NSFW: Chelsea Handler wants to show her nipples on social media; Instagram should let her

Chelsea Handler has waged war against Instagram over their discriminatory practice of barring females from showing their nipples but allowing men to do so, according to Buzzfeed. While social media bars female nipples from being shown because they are viewed as "sexual" in nature, she does have a point that it's not fair for men to be shirtless but not women.

Although I would more than likely never be brave enough to bare all, I do think that all people should be allowed to express themselves equally. If women can't show their nipples, then neither should men.

This is not the first time, Instagram's discriminatory guidelines have come under fire. As I wrote about in July, a young woman who posed in her underwear saw her photos removed, and she believed she was being targeted because she did not fit the traditional standards of beauty. Her argument did seem valid considering that the social media site allows raunchy photographs from celebrities such as Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and Jen Selter but felt the need to censor hers. Instagram apologized and reinstated the young woman's account.

Maybe it's time that they review their gender bias as well.
Chelsea Handler points out the hypocrisy of allowing the photo on the right to be shown publicly but censoring her  topless photo on the left. (Photo courtesy of Handler's Instagram account)

Rape: It's Your Fault

When are we going to stop blaming the victim?

Who's actually to blame for gender pay inequality?

Weeks ago on Twitter, I joked that we could land on a comet but that we could never get pay equality for women. With this note, I posted a meme about how women are like men, only cheaper.
Although most agreed with me, some men and women pointed out that the 77 cents to the dollar gender pay gap is a myth, a fudging of the numbers, which does not compare what a man and a woman make in the same role but what men in total make to women in total. They pointed out that  women make less because they don't enter STEM fields, where the real money is. That they choose their families over their careers, thus resulting in less hours put in or time off that sets them back. That they get paid less because they don't negotiate their salaries. A chart from Top Management Degrees that I've posted below illustrates some of their arguments, and I can't deny that the facts are compelling. Most women do make less money than men, we can all agree on that, but before we cry out that it's because of blatant sexism, we should examine our choices and why we make them first.
Women Don't Make Less
Source: TopManagementDegrees.com

Mark Wahlberg's past is even worse than what we thought

Mark Wahlberg (courtesy of FanPop)
By asking for his record to be pardoned, Mark Wahlberg put his violent past as a young adult back into the spotlight. As I previously blogged, 16-year-old Wahlberg assaulted in Asian man with a wood stick, knocking him unconscious. Later on that night on April 8, 1988, he assaulted a second Asian man while slurring things such as "slant eyed" and "gook." The second man's beating was so brutal that he lost his eye. Twenty-six years later, movie star Wahlberg is asking Massachusetts for an official pardon.

After doing more research, other disturbing details about Wahlberg have emerged.

WAHLBERG NEVER APOLOGIZED TO THE MAN HE BLINDED
In 2006, ABC interviewed Wahlberg to see if he had ever contacted the man who he blinded to make amends, and he admitted that he hadn't. "I did a lot of things that I regretted and I certainly paid for my mistakes," Wahlberg says. "You have to go and ask for forgiveness and it wasn't until I really started doing good and doing right, by other people as well as myself, that I really started to feel that guilt go away. So I don't have a problem going to sleep at night. I feel good when I wake up in the morning."

It's, um, nice that he doesn't have a problem sleeping at night, but what about his victims? How is he sleeping so well without ever asking them how they were after his abuse?

WAHLBERG TERRORIZED NEIGHBORHOOD BLACK KIDS, CALLING THEM "N*GGERS"
Before the attack on the Asian men,  a teenage Wahlberg and his white friends followed Jesse Coleman, a twelve-year-old African-American boy and his brother and sister who were walking home in Dorchester, Massachusetts on June 15, 1986. One of Wahlberg's friends yelled to the Colemans, "We don't like n*ggers in the area so get the fuck away from the area." Wahlberg and his friends then chased the Colemans, who by now were fleeing scared, and the white boys pelted rocks at the Colemans while all yelling "Kill the n*gger, kill the n*gger." Finally the Colemans ran inside of a Burger King, and Wahlberg and his friends left.

The next day, Jesse Coleman, his teacher, and other classmates took a field trip to the beach. While there, Coleman saw Wahlberg and his friends. As the class returned back to school, Wahlberg and his buddies followed Coleman and threw rocks at him, his teacher, and his classmates. The teacher called an ambulance which scared the boys away, and in the legal document, Coleman along with numerous others stated that they were fearful of Wahlberg and his friends.

On The Smoking Gun's comment section, a woman stated that she was related to one of the victims. She said that the victim was still emotionally and physically scared by Wahlberg's bullying. I attempted to reach her to find out if Wahlberg had ever attempted to reconcile his behavior, but I have yet to receive a response. However, I was able to confirm a link between her and one of the victims listed in the legal document.

WHEN WAHLBERG WAS "MARKY MARK" HE BEAT UP HIS NEIGHBOR

Wahlberg's violence didn't end as a teenager, after he destroyed a man's eye, or after serving time, like he has so often claimed in the press. Even fame didn't stop his violence. When he was 21 and known to the world as "Marky Mark," he was arrested for viciously kicking the shit out of his neighbor, and according to the court document, he did this "without provocation or cause"from the victim. Wahlberg kicked his victim in the face, which left injuries so severe that the victim had to have his jaw wired shut.

Are we seeing a pattern here? And these are from the times he was actually arrested. I contacted Wahlberg for a statement, but he has not yet to respond.

WAHLBERG WANTS A PARDON BECAUSE IT AFFECTS HOW HE MAKES MONEY

In December of 2014, Wahlberg applied for an official pardon, and many people have wondered. Why was his record not expunged if his discretions happened as a teenager? Why is he applying for pardon now?

In Wahlberg's pardon application, he addressed these questions. The document stated that although Wahlberg was a juvenile, he was tried in adult court. He stated he plead not guilty but that a guilty verdict was entered because he had confessed to facts that sustained the charge. He chose not to appeal, even though he had the right to. He cited that it was a violation of him to be charged as an adult.

Wahlberg went on to say that the "more complex" answer of why he wants a pardon was that he wants recognition that he is a different person from the night of the attack. He hopes that if he obtains a pardon, this will inspire and motivate troubled youths that they too can change. This sounds noble on the surface, yet, it really doesn't make any sense. He's already a wealthy entertainment icon, and people look up to him. It doesn't seem like his criminal past is hurting him. In fact, he often talks about it in his media appearances as if he's proud of his Cinderella story.

He also said the other reason for the pardon was that because of his past he cannot work for law enforcement agencies to help at-risk youth. He stated he's ineligible for jobs such as a parole officer. Huh? Does it make any sense that a man who lists numerous philanthropic endeavors with troubled youth needs to get hired by the LAPD? Is his other jobs of being a millionaire actor and producer not enough? This is the guy whose life is literally the basis for HBO's Entourage.

No, those noble reasons don't make as much sense as the one that having a criminal record impacts his ability to make money outside of the entertainment industry. According to his pardon application, "…My past convictions still legally impact me to this day. For example, prior record can potentially be the basis to deny me a concessionaire's license in California and elsewhere." Well, losing an eye and living in fear because a white man called you a "n*gger" during your childhood can hurt your future earnings too, so this argument isn't strong enough, no matter how many decades have past. Plus it should also be noted that he never mentioned that he deserves a pardon because he did right to the victims because oh wait, he never did.
Excerpt from Mark Wahlberg's Pardon Application, posted by NBC Bay Area 

SOURCES:
The Smoking Gun: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/crime/back-day-marky-marks-rap-sheet-0
The Smoking Gun: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/Mark-Wahlberg-pardon-petition-876321
The Daily T.Lo: http://www.tloclub.com/2014/12/mark-wahlberg-beat-asian-man-so-hard.html
The Week: http://www.tloclub.com/2014/12/mark-wahlberg-beat-asian-man-so-hard.html
NBC-Bay Area: http://media.nbcbayarea.com/documents/wahlberg.pdf 

Mark Wahlberg beat an Asian man so hard that he lost an eye, wants a pardon

I force myself to try to separate entertainment from the human beings underneath, but sometimes, I  get annoyed knowing that some stars seem to never be held accountable for their lascivious actions while there are normal people in the United States who get murdered for selling loose cigarettes or walking around at night in a hoodie. I suppose that I'm just ranting, but this headline from The Week this morning really got to me.

"Mark Wahlberg Should Not Be Pardoned."

I agree with the article and the headline, but it was the fact that Mark Wahlberg was requesting a pardon that really irked me. For those who do not know the back story, when Mark Wahlberg was 16 he drunkenly beat an Asian immigrant with a wooden stick until the man fell to the ground, unconscious. Later that same night, he found another Asian man that he called "gook" and "slant eye," and he beat that man so hard in the face that he LOST HIS RIGHT EYE.

Mark was arrested, convicted, and served 45 days in jail. This year, twenty-six years later, he applied for an official pardon because he changed his life and spent the rest of his days serving the community. On his pardon application, he stated that he believes the story of his turnaround will inspire others to do the same.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mark Wahlberg is an inspiration to many for his work in the arts and his philanthropy, and although I've never met him, he seems like a nice, humble guy. But a pardon should not be granted because his violent action, no matter if drunk or high, no matter if young, should never be forgotten. He didn't steal a loaf of bread, make moonshine, or get in a fist fight. He violently beat two strangers and nearly cost them their lives, and he left one of them with a visible, physical reminder of that horrific night 26 years ago. Although America may be laughing along at Ted or Pain and Gain, I really doubt his victims are.

No, Mark Wahlberg, Roman Polanski, Mike Tyson, and celebs who were never formally convicted. Time does not erase your reprehensible actions. The fact that he thinks Hollywood success deserves an earning of forgiveness, not him trying to make right with the victims, their families, and the Asian community says a ton about how fucking entitled and insensitive successful people are. Pardons are rarely given, and if they are, they are for non-violent offenses.

Even if his victims forgave him, which there is no evidence that they have, Wahlberg shouldn't have asked to wipe his slate clean because he doesn't deserve it. No matter how rich, famous, and likeable you've become, you must face your demons, not erase them.

"Mark Wahlbeg should not be pardoned" from The Week

I will never be cool with Asian jokes. Never.

I grew up in Coffeyville, a small town in Southeast Kansas. Being Chinese-American, I stuck out amongst my peers, and as a youth, that's a terrible thing because it puts a huge target on your already insecure back. To grasp an idea of how much my Asian eyes and tan skin contrasted with everyone else's physical appearance, here's a fun fact. According to Wikipedia, the racial population of Coffeyville in 2000 was 75.76% white, 12.12% African-American, and .60% Asian. Yes, that's right. People who looked like me made up less than 1% of the town.

When I was a child, I still remember when kids I didn't know would pull out their eyes or call me "ching chong" or "chink eyes," and when I'd look scared and uncomfortable, they'd bust up laughing, feeding off the excitement of their bullying. These kids were clearly laughing at me, not with me; and their tireless "You eat dogs and cats!" "You can't drive!" "You all look a like!" jokes seemed to blur together. These strangers knew nothing about me, but because of my race, they felt that they had all the verbal ammunition in the world to hurt me.

I remember shielding from my family and friends the bullying I received because I saw my friends were harassed too--for being gay, for being black, for being poor, for being fat, etc etc. All of us were picked on for something, and we all came to the conclusion that if we kept our heads down, then the jerks would leave us alone. Or better yet, we victims would move on one day and never have to deal with our bullies again. After all, they and we were all kids. Nobody knew better then, right?

In college, I continued to face assumptions about me because of my race, but now it was no longer meant to be mean but it still bothered me nonetheless. These tiny aggressions came my way through  digs brought upon by people I barely knew: classmates, teachers, friends of friends. "You're fake Chinese!" "You're a banana! Yellow on the outside and white on the inside!" "Did you not understand the assignment because English is your second language?" (How can I be accused of being wannabe white and yet also so Asian that I couldn't speak English correctly?) However, because these people were not trying to be cruel like my schoolyard bullies, I tried to play off their questions and comments by being cool, accepting. I laughed it off. I even made Asian jokes myself to fit in, but all the while, I avoided making stereotypical jokes about other groups. I knew how shitty it felt, so why would I pay that negativity forward? Yet, despite my own need to be respectful of others, I couldn't help but wonder: why was my race always the punchline? Why was I never treated with the respect and dignity that I gave to other people?

As the years went by, I learned to be more assertive with respecting myself. This was ironic to me because from a young age I could champion various other issues such as women's rights; but when it came to putting my foot down by not laughing or tolerating sophomoric Asian jokes, this proved to be a harder endeavor. After all, I had accepted the jokes before. Why was I so "sensitive" now? As an adult, shouldn't I be more able to relax and  just let things go?

The answer is no. Forcing people to accept things that truly bothers them doesn't mean that they will stop being bothered. It only means that they'll resent the other party, and the offending party won't know they're doing anything wrong so they won't stop. It's a lose-lose. By speaking up, you're starting a conversation. Sometimes the other person is willing to listen; other times, he or she is a dick and tells you to shut up. The latter happened to me recently.

Years ago I worked in an office with comedian Andrew Santino, who later became the star of ABC's Mixology, and according to IMDB, he is in the pilot of CBS's much hyped How I Met Your Mother spin-off How I Met Your Dad. I was one of nearly 15,000 of his Facebook fans until I saw him post a picture of an Asian woman taking a selfie using a selfie stick. The picture was hilarious, but it was the caption that made me cringe. "Check out this oriental...I mean continental breakfast #selfrie." The use of the slur "oriental" bothered me, but it was that combined with the hashtag of "selfrie" that really took this post to another level on the racist scale.

Did he assume this young woman, dining alone in an American restaurant, was not a native English speaker? Because after all, we Asians all cannot pronounce words correctly, right? I mean, that's exactly what my seventh grade bully would convey when he pulled his eyes and bowed at me while saying, "Flied Lice! Flied Lice!" To those who think the image of my seventh grade bully bowing is funny; yes, it kind of is in hindsight because it's so fucking stupid. But that's the point. These tired Asian jokes are so fucking stupid and juvenile that a seventh grader did them first.

Analyzing Santino's action further, this girl appears to be dining alone, not with him. She's not his friend. She's some random "oriental" that he, a celebrity, snapped a secret photo of and then belittled by calling her a racial slur and making fun of her assumed accent to 15,000 people. If that's not cyber bullying, I don't know what else is.
Andrew Santino: "Check out this oriental...I mean continental breakfast #selfrie"
I debated not saying anything because it was his page, therefore it's his house to do anything he wants. Plus, he's a comedian. He's obviously making a joke. I should've just let it slide, right?

But I couldn't. As I age, the more I'm able to understand why stereotypical racial jokes are so bothersome. It's not just that they are mean, but they are disrespecting who a person is at his or her core. What they look like. What their family looks like. Their family's history. Their culture. No matter who you are or what you want to be, your race is part of your identity; and it is something that you cannot change. Ever. When Santino made fun of that girl's vanity, it was funny because she chose to bring a selfie stick into a crowded restaurant. That was her choice. But mocking her race, or someone's sexual identity, or a person's disability, those are things beyond a person's control and therefore below the belt.

After considering the pros and cons of opening myself up to the scorn of a comedian's fanbase, network, or of him himself, I finally posted an even-tempered message: "She's being ridiculous, but was it necessary to use the slur "oriental." That's as mean spirited as calling her a "gook" or a "chink" and I really didn't expect that from you..." Although Santino never responded, one of his fans, Keven Meyer, fairly quickly told me that he'd get me a "warm glass of shut the hell up" and another guy, Afshin Kargar, sarcastically said I "must be fun at parties." I tried to get Meyer and Kargar to explain why they thought Santino's caption's use of the slur was okay, but they didn't respond to my questions either.
And that's the thing, no one but me and a few others seemed bothered by Santino's caption (although I did think it was awesome that the majority of comments by his fans made fun of the girl's action, not her race.) And this Facebook post was nothing compared on the grand scale of the history of Asians being disrespected, only to have their voices dismissed when expressing their frustration. Filmmaker Laurie Tsou shared a story of how surprised she was when a white filmmaker pulled at his eyes when talking to her at a film event. She told him she was offended, and he responded with a lengthy email criticizing her for being upset. Recently in Seattle, a theater group performed The Mikado in yellowface reminiscent of Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's; and when an Asian-American writer criticized the production, angry commenters attacked her instead. Gwen Stefani set the trend of a white woman using another race as "cute" props with her Harajuku Girls, and according to Time, these four women were contractually obligated to follow her around and only speak Japanese in public. When Margaret Cho called out Stefani for her Asian "minstrel show," Stefani never apologized, and according to Time, to this day, Stefani continues making money on her line of Harajuku products. Ironically enough, Stefani and her band No Doubt pulled the music video for "Looking Hot," where they portrayed cowboys and Indians, after they were slammed by Native Americans. So what does this message say? That other groups can demand respect, but Asians just have to take it?

My hope is that we're now in an era where more people will speak up when these aggressions and micro-aggressions occur, not just to Asians but to people in general. After all, respect and kindness should always be fought for; and unoriginal, unspecific, and unfunny stereotypes should no longer be defended and distributed to mass audiences. That crap is not entertainment. It's outdated and lazy and audiences deserve better.

Thus I will continue to not "be fun at parties," as Afshin Kargar said; but I will never shut up like Kever Meyer wanted either.

To further reiterate how  these "jokes" can indeed cross a line, I will leave you with this scene from The Nutty Professor, which is a pretty accurate representation of what it feels like when someone rips you to shreds all in the name of "comedy."

Superstar legal author John Grisham backpedals on his child pornography statements

Today John Grisham issued an apology on his Facebook for statements he made in regards to child pornography punishments. In case you missed it, Grisham said the following during an interview to promote his new book Gray Mountain:
"We have prisons now filled with guys my age. Sixty-year-old white men in prison who've never harmed anybody, would never touch a child," Grisham said to The Telegraph. "But they got online one night and started surfing around, probably had too much to drink or whatever, and pushed the wrong buttons, went too far and got into child porn."
Um, I've been drunk numerous times in my life, but I have never "accidentally" just wandered on to a child pornography site. In fact, if someone wants to view that type of illegal material, they have to go on a perverted fishing expedition; one that doesn't just happen by pushing "the wrong buttons." In Grisham's The Telegraph interview, he then shares a story of a friend who was caught in a child porn sting to illustrate how absurdly excessive punishments are for people who watch child pornography:
"His [Grisham's friend's] drinking was out of control, and he went to a website. It was labelled 'sixteen year old wannabee hookers or something like that'. And it said '16-year-old girls'. So he went there. Downloaded some stuff - it was 16 year old girls who looked 30. He shouldn't ’a done it. It was stupid, but it wasn't 10-year-old boys. He didn't touch anything. And God, a week later there was a knock on the door: ‘FBI!’ and it was sting set up by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to catch people - sex offenders - and he went to prison for three years."
Uh…Does Grisham think it's okay that his drunk friend wanted to get with teenage hookers? How can he condone the behavior of this friend, and how can he sympathize with viewers of child pornography? Those viewers are the reasons that the industry that exploits and abuses children exists because if there was no audience, there would be no demand. Therefore, viewing child pornography is not a victimless crime; and Grisham thinking that just because his friend didn't "touch anything" meant he wasn't participating in an exploitive endeavor truly baffles and grosses me out. 

See Grisham's apology below. Although he appears to want to wash away his previous statements, I doubt anyone will ever forget them. I never will. 

Off-duty cop kills neighborhood dog, gets released; owners are ticketed for "animal at large"

It seemed like a normal Thursday evening on the 6900 block of East 18th Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a neighborhood full of families and young working adults. Parents played with their children in their yards, and other people relaxed outside, enjoying the hot end days of summer.

However, September 11, 2014 was not like any other day. On this early evening, the sound of two gun shots burst through the air, causing parents to grab their terrified children and hurry inside.

According to eyewitness Amber Hobbs, a man and woman were walking their dog when a 75 pound pit pull terrier mix named Titus came up to greet them. What happened next shocked her.  "No threat was present when the man pulled his gun out and shot the other dog!" Hobbs said. "Then he leaned over the dog and shot it in the head! Children were all out in the neighborhood, including my niece and nephew. The owners of (Titus) came out to call their dog and saw him dead. All the shooter said was, "That's your dog?" The owners were of course hysterical."

The owner of Titus was Nicholas "Nick" Blazek, a young man with big brown eyes who works as a machinist. He had loved his faithful companion since Titus was a puppy. Blazek lived with his girlfriend, Sarah Slane, a pretty woman in her twenties with long red hair and an infectious smile. In an interview with Tulsa World, Blazek recalled Titus as a "friendly dog who would sleep in bed with them." As they stared in horror at their dead dog on the street, it was clear to neighbors that they had lost a family member.
Slane and Blazek (photo courtesy of Facebook)
Titus with a family friend. (photo courtesy of Slane's Facebook)


Titus was gunned down by an off-duty police officer who Slane states she had not seen in the neighborhood prior to the shooting. On Slane's Facebook, she states that the officer's name is Adam Lovell, but the Tulsa Police Department ("TPD") has not confirmed this. Because the name of the shooter was not released publicly, I was unable to locate him to obtain his statement.

Although owners Blazek and Slane did not see the shooting, another eyewitness came forward to share a story similar to Hobb's. Grant Holm, told Tulsa World  that he saw Titus run towards the off-duty police officer with "his tail wagging." Holm said to Tulsa World, "Titus went to the (officer's) large dog and appeared to be greeting the other animal from a submissive posture with its head down. The officer pulled on his dog’s leash, rearing the animal up onto its hind legs. Titus then moved to fill the void created by the officer pulling on the leash. The man, as smooth as you please, reached behind him, pointed (a handgun), put it up to the dog and shot it in the head or neck area, and Titus immediately went down. As Titus lay in the grass, moving his legs and yelping, he (the officer) bent down, aimed at it and shot it in the head with everybody in shock." Like Hobbs, Holm said that the shooting frightened the neighbors and that the officer didn't ask any questions before pulling out his gun.

The alleged shooter (photo courtesy of Slane's FB)
According to news sources, when the police arrived on the scene to investigate, the off-duty police officer stated that he felt threatened by the dog so he acted in self-defense. He was then let go. Slane took a photo of the alleged shooter (see right), and behind him is his female friend and his dog, an adult German Shepherd. Based on the size of the German Shepherd, one had to wonder why the shooter did not allow his own dog to protect him from Titus if Titus really was posing a threat.

After the off-duty police officer was let go, Blazek and Slane on the other hand were issued a citation for animal at large. The reason being that Titus had escaped their yard. Slane said, "The off-duty officer said absolutely nothing to us. He wouldn't give us his name or any info. There were no apologies or a flicker of emotion. The officers that showed up on the scene were rude and automatically on his side. They didn't want to listen to us or our witnesses, but when it came to hearing him they all surrounded him and gave him time to explain."

Blazek and Slane were devastated by the loss of Titus, and the next day, Friday, September 12, they filed a complaint with the police department's internal affairs. "This is a Tulsa Police Department problem," Slane said. "He is a crazy, trigger happy officer. If he wasn't being looked at as an officer, but as a civilian, then why wasn't he arrested or charged with unlawful use of his weapon as city ordinance states? We hope that they (the Tulsa Police Department) do their job properly and follow through with criminal charges, remove him from the police department, and that he is not able to bare arms again. We plan to file a civil suit if internal affairs doesn't follow through with justice."

Although it is not being implied that a life of an animal is equivalent to a life of a human being, this story eerily echoes the stories of Michael Brown of Ferguson, Missouri and Trayvon Martin of Sanford, Florida. In all three cases, men shot and killed because of perceived threats in situations that witnesses state did not warrant gun fire. The Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cases were divisive in America because of their racial nature, and some chose to see Brown or Martin not as unarmed victims but as "thugs" who appeared dangerous. Like Titus, these victims were guilty of nothing but looking a certain way and coming across the wrong person; and like Titus, despite witness accounts, the law tended to favor the word of the shooter instead of the voices of the witnesses. 

Overall, these shooting show how fear can spring from anything and that no person is truly safe because unnecessary fear in the hands of those with guns can lead to unnecessary violence. And the scary thing about these three situations is that the three shooters supposedly were devoted to "serve and protect," but if they are so quick with their guns, who will protect the citizens from them?

Before the incident, Slane respected the police, but now she views them with suspicion. "I have always stood up for the police, gave them respect, and felt they were here to serve us; but that is no longer how I feel," she said. "We are in fear they have doctored all they can to protect their own, we are in fear of "unexplained harassment," and we are always looking over our shoulder now; and it's a shame to fear the ones we should fear the least."

Officer Leland Ashley, a media representative of the Tulsa Police Department (TPD), stated on Monday September 15 that the off-duty police officer was not put on administrative leave because of this incident and that the case is not being investigated further. "The officer was off duty (a citizen) who stated he felt threatened when he shot the dog. His actions were not  TPD related," Ashley said. 

So it appears that Blazek and Slane will not see justice for Titus, at least not from the police department. While NFL players like Ray Rice, who commit domestic violence, can be removed from their positions because of their actions in their personal life; apparently that is not the case for a police officer that has such a fearful temperament that he would open fire in a neighborhood full of children to protect himself from a happy-go-lucky dog. Regardless of being on or off duty, the police department should investigate his gun use.  

Because the officer has not been identified, the community in Tulsa will just have to wait and hope that the shooter will not "feel threatened" again. But the main question here is: when will he finally be held accountable? If video emerges of the Titus incident? If he takes the life of a human being? Or if concerned citizens contact Tulsa Police Department's Internal Affairs themselves, asking for them to consider the danger of allowing an officer with poor judgment to wear a badge? If you are one of those concerned citizens and want to act now, please click here and let TPD know that you want justice for Titus and that you want Tulsa to be a safer place.
The ticket issued to Blazek courtesy of Blazek's Facebook

Surviving LA on a Budget: Top 10 Summer Events of 2014

Steven Wong and Golda Criddle
Steven Wong and Golda Criddle have devoted three years of their lives documenting fun things to do in Los Angeles that are either free or inexpensive on their blog, "Surviving LA on a Budget." Being experts on the Los Angeles scene, I asked them to compile a list of their top 10 recommendations of things to do in the summer in Los Angeles, and I was surprised at how many things I have yet to explore! Oh well, there's always next year (or in some instances like Tokyo Status, even after the summer.) Check out their guest post below, and if you like what you read, you can connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

The Top 10 L.A. Summer Events of 2014 by Steven Wong and Golda Criddle:

Downtown LA Artwalk: Of course the original Art Walk has to be on this list! DTLA Artwalk is a free, self-guided tour of Los Angeles art that takes over Downtown LA every month. Held on the second Thursday of every month, the city comes alive with over 40 art galleries. Many of the events take place between 2nd and 9th Streets. Sometimes galleries have goodies such as free swag, wine, or snacks so it pays to see them all! There is often a food truck area with some of the best eats in town as well as an occasional fashion or jewelry truck. DTLA Artwalk galleries are usually open from around noon until 10pm. Be sure to check out the DTLA Artwalk’s main page for information on September’s upcoming event!

Tokyo Status: Originally located in Long Beach, Tokyo Status is a monthly rock showcase in Little Tokyo and Pasadena that is hosted by Japanese-American band Lolita Dark. For $10 to $15, Tokyo Status offers drinks, live rock music, and karaoke contests with a unique airline theme complete with flight attendants and Tokyo Status passports.

Yamashiro Farmers Market: This is a Hollywood hidden gem and a great place to take a date. This farmers market is held every Thursday in the Hollywood Hills. It’s so hidden that you have to take a shuttle from the Mosaic Church parking lot to get to the market! It’s different from other farmers markets in Los Angeles because it takes place at night and has a full service bar, live entertainment, and beautiful views of the city. The market has over 20 vendors in food, shopping, and more to explore. The Yamashiro Farmer Market lasts from late May to early September from 5pm to 9pm. Grab an Asian-inspired cocktail at the bar, and get ready for a romantic night!

dineLA: dineLA happens twice a year in Los Angeles, and one of the periods usually falls in mid-July. It is a great time to sample many different courses at some of the best restaurants in the city. Restaurants offer fixed price meals including appetizers, entrees, and desserts for both lunch and dinner. Prices usually range from $15 to $45 depending on the restaurant and the time of day you attend. dineLA is typically held for 12 days in Los Angeles and all of its surrounding regions. This year’s dineLA may have passed, but the good news is you don’t have to wait until next summer because the next period has been teased to come in Winter 2015.

Rubber Duck: Of course it's only appropriate that our list includes an event specific to this summer such as a public viewing of a 61-foot rubber duck! This floating sculpture was designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman in 2007 and has traveled around the world to promote peace, including France, Brazil, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, Belgium, Australia, Hong Kong, and from August 20 to September 7, in Los Angeles!  The duck spent most of its time in the Port of Los Angeles for the Tall Ships Festival, but it made a last-minute stop at Banning's Landing as well.  Except during the Tall Ships Festival from August 20 to 24, it's completely free to view and take photos of this majestic duck!

Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetary: You know you’ve always wanted to watch great movies in a cemetery. It sounds creepy, but it’s actually a great venue to see some of the classics. Every summer from May to September, Cinespia has a great selection of films to watch on the big screen. Even better, you can bring food and drinks to have a picnic at the cemetery. One time, we went to Cinespia for July 4, and there were even fireworks on-site. Tickets are $14 with parking available at the Paramount Lot for $8 or on-site for $15 although we recommend just street parking nearby to stay within a budget. 

LA County Fair: The LA County Fair is held in late August and early September every summer. There are many options for those who choose to attend the fair: live music, rides, and attractions. Attractions include a petting zoo, horse racing, a shark tank, and more. The LA County Fair is probably most known for its food, particularly in the fried variety. We’ve seen everything from fried Oreos to fried Kool-Aid to fried butter on a stick. The fair is open Wednesdays through Sundays in September with tickets starting at $12 for adults on weekdays and $19 on weekends. There are many discounts available though with the most easily accessible from your local Ralphs or on Goldstar.

First Fridays at the Natural History Museum: Much like its namesake, First Fridays at the Natural History Museum is a $12 event that occurs on the first friday of every month from February to June.  During First Fridays, the Natural History Museum stays open past 5pm with tours, presentations, DJs, $5-$10 cocktails, and $18 concerts.  Where else can you find dinosaurs, live music, and drinks in the same building?

626 Night Market: Want to try some of the latest Asian craze without leaving the US? Originally located in a small park in Pasadena, the 626 Night Market is now a popular monthly summer event that has expanded to Santa Anita, Downtown LA, and Orange County. You can try skewers, Hong Kong egg waffles, tapioca milk tea, dragon beard candies, sticky rice burger, okonomiyaki pancakes, or if you are feeling adventurous, stinky tofu! Tickets are around $7, and food is typically under $10.

KCRW: Our summer highlights have to include the outdoor concerts hosted by KCRW: Chinatown Summer NightsTwilight Concerts at Santa Monica Pier, and Grand Performances in Downtown LA. Each venue has their own unique design. The Chinatown Summer Nights is held in the Central and West Plazas, which are inspired by old Chinese temples and the contemporary bright neon lights of metropolitan cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai. Movies and television shows such as "Rush Hour" and "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." were filmed here. The Grand Performances is located in the California Plaza, a venue that is surrounded by tall urban buildings with the stage separated by a moat. A castle mockup and fountain display are also situated in the back. If hanging in the beach during a sunset is your fancy, go to the Twilight Concert at Santa Monica Pier.  Regardless of where you head to, these KCRW outdoor concerts feature a wonderful lineup that includes artists like Yuna and OK Go, and did I mention that they're all free to attend?!

So how many events on the list have you tried? Do you have any other recommendations? Let T.Lo know in the comment section below.

Social Media Shaming Has Turned Normal People Into Bullies

I ride the Los Angeles Metro daily; and often times, I sit next to men who lounge with their legs spread wide, while I, small and polite, sit squished and uncomfortable. I contemplate saying something, but really, what is there for me to say? If they pushed their legs together, I wouldn't all of a sudden spread my own because I unfortunately or fortunately was taught to "be a lady."

Thus, the idea of a Tumblr such as "Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Train" sounded  delightful at first. This blog has received quite a bit of media attention, and initially, I liked the idea of people taking photos of space hogs, the blog posting them, and then the world judging these men for their space entitlement. After all, justice!

But after the initial satisfaction of "justice" subsided, I wondered what it would feel like to actually be one of those strangers who was shamed on social media. Perhaps the guys on "Men Taking Up Too Much Space..." don't care that much because the phenomenon is so common, but what if you're singled out for just being yourself?

That's what happened to Balpreet Kaur, a Sikh woman with facial hair. A Reddit user snapped a photo of her and posted it onto the site with the caption, "I don't know what to think of this." Although his caption attempted to play dumb, the user's intent was to say, "Look at this person. Let's make fun of her." Kaur learned of her newfound internet fame, and she responded, explaining that her religion does not allow her to alter her body and thus she does not remove her facial hair. Miraculously, the Reddit user apologized, and the internet rallied behind Kaur, a stranger shaming victim who didn't allow herself to be a victim.
A Reddit user tried to shame Balpreet Kaur, but she would not be victimized. (Courtesy of Jezebel)
However, not everyone is so lucky. Sophie Wilkinson of The Debrief shared how humiliating it felt for her to be one of the girls featured on "Women Who Eat on Tubes." A stranger snapped an unflattering photo of her eating a salad while riding the subway. He then posted it to the "Women Who Eat" Facebook group. Wilkinson described what it was like finding her picture: "Though the group information states it ‘doesn’t intimidate or bully’, I felt victimised. And hurt. Was it really not the original poster’s intention to humiliate me by accompanying the photo with the caption ‘Good to be contributing more than rubbish chat!’?" Wilkinson reached out to the photographer, and she asked him to take the photo down. He appeared apologetic in his reply, but to her surprise, he reposted her image along with their interaction. Apparently, he wasn't an unaware bully, he was a flat out Cobra Kai bully.

And we all know how bullying stories end. Let's not be those kinds of people.

That's why we all need to stop snapping photos of strangers and posting them publicly to mock and shame them. It is legal to snap photographs of others in public without asking permission, but this isn't a legal issue. This is an ethical problem. Sure, journalists and street photographers have been snapping pictures of strangers for decades, and paparazzi have been harassing celebrities since forever. But does that make it right for us to shame strangers? After all, there's a fine line between holding someone accountable versus just being mean.

Recently, a comic/actor, who was the star of an ABC comedy and had over 14,000 Facebook fans, posted a photograph of a young Asian woman using a long handle device to snap a selfie. The woman was having breakfast alone, and from the photograph, it appeared that the actor was seated at the table next to her. Her action was ridiculous, and his post was an interesting commentary on our narcissistic culture. However, there was a darkness that came with the posting when he captioned it, "Check out this oriental...I mean continental breakfast. #selfrie." Thankfully, his fans mostly made selfie jokes in the comments section, but I cringed when the dog eating reference emerged. That's when I commented that it wasn't necessary to use the Asian slur nor bring her race into the equation, and immediately some guy told me to "drink a warm glass of shut the hell up."

I replied to the milk guy, and he did not respond. The comic also never addressed my initial comment. My desire for a dialogue about the ethics of a celebrity humiliating a stranger never came to fruition. I should note that I know that this comic is not a racist and that he was making a joke, even though it was one I didn't like; but the meanness of alluding to a stranger as an "Oriental" and making fun of how she speaks by posting "selfrie" just can't be denied.

Overall, the internet has made it too easy for us to succumb to our inner bullies. A general rule before posting a photo of a stranger--would you be comfortable if that person confronted you about your photo and caption? If so, then post away. If not, don't be a cruel coward and hide behind your computer because nowadays, you're going to be found out anyway. Accountability is a two-way street.

My review of The Black List script listing and coverage service

Approximately one year ago, I paid $25 to use The Black List script hosting service for a month. Like Inktip, The Black List service allows writers to upload a script so that industry professionals can find it based upon whatever tags they choose. What distinguishes The Black List from Inktip, however, is that you (the writer), other users, and industry members can find and rate scripts. The ratings of the scripts can be made public or private based on what you decide, and the public ratings are only determined by industry members or paid readers. (That means your fellow writers can't be haters and bash your work to lower your score.) All scripts with a rating of 8 out of 10 or better from a script reader would be promoted through the company's email blasts.

The last bonus for The Black List site is that it partners with groups such as the Writers Guild of America (WGA), Warner Brothers, and Disney; and writers can submit to these partners' writing opportunities for free if their work is listed for at least a week. When I hosted my script, I submitted for one of these fellowships, and the submission process was easy.

When I used The Black List service a year ago, I paid for a one month listing and $50 coverage for my horror script THE LADDER. THE LADDER centered around a desperate young woman who moved  in with her sister's strange, sadistic family. My script was viewed fifteen times, but no one ended up contacting me. I concluded that my viewing rate was low for two reasons. 1) One month was not enough time to give my script time to be found, but I did not want to pay for multiple months because of the cost 2) My script received an average rating from only one user, the paid reader. No one else had read or reviewed my script, and my average score meant that it would not receive promotion on the site.  Fair enough.

If someone were to ask me if I recommend The Black List hosting service, I would tell them to be aware of the amount of time necessary to get noticed on a site (3 months to a year), and to calculate that with the overall cost when making a decision. However, the $25/month is worth it if you think of the $25 fee as an application fee for the The Black List partners' fellowships. It is noted that WGA writers are allowed to list log lines and information about their scripts for free.

Although I am neutral when it comes to the site's listing service for aspiring screenwriters, I do highly recommend its coverage. When it came to THE LADDER, I liked the script overall, especially its ending, but I sensed there were story problems. I was hitting a wall when it came to pinpointing what those problems were specifically, and my coverage from The Black List did a good job of outlining the good and bad parts of my story. Although my coverage was only one page, it was concise, and it put me on the right path to a rewrite. Even though a year has passed, I have not done any new work on that script, but maybe after a rewrite, I'll try to list my work again. We'll see what happens if my script actually achieved a score worthy of promotion.

Has anyone else had experience using The Black List services? If so, please leave a comment below, or you can connect with me through Facebook or Twitter

Roaring Nights: The L.A. Zoo isn't just for kids

The first time that I had ever attended the Los Angeles Zoo was in the summer of 2009. It was very hot that day, and I remember wandering around from exhibit to exhibit as various families would pass me by. I spent a few hours there and I had a fun time, but I didn't really see myself coming back in the future unless I was with children. However, my view of the L.A. Zoo expanded when I attended Roaring Nights on Friday August 22, 2014 with my friend Chad.

Chad and I arrived at the event around 8pm, and although the free zoo lot was full, we still found parking in a lot across the street. (For cyclists, there was a free bicycle valet service available so that was cool and eco-friendly.) There were plenty of people walking up to the zoo entrance with us, but the lines were short and moved quickly. This was impressive considering that Roaring Nights, a summer series that is held once a month from June to August, averages 3,000 attendees per event.

Chad and I got our tickets and then we had our IDs checked before we were allowed entrance. Unlike my day trip at the zoo five years ago, the evening event, Roaring Nights, was 18 and up, and the clientele was a mix of couples and groups of friends looking for a fun Friday night. According to Laura Stegman of the LA Zoo, "The Zoo has had summer "Music in the Zoo" evenings for many years, and "Roaring Nights" was introduced a few years ago to attract new 18+ audiences looking for nightlife in unexpected venues."
T.Lo and Chad heading into Roaring Nights at the L.A. Zoo (Photo courtesy of Instagram.)
ENTERTAINMENT
For the past three years, Roaring Nights has taken place during the summer once a month in June, July, and August. Each month, the event has different hip, musical guests. For August 2014's event, it hosted We Are Twin and DJ V Money. Previously, it hosted popular local band, Queen Caveat, a band that performs high energy, kickass shows. (Fun fact: I was in the music video for Queen Caveat's Breathe!)

Chad and I unfortunately never found where We Are Twin was performing, but we did enjoy DJ V Money who was set up by the carousel. He spun a lot of fun modern dance tunes such as Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda," which despite its dirtiness was very fitting for the setting. By the end of the night, Chad joined the dance party and almost twerked. It was wonderful. 

In addition to the dancing, zookeepers had tables set up where guests could see animals such as slithery snakes up close. Most of the other animals were turned in for the night, but the elephants were available to view. Because this event was all adults, many of whom were drinking, it was hilarious to witness their reactions. When I attended the zoo during the day, I heard a lot of wows from the kids, but at Roaring Nights, I just couldn't stop laughing at some drunk woman who nearly teared up saying, "The elephants! They're so beautiful. Why are they soooo beautiful?!?"**

**I mean, the elephants were beautiful, but I wasn't crying over them like they were Beyonce, but to each her own.

A zookeeper at a pop up animal display talks about snakes

PERSONAL SOUVENIRS 

Near the entrance, photographers were on hand to snap photos of guests. They took one serious picture and one picture of people pretending to look scared with their hands out so that they could photoshop an animal into their hands. Chad and I partook in this, and at the end of the night, we went to the photography stand to preview our pictures and they were really cute. We hesitated on buying and were told we could check out the photos later online. I've checked the website, and unfortunately Chad and I are nowhere to be found. Bummer. Luckily, there was another photo opportunity, and this one was free. The Zoo had a background set up along with random props, which included cut outs of animals and a fake Instagram border.

One of my favorite aspects of Roaring Nights was a painting station called “Animal Artistry Paint Party.” The station was near the front of the zoo, so people could paint when they came in and when they left, they could pick up their dried work. Canvasses and paint were free, and afterwards, everyone was able to hang their art work on a clothesline to dry. It was a smart idea, and it was a fun personal souvenir to take home at the end of the night.

Guests enjoy free painting at Roaring Nights
A variety of artistic expressions including an homage to bears

FOOD AND BOOZE
At different areas of the zoo, there were different bars and food trucks set up. Some of the food trucks included Baby’s Badass Burgers, Coolhaus, Lobsta Truck, Potato Tornado, Ragin Cajun,  and The Grilled Cheese Truck.  Like at most food truck events, the lines were long. Chad and I got Lobsta Truck, which was delicious, but we spent over thirty minutes waiting in line. Considering that the event lasted from 7pm to 10pm, waiting in food truck lines took up a large chunk of our time, but this seems to be a Los Angeles norm so we were used to it. At least there was never a long wait time for the bar service. 
Placing an order at the Lobtsa truck (All photos by T.Lo)
OVERALL
The L.A. Zoo's Roaring Nights is a well organized, classy event that's a great option for adults wanting to have an entertaining evening. Considering how many people attend Roaring Nights, it never felt crowded being there because the event planners were smart about where to place each station. The entertainment, food, and drink options were top notch, and every employee Chad and I encountered was friendly and seemed to take pride in the zoo. The only critique Chad and I had was that we wished that the event went on at least until midnight, but that may lead to a giant zoo rave so maybe nevermind... (Although that would be really fun. Just saying.)

Although August's Roaring Nights was the last one of this year, the Zoo holds other evening events tied to holidays. For instance, for Halloween, they will hold an event on October 25, 2014 called Night of the Living Zoo, and for Valentine's Day, they will host Sex and the City Zoo. Additionally, they will debut this year a night time wonderland of festive lights called Zoo Lights, which will open nightly (except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) from Friday, November 28, 2014 to Sunday January 4, 2015. For more information about the LA Zoo night time events, check out their website: http://lazoo.org/

Chad paints a masterpiece

After seven years of hard work, University of Kansas alumni sees his comic book dream come true

To connect with CW Cooke, find him on Facebook.
CW Cooke and I were classmates at the University of Kansas, and since graduation, he has gone on to write comics, work the independent comic book scene, and create worlds for various companies. After years of hard work and effort, his first series, Solitary: A Superhero Prison Story, is going to be distributed to the public, thanks mostly to a successful Kickstarter campaign. CW's campaign not only surpassed his original goal by several thousand dollars, but it was also named a Kickstarter Staff Pick.

CW was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share how he successfully crowdsourced his project and how other comic writers can get their foot in the door like he did.

TL: What inspired you to create Solitary: A Superhero Prison Story?
CWC: Inspiration started at a very young age for this one, honestly, and kept coming in different ways. I've wanted to make comic books my whole entire life, and started out creating crappy X-men and Superman ripoff comics. Over the years, I had great teachers and professors and friends who inspired me or gave me the push that I needed to make comics. And as I couldn't draw well at all, I took a chance at writing. And I've always wanted to tell my own stories and I've always wanted to have this ongoing piece of me out there for the world to digest.

TL: You have worked with such publishers as Big Dog Ink, Devil's Due, Action Lab, Arcana, Viper, and Bluewater. How did you form those relationships? What works did you publish with them?
CWC: A lot of the relationships were built over time. Most started by emails or letters or mail that I sent, submissions that I sent out, and just meeting various publishers and editors at comic book conventions. Big Dog Ink was a company that I met at a local comic book convention and lucked into handing them some of my work. Bluewater was the first company I worked for and they gave me a chance based on an email submission I had sent. That opened a number of doors and then blind submissions and request emails or interest emails were sent to the various other companies (and honestly, I probably sent emails and letters to every single comic book publisher out there, some more than once).

Check out Solitary's FB page
TL: Why did you decide to do a Kickstarter?
CWC: Kickstarter was chosen out of necessity. Putting together the book as I have been, I spent a bit of my own money and funds were becoming tight due to bills and various other issues coming up. Kickstarter was essentially a last option, to ensure that the people I'm working with get paid and get compensated for their time, their effort, and their hard work.  I had a lot of help and suggestions from Devil's Due in determining what amount would be necessary to get certain goal levels and how to ensure people got paid what they deserve. Exceeding the goal and continuing to do so has been a wonderful, amazing, and far less stressful aspect of the whole thing. Getting to the goal was tough and terrifying. Surpassing and getting higher and higher makes me think people are excited for the book and excited to see the story unfold (now I just hope I don't screw that up). Everything above and beyond will go back into the book and will take care of the rewards and shipping. The additional amounts will ensure that the book keeps running for as long as possible. Now I just hope people KEEP picking it up!


TL: Now that crowdfunding has become trendy, it seems to be harder to stand out in the crowd and get people to open their wallets. Why do you think your Kickstarter succeeded? What advice would you give to other writers/comic book creators when it comes to fundraising?
Artwork from Solitary
CWC: I think mine succeeded because it's a story that hasn't really been told (I hope). I'm a big fan of the mash-up and throwing two ideas as disparate as Superman and Death Row just seemed too incredible to pass up and too bizarre not to try (and like I said, I hadn't really seen anything like it where the hero was behind bars and that's how the story starts). I think the other lucky bit has been that Orange Is the New Black is a huge thing right now and I lucked into that being around when my Kickstarter started. Not to mention the countless other just strange and lucky coincidences that happened and helped get this thing out there. I also think the cover seals the deal with a lot of people and the image of the electrocution. I have had preview copies of the book for a little while and those two images are what catch people's eyes first. Beyond that, I think my honesty and my truth helped a lot. That's the first and best advice I can give to people. Be honest. Be open. Giving the people what they want is nice and having a brilliant and strange new idea is wonderful. But if people don't trust you or think you're a used car salesman, it might not work out. To say I'm lucky is one thing, but you have to build on the luck and you have to do the work and you have to show people that you are willing to do the work and put in the time to build the audience. It's been a long time coming, and I still owe a great deal of it to luck.

TL: Publishing a comic book requires multiple components such as hiring an illustrator and editor. How did you put Solitary together?
CWC: I've been putting it together in one fashion or another since I was 8 years old, but since 2007, it has been the major focus of what I've been doing. I've found and started with a number of different artists on interiors and put together a large number of pitch documents. I've pitched it to various different comic companies since 2007 and I've changed the title, the artist, and large portions of the story at least 3 or 4 times each (if not more). This final iteration, this final version, took the time to get here. Carl Yonder, the cover artist, has been with me for a long time and has helped struggle and fight with me to make this better. I found him and the interior artist, Nando Souzamotta, on websites like Digital Webbing and then built a friendship/relationship/working relationship from there. Carl & Fake Petre, the colorist team, were found for me via Devil's Due and I have zero issue with that as they do incredible work. And I can't, for one second, do anything but say how great Devil's Due has been. Josh and his team have been a blessing, have helped with heavy lifting like marketing and getting the word out and spreading the news everywhere they can. Getting them to pick the book up was a wonder and just luck, like I mentioned before. It was from a blind submission to them via email, and Josh got back to me, told me how much he loved it, and that's where we are now. And I can't forget Alex for his logo and design assistance, Kit for her amazing help in getting stuff done, Johnnie for the lettering, and Shawn for his editing. I know I've been the voice and face, but there are so many amazing people behind the scenes (and I'm probably forgetting somebody).

TL: Now that your passion project is finalizing, what are you working on next?
CWC: I have SO many things going on right now. I have at least 4 active pitches out there at any given moment, two that I'm currently working on getting out there and hopefully both will be out there as creator-owned ongoing series as well. We shall see. Beyond that, I have a number of different stories I have to tell. I have science fiction, horror, romance, action, everything. I love comics and want to create for the rest of my life.

TL: Thank you for the great insight into how to break into comic book writing. You really provided some valuable resources. Is there anything you would like to add before you go?
CWC: It's been a hell of a ride so far and I'm just so happy for my friends, family, and fans for helping get me there. I'm especially happy to chat with you again as it's been FAR too long! But yeah, it's been a strange, wonderful trip, and I have one last thing to add for all the creative types and people who want to create or want to work in a creative field: Never give up. You might hear a million people telling you no and a million people telling you that you can't do it, but if you keep trying and keep working and keep growing as a writer or artist, you just might have a shot. Giving up means you won't do it. Trying means you just might. It took me 7 years of hard work, edits, changes, rewrites, and absolute luck to get where I am.

If you'd like to donate to Cooke's Kickstarter, click here. There's still one day left to contribute! You can also connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.

Despite long lines and hot sun, L.A. Taco Festival 2014 was Boyle Heights success

August 16 LA Taco Fest (Courtesy of Instagram)
Neil and I boarded the Gold Line of the Los Angeles Metro on Saturday, August 16. It was blistering hot walking to the train station that afternoon, but we were excited about spending a day listening to live music and eating a ton of good Mexican food. We were headed to the Mariachi Plaza stop in Boyle Heights to attend the Fourth Annual L.A. Taco Festival, a fundraiser organized by Jovenes Inc., a non-profit organization that provides housing and support services for homeless youth. It is the largest event in Boyle Heights, an area of East Los Angeles.

Neil and I had premium wristbands which entitled us to tequila tastings and all you can eat tacos. The price of premium wristbands was $45, or $28 for those who purchased their tickets through LivingSocial. Beer, beverages, and other snacks were not included in the wristband price, but they were available for cash purchase. There was also an option for an all-you-can-eat tacos only wristband, which cost $20.

Before attending, I read that individual tacos could be purchased for $4 and that these tacos could only be purchased with taco tickets that were sold at the registration table, which often had a long line. However, upon arriving, I saw one vendor's sign that stated some tacos were being sold for $2 a piece, cash. Although this vendor was breaking the rules, many people didn't know that, and this price discrepancy seemed to bother some of the people around Neil and me.  Maybe next year to avoid any problems with people's perception of the price, the festival could include drinks and snacks with the AYCE price. This will give people the impression that they are getting more bang for their buck, and it will also eliminate any cash handling between the vendors and the festival attendees.
Awesome meat tacos from Tacos El Gallito 
Wandering around Mariachi Plaza, I was amazed at how many people were there. The lines to obtain tacos from each vendor appeared long and daunting, and actually waiting in line probably took fifteen to thirty minutes on average. It felt even longer because of the sun. Neil and I strategized that we would get our tacos and then immediately get in another line. This kept us not hungry, but it would've been nice to be able to sit and eat instead of waiting in line in the heat. I should state though that I actually had fun chatting with people around me, but they seemed pretty grumpy about how much they had paid with how much they actually got to eat. Some of them even complained about the quality of the food, but I thought it was good overall. It goes to show that even though this was a fundraiser, most people primarily cared about their actual experience, not the cause. (Hey, it's human nature.)
Long lines waiting for tacos. Photo by Neil
Un Solo Sol had mixed vegetable and cactus tacos
When Neil and I were done eating, we headed to the beer garden where there was a booth set up for tequila tasting. I should repeat that the price of a wristband for AYCE tacos was $20, and it cost $25 more to get the tequila tasting option. Unfortunately, to get tequila, again there was another long line.  I was disappointed that after waiting in line, the tequila tasting consisted only of two half shots of Don Fermin. Although the tequila was smooth and I liked the taste, even I, an optimist, could not justify the $25 cost of those two shots. Technically, I could have got into line again, but by then, I was too tired and Neil and I decided to call it a day.   

All in all, despite some flaws, I had a great time. The food at the event was authentic, and the energy there was lively. I think next year the festival should figure out ways to cut down on the lines or increase the number of vendors. Or the festival should just get rid of the AYCE wrist band and just allow vendors to charge whatever they want. I have high hopes that the relatively new L.A. Taco Festival will improve with time, and I definitely think Los Angelenos should travel to Boyle Heights more often and see what the area has to offer. It's a hidden gem in East Los Angeles, and there's more to it that should be explored.