Ice Bucket Challenge

ice bucket challenge
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For those who haven’t been living under a rock the past month or so, you’ve probably been inundated with video after video of all sorts of people pouring buckets of ice over their heads, all in the name of charity.

The Ice Bucket Challenge dares nominated participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads and challenging others to do the same. A common stipulation is that nominated people have 24 hours to comply or forfeit by way of a charitable financial donation.

The charity in question does vary somewhat depending on where in the world you’re living. Most notably in the US, the challenge is being done to raise awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease).  In the United Kingdom, people also participate in the challenge for the Motor Neurone Disease Association or for Macmillan Cancer Support.

And wouldn’t you know it, a dear friend of mine nominated me through Facebook to complete the Macmillan Ice Bucket Challenge.. but I didn’t do it.  I wimped out.

Instead of doing the actual challenge and posting yet another video of someone pouring water over their head, I sent a donation to the charity and posted on Facebook asking for others to complete the challenge on my behalf.

Ice bucket donationAnd surprise surprise, I totally got the piss taken out of me by a couple friends for not doing the challenge, although they did commend me for still sending a donation.

I could come up with all sorts of excuses why I didn’t do it – I’ve had a bit of a sore throat past couple of days, it was too chilly outside, I didn’t have anyone to film it for me, and so forth.

But to be honest, I just didn’t want to do it.  To stand out in my garden and pour a bucket of ice water over my head while filming it for others to laugh at.  It just seemed a lot of silliness to add another video to the already massive number on the internet.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole premise behind the challenge (regardless of which charity it’s being done for) is terrific and a fun way to raise awareness for these diseases, and to further educate those who are unaware of what they are.

But for me, I felt I could do more than just pour ice water over my head.  Like write a blog post about it all to help promote the different charities, and to ask those who can to give to either of them.  As well as the donation I did send in myself.

Doing the challenge is great and all, but I think some of the videos out there are just people following along with this summer’s ‘trend’.  I’ve seen many videos online where people don’t even mention the charity, why they’re doing it, or whether they’ve made a donation themselves. And that’s not helping the charities at all, but instead just giving people a funny video to laugh at.

Of course, it’s the end result that matters most – increasing each charity’s funds so they can do more research and work towards prevention of the diseases.  And by talking about it to get more information out there we can help even more than just pouring water over our heads.

And in the end, isn’t that the most important thing?

Click the links below to find out more about each of the charities, the work they’re doing and the challenges themselves.  Please give if you can.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html

Macmillan Ice Bucket Challenge (UK) – http://www.macmillan.org.uk/ice-nominate.html

As well watch the below video to see what sufferers of ALS go through.  It’s an emotional and beautifully made video once you get past the super funny part at the beginning.

It’s the only ALS Ice Bucket video you really need to watch.

To Beard or Not to Beard

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hipster beard2Does anyone else out there think the whole beard trend has gone a bit too far?  Am I the only one who’s tired of pretty much every guy out there has a beard of some sort?

Of course, that is probably an over-exaggeration, but we’ve gotten to a point where most guys have a beard or scruff of some sort.  And it’s not like it’s their day off and didn’t need to shave.

Personally, I love nothing better than a sexy man with a nice beard or stubble.  For some guys, it’s what may actually make them sexy in the first place.  I know I’ve looked at pictures of guys with and without beards, and thought they looked a lot better with one.  Not that they were ugly or unattractive without.

I suppose it’s all a matter of wanting that perceived masculinity in a partner, that the beard somehow makes him seem more virile.  That the beard makes him seem more of a man.

And for awhile, at least for me, it made it a bit easier to identify beary or bear-friendly guys.  😉  You rarely found a twink or some muscle queen with a nice, full beard.

Unfortunately these days, with the social acceptance of facial hair over the past few years it’s gotten to the point where you can’t throw a cat without hitting a guy with a beard, and not just in the gay community.

Beards Keep You Young, Healthy & Handsome, Says Science – World Observer Online.

In fact, as I sit in the coffee shop writing this, out of the 8 guys in my immediate vicinity, only one doesn’t have any kind of facial hair… then again he’s 10 years old and hasn’t hit puberty yet.  Lol

beard spelledI’ve seen guys of all walks of life with big bushy beards, gay and straight.  But the thing that bothers me so much these days is how this whole beard trend has been taken to the extreme.  To the point where there are some damn ugly beards out there, all because they think it’s ‘cool’ and ‘trendy’.

Take the hipster look – a generally skinny guy, with odd clothes, and now with a huge bushy lumberjack beard.  This is a common look for a lot of guys living in East London.  And on some guys it can look super HAWT!  But on most it looks like they’re auditioning for some film about the Amish.

I recently read an article on The Guardian website that suggested that perhaps we’ve reached ‘peak beard’ – that a man’s attractiveness to potential partners may fade as facial hair becomes more prevalent.

Fashion-conscious men warned we may have reached ‘peak beard’ | Fashion | The Guardian

Is this true, or just a matter of some fashionista not liking beards so is hoping to get people to start shaving again?  Or is it just a matter of pointing out the obvious, that this trend will too pass?

Interestingly there was a conversation about beards at a picnic I attended recently, where the majority of the guys there were clean shaven or just hadn’t shaved that day and only a couple of us with full on beards.  Most of the guys there just associated beards with the bear community, and one guy went so far as to say that smooth-faced guys are quickly becoming the more desired since too many guys out there have facial hair now.

Paul_BunyanTo be honest, it’s a thought I’ve had many times myself over the past while.  Usually when I’m standing in front of the mirror dreading trimming my beard to ensure it doesn’t go all Paul Bunyon-like.  LOL

Hell, I’ve come very VERY close to just shaving the entire thing off in a fit of frustration .. and probably laziness.  Haha.  Though I think I’d look quite weird without a full beard – I’ve sported one for close to 10 years now!

Anyway, regardless of the ‘peak beard’ effect or whether fashion trends will swing back towards clean-shaven men, they’ll always be somewhat trendy and prevalent in the bear community.

And yes, damn sexy. 😉

IDAHOT – International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

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May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, a day aimed to coordinate international events that raise awareness of LGBT rights violations and stimulate interest in LGBT rights work worldwide.

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The date of May 17 was chosen to commemorate the decision to remove homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1990. (Source: Wikipedia).

Some may wonder why there’s a need for a day set aside to raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and repression of LGBT communities worldwide.

Well, if you think about, you should understand.  The fact that these acts of violence or discrimination still occur in this day and age just begs for more awareness of these issues.  Because men, women, and transsexual people around the world still face these issues on a daily basis, regardless of what county they live in.

wipe_out_homophobia_by_wipeout_homophobia-d4835i7Let’s be honest – as progressive and accepting as the world has become, it’s still not where it should be.  No person, regardless of race, sexuality, gender identity, religious beliefs, social status, etc should be made to feel less than who they really are.

This day helps promote discussion and an opportunity to take action at all levels, be it through the media, policymakers, public opinion, and wider civil society.

One of the stated goals of May 17 is to create an event that can be visible at a global level without needing to conform to a specific type of action.[11] This decentralized approach is needed due to the diversity of social, religious, cultural, and political contexts in which rights violations occur. (Source: Wikipedia)

arcade fireSo in honour of this day, I give you the below music video from group Arcade Fire.  The song, called ‘We Exist’, stars ‘The Amazing Spider-Man‘ actor Andrew Garfield in a tale of gender identity with him portraying a young person trying to come to terms with being transgender.

In the video, Garfield shaves his head, then dons a wig and women’s clothing before going to a (presumably) small town bar to socialise, only to be attacked, kicked, and beaten up for who he is.  After an interesting dance sequence featuring bearded beary men dressed similarly to Garfield, he ends up walking through the crowd at an Arcade Fire concert, then dancing on stage.

It’s terrific to see such a known young actor willing to take on such a role that completely speaks to those who go through these struggles on a daily basis, and the video as a whole gives the message that you can find inner peace by embracing who you are, both inside and out.

For more information about IDAHOT, please check out their website: dayagainsthomophobia.org

Love, Religion & The Grammys

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For anyone who’s been living under a rock the past few days, something absolutely beautiful and historic happened on The Grammys on Sunday night – Samelove33 couples, straight and gay, were married live while gay anthem ‘Same Love’ was performed by Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Madonna and Mary Lambert.

It was absolutely touching and hanky worthy as you could feel the love in the room as these couples were wed by Queen Latifah .. I don’t think she actually officiated, as I think I saw a priest or minister of some sort with the couples.

For those that missed it, here’s the clip:

You crying yet?  I know I was when I watched it.  It wasn’t about the artists or the show itself, it was about showing the world that love is love, regardless of your sexuality.

At least that’s what I got out of it.. whereas others didn’t see it that way, with many taking to Twitter with anti-gay chatter against this display of love.  According to an article on The Huffington Post, hateful Tweets were sent by people likethe American Family Association’s notoriously anti-gay Bryan Fischer, as well as Fox News’ Todd Starnes, among others

Click HERE to read the full article

Most of these messages against what occurred on The Grammys spouted ‘family values’ or that the event was ‘anti-Christian’.

Just one example of the anti-gay Tweeters

Just one example of the Tweets trying to turn the ceremony into something that it wasn’t.

Personally I don’t get it or how these people can’t see how beautiful and unique this was.  This was not done to be political or to ‘affront’ those with supposed Christian or Family values.  This was done to show the world that love is an amazing thing and should be rejoiced not put down.1555471_252559691571971_1428508902_n

I don’t generally get too into discussing religious beliefs, let alone criticising them, but I personally think it’s these so-called religious groups that should stop to take stock of their values and message, since they seem to be well off the page they claim to be preaching from.

For example, from what little I know about Christianity, doesn’t one of the values under the Trinity state that ‘God loves everyone unconditionally’?  Wouldn’t that mean the message of ‘God’ would be to love one’s neighbour and embrace everyone?  Nowhere in this article on BBC about the basics of Christian beliefs does it say anything about spouting hateful remarks against those that are different, let alone anything against Homosexuals.

Personally I think somewhere along the way these religious groups have lost their ‘righteous’ path and need to work on leaving the hate behind to focus on the love.

Don’t think that I’m anti-religion, because I’m not.. sort of.  I can understand some people’s need to follow a set of beliefs as a way to live their lives, be it through how they were brought up or something they’ve found later on in life.  There are many people who are quite happy with their beliefs and are still able to love those around them for who they are, not based on who they love.

Everyone has a right to their beliefs and to stand up for those same beliefs, just not in a manner that is hateful and hurtful to those that oppose them.  There is no one single set of beliefs every person in the world should adhere to.  As long as people are good and live their life authentically, who’s that truly harming?

In the end, love is love, regardless of who you love.  There just needs to be more love in the world.

never apologise

The 11 Biggest HIV & AIDS Myths Busted | Gay Star News

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In honour of today being World Aids Day, I’m reposting an article from Gay Star News that does it’s best to dis-spell the myths surrounding HIV and AIDS. ifsw_64524-5

It’s amazing (and a little bit sad) that after all these years we’re still fighting against not only the virus itself, but also the ignorance surrounding it.

I’ve known many friends over the years who have been affected, directly or indirectly, by this virus.  And I’ve always felt blessed to have them in my life in whatever capacity it was … hell, my first psuedo-boyfriend (if you can call him that) was HIV positive.

Click HERE to read the full article

Where Were You on September 11th?

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As pretty much everyone is aware (and the media has been reminding us), today is the anniversary of the World Trade Centre attacks in New York City.  20130911-192331.jpg

Yeah, it’s been 12 years since 9-11.

Admittedly, I personally didn’t know anyone that was directly affected by the attacks, nor was anyone close to me at the time (that I’m aware of).  However I think, regardless if you knew someone who was there or was personally affected, this day affected everyone in some way.  Even if it was in just an eye-opener to the world.

This was one of those events where everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing when they found out about it.  I was living in Montreal when the attacks occurred, and to be honest I was completely oblivious of everything happening until about midday.  My story from that day isn’t that exciting or profound, but will always stick with me.

At the time I was working evenings up near Mont-Royal, so I’d slept in to at least mid-morning as usual.  For whatever reason I’d decided to do some window shopping up on the Plateau and didn’t even so much as turn on the tv or a radio before I left the house.

In fact in those days I don’t think I even had a mobile, and barely used the house phone.  Oh and I didn’t even have access to a computer let alone internet, just like a lot of people I knew in those days.  Amazing how things change in just over a decade..

pl5Anyway, it was a nice day so I decided to walk up to Rue Mont-Royal to the shops via Rue St Denis.  Just after I’d passed through Parc La Fontaine, some guy I didn’t know came up to me shouting ‘It’s the end of the world!! We’re being attacked!!’ and then off he ran up the street.

Admittedly I just thought he was some nutter or was already drunk, so off I went on my merry way thinking he was mad.

I definitely got a huge wake up call in the first shop I went into and overheard a couple of people talking about something to do with planes attacking.. Ummmm, what?  Maybe that guy on the street wasn’t such a nutter after all.

First chance I got I went into an electronics shop to see if I could catch the news on the tv.  And I stood there watching, with about half a dozen others, with my jaw on the ground.  What an absolute shock to say the least!

On all the tv’s, they kept showing the footage of the planes attacking the Twin Towers over and over again, and playing commentary from people who were there at the time.  It was scary to realise this was actually truly honestly real, and not some bad dream or cheesy Hollywood movie.

After a couple hours of wandering the shops, watching the news or listening to the radio where I could, I headed home to get ready for work.  In the end I think I only bought a sweater (though I can’t remember what exactly I was shopping for to begin with..), and even that I almost didn’t buy.

When I got to work that evening, they advised we would be closed for the night since we called American customers (I think… it has been 12 years lol), and everyone higher up agreed it wouldn’t be appropriate to call people after such a devastating event like this.  In fact, I don’t think we were open the following day either, but I could be wrong.nyc_002

So.. what’s the point of my recounting this?  I don’t know to be honest, as the only effect it had on me was probably the loss of a day or two’s pay. Maybe it’s to show that even those people who weren’t there or didn’t have people close to them affected by these attacks could get their eyes opened to the world around them, and how events can have a ripple effect.

Maybe it’s to put into perspective that, when events like this happen in the world, a simple mundane afternoon of shopping is truly meaningless when compared to what those people’s families had to go through.

All I do know is 9-11 opened a lot of people’s eyes to the world around them and outside their own borders (myself included), some for better and probably some for worse.  But maybe the point is regardless of how things are going in your life and how frustrated you may be feeling with things, perhaps just give a little thought of those who’ve lost their loved ones thanks to an attack such as this.

So where were you on 9-11, and how did the day affect you?

Love is Love

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DOMAEarlier this evening, I saw this video making the rounds on Facebook .. and upon viewing, I just had to share it.

In the United States, gay and lesbian couples are denied around 1,100 rights that straight couples have.  One of the major rights that affects those from different countries (one from the US, the other from UK as an example), is that the person from outside the US can be denied a visa, and isn’t allowed to apply for a green card though straight married couples can.

The below video, as well as many others on The DOMA Project website (http://www.domaproject.org/), highlight how heartbreaking it is for these couples who’ve been legally married in the US, but are repeated forced apart by DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).

For those who are unaware of what it is:

DOMA is a United States federal law that restricts federal marriage benefits and required inter-state marriage recognition to only opposite-sex marriages in the United States. The law passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. Section 3 of DOMA codifies the non-recognition of same-sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits, immigration, and the filing of joint tax returns. (reference Wikipedia)

At the moment, the US Supreme Court have heard cases on repealing both California’s Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which the judges will be voting on soon. FE_DA_120730SameSexMarriage425x283

Please watch the below video, as well as the others on The DOMA Project website.. and share the videos, regardless of where you live.

No matter what country you live in, let’s support our American gay and lesbian brethren as they fight for equal rights.

Love is love, regardless of where you live.

Poverty Is Relative

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What a strange turn of phrase that is – ‘poverty is relative’.  According to an article I read recently on The Independent news-site (Click Here counting penniesfor full article), it means that poverty prevents people from being full members of society.

The main focus of this article was some recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation that stated that 1/3 of all Britons are too poor to ‘participate in society’.

“Participating is about belonging. Many of society’s expectations require individuals and families to spend money,” the report, Poverty, Participation and Choice, says. “Like it or not, Britain is a consumer society in which people are assessed according to the income that they have, how they spend it and what they do with their time.”

It definitely makes me think about my own experiences over the past year, and how my social life has changed since becoming unemployed and trying to adhere to a very strict budget. I’m not saying I was the life of the party a year ago, but I at least had a life. LOL

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I’ve written about reassessing my views on the materialism and consumerism around us all in my post First World Problems but didn’t fully touch on how lonely being ‘poor’ can be.  It’s not the same for everyone obviously because everyone has different circumstances, but I think there are some common trends that the study touched upon.

Just under a third of people in Britain are excluded from mainstream society because they cannot afford to join in cultural activities such as going to the cinema, taking a holiday or buying consumer goods.

And I’ve found that to true for me.

A huge part of being social these days is about going out and spending money, be it at the pub, a restaurant, concerts, or day trips to the countryside.  It seems wherever you turn, someone is going somewhere with somebody.

AloneEspecially in a city like London, where you generally have to plan things several weeks in advance because of how busy everyone is.

But when you’re truly struggling with money, not only do you tend to spend most of your time alone, it also seems less likely people are going to invite you places because they know you can’t afford it.  Sure, they may think they’re trying to spare your feelings by not inviting in the first place, but imagine being on the other end and seemingly being excluded from your friends’ lives?

Of course that is a generalised statement, because not all friends will act like that.  Some may purposely go out of their way to invite you around for a Sunday roast every so often, or even take you out to the pub for a few drinks on them.

Unfortunately those aren’t regular occurrences in my experience, or more accurately, isolated to a few choice people who do their best to include you.

Some may say (and several did in the comments section for the above article) why not do cheap, simple things at home by inviting your friends to visit you?  In an ideal world, that would be terrific.. But doesn’t really work for me personally.

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Not an ideal place-setting.

I rent a room in a couple’s flat and really don’t have access or use of the living room since they’re continuously using it.  So if I were to have company over, it would have to solely be in my bedroom.

Admittedly that’s fine for certain types of ‘company’ (*wink wink*) but not necessarily for a mate to just hang out, watch a movie on my laptop, or even to come over for dinner… Though even dinner could be a stretch due to budgetary constraints and trying to feed two or three people instead of one.

“The 30 per cent of people with the lowest incomes are forced to choose between the basic necessities of modern life; they must decide which needs to neglect.”

For a lot of people in financial difficulty or living in relative poverty, that above statement is one they wish they didn’t have to live by.  Too often it’s ensuring any extra cash is used solely on replacing or fixing broken or worn out items, rather than buying something special or extra.

It’s all about living day to day and ensuring you can keep your roof over your head and food in your belly.

Personally, I just miss being able to go out for a nice meal and go to the movies without worrying that I’ve spent most of my food budget for the week…

But I’m sure I’ll get back to that level of consumerism sometime soon. 😉