Amoeblog

The Gods Must Be Crazy: Studying Celebrity Culture

Posted by Charles Reece, February 26, 2011 10:13am | Post a Comment
 
I have cleansed myself. I closed my eyes and in a nanosecond, I cured myself... It's the work of sissies. The only thing I'm addicted to is winning. This bootleg cult, arrogantly referred to as Alcoholics Anonymous, reports a 5 percent success rate. My success rate is 100 percent. Do the math ... another one of their mottoes is "Don't be special, be one of us." Newsflash: I am special, and I will never be one of you! I have a disease? Bullshit! I cured it with my brain, with my mind. I cured it, I'm done ... you don't look like you're having a lot of fun. I'm gonna hang out with these two smoking hotties and fly privately around the world. It might be lonely up here but I sure like the view, Alex!
 
-- Charlie Sheen on being a god

Could Sheen's firing from Men Behaving Badly be a sign of the end times for pop culture's Valhalla, that people will no longer put up with stars' egotistic bullshit? Nah, it's more like Ragnarök in the Thor comics, a cycle that's created by them, for them, but marketed to all of us -- diversionary entertainment at its purest. Here are some other recent examples:


Peter Biskind covers Mel Gibson's id in "The Rude Warrior" for Vanity Fair. Anyone who's read the author's books (e.g., Star, Down and Dirty Pictures) knows he has a penchant for overstatement, particularly when it comes to analogizing between a filmmaker's films and his or her personal life. This results in a hilarious reading of the movie I'm most anxious to see:

[The Beaver] features Gibson talking through a hand puppet that enables him to voice feelings he’s incapable of expressing directly, has been the object of much raillery. It hits every note in the Gibson songbook, and then some—most prominently, a suicidal dad redeemed by his son. (Foster says she took the script to Gibson because she thought it would speak to him personally.) But the film is so uncompromising, and directed with such delicacy, that it cuts through the sticky sentiment that is Gibson’s stock and trade. Foster manages to find in his preoccupations an authenticity that he has never been able to convincingly dramatize himself; she’s his beaver, so to speak.

I'm not sure he actually realized what he was writing in that last sentence, but what a double entendre.


In "The Apostate" at The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright interviews filmmaker Paul Haggis (e.g., Crash, Million Dollar Baby) about his fallout with The Church of Scientology, while detailing, along the way, the cult's history and its calculated relationship with Hollywood. There's so much great material here that it's hard to pick just one example, but Scientology's use of Sea Org (its missionary wing) for slave labor is fascinating. Take ex-member John Brousseau's involvement in providing favors for Tom Cruise:
 

In 2005, [Church leader and chairman David] Miscavige showed Cruise a Harley-Davidson motorcycle he owned. At Miscavige’s request, Brousseau had had the vehicle’s parts plated with brushed nickel and painted candy- apple red. Brousseau recalls, “Cruise asked me, ‘God, could you paint my bike like that?’ I looked at Miscavige, and Miscavige agreed.” Cruise brought in two motorcycles to be painted, a Triumph and a Honda Rune; the Honda had been given to him by Spielberg after the filming of War of the Worlds. “The Honda already had a custom paint job by the set designer,” Brousseau recalls. Each motorcycle had to be taken apart completely, and all the parts nickel-plated, before it was painted. (The church denies Brousseau’s account.)

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TIME MARCHES ON

Posted by Whitmore, March 8, 2008 11:42pm | Post a Comment

March 1 - Johnny Cash, 36 years of age, marries June Carter, 38 years of age.
March 2 - World Ladies Figure Skating Championship in Geneva is won by USA’s Peggy Fleming.
March 3 - Greece, Portugal & Spain's embassies are bombed in the Hague.
March 4 - Evan Dando of the Lemonheads is born.
March 4 - Joe Frazier TKOs Buster Mathis in 11 rounds for heavyweight boxing title.
March 4 - Martin Luther King, Jr announces plans for Poor People's Campaign.
March 5 - U.S. launches Solar Explorer B, also known as Explorer 37 from Wallops Island to study the Sun.
March 6 - Actress Moira Kelly is born.
March 7 - Jeff Kent, second baseman for the Dodgers is born in Bellflower, CA.
March 7 - The First Battle of Saigon begins in Viet Nam.
March 8 - Bill Graham opens the Fillmore East in an abandoned movie theater in New York City.
March 10 - A Ferry boat sinks in the harbor of Wellington New Zealand killing 200.
March 11 - Lisa Loeb is born.
March 11 - Dmitri Shostakovich completes his 12th string quartet, in D flat major (Op. 133).
March 11 - Otis Redding posthumously receives a gold record for "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay."
March 12 - Mauritius achieves independence from British Rule.
March 12 - President Lyndon B. Johnson edges out antiwar candidate Eugene J. McCarthy in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, a vote which highlights the deep divisions over Vietnam War in the U.S.
March 13 - The Beatles release the single "Lady Madonna" in the UK.
March 14 - Nerve gas leaks from the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground near Skull Valley, Utah. Sickening sheep on local ranches coincided with several open-air tests of the extremely toxic nerve agent VX at Dugway. The Army, which initially denied that VX had caused the deaths, never admitted liability, though they did pay the ranchers for their losses. On the official record, the claim was for 4,372 "disabled" sheep, of which about 2,150 died. 
March 14 - CBS TV suspends Radio Free Europe free advertising because RFE doesn't make it clear it is sponsored by the CIA.
March 15 - Diocese of Rome announces that it "deplored the concept", but wouldn't prohibit rock & roll masses at the Church of San Lessio Falconieri.
March 15 - LIFE magazine, in an article, calls Jimi Hendrix "the most spectacular guitarist in the world."
March 16 - In My Lai, South Vietnam, American troops massacre between 350 and 500 unarmed Vietnamese villagers - men, women, and children.
March 16 - General Motors releases its 100 millionth automobile, the Oldsmobile Toronado.
March 16 - Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco dies at the age of 73.
March 16 - Democratic Senator from New York, Robert F. Kennedy announces he’ll run for the Presidency.
March 17 - A demonstration in London's Grosvenor Square against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War leads to violence - 91 police injured, 200 demonstrators arrested.
March 18 - The U.S. Congress repeals the requirement for a gold reserve to back US currency.
March 19-March 23 - Students at Howard University in Washington, D.C., seize the administration building and stage a five-day sit-in, shutting down the university in protest over its ROTC program, and demanding a more Afro-centric curriculum.
March 20 - Carl Theodor Dreyer, Danish director of The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc (1928) and The Vampire (1932), dies of pneumonia in Copenhagen at age 79.
March 22 - Daniel Cohn-Bendit and seven other students occupy Administrative offices of Nanterre, leading to the closure of the University on May 2, which in turn helped move the protests to downtown Paris where the May 1968 Student Riots launch France into a deep state of chaos.
March 23- Edwin O'Connor, American novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner dies.
March 23 – UCLA beats North Carolina 78-55 in the 30th Annual NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.
March 24 - Alice Guy-Blaché, pioneering filmmaker who was the first female director in the motion picture industry dies at the age of 94.
March 25 - The 58th and final new episode of The Monkees airs on NBC.
March 26 – Country singer Kenny Chesney is born.
March 26 – R&B artist Little Willie John, he sang the original version of "Fever" and "Talk to Me," dies at Walla Walla State Prison in Washington. He had been imprisoned for stabbing a man to death in October 1964. The official cause of death is listed as a heart attack, though some reports say he died of pneumonia or asphyxiation.
March 27 - Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Cosmonaut and first human in space, dies in aircraft training accident.
March 29 - Lucy Lawless, New Zealand actress best known for her role as Xena is born.
March 29 - Students at Bowie State College seize the administration building to protest the run-down condition of their campus, at a time when Maryland essentially ran separate college systems for black and white students. Instead of negotiating, Governor Spiro Agnew sent the state police in to take back the administration building.
March 30 -The Yardbirds record their live album at the Anderson Theater in New York City. Though at first it was shelved by the band, once Led Zeppelin hit big, Epic Records tried to cash in by releasing the material as the bootleg Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page. It was quickly withdrawn after Page's lawyers filed an injunction on the record.
March 30 - Celine Dion is born.
March 30 - Bobby Driscoll, Academy Award winning child actor, dies from a heart attack brought on by liver failure and advanced arteriosclerosis due to his long-time drug abuse at the age of 31. Believed to be an unclaimed and homeless person, he was buried in an unmarked pauper's grave on Hart Island where he still remains today.
March 31 - Seattle's first Major League Baseball team is named the Pilots.
March 31 - President Lyndon B. Johnson announces he will not run for re-election.

The Lemonade Diet -- Master Cleanse Miracle or Dangerous Snakeoil?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 19, 2008 08:13pm | Post a Comment
The Master Cleanse diet was developed in 1941 by Stanley Burroughs. It calls for the practitioner to starve his or herself except for a concoction of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. At night you're to take a laxative tea and saltwater which, through a top-down enema, is said to remove toxins from the body, help one lose weight and even cure chronic diseases. Salt, salt, lemonade, turn the corner and you know the rest... Such famous celebrities as Robin Quivers, Jared Leto and Beyoncé Knowles have all used it to lose weight and it seems to be exploding in popularity.


Who needs the advice of doctors when you've got Howard's sidekick, Jared looking like a magician and Mrs. Jay-Z?

So why is the dangerous diet so popular? Well, I live in California, for one, where all New Age hokum is defended with a "Don't knock it til you try it" acceptance irreconcilable with my Show-Me skepticism. Also, I suppose, because of the very real effects coupled with observational and speculative science. Practitioners get, after not eating, light headed and euphoric, which Burroughs assured dieters was a byproduct of toxins leaving the system. But Burroughs was a dictatorial nudist who insisted his children not wear clothing, not a scientist or doctor. Blindly assuming some charlatan's logic infallible is akin to accepting a lunatic's observation that rain comes from a celestial being shedding tears because we eat cashews. It reminds me of Scientology more than science... only creepier.

  
    Leader of the Church of Lemonology (with clothing)                              Lemonologists' version of Dianetics

There's also an appeal to Americans, the people who pioneered eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia whilst sharing an ironic, insatiable hunger for fad diets. Our nation's citizens have always favored the quick fixes of starvation, vomiting and surgery to the adoption of healthy habits and here's a diet which people with eating disorders can hide behind that's been championed by the continually unrealistic and un-aesthetic body-type promotion we've come to expect from Hollywood, the pop music industry and supermodels. Hell, Coca-Cola and Pepsi were both marketed as medicine and just look how healthy people become when they drink loads of soda! Coca-Cola, in fact, was developed by John Pemberton as Pemberton's French Wine Coca. His idea was that by ingesting cocaine, kola (with its caffeine), damiana and alcohol, our bodies would reject it along with all those pesky toxins in our system. Sound familiar?

 
        John Stith Pemberton                  A good documentary                A kid on his way to acquire more health drinks

Doctors have instead suggested that the advocate-touted effects are merely the normal side effects of regular old starvation. Other nutritionists have pointed out that organs like the kidneys, liver, lungs and GI tract are the body's best way of removing toxins and that they require essential nutrients and vitamins to operate properly-- vitamins and minerals insufficiently present in the Burroughs' Magick Slimming Detox Tonic. In effect, the theory behind the master cleanse is akin to draining your car's engine of oil in order to improve engine function. Go ahead and try it before you knock it-- just make sure you have a warm blanket in your trunk and a fully charged cell phone on you.

Dr. Ed Zimney in his article Master Cleanse = Master Scam has asserted that the prescribed mixture does nothing to remove accumulated toxins. Dr. Sunil Patel of the Queen Elizabeth Health Centre claims it is merely a placebo for deluded naifs. Coca-Cola's admission that Dasani is just over-priced tapwater certainly hasn't hurt its sales (except in Godless Europe, where they dared to question why they should pay for tap water!) so how much for a case of your placebos, Dr. Patel? Oh yeah, I've got an ionic footbath I'd like to sell you for a very reasonable ten thousand bucks. Guaranteed to produce cloudy water which, uh, is from toxins™ shooting out of your feet due to magnetism and stuff. Trust me, I'm a nudist.

On the other hand, the saltwater "flush" apparently does kill bacteria. Which sounds great if you think of bacteria as the kingdom of life reserved for bad organisms and not ones that help you survive. Yes, Virginia, there are beneficial bacteria. So, I may not be a doctor (although I tend to value their opinions more than anorexic celebrities) but I think the lemonade diet is merely a peer-sanctioned eating disorder. Look at how many people who do it find a partner to justify their dangerous choices. Here's a thought-- try eating more fruits and veggies with their detoxifying and disease-fighting phytochemicals and not only will you lose weight and get healthier but you also make lasting, beneficial changes in the way you eat.

So, don't take my word for it. Make up your own mind. On the con side, you have a bunch of probably unattractive, not-famous doctors, nutritionists and common sense types. On the pro side you have celebrities a mountebank with a background in the lumber industry who was twice convicted of practicing medicine without a license and a convicted second-degree murderer... and a bunch of crazies that five years ago were eating buckets of lard at the advice of Dr. Atkins.

In the California Supreme Court case People v. Burroughs, 35 Cal.3d 824 the court found Burroughs responsible in the death of a patient. It seems Burroughs' lemonade diet didn't cure cancer after all. Hell, the victim probably just didn't put enough good-ole fashioned maple syrup in their elixir. The court description follows:

During the first meeting between Lee [Swatsenbarg] and defendant [Burroughs], the latter described his method of curing cancer. This method included consumption of a unique “lemonade,” exposure to colored lights, and a brand of vigorous massage administered by defendant. Defendant remarked that he had successfully treated “thousands” of people, including a number of physicians. He suggested the Swatsenbargs purchase a copy of his book, Healing for the Age of Enlightenment. If after reading the book Lee wished to begin defendant's unorthodox treatment, defendant would commence caring for Lee immediately. During the 30 days designated for the treatment, Lee would have to avoid contact with his physician.

The Cyclonic 2007 Celebrity Mugshot Whirl-Around, part 1

Posted by Whitmore, January 11, 2008 07:06pm | Post a Comment
 
I guess you can say that Daniel Baldwin isn’t the best looking Baldwin, nor is he the Baldwin most likely destined for a career in politics. And you know that’s OK; it’s a terrible profession anyway.

Unfortunately, as I look closer at this mugshot, I have to add, oddly enough … and sadly enough… I can’t decide whether he looks more like my dad or more like me.





 At one point I thought Mickey Rourke was one hell of a weird but pretty interesting actor. With movies like Angel Heart, 9½ Weeks, The Pope of Greenwich Village, Rumble Fish, Diner, Johnny Handsome, they’re not all necessarily great or even good films, but sometimes it doesn’t matter,  I watch Mickey Rourke and I think to myself; “what the hell?’. (Actually way back in the day, before Amoeba-time itself, I used to work for the law firm of Parkinson, Wolf, Lazar and Leo in Century City. One day one of the attorneys walked up to me and said “Hey Whitmore, I just saw a movie starring Mickey Rourke and I thought the character he played reminded me of you. Have you seen the movie Barfly yet?”  What can you do? I lied and said no, then quietly walked away.) Anyway, I haven’t seen much of Mickey Rourke since his last mugshot … by the way; this arrest in November was for drunk driving on a Vespa scooter.


 



Well I wish I could tell you some interesting story or tidbit about the life of thespian/pre-teen role model Lindsay Lohan, but I can’t… anyway, here is her complete set of mugshots from 2007. Collect ‘em all, trade ‘em with your friends.



This arrest and mugshot actually took place in December of 2006, when Nicole Richie was stopped for driving under the influence on the 134 freeway in Burbank. It all started when a few upstanding citizens reported a black Mercedes-Benz entering the freeway on the exit ramp. In July, 2007 Richie was sentenced to four days in jail, but served only about 82 minutes of the sentence at the Century Regional Detention Center in Lynwood. Specifically, she checked in on August 23 at 3:15 in the afternoon and was released at 4:37 that same afternoon.

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Marxist Tales, Part 1: The Lives of Stars

Posted by Charles Reece, December 11, 2007 02:00am | Post a Comment
The celebrity, the spectacular representation of a living human being, embodies this banality [pseudo-individualism by way of what you want to buy – think of a hippie rebelling by driving a VW] by embodying the image of a possible role. Being a star means specializing in the seemingly lived; the star is the object of identification with the shallow seeming life that has to compensate for the fragmented productive specializations which are actually lived. Celebrities exist to act out various styles of living and viewing society unfettered, free to express themselves globally. They embody the inaccessible result of social labor by dramatizing its by-products magically projected above it as its goal: power and vacations, decision and consumption, which are the beginning and end of an undiscussed process. – Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle #60

I’m always left slightly annoyed every time I hear some star kvetching about how he or she is stalked by the paparazzi.  It’s as if a piston suddenly started to resent its function within the engine.  More often than not, a star is designed, by luck of genetics, familial ties, or modern surgical techniques for fitness to Hollywood’s nature – pop culture's own form of eugenics.  It’s rarely based on a meritocracy.  Not that there’s no inherent talent, or craft, involved, but similar to choosing a good dentist on a friend’s recommendation or insurance coverage, some other beautiful guy would’ve been People’s most eligible bachelor had the astrological rules played out a bit differently.  When stars start complaining about being photographed or gossiped about, it’s because they’ve bought into the myth of the spectacle (image as consumable reality), believing that their position in popular culture is one of true individualism, rather than a simulation of individualism.  They’re assuming control of their image, rather than their image being a mediation between an individual and reality.  It’s the fallacy of misplaced concreteness, confusing the map with the mapped.  Their image is there to be consumed like every other product in the market; the shinier and newer it appears, the more likely it’ll be desired.  The trick of the publicity machine is to perpetually churn out novel-seeming stories about stars that don’t fundamentally alter our desire for the star.  Stardom isn’t sustained by the films in which the actor is in, but by our interest in the stories being told about that actor that keep us returning to his or her films, regardless of what kind of shit they’re getting paid to be in.  The star represents who we’re supposed to want to be.  And with exceeding frequency in our media-saturated culture, we do want to be that star.  Hell, even the celebrities desire their star-images.  As Debord pointed out, it’s a dream of pseudo-power, the ultimate ability to consume without any real control over what the caviling star mistakenly assumes is his or her image of selfhood.  Ultimately, the star is nothing but the photograph to the culture industry’s camera, a postcard of a place where we’re all supposed to want to visit.

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