A Close Reading of Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard

“I like how you always find a way to make things gay.”

My friend said this to me when I was extolling one of the few conspiracy theories I believe, which involved celebrities who are probably in a gay relationship. (No, I won’t tell you which celebrities, this blog has hurt my professional career enough. Recently, I referenced my Ugly State Flags List and a professor told me he’d seen it on twitter. This professor doesn’t follow me on twitter. The blog is getting out there, which is great for my status as a cultural icon, but maybe not great when I’m applying to internships.)

But my friend is right. I do find a way to make everything gay. Even with all the progress gay people have made, most of the media out there is still made by, for, and about straight people. I have to translate most mainstream media, to find things in it that resonate with my life, which is often very different from the life that is being depicted on screen.

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State Flags Ranked by Ugliness

At brunch in Brooklyn recently, I saw a guy with a huge Zia symbol tattooed on his arm. So of course, I bounded right up to him and showed off my Zia symbol tattoo, and we bonded over our shared home state. I’ve had some version of this interaction many times, which has led me to place an awful lot of importance in state flags. And you all know how much I love a ranking. Hence:

The State Flags, Ranked by Ugliness!

I was going to call this list Most Beautiful State Flags but most of the state flags in this country are straight up ugly. I understand that statement may hurt any future national political career I may have, but I’ve already ranked the Kennedys by hotness, so really, how much worse can it get?

Let’s rank this ugly ass flags.

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Your Song, Annotated

With the recent release of Rocketman, a film Molly (who, let's be real, is the Bernie to my Elton) accurately described as "heavy handed," I wanted to publish something I've been meaning to write for awhile. I've been working on a close reading of the lyrics to Your Song, and the time is finally ripe to share it. I'd say more in this intro, but once you read the analysis I think you'll agree, I've said all I need to say.

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Christmas Song Ranking

If there’s one thing I love more than lists and rankings, it’s disagreeing with other people’s lists and rankings. So when the hilarious Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post released a ranking of the 100 Best Christmas Songs, I knew I’d have to prepare a rebuttal. Her list was ridiculous, amazing songs were far too low, and one of the worst Christmas songs of all time was ranked near the top. There were also some glaring omissions. It was begging for a re-do, so here I am, and here comes my ranking.

One very important thing about the list is that songs are being rated by their best performance, not the aggregate of all performances. That means we’re not talking about the Michael Buble Christmas album at all. When appropriate, I will let you know what version I am discussing.

This isn’t like my past rankings. There is no voting. There are no other opinions. There is only one correct opinion and it is mine. You are welcome, of course, to share your comments and disagreements, but unlike other times in my life, I will not listen with an open heart, I will not change my opinion, and your voice will not make a difference.

Now let every heart prepare room for my ranking.

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The Indisputable Ranking of the Hot Supreme Court Justices

Before we go to the ranking, I want to highlight some very interesting demographics of the Supreme Court. Poor Isabel and Molly had to put up with many long text from me, basically reciting the Demographics of the Supreme Court Wikipedia page, and so now the rest of you have to put up with it too.

19 states have never produced a Supreme Court Justice (including the Great State of New Mexico) and only seven justices have come from states admitted after the Civil War. 96.5% of judges have been male, and an even higher percentage have been white (since there have been 4 women and 3 people of color on the court in the entire history of our very racist nation). Justices Scalia and Alito are the only judges of Italian descent, which I have to say isn’t great for my people. Justice Cardozo was the first person with non-German, non-Anglo heritage, as he was descended from Sephardic Jews from the Iberian peninsula. This has also led people to say he is the first Hispanic justice, but scholars have said that it’s never been concluded where Cardozo’s ancestors were actually from, and the idea that Cardozo regarded himself more as a Sephardic Jew and less as a Portuguese or Spanish person.

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Round 4 Analysis: Supreme Court Hotness Bracket

Welcome one, welcome all to the Round 4 Analysis of the Hot Supreme Court Justice Bracket. This round is sponsored by That Prickly Feeling on Your Skin You Get, Right Before a Major Storm, You Know the One, It Signals Something Bad is Absolutely Going to Happen? I feel like it’s been a calm couple of days, but I also feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop, and by the other shoe, I mean my right to an abortion, and by drop, I mean be repealed by the Supreme Court.

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Round 3 Analysis: Supreme Court Hotness Bracket

Welcome one, welcome all to the Round 3 Analysis of the Hot Supreme Court Justice Bracket. This round is sponsored by Maine! Maine: Are you an experienced Democrat who wants to be in the Senate? Have you thought about moving to Maine to run there? There’s over 2 million dollars waiting for you and Susan Collins betrayed us all.

Bella: I took the leap guys. I shared the bracket in this law school memes group I am in on Facebook. Look, if Brett Kavanaugh can assault a woman and still get confirmed, I don’t think this bracket is going to hurt my chances that much. The law school group has 19,000 people, so we’re up to 5,000 votes on the bracket, which means this round may look very different. I’ve brought a very weird segment of the world in, and our results may reflect that.

Molly: A quick note on our sponsor, Maine. Hi, everyone living in Maine. Have you considered New Hampshire? They’re the first state to have an all-female delegate in the United States Congress, which people often forget, and are a notably purple state! Love the thrill of an undecided political race but the certainty of knowing you probably won’t get screwed over by your elected officials? Consider moving to New Hampshire, they’d love to have you!

But back to the bracket: welcome, law students. Like New Hampshire with young people, we’re desperately glad you’re here and ready to participate!

Isabel: Hi law school voters! I think it is wonderful that our voting pool has grown. I’m ready for a shake up.

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Round 2 Analysis: Supreme Court Hotness Bracket

Welcome one, welcome all to the Round 2 Analysis of the Hot Supreme Court Justice Bracket. This round is sponsored by Hell! Hell, we may not all believe in it but we’re certainly in it now!

Bella: Molly, did your unnamed butterfingers friend make another mistake? Because Morrison Waite got two votes over Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Is it beard envy? Is it over-correcting, not wanting to just vote for RBG because they like her politics? Was it mistakes? Should I start using another online bracket service because this one creates too many mistakes?

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Round 1 Analysis: Supreme Court Hotness Bracket

Welcome back to the Round One Analysis of Hot Supreme Court Justices! This week we’re sponsored by Women. Women: They’ve Been Trying to Keep Abusers Off the Court for Decades, Without Success, but Gosh Darn They Keep Trying and we Love Them for It. We’ve seen a very different response to our Hot Supreme Court Justice bracket than we did for Hot Kennedys, with comments like, “idk if I can do this one, it's too political. The Kennedys are just empty vessels for america's dreams” and “there were some rounds that were really painful. Like they were both super cross eyed and looked like Jack the Ripper.” What do you think Molly and Isabel, did we make a mistake with this bracket or are people going to grow to love it?

Molly: I absolutely think people are going to grow to love it. Never have we needed, as a nation, to depoliticize the court more. Because if we don’t depoliticize it, we’ll slowly just become catatonic as the existential horror overtakes all of our senses when we realize we entered the wrong parallel timeline at the turn of the millenium. So, onward! (Besides, the challenge of ranking a group of people vastly dominated by ghosts of Victorian children who haunt dolls will keep our brains young and fresh!)

Isabel: Sadly for the bracket the joy of the vote is taking a direct hit due to the tense Supreme Court situation we’ve all been watching play out this week. Additionally, the Kennedy bracket had an undeniable aesthetic advantage over the Justices bracket. Some of these folks are a tad hard on the eyes! That said—the world has never needed a lighthearted and politically immune ranking of the Supreme Court Justices more!

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Supreme Court Justices, Ranked by Hotness

Law school. It’s a time to expand your mind, learn about the intricacies of our complicated legal system, and make new friends that will last a lifetime, probably.

Or, it’s the time to determine once and for all which Supreme Court Justices are hot, and which are not.

Welcome back to another mean-spirited bracket, objectifying some of the most important people in American history, and probably preventing me from ever clerking for a Supreme Court Justice (why did I put my real name on this blog??)

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The Indisputable Ranking of the Hottest Kennedys

We did it folks. Between me and Molly Donahue, we empirically proved the relative hotness of each and every Kennedy relative that we happened to include in the top 64 of Kennedys. It was a long road. There were shocking upsets. There were calls of a rigged election. There was a shocking amount of debate about how hot JFK Jr. was.

Any other person would send a link to the bracket and leave it at that. But I'm not any other person. Now that I have a list of exactly how many votes each Kennedy received, I feel it is my duty to bring you all a list of Hot Kennedys, ranked in order of hotness.

I won't accept any criticism. This is because of your votes.

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Round 4 Analysis: Kennedy Hotness Bracket

Bella: Welcome back to Hot Kennedys, the only March tournament that doesn’t exploit the labor of college athletes by giving a free education while the schools make millions. I’m Bella Pori, and this episode is sponsored by heterosexuality. Heterosexuality: Really, There’s Not One Queer Kennedy I Could Date? I’d Like To Marry Into Money and Power!

With me as always is the great Molly Donahue. Molly, do you think I should Facebook friend one of the Kennedys included in the bracket if I have the chance?

Molly: The only correct answer is: yes, of course. It would be madness to pass up an opportunity like that. Now that we’ve gotten that cleared up, on to the bracket! 

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Round 3 Analysis: Kennedy Hotness Bracket

Bella: Welcome one, welcome all to the highly anticipated post-game analysis of the Elite Eight Kennedys. This week’s episode is sponsored by Catholicism. Catholicism: It’s How We Got So Many Kennedys.

Joining me is my favorite Catholic (after my mom, of course) Molly Donahue. Molly, any thoughts on the Catholic Church’s stance on birth control vis-a-vis our 96 original Kennedys?

Molly: Well, the Kennedys are devoted to their culture. But really, when you break it down, Joe and Rose had NINE children (full disclosure, my mother is also one of nine so this number is not quite as shocking to me as it might be to you Bella) - and since we’re counting 4 generations, 96 is not actually a wild number. RFK and his wife Ethel had 11 kids! There should be about 800 Kennedys by the 4th generation.

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Round 2 Analysis: Kennedy Hotness Bracket

Bella: Welcome again to the post-game analysis of the one and only Hot Kennedy Bracket. We’re into the Sweet Sixteen now, and I have to say, I’ve learned as much about what average Americans consider attractive as I have about the Kennedys. I’d like to thank Potatoes, for sponsoring the show. Potatoes: Keeping the Irish in their Fighting Spirit.

Joining me, as always, is Molly Donahue, the only other person who cares enough about the Hot Kennedy Bracket to spend hours outside of work debating it with me. Molly, how’s everything?

Molly: Everything’s going swell! I am extremely pleased to see how well RFK is doing in the rankings, which should come as no surprise to you. I agree, I’ve also learned a lot about what the average American* considers attractive, though I’ll also say that this is the strength of the bracket system - this isn’t necessarily the top 16 in general, it just gives all the Kennedys a fighting chance.

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Round 1 Analysis: Kennedy Hotness Bracket

Bella: Welcome to the post-game analysis of the first round of the Hottest Kennedy bracket, brought to you by old money. "Old Money: With a Name Like Kennedy, It Has To Be Rich." I’m your host, Bella Pori. With me on the Google Doc is Molly Donahue, podcast producer and Kennedy aficionado. Say hi to the people Molly.

Molly: Hi folks, real excited to dive into this bracket and see who made the objectively correct choices about a pretty subjective and mean topic! Welcome to the internet.

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The Official Kennedy Hotness Bracket

Welcome to my March Madness. After the State of the Union, the internet scrutinized the looks of the newest Kennedy in elected office, Joseph Patrick Kennedy III. One person on a podcast even went so far as to name him the Hottest Kennedy, a statement I found insane and likely inaccurate.

So I turned to my partner in all things Irish, Molly Donahue. Molly is a producer at Gimlet Media, native of New Hampshire, which seems to be basically Boston, and longtime Kennedy fan. I figured her lifelong admiration of the Kennedys would provide a counterweight to how I was raised, which is that my aunt turned off Ted Kennedy's funeral because of that time he killed a woman.

My family wasn't huge fans of the Kennedys. I think it was an Irish-Italian rivalry of some sort.

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Team USGay

In the middle of sending a friend literally 23 text messages about gay athletes in the Olympics, and trolling the Wikipedia lists for other gays who have competed, I realized that I had enough passion about this subject that for the sake of my friendship, it probably needed to just be a blog.

The Winter Olympics are coming up, and for the first time in history, the United States is sending out LGBTQ athletes to the games. Adam Rippon and Gus Kenworthy will be the first American men (and actually the first gay men ever) to participate in the Winter Olympics. Rippon will be competing in figure skating, and Kenworthy will be doing something called slopestyle, which appears to be skiing with flips. Neither athlete is a fan of Mike Pence, who will be leading the US delegation.

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Bella and Some Dudes Rank The Presidents

Recently, my friend Seffi (of Iran Meal fame) posted a Facebook status that said "The first question when assessing presidential greatness must always be: "would the United States exist without this person?" If your answer to that is "yes," then the president you're thinking of is not our greatest president, because, in the case of Washington and Lincoln, the answer is "almost certainly not." " He quickly clarified that FDR was #3 and a lively but polite discussion ensued of people discussing their metrics and presidential rankings.

Of course, I took it one step further, and made a google doc. Over 250 comments later, and me, Seffi, another friend Edward, and a new friend named Michael worked out a ranking that none of us are totally happy with, but we can all accept.


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Standing Up (And Kneeling) For What's Right

I talk about Sandy Koufax a lot for someone who isn't Jewish and isn't a particularly big Dodgers fan. Every time Yom Kippur (or the World Series) rolls around, I find some new person to wildly discuss the story of what I consider the most courageous acts in baseball.

Jewish readers (Shana Tova to you all) or Dodgers fans (hi dad) can skip this next part, but for the rest of you, allow me to paint you a picture.

It's October 6th, 1965. It's game one of the world series, Los Angeles Dodgers against the Minnesota Twins. Sandy Koufax was the pitcher for the Dodgers, and had just a month prior pitched a perfect game, becoming the eighth person in baseball history to do so. Sandy Koufax is a big deal, and him pitching could mean the difference between a win and a loss in a world series game. But October 6th is also Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement when most Jewish people fast and spend the entire day in services. Either Koufax pitches in game one, turning his back on his Jewish heritage, or he sits the game out, likely drawing ire from fans.

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Italians Against Columbus

New York has faced its own reckoning as confederate monuments around the country are debated. Not only did New York have to remove the busts of Confederate generals from the CUNY Hall of Great Americans in the Bronx, but certain street names in Brooklyn may be changed. On top of that, the discussion around memorializing racist figures has sparked a debate around the monument to Columbus in the aptly named "Columbus Circle" at 59th street. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito argued that the statue should consider the statue of Christopher Columbus when it reviews "symbols of hate" on city property.

It comes as no surprise that the mere suggestion of removing Columbus has the Italian-American community all riled up. Many Italian-American elected officials rallied to condemn Speaker Mark-Viverito for her comments and support the statue of Christopher Columbus. To look at the crowd, you would think that Columbus is the most important symbol of Italian-American heritage, and all Italian-Americans supported keeping the statue, including fellow Italian-American, Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Mayor mentioned that there were "some troubling things" about Columbus but didn't explicitly support the statue being removed.

So let me now be a strong Italian-American voice against the statue.

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