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Archive for the ‘Hopeful thoughts’ Category

“How very wet this water is.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

d_oh_posterWell … yeah.

A keen grasp of the obvious can be considered a skill, and often is by those who take pride in noticing something everyone notices, then bringing it to the attention of other noticers as if “I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born” and such are revelations. (Quote attribution: Ronald Reagan. Yes. Really.)

Yes, it is hot and, yes, politicians lie and the earth is not flat and water is wet; film at 11 FFS!

“I figured something out. The future is unpredictable.”
John Green

It’s as plain as the nose on your face … but this is where the obvious gets tricky. No, not the future, but right here, right now.

Try this little exercise: Let’s assume you’re reading this post at the moment; pause after this line to think about what you see.

Words on the page? A glass of white wine? Some scenery? The covers of some books?

Okay. Now think about what you don’t see. Not the existential angst residing between the lines or possible motives for a woman to pass time so far up her own ass that she is compelled to write the shit down, but what you don’t SEE.

Your nose. You don’t see your nose, even though it’s right there in front of your organs of site, and depending on genetics could be blocking the view a bit, which is the reason the “Got Yer Nose” trick freaks little kids out.

This isn’t an ‘elephant in the room’ sort of thing, intentionally ignored for sake of convenience, but a part of your very own physical presence … and you miss it completely.

Despite the amazing resolution and sophistication the visual system has, what could be argued as one of its most interesting features is a mechanism of noise filtration in which the brain effectively ignores irrelevant information it receives, even resulting in features in the environment being completely deleted from the scene a person sees. One of the most familiar examples of this is that you can’t see your own nose when you look at a scene. The position of the nose means it should take a commanding, even blocking position in the visual field, and prevent us seeing objects in front of it. However, we never see the dark shadow of our nose when we look around. This is because the brain filters out the stimulus. Instead, it seems the scene is ‘filled in’ where the nose should be with what the brain ‘expects’ to see- the nose is there all the time, but rarely provides anything informative, so can usefully be ignored.

Which begs the question: What else are we missing?

Quite a lot, actually, and the more attention we pay, the more we miss through what is known as ‘inattentional blindness’:

One would imagine, that when a person is concentrating intensely on a task which involves vision, that they would be more observant. It seems, the opposite is the case, and they are in fact much more likely to miss obvious features in a scene presented right in front of their eyes. A famous example is what happens when subjects are shown a video of a basketball match, and are asked to count the number of passes that happen during a game sequence. During play, a person dressed in a gorilla costume crosses the shot. When asked to report on what they saw, a 1999 study showed subjects could report the number of passes observed, yet, incredibly did not report seeing the gorilla if asked whether they noticed anything unusual about the video. In fact, people appear flummoxed when they are told the gorilla featured, and are astounded when they watch the video back, knowing that it will appear.

Whether through inattentional blindness, preconceived notions or rose-tented specks, our capacity for a truly keen grasp of the obvious is greatly limited, and would serve us well to keep that in mind as we stumble more-than-half blindly through the world.

So, the next time you decide to point out that ‘it’s so feckin’ hot’ or ‘sitting in traffic sucks’ or ’Trump is a moron’, don’t worry too much about some Charlie Fletcher-like dude calling you “… the grand bloody panjandrum of the painfully bleeding obvious.”

Just give a smile that lets them know they might well have missed those bits. That’s my plan, so you who spend time in my company … you’re welcome.

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Hope is the only universal liar who never loses his reputation for veracity. ~ Robert G. Ingersoll

livingontheedgeI am not a control freak. I easily delegate, happily let others get on with whatever their thang happens to be, accept the changing tides and times. Heck, I’m even happy enough grasping the idea that comfort zones need a slap upside the head from time-to-time and change can be a good thing.

I’ve lived long enough to get that bumps in the road make sense when looking back on the journey, that time heals wounds (or vice versa), that good things come to those who wait, and all those other aphorisms routinely trotted out when life is crappy.

 

But …

When the list of things I have absolutely zero control, influence, even minor sway over is thirty times more impressive than the couple of bulls whose horns I can manage to take … well …

I try to grow hope.

Hope: aspiration, desire, wish, expectation, ambition, aim, goal, plan, design; optimism, expectation, expectancy; confidence, conviction, assurance; promise, possibility. Yeah, there more versions of hope than there are shards of broken glass on a beach, and although forming an aspiration or two is easy enough, expectations that plans or designs will provide assurance, or even possibility, rather lack conviction. As Robert Burns so well put it, albeit most likely with a touch of whiskey and haggis on his breath … which may account for all Scots talking funny …

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Having found my bootstraps on many occasions and tugging fiercely, often for years, I am well practiced. My kids’ lives are sorted safely, securely and happily, so I can put down the lead umbrella I’ve been holding since the age of seventeen. I can take care of myself. I don’t need saving or completing and I’m okay with seeing to my own daily needs.

Ain’t life grand?

Compared to some, mine is pretty great — roof overhead, wine in the fridge — and I’m not knocking what I have, what I have worked for, or the plans I’ve made that actually almost worked out. Neither am I regretting … anything.

I am, however, doubting an adage I once trusted; that things happen for reasons and in their own time.

Another relationship ending disappointingly, thousands of miles between me and my kids, a tenacious tether to property, advancing age that has done jack shit to lower my desires or expectations … all beyond any jurisdiction I find in my realm.

Hope is the feeling we have that the feeling we have is not permanent.                              ~ Mignon McLaughlin

I know I don’t have many years left, more behind me than ahead, and very much want to live fully, but am feeling restraints it seems I have no power to loosen. Doing what I can … involving myself in endeavors I find worthy, learning stuff I’ve not paused to cozy up to in the past, conversing with those I like, admire or disagree with … fills time and brings some relief, but I’m frustrated as I feel days and weeks and months and years flash past … and don’t mind.

Some would call it ‘being at loose ends’, but it feels more like the tank is running low, and although I’d like a refill there doesn’t seem to be fuel around and I don’t know where to even look anymore.

The free-floating anxiety I’ve experienced in the past is returning and I find myself again constantly checking the sky for shit asteroids, even though I know damned well you never see them coming.

I have been, however, gently nurturing a few seeds of hope. I’ll see my small kids in a couple of months — always a bright light that warms. I’ll continue to try to sell my place to free myself up for more travel, more adventures. I’ll finish that fuckin’ book I’ve been working on. I’ll continue to lend my voice to those who think it will help.

I’m not 80 … part of the hill is still before me … and a quarter tank just might get me further than I think.

Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. ~ Anne Lamott

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For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
~T.S. Eliot

The_Little_Engine_That_Could1Anyone reading me for a while knows I have no great fondness for the changing of the years and the obligatory omphaloskepsis that accompanies the calendar flip it requires.

Not only does it mean more thinking about time and its passing, causing an infernal hesitation before jotting dates on checks and documents, it stirs shit that has taken 364 days to settle uncomfortably to the surface and forces contemplation of said shit.

In the grand scheme of quantum quandaries linear time doesn’t exist, an idea rejected out of hand by our puny biological built-in chronometers, so just try moving your head beyond the day-by-day plodding that can only feel to us like a train moving along a straight stretch track and hell-bent on a final destination not to be found on any map we know of.

Pausing at stations along the way is an illusion, as the train is always moving, and always in the same direction. It may seem we’ve dallied, stepped off to enjoy time on the platform, but it’s all just part and parcel of the ride.

Accepting that, we ignore the train and try our best to focus on the journey. Throwing ourselves into our personal odysseys (and occasionally under the train … bus … whatever …) and using our imagined stops along the way to gauge the distance traveled and judge progress feels natural to us, so that’s what we do.

Being confronted by the timetable on a regular basis hits hard though, and once a year there are few ways to avoid the slap upside the head. The turn of the page from one year to the next shows us an indication of how far along the track we’ve traveled, and the angst in our baggage is prompted to contemplate every stop we didn’t make, how much we have added to our load, how much we’ve lost, and how long we’ll keep moving.

Some choose to imagine an engineer in control, some expert that guides the trip up and down mountains, through tunnels and avoiding obstacles along the way. It’s handy and alleviates responsibility, but the fact is we are all driving our own trains; storms, fallen trees, rusting components, precarious terrain are ours to deal with as they happen; there’s no reversing and no stopping until the end is reached. It is for us to navigate, to face decaying bridges in the dark and make necessary repairs to keep the damned train moving.

Personally, I find it much easier to calibrate myself with a new timetable when the track ahead appears to be clear. Once again, though, that’s not the case with the flip from 2015 to 2016. I know what’s behind me, but have no idea what’s ahead, and if there is a light at the end of this tunnel I just hope it’s not the headlamp of another train set to derail the one I’m driving.

In preparation for contingencies, I’m trying to work out a strategy.

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

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A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these she said is roots, the other, wings. ~William Hodding Carter

8f4e475e09b0cabef9884f079ebd24e2Sam went to Germany for the weekend. A school trip had him en route for about as long as he was en Cologne, but it seems he enjoyed the trip and, equally as important to me, is now safely back in his home in England.

It’s not easy to sit on the sidelines as my children get on with life in other parts of the world. Not at all.

My eldest, Jenn, being an adult, and a very sensible one at that, has been taking care of her own family for 20+ years, but that’s not to say I’m worry-free when it comes to her. I keep an eye on the weather in North Carolina and fret constantly over her health, her safety and her happiness as is proper, still being her mother and all. Too much sharing of my anxious thoughts, however, would be annoying for her, so I mostly keep them to myself.

Sam and Cj, being young and now far, are another story. Although completely trusting in the environment they now inhabit and the wonderful woman who cares for them in every way as I would, I still lose sleep.

They’re in a different, wider, more dangerous world now, so my worries have expanded as they ride their bikes to the park and go to big schools with kids I don’t know and take busy motorways and visit London for days out. All of those things are wonderful and broadening and educational and experiences they couldn’t have here with me on this rock. Live theater in the West End, music festivals, camping, playing in the snow … all great and all adding to their lives in ways that will serve them well.

But …

My son passing through France and Belgium while making his way, with a busload of other school kids, to Germany at this point in time scared the shit outta me.

The world our children are inheriting seems a terrifyingly dangerous place rife with automatic weapon-toting fuckwads drunk on the smell of blood, people strapping on ‘suicide belts’ with no intention of going alone, bomb makers tinkering away in neighborhoods with visions of mass mayhem filling their zealot pea brains as democracy fails through wanton avarice and the planet attempts to cope with massive interference with nature in ways that will not be kind to any of us.

So, the questions plaguing me are …

1) How can my children be prepared to be safe and secure as possible as they construct their lives in a world that seems to be going to hell in a hand basket?

And, 2) What messages can they be given that may help them find happiness and satisfaction in their lives?

If my own chaotic childhood taught me anything, it was the value of adaptability, and this does seem key over the next decades. No one could have accurately envisioned today’s world even 30 years ago with its tech advances (and reliance upon), the perpetual war-without-front and its tendency to catch people out in mundane circumstances, ever more drastic weather and global financial meltdowns.

Predicting 30 years ahead is even more of a crap shoot, a future I can’t begin to imagine. Most certainly there will be catastrophic events as human population grows, then must shrink from lack of space and resources, as sea levels rise and wipe out swathes of what is now considered habitable land and the struggle to survive is armed to the teeth and merciless.

With luck, 30 years from now Sam will be 43 and Cj 40 … in their prime.

So … what to do? How to plan?

First, they must have access to all the information they will need to make informed choices. This does not mean filling their evenings with every horror of the day via the BBC, or any other media, but answering their questions honestly and providing sources for research.

Second, assuring they are educated to the fullness of their potential and allowed to specialize in whatever ignites their passions. Knowledge is power and a solid foundation built from study provides a platform from which one can put perspective to the past and have some clues to what’s ahead.

Third, and most importantly, encourage them to grab every bit of joy they can whenever they see it and wherever they find it. Although it may not always seem so, life is a gift, and every single day, no matter how difficult or sad or tiring or tedious is full to the brim with fleeting moments, and it is the ‘fleeting’ bit that we all must be aware of. What is life if not a series of moments? (In a conversation with my brothers this morning, we chained together quite a few shared moments of our combined childhood, and it dawned on me how vital it is that my kids grab and keep as many as they can for future examination, amusement and contemplation.)

I want my children to know joy as well as they know grief, to feel bold even when fear haunts the corners, to recognize gratitude as easily as they do indebtedness, to feel love as deeply as loss. I want them to be as ready to jump for joy as they may have to be to jump out of the way, to accept challenges with as much certainty as they throw their hands up in disgust and walk away. I want them to live as fully, as involved, as engaged, as enthused as possible for as long as they can.

Just Skyped with Jenn, and then with Sam. Jenn is feeling better, able to laugh and catch me up on what’s what in her world. That makes me happy.  Sam is tired and snuffy, but very happy for the experience of three countries in 36 hours and waffles and wurst. He’s safe and sound and a bit more worldly, so I’m happy, too.

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

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SaminCam copy

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.
~ Nelson Henderson

Now that I’m no longer ignoring my blog, I’ve been prompted by another (Thank you, Lori, for your post that stirred me into action!) to do a bit of gap filling on gap filling.

As do all internationally adopted children, my kids have gaps in their personal stories that can’t be filled. Not only do they have little information on their genetic links and the specific circumstances that preceded their adoptions, their country of birth is also somewhat of a mystery.

They know a lot about Cambodia, of course, from books and photos and films and the tales of our family history, but those can’t convey the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Southeast Asia any more than breathing into a freezer compartment can relate the experience of being cold enough to see their breath.

It has long been in the works for the kids to spend time in their birth country, and this happened for Sam back in February.

Some years back I wrote about Gay’s plan to have him accompany her on an annual housebuilding trip for Tabitha. She’s been doing this every year since Sam came home in 2003, and now that he’s eleven-years-old, it seemed the right time.

I had my concerns, of course, as any mother would seeing her young son travel far without her, but knew most of the building team (Brits, Americans, friends … ) and trusted in their dedication to my son’s safety and had the team leader, Dave Richter on my radio show just a month before, assuring me that Sam would be well looked after.

I won’t say that I was thrilled by him going, as I knew I wouldn’t relax until he was back under my wing, but his excitement was contagious and I knew he was leaving on the trip of a lifetime.

After almost two full days of travel, the first item on his agenda was a 10K walkathon benefitting the building of a women’s hospital in Phnom Penh which he completed with no problems whatsoever … and had raised almost £600.00 for on his Justgiving page. (He’d also raised over 3,000 Seychelles Rupees at a carwash conducted here!)

More difficult were the orientation visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the killing field at Choeung Ek. Although he has been familiar with the tragic history of Cambodia since he was old enough to turn the pages of a book, there’s a lot to process in those places for anyone, even more so a Cambodian-born 11-year-old.

The housebuilding days were a joy for him. Meeting and playing with the children in the village reaffirmed his hope for his compatriots. Working hard felt good, too, empowered as he was at his age to contribute something so substantial to some he knows are his people.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~ Anne Frank

Gay had wisely decided to end the adventure at Angkor Wat with its evidence of the rich and grand history that is also Cambodia … an amazing wrap to an amazing time had by my amazing son.

My love and my gratitude for my children are the greatest gifts I’ll ever know. They are all spreaders of light … candles all.

There are two ways of spreading light – to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. ~Edith Wharton

Here’s a video Gay put together showing some of the highlights of the trip. Huge thanks to Gay, to Tabitha Cambodia, Dave Richter and everyone involved in making this such a wonderful experience.

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Not dead today ... just at the beach ...

Not dead today … just at the beach …

Today is my 15th Not Dead Day.

Yes, I have had a few thousand days of being not dead, but on this day in 1999 I very well could have been.

During the course of what I thought was a routine checkup with a cardiologist while on holiday in Singapore I was yanked from a treadmill after about 10 seconds, told to lie down, had a Heparin patch slapped to my chest and was informed that I was within one to thirty days from a massive and certainly fatal heart attack.

Good thing I took that vacation, huh?

I’ve written before about the process, recovery, etc., so no need to do that again. What I would like to do today is talk about living. Fifteen years … nothing to sneeze at. I would have missed a lot had I not been around. Not that everything has been peaches and roses (sometimes not even coming close with pizza and rotgut), but an unpleasant slog through what we know as real life. There have been times I’d have rather avoided, some that almost broke me …

You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave. ~ Quentin Crisp

But so much has been worth much more than the price of admission. Fifteen years of sunsets and puppies and laughs and love and friends and fresh fruit and hugs and cuddles and kisses and great books and conversations and new experiences coming seemingly from out of the blue.

Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies. ~ Erich Fromm

I’ve had

They're growing, and I get to watch the process...

They’re growing, and I get to watch the process…

another fifteen years to learn new things, to confront my personal ghosts, and wrestle them for lessons, to put effort into making the world a better place.

Life has meaning only if one barters it day by day for something other than itself. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I’m still around to see Sam at 11 and Cj at 9, to fill their heads with as much wisdom as I can and as little baggage as possible, to do my best to leave them with as few gaps as I can … and I have no doubt I will leave them before the gaps are full, just as all parents do … and to live up to Walt Whitman’s edict in “Leaves of Grass”

“…the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.”

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ImageA couple of things happened over the weekend that have gained some ground in restoring my faith in humanity. Unfortunately and predictably, others had completely the opposite reaction and are now writhing around on the grubby floors of social media and the halls of urine-colored ‘journalism’ as if possessed by really stupid demons of the going-to-hell-in-a-handbag-because-the shoes-don’t-match-it sort as if they don’t know the difference between rapture and rupture.

Let’s start with football. The American version, of which I am … or was, when I had any access to viewing … a fan.

In a sport that makes constant reference to ‘penetration in the end zone’, ‘tight ends’, ‘wide receivers’, ‘defensive ends’, ‘long snaps’, ‘ball carriers’, ‘pump fakes’, ‘ball control’, ‘man-on-man’, ‘man-in-motion’ and where the point is ‘going (for the) down’, you’d be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that ‘man-on-man’ was okey-dokey with the National Football League in just about any context. You’d be wrong.

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Michael Sam gets the call …

Michael Sam just became the first OPENLY gay draft pick in the NFL. Just now. Yesterday. In May of 2014.

Michael Sam, the first openly gay player ever to enter the National Football League draft, was taken by the St. Louis Rams with the 249th pick of the draft Saturday, proving precisely nothing about the state of homophobia in professional football.

This is not to say there haven’t been loads of gay players, may of whom were at least party out of the locker. (More than 30 years ago, a dear friend moved to California with his boyfriend who had, coincidentally, been drafted by the Rams.)

Although there have been many positive public reactions to the news … and to the video of Sam being congratulated and cuddled by his partner as the call came … there are still far too many humans that have yet to recognize the simple fact that we’re not all the same.

Here’s what some fuckwad of an NFL ‘player personnel assistant’ had to say:

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

Sound familiar?

Back in 1946, the Rams signed Kenny Washington, the first African-American football player in the modern era of the NFL. Fisher was aware of the historical resonance Saturday.

Perhaps someday football fans will value gay players as much as they do Black players, as the league wouldn’t amount to shit without them.

Now … keeping with this Monday theme …

The winner of the Eurovision Song Contest

To be honest, I’d never heard of this extravaganza until I moved to England way back in the early ‘90s. To this day I don’t know if I was simply clueless or if the US just didn’t pay much attention and I went along with that. I was stunned by the enthusiasm, the parties planned for the occasion, the dressing up to watch it on the telly, and more than a bit confused about the process. Having the same experience a few years later a small, very crowded apartment in Zurich, I am now convinced that this is a VERY big deal.

Eurovision is about music; the song and the performers.

Historically, a country’s votes were decided by an internal jury, but in 1997 five countries (Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom) experimented with televoting, giving members of the public in those countries the opportunity to vote en masse for their favourite songs. The experiment was a success,and from 1998 onwards all countries were encouraged to use televoting wherever possible. Back-up juries are still used by each country, in the event of a televoting failure. Nowadays members of the public may also vote by SMS, in addition to televoting. Since 2009, national votes in semifinals are a 50/50 combination of both telephone votes and the votes of juries made up of music professionals.

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Conchita and her trophy …

Hundreds of thousands of people watch and vote, and this year the country-by-country talent contest that brought ABBA to the world made even more history than they have since their win 40 years ago …and the winner was humankind.

That not everyone is happy with this outcome is as obvious as peaches having fuzz. The Russians in all their icky homophobic skid … complete with marks … toward the Dark Ages are particularly peeved:

Conchita Wurst’s Eurovision win has been branded “the end of Europe” by Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. After last night’s 2014 song contest in Copenhagen, Russian state television broadcast a debate on her victory, as politicians and celebrities launched a hate-filled attack. Outspoken ultranationalist MP Zhirinovsky called this year’s result “the end of Europe,” saying: “There is no limit to our outrage. “It has turned wild. There are no more men or women in Europe, just it .”

Hm. It … It seems that take ended up biting Russia on the furry butt:

Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws, restricting the spread of information on what was called ‘non traditional sexual relations’ did not go down well with last night’s audience. Russia’s entry, The Tolmachevy Sisters, were greeted by loud boos from those in the venue, with many of the onlookers waving rainbow flags. The tension then reached boiling point during the results announcements, which saw Russia receive further boos with every point received.

I must admit to having had a few less-than-pleasant encounters with drag queens in the past, having taken no little guff from some who find amusement in being unmercifully snarky to straight women who’d just like a top-up on their wine thankyouverymuchMarge, and have been slightly intimidated when standing in line between 6’7” blonds … big shoes … with hair the hight of the Tetons while waiting for a free cubical.

I have also, however, has some uproarious times laughing my head off, straightening stocking seams and dissing … yes, I can do snark, too … the polyester-clad clueless that seem to form herds wherever drag queens congregate.

It takes huge balls to be transgender true to yourself … even bigger than necessary to tell the NFL you’re gay. The world is full of ‘transphobic’ fuckwads

Researchers describe transphobia as emotional disgust, fear, anger or discomfort felt or expressed towards people who don’t conform to society’s gender expectations,[and say that although it is similar to homophobia, racism and sexism, those attitudes are becoming generally considered unacceptable in modern society, whereas some individuals still maintain transphobic views without fear of censure.

As adults, transgender people are frequently subjected to ridicule, stares, taunting and threats of violence, even when just walking down the street or walking into a store. A U.S. survey of 402 older, employed, high-income transgender people found that 60% reported violence or harassment because of their gender identity. 56% had been harassed or verbally abused, 30% had been assaulted, 17% had had objects thrown at them, 14% had been robbed and 8% had experienced what they characterized as an unjustified arrest.

All because of their look, their dress, they’re undeniable style? How stupid is THAT?

Conchita deserves admiration. She is brave beyond measure, beautiful and talented … and her attitude is fabulous!

“Hey, I’m just a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard.”

She is also the WINNER! Watch her performance here.

Could it be that the world became a better place this weekend?

I think so.

Those deeply invested in enjoying their fundamentalist frantic frenzy of fucked-uppery … carry on. Sigh …

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Have fun storming the castle …

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