Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Knucklehead List.

Every now and then, something will fly by my eyes in my twitter feed that reads so unbelievably I feel like I'm standing on a grocery store line looking at a tabloid headline. You know, the front page says "John Travolta caught with his pants down...again." So you open the magazine and it's a picture of him on set during a costume change. You just feel duped.

Well. This tweetline caught my attention in much the same way. It read so heinously, I imagined the 140 characters were just not enough space to accurately portray what this person actually said. I'm so busy making ham sandwiches for lunches that I don't have time to click and dive down the rabbit hole...but...the tweet is so bad, I forgo mayonaissing whole wheat bread and click further to investigate.

Meet Todd Kincannon. He's the former executive director of the South Carolina GOP. And he is the first submission for my new blog within a blog series, "The Knucklehead List." As long as knuckleheads continue to exist, my list will go on and on.

Allow me to editorialize. I mean, it is my blog. I understand there is oppression and heinous acts against humanity happening all over the world. But in the United States of America, saver of the world, we can fix your fucked up country by occupying you, or dropping bombs late at night and get very little news coverage that it ever happened, here we have people like Todd Kincannon.

More from my first knucklehead:

Some people have come to this man's defense. The freedom of speech defense. How grateful we should all be that we can say whatever the hell we want to anyone anywhere anytime. 

Here's my problem with that. Our perfect, amazing, American society has evolved to such a place that a human being with a heartbeat and possibly a conscience, thinks it's okay to publicly say something so ugly, so hurtful, and so dark about other human beings. He could say absolutely anything he wants to say. And this is what he chooses. 

Before I had kids, I would have found his words offensive and I would have been disgusted. But now that I am a mom, and can barely sit through most episodes of Law & Order SVU, I literally get a pit in my stomach knowing this person exists. I think of every mom whose child is questioning their gender identity, and how terrified she must be knowing this person is not that much in the minority, and that her child has to go out into a world that thinks these things about her baby. 

In the 1990s, the LGB Community extended the acronym to LGBT community to include transgendered people. Though, arguably, the LGB people struggle with sexual identity, while the T people struggle with gender identity. As a person who struggled with sexual identity, I can attest first hand that there is a huge difference between gender and sexual identity. It is not the same thing. Not at all. 

So really, what gay, lesbian and bisexual people have in common with transgender people is a shared fear of being rejected by society, a fear of being found out. But even that is changing, as the LGB faction sweeps across the country gaining equality at an, albeit surprisingly, rapid pace...all of a sudden. 

So while my friends Marcye and Karen got married in New Jersey last week, and Sarah and I celebrate two full legal years as a married couple, Todd Kincannon aims his twitter feed like an uzi at the most disenfranchised faction of my community, and ultimately yours as well. 

I just think this guy is a total knucklehead. 


Thursday, October 17, 2013

The New Normal...

A few months back, one of my best friend's from college posted advice in the form of a public service announcement to people regarding things you should not say or do upon hearing news of someone's specific health issue. It was very well thought out, and while most of the advice was obvious to me, I understood exactly how she felt. Often times I too find myself in the throws of the most awkward conversations regarding my personal life, most notably with regard to my children.

So here is some free advice from me to you in case you ever find yourself in a conversation with any gay person, or a gay person with children.

1) Think very consciously about not referring to straight people as normal people. For example, "I'm going to a normal wedding this weekend," when differentiating the wedding "type" from a gay wedding. Seriously. This happens around me quite often, and frankly, the expression really pisses us gay people off.

Here you are, supposedly my really open-minded straight friend. And, by default you just called me not normal. It is awkward. And, well, it makes you sound a little bit homophobic. It is just one of those words when tossed into a sentence that can really train wreck a once perfectly normal hetero/homo friendship. And god knows, your spouse might not find it so normal the way you hit on me after you've had a few drinks...Nah, I'm just kiddin' around with ya'...I say these things for ratings. Really. I do.

2) If I am holding one or both of my children close to me, you know how moms sometimes do, or if they are within listening distance of our conversation, do not ask me who their "dad" is.

You see, "dads" typically show up at some point during the first five years of a child's life. If they don't, the mom(s) can get the courts involved. Our guy hasn't shown up yet. Actually, we are not expecting him to show up. And if he did, we'd probably both have full blown heart attacks.

So let's call him "the donor" until the kids turn eighteen. And then we can revisit the conversation, keeping in mind the conversation should take place when...you got it, my kids are not within ear shot. Talk to you in 2027...when the kids are away at college...possibly calling their donor ala a scene out of "The Kids Are Alright."

3) Definitely do not ask me if the dad is David Crosby. Regardless of how drunk you are, it is very tacky. And you've annoyed me twice with that statement because you said "dad" and you said "David Crosby." If you are someone who think's it is normal to wonder if the dad is David Crosby, it's obvious at this point in the blog that you and I have terrible chemistry and we should stop what it is we are doing together. Sayonara, toot-a-loo.

David Crosby is our donor!
You're welcome every lesbian
couple who has kids forevermore.
I want my kids to be doctors. I want my kids to be car mechanics. I want anything but struggling starving to death tortured musician souls (refer to blog from 03.11.11 "Please, Just Be Doctors"). So yes. McDreamy could be the donor. But no, certainly not David Crosby. I mean, Cat Stevens I would have considered. Or maybe Sting. But asking if it's David Crosby is the second most overused lesbian cliche, even though the first overused cliche about the U-Haul on the second date is fairly accurate.
Humanitarian, Philanthropist, Genius - Cat Stevens

Ok. So now for the whole point of this blog. I do hope you're still reading because this is the most important part of it.

I am mostly kidding about eighty percent of what I have written so far. Except for the parts about my kids, you can slip up around me with your words and I will get over it. And I know I have just called the "Is David Crosby the dad?" question to myself ten-fold. I can live with it because I happen to say stupid things to straight people all the time. For example, after a few drinks I might ask my straight girl friend if she thinks her husband is gay or I might ask if their life is as boring as it looks. I mostly regret both questions in the morning a little bit...(again, ratings. keeps the readers coming back).

So now that I have made most of you completely self conscious about what you say around gay people, this is really the one thing I want to have stick in your mind when you go about your travels chatting to your friends about civil rights and the like.

4) Sarah and I fight for marriage equality, not for gay marriage. I am not gay married to Sarah. I am not same sex married to Sarah. I am simply married to Sarah. Sometimes our marriage can even be a little boring, just like normal marriages. (Dear Sarah, I know there is nothing boring or normal about our marriage. Just trying to look relatable. Ratings. We're going for big numbers here. Love, Kristen).

Unless straight people are willing to say they are hetero married or opposite sex married, let's just call it marriage across the board. Gay people like me just want equality.

Calling it a "gay marriage" is probably something Governor Christie is considering in his state, because that will keep the normal people marriages separate from those gay civil unions. And then, he probably thinks, the gay people will drop all the hoopla and let him get on with rebuilding the Jersey shore. Because that's what is really important, not gay people and their annoying civil rights. Whoops, I just channeled the Governor from my previous blog, my bad...(Big Mean Bully 10.11.13).

So I am asking you as a friend or as a rabid daily reader of my "Hangin' With Hendo" blog to make a very conscious effort to refer to the fight for marriage between two men or two women as the fight for MARRIAGE EQUALITY. We fight for equality, not for gay marriage.

I know. It's tricky. But it is an important little semantic in my life and the life of every LGBT person you know and love so dearly.

Boringly married Kristen & Sarah. Normal.
So just go around now correcting your friends and uncles who wear plaid pants and play golf that when they say things at the dinner table like, "Oh, for crissakes, enough with all this gay marriage stuff, I saw on the cover of Time Magazine that they can get married already..."

We cannot get married in New Jersey. Or in North Carolina. Or South Carolina. Or Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Montana, Louisiana, Texas, Nevada, South Dakota, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Washington, Colorado, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia (obviously), Virginia, Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, Missouri, Deleware, Michigan, Hawaii, Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Oregon, Indiana, Alabama, Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin.

We are still fighting for marriage equality in most of the United States. And the words we use when we talk about it are epically important.

"Marriage equality is the new normal." Someone better not steal that for a t-shirt. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

The UM in Columbus Day.

What's up with this holiday? It has been well refuted that Columbus did not discover America. He landed in the Bahamas. Last time I looked out my window, I was not in the Bahamas.

And it's well documented that he committed some nasty atrocities that led to the deaths of many many people. Some counts are as high as millions of deaths if you take into consideration the after affects of diseases he helped spread.

When the government re-opens, they should consider telling the art teachers to stop cutting out Ninas and Pintas and Santa Marias with the kids. Or have the art teachers already stopped doing that? I haven't seen many Ninas, Pintas or Santa Marias hanging on my friends walls. Fortunately, my kids are still too young to wield scissors, at least concisely enough to cut boats out of paper.

The guy was kinda wretched, and I've done some reading on it. It seems we made a mistake all in the name of a three day holiday weekend. And when I say "we made a mistake" I mean the government made a mistake in the 1930s when they declared this guy worthy of celebration on the same level as Martin Luther King and Santa.

I am sure we can find someone truly heroic to celebrate on this day in order to keep the three day weekend intact, if that's the issue.

In fact, I nominate Mia Hamm. She is one of the greatest female athletes of all time. We can mark the holiday by playing soccer, a beloved sport amongst American youth, and by eating ham, a real boost to the pork industry. And Mia Hamm is not suspected of slaughtering and enslaving men, women or children for her own personal gain. Truly heroic.

Let's use this blog as a forum to discuss possible Columbus Day replacements. I will then forward it to the government, where I am certain it will be placed on the docket for immediate discussion. Because if it's one thing I know about our government, needlessly shutting itself down in celebration of a man proven unworthy of celebration would truly upset our elected officials.

Once we point this out to them, I am sure they will agree.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Big Mean Bully.

My friends, Marcye and Karen Nicholson-McFadden, with their kids. They're fighting the good fight in Jerz and will be legally married very very soon!

Dear Gov. Christie,
Hiya big guy. How's it goin'? You know what, let's skip the niceties. I'm not hosting SNL this weekend, but still, I don't have tons of free time to write to fellas like you.

Today is National Coming Out Day, so I thought it would be a good idea to remind you of that. I'm almost certain your secretary doesn't have it on your calendar, nor did she leave a post it note on your computer reminding you of the public appearance you're scheduled to make at a local high school where you show your unwavering support of the LGBT youth in your state.

Stop right there. I know what you're going to say to me. You don't have a problem with gay people. You actually know a few gay people, even. And you're perfectly fine with gay people making life long commitments to one another via Civil Unions. They just aren't allowed to get married in your state, like, say, normal people.

"Hey," you probably say. "I didn't say that!"

Gov. Christie, "separate but equal" should only be reserved for high school baseball and softball teams arguing over who gets to play their home game on the field with the scoreboard. You following me? When I was in high school, the girls softball team was never allowed to play on the boys field. That was, of course, the one with the scoreboard. We had our own field, complete with weeds and ditches to tear ligaments in. That was in the eighties. A great decade for music, but not for girls high school sports. But now, in the year 2013, the school athletic directors and coaches have worked it out so that the boys teams and the girls teams rotate onto the nicer fields with the scoreboards. Equally

Look. I watch you on the TV. We loved your press briefings leading up to Hurricane Sandy, at least the ones we saw before we lost power. And even most recently, as the boardwalk burned to the ground, you spoke to your constituents with authority and confidence. You're a strong leader, no doubt. 

Here's the thing. You need to let equality for all human beings glide into your state now. You're New Jersey, for crissakes. New York's best friend. Our side kick. You're the Robin to New York's Batman. The whole world knows it. The Supreme Court struck DOMA down. Were you not watching that? The Pope. Even he...I mean, I don't need to get into all that. I'm sure you get Pope bulletins via email. 

Evolve, buddy. The LGBT community is one of the most forgiving. As soon as you accept us, we forgive most transgressions. And this transgression is technically slight if you let equality into New Jersey.

There's one other thing. There are kids in your state. All different types of kids, actually. Some are gay, or lesbian, or bisexual, or transgender. Some are even straight kids whose parents are gay. And those kids just want their families to have the same civil rights as their neighbors families. These kids are in your schools and your communities. Your kids certainly go to school with some of them. These kids have self esteems. And you, personally, are kicking the shit out of theirs. Like a big mean bully. 

That's what you look like from the great state of New York, where everyone is equal. You look like a big mean bully. 

Turn it around, Governor. We'll have your back. 


ps- If I knew anything about your record, I'd know that you recently signed into law a bill that prohibits licensed professionals from attempting so-called "gay conversion therapy" on minors (good call, btw). It seems you, yourself, may need a little conversion therapy. Don't be afraid, Gov. Let equality into NJ and I guarantee that you are the guy on top of the Pride Parade float in June. It will be awesome. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sinead vs. Miley Gate

I have a hard time following news stories. I'm not saying that's a good thing. But truthfully, I get most of my news from my Facebook feed. Headlines that I may or may not click depending on how busy my day is.

If the TV is on in my house it is likely tuned to Tom & Jerry. Because, honestly, most of what they show on the news is too heinous for my kids to see (Tom whacking Jerry over the head with a shovel pales in comparison to Boston Marathon explosions and mug shots of crazy people who keep women locked in their homes for years on end).

All that being said, I did find the time to rather closely follow Sinead O'Connor's open stream of consciousness on Miley Cyrus. I am not referring to it as a feud, as Sinead claims it is not a feud. It was, at first at least, an attempt by Sinead to reach out to Miley midway through her narcissistic overdose in a rather loving way, I thought. Miley, who has single handedly set back the women's movement about 50 years, did not view Sinead's loving open letter in that way (not shocking), and she proceeded to publicly annhiliate Sinead.

The kid is a knucklehead. And she comes by it pretty honestly. Her dad wore his hair backwards through the entire 1990s.

But my job here is not to sling mud at Billy Ray. The point of this blog is a few things, but not that.

The first point of the blog is to point out, much as Sinead did, that girls should not have to publicly rub their asses on men's crotches, men who are twice their age no less, in order to have a successful career. For some reason, in the year 2013, Miley thought she had to, and she proceeded to teach America's youth via the MTV music awards that they should either rub their ass against crotches or expect asses to be rubbed against their crotch. It's depressing trying to calculate how much damage was done by that seriously skanky move. And even more depressing to think that we cannot unsee what we saw that evening.

Meanwhile, split screen, Robin Thicke is moving right along with his day. Go Team USA.

The second point of my blog is to remind everyone what an amazing artist Sinead O'Connor is. With all that is wrong with Miley-Gate, Sinead rises like a phoenix from the ashes to remind me, at least, to feel empowered and not disgruntled. She is the very definition of an artist, and women like her inspire me and make me love what I do for a living.

So today I'm sharing some of my very favorite Sinead songs. The first is an absolutely mind blowing cover that was on the Elton John/Bernie Taupin tribute album, Two Rooms. Sinead's cover of "Sacrifice" caused me to hear the song for the first time, even though I'd heard it a million times sung by Elton. I love when an artist can cover a song like that. So here it is:

Super cool Mandinka

The Prince penned Nothing Compares:


Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Little Perspective at Dinner with A Fragile Tomorrow.

A Fragile Tomorrow, dressed like they're in the SAME band!

We are just finishing up a run of southern dates with A Fragile Tomorrow. For those of you unfamiliar with AFT, they are a band of brothers who are young, talented and clearly eager as hell to crack the code on how to be a successful indie band. 

The thing about indie artists, or artists in general, is that most of us don't realize we are successful…ish. I can't even type the word successful without adding a dot, dot, dot ish. We are so busy trying to achieve the next level of success that we forget to notice the grass we are standing on is exceptionally green…ish. 

And while my bandmates and I drive hundreds of miles a day in our tour van talking about how so and so got such and such and why didn't we get such and such? I remind myself on a daily basis that there may actually be a tour van traveling the interstate wondering how the hell Antigone Rising got such and such? I find momentary comfort in this, until I remember that so and so AND so and so BOTH got such and such.  

While eating dinner on the last night of our run of dates together, Sean and Dominic from AFT started "picking my brain." Suddenly I wasn't the frustrated, stuck, stalled indie artist who drove up the highway from Charleston, SC to Durham, NC to open for The Breaking Bad series finale. Seriously. We opened for a TV show. That happened. Just a few days ago. 

Instead, I was a fount of knowledge for two kids who really just wanted to know what we did to be as successful (...ish) as we are. Actually, they were picking my brain about guitar techs, but let us not allow specifics to ruin the inspiration for me to blog again...

Right, that sneaky little thing called perspective! Thank you god or universe or Sean and Dominic for sending me that message to get out of my own way and be amazed and grateful for all that I have (a guitar tech, the handsome and wonderful @anthonysrecords) and all that I have achieved. 

So here's some advice. Some of it extremely specific, some of it a bit more broad, all of it coming from someone who has traveled thousands of miles in a van with a band who has seriously done a lot of cool things, and has also been fed a ton of bull shit, sometimes simultaneously. 

The number one most important thing is to WRITE GREAT SONGS. Whatever it is you do, make sure your songs do not suck. Songwriting is equal parts god given and learned. So if you're naturally already an ok songwriter, you can probably get better by taking a class or co writing with other artists whose songs you like. I understand that Rob Thomas or Johnny Goo Goo or the Train guy may not be in your rolodex or available for a co-write, but maybe there's a local band whose songs you like. Maybe you have a music teacher who writes songs. Collaborating makes you better. And teaches you to be open. If you're a blocked songwriter, well, that's oxy-moronish. So be open, take criticism, and write, write, write.  

I am a firm believer that if your friends want you to sing at the party, you might be on to something. Even friends don't want to hear crappy music. Especially at a party. It's your job, however, to not get lazy and think that every room you walk into will think you're as amazing as the people on your next door neighbor's deck think you are. So write great songs, and keep 'em coming. You should also hit some open mics in your area. Because singing through a P.A. is a whole different animal than strumming and singing into the air without amplification. But that's a whole different shpiel

So that's some practical broad 101 type advice. 

Here's some real nitty gritty advice specifically for bands. Consider this from the syllabus of the course Bands 333.

Look like you're in the same band, people. Do not wear your white Nike sneakers with your lady jeans on stage while your bass player has a friggin' nose ring and purple hair. When Antigone Rising files into a restaurant anywhere in the country, the host always knows we're together. Always. If one of us straggles in 10 minutes later, the host just points to our table. Every. Single. Time. It is one of our proudest band accomplishments. 

Granted, we were asked once in a hotel lobby if we were a soccer team…

In the next segment, I will give you my two cents on traveling together to gigs. But you will have to wait to read my thought provoking words on that topic. 

Until we meet again, be sure to check out A Fragile Tomorrow, write great songs, and dress like your bandmates. 


This band may sound fantastic. They may also want to call a truce on their obvious image war...