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When 2 famous singers came out as gay — and 9 other great things that happened in 2014 country

Country music is sometimes criticized for not being very progressive. And with the rise of "bro country" in the past couple years, such criticisms are not entirely unfounded. But here's a list of some pretty awesome stuff that went down in the country music world in 2014.

1. Kacey Musgraves won two Grammys and bunch of other awards.

Background via Thinkstock. Quote from The Wall Street Journal.

Kacey Musgraves is amazing. She's a popular female country artist who — *GASP* — actually sings about things other than trucks, beer, and gettin' it on. Her 2013 album, "Same Trailer Different Park," features the song "Follow Your Arrow," which is based on not letting the haters get you down. It goes, "Make lots of noise, kiss lots of boys, or kiss lots of girls if that's something you're into." Besides, Musgraves has been writing hit songs for country artists for years — 'bout time she got some more recognition!


Just to tally it all up, in 2014, Musgraves won two Grammy Awards (for Best Country Song and Best Country Album), an Academy of Country Music Award (for Album of the Year), and a Country Music Association Award (for Song of the Year).

2. Maddie & Tae took the scene by storm with "Girl in a Country Song."

The teen duo consisting of Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye debuted their first hit single, "Girl in a Country Song," in mid-2014. The song is (a) VERY CATCHY, (b) so on point, and (c) really impressive for a debut single. And the video is hilarious as well, so check that out when you can.

My absolute favorite line is this: "We used to get a little respect. Now, we're lucky if we even get to climb up in your truck, keep my mouth shut, and ride along down some old dirt road we don't even want to be on, and be the girl in a country song." So good!

3. On Nov. 20, 2014, Ty Herndon came out as gay.

Ty Herndon may be best known for his 1996 hit "Living in a Moment." But he's back in the country scene making a splash with a recent announcement that he's gay — and in a happy, long-term relationship. He came out in an exclusive interview with Entertainment Tonight.

Background via Thinkstock. Quote via Entertainment Tonight.

4. A few hours later, Billy Gilman came out as gay.

This just gets better and better! Just a few hours after the news about Ty Herndon, 26-year-old Billy Gilman (known for "One Voice," his first single at age 11, and more recently "Say You Will") posted a video to YouTube in which he let the world know he's gay.

And to make the story even BETTER, the great LeAnn Rimes took to Twitter in support of each star.

5. Brad Paisley made fun of the Westboro Baptist Church by taking a selfie with them outside of his concert.

OK, now this one is just hilarious. In June 2014, Brad Paisley spotted some angry picketers outside his concert in Kansas. Now, Paisley is famous for the 2005 song "Alcohol" and seems to post on Instagram about moonshine regularly. I can't tell you whether or not he drinks alcohol, or whether or not he's religious, but I can tell you that he took to Instagram to make fun of the picketers outside his summer concert.


Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully they can hear the show out here. We'll play loud.
A photo posted by Brad Paisley (@bradpaisley) on

Did you see that witty caption? It says, "Westboro Baptist Selfie!! Or west-Burro(ass) selfie. Hopefully they can hear the show out here. We'll play loud."

6. Kira Isabella took a stand against rape culture with her song "Quarterback."

Image via Thinkstock. Lyrics from "Quarterback."

Kira Isabella is a Canadian country music artist (they exist!) who released her first single in 2011. Her most recent album, "Caffeine & Big Dreams," features the single "Quarterback." In the song, a young girl gets invited to a party by the quarterback of the football team. He gets her drunk, they have sex (her first time), and the next day she is horrified to find pictures of the incident posted all over the Internet. The lyrics leave the story intentionally unclear — What really happened that night? Who did or said what? — but when the whole town takes sides, no one takes the girl's, and no one believes that she was wronged in any way (which, let's just say it, is some serious bullsh*t 'cause that sh*t was definitely not consensual).

Image by Raymond Santos, used under a Creative Commons license. Quote from ThinkProgress.

The song "Quarterback" was written by Rivers Rutherford, Bobby Hamrick, and Marti Dodson. Fun fact: According to this article, the song was pitched to Carrie Underwood, but her team turned it down.

7. Steve Grand kept being Steve Grand.

Steve Grand is acclaimed by some as the first popular country musician to start a career already out of the closet. In March 2014, he ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund his first full-length album featuring the hit 2013 single "All-American Boy." The success of that fundraiser — as well as his 2014 singles "Back to California" and "Time" — prove that he's not leaving the country music scene any time soon.

Here's a clip from the video for "All-American Boy," which was super popular on the Internet when it came out in 2013.

I can't imagine why. It's not like he's adorable or anything. JEEZE.

8. Glen Campbell "sung out" about his battle with Alzheimer's.

In 2011, Glen Campbell (of "Rhinestone Cowboy" — you'd know it if you heard it) announced that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative disease for which there is no cure. In October 2014, Campbell released one final song to make us all cry (and so everyone would remember the music he's all about).

Image by Arnielee, used under a Creative Commons license. Lyrics from "I'm Not Gonna Miss You."

Be sure to catch the whole music video for "I'm Not Gonna Miss You."

9. Sheryl Crow sent out this plea on Twitter (and then defended it).

After listening to the radio for over an hour without hearing a single female voice, Sheryl Crow took to Twitter with a plea:

Later, in a radio interview, Crow stood by her initial tweet.

Original image via Thinkstock. Quote from interview with KNCI 105.1.

10. Kenny Chesney called out the genre for objectification of women.

In a recent interview with Billboard magazine, Kenny Chesney spoke out against the "bro country" we've all been hearing so much of.

Image by LawrenceFung, used under a Creative Commons license. Quote from Billboard.

He gets props for that, for sure, but let's not be too quick to fawn over him as The Savior of Objectified Damsels in Distress. In another interview he explains, "I am learning that when you write songs about women, the perfect place to start is their spirit." I don't really want Kenny Chesney writing anything about my spirit, so the whole thing feels a little "eyeroll-y" still, but we'll let him stick around on our list all the same.

11. Garth Brooks cancelled his appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show" after Darren Wilson was not indicted.

Image via Thinkstock


On Nov. 25, 2014, (the day after the announcement that Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, would not be indicted — a day of massive civil unrest in our country), Garth Brooks announced via his Facebook page that he had cancelled his Thanksgiving appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show." He said, "To spend the day promoting our stuff like nothing was wrong seemed distasteful to me." While that's really the only hint we've got as to what his reasoning was, I think it's safe to say this was a pretty bold and respectful move on his part.

So what do ya say? Is it finally time to admit to the world that country music has stolen your heart (and radio)? I'd say so.

And finally, there's no way I covered every awesome thing about the 2014 country music scene. Know of any big progressive moments that I missed? Get at me! I'd love to hear about 'em on Twitter, @meganhazel.


Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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