Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hanging out in downtown Manhattan, supporting women's rights

I'm normally not very political with this blog (recent Bahrain post excluded), but bear with me here. Today I attended my very first protest, and I am awash with the kind of crazy, self-righteous, angry energy that I assume one only gets from standing in the cold for three hours chanting things like "Political Defiance! Political Defiance!" and "No We Won't! No We Won't! (in response to whether we were going to take this outrage lying down)"

To keep it brief, the House of Representatives (click here to see if your Rep was a party to this...) recently passed a bill which denies all federal funding to the nonprofit organization Planned Parenthood. A bill which would, effectively, bankrupt it. If this bill also passes in the Senate and is signed off on by President Obama, millions of women will no longer have access to affordable health care services like screenings for breast cancer, cervical cancer, and HPV; STD testing; sex and family planning education; prenatal care; and contraception. 

The reasoning behind those in support of this bill is: Because [in addition to ALL of these important, life-sustaining services Planned Parenthood offers women] PP provides abortion services, they should not receive government funding. Abortion is a hot-button issue and I don't want to get into the messy debate usually associated with that, but I will say this: If Planned Parenthood is forced to close because of this bill, millions of American women will no longer be able to afford reproductive health care. This will mean more teenage pregnancies; the spread of STDs, cervical cancer, and breast cancer; and a country with a culture that blatantly disregards women's interests. Not good things.

OK. End rant. Now, more on the actual event.

So, the protest rally itself was kind of awesome. There were all of those things one expects to see at a protest: picket signs, stickers & buttons, important people speaking at a podium, musicians singing while strumming acoustic guitars, and a general orgy of facial piercings and other forms of body art. There were also things I didn't know belonged in a protest setting: mothers with strollers, women in their 70s and 80s pushing forward to get to the front of the action, guys without their girlfriends (i.e., there of their own volition), and a miniature poodle I silently nominated as our mascot and dubbed "Protest Puppy." Please leave any better suggestions for this brave pup in the comments below!

All in all, I'm very glad I made it out. This protest thing was one of many new experiences I've had in the city, and was definitely a more exciting way to spend my Saturday afternoon than fumbling around with laundry or going out for groceries or any number of mundane things I usually end up taking care of on my weekends...

See pics below from the rally. And thanks for humoring me this one uncharacteristically semi-serious post!

Just a bunch of angry people with signs, move along now, nothing to see here--

                                                                  Protest Puppy!

This sign is a response to this highly controversial anti-abortion ad campaign.

Later, when the sun started to set and it got colder, some resourceful protesters moved to the sunny steps!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Conversations with Other Women--trick title

I mentioned my recent Netflix subscription in a previous blog post. At first I was hesitant. For years, it seems, I've listened with deaf ears to others rave about this site. 

No more.

I finally bit the bullet and subscribed to their $10-or-something-a-month service and, suddenly, the world is my oyster. I can put any movie I ever dreamed of watching and decided against because the cost of tickets in New York is upwards of $12 into my queue and, in a few days, it arrives in my mailbox like a love letter or a tax return or a particularly funny birthday card with a fat check and "blow this on booze" in the subject line. 

Also, I can watch TONS of awesome movies instantly with their instant streaming option. Which means I never have to wonder what I should do when it's kind-of/sort-of snowing outside and I'm feeling like not setting foot out of my apartment if I don't absolutely have to. Today was one such day and I streamed an indie film I'd never heard of (perhaps just because I'm not that cool) called Conversations with Other Women.

This movie broke my heart and made me fall in love at the same time. The lead woman in it is Helena Bonham Carter--the woman who played Mrs. Lovett so wonderfully in Sweeney Todd, as well as the fantastically horrifying Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter franchise, and who, for some reason, reminds me A LOT of Brittany Murphy? 

She is GREAT as the "woman" in this movie and Aaron Eckhart (probably best known for his epic role in The Dark Night) is equally awesome as the "man."

I won't spoil the plot, but I'll tell you there's a huge twist on the premise about thirty minutes in that will make you go "Ohhhh...."

And that it will remind you of the time(s) you were in love. And will probably make you cry, but also leave you strangely satisfied. Unless you are a soulless humanoid, in which case you will feel nothing throughout the entire 90-minutes, except at one point when you realize that you should plug yourself into an outlet soon or your circuit board will run out of juice.

Also note, the entire movie is shot in two panels. This is annoying at first, but becomes cool quickly. Wait for it.

That's really all I want to say about it... Anything else and I'll spoil the surprise. But, if you have Netflix, watch this. And if you don't, either get Netflix so that you can instant stream it and also never be bored again, or, I don't know, go to a Blockbuster (if you can find one that hasn't gone out of business...)--or buy it on Amazon. But, most importantly, find a way to watch this movie and then, please please, contact me so we can have a conversation about it. Perhaps with other women. (Too cheesey?? Maybe, but yes, I went there.)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bye Bye, Bahrain. I Never Knew Ye.

So this time tomorrow night I was supposed to be on a plane to Bahrain. My mom and I planned this trip several months ago. We were going to visit my aunt, uncle, and triplet 12-year-old boy cousins, and I was going to swim in their pool, pretend to be a fellow 12-year-old with my cousins, finally catch up with my Uncle, and browse the exotic Middle Eastern markets while getting some much needed bonding time with my Aunt and Mom. But apparently the Bahraini government had other plans.

Their plans differed greatly from mine in that they involved killing several people and wounding hundreds of others in a cowardly sneak attack on sleeping peaceful protesters last night. In light of this sudden chain of events, my mom and I decided we should probably postpone our trip for a time in the Middle East when there isn't so much political unrest (ha!).

I'm really pretty bummed about cancelling the trip and spending next week in the office instead of on a beautiful island, but I'm even more upset about how it's the twenty-first century and people are still literally dying for democracy. All of my thoughts are with the modern-day martyrs for freedom of expression, and, especially in the case of Bahrain, equality regardless of differences in religion (see Shiite and Sunni, the two opposing Muslim sects involved in this country-wide dispute).

I often bemoan the imperfections of the United States (not so much on this blog, but in the privacy of my own mind, where these lamentations are not nearly as annoying as they are in casual discourse), but we as a people are truly blessed in so many ways. If I wanted to, I could go out, buy a flag, and burn it in the middle of my street. The only thing I would get in trouble for would probably be breaking some sort of fire code.

There would be no tear gas involved, and no physical retaliation unless it was by some zealously patriotic bystander, which, in the Northeast, would not be likely. Bottom line: no acid would be thrown on my face and I would not risk dismemberment for actively demonstrating my opinion, whatever opinion one demonstrates when one burns an American flag...I wouldn't know what that opinion is exactly. Maybe an aversion to stripes, or the teacher who insisted you recite the pledge of allegiance every day, or conformity, or the recent cancellation of Ugly Betty. Wow. So many things. As an FYI, anyone who participates in this kind of protest should probably accompany it with a sign and/or pamphlets in order to make sure people know what the hell statement you're after... Simply "I hate America" probably won't work, either, if that's the message. People are strange and usually question the "why" of things. Or at least I do.

Anyway, I guess what I'm saying is that if I ever were going to burn a flag and create the accompanying pamphlets necessary to explain my off-kilter reasoning behind such an act, today is not that day. Today I feel pretty damn lucky to be in this country, and I sincerely hope that those in the Middle East, after just a fraction of the exhorbitant amount of freedom Americans enjoy and probably take for granted in our everyday lives, succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

Good luck to you guys, seriously. I'll be watching your story with interest, hoping it's one I recount to unbelievably bored future grandchildren while explaining to them that, back in my day, we had dictators on planet earth.

And also, gay marriage was illegal.

Then they will yawn and ask me to take them out for ice cream. And I probably will--in my sweet flying car :)