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Comedy Godfather, City Outsider

“Humans! Listen to my face hole!”

Tony Sparks has been on stage long enough to know how to capture attention. He stands behind the mic at a sparsely occupied bar on a Monday night. He is two acts into an open mic show.

“Hey, humans!” Sparks shouts from inside the spotlight. “Even y’all in the back at the bar, ignoring the shit outta me. I need for everybody to give this next guy the big love.”

Sparks hands it off to the next comic. Slowly, people are drawn in. The bar fills up. Some people even come to sit around the stage. Two hours later, just before the show ends, the place is hopping.

Sparks is known as the “godfather of comedy” in San Francisco. He has run comedy events throughout the Bay Area for years. He came to San Francisco in the early 1990s, enticed by the city’s reputation as a nucleus of the comedy scene. Instead, he found himself ostracized from the prominent clubs and people of the day.

“This town was a piece of shit,” Sparks says. “It was really cliquey. So I don’t ever want to be that way with people. Hopefully when people hang out with me they get a sense of, ‘okay, I feel accepted and I can do this.’ I don’t want to do to other people what was done to me.”

Sparks set out to develop a more welcoming community of comics. In April of 1999, Sparks started hosting shows at BrainWash cafe and laundromat in South of Market. Calling the place an eclectic venue would not do it justice. The stage was set up against the huge, wall-high windows of the front of the building. The food line cut right through the tables, so most of the audience was separated from the direct vicinity of the stage. People usually talked at the bar, ignoring the show completely. And people were also there to do their laundry.

“It was more of a social hub than a great comedy spot,” comedian Hunter Stoehr says. “It was not a great place to do comedy, but it was a great place to hang out.”

“For people that were just doing open mics, it was the place you could go every single day,” comedian Graham Galway adds. “For people that were more established, it was a place to get an early set in. It was always a pretty large crowd, and it was a good place to meet people.”

Over the years, the strange hybrid establishment became a fixture of Bay Area comedy. BrainWash held open mics five nights a week, most hosted by Sparks.

“It was a great place. It was the foundation for the community,” Sparks explains. “If you needed to know what to do, and to grow, and where to go, you went to the Brainwash. The staff there was wonderful, the people were nice. They really took good care of me. It was like my family. I mean, c’mon, I spent nineteen years with them.”

 

In December 2017, BrainWash abruptly shut down. The cafe had been struggling to deal with a decline of customers caused by a large construction project next door. It closed with no fanfare, just a note on the locked door. It had been in business for more than thirty years.

The comedy community has been reeling ever since. There are other places that hold open mics in the city, of course, but none of them with the frequency that BrainWash did. Stoehr and other comedians describe the scene as “decentralized.”

“There was a huge gap, a void that opened up once BrainWash shut down,” Billy Catechi, manager of the bar Il Pirata, says. “That was a real shame. The place was one-of-a-kind.”

For the past twelve years, Il Pirata hosted monthly stand up shows. After BrainWash closed, said Catechi, Il Pirata decided to turn their monthly shows into weekly events. They asked Tony Sparks to host. The shows have been running every Thursday since early February.

Il Pirata sits on the corner of 16th Street and Potrero Avenue. Around 5 p.m. on a Thursday evening, Catechi brings a couple rows of chairs into the cleared-out lounge space and assembles a short wooden stage. In the room are several large booths, a spotlight, and a sound station with mixing boards and a big bank of speakers. This is the setup for the evening showcase of more established Bay Area comedians, which starts at 8 p.m.

Until then, there’s open mic out on the patio. The prep work for this event is less elaborate. Catechi pulls one table back a couple feet then plops a mic and speaker in front of the Jack Daniels dartboard. Mere feet away, traffic barrels by on 16th Street.

One-by-one, the comics come in and sign up for their four minutes behind the mic. Everyone who performs that night is a veteran of the process. Many of them know one another from the BrainWash. They mingle out on the patio until Sparks arrives just before six o’clock to kick the night off.

In addition to Il Pirata, Sparks also hosts a regular Monday night show (along with free pizza and videogames) at Milk Bar on Haight Street. The gigs he runs now don’t come close to matching the sense of camaraderie of BrainWash. Still, he continues to host shows, passionate about preserving venues for burgeoning comics to perform.

“What else am I gonna do?” Sparks says. “I’m an old man. I been doing this since I was 16 years old. I don’t know anything else to do.”

An open mic can be a brutal thing. A show is the only place for an aspiring comedian to hone new material. So they go out on a weekday night and try out their budding jokes in front of an audience made up mostly, if not entirely, of fellow comedians.

“There’s a lot of open mics where there’s no audience, there’s just other comics who have already seen most of your jokes,” comedian Travis Thielen shares. “And you only have a couple new things, so it can feel kind of disheartening.”

At Il Pirata, some do better than others. One comic’s tale about hiding pot from his parents as an adult garners some earnest chuckles, while another’s rant about millenials falls flat. Admittedly, the latter scenario is more common.

This is why the geniality of Tony Sparks is such a key to the success of the night. Even when he delves into darker personal topics, there is a buoyancy to him. Sparks has a way of delivering jabs that feel like both a roast and encouragement.

During a recent show at Milk Bar, Sparks addressed a comic who had just performed a set that was met with silence from the audience. The main factor for the icy response, perhaps, was a complete lack of discernible jokes anywhere in the routine.

“That was beautiful, although I didn’t understand shit you was saying,” Sparks said as he took back the mic. “Don’t feel bad. The rest of them,” he gestured toward the audience, “they were ignoring you very openly.” Then he turned on the audience: “You guys are bullies. He poured his heart out and you shit all over him.”

The ribbing is anything but discouraging. Comedian Tammy Clarke works at open mics and with Sparks to hone her craft. In August she will be opening for shows headlined by comedian and actress Mo’Nique.

“Honestly, I’ve gotten nothing, but love and support in this comedy sector,” Clarke says. “It feels good.”

The moment each comedian finishes their set, Sparks belts out an enthusiastic “Yaaaay!” and prods the room to break into another round of applause. When a brand-new comic comes up, Sparks leads the audience in a short chant of “lots of love” to build up the energy in the room.

“Sometimes there’s one thing that you do in life that just makes you so fucking happy,” Sparks explains. “When I host these shows, or when I get on stage, I’m so happy. I’m so incredibly happy. I have so much fun.”

Still, there’s no filling in the hole that the loss of the BrainWash created in Sparks’s life. His discontent about living in San Francisco hasn’t abated in the nearly three decades of his residency.

“I don’t trust the city, I don’t like it,” Sparks admits. “I don’t like the people. I hate everything about it. Everything. The only thing I loved about it is gone; that was the BrainWash.”

Sparks says he has gotten invitations from venues in other cities to go create his own BrainWash-type establishment. Still, there is something that, for now, keeps him in San Francisco.

As the open mic wraps up at Il Pirata, Sparks thanks everyone for coming out and congratulates them on their performances. Then he goes inside, hops up on the stage, and launches into his next comedy showcase.

Protestors march in SF against police brutality

 

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Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of San Francisco this afternoon as part of Nationwide Shutdown Day to protest against police brutality.

The protests come in the wake of the latest police shooting caught on video. Last week, Tulsa police released a video of a sheriff deputy who fatally shot a suspect with his gun. The suspect got into an altercation with police after allegedly trying to sell guns to undercover cops. According to the Washington Post, the man was unarmed.

Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, 73, claims to have shot the 44-year-old suspect, Eric Harris, on accident. In a phone interview, Bates told Tulsa World that he meant to use his taser. Harris was taken to a local hospital where he later died.

“Mr. Bates is charged with Second-Degree Manslaughter involving culpable negligence,” Tulsa County District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler said in a statement.

Here’s a brief recap of the protest that took place at city hall and 24th & Mission. You can check out the full recap on Storify.

 

 

 

Vandal Tags Statue with Cultural Message

Two employees from the group San Francisco Art Conservation attempt to lift graffiti off the statue of Juan Bautista de Anza near Lake Merced, April 9. Photo by Alec Fernandes

On this clear Thursday morning, joggers and cyclists trekking along the shore of Lake Merced encountered a glaring message scrawled in red paint: “UR ON STOLEN LANDD.”

The vandal’s canvas was the base of a prominent statue of Juan Bautista de Anza, a European explorer whose 18th-century expedition to the Bay Area strengthened Spain’s hold on the region. Mexico gave the 11-foot-tall bronze statue to San Francisco in 1967 as a symbol of goodwill, yet the graffiti implies that some view the sculpture as representing the dark side of imperial conquest.

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Photo by Alec Fernandes

The sanguine script was accompanied by images of red hands flashing the peace sign on the north and east sides of the statue. The organization San Francisco Art Conservation sent two employees to remove the graffiti around 11 a.m.

Applying careful strokes of paint thinner to the base’s bronze plaque and concrete, the workers said they did not know who reported the crime and knew even less about who committed it.

This is not the first local act of culturally fueled vandalism to occur in recent history. In 2007, the plaque at the base of the Mount Davidson Cross was stolen. An Armenian-American group had purchased the cross in the late 90’s and dedicated it to the victims of the Armenian genocide. The crime’s occurrence on Armenian Independence Day suggested that it was racially motivated.

Two other incidences occurred in August of last year when trees within the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park were repeatedly hacked and marred. It is unclear, however, whether these acts were purposefully directed at any specific group of individuals.

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Photo by Alec Fernandes

 

We are 43: the fight for justice continues

Violeta Luna performs a piece entitled “Piedras de luna para José Luis (Vírgenes y Diosas III) in honor of José Luis Luna Torres, one of the 43 missing Ayotzinapa at the “From Ayotzinapa to San Francisco” event at Code and Canvas Gallery, February 7, 2015. Photo by Angelica Ekeke

 

In a small gallery in Potrero Hill, Code & Canvas, more than 300 residents, artists, and activists wait to connect via Skype to Omar Garcia. Garcia is the colleague of 43 college students who disappeared on their way to a protest against a mayoral candidate in Guerrero, Mexico. A projector reflects Garcia’s image on a white wall. There are technical difficulties, but organizers resolve the problem and Garcia begins to speak.

He tells the audience about the hard atmosphere that exists in Mexico; specifically, in Iguala, Guerrero.

“The family members and we, the students, believe our peers are alive,” Garcia says in Spanish. “We are basing this on the inconsistencies of the investigation that the PGR (Office of General Prosecutor) has shown,” he adds.

Bay Area artists, who come from different backgrounds, primarily from different countries of Latin America, are raising money to send to the families of the 43. The money will help fund an independent investigation of their disappearance, requested by the parents. Although 3,800 miles separate activists in San Francisco and in Guerrero, they have one thing in common with the people of Mexico: They want justice against what they believe is a corrupt government with the drug cartels.

On Sept. 26, 43 male students from Raul Isidro Burgos Rural Teacher’s College in Ayotzinapa were kidnapped by police and turned over to Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors), a criminal organization in Iguala, Guerrero.

According to a press conference held on January 27 by Tomas Zeron de Lucio, head of the criminal investigation agency and Jesus Murillo Murillo, Mexico’s general attorney, the PGR had detained 99 suspects related to the case. Murillo stated that the 43 students were killed and burned by drug traffickers from Guerreros Unidos. Students’ parents challenged the report due to lack of evidence. The evidence presented in the conference relied mainly on the drug traffickers’ confessions. The Mexican government has only been able to identify the body of one of the 43 missing students.

Activists in Mexico and around the world have demanded that the Mexican government provide concrete evidence of the case. They are also calling for the indictment of politicians who were allegedly involved in the disappearance.

Bay Area artists that include painters, musicians, and dancers organized an event called From Ayotzinapa to San Francisco – We are 43. Artists created their artwork inspired by each of the 43 students. The paintings in the exhibit are part of a silent auction.

Chelitz Lopez is one of the organizers of the event.

“We started this effort with the idea of bringing together the community around this cause, showing the students’ families and the Mexican people that we would not forget these disappearances or ignore the daily injustices that continue to occur, and to raise a little bit of money to support the families who have not been able to rest for more than four months now,” Lopez wrote in a Facebook post for the event.

Axel Herrera, an alumnus of SF State’s music department, created a three part song called “Heart Beat” dedicated to one of the missing students, Jorge Alvarez Navia.

“Definitely justice is a topic that it is important to all of us,” he says in Spanish.” The case of the student-teachers is a case mainly related to social justice, and is an example of criminality of a government that acts in a way that it is very arrogant and with a lot of impunity.”

Herrera says that the three sections of the song is united by the beat of his drum that represents the beat of a heart and the hope that the students are still alive.

Jose Cruz, one of the artists who helped to promote the event, explained that the idea of organizing the exhibit was inspired by a similar event held in Mexico City where 43 Mexican illustrators painted the faces of the 43 using different techniques and shared their portraits on social media with the hashtag #IlustradoresConAyotzinapa (Illustrators with Ayotzinapa) as a way of remember them.

Ramiro Garcia is one of the three persons from the audience that makes a comment to Garcia via Skype. He has tears in his eyes and speaks with a broken voice.

“I’m glad you have not been one of the students who disappeared,” he says in Spanish.

The SF State Spanish Department will hold an event called Remembering the 43 Students in Ayotzinapa Mexico on April 18 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event plans to gather panelists that will present literary essays, poems, music and art in order to raise awareness for the ongoing issue.

Soda Tax Goes Flat in SF

Illustration by Catherine Uy.
Illustration by Catherine Uy.

This midterm election asked voters to further define where the nanny state ends and the freedom to be reckless begins. What Americans can and cannot do often hangs in the balance between personal freedom and public safety, with arguments spanning every arena from gun ownership to mandatory health care.

The big threat to the California’s safety this November was soda, and voters on both sides of the Bay had to decide whether to raise taxes on sugary beverages through local propositions. While Berkeley passed Proposition D with an overwhelming 77 percent of the vote, a similar measure failed in San Francisco.

Supporters in both cities said the health risks, such as diabetes and obesity, that are linked to soda are undeniable. Opponents claimed increased taxes would create a black market along with other consequences that lawmakers did not consider.

At the heart of this issue is soda’s high demand in a society that constantly craves sugar. Supervisor Scott Wiener, the main source of support for the tax in San Francisco City Hall, says this measure would have targeted only the most harmful of sweet drinks.

“The measure would have applied to non-alcoholic beverages with added sugar where the beverage has at least twenty-five calories per twelve ounces,” Wiener says. “The tax did not apply to diet soda, natural juices, milk, infant formula, or medical drinks.”

San Francisco’s tax, known as Proposition E, received a simple majority of support at the polls – 56 percent of the vote. Lawmakers agreed, however, that using a ballot measure to influence a citywide diet would require at least a two-thirds majority, and for a good reason.

The appeal of soda goes deeper than one’s sweet tooth. For many, the low price of sugary drinks makes them an economical treat for the dining table.

These measures were more of a sharp nudge rather than a gentle push toward healthier habits. The argument that low-income residents have other options for beverages incorrectly suggests that these drinks will still remain optional and not become a financial imperative.

This tax sent a clear message to low-income families who buy cheap and sweet carbonated beverages to for every meal: Change your diets or the state of California will change them for you.

San Francisco offers numerous opportunities to its poorest citizens — through housing initiatives, subsidized healthcare, and even a program that pays the homeless to take care of dogs. For the poorer residents who value these freedoms, Proposition E’s financial burden would have effectively limited their options at the grocery store.

The two cent tax per ounce of soda would have resulted in a twenty-four cent increase on every can sold in the city. For a large portion of San Francisco, this extra money is already being spent on higher Muni fares, which increased by twenty-five cents this September.

“[The tax] won’t make people any healthier, but it does have an impact on businesses and consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet,” says Roger Salazar, spokesman for the organization Californians for Food and Beverage Choice.

While Proposition E may have failed in San Francisco because of its low-income opponents, this argument fizzles in the wake of Proposition D’s success in Berkeley. According to 2012 data from the U.S. Census, the percentage of those living in poverty in Berkeley is higher than in San Francisco. So was income really a factor here?

The answer is still yes. The tax in Berkeley was only half of the one proposed in San Francisco. And if the explanation is still not found in the lack of income among certain voters, then it can be found in the massive incomes of corporations such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. A $7.7 million corporate effort to defeat Proposition E was successful in San Francisco, whereas smaller efforts in Berkeley did not receive the same infusion of cash.

 

What is more obscene, violence or a female nipple?

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Before an American child turns eighteen, they see over two hundred thousand acts of violence and forty-thousand murders on TV but not one female nipple. So what is more obscene?

You would think, even hope, that the answer would be more discernible, but the truth is that it is not. Now, people are trying to answer this question with the Free the Nipple campaign. Free the Nipple is aiming to achieve equality and empower women all over the world. It all started with a film, ‘Free the Nipple’, directed by director, actress, producer, and activist Lina Esco. Inspired by true events, it follows groups of topless young women around New York City to protest censorship of women, which started this powerful dialogue that sparked a viral campaign. Now, #freethenipple is a popular hashtag amongst the social media world and is even grabbing the attention of female celebrities like Liv Tyler, Rihanna, Lena Dunham, and more. The campaign went even further this year when the IRS granted it its 501c3, charity status, allowing the donations made to GoTopless to be 100% tax deductible.

“I’m trying to start a conversation really,” says Esco in an interview with Huffpost Live. “Because it’s an equality issue. If men can be topless, women should be able to be topless. I can’t even go to the beach without a top on… that’s really where it all begins.”

But it is unclear what this campaign really represents in the minds of those retweeting, re-posting, and re-hashtagging it. Do people really understand the intention of the campaign when they come across those words or is it merely just this notion that women want to be topless for the sake of being topless?

Miley Cyrus is another of the many celebrities in support of the campaign and sharing it through social media. “It’s not about getting your titties out. It’s about equality,” Cyrus says.

Sam Rosen is a student at SF State majoring in photography. His instagram receives a few controversial discussions about his #freethenipple photos.

“In my photography, I show nude women occasionally and I’m tired of people getting offended by a little ol’ nipple,” says Rosen. “I think the Free the Nipple campaign is about the policing of women’s bodies and the standard society has set for women that says their breasts are sexual, inappropriate, and vulgar. While men are allowed to walk around in public and post photos to social media with their nipples visible without it being an issue when they are essentially the same body part. Women’s breasts aren’t sexual organs.”

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Even though social media can be a platform for campaigns like Free the Nipple to be shared and go viral, in that same way, social media can be the campaign’s very challenger. While the hashtag #freethenipple is used frequently on Instagram for people to learn about the campaign, this is exactly how Instagram filters content that is against their community guidelines and takes it down with the message, “We removed your post because it doesn’t follow our Community Guidelines. Please read our Community Guidelines to learn what kind of posts are allowed and how you can help keep Instagram safe.”

In other words, to keep Instagram “safe” women need to either be fully clothed or edit the photo to cover up the areola and nipple part of their boobs.

Comedian Chelsea Handler recently fell victim to Instagram’s policy when she posted a racy photo of herself on her Instagram page mocking Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has a photo on his Russian version of Tinder dating profile riding a horse topless. Authentic to the original, Handler was also on horseback completely topless. She shows no more than Putin and no less. Days later, Instagram took the photo down and, in return gave, her their “Community Guidelines” message.

Handler responded to Instagram taking down her photo by re-posting the photo and calling out Instagram’s policy via Twitter by writing, “If Instagram takes this down again, you’re saying Vladimir Putin has more 1st amendment rights than me. Talk to your bosses.”

No surprise, the photo was taken down again.

Handler then posted a snapshot of the message that Instagram sent her when they took it down and captioned it, “If a man posts a photo of his nipples, it’s ok, but not a woman? Are we in 1825?”

While Handler received a lot of support on her Instagram page about the double standards women face when it comes to toplesness and censorship, there were also people that disagreed with her protest.

On a daily gossip blog called “What Would Tyler Durden Do,” which covers big stories of the day in entertainment, celebrity, and media culture, the site responded to Handler’s Instagram feud by saying, “Chelsea Handler is a mediocre comedian, but she’s smart enough to know the First Amendment doesn’t apply to private social media services. Instagram and Facebook can censor whatever the hell they want for whatever reason they want.”

Clearly, we are a nation divided of varying views in censorship.

Esco also mentions that part of her inspiration for the film started when Phoenix Feeley, a friend of hers, was arrested on a beach in New Jersey (a state where it is legal for women to be topless) for sunbathing without a top on. She then went on a hunger strike for nine days while in jail, protesting the reason for her arrest.

I am sure that Feeley’s story would be very confusing to Australians, since in Australia being a topless woman on the beach is not rare at all.

I mean, it wasn’t until 1936 that men in America started showing up to the beach topless. Until then, they wore a very questionable one-piece unitard. That was 80 years ago. But now, of course, it’s not only socially acceptable for a man’s bathing suit to solely be swim shorts, but even on a hot day in the city men can be found shirtless.

Fastforward 56 years to 1992 when it became legal for women to show their bare chests as well- in some states. Washington, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Michigan, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington D.C. currently have ambiguous state laws on women being topless in public. Utah, Indiana, and Tennessee have no tolerance laws.

Although the remaining 31 states that are not mentioned have “top freedom” in effect, some cities in those states have passed unconstitutional ordinances that annul the state’s top free statute. Additionally, even in a state where being topless in public is legal, if somebody complains to the police that it’s indecent exposure, you can get arrested and fined.

Esco’s Free the Nipple film started this whole conversation. The movie was set in New York City, a state that set the precedent in 1992 making it legal for women to be topless in public. However, that does not stop cops from charging topless women anyway. The film also illustrates the cops using excessive force when the women resist being clothed.

Another inspiration for this film came from her best friend, who at 5 months old got kicked out of church with her mother, because her mother was breastfeeding her.

This issue sparks even more dialogue because it is a criminal act for a woman to be topless while breastfeeding in five of those intolerant top freedom states. That is where we are in 2014 – women have to fight for the right to feed their baby in public.

Bare skin through the ages has been a constant struggle for acceptable interpretation. If history is any indication, our country has a long tradition of correcting draconian laws to better fit our modern times.

That is what this campaign is really shooting to accomplish: influencing legislation that will abolish these unequal societal standards.

Another theme that the film addresses is the hypocritical contradictions of our media-dominated society. It questions censorship by the Federal Communications Committee and the Motion Picture Association of America, which regulates all television shows and movies in the United States, and their decisions in what is acceptable versus what is not. Esco asks the FCC to explain the ethical and legal decisions for why it is okay for a child to watch violence on cable television, but when Janet Jackson’s nipple accidentally slips out during her Super Bowl performance, the FCC fines CBS for $550,000.

Esco also aims to understand why when the campaign started, Facebook and Instagram banned the photos of topless women quicker than people could start liking them. But when public beheadings from Saudi Arabia are posted, they remain. What exactly is the rationale here?

Free the Nipple is not about wanting to expose bare chests because women are sexual beings who want to be naked. In fact, it is the exact opposite. It is aiming to give females a basic right – the right to be topless on a beach and the right to breastfeed their baby in public. This is a basic right that American women never really had. The female body is not to be criminalized or sexualized, nor should it be dictated by legislation drafted by males.

It is time to start questioning the policies of censorship. Women should feel empowered by their bodies, not ashamed. Like Chelsea Handler said in her photo, “Anything a man can do, a woman has the right to do better.”

Now Kourtney Kardashian is trying to break the internet

Kourtney Karadashian poses for DeJour magazine. Photo by Brian Bowen Smith
Kourtney Karadashian poses for DeJour magazine. Photo by Brian Bowen Smith

A pregnant and almost naked Kourtney Kardashian graced our computer screens today as word broke that the oldest Kardashian had posed nude for DuJour magazine. Now as we all remember, Kim Karadashian posed nude for PAPER Magazine last month, but Kourtney did not take it as far as Kim.

Reports say that Kourtney was naked, but she actually only shows nipple in one photo. In the other photos, her breast and other private regions are covered. The online nudity that you see from Kourtney is her bare stomach, which looks as if it is going to pop, and her legs. The photo is far from naked.

Kourtney said in her interview “What appeals to me is celebrating the shape of my body being pregnant and capturing that time in my life. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to show my children these photographs one day and say, ‘This was you inside.'” She added that if she was not pregnant she would not have done a naked photo-shoot.

Kourtney’s pictures were, for the most part, tastefully taken but I would not call them nude photos. There is clothing or jewelry covering her, unlike in Kim’s when she dropped her dress and let the whole world see everything. I am not condemning Kourtney for being partially covered, but I was expecting a picture more like Kim’s and less like what you see on People Magazine with celebrities covering their breasts or holding their pregnant bellies.

Good for Kourtney though, enjoying and embracing her pregnant body enough to strip down and bare most of it for our prying eyes.

Lammily, the most prepubescent doll you’ve ever seen

The Lammily doll. Photo from Lammily.com courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.
The Lammily doll. Photo from Lammily.com courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.

Finally, there is a doll available to consumers that will display the exact proportions of a 19-year-old girl, according to CDC data. What a concept, having girls play with and look up to something realistic rather than something unattainable.

In just eight months, visual artist and researcher Nickolay Lamm has raised $501,384 to get the doll out to the public. The Barbie-look-alike called Lammily is now available online just in time for the holiday season.

The doll is shorter and thicker than the real Barbie, has a shorter neck, smaller breasts, and feet that are not constantly resting in invisible high heels. She has little to no makeup on and more mobile limbs to make her seem more like a real person.

Lamm’s hope is that this doll will “promote the beauty of reality.” He explained in his blog earlier this summer that we all have different bodies and that we should not aspire to an idealized standard. Having one doll does not accomplish that fully, but he intends to have dolls of various ethnic backgrounds and healthy body shapes.

Lammily is striving to take the good from its competitors and combine all those things into one doll. It will have the customization of an American girl doll, the pricing of a Barbie doll, and the empowerment of a GoldieBlox toy.

The Lammily doll comes with a variety of stickers that mimic things such as acne, bruises, cellulite, tattoos, stitches, freckles, and stretch marks. Photo from Lammily.com courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.
The Lammily doll comes with a variety of stickers: acne, bruises, cellulite, tattoos, stitches, freckles, and stretch marks. Photo from Lammily.com courtesy of Nickolay Lamm.

The Kickstarter for the doll raised well over its $95,000 goal. Lamm used the extra money on nicer packaging and even created stickers to accessorize and personalize the Lammily doll.

Lammily’s stickers are not your traditional Barbie accessories. There are no rainbows, money, jewelry, or anything fancy like that. Instead, the stickers mimic things such as acne, bruises, cellulite, tattoos, stitches, freckles, stretch marks, moles, and much more.

When the traditional Barbie was released, in 1959, the doll represented a woman that was not of that time. A woman who had her own house, her own car, her own belongings. Barbie revolutionized the ideals that young women could strive for. With Barbie by their side, they could be independent, bold, and beautiful. The only problem was that society took Barbie’s look and lifestyle so literally that the doll was constructed with impossible measurements.

This new “Barbie” is redefining beauty standards for many young girls. The hope is that they will no longer look into the mirror to see acne on their face and be ashamed. Instead, they may say, “Oh, Lammily has those bumps on her face so it must be normal!”

A second grade class in Pittsburgh, PA. was filmed while reacting to the new doll and asked questions about it. Overall, the students were in approval of the doll and tried to articulate the fact that it was more realistic than the Barbie doll they were also shown. The YouTube video was filmed and put together by Lammily creator so watch with a grain of salt but the students’ reactions seem genuine enough for me.

Lammily is available online only and priced at $25.00. The stickers will be available in January for $5.99. With the holidays coming up, Lammily will make a splash in consumerism.

Fatal shooting at Florida State University leaves 3 wounded

Update: The gunman has been identified as Myron May, who fired a semiautomatic .380 caliber handgun, which he reloaded at least once

At 12:30 a.m. a Florida State alumnus and attorney walked into the Florida State library, which was reportedly packed with three hundred students prepping for end-of-semester exams, and opened fire. The gunman left three people wounded before police shot and killed him.

Police were able to stop the gunman after he was confronted outside of the library and ordered him to drop his weapon. He refused and fired a shot at the officers, which led to police firing back, Tallahassee Police spokesman Dave Northway says.

The Washington Post reported that one wounded student could be seen crying out that he had been shot while clutching a bloody leg.

One person is in critical condition and another reported in good condition, while the other victim was released.

Police and FSU officials told the Associated Press that this was an “isolated incident” but have not released many details about the shooter or possible why the shooting happened and how he was able to get onto campus.

FSU sent out an alert after the shooting began, it read: “*FSU ALERT!* Dangerous Situation! Main Campus-Tallahassee, seek shelter immediately, away from doors and windows.”

At 4:15 a.m. an all-clear was given to the school, although classes were canceled for the remainder of Thursday while police continued to interview and investigate the situation.

Pictures and videos of the shooting now appear online, with students screaming, crying, and hiding in fear of the shooter.

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, there have been over seventy-four school shootings.

Bill Cosby Stays Silent About 15 Rape Allegations

Bill Cosby is being accused of multiple accounts of rape and has nothing to say to us about it. The man who has spent decades building up one of the nation’s most proper and morally sound celebrity reputations, is staying silent, leaving all of us to wonder how we could have missed this.

When I first read Bill Cosby’s name in the same sentence as “serial rapist,” I instantly doubted the article. I flashed back to being ten years old, waiting to hear what darling thing Rudy Huxtable would say next to her dad, Cliff. Doctor Huxtable just so happened to be the best dad in the world, right?

Falling asleep to Nick at Night’s reruns of The Cosby Show was not unusual when I was younger. Already so adored by my family from its original airing, just like the beloved Mr. Rogers, he was one of the staples of both my childhood and so many others. The values of family and being a respectable person travelled far past the ending of the show. For years, the following generations have latched on to the same love and upright feeling that emanated from Cosby.

Those dorky sweaters and that wide-eyed smirk portrayed a good man with a big heart, and Cosby sure as hell knew how to milk that. To hear now that allegations have been circulating for years makes my heart sink. Feelings of betrayal and disgust come up, but mostly regretted ignorance to this concern that has somehow coasted under the radar to most of us for so long.

As of Tuesday, when eighties’ supermodel Janet Dickinson joined in as yet another accuser, fifteen women have detailed stories of being sexually assaulted by America’s dad. Fifteen separate stories, all with the same theme of being given a drink and pills, coming to undressed, Cosby on top of them, confused, and in pain.

The only response from the comedian has come from his attorney, which stated that Cosby refused to dignify “decade-old, discredited claims.” Well Mr. Cosby, if you think this is just going to go away again, you are very wrong.

The seventy-seven year old just shook his head in silence when questioned about the allegations during an interview with National Public Radio and has not reached out to the public personally to make a statement. It has guilty written all over it.

To retrace our steps, Cosby’s first alleged assault took place all the way back in 1969. The most recent claim is said to have taken place in 2002, which is at least thirty years of dispersed, horrifying behavior.

In 2005, Andrea Constand filed a lawsuit claiming that Cosby assaulted her back in 2002 at his home in Pennsylvania. With this, eleven other women came forward as witnesses with similar accusations toward him. The comedian was able to settle with Constand out of court and none of the witnesses ever had to testify. It did, however, lead two of the women, Barbara Bowman and Beth Ferrier, to bring their stories to light.

With the accusations out there, Tamera Green, a California lawyer, decided to also speak up in 2005 about her claims that Cosby assaulted her back in the 1970s. And yet another accuser, Joan Tarshis, a music industry publicist and journalist, published her purported assault in explicit detail last Saturday in Hollywood Elsewhere.

Tuesday, Dickinson felt an obligation to go public with her story of assault as well, said to have taken place 1982 in Lake Tahoe. Maybe she felt a well-known face coming forward could help propel action against Cosby? Maybe she is lying, hoping for renewed attention from the media? The public has landed on both sides.

Twitter has served as a sample of the range of feelings surrounding the rape allegations. Understandably, many people refuse to accept that their sweet Cliff Huxtable could do any harm to anyone. Others have been quick to determine that his whole career is a lie and he is a terrible man who has had too much power.

And sadly, the situation has also prompted a plethora of “funny” memes and rape jokes, which inevitably downplay the seriousness of what actually is a horribly disturbing history of a celebrity able to get away with sexual assault because of his level of fame and power and the façade of who he really is.

It makes me sad to hear these women’s stories, like somehow it makes my childhood a lie. If the man who laughed with young children on Kids Say the Darndest Things was also the man who tricked and raped women, how am I supposed to believe anything? How could we all follow this man with admiring eyes, so unaware for so long – letting things like his standup routine about drugging his date go unnoticed after the first round of accusations?

Bill Cosby needs to say something, do something. There is no way the world can ever look at him the same way no matter what the results of this come to be.

Fifteen women.

It is unfortunate that these women did not say something sooner, and they were never able to get Cosby to court when they did. But at least it is out there, and people are actually taking these women seriously now. Why many like myself were blind to such accusations comes down to him being who he is and that persona never being questioned.

It would be nice to take these women’s allegations and throw them under the rug as heresy, but I just cannot do that. Maybe, just maybe if he came forward right away and did something about “false claims” I would still be weighing out the facts, but he did not do that. As much as I wish I could go home and watch The Cosby Show with nostalgia and happiness once more, that will not happen.

Bill Cosby is almost eighty years old, and at some point his depravity, if real, needs to be revealed. Now is that time, and now is when his walls are finally crumbling to the renewed confidence of women who for too long were silenced by fear and ignored by a lack of support against deceitful sweaters and smiles.

It was an impressive run, Mr. Cosby, but it looks like your ridicule of sagging pants and profanity have been dismembered by the claims of far worse crimes.

Breaking: Hundreds of Giants fans turned away at gate

 

Photo under  Creative Commons by randychiu
Photo under Creative Commons by randychiu

Update: After the fiasco of what happened last Monday, the Giants acknowledged their error and attempted to make it right to their fans by either offering assistance in purchasing tickets to the National League Championship Series before they went on sale to the public or compensating a game in the 2015 season.

The Giants are also making sure this issue does not happen again by sending out emails notifying fans that their ticket should read “NLCS Home Game One” and posting examples on their Twitter and Facebook. As for the expense that were put out to get to the game, i.e. parking, Bart, or toll, they will not be reimbursing fans for those expenses.

Today at AT&T Park, hundreds of Giants fans were turned away at a game for having tickets to “home game three,” a game that does not exist since there will be only two home games at AT&T park.

According to Giants representatives, the tickets were originally sold when there was belief that the Giants were going to have a game three, this was before the Giants played the Pirates. When the Giants won the wildcard and continued on to face the Nationals, the schedule changed but not the tickets.

The Giants failed to email and notify hundreds of fans that their tickets, which were already purchased, were invalid for any NLDS game. The Giants informed their fans that their money would be reimbursed after the Giants’ season was over. As for all other expenses, well sometimes you have take a loss.
 

Remembering Joan Rivers, A Comic Legend

Joan Rivers at Michael Musto's 25th Anniversary Party. Creative Commonsphoto by David Shankbone
Joan Rivers at Michael Musto’s 25th Anniversary Party. Creative Commons photo by David Shankbone

Written by Tami Benedict 

Legendary comedian Joan Rivers died in a New York hospital Thursday, a week after going into cardiac arrest during a medical procedure.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my mother, Joan Rivers,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement today. “She passed peacefully at 1:17 p.m. surrounded by family and close friends. My son and I would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and staff of Mount Sinai Hospital for the amazing care they provided for my mother.”

Rivers, 81, was put on life support at Manhattan’s Mount Sinai hospital after she stopped breathing during a minor voluntary surgery at Yorkville Endoscopy. The clinic is now being investigated by the New York State Health Department.

The E! “Fashion Police” host was well known for her foul mouth and politically incorrect statements. She was not afraid to push buttons with her raunchy style of comedy. She was both scandalous and charming.

Her love for couture helped build her now famous catchphrase, “Who are you wearing?” A lifelong fashionista, she began doing red carpet coverage in the mid-1990s.

As harsh as Rivers could be, she made it clear that at times, it is ok to laugh at yourself, even telling her grandson to call her “Nana New Face.”

Rivers’ death was a shock to the nation, especially after seeing her at the MTV Movie Awards and the Emmys.

Although people may not have agreed with Rivers’ comedic style, I believe that she was still respected in the business. Rivers showed us that standing up for what we believe in was the right thing to do, regardless of how bad it may sound.

A Sunday service is set for Temple Emanu-El near Rivers’ East Side apartment, although it was unclear if the public would be invited.