Saturday, March 28, 2015

Regarding Indiana and Religious Freedom (UPDATED)

This has been on my mind a lot, ever since the story first broke about a gay couple attempting to get a wedding cake and they were denied service.  Actually, it goes back farther than that.  This is an issue that has complicated my poor brain ever since, on one of my very first dates, I saw the sign in a local diner that said, "Management reserves the right to refuse service."  High school Leonard thought, That's probably for unruly patrons and/or drunk people they have to kick out.  But High School Leonard kept thinking (dangerous), What about people they don't like?  What about high school students like us?  Could they just refuse service and kick us out?  Do we go to jail?  Who will call my mom to bail me out?  But I digress...

Regarding the gay couple and their wedding cake, even my Unit said, "Why would a gay couple want to take their business to people who discriminate?"

My answer was that the couple probably didn't know about the business's beliefs.  Perhaps the business was recommended to them by a (presumably straight) friend?  They were, after all, just looking for a good cake, not trying to "make a statement" or confront bigots1.

And then I thought What would I do in that situation?  After being confronted with such discrimination, I certainly wouldn't want to give that business any of my hard-earned money.  But I also wouldn't let it slide either.  A patented Leonard Strongly Worded Letter would probably come into play, but then what?

We all can basically agree that such discrimination is wrong, but what about the reverse?  There is also the story of a woman at a bakery who refused to write a customer's hate-filled message on a cake.  Again, what would you or I do if asked to write something horrible, say something about Nazis and racists and babies, on an item?  As good human beings, we would refuse, wouldn't we?

So how can we make sure that situation A doesn't occur, but that the person refusing in situation B isn't punished under the same laws?  How can we keep religion OUT of businesses, but keep ethics IN?  I don't have the answers to these questions, despite the fact that they keep going around in my head.

It should be noted, though, that while we are outraged at Indiana's seemingly backwards step in lawmaking, they are only the latest but certainly not the only state with a religious freedom bill.  In fact, they are only one of twenty states with similar laws with similar wording.  According to The Washington Post, the following states have "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts":
  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
All the states' acts seem to "share language" with a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) signed by President Clinton way back in 1993 (Schwarz).  That act (and Indiana's) say "governments should not substantially burden religious exercise without compelling justification" (U.S. Code 42, Chapter 21B, 2000bb).  Even Leonard is having a hard time breaking down that language.  I guess I'm not understanding what they mean by "burden."
Update:  This is the best explanation I've seen so far:  "The measure, which takes effect in July, prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations" (LGBTQ Nation Staff Reports).  That does help to clarify things just a bit.  The way the 1993 act is written reads as if the government is forcing "religious exercise" on people; rather somehow not allowing people to exercise their religion.

Please note that the quoted is piece is only one of FIVE findings of this piece of federal legislature.  Point 5 states that "the compelling interest test as set forth in prior Federal court rulings is a workable test for striking sensible balances between religious liberty and competing prior governmental interests(U.S. Code 42, Chapter 21B, 2000bb).

Also the Washington Post piece, when speaking of the Act cited above, does not mention that

  • it was deemed unconstitutional when applied to states in 1997
  • it is still applied to federal government
  • some states (as mentioned above) continued to use this language when passing their own local laws, despite the federal act being ruled as unconstitutional on the state level
More on the history of this complicated act, its passage, etc. can be found on the always helpful Wikipedia.

So your point, Leonard?
I guess my point is that it's complicated.  The act is complicated, as is its wording.  While perhaps started with the best of intentions (perhaps for things like Situation B), the law appears to be used for other purposes (and we all know where good intentions lead).  And why aren't we protesting the other nineteen states (including my own) who have similar laws?  How are those laws being enacted and enforced?  As I said before, I don't have the answers to any of these, only more questions.

1 Needs verification.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Episode III: Revenge of the Cysts

"What a horrible, candle-snuffing word [...] 'just.'"
J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), Finding Neverland (2004) 

Back when our princess and the pea situation was going on, the nondenominational witch OB/GYN (who I have since fired) said my ovarian cysts were "just a couple of centimeters" big.

And that stuck with me.  Here we are, nearly two years (and two doctors) later, and Leonard is getting a little tired of having medical devices stuck into her orifices.

"But why, Leonard?  Why are you complaining?  They're just a couple of centimeters big."

You know what else is "just a couple of centimeters"?  A penny.  A dime.  A nickel.

Let's try an experiment:  why don't you stick a nickel up your nostril1.  Oh, you want it removed now?  Why?  It's just a couple of centimeters.  How about swallowing the nickel and letting it ruminate in your stomach for a bit.  No?  How about your ear, your eye, or your colon?  No, that doesn't sound like fun?  "Just a couple of centimeters" doesn't really matter when the object should not be in your body, when your body is not designed to fit said object, when said object is pressing against other parts of your body and causing problems.

Leonard fired that last craptastic doctor.  That last craptastic doctor ignored the pain and the symptoms and tried stuff that didn't work.  Plus, she made me feel bad about myself.  The new doctor (we'll have to give her a name soon) has given Leonard ALL THE INFO.  Leonard could give you the measurements of her uterus should the situation require it!

So, to recollect, in the past five months, Leonard has had:
  • 2 blood draws
  • 1 X-ray
  • 1 endoscopy
  • 1 colonoscopy
  • 2 ultrasounds

Current diagnoses now include:
  • anemia
  • Grade A esophagitis
  • 1 anal fissure
  • 3.2 centimeter cyst on left ovary 
  • 7 mm. "hyperdense polypoid lesion"
  • 10 mm. thickening of the endometrium

Up next is a thing I still can't type yet, but it involves shooting a saline solution up Leonard's vajayjay.  So, y'know, I've got that goin' for me...

1 Leonard can fit an entire quarter up her nostril.2
2 Leonard does not do "the quarter trick" anymore, ever since one got stuck up there.3
3 While Leonard was at work.4
4 Leonard was the shift manager at the time.5
5 Co-workers and underlings called her "Nostril-damus" for some time after.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Today's the Day!

"The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize."
-Clairee Blech (Olympia Dukakis), Steel Magnolias (1989) 

I shouldn't be nervous, but I am.  Today is Day #1 of a two-day photo shoot.  But I'm not the model this time.  I'm the hair and make-up stylist.

Hair, make-up, and costumes (or "playing dress-up") is one of the main things I enjoy about theatre, so let's hope it translates to the camera.  People are counting on me for my esoteric knowledge of victory rolls, red lipstick, and wig caps!  I already had a stress dream about it last night (in which I forgot several key items), so I know I'm right on track.

During a conversation with a co-star about visual arts, I said that I "had no talent" in that area.  I come from a long line of artists, but I can't draw (or paint or sculpt or photograph) for shit.  My co-star disagreed.  She said that I "have an editorial eye."  And that stuck with me.  I'd like to think she was right.  I know what I want in my head when trying to achieve certain looks.

At any rate, we can all thank Leonard's mother for this.  Because of her most of my childhood was spent watching musicals and movies from Hollywood's Golden Age; that has played no small part in my desire to play dress-up all the time.  And like my acting, I have no formal education in hair/make-up.  Just trial and errors, a mother who sold Mary Kay cosmetics for a very long time, and now, YouTube tutorials.

Below is the tutorial I used to teach myself how to do victory rolls:

When this photo shoot is complete, I'm sure the Frogman will have things to post, including (possibly) some "behind the scenes" stuff in which you may see me poking about.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Back in Bitch Mode: But Wait, There's Cake!

This blog has been devoid of new posts for far too long.  So, of course, Leonard is back with something to complain about.  This time we turn our feminist analytic eye to Maroon 5.

The more I hear from you, Maroon 5, the less I like you.  Yes, even you, Adam Levine.  In fact, especially you, Adam Levine.  There is, of course, the outrage over the video for the song "Animals," featuring Levine's real-life wife.  As the article points out, the song already says some pretty disgusting things, like "I'm preyin' on you tonight."  Not okay, Maroon 5!  I'm not going to waste my time dissecting it; the linked HuffPost article already does a good job.  This song has joined the ranks of "Blurred Lines" for me -- meaning I turn the station as soon as it comes on.

Instead, let's look at the "harmless" song "Sugar."  And let us, for the time being, ignore that it is a rip off of Prince's "U Got the Look."  Seriously.  The first time I heard the song, I thought I was hearing a cover of a Prince song, just couldn't put my finger on which one.

Since that first hearing, I inevitably catch the song during its bridge of :

I want that red velvet
I want that sugar sweet
Don't let nobody touch it
Unless that somebody's me
I gotta be a man
There ain't no other way

So, before Leonard starts frothing at the mouth, let's take a look-see.  "Sugar," of course, is a euphemism for specifically kisses, more generally loving actions/affection.  Angela Landsbury even uses it in the 1961 Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii -- in which she plays Elvis' mother.  Let that sink in for a bit.

So Adam Levine1 wants our "sugar."  Okay, fine.  But our "red velvet"?  He's not talking about the cake, ladies and gentlemen.  "Velvet" is a euphemism for "vagina"; in fact, "tipping the velvet" means cunnilingus (see also:  Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters).  "Red velvet" is even more explicit as labia is generally pinkish colored.

So Adam Levine wants my vagina now.  Alright, fine.  BUT, here's the problem(s):  "Don't let nobody touch it / Unless that somebody's me."  Excuse me?  You do not have agency over my body parts, Adam Levine; only I do.  You do not get to say who gets to touch it.  Saying "don't let nobody touch it" even excludes me from touching myself (and that's certainly not going to happen).  IF I let someone else "touch it," that's my decision, whether it's the "you" (here Adam Levine) or someone else.

But wait, there's more!
"I gotta be a man / There ain't no other way"
So apparently Adam Levine's masculinity depends on his ability to touch and/or control my body?  Don't look at me that way, readers.  He said it!  In fact, he just said that the ONLY way to "be a man" (whatever the fuck that means) is to have my body.

Masculinity is so many other things, and one person's ability to "feel" masculine (or feminine or whatever) is not up to some other person.  Just as I have agency over my body, so do you have control over how you want to feel and/or explore your gender.  Don't bring my red velvet labia into it.

In short, the song is gross, though possibly not as obviously offensive as "Animals."  But to top it all off, the "official video" for the song shows Maroon 5 supposedly crashing wedding receptions and singing this song to newlyweds (straight newlyweds, I should add).  Eww.

1In all fairness to Mr. Levine, a true rhetorical analysis would not confuse him, the singer, with the speaker of the song (thank you, New Criticism). We typically say "the speaker," just like when dealing with poetry. But it's funnier to say Adam Levine wants Leonard's vagina.