Thursday, January 24, 2008

Heath Ledger: Conspiracies and Nothingness

There are some who will read too much into the death of Heath Ledger, the prodigiously talented actor who passed this week at the age of 28. These conspiracy theorists will suggest that Ledger died at the hands of some shadowy organization, his wife, a jealous lover, etc.

It's difficult to particularly believe in any of these particular theories because nothing in this story pans out to suggest such a hypothesis. The facts of the story lead one to believe that Heath Ledger was one of the most depressed people in Hollywood and the world in general. There were no notes, no suggestion that he even cared what others thought; Ledger was doing what he felt was appropriate for himself. Unfortunately, that was to pass into the next realm of this experience we call life.

And, this reality, and its suddenness, is what disturbs us all, what makes his death so intensely haunting. Ledger seemingly had it all: a new baby, a booming, critically acclaimed acting career, and so many fans of the fairer sex that even Wilt Chamberlain would be impressed. What would make Ledger turn his back on such riches? An inner sadness that cannot be filled with the material success that Hollywood and celebrity can bring.

If there is any positive that can be learned from this suicide, it is a bracing reminder of our overall humanity. We all might be from different classes and racial/ethnic backgrounds, but there is an universality to our lived experience that cannot be avoided. Just because Heath Ledger might be more attractive and better-off than the overweight boy in Montana who just hit puberty, it does not mean that they do not have the same lived experience. Both of them are looking for something that will make them happy. They may find it in this world; they may find it in another.

Really, Heath Ledger's death should not be a sad occasion. Like with every death, this should be an opportunity to look within ourselves and remember who we are and what makes us truly happy because it is not money and material accomplishments.


Heath Ledger: Gone, but not forgotten. One!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

AWOL from Here, not the Net

Yo, if you have found this website in your travels through the internet, props and hello. As you will notice, this isn't the most up-to-date site right now. I'm not blogging here for now. I'm still writing. You can find me making contributions at

one, Ace

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gossiping about Gossip Girl

On Wednesday nights, the demoralization of America's Youth is taken on with great glee by the executives of the CW. There is the whole institution of America's Next Top Model, which is a complete farce of a program in my opinion. The show lost credibility when the houses became huge shrines to the washed-up model-cum-talk show host/investigative reporter that is Tyra Banks and a testament to her life instead of an actually legitimate search for a good model. If you don't understand what I mean, ask yourself this question: when was the last time you saw Naima? I apologize for the young heads, but she was the most recent one that I could think of because I haven't watched the show for years. But, I'm going to put my animosity towards Ty Ty on the shelf for a moment.

My ire needs to be focused on the show after it, Gossip Girl. Although I am only 23, I am surprisingly out of touch with the youth of America. Apparently, this show is based of a series of wildly successful young adult books that read like an unrestrained Bonfire of the Vanities. From what I've read about them, the content of these books would set Tom Wolfe's seersucker suits ablaze with hedonism. But, that does not concern me. I'm only concerned with the quality of the program because that's what I'm about as a viewer.

For those who are unaffiliated with either the Gossip Girl books or Bonfire of the Vanities, the show Gossip Girl revolves around an unknown blogger who writes about the goings-on of the elite prep schoolers of Manhattan's notoriously tony Upper East Side. Central to the story are Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf, BFF's who had a falling out because of Serena sleeping with Blair's man Nate, who secretly has a thing for Serena. I think the cliché of this show made me gag a little.

Anyway, this show is exactly what that little bit of talking suggests it is: a teen soap much in the vein of The O.C., which is fitting because the executor of this show is Josh Schwartz aka the guy who created The O.C. Now, this clearly means that stereotypical characters from that show must be fulfilled on this one. To do a comparison of sorts, let's take this line. Serena is Marissa. Blair is Summer only in hair color (both are brunettes). Dan is Ryan, but way more loaded; he's new money which is looked down upon in this clique. Dan's Pops is like Sandy Cohen. There's no Kirsten. Julie Cooper is Serena's mom: trashy background but being elitist now. But, notice who's left out: Seth Cohen. And, this is why Gossip Girl fails as a show. I'm not trying to suggest that all of these characters are picture-perfect recastings of their west coast brethren, but I am trying to suggest that they all play on pretty generic archetypes of the teen drama.

Additionally, the absence of Seth Cohen allows this show to run itself into overly serious self-commentary without any real sense of irony or humor. Sure, Gossip Girl is funny, but it's an unintentional humor, a humor brought on by overgrown sense of self-importance than a realization of its own innate absurdity. While lacking Seth Cohen's caustic humor is alright, that absence would be tempered by the realization that the show is patently ridiculous, much in a move similar to those of Melrose Place, Beverly Hills 90210, and Dynasty. But, Gossip Girl fails in this respect as well as it takes itself far too seriously. The characters deliver their lines with sincerity, and they actually seem to care about each other, which is just tragic.

So, if you are keeping track, I hate the show because it's a soap opera that takes itself seriously, but not seriously enough. You'd be half right. I'd throw in that it's cliché, wooden, overly sincere for a soap opera, and constantly laced with the jamz that the cool kids like. I've never watched a show with a constant soundtrack like Gossip Girl. Frankly, it's distracting. So, if you know what's good for you, stay away from this show. If you want to be dangerous, you will soon be wishing for the return of the Walshes and Dylan from that magical zip code in Beverly Hills.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Vacation From My Regular Life

As you well know, I have taken a bit of a hiatus from the constant stream of blogging that once paraded across your RSS feeds and computer screens. While I was blogging, I had to absorb a lot of information, reading feeds, reading, watching cable news, yelling at Wolf Blitzer, the regular.

I found my eyes and my mind becoming fatigued at all of the intake, so I did what any other responsible person does when they become fed up with their (non-paying) job: I took a vacation. Unlike most other people who go to exotic locales like Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Tokyo, Dollywood, Omaha, Branson, and Burma, I decided that I didn't need to leave my comfortable surroundings at home in West Virginia. Yes, that's right, I took a media vacation.

For one week, I watched nothing relating to the content of this website. I read nothing about Hillary, Barry, John Edwards, Fred D. Thompson, Rudy "9/11" Giuliani, Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, etc. Nothing.

So, while Buddhist monks were getting their shit ripped in Burma, Britney Spears was losing her kids, and Rudy Giuliani was figuring out how many ways he could refer to 9/11 in a minute, I was kicking it, reading, watching soccer, learning how things are made, and gaining a fuller appreciation for women's volleyball.

Taking a media vacation is a lot harder than you think it would be. For someone who reads a lot of news even on vacation (read the daily paper when I was in Jamaica), it was awkward to step away from the news all together. After about three days, it became easier. But, those first three days were like getting cut off from heroin. I had withdrawals, twitching for a fix. Seriously, I'm not exaggerating. I had to physically train myself to stay away from the stuff.

Now, after a successful experiment with my mind at a new ease, I have turned on the news to find that I've missed absolutely nothing at all, and I'm just as critical of the news as ever. Britney Spears is still a mess. Rudy Giuliani's still an asshat. Fred Thompson's getting by on the fact that he was the DA on Law and Order, bringing nothing substantive to the party. The only thing that has changed is that Lindsay Lohan's now out of rehab. Oh, and Black professors are being threatened at Columbia. If anything has changed about me, I now have a fuller appreciation of women's volleyball primarily because it was on everyday, at least five times a day.

I always dug women's soccer. The 1999 Women's World Cup sealed that one for me. I watched the WNBA for years. I stopped after a while because the game wasn't as good as on the college level and just seemed like slightly advanced college ball without the collegiate passion. I watch track, so I know about Allison Felix and Sanya Richards being complete beasts on the track. So, I have a history with women's sports.

Women's volleyball is one of those sports that, for me, popped up when I would come for Christmas vacation from college. There were a lot of girls running around in short shorts, wailing on a ball, and yelling a lot. Frankly, I had no idea of what was going on. The only things that I was sure of was a) I had played volleyball before and knew it was really hard and b) those girls's shorts are really short. They have like JUST enough ass coverage to keep it from being obscene to the FCC and NCAA. I also knew that it left me conflicted.

On one hand, there are these girls who are amazing amazonian women. They are six feet tall (and taller) with the grace of a swan. It is a thing of art to watch these women float across the court, jump into the sky, and pound the crap out of the ball. They hit with such intense force that it blows the mind. As well, they do it so smoothly and have fun. It's telling of an athlete when a girl hits a ball right on another girl's head and proceeds to smile and laugh after the point with her teammates. That's cold blooded, but so awesome at the exact same time. As you can realize, there's nothing inherently conflicting about this.

The conflict arises in the fact that while these girls are doing all of this, it's hard to pay attention because the girls are playing in ridiculously short shorts. Daisy Dukes might be less revealing than these shorts. So, while you're watching these girls show fantastic athleticism, there's also a recognition of the fact that these girls are a) really fit and b) really quite attractive. So, while I totally respect their athletic abilities, I feel like a pervert watching them running around the court kind of scantily clad. In reality, this aspect is the thing that you first notice: the sexiness.

As my week went along, I eventually got past this (it's still there for sure. I'm straight, this is what happens) and got into the reality of the sport: a fast-paced, exciting sport. I don't root for anyone, but it becomes clear to see that these women are more than bobbing ponytails in short shorts. They are legit, amazing athletes who spend a lot of time becoming awesome and having fun while doing it. I just wonder if there's a legit reason for the girls to be wearing the short shorts. And, for the record, I would still watch if they didn't. The game's really quite fun.

And, with that piece of insight, I end the report of my media vacation. In the end, I've gained some new found critical skills, a greater piece of mind, and a new fall sport to watch when the Ravens are getting taken behind the woodshed on Sundays (I told you it's on all of the time).

Monday, September 24, 2007

Today is a Good Example of How The Media Has Failed Us

As I usually do, I have been watching MSNBC this morning, and people are taking a hard line against his appearance at Columbia. The main thing that I've been noticing is that there are a lot of voices against the speech, but not a lot of voices for the speech. No one is taking the opportunity to recognize how this speech is, in fact, helpful for America to understand the Iranian position towards us and other issues.

While no one likes Ahmadinejad (Iranians and myself included), he is the public voice of the government and decides policies along with the Ayatollah. More than all of this, Columbia is supporting the first amendment, something that the right stands against seeing as many of his previous comments have been taken out of context and manipulated for their own needs. On this issue, all one needs to do is search Ahmadinejad on Wikipedia. While other articles are suspect, luminaries get well-researched, unbiased write-ups, so I express no hesitation in recommending them.

I implore anyone who comes upon this in time to watch the speech at 1.30 on CNN.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Daytime Hangout

So, it has been a while, but I have to post about this. As you may know, Columbia has decided to bring Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to their campus. Apparently, this offends the Fox News Sunday panel along with the fact that Columbia doesn't have an ROTC program on campus. The reason that Columbia gave was because it was uncomfortable with the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which is a completely legitimate reason in my opinion. But, the panel seems to disagree. Oh, I should note that this panel is chocked full of Republican ideologues like William Kristol of The Weekly Standard, host Chris Wallace, and Fox News Washington Editor Brit Hume. Remember, Fox News is "fair and balanced" and "they report and you decide." Wow, I think that Orwell'd be proud of that sort of spin.

To deal with the ROTC problem first, a lot of colleges don't have ROTC programs. Every college that I applied to didn't have a ROTC program. I figured that not having one is a fairly common occurrence. Anyway, my larger fish to fry is with regards to the vitriol they spewed towards Ahmadinejad. Now, before everyone starts tripping and shit, I'm not support Ahmadinejad. It's hard to support someone who denies empirical, unbiased evidence that 6 million Jews were killed by the Third Reich. But, as much as he believes this, I believe that Columbia has done the right thing by inviting him to talk.

Columbia has done the right thing because they are holding up one of the most important civil rights that we have: to discuss conflicting viewpoints. The Fox News chatterboxes believe that Columbia should not support the president of a state sponsor of terror. Now, if that were the case, no American president during the Cold War and post-Cold War era should ever be invited to speak at Columbia as each one has played a part in supporting right-wing insurgent forces to fight against something we found unsuitable. So, let's clear that idea out right now.

With that viewpoint out, the Fox News wonks say that Columbia is being irresponsible by doing this. No, absolutely not. Ahmadinejad is going to the International Policy school at Columbia. They have already studied Ahmadinejad, thought about his policies. The kids at this school aren't stupid nor are they to be swayed by a guy who dresses business casual, as we all know business casual appearance conveys no gravitas. Comfort? Yes. Bravado and confidence? Not so much. I think that his appearance will give these students a good insight on what the M.O. is for one of the more important presidents in the Middle East. In a country that is fighting a war against a topic that none of us know intimately, everyone should be jumping at this opportunity to gain further understanding.

And, above all of the technical reasons, we have the necessity to give Ahmadinejad a platform. 9/11 changed things, but it did not change the fundamental nature of our country: to give all people the right to speak their minds and debate with one another. Ahmadinejad's appearance will be nothing more than a debate with one of the most provocative thinkers in the modern world.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bob Herbert Is Amazing

While I was surfing through my feeds, I came across this article asking why Bob Herbert, a sane, articulate Black columnist for The New York Times, is read by pretty much no one. The article pretty much comes to the conclusion that no one reads Herbert because he's too real. I wanted to just get his hits up because I think that Bob Herbert is one of the most important columnists out there right now with Frank Rich. He's always smart, poignant, and giving voice to smaller issues that are very important and surround us from day to day. He's the This American Life of newspaper columnists. I'm glad that I can read him again. What? You thought I was going to pay for the subscription to TimesSelect? You clearly don't know me very well.