September 4, 2006

Steve Irwin Killed By Stingray

Posted in Celebrities at 1:11 am by Calico Jack

From the Courier-Mail:

Irwin had taken calculated risks with all sorts of wildlife for decades, relying on his knowledge of animal behaviour and personal experience to beat the odds.

For someone who spent so much time around killer animals, Irwin seemed to leave a charmed life.

So his demise was all the more shocking because it apparently involved a stingray, an animal regarded as dangerous but not as a killer.

It is understood that Irwin was swimming off the Low Isles off Port Douglas filming a documentary, a task Irwin has carried out on countless occasions.

Yet this time, Irwin, ever so careful around danger, was taken unawares when, apparently, a sting ray he was filming struck out with its tail, the venomous barbs fatally embedding in his chest.

In a way, it really isn’t surprising. Irwin has been playing with danger for many years now. But our sympathies go out to his wife and two young children.

Update: Some perspective, courtesy of Anonymous Lawyer’s usual snark.

September 3, 2006

Hello, Australia!

Posted in Celebrities, Random Oddments at 12:43 am by Calico Jack


(Erin McNaught and Jennifer Hawkins)

I never hear about this happening in the States:

SYDNEY schoolboy Jordan Avramides was “a bit bummed” when Jennifer Hawkins (Miss Universe 2004) took up Bathurst lad Daniel Dibley’s invitation to go to a school formal.

Jordan had also written the beauty queen a letter but had been rejected because Hawkins had filming commitments.

Enter Hawko’s understudy, Miss Universe Australia 2006, Erin McNaught.

McNaught, 24, is now off to the Trinity Grammar School Year 10 formal in November as Jordan’s date – and the 16-year-old is “totally” stoked.

“She’s cute. Let’s hope she’s a nice one too,” he said. “My mates are on the formal committee and they choose the tables so they’re loving it. Dad’s pretty happy too. He’s baggsed driving us there.”

There’s one small problem, however…

The only hurdle was the girl he’d already invited before McNaught agreed to step in.

“She’s fine with it. I went over to her house with mum and told her and she was really happy – she’s a good mate,” he said. “I double checked she hadn’t bought a dress or anything yet.”

But good old-fashioned chivalry will be alive and well on the night with a traditional corsage in order for McNaught.

I guess his chivalry doesn’t extend as far as to keep his promise to another girl. However, if offered the chance to take a Miss Universe to the prom, I suspect I’d have to think for a little while about what I should do. No, who am I kidding? I’d make it up to my date later.

And in an ironic twist, Jennifer Hawkins has now declined to go to the first boy’s formal:

The former Miss Universe-turned TV presenter had accepted an offer from Bathurst student Daniel Dibley to be his partner for his big night.

But Hawkins yesterday rang the 17-year-old to tell him she would not go because of the media hype.

“It wasn’t really like ‘Oh, actually, I just don’t wanna go’,” she told Southern Cross Broadcasting today.

“All this publicity and pressure just got a hold of it. And honestly, when I said yes to it…I thought it was really sweet and I didn’t expect all of this. It’s been a media circus and I just apologise.”

However, poor Daniel’s efforts will not be entirely wasted; Ms. Hawkins will meet him for a lunch date instead.

So, which girl do you think is hotter?

_____________________________________________________________

Captain Morgan adds: Jennifer

July 20, 2006

Art, Entertainment, and a Quest

Posted in Celebrities, Movies, Writing at 9:40 pm by Calico Jack

©JSDC

I think much of what passes as “art”–both visual and aural–in today’s culture is not art at all, but rather a measured attempt to manipulate the audience into appreciating something of both low quality and little intelligence. I especially hold little respect for the contemporary art scene; paintings such as this and this are but a candle compared to the magnificent inferno that describes a work of art such as Albert Bierstadt’s Among the Sierra Nevada, California. Yes, I know art is largely subjective; but without some objective measurements, our culture will lose any sense of what is good.

Christopher Tollefsen of Right Reason has an excellent article on the degredation of art in our society. He makes an important distinction between art and entertainment. Art can be entertaining, but it does not have to be. And popular entertainment should not always be regarded as art, though it may be of high quality. I really enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, but I would never dream of calling it art as some critics have done. Instead, I found it an entertaining, technically proficient studio film that gave me two-plus hours of fun, during which my brain could refrain from thinking about anything deep or introspective. Tollefsen articulates well the function of popular entertainment:

Trash is what good popular entertainment should be. Essentially a form of rhythmic play, whether in music, movies, fiction or the visual arts, trash does not seek to instruct, but simply to entertain. This does not mean it is unskilled: far from it. Good trash takes work, often considerable technical skills, and an awareness of what one is doing. Entertainment is, it seems to me, also what the beautiful enables, so we must see something of a continuum between the popular arts and the high arts (a different high low distinction than that between the low and the high emotions). As Pauline Kael writes in her essay “Trash, Art and the Movies,” to which the concept of trash here owes much, “Movie art is not the opposite of what we have always enjoyed in movies, it is not to be found in a return to that official high culture, it is what we have always found good in movies only more so.”

Cynical trash, by contrast, which is the fourth spot on my taxonomy, attempts to do the work of trash, while taking advantage of people’s manifest need and desire for entertainment, and their willingness to settle for what is poorly made, pandering and cheap. Hollywood’s sequel mentality is largely a consequence of a commitment of cynical trash rather than good trash. One familiar quasi-technical term to designate this branch of the taxonomy is “crap.”

Unfortunately, Hollywood produces far more crap than it does worthy trash. For every Serenity, we have a Fantastic Four (sorry, Captain Morgan.) Worse still are the pretentious films that aspire to greatness yet fall far, far short, like Sin City or X-Men: The Last Stand. Yet audiences eagerly gobble up what is fed to them by the studio conglomerates and their executives, who pander to those people that dislike thinking about what is put in front of them. Rather, they would prefer to be fed easy, quick, flashy answers to complicated questions. Why would anyone take the time to digest what they have just seen, when the next hyperkinetic blockbuster is merely a week away?

That was a rather lengthy introduction to the main part of my entry, but it is important to realize that however dire things may be now, all hope is not lost. Enter Jessica Stover, the lovely lady whose picture graces the top of this post. Jessica is a screenwriter and actress residing in the cesspool of cynicism, Los Angeles. (I’m allowed to say that, since I lived there for over fourteen years.) I have been reading Jessica’s blog for over a year now, and I’ve been consistently impressed by her commitment to bring back quality and art in Hollywood. It isn’t easy for a writer outside of the studio system, but Jessica has been persistent…and she has provided us with an candid look at her efforts along the way.

Jessica has written a big-budget, epic fantasy trilogy codenamed TSL. I have an idea of what the acronym stands for…but I’m most likely horribly wrong, so I won’t reveal my hunch here. Anyway, she has been pitching her idea to various executives, and the feedback has been quite good. But the studio system is unwilling to take a chance on an “unknown.” Those of us who know Jessica and read her work know that what she has is exceptional. I don’t use that word lightly.

Because TSL is a film that requires more than an indie budget, we need to go about making this movie in a non-traditional way. Thankfully, there is an excellent opportunity to show Hollywood that not all of us willingly buy into their idea of what is art. Eventful is a website that allows we, the movie-going public, to let the world know just what we want. And what we want is Jessica’s movie. All you have to do is go to this link and demand to have a showing of TSL in your hometown, or one nearby. It literally takes two minutes to sign up; you have no excuse for not doing this. By clicking the “Demand Me!” link, you’re saying that you are willing to take a step of faith and believe that we can do the impossible…and that makes us mighty.

To get the studios’ attention, we need 100,000 people to say “Yes, we believe.” It seems like a lot, but word of mouth can spread extremely quickly; and every demand is momentous. Jessica has a post about Eventful here, if you’d like more information. I’ve also added a link to the demand on the sidebar; just click on the picture to sign up.

This grassroots campaign can–and will–work. I was an active part of the community that didn’t give up on the cancelled television series Firefly until it became a big-budget movie. Believe it or not, the powers that be actually do listen to their audience if they complain loudly enough.

This is our quest. Here’s our chance to make a difference. Are you in?

July 18, 2006

Pop Princess Poseurs

Posted in Celebrities, Health and Fitness, Music, Personal at 2:49 pm by Elizabeth Swann

Have any of you noticed how many of today’s pop artists sound terrible when singing live? It seems to me like they are out of tune for an entire song. I recently heard Kelly Clarkson, Cascada, and Rihanna sing live, and they were awful. It sounded like the way someone would sing at a karaoke bar. Of course these pop artists’ albums sound near-perfect, but if one cannot sing a decent song live then there is a serious problem. Anyone could make a CD and sound really good with all the right digital voice-enhancing techniques and everything else that is involved to get that crystal-clear sound. The real talent appears when one does not need enhancement; it is a natural voice that has been cultivated from years of experience.

While I must say I am a fan of some of these pop princesses, I think their music sells so well because of their bodies, as they have become more of sex symbols rather than being known for their vocals. The reason the average American’s music wouldn’t sell is because they don’t fit that “ideal” image. What kind of message does this send to young men and women? For men, it teaches them them to lust and to desire women who are sexually attractive. While this is damaging, it is even more so to young girls. They see what is desirable, and they feel like they have to fit this perfect image to be accepted. What may then ensue is a period, or even a lifetime, of self-consciousness about their weight and looks as they try to do anything within their reach to attain “perfection.” They often begin without even realizing the harmful effects on the body and mind.

Sadly to say, I have been caught up in this way of thinking–and the more obsessed I became, the more discontent I was with my body. Instead of being thankful for what I did have, I was constantly comparing myself with other girls and their waistlines. But I was never satisfied, even when I was close to reaching my ideal weight. Fortunately, I eventually realized the extent of my foolishness and my wrong way of thinking. I thought being thin would make me happy, but it never did. I was focusing on someone I could never be instead of becoming the woman I was intended to be. An outward beauty does not last, and I wouldn’t want a guy who wanted me just for my body. So with that mostly behind me (I’m sure I’ll always struggle a bit), I am now working on attaining that inner beauty which is of far more value and consequence in the long run. I know changing will be a long and challenging process, but it will be worth it all in the end. Life is too short and precious, and I don’t want to waste it on mere trivialities.

My Name Escapes Me

Posted in Books, Celebrities, Writing at 12:48 am by Edward Teach

guinness.jpg

Always looking for a good read, I was intrigued by the title of book by the actor, Sir Alec Guinness. The book, My Name Escapes Me, is the diary of the late actor roughly between January 1995 and June 1996. At age 82 and retired, it might seem like the late Guinness would have little to write about of interest, but that really is not the case. Although most of the entries are simply about the quiet life that he and wife of many years led, his wit and charm make the book a very delightful read.

As the cover flap states, “What makes Guinness such a fine and versatile actor is precisely what also makes him a good diarist: an ironically observant eye.” In this day and age when wit and class are undervalued, I enjoy hearing the thoughts of those who are unprententious and articulate. Guinness reveals himself to be a informed and pithy commentator on everything from art and opera to politics. His travels and long career allow him a world wise eye at the events around him, but he manages to avoid the airs of a jaded memoir. Granted, this book probably is not for everyone. It is not a swashbuckling adventure, but rather the sort of book you would digest near a fire on a chilly, February afternoon.

Calico Jack adds: I had no idea Sir Alec had written any memoirs. This is definitely going on my list of books to check out at the library.

July 15, 2006

Jessica Simpson’s artistic side- no, really!

Posted in Celebrities, Music, News at 7:13 pm by Calico Jack

I never thought I would be writing about Jessica Simpson on here. But alas, she is a major part of pop culture; and her latest publicity stunt demands that I devote a paragraph or two to her–or, more accurately, to her “music.”

I’m sure I’ll be getting hate mail from Jessica fans after this, but I honestly think Jessica is one of the most processed pop singers today. Everything she does is carefully designed to promote an image. Yes, Britney Spears competes with her for the media’s attention, but Jessica does it better. Now her latest single “A Public Affair” has hit the airwaves, and unfortunately (haha) it isn’t being well-received by the public. So what must a pop singer seeking to reconnect with her multitudes of adoring fans do?

She personalizes her single, of course! Starting on Tuesday, gullible fans will be able to purchase and download a customized version of “A Public Affair.” Simply choose from a list of over 500 common first names, and Jessica (well, someone who sounds like her) will sing, speak, warble, or screech your name three different times in the song, making it truly soulless. Don’t have a common first name? Just wait a few weeks for the Powers that Be to approve your request, and you’ll have your very own custom single…from Jessica!

Personally speaking, I can’t tell you how happy I am that a major pop singer has finally decided to become so individual with her audience. I’ve always wanted to feel close to a singer, and here’s my opportunity! Every time I listen to her say my name on the single, I’ll think about the connection that she and I share. This is the best idea ever!

July 11, 2006

Tobacco: the new pandemic?

Posted in Celebrities, Health and Fitness, News at 11:04 pm by Calico Jack

A new reference guide, published by the American Cancer Society in conjunction with the WHO and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests that as many as a billion people could die as a direct result of tobacco use over the next hundred years. Currently, 1 in 5 deaths from cancer are linked to tobacco use, and lung cancer is the most diagnosed among the 10.9 million new cases every year.

With thousands of studies and decades of statistical evidence showing the harmful effects that tobacco has on the human body, why do so many people continue to ignore what is right in front of their eyes? Over 1.25 billion people currently use tobacco, and it is expected that the numbers will continue to gradually grow over the coming decades. If the WHO is correct in its estimates, tobacco use will kill ten times the number of people in the 21st century as it did in the 20th century. Unlike fifty years ago, however, the claims are now irrefutable: Tobacco is directly responsible for not only all kinds of cancers, but also severe cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Cigarettes are full of carcinogens and nitrosamines, and even non-smoking tobacco can cause cancer of the mouth and throat.

Again, I ask: Why? Why would anyone voluntarily choose to pump his body full of chemicals? It can no longer be that smoking is perceived as the cool thing to do. Years of public health warnings have given everyone all of the facts they need to make an informed decision. Even Hollywood, for the most part, doesn’t glamorize tobacco use like they did in the ’40s and ’50s. Yes, people still smoke in movies; but does anyone actually think “Wow, that’s so cool!” when they see Jude Law lighting up in Alfie? Throughout their lives, children are warned about the dangers of smoking. Yet somehow, every generation raises up a new wave of smokers to ruin their lungs and stain their teeth. When will it end? When will people finally wake up and say “No more!” to tobacco use? What will it take to break the mindset that one can be a smoker and stay healthy? Tobacco kills; it’s been proven time after time. And there are potentially a billion future deaths that could easily be avoided, but only if people choose to say no.

July 6, 2006

Wheaton’s Wisdom

Posted in Celebrities, Personal, Writing at 11:45 pm by Calico Jack

Wil Wheaton–former Star Trek actor, husband, father, proud geek, and writer–also happens to be a blogger. His blog is on my short list of websites that I read daily (or whenever he updates.) Wil writes about life in a way that few others do; from playing in poker tournaments, to bonding with his stepsons, to describing the struggles that come with being an actor in Hollywood, his posts are always thoughtful and candid. Even when I may not agree with him, Wil still makes me think. He has earned a lot of respect in the blogging community because he never writes to gain an audience or increase his website traffic; he writes for himself.

Today, Wil put up the best piece of writing that I have read in a very long time. Even Wil’s pedestrian posts are excellent, but once in a while he lets his inner author shine. His post perfectly describes the struggles that most writers go through in dealing with mental blocks, when there are wonderful stories eagerly waiting to be let out of their minds…but they just can’t seem to find the right words. Writing is a long, sometimes frustrating process; and Wil understands it as well as anyone. Just read this conversation he had with his inner critic:

“The point is, you’ve known all along who you are and what you’re meant to do. You’re a geek who is meant to create and perform. But you’re also a family man. You adore your family, and even though your relationship with your boys has been consistently and steadily undermined, you’ve never given up on them, nor they on you. Even though you often feel like you’re not doing enough as a husband, your wife has never given up on you, nor you on her. Even though you frequently feel like the black sheep of your conservative family, you’ve never given up on each other. You’re domesticated, alright, but that is okay.

“You had to figure that out, because what you do is not who you are, but if you don’t know and embrace who you are — ”

“I’ll never be able to relax, settle down, and tell those stories I want to create.” I said.

“Exactly. Do you know why you have had writer’s block for so long? Do you understand why you’ve felt frustrated, uninspired, and unmotivated?”

“Because if I didn’t push myself to a certain point, I wouldn’t have taken the time to examine my life and realize that the domestication which I thought was so horrible isn’t really domestication as much as it’s a happy acceptance that I’m an adult now, and — excuse me.”

Read the whole thing. It’s long, but it is also well worth your time. And I think his ending is absolutely sublime.

July 5, 2006

Keira’s anorexia?

Posted in Celebrities, Fashion at 11:49 pm by Calico Jack

When does being thin cross the line into an eating disorder? After appearing in a revealing metallic Gucci sheath for the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest premiere in London, Keira Knightley is denying rumors that she is currently struggling with anorexia:

“(The press) said to me yesterday ‘How does it feel to be called anorexic?’ and I had no idea that I was,” Knightley said. “I’m not saying there aren’t people in the film industry that suffer from it, because I am sure that there are. But I’m quite sure I don’t have it.”

Even with her claims otherwise, some people are still skeptical–especially since she admitted yesterday that anorexia has affected her family.

I think that the claims of anorexia, especially among Hollywood’s actresses, are sometimes overstated. It is a serious problem, to be sure, but diet and exercise do not necessarily lead to a disorder. Image is everything in Hollywood, and there are those who struggle with eating disorders (Lindsay Lohan, for one), but just because a person is thin does not mean that she is also anorexic.

In Keira’s defense, she’s always been skinny; and her body type is definitely ectomorphic. In a recent interview with Elle magazine, she revealed that she thrives on pasta and wine, and she hasn’t visited a gym in six months. That doesn’t really sound like someone struggling with an eating disorder, does it?

Still, take a closer look at the above picture (a larger image can be found here.) I don’t often see girls whose clavicles and ribs are so easily visible. Contrast that picture with one taken at the Pride and Prejudice premiere back in September:

She looks much healthier there, and it’s hard to argue with the photos. I just hope that if there is a problem, Keira won’t be in denial. It is often extremely hard for girls to admit that they have a disorder, and it can prevent them from getting the help that they need. Sadly, I speak with much familiarity.

On a lighter note, doing research on Keira–especially finding good photos of her–was quite enjoyable. Perhaps next time I should dig through all of the photos of Kate Beckinsale to see if having a child seven years ago affects her figure, even today…

Edward Teach adds: Whatever she is claiming, I would say that she is looking quite anorexic to me. You can count far too many bones…Perhaps she should add some meat to the pasta and switch some milk for that wine. I doubt even a glass of wine a day will do much for her heart if she gets any thinner.

June 23, 2006

Lessons from CNN and Fox News

Posted in Celebrities, News, Politics at 2:52 pm by Captain Morgan

I stayed up until way too late last night watching CNN and Fox News, and I learned a few things.

1. Nancy Grace is the funniest fake newscaster since Jon Stewart. What, oh she's serious? Oh well. She's still funny as heck!

2. While I may agree with some of Bill O'Reilly's politics, he's kind of mean. Plus he wears more makeup than RuPaul. 

3. Anderson Cooper is cool, but he doesn't do much. Mostly he repeats whatever everyone else says.

4. Between what's going on in the main screen, and reading the ticker on the bottom, you have to be an expert multi-tasker in order to fully get the news.

5. We need 10 people to communicate 1 story to us.

6. Sometimes, in an effort to be "fair and balanced", the news is boring. 

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