Thursday, March 29

Queen wants to be a Queen without initiation

Life as a female has its ups and downs. Sure, the ups are wonderful, but I'm here to tell you as an authoritative source, the downs can hit rock bottom. Women are involuntarily initiated into the female club at birth. The estrogen downs smack us in the face before we can even drive a car.

Hazed by our own hormones, our teenage years are consumed by acne and tears. Tormented by an extra X chromosome, we're forced to face the challenges of menstruation, mascara and menopause. Who in their right mind would voluntarily join this club?

Jenna Talackova is one woman who seems to relish her membership in the female club. Talackova won the Miss Vancouver beauty pageant, qualifying her for the Miss Universe Canada pageant. The winner of Miss Universe Canada moves on to compete in Donald Trump's TV broadcast, Miss Universe pageant. Last week, Talackova was disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada competition. Apparently the stunning Miss Talackova is transgender.

She (he?) was born male and had "gender reassignment surgery" at age 19 to become a female. I had no idea one could be reassigned. I would like to be reassigned as a princess which would only be a matter of paperwork and not nearly as complicated as gender altering surgery. There would be no need for anesthesia and no potential medical malpractice suit. I try hard not to think about the details of Talackova's surgery for many reasons but I can't help it, my mind keeps returning to the operating room. The surgical procedure must be incredibly difficult for the doctor and patient. And what medication could possibly manage that level of pain?

Last week, the Miss Universe Canada organization issued a media release stating that Talackova was eliminated "because she did not meet the requirements to compete despite having stated otherwise on her entry form. We do, however, respect her goals " What are Talackova's goals? Does she want to be beautiful and compete in beauty pageants? She is already beautiful and has an eerie likeness to Ivanka Trump. Could she not be a model or perhaps participate in another Donald Trump TV show, such as "Celebrity Apprentice"?

Talackova was approached after pageant staff found evidence on her Facebook page that she was in fact transgender. How many times must it be proven that social media is the two-faced friend that will stab you in the back at any given moment?

The basic pageant rules on the pageant website state that a contestant must be a single female between the ages of 18 and 27. A spokesperson for the pageant organization also said that Talackova broke contestant rules which specify each contestant must be a "naturally born female" (a rule included in all Miss Universe pageants). Talackova wrote on her application that she was born female when in fact she was obviously born male. Talackova also objects to the wording "naturally born." I suppose it's fair to say that she was naturally born considering she didn't hatch from an egg. She is now 23 but technically was a man at age 18 and a woman at age 19.

According to a report on, not long after her surgery, Talackova competed in Miss International Queen in 2010, a competition for transgender and transsexual people. In an interview posted on YouTube, she said she knew she was a girl at age 4.
So what defines Talackova's gender? Her chromosomes are X and Y, making her biologically male. However, by appearance, she is female.

Meanwhile, Talackova has consulted an attorney and has used her Twitter account to express her belief that she was unfairly disqualified. Talackova tweeted, "I'm not going to let them just disqualify me over discrimination." It's illegal in Canada to discriminate against a person based on their gender identity. A movement to support Talackova has gained momentum. Almost 25,000 people have signed a petition to reinstate Talackova as a contestant in the pageant.

How about a petition that claims Talackova can't be reinstated as a contestant because she lied on her application? Talackova says she looks and feels like a woman. I think I look and feel like a princess but I wouldn't put that on a job application.

Should Talackova be allowed to compete in the Miss Universe Canada competition? I don't know. One thing I do know; in this undeniably male dominated society, I think it's totally unfair that men have figured out a way to join the female club without going through the initiation.

Thursday, March 22

An Open Letter to Anybody (Bristol writes Obama)

Bristol Palin has reached for her keyboard once again. In response to President Barack Obama's telephone call to Sandra Fluke, Palin posted an open letter on her blog, titled "Mr. President, when should I expect your call?"

Palin surfaced so many points in so few paragraphs that her letter resembles a literary yard sale. She dragged old issues out of the closet, shined them up and laid them out for cheap, assuming that at least one point would sell. I'm just impressed that Palin's publicist was able to capture her "voice" and still write a letter that made sense. And that is the sad irony of the situation. It's a dark day in America when Bristol Palin, a total dolt, effectively points out the double standard in the media and contradictions in politics.

Palin (and her publicist) writes, "But here's why I'm a little surprised my phone hasn't rung. Your $1,000,000 donor Bill Maher has said reprehensible things about my family." Will Obama call Palin? Unless she joins the Democratic party and promotes his agenda, there's no chance her phone will ring. Furthermore, it doesn't matter whether Maher donated $1 million or $1 — its return wouldn't change the impact of his pubescent, and as Bristol accurately described, "reprehensible" behavior.
Maher has repeatedly described Bristol and Sarah Palin using language that is literally unprintable. In June 2011, he said, "Bristol Palin has to admit the reason she (unprintable word right here) Levi over and over until a baby fell out is because she liked it!"

In a cyclical, "It's the Circle of Life" argument (a la "The Lion King"), Maher and Rush Limbaugh disguise journalism as political opinion, and on an as-needed basis, disguise political opinion as comedic entertainment. The beautiful thing about this cyclical philosophy is that the journalist/political analyst/entertainer doesn't have to take responsibility for the drivel that falls out of his mouth. Maher and Limbaugh argue that they have the right to free speech and the liberty to speak their opinion using whatever language they chose which cannot be challenged since it is all part of a comedy act. Are four letter words required to make an insightful and witty joke?

Maher refused to apologize for gutter-worthy jokes about Sarah Palin, arguing that if the audience laughs at the jokes then the language is acceptable. His logic assumes that social and community mores determine the bounds of his topics and language. He said, "People have won cases about pornography based on this (argument) the community says it's OK." There you have it. It's the community's fault that Maher must use foul language to elicit laughter from the audience.

When Limbaugh lost sponsors as a result of his comments about Fluke, Maher said, "Rush, I don't have sponsors — I'm on HBO." Apparently it's also the sponsor's responsibility to police the "entertainment" on TV since HBO will not.

Let's keep in mind that Maher and Limbaugh are, technically, intelligent men. Yet, both made moronic inflammatory statements and drew attention to women who frankly didn't deserve the air time. Bristol Palin's greatest talent is exploiting her relationship to a failed vice presidential candidate. Why is Maher wasting valuable joke bandwidth on Bristol Palin?

Fluke became the target of Limbaugh's attacks when she testified before Congress on the negative impact of restrictive insurance coverage as it relates to contraception and religious institutions' freedoms under federal law. Why did Limbaugh attack Fluke rather than attack her testimony? You would never have known that Fluke was in law school based on her testimony because it's filled with anecdotal evidence and unconvincing numbers. As an example, she let the audience get preoccupied with a story about a lesbian with ovarian cysts. (She should know that any story that includes a lesbian is a one-way ticket to a distracted audience.) Fluke's inability to persuasively argue her own point was completely overlooked as all eyes focused on Limbaugh's equally unpersuasive, crass criticism.

Limbaugh is a plebian with a microphone and Maher is mediocrity incarnate. Obama needs to stop apologizing for other people and hang up the phone. Fluke should hide under a rock for hideous under achievement and Bristol Palin needs to go to college because she will need a dictionary to read this column.

Virginia Russell

Monday, March 19

Burmese Pythons take over the Everglades in Florida

This article is rated R for contents of a disturbing nature.

The snake situation in Florida is literally giving me nightmares. The number of Burmese python snakes in the Everglades is greater than the population of the city of Naples. As if that's not enough, there is a shortage of coral snake antivenom. In my mind, the governor should declare a state snake emergency.

Burmese pythons didn't start here. They were originally brought to Southwest Florida as exotic pets from Southeast Asia. The story goes that during Hurricane Andrew in 1992, a pet python was released or escaped into the Everglades. The Florida Everglades offered a habitat from heaven: plush wetlands, fresh water and cute fuzzy little animals ripe for the picking. The pythons have no natural predator in the Everglades and thus, they are now living fat and happy. They eat everything from pet cats to large alligators. For example, one python found in the Everglades was killed just after it had eaten a 76-pound deer.

The exact number of pythons is unknown. That's understandable since the snakes 1) slither and swim so fast they are hard to count and 2) who in their right mind would go out in the Everglades with the sole purpose of counting pythons?

Some experts believe that since the 1990s the python population has grown to a conservative estimate of 30,000. Given that the pythons have no natural enemies in the Everglades, if that same growth rate is used, the current population of 30,000 would grow to over 7 billion by 2032. That estimate assumes that half the current Burmese python population is female and each female's clutch produces eight surviving eggs. Hopefully things like natural selection will curb the python reproduction otherwise there will be more snakes than humans.

An average python can grow up to 20 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds. If you lined up all of the existing pythons head to tail, they would stretch all the way across Interstate 75 between Naples and Miami. The governor should change the name of Alligator Alley to Python Alley.

Scientists tagged some of the crafty pythons and discovered that the snakes were actually swimming beyond the brackish waters of the Everglades and into the salt water of the Florida Bay. A recent article published in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology suggested that the pythons could be able to swim between the Key islands.

That's not all. There are 400 species of snakes in Florida but the good news is that only eight of the 400 are venomous. The bad news is that one of the eight venomous snakes, the coral snake, has life-threatening venom. The worst news is that if you are bitten by the coral snake, common to Southwest Florida, you're doomed. There's so little antivenom left in Florida you'll likely have to be intubated and resuscitated until the poisonous venom wears off, which can take weeks.

The Everglades are one of the seven natural wonders of the world. In my opinion (which is in no way scientific) the pythons are mucking up the Everglades ecosystem and are endangering its position on the list of seven natural wonders. At this rate, the seven natural wonders may turn into the six natural wonders of the world.
I think someone (not me) should pack up some coral snakes in a box marked "exotic pets" and send them on a one-way ticket back to Burma (Myanmar).

Thursday, March 15

I got shot with a tazer gun

This is a picture of me being shot in the leg with a tazer gun.  It was very painful.  I do not recommend it.  If a policement ever points a tazer gun at you ask for the pistol instead.  The bullet will be faster and hurt less.  Why did I volunteer to do this?  Journalistic integrity.  (That's my story and I'm sticking with it).

Online Survey says....

A U.S. soldier shot and killed 16 civilians in Afghanistan, GOP candidates are vying for the presidential bid and what are most people doing with their time? Playing solitaire and doing crossword puzzles on their phones.

I performed a wholly unscientific survey to determine what the heck people do with themselves all day. I sent the survey to many people, some of whom I know intimately so I was able to substantiate their answers. The survey was decidedly inaccurate because 99 percent of all responders lied. Or, perhaps they were challenged to tell the cold hard truth. Who wants to admit they play on their phone and text all day long?

Most people will tell you they are extremely busy and gesture toward a mobile phone or computer as defending evidence. But what's really behind all that tap, tap, tapping on the keyboard? Ninety two percent of all surveyed admitted to either playing solitaire on their phone and/or checking Facebook every day for a minimum of 30 minutes. Some who were more honest admitted to 60 minutes per day and included Sudoku and Chopper2 in their list of preferred phone games.

Only 3 percent of all parents said "yes" when asked, "Have you ever been late to pick up your child because you were on your phone or computer playing a game or on Facebook?" However, the children waiting to be picked up had a different answer. Contrary to the parent percentages, 60 percent of all children said "yes" or "guaranteed" or "no doubt" when asked, "Have your parents ever been late to pick you up because they were on Facebook or playing a game on the phone or computer?"

In the same survey, I asked those with mobile phones if they had ever sent or received a "sext" message (a text message that includes sexually explicit information). A whopping 72 percent of the parent group (the same people who supposedly aren't late to pick up their kids) have either sent or received a "sext" message. Perhaps the parents were telling the truth and it isn't games or Facebook but something else that's making them late?

Many surveyed said that they had phones but didn't know how to find the games much less how to play them. I think those people are telling the truth.

Those surveyed that had a mobile phone and understood how to use it, all admitted to talking on their home phone while simultaneously texting on their mobile phone.

Is the ease and accessibility proffered by mobile phones and laptops increasing our productivity or distracting our focus? Are the games a positive brain flex or a senseless waste of time? Solitaire and crossword puzzles, the two most popular phone games in this survey, have been around for decades. What's new however is the idea that a person can play solitaire for 45 seconds at a stop light. It's now possible to exploit what would otherwise have been "dead" time with light mental fare. Or perhaps we're all having too many mental game snacks and it's only a matter of time before our brains are as mushy as our bodies.

And what about those who aren't on Twitter, Facebook or Words with Friends? What are they doing all day?

In one response, Harriette Will said, "I do not play games on the computer nor do I go on Twitter or Facebook. And I do not text. So there you have it. I am a dinosaur, but I have lots of time to play tennis, walk outside when the weather is pretty, read, write letters or e-mails to keep in touch with distant friends, and do the New York Times crossword every day except Monday and Tuesday (they are too easy). I also take time to actually talk to people face to face and listen to what they are saying."

I can't help but point out that she could use the mobile app and do the New York Times crossword puzzle on her phone.

Tuesday, March 13

Murdoch and Brooks - hacking phones for news

Rupert Murdoch abruptly ended publication of the News of the World in response to allegations that journalists were hacking phones for news stories. The News of the World, otherwise known as the “News of the Screws” sold more than 2 million copies per week. It was widely considered a tabloid rag that published sex scandals and exposed the private lives of public figures.

In regard to the hacking, the editor, Colin Myler said, “Nothing should diminish everything this great newspaper has achieved.” And it has achieved so much.

Consider the former News of the World reporter James Weatherup, recently arrested for phone hacking. I have provided two examples of Weatherup’s contribution to the achievement of the great newspaper, News of the World: “Sherrie’s a boozy, violent, jealous control freak – EXCLUSIVE CORRIE LEGEND’S HUBBY LETS LOSE AT STAR,” and “Stone me, she’s better looking than dad! – ROCKER KEITH’S GIRL STRIPS FOR PLAYBOY.” It took me literally four hours to find column titles by Weatherup that contain verbiage acceptable for my parents to read.

Of course the many accomplishments of former chief reporter Neville Thurlbeck (also arrested for phone hacking) should not be overlooked. Thurlbeck was responsible for covering or fabricating news about the royal family. One of his last articles published was titled “ANDREW & THE SEX SLAVE BEAST.” Thurlbeck’s journalistic contributions to the News of the World were an achievement indeed.

If I had been the editor of News of the World and I was paying off the police, I would have fired the journalists long ago for turning out such literary trash when presumably they had access to really good direct source information. If they were willing to commit a crime for the sake of juicy news, then the news better be darn good and it wasn’t. It was as sour as a lemon.

Who has the patience to listen to that many phone conversations? I talk a lot and there’s a limit to how much time even I can spend on the phone. I can’t imagine the tedium of listening to other people’s conversations. And who says anything on the phone that is so titillating it is worth recording? Why waste time and risk legal entanglements when so many public personalities, from performers to politicians freely dish out news on Twitter and Facebook as if it were candy?

The benefit of hacking people’s phones is that you can stay in your pajamas and sit on your own sofa while you’re on the phone doing “research” for your next article. So in the name of research and the desire to sit in my pajamas all day, I asked my editor for a phone hacking device. I don’t know who I would listen to, but I assure you I would come up with scintillating news about grocery shopping and the most recent episode of Glee. I promised my editor that I would listen to thousands of calls (but not his). I guaranteed juicy stories that would make at least lemonade if not a pina colada. His not-so-subtle response confirms that this newspaper is more ethical than Murdoch’s 168-year-old, multi-million dollar publication.

News of the World should have been put out of its misery long ago. Murdoch should have fired all of his editors for the inability to group words into a reasonable sentence structure and excessive use of the “caps lock” key. And finally, Rebekah Brooks should fire her hairdresser for letting her look like the cowardly lion after his visit to the Emerald City.

Thursday, March 8

Limbaugh potentially ill?

As a parent there are certain questions I avoid like the plague. I often respond to the most awkward question “Mom where do babies come from?” with “Daddy can answer that question much better than I can.” Of course there are other difficult esoteric questions also worthy of deflection. Even Webster was of no assistance with the most recent “What does the word ‘integrity’ mean?”
In the same way that an example of “high” can be used to define “low,” I decided that it was easier to explain the opposite of integrity as a path to the true meaning of integrity. This seemed an obvious solution considering examples of individuals totally devoid of even a speck of integrity abound in the news.
Rush Limbaugh is in my opinion, the King of negative integrity. In a colossal collision of his personal opinion and all ethical codes and canons of journalism, Limbaugh disgracefully attacked Sandra Fluke for presenting her testimony on contraception before Congress. He said on his radio show: 

“I will buy all of the women at Georgetown…aspirin to put between their knees…(Fluke) essentially says that she must be paid to have sex. What does that make her? a slut…a prostitute. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. If we are going to pay for your (Fluke) contraceptives…We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch…who bought your condoms in junior high? She's having so much sex it's amazing she can still walk.”
Subsequent to Limbaugh’s absurd verbal spew Fluke has become a sympathetic figure and appeared on multiple major network TV shows and is a pervasive topic in news media. Limbaugh’s disturbingly inappropriate comments catapulted Fluke’s contraception cause into mainstream discussion and raised the question, “Is Limbaugh filtering all of his thoughts?” Everything he said, except for the prepositions should have remained caged within his temporal lobe. Limbaugh’s inability to mentally filter may be a symptom of a more serious health issue. He may need to have a sieve surgically implanted on his brain.
I once had an experience when my mouth was directly connected to my stream of consciousness. I had a horrible rash and realized I was out of Benadryl. In a moment of total desperation I decided to use my children’s Benadryl. I doubled the dose assuming that two eight year olds equal one of me. Unfortunately my computation was off and I quadrupled the dose. The rash went away but my arms felts like overcooked linguine with bricks at each end where my hands should have been. Everything that came out of my mouth was nonsensical; I was useless verbal entertainment.
I was hoping to apply a similar excuse to Limbaugh’s illogical eruption. A drug induced manic verbal moment is plausible considering his history of drug addiction. In 2003 he was absent from his show to enter drug rehabilitation for prescription drug addiction. In this particular instance I don’t think the “I was drugged out of my mind” excuse is applicable considering Limbaugh repeated the same statements about Fluke during his radio show over the course of three days.
In 2006 he was charged with doctor shopping. The criminal charges were dropped when he agreed to a court diversion program which included drug treatment and a fine. Two months later he was detained in a Florida airport for possessing the penis erectile dysfunction drug Viagra that was prescribed in a different name. The Viagra was confiscated but Limbaugh wasn’t charged.
This last verbal attack may have revealed more about his well-being than he intended. He may be suffering from the side effects from Viagra, Oxycontin or Hydrocodone which include but aren’t limited to: loss of hearing, mental changes, speech changes and constipation.
His problem with University students may run deep considering he never made it past his freshman year and his issue with contraception could be multifaceted. Perhaps he is suffering from other ailments of which we know nothing. One can only hope that someone close to Limbaugh, presumably his fourth wife since he has no children, is assessing his condition.  
The challenge for me is that I cannot use this R-rated example of the opposite of integrity to define integrity for my children. Thus I shall continue to say “Daddy can answer that question much better than I can.”

p.s., Limbaugh signed a $400 million contract 8 year contract in 2008. I need a raise.