Archive for May, 2011

Tell Senator Kirsten Gillibrand To Support Net Neutrality

Posted in Editorials on May 25th, 2011
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In January, I wrote a letter to Senator Gillibrand, asking her to support Net Neutrality. I received this response, dated April 7, 2011:

Thank you for contacting me regarding Net Neutrality. Your thoughts and concerns are very important and I appreciate you taking the time to share them with me. Please know that as I participate in discussions on the issues before the United States Senate, the thoughts and opinions of all my New York constituents are given careful consideration.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. Please visit http://gillibrand.senate.gov and sign up for my e-newsletter for updates on this, and other important issues being considered by the Senate.

Sincerely,
Kirsten E, Gillibrand
United States Senator

I really dislike substance-less form letters. I want my representatives to tell me what their position is, even if they disagree with me. I couldn’t find anything else on her position online or on her own website. However, I did find this email to another blogger from February 2010, where the Senator comes out in support of Net Neutrality:

Thank you for writing to me about Net Neutrality legislation in Congress. I share your concerns, and support protecting free and open communication on the Internet.

The Internet plays a vital part in nearly all aspects of our lives as Americans; from commerce to education to entertainment. It is important that people continue to have access to all of these services. The freedom to communicate is a principle that also applies to the Internet. For that reason, I will support efforts in the United States Senate to ensure that users are able to access a broad variety of content and prevent discrimination by network providers.

And so I left am unsure as to whether I was sent a meaningless form letter by mistake, or if the Senator has changed her position. I’ve told her where I stand. Have you?

Ramstein Brewery Tour

Posted in Food and Drinks on May 23rd, 2011
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Back in March, I tried Ramstein Hefeweizen at the Philadelphia Craft Beer Festival. Since then, a visit to their brewery in Butler, NJ has been on my list of things to do. I had a chance to go on Saturday, for one of the monthly tours.

On tap were the Double Platinum Blonde, Northern Hills Amber Lager, Golden Lager and Imperial Pilsner. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, although the Platinum was amazing. I’m starting to like the hoppier beers; I think the trick for me is that it can’t be the first one I try for the afternoon/evening.

Founder Greg Zaccardi was there to give a tour, and gave a really informative short talk about the history of the brewery and how the beer is made. This was my fourth brewery tour (Guinness, Budweiser, Brooklyn) so I’d seen it before but I wasn’t bored for a second. I learned something about filtered vs unfiltered beer, and I think that is a quality I’ve been able to detect in beer but unable to describe accurately (the buttery beer mishap of 2011). Mr. Zaccardi also went out of his way to ask if there were any home brewers in the crowd (nudge nudge Ceetar) and said that he would be happy to answer any questions about his craft. I thought that was extremely generous of him and gave me another reason to love his beer.

There was a large crowd on hand, especially by the time we were ready to leave. There was a long line to purchase merchandise, growlers and six-packs but well worth the wait to take some of the beer home. I really hope that this success grows enough for Ramstein to open up its doors more than one day a month, because I would love to become a regular!

Fun Fridays Cosmetics Review – Yarok Feed Your Roots Mousse

Posted in Green Product Reviews on May 20th, 2011
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Ever since I read “Not Just A Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry” by Stacy Malkin, I’ve slowly started to change the way I purchase and use cosmetics. I frequently consult the Skin Deep Database at The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I don’t have any hard and fast rules, but I try to purchase products that are at least one of the following: fragrance free, have organic ingredients and/or do not contain phthalates or parabens.

I will be reviewing some of the brands of natural cosmetics that I use regularly. To see all of the posts in this series, click here.

Yarok Feed Your Roots

My friend Alexandra has seen my series on eco-friendly cosmetics and recommended I check out Terrain (disclosure, she is an employee). This mousse caught my eye because I have been looking for hair care products that fit some my criteria above. This one is 100% vegan, and contains no parabens or sulfates.

I was actually skeptical that it would work on my hair, but decided to give it a try. My hair is thick and wavy, and can be very frizzy in humid weather or for no reason at all. I usually add a lot of mousse to define my curls on special occasions. Last week, when Ebonmuse and I were going out on the town, I tried it, and it was fantastic. It smelled like rosemary and my hair looked just as good as when I use my typical, loaded with carcinogens, mousse. I would highly recommend this.

Edit: Many months later, I am still enjoying this product. I do have to add that the bottle leaks while traveling on an airplane. If you put this in your checked luggage, make sure you have it in a separate, sealed plastic bag.

(Wo)men know what (wo)men like

Posted in Editorials on May 17th, 2011
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I heard about an opening night event in NYC for the new movie Bridesmaids sponsored by GLOC (The Gorgeous Ladies of Comedy), so I decided to go with a few of my friends. I had read about the movie a few months ago on Jezebel and was curious to see if it lived up to the hype.

I had very high expectations for this movie, but was not disappointed. It’s about a woman, Annie (Kristen Wiig), who is asked to be the Maid of Honor at her best friends wedding and isn’t quite up to the task. The other bridesmaids have very different personalities and she has a comically messy personal life to boot.

Many times during the movie, the audience was laughing so loudly that I missed portions of the dialogue, and so I will definitley give it at least one more viewing. The story was not just a send up of modern wedding cliches, but also touched on issues of extended adolescence in the current economy and how friendships can grow and change over time. While there was some gross out humor (Salon called it “a triumph for vomit and feminism“) it wasn’t too much for me – and I have very little tolerance for toilet humor and slapstick. There were several surprisingly touching moments as well. One reviewer commented on Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph’s chemistry as best friends and I agree that they seemed very natural together. The interactions of the different personalities and great comic actors contained incredible potential and was not wasted by the filmmakers.

I’ve read criticism’s of Judd Apatow’s work but the only other movies I’ve seen of his was The 40-Year Old Virgin, (He produced Anchorman but didn’t direct it). I think part of what made this movie work so well was Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s script. Much of the dialogue – especially where the women characters were concerned – rang truer than other mainstream comedies. We finally get to see some raunchy humor based on a woman’s sexual experiences. It was very silly but quite refreshing!

I am a little wary of people who want the success of this movie to prove that women are funny, because if it had failed, I don’t think it would mean the opposite. However, I welcome with open arms more movies that show women as more than just love interests and with desires more complicated than just getting the guy (or getting the dream job). I like Bridesmaids because it explored women’s friendships, something that is too often mocked and derided – women are catty bitches to each other, dontchaknow? And while none of the characters are perfect friends to each other, they all have an honest desire to connect with other women, which I think a lot of us can identify with. This desire isn’t treated as a source of mockery, although sometimes the women’s terrific failures are set up as something to laugh at, we are also meant feel bad with them, when they are lamenting their loneliness. This is key to the way the movie shows women as people. They’re not just backstabbing bitches or airheads simpering about girl power. The characters, while ridiculous comic caricatures, have genuine feelings.

So, go see this movie, it’s a great popcorn flick that won’t make you turn off your brain or your patriarchy blaming skills.

FYI – Ask Me Anything about Clinic Escorting on Reddit.

Posted in Site News on May 14th, 2011
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See my post here.

Kirsten Gillibrand Responds on Reproductive Rights

Posted in Editorials on May 11th, 2011
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Last week, I received a response from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to the letter I wrote her regarding Crisis Pregnancy Centers, and several tweets and emails I sent regarding the increasing attacks by Republicans on women’s rights – including HR3 – the so-called “No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act” which has since passed the House of Representatives.

As I have written previously, this bill would:
-Tax women who purchased insurance coverage that includes abortion care
-Tax employers who provide such insurance
-Stop Medicaid (health insurance for poor people) from covering abortions for women who have been raped unless it meets the Republicans narrowed criteria of “forcible rape
-Create “Abortion Audits” for women who had abortions, to determine the cause of the unwanted pregnancy. If the women had not reported the abortion, and if they had been pregnant for reasons other than “forcible rape” she would have to pay a tax
-Allow doctors and hospitals to refuse life saving care to a pregnant women if such care would harm or kill her fetus.

I also contacted her about the vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Although the House voted for it, the Senate voted against it.

Senator Gillibrand affirmed her pro choice position:

I hope I am correct in taking this to mean that she will vote against the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act if there is a Senate vote on it. Where do your representatives stand?

Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in Editorials, Pictures on May 4th, 2011
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From the news reports and internet hysteria, I had expected to find a bacchanal lasting for days, instead there were just a few joggers and some tourists quietly taking pictures.

Amanda Marcotte has been clear that liberals should not scold people for gloating over  the death of Osama Bin Laden. Neither scolding nor celebrating was my first response to the news – mostly I just felt overwhelming relief. And while there were indeed large outbursts of public rejoicing, they were spontaneous and short lived. I was in Washington DC on a business trip and took a walk past the White House late Monday afternoon – from what I had heard described, I thought there must be something still going on. But there was no sign of the revelry that had taken place just a few hours before. The debate about whether or not to “celebrate” this event feels like manufactured controversy – it detracts from the larger issues of the so-called “War on Terror,” the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the loss of Civil Liberties and rise  of security theater here at home.

But the cheering crowds and atmosphere of New Year’s Eve or a home team sports championship for a few short hours on Sunday night and early Monday morning did deeply disturb some people whose opinions I respect.  I personally would rather that  Bin Laden had been killed by US forces than taken alive at the expense of American (or NATO or Pakistani or civilian lives) and so I see no reason to criticize what has been done. However, days later  I’m still reflecting on President Obama’s words,

“[Bin Laden's] demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”

I consider myself one of those people  – it’s pretty much straight out of the Unitarian Universalist principles – and I don’t know if I agree. If someone holds those moral values, there will be cognitive dissonance in celebrating the death of any human person. It’s difficult to accept that the beliefs you hold most sacred, may not be as strong as you have professed. The conflict between wanting to shout for joy in the streets after hearing of a military victory, and knowing that one has previously claimed to be a pacifist and to stand for human rights is not easily resolved. Public shaming of those who gave in to the desire to celebrate is an understandable, if not productive response.