Trap of the Day: Whitney Houston, RIP
One of my favorite sayings comes from the short-lived Judd Apatow show, Undeclared, in which a peripheral character watches two of the main characters caught up in a lovers’ argument and comments, “They’re just like Whitney and Bobby Brown. So much passion, yet so much pain.” There are some things that shouldn’t be joked about. For me, those things also tend to be the ones that are too hard to handle without the protective distance of humor.
Whitney Houston’s depressingly premature death on Saturday has had a dramatic effect on American fans and figures alike. From Jennifer Hudson’s emotional Grammy tribute to expressions of grief from the likes of Brandy, Beyonce, and Dolly, to a planned dedication on the ever-popular Glee, Houston’s admirers continue to publicly demonstrate the inspirational impact of the late star in their own special ways.
With this passion, though, comes the painful reminder that not everyone in Houston’s life was looking out for her best interests. Tales of Sony hiking up album prices hours after the singer’s death, speculation on Houston’s posthumous net worth, and hurried promises that the Waiting to Exhale sequel will continue on without the singer are already all over the internet as well. Nancy Grace has her own conspiracy theories brewing, and Bill O’Reilly, utilizing his signature brand of jackassery, has suggested that Houston–like all addicts–must simply have wanted to self-destruct (in fairness to O’Reilly, repeatedly checking oneself into rehab in an attempt to get healthy is a recognized form of suicide….oh, wait….no).
Humans are notoriously bad at predicting what will make us happy, and to some extent I think our grief over Houston’s passing is related to our confusion as to what exactly success in life looks like. Even with the enviable talent, kindness, beauty, fortune, fame, and influence (and surely this list could go on) that Houston exhibited, the Dream Life did not protect her from the realities of domestic abuse and addiction. In some sense, I think we want to believe that if we could just have everything we want, we would become invulnerable to the difficulties of being human. The passing of Whitney Houston, though, reminds me that passion may not be enough if we can’t figure out how to manage the pain.
Take care, y’all.
Trap of the Day: Tattoos
I swear I once read a quote from Nicole Kidman (whom I only really follow when my sister and I are playing a game we call Freckle Arms, in which we send each other pictures of redheaded celebrities with un-photoshopped skin in order to feel more normal in this largely non-freckle-armed world) about how absurd it is to be represented by a physical body that doesn’t accurately reflect who you feel you are. I can’t find the quote now–and I’m not sure it even sounds like something Kidman would say–but the sentiment is still a powerful one. In an existence where so much of who you are judged to be and how you are treated is based on physicality, it can be frustrating to come to terms with just how limited your power over your own body really is. Enter my interest in tattoos.
Often, tattoos make the personal quite public. I got my first tattoo in remembrance of my deceased bulldog, Dingus, and while there’s still something vulnerable about explaining it to strangers, it’s also a pleasantly open experience. For me, my tattoo is a visible admission of something I value in life (which means I am also fully against the vanity tattooing of pets. What the hell, people?). And while the reasons for getting tattooed may be as diverse as the people getting them–from decorative to defiant to deeply symbolic–I see them all as sharing a common desire to change the outer- to better reflect the inner-self.
Fortunately, tattoos aren’t the scandal they used to be, with even Disney Channel names like Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, and Zac Efron getting publicly inked. Recent statistics suggest that 20% of American adults have at least one tattoo, and even some of those in the older generations are starting to come around to the artform (my parents are still not in this camp, though I appreciate that they only sounded slightly disappointed when I broke the news to them that I got a new tattoo in celebration of my upcoming birthday). Tattoos are even finding a very practical following within the medical community, as people have begun using them to convey allergies and end-of-life wishes, and diabetics may soon get the chance to use them to monitor glucose levels (seriously cool!).
Not everyone’s a fan, though, and those who were initially certain of the permanence of their desires sometimes change their minds. Notably, actress Megan Fox recently began the process of removing all of her nine (or so) tattoos by laser, a procedure that is far more expensive and painful than the initial application of the image. And the appearance and meaning of tattoos can still create some serious public backlash, a fact Erykah Badu has been recently reminded of as Malaysian officials cancelled her concert in outrage over one of her tattoos. But it’s impossible to control for the reactions of others, even the others we might someday become ourselves. Our interior is just as changeable as our exterior, but this doesn’t mean either, in any of their incarnations, is invalid. I see tattoos as one way to make the disconnect between the internal and the physical slightly less wide. And regardless of what a bunch of old white men may want us to believe, our bodies are our own, to understand, modify and come to terms with as we see fit. As a freckle-armed female, there are far worse things people have said to me about my appearance than simply “what’s that tattoo?”
PS My new tattoo is an image from the cover of Catch-22, the first book to suggest to me that life is absurd and inherently without meaning, but that it can still be actively and meaningfully lived. Feel free to share your tattoo thoughts, stories, and stances as well, even (especially!) if they differ from mine.
Trap of the Day: Terrell Owens
I hate to admit it. I actually felt bad for Terrell Owens this football season. Well, kinda.
At age 38, he was hoping for one last shot to contribute to a franchise’s hopes and dreams of reaching a Superbowl. Unfortunately for “T.O,” he was forced to undergo reconstructive knee surgery after blowing out his ACL during the spring of 2011. After a rigorous rehabilitation phase, T.O anticipated teams would be drooling over the date of his return to the National Football League. In attempt to lure in some potential suitors, T.O set up a nationally televised training session for NFL scouts to catch a glimpse of the veteran wide receiver doing what he does best–making plays. The problem was, not a single NFL employee bothered to show up. Zero. None.
Fortunately, this past week T.O finally found a job, but this time it wouldn’t be a NFL team giving the controversial star a chance at redemption. Instead, the Texas-based Allen Wranglers from the Indoor Football League happened to be the only team dialing T.O’s number. He took the job. Personally, I considered the news baffling and rather embarrassing for such a freak-of-nature talent to be stooping to this kind of low point. Remember, we are talking about a guy with the second most receiving yards in NFL history! Just retire already T.O! However, this past week the world found out why T.O isn’t ready to give up on football.
He’s flat broke. And sad.
The roughly estimated $80 million he had accumulated off of football alone–not counting reality television shows and endorsements–has been burned to a crisp. Just days ago, T.O got up close and personal with GQ Magazine regarding his crippling financial woes and inability to reestablish a sustainable method of income. How bad could it possibly be you might be wondering? Well, to put things into perspective, his four children–all four with different “baby mamas”–haven’t been receiving their child support payments. And that’s not even the half of it…
In T.O’s defense, we should all read his compelling life story before binge drinking his tears. Where he came from and what he’s been through as a young Alabama kid has had a tremendous impact on the lifestyle choices he has chose to make as an adult. Love, hate, or sympathize with him right here with the Terrell Owens trap!
Trap of the Day: NCAA Realignment
In 2010, the richest college football programs in the game profited a grand total of over $1.1 billion collectively. This is an over 10% increase from the year prior, and has universities chirping about which direction to move in order to snag a larger piece of this enormous revenue pie in college athletics. To stay or to go, that has become the question. Allow me to introduce to you, the NCAA Realignment Trap. Like it or loathe it, changes are certainly on the horizon:
It’s been nearly a year since the big announcement of the “Pac-12”, yet still to this day I find myself saying “Pac-10” when having a conversation discussing college football. When I first heard about the University of Colorado and the University of Utah joining the conference, I was adamant that the Pac-10’s new name should be simplified, dropping the number altogether to play it safe. Call it the “Pacific Conference,” because who knows when the next university will come knocking on our commissioner’s door ready to join up. Turns out, it’s looking like I was correct.
However, the Pac-12 is not the only conference that could look different when the season kicks off in 2012.
After the announcement surfaced that Texas A&M will officially be leaving the Big-12 for the SEC after this season, rumors and speculation began swirling that the Big-12 may not survive after their departure. Could a Domino Effect really kill off an entire conference? Many college football analysts are predicting that this will in fact happen if other universities choose to follow suit and leave the Big-12 in the dust for other conferences.
Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to the Pac-12? Texas to the ACC? Baylor to the Big East? Florida State is reemerging as a powerhouse yet again, will they move elsewhere? After being independent since 1978, are the Notre Dame Fighting Irish contemplating joining a Super-conference in the making?
So many questions, yet so few answers. If only NCAA brass would step up and admit that discussion on conference realignment is distracting fans and players from what really matters, the game. The forefront of discussion should never be about what is happening outside-the-lines, yet that is exactly what has been going on thus far this season. Unfortunately, time is definitely money and college football is undoubtedly a business when all is said and done.
As the waiting game continues, you might as well have something to read. Stay informed on the latest conference shuffling with the NCAA Realignment Trap. Play on!
Trap of the Day: Oregon Ducks & LSU Tigers
It’s a game for the ages. Rarely do two top-five (preseason-ranked) teams knock helmets the first game of the season. In fact, the last time it happened, I wasn’t even born yet. In 1984, the #1 Auburn Tigers took on the #4 Miami Hurricanes at Giants Stadium in New York. It’s been 27 years since a game of this magnitude has opened the college football season. With NCAA championship implications clearly on the line, it will be a heavyweight matchup between the #3 Oregon Ducks and the #4 LSU Tigers.
First up, let’s break down my alma mater, the mighty Oregon Ducks (click the image for content!):
For Oregon, it has been a tumultuous off-season for everybody. The football program has been actively investigated by the NCAA nearly all summer long, and a dark cloud of suspicion has been hovering over Eugene ever since. But Oregon also has questions to answer on the field if they wish to be successful against a vicious SEC defense that the Tigers will surely bring to the table. Oregon will have to replace both starting wide-receivers, and a large chunk of leadership at the offensive and defensive linemen positions. Fortunately for Oregon, they bring back their dual-threat Heisman contenders: their lethal quarterback Darron Thomas and runningback sensation LaMichael James. After losing a heartbreaker in the national title game last January, and then facing a barrage of off-the-field scrutiny soon after, there is no doubt the Ducks are anxious to storm the field today.
The LSU Tigers are chomping at the bit as well:
The Tigers had once been coined a surefire national title contender mid-summer entering the season. But less than two weeks before their matchup with Oregon, the national perception on the Tigers drastically took a turn for the worse. On August 19th, senior starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson allegedly took part in an altercation outside Shady’s bar, a popular college joint just off of LSU’s campus. The facts to this day remain hazy, with speculation swirling on both sides of the story. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s quite the read, click here! Regardless of what really happened, Jefferson eventually was suspended indefinitely from the team, and charged with felony battery. The Tigers will now have to adjust to using a quarterback–senior, Jarrett Lee–that never could’ve imagined he would be getting the start to begin the season. The sudden jolt to the program has the Tigers’ offense angry, the defense feeling ferocious and a massive LSU crowd ready to roar.
The teams will meet today at 8:00PM ET on a neutral field in Texas, known as “Cowboys Stadium.” Win, or lose, the season won’t end for either team when the clock finally ticks down to zero. Follow these teams all season long, with the Oregon Ducks Trap, and the LSU Tigers Trap. Let the Cowboy Classic begin! May the best team win.
-Geoff (Go Ducks!)
Trap of the Day: Packers
Chicago Bears fans might want to direct their eyes away from the computer screen. Today’s feature trap showcases none other than the defending Superbowl champion, Green Bay Packers. Round of applause, please, for the champs.
This past Thursday, the NFL season kicked off with an absolute bang with two high-octane offenses putting on a show, displaying very few signs of off-season rust. The matchup between the New Orleans Saints and the home-team Packers came down to the final play as the Saints were stuffed on a goal line stand with no time remaining on the game clock. Lambeau field erupted in synchronized jubilation as Saints running back Mark Ingram was gang-tackled just inches away from giving his team a chance to send it into overtime. It was one of those moments in sports that inevitably sends a shock wave of chills streaming down ones spine.
I sat there and watched as NBC cameras panned outward to show Packer fans basking in the moment. I thought to myself, this truly is the personification of what a fanbase is supposed to represent. As a neutral sports fan watching the game, I couldn’t help but hop on the Packer bandwagon. The historic traditions, the immovable allegiance and the noise that cascades out of that stadium is second-to-none in American sports. Believe it.
It all started with the game’s introduction. Fans were asked to arrive early in order to pull off a crowd spectacle that rarely seems to strike success when other organizations try a similiar stunt. Everyone needed to be in their seat, but no worries, Green Bay hasn’t failed to sell out a game in over half a century. During the national anthem, this was the aerial sight to be seen from above the field:
No other franchise could pull this off. Bathroom breaks were taken care of, the beer gardens were empty and the silence during the national anthem was absolutely bone-chilling.
By the time the broadcast had finished up on national television, it looked as if there hadn’t been a single fan that had left its seat. Their team had dazzled up-and-down the field for four quarters and the fans stuck around to show their appreciation. This is what fan culture is all about folks.
Rest assured, I will be following the Packers Trap all season long. They won me over in a heartbeat.
Trap of the Day: National Parks
It’s National Parks month and today’s trap of the day is the National Parks Trap.
In this trap you’ll find Timothy Egen’s recent op/ed in the New York Times about safety and personal responsibility in our National Parks. The article is spurred by a three fold increase in deaths in Yosemite this year (16 so far) and litigation surrounding the mauling death of a hiker by mountain goat last year. Egen highlights how disconnected many Americans are from the wilderness and makes the case that nature is dangerous and no amount of warnings, signs, or fencing can change that.
This sort of opinionating to me seems a no-brainer, but the fact of the matter is we live in a country where many folks have grown up in an environment so disconnected from the wild part of wilderness as to expect unrealistic levels of security within it’s bounds. A country bumpkin who gets mugged on a dangerous urban street corner can’t sue the city or police for failing to prevent the attack but for some reason people expect higher levels of safety from parks, which are really much less regulated spaces than urban centers. Where does personal responsibility begin and to what extent are National Park rangers charged to keep us safe? How do you educate city/suburb dwellers on the potential dangers of nature without terrifying them (ala shark attack coverage)?
When I was in the 5th grade my teacher taught a wilderness survival course. We learned about edible (and poisonous) plants, started fires with sticks, made hypothetical survival kits, and even whittled knives and forks. I was taught how to to fight a mountain lion (be loud, tall and kick it in the stomach if you can) and to never run from a bear (be calm, stand your ground, play dead if it’s mauling you, and fight like hell if it starts to eat you). This sort of lesson planning was no doubt unique to my rural Washington school where regional black bear encounters were not entirely rare, but it was the sort of thing that taught me to respect and maintain a healthy, but not overwhelming, fear of what nature is capable of.
The kind of nature preserved in our national parks is not to be taken lightly or capable of being tamed. For a vignette into the history of the National Parks system, check out this archival image heavy post from the Smithsonian Visual Archives.
Trap of the Day: LeBron James’ NFL Dreams
The newborn king of the NFL gridiron?
With the recent announcement that the first two weeks of the NBA season have officially been cancelled, the social media world has been set ablaze with rumors that LeBron James might be making a radical change in his professional career. And we are not taking about a trip overseas to play Euro hoops either. It has always been a dream on the back of King James’ mind to become a star performer in the NFL, and with the NBA lockout negotiations looking grimmer day-by-day, it’s starting to feel more realistic that the sports world will “WITNESS” LeBron in pads down the road this season.
But is it too good to be true…again? We all remember how he teased us two years ago with his Cleveland Browns commercial.
I was a huge doubter at first–like this guy–however, LeBron took it to a new level this past week tweeting at ESPN NFL analyst John Clayton inquiring what the NFL policy is on the free agency deadline. Well, LeBron, technically there isn’t one. He can sign whenever he should feel he is ready to make that transition. Professional experience, or not, NFL coaches will be licking their chops thinking about a chance to land an athletic specimen of LeBron’s stature. On top of that, he is a PR gold mine that would sell out any stadium regardless of a win-loss record. He is as big (or bigger) than the average defensive end, but as fast as the average wide receiver. Just thinking about what position he might play is thrilling to ponder and speculate.
The Seattle Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll has even reached out to LeBron already, posting a photo on the web of a Seahawks jersey with “LeBron” stitched on the back. Although Carroll’s approach could be taken as humor, there is no doubt that his organization would take a shot at bringing him on, even if it happens late in the NFL season.
For LeBron, is it worth the risk? One of the first things Carroll asked him was, “are you aware what the league minimum is in the NFL?” LeBron snapped back at him, “more than what I’m making now Coach.”
Could this be just another classic LBJ publicity stunt, or is there validity to his aspirations? Follow the LeBron James’ NFL Dreams Trap as this saga continues to unfold.
Trap of the Day: Nail Art
As we’ve already established, I don’t always engage in the most high brow of activities when it comes to entertainment. I try to keep my life constructive, though, and since there is only so much statistics homework for me to do while half-watching episodes of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills/Atlanta/New York/New Jersey,” I’ve taken up the hobby of nail art to keep myself productively occupied during TV time. And I’m certainly not the only one–the internet has increasingly been churning out stories, images, and tutorials of nail art, documenting its creativity from the runways of NY Fashion Week to the living rooms of enthusiastic DIY-ers.
While committing to professionally done nails can be pricey, nail art created at home can be a fairly inexpensive, and even easy, endeavor. With its seemingly endless potential for personalization, polish has a bit of something for everyone–it can be used to express support for a favorite sports team, profess love for a particular movie or TV show, or simply celebrate a current season or holiday. Those with more scientific inclinations can experiment with the curious powers of magnetic nail polish, or attempt to place the universe at their fingertips (my personal favorite, and a deceptively easy style to recreate). And though nail polish is still a product mostly segregated to the lives of women, instances of men showing off their own artistic nails have popped up as well (a fact that makes my gender-studies-loving, liberal-feminist-identifying heart beat extra happily).
The trend isn’t without its critics and non-believers, though, as one Jezebel writer bluntly puts it, “What is the point of nail art?” Given the highly temporary nature of nail polish, the art form definitely has its downsides (nothing like spending two hours painting tiny owls onto your nails only to try to open a bottle of ketchup later that day and have poor Thumb Owl’s feet peel completely away. First World Problems!). And the issue of why a trend that already has a long history in some subcultures is only gaining coverage now that it’s popular with middle-class white folks deserves its own round of articles entirely.
Still, to me nail art remains an easily-accessible promoter of female (and hopefully someday all-gender!) bonding, with the added bonus of pushing a popular cosmetic product away from its usual use as a tool of self-objectification and more towards a popular medium for self-expression. And the internet backs me up here, with one Jezebel commenter sharply summing up the issue by firing back, “What is the point of any art?”
A perfect philosophical question to contemplate while recreating van Gogh’s “Starry Night” in miniature on your thumbnail.
Trap of the Day: Lana Del Rey
Watching the internet freak out about Lana Del Rey is a lot like watching that “30 Rock” episode on feminism: things get confusing, complicated and contradictory pretty quickly. And in the end, it seems like everyone kind of comes out worse for the wear.
The singer–birth name Elizabeth Grant–whose debut album as Lana Del Rey was preceded by an unusual amount of press and a highly dissed and dissected Saturday Night Live performance (the fact that anyone is outraged by being confronted with mediocrity when tuning in to SNL is kind of amazing to me), has shot to a sort of instant and infamous stardom. “Born to Die” was released last week to heavy criticism but high sales, and already the musician has been animated in Taiwan, analyzed as a Lynchian character, and made into an internet meme (an honor previously bestowed upon the likes of both Aretha Franklin and Princess Beatrice’s respective hats). And while Grant seems resigned to the criticism, I can’t help but feel a little more curious as to what the internet anger is all about, and whether or not it would be happening if Lana Del Rey were a man.
Because, to me, being Lana Del Rey seems to be a lot about what it means to be female in America. At every turn, Grant is met with some form of a double bind. We make a marked point of always commenting on her appearance, building up the idea that her beauty is of vital importance to her worth, only to get moralistic about the idea that she may have had plastic surgery to improve her looks. We call her out for manufacturing a new image after her attempts to find success as Lizzy Grant (aka herself) failed, and yet we only pay attention to her and her music once she has transformed into her current “Gangsta Nancy Sinatra” manifestation.We accuse her of being all smoke and mirrors, but act incredibly put upon when she has the audacity to be genuinely anxious and awkward onstage. And while I can recognize that Grant has made her own decisions in this game, I can’t imagine a move she could make at this point that wouldn’t garner criticism from some sector.
Which is not to say I’ve been transformed into Lana Del Rey’s biggest fan, nor that I disagree with the argument that there are more talented or deserving musicians out there that should be seen and heard as much as Grant (oh the meritocracy kool-aid: so delicious, so plentiful, and so likely to end in stand-offs and suicides). But I’m just not sure the value of Grant as a musician would be such a central issue were she male. And while I won’t be spending my money to witness Lana Del Rey perform awkwardly in person (I live in Portland, the awkwardness here is free), I will gladly accept her into the female musicians club if it means putting more highly visible images towards the normalization of women in music.