The Only Other Man I Know Who Idolized John Chancellor

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John ChancellorWhen I was young — and maybe when you were young, too — there was a newscaster named John Chancellor.

I loved him.

Of course, I didn’t think of it as love. (That came later, when I first saw Al Parker.)  But there was something about John Chancellor that I found comforting and reassuring. He was manly, but not in the usual, Mississippi way I knew, which was related to fishing and spark plugs and ogling women. He was manly simply because he was a man — a confident, intelligent, articulate, handsome man.

Also, he looked a lot like my dad, but he was a version that I could’ve gotten along with — unlike my actual dad. (Footnote: we’ve since become good friends, dad and me.)

And he had great glasses. The first pair of eyeglasses I ever bought were horn-rimmed numbers like the ones he often wore. They looked terrible on me, but I loved them anyway.

John Chancellor died in 1996, when he was just 68 years old. Even though he hosted the evening news on NBC for more than a decade — back when NBC, ABC, and CBS were America’s only options for TV news — he never achieved the kind of superstardom that, say, Walter Cronkite or Tom Brokaw or David Brinkley earned during their careers. Chancellor was a news anchor, not a personality. In some way, I guess that made him interchangeable with all the other news anchors on television: replaceable.

I feel as though he’s been forgotten. As though I might’ve dreamed him up. (Google isn’t helping: I tried to find a decent-sized image of the man and discovered that the pickings are oddly slim.) But then I stumbled across this tiny paragraph in a years-old profile of one of my other quiet crushes, Zach Galifianakis, and I thought: I’m not the only one.

“My husband and I had no doubt Zach would go wherever his dream would take him…When he was three or four years old, he named his stuffed Easter bunny John Newman for John Chancellor and [Edwin] Newman, NBC [Nightly] News co-anchors. Around the same time, he pointed to the TV screen and asked, ‘How do I get in there?’ I guess we always knew he would eventually figure that out.”

— Zack Galifianakis’ mother in Paste magazine

Bad Optics & A Lack Of Compelling Visual Imagery: This Is Why Marriage Equality Opponents Are Experiencing An Epic Fail

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NOM's 2014 March for MarriageLast week, the National Organization for Marriage hosted its annual March for Marriage. I didn’t go, but as I understand it, there wasn’t much marching. However, there was lots of talk about marriage — what it is and what it allegedly isn’t — so they got it half right.

Unfortunately, that’s about all they got.

They didn’t get the “tens of thousands” of supporters they’d hoped for — maybe a thousand, if you count the speakers.

They didn’t get coverage in the news — except from LGBT sites, which tended to write about the small crowd and the wackjobs at the podium.

And most importantly, those wackjobs made it clear that they didn’t get the nuances of marriage equality and how it’s different from other social issues. The best example came from NOM’s Brian Brown, who compared the fight against same-sex marriage to the fight against abortion.

Those are two very different battles, with two very different sets of tools for activists. The differences perfectly — and literally — illustrate why conservatives have been able to win a little ground on the abortion front but have made absolutely zero progress in their fight against marriage equality.

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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Four: Medicine, Pets, And Everything Else

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I won’t lie: going vegan can be hard, even for those who take a soft approach. Like any restrictive diet or life plan, it requires that you pay attention to the products you’re consuming.

That means reading labels, asking questions of salepeople, changing longstanding habits, and doing things based on principle rather than deep-seated feelings (“I love those shoes, but….”). It’s willpower. It’s mind over matter, where “mind” equals “mind” and “matter” equals “cheeseburgers” or “Chanel perfume”.

It also means taking a risk that your friends will label you a humorless douchebag.

Clothing, food, and to a lesser extent, cosmetics are the most obvious trouble spots for budding vegans. It’s pretty easy to tell that you’ve crossed the line when you’re wearing animal flesh or, conversely, to know that you’re on the right track when you see a “leaping bunny” logo.

But there are many other things we do and products we buy — some of which we truly we rely on — that are derived from animals or make use of them in some unpleasant way. Depending on your living environment, income, location, and a thousand other factors, the thought of using these products could keep you up at night. Or you might roll over and sleep like a log.

Here are a just few that occupy my attention. The full list is much, much longer:

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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Three: Food

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Veganizing your wardrobe? Surprisingly easy.

Making your bathroom more animal-friendly? Not quite as painless, but on a scale of one to ten (one being “I could do this in my sleep” and ten being “I would rather be submerged in a ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese and forced to watch Ghost Dad“), it’s about a three.

Welcome to the next step, the pinnacle, the boss level: veganizing your diet. This is where things get real. (Kidding. I just like to sound like a douchebag sometimes.)

vegan food (via Wikimedia)FOOD

There are at least three problems with changing your diet, three things that make it more difficult than the other topics I’ve covered:

A. Food isn’t something you can just give up. Leather shoes? Send ‘em to the thrift shop and buy a pair made of canvas or nylon. Cologne that’s been tested on animals? Toss it in the trash. If you really need it, there are hundreds of cruelty-free options to choose from. But there’s no skipping out on food — at least, not for long.

B. Animal-based food is cheap, easy, and plentiful. If you have time to plan and choose your meals, that’s one thing. But when you’re hungry and in a hurry, rushing to class or a meeting or a flight, your choices are severely limited. You’re either having that sausage biscuit from Mickey D’s, or you’re going to have to re-train your body to subsist on coffee alone. I’ve tried that last one. I don’t recommend it.

C. Food fulfills deeply personal desires. You may love a particular wool sweater, but you own others. You can find substitutes. However, when you’re depressed or stressed or starving, chances are, you crave a very particular sort of food. For me, it’s mac and cheese, for other people, it’s a hamburger or cheesecake. We have a long history with these dishes — they’re often the ones we grew up with — and altering our deep-seated feelings about them doesn’t happen overnight.

So, shifting to a vegan diet involves some retraining. It’s like exercising or calling your parents more often or giving up Facebook: going vegan takes a bit of work, a bit of time, and the creation of new habits.

That said, there are a few ways to smooth the process and set yourself up for success:

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To My Fellow Mississippians & Beleaguered Christians Everywhere

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Mississippi state capitolMy Fellow Mississippians:

When I was younger — much younger — I spent a lot of time at the state capitol in Jackson. I was the kind of kid who loved debate tournaments, who adored sparring with words since I was too small and doughy to spar with my fists. Not surprisingly, I loved the annual Youth Congress event, when teenagers like me took over the capitol building and made it ours for a few days, a place where we could pass fake laws, swivel ourselves sick in fancy leather chairs, and generally annoy the crap out of each other so long as we followed Robert’s Rules of Order.

But even then, even in my most precocious years, I knew deep down that I was no match for the Good Ol’ Boy network. Because even among the social outcasts of the debating and forensics circuit, I was an outsider. I just couldn’t walk the walk — not without swishing, anyway. I made people uncomfortable. I made them suspicious.

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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part Two: Toiletries, Cosmetics, And Fragrance

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Marilyn_Monroe_shaving

So, you’ve begun to veganize your wardrobe, quietly weeding out the leather and the wool and the alligator and all the other animal-derived stuff hanging from hangers and boxed in shoeboxes. That was pretty painless, and no one really noticed the transformation, so no one has tried raking you over the coals for your new-found code of ethics. (I still don’t know why people do that, but they do. It’s annoying.)

Phase 1: The Bedroom is complete, now you’re ready for Phase 2: The Bathroom.

Chances are, several products sitting in your shower and by your sink contain animal-based ingredients and/or were animal-tested in labs. If you’re only following the letter of vegan law (whatever that is), you’ll just need to ditch the former, but the spirit of that law is all about minimizing cruelty, so it seems like a good idea to toss the latter, too.

A quick heads-up before we begin: this round of changeouts may be more difficult than the first, but don’t worry, it’s totally doable. And as with the clothing switcheroo, you’ll probably be the only one to notice.

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I’m A Casual Vegan (And So Can You!) Part One: Clothing & Accessories

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Keep Calm and Go VeganI am a patient man. My husband would say that I am too patient. It’s something I picked up from my mother, who preached the “This is Water” philosophy long before David Foster Wallace gave his now-famous speech.

I am also a pragmatist. This goes hand-in-hand with being patient.  I don’t need a perfect life, I don’t need laws, technology, jobs, clients, partners, or pets to be exactly as I want them, when I want them. I am willing to accept incremental progress and evolution rather than lickety-split revolution — in fact, I think slow-and-steady-wins-the-race is a healthier approach. In short: I am willing to live with the ambiguities and messiness of the world. My boyfriend can vouch for that.

So it’s no surprise that my version of veganism is fairly casual, laid-back. Don’t get me wrong: when I was younger and merely a vegetarian, I was very confrontational. I went through That Phase. I was a complete and utter dick to carnivores. I can smile about it now, but at the time, it was terrible.

When I returned to the meat-free fold a few years ago, determined to go full-on vegan, I decided to approach it in a different way. So far, I think it’s worked: I feel better about myself, I think I’m inflicting less harm on the animals of the world, I didn’t have to change my life too dramatically to make the switch, and just as importantly, I don’t believe I’ve alienated any friends or family members in the process. (Though like many non-meat-eaters, I still have a dad who says things like, “I know you’re a vegetarian, but you still eat chicken, right?”)

Along the way, I’ve persuaded a few folks to join me. Most worried that being vegan would be too much of a “lifestyle” and upend their daily routines, but soon they realized that’s not the case — not at all. Here are some of the tips I offered them, starting with the ones that are easiest to implement.

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Quick Notes On Texas & Marriage Equality

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Ted Cruz“[U]nelected judges should not be substituting their own policy views for the reasoned judgments of the citizens of Texas” — Senator Ted Cruz, complaining about a federal judge who found Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage to be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution

And that, in a nutshell, is the only remaining defense that Texans — or anyone else in America — has for supporting statewide bans on same-sex marriage.

The procreation argument has failed at every level.

The biblical argument? Even more disastrous. Put aside for a moment the question of church/state separation and just look at the wackadoo marriage laws found in the bible. Any of the Old Testamenteers would be completely confused by our one man-one woman system. “What no concubines? No slaves? No incest? What’s wrong with you people?” (N.B. They might’ve said “What the hell is wrong with you people?”, only hell hadn’t been invented yet.)

The traditionalist argument — that is, saying that “this is the way it’s always been done”? Equally abysmal failure. In fact, it’s always an abysmal failure.

And so now, people like the Senator from the Great State of Texas by way of Canada are doing the only thing they can:

1) Attacking unelected judges (you know, the ones that are generally censured at a lower rate than their elected colleagues)

2) Attacking “activist” judges (though of course, they’re only activists if they rule against the conservative cause).

3) Defending state’s rights (which seems sound, except the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution opens the door to mandating that states, at the very least, recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states)

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Andrew Sullivan Is Wrong About Arizona

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Andrew Sullivan

I like Andrew Sullivan.

Well, I mostly like Andrew Sullivan.

I don’t like his conservatism on many issues. I fail to understand how such a smart man could’ve supported the Iraq War or George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or any of the other right-wing figures he’s professed to like. I’m also wary of his Zionist tendencies.

But Sullivan is smart and thoughtful, and what’s most interesting about him is that he’s willing to discuss touchy subjects that most on the left or right want to avoid, mostly due to knee-jerk political ideology. I was taught in graduate school that even the dumbest, weirdest, most offensive ideas are worth exploring, because sometimes those ideas have a kernel of truth — truth that helps explain why the other side of the argument is so right, or how it might be a little wrong.

Also, Sullivan is adorable and sexy. I’d be lying if I said that doesn’t make him incrementally more likable in my book.  Looks and charisma can have that kind of effect — hell, why else would huge swathes of America still be listening to Sarah Palin? At least the woman can pull off an up-do.

But my point is this: Sullivan’s thoughts on the just-vetoed anti-LGBT law in Arizona are off-base. True, he doesn’t want to see LGBT people subjected to discrimination, but he doesn’t want to legislate our equality, either. Case in point:

I would never want to coerce any fundamentalist to provide services for my wedding – or anything else for that matter – if it made them in any way uncomfortable. The idea of suing these businesses to force them to provide services they are clearly uncomfortable providing is anathema to me. I think it should be repellent to the gay rights movement as well.

So, two things:

a) This isn’t about wedding cakes or floral arrangements or any of the frippery associated with same-sex marriage ceremonies. Those incidents simply inspired the lawsuits that, in turn, inspired the failed Arizona law. Ultimately, this is about public accommodation, and the lawsuits over cakes and flowers are leading judges to the same conclusions that their peers are reaching in same-sex marriage cases — namely, that LGBT individuals constitute a suspect class, and that, in turn, is another huge step toward legally securing our rights.

b) It’s not surprising that Sullivan would oppose the uproar around the bill. It’s no shock that he wants to allow the bigots have their way, to let things run their course, to have LGBT citizens patronize other florists and bakeries while the right-wingers dig their own graves. After all, Sullivan generally hates hate-crime laws. But the slow and steady approach to civil rights doesn’t work for everyone — certainly not everyone who’s not white and wealthy. Some people would like to acquire their rights today, from the bench, instead of from a process of accretion. As someone from Mississippi, where time moves more slowly than in most of the U.S., I speak from experience.

Given Sullivan’s pragmatism — an admirable trait, in my view — you’d think he might get all that.