When you're a blogger, you get some really interesting emails from time to time. There's outright spam, weird promotions and some genuinely odd press releases. A week or two ago, I received an email from  a PR firm suggesting that HerKentucky readers would be interested in learning more about Movember.

I have to say, my gut reaction was "Isn't that when guys don't shave for a month? I mean, it works for a few men, but it mainly just seems like an excuse to pull out the Thanksgiving pants, Joey Tribbiani- style."

Then, I thought that it could be a fun piece to hear whether y'all like clean-shaven or scruffy guys. 

Solely for the purpose of research, of course, we'd have to include some photos of our favorite Kentucky-born actors, like Johnny Depp, Josh Hopkins, and George Clooney. Just, you know, for illustration's sake. 

As I started to read a little more about Movember, I learned that I could not have been more wrong. The movement serves to draw awareness to and raise funds for men's health issues, including mental health and male reproductive cancers. It hit home. A few Novembers ago, a close relative began treatment for prostate cancer. It was a scary time, and we could not have been more blessed with the outcome. But, that was a combination of good fortune and good medical care. It doesn't always work that way. 

Enjoy the photos of George, Josh, and Johnny for a moment, then make sure the men in your life are receiving the medical screenings they need. Trust me when I say that early detection and aggressive treatment are the keys to survival. Consider a donation to the Movember movement, even if you can't handle a mustachioed holiday season...

Are the men in your life celebrating Movember this year?

Oscar Night

The 85th Academy Awards are only three days away. Do you love the Oscars as much as I do?

I love movies, even if I don't always run to the theater on opening day or stand in long lines for midnight showings. There's just something about movies. I love the escape that some of them offer, I love the look into a different life that others showcase.

This year, I decided that I was determined to see all the Best Picture nominees before Oscar night, so I could root on my favorites. Last weekend, I attended the first day of the The Best Picture Showcase at the AMC theater at Newport on the Levee in Northern Kentucky.

Four films. One day. Lots of popcorn.

My husband and I watched Amour, Les Miserables, Argo (produced by our favorite Kentucky man, George Clooney) and Django Unchained. Our favorite was Les Miserables, something neither of us expected.

This Saturday, I'll go to the theater, again, to see the remaining five films - Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook (featuring KY's own homegirl, Jennifer Lawrence), Lincoln (I think we know the KY connection there), Zero Dark Thirty and Beasts of the Southern Wild.

That will prepare me for Oscar night. I'll be watching (and probably live-tweeting reactions to) the Red Carpet specials and the awards show. I love the glitz and the glam - knowing I'd never want to actually do that! I'd rather watch from home in my favorite UK flannel pajama pants.

What will you be doing for Oscar night?

Kentucky in One Word: Iconic

Colonel Sanders. The Twin Spires. Muhammad Ali. George Clooney. Some of the most famous images in the world. Icons. Symbols of Kentucky.

To me, the one little word that describes Kentucky is "iconic." The defining imagery that conveys the Bluegrass State. The pageantry of the Derby. The limestone fences that outline the Central Kentucky countryside. The quilts. The actual blue grass, and the unique genre of music which shares its name. The college basketball tradition.

You can go anywhere in the world and identify yourself as being from Kentucky and, invariably, you'll get the response of "Fried Chicken" or "Derby." Our horses and our whisky are unparalleled. Our local boxing legend is The Greatest and our hometown heartthrob is The Sexiest.

Kentucky is a land of unmistakable images. Kentucky is iconic.

(All images Leroy Neiman.)

Ashley Judd does Kentucky proud

Ashley Judd recently wrote a piece for The Daily Beast addressing speculation over why her face has appeared puffy. She gets right to the point in the first sentence. “The Conversation about women’s bodies exists largely outside of us, while it is also directed at (and marketed to) us, and used to define and control us.” As a former women’s studies major, it was all I could do not to stand up in the middle of my living room and shout “AMEN!”

However, I feel pretty confident not all Kentuckians will feel the same way about her feminist critiques. Kentuckians have a complicated relationship with Ashley Judd and I believe that relationship only further proves her point.

I remember the first time I learned Ashley Judd was from Kentucky. It was probably when I realized she was a JUDD Judd - daughter/sister of the famous country music duo. I felt such pride. She was so beautiful, so talented, so articulate. I loved that she was from my home state. Even though I'm not a huge sports fan myself, I loved that she was such a passionate UK fan, always making her way home for big games. And of course, we ALL remember the famous hockey team poster.

Yet, as her celebrity grew, so did her political consciousness. It quickly became clear that Ms. Judd leaned  more to the left on the political spectrum. She also became an outspoken feminist - unafraid to speak her mind on controversial issues like abortion and most recently the objectification of women in the media.

(Side note: I met Ashley Judd at pro-choice march in Washington, DC, and she was nothing but incredibly kind and gracious to me...especially when I told her I was from Kentucky.)

Suddenly, I began to notice not every Kentuckian experienced the pride I felt when talking about Ashley Judd. People would criticize her outspokenness and say nasty things about her appearance or personal life. In fact, the place I noticed the most vitriol was among UK fans. You want to read some mean, nasty stuff about Ashley Judd? Go to a UK fan board.

It is almost as if Kentuckians feel they own Ashley Judd. But we don't. We have no more right to criticize her than a citizen of any other state. The truth is people's dislike of her has little to do with Kentucky and more to do with the subject of her essay - patriarchy.

Everyone (in Kentucky or anywhere else) was fine with Ashley Judd as long as she followed the #1 rule for women as "objects" to be enjoyed - you are to be seen and not heard. When she was the stunning actress who just happened to love UK, everything was fine. When she opened her mouth and started challenging things and making people (men and women) uncomfortable, the meanness began.

You know what's funny? I don't hear the same vitriol directed at George Clooney. Also a proud Kentuckian and incredibly physically attractive person, you'd think he'd be subject to the same rules. However, Mr. Clooney is just as liberal if not more so and he has said just as revolutionary things about women in the media. Yet, people seem much more comfortable with George Clooney saying things they disagrees with. I would argue it's because they don't see Clooney as an object they have some ownership of or power over.

Either way I am still proud Ashley Judd is from my home state. In fact, with every political statement or feminist critique, my pride only grows.

~ Sarah Stewart Holland

Heather's 20 Things

1. Kentucky basketball. Not just the storied Wildcat program-- the sheer love for the game that transcends race, gender, geography, and socioeconomic lines across every little corner of the Commonwealth. From the way everyone congregates at the Hyatt before UK games to the way every high school ball game is a sellout.
3. Dwight Yoakam. He's from Floyd County, and so am I. Even if you don't enjoy his glam-country rockabilly sound (a position I can't personally imagine, but whatevs), you have to love his brilliant acting turns as the husband attending divorce mediation in Wedding Crashers or the abusive drunk in Slingblade.
4. These two houses in Gratz Park. My favorite houses anywhere in the world.
6. The recently departed Gatewood Galbraith -- a true gentleman whose unique voice will be sorely missed in the state political arena.
8. George Clooney. He's a beautiful man.
9. Jenny Wiley Theatre. (We're not going to discuss the whole "moving to Pikeville" thing. I can't talk rationally about it.)
12. The New Year's Day Pajama Party at Lynn's Paradise Cafe.
14. Discovering Kentucky with my dogs. From Cherokee Park to Ashland's Central Park. From snowy days in the Eastern Kentucky mountains to sunny Saturdays on Molly Malone's patio.
Baby Max in Cherokee Park, 2007.
16. The Kentucky Governor's Scholars Program. Where I met my future husband, though it would take me more than a decade to figure it out.  Where so many friendships, partnerships, and relationships were sealed.  Where at least one friend's husband learned to crochet.
18. Kentucky politics. Hilarious. Fascinating. Infuriating.
19. Cheapside.
20. Derby Glasses.