Saturday, December 05, 2009

2009 in Review

2009, the fabulous year that brought us everything from OctoMom to Snuggies.

Let's take a stroll down memory lane before blowing out our decade's candles.

Remember the millenium - when everyone thought the world would blow up and our computers would fall silent? I guess all the death hags are celebrating the impending arrival of 2012.


In 2009, we couldn't get enough of women that couldn't stop birthing.





Behold, "The Gosselin". This hairdo graced Halloween shelves and sent children screaming in sheer terror.
















The mere name "OctoMom" was enough to induce permanent celebacy. Nadya Suleman (otherwise known by her Indian name "Angelina Jolie on Crack") graced supermarket tabloids
nationwide, reminding us all to use a condom.







This year was littered with men clamoring for the Douchebag Dad of the Year Award.

Esteemed nominees include...



The Gosselin #2, otherwise known as "Ed Hardy Har Har". This lovely specimen FINALLY pulled his children off television (for a momentous 2 seconds) after his name was dropped from the TLC show that drained the life out of America for... er, who many years has it been?


Please, make it stop.

(Not to toot my own horn, but PopSpiracy warned you about these two prior to any marital hell being made public. We know how to spot a scam when we see one!)




The one and only (thankfully) Michael Lohan.



Birds of a feather suck together, and it's not surprising Jon & Michael Plus A Load of BS were seen parading around town. That is, until Michael Lohan recorded conversations with Jon Gosselin proving... I'm still not sure what. One look at this grease fry and I want to run and hide in Samantha Ronson's hat collection, too.











Tiger Woods - King of the Slut Jungle!


Do YOU have what it takes to catch the eye of the Tiger?

Probably not. If a supermodel can't do the job, nothing will.













The winner of this year's awards is none other than Richard Heene, otherwise known as Balloon Boy's Dad. Didn't I see this guy's face on Unsolved Mysteries a decade ago?

Balloon Boy wishes he could be teleported in a sea of tin foil to the great beyond. Even throwing up on TV wasn't enough to get that poor kid out of an interview...






FAMEWHORES 2009








2009 also brought us the world's favorite famewhores, the Salami's Salahi's!















The most brazen nuts of the year no doubt belong to this bitch, who refuses to let the spotlight shine on boring couples everywhere. Whenever the Travelocity gnome is ready to retire, he's game.








Levi Johnston, semi-nude semi-Son-In-Law from Hell

Like the rest of this nation, I waited in anticipation for the Big Johnston to arrive, only to be massively disappointed. And they wonder why no one looks at Playgirl anymore! (Even Marge Simpson's appearance in Playboy was hotter.) Anything that upsets Sarah Palin is generally a victory for me, so even though it's rated G, I'll take it.






The 2009 Fame Whore Championship pits these two hotties face-to-face in the ultimate catfight of all times:










Spaghetti Cat





VS.



Keyboard Cat




Who will win? Probably Keyboard Cat. At least he does something.





This was the year some couldn't escape The Twilight Zone, forced to choose between Team Edward or Jacob.


Should I sleep with the Werewolf or the Vampire? Sigh. Being a teen girl these days is SO complicated. Not to mention, it sucks.








UNDERDOGS OF 2009







Susan Boyle, giving us a completely staged moment that brainwashed the globe. Even PopSpiracy couldn't help but shed a tear watching this, even if it was bogus.











The Underdog of the Year Award officially goes to the deserving Swine.



We fry them up in little bacon strips and bits, put coins in them, force them to be household pets, compare them to people we don't like, then when we get the flu, it's their fault.


Pointless Fad of the Year:





THE SNUGGIE. More specifically, the pet Snuggie. We expect humans to fall for ridiculous advertising shams and horrible fashion, but seriously, what did this Dachsund do to deserve this global humilation??? (Keyboard Cat is chuckling and prepping himself as we speak.)











Everyone knows a crap product doesn't sell itself. Sadly, two pitchmen giants got more than they bargained for in 2009.






Vince Shlomi got ShamWowed and Slap Chopped by a hooker.


















Billy Mays got Oxi-Cleaned and sent to the grand pearly gates beyond, which are no doubt more sparkly than ever.












The contenders for the 2009 Anger Management Award are:





Christian Bale, reprising his role as American Psycho on set.



















The ever-so cuddly Chris Brown.

















Kanye West, i.e. The G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Times).











Couples of the Year
(Wouldn't you just like to be the third wheel?):






Leanne Rhimes & Eddie Cibrian





VS.








Balthazar Getty & Sienna Miller








Don't fight, ladies. There's enough of these boys to go around.






Khloe Kardashian & Lamar Odom. That they are the only marriage this year that even comes to mind is pretty sad. Oh well, at least Lamar is a step above loser-baby daddy Scott Disick (sorry, Kourtney. You could SO do better.)












VILLAINS OF 2009







Dishonorable Mention: Carrie Prejean, the only mouthpiece capable of saying nothing relevant.








Murderers of the Year:




Ryan Jenkins: Proof reality TV is a fraud.


They say every cloud has a silver lining. It's hard coming up with one when your limbs are severed and you are stuffed in a suitcase, but thanks to Jasmine Fiore, women everywhere can rest assured that there is a positive side to getting breast implants. RIP, Jas. You deserved better.








Conrad "I was in the wrong place at the wrong time" Murray.
Responsible for taking out the radness that was Michael Jackson. Murray is probably sitting in the Bahamas as we speak sipping a strawberry daquiri and living the good life. Good job, LAPD.

Hero of 2009:


Captain Chelsey "Sully" Sullenberger




Every time I start to lose faith in the human species or the media's
inability to capitalize on anything positive, a creature like this emerges
to bring hope where it's needed. Ladies and gentleman, I present you
with the captain that makes water landings possible. Sully, you are a true wingman.





Words of the Year: "Twitter" and "Cougar"


Art of the year: Obamicon.







Don't lie, you know you made one (or ten).











We lost a lot of amazing people in 2009.


This one brought us a neverending slew of Kodak moments, how boring is the pop culture landscape going to be without him?

RIP to the KOP. Only he could deliver this level of awesome.




RIP to DJ AM, Ted Kennedy, Farrah Fawcett, Walter Cronkite, Bea Arthur, Ed McMahon, Patrick Swayze, Natasha Richardson, John Hughes, Ken Ober, and all the people who helped pepper our lives with entertainment and brilliance. We miss you.

Bon Voyage to a jam-packed decade.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Why No Hurry to Nab Dr. Murray? And other Michael Jackson updates.

It's hard to believe, but Michael Jackson died in June and it's November. Someone please remind me why Dr. Conrad Murray isn't in jail yet.

The only talk to the effect of his arrest hasn't even been in relation to killing Michael Jackson, but rather locking him up for not paying child support. During the trials, police marched straight over to Neverland and handcuffed Michael and dragged him out of bed, throwing him in the slammer on someone's word alone immediately (he was cleared of any wrongdoing). Two autopsies have been performed, it has been confirmed that Dr. Murray's lethal dosage of Propofol killed Michael Jackson, and he's still going wherever he wants, doing as he pleases while Michael lies beneath the ground permanently. Hypocrisy much?

I realize it takes a while to build an investigation, but they did find the vials of Propofol and traced them back to him and appear to have all the proof they need. Regardless, does it take six months to make this connection? Why is everyone taking their sweet old time? Why does no one appear concerned about this whatsoever? FYI: Conrad Murray has been jailed before, for domestic violence.

As a fan and concerned citizen, I'm sad and disturbed by this, and I can't imagine how furious Michael's family and friends are. Naturally the media isn't bringing up any of these issues and just want to talk about all the people suing Jackson's estate.

I can't help but feel if this was any other celebrity, Dr. Murray would have been in jail overnight. I really shouldn't be surprised, yet I am. That Michael Jackson is the victim in this case does certainly change things. When the ambulance arrived after Michael's cardiac arrest, the LAPD didn't seal the crime scene, as they were supposed to in an event when the cause of death is unknown, especially in a situation with so many possibilities. Again, they failed to even suspect it could be a crime scene and didn't take the appropriate action to secure the evidence. After all, it's Michael Jackson.

Dr. Murray had the paramedics continue to give him CPR for an hour even though he was already dead before getting in the ambulance, and he staged a scene giving Michael CPR and calling his son Prince to watch, even though again, Michael was already dead. Can you imagine the psychological trauma that poor kid has to live with on top of what is inherently already going to be there? Then, Dr. Murray fled the scene and left his car there, and had the Propofol FedExed to his girlfriend. Naturally, the YouTube video came thereafter where he tried (and failed) to make himself a sympathetic character. Propofol shouldn't even be administered outside of a hospital setting under any circumstances, nonetheless to someone in relatively good health.

There is no reason this thing is still even going on, if anyone's even keeping up with it anymore. I truly hope justice prevails, no one deserves to die at the hands of another. I was sincerely hoping this case would blow the lid off of the multitude of criminal doctors who endlessly flood celebrities with any prescription they want for their own gain. Too many stars have died needlessly and a case of this magnitude truly had the opportunity to make a difference so this fate would not befall another. It would be nice to say one good thing came out of the tragedy, but it appears another golden opportunity was lost to do something truly noble.

I hate to even stoop to the level of addressing this, but TMZ's recent "article" suggests that Michael's accuser from 1993 was able to accurately describe in detail Michael's genitals. (This, by the way, is untrue. Michael was subjected to a thorough strip search and it was revealed the description was inaccurate, which also accounts for this 'evidence' not being introduced in court for the later case.) TMZ goes on to say that Michael's plastic surgeon Arnold Klein says the reason the boy could describe this (which again, he couldn't) was because Michael liked peeing in front of people. I really don't know how much money Dr. Klein is getting that he's galavanting around town on every news show with one BS story after another, but it's so sad to think someone Michael Jackson trusted so much was so pathetic. (If Dr. Klein did indeed say any of this). With the constant Dr. Klein interviews, it's safe to say they serve to distract the authorities and public from the fact that he was also responsible for prescribing Propofol and other drugs to Michael outside of his practice, something he has since admitted yet vehemently denied at the time of Michael's death. And, not surprising that TMZ is wasting everyone's time dragging up lame gossip that completely desecrates the memory of a fallen entertainer. For in-depth information on the trials (as I seriously hope I don't have to address any more ridiculousness regarding them, there is a post available on this page which provides any thought/analysis I have on the topic).

One more blog fact-check - Perez Hilton has been continuously reporting that "This Is It" is bombing at the box office and made $2 million dollars. It has made over $100 million worldwide in a week, hence the extended release. Perez also pointed out that Fandango is giving out tickets for $1, which, by the way, they do for new releases all the time.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts vs. Abigail Breslin


Oscar-nominated Little Miss Sunshine herself, Abigail Breslin, is set to play Helen Keller on Broadway. Not everyone's a happy camper.

Sharon Jensen, exec director of the Alliance for Inclusion in the Arts, has this to say: “We do not think it’s O.K. for reputable producers to cast this lead role without seriously considering an actress from our community. I understand how difficult it is to capitalize a new production on Broadway, but that to me is not the issue. There are other, larger human and artistic issues at stake here.”


The media is overhyping this statement, suggesting that Deaf and Blind advocacy groups are upset by this casting choice. Really, Sharon Jensen just needs a Xanax. If casting a hearing and seeing child actor in a play is the biggest human issue happening amongst people with disabilities, we're living in a pretty rad world.

People can be so sensitive about casting. I remember when Zhang Ziyi (world-famous Chinese starlet) was cast in "Memoirs of a Geisha" and there was a huge uproar over her casting. China banned the film, calling Ziyi "an embarassment to China" for playing a Japanese Geisha girl. Do people not understand the definition of "acting"? Should Ted Bundy be cast in any role involving a serial killer? Should royalty be cast in Disney productions? Do gays have to play gay roles? Who cares. The whole point of acting is to find a kernel of truth in playing a character other than yourself. Transformation. Somehow, that got lost in the mix.

I remember playing Helen Keller on stage. It was one of my favorite performance memories, and the role and courage of Helen Keller inspired me to tempt to learn American Sign Language, with which I thought about being an ASL interpreter. The role had a strong impact on my life, you don't have to be blind or deaf to be inspired by this brave woman's journey.

I agree that it's unfortunate that certain minorities and the disabled community don't get more work in Hollywood or on Broadway. This has been an issue from the beginning affecting countless groups of people. It is not an inclusive industry and stereotypical depictions abound. Aside from the amazing Marlee Matlin, few of us can name a slew of deaf or blind actors.

While I encourage all minorities and peoples of every background and walk of life to share their experience with the world and pursue their dreams, I highly doubt a statement like this made after-the-fact makes much difference. I am reminded of Marlon Brando's then-wife Sacheen Littlefeather (an Apache Indian and president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Comittee) accepting rejecting his Oscar for "The Godfather" at the Academy Awards as a statement of opposition to Hollywood's exclusionary casting of Native American actors. She was promptly booed off the stage, and decades later I can't recall many Native Americans in film since. This doesn't mean minorities and actors with disabilities should cease the fight for recognition and casting. Change never occurs without opportunities for raising awareness and demanding your voice be heard. Hollywood may be a fast town, but it's slow in fundamental areas.

While I respect the idealism displayed here, I disagree with the idea that deaf or blind actors should be cast in the role of Helen Keller as much as I see no point in any actor being boxed in for any reason. There is much we can all learn from this character, regardless of whose eyes she is shown to us through. I also disagree on this level of attention being brought to a matter that pales in comparison to the inequalities in the educational system for the deaf and blind or the numerous health and social issues regarding minorities and disabled individuals face on a daily basis. Let's get the focus back on the real "larger human issues" at stake, not the sideshow diversions.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"This is it."



For once, I am not going to leave a movie review. But rather, scattered thoughts, and "This Is It" conjures many.

If it's a review you want, Roger Ebert will give it to you as only he can:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091027/REVIEWS/910289999

I really don't have much to say. Perhaps I never did, yet I felt some responsibility to defend Michael against talk that will never cease. His work speaks for itself, his humanitarian efforts stand alone, and this film says the rest. I pondered many of the questions Ebert did, yet I know how sensational the media has always been, and I know the results of the autopsy which confirm that most of the talk is just that. The film raises questions about how someone can be heavily drugged and do even a fraction of any of that. It's safe to say the media embellished quite a bit, as usual, though Michael did have a documented history of painkiller addiction in his past. The intense concentration and ability to focus on every little detail is a Michael Jackson trademark, and only possible with him at the helm, where he remained during his rehearsals.

I had the great fortune of sitting next to a woman who had nothing but backhanded comments throughout the entire film. The irony is that she paid money to see it. That says a lot. Sometimes people don't get it or "claim" not to. Instead of "This Is It", they ask "What Is It?" In a way, I think the title is brilliant, it is what it is. Not everything in this world can be explained or needs to be dissected into oblivion. If you don't get what the big deal is with Michael Jackson by now - who he was, why people cared, what he accomplished... you never will, and no explaining will suffice. Genius on that level comes around once in a lifetime, and is always misunderstood and undervalued until it's gone, and even then it flies so high above the radar most people miss everything. I'm proud to be one of the legions of folks touched by this man and his work, and I get it. I can truly say with complete honesty that without Michael Jackson, I would not be the person or artist I am today. He inspired something in me that continues to burn, much like millions of creative people around the world.

There was so much love and positivity, hope and inspiration in this film that if you failed to receive that, you are officially "Not It". The more light a person has inside with which to shine, the more others feel dimmed and have to charge up their destructive tendencies, yet it isn't enough to quell their appetite or turn them into better people. We all have choices to make and it is our responsibility to chose wisely, and I chose to be a positive force in the world and an artist that makes a difference, partially thanks to a person who needs no introduction.

I must say, in all of my movie-going experiences, I've never seen people spontaneously whip out lighters and wave their hands in the air. There were random fedora-wearing viewers and sparkled out audience members, and an audience sprinkled with every age group and color. One could expect nothing less. If a small conservative town can even get it, there is hope for us all to just get along, by golly.

I don't think Michael would have wanted this film released as he was too much of a perfectionist to want an audience to see an incomplete product, yet it's all we have for his last show and it's enough. I'm grateful this film was made, it answers a lot of questions and gives the fans one last peek at a man so hard to say goodbye to.

Michael was truly It, and It will be sorely missed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thumbs Up for 'Paranormal Activity'


As an avid movie watcher (all genres, all time periods, all countries), I have to count horror among my least favorite genres. Not because of the gore factor or subject matter so much as the difficulty of finding a horror film that actually gets under my skin. I can honestly say no movie has ever scared me since Poltergeist when I was 5 years old. My favorite horror films are more psychological thrillers than sheer terror, including Jaws, Rosemary's Baby, and Alien. I can't stand slasher films, they aren't intelligent enough to capture my interest. A climbing body count will do nothing for me unless there is a tight script and fascinating characters to follow, as in The Silence of the Lambs.

There are several elements I consider necessary to create a great horror film and "Paranormal Activity" had too many slices of genius for me to deny it a shout out. Let me start off by saying that docu-reality in horror hasn't worked for me prior. I rolled my eyes at the Blair Witch (though I did appreciate we never saw her). Cloverfield did nothing for my imagination. The only time I saw docu-reality working recently in a somewhat effective way was in District 9, where I thought it blended well with the storyline. Paranormal Activity on the other hand could not have been filmed any other way.

One of the most effective tools in the creation of a horror film is a fantastic villain. And by that, I mean one that is virtually impossible to get rid of. When I think back to Alien, I see all the elements in place for a terrific sci-fi horror extravaganza. You have the Nostromo, a salvaging ship, and its crew passing through the voids of deep space, essentially mimicking a gang of truckers in space. Their job is not to discover and fight aliens but rather do their contracted work, collect galactic trash and go home. They are stuck in the middle of the universe where 'no one can hear them scream' and confined to a large ship with no shortage of nooks and crannies for a species to hide. Not to mention, this is no ordinary creature and something they are completely unprepared to handle, and it has acid for blood. With respect to Paranormal Activity, what better predator is there than one you can't even see, nonetheless begin to comprehend? And if you need a hand, sorry - your only help is on vacation.

A favorite weapon of mine in the filmmaking arsenal is the skillful use of allowing the audience's imagination to wander as opposed to showing the audience everything in the screenshot. What one can't see is far more terrifying than what one can. In 'Signs', M Night Shyamalan masterfully employs this concept by hiding the alien from our view. We feel its presence in the wind blowing through the trees or the dog barking outside. The brief glimpses of its hand popping out from under the door or running in the background of a children's birthday party *cringe* are enough. These techniques were so perfect that seeing the alien was a massive letdown. Our imaginations conjure up far worse. (Remember Rosemary's Baby?)

Throughout the course of Paranormal Activity, we encounter an average couple who have just moved in together. Unlike most actors employed in docu-reality (always unknowns, of course) these two were completely believable as the ordinary couple they appeared to be. Docu-reality takes a risk as the characters aren't often developed or fleshed out enough to pull me into their personal story prior to the involved plot, and if this isn't successfully accomplished, we fail to care about the character's inner experience. We can all relate to Micah and Katie; we've all been in a close relationship and if we don't see ourselves in these two, we certainly know someone just like them.

Like The Blair Witch Project, we are observing an experience after-the-fact, captured on film. We already know it didn't end well. We come to learn that Micah and Katie are not the only inhabitants in their new house. This is news to Micah but apparently not to Katie, who has felt an entity with her since she was a girl she was powerless to explain. Micah is the stereotypical young male, more curious than fearless, more concerned with his new camera and filming the possibilities than his girlfriend's emotions. He is convinced he is in full control and can handle any situation that arises, if there's anything to even be concerned about in the first place. His camera rolls non-stop, capturing the mundane details of his domestic life with Katie. While they sleep at night, the camera vigilantly captures every detail.

The true prodigy of this film is that it capitalizes on all of humankind's biggest fears harking back to our earliest nightmares as children: Things that go bump in the night, what might be hiding in our closet, attic, or under the bed, what our eyes can't see, what really happens when we are asleep and helpless in a dark room, our sleepwalking activities, and why we always have that incessant urge to keep our toes hidden underneath a blanket. Like a good Stephen King production, we are inherently disturbed because the piece has tapped into the dark recesses of our psyche to dance with our most instinctual disturbances.

I can't say I was truly terrified (movies just don't do that to me), but lets just say I was more disturbed than anything I have seen in a long time. I truly enjoyed it as a picture as the cleverness was too pronounced to ignore, not to mention it was mad fun to listen to the audience gasp and squirm in their seats. I especially loved walking out of the theater to nervous chatter among grown men who wanted to wet their seats. Now that's entertainment.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Real World: New York vs. Cancun


My, how we've changed.

While I admit reality TV isn't generally something I go out of my way to watch, I remember enjoying the early years of the genre. Specifically, the first seasons of MTV's "The Real World". The show rapidly went downhill within a few seasons and I stopped watching. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to give Real World: Cancun a try. BIG mistake. I revisited the very first season (Real World: New York) in an attempt to see the origins of how it all began and to understand how it could have possibly ended up as hideously bad as it evolved into...

Flashback to 1992. 7 strangers were picked to live in a house...

In Episode 1, we meet the housemates. Among them are:

Eric - A troubled-teen-turned-model who despite popular misconception appears to be far more than just a chiseled face and cut six pack.

Becky - An outspoken folk-singer who is unafraid to defend her views and develop a relationship with the ("ex") Real World director.

Andre - The guy rocking out with his band Reigndance who provides the house with a much-needed mellow roommate.

Heather B - The rap singer who powerfully flows on the mic and wears her opinions on her sleeve.

Norman - The bisexual man who is always on hand to provide a good laugh and a warm hug.

Julie - The Southern girl with the overprotective parents who wants to see and experience the world.

Kevin - A gifted poet with a penchant for stirring up intense debates in the house.


Flash forward to 2009, when MTV has premiered the 22nd season of the Real World filmed in beautiful Cancun. Our cast of characters (yes, characters, i.e. not real people) include:

Ayiia - A bisexual Hooters waitress who creates no end of drama for her roommates and is revealed to be a cutter.

CJ - The Football player who has bad pick up lines (yes, this is as deep a description as we could conjure up for him).

Jasmine - The former cheerleader with a Napoleon complex that drinks far too much and never lands her crush despite the best of efforts (i.e. being a creepy stalker).

Bronne - The loud-and-obnoxious-yet-relatively-friendly house goof

Emilee - Another bisexual Hooters waitress with A.D.D. and two therapists for parents (*paging Dr. Freud*).

Jonna - A multiracial girl who loves to befriend men and steal them away from her housemates.

Derek - Your friendly neighborhood homosexual who worked at a bar with Jonna prior to filming.

Joey - A three-time high school dropout in a punk band who sleeps with anything he can get his hands on while sadistically egging on his roommates.

If the casting breakdown doesn't scare you enough, read on.

In the original Real World, there were truly 7 distinct people and personalities all thrown into a fishbowl experience without any expectation of what the experience might hold. The only similarities they all shared were that they were all artists and had aspirations to work in entertainment. After an entire season of Cancun, I really couldn't tell you much of anything about who these people were and what they thought (if they indeed had any rational thoughts at all) other than at least five of them appeared to be the same person, i.e. naggy, bratty, overly self-involved, and immature. These were people I wouldn't want to share an apartment with, nonetheless a city (save for Derek, who was smart enough not to get entangled in the drama, which is probably why we didn't see much of him - much like Season 1's Andre). I am praying that the production team of Real World just did a horrible job and have let the show be reduced to utter nothingness rather than believe that the generation gap really has widened that much and that this show is somehow reflective of its present generation (If this is the case, bring on the asteroid - we're done for).

In Season 1, we were presented with a group of determined young people ready to make their mark on the world. They were interested in learning about one another and engaged in intellectual discussion while concerning themselves with political and global issues. They attended human rights rallies (Julie wanted to understand others so much she spent the night on the street with a homeless drug addict) and the roommates worked through their issues to try to find common ground and live together in harmony so they could actually enjoy the experience, and best of all, they were real people we could connect with and relate to. Their arguments weren't always the most sound, but at least they were about real things that were relevant to our population. While they learned about eachother, we learned about them, and cared.

Interestingly, the original season took several months to film while the latest was filmed in one month (I'm sure the people in the control room were regretting the day they were born). Even in one month, these kids couldn't come up with one interesting thing to say. They were contractually obligated to work for Student City, a program designed to help vacationing college students have a fun and safe Spring Break. The cast members had no trouble immediately breaking all the no-no's they were given by the company, couldn't show up on time, didn't always fully participate, and Joey couldn't even be bothered to take responsibility for setting his own alarm clock and was fired from the job and ultimately the show, only to return on the last episode in the 'twist ending' where the sleeps with his sworn enemy and housemate, Aiiya. I wonder if they even contemplated that this was a real company with a real reputation that was giving them a real opportunity. If I were Student City and somehow still managed to be in business after the airing of RW: Cancun, a serious name and identity change would be in order.

The only seeming priorities of the Real World kids (whom I refer to as kids, because they look and act like them in every way) has been to drink, have sex, fight, and party, which basically reminds me why I stopped watching a decade ago. Watching this show, it's apparent most of these people can't be in committed relationships, control themselves in any form (drinking, sex, public urination, etc), have zero motivation, and can't perform jobs responsibly or share a house for five minutes without WWIII. The tagline should be changed to: Seven losers picked to live in a house to create pointless drama that bore us to death. I can't even conceive of a person who steals her 'friends' romantic interests, a person who encourages a cutter to cut herself again, or a person who sleeps with the individual they hate the most. I honestly think the visit to the welfare shelter they were assigned to must have been designed to make these characters look semi-sympathetic and to take their minds off of their own endless selfish desires. They came across as completely sociopathic and emotionally damaged and void of logic across the board. A reunion was aired, upon which I hoped watching the season would have embarassed them into a life-altering experience but to no avail (I should have known). I absolutely hated watching this, I'd rather endure torture than sit through it again. PLEASE give me those hours of my life back. However, I did overcome, just so I could write this for all of you.

I shudder to think that there are young people out there that enjoyed this. If this is you, just know that your generation is capable of so much more and that there is nothing real about any of these people. It's obvious they had a non-stop bid for camera time and nothing else. They kept accusing eachother of being fake, all the while being forgeries themselves. They didn't take the time to learn about eachother, presumably because that required actual intellect and took away from their precious time to party on a beach and shout at eachother. Even from a selfish perspective, wouldn't it have made more sense to get along with your roommates so you could really enjoy time spent in Cancun?

I'm not trying to reduce these people to stereotypes though the Real World has long been known for enjoying perpetuating them. I realize that these people must inherently be multi-dimensional and could very well be different if a camera wasn't taping their every move, however it is, which naturally makes it the Unreal World. Blame must fall on the production crew of the Real World who clearly made the choice to not only cast these immature charicatures but also have allowed once multi-dimensional people to be selected and edited into one-dimensional cardboard cutout puppets not worth the view. Watching this was truly like pulling teeth, I couldn't fathom what the producers were drinking thinking when these were the folks that appeared on their casting couch. Did they draw names out of a hat?! With the exception of Aiiya, who was selected by the MTV audience (Way to go). The producers have realized some inherent value in instigators, most likely stemming from the most infamous casting choice in Real World history: FPuck. Imagine having five of him in your apartment and you get the idea.

I honestly don't believe that this generation of teenagers resembles anything close to this colossal mess. Their generation was truly jipped with this presentation and I feel sorry for that. They are living in times of change and reconstruction and I hope they stop to reflect on something other than the beverage they have later. Perhaps the apathy so proudly displayed on this season's Real World is the same attitude that has contributed to some of the current problems our country finds itself embattled with. There are young people out there at this moment leaving their fingerprint on the world through volunteer work and the creation of ideas and art. Where is their representation? What about all the great minds and interesting young people populating this world? I'm guessing they didn't send in a tape. If they did, I'm sure they would see this opportunity as a unique time to learn from others and value their time at a new exciting locale instead of squander it away with petty insignificant arguments and illogical decisions.

Better luck next year (I won't be watching).

Friday, October 02, 2009

Vitiligo: Confirmed


To debunk further rumors:

Michael Jackson's autopsy confirmed he did indeed suffer from the skin disease Vitiligo (refer to photographs from my Vitiligo post dated 2007). The autopsy also revealed that he was balding, something I suspected as when I saw MJ in 2004, he was wearing a clearly wearing a wig.

The autopsy showed him to be healthy otherwise with no other drugs/alcohol in his system other than what was injected, contrary to reports that he was too weak to perform. He was 5'9 and 136 lbs (light, but still considered normal). He had ostheoarthritis on a few fingers and his lower back and a healthy heart.

In other words, his skin disease was real (as we reported years ago), and he was healthy enough to perform. I hope that settles that once and for all, though as we know, rumors will always persist.

Oh, and the autopsy also revealed he was actively producing sperm. I certainly feel if this was any other celebrity it wouldn't have even been mentioned, I don't see any of Hollywood's leading ladies being questioned about their ovaries when they are parents, biologically or otherwise.

Yes, I did get tickets for 'This Is It' and can't wait to see Michael in action!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus Real Jobs (we can only hope)


Yes, this is the return of the Jon & Kate thread (in which, ahem, I humbly called the demise of this entire family months before any public reports of marital trouble. I may not be Madame Cleo, but exercising common sense goes a long way. If you watched one episode of this thing, it was so predictable.)

I was trying to hold off on posting about these two because I'm as tired of them as the rest of you are, but it has simply come to the point where something must be said, yet again.

The latest updates are that the show's name was changed to 'Kate Plus 8' as TLC had been having trouble with Jon since these two split. It's gotta be hard promoting yourself as a family channel when you have a guy running around town drunk with ladies half his age, spending his CHILDREN'S earnings on a phat bachelor pad in NYC, and wearing those god-awful Ed Hardy shirts. Clearly, PopSpiracy could not let this charade go unnoticed! I am not, in any way, on Team Kate either, as you all well know. I think we should put them on a desert island and tell them it's a new reality show and forget to bring the cameras (and crew). Oops.

Within moments of the show's name being changed and Jon's obvious deletion, he is now taking legal action to stop the show, his lawyers sent TLC a cease-and-desist order which claimed police would be called out if anyone stepped onto the property.

According to Jon's lawyer, "Jon realized his family was like a train wreck, so he decided to put the brakes on the divorce and on the show..."

Let me get this straight. Jon Gosselin is just NOW realizing his family is a train wreck?!!
Ok, gimme back my Madame Cleo title, please. Either I'm a rocket scientist or Jon Gosselin is a tool. Or, in this case, maybe both. Kate is not halting the divorce, and dare I say it, I actually agree with her for once.

Jon's lawyer's continued statement:

"I am totally confident that [Jon] will be completely successful in his quest to take back control of his family and preserve, protect and ensure their future and well-being by putting the brakes on his divorce and pulling the plug on TLC, the media giant that he perceives as a monster that has exploited and manipulated his family and has been partially responsible for the breakdown of his marriage. Jon is resolved not to allow the TLC Corporate machine to devour his family and promote the monster's best interests over those of his family. TLC and Discovery have been reputed to have generated approximately $186 million dollars for the quarter – compliments of the Gosselin Family, and Jon firmly believes that their greed to continue that cash flow will be trumped by his courage and determination to protect his family."

First of all, I take it this lawyer hasn't seen one episode of the show or he would know Jon Gosselin was never once in control of his family and the notion that he could protect his children is highly implausible. He couldn't even stand up for himself once the entire time the show taped. If Jon and Kate were concerned with their children's wellbeing whatsoever, this show would have never taped a single episode.

Secondly, to hear Jon Gosselin whine (once again) about TLC exploiting and manipulating his family, contributing to his dissolving marriage, and describing TLC as a monster devouring his family is the best I've heard yet. (In case he needs to be reminded, the Gosselins are the ones who decided to drag their 8 children through this nightmare, no one else. It's not as if there aren't plenty of examples of reality television families torn apart or sextuplets thrown into a circus atmosphere and the long-term devastating effects of this many times over for them to have made a more informed decision.)

Now, I'm not absolving TLC of any blame here. While it has brought us entertaining shows like 'Police Women of Broward County' and 'LA Ink', it definitely had this one coming with all the constantly exploitative shows involving children. From Gosselins and Duggars to 'Toddlers & Tiaras', the whole thing couldn't be more designed to ensure a horrible fate for its young performers all the while masquerading as a wholesome family network. (Note to TLC: What's up with your programming in general? All these awful children reality shows and then rad shows about police women and tattoo shops? A sense of direction is in order here!)

In this statement, I must say I especially love the part where Jon's lawyer mentions the hundreds of millions of dollars the show has raked in for TLC 'compliments of the Gosselin family' as if this were all a wonderfully packaged gift the family never profited from in any way. Meanwhile, Jon is off buying a new car, an NYC apartment, and entertaining clearly desperate young women. (By the way, Jon doesn't work. And he mentions TLC being greedy!)

I think it's highly amusing that he decided to halt this show the second his name was dropped off the title. Egotastic! That said, I have been calling for the cancellation of this show for a year now. Jon's first logical (and correct) decision, made for all the wrong reasons. It's about time those poor kids get off the air and try to have a normal life, though growing up with Jon and Kate will guarantee that can never happen. I can't imagine what these kids have had to go through. Divorce is hard on any kid, and the actions parents make after the divorce have a large impact on how children will feel and cope. Jon's actions have not at all reflected any concern for his family, if what he's been doing the past few months is 'protection', we all have cause to be concerned. Everytime I think he can't possibly make himself look worse, he finds a way to outdo even my next-to-nil expectations.

I seriously hope the Gosselins can get their children into therapy and stop spending their money like it's going out of style. Those kids have been working since they've been in pampers and deserve a stab at normalcy like any other kids. Instead of focusing so much on this nightmarish couple, their children should be the first priority they deserve to be.

Monday, September 14, 2009

:(


Another staple of my youth gone: Patrick Swayze.

Who could forget bawling to 'Ghost' in the 80s?

Or his creepy character in Donnie Darko?

Patrick was a brave man whose positive thinking allowed him to survive as long as possible despite his circumstances. The tabloid media had a field day with his cancer, constantly posting pictures of him emaciated and saying he was already dead last year. Patrick valiantly hung on while announcing to everyone that the reports were wrong, he was still very much alive. I can't imagine how hurtful that must have been. His human spirit and bold attempts at fighting for life are an inspiration to us all.

RIP, Patrick.

Pop-Culture-Sensation-I-Don't-Get Of The Day


BEANIE BABIES!

If someone could please explain the appeal of these completely average stuffed animals, please explain. In the early 90s, Ty released these critters by the bucketload to frenzied fans and massive overhyping. Some people were willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for tiny beanie babies considered 'rare', which basically meant they had a slightly different color variation from a few others, turning Ty into a multi-billion dollar business.

Years later, you literally can't give these suckers away. I used to work for a facility that bought used-but-mint condition Beanie Babies from customers who had stockpiled them for years thinking they would retire on their collection. Naturally, we bought the majority for about a dollar (and that was generous). I'll never forget their faces when they excitedly mentioned one was rare and we handed them a dollar bill. Some people literally had thousands. Even the rarest ones weren't anywhere near as valuable as they hoped and in general, we were able to buy up thousands of Beanies a week at .50 and 1.00 prices. People were disappointed beyond belief, but they knew that was a better deal than they could get most places and went for it. We also had a few counterfeits come in, which was pretty amusing. We could always successfully detect them but they were pretty good mimics. The denial of their lack of present value was so great for a few customers they almost got a coronary and refused to sell them to us, only to come back within a few days looking defeated. I felt bad, but then again, what did you expect buying these mass-produced plain jane wannabes? They are so small, you can't even cuddle with them! If this was your nest egg, this is what marketing brainwashing will get you!

So, I ask you again, why did you buy these again??!!

We just don't get it, y'all.

MTV Video Music Awards Wrap-Up

It's been YEARS since I've seen the VMA's. Then again, my generation of artists was far cooler (sorry, kids). MTV 80s was the best. You can't compete with Weird Al and weird hair or the slew of genius and artists and videos. 90s MTV was a bit of a downgrade but still cool, and modern MTV is... NOT music television. Where are the music videos? Where's Beavis? Hehehhe. Yeah.

I remember the classic MTV VMA moments. Even the pre-show was interesting and unpredictable, I very vividly recall Madonna doing an interview and Courtney Love tossing her compact at her in a desperate bid of attention. Though I will say this year's bid of desperation came from Kanye West, who seems to think any of us actually care what he has to say when he's not singing (I THINK HE BURNED THAT BRIDGE A LONG TIME AGO, CAPS INTENDED). Kanye is plain retarded. Yes, he makes good music. I think the praise ends there. Since when is his opinion worth more than a teenage dream? What a jerk. I'm not a big Taylor Swift fan but every winner deserves their moment. The MTV Awards has a huge demographic and clearly Kanye West wasn't the only artist they loved by a long shot. It doesn't matter how good he is, nothing will sink a career faster than a crap attitude, so keep it up. I was touched by the little boy presenter (whoever he was) that gave Taylor her props, it's pretty crazy that a kid has more class than a grown man. I will say, her performance had a fun feel. It must be hard to perform after something like that, but her ability to keep it fun really just made her come out that much better. I'm sure Kanye will apologize now that he has the world's attention, he's like a broken record. How many times does he do this? Yawn.

I can't reflect on the VMAs without my Jackson comments. I highly applaud Madonna for giving one of the best speeches I've heard in a damn long time, makes me proud I wasn't a hater. I think what she said was as on the mark as any comment anyone has made since Michael's passing, and I'm glad she spoke some words people needed to hear, as one of the only other people on the planet who had the experience to say it. I thought the tribute performances were nice and I found it appropriate that Janet only made a momentary appearance as not to make it seem like she was capitalizing on her brother's death (though I have massively mixed feelings about her doing interviews and getting magazine covers suddenly when she refused to talk about her brother during an interview while he was alive). Clearly she is getting a second chance at her career which is certainly deserved, just not in this manner. The 'This Is It' clips were great, I can't wait to watch MJ's final concert. The footage proves that not only was he still a top performer (he was 50, not 80, people) but he also wasn't a drug addict, no matter what the media perpetuates. No one can be addicted to serious anesthetics and be a perfectionistic dancer at the same time. Clearly he battled painkiller problems over the years and bouts of insomnia in the end but a lot of the media reporting is clearly false as usual, as further proven by the people around him who didn't notice anything off. You can't take those types of drugs and not be falling all over the place like a zombie. I think the final show will be great. I always knew he wouldn't do the shows, but I didn't think it would be because of all this. I do think he has been introduced to an all new generation which I am so happy about and I will always remain respectful of this person and committed to my decision to have been a fan for so long. I do still think MTV is totally lame for banning him and his videos off the channel for years and then suddenly acting like they cared, but I guess that's most people. I remember the year Janet Jackson won the first ever MTV Icon award, which was such a slap in the face and MTV basically doing what was socially cool over what was the right choice. MTV has a sad history with Michael Jackson given he basically built the channel into what it became, but it was nice to see them make a momentary ammends. It was also nice to see DJ AM get some respect, we've lost too many artists this summer way too soon.

Pink gave a very acrobatic performance, I had no idea she did that kind of stuff. There was an LA band, 'Powder' that was great and their lead singer does that kind of performance art while rocking out, it's really random and a great visual combination.

Mad props to Lady Gaga, I'd heard a lot about her but never actually watched her in action and now feel I missed out. Dance music isn't necessarily my forte but I love her presentation as an artist, I respect anyone who creates a visual feast that seems to defy comprehension and her performance was definitely madly unique.

Muse was cool, I know they have a huge US following so hopefully they will play more shows out here.

I thought Alicia Keys and Beyonce were elegant and classy as usual, and I can't give enough of a shout out to Beyonce for being so gracious and giving poor Taylor Swift the moment she deserved. Empathy goes a long way and it's clearly not dead. I was proud of the audience for their reaction to the whole crazy situation, people really shouldn't support disrespect.

It was odd seeing Green Day performing, not looking a day older than they did when I was in high school.

Russell Brand was his usual peculiar self, which I personally appreciated. The night certainly needed his energy.

I actually liked the New Moon trailer, even though I have no real love for the Twilight films (though R-Patz does make me a tad giddy, I'll admit). I like a trailer that looks far better than the film will probably be. My inner child wanted to indulge in anything VMAs tonight, so I gave New Moon the benefit of the doubt.

Eminem really has mellowed out in his older age, I guess he's leaving all the madness for Kanye.

I was super surprised Britney won an award. I am really out of touch with the current music scene (mostly for a reason) but I sort of momentarily forgot about her. Lots of old familiar faces at the VMAs that seem rather timeless and there's a lot more cursing in the show among everyone involved than there ever was when I was growing up. Censor timing certainly has improved!

It was a pretty decent show, I've seen more boring award shows as of recent. The performances were all decent and it was nice to relive an old pasttime.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11



I remember the first time I saw the Twin Towers, in 1998. My mother wanted to go inside and climb up to the top floor, and I refused to even step into them. They were so tall and intimidating to me, I got a bad feeling around them. However, I did take a cool artsy shot from underneath of them, looking at them from an angle. I went back to NYC the week of 9/11, for a Michael Jackson concert at Madison Square Garden (the last concert shows he ever performed). I was literally walking around in the financial district two days prior and would have been in town during the actual day were it not for an accident involving the ticket seller making a mistake and switching my tickets for the earlier show date. When I left the city, I remember looking back at the sky line one last time as we drove away. Little did I know how forever changed it would be, as well as the city and country as a whole.

I remember the moment I found out, as does anyone else. One of my college best friends called me on the phone at 8 in the morning to tell me to turn on the television as something had hit the Pentagon. I literally watched the towers fall on live television. It was the most surreal visual and something straight out of a Hollywood special effects studio. It didn't feel real. I was JUST there. How could it be? And how many people did I pass on the street those days that suddenly weren't around to talk about their day? Innocent people just going to work. I was so jarred I didn't want to leave the house but had a chemistry class shortly thereafter. I was somewhat of a zombie walking into that building and I remember the classroom was abuzz. Not everyone knew about it yet, so students were filling eachother in. The teacher proceeded with starting the class, saying that "In times like these, it's best to carry on." A head promptly popped through our door to announce that school was closed. Everyone ran home and stayed glued to their radios and TV sets. So little was known.

The world has changed so much since that day. I remember how patriotic I felt afterwards. Not that I ever wasn't but I remember saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a kid and not really thinking about the meaning of the words (which probably happens when you don't really get much of a choice in saying it at school). The bit about our flag still being there despite the bombs bursting in air really choked me up afterwards. There was a sense of unity that came out of 9/11 (I guess there was another silver lining) that is hard to describe. I remember a commercial that ran on TV at the time that said it all, depicting a neighborhood prior to 9/11 that said something about the terrorists wanting to change the world and then a caption that said 'They did' and the same neighborhood being pictured boasting flags on every lawn. That's basically what happened. If tough New Yorkers could change their attitudes responses towards eachother, so could the rest of us. I think in some ways 9/11 definitely made us stronger in terms of feeling collective and part of something instead of a nation of just individuals, however naturally there were also undesirable consequences. War, the anti-Muslim sentiment some ignorant people expressed (and still do), the fear and paranoia so drilled into our heads, the political nonsense.

I recently went back to NYC last year and indeed it felt different. I remember going to the World Trade Center site to pay my respects. I was surprised to find that there were no reminders there, other than the obvious. I guess there doesn't need to be but I imagined there to be some sort of tribute or flowers or something but there wasn't a trace of it. The holes in the ground (still there years later) were a constant enough reminder and the city wanted to naturally move foward, even though most of the site is obscured by fence as construction efforts remain underway as they will for a long time to build the Freedom Tower. I'm actually glad the public chose to rebuild, I think it's a good idea. Though I would have been just as content with a memorial park, whatever the New Yorkers decided. The designs for the tower look amazing and I hope it does usher in strong feelings of renewed hope and optimism this country badly needs in times of such crippling recession and global change.

Of course our airport experiences are completely changed, an inconvenience I don't mind provided it makes air travel safer - it's a small price to pay. I was in Europe on the 5th anniversary of 9/11 (I can't believe it's been 8 years). While I was there, soldiers with machine guns were guarding Charles de Gaulle airport in France and there was a bomb scare on the plane I was on where we were promptly moved to a remote section of the airport in case we all blew up. There was also a bomb scare in the subway in Paris while we were aboard. When I went to Italy, the Twin Towers were on the covers of the newspapers and all over television. It really does make you realize the global impact of that day as well as the united sense it managed to bring about.

I do think the positive and negative effects are still very much alive and I hope we can all find it within ourselves to keep an open-mind towards one another and continue to seek peace and understanding. The world definitely needs so much more of that and in some ways 9/11 set back that progress. Despite these difficult times, I feel a great deal of hope for this country and for the world at large as long as we keep an eye towards the future and learn from the past.

RIP to all of those lost and condolences and healing to their friends and families.

Where were you on 9/11? What did it mean to you?

Note: PopSpiracy recommends watching "Man on Wire", Oscar winner for Best Documentary last year. An all-time favorite and a great story involving the Towers (not 9/11 related) showcasing the hope and inspiration they inspired in one man to dream big and do the unthinkable. GREAT stuff.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

One Last Goodbye...

PopSpiracy sends condolences to Michael Jackson's friends, family, and fans around the world.

The love we have received from the fan community is heartwarming and to be sent letters from around the world from people who loved Michael and
were affected by his brief but brilliant life were a great comfort and a reminder of how small the world truly is as well as the power and healing of togetherness. Thank you so much for sharing your stories, I was deeply touched by them all.

I want to send a final farewell to Michael today, the day of his burial. I am so grateful for his influence and inspiration, he touched my life as well as millions of others and that legacy lives on and continues to inspire us all.

May Michael rest in peace forever.

On a side note, I'd like to encourage people not to go to Forest Lawn today. The police have already warned that the neighborhood is blocked off so no one will be able to see anything, and having once lived in Los Angeles for several years I can say that the traffic is already horrendous during those evening hours. This is occuring on a weeknight during which countless people are taking to the roads returning from work to be with their families. As strong as the fans desires are to be there, please be respectful of the safety hazards and problems a large tu
rnout will cause. Apparently there will be media there to record some events so people watching TV will end up seeing more than if they went to the actual location. Not to mention, there is a heavy police presence to ensure fans do not sneak in. Also, a few news organizations I shall not name have decided to release the whereabouts of the family tonight, which is horrifying. Such media is contributing to the creation of a society that has an incessant and self-entitled 'need to know' everything at the expense of human dignity and respect. I urge fans to contemplate the implications of such behavior and to be aware of this mourning family's (and friends) needs to mourn together in privacy. A lot of people think celebrities deserve to be hounded and have every private detail of their life be public knowledge. The truth is that celebrities like Michael Jackson, his family, or any other entertainment figure deserve(d) the right to keep something for themselves and to have their own lives away from prying eyes, especially during times of tragedy.

I am sad it has taken so long to actually bury Michael, though none of us know the full reasoning. However, the funeral arrangements and location were just as I would have hoped for and I believe were done as Michael himself would have wanted.

Lastly, the Jackson fam
ily has come under a great deal of ridicule for having Michael's estate pay for the funeral expenses (per Katherine Jackson's request). I hope that people bear in mind that Katherine Jackson never had a career and was a stay at home mother and Michael Jackson paid his parents bills so the Jackson family itself has little money (aside from Janet). Marlon was recently working at a supermarket stocking shelves and the other Jackson members have dwindled in bankruptcy many times. The family still doesn't have complete access to its inheritance as such things take time, hence a motion was made in court. The funeral expenses are outrageous and Katherine Jackson suddenly has three young children to support, hence her request for finances to help raise them as well.

I can only hope that people try their hand at being compassionate instead of judgmental when it comes to this family's every action as well as tragedy or celebrity life in general.


Forever Young.



RIP, MJ.


1958-2009

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer of Silence




As summer is nearing a close, I can't help but reflect on the greatness lost this summer:







Oscar Mayer

Farrah Fawcett

Don Hewitt

Ted & Eunice Kennedy

Dominick Dunne

DJ AM

Billy Mays

David Carradine

Ed McMahon

Karl Malden

Michael Jackson


These people entertained us, inspired us, and let us know what was possible. In remembrance of them and all of the people in our lives lost within the past few months, we miss you.

Rest in Peace.

(Happy birthday, Michael).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shark Week on Discovery: A Help or Hindrance?

Ah, Shark Week. For years, Discovery Channel has unleashed this panic-inducing gem, ensuring that everyone thinks twice before stepping into the water over summer. Remember the year it was in 3-D?

Growing up, I enjoyed Shark Week. As a young person, I didn't read into it much and was hypnotized by these sleek powerful survival machines.
This year, I indulged in "Blood in the Water", which recounted the bloody summer of 1916 that inspired "Jaws", i.e. "The Massacre at Matawan Creek" and the attacks on the Jersey shoreline. In all honesty, I found the true story to be far more disturbing than Jaws - not just because it was real but because humans were so out of their element that summer. When you put it into perspective, there's a difference between having Quint the shark hunter onboard (one of my favorite movie characters of all time) and living in a time when nothing was understood about these creatures, including the idea that they could actually
kill a man.


Like any kid growing up in the 80s (especially in Florida where my mot
her took us out every weekend on the boat), one couldn't help but think Jaws was going to come right up and steal you in the blink of an eye. Hell, even when I was in the swimming pool, I was convinced he would make an appearance (a la Jaws 3 when he broke into Sea World's Shark Encounter). All these years later, I still think about it every time I go through that tunnel. Between Jaws and the Ghoulies, toilet bowls were even off-limits to kids after midnight.

As a massive fan of the movie theater experience, I must say of all my hundreds of unique cinematic experiences, watching Jaws with a live audience is still my favorite. I used to sit in the back of the theater at revival screenings in Los Angeles and watch the crowd move in sync and terror. All these years later, Jaws remains one of the most perfected films of all time per audience reaction. Every single note or beat Stephen Spielberg and John Williams created sent shockwaves through viewe
rs, who responded with frequent gasps and synchronized seat-jumping. This film evoked such an extreme reaction after the film's release that sharks were slaughtered in mass numbers and the population is far from safe about them, not us).

A demand for shark fin soup is also on the increase as is shark cartilage for medicinal purposes, especially in Asian countries. The popular belief is that

since sharks are relatively healthy and rarely get sick, ingesting shark must have health benefits. There is no medical proof to back this claim. Sharks are caught by boats, their tails and fins severed, and their bodies thrown back into the ocean to sink and die. The image of sharks around the w

orld has severely suffered due to the role of the media and Shark Week is certainly a large contributor to arguments against sharks, not pro-species. One walks away from watching Shark Week with a sense of fear and terror and not a deep understanding of this mysterious creature. While there were a few shows dedicated to learning about the habits of sharks, the majority were exploitative features on shark attacks, which seemed non-stop. From watching the week, one would think sharks were out for our blood attacking us every chance they get. The sheer panic of the programming and the constant floodgate of dramatic recreations and gore were sure to bring in ratings, the desired effect. I was disappointed by the hypocrisy of the occasional shark commercial randomly thrown in to r
emind us all about shark conservation while the programming largely incited an opposite reaction.
Let's get our facts straight about sharks.

They are a vital part of our ecosystem and as the ocean's top hunter, a necessary part of the food chain. Shark decimation affects every creature in the ocean and affects the natural order and balance of the undersea world.

A few shark facts we can sink our teeth into:

You are 1,000 times more likely to drown in the sea than you are to be bitten by a shark.

About 100 people in the world are bitten by sharks each year. Of these, five to ten die.

The chance of being killed by a shark is one in 300 million. The chance of being killed by airplane parts falling from the sky is one in 10 million.

(sharkfacts.org)

"Great white sharks kill and inju
re fewer people each year than other types of shark."

(sharkinformation.org)

In fact, hundreds of thousands of people die a year from dog bites (No one ever thinks twice about letting a dog into their home) yet you can count the number of shark-related human deaths a year on one hand. More people are killed by vending machines a year than by Jaws!

It's important for people to let go of their superficial tendencies and quickness to believe what they hear relating to these creatures that really aren't all that interested in human flesh. (Clearly, the human fear is mostly psychological, sharks embodyin
g many physical attributes and traits we have grown to associate with monsters.) In a time when we are armed with education at our side and doctors that actually know how to do blood transfusions and the common man knowing how to make a tourniquet, should you happen to get a shark bite, your chances aren't too bad nowadays. Sharks mistake humans for other food sources such as seals (especially when they are on surfboards and can look like seals from below) and unless a shark is protecting it's territory or has made an error in judgment, you probably aren't going to be killed. A shark might take an inquisitive bite, but once it realizes you aren't preferred food you have a good chance of survival. The majority of shark-related deaths are the result of massive blood loss, which can occur depending on the bite and certainly if an artery is severed. However, us modern day folk have a lot more medical training and shark education than we did in 1916. While the real life events were indeed terrifying, it's been nearly 100 years and we haven't seen such a string of occurences again. There is always an exception to everything.

So, what do you d
o if you happen to bump into a shark in the ocean that appears to be in attack mode? They used to say punching a shark in the nose worked, because it temporarily blinded them. Not that sharks use their eyes anyway when they bite (their eyes roll backwards to protect them), not to mention you run the risk of miscalculating and shoving your fist in its mouth. Some people try to poke them in the eyes to escape. Supposedly (and I don't know who the rocket scientist is that actually tried this), since the shark is the ocean's top expert it is unaccustomed to a challenge. If you swim away from an animal in predatory mode, it will swim after you. If you duck underwater and stare it right in the face, it is used to everything in the ocean swimming away from it and becomes confused and figuratively shrugs its fins and wanders away. Good luck with that, I'll leave that one up to you. Report back and let us know what happens >:p Though I can confirm that there was a dog that tried to maul me as a child and as I ran it came after me but when I slowed down and walked and didn't look back at it, it turned around and walked away. Predators do like a good chase and there's no point trying to outswim the Michael Phelps of the sea.

While you should
be fine swimming in the ocean and humans unknowingly swim alongside sharks frequently without any mishaps, you should exercise common sense and keep a few things in mind if it's a concern. While they have poor eyesite and mostly rely on smell, they are attracted to contrasts in color so you should probably pick bathing suits that more closely resemble the colors of the ocean and avoid yellow and orange which might create a strong color contrast with your environment. Don't go swimming alone or in any way injured and definitely not bleeding (that includes you, ladies) and avoid swimming in the middle of the ocean or any unguarded location. Overall, you should be pretty safe from shark attacks and we are a far greater threat to them than the reverse. A jellyfish sting is probably a more realistic concern (I can vouch for this, they hurt!).

I grew up in the Shark Tooth Capital of the World so it's not a surprise that I realize their importance (Kudos to anyone bored enough to look it up). Every year, the Sharktooth Festival is celebrated in my hometown and there's no shortage of teeth and souvenirs. However, the shark is quite revered in town as it should be across the globe where they make important contributi
ons to our ecosystem.

A great documentary to watch is Sharkwater: The Truth Will Surface, the 2006 documentary release that goes into great detail about the shark fin industry and the perils all sharks in our oceans face and the horrid statistics on the decimation of the shark population, particularly since the film Jaws was released as well as the implications of these actions. Also, the filmmaker challenges us to rethink our preconceived notions of sharks by putting himself at the helm and swimming in shark-infested waters just to prove his point that they aren't anywhere near the monsters of public perception (the footage of him swimming and petting wild sharks is pretty awe-inspiring). This film rips Shark Week in half while providing you with beautiful photography and a new found appreciation for these increasingly rare populations.

I encourage Shark Week to be consistent in its message and to vote in favor of shark conservation and run more specials and programming in defense of sharks instead of dramatic accounts of rare events. I'd love to see a documentary like Sharkwater make it's way onto next year's lineu
p. If anyone has suggestions for Shark Week or would like to voice their concerns about the mixed messages the channel has sent, visit Discovery Channel's website and voice your opinions. Never underestimate the power of expressing your views and inciting change.

FYI: While it wasn't common knowledge in 1916 in America that sharks could kill a human (even the foremost 'shark experts' in the country were in denial), a few images made their way right along with mythological monsters in books, art, and tales to demonize the creatures, before the advent of modern media, such as the famous painting "Watson & The Shark" (1778), based on
the first full report of a shark attack (the victim survived). I first saw this painting at the Louvre and was intrigued. Notice the shark has fictionalized features as the painter had clearly never seen a shark firsthand. The modern conveniences we take for granted!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

SAVE FIGMENT


"Two tiny wings

Eyes big and yellow

Horns of a steer, but a lovable fellow

From head to tail, he's royal purple pigment..

and there, voila, you've got a Figment..."




Since my first trip to Disney's Epcot Center in 1984 when I first glanced at His Purple Badness for the first time, I have never quite been able to get over him. Figment, otherwise known as the purple dragon that is the literal embodiment of the 'figment' of your imagination, has captivated generations with his charming laugh, catchy songs, mischievious nature, and adorable features. Figment was the first Disney character not designed by Walt himself. Disney Imagineers thought him up while they were planning Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), the first Disney park designed in a different vein altogether from Disneyland or Magic Kingdom. Initial drawings revealed Figment to be a strange green concoction, but fortunately he was redrawn to look... well, I imagine what the figment of one's imagination must look like – random and surreal. With his orange horns and wings, purple body, pink belly, and yellow t-shirt, Figment was unmistakeably original.

Figment and his side-kick Dreamfinder were the animatronic hosts of the fantastic Journey into Imagination ride (1983-1998), where they traveled through the mystical land of human imagination (from dreams to nightmares and everything in between) all the while collecting ideas and daring us to dream up the impossible.


In one of the biggest blunders in Disney history (yes, those are my words), Imagineers decided to tear down the original ride (and the accompanying ImageWorks) as the ride's track was encountering problems. The ride was completely rebuilt as something altogether different and public reaction to the renovation was excessively negative. Disney employees wore black and sulked outside of the attraction and even a Disney stockholder demanded a CEO's explanation as to why Figment was not prominently featured in the ride. Two years later, the ride underwent another extensive renovation to become Journey into Imagination with Figment, a ride which saw more Figment but continuing public dissatisfaction. If you go to Epcot today, you will notice it is the emptiest ride in the park. Upon a trip to Epcot this year, I expressed to an employee my love of Figment to which he sadly responded “It's not what it used to be.” Given the sad state of the attraction and the empty omnimovers, it's a safe bet that the current attraction's days are numbered.

The original Figment was voiced by brilliant character actor and dwarf Billy Blarty, who sadly passed away and took with him that enthusiastic voice that breathed incomparable life and energy into Figment, and who gave him the greatest laugh I've ever heard. Dave Goelz voices the current Figment, which is but a shadow of its former self. During the 1980s, Figment was to Epcot what Mickey was to Magic Kingdom. Figment merchandise abounded and Epcot took a brave unique stance at keeping other Disney characters separate from the Epcot theme park. In other words, Figment owned. The original ride was comprised of every essential element for a classic Disney attraction: the theme, strong visuals and endearing animatronics, a great song... Having taken away the ride was the Epcot equivalent of Pirates of the Caribbean being removed from Disneyland. (Can you imagine the reaction?!) I'm still trying to fathom how such a thing could have happened. Heaven forbid they just replace the troublesome track instead of rebuilding the entire ride.

Yes, that is Michael Jackson at the original ImageWorks Rainbow Tunnel in the amazing first Journey Into Imagination ride, just in case you needed proof that this thing was that cool...

I imagine (pun intend) that one of the great dilemma's facing Disney Imagineers is guest division: half of the guests are traditionalists and want their favorite nostalgic rides to be kept intact while others expect to see constantly revamped attractions and new rides. However, when something works that well it shouldn't be tampered with much (such as Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion which goes through the occasional small update but overall remains the same).

Figment is my all-time favorite character. His lessons are universal – belief, imagination, and creativity should be boundless and take us to the places in life we want to go. His message is as relevant today as it's always been, only hardly no one can hear it anymore. The modern ride features a largely computer-animated figment, which very much detracts from the magic of Disney animatronics previously in place (sometimes, older is actually better). The theme isn't very strong, the “One Little Spark” song spans a few lines for the audience to sing along with (which they never do), and overall the ride is as bland as last night's meatloaf. The original ImageWorks featured technologies the public had never seen (early versions of virtual reality exhibits and odd technological spectacles) while the current version gives us little to dream about. Figment's pal Dreamfinder is nowhere to be seen and Figment merchandise is generally yawn-worthy and only sold in a few locations at the park. The last time I went to Epcot, I stopped by Guest Relations to ask them when the costumed Figment mascot would be out and about so I could get a birthday photo with him (Hey, I had to!) and the woman looked at me as if I was insane. Apparently, even the Figment-costumed Epcot cast member is no more, either. They didn't even know he had existed recently! My inner child was completely crushed by everything at Journey into Imagination and the Imagination Institute. What a sorry ending for such a fabulous creature.



Poor decision making = poor audience attendance. The public's love and interest in Figment has not dissipated. Upon speaking with fellow Florida residents and Epcot attendees, I find that they fondly remember Figment and bring their children to experience him as well (the current generation got jipped). Disney honchos must know that Figment is not as of yet altogether through as they have released countless Figment pins and yearly release a limited edition Figment statue, while Figment merchandise on eBay continues to escalate in price and desire. Hopefully these signs will point Disney in the obvious direction and allow them to finally give Figment the updates he deserves instead of sending him into retirement. I believe Figment has generations left to entertain while old generations will fall in love with him all over again. Long live Fig.

To learn all about Figment (and why we should save him from extinction), check out an Figment's amazing unofficial page at figmentsimagination.com.