Ice Bucket Challenge

So, let me get this straight.

Someone thought that threatening people with an ultimatum: make a video of you dumping a bucket of ice water on yourself or your punishment is parting with $100. Then burden another four poor unfortunate souls with the same ultimatum.

You know, I used to forward those chain emails to hundreds of people too. My wishes never came true. I also didn’t die. 

I don’t know what bothers me more: That people are, to get out of paying $100, posting videos of themselves dumping ice water on themselves or that the act of donating has been marred.

The only good thing that came out of all this is the money has gone to a good cause.

Whatever works, right?


I’ve just discovered the work of Mary Kate McDevitt. Her range of lettering and retro color palettes is amazing.


I’ve just discovered the work of Mary Kate McDevitt. Her range of lettering and retro color palettes is amazing.

I didn’t realize I was depressed until I stopped being depressed

If there’s anything positive to come out of Robin Williams’ suicide, it’s the following:

  1. We’re reminded of how much laughter and joy he brought to our lives
  2. People are actually talking about depression, what it means and how it affects us

I decided I’d share my experience with depression, because maybe someone else will see it, and maybe it will resonate and maybe that person will get help and end his suffering.


I didn’t realize I was depressed until I stopped being depressed. And thinking back, I could say that I was depressed from ages 13 to 24, and severely so. 

I didn’t know the signs. I thought it meant wrist-cutting and thoughts of suicide, which I didn’t do or have. I thought I was just a moody teenager (and later, adult). And I thought the latter because that’s what they told me.

Middle school and high school weighed on me heavily. On the left was the extreme pressure to perform, to get perfect grades, to secure my future. On the right was the agony of low self-esteem, being overweight with bad acne and the general awfulness of growing up, trying to fit in and find yourself. And it started to slowly crush me.

I couldn’t sleep. I wrote dark and emotional journal entries and stories. I overate. And then my parents began their nasty divorce. I changed high schools. The grip of the vice got tighter. I slept less. My writing became darker. I overate more.

I entered my 20s and my family continued to fall apart. I still couldn’t sleep but I filled those sleepless hours with work and school. I became obsessed with exercise. I ate nothing.

But regardless of how the depression manifested itself, I think the most difficult part of those years was that I thought it was normal to be that sad. I thought it was a stasis to be maintained.

I thought, how dare I feel this way? I have everything I have ever needed, so why am I being so selfish and so sad? Depression doesn’t happen to people who have a roof over their heads and food on the table. It doesn’t happen to people who have friends and spending money.

Had I known.

I know now that I wasn’t the only one suffering then. We were all depressed, especially my mom. And I lived with her the majority of those years. Neither of us knew how to ask for help. Neither of us knew that help was an option. She later attempted suicide.

Imagine, two severely depressed people in the same house. How could anyone be happy in that house? I used to hate both of us for it. I hated us both for not picking ourselves up, for being selfish, for being sad. This didn’t happen to two, strong, able women.

Had I known.

I like to think that if I knew that those 10 or so years were just a down - that depression was a legitimate thing that could happen to me, that there was a way up - the down wouldn’t have become such an insufferable holding pattern. That it wouldn’t have been such a struggle to wake up in the morning. That I wasn’t just being a hormonal, dramatic teenager.

I don’t know if this post makes any solid arguments other than depression is complicated. But if anything rings true, I hope it’s this: No matter who you are or where you come from, being well-adjusted takes work, support and maybe a bit of luck.

I hope we learn that depression doesn’t only come from extreme tragedy. I hope we learn that it doesn’t matter what causes it, that depression affects every human being and if left unchecked, it’s soul-crushing.

You know when you don’t feel right. Look at that. Examine it. And don’t be ashamed that you’re suffering.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255


Obit of the Day: Robin Williams

There was no one like Robin Williams. The frenetic comedian who trained at Julliard (rooming with Christopher Reeve), performed mime in New York City, delivered cocaine-fueled stand-up routines, and performed at an Oscar-worthy level on screen, broke the mold.

Having performed stand-up and improvisation in what became his hometown of San Francisco, the young comedian’s first big break came when a relative of Garry Marshall, producer of Happy Days, saw Mr. Williams’ act. Not long after, he was offered a role on the 1950s-era sitcom playing an alien named “Mork” from the plant Ork. (The story arc included a face-off between the erratic alien and The Fonz.)

Mork’s appearances were memorable enough to earn Mr. Williams a lead role in a spin-off, Mork and Mindy, which premiered in September 1978. Co-starring Pam Dawber as Mindy, the show was an immediate hit, the 3rd most popular show on network television in its first season. Mr. Williams earned a 1979 Emmy nomination for Mork, and a Golden Globe win that same year. (Tinkering by producers and the network doomed the show as rating plummeted over the final three seasons.)

His television popularity quickly translated to the silver screen with his starring role in Popeye (1980). The film was neither a critical or popular hit, however. Unfortunately his next two films did not do well either, with starring turns in The World According to Garp (1982) and Moscow on the Hudson (1984).

His value as an entertainer was not diminished by the lack of success at the box office. He returned to his roots in 1986 when he co-hosted the first Comic Relief charity event on HBO with Whoopi Goldberg and Billy Crystal, a four-hour comedy-thon that raised money for the homeless. That same year he was in front of millions of viewers as the host of the Academy Awards.

A year later, Mr. Williams earned his first Oscar nomination for his role as Vietnam-era DJ Adrian Cronauer in the 1987 film  Good Morning, Vietnam. Although dominated by Mr. Williams’ traditional improvisational comedy riffs, he began to stretch himself dramatically.

In 1989, he endeared himself to millions and earned a second Academy Award nod with his performance as the beloved teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society. Although he left the ceremony empty-handed once again, audiences were fully aware Mr. Williams broad talent.

But Mr. Williams continued to perform stand-up for HBO and other network venues. Over the next 25 years Mr. Williams earned six Emmy nominations for his stand-up performances, winning two for Carol, Carl, Whoopi, and Robin (1987) and ABC Presents: A Royal Gala (1988). Fittingly he earned his last Emmy nod in 2010 for his comedy, nominated for Weapons of Self Destruction

Throughout this early success he struggled with cocaine and alcohol addiction. He freely talked about using the drug before stand-up performances early in his career, he stopped his drug use for the first time after John Belushi overdosed March 5, 1982. (Mr. Williams was with the actor just hours before his death.)

After several relapses, Mr. Williams committed to his sobriety in 1986 when his son Zachary was born and he remained clean until 2006 when he re-admitted himself to rehab for alcohol addiction. 

During his sober period, Mr. Williams became one of Hollywood’s most successful stars. He voiced one of the most beloved Disney characters of all-time when he played the role of Genie in Aladdin (1992). (Years earlier, Mr. Williams narrated a Disney World exhibit on animation where he spoke of his dream of being a Disney character.)

The following year, Mr. Williams took on what some consider his greatest comedy role in Mrs. Doubtfire. The mix of a zany storyline with a heartfelt family message was carried by Mr. Williams in an admirable way. He would follow with other comedic performances in Jumanji (1995) and The Birdcage (1996), and American version of the French film La Cage Aux Folles. (The latter role is of note as Mr. Williams played the straight man to Nathan Lane’s scene-stealing Albert Goldman.)

In was in 1997, though, that Mr. Williams finally earned the industry’s highest accolade earning an Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire, Will Hunting’s (Matt Damon) therapist in Good Will Hunting. It was his last Academy Award nomination, and his first in five years since 1992’s The Fisher King.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, while continuing to do larger releases for mass audiences (Patch Adams, Bicentennial ManWhat Dreams May Come, and two Night at the Museums), he also tried his hand at independent films, either playing the villain (One Hour Photo and Insomnia) or starring in dark comedies (Death to Smoochy and World’s Greatest Dad). 

Mr. Williams returned to television in the fall of 2013 with The Crazy Ones his first foray into a weekly sitcom in 35 years. Co-starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mr. Williams played an ad man with Ms. Gellar as his daughter. It was canceled mid-season. 

At the time of his death, Mr. Williams had three films in post-production: Merry Friggin’ Christmas, a dark indie comedy to be released this year, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb where he will reprise his role as President Teddy Rooseveltand a British animated film, Absolutely Anything which is scheduled for release in 2015.

Throughout all this Mr. Williams suffered from depression that was not publicly revealed. Although he was open with his addicition, even returning once again to rehab in 2010, he treaded lightly on the topic of depression and never admitted to suffering from any depression-related mental illness.

When his death was made public by the Marin County (CA) sheriff’s office, his publicist announced that the actor was suffering from bouts of “severe depression.” His wife, Susan Schneider, who he married in 2011 released a statement which said, in part, “As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

Sources:, NY Times, LA Times,, and Wikipedia

(Video of Robin Williams as Adrian Cronauer in the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam is copyright of Touchstone Pictures and courtesy of HrJrJossifov1 on I chose this clip because it is safe for work and was the first Robin Williams film I saw in the theaters. Here are links to some of his NSFW performances: a 1977 routine on HBO, and his Live at the Met performance, Part I, a personal favorite)


© Laura La Monaca
Travel Tuesday: Dark Chocolate and Pistachio gelato from Grom is just one of the many reasons to visit Milan. Here, more beautiful photos of the fantastic Italian city.


© Laura La Monaca

Travel Tuesday: Dark Chocolate and Pistachio gelato from Grom is just one of the many reasons to visit Milan. Here, more beautiful photos of the fantastic Italian city.

Would I rather be hated or be nothinged?

A post, a long time in the working about race and identity.


I’m an ethnic minority. And I’m always the minority among minorities.

Yet, I don’t have a lot of stories about racism. Oh, it’s happened. I’m sure it’s happened without me knowing it. But I don’t have stories about racial slurs and narrow eyed stares and angry muttering. Probably because they have no idea about me. Most people don’t have enough knowledge to bother rendering any judgment about me, positive or negative. They nothing me.

I’m Persian but I didn’t grow up with many other Persians. There were plenty in the cities surrounding where I grew up, but in my schools and neighborhoods, the Latinos and Armenians outnumbered the Persians. Much of my family lives abroad.

No one knew me. No one knew anything about my culture. I have a name that’s popular in several languages, all meaning the same thing. I don’t look like what most believe is a typical Persian person. My features are ethnically ambiguous. I’m not Muslim.

They look at me and think, “Question mark.” It’s a giant, “What are you?/Where are you from, really?/Are you sure?” type of experience that makes me feel lost, like I’m making everything up.

Persian? Like the Prince of Persia? There’s no Persia anymore. You mean you’re Middle Eastern.

Some may argue that they’d take my experience any day of the week. That sitting in class, learning about how the ancestors of the kids next to you owned your ancestors is pretty awful. That you’d never want to be pulled over because of the color of your skin.

But what about sitting in class and not learning about your ancestors at all? What about answering the question, “What are you?” and getting a blank stare in return? And the few people who do know, only know about your country’s nuclear sanctions? Or react like the language you speak is about as rare as Latin (Oh, so you speak Arabic?).

"What are you?" means they want to put you in a box. I get it, this is how humans function: We compartmentalize everything, because it’s just easier that way. But there’s no box for me, and I don’t know if that’s worse.

I don’t want to be put in a box. I don’t want to be judged. But I want to be recognized. I want to be familiar. I want people to see me and know that I come from a beautiful culture with a deep and rich history. That I’m not a novelty. That there are millions of people like me.

People develop bonds over their shared experiences, even if they’re negative. But what if no one else has shared your experience? The only jokes anyone can make about me are about terrorists and Al-Qaeda, or about being Muslim, or oppressing women. None of those apply to me, not even a little. 

Some would say I’m lucky that I can slip through existence in this racially charged society without recognition, without too much trouble. Because really, how much of a sacrifice is one’s identity anyway?

On discussion, anonymity and asking questions

I wrote this months ago and never posted it. But, here it is anyway.


What is really comes down to is this: Why can’t we all just be a little nicer?

Backing up: It began with this Thought Catalog article, then this New York Times article, and finally this blog post, before I realized my brow was furrowed and I was immensely upset at the wickedness of human nature.

From Thought Catalog:

For women, there is hardly anything as inappropriately invasive and ignorant as comments or questions posed to her about her baby-making abilities or parts or plans. Nothing outside of asking her why she isn’t married or why she is overweight, or underweight, or how her menstrual cycle is coming along. I wonder whether people would ever deem it acceptable to ask a woman those intimate and deeply sensitive questions in public. My guess is no.

The author writes that these questions are particularly sensitive and hurtful to women who do want children. As a woman who has also never wanted children, I wholeheartedly agree. 

From the New York Times:

The question directly before the justices is whether for-profit corporations must provide insurance coverage for contraception, a requirement of the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby, a chain of crafts stores, challenged the requirement, saying it conflicts with the company’s religious principles.

The Supreme Court’s decision (tomorrow) could have a ripple effect on discrimination across the board. While I have many, many, many thoughts on this topic in particular, we’ll move on for now.

And finally, from Model View Culture, where Ashe Dryden unpacks and explores the massive amounts of threats and hate mail from her talks about codes of conduct at tech conference:

Harder still, many people dismiss these conversations outright as something that is non-productive and outside their job description. They may say things like “while you’re complaining, I’ll be over here programming.” For this group of people, it takes someone close to them that they already empathize with to raise their concerns.

I may not be a programmer but I am a woman in tech (technically) and nothing frustrates me more than trolls, anonymous comments and hate mail. Again, a topic for another post.

But what am I saying about with all this? That for some fucking reason, people can’t be nice. And I don’t mean June Cleaver, Stepford Wife, debutante, rule-book following nice. I mean sensitive, mindful, think about what it’s like to be a fucking human, nice.

No matter what your convictions, take a second to have your mind opened. Take a second to think about how shitty people have made you feel. Now don’t do that to someone else (especially on the Internet).

Kindness costs nothing but is priceless.


I made a few decisions this week.

There’s no doubt that somewhere along the line I lost myself (though in some ways, I’d argue I have yet to find myself at all). For more than a decade, I’ve mourned the person I thought I would become, yearned for a creativity I feel was stolen, ached an ache that keeps me up because the life I live is a lie.

But just as much, I scold myself for sitting on my hands, for not picking myself up by my bootstraps like every American heroine, for figuratively sitting in my own shitpile.

I decided this week that it’s time to stop scolding, sitting, mourning, yearning, aching and not picking myself up.

I decided this week that I left California for a fresh start. I left Chicago to get my life started. I left Kansas because it sucked. And I need to honor those efforts.

I decided this week to put my money where my mouth is. I want to be a storyteller, so I’ll be one. I’ll blog again - and who cares if no one reads it, understands it or disagrees with it.

So here’s to my thoughts, my daily diary, my musings and doing what I’ve done since I found out you could put writings on the Internet.

I’ve decided.

John Oliver’s perfectly witty observations on the separation of news and advertising couldn’t be more appropriate and fantastic. He hits the nail on the head: No matter what anybody says, native advertising blatantly blurs the line between independent journalism and advertising. 

When the last newspaper I worked for started seriously designing its business model around native advertising, I stayed quiet, but I can’t deny that I felt its impending doom.

But still, I stood in a limbo, refusing to take a side. I felt I couldn’t offer a solution because native advertising paid my salary and I get all my news for free.

I stood in limbo because despite how guilty I feel during each pledge drive, during every free podcast, during every click on a Facebook link, why on earth would I pay for the cow when I get the milk for free?

$5 a month is still $5 a month I can keep in my pocket. I may work in the media but I’m still a consumer.

And yet, I pay for Netflix. I pay for HBO. I pay for magazine subscriptions. I shell out for media that matters to me, that I don’t get anywhere else.

So make us pay.

The media landscape needs to change. Make us pay. Make us pay so you can keep doing your invaluable jobs. If you offer truly good content, people will consume it. If we don’t have any other option than to pay for our news, we will pay for it.

We pay for every other thing in our lives: To use the train, to park our cars, to get access to the Internet, to live where ever we live. We have no. Other. Choice. Than. To. Pay.

Build up the wall. Save independent journalism. Make us pay.


Looking north on Michigan Ave at Randolph, 1960, Chicago.


Looking north on Michigan Ave at Randolph, 1960, Chicago.

(via uchicagoadmissions)