Monthly Archives: January 2008

Which is the Worse Tragedy?

The unspeakable happened the other night; Heath Ledger was found dead in his bedroom. An incredibly talented actor was taken too early, and we still don’t know why. We do know that he was found by his housekeeper and that he left behind his two year old daughter, Matilda, and millions of people who loved him and his work.

Yet, is it even more tragic that so many people have felt the need to to publicly malign him? Heath is perhaps best known for his Oscar-nominated role as Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain. As a result, people who disagree with the “lifestyle” of homosexuality have turned his early death into a punchline. Here are a few of the examples —

The Mission Valley Best Buy in San Diego had this sign up within hours of the announcement of Heath’s passing. In other words, before the autopsy was even performed to determine the cause of death, Best Buy was already trying to exploit the death to sell DVD’s. The move is beyond tacky, beyond tasteless, and utterly disgusting.

The worst by far is Fred Phelps – the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, who announced plans the day of his death to fly to Heath’s funeral and picket with his equally ignorant and misguided followers. I have a copy of the press release (easy to find, but I don’t necessarily recommend it), and the language is vile and loathsome, to say the least. Heath is called a “pervert” and the movie is referred to as a “tacky bucket of slime seasoned with vomit.” The worst, however, is the last and largest sentence – “Heath Ledger is now in hell and has begun serving his eternal service there – beside which, nothing else about Heath Ledger is relevant or consequential.”

The bile is rising in my throat as I type that.

Then there’s John Gibson, who literally tried to make the death into a punchline by mocking the movie and calling Heath a “weirdo” with a “serious drug problem.” In some instances of his news broadcast, and I use the term loosely, you can hear him begin to laugh. Here is my response to that.

Luckily, there are plenty of people out there who refuse to sully his name any more that it already has been. He was a phenomenal talent with almost limitless potential, and the week of speculation and rumormongering has done nothing but smear his reputation, intentional or not. Of all people, Anderson Cooper and Star Jones have come to his defense, claiming that the innuendos should be kept to a minimum until more facts are known and the autopsy tox screens come back. Here are their statements on the developments of this week.

Anderson Cooper said, “For the last two nights we have reported on actor Heath Ledger. His shocking death is clearly a story a lot of people are interested in, but tonight we will not be reporting more on it. The truth is there is not really anything new to report.

The full results of the various tests done on Mr. Ledger will not be ready for perhaps a few weeks and there is very little new information. I have no doubt other networks will spend a lot of time tonight discussing his death and the various rumors about what might have caused it, but I am not a fan of speculation, so unless there is something really new to discuss we probably won’t be covering it anymore anytime soon.”

Even Star Jones had it right with this statement — “Might I suggest that we in the media, instead of reporting on the dead based on gossip, rumor, innuendo and anonymous sources, choose to honor this man’s memory based on his talent and the good taste we all should be exercising. My heart goes out to the family of Heath Ledger.”

I honestly can’t decide which is worse – the death of an immensely talented young man and that a young girl will grow up without a dad, or the fact that this girl will grow up in a world with so many hateful people. Hopefully Michelle will make sure Matilda is sheltered from as much hate as possible.


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The Charm of the Homeless

So I was checking out from my part time job today, and as we were doing paperwork, somehow the subject of funny homeless signs came up. The two best, as volunteered by me and voted upon by coworkers, were “I’m not gonna lie, I just need a beer” and “Ninjas killed my family, need $ 4 kung fu lessons.”

How ironic that as I walked home ten minutes later, discussing impending snow and intoxication with a fraternity brother on my cell, that a homeless man chased me down the street and punched me several times in the arm. There was no provocation, I didn’t so much as look at him, but he felt I needed to be punched. Several times. Hard. I told him to fuck off, obviously, and several passers-by were freaked out by the entire scene, but a few hours later, my arm is only a little sore. Guess the moral of the story is that even though the homeless are sometimes endearing and funny with their signs, they should be avoided at all costs because of their irrational and violent tendencies. That must be it, right?


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“Without music, life would not be fair.”

I put up my top three films of the year, and now I feel like a top ten album list is necessary. The full top ten films of the year is waiting on a few more films that need to be seen, such as I’m Not There, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, Persepolis, Gone Baby Gone, et cetera. I fully expect some of them to advance into my top ten, so it would be undue to write that up now without seeing some of the best films of 2007.

However, I have selected my top ten albums of the year, at the prodding of several friends and colleagues, and I’m actually quite surprised at some of my picks. I couldn’t fit all of them into ten spots so I added five Honorable Mention titles. There is no real order or ranking to the list, except that two albums share the spotlight for the Best Album of the Year.

Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. Finally, Austin proves its worth again with a real rock album that delivers. Britt Daniel adds horns and more orchestration to Spoon’s signature feel but still keeps the minimalist style in a way that only Spoon can. A group that embraces punk and power pop to create true rock and roll in 2007. “The Underdog,” “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb,” “Don’t Make Me a Target.”

The Stars – In Our Bedroom After the War. The Canadians start to show up on the list with this indie pop powerhouse. Love never hurt so good until the Stars started making music, and they truly know how to create albums. This one in particular is consistent and timeless. “The Night Stars Here,” “Today Will Be Better, I Swear!”

Radiohead – In Rainbows. They revolutionized how music is sold and they blew the critics away with how the music works together as an album. There aren’t really any singles with this grouping, but that’s clearly not the point. Classically gorgeous. “House of Cards,” “Reckoner.”

Ryan Adams – Easy Tiger. The best singer songwriter in alternative country comes through again with his ninth album. Ryan never fails to create phenomenal songs, and this latest outing is nothing short of beautiful. Not his best stuff, but even mediocre stuff from Ryan blows other people out of the water. “Pearls On a String,” “Two,” “Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.”

The National – Boxer. Brooklyn somehow still amazes me when it comes out with something as perfect as this. Low-key, cynical, and well-constructed rock makes this album easily one of the year’s best. “Fake Empire,” “Green Gloves,” “Gospel,” “Slow Show.”

Mark Ronson – Version. His work with Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen gave him a name, but his own album fully cemented him as a real talent. None of it is original work in the lyrical sense, but the fact that he fully reinvented these songs is amazing in its own right. Completely underrated and brilliant music. “Stop Me,” “Valerie,” “Apply Some Pressure.”

Lily Allen – Alright, Still. People can easily write her off as just another brash tart who got a record deal because of her father. The problem with that is she’s actually talented. Put her album on and find fresh cynicism, great production, bitter and socially relevant lyrics, and killer hooks. Lily Allen may be annoying, but she’s the real thing. “Everything’s Just Wonderful,” “LDN,” “Take What You Take.”

Feist – The Reminder. “1234” from the iPod commercials gave rise to the biggest surprise in the Billboard Top Ten Singles this year. But this album is much more than that one catchy song. Leslie Feist solidified herself as one of the top females of indie music, Canadian or not. “My Moon My Man,” “I Feel It All,” “Brandy Alexander.”

Tied for Best Album are —

Amy Winehouse – Back to Black. The words “instant classic” were thrown around a lot in 2007, but this album truly deserved the distinction. Her lyrics cut to the bone and her presentation of R&B slash Doo Wop slash 60’s girl groups showed just how talented she is. Her talent is a force to be reckoned with – let’s just hope her addictions aren’t stronger. “Tears Dry On Their Own,” “Back to Black,” “You Know I’m No Good,” “Rehab.”

Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog. Sam Beam came back at full blast in 2007 and with a whole new sound. His usually acoustic and Spartan sound had given way to a more rich and complex orchestration, and the move was for the better. His sweet and thoughtful lyrics weren’t compromised, and his new style suited him quite well. “Boy With a Coin,” “The Devil Never Sleeps,” “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog).”

Honorable Mentions —

Patrick Park – Everyone’s in Everyone. Not as great as his debut, but still some of the best acoustic rock, or rock music period, of the last year. One of the better live shows I’ve seen, too. “Life is a Song,” “Here We Are,” “Saint With a Fever.”

Rilo Kiley – Under the Black Light. Jenny Lewis, Blake/Ronnie, and the rest of the group have another great album, but not as great as their earlier stuff and nowhere near as good as Jenny’s solo cuts. “The Moneymaker,” “Silver Lining,” “The Angels Hung Around.”

Arcade Fire – Neon Bible. The frenzy and panic of this record really struck me as a quasi-religious experience, as corny as it sounds. Furthermore, when I was watching There Will Be Blood, the overkill that Paul Dano poured into his false prophet Eli Sunday kept bringing this album back to me. Not as good as their last effort, but that’s better than most of their American counterparts. “Keep the Car Running,” “The Well and the Lighthouse,” “Intervention.”

Britney Spears – Blackout. Her year might have gone to shit, but who knew she could make such incredible music? This is by far her best album and it’s a pity she hasn’t bothered supporting it because it’s her best tracks ever. Some might say that the singles are overproduced, but those critics most likely can’t appreciate good pop and dance music. “Piece of Me,” “Break the Ice,” “Hot as Ice,” “Heaven on Earth.”

Tegan and Sara – The Con. These sisters never cease to amaze, and the production help from people like Death Cab’s Chris Walla and Weezer certainly upped their game with this album. Their cynical and angsty songs express every possible feeling and their youth astounds me every time they create a new album. “The Con,” “Nineteen,” “Back In Your Head.”

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As If That’s Not Normal

This recent stretch of glorious weather has me wearing next to nothing and loving every second of it. I was discussing with my friend about how every year since ’02 or so, January randomly has a week or two of sixty and seventy degree weather. It’s like Mother Nature is a tease, and she gives you a few moments of shorts-wearing bliss and then throws you into the misery of February through April.

Anyway, my friend and I discussed the fact that Christmas and Thanksgiving were unseasonably warm, as well. On Thanksgiving, I had to run some errands in the morning before I headed to my friend’s place. I rolled out of bed, in a t shirt and gym shorts, threw on some sandals, a hoodie, and a ball cap, and strolled out to run errands. As I walked back to my place, whiskey and flowers in hand, I was literally chased by a TV producer who asked to talk to me. He then taped me walking down the street and interviewed me for sound bites about how it was warm enough to wear shorts on Thanksgiving. Once we wrapped, I said, “Days like this make me happy for global warming.” The producer didn’t really enjoy that sentiment.

But what it comes down to is that he pulled a double whammy on me – I hate looking like shit in public, and I hate inane chatter and small talk. This guy taped me looking like shit and discussing the fucking weather. It couldn’t have been worse.

Except that my friend then pointed out that I would have been dressed the same way, in shorts and sandals, if it were 20 degrees instead of 70. Can’t really deny that, to be honest.

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Ode to Greatness

So tonight, a life altering event will happen. My friends and I have been hyping it up for weeks now, and I seriously can’t wait. American Gladiators comes back to primetime TV in less than two hours.

The original’s campiness has been shot with an overdose of the same steroids the Gladiators use. I have no doubt that it will be the most awesomely bad thing to ever happen to America. With names like Venom, Wolf, Stealth, Titan, and Hellga, this shit is going to be completely out of control.

In celebration of this watershed moment in the history of all that is perfect, my co-workers and I had a lunchtime poll if you will, and all of us picked our names. I asked everyone what they would pick, and the stuff we came up with was hilarious. You have to write all of them with exclamation marks and the deep voice of a freakish body builder who screams everything. Some of the highlights were

SUSAN! (His real name is Rob)

Needless to say, life got a lot better when we screamed code names at each other instead of actually saying our real names. Here’s to a great night and some genius some where in America making us a drinking game to enjoy this show even more. Tonight is the reason I love my country.

[ Cue Lee Greenwood ]

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