All posts tagged: culture

City responds perfectly to complaint about black child selling food

Image: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

You’d think people would stop calling the cops on young black kids who aren’t actually affecting their lives in the slightest, but here we are. At least this time the end of the story is a bit more heart-warming.

Jaequan Faulkner, 13, set up a little food stand outside of his home in Minnesota to help raise money for school clothes, and some heartless (read: racist) person called the police on him because he didn’t have a permit to run a business. Instead of shutting Faulkner down, the Minneapolis Police Department came out in support of him and teamed up with the local health department to get him the permit he needed to keep running, the Associate Press reported earlier in the week.

The story gained steam throughout the week, garnering more national attention and becoming a popular Twitter moment Friday night. People who learned about the story sympathized with Faulkner and praised the police for encouraging his entrepreneurial spirit rather than stifling it.

The local news station KARE 11 News reported on Faulkner’s small business, calling it a hit.

According to KARE 11, Faulkner started his hot dog and snack stand in 2016 with the help of his uncle, and he returned this summer after taking a break last year. Shortly after getting up and running, a complaint was made to the Minneapolis Department of Health about his food stand, AP reported.

Instead of attempting to shut Faulkner down, the city pitched in and took care of his $87 permit so he could keep selling his food and making money for school. Not only that, the health department contacted a local organization to give him some tips on keeping his business thriving and making sure everything is as clean as it can be.

Stories about individuals calling the police on black people who aren’t doing anything illegal at all or black kids who are just trying to make some money have been blowing up on the internet recently, with callers like Allison Ettel and Jennifer Schulte getting publicly roasted for their prejudiced behavior.

Although we don’t know for sure who called in the complaint on Faulkner, it’s nice to see local authorities being reasonable and helpful rather than antagonistic.

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I broke the contract: how Hannah Gadsby’s trauma transformed comedy

In her show Nanette, the Australian standup speaks out about homophobic and sexual violence the set is now a Netflix sensation. She opens up about shame, rage, her autism diagnosis and the meaning of Louis CK

During the live run of Hannah Gadsbys standup show, Nanette, she found herself sleeping 15 hours a night, then taking naps during the day. I got bronchitis in London, she says. A tooth wrenched out in Edinburgh. Then I got carbon monoxide poisoning from the flat in New York. I was Googling neurological disorders, I had the tremors and my speech was slurring. I kept telling people I was really tired, texting them coffin emojis, and theyd say: Of course you are, this show is exhausting.

But she doesnt think you should really suffer for your art. Well, not any more. Im against that theory, she says firmly.

She performed Nanette for 18 months including a one-month stint in New York that turned into four and has now become accustomed to people expressing concern for her wellbeing.

We meet in a crowded Melbourne cafe, and when another journalist, early for her slot, walks by, she puts a gentle hand on Gadsbys shoulder, unbidden. Gadsby takes this in her stride. Ive had psychiatrists reach out to me, saying: You know, theres no precedent for what youre doing. Its been a strange old ride and I think its going to take a long time before I know what Ive done to myself.

Gadsby is keen to go incognito. The easiest way to spot her is that she is the only person in the cafe hiding their face with their hand. But anonymity may no longer be possible. Nanette went up on Netflix a month ago, and has since elicited thorough analysis in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, the Washington Post and Vanity Fair, while Lily Allen, Thandie Newton, Monica Lewinsky, Ellen Page and Roxane Gay have raved and/or wept about it on Twitter (in a tweet to Gadsby, Gay wrote: You moved me and have really made me think about humour, the self, self-deprecation and the uses of anger). Across Gadsbys social networks, the general public also gives effusive thanks. Nanette is not merely an hour of standup. Its a mass bloodletting.

Gadsby cant bring herself to look right now. In fact, she has asked her manager to mute any exciting offers. Im living somebody elses dream, she says. Now everyone wants a piece of the Gads.

Standup comedy relies, of course, on creating tension and release. In Nanette, Gadsby exposes and then destroys that formula. She reveals experiences of homophobic and sexual violence, which escalate throughout the set, until finally she is delivering them from a precipice of rage. This tension is yours, she tells the stunned Sydney Opera House audience. I am not helping you with it any more. You need to learn what this feels like.

I broke the contract and thats what made this work, she says. I betrayed peoples trust, and I did that really seriously, not just for effect.

Nanette debuted at the Melbourne International Comedy festival in 2017, the year of Australias same-sex marriage postal plebiscite, and during fierce debate around the Safe Schools programme designed to support LGBTQI students. Homophobia was making its way back into the public sphere; a clear, disturbing regression.

In the first third of Nanette, Gadsby deconstructs the autobiographical material she has aired over the years, including a tale about nearly getting beaten up at a bus stop, which gets the audience laughing gamely. In the second, she deconstructs comedy itself, and announces her intention to quit the circuit. To use self-deprecating humour when you are already deemed worthless, she suggests, is further humiliation. In the final third, she deconstructs misogyny, including her own internalised misogyny. She had never told the full story of the bus-stop incident, for example that the man had come back and beaten her up, that nobody had stopped him, and that she didnt go either to the police or the hospital afterwards, because she didnt think she was worth it. Gadsby desperately needed to hear stories like hers when she was younger, but instead had been complicit in silencing them. No more.

Gadsby grew up in small-town, bible-belt Tasmania. Homosexuality was a crime there until 1997, so she says jovially in her set the likes of her were supposed to pack up your Aids in a suitcase and fuck off to Mardi Gras. But the island state is also the butt of incest jokes from mainland Australia, so she felt instinctively protective of it. It is not the only time she has found that loyalty can be at the expense of the self; at the end of Nanette she reveals painfully, briefly, that she was sexually abused as a child and raped as a young woman, but doesnt go into details. How that silence within a show about breaking silence must sting.

Its this murky area where you know the people and it has repercussions for their families, she says, so I dont know how to put that out there in the world in a constructive and safe way for both me and all involved. We only have an existing narrative framework for a stranger doing violence to you.

The idea of stranger danger persists in the collective psyche, but we now know that sexual offences against children are the crimes least likely to involve strangers. Most children will be abused by opportunists in adult relationships: the married relatives, the family friends, the pillars of the community, the good blokes. A lot of people who have experienced trauma at the hands of people theyve trusted take responsibility, and that is whats toxic, Gadsby says. Its bullshit that as a kid Id care for a person that was abusing me, but you just do and thats the horrific thing.

Shame and rage are the twin forces behind Nanette, but rage, at least, has velocity. It is purposeful, powering her to the final third, whereas shame welds the feet to the ground. Gadsby considers this delineation. Shame has its place, she says. Shame is what you do to a kid to stop them running on the road. And then you take the shame away and immediately theyre back in the fold. You should never soak anybody in shame. Its the prolonged existence of shame that then flips out into destructive rage. We cant exist in that. Its like treacle.

Hannah Gadsby in her show Nanette. Photograph: Ben King/Netflix

One unexpected sanctuary during the run of the show when she was coughing up a furball of trauma night after night was the actor Emma Thompson, to whom she has become close. Thompson contacted her after seeing Nanette in Edinburgh, and Gadsby stayed with her during the London dates. Oh, were friends now; I think I can say that, Gadsby smiles. She described what I was doing as Promethean tearing my liver out every night. She didnt tell me to stop; she said: Youve got to keep doing it. I think that gave me permission to take more care of myself. Really, I just wanted to get to know her mum [the actor Phyllida Law]. I love Fifi.

More remote support has come from fellow comedians; many see Nanette as a game-changer (it was the joint winner of best show at last years Edinburgh fringe festival). Ive been a professional comic for 30 years, tweeted Kathy Griffin. Ive been studying comedy for even longer. I thought I had seen everything Kristen Schaal advised her followers there was nothing better and more important than Nanette. Writing for New York magazines Vulture blog, Sara Schaefer and Sabrina Jalees discussed How Nanette Will Change Standup.

The burden of talking about complex issues usually comes down to the most marginalised people. On the rare occasions that a white, heterosexual man steps up Louis CK pointing out, for example, that there is no greater threat to women than men they are hailed as heroes.

Its funny that it was during the process of doing this show that Louis CK came undone, Gadsby says. I was furious with the phenomenon of Louis CK before it even came out. I was aware of the rumours [of him masturbating in front of younger female comedians] but I wasnt in that world, so what can you do?

Louis CKs predilection for talking about masturbation in his sets became a metaphor in Gadsbys mind for the rudimentary question-answer setup of punchline jokes like rubbing one out and made her determined to pursue more sophisticated narratives. A joke is a wank, but a story is intimacy, she says.

Before getting into comedy, Gadsby drifted, taking a variety of jobs across different states, from planting trees to cinema projectionist surely the introverts dream vocation. At one point, she was homeless. It wasnt until she was in her late 20s, around 2006, that she tried her hand at comedy, and she credits the newfound creativity with saving her life. Comedy is great in that its accessible to someone like me, from a low socioeconomic background, struggling in life. The gatekeepers are a lot stronger in other art forms.

The darker side is that a comedy scene can harbour personalities that might be expunged from other professions. In Melbourne in June, a young female comedian, Eurydice Dixon, was murdered by a man who followed her home from the club where she had just performed. A week before our interview, a male comedian called Andy Nolch was charged with defacing the site where people had left floral tributes by painting a giant penis. The attention Dixons death had received, he said, was part of the medias anti-men agenda.

Hes obviously an unwell kid and theres a lot of that in comedy, says Gadsby. Its often young men trialling their philosophies on life, and weve got a generation of young men who believe that they are victimised, because theyve been promised the world. Thats a poisoned chalice, because now theres a gap between what the cultural narrative is and what their experience is. Looking back, I think its done me more good than harm to be promised absolutely nothing. I was always told I didnt matter to the world, but the world still matters to me. Thats why I havent responded to the more brutal aspects of my life with violence or bitterness.

Gadsby is happy to be back home in Ascot Vale, the neighbouring suburb to Moonee Ponds, made famous by Dame Edna Everage. She lives a stones throw from her brothers fruit-and-veg shop. Life is simple. There are her dogs and her Royal Enfield motorcycle, and she is a keen gardener. If a documentary crew were to follow me around, theyd probably think they were making a film about the saddest person in the world, Gadsby says, but Im throwing the best thought orgies.

Three years ago, she was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Its clarified why the comedy lifestyle is so difficult for me, she says. Its a lot of noise and moving around. A child wails, as if on cue, and she flinches.

Gadsby explains that people with autism have an increased sensitivity to traumatisation due to their difficulty in communicating and regulating emotions. They are also more vulnerable to becoming victims in the first place. A Swedish study this year revealed that women who screened positive for autism are nearly three times more likely to have experienced sexual abuse.

When the Australian TV celebrity Don Burke was at the centre of #MeToo allegations last year, he blamed autism for his actions and Gadsby took aim on social media. If theres one thing that a spectrum brain is great at, it is identifying patterns, she wrote. So let me show you a fascinating pattern that I have noticed recently: Don Burke told us he had Aspergers under the very same circumstances that Kevin Spacey came out of the closet, which is exactly the same kind of moment that Harvey Weinstein reframed himself as sex addict, and when Louis CK chose to acknowledge his peculiar special needs clause.

Now, she points out that Nanette was built from her ability to see patterns. Having the framework of autism boils down to not looking out to the world to see how I should exist, but knowing I dont actually have to be social, knowing that it exhausts me and that I will get confused and look like an idiot, she says. Because I also know that I understand things a lot deeper than a lot of people.

Everyone wants to know whats next on the agenda for the Gads. Most immediately, she will be putting out her memoir, 10 Steps to Nanette, and it would surely be foolish not to capitalise on the rapturous interest in the US. Id never tried to crack the States because Im not a hustler, she says, with a modest smile. Or an arsehole.

Doubters may question Gadsbys declaration in Nanette that she is quitting comedy. More accurately, she is quitting comedy as she knew it. I thought doing this show would mean Id have to quit because the form was not enough for me any more, she says, but perhaps Ive tapped into something a lot of people have begun to think. Perhaps standup is something I do, but it doesnt have to be standup comedy.

Most pressing on her agenda is a beach holiday and a retreat back into privacy. Im 95% private, she says. But I really pack a lot into the 5% that is public.

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Simon Pegg: I was lost, unhappy and an alcoholic

The actors tortuous depression led him to drink, then to rehab. He opens up about self-destruction, fatherhood and his friend Tom Cruise. Photographs: Suki Dhanda for the Guardian

Simon Pegg has brought a bit of Hollywood with him. Not just the shades and a shiny smile, but the scorching weather, too. This setting seems apt. Pegg is here to promote his latest outing in the Mission: Impossible franchise, and because this is the start of his promotional campaign and because he adores the fact he gets to star in Mission: Impossible films alongside Tom Cruise he is raring to go.

You have caught me at the best possible moment, he says, shaking my hand and downing a coffee. This will be the most enthusiastic, positive and interesting I will ever be. You have got the mother lode!

And then he sits down to talk about depression. And alcoholism. And how he spent years trying to hide it, and how he nearly lost everything, and how he is lucky to even be alive. It was awful, terrible, he says. It owned me. Suddenly, this roof terrace in east London doesnt seem so sunny.

The narrative with Pegg has always been a heartwarming one: young sci-fi geek turns his obsession into a comedy career, writes a brilliant sitcom (Spaced) and a fun comedy zombie film (Shaun of the Dead), before somehow ending up starring in the same kind of space adventure blockbusters he grew up with. His rise is often portrayed like a film script, as if he didnt so much work his way up to a career as found it tucked inside a Wonka bar. His puppyish enthusiasm and permanent Am I really here with all these famous people? expression only added to the narrative. It was a tale into which drink-fuelled oblivion did not fit too neatly.

I would feel like Im in a film with Tom Cruise, Ive got the part of Scotty in Star Trek. This should be making me feel happy, he says. But it wasnt.

It was the start of a long and tortuous journey. Pegg, now 48, says he had been aware that he suffered from depression since he was 18, but until 2005 had always dealt with it by self-medicating. He would feel sad, he would have a drink, he would feel better. Repeat when needed. There was no time to stop and thinkabout it he had a career to build and countless projects to get through. But after flying to Los Angeles to shoot Mission: Impossible III (2006), things started to unravel.

When I watch that film back, I can see where I was then, which was fairly lost, and unhappy, and an alcoholic, he says. It was the start of what he calls the crisis years although most of his fans will have been blissfully unaware of it. Because I hid it, he says. Im an actor, so I acted all the fucking time.

Did he employ the same skills? Sometimes I did, he says, admitting that he even kept his problems hidden from his best friend and frequent co-star, Nick Frost. One thing [addiction] does is make you clever at not giving anything away. People think junkies and alcoholics are slovenly, unmotivated people. Theyre not they are incredibly organised. They can nip out for a quick shot of whisky and you wouldnt know they have gone. Its as if you are micro-managed by it. He lets out a burst of manic laughter Pegg is remarkably chirpy today, despite the subject matter. But eventually the signs are too obvious. You have taken the dog for one too many walks.

From left: Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames in Mission: Impossible Fallout, out on 25 July. Photograph: Allstar/Paramount

A turning point for Pegg came after his daughter, Matilda, was born not because it snapped him out of it, but because it didnt. It was the most cosmic experience of my life, he says. I thought it would fix things and it just didnt. Because it cant. Nothing can, other than a dedicated approach, whether thats therapy or medication, or whatever.

A year after Matildas birth, Pegg was at the Comic-Con convention in San Diego, California. He was promoting his movie Paul, but during the trip went awol for four days. On his return to the UK, he says he could not make it home from the airport without stopping off for a couple of pints. That proved to be the metaphorical dog-walk-too-far for his wife. It was obvious to her, he says, before adding with a touch of comic emphasis. And then I woke up in the Priory.

Pegg credits rehab with turning things around: I got into it. I got into the reasons I was feeling that way. I went into AA for a while, too.

How destructive had it become by this point? I dont think I would be here now if I hadnt had help.

All this talk certainly puts into fresh perspective his 2013 film, The Worlds End, in which he plays Gary King, a man so determined to complete a youthful pub crawl with his schoolfriends that he refuses to quit, even when it starts endangering their lives.

I felt like I was kind of telling people with that movie, he admits with a smile. Because thats what addiction is like. Its like you have grown a second head and all it wants to do is destroy itself, and it puts that ahead of everything else your marriage, children, your job.

At the time it was going on, Pegg says he had to get court orders to stop stories of his recovery getting out in the media. They were sinking so low as to phoning up where I was and pretending to be my mother to get the story, he says. Now that he has recovered, and mellowed significantly, he says he wants to tell that story. Im not ashamed of what happened. And I think if anyone finds any relationship to it, then it might motivate them to get well. But I am not proud of it either I dont think its cool, like I was Mr Rocknroll, blackout and all that shit. It wasnt, it was just terrible.

Simon Pegg as Scotty and Sofia Boutella as Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond. Photograph: Kimberley French/AP

Funnily enough, the crisis that reached a head with Mission: Impossible III started to resolve itself around the time of the movies 2011 follow-up, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Pegg says he went into recovery as shooting started, and if you rewatch the film with eagle eyes you will notice him returning to health as the movie progresses. We always laugh about it when we watch the movie. Try it! Youll be like: Fuck, hes got cheekbones suddenly!

Pegg loves returning to play Benji Dunn, the sidekick to Cruises Ethan Hunt, whose journey from lab nerd to field agent mirrors his own Hollywood journey. Like me, hes still impressed by it all, yet at the same time finds it all fairly ridiculous. For Dunns latest outing in the forthcoming Mission: Impossible Fallout, Pegg clocked up 144 days of shooting, more than he had done before. This was partly because Cruise broke his ankle during a stunt, which caused production to shut down for a while.

Of course, he just got up and ran out of shot on a liquid ankle, marvels Pegg. He had his producer head on even as he hit the building, and thought: If I dont clear this shot, its going to cost a lot of money to reshoot it.

You might say that an injury like this has been on the cards. The Mission: Impossible franchise prides itself on the fact the actors pull off the stunts themselves. Pegg believes this knowledge adds a frisson of tension in the audience. A couple of times, Toms done stunts where you think he might not live through this, he says, seemingly deadly serious. When we left him in New Zealand to shoot a scene where he sent a helicopter into a tailspin, it was like: Well, goodbye, maybe see you in London?

Pegg has to get involved, too. He has learned to drive a twin-engine speedboat and venture underwater with a rebreather to complete his scenes. You cant tell its me with all that stuff on, he says. I was thinking about this while I was underwater, which was really uncomfortable and difficult, and I realised: I dont really need to do this, do I?

Has he come close to getting injured? Only if you count a punch in the face. The director, Christopher McQuarrie, gave me a note to pause a little longer before taking a punch in a fight scene. Unfortunately, he didnt give the stuntman the note so he just hit me in normal time. Did he stay professional and make sure he cleared the shot, like Cruise? No! he exclaims. I just went Owww!

Simon Pegg and Kate Ashfield in Shaun of the Dead. Photograph: Rouge Pictures/Everett/Rex Features

Peggs 12-year working relationship with Cruise has long since blossomed into a proper friendship. You can tell that Pegg, mirroring the pairs on-screen chemistry, gets a thrill from being around the megastar, even if there is a degree of mystique around him that even those close to him cant penetrate.

I have never discussed his beliefs with him, for example, Pegg says. Everyone always asks: Did he try and convert you? Is it all Scientology? But Ive never seen that. I have glimpsed it a little bit people from the church have been on set now and again, but he doesnt proselytise about it.

He smiles: Obviously part of me wants to go: What the fuck is that all about?

Pegg believes Cruise is misunderstood. People are quick to want to denigrate him, but there is a complexity to him. He is way more than just a mad alien. The weird thing about that couch-jumping thing [in 2005, Cruise demonstrated his love for Katie Holmes by leaping on Oprah Winfreys sofa] is that it came about when YouTube first appeared and so people leapt on it. He was just being a bit of a knob, that was all. But people want more dirt and horror than that.

Before I met Pegg, I was warned that he wasnt the easiest to interview. That he could be prickly difficult, even. Maybe I have caught him on a good day, but there is no sign of this. Not only is he open about his drink problems, he also merrily riffs on all kinds of topics, from #MeToo (Its time for men to take a backseat and just listen) to his trip to the White House a few years back (I watched Michelle do this incredibly eloquent speech, all off the cuff, and just thought I cant imagine the Trumps ever being in this place).

He once wrote a Marxist analysis of Star Wars and cant help peppering our chat with his pet theories on, say, the representation of masculinity in action films, or home cinemas detrimental effect on community. Yet despite this, he maintains that his depiction as an uber-nerd is off the mark. Star Wars had a huge influence on me, but it was never the be all and end all, he says, a little defensively. I get characterised as this sort of nerd and I can be nerdy … but it doesnt define who I am.

This sounds a bit rich for someone who wrote an autobiography called Nerd Do Well. I played up to it and I fostered that in some respects, he accepts. But there is a side to me that likes films that have nothing to do with spaceships, too. Besides, he says, science fiction was more substantial during his youth, containing serious adult themes beyond the sparkly effects. Nowadays, a lot of what gets called nerd culture is just childrens entertainment. The adult population is going to see films about superheroes and spaceships myself included and theres a strange kind of infantilisation thats going on. These are the preserve of our childhood, but now we dont have to grow up until we are 30, or even 40.

The Worlds End featuring (from left) Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan. Photograph: Allstar/Focus Features/Sportsphoto

Is that dangerous? Yeah! It makes us all out of touch with reality. It seems amazing to me that theres probably more discussion online about the next superhero movie than there is about immigration. Maybe now the state of the world is getting harder to ignore and people are starting to wake up to it a bit. Or maybe people will just feel even more powerless and think: I cant do anything, I might as well just watch this film and get away from the awfulness of it all. But the awfulness is festering more and more as we sit in the darkness watching these bright colours.

Peggs future work suggests a desire to explore other areas without abandoning his roots entirely. He is set to appear in Lost Transmissions, an indie film written and directed by Katharine OBrien about a music producer with schizophrenia. In terms of wrestling with your own psyche, I had some knowledge, says Pegg. He is keen to stress that depression and schizophrenia are different conditions. He is also gearing up to work with Frost again on the TV comedy Truth Seekers, which is about a team of paranormal investigators, although Pegg says he will only be producing with Frost, rather than starring alongside him.

Beyond work, though, Pegg just seems happy. He no longer drinks, he has got a peaceful life in Hertfordshire with his wife and dogs, and he is able to enjoy fatherhood as the cosmic experience he always knew it was. He beams with pride while telling me he has invited the YouTube star Stampylongnose to the Mission: Impossible Fallout premiere so Matilda can meet him (Thats who she worships she doesnt give a shit about Tom Cruise).

Despite the turmoil, or perhaps because of it, he seems at ease with himself today. Doing the school run, picking up dog shit, all that stuff is whats important to me and I need to keep doing it, he says, with another manic laugh. I had to deal with a disgusting one this morning, he adds, grimacing at the memory. It was like Armageddon. But as I crouched on the floor with a wet wipe in my hand, I did stop and think to myself this is the life.

Mission: Impossible Fallout is in cinemas on 25 July in Imax, 3D and 2D.

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Play fetch and crawl through tunnels in this dog-inspired bootcamp

Dogs and babies like peanut butter and chocolate: always a winning combination. It’s a point proven to be true yet again by this adorable video shared to Twitter, Tuesday.

In this video from photojournalist Chad Nelson captured by a friend, his young son plays fetch with a high-energy pup, despite the fence dividing them from one another.

“A fence can’t stop my two-year-old from playing with his new best friend,” Nelson tweeted.

Nelson tells Mashable via email that his wife took his children to play at a friend’s house, where a neighbor’s dog Dozer was eager to play. The dog popped his head over the fence to a drop a ball for Nelson’s son to pick up.

“My son, who loves to play ball, ran over and threw it back over the fence,” Nelson tells Mashable.

Though Nelson and his family have two dogs at home, he says they’re not big on fetch. He thinks his son “just thought it was silly the dog kept throwing the ball back.”

We’re sorry to hear that Nelson’s dogs are total fetch duds, but hopefully Dozer and his new friend can reunite for a fence-less playdate of their own in the near future. 

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This heroic rescue pup saved dozens of lives. Now there’s an adorable statue in her honor.

Photo by Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images.

We all know that dogs are man’s best friend, but Mexico is making the friendship official.

On July 19, the Mexican government revealed a statue of Frida — a rescue dog who saved 12 lives after strong earthquakes there last September — and her trainer Israel Arauz at the Parque Ecológico in Puebla.

The placard on the statue says, “Memorable symbols of the strength that Mexicans can have when we decide to unite for a greater cause.”

Frida became a national hero after years of rescuing people from disasters in Mexico.

The Labrador retriever, a member of the Mexican Navy’s canine unit, has reportedly saved more than 50 lives throughout her career. Her latest rescue mission was to save people from the rubble in response to the 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Oaxaca that killed at least 355 people.

Mexicans found Frida to be a glimmer of hope in the wake of disaster. In addition to the statue, Frida was also awarded the Pagés Llergo prize for her work in the earthquake rescue mission.

People took to Twitter to express their support, and others drew pictures to show their gratitude to the rescue dog.

Search and rescue dogs have been on the frontlines for many years, and we’re eternally grateful for them.

Dogs like Frida don’t only help out with natural disasters — they’ve helped save lives and served as comfort animals in tragedies ranging from the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the Parkland school shooting.

In addition to providing comfort and relieving anxiety, dogs have special skills making them well-suited to this kind of work. For example, according to experts, one search and rescue dog can do the work of about 20-30 human searchers.

After all, their adorable snouts aren’t just for booping: A dog’s nose is thousands of times more sensitive than a human nose. With proper training, they can pick up scents from shedded skin cells and effortlessly track people down. They also have much better hearing than people do.

You can learn more about Frida here:

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Chrissy Teigen hits back at criticism over breastfeeding Instagram

Think twice before you criticise Chrissy Teigen on social media.
Image: MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re going to criticise Chrissy Teigen for her choice to post a breastfeeding photo on Instagram, then you’re best off doing it away from the social media.

Otherwise you may find yourself being called out by the Twitter Queen herself.

On Sunday, Teigen shared the following image of herself breastfeeding her baby Miles.

Luna making me feed her babydoll so I guess I have twins now

A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

At the time of writing, that photo has been liked almost three million times. Apparently not everyone was a fan, though.

“I think its perfectly fine for women who breast feed in public,” someone replied, in a now-deleted tweet. “They are doing it because they need to. When you post on social media that you are doing it, it comes across as narcissistic though.”

Teigen didn’t hold back with her response.

It didn’t finish there, either. After someone suggested that anyone who doesn’t like Teigen’s tweets can just unfollow her, somebody else got the President involved.

This time, Teigen’s response was a 2-for-1.

Mic. Dropped.

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Dog interrupts minor league baseball game, has extremely good time

Truth be told, there’s nothing more delightful than a great “Bark at the Park Night,” special promotions at both minor and major league baseball games throughout the season where dogs are allowed into the stadium.

Besides making it possible to watch America’s Pastime with Man’s Best Friend, these games are great for prime dogspotting opportunities and adorable shenanigans.

Case in point: the German Shepherd-looking pup who got free during Wednesday night’s “Bark at the Park” festivities for the minor league Tulsa Drillers and decided that infield warm-ups were the best time to play catch with the shortstop. 

Okay, sure, the pup interrupted things, but with that speed, agility, and ball-catching skills, why not let the pup field? 

Let the pup play, guys.

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In Defense of the Vegan Hot Dog

The Fourth of July is a holiday consecrated in meat smoke. On this day, lovers, neighbors, children, and friends gather around a BBQ, cold beers sweating in hand, to stare into piles of pork belly, strip steak, burger patties, and row after row of red hot dogs. We watch the embers char the flesh as we discuss the tragedies and triumphs of our United States.

It is my favorite holiday. I love the heat of it, the fact that it doesn’t revolve around gifts or religious beliefs (unless you consider America itself to be a religion, which, fair). But mostly I love it because it’s built for eating meat. And I am here for meat, especially when squeezed into a perfect intestinal casing. Like Mitt Romney, hot dogs are my favorite food, and I won't be ashamed. I love kosher beef franks, and spicy red hots. I go to baseball games for the chance to eat tubesteaks. I served bratwurst at the rehearsal dinner for my wedding, which fell on July 4.

But right now, I’m here to stan for vegan hot dogs, and for all imitation meat. These strange-colored, meat-resembling objects will be on your grill this holiday if you have vegetarian friends, or friends whose doctors have told them to cut out meat, which has been linked to increased risk of everything from high blood pressure to cancer. They, and the meat-averse souls waiting to consume them, deserve to be treated with respect. They haven’t been getting much of it lately, and I’ve had enough.

What put me over the top was a comment on a television show normally devoted to inclusion: Queer Eye, in which five experts fix the life of a clueless man. In the second episode of the new season, the gang went to the home of two vegetarians in Georgia. When it came time for famously milquetoast food person Antoni to do his thing, he opened their freezer and found some imitation meat products. “It's like, why?” he chided. “If you're going to be vegetarian just like, eat veggies.”

No. No. Nope. There is so much wrong with that statement. First, the lack of understanding of the protein needs of vegetarians, who in fact can’t “just eat vegetables,” actually. It also shows a shocking ignorance about the evolution of “fake meat” as an industry and what that has meant to vegetarians. And most of all it reveals Antoni doesn’t know how delicious fake meat can be.

Protein for Everyone

All people need protein in their diet, and for many Americans protein equals meat. Our preference is partially evolutionary. “Humans at least in part evolved to identify and prefer meat because it's a really rich source of many many nutrients,” says Gary Beauchamp, a behavioral biologist1 at the Monell Chemical Senses Center who studies the mechanisms of taste. It also has something to do with how much land we have for grazing cattle.

But meat isn’t necessary for survival, and not everyone shares the love. With the advent of agriculture, meat-light and vegetable-based diets sprang up around the world in areas where water and arable land are plentiful–like India, parts of China, and ancient Egypt. In these cultures, and for vegetarians anywhere, people get protein nutrients other ways–from vegetables, grains, and legumes.

In Western cultures, though, vegetarians remained mostly on the fringes for many years. Catesby Holmes, a writer and life-long vegetarian from Virginia, remembers her grandmother thought her vegetarianism meant she was just fussy and would only serve her chopped vegetables for dinner. "She called me Rabbit,” Holmes says.

Then in 1982 a restaurateur in London named Gregory Sams invented the veggie burger, and everything changed. Veggie burgers made sense to people like Holmes’ grandmother. They allowed a vegetarian diet to fit into the American food paradigm. Suddenly, vegetarians had a place at the proverbial grill.

“People misunderstand that vegan patties and hot dogs are branded like that to be comprehensible as a product. Not because vegetarians want meat,” Holmes says. Vegetarians just want to be understood. They also want to be able to eat snack foods and fried foods once in a while like everyone else.

Those first veggie burgers, simply trying to stand in for meat, earned a reputation as cardboard-tasting hockey pucks instead. “My own impression of those kinds of things is that they are terrible,” Beauchamp says. “And I think they are terrible for a reason, and that is that they don’t have all the sensory properties that we’ve come to expect.” Vegetable fats can’t taste like meat fats. The only fake meat that can likely ever approximate the taste of real meat is the lab-grown kind, which is meat at a cellular level, but doesn’t come from dead animals. That’s great, but not vegetarian, and won’t satisfy my doctor’s mandate to cut out red meat.

It Tastes Good

The thing about vegetarian meat is that when it’s good, it’s not trying to pretend to be meat. Instead it embraces its veggieness, as vegetarian burgers and hot dogs have over the past decade. Holmes’ favorites involve black beans and beets and lentils.

Today, plant-based protein is a massive industry. Even in beef-eating, chest-thumping America, more than seven million people are vegetarians, according to a 2008 study by the Vegetarian Times. Nearly 23 million more eat meat sparingly. Nestle and other major food companies have made huge investments in feeding them. “Plant protein is among the fastest growing categories in all of retail,” Dan Curtin, president of alternative protein at massive meat distributor Maple Leaf Foods, told Fast Company last year. “Consumers are still eating meat, but they are also looking for additional protein choices, and plant protein is the natural solution to meet that demand.”

Maple Leaf Foods recently purchased Field Roast, the company that makes my favorite fake meat product, a Mexican Chipotle sausage made of wheat gluten. Each red hot dog link comes wrapped in individual plastic casing—the better to keep the spicy juices in—but looks and feels nothing like a real hot dog. It’s its own, delicious thing.

Vegetarians just want to be understood. They also want to be able to eat snack foods and fried foods once in a while like everyone else.

Yes, I, a person currently wearing a “Carnivore” sweatshirt from my second favorite butchery, and who cried real actual tears when my first favorite butcher shop closed in San Francisco eight years ago, love fake meat. My freezer is stocked with fake chicken nuggets (our favorites are Quorn brand), which my toddler is obsessed with.

When I tell Beachamp how much my son loves fake meat, he’s skeptical. I can sense that he thinks I’m tricking my son into eating something he’d choose not to if he was old enough to know the difference. Beauchamp advises me to do a proper scientific test, pitting real meat against fake meat on a plate to see which my son prefers.

I worry about the ethics of experimenting on my child. “Everything I’ve ever done I’ve tried on my kids first and then my grandkids,” Beachamp responds. And then I realize, isn’t parenting itself a massive experiment, the results of which we can’t know until our children are grown and in therapy?

So I take Beachamp’s advice. To get a sample size greater than one, I gather three toddlers together ranging in age from one and a half to four years old. The mother of the youngest is a pediatric anesthesiologist, so the whole thing is overseen by a medical professional.

I serve three different kinds of fake hots and two meat dogs: a kosher beef frank, a pork sausage, a wheat gluten dog, a tofu hot dog, and a spiced tofu sausage. Like the rest of America, these children don’t agree on much. Each wants his dog served differently. The youngest needs teeny-weeny non-chokable pieces scattered in a bowl—his favorite blue bowl, not the red one. My son, the slightly older boy, wants bigger pieces in a “real” (read: breakable) bowl and covered in “all of the ketchup, all of it.” The oldest wants a plate, long hot dog slices, and no ketchup. No one wants a bun.

But they all agree that the vegetarian imitation hot dogs are yummy. The kids clear their plates. I can't tell which ones they like best, because they eat all of them one after the other and ask for more indiscriminately. Their parents prefer the pork sausage, the gluten dog, and the spiced tofu sausage. No, those latter dogs don’t taste like meat. But that isn’t the point.

The point is to let everyone—even people who don’t or can’t eat meat—slide an oblong tube of protein between two buns on a hot day in good company. At this year's BBQ, Holmes will marinate her fake meat in the steak marinade her carnivore husband makes. "I don't want to be left out," she says. No one does. Isn’t that what America's birthday is all about?

Correction on 7/04/2018 at 8:50pm: This article has been corrected to specify that Gary Beauchamp is a behavioral biologist.

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A bad shelter experience inspired this woman to help bring dogs and people together.

Debi Krakar had a golden retriever named Riley who wanted to give love to everyone she met.

Riley was so loving, in fact, that Krakar couldn’t keep her sweetness all to herself. In 2006, she decided to get her pup certified as a therapy dog; the process involved training to give affection and comfort in places such as hospitals, nursing homes, and schools.

Whenever Krakar’s kids had friends over, the children immediately gravitated toward Riley, so once she was certified, Krakar focused primarily on taking her to schools. Riley taught students how to interact safely with dogs and, in the process, helped even the most timid kids learn social skills.

Photo courtesy of Debi Krakar.

“[She] had a true gift for knowing when to lay down and be still — for the elderly or for a scared child — and when to be her happy, bouncy self,” Krakar says.

The students adored Riley. Anyone who looked into her big, dark eyes couldn’t help but smile.

After witnessing how Riley could brighten up a classroom, Krakar wanted everyone to have the chance to enjoy their own canine companion.

She had already been volunteering with a German Shepherd rescue organization that found homes for homeless dogs, and she loved helping match rescue dogs with their forever families.

However, getting dogs adopted was harder than she had ever expected. Many rescue organizations have strict rules for potential pet parents. In fact, Krakar had experienced firsthand how their requirements could sometimes rule out responsible families.

Back in 2003, she had applied to foster dogs for a golden retriever rescue group, but they told her she wasn’t a good fit. “They said my house was too clean and they didn’t think I could handle the fur,” she says, laughing. “But I cleaned it because [they] were coming over — that’s what my mama taught me!”

A child reads to a therapy dog named Bacchus. Photo by The Dog Alliance.

When she watched Riley in the classroom, Krakar thought back to that discouraging experience. She became determined to help responsible families adopt the dogs they deserve. So she began taking dog training classes to learn more about what makes a stellar dog owner.

“I just immersed myself in everything dog and learned what I could,” she says.

Slowly but surely, she developed a business plan for an organization that would run therapeutic dog-related programs including training classes, an education center, and promoting youth literacy by having children read to dogs.

With help from volunteers, Krakar transformed her plan into reality and officially opened The Dog Alliance in Austin, Texas, in late 2006.

The Dog Alliance teaches owners how to train their dogs, which helps create stable homes for the dogs themselves. The idea is that people are more likely to keep their dogs if they know how to deal with common problems like misbehavior.

Owners and dogs can also sign up as therapy dog teams to spread joy to people in hospitals, workplaces, and schools, just like Krakar and Riley once did. The organization currently has about 175 teams visiting people at over 300 sites where the dogs help relieve stress with their wagging tails and cuddly personalities.

Buzz the therapy dog at work. Photo by The Dog Alliance.

However, despite the program’s success, the Dog Alliance was still missing something: a service dog program for veterans. People would often ask Krakar if her team trained service dogs for veterans with PTSD or other disabilities. Even though she saw the need for it, she didn’t think the organization was ready for such a complicated project at first.

“It’s a huge undertaking,” she explains.

While the training process is similar to that of therapy dogs, service dog training is different. Therapy animals are still considered pets, whereas service dogs are working dogs who have to learn to perform tasks like waking their handler from nightmares or retrieving medication.

However, many of The Dog Alliance staff members and volunteers were passionate about the idea of working with veterans. They knew from the veterans in their lives that service dogs can help heal trauma. Plus, their therapy dogs already had a calming effect on elderly and disabled residents in veterans homes.

So in 2016, after much consideration, Krakar decided to start Hounds for Heroes, a program that provides veterans with service dogs for free.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Stockwell with his service dog, Jenny. Image via The Dog Alliance.

The Dog Alliance trainers select and train shelter dogs for the program, and many of their trainees become successful service dogs.

However, some of the dogs aren’t quite right for the task. Service dogs for veterans don’t just need specific training — they need to have the right temperament and a clean bill of health.

Some of that criteria is simply impossible to determine in a shelter dog. For example, since shelter dogs don’t come with complete family trees, Krakar’s team can’t screen for genetic health problems. For a dog that’s helping its handler with mobility issues, a genetic issue like weak hips might make it hard for the dog to work later in life.

With that in mind, The Dog Alliance started its very own breeding program to produce dogs with the ideal mental and physical traits for veterans. They’ve actually just had their first litter of eight adorable pups.

Roxy with her puppies, the first litter from The Dog Alliance breeding program. Photo by Emily McCall Photography, used with permission.

The puppies were born in March 2018 and are already preparing for service dog life with socialization, obedience classes, and exposure to a variety of settings. They’ll be ready to go home with their handlers when they’re 14 to 18 months old.

Krakar looks forward to the day when the puppies are thriving in loving homes and giving veterans the help they need to heal.

“[A service animal] gives veterans hope,” says Krakar. “They feel like theyre not out there all by themselves. Theyre sharing [their lives] with someone.”

That sense of hope motivates her to keep expanding The Dog Alliance to reach more people in need.

Debi Krakar with two service dog puppies. Photo by Emily McCall Photography, used with permission.

When she first volunteered with Riley, she didn’t expect to end up creating her own nonprofit. She didn’t even have the experience for such an endeavor. But that didn’t stop her from changing lives, both human and canine.

While Riley passed away in February 2016 from cancer, she inspired an incredible group of dogs and trainers. She even helped Krakar come out of her shell and make friends within a community of dog lovers — a gift that continues to give to this day.

“She taught me how soothing a dog could be to those under stress,” says Krakar. “All of us at The Dog Alliance strive to be as nonjudgmental and accepting as Riley.”

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2018 World’s Ugliest Dog contest crowns a bulky bulldog as the winner

Image: MONICA M. DAVEY/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

All dogs are good dogs. But all dogs are not beautiful dogs (on the outside, at least).

The World’s Ugliest Dog competition brought its annual show to the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in California on Saturday night. And the precious angel you see pictured above, a 9-year-old English bulldog named Zsa Zsa, was chosen by a panel of judges as the contest’s latest winner.

Zsa Zsa and her owner, Megan Brainard of Anoka, Minnesota, get to take home a $1,500 prize. Here’s what our winning pup’s profile had to say about her life before World’s Ugliest Dog stardom.

“Zsa Zsa is 9 year old English Bulldog. She was a puppy mill dog for 5 years in Missouri, and instead of placing her in a loving home at her end of breeding, she was put in a dog auction,” the profile reads. “Zsa Zsa was then purchased by Underdog Rescue. Her mother saw her beautiful picture on pet finder and HAD TO HAVE HER! She now lives out her retired life in Anoka, MN.”

Tee Tee, a chihuahua, at the 2018 World’s Ugliest Dog contest.

Image: Jeff Chiu/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Wild Thang, a two year old Pekingese, at the 2018 World’s Ugliest Dog contest.

Image: MONICA M. DAVEY/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Zsa Zsa bested a field of 15 dogs in total to win the World’s Ugliest prize. You can see why she was a winner, too, with her extra-broad shoulders; wide, crooked grin; and a lolling tongue that seems to go on for miles and miles. 

Please also note: Her claws are painted pink, to match her collar.

If you look at this dog and don’t immediately want to take her home and give her the happy, comfortable life she deserves, then we can’t be friends. Thank goodness Ms. Brainard was able to see Zsa Zsa’s radiant inner beauty.

Last year’s winner, a delightfully floppy and seemingly half-melted Neapolitan Mastiff named Martha, didn’t compete this year. But you can take a stroll down memory lane right here if you’d like to treasure her 125 pounds of sagging skin folds and love all over again.

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