Trump cruelly reinstates military ban on transgender people

As if Donald Trump couldn’t violate LGBT rights any further, today he spewed the following harsh announcement on Twitter.

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Trump’s decision rolled back the policy initially approved by the Department of Defense under President Barack Obama that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. Ash Carter, the Secretary of Defense under Obama, ended the ban on transgender troops in 2016, but allowed for a year-long review process to allow the Pentagon to determine how it would accept new transgender recruits into the military. Last month, current Defense Secretary James Mattis announced on the eve of the one-year deadline that he was delaying the implementation of the new policy, saying in a memo that he’s been debating whether accepting new transgender recruits into the military will “affect the readiness and lethality of the force.”

According to a 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense, allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and healthcare costs. Out of 1.3 million personnel in the force, only 15,500 service members identify as transgender. However, not all transgender vets in the active component will seek hormonal treatment–between 29 and 129 of them annually will seek gender transition related-care that could possibly interfere with their ability to deploy. When they do seek treatment for their transition–surgery, hormone medication, etc.–the cost ranges from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, which comprises an “exceedingly small proportion” of total healthcare expenditures, capped at $49.3 billion.

Barring transgender people from enrolling in the armed forces simply because they are a financial “burden” on the military in terms of healthcare when they pose no financial ramifications at all is just as cruel a decision as forbidding transgender students to use a bathroom that matches their gender identity. This decision has become akin to bringing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy out of the wood works.

Once Trump pisses off the LGBT community, he gets the entire country pissed off. We need to place harsher checks and balances on this pompous asshole because, quite frankly, he’s proven to me that he doesn’t care about anyone except himself. I had a feeling he was talking shit when he said he was going to fight for LGBT rights.

 

Rumour Has It: Space Jam 2 Finally in Production

Space Jam was an all-time favorite flick for me and my brother growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Over and over again, we would watch NBA legend Michael Jordan shoot hoops alongside the Looney Tunes in a cosmic basketball game against the Monstars, the ginormous forms of the Nerdlucks, who steal and absorb talents from Jordan’s NBA peers and transform into the likeness of the respective players–Pound, the orange alien leader, tranforms into Charles Barkley; Nawt (red) into Muggsy Bogues; Bang (green) into Patrick Ewing; Blanko (blue) into Shawn Bradley; and Bupkus (purple) into Larry Johnson–to take the Looney Tunes and enslave them in their failing amusement park by order of their greedy boss, Mr. Swackhammer (voiced by the incomparable Danny DeVito). At one point, my brother and I, as well as some of our friends and relatives, may have secretly wished for a sequel simply because of how good Space Jam was, especially since it brilliantly executed the live-action/animation hybrid filming style just like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? before it. Now, nearly 20 years later and entering the second round of this year’s NBA Playoffs, that wish is about to come true. But not in a way we imagined it at first.

After nearly a year of Internet speculation regarding Space Jam 2, The Hollywood Reporter journalist Rebecca Ford released a statement that Justin Lin, director of four Fast & Furious films since 2006’s Tokyo Drift and upcoming Star Trek Beyond, and co-writers Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello are working on a script for the long-awaited sequel to the film starring Warner Bros.’s celebrated cartoon gang, the Looney Tunes. Space Jam 2 will also star not Michael Jordan, but his youngest successor LeBron James.

As a cinemaniac, I’m happy to hear that production of Space Jam 2 is actually underway. However, as an animaniac, I’m very skeptical about how the animation of the Looney Tunes will turn out in the film given the current trends seen on Cartoon Network. Although reruns of the original Looney Tunes cartoons are still being aired at from 10 to 11am on the weekdays, the animation standards for the recent shows have been driven to the ground. The voice-acting’s great, sure. But the problem lies in character design. Yes, I understand the character designs in the original Looney Tunes have been remodified through the decades ’til the death of the original and sole voice actor Mel Blanc, but the designs of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird et al were just fine in Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back in Action, as well as some animated series that aired some time after, like Duck Dodgers. I know that in Space Jam, the cartoon characters were CGI-animated to a minimal extent because CGI-animation in the 90s was not as advanced as it is in today’s animated films, but I’m afraid that the designs of the characters, not to mention their personalities, are gonna be as distasteful and unappealing as they are in The Looney Tunes Show and Wabbit.

For the athlete in question. I was expecting a plot involving Bugs and the gang summoning Michael Jordan back to their world to play against another team that’s twice as intimidating as the Monstars with a different motive. But since Jordan has retired from basketball for good, save for owning the Charlotte Hornets, Warner Bros. has LeBron James in his place. I believe they made the right choice to pick James to help out the Looney Tunes this time around. He gave a stellar performance in Trainwreck, so I’ll give him a chance with Space Jam 2. I still have his Miami Heat jersey (#6) hanging in my closet, and I will happily wear it the day the movie is released, whenever that will be.

The only question I have now is, how come LeBron James didn’t tweet anything about Space Jam 2?

 

Humans and Doves Remember the Artist Formerly Known as Prince

Humans and Doves Remember the Artist Formerly Known as Prince

Attention, birdwatchers. Look closely at the two white doves perched up on a tree in your backyard. You may notice that they’re crying a thousand tears and singing a mournful tune. Did they lose a baby dove? No. They lost the man who turned their avian woes into an mega ’80s classic: The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

The artist formerly known as Prince (born Prince Rogers Nelson), the driving force behind the powerful and sometimes controversial chart-topping singles like “When Doves Cry,” “Kiss,” “Little Red Corvette,” and “1999,” has passed away today at the age of 57 in his Paisley Park recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Not a lot is known about the cause of his death other than he was battling the flu since earlier this month, forcing to, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, cancel a concert in Georgia’s capital city. On April 14, he performed for his fans in Atlanta, playing the piano instead of his iconic purple guitar for nearly an hour and a half. Afterwards, Prince’s plane had to make an emergency landing so that his illness can be treated in the hospital. The pop star did recover from the flu, but just one week later, someone close to Prince found him unresponsive in an elevator at the record studio and called the medics. He was confirmed dead upon their arrival.

Prince was one of my favorite ’80s pop musicians my mother introduced me to from a very young age. He took on a multitude of creative risks, such as donning outfits in one or many shades of purple, changing his alias as he saw fit–aside from earning the nickname “His Royal Badness,” Prince also went by Alexander Nevermind, Jamie Starr, and in 1993 switched his stage name to “Love Symbol” (Prince logo.svg)–create alter egos and, to the shock of some parents of ’80s kids and teens, wrote sexually provocative lyrics in some of his songs. (“Darling Nikki” prompted Al Gore’s wife Tipper to found the Parents Music Resource Center and urge the recording industry to stamp the “PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT CONTENT” disclaimer on music CDs containing lyrics not suitable for young children.)

Here are some of my favorite hits from the Purple One.

“When Doves Cry” (1984)

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Written for the film Purple Rain and album of the same name, “When Doves Cry” tells the story of a love affair and intermingled parental difficulties (“Maybe I’m just too demanding / Maybe I’m just like my father, too bold / Maybe I’m just like my mother / She’s never satisfied”). This single earned the movie an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and was ranked #5 on VH1’s list of “The 100 Greatest Songs of the ’80s,” making it Prince’s signature song. Every time I hear this song, I have daydreams of Dr. Eggman–or me cosplaying as Sonic’s arch-nemesis–busting out killer dance moves, and I don’t know why.

 

“Little Red Corvette” (1983)

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As a kid, I thought “Little Red Corvette” was literally about the red low-riding sports car that some guys love to drive in. Actually, the “Little Red Corvette” Prince was referring to is a pretty but promiscuous woman with whom he experiences a one-night stand. He urges her to slow down and tells her that she “needs love that’s gonna last” because her tendency to sleep with one man after another is going to hurt her in the long run. Okay… This song was a little awkward to put in, but I heard it, so… “I guess that makes it all right”?

 

“Kiss” (1986)

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One of the many songs Prince performed with The Revolution, “Kiss” started out as a 60-second acoustic demo, comprised of a single 12-bar blues verse. Prince gave the song to funk band Mazarati for their self-titled debut album. After hearing the final product, which contained a stripped-down minimalist sound, Prince was amazed by the soulful funk beat and decided to take it back for himself, but was kind enough to give Mazarati credit for their backing vocals. Plus, that guitar break!  “Kiss” became another signature song for Prince, earning him a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. This song was also featured in the film Under the Cherry Moon, which Prince acted and directed.

 

“Black Sweat” (2006)

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A single from the album 3121, “Black Sweat” introduced a combination of minimalist funk and hip hop elements, with drums and high-pitched synthesizers the only instruments being played in the background of Prince’s falsetto vocals. I thank my former jazz teacher for introducing me and the rest of her elementary- and middle school-aged students at the time (I was 12 and in 6th Grade) to this song and giving us the opportunity to perform a dance to this song for our parents.

 

Thank you, Prince, for giving my mother the greatest songs for her to share with me. Now, rest in peace on the wings of doves.

P.S. The three-eyed shades really show your true creative genius.

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On Freedom of Speech: A Response to an Egyptian Author’s Arrest

When E.L. James released the provocative BDSM novel Fifty Shades of Grey in 2012, the British government didn’t slap her with a long-term prison sentence for writing “sexually explicit” material, nor did they stop it from selling millions of copies worldwide. Four years later, Ahmed Naji has been sentenced to two years in prison by the Egyptian government for producing the same content in his novel Using Life, an excerpt of which was published in a magazine. The prosecutors believed that Ahmed’s writings violated public modesty, saying that a man experienced heart palpitations, an illness of some form, and plummeting blood pressure after reading an excerpt of the book.

I normally don’t write about things like this due to the sexual content involved, but because I am a proponent of universal free speech, I’m making Naji’s case an exception.

The United Nations stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that every human being “shall enjoy freedom of speech.” Unfortunately, there are courts in some countries, like Egypt, that are depriving their citizens of that basic human right in the name of modesty, and those who dare to write and/or create products they deem to have intellectual and substantial value are facing prosecution for exercising that right. Ahmed Naji is one of those creative people. I don’t agree with the fact that he threw some steamy sex scenes in his book–then again, I haven’t read Using Life because it hasn’t been shipped to the U.S.–but according to Article 19 of Egypt’s constitution, Naji does have the right to express his views in that manner as long as he exercises some responsibility. The least he could’ve done was have his publisher place disclaimers before the first page or on the back of the book that warn readers that certain material contained therein–i.e. obscenities–may not be suitable for some, especially children and those with weak constitutions. But the Egyptian court decided to call Naji’s novel a legal offense to morality regardless; therefore they are violating the right to free speech granted by their own constitution.

You don’t have to like certain material that people write, paint or sing, but don’t imprison writers and artists for providing such content in their creations. I don’t read Fifty Shades of Grey because of the explicit content and a lack of substance, yet other people have been reading the trilogy. Yes, I’m discontent with the existence of the series, but I don’t call the author nor her readers out on it legally, especially the author. If James wants to continue writing steamy novels for her fans across the pond and beyond, I won’t judge her because she is within her rights to produce such content as long as she’s conscious about the impact her work might leave on the world. Fifty Shades of Grey surely left a mark on the pop culture industry, as it was adapted into a feature film, with two more films–or three, if Fifty Shades Freed will be released in two parts–in production. I detested Family Guy for the exact same reason when I was younger despite the TV-14 rating, so I shielded my eyes from it as much as possible. It was only during my high school years did I slowly understand the reason behind the show’s popularity: Just as with The Simpsons, the producers of Family Guy, especially series creator Seth MacFarlane, offer their satirical view of every aspect of society as we know it by way of cutaway gags, from pop culture to politics to religion to the education system. Did I call the producers out on some of the mature content they placed in the show? No. But some conservative groups, including the infamous Parents Television Council (PTC) have written to Fox, imploring the network to cancel the series since the very first episode aired in 1999 despite the fact that they place a “VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISORY” disclaimer at the beginning of each episode. Family Guy initially got cancelled in 2003 due to low ratings, but a boost in DVD sales and rerun viewings on Adult Swim prompted the production and airing of new episodes, thus proving an animated show of its kind is too popular to be silenced by the demands of über conservatism.

Sure, Fifty Shades and Family Guy had their controversial moments, but at least nobody directly involved in these creative endeavors got arrested for “destroying social values.” Why should both Ahmed Naji and his novel be any different?

Miss Universe 2015, Miscrowned (with Memes)

I wanted to go out to New York City with my family last night, but we all decided to stay at my grandparents’ house to watch the 64th Miss Universe pageant. I thought that since Donald Trump no longer owns the Miss Universe pageant because of his racist remarks towards the Mexicans, it would no longer air on TV. Of course, Fox volunteered to air every man’s favorite pageant on their channel.

That’s not the point, though.

The highlight of the night was Steve Harvey, the master of ceremonies, giving the Miss Universe crown to Miss Colombia, who bears some resemblance to Sofia Vergara, by mistake. As Ariadna Gutiérrez, the contestant representing Colombia, was basking in the glory of having been crowned Miss Universe, the most coveted pageant title since 1952, Harvey rushed back to the stage a minute later to announce that he had misread the cue card. The crown is supposed to go to Pia Wurtzbach of the Philippines, making Miss Colombia the first runner-up (Miss USA Olivia Jordan is the second runner-up).

It was a shock, I understand, but I had a feeling that Miss Philippines was going to win the pageant, anyhow.

Although Steve Harvey apologized for his mistake both onstage and on Twitter, everyone and their sister created a perfect storm of memes poking fun at his human error. Here are some of my favorites.

 

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Steve Harvey already apologized for miscrowning Miss Colombia, but someone still had the brilliant idea of covering Justin Bieber’s face with Harvey’s in a parody of Bieber’s latest hit “Sorry.”
Miss Universe 2015 meme
Miss Colombia’s 15 minutes of fame was literally cut short.
Steve Harvey misspelling meme
A “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” inspired meme. Answers A and B are the misspellings of “Philippines” and “Colombia” that Harvey wrote in his original tweet, which was deleted and replaced with the correct spellings of both countries’ names.
Oprah Winfrey Miss Universe meme
Remember “You get a car, and you get a car! Everyone gets a car!”? This meme is precisely what I believe Oprah would say to young girls and women with self-esteem issues.
Steve Harvey mistake
Some of us want Friday to last forever, but Steve Harvey reminds us that it’s Monday and we have to go back to work or school for the next five days.

I wouldn’t worry too much about Miss Colombia. There’s still a chance she might win Miss Congeniality.

 

Love Muslims, Don’t Punish Them

“There is no bad religion, there are only bad people.” 
~ Morgan Freeman

Donald Trump is at it again, spewing discriminating words out of his mouth like vomit. He said that, in light of recent terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, CA, Muslims should be barred from entering the United States “until we figure out what the hell is going on.”

That is just flat-out blasphemy.

What’s also blasphemy is the fact that half the state governors, if not all, reject the idea of allowing Syrian refugees to immigrate to their states.

The government doesn’t have the license to punish the majority of Muslims for the crimes Islamic extremists committed against the innocent people of the United States and abroad between 9/11 and today. Just because al-Qaeda and ISIS killed people for the sake of living out their twisted interpretation of the Quran, doesn’t mean the rest of the Muslim population is gonna follow through. In fact, many American Muslims have reported suspected acts of terrorism to law enforcement–more often than the CIA ever did. Muslims have condemned the heinous acts committed by al-Qaeda and ISIS because they do not reflect the actual teachings of Islam, which is to live in peace and harmony with all humanity. Hence, prohibiting all Muslims from entering the United States from Syria, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East is unjustified.

I’m pretty sure Franklin D. Roosevelt received a shipload of criticism for enforcing the interment of Japanese-Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

If we really exposed ourselves to the cultures of our neighbors, we would open our eyes a lot wider and tolerate them more.

They say that one bad apple spoils the whole bunch. That old adage doesn’t apply to ethnic groups.

Birth of a Saint (West)

Kim Kardashian gave birth to a son on Saturday, Dec. 5. Since Kardashian and Kanye West’s firstborn daughter, born June 15, 2013, is named North West, fans were hoping that they would christen their new child with yet another directional moniker as a running gag to Kanye’s surname.

I was hoping that Kimye would name the boy Elton after Elton John, but when Easton West started trending on Twitter I joined the party and tweeted this:

Easton West tweet

At least the name had the suffix “-ton” in it, so Easton was as close to Elton as it was ever gonna get.

Today, as I was grabbing some cold cuts at Publix, I logged into Twitter to discover that Kimye never actually named their son Easton as the Internet speculated. They decided to go with a religious theme and christen their new baby boy… Saint.

I’ve been told it’s bad to assume things. Then again, everyone and their sister was assuming the kid’s name would be Easton. Still, I went with a religious theme in the following tweet (I’m Catholic, though not an exactly orthodox one):

Saint West tweet

I have heard of boys bearing the name Jesus (with the Spanish pronunciation Hey-ZOOS), but Saint? That’s a very rare name new parents would even dare to think of for their child, especially now that more than 20 percent of people in the United States are considered atheists or agnostics.

Let’s see how the name Saint plays out for the next 18 years, shall we?