6 Important Causes to Recognize on World Day of Social Justice

World Day of Social Justice

On World Day of Social Justice, these human rights issues deserve our attention. The United Nations General Assembly has designated February 20 as World Day of Social Justice. The date is an opportunity to recognize social and economic injustices in the world — and to find ways to help those affected. World Day of Social Justice aims to break down the barriers created by gender, class, race, sexuality and religion to create a world that promotes health, opportunity and justice for all. The following six causes deserve our attention on February 20 and every other day of the year. World Day of Social Justice offers the perfect opportunity to become informed and then take action to create change. I spoke to experts on these issues, and they shed light on each and offered simple steps we can take each day to promote social justice at home and abroad. 1. Access        …read more

Nina Simone’s 6 Most Soulful Songs

Nina Simone

Nina Simone, the ‘High Priestess of Soul,’ was born February 21, 1933. Here are six of the revolutionary icon’s most soulful songs. Nearly 15 years after her passing, traces of singer, songwriter, pianist and activist Nina Simone can still be found in contemporary culture, from an Oscar-nominated documentary to a controversially-casted biopic, a song on Jay-Z’s newest album and her upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nina’s voice — raw and impossible to ignore — remains one of the most recognizable of the 21st century. And whether she’s singing about the state of the world or the state of her soul, her live performances feel just as urgent now as they must have decades ago. Born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, on February 21, 1933, Nina started playing piano as early as three and, years later, attended Juilliard with the help of a scholarship funded        …read more

Rally Driving Champ Gail Truess: From the Pit Crew to the Podium

rally driving

She started out working on logistics and mechanics for a rally team, but now Gail Truess is a big deal in the rally driving world. When Cooper Tires invited me to Monterey, California, for a Ride and Drive event, I immediately said yes. When else would I get the opportunity to speed around the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with some of the world’s top-ranked rally drivers? I excitedly told my family and friends about my upcoming adventure, and they couldn’t resist some good-natured ribbing. I’m not exactly a skilled driver on the streets and, because I’ve lived in New York City and Seattle since my college graduation, I drive my parents’ old Toyota approximately two times a year when I’m home in suburban Connecticut. But I’ve always thought that “Say yes and you’ll figure it out after” are good words to live by. To say that I got seriously nervous        …read more

Video Game Mods Let Gamers Build Their Ideal Experience

mod games

Modding (changing and adding to the code of a video game) creates infinite possibilities for gamers. In modern gaming, the state of a game as released by developers doesn’t necessarily determine its longevity. What often matters more is its potential to be tweaked, overhauled and even completely transformed by mods. PC versions of grand open-world adventures such as Grand Theft Auto V, Fallout 4 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have maintained large player bases due to the commitment of their communities to modify games and, in some cases, change their identity entirely. Sandbox games like Minecraft, DayZ and Garry’s Mod constantly become different playgrounds depending on which mods a user equips. It may sound strange to some that games are being altered by their players. It may even sound impossible, or like some sort of cheat code. In reality, mods are largely created to funnel more enjoyment into the        …read more

The Vibrant Art of Indigenous People Tells a Story of Survival

indigenous people

Indigenous people reclaim their cultural identities through art. A voice is invaluable, and being able to tell one’s story is the key to cultural survival. However, in the case of America’s first people — or indigenous people, a rather simplistic term used to identify over 500 federally recognized tribes in the U.S. — their stories have been censored by the powers that be. Yet a volatile history hasn’t stopped indigenous people from creating a thriving contemporary arts scene. Their stories are worth sharing. A Brief History of Indigenous People in the U.S. In the book Manifestations: New Native Art Criticism, Stephen Fadden and Stephen Wall suggest the relationship between the U.S. government and indigenous people can be broken down into three eras: Formative, Allotment and Reorganization. During the Formative Era (1776-1810), indigenous people fought to maintain sovereignty of their homeland. As the U.S. government grew, its efforts to dominate the land        …read more

What Is Gender Neutral Parenting, And Why Does It Matter?

gender neutral

Gender neutral parenting is getting a lot of a buzz lately, but it might not mean what you think it does. Gender neutral parenting has become a hot topic in the last couple of years, with many people debating it before fully understanding it. Rather than trying to assess if gender neutral parenting is good or bad for children, I think we would do well to try to wrap our heads around what is actually happening in families with a less traditional approach to gender. At two and a half, my own kid hasn’t expressed any particular feelings about gender. Like many parents who don’t want to push gender on their kids, my approach has been something of a hodgepodge. While I’ve decided to use the expected he/him pronouns, I’m trying very hard not to push all of my gendered expectations on a two-year-old. This, for many folks, is weirdly        …read more

8 Strange Homes You Have to See to Believe

strange homes

From a spaceship to a pickle barrel, these architectural wonders have just one thing in common: they’re very strange homes. Explore eight of the weirdest homes in the U.S. and learn how they came to be. 1. Haines Shoe House (York, Pennsylvania) It’s literally a house that looks like a massive shoe — you can’t really get a home that’s stranger than this one. Haines Shoe House was built by a shoe salesman in 1948 and was supposed to look like a work boot. This house has five stories and is situated on Shoe House Road. The living room is in the toe, the bedrooms are in the ankle, the kitchen is in the heel, and there’s an ice cream shop open to the public in the instep. You can also take a tour of the shoe. 2. Mary’s Gone Wild (Supply, North Carolina) In 1998 Mary Paulsen had a vision        …read more

Superhero 101: Black Panther

Black Panther

Ahead of the Black Panther film arriving February 16, get to know the backstory, comic appearances and powers of one of the most revolutionary heroes ever to come from Marvel. Black Panther may not have been a household name like Spider-Man, but this superhero has rocketed to worldwide attention thanks to his appearance in Captain America: Civil War and the recent trailers of his own film. You know you can look forward to brilliant performances by Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Daniel Kaluuya, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Sterling K. Brown and more. But who is Black Panther, and what do you need to know about his home country, Wakanda? Black Panther, aka T’Challa (played by Boseman in the film), appeared first in Marvel Comics in Fantastic Four #52 in April 1966. The foursome visit T’Challa after the people of Wakanda give to them a technologically advanced aircraft, and        …read more

6 Ways to Prepare for National Drink Wine Day

National Drink Wine Day

Winos will be raising their glasses for National Drink Wine Day on February 18. From food pairings to avoiding a headache, here’s how to prepare. Now’s your chance to salute the beverage intertwined with human history (we can thank the Phoenicians for spreading it around the world). While there’s nothing wrong with just popping the cork out of your favorite bottle to commemorate this vino-lovers’ holiday, partaking in some pre-festivities planning can only make it more fun. Here are six ways to prepare for National Drink Wine Day. 1. Find Your Wine Match It may come as a surprise that your taste in coffee, chocolate, milk, fruit and beer can dictate what type of wine is your best fit. The team at My Wine Tribe has developed a quiz based on the aforementioned and more to help you discover what type of wine will satisfy your taste buds most. You        …read more

The Evolution of Romantic Poetry through the Ages

romantic poetry

A look at romantic poetry and our evolving views of love since the beginning of recorded history. For the modern mind, the words “romantic poetry” might bring up this simple refrain: Roses are red / Violets are blue / Candy is sweet / And so are you. Or maybe a Hallmark card with a few lines of cheesiness. Romantic poetry can seem silly. I mean, aren’t we past all that? Many of us roll our eyes at tacky romanticism, automatically reducing the great love poets of history and modern times to trivial Valentine’s Day commercialism or the jewelry ads promising a diamond is forever. And yet, as history shows, the subject of love has been popular for thousands of years, and remarkable poems are still being written that spark something in us — a longing for something deeper than our self-absorbed lives. Ancient Beginnings: The Oldest Romantic Poetry When the archaeologist Austen Henry Layard first        …read more

What Should We Do with Entertainment Plagued by Celebrity Scandal?

celebrity scandal

From ‘Coco’ to ‘House of Cards,’ celebrity scandal has left us conflicted about our favorite movies and shows. Here’s why we should keep watching. You can learn a great deal about filmmaking from Director Roman Polanski (e.g., Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown). When he won the Academy Award for Best Director for The Pianist, the not-present director received a standing ovation. That was controversial because Polanski is guilty of raping a 13-year-old girl (he fled the U.S. in 1978). And there are other accusations of sexual assault against the now-84-year-old director. It seems Polanski knows how to survive a celebrity scandal and have a successful career. You could say Hollywood had its own moral code. Or it was forgiving of members’ transgressions for the sake of artistic excellence. That was, until the fall of 2017. With the wave of outing alleged sexual predators and harassers, the rise of the #MeToo movement        …read more

Are You There God? It’s Me, Gucci Mane

influential people pushing boundaries

Two influential people pushing boundaries through art, Gucci Mane and Judy Blume have a lot in common (besides their February 12 birthday). It seems like a stretch that a children’s author who directly addressed the uncomfortable aspects of puberty and a rapper who helped invent trap music would have much in common, but you might be surprised… Introducing the Trap God and Judy the Great, two forces of nature born on February 12 (although 41 years apart) who have made huge strides in their respective industries. Judy Blume, an acclaimed author best known for her controversial children’s books on the gritty side of growing up. Gucci Mane, an infamous rapper who has released thousands of songs and whose recent autobiography made it to the New York Times best-seller list. Challenging Standards and Odds If there’s one thread that connects Gucci and Blume, it’s their insistence on challenging their genre and        …read more

From Harry Potter to Wonder Woman: Which Adaptations Succeed and Why?

adaptation movie, books that are made into movies

A look at some of the best and worst TV and movie adaptations and what determines a successful transition from book to screen. For voracious readers, it’s often a double-edged sword when our favorite comic books, graphic novels, and novels are adapted to TV shows and movies. Avid fans will always be upset by revisions, and they’ll certainly love the books more. Often changes seem to be made for change’s sake, and adaptations lose the spirit and character that made us love the books in the first place. But even when screenwriters stick closely to the source material, the medium of the screen necessitates changes. And if done right, TV and movie adaptations can leave us with a different yet still noteworthy bit of entertainment. My mother and I both thought the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie (2003) was horrible. When I told her what happened in the comic book, she replied,        …read more

6 Romantic Films for People Who Like to Keep It Real

best romantic films

These are the best romantic films to watch if you’re craving a love story that looks more like real life than a fairy tale. When it comes to romance, Hollywood loves following a generic formula. So much so that there’s no guessing required with most romantic films — you know the story beats and that there will inevitably be a happy ending. These feel-good romantic comedies and dramas serve their purpose: to entertain (and increase Kleenex sales). They also create unrealistic relationship expectations for those of us who live in the real world and don’t have Hugh Grant managing the local bookshop, Meg Ryan rendezvousing atop the Empire State Building, Julia Roberts waiting for her life-changing knight in shining armor, or Keanu Reeves as a pen pal. Rest assured, there’s no hate here for those types of romantic films — Sweet Home Alabama is a treasure! But every once in        …read more

Small Axe and Big Tree: Bob Marley’s Legacy

Bob Marley / Black History Month

Remembering Bob Marley as the revolutionary he was, not just a ganja-loving entertainer. Born February 6, 1945, and departing this world at only 36 years old, Bob Marley left a permanent impression through his musical and sociopolitical contributions. ‘Africa unite’ https://youtu.be/cdwIoadjwlA?t=1m32s It was midnight on April 18, 1980. One year before Bob Marley’s untimely death, and just over 100 years since the Berlin Conference (when Africa was divided by colonial European powers), Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) declared its independence from the United Kingdom. Zimbabwe was the last African colony to gain independence from a European colonial power since the decolonization movement began after World War II. The liberation of Zimbabwe, therefore, represented the final liberation of Africa itself. As the British flag was lowered, the throng of people pulled back, craning their necks to watch the red, gold, green and black flag of Zimbabwe rise. The crowd roared. And then someone        …read more

5 Best Breakup Songs for Every Stage of Heartache

heartache, best breakup songs

Getting over someone? These breakup songs might help you through the five stages of heartache. Whether you’re the dumper or the dumpee, breakups suck. Heartache can range from being bummed out over the loss of a summer fling to having your life obliterated by a nasty divorce. But there is one thing all heartache has in common: it compels songwriters to write some of their best material. And their songs can comfort the rest of us too. The 5 Stages of Grief In 1969 Swiss psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross introduced the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Though she was writing about death, the five stages have since been applied to many kinds of loss — including the end of a relationship. As she continued to study the five stages, Kübler-Ross eventually came to understand that the stages are not progressive or linear but that they instead        …read more

Take a Front-Row Seat at the ‘Super Bowl of Snow Sculpting’

snow sculpting

Check out the stunning work on display at the International Snow Sculpting Competition. Snow can be shoveled, piled and plowed, but it can also become a gorgeous form of art. Using the simple, pure medium of frosty precipitation, snow sculptors manage to capture the beauty of winter in a unique way. Snow sculpting competitions bring a sense of joy and friendly rivalry to the picture as artists compete to make unforgettable works, creating a special experience for both sculptors and spectators alike. Every January artists gather at the International Snow Sculpting Competition — an annual event that’s been held for 28 years in the picturesque, serene mountain town of Breckenridge, Colorado. It’s one of the world’s most prestigious snow sculpting events, and tens of thousands of visitors come out to watch the sculptors at work during the five-day competition. Two hundred and fifty teams apply to participate, and only 16        …read more

Why Does My Cat Look Like That? Adventures in Cat Genetics!

cat facts

Impress your friends with these cat facts based on genetics research. I come from a whole family of cat people. A month after moving into my first solo apartment, I walked into my local Humane Society and scooped up an orange-and-white kitten, a male, out of a pile of otherwise all female kittens who looked just like him. When I told people the story, more than one responded with “I thought all orange cats were boys!” I was soon fielding questions about Jonah’s (yeah, that’s my cat’s name) family of origin. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable of cat facts, but there was an area of feline culture where I was severely lacking: genetics. A little digging plunged me into a fascinating world of cat genetics. It turns out that cats, especially their coat colors, have been used as an example to teach genetics for years. And because cats are        …read more

Thomas Edison Was a Terrible Man

Thomas Edison

Genius inventor Thomas Edison was also a genius at being awful. Among the many contradictions that make up the United States of America, one that resonates throughout the lives of nearly everyone is that many of the wonderful toys we get to use can be directly traced to a terrible man. Thomas Edison, whose birthday we commemorate on February 11, was, in fact, terrible. Long celebrated as an American hero for his genius in inventing the electric lightbulb, the telephone and the motion picture, Edison was a far more complicated (and horrible) man than most people know, especially when it came to his legacy in motion pictures. First of all, to say Edison “invented” the motion picture is inaccurate. Rather, its development was a gradual, global one, with each inventor taking baby steps to the eventual goal of projecting motion pictures on a screen for audiences to view. While photography        …read more

4 Strange Rituals Practiced around the World

strange rituals

From sky burials to infant dropping, these strange rituals may shock you. Throughout the world, many countries have long been known for their strange rituals and traditions. Whether it’s simply a peculiar marriage custom or a bizarre funeral rite, cultural rituals vary widely from place to place. Assembled below are some of the most bizarre traditions and rituals from around the world. 1. Sky Burials, or Celestial Funerals (Tibet) Though “sky burial” may sound like some form of elaborate ceremony involving a helicopter or plane, it’s actually a practice involving the exposure of a corpse to natural elements (typically in an elevated location on a picturesque mountainside) until the corpse has been eaten by vultures and condors. Referred to as jhator (“giving alms to the birds’), the custom stems from Vajrayana Buddhism, which teaches the transmigration of spirits. According to jhator, because life is inherently connected to nature, bodies are        …read more

Nick Seluk’s ‘The Awkward Yeti’ Is Uniquely Weird (Like All of Us)

The Awkward Yeti

Cartoonist Nick Seluk brings our internal conversations to life with his web comic empire, ‘The Awkward Yeti.’ “Lars might be a little awkward, but that’s what makes him Lars.” That’s how Nick Seluk explains to me the origin story of The Awkward Yeti, a web comic that began as a self-published children’s book in 2012. Lars was moody, anxious and, of course, awkward. “I wanted to introduce very young kids to the idea that not everyone thinks and acts the same way, whether it simply be introversion or even autism spectrum disorders,” Seluk says in an interview from his Detroit home. What grew from that seed has now become a worldwide phenomenon of yeti-like proportions: He’s authored four books collecting his comics. His Facebook page has attracted more than 2.2 million likes. His Instagram feed has reached over a million followers. The Awkward Yeti website is now home to spinoff        …read more

The Legend behind the ‘Haunted’ Winchester Mystery House

Winchester Mystery House

Would you dare visit Winchester Mystery House, the ‘house that ghosts built’ and inspiration for the horror film ‘Winchester’? Northern Californians know San Jose isn’t just a city in Silicon Valley. It’s home to one of the most active houses in the United States for paranormal experiences: The Winchester Mystery House. There’s a great deal of folklore surrounding this unique Victorian mansion, built by eccentric recluse Sarah Winchester between 1884 and 1922, where an unsettling eeriness surrounds you upon visiting. It may be because it’s haunted, or it may be simply your imagination getting the better of you once you know the house’s disturbing history. Calling this California historical landmark a maze is far too simplistic. The Winchester Mystery House is an unexplainable conundrum that perplexes visitors and historians alike, while invoking anxiety and fear in those who believe it exists in order to house spirits. With Winchester, starring Helen        …read more

‘The Dark Crystal’ Has Earned Its Own Prequel Netflix Series

Jim Henson’s darkest but favorite work, ‘The Dark Crystal,’ is rich in both visual storytelling and philosophical messaging. The Dark Crystal came to theaters at an odd time for moviegoers. The world knew Jim Henson from the playful puppetry that made The Muppet Show such a hit. He was regarded as a genius and, especially, a kids’ comedy success story. Thing is, The Dark Crystal was Henson’s most shadowy work. He told the story of good versus evil with some harrowing scenes showing torture, soul-sucking and stabbings that wouldn’t be regarded as Henson-esque. Despite The Dark Crystal scaring away parents who thought the film was too horrific for their kids, the film soon rocketed to cult classic fame.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGzVYyV_Jsg Let’s get the nitty-gritty out of the way: The Dark Crystal tells the story of the wondrous land of Thra, taking place 1,000 years after a magical crystal cracked and split        …read more

How 6-Year-Old Ruby Bridges Helped Topple Segregation

Ruby Bridges’ bravery inspired Norman Rockwell’s famous civil rights painting. She continues to stand for equality today. Throughout history, the U.S. Supreme Court has made rulings that impact the lives of citizens across the country. Its rulings are inevitably praised by some and criticized by others. In 1954 during the civil rights movement, when the court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in schools is unconstitutional, the nation — primarily the South — erupted with shock, outrage and defiance. Now, not everyone in the South was against desegregation, but those who were got plenty of attention for their beliefs. And when desegregation of schools began, those opposed to racial equality came out to express their opinion, often violently. That didn’t stop a brave six-year-old girl — Ruby Bridges — from being the first Black student to attend her all-white elementary school in New Orleans, Louisiana. She made        …read more

HBO Is Adapting the Ferrante Novels, and We’re Cautiously Optimistic

Ferrante novels

The possibilities and pitfalls of translating the powerful Ferrante novels to the small screen. Chances are you’ve read or heard of Elena Ferrante’s popular Neapolitan Novels, or at least caught glimpses of the books’ notably generic “chick lit”–style covers on the subway and on friends’ coffee tables. It’s true that the covers are not very enticing, but you know what they say about books and covers. The Ferrante novels have taken the literary world by storm since My Brilliant Friend was published in 2011. The novel and its three successors follow the story of two friends, Lila and the narrator Elena, who were born in a poor neighborhood in Naples in the 1950s. The two grow up, get married, start careers and have children, all while their friendship waxes and wanes. The book has struck a chord with women in particular because of its brutally honest depiction of a female        …read more

4 Disturbing Facts about the Salem Witch Trials

Salem witch trials

If you thought you knew what happened at the Salem witch trials, these facts may shock you.  The infamous Salem witch trials began in colonial Massachusetts in February of 1692 when two young girls, Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams (aged nine and 11), began experiencing strange fits and delusions. When a doctor examined the girls and concluded they had been cursed by a witch, a general sense of paranoia ensued. Pressured by local magistrates, the girls blamed three women for afflicting them: Sarah Osborne, an elderly woman; Tituba, the Parris’ slave from Barbados; and Sarah Good. After an extensive interrogation, which lasted several days, Tituba confessed, testifying that the devil had approached her and requested that she “sign his book with her blood.” In addition to submitting to the devil’s requests, Tituba also confessed to communicating with supernatural animals and flying on a pole. As a result of Tituba’s confession,        …read more

Older, Wiser and Happier? Why Older People Excel in Happiness


Research shows that older adults outpace young adults in the quest for happiness. What can we learn from them? From Saturday Night Live’s “Grumpy Old Man” to the clichéd, oddball elderly characters in some literature, stereotypes of older adults permeate our perception of aging. Contrary to cultural commentary and our obsession with youth, a growing body of research shows that older adults are happier than both middle agers and young adults. And considering that adults over 65 will outnumber kids under 14 by 2050, the emotional health of such a large sector of the population affects everyone. “Longer lives can, and I believe will, improve quality of life at all ages,” says Laura Carstensen, a leading expert on the “paradox of aging,” a term coined by social scientists to describe the findings on increased levels of happiness despite the well-known maladies of aging. “If there’s a paradox of aging, it’s that recognizing        …read more