the day following my 30th birthday. And Paris Hilton was there. But we did not lock eyes from across a crowded club. We did not join hands or cry together into the wee hours of the morning.

Rather, it was 3:30 in the morning, and Paris Hilton had just finished her late-night Paris Hiltoncelebrity DJ set at the Atlantic City nightclub.

She approached the remaining crowd to take selfies, and that was when I proceeded to bum rush the stage. Sensing an opening, I pushed through some other gawking fans, and screamed, “Paris, it’s my birthday!”

Somehow, Paris heard me, and next thing I know, she’s alongside me posing for a selfie. Because I am an extremely inexperienced and indifferent selfie-taker, I first took the picture with my iPhone camera facing the wrong direction.

I fixed it, then tried again, and proceeded to hit the wrong button, which turned my screen black.

That’s when Paris looked at me and said, verbatim, “You’re the worst sefie taker ever.”

I asked her to bear with me while I loaded up my camera once again. To her credit, she did. With the camera facing the right direction, and with my finger over the correct button, I snapped the photo.

And that is how I managed to snag a selfie with Paris Hilton.

The 36-year-old socialite has mostly avoided negative press since her infamous 20s, which involved a sex tape, a brainless reality show, and a stint in prison. Perhaps turning 30 finally switched on a light bulb inside her head.

Either way, I am a man of very few principles. But if there is one general rule I follow, it’s that I will become tenaciously loyal to any celebrity who agrees to take a picture with me.

And on Saturday night, she truly looked like she was enjoying herself while DJing. Sure, the soundtrack may have been pre-produced, and her laptop and headphones may have been as much of a prop as a steering wheel you give a 5-year-old in the back seat of a car.

But Paris Hilton helped me ring in my 30s. And I will never forget that. Plus she called me the worst selfie taker ever.

After years of selfie hating, it’s the best compliment I’ve ever received.

My last post in my 20s

One of the cool things about writing a daily blog is to look back at earlier posts and see how you have evolved over time.

While this venture has been very different than a journal, where you divulge your thoughts and feelings on a regular basis, a quasi-pop culture/news blog such as this still allows me to see what was at the forefront of my mind at any given day over the last seven-plus years.

And the evolution is startling.

In the first couple of years of this blog, I was basically talking about Jersey Shore and recapping my drunken nights. I had yet to start my first full-time job when I created this thing in late 2009.

Now I’m foraying into European politics and talking about the Supreme Court.

I guess it speaks towards the evolution of all young men and women, though. I started this blog as a 22-year-old.

And tomorrow, on April 7, I will become a 30-year-old.

I always assumed you’re supposed to feel a certain way when you turn 30. TV shows and movies often dramatize it as being a major turning point in a person’s life, when they finally figure out what exactly they are meant to do in this world.

30.jpg

But as I write this, in the final hours of my 20s, I don’t really feel any type of emotional catharsis. Who knows, perhaps it will sink in after the fact, like the first time I input the number “30” in the gym treadmill when it asks me my age. I don’t know.

I’ve never been a believer in setting age-oriented milestones. Everyone moves at their own pace. Anything that I wanted to accomplish in my 20s can also be done in my 30s.

Will I miss my 20s? Sure. You do feel a bit of youthful exuberance when your age starts with the number 2. But will I miss the late-nights staying out until 4 a.m. getting drunk? No. Will I miss the indifference I had towards starting a career? No.

Even now, I reflect on how I behaved for most of the last decade. I was a dope. I acted as if I could do anything and get away with it. To this day, my past recklessness terrifies me.

If I had the ability to push a button and suddenly become 25 again, I don’t even think I would. I like the person I’ve become. I enjoy spending hours immersed in a book or news articles, trying to enhance my knowledge or understand a complex situation. I enjoy enlightening myself to new experiences and different cultures that I didn’t bother to concern myself with in my 20s.

Over the last couple of years, I feel like I’ve undergone a transformation, and it’s made me a better, well-rounded person. I feel like I’ve done a better job gaining empathy for people who are different than I am.

And that continued evolution is what I see defining the next chapter of my life — my 30s. I want to keep filling gaps in my knowledge. I want to continue to travel and experience new things. I want to be a better person. And I plan to do just that.

I find that exhilarating. I’m not dreading my 30s. I’m thrilled for the person I am going to become over the next 10 years.

There’s so much that this world has to offer. And I’m just one person trying to figure it all out.

That’s my mission for my 30s. And I won’t accomplish it.

But that won’t stop me from trying.

I’ll see y’all on the other side.

It’s so much easier to be mad at Kendall Jenner than Donald Trump

Being angry at Donald Trump is like being mad at a tornado.

It’s an indestructible force, unleashing mayhem on whatever sits in its path. Any territory it passes through is left in significantly worse condition than when it first got there.

But there’s nothing you can do anymore to stop it. It’s too powerful.

Coincidentally, tornadoes are ravaging the Southeast as we speak. I blame Trump.

But my point isn’t that we shouldn’t react to Trump anymore, but rather, it’s just frustrating how powerless we are against his wrath.

As much as we harness all our hatred towards him, as much as our friends all join together to mock him, and as disastrously low his approval ratings sink, he is still president. It’s maddening.

So it’s a lot easier to conserve at least a portion of your hatred towards a much easier target – like, for instance, Kendall Jenner!

For the most part, Kendall Jenner has been the least antagonized among the Kardashian clan. She doesn’t really do much to garner attention, but just by virtue of her familial ties, she began her public life in an uphill battle to earn approval. And if you’re a Kardashian or a Jenner, it’s one strike and you’re out.

Kendall Jenner

Well, Kendall didn’t even strike out. She got walloped in the head by a 99-mile-per-hour fastball.

As many of you heard, the Internet was livid yesterday over a new Pepsi ad starring Jenner that exploited public protesting to advertise its product.

It’s nothing new for companies to capitalize on social issues for their own personal gain. But this one clearly struck a chord with the general public, especially in light of today’s divisive politic atmosphere and racial tension.

Protests have become ubiquitous since Donald Trump took office. They’re so commonplace that when we hear about a new one, it kind of goes in one ear and out the other.

But we forget that before Trump, protests stemmed out of desperation from those who found no other ways to have their voices heard, from the disenfranchised to the discriminated.

These public displays were much more consequential, and significantly more violent. People have died in protests. They’ve been beaten. They’ve been arrested.

It feels like a long time ago, but places like Baltimore and Ferguson are still emotionally scarred from the conflicts that took place in their cities between civilians and police, particularly young black Americans who feel like they’ve never been given a fair chance in life.

So for Pepsi to trivialize the issue by suggesting that all can be solved with a sugary carbonated beverage was bound to piss a lot of people off.

And of course, Kendall Jenner, who probably signed a million-dollar contract to be in the commercial before she even knew what it involved, somehow got caught up in the mess.

As always, when something controversial happens, the Internet responds tremendously. This was no exception.

And on Wednesday, their voices were heard. Pepsi has pulled the commercial, explaining that they failed in their goal of “trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding.”

So, we successful protested the protest commercial.

Yay?

O Brother, Where Art Thou Civil Liberties?

Some of President Obama’s most well-known accomplishments are also his most controversial. At least depending on who you ask.

To Democrats, the Affordable Care Act is a historic leap forward towards universal health care, and a saving grace for the sick and the poor.

To Republicans, the Affordable Care Act is the American version of the Final Solution.

Then there’s the Iran nuclear deal. From one perspective, the years-long negotiations represent an unprecedented diplomatic effort to curb a global threat while avoiding violent confrontation.

Donald Trump called it “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

This is the case with every president there’s ever been. At the time, people on both sides of the ideological aisle view everything through completely different lenses, and thus have varying opinions. Even Abraham Lincoln was heavily derided during his presidency.

It’s also why it takes decades to determine a president’s legacy. Because that is when we will have the appropriate data available to analyze the tangible consequences and ramifications that resulted from their actions.

So while we can certainly laud the manner and conduct in which Obama handled himself during his eight years in his office, and how well he represented our country on a global stage, any firm declarations of Obama’s presidential legacy from a legislative perspective are highly premature.

That all being said, if there’s one thing Obama tried to do that we can assess right now, it was his attempt to protect the civil liberties of all Americans.

Sessions

Ensuring civil liberties has a been more than a century-old quest for America. It was almost exactly 100 years after Lincoln freed the slaves when the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to pass the Civil Rights and Act and the Voting Rights Act to guarantee that black people enjoyed the same privileges as white people under the law.

100 years.

Progress in America has always been met with instant resistance. The slaves are freed? OK, here are the Jim Crow laws. Blacks can vote? OK, but here’s a poll tax.

Even this very decade, the Supreme Court nullified parts of the Voting Rights Act, lifting a clause that prevented southern states with a history of racial discrimination from passing restrictive voter laws. Shortly after, these states began passing strict voter ID laws, which disproportionately affects black voters.

Under Obama, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division spent significant time devoted towards investigating police departments in cities that faced severe racial unrest, like in Chicago, Baltimore and Ferguson, and determined that they employed a culture of systematic discrimination.

Following these studies, the department worked with the cities on plans for reform.

And now, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions – who has a long history of disregarding civil rights – the Justice Department has asked for a review of federal agreements with these law enforcement agencies, signaling that it may seek to reverse many, if not all, of the decrees made by Obama’s justice department.

This is as clear of a signal that we have seen that this administration is indifferent towards protecting our nation’s most vulnerable and historically disenfranchised citizens.

The political news since Trump took office has been a mess. There’s so much noise coming from all directions, and it’s easy – and understandable – to remain willfully ignorant and just ignore all that’s happening. And I honestly don’t blame anyone for that. Life is complicated already without outside interference.

But this is the reality of what is actually happening. Real people are being impacted, and the strides we’ve made as nation for more than a century are being roadblocked.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Guys, the woolly mammoth might come back

For people whose everyday lives exist outside of the scientific world, there comes a time every now and then when you hear a piece of news that makes you suddenly realize how fast science is happening.

We rarely hear about the scientific progress that leads to a major breakthrough. Instead, we’re sitting at our desk in the morning sipping our 9 a.m. coffee, and an alert comes up on our phone that we have invented a time machine.

My first response after reading about most scientific discoveries is: “Wait, seriously? I didn’t even know we were trying to do that.”

Like cloning sheep. Or self-driving cars. One day they’re the stuff of science-fiction movies, and next thing you know, it’s happening in real life. What happened to the in between?

It’s easy to forget that millions of scientists are working around on the clock, every day, to advance science. As we speak, there’s some frustrated chemist in a laboratory, on day #894 of some ambitious experiment.

These people don’t get much credit unless they solve something big, but they’re the ones who will increase our knowledge of the world.

How else would we have discovered, for example, that there might be seven new planets within our own galaxy?

Well, last week I heard about something else that helped me appreciate the amazing capabilities of contemporary science. Apparently, we’re trying to resurrect the woolly mammoth.

That’s right. Before long, 20th Century Fox will have to market the animated movie “Ice Age” as a nonfiction film.

Film Review Ice Age 4

I mean, just the fact that this is possible is mind-blowing. Although, it occurs to me that before I get excited about the possibility of one day seeing a woolly mammoth in person, that I’m ridiculously far behind in the numbers of existing animals that I have seen with my own eyes, in their natural habitat.

In fact, other than the common domesticated pets like cats and gerbils, suburban-roaming  raccoons, possums and squirrels, and the obvious birds and insects, what animals have most people who aren’t zoologists seen up close?

I’ve never seen a rhino. Or a giraffe. Or a tiger or a lion. Or even a freaking elephant, let alone a woolly mammoth. As far as my personal experiences are concerned, 95% of animals might as well be extinct. The only evidence I have that they’re real is what I see on my TV or my computer.

So hearing that we may bring back one species helps me appreciate how many existing animals I still need to see.

But that doesn’t make this woolly mammoth news any less cool. Apparently, though the science is becoming more and more possible, scientists are grappling with the question of whether they should devote resources to resurrecting extinct species, or towards saving ones that are on the verge of being eradicated.

Basically, we’re playing God. Which always ends up well in every science-fiction story.

So I’m making it a personal goal of mine to see an elephant sometime in my lifetime. And then I’ll begin to open up to the possibility of one day seeing a woolly mammoth. Or I’ll just watch Ice Age again. I never tire of hearing Ray Romano’s voice.

One animal we will all get to see tonight is a bulldog, as the Gonzaga Bulldogs take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA championship. Yes that was a terrible segue, and yes, I am equally as unsure what the hell a Tar Heel is.

Since my bracket has long been busted and I have no financial interest in this game, I am officially going to endorse Gonzaga to win. Go Zags. (They won’t win now).

Lastly, today was a beautiful day if you love baseball. The season got underway on Sunday, and my cherished Mets continued their historic opening day dominance with a 6-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. Hopefully the beginning of what will be a very successful season.

At the very least, I truly pray that I will see a Mets’ World Series before I see a woolly mammoth.

Let’s talk about sports

Let’s talk about sports, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let’s talk about sports
Let’s talk about sports

OK, so that’s the PG-13/Jock Jams version of the classic Salt-N-Pepa song.

But the excitement that the female hip-hop trio had for fornication in their early ’90s hit is the same excitement I feel right now for sports.

This is one of my favorite times of the year. March Madness is reaching its climactic end. The NBA and NHL are gearing up for the playoff season. And most importantly, baseball season is just days away.

There’s something about the great American pastime that invigorates me. The fresh-cut grass, the dirt spraying into the air when a batter slides feet-first into second base for a double, the mental chess match between a pitcher and hitter before a 3-2 pitch, and the arduous grind of a six-month, 162-game season where your team hopefully ends up on top.

When baseball is happening, it feels like natural order is being restored. It’s the only major American sport without a clock, which, in turn, has been a source of controversy as of late due to the increasing length of game times (an issue Major League Baseball targeted this year when they eliminated the need for pitchers to actually throw the baseball during an intentional walk).

Mets

I can’t help but think of the quote uttered by James Earl Jones in the movie Field of Dreams, as the character Terence Mann, whenever I want to describe what it is that makes me love baseball so much:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

When James Earl Jones talks about baseball, you listen.

Last year, I predicted my beloved New York Mets to win the World Series. Unfortunately, injuries derailed their season and they fell short, despite their best effort.

This year, they have nearly their full complement of young pitchers ready to go, and things look much more promising.

And even if things didn’t look bright, I’d pick them to win the World Series anyway. I will do it every year until they do. Hopefully, one year I will be right.

Baseball starts on Sunday. For many, Sunday is already a day of worship and reflection. For sports fans, it takes on extra meaning.

In other semi-sports related news, the North Carolina Legislature voted to repeal the controversial House Bill 2 today, also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” which required men and women to use public bathrooms that align with their gender at birth. Human rights advocates (and any one with any human decency) considered it egregiously discriminatory towards transgenders, which number more than 37,000 in North Carolina.

Tar Heels

The bill basically cost Republican Governor Pat McCrory his job, and cost the state from hosting the 2016-2017 NBA All-Star game, several NCAA March Madness games, and many other high-profile events.

The newly passed bill is not a straight-forward repeal, however, and as a compromise to right-wing hawks in the Legislature, it maintains a stipulation from the original bill that places a moratorium on local nondiscrimination ordinances through 2020, and thus leaves the regulation of bathrooms to state lawmakers.

LGBT activists say it still does not provide the protection needed to safeguard an already vulnerable population of people.

They’re probably right, but with Republican and Democrat ideologies being as divergent as they’ve ever been in the modern political era, sometimes a compromise is a victory. Even if it’s just in the short term.

The timing of the repeal is even more significant given that the North Carolina Tar Heels are one of four teams left in the NCAA Tournament, where they will face the Oregon Ducks on Saturday. The other game is between the Gonzaga Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks.

They promise to be some pretty damn good games, and as an added bonus, if South Carolina beats North Carolina in the finals, I win $650.

Go Cocks!

…I stand by it.

Attention: I am initiating the Bloxit process

At approximately 8:37 p.m. on Tuesday, the Weinblog™ held its long-promised referendum to decide if we wanted to remain a member of the United Union of Bloggers.

Over the years, the Internet has grown increasingly volatile. The rise of social media has only highlighted that trend.

A major consequence of the Internet’s expansion is the deterioration of the English language: when experiencing a certain emotion, people invent acrostic behavioral terminologies, like FML or YOLO, because they’re too lazy to express how they truly feel.

Last year, fake news became an Internet epidemic.

And recently, the Republican-controlled Congress repealed Internet privacy protections preventing Internet service providers from sharing your data without permission.

It has gone far enough.

So, finally, on Tuesday, March 28, we held our long-awaited referendum to vote if we should leave the United Union of Bloggers – UUB for short – which I officially anointed as Bloxit.

The electorate comprised two people: myself, who voted with a resounding ‘yes,’ and my cat Marbles, who stared at me, licked his paw, and then rushed to a nearby window to stare at what I presume was a bird. I took those actions as a declaration of assent.

And with that, I initiated the process. I stood on my front lawn wearing a bandanna, while somehow equipped with a walking stick akin to the one carried by Gandalf in Lord of the rings, and yelled, ‘BLOXIT!” And then I went inside and ate a cheese sandwich.

OK, so this was a dramatic representation of what it would be like if individual websites were able to declare their own sovereignty from the Internet, not unlike the current trend of European countries deciding whether they wish to remain as a member state of the European Union.

Brexit

As we all remember, the United Kingdom voted last summer to leave the E.U., and this week, nine months after 51% of voters chose to support ‘Brexit,’ Prime Minister Theresa May has formally initiated the exiting process.

In the meantime, many other European countries have flirted with the idea of holding their own referendums, and Scotland is deliberating whether to even stay in the United Kingdom.

Theresa May accomplished the start of the Brexit process by triggering Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, also known as the Lisbon Treaty, meaning Britain must officially be out by April 2019. Think of it as your parents telling you that if you don’t get a job within two years, you’re kicked out of the house, whether you like it or not.

May sent a letter shortly before 12:30 p.m. local time to Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, signaling the initiation of Article 50. And if you think the instructions provide an extremely complex and detailed protocol for an unprecedented departure from a continental geopolitical and economic union, you’d be wrong – it’s five steps. Monopoly comes with more instructions.

In case you hadn’t figured it out, there’s no such thing as Bloxit. I made it up. And if it did exist, my departure from the also-made-up UUB would be far less consequential than the UK’s forthcoming departure from the E.U.

But hey, it’s fun to joke about things that could cause real-life economic turmoil as well as deep uncertainty in the futures of young British people for decades to come.

Cheerio!