I’ve come to a conclusion: Empirical evidence suggesting that the new age, world-is-connected idea is bullshit, considering that everybody, except those in Tallahassee (who think a football game is more important than morals, accountability, and societal norms) is rooting against the Seminoles. It’s no secret that the quarterback – the leader and face of the team – has been accused of:

1) stealing soda from a Burger King. An employee reported that, after not buying anything, the QB asking for a water cup and continually filled it with soda.

2) the QB was seen on surveillance video shoplifting crab legs. Where I come from, shoplifting equates to more than just community service.

3) the QB jumped on a bench at school and yelled/proclaimed “fuck her right in the pussy.”

4) the QB was handcuffed for shooting a BB gun at squirrels “on campus,” then was released when it was determined he was “not on campus.” “OOPS – THAT’S OUT OF MY JURISDICTION”….. that must happen alllll the time. Dang noobie campus cops.

5) the QB was implicated in receiving money for signing hundreds of autographs (this I’m not opposed to, if a university sells jerseys with your number on it and uses you as a money-making tool… though that still doesn’t mean you have the freedom to do whatever you want.)

6) oh yeah, there’s the sexual assault investigation. Although the QB has never gone to trial or faced any charges, the G.D. primary investigator has done work for the main financing arm of FSU Athletics – the Seminole Boosters. No weird, conflict of interest there at all. No sir! The latest is that the QB’s lawyer is pushing to have the code of conduct hearing being delayed until after the football season. How amazingly convenient that would be. “The prospect of justice can wait…. Now let’s get out there and win some games!”

Maybe the problem is society. It’s that, after the QB’s half-game suspension was announced, fans in Tallahassee were loudly proclaiming “If we lose this game, it’s because you ratted out our QB for asking for EVEN MORE ATTENTION and yelling inappropriate things!” Football is more important than real life, of course! The problem is the lawyers pushing to have hearings pushed. It the university, allowing to have hearings pushed. It’s the Seminole Boosters. It’s the campus police. It’s the TEAM. It’s society, for tuning in, hoping for the worst (including me) and the sponsors, who are making a ton of money because people like me are tuning in, hoping for (finally) a repercussion for one (or many) wrongs. The problem is the coach, for acting like there’s a conspiracy brewing when your team’s rankings drop after the receivers drop passes, the QB throws a bunch of interceptions, and the team has crappy opponents most of the season.

Sure, there’s a conspiracy, and ulterior motive, if you want to call it that. The brewing conspiracy is that the majority wants YOU to fail. People are fed up with this crap, with the complacency and excuses.

If the universe has shown it doesn’t revolve around new age, the-world-is-connected ideas, people are at least waiting for the concept of karma to prove itself.

Personally, given the QB’s ankle issues as of late, I wouldn’t be at all opposed to hearing about an abduction from campus and a “Misery” moment. In good conscious, I absolutely can’t support any S.O.B. who has had innumerable societal infractions. After all, I’ve heard there is some truth to any rumor.

It’s amazing to think that numerous crazies have scaled the White House fence for no apparent, good reason this year but, to my knowledge, no dipshits have tried to bring some vigilante justice to an equally important force in America – football.

A lofty but real dream of mine is to make as much money as possible, then move to another continent, because American football and half of society on that host continent is so occupied with complete bullshit. Check out yahoo.com right now. What you will see is likely this: “news” about how Amanda Bynes is insane or bipolar, Kim Kardashian “breaking the internet,” with naked pics of her huge butt (weird, since she’s not even the most attractive Kardashian, anyhow), or Kristen Stewart suffering a “nip slip” at an awards show.

We think we’re so advanced and ahead of the world, but how can we be when we’re really more like a bunch of neanderthals, getting off on pics of nip slips (how exiting, right?!) I have nipples, and you have nipples, too. We’re also completely obsessed with hoping a bunch of football players lose. I can’t think of anything more inconsequential, except that a single, alpha male in our society is working towards being awarded, at the highest level, with prestige and millions of dollars in his pocket, and it’s driving me crazy that society will likely allow that to happen.

That’s right – “millions of dollars” – just like other alpha males such as Ben Roethliseberger, Mike Tyson, Lawrence Taylor, Tom Brady, and Dave Meggett. Upstanding citizens.

One can only hope that such a person goes the way of recent, polarizing figures and, at most, the QB ends up getting signed at the highest level, and then absolutely nothing comes from it. That would reinstate my believe in not the new age, world-is-connected ideas, but instead, pure karma.

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Los Angeles, 2012. In this town, so many people have to be careful what they say. They have to be careful about what they do and where they go. Privacy is at an all-time low and sometimes, by association, you could end up on some shutterbug’s camera and in the tabloids. That happened to me. No one claimed I did anything, but rather, the story was about the person standing next to me. Below is a screen-grab from a scrolling graphic that appeared on the tabloid show “The Insider” a couple years ago. That’s me in the white shirt.

 

Image

 

Popping up in the media here and there is fun, but the appeal quickly vanishes when people become interested in everything you do. I know this because I work with famous people everyday. Some of them are withdrawn in their personal lives, and some of them will walk around The Grove, wearing a hat that advertises the show they star on. When they do that, it’s because they genuinely enjoy people. It’s like an invitation for people to say “Hey, I love your work….your character is so funny….you seem like a cool guy.” That’s a lot different than trying to find appreciation for paparazzi out on the sidewalk, trying to take a picture through your kitchen window at 3 AM.

With a little research, you can probably figure out who the star next to me in the photo above is/was. She was not happy at all about the photog staked out across the street. That hat she is holding in front of her face is mine, and we could hear the loud, quick snaps of the camera shutter from all the way across the street. This was just one isolated incident.

Right now, at this moment, the same scene is playing out in various parts of this city. With that in mind, I have to wonder: to what degree does the overexposure of celebrities, and the display of who they really are, cause them to lose their mystique and appeal? I’m not so sure that the answer is something that can be quantified. But now that technology has given celebrities a voice other than a scripted one on television, exposure, for some of them, has clearly been problematic. In 2009, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined by the NBA over a Twitter post, and Courtney Love has been sued over them. Former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner was busted for linking to a picture of his namesake, and athletes were booted from this year’s Olympic teams over their tweets. These are all instances of public figures showing poor judgment in 140 characters or less.

Back in the day, most things were hearsay. There was no “citizen journalism.” There were no smartphones, and it was rare for people to even own a camera. Back then – 100 years ago – Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper provided Hollywood gossip to the masses via newspaper and then radio. In the years since, unauthorized biographies of people and music groups (like Led Zeppelin’s “Hammer of the Gods”) have made society collectively gasp and ask “Is that true? It can’t be!” But now we know with much greater certainty that many celebrities are just so clueless about reality. They prove it by their actions and their own careless words. Don’t get me wrong – some are extremely smart, as are the ones I know, fortunately. But others…. We’ve all seen and heard those folks from “The Jersey Shore,” and there’s also people like Jessica Simpson, Kanye West, Britney Spears, Spencer Pratt, and Sarah Palin. Some people are immensely talented at their craft, and they know how to sell themselves. But they seem to know little else.

Earlier this year, Spike Lee tweeted what he believed to be the address of George Zimmerman, prior to Zimmerman’s arrest for shooting an unarmed, black teen in Florida. Many people questioned the motive of Lee’s tweet (mob justice?), and the address ended up being incorrect and was that of an elderly couple.

Comedian Gilbert Gottfried also caused a stir when, after the 2011 tsunami in Japan, he began posting a flurry of jokes to his Twitter account. Among them: “I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, “They’ll (sic) be another one floating by any minute now.” Gottfried was promptly fired from his gig as the voice of the duck on the Aflac commercials.

Another outspoken celebrity, who is no stranger to controversy, is Ashton Kutcher. His “brownface” Popchips commercial caused a stir, as did the time he provided a PSA-type Twitter post about human trafficking, citing debatable statistics. What really caused an uproar, though, was his disagreement over Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s firing for his knowledge of child sex abuse involving one of Paterno’s assistants. Kutcher claimed he didn’t know details as to why Paterno was fired and apologized. In what was probably a wise move, Kutcher then turned over control of his Twitter feed to his production/media company in 2011.

On the other side of things, the media’s interest is ratings-driven. Thus, they have a tendency to bring out the worst in those people we expect the worst from. Just pay a little attention to the magazine racks in the checkout line at the grocery, and you’ll see what I mean. So with celebrities constantly being under scrutiny, it makes sense to “think before you speak.” Sometimes you never know who it watching or recording a conversation. Technology has allowed us to have greater insight into the minds of people like Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Alec Baldwin, and Christian Bale.

Maybe it’s just me, but I grew up thinking most celebrities had their acts together… that’s how they got famous, through talent and intelligence. Now it seems that it’s more a matter of drive and luck – no intelligence (and sometimes talent) necessarily needed. Thanks a lot, reality TV! So I’ve got to give props to the stars that seem to be less impulsive and generally steer clear of stirring up controversy that can jeopardize their careers: Steve Martin, Natalie Portman, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp…

Technology has ultimately bridged the gap between celebrities and Joe Schmos. You and I can send messages directly to our favorite actors and actresses directly on Twitter. Not that they will necessarily respond, but the medium has made such people more accessible. Twitter – it’s kind of a like a giant high school, with a quantifiable measure of popularity. But hey, we are all in this high school together. Never has it been more understandable to hear this being said: Celebrities are people, too.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @leavingcelestia đŸ˜‰

The Fourth Year

05/03/2012

This is that fourth year I always dread. I dread the third year, too. That’s when the rhetoric and debates ramp up, leaving many of us sick of political talk even before elections are more than a year away. Having a long commute, I have become pretty savvy at switching off the news, in favor of other radio material, the very millisecond I hear keywords resembling “super PAC,” “Romney,” “campaign,” and sometimes simply “Obama.” Now, as a slogan, “forward” is being added to that list. I just don’t care because, right now, is doesn’t matter. And it hasn’t mattered for a long time.

There is a lot of coverage out there that’s hard to ignore. There are debates and town hall meetings and talk around the water cooler. For many people across the nation, there is at least some chance to participate in the dialog and the nomination process. But when it really comes down to it, individual participation is a guided process. So much of it is about psychology. The party leaders know it, and would probably rather you not think about it.

Although “The Adjustment Bureau” is fictional (as far as we know! Hah!), parts of that film have stuck with me for over a year… most notably this scene: David Norris, played by Matt Damon, is a politician who is seeking a U.S. Senate seat. When that aspiration falls short, Norris is fed up and lets loose during his concession speech.

David Norris:

…we had a rule in my neighborhood, when you got in a fight, it wasn’t whether or not you got knocked down. It’s what you do when you get back up.

And I came here to tell you tonight that I will get back up!

Um…that’s bullshit! We…we didn’t have that saying in my neighborhood. It’s just one of those phrases that uh…that has some attraction with a focus group and so we kept using it. That’s not true. You know, 1998, I did a cover for GQ. The title was ‘Youngest Congressmen Ever’ and, since then, every story I tried to explain how I got here so fast. And…and the word that people kept uh…using was “authentic” and…

…here’s the problem, this isn’t even my tie. This tie was selected for me by a group of specialists, in Tenafly, New Jersey, who chose it over fifty-six other ties we tested. In fact, our data suggests that I have to stick to either a tie that is red or a tie that is blue. A yellow tie made it look as if I was taking my situation lightly and I may in fact pull my pants down at any moment.

A silver tie meant that I’d forgotten my roots. My shoes, you know, shiny shoes we associate with a high priced lawyers and bankers. If you want to get a working mans vote you need to scuff up your shoes a little bit, but you can’t scuff ’em so much that you alienate the lawyers and the bankers, cause you need them to pay for the specialist back in Tenafly.

It’s interesting to consider our current President’s attire choices. The necktie blog “Neck of State” shows that, during his first 100 days in office, President Obama wore a red or blue tie seven out of eight times. That’s nearly 90% of the time. Maybe he just really likes those colors, or maybe someone told him something like “Wearing at least one of the two primary colors on the American flag comes across as being more patriotic.”

There is that obsession with lapels that politicians have, too… American flag lapels, specifically. Reagan started the trend. George W. wore ’em. Dick Cheney wore ’em, and Obama wore ’em until he “noticed a lot of people wearing a lapel pin and not acting very patriotic.” Maybe someone also told him about the Cornell study that suggests greater exposure to the American flag persuades some people to shift toward “more conservative Republican attitudes and voting behavior.”

Another changing area of modern politics is the celebrity appeal. Modern Presidents are fit and handsome. Obama is “cool” and was accused of being more of a “rock star” than a politician during his campaign, going so far as flying to Germany to give a speech for, well, who really knows…just a demonstration of his popularity with another culture that can’t vote for him, I guess. Los Angeles and San Diego are other good spots for that. (I don’t mean that as a jab, but it’s true that some Democrats are motivated to extend social programs to people who are in this country illegally, and Los Angeles is a known safe haven for illegal immigrants.)

Never before has an American President been so willing to optimize the media in so many ways. And never before has a President been seen paling around with celebrities so much. The gap is bridging between celebrity and politician as time marches on. Of course, the POTUS is a pretty well-defined position. Such a person doesn’t get to endorse products and get to be famous for being famous. Rather, the line is blurring in such a way that U.S. Presidents are in the top 1% of income earners, go on on late-night talk shows and send birthday tributes to celebrities and, out of necessity, hobnob at fundraisers with their richest and most famous best buddies.

These days, the notion of political celebrity isn’t limited to the examples just mentioned. Take, for example, the show put on for political conventions. They are made up of prominent figures reading scripted statements from a teleprompter, with theatrics including pyrotechnics, fancy lighting normally reserved for big concerts, confetti, giant balloons, and elaborate stage sets that resemble things like Roman temples. It’s a manufactured environment, and what a person said holds less weight than if they were in a darkened theater with a spotlight shining down on him or her.

In a world where so many technologies and products are vying for one’s attention, we are reduced to getting our information from soundbites. Context is everything, and context we rarely get. Thirty-minute speeches are reduced to three seconds. All that ends up mattering is a catchphrase and the inevitability of moving in a direction that really has no inherent meaning. It just exists and can’t be changed. It’s called “forward.”

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Further reading / cited material:

University of Minnesota, Humphrey School of Public Affairs:
“Romney Speaks 8+ Minutes More than Closest Rival at SC Debate”
http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cspg/smartpolitics/2012/01/romney_speaks_8_minutes_more_t.php

Los Angeles Times:
“Tale of the tape: Romney has had most face time in GOP debates”

Cornell Chronicle: “Study: Setting eyes on Old Glory moves voters toward GOP”
http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July11/FlagGOP.html

Neck of State: “Grading Obama’s First 100 Days”
http://www.neckofstate.com/

Washington Post: “Obama Stops Wearing Flag Pin”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/05/AR2007100501027.html