December 22, 2014

Scandal, Sam Smith, More... Best Of 2014!


Another year of great --- and not so great --- pop culture and entertainment...

Here is my Kardashian-free free list of my faves for the year:


Music

Best: Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour
This debut album from the British singer-songwriter; Smith has a hell of a set of pipes, from deep and low to squawking high. This album has lots of great songs, that being said it is not a happy ride; Lonely Hour wallows in sadness. Best track is Stay With Me, a plea for a one-night stand to stay over just for some human contact. 

Also loved: Bette Midler, It's The Girls; Stevie Nicks, 24 Karat Gold, Miranda Lambert, Platinum.


TV

Best: Scandal
Stronger than ever in season 4, this sexy political soap goes crazy off the rails and then comes right back to real human emotions. Love it.

Also loved: The Big Bang Theory, How To Get Away With Murder, Outlander, The Good Wife. 


Movies


Disclaimer... Haven't seen the Oscar bait movies I am dying to see -- Imitation Game, Into The Woods, Whiplash... but I did see some great ones:

Best: Life Itself 
A deeply moving documentary on the life and death of film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert - career, travels, love, alcoholism, and his slow physical decline from cancer. A film about celebrating life and about dying with dignity.

Also loved: Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Lego Movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel.


Books

Best: The smart and touching The Children Act, which I wrote about here.

Also loved: Flash Boys by Michael Lewis, a true business book about the few ethical traders on Wall Street, and Andrea Martin's Lady Parts, which I wrote about here.


Live Concerts



Best: Fleetwood Mac "On With The Show" 

With the return of Christine McVie the whole group is back together for the first time in 16 years, and seem to be having a helluva good time as they sing their catalogue and chat with the audience. Amazing show.

Also loved: Cher with Cyndi Lauper, and Pat Benatar. So yes musically I still live in the 80s. And love it there.

What were your faves of the year?

December 19, 2014

TV: Best & Worst 2014...


With most TV shows having had their 'mid season finales" and now taking the holidays off, here is a purely objective look at the best and worst shows of the year...

Best Returning Shows:



Scandal
The sexy prime time soap about Washington fixer Olivia Pope went even crazier with secret spies and a murder in first family, and the constant twists and great acting by Kerry Washington and company make this series even better in season 4 than it was at the start. More happens in one episode here than in a month on other shows.

The Good Wife
A smart intriguing suspenseful drama that gets better with age... last spring's killing of (spoiler alert) leading man Will Gardner was the biggest TV shock of the year, and took the show in new directions. Newsy weekly cases and ongoing dramatic storylines make this a must-watch; Julianna Marguiles won yet another well-deserved Best Actress Emmy this year. If you aren't watching this one, start with season one. Now.

House Of Cards
Season two started with a twist (killing off a main character) and ended with a bang (Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood becoming president) and everything in between was the Netflix binge watch of the year.

Also loving... The Big Bang Theory, The Mindy ProjectRepublic of Doyle, and Downton Abbey.




Best New Shows:

How To Get Away With Murder
The crazy sexy suspenseful law school thriller from Scandal producer Shonda Rhimes is TV crack --- hooked instantly, now jonesing for my next fix. Leading lady Viola Davis is brave and amazing, and her young supporting cast is fantastic. Escapist entertainment for grown-up's.

Outlander
Our new favourite binge weekend TV, this cable series based on the first volume of Diana Gabaldon's bestselling novels tells the story of a nurse from 1945 mysteriously transported back to 1743 Scotland where she finds danger and suspense and romance in the middle of war. This one is unusual as she is no damsel in distress, and it is all totally believable. Way more fun than it sounds.

Vicious
In this fast and bitchy BBC comedy, Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi are an elderly gay couple who after 48 years together maintain a love/hate relationship; they are bitter and petty and mean and yes vicious to each other. They are 'vicious old queens' and the show is awesome. Read more here.

Also loving... Looking, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and the new HBO Canada Kim Cattrall series Sensitive Skin.



Best TV Event/Movie:

HBO's heartbreaking brilliant drama The Normal Heart, about the early days of AIDS, starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, and Julia Roberts. Touching and inspiring and anger-inducing. See it. And read more here.




And the worst crap on TV...

Full disclaimer... am skipping all things Kardashian here cuz I don't watch them; I have TV standards, sure they're low but I got 'em...

The Queen Latifah Show
Likable celebrity hosts boring star-kissing suck up fest; annoying to watch, and not surprisingly the current second season will be its last.

How I Met Your Mother
After 8 smart funny touching years, number nine was painful with the whole season taking place at a claustrophobic weekend wedding, and then the overblown series finale was a total let down (spoiler alert - the mother is dead). Nine years of buildup to a lousy ending.

... and runners-up to the losers: season 3 of the formerly great Dallas reboot, a new crew on The View, the lousy Katherine Heigl comeback State of Affairs, and the equally lousy Debra Messing comeback The Mysteries Of Laura.

That's my list... what are your faves?


December 16, 2014

Canadian Weblog Award Winner!


Exciting times around here last night...

This little blog alfredliveshere.com was a winner in the 2014 Canadian Weblog Awards, coming in first in the LGBQT* category... woo hoo!

530 Blogs were nominated across 26 categories. 34 Jurors read them all and then evaluated them according to ten criteria, selecting a short list and then the top three in each category.

Uh, wait a sec... people actually read this thing? Holy crap.

These are juried awards, and while alfred lives here has been shortlisted before, coming in first is a first... thanks so much to the wise mysterious all-powerful 
star-chamber-esque secret voting cabal!

The awards are fun, and exciting, and inspiring, and always a place for me to discover new and different and creative Canadian blogs.

Here are the two other great blogs who landed in the top three with Alfie:




Here's a link to the awards:



And just because, here is a gratuitous cute Alfie shot...


Thanks again... keep reading!

*Lesbian Gay Bisexual Queer Transgender

December 14, 2014

This tweet made my day...


Thank you Andrea Martin...!

December 12, 2014

Andy Cohen, Andrea Martin, Amy Poehler...


Andy Cohen, Andrea Martin, Amy Poehler, a rabbi, and monk who has taken a vow of silence walk into a bar... 

Okay I have no idea on the punchline there, but those first three would make it funny, not to mention the rabbi and the monk would keep it interesting.

Andy Cohen, Andrea Martin and Amy Poehler... these three celebs (or two celebs and a wannabe) all have new sort-of-memoir-type books out and I have read them all.

What can I tell you? I like like my reading fast and light.

I read them, so you don't have to... here's a quick guide:




Andy Cohen, The Andy Cohen Diaries

Cohen is a TV producer of stuff like the Real Housewives series (don't watch 'em), host of a nightly cable talk show (doesn't air in Canada), and a super-gay b-list celebrity who is smart, funny, happy, and always a charming guest on talk shows... and he seems to be always on talk shows. 

I loved his first book, Most Talkative, about his growing up and coming out.

This one is the adventures in his New York celeb-gawking life, and about his love affair with his first dog, a rescue named Wacha.

I loved loved the dog parts.

This book is inspired by the infamous Andy Warhol Diaries; Cohen chronicles his chaotic crazy whirlwind work and social lives for one calendar year, naming names and being both egotistical and neurotic.

I loved the first three quarters of this one, admired his life glam life, and then it got to be a bit much... I love shallow, I embrace shallow, but this really is a shallow look at a shallow year.

That being said is still great fun to read; Cohen is a smart and charming writer, and when your best friends are Anderson Cooper, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kelly Ripa, your social life will always be an entertaining read.




Amy Poehler, Yes Please

This former SNL-er and current Parks and Recreation star, not to mention Tina Fey BFF, has always been charming and likable. 

That niceness in this book, which can be both good and bad when it comes to reading material. 


And while she doesn't tell anything too personal  (“I don’t want people to know my shit”), Poehler tells funny insider-y stories of showbiz, sweet stories of her kids, and some fun anecdotes from her semi-wild past.

Fun to discover was her close friendship with Seth Meyers -- who appears throughout the book and guest writes a chapter -- and her funny tribute to Fey in rhyme.

Poehler is wildly different than her goody-goody Parks TV character, from her drug experimentation to her love of a good curse word... Amy Poehler is surprisingly a badass. 

Complaints about Yes, Please? The book has too much filler (do we really need to hear from both her parents?), a lot of white space, and too much whining about how hard it is to write a book (I would guess that $3 million advance eased your pain).

The best parts are the SNL backstage bits (they paid to fix her teeth) and her funny bits about drugs, most of which (with the exception of pot) she scorns. “Cocaine is terrific if you want to hang out with people you don’t know very well and play Ping-Pong all night. It’s bad for almost everything else.”

If you are already a fan, which I am,  you'll like the book. Otherwise pass.




Andrea Martin, Lady Parts


Of these three I knew the least about Martin going in, and yes her career is much more wide ranging career than SCTV and My Big Fat Greek Wedding... in addition to an Emmy she has two Tonys for her work on Broadway.

Both Martin and this book are funny and very sweet and surprisingly bawdy (she considered calling the book Perky Tits)... all good stuff!

I liked her Martin before and love her now... even though discovered here she is not Canadian, though sufficiently self-effacing and apologetic.

The book is a collection of stories from her life --- her career, her childhood, her family, and a really weird country-crossing mad devotion to her hairdresser.

Martin does covers sad topics, including her own eating disorder and the AIDS death of her best friend, yet is still sunny and optimistic.

This is the best of the three.

Next up... the Martin Short book, if only for the title:  I Must Say: My Life As A Humble Comedy Legend...

December 8, 2014

Alberta Pauses On Helping Gay Kids...



While we all have our own stress and drama, especially at this time of year, last week was one to think beyond our own lives...

Man it was a tough week to be a citizen of the world with so many tragedies out there... no charges for the white cop in New York whose illegal chokehold led to death of unarmed black man... a 12-year old in California committed suicide after enduring bullying for being a male cheerleader... Peter Pan Live.

Here in Alberta, the alleged redneck Texas province where I live, when it comes to supporting gay kids in schools, we had almost progress and then real bigotry and now it is all in limbo.

Laurie Blakeman, a member of the so-few-seats-they-arent-even-the-opposition Liberal party, introduce a private members' bill that said if kids wanted gay-straight alliances in school, the school was required to accommodate them. This is a great thing, and it did not go over well.


GSA's are peer support groups for at risk kids who self identify as a minority. This is not revolutionary; other provinces and areas have them. The idea is that  if a gay or questioning kid is scared or bullied or whatever and wants to set up a peer group, they can, in a safe place in their school.

Even some members of the redneck opposition party said they would support this one.

As someone who was a scared closeted lonely kid, I can only wonder and marvel at how much better my young life would have been with something like this. Bullying is real. And I watched this story unfold like it was a car crash I could not look away from. 

Our Conservative government under new Premier Jim Prentice swooped in to kill that bill and steal the spotlight with their own Bill 10, which claimed to protect the kids but really did nothing, giving ultimate power to the school boards to allow or not the GSA's. 

So religious school boards could say no, and the bill said kids could sue if they were unhappy. Bet they thought that would make everyone happy and kill Blakeman's more polarizing bill. Cuz yeah having a kid sue a school board makes sense in terms of time, money, and common decency.

And religious school boards (who yes are public schools and take our tax dollars) did not want to accommodate. And they have special status here.

From The Globe and Mail:


The debate over Bill 10 became stuck on finding a balance between the rights of gay students and the rights of parents that are enshrined in Alberta’s Human Rights Act, unique to the prairie province.
Created in 2009 by the socially conservative wing of the provincial Tories, parental rights require schools to inform parents when religion, sexuality or sexual orientation are to be discussed in class. Parents can then ask for their children to be pulled from those classes.
Championed by former MLA Ted Morton, the concept of parental rights arose from U.S. Christian groups. Mr. Prentice said he has been told the clause is “one of the most discriminatory pieces of legislation in our country.”
While Alberta’s urban school boards have some peer-support groups for LGBT students, they are rare in our rural areas and there are none in Catholic school boards. Edmonton’s Catholic school board opposes the groups.

Public uproar ensued, with online buzz and real world protests, especially with online allies like Kathleen Smith and Ryan Jespersen on social media. #Bill10 became the number one trend on twitter in Canada. Was all over the news. Amazing stuff.

See Jespersen here:


Canadian celebs like Rick Mercer and Tegan & Sarah weighed in with their support for GSA's.

Our premier and his government looked liked cold blooded politicians, and not especially competent ones at that.

They back tracked with amendments taking back the 'kids gotta sue' bit, saying kids could appeal to the Education Minister, but then when asked could not even say if that GSA would even be on school grounds.. separate but equal anyone? Then then media storm really hit the fan.

Our Minister of Education has a public anti-gay past and stayed silent during this whole thing. How did he get that job again?

Other politicians who our usually allies of our community, like former Edmonton mayor and current Health Minister Stephen Mandel, stayed silent and supported the government like sheep.  

Then late Thursday the premier stepped in and in his words 'paused' the whole thing. So no step forward, all in limbo. A political mess paused. Supporting kids put on hold until at least 2015. No progress, no balls.

The upside is how this is now an issue... we are talking about GSA's. Hopefully our government will actually consult with kids and gay community leaders. And yes school boards as well. And Laurie Blakeman. And come back with something that will truly support these kids.

Then Friday night, in a truly inspiring moment, and responding to public requests, Edmonton's municipal government lit up the High Level bridge with pride colours to celebrate tolerance and diversity... love it!



To take action, go here:

December 5, 2014

Driving With Joan Rivers...



I drive a lot for work, with a long daily commute especially in snowy winter, plus often heading out of town for longer snowier lonelier drives. So... blech.

Over the last few years I have gotten hooked on audio books (yay public library system) while I drive.

This week I listened to the latest – and presumably last – audio book from the late comedian Joan Rivers, which just got a Grammy nomination this week.

It is funny. Brutal funny. And sometimes just brutal.

“It’s all over the news that Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy to prevent getting cancer. I think Paris Hilton should…step up to the plate and try to prevent STDs. It would be so easy for her. All she would have to do is have her knees fused together.”

The book is Diary Of A Mad Diva, and is formatted by date like a diary, which she says up front is fake and you are an idiot if you believe is real. This is basically a long standup comedy routine, with the diary format as a technique to jump from topic to topic; it really only means that Rivers says  'dear diary' a whole lot... though not nearly as much as she says 'fuck'... or 'Lohan'... or 'Auschwitz'.

Rivers' voice sounds rough and scratchy – which was at first very distracting – or is that just me displacing what I know about her final surgery and death?

I think you either find Joan Rivers' humour really hysterically funny, or you just don't. I loved her, and when I saw her live a couple of times, I laughed so much I peed a little.

“No one is allowed to dress up anymore during Award Season…The networks have new decency guidelines, which insist that no more breasts, buttocks or genitalia show. Luckily, because of celebrities like Pharrell and his stupid hat, we’ll still be able to see assholes.”

Here she  takes on Anne Frank (lazy, didn’t even finish her first book), Martin Luther King Jr (cheap), the church (can forgive their pedophilia but not bad fashion)... and Rosa Parks, Game Of Thrones, Jay Leno, Red Lobster, butt plugs, Eminem ... and all of Hollywood.

At times I felt uncomfortable as Rivers goes very far, sometimes too far, especially towards women. And herself. And she is very crude. So I gasped a lot. But I laughed more.

Some of this really works; the schtick on the Jewish version of 50 Shades of Grey --- 33 Shades Of Grey, cuz we want a discount --- was hysterical.


And this book, like Rivers, is oh so gay friendly ---- gay weddings, gay Passover, gay Hollywood, gay Liberace, gay funerals, gay fashion directors, and gay John Travolta.

Is this worth a listen? Yes, though I would go to her previous one, I Hate Everyone... Starting With Me, first. It is a tad bitchier. In a good way.

Diary Of A Mad Diva is rude and crude and a little creepy with a raspier version of that familiar voice... but on today's dark snowy drive home while those other people were listening to depressing news, I was laughing out loud in my car listening to Joan Rivers talk about Mother Teresa's foot fetish. And it was awesome.

December 1, 2014

World AIDS Day: Seeing Red...



Today is World AIDS Day. 
Since 1988, December 1st has been a day of thought and fund-raising for the fight against AIDS... though it gets less press now, AIDS is still real and out there and impacting lives.
AIDS has killed over 25 million people, and over 35 million are currently affected. Over 3 million of those are children. Approximately 19 million do not know they are infected.  Over half live in low and middle income countries.

There were almost 2 million new infections last year. 
Are people complacent? Even though there are effective treatment options now, the ideal of course would be to not need treatment.

To learn more about Worlds AIDS Day click here: AIDS Day.

Two of my favourite companies, Starbucks and Apple, are doing fundraisers today... so I may have to do some shopping (cuz I'm a giver that way)...

I am going to make a donation to The Canadian Foundation For AIDS Research this week (CANFAR), and encourage everyone else to do the same with their local organization.  Imagine a world without AIDS…

November 27, 2014

Snow, Thanksgiving, & Harvey Milk...


Here in the great white north we had our first winter blast of the season today... 30 cm and climbing of snow (that's about 157 inches), so reduced visibility, snow clogged roads, really slow driving, and the occasional truck driving moron endangering all of us cuz who thinks he's cruising on a wide open road in August.

My drive home from the airport after a business trip took three hours for what should be a 45-minute drive. And I stopped counting the cars in the ditch as I drove by. Blech.

Then after a safe return home and the first round of shovelling, fed the dogs and myself and getting caught up online and saw the Snowmaggedon stuff, and the American Thanksgiving stuff, and then in passing saw something about today being the anniversary of the death of Harvey Milk.

Then my three hours drive home and the whining (yet bitingly funny) family feuding stuff about Thanksgiving all mattered less.



Harvey Milk was a key gay activist and now an icon -- go right now and see Sean Penn's Oscar winning turn in Milk if you have not yet --- he was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, and was assassinated in 1978.

Milk was a visionary, who saw a world of equality long before other people talked about it. And he spoke loud and proud, and become one of the first faces of the equality movement. In 2009 he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Without Harvey Milk I might not have the life I have today... RIP Mr Milk.




November 18, 2014

Best Book Of The Year?



British author Ian McEwan has hit many bestseller lists and won many awards for his novels such as Atonement, Solar, Enduring Love, The Child In Time, and my personal favourite Amsterdam.

McEwan is one of those artsy literary Brit writers who have crossed over and gotten some commercial success and mainstream appeal.

His new novel is The Children Act and it took my breath away.

There have been a fair number of great reads this year, however I gotta say that this one is my absolute fave so far... it is fast and touching and smart and thought-provoking.

This slim novel is about Fiona Maye, a British family court judge whose long-time marriage is disintegrating at the same time a new case shakes her core values, and the intersection of these two prove to be life changing.

Much to her surprise, one night Fiona's husband of 35 years tells her he still loves her but wants to have an affair.

Then later that same night a call comes -- a hospital requests an emergency hearing to force a blood transfusion on a 17-year-old leukemia patient who is refusing the blood that could save his life. Adam and his family are Jehovah's Witnesses and believe the Bible expressly forbids 'mixing your own blood with the blood of an animal or another human being.'

While I think its clear where the author lands on this issue, this is fast-paced, efficient, non-emotional non-preachy writing, and Adam and his parents are not depicted as ignorant bible thumpers; Fiona finds value in them, sees their doctor as condescending, and finds the boy innocent and fascinating.

The Children Act is not really about faith or religious controversy; it is about Fiona's well-ordered quiet life being shaken by young passion and old betrayal.

Fiona is caring, compassionate, fiercely intelligent; she is struggling to do the right thing for a sick boy while struggling with the confusion and humiliation of her husband's betrayal. The crisis at home throws off her emotional balance, and as she is moved by Adam's buoyant spirit, she realizes her next moves could save or sink them both.

While there probably can be no happy endings in a serious novel on this topic, there is truth and humanity here, and yes some unexpected twists. This is an emotional and intense read from one of the greatest writers today ----- read it.

November 12, 2014

You Had Me At WOOF...



Sometimes scanning the real or virtual stacks at the library yields unexpected treasures... last week while looking for something on audio to listen to during six hours of driving in two days, I found You Had Me At Woof by Julie Klam, a book I had never heard of by a writer I had never heard of, and wow, what a find!

I chose it strictly because of the cute Boston Terrier on the cover:


Woof is the true story of Klam's love affair with dogs, specifically Boston Terriers. I listened in my car alone over about five hours, and was enchanted -- laughed, shed a tear, and cannot recommend it highly enough.

This is a book for dog people by a dog person.

At age 30, living alone in New York, single and career bored, Klam adopted Otto, a Boston Terrier she had dreamed about. Their loving and codependent relationship charmed me, and taught her about love and relationships... it was to that point "the best relationship I'd ever been in." I totally get it... that was Alfred coming into my life at just the right time.

Klam later marries, has a child, and joins a Boston Terrier rescue group. Her stories of their work inspired me. Through them she works with good and bad pet owners, finds new homes for rescue dogs, and fosters some herself.

Klam now describes herself a moderate, “between the crazy animal people and the people who saw pets as disposable.”

The author calls this book a "dog-oir"; I would compare it to Marley and Me, with this one being more substantive, and about more than one dog... with a taste of the ugly side of bad pet owners (no abuse is detailed here).

While this book has adorable dog stories, it is not cutesy; the subtitle is “How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness.” Chapters have self-help titles like “How to Listen to That Still, Small Voice.” 

Klam adopted Otto 15 years ago, so (spoiler alert) he has since died, and that is heartbreaking to her and the reader. But dogs have shorter lives than we do, and other dogs come in and out of her home, sometimes as brief foster care pets, sometimes as family member --- we meet Otto and Moses and Sherlock and the surprising Dahlia, as well as Wisteria and Fiorello, mutts named by Klam's young daughter, who comes to view the dogs as siblings, to love and fight with and be jealous of.

You Had Me At Woof has many amusing and some harrowing dog tales, and is a tribute to dog love for all dog people... and I loved every minute of it. Check it out.


November 9, 2014

Annette Bening's 'Secret' Face...


I've always loved super-talented actress Annette Bening, but since her high profile multi- Oscar nominated streak some twenty years ago with movies like The Grifters, Bugsy and American Beauty,  we haven't seen that much of her.

While Bening married Warren Beatty and raised their kids, she worked less... and with the exception of Meryl Streep we don't see much of actresses over 50 anyway, unless they reinvent themselves on TV like Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates have.

Bening resurfaces once in a while, like with 2010's terrific The Kids Are Alright, but we don't see her very often, so it was a pleasure to discover on Netflix a Bening movie I had never heard of, 2013's romantic drama The Face Of Love.

This flick was shown at festivals and a few independent theatres before quickly going to video on demand;  but that doesn't mean its crap... if you want to see Bening in crap, look for her and Kristen Wiig in Girl Most Likely. In this case the low profile means it's low budget and somewhat artsy and slower paced..

In The Face Of Love, Bening loses her beloved husband, played by Ed Harris, in a drowning accident while they are on vacation in Mexico; we skip ahead five years, and she is still in mourning and her life is basically paralyzed while her grown daughter, played by The Good Wife's Jess Weixler, and infatuated neighbour, played by Robin Williams, worry about her.

Bening's character Nikki then meets and romances Tom, an artist who looks just like her husband, also played by Harris. She keeps the resemblance secret from him, and the romance secret from everyone in her life. And Tom keeps his heart condition a secret.

Nikki is lonely and emotionally suffocating to the point of imbalance, and Bening makes her sympathetic while we also see she is too far gone. 

It all comes to a head when her daughter Summer, who was pleased about her mother finding a new love, lays eyes on Tom, which sends her into a rage. Tom, surprised by that reaction, accepts when Nikki asks him to run off to Mexico with him... where he learns about her husband.

And then... okay I will stop there, you gotta see this one. The story is unusual, the acting is amazing. See The Face Of Love.





November 5, 2014

Choose Your Own Neil Patrick Harris...


Actor Neil Patrick Harris, the Emmy-winning, Tony-winning, former child star and future Oscar host, has just published his autobiography, and I whipped through it.

Choose Your Own Autobiography is a fun read, mostly because of Harris (aka NPH) himself, with his warm semi-edgy humour and charming storytelling; not sure if he wrote it with or without a ghostwriter, but it sure sounds like him.

Best known for Doogie Howser MD and How I Met Your Mother, even at the relatively young age of 40 NPH has lived a crazy busy yet somehow still sane life and has stories to tell -- of TV and movies, family and travel, anonymous sex and hash brownies.

NPH came out as a gay man about seven years ago, and while it was not a shock to those of us who assumed he -- and most every other celebrity - is gay, it was a brave act and great conversation starter;  I think it's always a good thing when famous people come out, as every person coming out helps 'normalize' gay for people who think they don't know any gay people.

The book's format, inspired by the page-jumping kids' book series Choose Your Own Adventure, which is told in second person ('you do this, then you do that'), lost its charm on me after a while, and I just read straight through. On the upside, the format makes for entertaining bite-size stories from his personal and professional lives.

NPH drops names, not in an especially malicious way, but let's just say that Kelsey Grammar, Madonna, Anne Heche, Patti LuPone and Rupert Everett will not be buying copies to give out as Christmas presents. Elton John will... if there is a version packaged as a bedazzled yacht.

His story about coming out to himself, his family, his TV audience and the world, is honest and touching. And funny... possible (funny, untrue) sources of NPH being gay are naively going back to magician Penn Jillette's apartment late one night, and or a full-on man kiss from 80s era Burt Reynolds. Okay, neither of those work for me, but who are we to judge?

Tossed in for your entertainment are recipes, magic tricks, songs, mini adventures written by friends like Kelly Ripa and Whoopi Goldberg, and a really fun chapter that is copy-edited (and fact checked) by his husband.

The book reads like Harris is sitting around telling stories from his life to his pals, and it works. And then it gets really sweet as it wraps up with a love letter to his kids and husband David Burtka.

Like this guy, and like this book... put Choose Your Own Autobiography on your fall reading list.


November 1, 2014

Tim Cook Comes Out: Why It Matters


This week an unmarried middle-aged man who millions suspected/assumed was gay came out and said Yep, I'm Gay, shocking no one and yet surprising a lot of people... and very possibly changing the world.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, the most valuable company (by market value) in America, came out as a gay man this week.

In an essay for Bloomberg Businessweek, Cook announced that he is gay... and that statement makes him the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 Company.

From his essay (link below to full post):
For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.
While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.
Cook goes on to say that he knows visibility counts, and he hopes his coming out will help others. And that discrimination is simply bad for business.
That this happened is so cool -- and then that there was not a huge social uproar, and no impact on Apple's stock price, tells us how far we have come.  Although a member of Russia's parliament did call for Cook to be banned from Russia for life. Hateful Putin bigot.
And there is still far to go... in 29 states Cook could have been fired for being gay, and in many parts of the world there would be legal and or violent ramifications. 
In many important ways, Tim Cook has just stepped out from Steve Jobs' huge shadow.
Being gay has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to be in the minority and provided a window into the challenges that people in other minority groups deal with every day. It’s made me more empathetic, which has led to a richer life. It’s been tough and uncomfortable at times, but it has given me the confidence to be myself, to follow my own path, and to rise above adversity and bigotry. It’s also given me the skin of a rhinoceros, which comes in handy when you’re the CEO of Apple.
Some in the media are criticizing Cook for not coming out sooner, and I totally get that... maybe if he had we all would have gotten a free Jennifer Hudson or Beyonce album on iTunes rather than that damn boring U2 one....

When I arrive in my office each morning, I’m greeted by framed photos of Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. I don’t pretend that writing this puts me in their league. All it does is allow me to look at those pictures and know that I’m doing my part, however small, to help others. We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.


iProud.

Here is Cook's essay:

Tim Cook comes out.


October 28, 2014

Conan O'Brien Vs Madeleine Albright

Yes! This may be my new all-time favourite twitter war....!

Sure I find O'Brien fast and funny, but who knew Albright was this quick? Hopefully she can bring some of that zing to the new TV show Madame Secretary, which she consults on...